to play football, not to play trumpet
(Still tweaking, but I think I’m getting close to a winning formula. Again, fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, TomVH.)
About last Saturday:
Eastern Michigan 3, Michigan 31
Ace and I played “Where’s Waldo/Brian?” from the press box.
He’s so dreamy when he’s pixelated.
[Ed: I told you there was no one in my section.]
The Road Ahead:
San Diego State (3-0)
Last Game: Washington State 24, San Diego State 42 (W)
Recap: After escaping Army, San Diego State hosted Washington State and waited for the Cougars to lose, which they did. The Aztecs capitalized on three Washington State turnovers in the fourth quarter to turn what seemed like a tenuous lead into an 18-point cushion. San Diego State actually trailed for the entire first half and through most of the third quarter before Aztecs RB Ronnie Hillman converted a third-and-one at the goal line to finally put them ahead 28-24.
The Cougars, devastated by the loss of such a rare lead, imploded.
The play on which it happened should sound familiar. Seven plays into their next drive, the ball slipped out of Washington State QB Marshall Lobbestael’s hand a la Tommy Rees. On the following play for San Diego State, the Cougars defense allowed Hillman to break free for a 64-yard touchdown sprint. Game over. Lobbestael additionally tossed two interceptions to make sure his team fell well short of covering the four-point spread.
What we know about San Diego State is this: the defense has faced two mediocre offenses that are as one-dimensional as these dashes -- Army ran for 90% of their yards, and Washington State passed for 88% of their yards -- and has yielded on average three touchdowns and 400+ yards to each. (Cal Poly doesn’t count.) Rocky Long may have a funky scheme that’ll confuse some offenses, but as Ace points out, that defensive line is leedle. They are the bendiest of bendy defenses kept respectable by opponent turnovers, a significant number of which were just stupid. Yes, they’ve done enough in their previous two games to win. Against Michigan, they will need to do more.
The offense is a solid, well-rounded B+, good enough to attend a four-year college, marry a nice Christian girl, have three kids and a golden retriever named Chelsea, and also score multiple touchdowns against the Wolverines, which, miraculously, is a feat only Notre Dame has achieved so far. Think of the San Diego State offense as a less intimidating but less hilarious Irish offense. With a better quarterback. But worse wide receivers. And a running back who doesn’t fumble. But maybe a smaller offensive line?
Nevermind. Forget I said that.
Right now they are as frightening as: Their overall vibe strikes me as a well-coached Indiana. Fear level = 4.
Michigan should worry about: Containing Hillman. Michigan has enough talent on the defensive line to manage the trenches and keep inside runs to a minimal gain. Irresponsible linebacker play on the edge, however, will lead to 200+ yards for Hillman and a 20+ tackles for Jordan Kovacs. If Kovacs ends up being next week’s Alro Steel Ironman, you’ll know something went terribly, terribly wrong.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Again, the scouting report. Knowing is half the battle.
If Michigan plays them next Saturday: The first quarter will be critical. Michigan will need to avoid falling behind early against a team that’s more talented than Western Michigan and more disciplined than Notre Dame. After the most sobering 31-3 victory ever, the Wolverines offense -- particularly the passing portion (particularly the Denard part of that passing portion) of the offense -- needs confidence that only a lead can provide. Also, the last thing the Wolverines can afford to give San Diego State is momentum, as they’re already playing with the following list of motivations:
- You stole our coach.
- He left us because he thinks you’re better than us.
- You think you’re better than us.
- You’re ranked, so everyone else thinks you’re better than us.
- He broke up with us via text message.
So. Let’s score some early points, yeah?
Next game: at No. 22 The University of Greener Pastures
(more after the jump)
Why I stopped buying NCAA in two sentences. Go:
Also this is definitely because of Denard.
Hockey bits. It was announced a while ago but in case you missed it, Big Ten hockey has adopted a fairly sensible playoff format. The bottom four finishers have a best two-of-three series at the higher seed's home ice and then there is a four-team single-elimination playoff on the #1 seed's home ice.
It's a little strange that the second-place finisher gets zero home hockey games but it could have been worse. I still prefer best two-of-three series the whole way because it's more hockey and less arbitrary.
