(Guess what? I published a book this offseason. It’s about baseball. The Cubs. The White Sox. And that one time they played each other in the World Series. Check it out. It’s only available via Amazon Kindle right now, but a paperback, print on demand option is in the works)
Week Six has arrived. We’re creeping towards the midpoint of the college football regular season.*Sheds small tear* It’s already been crazy, like all the seasons before it. Louisville, Washington, Houston, and Texas A/M are in the playoff hunt. Oregon, Michigan State, Florida State, and Oklahoma are not. Michigan is back. So is Tennessee, Miami, and Colorado. As for Alabama and Ohio State, well, they are still Alabama and Ohio State. And still the betting favorites to win all the marbles. The Tide and Buckeyes all but sit as betting co-favorites with +300 and +325 odds to win it all. Clemson, last year’s national runner-up, is next in line at +500. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In the B1G, all signs point to an Ohio State-Michigan game for the ages, but there are still seven Saturdays of football to play between now and then. One thing college football has taught us is, if you give it enough time, it will rain plenty of chaos. Where and when is anybody’s guess. So don’t break out those countdown clocks just yet. Well, except for the #RevengeOfHarbaugh one that now reads 22 Days.
But the pecking order is clear. At the top, it’s Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. At the bottom, it’s Illinois, Purdue, and Rutgers. As for 5-12, does anybody know? With the resurgences at Indiana and Maryland and the ongoing soap operas at Michigan St, Penn St, and Iowa, I’m interested in seeing how it shapes up and if any of them can get going in a strong enough direction to threaten the current contenders.
Onto our picks for the B1G and national games of the week.
(Season Record: 13-14-1. Big 10 Games: 6-4-1. The difference between a winning and losing record is a goal line stand by Cal--of all teams--against Utah a week ago. We had the Utes.)
Indiana +30 over Ohio State: Indiana's Defense is good......
Wait. No lightning, fire, or brimstone coming from above? Let me check my feet? Nope. Not frozen. Let's try that again.
Indiana's Defense is good.....
Maybe good is still a streeeeeetttttttch, despite the lack of earth imploding reaction. Let's go with 'excitedly improved' and move on. I have always said the Hoosiers don't need to be good on defense. With their offense and Team Chaos identity, they just need a decent defense, instead of one that's always one of the worst in the country, to develop into a consistent winning, bowl program. So far, so good in that department in 2016. It's just four games in, but some of the statistical improvements need to be shared. That's why we have charts. (Refer to this for success rate explanations.)
|Rush Success Rate||33.3%/17th||44.4%/86th|
|Pass Success Rate||35.5%/28th||42.7%/87th|
|Yards Per Play||5.13/37th||6.38/112th|
|Yards Per Rush||3.72/43rd||5.22/113rd|
|Yards Per Pass||6.6/40th||7.4/81st|
How good are those numbers for Indiana? So good that Kevin Wilson is now coaching like his defense can win games, an unheard of philosophy at Indiana. Urban Meyer says the Hoosiers are the best defense they will have faced so far this year. They’re in the top third nationally in all those categories, a year after being in the bottom third, in some cases the depths of that bottom third, in all of them. What's at play with the better play so far? Here's four quick reasons.
1.) First year defensive coordinator Tom Allen is proving to be one of the more underrated hires of the offseason. His previous experience included three years as linebackers coach at Ole Miss during a time when the Rebels' defense improved and last year as the defensive coordinator at USF, where he had the Bulls in the top third in several AAC defensive categories. His hiring was significant because Indiana usually ends up hiring whatever poor soul--usually somebody whose just been fired from a job--they can convince to run the Hoosier D. Not this go around. They hired one of the game's young, up-and-coming names. The pursuit of Allen was so important that Wilson cashed in an important recruiting day to go to Tampa to woo Allen to IU. As for now, Indiana's defensive unit is playing with a level of confidence that we've haven't seen much of in Bloomington. That's a reflection of their coach.
2.) It's also reflection of their experience. Indiana threw a bunch of freshmen and first year starters to the wolves in 2014. They did the same a year ago. The result in 2016 is a an experienced defense with players who have turned into decent college defenders as their upperclassmen years arrive. Tegray Scales and Marcus Oliver (who were great against MSU) are solid B1G linebackers. Jonathan Crawford and Tony Fields are a solid B1G safety duo. Rashard Fant is a solid B1G cornerback. All five of those players have played since Day 1 of their eligibility.
[Marc Lebryk/USA Sports]
3.) The emergence of Marcelino Ball. Allen plays a 4-2-5 defensive system with that fifth DB playing a more hybrid DB/LB role. A lot of teams do this and, in Indiana's case, they have dubbed the position 'Husky.' The Hoosiers may have discovered a star at Husky in Marcelino Ball, a true freshmen from Georgia. Hyped as a game changer for the defense when the season began, he’s lived up to that billing in the first four games. He's third in the team in tackles, athletic in pass coverage, and, from an eye test standpoint, already looks like a good defensive piece for IU. His defensive stats aren't otherwise gaudy, but he sure seems to be involved in a lot of plays. They've also added another freshman defensive back into the mix in A'Shon Riggins, who broke up a pair of passes against MSU. Those two players added to Crawford, Fields, Fant, and Chase Dutra and all of a sudden the Indiana Hoosiers have a secondary (Back 7, really) that could crack the top-half of the B1G. We've come a long way since the 2013 Michigan-Indiana, Jeremy Gallon Game.
