From Portage Northern.
It's been a while since this feature has made an appearance, but with a recent boom in good diaries, it's time to dust off the cobwebs and bring you the best in user-generated content. Write a good diary and you, too, can have your time in the spotlight!
A lot of diaries of late have been Lacrosse (me), Baseball (formerlyanonymous), or Recruiting (Tom/me) -related, but there's been some good user-generated content, as well. Though we haven't seen this feature since December, I'll restrict entries to the end of basketball season. I'm leaving 16-team Big Ten proposals alone for now, as Brian will probably bring them up later.
The Mathlete brought it strong over the past few weeks, including a look at which NCAA football teams have been the most and least lucky over the past two years. How did he define luck?
To try and answer these questions, I took my team PPG values for the full 2009 season and then “re-played” the regular season schedule to see how the season would play out if the teams played at that consistent level and the fluky plays were eliminated. All first half plays and any in the second half with the game within 2 touchdowns were included. Interceptions are included, fumbles are not. Standard special teams plays are included, punt blocks, on-sides kicks etc. are not.
Unsurprisingly, Michigan hasn't been so lucky either of the past two years:
Northwestern has been the luckiest team in the nation two years running, so they may be in for a rude awakening sometime soon. MCalibur's lengthy diary presumably covers something similar (win expectations), but is more notable for how pretty its charts are.
Here offensive YPG is charted against defensive YPG. The horrible dot at the bottom is '08; the horrible dot to the right is '09. You can see how far from respectable Michigan was in '08 and the sizeable improvement last year, albeit not enough of one to expect a bowl game.
The Mathlete then delved into the importance of personnel, starting with the cumbersomely-titled post exploring the value of returning starters to a football team's success. Surprisingly, as long as your team wasn't among the bottom 20% in the country of returning starts at some key positions, returning experience isn't that big of a deal:
Returning starts don't matter as much as people think. The way they are most likely to affect a team is if you have very few. A whole host of returners isn't necessarily more valuable than a solid group. Just don't be stuck at the bottom, even a low ranking in a single position group can be worth a game or two.
So Michigan is losing its best three defenders, which bodes ill for the 2010 season, right? Not So Fast My Friend, as The Mathlete continued to outdo himself, crunching the numbers to reveal who were Michigan's top defensive players last year. Ryan Van Bergen comes in at a surprising #3, with Brandon Graham, in a shocker, the runaway leader with an adjusted score of 27.4. Donovan Warren's 8.7 was second.
The only positive performers who are returning are Van Bergen, Jonas Mouton, Mike Martin, and Obi Ezeh. Jordan Kovacs, Craig Roh, and Mike Leach were only slightly in the negative, all right around average nationally for their positions. The conclusion:
The most glaring point for me is that Michigan’s top linebacker, Mouton, barely makes the top 150 linebackers nationally in production. If Michigan’s defense is going to turn things around there is going to have be some new playmakers step up and there has to be more production from the linebackers.
The Mathlete, for your research-laden diaries (and the charts, OH, the charts!), you are The Diarist of the... er... Spring!
Inspired by the recent changes to NFL overtime rules, ecormany proposes a few tweaks to the NCAA's overtime system. Among his ideas: reincorporate the punting game and give teams only two minutes to complete each possession in an overtime period.
In Can The Heat Be Beat?, Elno Lewis looks at the ever-growing dominance of so-called "warm weather teams" in winning football national titles. The results are striking:
Warm Weather Teams Winning Championships
1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 40.6% 47.5% 53.1% 53.8% 62.1% 68.4% 70.0%
It looks like the trend is still upward for warm-weather teams. Can northern squads like Michigan try to buck the trend? Follow-up question: can an infusion of Florida talent negate the trend? I'd be interested to see someone expand on Elno's research.
wildbackdunesman compares the respective CCHA coaching careers of Ron Mason and Red Berenson, and proposes a name-change of the CCHA Tournament trophy to the Mason-Berenson Cup. Red is comparable to Mason in every category of measuring success, and there's certainly a compelling argument to be made. It seems the only serious advantage Mason has is being the coach of more CCHA teams (Lake State, Bowling Green, and Michigan State, as compared to only Michigan for Red) and coaching longer than Berenson has so far.
