This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
Rob Lytle. Rob Lytle was before my time, so I can't offer anything personal in reaction to his death at the young age of 56. Wolverine Historian has dug through his archives and posted an interview with him from his playing days:
"He was special," Hanlon said Sunday. "He had a confidence about him which never showed up as cockiness. He was just always a team player: 'What can I do to help?'" …
"You would never have known he was a great Michigan football player or professional football player," [Bruce] Madej said. "He didn't talk about it. He was anything but a big-timer. He was a nice, unassuming good guy. He was truly a good guy."
The second thing I will remember about Rob Lytle was his helmet. He played alongside some really tough and mean customers like S Don Dufek, DT Greg "Mo" Morton, S Dwight Hicks and OLB Calvin O'Neal. Most of these guys had Wolverine helmet awards completely covering the surface of their striped, winged, Michigan football helmet. Lytle's Michigan helmet was loaded with helmet awards too, but he front of the helmet was a mess. I mean, the Maize paint was all screwed up, scratched and blended. Lytle's head covering was put through so much abuse, you couldn't tell where the Michigan wings ended and the stripes began.
That thing's been through a war. Several wars.
Lytle had a great career with the Broncos after his Michigan days and Huckleby4Heisman collected some of the articles out of Denver, including what's probably the first and last Woody Paige column I'll happily link. From some NFL teammates:
"He wasn't the fastest guy in the league, but he got the tough yards every time," Morton said. "He would run through a brick wall for his team every time if he had to."
In his seven NFL seasons, all with the Broncos, Lytle rushed for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had 562 yards receiving and two scores.
"He was an all-around player," Thompson said. "He ran hard. He could catch the ball well. He wasn't afraid to block. He was just an all-around good athlete."
The Broncos' vice president for corporate communications also has a post that's far more touching than his job title implies. RIP, Rob Lytle.
Soccer triumphant. Unless you are a Wisconsin fan, if you missed Sunday's NCAA tourney game against UCF you missed the most entertaining sporting event on Michigan's campus last weekend. Michigan launched 30 shots before overtime kicked in, then finally got the goal to put them over the top on a zinged-in free kick from Hamoody Saad that glanced off Latif Alashe on its way in but was probably destined for the net anyway. Also one of UCF's best players was rocking a Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man high top fade. It was wicked.
In the aftermath, the team performed a reverse field rush by running into the student section. Justin Meram was shirtless and airborne:
#10 Michigan takes on #7 South Carolina in the third round. Unfortunately, they also scraped an overtime goal against Duke so the next game will be on the road. There doesn't appear to be any TV, which makes me cranky. Game is Sunday at 2.
BONUS: Yes, Meram does have a year of eligibility left for football if he wants to try his hand at kicker, but my friend exclaimed "he's better than Robbie Findley" in all seriousness and it was tough to disagree. A pro career probably beckons.
So about those incredibly obvious trends I got torn apart for mentioning. I got torn apart by rival fanbases for suggesting two things this offfseason. One: Penn State's quarterback situation is alarming and dismal. Two: Iowa wasn't all that great in 2009 and was overrated going into 2010. It was looking pretty good for thing one until Michigan's defense showed up to un-save the day and Matt McGloin experienced two and a half games in which he was Brett Favre before turning into Brett Favre in the second half against Ohio State. PSU's 71st in passer efficiency and while that's not good it's not as bad as I thought it would be before the season.
The other thing, well… remember this?
I don't think Iowa will be bad, exactly, but I'd be less surprised by the Hawkeyes finishing fifth in the Big Ten than second.
And remember the BHGP response to this?
And I guess that's what is so sad about this. Because this is idiotic, and it is clueless, and it is so against character that it deserves to be called idiotic and clueless. Either Cook didn't realize it's moronic, which makes him the least likely moron I've ever met, or Cook knew it (the title gives it away), and that basically makes him Tom Dienhart this time. Regardless of the motivation, it's beneath him.
