I did not make this headline up
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.
(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.)