I missed you. John L Smith, never leave us again. We have gone too long without a college football coach organizing "etiquette team dinners."
College football should institute a rule: every year one team who fires their head coach is randomly chosen, and John L Smith coaches that team on an interim basis for a year. It's for the good of everyone. Yes.
Across this line you DO NOT… Hoke restating the obvious:
"The in-state rivalry is always something that's important to us," Hoke told sports editors and reporters at Weber's Inn. "We have not done our job the last four years if you're on the Michigan side of things. That's coaching, and that has to be better.
"But the Ohio game is the Ohio game. I don't think (that importance is) going to change," Hoke said. "And that doesn't lessen anything on the Michigan State game at all, because we realize in this state, you draw a line in the sand."
Obviously this was in response to some question about whether people respond to stimuli—
Hoke was asked if the Michigan State game carries even more importance for Michigan now than when he was here as an assistant under former coach Lloyd Carr, in part because of the improved Spartans under coach Mark Dantonio and also because of the Big Ten title game.
"Brady Hoke, can you be accurately defined as a life form?"
"Well, Lansing-based reporter, I can tell you I do respond to stimuli. Here, look. I shine a light in my eye. The pupil contracts. I hope this has been informative."
Hoke is also in favor of keeping the Ohio State game at the end of the season.
BREAKING EXCLUSIVE. Hearing that Connecticut offensive tackle Harry Poggins will commit to Michigan by Tuesday at the latest, or may have already done so. EXCLUSIVE DO NOT REPORT.
So… the long snapper. I don't get it either, man. In case you missed it, Michigan picked up a longsnapper with much fanfare yesterday. The fanfare comes because Scott Sypniewski says he's got a full ride, and this makes people confused. I am among you. Michigan picked up a walk-on who seemed pretty good last year (not the one MSU poached) and has a couple years of Sugar Bowl receiving MVP runner-up Jareth Glanda left. You'd think Michigan would wait and see if they could turn that slot into an excellent prospect before spending it on a guy whose main goal will be total anonymity.
Sometimes these things are confused. Lloyd Carr's last act as Michigan head coach was to bring George Morales aboard, but I don't think he ever factored into scholarship discussions. We'll see if Sypniewski signs a letter of intent. He may have been offered a conditional scholarship in the event Michigan has one at the end of the year, that sort of thing. If it's an out and out scholarship offer to a long snapper in early June that would be… odd.
Goodnight noon. Air Force and UMass are both 3:30 kickoffs, UMass on BTN and Air Force an ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror. If those games aren't at noon it's hard to imagine Michigan will play more than one or two games then all year.
If you go to the games and care a lot about college football, that sucks. Most of the interesting games are on at the same time as yours and you can't watch the end of the noon games. Then you miss a chunk of the evening games. I feel like I've been getting less informed about everything going on in CFB, and that's a main reason why. Also, do we understand how many humiliating Notre Dame losses we're not seeing because of overlapping game times? THIS IS SERIOUS.
This is admittedly less of a problem during lame nonconference weeks in which Air Force-Michigan is worthy of ABC. The games we'll be missing in that window include Syracuse-USC, Purdue-Notre Dame, and… uh… UNC-Wake Forest. Songs will not be sung about September 8th, 2012.
Side note: a while back I was told that BTN could not show 3:30 games because of the ABC contract. Clearly there are some exceptions to that. Maybe it's just conference games?
The lines? Jamiemac promises a full evaluation of the hypothetical lines put out by Beyond The Bets on this here site a bit later. I'll be interested to hear his take on their assumptions. The conference schedule, with games Michigan is an underdog in bolded:
- @ Purdue: M –7
- Illinois: M –18
- MSU: M –6.5
- @ Nebraska: M +3.5
- @ Minnesota: M –14.5
- Northwestern: M –17.5
- Iowa: M –14(!!!)
