"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
My earlier thread discussing the accountability of RR and his staff received mixed reviews. Given the interpretation that I was negative about the prospects for the 2010 season, this post will seem bipolar. It is not bipolar, as my last post was a positive statement about accountability and even stated that I expected 8 wins this year. I was too timid.
I believe Michigan will win 9 games, and, no, I have not begun drinking yet today. I actually would offer the following prediction range:
7 wins – 9%
8 wins – 15%
9 wins – 60%
10 wins – 15%
11+ wins – 1%
And I have not taken any drugs today. In truth, I have surpassed the Mathlete with exhausative calculations…
…but while I give you a glimpse of my Beautiful Mind, I will not (i.e., cannot) explain the science behind it all. I can, however, translate these definitive probabilities into human terms.
I coach sports at a very high level: 6 to 12 year olds. One thing I have learned from a decade of that and my overall sports experience is that success, in the short term, is less about Talent and more about Will. Now, this is no great revelation, and I am equally certain that the REPLY button is smoking as the “Talent matters” crowd jumps into action. And indeed, over the long haul, Talent matters. Thus, in 2009, Michigan Willed itself to a 5-2 start with two close losses (yes, and close wins, too), but then, in the middle rounds of the fight, fatigue, reality and lack of Talent overcame them.
So while Will trumps Talent in the short term, Talent trumps Will in the long term. And usually, the Talent with a Will wins it all.
Is this post going anywhere?
Let me use eye-pleasing bullets to speed things along.
- Teams do not respect Michigan anymore. Teams will expect to beat Michigan. That is when danger strikes, when Appy State and Toledo and Boise all rise up and teach painful lessons. Michigan, now better, will be taking on the teaching role early this season after being the student much the last two years.
- Will (motivation, team, underdog role, us-against-the-world) is going to propel Michigan over top of UConn and to a 5-1 start (sorry, I think ND’s offensive maturity, even in a new system, is going to allow them to win a shootout). It could be 6-0, however, but because I am a noted naysayer, I put forth 5-1 (wins against UConn, UMass, BG, Indiana, MSU).
- At this point of the season, Michigan’s Talent will be in a different place than 2009. At mid-season 2009, the following players were not potential contributors, where in 2010 they will be:
Name Pos. Yr. Exp. Ht./Wt. Hometown (last school)
3 Jeremy Gallon WR Fr. RS 5-8/171 Apopka, FL (Apopka)
4 Cameron Gordon S Fr. RS 6-3/208 Detroit, MI (Inkster)
5 Vladimir Emillen S So. 6-1/202 Lauderhill, FL (Plantation)
6 Je'Ron Stokes WR So. 6-0/187 Philadelphia, PA (Northeast)
7 Devin Gardner QB Fr. 6-4/203 Oak Park, MI (Inkster)
7 Brandin Hawthorne S So. 6-0/202 Pahokee, FL (Pahokee)
8 Terrance Robinson WR So. RS 5-9/173 Klein, TX (Oak)
12 J.T. Floyd CB So. RS 6-0/183 Greenville, SC (J.L. Mann)
14 Teric Jones S So. 5-9/194 Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)
15 Thomas Gordon S Fr. RS 5-11/208 Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)
15 Michael Cox RB So. RS 6-0/215 Dorchester, MA (Avon Old Farms)
17 Jeremy Jackson WR Fr. 6-3/196 Ann Arbor, MI (Huron)
26 Isaiah Bell LB Fr. RS 6-1/237 Youngstown, OH (Liberty)
27 Mike Jones LB So. 6-2/207 Orlando, FL (Edgewater)
28 Fitzgerald Toussaint RB Fr. RS 5-10/199 Youngstown, OH (Liberty)
33 Stephen Hopkins RB Fr. 6-0/236 Double Oak, TX (Marcus)
34 Brendan Gibbons K Fr. RS 6-0/245 West Palm Beach, FL (Cardinal Newman)
44 Mark Moundros FB Sr. RS 6-1/234 Farmington Hills, MI (North)
45 Obi Ezeh LB Sr. RS 6-2/240 Grand Rapids, MI (Catholic Central)
