I guess I can't be mad at the Dispatch any more. Because we're doing it to ourselves:
If it motivates the players, great. I never want to see it again.
That's one way to put it. How are things on the Michigan State offensive line? Deep. Peachy. Deeply peachy:
Spartans depth sparks offensive line competition
This is their depth:
Converted defensive tackle Dan France has emerged as the leading candidate at left tackle, but the battle at center and right tackle are far from decided.
Redshirt freshman Travis Jackson and junior Blake Treadwell, another converted defensive tackle, are running neck-and-neck at center, while redshirt freshman Skyler Burkland and junior college transfer Fou Fonoti are fighting for the top spot at right tackle.
Er. France was flipped from OT to DT last year despite being 6'6" and now returns to be the starting left tackle. That is a hell of a position switch starter. This was his status in January:
"But in the bowl practice, I was struggling," he said. "I didn’t know the (blocking) techniques and footwork. I never had done pass blocking before. I mean, I sort of did (at tight end) in high school, but I didn’t have any technique or really know what I was doing."
Kirk Cousins might be under siege this year. Let's hope so, because if someone were to bold Michigan's secondary it wouldn't be much prettier.
Hey, here's a Michigan football coach talking. I wonder if he's going to talk about "violence," "toughness," "being physical," and "being consistent":
No, he mostly talked about cheese. Cheese and Will Campbell's pad level.
Of course not. Some news organization I can't be bothered to look up—oh this article says it's the Seattle Times—posted the shocking news there was a Pac-10/Big 10 "consensus" in favor of a plus one game. This was shocking for a little while until it was debunked. Or at least sort of debunked. Check out Jim Delany's reply to that:
"To describe the ADs as supportive, I would call that erroneous," Delany said.
Masterful weaseling right there. This on further expansion, at least, is a straightforward declaration they're not interested:
"No, we're about as comfortable as we can be with where we are," Delany said. "We've said we will continue to monitor the landscape, but we have closed down active expansion. Every period you look at it, but we don't expect anything the SEC does to affect us."
I'm increasingly irritated at the media reports predicting Superconferenceageddon without bothering to figure out whether adding teams like Pitt and Missouri helps or hurts the bottom line. The burden of proof is on people predicting unwieldy, tradition-hurting behemoths but all we get is "this is totally happening because it's an arms race!"
Yes, yes, TV markets blah blah. At times like these I think about Lloyd Carr in his last couple years sighing disgustedly whenever the subject of money came up in press conferences. He believed placing it above all other goals was destructive, he's looking prophetic at the moment.
Zing. I was just hoping Jerry Hinnen would drop some more twitter bombs on the SEC so I could post them up, and then he did:
Gotten the feeling that if Scott and Delany jumped off a bridge, SEC fans would gripe that Slive should have been the one jumping first. "We can't afford to react. You have to be proactive when it comes to bridge-jumping!"
Adding Nebraska had a purpose. Adding A&M to the SEC just dilutes it.
Downing disagreement. Retweets coming from Michigan Hockey Net and Yost Built over the course of the recent Five Nations tournament were rapturous about 2013 D commit (and team captain) Michael Downing. Examples from tourney observer @twharry:
The difference between Downing and DeAngelo is vast. I had no idea Downing was this good. He plays like a vet.
Michael Downing is having another very strong two-way game. Comparing him to Merrill may be unfairly lofty, but they are strikingly similar.
Breakaway going the other way. DeAngelo was way out of position. Luckily Downing was there to cover and Demko made the stop.
FWIW, talked to an ex-teammate of Downing today from CC - said he's the real deal, nat. skill set but little rough around the edges at times
When one of my friends checked out the Friday game he compared Downing to Nick Lidstrom. Apparently the US team was so confident in his positioning they would often send the other defenseman up the ice to pressure the Swiss. A local diary praised his game as well.
