Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.
1/21/2012 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 3 – 14-9-4, 8-7-4 CCHA
1/22/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 – 15-9-4, 9-7-4 CCHA
Rudy does not impress Shawn Hunwick
At one point this weekend one of the announcers called Shawn Hunwick "Rudy" and then laughed about how Notre Dame fans would be mad about that comparison. I just don't even know where to start with that. Maybe here:
|Kent Patterson (COL)||Minnesota||SR||1618:54||56||2.08|
|Kevin Kapalka||Lake Superior||SO||1519:14||63||2.49|
|Andrew Hammond||Bowling Green||JR||1507:05||67||2.67|
|Paul Karpowich (STL)||Clarkson||SR||1458:58||51||2.1|
Rudy was an annoying twerp destined for sketchy pump-and-dump stock schemes who got in late in a blowout once. His life story is a tale of how plucky determination can turn you into a successories poster model and scam artist. Rudy's about as real as Notre Dame football's status as a national power.
By contrast, no one in the country is more important to their team than Hunwick. He plays every minute unless he's probably concussed or Michigan is up 10 goals. He is top ten in save percentage despite getting bombed, despite playing behind a poor penalty kill and mostly without Jon Merrill. He's so good not even the CCHA Gongshow can deny him his rightful place as the all-conference goalie this time around. (Surely. Surely?)
Like Jordan Kovacs, Hunwick long ago left walk-on territory. The journey looks like this:
- We're starting a walk-on? Death!
- He's tolerable for a walk-on but this is a signifier of how far we've fallen and we'll never get good until we get some talent in here.
- He's really good for a walk-on. I should probably stop calling him a walk-on.
- He's pretty good. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
- He is my binky.
For both of those guys the term "walk-on" is no longer a signifier of anything other than an improbable backstory. Rudy they are not because they are actually good at things.
It's time to ask the question: is a five-seven walk-on who came to Michigan never expecting to play a game the best goalie in the history of the program?
Statistically, the answer is yes. Al Montoya put up an .895 as a disinterested junior and is out. Marty Turco's billion wins and tourney heroics obscure the fact he put up sub-.900 save percentages until his senior .907. I can't find full Steve Shields stats; the one year hockeyDB has also shows a .907.
Michigan's record book goes back to 1962 and currently lists Billy Sauer's 2007-2008 season at the top of the heap because it hasn't been updated in a couple years. Hunwick's two seasons as the out-and-out starter be 1-2 if whoever's responsible for the book could be convinced you weren't having them on. It's not even a debate when it comes to save percentage. Unless there's a sumo wrestler from the 1920s everyone's forgotten about, Hunwick is the all-time best.
However, hockey's changed considerably even over the last 15 years. In 1996 and 1998 when Turco was regarded as a god despite having those ugly numbers. That was not all in fans' heads, either. Turco went on to a long, successful, colorful NHL career. His first year in the AHL he put up a .920; two years later he was in the NHL. Clearly there was something about Michigan's mid-to-late 90s firewagon hockey that exposed goalies to a lot of high quality chances.
Save percentage alone is insufficient and if there were sports talk radio dedicated to Michigan hockey, people could rage about their favorites without anyone stepping in to say "you're wrong." Because who knows?
But it's not that we can answer that question definitively. It's that we can ask it at all.
It is a sad but undeniable fact that Sauer will mostly be remembered for tourney meltdowns. Hunwick has last year's North Dakota game to his credit. Montoya had a couple of stolen tourney games on his ledger; those are the only ones I can remember that came anything close to last year's grand theft. How close was that? Not close at all.
In the end answering the unanswerable question is going to come down to a few games in April. At this point there's only two ways the question can be answered: maybe, and yes.
*[Michigan's hockey statistical DB doesn't go very far back.]
A good weekend. Speaking of! Hunwick had a second consecutive monster weekend, giving up three goals on 74 shots. One was a no-chancer on a cross-crease pass, another a slot rebound that is the one consistent weakness of his game, the third a close-in shot it was hypothetically possible to stop but very difficult. Last week Ohio State managed one goal.
Michigan's third pairing got stuck in the zone against ND's hard forecheck, the second line seemed to spend most of its time futilely attempting to get the puck back from the Costello line, and defensive breakdowns put him under duress. He still cracked the top ten in save percentage.
