"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
items of interest
Weird line combinations and depth stuff have been coming out of practice. What should we believe, what's motivational, what's a boo boo, what's anything in this crazy world? We go under cover and bring you the NEWS that HITS the HARDEST (at least until Jake Ryan returns, because he hits harder than our news). The staff:
- Brian Woodward
- Seth Bernstein
- Ace Bradlee
- Heiko Felt, Sr.
- Blue in South Katherine Graham
- Deep Throw
And the question:
Heiko and I have been arguing about this on gchat and I thought I'd bring it to the team. We want to know where you think there are real positional battles going on right now, and how you're handicapping them. For example:
Center: 55% Glasgow, 40% Miller, 5% Kugler
SAM: 85% Gordon, 15% Beyer
Norfleet: 100% Norfleet, 400% Norfleet, Norfleet% Norfleet.
Mathlete: Shouldn't it be Norfleet: 75% Slot, 20% RB, 5% DB, 100% Awesome?
Ace: The lineup seems refreshingly settled at most spots (hooray depth!); the only positions I see having real competition are tailback, outside receiver, center, and strongside linebacker, though it'll be interesting to see if there are any surprises in the defensive backfield with the return of Blake Countess and Dymonte Thomas's potential early impact at nickel. I'm operating under the assumption that Keith Heitzman earns the nod at SDE and Jibreel Black starts at three-tech with Chris Wormley playing a key role as a backup.
Starting from the top, we've discussed the running back battle ad nauseam; Fitz Toussaint should start against CMU and Derrick Green will push for more and more carries as the season wears on. I'll go 99% Toussaint (barring injury) and a 1% chance that Dennis Norfleet gets the season's first carry as Al Borges epically trolls Brian.
[Surprising (and probably meaningless) revelations and scandal, minus the scandal, after the jump]
So sometimes the internet goes beyond awesome and into the sublime. This happened yesterday, when Paul from Varsity Blue pointed out this Muppet version of "Temptation":
OMFG, &c. This is the real stuff, 100% pure Colombian awesome.
But it gets better: a commenter followed up with "you can't have one without the other" and linked to MUPPETS DOING THE HAWAIIAN WAR CHANT.
I keep watching these. I am going to make these an institution here.
Oh, it’s on, Notre Dame. It’s on.
The line. After the Utah game there were reports that the line for the Notre Dame game was as high as ND –8.5, but in the aftermath of Michigan’s DOMINATION last week there’s been a seismic shift. Diarist Jamiemac has the lowdown:
At Carib Sports--the only place where I am registered that I could find where you could bet tonight on Saturday's game--UM is -1. Lets think about this line:
Summer line: ND -3.5
Adjusted line after Week 1: ND -8.5
Actual line of Game Week: UM -1
I have not seen such a turnaround before. Surprisingly (or not so when you really think about it), most of those summer lines stay true to form.....its scary how accurate those are to the actual line months in advance.....anyway, yeah, you'll see a 1 or 2 point swing over the course of the season, but this line movement is unreal. A five point swing after the first week of games. Then, a 9.5 point swing in the other direction after the 2008 ND team unveiled itself.
Covers.com has one Michigan –2.5 and holding, a whole host of pick-ems, and a couple sites that opened with Michigan about a three-point favorite and have now moved to ND –1. The over-under is not available, for obvious reasons.
I’m with the bookies on this one: nothing short of Notre Dame starting a hippogriff at linebacker would surprise me. Notre Dame by twenty? Michigan by 38? A zero-zero tie finally broken in the sixth overtime after seven Notre Dame holding penalties and a Jimmah Clausen sack result in a safety? All equally plausible.
Well, no, I have a hard time envisioning Michigan putting up 38 points on Cal Poly. That is less plausible.
The reason for the jump was obvious to everyone who didn’t run from the room screaming during the San Diego State-Notre Dame game.Notre Dame was about a millimeter away from going down 20-7, and that would have been 20-0 if not for some incredible clock malfeasance by Chuck Long at the end of the first half.
