frank beamer #1
Wisconsin is the origin of Leinenkugel’s, cows, and the directional state motto (forward). The school over there has a football team that is favored to win the Woody Division. This means that should Michigan beat out Sparty and Big Red for Bo, Michigan fans should expect the other half of the Lucas Oil be jumping around sometime at the end of the third quarter of the title game.
The conditions for the Badgers to reach Indianapolis in 2012 are favorable, but that doesn’t mean they’re a compelling contender. They lose key pieces of their offense, including their quarterback, top receiver, and half of their offensive line. They also lose a significant chunk of a defense that ranked a disappointing 60th in the nation against the run last year. While the acquisition of former Maryland QB Danny O’Brien and the return of star RB Montee Ball will be a significant boon, it’s easy to see Wisconsin being, at best, slightly worse this season than they were in 2011. That they are favored to win their division is less a compliment to them than it is an indictment of their division.
- Sept. 1, Northern Iowa
- Sept. 8, @ Oregon State
- Sept. 15, Utah State
- Sept. 22, UTEP
- Sept. 29, @ Nebraska
- Oct. 6, Illinois
- Oct. 13, @ Purdue
- Oct. 20, Minnesota
- Oct. 27, Michigan State
- Nov. 3, WIFEDAY
- Nov. 10, @ Indiana
- Nov. 17, Ohio State
- Nov. 24, @ Penn State
Wisconsin’s consumption of nonconference cupcakes continues, although the 2012 batch has a little more substance than in years past. Northern Iowa and Utah State, for instance, both had winning records. A visit to Oregon State is a nice gesture, except Oregon State went 3-9 last season. Regardless, Corvallis is a great destination. I used to live there.
The B1G schedule is the B1G schedule. Wisconsin misses Michigan (yeah she’s married now) but plays Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State, two of them on the road. Keep an eye on the Nov. 17 game. The brawl in Madison should take the edge off a Buckeyes team gearing up for their season finale against the Wolverines.
This schedule is as favorable as: Watching a horror movie. You'll probably make it -- it'll just be somewhat unpleasant.
Your uniform makes rest of us vomit into our mouths, too.
Leaving: QB Russell Wilson (72.8%, 3,175 yards, 33 TD, 4 INT), WR Nick Toon (64 rec, 926 yards), RG Kevin Zeitler, C Peter Konz
Returning: RB Montee Ball (1,923 yards, 6.3 ypc, 33 TD), RB James White (713 yards, 5.1 ypc, 6 TD), TE Jacob Pederson (30 rec, 356 yards, 8 TD), LT Ricky Wagner.
I take some of that back: losing half of their NFL-caliber linemen may not be that big of a deal. There is plenty of protein, grain, and beer available in Madison to turn their next crop of linemen into run-blocking pâté.
Losing Russell Wilson, however, IS a big deal. He ran the Badgers offense with remarkable efficiency as a transfer. That kind of ability is rare. O’Brien is a lot less talented than Wilson and has already shown that he isn’t great with transitions. In light of the loss of their one elite receiver, I predict O’Brien will be a slightly worse version of former Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien.
Player you’ll probably see on Sportscenter: Montee Ball
Doing what? Loitering in the end zone. Like a bawss.
This offense is as frightening as: “The Ring” -- with the lights on. Fear level = 7.5.
His smile makes me believe this was from a pre-game presser.
Style: 4-3 over, coverage not guaranteed if the game is on the line.
Leaving: DT Patrick Butrym (55 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4 sacks), CB Antonio Fenelus (42 tackles, 4 INT, 9 PBU), S Aaron Henry (55.5 tackles, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 4 INT, 7 PBU)
Returning: MLB Chris Borland (103.5 tackles, 19 TFL, 2.5 sacks), WLB Mike Taylor (105 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 sacks), CB Marcus Cromartie (34 tackles, 3 PBU)
Linebacking should be fine. The secondary will take a hit. The defensive line needs some work.
Also, really gotta do something about this:
Player you’ll probably see on the BTN: Chris Borland.
Doing what? Getting called a “throwback.”
This defense is as frightening as: “House on Haunted Hill” 1999 remake. Has its moments; I have no idea what's going on during the last two minutes. Fear level = 4.
Overall: 9-3, 5-3 B1G
Their chances of making it to Indianapolis are as good as: Making it through a double feature of “The Ring” and “House on Haunted Hill.” You are with your grandpa, your neighbor’s little brother, your stepsister, and a bunch of their middle school friends. Your uncle was there but got caught bringing in outside food and got kicked out of the theater.
-----BIG SECTION BREEEAAAAAAKKKK-----
Bold prediction: This statue stays.