4.) More players from football states. Speaking of that game, here is the breakdown of IU's top-20 defenders that day and season and where they played their high school ball: Indiana, 6; Ohio, 5; Florida, 3; Georgia, 2, Texas, 1; Wisconsin, 1, Illinois, 1; Kentucky, 1. Here's a similar breakdown for the current top-20 defenders on the team: Ohio, 9; Florida, 5, Georgia, 2, Illinois, 2, Indiana, 2, South Carolina, 1; Texas, 1. Which one would you take?
The improved numbers will be put to a serious test this week at Ohio State and next week against Nebraska. They will have more than their hands full just knocking Curtis Samuel off his historic pace. If the numbers above stay in the top half of the national rankings after playing all the weapons the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers have, then the defensive improvements will have a louder ring of authenticity to it, even if the Hoosiers lose both those contests.
The spread in this game is huge. In each of the last two years, the Hoosiers gave the Buckeyes all they can handle, losing by 14 and 7 in games that weren't decided until the fourth quarter. But in both of those games, IU had to rely a lot on Zander Diamont at QB. With Richard Lagow running the show instead, the Hoosiers ought to be able to keep this game also somewhat interesting and cover the spread.
Michigan -28 over Rutgers: This line is about two touchdowns too low. This will be a controlled scrimmage for the Wolverines. The last time we saw Coach Harbaugh tinkering with his controlled scrimmage machine, he had it set at 49-10 with special focus on breaking the quarterback. This week, Dad has it locked into a 40-0 score, mostly so Michigan can work on field goal kicking. Last week, I joked the real bet would be the combined total margin of defeat Rutgers would face against OSU and UM in consecutive weeks. I said it would go over 90. After OSU's 58-0 win a week ago, we're well on our way here. We need some more creative props to make this game interesting:
Rutgers Total Incomplete Passes –3.5 vs. Michigan Total Complete Passes
Rutgers Total Gained Yards Rushing –14.5 vs. Rutgers Total Lost Yards Rushing
Rutgers Total Points –6.5 vs. Michigan’s Sacks
Total Michigan Players Scoring TDs, Over/Under 4.5
Wilton Speight Yards Per Pass –3 vs. Chris Laviano Yards Per Pass
BYU +6 over Michigan State: BYU's season so far: Win over Arizona by 2, Loss to Utah by 1, Loss to UCLA by 3, Loss to West Virginia by 3, Win over Toledo by 2. News Flash: BYU plays a lot of close games. In fact, 18 of their last 31 games have been decided by a touchdown or less. I'll ride that against a reeling MSU team looking less and less Dantonio Vintage each week. They’re calling player only meetings. They can't keep any linebackers healthy. They're allowing 9 yards per pass attempt against FBS teams. The offense is broken. They converted just 8 of 28 third down attempts in their 0-2 B1G start.They've been constantly tinkering with their offensive line. And then there is a QB situation. Tyler O'Connor's honeymoon is over, at least judging by the fanbase's temperament. He has not been good when they've needed him the last two weeks. State's Passing Down Success Rate has tumbled from a year ago. O'Connor hit a bomb to RJ Shelton on State's second drive against the Hoosiers. However, toss that play out and MSU has gained just 130 yards in the air on 30 O'Connor drop backs in passing down situations the last two weeks. Faced with a pair of such downs in overtime against the Hoosiers, they allowed back to back sacks. A year ago, getting the Spartans in a passing situation meant dealing with Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge, an elite collegiate QB-WR battery. This year, so far, where are the threats? In its first four games, BYU held their opponents to below their current season average for total yards. Then Toledo blew up on them last week. But the Rockets offense is excellent and probably better than Michigan State's and most of the B1G. State is not doomed. Never count Dantonio out. But it's looking more like a transition season than a championship one in East Lansing. I expect the Cougars to hit an MSU team that's still licking its wounds with some early points. Maybe the early punch might wakes MSU, but it will be enough at least to keep the Cougs in the game until the very end.
Minnesota +2 over Iowa: In less than one month, Iowa has gone from playoff contender to a team projected to only beat Purdue and Illinois the rest of the way. Ouch. The funny thing is they are still 3-2. You'd think sinking to where only the Boilers and Illini are your projected wins would have a disastrous 1-4-type start anchored to it. What you don't know is most computers have a 'you were outplayed by Rutgers' override that plunges your numbers a few more degrees.
So does having an offense that can’t walk across the street. Over the last three games, Iowa has averaged just 21.8 yards per drive. That covers 35 total drives, 14 of which lasted three plays or less before a punt or a turnover and another six that couldn't exceed five plays before a similar fate. Punting is not winning for Iowa. It's a given. They punted on four of their final five possessions in the North Dakota State loss. They began the Rutgers game with punts on their first three possessions. They had a streak later in that game during the second half of four possessions in a row with punts. Against Northwestern, the Hawks punted on consecutive possessions three different times. They cant protect the passer. Five of their 14 drives against Northwestern ended with a thud on a third down sack, with a sixth ending on an interception forced by a pressure, and seventh ending on a hopeless incompletion with Northwestern's Anthony Walker burying Iowa QB CJ Beathard as he threw it. If not for Desmond King and Riley McCarron's kick returns and a critical Northwestern turnover, Iowa losses to the Wildcats decisively.
