"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
THEY'RE COMING. ACTUALLY THEY'RE PROBABLY ALREADY HERE.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Alaska|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
January 15/16th, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on FSN Plus
No TV Saturday
What's this then?
It's a hockey weekend preview. Am I doing this solely because of the bear video? No. Ten percent of the desire to do this results from Yost Built's lamentable "job" that prevents him from posting as fully as he usually does. [Update: so of course he posts a ten things.]
Record. 10-6-4, 7-6-3-3 CCHA. Currently 4th place with 27 points. Michigan is tied for seventh but has two games in hand.
After a hot start during which the Nanooks picked up wins over Michigan and Ferris (twice), Alaska has cooled off significantly. They split with UNO last weekend and split with UNO the last week before the Christmas break. Before that, they got one point out of Western Michigan and tied Northern twice. Before that they had three splits, two of them against Lake State and Bowling Green. They, like Michigan, have been an almost perfectly .500 hockey club since about mid-November.
Road/home splits don't mean much in hockey, IME, but I make an exception when you're coming from Alaska and spend weeks at a time on the road and I've seen you wander into Yost to get hammered 8-0 on Friday only to win the next night. So: Alaska is 7-2-3 in Alaska* and 3-4-1 outside of it.
*(UAF opened up the season with a preseason "tournament"—there were no brackets—in Anchorage where they played Michigan and Mercyhurst, winning both.)
Dangermen. Freshman winger Andy Taranto is Alaska's top scorer with a 9-15-24 line, good enough for 29th nationally. (And better than any Michigan player. Carl "Bork" Hagelin is Michigan's top scorer with 12-13-25 in two more games. When was the last time Michigan's top scorer was outside the top ten in PPG, let along the top… uh… 38?) Taranto is second in freshman scoring; Alaska appears to have picked up a diamond in the rough.
Dion Knelsen is the other big(-ish) gun with 10-9-19; no other Nanook has more than five goals.
As a team, Alaska has a little more pop than usual. They check in slightly below average in scoring at 2.90 goals per game.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Alaska usually substitutes grit, hard work, and caution for scoring prowess and this year is not much of an exception. After losing Wylie Rogers and his .922 save percentage, in comes sophomore Scott Greenham and his respectable .914. That's 23rd nationally. Bryan Hogan is 54th of 75 eligible at .900.
Alaska is 11th in scoring defense at 2.40 goals per game.
Special teams. As is almost always the case, Michigan goes into this series expecting to take more penalties than the opponent. But it's not usually this stark. Michigan is 9th nationally with 17.3 penalties per game; Alaska is dead last with a measly 172 minutes—8.6 per game—on the season so far. That's somewhat misleading, though. I prefer power play opportunities since that measure washes out things like misconducts and coincidental minors. It allso gives you a sense for how good a team is at forcing penalties out of the opponent:
|PP For / G||5.1||5.6|
|PP Ag / G||4||5.4|
The difference isn't nearly as stark from that perspective, but Alaska does have an advantage.
This is where Alaska makes its hay. They're 22/102 on the power play so far this year and haven't given up a shorthanded goal. They're scoring at a 21.6 percent rate, better than Michigan—though not much better. (Given how much I dislike Michigan's power play I'm surprised it's converting at a respectable 20.2 percent rate.) The penalty kill is just okay at 83.8 percent and zero shorthanded goals. But, again, they don't end up in the box much.
Michigan's Hagelin-led penalty kill (third nationally at 89%) is the best aspect of the team, FWIW.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Obvious: keep out of the box. Alaska has scored 36 even-strength goals in 20 games and will be on the road, where they are vulnerable. Michigan has 43 goals in 22 games at even strength, and while that doesn't seem like a big gap it does get bigger when you account for the two extra power plays that occur in an average Michigan game.
Match Hagelin on Taranto and Knelsen. Alaska's a team that has one main line and Michigan's got the best defensive forward in the CCHA.
Equally obvious: freakin' score. Michigan started the year off in Alaska with a game that foretold this year's incredible frustrations, outshooting the opponent 2-to-1 but failing to put a puck in the net and losing 2-0; Bryan Hogan gave up a soft goal from just inside the blue line.
Michigan had a huge territorial edge in that game and figures to have more of the same this weekend, but the story all year has been failing to make that edge count.
Jump on them early Friday. I've been watching UAF wander into Yost for a decade now and I don't think I've seen them not get bombed in the first period of the Friday game. If Michigan doesn't come out of tonight's first period with a lead that's a major missed opportunity.
