"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."
The announcers were talking about Tate Forcier hitting the wall this year late in the season. And I was wondering whether a whole team could hit the wall.
What has bothered me the most about this team this second half of the season is their complete inability to take advantage of opportunities and their tendency to collapse at the most inopportune times.
Obviously in the first four games (but also Michigan State and Iowa) it felt like they could still make plays when they needed to; like they were going to keep fighting until the end. I can take the losses of MSU and Iowa, like the wins against Indiana and ND, because it felt like we played hard and were in it right until the end.
But in this slide is just didn't feel that way. Whenever the defense played well the offense struggled. If the offense made a big play the defense immediately gave up one.
Today was just another example. Tate just inexplicably fumbles and gives Ohio State 7. We can't make a short FG. The defense plays well but the offense goes three and out. When we do move the ball Tate throws a pick in the endzone. The score may have been close but I never felt we were going to win this game - maybe that is my lack of faith - because we gave OSU the perfect set up: protect a lead and wait for Michigan to make a mistake. It worked.
Maybe it is because there are so many young players - Forcier is still a freshman after all - but it just feels like this team picks the worst possible time to make critical mistakes.
Ohio State is a good defense, and they played conservatively on offense, but five turnovers?!?! Three with the game hanging by a thread.
I don't know if it is inexperience, mental and physical exhaustion, or trying to do too much. But this team found ways to lose rather than finding ways to win and it wasn't always clear that it was due to lack of talent.
One thing I will be looking for next year is a sense that those who return will play smarter and within the system. I am not sure I can take another year of massive turnovers and the overall lack of poise and discipline.
P.S. For the record I am totally against firing RichRod. I think continuity is a must right now. We need as many returning players as we can get plus as many recruits as is possible. This team needs to continuing building not start over again.
I don't blame this inability to find ways to win games during conference play primarily on the coaches - the players were in a position to make plays but didn't. But I do think next year this team has to show composure and discipline or I will begin to wonder about coaching.
(Needless to say, that was the summer of '98, when I had National Championship hangover. it was a good time to say goodbye)
I think people have touched upon various aspects of Ohio State fandom, and have gotten their aspects quite correct. As Brian notes, most fans resemble Woody Hayes, and can condone a childish immaturity and subsequent disrespect.
Others have noted the lack of anything else notable in the Ohio sports world. The repeated failure of Cleveland area professional sports teams - and the lack of one in Columbus.
Some say that it is a lack of more than one rivalry game. While Michigan has bitter tests against MSU and ND as well, OSU has only the game. Obviously, their focus remains exclusively on their one bitter enemy - not divided among three.
Yes, these are all contributing factors. But the weirdest thing to me involves the role of non-student fandom in Ohio. I have actually met few Ohio State student fans. And those I have met, were mostly reasonable. But there is something weird about the condition of being an Ohioan that forces one to irrationality.
1) Thanksgiving, 1998.
I was at a party reunion over Thanksgiving with my high school class. None of them went one to OSU. My high school was a big funnel to Miami U (Not that Miami), and Ohio University (it was a private high school, and most kids were too smart to go to OSU). We had just lost 31-16 in Columbus. I arrived to the party to a chorus of jeering. None of these kids went to OSU, but felt compelled to act as if they did. When I called them out on it, all I got in return was "Fuck Michigan".
2) Thanksgiving, 2000.
My parents made a tradition of flying a Michigan flag over my childhood home for every football game, and every time I visited, a tradition they kept until they moved 2 years ago. We won, 38-26 in Columbus. I was working that weekend in Ann Arbor, and was watching the game at a friend's in Troy. The neighbors ingrate children chalked some derogatory messages on their sidewalk - "Fuck Michigan" and "Michigan Fags". My parents witnessed the chalking and confronted the parents. But the parents shrugged it off, saying it was part of the rivalry, and giving tacit approval that semi-hate speech, if against Michigan fans, is OK. BTW, the parents were not OSU graduates, nor did their children end up attending OSU either.
3) Octoberish, 2000, The game 1997, and some random party 2005.
In short, the three different episodes of substance I have had with OSU fans. In 2000, I was part of the Michigan Big Ten Bass Fishing Team (Big Ten Champions). We invited the lone OSU fisherman over for beers and had a reasonable evening with them before kicking their ass on the lake the next day.
In 1997, I was a freshman in Alice Lloyd. I was coming home from a party several sheets to the wind in the early morning hours when I saw a DPS officer telling three OSU students they couldn't sleep in their car on Observatory. I let them into the lounge on my floor and gave them a bathroom key, telling them that they were in Michigan now, and something about hospitality.
