no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
Hey! I'm tired. You may have missed some stuff in the annual "oh God it's the week before the season and I promised myself I wouldn't do this again" content blitz, so here it is again with extremely brief summaries attached:
Brady Hoke is the Real William Carlos Williams.
Quarterback: weeeeeeeee STOP THROWING INTERCEPTIONS
Running back: like a slavering pack of robot velociraptors, but fast!
Wide receiver: see "Quarterback"
Offensive line: bubble wrap these mofos
Questions and answers: SHOTGUN, fusion, Gardnecieving, short yardage
Defensive line: just take it easy, man
Linebackers: calmer than you are
Safety: calmer than you are
Question and answers: fumbles, short yardage, fire zones, and yes the DL.
Podcast: can someone tell me if the new "generic podcast feed" is working for them?
Special teams: meh? I love meh!
Heuristics and the official prediction: 9-3, man, 9-3.
Ace draws the official game preview: predicts 31-20. Official MGoBrian prediction: Alabama, 22-15.
Ace FFFFs those bastards.
THINGS THAT LIVE ELSEWHERE
Brabbs on the ten year anniversary of Washington 2002.
The Daily has a great three-parter on the 2000 Orange Bowl. The feature is an oral history:
David Terrell, sophomore receiver: “It was the scariest night of my life.”
“Y2K, man. You had everyone go out and get canned goods, bottled water. I didn’t even know the world was going to be here in the morning when I got up.”
Matt Hinton has an Xs-and-Os post on Alabama versus running quarterbacks and Denard versus OSU that's worth your time.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Dallas? A Michigan Man's curiosity is like the noble albatross: ever soaring and observant, encompassing all without soiling its feet with the filthy soil of strange atolls--GADZOOKS I have stepped in expectorated tobacco remnants. LET US END THIS TOUR WITH HASTE AND RETURN TO OUR PULLMAN CARS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Michigan will be Michigan again when Brady Hoke's recruiting comes home to roost, and that will be excellent since this version of Michigan seems like it wants to take advantage of the opportunities presented it. It's still not quite there. The lines are thin and the future NFL stars are hard to find. The shotgun rules and the quarterback can make you laugh just because he moves like so.
In the lull here we can pause and savor things. We have a moment to not have those crushing expectations, to look down and think Michigan can't do it but hope they can, hope they can write themselves into lore as champions.
Here between the trough and the peak there will be a moment in which "can't" becomes "did." Maybe tomorrow.
The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|Year||Margin||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|2007||0.15 (41st)||14||15||2.46(33rd)||14||13||2.17 (67th)|
|2008||-.83 (104th)||9||11||2.42(33rd)||12||18||1.83 (57th)|
|2009||-1.00 (115th)||11||5||1.83(68th)||15||13||2.33 (83rd)|
|2011||+0.54 (25th)||9||20||2.31 (29th)||16||6||1.38 (33rd)|
I know you've heard it, so briefly: Michigan's recovered fumbles at a 75% rate and this is unsustainable. Move that to 50% and Michigan drops quite a bit, but does stay at or around zero for the year, which is a massive positive. How Michigan got there for reasons other than fumble recovery rate:
- dumping a bunch of carries on a to-date fumble-free Fitz Toussaint,
- coaching Denard to be more responsible with the ball when he's running, and
- getting a lot more pressure on opposing QBs.
None of those things should change. Michigan may not have much four-on-four pass rush but that didn't prevent Mattison from blitzing up a top-30 sack rate last year. Denard should also throw many fewer interceptions. He's a senior, he's in a second year in the offense, and Borges will have a better grasp on what leads to trouble. That should offset the fumble recovery rate regression and keep Michigan in a comfortable range near or slightly above zero.
Or, of course, it may do the exact opposite of all these things.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
There are a number of varying severity.
Here's a dossier:
- LG Michael Schofield moves to RT, which is actually undoing a position switch from last year. Fret level: none.
- LG Ricky Barnum moves to center, where he's reportedly doing well. Snapping is another burden, I guess, but fret level: minimal.
- QB Devin Gardner moves to WR, is still sort of a QB, and may be a QB again next year. Fret level: high. It could be that Gardner is undeniable at WR. It could be that Michigan is flailing for options.
- WDE Craig Roh moves to SDE. Fret level: minimal. Given last year, Roh's probably a better fit at the 5 anyway.
