"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
It's mailbag time, which means a lot of people write things that aren't me and I respond to them, hopefully in slightly less lazy fashion than newspaper guys.
First, frequent commenter Other_Andrew puts in the time to break down the Pernicious Michigan Bye effect in convincing fashion:
You once mentioned "beware the Michigan bye" or something to that effect. Two months ago, I did a little research on that issue (because I've long noticed it as well), and here's what I found:
There is quite a skew â€“ especially when you consider the fact that Michigan has the best record in the conference over this time period â€“ these teams should all have a leg up just based on the fact that they don't play Michigan. Below is place followed by conference record. There are only three instances of a finish third place or higher. Three out of 28. There are nine finishes in the bottom two (counting ties), eleven in the bottom three. Granted, Ohio State and Michigan finish near the top very often which takes up potentially high slots, but this list seems more than coincidentally lousy:
Indiana --> 4t (5-3)
Northwestern --> 10t (0-8)
Indiana --> 8 (3-5)
Northwestern --> 10 (2-6)
Iowa --> 6 (4-4)
Wisconsin --> 7t (3-4-1)
Iowa --> 3t (6-2)
Wisconsin --> 7 (3-5)
Illinois --> 11 (0-8)
Purdue --> 2t (6-2)
Illinois --> 7t (2-6)
Purdue --> 4 (6-2)
Minnesota --> 4t (5-3)
Iowa --> 11 (0-8)
Minnesota --> 5t (4-4)
Iowa --> 8 (3-5)
Indiana --> 4t (4-4)
Northwestern --> 10t (2-6)
'02: (the year OSU and Iowa missed one another, both
Indiana --> 10t (1-7)
Northwestern --> 10t (1-7)
Penn State --> 9t (1-7)
Wisconsin --> 7t (4-4)
Penn State --> 9 (2-6)
Wisconsin --> 3 (6-2)
Purdue --> 8 (3-5)
Illinois --> 11 (0-8)
Add in '06:
Purdue --> 4t (5-3)
Illinois --> 10t (1-7)
Combined record: 74-128 (36.6%)
Average place: 7.5 (note, I counted a 4t as 4.5 in all cases - three way ties get the benefit of the doubt and still only gain a half point, not a full point)
I didn't have time to pull in all the data for the other schools, so I don't know how many standard deviations away from the mean we are, but I'm guessing it's several. So firstly, it doesn't bode well for the fortunes of Indiana or Iowa next year.
However, I'm more interested in exactly why this keeps happening. Part of the reason is that the OSU game is protected and they usually finish near the top of the league. MSU is also protected and, aside from this year, they always finish in the middle. So that is probably PART of it, but that should go double for OSU considering they are protected against UM (best record over the time period) and PSU (third best record? Maybe fourth?). Yet, they missed Wisc this year and undefeated Iowa in '02. I suppose I would have to check out their entire schedule to be fair, but I don't have time right now.
My theory (might be a not-terrible one): Teams need to get fired up for the coming season early on in order to have a good year. We can look at Michigan this season for an example. As soon as Ecker was tackled by 38 Cornhuskers, every player on the team began preparation for a stellar 2006. And they delivered. [This email was sent before the Rose Bowl, if anyone takes issue with Andrew's characterization here. - ed.] So, perhaps when a team knows that Michigan is not on their schedule, they don't prepare as hard in the offseason, thinking that the schedule looks favorable. So they relax a bit and it costs them during the season. I dunno. Iowa over the next two years, missing UM and OSU will be interesting to watch. I just think that the data is too compelling to say it's just a random anomaly. But maybe that's all it is...
First, excellent work there. I tried to add up OSU and MSU's record over that timespan of 14 years and came up with impossible numbers. OSU came out as 86-26-1, which is one game extra, and despite reviewing the numbers like six times I got 50-66-1 for State, which is five games too many. Engineering, ladies and gentlemen!
In any case, our protected opponents are around 59.5% in the league, give or take a percentage point or two. Since OSU and MSU make up about 1/4th of our bye team's schedules (it's actually slightly less since occasionally a team will miss both MSU and UM or UM and OSU), the protected-games effect would explain our below-average bye opponents... if their average record was around a 46 or 47% winning clip. Thirty-six percent? Well, the football gods are angry at more than Michigan safeties, evidently.
As for your projected explanation... I don't buy it. I don't think the presence or absence of Michigan on the schedule is enough to explain things like going 0-8 in conference or whatever. Any reduced motivation because these crappy teams aren't going to get their heads kicked in by Michigan is offset by the prospect of getting away with one less hiding, IMO. Our consistently dreadful bye opponents is just the universe being bloody-minded.