50 David Molk OL Jr. RS 6-2/270 Lemont, IL (Lemont Township)
56 Ricky Barnum OL So. RS 6-3/284 Lakeland, FL (Lake Gibson)
57 Elliott Mealer OL So. RS 6-5/310 Wauseon, OH (Wauseon)
64 Christian Pace OL Fr. 6-2/259 Avon Lake, OH (Avon Lake)
65 Patrick Omameh OL So. RS 6-4/293 Columbus, OH (St. Francis DeSales)
73 William Campbell DT So. 6-5/324 Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)
75 Michael Schofield OL Fr. RS 6-7/281 Orland Park, IL (Carl Sandburg)
76 Quinton Washington OL Fr. RS 6-4/307 St. Stephen, SC (Timberland)
77 Taylor Lewan OL Fr. RS 6-8/283 Scottsdale, AZ (Chaparral)
82 Ricardo Miller WR Fr. 6-4/212 Ann Arbor, MI (Pioneer)
83 Jerald Robinson WR Fr. 6-1/191 Canton, OH (South)
90 Anthony LaLota DE Fr. RS 6-4/263 Princeton, NJ (The Hun School)
- This isn’t a precise list, but a general point illustrated by our current offensive line depth. Last year, the depth was thin and Molk’s injury exposed a lethal liability. This year, the OLine is deep, deep, deep. Those extra new contributors mean the world in avoiding positional meltdowns.
- Now the long-haul has settled in. Michigan will then take three of the next four games with better talent than all but Iowa. At this point, we are 8-2 (wins against PSU, ILL and Purdue).
- Then: Wisconsin and Evil. Hidden in the Mathlete’s world is something about probablilities, and it becomes harder and harder for Evil to keeping winning. I see a split of these games, hopefully winning the last OSU-Michigan November regular season matchup.
Book it, Meeechigan Dano says. 9-3.
Let the mocking begin!
(Note: If the secondary is hit by injuries, I revise to 2-10.)
Received a big response from the pre-fall depth chart that I threw pretty arbitrarily in a diary about a month ago. There were quite a few requests to expand it, so I included those requests with the updated depth chart for the Purdue game this weekend. I will try to keep this as organized as possible: rivals star ratings in parenthesis, since it was requested, names are followed by media guide class and measurements. (All classes are “true” – whatever, Walk-on = W, Former Walk-on = FW ) The depth chart was a 2 deep so there is some imo beyond the first 2 names listed, but it is an educated imo. Here is the Offense, I will do Defense tomorrow.
QB: Dayne Crist, Jr 6-4 235(5), Tommy Rees, Fr 6-2 210 (3), Nate Montana, Jr 6-4 215 (FW), Andrew Hendrix, Fr or Luke Massa, Fr. Biggest change here is Rees breaking the 2 deep over Montana. I am not sure on how much separation there actually is between the 2 of them, it was a strong battle all camp per the media, but as Rees is the younger by a lot he may have been given the nod just based on his future potential. There will still be a big drop off in experience, yes experience, and ability at the 2nd position no matter who comes in. Nice to see Rees be competitive so quickly, he was an EE, but it doesn’t really fortify the position over what we knew going into the fall. Crist is 100% and practiced without a brace throughout the summer, I still expect to see him in one on game days.
WR: At the beginning of camp there was only 1 known WR (Floyd) with many expecting Kamara to get the second one followed by a bunch of hunches and gut feelings. As camp progressed Floyd locked down his spot as expected and as did recently moved, from RB, Theo Riddick. In the final 2 weeks of camp it was a 3-way battle for the final spot between Tailer Jones, Duval Kamara and Shaq Evans, a week later it was a battle between Jones and Kamara and that is how they finished. Evans just announced his transfer, likely to Oregon it seems, though it isn’t only depth related but I would expect it to be a factor. On to the depth chart:
(X, L – R, I think): Tailer Jones, Fr 5-11 187 (4), Duval Kamara, 5th 6-4 225 (4).
