the season has truly begun now
Rob Lytle. Rob Lytle was before my time, so I can't offer anything personal in reaction to his death at the young age of 56. Wolverine Historian has dug through his archives and posted an interview with him from his playing days:
"He was special," Hanlon said Sunday. "He had a confidence about him which never showed up as cockiness. He was just always a team player: 'What can I do to help?'" …
"You would never have known he was a great Michigan football player or professional football player," [Bruce] Madej said. "He didn't talk about it. He was anything but a big-timer. He was a nice, unassuming good guy. He was truly a good guy."
The second thing I will remember about Rob Lytle was his helmet. He played alongside some really tough and mean customers like S Don Dufek, DT Greg "Mo" Morton, S Dwight Hicks and OLB Calvin O'Neal. Most of these guys had Wolverine helmet awards completely covering the surface of their striped, winged, Michigan football helmet. Lytle's Michigan helmet was loaded with helmet awards too, but he front of the helmet was a mess. I mean, the Maize paint was all screwed up, scratched and blended. Lytle's head covering was put through so much abuse, you couldn't tell where the Michigan wings ended and the stripes began.
That thing's been through a war. Several wars.
Lytle had a great career with the Broncos after his Michigan days and Huckleby4Heisman collected some of the articles out of Denver, including what's probably the first and last Woody Paige column I'll happily link. From some NFL teammates:
"He wasn't the fastest guy in the league, but he got the tough yards every time," Morton said. "He would run through a brick wall for his team every time if he had to."
In his seven NFL seasons, all with the Broncos, Lytle rushed for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had 562 yards receiving and two scores.
"He was an all-around player," Thompson said. "He ran hard. He could catch the ball well. He wasn't afraid to block. He was just an all-around good athlete."
The Broncos' vice president for corporate communications also has a post that's far more touching than his job title implies. RIP, Rob Lytle.
Soccer triumphant. Unless you are a Wisconsin fan, if you missed Sunday's NCAA tourney game against UCF you missed the most entertaining sporting event on Michigan's campus last weekend. Michigan launched 30 shots before overtime kicked in, then finally got the goal to put them over the top on a zinged-in free kick from Hamoody Saad that glanced off Latif Alashe on its way in but was probably destined for the net anyway. Also one of UCF's best players was rocking a Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man high top fade. It was wicked.
In the aftermath, the team performed a reverse field rush by running into the student section. Justin Meram was shirtless and airborne:
#10 Michigan takes on #7 South Carolina in the third round. Unfortunately, they also scraped an overtime goal against Duke so the next game will be on the road. There doesn't appear to be any TV, which makes me cranky. Game is Sunday at 2.
BONUS: Yes, Meram does have a year of eligibility left for football if he wants to try his hand at kicker, but my friend exclaimed "he's better than Robbie Findley" in all seriousness and it was tough to disagree. A pro career probably beckons.
So about those incredibly obvious trends I got torn apart for mentioning. I got torn apart by rival fanbases for suggesting two things this offfseason. One: Penn State's quarterback situation is alarming and dismal. Two: Iowa wasn't all that great in 2009 and was overrated going into 2010. It was looking pretty good for thing one until Michigan's defense showed up to un-save the day and Matt McGloin experienced two and a half games in which he was Brett Favre before turning into Brett Favre in the second half against Ohio State. PSU's 71st in passer efficiency and while that's not good it's not as bad as I thought it would be before the season.
The other thing, well… remember this?
I don't think Iowa will be bad, exactly, but I'd be less surprised by the Hawkeyes finishing fifth in the Big Ten than second.
And remember the BHGP response to this?
And I guess that's what is so sad about this. Because this is idiotic, and it is clueless, and it is so against character that it deserves to be called idiotic and clueless. Either Cook didn't realize it's moronic, which makes him the least likely moron I've ever met, or Cook knew it (the title gives it away), and that basically makes him Tom Dienhart this time. Regardless of the motivation, it's beneath him.
Iowa's now 7-4 and featuring in Doc Sat "Life on the Margins" posts about how Iowa's lost that old crunch-time feeling while Fight For Iowa should really be adding pictures of Henry The Otter of Ennui to a post titled "The Wastelands of Mediocrity" that went up even before the OSU game. They're headed for 8-4 since their last game is against Minnesota and will thus be at worst tied for fourth in the league (Penn State is also 4-3 and can match them by beating MSU in the season finale), but preseason skepticism about Iowa turned out to be something less than idiotic and clueless.