So of course a couple scouting reports are mixed at best, contradict the above, and contradict each other. WCH:
Michael Downing has had a very good summer--including locking down a scholarship to Michigan--which has helped turn him into one of the top defensive prospects in the US for his age group. He appears to have loads of potential with a big frame and nice skating, but still has a pretty long ways to go when it comes to decision-making and handling the puck. The pace of play here looked a little faster than what he was used to, which took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to make some bad turnovers. Not many players have things completely figured out by age 16 though, and with a little more experience, he has a chance to develop into a very nice player.
And the United States of Hockey:
Michael Downing - Canton, Mich. — The big defenseman served as the captain for this U.S. outfit. He’s pushing 6-foot-3, but has some good mobility and offensive instincts. Despite the size, however, Downing was getting out muscled and hit hard by smaller players. The more muscle he can tack on, the better in the coming years. He’ll also need to do a better job in his own end, but he appeared to improve defensively as the tournament went on. Despite the defensive deficiencies, I really liked his offensive game. If he can develop defensively, he could be a. pretty solid blueliner down the road. Draft eligible in 2013
Another Burns tweet did mention Downing needs to fill out quite a bit, so at least there's some consistency there. Downing maintains he's 110% committed to Michigan and is not a goalie, so he'll probably show up. I'm actually drawing a blank on the last Michigan D commit to skip out for the OHL before he hit campus. Seems like it's a F/G thing.
The Blip …is what I called the 2008 Wisconsin game in last year's Plays of the Decade feature. It was a briefly intoxicating lie about how good that team could be that presaged the less brief but no less deceitful starts the next two years; as such it's both an emblem and an enormous outlier.
Holdin' the Rope takes us way back when:
I sat and wondered how we could spring a comeback from so much flailing incompetence. I had faith, but it was that kind of belief that eats at itself if exposed to the light.. It's propped up by rubber bands and paper clips and a little bit of measured delusion and naivete.
Somehow, Michigan pulled itself together and willed themselves through a halfway decent touchdown drive in the third quarter, capped by Kevin Koger's first touchdown reception. A promise of a bright future. Michigan went down the field on the arm of Steven Threet, the legs of Sam McGuffie and Kevin Grady, and the hands of Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews. Greg's last name only had one "t," but people managed to always get it wrong, and they probably still do. This wasn't Henson, Terrell, Walker, and A-Train. It wasn't Henne, Manningham, Arrington, and Hart. It wasn't Navarre, Braylon, Avant.
Etc.: Notre Dame is taking its sweet time figuring out where its hockey team is going to hang out. MGoMix is going with songs 1-5 and 6-10. Trailer for the Willis Ward movie is good. Shakin' the Southland's DrB talks 3-4, 4-3 under, and multiple fronts. Money quote:
In the one-gap 3-4, you have a blend of the 4-3 and the older two-gap system. You can take a guy that is a ‘tweener’ and put him at DE or OLB. You can take heavy interior linemen that are skilled at pass rushing, and put them at DE positions even if they don’t run 4.6-4.7 in the 40. The fact that it is a one-gap system and easier to teach means they can rush the passer without regard for the linebackers and put what talent they do have to good use.
I do not advocate the one-gap 3-4 over the 4-3, each has its uses. I do prefer the one-gap over the 2-gap version because it disguises the bubbles in the front better, and is simpler to teach. I'm all for adding fronts that simply teach guys new places to stand without actually changing everything they're doing. In most cases, the fronts are exactly the same, but with different personnel.
I'm not even going to check before I make this assertion: Get The Picture* has seized on last night's national championship game-type substance as an opportunity to tweak college football playoff advocates. Come on, baby…
Rainey on Charlie Weis’ excitement working with Florida’s pool of talent: “The first thing he said when he got here was that this is the most athletes he’s ever been around, so we felt good about that.”
Rainey on what to expect from the offense: “Fans are going to be happy again."
Well, if he's not going to do it I will: yeah, last night's game was a fiasco that resulted in a deeply unsatisfying champion. March Madness was too mad this year, leaving us with a 9-9 Big East team and a 13-5 Horizon team playing like DePaul and anyone else in the Horizon not named Cleveland State. I think we can say without qualification that the best team did not win this year. Whoever they were they didn't make the Final Four. At some point haters hating on a college football playoff will bring up whatever that was and say "QED."
