I was going to spend my MGoTime this week addressing the shifting odds in the Big Ten after week one, but it's hard to focus when it's Notre Dame week. With all the semantic arguing about whether or not it's a real rivalry, I've found myself wandering down memory lane a lot. However it's couched, it's been a grand run of games over the years, and I am old enough to have memories of all of them, even the Rick Leach-Joe Montana duel that started the modern day series back in 1978. Of course, this is a rivalry, but pointing out the Irish's countdown clock to this game probably would make me an MSU fan, so I wont do that. Instead, how about I take you down Memory Lane with, of course, a point spread angle.
The underdog is 23-6 ATS in this series since the 1978 renewal. Can you name the six times that the chalk covered the spread? We played this game on twitter last night, and it didn't take very long for most of the correct answers to reveal themselves. So, you are under a bit of pressure to perform here, guys. While pondering, I will quickly list the spread changes on Michigan's future games this season. Odds per sportsbook.com:
At Penn State: Last week, UM -3; Today, UM -3
At Michigan St: Last week, MSU -2.5; Today, UM -2.5
Vs Nebraska: Last week, UM -4; Today, UM -3.5
at Northwestern. Last week, UM -3; Today, UM -6
Vs Ohio State. Last week, OSU -4; Today, OSU -3.5
I have no idea why the Nebraska line is shrinking. Also, it's worth noting that 5dimes had more future Michigan games on their preseason Games Of The Year board. However, that book apparently doesn't re-release new lines as the season goes on, so we're stuck analyzing only sportsbook.com's more limited action. I wanted to see how much the UM -12 line over UConn moved, but we'll have to wait until game week to find out.
Alright, had enough time on the trivia question? Hope so, because here comes the big reveal........
1981, Ann Arbor. Michigan 25, Notre Dame 7. Closing Line, UM -4...... One of the most bittersweet wins in program history. I don't know if anything could top the 2008 Outback Bowl on this list. Like that rousing victory over Florida, the Wolverines showcased everything that had made them such a highly touted team to begin the season. Butch Woolfolk rushed for 139 yards and as a team the Wolverines churned out 320 yards on the ground. Michigan just completed four passes on the day, but three went to Anthony Carter who took two of those to the house, including a 77-yard bomb to open the scoring. The Michigan D suffocated the Irish at every turn. It's just that they did it a week after losing 21-14 at Wisconsin, an inglorious season opener for the preseason #1 team in the nation. Seriously, how many preseason #1 teams lose their opener? FIRE BO ROD. The good news here is Michigan throttled the Irish, who had taken over the #1 ranking in the wake of Michigan's loss. The bad news is that other than this game, Michigan wasn't very sharp in their important games of the year. They lost to Iowa and Ohio State by uninspiring 9-7 and 14-9 scores. Had they split those games, they would have gone to the Rose Bowl. Instead, the Hawks went to Pasadena and Michigan played UCLA in something called the Bluebonnet Bowl at the Houston Astrodome.
1982,South Bend. Notre Dame 23, Michigan 17, Closing Line, ND -4.....Wait. Bo not only lost, but couldn't cover the spread against Gerry Faust? Honestly, I don't know why we kept that guy around for as long as we did. AC returned a punt for a score, but it wasn't enough. ND's Dave Duereson stripped Michigan flanker Vince Bean of the ball on the Wolverines final attempt to take the lead, and the game was over. This was Notre Dame's first home night game in program history. We waited nearly three decades for revenge over this moment and 2011 delivered. I love it when a plan comes together.
1991, Ann Arbor. Michigan 24, Notre Dame 14. Closing Line, UM -3.5....... This game speaks for itself. Desmond Howard's catch is the signature play of this series, launching a Heisman Trophy campaign and perhaps the most dominant single season individual performance in Michigan history. The game made Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) list of top-5 Michigan moments in series history. Hard to quibble with Tremendous here, but I will.