Iowa's now 7-4 and featuring in Doc Sat "Life on the Margins" posts about how Iowa's lost that old crunch-time feeling while Fight For Iowa should really be adding pictures of Henry The Otter of Ennui to a post titled "The Wastelands of Mediocrity" that went up even before the OSU game. They're headed for 8-4 since their last game is against Minnesota and will thus be at worst tied for fourth in the league (Penn State is also 4-3 and can match them by beating MSU in the season finale), but preseason skepticism about Iowa turned out to be something less than idiotic and clueless.
Something less than rabid careless monsters. Pierre Woods was chilling out in Ann Arbor, working as a groundskeeper and trying to keep in playing shape after the Patriots cut him earlier in the year. He did so by hanging out with Barwis, and is grateful:
“The guys at Michigan, man, they prepared me,” Woods told me. “Trust me. They prepared me. The head strength coach (Mike Barwis), the assistant (Parker Whiteman), I’m pretty sure they got tired of seeing my face up in there, but they allowed me to work out, use the facilities, go around, eat, everything. They treated me like family. You play at Michigan, you come back, they treat you like family. I got nothing but love for those guys and I appreciate what they did.”
Woods got back on the Patriots and is extending his NFL career somewhat. He did yoga with Mike Barwis and his family. Wolves doing yoga, basically.
Etc.: Wisconsin blog breaks down the 61-yard touchdown but starts after the guy is already through the line. That's 95% of the play! TWIS embeds the same things from the game column and tours that one USC board after the demolition at the hands of Oregon State. Michigan is going to a bowl game so AnnArbor.com brings out the same complaint from the previous academics investigation: academic folk get to go. Hurray for that being a relevant thing to bleat about again. The Daily on Troy Woolfolk's recovery from an ankle dislocation. Have a thought for the Michigan class of 2011, which started its career watching the Horror and finished it watching whatever that was against Wisconsin, with mostly crap in between.
The heat melts their brains. Miami fans are trolls:
You've got me there, Jim Martz.
(Via Jerry Hinnen.)
Further adventures in Remember When Smoking Was Cool And Pregnancy Drankin' jes' fine. Les Miles has done all manner of disqualifying things since the Kirk Herbstreit Miles Hiring Fiasco, before which I was highly in favor of Miles as Michigan's coach and after which I was very upset at Bill Martin. He derped the Ole Miss game and lied about it afterwards. He cut some kid who'd been on campus for a month. Whatever the hell that was at the end of the Tennessee game happened.
Miles is now in the radioactive bin of hypothetical Michigan coaching candidates next to Ron English, Mike DeBord, and Stan Parrish. I'd rather have Brady Hoke around. And yet somehow this is the worst thing he's done since that fateful day on a sailboat:
I'd rather see Simon Cowell as head coach around here.
Quarterback ding monitor. So you may have noticed that three Penn State quarterbacks wandered around the field asking for direction/pudding from the coaches in their win over Minnesota. This is because starter Robert Bolden left the game with "a cut hand" or "a cut hand and an eye poke" or "concussion-like symptoms" or, you know, a concussion. JoePa thought Bolden was questionable at best for next week; JayPa thought he was fine. JayPa's probably right since someone asked Joe about Kevin Newsome and he said "who?" I wouldn't put much stock in this "McGloin might start" headline from the Post-Gazette since it's generic walk-on fluff and the only mention of the injury is this:
Bolden was expected to undergo a series of medical tests Sunday, but Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson said Bolden's status would not be updated until today at the earliest. If Bolden is unable to play Saturday night at home against Michigan on ESPN, McGloin could get his first career start.
I'm guessing Bolden starts.
Meanwhile at Purdue things just keep getting worse. Third-stringer Rob Henry acquired a "crushed index finger" against Ohio State and Boiled Sports believes that means true freshman Sean Robinson will end up starting when Purdue takes on Illinois next week.
