So, That Was Scary!: For the first 30 minutes of the game, I just sat there in dismay. Despite all the protestations and presentations about how this was NOT 2010, there we were – back in 2010. There was a lot of Gawd Dammits and F this and F that. Then (as the boys at BTN said) "Brady Hoke earned his entire salary for the year at halftime." The space time displacement was not real, Stephen Hawking is right – time only goes in one direction – and we returned to 2011. Whew!
Synopsis for Turnovers: For the second game this year, M had a TOM of -1 (SDSU was the other game). Bad Denard showed up in the first half, threw 3 interceptions, and the TOs were killing Michigan. Good Denard returned for the second half and the defense had 2 takeaways. For the year, Michigan has lost 11 TOs (ranked #84) but gained 17 TOs (ranked #6) for a turnover margin of +6 or 1.00 per game (ranked #15). Michigan is ranked #2 in fumbles lost but is #111 in interceptions thrown. The 12 fumbles recovered is ranked #1 and is the reason the turnover margin is excellent instead of horrible.
Hawthorne added his name to the takeaway list with an interception that I held my breath for the entire duration of the review. There are now 16 different defensive players that have either forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, or intercepted a pass. Thomas Gordon has forced 1 fumble, recovered 3, and intercepted a pass to lead all players in takeaways.
So, What's Up With DRob?: All the data I have looked at indicates that QBs have fewer and fewer TOs as they get older and gain experience with more games played. DRob had a total of 10 interceptions in all of 2010 and he has 9 interceptions in just 6 games this year. Certainly, TOs are the most schizophrenic and irregular statistics in all of football, but Denard's interceptions do warrant some examination. I believe (hope?) that a significant number of the interceptions are a result of the change in coaches and offensive approach. Basically, Denard is learning a new system and, therefore, the learning curve that would be expected in his second full year at QB will be delayed. We can expect more TOs from Denard until he is comfortable with the new offense. Stay tuned.
Synopsis for Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Obviously, when the winning team has a negative TOM, turnovers did not impact which team won the game. Michigan turnovers in the first half were the reason for that 10 point deficit, but the two takeaways in the second half resulted in just a 4.06 disadvantage for the overall game. The table summarizes expected points lost by TO's, expected points gained by opponent's TOs, the net EP due to TOs, and the adjusted score without turnovers. BTW, the defense played great in the second half and even without the takeaways, M should have still won the game (but it would have probably been a nail biter).
(See the Section on Gory Details below for how the adjustment for Expected Points (EP) is calculated.)
National Rankings: Remember the table below includes the WMU game and will NOT be the same as the (incorrect) NCAA Rankings.
The Gory Details
Details for Turnovers: Here is overall summary for all games by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Basically, the probability of scoring depends on the line of scrimmage for the offense. Therefore, the impact of a TO also depends on the yard line where the TO is lost and the yard line where the TO is gained. Each turnover may result in an immediate lost opportunity for the team committing the TO and a potential gain in field position by the opponent. Both of these components can vary dramatically based upon the down when the TO occurred, the yards the TO is returned, and whether the TO was a fumble or an interception.
Here are the details for the game.
The analysis is a bit tricky because: (A) the TO may directly result in lost EP for the offense but (B) only modifies the EP for the team gaining the TO because the team gaining the TO would have gotten another possession even without the TO (due to a punt, KO after a TD, KO after a field goal, etc.). The Net EP Gain must take into account the potential EP gain without the TO. The EP gain without the turnover is based on where the field position would have been for the next possession if the TO had not occurred.
The expected point calculations are based on data from Brian Fremeau at BCFToys (he also posts at Football Outsiders). Fremeau's data reflects all offensive possessions played in 2007-2010 FBS vs. FBS games. I "smoothed" the actual data.
Here is a summary of the smoothed expected points.
That used to be us...
It wasn't so long ago that we had an interesting offense full of lowly recruited who-dats that would spread you out and infuriate opposing defensive coordinators. At least until we committed a few turnovers and fell apart in the second half.
But now we've returned to the pre spread and shred days. Now we've got an offense that can grind out the clock when needed. And now we've got a defense that can come up with the crucial stops and force critical turnovers. I think this game finally proved that we're not the same team as last year or the year before. Because this is exactly the kind of game we would have lost back then, i.e. it was a conference game against a team with a pulse.
