it's a major award
Sometimes you start typing up a UV bit and then you hit 600 words and break it out into a post you had not intended to write.
So: hockey. It's been playing. They spent the first couple weeks wandering about looking pretty bad, then annihilated St. Lawrence to be an incredibly underserving #1. One Hunwick game misconduct later they came back from Northern with just two points in their CCHA opener and that ranking was gone.
Ferris rolled into town last night with a 6-0 record and sweep of Miami to their credit; Michigan came away with a validating 5-2 win. I have a habit of watching Ferris early in the year, thinking they're really good, and then watching them go .500, but I mean it this time: I think this is a really good Ferris team. This time I'm on steadier ground what with their record.
I'm still getting a handle on the team since it is hugely different than last year's outfit, but I think it's going to be more fun to watch than last year's edition. That's not to say it will be better—they won the league and got to overtime in the national title game—but they've already scored more pretty goals than they did all of last year.
That's thanks in part to Lindsay Sparks going from oft-scratched to the team's leading scorer. I won't question Red Berenson in case he decides to look at me with disappointment, thereby turning me into dust, but… I don't get it, man. The last couple years it seemed clear he was more of a threat than several second-liners, let alone the Rohrkempers of the world. This year he's looking like an all-conference player. He's already got 11 points, many of them featuring top-level skill.
Freshman takes in order of eeee:
- Phil DiGuiseppe. As I tweeted yesterday, guy can play. Slick passer, good jump, good size, good hands. Sometimes you pull these guys out of Junior A (not B, as I erroneously tweeted) and it turns out they can't make the transition. No such problems for DiGuiseppe, and he just turned 18. Star potential.
- Zach Hyman. Hyman hasn't leapt off the page as much as DiGuiseppe but he'll get there. He's good good balance and hands and he's been an effective part of the Sparks line.
- Mike Chiasson. Steady, conservative defensive defenseman. Will be a four year player; should quietly hold down a second pairing for most of his career.
- Brennan Serville. Has not been as noticeable but seems to have a regular spot. Don't know much about his game yet.
- Travis Lynch. Slotted into a spot with Wohlberg and Glendening and has 3-3-6 already. Had a sweet deflection last night on a Bennett point shot. Not sure if he can keep this up but he's been on a tear since about two seconds after he committed.
- Alex Guptill. Getting a generic-big-guy vibe from him. He'll slouch around the third line most of his career before suddenly getting really good as a senior, like Rohlfs or Lebler.
Szuma and Sinelli got in one game; they get incompletes. They are the new generation of healthy scratches.
Random other items:
- Greg Pateryn is a long-limbed rock. Tough to get enough space to get a good chance when he's on the ice. He will screw up too often to be truly great but if they come through this period without Merrill okay it will be because he held down the fort against top lines.
- Kevin Clare is unbelievably slow. I think he's the guy who sees his playing time decline when Merrill gets back.
- Derek Deblois looks like he's taken a step forward this year. Ditto Brown.
- I guess I can't complain when David Wohlberg is above a PPG but I don't like having him on the same line as Lynch (freshman edition) and Glendening. I'd like to see what a Sparks-DiGuiseppe-Wohlberg line could accomplish, and let the Lynches and Glendening anchor a checking line.
- The official scorer at Yost is padding opponent shot totals like a mother. Anything that gently rolls to a stop two feet in front of the goal is counted. I'm of a mind to look at Hunwick's home/away splits last year to see if there's a big difference in save percentage.
Michigan's streak of picking up an NTDP goalie has hit a third straight year with the commitment of 2012 G Jared Rutledge. Hurray. You're worried.
You're right to be, but Michigan's streak of having that goalie blanch at the prospect of competing with Shawn Hunwick and bolt to the OHL should end at two since Hunwick will be gone after this year. Rutledge, like Trouba, waited a long time to figure out what he was going to do so he wouldn't end up breaking his word:
"I told Red I didn't want to be their hat trick," Rutledge said with a smile. "I told them all along that when I made my decision, I was going to be 100% sure I was coming there. I couldn't be happier and I'm really excited."
Tell us what we've won, me.
Rutledge is a smallish goalie reputed to have excellent anticipation, rebound control, and positioning:
Rutledge is technically and positionally very sound, is excellent at controlling rebounds, handles the puck well, competes hard, has a good glove, doesn’t get phased on the rare occasion he does let in a bad goal, and is extremely good at anticipating the play. Though he isn’t overly big, he challenges exceptionally well, and makes life miserable for shooters. If you don’t beat him on the first shot, chances are you won’t get another opportunity.
Sounds like a less-tiny Hunwick who isn't constantly kicking pucks out into the slot. (No offense intended to Tiny Jesus.) He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 OHL draft by Saginaw and is kicking around draft lists as a "B"—mid-round—prospect. His stats are pretty solid—he's averaged between .910 and .920 save percentage splitting time between the U17 and U18 teams, generally outperforming his competition in the same situation.