Let's not talk about the elephant. Let's talk footbawwww, and in terms of footbaw Penn State should be okay for the season. New head coach Bill O'Brien is going to install his superinnovative Patriots offensive scheme, and it's going to be great. No more field goal fests against Iowa. Enough guys are coming back that the Nittany Lions won't feel the effects of their abysmal 2012 recruiting class for another year at least. If it weren't for all the Penn State Awful Thing stuff going on, there might actually be some sense of optimism. It's like the football version of finally getting crisp, clean sheets after years of bedridden awfulness.
Unfortunatelly, Penn State Awful Thing.
- Sept. 1, Ohio (Bobcats)
- Sept. 8, @ Virginia
- Sept. 15, Navy
- Sept. 22, Temple
- Sept. 29, @ Illinois
- Oct. 6, Northwestern
- Oct. 13, WIFEDAY
- Oct. 20, @ Iowa
- Oct. 27, Ohio (Buckeyes)
- Nov. 3, @ Purdue
- Nov. 10, @ Nebraska
- Nov. 17, Indiana
- Nov. 24, Wisconsin
Penn State has a relatively soft nonconference schedule and doesn’t face either of the Michigans. They get division primary foes Wisconsin and Ohio State at home. If they had either an offense or, you know, program stability, they’d be slightly favored over Wisconsin. We’ll see if O’Brien can work on the former, but there’s nothing to be done about the latter. Regardless, the Nittany Lions come in close second to the Badgers in the preseason division rankings. You never know. With a few lucky bounces they might just end up in Indianapolis.
This schedule is as favorable as: A sturdy lifeboat in the middle of a hurricane.
Sure. Why not.
Style: New England
Leaving: WR Derek Moye (40 rec, 654 yards, 3 TD)
Returning: QB Matt McGloin (54.1%, 1571 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT), RB Silas Redd (1241 yards, 5.1 ypc, 7 TD), WR Justin Brown (35 rec, 517 yards, 2 TD), C Matt Stankiewitch
Penn State has some issues at quarterback again with ginger walk-on extraordinaire McGloin, perennially unfinished attic Rob Bolden, and founding father (John) Paul Jones, but McGloin seems to be in best position to lead the charge. The tradeoff of having a low ceiling is the fact that he maybe kinda understands how plays work. Redd's return to the backfield will be helpful regardless of who starts.
Whether O'Brien's massive overhaul of the offense will be effective is unknown. The Nittany Lions were awful last year, and not enough of the personnel has changed to suggest that they won't be again. Playcalling was probably a weakness in 2011, but playcalling is usually dictated by talent and execution. Unless you're Jim Bollman.
Player you’ll probably see in a flashback nightmare: Matt McGloin.
Doing what? Victimizing J.T. Floyd.
This offense is as terrifying as: An Xbox made with disassembled Atari components. Fear level = 3.
No. 42 LB Michael Mauti
Style: 4-3 under
Leaving: DT Devon Still (42 tackles, 17 TFL, 4.5 sacks), DE Jack Crawford (29 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks), LB Nate Stupar (59.5 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INT), CB Chaz Powell (35 tackles, 2 PBU, 2 INT), S Nick Sukay (48 tackles, 8 PBU, 3 INT)
Returning: DT Jordan Hill (37.5 tackles, 8 TFL, 4 sacks), LB Michael Mauti (injured for most of 2011), LB Gerald Hodges (76 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT), S Malcolm Willis (25 tackles, 1 INT)
Player you’ll probably see on ESPN: Gerald Hodges.
Doing what? Getting drafted, wishing he’d left a year earlier.
This defense is as terrifying as: A refurbished Xbox made with Xbox components. Fear level = 8.
Overall: 9-3, 5-3 B1G
Their chances of reaching Indianapolis are as good as: Getting a LAN game to work with aforementioned Xboxes.
-----BIG SECTION BREEAAAAAAAAKKKKKKKKK-----
I have only one word for Indiana’s outlook for 2012: Hoosierquest.
- Sept. 1, Indiana State
- Sept. 8, @ UMass
- Sept. 15, Ball State
- Sept. 22, WIFEDAY
- Sept. 29, @ Northwestern
- Oct. 6, Michigan State
- Oct. 13, Ohio State
- Oct. 20, @ Navy
- Oct. 27, @ Illinois
- Nov. 3, Iowa
- Nov. 10, Wisconsin
- Nov. 17, @ Penn State
- Nov. 24, @ Purdue
Playing UMass on the road is so Indiana.
This schedule is as favorable as: The Ann Arbor Art Fair is to traffic.
Style: 4-out, 1-in Motion.
Leaving: Some dudes.
Returning: PG Tre Roberson (57%, 937 yards, 3 TD, 6 INT), SF Kofi Hughes (35 rec, 536 yards, 3 TD), PF Ted Bolser (14 rec, 165 yards, 1 TD)
Indiana is still figuring out why the term “basketball on grass” isn’t more literal. They are currently adjusting to the oblong shape of the ball and learning that traveling is okay.
Player you’ll probably see during a live update: Tre Roberson.
