national champs baby
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
After a beat-down like what we witnessed yesterday there is much to say, but perhaps not so many new things to learn. It was a statement game, a confirmation by Brady Hoke, Al Borges, and Greg Mattison that leaves no questions as to their intent nor their identity. No one questioned the talent differential between Michigan and Minnesota as the 20 point line neatly points out. But the difference between being a 20 point home favorite and the utter deconstruction that was yesterday's contest is vast and there is nothing that I saw that would make the final 58-0 score in any way a fluke. Brady and Co. have this team pointed in a direction more right than we fans could have dared hope. The old ways and the new are coming together in what looks to be a very promising new era for Michigan Football.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Fitzgerald Touissaint – I don't recall seeing running like that since the A-Train rolled out of town. Great cuts, jab steps, and acceleration showed on the stat sheet with over 100 yards on only 11 carries. The future for Fitz is bright indeed.
2. Vincent Smith – Scoring a TD rushing, receiving, and passing the ball is remarkable. Coupled with Touissaint, Smith gives Michigan a potent 1-2 punch out of the backfield that was desperately needed.
3. Denard Robinson – His feet are a given, but it was nice to see him connecting on the short hitches and seams taylor-made to bring back his confidence. Borges is molding the offense around him and playing more and more to his strengths. 8.9 YPA is quality.
4. Blake Countess – Countess looks like the best Michigan defensive back on the field. He was blanketing receivers all day, breaking up passes, stripping the ball, making sure tackles. Hard to believe he is a true frosh.
5. Michigan's Defense – Pitching a shutout against any opponent is impressive, as is forcing another 2 fumbles. Minnesota barely sniffed Michigan's side of the field, and when they did threaten Michigan came up with the timely turnovers. This unit is gaining swagger and could be pretty good by November.
Also of note: Jeremy Gallon, Mike Shaw, RVB, Junior Hemingway, Kevin Koger, BWC (showing that fire in the belly), Thomas Rawls (nice debut, young man), Devin Gardner (haz moves too), Gibbons (3/3 is 3/3, no matter how long) and basically everyone on the team. Great job guys.
Hope for Tomorrow
My trust and confidence in this coaching staff was already pretty solid going into this game. I actually DVR'd it, a Michigan Big 10 opener, which is not something I would have felt comfortable with at any point in the past that I can remember. Yes, the opponent was obviously overmatched but it was still a Big 10 game, against Big 10 athletes that had a lot to prove to the world. I am a big believer in luck and karma, and a firm believer that watching a game live contributes to both, so this wasn't a decision I made lightly. In the end my trust in Brady and Co., coupled with the lure of great deals on Amish made furniture* at a local auction, made it OK. I still squirmed with discomfort when I ignored my phone going off several times during and after the game. Family and friends were trying to reach me to discuss the game and my first instinct was apprehension bordering on conviction that it was all going horribly wrong.
After watching the game later I can honestly say that such feelings will not again occur while this coaching triumvirate remains intact. I checked the score when I got home, not wanting to make my family deal with my uncertainty, and was of course more than relieved at seeing 58-0. I then watched what I assumed would be a series of ridiculously fortunate events leading to such a ridiculous score. There was none of that though, only near-perfect execution by a team that looked so well coached that my pride as a fan went through the roof. That was a domination that harkened back to watching Bo's teams crush the "little-8" back in the day. This is no coincidence either. The parallels between then and now is a head coach with strength of will and vision for what Michigan Football should be, coupled with the quality of coordinators needed to make that vision a reality.
It is not hard to see the qualities of Bo in Brady Hoke. At first I cringed at his seeming overconfidence, at his seeming overuse of Bo-isms, and wondered if he was trying too hard to win Michigan fans' hearts with his bravado. I don't doubt the man any longer. Brady Hoke has a Bo-like level of expectations for those he leads. He has expectations of effort, execution, and yes "toughness" that no coach since Bo has required from both his players and his staff. Hoke isn't making Michigan great again by being an innovator on either side of the ball; he is acquiring the best available parts, constructing a beast-machine, and driving the thing to eventual domination.
Greg Mattison is Greg Mattison. He is everything he was advertised to be and is turning this defense into a capable unit quicker than anyone could have hoped or expected. His experience since his last stint at Michigan, especially in the NFL, have given Michigan an advantage over the competition. Give the man a few years and he will have Michigan's defense back amongst the best in the country. Mattison will prove to be to Hoke what Gary Moeller was to Bo, only better.