The Big Picture
If Michigan sweeps Alaska we can prepare for a critical Ferris series with hope in our hearts, but it just about has to be a sweep. I guess a three-point weekend is theoretically helpful but Michigan hasn't tied a game in almost two years* and at this point Michigan is so far behind the eight-ball that they can't give away home games against average hockey teams.
Can they? It is obviously within the realm of possibility, but it's hard to go back any farther than the sweep against a terrible Western team and have faith in this team's ability to turn its huge advantage in shots and chances into wins. I lean towards a split, but hockey games are even dumber things to predict than football games so will forgo anything on the record.
*(The last one was a 5-5 tie with Miami on February 9th of 2008 that finished a stretch of four ties in five games. Michigan hasn't gone to overtime since the CCHA implemented the shootout.)
|WHAT||Michigan v. Indiana|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
January 14th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan -13.5|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
When Last We Met
The Wolverines limped out of Assembly Hall on the wrong end of a 71-65 game. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims had relatively quiet games, and actually each scored fewer points than Zack Novak or Laval Lucas-Perry.
If Michigan wants to turn the tables, they'll have to get star-worthy performance from their best two players, with the supporting cast stepping up. Michigan isn't going to win a lot of games this year without Sims and Harris stepping up (well, they're not going to win a lot of games this year no matter what, but I digress.
This time around, Indiana has had a chance to get used to not having Maurice Creek, but the Wolverines are at home. This certainly looks like a game that the Wolverines should win (and Vegas thinks so, too. Look at that gaudy line!).
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Indiana: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Indiana Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. IU Def eFG%||178||74||II|
|Mich Def eFG% v. IU eFG%||237||172||I|
|Mich TO% v. IU Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. IU TO%||49||244||MM|
|Mich OReb% v. IU DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. IU OReb%||253||155||I|
|Mich FTR v. IU Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. IU FTR
|Mich AdjO v. IU AdjD||82||105||M|
|Mich AdjD v. IU AdjO||93||177||M|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Michigan's numbers have improved since the first game against the Hoosiers, while Indiana has dropped games to Ohio State and Illinois decisively. Michigan appears to be the much better overall team, and should emerge with a win tonight.
Dios mio, El Presidente
I follow Jozy Altidore on Twitter. I don't know why; my attention is already divided enough and he's not exactly zinger-prone. About the only thing Jozy's feed does for me is alert me when he is terribly said for very good reasons I am ignorant of. A couple months ago he tweeted a series of frowny face emoticons and said he was going to sign off for a while; Charlie Davies had just gotten in a car accident. I didn't know, and momentarily thought he was having some sort of episode with a special lady friend. I feared for the future of the US strike corps, and felt heelish when that concern became real.
A couple days ago he said he didn't understand how anyone could talk about anything except Haiti—he's Haitian—and I thought to myself "why the hell would anyone talk about Haiti"?
[feeling terrible about lack of current events knowledge interlude]
Not a good couple months for Jozy. I envision him in a hospital waiting room trying to figure out how the hell to get the symbol key to deploy :-( over and over.
He's plugging folks to donate and I've gotten a couple of requests to do so as well. So here's that plug. Orson used to be tangentially associated with various charities that help horribly misfortunate people across the globe and has suggestions as to where your money would be best sent. Also, if you want to see someone rail against Rush Limbaugh re: Haiti at lengths you didn't think possible on Twitter, @ebertchicago is your guy.
Historian! Haven't had a new one in a while from the great archivist of the internets. 1981 Minnesota; check it out if only for the totally sweet introduction:
Assorted Kiffybits. Have received some heat in the comments for my blanket assertion yesterday that Lane Kiffin was in some way responsible for the MASSIVE INSTUTUTION-WIDE CHEATFEST that USC undertook through the aughts, but I can't really understand why. In a time of major NCAA trouble you fire everyone and let the rest of D-I sort 'em out. Permanently cutting ties with anyone in a position to have observed or participated in NCAA violations is a bare minimum standard when you get hit with major sanctions. And USC isn't just bringing back any old assistant coach, they're bringing in a guy currently under investigation. It's indefensible.
The Michigan equivalent would be putting Perry Watson on Tommy Amaker's staff, or hiring Magee after firing Rodriguez because the NCAA came back with a major infraction from the practice stuff. Either move would be totally beyond the pale.