I would kick 1994, his top choice, off the list, move his other selections (2011, 1991, 2010, 2006) each up a notch and put the 1985 win over the Irish in the fifth and final spot. Admittedly, I am biased towards the '85 team. It's my favorite Michigan team of all-time, non national championship division. The run-up to the 1985 season was a down time for Michigan. They went an unheard of 6-6 the year before, had lost three of their last four to Ohio State and teams called Iowa and Illinois were going to Rose Bowls instead of them. Conventional wisdom said Bo had lost it and Michigan was a program in slow decay. The Irish were supposed to come into Ann Arbor in 1985 and extend the Wolverines misery. Instead Michigan kept the Irish out of the end zone all day en route to an inspiring 20-12 win. It was our first look at what would go down as one of program's best defensive units. Michigan capped the season with wins over Ohio State and then Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl, ended #2 in the nation and re-established itself as a national power. Michigan would win Big 10 titles in six of the next seven years with five Rose Bowl berths. That whole run started with the '85 upset over the Irish. Besides, you cant have a top-5 that includes outcomes from two seasons that ended with the coach getting fired. The 2010 win gets to stay on the list because OH MY GOD DENARD!!! The 1985 gets bonus points because of the drunk Irish fan sitting behind us at the game who kept yelling at Gerry Faust. PINKETT, PINKETT, PUNT GERRY!! WHY DONT YOU GIVE IT TO PINKETT AGAIN GERRY!! WE'RE ALREADY PUTTING FOR SALE SIGNS IN YOUR YARD GERRY!! Easily one of the funniest random fans I've ever sat near during a game. Right up there with Barfie at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium for Browns games, but that's a whole different story.
2003, Ann Arbor. Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0. Closing Line, UM -10...... The 'Houston Is Better Game.' Please tell me this is true. The students were chanting this comparing the Irish to the Cougar team the Wolverines whipped the week before, right? We had been waiting our whole life it seemed to see Michigan just annihilate Notre Dame for a game, rather than give us a typical heart attack inducing win or loss. We got it in this game. I didn't even mind that I lost $50 on the +10. What can I say, I don't analyze this game, I just take the underdog. Speaking of 38-0 scores.....
2007, Ann Arbor. Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0, Closing Line, Michigan -9.5........ The 0-2 vs 0-2 cripple fight. Let's not talk about the preceding events. Just focus on Jimmy Claussen vs Ryan Mallet. Installment II of this series' three part Yakety Sax run. High times, indeed. I actually did not bet this game. How could you? The Irish looked like they had just started their football program during their first two games. And Michigan? Woof. Let's just move on.......
2012, South Bend. Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6, Closing Line, ND -6......Last year. What did it take for Notre Dame to cover as chalk in the series for the first time in 30 years? How about Michigan throwing interceptions on five straight passes, the last four by previous Irish foil Denard Robinson. Let's talk about the first of that bunch, a halfback pass that Vincent Smith lobbed into the hands of an Irish defender on first and goal. I place it third on the list of worst Michigan picks in this rivalry, behind Elvis Grbac hitting a wide open Michael Stonebreaker in the end zone in 1990 and Chad Henne in 2005 chucking it across his body on a bootleg killing a critical third quarter scoring chance. But at least its ahead of Demetrious Brown's cumulative effort in the 1987 game.
That's the rundown of the six times the favorite covered the spread in this series since 1978. The most common incorrect answer was the 2008 clash. It's an obvious, albeit wrong, guess given how bad Michigan was that year. Believe it or not, they were favored on the closing line by -1. Twitter friend @DrewCHallett did point out to an archival link showing ND favored by -1, but cover.com lists UM -1 and my Phil Steele magazine lists UM -2. I'm keeping this in the underdog covered column. Otherwise, I really don't want to talk about the 2008 game because it wont take long before some Michigan fan chirps in and tries to explain how Michigan really was the better team that day and should have won, blah, blah, blah. Look, this was the first in a long line of Rich Rod turds, to pretend otherwise is as lame as clinging to the notion that all Rich needed was Jeff Casteel, and he'll still be here. La La Land, folks.