Doing what? Getting pwned.
This offense is as frightening as: Modern art; Why is your running back facing backward? What is the symbolism of having just four guys on your offensive line? The abstract shape of your I-formation evokes the image of a bowl of red jello about to get thrown against a window. How uncompromisingly postmodern. Fear level = 1.
Replogle, left; Black, right
Leaving: LB Jeff Thomas (57.5 tackles, 1 sack), LB Leon Beckum (42.5 tackles, 2 sacks)
Returning: DT Larry Black (48 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), DT Adam Replogle (38.5 tackles, 7 TFL, 4 sacks)
Yes, Larry is Jibreel’s older brother. He is decent (massive Indiana caveats abound), so maybe Jibreel will be too.
Player you’ll probably see on Sportscenter: Adam Replogle.
Doing what? Getting dragged into the end zone by Montee Ball.
This defense is as frightening as: Pottery exhibits; they take up space, but are liable to fall over and break on contact. Fear level = 2.
Overall: 1-11, 0-8 B1G
Their chances of making it to Indianapolis are as good as: Finding an item at the Art Fair that is both aesthetically pleasing and reasonably priced.
Remember the plan. Orson is at SEC media days talking about Gene Chizik's enormous head and how John L Smith should always be employed at a BCS ("contract conference" now, I guess) school, because he absolutely should:
John L. Smith is … an animated scarecrow loaded with bootleg fireworks tossed into a shed full of flammable talent, even more volatile politics, and, like, a shitload of M-80s and old, sweaty sticks of poorly packaged Chinese dynamite. The glow will be seen for miles when it all goes up, and when we all run to the site we might find the limp figures of decimated opponents, or the scorched foundations of Arkansas football itself. Either way no one in this room wants John L. Smith to go anywhere, ever, especially as long as he's barreling into press conferences like so many bulls through the streets of Pamplona. (He gored Joe Schad on the way out! It was awesome! They're totally bros now!)
The plan: every year one BCS-or-contract-conference school selected at random that has fired its coach will be required to hire JLS on a one-year interim basis. This was a good idea before Orson implicitly promised to follow him around to whatever media day he ends up at, drawing pictures of him as a duck with his hair on fire screaming inanities he actually tells his players.
Goodbye, Braylonfest. User Drill points out another rule change that I'd missed. Along with nerfing most kickoff returns, the safety-conscious/paranoid rules committee may have all but eliminated onside kicks:
After a kickoff hits the ground — specifically on a one-hop onside kick — the receiving team gets an opportunity to fair catch that ball. "A lot of our coaches," Shaw said, "have said that will almost take that one-hop (onside) kick out of the game."
That is insane. Dealing with kickoffs is marginally acceptable as an ineffective fig-leaf designed to show people you are Thinking About The Children, but eliminating onside kicks, which happen maybe once a game, is sacrificing that small element of what if that goes through your head and sometimes comes to spectacular fruition so that a maximum of twelve plays a year are marginally less dangerous.
This is another negative side effect of not paying the players anything: constant rule adjustments for safety in excess of reason to reduce the ammo of dissidents.
Tom Luginbill was into Shane Morris before he got popular. Ace will tackle the recruiting content contained in this tomorrow (probably, anyway), but this space is for ridiculous things and Tom Luginbill's best Hipster Runoff impression counts:
"Tyrone Swoopes's hot streak was fueled by self-loathing and self-aggrandizement, the equal and opposite manifestations of a whopping ego."
"Amongst the towering riffs that comprise the heart of JT Barrett is a lurking discontent with the state of modern society."
"Shane Morris's lefthandedness is a breath of fresh air at an event dominated by a hegemony of right-handed conformists. Take that, late capitalism!"
BONUS: guess which one of these was lifted directly from the front page of Pitchfork for a prize.
ANSWER: the first, which was teaser text on a review of the Smashing Pumpkins' Pisces Iscariot reissue.
PRIZE: Hey, that's Ian Cohen of Sexy Results!
Do you have weird stuff? Weird old stuff? Inspired by this War Eagle Reader post featuring old media games and other Auburn miscellanea old enough to be cool and a touch insane…
…instead of deeply embarrassing, I am considering a new sort of mailbag post in which you send me images of stuff you've collected, which I then post on the internet. I should kick things off by finally scanning in the relevant portions of the very old Michigan yearbook I acquired a couple years back.
So, like, if you've got some weird old stuff scan it and send it in. Especially if it's the Ann Arbor version of the 1973 Delta Chi Miss Hot Pants Pageant. Strictly for its historic interest, of course.
Great success. The Classical stops in at Detroit City FC and finds a ludicrous amount of success for a first-year minor league soccer outfit that plays at Cass Tech. Former Wolverine Knox Cameron is a prominent starter and credits the club with reviving his interest in the beautiful game:
Knox Cameron, a former youth national team player and University of Michigan star, described himself as “pretty much over soccer” by the time his MLS career ended in 2006. But his experience with Detroit City FC has rekindled his old feelings for the game. The “big thing,” he said, “is it’s really united the residents. To know that the sport that you love is making an impact…that is really, really gratifying.”
