at least it's not just us?
UGotW starts working overtime. Why ESPN, in their infinite wisdom, decides that crappy games should be played mid-week instead of, say, women's beach volleyball I have no idea. But they did/do/are/will. This week starts the annual carpet-bombing of your football-tolerance areas. Show me on the doll where ESPN touched you. At least I get Mondays to crank out this column.
Troy Trojans of Troy versus FIU Golden Panthers. Yes, Golden Panther sounds like the elderly version of cougar. The fact they're from Florida only reinforces this horrible image. Add into the mix a pack of Trojans, and the mental eye bleach will be flowing. Both teams are 1-2 in conference, and that conference is the Sun Belt. Yes, the same Sun Belt that's currently lead by Arkansas State and/or Louisiana-Lafayette. FIU's QB is named Wesley Carroll, which sounds like something out of a Dickens novel, and Troy's backup is named BJ Chitty. So in case the starter gets knocked out, the announcers get to say "They're bringing in the Chitty second-string QB." I got your Golden Panther, right here:
UConn versus Pitt. Both teams are 3-4 and 1-1 in conference. A Wednesday night game at Heinz field in Pittsburg? Expect lots of empty seats. The Big East is looking like the team that stumbles the least will win again this year. The fact that Rutgers is in contention for a BCS bowl should give everyone shivers. Much like the Upperclass Twit of the Year contest, I'm going with Nigel Incubator-Jones over Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith.
If you're still watching these games by Thursday, you will be convinced that ESPN hates you and is laughing at your, and/or you are a degenerate gambler. Thursday brings us Virginia versus Miami(Yes, That Miami). Both teams 4-3, both 1-1 in conference. I'd respect Miami more if they just installed stripper poles for the cheerleaders, and shot money out of a cannon whenever they scored. SAT analogy time. Miami:NCAA football::XFL:NFL. QED. Who thinks Miami is a mess? This guy:
I still think this game should have been scheduled for Sunday, but nevertheless we get BYU versus TCU. We get the school founded by the guy who didn't exactly believe in the separation of church and state versus the school originally built right in the middle of Ft. Worth's vice district. I'll take slightly crazy over stark raving looney any day. Winner gets a Touchdown Jesus, if that's your thing.
Saturday wraps up with a "Someone gets a win" game. Mississippi State and Kentucky are both 0-3 in conference and 3-4 overall. I should point out that I picked Mississippi State in my Pick 6 picks, which is turning out to be not-so-good. I think Kentucky is the exceptionally bad team of these two, having a -11 margin between points-for and points-against. Granted, they've already played LSU, Florida and South Carolina, but none of those games have been what you'd call competitive. MSU features a receiver named Chris Bumphis, so there you go. The Egg Bowl looks to be a snooze this year.
So let's put aside for the moment that we lost (again) to our in-state rival, and that they went out and beat B1G juggernaut Wisconsin, thus decreasing our chances of winning the
West Legends division even if we win out... grrrr. Yes, let's put all of that aside, and focus on... HOMECOMING! Purdue comes to the Big House this weekend sporting a 2-1 conference record after Illinois chocked an impressive win over Illinois.
My original idea for a wallpaper was to focus on a "Boilermaker pun," which of course begged the question what the heck a Boilermaker looks like! Purdue went with this interpretation, but when I checked Google, I came up with this:
which is quite literally a man making a boiler. And even though that welding helmet was begging for wings, I decided to go in a different direction when I was going through the attic for Halloween decorations and came across the toy train that goes around our Christmas tree. I don't know why, but toy trains make laugh, so I give you the following:
Only one new name on the board this week, but still some big moves with Gunner Kiel's decommit (or "opening up," but let's call it what it is) from Indiana and J.J. Denman flipping from Penn State to Wisconsin. I have moved around the team rankings a little bit as teams begin to fill out their classes—if a team doesn't have many commits, they'd better have high-quality prospects. In other words, get a move on, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois. Action since last rankings:
10-16-11: J.J. Denman decommits from Penn State, commits to Wisconsin.
10-20-11: Nebraska picks up Zaire Anderson.
10-21-11: Gunner Kiel (Indiana) re-opens recruitment.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JUCOs, so Isaac Fruechte (Minnesota), Darius Stroud and Jacarri Alexander (Indiana), Steffon Martin and Devin Smith (Purdue), and Zaire Anderson (Nebraska) are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
So with Jordan Payton's announcement coming soon (supposed to be expected at latest on Tuesday last I have read) I figured I would head out last night to Thousand Oaks to watch his team, Oaks Christian, play Thousand Oaks. I figured I would try to provide a little bit of information/impression that I gained from watching the game.