(Z): Theo Riddick, So 5-11 198 (4), Robby Toma, So 5-9 175 (3)
(Y): Michael Floyd, Jr 6-3 227 (5), John Goodman, Jr 6-3 207 (3)
You know Floyd already, Jones is my favorite recruit from the last class, once a Stanford commit Weis flipped him back to ND and he held strong through the coaching change. If you want to see a DB get abused search for his highlight videos from last year, worth the time. The X spot could very well be an “OR” situation depending on the match up the coaches are looking for. Expect to see Kamara on the field quite a bit; I would have said the same about Evans if he hadn’t transferred as well. Riddick as I mentioned was recently moved from RB, which he played last year as a true freshman. I don’t remember how much UM saw him last year, but lets just say he has some speed to burn. The last RB to transition to WR made out pretty well in the end, the staff sounds pretty confident in what Riddick is capable of. Beyond the 2 deep there isn’t much I can say, Chris Collinsworth’s son, Austin (Fr) had a chance to crack the 2 deep and may see some garbage time this year. Otherwise it is mostly freshman destined for red shirts at the position.
RB: Armando Allen, Sr 5-10 205 (4), Cierre Wood, So 6-0 178 (4), Robert Hughes, Sr 5-11 245 (4), Jonas Gray, Jr 5-10 240. The new name here is Cierre Wood, star of the spring game, he showed everything ND fans had hoped for this spring and fall by cracking the 2 deep. It was clear everyone was behind Allen going into the summer, but just how it would shake out was anyone’s guess. Hughes is still also listed as a part time full back and Jonas has just as much size if not more from summer workouts. I really see a division between the “Speed” and “Big” backs here and the Speed backs are the ones on the depth chart. Both Jonas and Hughes will see the field but just how is a bit unclear; Kelly is really high on this position group, they will be getting a lot of touches.
TE: Man I love tight ends, enough man-crushing. Kyle Rudolph, Jr 6-6 265 (5), Tyler Eifert, So 6-6 242 (3), Bobby Burger, 5th 6-2 248 (FW), Mike Ragone, Sr 6-4 245 (4) The whole country has met Rudolph, not a lot more to say. The big riser here was Eifert who now weighs in at +25 his freshman year, he has filled out to say the least. You can expect to see his name for a few more years as he still has 4 years of eligibility left, as of now. Ragone was the faller, after his off the field troubles in the off season, and past off seasons it may be part disciplinary part never getting over his knee injuries. Burger is a utility player, he can line up at TE or FB and HB. He transferred to ND and then walked on his junior year, nice little story. The staff is very confident in Eifert, Kelly named him as someone he needs to find a place for on the field. You can expect to see 2 TE sets often.
LT: Zach Martin, So 6-4 290 (4), Matt Romine, Sr 6-5 295 (3). Martin is the first or three new starters on oline. He was originally slated for guard with the previous staff but was moved by the oline coach when he saw how quick Martins feet were. Seems to have worked out so far as he locked up his starting spot 2 weeks into camp. Martin was expected to take the spot over semi-incumbent Romine after spring ball.
LG: Chris Stewart, 5th 6-5 351 (4), Chris Watt, So 6-3 310 (5). Stewart is the first ND football player to not only play but also play while he is going to law school. (You can expect to hear that once or twice more this year on NBC) Stewart is huge, huge and strong, huger (yeah I know) than his listed 351; I expect he and Robinson (RG) to be the jumping-off-points for the running game. Watt was a late addition to the 2-deep, he is also the #3 center, I expect he will see the field more than a couple times as the season goes on.
C: Braxton Cave, Jr 6-3 301 (4), Chris Wenger, Sr 6-4 298 (4). I expected Wenger to hold the position down, but after he missed a few practices with a concussion it opened the door for Cave and he locked it up. I am sure both will play and both will start, I don’t know if this position battle will end anytime soon, which is a good thing. ND officially returns 2 starters now on oline.
RG: Trevor Robinson, Jr 6-5 295 (4), Mike Golic, Jr 6-3 283. Not a lot has been said about this position in the last 3-4 weeks. Robinson was expected to have this spot locked down after the staff tried him out at tackle a bit in the spring, and he did. Same with Golic, I don’t remember hearing either Golic mentioned much this fall at all.
RT: Taylor Dever, Sr 6-5 297 (3), Andrew Nuss, Sr 6-5 297 (3). This was also a position battle going into fall practice and was just a quickly locked down by Dever as Martin at LT. Freshman Christian Lombard, 6-5 290 (4) was talked up quite a bit late as a RT candidate, but hasn’t cracked the 2-deep as of yet. I expect to see him quite a bit as the year goes on though.
