In a recent forum post I put out a request for diary ideas and Brian requested a deeper look at special teams. So here goes.
As any good Michigan fan knows, punting from the opponents 35 yard line is excruciating to watch. But how painful is it?
As you can see above, net punting holds pretty steady in the 37-38 yard range all the way till around the 40 yard line. At that point it drops a couple yards into 35 yards per punt range. It’s when you get to midfield that the averages really start to tank. Over the next 15-20 yards of the field, the average drops from 35 yards per punt all the way down to 20. This is somewhat obvious as the field shrinks the longer punts turn into touchbacks where they would have been 50 yarders on the other side of the field.
But lets look at it another way. On average, where can you expect to start your defensive drive based on where you are punting from.
It’s a pretty linear relationship all the way to midfield and then it stops. On your side of the field, one more yard on offense takes one away from the opposition if you have to punt. You get to the other side of the field and that relationship disappears. At the 50, the other team will, on average, start their next drive at the 16. If you drive all way inside the opponent’s 35 and decide your punter is still the best call, the 16 becomes the 12. The 15-20 yards of offense only translate into about 4 yards of worse field position for the other team. A punt from the 37 should realistically only be expected to cover a net of 25.
All of this is accounted for in my special teams rankings. Punters evaluations on each punt are measured on gross distance, net distance and then compared to punts from that spot on the field. A punt from your own 20 yards that nets 35 is below average but a punt from the opponents 40 that has a net of 30 is above average.
Last year, Georgia led the nation in my measurements in gross punting, it was worth 8.2 points above average on the season. Zoltan came in 7th (1st in the Big 10) at 4.3 points above average.
Punt returners and coverage teams are evaluated in the same manner. A 50 yard punt that isn’t a touchback or out of bounds (but including fair catches and downed punts) will average 6 yards per return but a 30 yard punt should only expect a 2 yard return. Again, teams are only evaluated against the situation they are given, a 4 yard return on a 50 yard punt is a positive play for the coverage team and a negative one for the return team. A 4 yard return on a 30 yard punt is a negative for the coverage team and a positive for the return team. I don’t currently have a way to split the value between the punter and the coverage, so the coverage is a joint metric.
LSU led the nation last year, gaining 9.7 points more than average on their punt coverage. Michigan came in 28th, 3.7 point above average.
What ultimately matters is the total punting rating, the combination of the punt and the cover. Michigan’s combined value of 8.0 points above average was 3rd nationally behind only Oklahoma and Missouri.
Michigan was somewhat unique in that even when adjusting the coverage rating for distance of punt, there is a negative correlation between punt coverage and gross punting. Possibly meaning that the punters getting the most distance on their punts are doing so by kicking more returnable punts than their peers who aren’t kicking as far as consistently.
Michigan did not fare so well on the returning end of the punt game. Michigan averaged a mere 2.35 yards of return per punt (excluding touchbacks and out of bounds) and was 3.9 points below average on the season. LSU again led the nation with 19.3 points above average for their return team.
Kick - Offs
I approached the kick off in the same manner as the punt, with the obvious exception that almost all kick offs are from a fixed spot on the field.
Unlike punting, kick offs have a correlation between good kick offs and good coverage, even when adjusting coverage for kick length. Good kick off specialists provide a more coverable kick than when weaker kickers get a kick of the same distance.
Michigan had another strong showing out of their kick off teams. Ranking 16th nationally at 6.3 points above average. The coverage wasn’t as good, 1.6 paa and 49th nationally. The 7.9 paa was 25th overall in a category that was dominated by Nebraska. Nebraska’s kickoff team was worth 27.9 paa on the season. 50 of their 74 kickoffs either went for touchbacks or were stopped inside of the 20 yardline.
The Wolverine kick return team was a respectable 36th overall, 2.6 paa. Cincinnati dominated the country at 19.7 paa.
