spoiler alert: i linked this
Sponsorship note! This is going to be ironic given the crabbing a bit later about excessively corporate bits, but we've landed a sponsorship from a new book titled "For Michigan Fans Only" that will run over about the next two weeks. Check it out, see if you're interested, buy a copy or three, and discharge any lingering guilt you may have about not supporting the site.
Podcasting. I put in an appearance on The Michigan Man podcast to talk about the Purdue game, and talked some more new media stuff with Dan Levy of Press Coverage. And yes, we taped a podcast this week that should be up today or tomorrow. It is the angriest podcast.
Defense: we had it. Wolverine Historian's tribute to the mauling '85 defense:
Football with defense now seems like a bizarre anomaly that requires changes to your gameplanning.
Footie V. Congratulations to the men's soccer team, which won its first Big Ten title in 11 years of existence by stomping Penn State 4-1. MGoBlue has video highlights. Soony Saad's goal was a bit of a gift but Meram's two were sweet, and he would have had a hat trick but for a Penn State player pulling a Suarez. The BTN mics picked up the defender incredulously exclaiming "are you KIDDING ME, sir" after the guy had bashed away a certain goal with his forearm—even Rasheed Wallace thinks that's a stretch. BTW, Saad is now the nation's leading scorer with 18 goals.
The NCAA soccer tournament is a 48-team affair where 16 teams are seeded and receive byes; Michigan is the #10 seed and will play the winner of South Florida-Central Florida on Sunday at 2. The game is in Ann Arbor, so pack the place out. If they advance the third round will be at South Carolina or at home if SC is upset by the Coastal Carolina/Duke winner.
From national award winner thing to person at South Carolina. Your unbreakable faith in David Brandon's pimp hand has been further strengthened by the departure of compliance head Judy Van Horn for a job at South Carolina that seems identical to the one she's departing.
Van Horn only appears in the infamous CARA documents occasionally, mostly to gently spar with Draper. Whatever her offenses were they weren't public, and I plead not enough data if you're asking whether or not she should have been gently shown the door. I will say that I am enjoying the public announcements that Person Has Acquired Job You Don't Care About because they remind me of that scene in The Wire where deposed mayor Royce whispers sweet nothings to Clay Davis about staying in line or getting nothing. Don't go against the family.
Horrified Kafkaesque potato-man interlude.
In other Brandon. The Crain's Detroit Business article on Brandon has been kicked around on the message board already but a couple opinion type objects follow on from this:
As part of dealing with the infractions, Brandon plans to operate the athletics program much like he did the corporations he ran for more than two decades, Ann Arbor-based Domino's Pizza Inc. and Livonia-based coupon marketer Valassis Communications Inc.
That includes creating a business plan and bolstering the image. The athletic department is conducting a national search for its first chief marketing officer, and Brandon is looking at where money should be spent on promotion.
"The first thing you need to do is resource properly against the areas that are very important. This is a department that's been under-resourced in terms of marketing muscle and expertise," he said, noting that just three people worked on marketing for UM athletics. The new CMO will add more staff.
"(We will) craft the message a little better in the media in terms of who we are, what's going on here and why it ought to be attractive to people," he said.
I guess that's fine and after the NCAA business it seems like a thorough reshaping of the athletic department is in order, but I'm a bit leery of the direction things have gone so far on the marketing front. I'm not buying a Big Chill shirt because it's got an Arby's logo on it. I'm extremely disappointed that David Brandon's pimp hand has so far spared Special K and his awful, generic gameday music.
The whole point of college athletics these days is a lack of the generic corporate moneygrab that makes professional games sterile experiences—have you been to a Wings game in the last ten years? Part of marketing the program is being actually different. Eroding the wall between Michigan's fusty, old-timey feel and your average AHL game brings a short-term Pavlovian response but hurts the development of long-term obsessives that allow Michigan to avoid two for one Subway promotions even when they're not doing that well.
This is a statement I don't like:
"My job as the quote-unquote CEO of Michigan athletics is to make sure that (the profit and loss statement) is healthy, that we're doing a good job of growing our revenues, that we're managing our costs," he said. "It operates very much like every business I've ever been associated with from the standpoint of what we do and what we need to do to be successful."
His job as the quote unquote CEO of Michigan athletics has zero to do with money. Money is a vehicle via which to graduate students and acquire wins, and in some cases I think the athletic department is sliding too much towards money. I thought the same thing under Martin, FWIW.
Hockey bits. A fuller exploration of what's going on with the hockey team will have to wait until football's over but, man, it's looking like a slightly less nerve-wracking version of last year. Michigan has avoided the ugly .500 start and is sitting at 6-3-3, but they're a last-second goal against Ferris State from splitting every weekend they've had this year save a sweep of Bowling Green. Michigan lost to a terrible version of BG last year so this is some progress. It's a far cry from the rampage they went on at the end of last season.
Making things a bit worse was how the Notre Dame series went down. Michigan was run out of the building Friday in a depressing game where they were outshot badly. This never happens. On Saturday they got down and then got a flood of freaky goals:
Michigan Hockey Net chalked the win up to puck luck and it's hard to disagree when Michigan's last three were some variety of bizarre. Langlais's invisible hockey player job is possibly the weirdest goal I've ever seen.
A lot of people have been muttering about a repeat of last year and it's not hard to see the similarities. Michigan does not have a lot of skill in the forward corps and has to rely on bombs and deflections too much. Only Hagelin brings a consistent look-at-that-guy presence on every shift. The goaltending is okay but not great, and the team seems to lack a shut down defenseman in the mold of a Mitera or a Komisarek.