But lets not start celebrating a division title just yet. Next week will be the toughest challenge yet and we've got lots of problems we need to correct.
It does bode well that we seemed to address many of the problems in the 2nd half, but let's take a moment to understand what went wrong in that first half.
1st half Denard
He's not a tailback playing QB. But he is still a young QB who makes bad reads sometimes. All three of his interceptions were due to him not reading zone coverage.
His first INT is probably the worst of the misreads. #45 is an OLB covering the slot, he's not going to be man to man with Jr. The free safety is drifting back at the snap, and the corners are playing off. I really don't understand how Denard could read this as anything other than a soft zone. And if he read it that way and threw it anway, then it's a terrible throw. The lack of a bubble screen is still bugging me as this play would have picked up an easy 5 or more yards with a good block on 2nd down.
Even without the bubble screen, Roundtree is wide open for the sideline hitch, but Denard is locked in on Jr. probably because he'd already hit him for one jump ball.
The 2nd INT was on a QB dive OH NOES! except NW had the right defense called.
When Denard looks to the right, he sees the safety has walked up, but if he had looked to the left, he would have seen zone coverage.
Denard starts towards the line, but the TE releases quick. The safety must have done a good job in film study, because he starts backing off to get into his zone.
Denard gets some pressure right in his face, which probably contributed to the pick, but the main point here is that the TE is supposed to drive off the safety to free up Vincent on the wheel route. This doesn't work if the safety is playing zone.
So with the ball in the air, and not much zip on it thanks to the pressure, the safety has an easy job of coming off the TE to get the pick. I think putting Koger on a steeper angle, more like a slant or a true post instead of this skinny post will make the read easier for Denard.
The third INT was due to Denard getting locked in on his man, not surveying the field, and not reading the safeties. He also had a terrible underthrow.
Before the snap, this looks like a straight up cover two. The playside CB moves up late.
Denard thinks he's in man and gets all excited when the WR zooms past him. But the CB has flat responsibilities on this play.
Because the ball is badly underthrown, there was some debate about whether it was really an overthrow to Jr. I hope not, because Jr. is bracketed with double coverage. I think Denard is staring down the outside fly route. But because he's looking that way the whole time, he's pulled the safety into perfect position for the INT.
Denard also had one more throw that should have been intercepted.
This pop pass to Koger was delivered too high and with too much steam. Too much adrenaline. This is a bad no-no.
Because if that safety is in the right position, this is the kind of tipped ball that gets taken back for six.
I'm not worried about the jump balls, so long as we're actually getting man coverage. Especially against the kinds of athletes Northwestern fields in its secondary, our WR ought to outfight most DB's for an underthrown jumpball. I am worried that if we try it too much against the likes of MSU or TSIO that have B1G caliber DBs, it'll blow up in our faces.
ND has good athletes at CB, but we showed it could work against half of them. Gary Gray got exposed, but Robert Blanton had a nearly soul crushing pick and another pass break up. I haven't studied MSU's DB's enough to see which are vulnerable, but hopefully Denard and Borges have. The game could easily turn on whether or not we get a couple of TD's or a couple of INT's on the jump balls.
1st half option woes
The defense wasn't looking very good in the first half either. When people talk about a return to the Lloyd Carr days, I hope that doesn't include an inability to stop the option. You hear it said all the time (because it's true) that stopping the option comes down to communication and being responsible on the edges. We didn't do a very good job of either of those things in the first half.
On Northwestern's first TD, they come out with a covered (and thus inelligible) slot receiver. This probably means it's going to be a run, because we're too close to the endzone for most double pass plays. The corners have to recognize this and be screaming at the far side OLB that he doesn't have support. (Really Ryan should recognize this on his own, but in the heat of battle, it really helps to get those cloud/eagle calls, or whatever we call them. Kovacs bears some responsibility for this miscommunication too.
At the snap, both MLB's get sucked in by the dive. Ideally, if you know the option is coming at you, Ryan should be drifting wider, Hawthorne should be scraping C gap and trying to get to the QB, leaving Demens with the dive and pursuit. I feel like in a split back situation, Hawthorne needs to be reading both backs, instead, he's only keyed in on the frontside back. That's fine, but it means Demens has a much harder task to follow the option man to the edge.