Expectations: I already hit on the running game a bit, but for emphasis Kelly has repeatedly talked about how strong a group he thinks they are, they have been one of his surprises from the fall. Armando Allen hasn’t shown to be much of an every down back and has gotten pretty banged up as each season wore on, Cierre Wood is the perfect fix for that. He has great vision and awareness on the field and brings good speed and athleticism to get up field quickly. Both big backs may only see situational touches but the way Kelly talks about the unit I really doubt it, not really sure what to expect here to be honest. The passing game is pretty straight forward, Crist needs to protect the ball and get it to his play makers which he has many beyond Floyd and Rudolph, the offense will hinge on his play more than anyone else. With the addition of 2 TE sets the possibilities are enormous, Eifert at 6-6, Floyd at 6-3, Rudolph at 6-6 and Kamara at 6-4, which one will the defense double team? Each one can get it in the end zone. The potential is there for some big numbers on offense but it all comes down to Crist.
Defense tomorrow, probably
There have been numerous excellent diaries on the subject of recruiting prior to Rodriguez. I am not trying to replicate that work. However, I read a couple comments to the effect that, to paraphrase, "this is Rodriguez's team now, its year three and the Carr years should have little or no part in the discussion about how the team performs this year".
I agree that Rodriguez has to do the most with what he has. Also, I will stipulate that there have been some seriously questionable recruiting moves, like pursuing Demar Dorsey, that look terrible in hind sight.
That being said, I fear the reason we will go 7-5 this year is because of the defense. I was predicting 9-3 in the spring but I had Emelien, Woolfolk, Turner and Dorsey as our starting defensive backfield. Hell, last fall I expected us to be 10-2 or 11-1 in 2010 because I thought our starting backfied would be Turner, Woolfolk, Warren and Cissoko.
But I digress. The stat I wanted to highlight is starting 4th and 5th year players. The majority of excellent teams in the country are heavily weighted toward older starters. On defense, Michigan has four-Ezeh or Moundros, Mouton, VanBergen and Banks. (I expect Rogers to get beat out.). You can't blame the loss of Woolfolk or Warren on either Carr or Rodriguez, but I do blame Carr a little for not having any other 4th and 5th year guys to replace them.
Want to know what our competition looks like? On defense, 4th and 5th year players
We are still at a competative disadvantage on defense due to a lot of things that are out of Rodriguez's control. As Brian has argued in the past, a coach should probably get 4 years at least to get his program together so you can see what his seniors can do. Also, don't forget that Rodriguez's 3rd year players are mostly Carr's. So far only Martin has proven to be an impact player from that class on defense.
Sorry for the long absence. Anyway…
FF 101: Day 5 – Receivers
Receivers come in many shapes and many sizes, from 6’6”, 270 pound tight ends to 5’9”, 160 pound slot receivers. Regardless of size though, one thing is ultimately fundamental to the position: catching the football. For some this sounds easy, for others who feel like they have hands of stones, even this doesn’t sound easy. This is complicated by the fact that a receiver is also responsible for running crisp routes, which sometimes include defeating a defensive player at the LOS jamming them, diagnosing the defense, and then catching the football, all the while knowing that there could very well be someone running on a collision course the other way trying to destroy you.
Receivers are typically known as divas, always seeking attention, but then there’s Jason Avant. Personality isn’t a trait that runs through all these players, some just focus on the fundamentals and go about business. So let’s attempt to understand these fundamentals rather than simply seeing all the negatives attributed to receivers.
I could write in every single one of these that an efficient stance leads to a purging of false steps. A false step essentially means taking unnecessary steps before the actual start of the route running. For a receiver this usually means picking up the front foot and moving it forward or picking up the back foot and moving it backwards. Neither should happen, as the receiver should be able to push directly off his front foot. To remove this annoying phenomenon known as false steps, an aggressive stance is desired.
Feet: Feet should be staggered, much like a sprinters. I personally prefer the inside foot to be forward (as do most coaches, though this isn’t necessarily consistent) because it helps in releasing from a jamming defender. There should be about three feet between the front and back foot, with the majority of the weight on the front foot. The amount of weight can be described as “pushing the front cleat on the toe through the ground.”
