|O31||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||2||Long handoff|
|Hall(+1) holds this down wonderfully, making the tackle after a stiffarm. (CA, 3 â€“ screen) (Cover +1)|
|Combo route designed to beat zone coverage that OSU knows we're in because we have Burgess lined up over Ginn and Gonzalez. Burgess(-1) bites on play action, then slips on the turf as he tries to react to the pass. Slip was probably irrelevant. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Note: Biggs also slips trying to cut and attack the rollout of Smith. (Cover -1, pressure -1)|
|Play action is a speed option fake. Ginn gets open deep on Hall(-1, cover -1) but Smith overthrows him, probably because Woodley(+1, pressure +1) gets loose and plows him as he throws. (IN, 0, protection Â½)|
|Smith throws underneath the zone to Hartline. Graham(+1) makes a nice tackle. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|OSU goes five wide and motions a guy up into a three WR set at the top of the screen â€“ something we do when we throw our diamond screen. They run patterns out of it against obvious zone coverage, flooding that zone and giving Smith an easy read of one guy. He steps out, Smith throws in. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, cover -1)|
|OSU rolls away from Woodley and into Biggs(+2), who works through a TE block and even a double team to reach out and hurl Smith to the turf. (pressure +1)|
|Woodley(+1) goes right around Schafer, nailing Smith as he throws. It's a screen but they were blocking the DEs. Pass still complete, but David Harris(+2) fights through a block and tackles for no gain. (pressure +1) (CA, 3)|
|Two blitzers, mistimed. A safety is yards from the LOS at the snap, and OSU rolls away from it anyway. Smith finds Hall well past the sticks as Sears(-1) is beaten badly. (cover -1) Where is the deep safety? We double Gonzalez on a shorter post... Smith just finds the open guy. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, pressure -2)|
|We run ourselves out of this play. Stunting? Or just fooled? I think the latter, as we overreact to OSU's first step and get trapped. Biggs(-1) gave up the hole.|
|Ginn in that "Ginnback" thing. They try the slip screen; Ginn drops it. A little in front of him, but come on. (CA, 3)|
|Ugly. All Hall does is run like five yards downfield and stop. He's open by yards... we're rushing three! Harrison(-1) misses a tackle to compound his coverage. (Cover -1)|
|M9||1||G||Base 4-3||Pass||7||FB flat|
|Musberger calls it a "slant." At least when Jackson started slipping he had his essential Keith-Jackson-ness to fall back on. Anyway. Fake end around. Crable in man coverage against the fullback, can't get out there in time. (Crable -1, cover -1)|
|Excellent job by Woodley(+1) to penetrate and get Pittman's legs in the backfield. Harris pops him to finish the play.|
|Hall wide open on a pick play. (cover -1, CA, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q. Herbstreit goes on about the confusion on the touchdown play, but that was a simple pick â€“ a legal pick, since the receiver never impacted the defender â€“ that was rock to our man-coverage scissors. OSU spread us out, putting us in obvious zone coverages, and found the open receiver each time. When we went to man on third and sixteen he found the mismatch against Sears. What can you say?|
|OSU lines up in the I and runs. This is a zone play... weird. Pittman decides to cut it back inside as Crable(+1) cuts off the outside. Burgess is unblocked and makes the tackle.|
|Woodley slips trying to explode into his pass rush. Trent(-1, cover -1) is also playing way off, certainly too far to bother this slant. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Pittman manages to plow ahead for a few right up the middle; the pull to the outside doesn't open up any space. Harris fills but has to deal with a guard diving at his feet and so can't move up that quickly.|
|Harrison is cut and Sears takes a couple steps back at first opening up the screen. (CA, 3)|
|Taylor(+1) gets good push; Woodley(+1) is into the backfield too quickly for the pulling guard to block him properly. Pittman up into a mass of unblocked linebackers without a lead blocker.|
|Smith fires to an open Ginn underneath the zone. It's a bit hard and outside and dropped. A catch was only going to get three, anyway, as we actually had this one reasonably well covered. (CA, 2, protection 1/1) (cover +1)|
|Michigan loads up with six rushers against an empty set. Smith is forced to backpedal and toss it away with an unblocked blitzer coming in. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q. Michigan goes three and out and gives OSU the ball back right where they punted it.|
|A designed run for Smith. Fakes the end-around to Ginn then rolls out. No pass option here as his wideouts to that side are blocking. Good contain from Adams(+1); Harris pounds Smith as he cuts back.|
|O48||2||4||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||52||Zone left|
|It all starts out so well. Crable(+1) penetrates into the backfield and blows this play up. Wells spins away from Crable's tackle â€“ unfortunate but at the speed Crable's going not shocking â€“ and cuts up in to the line, managing to squeak behind Branch(-1) as he gets shoved by his blocker. Harris, reading the blocking, has moved to the frontside of the play and gets blocked out. Burgess is containing the cutback. Once Wells manages to cut through the line the linebackers are toast. Adams(-2) takes a terrible angle and Mundy(-2) reacts way late. A great play from Wells, some luck to find the hole after the spin move, and late reacting safeties.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Taylor(+1) pushes into the backfield, forcing Pittman to cutback. He makes an ankle tackle for a small gain.|
|Another late blitz. Smith hesitates â€“ we must have covered someone â€“ long enough for the blitzer to get there. Crable(+1) also disengages and is about to sack Smith when he rolls outside of him, steps up, and fires a dart to Robiskie 20 yards downfield. Hall(-1, cover -1) misses the tackle, allowing Robiskie another 20 yards. Trent is the last guy and makes the tackle. Alan Branch slips here trying to get upfield on the Smith rollout. (DO, 3, protection Â½) Harrison wiped out trying to cut and tackle Robiskie, too. (pressure +1)|
|M48||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||10||Off guard|
|Taylor(-1) doubled and blown off the ball. He can't hold his footing or explode out of his stance. There's a big hole and no linebacker around because Burgess(-1) tacks too far inside.|
|OSU rushes up to the line in a big set and alarm bells go off in my head... it's second down, why pull out this quick snap thing for a second down? They playfake. Hall has let Ginn behind him but that's to be expected. What's not expected is Mundy(-2) having bitten ridiculously hard on a nothing conversion attempt, giving Ginn the center of the field wide open and Smith an easy throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) (cover -2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Same zone fake Smith ran off of before the Wells touchdown. He rolls out, finds Gonzalez in a hole in the zone, and hits him, (CA, 3). Both linebackers bit hard on the fake, opening up the hole. (Crable -1, cover -1)|
|Hall playing way off in man. (-1, cover -1) (CA, 3)|
|Ugh. Hall(-1) getting killed. Robiskie gets inside of him on the post and Smith fires it in there. We were in some sort of blitz package that came way too late, leaving the secondary manned up. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) (cover -1, pressure -1)|
|Smith hesitates though it looks like he has Robiskie on a simple hitch. That delay allows Crable(+1) to crush Smith and force an errant throw. (PR, 0, protection 0/2) (pressure +1)|
|Four receivers to one side in this empty look; we have three defenders out there plus a deep safety. All defenders get run off, giving Smith an incredibly easy read and throw to a wide open Gonzalez. (cover -2, CA, 3, protection 1/1) Sears(-1) misses a tackle.|
|Graham(+2) does a great job of reading this, beating a block, and tackling. (CA, 3)|
