Just in time for me to rend my garments about a Merrill non-return and add a "jon merrill's infinite suspension" tag, various players hop on twitter to say he'll be on the ice tonight. Via Michigan Hockey Net:
Just moments ago freshman Travis Lynch tweeted:
Big game tonight against Lake Superior State. Jonny is back!
That was followed up by freshman Alex Guptill tweeting:
The three most feared words in hockey. Jonny. Is. Back.
Thank Beesus. May we sting our way to a better future.
LEFT: Nittany the Lion drinks hemlock. RIGHT: why Tom Bradley is not an option.
DEAREST PENN STATE NITT-ANY LION FANS,
I am a fan of Michigan, a team that used to be in your conference. I have just been informed that due to unapproved activities involving… well, nevermind what the activities involve. That's not really the issue here.
The issue is that longtime coach Joe Paterno was ignominiously forced out after at least six years as the head coach at Penn State, and that many people who remember this halycon half decade or so are peevish that unapproved activities have led to the firing of the hallowed JoePa. You probably know this bit.
The activities are so unapproved that they have irradiated the rest of the coaching staff with fatal doses of public relations. Coaches at other schools not currently suffering fatal doses of PR are so leery about getting irradiated themselves that they refuse to take millions of dollars to coach a football program that's still in a pretty damn good spot long term.
So the Penn State administration hired one of the more tenuous branches off the sickly Belichick coaching tree in the full expectation he'll fail massively, and soon. They would have hired Charlie Weis but—and you're probably not going to believe this—someone beat them to it. I know. Funny ol' world. They would have hired Ron Zook but Ron Zook is a chronic disease. So they hired some guy unreassuringly named Bill O'Brien who sponsors a bowl in St. Petersburg.
Do not look on Bill O'Brien as a head coach. Bill O'Brien is pickled ginger. Like the snake at the base of the tree that holds up the world, you have just finished consuming the largest piece of nigiri ever made. It was made of yourself. There's more, but for the full experience you must spend the next three to five years cleansing and preparing your palate.
Do not regard Bill O'Brien as a person who can succeed or fail. He is doomed. You will put him in your mouth and gnaw on him and once you swallow him and dissolve him in your stomach acids you can get on with things. Bill O'Brien is football pickled Jesus ginger. He will die for your sins… someone's, anyway.
Prepare thine heart for a messy one-way divorce. You may think Penn State is a school. You may have attended it, and loved it, and thought of the football program as the bit of the iceberg above the water: the most accessible part of your much greater love for the institution as a whole.
This must be true. I have been to State College in the summer, when no one is around. It is pretty. There are bars there with good microbrews in which weird cover bands play as you try to determine whether the sax guy is literally a muppet or just impossibly muppet-like. It is an outcrop of something in the middle of nowhere, easy to fall in love with.
Unfortunately, you're about to find out that a lot of your favorite people on the iceberg think Penn State is literally one dude. Lavar Arrington:
"I will put my Butkus (Award) in storage. I will put my Alamo Bowl MVP trophy in storage," Arrington said. "Jerseys, anything Penn State, in storage. Wherever Tom Bradley goes, that's the school I will start to put memorabilia up in my home. I'm done. I'm done with Penn State. If they're done with us, I'm done with them."
Brandon Short [ibid]:
"I don't want to be affiliated with the university if they don't choose a Penn State guy because of our standards, our graduation, all the things that have been important... it's no longer Penn State, so we might as well be in the SEC. They are intent on turning it into a booster culture. Ira Lubert went out and purchased a national title with wrestling and he's under the illusion that he can do that in football. Well, ask (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder about that."
"Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then they've turned their backs on our entire family."
“I feel badly for him (because) he is clueless and will not have the support of the majority of the Lettermen. This is a hornet’s nest (for him).”