The man that has the potential to put Michigan in National Championship contention as soon as next season is Al Borges however. All reports on the man were positive when he came in with Hoke, but all reports also sold Borges far short of reality. If we can take anything from the first 5 games of 2011, it is that Al Borges is in no way married to any system. Instead Borges is both humble and extremely intelligent. He has taken this offensive personnel, with all of their considerable talents, and used the soft part of the schedule to tinker and learn. He looked at what worked last year and used it to beat a good Notre Dame team. He used his knowledge of SDSU and Rocky Long to make that contest look easy. He played with the parts he has and got to know their strengths and weaknesses and displayed much of what he has learned against Minnisota. My first reaction to seeing such elaborate trickeration was he should be "keeping it in the bag" to be used when needed. As the game evolved, and the offense rolled out new wrinkles seemingly every drive (for the first half at least), my thoughts changed to how on Earth was the next opponent supposed to game-plan for this? Al Borges may make this offense look like a modern version of the Mad Magicians by year's end, and it will be in a genuinely humble effort to do what it takes to win each game.
I realize this is a lot to take from a single game against an overmatched opponent, and that these words could look ridiculous in a month's time. I don't care. I'm calling it now: Michigan is back and better than ever. They may not (probably don't) have the pieces to run the table this season, but if this staff stays together it won't be long before Michigan rises to the top.
*Seriously the only uniquely nice part about having to live in south-central PA.
Go Blue and stay safe.
720p MP4 Torrent (4.97 GB):
A chilly start to October! Wind is the word of the weekend! A low pressure system is making it's way out of the eastern Great Lakes, but not before pulling in some fast-moving cooler air and giving us a bit more rain. It's definitely a day to bundle up (making sure you have that bright MAIZE colored shirt proudly worn on top of all your layers!), especially if you're planning on being out early or staying out late!
This might be the first game that you need to bring the thermos out! Waking up to cold temperatures around the 40 degree mark, and with strong north winds we're talking -oh yes, I'm going to say it- wind chills in the low 30s! Even by 9/10am wind chills will still be in the mid 30s. Winds will be around 18mph could see gusts up to 25mph. This means leaves will constantly be in motion, small branches can blow around a bit, you'll see smaller trees swaying. Skies are very cloudy until around 10am; then that cloud cover will begin to break up. There's also a slight chance of a light sprinkle throughout the morning hours, but really not a lot to worry about - I think the major rain events will mainly stay east of I-75.
I think the rain will have cleared us for the most part and we'll just keep around a good amount of clouds. North winds 20-25mph, could see some gusts up to 30mph. Winds this strong are when using an umbrella gets difficult, empty plastic garbage cans will blow over, the wind "whistles." The temperature will be up to 45 degrees, but, it'll feel like the upper 30s with that wind.
Keeping some of those clouds around, but you'll notice they do continue to slowly break up more and more throughout the afternoon. Although we'll see that thermometer go up a couple degrees, still going to feel like the low 40s. Strong north wind not going below 20mph yet.
We'll reach the high temperature for the day-although it's not going to get over 50 degrees. Some of the clouds will disappear and as we break into the later evening hours you'll see a few starts through partly cloudy skies. Bundle up if you're headed out to celebrate! Those winds will shift a tad to come out of the north-northwest throughout the evening, but aren't going to feel any warmer. End of the game the winds will still be at a steady 20mph, gusts up to 30mph, and we won't see them get down to about 10mph (leaves will blow about) until midnight. Temperatures late night after the game will cool down to 40 degrees, but that wind chill is back making it feel like it's in the low 30s.
Stay warm, enjoy the game, and let's get that Little Brown Jug!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
It's one thing for a running back to have quick feet; it's quite another to have feet capable of nailing an unblocked guy's feet to the ground and teleporting an opposing nose tackle from one side of your guard to the other.
Of course, on this play Toussaint wasn't the only guy with super powers. The SDSU DE running the scrape exchange made himself invisible, at least to Kevin Koger.
The Setup: First and 10 for Michigan on the SDSU 16, up 21-7 and driving to close the game out. Michigan will run the zone read (I think; I'm sure I'll be corrected if I get it wrong) out of the shotgun, pulling Kevin Koger to open the backside.
