alternate headline: man does job
i know it's over and oh it never really began but in my heart it was so real
Michigan has the worst field goal kickers in the country and will use them only when facing preposterous situations like fourth and goal from the fifteen. One of MSU's kickers is basically a Michigan kicker but he was replaced and the new guy is 9 of 11. [shakes fist at sky.]
The punt games are a wash. MSU is 28th in net punting; Will Hagerup and co are a couple yards off of that but it's not a big enough difference to expect it will matter. MSU was decent at punt returns but Bumphis has all but one on the year so that's a question mark for them; Michigan will just fair catch it. Kickoffs are also a wash, though Michigan gave up a KR touchdown against OSU in their last game.
Key Matchup: DON'T ALLOW A DAMN TOUCHDOWN
- The first triple option pitch is so open it's not like there's anyone to blame.
- No one knows how to run a 3-3-5 still.
- Someone calls a halftime press conference.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- We're all like "oh, right, Mike Martin is a beast, I forgot."
- A healthy Denard is zinging accurate balls hither and thither.
- Greg Robinson's beaver makes frequent appearances for whatever reason.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 (Baseline 5; +1 for We're Playing The Illinois Offense Again, –1 for But Denard Is Healthy And So Is Odoms And So Isn't MSU's Best WR, +1 for Mississippi State's Defense Will Not Be As Accommodating As Illinois, +1 for Burn The Gardner Shirt Or Run Wildcat If—When—Robinson Gets His Ding, –1 for Chris Relf's Erratic Throwing Is Defense-Invariant, –1 for Healthy Mike Martin, +1 for Mad Cowbell Disease)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 8-5 Is Undeniable Progress, –1 for That Might Not Matter One Whit Anyway, +1 for The Faint Memory Of January Happy Events Is Like Motes Of Dust In A Room Half-Remembered, +1 for The Slight Chance It Might Impact Our Ability To Watch Denard Finish His Career Here, +1 for I Just Want To Win A Damn Game, –1 for I Know It's Over And Oh It Never Really Began But In My Heart It Was So Real, +1 for Seriously, Win.)
Loss will cause me to... sigh and brace for a press conference.
Win will cause me to... smile and brace for a press conference.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
I hate this section because predictions are stupid. I always have. That's why the bolded text is whining. I want Michigan to win so I think Michigan will win. I fear Michigan will lose so I think Michigan will lose. You see that behavior in the BlogPoll: the most irrationally exuberant voters are always from some team doing well at that second with caviar dreams and the most irrationally negative voters have just watched their puppy run over and loathe everything. I'm caught between the two, and don't really know what to expect in a game that seems like a replay of the Illinois game. The Illinois game turned out to be rather close.
A couple other blogospheric predictions have dispensed with the idea that predictions are anything other than hopes, with Blue Seoul declaring…
I hate making predictions, especially when the two teams are close. So instead I'll just put what I hope happens.
…and BWS saying…
This is probably a homer's prediction, but I don't like picking against Michigan when a game looks not only winnable but more or less like a coin flip
…and I'm here to tell you that I don't know what's going on, man. I want Michigan to win, so I'll predict them to win because I can, in defiance of Vegas and the vague hope it matters. I'll spare people the talking myself into it bit.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Demens is still aligned like an idiot would align him and MSU counters are highly effective, but Martin's presence makes the interior inverted stuff mostly ineffective.
- Michigan has two fifty-yard-plus touchdowns.
- Michigan gives up two fifty-yard-plus touchdowns.
- Michigan, 31-28, with Justin Meram erupting from the locker room with ten seconds left to boot a 200 yard field goal.
I'm not posting this in the hope that it will change anything. Since Dave Brandon came out in favor of moving the Michigan-Ohio State game to midseason there's been tremendous fan pushback, with opinion running about 10-to-1 against. It obviously doesn't matter, because the men in suits are ramping up the meaningless PR doublespeak to alarming levels:
…the reason the Big Ten is great is because of our fans. We had five and a half million fans come to games [in 2009]. Whether it’s the Rose Bowl or Ohio State-Michigan, we welcome that, and there’s an awful lot of discussion of, generally speaking, how our fans feel about what we do. We're not fan-insensitive, we're fan-receptive and are only interested in doing what is going to grow our fan base.
