"I am insane. I am childish. I once drank an entire bottle of wine while watching Michigan and God's favored child Denard Robinson lose in Ohio Stadium to an undefeated Ohio State team BANNED FROM BOWL COMPETITION FYI JUST WANTED TO MENTION THAT FOR NO REASON."
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
Molk, Huyge, Koger
- C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
- RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
- TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.
[serious worry stops here]
- WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
- WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
- TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.
[slight worry stops here]
- RB Michael Shaw. BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
- WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
- FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
- WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
- RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.
Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald
- QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
- LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
- RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
- RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
- WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
- WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
- OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
- OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
- RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
- FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.
The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:
- Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
- Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
- True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
- Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
- Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.
Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.
Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.
Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.
Stonum being indie
Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.
If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972
Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.
Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.
The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.
Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.
WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2012
Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.
With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.
This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.
Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.
It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.
Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.
WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY
Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:
|Formation||Pass YPA||Run YPA||Total YPA|
The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.
When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.
So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…
[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]
…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.
How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.
Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.
*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]
**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]
YES. You may have already seen this, but if you have you are probably eager to see it again. It is DT commit Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke impression.
The guy has memorized the "THIS IS MICHIGAN" press conference. I give him six stars and a moon. Rivals may be giving him five soon, FWIW. Your one sentence All Star wrap up is: expect Bolden and Pipkins to move up significantly; Magnuson may drop a little.
The silver lining of last night. You know, that thing you had on in the background on mute because whenever you looked up Jordan Jefferson was being attacked by 300 pound piranhas. There are actually two silver linings:
- Alabama winning has the potential to push anyone on the fence about an early NFL draft entry into the "go" category. Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Donta Hightower are probably not going to Jerryworld unless the Cowboys draft them.
- ND Nation is once again suggesting the Irish should go after Nick Saban.
It is only on the nation that something like this can be said with a straight face:
However, I actually believe that Saban might listen and that the sales pitch would be very simple and fairly effective: "Nick, you've done everything you can accomplish in college football. You've won three NC's, including two at Alabama. There's only one thing left: Dare to bring Notre Dame back to the top of the heap. Take on the challenge, including the supposed limitations that have scared off lesser coaches, men who consider themselves your rivals. Even one crown at Notre Dame would cement you as a legend who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Rockne and Bryant." Etc.
The nation suggests Saban should leave Alabama so he can be regarded as a college football legend on the same level as Bear Bryant. Increment your personal odds as to whether ND Nation is a brilliant, long-running piece of performance art as you will.
Top ten! Sort of, anyway. Michigan slides in front of MSU and Wisconsin in the coaches' poll and finishes ninth. The AP puts M behind both the Badgers and Spartans and has them 12th (USC's presence in the AP accounts for the other spot).
THE VENGANCE OF DOYLE WILL BE ABRUPT AND HAVE A SILLY NICKNAME. John Beilein just made himself a terrible enemy:
"A note to you guys, I got a chance to see (2012 signee) Glenn Robinson III play in Milwaukee this past weekend, and holy cow is that kid good," Doyle said on the program. "And I've got a prediction next year: I think Michigan is a Final Four team next year."
"What happy hour are you at right now?" he said in jest.
I like that the newspaper clarified that Beilein was joking. Better safe than sorry.
Speaking of Robinson III, he faced off with UNC commit and secret Mortal Kombat character JP Tokoto in a touted matchup; Robinson got the better of it on the scoreboard with 33 to Tokoto's 28 and posterized some dude:
Rivals was impressed:
Already a four-star prospect who ranks #34 nationally in the class of 2012, Robinson continues to take his game to new heights. With near 6-foot-7 size, a great frame, deep range and plenty of athleticism, Robinson is one of the most efficient wings in the country.
Capable of operating as a jump shooter, Robinson also has a high post game, scores at the rim and finishes on the break. While he doesn’t rely on his athleticism, he has the ability to attack and put people in the rim when he needs to just like his father used to do.
Sounds like the second coming of Hardaway with an extra inch or two. I bet he sees some time at the 4 when Michigan goes small; take whatever minutes Novak gets down there and hand them to Robinson. Or maybe McGary if he has the quicks to guard other fours.
Rivals is not super reliable—remember that they moved Burke down after his senior year in HS—but GRIII (and McGary, and now Stauskas) has consensus.