He said that his experience playing with Detroit City FC has been one of the greatest of his career. “This would be right there, just below playing in an Under-20 World Cup or a Major League Soccer game. Just because of what the ownership is trying to accomplish. To be able to bring this level of joy and camaraderie to the citizens of Detroit, that ranks up there.”
Their inaugural season just came to a close at .500 overall.
Whoah. I've been getting questions about the Big Ten's reaction to this whole Paterno thing, questions I have no ability to answer since I'm not privy to the discussions going on and it's not like there's any precedent for this sort of thing. But people are at least talking about the nuclear option:
The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting Big Ten leaders are weighing a series of proposals in an 18-page plan prompted by the current situation at Penn State. Among the ideas being thrown around include removing the university from the conference($).
The Big Ten handbook requires at least a 60 percent vote from the league's Council of Presidents and Chancellors to expel a member, although a Big Ten spokesperson told the Chronicle that number will rise to 70 percent for 2012-13.
The league is also talking about empowering the commissioner to fire coaches and administrators, which seems beside the point since anything that would trigger this sort of penalty would be a firing offense. On the other hand, as long as anyone who gets fired under this statute has to be replaced by John L Smith I'm on board.
This time, with taste. I hope, then check. The last time we tried this it didn't go so well:
One of the interesting touches to the new concourse will be the lyrics to the fight song "The Victors" etched into the floor and wrapping throughout the concourse. A new brick exterior also blends Crisler with Michigan Stadium, which also had a recent facelift.
"Crisler is probably an 80-percent finished product right now. There's a completely new facade and the outside is all brick and it's beautiful," Beilein said Wednesday in an interview on WDFN. "There's a new entryway to Crisler that's going to knock you out. There's a big block 'M' and the escalators and big glass entry. All of the concourses are wide open with food courts, lighting and windows. It is going to be something really special."
We're good. There are a bunch more exiting pictures of construction at that link.
A loss on youtube. A rarity, but here's the narrow 1988 loss to Miami narrated by Keith Jackson. Like… all of it. No idea why; the other things this guy has thrown up include a 1991 edition of the Ryder Cup and a Borg vs McEnroe match.
Mikulak profile. Sam Mikulak hits AA.com:
"There have been many times in the past where I'd have had my parents make that call for me," Mikulak said. "When I was a kid in California, I'd want to go on a snowboarding trip or something with friends and they'd tell me 'no,' tell me I can't go because the season's coming up and I can't get hurt.
"But now, I kind of tend to make those decisions on my own. I guess I'm kind of maturing."
Correct. Red on Carrick's disappearance:
“I think he talked to Coach Wiseman. I never got a call from him. I just think it’s a huge mistake. The sad thing is, we make a commitment to a kid two years ago and we sit on that scholarship and we honor that commitment and right up until the draft, and then he takes the draft and decides now he’s going to go in a different direction? What kind of integrity is that? That’s just terrible. That’s one of the things that bothers me about college coaching. Some of these families and kids don’t keep their word. I hate to put integrity on the line, but let’s face it. This is a commitment you make and this is your word and what are you doing?”
You can use the excuse that Carrick is 17 or whatever, but his parents aren't. Here's to not improving your 10% shot at the league by playing against younger, poorer competition.
Etc.: Nick Saban says Michigan is terrible and Alabama will beat them by 20 points. Long fluffy hype on Beilein from the News. Indianapolis won't bid on the first round of NCAA title games.
Screenshot via Operation Sports
I has been nine days since the release of EA Sports's latest iteration of their NCAA Football series. It speaks to the power college football holds over my soul that, for the ninth day in a row, I will play this game for an extensive period of time.
You see, NCAA Football 13 is not a great game. In fact, it's not even a particularly good one. For every advancement from last year's edition, there's a new glitch or gameplay issue that mars the playing experience. This isn't new, of course—you could say the same about every edition since NCAA 05—but it's especially true for a game that had so much initial promise but once again fails to completely deliver.
Then again, I'm still playing, with two active dynasties and a burgeoning Heisman Challenge that weds my favorite NFL player of all time to the school I attended. For me, it's an impossible-to-shake relic of my childhood: eager anticipation, the midnight release (yes, I went there), the first sleepless night (always starting with a Michigan dynasty), the download of fully-named rosters, the ritualistic ass-kickings handed to my little brother, and so on. For me, NCAA is as much a staple of summer as hot dogs and baseball, and I've come to terms with the fact that the game will inevitably disappoint, and I will inevitably spend countless hours playing it anyway.