Iowa looks like a listless, low energy football team right now. It's always dangerous to make those judgments while watching games on TV, but it looks like they've been sleeping walking since the game against The Bison. I worry about them in a heated rivalry game at a hostile road environment. Remember, they lost 55-7 on this field in 2014. In their two losses, they haven’t been able to run the football, gaining just 2.98 per carry. They're vulnerable against the run, ranking 87th and 66th in yards per game and carry respectively. They're in the bottom third of the conference in those marks. Now they’re on the road against a team that is pretty good at running and stopping the run. Minnesota let one get away a week ago at Penn State, mostly due to a back breaking red zone pick in the fourth quarter and a late scramble by PSU QB Trace McSorley. Back home, they wont let Iowa off the mat.
Maryland -1 over Penn State: These clubs have played a pair of tight, exciting games since the Terps joined the league with Maryland winning 20-19 in 2014 and Penn State returning the favor in a 31-30 game last year. Look for more of the same in a game ripe with local implications. In the end, I like the Terps and their 11th ranked pass defense in yards per attempt to contain the big pass plays of Trace McSorley. And until the Nits show they can stop the run, I will pick against them facing a good running team. The Terps are second in the conference so far in rushing yards per game, yards per carry, and rushing scores. Penn State's defense ranks 103rd in yards per carry against. Each of Maryland's top four rushers averages at least 6.5 yards per pop.
Illinois -10.5 over Purdue.....The loser of this game should have to play Rutgers the afternoon of the B1G Championship Game with relegation to the AAC or MAC on the line. The Boilers actually covered the spread as underdogs in all four of the B1G home games a year ago. Color me not convinced. Illinois hung around with UNC and Nebraska, two good offenses, before both games got out of hand late. That's enough to get them the check here.
Cincinnati -3 over UConn: Remember in 2010 when UConn somehow streaked to the Orange Bowl? Ever since, the Huskies have been one of the worst investments in sports, let alone college football. They're just 20-43-3 ATS since that season. Cincinnati does not scream reliability either, but they've been 13-9 ATS as road chalk the last four years, including 7-2 when laying only single digits. Earlier in the year, they won at Purdue 38-20 as 3-point favorites. Today's bar is not harder. Expect a similar score.
Colorado +5 over USC: We're all on the Colorado Bandwagon already. They’ve been taking care of business. This week, we're finally investing in it. I know, it's probably a sure fire way to careen this thing off the tracks. However, we have USC in a situation that's traditionally been a good spot to bet against them. USC rolled Arizona State a week ago. But ever since the Pete Carroll Dynasty began to wane, the Trojans have trouble handling success. They are only 8-25 ATS the week after a win. How about another 'cant handle success' stat: Since the beginning of the 2008 season, they're just 13-23 ATS the week after covering as a favorite, including a mere 4-15 ATS if they're conference chalk in the week after game. I like Colorado’s big play ability against a Trojan team that’s been vulnerable to that so far this year. The Buffs have been fast starters this year. They get off to another one, allowing them at least cover this number in the end.
Texas +11 over Oklahoma: It's Red River Shootout Weekend. And Texas showed up in the same outfit again. For the fourth year in a row, the Horns come into the game led by a beleaguered coach as double digit underdogs to their biggest rival. But the Horns circled the wagons to win two of those three games and cover the spread in all of them. The Texas defensive issues are real. But the Sooners are not great shakes on defense either. They have allowed 33, 45, and 46 points to the three Power-5 teams it's played, allowing over 6.0 yards per play to each. Texas is averaging 6.6 yards per play against Power-5 teams this year. Offensively, the Horns are 19th in overall success rate, 7th in standard down success rate, and are one the fastest starting teams in the nation. They've averaged almost 25 points per half this year. Oklahoma allowed 26.3 first half points to Houston, Ohio State, and TCU. Obviously, I could come up with a string a numbers showing how good Oklahoma's offense will be in this matchup. I am not ignoring those. However, I am always a sucker for big underdogs who I think can score all day on the team whose favored. And that's what we have here. Besides, Oklahoma is just 6-8 ATS as double digit chalk, but four of those covers came at the expense of lowly Kansas and Iowa State. Do those event count? Both teams land in the 30s in an exciting one possession game.
Tennessee +7 over Texas A/M: Don’t we all just feel more comfortable with the Vols when they’re an underdog? I know I do. They’ve covered five of their last six games when catching points during this Butch Kelly Renaissance. They’ve also covered six of their last eight SEC games overall. Speaking of comfort levels, we feel the same way when we see the Aggies laying chalk. Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies are just 4-10-1 when laying points in SEC play and are just 8-18 ATS overall in conference games. There’s an element of Rich Rod’s Michigan floating around the A/M program too. This is the third year in a row they’ve started the year off 5-0. But they followed those starts up the last two seasons with a combined 6-10 SU, 3-13 ATS record, including 1-6 ATS as a favorite.
