"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
For each player, Brian assigns a plus/minus total, and thus, an opportunity for a simple visualization of each player's performance over the course of the year. Ignored for now: the pressure/coverage/tackling metrics. Just player performance, pure and simple.
So, you think this calls for a ... hmm ... graph?
A little explanation. Each game's defensive per-player ratings are shown. For a particular game (say, "Eastern"), each player's plus/minus is shown as a simple bar graph. Blue (to the right) shows a player's positive rating for the game, and Yellow (to the left) shows their negative rating. A single red dot shows the "net" rating for a player for a particular game (i.e., plus - minus); you want these to be right of the center axis! Per Brian's charts (Western, Notre Dame, Eastern, Indiana, MSU, Iowa), the players are grouped into three sets: Defensive Line, Linebackers, and Defensive Backs. Finally, within each grouping, players are ordered by the total number of positive plays they have made on the year (somewhat arbitrarily).
I'm not going to do much/any analysis of the data, but some obvious things do stand out. First (no surprise), Graham is a beast. That MSU performance is ridiculous! Second, the D-Line is a strength of the D and seemingly getting better, which bodes well. Third, linebacker play: ouch. But nice to see Ezeh with a net positive (red dot to the right) in the Iowa game; Stevie Brown has also done reasonably. Finally, D-backs: also some ouch, particularly against ND and Indiana (Cissoko unfortunately a big part of that). Now if we could just get Williams to shore up a bit...
Anyhow, that's it. Not too fancy, but I think a nice way to look at Brian's overall player grading. Now I'm sure you want to give some ... feedback?
(you fill this part in, or not)
After doing just one of these (MSU), took a break because work/family/school/life in general got in the way. But, seeing how this is kind of a big game, here are the notes on JoePa's press conference. No mention of brains, sadly.
On Forcier: Impressed by what Forcier has accomplished thus far as a freshman, although PSU didn't recruit him (no interest in the Lions). Says Forcier reminds him of Tebow with qualities like leadership and confidence, but with more finesse than power.
On injuries: Ako Poti will start at RT. Backup Nerraw McCormack, is "not 100%" this week.
Stephfon Green (RB) has a hurt ankle. Says it's "loose" and that he's a "maybe" for Saturday. Says not having Green would be a "big loss." Will probably go with Brandon Beachum and maybe Brent Carter to spell Royster.
On the M defense: Aggressive, a lot of different blitzes, but that has allowed opportunities for big plays.
On the M offense: Knows they have to stay disciplined when facing Michigan and all their different looks/formations. Forcier is tough because he "moves around a lot." Also mentions that they "stuck the other kid in there" against Iowa who "made the one mistake when he overthrew the kid..." Tough to prepare for two quarterbacks, but it's a fact of life. Robinson can really run, Forcier is more of a throw-first guy who can scramble and is "clever, very, very clever." But both kids can throw.
On the rivalry: There's a problem if "extra motivation" is needed in a game of this importance. Michigan has been playing well and been in every ball game, so need to practice well and play hard.
Doesn't think Michigan is a tough place to play. Cites some key plays from over the years, like the Tony Johnson out-of-bounds call (so THIS is where the fanbase gets it from!) and kicking to Breaston. Goes on to say that Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan are all tough places to play.
On the depth chart: Not sure which CB will start, AJ Wallace or Knowledge Timmons. Wallace played well last week against Minnesota covering Decker.
Now some random, non-game related items:
On being offered the Michigan job in 1968: Direct quote: "Don Canahm and I met...I think it was after the '68 season in Pittsburgh and we talked and he offered me the job when they hired Bo Schembechler. And once a year Don used to write me a letter and say, "Thanks!" "
On kids enrolling early: Doesn't like the practice and thinks it should be banned. Thinks kids should enjoy senior year. Does think it has been helpful to some programs.
On kids staying out of trouble: Some guy asked about kids staying out of trouble and the UConn CB who was stabbed. Says it was tragic, but that football players are no different than any other kids. Sometimes they make bad decisions. Doesn't remember knives from back in his day, just "guys making jack asses out of themselves."
Last week I railed on the Big 10 QBs pretty hard and although the larger issues are still present (highest ranked QB #32 in the nation), last week was a much better week for Big 10 signal callers - Lebron in cleats not included.
Performance of the week: Joey Elliott's performance in knocking of OSU takes the cake for this week. The unadjusted value of his performance was a big fat 0, not good not bad, but when you factor in the shut down nature of OSU's pass defense on the season, that zero turns into a Big 10 leading +13 and the By The Numbers performance of the week.
Player - QB - Season
|Daryll Clark||Penn State||6||4.90||5.55||137.01||234.33||25.40||7.64||61.41%||1.67||1.00|
|Kirk Cousins||Michigan State||5||4.69||6.65||138.99||220.00||21.00||7.91||64.03%||1.20||0.80|
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio State||7||2.12||2.64||128.43||167.00||68.29||7.35||55.97%||1.43||1.14|
|Keith Nichol||Michigan State||5||0.98||1.71||133.90||100.20||18.40||8.95||51.79%||0.60||0.60|
Daryll Clark (+5) is your newest Big 10 QB leader. Tate sits at 5th (+3).
One Big 10 running back eclipsed the 100 yard mark on the weekend and that was Evan Royster at Penn State. In addition to the yards, his +5 on the day was worth 2 more points than anyone else in the conference provided their team on Saturday. Evan Royster is your By The Numbers, Big 10 Running back of the week.
