In our continuing pursuit to explain to outsiders "what is Big Ten football," and, more importantly, "why is the Big Ten football," we turn to the world of metaphor. Or simile. I forget.
We look now at the Big Ten through the prism of the characters of Breaking Bad. Minor spoiler alerts, of course, but the series has been over for almost a year, so if you haven't seen the series GET ON THAT. Totally worth the time
Self-assured to the point of arrogance, but his brash exterior belies a deep-seated insecurity. He's not used to losing, so when stuff starts blowing up around him, he gets rattled. Everything started to go wrong when this upstart “Heisenberg” fella started to upset the order of things. He proceeded to pour unprecedented resources into chasing Heisenberg, like tailing people for weeks on end or spending $850,000 on a new offensive coordinator. He experiences successes, and occasionally seemed set to take down his quarry, but in the final confrontation with Heisenberg (who is, it turns out, family) he ends up busted and bleeding.
Walter White (aka Heisenberg)
He spending years – nay, decades – as the doormat for those around him. But then through a series of unlikely events, Walter finally found himself on top of his world. He is suddenly the one who knocks. He IS the danger. Still, his inferiority complex shines through from time to time, and he spends as much time trying to prove he isn't the man he used to be as he does being Heisenberg.
Some would call them “sleazy. ” They would prefer to think of themselves as calculating. They have a very well-oiled system and the resources to make it work. He occasionally gets punched in the mouth by Walter, and is threatened by Hank, though Goodman always stays just out of reach of the law. Also, of everyone in the show, he's the guy you really want to see get punched in the face, and you'd be like, "yeah, he probably deserved that, if not for this then for other stuff."
Careful. Almost boringly careful. Nothing is unnecessarily flashy, which is what makes him effective. At the end of the day, you realize he’s probably a step ahead of you. He will run the zone stretch six times in a row until you think “I’ll jump the zone stretch and take over the drug empire,” which is when he goes play action for 36 yards. Then goes to the zone stretch.
I suppose I could have gone with "Badger," because, well, Badger. But Badger was a chubby white guy who somehow survives. Wait...
They were there at the beginning, and for a while they kinda fit with the whole scheme. It was full of fumes, had terrible accommodations, and was in the middle of nowhere. And usually there were only a couple of people there. If you get stuck there for a couple of days, it will probably turn into the worst weekend of your life unless you can figure out how to MacGyver a battery out of some brake fluid and pocket change to get the everloving hell out of there.
She used to be a major part of the drug empire until some turmoil threw that into doubt. Despite being marked for death a couple of times, and seemingly being on the cusp of being pushed to the side several times, she continues to find ways to be relevant. She's also conspiratorial as hell; she always thinks someone is out to get her. And while sometimes that's true, it's because she did some really, really bad things.
As soon as she shows up in an episode, your immediate reaction is "ugh, this is gonna suck." She's a somewhat major character, but she does absolutely nothing to drive the plot. Instead, you just get caught up in small and annoying side-plots that just make you hate that you're spending time watching this. There is no depth to her character; she's pretty much a one-note kind of gal. But all things considered, her character flaws are pretty minor, especially when compared to some of those around her, so it could be worse.
It isn't really his fault, per se, but his arrival signaled an epic shit-storm that made everyone around him not want to be there anymore. Plus, Tortuga means "tortoise" and a terrapin is a turtle. Which is like a tortoise. So it fits.
The plucky, scrappy little guy. Historically a f*ck-up, but occasionally pulls his act together enough to pull off a train heist or something. You root for him, largely because he's the lesser of however-many evils. His style is kind of refreshing, and often acts as a nice alternative to the heavy, dour roles played by everyone around him. Also, does a lot of meth.
No one likes you. We get that you are good at some (limited) things, but that doesn't mean we want to see you ever.
"Tio" Hector Salamanca
He seems like a pretty bright guy, and despite his quirkiness you find yourself rooting for him. But then one day, someone is like "you know, with the way things are going, YOU could run things in the West Division." And he starts to get all excited, and then BLAM.
