is there such a thing as an etsy genuis? if so, this is it.
If there is one team we all ought to be rooting for aside from Michigan this autumn, it is the Golden Domers at Notre Dame. Here is hoping they find a way to sneak 9 wins out of their watery schedule this season to we aren't facing another coach in South bend.
The one thing that Weis has done very well is bring in some elite level talent that hasn't been seen since Lou Holtz. Of the many things Weis hasn't done very well, a couple of them are particularly relevant for our purposes:
1) figure out how to develop players (e.g., Sam Young anyone?) and
2) put together a good team without the prior tutelage of Ty Willingham (who I suspect after this year will be far less hated in South Bend).
I enjoy the irony when Notre Dame fans rail against Rodriguez and Michigan for going 3-9 in 2008 in his first year (Weis went 3-9 in his 3rd year and 7-6 in his 4th WITH HIS OWN PLAYERS).
And the recruiting advantage over Michigan is seriously EXAGGERATED as well. True, the '08 class saw nearly every head to head battle go to Notre Dame, but the reality is that Weis had the trump card of immediate playing time, and Rodriguez only had about a month and a half to keep the current class together and identify more recruits--many of which we weren't in direct competition with ND for, save Martavious Odoms. More telling, is the way the '09 head-to-head battles with Notre Dame unfolded: Notre Dame signed (players that we offered): Alex Bullard, Chris Watt, Zach Martin, and Shaq Evans. Michigan signed (players that ND offered): William Campbell, Anthony LaLota, Craig Roh, and Michael Schofield.
Without the "playing time" card to play, Michigan and Notre Dame split 8 recruits down the middle. And, I would prefer the 4 that Michigan signed.
The end point is that it is in the interests of Michigan football for Charlie Weis to squeak out 9 wins this year and maybe even win a bowl game so we aren't facing Urban Meyer in South Bend every other year. With Charlie Weis, Notre Dame may sign some good players, but the vertical routes will occur at predictable intervals, Clausen will still be mediocre, the play-calling will be uninventive, and Notre Dame will remain soft (remember how McGuffie got off against ND last year? In hindsight, how weird is that to think about?).
With the NFL draft rapidly approaching and college football existing in a tantalizing “spring game and then random non-mandatory-but-if-you-plan-on-playing-you-better-show-up practices” realm until the fall, my mind began to wander
about football. Perhaps spurred on my Mel Kiper’s impeccable coif, I started to think about the NFL draft and the immense differences in how college and professional players are rated depending on who is providing the analysis.
With college players, the focus tends to be on the player's "fit" within a system, while in the NFL the focus seems to be
far more on a player's raw "numbers" and physical attributes. For example, the proliferation of spread-style offenses in college has made 5'-10" WR/quarks far more valuable than they are to a professional football team, while some CFB teams have moved away from the massive-but-speed-impaired OLs that still find homes on most NFL rosters. While there remains a significant number of skills that translate well no matter what person is doing the analysis, it does seem that being a star in college does not necessarily oneself of that success following you into the pros.
Now, that probably is not a revelation to most people, but it got me thinking about CFB All-Americans and how they
are evaluated by NFL scouts, the theory being that the highest-rated players tend to be drafted early. Every year, it always seemed like two or three All-Americans (usually QBs, but other positions as well) either were drafted in
the lower rounds, or not at all. It always struck me as odd how these guys can dominate the college game, oftentimes
against players who are later drafted before them, but still evaluated as borderline pros by NFL front offices.
With that in mind, I set out to determine how success in college translated to the NFL, broken down by position.
First, the set-up:
Set-up and caveats:
- Draft years: 2001-2008
- I used only the players from the first-team AP All-American list. My reasons are two-fold for selecting this particular cross-section of college football's elite.
- I chose the AP list because it is the one most commonly cited when discussing a player's collegiate success, and it seemed to have far less WTF selections compared to ones put out by the Coaches or TSN.
- I limited by analysis to the first team because those players were regarded as the "best" that year, and enough guys moved up and down the 1st, 2nd, and honorable mentions throughout their careers that it made
my head hurt trying to keep them all properly slotted.
- So you didn't get drafted... - Believe it or not, some All-Americans were not drafted by an NFL club (sorry, Mr. Shazor). In those few instances where a player went undrafted, I assigned them a round of 8 and an overall draft position of 256, which are 1 more than the respective limits of rounds and positions in the NFL draft.
