ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE. We are probably embarking on a coaching search in the near future and also probably embarking on an AD search in the near future. When these things happen I get buckets of insider information from provenances both dubious and legit, and at some point they cross the threshold where I think they're useful to relate.
When I do this I want things to be supported by multiple people, or people I've heard from before and were accurate. I've learned over the years that when you get in these situations a lot of people stridently believe things that turn out to be wrong, so keep that in mind; I strive to be precise with my language to give people the right impression of how strongly these opinions are held.
ON JIM HARBAUGH. There are plenty of media reports suggesting that Harbaugh won't be with the 49ers next year; I've heard similar things. I've also heard that people within the 49ers organization think that maybe Harbaugh isn't an NFL guy, long term, and that Harbaugh is also coming to this realization as the guys in his locker room start getting more and more ornery. Michigan is not a far-fetched destination according to them.
ON DAVE BRANDON. I mentioned this on twitter and should clarify. There is the Big Ballers Meeting and then a Meeting With A Lot Of Big Ballers And Some Smaller Ballers And Some People Who Do Nice Stuff For The University. I got a report from the latter, in which Schlissel sat down for a Q&A session that was moderated by Stephen Ross. Nothing said was definitive, but almost all of the side chatter centered on how Brandon wasn't going to make it and Ross didn't seem like he was going to throw a hissy fit if a change was made. Even in this context away from the madding crowd the first issue addressed was the AD; Schlissel reiterated his point about a culture change; there seemed to be big baller chatter about who might be next.
Now: these people are not universally omniscient. There was chatter that things might go down last Tuesday. Obviously they did not. Don't take that as gospel.
ON THE COMBINATION OF HARBAUGH AND BRANDON. Never say never but I've heard from guys who know Harbaugh who say that Jim working for Dave is highly unlikely to happen. I do not have signed affidavits, but… yeah. As chatter goes this drumbeat is intense.
ON HOKE SURVIVING. This is likely to become moot this weekend, but serious people are asserting that he's not dead yet and could get by with a 7-5 record that includes a win over MSU or OSU, or even that 6-6 might be enough.
I don't think this is the case, as the powers that be know that season tickets are on a knife edge now and bringing Hoke back could see significant drops. It's impossible to know anything about Hoke's status given the uncertainty about the top of the department; the information being discussed is going to point strongly to a change no matter who is in charge.
ON AD CANDIDATES. Amongst the obvious Michigan Man candidates I would peg the pecking order as
- Jeff Long (Arkansas)
- Brad Bates (BC)
- Warde Manuel (UConn)
- Joe Parker (Texas Tech's associate AD)
There's a bigger gap between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Michigan may go off the board, of course, but Long in particular seems to have the respect of the AD community—he's the CoFoPoff chair—and made a stunning hire of Bret Bielema after the Petrino situation blew up in his face.
Also worth noting that he handled the PR of that disaster as well as can be expected. Bates and Manuel have not had to face similar crises yet.
ON JABRILL PEPPERS. This is not certain otherwise Michigan would have announced it but I've gotten several seemingly independent sources asserting that Peppers isn't going to play again this year. Michigan just threw him on top of the depth chart at nickel and punt return, so I don't know… I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play this weekend.
ON LLOYD CARR. Lloyd Carr is a civilian. He is neither involved nor wants to be involved in the day-to-day of the athletic department, and if you have a conspiracy theory involving him it is ridiculous and you should just drop it.
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]
News bullets and other items:
Devin Gardner fully participated in practice last night and should be ready to start against MSU
It sounds like Jabrill Peppers may have been a part of that practice
Hoke really likes Michigan State’s offensive balance [Ed.- they’re ~ 40/60 pass/rush]
Hoke’s recipe for road success: “Don’t turn the ball over. Get turnovers.”
Hoke thinks bye weeks are good for healing injuries and not good when coaches tinker with systems too much. He prefers getting back to a team’s identity after self-scouting. He again says the identity they want is as a team that runs the ball.
He likes how they’ve prepared and how hard they’ve worked
They had a good practice
“Number one, thanks for coming. This is an exciting week. The bye week I think was good for us. I think it's a benefit. Get some guys healthy. There's bumps and bruises. We've been at it since August and we are pretty competitive and pretty physical with what we do, so four weeks of camp and seven straight weeks, I think it came at the right time. You're able to rest some guys and I think that's a big part of it, and at the same time you're able to get some guys who are right on the line that you might depending on how you get beat up or bumped along you may have some other guys that have to get in there and represent.