Penn State confidence monitor. They didn't lose against Minnesota but they did get outgained by 70 yards and cough up 400 yards of offense to a team headed for 1-11, so reviews are negative:
-- Penn State made Gopher running back DeLeon Eskridge look like Barry Sanders out there. The Lions missed so many tackles I thought they must have brought the wrong shoes. … -- Lion defense just has no playmakers. … -- In fact, until the fourth quarter, Penn State had precious little success running the ball against a defense ranked 102nd in the nation against the run. Unimaginable, really. … -- Minnesota's 75-yard TD drive to start the second half was so easy I thought I was watching the New Orleans Saints shred the Penn State defense. Very, very scary, folks.
This was a win, but no one was impressed. The line swung from M +2.5 to M –3 based on it, though it's gotten bet back down some since.
It's not that timeout, it's that you still had it. Back to the hat: many people are pointing at Kirk Ferentz going "Les Miles!" in the same manner you would scream "witch!" during a good hysterical mass hallucination after Iowa biffed its clock management good in their 31-30 loss to Wisconsin. Cue defense from Ferentz:
"We wanted to burn the timeout and just go from there," Ferentz said. "I guess we could have gone the other way. Might have saved us two seconds, something like that. I don't think that was exactly the turning point in the game."
Cue Hat reference:
Les Miles might agree.
Iowa fans probably won't.
Ferentz is right—taking the timeout there is not a major factor. But he's not off the hook because he made the most frustrating error coaches make these days now that they don't punt from the opponent's 34 (HINT, NORTHWESTERN): he didn't immediately start calling timeouts when Wisconsin made it first and goal. If Iowa has 40 seconds instead of 12 when the spike/timeout decision is made it's not nearly as big a deal. Always, always get rid of your timeouts on defense if given the opportunity—you will never save more time by holding them.
No, still a punk. In the weeks before the season Ohio State teammate Tyler Moeller said Terrelle Pryor was "kind of a punk" by way of explaining that he was no longer the kind of guy who puts "VICK 3:16" on his eyeblack or talks about how everybody steals from people, murders from people, whatever. Pryor should ban the word "everybody" from his vocabulary:
“Not to take anything away from Wisconsin at all – I really don’t want it to come off like this – but they weren’t better than us,” he said. “Everybody knows that if we play nine out of 10 times, we’d beat Wisconsin.”
Pryor stats: 14/28, 156 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 56 yards rushing on 18 carries. Final score: Wisconsin by 13. I'm sure Michigan would have been better off the last few years with Pryor behind center but right now I'm happy Michigan missed on an unlikeable guy who's not living up to his athletic potential.
The unabated stupidity. Richard Billingsley's computer rankings are even more off the chain than usual this week:
His ballot does not disappoint this week, ranking TCU at No. 1 (three spots higher than any other computer poll) and Missouri at No. 10 -- the Tigers' lowest spot in any computer poll by seven and two places below the less Mizzou-friendly humans. …
In fact, the rule that causes the high and low scores for each team to be thrown out might as well be called the Billingsley Rule -- counting ties, Billingsley ranks 17 of the 25 teams higher or lower than any other computer in the BCS, including being the only one to rank Virginia Tech at all.
At least the discard rule does effectively neuter Billingsley's poll. His poll is maybe 20% as impactful as the other four.
Etc.: You think we have problems? Boston College fired a good coach, hired a career assistant in his sixties named Spaz, is 0-4 in the ACC, and has scheduled Vanilla Ice to participate in something called "Ice Jam." Boston College has problems. EBay watch hits up 1976.
Men down. Two major injuries in the Big Ten just came down the pipe:
- Badger linebacker Chris Borland, last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, is out for the season with a shoulder injury. It sounds like he will be replaced by sophomore Mike Taylor, who just returned from an offseason full of injury himself.
- Iowa's Jewel Hampton was struck down by Angry Iowa Running-Back-Hating God, tearing his ACL. AIRHAG, as BHGP has taken to calling him, also saw fit to concuss Paki O'Meara, leaving Adam Robinson and "anybody else who wants to volunteer," according to Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa also lost second-string LB Bruce Davis for the season.
Iowa's looking like a potential swing game after the Arizona loss, and getting down to their equivalent of JT Floyd at tailback might mean Michigan's linebackers can actually get an angle on outside runs; I'll still believe M beats Wisconsin when the clock reads zero and I'm all like "woo New Year's Day," which isn't happening so don't get your hopes up.
