a terrible blight on our fine country
While I was in Fort Lauderdale in December 2005 I had spent an hour looking for a decent sports bar that had the Alamo Bowl. My hotel room's television decided that it wasn't going to cooperate with this one simple request of mine and forced me out the door. I hadn't missed a Bowl game since I was a child and this wasn't going to be the first.
I finally found one and it had a few Nebraska fans huddled around the only screen showing the game. I was by myself and the next few hours weren't much fun. It wasn't just the loss. I listened to these guys tell me how we were no longer relevant and how we were headed into obscurity just like they were. They kept saying the same thing a lot of Michigan fans had been saying for quite some time. We need a change. Fresh air. Someone with more motivational skill and to quit relying on the We Are Michigan arrogance. That our name and history will only get us so far. One quote stood out because it was as if I was having a deja vu moment with someone from back home. "Lloyd Carr is a good coach. A good man from what it seems. But good coaches will always get beat by great coaches."
These guys weren't being dicks. They were fans rooting for their team and being honest when we started talking football during the game. They even bought me drinks. What made the time suck was that they were right. I knew they were right. I had been denying this for awhile because I always looked at things like they were cyclical and in the back of my head always thought, "Oh we'll turn it around.."
But it was deeper than that. We had gotten behind and truly lost ourselves in that aura of arrogance as a fanbase. Michigan as a football program was living off of old money and not making investments in the future. I could see the trainwreck coming. I never envisioned or predicted it to get to this place, but I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. So I just lied to myself .
Then 2006 came and it played tricks on my heart. One last hurrah before the mighty fall. We all had a chance to watch and witness 11 weeks of what I still feel is the greatest college football team ever to have never won anything. Our football teams equivalent of the Fab 5. They beat team after team after team. All leading up to the biggest game on the national stage against our rival ever.
On November 13th I had bought tickets off of ebay, the most I had ever spent to go to any sporting event in my life so I could make the trip to Columbus and be a part of Michigan history first hand. On November 17th I received my tickets, just shy of an hour after hearing about Bo's death.
The next 4 games said it all. Out coached. Unprepared. Underachievers. Lagging behind even further from the pack of college football's elite.
Lloyd was burned out way before this and we had no plan. Greg Schiano turned us down twice. Greg fucking Schiano. Nobody with any credentials wanted the pressure of the job it seemed. We took our name for granted. But we all wanted change. Ohio State was kicking our ass. The rest of relevant college football outside of our little Big 10 world was also kicking our ass.
Beating MSU for most of a decade and winning a lot of Big 10 games made us content that we were still as successful as the rest of the elite but it was all an illusion. We were falling behind. 1997 was a long way away. Many fans knew this and were asking for change. Some of us were craving it! Then along comes Rich Rodriguez. Smart, football genius, young, but a bit wet behind the ears in his knowledge of the school he contacted about a job.
He came to bring us into another era. The same way other innovators and motivators had done before at Michigan. You had been asking for this for so many years now and Rich Rodriguez came in to be the one to give it to us.
Except when he got here a circus ensued instead. An outright debacle in the grandest fashion. People from within the very university we cheer for, its own alumni started something out of nothing before a game was ever played under the new regime. The seed planted. The media played it up. Our rivals relished it all. The michigan fan base ate it up. The masses rolled with every punch and instead of football you got WWE theatre.
I am not going to beat on too many dead horses here. They are all blood and mashed guts now. After reading this site for the last 4+ years it's probably just liquid. Most all of it has been said by every blogger on MGO in a million different ways. But I will rehash a few obvious points that have brought me to some conclusions about this whole state of affairs.
Rich Rodriguez is a good coach. He will be a good coach when he leaves here. He will win big somewhere else. But here it isn't going to work, ever. Here are some caps -EVER EVER- The ship sailed on that in September 2008. I just didn't realize it until this past few days.
When you want something. Especially when someone is trying to give it to you when nobody else will, smile and say thanks even if you didn't get it neatly packaged or exactly the way you wanted it. Don't screw it up by complaining about the trivial shit.
Rich Rodriguez deserved better than what was given to him. A big portion of the Michigan Football fanbase got what they deserved. I think that karma always has a way of showing its ugly head in every aspect in life and looking back at it all I can't say that this isn't one of those examples.
In all reality, did anyone of you that rooted against this guy ever expect him to succeed? How can you win with a giant cloud of shit hanging over your head every second of the day for 3 years? How can you succeed when recruiting, the lifeblood of any major program is impacted the way Michigan Football's has. How do you get to the next level when you have a hole the size of a moon crater in talent and bad luck as long as I-94 tagging along for the ride saddled with all that negative unnecessary bullshit created by some the very people you are trying to work for?
You don't. He hasn't. You cannot make a marriage work if the other person isn't willing to work too. You can't even correct small mistakes if you aren't given an straightforward shot at it. You can say everything you want to about his epic fail, but if we are honest and really look in the mirror we all know that these are not ordinary circumstances and to judge fairly you have to critique with the entire story in mind. This isn't just X's & O's, execution and on field coaching ability.
Ignorance. Nepotism. Cronyism. They all found a way into Michigan football in a way that has left a black eye on us. If you don't think so then I believe you to be foolish and as many outside of our own fanbase perceive-arrogant. But regardless of how I feel about Rich, I no longer want him as the coach of Michigan.