- APs and FBs - In college, a position on the All-American team is reserved for an uber-athlete who, in most instances, is a kick/punt returner. In the NFL Draft, though, these players are listed at their "preferred" position.
Similarly, players are drafted as FBs even though the AA team does not feature such a position. So both those
categories are out. Note to those worried about these omissions corrupting my numbers - most of the APs were WRs
or RBs drafted around the same round and pick number as the rest of their position, while FBs never factored into
most AA teams and were drafted so low that they would have artificially depressed the numbers for whatever group -
RB or TE - I tried to shoehorn them into.
- The Lines - People may notice that I lumped defensive and offensive line players into two groups - DL
and OL - without regard for their position along said line. I know, this undoubtedly screwed with my numbers. The first problem is that the AA teams do not list separate positions on either line except at C. Sure, I could have gone based on the position they were drafted/listed at, but that might not be the position at which they attained AA status
while in college. So yeah, good LTs are going to be gone far sooner than good RGs, as will good DEs compared to good NTs, but I'm willing to accept that variance here. Furthermore, guys in college move around all the time, sometimes lining up as DE on one play, a hybrid linebacker the next, and on the inside as a tackle on another, all depending on the matchups. Similarly, while a great LT might not be moved around much, injuries and even particular formations may lead to guys bouncing around from G to T throughout the year, making a single position difficult to ascertain. So I bunched everyone into line play, and
I accept all criticisms that come with that decision.
- DBs - See above for my logic with bunching guys together. While the AA team does have a separate listing for safeties and cornerbacks, their variability of position (CB, S, or LB) at the draft made it difficult to determine where many of them fell. For example, Marlin Jackson was a CB while at UM, but has been more of a safety while in the pros. That seemed to happen more with DBs than any other position I followed, so I figured I might as well
lump them together and accept that the numbers would be a little skewed.
- Sample size - I know, I know. With samples of 7-8 players, of course one or two outliers are going to
knock everything out of whack. For that, I
apologize, but I am gainfully employed, recently married, and only have a finite number of hours a day to spend
surfing the Internet for All American teams
and yearly drafts. Take all of the numbers with a massive grain of salt; that said, the trends you'll see in the
numbers, at least to me, keep in line with
my expectations going into this project and match, I hope, with the conventional wisdom shared by others.
- Math: I'm a computer engineer from UM who was, at one point, decent with statistical analysis methods.
Over the years, though, my knowledge has retreated farther and farther in the recess of my mind, replaced with Family Guy quotes and the rules of eminent domain. As a result, I limited my analysis to average draft position for the All Americans, the average draft position for every player at that position (with the All Americans removed from the pool
so as to not skew the numbers), and standard deviations for both. Since my sample sizes were relatively small, the standard deviations are all over the place, and are practically useless beyond a "hey, that's interesting" viewpoint. I know there are other models and methods that might make more sense of this data, so look below for a link to part of my data (I can upload the full file if anyone really wants it).
My expectations - i.e. my uneducated beliefs about football:
Before jumping into the data, I'll quickly recount my expectations going into this little analysis.
- I've been Weinke'd - Though this was based mostly on my recollections of such college studs-turned-pro-duds as Chris Weinke (the greatest travesty in Heisman history), Jason White, Eric Crouch (not in sample), and Tim Tebow (jury is still out, but just saying...), I figured the QB position would show the greatest divergence between All American status and actual draft position. In college, where specialized systems are rampant and guys like Graham
Harrell, Colt Brennan, and Chris Leak can dominate despite clear deficiencies, it would make sense that they would
no fit snuggly into most pro systems and, as a result, drop in the draft.
- Fast little guys - I have always heard from the talking heads on ESPN, Fox Sports, etc. that the two
positions where the transition from college to the pros (outside of special teamers like Ks and Ps) is easiest is at RB and DB, especially for college corners. That makes sense to an extent, as those positions rely most heavily on pure athletic ability. So I expected to see the the greatest deviation in draft position at these two positions, with AAs
being drafted far higher than the "average" player at that position.