- @ OSU: M +4
Those are not real lines. I assume a line with Michigan favored by two touchdowns over Iowa would be obliterated in ten minutes. But I don't bet. That's Jamie's area of expertise. For his part, Jamie wants to jump on MSU with the point.
Anyway, if those assumptions are anywhere near accurate that's about equal to a prediction of a 6.5-1.5 record. That feels a half-game high to me.
Position paper: Chick Fil'A. As the Big Ten-SEC blogger fight drags on into a sixth decade, positions must be taken. Here is one on Chick Fil'A: it's not as good as Southerners claim, especially displaced Southerners, but it is a cut above competing chicken sandwiches from other fast food joints. I'm sorry if this has caused anyone to snap in disappointment in either direction.
Big Two, Little Ten update. ESPN revamps/expands its rankings. No significant moves except a bit of a fall for Mike McCray and the addition of Dukes, Butt, and Gedeon to the specifically ranked. Michigan has 16 guys in their 300, OSU 12, the rest of the Big Ten combined: 9.
This is their list of the top 17 players in the midwest:
Hokemon, yo. Note that the two linemen not committed to Michigan on the list didn't have a chance to pull the trigger. Also, damn you Lane Kiffin.
Weekly Glenn Robinson III hype. From the Indy Star:
"Every time I see him play," said Indiana All-Stars coach Craig Teagle, "his stock goes up with me."
The 6-6 Robinson, who goes by "Tre," has earned rave reviews with his All-Star teammates this week. On a team filled with talent from the immediate area -- nine of the 13 players on the roster are from either Marion County or a neighboring county -- there was a bit of unfamiliarity with Robinson, who played at Lake Central High School in the extreme northwest corner of the state.
It didn't take long for the Michigan recruit to make an impression with his above-the-rim style, dunking nearly everything he touched in a scrimmage on Sunday.
"Wow," said North Central guard Patrick Ingram. "I've seen him play before, but didn't really know him that well. I like his game a lot. He can dunk from anywhere."
This basketball season promises to be fun.
Etc.: Wisconsin kerfuffler Jared Uthoff transfers to Iowa, ensuring that Bo Ryan goes out the Woody Hayes way. Ohio State gave back its Sugar Bowl profit for tatgate, but Gene Smith kept a 60k bonus for reaching the game. Hockey recruit Alex Kile profiled. Michigan pays their assistants money.
Bounce back begins. Harbaugh's back and you're gonna be in trouble.
Hey na, hey na.
Ufershirt part 2. We have a new Ufer shirt in the store:
Tooley. Derek Dooley goes on the offensive in the AJC to defend oversigning. He makes one cogent point: the SEC rule doesn't really end the practice since 25 x 4 = 100. Well struck.
Unfortunately, using that point to call out the SEC for putting a fig leaf on a PR problem falls flat after asserting two Immense Benefits Of Oversigning. The First Immense Benefit Of Oversigning:
I think over-signing is good for the student-athlete. Let me give you some hypotheticals: Let’s say a a guy gets hurt his senior year, and there’s a good chance he won’t play his freshman year of college. He has got to do surgery and rehab. What could we do in the past? In the past, we could sign him, grayshirt him and put him in next year’s class. That allowed him to come to the type of school he wanted to come to, whereas now those kind of guys have to go to a different school.
The kind explanation here is that Dooley doesn't know NCAA rules. The letter of intent is not required to give a student athlete a scholarship, as dozens of early enrollees prove every January. Brandon Knight never bothered with a LOI before he showed up for his single season at Kentucky.
The only thing the LOI does is lock the athlete into a school. It gets the athlete very little. If you're eligible and have signed a letter of intent and Les Miles has an oopsie and has 86 scholarship players, someone's getting screwed. Hint: it is not Les Miles.
The above scenario can still take place. It's just that the player you're benevolently grayshirting can still take a better offer if one comes along. He can go to the type of school he wanted to go to because he's not locked in. Dooley is protesting that not restricting athletes' choices prevents them from choosing.