During a party in grad school at Michigan Tech, some kid walks into my house in an OSU hat. After engaging him in conversation, I find out that he is not only not an OSU alum, but only lived in Columbus for a short time. I go out of my way to keep his glass full and introduce him to girls. Point blank, I ask him if he would ever show the same hospitality to a Michigan fan. "No." was the answer.
Somehow, as great as the University of Michigan is, it does not inspire devotion to its residents. The most vocal part of the fan base is its students and alumni. In Ohio, every resident non-alum seems to display some sort of rabid, irrational defense of the football program. The students, who have actually seen a bit of education, are not as bad (usually). But what explains it?
Just Woody? No. He has been too dead and too irrelevant for too long.
No other game in town? Yeah, OSU has been good. But they have provided one National title, and a lot of tooth gnashing since.
Lack of a rivalry? Maybe some. But in recent years OSU has done a good job of scheduling respectable non-conference home and home series. It takes the early season focus off, at least.
So, yes, these initial 3 reason play a small role. But unless you have done hard time in Ohio, you may not be able to quite put your fingers on its pulse.
Cedar Point if as far north as it could get away. It's a state that struggles for a motto. While the cradle of presidents and coaches, it also nurses a historical abundance of serial killers.
It's a place with a huge inferiority complex.
Ohio knows it didn't deserve the rock and roll hall of fame. But they will defend it in Cleveland, as they still smart from their burning river and giving birth to the modern environmental movement.
Ohio still feels wounds from losing the Browns. The state supported building a new stadium before fixing the crumbling school system. Their reward? Mediocrity. And the Bengals.
But instead of the sports metropolis's of Cincinnati and Cleveland pulling the state apart, they are instead galvanized over the central location and figurehead that is tOSU Buckeyes.
It is my belief that a state with an identity crisis follows basic psychology, and has turned itself inward. They can circle the wagons around the scrap of identity that is OSU, and epitomized by a horseshoe. Yes, Cincinnati may be good now, but it is a fad that Ohioans know will pass, like Drew Carey and Skyline chili.
So with every punch thrown, 'Fuck Michigan' shirt sold, and blogosphere comment submitted, Ohio fans are treading a simple line: that college football proves the worth and relevance of their state and lives.
As I said, I got out. But I did some hard time.
Michigan football means a lot to me. But it is not my seasonal crutch to ameliorate my crappy life in a terrible state.
Ed. – First time since the early signing date that I've had open time to make a post. Sorry it's about a week and a half late. Now with 2 different updates.
Last week saw the early signing period for most of the Olympic sports including baseball. Michigan signed 4, which is a bit smaller than some of the recent classes, which are generally around 6. This class has some name recognition with it, but it's too early to start projecting major league draft status for these kids.
This is only a portion of the eventual recruiting class, but this appears to be a solid start with two solid pitchers in it, and some added outfield depth, both something Michigan is in the need of (you always need more pitching).
Michael O'Neill (OF, Ohio)
The name that will ring a bell for most of you baseball fans is Michael O'Neill, nephew to famed Yankee Paul O'Neill. From mgoblue:
[A] two-year varsity letterwinner at Olentangy Liberty High School, […] O'Neill earned all-conference and all-district first team honors as well as honorable mention all-state following his junior campaign. He was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .447 with a .500 on-base percentage and eight triples. He also stole a team-high 21 bases.
O'Neill was also recruited by Ohio State and Miami (OH). I haven't found much else on him. More will come when I do.
O'Neill (.447) has dizzying speed and he's not afraid to use it, stealing a school-record 21 bases in 2009 and regularly flashing the leather as the defensive anchor in center field.
Incoming freshman Patrick Biondi had the best chance of taking over center field in the near future, but O'Neill may give him a run for his money.
Mark Bass (SS, Florida)
Coach Maloney hasn't done much recruiting in Florida in the past, but it appears he has been making the rounds their this summer. He's even convinced some players down there into "buying some parkas":
Despite seeing little playing time with the Patriots in 2009 following a shoulder injury, Bass participated at the Perfect Game Showcase in Fort Myers in May where he caught the eye of Michigan head coach Rich Maloney.
It was their relationship that led Bass to the Wolverines over the University of Central Florida.
"I honestly never thought I was really going to go to a D-I school," said Bass, who will move from second base to shortstop at the next level. "But this summer, I was in the right place at the right time and met the right people.