There is no one in the world who did not play for members of the Penn State coaching staff who believes anyone on staff during the time in which the unapproved activities occurred can stay at PSU. Instead of acknowledging this reality, certain players you loved are going to firebomb the program until Football Pickled Jesus Ginger is gone and someone with a tangential relationship to Paterno is found, whereupon they will say they knew it all along. They will not acknowledge their contributions to the situation.
This is going to piss you off and sour some of your fond memories. Nothing can change this, but you can be prepared. Latch on to the current players, who have done nothing other than not leave when they maybe should.
Look… just… don't. You may be inclined to say something about the enormous hissy fit being thrown by certain players as indicative of the problems with the culture that got you in this spot in the first place. This is probably not a good idea even if you secretly think it's true.
Don't extrapolate your problems across the whole of college football since your worldview has been so jaundiced that hope and joy experienced by others only serves to reinforce the existentialist dread that overwhelms your existence. Looking at you, Weinreb.
In lieu of on-field substance prepare for cheesy pro-style stadium exper— oh, right, I see you've got this one covered. Let's form a support group. I need help coping with these things.
MANTRAS FOR HOPE. It is not going to be fun. By saying these things over and over again you might find some modicum of serenity:
- Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno. Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno. Our offensive coordinator is not Jay Paterno.
- How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten. How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten. How hard can it be to win in the Big Ten.
- At least we're not Notre Dame. At least we're not Notre Dame. At least we're not Notre Dame.
Good luck, and godspeed.
It is alive. A month ago, Michigan's tourney streak was dead and buried after an appalling skid the likes of which Michigan hasn't endured since Red revived the program in the mid-80s. Since then a four-point weekend against MSU and a surprising GLI championship have turned their pairwise fortunes 90 degrees. Try this on for size: if the season ended today, Michigan would be in. There's another 90 degrees to go, but that's good work for two weekends.
Video from the stands gets a great look at the Moffie-Clare connection that won the State game at about the 3:10 mark:
I missed all but the last ten minutes of the BC game because I was at Crisler. Yost Built has your recap. Michigan played well in the first, built a lead, got blown out of the water in the second before Treais scored against the run of play late, and then strangled the third. The ten minutes I did see were pleasingly dull.
The day after, Michigan played an even game with State. Trailing 2-1 with under a minute left and up a man, Luke Moffatt flung a cross ice pass to one of the sundry Lynches on the team, who deflected it in. In overtime Hunwick saved Michigan's bacon three times before the above transpired.
The Situation (Not That Situation)
The pairwise is a very silly metric that bounces hither and thither even when it has most of a season's worth of data, so no grand conclusions should be drawn just yet. The pairwise is also heavily slanted towards RPI, a metric that's still pretty silly but is far more projectable now that the vast bulk of nonconference games are out of the way. Now that they are, well, remember how they put in a rule that you couldn't finish below .500 and still make the tournament because of the WCHA? This year the CCHA is the WCHA:
The CCHA is 40-12-5 out of conference so far this year, for a winning percentage of 0.746. Even terrible Bowling Green, who is 1-11-2 in conference, went 5-0-1 in nonconference play, which helps everyone else in the conference.
That was before the holiday tourneys, FWIW.
Let's have a poke at RPI. Michigan is currently in a swamp of four teams separated by a couple thousandths that stretch from 10th to 13th. Their brutal schedule down the stretch is 14 games. Two of them are against BGSU. The remainder are series against #1 OSU, #4 ND, #8 NMU, #10 MSU, #15 LSSU, and inexplicably .500 Miami.
This is good and bad. Michigan can maintain its RPI at its current level by going .500 down the stretch, which will put them on the bubble. Win nine of 14 games and Michigan's RPI will slide up the 6-8 range. That is lock territory.
Michigan's in a much better spot than they were a couple years ago when they were 10-10 after the GLI. They had little room for error, used all of it and more, and only made the tourney after scraping out a conference tourney win. That team wasn't addressing its biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey, though, and they weren't playing in a league the algorithm looked upon favorably.