Other popular guesses included the 1987 season opener that Michigan lost by a dismal 26-7 score as 3.5-point chalk; the 1999 game when A-Train scored the game winning TD to give Michigan a 26-22 win, but failed to cover the -7.5 line; 2011, however Michigan was 3.5-point home dogs that evening; and even a few 1997 guesses. Michigan won that game by a 21-14 score, a rather large margin for the series, but the Wolverines were a whopping -14.5 coming into the game. It was the fourth game of the season and the Irish were a shaky 1-2 coming into Ann Arbor, fresh of 28-17 and 23-7 losses to Purdue and Michigan St respectively. Hey, how about a hearty shout out to the Irish's #RealRivals for softening up the Domers for us and helping Michigan out in their national title quest!
As for this year's game. The line has grown from UM -3 to -4.5. It's a classic look ahead game for the Irish, what with Purdue on deck, so maybe it makes sense that the line is growing towards Michigan. Given the history, it's hard to turn down those points. And I wouldn't. I think it's the play to make if you decide to go to the window on this one. After a six year run of high scoring games in this series, during which the winner averaged 36.5 points per game, the series returned to the defenses a year ago. I think it stays defensive centric tomorrow. Michigan wins 20-17, Devin Garden runs and passes for a touchdown and a late defensive stop, let's say a Blake Countess interception, seals the win, but not the cover, for the Wolverines.........Have fun, enjoy the day and if you're Ann Arbor, swing by Fingerlee Lumber for our tailgate. We're the ones with the Desmond Howard RV. Go Blue!
I'm 31. This means that unlike Mark May (Age 53) and Skip Bayless (Age 61) I have never known a time in which Michigan and Notre Dame were not playing each other, apart from the occasional two-year break. It also means that I don't know who Bubba Smith was, but I'm reasonably certain he never played for Michigan.
Like many of you, I was astounded to learn that the Michigan-Notre Dame series is not a rivalry. Wikipedia claims it is, but then wikipedia also claims there is such a thing as "Puppy pregnancy syndrome", a psychosomatic illness in which the victim thinks that "shortly after being bitten by a dog, puppies are conceived within their abdomen." So now I don't know what to believe.
I've always counted Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and maaaaaaaybe Minnesota as Michigan's rivals. The thing is, when I was growing up Notre Dame was the only team that was really a threat. Minnesota has beat Michigan twice since I've been born. Michigan State has always been and will always be Little Brother, even if a nasty Michigan coaching transition gave them the upper hand for a few years. Ohio State is undoubtedly Michigan's greatest rival, but my football brain was congealing during the John Cooper era in which Ohio State was more of a cartoon villain. Sure, they were menacing and evil, but at the end of the day they almost always got what was coming to them. Notre Dame was different, though. They were good, like the Buckeyes but without the hilarious tendency to choke games away. As often as not, a game against Notre Dame was going to end in tears, and that made the victories all the more sweet.
Here are my personal top memories of the rivalry that never was.
#8: Rocket @#$%ing Ismail, 1989
Hey, I didn't say they were all going to be GOOD memories, did I?
In 1989 the college football world was centered at the Michigan-Indiana border. #1 Notre Dame faced off against #2 Michigan at Michigan Stadium. I was only 7 years old but I knew this was a big deal. Things went pretty well... except some dude named Raghib "Rocket" Ismail returned two Michigan kickoffs for touchdowns, and Notre Dame won 24-19.
#7. Remy Hamilton Drills It, 1994
There's a special feeling of dread when your team needs to attempt a last-second, do-or-die field goal. There's so many things that could go wrong. A bad snap. A bad hold. A bad kick. A block. A sudden gust of wind. But when Remy Hamilton lined up for a 42-yard attempt with Michigan down by one point, he drilled the cleanest kick you could ever hope for. And he knew it, too. Watch the video. Foot hits ball at 0:17. Kicker and holder are in celebration mode not one second later, even though the ball still has a few more seconds of flight time before it makes it to the uprights.