The second scenario is let’s take a guy who academically not eligible. … You look at their mid-year grades and you see that they’re going to be an academic risk, or there’s a good chance that they won’t qualify. Well, then you have to make a decision. Because in the past, you could sign them and if he didn’t qualify, place him in a junior college, help him get into a junior college and give him the motivation to come back to your school one day. Now you can’t sign him, or you’re not willing to take that risk because you can’t be short on your roster. So now they’re more on their own, and they don’t get to sign with the school that they want to go to.
If they do qualify, they can still attend your school. Thus the Second Immense Benefit Of Oversigning is that players who aren't going to make it get to sign a meaningless piece of paper so they can pretend they are not going to JUCO.
So there’s a lot of good things about over-signing that gives more opportunities for good players. When you eliminate that, now you’re providing less opportunities for them.
"Opportunity" is a zero-sum game. To give a player an opportunity you have to take one away from someone else.
In conclusion, Derek Dooley is getting fired next year.
Did we invent the sweatervest? Rick Santorum* apparently wears them, which has prompted Slate to write about them. They attempt to trace the origins of the thing and think it originated in Ann Arbor of all places:
The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first use of “sweater” in 1882, in reference to the sleeve-having woolens used by rowers to encourage profuse sweating, and consequently, weight loss. By the turn of the century, the sweater, though still considered sportsman’s garb, had lost its perspiratory function and become a more standard jacket substitute. It seems to be at this point, or shortly thereafter, that the idea was first had to lop off the sleeves. In 1907, 14 members of Michigan’s football team were rewarded with an embroidered “M” sewn, for the first time, onto not regular sweaters, but sweater vests.
Like script Ohio, an Ohio State tradition comes from that school up north.
*[NO POLITICS REMINDER]
Origins and breakdowns. Our Helmets Have Wings—another Michigan blog that made a bad investment in a Rodriguez-themed title—provides a thorough breakdown of Michigan's most recent class. Michigan's percentage of recruits from the local area has been increasing:
Michigan's last three years are the most Midwest-heavy in a while. Whether that's increasing local talent or a decline in Michigan's ability to sell itself nationally is in the eye of the beholder. The most recent class appears to be the former. The previous ones maybe not so much.
Let's build narratives from them. Kenpom is irritated at the insistent narrative surrounding Murray State's first loss of the year:
It’s the manufactured stories that attempt to explain the often-unexplainable variability in a team’s performance that I take issue with. Some team salvages its season by going on a late winning-streak and the origins of the streak are explained by a players-only meeting or the team captain stepping up and being a leader, or a renewed emphasis on defense, etc. When in reality, the causes of the change may have been more complicated that anyone could truly understand. (Naturally, this xkcd comic comes to mind.)
Murray State’s loss last week provided one of the clearest such examples of this method of analysis. The general assumption after the loss was that the Racers cracked under the pressure [(1), (2), (3)] of their unbeaten record. Even the coach said so! The thing is, Murray never reached a point during the season where they were better than a 50% proposition to go unbeaten in conference. You play enough games in which you are heavily favored, and you are going to lose eventually. Put more precisely, a team that plays ten games as a 90% favorite is expected to lose once during that span, and the Racers have played a lot of such games this season, including the game against Tennessee State.
The average deviation from the Vegas line is an impressively large 8.4 points. A lot of random stuff happens in a college basketball game.
Short-sighted next-quarter revenue is everywhere. Mike Slive inexplicably adding two mediocre Big 12 schools to the SEC now threatens the annual protected crossover game in the SEC and rivalries like Auburn-Georgia because the league refuses to add a ninth conference game. This is good for the immediate bottom line but long-term it threatens to erode fandom. Braves & Birds:
the SEC has been so thoroughly sucked into the vortex of being a quasi-pro sport that short-term revenue maximization is now the name of the game. The changes to the conference in the 90s - splitting into divisions and joining a two-team playoff - proved to be beneficial in getting the league where it is today, but the decision in the works to jettison two of the SEC's best rivalries is unlikely to have any such upsides. Aside from the facts that the decision has angered the league's core consumers and could turn them against the new arrivals ("thanks, Mizzou, you cost us the Deep South's oldest rivalry and the Third Saturday in October"), the change will upset the rhythm of the season and ever so slightly diminish the quality of the TV product. The SEC is losing a little of its soul with this decision, and its soul is part of what makes the conference so profitable.