Hockey recruiting class: complete? Michigan might add a walk-on piece here and there, but this looks like it's about it for next year (question marks denote kids Heisenberg has listed as 2012 or 2013:
- Forwards: Boo Nieves, Daniel Milne, Justin Selman, Max Shuart(?)
- Defensemen: Jacob Trouba, Connor Carrick, Spencer Hyman(?)
- Goalie: Rutledge
If Merrill makes it through his current suspension I'm guessing he will be around next year as well. It seems like someone who was going to leave after this year anyway would book it given the severity of the punishment. If so they may or may not add Hyman. Right now they're scheduled to bring back everyone save Pateryn and I'm not seeing a ton of departure threats. Maybe Bennett. Hyman would be the seventh defenseman at best in that situation because Michigan would be insanely loaded on D: Merrill, Bennett, Trouba, Moffie, Carrick, Chiasson, Serville, and Clare plus Szuma and possibly Hyman. If Merrill and Bennett both take off then there'd obviously be room.
I wish there was a little more depth in the forward corps—I haven't seen any buzz about Milne and Selman being draftable—but a quality goalie plus two first-round types is a big haul to go with what's looking like a promising freshman class.
The scoreboard is hypothetically awesome but they're still trying to figure out how to use it. Goal replays are erratic; highlight packages sometimes don't appear at all in intermissions, and penalties never get replays. If they're willing to put the Wohlberg goal up last night as it was being reviewed I don't think that's a controversy thing. I get that there's only one camera but at least some of the penalties are on the puck.
As for Yost… man, it has been off. I think moving the seniors close to the band was a mistake. When they were in the middle of the ice the chants had a smaller maximum distance; now the two sections furthest away from the band are mostly empty and totally lame. Are ticket prices too high? Michigan ran that Groupon special and packed the empty endzone seats; once that stopped we were again treated to nearly-empty sections in both endzones. I sit amongst the old fuddies now and they're not around either.
Another possibility: odd starting times have thrown people off after decades of Friday, Saturday, 7:30, see you in two weeks.
Whatever the explanation, I'm not feeling the same sort of excitement in the building that there was even a couple years ago. We're seeing the same sort of apathy infect the student section at football games. I think it's time to start taking attendance and offering people nice perks for showing up on time, like better seats next year. The AD's solitary focus on money is making the product worse.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, October 29th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -14|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN2|
|WEATHER||mid-40s, clouds moving in, 30% chance of rain|
Remember Aliens? This is like that except with Purdue coaches.
Reminder! Hit up the Draftstreet freeroll this weekend.
Run Offense vs. Purdue
DT Kawaan Short
This looks like something of a strength for the Boilers. By raw yardage they're hovering around mediocrity but they're only giving up 3.7 YPC despite not having many sacks. Break out the actual opponents (and Minnesota), though, and things look quite a bit murkier:
They got blown up by ND, did well against Minnesota, okay against PSU, and not so good against Illinois. That not so good was obscured by sacks and possibly understandable as Purdue bled out a win after jumping up 21-0 early.
DT Kawaan Short will be a handful. By far Purdue's best defender, Short already has 9.5 TFLs, six of those things other than sacks. He's a penetrator in the Mike Martin mold, but stockier and harder to move when you get a lock on him. LBs Joe Holland and Dwayne Beckford are Purdue's leading tacklers—neither does much in the way of playmaking but at least they don't have a safety leading the tackle charts. That safety is third, which is okay. By all appearances this is solidly middle-of-the-road run D.
Ace noted a couple of little guys on the perimeter, particularly a 235-pound guy they're running out at DE, so the way to beat these guys may be to test the edge. That goes double if they're in man coverage, something Ace also noted—receivers can run off the outside help and force those linebackers to flow hard if they're going to cut down stuff that gets outside.
In this year's offense that means the speed option and jet sweeps possibly featuring Denard, along with pin-and-pull zone. The problem with the latter is that Michigan can't make it work, so they're left with a few gimmicky plays and no consistent threats. You'd think that Borges would notice the line blocking pretty well when asked to outside zone on those speed options sooner or later, but POWER is to be used. They use POWER. Not WELL.
Michigan gets Ricky Barnum back from an ankle issue this week. What that does to the interior line is as of yet undecided. His replacement, Michael Schofield, has been playing well. The right guard, Patrick Omameh, has been struggling extensively. They may flip Schofield to the other side and see what that does, or they might throw Mark Huyge inside after he was exposed in pass protection against Michigan State.
Either way, Michigan needs to see their run game bounce back to the levels it was performing at before Michigan State. That should mean 20 carries for Denard, and hopefully he can break one long—something that's been missing from this offense.
Key Matchup: Interior line vs Short. A weakness-type substance goes up against Purdue's best player. If they can deal with him their options get large and the YPC too. But they probably can't.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
Ricardo Allen right, returning a very bad INT last year
Oh, this again. Denard has had two weeks off since the Mike Valenti Experience in the trash tornado, two weeks to heal any lingering "boo-boos" and maybe step into a throw or two. This weekend the wind should be manageable. The opponent may not be so pliable.