#6 and #5: Thirty Eight to Nothing, 2003 and 2007
By the turn of the 21st Century, Notre Dame had fallen on hard times. In spite of Returning to Glory in 2002 and 2005, they had a nasty penchant for losing seasons. That did not stop their fans' (or the pollsters') belief in Notre Dame's divine right to a vastly inflated preseason ranking. It fell to Michigan to introduce reality, and we frequently did so, most notably with a pair of 38-0 beatdowns, in 2003 and 2007. 2006's 47-21 beatdown (aka the "Brady Quinn for Heisman" game) wasn't bad either.
#4: Tate sees Cover Zero, 2009
After enduring by far the worst football season I had ever witnessed in Rich Rodriguez's first year, 2009 started out with promise. After slapping around WMU the week before, Michigan settled in for a slugfest with Notre Dame. Michigan would win it 38-34 with a short touchdown pass with 11 seconds left, but it was this earlier play that really sticks in the memory. True freshman quarterback Tate Forcier found a hole in the Notre Dame defense on 4th and 3, and scampered straight up the middle 31 yards for an untouched touchdown. Finally we were starting to see how the Rodriguez offense worked! All we needed was our quarterback for the next four years to keep his head on straight and for the defense to be something better than terrible...
#3: Denard Robinson is to Midfield and They'll Never Catch Him, 2010
Denard Robinson's name appears in a lot of recordbooks. One of them is Notre Dame's. See: Longest run from scrimmage in the 83-year history of Notre Dame Stadium. Once again the game would be won by Michigan 28-24 on a short last-second touchdown, but it was this 87-yard run that is the lasting memory of the day.
#2: Under the Lights, 2011
In 2011, in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium, Michigan defeated Notre Dame, scoring the winning touchdown on a screen pass to Vincent Smith with 82 seconds left. In 2011, in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame defeated Michigan, scoring the winning touchdown on a deep pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left.
In 2011, in the first ever night game at Michigan Stadium, Michigan defeated Notre Dame, scoring the winning touchdown on a pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left. It was the craziest end to a football game I've ever seen. It was the craziest end to a football game not involving the Stanford Marching Band that I've ever even heard of. I nearly put it at #1 on my list, but not quite...
#1: Desmond Howard makes The Catch, 1991
The 1991 game was won by Michigan 24-14, which means it wasn't as close as most of the others on the list. This one play, though, left such an impression on my 9-year-old mind that it has not been topped since. To this date, when my wife asks for my opinion on interior decorating, I tell her what we really need is a floor-to-ceiling mural of The Catch. She hasn't gone for it yet but I'm still fighting the good fight. On 4th "and a foot", nursing a 3-point lead, Michigan did the most un-Michigan thing you could imagine. Elvis Grbac pump faked, then lobbed the ball into the endzone. When the ball was in the air, Desmond Howard was bracketed in double coverage. When the ball came down, his impossibly outstretched arms were there to cradle it. Touchdown.
Thank you to all the youtubers who posted the above videos, many of which are members of Mgoblog.
WE'LL LEAVE A LIGHT ON FOR YA
(Click the Image to See Full Size Version)
In a few hours I'll begin the pilgrimage. Thanks to a very young family, and, well, Pennsylvania, I don't make it out often enough these days. I find myself as excited as Morgan Freeman at the end of Shawshank. Gonna be an amazing weekend.
GO BLUE. And Beat the Irish.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
Last month I put together a new way of looking at down and distance and some new metrics. Like the four factors that have become prevalent in basketball, here is my shot at looking six factors for evaluating a football team. There are two key areas that aren’t included. Turnovers, which are critical to explaining past outcomes but poor at predicting future outcomes. The second is special teams. As Brian noted in the previews, special teams are funny because a lot of the value is derived by the presence or absence of big plays. Like turnovers, these are obviously key plays, but they make predicting future performance a challenge because they show up in very inconsistent ways.