Knees: Knees should be bent and ready to explode.
Upperbody: The upper body should be leaning slightly forward in order to quickly explode out of the stance.
Hands and Arms: Again, my personal preference, but hands should be up at chest level with arms approximately at 90 degree angles. The reason I prefer hands up is to help defeat a jamming defender.
A lot of people hear about receivers running good routes but don’t really know what exactly that means. Well, let’s take a look at it to help you understand what exactly is taking place in these “good routes.”
Part of good routes is actually understanding what the defense is running. At the snap of the ball the receiver also needs to recognize zone or man coverage. If it’s zone he has to quickly recognize what kind of coverage so he knows where the gaps are in the defense. All this has to be done on the same page as the QB. But to properly do any of that, a few other things are important as well.
Drive: At the snap there should be no false steps from the receiver. This is described above. The reason false steps are so detrimental here is for several reasons: 1) It hinders the timing between QB and receiver; 2) It allows the receiver to be jammed easier; 3) It doesn’t allow the receiver to quickly close the distance between himself and the defender. Closing this gap forces the defender to open his hips away from the backfield, making it hard for him to react to routes the receiver is about to run. The keys to the drive portion are exploding off the LOS, maintaining a good body lean (so that the receiver can run “normally” in a straight line, yet still break down and run other routes), and closing the distance between himself and the defender.
Route Expression: Receivers must drive in and out of cuts. This means they must get up to full speed as soon as possible after making cut and going into a cut. In order to do this, at the break point a receiver is taught to snap his chest down over his toes and lower his butt. The receiver should also keep his head and eyes up and focused through the defender to maintain good balance and prevent the defender from jumping the route. It is also important to keep the arms pumping and within the body's framework. Receivers often hold the arms out or lower them, which can give easy clues to the defender.
Lastly, and probably the most common of all poor route runners, is fading on routes. A cut at 90 degrees is a cut at 90 degrees, not slowly changing to 80 degrees. Don't start fading toward the end zone. It is essential that receivers do not fade. I can't say that enough. You will hear coaches preaching it constantly at every level.
Numbers are assigned to different types of routes. These numbers are used for play calling and other aspects of the game. The picture below should which number is what route, odds are toward the boundary, evens are toward the ball.
There are obviously more routes available, such as a wheel route for example, but these are the main ones.
So he’s done all this stuff with running routes, but he still hasn’t caught the football. Everything that has already been discussed is pointless if he doesn’t catch the football. So how do you catch a football? Well it sounds kind of easy when you go out in the back yard and do it with your kid, but there are many things that experienced people don’t even think about.
There is the obvious: catch the ball with your hands. But first you need to catch the ball with your eyes, meaning you need to locate the ball. Then as the ball approaches you are told to catch the “fat” of the ball. But in a game a receiver isn’t simply standing there waiting for the ball to fall into his hands, he must attack the ball in the air, and absorb it as it hits his hands. If the ball is above the numbers, press the thumbs and forefingers together forming a triangle. Below the numbers press your little fingers together, forming a cup for the ball.
How to catch a ball:
How not to catch a ball:
For tight ends it is very similar to the offensive linemen I detailed earlier.
(Edit: I tried to find a picture of Carson Butler blocking, but for some reason I couldn’t find anything…)
Blocking in space is much different however. If WRs block it turns ten yard runs into touchdowns. Michigan was always very well known for teaching their WRs to block down field. Stressing this is vital to the success of any offense. It really isn’t as much about skill as it is about desire. There is some keys to blocking in space however, so we will still discuss them.
The first is that a receiver shouldn’t break down to block until he is about 2-3 yards from the defender. Once this distance has been established, it is important that the receiver break down so that he can mirror the defender. He then should strike the defender in the breast plate with his palms while fitting his fingers under the defender’s armpits. The goal is to have the receiver’s helmet below the defenders to gain leverage and then drive the defender. Because these aren’t typically offensive linemen blocking, usually the receiver’s are taught to use the defenders momentum to the blocker’s advantage. This means if the defender fights one way, fight pressure with pressure and force him to overrun the play.