Man down less sympathetically. The reason Dion Sims isn't playing for Michigan State is he has "allegedly been involved in a Detroit Public Schools computer theft ring involving 988 stolen laptops valued at around $800,000." This will presumably knock him out of the Michigan game unless Michigan State manages to swing a work-release program for him. (How does MSU manage to get all of this stuff done during the season? They could be making headway towards a third straight Fulmer Cup, but nooooo they only get in massive trouble from September to January.) QUICK EVERYONE LOOK AT THE JAW.
Speaking of hopes up. Michigan did not get punished by sportsbooks for the events of last weekend. They're now a 4.5 point favorite against MSU (up one), one point favorites against Iowa (up one) and Wisconsin (even), and 3 and 14 point dogs to PSU and OSU, respectively. IE: the most reliable predictive device available projects something slightly better than a 2-2 split against the meat of the Big Ten schedule. If Michigan takes care of business against BG, Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois they would be 9-3 if that comes true; even if they biff one of those four they'd be 8-4.
This makes me terribly nervous.
Troof. Orson's graphs are back and yeah:
Our other stuff looks like Run DMC, though, so we've got that going for us.
The other football. The Daily was there and so was I, and we both thought the same thing: whoah. 3,500 people packed out the officially 2,200 seat soccer stadium to see a 0-0 tie against Notre Dame, and the Daily is overrun with people who want to write the other football:
…at the latest mass meetings, the majority of students said they were interested in a different kind of football — the one with a “u” and an “o” and a significantly different ball. And each time, I did a double-take. This is the University of Michigan, after all, and all of you just want to cover soccer?
My friends and I tried to sit in the grandstand, which was full, and then migrated to the student side of the field, which was shockingly lively. The "Ultras," as they're calling themselves, badly need to work on their chants* but do an outstanding job of existing, especially since the soccer complex is way off campus.
There are games tomorrow and Saturday at 7 PM, with the latter against Ohio State.
*(A large number of them were classic tunes that saw a couple words replaced, with the weakest being "When The Saints Go Marching In" sung except they say "blue" instead of "saints." You've got two guys named "Saad" on the team! What do you think some working-class London hooligans would do with that? This is a layup.
Also, soccer and hockey have the same aims; many of Yost's cheers could be appropriated. Apparently some have, but I saw a 0-0 draw without any goal chants.)
Expansion: over? OSU AD Gene Smith says so:
"We're finished (with expansion)," Smith said. "The only thing that would cause us to look at it further is if someone contacted us. …The reason most of us say it's not done is because we think there are some schools that are going to try to talk to some conferences. But we're not actively out looking at expansion. After our October meetings, that's going to be the last we talk about it."
Fine by me. 14 or 16 team conferences are dumb.
Smith also says the schedule has not been finalized past '11 and '12 and that Michigan-OSU at the end of the year is not a given. Though he'll 'push for it," he doesn't know what "Barry Alvarez might bring in the room," to which I say if it's not bratwurst tell him to go back and get some.
Etc.: At least everyone's special teams suck. More on Kiffin's bizarre two-point hijinks. Full RR presser transcript. The Daily's story on the Shirtpocalypse is ironically paired with a big animated ad exhorting you to purchase their picture of Denard doing the Heisman on that Te'o. Must… not… smash… faceintodesk SPOCK.
With Michigan having dispatched its major nonconference foes, it's time to survey the rest of the league for indications as to how tough their sledding will be as they try to reach one of those bowl things.
First, and just to be whiny:
Vanderbilt: W 23-21
Illinois State: W 37-3
This is probably going to be the suckiest year at Northwestern in a while. They were considerably outgained by Vandy and only won on an egregious call that the Big Ten later apologized for, except they didn't. So of course they're off the schedule.
