this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Posting is light today since I have to UFR the entire game now so it can go up tomorrow.
I've yet to figure out exactly what to do with Alan Weymouth's contribution... this week it goes here. Editorial comments interspersed.
An outstanding performance by our defense. I mentioned that my biggest concern was our secondary and I must say, they answered the bell this last week. Our tackling was crisp (Morgan Trent might be the best tackler on the whole team) and coverage in general seemed very good. I was quite surprised that PSU didn't go after Warren more. You can bet your bottom dollar that Saint Sweater Vest will.
[Run Up The Score saw a lot of inaccurate Morelli balls and bad reads in his version of UFR; I have the game now but haven't started looking at it. Will be interesting to compare. I do think that maybe we shouldn't be getting too enthused yet... Morelli is not good at the football. -ed]
The game ball though, goes to the defensive line. He might not show up in the stats, but Will Johnson had an outstanding game. He was able to put pressure on Morelli up the middle and cause alot of problems for Penn State up front. We all saw how good Brandon Graham can be this week as well, but I can also see why the coaching staff rends it's clothing over the guy as he blew a couple of assignments that resulted in long PSU runs...the 19 yarder by Austin Scott, and I also believe he messed up on the long run in the fourth quarter. He was playing DT on the long Scott run, and "pinched down". It doesn't appear to me, that this is what was called, as it left a large gap that could not be filled by the LBs. On the 38 yarder in the fourth, Warren blitzes from his CB spot, and has outside contain...I think BG was supposed to take the inside gap, and if he does this is a 2 yard loss instead of a 38 yard near TD.
LB play was pretty darn good..and I take my hat off to Thompson and C.Graham this week. Again, the DL is making things, much, much easier for these two. My only beef here is, they didn't recognize those draws early enough to shut them down near the LOS. Getting hurt on those once or twice is understandable, but you need to adjust quickly. Same thing with screens. If our LB corp can recognize the screen developing, and get that shut down, we'll be able to let the front four loose a little more. Part of the reason we saw a decrease in the pass rush, was our inability to get these two plays shut down..so, the staff reined in the front four a little to help.
[What I don't understand is why the WLB would even start chasing here. I know there's this eleven-hats-to-ball mentality, but your first responsibility has to be to the misdirection, right? Michigan in general and Chris Graham in particular have always been vulnerable to plays that exploit our linebacker's tendencies to go scurrying off at the slightest hint the play is going to one side of the field. See: That Goddamned Counter Draw. Once you verify that the ball is gone, go, but there seems to be little value in biting on a long handoff pump fake. -ed]
I know you had problems with the way our offense went about it's business last week, but I didn't. The run game was working..and though it was boring to watch, it was very effective. Mallett's limited knowledge of the playbook kept the staff from revealing some of what they could do until late in the game. Penn State's defense was very good, very fast and well coached. They will adjust to what hurts them, so as a OC, I think holding some of that stuff back a little, allowed it to be used in the fourth quarter when it was needed. They let loose the reins a bit at the end of the second quarter, and Mallett threw a frosh like pick that cost us a FG attempt.
The strategy at the end of the game was solid as well. I too think they might have allowed him to throw on first or second down, rather than force him into a third and long situation, but with the run game going decently I can't argue too much here. Toward the end, they played some man though, and any pass we attempted would have been either a slant with some risk of a pick-6 involved, or a longer throw that was less likely to be completed.
I would have punted also. The defense was playing well. They had Penn State backed up and without a T.O. Sure there was enough time to get the ball down the field, but given Morelli's performance and knowing that running the football was nearly completely out of the question, the staff knew it could turn loose our DLs and get pressure. For once, playing percentage football was the right thing to do.
I watched only a little of the OSU/NW game. If Henne is back (the real Henne, and not that impostor who appeared in the first two games) we shouldn't have much problem with the Cats. Our biggest enemy will be us. This team SHOULD understand that you have to prepare for every opponent..but will it? It's a classic letdown game opportunity for a staff and a team that is prone to just that. The goal here should be to have this game put away early and let Hart rest. Carr needs to allow Henne to throw the ball, even if it means we score an embarrassing number of points..I just don't know if Carr will do it.
[I believe Mallett will probably play this weekend. -ed]
I'm not too worried about the injuries at RG. I thought McAvoy looked very good for a guy who got thrown into the middle of a big game. Nowhere near as physical as Mitchell, but he agile and was able to get out on the LBs better than Mitchell or Ciulla. He got pushed around a little, but showed some tenacity, and the ability to lower his pads and hang in there. Once he gets some experience, I think he might not give the job back...we'll see. Schilling got some high praise from Carr this week, but I'm not sure why. Technique wise, we was good. He's got excellent agility for a OT, but he's not strong enough or physical enough IMHO. He's just a pup though and he'll get better. I thought he struggled a bit in this game, and basically forced Michigan to run toward Long. Some credit needs to go to PSU though.
[Weymouth ends here. On with other folks. -ed]
Considering Ball State's almost upset against Nebraska yesterday and at the big house last season, like it or not, you have to consider Brady Hoke for the Head Coaching search for Michigan, no? It shows he has the creativity and coaching ability to go against higher talents and out-coach the opposition.I would love to see a feature on him just like you had one for Jeff Tedford.
Thanks and keep up the great work.
Uh... wow. Though Brady Hoke has done more at Ball State than, say, Mike Debord did at Central, a Hoke hire would be the absolute worst-case scenario. Hoke was a defensive line coach for a half-dozen years in the late 90s and early... uh... 00s hired to be Ball State's coach primarily because he's an alum. At Ball State he's 15-31 in his fourth season and hasn't won much of anything. His biggest accomplishments are close losses to Michigan (a game that was out of hand despite a fluky safety and a pick six until Johnny Sears made his thrilling debut) and Nebraska. If we are going with a MAC coach, it should be Brian Kelly... even if he's not in the MAC anymore. Central before (under DeBord) == awful. Central under Kelly == MAC champions. Central post-Kelly == awful. Since there is a clearly more attractive candidate in his genre ("back-up plans who would obviously come"), Hoke is not a serious candidate.
Hey man, whats going on. You obviously know your michigan football, but I have a question
that I am dying to get answered. I have been to games up in A2, and have been to some buckeye games, I have seen both mich fans and osu fans wearing them. I am looking for a hat, it is like a hat an old irish golfer would wear. A newsie/ flat cap/ gatsby hat with a fuzzy yellow ball on top, and says "go blue". I have searched all over the internet and have found nothing. So I am on last ditch effort attempts to find one. If you know anybody that has one, or you know where I can get one, it would be much appreciated. Thanks.
Uh... I dunno. Can anyone help this guy out?
I was wondering, have you ever heard a version of The Victors and thought "hey! that was awesome." ? Obviously the Michigan Marching Band does a great job, and I love the song that plays in the background of those warm-and-fuzzy-feeling Michigan hospital commercials. Which is your favorite? Do you have any unique/cool versions? I love that song, but its so hard to find new styles of it online or through iTunes. (I mean, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir apparently recorded it, but thats about it for selection.)
