rumormongering is what the internets are for
So your favorite former collegiate head coach, the guy in charge of your favorite team, one of college football's top coaches, and a guy with a meathead haircut all found themselves on the receiving end of various kinds of unfair, incorrect, or nasty-but-deserved media attention. A confusing allegorical play in four mostly unrelated acts:
It's Just A Flesh Wound
Last week on The Sporting Blog I called Bob-Stoops-to-Notre-Dame an "unkillable zombie rumor" after Stoops had to make four progressively more emphatic announcements that he wasn't going to make an unprecedented leap from a program he built into a national power to one that's been no more successful than Purdue over the last 15 years.
It has now graduated to Black Knight status, though:
Saturday's edition of the Chicago Sun Times reported that multiple sources told the newspaper on Friday that "Stoops hasn't said 'no' to Notre Dame."
This was an interesting take on the words "I will be at Oklahoma. Any reporting to the contrary is completely unfounded." Technically, the words "wild elephants could not drag me to South Bend" are not in that statement. That, however, doesn't make it any less definitive. "I will be at Oklahoma." End of story. Unless you're the Sun-Times and you're bound and determined to keep after the dumb rumor you're almost singlehandedly responsible for perpetrating in the mainstream media.
Bob Stoops on saying no to Notre Dame:
"For the third, and hopefully final time, let me again state that I will continue to be the coach at Oklahoma. I appreciate the history and tradition of Notre Dame. I also appreciate the history and tradition of Oklahoma, and I have been part of building that tradition here.
"I work for a wonderful president (David Boren) and athletic director (Joe Castiglione), who have created an incredible work environment at OU. There haven't been any plans for a meeting or negotiations with Notre Dame and there will not be. Any reporting to that fact is completely erroneous. I will not be the next coach at Notre Dame."
This is how plains Indians must have felt after the United States broke yet another treaty with them, right?
Checking Is For Commies
Fake email that started minor Bielema-to-ND meme that would probably still be going on if ND sites hadn't posted the reveal.
All right, lolmsm and all that. But Stoops isn't the only guy batting away meritless rumors about his involvement with Notre Dame:
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, who's with the team in Hawaii, said Friday morning that he has no knowledge of any interest on Notre Dame's part in speaking with Bielema.
"I haven't heard anything," Alvarez said when reached on his cell phone. "He hasn't said anything to me, and nobody's called me for permission."
Bret Bielema? No offense to a guy coming off a bounce-back year any Michigan fan would kill to have, but NDNation would have a meetup just to kill and eat each other if Bielema became head coach there. And, lo, the faintly plausible rumor was created whole cloth by one guy emailing a disreputable web site that just posts whatever crap someone sends in:
2. Friend composes a very short, but specific email: I used to work in the athletic department at Notre Dame (a lie), and I have heard that Jack Swarbrick is interested in Bret Bielema, the head coach at the University of Wisconsin. This was at 6:56pm last evening. The email is sent from a free gmail account. There is no other email sent from friend, no attempt to "sell" the rumor beyond the initial communication, and nothing else to back up his credibility.
3. Meanwhile, friend has another buddy randomly tweet a few times about the Bielema rumors, and goes to bed.
4. FootballCoachScoop does not reply to the email. FootballCoachScoop does not ask any followup questions. FootballCoachScoop, to friend's knowledge, makes no attempt to verify emailer's bona fides in any way.
5. The next morning, FootballCoachScoop runs the rumor almost verbatim. Friend chuckles and shares the development with a few friends.
This expands, getting picked up by "the Examiner," which is like a Bleacher Report that people haven't figured out is almost always garbage yet, then hit rumor first, accuracy later College Football Talk—an offshoot of Mike Florio's Pro Football Talk—and poor Rittenberg's Big Ten blog before the hoax was widely known. (BGS had actually already posted it.)
Your blogger has a couple emails in his inbox that might be innocent but look pretty hoax-y declaring that Rich Rodriguez will be fired the Monday after the Ohio State game, by the way.
This Direct Quote Is Out Of Context
Meanwhile, Charlie Weis ceased speaking to the media in the final days of his regime. I get this. If I was a head coach who knew his head would be on a platter in a matter of weeks, I wouldn't waste my time with a bunch of tedious questions about what went wrong. I might even call a special press event type substance with five hand-picked media members, and I might even go all FootballCoachScoop on tales of Pete Carroll's mysterious grad student affair:
Q: Is it frustrating to Pete Carroll, for example, portrayed in one way...
CW: Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news. He's doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it okay for one guy to do things like that, but for for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins.
