"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
here is the miniprogram for the first game with roster, depth chart and future schedules. let me know if there are any comments or corrections to make.
as the new football season is about to start, THE KNOWLEDGE has returned to these very pages to review the 2014 season results
many is the number of people who have tried to predict Michigan's record. these have ranged from predictions based on great hope to predictions based on utter fear
but these people are speculators; they do not know what will actually happen
THE KNOWLEDGE, on the other hand, talks with clear and detailed information about the future and will thus reveal the season results in this review
with this post THE KNOWLEDGE also introduces the THE KNOWLEDGE CHALLENGE for 2014. unlike previous years, THE CHALLENGE will not run every week, but will run in segments
for the first edition, the readers are asked to name correctly the teams that will qualify for the playoffs. there is no need to predict the winner. at the end of the regular season, the reader that revealed the 4 teams correctly will be named CO-SOARER OF THE KNOWLEDGE
regular season result for Michigan: 11-1 (including a trip to the BTCG)
OOC result: 4-0
THE KNOWLEDGE will reveal the postseason results in a later post
I’ll begin with a confession and a qualification. I am admittedly a “youther” in that I think it’s legitimate to evaluate UM’s performance within the context of game-experience, program experience, eligibility, etc. That doesn’t get the coaches (in any regime) or players “off the hook” but it does provide context. In my world view this is a factor in determining past performance and future expectations.
My world view (as informed by MGoBlog) also holds that stars matter to set expectations of player performance up and down the roster in general. Thus Roster Make-up (“RM”) combines eligibility, game experience, and recruit ranking to provide a prism through which I view a team’s performance. It should be noted, I do not think there is an acceptable context for 3-win seasons, 27 for 27 or minus-48 vs. Sparty.
I thought I’d compare the MSU, OH, ND and UM 2-deeps. The qualification is that depth charts are often not worth the paper they’re printed on, and this snap shot will change over the course of the season. In general, I think the analysis is still relevant.
Hopefully, the Mathlete, his legion of fans (of which I’m one) and the other phenomenal statisticians/mathemagicians aren’t too disappointed in this clumsy and simple view…but a method should mirror its maker, yes?
The two-deeps are taken from a variety of sources and generally align with the most recent version I could find. UM’s does not fall in line with the App St. chart regarding Glasgow and Kalis. I used the 11W 2-deep from today, and Rivals for MSU and ND (both updated the 26th).
Regarding the rankings, I looked at the four main ranking sites and came up with these groups:
- 5*: Any site giving 5* rating (e.g. Peppers, Shane, Green)
- u4: (Unanimous) 4* from all 4 sites (e.g. Beyer, Cole, Countess)
- c4: (Consensus) 4* from a majority of the sites (e.g. Funchess)
- 4*: (Low) 4* 1 or 2 sites rated as a 4* (e.g. Taylor)
- h3: (high) 3* as a 5.7 and/or 88+ and/or 78+ (e.g. Braden)
- 3*: Any site giving 3* rating (e.g. Henry, JMFR)
- 2*: walk-on or actual 2* rating (e.g. Glasgows)
Note: UM’s “games played” numbers are based on player participation reports so UM’s numbers reflect positional experience. The other teams are derived from player bios and those do not often adequately separate special teams play vs. positional play unless it is “games started.” UM’s games played will seenm lower by comparison.
Michigan (1st string: 201 Gms Started/394 Gms Played…1st+2nd: 259 GS/600 GP)
Michigan’s 2-deep looks as one would expect (especially if one is an avid follower on this site). The roster is full of flaming redshirts (57%) is anchored by Hoke’s 2012 class (43%), and has a lot of highly rated guys (aka “talented”). As can be seen later, relative to UM’s rivals there’s a good balance of game experience, age (trending youthfully), and talent. I’m glad to note only 2 starters are 1st or 2nd year guys, and yes, this may move to 4 with Peppers and Lewis, but is still better than years’ past. This roster is trending the right way, looks better in 2015, and makes me feel cautiously optimistic.
