"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."
Last week, college football fans saw thrillers in Ann Arbor, Auburn, and Columbus (among others) saw games come down to the last play of the game, with the home team prevailing in each. As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas.
As an added twist, we’ll look at a sure-fire favorite and attempt to preview the Michigan game.
1. The Good
Florida International +4.0 @ Louisville. Result: Florida International 24 Louisville 17.
Utah +9.0 @ USC.Result: USC 23 Utah 14. [Push, so technically no props here.]
2. The Bad
Connecticut +2.5 @ Vanderbilt. Result: Vanderbilt 24 Connecticut 21.
@ Georgia +2.5 South Carolina.Result: South Carolina 45 Georgia 42. [Props to: dennisblundon, Lets Get Denarded, and hajiblue72 for calling for South Carolina to cover as the favorite.]
3. The Ugly
Boston College +7.0 @ UCF. Result: UCF 30 Boston College 3.
4. Poster Picks
A number of posters mentioned the Michigan (+3.5)/Notre Dame game. A few mentioned Toledo (+19) against Ohio (elaydin, Gulo Gulo Luscus, Picktown GoBlue, and M-Glow-Blue). Filthy Dilithium correctly chose BYU (+7) against Texas. Jamiemac took Missouri (+7.5) against Arizona State.
There are some really intriguing matchups this week, especially in the Big Ten - Penn State @ Temple, Pittsburgh @ Iowa, Michigan State @ Notre Dame, Arizona State @ Illinois, and Ohio State @ Miami (YTM). Outside of the Big Ten, LSU travels to Starkville on Thursday night, Boise State travels to the Glass Bowl on Friday, capping off the weekend with Oklahoma visiting Chief Osceola on Saturday night.
Can you think of a better Saturday night game to follow up what might be the most thrilling Saturday night game of the year?
@ Toledo (1-1) +19.5 Boise State (1-0). Toledo Coach Tim Beckman is 6-6 against the spread as a dog. Boise Coach Chris Peterson is 35-22 against the spread as a favorite. The Broncos blasted the Rockets last year on the Smurfturf, winning 57-14, covering the 38.5-point spread. Since then, Boise State has lost Titus Young and Austin Pettis to the NFL draft, but returned Heisman candidate Kellen Moore and, Pre-Season All Mountain West First Team, Doug Martin at running back. The Rockets have a history of pulling upsets in the Glass Bowl, having beaten the No. 9 Pitt Panthers in 2003, Kansas in 2006, and Minnesota in 2001. If history is a guide, the game should be close. Toledo may not pull the upset, but they should beat the spread.
Washington State (2-0) +5.5 @ San Diego State (2-0). Last meeting was in 2007, with Wazzou dismantling the Aztecs in Pullman, 45-17, covering the 14 point spread. First year Coach Rocky Long is 1-1 as a favorite against the spread this year. More telling stats: The last time the Aztecs opened 3-0 was in 1981 and they have lost eight straight when hosting a BCS conference opponent. Try to contain your laughter, but Washington State is a program on the rise. Yes, Coach Paul Wulff is only 7-32 at Washington State, but the defense should improve from having given up an average of almost 36 points per game in 2010 (38 points per game in 2009 and 44(!) points per game in 2008). Cougs QB Marshall Lobbestael is 38-51 for 591 yards and 7 passing TDs through the first two games. Jeff Tuel was 32-58 for 416 yards and 3 passing TDs through the same number of games last year.
Colorado State (2-0) +7.5 Colorado (0-2). The Rocky Mountain Showdown will be played in Denver. Last two games have been upsets, with Colorado winning 3 of the last 4. The Rams have won 8 of the last 14 against the spread. Colorado State is 9-3 straight up coming off a win, under Coach Steve Fairchild.
@ Vanderbilt (2-0) +1.5 Mississippi (1-1). The Rebels have not won an SEC opener since 2003 (lost in 2010, 2008, and 2007 to Vanderbilt) and have lost 4 of the last 6 to the Commodores. Mississippi Coach Houston Nutt is 12-13 as a favorite against the spread at Mississippi, but is just 3-5 on the road as a favorite against the spread. Vanderbilt has already matched their win totals from 2008 and 2009. If Vanderbilt can get better QB play from Larry Smith (50% completion against Connecticut), the Commodores can start 3-0 for the first time since 2008.