I know I'm not the only one like this, so this review will be a little different; yes, I'll lay out the positives and negatives, but much of this post will be dedicated to finding ways to enjoy this game in spite of itself. Because let's be honest: if you're reading this, you probably bought the thing already.
The hallmark advancement of this game is the long-overdue overhaul of the passing system. No longer do all your passes fly on the same trajectory, begging to be intercepted by a leaping linebacker or that corner who's not even looking. Now touch passes actually have—wait for it—touch, allowing you to drop a slick pass in between zones or launch a bomb over everyone. I love to run a passing spread or air raid offense, so to say this is a welcome change would be an understatement.
Another long-overdue tweak is the elimination of superhuman defenders; the linebacker playing the short middle zone doesn't climb the ladder to pick off a wide-open post route, and that cornerback whose back is facing you won't stick his hands over his head and somehow intercept that fly route when he's beaten by a good three yards. Again, this is a huge step in the right direction.
On top of those changes, this year saw the addition of hundreds of new animations for the receiver. This is not a video put out by EA, but a highlight I saved from one of my own dynasty games:
The height of realism? Okay, probably not, though it's worth pointing out that I've seen that animation exactly once in the time I've poured into this game. There are many others, including Calvin Johnson-esque one-handers that will make you rise from your recliner before pausing to check out the instant replay in super-slow-mo. This game has its moments, to be sure, and many of them occur when you're airing it out downfield.
The game encourages a far more disciplined approach to playing quarterback, as well. Receiver icons don't appear until the player is "looking" for the ball; an immediate throw after the snap results in an ugly incompletion at best, an interception at worst. The game now executes a 3-, 5-, or 7-step drop for you, and throwing in a rhythm with your drop really does produce the best results. Recklessly rolling out when the play doesn't call for such will usually end in a sack; if you want to take advantage of your mobile quarterback, learn how to step up in the pocket and get under an edge-rushing DE to break a play open. These changes make the passing game not just a new experience, but a very enjoyable one, though there's two large drawbacks that I'll cover later.
In past games, running out of the shotgun was out of the question. In this year's edition, the zone read can be very effective, and all that separates you from a potential big play is correctly reading the defensive end. The "gotcha!" feeling when you correctly keep as the DE crashes down the line will have you strongly considering a move to RichRod's playbook (okay, maybe not).
Then there's the lynchpin of the series, dynasty mode, where you take the reigns of any NCAA team as the head coach or either coordinator and grind your way to the top (or at least a new contract). This year, it's deeper than ever, which should greatly appeal to those who take a more strategic approach to playing the game.
Recruiting is much-improved thanks to the new scouting feature, which gives you three hours a week (plus an extra 20 when setting up your recruiting board before the season) to unlock player ratings before divvying up your available phone call time. This adds to the realism—coaches have much more information in real life than star ratings and an approximate 40 time—and also makes it much easier to choose between multiple recruits at the same position.
ESPN is more integrated into the game than in previous years, with in-game score updates from Rece Davis and a bottom line with scores from all over the country. The updates do get repetitive after a while—Rece only has so many pre-programmed statements—but they're easy to skip if you find them a bother. I appreciate the efforts to make dynasty mode more of a story; they capture the scoreboard-gazing dramatics of college football quite well.
The big gameplay mode addition this year is the Heisman Challenge, and if you've seen the commercials you know you can take players like Desmond Howard, Eddie George, and Barry Sanders and put them on any team you'd like. The presentation here is also solid, as frequent videos featuring the Heisman winners discussing their careers are interspersed into the gameplay. You'll have to decide for yourself if you prefer playing as a receiver, running back, or quarterback; all have their merits and demerits, but it's possible to enjoy yourself at any of the positions.
Issues with computer AI abound and threatened to ruin what should be a great game of virtual football. While the passing game is much-improved, two issues need to be addressed. The first is the rampant prevalence of sacks; if you don't tweak the sliders, expect the DTs to have an absolute field day for both teams. All too often a DT is able to blow right by the interior line and destroy a play before the receiver icons even appear, and it's not unusual to see both teams approach double-digit sacks in a game with five-minute quarters.
Those sacks, however, are rather necessary considering the passing game's other issue: safety play that makes 2010 Cam Gordon look like Ed Reed by comparison. Streaks and posts from the slot are nearly unstoppable as safeties routinely stand still while the receiver gallops past, regardless of the defensive playcall. If you want to win just about every game, all you need is a cannon-armed QB and one tall, fast receiver; the rest is just exploiting the glaring holes in the defense.
It's asking too much of EA to expect them to overhaul the running game and defense in a year where they did so much with passing, but I still have to stick those two categories here. It's difficult to run in the game, though not because the defense is remarkably stout; instead, the running back regularly gets stuck behind the offensive line, helplessly churning his legs while his torso remains unmoved. There are very few unique interactions between the offensive and defensive line, as well, and none of them are particularly authentic.