If you could help me find The Best Victors Ever, that would be much appreciated!
I have no alternate versions of the Victors save the "Hoover Street Rag" thing they play post-victory, which happens to be on the MMB CD I own. This is also a "can any commenters help" situation. Can you?
Update 9/24: Added scholarship available due to Sears dismissal; now up to 19. Added FL S Karnell Hatcher, removed WA DE Kavario Middleton (dropped us), AZ CB Marc Anthony (Cal), KS LB Arthur Brown (dropped us), NJ S Will Hill (UF), PA QB Terrelle Pryor (dropped us). Linked to articles on NC CB Spencer Adams, TN CB JT Floyd, PA KR/WR Cameron Saddler.
Editorial Opinion: Slow week. Hatcher visited for ND and seemed to have a good time, so I added him. Personally I think it's doubtful he comes north but a visit means business.
The major news of the week: AZ CB Marc Anthony committing to Cal. That hurts. Anthony had declared Michigan his leader after camp and was looking like Michigan's best bet for a high-profile corner in the class to pair with Cissoko. Attention now focuses more heavily on Adams and Floyd. Adams just took an official visit:
"It went really well," he said. "I met with some of the coaches and the academic adviser. The game was great. It's the biggest crowd I've ever seen. It was a great atmosphere. I could see myself having a good time and playing there."
Clemson is also mentioned as a school of serious interest.
Floyd, meanwhile, remains the world's softest Tennessee commit, and with Phil Fulmer seemingly on the way out that can't be good for UT's chances. Status:
He has scheduled an official visit to Michigan for November 16th when the Wolverines host Ohio State. Floyd said he's very interested in Michigan. "They are near the top," he said. He also will set officials to Tennessee, Maryland and NC State.
PA WR/RB/KR Cameron Saddler is very good at what he does...
Saddler, a senior, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns Friday against Norwin to give him seven for his career. He had five last year.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national record for most kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career is nine, set by Trevor Mote of Kingman, Ariz., from 1994-96.
...and opening up his recruitment...
A running back/defensive back/kick returner, Saddler has rethought his college decision and is now considering "probably 10 schools."
He had previously narrowed his choices to West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia and Syracuse.
"The coaching situations at some of those schools were getting a little scary," Saddler said. "I didn't want to be down to schools with shaky coaching situations."
Hopefully Michigan can get Saddler and Hale in for an official visit sometime in the near future; the package deal that once seemed so likely has faded as an option with Michigan's opening struggles.
PA WR Jonathan Baldwin on said struggles:
Aliquippa receiver Jonathan Baldwin has Michigan on his final list of six colleges. When asked if Michigan's start might affect his thoughts on the Wolverines, Baldwin simply said, "Ehh."
Uh... okay. I won't even try to parse that.
The three huge five star guys who went off the board were real longshots; Middleton apparently wants to play TE in college. We are obviously full up there.
Note: Banner above is the fine work of Fred Simmons. Given the ill fate of Baxter Allen's banner and the overarching awesomeness of Mike Hart, a change felt warranted. Thus ends the rotating bannerage. Blog: stabilized.
Presser News. Audio at The Wolverine. News: no Mitchell, Ciulla doubtful, MacAvoy likely to start. Savoy, temporarily off the team, has returned after his acquittal.
Corso's where it's at. If, by some chance, Hart runs for like 2000 yards and Michigan wins a bunch of games and Mike Hart wins the Heisman...
...it started with Corso and we should adopt him. (Is this going to happen? No.)
Carr embedded. Now on the tubes: Carr's Penn State postgame.
Schrodinger's awesome recruit. Do I overuse that metaphor? Maybe. But it's very apt in this case. Michigan has picked up a hockey verbal from Luke Moffat, a class of 2010 forward who is the slam-dunk #1 player in his class and very likely to be a top NHL draft pick. This guy is a Jack Johnson-level recruit. But NSFMF!
"I've just not made up my mind," says Moffatt, "the NCAA route is very exciting, but I'm going to take my time before making a decision."
And to Moffatt's credit, he admits that the school he commits to (that being Michigan), will know the situation right up front.
"Yes, they will know the drill, that it will be a commitment pending my decision to play either college or in the WHL. This will make things easier for me though. It will either be Kelowna, or (Michigan)."
So this is a quasi-commit. Moffat will be with the USNTDP this fall and may or may not show up in 2010 with an evil gleam in his eye. Here's an article from the Phoenix Coyotes' site (Moffat is originally from Phoenix, though he's playing for Detroit Honeybaked at the moment.)
No cheeseburgers in space! Varsity Blue highlighted this from the open thread comments:
Our space emmporer should start aiming for the corners.
Mike74 | 09.22.07 - 4:30 pm | #
There are no corners in space
KBlow | 09.22.07 - 4:31 pm | #
Awesome. Personally, I think our gunners should start doing something useful; Zoltan has been great.
This is the part where I pull at my tie in agitated fashion. Like that Billy Idol video. You know the one. Apparently, the open thread also contained some "helloooooo nurse" comments regarding the new, non soccer-mom-y uniforms in general and this upstanding young woman in particular:
Autumn Thunder compares this with last year's outfits; it's as lopsided as your typical Notre Dame game. A comment on that post says these might not be permanent:
Unfortunately, I've been informed that the unis we saw the last two weeks are "just for maize outs" ... perhaps given positive feedback, the thinking will change on this? Somebody e-mail the athletic dept / whomever runs the cheerleading program...
I maintain no opinion on this. You are all treating objects like women, man.
Uh... what? I can't find this on MLive to confirm this, but MVictors reports that Jim Carty reports thusly:
Let's say Michigan beats Penn State, Penn State beats Ohio State, and Ohio State beats Michigan. All three teams end up with one conference loss. In that scenario, the Lions win a tie-breaker over Michigan and Ohio State because those teams played I-AA opponents. That's right, playing a I-AA team can eliminate you from the Rose Bowl. It's a little-discussed Big Ten rule instituted prior to the 2006 season.
I find this impossible to believe, since this would be a huge change in the tiebreaker process that would basically preclude any Big Ten team that takes itself seriously from scheduling a I-AA opponent. The tiebreaker procedures haven't been updated since 2001 according to the Big Ten's website... anyone know details on this?
Update: article here. Still find this somewhat hard to believe.
Oy vey. Braves & Birds takes on the Lloydball win we just ground out:
Thus, Michigan got away with running almost exclusively on downs other than second and third and long. (Excluding its drive that started with 90 seconds to go in the first half and its kneel-down at the end of the game, Michigan had 34 first and tens in the game and threw on exactly eight of them. How Carr and Debord think it's a good idea to "protect" a true freshman quarterback by forcing him to throw mostly on obvious passing downs is beyond me.) Michigan also got away with forgoing the chance to kill the game off on its final offensive possession, mainly because Anthony Morelli is not a good quarterback and Penn State's offense is fairly easily defended.
I co-sign and will provide a fuller opinion in UFR.