The Other Situation (The Wall Punching One)
Is this team addressing their biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey? When Jon Merrill's mysterious suspension was mysteriously extended to a mysterious end date, everyone assumed he would be back for this weekend's LSSU series and the stretch run. That is apparently not the case:
Merrill will NOT play this weekend per Red this morning
Didn't sound super optimistic the kid will be back anytime soon either. Might have to push his ETA back to late January.
Fantastic. We still have no idea what Merrill's issue is, no idea when he'll return, no idea why he's still in Ann Arbor when he's apparently never going to get back on the ice again. It's not academic or Merrill would be eligible now. It's not legal or someone would have run across a public document of it by now. It's not serious enough to put off USA Hockey when they were selecting the WJC team, but it's serious enough to force Merrill out of 2/3rds of a season and counting. ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH. Red is Red. He is the program. He knows what he's doing. I will remain calm.
So here we are. If Merrill ever gets back I'd guess the pairings end up like so:
That's three pairings with one offensive and one defensive player and no Brennan Serville, a guy who has struggled immensely in his transition to college hockey. Early in the year I thought Clare's footspeed would see him eat bench in the distant future when robots ruled the world and Merrill was eligible again, but the coaches clearly have more faith in him at this point. During Michigan's dismal slide, Serville was more or less directly responsible for two goals in a particular first period and sat out until midway through the third. He'll probably rotate through from time to time when Moffie or Clare has a shaky outing; a regular shift is unlikely.
If the above looks pretty good, without Merrill it's the same story we've seen so far this year: a pretty good top pairing, a somewhat reliable elderly freshmen, and after that terror, alarm, and Lee Moffie's assist machine.
Silver lining: Merrill must be planning on coming back for his junior year given the above. I mean, right?
The Forwards (Eh)
Michigan's stats are bizarre. They're fifth in the country with 3.55 goals per game but have no one averaging a point per game; leading scorer Chris Brown is tied for 79th nationally with 6-12-18 and is the only guy in the top 100 at College Hockey Stats.
The game with ALL OF THE GOALS (all of the goals)
If it doesn't feel like they're fifth in scoring, this is largely attributable to the distribution of the goals. In one game against St. Lawrence, Michigan poured in ten. Excise that from the stats and they fall to 17th nationally… which also seems high. It is less eyepopping. Since their season-opening tomato cans they've averaged exactly 3 goals per game with four outings in which they managed only one. That's why anyone running across Michigan's place in the scoring ranks is set for a double take.
As for individuals, it's hard to pick out any for attention. What is Michigan's top line? I don't know, you don't know. M had Andrew Sinelli out there for the GLI with Moffatt and Hyman… is that a fourth line? What is that?
These days the nominal top line is Brown-Wohlberg-Guptill, which sounds like just another bunch of dudes but does have the three top-scoring forwards on the team. Whoever is playing with Phil Di Giuseppe is the second line. Lindsay Sparks has eaten bench the last four games after his production fell off; he still has more points in 18 games than Lynch, Deblois, Glendening, and Hyman have in 21 or 22. He is not notably more deficient on D than the rest of the team. I will never understand his deployment, especially when Michigan's power play is terrible.
Positives and negatives are hard to throw out there when you're not sure who is supposed to be what. Glendening is a senior captain who spent much of the year on the top line and he has eight points. That would be disappointing if it wasn't obvious he was going to be a guy with about eight points at midseason. PDG has stopped producing after a torrid start; that would be disappointing if he had much help from his linemates and wasn't a shiny penny found in the depths of the OPJHL.
Two freshmen forwards are clearly deviating from expectations in one direction or another: Alex Guptill is deservedly on the top line and has more goals (9) than any other Wolverine. He's a big guy with enough mobility to make his size relevant and puts in a bunch of effort on most shifts. Zach Hyman hasn't been bad, per se, but I keep waiting for him to Do Something. He hasn't and has limped his way to a 2-6-8 and the worst +/- on the team. He's an older guy, too, so if he doesn't start producing soon he's not likely to ever become a star.