Whenever someone starts talking about how great the fans are, the fans are about to get it in uncomfortable places, especially when that's the first thing they talk about in the face of obvious, massive opposition. Meanwhile, the SID is trying to calm people over email by saying for Michigan and Ohio State to meet for the conference title they will "have to play their way into the championship game." If it was a trial balloon people would be walking it back by now after the reaction it's received. The thing is far enough along that Barry Alvarez is flat-out stating that Iowa and Wisconsin will be split up. It's actually happening.
So this doesn't matter. But here's why Michigan and Ohio State's athletic directors should be out in the streets rounding up pitchfork-toting mobs instead of rolling over like Indiana:
The financial benefits are almost literally zero. Dan Wetzel cites a TV executive claiming that at maximum, the vague possibility of Michigan and Ohio State meeting in a Big Ten championship game once a decade might be worth two million dollars a year ("it might be half that," he adds). Even taking the most optimistic number, the end result for Michigan is another 150k per year (the conference takes a share). Assuming an average of seven home games a year, Michigan could earn that by raising ticket prices twenty cents. Meanwhile, every other Big Ten team sees the same increase in their bottom line.
Michigan and Ohio State will almost never meet. The Plain Dealer looked back at the league since Penn State's addition and concluded that in the last sixteen years, a Michigan-Ohio State championship game would have happened all of three times.
In the future you can expect that to be far less frequent. Michigan will be guaranteed that 1) they play an outstanding Ohio State team and 2) three of the other five teams in their division do not. If the matchup is going to occur it's going to be the same for Ohio State. The loser of that game is going to have to overcome that deficit against teams that have a much easier schedule. The addition of Nebraska adds another historic power to the league. "Once a decade" is not hyperbole. It's a reasonable estimate.
As a result, you are turning M-OSU from something that will always have stakes to something you hope to do over. This is Delany's reasoning:
"If Duke and North Carolina were historically the two strongest programs and only one could play for the right to be in the NCAA tournament, would you want them playing in the season-ending game so one is in and one is out?" he asked. "Or would you want them to play and have it count in the standings and then they possibly could meet for the right to be in the NCAA or the Rose Bowl?
"We've had those debates. It's a good one. The question is whether you want to confine a game that's one of the greatest rivalries of all time to a divisional game."
Yes. Because the loser of that game is doomed and knows it. Moving it to midseason just makes it a particularly high hurdle that might not mean much—that the conference explicitly hopes doesn't mean much—at the end of the year, when the two teams can do it again, except indoors in Indianapolis. Doctor Saturday:
Keep the game what it's always been, the ritualistic culmination of an entire season in a single, freezing orgy of centuries-old hate that cannot be overturned or redeemed for at least another 365 days. In good years, the division championship (hence a shot at the conference championship) will be on the line, preserving the familiar winner-take-all/loser-go-home intensity that made "The Game" what it is in the first place.
You are doing something your fans hate. The kids don't get paid, the stadium doesn't have advertising, the idea that there is a Michigan Thing that it is possible not to "get" in a way that it is not possible Jim Schwartz does not "get" the Lions Thing: these are the things that separate college football from minor league baseball. For decades Michigan's season has had a certain shape defined by the great Satan at the end of it.
This is where the disconnect between the suits and the fans is greatest. Beating Ohio State isn't about winning the Big Ten, it's about beating Ohio State, just like the Egg Bowl is about beating that other team in Mississippi or the Civil War is about beating that other team in Oregon or any billion other year-end rivalry games that have been played since the Great Depression. M-OSU is the super-sized version of the old-fashioned rivalries based on pure hate. It's not Miami-Florida State, a game entirely dependent on the teams being national contenders for it to even sell out, but the Big Ten is treating it like the country's fakest rivalry game anyway.
