well that's just, like, your opinion, man
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.
Obviously two things:
- Depending on whether or not BHGP likes it, this is either an homage to or straight ripoff of their posts in this vein, down to J Leman's presence. I have tried to make this up to them in the content. Also, the J Leman picture was first brought to the world in those Big Ten team previews I used to do.
- I can't confirm that this is true, if you know what I mean.
INT. CLANDESTINE NORTH CAMPUS GENETICS LAB—MEETING ROOM. 1992
A conference table is surrounded by hooded figures. One throws back the hood, revealing himself to be STEPHEN ROSS, super rich guy. Also seated are JAMES EARL JONES, sith lord, and DOOMED J. SCIENTIST, a scientist.
Yes, yes, disturbing. For the record, I do too. You have created a mindless abomination that can accelerate to full speed in half a second, stop on a dime, and juke like there's no tomorrow. Shoot it in he head.
INT. CLANDESTINE NORTH CAMPUS GENETICS LAB—SUB-BASEMENT B1. 1992.
INT. CLANDESTINE URBANA GENETICS LAB—SUB-BASEMENT B1. 1999.
Another meeting room. BOB ZOOK, Ron Zook's evil but lazy twin, and a DUCK discuss dark matters.
You had better hope this plot works better than your last dozen, Zook. My patience runs thin. My pit of ravenous piranhas grows hungry. We must repay our arch-rivals for the generations who have endured nothing but humiliation!
[Tom Brady tries to remember all of the teams in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, GHOSTLY APPARITIONS of James Earl Jones and LAWRENCE KASDAN materialize nearby…]
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO DESMOND HOWARD'S DISEMBODIED LEGS? WILL BOB ZOOK FACE HIS COMEUPPANCE? WILL TOM BRADY'S BEAUTIFUL FACE BE MANGLED? WILL BLACK HEART GOLD PANTS ORGANIZE A DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACK ON MGOBLOG? STAY TUNED FOR PART 2: THE INTEGRATION AND INFILTRATION. TOMORROW!
HAI GUYS WHAT'S—
No, just kidding. We're back to normal service except for the occasional outburst of spine-threatening sobs and pauses to shake the MGoFist at the sky.
So how screwed are we? Oh… I'd imagine pretty screwed. We've had to consolidate the "can Teric Jones/Michael Shaw/Denard Robinson/Will Campbell play corner?" threads in one big annoying glob of Kubler-Ross bargaining. But at least we've gotten some excellent paint action out of it:
From the Shredder, naturally.
Also there's this from Antidaily:
Even the house organs, who were busy dismissing the importance of Justin Turner's departure last week, admit this is a "devastating blow" to what was already a ramshackle Burmese lean-to of a secondary. Rittenberg says Woolfolk's name would have been "right at the top" of players Michigan could not afford to lose and asks if Pac-Man Jones or Charles Woodson have any eligibility left (answer compliance should absolutely not double-check: HELL YES). Orson breaks out Crazy Old Testament God; Burgeoning Wolverine Star goes with that damn owl again for some reason.
And UMGoBlog gets all scientific by ripping Dorsey, Turner, and Woolfolk off Michigan's roster in NCAA 2011 and seeing what happens:
|PASS YPG||PASS TDS||PPG||RECORD||RODRIGUEZ|
|Before||200||19||24.1||7-5||"I feel happy!"|
That last column is my addition. Obviously.
Io-wha? Yeah, you see what I did there. Black Heart Gold Pants got all huffy about the idea Iowa might be overrated. While I was wrong about how many defensive starters Iowa lost (it's three, not five) and this somewhat mitigates their situation, when you deploy the Mathlete luck graph in an attempt to argue you weren't that lucky last year, well, Braves and Birds treats you like it usually treats Stewart Mandel:
You know your argument sucks when you're fighting the notion that your team was lucky in 2009 and you cite a chart that shows your team to have been the second luckiest team in the conference. …
As a result of Iowa's inability to demonstrate its superiority over Arkansas State and Northern Iowa, every ranking system that accounts for data beyond record and strength of schedule pegged Iowa in the lower part of the top 20. The Sagarin Predictor had Iowa 17th. Sports Reference's SRS measure had Iowa 19th, as did Football Outsiders. In short, you can accept what reams of research tells us about football, which is that points, yards, and drive outcomes are a better indication of a team's merit and contain less noise than the final record itself. Or, you can reject all of that, put on a dumb hat, and wait to be punked by Fire Joe Morgan.