With the NFL Draft coming up, Mat takes a look at whether Donovan Warren made the right choice in leaving Michigan a year early for the Big Leagues. The criteria to consider:
The potential gains for returning for one more year are:
- Another year of college life / experience
- Potential improved draft stock
...and the verdict:
Warren didn't make a mistake. Most guys who are drafted are not making a mistake when they turn pro. The decision is the correct one when all the costs and benefits are factored in for most. The decision is only a mistake is if you’re immediately cut and never earn a penny as a pro football player or are really enjoying life as a collegiate athlete and will miss it more than you’ll appreciate the money you’ll earn as a pro.
The reasoning behind this conclusion seems pretty sound, yet it inspired tons of debate in the comments. Both supporters and detractors of the premise raised a bunch of interesting points about Warren's draft stock, and how it affects their view of his decision.
mfan_in_ohio declares the Michigan fanbase's independence from Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God. The preamble proceeds thusly:
When in the course of sporting events it becomes necessary for fans to dissolve the bands which have connected them with another, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
...but the money quotes come in the airing of grievances.
Misopogon determines whether the three new NCAA football rules have an effect on Michigan. The verdicts? Wedge blocking ban: Help. Taunting rule: Hurt. Eyeblack message ban: Neutral. Click through to find out his reasoning.
Bust out the cigarettes and Fedoras, as BlueSeoul gives us a glimpse into the noir-style meeting between Jim Delaney and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick's about the Irish joining the Big Ten. Plus he has to apologize at the end for getting to Star Wars-y.
An actual historical diary from Alaska Hokie shares the story of former Michigan quarterback James Miller.
WALLA WALLA, March 19.—James Miller, the famous quarterback of the Michigan team last year, who has been missing from his home for several months, was located in this city yesterday working as a laborer. His mind is a total blank and he is quite unable to recognize his friends. He was elected to the captaincy of the Wolverine team for next season.
Sounds like something out of the twilight zone (or at least the front page of MVictors). There's debate over whether his amnesia was a medical issue or a clever ruse to cover up for some personal issues.
Defense + - Graham 6 0 RVB 1 0 Herron 0 1 Heniger 0 1 Kovacs 2 2 Roh 1 2 Brown 1 2 Warren 3 0 Martin 1 0 Mouton 4 2 Leach 2 1 total 21 11
Denard Robinson was 1/1 with the pass being deemed "catchable," but Tate Forcier had a slightly rougher day.
On the basketball side of things, Champswest tries to figure out where Michigan's scoring will come from next year. Uh, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz, apparently. I guess more balanced scoring is a good thing?
Etc.: Nantucket Blue, seemingly apropos of nothing, rips on Michigan State in Our Colors Don't Mix. In other Michigan State-related diaries, MGoData looks at the Google habits of East Lansing residents (seriously). Kman23 brainstorms ways to get Michigan's best receivers on the field at the same time. Jeff gives props to the streaking Women's Tennis team. Laveraneus looks at combined win/loss records for football and basketball across various schools and conference. MGlobules tries to round up some UConn spring game recaps. backusduo pre-previews EA's NCAA Football 2011.
The 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board lives here.
Brennen Beyer Goes Blue
And He's Leaping With Excitement About It! (Sorry).
Michigan's 2011 recruiting class now stands at four commitments after MI DE Brennen Beyer joined the fold Thursday afternoon. For much more on his commitment check out Hello: Brennen Beyer. Tom talked to Brennen Thursday after he committed, and gave a brief update in the comments of that post:
He said, "After seeing all the other schools, I knew that this was the right place. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to go."
He has been a lifelong Michigan fan and added an emphatic "Go Blue!' at the end.
Touch The Banner breaks down his game:
In many ways, Beyer reminds me of Craig Roh. Both are long, explosive, and relentless. Both are somewhat susceptible to taking the run game head on. Roh was a little more refined coming out of high school and, despite being a little bigger, has a little more athleticism... Beyer will likely redshirt in 2011 and have a real shot at contributing in 2013 after Roh graduates.
"A lot like Craig Roh" is the prevailing opinion on Beyer, so no surprise there.
Spring Game: The Aftermath
A number of important visitors were at the Spring Game over the weekend, including several top instate guys, as well as some out-of-state prospects. Perhaps none is more important than FL RB Demetrius Hart (pictured at right). Sam Webb profiled Hart in the Detroit News last week. On top of his football skills, he has all the intangibles as well:
"Hart's physical ability, speed and quickness, are easily identified, but after watching him for two days there is much more to this impressive athlete," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Bill Greene. "His leadership ability, infectious attitude, and desire to win far outshine his impressive physical gifts. Demetrius Hart is a winner, on and off the field. He will be an outstanding addition to whichever college he chooses."