As for upperclassmen, there aren't many. Brown, Lynch, Glendening and Wohlberg are playing at about the levels you'd expect. Treais has become more of a chance-generator but is still more Shouneyia than Cammalleri. Sparks is hated by all coaches everywhere, even that guy at Colorado School of Mines. That no one has stepped up to Rohlfs/Scooter/Lebler levels this season is a collective disappointment. Michigan has had a big old guy take a leap forward just about every year. Not so much this one.
Special Teams (Terrible)
Hey, speaking of: Michigan's special teams are not good. Their power play has finally given up the ghost and languishes at 41st nationally with just 14 goals in 86 attempts. (Miami, miraculously, is worse at 44th. What happened to the Redhawks?) They are killing penalties at an 80% rate, 38th nationally and worst in the CCHA.
While special teams have not been a consistent strength for Michigan in a while, the power play especially, they seem to have no plan at all this year. They did get much better movement in the GLI—I bet they spent a lot of practice time on doing something other than shooting it into a defenseman's knee from the point.
As for the PK, it was a testament to how great Hagelin and Rust were that they kept their head above water the past couple years. Hunwick's weaknesses are magnified when shorthanded. Opponents are more likely to get to copious rebounds, more likely to get the cross-ice motion that either exposes big chunks of the net or forces Hunwick to stay deep enough in his net for his size to be a problem. It's not a surprise they're bad when they have to deal with that and don't have the best defensive forward in college hockey.
This bad? Probably not.
Hunwick's maintaining a decent .917 save percentage that sees him at 26th nationally. This is a step back from his blazing junior year partially attributable to a regression in his play and partially Michigan's intense focus on executing defensive breakdowns. He's still a guy you can win with.
I was much happier when Merrill was going to be back this weekend. I'm not sure this team can hack through the upcoming schedule without him.
(Quick note: offseason OT rules now in effect)
In the MGoBlog Diaries section the Wolverine fan base is represented by two equally important groups: the stat-heads who investigate college football, and the fan-boys who celebrate their achievements. These are their stories.
And we're back. It's been a few weeks since a DD column. I used my MGoVacation to watch L&O marathons and a few bowl games with funny names while the denizens focused on more important things, which are Michigan football things.
Fortunately these had a happy year. AC1997 tried to contextualize this 11-2, BCS bowl-winning season of ours (feel free to repeat that sentence a few times before moving on). The thing has a chart, and a bolded alter ego to introduce it. He also created something called a "VASAV" score which sounds like a cool sabermetric acronym but is really just named after the user who suggested a super-simple scoring system for BCS/Rose Bowl seasons by fan satisfaction. 1997 was a 4.0; this was a 1.5.
Da-dum, duh duh duh duh dunnnnnnnn…[electric piano, clarinet, clarinet, bass guitar]
Man Lennie, you are dark sometimes. So Michigan murdered this season, but considering where this program was just 12 months ago, how did such a thing happen? Well we can check the box scores by ST3 – it looks like he's got an entire season in there, right? Or it could be just a bunch of Iron Maiden songs.
Fortunately WolverineBlue has been down in the lab, conducting an autopsy of the Toussaint touchdown that wasn't against Ohio State. Like every other L&O autopsy report, it is unbelievably thorough and straightforward, presenting such a wealth of information if this wasn't for television that would be 90% of the case solved right there. As it is, this forensic analysis proves Fitz should have been ruled
in Edit: down 1/2 in short. Virginia Tech fans with screen capture got nothin' on this Diarist of the Weeks (plural):
The other Diarist of the Weeks is JeepinBen who looked into the personnel on hand and being recruited for Mattison's defense and in a sudden twist of realization, saw that if you look at it like a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3, just one big guy named Ondre plus lots of linebackers and ends all make sense!