The Alabama-Tennessee game is so deeply part of the identities of the two schools that their reflexive response to "third Saturday in October" is the opponent they've played every year on that date since proto-Bear trudged out of the ocean. The SEC is dumping that tradition for 1) the opportunity to renegotiate a bad TV contract and 2) the sanctity of games against Furman and the Citadel.
An excellent idea. The long-rumored M-OSU lacrosse game in Michigan Stadium is official:
Team 133 will take the field for its annual spring scrimmage at noon EST on Saturday, April 14. Prior to the football team's debut, the Victors Classic Alumni Flag Football Game will be held at 10 a.m. inside the Big House.
Following the football scrimmage at 2:30 p.m. will be the "Battle in the Big House," which pits Michigan's first-year varsity men's lacrosse team against Ohio State.
I look forward to taking in a live lacrosse game for the first time.
Etc.: Michigan's goals against MSU broken down in the diaries; good discussion in the comments as well. The Joe sold out for the MSU game on Saturday. Odd timing for the first sellout in a while there. The Daily reminds us of Hunwick's Wildcat uppercut earlier in the year. If you want to know why everyone in the world is running him, that's why. Also because they get away with it. MHN interviews 2013 commit Evan Allen.
pictured: the NCAA's ideal crowd for a regional
College hockey is currently infected with two things that exacerbate the general meaninglessness of the regular season and often make tournament venues sterile, embarrassingly empty events. They are a fetish for neutral sites and a general agreement to ignore the Michigan/Ohio/Indiana nexus of college hockey in favor of putting everything out West. Only the miraculously blinkered Wisconsin athletic department and their press apparatchiks manage to combine both.
Neutral sites are stupid. They lead to things like sixty people in an NHL building in St. Louis hundreds of miles from any college hockey program. They should be viciously abolished wherever they don't obviously work already. This is something we can all agree on. Except Wisconsin. After months of reporting about how Wisconsin was unhappy with the way the Big Ten hockey conference was shaking out, Andy Baggot's back with a helpful suggestion.
Shifting Big Ten hockey to neutral site would eliminate WIAA conflict
Argh. Baggot is under the mistaken impression that anyone outside the state of Wisconsin gives sixth thousandths of a damn about some high school tournaments. This is the enormous problem that must be fixed:
UW officials wisely voted against this format for two reasons: One, it would create the current scheduling problems with the WIAA state tournaments for wrestling and boys' and girls' basketball; and two, there's a more sensible option.
There is not one person associated with the Big Ten who cares about option one. If the state of Wisconsin had a second arena, it wouldn't even be an issue. Hey, wait… THAT'S ANDREW BOGUT'S MUSIC
Milwaukee's Bradley Center
If the Bradley Center's too busy, Milwaukee has a 10,000 seat backup currently occupied by nothing at all. We have saved the children of Wisconsin from having to compete for state championships on Lake Michigan. Time to party.
As for two, the "more sensible option" is <drumroll>…
The Big Ten should revisit the idea of a neutral site tournament, which would bring all six teams to one location in a one-and-done format over three days. There are several possible venues and a future rotation could be devised, but the best for now is the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Not only is it a fantastic NHL facility, it's in the middle of a great hockey culture with a genuine appreciation for the college game. The building also has experience handling such an event given its work with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five.