Side note: I don't really blame Kiffin for leaving, and think Tennessee's reaction has been hilarious. Kiffin didn't have any control over when the USC job opened up. Meanwhile, the chaotic scene in Knoxville when he left was testament to the college football fan's ability to delude himself about the guy in charge*. If I was a Volunteer fan this would be the happiest day in 14 months. Tennessee got off easy, and can now hire someone with a resume stronger than "hot wife, reptile brain."
This week in witch trials. Meanwhile, Kiffin's departure for his dream job has caused no end of hysterical reactions in the media. Sally Jenkins's painful "Chucky" comparison is the most tortured column—hiring Kiffin is easier than "hiring someone less illustrious"—I've come across, but there are many others. Here's old friend Jemele Hill "bringing the real"—seriously those were the words on the screen—about the situation:
Since college football fans are paying top dollar to attend these games and boosters are signing blank checks to bolster their athletic teams, they need reassurance they are supporting not only a winning program, but also a brand.
That's why college football programs have gladly backed up the Brink's truck for Bobby Petrino, Rich Rodriguez, Brian Kelly and Nick Saban -- all top-notch coaches whose combined lies could outweigh an ocean liner.
Leaving aside Rich Rodriguez, who has had all of two jobs in a decade, why does poor Brian Kelly get lumped in here? Kelly spent most of the last month of the season going out of his way to provide rambling non-answers to questions about Notre Dame just so he wouldn't get stuck having said something untrue. When the time came his public statement about it was "I am listening to Notre Dame." Even Rodriguez—less of a job-hopper than anyone on that list—issued a quote about being around West Virginia for a long time after his Alabama flirtation. Kelly walked around with a sign that said "Please Hire Me Notre Dame" for two months and still can't win.
Meanwhile, Jemele Hill jumped at the opportunity to bring the real at ESPN instead of hanging out at the Free Press. Physicians, heal thyselves.
*(Over/under on Ohio State blogs that repost this sentence for lol: 4.)
Correct. Michigan's former players are always asked about Michigan's current coach and most of them have the same answer. It acknowledges the difficulty in transition and expresses frustration at the current state of the program. Depending on how the phrase it, this can come off as attack or support. They're all basically saying the same thing—let's win this year plsthx—but they seem different. Victor Hobson shades towards the support side of things:
As a Michigan fan, it’s easy for me to sit back and say he is not taking the program in the right direction. As a football player, though, it’s easy for me to see that Rich has a different approach to winning than Lloyd Carr, which requires different personnel. Patience is the key to allowing the program to blossom once again. The dilemma is that Michigan is an extremely prideful university that isn’t used to losing, so I don’t know if that patience is going to happen.
South Florida. It's not quite official yet, but the word from a couple days ago that Skip Holtz was likely to be the guy at ECU is nearing it by the minute:
Holtz was contacted by USF athletic director Doug Woolard about the job Sunday and interviewed with USF officials Tuesday in Orlando.
A source close to East Carolina told the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer on Wednesday night that a deal between Holtz and USF was close but not done yet. "But they're moving in that direction,'' the source said.
A deal could come as early as today; it sounds like this is all but inevitable. This leaves Calvin Magee at Michigan. Magee did talk to USF, but I don't think he interviewed formally.
They're back. Some of them. Michigan State's PREWB appears to be resolved by a number of additional departures from the team. RB Ashton Leggett, DE Jamiihr Williams, LB Brynden Trawick, and DT Ishmyl Johnson are out. All the receivers are back, as are a couple guys you've never heard of. The end result here is fairly satisfying: six guys out the door, including a couple probable starters next year, is a stiff price to pay. The other guys are "reinstated" and "on the team right now," though there remains the distant possibility that legal action will cause some of the other guys to pick up further suspensions (lasting, of course, until next year's Michigan game).
Meanwhile, State is getting Greg Jones back for his senior year—bad NFL draft grade?—so they've got that going for them.
Crater omission. Doctor Saturday ran down the top five "sharpest turning moments" of 2009 and touched on Notre Dame taking out Charlie Weis and Ohio State picking it up after Purdue. This guy was genuinely surprised to not see "Roy Roundtree tackled at one yard line." That's 90% blinkered homerism, but it certainly seemed that few teams took as radical a U-turn as Michigan did on that fateful goal line stand. They went from a team making totally satisfactory progress to a smoking crater hosting a civil war in the course of one replay review.
Etc.: Apparently the ridiculous Rodriguez-to-Tennessee rumors were serious enough for Angelique to debunk them with the help of RR's agent. RR talks to Andrea Adelson about 2010—bowl promised! Bacon runs down the top sports moments of the decade. UMHoops runs down a bunch of stuff; most interesting is that the Big Ten is the least free-throw happy of the BCS conferences. Also for God's sake don't look at the scatterplot.