Massive strength of schedule disclaimers apply, but the Boilers are 27th in pass efficiency D. Those massive strength of schedule disclaimers: McGloin, Scheelhaase, Gray, mid-major goobers. Tommy Rees pilots one of the few functional passing attacks Purdue has seen; he went 24 of 40 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. That's still not particularly good (6.3 YPA) but with the Irish racking up nearly 300 on the ground Rees was not required to go deep.
Because of the competition, it's tough to tell how much quality they really have. They're not a tire fire. That is established. Past that it's tough to take anything out of 40% passing performances from MarQueis Gray and Matt McGloin (on the Midwest trash tornado day). I think they're at least decent. Scheelhaase is okay and was bottled up to an extent that demanded the entry of ludicrously-named Illinois freshman/Bond girl Riley O'Toole. The Purdue secondary is not Michigan's last year or Northwestern's this year. They have people.
I'm not sure how much that will matter since Michigan's passing game has been in Man vs. Himself mode for much of the year. From Denard back-footing interceptions against Northwestern to Vincent Smith running a hitch instead of a slant on the fatal MSU pick six, simply executing the basics has been Michigan's main issue. That and throwing to the blitheringly wide open guys. For whatever reason, both of Michigan's quarterbacks go into Rex Grosssman "eff it, I'm going deep" mode far too much, often with disastrous results. I keep writing key matchups that don't mention the opponent because opponents haven't been the main problem.
Ace saw Purdue go man all day against Notre Dame, something that seems to invite trouble against a quarterback as athletic as Robinson. If he can break the pocket against a Purdue line that's a little wobbly on the edges there could be some grass for him; if they spy that should open up other things.
It doesn't seem like Denard is going to be under a lot of pressure. Purdue likes to keep its safeties deep and is 93rd in sacks. They might change their gameplan given the massive pressure Michigan allowed against MSU—if so I'll have a little fit if Michigan doesn't have some tools to deal with that.
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
This section is unchanged from two weeks ago. Until this part.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
Signs of life against Penn State and Purdue are only that—signs. The Boiler offense remains a creaky thing still trying to lock down a starting quarterback and tailback. The Illinois game saw Purdue rip off two long touchdown drives to open the day. They were gifted a short field on a bobbled punt, converted, and then went into a shell:
The Boilers played a very different game after the break, when they must have enjoyed the Joe Tiller staple of halftime meals -- pasta, turkey and warm milk. Purdue had three whole first downs in the entire second half, two of which came on one drive. Drive is a generous term, really, as the Boilers never got inside the Illinois 40 in the second half.
Purdue barely cracked 300 yards. The previous week they put up a respectable 344 on Penn State's upper-echelon defense but threw three picks. Both their touchdown drives started on the opponent side of the field after a long kickoff return and an interception.
They're still finding their stride. It looks like Caleb TerBush has won the starting quarterback job from Robert Marve, who had only five attempts against Penn State and did not play last week. He's more of a run threat than the statuesque Marve, but less of one than Rob Henry during his brief windows of functionality between ACL surgeries. TerBush has 200 or so yards on the ground this year if you disregard sacks. Purdue uses a lot of inverted veer and other zone read type plays; TerBush will be used to keep the defense honest and not much more.
The backfield is a heated battle between Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers with Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert also chipping in carries. (My guess for the most common thing Bolden says: "No, thank you, I would not like to convert to Islam." Number two: "I am sorry to hear about your horrific knee injury.") Bolden has an edge in carries but this is a platoon situation.
Purdue has been forced away from its traditional short passing game by quarterback incompetence and injury. They now deploy a full-on spread 'n' shred with a heavy emphasis on the inverted veer. It looks like a combo of Rodriguez and Malzahn run by the kind of athletes who end up at Purdue—eh—and works at the level you'd expect. Bolden's averaging 4.8 YPC, Shavers 5, TerBush somewhere around that. They've been decent:
Some of those Illinois struggles can be chalked up to Purdue being the sort of team that gets up 21 and tries to strangle the game as safely as possible because of their QB situation. 166 yards in a competitive game against Penn State is impressive. The Lions have a top-20 rush defense.
Key Matchup: Hawthorne, Ryan and Demens making correct, quick decisions on option/zone read plays. They'll get optioned a bit—Ace noted Purdue running some of the short pass/run combo plays Michigan tried against MSU—but they have to be better at their assignments than they've been in the recent past. Purdue's offense is built to exploit indecisive or excessively aggressive players. Balance.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
Left: I shouldn't have spent last night reading all that Nietzsche
Right: Siller is now a WR, but just to terrify you
TerBush has taken the reigns. Against Illinois he was okay, but only okay. TerBush is King of the Dinks, averaging 11.2 yards per completion in Big Ten play. That is not many yards per completion. His YPA (again Big Ten) is a below-average 6.7. Ace:
TerBush hits his receiver on a slant for the first down, and this appears to be the route he's most comfortable throwing—he throws almost exclusively underneath, with a lot of slants and inside hitches, and rarely chucks the ball beyond ten yards.
