Note: This post is all about optimism. Please check your reality at the door.
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It’s getting closer and closer to the start of the year, and I’ve been drinking too much Kool-Aid. I know most “reasonable” people are predicting mediocre records (6-6, 7-5). But the more I read about this team, the more excited I’m getting for the season, and the more optimism I have. Most of our team’s “weaknesses” are really only unknowns, they could turn out bad, or they could turn out great. Below is my optimistic take on some of these weaknesses, as well as a game by game pseudo-analysis.
This is what most people bring up as our biggest weakness, and it’s hard to argue with. It’s true; we are likely to be starting a true freshman QB. However, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people expect.
1. The best QB is going to start. Worst case is Sheridan, who should be improved from last year. More likely is that Forcier will start, which means he’s at least better than Death. He’s most likely several steps above Death, with Robinson as a buffer between Forcier and Suicidal Kittens.
2. Forcier (and also Robinson) are tailor made for this offense. They can run and throw, 2 things our QBs couldn’t do last year. There should be much less overthrowing of wide open receivers this year. There should also be fewer sacks due to both QB mobility and an improved offensive line.
3. Forcier came to school early, and has had more time to learn the system than a typical true freshman. It’s true that spring practices are only a few weeks, but that’s as much time as Three and Sheridan had to learn the offense last year. While that doesn’t sound that great, the difference is that the whole offense was learning the offense last year, and this year Forcier has an entire team with experience that can help him learn while there’s no contact with the coaches.
4. Forcier is not a normal true freshman. He’s been groomed since birth to be a QB. He’s had a personal QB coach. He was homeschooled, and given time out of class to work on football. He’s Todd Marinovich without the baggage. That experience is more than most true freshmen have coming into college. He’s probably closer to a redshirt freshman in experience.”
5. Forcier seems to have already earned the respect of the offense. Read this from Maize n Brew’s coverage of Big Ten media days. “Ortmann admitted to some initial trepidation about the youth at quarterback, but Tate Forcier's play in early practice and in the spring game dispelled those concerns. What struck me about Ortmann's comments about Forcier, was how mature Tate seems to be. There haven't been any issues regarding cockiness or entitlement. Forcier isn't afraid to admit a mistake, ask a question, or talk to someone when signals get crossed. As a result, the freshman has earned the respect of the Line and the Offense and has taken on a leadership role far earlier than even the most optimistic fan could have hoped for.”
Horrible last year. Shouldn’t be horrible this year. Should even be good if they stay healthy.
1. GERG: When Schafer was hired last year, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of him, but learned he was the DC for Stanford’s upset of USC. So it was a “meh” hire to me. When GERG was hired this year, my initial reaction was “Syracuse sucks.” But I quickly rationalized that he’s going to be DC, not HC, and looking at his resume, he’s been a very impressive DC.
- Fundamentals: GERG is emphasizing tackling, the most basic part of playing defense. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the right place if you can’t tackle. (Could also say that it doesn’t matter if you can tackle if you’re not in the right place, but a good and experienced DC will get his people in the right place). I remember reading once that Schafer didn’t emphasize good tackling. I’ve tried to find a like to that, but the best I can do is this comment from Dstamper22. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, then it explains a lot of the defensive issues last year.
- More from Maize n Brew’s coverage of Big Ten media days. That entire post made me think the defense will be loads better. One quote for those who don’t want to check out the whole post: “Stevie mentioned that during 7-on-7 practices, the defense didn't like how things were going down. So Obi Ezeh, Donovan Warren and Brown looked at one another and said this has to get fixed. As a result the secondary and linebackers started getting together to go over film, position assignments, and breakdowns in an effort to clarify things. Brown said the group goes in together, watches film, and reviews their assignment successes and failures. This film room communication has paid off as the group is now commincating better on the field. As a result, Brown told me the back seven is now on the same page. From an outsider's perspective, the fact that the coaches aren't involved in this at all is a testament to the dedication of the players and their desire to get things right.” This is something that great teams should do, and shows that they’re coming together to play as a team.
It’s been discussed: Fumbles are most likely a random occurrence, and are likely to not be as prevalent this year. A huge improvement will follow just from this.
This was a major weakness last year, though to be honest not many people still consider it a weakness. We have everyone back and healthy. They’ve had a year in the system. Toward the end of last year they actually looked good. I truly believe that this will be the most improved unit on the team. And since O-line is the base of any offense, our entire offense will be better even if no other areas improved (which they obviously have).