You can argue he's the best in the country. The top four are at Union (ECAC) and three Atlantic Hockey schools; #7 is an ECAC guy; #9 is another AH guy. NMU's Jared Coreau and Miami's Connor Knapp are platooning. That leaves Hunwick, OSU's Cal Heeter, Merrimack's Joe Cannata and Mass-Lowell's Doug Carr at the top of the leaderboard in the Big Three conferences.
No one in that group has a huge lead in save percentage and Hunwick's ominpressence would seem to give him an edge. He's logged more minutes than anyone other than Minnesota's Kent Patterson; he has four full games on Cannata. He gets bombed, too. Michigan is yielding a blizzard of shots. That may hurt him when voters look at goals allowed, but he's got a shot at All-American type things.
A bad weekend. No one player is 100% responsible for any goal but Luke Glendening was the guy trying to check the guy shooting on all three of Notre Dame's goals (ENG ignored). Notre Dame's second on Friday was a backcheck he did not get position on and did not control the opponent's stick; the other two were just derpity doo.
(It's possible Merrill was more at fault on the last one.) Glendening also took two dumb penalties, one boarding, one interference.
So… like… he's the captain and everything but he has nine points in 28 games, three in 20 CCHA games; he's –3 in those 20. PDG is +4; Treais does not have conference stats listed at MGoBlue for some reason. Anyone else with those numbers would be fighting Andrew Sinelli for playing time. I'm just this guy on the internet but it's hard to see what Glendening is bringing to the table in terms of stats or the eye test.
Even if Michigan doesn't have a cornucopia of great options, the lines after the raging goal-fest that is Guptill-Wohlberg-Brown haven't been producing much of anything of late. It's time to throw the bottom nine in the blender and see what comes out.
An ugly weekend. Notre Dame was thugtastic to the point where Berenson's biting his tongue:
“They play an overly — I don’t know if it’s overly physical, but some people would say it’s — you know, there’s — I’m not going to say it. But yeah, it’s physical hockey,” Berenson said.
Guptill did not mince his words, though:
“I think they played a really dirty game, I’m going to be honest,” said freshman forward Alex Guptill on Saturday. “It was dirty; it was a mean series. You had to be playing tough out there to get any kind of ice.”
Hunwick is a hothead who will take retaliation penalties; Notre Dame was clearly trying to get him off his game with constant late chops that never get called and a bunch of stuff that probably should have been, most notably a cross-check to Hunwick's head. Hunwick kept his head for the most part. While he picked up a penalty it was a hockey-ref cop-out special wherein a bunch of guys end up in the box and no one gets a power play.
None of this rises to the level of OUTRAGE, but it's annoying when your goalie is under assault constant enough for announcers to delicately bring it up both nights and the referees won't put someone in the box for a couple minutes to stop it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
Pairwise bits. Michigan stays fifth in RPI and slides a spot in the PWR for reasons I won't bother figuring out until a couple more weeks are gone.
LIES! A quick glance at Michigan's comparisons is encouraging. Duluth and BU are likely out of reach unless those teams fade hard down the stretch. Comparisons lost against CC, Denver, Lowell, and Ohio State are within reach.
Michigan has significant RPI edges on the first two schools but that Union loss kills them in the COP; everyone is two games above .500 against teams under consideration but CC and DU have had fewer TUC games and therefore have a higher winning percentage. Michigan ties Lowell in COP and will remain tied unless Lowell faces BC or Northeastern in the Hockey East playoffs. Lowell has a significant TUC advantage; the teams are virtually tied in RPI. Because RPI is the tiebreaker, whoever wins that will win the comparison.
Ohio State, meanwhile, got just a tie from a series against Ferris State. They're now 0-3-3 in their last six and have finally bled off their huge advantage in PWR. They've dropped to 4th and are also a tiny hair above Michigan in RPI. OSU has slightly more than a one game lead in TUC; they do have a significant common opponents advantage but not one that Michigan can't make up what with OSU being in the same conference at all.
Michigan can of course slide down by losing a bunch of games. The point of this section: a one-seed is very much in play. Michigan has at least six more opportunities against TUCs and the toughest four games of the brutal stretch run are in the books at 3-1. They've got a bye week, Miami, a road-and-Joe with State, Northern, and then @ BGSU.