|God. We aren't covering anyone. They have Gonzalez lined up against Graham... which needs a word stronger than "mismatch" to describe it. This actually appears to be a zone but there's so much space here. Easy. (Cover -2) (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Combo route against the zone. Corner steps towards Gonzalez, Smith goes short. We tackle this time. (Cover -1, CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Graham(-1) is trying to cover Gonzalez. This works about as well as you would think. (Cover -1, CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-28, EOH.|
|A deep one at the sticks that's open. (Cover -1) Smith one-hops it. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Ginn open on the out (cover -1); flat drops it. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Branch(+1) comes free on a stunt, forcing Smith to throw fairly quickly. He throws it low to Ginn, who can't pull it in. Trent was in position to tackle short of the sticks anyway. (CA, 2, protection Â½) (cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-28, 14 min 3rd Q.|
|O17||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||2||Zone right|
|Branch(+1) plows into the backfield, forcing Pittman wide. Burgess(+1) comes up around a blocker to make a tackle near the LOS.|
|Well timed blitz from Mundy(+1) gets one guard trying to block him and Harris(+1). Harris comes free, forcing a throw from Smith that's early and only vaguely accurate. (pressure +1) (CA, 1, protection 0/2)|
|Smith hesitates â€“ first guy is covered â€“ Biggs(+1) gets free, as does Crable, forcing him to scramble out. Smith fires it to Robiskie, who's doubled by Harris(+1) and Adams(+1). The ball deflects up and is intercepted by Branch(!, +1). Poor decision. And we covered not one but two guys. Killer. (Cover +2, pressure +1, BR, 1, protection Â½)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-28, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|Easy pitch and catch in front of Hall(-1, cover -1). (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|They pull a guard around into the hole. With the FB they have blockers for both Harris and Burgess plus a sizable hole between Biggs and Branch(-1), who gets blocked down out of the hole. Pittman's through the hole fast and with Adams rolled up near the LOS, only Mundy(-2) is between Pittman and t he endzone. Yards after Mundy: 45.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-35, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|O28||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||3||Zone read|
|Same shotgun zone stretch play OSU has run or faked a few times before. There's a hole between Woodley and a doubled and blown off the ball Branch(-1), but the hole closes quickly.|
|Taylor(+2) times the snap, shoots into the backfield, makes a six yard TFL, and picks up a holding call. Outstanding.|
|Woodley(+1) slips to the ground, manages to get up, and pressures Smith into a throw short of first down yardage to Nichol. Englemon(+1) is in great coverage, forcing an incompletion. (pressure +1, cover +1, CA, 2, protection Â½)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-35, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|Line creased as Branch(-1) slants inside at the snap right where they run the ball. Harris taken out by the fullback, and I'm about to sarcastically congratulate Ryan Mundy for making a good tackle until Brandent Englemon (31 instead of 21) gets up. Mundy was yanked after the Pittman run.|
|O25||2||5||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-14||Speed option|
|First Smith fumble. Bad time to get a high snap when you're taking off as soon as it's snapped. Branch(+1) hustles for the recovery.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|In front of Hall. (Cover -1)|
|O33||2||3||Base 4-3||Run||4||Off guard|
|Same quick pull of the guard they've been using with frequency. Johnson in at DT; Harris walled off by the FB; Englemon comes up and tackles.|
|O37||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||4||Off guard|
|Mirror image of the last play. Harris and Crable disengage and grab Pittman at the LOS, but their momentum is going laterally as Pittman's goes upfield, so he is able to drag them forward a few steps.|
|Blitzing six against an empty set. Woodley comes free and nails Smith; Ginn runs a simple hitch that Trent(-1) plays too far off of then misses a tackle(another -1), giving Ginn a bunch of extra yards. (CA, 3) (cover -1)|
|M38||1||10||Base 4-3||Pass||6||TE Out|
|Graham(-1) late reacting in his zone; Nichol very open as he goes to the sidelines. (Cover -1)|
|Immediate tackle from Harrison(+1) prevents a conversion. (Cover +1, CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M29||3||1||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-2||Fumble #2|
|Snap just falls out of his hand and rolls backwards.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-35, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Taylor(+1) holds up at the line, sees where the play is going, and submarines Pittman as he gets to the LOS.|
|Think there might be a pass option here but filed as a run anyway. The DE on his side stumbles, opening up a ton of room and he takes off.|
|O28||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||26||Fake WR Screen|
|They fake that Ginn slip screen then turn around and hand off to Pittman going the other way. Harris(-1) starts flying towards Ginn and is gone. Branch manages to read it but can't get out there. Englemon slips to the turf as Pittman cuts past him. We were going to give up eight or so at least but the turf didn't help here.|
|No pull this time. Harris stands up the FB and disengages as Michigan converges â€“ eight in the box here.|
|Same play. No room as Branch(+1) and Taylor(+1) hold up.|
|Hartline on a slant in front of Sears. (CA, 3, cover -1)|
|M33||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||0||Off guard|
|Nothing. Another good job by the DTs. (Taylor +1, Branch +1).|
|Woodley(+1) crushes Smith as he throws, as he's unblocked. Okay. (Pressure +1)|
|M38||3||15||Nickel||Pass||Inc + 15||Goddammit|
|Smith has some time to start, until Branch(+1) bowls through a guy. Smith rolls out, avoids Biggs, and runs to the sideline, throwing up a prayer as he reaches the sideline that Robiskie can't get back to. Then, the flag. More later. (IN, 1, protection 1/2, pressure +1, cover +1)|
|This could not be easier. Trent is hanging back, way out of position, and never breaks on the ball. Terrible. (-2, cover -1)|
|M14||2||1||Base 4-3||Run||1||QB Sneak|
|Ton of time. Ton. Smith sits back, waits for his receiver to cut, and fires to a wide open Robiskie. Trent, summing everything up, slips helplessly to the ground. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, pressure -1, cover -1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-42, 5 min 4th Q.|
God, I don't know. I've always believed that there's not that much you can do when an opposing quarterback is on like that. Several times in the second half we managed to get to him and force errant throws, but I think our much-ballyhooed defensive adjustments were overblown. Second-half drives:
- Smith short-hops an open receiver on first down; Ginn drops a first down out on second; on third we do get a little pressure, forcing a throw that wouldn't get a first down even if completed.
- Three straight good plays: a run stop, pressure, an then actual coverage.
- Two-play touchdown drive.
- Two runs get OSU in 3rd and 11, then Woodley pressure forces a punt.
- The first fumble; unforced on second and five.
- OSU drives down to the Michigan 29, then fumbles on third and one.
- Crable-aided touchdown.
So, yeah, there are a couple good plays interspersed in there but it was usually one of every three snaps. The difference was some OSU errors -- drops, an errant throw, fumbles -- and OSU's decision to go with less consistently effective running plays. There was no adjustment to be made that would suddenly make that four and five wide package anything other than a mismatch.
The really disappointing part was not the pass defense -- that guy's going to win the Heisman and for good reason -- but the two free touchdowns on runs up the middle. The Wells touchdown was dangerous as soon as he slipped through that crack in the line. The backfield spin changed his direction suddenly and oddly, putting linebackers in untenable positions. Branch is a big guy flowing down the line and he couldn't stop his momentum (footing may have been an issue) in time to slow him down. A running back coming straight down the middle of the field with a head of steam and no linebackers is a recipe for disaster, and disaster it was.
