Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
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.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
Michigan-Alabama Cowboy Classic
Punt/Counterpunt are together again for another go-round. The last time I wrote for this column, Lloyd Carr was still head coach of the Wolverines. I’ll count as a blessing that I didn’t have to write during the dark days of Michigan football. Bet you never thought you’d be more glad to be rid of “he who we shall not name” than that old curmudgeon Lloyd, did you?
I wanted to thank Brian for giving Nick and I another opportunity to voice our opinions, but I’m having second thoughts about doing this again. I’m finding it difficult to get excited about cranking this out every week, having a deadline, dealing with Counterpunt—it’s too much like work.
Actually dealing with Counterpunt is probably more like babysitting a spoiled child. They never know what they want, they make unreasonable demands and you can’t satisfy them no matter what you do.
Take this Michigan/Alabama game. How long have we known this was scheduled? Did you make any arrangements for attending it—tickets, air or hotel reservations? Noooo—but who decides last night while quaffing his fruity, hoppy brew ski that we just had to go on a 1200 mile road trip, leaving in the next five hours? I might have downed a few vodka tonics by then, but at least I know what’s feasible and what isn’t.
A feat that can be accomplished is Blue beating ‘Bama. First game of the season is the perfect time to play them. Coach Hoke and defensive coordinator Mattison have had eight months to game plan for this one. We’ll have the second coming of Megatron, when Devin Gardner lines up at wide receiver – which DB on Tide defense is going to cover him? And then there’s Denard. If you don’t have faith in what this kid can do by now, then you’ll just be a nonbeliever forever.
It should be obvious to all that my column-mate has issues. The man calls Bama’s coach Nick “Satan” for god sakes. Didn’t anyone ever tell Counter-runt to stay away from the red kool-aid? Nick stockpiles the talent and then just overwhelms you. Nothing special about the offense, just run it down his opponent’s throat until they choke. Remind you of anyone we used to know?
Michigan 31, Alabama 28
By Nick RouMel
Michigan-Alabama Cowboy Classic
Many thanks to MGoBlog for bringing Punt/Counterpunt out of retirement. While I was easy enough to track down, Punt was a challenge. He was eventually found living in a hut along the Mekong Delta, wearing a bathrobe with fuzzy slippers, with a vodka tonic and a Swedish K at his side. He was raving, but Brian promised him a bath and a visit to the set of “American Guns,” and he was persuaded to return and resume his column.
While one might surmise that such a Kaczynski-like hermit would be fearsome, Punt is actually quite the chicken. “Pawk, pawk!” I taunted him when he revealed he would be choosing Michigan in the Cowboy Classic. “So you don’t want anyone to question your right to wear your Sam McGuffie UM jersey?” Punt wouldn’t pick against Michigan even if they were playing, oh, say, Appalachian State.
Punt and I do share excitement about the Cowboy Classic, but not enough for him to actually attend. I told him I’d be at his door at 5 AM on Friday for the 19 hour drive to the Republic of Texas. I argued that by the time his death bed rolls around, he’d have more regrets about missing this grudge match with Nick Satan. But Punt stood firm, so we’re watching on the big screen.
Unfortunately, I do not share my friend’s optimism about this weekend’s matchup. Satan commands a reverential buzz these days. While at MSU he was barely able to put up Denny Stoltz-like numbers, in the hotter climes of the southern US, he has three national championships, two with Alabama.
Not even the antics of his devilish daughter can distract Satan from his evil mission. Kristen Saban, an Alabama co-ed, is now facing a lawsuit from fellow student Sarah Grimes. Sarah claims that after the younger Satan posted on her Facebook page, "No one likes Sarah! Yayyyyy!" she confronted Kristen to remove the post - but Kristen responded by pulverizing her. Just like her daddy teaches the Alabama defense.
It is that very defense that is now salivating for the opportunity to pulverize Denard & Co. Punt sees a glimmer of hope because Satan has lost a few of his minions to the NFL, but he seems to forget that Satan has more henchmen than the Wicked Witch. Yes, I fear that the good guys are going to get our winged helmets handed to us by the winged monkeys.
Evil prevails. Satan dances in his cloven hooves, his forked tail twitching with glee.
ALABAMA 24, MICHIGAN 14
Trapped in enemy territory, their far smaller band weakened by attrition and fearing the superior recruitment of the unchallengeable and suppressive French, the English cower in fear and mull surrender, but for those bowered by their once mocked, portly, stalwart and heroic monarch. Cloaked as a commoner he walks amongst his men.
NARRATOR: With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty; that every wretch, pining and pale before, beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks; A largess universal, like the sun, His liberal eye doth give to every one, Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all. Behold, as may unworthiness define, A little touch of Harry in the night.
