1/20/2009 – Michigan 58, Penn State 73 – 13-6, 3-4 Big Ten
How's this for some trenchant analysis you can't get anywhere else: that was brutal. Let us never discuss it again.
Moving forward, the last two games have blown whatever margin of error Michigan had in their effort to make the tournament. Even if you assume wins home and away against Northwestern and away against Iowa—potentially dodgy but absolutely necessary to make the tourney—you have to find three wins in these games to get Michigan to .500 in conference:
Home: Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue
Away: Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota
Is that doable? I don't know anymore. Maybe they can split with Minnesota and beat Penn State and home. Then it's a matter of getting really hot in one other game and stealing it. It won't happen when the team shoots 2 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half. Would that get Michigan in? If they beat UConn, obviously. If they don't that leaves them at 19-12 and fifth or sixth in the #2 league in the country, so yeah.
I guess the question is: will the team shoot as horribly as they have in the future? There's no chance they all grow three inches by Tuesday, and even if they did that would probably throw off their coordination significantly. You're going to see Michigan continue to get crushed defensively. Against Illinois (and, I guess, Ohio State) Michigan was overwhelmed by height that took away their inside game—Sims, their inside game, was 7 for 27. Against Penn State they weren't overwhelmed by height and still got crushed in the paint and on the offensive glass. This is the Beilein system taken to extremes, and that's understandable given the composition of the team. This was expected to be an NIT team for a reason.
I've been beating this drum since the Indiana game: it's been clear for a while now that the Duke and UCLA wins raised the profile of and expectations for the team disproportionately. Struggles against a wide array of very bad teams and near-implosions against Indiana and Savannah State didn't have the same impact because "a win is a win"* and all that, leading to a lot of irrational exuberance.
Welcome to the crash.
- UMHoops: "The numbers don’t lie, Michigan shot 39.3% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc tonight. Michigan has shot over 40% just twice in the last 10 games after shooting over 40% in 7 of their first 8 (the only game under 40% was the win over UCLA). At the end of the day winning basketball games comes down to making your shots. It doesn’t matter whether they are two point shots or three point shots; an open shot is an open shot."
- Beilein: “We had some great looks early, couldn’t hit any of them, and had a chance to get out early enough on them because we played good defense on them early. But we couldn’t make any shots. Once they got it going in the second half it was lights out.”
- Don't really have much other than "yeeaaargh" on this one.
- I would like to point out that everyone would take this if magically given the option at the start of the year. I was hoping for slightly above .500 and an NIT bid, and that was before it became clear the Big Ten is way, way better than it was last year.
- I want Manny Harris to commit a charge per half the rest of the season.
*(For the past, yes. For the future, no: past performance is a better predictor of future performance than past results.)
1/4/2009 – Michigan 74, Illinois 64 – 11-3, 1-1 Big Ten
With a couple minutes left in Saturday's game against Illinois the Illini brought the ball up down four. Even with the students absent, Crisler fairly buzzed with nervous anticipation at a critical juncture. Michigan went to man; Laval Lucas-Perry moved up to take the point guard on as he crossed midcourt.
Lucas-Perry was afforded a moment in the window provided by Illinois setting a play, and used it to smile, big and toothy, before returning to the task at hand.
The thing that jumped out the most in the pre-game was basically the same thing: DeShawn Sims smiling wide before he was introduced as the starter, then settling down to business. After the shell-shock of last year, of the last ten years, it seems that Michigan players are periodically struck by the thought "hey… this is fun!"
Fans, too. When Zack Gibson saw a vacated lane late in the shot clock and beat Illinois' lumbering center off the dribble and threw it down, everyone roared and I looked around me to make sure there were 10,000 people who also saw that. And I saw people smiling, shocked and pleased and I just can't tell you what else because what in the hell is going on?
In the next timeout, Eric Puls came up behind Gibson and put a towel on his shoulders like he was a prizefighter. Gibson tried, with only moderate success, to look nonchalant about the whole thing.