My support for Rich Rodriguez is no longer there. I want him gone. Yesterday. It is time to move on and I think the writing is and has been on the wall that he will be within the next few days. I used to think that he should get a 4th year no matter what. But even that is gone from my mind. What is a 4th year going to do. Even if he wins 10 games it won't be considered real success to the majority. Because the Majority of the Michigan fanbase doesn't like him and never will. Rich needs to move on for the betterment of his family, his future success and simply because he is wasting his time here.
So I think it is time to do something to save Michigan Football before we become completely irrelevant. I sure hope Jim Harbaugh is coming here. Because I think he is the only guy that can make this work right now. Because sadly if Jim Harbaugh comes to town unlike Rich Rodriguez he'll be treated like a god. The press will praise him. The average fans will all shut up whining. The dirty cloud of negativity will magically lift and he can do the job without this raging storm right outside his window.
I never thought Jim Harbaugh was a bad coach or that he would fail at Michigan. I just thought we already had a good coach and it wasn't fair that we didn't give our full support to the him. But since things are what they are, as a fan of gigantic proportions I am all about anything that betters the football team I have been watching my entire life. In my heart I now know Rodriguez is not that guy. But if Jim Harbaugh isn't available it doesn't matter who coaches in my opinion, the tables will be stacked against them. Hello spiral.. I hope if we get lucky and Harbaugh is announced as Michigan's next head football coach this week that he has us in mind for the long term because he is going to have to do what Bo did in the late 60's. Take a floundering/fractured program and build it back up. And that is going to take awhile. Hopefully by that time if Michigan hires outside of it's own we have learned our lessons and give the next man who comes from outside the support they need. Going through this once was enough.
Lastly I will say that I did learn something from this experience. I think as a fan I am a better one than I was pre-2008. I learned a lot about life through this. Through football. I'll always support the team and the school forever. But I lost respect for a very large chunk of the people who call themselves fans of Michigan football.
Hopefully time and some magical wins heal all.
Go Blue Forever
I made sure I had the latest rankings from al three sites, so some numbers have moved a bit. Action since last rankings:
11-30-10 Indiana lost commitments from Bernard Taylor and Cody Latimer.
12-24-10 Minnesota gains commitment from Ge'Shun Harris.
12-27-10 Iowa gains commitment from Mika'il McCall.
12-28-10 Penn State gains commitment from Anthony Zettel.
12-29-10 Minnesota gains commitments from John Rabe and Junior Osunde.
12-31-10 Illinois gains commitment from Kenny Knight.
1-1-11 Nebraska loses commitment from Niklas Sade.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn 1 star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45, except JuCo players, who aren't included in the average).
Full data after the jump.
|#1 Ohio State - 19 Commits|
|#2 Notre Dame - 19 Commits|
|George Atkinson III||S||CA||5.8||4||79|
No change for the Irish.
|#3 Nebraska - 16 Commits|
Niklas Sade decommits.
|#5 Michigan State - 16 Commits|
No change for Sparty.
|#6 Wisconsin - 20 Commits|
|#7 Iowa - 19 Commits|
Mika'il McCall commits to Iowa - fo' real this time.
|#8 Illinois - 25 Commits|
Illini pick up Kenny Knight.
|#9 Indiana - 16 Commits|
At least one site considers Cody Latimer and Bernard Taylor to be decommits, so I've reflected that in the Hoosiers' table (along with Raymon Taylor). All have taken other visits, but may end up recommitting to the Hoosiers.
|#9 Northwestern - 13 Commits|
Wildcats pick up a pair of Indiana decommits in OH DB Nick VanHoose and IL DE CJ Robbins.
|#10 Minnesota - 21 Commits|
Big week for the Gophers, picking up a trio of JuCo players.
|#12 Penn State - 9 Commits|
Anthony Zettel pulls a shocker, committing to PSU over the in-state schools.
|#13 Purdue - 12 Commits|
As I contemplated the results of the 2011 Gator Bowl earlier, and their implications, something I once heard occured to me and it seemed to have some relation to the state of the program and the jorney that lies ahead.
During a sermon, a pastor once said that when you ask God for something, there are three possible answers; Yes, No, and Wait. I couldn't argue with this statement. That's logical for a request made of anyone or any being. The requestee can either say "yes", and provide, say "no" and refuse to provide, or say "wait, maybe later", and put something off till a later time. The implication of all this was to help understand God's answers, so on and so forth. That isn't really the part that hit me as far as the game and the program are concerned. The part that hit me was in the answer "wait".
It occurs to me that this answer is only acceptable so long as the requester is convinced of the requestees ability to provide, should they so choose. A person with faith in a deity or spirit or supernatural power of whatever variety finds this answer acceptable because, in their view, that being is supremely capable of providing. Children accept this answer from their parents because they have no reason to question their parents' ability, even if the answer was actually provided simply as a way to delay the inevitable whining that goes along with "no". Accepting this answer is an act of faith. You cannot be okay with waiting unless you are convinced that waiting can possibly lead to a yes answer. Nobody would wait knowing that the later answer would be no.