Weekly "I can't believe all these CCHA teams are in the tourney" update. Still six or seven. OSU-ND-M-FSU comprise a block from 4 to 7, Northern is 10th, and MSU and Miami are tied for 14th.
Weekly CCHA cat-in-sack update. Nothing is resolved. Miami swept WMU, making things even worse. Baseball standings:
Eight of eleven teams are within a weekend of first place; the difference between the conference champion and not even getting a bye is four points.
Steve Mike Chiasson scratch. Saturday. Got away with it. Still don't understand it.
Argh argh argh argh 2 on 0. It is emblematic of Michigan's odd-man-rush struggles that Guptill and Brown—two of the top three scorers—broke in alone on struggling Steve Summerhays and didn't even got a shot off. They had the right idea but Brown's pass was too far in front of Guptill. That would have made the last period a lot more relaxed.
In all other matters, first line uber alles.
On Friday, Notre Dame made it their goal to seemingly hit Shawn Hunwick as much as possible and try to get in his head. They ran into him, slashed him after the whistle, high-sticked him, at least a half-dozen times (many in the first period alone). The first instance led to a power play. Then the incompetent boobs officiating the game, Keith Sergott and Barry Pochmara, decided to basically let ND do whatever they wanted to our goalie. At one point, Hunwick got frustrated enough that he threw his stick to the ice after a scrum. I thought they then called him for unsportsmanlike conduct--that seemed to be the consensus on the telecast as well--but in the box score they've got him down for slashing. I'm guessing the reaction was based on them evening it up after he got slammed into for at least the fifth time.
He mentions how Friday's game was frustrating for the large quantity of chances against an iffy goalie that were spurned; co-signed.
Penn State picks up their first ever NHL draft pick. Max Gardiner was third rounder in 2010. If you're counting on your fingers trying to figure that out, Gardiner spent a year at Minnesota, where he was 1-2-3 in 17 games and then made a dash for the USHL. Michigan will see him when he is an upperclassman.
NOTRE DAME IS BRIAN BOITANO TIME
|WHAT||Michigan at Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Compton Ice Arena|
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday/Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TV||Friday: NBC Sports (nee Versus)
Sunday: CBS Sports
Record. 13-8-2, 8-5-3 CCHA. The Irish have been a slight disappointment after entering the year conference co-favorites with Miami. They are still in good position to make the tournament and have a shot at the league, so the emphasis is on "slight." Most of the disappointment came last weekend.
ND split with national #1 UMD to open the year and has wins over tourney-bound BU and Minnesota in their nonconference schedule; a sweep at the hands of Northeastern (one a 9-2 loss!) is their major blemish on the year. Their CCHA record is basically eh; last weekend they were swept by Western Michigan in a series that put the Broncos into the kinda-sorta league lead, depending on which metric you're relying on.
The upcoming series is a critical fight for not only home ice in the second round but a first round bye, tourney positioning, etc. It's a big deal.
Previous meetings. None this year.
Dangermen. The names should be familiar to you as ND returned virtually all of its important personnel from last year. Sophomore TJ Tynan leads the team with 31 points; he is the team's main playmaker with 22 assists. At 5'8", he is also from leprechaun central casting.
Swede Andres Lee is the main beneficiary with his 14-8-22. Hunwick on those two:
“T.J. Tynes and Andres Lee are probably the two most talented forwards in the league if not the whole country,” said Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick. “Those two can put the puck in the net.”
Insert sighs about Michigan having neither a magic midget nor a Swede on this year's team. Ah, swedes and magic midgets.
Red Wings draftee Riley Sheahan has 7-14-21. Sheahan will miss the Friday night game on a suspension, which is a stroke of luck. Past the top line, senior Billy Maday has 6-12-18, freshman Austin Wuthrich has 5-6-12, and then it's a bunch of defensemen with generic "I make a lot of second assist" lines and the 9-7-6-5 point levels that populate CCHA second and third lines this year. This would be a nice spot for Michigan's killer checking line from last year, but alas. They are no longer extant.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior Mike Johnson and sophomore Steven Summerhays are splitting time like they did last year. Also like last year, whoever's in goal is a liability. Johnson managed a .904 last year in 36 games; Summerhays's 12 saw him post an ugly .863. This year the games are closer to even because Johnson's save percentage has dropped to .887; Summerhays is better than last year but still under the .900 Mendoza line. I mean, yeesh:
their goaltenders are 62nd and 67th out of 76 qualifying goalies in save percentage.
