Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Sometimes I post on Wednesday, sometimes I post on Thursday. Ideally I should post on Tuesday, but ideally Michigan should be undefeated.
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, Ace.
The Road Ahead:
Purdue (4-3, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: No. 23 Illinois 14, Purdue 21 (W)
Recap: If you want something more than handwaving, see Ace’s FFFF.
In a nutshell, Purdue managed two real drives in the first half while stymieing Illinois’ offense for a good 50 minutes before the Illini finally came to. As Ace indicates, the Boilermakers didn’t so much win this game as Illinois lost it: Purdue is a not very good team that happened to play well. The Illini were a better team that made enough mistakes to beat themselves. Sometimes you can bring a knife to a gunfight and prevail because the guys with the guns shoot at each other first. That’s not the best analogy but you get the point.
Right now they are as frightening as: After losing to Rice and narrowly escaping Middle Tennessee State at the beginning of the season, Purdue has improved enough to play Penn State close and beat a ranked Illinois team. What does this mean?
It means that the Big Ten isn’t very good. Fear level = 4.
Michigan should worry about: Underestimating Purdue’s defense. While not stellar as a unit, they’re fairly opportunistic, led by a secondary that is competent to good. CB Ricardo Allen, the guy who intercepted Denard last year and hurdled him for a 94-yard touchdown, is still on the team. He’s a sophomore, so we’ll be seeing him for a while.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Saturday’s weather forecast says 52 degrees and partly cloudy with 0 percent chance of trash. Roy Roundtree's Donald Duck voice.
When Michigan plays them: Is Michigan good enough to not beat itself? Most signs point to yes. This game may not be pretty--you should avert your eyes every time a Purdue running back makes for the sideline or when Denard throws a duck into coverage--but a barring a complete collapse on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines should at least be able to grind out a win.
Next game: at No. 17 Snake Oil Emporium
(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, Ace, the last Anbender.)
About Last Saturday:
Michigan 14, Michigan State 28
That feels about right.
The Road Ahead:
Purdue (3-3, 1-1 B1G)
Last game: Purdue 18, Penn State 23 (L)
Recap: Try figuring out how many football scores it takes to get to 18. What is that, six field goals? Two touchdowns and two safeties? Now try to make 23.
Yeah, it was that kind of a game. Purdue was also inexplicably a couple missed kicks short of being tied with Penn State.
Not sure which team was still living in last week, but both were coming off statement wins -- the Nittany Lions’ of the “Kirk Ferentz owns us only most of the time” variety, and the Boilermakers’ of the “If the Big Ten were the solar system we would be Venus, which is still a lot better than that Kuiper belt object named Minnesota, formerly known as Pluto” variety.
Purdue’s running back duo carried the ball 13 times each with surprising effectiveness. Ralph Bolden averaged 7.5 ypc, thanks largely to a 39-yarder, and Akeem Shavers averaged 4.2 ypc. Against Penn State, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, although Ace’s FFFF next week will probably have something to say about the schematic advantage inherent in their offense. (Hint: they run the spread.)
The Boilermakers QBs, on the other hand, were unremarkable. Caleb TerBush completed 12 of 25 passes for 162 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. QB Robert Marve attempted just five passes, one of which was an interception. Bench.
About Purdue’s defense -- that the Nittany Lions couldn’t seem to score points against them is more a testament to how derpy Penn State’s quarterback situation is rather than to how stout the Boilermakers are on that side of the ball. For the record, Purdue has the 30th ranked scoring defense in the country, which reflects some degree of competency, but that’s a ranking that’s about as tenable as Michigan’s No. 10 spot in that category.
Right now they are as frightening as: Michigan’s ability to defend an inconsistent spread. 4.
Michigan should worry about: Teaching the linebackers how to defend the perimeter -- you know, keep contain and stop outside runs, short passes, and bubble screens. Things that no one else ever seems to have a problem doing for some reason.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Purdue doesn’t run the spread very well. How they managed to put together four scoring drives against a Penn State defense that held Iowa to three points is beyond me, but again, Ace’s FFFF should shed some light onto that.