North Carolina -2.5 over Virginia Tech: It's North Carolina and their 7th best offensive success rate against Virginia Tech and their 4th best defensive success rate in a key ACC Coastal Division swing game. Per PFF, it's a match between their 2nd best pass offense and 2nd best pass defense. I am siding with the offense in this game. I can't shake Virginia Tech's one game this year against a decent team, a 45-28 loss to Tennessee. The Vols' offense controlled long stretches of the game with a 51% success rate on standard downs and gaining 5.18 yards per play, a full yard more than Tech's current season average on defense. The Hokies hung around because of their dominance on passing downs. That will not happen here. UNC QB Mitch Trubisky and his deep, talented band of targets will be too much. North Carolina has been the play in ACC play for awhile now. They're 14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS in conference games, including wins in seven of their eight home games in that run. I'll back them as small chalk.
Washington -2/Stanford E (Teaser. Here's what a teaser isj): Is Oregon's dynasty over? They're on a 3-game losing streak and headed towards their worst season in years. Let's check in on Brady Hoke's defense, shall we? The Ducks are 118th in defensive success rate, 109th in points per game, and 125th in plays or 10 or more yards allowed. In their 0-2 start to Pac-12 play, they allowed 6.87 and 7.16 yards per play to Colorado and Washington State and allowed a better than 50% offensive success rate in seven of eight quarters. They've allowed scores on 15 of their last 23 drives, including 12 touchdowns. I am so disappointed there is not an Arizona-Oregon on the schedule this year. Thanks for nothing, Pac-12. The Ducks might still be ranked 23rd in the S&P, but they've playing one of the most balanced teams in the country this week. And their defense can't stop anybody. Washington has a lot of demons to exercise in this series, but they did not look like a team worried about historic bugaboos a week ago in their dismantling of Stanford last week. As for the second game, the Cougars are hot. Since the disastrous 3-9 SU, 4-8 ATS 2014 season in the third year of Mike Leach's tenure, Washington State is 11-6 SU, 13-4 ATS. And two of those losses have been defeats to FCS teams. Under Leach, the Cougars are 18-12 ATS as an underdog in league play. That said, I like Stanford's 9-1 SU, 8-2 ATS mark after a loss more. At least enough to put them in this teaser. We won a teaser in last week's column. We're obviously teaser experts.
That’s all I have. For any predictions, insights, and entertainment the rest of the weekend, check out the JCB Twitter Feed.
As always, good luck out there. Be careful if you’re anywhere near the hurricane. And in light of that, it’s probably a good weekend to help out a neighbor whether you’re near the hurricane area or not.
Remember kids, if your team is full of super humans, game theory doesn't really matter. pic.twitter.com/dQNxqxjhcw
— Red Lee (@BDJargon) October 7, 2016
Now Lewis just needs to do a history youtube channel and he has an outro.
I hope to get back to gif/video creations this season, we'll see what kind of material Rutgers puts out there.
Let's get to know our upcoming opponent the Rutgers Scarlet Knights!
Click on the player's name to bring up their picture. HINT: Set width to 150 when posting the image.
October 2 - Monday
Minnesota game column. Brian has praise for DeBord! But Henne is still mystifying.
October 3 - Tuesday
UFR: Defense vs. Minnesota. The performance was better than the final score indicated. Woodley had a +7, but Charles Stewart came in for a -6.
October 4 - Wednesday
Hennechart Legend. This is a helpful explanation of the different categories.
UFR: Offense vs. Minnesota. Again, mostly a discussion about the improvements of Henne and Debord.
So how do you like me now?
Uh... Mike? DeBord?
October 5 - Thursday
Unverified Voracity is Brief. Max Martin has been kicked out of Alabama (after earlier being dismissed from Michigan). The football team’s injury situation is improving. Morgan Trent should be back, and Carson Butler will be back from suspension.
Brian challenges some recent mainstream media pieces. The first might have been sarcasm, but the second asserts that there is too much talk about 11-0 ‘M’ meeting 11-0 OSU, it will automatically send one of those teams to the national championship game and other teams won’t be considered.
October 6 - Friday
Blogpoll roundtable with questions about how much the blogger pays attention to the national CFB scene…
Well... no. I have long advocated finding a niche and becoming lord of that niche. My niche is Michigan and the Big Ten, so I do things like DVR Penn State-Northwestern and keep an eye on Wisconsin-Indiana.
And if their team needs better or different exposure…
Michigan doesn't exactly want for attention, but I would like it if Drew Sharp was reassigned to prep volleyball. And forced to dress up like a clown to attend games. And then spanked on the local news. By Madeline Albright.
Michigan State game preview. This could be the fourth straight year an ‘M’ running back rushes for more than 200 yards in this game. How things have changed…
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
Breaston rips off a huge return.
October 7 - Saturday
October 9 - Monday
Ever since college football entered my consciousness, Michigan State has been dangerous because of its stupidity. Sometimes they're a danger to others because they're too stupid to know they should lose. Sometimes they're a danger to themselves because they're too stupid, period. This was the latter.
Manningham is on crutches and likely out for the Penn St. game.
October 10 - Tuesday
Review of Penn St. vs. Minnesota film. The Nittany Lions don’t look too difficult. They are only getting a pass rush from Jay Alford, Anthony Morelli is only slightly less erratic, and Derrick Williams is about where Steve Breaston is.
Unverified Voracity Rips the Vote and analyzes reasons and theories of why voters vote the way they do.
Manningham will be out 2-3 weeks. Penn St. is still preparing for him to pay.