On defense, Notre Dame has a lot of draft picks but not much production. They get a few goals here and there; no one has a notable scoring line and given the goalie results it's probable they are selling their guys out somewhat. Blackhawks draft pick Stephen Johns is the most hyped but is averaging almost a penalty a game.
Michigan seems to have a huge advantage here with Hunwick's .925 and half-goal-per-game advantage over the Irish tandem; most of that .925 was compiled without the aid of Jon Merrill.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||5.0||3.8|
|PP Ag / G||3.8||4.1|
[Note: I am all but certain that I screwed up the chart last week. Lo siento.]
This will be a major battle. Michigan's power play was better last weekend, robbed of a goal when Treais scored two seconds after an OSU penalty expired and generally more lively than it had been in a while. Statistically it's still a debacle. Michigan dropped another slot to a 45th-place tie (with Miami of all schools). ND's penalty kill is mediocre—more evidence those goalies are an issue—but still better than the Michigan PP. Merrill is of course the wildcard.
The inverse matchup is not much more promising. ND is converting 21% of its opportunities, which is about 75th percentile nationally. Michigan's PK is improving slowly but still 36th.
With ND's clear advantage in drawing penalties, this is a deficit that probably will be the difference in a Michigan loss. Sample size, etc.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Don't get fancy. Against these save percentages the play is to throw it at the dude and see if he gives up a softie or a bad rebound, whereupon your net-crashing may be able to pick up a goal or two. At some point the top line's monster run has to end… but this doesn't seem like the game. Throw it at these goalies and it seems like reward is probable when you're all big dudes who can pound the front of the net.
Check that top line, especially Friday. I'm not sure how Michigan will match up with Tynan, et al, but as with many CCHA teams it seems like scoring is restricted to fluky stuff once you get past the top line. Michigan's sudden defensive depth should help here.
Third defensive pairing: get it out. It seemed like the majority of scary Ohio State shifts came when Clare and Chiasson could not clear the puck out the zone. Notre Dame has last change and may at times be able to get that top line out against the panicky third pairing.
Don't lose special teams. Winning seems like a tall order. Staying even with ND would be excellent; Michigan is an outstanding 5x5 hockey team at this point.
The Big Picture
The situation hasn't changed since the game column on Monday: Michigan is fifth in the pairwise and can either move towards a one-seed, tread water, or move back towards the bubble.
In terms of the league, It's hard to figure out who's where in the CCHA what with all the shootouts and three-point games and games in hand. Inspired by an Oilers blog that does this for the NHL, here is the CCHA presented baseball-style:
Western Michigan has a slight advantage over OSU and then there is a ravenous pack of five teams separated by less than a game with Miami and NMU a game behind that. First-round byes go to the top five and second-round home series go to the top four.
A sweep either way provides clarity; a split further promotes the league's incredible quagmire.
Yost Built on the renovations, which disappointingly contain no mention of a giant floating Yost head. Also provided is Tim's version of the ND preview. Michigan Hockey Net's weekly recruiting update notes that 2013 commits JT Compher and Tyler Motte are 1-2 on the NTDP U17 team in scoring. Evan Allen is ninth. Jacob Trouba continues annihilating the opposition. Compher is profiled by MaxPreps.
About Last Saturday:
Purdue 14, Michigan 36
Caption contest. Go.
The Road Ahead:
Iowa (5-3, 2-2 B1G)
Last game: Iowa 21, Minnesota 22 (L)
Recap: The only thing worse than questing for title of “Worst Big Ten Team EVER” is losing to that team, which Iowa did on Saturday. Flags in Iowa City flew at half mast to honor the death of Gopherquest -- and themselves, in the eyes of Brian Cook.
Two deaths and a funeral indeed.
Let’s take a look at the autopsy report: Thanks to a couple missed field goals, the game was close through the third quarter until Iowa scored to go ahead 21-10 early in the fourth, seemingly poised to finally wrest it out of Minnesota’s reach.