So here we are, two games into the Big Ten season and 1-1. The Illinois game was critical. Start off 0-2 at home in a league where friendly confines matter way too much and it's a tough slog to get to the 9-9 that puts you on the bubble (unless Michigan upsets UConn, in which case 9-9 is a solid berth). It's still a tough slog, but one that looks doable.
The danger of Michigan's wildly divergent nonconference schedule, which had four tough games and then cupcake city, baby(!) was that the UCLA and Duke games were extreme outliers and the game-in, game-out performance of the team would just not be good enough to claw into the top half of the Big Ten. A couple games later, that chance is more remote. Not a whole lot more remote, but they're at least in the class of teams like Wisconsin and Illinois and should be clearly better than the Indiana/Iowa/Northwestern/Penn State collection of teams towards the bottom of the conference.
Not that they won't lose a game or maybe two to that set of four teams, but if they go 6-1 against those guys they need find only two more wins against the rest of the conference to get to .500, and 3 to get to what must be a tourney-clinching 10-8. Baby steps, always.
- The observations about teeth were made possible by the students' winter break; that allowed yrs truly to sit in the second row behind the Michigan bench.
Unfortunately the ambient noise (WHO WANTS A FREE TEEEEEE SHIRT) of Crisler drowned out what Beilein was saying during commercial breaks and timeouts, but I did catch a couple things.
One: about midway through the first half DeShawn Sims pulls down an offensive rebound and goes back up with it, getting hacked from behind; no call. Illinois takes the transition opportunity down and scores. There's a timeout on the floor and Sims goes to the ref, declaring what just happened to be "bullshit". Beilein yanks him immediately, and chews him out—sort of, he's not exactly Bob Knight—about this being the second consecutive game he's done that and Michigan can't afford for him to get a technical every time the refs blow a call. (Word to that, yo. Michigan would give up 20 technical free throws a game and finish with just Eric Puls on the court.)
Two: every time Michigan would give up a bucket in the 1-3-1 in the first half, Beilein would explain to the bench what went wrong. "You've got to get up in that guy to prevent the skip," etc. etc. etc.
- Sitting close to the bench gave me some insight into the value of Merritt and Lee: they were chatty organizers on defense whenever in the game and (in Lee's case, from the bench), shouting out instructions and generally attempting to make Michigan's array of switches work.
- Speaking of which: it looked like Michigan's man to man has given up on the idea of fighting through screens and just switches all the time. Makes sense when you've got four guys basically the same size on the court, but it also leads to some awkward incidents where Kelvin Grady is under the basket checking a 6'6" guy. This ended poorly.
- Manny alternated some rough possessions with his usual slithering to the bucket. His three-point shooting was pretty rough, and he's got to be a little more aware of when to kick out. Too many tough shots and turnovers so far.
- The above-picture dunk wasn't Gibson's only thunderous finish of the day, but on his first dunk he overestimated his athleticism and nearly killed himself. Ball still went in.
As long as we're on the subject: Gibson's always been shockingly good at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim when the lane gets vacated. He's too slow to do it most of the time, as he'll pick up a charge if there's anyone to rotate, but, man, as soon as he put the ball on the floor I was like "this is going to be a gumpy white guy dunk."
- Novak has won a lot of minutes, and deservedly, but what happened to Jevohn Shepherd? Shepherd was playing pretty well in the nonconference portion of the schedule and provides much-needed size and defense to Michigan's normally Lilliputian lineup. Surely he can pick up ten minutes spotting Harris and Novak?
- Good to see LLP taking some guys off the dribble; hopefully as he gets more comfortable we'll see an increasingly diverse game from him.
The last couple days have seen a minor internet hubbub about Rich Rodriguez's statement that Michigan fans should "get a life," or something like that. That's all 95% of the people who have seen this story have comprehended. In their minds, Rich Rodriguez sat down at a press conference and said "everyone who's upset about 3-8 needs to get a life."
He did not.
On Saturday someone posted this on Rivals:
"Way to tough it out McGuffie. Maybe his little fingers were cold?"