It so happens that a lot of the time OSU and Michigan do decide the Big Ten, but did anyone want to beat OSU less in the mid-90s when Michigan limped into the game with 3 or 4 losses every year? Or last year? No. Would it matter less as an October game to be followed by three or four more? Necessarily yes. Is that the worst thing in the world? Yes.
I have no tolerance for anyone too dense to grasp this, much less see it as a potentially good thing, as Dave at Maize N Brew does. I said his post on the matter was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen a Michigan fan write and it remains so. Orson's post on the matter is also the dumbest thing I've ever seen him write. The reason college football matters in a way the NFL does not is the idea it has that some things are not worth selling. Once the date of the Michigan-Ohio State game goes the only thing left is the labor of the players.
I'll still be there. I don't have a choice, really, but the special kind of misery I'll experience when Michigan plays Ohio State at 8 PM in October and Special K blasts "Lose Yourself" during a critical review will make me feel like an exploited sap, not a member of a community in which my opinions matter. They clearly don't. This will matter in the same way erosion does.
AND NOW: A BUNCH OF UNAFFILIATED FOLK SHARE THEIR OPINIONS
Speaking as an Auburn fan on Big 10 moving M/OSU to midseason: If they'd tried that w/ the Iron Bowl I'd have burned SEC HQ to the ground
Because I have a soul, I've already firmly aligned myself with the "armageddon" crowd, made up of those of us who can't stand the thought of one side telling the other in mid-October, "We'll see you again when it really matters." Which probably means I've aligned myself with the losing side. Whatever the motivations of its less influential champions, the prospect of a Buckeye-Wolverine split only has traction among people who matter because the people who matter see a buck in it: If one Ohio State-Michigan game is good, two Ohio State-Michigan games must be even better, and I'm sure they have the ratings projections and accompanying ad rates to prove it. The rivalry has already defined and shaped the national perception of the Big Ten for the last 50 years; just think of the possibility of the rivalry-as-championship game as "expanding the brand."
Saving this game at the end is the culmination of a season-long crescendo.
Michigan-Indiana at the end of the year, for example, doesn’t offer the same cachet.
And it never will.
Are you kidding me? It's been played the last week of the season all but once since 1935, and it's the league's single most important franchise. You would think conference leaders would go to any length to protect it. …
Sometimes leaders make decisions without properly thinking through the issues. This one sounds like a case of over-thinking. Do the right thing, Mr. Delany, Mr. Brandon and Mr. Smith, lest the ghosts of Woody and Bo haunt you in your sleep.
Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns. And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown? One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is -- The Big House and The Shoe.
So… yeah. Join the Facebook page. Maybe it will help. It won't, actually, but maybe you'll feel better about it.
SO DID EVERYONE HAVE FUN LAST NIGHT CAN I GET A HELL YEA
YEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH GIVE ME A FUCKIN' OTTER
THE DEPTH CHART AT CORNER
1. DONOVAN WARREN
2. TROY WOOLFOLK
3. TLOY WOORFORK
4. JUSTIN TURNER
5. DEMAR DORSEY
6. BOUBACAR CISSOKO
8. THIS GUY WHO TILTS HIS HEAD IN A NON-CONFIDENCE INSPIRING WAY
9. RICHARD NIXON
HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHICH HATS ARE UGLY YET
12. NIXON AGAIN
13. JAMES ROGERS
…WAIT, SERIOUSLY, SAMMY DAVIS JUNIOR?
I remember when this guy was not just a photoshop creation but a
representation of the state of the athletic programs.
At this time it may be appropriate to purchase flowers. As it tends to do, getting obliterated by Michigan State has caused no end of soul-searching about the basketball program. Example: Genuinely Sarcastic is moved to write something featuring a Dire Straits song.
I don't know. I started fast-forwarding after about ten minutes and turned the thing off entirely once Michigan ended up down 34-14, invoking a personal rule from back in the Amaker days where any game that Michigan was 20 points down was no longer something I had to pay attention to. I wasn't exactly surprised. I know why people are leaping off e-buildings in the aftermath, but that seems like a willful lack of attention paid to results to date.
