About Last Week:
The Road Ahead:
When they play Michigan: This is a pretty simple week.
We can discard with the usual trappings of this column. Every other week of the season we recap the opponents’ previous games, and we analyze how frightening they are, and we look at what should worry you about those teams and what shouldn’t. Those are necessary artifices when we are trying to add some color to a game three weeks out against Maryland, or to put a win over Illinois in greater context. The Game needs no added color. It needs no greater context. It brings its own.
You don’t need me to tell you what can make you feel better about this game. Nothing can, and you know that. You don’t need me to tell you why you should worry about this game, assuming you have the power of memory. And we don’t need to recap Ohio State’s previous games, nor Michigan’s for that matter. They don’t particularly matter, nor do they tell us much of note. The Game is an entity untethered from the rest of the season. Last year, Michigan came in as a top-10 team, and got their doors blown off at home. In 2013, 6-5 Michigan was a two-point conversion away from beating 11-0 Ohio State. In 2011, it was Luke Fickell’s 6-5 Ohio State team was one overthrown bomb away from beating Brady Hoke’s Sugar Bowl team. And the John Cooper era was one long video game where the player breezes through the level but can’t get past the boss.
The rest of the season has to be played, of course. Each week the two teams dutifully clash with their respective opponents. But each does so with one eye on the other, like two Homeric heroes cutting their way towards each other on an ancient battlefield. And sometimes, when things line up just so, the teams arrive as they do this year; with each having something extra weighing on the outcome. Not since 2006 have both teams had so much relying on the final score. But that simply affects the week leading up to The Game, and the days, weeks, and months afterward.
The hatred and familiar loathing take on a different hue in light of the conference and playoff implications, but the underlying artwork is unchanged. The first time the ghastly tones of that abhorrent fight song hit your ears, or the first time some Buckeye player throws up an O-H, or (god forbid) the first time the broadcast shows that vapid, poorly-cased narcissism sausage, Big Nut, you will be transported back to the place where the context is irrelevant, and the hatred is all-encompassing. Is this 1970? 1986? 2016? Who knows. Who cares. It’s these guys. I *hate* these guys. Get ‘em. F***ing get ‘em.
For those who demand greater context? Fine. Win, and there is a fooball game next weekend. Michigan goes to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time. You see Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis and Jake Butt and the rest of the seniors play to hoist a trophy. You will get to see more Jabrill Peppers. Michigan will be the favorite to earn a playoff berth. A win sends Ohio State, who entered this week as the #2 team in the playoff rankings, home as the #3 team… in their division. Lose, and none of these things happens, and the one-sided nature of the rivalry continues unabated for another year.
But that’s Saturday morning stuff. That’s just what they’ll talk about on College Gameday outside the Horseshoe. Noon on Saturday is about Maize and Blue and Scarlet and Gray and a hundred urgent, violent moments. Let God and the committee sort the rest out.
This week: Everything. Noon. ABC.
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
Hawaii (5-7, 4-4 MWC)
Last week: Won at Fresno State, 14-13
Recap: Hawaii took down Fresno State, and is now one win away from Bowl eligibility (they get 13 games because they’re in the middle of the ocean and that’s how things work). To get there, they will have to win a rivalry game for the Voyages That Would Have Killed Anyone In The First 95% of Recorded History Trophy, as Umass will travel more than 5,000 miles to play the Rainbow Warriors. It would be quite something, after the entire offseason of laughter about Michigan’s no-conference schedule, if all three teams made a bowl game.
This week: vs. UMass, Midnight (Hawaii -7.5)
[AFTER THE JUMP: I told y’all about the Buffs…]
Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Jake Butt, and Chris Wormley
For the Ohio guys especially, is this the biggest game you’ve ever played in your career to date?
CW: “I think so. It’s #2 versus #3. It’s for a Big Ten championship berth. Big game.”
JB: “I second that.”
EM: “I’m not from Ohio.”
Pretty well documented the struggles the program’s had against OSU in the past 10 or 12 years. How important is it for you guys to end that and get Michigan [?]?