When he did go deeper against Illinois many throws were to Tacopants, and yes yes Michigan has that problem that's another section. Here we are talking about Purdue's oft-errant quarterback.
Justin Siller is Purdue's leading wideout with 28 catches. You remember him well, all too well. Purdue will throw him out there in a wildcat look from time to time if only to mess with your head. Prepare for this now. When Siller's at WR he's pretty good, an athlete who accelerates smoothly into space. Underneath running mate OJ Ross—once vaguely on Michigan's recruiting radar—is a slot receiver playing outside frequently due to necessity. Think Gallon. Holding down YAC on these two will be a priority.
With a yards per catch significantly over ten(!), Antavian Edison is the kinda-sorta deep threat. Purdue will also line him up in the backfield. There is also a person named Waynelle Gravesande who will not play much on offense but is named Waynelle Gravesande and you should be notified of these things.
The tailbacks are hardly involved in the passing game. Shavers, Bolden, Hunt, and FB Jared Crank combine for ten catches.
Purdue takes a lot of sacks; they're 80th nationally and would be a bit worse if the NCAA was measuring something reasonably like sack rate—Purdue's 212 attempts are a bit below average.
So… Michigan seems like they should be able to deal as long as they're not put in awkward situations by turnovers and returns. They still haven't given up anything long and when Troy Woolfolk isn't gamely limping in the direction of Keshawn Martin opponent's really haven't had much opportunity thanks to competent(!) safety play and good play from the cornerbacks. Purdue is not good at long stuff and gives up sacks with some frequency. Bend but don't break should work in this situation… as long as Michigan's perimeter holds up.
Key Matchup: Thomas Gordon and cornerbacks against the bubble and other YAC-focused throws. This is the sort of spread team that loves quick-hitting stuff in an effort to get you tackling in space, something Michigan did extremely poorly against Northwestern. Improvement here will force TerBush into situations he's not comfortable with.
If Michigan ends up losing this game chances are many of the infinite fingers of blame shrilly point at this unit. You know about Michigan's struggles to return or cover anything; Brendan Gibbons remains a suspicious customer.
Purdue's special teams are wildly variable. Sometimes they're not getting game-winning field goals blocked against Rice or giving up a kick return touchdown. But their punting is fourth nationally with a net of over 41 yards a kick. The aforementioned Gravesande has been pretty decent returning punts, and Mostert has been strong on kick returns. Kicker Carson Wiggs is decent. He's 9/14 on the year.
So… yeah. This could swing either way but if the game turns into a puntfest that would seem to be advantage Purdue unless Hagerup finds his form in a big way.
Key Matchup: AAAAAH GIBBONS YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
This seems appropriate for a game in which the spread is two touchdowns.
Also, this is a real thing from a real military mag.
- Denard's accuracy remains at low ebb.
- Short is too disruptive to get a consistent ground game going.
- Molk head bob snap disaster.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Purdue does play man extensively and pays for it, letting Denard break the pocket repeatedly.
- TerBush is harassed into ridiculous throws.
- Borges used the bye week to put in a bunch of effective plays I'll complain weren't saved for a tougher opponent.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; +1 for Another Argh Bubble Opponent, +1 for Default Plus One Paranoia Until Denard Throws Straight, –1 for They Can Say The Same Thing About Throwing Straight, –1 for I Think We're Better Than Rice, –1 for Not To Mention Middle Tennessee, –1 for Comparative ND Scores, Man, +1 for Looming Possibility Of Borges/Denard Fusion Mishap, –1 for Opponent Basically Cannot Move Ball For 400 Yards.)
Desperate need to win level: 9 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not The Last Two Years, Please, +1 for Deflating Home Loss To Purdue Would Be A Sign Hoke Does Not Get It Just Like RR Did Not, +1 for I Like Nine Wins And I Cannot Lie / You Other Brothers Can't Deny / That When A Bowl Walks In With An Itty Bitty Date And That Citrus In Your Face / You Get Sprung(!), +1 for Danny Hope Must Die For The Sake Of Craig Ross.)
Loss will cause me to... find Craig before he does something heinously illegal to Danny Hope's mustache, and then watch him do it.
Win will cause me to... complete the arduous conversion of "Baby Got Back" into a Citrus Bowl ode*.
*[Win will not actually cause me to do this.]
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
While I'm a bit leery of the Boilermakers after their surprisingly competitive October this remains an opponent that lost to Rice, squeaked one out against Middle Tennessee, got blown out by Notre Dame, and allowed Minnesota to score in the first half.