Etc: Stadium and Main on the game; Adams is co-defensive player of the week. Dan Wetzel trashes the Big Ten and says Miles would be stupid to leave... didn't he write this exact article like two weeks ago?
9/22/2007 - Michigan 14, Penn State 9 - 2-2, 1-0 Big Ten
Adrift on a sea of bodies, legs gone, head yanked back, enemies all around and pawing, Mike Hart stretches for the inch he needs and gets it. When Hart is gone and I am old and my mind flips through the rolodex of players past, this will be the image that lingers. It's his career writ microscopic. He takes his natural ability, and stretches it to its breaking point, and Michigan has a season again.
Somehow Mike Hart still feels like a secret. In some extremely obvious ways he is not: one of Michigan's vaunted triplets going into this season, he is widely acclaimed as the best back in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. Anyone claiming the "no respect" card for Hart is going to have to make a strong case indeed. Everyone knows he is good. Maybe even great. But they don't know.
No one who doesn't live and die with Michigan's program can really know. He came off the bench, this freshman from upstate New York the size of a flea, against San Diego State and helped Michigan avert an Appalachian State disaster, and since then he has been the linchpin of Michigan's offense. A few games later Abdul Hodge stripped him as he dragged three Hawkeyes from the ten yard line to the four; this was the last time he lost a fumble. In that time we've watched Max Martin and Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown and Kevin Grady cough up seemingly every other carry they get, but Hart has not fumbled. Sometime this week or next he will become Michigan's all-time leading rusher. When he breaks into the secondary his arm starts pirouetting, orbiting around as he seeks his balance to cut behind an overaggressive safety. Last year against Notre Dame he ripped off a 21-yard run in the closing minutes, dove to the ground as he neared the sidelines, and made the run-the-clock hand signal as he got up. Sometimes four defenders claw at his body and end up yards from where they should be. He runs out to block when Michigan only has ten guys on an extra point attempt. He cheats at cards. His high school graduating class was like a dozen people, six of them women and three of them Canadians, and Hart dragged them to multiple state championships. Whenever he's not on the field I am alarmed at what might happen.
So you can watch him intermittently, whenever your team plays Michigan or when you're flicking through the game on a crowded Saturday afternoon, and not really comprehend what he is to the program. Set aside the rushes, the yards, the relentless pounding he took while battling some sort of flu or strep illness. Sometime midway through the second half he limped off, battered, then reversed course and told Minor to get off the field. It was third down and too far to run. As Mallett dropped back to pass, Dan Connor, Penn State's all-everything linebacker, blitzed right up the middle. Hart, eight inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter, clocked him. Ran right up into him and stopped him dead in his tracks. The blitz picked up, Mallett converted the third down. Hart would stretch for the winning points a few plays later.
Mike Hart does not care. He does not care that he is the size of Toad and runs about as fast as Richard Nixon, who is dead. He does not care that Michigan ruined everything the first two games of the season as he rode a bike on the sideline. He does not care that some people think he should shut up. He does not care that his legs are on someone else's legs and there is no possible way he can worm the ball to the goal line. It takes someone like this to pull you back from despair and ennui, to turn emo week into something other than emo year.
Mike Hart does not care what came before.
Bullets that, if Keith Jackson had done the game, would no doubt have been dubbed "hoss" several thousand times:
- Count me in with the people upset about the offensive playcalling. I do not think it was a coincidence that Michigan came out of its shell when PSU put up its second field goal; it was a pure "scoring offense" situation and one that demonstrated the effectiveness of, you know, throwing on first down every once in a while.
- The thing to be most upset about: a give-up-and-punt on third and long that gave Penn State one last opportunity. There's really not much difference between 2:10 and 1:34 in that situation for the offense. With no timeouts they must pick up big chunks of yards either way. If it goes well they won't have issues with time. If it doesn't, time won't matter because it'll all be incompletions anyway. Giving up the chance for a game-killing first down was frighteningly reminiscent of the Year of Infinite Pain.
- Mallett was 8-20 in the first half and 8-9 in the second. The third down conversion on the final drive to Mathews was a play about four people on the planet could have made. Henne's still better, but if you assume Mallett has a standard progression curve... holy crap.
- That said, man... throw it to wide open Arrington in the endzone plz.
- Yay missed 29-yard field goal!
- Brandon Graham appears to be the best player on the defense, possibly by a wide margin. Five sacks in basically two games of starting, even against those two offensive lines, is an impressive accomplishment.
- Very disappointed to see Penn State's defensive line get so much push against our OL. Don't know if that was just guys getting beat or us tipping our plays or what; will be a focal point in UFR.
- Hey... we 1) ran opposite the shuffle, 2) passed off the shuffle, and 3) threw with Clemons in the game. Did any of these plays work? No, aside from one third-down conversion.
- No deep balls all game. Odd. If they were really in three-deep the whole game we should have been hammering them underneath. This is a major problem I have with our offensive design: we don't punish people from loading the box and playing soft behind it. Those easy completions to Manningham at the start of the first touchdown drive are there all the time.
- I erroneously termed some of Appalachian State's QB draws "Incredibly Surprising." This is an incorrect application of my own nomenclature: a true ISQD is one in which a running back or wide receiver lines up alone in the backfield and takes off, like Junior Hemingway did against Penn State. I hate ISQDs. They are stupid.
- If we ever, ever punted from the 31 my head would explode. JoePa remains even more ossified than Michigan is, and that's the primary reason we've owned them for the past 9 games. If you line up and come right at us, you die. Many teams have figured this out, but JoePa is old and only interested in pudding and Betty Grable.
- UFR will be Wed-Thurs this week if all goes well... I forgot to tape it and the MGoVideo guy's kid changed the channel. So tape is delayed but coming.
Anthony Morelli's brain does not work.
Note for the diaspora: There is a sopcast broadcast of this game. URL:
To watch sop:// links, download and install the sopcast player. Then just copy and paste the link into your browser or open sopcast, copy it into the address box and click the blue arrow.
(Thanks to MGoVideo.)
First, Alan Weymouth's take on the ND game and the PSU game:
I watched the Notre Dame game twice over, and there really is very little we can learn from it. The Irish O-Line isn't very good, and we absolutely dominated the LOS.
With poor offensive line play, and a QB who didn't run, our LB reads where quick and decisive. Thompson looked like Harris out there, and while I've been a critic of C.Graham, I think he played his best game for Michigan. But in all honesty, the LBs just weren't pressed much last week. I still think Graham has issues tackling physical ball carriers, and dealing with OLs. He just doesn't get off or around blocks very well. He does seem to handle FBs better than he deals with linemen, probably because he's so short and doesn't see around OLs very well. Our LBs did a much better job of taking on blockers correctly, and turning the play back to help..I.E Leveraging the football as Coach Carr said.
We probably learned the least about our secondary. We might have corrected a few things there, but who really knows. With the DL parked in Notre Dame's backfield all day, it's impossible to tell.
