At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
Putting this up now, because I'll forget in the morning.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
Thus far, Michigan’s 2012 football season has gone just about to form. All the games they won at home against their better opponents last year have turned into road losses this season. And while the losses have all been different in nature - overmatched by Alabama; a giveaway at South Bend and the loss of a key player versus the Cornhuskers – there is one underlying factor that can’t be overlooked. The Wolverines just don’t have enough players of high caliber on offense.
This was an offense that averaged more than 30 points a game in 2012. The loss of any one player, even one as dynamic as Denard Robinson, shouldn’t totally derail your ability to move the ball. Yet without Shoelace, the Michigan offense is a train wreck. Nobody is stepping up. The offensive line can’t block; the running backs don’t run effectively and quarterback play has been spotty. Other than Drew Dileo in the MSU game, when was the last time a Wolverine receiver made a big play that mattered? Bottom line is the Michigan offense can’t score consistently and has a lack of playmakers and depth at every position.
Once again the defense has been very good, keeping Michigan in games were the offense has stumbled. The loss of a starting cornerback in the first game has not proven fatal, mainly due the efforts of the guys up front. Going into this season, I think most people felt Michigan’s defensive line play would be a concern. In fact, the defensive line play has improved during the course of the season. Obviously, Coach Mattison’s ability to get his players to perform at a high level shouldn’t ever be underestimated.
What does this mean for the game versus Minnesota? It more than likely it won’t make much difference. While the Gophers have a record identical to the Wolverines, their competition has not been nearly as tough. They do have an up and coming quarterback and a good record at home. These are the best things they have going for them. The defense has been porous – the Michigan hockey crowd chant of “Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!” would be an accurate description of their play.
The Michigan defense should be able to put enough pressure on the Gopher’s young QB and stifle their offensive. If Denard plays with any effectiveness, this should be relatively easy pickings. But Michigan fans shouldn’t be blind to the fact that the Wolverines are a flawed and fragile team. It’s just a pinched nerve away from total disaster.
Michigan 30 - Minnesota 20
By Nick RoUMel
Since we are deep within election season, I’m going to take a break this week, and turn my column over to the people who write the ads for those statewide ballot proposals. These folks will tell us the truth, just like they do on TV. Word up:
Proposal 1 – If Michigan doesn’t win this week, Governor Snyder will appoint an emergency manager to run the team. This person will be empowered to fire coaches, change the starting lineup, juggle the offensive and defensive formations, and make the players wear butt-ugly uniforms that look like a combination between a bumblebee and a prison inmate. But it’s not all bad. If things turn around, the emergency manager might allow us to bring water bottles into the stadium.
Proposal 2 – This proposal will allow the players to bargain collectively and form unions. Players will be grouped into classifications such as “offensive tackle” and “assistant clipboard carrier.” Playing time will be determined by seniority. Accordingly, the quarterback this week will be Andy Mignery.
Proposal 3 – Requires Al Borges to call at least 25% of his plays using alternative energy sources, such as the backup tight end, or a single wing formation. This will reduce our dependence on depletable energy sources such as Denard Robinson.
Proposal 4 – Provides for background checks for players. Reportedly will eliminate the Michigan State football program.
Proposal 5 – Would amend Michigan’s playbook to require a 2/3 majority vote of fans in attendance before running two consecutive off-tackle plays.
Proposal 6 – Lets the people decide – not politicians – whether the Stadium Bridge will ever be finished.
But what about this week’s game – who’s going to win?
Demand a recount, folks, it’s going to be an upset:
MINNESOTA 20, MICHIGAN 16
On November 8th, 1997, Michigan traveled to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in a battle of unbeaten squads. The Wolverines pulled the upset, 34-8, led by Chris Howard's 120 rushing yards and the exploits of eventual Heisman winner Charles Woodson, who caught a 37-yard touchdown pass.
The lasting image of that game, however, was the violent collision between Michigan safety Daydrion Taylor and Penn State tight end Bob Stephenson on an otherwise-innocuous first-quarter completion. The hit, perhaps the hardest in Michigan history, ended the football careers of both players.
During the pre-game show before tomorrow's Michigan-Minnesota game, the Big Ten Network will mark the 15-year anniversary of that play with a feature on the hit, with exclusive interviews of Taylor, Stephenson, Woodson, Brady Hoke, and others who were there to witness it first-hand. I've had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the piece, and also had the pleasure of speaking with Julian Darnell, the producer of the feature, and Bill Friedman, the BTN's coordinating producer of original programming. The feature is powerful and sheds light on how Taylor and Stephenson have both moved on from the hit—both, in fact, are now coaching youth football—and I highly encourage you to check it out tomorrow. Below are excerpts from my conversations with Darnell and Friedman:
What was the purpose in putting this piece together?