You'll find a lot of good WR blocking in this awesome Tyrone Wheatley Tribute from Wolverine Historian. (EDIT: Can't really see much blocking from WR in this video. Sorry)
EDIT: Good WR blocking on this Brandon Minor from the game that introduced Minor Rage to the world and Penn St.
So playing receiver isn’t as easy as playing catch with your kid. I’m not saying it’s the hardest position on the field, but it’s far from easy. There are a lot of things that need to be recognized very quickly and there are fundamentals that need to be done very precisely. On top of this, focus needs to be consistent, as does desire, whether the ball is coming his way or not.
Just be happy it’s not you crossing the middle of the field with your QB setting you up to get your block knocked off.
I wont lie: I am flat tired of writing preview-ish type pieces and getting summer, off season content up at the JCB. I had this great idea of doing preview pieces on all the Big 10 teams using a Over/Under theme. I didnt make it. I did not even make it half way through. Instead, I diverted my attention to other types of posts, eventually wore myself out at that and turned towards doing something pretty important the last couple of weeks: Enjoying summer. Or at least thats my excuse for only a handful of posts the last couple of weeks and no diaries in well over a month, despite promises to the contrary. We're in season now, so it wont be hard to throw up posts and diaries with actual games and results to mull over. But we want to give one last nod to the original preview idea and expand the Over/Under Board a bit before moving on to the season, so I've put together a post on the Michigan Defense for an MGoDiary and whipped up some Penn State odds over at my blog. For those who didnt see it earlier in the month, the Michigan Offense Over/Under Board includes, among others, total TDs from the QB position, 30.5; Drew Dileo kick returns 1.5; and leading rusher, 825.5 yards. To the defense........
Mark Moundros, total tackles: O/U 54.5
Before you scoff at how high this number is set, dont forget Kevin Leach, good old #32 marked 46 tackles a year ago. At the very least Moundros stands closer to the field at the beginning of this season than Leach did a year ago. The promise runs with the first team right off the bat could open the door for a high number of tackles. I dont expect him to get to the 90-tackle mark, a high water mark in recent years for Michigan LBs, but somewhere between 50-60 tackles might be the new expectation. Five weeks ago, the confusing case of Mark Moundros still seemed destined for limited touches as the fullback over any play at his fancy at linebacker. But the story has taken a surprising turn during preseason practices. He, along with
Darious Morris Tim Hardaway Jr., became August legends. For Moundros, he appears to be riding that momentum all the way into the starting lineup. When it was first pieced together by savvy watchers of the Countdown videos that Moundros was running with the first time, I chuckled that it didnt mean much. His stint with the one's just happened to coincide with the taping of the video at that time, right? But, this has legs. The Obi Ezeh era at MLB is apparently ending not because some uber, OMG shirtless recruit supplanted him, but because a former walk-on (er, I mean former#), turned linebacker after 3 years at fullback, waltzed into the position group and in the six months since then has turned the depth chart upside down. What a story. Musberger is going to love this by the time the Penn State primetime game rolls around. At least we hope so. I'm hardly discouraged by this development. Moundros' emergence upgrades this unit. Thats an indictment on the state of the position before he joined the depth chart, not the state with him on it. We'll find out on Saturday just how legit this is. I dont think position switches are all that bad. Northwestern has flopped David Arnold between the secondary and linebacking units and has been a solid producer. Indiana moved Ray Fisher from WR where he was buried behind some quality starters and became the team's top cornerback a year ago until a season ending injury. Christian Ballard arrived in Iowa City as a tight end, but he'll leave as an NFL draft pick on the defensive line. JJ Watts was a low-rated Tight End at Central Michigan, but he's now an All Big 10 contender at defensive tackle for Wisconsin. There's probably more oranges in those comparisons to the apples in Moundros situation, but the fact remains he's a good football player, loves to hit and apparently has shown more instincts in six months at the position than Ezeh or anyone else the last couple of years. If I am disapointed in anything is that the coaches didnt figure this move out sooner. Like the day they got here would have been nice. How much, and how well, Moundros plays on Saturday is one of the game's biggest storylines.