At this point I would diverge, though, since attempting to take something off the internet is pointless and once you say stuff it's impossible, and a little dishonest, to try to take it back. Weis said it and he meant it and if it was supposed to be off the record that's only 5% less of a nasty move. He's then put this thing in the heads of five people off the record and set Pete Carroll's Grad Student on the same path as Rich Rodriguez's Impregnated Cheerleader, a zombie meme that lives in dark corners and emerges every time School X has a problem with Coach Y.
This One Really Is Out Of Context
I didn't mention the "Rich Rodriguez doesn't care about black people" moment from the bust in anticipation that a fuller picture of the comments would come out. WTKA's Ira Weintraub mentioned via email that Rodriguez's faux pas was a reference to an earlier speech by a regent. And lo, Dave Birkett provides:
Regent White talked earlier about, uh, it’s really kind of ironic that the New Orleans Saints overcome the hurricane a few years back. And I used to live in New Orleans, coached there for a couple years (at Tulane), and I know how devastated that city (was) and how they overcome and rebuilt their stadium, rebuilt their program from the ground up. And we’ve had a few hurricanes of our own. And we had a big hurricane in August and it kind of hit us like a ton of bricks. But you had 120 young men and a bunch of people on staff say this is not going to tear our program apart. In fact, it’ll do just the opposite, bring us together.
So, yeah, I wish Michigan had a coach that didn't misuse the world "ironic" and am pretty sure at some point in his life Rich Rodriguez has used the word "literal" to emphasize a literally untrue assertion. But Rodriguez is making a nod at one of the regents' Michael Scott impersonation and then riffing on it extemporaneously in a fashion that probably seemed unwise to him as the words were coming out of his mouth. (This has happened to me, plenty.) No one bothered to mention it except one of the two freakin' guys who wrote the piece Rodriguez is referring to, and that guy removed important context that would have taken one sentence to provide. Too good to clarify, I guess.
As for how much this matters, TSB colleague Andy Hutchins provides the right comparison:
These comments may actually match Nick Saban's penchant for grabbing Pearl Harbor and September 11th as metaphors for tragedy, what with Rodriguez talking about the human cost of Katrina purely in the prism of football, but it's less outrageous than it is ineloquent.
What difference does it make? It makes none.
I don't really have one. I just had all this media stuff in my open tabs.
I do think there's some common theme here about partial information being evil: Stoops rumors are utterly baseless but go out of control so much that Stoops has to issue five separate denials of varying strengths, Bielema is momentarily implicated in the ND coaching search and only the hoax reveal keeps him from being hounded further, Weis throws a nasty rumor into the pool that will stick with Carroll forever, and Rodriguez's comments are removed from their context by a guy with a stake in public opinion of Rodriguez. In the one instance where the comments are a full transcript of the words spoken, the speaker's problem is that his comments were not elided from the record and leaked as a whisper campaign.
I guess the thrust is this: I don't believe Weis's retraction for a second because his response to it was to have the offending passage excised from the Rivals transcript instead of demanding that the context be irrefutably provided by one of the guys who was taping the conversation. The evidence is there. Release it. Similarly, Rodriguez's inelegant statement was made to look worse by the omission of information. The Sun-Times failed to clarify just why they thought Bob Stoops was going to be Notre Dame's next head coach at any point; by now they owe the public a detailed explanation of why they kept beating the drum long after any sane organization would have stopped. And Coach Scoop Unsubstantiated Football Site just posts unconfirmed stuff without any attempt to confirm or clarify the origins of the rumors, and doesn't even respond when hoaxed.
Because they're just "rumors," right? You can term whatever you want a rumor and be free from judgment when that rumor fails to come true.
My advice to internet publishers is be as honest and transparent as possible, and people will give you the benefit of the doubt as long as you show good judgment over the long haul. This philosophy has been in place at MGoBlog for as long as it's been around. The first bit of news the site ever originated was a report that Morgan Trent had broken his hand and would miss the Minnesota game in 2006, which Rivals snarkily dismissed in premium content, causing me to post a retraction. When several people reiterated that no, seriously, Morgan Trent's hand was broken, I posted the chain of events and provided enough information for readers to judge for themselves with some guidance—I believe me. Morgan Trent's hand was indeed broken, and I've tried to follow that template ever since. That managed to get this site through the coaching search and Sam McGuffie's Cuban Transfer Crisis stronger. I don't think you can say that about the Sun-Times above.
My advice to consumers of information on the internet is to look for this sort of transparency in the things you trust, and look dimly on anyone who would misrepresent information, intentionally or not, and refuse to apologize or clarify when called on it.
Huh. Tom Dienhart's taken his "get anonymous coaches to say bitchy stuff" act on to Rivals, this time breaking down the pending SEC championship game. You probably don't care much about the particulars, but I found this section pretty interesting given that much-loved former Michigan QB coach Scot Loeffler was just put in charge of the Tebow Child:
QUARTERBACK: Our staff thought Tim Tebow has gotten worse as a quarterback from last year to this year. Everyone talks about his mechanics and dropping the football; he drops it lower this year and has worse mechanics. I don't know what it is. He's still making throws and doing some things, but he just doesn't seem comfortable back there. I don't know if it's because of the concussion or what. But teams are making him sit in the pocket longer and throw the football, and sometimes he gets a little skittish back there.