Field goal kickers have never really had a good stat with which to measure them by. So much depends on where you are kicking from. Leigh Tiffin from Alabama garnered All-American honors despite missing 4 extra points and making 24 of his 30 field goals from inside 40 yards. Meanwhile in the same conference, Blair Walsh from Georgia makes a nation leading 12 field goals of 40 yards or longer versus only one miss from the same distance and is perfect on extra points and doesn’t even sniff All-American. Walsh’s performance gave Georgia 21.6 paa where Tiffin providing a respectable but not that close 7.4 paa. So how do you evaluate kickers. The easiest way would be to put up a chart.
A nice straight line, right? Look closely at the attempts and something changes around the 30 yard line. With the 30 as a general benchmark, coaches become more and more reluctant to trot the kicker out from that distance or beyond. With this selection bias, the true field goal percentage of field goals from 47 yards and longer is almost certainly overstated. By only getting attempts from the better kickers, the percentage is artificially high.
So now it’s time for a new chart, right?
Using the assumed misses from coaches foregoing the field goal, the true field goal percent drops. The straight line out to the 25-30 yard line goes south fast as the distance is stretched.
Last year Michigan’s kicking game came in at 44th with 1.6 paa on the season.
In attempting to determine how much coaches were passing up field goals in “no man’s land” I did also produce one more interesting but not necessarily special teams chart. The 4th down decision chart.
Between the 3 and 25 yard lines its a consistent trend, 80-85% field goal attempt 15-20 % go for the touchdown. It rises to 60/40 at the 2 and flips to 20/80 at the 1. The going for it actually peaks between 30 and 35 as more coaches don’t really know what to do so they just go for it.
Final Thoughts and Notes
There are a couple of things not included in this analysis. Exception plays such as blocked punts and kicks and their returns, fumbled returns (not that those ever happen) and the like are all excluded. These play obviously have huge impacts on the game in which they occur but they are so rare and have little or no impact on other plays of that type that they are excluded . The very best teams in the country may block 4-5 kicks in a season and for all but a few teams, these plays have virtually no net effect.
In general, for any one special team unit, the difference between average and the best and worst is about 2 touchdowns in either direction over the course of the season. Being the best at special teams is worth about a half game a season versus the average team and a full game a season versus the worst team. If there is one unit to excel at, the opportunity is on the kickoff team where last year there was a 53 point differential between the best (Nebraska) and the worst (West Viriginia).
Hello everyone, Six Zero here with the latest installment of:
SIX QUESTIONS WITH MISOPOGON
Inspired by the official site’s “Two Minute Drill” series and TomVH’s famous Q&A segments with potential recruits, this new weekly feature highlights some of the more famous personalities here at MGoBlog. Without pulling back the infamous veil of blog anonymity, we’ll get to know some of your favorite posters better and possibly shed some light on their definition of why it’s so darn Great, To Be, A Michigan Wolverine.
After previous features on TomVH and formerly anonymous, it was high time
we caught up with one of the most celebrated posters of the MGoCommunity.
And if you don’t believe me, just ask ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. That’s right,
it was my pleasure to sit down this week with Misopogon.
WARNING: I’ll admit, it’s not a brief interview-- but if that comes as a surprise
to you, then you mustn’t be that familiar with Misopogon’s work. And if you are,
you won’t care, because he’s a pretty interesting guy and a hell of a writer:
1. Semi-Annual MGoAwards Post of the Year Winner. Bumped to the front page too many times to recall. And yes, recently referenced by the Worldwide Leader In Sports. Your MGoBlog contributions are practically unparalleled. How did you discover the blog in the first place?
First of all I want to thank NBC and the American People...oh, we're not on TV. Sweet. [de-pants].
I discovered MGoBlog the day of the Northwestern game in 2007, back when old farts would say "I remember the Haloscan days" the way that old farts today say "I remember the blogspot days."