In a way, he should have seen it coming. He isn't the type to lead. He's a born middle-of-the-pack type. Nevertheless, even though the natural progression of the plot needed him to... uh... exit the plot, we felt a little bit bad that it had to happen like it did. Also, tell me this pose doesn't look familiar:
A chubby, gumpy-looking white guy who somehow manages to survive the whole damn series. He's not really a protagonist or an antagonist. You find yourself happy when he wins, but in the same way you're happy for your dog when he finally finds where you put his water dish. Sure, his accomplishments might not be impressive in the objective sense, but give the little guy a pat on the head anyway.
What is this? Wait, this is it? This is what we're doing? WHYYYYYY?????
It's cotnagnous. Last week we learned that red squigglies are turned off in Ann Arbor when Mikey Weber posted a photoshop he'd been sent; this week we find out that red squigglies are also off in Columbus.
"DEILVER." Didn't they have a WR named that recently?
And we all had a laugh at this funny old world and moved on. Except perpetually aggrieved DJ Byrnes, who rushed to his damsel's defense, sword in hand, reporting that anything without an Official Urban Meyer signature was fake. Weber, who probably didn't even notice the typos—the mind tends to gloss over such things—responded that an Ohio State coach sent it to him. So of course the thing to do in that situation is double down and call a recruit a liar.
So, there are three scenarios: 1) Stan Drayton is moonlighting as a graphics designer. 2) They're now sending out work lacking all the hallmarks of his other work. 3) Weber is fibbing to save himself some embarrassment.
Buckeye Occam's Razor insists that a Michigan fan posing as a Buckeye coach made this terribly embarrassing photoshop as a false flag operation, and that Weber is in on it. JenniferLawrenceOkay.gif.
Meanwhile in somehow less embarrassing responses to this event, the Free Press claimed Weber was vouching for the "verascity" of the photoshop. Well done, well done.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS. Because Spellgateoff is a national crisis, The D Zone interviewed Weber about it. Weber says that minor typos on fake magazine covers are not going to impact his decision.
“Really my opinion on it is it really isn’t a big deal. I know people make mistakes. It was kind of ironic, but it isn’t something to blow out of proportion,” Weber (5-foot-10, 200-pounds) said today in an interview with The D Zone.
Come out of the bunkers, everyone. It's over. It's finally over.
Hooray, but please still redshirt. Incoming DE Lawrence Marshall is a larger man these days:
Michigan commitment Lawrence Marshall tells me that he's up to 6'4"/250 as of today.
Marshall will enroll at Michigan in a little less than a month and is considered a player who could potentially play early depending on how things shake out at defensive end.
Taco Charlton's move to SDE complicates things but Michigan still has Ojemudia behind Clark and for pants sake just redshirt somebody at some point. With Clark, Ojemudia, and Ryan sliding down for nickel duty Michigan is set at WDE.
Robinson moving up boards. Chad Ford says that Glenn Robinson III is impressing in the bits of NBA draft testing he was always going to, and that this is reviving his flagging stock:
Robinson III was one of the four or five players who helped themselves the most at the draft combine. His elite athletic abilities, a slimmed-down physique and some very solid shooting numbers in the drills all gave him a boost in the eyes of scouts. Not to mention the fact that according to multiple GMs he absolutely nailed the interviews.
So what does Robinson have to do now? Show that he can apply those skills to actual basketball.
Ah, that. Robinson did develop a highly reliable elbow jumper that NBA teams are going to like a lot, and he's been shooting it well in workouts and such. Ford says teams in the mid-first are poking around and that he should go in the 20s.
The big ol' preview. Bill Connolly previews Michigan, and hits upon a salient point:
Michigan faces only three teams projected better than 37th, and they're all on the road. The Wolverines face seven teams projected between 37th and 78th, and five of the seven are at home. And 2014 Appalachian State is in no way 2007 Appalachian State. This is about as low-variance a schedule as you'll ever see. Whether Michigan ranks 20th or 45th, the easiest result to project is about 9-3.
I would have said "about 8-4", but yeah. This is a year where being outside of that 8-4, 9-3 range would be a major shock. Unfortunately, 8-4 and 9-3 are the kind of records that keep Michigan in limbo about Hoke's future. It is what it is.