"The deciding factor for me was the coach. He made a big impact on me and really liked what he was doing with the program."
Getting a kid to come play here over a competitive team from the South is almost a coup for Maloney. Central Florida isn't a powerhouse in Conference USA, but they are generally around the .500 mark. This is a great pick up to provide some long term depth in the middle infield. Right now, it looks like incoming freshman Derek Dennis will probably hold down a middle infield position with Anthony Toth over the next two seasons, and Bass should be in the mix by his redshirt junior year.
Plus, it sounds like he needs some strength and conditioning work. Maloney says:
"Mark is a 6-2 middle-infielder who brings great confidence, a good bat and good glove to our program," Maloney said. "I think as his body matures, with the help of our strength and conditioning program, he will have some very bright days ahead."
UPDATE II: Stories are popping up today, this time with pictures! Someone get that kid a real Michigan hat. Picture by awesomely named Bill Gamblin of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette.
The Santa Rosa Press Gazette reported on Mark Bass's signing not three hours from me posting my post. Apparently, the decision to go to Michigan over UCF was really close:
Mark Bass is looking for all the coats he can find as he is headed to Ann Arbor to play for Michigan.
For Bass, it is a time to get jackets and coats to prepare for the cold, but that doesn’t matter after he got to meet the coaches at Michigan.
“I wanted to go to the school on academics, but the coach saw me in Ft. Myers and asked me to think about Michigan,” said Bass. “I was about two days away from committing to UCF, but the coach (Rich Maloney) was a big decision over the others.”
Bass selected Michigan over UCF, Jacksonville, Sanford, Alabama Southern, Pensacola Junior College, and the University of West Florida.
Sounds like a little bit of snake oil right there.
Brett Winger (RHP, Florida)
Maloney snagged not one, but two Florida players over the summer, the second is right hander Brett Winger of Orlando's Olympia High School. From his summer ball team that finished 3rd in an elite national tournament:
Brett Winger, a strong bodied right handed pitcher from Olympia High School, has recently committed to play baseball at the University of Michigan. Brett is one of the most competitive players the Scorpions have had, and can always be counted on in big situations. He throws a heavy fastball in the upper 80s/lower 90s and compliments this will a late breaking slider and quality change. Brett also excels in the classroom, and Michigan's prestigous [sic] academic pedigree certainly appealed to him. Brett will look to make an immediate impact for the Wolverines and add to a rich history of success at the institution.
Perfectgame.org has similar praise in their Central Florida All-Junior team, and mentions of a new pitch he has been working on for his senior year as well:
He throws an effective slider for strikes that is still developing and a splitter/palm ball type changeup that dives down and out of the zone late. Winger's pitchability has increased over the last year and he is the ultimate competitor. If Winger continues to improve, there is no reason to think he won't be living in the 90s and be a dominant guy at the next level.
Depending on how his senior season goes, I think Winger is the most likely to be drafted out of all our players, but I don't think his junior year stats really indicate that he'd be drafted outside one of the late rounds, where it probably wouldn't affect his coming to Michigan.
Alex Lakatos (RHP, Grand Rapids, MI)
The only in-state player picked up in the early signing period is right hander Alex Lakatos out of Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, the same high school as current incoming freshman Derek Dennis.
Lakatos is a three-time varsity letterwinner […] two-time all-conference, all-district and all-area honoree, Lakatos added preseason Perfect Game All-America honors to his list of accolades prior to his junior campaign. He helped lead the Rangers to conference and district championships as a junior while posting an 8-2 record on the mound and hitting .450 with seven home runs. Lakatos has also spent the last four summers playing for the prestigious Diamonds/Maroons program, under the direction of Bill Peterson.
"Alex has good size (6-3, 200) and possesses a fastball that hovers at 90 miles per hour with an excellent slider," commented Maloney. "What I really like about Alex is his competitiveness. He has great presence on the mound and is also a great student, which fits our mode of what we look for in a balanced student-athlete. I believe Alex can be a difference-maker early in his career at Michigan."
But pitching isn't the only thing Alex is looking to do:
"More than anything, pitching got me to college. But I didn't want them looking at me only as a pitcher."
Lakatos, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander, might find it difficult to do both at the Division I level, but he had an outstanding junior season this spring on the mound and as a hitter.
He was 8-2 in 12 games as pitcher, posting a 1.65 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 55 innings. As a batter, Lakatos hit .414 with 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs. He drove in 36 runs and stole 13 bases in 34 games.
Lakatos said he also considered Michigan State, Central Michigan, Louisville, South Carolina, Northwestern and Coastal Carolina.