JB: “It’s not as important to win this game for what’s been going on in the past, what’s been going on the past 11, 12 years. Really, we just need to win this game for what we have in front of us right now, and that’s all we’re focused on is we have an unbelievable opportunity to go on the road and compete against a really good team. Everything’s on the line right now. Our whole entire season’s on the line, so we need to win the game for that reason.”
I have a similar question: to be a great rivalry both teams have to win, and that hasn’t happened. How much do you guys need to win not only for yourselves but knowing Michigan has lost 11 out of 12?
KK: “Again, I don’t think you can focus that much on the past, especially when it’s this type of game coming up. It’ll be a big game. We’re definitely going to put in the work this week to prepare ourselves for it. I can’t wait to go out there and just play with all the guys. It’ll be the last time we play together as a team in a regular season game against Ohio State, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
[Guy identifies himself as being from a Columbus newspaper] The Jim Harbaugh we see, that we just saw about five minutes ago, would you guys know that side? How is that different from the Jim Harbaugh you see?
CW: “Compared to what you guys see?
EM: “Michigan reporters only.”
KK: “Yeah, no comment.”
EM: “I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I think he’s probably very similar to what you guys see. He’s as real as they come. The media kind of paints a bad picture of him sometimes because of his antics like going after referees and stuff like that, but he’ll fight to the death for his players. He’s a player’s coach in that aspect and he’s somebody that you’d run through a wall for, but he’s pretty similar to what you see. In everyday life, that’s who he is.”
[Hit THE JUMP for a good Jabrill story and a lot on the personalities of great coaches]
Rivalry bleah. I find myself completely unmoved by all the rivalry stuff this week, from OSU trying and failing to remove Ms from their campus to Markley spelling out "FUCK OSU". I don't care that Rivalry Game Is Personal For Player, whether it's Mike Weber or Mike McCray. Rivalry Game is personal for everyone on ever roster. Rivalry Game is personal for me. It is personal for everybody.
Does your rivalry item accelerate the pace of time? No? Not interested. Anyway, here's some stuff that does nothing to accelerate the pace of time.
Four minutes of Bo and Woody.
Ohio State things. JT Barrett had a typical JT Barrett bad weather game against MSU:
It was another classic game in this the “Year of the Running Quarterback” as Barrett posted a 55.9 passing grade but made up for it with a 92.6 effort on the ground. He was clearly affected by the wind, with passes floating all over the place and one throw that was dangerously close to a disastrous turnover, but the Buckeyes relied on him heavily to make good decisions in their run/pass option game and he came through with 122 yards on 20 carries. Even on a day where he finished 10-for-22 for 86 yards, Barrett showed that he can still provide enough value in the run game to keep Ohio State in games.
Under Barrett, OSU's passing game falls apart in crappy weather with a consistency that's undeniable at this point. This weekend's weather... partly cloudy, tiny percent chance of precipitation, 9 MPH winds. Subject to change five days out, but doesn't look like we'll be getting Bad Weather Barrett.
OSU made up for it by running for almost 300 yards against a makeshift MSU defensive line minus Malik McDowell. If Michigan cannot significantly outperform MSU, they will lose. You'd expect they would, but if you're in a believe-it-when-I-see-it state when it comes to Michigan shutting the OSU offense down, I don't blame you.
OSU had extreme issues protecting the passer against Penn State, giving up pressure on almost 50% of their dropbacks. Those issues were mitigated shortly thereafter, but one dollar says those are still lurking. Adjusted sack rates:
- Penn State: 21st
- Northwestern: 79th
- Nebraska: 42nd
- Maryland: 15th
- MSU: 121st
- Michigan: 1st
OSU's offense is 67th at preventing sacks. Their run stats are all terrific save for explosiveness—Barrett and Weber are not big play threats and Samuel doesn't get enough touches to make up for it—and that's what'll come down to. Passing downs should be a major advantage for Michigan... if they exist.