Just thought I'd pass this along to you in case you haven't seen it. Gotta check out Zoltan Mesko's Facebook picture. Your Zoltan t-shirts and nicknames are hilarious, but honestly, it doesn't get much better then the man himself using the Facebook to promote his new, technologically advanced athletic prowess.
Oh, and if you check out the Facebook groups he belongs to, one of the first few that's listed is the "Official Facebook mgoblog Fan Club." Zoltan reads your site! OMG! Plus, the fact that you have a Facebook group dedicated to you with 22 members means, correct me if I'm wrong, that you have hit the big time.
And, yeah, I'm a 20 year-old college kid that doesn't even go to UM who sent an e-mail to an adult regarding an 18 or 19 year-old male's HILLLLARIOUS Facebook page. And there is NOTHING wrong with that.
I couldn't get to the Zoltan facebook page -- probably some bullcrap "laws" about "restraining orders" -- but Greg helpfully forwarded along "the Puntinator":
For those with poor eyesight, the left side reads "The Puntinator"; the right "My Mission Is To Pin You Deep." I have no insight to add here, except that's awesome.
This one is depressing.
After today's dispiriting loss, I went and looked -- I was actually at the last Michigan win in the Rose Bowl, 1/1/98. That was the last time I saw the Rose Bowl in person; obviously, it's my fault that Michigan hasn't won there since.
Then I kept looking. and found further proof that Lloyd Carr simply can't handle jet-lag. Here's the list of every game they've played since 1/1/98 west of Minneapolis:
W 11/28/98 @ Hawaii 48-17
L 09/16/00 @ UCLA 20-23 (damn Rose Bowl!)
L 09/08/01 @ U-Wash 18-23
L 09/20/03 @ Oregon 27-31
L 01/01/04 vs. USC -- Rose Bowl
L 01/01/05 vs. Texas -- Rose Bowl
L 12/28/05 vs. Nebraska -- Alamo Bowl
L 01/01/07 vs. USC -- Rose Bowl
So, yeah, 1-7 since the last Rose Bowl victory in games west of the furthest-west conference possibility. And the one victory was against powerhouse Hawaii, who finished without a single victory that year.
I'm not going to call for Carr's head. I like the guy. He's a Michigan man. But maybe he can miss the connection in Denver next time, eh?\
Yeah. The worst part is that many of those losses were flukefests: the UCLA game featured Hayden Epstein missing 27 yard field goals and an E3W headline -- "Epstein Picked Last At Kickball" -- commemor
ating the event that a football player snatched from one of my compatriot's hands and promised to show Epstein, mischievous gleam in his eye. We were about to go up two scores on Washington when they blocked a field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. The next play was a short out (IIRC) that the receiver batted into a DB's hands for another cheap touchdown. We dominated that game. *We* blocked a field goal for a touchdown against Oregon and still managed to lose the special teams battle by two touchdowns. The Texas game was a classic decided on the last play; it appeared that Shazor actually brushed Mangum's FGA with his elbow and, adding terrible unconsolable pain to injury, that the slightly deflected ball then went through Burgess' hands. Had Shazor's arm moved a centimeter either way, that field goal is blocked and everyone around these parts is a lot happier. (Let's not talk about [BOWL REDACTED].)
Right, this goes back to the Angry God thing.
What's up with people randomly posting comments on sports blogs in ALL
CAPS WITH LOTS OF !!!!!!!!! EXCLAMATION POINTS?
I meant to ask you this at the basketball game. It's like '94 when
AOL users were suddenly dropped into the depths of USENET.
It's just odd to me, because I read a lot of different types of blogs
and it's only the sports blogs where you see this type of thing (not
the sports forums, message boards, etc).
I hope you aren't referring to the commenters here, whose bad behavior usually consists of calling each other losers in the most high-faluting language available. If you're referring to The Fanhouse... well... AOL. I have to read every comment left to make sure that naughty words or tasteless jokes about Mario Danelo's death get deleted, and it makes me want to cry. I am often tempted to delete everything. But what can you do? Even the comments here took a sharp downward turn late in the season. I'm considering various schemes to combat drive-by OMG LOL flamers. It shouldn't be a problem in the offseason, but I need a button to push to cut down on the guys who spell lose "loose".
Isn't Firefox 2's integrated red-underline spellchecker the best thing ever?
Hells yes! Did I write that last one? Not tellin'.
I present the weekend in Michigan sports:
- The hockey team does its usual Saturday mail-in, losing 2-1 to a tenth-place Northern team and dropping further behind Notre Dame and Miami. Michigan is in severe danger of missing the tournament for the first time in sixteen years.