So on to the chart? Yeah, chart:
|Position||Count||Average Round||Average Draft Pick||Std Dev Round||Std Dev Draft Pick|
|C - CFB||8||4.5||135.38||2.78||101.15|
|C - NFL||51||4.88||152||1.84||66.72|
|DB - CFB||31||2.35||60.71||1.98||68.64|
|DB - NFL||356||4.23||127.82||1.93||69.35|
|DL - CFB||28||1.96||44.96||1.67||58.13|
|DL - NFL||317||4.24||127.64||2.06||73.73|
|K - CFB||6||5.33||163||2.5||90.92|
|K - NFL||15||5.87||183.27||1.19||50.53|
|LB - CFB||18||3||79.44||2.35||83.62|
|LB - NFL||234||4.32||130.36||1.81||67.14|
|OL - CFB||27||2.44||58.33||1.8||62.86|
|OL - NFL||260||4.67||143.92||1.92||69.99|
|P - CFB||7||5.29||165.71||1.98||70.33|
|P - NFL||12||5.33||163.17||1.15||45.01|
|QB - CFB||7||3||81.71||2.77||100.75|
|QB - NFL||101||4.2||126.04||2.14||77.71|
|RB - CFB||15||2.87||77||2.33||80.38|
|RB - NFL||138||4.29||131.53||2.08||76.91|
|TE - CFB||8||2.5||66.38||2.51||84.96|
|TE - NFL||112||4.57||142.23||1.91||69.89|
|WR - CFB||14||2.36||53.29||2.1||73.82|
|WR - NFL||245||4.44||136.22||2.03||74.51|
|AP - CFB||7||3.57||107||2.23||80.01|
|FB - NFL||31||5.16||160.94||1.39||53.33|
For individual draft positions of AAs and the NFL draft in general, click here.
So that was interesting. Some observations:
- Being an AA clearly helps your chances of being drafted. At every position, guys who were AAs were drafted
before the "average" player at that position. If one throws out Ks and Ps, in fact, most players AAs were drafted between 1 and 2 rounds before the average player, which amounted to millions of dollars in compensation and a far greater odds of making it on an NFL roster. So as a PSA - kids, try to be All Americans in college except...
- If you kick for a living and/or are used to having a guy's hands between your legs. Ps, Ks, and Cs received
comparatively small bumps in their draft stock for being AAs, though all three positions were drafted far later on average than other positions on the football field. While the special teamers really did not surprise me, one always hears how Cs are the smartest guys on the field and, as such, you would think such a commodity would be at a premium
come draft day. I will leave the explanation as to why Cs are drafted so much lower to those who know more about football than me.
- QBs on both side of the line struggle - You always hear about LBs being treated as the "QBs of the
defense," and at least on the AA team that seems to be true - both positions were consistently drafted lower than others. As I said above, sample size and what-not certainly had something to do with this theme, but the QB position in college is almost a different species compared to the NFL, so the divergence in draft status versus college success
doesn't really surprise me. LB was a bit more of a shock, but it does seem that LBs (and DEs) benefit the most
from the various systems run at the collegiate level as well as the relative strength of the line in front of them. If the DL can hold up the blockers from reaching that second level, it makes sense that free-flowing LBs are going to rack up huge tackle numbers that, inevitably, raise their national prominence. Plus, there does seem to be a
movement in the pros to draft smallish DEs in college to play LB in the pros, so maybe the LBs in college are getting squeezed down the line because of this phenomena as well. Again, smarter people than me can probably explain this better.
- DLs are rolling in the money (money!) - The old maxim is that you can't teach size and speed, and clearly NFL scouts have taken this to heart when evaluating DLs from college. The average AA DL is drafted before the end of the second round, which means the average DL is assured of millions before even stepping onto the football field. Furthermore, the standard deviation for the position was the lowest of all positions, meaning that most top college DLs
were gone on the first day of the draft. Even though some of these DLs are undoubtedly projects, it is clear that solid DLs in college are at a premium in the pros, and teams are willing to take fliers out on these physical freaks.
- OLs are not doing too badly either (um, slightly less money!) - Again, a premium on speed and size on one end would beget a premium on the guys on the other. Pancake factories and hulking bulls are evident in college and, it seems, are quickly snapped up by the pros as well. While OLs were drafted a little later on average than their DL counterparts, both sides have clearly benefited from the increased exposure and emphasis teams have placed on the
- DBs and RBs, plus WRs - I proferred the theory that DBs and RBs tend to possess skills that translate well between college and the pros, and as a result top players in college would be drafted early on in the pros because "you know what you are getting with them." Well, it looks like I was partly correct. Top DBs tend to get drafted early on, as the speed and size maxim held up. If you can run really fast backwards and then be able to jump really high to knock down a pass, you will likely dominate at every level of football. While there certainly are systems in both college and pro that can mask some deficiencies in speed and size, DB seems to be one of the positions where great athletes are easily identifiable and measurable. That aptitude shows up
pretty quickly on the college field and, apparently, in the eyes of pro scouts.