Mike Martin, total combined sacks and TFLs, O/U 13.5
On the offense over/under board, there's that quirky game trying to guess how many players will exceed their career catches with their single season numbers this year. Thats where the bar is being set here for Martin as 13.5 combined sacks and TFLs represent his career log during his first two seasons on the defensive line. He's had two sacks each season and last year disrupted to the additional tune of 6.5 TFLs, four more than his freshmen season in 2008. I think this kid is a beast and he's going to give first team All Big 10 a serious run. Outside of the interior pair of Christian Ballard and Karl Klug for Iowa, no returning defensive tackle has been as productive the last two seasons for his team. From an accolades standpoint, he's really suffering due to the team's lack of overall performance. That, and everybody looked like meager producers compared to Brandon Graham's season a year ago. Martin will be a force during his upperclassmen years in Ann Arbor. I think he flirts with double digit TFLs and a half dozen sacks. One of the enduring images of the team that I've clung to all off season were the long stretches of the OSU game when Martin controlled the line of scrimmage. The highlight play was an early sack on Pryor when Martin tossed aside Bryant Browning and threw the Buckeye quarterback down into the turf. I'd link to the UFR, but, well, I cant seem to find it. Are the archives working? Poking fun of Brian aside, we're all looking forward to a season full of more moments like that from Martin.
Total Takeaways: O/U 20.5
We all wake up in cold sweats after nightmares of Michigan ball carriers putting the ball on the carpet, quarterbacks throwing ducks to players with a different colored helmet and, of course, specialists muffing kicks. But Michigan actually took some babby steps forward in the giveaway department a season ago compared to 2008. Yet, the turnover margin got worse. When talking about Michigan's turnover woes the last couple of seasons, lets not forget part of the last year's blame should go to the defense that produced one of the worst takeaway number in years. Last year, the defense in Ann Arbor swiped just 16 takeaways. That's the fewest since 19 in 2001. The program's 11-year average prior to 2009 was 24.37. More than half of those years had more than two dozen takeaways. So last year was a 33-percent reduction in the production the Michigan defense had become accustomed to producing most of the time. Hypothetically, could the team have used 8 more takeaways a year ago? Give those to me, let me spread them around the slate--congrats, OSU, you get half of them!!--and BOOM, Michigan wins 7-8 games a year ago. We can write HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL in as many comment threads as we like, but the turnover margin wont be appreciably better unless the D steps up some and generates more giveaways. I dont know if Michigan will jump right back to getting more than two dozen takeaways a year, but I do expect the back to back years of regression with this stat to stop and at least begin to creep the other way. Where will the extra takeaways come? Craig Roh has the type of game that just screams forced turnovers. New Safety Cam Gordon packs a wallop on his sticks and should give Michigan a hard hitting, forced fumble threat in the secondary for the first time in years. Part of the reason Carvin Johnson has emerged atop the depth chart has been his ballhawking abilities. Finally playing for the same defensive coordinator two years in a row might help in this department as well.
Total Points Allowed, O/U 299.5 points
You know what I miss? I miss that goofy stat we used to throw around these parts about how unbeatable Michigan was when scoring at least 30 points. It's been a long, long, long time, it seems, since that era, so my memory may be wrong, but I think the Wolverines record in those situations was 531,731-2. I may be off a game or two. That's how bad the Michigan defense has been for a couple years running now. It has me pining for the manipulated stats used to support Mike DeBord's offensive philosophy. Uh, Rich, that is most definetly not change I can believe in. Here's the ugly money stat: The Michigan defense has given up 30 or more points in 13 of the 24 games the last two years. It's decidedly not a defense DeBord can win with. But Rodriguez could, especially if his high-powered offense in the making takes another leap forward and, more importantly, the defense puts up anything close to an average performance. How about allowing less than 300 points this season? That would be a big step. The Wolverines have given up 347 and 330 the last two years. Getting under 300 total points is the equivalent of allowing a field goal less per game compared to the last two seasons. Last year, thats the difference between 5-7 with an off season of continued angst and 7-5 while spending Christmas in Florida. Can the D reduce their points allowed by this much? More? Or more of the same and another season with half the slate dropping at least 30 on the Michigan defense?