Probably doesn't mean much given Loeffler's extended, wildly successful tenure at Michigan, but I found it interesting.
Is that your final answer? The internet would be a far less chaotic and rumor-stricken place if folks followed one guideline when citing inside information: never link to a place for the first time, or link to a place you've never heard of, because it's got a hot rumor.
Why do I mention this? Because of this:
Brian Kelly will be next Notre Dame football coach
Cincinnati coach to take helm of Fighting Irish, sources reveal to IrishCentral
Brian Kelly will be the next head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, informed sources tell IrishCentral.
The source, who is a well-informed person of influence at Notre Dame, says the Cincinnati coach is the preferred choice for the job, and that he is expected to eventually sign a deal.
Kelly is expected to see out the season with his Bowl Championship Series-bound team, and then report for duty at South Bend.
There is no there there. Kelly is "expected" to "eventually" be the coach by some random guy. By this standard, Michigan is currently coached by Kirk Ferentz, Greg Schiano, and Rich Rodriguez. This site has no track record—it started in March. It talked to one guy who says Kelly is the eventual choice in a month, which in coaching search years is sometime after the Sun engulfs the Earth. And it spreads like wildfire. Why this dubious rumor and not others? Other than the newspaper website template—a rinky-dink version of one—I got nothin'.
Kelly, for his part, was less wishy-washy about staying at Cincinnati on the radio than he was at a press conference yesterday:
“I’m staying, man. I’m staying,” Kelly said on the show. “Why would I go? It’s always about staying, first. First and foremost."
No, I don't believe him either. Unfortunately.
Very modern. Greg Dooley has an interview with Angelique Chengelis up at GBW, and as a guy who runs a college football poll I found this snapshot of the AP poll's assemblage interesting:
MVictors: When you say ‘send in’, do you submit an online form or do you email something in like a Word document or a spreadsheet or something?
Angelique: I just send in an email, ranking the teams 1-25. I have a couple different email addresses that I send it to and that’s what I’ve always done. You’d think it’d be more formal, wouldn’t you?
PREWB! Yes, obligated to mention that after unusual stonewalling on the part of the local police department, eight Spartans were "indefinitely" suspended, including starters BJ Cunningham, Mark Dell, and Chris Rucker for the 2009 Posse Roundup & Engineer/Woman Beatdown. Rucker's a cornerback and in the state of Michigan all members of the secondary not named Woolfolk or Warren are interchangeably horrible, but Cunningham and Dell are excellent receivers. BONUS: there are five more guys yet to be identified—Rob Parker thinks they're all Kirk Cousins.
KJ at The Only Colors wants everyone gone permanently, but that seems steep if the kids in question didn't get violent themselves. They might have tagged along for laughs and saw Glenn Winston go all Grimsrud on them (clip NSF kiddies):
Mark Dell might just have some mechanical engineer's brain all over his car. While you have to expect that when you go anywhere with Winston, I guess, anyone without a prior incident shouldn't necessarily see their career end if the tape shows them to be largely innocent. Hefty suspensions lasting past the Michigan game next year are mandatory, though.
The thing about this thing is: I thought that giving Winston the relative slap on the wrist (essentially a four-game suspension) he got for an act far worse than many that see players drummed out of school entirely—see poor Larry Harrison—was a mistake at the time, as did a lot of other people including Spartan fans. If you want to give Dantonio the benefit of the doubt, fine. Coaches have a lot more information in these situations than we do. I find the irony of his pride before the fall delicious, though, and reserve the right to whoop it up after two years in which Michigan's coach has been portrayed as an inbred hick with no ethics.
Etc.: Phil Brabbs is dyeing his hair blue before it all falls out. DOMINATE. Rivals goes stunningly in depth with a geographic breakdown of recruiting stars and NFL draftees.
|WHAT||Michigan at #21 Wisconsin|
|WHERE||Camp Randall, Madison, WI|
November 13th, 2009
|THE LINE||Wisconsin –9*|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN
|WEATHER||Around 50, cloudy,
slight chance of rain
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
The stats here are grim. Wisconsin may have gone up against a I-AA snackycake but it was a I-AA snackycake that runs the triple option and put up 214 yards on 55 carries: their 1-AA game actually distorts their run defense negatively. There are probably four teams in I-A that can say that.
