I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Tonight! HBO debuts The Rivalry tonight, and despite a reported lack of emphasis on the Michigan side of things recently it'll be worth taking in. HBO's promotional website has an interview with Bo, his last. For more history of the series, visit the MZone, which has posts up on the 1977 and 1971 games.
Illinois takeaway. Around the Oval sifts through the Illinois game for meaning and comes to a few conclusions. A quasi-fisk with opinion added.
We should panic because. . .
Illinois ran all over what had been the best run defense in the country. The Illini ran for 276 yards and 5.1 yards per carry. They had success running just about everywhere, and they repeatedly picked up third downs on the ground, running right at the defense. Mike Hart's better than any of Illinois' backs, and could therefore do even more damage.
You might have to shoot me for saying thins, but Rashard Mendenhall might be better than Hart. He has the numbers to back it up and a remarkable combination of power and size. The NFL will leap at the opportunity to take him in the first round. And if Hart doesn't go, or isn't healthy...
But. . .
The Michigan ground game isn't the Illinois ground game. Illinois had success because they ran the spread option, and ran it very well. The Buckeyes had to defend the entire field and account for the possibility that Juice Williams could, on any play, hand the ball off up the middle, run up the middle, run outside, pitch the ball outside, or throw the ball. This meant that the linebackers couldn't be as aggressive, and the defensive tackles had to shoulder more of the burden. As they are the weakness of this defense, that was a problem. That also won't be the case against Michigan.
Michigan is averaging 4.22 yards per carry, which isn't that impressive. While they're 35th in yards, they're 11th in attempts, and 50th in yards per carry. Illinois' ground attack was guerilla warfare, where the team never knew where the next attack was going to be, and was therefore spread thin. Michigan's attack is a battering ram at the front gates. That doesn't mean it's ineffective, or that they won't put up big numbers against the Buckeyes, but the Buckeyes will at least be facing a more straightforward rush offense this week. Wisconsin displays a similar determination to run the ball, regardless of success, and they were held to 96 yards and 2.59 yards per carry against the Buckeyes.
Also agree; submit, though, that Mike Hart is vastly better than any of the Wisconsin running backs and that if healthy OSU shouldn't -- I won't say "won't" -- come anywhere close to that level of dominance.
We should panic because. . .
Todd Boeckman. . . well, he kinda sucked. 13-23, 156 yards, 3 INTs, 2 sacks. Aside from doing a decent job running the ball and a nice pass on the first play of the game, Boeckman was pretty bad.
But. . .
No buts. This is a concern. All season long, Boeckman has thrown every type of pass: perfectly thrown deep balls, followed by hideously underthrown deep balls. Smart, safe throws underneath that keep the chains moving on one series, then a bad throw into triple coverage on the next play. Boeckman can't do that against Michigan. Hopefully it was just one bad game, and now it's out of his system.
Hey-o, that sounds good to me.
We should panic because. . .
The coaches appear to have started to outsmart themselves. First, it took two and a half quarters of struggling against Wisconsin for them to decide that maybe they should give the ball to Beanie Wells. This week, the Ozone's Jeff Amey was unimpressed with their gameplan for the Illinois game, and he makes a pretty convincing case.
But. . .
It's the Michigan game. Jim Tressel has regularly saved his finest coaching performances for this game. Lloyd Carr has beaten him before, and Tressel's reputation as a big game coach took a bit of a hit last season, but if there's one edge that I feel confident about this week, it's the coaching. I expect Tressel will have the team ready to play and will have a gameplan in place to give this team their best possible chance of winning the game.
Unfortunately, after last year I have to agree. I shrugged off the Johnny Sears-fest in the Ball State game on the premise that he wouldn't see the field against a real opponent; Tressel went balls-out spread and let Troy Smith carve up the weakest parts of the Michigan defense. To be fair, Michigan also unchained its offense and racked up impressive numbers -- Michigan also saves its very best game plans for Ohio State -- but there is a Tressel difference.