San Diego State’s relative performances against a I-AA team and Notre Dame give cause for hope:
|Opp||Yards Gained||YPA||YPC||Yards Allowed||YPA||YPC|
|Cal Poly SLO||306||10.5||3.6||284||6.2||4.0|
It’s worth noting that SDSU had a week to-week offensive inversion, throwing 59 times and running 15 times against ND; the week before they ran 41 times and threw 15.
Blue-Gray Sky was not particularly impressed:
While Duke and Stanford's 2007 defenses were hardly worldbeaters, they were probably better than the San Diego State defense that gave up over 200 yards rushing to a 1-AA team. Yet, with largely the same personnel, Notre Dame's rushing offense was significantly less effective against SDSU than it had been against Duke and Stanford. In the final two games of 2007, the Irish running backs averaged 5.7 yard per carry against Duke and 5.1 against Stanford. Against SDSU, the Irish backs averaged a meager 3.4 yards per carry. Perhaps even more telling than the statistics was the play-calling. On each of their first three drives, the Irish offense faced a third-and-short situation (3rd and 2, 3rd and 3, then 3rd and 2 again). Each time, the call was a pass. It's hard to reconcile that play-calling with a commitment to "pounding" the ball.
Welcome to the club. Actually, I think you should be welcoming us to the club.
The bothersome thing. Okay, I watched the San Diego State game. During this game, a performance in which Notre Dame nearly lost to one of the worst teams in Division I-A, I was repeatedly wistful because Notre Dame’s quarterback completed passes downfield. What sort of pass? Any sort of pass. I miss John Navarre 2001. I miss John Navarre 2000. I miss Ryan Mallett.
And by "we" I mean "I", except I wouldn't say "I're on Newsome watch."
Hey, you: want to fret about a kid who won't play for Michigan for more than a year? Sure you do. VA QB commitment -- sorta -- Kevin Newsome has a choice this weekend. Virginia Tech is having its final summer camp. They'd like Newsome to show up:
But the big question is whether Kevin Newsome will attend the camp.
The former Western Branch star, headed to Hargrave Military Academy for his senior season, has committed to Michigan. But his former coach, Lew Johnston, said recently that Tech coaches are still hotly pursuing Newsome and were hoping he'd come to this weekend's camp.
Kevin Newsome Sr. said this week that his younger son, 2010 defensive end Keevon, plans to make the camp. He said didn't know about Kevin.
"Didn't know about Kevin" is about as reassuring as the "no comment" provided earlier. You're probably a slightly normal person and won't be on your computer Sunday night trying to figure out if Newsome actually showed up at this accursed thing; Monday Recruitin' will inform as appropriate.
Also: Josh Helmholdt's suddenly prolific column at the Free Press notes that IN OL Zach Martin an VA DE Will Hill will be in this weekend. Both have offers; Martin is a four-star OT with offers from Notre Dame and most of the Big Ten; Hill is a three-star strongside defensive end.
insert rock band miming.
Max Pacioretty is the last Michigan hockey player who hasn't announced his intentions to return for the 2008 season. When last we left our budding power forward, he was torn:
Heard it from a very good source that he would like to sign and that Montreal wants him but the family will have none of it. At this point, put the chances of him returning for his sophomore year at about 80%.
That was The Wolverine's Mike Spath about three weeks ago. Pacioretty is now at Montreal's rookie camp and... sigh(?)... impressing:
And Canadiens director of player recruitment and development Trevor Timmins was on the ice, watching his recent draft choices - plus a few free agent signings - skate through their paces.
Timmins spoke glowingly of Max Pacioretty, telling journalists "as you can see out on the ice surface, he's a big, strong, powerful athlete" who's a strong skater and likes to hit and finish his checks. Timmins thinks Pacioretty is "physically ready" to turn pro but has to work on aspects of his game, either as a University of Michigan sophomore or a Hamilton Bulldogs rookie.