So yeah, all three of our LB's are blocked and Colter sees a lot of empty grass between him and the endzone
Kovacs almost saves our bacon on the play, but Colter puts a nice move on him.
And our other safety is way too far away to help out.
This next option play is from a trips formation.
I feel like Demens should slide over a bit against this formation. He's going to be in zone coverage on this play anyway.
NW runs the speed option from the pistol. The playside tackle pulls out and hauls ass to seal the edge and get to the 2nd level. This leaves RVB free, because he's the man that Colter is going to option. Demens is a little slow to react.
Mike Martin does an excellent job of beating his man on the slant, if RVB had seen that, he should have gone more upfield and tried to get in between the QB and pitchman letting Mike clean up the QB. The two slot WRs double down on the nickelback.
He does get held, which wasn't called.
Mark ran through some arm tackles and picked up a huge gain. Gordon has to do a better job of fighting through his blocker to make the tackle.
This next option is from the Colt 45 (what I call the heavy pistol).
The FB is really more of a secondary threat, as I think this play is designed to disguise the standard belly dive. This is also designed as a key buster, because normally it's the FB who takes the dive fake and the TB who goes into pitch relationship.
I think Hawthorne is reading the FB which is why he takes himself out of this play.
Kovacs is in no mans land because he has to respect the option pitch.
Give credit to NW's O-line who opened up a nice hole, although it does look like #76 is getting away with a bit of a hold. J.T. is not in run support on this play.
So we end up giving up a pretty big play to the first man through, but the first man through was the tailback. If you're looking for a silver lining, check out the pursuit. That's 5 guys who haven't given up on the play and it's this kind of thing that keeps a 20 yard play from turning into a TD. And if the ball happens to get knocked out, then we've got a lot of guys around it to fall on any potential fumbles.
On their 2nd TD, we've got pretty good alignment to stop the play
If you play a lot of DE against the option, you learn how to outside shade the QB so that you can bait him into keeping it and then collapse back into him and the pursuit. If he pitches it, you end up in good position to clog up any cutbacks. RVB runs a little too directly at the QB (and he looked gassed at the end of this long drive). The safety is in good position to make the tackle, but the DB's have to shed their blocks as soon as they sense linemen drive blocking (this is where people shouting RUUUUUN! RUUUUN! helps).
Floyd is getting pushed way too far back for this redzone play. And Carvin takes a bad angle and doesn't break down to make a solid tackle.
So he overruns the cutback.
Northwestern, who sees the option a lot in practice, shows you how you're supposed to defend it.
Their in a base 4-3 against this splitback slot. But the OLB is flexed way out to help with the zone coverage.
Both the Mike and the Sam read option and start flowing playside.
Hopkins doesn't sell his fake very well on this play. Huyge does a good job of scraping off his man, but he doesn't get to the LB who is on his horse, having correctly recognized the play.
The DE goes to Denard to force the pitch, but OLB has kept discipline and is playing the pitchman (who didn't get a good pitch relationship to Denard).
The Mike easily beats Huyge's block and Denard just has to eat it.
But the good news is that when it counts, our defense stopped a huge 4th down option because Kovacs is all heart and smarts.
Roh does a great job of playing outside shoulder on the TE and forcing the pitch. Morgan does an ok job of taking on the FB, which leaves Kovacs to clean up the pitchman. He didn't wrap up, but he took out the ball carrier's legs and he get a huge turnover on downs.
If you're a Northwestern fan, I can understand why you might be upset after that game. But on closer inspection I think the refs did a better job than it appeared on first blush. (Better than the announcers)
Let's start with one that went your way.
On 1st down, Colter gets tackled with 40 seconds on the clock, and you've got a T.O. that you don't take. O.k. w/e. Maybe you can get to the line and get off another play quickly...
BUT you DIDN'T. The ball isn't snapped until there's only 12 seconds left. That's pretty bad clock management.
And you're lucky to have those 2 seconds to try a field goal. Watching it live, I thought the clock had expired. Remember, it's not basketball, the clock doesn't stop until the ref signals it to stop. I've seen lots of games end this way, because it takes the ref a second or two to wave his arms and then for the clock operator to push the button. In this case, you can see that the ref made his incomplete signal with a second (not two) still on the clock.