Helmet to helmet?
Well, it was helmet-to-helmet. So, yeah, it was a good call as the rule book is constructed.
But it was irritating, right? Not just in the "oh god now we're going to lose" sense, but because it was irrelevant and arbitrary. Shawn Crable's just trying to make a play. He's running full speed, Smith's running full speed, and he's just trying to make a play. If Smith was any other player taking that hit, they don't throw a flag. I can understand the rationale for trying to keep a stationary quarterback protected from headshots, but if he's running willy nilly all over the field a defender's ability to control exactly where and what he's hitting is limited at best.
Is this a nation of men? Should we just outfit quarterbacks with pink jerseys and frilly tutus? The Russkies must be licking their chops.
|Woodley||6||6||Never quite got to Smith but forced a number of errant throws with pressure.|
|Biggs||3||1||2||Had a sack. Woo.|
|Taylor||6||1||5||Lifted a lot. Held up against OSU's late game runs and helped kill a drive with a four-yard TFL.|
|Branch||7||4||3||A lot of good plays; a lot of slanting away from run plays. Hell of an INT, though.|
|Crable||4||1||3||Don't blame him for the penalty, really.|
|C. Graham||3||2||1||Not a cornerback.|
|Burgess||1||2||-1||Tried to go but was eventually lifted.|
|Englemon||1||-||1||Why Mundy instead of him?|
|Trent||0||5||-5||Aaaand the corner position next year is very much in question.|
|"Pressure"||11||6||5||How did this happen? Well, Smith scrambled out on a few instances of pressure, the coverage was so bad that he threw a ton of short routes, and hardly ever held the ball long enough for pressure to come.|
Um. Alan Branch intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, plus did fairly well late in the game when OSU lined up and ran it (as did Taylor). Lamarr Woodley was pressuring Smith all day, albeit often unblocked and never in time for a sack. But when you give up 42 points and over 500 yards of offense there's not a lot of backslapping going on.
I do hate this bit. I wince at the idea that Pat Massey stumbled across this thing and swore a silent vow to choke me to death should he ever run across me (If so, Pat, this is what I look like).
But goddamn, sometimes it just has to be said: Ryan Mundy is a 50 yard touchdown waiting to happen. He was out of position on the Wells touchdown, blazed by Pittman on his long run, and -- most egregiously -- came up hard on what was a second-and-inches fake dive, robbing Leon Hall of safety help he expected and needed. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of safety play, but I don't think I need to when we give up a million long run in 2004 with Mundy the starting FS, one in the first half of 2005's first game that's obviously his fault, none the rest of the year with Mundy out injured, and none in all of 2006 until Mundy is pressed into heavy duty with Barringer out and Englemon inexplicably benched.
Not that the rest of the secondary was any better. Hall and Trent were both victimized repeatedly on any route you care to name. And while we knew that Trent was kind of dodgy on short throws, Hall's inability to so much as slow down whoever he was covering was a killer. Hall does get bonus points for limiting Anthony Gonzalez -- I believe they were matched up most of the second half and Gonzalez was not effective -- but whenever he was thrown at his man was open.
Chris Graham isn't a cornerback. But you knew that.
What does it mean?
Well, I was wrong about the Ball State game being irrelevant: Johnny Sears was indeed forced onto the field with frequency and that didn't go so well. If we do get LSU we will be facing a highly efficient pass offense, but is it more Notre Dame or Ohio State? I haven't seen enough of them to know, but only three wide receivers have more than six catches this year (though Jacob Hester has only 91 rushing attempts in LSU's running-back-by-demographic-trend and 34 receptions... third down back or RB/WR?), meaning that it's unlikely we see the four and five receiver sets that murdered us versus OSU. At they very least, if they do they'll be shoehorning them in and throwing to guys who haven't seen much of the ball.
But LSU is a statistical nightmare: 6th in pass efficiency, top ten in every defensive category aside from rushing, where they're 15th. Badass up and down.
WOOOOOOO. According to the Boston Globe, the Rose Bowl will pick LSU and Michigan (barring a UCLA upset).
Ferentz. Oft-rumored as a potential Carr replacement, the bloom has come off the rose a bit with these last couple disappointing years in Iowa City. Mark Hasty takes a look at the Iowa program now and under Hayden Fry:
A quick perusal of the Iowa boards last night found a significant clot of posters who were actually hoping for Kirk Ferentz to leave the university. This is the one of the most unheard-of things I've ever heard of. I'm as disappointed as anyone with Iowa's 6-6 regular season, but statistically, these sort of aberrations have been part of Iowa football since the dawn of the Hayden Fry era.
Bizarre sidenote: I'm reading Friday Night Lights at this very moment and Fry is mentioned as the quarterback of Odessa High's 1946 state championship team.
Much has been made of this Yahoo article on various Michigan message boards, since it compares Michigan and USC's games against ND and declares advantage Michigan, but it's a classic example of not looking at all the information available. Also: can we stop pretending that a "bowl team" is a meaningful distinction. Iowa's going to a bowl this year: they're 2-6 in-conference and lost to Indiana and Northwestern. By playing in a major conference you are guaranteed to have approximately half your schedule make a bowl, because someone's got to win conference games and they're all playing I-AA opponents in the noncon.
Name at cornerback: FL 4-star Doug Wiggins is down to Georgia and Michigan. Also, some bad news from Pasedena: WR/DB commit Zion Babb was declared academically ineligible for his team's playoff game (they got crushed 43-7) and "will meet with Michigan officials this week to discuss his academic status."
Rejoice somewhat. Buried in the latest Forde-Yard Dash is this nugget:
The speed-up-the-game (34) efforts of the NCAA were laudable in theory (we do not need four-hour football games) but not so laudable in practice. The impact on offensive numbers and late-game strategy was too significant to stand. An NCAA source said we can expect at least a moderate revamping of that rule in the offseason.
Etc.: NBCSports columnist and ND alum John Walters A) calls his thing "Upon Further Review" -- I probably should have picked a less obvious name for charty madness -- and B) wonders if ND actually deserves a BCS bowl. Stone him! Report from the football bust. Actual UFR spreads! No doubt temporarily! To That's News To Me, who take a look at the Titans comeback versus the Giants.
Note: UFR coming tomorrow. I have to grab the video myself and that's slowing things down quite a bit. Also, I hate doing this so end up doing other things. I'm almost done, though.
A mighty hat tip to Vijay of IBFC, who brought this to my attention.
I've defended the idea of computer rankings in this space before -- long story short, human pollsters would be just as flawed if they didn't know the scores of any of the games, too -- while knocking their current implementation in the BCS. What I didn't know is how reprehensible certain implementations are. Take, for example, Richard Billingsley of Billingsley report fame.
I like my computer rankings studious and complicated. Whisper math into my ear: regression! matrix! directed acyclic graph! Oh yeah, that's the stuff. I like to think of the creators of these things as four-eyed math PhDs with the complexion of cave fish and hentai addictions. In short, I want them to be smart. I want their writing to be an impenetrable mass of equations.
Believe it or not, the system is designed after our own United States Constitution. But don't hold that against it! Although at times I feel this system is just about as complicated as our Federal Government, there is one huge difference..... this one works!
Take my rankings, please!
This would be charmingly odd if there were some good old fashioned impenetrable and rigorous equations. This is not the case. The Billingsley formula is a ridiculous hodgepodge of kludge factors combined with good old-fashioned human input.