When Michigan plays them: Fueled by an irascible disdain for the sale of snake oil, Purdue has outperformed in this game for the past several years. If you’ll recall, there was that last minute hook-and-ladder incident in 2008. Then in 2009 they came from behind to win by capitalizing on a missed Michigan PAT and surprise onside kick. Last year, despite being in the middle of the great torn ACL epidemic, the Boilermakers played Michigan so closely that as I tracked the game from an iPhone, I got mad at ESPN Mobile for doing a crappy job updating the scores.
So yeah, the Not-2008-or-2009-or-2010-ness of this year’s Michigan team could use a decisive win here.
Next game: No. 23 Illinois
Next, the Jump. Michigan should worry about: broken internet connections. Sleep soundly about: more room on the front page.
About Last Saturday:
Michigan 42, Northwestern 24
I wasn't there. Wah wah.
The Road Ahead:
Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 B1G)
Last Game: Bye
Recap: They didn’t play, but I’m going to write mean things about them anyway.
Right now they are as frightening as: Jerel Worthy’s tattoo.
It’s big. It’s ugly. It’s under the skin. It’s going to be there forever. On the other hand, a closer look reveals something misguided about the sense of superiority it portrays. It ends up being actually kind of funny, and years later, whenever the Big Ten becomes a superconference and lets Missouri into the club, it’ll finally make sense.
Oh yeah, about their football team: Objectively, they’re probably around a 6. Personally, they got up to somewhere near an 8 when I watched Michigan’s first half vs. Northwestern and dropped down to a 4 when I watched the second half.
Michigan should worry about: Denard vs. interceptions. The ineffectiveness of the ground game against Northwestern was a bad sign because against Michigan State it’s going to be worse. Denard is going to have to throw it, and I’m going to end up really sick from stress-eating all the press box food. I hope there are meatballs.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Brady Hoke, on Michigan State’s offensive line:
Well, they’re big, which is the normal case.
To their credit, Michigan State does have solid-to-stellar players at QB, RB, and WR, but having a talented 7-on-7 squad doesn’t mean much when the other team puts 11 guys on the field.
When Michigan plays them: This is going to be one of those games where the score will be 14-10 after the first quarter and 14-10 at the end of the third quarter. It’s going to be terrible. Halfway into the second quarter I’m going to start annoying the person sitting next to me with compulsive commentary, especially if Ace isn’t going to East Lansing. He just told me he’s not going. Okay well that sucks. Apologies in advance to whoever ends up sitting next to me.
Michigan wins if they can get to Cousins early and often, especially if they can accomplish that with just a four-man rush.
Next game: No. 11 Missouri Raccoons.
(more after the jump.)
They are coming. Hide the mascara. I'm still waiting for the last few survey responses to roll in but, man, people hate In The Big House. This may be an effect of this blog's readership but with the vast bulk of the responses coming from the 22-34 range I'm guessing the results would not be good amongst the much older general population.
So, like, what to do about this?
That is a show at the Blind Pig the day before the Nebraska game in November. If this is a prelude to these guys showing up inside Michigan Stadium I think my head might explode. The only consolation would the groomers getting an Ashlee Simpson reception.
HIRE THESE PEOPLE NOW. So. We have the dog groomers above inflicting their terrible garbage on Michigan Stadium, and then there's Minnesota. Land of misery and no money and people who know what they're doing when it comes to internet videos that transcend irony. Go ahead, watch this with your jaundiced eye. You'll give up your cynicism about 30 seconds in when Goldy Gopher spins his head 360 degrees:
So… I'm just saying… we should fire the entire marketing department and replace them with whoever did that. This is in no way a joke.
GODDAMMIT AGE OF IRONY. I can't even say "this is in no way a joke" without it seeming like an ironic joke. It is not.