That's a cost of a playoff, granted. But the NCAA tournament usually doesn't let it get that far. Over the past decade championship game participants have been almost universally great teams:
- 2009: Butler versus Duke. Butler was a Cinderella of sorts. They were also undefeated in the Horizon and had wins over
GeorgetownXavier and OSU; they were really good. They were 12th on Kenpom; this year's edition finished 41st. If having this year's Butler team make the final is a ding against playoffs, last year's Butler team making it shows a way in which basketball's system is vastly superior.
- 2008: UNC-Michigan State. UNC was a juggernaut that finished 34-4. Michigan State was 31-7 (with two of those losses to UNC) and won the Big Ten easily.
- 2007: Kansas-Memphis. Both one seeds from the chalk Final Four.
- 2006: Florida-OSU. OSU was 35-2 against teams not named Florida (like State they lost in the regular season to the eventual champion). Florida was 35-5. This was a very Kenpom final, as the teams were 2nd and 4th.
- 2005: Florida-UCLA. Florida was a three seed but finished the year #1 in Kenpom after their crushing tourney run. They ended up 33-6. UCLA was a two seed; they finished third.
- 2004: UNC-Illinois. Two dominant outfits, one seeds who finished 1-2 in Kenpom.
- 2003: Syracuse-Kansas. Kansas was a two seed that finished the year first in Kenpom. Champ Syracuse was a three that finished 7th. Their seeding was a little weird: they only lost five games before the tourney and had a couple of good nonconference wins to go with a very tough Big East schedule. It seems like they got dropped unfairly because they lost in their conference tourney.
- 2002: Maryland-Indiana. Kenpom ceases. Maryland was 32-4 and 15-1 in the ACC; Indiana was probably the most meh championship game participant in the last decade other than this year's duo, a 25-12 team that played a 12, a 13, Duke, and a 10 to reach the Final Four.
- 2001: Duke-Arizona. One-seed Duke ended up 35-4; Arizona was a two that beat one seeds consecutively to reach the final.
In the last decade three teams who shouldn't have been there reached the championship game, and one lost by 12 to a very deserving champion. The system has worked—found a more satisfying conclusion to the season than just having a poll—90% of the time over the past ten years. The BCS's strike rate… not so much.
Teams like Butler (last year), 2005 Florida, and 2003 Kansas who finished the year at or near the top of performance-based* computer rankings were given the opportunity to prove they were worthy of a title game appearance and did so; in football they'd have been shuffled off to some dork's personal fiefdom of waste and corruption. Fundamentally, the NCAA tournament works. It's not a system that makes sense for college football but it's the farthest thing from a failed playoff system in American sports.
*[I like Get the Picture a lot, FWIW, I just disagree with him wholly on playoffs. I poke because I respect. Disclaimers uber alles.]
**[As opposed to result-based. Margin of victory-ignorant systems like RPI and the BCS computers only consider results, not scores.]
Movin' on up. Prepare to be annoyed:
Michigan has increased ticket prices for the 2011 football season.
Individual game tickets will be $70 for games against Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State, Minnesota and Purdue. The night game against Notre Dame, and the Nebraska and Ohio State games are considered "premium" games and will cost $85.
Michigan hasn't raised prices in seven years, so some increase was overdue but tickets went up slightly less than twenty dollars on average. I'm not sure how much more the market will bear, and neither is the U—they're offering partial season ticket packages now. Clearly they've eaten through most, if not all, of the waitlist and are now in a situation where they're going to have to get creative to fill the stadium.
Insert the usual muttering about short-term corporate thinking here.
This. Chunkums has been deployed:
Speaking of. I was extremely glad to see a post from Doctor Saturday titled "The worst thing about Jim Tressel" that coldly lays out why tatgate should be met with a much stronger response from the NCAA than OSU's two-game wrist tickling. I'm a partisan so the thought that my reaction to the affair is loony is always present. This helps mitigate that:
…not only did Tressel maintain his silence to the NCAA. Not only did he lie to reporters. Not only did he not cut his losses and take his medicine, like a humbled man who had already gotten away with something. Instead, he actively pushed the envelope to keep the ineligible players — now officially ruled ineligible by the NCAA — on the field. Like an inside man in a robbery watching his accomplices being led away in handcuffs, bailing them out of jail and coming back for the rest of the money anyway. (And then publicly lecturing them about their crime.) Ohio State treated winning the Sugar Bowl like an end to itself, a big score, and risked everything — or at least the first half of the 2011 season — to get it.