It was also when Comcast and the Big Ten Network were having their great dick-off, which, being a rather irate Comcast customer, meant I had to find a bar near my house to watch the game. At a bar in Berkeley, I ran into an old fraternity brother, who told me I gotta read this site because "After the Appalachian State Game, which he calls 'The Horror,' the dude made the whole site pink and put up kittens!"
We also remembered the same Every Three Weekly article by Brian from our college years in which Cook drew up several c. 2000 Michigan plays, such as "A-Train Hit in the Backfield," "Don't Let Us Stop You On Your Way to the End-Zone," and "Epstein Misses a Field Goal" (that's about all I ever remembered from the Every Three Weekly).
Anyhoosier, that night I read every U.F.R. Brian had ever posted (they were easier to get at back then). I lurked and lurked until I was moved to write an emo October crystal ball eulogy for 2008, in which both Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver get killed off and every other good player is injured. I sent it to Brian as an e-mail, and he said "you should post this as a Diary." So I did, and took shit from ameed for killing off our two QB recruits, and was about to go back to reserving my loggorhea for e-mails to my friends until some guy said my handle was cool. So I stayed.
2. Before we go any further, I’d like to get something out in the open, and in fact I believe I once asked you this several months ago in a thread. Where does the name “Misopogon” come from?
This is one of those great life mysteries, like where the Captain's from in Saving Private Ryan. $10 bucks gets you in.
Actually, I think I've answered it twice, once in a thread that I suspect was written specifically to draw me out.
The name far pre-dates MGoBlog, back to an ancient history course I took at M. Since about 2002 it's been my universal Internet persona (if Morpheus shows up and gives me the red pill, I guess that would be what everyone calls me).
Skip this paragraph if you already know, or have Googled it before: It's from a play that translates as "Beard-hater" written by then-Roman Emperor Julian "the Apostate." Jules was raised a Christian (who all shaved) but then became the biggest supporter for paganism in the empire, and so grew a kickin' beard. He made a visit to Antioch, where they generally hated his guts, and were staging plays to make fun of him. So he wrote his own play making fun of himself, called "The Misopogon."
It was so me: Beard, check. Philosophical, check. Self-deprecating, check. Guy who was educated as a Lloydist who then turned apostate, converting wholly to the Church of Rod, check. Emperor of Rome: working on it. He also was one of a few military leaders to try the queme-los-barcos idea, which ended very badly.
Plus, it's kind of a Michigan homophone.
(Note to readers: Insert random
' homophone' joke here. We'll move on.)
3. Certainly your grand opus has been the ‘Decimated Defense’ series. How long does it take you to put one of these posts together, especially with all the recent updated graphs and even Photoshop and/or Godfather work?
It totally depends on the content. With something that takes statisticating, like DDII and DDIII, it usually starts with me goofing around making spreadsheets. There's plenty of spreadsheets I've made while screwing around that never make it to a Diary. Eventually, one hits a critical mass of information usefulness, and I go to Misopogal to hash out a rhetorical theme to attach to it.
With the DD series in particular, it started around the time Cissoko left, with a list of post-Rod attrition on an MSU blog right, to which I added all of the 2005-'09 attrition to see, just for myself, all of the guys we had lost. Then I wondered if other schools had the same kind of attrition, so I compared Ohio State. Then Notre Dame. Yada.
The actual writing of the diary usually comes much later. With this most recent one, the spreadsheet was something I had been playing around with since the week before signing day. The last changes were made over a week ago. Once I get going, it's hard for me to stop. I spent much of Saturday afternoon writing parts, then we had a Mommaday breakfast all morning on Sunday, then I was back writing for a few hours Sunday afternoon, went to a Mommaday dinner, then I came home and finished it by like midnight. When we were at Misopogal's mom's place, her family asked if I was okay, cause I seemed in a daze, and Misopogal was like "he's in the middle of a blog."