As it relates to football, the question we are all asking, at the most basic level is, "Can the team achieve perpetuated success of X level?" 'X level' is a varying placeholder value depending on each person's own view. Some may see success as so many wins. Some may see it as Big Ten Championships. Others as National Championships. And so far, since the end of 2007, the answer we have been given is, "wait".
I have done my share of praying, as I'm sure many of you have, that we should achieve success as a team. But I know in all truth that no God or deity is going to intervene and effect the outcome of a college football game, leastways not for my entirely disconnected benefit. A supernatural being might provide the tools of the motivation to effect an outcome, but they're not going to reach down with a pillar of fire from a ten thousand foot bank of clouds to smite Jim Tressel where he stands. And so, we must turn to the next authority who can answer that question. The head coach.
And he, too, has been giving us the answer of wait.
I'm not going to tell you what to think about the future of the team, our coach, or any other coaches. I don't know any better than you. But it would serve us all, people on every side of the argument, to step back and ask themselves what they have faith in.
Do you have faith that Rich Rodriguez can still provide perpetuated success of "X level"?
Do you have faith that any other candidate can provide perpetuated success of "X level"?
How long are you prepared to hear "wait" and have faith that the answer could end up being yes this time?
As for myself, I'm deeply conflicted. My answer to the first question is now, finally, changed. I must now answer no. I have lost my faith. The trouble is, I also can't answer yes to the second question, and I have no idea how to address the third. And so, I am a fan without faith. The final question is, where shall I look for it?
(For the first time in the three years we've done Bowl Chronicles, the Michigan Wolverines make an appearance. That deserves its own BC post. You know where to find the rest of the Bowl Chronicle series.)
Was you New Year's resolution to live more dangerously and take more chances? Betting Michigan today in the Gator Bowl would certainly qualify. What else could you call backing a team that went winless against the spread in conference play. Yep, that's right. Michigan went 0-8 ATS in the Big 10, failing to cover as chalk in its three straight up wins and, for the most part, getting gashed so badly on defense that no head start as an underdog was enough to cash a ticket. Make no mistake this has as much to do with Rich Rodriguez job status as anything else. Fans have a tendency to be quieter while you're rebuilding if you prove a feisty underdog and keep things closer than the experts think. How much would the noise be adjusted in Rodriguez's favor had he only covered the last two games, say taking Wisco down to the wire, but losing a classic in the home finale, and a single digit loss to OSU in a game that’s in doubt into the fourth quarter? There would still be plenty of grumbling, but there might equally loud voices of progress. Those opinions would have a lot more legitimacy to the average fan than they do now. At least Rich isn’t coaching in the south. A winless ATS season in league play is a capital offense in some of those states.
So, just how 'historic' is Michigan's ATS goose egg in league play? In the last dozen seasons, its only happened twice in the Big 10. The 1999 Iowa Hawkeyes, Kirk Ferentz first season in Iowa City, didn’t cash a single Big 10 ticket. Three seasons later they were in a BCS bowl. The 2003 Illini were two seasons removed from a BCS bid when they went 0-8 ATS. After one more season, they finally kicked Ron Turner to the curb and hired the Zooker. Those teams were abysmal. They went 2-9 and 1-11 straight up. At least Michigan had a winning record and qualified for a bowl game during their ATS winless season.
After that downer of a graph, how about some positives. Rodriguez is 7-1 ATS in his last eight out of conference games!!! Not helping? How about the Bulldogs being 18-22 as chalk, albeit they were 5-2 in that role this season. Still not helping, am I? Tell you what, lets just enjoy the highlights of Michigan's last appearance in the Gator Bowl and call it even. This was against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs rival, so in honor of them we'll call them Ole Piss, amirite! Anyway, it was a total mismatch. Michigan's entire offensive line was named game MVP. It was Gary Moeller's first season at the helm, a year before Desmondpalooza hit campus.
I wont bore you with too much X's and O's breakdown. As Brian blogged yesterday, Mississippi State is now the most scouted team across the Internet. And it was really great stuff. It was good to see people excited enough that Michigan is back in the postsesaon that they were motivated to put pen to paper on the actual game itself. Everyone who took part on their own blog or in the diaries here should be really commended. And it offered more proof that the Michigan fanbase has the most talented corps of bloggers. In quality and quantity.
The Michigan key Michigan players in this one will be Kenny Demens and Craig Roh. The MSU running attack puts a lot of stress on the defense. This is a lot like the Illinois attack with Vic Ballard and LaDarious Perkins serving as the lethal 1-2 punch we saw with Leshoure and Ford. QB Chris Relf is a dual threat like Scheelhaase, but maybe just a bit better at this point in their careers. Michigan has been worked by the Illinois running attack three years running, no reason to think the Bulldogs wont gash the Wolverines. In fact, you're probably going to want to get in on a little Vic Ballard Over
95.5 104.5 rushing yards. Just a tip. But back to Demems. In that Illinois game he made a handful of plays, stops that Ezeh could not make, that really helped prevent the game from getting out of control in Illinois flavor. He will need to step up and make plays like that in this one to help this defense get off the field. I mention Roh because somebody on this team is going to have to make a drive changing play on Relf as he escapes the pocket. He's a talented player upfield and he can kill a drive all on his own if he gets the chance to swallow up Relf as he breaks pocket contain. Unless of course the coaches line him up at safety. In that case, forget I said anything. Besides, I'll be in the corner drinking anyway. Kidding aside, if those two players make enough plays to convince us they could be all conference contenders during their upperclassmen years, then this Michigan defense might just do enough to allow the offense to win the game.