Wha'hoppon: Robinson sees the LB come down for contain and so hands off to Fitzgerald Toussaint. Koger misses the DE coming down the line on the scrape exchange, blocking the LB that had already been neutralized by the handoff.
With a free hitter staring him in the face, Toussaint takes a half-step to the outside, freezing the DE and changing the momentum of the NT being blocked by Omameh. This puts him on the wrong side of the hole, and Omameh rides him out of the hole as Toussaint comes through one step ahead of the DE. Good downfield blocking lets Fitz ride his OL to a 9-yard gain.
Full YouTube link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxVJpWo2NOc&hd=1
[Ed: you know what? I'm just going to bump this instead of linking it again.]
[Quick JCB plug: We’ve got you covered on all the weekend action, including a great preview on the stellar prime time schedule tomorrow night from SteveY and a breakdown of the Evil Empire vs Little Brother match tomorrow afternoon. More to come later today including a deeper look at the Nebraska-Wisconsin showdown and, of course, my weekend card of picks, so bookmark us already!]
October is hours away. And so is the start of the 2011 Big 10 conference season. Out of conference games are more or less over and we're about to begin an historic Big 10 season, one with Nebraska in it, two divisional races and a winner-take-all championship in, of all months, December. This will be season to remember, but will Michigan be a factor? The numbers from September are in, and the early math points to the Wolverine's showdown with Nebraska in November being for the division title.
But we've all been here before with Michigan looking good on the verge on the conference campaign only to see the September numbers wither with the changing seasons. I have a feeling this year will be different, but that doesn't mean the Wolverines will run the table or boss their division. My prediction for the division has always been its pretty mediocre and that we'll see three teams tied atop at 5-3. Michigan has as good a chance as anyone to hit that 5-3 mark. My other prediction was if they beat ND, they would be one game better through ten games than a year ago, so that's 8-2 heading into the nasty double date at the end of November with the Huskers and Ohio State coming to town.
There are plenty of storylines to be had in tomorrow's league opener for Michigan against Minnesota. The Little Brown Jug is on the line, fer gawd's sake!! We get another data point in the evolution of the new offense. How does Minnesota look with the whole Jerry Kill situation? Can these young, new playmakers on the Michigan defense continue their progression. And, of course, in my world, can Michigan cover the point spread. Generally speaking, I don't consider covering the line or not a true storyline for the masses. But in Michigan's case this season, I do. Don't forget, the Wolverines didn't cover a single point spread in Big 10 play a year ago. That's only the fifth time in the last decade that any FBS school didn't cover against the closing game in all their league games.
The paranoid ninny in me is naturally not happy that Michigan is the biggest chalk on the Big 10 board in the wake of last year's 0-8 ATS mark and 4-20 ATS mark the last three years against the Big 10. Obviously part of that is Minnesota's serious sucktitude so far this season. But some of it is indeed a changing mindset towards Michigan within the gambling community. Back in the summer, not only was nobody betting on Michigan, but everybody and their pet cats was betting against the Maize and Blue. However, a month into the season, Michigan has showcased some defensive competency, they still have Denard Robinson and, well, the rest of the Big 10 just looks terrible. The result? A major shifting of the odds in favor of Michigan. The Wolverines used to be 8th in line on the board with Big 10 Championship odds, checking in at +1600. But with the shifting Big 10 odds, today they are third in line at +800, behind Wisco and Nebraska. And when books re-released lines for future games on Monday, Michigan, which had been an underdog in almost every Big 10 game available, is now the favorite in almost all those games.
[ed: specifics after the jump. Thanks for being terrible, Big Ten.]
Standings are here as usual. Read below for more analysis than you could possibly want. Skip to Ballot Analysis for a way to judge how your picks are doing.
Last week we listed 5 games to watch for Pick Six relevance. Four of those games had a pretty significant impacts on the standings. LSU clobbered West Virginia knocking WFnVU almost out of the poll and overwhelmingly claiming first place for themselves. Clemson essentially switched places in the poll with Florida State after a huge beatdown and is now the highest ranked team that was unranked in preseason. Sorry Baylor, it was a good run but we all knew your time was limited. Oklahoma State leapfrogged Wisconsin and Stanford after beating Texas A&M who dropped 6 spots in the rankings. Finally, Arizona State crushed USC and reenters the poll. For the first week this year, the three most popular unranked teams are all ranked. In order of popularity Texas is #17, Michigan is #19 and Arizona State is #25.