Inanity #1: a team gets more credit for its ranking at the time the game was played than its actual ranking:
For many years I struggled with whether a team's SOS should be calculated by using a teams rating and rank on the day the game was played, or use an opponents most recent rating and rank. There are excellent arguments for both sides. Early on I used ONLY GAME DAY stats. I felt very strongly that if Georgia was ranked #1 when they played #5 Florida, the Gators should get credit for playing a #1 team, even if Georgia later fell to #10. THE MIND SET OF THE GAME, THE INTENSITY OF THE GAME, REVOLVED AROUND PLAYING A #1 TEAM. How can the mind set and intensity of a game be overlooked 4 weeks later? But critics will say "but what if Georgia fell to #50, do the Gators still get credit for playing a #1 team?" Very good point. It does happen. Rankings can fluctuate dramatically during the course of a season. Look at Alabama in 2000.
Several years ago I made a compromise that I think has worked exceptionally well. I use a combination of both, with percentages tilted slightly towards the game day rating and rank. This way both are taken into account. The current rankings are not totally discounted but more credit is given to the original "mind set and intensity" of the game.
First of all, this is a man who thinks "mindset" is two words. Second... that's completely insane. USC gets little credit for playing Arkansas because Billingsley didn't think Arkansas was good going into the season. When reality disagrees with his rankings, he treats it as noise. If Notre Dame had proceeded to go 2-10 after Michigan waxed them, they'd still get a huge boost because ND was #2 when they played.
Inanity #2: arbitrarily rank everyone and then give that ranking real weight because you want the poll to look cool in week #2, when no one cares.
The Season Progression may need a little explanation. They are really a very simple, yet powerful set of rules. I want my poll to "look logical". In the first week of the season if Florida St. beats #107 No. Illinois, and Ball St. beats #58 Memphis, I don't want Ball St. ranked ahead of Florida St. just because they both have 1-0 records. That's not logical. We ALL KNOW Ball St. is not in the same league with Florida St., at least not at this juncture. Let them EARN IT first. Let them prove it over due course of time, then my poll will respond accordingly. That's what I mean by Season Progression. All of my teams start out with a rank, #1-#117, because they ARE NOT ALL EQUAL. We KNOW THAT from past experience, so why not use that experience to begin with. Some would say starting all teams equal, or all at 0, is the only FAIR thing to do. I say it's the most UNFAIR thing you can do, and besides its just plain illogical.
I think some would say that APING HUMAN POLLS is RIDICULOUS because if THAT'S WHAT WE WANTED TO DO we wouldn't PUT COMPUTER POLLS IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Inanity #3: Adamant opposition to having past seasons carryover except when he wants them to.
As I have said many, many, times, I am adamantly OPPOSED to PRESEASON POLLS. They do an incredible injustice to College Football. I could state COUNTLESS examples over the last 50 years of such injustices, but let's look at the most recent glaring example of Texas in 2001? How in this world did Texas deserve a Top 5 Pre Season ranking after having come off a 9-5 #29 campaign? Moving 26 places without ever playing a down of football? Based on what, a new hot quarterback? Give me a break. The sportswriters may as well hold a lottery in George W's 10 Gallon Hat. It would be just as accurate. Enough of that... don't get me started.
Wow. That actually sounds sane. Past seasons shouldn't affect this one at a--
I am convinced that carrying a team's RANK over from one season to the next, and then making the rules for the first few weeks of the season "more relaxed" is the best method to use. To accomplish this I created a different set of rules for the first 4 weeks of the season.
There's no ellipsis there! That thought follows the previous one without a word omitted! Aaaah!
Inanity #4: heavily weighting the last week.
Now, let's go one step further. I don't want a team jumping 60 places from #70 to #10 in November either. You just simply can't turn your season around in one game, even if you beat a #1 team. I want people to be able to look at my poll, look at the previous week's contests, and say, "oh, I can see how he did that". So there are specific rules in place that PREVENT those things from occurring. I guess you could say it "forces a team to progress through the season in a logical fashion". I don't believe a team should be #50 in week #8 and #1 in week #9. I wanted to create as much STABILITY as possible in the poll, especially in the Top 10. If a team moves up, I want a person to be able to see WHY, through looking AT THE MOST RECENT PERFORMANCE FIRST, then taking the other factors into account. Additionally, I feel very strongly that the most recent performance should carry a stronger weight. A team should be better in November than they are in September.
Note that this is exactly what human polls are often accused of: that when you lose is more important than strength of schedule or overall performance. Ask Louisville and West Virginia about this. The idea of a computer poll is to get rid of this bias.
Inanity #4: arbitrary bonuses.
A team's defensive performance is given a special look because in my mind winning the game it's self is a reward of offensive performance, but the defense often gets overlooked. Great teams are built on solid defense and I feel that should be rewarded, even if it is so very slightly. The reward is based on holding an opponent to less than a touchdown, on a scale of 0-6 points, a shutout getting the most benefit. Also, after all is said and done, a final look is made at a team's overall record, and a very small adjustment is made in that comparison. If a team has a winning record, even by just one game, say 3-2 on the season, they get some reward for that.
e come out in favor of polls using yardage, turnovers, and any other data available that they can make sense of. this is not that. This is a completely arbitrary bonus that you get for shutting out Northeast Kansas Tech or don't for letting your third-stringers give up a meaningless late touchdown. It's overvaluing an opponent because it has a 3-2 record instead of a 2-3 record.
Billingsley has set out to create a polls that LOOKS GOOD and in doing so he has put in all sorts of kludges. His poll is an attempt to massage computer data into mimicking human polls. It has nothing more rigorous than Billinglsey's opinion behind hit. It's a Rube Goldberg machine that's embarrassing, and it's part of the BCS.
Note: if you see last week's poll it's a cache thing, I think. Refresh should cure it.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
A BlogPoll salute to the Mountaineers, who saw the chaos of last week's rankings and promptly fixed the problem by losing to South Florida.
Risers: USC didn't move up a spot but they did solidify their hold on #2 by whomping Notre Dame. Last week we had a virtual tie at #2; this week USC has a 0.6 PPB lead.
Fallers: Voters were brutal to last week's losers: ND down seven, West Virginia down six, Texas down six, Georgia Tech down seven, and BC down eight and hanging on by the tippiest tips of their tippy toes to #25. Only Arkansas was given some grace.
Wack Ballot Watchdog:
- The Atlantic Coast Chronicles freakin' hates Auburn: #19. He hated them more last week: they're up a spot.
- Somebody is very wrong about Boise State. We have voters throwing them everywhere from #5 to #24.
- EDSBS gets the most outstanding flippity-flop this week, dropping Georgia Tech 14 spots after remembering that Reggie Ball is the quarterback.
- Um... Pitch Right has Wisconsin, Boise State, and Oklahoma ahead of Florida. The Sooners are #4, which doesn't hold water even if you credit them with a win in the infamous onside kick game.
- Black Shoe Diaries is still holding on to Oregon.
- Eagle In Atlanta has Virginia Tech seventh. Um.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is FSU's Tomahawk Nation. By this point in the season the really weird stuff has been hammered out on the field and the winners in this category usually have a large number of teams slightly off instead of massively weird opinions on specific teams. This is the case here: Corey has Boise and Rutgers three or four spots high, Auburn and Arkansas low, etc. Definitely weird opinions are Nebraska #12, up nine after clubbing a 2-10 Colorado team, Hawaii #15, and Notre Dame way down at #19.