- WDE Jibreel Black moves to three-tech, moves back, may move back inside at points. Fret level: severe.
- SAM Brennen Beyer moves to WDE. Fret level: none. Beyer was supposed to be a WDE from the start, is now 252.
Concerns at WR and DL. Surprise!
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Again, there's no bottom if certain critical contributors implode. Assuming disastrous injuries do not occur at QB and OT…
Denard chews up low-level defenses; combine that with a back seven not giving up cheap points and it's hard to see a threat from Air Force, UMass, Purdue, Northwestern, or Minnesota. None of those teams have defenses that will be able to slow down Denard enough, if at all.
The second tier of should-win games is small, though: Illinois and Iowa are the only other games it seems like they absolutely should win, and Iowa was a loss last year. Even in a dark world where things go all wrong, they'd take one of those two and probably swing another game from the Bama/ND/Nebraska/OSU group to get to 7-5.
Michigan's going to implode in one game this year for reasons yet undetermined and must prove that it can teach its center to put his head up before he snaps the ball against MSU, but there isn't a game on the schedule other than the first one that seems like a true longshot. It's asking a but much of them to go to ND, Nebraska, and OSU and win 'em all, though. 10-2 is the reasonable ceiling.
The defense will be fine, even if turnovers decrease. The line will be a surprise to the positive. By the end of the year we are all convinced that Michigan's DL coaching can turn virtually anyone into a serviceable player.
There's a lot of bend-don't-break on D as Mattison struggles to find a pass rush against teams with veteran lines that can pick up his blitzes and Kovacs and Gordon hew down dudes at the first down marker. This is generally effective. The defense is far from dominant but steady and not prone to doing stupid things to itself. Morgan and Demens both improve noticeably, Washington and Campbell hold up okay, and a lot of tackles shift from the DL to the LBs.
On offense, Borges + Denard will still be a problem as those two jigsaw puzzles aren't ever going to mesh smoothly, but there isn't much dropoff at the skill positions if Devin Gardner lives up to even half the hype—for all our hand-wringing, Hemingway had 34 catches last year. Having Toussaint firmly in the driver's seat will help RB productivity, and as a whole the line should be better than it was a year ago now that the guards know how to pull and the right tackle is a high-level performer.
TE remains an issue. Denard getting year two in the new system should easily overwhelm that. His numbers will improve, most obviously in the INT category, and there won't be more than one clunker this time around.
We're gonna die tomorrow, but whatever.
|9/8||Air Force||Must win|
|9/22||@ ND||Lean to win|
|10/6||@ Purdue||Must win|
|10/13||Illinois||Lean to win|
|10/20||MSU||Lean to loss|
|10/27||@ Nebraska||Lean to win|
|11/3||@ Minnesota||Must win|
|11/17||Iowa||Lean to win|
|11/24||@ Akron State||Lean to loss|
Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana
Add it up and you get 9-3. Not a bold prediction this time around, I know.
[Note for people who don't read who posts what: Ace posted this. You probably didn't read this either. DAMN YOUUUUU.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Alabama|
|WHERE||Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX|
|WHEN||8 pm Eastern, September 1st 2012|
|THE LINE||Alabama -13.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
|WEATHER||sunny, mid-90s, roof expected to be closed so it doesn't really matter|
[Image via Tower of Bammer]
It's the opening game of the season, so certainly the Wolverines have scheduled a directional Michigan school or similar creampu...
Michigan takes on defending national champion Alabama, which is ranked second in both preseason polls despite returning just 11 starters. There is good reason for this: Nick Saban has turned Tuscaloosa into an NFL talent factory, one that shows no signs of slowing despite the heavy personnel losses. Michigan's toughest test traditionally comes in the last regular season game; this year, it's the first.
Run Offense vs Alabama
Jesse Williams shifts from end to nose tackle; this should not be a problem
The Crimson Tide defense posted one of the most dominant seasons in collegiate history in 2011, allowing ten yards per game fewer than any other team in the country. A look at their run defense, game-by-game, reveals their numbers could have been even better if not for one obvious outlier:
FCS school Georgia Southern was the only team to crack 3.6 yards per carry against Alabama, and they more than doubled that figure. Flukes are flukes, however, and a triple-option FCS team managing that kind of output against that defense screams irrelevance unless Al Borges breaks out the flexbone tomorrow. The rest of the year, Bama allowed more than three ypc just twice, to Penn State (still boasting Silas Redd) and LSU (first matchup—the second didn't go so well).