Someone else posted this on Scout:
"I've never been more excited for senior day
goodbye and good riddance."
No links, as both are locked behind paywalls (and the Rivals one is probably lost in the ether by now) but it's not like anyone familiar with the depravity you can find on any message board more confrontational than Hello Kitty Forever is surprised by this genre of comment. You could dig them up on most message boards after a horrific loss. I do it on a weekly basis.
The men who said these things are in need of anger management or a kitten or something to do after a loss other than get so angry steam comes out their ears and they post stuff about amateurs their mother would slap them for. You might describe this something as a "life."
Rich Rodriguez was asked about them because all years of struggle must be followed by stock question #49: "Do you read the horrible things written about you on the internet?" Rodriguez responds:
This is a public position. It's not like a politician, I'm not running for office. I mean, God bless them. They choose to have that public scrutiny. As coaches, we know it's part of the job, but we don't choose to have it. Most of us would rather not.
But the biggest thing that is disappointing is when somebody, not necessarily the media, but when a fan or somebody would make it personal to your coach or to your players. Especially to the players, because those guys are amateurs. When they would make a personal comment or say something that's not related to coaching or not related to playing.
I don't get on message boards. I don't think anybody, any of our players or family should. But it's amazing some of the things that people would say or amazing things people will yell at you of a personal nature. You almost want to tell them get a life. I mean, there's a whole lot bigger problems. You lose a ballgame, and then you look at the economy or after every game I usually get to meet one of our veterans or somebody. You know, to take it personal on a coach or player to me, I don't think it's ever right.
But I'm glad fans have passion, but it's still kind of I guess a lot more bolder. You all would know. It's a lot more bolder what people would say and write. Not you all, but bloggers or whatever, than it used to be. We've seen it coming for a few years.
Absolutely, right? The saddest thing about the internet is this sort of anonymous hatred. I love the internet. It gave me a writing outlet and a job and online scrabble. But, man, trawling through message boards after a loss in search of some scrap of useful news and/or analysis is depressing. It kills my productivity. It makes me want to do something else. And it's because of these little hate factories that just lose their head and spew.*
Here Rodriguez talks about this, gives a reasonable answer across four paragraphs, and even manages to conclude it with "but I'm glad fans have passion." He is obviously talking about that small segment of the fanbase that runs to post bile on the internet and almost seems happier when the team loses. Guess which part of this four-paragraph response got put in an AP story?
“It’s amazing some of the things that people would say (on a message board) or yell at you of a personal nature,” Rodriguez said Monday. “You almost want to tell them, `Get a life.’
“There’s a whole lot bigger problems. Look at the economy.”
Cue sarcastic responses from around the internet. Here's one from increasingly retarded Deadspin:
He's right. The economy is dreadful in the Great Lakes State right now. That's probably why your fans don't like paying $60 a pop to watch your comically inept offense destroy everything they hold dear. Or that their school had to pay $2.5 million to West Virginia University just to get you out of the contract you bailed on. Or that you're earning another $2.5M to deliver the most losses in school history. (And they have a lot of history.) One fan even has to sell his allegiance to pay the rent.
That guy's a Michigan State fan, so fine. I get that I have to think Mark Dantonio is a ridiculous insecure hothead who is just so perfectly Sparty No(!)* and this guy has to think Rich Rodriguez is a heartless mercenary cheerleader-nailing guy.
Then there's this from Kevin Donahue (emphasis mine):
I have just four letters for Coach Rod: STFU.
Is it unthinkable to this college football fan that the one guy who cashed in more than anyone else in this sport in the last twelve months would dare question the passion of fans. Hey d-face, you are where you are today BECAUSE fans care about this game.
I'm not even a Michigan fan... and this pisses me off BIG TIME.
Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.
I mean… what can you even say here? The way information spreads is messed up. Thanks to the restrictions of newshole the AP writer has to snip out 90% of what Rodriguez says. He picks the lines sure to cause commotion when taken out of context. Thanks to the epic fail of the newspaper industry, everyone with the story headlines it as sensationally as possible in order to get their OMG hits. Given the opportunity to whack the piñata, the internet does so. The whole thing is depressing from stem to stern.