Denard should rebound. He's at home, the defense he's going up against isn't as good, and the wind won't be as much of an issue. I bet Borges has some new stuff that is effective, and that will see Michigan's offense revert to the unit that put up 42 against Northwestern despite a bunch of terrible turnovers. Of which there will be more. Sad face.
On defense, Michigan might give up a cheap one—they're going to eventually—but Purdue has an offense that has to grind down the field. If they don't get short fields they won't put up many quick touchdowns, and when you have an offense like that you eventually get behind the chains and have to give it up.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Massive Denard improvement, which is something of a copout since he could twist his own helmet and improve over last week. But, like 60% completions and looks much better.
- We see more Shaw and Rawls than you might expect.
- Thomas Gordon moves back to the nickel against a team with more outside edge running and they do improve on the bubble screens.
- Michigan, 29-18
Strong language contained herein. Three and Out is a book about the short, tumultuous reign of Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.
[star wars text scrolling]
The week after Michigan collapsed against Illinois in 2009, they prepare to take on Purdue.
A weary Rodriguez wearily surveys his weary troops, because he has to or the media will write about other things…
[/star wars text scrolling]
The Friday night before the Purdue game, Rodriguez dug at his meal like a hungry prisoner who was sick of eating the same gray food every night. When I told him I was surprised that the guys seemed loose, like they were still having fun and staying positive, he stared at his food, paused, and said, “I don’t care.
“I don’t care anymore about trying to analyze the psychology of these guys, especially for the press. I just want them to freakin’ play. I’m sick of it.”
Sick of what?
“Everything. I’m sick of the situation I’m in. I’m sick of the crap I’ve got to deal with every week. I’m sick of people not taking responsibility.” A case could be made that all happiness is feeling like you have possibilities. When someone wins the lottery, he’s happy not because he won the lottery but because he suddenly has dozens of options he didn’t have the day before.
But the corollary is also true: All unhappiness is feeling like your options are shrinking and the world is closing in on you. That you’re trapped. Rich Rodriguez’s options were shrinking. By the time he arrived in Ann Arbor, it was clear he could not go back the way he had come. But after only twenty-one games at Michigan, it had become just as clear there would be only one way he could stay: winning football games. And fast.
Every Friday night, between the dinner and the movie, the offense and defense met separately with their coaches to go over the scouting report one last time. But this week, instead of reviewing the opponent, they reviewed a tape of their practices that week. The message was simple: The Illini didn’t beat the Wolverines. The Wolverines beat the Wolverines.
Job 1: Hold on to the damn ball. There was a reason John Heisman famously showed his players a football and said, “Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.”
But John Heisman never met Tate Forcier. On one play Rodriguez showed that night, Forcier held the ball like an oversized sponge and swung it around like he was washing his windows with it. Sure enough, the defense soon forced a fumble.
“High and tight, high and tight, high and tight,” Rodriguez said with relative calm. “Anything else is selfish. It shows disrespect for your teammates, and I know you’re not selfish, and I know you don’t want to disrespect your teammates.”
Here he was, going into the tenth game of the season, reviewing something they had covered on the first day of spring ball, the first day of summer practice, and just about every day since. It was pretty clear Rodriguez was tired of that, too.
But he knew it came with coaching young players, and he usually enjoyed the teaching process. But they were repeating the same lessons too often, which became especially aggravating when he had no idea how many lessons they would get.
Job 2: In the spread option offense, the quarterback has to take three steps and throw it. Not four steps. Not five steps. And no hitches, either. Three and throw. Three and throw. The timing was simple but exact—and it was everything. Any freelancing and incompletes, sacks, and interceptions soon followed.
And that’s exactly what Rodriguez saw next on the practice tape: Forcier taking three steps (an improvement), seeing his receiver open— but then hitching, which allowed the linebacker to cover the receiver. Rodriguez was calm but firm. “I’m sure I will not have to see on Monday any tape of any Michigan quarterback taking three steps and a hitch when he should be taking three steps and throwing.”
Next play, same thing, but this time Forcier threw it behind the receiver. The linebacker just missed making the interception.
“That one’s late. Why? Three and hitch instead of three and throw. I’ve been doing this for twenty years! I didn’t just wake up and come up with this thing. We have refined this over time. We know what works. We’re not guessing! Three steps and throw! THROW! You’ve got to trust the timing!”
But it was really more than that. The quarterbacks had to trust the system—and the coaches who had created it.
The flipside was just as simple: The coaches had to remember that Forcier was still a freshman. And even though Rodriguez’s quarterbacks on every team he’d coached eventually won Conference Player of the Year, not one of them did it his first season.
If the Illinois game could be reduced to Michigan’s four tries from the 1-yard line, Michigan’s season likewise boiled down to four great chances to win just one game to secure a bowl bid: Michigan State, which ended in overtime; Iowa, which ended one pass short of a winning field goal attempt; Illinois, which broke on the 1-yard line; and Purdue, which looked like an eminently winnable game. But like the fourth-and- 1 play against Illinois, the pressure mounted with each failed attempt. This was Rodriguez’s last best chance at match point.