And so our scene must to the battle fly; Where- O for pity!- we shall much disgrace, with four or five most vile and ragged foils, right ill-dispos'd in brawl ridiculous, the name of Agincourt. Yet sit and see, Minding true things by what their mock'ries be.
Enter the KING.
(Hover over the links to see which diary is which)
WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here but nineteen-ninety seven's men of England, that have not eligibility today.
What's he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin; If we are mark'd to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men recruited, the greater share of honour. God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England. God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour as one man more methinks would share from me.
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more! Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse. We would not die in that man's company that fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian!
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, and rouse him at the name of football season come again. He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember, with advantages, what feats he did that day. Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words: Brady the King, Shoelace and Omameh, Kovacs and Campbell, Demens and Floyd, Barnum and Schofield and Roundtree, Lewan and Toussaint, Hopkins and Gallon and Mealer, Roh, and Black, and Washington and Morgan, Gordon and Countess and Hagerup and Gibbons and Moore, be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red!
This story shall the good man teach his son; and Opening Weekend shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered--
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile. This day shall gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day!
(Take the jump, or close the wall up with our English dead)
Hey! I'm tired. You may have missed some stuff in the annual "oh God it's the week before the season and I promised myself I wouldn't do this again" content blitz, so here it is again with extremely brief summaries attached:
Brady Hoke is the Real William Carlos Williams.
Quarterback: weeeeeeeee STOP THROWING INTERCEPTIONS
Running back: like a slavering pack of robot velociraptors, but fast!
Wide receiver: see "Quarterback"
Offensive line: bubble wrap these mofos
Questions and answers: SHOTGUN, fusion, Gardnecieving, short yardage
Defensive line: just take it easy, man
Linebackers: calmer than you are
Safety: calmer than you are
Question and answers: fumbles, short yardage, fire zones, and yes the DL.
Podcast: can someone tell me if the new "generic podcast feed" is working for them?
Special teams: meh? I love meh!
Heuristics and the official prediction: 9-3, man, 9-3.
Ace draws the official game preview: predicts 31-20. Official MGoBrian prediction: Alabama, 22-15.
Ace FFFFs those bastards.
THINGS THAT LIVE ELSEWHERE
Brabbs on the ten year anniversary of Washington 2002.
The Daily has a great three-parter on the 2000 Orange Bowl. The feature is an oral history:
David Terrell, sophomore receiver: “It was the scariest night of my life.”
“Y2K, man. You had everyone go out and get canned goods, bottled water. I didn’t even know the world was going to be here in the morning when I got up.”
Matt Hinton has an Xs-and-Os post on Alabama versus running quarterbacks and Denard versus OSU that's worth your time.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Dallas? A Michigan Man's curiosity is like the noble albatross: ever soaring and observant, encompassing all without soiling its feet with the filthy soil of strange atolls--GADZOOKS I have stepped in expectorated tobacco remnants. LET US END THIS TOUR WITH HASTE AND RETURN TO OUR PULLMAN CARS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Michigan will be Michigan again when Brady Hoke's recruiting comes home to roost, and that will be excellent since this version of Michigan seems like it wants to take advantage of the opportunities presented it. It's still not quite there. The lines are thin and the future NFL stars are hard to find. The shotgun rules and the quarterback can make you laugh just because he moves like so.
In the lull here we can pause and savor things. We have a moment to not have those crushing expectations, to look down and think Michigan can't do it but hope they can, hope they can write themselves into lore as champions.
Here between the trough and the peak there will be a moment in which "can't" becomes "did." Maybe tomorrow.
The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|Year||Margin||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|2007||0.15 (41st)||14||15||2.46(33rd)||14||13||2.17 (67th)|
|2008||-.83 (104th)||9||11||2.42(33rd)||12||18||1.83 (57th)|
|2009||-1.00 (115th)||11||5||1.83(68th)||15||13||2.33 (83rd)|
|2011||+0.54 (25th)||9||20||2.31 (29th)||16||6||1.38 (33rd)|
I know you've heard it, so briefly: Michigan's recovered fumbles at a 75% rate and this is unsustainable. Move that to 50% and Michigan drops quite a bit, but does stay at or around zero for the year, which is a massive positive. How Michigan got there for reasons other than fumble recovery rate:
- dumping a bunch of carries on a to-date fumble-free Fitz Toussaint,
- coaching Denard to be more responsible with the ball when he's running, and
- getting a lot more pressure on opposing QBs.