This isn't the same Alabama outfit, of course; they lose nose tackle Josh Chapman and a pair of All-American caliber linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. The Tide can replace that talent effectively, sliding 320-pound end Jesse Williams down to the nose and inserting former blue-chip recruits Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard into the lineup at linebacker, but replicating last year's success will be difficult.
Then again, Alabama ceded just 2.4 yards per carry last year en route to crushing the entire universe. Giving up a full yard more per carry would've still placed them inside the top 25 nationally—there may be regression, meaning the extent of their destruction is limited to merely our own galaxy. Williams reportedly bench-pressed 600 pounds(!!!) over the summer—as a JUCO transfer who originally hails from Australia, he's just beginning to reach his potential. Starting ends Damion Square and Ed Stinson each played in all 13 games last year (Square started all 13) and weigh in at over 280 pounds. The Tide carry a reputation for being strong up the middle and that should not change this year.
At linebacker, Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosely combined for 11 TFLs in 2011 and should greatly improve on that output now that they're out from under the shadow of Hightower and Upshaw. Johnson is listed as the co-starter at both MIKE and WILL, while Mosely will stick to the weak side. You may remember DePriest from his recruitment, when the five-star out of Springfield, Ohio, appeared to favor Michigan at one point before choosing to head South. He tallied 25 tackles as a true freshman last year and is a star in the making. Strongside linebacker Hubbard functions more as a defensive lineman in Alabama's 3-4 defense.
On the Michigan side, their performance in this regard may hinge on the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint [UPDATE: forget that]—it takes a dynamic runner to be effective against this defense, and Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith do not fit that bill.
If Toussaint isn't available, Moving the ball on the ground will be a difficult proposition, especially since Alabama can then key on Denard Robinson without having to fear the guy next to him.
As long as there are no injuries along the offensive line, the Wolverines should hold up in the trenches. The pressure will be on Patrick Omameh—who's struggled against bigger, stronger linemen—and new starter Elliott Mealer to not give any ground; if they're getting knocked into the backfield, the efforts of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will be for naught.
If, as expected, Toussaint is not available, it'll take a monster effort from Denard for Michigan to consistently move the ball. He's capable, of course, especially against a defense facing its first full-speed test of the season. As detailed in FFFF, it usually takes misdirection to find running room against the Tide, so we'll see if Borges gets creative to try and get Denard into space on the edge.
Key Matchup: The interior line vs. Jesse Williams. As I said, Lewan and Schofield could dominate and it won't matter if Omameh, Mealer, and center Ricky Barnum can't keep Williams from getting a push up the middle. If the interior line can fight Williams to a draw there's a chance Denard and the backs can put together a few decent runs, perhaps (please?) by running some inverted veer, which Auburn (and Cam Newton) ran with great success against the Tide in 2010.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the news. Which is mostly bad.]
Statement from Head Coach Brady Hoke on running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and defensive end Frank Clark:
"Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark have been suspended for one game and will not make the trip to Dallas for Saturday's game.
"The decision was not easy, but I feel it is in the best interest of this program and for these kids, and those always will be my priorities. We have choices every day, and you have to be accountable to this program, your teammates, your family and the University of Michigan.
"These are our sons. These are real lives, and I think too often many people forget that. It's not always just about football, or a football decision. It's about teaching life lessons, and if this helps these kids or someone else make a right decision later, then we've won. That is ultimately what we are here for, to help them grow and mature to become better sons, fathers, husbands and members of society.
"They are good young men who made poor choices, and we will continue to support them as members of our team and family."
Both will be back for Air Force. Thomas Rawls, Vincent Smith, and Dennis Norfleet(!) will have to pick up the slack at RB, with some possibility Stephen Hopkins will also get RB snaps. Black and Beyer will likely handle DE with some possibility Mario Ojemudia gets in as a rush specialist.
1. We're clear about this shotgun thing, right?
The number one question about last year's offense was how much it would play to Denard's strengths and how much it would settle into Borges's comfort zone. The answer was mostly the former. While the first real test against Notre Dame was a rocky one and Michigan's under-center experiment against Iowa—against a Hawkeye defense that had just been plowed for a game-winning touchdown by Minnesota—was an outright disaster, those were outliers in a season that saw Michigan hardly budge from its shotgun-oriented ways under Rodriguez. The Sugar Bowl was a big fat raspberry at the end of things, granted.