I think team health is an edge for Michigan. Mike Martin at full strength on the defensive line gives them somebody we knows is a game changer, rather than just hope he can do so. He's Michigan only legit pro prospect right now on the defensive 11. Yes, his return to 100 percent will be important. His play alone could make it easier for Roh and Demens to make the plays they will need to make. He was putting together a defensive MVP caliber season until the injuries slowed him down. Beyond Martin, however, there's Denard Robinson, who everyone is claiming is feeling his best ever on the season. Denard, better than ever? Just the thought puts a shit-eating grin on my face. I have to supress my cackles. On the other side of the field, the Bulldogs come in without some key parts. Chad Bumphis is one of the best receivers in the SEC. He's out. That's one game changer taken care of that Michigan had no chance of checking themselves. Want another? How about Leon Berry. He's only one of the best kick returners in the country. That's one less issue for our maligned special teams unit to deal with, not to mention he's the team's third most prolific wideout.
Another question mark is motivation. It's always an issue this time of year. To be a good handicapper during the college football postseason, you have to be a quality shrink as well. You have to know that Nebraska wont give a shit playing Washington again in the middle tier bowl game they played in a year ago. You have to know that Miami will fold if any single part of the condition of play isnt perfect. You have to know that the Maryland players consider Freidgen their father and are prepared to go through brick wall after brick wall for their dissed leader. I always say bowl games are like NBA regular season games: every team makes a run, they dont really mean all that much as glorified exhibitions of sport and the teams motivational state widely varying and can be tricky to judge. When judging this Michigan team, you have to take into account their mental state with the coaching situation swirling around. We've seen West Virginia and Miami look like they'd rather be a million other places than playing with their coaching situation. But we've also seen Maryland rally around their deposed coach and play lights out. We also saw Oklahoma State send off their offensive coordinator Holgerson with a great effort, despite him splitting a lot of time between places in the bowl run-up, because the players were genuinely happy for him. None of the Michigan players know who is coaching them next year. But, they know who is coaching them this year. It's Rodriguez. As a fan, I'm proud at how the coaches have handled this situation. That will carry over to their players. I think the Wolverines will play hard for this coaching staff. This will be a lot more like the Maryland effort and nothing like we was with the Canes and 'Neers. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Before making a formal pick, let's take a look at the prop board. I havent been shy taking props during this Bowl Chronicle run, and I actually hit enough winners early on that it keep me afloat while the underdogs finally got their bearings. I think there's some interesting stuff to chew for the Gator Bowl. And with a couple hours yet to kick, we can still play one or two. In fact, expect it.
Denard Robinson Rushing Yards O/U 110.5........this is the line at Sportsbook.com. However the bar is higher at BoDog where players have to judge Shoelace at 124.5 yards. Wow. What a big difference! The betting on props must vary wildly from book to book to have differences like that. From looking through college prop boards throughout the bowl season, I can tell you that its not uncommon to see such disparate totals. They always say to make sure to shop around for the best line available. This is true even more if you're going to be a fulltime prop player. Anyway, as for this line. Can Michigan win if Denard doesnt go Over this total? I dont think so. Denard has only exceeded this mark six times year. But in the six times he didnt, he wasnt that far off the pace, averaging a bit more than 88 yards a contest. And in three of those games he basically didnt play the second half due to injury. Basically you're betting on what type of injury will he have today. Just his breath knocked out and he misses a play or two, something we saw almost every week? Take the Over. Will the finger and shoulder injury crop back up, driving him out of the game for good? Take the Under. And start drinking heavily.
Chris Relf, total completions, O/U 9.5......I laughed at this. Seriously? I just cant imagine a QB having less than double digit completions against this defense. I know the style of offense MSU runs lends itself to that. But, come on. It's the 111th ranked pass defense. Completions are its job and business was good this fall. Scheelhaase had 14 completions for Illinois against Michigan and even Purdue's crappy QB in a rain soaked game found a way to complete 12 passes. Michigan's defense allows a bit more than 20 completions per game. Now you need them to reduce that by 50 percent to win on the Under? Of course, Relf has only completed 10 or more passed four times year and one was against Alcorn State. Michigan has a better D than Alcorn State, right? Please tell me I'm right. Actually, dont answer the question at all. Forget I asked.
Vic Ballard total rushing yards, O/U 1o4.5 yards.....Holy hell. Somebody was busy gambling overnight instead of celebrating the new year. This was 95.5 when I checked last night. I thought it was easy money at that number. I'm still thinking that way. Nine different tailbacks have gone over this number against Michigan this season. It happened seven times in Big 10 play, thanks to Wisconsin having two backs going over it. Only nuetered Purdue in the rain and Indiana, who was too busy throwing it 100 times, failed to have a back go over 104.5 yards. I dont know what's stopping us here.