Lakatos wants to swing the bat, and that's why he's coming to Michigan. I'm not sure I see him cracking the outfield rotation any time soon, but he's definitely got an arm. He's already been clocked at 92 miles per hour on his fastball, and that was as a junior.
That list of schools is also pretty interesting. Louisville, South Carolina, and Coastal are all major players in college baseball. It's good to know Michigan does a good job of roping in talent.
(Note: This is my first diary and I'm relatively new to the mgocommunity. This is simply a portrait of my experiences within Michigan football and The Rivalry).
On The Eve of Battle
Today Michigan football is in a dark space. Hopes that flew beyond control early in the season have all but been brought to earth. In a way, I think everything that has happened has set Saturday's game up to be a barn burner. For one, the game is at noon, and even though I think the game was at noon last year it has been taken out of that slot in years past (unfortunately IMO). For all intents and purposes OSU has nothing to play for and they are doing their best to try to hype this game up, despite the fact that they are disrespecting the game by wearing those God awful throwbacks. That point aside, they've won The Game the past five years, they've wrapped up the Rose Bowl, and Michigan is on a skid to say the least. For all intents and purposes this game should not be close.
The beauty of it is that games aren't played on paper. On this very site there have been posts, and diaries, and threads all dedicated to breaking down every game in every way possible. I do this myself. It's only human nature to try to give oneself control and perspective in a situation where they have no direct impact on the outcome.
I've been a Michigan fan for as long as I can remember. I've been to The Big House a handful of times and hugged or high-fived complete strangers after every big play. I've shared in the heart breaking and soul crushing defeat when we outplayed Colorado only to have a hail mary answered (along with Mo going for two too damn much). When I found out Lloyd was retiring and Rich Rod was taking over I was excited and that excitement only increased after we dethroned Tebow in the Capital One Bowl showing an offense that had never been more exciting in the Carr era.
I didn't expect 2008 to go as bad as it did, but I wore my Michigan sweatshirt to work almost everyday in broad view of my coworkers at 4 a.m., many of home root for MSU or other schools. Continuing into this year, I have watched every game even to the point where I couldn't watch anymore. My story is only one in a million other stories told here and elsewhere that make my heart swell with pride to be a Michigan man even in the dark times.
It is just football to some, and I don't lose my perspective on life (at least I don't think) as I am active in ministry (that's the only mention I will make of religion going forward), but to me Michigan football is so much more. At times my obsession with Michigan football seems more like a drug than a medicine, especially in the dark times surrounding the program. It is still a diversion from some of the things happening in my own life, and for that I am greatful, as I lost the aforementioned job and live in Michigan where jobs are about as common as wins over the Buckeyes this decade (and don't think that didn't sting to type).
The one thing that really irks me though, is why I can remain supportive of our coach and team when so many others reflect their pain into the program, seemingly trying to rip it apart. My diary will not change that fact, and it will also not affect the outcome of tomorrow's game at high noon. I do have an illogical hope, however, and it is a seemingly baseless hope. Even ripped apart as I have felt since MSU as well as feeling hopeless since Illinois, I have felt some source of inspiration this week. I have told myself that it's just my Michigan bias combined with my Buckeye hate, and that still could be true, but I have come to the boards here and found similar hope.
I can't lie and say I haven't been critical of Rodriguez, but I have never thought it wise to fire him and never thought it a good thing to let my criticism affect my support. Though the predators in the media and in the Hell that is Coumbus are waiting for another opportunity to strike Michigan and coach Rod another blow, I am making an appeal on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the '69 rebirth of Michigan football.
Though we have no direct role in the outcome, I know the true fans will be doing everything they can to transfer their passion to the players. As much as we can we should not worry about the implications a loss or win can mean. I can only hope that the passion I feel is matched in preparation, in practice, in the locker room and in the game. I think the problems that have arisen have to do with the expectations we have all had being spoiled for too long. We will succeed again.
After the game tomorrow I will still wear my Michigan gear with pride, and not just because we have a good basketball team. Regardless of outcome, let's keep things in perspective and realize that as bad as things seem we will beat the Bucks again, be it this year or next year or in twenty. I only ask that we do what we can to support the team without letting our emotions cause us to put our energy in the wrong places. If you are putting energy into getting coach Rod fired, that is energy wasted that could be spent cheering the team on. I'd rather be positive when I don't have control than negative.
That's all I have to say, other than: Go Michigan! Beat the Bucks!