- The basketball team is obliterated by Purdue. At 2-1, the dread spectre of yet another NIT appearance looms.
- Safety Jerimy Finch, the consensus best recruit in Michigan's class not named "Mallett," decommits. To go to INDIANA. Delightfully-named tiny scatback Marquis Maze is contacted by Michigan recruiting people and mentions that Michigan coaches haven't contacted him in months and he's going somewhere else.
So... yeah. Also the Pistons lost to Atlanta and the Oilers have returned from the Year of Pronger to their usual "maybe we'll scrape into the playoffs, but maybe not" selves. I'm cranky.
What's Wrong With... Hockey.
- The second powerplay unit. I can think of no better summary of Michigan's shocking State-like lack of depth than what purports to be our second power play unit: Brandon Naurato, Brian Lebler, Travis Turnbull, Matt Hunwick, and Mark Mitera. No offense to any of those players (except perhaps Hunwick, who is a senior but still causes me to say "what the hell were you thinking?" at least once per night), but that's a checking line.
- There are two and a half defensemen I'm actually confident in. Kampfer keeps getting yanked for making horrible turnovers and Chris Summers has been little better. The NHL must really love the latter's skating (gorgeous, to be fair), because he's consistently beaten along the boards for pucks, often finds himself wildly out of position, and just gives me the heebie-jeebies in general. Throw in Hunwick's usual maddening play, and bleah.
- Goaltending. I've said my piece on this before. Sauer can't be blamed for what happened Saturday. The first goal may have been a little soft -- short side and under the glove -- but that was on a breakaway. Other than that, he was excellent. Unfortunately, that stands out as the exception.
So that appears to be defense, offense, and goaltending. The problems are comprehensive. Three guys who you can leave out of any hockey-team related bitchign you may do: Hensick, Johnson, and Rolfhs. Each has been playing near the height of his ability.
What's Wrong With... Basketball.
What's Wrong With... Recruiting.
God, I don't know. What a weird year. There's an unprecedented amount of talent in state that we manage to get very little of. Colasanti is enamored of Penn State from the beginning for some reason. Sawtelle is a Tennessee legacy. Barksdale is a needy primadonna who gets angry at the coaches for not remembering the exact sequencing of their secret handshake. Dionte Allen flees to Florida State once they tell him he can be their offensive coordinator. Taurian Washington is the second OLSM kid in two years to go to OSU. Now we've lost a recruit to... and I can't stress this enough...
Only time will tell whether Finch is brilliantly prescient or, you know, not. I'm betting on "not," myself. What a bizarre decision: premiere program coming off 11-2 season that plays in largest stadium in the country versus basketball school that occasionally scratches out a Motor City Bowl bid and plays in front of something like 20,000. This is the worst decommitment ever.
Now you'll excuse me. I have to find a flat surface to bang my head against.
Note for confused bloggers wishing to vote in the things which aren't the "Suxors." There is a form that you vote at. Here is where the Voting Machine is.
Your full list of early enrollees: Ryan Mallett, Vince Helmuth, Austin Panter, and Artis Chambers. The first three were already known to be enrolling... well... now, but Chambers is a surprise.
It's been a bad week for the kind of person who idly wonders about building a sterilization ray when he encounters most people, even when they aren't using one game, no matter how lopsided, as vindication for whatever crackpot theories they espouse. I've spent much of the week sputtering in helpless rage, so I'll let a decidedly lucid SMQB make the point:
First rule of order, as it were: recognition and celebration that sometimes this game makes no sense. Maybe we're fools for attempting to impose decorum on entertainment fundamentally fueled by its predilection for shock and anarchy.
Certain truths emerge which cannot be reconciled with any other existing facts or theories.
- - -
But we try to make coherent the naturally disordered anyway, even as our efforts at methodically synthesizing disparate facts are repeatedly mocked. In some way, then, method must account for anarchy, or inevitably succumb to it. Because this isn't science; sometimes this game makes no sense.
The bowl season - not only the mythical championship game, but also the Rose and Fiesta bowls, most prominently - vindicated the November conversation and SMQ's resume argument in myriad ways, primarily by broadcasting live to a stunned nation unmitigated dismantlings of the two teams it was repeatedly assured were "the best" and had only a little more than a month earlier engaged in a timeless struggle of wills for unquestioned supremacy rather than put on just another entertaining, emotional shootout on the same level of play as, say, Louisville-West Virginia.