You know, the media complained for 13 years about how gruff and inaccessible Lloyd Carr was. Then they get a guy like Rodriguez who's far more open and they heap crap on him. The net impact of this will be to make Rodriguez gruff and inaccessible.
I don't understand. Unless you assume that the people running newspapers cannot model the future beyond tomorrow's newspaper, it makes no sense. Oh. Ohhhhh. It appears I do understand.
*(The comments here can be vicious at times because there is a cabal of people committed to relentlessly policing stupidity. Sometimes I wish it didn't have to be like that, but when I go read comments other places I am swiftly disabused of that notion. The cost in lack of civility to people outside the tribe is far outweighed by the maintenance of a coherent identity. No regular here would dare post the things that lead off this post and if they did they would be ridiculed by a dozen people before I had the opportunity to deploy the banhammer. This has happened multiple times. Everything I delete already has several responses asking the poster to FOAD.)
**(Okay, seriously: seriously. No, seriously: if Michigan wins on Saturday Michigan State plays Penn State for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Which is THE ROSE BOWL. Dantonio's response to the question "are you rooting for Michigan?"
"I'm not rooting for Michigan… I have too many good friends and too many people that wouldn't let me back into their house to let me do that. So Go Bucks."
Seriously. Sparty, man. Sparty.)
11/15/2008 – Michigan 14, Northwestern 21 – 3-7, 2-6 Big Ten
At halftime I momentarily thought I had found a forgotten pair of hand warmers in the recesses of my jacket, only to pull out an empty packet of trail mix and other assorted detritus. This was worse than having no hope of hand warmers at all.
I then examined the various and diverse pockets of my jacket, coming across nothing useful. I did strike upon my ticket from last April's Frozen Four, which now commemorates the gut-punch loss suffered because of Nickelback and Creed. Thanks for leaving it there, Brian Of Christmas Past. I hope your football team goes 3-9, douchebag.
I spent halftime with my hands on the glass of the pretzel oven. Contraption. Vendor thing. Thing with flames and heat that contains pretzels. Whatever the hell it is. It didn't help much.
This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.
If you were there, and stayed there, and did not move from your seat until Nick Sheridan's final pass sailed out of bounds, you have completed the final challenge. This is the worst it can ever be: an awful team that does things specifically intended to hurt you playing a meaningless game against Northwestern in weather not fit for man nor beast. With multiple infuriating million-year-long media timeouts in the fourth quarter. That they lose.
If you put up with it (and far, far fewer than the announced 107,000 did), you are hardcore. You have a black belt in fandom. You get the Fandom Endurance III merit badge. If anyone ever questions your Michigan allegiance, you can just say "I was at the 2008 Northwestern game" and they will have to step off. If they fail to do so with sufficient obsequiousness I'm pretty sure you can cave their skull in with your finger.*
Hell, if you've even watched all these games and maintained enough emotional attachment to swear profusely during them, you're at least a purple belt or a yellow belt or whatever is pretty high up on the belt list.
You probably didn't do this by choice. Anyone with a choice either didn't show up or left or checked out emotionally. You stayed because it was inevitable.
This, of course, is abject stupidity. I, and everyone else there, knew that the four-plus hours spent going to, attending, and returning from the game would be four of the least pleasant hours of our lives. At one point my rain-soaked uncle exclaimed to us all "we do this for fun!"
So, okay, established. Fandom is stupid LOL etc.
But why, hand on the pretzel machine, did I find perverse satisfaction in what I was doing? Why was that horrible game a sort of uniquely rewarding experience in a way last year's Ohio State game, equally dismal on-field and off, was not?
The Ohio State game last year had stakes. Win, and go to the Rose Bowl. And it was Lloyd Carr and Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Jake Long leaving. And it was against Ohio State. There were reasons to go, the chance of seeing something spectacular. Even if that chance was low.
