This April 4 will be the first Go Blue Bowl, an event to benefit Marlin Jackson's Fight for Life Foundation. It's a flag football tournament with teams of 10 sponsored by local businesses and coached by Marlin, Jason Avant, Jerome Jackson, Donovan Warren, Chris Perry, Cato June, Tim Massaquoi, Marcus Ray, Jeremy Gallon, Roy Manning, Brandon Williams, and Jamar Adams (so far).
On Monday Brian and I were invited to attend the kickoff event and I was asked to give a speech to explain why we're behind this. I figured I might as well share that as a diary, where those who care to read it can, and the overwhelming majority who don't need only put up with a handful of picas in the diary bar for a few days.
Michigan is This
I was part of that famous class of 1998. Together we won a BCS bowl, 2 Big Ten championships, and twice beat THE university that thinks you need to put an article before a proper noun. The reason you probably don't remember me is Coach Carr here never offered me a scholarship, on account of the fact I was born without any football talent.
I'm just a big fan. As you have probably realized since graduating, being a fan means you are profoundly affected by things you have no control over whatsoever. And because This is Michigan™ [audience adds the 'forgodsakes'] those things aren't just the football things, but also the scholarship things, and the community things.
As your loved ones have probably, carefully, asked when the Michigan things have threatened your control of your sanity: "Why does it matter so much?"
It's our particular weirdness to think we need a real answer to this. Everyone who went here, played here, or roots there [points toward a photo of the stadium] believes in this exceptionalism, this idea that being "acceptable" in any of these facets is never good enough. We can't all possibly excel at such a level all the time. It is an ideal, and that ideal is what we espouse when we reverentially say "Michigan."
We're here supporting the Fight for Life Foundation and Marlin Jackson because he is the embodiment of that ideal, excelling as an athlete, as a scholar, and in what he does to give back to his community.
When I was first checking out his foundation I thought "wow, Marlin Jackson, remember his first interception on the 7 yard line against Western when he was still wearing number 20 where he went up and we were all like "finally!"…
Yeah so the second thing was I showed this to my wife does this for a living—she's a child psychologist who works with at-risk children—and she was very impressed, said this is what these kids need and what a lot of their schools have increasingly been unable to provide.
They need access to art, and challenges to their creativity and analysis skills, to develop critical thinking. They need assistance to catch up to classmates in their studies, else all that other school is wasted in futility. They need opportunities to function in a team setting, to develop an appreciation for society and their own value to it.
These aren't just things; the scholars in child psychology say that after food and shelter they're the most important things.
Marlin saw that this is what these kids need to succeed as teammates, in the classroom, and as members of their communities, via his own experiences, and from the expertise of some of the top educational thinkers around Indianapolis whom he's brought in to develop his programming. He was put in a position to provide this because he made himself an exceptional athlete. And he knew he had to, because he went to Michigan, and THIS is what we're all about.
We can't always affect this, that, or the other thing. But with Marlin's leadership we can be contributors to the making-the-world-a-better-place-things, that is, the things that make THIS matter.
|Team||Record||Home||Home Wins||Home Losses||Home Remaining||Away||Away Wins||Away Losses||Away Remaining||Play Once|
|UM||10-2||5-0||NW, PSU, IOWA, PURD, NEB||N/A||WISC, MSU, MIN, IND||5-2||MINN, NEB, WISC, MSU, OSU||IND, IOWA||PURD, ILL||NW, PSU, @OSU, @ILL|
|MSU||9-2||4-1||OSU, MINN, IND, PSU||UM||NW, NEB, ILL, IOWA||5-1||PSU, IND, NW, ILL, IOWA||WISC||PURD, UM, OSU||MINN, @WISC, NEB, @PURD|
|IOWA||7-4||4-2||NEB, NW, MINN, UM||MSU, OSU||WISC, PURD, ILL||3-2||OSU, NW, ILL||WISC, UM||PSU, IND, MINN, MSU||NEB, @PSU, IND, PURD|
|WISC||6-5||3-3||IOWA, ILL, MSU||UM, NW, OSU||MINN, IND, PURD||3-2||NW, PURD, ILL||IND, MINN||UM, IOWA, PSU, NEB||OSU, MSU, @PSU, @NEB|
|OSU||6-6||3-3||NEB, ILL, PURD||IOWA, PSU, UM||NW, MINN, MSU||3-3||PURD, WISC, IOWA||MSU, MINN, NEB||ILL, PSU, IND||@WISC, UM, NW, @IND|
· Holds tie-breaker with MSU currently and ½ game advantage over MSU at the moment
· Perfect at home in conference but very difficult set of home games left
· Beat all other top 5 teams except Iowa on the road (makes that lop-sided affair even stranger)
· Easy road slate left
· Screwed over playing NW, PSU, and ILL only once and OSU only on road (except that worked out just fine!)