Part of that was the spread last year, but more worrying to me from a Oh God, This Is Never Going To Stop perspective was a particular second and one. Ohio State rushed to the line and got off a quick snap. As they ran what looked like a dive alarm bells started going off in my head.
Why would you rush to the line and get off a quick snap on second down? Oh God, RYAN MUNDY NOOOOOOOOO...
You know the story. Touchdown, as Mundy bites like a mofo on the dive and Leon Hall expects safety help that never comes. It's not the play call that's necessarily brilliant here. It's a standard gambit to bomb it deep on a waste down like second and one. What is brilliant is the lighting break-huddle-get-to-line-snap-now. Thing. Michigan was unprepared for the snap, saw a play going off, and panicked. That's the kind of thing that terrifies me about Tressel.
Get used to it. The Game highlights some hilarious passages from the Harvard Crimson's liveblog of Tommy Amaker's debut:
"9:14, first half: Amaker keeps yelling, "Three quick ones!" from the bench. Does he mean points or awkward passes?"
"1:05, first half: Demuyakor misses two free throws, Miller gets painfully rejected, and Pusar throws away an outlet pass. Pretty much everything that can go wrong has, and, hey, the Crimson is only down by 35. 63-28."
They were playing Stanford, so allowances should be made, but... yeah. Been there.
Why don't they wear blazers like that anymore? WolverineHistorian's put up an ancient dandy from 1978, complete with Dueling Banjos:
All about the Carr stuff and a fairly defensive post at that; I'm sorry this is not about evil, evil Ohio State and how they must be destroyed, but I have to respond to direct accusations about my credibility.
First, a clarification: I'm no longer completely sure on the timing of the Carr announcement. Other well-sourced people believe it will not come until sometime later, perhaps around the end of November. I heard otherwise, but not so strongly that I can dismiss a later date. What's probably going on is that there is no set plan and that different dates are coming to light because A was true at some point and B was true at some point and C may be true now, but attempting to determine which is which is impossible.
But the decision has been made, that I stand by.
So this is weird. How much value does this information have when it's been a foregone conclusion for three months? In my opinion, not that much. This is not the opinion of other people, some of whom are not pleased. I feel compelled to defend myself here from accusations leveled in email and on message boards.
A brief primer for context: last year Morgan Trent broke a bone in his hand during the Wisconsin game. Multiple tipsters relayed this information directly from Trent's parents, and I posted that he was likely to miss the Minnesota game and return for MSU. This internet "rumor" reached Rivals' boards and was addressed in "Inside The Fort," where they basically said "that's ridiculous, don't believe internet rumors because we've got the real scoop here." As this was the first piece of actual news I had ever relayed, I got spooked and posted a retraction, assuming that they were right. But when the tipsters returned and said that, no, Trent is going to miss the Minnesota game, I laid my cards on the table, specifically mentioning the source of the other rumors as ITF and posting every indicator I had that Trent was out. Later that day, a Rivals staffer called and demanded I remove the specific information from ITF, as it was "premium." I grudgingly complied.
Trent did not play against Minnesota and returned for MSU with a big damn cast on his hand. Rivals offered no correction or apology.
So I'm a little bemused and a lot angry that after a bunch of posters attempted to relay yesterday's post on Carr, they had the audacity to slap this up($):
Everyone wants to be the first to break the "news" of impending major change, especially those not constrained by traditional journalistic standards and accountability. That's fine - but we are not going to promote or sponsor them, and this site will never be used as a launching pad to other forums.
We've operated within the aforementioned standards at every turn, and gone beyond to give our informed opinions at times. We also allow considerable discussion, speculation, etc., among our posters.
We will continue to disallow links to other sites, be they firelloydcarr.com, lloydcarr'sretiringpartVIII.com, etc. Lloyd Carr will retire at some point. We've consistently indicated it's not a long ways down the road, and others here have been at liberty to go farther than that. We could have put forth innumerable unnamed source reports on this issue over the past several months, but realize that doing so would be irresponsible while the season is ongoing.