@ Temple (2-0) +7.5 Penn State (1-1). Temple has not beaten Penn State since 1941, with the Nittany Lions winning 28 straight! Despite the streak, Temple has been the pick against the spread the past two years (29.5 point dogs in 2009, losing 31-6 and 14 point dogs in 2010, losing 22-13). Penn State is STILL sorting out its quarterback situation. Temple has outscored opponents 83-10 this year (vs. Villanova and @ Akron). First year Coach Steve Addazio is 2-0 against the spread and now finds himself as an underdog against Penn State. Temple should keep this one close, but Penn State likely extends the streak to 29 straight.
@ Cincinnati -34.5 Akron. I’m not sure how to be nice about this, but Akron is bad, really bad. The Zips returned six starters on offense and eight on defense, from a team that was 1-11 last year. Give second year Coach Ianello credit, he at least is competitive against the spread, a record of 4-8 against the spread as an underdog and 5-9 overall (0-2 this year). In two games (@ Ohio and vs. Temple), the Zips have scored THREE points and gave up 83. Akron walks into a hornet’s nest on Saturday, with Cincinnati having lost at Neyland Stadium 45-23. Second year Coach Butch Jones is 4-4 against the spread as a favorite. Cincinnati hung 72 on Austin Peay week 1. Akron isn’t much better than Austin Peay; take the Bearcats.
Ron English is 4-22 straight up at Eastern Michigan, including a 2-0 start this year. Coach English is 8-14-2 against the spread as an underdog and 9-16-2 against the spread overall.
Brady Hoke is 49-50 straight up (13-12 at San Diego State, 34-38 at Ball State). Coach Hoke is 25-14-2 against the spread as a favorite and 40-22-2 overall since 2006.
Coach Hoke is 2-1 against Eastern Michigan, against the spread (3-0 overall).
Since 1998, Eastern Michigan and Michigan have met four times, with Michigan winning all four meetings (3-1 against the spread). Average margin of victory for Michigan against Eastern Michigan is 33.25 (average score of 48-14.75).
@ Michigan -29.5 Eastern Michigan.
Michigan 48 Eastern Michigan 17
I just had the priveledge of going to a relatively exclusive talk by Lloyd Carr sponsored by the Jewish Federation. There were probably 30 of us total, and it was held in the house of a guy who had the idea to host a series of talks/get togethers featuring important people in the jewish/local community. The reason he knows Lloyd is that his house was previously Yost's house, the Little Big House as Yost called it, and Lloyd went to visit once. It was an amazing experience, and truly once in a lifetime. Coach Carr was just as classy and smart as expected, and was very kind. We had a short chat about my school, and he (along with everyone these days) asked me where I was thinking about going to college. This question is asked so much that it usually annoys me, but it was Coach Carr so I was to happy to be talking to him to care. Anyways, on to the good stuff.
He started his talk by giving us a quick activity simulating the fundamental football play - the center-quarterback exchange. He walked us through a QB's cadence, and how complex everything is by saying what a QB would say, and having us all clap at the snap. We had some fun with that, and our group had quite a few false starts.
He then got into some stories he had, starting with some advice Bo gave him-the only people who should affect how he coaches are his assistants. The media and fans shouldn't affect it at all (in other words, haters gonna hate, go with your gut). He talked about his first game, and starting a Scott Dreisbach at QB ("Keep in mind that this kid haden't taken a single snap from under center, he had never played a single game.... In other words, we didn't have experience at the position." that last bit got some laughs), and how this advice helped his decision to keep Dreisbach in the game and eventually win it.
My favorite story was about his experience recruiting under Bo. He talked about one kid, a QB from Chicago, who the assistants were very exited about ("This was a kid who could really have stepped in and made an impact on the team"). Him and Bo went to his house on a visit, and the kid kept ordering his mom around like a maid. After only 5 minutes, Bo said "Well, Lloyd, its time for us to go." Lloyd was absolutely shocked that Bo would want to end the visit that early, but Bo had already gotten up so he went with him. Once they left, Bo asked him how they could expect the kid to respect them as coaches if he didn't even respect his own mother. Similarly, there would be many times when Bo liked a kid, but the assistants really didn't want to use an offer on him. Bo had his way though, and Lloyd said that by the end of that kid's 4 years he was a real player. He may not have been the most athletic, but he became a real contributer to the team because of his toughness and heart.