Most of the article recaps the ongoing "Michigan leads - wait no they don't - I'm not considering them - wait yes I am" saga that's we've been following for several weeks, but also says that he'll be deciding over the summer:
"I am going to Auburn at the end of May, and then on June 5 to Alabama," Hart reported. "I do not have an overall favorite until I see what (his mother) thinks. I'll make my decision sometime this summer. I am going to look at academics and playing time."
The Michigan visit may have pushed that decision forward somewhat. Tom talked to his mother during the visit, and she spoke glowingly of the Michigan program:
TOM: Does this visit change anything with Demetrius, as far as his top schools?
MRS HART: I’ll say this, I would say that they received a whole lot of brownie points with this visit. And, we’ll be back soon. You have to go somewhere you feel loved and supported, and I know he would get that here.
TOM: Will he be deciding anytime soon?
MRS HART: It’s going to be soon. Within a month.
There's much more info in the post, so check it out. The fact that he's deciding shortly after a return visit to Michigan (likely for the "BBQ at the Big House" near the end of May) is a very, very good sign. Sam Webb said on WTKA the other day that he has a "strong gut feeling" on Hart, which typically indicates a silent commitment to the Wolverines.
In other Spring Game-related news, PA DE Deion Barnes was in attendance with the Top Prospects Family, and he received an offer ($, info in header) from the Michigan coaching staff on his "legendary" ($, info in header) visit. He spoke with ESPN last week prior to the visit, though the video's not that informative.
Top recruits FL WR Sammy Watkins (younger brother of Florida freshman CB Jaylen Watkins) and FL Ath/QB/S Dallas Crawford attended the spring game. Crawford "loved his Michigan visit" ($, info in header), They are expected to be big time recruits, and would be huge gets for the Wolverines.
One prospect I was interested in hearing from following the spring game was MI OL Anthony Zettel. He's been favoring Michigan ($, info in header) for quite some time now, but the visit wasn't enough to coax a commitment out of him.
IL OL Jordan Walsh was there ($, info in header).
Tom has a bunch of other news from the Spring Game visitors he's talked to, which includes the snippet that MD DT Vincent Croce now favors the Wolverines, along with UVA, as well as a tidbit on MI WR DeAnthony Arnett. Our Helmets Have Wings goes into further depth on Arnett:
Arnett still plans to take in the spring game at MSU this upcoming weekend, but he indicated he will create a top 7 this summer and then top 5 right before his senior season, and that he won’t decide until after his senior season is over.
Arnett was pleased with Michigan's passing game during the spring game, and since he grew up a fan of Michigan and Oklahoma, a strong season for the Wolverines could help net a commit from him. Highlights from his performance at the Michigan Football Showcase are now available on Youtube:
News Of The Not-So-Happy Variety
Not all news is good news this week, as Michigan went from one of the favorites for OH DT Kevin Williams, to slipping, to outside his top 3 by the time he committed to Nebraska following his visit to their spring game. He was one of Michigan's top targets, and it hurts to lose a guy that had Michigan at the top only a month ago. However, there are other defensive tackles in the sea, and the staff will shift focus to the likes of Vincent Croce, Kevin McReynolds, and others.
AZ OL Christian Westerman committed to Texas a little while ago, but I forgot to remove him from the recruiting board. He's off now.
TN Ath/QB Jabriel Washington has committed to Alabama. Despite his Michigan offer, he always favored SEC schools, so it's no surprise.
Demetrius Hart's teammate, FL S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, committed to Alabama. If Hart does indeed commit to Michigan, might he be able to sway his teammate? It sounds like Clinton-Dix is 100% Crimson, unfortunately.
FL RB Mike Blakely has been offered ($, info in header). Michigan is "still in the mix" for SC WR Hakeem Flowers ($, info in header). FL TE Jeff Heuerman will visit today. AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena "likes the cold" ($, info in header), which can only help Michigan. Michigan leads for FL OL Tony Posada, and he plans to visit ($, info in header). LA OL Trai Turner will decide over the summer ($, info in header). Stanford leads for Michigan offeree CA DE Charles Burks ($, info in header). NC LB Kris Frost would prefer to play WR ($, info in header). Michigan appears to be in third for OH CB Doran Grant ($, info in header). Eleven Warriors talks to him as well.