Sadly, Payton got hurt on the second offensive drive of the game and missed most of the rest of the game, only coming in on defense for the couple final drives.
I tried to get some video and pictures, but it is with my phone, and sadly I could not zoom for video so sorry in advance if it is not the best quality.
First some notes:
Oaks Christian on offense mostly ran the ball and combined it with screens. They didn't attack downfield much, especially when Payton was out of the lineup.
Oaks Christian on defense played with 10 guys all close to the line, with Payton as the only deep man at safety about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. Ocasionally he came up to press a reciever and a teammate would step back into the safety spot.
As a result Thousand Oaks ran the ball most of the time, and rarely attacked downfield because they respected Payton's abilities deep.
The other highly rated prospect out of Oaks Christian, Ishmael Adams (a 4 star CB and 5.8 rating on Rivals, same as Payton) did not suit up but was on the sideline. Not sure what his injury status was.
Payton just being on the field was able to attract most of the attention freeing up his teammates. As such Oaks Christian spread the ball around a fair amount, although they were most effective when they got the ball to Payton. On the first drive he caught two screens that didn't go for much as Thousand Oaks seemed to be playing to shut down the screens because they expected them. However this burned them as later on the drive Payton caught a fade at the 1. Three plays later he showed good hands in easily defeating a press from the cornerback on a quick slant for a touchdown.
On the second drive he had a quick screen where he juked two defenders and gained 15 yards but it was negated by a holding by an offensive lineman on the other side of the field. Sadly soon after Oaks Christian threw a screen to him and he was tackled awkwardly and injured his ankle. He did not return to the game on offense.
He caught the ball well (by my count he didn't have a single drop) and he looked like he knew how to use his size to his advantage. There were a couple times he was able to get open by beating his defender but his quarterback just didn't see him. Payton has some quickness and moves, but he won't get by anyone with burning speed. His run blocking was ok, but Oaks didn't run the ball towards his side of the field. The quick burst and moves he possesses reminds me of when Hemingway was able to juke a couple defenders against Illinois for the touchdown last year.
I have him finishing the day (in very limited playing time) with the following line:
5 catches, 43 yards, 1 touchdown.
Here is video of his fade catch (sorry I fail at youtube imbedding so if someone could help on that I would appreciate it). He is lined up on the far right.
Payton didn't see much action deep as Thousand Oaks seemed afraid to throw near him. He made a couple tackles in run support and looked like one of the better tacklers on his team, as he used his arms to wrap up ball carriers rather than just trying to run into them.
When he left the game due to injury, he was limping around with a brace on his ankle before halftime. After halftime, he followed his coach around with his helmet on and seemed able to go back into the game if needed. Coming out of halftime, Thousand Oaks started throwing deep with him gone, and after two touchdown drives his coach put him back in for a couple final drives and that shut down Thousand Oaks' deep passing game.
He seemed to follow the play well and I never saw him out of position. He took good angles to tackles and even if a teammate was making a tackle he would hustle to the area. Lastly when he was put back in defensively he huddled his teammates all up and got in their faces to fire them up. This worked as Thousand Oaks did not score once he came back in. He also stopped a running back who broke through all of his teammates and saved a touchdown on one of the final drives that would have tied the game up.
I have him finishing with 4.5 tackles in his limited time.
Here is a video of one of his tackles. He is the deep man.
The only two pictures I was able to grab: (he is #4)
I tried to maybe grab a couple pics of him to show his height, because he does look like all of the 6'2" that he is listed as. Sadly I pretty much failed at this part.
Impressions of his teammates:
Three of his teammates stood out to me during the game.
First was #5 who played as a reciever and punt returner. He was a smaller guy but he was very shifty and had good speed, so he was used often on screens. However he did not have the best catching ability as his only two deep routes he juggled and drop the ball despite being open and not hit on the catch. His name is Chris Davis, and he is a sophomore.
Second was #7. He is a 3 star LB commit to ASU, but to me he stood out on offense playing as a RB. He finished with 150+ yards, including a 73 yard td run and a 77 yard td run. For fun, he also hurdled a defender which drew some applause from the crowd. When Payton left the game Oaks Christian fed #7 the ball more and kept it on the ground and he responded well. His name is Carlos Mendoza, and he probably will play LB in college for ASU as he is listed as 6'2" and 215.
Lastly was #55. He was playing DE and he seemed to just live in the backfield constantly harassing Thousand Oaks' QB. His name is Ben Johnson and he is a senior, but I can't find him on any recruiting sites.