MTSU: W 24-17
South Dakota: L 38-41
With the Big Ten moving to divisions next year comes the functional end of one of the most-hated traditions in Michigan football: always missing the worst team in the league. Minnesota fans are here after they lost by two scores to South Dakota, completing their collection of humiliating losses from teams in a Dakota:
Tim Brewster isn't getting canned anytime soon.
I'd be fine with it happening today. I have zero faith he's going to turn this around this year because there has been no evidence in his four seasons here that he's capable of doing it. Still, it's not going to happen because as much as the season feels like it's over right now, it's not. Look no further than the Kansas Jayhawks: last week they lost to NDSU (remember how that felt?) 6-3 in what has to be the ugliest football game ever played. Not a great way to start off the Turner Gill Era. Yesterday, the hosted #15 Georgia Tech- AND WON! Talk about a shocker. Talk about a turnaround. It's one example, but it's proof the season isn't over yet. No matter how much you may hate Brewster and mistrust the coaching staff this morning, it's still very possible we turn this around.
Regardless, even if we lose to USC next week and NIU the week after AND Northwestern the week after that...we're still mathematically bowl eligible at 1-4.
Gopher bloggers are now declaring 1-11 a "distinct possibility" and asserting the upside to be 3-9. So, yeah, of course they're off the schedule.
To teams on the schedule:
Towson: W 51-17
A win over a I-AA team doesn't mean much, though Towson did just squeak by Coastal Carolina in five(!) overtimes. Chances are Michigan won't have any read on how competitive Indiana is going to be before they head to Bloomington. Their next two games are against Western Kentucky (0-12 last year, lost to Nebraska 49-10 and Kentucky 63-28) and Akron (lost to Syracuse 29-3 and I-Aa Gardner-Webb 38-37).
Stock: even by reason of virtual bye and actual bye.
Western Michigan: W 38-14
Florida Atlantic: W 30-17
Not a ton to learn from the first two games. Western hung tight for a quarter but let the game get away in the second, finishing 160 yards back by the game's end. FWIW, Western was bad last year and will probably be worse this year without Hiller—his replacement looked like Nate Montana.
The FAU game was slightly uncomfortable as the Owls were driving to pull within one score late until Howard Schellenberger exclaimed "suspenders!" and kicked a field goal; total yardage was 367-301. State's offense consisted of big plays including an 80-yard touchdown from Edwin Baker, 42 and 30 yard receptions from Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham. If there's something to be concerned about it's a seeming lack of progress in the passing game; Notre Dame will provide much more information along those lines.
Eastern Illinois: W 37-7
Iowa State: W 35-7
Iowa State is certainly awful by virtue of being Iowa State, but Ferentz has struggled against his cross-state rivals so a righteous pounding seems like a step forward even if last year's game was 35-3. Another step forward is a lack of Stanziball, though Iowa State did not provide a major test. Stanzi only had to throw 18 times. Iowa bloggers seem happy, at least.
Stock: up slightly, since the chance they'd have a meh game against Iowa State has gone by the wayside. Considerably more information coming this weekend when they travel to Arizona.
@ Penn State
Youngstown State: W 44-14
Alabama: L 24-3
The eeee Bolden hype after he did not self destruct against penguins (seriously, YSU is the Penguins) was a bit much, and indeed the Penn State offense came to a screeching halt at Alabama. Penn State blew two early opportunities to punch in touchdowns, came away with only three points for the whole game, and finished with just 283 yards of offense. Freshman quarterback in Tuscaloosa against Saban and his merry band of guys good enough to not get cut, but that's a worst-case scenario any way you slice it. Bolden was 13/29 for 144 yards, 5 YPA, and two interceptions.
Perhaps more disturbingly for Penn State, Evan Royster had a Michigan-tailback-esque day against 'Bama, putting up 32 yards on 9 carries. That follows a 11 carry, 40 yard performance against Youngstown State on a day when Penn State averaged just 4.6 YPC against a I-AA opponent, and only managed because Kevin Newsome's ELECTRIC RUNNING went for 21 yards on 3 carries. Initial diagnosis of Penn State OL: ass.