UFR: Defense vs. MSU. Hall had a +9, but Trent had -4. Overall, there are concerns that the defense might not be as amazing as it was earlier expected. I bet this wasn’t as spectacular as Jourdan Lewis:
October 11 - Wednesday
Unverified Voracity Verbally Commits to Kicking Your Ass. Paterno continues to take shots at recruits who didn’t go to PSU, despite having a number of players who were committed to other schools before they signed with Penn St.
MGoBlog becomes affiliated with ArmChair GM. Sounds like it was similar to SB Nation.
October 12 - Thursday
Brian hates time of possession. He makes the point that TOP was more important when the game was primarily running based. Also, “per possession” is the key measure, not “per game”.
UFR: Offense vs. MSU. Henne was off compared to recent weeks, but the backup RBs showed good promise, including a TD from Brandon Minor.
October 13 - Friday
Penn St. game preview. This game isn’t expected to be too much of a challenge.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
Hart out rushes Hunt by 60-70 yards.
Morelli throws at least one interception.
October 15 - Sunday
October 16 - Monday
Penn St. game column, complete with iconic photo.
Also, the “i post Morelli photo again” tag should get more use.
Some guy named Dan Steinberg wants to make polls based on the football analytics that oddsmakers receive to set lines on college games. Brian is not a fan.
October 17 - Tuesday
What is Unverified Voracity? (Not Love). Brian highlights some choice comments from other blogs.
Brian parses an interview with Scoop Jackson. Also, a funny note that one of his roommates forgot to tape the Penn St. game so the UFR is going to be delayed.
October 18 - Wednesday
Maxwell Pundit ballot. Brian’s top three this week: Calvin Johnson, Alan Branch, and Troy Smith.
UFR: Defense vs. Penn St. No surprise, the defense was dominating. Woodley led the way with +9. The CB opposite Hall is becoming worrisome. Both Morgan Trent and Johnny Sears received the lowest grade of -1.
October 19 - Thursday
Blogger roundtable with several questions about coaching hot seats and bad preseason predictions. Brian predicts that Walt Harris would lose his job at Stanford.
UFR: Offense vs. Penn St. Henne is starting to show John Navarre-like intangibles (this is a good thing). The interior OL is looking shaky.
October 20 - Friday
The mailbag: an cop-out piece that combines astounding arrogance ("listen to me answer your questions, peon!") with laziness (since mailers write half of it for you).
Unverified Sunshine of Spotless Voracity. Quote from Adrian Arrington’s mom:
"His goal this year was to prove himself in that number," Norma Arrington said. "He wants people to say, `I don't remember that much about the quarterback (John Navarre) who wore it. We remember that Arrington guy.'
Don’t worry, a new #16 will soon eclipse both of you.
Iowa game preview. Iowa is not living up to Brian’s preseason expectations.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually.
Hart does turn out to have some sort of minor ding and we see a lot of Grady and Minor.
Bo had a medical issue on the set of the Big Ten Ticket program. It’s unknown how serious it was.
October 22 - Sunday
Iowa game open thread with lots of pregame rumors.
October 23 - Monday
Are computer rankings useful? Yes, if you put good information into them.
Iowa game column. This was a dominating win.
October 24 - Tuesday
Brian’s week 9 blogpoll ballot.
Unverified Voracity is Totally Miserable. Adrian Arrington is having some legal issues.
October 26 - Thursday
Brian is very sick so UFRs are delayed.
UFR: Defense vs. Iowa. Woodley led with +10. Branch, Jamieson, and Crable all have +6. The only negative is Will Johnson with a -1.
UFR: Offense vs. Iowa. Henne was decently accurate, but it was all short throws. Greg Mathews and Carson Butler showed promise.
October 27 - Friday
Hello Toney Clemons (with still working highlight video!). Clemons’ time at ‘M’ would not end so well.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually.
Ohio State loses to Minnesota by 80 points.
Unverified Voracity: OMG. LOL. OMG. The national media really wants to call the defense the “English Majors”.
October 30 - Monday
Northwestern game column. Brian is grumpy about the poncho he used during the game Everyone is grumpy about Mike DeBord’s offense.
DeBord's been OC here for four years and has had the good fortune to coach opposite two of the finest defenses in Michigan history. He's a pitcher who gets 8 runs a game from his offense: his win-loss record is virtually meaningless. If he didn't have a gaudy record it would be conclusive proof that he is inept.
October 31 - Tuesday
State of Recruiting: Offense. Not much here. This side of the ball is almost done. Marquis Maze is still committed. The OL is the only need, but there aren’t many recognizable names on the board.
This past summer my new BFF It's Harambe took on the thankless task of asking his fellow MgoBloggers to rank the top 25 Michigan athletes of all time. As the list was revealed it was clear to this reader that some of the most notable players who competed during the athletic stone age (pre-internet) had been forgotten about. This weekly diary will take a look at the more notable players from our past to remind everyone of what they did and why they deserve to be honored and remembered.
On hearing the news of having his jersey retired ... "I had never really even thought about it because it doesn't happen as much in college basketball as it does in pro basketball. I thought the University of Michigan had given me so much already in the chance to play here and an education so I felt I won out in that deal."
Rudy Tomjanovich used an outstanding jump shot and a knack for grabbing rebounds to average 30 points and fifteen rebounds per game and earn All-America honors in 1970. An outstanding high school player in Hamtramck, Michigan, Tomjanovich's accomplishments in the first three years of play in Crisler Arena (1967-1970) made him one of Michigan's basketball immortals.