What they ran from the shotgun was a lot different, but when it came down to the most important game in Brady Hoke's career to date—Ohio State—Michigan's primary gambit was the single most prominent spread play in the game today: the inverted veer, which marries power blocking to spread principles and gets you a lot of carries where Denard is charging hard upfield. The result was 170 rushing yards, a 167 yard, 14/17, 3 TD, 0 INT day passing, and 40 points against Oho State.
That seemed to work pretty well, right?
This blog tracked Michigan's success in various formations all year, and it wasn't even a debate except when the opposing defense was entirely theoretical (think EMU). Against mediocre defenses, the shotgun was far superior. Against good defenses, the shotgun was far superior. Various examples:
- Michigan averaged 10.6 YPC from the gun against WMU, 6.8 from under center. (Note that all these numbers excise goal line and short yardage carries as distorting.)
- It was 7.5 gun, 2.3 under center against ND.
- It was 6.4 gun, 3.4 I, 2.3 ace against Iowa.
- It was 5.8 gun, 3.9 under center against Illinois, and before two garbage-time runs from Toussaint Michigan had –1 yards on 8 carries from under center. The blocking on those wasn't even good: "On the first he cut to the backside of the play on a power, which rarely goes well; on the second he had to dodge three tacklers on the backfield on an iso and bounce all the way to the sideline before finding open grass."
You get the idea. For the season Michigan averaged 3.9 YPC from the I and 6.7 from the gun. While ace (not that Ace) actually bested the gun's performance at 7.4 YPC, less than ten percent of Michigan's snaps were from that formation and they were heavily biased against good Ds—no ace snaps against ND or MSU, big chunks against Purdue and Iowa. One 59-yard Fitz run against Purdue explains most of that number, and that was some pretty inexcusable D combined with Fitz being awesome.
When the I worked it was usually due to opponents screwing up…
Three defenders to the left of center vs four blockers plus a FB = 8 yards
…or the tailback making chicken salad out of chicken despair, as in the clips from the Illinois game above.
SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUN SHOTGUNNNNNNNNN. Consider the line: Lewan, Mealer/Kalis, Barnum, Omameh, Schofield—all Rodriguez recruits who can move save the LG. Consider the QB: Denard. Consider the RB: Fitz Toussaint, space jitterbug. Consider the TEs: 404 file not found. Consider the FB: Stephen Hopkins, a guy who can reprise some of the MINOR RAGE if attention is drawn away from him and he's free to run straight at one guy. You've even got leftover RR slots in the WR corps. Just let it ride, man.
Next year is the year you flip over to your multiple pro-style whipsaw offense, next year when Denard is gone and maybe Toussaint heads for the draft and Kalis/Miller/Bryant is your road-grading interior OL and you've got TE depth and a panoply of different rushers for different situations. This year, stick with it and refine what works.
The spring game, which was almost all RR-at-WVU déjà vu 3WR 2RB shotgun set, indicates that's what the coaching staff thinks, too, as does the buzz I've gotten from The Fort. Now about using it a little more smoothly.
[after the JUMP: Borges fusion cuisine, yet more on DG at WR, stupid predictions.]
1. Is the defensive line going to survive?
Son of a bitch. I told you not to ask that. I don't know, man. I don't know.
On the face of things it's not completely dire. Michigan starts two seniors and two juniors. They're big. The backups aren't freshmen, for the most part, and when Michigan's in the nickel package they'll lift the dodgiest parts of the line for what promises to be a stunting, slanting, pressuring Ryan-Roh-Black-Beyer/Clark group. The starters are all touted recruits save Black. Meanwhile, Michigan has three DL coaches and coached Will Heininger up like whoah last year. BONUS: If you squint it kind of looks like "QWash" looks like "quash."
They're unproven, and the lack of playing time last year is a cautionary note. Defensive linemen rotate, and rotate a lot if their coaches have faith in them. Washington hardly existed last year. Campbell did, though, and to a lesser extent so did Black.
A potential problem is the swing in strategy Michigan has to undertake as they transition away from the best penetrating nose tackle at Michigan since NTs ballooned into the 300 pound range. Quinton Washington may turn out all right; he's not going to be Mike Martin. This means the linebackers have to take big steps forward, beat guys who are (hopefully) releasing late after Washington and Campbell shove them back, and fill impeccably. The linebackers' jobs should actually get easier since Michigan has a pair of guys who can demand doubles (hypothetically); they'll have to make a quantum leap in consistency if the rushing defense is going to tread water.
