Information has value. Well aware of this, Coach Carr and his predecessors kept almost all information about the football team secured deep in a sub-basement of Schemblecher Hall behind a steel door with a left-handed combination lock. Fort Schemblecher. Sun-Tzuians should be proud of the minuscule amount of information our opponents could gather in order to “know” us. Just ask Florida.
On the other hand, Coach Rodriguez is giving away information like Santa passing out presents at an orphanage—there is something for everybody—videos, audios, pressers, one-on-ones, photo-ops, and lord knows what else. It’s feel good city for those who smoke, snort, or shoot Michigan football information, for Schemblecher Hall suddenly seems to have glass walls. The vault appears to be empty. And dusty.
Why is he squandering all this information when this has been the traditional time to start filling the vault for a new season? Rodriguez is a seasoned and successful coach who knows what he is doing. He is not running open practices for altruistic reasons. He is not running open practices for self-aggrandizement. He is not running open practices to satisfy your or my curiosity. He is running open practices to better win football games by spreading disinformation. There are smoke and mirrors on the practice field. Rather than burying his stock of information on the fifty-yard line in an old dill pickle jar, he is investing it in the information market with the expectation of increasing its value. He is trying to trick ‘em to get a leg up on ‘em.
What does this mean? In previous years we got little to no information. Now we have it coming out of our ears. The problem is all we learn is reliable but probably not truthful. We are getting smoked and mirrored, tricked, disinformated, and led astray along with Utah and Notre Dame. What we see and hear now is not going to be what we get. The only way to even come close to determining what we will see on the 30th is to wait until the game starts. Zontan may line up under center. We may have three quarterbacks in the game at the same time. Who knows? I have been saying that I don’t have any idea how Michigan will do this year, but that I am sure that they will be exciting. I am revising that upwards to exciting and surprising.
"...and it was refreshing last week to hear his players talk about the Oct. 25 clash
at Michigan Stadium." Refreshing??? That is ALL Sparty talks about, thinks about and wetdreams about.
Take your beatings and countdown clock back to E.L.; go to Rick's, burn some couches, trash your campus and spend the weekend in the clink.
From the Freep, via ESPN...
ESPN.com's Andy Rittenberg has found that even as the Spartans prepare for the
upcoming season, they have the Oct. 25 game against Michigan on their minds.
"I do not want to go through my whole college career without beating my rival
school," senior running back Javon Ringer said to ESPN. "That would be
The Spartans have not
beaten Michigan since 2001. Michigan State led 24-14 in the fourth quarter last
season but gave up two touchdowns to lose in East Lansing.
"It's imbedded in our minds and our
memories," safety Otis Wiley told ESPN. "We were close last year, been close in
all of our encounters. We need to be on top this year. We have the people and we
have the talent to do that.
"It's our top
priority right now. We want that one, and we want it bad."
Poor little brother, why must you obsess?
Here, for all who care to read (that includes both of you) are my current college football thoughts on the verge of a new season.
- With expansion to twelve regular season games and potentially one bowl game and one conference championship game, isn’t the yardstick of the “Ten-Win Season” getting a little watered down? Since everyone is playing their version of a MAC school for that extra game, we’ve moved the marker that used to be a nine-win season to a ten-win season. This is like gradeflation. I’m now calling it “recordflation.”
- With all the resources available at newspapers, why can’t they afford to have a beat-writer and an analyst (who actually analyzes interesting things?) Blogs have taken on many topics & issues that are pretty interesting, done some really good work. This blog especially. But a newspaper would have the resources to do it in a more rigorous and comprehensive fashion. How often has a blogger given up going further than 2001 because “data isn’t readily available”? This is in no way a knock on bloggers, they do great work with the tools they have, but mere confusion on my part at more traditional media outlets.
- Then again, they employ people like Drew Sharp, which is equally baffling. (Yes, that was a cheap shot. No, I’m not above a cheap shot.)
- Why do we, the fans, allow the farce that is the Coach’s poll? Here’s a guy who has a laser-like focus on the next opponent. He’s obsessive-compulsive to begin with, already likely skimps on time with his family. Sometimes sleeps in the filmroom… and we expect him to keep track of 25-30 games, arrange the teams in a sensible/rational order, not be political, file it Saturday or Sunday, *after* he’s just coached a game, possibly a night game, taped a coach’s show, and travelled? In reality, this gets handed off to a flunky with some macro-direction, and we should end the charade.
- What exactly would a modern athlete have to do to get his jersey retired? Look at Charles Woodson. Dominant, key to a National Championship, never lost to OSU, the first ever to win the Heisman as a primarily defensive player. His resume is impeccable, except that he didn’t stay for a fourth year. Almost any player even approaching that level as a junior would leave for the NFL. So what would a jersey-retiring resume look like? Are we just done retiring numbers?