…blithering idiocy. There are six Big Ten hockey schools. They are:
- Minnesota: zero hours from Minneapolis
- Wisconsin: five hours from Minneapolis
- MSU: 11 hours from Minneapolis
- Michigan: 12 hours from Minneapolis
- Ohio State: 14 hours from Minneapolis
- Penn State: 16 hours from Minneapolis
Only an idiot would suggest the fairest "neutral site" that could be proposed is the home city of the westernmost school in the conference, one that only two of the six schools could reasonably drive to. Arenas in Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Columbus, Toledo and Indianapolis would be better geographically and could probably handle the enormous strain of putting on three games over a weekend. Only an idiot would suggest throwing away the money four to six opening round games would generate*.
Instead, the Big Ten has decided to put the finals at the home rink of the top seed, something that both gives the conference winner a needed edge in the barely-weighted plinko that is single elimination playoff hockey and guarantees attendance between decent and sellout. This is "unwieldy at best and, at worst, irresponsible." No, seriously, dude said it was irresponsible.
This is the rationale:
Regardless of location, you're asking an awful lot of the six teams and their fans in terms of time and travel logistics. That's especially true of the four lowest seeds, which meet the week before the semifinals in a best-of-three series at the home of the higher seed. The survivors advance to the next round.
In a nutshell, the Big Ten is giving its members two weeks to ready an arena, sell tickets, secure hotel space, line up ground and/or air transportation and make sure its teams are ready to play.
Meanwhile, fans of those teams are being asked to be flexible and keep a credit card handy.
This is something literally every hockey arena in the country has to be ready for because they may host a first or second round playoff series. Unless I missed a spate of unprepared zamboni deaths, they've managed. The argument here is a campus site is just impossibly daunting to prepare on short notice, which is why every NCAA sport other than D-I football, basketball, and hockey uses such things for their playoffs.
If there's a cost analysis between the campus site and neutral site, I'll bet the difference is significant and it favors the neutral site.
If you're an idiot who thinks anyone cares about WIAA playoffs and believes that four Big Ten teams are going to vote to have the Big Ten finals at least eleven hours away, next door to Minnesota's campus. How about this: if Wisconsin wins the league they can hire the X. Problem no one cares about solved.
*[The problem with the Big Ten's format is it does not adopt the actually logical playoff structure: three weeks of best-of-three series at the higher-seeded-team's rink. That's more money, more games (always nice when you're competing against OHL teams that point out a relative lack of games in the NCAA), and avoids the strangeness of the current format wherein the second-place team gets no home games.]
I'm just… all. Terrifying HSR photoshop:
Now you're going to have "Push It To The Limit" stuck in your head all day. Q: how did that gem escape Special K's playlist this year?
Staying with usually illegal things. Lines. They are out. The Wynn opened VT a 2.5 point favorite; my go-to-line aggregation site says Michigan actually opened –1.5. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of wiggle: right now it's ranging a full three points from M –2 to VT –1. The Mathlete's numbers have Michigan a two-point favorite.
For all the Herbstreitian complaints about the matchup here at least it seems competitive. I'd ballpark a Michigan-Kansas State line around M -10. The Wildcats are 96th in total offense and 74th in total defense; 90th in sacks, 106th in TFLs, 111th in sacks allowed. They kind of suck hard. Massive TO margin saves them. Virginia Tech is a much better team.
Silver lining to the dumbest edition of the BCS yet: at least this year it isn't serving up two woofers like they usually do. Oregon is favored by just under a touchdown. The lines for WVU-Clemson and Stanford-Okie State are around three points, and the Sugar Bowl and Cox Communications's 2AM replay of last month's LSU-Alabama game are basically pick 'ems. No Georgia-Hawaii or Louisville-Anyone.
Oof. I bet you're tired of Sparty schadenfreude. Can't stand it anymore. You are in the wrong place, sir.
Via the board. Someone with access to the Detroit News's ad manager is getting reamed in a conference room right now.
BONUS: Michigan State's complaints are laughable in many ways.