No such chance existed on Saturday. It was pointless and horrible. Anyone with any common sense stayed away. But our stupidity is unbreakable, and that's now 100% proven. There's at least a little something in that.
*(Don't try this at home, kids! Unless you live in Ohio!)
- Hey, chalk up another running performance somewhere between respectable and pretty good. Carlos Brown, back from the dead, was outstanding with his cuts and there were open lanes time and again. And this was against a pretty good run defense in conditions that made throwing an extremely unlikely occurrence.
- Hopefully the Martavious Odoms fumble festival was more due to his inexperience in conditions like those he experienced on Saturday. Remember, this guy is a freshman from a swamp, basically.
- We'll see how he looks in UFR, but Mouton looked dynamite, at least against the run.
- Michigan got jacked by the referees, who 1) took away a Michigan touchdown by ruling Donovan Warren out of bounds, 2) gave Northwestern a touchdown by ignoring an incredibly blatant hold on Tim Jamison, and 3) killed any hope of a comeback by ignoring two obvious PI calls. I mean, whatever, we're 3-8, but Christ the standards in this league are horrifically low.
- That was one high-variance punting strategy employed by Northwestern.
- I hate third and more than 15.
11/8/08 – Michigan 29, Minnesota 6 – 3-7, 2-4 Big Ten
Football is the strangest sport.
Baseball and basketball and hockey are too transparently random to be strange. Sometimes you just lose despite largely outplaying the other team; that's not strange, it's just puck luck or hot shooting or whatever baseball equivalent you'd like to offer. You hit the ball hard and it goes into someone's mitt. You toss rubber at the goalie and hope. You engage in a series of independent random trials worth two or three points. In all these activities the chance is right on the surface.
Football, though… in football inexplicable things happen on a regular basis and they're all gussied up to look like Flat Out Heart. You might think that, eventually, close observers would figure out this tendency and start saying things like "watch for the inexplicable thing!" but no, not really.
This is of some comfort to me in a season where the only thing more reliable than Michigan's ineptitude is this blog's ability to incorrectly forecast future events.
To be fair, if you had collected everyone on the planet who thought Nick Sheridan would lead Michigan to victory over a 7-2 team, no matter how fraudulent, and put them in a room that room would contain Nick Sheridan's mother, that one guy on the message board with the annoying, unkillable optimism, and a bushman who speaks one of those clicky languages and erroneously believes there to be free sandwiches because of a mindboggling linguistic coincidence.
Then at some point during Michigan's opening field goal fiesta Sheridan scrambled out of the pocket and threw across his body. I guarantee you every single Michigan fan watching the game thought this was a horrible idea and that in approximately two seconds Minnesota would be running the other way with the ball. Somewhere, a Michigan fan stuck at a wedding had an eerie feeling of deep foreboding as the Michigan fanbase's collective brainwave screamed "nooooooooo" in slow-motion.
Complete, first down, eventual scoring drive, final yardage for 435, final yardage against 188, 29-6 victory.
Back in the day when computer cases came bolted on with a dozen tiny screws and floppy disks were floppy, if you wanted to have decent sound you had to buy your sound card separately. My friends did this, and it was there they met Dr. Sbaitso. Dr. Sbaitso was a weird little AI program that would converse with you that Creative Labs shipped with their soundcards to show off their speech software. It was the early '90s. It was free software. If you swore at it, it would complain that that kind of talk would give it a parity error. You can imagine the hilarity.
Though I never interacted with him myself, for years after conversations would occasionally take abrupt detours into Sbaitso lingo. The thing that lingers in my head to this day is this:
NOT ENOUGH DATA SO I MAKE BIG
This was inevitably followed by some sort of fooshing noise that indicated great expansion.
Over the past five weeks as Michigan slid from 2-2 to 2-7 and victory became a thing once remembered, everybody wanted someone's blood. It didn't matter who you are, you wanted to bash someone with a brick. For some, it's Rodriguez or Martin or Shafer. For others (Wolverine Liberation Army most prominently), it's anyone who would come on the internet and say something rashly dumb. For me, it's the media that took the opportunity to lay the foundation for Rodriguez's premature firing.