But what SMQ would most like to point out in light of Monday's merciless pantsing of the team officially earmarked as the "best" in America through the three-month regular season is not that Ohio State was "exposed" or that Florida "proved" to humbled skeptics the indomitable essence that dwells eternally in its collective soul of souls. Rather, he'd like to defend the conviction that Ohio State really was, in fact, the "best" team in the nation from September through November, in the sense the Buckeyes' cumulative performance over that span deserved by all available evidence to be considered superior to that of any other team, and offer the untimely demise of that perception Monday as evidence there is nothing dwelling in the blood pumping through a team's metaphorical veins that can tell us anything about any single performance outside of itself; that is, what occurred in the championship game, like any other, was representative only of the championship game, and should inform our opinions about its participants only as an addition to the months-long whole. A prominent addition, of course, but by no means the all-defining one or, very importantly, one that can be extrapolated to prove great inner truths about certain conferences or larger trends within - unless, of course, you're willing to argue the relative merits of Ohio State's "speed," however that is supposed to be measured, and by extension that of Michigan, Iowa, Penn State and Texas, in relation to the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence of Vanderbilt and South Carolina, which each fared exponentially better against the Gators than the Buckeyes. Sometimes this game makes no sense.
Indeed. In my formative years trawling through various Rivals message boards I stumbled across a wonderfully dorky post that burned itself in my mind and fundamentally altered my perception of college football. This was in the aftermath of some Purdue-Michigan game or another that ended 31-3 in favor of Michigan. Attempting to cope, some engineer or another doodled out this ASCII image of Gaussian football genius:
|| __ __ ||
|| / \ / \ ||
\// \ / \\/
/ P \/ M \
/ /\ \
--/ ___--/ \--_____\--___
He then explained: the two uncapped pyramids are normal distributions of overall performance labelled "P" and "M"; the arrows display the actual performances turned in that day by the respective teams. On a good day for Purdue and a bad day for Michigan, Purdue could win. On an average day, they would lose but not by four touchdowns, by God. The assumption that the winner of any particular game is obviously the better team is just that, an assumption. When the score is 31-3 or 41-14 you can be fairly certain that assumption is a good one. But never sure.
One thing you would think, though: the bonafide #1 and #2 teams in the country would have pyramids damn near on top of each other. And unless probability was really screwing with us the games they produce would more often than not be worth watching after, say, halftime. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.
As the Not Fiesta got more and more lopsided it seemed much less a vindication of the BCS for having chosen the two "right" teams and more a vicious rebuke of it for having the presumption to pick two teams at all. I've made this point before, but here it goes again: college football has the sparsest data of any sport anywhere in the world. Teams play a mere 12 games per year and far fewer than that are actual "games" rather than glorified exhibitions with a 90% or better chance of victory for a powerhouse. At the end of the year we have but the barest suggestion that one or two teams are better than the remainder, a suggestion so bare that the presumed Greatest Team Ever This Year got stomped 41-14, raising questions not about Florida's place in the Not Fiesta but rather that of the GTETY. Submitted that last year everything worked fine, but as King Kaufman points out...
It also means that three times in the past six years the BCS has offered up a Championship Game that was a blowout.
It's one thing if a title game at the end of a tournament is a rout. At least both teams plausibly played their way in. But when a system pulls two teams from the multitudes and places them in the final by fiat, that final had better be a damn good game more often than not. A lot more often. It had better be a fluke, rather than routine, for one of the teams to look like it doesn't belong.
The frequency of pretenders getting to the title game is one more reason to dislike the BCS, which brings us to about 1,800.
Eventually, the BCS is going to collapse under the weight of its own stupidity. That stupidity was in full flower this year, with the Boise State upset over Oklahoma and the Florida pole-axing of Ohio State combining to illustrate beautifully that judging teams on paper and declaring that two and only two will play for the title just doesn't work.
On the balance, there have been far fewer satisfying matchups between undisputed titans than vicious melees between indistinguishable teams vying for their place in the stupidest playoff in the world.
Which is why I felt... zo unsatysfyed after the fireworks and confetti and crystal whatever.
Ga-tors, Ga-tors, We Stick It In You.
Ugh! The official winner of the inagural MaxwellPundit?
Andre Ware. Er... Hawaii QB Colt Brennan, AKA "Timmy Chang++." I'm appalled at my fellow voters for going with the default player you didn't see fail instead of the much better, though flawed, candidates that actually played in the season's most important games. Tenuous justifications of schedule strength universal in his selections prop up Alabama (a 25-17 loss), Purdue (awful defense), Oregon State (loss), and Arizona State (awful defense) as indicators that Brennan was battle-tested or something. But shiny stats rule all, I guess.