Though I saw very little of Payton, I was impressed and have high hopes for him. I think in college he could probably play WR or CB. If he were to choose Michigan, I think he would play WR for us as he would give us a big target for the quarterbacks, especially downfield on those fades. Though I hope he chooses Michigan, I wish him the best of luck during his college career and can't wait to see him play on Saturdays and see what he can do.
“Race Day 5/6”
By Matt Nixon
21 October 2011 – Adelaide, Australia
Word’s out: America’s #1 solar car team is from the University of Michigan.
They took third in the 2011 World Solar Challenge. As in the 2009 event the team from Japan’s Tokai University took first and from the Netherland’s, Nuon took second. Déjà vu all over again?
Yes and no. The WSC is an event of the sort where each running is unique and anything can happen. I could go on about the details; brushfires, high winds, torn fairings – but those have all been born out by now. Let’s drill down into the emotions involved.
Nervous parents, excited cheerleaders, hand wringing U-M Solar alums and anticipatory media paced in the drizzle, jockeying for a position and the perfect view. All of us waiting to catch sight of the flashing lights atop the lead support vehicle.
Clutching hope like grim death, we were beyond eager to see our heroes finish what they’d started years ago. Yesterday, running on ozone and the team’s sheer force of will, Michigan’s Quantum rolled across the finish line in the nick of time.
I won’t spin it; there was something decidedly anticlimactic about the finish. None of us could put our finger on the feelings we were experiencing in the moment. It wasn’t disappointment. Certainly there was some of that because everyone wants to win. But what they’d accomplished was nothing to be dismissed as a loss.
Relief? There was loads of that. Our team was safe. No one was injured to any significant extent. Banged up to be sure – but nothing that time and rest can’t heal.
Pride? Yes, we were all proud of our team. They performed like champions leaving everything on this most unusual field of battle. Still, there was just nothing of gravity to be said. We mustered an awkward and hoarse Hail to the Victors.
Yet something in that moment felt like the severing of the strings that had been keeping us all connected during the 1,800-mile odyssey from Darwin to Adelaide. It was like helium slowly escaping a balloon. The adventure was over and we were all descending back down to earth.
When I got to my hotel room I couldn’t bring myself to write a single line. I just didn’t have the words. The closest I could come to a descriptor was confusion. What had I witnessed? It was something profound, every fiber of my body resonated with vibrations but what was it?
I thought about it as I washed the red Outback earth from my aching body. Walking the streets Adelaide late that night, alone I pondered. Where was my heart? Where was my head?
And then it struck me like boxer’s blow to solar plexus: I missed them.
I’m in a beautiful city, staying in a nice hotel and I have every comfort (that I went without while Outback) within easy reach. But I would trade it all to be back in the dirt with the team for just another day or two. No hyperbole, I would have died a completed man out there.
This was my tribe and now we lay scattered about by the four winds.
If ever again I’m gifted with a similar experience it won’t be anything like what I’d just gone through with them. And it wasn’t until the final night, prior to the last day of our race, that some of the quieter members of the team finally engaged me in discussion.
Santosh Kumar (the head strategist) asked me a question. Whoa. This man’s mind is made from the clockwork of the god’s and he had a question for me?
“Matt, what have you found to be the best thing about Australia?” he asked.
Without hesitation I replied, “Watching you guys work together.” No matter how awed I may be, I am not one to pay lip service to anyone. My statement was pure truth.
I’ve been humbled to witness the way this team operates. I’ve learned something about teamwork, collaboration and the ability to harness the passion that, when people are put under extreme pressure, often bubbles over into negative emotions.
Sitting back I remarked that under every situation they’d found themselves facing, they always seemed to be so calm. Calm. Even when moving at speeds that warped my perception. They problem-solved with an even-keeled coolness that just can’t be captured in words or pictures. It had to be felt. To have experienced it, I am thankful beyond expression.
Santosh chuckled, “Well, we just deal with the problems and keep moving forward. What you’re not seeing are some of the fireworks that go off when we pile back into the support vehicles.”
Well, that’s really it, isn’t it? Fix what needs to be fixed. So that Quantum can get back on course solve what needs to be solved – and then you can let out the steam. It’s simplicity itself but somewhere along the line we can forget that’s how winning is done. You must remember; a lot of these men and one very special woman aren’t even old enough to legally enjoy a beer.
With all of our egos, insecurities and human frailties it’s easy to lose sight of this when you see full-on grown-ups who can’t behave like civil human beings. Still, this team of youngsters could be trusted get you through hell and back. And in a sense (if you know the Outback) they did that very thing.
This morning when I arrived at Victoria Square and found the three winning teams joyfully splashing about in the fountain (appropriately named the “Three Rivers Fountain” taking its namesake from the three rivers, the Torrens, the Onkaparinga and the Murray – all of which feed Adelaide most of its fresh water) I found my writer’s inspiration renewed. Competitors, now comrades, swapped jerseys and reveled in the joie de vivre that the World Solar Challenge and the fountain so adequately represent.
