this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
1. Preseason record predictions. There has been a lot of commentary regarding Michigan's performance so far. I think it is safe to say that the large majority of Michigan fans are pleased with the team's performance and view it as exceeding expectations. I know I am in that group. I predicted that we would be 5-7 this year, but also predicted that the qualitative direction of the team would be highly positive and a significant improvement over last year. I was less interested in record, per se, and more interested in whether Rodriguez' system would make strides. Lucky for me, I have hopes to get both quantitative and qualitative improvement.
But before I get ahead of myself, we have to be candid about the record. Pre-season, I predicted we would defeat WMU, EMU, Indiana, and DSU. I thought we would win each of those games convincingly. I thought we would lose badly to ND, MSU, and Iowa. So where I predicted a 4-3 record, instead we stand at 5-2. A cynic would argue that Michigan's record, alone, does not demonstrate the sea change for which many are hoping. But...
2. Michigan's competitiveness has exceeded expectations. The but, in this instance, is a big one. First, Michigan played with, and defeated, an ND team that is showing some sparks of life and has a solid record of its own with multiple wins over ranked-ish teams. Second, Michigan was extremely competitive in the Iowa game and, from where I sat, could be said to have outplayed Iowa and deserved to win. While the MSU game was deceptively "competitive" in the sense that it went into OT, it was nowhere near as close as the Iowa game. Still, much can be said of the defensive performance in that game, which allowed our offense to come on late and tie it. The sum up is that Michigan has been competitive in every single game this year, and won most of them -- and this competitiveness materially exceeds my qualitative expectations of how they'd play. Given that I spent last year with my hands covering either my mouth or my eyes, this year has been both fun and better than I expected.
3. We stand on the precipice. So where do we go from here? The rest of Michigan's schedule is as follows: Penn State (home), Illinois (road), Purdue (home), Wisconsin (road), Ohio State (home). If you look at that lineup, you can credibly believe that Michigan could win every game. If you remember the Indiana game and are sobered by visions of a mediocre Indiana team moving at will in the Big House, you realize that Michigan could also lose all five of these games. So how will it go?
The fact that the Penn State game is at home is significant. With our frosh QBs, we've learned the importance of the home field. It is also significant that Penn State has a steady but uninspiring offense. I'd rather play a team with a solid defense and ho-hum offense than vice-versa. I am predicting we upset Penn State.
We are lucky that our next road game is at Illinois. I have always believed, and this year proves it, that Ron Zook is good at distributing duckets on the recruiting trail, and horrible at coaching his mercenaries once they decide to attend. I get the feeling that Zook has lost this team. I think Michigan is favored on the road, and I think they win it.
Next comes the trap game. Am I the only person that thinks that Purdue doesn't suck that bad? Something happened to this team after their loss to NIU. I thought they outplayed ND (admittedly without the Blond Vajajay for much of the game) and I thought they outplayed OSU. Did OSU turn the ball over a lot? Yes, but the turnovers weren't gimmees, they were caused in the main by good defense. I think the Purdue game could go the way of the Indiana game and be up for grabs in the last minute. My crystal ball doesn't see this far. I can't predict the Purdue game. For argument's sake, let's call it a win. Michigan is now 8-2.
Off to Camp Randall. Wisconsin is not good this year, but they are never that bad either, and they are always tough at Camp Randall. Notwithstanding lots of improvement from Tate and Denard, I think the two are rattled to be back out on the road. M loses and falls to 8-3.
And then the Game. There is a great deal of anticipation by the faithful this year, and for good reason. I have not been impressed by OSU in any game I have seen them play, including USC. I just don't see much of an offense, and certainly not one that exploits Pryor's physical talents. The defense is reliably good. Tressel has been criticized roundly this year, but he has demonstrated himself year in and year out at being good at preparing for Michigan. Unfortunately, my gut says we lose one more year. We are almost there. But I think the vibe that I thought would obtain (an angry, talented Michigan) is going to be missing. If anything, I think OSU may be the more angry and embarrassed team -- especially if they pick up a third loss against Iowa. Plus, you can expect an inspired game from Pryor, amid recent catcalls that he should have said yes to RichRod. I think the Bucs beat us at home for one more year. Michigan falls to 8-4.
4. Am I smoking crack? Potentially.
5. What are the keys going forward? Four keys going forward. First, I think RichRod needs to make up his mind, a bit, that we are NOT in fact a two quarterback team. Tate Forcier is the only quarterback who demonstrated the ability to drive us consistently with both passing and throwing. I think Denard is great and may be the better QB every year but this one. I also think he's a good change of pace to be deployed in the second quarter. But I think Forcier is a rhythm quarterback and I think taking him in and out isn't good for his mojo. For whatever reason, I think RichRod has a preference for Denard and has been playing Tate principally based on Tate's excellent on-field performance. I'm in favor of giving Tate all the series but the occasional change of pace, and I'd let him know it.
Second, we need continued improvement from the improving offensive line. Molk's return could be large, and we should all applaud Moosman for his efforts, notwithstanding a rocky start in East Lansing. If this line continues to improve week to week, especially in pass protection, I think we are going to be a tough out.