Julian: I guess the purpose on my end was to reflect on the events—it's certainly newsworthy considering what we've seen in football nowadays, you look to the next level and you see everything in regards to head-first football in NFL, the changes they've made to the football that I was used to seeing when I was coming up, and it just made for an interesting story.
It really piqued my interest, especially when you see, for me, the names that participated in that game. On one side you have Curtis Enis, who was a number one pick, you have Joe Jurevicius, who was a future world champion with Tampa Bay, Charles Woodson, who was the eventual Heisman Trophy winner that year and a Super Bowl champion, Dhani Jones, whom we know very well, Jon Jansen, whom we know very well as well, just so many great names. And it was a great win by Michigan, no question about it, but just that hit, when you see it, it still resonates today.
It really resonated for me when I had the opportunity to talk to Charles Woodson. I had a chance to interview him at Green Bay. During the pre-prep interview when he came in, I was going to show him the hit, because, you know, it's been 15 years. And he's like, "I don't need to see it, I remember." And he did. The details, he remembered it, he didn't need to see it. And this is a guy who's played a whole lot of football since Michigan, and to remember it in the detail that he did, and he didn't even need to see it or want to see it, just resonated to me that, "Okay, I'm really onto something that can really be everlasting," in my opinion. That's what stood out to me.
Bill: The collision between Daydrion Taylor and Bob Stephenson happened 15 years ago this season, so that was kinda the time hook to it. With concussions being a bigger subject matter every day in the national football landscape, we though it'd be an interesting piece, too.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Q&A.]
I've got to get on a plane shortly so shortly the links will go.
Brief thoughts on the first exhibition:
- Albrecht is an extremely wise pickup; if he can hit threes and break the press and get M's offense in motion he'll be at least a solid backup for four years. Michigan needed some stability at that PG spot and he looks like he'll provide it.
- Stauskas is going to be a lights out three point shooter and he has enough other game to contribute to the rest of the offense; D needs work.
- McGary's FTs will probably be fine, his stroke looks good. Hopefully that leg injury clears up and he gets that extra 10% athleticism that made him a huge prospect after his AAU season.
- GRIII is Branden Dawson-ish with more shooting and less rebounding but probably not much less rebounding.
- Hardaway played a much more complete game than we're used to seeing. Thumbs up.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone says "must resist making little Brown Jugs" joke at picture of hot woman in brown bikini, predicts 28-10.
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care exists, predicts on non-football factors, does so 38-13.
- Maize and Go Blue goes with 37-10.
- Maize and Blue Nation says 27-2, which I should have thought of.
- The Daily Gopher can't even find a jug picture where it's being held by a Minnesota player—RVB is the man—and goes with 31-13.
- I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team has a mathematical model that says 33-23 and a non-gambler guy who picks Michigan to cover: "I would have loved to start this post recalling the last time the Gophers beat Michigan in Minnesota, but I don't remember it at all. This is mostly because it was five years before my birth."
Kovacs is a truthful dude. Post-Nebraska:
"A lot of it is the games we played," Kovacs said. "Air Force didn't necessarily throw the ball on us a lot, and Alabama didn't have to.
"There's some open receivers last game that (quarterback Taylor) Martinez didn't see. There were a couple blitzes we ran, and we had a guy running down the middle of the field wide open. Can't let that happen. We've been fortunate they haven't hit 'em yet."
So that means the secondary is playing at a high level, but maybe not its highest level?
"I don't know," Kovacs said. "I think we're playing all right. I think last game we didn't play well enough at all, specifically the defensive backs."
- Well, yeah. Gibbons:
"I really don't groom that much," Gibbons said, smiling.
Now he's going to bleed on you, Baumgardner. Or more likely whoever wrote this headline:
Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Matt Vogrich could finally give John Beilein a consistent deep threat in Ann Arbor
Zack Novak shot 41% from three last year, and whenever he gets back from wrecking Belgium he's going to be ANGAR. Elsewhere, Spike Albrecht is called "mini Steve Nash," which is definitely not getting ahead of ourselves and headline guy is definitely going to put a "got" in between the first two words of this one after a loss at some point this year:
Youth served: Michigan's talented freshmen five show ability, poise in college debut
Falk on Jug. Not like that.
Whatever that might mean.
Seriously, they can do this? Whenver M plays at Northern I think the exact same thing Yost Built does:
Unlike SOME SCHOOLS THAT I KNOW OF, Northern offers streaming video of their games for $7. You can also buy a season pass for $75, and if you're reading this blog, don't have season tickets, and claim that you wouldn't fork out that much for a Michigan version of the same thing, I will call you a damn liar. It's 2012 and this is Michigan fergodsakes. We shouldn't have less access to video of games than Northern Michigan fans. Just saying.