The Six Factors
You could call him a factor (Fuller)
|Field Pos||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Offense||25.4 (19)||49.2% (39)||107 (51)||7.2 (59)||+28% (4)||7.0 (1)|
|Defense||19.2 (55)||44.1% (30)||40 (10)||11.2 (2)||-6% (37)||3.0 (9)|
The first week is going to have some big outliers, with not a lot of competitive games, so the rankings should smooth out over the next month or so.
The defense was really outstanding against Central Michigan. There were almost no big plays, they put the Chips in awful third down situations and limited them both times the offense set them up in good position to enter the red zone.
The offense wasn’t really great in early downs but was exceptional in high leverage situations. Bonus yards (although possessions were limited) and first and second down plays were below NCAA average for the first week but third down and red zone performance was outstanding.
Field Position: A team’s expected points based on where a team started its drives
Early Conversion: The percentage of first downs' that are converted prior to a third down play
Bonus Yards: All yards gained after the first down marker
Average 3rd Down Distance: Average yards to go on third down
Adjusted 3rd Down Conversion: Rate of conversion for a team on third down, adjusted for the standard conversion rate based on yards to go, 0% is average
Red Zone: Points per red zone trip (TD’s counted as 7 regardless of PAT)
All categories except field position are based solely on plays in competitive situations (all first half plays and any second half plays where the drive begins or ends within two scores). Only games against FBS opponents are included, but after last week maybe I need to reconsider that.
Individual Game Scores
It’s just week one so we won’t kick in opponent adjustments for another month. I also included all garbage time plays in the totals since there were so many new players getting touches in the second half.
Devin Gardner: +16.4 (12.2 in the first half)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: +3.1
Derrick Green: +4.4
Shane Morris: +2.2
Deveon Smith: –0.8
*All numbers are PAN, Point Above Normal, a representation of how many points a player adds or subtracts from the team’s final score as compared to an average player/team
If you’re on twitter or look at stats at all, you’ve probably experienced the NCAA stats overhaul that happened this year. In general, it’s awful, but now has auto-play video ads. From the play by play they have stripped out first names of players (so this week we won’t be able to differentiate between Cam and Thomas), no longer list the starters for a game, removed tackler information unless it is a sack, provide no description of a penalty, removed targeted receivers for incomplete passes and removed all yardage detail from punts and kickoffs. It’s pretty awful.
The one slight benefit is they did add directional information to plays. So we can look at how Michigan performed over each side of the line. When running here is how Michigan performed (scrambles and NORFLEEEEET removed):
Left: 5.9 YPC, +2.7, 14 plays
Middle: 3.2 YPC, +5.3, 18 plays
Right: 3.0 YPC, +1.4, 4 plays
Running left was Michigan’s most successful direction but all the benefit was in big play generation. Michigan yielded 50 yards on its two big runs to the left, but was under 3 yards per carry on all other plays to the left.
Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Dumb punts typically fall into two different types,
1. Punting on short yardage deep in opponent territory for “field position” reasons, even if the values to field position are highly debatable.
2. Punting while trailing in the fourth quarter when future possessions are highly limited
There were 13 punts last week (excluding mercy punts with large leads, not that Hoke would care). 4 of the 13 came from current or future B1G members. Mark Dantonio and Michigan State are the only ones to do it twice. Dantonio wanted to start the year off right so before midway through the first quarter he had twice punted on short yardage from Western Michigan territory. The first time on 4th and 1 from the 41 and the second time on 4th and 3 from the 48. #B1G
27 times teams punted in the fourth quarter within two scores of the lead. Georgia, New Mexico, California and Fresno State all punted from opponent territory with no more than 7 yards to go for a first down. Northern Illinois and Iowa combined for four 4th quarter punts while trailing or tied in their matchup.