That's where we need to leave it. Thanks for your understanding and restraint with regard to posting links. As always, if you have any questions, you can email any of the monitors.
This is technically "premium" content, but since the only information in it is "we are stunning hypocrites" I think it's fine to post in the open air, and since it directly impugns this site it deserves a response.
First: MGoBlog is not "constrained by conventional journalistic standards and accountability." This is right. Large sites run by many people under the aegis of a major corporation that has media credentials do have different standards than this independent site. Since Rivals is in tight with various assistant coaches, they have to toe the party line on this stuff lest their access get revoked. And if they get something wrong they just say "whoops, sorry" and move on without major consequence.
At MGoBlog, things are different. It is a blog. I am a guy. I float on the internet. So for it to be credible at all it has to be right all the time. And I have to do this largely without ever meeting or talking to the people who provide information. So there are some requirements. Everything I post has to be multiply sourced if the tipster hasn't established a track record. I try to lay out the situation in as much detail as I can, giving a timeline of events and stating what I think and why. (Unfortunately, in this situation all sources have requested no details be relayed.) I am very serious about getting things right. I have to be. It is my sole source of credibility.
Also, I can't lose what I don't have and am thus able to say things they aren't. They style it "responsibility," but it's really pure CYA.
Two: Rivals would like to have its cake and eat it too. There exist insiders on their boards that post inside information all the time; their posts are not deleted no matter how "irresponsible" they might be. Rivals simultaneously wants to paint this site with a scarlet letter while reassuring their subscribers that all the too-hot-to-print internet rumors can be found right here for just ten bucks a month. Hypocrites.
For the record, none of the "sources" here is one of the Rivals insiders. Again, they have more leeway than I do: the entire pre-MSU panic originated with them. Three major Rivals insiders posted that both Hart and Henne would not play; this site was the only one reporting they would go before the game. But they're still insiders.
Three: Rivals is welcome to search my archives for any time in which something I've reported as news has been wrong. Trent out, Forcier transfers, Manningham pulled over in Monroe County, Mundy transfers (and Andy Moeller might go to Stanford*), Beilein is hired, Grady tears ACL (and Brown almost transfers*), Hart out for Illinois, Hart and Henne in for MSU... all not wrong. This: not wrong either.
*(A pre-emptive and paranoid defense: please note that both of these things that did not come to fruition were phrased as possibilities; I had no solid Moeller source and said as such and the Brown stuff -- he was not practicing and was likely to transfer -- was true; he changed his mind.)
Meanwhile, a bunch of people have picked up the story, including the Ann Arbor News:
One Web site dev
oted to Michigan sports cited anonymous sources in a post that said the coach would retire after the Ohio State game, adding that athletic department personnel were already being told of the decision.
Surely if it's worth referencing, it's worth referencing where you got it from, no? How about some attribution?
Fin. Maybe more about this later, but now: Ohio State. Which must be destroyed.
I'm actually fairly happy with this effort. I'll keep hammering this point: the Pac-10 looks less impressive than it really is because they play an extra conference game. Oregon is still #1 in my book, though the margin is slim. The only thing that rankles is shoving USF down four after a win, but Illinois and Cinci both deserved to move up, as did Clemson for nuking a decent Wake squad. Florida... eh.
Kansas. ... still hasn't played anyone. I do think a comparison between KU and WVU is in order, but WVU has Maryland (5-5) and Mississippi State (6-4) in the nonconference schedule, orders of magnitude better than KU's slate. I might be convinced to slide KU up a couple spots, but they aren't passing Georgia.
Untangling the Big Ten mess. Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan all have identical records and none of the three has a clear round-robin victory over any of the others. But...
|Wins Amongst Group||Wisconsin||Michigan||Penn State, Wisconsin||Penn State, Illinois|
|Nonconference difficulty||Kansas-esque||Almost Kansas-esque||Legit (@ Missouri, 'Cuse)||Good (Oregon)|
|Win over Sweatervest?||Nope||Nope||Yep||N/A|
Illinois is your winner, Michigan comes in second, and Wisconsin is third because they have yet to play Minnesota and had a nonconference opponent (WSU) that isn't completely wretched.