I think our DL can once again put alot of pressure on Penn State. B.Graham is a gifted pass rusher, and we saw Tim Jamison absolutely own five star recruit Sam Young last week. Again, the pressure of having to contain a running QB showed how effective our front four can be, now if they'd just learn the proper techniques involved in containing a guy like Dixon. It's a tired coaching cliche, but shutting down Penn State's run game will be paramount. DLs have to keep our mediocore LB unit clean.
My biggest concern for this game, is the secondary. Donovan Warren is a talented dude, but I think he has trouble tackling in space. I'm betting my bottom dollar, that Penn State trys to isolate Warren against Derrick Williams in space. They'll use bubble screens and short passes to test Warren over and over.
Offensively, I think we can run the ball on them, provided we can control the numbers in the box. If Mallett starts, Penn State will load the box and really try to stop the run...this is obvious. We'll run alot of 3 wide to try and keep this under control..also alot of two TE with motion etc. Can the Penn State LBs cover Massey and Butler in man? Will UM show alot of Shotgun and try to run and throw from it? I've seen a few newer plays from the Gun, there might be more on the way.
Personally though, I am expecting Henne to lace 'em up and play this weekend. If his swelling is under control and he feels mobile enough to move in the pocket(lets face it, he doesn't really run anyway) why not? He'd like nothing more than to go 4-0 against Penn State. I really don't think his injury was that debilitating..but we'll find out Saturday.
Now on with the show:
Run Offense vs. Penn State
Though Michigan's rush offense has been the one area of the team that has not disappointed, it has not faced a stiff test. Penn State will provide one. Probably. This will be a common theme: well, Dude, we just don't know. Penn State is currently the nation's #1 ranked rushing defense but has played FIU, Buffalo, and Notre Dame. Michigan is currently ranked the nation's #24 rush offense but has played Appalachian State, Oregon, and Notre Dame. Neither team has an inkling of what will happen against actual opponents.
The Penn State defensive line is young and small but well-regarded by recruiting gurus. There are problems at defensive end. Linebacker Jerome Hayes has moved into the standup DE spot occupied by one of the many Shaws on last year's Penn State team; redshirt freshman Aaron Maybin sort of holds the other spot. Both are light, slashing types. (Obviously, in the case of Hayes.) Inside, Abe Koroma is out and Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu start. Both are sophomores -- Ogbu redshirted, Odrick did not -- who check in at around 28o or 290. They are likely to play better than poor Pat Kuntz.
Penn State is starting three sophomores and a linebacker on its defensive line, and they have met no one like Jake Long yet. Justin Boren was outstanding against a veteran and good DE/DT, Trevor Laws, last week, and Adam Kraus spent the day making flapjacks of Kuntz. Schilling hasn't screwed up yet. Alex Mitchell? Well... he's been okay. This should be somewhere between a solid area of advantage and a massive blowout.
Then it's linebackers versus Hart, hopefully with blockers. Dan Connor and Sean Lee are both very good, but Mike Hart...
... is Mike Hart. He was bottled up in the first half last year, but ripped off multiple long runs to set up Michigan's final touchdown of the game and finished with 112 yards on 26 carries. From the relevant sections of the offense, Michigan has lost Rueben Riley, Mark Bihl, and Obi Oluigbo. Penn State has lost its entire defensive line save Josh Gaines, who is not good and not starting, and Paul Posluzny. Hart's 4.3 YPC would be a sure bet to increase except for that whole Henne injury thing. If Penn State does the logical thing and loads up to stop the run, Hart won't find the going much easier than he did last year.
Key Matchup: Michigan OL versus quick penetration. The zone game can be stymied by little guys who dart up into gaps, something Michigan has been much better about this year. If Hart's dodging guys four yards in the backfield, Michigan loses.
Pass Offense vs. Penn State
I don't know how much we can take from this, but though Penn State sacked the hell out of Jimmah Clausen much like Michigan did, most of the PSU sacks were directly on Jimmah for holding onto the ball way too long. (I rewatched the PSU-ND game last night.) In terms of time-to-quarterback, Michigan outperformed Penn State against Notre Dame for large portions of the day. With an entirely new defensive line this is about all we have to go on as far as pass rush goes. Michigan, on the other hand, was a perfect 22/22 in UFR protection terms against ND, something which Penn State could not say. I tentatively suggest that pressure from just Penn State's front four will be between minimal and moderate.
Given that, Ryan Mallett -- the assumed starter in this preview -- will either have time or be blitzed. The former seems terribly unwise against a true freshman starter, but Penn State has displayed a remarkable capacity for numbnuts coaching decisions in recent years. See Quinn, Brady. This year they seem to trust their secondary and came after Clausen frequently. The bet here is that they come. Michigan has done a good job picking blitzes up thus far save for a couple busts that seemed to be first-year starter Justin Boren's error. With Boren presumably at guard for Mallett-snap-related reasons, he won't be the one making the calls.
As for Mallett himself, he was adequate when called upon against Notre Dame. There were a couple moments of inaccuracy or shakiness but those were coupled with delicately lofted touchdowns. He will find the going much tougher against Justin King, et al, and mediocrity would probably be a win. This seems achievable.
Key Matchup: Mallett versus blitz reads. He dumped of a short crossing route to Greg Mathews when Notre Dame sent the house last week; more of that will be necessary. Carson Bu
tler will be an important target.
Run Defense vs. Penn State
Michigan's performance against Notre Dame vaulted them all the way up to 76th in rush defense from dead last but probably means little in combat against actual I-A opponents. However, Penn State's rushing offense has faced Buffalo, FIU, and Notre Dame... no actual I-A opponents here, no matter the designations technically applied to them. This is a great unknown. Please take all comments here with a grain of salt.
The comments: Penn State fans are universally non-alarmed at the absence of senior guard Jim Shaw, but they might be after the game. Sticking a in a true freshman in place of a senior who was a returning is going to be a dropoff. Meanwhile, we have a guy who lost his job at LG playing LT and unheralded new starters at RT and LG. (Center AQ Shipley is quite good.) This could be a turkey shoot for Michigan's defensive line. Or it could be an ugly festival of second-and-three like the first two games of the year.
Meanwhile, RB Austin Scott has been disappointing so far, fumbling four times and getting yanked for fellow fifth-year senior Rodney Kinlaw, up until this point a career backup and kick returner. Neither is going to move a pile or pick up much in the way of yards after contact. Given a seam, both can fly, but Penn State's running backs are average at best.
So, then, it's the Michigan "run defense" against a straightforward opponent with a pulse. Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson were very disappointing in the Oregon and Appalachian State games, rarely delaying offensive linemen long enough for the linebackers to have any advantage and never getting sufficient penetration to disrupt any of the zone read handoffs both teams ran with frequency. Is this an aberration based on the spread game or a sad confirmation that Taylor (and Johnson) were beneficiaries of playing next to Alan Branch and nothing more? We will find out here.
Key Matchup: DTs Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson versus Penn State's interior OL. Notre Dame showed that when left untrammeled Chris Graham and Johnny Thompson can run to the ball with the best of them; Oregon showed that when blocked they are useless. Taylor and Johnson have to absorb double teams and let the linebackers do the rest if they expect to hold down the Penn State run game.