Add to that a non-nickel line that looks like it's not going to get anywhere near the quarterback and you've got a recipe for frustration, or at least a lot of bending as Kovacs and company make tackles to extend drives and the front four tries to put opponents in passing downs.
Verdict: meh, but no worse.
[After jump: more defense, more Mattison, more PANIC?]
I’m guessing you have received various emails about this subject, but I’m wondering if you are read anything into Coach Hoke’s comment in his 8/21 presser regarding BWC practicing at 3-tech? Do you think this is an issue of Campbell not producing at the 1, or is it Pipkins showing that he can play immediately? Is it more related to issues with Beyer (assuming Clark is out of the picture for the near future) or Black forcing a complete reshuffling of the line? Or am I completing overanalyzing as I haven’t seen an honest to goodness live Michigan football game in over 8 months? Is it best to seek therapy or self medicate with bourbon? Have I asked enough questions, or did you stop reading after the first 3?
My hope is that it is Pipkins practicing well and a realization among the coaches that he is a talent that needs to be on the field now. Hopefully this would take some pressure off of BWC, who I think most would agree is the key to D-line play this year.
Anyway, thanks for all your work, you truly provide both great writing and pertinent information for all levels of Michigan fans.
Here's the quote in question:
Well, we’ve been throwing Will a little bit more at the three-technique … Richard Ash and Quinton Washington and Ondre and Ryan Glasgow have been playing a lot of the one. We felt we needed to -- Jibreel’s going to be able to play the three. At times you’re going to need a little heavier package in there, bigger guy, and Will gives you that. So we’ve kind of been trying to get as multiple as we can.
I read that as a short-yardage/goal-line/MANBALL offense package. In those types of GRAARGH plays Black's size is proving a liability and they want a couple of fire hydrant types at those DT spots.
Pipkins may be forcing that move, but remember that one of the surprises of the spring game was Richard Ash popping up in the backfield to blow up running plays a few times:
Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.
It's not out of the question that he turns into a player—as a recruit he briefly had big time offers. He's got a chronic medical thing that has slowed him, but if he's finally rounded into shape he retains the body type to be a quality nose tackle.
A darker possibility: Black is not cutting it and Michigan is preparing a backup plan in case an Alabama lineman sits on him for the entirety of the first drive. Any and all of these are possibilities.
CHL union business.
Would this have any effect on the NCAA hockey schools in terms of making the CHL more or less attractive to prospects? Further, whether the CHLPA succeeds or not, what kind of precedent could this set for NCAA athletes to do something similar? It seems the CHLPA's argument for more pay, etc, is pretty similar to what NCAA athletes could claim.
A semi-related question: Would you be for the Big Ten breaking off from the NCAA in hockey and forming their own semi-pro league similar to what you have proposed for baseball? I hate the NCAA, and Big Ten hockey is more competitive than Big Ten baseball, so I think they could actually make more money via BTN and other endeavors.
Go Blue from Cairo,
If a CHL union does get off the ground and forces the owners to pay them a reasonable amount, that could do any number of things to the NCAA's efforts to recruit against them. More money obviously makes junior more attractive, but if the end result of all this is some sort of strictly-enforced cap on how much any particular kid could get that might help the NCAA with the top end kids. Even if there isn't a hard cap, CHL teams forced to pay third-liners some variety of wage would have less to spend on the
Troubas Jack Campbells of the world.
Unless it's a lot of money I don't see it making a big difference. CHL kids are gambling that their hockey career will pay the bills; NCAA kids are betting the education they get is more valuable than whatever stipend they would get in junior.
I don't know what the NCAA's argument is re: the CHL, but they probably have a better leg to stand on because they're affiliated with nonprofit educational institutions instead of out-and-out businesses. IANAL.
About Big Ten breaking off in hockey: what? There are only six Big Ten teams, and going semi-pro only increases costs. Who would they play? Why would they make more money as semi-pro teams (more high profile players I guess, but I'm skeptical)? It only makes sense in baseball because NCAA baseball is stacked against Northern teams so insanely. Playing the first month of the season on the road and never ever getting a Southern team to come to your place is a handicap you just can't overcome. There are no similar problems in hockey, and it's tight-knit enough that Michigan has rivalries with North Dakota, BC, Notre Dame, and to a lesser extent others. I award you no points for this idea.
