I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
I posted this over at a blog for which I occasionally write, but it's not a Michigan-centered blog and I don't get much feedback there so I thought I'd share it with the MGoCommunity.
Salty Sam Throws You on a Railroad Track
Being born in 1983 in Ann Arbor to a pair of Michigan alumni was the perfect storm for hating Notre Dame. For my entire life as a minor, Michigan State and Ohio State would occasionally jump up and bite the Wolverines, but they were largely just fodder for Michigan whether the coach was Schembechler, Moeller, or Carr. Notre Dame, however, was in the midst of selling its soul under Lou Holtz who was himself in the midst of getting his second of three straight schools at which he coached in hot water with the NCAA (Minnesota before and South Carolina after ND). Ethics aside, Holtz was a darn good coach which made his bizarre personality and speech pattern all the more obnoxious. At least John L. Smith has the decency to be nothing but comedy relief.
Holtz took the reigns in South Bend in 1986. After losing his first game against Michigan (and debut as Irish coach), 24-23, Holtz then led the Irish to 4 straight victories over Michigan, a stretch that included the 1988 national title for the Irish as well as the "stop kicking it to Rocket Ismail, please" game in 1989 when the Irish and Wolverines were ranked 1-2 to start the year. During this time I ranged in age from 4-7 and my father, like any true Wolverine would, grew an intense distaste for Holtz and the Domers, which I of course fully absorbed. I needed no other reason to hate Notre Dame, but then NBC made it even easier with their absurd TV contract. Half of my Michigan-Notre Dame viewing experiences have featured Tom Hammond (honorable mention in terribleness to ABC/ESPN for subjecting me to Brent Musberger for the other half)
Anyway, 1991 rolled around and in came the Irish to Ann Arbor looking for an unfathomable fifth straight win over the Wolverines. Michigan fans are rightfully (much of the time, anyway) noted for their arrogance, but in 1991 if there was one fan base that could out-smug the Wolverines it was Notre Dame. I was already destined to be a Wolverine slappy, but this cemented me for life:
That play and Remy Hamilton's winner in 1994 are the two that most stand out to me in my early Michigan football memories (of the positive ones, anyway. Don't even mention Miami in 1988. Crap, I just did). Holtz "retired" following the 1996 season. There still isn't a stated reason why. Holtz said "it was the right thing to do." Irish aficionados will tell you it was because the school's brass didn't want Holtz to surpass Knute Rockne's all-time wins record of 105. The likely reason became clear in 1999 when the Irish were hit with probation by the NCAA for failing to report improper benefits and academic fraud during the tenures of Holtz and his successor, Bob Davie. In any case, Holtz was gone and the first of many mediocre coaches to roam the sidelines in South Bend had taken over, so life must have been dandy for the Maize and Blue, right? Not so.
The Irish kept managing to defend their home turf despite fielding lousy teams and despite things like the hilarious hiring gaffe of resume doctor George O'Leary. The "Return to Glory" and "Field Goal Jesus" jokes were always funny, but not as funny as they should have been because Notre Dame still found ways to maintain some relevance by beating ranked Michigan teams. It wasn't until Charlie Weis' "decided schematic advantage" and then Brian "Grimace" Kelly that Michigan was able to put more than one consecutive win together against the Irish. The three most recent saw the Wolverines snatch victory in the waning seconds (I think the first two were by design; Rich Rodriguez didn't know how to win any other way) and the two most recent saw jaw-dropping offensive numbers from Michigan's quarterback, Denard Robinson. The 2012 game brought an opportunity for Michigan to win four straight against the Irish, matching the Irish's streak at the end of the 80's. Notre Dame is Salty Sam, always up to no good until, just when you thought all hope was gone, along Comes Jones in the form of Denard Robinson. There are three verses to the song. This would be Robinson's third and final game against the Irish. The thought of a third thrilling victory for Robinson was just delightful. The idea for this post came to me on Thursday, but I didn't dare say anything about it for fear of the jinx.