Why? We're 3-9 and have no bowl game, that's why. But also because I just found the stats interesting.
Michigan State played Georgia in the Citrus Bowl, prompting dual Georgia/Michigan fan Michael at Braves & Birds to ponder World War II (most things cause him to ponder World War II):
Michigan State came into the Citrus Bowl (I refuse to use the new name) in a position not unlike the one that Japan in 1940-41. MSU was opposed by a slumbering giant, an opponent that was complacent and unprepared for war at the outset, but an opponent with far greater talent and capacity for a long-term fight.
Long story short: the giant woke up in the second half and dropped bombs. Only Georgia's disinterest in the game kept Michigan State's 2008 from being a mirror image of Notre Dame's 2006 minus the undeserved BCS bid, a superficially pretty record marred by epic beatings at the hands of the few top ten teams on the schedule.
Here's a table.
|Team||Total Offense||Total Defense||Margin||Total Offense||Total Defense||Margin|
|Team A||352.4 (67th)||357.9 (40th)||-5.5||339.5 (8th)||375.4 (8th)||-35.9|
|Team B||416.8 (42nd)||345.5 (32nd)||71.3||431.1 (1st)||394.1 (7th)||37|
Which team went 9-4 and which team went 7-6? It's obvious. If team B went 9-4 I wouldn't be posting about it. Michigan State's offense fell off a cliff and the defense basically stayed level and the end result was a significant improvement. As a bonus, the real numbers are actually worse than what you see above since they don't include the Citrus loss in which State was outgained by about 100 yards.
Anyone who's read this blog for more than a couple months knows the a-ha moment that's coming up: turnover margin! Except the 7-6 team was slightly better than the 9-4 team that critical, near-random category. No dice there. Neither can the explanation be found on special teams. Punting was about a yard better this year, and while the punt returns got a lot better the kick returns got a lot worse. There's nothing in the stats that offers an easy explanation as to why Michigan State seemingly got much worse but won more games.
The nearest thing to an explanation I can come up with is the distribution of turnovers. MSU was in -7 in turnover margin against Ohio State and Penn State, both epic losses; in all other games they were +9. Since a large chunk of that yardage gap also came in those aforementioned epic losses, State played a large number of games in which they were on the whole equal with their opponents and won the turnover battle and therefore the game. State won three games in which they were outgained, sometimes badly:
|Opponent||Yards For||Yards Allowed||Margin||TO Margin||Final Score|
State had no games that went the other way; they had their crappy days against teams they were highly unlikely to beat anyway. The Spartans were a 6-6 or 7-5 team—again—that had the breaks fall in the right way for them to leap up a couple spots in the weakest Big Ten in memory.
This is the long way of saying I'm not particularly afeared of Dantonio. While he seems like a better coach than the last two jokers at State (an honor also shared by Clay Aiken and jars of peanuts), Braves and Birds nails his ceiling:
Mark Dantonio is Jim Tressel without the talent base. Exhibit A: punting in the first quarter on 4th and 1 from the Georgia 39. Exhibit B: an offense built around running the same guy over and over between the tackles. (At least Tressel came out of the dark ages with Troy Smith.) Exhibit C: a kicker who attempted 25 field goals this year. Exhibit D: an on-field persona that makes Ben Stein's character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off look like Sam Kinison. With the way Dantonio's team approaches offense, I'm constantly reminded of the Japanese officer who said in 1944 that Japan didn't need radar because its soldiers could see perfectly well.
World War II analogies are appropriate because the last time Dantonio updated his thinking was during the Battle of Midway. At best he makes Michigan State into a Wisconsin or Iowa level program, and even that seems pretty doubtful.
Update 12/11: Added CA CB David Ross, a four star without an offer who claims Michigan his "dream school." Removed DE, er, DE Devon Still, who dropped us. Moved KS LB Austin Panter to committed. Linked to article on AZ OL Jaivorio Burkes and one on OT commitment Mark Huyge. Added CA LB Malcolm Smith. Removed some safety chaff. Moved TX LB Brandon Herron to committed. Removed IL DE Martez Wilson, VA CB Cris Hill (dropped us). Added VA LB Marell Evans to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Panter and Herron have been covered before. New commitment is that of Evans, a two-star with no reasonable argument that he might have been overlooked. He doesn't play for an obscure high school (Varina is a state power), he hasn't been injured or forced to play out of position, and he doesn't have offers that belie his ranking. Michigan snatched him away from Temple, Buffalo, and Middle Tennessee. Virginia Tech appeared to be interested...