And then there's the fact that you should probably just predict 9-3 every year for accuracy's sake. Predictions are bad like that.
Latest eyerolling opportunity. Ticket sales are not going well—you can see the relative enthusiasm for Michigan football in graphic version at right, where our HTTV kickstarter is struggling to get over the hump. You know it, I know it, let's not belabor it even further. But I have to highlight this from the inevitable ticket packs (200 bucks for PSU, Miami(not that Miami), and any other game, a… deal?):
Michigan football fans can choose from three ticket-pack options with the 'Go Blue' Pack, the Fan Choice Pack and the Family Pack presented by WWJ Newsradio 950 as well as a new group sales option.
Check "ticket packs" off the list of things that haven't been sponsored yet.
Etc.: Barking Carnival has a boot camp series that will teach you football things. Gap and force responsibilities in this one. Kansas State releases Letitia Romero, so they have nothing to show for this latest PR debacle except terrible PR.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON: Many defensive linemen went off the board early, and then there was a big run on tailbacks inexplicably kicked off by Venric Mark. Trash was talked about Shilique Calhoun, because that's how we do this business. Trash was not talked about MSU in general because obviously.
ROUND 5 - PICK 1: Trae Waynes, CB, MSU
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), RB Melvin Gordon (UW), WR Stefon Diggs (MD)
D: DT Carl Davis(IA), CB Trae Waynes (MSU)
BRIAN: To kick off the fifth, I'll grab the last member available from last year's lights-out MSU secondary: Trae Waynes. I trashed Calhoun, and I think justly, so let me explain how MSU is so good on defense: their secondary is impeccable. The safeties are super aggressive, often forced into man coverage as BISB mentioned. This means that the corners are on an island constantly. Waynes was opposite future first-rounder Darqueze Dennard and more than coped, with three INTs and very few derp moments. You have to be good to be in island man coverage all damn day and be part of the #2 secondary in the country when it came to YPA.
The NFL is also itching to get their hands on Waynes. Fox's Peter Schrager likes him better than Dennard and projects him 11th. Pete Prisco says he might be better and has him 26th. And why not? He's 6'1" and his fake 40 is so so fake at 4.3. Even if Ace was betting on a tailback dropping to him, NW LB versus MSU DB should be no contest.
ROUND 5 - PICK 2: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
O: RB Ameer Abdullah(NEB), WR Devin Funchess (M), LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah
ACE: Dammit, Brian. Waynes was the other guy I was considering with my last pick—my decision came down to the respective depth at linebacker and cornerback—but you have a point here about Waynes' pure talent level. I might've over-thought that one.
Thankfully, Seth Millen either really under- or over-thought the Mark selection, so I still get to mock somebody and get one of the best backs in the country. Abdullah led the conference in rushing yards and averaged over six yards per carry last season even though his quarterback was either Taylor Martinez playing through turf toe so bad he failed an NFL physical eight months later, Tommy Armstrong Jr., Ron Kellogg III, or—for one glorious five-yard completion—something called a Ryker Fyfe.
In addition to being a superlative runner, Abdullah's a solid receiver out of the backfield; he cracked 100 yards of offense in all 13 games, and hit the century mark on the ground alone in all but two of them. If you've got a little time to kill, here are 14 minutes of Abdullah highlights from 2013 set to a quality selection of hip hop instrumentals—you won't be bored:
Mark's 2013 highlights, meanwhile, come in JPG form:
Oh, I almost forgot: Abdullah's also a really dangerous return man, averaging 26.1 yards with a TD on 47 career kickoff returns and 10.2 yards with another TD on 31 punt returns. Nebraska didn't utilize him as a returner last year because of his workload at running back, but there are no such limitations in hypothetical MGoB1G fantasyland.
RB/KR/PR Ameer Adbullah it is. Hello, Heisman candidate in the fifth round.
[AFTER THE JUMP: HAAAAAAAAAIIIRRRRRR, Seth drafts more Northwestern skill players for some reason.]
Draftageddon is upon us. We will delight half the readers, irritate the other half, and learn much more about Big Ten football than we ever thought possible; along the way Seth will issue terrible snark about players like they will always be what they were last year and ignore it when Jack Mewhort ends up drafted in the second round.