Other logistical bits continue to filter out:
- Teams have "already been asked" to play two Monday night games per season and Wednesday games between nearby teams have also been broached. The article also mentions the possibility of some Sunday-Monday series.
- The Big Ten "will" reach a scheduling agreement with the WCHA that will take care of "perhaps eight" of the new Big Ten's 14 nonconference games.
- They might have to move the state basketball championships in Wisconsin.
I expect the WCHA scheduling agreement just involves Minnesota and Wisconsin. Having the WCHA suck up the eight extra nonconference games now on OSU's, MSU's, and Michigan's schedules would hurt the CCHA further, and I'd rather to see them play traditional opponents like Miami, Northern Michigan, Ferris, etc., than fly to Minnesota to play St. Cloud.
As far as moving games for television goes, I'm all for the increased exposure but when I looked at the schedules it seemed like Sunday was a vast wasteland for basketball that hockey could fill. Is the NFL that much of a beast?
Meanwhile, it is alive:
Illini, probably not. A Champaign-Urbana developer is planning a $15 million ice arena with two sheets of ice in a 100k square-foot building. This immediately got message board folk speculating about Illini hockey, but it doesn't sound like that kind of investment is anywhere near what you'd need for a D-I program. Illinois would probably have to spend at least double that to get a proper D-I rink. Add in a former club player's perspective…
Even though the club team has operated at a profit and has the third highest game attendance per season of all sports on campus (average 800-1000 per game with an all time high of around 2000), there are still too many things standing in the way for Illinois to field a D1 NCAA hockey team in the near future. Using the current ice rink for a D1 team is not an option due to the fact that the NCAA requires a minimum seating capacity of 4k-5k for all new D1 NCAA hockey teams (seating capacity at the current rink is ~1250) and the rink is not regulation size. Another problem is that while hockey may have proved that it is in demand in C-U, it is pretty far down the list of sports the AD would like to add. Mens swimming and men's soccer are both sports that could be added to the Illinois AD for significantly less money and without having to add new facilities to the university.
… and it sounds like if the Big Ten adds a seventh member in hockey it won't be the Illini unless they get a Terry Pegula-level donation.
One wing forward extra crispy. It seems like basketball might have its two-ish open spots for the 2012 and 2013 classes filled promptly, what with Flint's Monte Morris declaring Michigan his leader, albeit only from the four teams who have offered, and August($) his decision timeframe. Meanwhile, Indiana's Zak Irvin is stepping up his campus visits considerably. He says he's not going to make an immediate decision but it doesn't sound like he's going to wait that long:
“Right now I’m just taking my time with it,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to do anything soon. I’m just reviewing all my options.”
In addition to Butler and Michigan, Irvin also has offers from Baylor, Illinois, Indiana, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Purdue and Xavier. Asked about his recent offers, Irvin said he “likes both coaching staffs” of Butler and Michigan.
“I’m still curious to see who comes out in July,” Irvin said of next month’s evaluation period. “I doubt anything happens before the
Irvin told Sam Webb that rumors a Michigan commitment was imminent were false and that "there are other schools" on his list.
Irvin's now being listed at 6'7" some places, FWIW. He'll be Sim Bhullar by the time he hits campus. Glenn Robinson III teammate Mitch McGary is also scheduled to be on campus shortly but probably remains a longshot.
Austin Hatch's situation makes Michigan's recruiting even more complicated. It will be a while before it's clear whether he can play basketball at a high level again. While I assume the NCAA will work something out so he can attend Michigan either way, there's uncertainty there. That's in the triple digits about "things you should care about related to Austin Hatch," of course.
The cheddar issue. The Business of College Sports highlights Michigan's massive construction projects:
That is a lot of money being spent on buildings that only indirectly benefit student-athletes:
As you can see, gifts help make these capital projects possible, but they only make a small dent in the total amount needed. The athletic department has incurred debt for a number of the projects and has budgeted $13.2 million in expenses for this debt service for the coming year. This is up $2.2 million from last year due to debt incurred for the Michigan Stadium and Crisler Arena projects.