Over the course of three seasons, the 6-7 forward corralled 1,039 rebounds, still the highest total in Michigan history, and twice led the Big Ten in rebounding (1968-69 and 1969-70). He led the team in scoring in each of his three seasons, totaling 1,808 point, sixth on the all-time list. His 25.1 career scoring average ranks second only to Cazzie Russell. Tomjanovich still holds the Crisler Arena records for single game scoring and field goals (48 points and 21 field goals vs Indiana, 1/7/69) and single game rebounding record (27 in Michigan's first game in Crisler Arean vs Kentucky, 12/2/67). His best rebounding effort came against Loyola in 1969 when he grabbed 30 caroms - tops on the Michigan all-time list.
Rudy was selected in the 1970 NBA draft as the second overall pick by the San Diego Rockets (the franchise relocated to Houston in 1971), for whom he would play the entirety of his NBA career. He was also drafted in both 1970[ and 1974 by the Utah Stars of the ABA. In his eleven years in the NBA, Tomjanovich had a scoring average of 17.4 points and a rebounding average of 8.1, earning five All-Star Game selections in the process (1974–1977, 1979). He is the third-leading scorer in Rockets history behind Hall of Famers Calvin Murphy and Hakeem Olajuwon. Because his last name was so long, the back of Tomjanovich's jerseys would read "RUDY T.", rather than his 11 character name.
Despite Tomjanovich's noteworthy career as a player, he is perhaps best remembered for an infamous occurrence at the height of his playing career. In a December 9, 1977 game, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kermit Washington punched Tomjanovich. The blow shattered Tomjanovich's jaw and face and inflicted life-threatening head injuries, leaving him sidelined for five months. He eventually made a full recovery, but his playing career slowly came to a halt and he was forced to retire in his mid 30s. The story and aftermath are recounted in the John Feinstein book The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.
On February 10th, 2003 Rudy’s #45 joined Cazzie Russell’s #33 as the only two jersey numbers ever retired by the University of Michigan. On that day Rudy said the following;
"This is a highlight in my really blessed basketball career. The reality of it all is they didn't have to do this for me. They've done enough because they made my dream come true back in 1966 when I got to play here. It was my dream. I was a highly recruited player and I read the letters but the only place I wanted to be was right here because I just love the basketball program. When I got a chance to play here, it was a dream come true. I really got a great basketball education here. They helped me to get drafted high as the second pick in the NBA. I love both my coaches -- Dave Strack, and Johnny Orr was just getting started."
For those wondering I downvoted myself cause I was looking at the post and accidently clicked the down arrow and there's no way to undue the action!
This is going to be a short one. I didn’t get home until late Sunday night, only finished watching the game in full around 9:30 pm. Of course, after weeks of relatively uneventful games that let me ramble on for 5,000 words, an actual, compelling contest breaks out and I’m going to be quick-hitting the whole thing. Ah well.
Best: The Lewis
For a certain vintage of Wolverine fan, The Woodson has mythical properties. It came during that magical 1997 season and, along with the punt return against OSU, was THE signature play for Woodson during his final year. From a contextual standpoint, the play had everything you wanted: the opponent was a rival that was actually pretty good (MSU was ranked as high as #11 that year and were definitely turning into the best version of those Saban teams), the stakes were huge on a season level (UM was #5 in the country), and the game itself was still close late in that third quarter. And in the moment, all of the elements were perfect: Woodson displaying preternatural instincts and athleticism to be in that position, to stretch out every inch of his body, the amazing control to corral that ball and land with a foot inbounds, even the way the referee signalled the turnover with one of those emphatic arm swings you usually see when umpires punch batters out or when Shelton Benjamin's jaw was greeted with some Sweet Chin Music.
It was a perfect distillation of football, of all those coach-isms you hear spouted by announcers of players "just needing to make a football play" as they choke a bit on the faux nostalgia. It's a moment that feels both of the time and timeless, one of the greatest players in college football's history putting his stamp on the timeline while the sidelines seem to to be outfitted only with rejected windbreakers from Eastbay. And the fact that everyone who wasn't in East Lansing that day saw it in 4:3 aspect ratio on some oversized "standard definition" tubed TV made it more indelible because it required a certain article of faith. We didn't have super-clear HD signals on massive flatscreens and DVRs; you saw MSU's QB get flushed toward the sideline, toss it up and out of bounds to live another day, and the next moment you saw Woodson just dripping in swagger from the sideline while the ref said it was UM's ball and it all seemed insane and unbelievable, a defiance of physics and unspoken laws of football. You hear rival fans complain about UM often living on past glories, and there's some truth to that, but every year I find myself watching this play a couple of times and every time it still fills me with the same giddiness, the same excitement, the same logic-defying awe that a person catching synthetic leather in his hand can take my breath away. And it stands up; it'll always stand up.