Mr. Numb Existence is Double Extra Point for the third time this year, which is a BlogPoll record. (This is like holding a D-I record at Florida International, granted, though you don't have Ned watching your back.)
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award is the property of Texas blog Bevo Sports for keeping Texas #15 in the face of two straight losses, albeit with a starting quarterback who either warn't playing or warn't right.
Straight Bangin' Award has only one contender this week, -- the other four entrants are noise -- Burnt Orange Nation, which is of course also a Texas blog. Our most gung-ho positive and kill-me-now negative voters both support the same team.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive ... holy crap. That's a lotta movement on Eagle In Atlanta's ballot. Former #8 WVU plummets out of the poll entirely, which has to be an oversight, right? No offense to the fine bloody-e yed folks at TCU, but when they're in the poll and WVU isn't it looks like someone pulled the old Herbstreit. Even aside from the Mountaineer drop, EIA goes nuts: VT #7, up six. UL #8, up 9. Rutgers #9, up five. Green and red all over the place. Um. Yow.
Mr. Stubborn is ND's Catholic Packer Fan, who serenely moved Georgia Tech up a spot after their loss to Georgia, left Arkansas at #6, and gave light slaps on the wrist to most other losers. He's about forgiveness.
The official teams just bucket players into three categories: line, LB, and DB. I think this is dumb. For instance, all four first-team DBs are cornerbacks. Uh... okay. This list breaks the line down into DT and DE and the defensive backs into CB and S. Linebackers are still one big bin.
Remember: Notre Dame worthies are included, though this is way less funny for the defensive side of the ball.
1. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
If you read this blog, you know about Woodley. He has 11.5 sacks and equal-if-not-greater contributions that only show up in OCD game charting. He is the face of the Michigan defense that was so magnificent for 11 of Michigan's 12 games and one of the premiere defensive ends in the country. Justifying his inclusion is like justifying Troy Smith's.
1. Anthony Spencer, Purdue
If Spencer's luck holds -- and let's hope it doesn't -- he'll be playing for the Detroit Lions next year. He was a capital-M Man without a defense in 2006. Anything the Boilermakers managed to do right on that side of the ball was a direct result of something Spencer did. And lord, he did a lot: a Matt-Rothian 26.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. His most impressive/depressing statistic, though was his 86 tackles, second on the team. At defensive end! Spencer was the Kevin Garnett of the Big Ten in 2006. Like Garnett, he should be commended for not snapping and breaking the neck of any of his incompetent teammates.
2. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State
Alternated terrifying edge rushes with equally terrifying (to Ohio State fans) wild run irresponsibility early. As the season wore on the former remained and the latter dwindled, making Gholston scary to only one set of fans. I don't like the idea of him next year, and that's what this list is: Michigan players I love and opposing players I hate. So, yeah. I hate Gholston. Congratulations.
2. Brian Mattison, Iowa
Doesn't have the stats a few others do, but what can I say? I just like the guy. Uh... hate the guy. You know what I mean. When I UFRed the Iowa-Michigan game, he was all over Michigan's zone running game. When I did a tape review of the Iowa-Ohio State game, he was the only guy with a concept of containment and the only guy capable of getting to Troy Smith. Those were Iowa's two biggest games of the year, and he was one of the best players on the field in both
1. Alan Branch, Michigan
Mountain of a defensive tackle who didn't rack up a ton of flashy stats except this one: #1, as in Michigan's rushing defense (despite those, uh, hiccups versus Ohio State, which only served to bring that defense back down into the realms of the mortal). Branch is a disruptor on the interior and a guy you single block at your peril, just like...
1. Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State
A sure first-rounder in April's NFL draft, Pitcock was far and away the best player on Ohio State's defense, crashing through interior lines like they were made of the slightest cotton en route to eight sacks, eleven tackles for loss, and a lot of easy plays for his linebackers.
2. Ed Johnson, Penn State
I know Alford had more sacks and tackles for loss, but when I watched Penn State it was Johnson who was the more consistent of the two Penn State tackles. Alford is a penetrator who relies a lot on quickness and runs himself out of plays here and there, while Johnson is one of those 6'0", 310 pound fireplugs that drives people into the backfield with remarkable regularity. Johnson made more plays than his partner, but fewer of them showed up in his statistics.
2. David Patterson/Terrance Taylor/Jay Alford, OSU/UM/PSU
Yes, this is a cop out. Each benefited from playing next to the above terrors. Alford is a penetrator and a playmaker like Pitcock, while Patterson and Taylor are more in the mold of Johnson. Each filled the space next to their partner with a second playmaking defensive tackle and created havoc in opposing offenses.
1. David Harris, Michigan
Made the leap from pretty good to outstanding his senior year, tracking down backs sideline-to-sideline on all manner of run and pass plays. Other than Branch, he was the man most responsible for Michigan's #1 rush defense. Criminally left off the Butkus finalist list, he's the best Michigan linebacker I can remember (this extends only back to Jarrett Irons, freaked out 40-something Michigan fans). He played nearly every snap Michigan's defense faced and made only one glaring error, a busted coverage that led to Wisconsin's touchdown. I hate the idea of a middle linebacker other than him.
1. J Leman, Illinois
Does anyone remember how awful the Illinois defense was a year ago? Probably not. If you have data about the 2005 Fighting Illini in your head, you are wasting space that could be more productively used with something like the jeans preferences of squirrels. Well, I know nothing about the sartorial splendor of squirrels (imagine Lou Holth thaying that five timeth fath), but I do remember that the 2005 Illinois defense was an abomination.
So if I told you that the 2006 version of same was above average, you'd want to hand out a medal. Well: here's the medal. Leman racked up 152 tackles, 19 for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles as the Illini shot up to 40th in total defense. He was the guy running around against Ohio State stuffing the Buckeye's six million second-half runs. He was... good. Which is weird to say about an Illinois player, let me tell you.
Also: his first name is "J". No period. No abbreviation. Just a letter. He is also unmistakably rocking a mullet in that headshot. Rocking a mullet and wearing an American flag tie. He is Joe Dirt, linebacker. That demands recognition.
1. Dan Connor, Penn State
Outperformed his more touted partner in the opinion of most Penn State fans, and that's good enough for me. He was a force in the PSU games I watched, slightly more likley to burst into the backfield and maul an unsuspecting running back. His 103 tackles came from an outside linebacker position, while Posluszny's 108 came in the middle: slight advantage Connor.
2. Paul Posluszny, Penn State
Probably didn't deserve the Butkus last year (AJ Hawk) or his finalist status this year (arrrrgh David Harris), but still a damn good linebacker. Against Michigan he refused to stay blocked on the second level, slanting and shedding his way to bottle up Mike Hart time and again. Though Hart would finish with 112 yards, they would be his toughest of the season.
2. Mark Zalewski, Wisconsin
I'm mildly upset at my own list here, which is virtually ignoring the Big Ten's fourth badass defense: Wisconsin. They have a couple first-teamers in the secondary, but hardly any representation up front, largely because they suffer from the same problem Ohio State wide receivers do: too much balance. Zalewski doesn't have a million tackles but he does have a mohawk and a bad attitude. (I was briefly tempted to have the second team linebackers be Zalewski, Prescott Burgess, and Shawn Crable so I could make some comment about pityi ng the fool who tries to run on them, but I was quickly tackled and injected with sedatives when I mentioned it. And thank God for that.)