Pass Defense vs. Penn State
Anthony Morelli may or may not continue to suck. Against Notre Dame he alternated horrible interceptions he shouldn't have even considered throwing with accurate post lasers with inaccurate simple throws with would-be interceptions. The end results were statistically ugly: 12-22 for 131 yards. Jimmah actually had more yards, albeit on ten additional attempts. The going has been easier for Morelli against the other tomato cans, but from what I've seen Penn State is still relying on him to not lose the game.
Penn State's receivers remain mostly bleah, but sophomore Chris Bell is emerging into a complete threat and the Nittany Lions welcome back tight end Andrew Quarless from an underage drinking suspension. Both could be threats against the Michigan secondary, especially Quarless, who is poised to exploit the potentially iffy coverage of Michigan's linebackers.
Meanwhile, Michigan's secondary was torched for a billion long touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season and got a functional DNP against a Notre Dame team that thinks a three-yard swing pass is a monumental achievement. In Oregon game, in which Dennis Dixon was suffered to sit in the pocket and leisurely pick out wide open receivers running 40 yards downfield. Michigan, burned time and again by the Duck running game and Dixon's legs, reverted to the frustrating contain-but-don't-rush style it deployed ineffectively against Troy Smith.
This is unlikely to happen against Anthony Morelli, who was occasionally snowed under by Notre Dame's inept front seven. This is a leap of faith, but I believe the constant hype on Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham will come to fruition in this game against medicore at best offensive tackles and Morelli will spend the day running away from determined pursuit. I expect the defense to hold Penn State down.
Key Matchup: Tim Jamison, Brandon Graham, and Shawn Crable versus Cadogan/Orhnberger/etc... if Michigan is going to win the game they have to win this battle. It looked like a sure Michigan blowout in the preseason, but given the performances against Oregon, etc., that seems less of a slam dunk. Pressure Morelli and he dies harder than most quarterbacks -- it's the whole "my brain was eaten by Joe Paterno" thing" -- but our secondary remains shaky-ish and I'm afraid of a huge safety bust.
Penn State has a major advantage in the return game. Derrick Williams took a punt 76 yards for Penn State's first touchdown against Notre Dame; AJ Wallace returned a kickoff to the 25 to open the second half. Both are dangerous with the ball in their hands, and Michigan's kick coverage unit has been very sketchy thus far. It gets worse if Bryan Wright can't go, as most of KC Lopata's kicks have come down around the ten after iffy hang time. It may behoove Michigan to give up on kicking like a man and just go with squibs and up-man popups that get fielded around the 20 or 25 and have zero long return potential.
Punt returns won't be so easy to mitigate, but Zoltan appears to be shaking off his inconsistency and really emerging into the destroyer of worlds his ill-fated birth signs (and the prophecies) predicted. Most punts have had great hang time. This is still a danger area.
Kevin Kelly returns at kicker; he's okay but maligned for missing important stuff. Think Garrett Rivas. Penn State has a slight advantage here.
Key Matchup: Kick coverage versus Wallace. There is a not-insignificant chance this could turn the game.
- Penn State starts every drive after a Michigan score at the 50.
- We tip the direction of our runs. This is bad, bad idea against a small, darting line.
- Second and long happens.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- The line blows those kids off the POA.
- Jamison and Graham make a living in the backfield.
- Morelli does his Morelli thing.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for We Own Penn State, +1 for We Also Suck, +1 for No, Seriously: The Suck, -1 for I Believe In Trench Advantages, +1 for Oh God, Something Horrible Is Going To Happen On Special Teams ).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Do Have Something To Play For, +1 for And Goddammit Mike Hart, Man, Mike Hart, -1 for Yeah But Go Apps And All That, +1 for Continuing To Own Penn State == Fun)
Loss will cause me to... descend into wild tinfoil-hattery about the refs and how they robbed us of the game.
Win will cause me to... grumble less about the upcoming trip to Northwestern. Woo. Roadie.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
I have no idea what's going to happen. Variables so undefined I can't justify predicting either way:
- Will Henne play?
- Will Michigan's pass rush obliterate?
- Is Michigan's OL capable of crushing an actual opponent?
- Will Penn State r
ip off more big returns?
- Can Michigan stop a conventional run attack that's not Notre Dame's?
Vague answers that could well be horribly wrong: no, yes, yes, yes, sorta. I think both Penn State lines will be hard-pressed to handle their Michigan opponents and that neither Anthony Morelli nor Jay Paterno is clever enough to deal with this. And I have signed on the Michigan Has A Crushing Ground Game Express. A Bo-style victory against one of the few who allows Michigan to get away with that stuff.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart: 35-180-2
- Four sacks, two interceptions of Morelli.
- 23-14, Michigan.
We hates them. Thanks to commenter Peterklima, who reminded me of the existence of this fantastic youtube clip. You'll have to wade through some drunk WOOOOO but it's schadenfreude at its most concentrated:
Henne? Lloyd says he's practicing somewhat sorta:
"Chad took some snaps (Tuesday)," Carr said. "I don't know at this point what it looks like for him. I want to watch him again today. We'll just take it day to day and see what happens."
So that's encouraging, but David Jones says this is pure smokescreen:
As for Henne, Carr confirmed Monday what I reported here last week -- the injury is a sprained right knee. It had been obliquely referred to by U-M as a "lower leg injury" until Monday.
Carr also made noises as if Henne could play Saturday. Anything is possible, but I think it's a smokescreen. I've been told the injury was diagnosed as a "grade 2" sprain, which includes partial tearing of ligament tissue and some instability of the joint, with a normal recovery period of at least four weeks.
Though I don't know why Jones -- who covers Penn State -- of all people would have super-secret detailed information on Henne's injury, given Carr's previous reticence to discuss the status of his players I'm with him. This seems like gamesmanship to me.
Hockey on the BTN. Some details in the Star Tribune on the BTN's hockey schedule:
The Big Ten Network's lack of carriage on the three major cable systems in Minnesota could have an impact on Gophers hockey fans. The team's television schedule was released Thursday and, while FSN North will carry 32 regular-season games, five more games will air exclusively on the Big Ten Network.
This includes a Feb. 22 game against Wisconsin at Mariucci Arena. Also included on that list are Nov. 23 at Michigan State; Nov. 24 at Michigan; Jan. 11 against St. Cloud State; and Feb. 8 at Denver. The first two will be carried on a delayed basis.
The Big Ten Network will have a total of 13 men's hockey games.
One assumption we can make: since the Minnesota-MSU game on the 23rd is on tape delay, Michigan's other Showcase game against Wisconsin is also on the BTN. What else would they delay it for?