For a new generation, I hope Jourdan Lewis's interception in this game takes on such reverence, because it deserves it. Like Woodson, even outside of the context of the game the mere mechanics of the play were pretty remarkable. First off, it’s man coverage with Lewis trailing Rushing and only daylight ahead of him. Thomas was somewhat in the vicinity of the play, but had Lewis let that ball get past him I’m not sure anyone stops a TD. Also, like a lot of Hornibrook’s throws, it was a bit short, meaning that Lewis had to judge on the fly that he was no longer trailing the intended receiver but was starting to wall off the “defender” on his own reception. To those watching on TV, it’s obvious the ball is slowing up, but on the field and going at full speed, I have to imagine this wasn’t as clear. Plus, if the ball was coming up short, the corner is always susceptible to the cheap PI call as the target tries to “fight back” to the ball, forcing Lewis to play it as it flew. And finally, he had to make that play with full extension and only one hand.
I know there are #GameTheory reasons why Lewis should have just batted that ball down (1st-and-goal from the 8 vs. around midfield), but this is college football, and so "knock it down" isn't a given. But regardless, it was an amazing play by a player I think some people have forgotten about amongst the stars on defense. But while Peppers and the line have gotten the lion’s share of the attention these first couple of games, and Stribling and (before his injury) Clark played great while Lewis was on the mend, it’s Jourdan who was the All-American last year and hasn’t missed a beat since he took the field.
Now, Lewis probably isn’t going to receive the accolades Woodson received during that year; if anything, another defensive player will be getting that love. But this team still has the same goals, and if they attain them it’ll be because of players like Lewis making plays like that.
Best: Eater of (Cheese) Worlds
Oh boy, the defense.
Where to start? Wisconsin’s isn’t a dynamic offense, but it still came into the game averaging around 410 yards per game; they finished the day with 159 yards. They didn’t crack 100 yards rushing or passing despite averaging about 200 in each phase coming into the game. Despite only recording 2 sacks on the day, UM’s defense allowed exactly 3 drives (out of 13) over 4 plays, with no drive being longer than 37 yards. Wiscy’s lone score came after a 46-yard interception return, and for the game were only in UM territory 3 times. If last weeks’ game was an ass kicking, this was a smothering.
At no point did Wisconsin show an ability to move the ball consistently, and at times it almost felt like they just wanted to give the defense a breather before sending them back out.
In addition to the fantastic coverage by Lewis all game, he also had 4 solo tackles, including a couple against the run/off screens that stifled what could have been dangerous plays. It took him a couple of weeks to get on the field, but he was an All American when he ended last year and is probably better thus far this season.
On the other side, Stribling had a really solid day. He had 2 picks, played really solid defense despite being the clear focus of Wisconsin’s (admittedly anemic) passing offense, and didn’t let anything break long on him. There was one mistake in the 4th wherein he sort of tripped and let Jazz Peavy get open with yards of open space only for Hornibrook to overthrow him, but otherwise Stribling played almost as well as Lewis. With Clark out for the year, it’s nice to see that Stribling can still give UM great coverage opposite Lewis.
The defensive line, as usual, dominated the opposition. This was a pretty stout Wisconsin line that could not get anything going on the ground, and the lack of sacks and TFLs can in part be attributed to the relatively small number of plays and the fact Hornibrook rarely looked to throw the ball deep. And when he did, he had to get rid of the ball in a hurry as the pocket collapsed around him.
About the only area that had some issues were the linebackers in coverage, as both McCray and Gedeon seemed to lose contact with Wisconsin receivers and running backs for substantial gains this game. But even that is picking nits; the one TD scored was on a perfect throw with Gedeon giving decent coverage; sometimes you just get beat by a good playcall and execution.
Honestly, I’d like to write more about the defense because it feels like I’m short-changing them, but what else is there to say? This is the second week in a row where nobody busted big, and the rest of the time the unit was just gnashing up playcalls and spitting out the remnants for 2nd-and-long. Without hyperbole, I’m not sure there’s a team they’ll play this month that will be able to break 300 total yards against this defense, and both Rutgers and Illinois have strong chances of seeing the Michigan side of the field only at the end of quarters. I’m going to have to spend part of my time this week finding ever-more-humiliating images to encapsulate what this defense does to mortals.
Best: Two-Dimensional Offense
You look at the raw numbers (130 yards rushing at 3 ypc, 219 yards passing at 6.8 ypa) and it feels a bit underwhelming – coming into the game, UM averaged 52 points and around 470 yards per game. But watching the game, it felt like the offense was working hard against a really good Wisconsin defense (even down star LB Biegel) and finding ways to move the ball. Speight was under fire throughout this game (4 sacks, 3 more QB hits, and a dozen other times where one or more Badgers were bearing down on him), and handled it pretty well. There were a couple of times he spun away from pressure, kept looking downfield, and didn’t panic with the ball.
As per usual it seems, his worst throws were when he was reasonably clean; his pick was thrown between 4 Wisconsin defenders, and he nearly had another ball picked off near the endzone in the first half while sorta statring-down Grant Perry. He’s never going to be a 2016-style “playmaker” like Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson, but he plays within himself and keeps the team in a game (63%, 219 yards, 1:1 TD:INT). And his final TD drive was borne from a calmness that has been his trademark this season, throwing a perfect ball to Darboh for the winning score.
(As a quick aside, Darboh is having a great final year. Him and Speight are clearly on the same wavelength, and he’s displaying some quickness to complement his physicality. He beat the Wisconsin corner here by a step or two, and picked up another first down on a slant where he outran the trailing player. He’s not a burner, but there’s an athleticism emerging here that UM can absolutely exploit).