It's kind of obsessive, I know. Once my fingers hit the keyboard, as anyone on my e-mail list will tell you, it's hard to peel them away. I tend to get lost in my parentheses; the "Countenance More in Sorrow..." blog is an example of what happens when I just sit down to write and get utterly lost. You know how Lactantius was bad about really long parantheticals? -- now picture someone giving him the unlimited parchment of the Internet.
As for the pics: I try to have a lot of pretty charts and images and stuff mostly to cover up the uselessness of my actual information next to that of guys like Sharik, who actually knows x's and o's, or the Mathlete, who knows more about statistics than I do, which is snippets from Stats 401.
If you look critically at my stuff, it's really just a pretty repackaging of others' work, like comparing freely available recruiting lists (Rivals did all the legwork), or taking the Hennecharts and making metrics out of them (Brian's UFRs did the hard part). Without the pretty distractions, I'd just be a human tl;dr.
The amount of time that goes into making them has been growing because I feel like I've established a ridiculous level of quality with the previous diaries, and want to maintain that level.
How, if all, has your scientific approach on ‘Decimated Defense’ changed your perception of the team? And if the actual coaching staff inexplicably asked if you could offer any analysis or advice, what would you say?
The thing about the Decimated Defense -- and I think this is really really important for understanding that series -- is that it doesn't change perceptions one bit. It's all just a great big confirmation of what we already know or suspected from watching recruiting and attrition over the years.
Do you need me to tell you that Michigan recruits better players than MSU? Or that attrition made Michigan's depth chart ludicrously thin in 2009? Or that recruiting a lot of players of high rating will yield a better team? No. It's just an affirmation, collecting all the data that you've already internalized into an argument.
Not that I think such things are useless. On the contrary, I think things that we take as givens are those that are most in need of re-proof. Otherwise, when we debate them, we're just giving our party line, and they're giving their party line. If we're right, we oughtta be the ones with the facts to back it up. The best you can accomplish with the DD series is to use it as a response to every asswipe poster after a Rittenberg column, minus the Summer Glau sig: "Oh, you think that? Well read <link>this</a>."
If Coach Rod asked me for any analysis or advice I would point him to Excalibur's chart that shows pretty conclusively that you get further with an A defense and B offense than the reverse, and to adjust his recruiting focus accordingly. I guess. I'm much better at entertaining fans than telling coaches what to do. Rich Rod knows more about football than 99 percent of professional football coaches -- what can I offer? If he's interested in getting a Jew to do his sabermetrics, and I think that would not be a bad idea, there's better ones than me. I'm just the guy who can stick his face on a Godfather cover.
Hey-- sometimes we all assume that no one of significance is reading this stuff, but you never know. Rich might love him some Shredder artwork on a rainy day, or read our work when he doesn't want to sift through the naysaying media's perspective.
4. So you obviously possess a talent for writing, and making words actually say meaningful things-- without divulging too much information, what sort of work do you do for a living?
I'm the publisher of a trade magazine. We take stuff written in the trade journals, which come out as 25-page academic papers that would tl;dr anyone not paid to read them, and synthesize it into practical language that our readers can take to their bosses and say "look-see, we need to get this technology because it will make us monnney." I write the words "climate change" a lot, and sometimes I go up to podiums in washed out hotel conference rooms and say the words "climate change" because there's not a lot of guys out there who are saying or writing that word and not trying to piss someone off.
I also still do some freelance (for beer money) in Michigan Hockey. Hopefully Phil will publish my Herm to Hockeytown article in the next issue, because I'm really proud of it: unlike most Herm to Hockeytown articles, mine actually asks Herm a question or two about hockey.
Wow—all that writing must work up an appetite. So ,as always, it is time to describe the perfect meal.
My pre-game special: Blimpy Triad with grilled onions and mushrooms, wedge fries and an IBC root beer. If I could bend space-time, I would add the 2009 bitter at The White Horse pub in Oxford.
Dessert: Misopogal's banana bread, which I call "bananner bread." It's like carmelized, candy-covered chocolatey bread-goo.