At least Montreal isn't dangling a chance at the NHL at Pacioretty. If he's eyeing the AHL... well... that's a far less appealing alternative. Further quotes from Pacioretty, however, indicate he's open to the Bulldogs:
Pacioretty said "this is a big summer for me." He trusts the Canadiens to offer sound advice on whether he should turn pro or go back to Michigan.
"I couldn't tell you right now. We have to talk more about it and figure out how they (Canadiens) feel and that'll help my decision." Pacioretty is aware that the big club could use a power forward. "I think that's where they see my upside," Pacioretty said. "I'm able to play a more physical role. But I've got a lot of work to become a power forward."
Eek. Spath says Montreal wants him to sign, Pacioretty says he'll do what the Canadiens want him to do... 1 + 1 = dammit. HOWEVA, maybe Spath's source was premature? This article makes it sound like Montreal is expecting him to return to Ann Arbor (emphasis mine):
Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' director of player recruitment, said yesterday that Pacioretty is physically capable of playing in the NHL, but the smart money says the Connecticut native will be a Wolverine for at least one more season.
Pacioretty, who is projected as a power forward, said as much yesterday when members of the media told him about Timmins's statement. While he said his strength was one of his assets, he also said he might have a way to go before he can battle along the boards with the likes of Georges Laraque.
Pacioretty had an outstanding season at Michigan. He played on Michigan's top line with Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik, both of whom have signed contracts with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Playing with those guys definitely helped," Pacioretty said. But Timmins and Pacioretty both feel the youngster will be able to survive - and thrive - in the wake of the departures.
"I was the guy doing the dirty work in the corners and I think that I'll be able to play a more offensive role now that they're gone," Pacioretty said.
"He's lost two outstanding linemates, but this will give him a chance to showcase his talents," Timmins added.
Spath's 80% now seems like 60% to me, but the above passage contains direct quotes from the two people closest to the situation that assume Pacioretty's hockey will be played at Yost this fall. Still... Michigan Hockey Summer and all that. We should know sometime soon, at least, as I doubt Montreal will drag out the decision much past the next couple weeks.
Also, in a BCS-like move that comes one season too late:
Also, the Division I Men's Ice Hockey committee will recommend that teams be required to have a .500 record or better to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin, of course, made the tournament (as a three-seed!) despite being under .500 and got to play at home. No more of that.
- Hope. Surely, this is the year they add something bleeding obvious like simming through the end of blowouts or online dynasty. And there's no way they'll have every other pass dropped or intercepted again.
- Suspicion. Feature X sounds pretty stupid and time-consuming. They probably could have spent their time better if their weren't directed by EA market-droids. And they do this every year.
- Joy. THEY FIXED IT. I LOVE IT.
- Annoyance. You know, I don't think the computer should never miss a field goal. And they call timeouts weird. And the CPU quarterback throws more interceptions than completions. I'm tired of winning 99-0.
- Rage. AAAAAAARGH NOT ANOTHER SIX INTERCEPTION GAME. Maybe I'll bump it up to Heis- AAAAAAARGH I'M LOSING TO ARMY BY 60. [flings controller at cat]
Lather, rinse, and repeat until about May, at which point "hope" starts anew. It would be cute if it didn't cost 50 bucks.
Via Dubious Quality comes welcome news for those uncertain about whether Tiburon's latest version of NCAA is more than a roster update and some stupid-marketer-driven unrealistic features*: Gameshark editor Bill Abner has latched onto an early copy of the game and is blogging his first impressions a week and a half before the game's official release date. Abner is a seasoned video game review vet and on his blog he's thankfully blunt. He's also an Ohio State fan. Can't win 'em all.
Some highlights follow.
First game against Michigan State ends 31-3:
I can already tell that playing with a good team on AA lvl (default) isn't gonna fly. Not just due to the INTs but Ohio State is just friggin loaded. I feel like I can lob it to Robiskie almost at will. Keep in mind I have *never* liked NCAA on default settings so this is by no means a shock or something to take too seriously. It's the first half of one game on settings we all know to be a bit easy out of the box. ...