This game would be played in South Bend, however, and other than a couple blips on the radar South Bend has been the Bermuda triangle for Michigan. Whether it be an errant pass somehow still completed in 1990, Carlyle Holiday fumbling on the 1 and still getting a touchdown in 2002, or the 2008 slop-fest, good things don't often happen for Michigan in Notre Dame Stadium. The Ghost of Irish Past reared its ugly head again on Saturday and Robinson, with a little help from his friends, had the worst day of his Michigan career. 5 interceptions and a fumble and Michigan still only lost by 7 points. You can make a case that the better team has lost in this game for four straight years now. I was mad, but if you've watched enough of Denard Robinson it's impossible to really be upset with him. He's seen more in his 22 years (oh yeah, Saturday was his 22nd birthday) than most will in their lifetimes. His humility is equally evident in victory as well as defeat. So, instead of seething over this game for two weeks (Michigan has a bye on Saturday) like I would do pretty much every other year, I'm going to try damn hard to get past it because there are only 8-10 opportunities left to watch Denard Robinson in a Michigan uniform. Sure, he's a feast-or-famine kind of player, but when it's been feast I haven't had as much fun watching football since Charles Woodson donned the Maize and Blue.
As for Notre Dame, they've decided to opt out of the rivalry after 2014 due to
joining the ACC scheduling issues. The good news is games like Saturday's won't happen so much, but I'll still miss the rivalry. To me Notre Dame will always be Salty Sam, trying to saw Michigan all in half. It sucks when they succeed, but there's nothing sweeter than when Jones comes along and saves the day. Michigan-ND was a game I looked forward to more than any other; it was better when it was the first game of the year, but sadly Lou Holtz put and end to that by scheduling warm-up games in the early 90's. There's no doubt Bo was right ("To Hell with Notre Dame!"), but it was always truer when Michigan sent them there.
Preseason Prediction (Which Is Looking Pretty Silly Right Now): Michigan will end the year with a +8 Turnover Margin (TOM) or better (2011 was +7). The prediction for TOM for M for this year is based on the prediction that M will be a very good team again this year and is not based on the actual TOM of last year. (Very good teams will have a TOM of +5 or better.)
C'Mon Man!: As I watched MSU struggle in their game against EMU, I thought, "we can beat ND!" And we should have (yeah, I know – coulda, shoulda, woulda). Denard has thrown a lot of interceptions in his career (4 in 2009, 10 in 2010, 14 in 2011) but has only thrown 3 picks 3 times (MSU in 2010, ND & NW in 2011). Since Denard's interception at the end of the first half was completely meaningless, this was really his 4th game with 3 interceptions (although the official stats will record it as 4 interceptions). For the year, that is 8 interceptions for DRob and a 8% interception ratio (ranked #123). Last year, Robinson finished the year with a 5.6% interception ratio (ranked #104). DRob did show marked improvement last year in his interception % over the final 9 games going from 8.3% in the first 4 games to 4.7% in the final 9 games. (BTW, 4.7% is still horrible.) Unless the interceptions stop, M is basically starting every game with a TOM of –2 .
Despite what you may have been led to believe, Denard has better statistics this year than last year! Obviously, the only meaningful comparison is between the first 4 games played this year versus the first 4 games last year. After the first 4 games, DRob's interception% is 8.0% this year vs. 8.33% last year. He also has just 1 lost fumble versus 2 lost fumbles in 2011. And, he has completed 53% of his passes vs. 49% last year. Unfortunately, Denard has attempted 100 passes this year versus just 72 last year – that is an increase of 39%!! You may have also forgotten that DRob threw those 3 interceptions last year in the ND game but the 4 TOs by ND (not including the meaningless ND TO at the end of the game) more than negated the interceptions thrown.
M is now –7 in TOM and only a dramatic turnaround (of epic proportions) will avoid a negative TOM for the year. Over the past decade, only 28% of teams with a TOM of –4 or worse have had winning records.