Etc.: I walked by these guys after the ND game; RBUAS; the Daily reviews every game during the streak; Maize 'n' Blue Matters jumps aboard the "laugh at NDNation" bandwagon (suggestion: white background)
|O18||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Run||-17||Pratfall the first|
|The snap flies over Armando Allen's head. No doubt this was going to be an ISQD if Notre Dame could get the simplest aspects of football right.|
|Allen motions into the backfield; they fake a sweep to him and then hand it off to Tate on the end-around. Englemon(+1) follows Tate around on the fake and along with Trent(+1) contains this for a reasonable gain on second and forever. A stupid playcall that carries an enormous risk of a safety if Brandon Graham heads upfield instead of following Allen. Weis is the anti-Carr, making the same number of mistakes but they're completely different ones.|
|Batted away by Crable(+1). Allen had already fallen down by tripping over his offensive lineman; Warren was going to crush this even if it was completed. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Note that Brandon Graham is finally claiming his job as the starting DE for this game; Crable is not on the field at the moment. Taylor(+1) holds up well to a double team on this; ND runs the same play that's killed us for two straight weeks but fails to realize that it doesn't work that well when your quarterback isn't much of a runner. Jamison closes quickly to tackle near the LOS.|
|Donovan Warren is sent on a corner blitz that is not picked up. At all. He overruns the play, basically, but manages to knock the ball from Clausen as he passes (+1). A scramble for the ball ensues that Michigan wins. It's Warren, actually, with the recovery.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-0, 10 min 1st Q.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Odd lineup here: Crable at DE, BGraham at DT. Johnson, the other DT, crashes inside on the snap(-1) as Crable rushes upfield, opening up a big hole for Allen. Thompson(+1) is forced to deal with a completely unfettered OT and actually does a good job standing him up, impeding Allen's progress and allowing Michigan tacklers to converge before this becomes too damaging.|
|O46||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Both DEs fly upfield, unblocked, at the snap... this one is up the middle all the way. Textbook example of DanK's theory about Des in a 4-2 running themselves into uselessness against shotgun run attacks. Fortunately for M, Johnson isn't handled well by the interior Irish line and no one ever gets out on Thompson, who fills, unblocked, for a minimal gain. No pluses here; think this is mostly Irish error. Still nice to see no one screw up.|
|O48||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||6||TE out|
|Pick play with the WR running a slant here against man cover; Jamar Adams is lined well off the ball at the snap and has no chance to recover on this. (Cover -1). Graham ends up blitzing way delayed and futilely; looks like they caught us off guard at the snap and we had not shifted into a position that would make our D call work.|
|M46||1||10||???||???||Run||-14||Pratfall the second|
|Nice job, ESPN, allowing Matt Winer to tell us he's Matt Winer and thus missing this play entirely.|
|O40||2||24||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Give up and punt plays now. Good job by Johnson(+1) to fend off an attempted blocker and Graham(+1) to do likewise, closing after a minimal gain.|
|O42||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||-7||Sack|
|Michigan zone blitzes, dropping off the DT with both middle linebackers, who also threatened blitz. Crable(+1) and Harrison(+1) blitz around the outside; ND tackles are late getting out. This is not a poised sack from Jimmah, who dropped way back and did not step up into a nice pocket the OL had carved for him. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 4 min 1st Q. A second drive killed by a bad ND snap.|
|It appears Clausen is locked on Warren's guy but must hesitate. (Warren +1, cover +1) Jamison impressively powers through Sam Young and buries Clausen. My god, the poise! (+2 Jamo, +1 pressure).|
|O20||2||15||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||6||Zone read handoff|
|This is pretty unsound at the snap, Jamison flying upfield and blitzes coming from the other side of the formation. As the ball is handed off this looks like a big gainer. Thompson is basically the only guy who can prevent this from being a gashing run that only a safety can stop... and he does, standing up a blocker, disengaging, and making a tackle with Brandon Harrison's help. +2 Thompson.|
|ND has Michigan dead to rights here. Three blockers are in front of Allen with no defenders around as Michigan got caught blitzing a guy and this screen gets off. It is Thompson again who manages to avoid the wideout, slice through the ND blockers, and chop down Allen before this can go for a long gainer. +1 Thompson; Why didn't any ND guys peel off on him?|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|No offense to Chris Graham(+1), who speared the living hell out of Allen here, forcing a fumble and knocking him out of the game, but it's just not that hard when you're totally unblocked and Jamo funnels him right to you. +1 Johnson, I think, for causing this to go into the unblocked backside. Allen's fumble recovered by Michigan. PS: check out the bitchy little shove from Clausen after the play. What about the poise?|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 10-0, EO 1st Q.|
|ND abandons the shotgun after a quarter of ineffective play. Morgan Trent
lets a 5'8" guy, George West, inside of him for an easy slant. This might be zone coverage, in which case Brandon Harrison is culpable for coming up on a short crossing route that Thompson had covered. (-1 cover... think this is zone; -1 Harrison)
|O42||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Run||1||Off tackle|
|ND pulls a guard around to the left side of the line; Aldridge just runs right. WTF? An unblocked Graham tackles.|
|O43||2||9||Empty set||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||-6||Sack|
|The quadruple sack. This is on Clausen; the only reason four guys meet at the QB is that this is designed to be a really quick pass wherein the interior OL chop the DTs. Michigan covers(+1) the first option, Clausen freezes, and then he is lost. (Pressure +1). BGraham and Crable are the first to him. Uh... +1 BGraham for beating Young.|
|O37||3||15||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Int||Slant|
|Clausen guides Thompson right to the ball with his eyes; Thompson reads, reacts, and picks. (Cover +2, Thompson +2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 17-0, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|We have BGraham lined up at DT here with Crable at DE, Taylor on the bench. Clausen drops, first option covered(cover +1), and then he flushes from the pocket, probably unnecessarily. Jamison(+1) rips at him from behind; BGraham(+1) comes up and finishes him off. Intentional grounding called.|
|O25||2||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|Michigan's blitzing a corner late, so Crable slants inside and just knifes through the attempted block of the OT. (+2) Jabbie crushed in the backfield.|
|O23||3||20||Shotgun Big||3-3-5 Nickel||Penalty||-5||Delay|
|They do run a play here, and the poise of this swing pass is incredible.|
|O18||3||25||Shotgun Big||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||14||Wheel|
|ND fakes the long handoff and both Trent(-1) and Graham(-1) bite on it. It's third and twenty-five, guys. As a result, the wheel route of the slot receiver is wide open. Adams comes up to tackle. (Cover -2)|
|A quintessential Weis thing to do. It works but only because three Michigan players miss tackles.|
|Overthrown. Trent in decent coverage, but there was a window here. (Pressure -1)|
|O45||2||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||-4||Screen|
|Crable does his missile thing on Allen. (+2)|
|Crable-DE-BG-DT setup. Clausen's first read is covered(cover +1) and then the roof falls in. A stunting Crable(+1) comes around the havoc created by a penetrating Johnson(+1) and sacks.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-0, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|ND pulls a guard around to Adam Patterson's side of the line, hoping to catch him out. He's adequately blocked. The guard cannot get Graham contained â€“ Graham pushes him back and sets up outside â€“ forcing the play back inside to an unblocked Thompson. +1 Graham. Credit where due: this was a play against a bonafide blocker.|
|Oddly, we move Jamar Adams into the box pre-snap. He covers Carlson; Graham moves out of a zone in the middle of the field as Allen motions out â€“ probably in man on him. By the time he backs out Clausen has an alley to fire a slant against Donovan Warren's guy. (Cover -1).|
|O18||3||1||I-Form Big||4-6 x||Run||0||Iso|
|No push from the ND OL at all. This is Taylor's wheelhouse and he eats it up. (+1) BGraham also with a good job, and Thompson(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-0, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|Coverage(+1) is good, Clausen decides to bail and BGraham(+1) tracks him down. Crable had beaten his man but fallen, causing the rollout.|
|O20||2||16||Ace 3-wide||3-2-6 dime||Pass||4||Swing|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 31-0, EOH. Yes, I only charted this drive for the swing pass.|
|O26||1||10||I-Form||Base 4-3||Pass||1||Long handoff|
|THE GODDAMN MAJESTY OF IT ALL. Warren (+1) reacts to this very quickly.|
|O27||2||9||Ace||Base 4-3||Penalty||-5||False start|
|O22||2||14||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||9||Long handoff|
|SHOULD HAVE SENT... A POET. Uh. Warren blows this pretty good, waving at a passing West. (-1 Warren.)|
|O31||3||5||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||7||TE out|
|Graham in coverage. (Cover -1)|
|O38||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||1||Long handoff|
|Brandon Harrison(+1) attacks this smartly.|
|O39||2||9||I-Form||Base 4-3||Run||4||Off tackle|
|Adams reveals a blitz before the snap. ND hands off anyway. Thompson(-1) puts himself on the wrong side of a blocker â€“
he should know better â€“ and opens up a hole. Jamison, dropped into a zone, tackles after Aldridge picks up a few.