Time for a change? Ross Fulton notes something about the Michigan defense you may have noticed watching Mike McCray try to shut down huge swathes of space:
The Buckeyes’ best matchup is Samuel to the edge and as a receiver against Michigan’s linebackers and safeties. Brown often prefers to put Peppers to the formation strength.
So Meyer and his staff need to use alignment to target the edge away from Peppers – where the Wolverines are left dependent on the less athletic Will linebacker Mike McCray for edge support. And the Buckeyes need to provide Barrett sufficient time for Samuel to work option and out routes from the slot – or routes from the backfield – against man coverage.
I would not put it past Don Brown to make a change here. McCray was exposed in all that space against Lorenzo Harrison and would be again against Samuel; he can get better, but it's not a great matchup. I also wonder if Michigan is going to stick with cover one and a bunch of man coverage—OSU does see many people play man against them for obvious reasons.
Brown's been great so far this year but this is the game he was hired for. Much rides on his ability to stay one step ahead of Urban Meyer.
In one graph. Impossible to defend:
— Warren K. Zola (@WarrenKZola) November 17, 2016
Meanwhile even Power 5 schools raking in piles of cash are seeing a large proportion of their athletes on little to no scholarship money:
All of the colleges Allison was considering provide scholarship assistance up to the NCAA limit in the sports they sponsor. But a closer look at athletic-aid distribution at one of those institutions, North Carolina State University, shows how scarce the dollars are for many athletes.
More than 200 of NC State’s 558 athletes last year had 20 percent or less of their costs covered by athletic aid. Outside of football, basketball, and the four other sports that can [ed: I this is actually "must"] award full athletic scholarships, just 27 Wolfpack athletes were on a full ride.
Power 5 autonomy has not seen these gaps close. The money just keeps rolling in, and going somewhere. Not to the people who earn it, or even the people who are potentially incurring piles of debt to be athletes.
Basketball WTFs. One of these events is weirder than the other:
- Northwestern hammers Texas 77-58 in a neutral site game. Barking Carnival runs down the good, bad, and ugly, with "everybody driving the ball," "everybody shooting free throws," and "everybody passing the ball" in the latter category.
- Illinois loses to Winthrop at home. Winthrop is one of those good-but-not-that good low major teams you should be scheduling to prop up your RPI, but you have to, you know, win those games to prop up your RPI.
Which is weirder? It's got to be Northwestern. Illinois has not been good under John Groce, who is Big Ten basketball's Darrell Hazell. Groce was hired after a brief MAC tenure ended well—you probably remember. He was hired on the strength of three games.
One of the reasons Big Ten basketball is rather good is that there's a much deeper pool of head coaches to poach. Indiana plucked Tom Crean after seven years at Marquette including five tourney appearances; Michigan grabbed John Beilein after five years at West Virginia. Maryland got Mark Turgeon after he took Texas A&M to the tourney four straight years. Thad Matta was at Xavier, coming off three consecutive Kenpom top-25 teams.
There are various head coaches who moved up from MAC-like leagues. Fran McCaffrey had three straight tourney bids at Siena, with his final two teams ranking #67 and #59 in Kenpom and has more or less worked out at Iowa. The rest are guys at Minnesota, Penn State, etc. Illinois should be hiring like Michigan and OSU, not Minnesota and Penn State.
Speaking of Illinois, here's a crazy Illinois stat. Via Illiniboard:
I’ve mentioned this stat 131 times but one more won’t hurt: in those eight years, in the Power Five conferences, every single school has had at least a Sweet 16 appearance in basketball or an eight-win football season (with a solid bowl game) except for two: Illinois and Wake Forest. Colorado WAS part of that group, but Colorado just won their ninth game on Saturday and is headed to a great bowl – perhaps even a New Years Six bowl. And, as someone reminded me on Twitter, if Wake beats Boston College this weekend (and they probably will), they’re a bowl win away from eight football wins.
I didn't think I was getting into what I ended up getting into when I started this here blog but the all-time I've Made A Terrible Mistake By Starting This Blog champion is Robert at Illiniboard. Keep him in your thoughts the next time you consider rooting against Illinois for Gary Moeller or something.