After 4 games last year, M had 6 interceptions and 2 fumbles for a total of 8 giveaways. We had intercepted the opponent 4 times and recovered 9 fumbles for a total of 13 takeaways and a TOM of +5 (ranked #12).
Synopsis for Turnovers: M picked up their first 2 interceptions gained (Gordon & Taylor) and is ranked #67. ND did not fumble and M ended the game with a total of 4 Takeaways for the year (ranked #87). The total of 10 interceptions lost is ranked dead last at #124. The only good news is that M has lost only 1 fumble (ranked #11). Overall the total is 11 giveaways (ranked #109) and a TOM of –7 (ranked #113).
Synopsis for Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Unfortunately, we got our first game where TOs were significant. I am sure no one is surprised that a TOM of –3 (adjusted for the meaningless interception at the end of the half) was the primary reason M lost this game. The analysis indicates a net loss of 9.32 EP for Michigan. M lost nearly 14 points because of their TOs and gained less than 2 points from the ND turnovers for a net loss of 12 points for M. ND lost 6 points because of their TOs and gained nearly 3.5 points from the M TOs for a net loss of less than 3 points for ND.
The folks at Football Outsiders – FEI are also doing weekly "Revisionist Box Scores" that strips out TOs, Special Teams, and Field Position. They show all games where the impact of these items would have impacted which team won the game. In their analysis, Total Turnover Value (TTV) for Michigan in the ND game was: TTV+ = 21.7, TTV- = 9 for a TTV Net = 12.7 and an adjusted score showing a M win by 5.7 points. Thru Week #4, here is their summary:
(See the Section on Gory Details below for how the adjustment for Expected Points (EP) is calculated.)
National Rankings: Ugly, ugly, ugly. All rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
The Gory Details
Details for Turnovers: Here is overall summary for all games by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Basically, the probability of scoring depends on the line of scrimmage for the offense. Therefore, the impact of a TO also depends on the yard line where the TO is lost and the yard line where the TO is gained. Each turnover may result in an immediate lost opportunity for the team committing the TO and a potential gain in field position by the opponent. Both of these components can vary dramatically based upon the down when the TO occurred, the yards the TO is returned, and whether the TO was a fumble or an interception.
Here are the details for the game.
The analysis is a bit tricky because: (A) the TO may directly result in lost EP for the offense but (B) only modifies the EP for the team gaining the TO because the team gaining the TO would have gotten another possession even without the TO (due to a punt, KO after a TD, KO after a field goal, etc.). The Net EP Gain must take into account the potential EP gain without the TO. The EP gain without the turnover is based on where the field position would have been for the next possession if the TO had not occurred.
The expected point calculations are based on data from Brian Fremeau at BCFToys (he also posts at Football Outsiders). Fremeau's data reflects all offensive possessions played in 2007-2010 FBS vs. FBS games. I "smoothed" the actual data.
Here is a summary of the smoothed expected points.
So an hour before the kick off of the annual Michigan vs Notre Dame game the other night, Michigan’s Athletic Director David Brandon was handed a letter from Notre Dame. When he opened it the next day, he learned that Notre Dame was canceling the annual series between the two schools after their meeting in 2014.....
This is sad for me, because I live 20 minutes from Notre Dame, and I’m a HUGE Michigan fan. The result of this is that the chance I get for yearly bragging rights in my community is gone. Its also sad because Notre Dame and Michigan are two of the oldest football traditions in the country, and they’ve got the oldest rivalry in the nation - which like .... awesome! So Notre Dame is pulling the plug on something I think is pretty cool and pretty important to me.
Why would they do this?
They say that its to protect their coastal important rivalries. I think they’re lying through their teeth when they say this.
Well, Notre Dame - a school with a proud of being independent in football (which makes absolutely no sense to me!) is looking to protect its brand. Now hopefully you’re asking, “What does that mean?!?” Well its about about visibility and recruiting.