I posted about this on The Sporting Blog so this is going to be a rehash, but since this is the Leno-Conan tiff of college football right now I haven't thought about much else: holy crap in a hat, USC hired Lane Kiffin.
There are a thousand different ways in which that statement can be taken: wow, what a snake. Wow, Al Davis was right. Wow, even Charlie Weis shot down USC. Wow, I love hot dogs. In all ways the hire makes no sense, and the rest of the blogosphere is busily examining all of these angles plus dongs on a rock. Last night I had the same giddy reaction that the rest of the universe did. USC hired a guy who rose through the ranks thanks to nepotism and has time and again proven himself an idiot of the highest order. Woo.
Today, though, I'm bothered. That USC had to stoop so low as to grab Kiffin indicates the coming sanctions are harsh, but taking Orgeron and maybe picking off Chow and the thing stuck in my craw indicate that maybe USC is going to get off easy. The thing that is currently stuck in my craw is the thing I had to resort to all caps to properly express over at TSB:
LANE KIFFIN WAS THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR AND RECRUITING COORDINATOR WHEN REGGIE BUSH WAS ON THE TAKE AND JOE MCKNIGHT COMMITTED TO USC. USC is hiring one of the guys—possibly the guy—who was most responsible for the NCAA coming down on the program.
Can this be interpreted as anything other than a taunt? USC is going to get penalized in two different sports in February. They've fired one coach for directly paying a runner and lost another because he managed to ignore agents in his locker room. And they bring in Lane Freakin' Kiffin, a guy who
- has racked up seven or eight very public secondary violations in one a year at Tennessee
- is currently under investigation for employing Tennessee undergrads as a sort of USO show from sea to shining sea
- pursued and acquired Bryce Brown when his recruitment and sketchy AAU-style handler became too much for Miami, which I remind you is Miami
…argh… Spock… herecomethe… ALLCAPS
- LANE KIFFIN WAS THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR AND RECRUITING COORDINATOR WHEN REGGIE BUSH WAS ON THE TAKE AND JOE MCKNIGHT COMMITTED TO USC.
USC is getting hit with football violations and they have just hired the guy most directly responsible for those violations occurring as their head coach. He is bringing Ed Orgeron and possibly Norm Chow back with him, giving USC more than one coach who had full knowledge of the shenanigans going down in LA and did zero to stop it.
USC has just double-dog-dared the NCAA to do something meaningful. They've thrown away the idea of contrition in favor of defiance. They are saying yes, we have had three separate incidents in two sports in a matter of years, but this is not a lack of institutional control. It is the institution. Insofar as we can, we cheat.
This is the NCAA's Waterloo. If USC does not suffer severe repercussions that make it all but impossible for them to compete on a national level for five years in both major sports, the idea that the rules mean anything is over.
Though they had been long-considered near-locks to join Michigan's 2010 recruiting class, that is no longer the case for FL CB Tony Grimes and DE Clarence Murphy. Murphy committed to Maryland last week, and since then, Grimes has not sounded so positive on the Wolverines. Mgoblog's own TomVH talked to Grimes and says:
With Murphy choosing Maryland, everyone is kind of seeing the writing on the wall. I'm not sure what happened to change Grimes mind, but it seems like it is changing.
He's playing everything close to the vest right now, so he's not telling a lot. Like I said, I don't think it's good news, though.
Murphy talked to The Baltimore Sun about his commitment, and what his teammate is thinking:
“Me and my friend, Tony Grimes, were planning on going to school together,” Murphy said. “I think he stopped favoring Michigan a little bit. He went up there and got into some cold weather a little bit. … [So] he’s still weighing things out a little bit.
The Wolverines are still in a small group for Grimes, though Ole Miss is probably his new leader. To add insult to injury, Tony was just selected to participate in the USA v. the World All-Star Game. Jay Hopson's departure may have played a role here.
In other recruiting attrition, 2009/2010 FL CB Adrian Witty sounds like he will not be making it to Ann Arbor. Though some fans speculated that Michigan offered him only to help land Denard Robinson last year, the coaches seemed to really like Witty, and losing him is a hit. With Michigan's extensive DB recruiting in the class of 2010, hopefully the damage is limited.
The final piece that appears to be dropping out of Michigan's 2010 class is TX RB Tony Drake. The source is admittedly second-hand, but Michigan commits talk to the coaches about recruiting a hell of a lot more than you or I do. At this point its tough to consider Drake committed.