Now: since this is the 2009-10 season and we are talking about a team in maize and blue, evaluating the "when can we fire this guy?" question is inevitable. Proof: some idiot on the Rivals hockey board even asked it about Red. With Beilein, I don't think he can or should be axed any time in the next two years and that a sixth year is likely almost irrespective of Michigan's performance on the court.
However, I also don't have a lot of hope that things will change for the better. This year, exactly zero players showed any improvement as Michigan backslid. The offense looked positively Amakerian for much of the year. Aimless passing around the perimeter was a major feature. Outside of a game roleplayer in Zack Novak and a possibly useful point guard (albeit one who can't shoot) in Darius Morris, Beilein's first two recruiting classes look like anchors:
- The post recruits are basically Justin Turner minus the recruiting hype: how terrible do you have to be to 1) be a post and 2) get zero minutes on a team with two guys taller than 6'5"?
- Matt Vogrich was 5/5 from three against D-II Northern Michigan and then looked like a slightly larger version of Reed Baker the rest of the year.
- Laval Lucas Perry was on the bench behind…
- …Stu Douglass, who had an eFG of 42.7 and an offensive rating of 93.9 with a 15% usage rate. If Stu Douglass was a team, he would be Southern, a 5-25 SWAC team with the same overall eFG%. And those guys have to average 20% usage. In non-tempo-free numbers: made a third of his twos and 30 percent of his threes.
It's really hard to see how this team gets better next year with or without Manny unless Evan Smotrycz is Dirk Nowitzki. I am writing this right now and I think that's irrational because Michigan will return everyone other than Sims and will finally have enough size to play a proper 1-3-1 and etc etc, but if zero players on the team improved from year one to year two, why will they improve next year? Players are supposed to have their biggest leaps between their freshman and sophomore years, and Michigan's sophomores went backwards.
Votin'. I don't know if a Facebook page attempting to get Brandon Graham on the cover of NCAA Football 11 is going to overcome the fact that Graham didn't play in a bowl, but they make weird choices sometimes and it can't hurt. I bet a dollar it's Tebow.
Talkin'. I presented a talk called 'Building the World's Most Popular College Football Blog"—which, excluding large corporate conglomerations like Fanhouse, is troof—at Ignite 3 on Thursday. The title's sort of misleading, as they often are when you come up with them before coming up with what you're going to say. It's more about what I think is a generally applicable approach to becoming the head of your own nation of racist dwarves no matter what the topic area is.
Please excuse the various ums and ahs, as I didn't get to practice as much as I wanted, and the shirt I didn't realize could have been in the "Evenflow" video until a local wag brought it up. I didn't wear totally awesome cargo shorts, at least.
I'm the first guy in the second half, but you'll have to skip to 1:20 for the part that is not the emcee.
Everyone moves. The NHL trade deadline was devoid of blockbusters but ridiculously heavy on Michigan movement:
Anaheim: traded G Justin Pogge and Boston's fourth-round pick in the 2010 or 2011 draft (previously acquired) to Carolina Hurricanes for D Aaron Ward.
Colorado: traded LW Wojtek Wolski to Phoenix Coyotes for RW Peter Mueller and C Kevin Porter. …
Columbus: traded D Mathieu Roy to Florida Panthers for C Matt Rust. Traded LW Alexandre Picard to Phoenix Coyotes for C Chad Kolarik.
Montreal: traded RW Matt D'Agostini to St. Louis Blues for RW Aaron Palushaj.
Add in Steve Kampfer getting sent to the Bruins for a fourth-round pick—totally weird trade since Kampfer was a fourth-rounder—and that's six Michigan products moving teams in two days. Los Angeles, unsurprisingly, didn't pick any of them up.
Well, okay. I spent a large chunk of the last offseason blasting anyone who dropped Rich Rodriguez on a "hot seat" list as he entered year two. Even a crappy, bowl-free season would not result in Rodriguez's termination, and that has proved to be the case. Now, though, Rodriguez is. No protests when Tom Dienhart and that coaches hot seat whatever throw him on the list.
(One item of protest: throwing Ralph Friedgen in the "inferno" section is pointless when Maryland is already planning a transition to its offensive coordinator.)