- What will constitute basic success or failure for this upcoming season? Some years, this is a lot like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography… “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.” This season I think it’s pretty clear-cut. No bowl is a failure. Squeaking into a bowl game is par. Success is a bowl game plus anything extra: ND beatdown part IV, making Dantonio slap himself, JoePa flat-out retiring right after losing to us for the umpteenth time in a row, or a bowl win. Extreme success is me not dropping my newborn son as I use him for a prop describing how we gave OSU a freakin red-a$$ beatdown.
Surrounded by a sea of sugarcane, this poverty-ravaged town on the southeastern edge of Lake Okeechobee always has been one of the country's most fertile football areas.
It's a place where players chase rabbits from burning brush to gain speed, college coaches begin recruiting trips and Friday nights produce future NFL stars. Football is the main diversion in Belle Glade, aka "Muck City," a place so depressed it lacks a big discount store and even a movie theater.
Now football is being threatened.
When U.S. Sugar Corp. -- the nation's largest sugarcane producer -- agreed in June to sell its nearly 300 square miles of farmland to the state for $1.75 billion, the deal was touted as an environmental victory for the government's ongoing Everglades restoration project. But for the community, it's a big blow.
In what is already one of the country's poorest areas, about 1,700 U.S. Sugar employees will lose their jobs when the transfer to the state is consummated in six years. The rest of the local economy, which mostly supports U.S. Sugar and its employees, will also suffer.
"The only thing most people around here know how to do is grow sugar and play football," 70-year-old resident Jack Brown said. "Without sugar, there will be no football."
The town of about 15,000, which got its nickname from its soil's black muck, has football talent just as rich.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes and dozens of other current and former NFL players call Belle Glade home. The four major programs in the area -- Glades Central, Pahokee, Glades Day and Clewiston -- have combined to win 17 state championships. Glades Central, the best of the four, has won six titles.
Pahokee, eight miles north along the lake's shore, produced Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin among others. Glades Central and Pahokee have combined to send 48 players into professional football.
More at link...
If anybody has read the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated, you'll see that the spread is a main topic of interest for obvious reasons. The most exciting thing that can be gleaned from the article? Nobody knows how to stop it, though everybody is trying. They do offer two common suggestions from exasperated defensive coordinators: more athletic defensive linemen and linebackers and surer tackling. The good news is that that's the best they can come up with, but they're working feverishly to thwart the spread read-option attack.
It appears that the best way to combat the spread starts at the recruiting level. This is very encouraging news because, simply put, we play in the Big Ten. Though the team down south is slowly moving towards a more Florida-esque hybrid offense, the general trend in the successful Big Ten offenses starts with establishing a power running, smash mouth football-type running attack. Power, power, power. The best way to stop that type of offense, as noted in the Conservative Revolution post, is with beefier linemen and linebackers. This poses a conundrum indeed for any Big Ten team that Michigan faces: recruit for speed or power? Since most teams don't have a Mike Barwis, it's difficult to get both.
When we finally recruit the personnel we need, and get them integrated, we'll be playing like speedy Florida (with many of their home-grown players) against the ill-equipped likes of OSU, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc... Hopefully everybody in the Big Ten will attempt to adapt their play accordingly, and the Big Ten as a whole will improve and enjoy a return to unprecedented prominence as we once had.
I keep reading about how new RR's offense is, and this is true, but really only kind of. Actually, it is more football coming full circle as defenses adjust their personnel to "new" offenses. Another thing people tend to say is that it is these inventive (sometimes even called "gimmick") offenses are creating more parity in college football. Well, of course they are. But it's not because they're new at all- and it is not the technique itself that creates parity- it's simply a change in strategy. It's because clever coaches are reinventing old techniques. The spread option itself does not create parity any more than the West Coast, or the power option. It's the change in strategy that creates parity, or indeed, if a good team stays ahead of the curve, hegemony. If in 1986, you had said you thought the "next big thing" would be Pop Warner, I think there's a chance that people would have given you a funny look and said that you were wrong. Any technique used well creates parity- that's what it's for. It's not exactly a new thing for smaller underdog teams to develop a new strategy or reinvent an old one to give them an advantage. That is what RR is doing. People probably think that the power option that Bo ran will never be "the next big thing" again. That is wrong. It is wrong as surely as Pop Warner is alive and well again.
In the early part of the century, Pop Warner popularized what was called the Carlisle, or single wing offense.