· Best road record of group- but only beat Iowa from top-tier and lost @WISC
· Tough road games left- especially @UM
· Iowa home game could be hugely critical- beat only 1 of 2 top teams at home so far
· Neutral-ish set of teams only played once
· 1/3 at home against top teams- test against WISC is critical- absolute must-win
· 1/3 on road against top teams also- game against MSU has same stakes as WISC game
· Screwed over terribly by playing 4 mediocre/bad teams only once
· Only play OSU and MSU once and both at home (it seems their schedule is always favorable…)
· 2/4 at home against top group
· Yet to play road game against top group- UM and Iowa games are absolute must wins
· Hard to see 5 losses winning conference- and hardest away games left of any top team (MSU is also hard but only 3 games left, and @NEB is no easy game)
· Most erratic top team (which is obvious since they are 6-6 I suppose) with 3-3 road and home records
· No major home victories and beat 2 of top 3 teams on the road
· MSU game at home only top team left but has lost to both top teams played at home so far
· Avoid 2 top teams for second game – can only blame inconsistency and lack of home-court dominance for why they have almost no chance of winning conference
|My random internet guy projections:|
|UM||14-4||I see UM losing one of the road games in disappointing fashion and one of either MSU or WISC game|
|MSU||14-4||Iowa at home could be tough, and OSU an UM at home- will lose 2 of those 3|
|IOWA||12-6||Likely 2 more away losses or at home against WISC|
|WISC||10-8||Only beating PSU on road and winning all at home or dropping another at Kohl and an upset on road|
|OSU||10-8||Other than home at MSU they play all winnable games- but its OSU this year so it seems like they will lose at least one other game|
Key for UM:
Win at home! If we beat MSU we control our destiny and our road slate is very manageable- plus a 4/2 home/road split is very favorable!
THE SCHEDULE LIGHTENS EVER SO SLIGHTLY…
We’re starting to find the downslide of the second stretch of “AHHHHH!” in the Big Ten schedule, and there is probably not a better time to provide a minor stats update than coming off a nice win in Columbus. They’ll be charted below, of course, but the four factors in this specific game where as follows:
Michigan eFG% - 49.06%, Ohio State eFG% - 47.12%
Michigan OREB% - 42.42%, Ohio State OREB% - 24.24%
Michigan FTR – 41.51%, Ohio State FTR – 30.77%
Michigan TOV% - 12.56%, Ohio State TOV% - 11.93%
So, for this game, we managed much better rebounding and we got to the line considerably more than Ohio State. Actually, in reply to a question asked in a game thread recently, offensive rebounding has been trending better. See the conference trend below:
Here is the updated summary table, current as of this morning:
Field Goal %
Three Point %
Free Throw %
Off. Rebound %
Def. Rebound %
Assist / Turnover Ratio
True Shooting %
Free Throw Rate
Points / Possession
We still maintain a considerable shooting advantage overall, and the gap that exists in our offensive rebounding percentage is narrowing. We also still play a pretty clean game in comparison to our opponents and end up at the line much more often. Some people have talked about the elevated turnover rates, and they aren’t seeing things – the trend is slightly upward, although it has been better lately. See the conference results below:
That also reflects in this trend of assist / turnover ratio, which as you will note is trending downward overall (we average about 14 assists to 10 turnovers per game in conference play at this point):
Here are the four factors over the last five games –
Other stats of note –
Erik Bakich made the first of his weekly appearances on WTKA for the 2014 season this morning (podcast), providing a good preview of the upcoming Michigan baseball campaign, which begins Friday down in Texas.