Now let's look at one that went our way.
Gordon and Demens have stood up Ebert after NW had been killing us on bubble screens. Gordon strips the ball even though Ebert has two hands wrapped around it. You can see that the ball is coming out before his knee has hit the ground.
And Brian, please stop saying that fumble recoveries are mostly luck and are 50-50 as to who recovers them. Some fumbles are. But the ones that aren't tip the scales. Here we've got 5 guys hustling towards the ball versus one guy who is going to have a mountain of defenders on him and another guy who is flat footed. The odds for us recovering this fumble were very high.
And I almost feel sorry for this guy. He had a great game. It wasn't good enough to beat us, but it was a good effort.
Both of those plays look like good calls to me. The only one I think you've got a fair complaint on is the helmet removal.
Kovacs is coming on a delayed blitz (which, those are some big balls Mr. Mattison) on this all important 4th down.
Because Persa ducked, it doesn't look like a facemask from this angle. Just the friction of the defender's body can often remove a helmet in a situation like this.
But on the slow-mo replay you can see his hand in the grill.
And on this frame you can see that Kovacs actually Goatse'd the thing off with both hands, one in the facemask and one under the ear pad.
So I don't blame you if you felt like this. That's a pretty likeable coach turning Brian Kelly Red (Kudos to the liveblog commentator who came up with that). Howeva, to quote a quote:
Media, as in badge-wearers. Fox Sports's resident officiating expert on the Kovacs/Persa decapitating:
Some face mask penalties an official should never miss. This is not one of them. When I watched this play in real time and even after the first replay, I did not think the face mask was grabbed. So many helmets come off, and often it has nothing to do with the face mask being pulled. In this case, however, the last replay indicated that Kovacs did grab the mask with his left hand. The referee, who is behind the quarterback, would never see this, and he is the only official who is watching the quarterback. It was a foul, but not all fouls can be seen. Coach Fitzgerald was penalized for running out on the field to argue, which is absolutely the correct call. You cannot let a coach come as far onto the field as Fitzgerald did to scream at the officials. It makes no difference whether there is a missed call. That cannot be allowed.
The helmet came off pretty quickly, so it's hard to fault the refs. But I'm of the opinion that slightly less prideful officials might have huddled up, sneaked a peak at the big screen and then quietly dropped a flag. Flag coach Fitz, but also Kovacs, assess the liveball penalty, then march it back 15 for the deadball penalty, 1st and 10 Northwestern, but at the same LoS.
And lastly, we've got the interception by Hawthorne.
From the front angle it looked like he got his hand under the ball.
But from the back angle it looks like the tip of the ball hit the ground and the ball moved. This is the kind of play that is inconclusive and would have gone whatever way it was called on the field. So I guess we got lucky on that one.
- Jersey switch
Several players (including the entire D-Line) switched Jerseys at halftime. I didn't notice it on the fuzzy streams, but the board commentators pointed it out.
Depending on who you believe, it was either because the old jersey's are tighter, or because the new jersey's rip too easily. Either way, our D-line was being held a lot and not getting the calls.
- Mike Martin is still awesome (when not getting held).
- Good Shaw: getting to the pylon ala Chris Perry
That DE can't match his speed.
And Gallon gets an excellent block.
- Bad Shaw; juking a man that has been pancaked.
The play got about 7 yards, but it could have been much more. Seriously stop dancing when you don't need to. This is the kind of thing that Nick $aban would cut you for, just so he could recruit another 5* freshman to replace your indecisive ass with.
- The BTN is still more of a mickey mouse operation than the mickey mouse network.
- And the announcers are not very good with facts.
- Hey Spartans, guess who's next.
Michigan will enter the season as a top 10 pick nationally and in the upper half of the B1G, around 4th behind the likes of Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota. The Wolverines return 9 of 10 starters, including 6 NCAA qualifiers and a National Champ. This year, some notable names for other B1G teams might be taking an Olympic redshirt. Hit biggest by this are Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Badgers are a very star driven team, so those losses will leave a big mark on the lineup. tOSU is coming off a down year to begin with.