Helpful wikipedia refresher article:
I think anyone studying this will be surprised how similar it is to the read option of RR. The qb doesn't block as much in the modern game, but many of the runs and formations AND READS are surprisingly similar. Don't the diagrams in the wikipedia article look surprisingly familiar? This works well with talented athletic players- Jim Thorpe, and more recently Slaton and White. It's not even really true that the modern read option necessarily throws much more. (remember when Pat WHite had to pass against Pittsburgh? It was worse than watching Bo's teams throw.) A popular misconception is that "old" offenses didn't throw much, which is sort of incorrect- Bo' s offenses didn't throw much (or at least not often). Jim Thorpe was prolific with the "forward pass" and it wasn't until later that less "creative" power offenses became popular. The beauty of the spread, as Rodriguez has already shown with Shaun King and Pat White, is that it is versatile and can accomodate a wide variety of skilled player- and it's not necessarily only for running the ball. So why was it "abandoned"?
Simply, defenses adapted. And coaches began to look for a new way to get past them. They developed the T (full house) and later the power option. The versatile defenses that adapted to combat the single wing were vulnerable to getting the hell pounded out of them. Large backs became more useful to run over linebackers good at pursuing the wing. Eventually, that's Bo and Woody. They actually threw less than previously- it wasn't that no one knew how to pass, it's simply that the new offense was less dependent on it. The passes that they did throw were deep, meant to punish defenses that came too close. Go back and watch a Bo game from the late 1970's or early 80's, you'll be surprised how often they go deep- much more than Lloyd Carr did. What they hated was the medium passing game- it just didn't accomplish their objectives.
Defenses adapted again. They developed big tackles to occupy blockers, and big blot-out-the sun linebackers that could better take on linemen and fullbacks and stop the run. Fast ends were for pass rushing and holding the outside, and safeties were for run support. This system used fast corners to cover the pass, but the linebackers, especially inside backers, weren't invlolved much in pass coverage, and even the safeties mostly just had deep responsibilities. This is the now-dreaded read and react, which was actually a good defense- just not against medium passing offenses that were already in place by the time my generation saw it.
The solution to that, as mentioned, and we discovered in the 80's and 90's, was the intermediate passing game, manifesting itself in a number of variations, including the "West Coast" and eventually what Carr adopted- a "pro style" offense that relied heavily on medium passing. It's not an accident that Carr's quarterbacks had so many more attempts than Bo's- but a much lower average-per-completion rate and -not surprisingly- not that many more touchdowns, since Bo was always going for a touchdown when he threw. A Bo quarterback would go 6 for 13 with 180 yards and two scores. A Lloyd one might get the same but take 25 attempts to get there, and complete a much higher percentage of passes along the way. These new offenses tried to isolate players vulnerable from the power option system. They used pass catching backs and athletic tight ends to isolate big clunky linebackers, and long middle routes to isolate safeties that were to slow or not very adaptive. Routes had more eligible receivers to isolate slower players.
Defenses responded to that in a couple of ways. One was the Tampa Two and its derivatives. Safeties and linebackers have much more pass responsibility. Middle linebackers were smaller and faster to be able to do well in pass coverage, even downfield. Tackles are much more dynamic and are expected to be active in the pass rush. The read and react defenses became pressure and pursuit defenses. Well, of course there's a way to repond to a pressure and pursuit defense. Safeties became linebackers, linebackers became defensive ends, and they all ran real fast.
One is to take advatage of its smaller size and run right at it, a la the team from Columbus, and also Wisconsin, which still are successful despite having very "conservative" offenses. They are using a superior running game to control the ball and come right at the more pursuit oriented linebackers. Another way is of course misdirection. The read option misdirects or avoids the active pursuing defense. So this isn't really new- it's a rediscovery of older tactics to combat modern defenses. It's really coming full circle. Actually, it's Carr's offense that was willing to throw to backs (Bo notoriously hated screens) and to the tight end that was different from "Michigan football". It just appears to have been the same because 1. Carr still preferred to run when he could and 2. his offense was still "conservative" compared to other offenses of the time. But his offense really wasn't much like Bo's anymore. RR is actually going back (WAY back, to even before Bo) to the good old days of the wing. He has wing players. His pint-sized athletic receivers are perfect for the wing- they're extra backs, they catch short passes and they're really fast. But they're not going to go deep much, but that's not exactly the point.
So, actually, RR is a conservative revolution. He's not ending the days of Bo, he's going back to before Bo.
Eventually, in the future, the pursuit defense will settle down a bit to cope with the read offense. And when it does, mark my words, somebody is going to re-invent the power option or the T. And everyone will talk about how revolutionary it is. And it will be- to some extent. It will be another conservative revolution, just like this one.