In the Big Ten, rushing has been near pointless for opponents lately:
Michigan State fell behind big in that game, which helps explain how the meh Spartan rushing offense got 5.1 YPC and why they wouldn't go to it more than 20 times if they were picking yards up at such a good clip. Then you've got a decent performance by Minnesota, a good one by Ohio State, and three obliterations. Despite a ton of sacks—about which more later—Wisconsin's stats hold up under scrutiny. This is one of the best rushing defenses Michigan has played, with only Penn State and Michigan State(!)* anywhere in the statistical ballpark.
Michigan's rushing game never got untracked in a bizarrely short game against State, but the more recent outing against Penn State saw three separate rushers crack four yards per carry; erase five sacks for Penn State—about which more later—and Michigan finished the day with 138 yards on 34 carries, 4.1 yards per attempt. This was accomplished with a long run of 17 yards and without David Molk, so there aren't any factors that suggest Michigan won't be able to replicate that performance against the Badgers.
Well, there may be one: Michigan's senior tailbacks have come down with their usual array of minor injuries. According to Rodriguez, Brandon Minor was "day to day" earlier this week after re-emerging as the primary option against Purdue. He was almost entirely absent from the Illinois game. Carlos Brown, the primary guy against Illinois, was hampered with tendinitis against Purdue and saw one carry. Neither was on this week's injury report, but they weren't on the injury report either of the last two weeks. Either or both could be limited and we won't know until their mysterious absence lasts into the second quarter.
I'm expecting something similar to the Penn State game, where the rushing is effective but erratic enough that Michigan can't just pound it all day; a big play or two is a possibility but not a major one. Unless Michigan can get some pass blocking drives will be hard to sustain.
*(Seriously: MSU is 15th in rushing defense, which makes that game earlier this year far less weird.)
Key Matchup: Brandon Minor's ankle versus Everything Good And Holy.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin's been far more vulnerable here when Purdue receivers aren't making Danny Hope's mustache droop and opposing passers aren't arm-punting all day. Ben Chappell, who you will remember as a polished, entirely average sort of fellow:
If that looks familiar, Ben Chappell against Michigan:
I'll take any statistic that suggests the opponent's secondary is on par with Michigan's. Please.
The wider view isn't as kind but it does suggest some vulnerability: the Badgers are 65th in pass defense efficiency, and those numbers Wisconsin's stats are probably about right relative to how they've performed. The Purdue game may have been a break but Wisconsin scrubs also gave up two long aerial touchdown drives to Michigan State after that game had descended into garbage time.
The secondary is vulnerable. The problem will be getting to it. Magically delicious Badger defensive end O'Brien Schofield has seven sacks this year and the run stats above required serious extraction to separate the actual runs from the copious sacks Wisconsin has racked up. They're 27th nationally, and remember they basically did not have a I-AA game in this statistic. Michigan is 82nd in sacks allowed despite being 82nd in pass attempts: the pass protection has been really, really bad. Michigan's responded with rollouts and screens and crazy huge dropbacks from the shotgun, so they might be able to get around the pass protection issues by it's going to be a matter of mitigation.
Roy Roundtree might be key again. He was the bulk of the pass offense against Purdue and while Wisconsin will adjust to that, the slot receiver is a guy who will be open in seams and on bubble routes when linebackers are cheating to the run game and having a rangy, sure-handed target like Roundtree can provide Forcier with an array of quick options on which magically delicious defensive ends are spectators. Then the weakside linebacker must choose between eating Brandon Minor facemask seven yards downfield or watching Roundtree grab a short seam route or four. Part of the slot receiver's popularity in this edition of the Rodriguez offense is borne of necessity: guy is close and you can get it to him quick.
I'm heartened by the relative inexperience of the Badger linebackers and think Forcier will have a good day in the short to intermediate stuff, with Koger and Roundtree frequent targets and that RB wheel route re-emerging into a threat. On passing downs Michigan will be ineffective and Forcier flushed or sacked frequently. The usual.
Key Matchup: Huyge or Dorrestein versus Large Minus In Next Week's UFR. This is easy, right: the RT spot has been a sore one in pass protection all year.
Run Defense vs Wisconsin
To adequately address the Michigan defense this weekend we have to address the rumors that there's been a major shakeup in the secondary. The rumors are so rampant that they just about must be true. "Guy is practicing at this position on the first team" is a rock-solid piece of information that comes with future intent; "OMG Forcier transfer!" is the opposite of that.
So: Michigan is likely to reconfigure its defense. The obvious thing to do is pull the overmatched or underperforming safeties off the field; rumors are focused on Brandon Smith, linebacker as of two weeks ago, as a replacement. This makes sense against Wisconsin, as Michigan figures to be in an eight-man front on any reasonable rushing down. Then you've got one deep safety who will probably not be Jordan Kovacs because Kovacs has shown over the past few weeks that he has magically un-delicious walk-on speed. Woolfolk may move, or it may be Warren, who's been playing a two-deep safety in various formations for much of the year after the Woolfolk move. This means JT Floyd gets another crack at corner.