Blow it against the Boilermakers, and the odds would only get taller against Wisconsin, and taller still against Ohio State, still in the hunt for a national title. Collars were tight in Ann Arbor.
The quarterbacks didn’t think Purdue would be a pushover, either. “They’re good, they play hard,” Sheridan said later that night in his hotel room. “Much harder than Illinois.” And then, unable to let Illinois go: “I still can’t believe we lost to those guys.”
“Don’t let ’em beat you twice,” Forcier said, as a half- joking warning they’d all heard a hundred times. “Man, we just got to win again. That’s been driving me fucking nuts. We just got to win again.”
Freerolling. Contest time: Draftstreet.com has put together an MGoBlog freeroll for their weekly fantasy game. They use salary-cap style drafting: you've got 100k to spend on 2 QBs, 3 RBs, 2 WRs, a TE, and two flex players with players priced by expected performance. This weekend Denard has a massive 17k pricetag, but you can get Fitzgerald Toussaint and his hopefully-more-than-two-carries for 4k. You get the idea.
A hundred bucks gets distributed amongst the top five finishers and I will hit the winner with a t-shirt of their choice as well. Sign up before noon Saturday to get eligible. I'll remind folks tomorrow.
you and me both, Mr. Beilein
Countdown: McGary. Mitch McGary says he's down to Michigan, Duke, and Florida and will be deciding within the week:
As for my recruitment, I’ve got some big news for you guys. T.J.’s not the only one committing next week. I’m planning to make my commitment next week sometime too.
Sam Webb says Michigan is still the leader, but he's not deploying the gut feeling. Let's go, McGary.
Did oversigning just die? Everyone's focused on the pittance schools are about to fork over to their players as schools move towards full cost of attendance. But this is a potentially huge change that was also just announced:
The Board also approved multi-year grants up to the full term of eligibility, though one-year grants will remain the minimum. A prescribed minimum award value should apply to all scholarships (percentage amount to be decided in the coming months), and institutions could increase the allotted aid during the period of the award.
The current restrictions and processes for reducing or canceling aid will be maintained and only non-athletically related conditions for reduction or cancellation will be permitted in aid agreements. Student-athletes will continue to have a hearing opportunity for any reduction or cancellation of aid.
IE: you can now offer scholarships of up to four years and you cannot cancel that scholarship for "athletically related conditions." Someone tweeted that "this might be used as a recruiting tool" to Andy Staples… which… horror!
That doesn't eliminate St. Saban Memorial Hospital but it does give schools that intend to keep their players around a leg up on the axemen of the world. B+.
Also there is this, something I've advocated:
Presidents also voted to allow institutions to provide financial aid to former student-athletes who remain at or return to the institution to complete their degrees after they have exhausted their eligibility.
That's long overdue. I wonder what the details of that are… could that be used to get a master's degree in something potentially useful after the kid has found out he's not a pro and has the time to get something other than a General Kinesiology degree.
Other changes include bumping JUCO eligibility requirements up a bit, moving the APR cutoff to 930 effective in 2014 and banning teams below that threshold from postseason play.
No mention of that infuriating scholarship cut proposal. Hopefully that's dead and in a ditch. If so, bravo for the NCAA. That package of changes is a huge move to the good, and it came about in about six months.
Radio. This morning's WTKA appearance in two parts: part one, and part two. That is how parts work. I defend Carr from a guy who really dislikes Carr, talk even more about Three and Out, have a really interesting conversation with Craig Ross (who knows Carr fairly well) about the man himself, listen to a very strange call from New York that connects college football to the global financial catastrophe, and bomb the Free Press. Oh, and we talk about Purdue and Craig's irrational hatred of "Horseface" Danny Hope.
Seriously, people, you need to listen to Chuck at the beginning of part two. You will not regret it.
Exclusive. Angelique, of course, lands one with Hoke. The no headset thing is for realz:
Q. I get asked a lot if you're like Bo Schembechler or Lloyd Carr. You're not. So who are you?
A. I don't know. It doesn't matter to me what people want me to be. I'm going to be who I am. I can remember when I took the Ball State job, talking to Bo, and he had two things he told me. One, he told me to move over to the offense, and I asked him, 'Coach, why? My expertise is on the defensive side of the ball,' and he said, 'Well, you control the game offensively.' I told him with great respect I would think about it. But I've always been able to hire great coordinators, guys who understand what we want to do. And the other thing Bo said was, 'Be yourself.' So I just try and be myself.
Q. Which is?
A. A D-line coach.
Q. But you're not anymore.
A. Yeah, but I am.
Q. What does that mean?
A. Pretty simple.
Q. You're pretty simple or the concept is pretty simple?
A. I'm pretty simple as long as I think about the kids because that's why we get to do what we get to do. It's for the kids, and it will always start there.
I love that. No headset uber alles.