Third, we need improved linebacking. If I recall, Brian's UFR saw improvement in the Iowa game from Brown/Mouton/Ezeh. We need more of it, quickly, if we are going to stay with teams like Illinois, Purdue, and Ohio State.
Fourth, if the secondary play can hold where it is at, I'd be happy. I know we had the two blown coverages in Iowa. Still, I thought those guys have improved dramatically from the exorcism that was the ND game. While it would be great to wish our secondary would magically become a lockdown all the way across, you have to be reasonable. If they can play like they did against MSU and Iowa, I will take it.
6. One final point. It is eminently possible that this whole thing melts down and we lose four of the next five and finish 6-6. My view is that I am less interested in our record than in our attitude and player development. I am happy with where we be at, and think you should be too.
So Michigan and Penn State knock helmets this coming weekend for the 15h time, with Michigan holding a 10-4 edge in victories. The two teams did not meet until Penn State's inaugural Big-10 campaign in 1993. An important off-field meeting occurred, however, in 1968 between officials of the two programs that would set the course of history for the Michigan program.
As is well known, following the retirement of Bump Elliot at the conclusion of the 1968 season, Atheltic Director Don Canham sought a bright young coach from outside the program that could change the stale culture of Michigan and help fill the half-empty Michigan Stadium. He offfered the job to Joe Paterno. Paterno was finishing his 14th year at Penn State and third as head coach. According to Penn State lore, Paterno turned down Canham. According to Don Canham, Paterno asked if he could think about it until after the bowl season. Canham replied that he needed a coach right away, thanked Joe, and hired Bo Schembechler. The rest, as they say, is history.
But what would have happened at Michigan if JoePa had taken the job? How different would the next 40 years of Michigan football have been? Would Paterno still be coaching Michigan today?
First, I think that under Paterno the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry would never have reached the fervor and intensity that it did under Bo. Paterno was an East Coast guy, playing and coaching at Brown before arriving at Penn State. He was used to rivalries with Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. Certainly the Michigan-OSU rivalry predated Schembechler, but the fact that Bo was Woody's disciple and his chosen successor for the head coaching job at Ohio State moved the rivalry to a higher and much more personal level. It's hard to imagine that same degree of personal rivalry/hatred would have occurred between Woody and JoePa.
Second, I wonder if Michigan would have had as much success under Paterno. This is hard to evaluate, because they coached different players and played different teams. Penn State and Paterno made a living off of beating the likes of Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, and Maryland. Penn State played few Big-10 teams prior to joining the league in 1993. They got pummeled by MSU in 1966, but that was a national championship team. They beat Iowa five straight times in the 1970's, but also lost to Iowa in 1976, 1978, and 1983; the 1970's era Hawkeyes were not very good football teams that Michigan beat rather handily. PSU also lost to Wisconsin in 1970, and OSU in 1976 and 1978.
Finally, had JoePa experienced the same down period that he did at PSU in 2000-2004 (overall record 26-33) would he had survived at Michigan? Interesting questions, none of which really matter today but all of which may have been important had Joe given Canham a different answer in 1968. As a Michigan fan, I can say that, while I am sure JoePa would have been very successful at Michigan, it would be hard to top the last 40 years of the Bo/Mo/Carr/and now Rodriguez eras. And I am very happy that RR is our coach now and hopefully for a long time to come.
Go Blue! Beat Penn State and JoePa!
Now, granted, I'm not a very smart man. I'm an easy going redneck-type. I use duct tape a lot for things like fixin' my radiator, reparing a a crack in my windshield and hanging Christmas decorations. So take this with a grain of salt.
I use to be a Rivals member; three weeks or so if my memory serves me correctly. I didn't like the forums too much as they talked a lot about things that just weren't pertinent to Michigan football. Maybe is was just me, but I just couldn't justify 50% of my monthly pay check to talk about the Detoit Lions.
So I moved on to GBW, or as some like to call it, Go Blue Wolverine. It seemed to me to be a pretty good community. A lot of good, hard working, blue collar folk like me. So, I stuck with it for a while but began to see that it was a little too cult-like for me.
Seems to me there were only a few posters who would throw random posts together and were worthy of POD (post of the day for the novice) nomination. At first I guess it didn't bother me so much, but as time went on I started to question the worthiness of the POD nominations.
I think at this point in my diary it might be helpful to give an example.
coachBT: in order to beat msu here are the 3 things that have to happen...
1) we have to contain their running game.
2) we must have more rsuhing yards than msu.
3) I can't stress this enough, we must score more points than msu. If you look at past games with the spartans, 99% of the time the team that scored more points won the game! Coincidence? I don't think so.
random poster: GREAT POST!!!!!!!!! POD!!!!!!! Thanks coach!
random poster: This is the reason I pay my 9.95 a month. Thanks coach.
ripnice: I make a lot of money.
random poster: Thanks coachbt! You are the man.
erocwolverine: if i was msu and there was a lot of time to prepare for michigan and it was there and a lot of people was going to pass if it was there was too. visit me on my michigan blog cause it was a lot of fun.
random poster: couldn't have said it better myself coach! Damn good post.
willisdick; anyone disagree with your post coach you just let me know cause i'm one tough m'fucker. oh, and i clean carpets.
ripnice: good post willis. did you get my message? ;) Did i ever tell you i make a lot of money?
random poster: coachbt is the best. I was going to post the same thing coach but I could never get my message across like you do. POD!
bdabney: Oh boy! Gonna be a board meltdown of epic proportions. Maybe we should just let this thread slide on down the board.