LOInjury. That's LOI, not LOL.
With all the early offers out there, this seems like it is a discussion worth prepping for. what happens if a commit who has not yet signed his LOi has a career ending injury prior to joining the team? Would UM honor the commitment somehow even if he cant play? Is that allowed by NCAA? Is there a track record of this? Formulate a response now and pray we never have to use it.
We'll get to see how Michigan responds to this next year when Austin Hatch does or does not join the basketball team. It seems like a pretty easy solution: sign the guy and medical him as fast as possible. If you have to carry the guy for a year, that doesn't seem like a huge burden—most of the time you're just throwing that scholarship to a walk-on anyway.
In his interview with Grantland, Coach Hoke revealed his music tastes. "To this day, those records are the ones I still listen to — Hall & Oates, early Stones, REO Speedwagon, Aerosmith. I love Hall & Oates. "Rich Girl" and "Sarah" can bring a tear to my eye."
It's now clear who Hoke learned his epic point from:
Coincidence? I think not.
Jake, on the other hand, gets sixty-seven points.
Just a note: Writing your picks in the comment section is NOT a valid entry. You must enter your picks using the form below or at this link. Feel free to discuss your picks here, but you must submit the form in order to enter the contest.
[ED: Bump. Get your picks in!]
After a great first year of Pick Six on MGoBlog, we’re back by popular demand. Unfortunately, we never had a results post in order to honor the original creators . (The MGoBlog summary will be posted after Blue-Gray Sky releases their results from 2009) This year I will be handling the technical details but we are going to have somebody else write the recaps. If you are interested in the job of writing the weekly summaries send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Onto the contest. Here's how it works.
1. We divide the top 25 into 5 groups of 5 based on the preseason AP Poll: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, etc. For this year's poll, the groups are:
- A: Southern Cal, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon
- B: Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina, Arkansas
- C: West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Clemson, Texas
- D: Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, TCU
- E: Stanford, Kansas State, Florida, Boise State, Louisville
2. Before the season starts you pick one team from each group, plus one unranked team. You're trying to pick the teams you think will finish highest in the final AP poll (after the bowl games).
3. Each week we'll try to update and publish the standings in a spreadsheet so you can track the progress of your teams. You get 25 points for having the #1 team, 24 points for the #2 team, on down to 1 point for the #25 team. Unranked teams get zero points.
4. The winner is the person with the most points (i.e. the highest ranked teams) after the bowl season. The midseason standings are only for entertainment purposes. Only the final AP poll counts.
5. And the grand prize? I will personally give the winner 10 meaningless upvotes. Plus, last year some guy named Brian offered a small prize.
Throughout the season someone will hopefully give regular updates on the progress of the contest in the Diaries.
That's it for the Pick Six: short, sweet and simple. The entry form closes on Thursday August 30 before the first kickoff, so get your picks in now. Good luck!
There was no greater example of Brady Hoke's ability to manufacture something out of nothing using only smirks, confidence, and home remedies from back at Yellowstone than the one-year transformation wrought in kicker Brendan Gibbons. When last we saw Gibbons, he was doing this and I was captioning like this:
WHAT THE BALLS WHY IS THIS MAN'S PICTURE HERE
Hoke put CONFIDENCE in his BRAIN in a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER, and brunette girls did the rest.
A year after going one of five and doinking an extra point, Gibbons hit 13 of 17 field goals and won the Sugar Bowl. His leg wasn't severely tested and it seemed like Michigan was going out of its way to avoid long field goals, but long field goals are for saps anyway.
In 2012 Gibbons should produce the same steady Garrett-Rivas-like production, pounding him a bunch of field goals under 40 yards and not taking many longer ones.
Rating: unfathomable, or bad and then 3
After being suspended for five of his last six games, Will Hagerup returned against Minnesota and proceeded to thunder two punts off his leg for 75 yards each. Wait. That's not an average. 37.5 yards each. Against MSU two weeks later he pounded seven punts for… 31.8 yards each. In the Ohio State game he immortalized himself with a now very funny but still-not-too-good-for-his-job-prospects GIF:
After Hagerup shanked two Sugar Bowl punts for an average of 25 yards, Michigan finally had enough, inserting freshman Matt Wile for the remainder of the game. Season total: 29 punts for 36 yards each and one muff-induced torrent of profanity from section 44, row 16. Brendan Gibbons 2010 == Will Hagerup 2011.