Then he opened it up to questions, and of course the first one was about RR and how he didn't really get those things that Bo had tought Lloyd. Lloyd did a good job of not really saying much about that specifically, but he did say that when he was coach Bo was always part of the program, and was there for him. Lloyd didn't want to be that guy, so he promised himself to stay out of it for 4 years ("Those 4 years are almost up." I'm not sure if Lloyd really meant he would make a lot more statements after the 4 years, but I'm sure he will become more involved in some way). He didn't really say how this affected RR, but the implication is that there were a lot of times when RR was disconnected with the University's history-whether it be past coaches, or whatever. The one thing he did say about RR was that he didn't really think his offense fit in the Big Ten. "If you look at the best teams in the Big Ten - Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State1, they are all big tough teams. When they line up, the goal is to wear down the other guy. Under RR, Michigan got smaller and faster. And during his 3 years, his teams consistently wore down half way through the year." I'll leave it up to you guys to judge that statement's validity, but I think its interesting to hear from Lloyd, especially because he's been so silent on the whole thing.
Last but not least, he talked about his charity work. He and his wife do (as we know) a ton for Mott, and plenty of other organizations. He said he chose what organizations to give his time and money to by trust and what they do, and he said he did all he did for these organizations because "Well, I've got nothing better do to" (jokingly).
I'm sure there are some things I'm leaving out, but those were the highlights. I hope you got something out of it, I know I always like when someone retells an account like this on mgoblog.
1 Notice that he didn't name MSU. :D
[Ed - Prof: Bumped for general diary-worthiness]
This is a follow-up to an earlier forum post with the US News ranking UM the #28 school in the country. (I know, it's a very flawed and simplistic tool, but it's also the most famous by far.) I've always wondered just how much better the Big 10 was than, say, the SEC overall, and the rankings let us measure all of the BCS conferences. I only look at football, so the Big East doesn't get the benefit of very excellent but basketball-only schools (Notre Dame, Georgetown, etc. etc.). (For the record, I already have TAMU in the SEC. Seems to be a foregone conclusion, and if we're arguing who's better, might as well do it looking ahead and not backwards. OU, OSU(NTOSU), and TTU might cause some re-jiggering.)
AVERAGE RANKING, ALL SCHOOLS:
This is just a mathematical average of the USNWR ranking for each school in the conference:
ACC 49 (best)
BIG TEN 56
PAC 12 79
BIG EAST 105
BIG XII 124 (worst)
This isn't really a great measure, because schools can be bunched in the middle versus at the top, but as an overall measure, clearly the ACC and Big Ten are the best two academic conferences. For all of its quality in its top 4 schools, the Pac 12 is dragged down by some really pathetically crappy party schools. The Big XII by far lags behind.
To get a sense of distribution of the schools' qualities, I looked at the average Top 5 and Bottom 5. No surprises here:
Average Ranking, Top 5 Schools:
PAC 12 23
BIG TEN 34
BIG EAST 69
BIG XII 82
This means the Pac 12 and ACC have the best group of top schools, with the Big Ten back quite a bit, but the others dropping precipitously behind. Again Big XII sucks.
Average Ranking, Bottom 5 Schools:
BIG TEN 77
PAC 12 127
BIG XII 127
BIG EAST 150
This just means our worst 5 schools are better than the worst 5 from any other conference. Note that our worst five (avg. 77) are still, on average, better than the Big XII's best 5 (avg. 82)!!! No wonder we don't want Oklahoma. And as bad as the Big XII is overall, its worst five are about the same as the Pac 12's worst five. The Big East has by far the worst group of five schools of anyone. That would drop even more if you took locations of the schools into account (see: West Virginia) (but but see: South Florida).
GRADED RESULT, ALL SCHOOLS:
To get a more fair measure of the conferences based on the distribution of schools' rankings, I "graded" the conferences with a rigid mathematical formula. Each conference received 10 points for each school in the Top 10; 8 points for each school ranked 11-20; then 6 points down to 1 point for each school, respectively, ranked 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-75, 76-100, and 101-125. No points for schools ranked 126 or worse. So conferences with proportionately more "high" (good) rankings will get scored better, with a bonus for top-rated schools. Then I divided each conference's total points by the number of schools, so it's a fair comparison (no extra points just by having more schools). The results:
ACC 4.5 (best)
BIG TEN 3.4
PAC 12 3.2
BIG EAST 1.8
BIG XII 1.4 (worst)
So by this more telling methodology, the ACC is by FAR the best overall academic conference; the Big Ten just nudges out the Pac 12 (because our middle- and low-ranked schools overall make up for the fact that the Pac 12 has the best "top 4" of any conference but among the worst "Bottom 5"). The SEC and Big East are about the same, lagging way behind, and the Big XII brings up the rear. Again.
So my conclusion: While I might have guessed the SEC would be deal last here, in fact, the Big XII clearly is dead last.
Tackling Technique: 2011 vs. 2010
Greg Mattison vs. GERG. Cage Match.
It has been the opinion of many that the defensive woes were a perfect storm of inexperience, tweener athletes and GERG.. with the resulting picture of our defense against a B10 offense resembling something like this.