This is a great rivalry and a great rivalry in a lot of ways. Obviously we have three great rivalries – two great rivalries, but the passion on both sides of either green and white or maize and blue, I think that passion you see, you hear, and you feel. We are playing the defending Big Ten champs who deserve that and have played very good football during the year on both sides of the ball. Going out to Eugene is their only loss and that's a difficult place to play. You’re three times zones different and you're also playing in a pretty hostile stadium that can get pretty loud.
I think offensively, I think Michigan State [is] very balanced. I would think knowing Mark [Dantonio] he would feel very good offensively what they're doing from that balance standpoint. I think Connor Cook continues to impress and improve. You look at Langford and how he's improved and Nick Hill I think has emerged too back there in the backfield. Lippett I think has played like the best receiver in this conference I think when you see the big plays in big games that he's made.
Turnover margin; we’re [on] two opposite spectrums. They’re +11, I think we’re -13 and turnover margin in pro football, college football, high school football, Peewee football, whatever football there is out there is a big part of who wins and who loses and we've obviously got to do a better job of creating. The last two weeks we've done a better job of taking care of the football but that's got to continue.
As far as the bye, we got out Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Had a practice last night which was a Tuesday practice for us and was very good, very physical. It was good to get out there again. Like the timing because that's one thing you always worry about and I thought our timing was sharp. I thought the execution on both sides of the ball was pretty good. We got a long way to go though, so… that's the longest I've ever given you an opening statement. I just hadn't seen you in a long time.”
Is there a downside to a bye week? You hear a lot of talk about upside but I wonder if there’s downside.
“You know, I think they're probably have been. I can try to go back and think over the years as an assistant and then as a head coach. We had a bye one year at Ball State [where] we were playing really good and then we didn't play so good the next time out. One thing that we've always tried to do is the speed that you play with, the efficiency with the sharpness, the quickness and if you can get that… The other part is the communication that your team needs to have. That's the only way I know how to judge it. I was very pleased with what we did last night because we were in full pads and we compete against each other all the time. Obviously you’ve got some things you're working on [for] your opponent but it was more about us competing against each other.”
[After THE JUMP: rivalries, edge, attitude, underdogs, gamblers]
FORMATION NOTES: Another very gun-heavy outing for Michigan, with nothing particularly unusual about the way they lined up. Penn State spent most of the game in a straight 4-3 of various varieties. Late they went to an eagle front for a couple plays:
Note that Miller has guys to both sides of him. That erases any chance Michigan can double on the interior and exposed Miller to a DT he could not deal with physically. Michigan responded to this with a pin and pull that worked on the next play.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: No Magnuson still, so line still Cole/Glasgow/Miller/Kalis/Braden. Jake Butt seems to be getting as much time as he would have without the knee injury by now; Williams still hanging on to quite a bit of PT in Hill's absence.
At RB it was all Hayes/Smith with Green sidelined; WRs were as per usual with a little bit of Canteen.
[After THE JUMP: struggling forward.]
Let's get this out of the way: Michigan loses Nik Stauskas, and it's never good to lose a Nik Stauskas. Players that brutally efficient who can also shoulder such a large workload don't come around often; ditto shooters of that caliber. If you're expecting someone to step up and be Nik Stauskas, you will almost assuredly be disappointed.
If you're simply looking for excellent play out of Michigan's starting two and three, however, you should be quite happy this season. Caris LeVert has progressed in a scant two years from beyond-skinny-kid-who's-redshirting to beyond-skinny-kid-who's-too-good-to-redshirt to less-skinny-but-still-very-skinny-#2-scorer to, now, 200-pound-NBA-lottery-prospect. Zak Irvin entered last season as a top-30 prospect and showed absolutely no fear as an unabashed gunner off the bench; even if he doesn't diversify his game as a sophomore, which would surprise, he'll be a critical part of the offense.
LeVert will be the top option this season, and his ability to create off the dribble will be even more crucial with Stauskas in the NBA. Irvin steps into a starting role, and his shooting will be even more crucial with Stauskas in the NBA. While no one man can replace Stauskas, a reasonable step forward from each of these two can go a long way towards doing so.