They were a very good MAC team last year. Many are expecting them to be very good this year as well. However, they lose most of their defense, and their receivers. The main reason they’re expected to be good is their QB. But it takes more than a QB to win. UM has more talent at every position, and is starting to play up to the level they should. The main reason to worry here is that it’s the first game and there will be some rust. However, that applies to both teams, so WMU’s offense will be rusty as well, thus reducing the effectiveness of the only thing that they have going for them in this game.
Jabba the Weiss is still their head coach. As bad as we were last year, we probably win that game if we don’t spot them 21 points off turnovers. ND lost their last 4 games against BCS conference opponents last year. The only reason for their hype this year is that they spanked Hawaii, and they have a soft schedule.
Good luck to Ron English. I really hope he does well at Eastern. But he doesn’t have much to work with this year. This should be one of the 3 easiest wins this year, along with Delaware St and Indiana.
They lost Kellen Lewis, who was their only offensive threat. They have no offense or defense. Last year’s UM team could probably win this game.
Great write up from Doc Saturday. Read the “Regressing to the Mean, Parts 1 and 2.” I’ve never understood why everyone is so high on MSU this year. Yes, they had a good record last year, but they weren’t that good. I’ve predicted to several Sparty acquaintances that their record this year will be worse than last year. UM can definitely win this game, and the players really want to shut Sparty up.
Tough one. At Iowa. Iowa’s a good team. But if UM comes into this game on a roll, this is winnable. Iowa will have a good defense, but UM should have a good offense.
After The Horror and Toledo, we can’t look past anyone. However, we should win this game. We are a much better team.
Another tough one. Penn St is good. However, it’s at home, and we’ve pretty much owned Penn St since they’ve been in the Big Ten. They lose a lot on their O-line, which could hurt their offense more than people expect. They’ve got a great defense, but if we can put some points on them, which we should be able to since our offense should be humming by this point in the season, then we can win this game.
It’s at Illinois. Illinois should be a good team. Most of their offense returns. It’s a good offense. However, luckily for us, their best player is very erratic. Juice has good games and bad games. If he’s on, then they score a lot. If he’s not, they’ll struggle. Can he be as good as he was last year? Probably not. Plus their defense is looking very suspect. This could be a shoot out, but we should be able to win a shoot out if we have to.
New Head Coach. Brand new offense, in terms of personnel and scheme. Many players returning on defense, which will have to carry the team until the offense comes around. Sound familiar? We should win this game. Purdue wouldn’t be that good even with Tiller still around.
Bret Bielema might be a worse coach than Charlie Weiss. Wisconsin has gotten worse each season he’s been in charge. The offense has 1 player that might worry anybody, John Clay. Otherwise it’s the type of offense that national media people (wrongly) point to as a “typical Big Ten offense.” Their secondary might be ok, but they don’t look that good on the front 7, so UM should be able to run on them and put up some points.
They’ll be good as usual. But this is at home. If UM comes into this game with a decent record, then they’ll believe in themselves and have a good shot at winning this game. The OSU offense will basically be Terrelle Pryor. If he lives up to the hype, that will be a good offense. However, if our defense has finally solved the running QB problem, then we can contain him. Their defense will be good, as usual, but our offense should be good too, and this is the type of offense that has been able to put point on OSU. UM gets up for the game, they can definitely win.
OT: ESPN: The Absurdly Annoying
I’ve had it.
One of my simple daily rituals takes me in unfaltering anticipation to the ESPN front page. The ritual that it is, I’ve not missed its execution in eons, and I always get something of a jolt when there’s something genuinely shocking there (news of a big upset, ala Yang over Woods). I check the front pages for my respective sports every day at one time, and then discard all thoughts of ESPN.com from my mind until the next day rears its head or an MGoBlog topic/diary links me back to it briefly. But not today.
Today I had to do the unthinkably dangerous and superstitiously unhealthy thing and check the front page a second time. This time, it led me to an article with several enthused, costumed Mexican soccer fans on the “cover picture.” It looked like an interesting read, something out of the ESPN-controlled “norm” of sports that usually dominates every aspect of the site that excluding little informative niches the size of my pinky that sometimes “gladiator” their way to the front page for a millisecond.