Etc.: Entertaining story on the '87 Fiesta from ESPN the Magazine. (Via FO); problems with referees in the WCHA... hey, at least you didn't get called for like 80 penalties against the worst team in the league by a guy who has to be "Bull" from "Night Court"
Two notes from various sources:
Yards After Mundy is no more. Ryan Mundy will not return for a fifth year. His shoulder was cited as the reason and we can leave it at that.
No we can't: ARRRRRRRRGH TACKLE SOMEONE ARRRRGH.
(Note: upon hearing this news my mind wandered and I decided that he was in my Michigan Secondary From Hell, which features Mundy and Cato June at the safety spots and Todd Howard at one corner, but who's the other corner? And have I stiffed Ernest Shazor?
This also spurred further cogitation about various other Unit Groupings From Hell -- tellingly much more difficult to compile than the secondary, which sprang to mind virtually unbidden. Linebacker would be Zack Kaufman, Scott McClintock, and just lost the services of Prescott Burgess after his fine senior year. Right tackle is Courtney Morgan. David Underwood at RB, etc, etc. Let's hear it for painful thought exercises!)
Andy Moeller may be movin' on out. Persistent rumors around the Stanford campus have Moeller joining Harbaugh's staff in some capacity. He wasn't announced in a round of recent hirings that did not include an offensive line coach. There are other rumors out there about staff changes but nothing I have anything quasi-reliable on.
So. What seems clear disappears into a heap of confusion as the season clatters to a halt. Troy Smith bites the dust against Florida. Darren McFadden goes meekly against Wisconsin. Slaton's fumbles still haunt WVU, and it's not like I was voting for Brady Quinn anyway but good God the NFL has to perk up to these performances sooner or later, yes/no?
Jumble jumble. So who was the best player in the country? Hell if I know. Candidates in no particular order:
PRO: Indisputably best defensive back in the country no matter what the Thorpe people think. Crusher who mixed highlight reel hits with actual interceptions (and interceptions caused either directly or indirectly). Leader of a secondary that plain annihilated Heisman winner Troy Smith. Possesses kickin' dreads.
CON: Is a safety, and not one of those run-supporting terrors that rack up a lot of tackles. Statistically thin: 6 INTs, 34 tackles, 2 TFL. (Noted that the INTs are not thin.)
PRO: Man-mountain defensive tackle was the real motive force behind the Michigan defense all year and can't be blamed for its secondary-based implosion. One of the few Michigan defenders to show well in games against OSU (two turnovers and can't be charged with any of the damage done) and USC (key in limiting USC's run game when they bothered with it). Featured abandoning the carcass of Anthony Morelli in one of the year's iconic images. Guaranteed top ten NFL draft pick, which is not what the award is about but is an indicator of his talent at a position the layman finds hard to judge.
CON: Like Nelson, plays at a position that is not looked upon kindly by statistics. Unlike Nelson, plays on a defense that was scalded in two consecutive losses at year's end.
PRO: Is Calvin Johnson.
CON: Erased in several critical GT games this year, whether it was by opposing defenses or Reggie Ball.
PRO: Few players can claim to have the sort of transformative effect on a program that McFadden did this year upon the Razorbacks. Houston Nutt was headed for unemployment at the beginning of the year after a crushing at the hands of USC followed up by limp and fortunate wins over SEC dregs Vanderbilt and Alabama. A nooner versus #2 Auburn on CBS loomed as the first step on a downward spiral that would end in a game versus a Sun Belt foe. Then -- poof -- like that, he's gone. McFadden went Keyser Soze on the Auburn defense, staked Arkansas to a lead and they didn't look back until they ran straight into vastly superior opposition in LSU and Florida. Before the ride was over McFadden had taken the Razorbacks to the SEC championship game and a New Year's Day bowl despite playing on a team with -- and I want to make this very clear -- not even the barest hint of a functional quarterback. Also was bestowed with the year's coolest nickname: "Humanity Advanced."
CON: He was bottled up and watched his team lose the aforementioned SEC championship game and New Year's Day bowl.
PRO: Is also Calvin Johnson, basically.
CON: Missed significant chunk of the year with an injury. Of no use in MNC-shattering loss to UCLA.
PRO: A defensive tackle who throws the ball willy-nilly all over the field and to extraordinary effect. Fastest waddler in history of college football. Culpepperian/Lorenzenian dimensions always good for a laugh/wonder.
CON: Singlehandedly responsible for most of LSU's turnovers against Florida and thus actively lost his team's most important game of the season. Other players with resume flaws were usually neutralized.
...but seriously, folks...