A similar story can be found for the men who most frequently match up against DBs: WRs. If you can run a 4.4 40 and stand 6-5 or more, you will certainly dominate college and, at least initially, be looked upon favorably by pro scouts. While there have certainly been a number of high-profile flubs from this group (looking at your, inmate #4587...I mean, Charles Rogers), there have also been some on-the-spot hits (Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Braylon - if
he remembers how to catch the football again). Plus, I think part of reputation surrounding WRs in the draft is
directly related to the incompetence of the Lions' front office, with an abnormally large number of turds floating in their punch bowl.
As for RBs, I think the reason they are drafted over such a dramatic range (check out the Std Dev) has to do with the fact that NFL GMs see them largely as replaceable parts, pieces that break down quickly and, thus, should only be highly paid if they are exceptional. The oft-quoted statistic is that starting RBs last about 3 years in the NFL, so most teams are loathe to spend a first- or second-round pick on that position unless they believe he will have a long, successful career. Another factor that may play a role in the draft deviation is that the running back position is being deemphasized on a number teams,
with more teams adopting a back-by-committee approach. With less of a focus on a single dominant workhorse, top backs are being drafted farther down the line. Finally, and I guess I'll call this the Ron Dayne-Javon Ringer scenario, some college RBs dominate because they run the ball an ungodly number of times, resulting in huge numbers at the expense of shortened pro careers. Pro scouts have likely noticed that some of these guys have well over a thousand
college carries on their legs before taking a snap in the pros, and again don't want to pay for players likely to
So that's about it from my end. I would love any comments or criticisms, so go crazy in the comments section
below. Furthermore, if you note some glaring flaw with my data and/or analysis, please point it out (but in a way that doesn't sound TOO condescending) as well.
Part 1 of 3, 10 games and 10 players to watch, as well as a brief recruiting synopsis.
5 Best Out of Conference Games:
5.) Arizona at Iowa, Sept. 19
A Pac-Ten Big Ten game with teams that could have maxed out last year and with both teams' stars (Arizona's Tuitama and Iowa's Greene) gone. Still if either team is to have another big year, a win here would do wonders. Stoops saved his job last year... sort of, and Ferentz has good security so there is more pressure on UA.
4.) Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis), Sept. 5
Illinois will face a moderately tough test at least their defense will. Gabbert should step into the quarterback job for the Tigers so it will be interesting to see how the Illini’s defense can hold up against a pass happy Big 12 team. Budding rivalry potential will be seen here too.
3.) California at Minnesota, Sept. 19
Minnesota shows of the new stadium nationally for the first time (they do play Air Force the week previous at home though). California brings in electric runner Jahvid Best and improving bowl team. Minnesota also brings in an improving bowl team. Also, this game could be a great measuring stick for the Big Ten and Pac-Ten.
2.) Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 12
The two most historic teams have been... well not up to standard. Obviously both teams will be there eventually. The question lies which team will get there first. It will be interesting if Tate’s Army (or Denard’s) will be able to run past an experienced defense bolstered by Manti Te’o, and if Clausen and co. can beat up on a young Michigan defense. Good doubleheader with the next game.
1.) USC at Ohio State, Sept. 12
Last year’s game brought me more glee than Christmas (maybe not but if it was a team other then USC it probably would), watching Tressel and his clowns look on as the Trojans ran roughshod over them was priceless. Will it be the same this year on a drunken night in Columbus? Eh… probably. Still the Buckeyes have a chance if the Trojan’s turn out to not have a quarterback, which in all probability they would. Still I admire them for scheduling them even if it means humiliation. Herbstreit will be fun to listen to as usual. More incoherent thought says that watching USC play far, far away from L.A. could give the Buckeyes an advantage.
5 Best In-Conference Games
5.) Michigan at Illinois, Oct. 31
Halloween night in Champaign brings two teams with potential this year, who struggled last year, into a somewhat revenge game (this is a theme) for the U of M defense who got run over, around, and past, on homecoming this year. Illinois looks to be a sleeper this year and there definitely will be fireworks (unless the Wolverines don’t put them up… but they probably will).