|O43||3||5||Pro Seet||Base 4-3||Pass||-6||Sack|
|Englemon(+1) is unblocked on a blindside blitz. Nice job, #74.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 3rd Q. Warren has been pretty good in coverage so far, but there has been a huge dropoff in tackling from Hall, who was outstanding.|
|The one real opportunity ND has for a downfield completion all game because Chris Graham(-1) doesn't get anything approximating a pass drop. Overthrown and off the fingertips of Carlson. (Cover -2)|
|O37||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Off tackle|
|A blitz occupies all of the frontside blockers, forcing Allen back inside. Unblocked Chris Graham reads and tackles.(+1)|
|O39||3||8||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc + 15||Post|
|Incomplete as Clausen chooses to fire it into double coverage. Jamar Adams(+1) with the PBU. (Cover +2, pressure -1) Crable(-2) picks up a roughing penalty.|
|Another one of these sad little plays where the ND OL meekly cut-blocks and gets leapt over. Clausen can't find a receiver (Cover +1) and then he's got Jamison(+1) beating two guys to flush him; as the calvary comes after the cut blocks Clausen wings it OOB. (Pressure +1)|
|Some ND OL or another makes a little wussy dive at the feet of Patterson(+1), who avoids this and causes Clausen to start scrambling after his first read is covered(+1). Brandon Graham(+2) comes free and sack/strips Clausen; he manages to recover this one.|
|Trent(+2) is better positioned to catch this ball than Tate; he trips at the end and can't pick it off.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 2 min 3rd Q. Clausen leaves the game.|
|Hilariously misfired to an open guy (cover -1, Trent -1). Trent can't make a pick.|
|More diving at the knees of Michigan defenders. Sharpley pumps on a little flare route and then fires it just before Jamison and Graham crush him. (Pressure +1, cover +1)|
|M47||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Off tackle|
|Thompson(+1) runs Allen down in the backfield. Not blocked.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 12 min 4th Q. Charting ceases as the rest of the game is run run run into the line against second stringers.|
Also: Steve Brown's interception.
If you had to describe Jimmah's performance via the medium of embeddable flash video, how would you do so?
Chart. It's even respectable.
|Jamison||4||-||-||Doesn't have the best score of the day but probably turned in the two best plays. Will need a big game from him versus ND.|
|Taylor||2||-||2||Maybe underrated his day; was sometimes pulled for the pass-rush DL.|
|Crable||7||7||Much better as a blitzing linebacker.|
|B. Graham||7||-||7||Hard to tell if he's awesome or just benefiting from the worst OL ever.|
|Thompson||7||1||6||Much, much, much better. Some of that was just being unblocked, but a few plays were impressive: the pick, a couple run plays where he stood up to OL and made plays.|
|C. Graham||3||2||1||Still immensely skeptical. Looked good when allowed to flow to the ball unimpeded.|
|Warren||3||1||2||Long handoff whiff was disappointing; rest of it was pretty okay.|
|Adams||1||-||1||Not like they really had to do anything at safety.|
|"Pressure"||6||2||4||What? Well... I chalked a lot of this up to inept offensive line play and there were a lot of three-step drops with weak little chops.|
|"Coverage"||12||9||3||Better. Meaningfulnessosity? Disputed.|
There's some saying about popsicles and the mutual sucking-upon of?
Yes. Let's not just yet. Anyone who watched that game could tell you that it
said more about Notre Dame's offense than the Michigan defense, especially after the Oregon debacle. We are not "back" or whatever yet.
So, then, what can we take from Eastern Michigan-equivalent?
I am heartened by a couple of very nice plays by Tim Jamison against Sam Young, including one where he split a double to sack Clausen. Also, Thompson may be a middle linebacker suited to banging heads with PSU's between-the-tackles running style. He made a couple nice plays against actual blocking this game and looked much better in general; his interception is something I could totally see Morelli doing and very heartening in the face of an excellent Nittany Lion tight end. Donovan Warren continues to be competent but a shady tackler -- might want to keep him away from Derrick Williams.
But the big hope is in the person of Brandon Graham, he of the 3.5 sacks and burly defensive presence capable of sliding over to defensive tackle and resting Terrance Taylor. When he is a defensive end Crable can slide back to linebacker and fill the role he had a year ago as a blitzing, harassing nightmare for opponents instead of an undersized defensive end with no hope of leverage. It's impossible to tell if he is for real... let's hope he is.
The Notre Dame offensive line.
None. It was 38-0.
What does it mean for Penn State?
Who can say? I wish there was all sorts of useful information to pull out here but there is not. There is the suggestion that Michigan can have its way with a non-running quarterback and a weak offensive line. Brandent Englemon seems unlikely to screw up -- love you, Brandent -- and the Nittany Lion offense remains thoroughly untested. But when the Michigan defense has been tested, it fails. I have no idea what will happen.
Visual evidence. Baxter Allen -- winner of the ill-fated banner contest -- sends along an artists rendition of yesterday's "M as dinosaur" flight of fancy:
It is I. Interviewed at The Big Picture, if you have interest in that sort of thing.