[Hit THE JUMP for detailed breakdowns of each player.]
Oh no. This is is getting passed around various message boards:
This isn't Brady Hoke's luggage combination (we know what that is). It's the number of points Michigan has scored against MSU over the last decade. It goes in one direction.
Brady Hoke says coaches can sometimes tinker a bit too much in bye weeks. Says Michigan got back to its identity during break: run the ball.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) October 20, 2014
Brady Hoke asked if Jabrill Peppers practiced yesterday: "We had a good practice. We had a good practice. We had a good practice."
— Kyle Bogenschutz (@KyleBogie) October 20, 2014
Coachbot is malfunctioning. Someone give him a whack.
Purdue coaches all look alike. Jerry Kill doesn't know what Darrell Hazell looks like.
So Michigan has lost to the Ebola coach and goofy Minnesota uncle this year.
Also in Minnesota, I would pay to see Jerry Kill do this:
The status (please don't be the status). Sam Webb laid out his opinion of the way things are going to go on the Scout message board in an extensive post. In brief: his guess at the moment is that Brandon is relieved sometime after the season and this delay may end up buying Hoke another year.
I find it implausible that Michigan would risk that. The fanbase is right on the edge of dropping out in droves—a recent Free Press story touting the fact that Michigan only lost about 700 season ticket holders ignores the fact that Michigan has now completely burned through its once-legendary waitlist. Hoke's return threatens to create a serious dent, and once you break the habit it's hard to get people back in it.
Recruiting shouldn't override common sense here. Even if Michigan goes with another Process that sees them hire a coach in the middle of January the recruiting impact won't be enormous because this class is so small. If Michigan hangs onto 8-10 guys they could add a few fliers and be fine. The guys they hang onto are actually touted recruits instead of the mess that was Rodriguez's last class.
Maybe I shouldn't worry. A lot of these projections come with disclaimers like "if Michigan splits with MSU and OSU". MSU opened a 15.5 point favorite—the most MSU has ever been favored in the series—and that was quickly bumped up to 17. That gives Michigan a less than ten percent chance to win. OSU just bombed Rutgers 56-10; that spread is likely to be in the same range.
/stares blankly at wall. So this happened:
Tony Gibson, the first-year West Virginia defensive coordinator, had an interesting dilemma midway through the second quarter facing the dynamic Baylor offense. The Bears had arrived in Morgantown averaging an FBS-leading 623 yards per game and 67 points in their past two meetings with the Mountaineers. Baylor had just retaken the lead, 20-14, on a 63-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Antwan Goodley.
On the play, WVU's Terrell Chestnut took a vicious block from Corey Coleman to spring Goodley. The WVU cornerback was down on the field for minutes and done for the game due to a concussion. The Mountaineers also had lost their other standout corner, Daryl Worley, for the game at the start of the second quarter after he injured his ribs on a punt return.
WVU blitzed 46 times, Petty got discombobulated, and WVU ran away with a win over #4 Baylor after holding the Bears to just 315 yards—their lowest total in four years. Without both starting corners. With Tony Gibson their defensive coordinator.
Good one, universe. Just when I think I can't feel your steel-toed boot you find the last possible nerve that feels anything.
Join us in our misery. Iowa, come on down!
Iowa really went the entire first half without completing a single pass to a WR.
— Brendan Stiles (@thebstiles) October 18, 2014
On the one hand, Iowa is 5-2. On the other, Iowa isn't any good and can't get a new coach. We might be able to get a new coach. I think I'd rather be us? Yeah.
Texas A&M, come on down!
That was halftime.
Florida, come on down!
— MUSCHAMP-O-LANTERN (@edsbs) October 19, 2014
I hope this has made everyone feel momentarily better before we go into the dark this weekend.
Etc.: Indiana is a 3:30 kick, so you have to wonder if you'll ever get to see most of a college football weekend again. Hooray Denard rushing for 129 yards in his first start. Canadian junior hockey facing a lawsuit for violating minimum wage laws. If you're not familiar with the hypocrisy of the CHL, imagine the NCAA without the education. Women's soccer is rounding into a real program. These numbers are beyond ugly.
What do you do when you're getting a ton of quarters coverage? Go deep in the slot. Roy Roundtree knows what's up.