THE OCEANS WILL BOIL, THE LAND WILL BE BESET. And so forth and so on. Devin Gardner knows what's up.
Everyone drafts a QB, 5 OL, and six skill players on offense. Heiko is not with us but yes you can take a QB to be a skill player other than your QB. The sixth skill player is for flexibility. Please denote RB/FB/TE/WR when you draft, and sure you can draft six tailbacks if you want to feel the wrath of the voters.
On defense, everyone drafts 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, and 2 S and one wild card intended to be a hybrid space player. The extra guy is because nickel packages are important, and defending the spread is important. But yeah he could be whatever you want, you loons.
A punter and a kicker are also drafted.
Standard snake procedure.
Imaginary points are awarded for PR/KR skills amongst your draftees.
Once everyone has filled a particular slot the last remaining guy who has not filled the slot has to take a guy at most three rounds later, to prevent three QBs from going off the board in the first round and no one for the rest of the draft until the very end (although with this group that would be dangerous and leave you with Andrew Maxwell).
Kyle Prater must be drafted far too early.
I get to gloat about Rashede Hageman every third round.
As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is
Brian, you are me, and also on the clock.
ROUND 1 - PICK 1: Braxton Miller, QB, OSU
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU)
BRIAN: While I don't think there's that huge of a gap between Miller and Devin Gardner since neither of them are likely to be around when things get back to me I have to grab one now. The clear choice is Miller. The only guy to finish in the top ten in both rushing yards and passer efficiency last year, Miller is by far the most explosive QB in the Big Ten and has steadily progressed as a passer, going from 54% to 58% to 64% completions over the past three years and steadily increasing his ability in the pocket. Will he ever be great there? No. But, uh...
...he doesn't have to be. Main concerns here are dual: OSU revamps its OL and loses Carlos Hyde, which may make things generally less efficient and put more burden on Miller; this leads to concern #2: Miller seems to be bionic with the hits he can take but the was knocked out of enough games last year to get Kenny Guiton 109 attempts. He's not exactly fragile but neither can you expect him to get through a season totally unscathed.
ROUND 1 - PICK 2: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
O: LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
ACE: As tempting as it is to build my offense around Devin Gardner and a functional offensive line, I think in a four-person draft the Big Ten has enough talent at quarterback to hold off on picking one here. Meanwhile, I'm not convinced the conference is as deep at tackle (at least for this exercise), and there just happens to be one—and only one—that could've been a first-round NFL Draft pick had he left early: Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who's present in the top ten of just about any 2015 mock draft you can find.
At 6'5", 320 pounds, Scherff has pro-ready size, and he's a monster of a run blocker with a size/quickness combination that's truly impressive on film. At the very least, watch the first clip from this video of him absolutely dominating Northwestern for a series:
Sure, I'll take the guy who can escort a defensive lineman ten yards downfield with one arm. Also, in a league that features some talented pass-rushers, Scherff provides a reliable blindside protector—Iowa finished first in the B1G in fewest sacks allowed and, since that number is skewed by pace/style, third in adjusted sack rate last season.
While my heart told me to pick Gardner, my brain remembered what happens to quarterbacks that aren't properly protected. With this pick, I've got easily the best run-blocking tackle in the conference, and probably the best pass-blocker, too.
ROUND 1 - PICK 3: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
O: QB Devin Gardner (Michigan)
BISB: I don't think Gardner is the best player remaining, but in my mind there's a bigger drop-off from Gardner to the next quarterbacks than there is between the top-flight defensive linemen I'm tempted to grab. Seth can't take all of those.
[@ RIGHT: Bryan Fuller]
Gardner threw for 2960 yards (in only 12 games) at a 60.3% completion rate. His 8.6 YPA was the best in the Big Ten, and more than a yard per attempt more than Cook and Hackenberg. Ha accounted for 32 TDs (21 throwing, 11 rushing) against 11 INTs. He threw for 14 TDs against 3 picks and 8.85 YPA in Big Ten play. And he did that with absolutely no running game (at least of the 'forward' variety). He did it without padding his yardage numbers with bubble screens. He did it with a strained everything. And the next time he sees a pocket will be the first time.