College sports are a really weird way that schools build their reputation and influence. Example: Pennsylvania State University. In the 1960’s Penn State was a rather insignificant school, but in the next few decades, Joe Paterno, through the power of his football tradition, built up the school’s reputation. Today, “State College” is one of the more respected academic traditions in the country, a member of the prestigious AAU (a collection of the top research institutions on the continent), and national brand. All of this way made possible by the fame and the cash flow brought in by the football team.
Notre Dame, in much the same way as Penn State, has been propped up by its football tradition. The exploits of their traveling football team in the early part of the 20th century put this midwest school in the front of the nation. They would play anybody, anywhere. As a result Notre Dame has strong connections with major cities on either coast. As a result, many of the students that attend the school are from states far away from the school. And you cannot separate the rise of their academic tradition to a top 20 school, from their football tradition.
Now in the past few years decades Notre Dame’s football tradition has become a bit ..... stagnant. They have not finished in the top 25 for the past 6 seasons, they have failed to win a BCS game since the BCS was started in 1998, and they’ve failed to win a National Championship since 1988. Some have dubbed the phrase, “Notre Dame, returning to glory since 1993.”
Winning 1 National Championship in the past 34 years is something that is tough for the proud alumni of the schools, a fact drilled deep into the awareness of many of the alumni from Notre Dame. They insist that their school do everything possible to return their alma mater back to the level it once was. They have gone through multiple coaches looking for the man who can be their messiah; the chosen one capable of winning it all.
There have been several reasons why their brand has suffered; academics, location, the number of schools getting on TV, and the rise of the SEC have all contributed to Notre Dame’s dip in prominence. These factors have weakened Notre Dame.
There is also the way that the National Championship teams build their schedule. You want to have a strong schedule, yet you need to win the majority of your games. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to do these things in recent years. Either they have played teams that were much superior to them in strength, they have lost to their rivals, or they have played teams that were so poor that it did not prepare them/boost their strength of schedule.
Notre Dame has always fiercely maintained their independence from a conference. The main result would be that this would limit their influence. The problem with the major football conferences is that they end up being tied down to a geographical region. (The SEC mainly recruits students to their school from south eastern, the Pac(ific) 12 recruits the west coast, the Big Ten (12) recruits the midwest, and the Big 12(10) recruits Texas.)Notre Dame knows this, and doesn’t want to become geographically limited; they want to make sure that they maintain their national brand.
Notre Dame is located in the midwest part of the country, near Chicago (the region’s largest metropolitan area). They are very visible in this city, so much so that they aren’t worried about recruiting in their own back yard. They are comfortable with their fan base in the middle area of the country.
To be present on the west coast, Notre Dame has played Stanford and Southern Cal. They rotate the years that they play them, so every year Notre Dame makes a trip out to California. They have also been affiliated with the Big East for the past few decades; full members in basketball & the Olympic sports and playing a number of Big East opponents in football. Thus, Notre Dame is visible on both coasts.
In the past few years, Big East football has become diluted. Many of their traditional football programs have left the conference, and Notre Dame has been left to schedule a number of weak teams instead. As a result, ND has chosen to change is conference relationship to an East Coast conference with some football muscle: the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
Notre Dame will now play 5 or 6 games a year against ACC opponents. These ACC opponents will be quality football teams stretch up and down the East Coast. So their move to the ACC is good for their level of competition AND it gives them a presence on that coast. Its a win-win for Notre Dame.
This year, Notre Dame is already playing 4 ACC schools, so to add another game or two against these conference teams means that Notre Dame will need to drop one of its non-coastal, midwest opponents; they chose to drop Michigan.
The problem with Notre Dame saying they are stopping the Michigan rivalry because they value their more important coastal rivalries, is that Michigan isn’t the only non-coastal, midwest school that Notre Dame plays; Michigan State and Purdue are also regular opponents. So to say that Notre Dame canceled their series with Michigan is simply because they’re looking to protect their coastal reputation - which was Notre Dame’s reason for dropping the Michigan series - is to miss the point. There are three schools they could have chosen to stop playing. Now if you look at these three schools and their football rivalry with Notre Dame you’ll see something else.