As for playing defense, it's the same as it was for the last several years of this franchise: completely, utterly meh. I've toyed around with playing every position, but 95% of playing effective defense is still in calling the right plays and not totally screwing up your assignment. When the best you can hope for is often not being the primary culprit on a long touchdown, change is needed. Since so many players default to controlling one of the defensive linemen, I'd love to see EA turn their focus to making that part of the game more realistic and nuanced.
Yes, there are glitches, and they are annoying. These mostly involve defenders simply standing still as the play goes by. Here's a few screenshots of me playing as Michigan against Ohio State as the Buckeyes decide to call an option on 3rd-and-24. Keep your eye on the playside cornerback:
So far, so good; the CB is maintaining the edge.
Sweet, I forced the pitch! That CB should be right there to...
As you can see in that last screenshot, virtual J.T. Floyd—sorry, CB #8—stayed rooted to his spot at the 13-yard line, though he at least turned to watch the play go by.
That's not the only glitch, of course. Defenders often take pursuit angles that will trigger your GERG-related PTSD, even running right next to the ballcarrier for upwards of ten yards before finally taking one step sideways to lay a hit. The play above represents the only time I've seen the computer successfully run the option; most of the time the running back ends up running a good 5-10 yards directly behind the quarterback, making for both a very awkward pitch and a big tackle-for-loss. On occasion, a play will be blown dead as soon as a receiver or returner catches the ball, despite the fact that they're still standing (this one has only occurred a couple of times, but you can imagine the frustration when it does).
Computer playcalling is also an issue. For one, they're far too reliant on screens, calling them seemingly every third play; this does not go well in conjunction with the unstoppable pass rush. Clock management was apparently programmed by Les Miles. In one game, the CPU was driving, down seven in the waning moments of the game but with all three of their timeouts; after a first down stopped the clock with one second remaining, the CPU... tried to hurry up and ran out of time.
Seven Ways To Enjoy The Game Anyway
So, yeah, this is a very flawed game; I have another page of notes detailing various annoyances. But again, I've still spent hours playing and will play far more before summer ends and actual football fills the gaping void in my life. To salvage my gaming experience, and hopefully yours, here are seven ways to either improve the gameplay or enjoy yourself in spite of its myriad issues:
- TWEAK THE SLIDERS: While you'd like the game to get it right the first time, the gameplay sliders are there for a reason, and they can go a long way towards fixing issues like the pass rush and brutally efficient quarterbacks. I started playing with these sliders a couple of days ago and they make for a much better, more realistic game. Keep making little tweaks with those until you've found the sweet spot for your game.
- THE RECLAMATION PROJECT: We've all fired up the game and launched into a Michigan dynasty; it's only natural. Unfortunately (for gaming purposes only), Michigan is a freakin' juggernaut, and recruiting is cake at a school like that. Instead, go for the reclamation project; right now I'm trying to resurrect Ole Miss, no easy feat in a stacked SEC. Or you could go for, as my buddy Noah coined last night, the "Exclamation Project"—take a Texas State, Louisiana-Monroe, or Eastern Michigan and turn them into a national power. This is a great way to keep dynasty mode interesting after a few years, especially with the coaching carousel feature that lets you have a very realistic coaching career path; start at Eastern with the hopes of catching Michigan's eye, for example.
- CREATE A PLAYBOOK: Part of the great fun of college football is the wildly variant styles of play. The create-a-playbook feature is woefully underutilized, in my opinion, as it's great fun to devise an offense all your own and unleash it upon the world. Want seven different Wildcat formations? They're in there. Want to create a hybrid between the spread and the flexbone? As you wish. Want to feature your remarkable depth at tight end and fullback? The wishbone and Maryland I call to you.
- START YOUR DYNASTY AS AN OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: I won't argue with you that defense can be a bit of a drag, and if you agree, why not eliminate it? Head coaches may get all the glory, but you can start a dynasty as the offensive coordinator, as well; while you'll still recruit for your team, when you play the games you'll only control the offense. This is a great way to not only makes the games go by faster, but eliminate the part of the game you enjoy the least.
- TRY A NEW DEFENSIVE POSITION: If you don't like the idea of avoiding defense entirely, try to spice things up a bit by playing a new, more difficult defensive position. If you're usually running as a DE, try middle linebacker, where you can make more plays but also have greater responsibility. If you mostly play linebacker, take a stab at safety. And if you want to get hardcore, man, try your luck at corner; trust me, it's possible to not only survive, but excel there. The game is only as stale as you allow it to be.
- CUSTOM CONFERENCES: Last year, with conference realignment madness in full swing, EA introduced the option of customizing conferences and their BCS bowl tie-ins. That feature appears once again this year, and it's still great; you can recreate the old Southwest Conference, take the Big Ten back to the days of ten teams, or stick all the national powers in a superconference and see who's left standing when the dust settles.