Roy Roundtree Receiving Yards, Over 70.5....what happens when Roy finds some consistency in his game? He was so close to a 75-plus catch, 1,000-yard season that would be comparable to many of the great WR seasons we've seen here. But, maaaaaaaan, did he have a lot of goose egg days. Six times he had 48 or less yards and seven times he would have failed to go over this number. Michigan has a lot of options, so its hard to put big numbers every week, but if Roundtree shows a bit more consistency in his week-to-week production, he could threaten single season records. He vanished from the gameplan in the three game run against MSU, Iowa and PSU. Barely played against UConn after an injury forced him out of the game. And we all know about his drop issues that cropped up in spades in the Ohio State game. When Roundtree is on, everything is working for this offense.
Dayrl Stonun O/U 3.5 catches....Another tricky one to factor because of the different options the Michigan offense has. Stonum went over this number six times this season. In the other six games, he only had 9 total catches. He did go over this total against top competition like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. And he went Over in the team's biggest wins of the season vs UConn, Notre Dame and Illinois. As a Michigan homer, I like the Over in both these WR props, but just cant pull the trigger. If I do, you can bet that Hemingway--who doesnt have a single prop to his name--goes off for nine catches and 135 yards. I'd be fine with that, but probably poorer.
Longest TD Of The Game, O/U 57.5 Yards......I talked about this one heading into the Penn State game. And, how the standard numbers for this prop in most games is 50.5 or 51.5. We took a stab at that number for the PSU game since we'd seen a TD of that length five times in the first seven games. Sure enough Kevin Koger of all people ripped off a catch and run to get us the cash. Come bowl season, the oddsmakers are requiring a longer TD than usual to have a winning Over ticket. I dont know if it matters, though. We've seen at least one TD on offense from longer than 57.5 yards out in eight of Michigan's 12 games. If you include defensive and special teams scores--and the book is suspiciously quiet on whether those count, but I'm assuming they do--then the total is up to 10 out of 12 games. The only games where there wasnt a score of any variety long than this were the UConn and Iowa games.
So, do I like any of those props? I'm taking the Ballard one. That way I can pretend to hear cash register jingles instead of just wanting to beat me head against the wall every time he gashes the Michigan stop troops. And, of course, I'm taking the Over 110.5 rushing yards for Denard. I wish they put out a total offense number. Or even a passing prop (at books I dont have an account at I did find O/U 207.5 passing yards). I think both he and Ballard go over their rushing hurdles in their sleep today. I'm feeling bullish on the Wolverine offense. Total pointsfor the Wolverines is set at Over/Under 27.5. They've gone over that 9 times this season, including against five bowl teams. Book It. And, why not, this could be the last game of the Rodriguez Era which at the least has left us breathless with all sorts of emotions after long touchdown scores. I'll bite on the Over 57.5 for longest score of the game, despite that hurdle being set higher than usual. Four props. All for what we're playing every prop here and at the JCB for a quarter unit. We're just having fun with these. I should probably come up with a fifth to make this battle a true best of five. If any other inspiration comes my way, Ill send it out via the JCB Twitter.
As for the game itself, the last time our Wolverines were in a bowl game, I had no problem taking all those points against Florida. Neither the Wolverines, nor their foe today are as talented as either of those teams. I really do think Mississippi State resembles Illinois a lot. Michigan struggled all day against that offense. But, they had zero problems dealing with their defense. I dont know if MSU is as talented on that side of the ball as the Illini. Unlike the Illini, they have a true defensive weakness going up against the pass. And I dont think they have a guy like Marquez Wilson who made several bigtime plays, giving the Michigan fits. Translation: Michigan wont stop them. They wont stop Michigan. I thought the Baylor matchup for Illinois was a lot like the Michigan game, except they would come out on top. I was correct. I think this matchup for Michigan is a lot like the Illinois game. They wont that shootout. They might not win this shootout, but, I did resolve to take more chances this year, so I will take the head start. And since two out of every three games in the Rodriguez Era has gone Over the total--including 8 out of 12 this season--lets make one last Over stand before its too late.
The Picks: Michigan +5, x 1/2 Unit; Over 59.5 x 1/2 Unit. That's six plays alone in the Gator Bowl. Am I pumped for Michigan back in the postseason or what?
I have been holding off on this one since I don’t know Dave personally, but having worked with large Leveraged Buyout Firms who have competed with or partnered with Bain Capital in addition to advising their portfolio firms, I figured it was worthwhile to paint a snapshot of what it is like being the CEO of a company (Dominos) held by a large LBO firm like Bain since I am sure it would have influence the way Dave operates. Not sure if the board is interested by this type of stuff.
First, when a LBO firm buys a company, they typically change the CEO, CFO or both. The reason is to bring in “their” management that will be unencumbered by previous operating norms who can hit aggressive targets. This was how Brandon jumped from Valassis to Dominos, with a considerable amount of diligence completed regarding his ability.
Second, Brandon would be offered a less than industry pay package that would be skewed towards large incentive bonuses to be realized at exit (sale or IPO) and an average career length that is shorter than a NFL running back’s. Since LBO firms typically hold portfolio companies for a 4-6 year window to monetize the exit to increase the return of their fund, an underperforming CEO is often replaced at the 2-3 year mark. Also, tying compensation to performance ensures strict alignment of goals unlike CEOs of public companies that can be paid very, very well while their company falters. It is an incredible amount of pressure that pays off handsomely in the end for those that make to exit.