Carvin Johnson, total combined tackles/sacks/TFLs/PBU/INTs: O/U 64.5
When Carvin Johnson comitted to Michigan ten months ago, he was an unknown to most recruitniks. He visited for the Penn State game, even though most of the gurus werent clear on who he was, and within the week had comitted to the Wolverines. He was not even ranked as a prospect. Yet, his legend grew during his senior season, an offer from noveau power Utah, combined with interest from homestate LSU suddenly turned this Louisiana prospect into a honest-to-goodness diamond in the rough. Months ago it was bandied about that he could see immediate playing time. It looks like his time will come this Saturday as he's expected to be the starter at the Spur position, which was manned ably by senior Stevie Brown a year ago. If the depth chart released this week is any indication, then it will be Johnson who gets first crack at this stat sheet stuffing position. For comparison's sake, Brown put up a 92 combined tackles/sacks/TLFs/PBU/INT a year ago in his only year playing this hybrid position. I cant see Johnson scoring that high because I dont think he's playing every down like Brown did a year ago. We're still going to see a few different people taking snaps there, especially if Johnson's debut against UConn is shaky. As a result, we're setting his number almost a full third below Stevie's 2009 production.
NOTE: The purpose of this post is NOT to discuss whether college football playoffs are good or bad. (That topic has been beaten to death, cremated, and its ashes spread in the depths of hell.)
Like most people, I have thought the possibility of college football playoffs are several years in the future. Recent events have dramatically increased the likelihood that playoffs will become a reality and also dramatically reduced the timeframe for that to happen.
1) The Pac10 (the name will change to Pac12 in 2011) expanded to 12 teams, split into divisions and added a conference playoff. Prior to the expansion, most fans believed the Pac10 had the best conference schedule since every team played every other team in the conference. No questions about strength of schedule, who played who in which years, etc. The PAC10 expansion was about many things but mostly about the money generated by a conference championship game.
2) The Big10 added Nebraska, split into divisions, and added a conference championship game. This was inevitable because the 11 team league made no sense at all. It had all the scheduling problems with no increase in revenue from a championship game.
3) Both the PAC10 and Big10 accomplished this feat in less than 1 year!
4) The Mountain West will probably become an Automatic Qualifier for the BCS bowl games in 2012. There is an established criterion for becoming an AQ that is based on: 1) the ranking of the best team in the conference; 2) the average ranking of all teams in the conference; and 3) the number of teams in the top 25 versus the number of teams in the top 25 of the highest ranked conference.
5) All BCS AQ conferences will expand to at least 12 teams or risk becoming the victim of other conferences raiding their teams and eventually disbanding the conference. (BTW, I agree with Brian that conferences larger than 12 teams would be a really bad idea. Inter division play would be limited to as few as 2 games.)
6) The US Congress, the Utah Attorney General and others are looking into whether the current BCS bowl games violate anti-trust laws and/or FTC consumer protection laws. The BCS does not want this to go to court.
7) A large segment of the sports media already refer to important conference championship games as a “de facto” playoff.
Based on all these events, I believe college football playoffs will be a reality as early as 2012.
Since 2005, I have been proposing a playoff scenario that:
Keeps All Current Bowl Games In Place
Keeps Most Traditional Rivalries in Place for Bowl Games
Includes 16 Teams
Limits Additional Games
Reduces the Need/Desire for Teams to Schedule “Non-Competitive” Games
The basis for this has always been that the first round of any playoff must be the conference championship game. With a potential for 7 BCS AQ conferences (which will all expand to 12 or more teams), 14 teams of a 16 team playoff are established. The two additional teams would be at large bids. (BTW, if there are fewer AQ conferences or conferences do not have at least 12 teams, additional at large bids would be used.)
Since the conference championship games are already in place, you can include 16 teams in a playoff without playing an extra game.
If the conference championship is not the first round of any playoff scenario, the following problems are inevitable:
- The conference championship become less meaningful because a team does not have to be the conference champion to get into the playoffs (I’m looking at you Oklahoma 2003).
- Some conference champions will not even qualify for the playoff because it is likely the primary playoff criteria will be based on BCS ranking.
- Playoff teams will be determined by computers instead of by on the field performance.
- Teams will continue to schedule “little sisters of the poor” non-conference games because overall record will be the primary criteria for making the playoff.
- The number of teams included in the playoff will be maxed out at 8 with all the ensuing arguments about which teams are included.