And it worked.
Hinton later says the NCAA "almost can't go far enough" after Ohio State hoodwinked them into allowing those guys to play in the Sugar Bowl. He's a Southern Miss alum who is the "shades of gray" guy he claims at the beginning of the piece and is invulnerable to the HATERZ response*, so… yeah. This is a big deal.
*[Except he's not because people who say HATERZ cannot be dissuaded from saying HATERZ.]
We're going to kill you for your attempted help. If you thought it would be bad news for the lawyer who tipped Tressel off, you're right:
Cicero, a walk-on player at Ohio State in the early 1980s, said he has received a few death threats this week. Tressel became an assistant coach at Ohio State during Cicero's senior year in 1983.
"I'm not the Judas in this situation, you know. I feel like Peter, but I'm not the Judas," Cicero said.
This isn't LOLOHIO. After watching the Fab Five documentary I'm sure there are Michigan fans scribbling out racist letters to Jalen Rose who would be happy to forward along a death threat to any Michigan equivalent of Cicero. I mention it just because everyone saw this coming despite Cicero's obvious affection for the program. Actually, wait—I just remembered Ryan Hamby got death threats for dropping a pass. Scratch that. Resume LOLOHIO.
Cicero has some harsher words, too, for the guy who turned his effort to help into a major scandadl.
Playoff one, playoff two, playoff three. Doc Sat has also provided his official playoff proposal, one that hews fairly close to the one I keep pushing. (Also there's a long post aimed at a playoff skeptic if anyone's interested in the philosophical reasons.) Mine is built around a restricted field of six teams, no autobids, byes, and home games. His is built around a slightly less restricted field of ten teams, autobids, byes, and home games.
I like mine better—which is why it's mine—because I'd rather live in a world where this year's UConn team isn't a lamb to be slaughtered when a small field is necessarily going to leave some teams with a vague chance of winning the whole thing out. DocSat's still grasps the three-point tao of a college football playoff:
- Reward in-season success more heavily than most playoffs do by having byes and allow teams to play at home.
- Restrict the size of the field so 9-3 teams are told to GTFO.
- Create a system that guarantees the last team standing also has the best resume.
The more I think about that last one the more I think it would be hard to create a playoff that didn't do this as long as you kept the field relatively small, but the byes and home games aid greatly.
The gun. Every time I start talking about what Michigan's offense is going to look like under Al Borges it comes back to one simple question: they can't really put Denard under center, can they? They can, it seems, but they won't all the time:
Q: How do you tweak the offense to suit Denard Robinson’s strengths?
A: We’re a pro-style offense. We’re not going to be shotgun every play. But we’ll probably favor a little more gun now than we did last year at State, and we ran quite a bit of shotgun last year.
But because of him, and some of the things you can do in the gun with him, we’ll be in a little more gun than we have in the past. But to say we’re going to be a gun team? No, we’re going to line up under center and come downhill on our runs.
Operating from behind center with Denard limits his running to Incredibly Surprising QB Draws, Incredibly Surprising Bootleg Passes, and scrambles Denard almost refused to take last year. It's hard to see how Michigan gets Robinson the thousand yards rushing Borges said they'd like from him unless they use the gun plenty, and it's good to see something explicit saying they will.
I bet people don't like going under center and in crunch time it's an offense that looks quite a bit like last year's—remember the read option was not a huge feature.
Elsewhere in that Q&A from the luncheon, Borges repeats the thing about getting Robinson prepared for the NFL that we've heard since the new guys arrived. This I don't like so much. I don't care if Robinson impresses NFL scouts with his footwork on a seven-step drop for many reasons. It doesn't win football games, for one. For two, NFL scouts won't care how impressive his footwork is because he'll be a wide receiver on draft boards. He's 5'11" tops. He's not playing quarterback in the NFL unless he turns into Lightspeed Drew Brees, and while I love Denard in a way Leviticus (PAYNE) would disapprove of that's highly unlikely.