Administrative leave is not a good sign. Barney Farrar, the gentleman mentioned in Laremy Tunsil's text, is placed in the plane of Limbo:
OXFORD - Ole Miss has placed assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations, Barney Farrar, on administrative leave, according to a report from Rebelgrove.com.
The website reported Farrar did not accompany the football team to Texas A&M last weekend and that he's not expected to travel with the Rebels to Vanderbilt this weekend.
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork declined to comment on the situation, as did a university spokesman. Attempts by The Clarion-Ledger to reach Farrar were unsuccessful.
Something less than good is coming down the pipe for Ole Miss.
Etc.: Nebraska and Minnesota seek to throw the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy down the memory hole. Michigan was the only Big Ten school to flat-out say no to Friday games. Remembering Bo. The program from his memorial service, including the Lloyd Carr speech. (Guess who's on the first page!) Rivalry Game Personal for Mark Donnal. Rivalry Game Personal for DJ Wilson. 2K classic keys. Ten Year War 2? Peppers profiled. Fake tickets are bad.
[David Zalubowski – AP]
A week after chaos reigned in college football, this was a return to normalcy. Most conference races remained unchanged and there were relatively few upsets. I was actually able to watch the biggest result of the week in person: Houston emerged from a funk to absolutely crush Louisville – a team that may have had a path to the playoff – on Thursday night, harassing Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson all game en route to a comfortable 36-10 win over the Cardinals. It was a great atmosphere and even though Tom Herman might not be in H-Town for long, DT Ed Oliver will be: he was utterly dominant against Louisville – and he’s just a freshman.
Anyways, I digress. On to the week that was:
--- In one of the most unexpectedly consequential games of the season, COLORADO responded to a 24-21 third quarter deficit against WASHINGTON STATE to score 17 straight points and emerge with a big home win to help keep their Pac-12 South hopes alive. Buffaloes QB Sefo Liufau briefly exited the game with an injury but returned and turned in an excellent performance with 345 passing yards as well as 108 yards on the ground – and three rushing touchdowns; Phillip Lindsay lost a fumble in the first half but wound up with 144 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Washington State QB Luke Falk threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns himself, but completed less than half his passes and turned it over on each of the last two Cougar possessions of the game. It was an impressive win for Colorado, especially after the defense stiffened in the fourth quarter after having conceded plenty of yardage and 28 points earlier in the game. They’re now a game ahead of USC in the division with a matchup against Utah next week; they don’t hold the tiebreaker against the Trojans after having lost to USC back in early October. Washington State still controls its destiny in the North with the winner-take-all Apple Cup against Washington next week.
[Much more after the JUMP]
I saw Chris Wormley on the list of players available to the media Monday and knew that I wanted to talk to him. I didn’t know exactly which play I’d talk to him about; it’s a heck of a luxury to have blind faith in a player’s weekly wrecking of a tight end. Sure enough, I found multiple examples of Wormley taking on a poor, unfortunate tight end after going through the tape. I picked this one because it allowed the opportunity to discuss proper technique when taking on a tight end as well as what a DE sees when he’s flowing down the line of scrimmage to make a tackle.
What did you see in their alignment as you were getting set?
“We knew all along that play set-up. We watched film on it. The tight end was off the line and I knew I was either going to get a reach block from the tackle or cut-off from the tight end. I got a cut-off from the tight end, and usually when a tight end’s on me usually it’s not a good thing for the opposite team. I saw the play and then being the guy that needs to make a play, I made the play.”
Were they tipping run/pass with the back’s alignment?
“You know, they were actually really good at the play-action pass, thinking it’s a run and then trying to get off and pass rush, so I think they did a good job at that. When it’s third down you kind of know it’s a pass, so we’ll be ready for it.”
You said the tight end was trying to cut you off. Technique-wise, what’s the proper technique when a tight end’s trying to do that in terms of your first step, where you want to put your hands, etc.?