Third, unlike a public company, he would have been evaluated on a monthly basis by ownership. The first task after acquisition is the distribution of the new financial reporting package. I have seen some finance groups take over two weeks just to prepare the monthly reports. Progress is closely monitored, part of this is due to the need to ready the company for exit and partly to stay within any debt covenants since it was a leveraged buyout. Surprises are not suggested during reviews with ownership.
Last, as the new CEO, you would be given very aggressive profitability targets to meet. This would be achieved via cost cutting and revenue expansion. Forming your “go-to” team of individuals is crucial for success since you may need to deploy some very unpopular strategies in a short amount of time. Being a great communicator and consensus builder is paramount to moving the company with new, aggressive targets.
What does this all mean? It means Brandon spent 1999 through 2004 (IPO) under the management of Bain Capital. He survived the gauntlet and remained the CEO post-IPO for another 6 years. He would be a person that believes in:
- Pay for performance
- Strict monitoring of progress
- Taking chances by changing the status quo in order to achieve results
- No surprises
Take all of the above for what it is worth, just a thumbnail based on my previous experience. I will let you read into it what you may, if anything at all. I only wanted to give you window into the man who is calling the shots.
Time to summarize what I think I've learned from watching (almost) all of MSU's games this year. I'm not gonna do a season recap, instead I'm going to lay out where I think we can get some advantages or what we should prepare for.
Sorry that this is thrown together at the last moment. I'll probably do something a bit more in-depth for the game wrap. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I fantasize that the coaches or players actually read my spewings and can get something useful out of it.
But it's probably just helping the Mgocitizens waste a few minutes of work or ignore their families during the holiday ^^. Either way, I hope people get some use out of my posts.
WHEN MSU HAS THE BALL
Starter: Relf (#14 but will wear #36 for the bowl game).
He's a big guy, tall, 240ish. Doesn't have breakaway speed but can chew up yardage quickly. He is most dangerous on QB traps and draws.
He has average arm strength. He's fairly accurate within 30 yards, but loses accuracy the further he throws. He can put good touch on intermediate slants and posts over the middle. But he has lower percentage on deep outs and corner routes. He can throw the flare. He can make a shovel pass, and he can option pitch going in either direction. He can throw the screen. He is not as good of a passer when rolling to his left.
As a runner, he has good vision and decent cuts and moves. Tends to fall forward on contact and can run over smaller defenders. It's imperative that we get to him before he can build up momentum.
He will probably carry the ball close to 20 times and have between 10 and 20 passing attempts. (unless we get a big lead early)
He has big hands, but is sometimes careless in his ballhandling. All defenders should be trying to punch the ball out on east-west plays.
When he gets pressured, he sometimes throws the ball up for grabs. If he throws off his backfoot, the ball will hang in the air. He rarely throws the ball out of bounds. It's either going to an intended receiver or he'll pull it down to run with it.
He's not great at reading coverages, so he'll hold the ball longer than he should. The coaches call safe passes for him. If we can get them to third and long, be prepared for screens and draws.
An athletic pocket passer. But a redshirt freshmen. He got a lot of playing time early in the year, but practically disappeared in the second half of the season as Relf established himself as 'da man'. He's a gunslinger with a little too much confidence in his arm and not enough game experience. He can run the zone read, but is not nearly as a big of a threat to run as relf.
Starter: #28 Ballard. Juco transfer. Bigger guy with a good burst.
This is your classic pounder, ala wisconsin or MSU (YTMSU). He has good speed, but not great change of direction. His instincts are to cut back to the inside instead of bouncing it to the outside, unless he's within 5 yards of the goal-line.
He will get the ball between 10-20 times.
He isn't great at maintaining proper pitch relationship on the option, so MSU has gone him having him be the mesh guy and having someone else take the pitch, or simply letting Relf keep it.
Has not shown himself to be a threat in the passing game.
He is most dangerous on inside iso's, dives, and counters.
Backup: #27 Perkins. speed guy.
Freshman (maybe redshirt, don't remember). But he came on strong as the season wore on. Had a break-out game against Ole miss in the last game of the season. Expect him to be a large part of the offense for the bowl.
With Bumphis out, he becomes their fastest skill player.
He's extrememly dangerous on edge running plays. Especially the sweep. Expect him to cary the ball 5-10 times. But they'll probably have another 5-10 plays designed to go to him on either screens, wheel routes, or some other trickery.
With the extra practices, expect him to line up in the slot and then motion around, possibly to the backfield or to get the ball on a jet sweep.
3rd string: #2. Meh. will carry the ball 2-4 times.
FB: #35. Not the biggest player, but he has the heart of fullback. He really sells out on blocks and is an excellent lead blocker. Soft enough hands to catch the ball in the flat, but not much of a threat with the ball in his hands. Also not much of a running threat, even in short yardage. (Relf and Ballard are more likely to get the ball in short yardage.)
It's hard to talk about this group due to the lack of passing, but here's some notes:
Starter: #1 Bumphis, Injured. WOOOHOOO!
When he was in the game, the OC designed many plays specifically to get the ball to him. He would line up in the slot but then move all over the place. Relf had a tendecy to lock in on him. Most of their creativity on offense revolved around his skills.
Now that he is out of the lineup, expect #27 Perkins to take on most of his roles. If Perkins is in the backfield, then #86 becomes the next fastest guy. But #86 lacks experience.