Good times. News that the God Hates Figs lunatics will be picketing Ohio State brings back nostalgia for that one time when I was an undergraduate and they hit up Michigan for some fake outrage or another. Tactical error: holding up "M = figs" signs while wearing Kansas City Chiefs jackets. At the time, KC's quarterback was Elvis Grbac and #1 WR Derrick Alexander. A fig to fig connection, as it were, which we loudly let them know about.
Unfortunately for OSU fans, the only Buckeye on the Chiefs' roster is backup DB Donald Washington, so they'll have to come up with something else. Just pretend they're Michigan fans and you'll do fine.
Speaking of. This popped up on the tubes recently. It is an anti-anti-gay PSA that you, the wine-and-cheese-consuming Michigan fan, will be hectored with at some point in the near future:
So that's settled then. No one is ever going to say something inappropriate again. This is all your fault, double-bird guy.
Hey, good point. Taylor Lewan hasn't had a false start/holding meltdown yet, so that's cool:
This year, that has been a point of emphasis. The result?
Zero penalties through four games.
"I'm due, aren't I?" Lewan said, laughing. "I've definitely noticed that. I've been very cautious about penalties. I'm not ever going to let up, just got to be smart. Got to be a smarter player."
What's more, Lewan hasn't even been close to a holding penalty that I've seen. He's been a dominant run blocker and hasn't picked up a pass minus. He's a third of the way to All Big Ten.
You have a Nard dog? Wait, what?
That's our Nard Dog. Thomas Nardo, Iowa's newfound starter at defensive tackle and owner of the porn-iest name in the starting lineup with Shane DiBona on the sidelines, was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Nardo had himself a pretty monster day for a defensive tackle: 12 tackles, 2.0 TFL, and 0.5 sacks. He doesn't do much to help our problems keeping contain on the outside, but he's exactly the sort of plugger we need to keep from getting gashed up the middle.
This aggression will not stand, Iowa. There can only be one Nard Dog. Shotguns at noon on November fifth to settle it.
More relevantly: this Nardo kid is a fifth-year senior walk-on (sounds familiar) who "won't make anyone forget" a half-dozen Iowa DTs of the recent past but is offering "solidity to an Iowa defensive line that was looking woefully porous earlier in the year." Which… whoah. Iowa suddenly has Michigan's defensive personnel?
Apparently they also have a bomber already on par with Stanzi, so don't chalk that win up just yet. Not that any Michigan fan is chalking up a win against a Big Ten team not named Minnesota.
Stick, baby. Fresh hockey commitment Jacob Trouba is a big deal, like top-half-of-the-first round big deal, and unfortunately these days that means his commitment will be questioned until he shows up on campus. He's even been drafted by one of the more convincing OHL programs, and by "more convincing" I mean "freer with under the table payments."
Anyway. Through no fault of his own, Trouba has the profile of a flight risk. Therefore he gets to answer questions about it whenever he's interviewed. An example:
I asked if Michigan fans have a reason to feel confident that they would see him wearing Maize and Blue next year.
"Yeah they do, I'm a Michigan Wolverine," he stated, "That's why I wanted to wait this long; just so I knew, I didn't want my mind to change over a year and I really wanted to know what I wanted to do next year. I wanted to wait because I didn't want to back out on any decisions, I wanted to stick with my word. I waited until I was sure with what I wanted to do."
Prominent CHL defections usually occur because the player in question is tired of cooling his heels in a lesser league, especially Canadian Junior B. (FWIW, AHL equivalencies imply the USHL is not much worse than the CHL, if it is at all anymore.) Once a kid is locked into his final year before he'd be in college he's usually set. John Gibson is a prominent exception to that, but he was staring down a platoon (at best) with Tiny Jesus. Trouba has no such concerns since he'll probably slot right into the top pairing a la Merrill, and he's got no reason to make a college commitment after he's already been drafted by one of the league's Lane Kiffins.