Notre Dame (1st string: 141 GS/449 GP…1st+2nd: 171 GS/586 GP)
The suspensions (should they last) created a problem for ND. The 2-deep got much younger and much less experienced. With Russell, Williams, Daniels and Moore Kelly loses 38 GS. The good news for the Irish is that the 2-deep is still pretty highly rated (slightly higher than UM’s). ND burns more redshirts than UM, and by the looks of it will be doing so again this year. ND has a dearth of 4th/5th years similar to UM’s. By contrast, they make up for it with true sophs and not so much by Kelly’s 2012 class. That 18th ranked class was smallish (18) and lost top-2 Kiel and Neal to attrition and is without Russell (for now). Kelly is going to rely on the most 1st/2nd year guys of any of the rivals (by far). Talented, but young and inexperienced is this group’s hallmark.
Michigan State (1st string: 237 GS/532 GP…1st+2nd: 267 GS/840 GP)
MSU’s roster also looks as one would expect. What they’ve lost seems to be a recurring topic, but with the most game starts of these 4 teams, Dantonio’s system keeps rolling. His 2-deep loathes burning redshirts (11%), loves 4th/5th year guys (59%), and plays with a chip on its shoulder from not being highly rated (70% below 4*). MSU freshmen lay in the weeds, learn, and win scout team awards (unless they’re Malik McDowell or Brian Allen). 2nd year guys get little love here as well. Basically, talk to the hand until the 3rd year, and even then its mostly just to get seasoning (excepting the 2-3 guys who MSU beat UM/OSU/ND for). Likely this will be the RM throughout Dantonio’s regime. The ratings are trending higher, but Dantonio’s RM will look a lot like this until he retires. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Ohio State (1st string: 168 Gms Started/413 Gms Played…1st+2nd: 178 GS/533 GP)
At Ohio State they reload. Even with the loss of Miller, that seems true. Meyer will have significantly more 5* than UM and ND. He’ll field a 2-deep devoid of 3* or 2* guys. Only 3 “high 3s” blemish this constellation of 4 & 5 stars. Though nothing like MSU’s load of 4th/5th year guys, Meyer will field more than UM and ND. They’ll also field more 1st/2nd year guys than UM, but not close to ND’s nursery. Loaded with talent, lacking experience, and led by a decent number of 4/5 year guys, Ohio State looks the way they usually do. Still, this could be a “down” year. That was probably going to mean 1-2 losses with Miller. Without him, I think it may mean 2 – 3.
Who Needs Starz?
Michigan will start three 3* guys (JMFR, Henry, JClark) and the Glasgows are walk-ons. MSU will start 5 3* guys (Calhoun, Waynes, Drummond, Langford and Kieler) with 2 w/o (Gliechart and Conklin). ND only starts one 3* and 1 w/o, and Meyer has no idea what is being discussed in this paragraph. Both Michigan schools have a shot a putting a number of these lower-rated recruits on the all-B1G lists. Unsurprisingly, there are no 1st or 2nd year guys in anyone’s 2-deep from the 3*/2* groups.
Looking at the QBs
Gardner is the best on paper (5th yr, 5*, 21/37 GP/GS, though 16 GS at QB), then Cook (4th yr, h3, 13/17), Golson (4th yr, c4, 11/12), and finally Barrett (2nd yr, u4, 0/0). This should bode well for UM, though three of the four look pretty decent. Barrett’s gonna struggle some, but the question is how much.
It Goes Without Saying the Above Paragraph All Depends on…
It may be wishful thinking, but my starting UM OL is still Cole, Mags, Glasgow, Kalis and Braden. That is worth 28/43 GS/GP and 4 highly rated guys (with Glasgow maybe being the best guy right now). MSU counters with 59/100 but with that “underrated” chip referenced earlier. ND should challenge UM’s DL with “grizzled” vets 50/103 who are very “talented” and older. OH will have 23/82 and such “meh” talent that their 2nd string includes talented DLs who’ve switched over, but have no experience. On paper, UM’s line is about as questionable as OH…maybe a little less, but they’re both close, and both scary. If Kalis isn’t a starter…damn.