1. Reggie Nelson, Florida. I will admit to the possibility that I have been seduced by extracurriculars that have little impact on his play on the field (Orson's mancrush, his ability to fill the disappointing shoes of the last guy who looked like the Predator, Omar Jacobs, with bone-mangling authority befitting the hairstyle -- which should now be passed on to sufficiently badass Florida safeties until the stars grow cold and dim, like the #1 finds its way onto the shoulders of Michigan receivers). But six interceptions and a convincing case from various announcers during Florida games that a fair number of the rest of Florida's staggering total of 21 picks were caused either directly or indirectly by Nelson make a convincing case outside of personal biases. Florida was fourth in pass efficiency difference in a year when knowledgeable Florida fans were downright panicking about everyone other than Nelson in the secondary.
Plus... you know you're dealing with some sort of eccentric football genius if you've ever watched the guy line up 15 yards deep presnap. Who does that? Who aligns themself like that and singlehandedly removes the deep pass from every opponent? A cover-two in one body, I give you Reggie Nelson.
2. Alan Branch, Michigan. The one benefit of Smith performing so miserably and OSU losing so heavily -- other than schadenfreude and a sudden thinning of the OSU troll horde in the comments and the crowd shots of OSU fans late in the MNC game and... let's start over.
One of the many benefits of Troy Smith performing so miserably and OSU losing so heavily in the national championship game is it allows me to vote for defensive players with a clear conscience, which I must confess was always my hope. For a long time it looked as if my MaxwellPundit ballot would be indistinguishable from that of an addled Heisman voter who only acknowledges that players exist on one side of the ball. Not so in the wake of Smith's sudden (and severe) mortality.
So here goeth Branch, which may be homerism of a sort, but all I can say is that I've watched every snap he's played this year and good God. Michigan returns Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson, two very promising players who were outstanding as mere sophomores this year, but Branch is a once-in-a-generation talent for the Michigan program. But, really, this is the reason:
For ten games this year the story was the Michigan defense, and though it came crashing down around him Branch remained steadfast in the middle.
3. Darren McFadden, Arkansas. Sheer improbability counts for something. Earns major style points for the Wildcat stuff. Featured in one of the year's turning point plays; threw touchdowns when too bored to run them in himself; arose and dragged Arkansas through the muck. This year's Atlas, and next year's, too, if Mustain doesn't improve quickly. Bonus points for nickname and tendency to zip into endzones.
4. Troy Smith, Ohio State. Hideous failure slides him way down. What do you do with this guy? He was magnificent when called upon, aside from that Penn State game, -- and even then he turned in one of the year's most memorable plays -- until the final hurdle, when he almost literally could not have played worse. There is much crowing about speed and pressure and blah blah from slack-jawed yokel country, but from this observer's perspective the only speed deficiency suddenly apparent in the Not Fiesta bowl existed in Smith's synapses. Particularly inexcusable was the final nail in OSU's coffin where he held onto the ball far, far too long, allowing Jarvis Moss to rattle it free from behind.
I still can't shake the terror that bastard engenders in me, though, so on the list he s tays.
5. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech. Pure sentiment, I'll admit, the equivalent of a Heisman voter slapping a token defender third on his ballot or that guy who voted for an Alabama punter one year. What could have been if Johnson had not saddled himself with -- and I submit that this is no exaggeration -- the worst four-year starting quarterback in NCAA history? No one knows.
Viva la defense!
The Heisenblog has all college commits and players helpfully listed. I distill further:
23 PACIORETTY, MAX USHL SIOUX CITY 20-Nov-88 6' 1.5" 203 * LW L
68 PALUSHAJ, AARON USHL DES MOINES 7-Sep-89 5' 11" 170 * RW R
89 WINNETT, BEN BCHL SALMON ARM 3-Apr-89 5' 11.75" 173 * LW R
90 LLEWELLYN, TRISTIN USHL TRI-CITY 2-May-89 6' 1" 189 * D L
124 RUST, MATT USDP USA U-18 23-Mar-89 5' 9.5" 192 * C L
152 CAPORUSSO, LOUIE OPJRA ST. MICHAELS 21-Jun-89 5' 9.25" 185 * C L
(Note that D commit Kevin Quick was a third-rounder last year and G commit Bryan Hogan is ranked #14 amongst goalies.)
Now, these are all "NA" rankings. The CSB holds North American Skaters separate from Euros until their final rankings, so mentally shove everyone down a few rounds. Pacioretty is probably a second-rounder. Palushaj fourth, Winnett and Llewellyn fifth or sixth, and Rust and Caporusso will either go at the tail end of the draft or not at all.
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.
Four voters bail and swim to the flatly indefensible idea of Boise State, national champions. Don't take my word for it: SMQ demolished blue-turfed hopes yesterday. Defectors from the cause of sense and sensibility:
- Card Chronicle
- Pitch Right
- The Nittany Notebook
- 50-Yard Lion.