So I read it. Big mistake. Here it is: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/090817.
The article was a curiously ignorant shot at American fandom due to its apparent inferiority to Mexican fans’ passion, by ESPN’s “The Sports Guy.”
A few interesting points he made in his article:
He says, ‘I asked a hotel concierge if there was a good place to get coffee, followed by him pointing me toward a Starbucks to our left, then saying, "Whatever you do, don't go right."’
Somehow, this statement translated into OMG MEXICAN FANS ARE SO PASSIONATE THEY MIGHT JUMP ME IF I GO TO THE WRONG PART OF TOWN. Bullshit. The guy most likely told him where not to go because of how likely it is that he’d get kidnapped by drug traffickers, not because of Mexican fandom chasing him around town…
‘The Mexican fans had no problem drowning out "The Star-Spangled Banner" with jeers. They tossed drinks and debris at the U.S. bench for most of the second half ...’
Really? Disrespecting someone else’s national anthem makes them better fans than me or you? Really, Bill Simmons? Stay Classy.
Of course, he then brings up some examples of hostility from his hometown Celts. And uses poor examples of hostility at American sporting games to boot…
‘The U.S. was allotted about 500 seats for Sam's Army (a traveling band of American fans); they were crammed in the upper deck in one corner with armed police officers flanking both aisles.”
Personally, I’d be disgraced and shamed if this ever happened at the Big House. The fact they have to do this is an absolute stigma, and shouldn’t be a point of pride at all…
He says, “In basketball, think of the teams that play beautifully together (like Duncan's Spurs or Nash's pre-Shaq Suns) versus stagnant offenses that stand around watching their best player go one-on-four (like LeBron's Cavs)…” and notes that it’s harder to win games/championships the Cavs way.
HOWEVER, then he says this: “Just like in basketball, you can't win championships in soccer without a LeBron/Kobe-type player.”
That’s a contradictory statement, and Bill Simmons should just shut up. ’04 Pistons? ’05 Spurs? ’08 Celtics? It’s just too easy. And there are more examples in the article, but you get the idea.
This attack on U.S. fandom is one-sided, unjustified, and unfair. This article is another example of how ESPN uses over-flowery words to exaggerate a debatably valid point (usually “devil’s-advocate” style) with an inappropriately named writing figure (“The Sports Guy,” whose knowledge of sports overall hasn’t seemed to qualify him for the title, at least in my opinion, with all due respect).
Look, I have plenty of respect for the sport of soccer; my mom’s family lives in Germany and I was born there, I’ve seen plenty of it, and it’s a fun sport, with beautiful plays, lots of technique, lots of nuances that can take a fan sometimes years to truly understand. But American mainstream sports are not by any means inferior in any of those regards, and especially not in the “passion and quality of fan bases” regard. “The Sports Guy” and ESPN, in this article, reflect an overlying problem and perception in modern sports that being unsportsmanlike or in some cases downright moronic at a game make you a more passionate fan than the man who sits at a stadium two thousand miles away and throws nothing at the players or opposing fans, but still unleashes endless amounts of energy pulling for his team on a Saturday night.
I’m sorry, but if you think that because Fan A can throw a bag of piss at me during a game and that opposing fans who visit his stadium have to be flanked by police officers, you are NOT a better fan than me, or anyone who pulls for a quality team in the USA. You’re an idiot, and a dangerous one to boot. Passion to me is the 95,000 people in Death Valley on a Saturday night, not 100,000 people willing to throw beer at you and their piss at you and call it acceptable. Disgusting.
This is the seventh entry of the 2009 MGoShirt Alert, a design project that will enable MgoBlog readers to vote for upcoming designs in the brand spankin’ new MGoBlogStore.
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Desmond Kevin Howard. The fourth player in the history of football to win both the Heisman and Super Bowl MVP trophies. Some of you also may recall that Howard was signed after a stellar high school career at tailback... where he lasted only three days before Bo moved him to the outside. It's also worth mentioning that when Desmond won the Heisman, he secured a then-unprecedented 85% of all first place votes. There was no controversy here.
I think this shirt pretty much speaks for itself... Certainly it's more of a general Michigan tee than an MGoBlog insider shirt, but I just felt it was about as classic as it can get. I personally, would wear this shirt until it's as grungy as my legendary 1997 Nike UM team tee.