Purdue: Notre Dame has dominated its series with Purdue. Since 1970, Purdue has only beaten the Irish 10 times; only 2 of these wins being in South Bend! (This includes an 11-game winnings streak by Notre Dame.) This rivalry has been completely one sided.
Michigan State: Michigan State is viewed as a thorn in the side of the Irish. They’re the pesky underdog that usually gives them fits. MSU has always been a 2nd level program in the midwest, surviving on the football players that were rejected by the region’s elite programs. The series is a bit more even than the ND/Purdue series (with Notre Dame winning 2/3rds of the games), yet its still a series where Notre Dame is the favorite.
Michigan: In the non-coastal midwest region, there are three big dogs in the football world: Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan. Not just the biggest in the region, they’re three of the biggest football traditions in the country! They are near the top of the of the totem pole in wins, national championships, budgets, stadiums, Heisman Trophy winners, etc. etc. etc. If there is a stat that can be compared, these three schools are among the leaders in those stats.
While Ohio State and Notre Dame don’t have much of a rivalry, Michigan and Notre Dame have a very fierce rivalry that stretches back to the earliest days of organized college football. Some students from Michigan, were the first to teach ND students how to play the football. Michigan was ND’s first opponent in 1887 (an 8-0 UofM win). And Notre Dame was first described as “the Fighting Irish” by a Michigan newspaper. There is also a long period of time between 1909 and 1978 where the two schools refused to play each other.
Since resuming playing one another (in 1978), Notre Dame and Michigan have played 29 games, each team has winning 14 and tying in 1992. Its as even as it possibly could be. And while both teams like to think they’re a better tradition, they’re the same tradition; Notre Dame == Michigan.
[Also, we should note that since resuming this rivalry, Notre Dame has only won one national championship. 10 of their 11 championships were won during the years the teams did not play each other (1909-1978).]
So what we see is that Notre Dame canceled the rivalry with the midwest rival they’re equal with; while keeping the rivalries that they dominate.
I think we should see this move by Notre Dame as nothing short of the Irish cutting the strongest of their non-coastal, midwestern rivals as they amp up their strength of schedule by moving into a relationship with the ACC. This has nothing to do with protecting their coastal allegiances. They want to avoid a strength of schedule that will limit their ability to compete consistently for the national championship.
Every year lots of new people find this corner of the internet, and some struggle to find all the awesome information stored here. First, take a second and scroll up and look under the winged helmet - there are a lot of very useful links. I'm putting some of them here because lots of people have no idea that they exist, and we've seen tons of threads (Where can I watch!?!?) created because... well because people don't know that a sticky thread exists for that.
Not sure who Tacopants is? Slow on the other inside jokes? want to know why Brian has a MS in Computer engineering? There's your answer.
- "Tacopants"? Tacopants is Jason Avant's eleven-foot tall imaginary friend. Chad Henne spent much of 2005 hitting him between the numbers, which are unfortunately eight feet off the ground and made of dreams. Blessed with infinite eligibility and the ability to sneak on and off the field without alerting the referees -- made of dreams, remember -- Tacopants has taken a lesser role in the offense as Henne matures but still pops up at inopportune times. The term has its genesis in this post.
That's stuff about the guy who runs/owns/is MGoBlog. Think he's betrayed his ethics? Have a tip/correction? Email is a way better way to do it than a dickish thread.
Want to advertise: Talk to Seth.
Can't start a thread? Not sure if "Denard" is a bad thread title? What's on topic? This isn't Nam, there are rules.
Guide to eating and drinking. Zingerman's is good, but overpriced. Maize and Blue is better. /shots fired
Stuck in a car on a Saturday? http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/listening-gameanywhere
WHERE CAN I WATCH THE GAME:http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/um-friendly-bar-locations-across-us-and-elsewhere
Stop making threads about it.