None of those things should change. Michigan may not have much four-on-four pass rush but that didn't prevent Mattison from blitzing up a top-30 sack rate last year. Denard should also throw many fewer interceptions. He's a senior, he's in a second year in the offense, and Borges will have a better grasp on what leads to trouble. That should offset the fumble recovery rate regression and keep Michigan in a comfortable range near or slightly above zero.
Or, of course, it may do the exact opposite of all these things.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
There are a number of varying severity.
Here's a dossier:
- LG Michael Schofield moves to RT, which is actually undoing a position switch from last year. Fret level: none.
- LG Ricky Barnum moves to center, where he's reportedly doing well. Snapping is another burden, I guess, but fret level: minimal.
- QB Devin Gardner moves to WR, is still sort of a QB, and may be a QB again next year. Fret level: high. It could be that Gardner is undeniable at WR. It could be that Michigan is flailing for options.
- WDE Craig Roh moves to SDE. Fret level: minimal. Given last year, Roh's probably a better fit at the 5 anyway.
- WDE Jibreel Black moves to three-tech, moves back, may move back inside at points. Fret level: severe.
- SAM Brennen Beyer moves to WDE. Fret level: none. Beyer was supposed to be a WDE from the start, is now 252.
Concerns at WR and DL. Surprise!
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Again, there's no bottom if certain critical contributors implode. Assuming disastrous injuries do not occur at QB and OT…
Denard chews up low-level defenses; combine that with a back seven not giving up cheap points and it's hard to see a threat from Air Force, UMass, Purdue, Northwestern, or Minnesota. None of those teams have defenses that will be able to slow down Denard enough, if at all.
The second tier of should-win games is small, though: Illinois and Iowa are the only other games it seems like they absolutely should win, and Iowa was a loss last year. Even in a dark world where things go all wrong, they'd take one of those two and probably swing another game from the Bama/ND/Nebraska/OSU group to get to 7-5.
Michigan's going to implode in one game this year for reasons yet undetermined and must prove that it can teach its center to put his head up before he snaps the ball against MSU, but there isn't a game on the schedule other than the first one that seems like a true longshot. It's asking a but much of them to go to ND, Nebraska, and OSU and win 'em all, though. 10-2 is the reasonable ceiling.
The defense will be fine, even if turnovers decrease. The line will be a surprise to the positive. By the end of the year we are all convinced that Michigan's DL coaching can turn virtually anyone into a serviceable player.
There's a lot of bend-don't-break on D as Mattison struggles to find a pass rush against teams with veteran lines that can pick up his blitzes and Kovacs and Gordon hew down dudes at the first down marker. This is generally effective. The defense is far from dominant but steady and not prone to doing stupid things to itself. Morgan and Demens both improve noticeably, Washington and Campbell hold up okay, and a lot of tackles shift from the DL to the LBs.
On offense, Borges + Denard will still be a problem as those two jigsaw puzzles aren't ever going to mesh smoothly, but there isn't much dropoff at the skill positions if Devin Gardner lives up to even half the hype—for all our hand-wringing, Hemingway had 34 catches last year. Having Toussaint firmly in the driver's seat will help RB productivity, and as a whole the line should be better than it was a year ago now that the guards know how to pull and the right tackle is a high-level performer.
TE remains an issue. Denard getting year two in the new system should easily overwhelm that. His numbers will improve, most obviously in the INT category, and there won't be more than one clunker this time around.
We're gonna die tomorrow, but whatever.
|9/8||Air Force||Must win|
|9/22||@ ND||Lean to win|
|10/6||@ Purdue||Must win|
|10/13||Illinois||Lean to win|
|10/20||MSU||Lean to loss|
|10/27||@ Nebraska||Lean to win|
|11/3||@ Minnesota||Must win|
|11/17||Iowa||Lean to win|
|11/24||@ Akron State||Lean to loss|
Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana
Add it up and you get 9-3. Not a bold prediction this time around, I know.
[Note for people who don't read who posts what: Ace posted this. You probably didn't read this either. DAMN YOUUUUU.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Alabama|
|WHERE||Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX|
|WHEN||8 pm Eastern, September 1st 2012|
|THE LINE||Alabama -13.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
|WEATHER||sunny, mid-90s, roof expected to be closed so it doesn't really matter|
[Image via Tower of Bammer]
It's the opening game of the season, so certainly the Wolverines have scheduled a directional Michigan school or similar creampu...
Michigan takes on defending national champion Alabama, which is ranked second in both preseason polls despite returning just 11 starters. There is good reason for this: Nick Saban has turned Tuscaloosa into an NFL talent factory, one that shows no signs of slowing despite the heavy personnel losses. Michigan's toughest test traditionally comes in the last regular season game; this year, it's the first.