- PUT BARRY SANDERS ON MICHIGAN: Self-explanatory, I hope.
NCAA Football 13 may have its fair share of AI issues, glitches, and shoddy gameplay, but it's still college football, fergodsakes. If you're looking to have have fun while passing the time until September 1st, there are far worse ways to accomplish that end.
I really wish you hadn't asked me about that thing, you know, that
I know let's talk about bunnies
I like bunnies they are fun
sometimes I call them funnies
But what will actually happen to Penn State? This space has talked at length about what should happen to Penn State, but what actually will is an open question. NCAA president Mark Emmert certainly made it sound like something is coming down the pipe in an interview with PBS, because, yeah, PBS!
"This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like (what) happened at SMU, or anything else we've dealt with," Emmert told Smiley. "This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal.
"Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it's really an unprecedented problem."
He said that after refusing to dismiss the application of the death penalty out of hand. So… there will be some sort of action. Michael Buckner has been quoted…
"Even though there's no authority under the [NCAA manual], I could see President Emmert still proposing to do something," said Michael Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in sports law. "I could see some kind of sanctions, and Penn State would be hard-pressed to fight it. Imagine Penn State trying to argue that the NCAA doesn't have the authority in the realm of public pressure?"
…stuff is going down.
The Bylaw Blog points out that the NCAA is in a lose-lose situation here, what with New York Times columnists blasting it and demanding Penn State's head on a platter, an advocacy group for athletes has announced it would like Penn State players to be able to transfer without penalty—which everyone learned was automatic when postseason bans got handed down in the USC case—and people of Facebook are not sane.
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!
You will now think "ERMAHGERD" whenever Denard does a Denard thing this fall.
Michigan hockey summer: the funnest summer. I think we thought we were out of the woods after losing Chris Brown to Phoenix and Connor Carrick to a bout of insanity, but it seems like Merrill is not 100% to return based on this NHL.com article:
"I'm happy with the way my game has developed," Merrill said. "Everything they do at Michigan, I stand by, and have no complaints. If I go back to school, I can develop in a great university and if I leave, I'm in a great organization like New Jersey; so it's a win-win."
Michigan coach Red Berenson, who left Michigan after his junior year to play with the Montreal Canadiens, has traditionally encouraged players to remain in school rather than signing minor-league contracts. The Devils don't seem to be pressing Merrill on the issue.
"It's undecided right now," Lamoriello said. "He's here for the week and we'll sit down at the end of the week."
It does sound like all parties are leaning towards Merrill's return, but Michigan hockey + summer == doom.
Berenson exit imminent. Not like, imminent-imminent, but Red said he's probably not going to have another contract after this one:
“I mean let’s face it, I’ll be 76 when this contract is over. So I would say it’s the last contract,” Berenson said. “In theory, you would say this will be the last contract. I would be surprised if there would be another one after this.”
…“The way I look at it, I’m not picking a goal or a situation to retire. The thing I’m looking at is what’s good for our program, are we moving forward, are we competitive, are we living up to the expectations of Michigan and are we one of the dominant players in college hockey?” Berenson said.
When Red does retire I think it's time to put his name on the building. Something, anyway.
"More?" An Alabama legend called out Auburn for its dirty recruiting tactics after GA LB Rueben Foster ostentatiously flipped from 'Bama to AU recently. He might want to pick his words better:
“Because Reuben was paid more (by Auburn) than Alabama was willing to pay him. We got boosters out there that weren’t willing to pay Reuben Foster and boosters willing to pay him in Auburn.”
Where rebounds go. An analytics company has found out and put together a cool flash application so you can see where rebounds go off NBA shots.
Morals of the story:
- They mostly go long.
- Boy, people try a lot of layups.
- Offensive rebounds are far more common on those layup attempts than anything else.
- Long twos are horrible, horrible shots: there are a couple zones beyond the arc near the corners. Threes from the corners go in at a 36.6% rate. Step inside the line and it's a 37.6 rate for one less point. The differences are greater from what I'll call the Aarghaway zone but still very slim: long twos around the top of the key go in at just under 39%; threes from the top going at around 33%. These are NBA numbers and can't be directly transported to the college game but since the main difference is that a chunk of the long two space in the NBA is worth three in college I'd guess those shooting percentages are even more compressed.
Long twos are horrible! Long twos are hoooooorrrrrrible! Long twos with 25 seconds on the shot clock are grounds for a civil lawsuit based on pain and suffering!
I dislike long twos.
And nevermind all that also. Nevermind all the thats. Raising the bowl eligibility threshold to 7-5 has seemed like a thing that would happen for a while now, but now the Big Ten is backing off of that, too:
Delany said he has “heard from friends in different parts of the country, some of the major conferences, that they are in favor of (keeping it at) six. I suggested that maybe there’s middle ground. If a program hasn’t been to a bowl in five years … it’s an exciting thing.”