Hockey approacheth. Yost Built has the first inklings of a great season preview with profiles of defensemen Steve Kampfer and Chris Summers. One crab: I disagree on Kampfer's importance level, which he pegs a 7 out of 10. To me, Kampfer is the biggest swing guy on the team. Yost Built rightly notes Kampfer's extremely generous defending last year and his measly +3 plus-minus are at odds with his mid-rounds NHL draft selection, something noted here as far out, man, when it first became apparent Kampfer was something other than an undrafted free agent. If he can play up to his draft position we're likely to have two solid pairings (I assume at least one of the freshmen will show up ready to play, probably 2006 third-round pick Kevin Quick). If he dishes out enough turnovers to satisfy Charlie Weis, we're in trouble.
Also: Josh Blackburn, last seen yielding a goal on an unscreened slap shot from just inside the blueline, has been "hired" as a volunteer assistant coach to help out Billy Sauer's mental game. This is the exact equivalent of hiring Ron Powlus to coach Jimmah(!).
Maybe this is why the suck? NKOTB Shooting Blue takes a look at the 2004 recruiting class -- now juniors and redshirt sophomores -- and finds a total dearth of defensive contributors. These are the guys who are contributing in any way:
- starting DT Terrance Taylor
- Nickelback Brandon Harrison.
Yuck. (If you want to count Marques Slocum in this class, it's likely he contributes something eventually, but not now.) The rest of the defenders:
- OLB Chris McLaurin: moved to TE.
- DE Eugene Germany: knucklehead. Off team.
- DE James McKinney: transfer to Louisville after undisclosed medical issue.
- CB Chris Richards: booted in aftermath of St Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre.
- CB Johnny Sears: booted for
never covering anyonefailing a drug test.
Mmm, that's ugly.
Pile on. Even Buckeyes are getting into the Notre Dame hate. Ramzy at Bucknuts has a column that proves it's not just Michigan fans that love the Nation:
NDNation, the greatest form of online amusement that doesn't offer any nudity or cash prizes, was shut down to the unregistered public for the entire Michigan game. This was probably done preemptively to keep the millions of Irish haters from polluting their otherwise bat-feces crazy discourse with ironic jest like, "Your an idiot". Since the game ended, the board has been non-stop jack-knifed semi-truck on the edge of a cliff entertainment.
Bon mots and zingers abound.
MAD MONEY. Not Jim Cramer, but equally bats is this guy who attempts to link Michigan's crappy start to... Michigan's crappy economy. No. Seriously:
-Lack of Innovation
A wonderful memory of mine is the 1972 Rose Bowl, when underdog Stanford kicked a last-second field goal to beat top-ranked Michigan 13-12. What made the upset delicious was the complaint of Michigan fans that Stanford didn't play "real football"--i.e., Stanford passed the ball. The Michigan economy is locked into an old-world combination of union labor and high taxes--and pays the price.
The sucky part is that even though this man is obviously insane he has a point.
Brains imbue humor! JoePa's Michigan press conference is kind of awesome:
A lot has been made of the losing streak to Michigan, now at eight. When the players are asked a question, obviously they can't go back that far. You obviously have been there for all eight. Is there something about Michigan that just makes Penn State tighten up?
Well, the first time I coached against Fielding Yost (1901-23, '25-26), it was tough (laughter).
Every year's a little different one. We've had some good luck and bad luck. No, Michigan's a good, solid football team. Playing at Michigan is a lot of fun. It's a great crowd, and I think you ought to enjoy it. I don't look at it the way maybe some other people do.
Lloyd Carr said that Chad Henne may come back this week. How do you prepare for two quarterbacks, especially with the kid, Ryan Mallett, who has made one start and is 250 pounds?
[WTF does Mallett weight have to do with anything? lolmsm. -ed] I don't think you do that. I think you've got to realize what kind of a football team Michigan has. Mike Hart, the wideouts we just talked about, a very, very fine offensive line, are the things that you worry about. Henne at quarterback, has experience and everything else and has played well against us, and is a good quarterback.
Now, whether he's not playing or the other kid's going to play, I think you got to be careful about that. For all I know, they could put Hart as quarterback. Put him in an empty backfield, shotgun, like everybody else is in the country is doing these days. All of a sudden you have a whole different ballgame on your hands.
This is the first Michigan game that you've played since Bp Schembechler died. What was his legacy and how did he improve Michigan football and help the Big Ten?
I never coached against Bo. I can tell a story about Bo calling me up after we were in (invited to join) the Big Ten. He said, "You sneaky little son of a..."
I said, "What are you talking about, Bo? He said, "you sneaked in there and the athletic directors and coaches never had a vote because it was all presidents."
I said, "Bo, nobody sneaked in. " He started screaming and ranting. I started screaming and ranting at him. I liked Bo. Bo is the kind of guy you had to like. You know where he's coming from, no hypocritical statements. He never pontificated, said some things. I always had a lot of fun with him.
ver coached against him. I think you have to figure that he and Woody Hayes, at a stage of the Big Ten, probably dominated a lot of things. I've said this before, you guys get tired of hearing me say it, I think when Joe Tiller came into the league with a little different type of offense, that people say he can't do that here. I never forget the quote Joe Tiller made when they said about throwing the football. He said, "Don't you think it snows in Wyoming?"
I think then it started to change. This league's got a lot of great young coaches. The kid at Wisconsin (Bret Bielema). Ron Zook is going to make Illinois really good. Kirk Ferentz...I could go down the list.
I think Bo and Woody dominated the thing for a while. I think right now there's so many darn good young coaches. I think the league's got a little different personality than it did when maybe Bo and Woody were running the show. I'm not sure, because I wasn't in the league when they were running it.
Actual newsbits: projected starting DT Abe Koroma is still out. Jon Shaw will miss the game and true freshman Steven Wisnewski will take his spot. Wisnewski was a moderately shirtless recruit that Michigan also went after. Austin Scott has already fumbled four times and will split time with kick returner Rodney Kinlaw. And PSU plans on going full bore "eff you, try to stop this, oops you did let's punt" mode:
You mentioned Clark earlier. With the problems Michigan has had with mobile quarterbacks this season, is there any plan for potentially any place for him to try to take advantage of his mobility?
Michigan had a little problem with the mobile quarterback at Oregon, but that wasn't their big problem. Their problem was they spread them out so much, they couldn't do some things they like to do defensively because the kid could throw the ball.
No, we're going to play our game. We're going out to Ann Arbor and find out just how good are we. We're going to play them our game. I'm sure Lloyd will be in the same way with his guys. They're going to play their game and let's see what happens.
So bully for that.
Are we done? Now? How about now? Now? Now?.... no. We are not done piling on Notre Dame. Vijay has awakened from long slumber in recent weeks and has put together a Charlie Weis fact sheet analagous to the Ty Willingham Fact Sheet NDNation put together in their quest to
keep the black man down return to glory. It is glorious. Selected excerpts:
Notre Dame is currently on a 5 game losing streak, their first since late 1985, early 1986.
The whole thing is highly recommended.
Etc.: South Bend Tribune article on Scott Driesbach; Pickin' On The Big Ten; the MZone checks out the latest Russell Crowe movie; BTN review; the Cal student newspaper so knows they're losing Tedford at year's end and is lashing out at anyone they can find.