The chart thing's even better since it shows Iowa was seriously unlucky the year before, puncturing any argument that Ferentz has a knack for making chicken salad out of Stanziballs. Why is it that when I make a bleedingly obvious comment like "Penn State's quarterback situation sucks" or "Iowa was lucky last year and I am skeptical of them this year" people get all mad? Go ahead, predict Michigan's secondary will be a black hole of despair. I won't stop you.
Hockey guy but sort of the wrong year. Michigan's finally picked up another hockey commit, with 2012 forward Justin Selman picking Michigan a couple days ago. Selman joins Boo Nieves and Connor Carrick in that class; Michigan is still way, way short for 2011, with one guy currently scheduled to replace Michigan's extensive senior class.
As per usual with hockey recruits more than a year out from the draft, information on Selman is sparse. USHR has a positive note as one of a dozen or so "A" players from the '08 Select 15 festival:
-- 5’10”, 165 lb. Justin Selman. A smooth skating late ’93 from Upper Saddle River, NJ and the NJ Avalanche. He can make plays. Strong hockey sense. (White)
Selman- Great at faceoffs. Had a growth spurt and is suprisingly strong. Solid skater with the drive to score. doubt he goes to the O.
Justin Selman- 5 10 160- A great skater and an absolute wizard on face offs. He is physical and has grown a lot in the past two years. A young 93 and still is one of hte best in a strong 93 Atlantic district age group.
Selman is not really a pro prospect I guess but he is still a very good player who could receive consideration for 2012.
Fiutakin' it. Since this guy exists…
…and so does walk-on kicker and varsity soccer star Justin Meram, this Free Press typo (print) goes from pedestrian to "Evan Metrics" competitor:
It is always dangerous to taunt the embarrassing typo Gods—a couple of months ago I called PSU's Tom Bradley "Steve" or something—but, man, that was posted yesterday and passed around to great laughter and still hasn't been updated as of this post.
Expansion detail trickle. A couple more items from Delany:
- A ninth game likely wont happen until 2015 at the earliest, and…
- Straight geography is not happening when it comes to Big Ten divisions: “We didn't think there's any way we could achieve principle one [competitiveness] and two [rivalry preservation] if we were rigid about geographic contiguity. We are aware of geography, but we're not going to be driven by it.”
There's a rumor out there that Michigan and Ohio State will be split into separate divisions, which I find abhorrent because it necessitates protected cross-division games, which are dumb, and guarantees that Michigan will be elaborately screwed by that cross-division game being Ohio State, guaranteeing them a brutal schedule year-in, year-out as Ohio State and Penn State go play with Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, and Illinois.
Remember when… wingless helmets were the thing we were panicking about?
It was a simpler, more annoying time because everyone hysteria was unjustified. Here's to annoyance.
Etc.: Hoover Street Rag breaks down Michigan logos past. Seth Wickersham's ESPN the Magazine article($) is insider, it is also the second MSM article in the past couple weeks to break down the Michigan document dump months after Heads Should Roll. It's probably worth your time, though. I don't buy the idea that compliance couldn't dare escalate from their perpetual Labadie pings; that was a screwup on their part, though most of the problem lies with the bungling underlings and the system that allowed the bungling to continue so long.
Check the klaxon wiring, will you? The absence of Tate Forcier from the most recent Countdown to Kickoff video has been noticed and is causing consternation. Also it is spawning somewhat sad hypotheses that this is a brilliant tactic to confuse and alarm our enemies. My guess is either that they didn't want to put a guy with a solid blue helmet in the clips, thus spawning yet more speculation about solid blue helmets, or that Tate's minor injury (as reported by the BTN when they were at practice) had him down with the third team and they didn't want to spawn speculation about Tate as a third string option. They spawned the exact same speculation in a different way instead.
A couple of other bits Burgeoning Wolverine Star has gleaned from minute analysis of the countdown to kickoff videos:
- Mark Moundros has been running with the ones a lot in practice. His presence on the starting defense is really beginning to worry me. Then again Obi Ezeh has always worried me.
- Vincent Smith appears to be running with the twos and Fitzgerald Toussaint appears to be taking a lot of snaps with the starting offense.
I'm not sure how much either of those means, but Moundros winning the MLB job would be concerning, not so much because of what it says about Ezeh but what it might say about Kenny Demens, JB Fitzgerald, and the rest of the scholarship linebackers who have disappointed thus far in their careers.
Meanwhile in countdown to kickoff, here's Taylor Lewan and Craig Roh working on their vaudville routine:
Team, team, team. A debate settled: Bo Schembechler deployed the famous "The Team, The Team, The Team" speech prior to the 1984 season.