2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
My position on Laurinaitis and his magic, leather-magnetized hands has been made clear: dude is way overrated and belongs nowhere near the Butkus finalist list or the All-American teams he'll no doubt feature on. I blame two people: Troy Smith and Brent Musberger. Smith is the primary motor for Ohio State's #1 ranking and Musberger's intolerable boosterism of him during the Texas game, Iowa game, and every other game was repeated so often that it became true in the minds of the brainwashed masses.
...but he does have his good points. He is fast, able in zone drops -- to get Drew Tate to throw the ball right at you you have to be in good position -- and a good blitzer. If he's kept clean he will fill and tackle ably. He's not bad by any stretch of the imagination and... sigh... deserves a place on this team. But on the second team, dammit, until he defeats a block. Any block.
1. Leon Hall, Michigan
I was confused about the Hall hype -- top corner in the draft, Playboy All-American -- going into the season, thinking him more a Jeremy Lesueur type who would be first or second team all conference and a second or third round pick. I was wrong. Hall is the best Michigan corner since Woodson, solid against both the run and the pass, a superb tackler and technician. He does not have the outrageous athleticism of someone like Justin King, but makes up for it with instincts and smarts. A probable top-ten pick in April's draft.
1. Jack Ikegwuonu, Wisconsin
By all rights should be playing for Purdue with that last name, but the Badgers are glad to have him. Ikegwuonu's matchup with Manningham was the most difficult the Michigan sophomore faced all year -- his long touchdown victimized Allen Langford -- as he found his outs, slants, and the like blanketed, leaving Michigan almost no margin for error on those throws. That's all you can do as a cornerback.
2. Justin King, Penn State
Let's get this out of the way: he can't tackle worth a lick. Run at him and he may as well be a ballerina. But in pure coverage terms, he might be the best in the league. Living up to the recruiting hype, as corners tend to do, his athleticism is NFL-caliber and his instincts are good. Hard to beat deep and hard to sit down in front of, King is a thorn in the side of opposing passing games.
2. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
A jam artist and a tough customer in run support, Jenkins is an up-and-comer in the league. If he manages to rein in his aggression and be smarter about when to back off, he'll be a complete corner. As of now he still gets burnt-crispy deep with some regularity. This year it wasn't relevant since Ohio State got so many sacks and faced so many hobbled or plain bad quarterbacks.
1. Roderick Rogers, Wisconsin
Rogers didn't have to do much against the run thanks to the imposing Wisconsin front seven (their absence from this team should not reflect poorly on them -- it's a tough year to get on this team up there). Free to play centerfield, Rogers picked off two passes, broke up seven others, and was key in Wisconsin's #1 ranked pass efficiency defense -- a number that's overstated due to the Badgers' Minnesota-worthy schedule but still damn impressive.
1. Brandon Mitchell, Ohio State
Ohio State safeties are beginning to bother me like Ohio State kickers do. Where do they unearth these people, and do they have a patent? I bet there's a lab somewhere.
2. Anthony Scirroto, Penn State
I give up and give in to five interceptions. I don't like doing this, but I begin to understand why there are four cornerbacks on the All Big Ten first teams.
2. Jamar Adams, Michigan
Michigan rotated four safeties all year, but what they really did is rotate three guys through free safety and have them play next to Adams, a solid run defender who's comptetent-ish in pass coverage. Yes, it's a weak year for safeties.
We join the action with Michigan up 7-2. Jerrett Smith finds Coleman for a backdoor hoop; Udoh comes in and hits a couple soft jumpers in the lane, picks up a block, and a foul. There's a Harris three in there somewhere. Michigan leads 16-6.
7:19 PM. Dang. Udoh faces up and knocks down a 12-footer. This McCauley guy is pulling Sims out and driving on him. TV timeout 18-10. Notes:
- NC State's second leading scorer is out with a hamstring injury, leaving NC State with five, count 'em, five scholarship players. Yikes.
- Also: Engin Atsur reminds me of a GSI I had named "Emre Enginarlar," who was a fave-rave of ours.
- Epke Udoh... kind of a badass so far.
- Yay Brad Nessler.
- Brent Petway has his number shaved into his head. I don't know how to react to that. It's like he thinks it's 1992.
- Sidney Lowe is NC State's coach. this is causing constant confusion.
Sims abandons his man to double, gets caught way far away, and his dude hits an open jumper. Smith almost tosses teh ball away. WOOOOOOOO PETWAY ALLEY OOP. Nice rebound from Udoh. Abram gets Coleman an open three; miss.
Harris travel bleah. Five TO already.
7:26 PM. WOOOO PETWAY BLOCK. WOOOOO PETWAY BLOCK. WOOOOOO. We can't hit shots on the other end to extend the lead, though. Udoh screws up a rebound, allowing a freshman who looks six to get an and one -- missed the continuation.
Nessler's a little obsessed with Petway... they're in a zone, we're befuddled. Harris jacks up a prayer that misses; Sims cleans it up. 22-14 at the eight minute break.
ESPN 2's bottom line has a countdown to Monday Night Football. I hate Monday Night Football. I hate the implication that I live for Monday Night Football. Tuesday is not six days away from Monday. It is four days away from Saturday, and Saturday does not "tide me over," you college-football-hating communists. In conclusion, please die.
7:33 PM. Lexus doesn't have a sale. They have a "sales event."
Hey, look, Danny Ainge.
Tough turnaround post basket by NC State. Abram miss... followed by crap offensive foul on Sims. Makeup call on the other end. 23 NBA teams have scouts in the building... this is what they call a working holiday. Smith lets his man get open for a three. They can't score, now only up three. Harris bricks a three. Grant goes right around Smith, and Amaker takes a TO.
I love how they're talking about NC State hanging in there like they're playing UConn or something. I know they're supposed to be terrible, but really... as soon as they went to the zone our offense collapsed. And turnover is followed by turnover. Smith AIRBALLS a jumper. Brutal.
Petway another huge block, but it sets up a lucky three. Turnover. Smith gets called for a blocking foul and we hit the break down by two. We haven't scored since the zone got put in. I think the reason I usually hate college basketball is that I spend most of it watching Michigan. Also, the kiddie-pool three point line is ridiculous. And the shot clock is way too long. And the refs are terrible. And the timeout problem is even worse in college. So never mind.
7:40 PM. They go back to man-to-man and Smith drives for a layup. Why go away from the zone? Petway gets a steal but get it poked way. Udoh block falls to NC State. Lucky basket.
Petway tips out a rebound, Ben Wallace Style, and gets a a feed from Smith for a basket... we get a three in our face nad miss one of our own. Smith almost turns it over. Smith is getting torched every time down. Airball from Coleman. This is infuriating. Five scholarship guys, missing their star player, picked last in the ACC, up five with the ball.
7:48 PM. Great. They come down, drive through the lane like we don't exist, and our final shot of the half comes after the whistle. NC State goes into the half up seven.
I don't want to overreact, but we're going winless in the Big Ten, missing the NIT, and Amaker should be fired at halftime. I hate basketball.
7:51 PM. "This team has the potential to make the Final Four." - Digger Phelps. Um.