To the run defense: despite rumors that the Big Ten is a huge power running sort of conference from people who haven't watched a college football game in ten years, this will be the first actual test of Michigan's defense against a team of neanderthals who know and love rock, only rock. Previous traditional running teams have not done that well…
[Note: QB/WR runs excised for tighter focus on 'rock' style running.]
…but none of those teams is actually much good at running. Iowa and Michigan State are terrible; Penn State is 42nd.
To boot: many of those yards have not been Michigan getting overpowered by their opponent but Michigan doing something dumb like Mouton leaving a 41-yard cutback lane for Royster, Kovacs whiffing on Robinson, or Mike Martin stopping his flow down the line against Caper. This is the opponent-invariant bit. Michigan's defense has been bad for reasons other than physical limitations.
Unfortunately, if there's a team out there more likely to expose Michigan's physical limitations it's the last game on the schedule. Wisconsin is Wisconsin except this year they've replaced an overweight plodder with John Clay, a true moosebeast of a tailback who looks like Beanie Wells or Adrian Peterson, a guy it's hard to believe is playing college football instead of the NFL variety. Clay had some issues early in the year of the practice fumbling or disciplinary variety that saw him lose time to decent backup Zach Brown, but once he emerged he did so with vigor. He is currently the leading rusher in the Big Ten and is averaging 5.1 YPC.
A few teams have held him in check but one of them is Ohio State, with whom there is no possible comparison to Michigan's defense. The other—outside of a strange 15 carry, 45 yard day against NIU in the opener—was Iowa, though, and we saw that Iowa's rushing defense was pretty mediocre this year. However, Clay's crushed Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan State. Put Michigan's defense in one of those two categories, and it's the wrong one.
Michigan is already slant happy and will remain even more so against a Wisconsin line that is much bigger than they are; I think you''ll see a lot of cutbacks because guys are hitting it into the backfield. These cutbacks will meet late and ill-prepared linebackers and Clay is going to get his 2-3 YAC on most plays and grid like he usually does. He'll also break a long one when someone screws up. Fact of life. He should easily clear 100 yards.
Key Matchup: Whoever is at linebacker versus overpursuit. This week's key matchups are "things I expect Michigan will not do well."
Pass Defense vs Wisconsin
Death by tight end. I know that our Wisconsin guest suggested that Garrett Graham had disappeared after the Michigan State game—in which he and Tolzien had a creepy mind-meld—but Michigan has a knack for making tight ends re-appear. The dossier is extensive at this point: Moeaki, Quarless, etc. Last week against Purdue Kevin Leach got lost on a mesh route and turned a third and five dumpoff crossing route into a 56-yard completion. Garrett Graham will be hand-wavingly wide open on a series of waggle plays/seam routes, especially if Michigan goes to a one-high eight man front as the previous section suggests they will. Linebackers will bite, and Graham will be open, and he will probably get 100 yards.
That out of the way: Tolzien's been decent in his first year as a starter. He's 51st in efficiency and is completing 62% of his passes. His main issue has been interceptions; he threw five in the two losses against Ohio State and Iowa; those were huge factors in their losses. If Michigan can cover some guys, he might screw up, especially if Brandon Graham is attempting to eat his face.
That might happen. Wisconsin's sack numbers are decent on the surface—they're 49th—but that conceals a passing offense that doesn't get a whole lot of work. The Badgers are 94th in pass attempts. If Michigan can get Wisconsin into passing situations, Graham can nibble on a cheek here and there. Those figure to be few and far between.
When Wisconsin gets protection, the deep threat is Badger legacy Nick Toon. He's Wisconsin's best deep threat and a guy who can probably get open downfield against Woolfolk—who's been vulnerable—but not Warren. He's averaging 14.5 yards per catch but only has two touchdowns on the year.
And then there's Michigan's presumably reconfigured secondary. I assume Toon will draw the non JT Floyd corner, which means second receiver and infrequent target Isaac Anderson will get a lot of work. Given what we saw from Floyd earlier this year he's going to play off and hope for the best.
That'll be the recipe, I guess. Tolzien won't have a lot of attempts, but the ones he gets will be efficient.
Key Matchup: Roh/Leach/Ezeh vs Graham. If they can get a chuck or read the play action or just do something long enough for the dodgy pass protection to matter, maybe?
This should be a solid advantage for Michigan. Darryl Stonum continues to prove himself the conference's best kick return specialist. He's already broken the single-season kick return yardage record set by Steve Breaston a few years ago. That's largely because of sheer volume, but Stonum took one back for a touchdown against Notre Dame and has interspersed excellent returns throughout the rest of the year. He took two over the 50 against Purdue. Wisconsin, meanwhile, ceded a kick return touchdown of its own against Ohio State and Adam Hoge of Bucky's Fifth Quarter thought they might be vulnerable despite a recent improvement in performance.