4.) Minnesota at Iowa, Nov. 21
Two darkhorses will face off on the last game of the year… at Iowa, which is a tough place for anyone to win…, except Iowa. A series of improbabilities could mean this game wins the Big Ten; it will probably have title implications one way or the other. It will be interesting to see if these teams pull out of the muck and emerge near the top, but this game looks good even if they don’t. This is all predicated on if another 55-0 game doesn't happen. I think Minnesota will be pissed that they got demolished in this rivalry game last year. Another revenge game.
3.) Ohio State at Penn State, Nov. 7
This game determined the Big Ten champion last year and this year might not be different. This will be another 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust game in the Big Ten and we’ll see if Pryor can win in a hostile environment and put the team on his shoulders. If he cannot, you can bet that the Wolverines will be licking their chops for his visit two weeks later.
2.) Iowa at Penn State, Sept. 26
A huge revenge game for Penn State, Iowa may have protected them from getting beat down by Florida or Oklahoma, but they sure don’t see it that way. Iowa may be forced to pass if they cannot find an heir to Shonn Greene and if Penn State really does noot have a secondary or a pass rush. Iowa’s defense may win this one on the road, but Penn State will be aiming to decapitate, maim, etc. so there is not certainty either way.
1.) Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 21
Ah, this game might be the indicator if Michigan’s fan base can get loud and provide a real top-notch home field advantage. All the factors are there: Baby Buckeyes, traitorous Justin Boren, and a losing streak bordering on unbelievable. If the stadium can be loud, it will be for this game. Tate’s or Denard’s (the starter should emerge by then) prowess will be vital in this game as the Wolverine offense looks better than the Buckeyes’ defense on paper. Ohio State-Michigan, last game of the year, 12:00 ABC, this is college football.
Players to Watch
10.) Daniel Dufrene, Sr. RB Illinois
He is poised for a big year, if and only if he can get the ball in Zook’s offense. Dufrene had slightly less than six yards per carry, so a 1000 yard season is viable… with a fair amount of attempts.
9.) Navarro Bowman, So. LB Penn State
He led the Nittany Lions in tackles last year and will help anchor an inexperienced defense with senior Sean Lee. The game winning forced fumble against Ohio State was indeed memorable. Bowman is also poised for a breakout year.
EDIT: His probation was extended until 2010 for admitted marijuana use. http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=ap-pennst-bowman&prov=ap...
8.) Adam Weber, Jr. QB Minnesota
A good year for Minnesota last year, but Weber is facing heat from MarQueis Gray at the QB spot. Statistically an average year last year, but he needs to step up big time to give Minnesota any realistic championship shot.
7.) Mike Kafka, Sr. QB Northwestern
Kafka replaces up and down longtime starter C.J. Bachér, but by all means looked the part of a star when he rushed for 217 yards and passed for 143 filling in for Bachér at Minnesota. Northwestern may slide a tad, but Kafka could make a name for himself.
6.) John Clay, So. RB Wisconsin
Clay surprisingly beat out P.J. Hill for the most rushing yards on the Big Ten’s most run heavy team. With another year of an unsettled QB spot, look for the Badgers to rely heavily on Clay.
5.) Ricki Stanzi, Jr. QB Iowa
This guy did not play pretty last year but he was efficient (134 passer rating) and got the job done. Without Greene he will need to do more in his second year as a starter. It can be noted that Iowa has notoriously poor WRs historically, this year will be similar.
4.) Isaiah “Juice” Williams, Sr. QB Illinois
Ever since the upset Homecoming win at Michigan State as a Freshman, Juice has been the man at Illinois. He could return Illinois to another Rose Bowl this year with his steadily growing numbers and hopefully not play USC.
3.) Sean Lee, Sr. LB Penn State
A Pre-Season All-America last year, Lee tore an ACL and thus is back for a 5th year in State College. Anchoring a young defense, this guy is a leader for the Defensive POY and Comeback POY in the Big Ten.
2.) Terrelle Pryor, So. QB Ohio State
Highly rated out of high school, he managed the game last year but was definitely not great (5-13). He is relied upon not heavily, but extremely heavily this year as the Buckeyes do not have another QB option as well as a young offense with unproven skill position players.
1.) Michigan QB (not Sheridan), Fr. QB Michigan
Be it Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson or even both, this position will clearly determine if the Wolverine Renaissance is upon us. Seriously, if they do well, Michigan could pull an upset or two. If not… well… it might be a year or two. They will definitely be one of the main storylines to watch nationally.