So, time to vote! What do you guys think?
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***** Five Stars: Desmond Howard
**** Four Stars: Chris Fowler
*** Three Stars: Lee Corso
** Two Stars: Mark May
* One Star: damn buckeye Kirk Herbstreit
As far as yesterday, I think we've learned that when it's finally time for Brian to reveal his plot to diplomatically conquer the world, I am clearly NOT the best choice for ambassador to Spain, Mexico, or large chunks of western Maryland. I think it's fairly clear that "Tacopants for Heisman" was the preferred choice over "No quiero," and I guess the question is whether or not the general public wants to see that as an actual voting choice-- yes or no? I still have yet to reveal my own BTN-practice-inspired-Tacopants design, and there's quite a few more to drop as well. See you tomorrow for another round of-- MGoShirt Alert!
Due to real time updating, we're doing it via diary tonight. Also, I've noticed how crappy the diary editor is, so sorry for frequent updates as it keeps screwing up the html.
Tonight at midnight is the signing deadline for all drafted MLB prospects. If they don't sign tonight, they either go to college for 3 years or sit out (play in independent or foreign leagues) until next year's draft. Michigan has three recruits drafted, Daniel Fields (Tigers - 6th), Derek Dennis (Rays - 10th), and Patrick Biondi (Tigers 35th).
Fields, son of career minor leaguer and one time Tigers hitting coach Bruce Fields, did indeed sign with the Tigers around 10:30pm tonight. Fields was widely considered the top prospect out of Michigan this year (he or Dennis depending who you asked). He is expected to receive a 7-figure bonus for signing and attend the next few weeks in Lakeland, FL as the minor league season ends at the end of this month.
From the Jason Beck Tigers Blog:
"It was a very tough decision," Fields said Monday night, "because I'd fallen in love with Michigan ever since I went on my visit. It was a very tough decision. It was actually pretty hard calling coach [Rich] Maloney and telling him I wasn't coming."
The 7-figure bonus was way above the normal compensation for a 6th round pick, but his commitment to UM was the main culprit to his fall from the first 3 rounds to the 6th. The Tigers will probably get a slap on the wrist from Commissioner Bud Selig for the salary inflation but probably nothing more.
This is a pretty big loss for Michigan as Fields could have been a starting middle infielder this upcoming season. With Kevin Cislo graduating, the second base job is up for grabs and his to take.
In other signing news, Derek Dennis may be having a couple extra suitors at his door tonight. The Rays' top two prospects, LeVon Washington (2B) and Kenny Diekroeger (SS) both chose college over the pros. This leaves the Rays with Dennis as their top remaining unsigned middle infielder.
Dennis sounded like a Michigan lock only two months ago, but he was also invited to take batting practice with All Star third baseman Evan Longoria. Nothing's been heard since that June quote, so Dennis could still be mulling over his options.
If we hear anything about his signing tonight or tomorrow, I'll update you here.
Everything I've continued to read still has Dennis as a 100% Michigan lock.
The Freep also ran their article on Fields, where he described coach Maloney as "the main reason why I chose Michigan. I love him to death."
I have about a hundred updates for my computer and I have finally gained access to some high speed internet, but now I have to kill time while I wait. One thing I have always wanted to do is see a game at a different venue for the entire regular season. I thought I would share what my plan would be this year if I could make all the trips. So I hope you enjoy my theoretical game plan of travel based out of the Washington DC area. Attendance numbers – Wikipedia, Mileage – Google, Pre-Season Ranking – Bleacher Report (I know this means nothing)
Week 1: Lots of good games but a trip up to New York is possible, so I chose Minnesota(43) @ Syracuse(93). Carrier Dome in Syracuse holds 49,500. 374 miles from DC. 6 hour and 18 minute drive. Would be strange being inside for the first game of the season, but should be a good game in which Minnesota wins.
Week 2: Notre Dame(36) @ Michigan(75). My ticket is purchased. 521 miles. 8 hour and 36 minute drive. You know the rest.
Week 3: Nebraska(29) @ Virginia Tech(8) Lane Stadium holds 66,233. 265 miles. 4 hour and 19 minute drive. Should be a big game, especially if VT beats Alabama in their first game.