Something less than rabid careless monsters. Pierre Woods was chilling out in Ann Arbor, working as a groundskeeper and trying to keep in playing shape after the Patriots cut him earlier in the year. He did so by hanging out with Barwis, and is grateful:
“The guys at Michigan, man, they prepared me,” Woods told me. “Trust me. They prepared me. The head strength coach (Mike Barwis), the assistant (Parker Whiteman), I’m pretty sure they got tired of seeing my face up in there, but they allowed me to work out, use the facilities, go around, eat, everything. They treated me like family. You play at Michigan, you come back, they treat you like family. I got nothing but love for those guys and I appreciate what they did.”
Woods got back on the Patriots and is extending his NFL career somewhat. He did yoga with Mike Barwis and his family. Wolves doing yoga, basically.
Etc.: Wisconsin blog breaks down the 61-yard touchdown but starts after the guy is already through the line. That's 95% of the play! TWIS embeds the same things from the game column and tours that one USC board after the demolition at the hands of Oregon State. Michigan is going to a bowl game so AnnArbor.com brings out the same complaint from the previous academics investigation: academic folk get to go. Hurray for that being a relevant thing to bleat about again. The Daily on Troy Woolfolk's recovery from an ankle dislocation. Have a thought for the Michigan class of 2011, which started its career watching the Horror and finished it watching whatever that was against Wisconsin, with mostly crap in between.
Senior day fluff. But somtimes fluff is okay:
Please don't do this. People of the internet: UFR numbers are dangerous things when taken too seriously, and while I think they're on track most of the time—or I wouldn't do it—the place where they're shakiest is in the secondary, where players rarely get on screen unless they've screwed up. So if you're making a case for James Rogers as Michigan's best defensive back it makes me wince when UFR totals get brought out. MNB Dave doesn't go hog wild with it or anything but just to re-iterate, please take all numbers in the secondary with a grain of salt. I can't see the guys back there most of the time. I do the numbers because they're better than nothing at describing what happened but the why and how are not included.
As an aside, I actually kind of agree with Dave that Rogers has been Michigan's best corner by a nose since his wide receiver allergy hasn't been ruthlessly exploited by McFarve. That's the Michigan secondary in a nutshell.
Is this for real or for roster? A followup on ideal cornerback height finds that All Conference guys in the Big Ten have been 5'11", or at least listed at 5'11", far more often than any other height. Does this mean Michigan is recruiting guys too short to be big time corners? I'm doubtful. The table of filthy lies also known as Michigan's roster displays the scholarship cornerbacks like so:
|5||Courtney Avery||CB||5-11||174||FR||Mansfield, Ohio (Lexington)|
|12||J.T. Floyd||CB||6-0||183||RS SO||Greenville, S.C. (J.L. Mann)|
|18||James Rogers||CB||6-1||188||SR||Madison Heights, Mich. (Lamphere)|
|22||Terrence Talbott||CB||5-11||179||FR||Huber Heights, Ohio (Wayne)|
|24||Cullen Christian||CB||6-0||188||FR||Verona, Pa. (Penn Hills)|
|29||Troy Woolfolk||CB||6-0||195||SR||Sugar Land, Texas (Dulles)|
Avery is listed at 5'9" by ESPN, and Scout with Rivals giving him 5'10". He is not 5'11". Scout's number is from a combine. Talbott is listed at an exacting 5'9.5" at Scout, also a combine number. If you're 5'9" on a college roster you're truly tiny, because they let you wear sensible heels when they put these things together.
When almost half the All Conference guys are one exact height that says short guys get fibbed up to 5'11", I'm guessing.
In the year 2013 Stupid people at Oklahoma newspapers. Our kicker situation could be worse. Doc Sat links a post at the most-loathed Oklahoman, which auto-plays inane banter between Jenni Carlson, the author of the terrible cheap shot that spurred the "I'm a man" rant from Jeff Gundy, and perpetually hungover Barry Trammel. So that's not so good. But after you shudder, hit pause, and think seriously about noscript, you find this out about the Oklahoma roster:
Bob Stoops has granted scholarships to four kickers, with a fifth promised to yet another kicker.
I can hear the jokes now. How many scholarships does it take to screw in a field goal?
But it's true. Jimmy Stevens, Patrick O'Hara, Tress Way and Bryce Easley have scholarships, and Michael Hunnicutt has been promised one next year. None of the five are seniors.
There's an element of typical middle-aged white sportswriter misrepresentation in here since Tress Way is the punter and a very good one, but dude Oklahoma's going to have four kickers on scholarship next year… aww goddammit. I just fact-checked this dip. (Don't click any of these links unless you like inane banter.) Stevens is the starting kicker. O'Hara is a walk-on. Easley is a walk-on. Hunnicutt is not an incoming recruit but another walk-on. It's understood that if a walk-on gets a scholarship one year that's not guaranteed to continue unless the kid establishes himself a starter or major contributor. Oklahoma's going to have maybe two kickers on scholarship next year. BFD. The lesson, as always, is ignore Barry Tramel.
This was going to have something to do with Michigan's kicker situation, I promise, but then it degenerated.
Well, that could have gone worse. The basketball team moved the competition level up slightly yesterday and still made easy work of Bowling Green, winning by 19 and giving up just 29.6 eFG. This is not terribly exciting because last year BG was 14-16 in the MAC and checked in #206 in the Kenpom ratings. A final warmup against Gardner Webb (awful) is followed by tests against Syracuse and some other team in Michigan's preseason tournament.
Etc.: Troy Woolfolk explains the origin of "T-Woolf" in the Daily. I'll translate to internet: "Tloy Woorfork explains the origin of 'T-Woorf' in the Daily." T-Woorf sounds like a Klingon who raps in Dutch. Another Michigan Man podcast, this one previewing Wisconsin. Ricky Stanzi's pro-America stance takes a "darker, Nixonian turn." Soony Saad fluff and a reminder that there's an NCAA tournament game against hated UCF on Sunday.
Sponsorship note! This is going to be ironic given the crabbing a bit later about excessively corporate bits, but we've landed a sponsorship from a new book titled "For Michigan Fans Only" that will run over about the next two weeks. Check it out, see if you're interested, buy a copy or three, and discharge any lingering guilt you may have about not supporting the site.
Podcasting. I put in an appearance on The Michigan Man podcast to talk about the Purdue game, and talked some more new media stuff with Dan Levy of Press Coverage. And yes, we taped a podcast this week that should be up today or tomorrow. It is the angriest podcast.
Defense: we had it. Wolverine Historian's tribute to the mauling '85 defense:
Football with defense now seems like a bizarre anomaly that requires changes to your gameplanning.
Footie V. Congratulations to the men's soccer team, which won its first Big Ten title in 11 years of existence by stomping Penn State 4-1. MGoBlue has video highlights. Soony Saad's goal was a bit of a gift but Meram's two were sweet, and he would have had a hat trick but for a Penn State player pulling a Suarez. The BTN mics picked up the defender incredulously exclaiming "are you KIDDING ME, sir" after the guy had bashed away a certain goal with his forearm—even Rasheed Wallace thinks that's a stretch. BTW, Saad is now the nation's leading scorer with 18 goals.
The NCAA soccer tournament is a 48-team affair where 16 teams are seeded and receive byes; Michigan is the #10 seed and will play the winner of South Florida-Central Florida on Sunday at 2. The game is in Ann Arbor, so pack the place out. If they advance the third round will be at South Carolina or at home if SC is upset by the Coastal Carolina/Duke winner.
From national award winner thing to person at South Carolina. Your unbreakable faith in David Brandon's pimp hand has been further strengthened by the departure of compliance head Judy Van Horn for a job at South Carolina that seems identical to the one she's departing.
Van Horn only appears in the infamous CARA documents occasionally, mostly to gently spar with Draper. Whatever her offenses were they weren't public, and I plead not enough data if you're asking whether or not she should have been gently shown the door. I will say that I am enjoying the public announcements that Person Has Acquired Job You Don't Care About because they remind me of that scene in The Wire where deposed mayor Royce whispers sweet nothings to Clay Davis about staying in line or getting nothing. Don't go against the family.