Recruiting Rankings (Rivals)
|Rank||Team||5 Stars||4 Stars||Total Prospects||Top Prospect|
|1||Ohio State||2||15||25||LB Dorian Bell|
|2||Michigan||1||13||22||DT Will Campbell|
|3||Michigan State||0||10||23||RB Edwin Baker|
|4||Penn State||0||7||27||WR Justin Brown|
|5||Illinois||0||7||23||DE Michael Buchanan|
|6||Minnesota||0||3||20||WR Hayo Carpenter|
|7||Wisconsin||0||5||21||WR Kraig Appleton|
|8||Northwestern||0||1||18||OL Patrick Ward|
|9||Indiana||0||0||19||DB Lawrence Barnett|
|10||Iowa||0||2||19||WR Keenan Davis|
|11||Purdue||0||1||20||RB Al-Terek McBurse|
It’s a topic that I am sure every Michigan fan has considered heading into this fall; after a disappointing 3-9 record last year, how many wins will the Wolverine’s have in 2009? Clearly there are an innumerable # of factors that can be considered and we are months from the opener verse Western Michigan. But it’s never too early to do a logical rundown of the 2009 schedule.
9/05 Western Michigan – last year’s Broncos enjoyed a good season in the MAC, finishing 6-2 in conference play and 9-4 overall. The results in the off season was that Western gave its coach Bill Cubit a new 5 year contract on the same day they lost to Rice 38-14 in the Texas Bowl. The team had great success at home (5-0), beat Illinois at Ford Field, and earned its second consecutive bowl appearance. Overall Western welcomes back 7 starters on Offense and 3 or 4 on Defense, and starting QB Tim Hiller. All joking aside regarding the last two home opener’s, this one should be a WIN – Michigan has superior talent to limit the WMU offense and the team should be very well prepared. Michigan, 1-0
9/12 Notre Dame – Michigan has enjoyed great success against ND in the last few years, and last years rain soaked game was the perfect storm for the young Michigan team. ND returns virtually their entire offense including Clausen and Tate, and a healthy # of defensive players. This is clearly a pivotal season for Weiss esp. after last year’s – MEH season (7-6) that included an embarrassing loss to Syracuse (adv. Mich DC). ND will be coming off their own opener against a good Nevada team with a high powered offense so there can be no assumption that both teams will be 1-0. Michigan dominated the last home game between these two and there will no doubt be a Clausen/Tate v. Stevie Brown moment. I like to think this one is a tossup in the end so I will handicap it. Michigan 1.5-.5
9/19 Eastern Michigan – I would like to think that this one should go smoothly, and that with two games under our belt this team should have an idea who is under center and there should be no problem with a EMU team that went 2-6 in conference and 3-9 overall (familiar?). Michigan 2.5-.5
9/26 Indiana, Big Ten opener, fourth straight home game, and a team Michigan desperately wishes was on its 2008 schedule (1-7, 3-9). At this point, both teams will have played WMU, so we will certainly have a measuring stick leading up to this game. IU no longer has a QB controversy, as Chappell will be their leader – Kellen Lewis has switched to WR…Reports indicate that IU has a new offense referred to as the “Pistol”, which involves shotgun, the tailback BEHIND the QB, and incorporates the no-huddle. WTF? Indiana has more to overcome than even Michigan does, and this is a home game… Michigan 3.5-.5
10/03 Michigan State, definitely one to circle on the early half of the schedule and the team should certainly be motivated after last year’s loss… For the team, it will be their first game away from Ann Arbor and little brother will certainly put up a big fight after last year’s win. The Spartans (9-4, 6-2) lost QB Brian Hoyer and RB Javon Ringer, but still have seven offensive and eight defensive starters back. Dantonio has recently signaled that the starting QB race between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol could go all the way into the 2009 season. Cousins has limited game experience as a backup last year and Nichol is a transfer from Oklahoma (from Lowell, MI). Overall this one could go either way… If you go with the logic that Michigan has better talent and should be much improved, then you can be optimistic that they should be in this game… If you think Dantonio is a good coach and is building something at MSU then you are probably pessimistic about our chances. By gameday each team will be well into the season and we will have more answers. Give it to State today, but my heart says a toss-up. Michigan 3.5-1.5
10/10 Iowa, another road game and this one is against a Big Ten team that started 3-3 last year, but finished with a string of big wins including a big one over PSU (also most of their losses were close). Returning QB in Stanzi, who with improvement could be very solid, and good LB core. Tough for Michigan but for the time being we will give it to Iowa… 3.5-2.5
10/17 Delaware State, defer to Brian’s preview around the time they were scheduled. Home game, anything but a win mid season in this one would be a complete embarrassment. 4.5-2.5.
10/24 Penn State, this year @ home, Nick Sheridan should wear street clothes for this one. PSU will have strengths at all the key positions, and Evan Royster by this time should be having a hell of a season. They lose a lot at WR, OL, and Defense, but this is a very talented team. This game hinges on QB play and hopefully the home crowd and a fast start can assist Michigan. PSU has to be a clear favorite in this game. 4.5-3.5
10/31 Illinois, definitely an explosive offense and a road game down in Champagne. Juice is finally a Senior, but future dual threat QB Eddie McGee has been getting time in the slot, so Michigan will get a look at him either way… The Illini sucked last year, except when they roared past UofM, overall their explosive Offense is mostly intact from last year (individual yardage record by Juice at the Big House last year) and this game could end up being a barn burner. I don’t like this one unless the Offense is really clicking, but both teams are coming off poor seasons. Toss-up. Michigan 5-4
11/07 Purdue, hopefully after a good showing at Illinois this is a welcomed home game after a nice win. Michigan could have beaten Purdue last year, except for their one game offensive explosion. Joe Tiller is out the door and replaced by Danny Hope. The offense of the Drew Brees era is long gone and Purdue like Michigan has a laundry list of possible QBs. This one should be a great home game for Michigan. 6-4
11/14 Wisconsin, we stunk in the first half vs. Wisco last year, and several miracles occurred in the second half. They lose PJ Hill (John Clay may be a good enough replacement) who was falling apart and neither their offense nor defense is very spectacular (6 or so returning starters on each). If this was a home game I would figure Michigan for a great shot at victory, I have never been a Beilema fan so maybe I am being too optimistic. But I think a surging Michigan team can win this game. I won’t go too crazy though and will just leave this as a toss-up. 6.5-4.5
11/21 OSU, so many story lines… 5 game losing streak to OSU, Pryor’s first Big House Trip, a Michigan team maybe looking to be bowl eligible. OSU should be good, they return a lot of starters though they lose Laurinaitis and Jenkins on defense. Pryor who had a great frosh campaign should have some good seasoning… hate to say in but they are the conference favorite. Hold it right there… Bo beat an undefeated OSU in his first season, and according to RR’s track record, last year really shouldn’t count as much more than a long series of scrimmages. This game is the biggest of them all and there should be a lot of pride on the line after last year’s embarrassing second half. The week leading up to this game kills my work productivity even when we are the prohibitive underdog. I have to say OSU at this point, but I am hoping for a good level of optimism. 6.5-5.5
Overall I am an optimist, I think we beat either ND or MSU in the first half of the season (both are winnable) and I think we WIN at Illinois in a shootout. I am optimistic that we will be 7-5 next year. However, I think that if we find the luck we never got last year – we have a shot at 8-4, and a Max at 9-3… Our bottom I think is known, there are 4 games on the schedule that should be wins (WMU, EMU, D.State, Indiana) without much contest and that we have to win at least one other game. So 5 wins would be our basement in my opinion.
It’s early… But what are your thoughts?
Also, to my loser friend Rob who reads this blog and refuses to get a login, YOU SUCK!
So I'm back for another foray into enemy territory. I was pleasantly surprised by the (mostly) respectful reception of my diary on Shavodrick Beaver's de-commitment, so here's another. The just plain craziness of this Paulus business - and the uproar about it that's evident anywhere Michigan fans gather online - seems a propitious occasion for it.
DISCLAIMER: I'm a Buckeye fan, but one who tries to hate y'all in a friendly, rational way, if that makes any sense. I'm not here to talk shit. There are lots of reasons for this, but I'll just give you one: I'm old enough that my immersion in the rivalry started about halfway through the 10 Years' War. The worm has turned a few times since then, and if I throw "Five in a row" at any of you, I should expect a "2-10-1" to hit me in the mush. Actually, I'll give you two: this is your place, and it would be bad form for me to come in and piss all over the place.
That said, to business. I'll take the three things from the title in order.