(hope this wasn't a waste of space, but if it is I will go back to just enjoying others content; I feel too strongly about tomorrow not to pass on my hope)
Rush OffenseMichigan Rush Offense: +2 (25th Nationally, 2nd Big Ten)
Ohio State Rush Defense: +2 (27, 3)
|New Mexico State||9||1.7||27||58||2.15||0|
After a slow start against Navy, Tresselball has been in full effect. Except for a mild let down vs Minnesota, Ohio State has been positive against the run since week 2. Michigan, on the other hand has been a bit all over the place this year. Michigan, although second in the Big 10 in rushing, has gone 4-4 in terms of positive and negative games vs non-MAC competition. On top of that, none of those 8 games have been within 3 points of 0.
Projected outcome: +0, 35 carries, 130 yards 1TD
Pass OffenseMichigan Pass Offense: +1 (44, 4)
Ohio State Pass Defense: +7 (9, 2)
|New Mexico State||9||5.6||16||0||1||16||7|
Ohio State presents a defense that, depending on how you look at it, either had a chink in the armor exposed last week to Iowa's backup qb, or a dominant pass defense that got a little complacent. Although this unit hasn't been as consistent as the rushing defense unit, it has generally wavered between good and great throughout the year.
Michigan hasn't been able to put up huge games (no Big 10 game as high as OSU's Big 10 average) but they have shown solid growth in the passing game over the last month or so, largely tied to the emergence of Roundtree.
Projected Outcome: -6, 18/30 175 yards 2 TD 1 INT
Michigan Rush Defense: -2 (96, 9)
Ohio State Rush Offense: +1 (33, 3)
|New Mexico State||9||6.1||47||313||6.7||3|
This is a unit that has killed Michigan all year long, and an Ohio State unit that has been their backbone. It is interesting to note that both teams have had 4 of their top 5 performances of the season in the last couple weeks. The difference is that Ohio State has gone from decent to really good and Michigan has gone from terrible to not totally terrible
Projected Outcome: -3, 45 carries 210 yards 3 TD
Pass DefenseMichigan Pass Defense: -1 (63, 7)
Ohio State Pass Offense: +0 (58, 7)
|New Mexico State||9||2.3||244||2||0||34||15|
The Michigan pass defense has a very strong negative trend throughout the season. The good news? is that it's can't get much worse. Seriously, the Wisconsin game was the 996th best performance of pass defense out of 1114 that I have ranked this year. The interesting thing about OSU is that with Tresselball this year, the more they throw, the worse they do. When the Buckeyes have thrown the ball less than 20 times, they average +2.2 and have had their two best passing games of the year. When they have thrown the ball more than 20 times, they have averaged -1.1 and had their 3 worst games of the year. You have to think that the gameplan is going to be to keep the ball on the ground. Although this could be a positive, efficient game for OSU through the air, the knowledge that our pass defense could only be exposed to a minimum of attempts sounds pretty good at this point.
Projected Outcome: -1, 15/24 160 yards 1 TD 0 INT
The Rest of the PictureKicking: Michigan
Michigan Kickoff: OSU
Ohio State Kickoff: Michigan
Michigan Punt: Michigan
Ohio State Punt: OSU
All Special Teams: Push
Pace: As we prepare for another fast vs slow, contrast in styles matchup on Saturday, I am wondering if picking up the pace could be a winning strategy? We are not the most talented team in this matchup and more possessions generally favors the better team, but I have to wonder if we can make the game move faster and take OSU out of their comfort zone (even if it exposes a weakness or three) if that could be a path to upset?
Turnovers: 55 points. That's the difference in value between Ohio State's turnover performance YTD (+38) vs Michigan's (-17). 55 points will get you a long way. It is also the hallmark of the grind it out strategy. You have to own the swing plays and there are no swing plays bigger than turnovers. Even with the large divide, there are positive signs. Michigan has only lost 21 points to interceptions thrown this year, which is best in the Big 10. And interceptions are where OSU has made their living this year, racking up a +54 on picks for the season. If Michigan can keep away from bad interceptions, and a pick up a lucky bounce or two, could be a ball game.
PredictionsMichigan 21 Ohio State 31
The regular numbers are pretty stacked against Michigan this week, but with the type of tight game Ohio State likes to play, a key turnover or special teams play could present a window of opportunity to steal one this weekend.
Minnesota 14 Iowa 27
Wisconsin 31 Northwestern 17
Purdue 28 Indiana 27
Penn St 28 Michigan St 24
UConn 28 Notre Dame 35