But -- I really, really hope we are not stuck, again, with the CPU INT problem. If sliders do not fix this, it will yet again by a bust as a solo game and it will depend on online dynasty mode to save it. Normally I'd say "Eh, it's just one half" but with how NCAA 08 turned out in this regard, the red flag is up.
Heisman -- previously a realm of controller-throwing frustration -- seems better:
And best of all -- at the half it's 13-10 OSU and that was the only USC INT. USC QB is I think 8/13 at the half. Beanie has 70 yards on the ground. AND -- Heisman feels extremely playable this year. If you are an NCAA vet--trust me. Start on Heisman. Don't even mess with AA. Well, if you are playing with a good team at least. Even so, it plays SO much better.
But to me it seems clear at least thus far that it's w/o a doubt a Heisman thing. [the lack of 16 CPU interceptions -ed] The game just flat plays better on this level and look..I'm killing Iowa so it's not like the AI is going to whip you at this level mercilessly.
The first truly annoying issue to rear its head:
Kick coverage is 100% ass. Sorry to keep repeating this--but this needs fixed. Maybe longer punts? You are going to average 30 yards per kick return in this game.
...but they've accurately modeled Jay Paterno!
But late in he game PSU had several 4th down plays when they were down 21-13. On 3rd and 5 with 2:12 left they called off tackle and lost a yard -- 4th and 6 ...same play. No gain. Kinda odd. Then the next possession they had 4th and 10 and threw a 5 yard square out and the WR caught the pass out of bounds. The HBs and FBs still have NO Idea where the sideline is on flare patterns. This is an OLD problem and that is still in the game. This sealed the game for me for the most part and was kinda anti climatic.
The interception issue gets largely cleared up and Abner gets waxed by FSU as Tulane, plays an every-yard-counts defensive struggle with FSU as OSU along with some other games. The end result:
I have not even opened up the recruiting model yet and I'll try to take a look at it this weekend. But right now -- based on the still somewhat small sample size of games -- NCAA is a green light. I have not had this much fun playing NCAA since the 2004 version. Usually by this time we had discovered either the crazy INTs (NCAA 2008), the huge number of dropped passes (NCAA 2005..), terrible secondary AI (NCAA 2007..) -- something that ruins the experience, for me at least. So far, this is a really, really fun game and I cannot WAIT to start our Online Dynasty.
This is Stage II of a typical year with NCAA: "I Love It, They Fixed Everything." HOWEVA, further gameplay...
That said, there are things that the more I play the more I think might be real issues that are not just going to go away. The CPU run game isn't very good. I know I am using OSU but even in the games where I used lesser teams the AI struggles UNLESS I refrain from switching players. If I stick to playing my chosen player for the entire play the CPU runs a lot better. But if I switch...it's lights out. He can't get away and most HBs average about 2.5 a carry. Note: I have yet to mess much with the CPU Run and RBlock sliders.
The Ghost Juke cost MSU the win in the 31-30 game. This one is really annoying. MSU was returning a kickoff and found a seam and then raced to the sidelines. He was home free -- gone. All he had to do was outrun OSU backup LB Brian Rolle but instead of just running for daylight he juked no one in particular and allowed Rolle to catch him. I have seen the Ghost Juke about 5 times now. Not good.
I also don't see much variety in the AI offensive playcalling. Deep passes are *rare*. I see them , but maybe 1 per game tops and it is not uncommon to see zero. (By deep I mean 20+ yards in the air.) A lot of dinks, dunks, and 7 yard passes over the middle. Because of this it is hard to tell a difference between playing against, say, San Diego State and Michigan State. The plays all feel similar it's just that MSU is better at running them.
...often reveals issues that range from minor to infuriating. Still, Abner's upshot even after these annoyances reveal themselves: "I still feel it's the best version on the field (I have not touched recruiting or checked the sim engine or the ranking AI) since NCAA 04, which was in my mind the high point of the series." That + online dynasty might be worth a look even if you're severely jaundiced towards EA and their exclusive licenses.
*(okay, there is one no-BS must-have feature: online dynasty is a huge freaking deal and might cause me to not only spring for the game but for a 360.)