Complaints go in the comments; I'll modify my ballot by tomorrow.
Three separate sources indicate that Carr has made his decision to retire official and people around the athletic department are being told. The formal announcement will come after the Ohio State game, possibly at the Monday press conference, possibly a day or two later.
11/10/2007 - Michigan 21, Wisconsin 37 - 8-3, 6-1 Big Ten
There was a lot of contention around these parts after the Illinois game. This was confusing to me given the content of the post that caused the contention until a commenter pointed out that the title of said post, taken from a Ben Folds Five song, was extremely inflammatory without context. Ben Folds Five being a regrettably brief and obscure prequel to Ben Folds' regrettably lengthy and prominent solo career (which, let's be clear, starts with "Reinhold Messner" and sucks), a lot of people had no idea what I was talking about and came to the conclusion I was being a dick.
Maybe I was, but the offense was not intentional. I just thought Michigan was a pretty average team bailed out by an Illinois team hell-bent on giving the game away. Surely this no longer seems controversial. Since then, Michigan struggled with the worst team on the planet for a half, required a miraculous clutch performance from Chad Henne to beat bleah Michigan State, and got manhandled by a Wisconsin team still searching for a quality win. This team deserves its record, Appalachian State loss and all.
The real tragedy in all this, of course, is that I didn't wait a few weeks for Michigan to hold out a debatably healthy Mike Hart and Chad Henne, then bitch and sleepwalk its way through a dolorous loss to Wisconsin. Because what a title for this week, eh?
Could either have played? Absolutely. If Wisconsin was Ohio State they both would have, but it was not and they did not. You can debate the wisdom of this move, but not the result: the Wisconsin game was a glorified exhibition to Michigan. Both lines took their cues from the stars on the sidelines and took the game off. So did Ryan Mallett's brain. The kick coverage team, way ahead of the curve, continued its season-long vacation. In ways literal and metaphorical, Michigan did not show up.
So, fine. Whatever. On the road against a good team, saddled with a deranged freshman quarterback and a running scheme that almost requires Mike Hart's presence to function, Michigan lost thoroughly. Fine. The absence of Henne and Hart has nothing to do with the ability of the line to block or the defense to penetrate, but whatever. It's Ohio State week and Michigan can win the Big Ten outright by beating the Buckeyes. All of the pain and frustration and anger that's built up in the Michigan program over the past six years will evaporate if Michigan can pull it out.
If Carr wins, he goes out 7-6 against Ohio State. He goes out with four Rose Bowls in five years. If he loses, he directed Mike Hart and Chad Henne to 0-4 records against Ohio State and will spend his final bowl season in central Florida trying to finish in the top 25 at season's end. For Carr's legacy, this is the rubber match.
- The complete and total failure of Michigan's ground game in the absence of Mike Hart is the worst thing that can be leveled at Debord and, by extension, Carr. This was a defense that had even approached stopping anyone except Iowa's terrible offense and it held Michigan to 47 yards on 25 carries. The zone game is a failure. One cannot run 80% stretch plays and have a good ground game; when your scheme regularly depends on lumbering backside guards making tough reach blocks against DTs who are slanting away from them it is destined to suck. Only Mike Hart's brilliance has kept the run game afloat.
The blame falls on four people. First: Debord, for seizing upon the idea that a stretch is such a tricky play that it is in and of itself deceptive and failing to diversify the offense. Second: Andy Moeller, who has not put together an offensive line without enormous holes for three straight years. Third: Mike Gittleson, whose outdated strength and conditioning program -- most prominently seen hanging over Tim Jamison's belt -- has been left behind by every school except Penn State. Fourth: Lloyd Carr, for hiring (or, in Gittleson's case, retaining) all three mostly because they were well known to him.
Hey, Wisconsin: your cheese is overrated.
Radford demolition highlights while we wait for the game: