I did not make this headline up
We decided everyone wanted to talk about last weekend instead of next weekend so the podcast comes early this week. Our special guest is frequent diarist and Gamblor acolyte Jamiemac, who's got his own digs at Just Cover now. Over the course of a half hour, we talk about Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan's new ceiling, Jamie's crazy theories about Phil Steele, and reveal the last time Michigan hit a quadruple (win plus losses from the three main rivals) like they did over the weekend.
via reader Brian Hale
Take his and graduate 'em, take yours and graduate 'em. It's not noble to take guys with two good parents and a Catholic-school education and not screw them up. That's one of the things that's always bothered me about Notre Dame's smugness. They've positioned themselves as the nationwide destination for kids who end up at places like Oaks Christian, and when these kids fail to screw up they take pride in it. Michigan, meanwhile, has been more willing to take on potentially troubled kids. Not as willing as some other schools, but willing.
This is always spun as a negative when you get a Feagin situation. When you take kids out of Pahokee or Detroit or Delray Beach who did not go to a good high school and didn't have a stable home life and are just looking for a way out, some of them are not going to overcome their backgrounds. It's tough to do that. It's no accomplishment to graduate Craig Roh. That kid grew up like an enormous, athletic, magnificently-eyebrowed version of me; he's going to graduate no matter where he is. It's a risk to stick out your neck for a talented kid who went to a school with textbooks from 1978 where dropouts are more common than graduates.
The reason I bring it up is an epic article on Pahokee, the home of three current Wolverines, in the Daily. I've been reading the Daily for twelve years now and it's without question the best article to appear in it in that time frame. It wouldn't seem out of place if you threw it up on ESPN.com in one of those fancy presentations they give Wright Thompson. It highlights the environment these guys come from:
He pops in one of the myriad discs. It’s a guerrilla-style video called “Palm Beach County: Gangstas and Thugs.” Local gun-toting gang members flash across the screen, beating each other senseless and shooting AK-47s into the air.
“That’s my cousin; he’s in jail,” he says pointing, to the screen. “Oh, and that kid’s dead. He was 17.”
Trouble in such places is easier to get into than avoid, and honestly working with these kids so that they get out of college and go somewhere else is a calling beyond giving kids who went to Catholic school calculus exams. Michigan has to live up to that charge, of course. In four to six years we'll have Rodriguez's graduation numbers, and in five more we'll have some sense of how the institution has served them. I'll be watching it carefully. I hope—and think—Michigan will do right by them. They are owed that.
No, you can't do that. Apparently ABC never showed the Armando Allen taunting penalty, but the News got a shot of it:
a. Specifically prohibited acts and conduct include:
1. No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:
(b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally.
(c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition.
Ssssh-ing the student section is an obvious flag that will get called 1000 of 1000 times. It doesn't matter if he said anything or not. Weis being an ass in the postgame (no, seriously, watch his bitchy press conference… what a horror it would be to have such a thoroughly unlikeable person* in charge of your football team):
"Armando was really distraught at the end of the game, because he felt that he got called for a 15-yard penalty for going 'shhhh' when he got to the end zone," Weis said. "Now I guess, technically, that's taunting, but he felt really bad about that and I told him we're all part of this loss and don't put it all on your shoulders."
Indeed, it is "technically" taunting in the way Michigan's pass to Mathews was "technically" a touchdown. Meanwhile on that same play, Clausen was doing a fey little dance that could have drawn another flag. Why must Weis recruit these thugs? Why can't he have nice boys like Greg Mathews, who politely handed the ball to the referee after his gamewinning touchdown?
A note on one of the other ND refereeing complaints: Theo Riddick did touch that kickoff, as was extensively discussed on Sportscenter, so running two seconds off the clock was appropriate. And when Tate caught the ball on the last play of the game and got tackled with one second left, the key distinction to note is that the official timekeeper doesn't stop when he thinks the play is over—not his job—but when the referee signals him to. You can clearly see that the referee signals to stop the clock well after :00 is hit. (Yes, maybe that's a conspiracy too.)
*(dollars to donuts that caused any West Virginia, Michigan State, or Ohio State fan reading it to have a head asplode moment, but… seriously. Watch the video. There is no comparison between that and corny jokes and twang.)
Tempting fate. If Michigan loses the next two weeks you can stick my head in a blender for what I'm about to do.
Let's talk about Michigan State, Michigan's first road game of the season and next opponent against whom the spread will be in the single digits. State lost to Central Michigan in quintessential "Sparty, No!" fashion, but don't let the flukes at the end of the game overshadow the overall theme of the day. A worried The Only Colors explains:
While hanging our heads obviously doesn't do any good, I really have a hard time seeing Saturday's outcome as a fluke. Sure, the events of the final 30 seconds all broke in the Chippewas' favor. But we'd been outplayed by a significant margin for the 59 minutes and 30 seconds that preceded those 30 seconds--outgained by 74 yards and outconverted by 8 first downs. And when it mattered most, we couldn't stop them. Central gained a total of 147 yards to reach the endzone on both of its final two non-onside-kick-commenced drives. We were lucky to be in position to win the game with 30 seconds to go.
Maybe CMU's a top-40 team and this loss isn't quite as bad as it looks right now. But they certainly didn't look like a top-40 team against Arizona a week ago. And you have to beat top 40 teams at home to get to a New Years Day bowl.
That is a strong indication that internet skepticism over a team that was outgained in conference play last year was better founded than the assembled Big Ten Media's assertion that Michigan State was the third-best team in the conference. Not that we needed anyone to tell us that the internet tends to do better research than newspapers. State should get better as Kirk Cousins solidifies his hold on the starting quarterback spot, but after some initial optimism in the comments that post bogs down into pessimism about a ton of things, most prominently the pass rush.
Compounding things for State in their matchup against Michigan: Central Michigan is headed by the Rich Rodriguez coaching tree, also known as Butch Jones, and quarterbacked by Dan LeFevour, a mobile, accurate quarterback that's a more veteran but less hyped version of Tate Forcier. LeFevour was 33 of 46 for 328 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. The State game now looks very winnable.
The move? Freshman Cameron Gordon's seemingly inevitable move to linebacker may be a fait accompli according to MGoPoster Jaggs:
Was at the ND game this weekend and my dad ran into a guy purporting to be Cam Gordon's dad (I have no reason to doubt it was him). The guy told my dad he was a father of a player on the team etc, and my dad asked him who he said his name which my dad forgot but remembered the guy said #84 a linebacker. A quick search of the program and mgoblue.com shows Gordon as the only #84 so sounds like Gordon.
Quick check shows 86 points, which isn't much, but also that this guy's been registered for eight months. Credibility rating: at least moderate. We're still looking for confirmation and will provide it if/when it comes.
Yeesh. I think this was just an mgolicious link. The numbers say, I don't know, something:
3. Inbound links checked daily. The day before I visited, logs for the Chronicle’s WordPress site reported that it had drawn 277 visitors from a local sports blog, 28 from a local school blog and 23 from annarbor.com, the reincarnated Ann Arbor News.
Probably what it says is that AA.com's traffic is far more dispersed, where this site is basically a single framework with varying content presented.
- Injuries: David Moosman popped his shoulder out, might sit for 1-2 weeks. Some combination of Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, John Ferrara, and Patrick Omameh will fill that in. Boubacar Cissoko was still banged up against ND, but he'll continue to play. Mike Williams sat because of cramps, and he should be healthy. Junior Hemingway should be back soon, but Rodriguez won't know until later today. The full injury report will come out Thursday.
- The secondary didn't play its best on Saturday, but a lot of the stuff can be corrected. They want to be able to play JT Floyd, Teric Jones, and Justin Turner to build a little more depth there.
- The QBs are still listed with an "OR" on the depth chart. Tate has earned the right to take the first snap each week so far, but the competition in practice has been pretty close. Denard is a QB now, and will continue to be in the future. They aren't looking at moving him to another position.
- Rodriguez gave some veiled criticism to Charlie Weis's excuses about the refs. "I didn't see anything." He typically will send a couple plays into the conference office, though he didn't after the Western game. The refs do a god job, and they'll call things if they see them. When the Armando Allen touchdown was overturned, Rodriguez called a timeout instead of a challenge because he wanted to save his challenge for later in the game in case they needed it.
- Rodriguez talks to CMU coach Butch Jones twice a week. He's a good coach and a good person. Rich knows he'll have
- Rodriguez interviewed the entire football staff (not just coaches) when he came to Ann Arbor. He didn't re-hire Coach English, though he was an outstanding defensive coordinator. Rodriguez had something else in mind defensively, and now he's happy where they are. He talked to Coach E to congratulate him for landing the EMU job. "I know he's got a lot of friends here, and as you'd expect, when you spend a couple years at a neat place you're going to make some friends."
- Rodriguez wants fans to not only be at the game, but also to be active participants. The piped in music is art of that, along with exciting things like the Circle of Death, aka the "Team Unity Circle."
- The defense was playing off receivers for most of the game, but they got a little more aggressive because they got sick of giving up the underneath stuff.
- English was Troy's primary recruiter at Michigan. The two don't talk anymore, because Troy has lost Coach E's number, but he wants to play well this Saturday to show that he was worthy of being recruited.
- "I'm just glad that we got a chance to show the nation that Michigan is back."
- Some day in the future, Troy and Denard are going to race to settle once and for all who the fastest player is.
- Brown wasn't surprised to see ND go deep on second down with a chance to ice the win late in the fourth quarter. "That's what they'd been doing all game, and that's what was working for them."
- Stevie doesn't keep in contact with Coach English. They talked when Ron was hired at Eastern, but not really since.
- Although the team is ranked, they're only at the very last spot (35). The team needs to continue working hard if they want to move up. The team made lots of mistakes (Tate's fumble on the 2 yard line, a missed field goal), so there's definite room for improvement.
- Tate had 400+ text message following the game yesterday. He doesn't have a big lecture until tomorrow, but he's sure lots of people will talk to him about the game.
- He caught the big nighttime tilt and saw Matt Barkley (the nation's other golden boy frosh) perform pretty well. "It was kinda hard; I didn't know who I wanted to win because I don't like USC or Ohio State."
- The rushing touchdown was a pass/run option, and the defensive end forced him to head back inside "Right when I cut it up, I didn't see anybody. Right away I knew it should be pretty good." He was confident on the final touchdown to Mathews as well. "I thought it was a perfect play call." The corner was playing with inside leverage, giving Greg room to the outside.
- Tate said he wasn't really going to look at Michigan until the new staff came in.
- There's no animosity between Tate and Denard, and Tate expects a big play every time Denard hits the field. He hopes Denard will get more chances to shine in the next couple weeks.
- "Just beating Notre Dame is great, but beating them the way we beat them made it even better." Tate's family was in the crowd,and he heard they were all so happy they cried. "I wish [Jason] could have been out there playing with me."
For Brabbs, a former kicker for the University of Michigan who kicked one of the most famous field goals in Wolverines’ history, his next battle is on the horizon.
Diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (a cancer of the plasma cell), Brabbs, a 1999 Dow High graduate who turned 29 on Aug. 7, is preparing for his treatment to start next month at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Treatment Center.
The cancer, specialists told Brabbs, has been growing. In a year’s time, it’s gone from being in 10 percent of his bones to 30 percent.
Vada Murray is horrible enough. Brabbs is younger than I am:
“This has been a long, drawn-out process. It started when I was 25 and living in North Carolina,” he said. “I would have a panic attack and this stabbing pain, and have no clue what was going on.
“Age is on our side,” Brabbs added. “The average age for a person getting this is 68. That’s why we want to be aggressive (with treatment).”
It sounds like he's going to have a difficult few months with chemo and radiation and a stem-cell transplant, but Brabbs is upbeat. He's even got a blog.
9/12/2009 – Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34 – 2-0
When Michigan headed in at the half down only three because of a confluence of events I saw splattered across "Life on the Margins" in the near future, I wrote the game off. When Michigan turned first and goal from the one into a missed field goal, I wrote the game off. When Armando Allen ran the ball into the endzone and Clausen did his fey little "butt dance," to steal a term from MVictors, I wrote the game off. When LaTerryal Savoy dropped the touchdown pass* that would have given Michigan the win, I was annoyed.
Some things, among them faith and love, reveal themselves only after they form, when some other event makes it clear you have had powerful emotion X about object Y for an indeterminate amount of time. Love tends to brew a long time and reveal itself in spectacularly inopportune fashion. Faith… well, if you let X equal faith and Y equal Tate Forcier, the process is considerably expedited. For the author it came to its enzyme-aided conclusion sometime between Junior Hemingway's second touchdown against Western Michigan and the wild bumper-car rollout that ended in a dart to Savoy and first and goal.
When, exactly, is impossible to tell. Like Denard Robinson, attempting to observe it changes it. But here it is rewarding us with all sorts of dopamine and serotonin and other whatnot on this finest Monday of all Mondays in a fairly long time.
What is up, faith. I am feeling goooooooood.
Rich Rodriguez had spent twenty years earning a little faith as his teams performed, time and again, above their talent level. But the instant he decided to extract himself from what seemed like a poisonous relationship with the rest of the West Virginia athletic department, all of it evaporated.
Almost from the instant Rodriguez arrived on campus the media—first from West Virginia and then locally—painted him as a mercenary, a swearing robot, a rube. It's been covered here a thousand times before so let's just focus on the giant flashing insanity: Rodriguez took a metric ton of crap for breaking his contract, something literally any coach who's ever moved jobs has done. Something that the contract has explicit buyout provisions for. Something that universally-loved John Beilein did one year earlier.
When 3-9 followed the amplitude went up by an order of magnitude, culminating in the Free Press hit job the nation knows and loves. Faith did not exist except in battered, weary pockets. This pocket wavered. It would be impossible not to.
In this space I've alternately mocked and panicked at the idea that external forces or internal dissent could strangle the Rodriguez era in the crib and set Michigan on much the same path Notre Dame has traveled these last 15 years. The parade of inept coaches, inept coaching searches in the frequent interregnums, and mostly unrelenting failure during the brief periods in which the school is not searching for a new inept coach could easily have happened here. Michigan was in the process of chaotic, inept coaching search number one when WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong and Pat White's thumb dumped one of the premiere coaches in college football in Bill Martin's lap and Martin jumped at it without thinking it over.
The public reaction since threatened to undo that stroke of fortune and set Michigan into the spiral that consumed South Bend. The danger was that all those sneering generalists who glanced over from their NBA game to snort "lol" and moved on would actually impact Michigan's ability to reason.
Did it? Will it? It's impossible to tell. Rich Rodriguez and Tate Forcier plan on making the question moot, and have already gone a long way towards doing so.
This is Michigan now, a strange collection of 3.8 GPA kids from New Jersey and Arizona and locals who grew up loving Michigan and kids with dreads from poor, broken places mostly in the south who have one way to get out. Receivers who score game-winning touchdowns and almost lose their cool before apologetically handing the ball to the referee, sir. Woop-gone cuts when the defensive end beats you to the corner in cover zero. The fetishization of work to the point where the S&C coach is the target of adulation so intense that you can call something "Barwis Porn" and not be 100% joking. Hype videos and piped in music. Shotgun hurry-up and quarterbacks slipping by linebacker kill shots. The circle of terror, chest bumps, awkward press conferences, a tear here and there. This is it. This is block-M Michigan.
It's not all great. But take it from a guy who remains a programmer in spirit: life is tradeoffs. Give Rich Rodriguez six dwarves, some baling wire, a walk-on safety from Curtice, Ohio, and someone to spatter paint all over everything and we're good. This is a program of moxie and MacGuyver.
While Terrelle Pryor labors in an offense that has him throw 25 times and run nine against USC, previously run-manic Rich Rodriguez has taken his collection of half-man-half-velcro tight ends and pounding fullbacks and moosebeast tailbacks and forged them into a machine that, for two games at least, is the explosive equivalent of his White-Slaton heyday. He has integrated this crazy wheeling Jackson Pollock of a quarterback to the tune of 70% completions, five touchdowns, and one interception in his first two games in college. In the process he's made the men who looked at twenty years of wildly successful offenses, wildly successful programs at every level of college football and saw nothing but an inflexible, lucky hick look like fools.
He's repaid the faith shown him by his team, by the guys who stayed and waved their arms madly and jumped up and down last week when the students took up a "Rich Rodriguez" chant and did not stop until most of the stadium was doing it. They stayed, and they're on their way, and it doesn't take much faith to say: this is Michigan now.
via reader Nick Stratton
*(It would turn out to be tipped but from the stands all I saw was a ball hit Savoy between the eight and the two and ricochet away; the crowd's reaction was such that I thought Notre Dame had somehow intercepted it for a split second.)
BULLETS THAT CHANGE DIRECTION SIX TIME A SECOND
- 10,000 cocktails to the guy working the replay board who got the Armando Allen screen touchdown on the board almost before the play was over, thus causing the stadium to explode and Rodriguez to take a timeout that would eventually save Michigan four points. Those four points were the final margin of victory and while there's a chance the replay would have come down on its own, the quick thinking of that guy made it inevitable. Someone ferret out this guy's name so he never has to buy a drink in town again.
To really discuss what's wrong with Weis I have to dig into the poker metaphors. If Carr was a weak-tight calling station—a guy who doesn't take many risks and can be easily dissuaded from taking them—Weis is a loose-aggressive donkey—a guy who just bets and bets and bets and rides it. The LAG (loose-aggressive) is a better player, much tougher to win against, but is prone to huge, fatal mistakes. So the problem with that second-and-ten bomb was not that Weis threw, it's the sort of throw he called for. Running or whatever strips Michigan of its timeouts and has relatively little value compared to a first down. A first down just about ends the game. I had a perpetual frustration with Carr's playcalling in similar situations because it was run run run punt almost without fail, or possibly run run third and ten pass punt. So a slant or a hitch or some sort of high-percentage pass that can break for a first down is a great call.