After a Hawkeyes fumble and Gophers field goal, however, Minnesota converted a fourth and one from their own 42 and scored a touchdown a couple plays later.
The Gophers onside kicked, catching Iowa by surprise. Minnesota recovered and miraculously scored again on a fourth-down conversion at the Iowa three.
Flailing, the Hawkeyes went four-and-out and were then helpless to stop the Gophers from running out the clock.
Remarkably, Iowa RB Marcus Coker carried the ball 32 times for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns in an outstanding effort no Iowa fan will ever remember. Imagine if Pheidippides had made it all the way to Athens only to collapse before delivering his message. Instead of inspiring an entire culture of running a couple millenia later, now he’s just a clammy dead guy.
Right now they are as frightening as: A watered down version of 2007 Michigan immediately post-Horror -- not as good, therefore not as embarrassed. Still hiding under a blanky though. 5.
Michigan should worry about: The first real manball team on the schedule not playing in a trash tornado. Also the last.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Iowa had the rhabdomyolysis problem in the offseason, which seems to have scared the CARA out of the strength staff. (Do you see what I did there?)
As a result, Iowa’s defense looks like it’s been playing Wii Fit in lieu of real conditioning. They made Iowa State QB Steele Jantz look like Andrew Luck, allowed Penn State to go Look-Ma-No-QB, and couldn’t stop Marqueis Gray when it mattered -- incidentally, all of these things happened in the fourth quarter.
When Michigan plays them: 2011 Iowa is undefeated at home. 2011 Michigan is undefeated in November. Immovable object meet unstoppable force? Hah.
For realsies now: Iowa’s best win was against Pitt. This was the game where Vandenberg led the epic comeback against a Tony Gibson coached secondary, earning him the Vandenhenneberg moniker. The joke is getting stale, but if you were still wondering, that along with BGHP’s gushing comparison at the beginning of the season is where it comes from. Their next best win was against Northwestern, and you know all about Northwestern’s secondary. And then if you keep looking you fall off a cliff right before the Indianas and Lousiana-Monroes of the world, where concerns about the secondary are, well … secondary.
Sorry, I had to do that.
The Wolverines secondary is much better these days, having survived Alex Carder, Michael Floyd, Dan Persa, and B.J. Cunningham (electing to fall prey to Keshawn Martin instead). Teams succeeded against VandenMcHenneNutt by preventing deep routes. Michigan’s inside-and-in-front philosophy should be able to do at least that.
And then there’s the issue of the Hawkeyes defense. Their major breakdowns tend to happen late in the game due to the aforementioned stamina problems. Aside from targeting specific weakness (see Ace’s FFFF), offensive playcalling that spreads and stretches the field laterally to wear down Iowa defenders would be a smart approach, especially early in the game.
(more after the jump)
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
Welcome your semi-regular five-PM-on-a-Friday tab-machete C&P job. First, Stuffing the Passer:
Ron Paul makes an appearance. Why is this not a weekly feature at halftime on NBC I will never know.
Saving our bacon (not that Bacon). The Daily deploys the massive profile machine on Shawn Hunwick:
STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — Inside the home of Rich and Robin Hunwick, tickets from the Big Chill at the Big House and Michigan jerseys line the living room walls, set alongside childhood snapshots of their two boys, Matt and Shawn.
Tucked away in the corner of the room is a picture of Shawn, no older than seven, posing in a goalie squat in the net, his equipment swallowing his small frame.
Nothing about this picture is striking. Just a relic from a picture day many years ago.
As per usual, the result here is better than anything the local papers are putting out.
Spite for justice. The Dispatch writes up a piece on high school uniforms in Ohio with a cool story bro from back in the day:
Eastmoor Academy’s uniforms, featuring a blue and white winged helmet and players’ names on the jerseys, are among the most striking in central Ohio. Others, including Watkins Memorial, have borrowed the winged-helmet theme associated with Michigan.
The story associated with Eastmoor’s helmets is legendary. Hall of Famer Bob Stuart, who coached there from 1956-84, was incensed because Ohio State didn’t recruit Warriors linebacker Mike Boren — father to recent Ohio State players Justin and Zach — in 1979, so he introduced the winged helmets the following season.