- 125 Sean Boyle (Jr) – Boyle is coming off a 28-15 season where he was 4th in the B1G, an NCAA qualifier and one tournament win away from being an All-American. He wrestled to his potential at the end of the year, but, was stuck behind 3 elite level wrestlers in conference. One leaves this year in NU’s Precin, bumping him to 3rd best. Nationally, look for him just outside the top 10. Maybe 11th. Cracking the top 10 should be a good year for him.
- 133 Zac Stevens (Sr) – 23-17 in 2010-11, 5th in the B1G. NCAA qualifier. 5th was a great finish in the conference for him at a packed weight. With Wisconsin losing Graff this season, Stevens should be an easy top 5 finisher and push for 3rd. Although I think he can compete with anyone, Iowa’s Ramos and Illinois Futrell are maybe at a tier above him. Nationally he looks to be ranked probably 10th.
- 141 Kellen Russell (RS Sr) – Returning National Champion with an undefeated season of 38-0. He won the B1G, but, that’s given. What should we expect? Well, he losses some of the tougher conference competition with only Iowa’s Marion really pushing him. He didn’t lose to him last year and why should he this season. I think anything less then another national championship would be a disappointment for him.
- 149 Eric Grajales (RS So) – Grajales was a top recruit coming out of high school and forced to wrestle at a weight probably too high for him last year. He still managed a 18-14 record, coming on strong at the end to finish 2nd in the B1G and an NCAA qualifier. He was one tournament win away from All-American status. There isn’t much difference in the national and conference outlook as the B1G peppers the national scene with 7 in the top 15, led by defending B1G champ, PSU’s Molinaro. Grajales will have a lot competition for that second spot, but, we should expect him to own it and maybe make a run at Molinaro. He will enter the season in the top 10.
- 157 Brandon Zeerip (RS So) – Zeerip was a puzzling case at the end of last year. He compiled a 27-13 record including 6-4 in the conference regular season. Yet, he failed to place at the B1G meet. Maybe his first year as a starter wore him down. His early performance was encouraging though, giving last years lineup a needed boost early. Initial rankings look to have him 7th in the B1G and just in the top 25 nationally. But, he has competed with and even beat some of those ahead of him. He could be a key piece to the team standing.
- 165 Dan Yates (RS So) – Yates had a solid 2010-11. He was 24-14, 5th in the B1G and a NCAA qualifier. He is another one, like B. Zeerip, that can compete with most those ahead of his 7th B1G ranking. Wisconsin’s Howe taking this year off helps. The favorite, PSU’s Taylor, may be at another level then Yates. Beyond that, he should push for a top 3 finish. Nationally he ranks just in the top 25, but, has the potential to be a top 15 guy.
- 174 Justin Zeerip (RS Sr) – Justin showed flashes of top level talent as well as crashes. He finished last year 16-15, 8th in the B1G, NCAA qualifier (although was 2 and out). That line is in no way a good representation of him. Mid-season I thought he may have a shot at All-American status and wouldn’t have been surprised with a run at it even after a disappointing conference tournament. There is a solid top 4 in the B1G ranked in the top 10 nationally that I would expect him to be competitive with. He’ll enter the season in the top 20.
- 184 Hunter Collins (RS Jr) – This was the weak spot for the Wolverines last year and will be the only weight without a ranked wrestler this season. Collins went 8-19 and was two and out at B1G’s. Collins is a ways off the top tier talent in the conference (like PSU’s Wright, Iowa’s Grambrall and Minnesota’s Steinhaus), but, may still be able to contend for that 5th spot. Everyone catches a break from Wisconsin’s Rutt taking the year off. If Collins can crack the top 25, that’s a plus.
- 197 Max Huntley (RS Fr) – The fresh face of this years team. They need to replace a 3-time NCAA qualifier in Anthony Biondo. Huntley sat out last year. His only exhibition action ended in injury. A product of Blair Academy, he looks to enter the season ranked in the top 25 and around 7th in the B1G. Tough weight for a underclassmen, but, Huntley has enough talent and experience to make this a solid spot for Michigan.
- 285 Ben Apland (RS Jr) – The curios case of Ben Apland. Here is a kid that has shown he could beat anyone in the B1G. But, just about the whole weight is a head scratcher for the conference. The top 7 or 8 could finish in any order. He was 18-15 last year, 6th in the conference and an NCAA qualifier. He’ll enter the season just outside the top 15 nationally and around 6th in the B1G. If I sorted out the madness and made a guess, I’d say he could make a run at 4th and should at least make 5th to have a successful season for him. That would be a top 10 national finish most likely.