Horrified Kafkaesque potato-man interlude.
In other Brandon. The Crain's Detroit Business article on Brandon has been kicked around on the message board already but a couple opinion type objects follow on from this:
As part of dealing with the infractions, Brandon plans to operate the athletics program much like he did the corporations he ran for more than two decades, Ann Arbor-based Domino's Pizza Inc. and Livonia-based coupon marketer Valassis Communications Inc.
That includes creating a business plan and bolstering the image. The athletic department is conducting a national search for its first chief marketing officer, and Brandon is looking at where money should be spent on promotion.
"The first thing you need to do is resource properly against the areas that are very important. This is a department that's been under-resourced in terms of marketing muscle and expertise," he said, noting that just three people worked on marketing for UM athletics. The new CMO will add more staff.
"(We will) craft the message a little better in the media in terms of who we are, what's going on here and why it ought to be attractive to people," he said.
I guess that's fine and after the NCAA business it seems like a thorough reshaping of the athletic department is in order, but I'm a bit leery of the direction things have gone so far on the marketing front. I'm not buying a Big Chill shirt because it's got an Arby's logo on it. I'm extremely disappointed that David Brandon's pimp hand has so far spared Special K and his awful, generic gameday music.
The whole point of college athletics these days is a lack of the generic corporate moneygrab that makes professional games sterile experiences—have you been to a Wings game in the last ten years? Part of marketing the program is being actually different. Eroding the wall between Michigan's fusty, old-timey feel and your average AHL game brings a short-term Pavlovian response but hurts the development of long-term obsessives that allow Michigan to avoid two for one Subway promotions even when they're not doing that well.
This is a statement I don't like:
"My job as the quote-unquote CEO of Michigan athletics is to make sure that (the profit and loss statement) is healthy, that we're doing a good job of growing our revenues, that we're managing our costs," he said. "It operates very much like every business I've ever been associated with from the standpoint of what we do and what we need to do to be successful."
His job as the quote unquote CEO of Michigan athletics has zero to do with money. Money is a vehicle via which to graduate students and acquire wins, and in some cases I think the athletic department is sliding too much towards money. I thought the same thing under Martin, FWIW.
Hockey bits. A fuller exploration of what's going on with the hockey team will have to wait until football's over but, man, it's looking like a slightly less nerve-wracking version of last year. Michigan has avoided the ugly .500 start and is sitting at 6-3-3, but they're a last-second goal against Ferris State from splitting every weekend they've had this year save a sweep of Bowling Green. Michigan lost to a terrible version of BG last year so this is some progress. It's a far cry from the rampage they went on at the end of last season.
Making things a bit worse was how the Notre Dame series went down. Michigan was run out of the building Friday in a depressing game where they were outshot badly. This never happens. On Saturday they got down and then got a flood of freaky goals:
Michigan Hockey Net chalked the win up to puck luck and it's hard to disagree when Michigan's last three were some variety of bizarre. Langlais's invisible hockey player job is possibly the weirdest goal I've ever seen.
A lot of people have been muttering about a repeat of last year and it's not hard to see the similarities. Michigan does not have a lot of skill in the forward corps and has to rely on bombs and deflections too much. Only Hagelin brings a consistent look-at-that-guy presence on every shift. The goaltending is okay but not great, and the team seems to lack a shut down defenseman in the mold of a Mitera or a Komisarek.
At least they haven't lost to an awful team yet, and it looks like their schedule has been tough out of the gate—ND and Alaska are 1st and 4th in the league right now and Ferris is okay; even BG is 5-7 overall. UNH is 5-1-3. That Mercyhurst tie is going to rankle all year, though.
Cheese it! The cops! Penn State fans are still convinced that an epic refereeing conspiracy exists to prop up Michigan, and after watching this I'm convinced:
/commits seppuku because of the dishonor
Etc.: The Mathlete has us 50-50 to get to an eighth win before the bowl. Quite a coinflip coming up. Mets Maize on the Purdue game. John Clay might miss the Michigan game, but it won't matter since Wisconsin has two other fine backs.
This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:
That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.
Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.
Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:
To the chart we go!
YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36 Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29 Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16 Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59 Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06 Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21 Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02 NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63 Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08 Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07 Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43
(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)
Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.
Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.
There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.
Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:
It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.
The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.