Defensively, it's also not so good. Bama was efficient on the ground and in the air, with Trent Richardson averaging 6.5 YPC and Greg McElroy 9.5 YPA. A lack of corresponding scoring seems attributable to 'Bama stretching out in the luxury of a three-score lead against an opponent with a freshman quarterback.
Stock: down. Right now this looks winnable, though not probable.
Missouri: L 23-13
Southern Illinois: W 35-3
SIU was a pretty good I-AA team a year ago, losing to Marshall by just 3 in their opener and then going undefeated against the rest of their schedule until going down to William & Mary in the I-AA playoffs. Illinois outgained them by almost two to one and clobberated them. So that's okay.
The loss to Mizzou was grim, though. After hopping out to a 13-3 lead it was all Missouri in the second half; the Tigers ended up outgaining Illinois 379-281. Throw in a –3 turnover margin thanks to the exceptional generosity of Nathan Scheelhaase and it's a wonder this didn't get out of hand. Scheelhaase was 9/23 for 81 yards, a TD, and 3 INTs, but did add 76 rushing yards on 16 carries. Denard Robinson thinks that's cute, kid.
Mikel Leshoure looks like a legit Big Ten feature back and Illinois controlled Missouri's ground game pretty well, but initial returns on the post-Juice era are looking a lot like returns on the Juice era, hopefully minus Mike Williams exploding.
Stock: probably even since no one expected much from Illinois; Michigan is probably feeling better given the passing performance against Mizzou.
Notre Dame: L 23-12
Western Illinois: W 31-21
Purdue struggled against Notre Dame and did worse relative to level of competition against Western Illinois. Despite being 1-10 in I-AA last year, WIU was tied at 7-7 late in the second quarter when they went for it on fourth and one by bombing it deep. It was incomplete, Purdue executed a two-minute drill for a touchdown, the ensuing kickoff was fumbled with 13 seconds left in the half, and Purdue was able to pull away… for a while, anyway. Total yardage ended up 406-402, Western Illinois.
In the aftermath, Hammer and Rails says "I haven't seen so much negativity around here since Robbie Hummel went down." Problems unsurprisingly include the OL:
I liked the comment I saw in last night's game wrap pertaining to our line being a sieve. BenJapal responded with, "Calling our offensive line a sieve is to imply that a small amount was being restrained."
He's exactly right. Peters Drey had a pretty bad game. I think there was at least one bad snap, and he somehow managed to commit three penalties on two plays. Nick Mondek is whiffing on blocks left and right at right tackle. I thought he was supposed to be the best guy there! What happened to Trevor Foy and Ryan Prater?
After two games Purdue is averaging a Sheridan-esque 5.1 yards per attempt. Fans now seem to be hoping for 7 or 8 wins, a significant step back from mutterings about being a darkhorse contender in the BIg Ten this year.
Stock: considerably down. Michigan should be a favorite despite being on the road, not something that would have been the case before the season.
UNLV: W 41-21
San Jose State: W 27-14
Wisconsin has been dominant statistically but sloppy in its first two. They put up what might be the most impressive non-UConn box score in the Big Ten by outgaining UNLV 475-217. Ground: 50 carries, 278 yards, 5.6 YPC. Air: 15/20, 197 yards, 9.9 YPA. San Jose State was closer as Wisconsin threw away chances to break away and lost focus late. It's still a start about on par with what was expected.
(PS: bet you're wishing you didn't cancel that Virginia Tech series now, eh?)
Stock: even. Not getting my hopes up here.
@ Ohio State
Marshall: W 45-7
Miami: W 36-24
The Marshall demolition looks a lot better now that the Herd coulda-woulda-shoulda taken down West Virginia for the first time ever, especially since total yardage in that game was pretty close to even. Against OSU the final tally read Basically A Billion-Zero.
The Miami game was deeply strange, with Jacory Harris throwing 4 INTs and Ohio State coverage units giving up two(!) return touchdowns. OSU outgained the 'Canes by about 60 yards, but Terrelle Pryor's 12 of 27 performance has to be worrying.
Stock: even. Very good team with Qs about Pryor is exactly what the deal was before the season.