The underlying problem last year was that we couldn’t tackle for shit.
While scheme was a huge factor, even when we did end up in the right spots we had severe issues bringing down the ball carrier. Enter Greg Mattison.
This off-season there was interview after interview that stressed fundamentals and technique, and nothing is more fundamental or technical on defense than tackling. It is the quintessential ability that a defense is trying to incorporate, ending up in the right spot and smashing the ball carrier to pieces.
Good Tackles look like this:
<iframe width="560" height="345" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KsG5qZsORLM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
And Bad Tackles with poor form look like this:
<iframe width="560" height="345" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/jallAF8hjO0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
The basic analysis follows these formul
- Tackling Efficiency = (Made tackles – Missed Tackles) / (Bad Form Tackles + 1)
- Bad form tackles account for terrible form (bad angles, too high, getting shook etc)
Tackling % = Made tackles / Made + Missed
Tackling Efficiency - 2010:Blue WMU: Maize ND: Green
Tackling Percentage - 2010:Blue WMU: Maize ND: Green
Tackling Percentage is up for almost every player from last year through the first 2 games this year. That indicates to me that they are being taught better technique. There is the factor that some of these guys had a year in the weight room, but that alone is not the only indicator of success (See Barwis Wolves)
While this is a limited data set, this seems to suggest that we are getting better at tackling AS A TEAM. Decreases in Tackling Efficiency by some of the bigger names are accountable by there being a relative spreading around of tackling.
- This is not to suggest that our defense is not essentially anchored by Kovacs in the secondary, Demens in the backers and RVB/MM up front. We are.
- Kovacs is a manchild werebeast. He is easily the most accountable player on the field, always in the right spot to make a play. If he had the athleticism of Marvin Robinson he might be one of the best safeties I have ever seen wear the uniform at this point in his career.
- Demens is a sure tackler, but it seems he is lacking in making tackles for loss. Don’t take this as criticism, as his role is to stop the ball carrier after 1-2 yds consistently between the OTs, not make occasional TFL’s.
- Craig Roh. I think people are being too harsh here. He showed some flashes on plays, and I am going to assume that the decreased production is due to illness. It also seems that Roh is best suited to be at the SDE slot, as trying to keep contain all by himself on the WDE side is testing both his play-reading ability and athleticism. When he is allowed to pin his ears back is when he is best.
- Jake Ryan is your Freshman breakout contributor. No real shocker here, but this kid is everywhere. Cannot wait to see his development in the future.
- Certain diaries have suggested switching Roh to TE, that is ridiculous. Brink and Heininger make very little contribution to the position.
- Morgan makes decent reads but is not physically ready to play at this level yet.
- I am not as excited about Hawthorne as some, however he does seem to blitz with absolutely no regard for blockers or his well-being. Think non-heat seeking missle. If he learns to blitz this way and then get under control once past blockers he will be a special player. Also, he is solid in coverage.
- Jibreel Black is a playmaker, and it seems that more and more he resembles the 55 of yesteryear.
- While I cannot praise the pass coverage ability of Marvin Robinson, I am pleasantly surprised by his change in technique. He has abandoned his “DESTROY” technique, and instead looks for big hits when he can but more often than not wraps up.
- It seems that BWC seemed to improve as the game went on against ND. I hope that this trend transitions into the proverbial light turning on, as he made some good stands against double teams on short yardage runs. However, he is still a liability on pass rush.
- I would like to see Blake Countess get some PT opposite Avery in the coming 2 weeks, because JT Floyd is not a reliable answer for us on fast and physical WRs. He cannot press on the line, and this hurts him immensely.
- Mattison: All in all, I am more impressed this year with our defense. While there are definitely things to correct, we are not missing 2 or 3 tackles on the same play like last year. I think this is the greatest effect on coaching change that is easily apparent. Secondly, players are FLYING to the ball. Gone are the one on ones that result in a shook player and then a 5 yard gain. Finally, while sacks have been hard to come by, there is no question the opposing QB is feeling more pressure.
Oh, What a Night.
You've seen the stories on MSN and Yahoo about those small tribes somewhere in the secluded jungles of South America that continue to exist in blissful unawareness of the outside world. They have never seen a telephone. They might fear a flashlight. They do not know what jeans are.
These might very well be the only people on earth who do not know who Denard Robinson is, and even then they probably heard someone's stories at the watering hole about Michigan's amazing fourth quarter comeback against the Irish on Saturday night.
You stayed up to watch the entire game. If you were among the 114,804 luckiest people on the planet, you were actually there. And you will never, ever forget what you experienced on September 10, 2011. And, of course, now you need a shirt.