A couple of diaries meant as previews to the Sugar are still relevant to our investigation here. The one by cps2010 is excellent for advanced readers looking to understand the weird-ass, corner-dependent defense that V-Tech runs. Steve Sharik once spent over an hour and a half trying to explain this very defense to me before saying "Michigan will never run it," but you never know when you'll be in a situation where you'll have to quickly execute a base Cover 4 robber. If you plan to re-watch the Sugar Bowl, I highly recommend you read this, then watch Hosley and appreciate how good he is. Also still useful is the extensive head-to-head-ing by CollegeFootball13 between M's season and VT's. And monuMental made a beautiful background:
If you want more evidence, Boyz n da Pahokee flipped the video over to us. Before some a-hole lawyer from you-know-where calls it inadmissible, get your Sugar Bowl Replay, Sugar VOAV, Sugar Preview, 2011 Offensive Highlights, and 2011 Defensive Highlights. So much good stuff in there, from the Herron TDs, to "GUN-der the lights" while wearing a DL, a Roundtree and a WHAAT?, and Robinson eating all that soup, and Jibreel finally corralling Braxton Miller on 3rd and goal.
After the jump, the real McCoy takes it to trial, and the board celebrates FESTIVUS!
[Captions located below images]
The French Quarter was flooded with Michigan and Virginia Tech fans for most of game day. I walked down Bourbon Street to take some photos of the fanfare.
"Sugar Bowl Headquarters" on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. If true, would explain a lot.
These street musicians didn’t play jazz, but bluegrass is basically the blues. Right? No? The guy in the middle hails from Grand Rapids.
Michigan fans enjoying the view. Pretty sure that woman is/was a dude.
And for something completely familiar, Michigan sorority girls on their way to …
Rick’s (American) Cabaret.
(more after the jump)
File under "Phil Knight is an immature wheel of cheese." Since you are not related to someone on West Virginia's football team you did not see the Orange Bowl postgame—or the second half—and thus could not boggle at Nike's latest foray into puns a six-year-old thinks are played out:
I'm just like… man. Man. Democracy is over. When can we be ruled by machines? Is it soon? I hope it's soon.
The mind further reels at the notion that there's another one of these things left and Nike has already used their finest Def Leppard reference. What's left? "SHOW ME YOUR TITTLES" is left. Search your heart. You know it to be true.
BONUS: how about that dynamic offense in Morgantown winning a BCS game? We should hire that Holgorsen chap, I think. What could go wrong?
Just one more time, six more times. Hinton's sworn off shooting the rapidly cooling corpse of the BCS but can't help pointing out that no matter the outcome of the game I probably won't bother to watch, Alabama cannot have a better season than LSU:
With a win in the title game, the Crimson Tide will finish the year 12-1 with two wins over teams ranked in the final polls, none of them from outside of the SEC. With a loss, LSU will finish 13-1 with four or five wins over teams ranked in the final polls (give or take West Virginia [ED: that would be take]), four of them coming outside of Baton Rouge and two of them coming against fellow conference champions (West Virginia and Oregon) who are also playing in BCS bowls. The Tigers and Tide would be be 1-1 against one another, with LSU's win coming at Alabama. LSU will still be the champion of the division and the conference.
In a system that continues to defer to polls and resumés, there is virtually nothing Alabama can do short of ritually sacrificing the Tigers to the sun that can make its season better than LSU's season.
Every game counts except the national title game. Whenever you think the BCS has reached its maximum cockup level, just wait two years. I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store. Possibilities:
- Alabama versus LSU
- LSU versus Alabama
- Alabama versus Alabama
- Alabama versus the entire Pac-12 with assault rifles
- Alabama versus crippling ennui
- The Los Angeles Angels of Alabama versus Giant Catfish
- Tiny Alabama versus Ditka
- The 1996 Olympics' rhythmic gymnastics competition versus the Large Hadron Collider
- Just, like, Harvey Updyke wanking it for three hours
I have Updyke –3 over the Higgs Boson. Elsewhere in controversy needlessly barged into, Jacobi wonders what's to be done about "rogue" AP voters in an article with one of those jarring in-post links to another column. This is from Doyel:
That's settled. AP voters who will not vote for Alabama under any circumstances are to be given a cookie and a certificate vouching for their cognitive abilities. This is essentially Jacobi's conclusion as well.