Default Big Ten expansion talk. Gary Pinkel interviewed by a few locals, topic inevitably comes up, Pinkel responds with the usual:
one of the really big problems with this league is the TV contract. Two areas of the TV contract, really. First of all, the TV contract itself. In the next five years, per year Illinois will get about $12 million more (from the Big Ten’s TV contract) for their athletic budget. Multiply that by four years for the four years we have left in our contract. So, the University of Illinois is getting $48 million more. That’s hard to understand. I think it’s about $14 million more in the Southeastern Conference. It’s hard to explain that to anybody.
Another issue we have in this league is you look at the SEC and the Big Ten, and they have revenue-sharing. They understand you’re as strong as your weakest link and that the strength of your league is important. So, you share TV revenue. Even though we’ve been on the upper side of that ourselves, it’s not the right thing, in my opinion, for the Big 12. So, there’s some issues here. Those things are out there, and that’s kind of disappointing. Other than that, they’re not going to let me make decisions anyway.
It can be a great league, but there are things financially that are absurd. I can’t even explain it.
That's not much different from the president of the university or the governor's take; Missouri is going to make noise until such point as they cannot make noise because the Big Ten picked someone else or don't have to because it picked them.
12/2/2009 – Michigan 58, Boston College 62 – 3-3
Apparently there was a meeting this offseason and Michigan's three major sports bet each other they could be the most disappointing outfit on campus. Hockey is winning, but narrowly. Assorted thoughts on basketball season so far:
SON OF A BITCH. SON OF A BITCH.
Can We Please Assemble Yost To Point At The 1-3-1 And Call It A Sieve? Holy hopscotching hell. Michigan finally moved away from the disastrous fringe zone defense against Boston College, but before that it had given up enough points to seal Michigan's doom. This comes after the Marquette game, in which the Eagles averaged 1.27(!!!) points per possession, the worst output of the Beilein era, and the Alabama game, which wasn't as bad but lord it wasn't good either.
This isn't even a preparation issue. Marquette and Alabama did not put in special practice time to deal with Michigan when there was a 25% or less chance those teams would play the Wolverines; Michigan just sucks at the 1-3-1. Hard.
If this was football I'd have some amateur but fairly accurate point about scheme; since it's basketball I'm about as mystified as anyone else. The defense wasn't good last year but it wasn't anywhere near this bad and the only difference is replacing a couple walk-ons with Darius Morris. Morris hasn't seemed like the problem so far. Problems: Stu Douglass is a really terrible defender, Manny Harris is lackadaisical himself, and no one got any taller.
…but on the other hand. Morris has given Michigan zero offensively other than some fast break buckets against poor competition. I guess he makes sense in a high-paced transition offense that results from a ton of steals forced by the 1-3-1. Since Michigan is not getting a ton of steals, he's a non-shooter whose main contribution on offense is to pass the ball around the perimeter. Freshman and all that, but right now Stu Douglass is a much better passer and shooter and seems considerably more useful on offense. Is that worth the 3-4 wide open threes he'll give up? This is not a lovely choice.
And now we devolve into talk radio platitudes. Forgive me: I am about to sound like whichever post-Spielman droid is currently Pam Ward's color guy. In multiple ways. Brace yourself.
Doesn't this team look horribly coached? I keep going back to the haunting Manny Harris three against Alabama. With 20 seconds on the shot clock in a tie game with under a minute left, Harris comes over a half-hearted screen from DeShawn Sims and jacks up a three with a hand in his face. It, like 90% of Harris's threes to date, misses, and Alabama comes down for the winning basket after the rebound. Beilein benched Harris and Sims for large portions of the Boston College game, and they deserved it, and the team didn't play much worse. That's about all he can do but good God, by now the upperclass stars on the team shouldn't have to get benched.
Elsewhere in this theory: the 1-3-1 failure and the number of possessions that end with few ideas and few good shot options. Sometimes the dread specter of Amaker offense shows up. This should probably not be happening in year three.