Michigan's punt returns have been substandard all year, so that's not much of a threat; Wisconsin is about average in net punting.
When Michigan kicks to Wisconsin, expect little. Wisconsin's in the triple digits in both punt and kickoff returns and David Gilreath has taken a major step backwards this year. Kicker Phillip Welch has been okay, not great. He's hitting two-thirds of his attempts and missed an extra point against Wofford. He was very good last year, going 20/24. Jason Olesnavage is 10/12 with a far costlier missed extra point.
Key Matchup: CATCH THE DAMN BALL.
- Wisconsin has adjusted to the Roy Roundtree show and Michigan is forced to rely on pass protection more than they'd like.
- Michigan has no answer for the beast machine.
- Forcier doesn't play on the second drive.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Wisconsin's OL can't handle the quickness of Martin and Van Bergen.
- The reconfigured secondary makes you wonder what the hell took them so long.
- It's 2010.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for The Scales They Fall From My Eyes, +1 for We're Winless On The Road And Camp Randall Is Slightly More Intimidating Than Memorial Stadium, +1 for I Bet Totally Changing The Defense In Game 10 Is Going To Work Great, –1 for I Guess It Can't Be Worse, +1 for Forcier Aigh!).
Desperate need to win level: 9 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Bowl Game, +1 for Partial Cessation Of Hostilities In The RichRod War, +1 for Escape Big Ten Basement, +1 for Tip The Scales Back Towards Not Doom.)
Loss will cause me to... work on my Henri the Otter of Ennui impression even more.
Win will cause me to... relax.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
To reiterate on the Forcier thing: I expect he will miss the first series and then return. If that assumption does not pan out, head for the hills and re-emerge in two weeks.
Given that: I can see many ways for Wisconsin to move the ball against Michigan's defense, reconfigured or not, and have explained them in detail above. I think Michigan will have a decent day on offense but be poor on third-down conversions because of the pass protection issues; they'll need about two huge breaks to win.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Garrett Graham goes over 100 yards receiving.
- Minor is the primary back and also goes over 100 yards.
- Robinson gets more work in the backfield than he has to date.
- Wisconsin, 30-20.
Let's get Denarded. Since it will be on the message board forever and ever amen and discussed until the weekend: e-reports say that Tate Forcier's facebook status yesterday was about having a bad day and somewhere in the comment thread spawned by that—probably made band fiasco look tame—Tate mentioned he would not be starting this weekend, and then hurriedly deleted that because duh. All of this is in the realm of quasi-fact that the efix* is so good at condescendingly mocking.
…but. But Forcier is probably going to miss a little bit of time against Wisconsin for an exceedingly minor violation of team rules. This is not for sure. It is probable.
*(see what I did there?)
Elsewhere in terrible diseases unfairly striking young ex-Wolverines, Vada Murray got some excellent news a few days ago:
We heard the word we long to hear......s
hrink...... from his recent ct. Both tumors are getting smaller and for the first time, his oncologist, who rarely shows emotion, was ecstatic.
The bus. You are under it. I can't believe we've gone this long without mentioning Troy Woolfolk gently depositing Scott Shafer in the wheel-wells of an AATA conveyance in the Monday press conference:
"Honestly, I feel way more comfortable in this system," Woolfolk said. "Last year, I think we had great execution, but just the defense wasn't working. Versus this year, the defense is working. ... It's just a matter of us being able to do it all the time."
In there is all you need to know about why Scott Shafer got cut loose. Everyone remembers that the staff's first instinct after Shafer was unofficially relieved of duties was to go to the disastrous 3-3-5 that Justin Siller will talk about when he is 65, but also remember what Michigan installed the next week: a dead simple 4-2-5 nickel with Brandon Harrison back in his old spot that shut down Minnesota and did well against Northwestern before getting overrun in the second half against Ohio State.
Yeah, pretty much. Orson's graphs touch on Michigan this week:
That is all.
What is with the cantankerous? Ex-Michigan folk in the coaching ranks are pre-disposed to mouthiness. Miles: "have a nice day." Harbaugh: "Pete Carroll, I bite my thumb at thee." Corwin Brown: "Navy is a dirty cut-blocking team that has no class."
Slightly touchy in South Bend these days.