“Especially for us, we’re reading the tackle and then depending on what he does your eyes shift to either the tight end or you get your hands on the tackle. My eyes shifted to the tight end, I got my hands on him, and there’s an escape drill that we do every day that comes in handy when you need to get off a block and then make a play.”
As you get your hands on him, are you able to see the mesh point in the backfield to see that the back’s getting the handoff or is the tight end too far in front of you?
“I think it all depends on the certain type of play, but for that play specifically you get your hands on the tight end, you extend, you escape, and then you try to find the ball. If the guy’s still on you it’s kind of hard to make a tackle, so you’ve got to get the defender off you first and then go make the play.”
When you dove into that gap it looked like you might have had it prediagnosed. Was that the case were you thought you knew where it was going to go, or was it more instinctual?
“Yeah. All through the week last week we repped that play. We repped the two different plays that it could have been. Just being a college football player for four years now you can kind of read a tackle and his stance, a tight end and his stance, and see what they’re doing. It’s a play I had to make and I made it.”
When you’re almost airborne like that and trying and make a tackle, what’s the most important thing technique-wise? Is it hand placement?
“I think getting a good base and a good shoulder on the guy. Wrapping is pretty key, especially now with people just trying to throw a shoulder in there or down at the legs. You’ve got to wrap up is the most important thing.”
It has come to this. [UPDATED at 5:22 pm]
The biggest Game in a decade is priced like the biggest game in a decade. And tickets have finally started to actually move after the same crappy high seats have been sitting online all season. The singles in the $260 range got snapped up before I made it home from the Indiana game and are now trading around $300, with the bulk available in the $340 range.
Let’s go over the factors:
Wins. A loss to Michigan State would have sent those tumbling, since Ohio State fans control what’s being put on the market. They’re also controlling whom they go to, and like MSU that fanbase puts greater than usual pressure on their people to not sell to outsiders. I think that’s keeping the market artificially high—the scarcity on online sites is not reflective of the number of tickets actually being exchanged, and where a battle of unbeatens might be treated as a once-in-a-generation event the prevailing sense among both fanbases is that 1-loss showdowns will be the norm.
Weekend Activities. Working against this game is Thanksgiving, which plays havoc with season ticket holders and students. The stadium will get filled, but holiday obligations mean more are exchanged. These games haven’t been as competitive since they moved to Thanksgiving Weekend but last year TicketIQ’s guys were telling me it’s not something to overlook. Ultimate effect is I think it puts a hard cap on how high tickets can get by providing too large of a market for weird things to happen.
Weather. With so much on the line I think the weather will be less of a factor, though a sudden shift to the bad will result in something like we saw on Saturday, where there were lots of fans walking the edge of the stadium with one ticket. The price won’t be $20, but if you’re flying single I would take the gamble that there’s one for $200, especially if you can successfully hide your Michigan fandom.
This far out it’s hard to predict:
The Friday chance of rainshowers is coming from
that precipitation over the plains states [correction: the stuff behind it that’s just now approaching British Columbia]:
My meteorologist thinks the weather will mostly go northeast and get dumped on the east coast of Lake Michigan because they’re snow-whores out there. Columbus might get only some light rain on Friday night. I’d bet it’ll be a nice crisp mostly sunny Michigan-Ohio State kind of day, but if it’s still raining in Illinois on Friday that could change.
Final take? I’m guessing on Friday there will be some tickets together for about $40-$50 less than what’s on there now, and $100 will get you a ticket if you catch someone 20 minutes before kickoff and lowball ‘em.
This is also a good game to try other ticket exchanges like local Ohio Craigslist (do tickets by owner) or Buckeye friends who belong to their alumni club or something. Like I said, a lot of the market is hiding from the online market, and with more tickets moving because of the holiday there’s going to be greater chances to explore the extremes of the bell curve.
[After THE JUMP, data on Ohio Stadium for when you’re looking at ticket options, Michigan’s bowl destinations, and how Penn State fans can get their B1G Title tickets]