Meanwhile, last we heard Virginia Tech was looking at Varina defenders Andre Branch and Marell Evans.
"I know the Michigan coaches are coming down this week to see Marell," he said. "I believe Virginia Tech likes him, but coach Cavanaugh didn't say a lot when he checked him out. He does think he's a good player, but Tech is in a bind since they've got almost everyone they want. I do know that Virginia Tech does like him more as a defensive end. He's the type of kid that can put on weight and run really well."
... but not interested enough to offer. So he's got that going for him. He was also his district's defensive player of the year, and you can assume that Michigan has a high familiarity with him after spending much of last year chasing after Brandon Minor, who also attended Varina. Still, the probability he's a major contributor is lower than most other Michigan recruits. Standard disclaimer that the number of stars next to a players name does not etch their fate in stone, but it is relevant.
Other bits: dropped by a couple DEs; in all probability we're going to get Van Bergen and that's it. We'll need a blue-chippah next year but with Germany, Patterson, and Graham all entering their sophomore years the lack of numbers there isn't a concern. Weird article about David Ross, a California four-star who basically begged for a Michigan offer on Scout.com. He's a soft verbal to Nebraska now and visiting Oregon... no idea what the deal is there. I moved Jerimy Finch back to safety since there seems to be a flood of linebackers incoming. Things are looking good for FL OLB/S Lorenzo Edwards.
The above-linked Huyge article is worth a read for anyone concerned about OT recruiting. Michigan's had a lot of high-profile busts and low-profile successes recently, so I'm not particularly worried. It would be nice to pick up Romine or Elliot, though.
WXYT 1270 in Detroit had Gary Danielson and Kirk Herbstreit on recently. I think the results speak for themselves.
I understand that expecting sports talking heads to make a damn bit of sense is futile, but good God... I can't watch or read anything without feeling an intense desire to choke whoever wrote/said it.
If you say any of the following things, you are wrong and should be shamed.
Michigan didn't win its conference. If this was going to be changed it would have been changed after the Nebraska fiasco. It wasn't, even though the BCS was fully aware it was a possibility. The system is about the two best teams, and this year every indication is that they come from the same conference.
Michigan had its chance. AOK SWELL. If we change the location of the MNC game to Columbus, Ohio, and play on crappy turf that OSU is used to but Florida is not, I can see this argument working. I doubt that's going to happen. This is also ignoring what the BCS is about: the two best teams. There is no "they had their chance" clause.
Florida played a harder schedule. Says who? The only team with anything resembling a pulse on the nonconference schedule was Florida State, and that's a mighty generous definition of the word "pulse." Then we're getting into the SEC, which has pretty records because of the Sun Belt World tour and excessive media hype. Objective measures of these things have Michigan slightly behind or slightly ahead. In any case, the gap is razor thin, close enough that the relative performances of the two teams against their nearly identical schedules should be the deciding factor.
Michigan has been idle for two weeks. Yes, I have actually seen this. Personally, I think Florida should go to the Alamo Bowl because it had bye weeks early in the season instead of Michigan's incredible twelve straight weeks. The idea that Michigan has an unviolable right to the #2 spot because they "didn't get worse" -- as advanced by Doug Flutie -- is wrong, since Florida's accomplishments since
Do you notice what Florida backers never talk about?
Michigan and Florida. They make it about whether Alabama is better than Indiana. Whether Penn State is better than Georgia. The historical fluke that the #1 team happens to be in Michigan's conference. While I'm not in favor of Vegas-style rankings because they discard what actually, you know, happened, in this case we have two teams having played comparable schedules and with comparable records. Style points don't matter, but substance points do. South Carolina may be a hair better than Iowa, but Michigan's game against Iowa -- though close-ish in the second half -- did not come down to a blocked extra point and two blocked field goals. Michigan dominated Vandy; Florida was outgained by them and won by 6. Florida limped past Georgia and Florida State; though the scores were superficially similar in the Penn State and Minnesota games, Michigan was never really threatened, unless you consider a petrified third-string quarterback with 80 yards to go when his team has racked up a total of 150 a "threat."
The foes were comparable. Michigan has ruthlessly executed them; Florida has scraped by on a wing and a prayer. With accomplishments relatively equal, we can look to Vegas.
Vegas says Michigan by six.