The focus here is on who's playing which position. In addition to what Bakich said, this overview is also based on the current game notes.
Starting pitchers: Every starter returns from last year—fifth-year seniors Logan McAnallen and Ben Ballantine, juniors James Bourque and Trent Szkutnik, and sophomore Evan Hill. They'll get the bulk of the innings. The game notes have probable starters for this weekend as Bourque and Szkutnik for games 1 and 2 on Friday, Ballantine on Saturday, and Hill on Sunday. Bakich talked about the importance of his hurlers being able to consistently throw multiple types of pitches for strikes. McAnallen and Ballantine had shown this ability in the past; the other three have made tremendous improvement in this area since last season.
Bullpen: Bakich didn't discuss the bullpen extensively, but sophomore Jacob Cronenworth will be the closer. In his freshman year, when he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, he had a 1.93 ERA and seven saves in 15 appearances; yesterday, he was named to the Stopper of the Year watch list. Michigan returns two other players who had extensive bullpen duties last season, senior Alex Lakatos and junior Matt Ogden. Bakich mentioned that freshman Jackson Lamb will be a two-way player, seeing time in the outfield and pitching in relief. He'll be brought along slowly, with his role likely increasing as the season progresses. The game notes mention two other freshman who are expected to have roles as relievers—Brett Adcock and Keith Lehmann.
Outfield: The biggest losses on the team from last year are starting outfielders Patrick Biondi and Michael O'Neill, both now playing professional ball. Zach Zott returns and will continue to be the starting left fielder. Bakich talked about how much more depth his team has this year than last year, and this is evident in the outfield, where he expects at least three players to see action in center and right—juco transfer Jackson Glines and two freshmen, Lamb and Johnny Slater. The game notes show the probable starters as Zott in left, Glines in center, and Slater in right. Bakich also mentioned that juniors Kyle Jusick and Kevin White might see some action in the outfield.
Infield: Coming off his stellar freshman season, sophomore Travis Maezes will continue to be the starting shortstop. Also anchoring the infield will be Cronenworth. But while he split time last season at second and third, this season Cronenworth will be the starter at either third or first, depending on whether the opposing team is starting a right-handed pitcher or a southpaw. Also playing some first will be juco transfer Kendall Patrick. Three freshmen will see action at second and third—Hector Gutierrez, Ramsey Romano, and Trey Miller. The game notes show the probable starters as Cronenworth at first, Gutierrez at second, Maezes at short, and Romano at third.
Catcher: Senior Cole Martin returns as the starter; he was named third-team All-Big Ten last year. He'll be helped out by Patrick and freshman Harrison Wenson.
Offense in general: Strategy will remain the same as last season, with the aim to play fast, be very aggressive both at the plate and on the bases, and put pressure on the opposing team. Many of the newcomers have speed and athleticism.
With all the starting pitchers back from last season, along with some key position players, as well as a raft of talented newcomers, Michigan is expected to improve on their 5th place finish in the Big Ten last season when their record was 14-10 in the conference and 29-27 overall. So far, the conference previews have picked them to finish third or fourth.
I wish I had some witty intro for you all this week but I really don't. It's been a really busy week, and between a tough week of class and a family member who was unexpectedly hospitalized (everything's alright now) I'm just happy to have this done. I still managed to find spots to make fun of both teams, so hopefully you'll still find it enjoyable.
#12 Michigan vs. #9 Wisconsin
Friday, January 31st, 2014
UM 1 Wisc 0 13:10 EV
Motte from Nieves
Copp passes to Moffatt in the slot, whose shot is stopped and brushed aside into the corner.
Wisconsin tries to clear but Nieves holds it in along the boards. He moves the puck back to Motte in the corner, but the puck is picked off by a Wisconsin player. He passes into the faceoff circle, where another Badger gains control and flips a backhanded pass...directly to Nieves, who is still along the boards.
Nieves carries in and the goaltender thinks he’s going to shoot. He gets low in his crouch and is about to butterfly, which he does as soon as Nieves passes to Motte.