I don't want to overstate the case: obviously I still support Beilein and think he's a good coach who will—has—been the most successful one at Michigan since Tom Goss and Ed Martin crushed the program's will to live. But in the aftermath of the Evan Smotrycz rise, Brundidge commitment and potential acquisition of Casey Prather or Trey Ziegler, I was teetering along the edge of taking back the "Beilein won't ever make Michigan elite" theory offered here earlier… now not so much.
Second: could "leadership" actually be an issue here? Resorting to leadership is the last option around here, but the team seems way, way worse than last year—even when you take things like losing to Iowa and almost doing the same against Indiana—and the only difference is that CJ Lee is running for congress or something and David Merritt is starting the next Nike. Similarly, the hockey team lost Aaron Palushaj but nothing else aside from a couple of gritty grit Gritsteins in Tim Miller and Travis Turnbull and has collapsed to the point where its decades-long tourney streak is in serious doubt.
I usually dismiss heart and leadership and whatnot. I still think this holds in football because football is a bunch of short, complicated bursts of activity. Whatever effect trying really hard has is dwarfed by knowing what the hell to do and doing it right. Aside from the occasional tired defensive linemen, coasting isn't an option. Football is kill or be killed; it has your full attention at all times.
In hockey and basketball, on the other hand, you can sort of do things. You can defend the post with token effort, or lackadaisically close out, or not rotate. You can coast on your forecheck or not backcheck or not finish a check. It's far more possible to give poor effort. So it's conceptually possible to me that gritty heart dirt dog blah blah is actually important, and then you've got two separate teams that are a thousand times worse than they were last year despite personnel situations that should be considerably better but for the absence of Gritzilla. The conclusion, horrifyingly, is that maybe people who like Colin Cowherd aren't always wrong about everything forever.
It's just about over, isn't it? Michigan's put themselves in a position where they've blown virtually all of their winnable quality nonconference games—Creighton doesn't look like it will count—and now must either pull vast upsets against Kansas and/or UConn and maybe also beat Utah to scrape into the tourney with a similar conference record. If they win one of those games they probably have to go 11-7 in the conference to make it, and raise your hand if you think that's likely. Right.
You know, if I ever thought I'd get so much use out of the "i know it's over and oh it never really began but in my heart it was so real" tag, I might have considered another line of work. Like ninja.
Asexual former Smiths singer Morrissey—he reproduces by budding!—is a schizophrenic, self-parodic man. He once claimed "he didn't need more ammunition" because
I don't dwell on things I'm missing
I'm just pleased with the things that I've found
… on the same album he offered this advice to his former bandmates who successfully sued him …
Don't close your eyes
A man who slits throats
Has time on his hands
And I'm gonna get you
So don't close your eyes
Don't ever close your eyes
You think you've won
He's not to be taken seriously, but pitches himself right in the perfect spot where you so want to, if only at various points in your life where wearing an incredibly fey outfit and doing fey dances in the fey desert near a mushroom-shaped rock seems like a good idea. At emotional ebbs, you can know Morrissey is mocking you, you whinging little prat, and still embrace your whinging pratitude.
So, in that spirit, here's this post. It is asexual and reproduces by budding and isn't supposed to be taken very seriously.
Sleep on and dream of love
Poor twisted child
So ugly, so ugly
The poor twisted child
Oh hug me, oh hug me
Spawned a monster
In the shape of this child
Who later cried :
… made me, so
Jesus save me
from pity, sympathy
And people discussing me
A frame of useless limbs
What can make good of
the bad that's been done?"
And if the lights were out
Could you even bear
To kiss her full on the mouth
Poor twisted child
So ugly, so ugly
Poor twisted child
Oh hug me, oh hug me
Spawned a monster
In the shape of this child
Who must remain
A hostage to kindness
And the wheels underneath her
A hostage to the kindness
And the wheels underneath her
A symbol of where mad, mad lovers
Must pause and draw the line.
Cause it's the closest
You will get to love ohh
Is a time
Which I must
Put out of my mind
Oh, one fine day
Let it be soon
She won't be rich or beautiful
But she'll be walking your streets
In the clothes that she went out
And chose for herself