Freshmen recast. It's typical that the LA Times put together a useful chart of freshman quarterback stats and then ordered them by yardage and didn't even bother to include completion percentage. The stats recast and ordered by YPA (asterisks denote redshirt freshmen):
|*Andrew Luck, Stanford||216||126||2076||11||3||58.3%||9.61|
|*B.J. Daniels, S. Florida||122||64||1096||10||6||52.5%||8.98|
|Matt Barkley, USC||221||125||1839||10||7||56.6%||8.32|
|Tom Savage, Rutgers||168||94||1341||8||1||56.0%||7.98|
|Tate Forcier, Michigan||217||122||1636||10||5||56.2%||7.54|
|*Kevin Prince, UCLA||184||105||1264||5||5||57.1%||6.87|
|*Landry Jones, Okla.||287||169||1902||17||11||58.9%||6.63|
|Jeff Tuel, Wash. State||121||71||789||6||5||58.7%||6.52|
|*Ryan Griffin, Tulane||135||89||838||4||3||65.9%||6.21|
|Cody Green, Nebraska||59||33||317||2||2||55.9%||5.37|
|Brock Osweiler, Ariz. St.||45||19||235||2||1||42.2%||5.22|
Forcier compares favorably to every true freshman on the list save maybe Tom Savage when you take rushing into account, and he didn't even get to play against Baby Seal U. Those are real numbers.
The culture of the thing. I've had this open in a tab for a while now and people keep emailing it to me, so it might be time to cite this post on Smart Football from a run-and-shoot devotee (and former Big 12 coach) about installing his offense and his culture. The key point from a Michigan perspective:
Before discussing the technical benefits, let me first say that operating exclusively out of a four-wide environment is the first step a coach makes towards acculturating his program to the offense. To run the run and shoot effectively, it is necessary to commit to it entirely. Coaches that retain the ability to use tight ends, h-backs, and multiple-back sets create a crutch upon which they can fall back on when things don’t go as well as they’d like in the early going. Inevitably, what happens then is that the team becomes a multiple-set team that uses some run and shoot packages on passing downs. What never happens, however, is that the team converts to the run and shoot culture. And without that, the coaches and the players never become fully comfortable in the system, and then when the team struggles more, they blame the system.
When you decide to run this offense you need to burn your bridges with the past. You have to declare, “This is what we will sink or swim with. We are a run and shoot team.”
If anyone is still cranky about Rodriguez installing his offense from day one—default link to "Golden Age Of Tin" here—there it is in black and white from someone who would know. Also you're asking a dancing bear to do your taxes, but whatever.
Quod erat demonstrandum. Deadspin runs anonymous email from asshat that claims Arizona State's baseball coach is a vile person and SHOCK SURPRISE ALARM it turns out the asshat's email was a complete fabrication. At no point does it occur to Deadspin that they are also acting like asshats. Meanwhile, Leitch returns to write an excellent column on Bill Simmons. Deadspin shark-jump QED.
Suggestion: write in totally fabricated stories to Deadspin and publicly retract them via this space when and if they get published. 1,000,000 mgopoints* to anyone who successfully executes this maneuver.
I stole this bit from Joe Posnanski.)
Em. Pahokee native, Michigan recruit, Florida decommit, Kiffin controversy source (who isn't), and current and possibly soon-to-be ex- Tennessee Vol Nu'Keese Richardson is in a spot of bother:
University of Tennessee freshman football players Janzen Jackson, Nu’Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards were arrested near campus this morning and charged in connection with an armed robbery, multiple sources confirmed to the Times Free Press.
That Mike Edwards kid was also nominally a Michigan recruit, as he's from Cleveland and went to "Glenville Academic Campus," the home of Ted Ginn Sr and a bunch of recruits who only list Michigan to screw with them.
Relevance to Michigan's program? Tangential at best. I guess it's good we dodged a bullet there.
Etc.: I can't believe Corey Tropp is playing against Michigan this weekend. Seriously: the hell. That kid should be in junior with his goon buddy, not facing off against Steve Kampfer.
This is all pretty pointless since apparently it will be announced in a week or so anyway, but dammit I'm interested and given the message board it appears so is everyone else. So, news items:
It won't be a Pac-10 team, and 2011 is not necessarily the return game. Mark Snyder:
The coach expanded a bit on the game to be added for next season's opener, saying it may not be returned by Michigan for a couple of years, one of the criteria of making it work. He also ruled out playing a Pac-10 school, saying U-M doesn't need to do that. That leaves Virginia and Pittsburgh as primary BCS school candidates with an open date early next year.
Cal and Oregon State are dead, then. However, Virginia and Pittsburgh as favorites directly contradicts a previous piece stating that…
The list of Duke, Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Oregon State was just wrong, and the team already has a game scheduled for the opener. Chengelis:
The prevailing thought among the media was that the team would be among these four that have an open date next fall -- Virginia, Duke, Pitt and Oregon State. A Michigan official told me today those schools are not candidates and suggested it's very likely the team involved will be making changes to its already existing schedule to make room for Michigan.