Run Offense vs Alabama
Jesse Williams shifts from end to nose tackle; this should not be a problem
The Crimson Tide defense posted one of the most dominant seasons in collegiate history in 2011, allowing ten yards per game fewer than any other team in the country. A look at their run defense, game-by-game, reveals their numbers could have been even better if not for one obvious outlier:
FCS school Georgia Southern was the only team to crack 3.6 yards per carry against Alabama, and they more than doubled that figure. Flukes are flukes, however, and a triple-option FCS team managing that kind of output against that defense screams irrelevance unless Al Borges breaks out the flexbone tomorrow. The rest of the year, Bama allowed more than three ypc just twice, to Penn State (still boasting Silas Redd) and LSU (first matchup—the second didn't go so well).
This isn't the same Alabama outfit, of course; they lose nose tackle Josh Chapman and a pair of All-American caliber linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. The Tide can replace that talent effectively, sliding 320-pound end Jesse Williams down to the nose and inserting former blue-chip recruits Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard into the lineup at linebacker, but replicating last year's success will be difficult.
Then again, Alabama ceded just 2.4 yards per carry last year en route to crushing the entire universe. Giving up a full yard more per carry would've still placed them inside the top 25 nationally—there may be regression, meaning the extent of their destruction is limited to merely our own galaxy. Williams reportedly bench-pressed 600 pounds(!!!) over the summer—as a JUCO transfer who originally hails from Australia, he's just beginning to reach his potential. Starting ends Damion Square and Ed Stinson each played in all 13 games last year (Square started all 13) and weigh in at over 280 pounds. The Tide carry a reputation for being strong up the middle and that should not change this year.
At linebacker, Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosely combined for 11 TFLs in 2011 and should greatly improve on that output now that they're out from under the shadow of Hightower and Upshaw. Johnson is listed as the co-starter at both MIKE and WILL, while Mosely will stick to the weak side. You may remember DePriest from his recruitment, when the five-star out of Springfield, Ohio, appeared to favor Michigan at one point before choosing to head South. He tallied 25 tackles as a true freshman last year and is a star in the making. Strongside linebacker Hubbard functions more as a defensive lineman in Alabama's 3-4 defense.
On the Michigan side, their performance in this regard may hinge on the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint [UPDATE: forget that]—it takes a dynamic runner to be effective against this defense, and Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith do not fit that bill.
If Toussaint isn't available, Moving the ball on the ground will be a difficult proposition, especially since Alabama can then key on Denard Robinson without having to fear the guy next to him.
As long as there are no injuries along the offensive line, the Wolverines should hold up in the trenches. The pressure will be on Patrick Omameh—who's struggled against bigger, stronger linemen—and new starter Elliott Mealer to not give any ground; if they're getting knocked into the backfield, the efforts of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will be for naught.
If, as expected, Toussaint is not available, it'll take a monster effort from Denard for Michigan to consistently move the ball. He's capable, of course, especially against a defense facing its first full-speed test of the season. As detailed in FFFF, it usually takes misdirection to find running room against the Tide, so we'll see if Borges gets creative to try and get Denard into space on the edge.
Key Matchup: The interior line vs. Jesse Williams. As I said, Lewan and Schofield could dominate and it won't matter if Omameh, Mealer, and center Ricky Barnum can't keep Williams from getting a push up the middle. If the interior line can fight Williams to a draw there's a chance Denard and the backs can put together a few decent runs, perhaps (please?) by running some inverted veer, which Auburn (and Cam Newton) ran with great success against the Tide in 2010.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the news. Which is mostly bad.]
Statement from Head Coach Brady Hoke on running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and defensive end Frank Clark:
"Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark have been suspended for one game and will not make the trip to Dallas for Saturday's game.
"The decision was not easy, but I feel it is in the best interest of this program and for these kids, and those always will be my priorities. We have choices every day, and you have to be accountable to this program, your teammates, your family and the University of Michigan.
"These are our sons. These are real lives, and I think too often many people forget that. It's not always just about football, or a football decision. It's about teaching life lessons, and if this helps these kids or someone else make a right decision later, then we've won. That is ultimately what we are here for, to help them grow and mature to become better sons, fathers, husbands and members of society.
"They are good young men who made poor choices, and we will continue to support them as members of our team and family."
Both will be back for Air Force. Thomas Rawls, Vincent Smith, and Dennis Norfleet(!) will have to pick up the slack at RB, with some possibility Stephen Hopkins will also get RB snaps. Black and Beyer will likely handle DE with some possibility Mario Ojemudia gets in as a rush specialist.