*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)
Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:
The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.
Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:
Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:
a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.
Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:
- Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
- Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
- If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
- It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.
You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.
NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.
Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:
Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.
Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.
Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.
Profiling, again. The Daily continues its streak of crushing everyone out there with Michigan football profiles, this time hitting up Deerfield Beach for the Denard Robinson story. Cue adorable child who doesn't like you stealing her soul:
Also let's not forget that making Shoelace, Denard Robinson, for uh, shirt, you know, within the NCAA—that isn't legal.
The story itself is another epic five-pager. Sounds like he was a natural:
“He loved to run that ball,” Huggins says, looking over his old stomping grounds at Westside Park. “He’d tell me, ‘Coach, call quarterback sneak!’ I’d tell him no, to hand it off, and so he’d fake the handoff and keep it and run for a ton of yards.”
Zone read from the start. This is a read the whole thing situation.
From "it won't work in the Big Ten" to this. Illinois blog Hail to the Orange (wait… what?) on Saturday:
The difference is, and the major problem on Saturday, was that with Michigan when we bit, we paid dearly, every time. It seemed as though just one missed tackle, one bad angle and the punishment was a touchdown. We were running a contain game most of the day against Denard, and we paid because there was relatively little pressure against him, giving his receivers too much time to get open, and when combined with a play action always were open. The result: 305 PASSING yards from the Nard dog.
There were of course some bright spots. We have continued the trend of taking the ball away from the other team and not giving it back. (Five TO's recovered, to one lost.) Against teams not made out of tiny track stars coated in butter, this will equate to a win.
We will not see another team this offensively talented this season (pending a bowl bid) generally we can improve our decision making in the secondary enough to not give up constant 75 yard bombs, at least I hope not.
Here's the crazy thing: that first bit on "paid dearly, every time" isn't even true. You know that interception Denard zinged over Webb's head? That's either a touchdown or Webb gets run down from behind as Michigan switched up the QB Lead Oh Noes from the slot receiver to the TE. The safety who intercepted the ball was headed for Roundtree and dead meat until the ball went ZING. I've got two separate RPS+3 plays that end in disaster for Michigan already. If anything, Michigan's immolation of the Illinois defense is even more impressive on review because it could have been considerably worse if Denard makes a few better throws. I think we've established that Denard's not going to make great throws all the time, but man… in the UFR Michigan's going to have a huge RPS number.
The whole thing's driven Vic Koennig to despondency:
"They get you in a run, run, run mode then they drop back and hit a pass on you. They had us running around and not doing anything well."
Fair? No. Accurate? Yes. User Tom Pickle with the win.
Sorry about nearly killing you. That guy who got plowed on the sideline during Tate's double personal foul keeper in overtime was actually Channel 7's Don Shane. The two shared a heartwarming moment afterwards:
He's got the flags to prove it, Don.
More advanced metricing. Michigan's moved up to #3 nationally in FO's S&P ratings… on offense. They're just behind Auburn and Boise State, #1 on "standard downs" and #6 on pass downs. Ohio State(!) is a surprising #5, and then the next Big Ten team is #17 Wisconsin. Michigan is #98 on defense. Woo.
I also asked Brian Fremeau for Michigan's kickoff numbers to see if that aspect of the game is actually hurting them much. I asked him last week and never got around to posting them, so these are a little out of date. In an effort to reduce confusion I'm going to flip signs so negative is always bad and positive is good. The units here are in average points away from expectation.
Kickoffs: –0.054 (79th)
Kick Return: –0.099 (95th)
Punts: +0.101 (13th)
Punt return: –0.023 (77th)
What this means is for every ten Michigan punts Michigan has saved a point in expected field position; for every ten kick returns they've lost a point in expected field position. So.
- Points on kickoffs (58): -3.1
- Points on kick returns (56): -5.5
- Points on punts (30): +3.0
- Points on punt returns(40): –0.9
Grand total: around –6.5 pending how Michigan's performance against Illinois changes the numbers (I'm guessing it doesn't change much since Michigan gave up some good returns but also busted the long one before the half).
Meanwhile, Michigan's no longer national-worst kickers (up to 117!) are –1.0 per FGA. They've attempted 11, so the field goal situation is almost twice as damaging as the rest of it. All told Michigan's losing about two points a game on special teams, which doesn't sound like much until you consider that flipping that stat would take Michigan's scoring margin from +5 to +9.