I've watched three or four games at NMU the past few years, and M hockey fans outside of the local area can't get one.
Meanwhile, MHN highlights the scheduling thing we'll hear all season:
LAST TRIP TO MARQUETTE?
The Mining Journal’s Matt Wellens talked to NMU coach Walt Kyle about scheduling the Wolverines in the future. Kyle is open to the idea, however it must be on “fair terms.” By that he means a basic home-and-home series where the Wolverines would travel to NMU one year and NMU would return the favor the next year. He is not open to two-for-ones and payout deals.
Honestly, good for NMU.
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan expects lack of goalie ejections at Northern Michigan. Yost Built previews NMU. NCAA dooms Midwest regional to 20 people in stands for 13th year of 14 by giving it to Cincinnati, which has one program (Miami) within a four hour drive. Leitch should totally ditch the Knicks. Catching up with Hunwick.
ulnar nerve; Vote_Crisler_1937 wanted me to make him look cool
An MGoUser with a college sports history who had a similar injury to the one Denard had emailed to give some perspective on what he's dealing with at the moment. It's below.
I am wondering about how Denard's nerve injury has affected his passing the last couple years.
Some background with my experience with the injury:
After 4 seasons of B1G baseball I had an ulnar nerve translation surgery. Until I had that surgery I had very extreme and unpredictable pain in my throwing elbow. There were days I could go 5 innings against Iowa, and days where after 9 pitches against MSU I hit two guys in the back because I suddenly had no ability to control the ball, eventually being unable to grip it, feeling constant shocks in my fingers and my forearm muscles compressing my bones like a trash compactor.
Some days I could not sit without biting my lip in a car or movie theatre because gently setting my elbow on the armrests was too intense so I imagine slamming it on the turf would have ruined my day as well. After the surgery, (16 week recovery so not an option for Denard) all of that was gone and my arm felt virgin again. literally, the first time I threw off a mound my accuracy was the greatest it had ever been and I hadn't thrown a pitch in 16 weeks! This injury is a chronic overuse injury that started early in my freshman year and became unbearable my senior year.
So my thought is that perhaps this injury is not at all new, and during the times it is really hurting Denard, again, times that are not so predictable, I would bet that it greatly hampers his ability to throw a football with accuracy. To the extent that the coaches are aware of it this can certainly change play-calling. Perhaps some of his arm-punts or Tacopants slings are a result of him feeling that familiar SHOCK as he releases the football. Though I guess I have never seen him rub his arm so then again maybe not.
I'm pretty sure this is a newly developed thing with Denard since if he'd had something similar last year, Michigan would have put him under the knife in the offseason.
I don't think it's affected his play much. When Denard has armpunted this year it hasn't been much of a surprise. When he's stepped into his throws they've been accurate. When he's gone all woogly not so much.
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Gareon Conley, highlight videos of Derrick Green and Channing Stribling, a couple 2014 visits, and more.
Gone-ley? /Slaps Knee
It's been a week since Gareon Conley stated after a game that he intended to take visits, and as of this moment, at least, he's still a Michigan commit. 247's Bill Kurelic reports that may not last long at all, however, as Conley's step-mother says he'll "definitely [take] his visits," with plans to check out Ohio State and Oregon ($):
Angel [Conley] said her son is planning to make official visits to Ohio State and Oregon.
“Ohio State will be an official visit in the next month or so,” she said. “Ohio State and Oregon will be official visits.”
Nothing has been set up yet, at least, and Sam Webb noted on Scout's board($) that Conley has spoken with the coaches and knows his spot in the class is at stake—Webb also said Conley is still pondering visits, of course. In my opinion, it's tough at this point to see a scenario in which he doesn't take a look around.
If there's good news for Michigan, it's that they have one of Conley's closest confidants in their corner: his father, per Scout's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“Everything just seemed real good up there. I love Michigan and I’m pushing him to go to Michigan. But at the end of the day it’s still his decision. I’m rooting for Michigan.”
“As far as Oregon and Ohio State, those are all good schools too. I can’t put any of them down, but I root for Michigan. At the end of the day, like I said, this is all up to him. If he wants to go see them, I’m behind him, whatever school he goes to.”
Clearly, Mr. Conley is going to let Gareon make his own choice, but it can't hurt to have him pulling for the Wolverines. The longer this process is drawn out, the better it probably is for Michigan—few expected him to make it this far in the first place after last Friday's news.
[Hit THE JUMP for highlights of Channing Stribling and Derrick Green, news on a few 2014 recruits, and more.]