Michigan kicks off with some exhibitions in early Nov. Don’t usually see a lot of starters in these. The regular season then gets going with a couple duals against @ Buffalo and @ Pitt. Pitt’s a mid ranked team nationally, so that should be a good early season test.
The Cliff Keen Invitational in early Dec. will help show the individuals how they are stacking up nationally. Also a good evaluation of the team.
B1G season kicks off in mid-December with a mat town invitational in PA and dual with a top 25 CMU at home mixed in.
As far as the B1G, Michigan host 4 teams. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and MSU. Illinois looks to be ranked just behind the Wolverines and is the only top 10 team at home. They’ll hit the road for Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. Those are some tough trips. Northwestern is a top 20 team. Minnesota and PSU are top 5. They catch a break missing top ranked Iowa. They’ll need to make sure and secure the Illinois win and pick off one of Minnesota and PSU to have a shot at the B1G dual title.
The year ends with some great wrestling. Cliff Keen duals mid-February (an extremely fun tournament), B1G’s in the first part of March and then NCAA’s.
Michigan didn’t get their lineup sorted out till after that early season Cliff Keen tournament last year. We have a much better understanding heading into this season, but, you never know till they get on the mat. I hope to break down matchups again this year on the big duals and tournaments along with recaps.
UGotW gets a bye week! Not two, not three, but all five of the top five play cupcakes! Sweet, delicious, in-conference cupcakes. This has to be the easiest column since last year's New Mexico/New Mexico State tilt that got one of the two teams their first (and I think only) win of the season.
So here's what passes for research for me: go to ESPN's scoreboard, flip ahead to the next week. What do I see but #1 LSU playing Tennessee, #2 Alabama playing Ole Miss, #3 Oklahoma playing Kansas, #4 Wisconsin playing Indiana and #5 Boise State playing Colorado State. I mean, it doesn't get any easier than that.
Cupcakes? Cupcakes. Or since we're all doing MST3K references this week, DEEP HURTING! Rock climbing, Joel. Rock climbing.
First off, Tennessee has already been beaten by a Florida team that has fallen out of the top 25. Last week, they scored a mighty 12 against Georgia. I was hopeful that the 12 would be all FGs, but 2 FGs and a TD with a blocked extra point gets a +1 for originality and style. Another bonus point for Tennessee for managing negative rushing yards against Georgia. LSU has only the 100th ranked passing offense, but giving up only 12 points per game, who needs it?
Staying in the SEC, we come to Ole Miss. They've got losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia to open 0-2 in conference. Alabama looks a lot like LSU on paper: 80th ranked passing offense, 1st in points allowed. Alabama has two shutouts for the season, and hasn't allowed more than 2 TDs yet.
I'm supposed to be nice to Kansas, since it's my wife's school, but what can you say? They are 120th in points allowed, pushing close to the 50 points per game margin. To be fair, it looks like they have a reasonable offense on paper (11th in rushing), but they must be playing traffic cones and office furniture on defense. This is shaping up to be a month to forget for the Jayhawks, after playing #6 Oklahoma State, #3 Oklahoma, #17 Kansas State and #22 Texas. Oklahoma is coming off a 55-17 pantsing of Texas.
Indiana already has losses to Ball State, Virginia and North Texas on their resume. Up to last week, none of those losses were more than 6 points, but if you need to equivocate a loss to North Texas, you're not very good. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is very good. The phrase "Crushin' Fools" comes to mind. They're #3 in points for and #2 in points against, and averaging over 500 yards per game. Plus they had a bye week after welcoming Nebraska to the BIG conference.
Last, but not least is Colorado State. Yes, the Rams are 3-2. Their wins are: 14-10 versus New Mexico, 33-14 against Northern Colorado, and an overtime win against Utah State. Boise State continues to be the bully on the playground, picking on the little kids. Since Georgia, they've played Toledo, Tulsa, Nevada, Fresno State, CSU, Air Force, and UNLV before finally playing TCU, who does not look like the TCU of previous years.
So here's my sporting advice for the weekend: take the over. I don't know if anyone will push triple digit scores, but I expect to see lots of 60's, 70's and probably a 80 as they all fight to make up ground on each other.