I went into this thinking UM was likely to finish with 9-10 wins and would take 1 of 3 vs. these teams. I don’t think that record changes, since this exercise really made me feel better about ND struggling (who I already thought was the most likely W). Still, UM’s RM is balanced and relatively good compared to these rivals. OH is the most “talented” by a decent amount, but less experienced. MSU is doing what they do, and will be tough. ND looks young, talented, inexperienced and vulnerable. UM’s OL is still relatively young and inexperienced, but so is OH’s. In all, if this season doesn’t go well, RM isn’t something that I’ll be factor into the post-mortem.
- UM has the 2nd lowest rated true frosh in Freddy (ND’s Daniel Cage), and the highest (Peppers)
- UM is tied with ND for most c4/u4/5* since the 2012 class with 23.
- In 2015 the 4/5 yr guys from these 2014 2-deeps = MSU 25, UM 22, ND & OH 15
- MSU has burned 7 redshirts. Four are 5/4 stars and three are high 3s
- ND’s only walk-on is starting at LB. Their only 3* is starting at S.
- UM’s D has the most game-starts by a wide margin…and is talented enough to make it count.
The season is just a few days away, which means it's time to deck out every inch of your life in Maize and Blue. Every year I like to make a few wallpapers for myself. Why should I keep them all to myself?
I'm a fan of minimal design, which I have used in all of these wallpapers. The first one is a 2D long shadow effect on the glorious Block M we all love. The second is sort of my thoughts right now. I'm sick of the analysis, the crying about App State, and all the predictions and rankings. Just win. The last one is a slight alteration to a student t-shirt design submission that didn't win last year.
Full Album: http://imgur.com/a/1t4ua#0
Update: What the heck, here is one more
Because the one thing we haven't done is talk about the OL enough this offseason, I would like to address some misconceptions about what OL recruting rankings actually mean and what it takes to play OL on the collegiate level.
First up on the mound, recruiting rankings. Recruiting sites rate offensive lineman on pro potential, not college readiness and "pro protential" for a high school lineman is bascally looking at your frame (aka height and arm length) and how well you move your feet. This is why a guy like LTT, who barely knows what he's doing can be a consensus 4*. Scouts saw long arms, wide hips, light feet and 6'7" and named him one of the top 10 high school tackles in the country and all he did to earn that ranking was grow, it had almost nothing to do with his play on the field. When sites say Kyle Kalis is "college ready," they mean he is 6'5" and has 300 lbs of good weight and that's about it. These guys are graded on the physical part of the game which is only about 10% of what it takes to be a good lineman. HOWEVER, it is important because it is the first 10% and if you can't hold up physically, it doesn't matter how good the rest of your game is because DL will just bench press you out of the way as seen here. Joey Burzynski(LG) is stiff armed by CJ Olaniyan and gets no movement. While it helps, having an NFL body is not required to be good in college and there are plenty of examples of players who dominate in college but struggle to make NFL rosters (see David Molk). What makes those guys special is the level of technique they play with and the ability to anticipate the defense.
Which brings us to the main point of this diary, OL play is basically football math. Think of every play as a math problem, and offensive lineman have to figure the solution to the problem in their heads presnap, while alsonknowing the problem may change as soon as the ball is snapped, meaning that they have to figure out the solution to the problem at hand and anticipate every way it can change and solve those problems as well, all in the space off the few seconds they have once the defense aligns. This is why a certain long haired blogger we all know and love screams at his television every fall Saturday for the offense to hurry to the line of scrimmage, so the line (and the QB) can have more time to solve the defensive equation. Every second not at the line of scrimmage solving the defense is a second wasted, and a win for the defense.