“It’s a true story; I wanted to stick it to Ohio State for that,” Stuart said. “Plus, I had always admired Bo (Schembechler) and I thought those helmets were unique. We introduced them, the kids seemed to like them and they stuck. And, by the way, I never heard anything from coach (Earle) Bruce.”
No God Please No. Holdin' The Rope sneers at your QB controversy meme, internet:
Not only did Devin just look like a guy who shouldn't be playing right now, from the fumbled snap to the touchdown pass launched from three yards past the line of scrimmage, to the 4th and forever in which he scrambled forever, crossed the LOS, and eventually circled back with what looked like an intention to throw the ball. If I wasn't drinking a cocktail fashioned from the always zesty ingredients of depression, frustration, and anger at the time, I probably would've laughed.
Of course, the argument for Devin is that he's got a stronger, more accurate arm and just generally looks the part of what Michigan quarterbacks once were and ostensibly will be once Denard graduates. Unfortunately, he wasn't really appreciably better than Denard in the passing department (certainly not in a manner that would make Hoke unseat Denard because of Devin's aforementioned strengths). He missed painfully open receivers--guys so open hand-wavingly open that they could have been castaways waving at a rescue plane up above--and wasn't exactly accurate, in addition to the aforementioned Yakety Sax shenanigans.
Be who you are you square-jawed thug-enabling bible-thumping hypocrite who smells like cabbage. Hoover Street Rag on the Gholston business:
Michigan State's current national identity, as much as they have one in football, is built around essentially "Sparty, no!" That's not just with Michigan fans, when Rece Davis says it on College Football Final, you have an identity crisis. You will not embrace the Little Brother standard, and that's probably wise, because no one wins with that. But pure evil, goatee wearing evil, yes, that is what Michigan State football could be.
Think about it, think about all of the time you could save. You wouldn't need to feign sportsmanship at press conferences, you could just come out and say that your players played sixty minutes of unnecessary roughness and you were lucky you didn't get caught. Your players could come right out and say that the game was played dirty. You wouldn't need to ignore the actions of your team off the field and you could immediately allow players who had served jail time back on to your team without any kind of punishment. You wouldn't need to spend days on internal reviews of a punch by one of your players caught on camera. It would just be who you are. You could be like the Raiders of the Big Ten.
Disagreement. Touch The Banner says Martin should have shut down the play picture-paged late yesterday:
The defensive line can do much more. First and foremost, Mike Martin can make the tackle. The star defensive tackle that people seem afraid to criticize is the first person who makes a mistake here. He's responsible for the playside A gap but refuses to get off the center's block. If Martin gets off the block quicker and wraps up Edwin Baker, the play gets made for a loss or a minimal gain.
It's true that middle linebacker Kenny Demens doesn't do a great job on the play. In my opinion, he should be attacking the offensive guard's outside shoulder, thus maintaining B gap responsibility. Instead, he takes the guard on head up and then gets stalemated. If he takes on that guard with his inside shoulder, the WILL (Brandin Hawthorne) is screaming downhill and will tackle Baker for about a 1-yard gain. (With the way Hawthorne reacts, it looks to me that he's just flowing to the ball and that the free safety is responsible for supporting the weakside A gap.)
The Demens stuff I agree with—he got hit with a minus two on that play. The Martin stuff I don't know about. He doesn't make the TFL by himself with a blocker on him but he does force the back into an awkward, difficult cut that should expose him to linebacker play. It's not the best play in the world but it seems like a positive. Also, I gave Martin a –1 for the last game. It's not about being afraid to criticize a guy.
Magnus goes on to complain about my complaining about MSU LBs reading the play faster than Michigan LBs because they are not concerned about Denard throwing the ball, which okay. But Demens has a guy releasing into him downfield and does not understand the structure of the play and thus spills it. That's reading as well. MSU LBs scrape to the POA much better than Michigan has—how many times have I complained about one or the other MLB not reading a pulling OL and arriving late to the hole? Lots. These guys have had trouble diagnosing jets sweeps and triple options by offenses run by Alex Gillett and Kain Colter. The threat of play action is not a problem there.
Etc.: Adam Jacobi truthbombs Dantonio. Answer This, the Ann Arbor-themed bar quiz romantic comedy featuring Ralph Williams as the protagonist's enormous-handed father, is having a special screening at the Michigan Theater Sunday.