Michigan State will be wearing Nike Pro Combat uniforms for their game against Michigan this weekend. I actually think the uniforms look great and I'm probably not as offended as I should be about Nike's use of military words and pictures to market to teenage athletes.
Most Nike Pro Combat uniforms pay homage to great teams from the past, echo traditional uniform elements or employ locale-specific themes; I like to think that a total lack of options required Michigan State to go all the way back through their history to ancient Sparta for design elements worth repeating.
I laughed when I read the original press release in September as I imagined how the uniform would look if they really wanted to dress up their football team like Spartans. Nike could use dye sublimation to print 300-esque physiques on the jersey and pants and add blood spatter numbers and branding to reinforce the whole "Prepare for Combat" message. Nike isn't afraid of introducing new technology in their uniforms, so why not a partnership with Vibram to combine the natural feel of FiveFingers with the traction of Vapor cleats?
Here's what Nike's official press release would say about my version of Michigan State's Spartan throwback uniform:
Like the ferocious Spartan warriors of ancient Greece, the Michigan State University football team views every game as a battle of attrition, requiring the right equipment, body oil and attitude to die to the last man. Accordingly, the Spartans have been chosen to wear the innovative Nike Pro Combat system of dress-up for the 2011 season. When the gates lift for their battle against archrival Michigan on Oct. 15, the Spartans will sport a design with dye-sublimated physiques printed from full body scans to perfectly match each player's skin and muscle tone. Bronze helmets honor the heroic armor of their historic namesake and an intimidating detachable plume will be worn during pregame warmups. Realistic skin effects are visible throughout the uniform, adding the authentic skimpy durability synonymous with the Spartan name.
The uniform's overall innovation starts with the skin tight baselayer, as strategically placed seams, pads and cooling zones help minimize chafing and optimize protective coverage. It features customizable protection, incorporating a thin, incredibly strong carbon fiber plate textured and painted to look like genuine leather. This symbolically mirrors that of the Spartan body armor, which consisted of leather briefs and sash with a small amount of padding on the shield arm shoulder.
An exclusive partnership with Vibram brings natural running technology to the gridiron for the very first time. Like their ancient counterparts, these Spartans will battle barefoot, or as close to it as NCAA rules allow. For the first time, football players are able to experience the sensation and freedom of barefoot running with the protection and sure-footed grip of Nike's new Talon cleat technology.
Echoing the cry of King Leonidas, the back of the collar is inscribed with the words "Molon Labe," the Spartans' defiant challenge to the competition (and to fans clamoring for officially licensed gear) to "come and get them!" Flayed, blood-spattered numbers and branding compete the traditional Spartan post-combat look. Armed with intensity and determination, and realistic leather accessories, MSU will fight on the battlefield until the last team is standing.
The images below are a previews only. You can get the widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
I needed a solid white uniform to pull this off and was lucky to find a decent image from a previous version of LSU's Pro Combat uniform. As you can see in the video, I painted over the existing numbers and logos and then superimposed the muscles and other effects. If you're up for several minutes of uncomfortable closeups with bare-chested warriors being manipulated digitally then this making-of video is for you.
Motivation Level to Create a Wallpaper for State: 5 (Baseline 5; –1 for monuMental said he was doing rivlary wallpapers and he's WAY better at it than I am, –1 for it's kind of a dick move after I told cjm I wasn't going to, +1 for but people said they liked variety, –1 for but still... dick move, +1 for I have Columbus Day off and don't need to sleep tonight, –1 for but I have a sweet flick on DVR, +1 for by sweet flick I mean I Robot, +1 for and I came up with a good
Remember when lil bro got all excited about their pro-combat unis for the Michigan game? Well, I figured since they were going all 300 on us, I'd follow suit. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, there's a scene in the beginning where a young Spartan boy is sent out into the wild with nothing but his spear. He soon encounters a particularly hungry-looking wolf and slays it as a statement of his manhood... also, so he could live... but I digress. Well, I thought to myself,
"What if that lil Spartan dude never found the mangy-looking wolf?"
"What if he was unfortunate enough to come across a pissed off wolverine instead?"
"What if that particular wolverine hadn't tasted Spartan blood in 3 years and was hungry for it?"
I give you...