Scorn, condescension, and mockery are the only things coming from Detroit columnists not named Wojo these days, as they rush to be the first to pile dirt on Rich Rodriguez's grave (but, of course, only after telling you that's it's far too early judge).
Look at this from the Detroit News in the aftermath of the Purdue game:
But what should be as distressing to Michigan's football camp as this incomprehensible string of losses -- five in a row -- is Rodriguez's attitude.
"I know what's going on," he said Saturday, as if he is aware of deficiencies no one else seems to recognize
Does he really believe that?
I find it amazing that Lynn Henning finds it possible to condescend to someone who's proven over the last twenty-five years that he's one of the best football coaches in the profession. After all, Lynn Henning has proven over the past twenty five years that he is Lynn Henning.
And then, of course, the Worst Columnist On The Planet*:
They're [Michigan fans] spoiled. They're arrogant. They feel entitled. They took 9-3 seasons with annual losses to Ohio State for granted, lusting for their program's rightful destiny. And they will demand significant improvement from Rodriguez in his second season or he will face a BCS-or-else ultimatum in his third year.
Saban's quick Alabama transformation just made it harder for every other coach.
This is so obviously retarded in a thousand different ways (for one: Saban has a senior multi-year starter at QB) that it hardly warrants a response. But there is one thing that is dangerous here: the suggestion that Rodriguez should be on a short leash.
In a word, no.
Rocky Top Talk, a fine Tennessee blog, was kind enough to have me on their latest podcast, whereupon we talked about coaching changes and the creepy similarity of the two programs* and, uh, how Alabama fans hate me. At some point Joel asked for advice, which was kind of odd but he asked. In response, I asked what the talent level looked like and he said the general opinion was that next year would actually be a step back. Then I noted that last year Tennessee had one of the most disappointing recruiting classes in the nation and that this year's class would likely be substandard what with the coaching change and all and advised patience. Sustained, gritted-teeth patience.
Because without patience you acquire unreasonable demands like "take a 3-7 team to the BCS in two years with a (probably) true sophomore quarterback or we fire you, confirm every stupid thing the media has incorrectly said about the Michigan fanbase, and start all over with someone definitely less proven as a successful head coach than Rich Rodriguez."
Screw that. Screw Sharp and all his ilk at the Detroit papers ready to leap upon the carcass of Michigan football because they're too stupid and shortsighted to do anything else.
Nick Sheridan was nicknamed DEATH up until the moment he threw that "nooooo" pass across his body. I had too little data, but I made big.
Michigan fans assumed this all-singing-all-dancing-all-freshman offense would be basically as effective as other crappy offenses from Michigan teams past. They had too little data, and they made big.
The Detroit media would like to assure you that it's way too early to judge Rich Rodriguez but my god what a horrible coach who is mostly at fault for Michigan's failure to acquire a chintzy bowl bid. They had too little data, and they made big. (They will continue to do this.)
Now Tennessee and Washington and Clemson and maybe Auburn and a bunch of other teams will be scouring the nation for coaches upon there is precious little data, because the ones on which there is much data are already out of reach. If Michigan goes searching again prematurely they will not find a guy with a proven record of success like Rodriguez. They will not find a coach with two BCS bowl wins to his name. They are wishing and hoping.
We got extraordinarily lucky; there is enough data to justify Rodriguez the five years coaches all used to get, and we should give it to him.
*(if you absolutely must see the entire thing I will link it (nofollowed) but I urge you to not click here: .)
**(No, seriously. I always thought Tennessee, a traditional power with an awesome fight song that operates at a recruiting disadvantage because its home state is talent-deficient relative to its peers and has a national championship from about a decade ago, was pretty similar to Michigan. Then Joel from RTT was talking with me and mentioned that Tennessee had been coached by a total of two guys over the last 32 years (16 years each for Majors and Fulmer) and I was like… whoah.)