Boo. Bruins Draft watch scouts 2012 hockey commit Boo Nieves:
…excellent NHL prospect given his natural size, skating and offensive skills. At 6-3, 185 has the frame to be an attractive option in the pros when he fills out. Outstanding skater who accelerates quickly and is extremely agile and elusive. Explosive burst and separation gear; can turn defenders easily as he attacks with speed to the outside and isn't afraid to go into traffic. Excellent stickhandler; confident with the puck and wants it on his stick. Highly creative and just seems to have a knack for making plays all over the offensive zone.
There's a couple paragraphs more at the link; the upshot is that Nieves is a potential first rounder if he continues playing the way he is even if he sticks around prep school for another year instead of heading to the USHL or (guh) OHL. Michigan wouldn't mind that since Matt Herr is his coach.
HATE THE BCS? HATE AMERICA
The dumbest thing ever written. This is not literally true, but it may be the dumbest thing ever written about college football. It is this Bill Hancock guy's shoddily argued nonsense about the BCS. I've become a playoff guy over the past decade or so but even BCS proponents in the blogosphere (of which there appears to be one, the guy behind Get The Picture) have to wince at statements like this:
College football was one weekend away from Boise State participating in the BCS National Championship Game because of what happened on the playing field — not in a chatroom, a boardroom or a newsroom.
In the event that Auburn lost and Boise State won, yes. The reverse happened and instead the BCS works and is fair and that's Gary Patterson's artery spraying a red mist over most of the Southwest but how did you think Sedona, Arizona, ended up looking like that? Do you want a thriving tourist mecca to evaporate overnight when college football coaches cease venting the bloodmist that gently descends on the mesas?
Orson has gone FJM on the thing—it exists to be fisked, I thought about doing it myself—but you don't have to do anything other than blockquote to obliterate this extremely stupid system:
A playoff also would mean the end of America's bowl tradition as we know it. As Rick Baker, president of the Cotton Bowl, said, "A playoff system would ruin the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic."
We can't have that.
BONUS: Putting "Classic" in the name of your thing is a 100% sure way to tell that your thing is neither classic nor an actual thing anymore, in the, you know, traditional sense where entities are somewhat authentic outgrowths of desires instead of remanufactured bullcrap like "chocolate" diamonds that make me wish that authentic outgrowths of desires that form entities like Adbusters weren't equally odious and even more shrill. The "Cotton Bowl Classic" is at Jerryworld, not the Cotton Bowl. It can die in a fire for all I care.
OBLIGATORY REMINDER OF MGOBLOG PLAYOFF PLAN: Six teams, no autobids, byes to the top two teams. No more than two teams per conference, and those teams can't play each other in the first round. Home games until the final, one the week after the championship games, one on January 1st, final at the Rose Bowl January 8th, leave bowl system alone.
This preserves almost all of the urgency of regular season and guarantees that the champion is also the team with the best season-long resume since five of the top six lose and anyone not 1 or 2 wades through three elite opponents, staking an undeniable claim.
This year's hypothetical bracket:
1. Oregon vs winner of 3. TCU / 6. Ohio State
2. Auburn vs winner of 4. Wisconsin / 5. Stanford
If Auburn had lost to Alabama they would probably have fallen to fifth (ballparking it) and gone from a first round bye and January 1 home game to a first round game in Madison or Palo Alto—a freaking huge deal. Losing one game boots Boise and Michigan State, and two is fatal for everyone. Since the current system frequently sees one-loss teams into the championship game it's difficult to argue this system cheapens the regular season.
If you want a lengthier explanation I pretended I was talking to Joe Posnanski about it last January. In sum, there is no reason people who do not stand to lose money would oppose the idea.