The running game also felt solid even though they recorded 200 yards less on the ground than against PSU last week. Excising sacks and end-of-game runs designed to bleed the block, UM averaged about 4.5 ypc and picked up 11(!) of their 21 first downs on the ground. And they did so despite losing Grant Newsome for half the game (and, based on early reports, the rest of the year), conscripting Bushell-Beatty into the lineup with mixed results. And against a Wisconsin front that loves to bring pressure, the backs kept moving forward (only 2 TFLs for 2 yards).
Isaac felt like the star of the game for the backs, consistently slicing through creases and picking up yardage, especially in that second half. Of course, he also almost coughed up the ball deep in UM territory with barely anyone around, which brought back nightmares of his game against Maryland that basically stapled him to the bench. But he recovered nicely and really is a solid talent when he can keep the ball secure. Smith plowed through guys (though he missed at least 1 big cutback on the first TD drive that would have picked up a first down), while Evans had a nice early run and also caught a ball for a first down. It was weird to not see Higdon a week after his coming out party against PSU, but otherwise everyone you sort of expected to show up did and performed consistently, which given how this running game has looked in the past is whole-heartedly welcomed.
What got Michigan was it’s inability to end drives with points. UM had 23 more plays than Wisconsin (76 to 53), 13 more first downs (21 to 8), held the ball for 11 more minutes (35:41 to 24:19), won the turnover battle 3-1, and the field position battle by 8 yards per drive. But they also went 3/15 on 3rd down. They had a couple very makeable FGs they missed and had a couple more drives into Wisconsin territory that died due to costly penalties and sacks. Some of that you expect against a top-10 defense like Wisconsin’s, but this was a game that shouldn’t have been so close late in the 4th. A big part of Wisconsin having a shot to win a game like this hinged on UM’s offense struggling to put them away, and that nearly came to fruition. There isn’t a team on this schedule save for OSU that can slow down UM’s offense, but there are quite a few teams that can absolutely turn bad plays into gifted points. That needs to be shored up quickly.
Worst: Kenny Doggins, Amirite?
Something is wrong with Kenny Allen. He can sorta still punt, but if there is really such a thing as yips, he’s got it with kicking FGs. I’m not blaming him; kicking a football sounds incredibly stressful, especially since perfection is the baseline and you have so few opportunities to make amends. Blow a block or give up a long TD, and you’ll (probably) be out there on the next series with a shot at redemption. But there might only be 3-4 times a game when a kicker can ply his trade, and thus misses are amplified. But it might be time for UM to either find a different FG kicker or change their approach offensively in those situations. I assume Harbaugh will look into all options, including going for it on reasonable 4th-down distances, but I think we’ve seen enough evidence that something is amiss and until it gets resolved, there’s no reason to keep playing roulette.
Also, and this will be an ongoing complaint, but can this team just settle on a spread punt formation? I get when you are playing dinosaur football you trot out all the favorites, but the way an overmatched team stays in games is with special teams miscues, and there were a couple of punts late in the game the Badgers had chances to return because there were 2 gunners and nobody else for 10 yards. If you are going to block the kick, then go for it, but a standard formation that half-assedly puts pressure on the kick while leaving returns exposed seems like the worst of all worlds.
Worst: TV Clock Management
Complaining that football games take too long isn’t new; all those unpaid amateur athletes apparently still have bills that only EA Sports* and heavy-duty trucks shilled by a self-professed “asshhole” can pay, and that isn’t going to change. But as someone who was watching this game in pieces at a 90th birthday party, it was, I guess, the opposite of a blast to watch the last 3 minutes of Definitely Not Back Texas vs. Oklahoma St. when I fired up the DVR Sunday night (oh, and watch a video of a college QB going all Dude Perfect throwing a ball to his friend on a Jet Ski). Games don’t fit into nice little 3-hour chunks like they used to, and yet still scheduling games into those blocks just leads to the inevitable overruns and frantic channel flipping as you have to find something called ESPNews 7.5 so that you can watch kickoff recorded on a portrait-oriented video from a production guy’s iPhone 5. And the thing is, we’re all football addicts; you could schedule the game to start at 4 and we’d still watch. And with #Pac12AfterDark, Saturday games have actually become a 14-hour bender for the rabid fan. But don’t force me to watch two teams I don’t care about run out the string either.
* I’ll admit, I do think this particular commercial is clever. Doesn’t mean I need to see it every couple of breaks.
Best: Another Rivalry Game!
So UM will finally leave the cozy confines of Ann Arbor and travel to hated rival [citation necessary] the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. They are of course coming off a stirring…a, nevermind.
Yeah, this will be ugly. UM isn't going to score 58 like OSU because, well, what the Buckeyes are doing is a bit unreal (and probably a bit unsustainable), but they'll dismantle Rutgers just as easily. And given that it's UM's first road game, I'm looking more to see how the offense looks in a hostile-ish setting, given the fact they'll be going to MSU, Iowa, and OSU later on in the season. You always hear the adage that defense travels, but the offense is still just wonky enough that I'd like to see them put a couple of TDs on the board early. That said, again, this game should be out of reach by halftime, though I suspect Harbaugh will play it straight for a bit longer. Still, UM should head into their bye 6-0 and primed for the meat of their schedule, and we’ll have a Wife Day worth discussing.