So, it's a non-Pac-10 team with an opener scheduled already (ie: not Oklahoma State) and it's not Virginia, Duke, or Pitt. And the implication from Rodriguez above—Michigan "doesn't need to do that," where that is jet out to the West Coast to play a legit team—rules out the super-elite across the country, not that we were going to line up Texas in 2010 anyway.
If you go back to the UV from yesterday that included a list of five teams that had some rumor buzz behind them. Four of them have been debunked; the last school standing is UConn. UConn has an opener lined up against Northeastern already, isn't in the Pac-10, hasn't been specifically ruled out, and wouldn't trip anyone's "we don't need to do that" sensors. Also my inbox has a couple of emails asking if I've heard anything about UConn and one stating "it's definitely UConn." My inbox has another email stating "it's definitely Cal," so the inbox is not exactly definitive. The UConn email says it's from the Michigan side of things and the Cal email says it's from the Cal side of things, FWIW.
I'm still pretty skeptical of the idea that Michigan would give up a precious home game to play UConn when the return trip would be at a 40,000 seat stadium, but a lot of teams have fallen by the wayside and the Huskies meet all the criteria we've heard so far. They're the best guess at the moment, which I guess is better than another MAC school but not by a whole lot.
Probably no reason to be alarmed. This popped up over a busy weekend: that thread on the message board has validity to it. There was an incident at Scorekeeper's over the weekend between a few football players and (presumably gel-haired) ruffians. You can extrapolate the names from context if you want.
Anyway: a couple sources indicate that the incident is very unlikely to end up in court or anything; suspensions are therefore unlikely and the punishment will probably be handled by Barwis.
About whom eeee. Will Johnson remains the scariest bald 22 year old on the planet:
Defensive tackle Will Johnson turned in the day’s most-impressive performance, wowing the scouts and onlookers with an eye-popping and record-setting 47 reps of 225 pounds. The effort eclipsed anything that has been previously achieved by a Wolverine and broke what was believed to be the NFL Combine record, 42 reps set by former U-M left tackle Jake Long last season. Johnson also clocked 4.9 second in the 40-yard dash.
Johnson's given up on the receding hairline and gone for the wholly bald look, which usually makes white guys look like cancer patients. Johnson, however…
…eh, not so much.
Marve? More like No-rve. Miami transfer Robert Marve, he of the father that really hates Randy Shannon, has a final list of schools he's considering:
Former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, who left the Hurricanes after his redshirt freshman season, hopes to choose a new school after visiting Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Texas Tech, South Florida and UCLA.
Uh, one of these schools is not like the other when it comes to "enjoys pocket passers": Michigan. Marve has to sit out next year and will be a redshirt junior when eligible, so bringing him in would be like taking a JUCO QB in the 2010 class. A pocket-passing JUCO who wasn't very good and has a tendency to blow up in a program-embarrassing fashion when not anointed the starter.
Michigan doesn't need drama or pocket passers who won't be eligible this year. I don't have any inside info here, I seriously doubt Marve even takes a visit, and if he ends up transferring to Michigan I'll eat my hat.
Goodbye, beautiful antagonist. Le Anne Schreiber's two-year run as ESPN ombudsman has come to an end. She was excellent, if almost always ignored, and her final column aptly sums up the frustrations many sports fans have with the Worldwide Monolith:
the message from fans that I have found hardest to impress on ESPN's executives and talent is this: The predictable day-after-day dominance on ESPN of certain marquee teams and players is making a lot of fans both heartsick and cynical.
The rest of it is right on and worth reading, especially if you're the guy who directed the Michigan-Iowa game and thought it would be a fantastic idea to miss game action for fake Tom Izzo hairstyles.
Dhani Jones: famous! True story: once when I was in college Dhani Jones came to a performance of the sketch comedy troupe I was writing for. At the time he had just had some sort of shoulder surgery and was beslinged. After the show I approached him, said hi, asked him how the arm was doing, and actually sort of patted him on the back, if I remember correctly. It was creepy. This was mortifying about 5 seconds after the fact, and remains so to this day.
Anyway, Jones is now on the TV, and if he ever mentions "random Albanians" that's probably my doing. Also he won't ever do that. But he'll do other things:
Jones, a former Michigan and current Cincinnati Bengals linebacker -- and bow tie designer -- brings a nice light touch to his new Travel Channel series, which premieres at 9 p.m. Monday. [uh… yesterday.]
In future weeks, he'll take on nine more sports, including rugby in England, dragon boat racing in Singapore, Schwingen wrestling in Switzerland, hurling in Ireland and jai alai in Spain, while sampling the local culture in beautifully shot travelogues.
"They're all amazing sports," Jones said. "It's hard to say which one I enjoyed more than the others. Some are more intense than others, some are more enjoyable, but they all were life-changing."
Jones rugby exploits for the show were featured here a while back.
Etc.: Wojo on Manny and Sims.