Backups: #9 and #8 were both tall recievers with decent speed and hands. One of them is injured, whichever one is named Berry. So #3 becomes the next in the lineup. He showed a little bit of skill on the bubble screen
#19 caught a few balls but was basically meh.
TE: One of the TE's remains injured, the other has decent size and soft hands. But he wasn't targeted much this year.
A veteran group with a lot of starts. LT #79 is a senior with a lot of NFL hype. The center is also a senior. These guys do a lot of pulling in all directions, and have enough agility to get in front of plays. Most of them have severe guts, so passblocking in the 4th quarter might be an issue when fatigue starts to set in.
The only weak spot is #62. He is a good run blocker, but has made several mistakes in pass protection. I suggest running a lot of two man stunts or blitzes on his side making him choose who to block and who to let go.
There seems to be a significant talent/experience dropoff when the backups come in. In the one game where they had to shuffle linemen around because of injuries, Ballard was held in check and things were not pretty.
If any backups come in, such as #61, we should attack them like crazy until they run back home to momma with tears in their eyes.
This is a run first team. They don't throw very often on first down. If they do, it'll be short stuff like bubble screens or quick slants or hooks. Their most effective play action is quicker because the long developing playaction is practically usesless with Relf's poor deep ball accuracy. If they run playaction on early downs, the targets will be 15-30 yards downfield against the zone.
They try to spread out the defense so that they can run right up the middle. Running plays will usually involve a lead blocker or an option mesh handoff.
The offense relies heavily on misdirection. They use a lot of motion and counter plays. They like to capitalize on the defense lining up wrong, or not adjustion to the motion. Over the course of the year they've used tons of formations, but in spurts. About 80% of it will be shotgun with a RB or two. But they've run some I-form, some wildcat, and even some single wing in a couple of games.
Their running plays are generally slow developing with pulling linemen or lead blockers from the backfield. The running backs, especially Ballard, have shown great patience in picking the hole and then accelerating through it.
They want to control the clock. The strength of the team lies with their veteran offensive line. They may not be the biggest and strongest, but they don't make many mistakes. Because they run the ball so much, they don't show as many plays per game.
It has been interesting to see that they will use certain formations or series of plays for one game, and then you won't see it again at all for many weeks, if ever. But if they do show a play or have a series of plays installed for the week, expect them to go back to it if it works the first time. They may use that series 3-5 more times the rest of the game if you don't adjust to it.
With the extra practice time, expect to see at least two brand new formations that they haven't shown all year up until now.
The OC will not hesitate to design plays just to get the ball in the hands of Perkins or some other speed guy in space.
Their main threats are on inside runs.
They are not afraid to go for it from about their 40 and beyond. They will likely have 1 or 2 trick plays ready.
BLITZ! Blitz! BUH-LI-TZZZZZ!!! Is what I'd be saying if we had better/more experienced DB's. But we gotta go with the personnel that we have. I'd also prefer if we used more 4 down linemen this week, but the previous caveat applies.
Even so, this is not a game for us to be sitting back in an 8 man zone all day long. With their deficiencies in the passing game, we should have 8 in the box on early downs.
Ideally, I would suggest that we blitz heavily on early downs. About a 30-60% mix of outside blitzes and inside blitzes. If we can get penalties against them or TFL's, we can kill their drives.
The key to stopping their offense is to disrupt their backfield. Well timed outside blitzes will destroy their sweeps and bubble screens. Inside blitzes that outman their blockers will make Ballard and Relf stop their feet. We need to slow them down before they build up momentum, otherwise they'll just keep leaning forward for first downs. If they can run downhill against us like the sParties did, it'll be a long afternoon.
Once we get them into passing downs, blitz and stunt and twist up the middle like there's no tomorrow (which there might not be for certain defensive coaches). Relf is much more dangerous when he pulls down the ball to run, so we need to keep him inside. The outside rushers should back off to maintain contain or string out the corner and try to bat down balls.
The best way to get Relf to throw bad interceptions is to put pressure right up in his face, not from the side. Don't let him step into throws with good body mechanics. His arm isn't strong enough to just wing it without his legs. (Unlike Denard who can whip a fastball with a flick of his wrist).
I know all about our DB's. But this is a favorable matchup for us. Our DB's should play inside leverage most of the game and deny a straight path for the ball. Make Relf throw over people and at odd angles. We'll take the percentages.
WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL
Against our running spread, expect them to be in a 4-2-5 of some variety for most of the game. They use a lot of substitutions among the front seven and so sometimes it looks like a 4-3 or even a 3-3-5, but this defense revolves around the MLB #50 White, outside pressure, and a bend but don't break philosophy in the redzone.
In our territory, they will blitz and use high risk, highly variable defenses with a very deep safety. Once we get closer to the redzone, they will mix it up more with 8 man drops.
In the 2 minute drill, with a lead, they will do the opposite. They will play a soft zone to eat up the clock and then start to bring pressure as we get closer to the redzone. With our kicking situtation, this will be a problem.
These guys are space eaters and gap controllers. Their main job is to keep people off of the middle linebackers. And since I haven't really talked about them much in the game notes and the LB's have been darn good, that must mean they've been doing their job well.
The only standout is #90 Mcphee. He'll need to be doubled or rolled away from on passing downs.