Despite all that, Hoke announced he'd won the starting job a few days ago. Hopefully Hoke has executed the same sort of mind-meld with Hagerup that he did with Gibbons last year. Early signs to keep an eye out for:
- expressing preference for redheads
- or starting to look like Spuds McKenzie
- or starting to look like Lynyrd Skynrd
- or kicking the everloving hamburglar out of the ball
A return to Hagerup's freshman year performance—second only to Zoltan The Inconceivable for best all-time at M—would be worth almost eight yards a kick, and Hagerup has upside even beyond that, as a 72-yard bomb against Purdue would attest if New York copyright nazis acknowledged fair use.
Reaching that is a matter of recovering his freshman chi. That's unpredictable. Think of the Gibbons.
If Hagerup doesn't Michigan will be okay. Sophomore Matt Wile's 17 punts a year ago averaged 42 yards each. He's got a big leg—he also handled kickoffs—and was an Army AA kicker and all that. The bottom here is average.
Kickoffs and Return Units
We'll start with the kickoffs since it's uncertain how much they'll matter. The Mathlete predicts that half of all kickoffs will now be touchbacks, and I think it may be even higher as coaches decide on the safe start at the 25 over a small shot at something better.
This may be good for Michigan in the short term. They were terrible at kick returns last year, averaging just 18.4 yards an attempt. That was good for 117th. That's not a huge surprise when your top two returners were Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith, who no one will confuse with top-end athletes. Odoms is gone now and Smith seems to have lost the job to Dennis Norfleet, who is Smith except quicker than neutrinos, and Josh Furman, who is probably the fastest guy on the team not named Denard. Furman might not have much wiggle but he can fly. Michigan should improve here, for as much as it matters.
When kicking off Michigan was average a year ago and figures to be again.
Hoke also worked his juju with Jeremy Gallon, who went from this…
Jeremy Gallon special teams error limit: determined. It is ten billion. I'm obviously on the tolerant side of the scale when it comes to coaching errors (outside of obvious game theory errors, about which I have an Al Qaeda level of zealotry) but JESUS GOD RICH RODRIGUEZ WHY DID YOU LET JEREMY GALLON RETURN KICKS AND PUNTS FOR TEN GAMES.
…to a solid, error-free returner. Michigan got punt returns up to 53rd nationally (9 yards each) and last season is notably free of ALL CAPS moaning about fumbles and punts left unfielded. I'm vaguely hoping we see a second guy back there, probably Dileo, against teams that go to the rugby style spread punt, but am not banking on it. This, too, should be a blank.
There is some possibility that having a dedicated special teams coach will let Michigan block some stuff or get creative on a return or finally go to the max gunner style most teams are running these days, and not HOLDING ON TO THE DAMN BALL is a constant threat. The likeliest outcome is meh all around, which fine.
Today's recruiting roundup covers Cass Tech's Hell Week, the latest on the Technician juniors, Maurice Hurst's surprising versatility, and more.
All Cass Tech Everything
Dick's Sporting Goods was on hand during Cass Tech's "Hell Week" to chronicle their preparation for the season. Part one is above and you can find the rest of the videos at their YouTube page. Jourdan Lewis features briefly in episode one. Head coach Thomas Wilcher does not seem like the type you'd want to cross, to say the least.
The star of Cass Tech's opening week victory, junior corner Damon Webb, currently has a top four of LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State (no order), according to ESPN's Jared Shanker ($). Webb will check out the Michigan State-Boise State matchup this weekend and plans to head to games at each of his top schools; expect him to visit the Big House multiple times this year.
Matt Pargoff continues to compile highlights from last weekend's action, and junior LB William White's tape is well worth a watch. White is #6 in, er, white, though you won't have to look hard find him—he's the heat-seeking missile:
White got a little too focused on laying big hits in the middle there, trying to lay guys out with his shoulder instead of wrapping up, but that's an easy fix. If he can learn to play more controlled, Big Ten offers await. According to Tim Sullivan, White is already hearing from Michigan State and Ohio State ($)
Pargoff also has highlights of junior LB/RB Deon Drake from Saturday; he did most of his work on offense and was a load to bring down, even for MSU commit Jon Reschke.
[Hit THE JUMP for Maurice Hurst Jr. doing things no 300-pound man should be able to do.]
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