Not much else happened this week. Just some minor reshuffling, so let’s move on with the show.
Out of Conference Recap
After one third of the season is over (that’s depressing to think about), most schools are done playing their non-conference games. This is a good opportunity to see how the teams performed.
NV means no votes received. For the first five groups Popularity gives the percentage of picks for that team. For the unranked teams the Popularity column gives the number of total votes since the percentages are so small. The unranked Change column assumes that all teams with no pre-season votes were tied for 49th.
In terms of overperforming teams, Florida had the most improvement of any ranked team. Clemson came out of nowhere the last two weeks going from unranked to 21st to 13th. Baylor and South Florida have been slowly climbing the polls ever since great performances in week 1. Unfortunately for the 21 people who picked them, they have pretty much reached the peak of their rankings. They will most likely start to slide back down in the polls in the next few weeks.
For underperforming teams, it is probably a tie between Florida State and Auburn for the worst season so far. FSU dropped from such a high spot but is still ranked, while Auburn is the only pre-season team to not be receiving any votes this week (thanks to the lone voter for Mississippi State and Missouri).
The current perfect ballot has 92 points with #1 LSU, #5 Oklahoma State, #7 Wisconsin, anybody, #12 Florida and #13 Clemson. Still no perfect ballot this week but BlueMars24 and Cottonpicker both picked Alabama, Stanford, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Florida and Clemson to earn 89 points this week. They jumped from 40th place last week all thanks to Clemson.
The unranked team usually makes or breaks a ballot. There were 25 people who picked Clemson (8th most popular pick) and 7 of those people are in the top 100 this week. So next year, spend 90% of your analysis on the unranked team. You’ll thank me later.
Now that Southern Cal is unranked, the two last place contestants have the worst possible ballot earning only 26 points. 17 of those points come from Oregon, they also get 6 points for TCU and 3 points for Florida State.
Weekly Brian Watch
West Virginia getting destroyed hurt Brian’s ballot this week (along with a lot of people). He is now tied with 21 people for 123rd place with 74 points.
Judging your picks
A completely random ballot would be expected to earn 55 points. So if you have more than 55 points you can safely say that your picks are better than random. If you have fewer than 55 points, you should probably just throw darts at the wall next year.
The median (and mean) of the contest is 60 points. So if you have more than 60 points you are an above average MGoBlog user. Congratulations!
If you have less than 60 points, remember that this is the internet. So just tell everybody how awesome the rest of your life is. A few possible suggestions would be the attractiveness of your significant other (they’re a model, right?), how much money you made in Vegas (didn’t you correctly pick a 15-team parlay in the sportsbook?) or the size of your wine cellar (this is a Michigan blog for the wine and cheese crowd after all).
Games to Watch
As I type this South Florida is losing big to Pitt. Pitt won’t be ranked, but will USF be unranked come Sunday? That would be a big blow to the 13 people who have been riding the Bulls to a respectable ranking.
- #14 Texas A&M vs. #18 Arkansas
- #8 Nebraska vs. #7 Wisconsin
- #13 Clemson vs. #11 Virginia Tech
- #3 Alabama at #12 Florida
- Michigan State vs. Ohio State and Mississippi State at Georgia
Texas A&M and Arkansas are both coming off losses. The loser of this game might be knocked all the way out of the poll. Especially if the game isn’t close.
Assuming Nebraska-Wisconsin is a good game, the loser probably won’t be affected too much. They’ll drop down to around 13-16 in the polls. It’s still pretty important since so many people picked both of those teams.
I won’t deny that I have no idea who is in which division of the ACC but Virginia Tech and Clemson look like the best conventional teams in the conference. Georgia Tech just rushed circles around the athletes at UNC so it might be a 3-team race over in basketball-land.
If Florida can stay within 3 touchdowns of Alabama they will still be ranked on Sunday but an upset would send shockwaves through the football landscape as well as the Pick Six standings.
There are two games pairing up unranked members of the infamous Group D. Michigan State and Ohio State are both near the top (the very top in MSU’s case) of the “also receiving votes” category. The winner will probably be ranked next week if they look very strong, or if one low-ranked team loses. The other group D matchup comes from the SEC where Mississippi State is playing Georgia. While neither team has a shot of being ranked next week, the loser probably has no hope of being ranked again this season.