This Week In Less Charismatic Than Stalin. Terrelle Pryor:
"I'll put it like this: You put me in any of their offenses — any of them — and I'd dominate," Pryor said, when asked about the attention afforded the likes of Newton, Robinson and Persa. "I'd dominate the nation. What those guys do, that's what they're supposed to do in their offense."
He goes on to say the usual boilerplate about how he's all about winning, which could be interpreted as a mitigating factor if Pryor didn't manage to twist every bit of boilerplate into another reason to think Pryor should be locked in the basement by Tressel until his graduation. Doctor Saturday looks at the numbers and says pretty much what I did in the OSU preview—against defenses that are actually good Pryor folds alarmingly.
Robinson said he also remembers picking up some snow, playfully chucking it at Rodriguez, "and then running pretty fast after that."
Robinson also packed snow into a plastic bag for his return flight.
"Melted on the plane," he said.
How does Robinson know if he's running fast?
This Week In Coaching Blah Blah Blah. Have fielded a couple inquiries as to why I'm not covering the "coaching search" or "situation," depending on your point of view. I'm not because there is no "search" and there is no reliable information on the situation. Time and again I have been told by people one or two or three steps removed from insiders that Rodriguez is going to get fired after the Ohio State game. Or on Monday (yes, as in three days ago, which makes absolutely no sense). Or pretty dang soon. Or that Brady Hoke is a viable candidate. Or etc etc etc etc. I got so much chatter in my inbox that made no sense that even the plausible stuff now carries the sheen of ulterior motive (not necessarily from the emailer, but from the discontent insider-type person) or wishful thinking (from Brady Hoke's friends and family).
I have no updates that are reliable enough to relate. There is a cottage industry of people telling other people that Rodriguez is definitely gone that has proven inaccurate multiple times so far in the past month, so I probably won't be able to say much definitively unless I get something solid from a few established guys.
To reiterate, I've run everything I've heard through filters of reliability and making a damn lick of sense and come up with this:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is not brought back or Brandon would have/should have already announced it.
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is brought back or ditto.
- One game is probably not the deciding factor.
- Harbaugh exists. No other candidate strong enough to make a move compelling does.
- You cannot start a real coaching search that takes two to four weeks a month before Signing Day.
The conclusion is that on January second Harbaugh or Rodriguez will be Michigan's coach and that person will be the coach in 2011. No one peddling a story other than that is credible unless their name is Dave Brandon, and even then he's probably just having you on.
I don't know which is more likely. If I get anything that changes my opinion I'll mention it.
BONUS: A scientific poll shows that Michigan fans are split right down the middle: 35 percent want him gone, 32 percent want him to stay, and 33 percent are unsure. That's amazingly apropos. Too bad it doesn't include a section asking people "have you raged incoherently at someone about this opinion?" Three percent said they'd prefer Brady Hoke over Harbaugh (64 percent) or Miles(23 percent).
Penn State exodus? With Joe Paterno slightly old and doddering Penn State relies heavily on its ancient, incredibly stable coaching staff to prop up the ship. There was slight panic when DL coach Larry Johnson Sr. seriously considered taking the Illinois DC job a few years ago—it's testament to the loyalty of the staff that he stayed—and now with Pitt searching around BSD's a little concerned the Panthers might look at the blindingly obvious candidate: Tom Bradley. Bradley's considered the be the heir apparent to Paterno and probably should be since he's been the motive force behind the good bit of Penn State forever, but if he can't leverage the Pitt opening into something approximating a guarantee he's the guy he could be tempted to go. Too bad the NCAA put a kibosh on that coach-in-waiting stuff.
Meanwhile, LB coach Ron Vanderlinden is "linked to" the Ball State job. This will probably lead to nothing except a couple of raises but it's worth keeping an eye on if only to see how easy OSU's path to the Big Ten Championship game is going to be.
Etc.: The Daily's Nicole Auerbach scores a WSJ article about the Big Chill and the growth potential of college hockey. Big Ten Hockey cannot come fast enough. Thoroughly patronizing AA.com article explains to you what "faceoffs" and "hat tricks" are. Dave Brandon says Michigan is "highly interested" in adding D-I lacrosse if it proves viable. Monumental's series of awesome wallpapers continues.