Q: could we see the return of the 1-3-1 at times next year? Length is a key if you're going to run it and Michigan has not had much of that in Beilein's tenure at M. When the 2012 class hits the floor that will change. Many lineups will have just one player—Burke or Brundidge—shorter than 6'5". Right now it's a once-in-a-while way to give up an open three and not get an offensive rebound; with that length it could be the turnover machine it needs to be if it's going to be effective.
Bill O'Brien upshot. It may have some positive impact for Michigan:
…if reports are true, O'Brien won't be on Penn State's campus immediately -- and the wait could potentially extend past a very important deadline. According to Boston Herald Patriots beat reporter Ian Rapoport, O'Brien will remain the Patriots' offensive coordinator throughout the playoffs. And while the NFL playoffs start this weekend, the Patriots' season won't be ending so soon. New England is the top seed in the AFC, meaning the Patriots have a bye week this week, and are the favorite to make it to Super Bowl XLVI.
That would take O'Brien's tenure as Pats OC out past signing day. O'Brien has less than a month to assemble a staff and get those guy out on the recruiting trail, and he'll be trying to do that while also watching Tom Brady call all his own plays on the field. This version of The Process is sure to shake some additional recruits free.
Michigan would dearly like it if one of them was MA CB Armani Reeves. Reeves just saw his recruiting contact axed, which has Ohio State fans yo-ho-hoing about pirating Camren Williams and Reeves. If Williams shakes free that would remove a big point in PSU's favor… and move it wherever he goes. Like maybe Ohio State. Hurrah.
Reeves is planning on a visit to Michigan this weekend, though.
Yes, you absolutely are. LIES from ESPN executive Burke Magnus:
"I sense that people who run college football and run the conferences obviously are not tone-deaf, and Mike's comments I think were reflective of where this group is," Magnus said. "They intend to give thoughtful consideration and discussion to every possible format consideration that there is. That's encouraging."
Legends and leaders. QED. Burke Magnus was grown in a vat, by the way. An executive vat. I'm disappointed the interviewer here didn't take the opportunity to ask if ESPN was comfortable forcing colleges to lose money on bowl games they own.
This is is unalloyed good news, though:
"We like the concept of a meaningful New Year's Day, not that it's not meaningful now," Magnus said.
Anything that breaks up the parade of Big Ten mediocrity on NYD is welcome. For one, I'd watch those games if they weren't on at the same time. For two, it destroys the concept of New Year's Day as a thing to aspire for when 6-6 teams regularly wander in from their mandated eight-day Cristal turbo-massages to poop all over tradition. In their Quest For Marketing programs have taken formerly meaningful metrics (bowl game, NYD bowl game) and bastardized them so they say "went .500" and "finished in the top six Big Ten teams." Any pushback on that is welcome.
Truth beyond parody. The Onion attempts to satirize punting, instead creates alternate reality:
In a league-wide poll, head coaches from all 32 teams were asked if they enjoyed punting, and to describe how much enjoyment it made them feel. All 32 answered "no" to the first question, and either "none at all" or "very little" to the second.
Only two respondents answered "very little" instead of "none at all": Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who admitted he may have been confused by the question, and Denver coach John Fox, who said he took some comfort in the fact that punting meant he was voluntarily relinquishing possession of the ball and that his quarterback, Tim Tebow, hadn't done anything stupid with it.
There are 10-15 NFL coaches who would have answered "love it more than my children."
Etc.: Auburn running back Michael Dyer bizarrely transfers to Arkansas State to follow Gus Mahlzahn, who bizarrely took the Arkansas State job for a massive paycut. Should we check for a supervillian mind control ray in the vicinity of wherever the hell Arkansas State is?
Other burning questions: is it official Daily policy to follow the initials CCHA with "gongshow" at every opportunity? How is Michigan going to sort out their linebackers next year? Is this bracketologist intentionally pairing five-seed Michigan with potential second round opponent West Virginia for storyline appeal or is it just coincidence? What is with Jon Horford's foot?