So… I don't think he'll bolt. If he sticks he makes Michigan's 2012 class pretty impressive. F Boo Nieves is frequently projected as a late first-rounder. D Michael Downing was the third pick of the USHL Futures Draft and was the captain of the U17 5 Nations team. D Connor Carrick is on the NTDP and Michigan took him pretty early. Still need a goalie. Who wants to play behind Trouba? Bueller?
BONUS: While w'ere talking hockey, Michigan Hockey Net and local MGoUser Yesman221 have season previews. (Yesman is a a bit conservative with freshman deployment, FWIW.) There won't be one forthcoming from me due to football season, but Ace might have an official one.
Full cost, sort of. It sounds like the NCAA will bump scholarship awards:
A committee weighing a number of potential changes is expected to recommend that the value of individual scholarships be raised by as much as $2,000 in the top-tier Division I, moving them closer to covering the athletes' full cost of attending school. Full grants currently cover only room, board, books and tuition.
The proposal covers the gap between "full cost of attendance" and the current scholarships as long as that is less than 2k. A step in the right direction. There's also a push to allow multi-year scholarship awards, except it's apparently a push to better market the current system:
Multi-year scholarships also are seen as an athlete-welfare issue, and Swarbrick said his committee favors that proposal even though it might not bring athletes the security many expect.
"The process for nonrenewal of an annual grant probably would look just like the process for terminating a four-year grant," he told ADs. "… But we did think the statement that would be made about our commitment to student-athletes was worth doing and made this a change worth pursuing."
So… he'd like to make a statement about committing to student athletes without actually committing to student athletes. The NCAA has always been at war with the English language.
(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:
San Diego State 7, Michigan 28
This is how you get from “Rolling in the Deep” to “Someone Like You.”
The Road Ahead:
Last game: North Dakota State 37, Minnesota 24 (L)
Recap: Minnesota lost to FCS North Dakota State last Saturday in a game where the Gophers were out-everythinged, which made coach Jerry Kill feel a lot of bad for a lot of people.
"Coach outcoached me, their team outplayed us and they deserved to win the game," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said, adding: "I feel bad for our students. I feel bad for the state of Minnesota. I feel bad for our fans, and I feel bad for our kids."
This didn’t make Brian’s This Week In Schadenfreude column probably because any decent human being would find it hard to derive any joy from Minnesota’s pain. They’ve lost to three FCS teams over the last five years. At this point you just feel bad for them.
If you insist on analyzing the game, you’ll see the key stat of the game is two turnovers -- both Gophers quarterbacks threw an interception each, and both interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
But it’s hard to see anything through the acrid smoke from the tire fire that was Michigan’s 2010 defense and is now Minnesota football.
The best part about Michigan playing a team in such pitiful state, however, is watching Hoke come up with reasons for why they’re a respectable opponent.
Minnesota got beat by North Dakota State, which is as good a football team as -- you don’t want to schedule them, I can promise you that, because they are well coached and they are tough.
So they were beaten by a football team that is a football team. Fair. These things happen sometimes, I guess.
“I think Marqueis Gray, their quarterback -- and they’re using two quarterbacks. I think he’s averaging right around a hundred [yards] rushing the football.”
And they have a quarterback controversy that involves a guy who can run. That’s probably cause for concern. For them.
“I haven’t looked much at their defense yet. I know Royster, I think their safety -- what’s his name?” Kim Royston. “He’s a good football player. He sticks out. Linebacker 51 (Gary Tinsley) sticks out.”
He has no idea.
Right now they are as frightening as: Someone choking. A good, hard abdominal thrust might break a couple ribs, but ultimately it’s for their own good. Fear level = 2.
Michigan should worry about: Some average-to-good Big Ten team will inexplicably lose to them.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: It’ll probably be Iowa.
When Michigan plays them: Their coach’s health is a concern, and now Marqueis Gray stubbed his toe … We might finally get to see Devin Gardner play more than two snaps. Knock on wood.
Next game: at No. 19 Michigan
(more after the jump.)
(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)