Flantastic. Darryl Stonum, this is not so good:
Michigan wide receiver Darryl Stonum… was ticketed this morning in Ann Arbor for driving on a revoked license, 15th District Court records show.
Stonum, 21, was stopped by Ann Arbor police after he checked in with probation at 7:03 a.m., said Steve Hill, Stonum's probation officer. Hill said Stonum was not taken into custody.
A probation violation form is being completed, but so far Stonum has not been charged with violating probation.
Reading between the lines it seems like the court is not hugely peeved by this, but thin ice and all that. I don't think this should have an impact on his availability next year as long as he successfully jumps through all his hoops. This probably adds another half-dozen. Stonum needs an understanding brunette to wake up at 6 with him.
Turnover in Madison. Bielema got raided pretty good this month:
Wisconsin lost two assistant coaches Wednesday -- wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable -- bringing the total number of departures to four. Huxtable will join former Badgers aides Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad in Pittsburgh as the Panthers' defensive coordinator. Chryst is Pitt's new head coach, while Bostad will serve as his offensive coordinator. Alexander is joining Arizona State's staff.
Bielema initially thought Bostad would be the only assistant joining Chryst at Pitt. It appears as though Huxtable will be the last departure.
It'll be interesting to see how Wisconsin copes. Their offense went from decent to lethal with Chryst's arrival. Losing him is kind of a deal. The hot name right now is Oklahoma "co-OC" Jay Norvell, which sounds like a good idea. Why does Wisconsin consistently have good ideas that no one else in the Big Ten does?
Longhorn fail. A major opportunity for ESPN to strongarm the Longhorn Network onto someone, anyone's cable has come and gone:
Comcast and the Walt Disney Company announced a 10-year, multiplatform distribution deal Wednesday that brings the “TV Everywhere” concept one step closer to reality. The Longhorn Network however, is not a part of the ESPN channels included in the agreement.
I'm rooting for the LHN to be an ignominious failure for many reasons: irritation at Texas for being one of two main parties that screwed up the structure of college football, a desire for the Big Ten's model to remain cromulent, etc. If the LHN doesn't get on cable by this fall it probably won't ever. At least it got a commenter on the above article to call Texas "the Ted DiBiase of college football."
No, not so much. From a Daily article on Molk:
“How we came in and how my first four seasons went, I thought we were the stain on Michigan tradition,” Molk said, walking slowly toward the winner’s podium on the turf. “But the reality is that we came back from everything and we’re back to where Michigan is.”
A big game. Basketball takes on Indiana tonight in Bloomington. Vegas and Kenpom both have them 8 point underdogs against the resurgent Hoosiers, which makes this a gravy outing. Win and that's a major bonus; lose and eh, we're okay.
Rumors be rumoring. There was some recent chatter from the OSU side of the rivalry that moving The Game was inevitable and had a good chance of happening when the new set of schedules came out. Dave Brandon says this is not so:
"That's just Internet rumor that has no factual basis," he said. "It's not going to happen."
Etc.: more postgame react from the Key Play. Getting a bit ornery (justifiably in cases that are not the overturned TD) as the shock fades. Shakin' the Southland reacts to the Orange Bowl fallout. Via On The Banks, a NYT report on Penn State documents unveiled by FOIA requests shows the institutional reaction to the media firestorm. I'm surprised the NYT can manage this since Pennsylvania has somehow exempted Penn State from transparency laws.
Wallpaper from the MZone.