When they emerged from the waters, I asked some of the individual team members how they were feeling. Not surprisingly it was Team Manager Rachel Kramer who put a fine point on what I was seeing.
“All of the bad feelings just melted away the minute we jumped into the fountain,” said Rachel.
My heart swelled like a torrent about to burst a dam. It was in that moment that I finally got it. It was through their smiles that I understood my own emotions. I was witnessing the stuff of legend.
Celebrations at the official finish line at Victoria Square in Adelaide where #3 University of Michigan’s Quantum solar car arrived on Friday, October 21, 2011 during the World Solar Challenge race across Australia. All photos courtesy of Marcin Szczepanski, Multimedia Content Producer/College of Engineering, U-M
U-M’s Blaine Riley, head of sourcing, celebrates at the official finish line where #3 University of Michigan’s Quantum solar cars arrived on Friday, October 21, 2011.
Always smiling and a volcano of energy, U-M’s solar car biggest supporter and cheerleader Charles S. Hutchins sports a University of Michigan beret at the official finish line at Victoria Square. [Ed. - A lot of the support directed toward the team is courtesy of Mr. Hutchins. He is certainly one of the reasons the team is a HUGE success. "Volcano of energy" is an apt description. Thank you Sir!]
Shoes left after jumping into the fountain at Victoria Square where U-M, Nuon and Tokai University solar car team members celebrated at the official finish line
U-M, Nuon and Tokai University solar car teams celebrate together after exchanging jerseys at the official finish line at Victoria Square’s fountain in Adelaide.
Link to the celebration video. Watch the team sing 'The Victors' in the Three Rivers Fountain! Click here
Thanks for following along. As before, I'll be reading thru the comments and will do my best to answer questions or find answers for you. The American Solar Challenge will be held next Summer. I'll be happy to "cover" that event as well. Go Blue!
As expected the Top 25 ate their cupcakes without any problems. The six teams that lost moved down and everybody else moved up around them. Michigan, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Arizona State all stayed in the poll while Baylor and Texas dropped out of the rankings. The teams that won or were on a bye moved up to replace them without much excitement. The only big jumps in the poll were Kansas State getting up to 12th and Michigan State jumping from 23rd to 15th.
The AP voters did decide that Georgia is good enough to be ranked again. After starting out the season 0-2, they’ve won 5 in a row and look like the leader in the SEC East now that Marcus Lattimore is done at South Carolina. There are now 2 teams from Group D ranked, the most since week 2.
Washington became the 12th team to enter the polls after starting the season unranked. That should lift the spirits of the 9 people who forgot Jake Locker graduated and picked Washington in their ballot. I hope they don’t get too excited though because the Huskies are about to get beat by Stanford.
Individual Ballot Analysis
Willhouse is in first place for the third week in a row and the second week in sole possession of the lead. In 2nd place 30rackchamp rode Michigan State and Washington up from 53rd place last week. (Is 30rack a play on 30 Rock and Rackham? Just 30 Rock? Something totally different? Enquiring minds want to know.)
After 6 weeks of first place being within 6 points of the perfect ballot, that mythical prize is pulling away. The perfect ballot is the same this week as last: LSU, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, West Virginia and Clemson. That’s worth 111 points while Willhouse has only 97 points since he didn’t pick Michigan State. 97 points is the highest point total of the season.
Judging Your Pick
MGoBlog seemed to have done a good job of making their picks. For the first 6 weeks of the season the MGoBlog median and mean were higher than what a randomly picked ballot would expect to earn. People who read about Michigan football for hours every day had a good knowledge of the wider world of college football.
Week 7 politely steps in and says that we actually have no more idea of what we’re talking about than a bunch of monkeys.
A picture of the author at his desk.
Games to Watch
Not as many terrible cupcakes as last week but there still aren’t a lot of elite matchups. The daytime is full of semi-interesting to terrible games with the most relevant games on at night.
#20 Auburn at #1 LSU - 3:30 on CBS
USC at Notre Dame - 7:30 pm on NBC
#6 Wisconsin at #16 Michigan State – 8:00 pm on ESPN
#25 Washington at #8 Stanford – 8:00 pm on ABC
The winner of USC and Notre Dame is almost guaranteed to be ranked next week. This week’s “also receiving votes” is #26 Penn State, #27 Notre Dame, #28 USC. With a good win over a decent opponent either Notre Dame or USC is going to take the spot of whichever team at the bottom of the poll loses.
The other games might be good games but more likely they are going to be beatdowns.