Belated Free Press denouement. I had football to talk about and didn't get around to this but a few bits and pieces to wrap up the jihad. A national take from Doc Sat:
The tepid infractions that came to light as a result of the Freep's digging are the minimum you'd expect to find at any sprawling program operating under a massive handbook, as the basic cost of employing fallible human beings while continuing to dead-lift with the Joneses. Other programs, however, weren't the target of an investigation by a major metropolitan newspaper that left no stone unturned in its efforts to make a splash against a high-profile coach who almost immediately cleaved the fan base down the middle. Michigan was, which is why it was Michigan that was forced to roll its eyes and slap itself on the wrist in halfhearted contrition as the "probation" label is applied for the first time in school history.
Chait drops Chaitbombs to the point where the fiancée thinks she should use this…
Here's the headline of one report: "RichRod gets win, but still needs more on field" Here's the headline of a second: "UM's violations deemed major, but not serious" And here's a third: "NCAA's verdict: Rodriguez ignored rules; U-M gets more probation"
Those headlines came from ESPN, the Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press. You can probably guess which was which.
“We apologized yesterday because we made mistakes. I’m kinda waiting for somebody from the media to apologize for mistakes they made. And I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen, but that would be a nice thing, wouldn’t it?”
And of course the guy who asked if Rodriguez would be fired and got a death glare was Drew Sharp. Brandon should have asked "when is the Free Press going to fire you?"
Etc.: Wisconsin's John Clay and starting center Peter Konz are "iffy" for this week's game against Indiana. Sounds like they should be good to go for Michigan but sprains can be weird. This Week In Schadenfreude does not feature Colorado because no Colorado fans care anymore. Anything can happen in dead coach walking situations and fans will just shrug and talk about who the next guy is going to be. Michigan State is 9-1 for the first time in a million years and they still can't sell out their game against Purdue without resorting to two-for-one deals.
Newsbits of importance from Tom. Dark I'm-not-saying-I'm-just-saying rumors about Craig Roh and Demetrius Hart have been flying around the internets this week. Tom clarifies. On Craig Roh:
My source told me that Craig has been concerned with his position switch to linebacker, and believes he is much more effective as a defensive end.
Craig actually vocalized his concern about his position to the coaches after the Penn State game, and my source says that he has been playing much more on the defensive line during practice this week.
Roh's apparently been handed to Bruce Tall and will no longer be mostly a linebacker. This is both good and another instance of players coaching themselves. Meanwhile, Demetrius Hart decommit rumors are false:
There was a slight mix up with Demetrius' enrollment with Michigan, but it has been cleared up. That was the issue, it wasn't that anyone was recruiting him harder, or anything along those lines. Everything has been straightened out, and his mom says Demetrius will be at Michigan in January.
Insert the usual CYA boilerplate about how anything can happen, but you can focus your panic elsewhere.
Crowded. JT Floyd is officially out for the year with "freak" ligament damage in his ankle. Hooray.
The Never Forget banner guy has updated it, and if any further members of the secondary wish to make themselves unavailable they'd advised to do it quickly because we're running out of room:
New additions are Michael Williams (concussions), JT Floyd (ligament damage), Jared Van Slyke (leg injury), and Vlad Emilien (transfer). Available locations are limited to that patch of maize underneath the crying wolverine. Given the state of the secondary this is getting considerably more RR-fault-ridden as the year goes along. Justin Turner and Vlad Emilien's transfers are big deals with the free safety depth chart reading "Ray Vinopal" and the corner depth chart reading "Random Three Star Freshman Projects and James Rogers."
At least the Floyd injury has been a productive one for the legions of Michigan photoshoppers:
So we've got that going for us. Courtney Avery will draw into the lineup for Floyd.
Okay, a final final final word or two. It's unfortunate that Anchorman references are vastly overused because sometimes there's nothing you can say except…
…I'm not even mad, I'm impressed. That is amazing. I'm sitting on this pile of ninja corpses, covered in blood. As the sun rises over a scene of indescribable gore I laugh, because what else is there to do?
Probably not in the special section about how naughty Michigan's been:
the committee wrote that "though serious," the overage was "far less extensive than originally reported and that no student-athletes were substantially harmed."