Dirt sandwich. Michael Beasley is suing guys:
The Washington Post reports that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley is suing his former agent and his former AAU coach for conspiring to create a situation in which they could represent him once he became a professional player. The lawsuit alleges that the agent, Joel Bell, and the coach, Curtis Malone, first sank their teeth into Beasley when he was 14 years old.
The lawsuit comes less than a year after Bell sued Beasley for wrongful termination and breach-of-contract.
Beasley's allegations in this countersuit are lengthy and complicated.
To boil it down: The Post reports that Beasley and his mother allege that Bell helped cover the costs of Beasley's participation in a high-profile AAU team, including transportation, lodging, other family expenses and $2,500 in cash. The lawsuit also reportedly alleges that in return for that help the agent and coach took steps to ensure that Beasley would sign with Bell once he turned pro after one season at Kansas State, including paying for his mother's rent and car payment after she moved to Kansas to be near Beasley.
The NCAA's next massive reform should be providing some framework for agents to work with players to get some of this stuff above the table for the benefit of everyone. If agents have some access, bad actors can lose that access. Agent prohibition is working about as well as actual Prohibition.
Mattison on missed tackles. Bruce Feldman talks with Mattison, and Mattison says the same boatload of interesting things he usually does:
"I don't want to talk about anything that was done before. I know what we believe in defensively. You have to keep it inside and in front. There is never, ever an option of not going hard to the football. And the key words are 'to the football' and where the football is going to be. If you see the ball breaks outside and a big lineman is chasing, he's never gonna catch it: 'Don't chase it, cut it off! Go where it's gonna be!' We practice that every single day all the time. Every single practice play if that lineman is not running at an angle where he can go make the play, he is going to hear about it. And if he does it too much, he won't be in there. Our guys have bought into that. They truly understand now that that's how you're supposed to play when you wear the winged helmet on defense."
GERG version of this: murph murph murph murph murph.
This, however, is pure luck:
It wouldn't seem like a stretch to think all of the preaching about taking proper pursuit angles, running to the football and gang tackling is the reason why Michigan is tied for tops in the country with 14 fumbles recovered. That also comes out of just 16 loose fumbles. Other teams around the Wolverines in that category high in the NCAA rankings actually have a much lower percentage of fumbles recovered. (Last year, the Wolverines were 87th in fumble recoveries with just seven, which came from 12 free footballs.)
14 of 16 fumble recoveries is insane, and fumble recovery rates are the most random things in football. I don't think they can be attributed to coaching even a little tiny bit.
For people complaining about spoilers, I have bad news: they fire the guy. But we won World War II, so we've got that going for us. Unless this is an alternate history and we're all Nazis, but only Michigan State fans believe that because Michigan State fans will believe anyone is a racist if it helps exonerate Will Gholston. Denard: totally racist.
Anyway, I show up briefly. A few reporters show up more extensively, and then there are the players—addressed as a group—and the new athletic director.
This guy's opinion: boy, does that hippie with the blog need a haircut. But his logic… so dashing.
Person Who Identifies Himself As Brian
(And you guys.)
So… right. There are some scattered MGoBlog references, mostly as a reading of the fan zeitgeist. "Never Forget" is referenced because "Never Forget" is always referenced all the time; The Horror is identified as The Horror, and so forth and so on. The blog's permanence relative to most message boards (and even newspapers, which put their stories behind a paywall after a while) seems to have made it the database of record when it comes to how the average fan felt at X point in time, even if the average fan here is not the average fan elsewhere. It's around. Since that's more than anything else can say, its opinion wins by default.
A couple people have asked for more detail about the point in the book where I show up in the flesh. This is after the WMU 2009 press conference, which was the first one post-Free Press story. I've had a couple days to consider the story and have come to the conclusion that it's a misleading, unethical hack job. I am steaming. I go to the press conference to liveblog it.
Afterwards—and in retrospect I can't believe this actually transpired—I go to the front of the room, where Snyder is, and repeatedly ask him if he knows what a countable hour is in an unfriendly fashion. He refuses to answer. The pattern is: I ask, he says he won't respond because I am a "competitor," I ask, he says the same thing, I incredulously ask if he will not defend his article, etc. etc. etc. This is actually broadcast (off-camera but audible) on the MGoBlue stream, which was not turned off after the presser.
I give up on Snyder and am in the process of storming out when I happen on Rosenberg in the little vestibule between the Junge proper and outside. I ask the same thing; Rosenberg responds that he does know what a countable hour is, so I start in on why that wasn't in the article and how realistic it is that a head coach at a major program had been more than doubling the NCAA's allotted maximums for years. He starts asking me my name over and over again, which I ignore in favor of further badgering. Craig Ross, watching this with a combination of bemusement and horror, eventually tells Rosenberg my name. I think this was because he wanted Rosenberg to start saying other things, but you'd have to ask him and he doesn't remember interjecting. So that's lost to history.