Player - RB - Season
|Evan Royster||Penn State||6||2.99||3.67||16.83||88.17||0.67||5.24||22.80|
|Larry Caper||Michigan State||6||1.42||1.79||11.50||50.67||1.00||4.41||44.00|
|Brandon Saine||Ohio State||7||0.63||1.28||10.00||54.43||0.00||5.44||23.83|
|Jordan Hall||Ohio State||3||-0.09||0.44||8.33||34.33||0.00||4.12|
|Dan Herron||Ohio State||5||-0.95||-0.22||13.00||44.60||1.00||3.43||17.00|
|Glenn Winston||Michigan State||5||-2.56||-2.06||10.80||36.00||0.40||3.33||6.00|
Carlos Brown (+3) maintains his lead on the conference with Evan Royster and Leshoure from Illinois in the +3 range as well. There is a 1.5 point dropoff from the top 3 to Michigan's second entry, Brandon Minor at #4.
Purdue carries the benefit of taking it to a pass a defense that had gone throughout the season largely unscathed. Keith Smith (+15) not only posted the best WR rating of the week for the Big 10, but the best of all FBS. This despite not actually finding the end zone in his 12 catch 125 yard day. Smith (+15) currently stands as the 5th best WR performance of the year when accounting for competition. Honorable Mention of the week goes to Blair White of MSU who finished second to Smith in the nation with a
+13, 12 catch 186 yards 2 TD performance against a much much weaker Northwestern pass defense.
Player - WR - Season
|Blair White||Michigan State||6||5.72||3.68||6.00||78.83||13.14||0.67||64.33%|
|Derek Moye||Penn State||6||5.32||2.27||4.00||68.00||17.00||0.50||42.72%|
|Devier Posey||Ohio State||7||4.96||1.96||4.29||50.71||11.83||0.57||39.64%|
|D Sanzenbacher||Ohio State||6||3.93||3.22||2.67||54.33||20.38||0.67||81.85%|
|B Cunningham||Michigan State||6||3.92||2.35||4.50||51.83||11.52||0.33||59.89%|
|Keshawn Martin||Michigan State||4||3.48||1.21||1.75||43.00||24.57||0.50||34.73%|
|Graham Zug||Penn State||5||3.23||2.43||4.00||46.60||11.65||0.40||75.15%|
Keith Smith's big weekend pushes him to the top of the overall rankings, as well. He sits over a point higher than Eric Decker of Minnesota.
Like most of the people who might be reading this diary entry, you probably thought the term, "Michigan Man", was coined by the late, great Bo Schembechler. Most of us believe Bo invented this term when he found out Bill Frieder had accepted an offer from another university (Arizona State University) during Michigan's run for a national championship back in 1989. Ostensibly, Bo was so annoyed with Coach Frieder over taking the job at ASU that he fired him on the spot stating, "A Michigan Man will coach this team!”, or something along those lines. Steve Fisher was promoted to interim Head Coach, Rumeal Robinson made those free throws against Seton Hall, and we were cutting down the nets. Everyone was happy. Well, except for Seton Hall, that is.
Thus was born the term, Michigan Man. Or so we thought.
When I Googlestalked the term, Michigan Man, this was the first result: DNA Tests Prove Michigan Man, Searching for Origins, Was Not Kidnapped Toddler. Although the gentleman in question was a man, and did reside in Michigan, I do not believe he is the quintessential Michigan Man I am seeking at this point.
Hmmm. Googlestalking was not proving to be entirely helpful. The Googlestalk images showed a wide array of rather interesting images including a gay Michigan Man. MVictors followed with the fifth listing, but they just announced that former U of M Quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, is not a Michigan Man. The listings go on, yada yada yada.
Imagine my surprise while reading Jeffry D. Wert's biography on George Armstrong Custer (Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer) when I found perhaps the true originator of the term, "Michigan Man", Republican Senator Jacob M. Howard. I know--Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.
When the Civil War broke out George Custer was a student at West Point and had not quite finished his studies there. (He was a terrible student with a plethora of disciplinary and academic problems—he even flunked his Calvary class.) But, war being war, the army needed men and Custer was a man, so off he went. Eventually Old George fell under the command of this Alfred Pleasonton guy who saw to it that his charge got elevated to the rank of General. (long story) However, this was kind of a interim or temporary assignment, kind of like what Steve Fisher got. In 1864, when it came time for the Senate to confirm Custer’s Generalship, a problem arose. Now, George Armstrong Custer was actually born in Ohio, and he was a Democrat just like his loud mouth father. Apparently, this did not sit well with the Republican Senator Howard. To quote Wert’s book, (page 132, second paragraph): “About January 5 or 6, Alfred Pleasonton confided to Custer that he had heard a rumor that Republican Senator Jacob M. Howard of Michigan, a member of the Military Affairs Committee, opposed the nomination because of Custer’s “youth” and of the fact that he was not “a Michigan Man.”
Custer subsequently wrote some letters to some influential people and sucked up enough to get his Generalship confirmed and he and Libby Bacon (his new wife) lived happily ever after. Well, until those Indian guys butchered him up, at least.
So, the true origination of the term, Michigan Man, did not come from Bo. He unwittingly (I am sure) stole it from Republican Senator Howard.
And, just in case you are wondering, Custer did lead the Michigan Wolverines. It says so right there in that book. The more you know!
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!