Motte gathers the puck and backhands a shot into the wide open net. Wisconsin’s goaltender had no chance at getting back across the crease in time to stop the shot.
UM 2 Wisc 0 14:30 EV
Guptill from Compher
Nagelvoort has to stop a point-blank shot for this scoring chance to be created. There’s a Wisconsin player unchecked in the slot (surprise, surprise!) who shoots one into Nagelvoort’s chest, and the rebound falls in front of the crease. Guptill gathers the puck and takes off.
Guptill sees the defender’s outstretched stick and knows he has to dish to Compher.
Compher carries into the neutral zone, where Guptill swims around his defender and gets inside positioning on him. Compher’s defender stayed in front of him, which leaves him behind Guptill. Since Guptill has his man beat he just has to gather the pass from Compher and he has a breakaway.
Well, whadda ya know? Guptill is out on the breakaway and has extra space thanks to his defender momentarily combusting, falling to the ice, and then continuing to pursue. Guptill uses a toe drag (the good kind, not the scraped-along-the-bottom-of-the-pool kind) to freeze the goaltender and then, like, scores.
UM 3 Wisc 0 12:05 EV
Hyman from Bennett & Moffatt
Wisconsin has the puck deep in their defensive zone and tries to clear up the boards. Motte does a nice job of hitting the player the pass is headed for, which frees up the puck. Bennett retrieves it and starts to move laterally.
Bennett shoots the puck from near the middle of the blue line into a screened goaltender. The shot is stopped, but there’s a rebound in front. Hyman is able to score because Rumpel crumples himself up on the initial shot, and it’s all he can do to get a leg pad stuck out on Hyman’s shot.
UM 3 Wisc 1 13:16 EV
Soleway from LaBate & Simonelli
Michigan has one forechecker putting pressure on the D (circled) and two other skaters in the neutral zone. Wisconsin is able to unload a long stretch pass that goes through the neutral zone to the far side boards.
Wisconsin has a 2-on-1 entering the offensive zone. If Downing is farther over he might be able to dissuade LaBate from passing to the slot, but he isn’t and as it stands Clare is the only D who can possibly prevent a pass.
The pass gets through to Soleway in the slot, who one-time backhands it past Nagelvoort. Downing is turned and wouldn’t be able to do much besides either attempt a poke check or put a stick in Soleway’s stomach if he had held on to the puck any longer. The play was quickly developing and did feature a 2-on-1, but I’ve seen Nagelvoort make way more difficult stops than this one.
Saturday, February 1st, 2014
UM 0 Wisc 1 01:02 EV
Mersch from Faust & Navin
Wisconsin wins a battle along the board and Faust passes down low to Mersch.
Mersch then takes the puck and backhands it…
To himself. Yes, himself. I don’t even know, man. You can see from where Nagelvoort’s hand is that he was thinking about going for a poke check here. I get the sentiment but it doesn’t work in this instance.
UM 1 Wisc 1 10:10 EV
Motte from Downing & Hyman
Michigan wins the faceoff and the puck goes directly back to Downing. He puts a slapshot on net that looks like it might hit something in front, but it’s initially saved nevertheless.
I drew an arrow pointing to the rebound. Motte has great position in front of the net and, despite being tangled up by a defender, is able to backhand the puck over Rumpel.
The guy with the dress shirt under his hockey jersey likes it.
UM 1 Wisc 2 16:14 Penalty Shot
Zengerle takes a wide angle and skate it in. Nagelvoort is playing at the top of his crease, appropriately aggressive.
Zengerle puck handles and then shoots over Nagelvoort’s glove for a goal.
I don’t…like, why do you think they’re going to cheer for you?
UM 2 Wisc 2 07:02 EV
Moffatt from Hyman
Moffatt has his shot blocked, and the puck goes to the corner. Moffatt wins the race for it and regains possession.
Moffatt drags the puck out of the corner and into the slot. It looks like he’s going to put a backhander on net before he puts on the brakes and starts to turn.
He shoots through an incredible screen of players. Rumpel can’t see the puck and gives up the tying goal.