1/7/2011 – Michigan 4, LSSU 2 – 12-8-3
1/8/2011 – Michigan 2, LSSU 2 (LSSU wins SO) – 12-8-4
via the Daily
I'll take it. If you'd told me Michigan would only get 2 periods out of Shawn Hunwick, lose Alex Guptill halfway through Saturday night's game, and end up benching Brennan Serville again, I'd be thinking split or worse. Instead Michigan scrapes out a win and a tie in the NCAA's eyes and continues their trudge up the RPI and PWR charts in their effort to not be the team that breaks the streak.
Having Merrill back is an enormous relief, isn't it? After a half-season of watching various defensemen panic and suffer at the hands of forechecking, the gloriously smooth Merrill is a revelation. The puck is on his stick: breakout. It's like he never left… except for my scars.
Unfortunately, Merrill is not a panacea for all of Michigan's ills. They still sent Derek Deblois out in a shootout; their power play is still a debacle; they're still in the CCHA's usual massive pack of .500 teams. Mike Spath notes that in 21 shootout attempts this year Michigan has scored twice. There you go, Michigan's lack of dirty dangles in lights. I miss the days when Comrie and Cammalleri and Hensick provided a regular stream of top shelf highlights.
Whither the magic midget, I ask? Are we limited to one at a time and ours happens to play goalie? Probably.
Bullets that go over the net
Janecyk. That could have gone much, much worse. That was exactly like watching Hunwick play for the first time, in which it seemed impossible that the puck was staying out of the net and then it didn't. LSSU is a shoot-on-sight sort of team so his save percentage may have been a little inflated; even so two goals on 30+ shots is a quality outing.
Per Red, Hunwick will be back this weekend. Hopefully we don't have to test this Janecyk-is-also-Hunwick theory any further, no offense to a star of the game from Saturday.
Top line: extant. There is a top line now: Brown, Guptill, and Wohlberg. They're big and fast and generally hard to deal with around the net; what they lack in puckhandling skill they make up for with good shooting and crease mucking. Guptill will be back this weekend as well; if I had to guess I'd say both he and Hunwick had minor concussion symptoms.
I'm still not sure what they're doing with the other lines. Moffatt and Hyman with Sinelli is odd since that implies a fourth line when Moffatt, at least, seems to be one of the team's better offensive players. Pairing PDG with Glendening and Treais seems… suboptimal. Glendending should be the heart of a checking line and PDG should get Moffatt or Sparks to see if they can, you know, score some goals. Glendening has three points in his last 20. At this point he should not be on a scoring line.
Serville: yeesh. On the ice in front of the net for the tying LSSU goal on Saturday and then exiled to the bench for the rest of the game, marking the second outing in which he's found himself benched for most of a period. Before that he'd gotten walked through for two excellent LSSU chances. I'm shocked at his issues with the transition; can't remember an NHL draft pick who seemed so unready.
But what about Chiasson? There have been no injuries reports on Mike Chiasson, who missed Saturday's game. No one has even mentioned it. Is he healthy? Did he really get voluntarily scratched on Saturday? How is that possible? THEORY: accidentally wore a Lindsay Sparks jersey to practice.
Seriously, though… if Chiasson was a healthy scratch on Saturday I'm baffled. There's not a lot of time between Friday and Saturday night to have a team rules violation. Leaving him out by choice seems insane.
Massive pack of .500 teams, and some others. I'm not kidding. Six of the league's 11 teams are within a game of .500 with four exactly even. OSU is currently running away with the league on points, winning percentage, and goal differential after dumping the vast bulk of their team in the offseason. (I wonder what the OSU oversigning hawks think of that.)
Michigan is 11 points adrift, which is why I couldn't care less about shootouts. If Michigan's not winning the league I don't care where they finish unless they're unable to finish in the top eight and I have to either figure out how to get my playoff ticket money back or give an involuntary donation to the AD. Failing that, whatever.
Pretty much useless PWR update. Michigan slides up to a tie for ninth; lake state temporarily drops out only to be replaced by Ferris, WMU, and Miami. Hypothetical season-ends-today tournament features a hypothetical seven(!!!) CCHA teams with those three, Michigan, #6 NMU, #3 ND, and #1 OSU. I imagine cannibalism will knock that down to five by the end of the year.
Michigan improved its RPI a bit over the weekend and now stands a tenuous tenth. This upcoming OSU series is huge. They've been very good so far this year but are coming off consecutive ties against cellar-dweller BGSU, 1-11-2 against the rest of the league.