All of this changes the numbers for the class, taking it down to 23 commits (removing Grimes and Witty), with the potential to get up around 27 or 28. With Grimes and Murphy no longer penciled in, the Wolverines can find about 4 more prospects. Hopefully, Calvin Magee;s candidacy at USF won't affect any of Michigan's other commits.
The Other Side of the Fence
It's coaching change season around the country, which means that other schools' recruiting classes may be ripe for poaching. We first turn our attention to sunny Los Angeles, where Pete Carroll and a number of his assistant coaches are heading north to the NFL. One of the crown jewels of the Trojans' class, CA RB Dillon Baxter, will open his recruitment, and Michigan was the only other school to which he has already taken an official visit.
If the Michigan coaches can convince him to go Blue ("Baxter said Friday that Florida and Michigan had reached out"), it would be a huge recruiting coup, and a more than adequate replacement for Drake. MGoBlog's TomVH has talked to Baxter, who indicated he nearly switched his commitment to Michigan following his official visit. Carroll's departure is probably a positive for Michigan's recruitment of CA S Sean Parker as well.
The fact that it's uber-recruiter Lane Kiffin taking over may bolster the Trojans' recruiting. Despite showing no ability to be a head coach, Kiffin is a proven winner in February.
To the best of my knowledge Michigan wasn't really a serious player for any of Tennessee's current commits other than GA LB Mike Taylor. He will decommit from Tennessee, though it's assumed he will commit to Florida, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that is a "false statement." It would still be an upset for him to land anywhere other than Gainesville.
One other player may be affected by the Kiffin departure: FL OL Torrian Wilson. Wilson visited Michigan in the summer and maintained the Wolverines as his leader before a surprise Stanford commit. He decommitted in search of a school closer to home and announced a top three of South Florida, Tennessee, and Michigan. Michigan is the farthest from Miami but is currently the only school of those three with, you know, a head coach. That would seemingly bode well, but watch out for Louisville. Charlie Strong has been hitting Miami Northwest hard and already has two of Wilson's teammates committed. Wilson's next list will be interesting.
Also in coaching change news, Michigan State RB coach Dan Enos is heading north to become the head coach at Central Michigan. Since the Spartans have a heavy in-state bent on their recruiting class, there may be a chance Michigan can step in for a couple guys, no? The following recruits have Enos listed as their primary recruiter on Rivals:
- MI QB Joe Boisture
- MI DE Taylor Calero
- MI LB/DE William Gholston
- MI CB Mylan Hicks
- MI RB Nick Hill
- MI RB Jeremy Langford
- MI WR/Ath Tony Lippett
Of those prospects, only Gholston and Hicks likely interest Michigan, and Gholston ain't happening for. Hicks was also recruited by Harlon Barnett, State's secondary coach, so I doubt he is likely to wriggle loose. It appears as though MSU's recruiting class is safe (unless Gholston, as rumored, has legitimate interest in Alabama). For the future, however, recruiting Detroit may suffer slightly for the Spartans, as Enos was their main man in Detroit. That's good news for the Wolverines.
In non-coaching change poaching, GA QB/Ath Blake Sims has decommitted from Alabama after being unclear where he figured into the Tide's future plans. He's considering a small group of other schools including Michigan and West Virginia, though Tennessee and Georgia probably lead.
“I am not sure if I would have played receiver or where at Alabama, but I am just looking for a place I know they spread the ball out and where I will be used the best,” Sims said.
It's important to him to have a chance on offense rather than in the secondary, and if the coaching staff can give him a shot at QB, he may end up in blue.
With Grimes seemingly out of the picture, Michigan will probably turn up the heat on FL S/CB Rashad Knight. TomVH thinks Michigan no longer leads, but he is officially visiting this weekend, giving the Wolverines a chance to close the gap, and possibly even seal Knight for the Maize-and-Blue.
As mentioned last week, OH DT Jibreel Black is expected to take a January visit to Ann Arbor. I believe Michigan's only other big recruiting weekend will be January 30th, the weekend before Signing Day.
SC WR Hakeem Flowers "Will Look to Get Away," and also holds a Michigan offer ($, info in header). He should be among the top wideouts nationally.
MI CB Delonte Hollowell gave GoBlueWolverine an interview during the US Army Combine, and considering the headline says "his thoughts on committing to U-M," it sounds like there's not only a good chance he'll become a Wolverine, but also do it soon ($, info in header). I've upgraded him to a Blue Smiley on the recruiting board.