Penn State loves them some contrarianism or hates them some Urban Meyer, take your pick. Despite said aberrations, Florida is your 2006 Blogpoll Champion.
Grating: Wisconsin over Michigan, as there's little doubt Wisconsin's record would also feature two losses had they bothered to play Ohio State; add in the matter of Michigan's two-touchdown victory over the Badgers in the Big Ten opener and that ranking smacks of rote AP-ism. Bad voters.
Risers: Cal was your biggest winner, up six after blowing A&M into ag nuggets in the Holiday Bowl. Boise shot up to #4 after Fiesta Del Johnson.
Fallers: Though oddly forgiving of Ohio State's thorough beating in a bowl game because their offensive line decided they couldn't block, voters hammered Michigan six spots. Notre Dame's thorough beating for similar reasons -- sensing a midwestern trend here -- similarly cost them six spots. But the biggest dropper was Tennessee, down eight to #25 after losing to Penn State.
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 50-Yard Lion, one of our Boise fans. Other anomalies: Hawaii #16, Texas #20, Arkansas #22, BYU #10, TCU #14. Mid-major mad is 50YL.
Mr. Numb Existence Is Maize 'n' Brew; in case anyone is wondering that 0.75 is extraordinarily low. But you weren't so nevermind.
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.
Straight Bangin' Award is Rocky Top Talk's for excluding Tennessee from his ballot. Since Tennessee is #25 in the poll at large, this can be safely filed under "sane" and we can move on.
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 goes to Orange 44, and it's fairly easy to see why: WOOOOO BOISE STATE, up 18(!) to #2. The rest of the ballot follows in that vein.
Mr. Stubborn is the 614, an Ohio State blog who probably wishes it was still last week and his ballot reflects that.
Warning: if you like pot way too much stop reading right now before it's too la--
Duuuude. Freaky. I am your duly appointed nomination representative for the following awards.
The Trev Alberts Quits To Do Construction Award
(AKA "The Award Winner For Winning The Most Clumsily Named Award Category Winner Award Award," AKA "The Trev")
FOR: The funniest blog.
(Wait... where am I? This is bullcrap! This is just like the BCS.)
Best New Blog
FOR: The best blog started within the past year.
- Card Chronicle
- Fire Mark May
- Conquest Chronicles
- Saurian Sagacity
- Corn From A Jar
- Double Extra Point
Best Podcast/Audio Thing
FOR: A somewhat abstract category, this is either for the best (semi-) regularly produced college football podcast or the single best piece of audio put out by the college football blogosphere during the year.
- Lee Corso Slo Jam, Every Day Should Be Saturday
- The Orgeron Song, Verno's Blog
- Michael Lewis Interview, Every Day Should Be Saturday
- In The Bleachers, In The Bleachers
- Midwestcoast Bias, Midwestcoast Bias
- The Double A Zone
- Friday Night Lites, The House Rock Built
Note that the first three are individual things; the latter four regular podcasts.
Best MSM Blog
FOR: The best blog rocked by an Official Journalist. For the purposes of this category, "Official Journalist" is anyone blogging in said capacity at either a newspaper website or one of the big internet sites like SI.com or ESPN.com; Official Journalists with indie side projects go elsewhere.
Hurray those are the nominees hurray.
Peter Bean has the next batch of soon to be incredibly rich and famous nominated bloggers over at Burnt Orange Nation. He'll post his list around 1 PM.
Unfortunately... ballots were due like an hour ago so no revisions this time. But here.
Poll coming ASAP.
Update 1/9: Removed a fair number of commitments to other schools. Moved CA CB/S Michael Williams to committed. Added NBC's US Army Bowl "highlights" which are less highlights and more "every play." Michael Williams features intermittently, but they're under Mallett (and here: first quarter second quarter third quarter fourth quarter). You'll have to watch Mustachioed Non-Heisman Winner plug Sprint four times, but you can also get in the entire game in like 25 or 30 minutes, which is way less creepy and pedophiliac than watching it live. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. Game fallout: guy who looks like he walked right off the 1988 World Series of Poker set and into the Texarkana Gazette goes OMG Mallett; GBW gushes; ESPN says that Mallett is at least Clausen's equal($) but they aren't "in love" with any of this year's quarterback class -- they still lifted him from #54 to #12, though.
Meanwhile, three Michigan commits -- WR Toney Clemons, S Jerimy Finch, and C David Molk -- featured in another game that no one saw because it was on ESPNU. Scout has a recap. Sounds like Molk did well; Finch has been shooting up Rivals' -- the lone dissenter on his awesome talent -- board for a while now. He's #30 with a bullet in their latest top 100.
