this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
LAST TIME ON GOPHERQUEST: We laid out the somewhat silly ground rules for Worst Big Ten Team ever, which are:
Lose all your conference games
Score the lowest percentage of points in your conference games
Have existed after 1930
A quick recap of history indicated the Gophers were off to a stirring start. Two games in they were the worst Big Ten team in 50 years.
THIS WEEK ON THE QUEST
The Gophers played Nebraska, one-time annihilator of the Big 12, and lost 41-14. The noon window on Saturday was so bad that I watched the last ten minutes of this game, screaming at Nebraska's second-string defense not to allow second garbage-time touchdown. They did.
POINTS ALLOWED: 144
POINTS SCORED: 31
SCORING PERCENTAGE: 17.7%
The '81 Northwestern Wildcats had scoring percentage of 15%.
At the end of the season I think we're going to look at these two weeks as a massive missed opportunity. Nebraska was up 34-0 at the half. Braves and Birds on what Nebraska does to teams they are up 34-0 against:
Bo Pelini, the vintage Nebraska teams would not have allowed a 34-0 halftime lead over an overmatched opponent turn into a 41-14 final. Tom Osborne would have beaten Minnesota by at least 65-3.
Alas, they don't make blowouts like they used to.
If Gray doesn't punch one in with two minutes left against Nebraska and Purdue doesn't give up a kick return touchdown, Minnesota's hovering around 10%, well within shouting distance of Harry Kipke's worst-ever 1934 Wolverines.
The Gophers had their bye week before Nebraska and face this season-closing gauntlet: Iowa, @ Michigan State, Wisconsin, @ Northwestern, Illinois. Purdue easily beating Illinois gives Minnesota some hope that they might be vaguely competitive—like into the second quarter—against the kind of teams that lose to Purdue, but Iowa's defense can hold Minnesota's best hope may be the Northwestern secondary.
Quest fans, meanwhile, are eyeing that Wisconsin game as an opportunity for the 83-0 drubbing it's going to take to push the Gophers into all-time territory.
Sagarin predicts the following:
- Iowa: 12-point loss
- @ Michigan State: 32-point loss
- Wisconsin: 31-point loss
- @ Northwestern: 13 point loss
- Illinois: 16 point loss
That's not going to get it done, but I don't think Sagarin's computer is able to process how extreme of an outlier this Gopher team is.
MOMENT OF GOPHER ZEN
[protip: hit escape to stop gif animation]
(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.)
Worst mascot ever for worst team ever
In the aftermath of a 45-17 stomping that wasn't even that close at the hands of Purdue, which lost to Rice, the question must be asked: is Minnesota the worst Big Ten team of all time? There are still six games left in conference for the Gophers, so we're a long way off from a conclusion. All they have to do is win one game and they'll escape the basement.
But they totally aren't going to, so let's look at the most awful Big Ten teams chronologically.
The worst team in Big Ten history has no wins and no ties; nonconference doesn't matter; 1930 is the cutoff since before that teams played highly variable schedules. Teams from WWII are included. We are going on a straight ranking by scoring ratio, which is:
point scored / (points scored + opponent points scored)
This should help normalize for the fact that football has gotten progressively higher scoring as the years have progressed.
Minnesota will be the worst Big Ten team since X if they do Y…
2005: Lose all their games
The last winless Big Ten team was 2005 Illinois.
1981: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 21%
2005 Illinois managed 21% and their 1997 team matched that. The 1981 Northwestern Wildcats scored 75 points in nine league games but gave up 425 for a scoring ratio of 15%.
1961: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 15%
1961 Illlinois never reached double digits or came within two touchdowns of an opponent (23-9 versus Purdue was their closest game) and had a scoring ratio of 12.3%.
1960: Lose, scoring ratio below 12.3%
1960 Indiana managed just 11.8.
1957: Lose, scoring ratio below 11.5%
1944: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.9%
Iowa 1944 set a low bar, and then they lost to Iowa Pre-Flight, though Iowa Pre-Flight was 10-1 that year.
Pretty Much Ever: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.7%
Harry Kipke's 1934 Wolverines managed this.
Minnesota is currently on pace to be the worst Big Ten team since…
Minnesota's scoring percentage stands at 14.1% thanks to a kick return touchdown and a garbage-time drive.
NEXT WEEK: Minnesota takes on 5-1 Nebraska.
A few things: 1) I’m not going to change the X’s until Michigan loses. 2) Opponent Watch is moving to Tuesday next week. This is more for me than it is for you. 3) I’ve added a section devoted to tracking past opponents. 4) Michigan is not going to lose.
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,
About Last Saturday:
Minnesota 0, Michigan 58
The Road Ahead:
Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 B1G)
Last game: Northwestern 35, No. 24 Illinois 38 (L)
Recap: Northwestern QB Dan Persa (10/14, 4 TDs) finally returned to action last Saturday against Illinois. It’s hard to tell whether he was suffering lingering effects of his Achilles tendon injury leading up to the game, but Persa had five real carries -- mostly on zone-read keepers -- before he exited the game in the fourth quarter with pain in said Achilles tendon.
Despite having Persa’s arm back for the first time since Iowa last year, Northwestern insisted on sticking with the run. For two and half quarters this strategy was surprisingly effective. Persa’s four TD passes to bring the Wildcats ahead 28-10 were set up by a ground game that churned out nearly 5 ypc for two and a half quarters, which, if you’re not a spoiled Michigan fan, is really quite good. RB Mike Trumpy was the centerpiece of the ground game, gaining 63 yards on 12 carries, which, again, if you’re not a spoiled Michigan fan, is quite good. Unfortunately, he also had to leave the game with a leg injury, and reports are saying he’s lost for the season.
For about 40 minutes, Northwestern’s offense sparkled and shined. Then both Persa and Trumpy got knocked out of the game. By that point they were up by three scores in the third quarter, so it was hard to see how they might blow it.
Their secondary answered the challenge. The Wildcats left Illini receivers open all day and had no answer for WR A.J. Jenkins, who took advantage of some hapless defensive backs to haul in two long touchdowns, bringing his team to within a score. Jenkins’ 28-yard reception during the final minute also helped set up the winning Illinois touchdown.
Here’s Ace’s take for more detail.
Right now they are as frightening as: With a gimpy starting quarterback, an injured starting running back, and a defense that sometimes chooses not to cover people, they strike me as Purdue 2.0. Fear level = 4.
Michigan should worry about: Mental errors on the road. Also, Persa’s arm. There’s a good chance at least one of these things will happen, but both will have to happen simultaneously for a significant amount of time for Northwestern to pull out the win.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: There were a lot of questions during the press conferences about how Michigan will deal with Persa’s dual-threat capabilities, but in reality the threat of him running is far scarier to the his Achilles tendon than for an opposing defense.
When Michigan plays them: If Northwestern wants to be stubborn with their play calling, they will again try to establish the run with a lot of of zone reads. Michigan will be able to cheat and key in on the running backs because it would be stupid for Persa to run more than a handful of times. This will last about a quarter before the Wildcats realize that maybe getting 3 ypc isn’t a winning strategy, at which point they’ll likely air it out against a Wolverines secondary, which, thankfully, finally knows how to cover receivers. The Michigan defense will probably make some mistakes -- they’ll give up a couple bombs or a long run here and there -- and the running backs will have less room to wiggle than in previous weeks, but it’s hard to see this game being more worrisome than a Western Michigan/San Diego State redux, albeit against some bigger dudes and on the road-ish.
Next game: No. 12 Michigan
(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.