Bar bets resolved all around. Now: if Rodriguez is going to deploy "The Team" in his tweets can we get him to say "those who stay will be champions"? I have literally been waiting for this since he was introduced at halftime of the Ohio State game.
Ve vant the money. Great graph from the Daily Cardinal showing the television money (Lebowksi) landscape as of now:
Though tiny now, the Pac-10 is going to vastly increase those tiny circles when their contract expires in 2011. In a realm of ever-expanding cable options even the ACC was able to leverage their free agency into a massive increase in revenues. A Pac-10 plus Colorado and Utah is going to see their raw numbers shoot up. Same with the Big 12 when their contracts expire. That's one reason the much-hyped SEC ESPN contract was overblown: when you're locked in that long the contract is shiny up front but by the end of it looks ragged. The BTN is excepted because the conference owns half of it and gets a revenue share, so that 112 million now won't be 112 in 2031. The SEC's deals will still be 150 and 55 in 2023. Not to imply that's terrible or anything.
Conveniently for the Big Ten fan, the Machiavellian point of view lines up with the one that's good for the players: you want D-I football to be as expensive as possible for the participants, with an emphasis on required spending on student-athletes.
While we're talking money. The Sports Business Journal has a paywalled article on what the Big Ten will do with its contracts now that Nebraska's on the way, but they put some interesting numbers in the intro…
The Big Ten Conference is preparing to auction the TV rights to its new football championship game, a move that industry insiders say could fetch $15 million to $20 million a year. The conference also plans to reopen its current deal with ESPN to account for the addition of Nebraska…
…which will push them even farther into the lead. Maybe Minnesota and Illinois will actually hire some one real this time around? Gary Pinkel, Gary Patterson, Charlie Strong, etc?
Swing low, Iowa. I've been thinking this for a while and now I'll dare mention it because a couple other outlets have broached the same thing: isn't Iowa due for a recession after their debt-fueled 2009? The lasting image of Iowa's Orange Bowl-winning season isn't Adrian Clayborn turning something into a damp red smear* but an Indiana pass pinging off four separate players before landing Charmin-soft in the hands of Tyler Sash.
Now it can be told on a list of teams most likely to regress this year:
The Hawkeyes had a great record last year, but they weren't dominant. They beat Northern Iowa and Arkansas State by a combined four points. They nearly lost to Michigan and Michigan State. In 2010, they get every tough team in the Big Ten while missing Illinois and Purdue. Iowa State usually plays them tough regardless, and they go to Arizona. It's not going to be an explosive team, and the schedule is tough.
That's Team Speed Kills and it's admittedly hazy, but the point about NIU, Arkansas State, Michigan (guh), Michigan State, and that omitted Indiana game is well-taken: Iowa was 89th in total offense last year. That is not often the recipe for a top-ten team, especially when the top-ten defense lost about half its starters and is still deploying a walk-on at safety.
In 2008, Iowa had the best running back in the nation and the best defense in the Big Ten, but lost four of five games decided by three points or less and had to settle for a nice consolation prize in the Outback Bowl. In 2009, a less impressive team on paper turned those close games, winning four of five by three points or less and landing the program's highest AP poll finish since 1960.
That was despite dropping from second in the conference in scoring offense in '08 to tenth in '09, as well as dropping to tenth in rushing and total offense, and from ninth nationally to 34th against the run on defense. The only difference was the uncanny knack for rallying the troops when tied or trailing going into the fourth quarter, which Stanzi and Co. pulled off five times in as many attempts against Northern Iowa (down 13-10 at the start of the fourth), Penn State (down 10-5), Wisconsin (10-10), Michigan State (down 6-3) and Indiana (down 24-14).
…but only after pointing out his 56% completion rate and meh efficiency ratings. Meanwhile, those fourth quarter comebacks scream regression unless you think Stanzi is some Rick Six** prone version of John Elway chafing under Dan Reeves. 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.
*(Adrian Clayborn: I say this with the utmost respect possible OH GOD NO—)
**(I see you, stpaulhawkeye. "Rick Six" is brilliant.)
Wha? Sid Hartman is like a billion years old and whenever I read something from him he seems confused so take this stuff FWIW:
Delany didn't see the Big Ten going to nine conference games in football in the near future, but one thing that might force that move is the big-money schools having to pay to attract nonconference opponents.
Since Delany just gave the first day of Big Ten Media Days whatever slight usefulness it had by bluntly declaring a nine-game conference schedule on the way, by "near future" Hartman probably means 2013. Then again, he's old enough where that does seem like a far off place. I wouldn't pay it any mind given Delany's previous statements.