Linked to article on NC DE Kourtnei Brown.
Editorial Opinon: I missed the Army Bowl, which I plain forgot was on, but NBC's extremely helpful video clips above are the entire game compressed into about 25 minutes, so I saw the Mallett exhibition. And... like... damn. He was ponderous on the one designed run they had, but he's ginorbous so that's okay. Most impressive to me were a couple of plays outside the pocket late in the third. One was a waggle bullet put right in his receivers' numbers well downfield, and the second was a similar rollout, only this time Mallet evaded two unblocked defenders smoothly and rifled a ball in-between a couple of defenders. There were also a couple sweet seams, but Clausen and a couple of the harried East quarterbacks found similar success looking for that route so I lean towards coverage restrictions making that a money play in this particular All-Star format.
MGoBlog philosophy on All Star games is this: chemistry and odd rules issues make a poor performance excusable -- dismiss mucho-hyped recruits based on half a game's worth of snaps at your peril -- but there are generally a few players in each game who jump out and establish themselves as no-doubt stars. Witness Justin Boren's roadgrading a year ago, Desean Jackson's explosive performance two years back, etc etc. To me, three guys leapt off the screen: USC commits Everson Griffen and Chris Galippo plus Mallett. Extremely encouraging.
Williams didn't see much action aside from acting as the punt and kickoff returner for the West. He had a couple decent returns but didn't look like a monster threat. At defensive back, he wasn't tested and it's impossible to know if he A) didn't play much, B) covered scrub-ish WRs, or C) was good enough in coverage that QBs shied away from him. Anyone with a more comprehensive opinion on Williams' game is welcome to post it in the comments.
No one saw that other All Star game, but some general impressions from, er, the impressions I've seen:
- Toney Clemons looks like a future star, emphasis on "looks." Raw as hell at the moment, so raw you might want to spell that hell "hail" and put it in italics, mentally.
- Molk is still short but a good pickup anyway. From the above-linked GBW recap:
David Molk really impressed in this All-Star game with his blocking ability and his athleticism. The East's Head Coach, Don Soldinger, when asked who the best player on the team was said -- David Molk. He possibly could be the most athletic offensive center Michigan has had in a very long time. He gets under the pads of the defensive player and drives him down the field and then he searches out the linebacker to block.
Discount for standard GBW-OMG-hype but still something in the plus column for Molk.
Many commits elsewhere. I think the only one I was holding out much hope for was Lorenzo Edwards, who ended up at Florida. That may have been presaged by some MGoBlog commenters who made it clear that majoring in architecture and playing football were not compatible endeavors at Michigan.
The Stretch: Michigan now has 20 commitments and can hypothetically take five more (or even more if they're willing to bend/stretch stuff, but that seems unlikely). Guys remaining we have a shot at:
- TN WR Rashad Mason. Proverbially "blew up" after his senior year. A true sleeper who lost his junior year to a severe car accident. Mason's a 6'6" leaper whose senior film got him offers from a bunch of places. Has set up visits to M, UCLA, and a few SEC schools. Decent shot and this is a recruit Michigan wants badly, stars or no, given the 3 or 4 wideouts already committed in this class.
- MI CB Ronald Johnson. The most shirtless of all corner recruits this year. Widely proclaimed to be a Michigan lock since his name started circulating over a year ago, but we all saw what happened with Dionte Allen. Not a stretch to say that a class with him in it is a success (albeit still slightly disappointing) and one without him is a failure. If any recruit is a must-get, it's him.
- OH LB Jermale Hines. Glenville linebacker now has an OSU offer. Not coming.
- CA CB Donovan Warren. Down to Michigan and various California schools. Not USC would be a shock.
- IN DT Jeff Boyd. Marginal Michigan recruit. Committed to KY but looking around. Teammate of Finch.
- NC DE Kourtnei Brown. Alabama soft commit that will likely firm up his verbal now that Alabama finally has a coach. Says he will decide on signing day between Michigan and a wide array of southern teams. Highly improbable.
- NY OT John Elliot. High profile tackle down to four schools with the instability at BC. All are academically good: Rutgers, UVA, Michigan, etc. Doubtful he comes but not impossible.
- MO OT Donald Stephenson. Three-star OT, Kansas decommit who is visiting. Competition is various Big Twelve schools. Maybe?
Realistically there are two-ish commitments on that list, so Michigan might go scouring for Engelmons as signing day approaches if it has some pending transfers or guys that are not returning for a fifth year and thus surplus scholarships.