In addition to this debt service, Michigan has another $14.4 million budgeted for “Facilities Expenses” and a “Deferred Maintenance Fund Transfer”. I should point out that $4.5 million of the $14.4 million mentioned is for the “Deferred Maintenance Fund Transfer”. This is a fund set up during the 2003 fiscal year that is being built up to fund future “major repair and rehabilitation projects” for athletic facilities. Because Michigan turns an operating profit each year, they’re able to put aside for future capital projects in ways I’m sure many other universities cannot.
The $14.4 million I just detailed on top of the $29.9 million set aside for renovations to Crisler and Yost and $13.2 million in debt service on facilities adds up to $57.5 million Michigan is spending next year on facilities alone.
When we point at the surpluses run by large athletic departments and say some of that money could go to athletes we should also keep in mind that if facilities are going to be kept up to date colleges have to make that happen themselves. They can't extort local governments for stadiums, so they have to build up reserves and carefully plan ahead.
The insane future. Braves and Birds has hopped on the promotion and relegation bandwagon, proposing a two-tier SEC that's not entirely dissimilar from my tortured attempts to turn the hypothetical Mega Big Ten people were tossing around last summer into an actual conference instead of two conferences glommed together.
My tortured attempt was tortured largely because I was trying to find a way to prevent the Auburn problem. Auburn was 2-6 in conference in 2008 and 3-5 in 2009. They would have been in the second division of the SEC. In 2010 they were the best team in the country. An outright promotion/relegation system would have seen that team unable to compete for a conference title at all. That seems unacceptable, and that makes a straight system like B&B proposes unworkable. This doesn't affect soccer much because the top division is 18 or 20 teams—the chance the next tier down actually contains the best team is tiny. Not so much when you have smaller numbers and rapid turnover.
The only place I think a straight promotion and relegation system might work in CFB is with the Mountain West and assorted other teams. Right now they're on the verge of an automatic BCS bid, but they'll drop out of that after the TCU, Utah, and BYU departures are accounted for. If they had an eight-team top division and rounded up the WAC/Sunbelt/etc to comprise a lower division they could assure themselves the SJSUs of the world wouldn't drop their average rating while automatically sucking the strongest teams into a group of eight that just might qualify.
Meanwhile, I think I came to the conclusion that the only way a super-conference works is if you use dynamic scheduling (i.e., play part of the season and figure out the rest of the schedule after that). If you play half the conference slate, then have teams with good records play each other while the teams with bad records do the same, you can get enough interaction between the top teams to actually feel like 16 teams are a coherent whole.
Etc.: Shawn Hunwick (and a couple of Michigan athletes you're probably less familiar with) get their charity on. Fulham, a soccer club in London, inexplicably has a Michael Jackson statue in front of Craven Cottage, and now they're selling equally inexplicable merchandise related to it. OH DE Chris Wormley says Michigan leads. TTB talks to Desmond Morgan.
Great. Let's never do this again. Because it's June and someone had a pretty good idea for June, the Big Ten Network had its own awards show. They named Denard Robinson the breakout player and possessor of the "most dominant performance," that his 500+ yards against Notre Dame. Michigan 67, Illinois 65 was Game of the Year:
There wasn't much competition—the other candidates were Wisconsin's 13-point win over OSU and a basketball game.
Something interesting might happen next time. The NCAA hockey rules committee didn't do much other than the bi-annual point of emphasis about this or that (this time around it's hits to unsuspecting players and diving), but there are four interesting things under consideration for the next cycle:
- Four-on-four OT. This is "strongly" under consideration along with other methods to get a winner including a lengthened OT period. Shootouts will continue to be allowed, but support for mandating them is "limited."
- Awarding obviously imminent goals if the net is dislodged by the defense. This may be in direct response to an event at the Big Chill:
Michigan State did score, though. They put in a power play goal when a puck deflected high off Hunwick and fluttered to the goal line to be batted in, but a nanosecond before that happened Hunwick fell into the net and knocked it off. While the refs got the call right, it was totally unfair: you definitely scored, you didn't do anything to get the net off, and you still get nothing. They should probably change it so that if your goal is imminent when the defense knocks the net off you still get it.
I'm in favor, obviously.
- Dumping cages for visors. This is mostly to look as cool as CHL players. Red was in favor of this, IIRC, but I have a hard time seeing it pass in the safety-first NCAA.