The last time he stepped onto the field, he threw for 451 yards and 4 TDs with no picks and ran for another score. On a broken foot. And when he was healthy? Boy howdy.
Gardner lost pocket-sized safety blankets Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo, but Devin Funchess is a legit #1 receiver (I swear, if anyone drafts him as a TE I will force-quit the draft), and between him, Freddy Canteen, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Dennis "DENNIS NORFLEET" Norfleet he will have plenty of targets, He should be productive once again. Now, if he can just get a liiiiiiittle time to throw the ball...
Uh oh crap forgot about that.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Alarming quantities of opposition defensive linemen]
A much-needed boost to Michigan's offensive line is apparently headed to the worst possible place:
Alabama transfer Chad Lindsay is expected to sign with Ohio State, per source. Buckeyes get new center for Braxton Miller
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerCBS) April 22, 2014
Well played, Urban.
Running around in a circle is a little over the top, but only a little. That Lindsay rejected his former OC and an almost certain starting spot is alarming, and now Michigan enters next year with zero senior scholarship OL.
I wonder where fightin' bird guy is today. North Dakota may want to stop playing Frozen Four semifinals. First you've got the Life As A Vole Hunwick game…
…and then last night a Minnesota defenseman with zero goals on the season scored a shorthander with 0.6 seconds left to knock them out. Seriously.
North Dakota won their consolation game in the league playoffs to push Michigan out of the tournament, which I was mad about but maybe I should thank them because I would be waking up in a dumpster today if that had happened to Michigan. I would not feel well.
Minnesota plays Union for the title tomorrow at 7:30. Go Union, if only to see Mark Emmert's head explode. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE, MARK.
I mean why would you want to do that. An excellent article on Fox Sports about Derek Mason, former Stanford DC and new guy at Vanderbilt discusses how Mason came to prominence thanks to his ability to adapt to the hurry-up spread offenses that are kind of a big deal when you're in the same division as Oregon. Mason lays out the four things that up tempo does for your offense, and while they're really only three things if you can divide it's a good framework for understand why the spread keeps spreading, Danielson be damned:
1) Defenses get stuck in one call
While defensive coordinators enter a game with a long list of plays, the defenders on the field are often forced to play the same call repeatedly when the ball is being snapped every 14-18 seconds. The middle linebacker often looks to the sideline only to see the defensive signal-caller frantically gesturing to repeat the last call.
2) Defenses don’t get ready in time
Even when defensive players get their play call on time – some defenses will often call two or three plays in advance when facing an up-tempo team – you will often see the defenders unsuccessfully scurrying to get into their proper alignment before the ball is snapped.
3) One-on-one matchups
Tackling a skill player one-on-one in space is one of the most difficult tasks in football. Up-tempo offenses often operate out of a spread scheme that forces defenses to cover the entire width and length of the field, as Mason noted.
4) More snaps per game
I'm not clear on why more snaps are necessarily better, at least insofar as you get more snaps because you're moving faster. More snaps are obviously good because that means you didn't punt; outside of that the only thing I can think of there is that defenders tend to get tired more quickly than offensive players. Substitution patterns certainly indicate that's the case.
I would also add that a high tempo team is more flexible in its approach to the clock: for them slowing it down is a matter of hanging out at the line of scrimmage longer than they usually do. For a team that does not operate in a hurry-up environment, accelerating is considerably more difficult.
Mason's reacted to the above issues by having hybrid players who may not be the best at any one thing but can straddle the line between run support and pass coverage, having simple, quick playcalls, and training their defenders the way Oregon trains offense: relentless pace.
Anyway: Hoke talk about toughness is grating these days because he's content with an offense that doesn't try to make it tough on other people. Toughness is something Michigan has to have because things are being done to them. (It is also grating because Michigan finished dead last in tackles for loss allowed in year three of being a Tough Team that Runs Power.)
Excellent timing. You may find yourself suddenly more interested in this profile of Mark Donnal the Daily published five days ago. He's getting hype; let's hope it pans out.