I had no idea this was going to be in the book until just before the thing went to print when Bacon emailed me with Rosenberg's version of the event and asked me if I had any corrections, which I did since he remembered me as some wild-eyed nut instead of a wild-eyed nut with very specific questions.
And <poof> like that, he's gone.
As for my bête noir… well now. Revelations about Rosenberg from the book:
- Countable hours was "in the story at some point" but "there were a lot of edits."
- He did not attend a single practice before writing the infamous story in which he declares it "sad" that Michigan is employing a guy to belittle its students. (I found this so implausible when I read it that I double-checked with Bacon about this; he dug up the email he had gotten from Rosenberg as proof.)
- He told multiple Michigan employees that he "hated Bill Martin" and "was going to get him run out of his job."
- He got teary when Michigan fans left nasty reviews of his book on Amazon.
Rosenberg has taken to twitter to call Bacon a "fan" and claim the book is "littered with errors," complaining that Bacon made "almost no attempt to talk to anybody who would contradict his subject's point of view."
How Rosenberg knows this is unknown. Bacon states in the book that he repeatedly tried to talk to Martin, Coleman, Carr, and Brandon but never got anywhere. Certainly Brandon's response to the book—a disingenuous "what book?" issued at the same time he's pressuring the M-Den not to carry it and Bacon has been exiled to Drew Sharp Row—indicates the sort of cooperation the AD is providing the guy.
Meanwhile, the height of irony:
When I asked Rosenberg if they had made any attempt to talk to players with different views, he replied, "Did we keep calling until we got guys to say, 'Hey, it's fine?' No, we didn't."
The difference between Bacon's book—which contains a half-dozen quotes from Rosenberg as it attempts to show both sides of the story—and the Free Press piece is stark. The [REDACTED] has the balls to complain about Bacon's approach to journalism? After the NCAA called the original article exaggerated and misleading? After they took countable hours out of the story? /head explodes
That this guy still has a job is a black mark on the Free Press. That he's still allowed to show up at press conferences is inexplicable. That he has the chutzpah to criticize someone else's journalism is totally expected, because he's just that kind of guy.
Players of all varieties
The only enjoyable parts of the book are the moments when Michigan's players come into focus. I suspect that Bacon soft-pedaled some of the Tate stuff. He comes off as a fairly likeable, if pretty weird, kid. Denard and Devin and Mark Moundros and Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin all come off well.
At least we've got that after the last few years. Michigan's players are easy to root for. They don't put MIKE VICK on their eyeblack or fracture skulls or not pay for tattoos or give quotes about how "everybody murders" to the media. They leave all that stuff to the adults.
That feeling you got at the end of the Hoke press conference when Brandon was talking and you thought "Rodriguez was a dead man even before the bowl" is a feeling most of the players had. Bacon, too, which he made more explicit than he did in the book in an appearance on the Huge show yesterday.
Brandon's drawn-out firing process does seem like an unnecessary delay of an already-made decision. The impression Bacon got was the players thought Rodriguez was done, people around the program felt Brandon was hoping for a loss in the bowl game. So cut the cord already.
We don't get much else on the current AD.
Sometimes I post on Wednesday, sometimes I post on Thursday. Ideally I should post on Tuesday, but ideally Michigan should be undefeated.
Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace.
The Road Ahead:
Purdue (4-3, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: No. 23 Illinois 14, Purdue 21 (W)
Recap: If you want something more than handwaving, see Ace’s FFFF.
In a nutshell, Purdue managed two real drives in the first half while stymieing Illinois’ offense for a good 50 minutes before the Illini finally came to. As Ace indicates, the Boilermakers didn’t so much win this game as Illinois lost it: Purdue is a not very good team that happened to play well. The Illini were a better team that made enough mistakes to beat themselves. Sometimes you can bring a knife to a gunfight and prevail because the guys with the guns shoot at each other first. That’s not the best analogy but you get the point.
Right now they are as frightening as: After losing to Rice and narrowly escaping Middle Tennessee State at the beginning of the season, Purdue has improved enough to play Penn State close and beat a ranked Illinois team. What does this mean?
It means that the Big Ten isn’t very good. Fear level = 4.
Michigan should worry about: Underestimating Purdue’s defense. While not stellar as a unit, they’re fairly opportunistic, led by a secondary that is competent to good. CB Ricardo Allen, the guy who intercepted Denard last year and hurdled him for a 94-yard touchdown, is still on the team. He’s a sophomore, so we’ll be seeing him for a while.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Saturday’s weather forecast says 52 degrees and partly cloudy with 0 percent chance of trash. Roy Roundtree's Donald Duck voice.
When Michigan plays them: Is Michigan good enough to not beat itself? Most signs point to yes. This game may not be pretty--you should avert your eyes every time a Purdue running back makes for the sideline or when Denard throws a duck into coverage--but a barring a complete collapse on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines should at least be able to grind out a win.
Next game: at No. 17 Snake Oil Emporium