As long as the bowls at the bottom are prevented from acting as parasites on college football, whatever. The existence of the Illinois-UCLA Fight Hunger Bowl is at worst an opportunity to launch zingers… as long as those two schools aren't forking over 500k for tickets they know they can't sell.
Additional doo-dad. It must be fun being a Big Ten athletic director these days. Every year the conference is like "whoops, forgot to give you these three million dollars," the Rose Bowl is suddenly worth triple what it was, the Big Ten Network is steadily increasing in value, and maybe the guy before you built a giant cash factory on top of the football stadium. MSU doesn't even have the last item in that list (or at least hasn't added it recently) and they've been dumping money into football. An ESPN article recently boggled at the money Indiana is flat-out burning in a futile attempt to keep up with the meekest and most humble of the Joneses by way of noting that everyone in college football is building everything.
One of many results at Michigan:
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is putting forward a proposal to the school's Board of Regents on Thursday asking for $2.8 million for an "informational marquee" that can be viewed from Stadium Boulevard. The plan is to use "visual and audio technology" for information on upcoming events and welcoming guests to the facilities.
I'm a little leery about audio being included in this thing but whatever. It'll be a big billboard type thing on Stadium that will announce things. It costs money, and it is being done because it can be.
Etc.: Red signs three-year extension, as expected. Syracuse fans are sad about leaving the Big East. CHN on the Kitchener nuisance lawsuit. M seems to lead for 2015 IN G Chandler White. Obviously a long way out there. Scouting the Adidas Invitational. Zak Irvin scouting video.
♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫
This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"
Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of.
Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
Nose Tackle (Avengers)
Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports
In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).
Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.
If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.
The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.
In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.
Rush Tackle (3-Tech)
Right: Dell Callihan|UMGoBlog
In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.
Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.
Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.
In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.
Strongside End (5-Tech)
In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.
The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.
If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.
In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.
Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs
In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.
They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.
The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.
In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.
So ESPN is almost tripling what they pay for the Rose Bowl:
ESPN’s deal with the Rose Bowl runs from 2015 through 2026, making it concurrent with the new playoff structure. The Rose Bowl’s new $80 million annual rights fee represents a 167 percent jump from the $30 million the network currently pays.
The Rose Bowl’s partners, the Pac-12 and Big Ten, keep all of that media revenue, except in years when the Rose Bowl is a semifinal game in the playoffs. When the bowl is part of the playoffs, that media revenue would flow through the playoff system and be distributed to all of the FBS conferences. That method of distribution has not been determined yet.
And suddenly the Big Ten and Pac-12's desire to have the Rose Bowl not be a semifinal as often as possible is clear. Money, money, money, the same story as always. That's why the Big Ten walked away from the dream of national semifinals at home sites. To Protect The Rose Bowl…
"For us it's critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told reporters Tuesday after Big Ten meetings hashed out the conference's likely preferred plan.
…by which they mean their money. No more boggling necessary. Explanation money, explanation accepted. Explanation disappointing but unsurprising. Cynicism: achieved.
not so fast, my friend!
Except… has anyone noticed that the current four-team playoff plan does exactly nothing to protect the Rose Bowl? By adopting this system the Big Ten has condemned the thing to a consolation prize, which is what it still could be if home semifinals were part of the mix, and then they wouldn't have to worry about years in which they don't get that mad cheddar. Also there would be home games.
I mean… let's envision a scenario where M is #2, Wisconsin #6, USC #1, and Oregon #9.
HOME GAME SYSTEM
#2 Michigan hosts
#1 USC hosts
Rose is UW-UO
THIS SYSTEM, ROSE NOT HOSTING
#1 USC plays semifinal somewhere
#2 Michigan plays semifinal somewhere
Rose is UW-UO
THIS SYSTEM, ROSE HOSTS
#1 USC plays semifinal at Rose
#2 Michigan plays semifinal somewhere else
UW, UO pound sand
The scenarios play out similarly when only one team from either conference makes the playoff. The Rose is always the same except when it hosts semis—which it doesn't want to do!—and the only difference is where the non-Rose semis are held. Which is "never Michigan Stadium or anywhere else on a college campus."
In no way is the system with home games worse for the Rose than this one, except sometimes it hosts semifinals that may or may not have Pac-12 and Big Ten teams in them. Which the Rose hates. This is in fact a worse system for preserving the ancestral heritage of the Rose Bowl so pined for in that infamous teleconference above. With the Rose actively trying to back out of its appointed number of semifinal slots, keeping the Rose "part of the equation" clearly can't have anything to do with making a path to the national title.
Conclusion: the Big Ten got pwned at the negotiating table and came back with this Rose Bowl sob story as a face-saving cover. The the face-saving cover is total fiction, but this is not a group of folks above stretching their view of the world to fit whichever narrative makes them look like a proactive accomplisher.
PS: 2.0 space engagement dongle