Though this was obvious as soon as the smoke cleared last August because the piece was so shoddily written, it is now official. Hurrah for pyrrhic victories.
Watch this. The House Rock Built's "Stuffing The Passer" series is the best thing going in the CFB blogosphere right now:
If "Shit My Dad Says" is being made into a sitcom, Stuffing The Passer can't be far behind.
Elsewhere in coach grumbling. You've probably seen this but Brandon Graham has some depressing quotes that point towards the Those Meddling Kids theory:
I’m surprised they didn’t stick with what Coach Robinson was running,” Graham said of the 3-4 the team deployed in 2009, its first year under Robinson. … “Let Coach Robinson play his defense,” Graham said. “Let him do what he knows. He was thrown off, I would say. I know the 3-3-5 is what he (Rodriguez) has been doing for so long. He’s just got to adjust to the Big Ten.”
Michigan ran a 4-3 under last year but that's beside the point. Those quotes from a guy who was in the program last year indicate that no one who doesn't know a 3-3-5 like the back of his hand is ever going to be comfortable as a defensive coordinator at Michigan as long as the WVU guys are around saying things like "hey it's a bye week, I've got this great idea."
While everyone says "scheme is overrated," Michigan's offense puts the lie to that. It's not necessarily the 3-3-5 itself—this is not a BLANK can't work in the Big Ten argument—but attempting to run an exotic niche defense with a guy who doesn't know it (and evidence suggests is a terrible coach anyway).
I'm pretty sure this is as close as we'll get to an opinion from Angelique Chengelis, if that's actually what it is:
Hope for next year?
Much has been made about Michigan's defense, which is near the bottom of several national categories, including total defense. Illinois was in a similar spot last year, but has made strides under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Scoring defense: 30.2 (96th) in 2009, 16.8 (12th) in 2010
Total defense: 403.3 (91st) in 2009, 301.4 (15th) in 2010
Pass defense: 248.8 (100th) in 2009, 183.9 (19th) in 2010
Rush defense: 154.4 (76th) in 2009, 117.5 (26th) in 2010
That certainly reads like a "hint, hint."
Defensive antidote. Via Wolverine Historian:
Penn State jerkos. As an internet fanbase, Penn State has a remarkable knack for accusing others of pathologies they're displaying literally within the accusation itself. The latest example is a piece at Black Shoe Diaries the author probably thinks is Swiftian satire that takes a sentence from the game recap, some random comment I don't recognize and didn't make about the Terrence Talbott whiffed PBU that turned into 40 yards, a somewhat maudlin paragraph from Maize and Brew supporting Rodriguez, and a random quote from pissed off David Molk. It combines these to show how self-centered Michigan fans are… in a post whining that Michigan fans didn't give Penn State its proper respect.
BSD can talk about self-centered behavior when they do this:
Indiana has a legitimately very good pass offense. They had 41 opportunities to make catches and made 40. Chappell almost never went to the wrong guy and missed on maybe five of his 65 attempts. Their receivers are tall and fast and shifty. One dollar they're the most productive pass offense in the conference at the end of the year.
Michigan State has somehow acquired the without-question best stable of tailbacks in the league; Iowa's Adam Robinson isn't bad but he's not the equivalent of Baker/Bell/Caper, and there's only one of him.
Indiana imploded and Michigan State's run game is pretty mediocre. We tried the credit-the-opponent bit and then all of the opponents turned out to be much worse on offense than Michigan made them look. Doing it now against your gritty moxie ginger neckbeard quarterback would be delusional. Penn State sucks and Michigan is worse. But I said Ogbu is a beast, so your pathetic insecurities can be a tiny bit less pathetic. Let's hold hands.
Now go talk about how arrogant we are as you caress each other's soft places while whispering "what if Michigan never comes back" and we discuss whether we should keep Rich Rodriguez and worry about falling into a Notre Dame-like fallow period. Tim was right to describe BSD as a place utterly incapable of recognizing irony.
Etc.: Craig Roh's eyebrows, and the rest of Craig Roh, are attractive to some guy who ranks him the #13 "hottie" of the year in CFB. Yost Built has ten things to know about Alaska. Amani Toomer is running marathons now.