College OL play is like Calculus, and 95% of lineman come into college with a just basic understanding of simple arithmetic(Addition, subtraction, mulitplication and division) and some come in basically knowing how to count (LTT). This is because the vast majority of high school offensive line coaches have the equivelent of an 8th grade education in line concepts if they're lucky and the physical advantage a lot of these guys have in high school makes the equations they face pretty easy. At that stage, it is about 80-90% physical and 10-20% mental, because the DL that can challenge them physically are few and far between and overpowering guys doesn't take much brain power. Once they get to college, the physical advantage goes away and defensive equations get much more complicated and they have to realize that they have to learn real math, which can be shocking to some guys. It is the job of the offensive line coach to take these guys who are coming in at some level of elementary school math and get them up to speed. They have to learn the high school level concepts of algebra (run blocking), geometry(identifying who to block) and precalc (pass blocking) before they can even dream of doing calculus i.e. getting on the field. Every different play and protection scheme has its own set of techniques and they change for every different front the defense throws at you. Offensive line man have to know what foot to step with first, in what direction and how far, what their aiming point is, who they are supposed to block, how they are supposed to block them when they get there, where each hand goes, where their head goes, and where their eyes should be looking, all while remembering to play with good knee bend and pad level. All of this has been calculated down to inch level precision and each mistake opens you up to exploitiation by the defense so you have to be perfect, and even then there is no guarantee that the play is successful because everyone else has to do their job too. And they have to learn all that so well that they can do it in their heads so fast they barely think about it, because if every play is a Calc problem, you can't be struggling with the algebra because there is no way you can solve and execute the solution in time to make your block. This largley is what lineman are doing their first 2-3 years on campus, along with getting in the weight room, and why they shouldn't see the field on a good team. For most guys, things start to click in their 3rd year on campus, which explains why most players on the line who meets this criteria under Funk have at least put forth solid production.
Last year, Borges demanded that a line where the most experience guard (post GG to center) was a RS FR, the equivelent of about a High School Sophomore mathematically, to solve differential equations, limits, integrals and applied calculus. The young guys understandably got overwhelmed and didn't improve as much as they could have and when they didn't, they got taken out, further stalling said improvement. That is one the biggest reasons we have a new OC, because the responsiblity of a Coordinator is to put their players in the best possible position to succeed and Borges didn't do that nearly enough. What we don't is if Funk is a good Math teacher because this will be the first year the 2012 class (his first full class) should be expected to fully understand what they are doing. The only players Funk has had the oppurtunity to mold from scratch are Glasgow and Miller, Glasgow has worked out well and Miller didn't meet the requirements for the physical 10%, which is not on anybody but Miller. Whether they come in as a 5* (Kalis, Kugler), 4*(LTT, Bosch, Dawson, Mags, Cole) or even a 3* (Braden, Samuelson) they all must learn the mental part of the game to have any sort of positive production.
What we should be looking for this year if fot the RS Sophomores to be around where Glasgow and Schofield were in 2013 and 2011 respectively. By the Ohio game we should have a middling B1G OL, we won't be good, but we shouldn't be the tire fire of last year either. I think we had the possibility of being 10-1 heading to Columbus with a loss at MSU and competing for a title. If we see more of what we saw last year, it is probably time to start looking for a new OL coach.
EDIT: Space Coyote actually has two great write up on pass blocking techniques and schemes on Maize 'N' Brew:
Years ago, the University of Michigan's football team was in supposed turmoil. It had been years since Michigan won a national championship, and years since a Big Ten championship. The head coach was effectively a replacement for the legitimate guy, exiled in a media firestorm.
Coming into the season, Michigan seemed to be a distant third behind two conference juggernauts, and that embattled new coach was on the hot seat, to the point of the athletic director getting asked whether or not this guy was good enough, on a live pregame show. That AD defended the coach by saying he's set up to have a great year, and then we'll see.
That embattled coach, of course, was Lloyd Carr. That year was 1997. Michigan was coming off of some 4-loss seasons, and hadn't won a conference title in five years. Carr, who bcame the head coach after Gary Moeller's public meltdown, was seen to potentially be just a transitional guy.
I'm not joking. That clip is below.
At the 5:28 mark, Don Shane questions the future of Lloyd Carr as Michigan coach. At the 3:22 mark, Michigan State head coach Nick Saban spouts generic platitudes about systems and preparation while looking shifty. And at the 13:10 mark, Keith Jackson welcomes you to an afternoon at Michigan Stadium, mentioning Michigan's star defender Charles Woodson, and officially beginning The Greatest Season In Recent Michigan History.