Hope this has been a helpful and informative little diary. Now go enjoy wife day and the rest of the bye week.
(Click the image to view full size)
We've all got our own gameday rituals and superstitions. And we all question them when the game doesn't turn out right. Why do we, the mere fans, look for strange ways to share some of the blame? Is it our own weird way of feeling like we're a part of the team?
What are your gameday superstitions? And did you forget to do any of them on Saturday?
OnThursday the Blockhams look to the bye week.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog,
and at least every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to
check out Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
So rather than start another thread questioning the offense, I decided to take a look around our lovely conference:
1: Northwestern/Minnesota - They haven't gone up against great competition, but remain the only two (postseason eligible) teams that are undefeated. Back in August if I told you the October 13th game between the two could feature a 6-0 Northwestern and 5-0 Minnesota, I bet people would slap me silly.
2: Purdue - Again, not so great competition, but since they host Wisconsin at home they should be the favorites for the Leaders division. Let that sink in....Purdue isn't a darkhorse, they're not a longshot, they're the favorites for the Division. Sure it's because the rest of their division imploded, but hey, baby steps.
And that's all the positives for the conference
1: Wisconsin - At worst, they should be 1-3, but in reality they should at least be 2-2. No matter how you slice it, Wisconsin is the leagues Number 1 disappointment. The defending conference champion almost losing to FCS teams, dropping a game against a what will probably be a middle of the pack PAC-12 team, and essentially losing to a WAC team is not how you want to start off your title defense. Couple that with having Montee Ball yet only having the 88th best rushing attack in the country and they're a clear number 1
2: Iowa - Coming in at a close second is the 2-2 Hawkeyes, fresh off a stinging home loss to Central. Going into this year people knew was going to be difficult for the Hawkeyes. They're replacing both coordinators, and were extremely thin at receiver and RB, but they had hopes that with an average defense and a veteran QB, they could make a fight in the division. Plenty of dropped passes later, a few special teams meltdowns, and you've got people questioning whether Iowa will make a bowl or not
3: Illinois/PSU - I don't really know what to say here, at this point we're not talking about teams that are clear disappointments so much as they are performing somewhat below expectations. Illinois has blowout losses to Arizona State and Louisiana Tech (!!!), with a win over WMU and a seal clubbing over Charleston Southern, which is apparently a real school; while Penn State dropped their first two games to Ohio and Virginia, while managing to salvage games over Navy and Temple
4: Nebraska/Michigan - Here we've got teams that could be 4-0 and 3-1 respectively. Both teams could win the conference, but could jsut as easily go 8-4. For Nebraska, the defense should stiffen up if they want some Roses, and for Michigan, well there's about 40 other threads discussing us, go there and talk about it (turnovers)
5: MSU/OSU - They're just below Neb/Mich. Here neither team has lost a game they should have won, but they haven't looked impressive winnning those games. MSU had to give Le'veon Bell 5 million touches in their opener to beat a rebuilding Boise team, and had to do the same gameplan to beat Eastern (!!!!!!!!!). The defense has looked good, but they have also gone up against some pretty bad offenses, Boise got shut out against BYU, and Eastern is Eastern. Notre Dame put up 300 yards on them, but had one big break for a TD, and a bunch of FG's. Right now their best win is over a CMU team. And when you look at OSU, struggles against Central Florida, UAB, and Cal don't bode well for their season. Braxton Miller has been doing it all for the Buckeyes, but as any Michigan fan can tell you, that's not a viable plan for continued success. The passing offense leaves much to be desired and various injuries have knocked their starting RB's out of commision at one point or another. Their defense hasn't been embarrassed, but they can't claim greatness either.
The Meh: Indiana. IU sucks, and a loss to Ball State isn't really surprising, nor are their wins over UMass and Indiana State. Conference play will knock them back down to nothing