5. Can you explain why you are a Michigan fan?
Two events from childhood did it.
1. Every recess from 2nd grade through 4th grade (by 5th grade the Bad Boys turned us onto basketball) the boys in my grade would all play football. Each game would begin with picking teams, followed by 5 minutes of arguing over the fairness of the teams, followed by another 5 minutes of arguing which team gets to be "Michigan."
The acknowledged best athlete of 2nd grade (who ironically went on to be the mouthy Jewish kid on State's 2000 hoops championship team), back then would self-narrate his play at quarterback, calling himself Harbaugh. Players moving the football wouldn't just catch the ball and run: they had to announce which Michigan player they were when they did it. If you got the ball downfield you yelled "I'm Desmond Howard!" If you got a short pass, you yelled "I'M TONY BOLES" or "JARROD BUNCH!" or "LEEROY HOARD" and tried to bulldoze someone.
Only Jon Wills was Jamie Morris.
I don't think we knew MSU existed; enemies were Notre Dame or Ohio State or, because the second-best athlete in our class was from Cali, UCLA.
2. This sealed it: when I was 11, I was invited to spend a long weekend with my cousin, then an engineering student in Ann Arbor. We had the best pancakes I ever tasted at this place just west of the Nickels Arcade, then went to watch Desmond Howard singlehandedly demolish Indiana. After the game we bought a used copy of Alice in Wonderland from that book dude on State St., then warmed up over hot cider at the Brown Jug. After, I splayed out on a sleeping bag next to the couch in his apartment watching his two female roommates walk around naked. And I was like "This is it; I wanna go to Michigan."
Course, when I got there, the pancake place had become a bicycle store, Dez had gone on to the NFL, the Brown Jug no longer even remembered serving hot cider, and all the women were wearing clothes. But by then it was far too late. I was hooked.
6. What a story-- today I think that's called an SEC Official Recruit Visit. Finally, the last staple question, who's your all-time favorite Wolverine?
I bet this is true for every man: getting from 8 years old to 11 takes twice as long as it does to get from 21 to 30. For me, it just so happened that Desmond Howard was there for that entire childhood epoch (as was Alan Trammel), and thus got indelibly etched into my psyche.
In Heaven, I'm told, there's a room where you can go and watch Desmond Howard make plays for eternity. On Sundays, God has a deal worked out with the Devil to bus some of hell's overflow Ohio State fans to watch with you.
I don’t exactly recall when this piece ceased to be a Six Zero interview and became a full-fledged Misopogon creation, but I enjoyed being along for the ride. The more I do these pieces, the easier it is to see that the most passionate and entertaining MGoBlog members play their part simply because Michigan is such a deeply rooted part of who they are. MGoBlog is not just a web site, not a ‘blog;’ instead, it’s a venue for our fandom, an audience for our partisan opinions, and a place for all of us to let the Wolverine inside us breathe and run free and growl and type “Sparty, Nooo!”
Lastly, it’s a community, one full of colorful individuals that mere names and
avatars rarely truly reveal. I hope you’re enjoying getting to know some of them,
and I’ll see you next week for another exciting installment of MGoProfile!
Michigan Men's Lacrosse advanced to the quarterfinals of the MCLA National Championship Tournament with a 19-3 victory over Texas State yesterday afternoon. They had to wait until today to find out who their second-round opponent would be, as last night's Michigan State/BYU game was delayed due to inclement weather.
Michigan, as expected, dominated Texas State for a 19-3 victory. Every healthy player got some game action, with ten of them scoring (the official site recap says eleven, but I don't think that's right). Here's the goal breakdown:
- Josh Ein: 3
- Svet Tintchev: 3
- Thomas Paras: 3
- Trevor Yealy: 2
- Jamison Goldberg: 2
- Clark McIntyre: 2
- Michael Bartomioli: 1
- Harrison Freid: 1
- Brent Kirshner: 1
- Willie Steenland: 1
Michigan dominated every category, with double the numbers of shots and groundballs of Texas State, a 76.9% success rate on faceoffs, and a nearly-perfect 23 of 24 on clears, while holding the Bobcats to an abysmal 13 of 32.