Week 4: Iowa(23) @ Penn State(4). Beaver Stadium holds 107,282. 215 miles. 3 hour and 45 minute drive. Both teams should be 3-0 at this point, plus woo night game.
Week 5: Virginia(89) @ North Carolina(35). Kenan Stadium holds 60,000 and is supposed to be very scenic. 269 miles. 4 hour and 36 minute drive.
Week 6: Duke(82) @ NC State(48). Carter Finley Stadium holds 57,583. 281 miles. 4 hour and 32 minute drive. Should just stay in North Carolina for the week after the Virginia – UNC game. I’d get to see what should be two easy wins in one state!
Week 7: Marshall(98) @ West Virginia(18). Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium holds 60,000. 207 miles. 3 hour and 27 minute drive.
Week 8: Georgia Tech @ Virginia(89). Scott Stadium holds 61,500 and has what might be one of the longest full names in college football. The Carl Smith Center, Home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium. 111 miles. 2 hour and 13 minute drive.
Week 9: Miami(41) @ Wake Forest(39). BB&T Field at Groves Stadium holds 31,500. 337 miles. 5 hour and 33 minute drive. Starting to get later in the season, but what should be a solid ACC matchup.
The next three games are a bit of wishful thinking, but could be done, technically.
Week 10: Florida State(31) @ Clemson(56). Memorial Stadium holds 80,301. 530 miles. 8 hour and 37 minute drive. Death Valley!
Week 11: Florida(1) @ South Carolina(55). Williams-Brice Stadium holds 80,250. 479 miles. 7 hour and 30 minute drive.
Week 12: Vanderbilt(51) @ Tennessee(34). Neyland Stadium holds 102,037. 483 miles. 7 hour and 38 minute drive. Lane Kiffin drives an orange lamborghini with OMG shirtless Eric Berry on the hood onto the field for their Heisman campaign.
Week 13: Boston College(76) @ Maryland(65). Byrd Stadium holds 51,055. 0 miles. Yay metro!
Week 14: Cincinnati(47) @ Pittsburgh(17). Heinz field holds 65,050. 246 miles. 4 hour and 14 minute drive. Brian Kelly in an NFL stadium?
Week 15: Army(77) @ Navy(32). Lincoln Financial Field holds 68,582. 139 miles. 2 hour and 37 minute drive. More NFL stadiums?
15 games. 29 football teams. (Cavaliers twice.) 4457 miles driven. 1,048,374 screaming fans. (If they all sold out). The fall of a lifetime.
Anyone ever dream of doing something like this? What games on the list would you skip/ replace? What region of the country would you base out of? It’s tough and takes a bit but if you have the time make your own. What games/stadiums have you always wanted to go to? One year in my life I will get to do something like this and it will be epic. Only 15 minutes longer to finish my download!
I'm not sure this is worth a diary; in fact, I tried to post it as a comment to the minor foofaraw in the comments in the Terry Talbott commitment post but I am an old man and couldn’t figure out how to do it in the reply.
Anyway, there is some minor ongoing debate about whether or not OSU pwns UM or vice versa, with those adopting the former position wishing to ignore the first decade or two's worth of games and those adopting the latter wishing to, well, not ignore them.
So, below is a handy graph I put together that allows you to calculate the UM winning percentage (100 minus which is not the OSU percentage, since that figure includes ties) from 1897 to 2008, using two different cumulative percentages.
The blue line calculates, for each year, the cumulative winning percentage up to that year. So, if you take 1957 as the reference point, you'll see that UM had won about 63% of the games up to that point. If you go all the way to 2008, you'll see that UM has won 54% of the games (i.e., in the whole series).
The red line calculates, for each year, the winning percentage from 2008 back to that year. So, again taking 1957, the graph indicates that UM has won 44% of the UM/OSU games from 1957 to 2008.
Note that the first point in the red line is equal to the last point in the blue line, or 54%. Also, the blue line is generally more favorable to UM, the red line more favorable to OSU. That's how come I chose the colors!
Note also the, erm, distressing trend from 1987 to 2008. So, from 1987 to 2008, UM won about half the games. The more recent the window of observation, the worse things look for UM; hence the shorter preferred time horizon for many of the Buckeye faithful. Conversely, the longer back one goes the better things look for UM; hence, the longer preferred horizon for UM fans.
Now you have all of the data you need to make whatever selective, cherry picked point you want to make. You're welcome.