The bomb is going all in with a middle pair after you get a couple overs on the flop. (I was in the World Series of Poker once!!!) It might work. But if it does, it's not because you're a good poker player.
Weis is a guy who thinks "they'll never see my 4-6 unsuited coming." And he thinks it all the time. I know, I know: Gus Hansen exists. The thing about poker on TV is that it throws out all the "boring" hands and therefore disguises Hanson's insidious brilliance. I've seen all of Weis's hands. He's not Gus Hansen. I mean, even if you're going to throw that, why throw it against Warren instead of the guy you've been torching all game?
- On the other hand: I haven't seen anything from Rodriguez yet that makes me think similar thoughts. I have instant go-punt reactions on all fourth downs and get very upset when the coach in question defies an obvious one and haven't been very upset with Rodriguez yet. He may call a hotel a "ho-tel" but he's a better poker player than Carr or Weis. Even when Michigan was up eleven, it seemed like they needed one more touchdown to win, and it appeared Rodriguez thought the exact same thing.
- Speaking of Beilein: there have been persistent rumors that Beilein and Rodriguez have a frosty relationship, but one of the things I caught as I watched the team leave the field was the two coaches meeting around the forty yard line and sharing a deep, lingering man-hug. I don't think that rumor holds much water anymore.
- I'd been bitching about Forcier thinking he's in high school on many of his runs. Often he had an opportunity to cut upfield for solid yardage but instead tried to pop outside a corner or safety and turned it into a three-yard gain because he can't just outrun members of the opposition secondary anymore. (There's a play in UFR last week where I question whether a similar incident was a good idea.) So, yeah, a little smug on that touchdown run after I went WOOOOO a lot.
- Cissoko… man. I've seen a fair number of people defending him but he was bad. Maybe I'll think different after the UFR but the guy got torched. Hopefully that's an effect of going up against two crazy good receivers and a quarterback who wasn't so terrible himself. I don't think so, though. He was lost.
- I really hope I see even more holding than they called on UFR because Clausen had all day basically all day. I vastly underestimated the pressure he'd face; when he did get pressure he just chucked it OOB. So I was kind of right about that.
- Brandon Minor is way better than any other back on the roster. Q: why did Michigan go away from the up-the-middle gashing that worked so well in the third quarter? Notre Dame was clearly vulnerable to runs that went directly at them but did well against the stretches.
- Warren, on the other hand, basically lived up to the hype this blog perpetuated.
- It's amazing how vastly different real live Notre Dame fans are from their internet fanbase. The worst thing you can say about them is that a disproportionate number look like they're huge Steve Miller Band fans. The worst things you can say about Notre Dame fans on the internet would take thousands of words to describe.
Charlie Weis caused the potato famine, says one Irish fan. Also check the Chips shirt.
MVictors wasn't in the press box for this one and thanks God for that stroke of luck. Also check the spectacular Brandon Graham mugging picture and the guy in the comments who claims Armando Allen called the student section "faggots" to draw his flag. Can anyone in the front of the student section confirm that?
Central Michigan beat Michigan State on a 42-yard field goal with 3 seconds left. As the game’s final minute ticked away before the start of the game here, news media in the press box gathered around televisions to watch.
Central Michigan initially missed a potential game-winning 47-yard field goal, but got to try the kick again after Michigan State was penalized for being offside. The announcement of the penalty that set up the game-winner prompted clapping and an announcement in the press box.
“Cheering is not allowed in the press box,” the announcer said, “but it is right now.”
Something something pride something fall.
I grabbed a bunch of complaining from ND Nation in anticipation of a flush, which did happen.
I put a little more thought into this week's ballot than last week's holiday edition. There are still some things I'm not comfortable with, so comments are obviously very welcome.
- Florida didn't really do anything to move down, but USC and Alabama have definitely had more chances to prove themselves on the big stage so far.
- For some reason, I ended up with Notre Dame several spots ahead of Michigan, which will be fixed by the final ballot (though I do think the Irish are a pretty legit team this year).
- I don't really like Iowa and Northwestern towards the end of my ballot, but I didn't really have anybody else off the top of my head that seemed to belong.
- I don't like Tennessee where they are, especially considering their resume-building win was against a functional bye team.
- Some of the deltas appear to no be quite right, so don't worry about those too much (especially considering I don't even really look at last week's ballot to formulate the new one).
Help me out in the comments.
|Last week's ballot|
|Dropped Out: Oklahoma State (#7), North Carolina (#13), Virginia Tech (#17), Utah (#18), Oklahoma (#20), Georgia (#22), Kansas (#24), Oregon (#25).|