- Allowing hand passes everywhere or disallowing them entirely. At first blush allowing hand-passes in the defensive zone only does look weird but I think this is one of those rules that evolved over time to be the least annoying option. Allowing a guy on the ground to slide a puck to a teammate for a goal seems ridiculous to me; banning defensive-zone hand passes will just mean more whistles since players will do it anyway. The alternative—an ugly turnover by a guy not in position to recover—is worse.
Sadly, the hockey rules committee remains ignorant to the existential threat posed by too many offsides whistles.
Hockey now plz. That exhibition against a Canadian team is going to be the most exciting exhibition against a Canadian team ever:
Brandon uber alles. I hope to yell "I CAN SEE YOUR PORES, WHICH ARE CALM AND EXCELLENT PORES, LET ME TELL YOU" at Jon Merrill next year.
Yost yesterday, Yost today, Yost tomorrow, Yost forever. It's kind of a duh statement to make after Yost has just had its fifth renovation since the mid-90s approved, this one a 14-million-dollar one, but Yost Ice Arena is not going anywhere. Red:
“I think Michigan has been really happy with our building and our program for the most part and they’d like to maintain that at this point,” Berenson added. “I think they like Yost so much that they don’t see a reason to build another building. And so, if we like Yost that much, well then why don’t we fix it up?”
This renovation costs twice as much as the other four combined and with the new scoreboard is a definitive statement Yost is the future for the hockey program for at least the next 20 years.
This might be surprising coming from a guy who is militantly pro-tradition, but I have some mixed feelings about that. A lot of Yost's sightlines are sub-optimal and the weird overhang from the club seats/press box means the last few rows are surprisingly bad places to see a game in a 7,000 seat arena. That'll be even more true next year when people stuck in those seats are peering at the 90's-vintage tube TVs used as a substitute for the scoreboards. Whenever I go to Munn I think "this is a nice building even if it is filled with zombie monks" because there are many fewer bad seats.
I'm not sure if this is even possible but if they want to maintain the building as is without it being so cramped they might want to think about lowering the ice surface ten feet or so, which would allow them to reclaim those rows at the back of the arena and make the seating steeper to provide better viewing angles.
Let's destroy college baseball to save it. Man, Jim Delany has some crazy ideas about college baseball:
Perception says the Big Ten doesn't care about baseball. But no administrator in America has pressed harder to revamp the system. Delany's biggest ideas:
• Adopt a national start date in March or April and move the season deeper into summer.
• Devalue the RPI, which favors Sun Belt schools.
• Ditch the current method of national seeding and return to regional qualification for the College World Series.
College baseball's answer: No. No. No.
Then, last summer, Delany formally proposed the CWS move from eight teams to 10, with the two new slots reserved for cold-weather schools. Cold shoulder again.
“I've got no more proposals,” Delany told the World-Herald. “I'm out of ideas. What else can we possibly do?”
There is one alternative. Delany expresses interest — though he hasn't officially proposed it — in an even bolder plan: Secede from the South. Form a new college baseball division. Compete for a different national championship.
"Hey, guys, I know you think this is insane and want to spit on my grave, which is in Transylvania next to Joe Paterno's, but wait until you hear these proposed Division names…
wait for it…
wait for it…
this is so exciting…
Leotards and Leopards."
The article linked above follows that list of wacky ideas up with a lot of Southerners laughing at Jim Delany and telling him he's killing his conference by not allowing oversigning. Southerners reading this post may have just involuntarily done the "just like football clapclaplclap" chant.
BONUS WEIRD ITEM: Jim Delany's first presentation to the NCAA about equity in baseball was made one day before 9/11. #coincidenceithinknot
(HT: The Bylaw Blog.)
Etc.: TSN's final NHL draft rankings are a little more down on John Gibson than most—he's 37th, one spot in front of OHL defector Lucas Lessio—but surprisingly include D commit Brennan Serville at #60. They don't have a picture or explanation for this, but that's quite a rise from Canisius commitment to fringe second rounder.
Doctor Saturday profiles Nathan Scheelhaase, the main reason Illinois is a potentially frightening opponent next year. Eamonn Brennan on Michigan basketball's sudden turnaround. The Daily profiles Zach Hyman.