And the winner is…Mark Richt and Georgia. The Bulldogs punted twice while trailing in the fourth quarter. The first was on 4th and 7 from the Clemson 40 with about 12 minutes left, trailing by 3. Clemson would take the ball 87 yards for a touchdown to go up by 10. On the next possession, Georgia was facing a tough 4th and 15 on their own 43 but now there were only 6 minutes left and they were down 2 scores, and Clemson had scored 38 points on them. Richt still chose to punt away. Georgia got the ball back down 10 with less than 2 and half minutes to play. They did get a quick score but failed to recover the onside kick.
Notes from around the NCAA
- You may not have heard but Michigan State’s offense was kind of bad last week. With defensive touchdowns and other big turnovers, an average team would have scored 41 points given State’s field position. They were one of the worst offenses in the country in both early conversions (38%) and adjusted third down conversion rate (-15%).
- Alabama won easily over Virginia Tech but the offense did not look strong. The Tide generated only 24 bonus yards, only four teams were worse.
- Three games saw both teams generate over 200 yards past the first down line. Georgia-Clemson, Northwestern-Cal and Vandy-Ole Miss were some of the most exciting games of the week with big plays on both sides. Oklahoma versus Louisiana-Monroe was the worst, with only 75 yards combined from both teams.
- All the Texas A&M talk was around The Manziel “controversy” train but the A&M offense was amazing on early downs. It’s hard to be good at both converting early downs and limiting third down distance. The Aggies did both, tops in the country with 1.7 average yards to go on third down to go with a 59% early conversion rate.
Notre Dame 6 Factors
|Field Pos||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Offense||13.8 (68)||49.2% (39)||278 (2)||5.4 (26)||+1% (37)||7.0 (1)|
|Defense||10.9 (11)||52.5% (60)||91 (32)||8.1 (19)||+14% (75)||3.5 (18)|
If you watched any of the Irish game on Saturday, it’s not too hard to see where things went right for their offense. 278 bonus yards was second only to Georgia for the week, and Notre Dame did it in only 7 drives. Notre Dame looked like they were playing NCAA Football on the peewee difficulty setting with the way they broke out the big plays.
With so many big plays and with the opponent being an overmatched Temple squad, I don’t know that we know a whole lot else about Notre Dame’s offense from Saturday’s results. On defense the Irish mostly held serve. The Owls were faced with limited field position, expected to score only 11 points based on field position for the game. Notre Dame allowed over 50% early conversions and was awful (75th out of 88 teams) on third down.
With both Michigan and Notre Dame putting up easy wins against overmatched opponents in week one, I’ll have to revert to preseason rankings for a prediction. Going into the season I had Notre Dame at #15 and Michigan ranked 17th, essentially tied. With the game at Michigan I think they will have a slight edge. If they can keep the turnovers and big plays even, I think it’s a clear advantage Michigan.
Michigan 24 Notre Dame 21
Here is a link to the mini-program for the ND game. if anyone is unfamiliar, this is designed to be folded into one of those lanyards for quick reference during games or just to keep with you on your couch.
the one for Central was done, i just didn't get around to posting it. the link is provided if you are a miniprogram completist.
let me know if there are any corrections to be made.
NOTE: Apologies for posting this here, but my posts in the forum no longer show up for some reason.
I am going to have to miss UTL2 and I would like to record it on my computer. I have verizon FIOS and there I can play TV channels on my computers. My plan was to record the whole game using a screen-recording software like Camtasia (triggerred by a windows task based on a timer)but have run into a snag. A 2 minute video is coming out to around 500 MB!
I have tried everything I could think of...reducing screen res to 1280x1020, making the window small and recording only small portion of the screen, using compression settings etc. Not making a big dent. I just don't get it. My files usually from camtasia are of the order of 20-30MB for a 2 minute capture. My guess is the super fast transitions of video (as opposed to me recording a tutorial on how to do something on a computer) bump up the amount of data that needs to be stored.
I still do not understand how people like Thorin do it. Please help!