In goal, Andrew Fowler got the start, leaving me still confused as to which goalie is actually Michigan's #1, despite Mark Stone starting most of the year. Coach John Paul had the following to say:
“We go through his week with two great goalies and we just want to have the right goalie in at the right time to give us the best opportunity to win that game. We’re focused on the quarters and there are some things that BYU and Michigan State do that might result in Fowler doing a little bit better of a job for us, but after that it’s wide open again. Regardless, we’ve been in this situation for two years now and we have total confidence in both goalies.”
Fowler replaced Stone at halftime in the most recent contest against Michigan State, and fared much better (57% saves on 7 chances to Stone's 38% on 13 chances). Fowler was the team's #1 goalie through most of last year, a foot injury aside, but hasn't played nearly as much this season. From the sounds of it, he'll get the start regardless of tomorrow's opponent.
Their game was rained out last night, but Michigan State and BYU resumed play today, and BYU came away with a 13-8 victory. The teams traded opening goals, but then BYU went on a run to build a substantial lead in the first half. Michigan State clawed back, but was unable to get within legitimate striking distance.
Of note coming out of that game is the fact that one of BYU's team leaders, senior midfielder (1st-Team All-Conference) Elliott Grow, sustained a shoulder injury in the first half and did not return to the game. Though it's likely his absence was just precautionary, it would be a major boon to the Wolverines if BYU's leading goal-scorer AND assist man missed the game tomorrow.
In addition to Grow, the Cougars are led in scoring by a trio of sophomores in attacks Kent Mann and Corey Gunderson, and (1st-Team All-Conference) midfielder Andrew Harding. All have a good balance between scoring and assisting, which has benefitted their classmate Jared Houghton, a midfielder with 25 goals and only 5 assists. In goal, senior Will Hilton has been the man, saving exactly 50% of shots faced, and allowing opponents just under eight goals per game. Junior middie Daniel Cole leads the team in ground balls with 103, followed by (1st-Team All-Conference) LSM Britton Cone with 99. Cole is also the team's faceoff specialist, earning second-team all-conference honors.
Last time these two teams played, Michigan was without several key players, who were serving a one-game suspension. Still, the Wolverines prevailed on the road, with a 13-9 victory in Provo. BYU built an early 3-0 lead, but Michigan stormed back with six consecutive goals going into halftime. The Cougars managed to tie it up early in the third, but Michigan ended the game on a 7-3 run to secure the victory. Kent Mann, Jared Houghton, and Corey Gunderson all scored a pair of goals for BYU, and Elliot Grow added one, to go along with five assists. The Wolverines were led by Trevor Yealy and Thomas Paras with four goals apiece. Paras also added three assists. Mark Stone went the distance n the cage.
Michigan will have a couple big advantages in this game based on the delay of the Michigan State/BYU contest. First, the Wolverines have an extra day of rest to recuperate after yesterday's wun over Texas State. With a crowded schedule over the weekend, that rest day will help them stay fresh for this important contest, a luxury the opponent doesn't have. Secondly, the Wolverines had a chance to see the opponent in person one last time, against top competition, for an extra scouting opportunity.
I have a hard time picking against Michigan in this game, given the extra day of rest and the fact that BYU's best player might not be 100%. It should be a hard-fought battle, but I see a 14-8 Wolverines victory.
In my tournament preview, I selected winners for every game of the tournament. Some of the games that I thought of as "gimmies" for the top seeds weren't the expected blowouts, as Arizona State only beat Cal Poly 10-5 and Colorado State put in a couple late goals to edge Boston College 10-7, but those still all turned out the way I thought they would.