The pride you are still feeling today can now be worn with this exclusive UGP MGoShirt design. For a limited time the "OH WHAT A NIGHT" shirt can be yours, available in S-3XL for this week only. This is indeed a short run and will not be featured in the regular MGoStore or at Moe's. Just like Brian Kelly's patience and Notre Dame's BCS hopes, this opportunity will be gone before you know it!!
I got dressed early on Friday afternoon and sat down in my parents’ living room with a couple of hours to kill. My father had passed away earlier that week and I was nervously awaiting our departure for his wake. As I waited, I surfed the hype threads and tailgaiting threads on MGoBlog and realized that my game day experience was going to be unique. I wanted to share some thoughts with all of you about life, loss, and sports.
Last Monday my dad succumbed to a two and a half year battle with leukemia. He was 61. My sister and I were by his side as he drew his last breath. A year before he was diagnosed with cancer he had an attack of acute pancreatitis, spent 2 weeks in a coma, 4 months in the hospital, lost 1/3 of his pancreas, and lost his abdominal wall due to the multiple surgeries. I thought we had seen it all. Little did I know that his struggle was just starting. The next 2.5 years were filled with chemo treatments, transfusions, a bone marrow transplant, and too many procedures to count. During the last 8 months or so we had to bring my dad to the hospital on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule for blood and platelets transfusions. The hospital was an hour away in Boston and the transfusions would take all day. I never looked forward to bringing him in but I couldn’t complain in the face of the bravery and resolve that he displayed on a daily basis. My dad taught me many lessons in life. The final lesson was how to die with dignity.
My dad raised me as a Boston sports fan. I don’t have a definitive first memory of Fenway Park because I was too young and was going there too frequently. From the cold bleachers at Foxboro Stadium, to the obstructed views of the Garden, to the cigar smoke in Fenway, my childhood was largely spent watching and talking sports with my Dad. His favorite sport was baseball but when I started focusing exclusively on soccer he tried to immerse himself in the game. We took a couple of trips to visit family in England and saw two Arsenal games. I got a VHS highlight tape of the 1994 World Cup for Christmas and watched that thing too many damn times to count.
Whenever the conversation paused or we couldn’t figure out what to say next one of us would bring up sports. I watched countless games with him in the hospital and they provided a welcome distraction and a good excuse for me to visit constantly. I’d call him up to remind him that the Sox were on tonight and he’d better get his game face on. His new hospital didn’t carry the channel that our beloved Celtics were on so we dived headfirst into the Bruins during the winter. The tv’s were standard definition and impossibly small but I enjoyed every game that we saw. Well, except for 2009 against Ohio State. I think I might have scared one or two nurses that day.
I was fortunate enough to attend the same university as my dad and we commiserated with each other about the frustrations of following a middling mid-major basketball program. In the last ten years we saw them play in two conference finals for a ticket to the Big Dance but they couldn’t bring it home. I called him from the conference tournament last year. We finally had the #1 seed and home court advantage but got bounced in the semis. “We’ll get ‘em next year”, he’d always say.
My dad viewed my increasing obsession with Michigan with a sort of curious fascination. Being from the Northeast he wasn’t much of a college football fan. He cheered for Notre Dame because we are Irish Catholics and he also had a soft spot in his heart for the Wisconsin Badgers. He’d laugh as he listened to me rave about the Maize and Blue. When Denard was setting the world on fire last year I couldn’t wait to see him on Sunday and make him watch the latest jaw-dropping play. He told me, “It looks like Rich Rod has found his guy”. We wanted to get out to the Big House to see a game together but it wasn’t to be.
On Saturday we held his funeral. I tried to stay stoic for my mom, my sister, and my aunt. After the burial and the reception my mom and I went back to the gravesite for some closure. We talked about what he meant to us and I was finally able to cry. Then my friends picked me up and we went out to a sports bar in town and saw the most amazing football game of our lives. As Roundtree came down with the game winning TD I got up and screamed “that’s what I’m fucking talking about baby yeah!!!”. I know my dad was up there laughing and smiling at my reaction. I’ll never forget the range of emotions that I went through on that day.
Sports are such a big part of the bond between a family. Do me a favor and go watch a game with your old man or give him a call. A lot of you are fathers yourselves. Take time to share with your kids what Michigan means to you. It may be the most important thing that you ever share with them. I’ll close with a quote from one of my dad’s favorite bands, the Moody Blues:
Time, take this sadness from me
Time, bring my heart back safely
Hold on to warm September
Cause life can be like December Snow.