MEH: So what? There's no question that depth at the position is a concern for Michigan right now, so ANY viable option at all that can be added - especially one that burns only one year of a scholarship in a year when a scholarship is available - is a good option. As long as you're not looking to him to save your team's season, you'd be crazy NOT to take him.
OR MAYBE GOOD: This gets back a little bit to a few of the points I made in the Beaver diary - it's entirely possible that Paulus will be able to compete with, and maybe even beat out, everybody else for the starting job this fall, because nobody has any GOOD reason right now to think that Forcier or Robinson (or Paulus, for that matter) will be able to lead your offense to success this Fall. All anybody KNOWS right now is that Sheridan = DEATH. This should be obvious to everybody no matter WHAT Forcier looked like last Saturday, given the no-QB-contact, injury-depleted-and-unsettled-personnel-on-defense nature of Spring football. Paulus was an extremely highly ranked QB prospect four years ago, and it just might be that four years of life and high-level athletic competition may have better equipped him for success than a kid eight months removed from high school. Even if that's not the case, worries about "Calista" (sorry - had to get at least one dig in) Forcier's current physical ability to survive D-1 football for a full season are seemingly well-founded, and there really cannot be any question that Paulus, sight-unseen on a college football field, would be a better backup option than DEATH (again, it must be emphasized that nothing at all can be KNOWN about Robinson's ability to succeed as Michigan's QB at this point, so he really can't be a part of anyone's calculations on this point, other than as another warm body). And if Forcier gets hurt and Robinson isn't up to the job as a freshman, then maybe Paulus CAN save your season in a way that DEATH or Cone cannot - it seems pretty clear at this point that winning the games y'all "should" win this Fall is going to depend on offensive competence, since it doesn't look like your defense is going to be all that great. So Paulus in Maize and Blue is maybe a very good thing.
BUT THE OPTICS ARE TERRIBLE: There's a lot of psychoanalyzing of Forcier's comments on this situation that I won't address or engage in, but it seems clear that he was pretty much blindsided by the whole thing, and that does not at all speak well of the coaching staff's handling of this. They had to know that some d-bag reporter would buttonhole and badger Tate as soon as the story got out and should have coached the kid up on what to say. I suppose it's possible that they did just that and Tate fucked it up, but it doesn't read that way. The concerns some of you have about the "Those Who Stay..." believers on the team resenting this kind of stuff are probably at least half right, and if I'm even half right about that then that's a problem. The last thing to say about this is that you don't have to be a Wolverine-hater to see that (even considering the meh/maybe good points I made above) this foofaraw only strengthens the perception that Michigan is a program so desperate and so much in disarray right now, that they're willing to take a QB that FUCKING DUKE's coach refused to even consider. Note that I'm not saying that this perception is correct - in fact, I think that it is not - but that it is real nonetheless. This cannot be a good thing - perception matters in big-time college football. As a Buckeye fan, I ought to know.
In the end, I think that this business is likely to be an energy-sapping distraction right on through the preseason (assuming Paulus does in fact join the team, and to a lesser but still significant degree even if he doesn't), and possibly on into the season. The silver lining, of course, is that if any of the meh/maybe good points I made above are true, then it won't matter once the real games start. I guess you're all gonna need a high tolerance for drama.
I thought I would drop a diary entry on this subject as all board entries seem to get eaten up within hours.
When this all came down I thought that it was a win win for UofM. Paulus could provide depth at worst and at most, a very good QB option for a year while Tate and/or Denard grow into it. But then as the day has worn on, I have realized that this is the exact opposite of a win win. I love RR and the new regime, but this situation does nothing but rock the ship that was just getting righted.(sp?) Just when we were getting into a groove with a QB that gave us something better than Death, and another to come in and help, RR throws a wrench into the mix. I AM ALL FOR THE DEPTH AT QB, but this is just adding another ring to the RR circus.
Tate's interview was interesting with the Daily, and I almost wonder if it was even real. He seemed a little hazy with details and that should NOT be the case with your arguable #1 QB. Things like this do not help team chemistry, assuming what we all have read and heard is true. Even if Paulus does not end up signing, it still ripples the water. If Tate doesn't know what to think, how much trust can he or the team have in RR. And save your "This is College football, grow up!" garbage, becuase this team is young and at the very least needs to be able to trust the staff.
There, I have that off my chest. I may feel that this is a slippery deal because I think Tate and Denard are more than capable, but any way you slice it, it is a distraction. Those tend to not be very positive.