8:04 PM. Second half starts with two bricked threes and a bricked Sims post move. Plus an open three knocked down on the other hend. NC State up twelve. Turnover. Brutal Petway foul on the other end.
Note: no Michigan free throws in the first half.
Sims bricks a turnaround. Finally something positive: transition opportunity leads to Harris free throws. Aaand that's a loose ball foul they didn't call, I hate you NCAA refs. Udoh in for Sims. More points for NC State, more bricked threes for Michgian. Udoh called for a foul on what looked like a clean block.
Petway knocks down a jumper... rubber rim. ANOTHER open three goes down for Nc State. If this gets to 20 I quit.
Now I'm rooting for it to get to 20 so I can get on with my life.
8:12 PM. Since NC State's best player went out they've outscored Michigan 44-18.
Harris hits a jumper. Offensive rebound for McCauley, then a wide open dunk. Near turnover. DeShawn Sims bricks a jumper. Drive for NC State pushes it to 18. Bricked three... now 2 for 14. One more NC State hoop and I can quit. Foul!
The tension! The horrible tension!
First one's down. Second one's down! NC State by twenty! WOOOOOOOOO.
8:20 PM. Heath Ledger is now macking on Julia Stiles in "Ten Things I Hate About You."
THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE REDUCED ME TO, TOMMY AMAKER.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Note: I've never gotten the idea of All-Whatever teams with two running backs. Teams don't play two running backs. They play a fullback or a third wide receiver or maybe a tight end. Given spreadmania in the Big Ten, the first team offense has three wideouts. A fullback is on the second team.
Also: offensive linemen are broken down by position, which was stupid in retrospect.
Also also: MGoBlog feels sorry for Notre Dame. Since the Irish aren't in a conference, they can't get all-conference level recognition. In the spirit of the season, I've decided to share the Big Ten awards with ND. All deserving Irish players are included.
1. Troy Smith, Ohio State.
I don't want to talk about it. Fortunately, I don't have to since this is obvious.
2. Chad Henne, Michigan.
Wasn't asked to do much -- new Michigan offensive coordinator Mike Debord apparently gets a series of painful electric shocks whenever he calls a first-down pass -- but was efficient when called upon. His strike rate on bombs was exceptional this year and his overall accuracy was similarly improved after an uneven sophomore year. Henne is maturing into the player Michigan fans thought he'd be after an impressive freshman debut, though he was clearly a step behind Smith during The Game.
1. Mike Hart, Michigan
He's little, he's impossible to tackle, and he never fumbles except for that one time he did. But even that wasn't charged against him. Stupid rule, but we'll take it. The backbone of the Michigan offense, Hart led the nation in carries, finished seventh in yards, and drove Michigan up from the ashes of 7-5. He won't win the Doak Walker, but goddammit he should win something. Invent it. The Mike Hart: for being exactly like Mike Hart.
2. Tony Hunt, Penn State
Yes, he was badly outgained by Wisconsin's PJ Hill, but Hill had the following advantages:
- a quarterback
- an offensive line.
You will agree with me that these are important things to have in the game of football, yes? Hunt was the Penn State offense, such as it was. With Anthony Morelli completing a whopping 54% of his passes, teams could tee off on Hunt on anything that looked remotely like a running down. This they did, but Hunt dragged them five yards forward anyway. I went into the year thinking Hunt was average at best, but come out of it with a respect for his pounding style and yeoman service to a lost cause. Without him, Penn State reverts all the way to their 2003-2004 nadir. If you're handing out a "most valuable player" award in the Big Ten... well... Troy Smith still wins. But Hunt is second.
2. BranDon Snow, PSU
I love fullbacks, and place one on this team despite their rapidly fading relevance. Snow was the thumping hammer for Tony Hunt's junior and senior years, when Penn State's running game emerged to rescue it from the bowlless depths of seasons past. Like Kevin Dudley, Snow turns linebackers into a white-hot furrow of snapped limbs and smoke, and that deserves a "shout-out," as the kids say with the hippin' and the hoppin' these days.
1. Mario Manningham, Michigan
Missed three games and was used sparingly in another two after midseason knee surgery, but you can't overlook 19.5 yards per catch and 9 touchdowns, all of them deep balls that Manningham hauled in with a breathtaking gracefulness. Or maybe that last bit is just me. He's inexplicably, remarkably good, physically imposing in no way. The magic is in his routes, which get him yards past befuddled defensive backs, and his hands, which cradle over-the-shoulder bombs like they're kittens. Kittens of Wolverine joy.
1. Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio State
IS BETTER THAN TED GINN. Okay? Okay? It's a testament to Troy Smith that the Buckeyes spread the ball around so much that four receivers ended up with around thirty catches, but it did depress the chances of said receivers getting flashy postseason awards. Well, not here. Gonzalez is fast, smart, and sure-handed, and it was he -- not Ginn -- who turned in the year's best highlight reel moment from the Buckeye wide receiving corps when he turned a short dig route into a WOOP WOOP WOOP thirty yard touchdown against Iowa. Also, he didn't drop like five passes versus Michigan.
1. Dorien Bryant, Purdue
It's a shame that Purdue only has one defensive player who doesn't suck in all the ways you can suck (DE Anthony Spencer), as a Purdue team with a competent defense would have been a fun, dangerous team to watch the rest of the Big Ten play. Bryant was the unquestioned center of that danger, a waterbug of a wide receiver who was Steve Breaston's good twin over the course of his four years as a Purdue starter.
2. Logan Payne, Minnesota
He's big, kind of lumbering, and white, but kind of good and fast and stuff. Where did Logan Payne come from? No one knows. Where is he going? The middle rounds of the NFL draft. The most unsung offensive skill player in the Big Ten, Payne ended up fifth in receiving yards per game playing in a run-dedicated Minnesota offense. He's a dedicated blocker on the edge, quick enough to take a long handoff six or seven yards, and irritatingly good at getting open in zone coverage. This was supposed to be Ernest Wheelwright's spot, but Payne was the focus of the Minnesota passing game.
2. James Hardy, Indiana
Much debate here. Hardy's numbers came in great bursts against certain crappy secondaries (Iowa, Michigan State) but were interspersed with caverns of nothing production against real teams. Still, Hardy had to deal with bracketed coverage, a freshman quarterback, and the general Indiana-ness of Indiana and still played a huge role in most of Indiana's five victories.
1. Matt Spaeth, Minnesota
I've had a throbbing mancrush on the brobdingnagian Spaeth since his sophomore year, when he spearheaded Minnesota's perimeter rushing game with vicious abandon. He slowly became a viable option in the passing game; this year he was a weapon in both the run and pass games. I won't soon forget his down block on Tim Jamison when the Gophers played Michigan: he came in motion and then blew Jamison onto he ground like he was a child. Result: 20 yards for Amir Pinnix. Plus he catches and stuff. Farewell, O Mighty Spaeth.
2. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
...was a linebacker a year ago. This year, he's the Big Ten's second-leading receiver. Saddled with receivers named "Swan" who play like that irritating Asian stereotype from the always-unfunny MadTV, John Stocco had to find someone to throw the ball to. Someone turned out to be Beckum, a hyped defensive recruit a couple years who found an application for this athleticism on the other side of the ball. Beckum has hands and the ability to stretch linebackers down the seam. He's a mismatch waiting to happen and Tyler Donovan's favorite target in 2007, guaranteed.
1. Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
...will be a top five draft pick. Crooshed silly defenders en route to 1500-yard PJ Hill season. Yielded zero sacks. Uh, yeah.
1. Jake Long, Michigan
...will return for his senior year (please?). If he doesn't, will be a first-round draft pick. Michigan ran "zone left" on seemingly half its snaps a year ago, and Long was a major reason why.
2. Mike Otto and Sean Sester, Purdue
The Boilermakers threw a remarkable 505 passes this year. Curtis Painter was sacked only 17 times, largely because the veteran Purdue offensive line walled off opponents like whoah. (Also slightly because Purdue didn't play Michigan or Ohio State.)
Well... crap. I don't know enough about offensive lines and I haven't watched games closely enough to really tell you. So this is sketchy guesswork.
1. Adam Kraus, Michigan
I have watched a lot of Michigan games and observed the interior line play. Kraus has been solid in both pass and run protection. Occasionally he'll miss a block, but that happens to everyone, and when he does it's usually one of those playside nightmares against a slanting DL.
1. TJ Downing, Ohio State
2. Mike JONES, Iowa
2. Kyle Cook, Michigan State
On the theory that the coaches know what they're doing.
1. Doug Datish, Ohio State
2. Mark Bihl, Michigan
Again, coach agreeance by default.
Woo! Interior linemen! So hard!
So much of what is said and published about who should go to the national title game is political. In my world, this is what "political" means:
political. adj. fancy pronunciation thing
- willfully ignorant of the whole picture.
- an argument that cherry-picks only the facts beneficial to your argument and discards those that are harmful.
The only way to determine who should go to the national championship game is to look at the resumes of the contending teams top to bottom. No whining about "unfair" or "deserves" or blah blah rematch. If Michigan had the best season, it goes to the BCS championship game. Did it?
|#1||ND, 37-17||@ ND, 47-21||LSU, 23-10|
|Advantage: Michigan's win over Notre Dame was 34-7 in the first half and 34-14 at the half. At the end of the third quarter it was 40-14; Michigan also was on the road instead of at home. Florida was at home, outgained by LSU and benefited from five Tiger turnovers and a safety on the second-half kickoff. (Note that Michigan also ended up +4 in turnover margin, but was only plus one by the time the game was out of reach. They also dominated in terms of yardage.) LSU's a better team than Notre Dame, but I think Michigan's performance was the most impressive.|
|#2||@ Ark, 50-14||UW, 27-13||(neutral site)Ark, ???|
|(Note that this scenario assumes a Florida victory over Arkansas, though a relatively narrow one.) Advantage: USC. If you assume that Arkansas and Wisconsin are approximately equal -- or even if you assume UW is the better team -- a 50-14 road stomping trumps a solid home victory that was close into the second half. It should be noted that there were a lot of mitigating factors on the USC blowout. Arkansas, more than any other team in the country, has improved since their opener. Human swiss army knife Darren McFadden was dinged. Casey Dick was unavailable. But... uh... 50-14. On the road. If Florida wins the SECCG by 21 that'll be a better victory given Arkansas' improvement, but that isn't likely. To put it mildly.|
|#3||Cal, 23-9||@ PSU, 17-10||@ Tenn, 21-20|
|Advantage: Comparative scoring is always a dangerous exercise, but Cal bombed Minnesota while Penn State needed a fortunate pass interference call in overtime to win. The polls also suggest that Cal and Tennessee are better than Penn State. I believe them in this instance. So PSU is out. We're left with a two-touchdown victory over Cal at home versus a one-point victory over UT on the road. UT bombed Cal. Call it a tie, and that's being generous to Florida.|
|#4||Nebraska, 28-10||@ Minnesota, 28-14||Georgia, 21-14|
|Advantage: This is where the bottom drops out for Michigan. Minnesota is 6-6, got waxed by Cal, and generally impressed no one in an off year. Neither Nebraska or Georgia is a powerhouse but Nebraska's 9-3 and heading to the Big 12 championship game and Georgia is 8-4. Advantage Trojans here, as Nebraska was really never in the game while Florida allowed a late Georgia comeback to make it interesting.|
|#5||Oregon, 35-10||Iowa, 20-6||SoCar, 17-16|
|Advantage: These are all equally mediocre opponents, though both Oregon and South Carolina are 7-5 instead of Iowa's 6-6. USC hammered the Ducks, while Michigan struggled all game and Florida needed a miraculous three blocked kicks to scrape by the other USC. Two points Trojans.|
|OTHERS||UCLA, Arizona State, Washington State, Washington, Arizona||CMU, Indiana||Kentucky, So Miss, 'Bama|
|Advantage: USC. None of the above teams are exactly world-beaters but all are at least half-decent. USC has five of them, Michigan two, and Florida three. Two points Trojans.|
|JUNK||Stanford||Ball State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt||Western Carolina, Vanderbilt, Central Florida|
|Advantage: One team USC played is worse than 5-7. One team! While most big time universities have three or four automatic wins built into their schedule, USC had one. No late-season Ball State or Western Carolina. Two points Trojans.|
|LOSS||@ Oregon State, 33-31||@ Ohio State, 42-39||@ Auburn, 27-17|
|Advantage: Michigan, obviously. But the gap here is not quite as severe as it seems. Oregon State ended up 8-4 and USC had a chance to tie with a two point conversion, where Michigan and Florida needed a miracle to come back in their losses.|
Well... there you have it. Michigan has a narrow advantage in "best win" but after that it's all Trojans until you get to the loss category. They clearly lost to the least intimidating opponent, but unlike their competition they battled back and had a chance to tie at the death. Also, OSU benefited from a panoply of freak plays: a punt return touchdown, USC turnovers, etc. I think the most astounding thing about USC is this: they played one team worse than 5-7. When they rolled on to the field this year, all but one of their opponents was capable of beating them.
If you really think that Michigan's Notre Dame win was superlative enough to override USC's season of wins against solid opposition and that their Oregon State loss was an unforgivable sin, you can make a case for Michigan. But let's give it up, guys. USC's tiebreaker is Arkansas and Nebraska versus our Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, and Ball State. They took on two above-average BCS teams. We took on the worst team in the SEC and two MAC teams, though one of them happens to be okay this year. Set aside the Michigan fandom and look at the big picture: if USC has this season and does not make the NC game, no one will ever schedule anyone again. It's time to take the bullet.
Let's go Bruins!
(Side note: how excellent does a four-team playoff look this year? Way.)
Saw a lot this weekend: A&M-Texas, Arkansas-LSU, USC-ND, bits of Wake-Maryland, WVU-USF once it was clear WVU was in trouble, Florida-FSU, Clemson-South Carolina, BC-Miami. Let's hear it for spreading games out over three days.
- I've decided Wisconsin goes no further forward than the tail end of the top ten until their bowl game. Their best win is Penn State. After that... Purdue? Thanks to their embarrassing nonconference schedule and missing OSU, we have desperately few data points on Wisconsin and it would be the height of conveyor-belt mania to stick them above Arkansas or Notre Dame just because they happen to play more than one good team in a year.
- Wooo LSU! Okay: I've been a skeptic all year, but with everyone else losing and LSU claiming a couple quality wins, they bounce way up.
- The rest seems pretty standard to me, except maybe the PSU vote at #25. But whatever.
I'm out until Monday. There will be some posts on the Fanhouse, but I make no guarantees as to their Michigan relevance.
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