This year, the atmosphere is the same. Michigan is in chaos, according to most of the die-hards. Last year was the worst offense ever, and the team is taking a step back! Devin Gardner had a bad year, and he's the starter again! The offensive line! Michigan State is legitimately good now! It's been X long since Michigan won this thing, or did that thing! Records! Everything off the field! We'll be fine. In fact, we'll be better than fine. Michigan will be good this season. For that matter, Michigan will be borderline great this season. Michigan will do the things that will bring all the national critics around, only this time, they'll be back with a team built upon a foundation.
Michigan football has not been the most fun, record-wise, since 2005 or so. Individual years can be debated, and some games were legitimately exciting. But for what seems to be the tenth season now, Michigan football isn't what we thought it was.
Here's the thing, though: all the pieces are there for Michigan to have a great year. All of the on-field pieces are there for Michigan to be a great team. All of the attrition and injuries to our rivals are there for Michigan to have a great year. Everything within the schedule sets up for Michigan to have a great year.
Michigan returns Devin Gardner, a senior quarterback who was incredibly injured for most of last season, a season that basically ended when this one player was beaten down to the point of not being able to go. Michigan returns a defense that held the team in games last year, and continues to improve. Across the board, Michigan's roster is improving with the maturity of existing players and an incoming recruiting class that includes one star playmaker and a ton of depth. And, the two most glaring problems of last season are gone, personnel-wise. Everything sets up nicely. The pieces are there to have a great team.
Which brings all of us to the upcoming schedule. Appalachian State, Miami, Utah, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers - all wins. Six wins. Northwestern just lost their top player, win #7. Michigan blew out Minnesota last year, that's win #8 this year.
Is Notre Dame winnable? Absolutely. The Fighting Irish just lost a notable number of starters in an academic scandal, their quarterback situation is worse than ours, and they are always worse than expected. Win #9.
Is Penn State winnable? Of course. Penn State has a new coach who is talking a big game, but that roster still has more structural problems than Michigan's. Penn State will end up coming down a notch from the hype, they will struggle a little over the course of the season, and that will be win #10.
Can Michigan win in Columbus? Sure. This isn't the Rich Rod years, where Ohio State would come out and simply outscore an overmatched Michigan squad. This isn't another game where Michigan will lose in Columbus, because that's just how things are now. MIchigan beat Ohio State in 2011, lost in 2012 due to field-goal kicking and a bad offensive half, and was a two-point conversion away from winning in 2013. Now, Braxton Miller is out for Ohio State, and things are looking grim in Columbus. Is this win #11?
Can Michigan win in East Lansing? Sure. Michigan State had a great defense propel them to a conference title last year, but they've lost some playmakers. Can Michigan's defense rise up to reduce the defensive advantage? Maybe. On the other side of the ball, can a Nussmeier/Gardner offense outduel Connor Cook? Probably. Look, this game isn't a likely win. But it's not hopeless to the point of the Rich Rod years or anything. It could be win #11, win #12, or simply a close-fought loss. All of those options are in play.
It's an optimistic look at the season, but it's not unrealistic. All of those things stand a better chance at happening than a repeat of 2013, where the offense was built around a strong offensive lineman and quarterback, the lineman was an ass, leading to the quarterback getting injured and the offensive coordinator's utter hopelessness. This isn't that. This won't be that.
Right now, our biggest problem seems to be that the general attitude towards the whole team is that of a dismissively negative one. Once a closer look is taken, all of the pieces seem to be potentially great, with everything coming together. Just going by realistic on-field expectations, Michigan will go, barring chaos, at least 10-2, with those two losses being close. That biggest problem is simply the scars of the recent past.
And to reference recent history, the worst case scenario is 2011 with more optimism for next year. Optimism in guys like Morris and Peppers, optimism in having all of our rivals at home, optimism for what is to come.
Here's where the negativity comes in. The only two things against Michigan having a great year is idiotic off-field moves and a steady stream of national pessimism that leads to a third thing: local dread. All of these things are easily removed, and will be removed as time passes.