One: they are not even eligible to be selected. This isn't Michigan getting in over MSU.
Two: it's not like MSU had a slam-dunk better season than Michigan even before the Big Ten title game. If all you focus on is head to head they did, but Michigan beat ND and Nebraska. MSU got hammered by both. The computers aren't thinking about butts in seats and they give Michigan almost a six-spot advantage over MSU. And they can't take MOV into account.
Three: they are playing the exact same team Michigan is. Georgia rode a soft schedule to a conference title game in which they were destroyed. They have a tough defense and an iffy offense. Their best offensive asset is a tailback. The only difference between VT and Georgia is Georgia's decision to schedule Boise State. The only difference between the Sugar and the Outback is a day on the calendar.
I'm just going to put this here. Kork Coupons:
"Michigan sat home tonight on the couch and watched us," the senior said shortly after the game's conclusion. "We played our hearts out — you saw it. I don't see how you get punished for playing and someone else gets to sit on the couch and get what they want. "If this is the way the system is, I guess it's a broken system."
Gary Danielson, devil. Braves and Birds on the SEC's chief propagandist:
In 2006, Danielson and the SEC on CBS team spent the fourth quarter of Florida’s win over Arkansas lobbying for the Gators to play for the national title over Michigan. Their argument was based on the fact that Florida had played a tougher schedule, which they demonstrated with a graphic comparing the teams that the Gators and Wolverines had beaten. Guess what metric CBS did not use yesterday? You guessed it, the one that favored the SEC team in 2006, but cut against the SEC team in 2011. … At times during the fourth quarter yesterday, I felt like I was at a mediation, watching one side make a PowerPoint presentation as to their strengths of their case and the weaknesses of mine.
… CBS apparently has the sports equivalent of Roger Ailes doing its SEC games and they think that no one remembers their convention speech in 2006.
How's "the spread is dead" working out for you, Danielson? Since he has no memory of the spread vs spread title game last year he probably thinks the answer is "really well!"
Gary Danielson, angel. Danielson advocated a playoff system nearly identical to the MGoPlayoff in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship game. I don't care if he eats babies as long as he's spreading the gospel of a restricted-field playoff.
Heisman. In other hopelessly broken college football institutions, Feldman makes the RGIII for Heisman case, which can be stated thusly: Baylor and their 114th-ranked defense (yardage) beat OU and Texas in the same year. BAYLOR. BAAAAAAAYLORRRRRRRRRR. Feldman has Mathieu second, which I also agree with. Bruce Feldman for king of college football.
This week in "Drew Sharp should be fired." Another blah blah trolling column has this gem in it:
Drew Sharp thinks the Big 12 still has a championship game and that 9-3 Oklahoma has played 13 games.
Etc.: Carvin Johnson talks personal style. It's on the internet! Sugar Bowl's contract with OSU on scribd indicates that Michigan will probably be the away team since they are lower-ranked. Sugar wallpaper.
11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten
When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.
You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.
Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.
This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.
Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.
In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.
The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.
I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.
This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:
The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.
I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:
Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.
Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.
There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.
We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.
*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:
ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]
Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.
On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.
Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:
- Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
- Losing Rich Rodriguez.
- Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]
On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:
In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.
I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.
I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.
The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:
- Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
- 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
- Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.
Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.
I guess no turnovers is a bummer.
The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.
Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.
Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.
If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.
Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.
Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.
Des Moines Register
Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.
Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.
That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez
Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.
Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.
Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:
What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…
Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes. TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.
I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.
The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.
Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.
But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Bull. I mean:
Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.
So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.
I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.
Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.
BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.
I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.
I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:
What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”
Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.
Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:
Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)
Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.
I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:
So that happened. I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome. I could feel the disappointment coming all week. Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house. Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already. There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that. No surprise: it did.
Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.
And the Denard slide started a long time ago.
Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:
My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm. He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three. He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated. Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.
Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels. Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge. I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst.
The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:
but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.
the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.
When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.
There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.
Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.
It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.