This is a weird year in college hockey. Not only is Michigan struggling to maintain its streak but 11-8-3 Denver and 11-8-2 North Dakota are currently on the outside looking in at 18th and 20th, respectively. Wisconsin is barely a TUC and Mass-Lowell and Merrimack are currently in. Strangest of all: Minnesota might make the tournament.
Power play: argh. It's time to take whatever Michigan's doing on the power play and throw it away and get a specialist consultant or something.
Against Lake Superior State this weekend, the Michigan hockey team went a combined 0-for-4 on the power play. The Wolverines averaged less than a shot per man-advantage.
It's ugly to watch. Throwing Treais out there on the point is the latest oddity; Michigan immediately gave up a scoring chance due to his inexperience playing on the point on Friday and abandoned it. With Merrill back they should just throw the top four defenders out there and try to scrabble together some forwards—it's not like they're overflowing with good options there, either.
Sorry for the late post. WLW crashed at the worst time possible and their auto-recover function didn't work since it only took down one of my windows. So the column bit is shorter and I'll find links later.
1/8/2012 – Michigan 59, Wisconsin 41 – 13-3, 3-1 Big Ten
If Michigan's season to date was a rollercoaster, it would be one with a cartoon bumblebee on the first car and a You Must Be This Short To Ride This Ride sign out front. They've beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, lost to the ones they were supposed to lose to, and done these things more or less convincingly. Maybe the Virginia loss was a disappointment, but they're 14-1 now. Maybe Minnesota was uncomfortable. These are not events that will cause anyone in a television studio to talk about Michigan's wild season.
On the whole, that's a positive, but it does leave you wondering if Michigan is taking a step forward. Once Trey Burke hit the ground running it seemed like they should, but when you're sifting through the evidence all you've got are some instances of not blowing it. Tough to judge, that.
An 18-point win against Wisconsin is a step forward even if they're notoriously overrated by Kenpom. They are also rated by the people who vote in these things. North Carolina had to scrape by them at home; it took Michigan State overtime to dispatch them. They will likely recover from this sour start to easily claim an NCAA tourney bid, and Michigan ran them out of the gym.
This has a directly comparable moment from last year. It was this:
DEATH TO BACKBOARDS
THAT IS ALL
At that point even that hopeless freshman playing pinball for the win was regarded as "man fun," evidence that Michigan's basketball program was alive at 17-12, 7-9 in the league.
Michigan was rebuilding and started the Big Ten season off so poorly that the narrative of the season was near-misses that would cost them a tourney bid until, suddenly, it wasn't. When they got the bid they were staring down a second round matchup with Duke and the Sweet 16 was not a consideration until Darius Morris was running at the basket with time winding down.
This year they're coming at it from ahead, with a win or two in their pocket and a hope for more. Next year they won't be rebuilding anything. They'll be built, and expectations will loom. Right now we're going through the last vestiges of having no expectations because we have no program. Step by step, inch by inch, Michigan departs its past and becomes something else.
Bullets that can hit the backboard all they want
TREY BURKE! Burke followed up the worst game of his young career by outplaying Jordan Taylor. Taylor had a couple baskets late when he started forcing quick shots; these came against Stu Douglass and were desperate heaves in any case. In the first half Taylor had 4 points on 2 of 8 shooting; he hit a single additional three against Burke in the second half. For the game Taylor's late chucks got him to 12 points on 15 shots; Burke was not the model of efficiency but had 14 on the same number of shots. He did not pick up a single foul.
The rest of the defense! Michigan held Wisconsin to 0.76 points per possession, UW's worst output of the year. Marquette is next best at 0.86. I'm not sure how or why this happened, but it was no fluke. Wisconsin could not find an open shot anywhere. Despite having a terrible night, Taylor was forced into an even larger share of the offense than he usually has. He averages around 25% of UW's shots and hit 30% in this game.
Michigan showed on ball screens and Wisconsin could not pick and roll or find post players in good position. The Badgers had maybe three open looks from three all game, one transition basket, and vanishingly few dunks and layups.
Hardaway: more turnovers please. Last year, this site identified Tim Hardaway's abnormally low turnover rate for a high-usage freshman as a reason he would be an efficient player going forward. It would now like to retract that assertion since now it seems to mean Hardaway is settling for a lot of long twos.