Once football kicks off, everything else will be forgotten. That means you, Dave Brandon, proverbially standing on a highway off-ramp into Ann Arbor, hoping that the incoming traffic will roll their windows down to buy tickets. That means you, memories of 2013, those of the infinite stream of rushes into the middle of an unblocking line. That means you, Arizona bowl game that literally doesn't exist anymore. All of you, gone once actual football starts up.
The reason why these kinds of things become spectres that haunt places like this, is that the college football season is so brief, and the summers so long, that these kinds of things become bigger than they are. There's literally nothing going on, but the appetite for Michigan discussion (or any team, for that matter) never goes away. When easy discussion bait comes up, like Dave Brandon, everyone hops to get it on it, because we're starving to talk about something. Once the game starts, we'll all move on.
It's the same as the sputtering end to 2013. Last season, from the Penn State game on, was almost entirely terrible. Terrible in every possible way, leading to a whole summer with that taste in our mouths. Once the games begin, and we see what the 2014 Michigan team can do, that 2013 team will fade. It will fade into a rough collage of barely beating Ohio State, that field goal against Northwestern, and that horrendous Nebraska home game.
(Playing the games will also cause another unfortunate discussion topic to fade away - Michigan's terrible home schedule. Yeah, we all agree, there are no standout games at home this year. Penn State is not Michigan State, on many levels. No big names are coming in as random highlights on the non-conference schedule. Everyone understands. But once the games begin...that home schedule will be somewhat of an afterthought.)
This leads to the second mark against Michigan, that stream of national pessimism that comes over the course of the summer, cresting in an August of overreaction. The two preseason polls came out, Michigan was unranked in both. The rest of the country, which casually looks at Ann Arbor and sees the faintest glimpse of a rebuilding project, tosses some votes for us sparingly. Which leads to worry and panic, because Michigan isn't ranked.
That ranking, with wins, will come. As someone who tracks the polls more than most, I'd say Michigan gets an official ranking after a win against Notre Dame at the earliest. Michigan is 37th in the AP poll, and 32nd in the coaches' poll, and will inevitably rise with wins and opposing attrition.
Once that happens, of course, everyone will be in town to write/speak/yell about how Michigan Is Back. Michigan's undefeated through their first six games, and Penn State comes to town this week! Michigan just beat Penn State, they're 7-0! Doug Nussmeier is the real deal, so is Brady Hoke! Devin Gardner for Heisman! This team could go to the playoffs! Anyone reading this can see these headlines coming. It happened from 2009-2011. Denard was gonna win the Heisman, remember?
In case you doubt this will happen, look at Notre Dame. Notre Dame flailed their way to an undefeated season in 2012, and everyone was stumbling to write a paean to Notre Dame's return to greatness. Despite a team that wasn't actually that good, the story of the 2012 college football season was ND, from November until January.
If Michigan starts undefeated, that national tide of positivity will come our way. All the momentum of the old days will be back again, as Michigan will be back in the eyes of the national media. It's an easy story, one that would be covered extensively, especially in the Big Ten with Ohio State going down in Miller's injury. Someone will be the media darling towards the end of the season, and it will be the winner of the Michigan-Michigan State game. However, if Michigan is the winner...we'd be the story of the year going into the Ohio State game.
Once all of that starts to happen, and it will, the pessimism of the Michigan fanbase will go away. It will go away until some sort of collapse, pop back up again, and disappear. Michigan football might not have the same offseason aura as the '90s, but it will certainly feel like the summer of 2012, when anything seemed possible after a season that restarted everything.
That leads to the best case scenario for this time next year. We all know what the worst case scenario that is, in whatever little permutation that would be. The best case scenario is a full winter and fall of positive energy coming out of Ann Arbor, with a solid season going into a stacked schedule towards next season.
The last thing that a great season will dismiss is the dread. The fear of another season of getting proverbially kicked in the ribs, of dealing with another offseason of low self-esteem brought on by bad memories. If Michigan has a great year, 2015 will begin in optimism. A high ranking to start the season. A schedule that features two rivalry games at home, a transition out of mid-majors in the preseason, and the return of true/high expectations. All will be well. We just have to get there first.