#50 White, sideline to sideline player with a great motor. Smart. Not huge. We must get a body on him if we expect to run the ball. He's good with his arms and shedding blocks. He doesn't seem to get tired, and will be a thorn in our side ALL DAY. He doesn't have elite speed, (he's no Junior Seau from back in the day) comparing him to the only other MLB i've scouted in depth this year, he's a lot smarter and more experienced, but quite a bit slower than Manti T'eo (but who isn't?) so Denard should be able to get to the corner against him. And the bubble screens will be available, although they like to roll up coverage to take that away sometimes.
#34 Wright, taller, more athletic than #50. He's a hybrid OLB/DE playing weakside middle linebacker, (if you can figure that out). He loves to jump up to bat the ball down. Would have about 6 interceptions this year if he didn't have hands of stone. We need to block him with a shoulder pad in his gut to keep his arms down. He's also very good at shedding blocks. (reminds me a little bit of shawn crable, sorta)
#48 OLB. Had a quiet season. He spent most of his time blitzing and getting blocked. But he seems to fit his role in the defense well. He'll be the first LB off the field for extra DBs
#10 OLB/SS hybrid. Didn't play much in the last couple of games. But he spent a lot of time covering slot receivers or as a flexed out OLB.
Cornerbacks #25 and #13 will play most of the game. Of the two, #25 is the more aggressive and therefore more susceptible to double moves or playaction. #15 has been moving back and forth between offense and defense, so we might be able to take advantage of him. Depending on the coverage, #13 will give a big cushion, opening up the the comeback routes.
Safeties #4 and #5 are hard hitters. #4 has been slightly better in run support. #5 can be too agressive at times and is not as good in coverage.
#5 has been battling for his position with #7, a younger player. But #7 has made many mistakes in the few opportunities he's had, so expect to see more of #5.
Oh, who am I kidding? Despite what we saw against TuoOSU, this offense doesn't need any recommendations from anyone. If Denard can bust an 80 yarder against ND, he can do it against these guys, just like the kid from Alcorn St. did.
If we can pass with impunity against illinois, our WR should be able to get open and get yards tomorrow.
I suspect that our running backs won't be able to shake loose much, but how will that be different from what we've seen from the 2nd half of this year?
If we take care of the ball, no turnovers and no drops, we'll be fine.
The only thing they seemed especially vulnerable to were tunnel screens (where the outside receiver is heading back towards the linemen) and plays were a really fast guy managed to get outside and run away from them.
If the safeties start cheating towards the sidelines, there'll be plenty of room against the zone in the middle of the field, as Mallet and Arkansas showed.
This game will rest on Denard. The pressure will be coming, and he can't throw bad picks to guys he doesn't expect to be dropping off into coverage. Hot reads have to be deeper, otherwise the LB's or DE's will be right in the passing lanes.
So once again, how will that be different from anything we've seen from the 2nd half of the season?
On paper, this looks like a game that could go either way. Either MSU will dominate us on the LOS and grind the clock to a 28-14 win that isn't really that close, or we'll be able to get some stops and make a shootout of it.
This game rests firmly in the hands of Denard on offense (well, duh) and Jonas Mouton on defense. If Denard can pop some big plays and connect with his receivers, we should be able to trade scores with them. If Mouton can shadow Relf and not get fooled by ball fakes, we have a shot to outscore them.
Some years ago there was a picture of Tressel with some writing on the board in the background. It appeared to be his gameplan against us. I can't find it right now, but it basically had 4 bullet points that said something like:
- Stop #20 (mike hart)
- Pressure #7 (henne)
Well, maybe those last two were different, but it didn't matter. Based on the results, you'd have to say that Tressel has been a master when it comes to The Game.
If RR were going to make one of those for the gator bowl, it should read something like this:
- Stop #28
- Stop Relf with run blitzes
- Pressure Relf up the middle on passing downs
- Don't let Relf pull the ball down on a scramble and head up the middle
- Yes, this means designed draws too! Especially on the designed draws!!
- For god's sake, if you have to choose between going after Relf or someone else, go after Relf!!!!
- Seriously, RELF!
On a personal note, I really want us to win this game. No, I mean I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, want us to win this game.
First of all, I'm a fan and alum, so OF COURSE I want us to win every game. But in addition to that, a win would make Dave Brandon's job so much easier.
I don't want to get into a whole CC debate, but in every possible universe, winning this game is better for everyone. At 8-5, there is zero chance that RR will be fired and replaced with anyone other than Harbaugh.
At 8-5, if he keeps RR, he's keeping a guy that's improved the team by a significant amount every year and we're looking at a 10 win season in 2011.
At 8-5, if he brings in Harbaugh, he's doing it because we want him as an upgrade over a guy with a decent record. It's like buying a new car. If you're buying a car because your old one broke down, you're kind of forced into it. But if you're buying a new car because it's just that much more awesome than the one you've already got that is still working fine, well that gives a different kind of impression.
At 7-6 we're going to have to suffer the idiotic posts of the Brady Hoke following and their ilk.
I hate making predictions, especially when the two teams are close. So instead I'll just put what I hope happens.
28-26 Michigan. Denard breaks a 40+ yard run and we get long TD's from our WR's. MSU kicks 4 field goals but misses a ridiculously long 5th attempt as time expires.