MICH - Alex Guptill - MISSED
UW - Morgan Zulinick - MISSED
MICH - Luke Moffatt - MADE
UW - Michael Mersch - MISSED
MICH - Andrew Copp - MISSED
UW - Mark Zengerle – MISSED
If you want to watch the shootout here’s the link. The shootout portion starts at 1:42
Comparing individual classes of recruits can be a very challenging exercise. Due to each school’s different position each year and internal standards, classes can vary from mid-teens to over 30 signees for a given class at a given school. Last year I introduced my best take on the subject with the Nth best recruit approach.
Nth best recruit takes each player in a class and gives them a rating from 0-99 and then places those rankings in order, high to low. This way you can see how one class compares to another at each level. With Jabril Peppers in the mix, Michigan is going to compete with everyone at the top of the class but then drop into very good range as the recruits progressively move from high four star territory (Drake Harris) to high three star (Brandon Watson) with former gray shirt candidate Brady Pallante pulling in the final spot.
One change for this year is that I have normalized the classes so that they all show how the class is dispersed as if they were a 25 person class. You lose the quantity estimate, but over time, the spread of recruit’s rankings are more indicative of a team’s recruiting prowess than the number of offers they have in a year. If Michigan had five more offers, the odds are their curve would look very similar to what it does now.
*All signee lists were updated as of late Tuesday night and don’t reflect any signing day action
Michigan Under Hoke
Michigan’s last three classes have been highly consistent in terms of recruit quality from top to bottom. Last year’s class was the strongest through the top half and this year’s class is nearly identical in ratings to 2012’s class with Pepper’s the welcome exception.
On an average basis, Michigan’s classes have landed them roughly in lower part of the top 10 nationally. The improvement in these classes will begin to show up this year as my prior studies have shown that player in their third year or more on campus are far and away the biggest predictors of success. The 2012 class enters that zone this year and Michigan should move near the top 10 in terms of overall roster talent+experience this season and move into the top 10 indefinitely beginning in 2015.
The Big Ten
Leaders Legends East!
After a very close comparison last season, Michigan’s 2014 class is clearly lower rated than Ohio State’s. Michigan’s class falls behind immediately after Peppers and maintains a similar gap until the final few players.
Michigan sill is quite a bit ahead of the rest of the division. Penn St and Michigan St are in the next tier. There is a consistent gap between them and Michigan and Penn St’s class is currently slightly higher rated than Sparty’s across the first few spots.
The top third of Maryland’s class is in line with Michigan St and Penn St but they quickly fall into line with the bottom tier of Rutgers and Indiana.
The Race For #1
The five teams rated highest on most services
The bottom half of all the great classes this year are virtually in distinguishable from each other, except for Tennessee. While the Volunteers have put together a really nice class, this chart helps expose the formulas used by all the major services for team rankings. Tennessee is rated no lower than sixth overall by any of the four major services and although they have a very good class, you can see the separation between the great classes and theirs. Getting a giant class isn’t about being better at recruiting, it’s about having a fluky roster situation. Almost all coaches are going to recruit to their 85 (or more) roster spots so having more commitments is vastly overrated.
Ohio State has the weakest top end of all the four serious contenders but the middle third of their class is as good as anyone’s. Texas A&M’s class shows a big drop after the marquee headliners. LSU is strong throughout but Alabama, once again, clearly has the class from top to bottom. If you take any spot along the line of 25, the Alabama point is rarely behind any other team and no one is as consistently strong as they are.
Michigan’s Hall of Highly Touted
In the past two classes, Brady Hoke has inked eleven players that made the first or second team for Michigan’s Hall of Highly Touted.* After two loaded classes, this year’s smaller class was also lighter on top rated talent. Drake Harris cracked the second team as a wide receiver while all-everything signee Jabril Peppers was a no-brainer first team defensive back.
Peppers scored a 96.5 out of a possible 99 (unanimous #1 rated recruit) which makes him the highest rated recruit at Michigan in the internet era of recruiting. When you expand the field beyond Michigan to the whole Big Ten, Peppers comes in at #2 behind Terrelle Pryor (97.9) for highest rated Big Ten signee over the last 12 classes.
*The top players based on composite recruitindg rankings