SKWDCOP: Dick Dickameyer says he'll take a mich visit, www.dickdickameyervisitsmichiganandotherteams.com
bdabney: maybe i should start a poll on who agrees with you coachbt. Better not, could be a major board meltdown.
jls: still don't understand why RR didn't recruit Tavon Austin. No excuse for that.
Suame: my crystal balls says good post coach. I'm a sparty grad but I hate sparty football; all though I do like Dantonio and the sparty program and everything about sparty football. But I digress, can't stand the fuckers.
coachBT: tomorrow I will post about why it's important to tackle the oposing team.
random poster: can't wait coach!!!!!!!!!
random poster: I can see it now, another POD coach!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ripnice: i make a lot of money.
Anyway, you get the picture. Now I'm not saying there's anything wrong with rivals or gbw. Just not my cup of tea.
Thanks for listening.
Some days ago, I made a first attempt at visualizing some of Brian's famous Hennecharts. After some feedback (thanks all) and some links to old data (thanks Misopogon), I now try again. Here are "Hennegraphs" for Tate so far this year, Threet from '08, and Henne from '07.
and Henne '07:
And finally, Henne in the near-championship year '06:
Some explanations: I took Brian's suggestion to center at 0, pushing "good" events to the left, and "bad" events to the right. Slight adjustment: I moved "Marginal" all the way to the left (it is neither good or bad, but made slightly more sense on the left instead of centered in the middle, as we will see in below).
Recall also that bars that are not fully colored in represent screen passes (which Brian has started accounting for lately).
Also on the Hennegraph: Brian's metric of effectiveness, the Downfield Success Rating (DSR). The Tate '09 graph shows how this is calculated: DSR is the number of (Dead On + Catchable) throws divided by everything else except for Marginal and Pressure. Thus, it is the left blue part (ignoring marginal all the way on the left) divided by the blue part + right red/orange/yellow (ignoring pressure all the way on the right).
I also present the DSR percentage on the right of each bar, as well as the total number of attempts, and graphically depict the DSR number on the left in a dotted red line.
Putting all of this together made me realize the simple genius of what Brian is doing here. Instead of judging a QB by a simple number such as "percentage of passes completed" or some odd QB rating, he is simply analyzing each throw and qualitatively judging them in isolation of whether they were caught or not. Thus, DSR is an excellent replacement for "Completion Percentage" if you are just interested in measuring how well a QB is throwing the ball.
Hope you enjoy. As always, comments are welcome, and thanks to Brian (and Misopogon!) for the grading and the data; any errors, of course, in the Hennegraphs above are mine.
As the observers here are aware, THE KNOWLEDGE likes looking back at the past, even though the primary area of expertise of THE KNOWLEDGE is accurately predicting the future
thus, THE KNOWLEDGE will briefly look back at the Iowa game and then accurate predict the result of the PSU game
THE KNOWLEDGE does not concern himself with trivial predictions such as the DSU game
therefore, towards the end of this excellent diary, you will see the earliest prediction of the PSU game result
last week, on these very pages, THE KNOWLEDGE had predicted that M shall narrowly defeat Iowa
however, a -4 turnover margin and bad refereeing calls swung the game by just a few points and thus, Iowa won by 2 points
stunning the entire world that the prediction of THE KNOWLEDGE had missed two straight times
the magnitude of this catastrophe was so large as to spawn earthquakes and floods in faraway lands
however, this shall not happen again
the predictions of THE KNOWLEDGE shall once again prove to be extremely accurate
and thus, we move on the PSU game
Michigan will easily defeat Penn State 34-21
when this result comes true, THE KNOWLEDGE shall soar again
and leave every doubter in a trail of dust
THE KNOWLEDGE shall not retrun next week, but will be back the week after
My original diary: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/realistic-2009-prediction
Midway through the season, I can see that calm objectivity is helpful in making predictions, and now can see that its equally helpful in keeping things in perspective during the whirlwind of emotions in a college football season.
Looking at the predictions, I'm 5/6, with my one incorrect prediction being a win against Notre Dame when I expected the Irish' offense to outscore us. Without Forcier's heroics, I would have been correct. Looking forward, my fear of Illinois' offense seems unwarranted, while my dismissal of Purdue as a threat seems hasty. I stand by my prediction of an upset at home against Penn State, as well as my predictions against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The point? We're still on course for a 6-6 or 7-5 regular season record. So if we do end up there, keep a level head and understand the progress we've made this season and don't be THAT GUY that complains about a late season collapse. Rodriguez has this team on track, and Michigan will be kicking ass with him at the helm for the forseeable future.