In the last two games he's probably shot a half-dozen jumpers from just inside the three-point line with more than 25 seconds on the shot clock. I don't care who you are: that is not a good shot. You can make the case for the occasional semi-contested jacked up three as a decent opportunity that opens up later driving. You cannot for a slightly shorter shot that has about the same chance of going in but provides 33% less reward. Can Hardaway get that anytime he wants? Yes. Try to find something better with the time allotted.
If this results in more turnovers from young Skywalker, so be it. He's shooting 27% from 3—and probably about that from just inside 3—and 58% from two. Either drive to the basket or kick, and take the threes only when they come to you.
He seems to be overreacting to the first half/second half thing and is now shooting everything all the time. His shot% has cracked 30% and is now in the top 100, which is frustrating when a lot of the shots he's adding are low quality and he's got guys like Novak, Morgan and Smotrycz hanging out being deadly when the offense can create a shot for them.
Sanity check on aisle Wisconsin. Like Miami (That Miami) finishing third in offensive FEI, Wisconsin tenaciously clinging to their #2 spot in Kenpom despite a 1-3 Big Ten start is an unfortunate, credibility-sapping outlier. Sometimes these things happen to systems that try to rank teams by taking every possession into relatively equal account. Kenpom's strength of schedule adjustment is overwhelmed when a team beats its tomato cans by 54, 27, 36, 46, 23, 18, 33, and 34 in low-tempo outings. Computers have hearts, too. You can't expect them not to fall in love with that.
Wisconsin also has a narrow road loss to UNC and wins over Kenpom favorites BYU and UNLV, with only a home loss to Marquette a potential blemish before the clunky conference start. That the Badgers are still #2 after a home loss to Iowa and an 18 point blowout to M is a little dismaying; maybe Kenpom can find a way to discount possessions that are obviously scrub vs scrub or something.
UPDATE: Kenpom has a Wisconsin FAQ that seems driven by a lot of twitter @ replies.
The leap. The anticipated Kenpom surge was major: 12 spots—or three full seeding ranks in Pomlandia. Michigan's many indifferent outings against bleah competition saw them enter Big Ten play 52nd.
Let's go, Hoiberg Home for Lost Big Ten Boys. Michigan's meh nonconference schedule features just one win over a probable tourney participant (Memphis; Oakland is 3-4 in the Summit)… or at least it did until Iowa State swept Texas and A&M last week to kick off the Big 12 slate 2-0. The Cyclones also beat Iowa, which isn't a huge deal but does mean they're on a 7-game win streak in the aftermath of their loss in Crisler. Kenpom now projects a .500 conference record for them.
That would probably not get them in since their best nonconference win is against the Hawkeyes and they have losses to Drake and UNI, the other two instate schools. If they can swing an extra game or two their way, they could make it. FWIW, they're already in the top 50 in RPI.
The road ahead. Michigan has two should-win games next against Northwestern and Iowa. Iowa's on the road, though, which makes things touchy. See: recent Michigan trips to Carver-Hawkeye. See also: insane charge/block calls against Hardaway and Novak that cost Michigan the Indiana game.
Anyway, once they get past the next two games they have this daunting gauntlet (all rankings Kenpom):
- #7 Michigan State
- @ #85 Arkansas (annual inexplicable nonconference game)
- @ #29 Purdue
- @ #1 OSU
- #8 Indiana
- @ #7 Michigan State
If they can take care of business over the next week they can come out of that stretch .500 and still have established themselves a tourney lock. The home stretch is much easier: @ Nebraska, two against Illinois, @ Northwestern, @ Penn State, and return games from OSU and Purdue. If they manage to go 2-3 against the above conference opponents they'll be 7-4 in the toughest conference in the country with two gimmes and plenty of other games left to get to the .500 mark that will be auto entry for any B10 team this year.
The recruiting rankings return after the dead period and a New Year's Day siesta. Despite the dead period, there were a fair amount of commitments since the last rankings, including the Wolverines picking up Jehu Chesson (yes, it's been a while since I did one of these). Action since last rankings:
12-18-11: Ohio State picks up Noah Spence. Steffon Martin decommits from Purdue.