At least they haven't lost to an awful team yet, and it looks like their schedule has been tough out of the gate—ND and Alaska are 1st and 4th in the league right now and Ferris is okay; even BG is 5-7 overall. UNH is 5-1-3. That Mercyhurst tie is going to rankle all year, though.
Cheese it! The cops! Penn State fans are still convinced that an epic refereeing conspiracy exists to prop up Michigan, and after watching this I'm convinced:
/commits seppuku because of the dishonor
Etc.: The Mathlete has us 50-50 to get to an eighth win before the bowl. Quite a coinflip coming up. Mets Maize on the Purdue game. John Clay might miss the Michigan game, but it won't matter since Wisconsin has two other fine backs.
This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:
That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.
Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.
Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:
To the chart we go!
YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36 Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29 Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16 Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59 Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06 Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21 Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02 NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63 Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08 Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07 Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43
(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)
Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.
Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.
There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.
Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:
It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.
The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.
*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)
Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:
The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.
Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:
Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:
a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.
Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:
- Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
- Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
- If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
- It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.
You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.
NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.
Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:
Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.
Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.
Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.
Schadenfreuede starring you. You may be featured in TWIS…
It's time to play "MGoBlog Content Or Smiths Song?"
…but so am I so it's only fair. Also the first one isn't actually MGoBlog content, it's from MGoFootball, but it was too perfect.
What happened when that other thing was happening. If you weren't one of the sixteen people at Yost on Saturday this is what happened:
That completed a four point weekend after Michigan's last-ditch tying goal led to a shootout loss in Big Rapids. The NCAA does not use shootouts as part of the PWR formula so to them it's just 1-0-1, which is a decent enough weekend against an opponent that traditionally plays Michigan very tough at home.
Michigan heads up to Fairbanks this weekend for a tough series against Alaska (That Alaska):
The Nanooks are 5-2-1 on the year and have a win over Colorado College; they've beaten some weak teams and lost to North Dakota at home and had a 0-1-1 trip at Munn in their first and only weekend outside of Alaska. After that Michigan gets a rejuvenated Notre Dame program at Yost; the next two weeks will go a long way towards establishing just what Michigan is this year after a slightly shaky start.
Brian Kelly terror level: reduced. I'm on record saying that in Brian Kelly Notre Dame had found a real coach who was likely to whip the talented but lost Weis leftovers into a formidable team sooner or later, likely sooner. Eh… not so much. The decision to have your freshman backup toss a fade to Michael Floyd when you need a field goal to win and a Groza candidate at kicker is Weis-level outsmarting yourself. Also it was against Tulsa.
So that's one thing. More damning still was what happened in the Navy game. At halftime Brian Kelly mumbled something incoherent about the "veer" to the sideline reporter, implying that the Mids had brought out the fireworks for their big game against Notre Dame:
If you saw the game you might have thought this was weird since the Navy offense looked pretty much like the Navy offense always does except the fullback wasn't getting tackled until he was 20 yards downfield. Navy blog The Birddog, which breaks down Navy games in detail equivalent to UFR, explains what the fancy new scheme was:
Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works.
Navy started the game in the heavy formation, with two tackles lined up on one side and a wide receiver in the tackle position on the other side. Contrary to Kelly’s comments, this isn’t unusual at all for the Navy offense. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper frequently uses the heavy formation when the defense has an inside linebacker with exceptional playmaking ability; in Notre Dame’s case, that would be Manti Te’o. … The first down lineman on or outside the B gap is still unblocked as the quarterback’s first key, and the next player out is still #2 in the count. Since it is the lineman in the B gap that is left unblocked, that’s the path that the fullback takes on his run. If that lineman steps upfield and takes the quarterback, that’s where the running lane will be.
That isn’t something new that the Navy coaches saved for Notre Dame. That is Navy Offense 101. It’s the absolute basics; the bread and butter play run in every game out of every formation. If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through.
The Birddog explains Kelly's odd veer comment as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Navy offense based on the idea they run the midline a ton (they did run it against ND, but only twice). Which fine he's an offensive guy but that's got to be the explanation he got from DC Bob Diaco, then, so you're just devolving the gaping incompetence to the coordinator level. (This does not sound familiar at all.) So Notre Dame goes in at halftime aware they've made a fundamental mistake when it comes to the Navy offense and they change their scheme up like so:
Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
That's how you lose 35-17 to Navy. Navy then went out and lost to Duke, rushing for 148 yards at 4.0 a pop. So… yeah. As long as Diaco's around I'm not going to be that terrified of Brian Kelly. (This is not a criticism you can level at Michigan.)
Give me back mah bukkit. Elsewhere in Charlie Weis comparisons, Danny Hope is one easily-peeved walrus:
After Purdue cut its deficit to 37-10, Illinois threw three passes on a 57-yard scoring drive, including a 15-yard scoring strike from Scheelhaase to Chris James with 1:36 left.
"I probably would not have done that but I’m not going to cry about it," Hope told reporters after the game. "That's their choice, their call. I would not have done it. He’s the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, call it, chuck it and run it up."
Unlike former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who had a heated postgame exchange with Wisconsin's Bret Bielema after an Oct. 9 game in Madison, Hope doesn't intend to confront Zook.
"Why would I say something about that?" Hope said. "Game's over. It's his call. It’s done. I'm not going to cry about it."
Charlie Weis press conferences were laden with statements like "I'm not going to blame Jimmy Clausen for overthrowing Golden Tate, I take that responsibility myself. Another thing I'm taking responsibility for: our defensive line being comprised of mewling kittens. That's on me, and does not reflect poorly on the character of Ian Williams." Here Hope repeatedly states he's not going to cry about the thing he is crying about.
Etc.: 2011 PG commit Trey Burke continues to play well in local tournaments, going head to head with a top-50 player and coming out almost even in points (33 to 34) and seeing his team pick up the W.