As I predicted, Simon Fraser did indeed upset #7 seed Florida State, and Duluth did get a comfortable victory over the Florida Gators on Tuesday. Michigan State's comeback bid against BYU fell short, leaving me perfect until the last result of the day. Oregon and Colorado battled to the end, requiring overtime to settle the 11-v-6 game. Colorado scored the sudden-death goal, keeping my predictions perfect.
No reason to change now, and I'll keep my second-round predictions steady. That's Michigan over BYU, Chapman over Duluth, Arizona State over Colorado, and Colorado State over Simon Fraser.
I hear a few people calling the BigTen behind the times, even Sean and Terp on 96.1 made a few sarcastic jokes at the start of the day about the BigTen not being progressive and how this move is so shocking for this conference. I don't know what these people could possibly be thinking. There isn't anything further from reality.
The BigTen is at the forefront more so than any other conference out there. Case in point:
1) The BigTen was the first NCAA conference to initiate Instant Replay for football games. Now all conferences have copied the success of the BigTen and implemented it to the point where it is an NCAA wideregulation.
2) The BigTen was the first conference to start its own TV network and force its way into the market. The financial success has set up the conference nicely in the future and other conferences are now once again set up to play copy cat as they try to create their own network.
3) The BigTen from top to bottom has the best academics in the FBS (Div1A). The BigTen is the only FBS conference to have all of its members ranked in Newsweek's Top 100 Universities and the CIC is a powerhouse of Research on the Global scale. This conference + the University of Chicago have always put academics and research as a strong priority within the schools. The BigTen is at the forefront of academic research there is no dispute about that.
4) Canham is the first AD to act like a modern AD....$$$ Once again, the BigTen at the forefront of the modern era.
5) The BigTen has the three largest college football stadiums...#1, #2, and #3 in capacity...always pushing to new heights.
6) The BigTen has the strongest history and one of the most progressive revenue sharing programs of any conference. Other conferences are changing over to the BigTen style of having a strong revenue sharing program. In terms of money in a conference, no one is more progressive.
7) Now apparently the BigTen is making the push in creating super conferences if you believe the rumors of a 14 or 16 school conference. If so...other conferences will most definately follow suit and once again the BigTen will be on the cutting edge of the trends in football.
I wrote into the show and made these points, I don't know if they read it, because I had other appointments and couldn't listen any more. However, we have a very proud conference history of being the leaders that bring about change nationwide. Even the 3 yards and a cloud of dust still existing today is a bunch of tripe...the BigTen has many unique offenses like Purdue's 'basketball on turf' and Northwestern's spread. Heck even, 'conservative' Carr had some spectacular years of passing offensive stats and games.
The obvious headline: Charlie Davies has missed the World Cup squad, which is unfortunate for both him and the team because it means the looming presence of Conor Casey and Eddie Johnson hit the 30-man provisional squad. An off the cuff assessment of the roster. Locks in bold, panic relative to the scale of "can we get out of the group"?
Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan
This is the opposite of Thunderdome: three men enter, three men leave. Howard will start every US game unless he gets a Tourette's-induced red.
Projected starter: Howard.
Panic level: Minimal.
Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein, Heath Pearce, Chad Marshall
The Nats will probably choose at least two of the non-locks. One, sadly, will be a dedicated left back. This means the Hero of Honduras, Jonathan Bornstein, is a lock. I didn't put him in bold because I don't want him to play, but he's basically in bold. With Spector and Bocanegra carrying tons of experience at left back in high-level leagues, it probably won't matter. If it's Bocanegra there the US isn't going to get much offense out of that spot, but that should free Spector up to be a cross-bombing winger type of defender.
Non-locks on the plane: Bornstein, Goodson. Marshall's been injured and the Nats will be looking for a central defender with some recent playing time as a backup.
Projected starters: Bocanegra, Onyewu, DeMerit, Spector. No matter who goes out with injury or card accumulation, Cherundolo draws into the lineup next; Spector flips to the left and Bocanegra draws inside.