Donnal’s not sure when exactly it was, just that it came around the middle of the regular season, but he turned a corner. He’d found success against Morgan and Horford enough in practice that he knew he belonged.
“I started to pick up everything, and my game started to come back to me, and I’m getting in the flow of the college game,” Donnal said.
If it wasn’t for the redshirt, Morgan and Horford might have had to worry about their job security.
“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.
“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”
Donnal is still just 18—he's young, like Caris—and has upside yet to tap.
Brace yourself! Someone at Penn State has been in the photoshop doin' the shrooms.
— Matt Brown (@MattSBN) April 11, 2014
James Franklin being a great recruiter is a kids these days kind of thing.
At least we're not alone. On the one hand, Ohio State has a real spring game with a player draft and opens practices to students, and this makes me sad because it's clear their athletic department doesn't have quite the contempt for their fans that Michigan's does. On the other, they're not immune from Creating The Future either.
Didn't know Ohio State was charging $20 for a scrimmage. Guessing the same dipshit there who tries to seize blog assets came up with that.
— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) April 11, 2014
On a third, mutant hand, imagine a version of the Michigan spring game that anyone, dipshit or not, could believe was worth 20 dollars. OSU knocked the price down to 5, apparently. I wonder if there are punting drills.
Okay bro. I'll take this shot from a fan of any program but two:
Here's a hard and round number for you: 10 years. That's how long its been since Michigan has won a Big Ten championship. To locate a gap that pronounced in Michigan's storied and (schadenfreude alert) oppressively self-congratulatory history, you have to hearken back to the pre-Schembechler era.
Those programs are Notre Dame and especially—especially—Penn State, which author Michael Weinreb is a fan of. Until Sandusky blew everything all to hell, Penn State was recruiting kids by noting that they'd never been on probation.
Their mantra of "Success With Honor" implies that most places having success don't have honor. Michigan's is just about winning football games. Penn State was stuck so far up its own butt smelling roses that they allowed the worst thing in the history of college football to happen. You might not want to claim Michigan's history is "oppressively self-congratulatory" in that context.
Ok, bro. Get The Picture finds this assertion in Northwestern's appeal to the national NLRB:
Contrary to the Regional Director’s findings, Northwestern scholarship football student-athletes are not “initially sought out, recruited and ultimately granted scholarships because of their athletic prowess on the football field.”
I would have believed this in the 1980s. Nowadays the only school that can claim that with a straight face is Purdue.
Wow. Bursaspor's new stadium is… it's this.
Orson says he'd trade the Swamp for this as long as the interior was searing orange, and… yeah, you'd have to do it. I await Spencer's longform piece on Turkish soccer with bated breath, and not just because I once pretend-managed a Turkish third-division team to the Champions League title despite Turkey's restrictive rules on foreign soccer players. Also because in Turkey things like this happen:
The club switched names with crosstown club Kayseri Erciyesspor in 2004.
YANKEES: "We're sick of being the Yankees. Would you like to be the Yankees?"
METS: "Jolly good. Here's Mr. Met and a legacy of crippling failure."
Also they have doner kebab. They are probably the origin of doner kebab. Go Turkey.
The usual. Kam Chatman is up to #38 on ESPN's final recruit rankings and draws mention as one of their top risers:
Kameron Chatman, Michigan: He’s a classic late bloomer who has continued to improve at a rapid rate and yet very clearly still has his best basketball in front of him. A highly skilled southpaw with excellent size on the wing, Chatman’s frame has now started to fill out at a much more rapid rate, giving him the versatility not just to splash 3s over contesting defenders but also to diversify his offensive game around the rim. He’s also a deceptively good ball handler and very good passer, all of which will be utilized in Michigan’s offensive system. The bottom line is that it was clear he was still trending up, so he jumped 13 spots.
A palpable fit.
Etc.: I'm here for the sex… ual misconduct investigation. Breaking down the best offenses of the Kenpom era. The 1995 Virginia game on the tubes. Basketball would like to add another quality home game to next year's schedule. Magnus on the spring game. Stapleton on Michigan's sophomores-to-be. The state of Michigan basketball.