- This is already way too long!
11/1/2008 – Michigan 42, Purdue 48 – 2-7, 1-4 Big Ten
As you might have noticed from such posts as "Brian goes to Auburn-LSU," I have an Auburn friend in town. You also might have noticed that Auburn sucks exactly as much as Michigan does this season. In general, this is some small comfort to both of us.
However, this friendship has caused me to pay more attention to Auburn's fortunes, such as they are, and write things about Auburn's botched hiring of spread guru Tony Franklin, and this is where the uncomfortable comparisons start.
If you missed the story, a précis: Auburn fires offensive coordinator Al Borges in December last year, replacing him with Troy State OC Tony Franklin. Franklin's newly implemented "Spread Eagle" racks up 423 yards against Clemson in a Peach Bowl victory. Auburn had eight days to practice it. Clemson was the #6 defense in the country. Woo!
Expectations are high coming in to 2008, whereupon Auburn implodes spectacularly, has an internal hissy fit, and fires Franklin midseason. A couple weeks before the firing Tommy Tuberville starts saying things that make it clear he's not really on board with this spread noise; Smart Football notes that whatever Franklin is running at Auburn isn't the Tony Franklin System(tm).
Underperforming unit, head coach focused on the other side of the ball but with a tendency towards one particular system the coordinator does not run, midseason philosophy shift… it's hard to avoid the parallels between Auburn adopting a shotgun formation and then running tank-sized power back Ben Tate on ill-fated zone stretches and Michigan's bizarre decision to adopt a 3-3-5 stack that, as far as I know, Shafer has never run before. Michigan proceeded to give up 48 points and 559 yards to a 2-6 team starting its third-string quarterback. Said quarterback was a running back three weeks ago.
This is where fail picture goes.
We have two unpleasant choices here: Shafer elects to pull Will Johnson, one of his better starters, for a freshman Boubacar Cissoko and having the move backfire spectacularly, or Rich Rodriguez dictates that change from above. I prefer Door #1 because then the 3-3-5 against Purdue is just an idea that really didn't work, not a sign of internal strife. Internal strife is bad.
So now everyone's guns are trained on Scott Shafer, coordinator of the Worst Defense In Michigan History and designated scapegoat for all (well, half) of Michigan's ills. Arguments will rage between the Fire Him Now and the Probably Fire Him Next Year camps, and interwebs blood will be spilled and people will be virtually roasted alive and it's going to be very dramatic on the message boards and so forth and so on.
Already the inbox is filled with emails asking whether Shafer needs to go. My answer is "probably not," but just like the guy who was asking whether Stevie Brown is shaving points I can no longer say so for certain.
- Hey, at least MINOR RAGE was back in good effect; on one of his touchdowns he ran through a couple tacklers like a giant parade balloon version of Mike Hart. I don't think anyone was surprised when he left the game injured; the only surprise is he didn't have to have a limb amputated and actually returned.
- The other standout was Martavious Odoms, obviously, who was the king of variance on special teams: touchdown, ridiculous punt muff providing someone else a touchdown, etc. I'm pretty sure Purdue's kick coverage team was horrible, but any progress from the return units is welcome, and several times Michigan was one guy away from busting a touchdown.
- As the year progresses I am increasingly skeptical Threet is a long term solution. I don't know if the elbow injuries had anything to do with it, but he refused to keep the ball on the zone read despite Purdue selling out to stop the running back. (If you go back to the liveblog you will see several "keep the #*$@ing ball, Threet!" requests from yrs truly.)
His accuracy was also spotty, especially on screens and the like, and if that doesn't improve I don't see how he can maintain a long-term grip on the starting job. For his sake I hope the elbow injuries are a major drag on his performance; otherwise it's Forcier/Beaver time in 2009.
- They futzed around with the offensive line some but eventually went back to their normal starting configuration, I think. Molk definitely got back in there, and I believe Ferrara got booted. I'll check the film on UFR.
- Did Michigan really burn Justin Feagin's redshirt on some kick coverage? WTF?