Panic level: Call it a three. Onyewu's travelling with Milan and is fully healthy but has got to be rusty after his injury layoff. And DeMerit is a fine one-on-one defender but a guy who gives up possession really easily; I'd be more comfortable with the more composed Bocanegra in the middle and someone functional at left back. You could see Spector/Bocanegra/Onyewu/DeMerit against high-pressure teams without threatening forwards.
Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Alejandro Bedoya, DaMarcus Beasley, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers
Holden has resumed playing for Bolton and is healthy after the unnecessary Nigel De Jong tackle that broke a bone in his foot. He's the only right-sided midfielder other than Dempsey who's seen meaningful caps and will be an obvious late sub if and when the Nats replicate the late Dempsey-to-striker move that was so successful at the Confederations Cup.
The rest of the locks are obvious: Donovan and Dempsey are the highest-profile players the US has, Bradley has been locked into the starting lineup when not on card accumulation suspensions, and Clark and Edu are flexible ball-winners who play in either impressive Euro leagues (Clark, who just got a three-year extension from his Bundesliga team) or impressive teams (Edu, at Rangers).
From there you've got a (slightly? mostly?) rejuvenated Beasley, a couple of attacking midfielders who might help the US hold the ball if they could ever win it if they play without double destroyers, and fringe wingers.
Non-locks on the plane: Beasley, Feilhaber, Bedoya. Beasley can be a late defensive sub for Donovan if the US is trying to kill a lead and they need some speed. Feilhaber is the best and most trusted of the AM types; Bedoya is a winger playing well and the US has virtually none on the roster.
Projected starters: Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Edu. The fourth guy could be anyone, and if the US goes with five midfielders or sucks Dempsey up to forward Holden will almost certainly get the nod on the right.
Panic level: Also a three. Dempsey and Donovan are on fire, and Edu's re-emergence should create an athletic, reasonably proficient midfield.
Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Brian Ching, Edson Buddle, Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez
With Davies out, you have your choice between lumbering old hands with target forward reps (Ching, Casey), guys with no national team track record but crazy recent success (Buddle, Gomez), and Eddie Johnson. Yes, they have to pick three more of these guys.
Non-locks on the plane: Ching, Gomez, Casey. Ching and Casey are Bradley favorites and Ching has always had great chemistry with Donovan. Since Donovan's the most important guy on the team, anything that makes him more effective takes priority. Gomez just finished lighting up a much better league than MLS, which Buddle is lighting up. But the again Buddle is playing with Donovan. I'd rather see Buddle; Bradley will probably go with Casey.
Projected Starters: Altidore, Ching.
Panic level: does this thing go up to 11?
Notes: 191-96-2 All Time, Last year was a 1-2 series loss, Michigan
taking the last game. Game has been rained out and will not be made up.
Wednesday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
|Stats||Audio (MGo)||BTN.com ($)|
Notes: The first of 4 games streamed this week, and a 5th to start next week .
My guess is Miller with the start.
Due to the limited 8 week conference schedule in the Big Ten, every year, one team is dropped off the conference schedule. There they stay for a two year conference hiatus, before returning for the next 18 years or otherwise depending on things working out in your hypothetical expansion rumor of the week.
This year, it's Michigan State's turn to rotate off the conference regular season slate. To keep the rivalry fresh, the two teams will tango in a mid-week home-and-home series opening Tuesday in East Lansing.
The Spartans had quite high hopes coming out of the first two seasons, even being a fringe ranked team, but they have suffered a near humiliating collapse over the last two weeks, falling from first place in conference to last. They're still a dangerous team, especially if Michigan were to face them on the weekend, but like any other team in the mid-week, nothing is a sure bet.
This series is absolutely meaningless from a conference tournament point of view, but no game against the Spartans will ever be taken lightly in these parts. So with that, we'll move to the slightly abbreviated team preview after the jump.