12-19-11: Indiana picks up Ryan Thompson. Illinois picks up Mason Monheim.
12-20-11: Nebraska picks up Mohammed Seisay.
12-21-11: Michigan picks up Jehu Chesson. Indiana picks up David Cooper. Ryan Frain re-committed to Illinois.
12-22-11: Indiana picks up Antonio Marshall.
12-26-11: Purdue picks up James Prince and Jason King.
12-29-11: Notre Dame picks up KeiVarae Russell. Penn State picks up Jamil Pollard. Purdue picks up Ryan Watson.
1-3-12: Iowa picks up Greg Garmon. Keith Brown decommits from Illinois. Nebraska picks up Jared Afalava and Avery Moss.
1-4-12: Sebastian Smith decommits from Indiana.
1-5-12: Illinois picks up Teko Powell.
1-7-12: Notre Dame picks up Elijah Shumate.
UPDATE 1-8-12: Ronald Darby decommits from Notre Dame (to answer your question: no, he is not considering Michigan, or at least they're not among his planned visits—Clemson, Florida State, and possibly LSU).
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so they are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
*programming note, got busy during the holidays, sorry if anyone was looking for scouting reports. Things have slowed down now, so expect a Nebraska game wrap next week, or the week after, depending on if I feel like writing anything about the SEC non-championship exhibition game.
Winners find a way to win.
It started as a joke, but now no one can deny the awesome power that is Brady Hoke's magical golden poop. Everything he touches turns into roses. When he walks through a forest, flowers bloom in his wake. Youtube is sadly lacking in good golden poop videos, so a unicorn farting rainbows of destruction was the best I could find. I hope it's not too disturbing.
Our ND friends gave us the wonderfully self-fulfilling cliche' "Winners find a way to win, losers find a way to lose." But we'll just focus on the first half of that, and they can focus on the 2nd half, thank you very much.
Was Brady Hoke lucky that Tressel was caught lying? Maybe. Maybe he pulled a Peter Wiggin and dropped a few well placed emails. Was it luck when we fumbled on the 1 yard line against ND and Denard scooped and scored a walk in? Maybe. Maybe Hoke used his secret telekinesis.
I don't know, I don't care. At this point I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
But how else can you explain what happened?
How does a sure INT on a fake FG where no receivers went into pass patterns end up in the arms of the long snapper for a first down? How does what looks like a TD to 80% of the twitterverse get reversed in OT? How have all the great things that have happened this year happen to one team, in one year? It boggles the mind.
They say you make your own luck. They say that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." But whether it's luck, or karmic retribution, or a secret plot by an undercover invisible agency from the future, it can't be sustained at this high of a level. So let's just enjoy it while we can.
On to the pics.
Al. Al? ALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
This week's love-hate relationship status with Al Borges is .... .... Love? That's odd, because during the game there were times when the needle was strongly tilted towards hate. But after a second look at the game film, the final analysis, just like the outcome of the game, is slightly positive.
Much like the Iowa game, the lack of production on offense wasn't really his fault so much as it was a combination of a lack of execution, personnel limitations, and a darn good defense.
Oh sure, there's plenty of things he could have done better and a few stinkers that make you want to pull out your hair... hmmm....nevermind. And I'll get to those in a moment, but overall, we did what we've done all year. And many of the plays should have worked.
I mean, Molk getting injured and having this
happen on two consecutive plays to kill the first drive can't really be blamed on Al. Maybe it would have been better to go under center with the backup playing, but after we've been crying all year for more shotgun, you can understand why he didn't. Luckily Molk came back in, but wasn't at 100% which probably put a dent in our selection of play calls.
And give VT credit. They played a lot of Man-Free forcing Denard to make tough passes to the outside, which frankly, we all know is not his comfort zone.
Yes, the manball mentality is frustrating especially when VT is putting 9 men in the box.
(It's 8 because Denard going backwards is not a threat to run.) But it's there to setup big plays.
With both safeties up like this, the thing you have to do is make them pay for it.
But with two defenders beating their blockers, Denard has pressure right up in his face resulting in this jump pass.
It's not Al's fault that Denard threw to the wrong guy. Roundtree had a step on his man and Jr. was getting interfered with. Despite the interception, you can't argue that it wasn't the right play call.
[ED: More after the jump.]