From Portage Northern.
Note. In case anyone hadn't noticed, the restrictions implemented Saturday were lifted yesterday, so things should be back to normal. I think it worked out pretty well; there were a number of threads that got deleted but overall things here were way less dumb than elsewhere, thanks in large part to turning off the ability for people to sign up to vent. That system will return in the aftermath of future HEAD ASPLODE type events.
There have been complaints about censorship, to which I say nuts. Example of a pulled thread:
F--- my life.
If football can't fill the void in my life, i'm just going to have to turn to booze and sluts.
This is noise, and things on the internet get ruined when the signal to noise ratio gets too low. The MGoBlog trend is ever-increasing levels of restriction as the blog grows to keep the ratio relatively high, and that won't change.
Also BONUS. I've turned on the ability for folks to use Windows Live Writer to put up diary posts. For now it's restricted to 500+ point folk; once I know it's up and running without incident anyone will be able to use it if you like. Complicated instructions will allow you to access much more convenient picture uploads and tagging and whatnot. It's just a better editor in all ways. (protip: the main column is 560 pixels wide.)
Mac/Linux people will have to pound sand. Sorry.
Fun fun fun until daddy's head explodes, leaving chunks spread across the county. So… was yesterday's appearance on WTKA fun or what? Yes, it was fun or what. If you'd like a hear a man attempting to hang on to the last shreds of his sanity, there are podcasts:
Sorry I can't embed them; WTKA's site is a little less than modern.
If you just want to get to the part where smoke comes out my ears, MVictors has helpfully clipped it out. Now I'm going to go put my head in a bucket of ice. Maybe I'll steam some broccoli at the same time.
Elsewhere in last weekend, This Week In Schadenfreude sticks Michigan—and yours truly!—above the fold. Peek into the terror that is my inbox.
Mary Sue got your back. President Coleman with the long-term vote of confidence:
"I don't think it's fair to coaches to bring them in and say, 'We're going to give you three years,'" she said in an interview on Friday, citing a recent example. "When [former men's basketball coach] Tommy Amaker came in, we stuck with him for six years. It just wasn't going to work; it wasn't the right fit. But it wasn't a rushed decision."
Note that the statement specifically implies not just next year but the year after for Rodriguez. Short of a major violation from the Freep jihad—which I will reiterate is not the expected outcome from anyone on the Michigan side of things—Rodriguez will get to 2011, at which point it's up to him.
Why the suck? We're living in an era of college football hyperbole thanks to the 12th game and bowl games now counting as official stats, but not retroactively. Every good multi-year starter is now breaking or threatening this record or that. There's no better example of this than Juice Williams approaching the top five in all time Big Ten passing yards. All these records mean nothing.
But there's one area of hyperbole that's not hyperbole at all: we are really living through an era of the worst calls in college football history. Before the advent of replay, bad calls were just bad calls and were relatively understandable since they were irreversible split-second decisions. Now, though, replay officials can commit the cardinal sin of screwing up an obviously correct call. Here's a touchdown from the Indiana-Iowa game:
This was ruled a touchdown on the field and overturned by the replay official. It is in the building when it comes to worst calls ever made because some guy saw indisputable evidence—watch the field turf change color as the IU receiver's foot rakes over it—of a touchdown and called it not a touchdown. (It's not very far in the building since I can think of two more egregious ones off the top of my head: Brandon Minor's pylon-aided touchdown against Michigan State last year and the onside kick Oregon was awarded despite never even recovering the ball.)
So, a question: why are confused goats allowed to run these things? Honestly. There is no other explanation for this stuff. A few years ago refs correctly called Antonio Bass down against Iowa and the replay official overturned it despite clear evidence that the reason the ball came out was Bass's elbow hitting the ground. They failed to overturn that ridiculous Domata Peko touchdown. On the Indiana call above it is so obvious that the PBP guy immediately says "oh he dragged that right foot" as the spray of fieldturf pellets goes up. Most replay calls are that obvious on a first viewing, and yet they take five minutes and there's a reasonable chance the guy in the booth can't see what's completely obvious to everyone watching the game.
I don't know what the fix is, but I think a major problem is that replay officials are often referees who have been put out to pasture. Therefore they are crazy and old. Putting crazy old people in charge leads to things like Florida State's defense. It is not a good idea.
You grow like a weed. Hope burgeons for your #15 Michigan Wolverine basketball team (who wants some FREE PPPPPIZZAAA) for a variety of reasons, mostly Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims. Big Ten Geeks has put together a great study that provides another reason for optimism:
The big, overarching conclusion is this: a player shows the most improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons than he does any other offseason. In fact, the freshman offseason improvement is, on average, greater than the improvement between a player's sophomore season and his senior season.
Here's the o-rating chart:
How this applies to the Big Ten this year:
Schwing. Indiana is a runaway winner here but their goal is to go from one of the worst teams in a major conference to one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Amongst actual contenders no team should see its players improve more than Michigan and the only team that's even somewhat close is Minnesota. The bounce Michigan gets should be significant.
I'll add in my default caution: past performance is a better predictor of future results than past results. Michigan's past performance lags behind their past results—they finished the year #50 in the Pomeroy rankings instead of the 40th-ish their tourney seeding suggested or the 32nd-ish their second-round status suggested. That's the baseline from which I'm measuring improvement, and from that perspective I've thought projecting a leap into the top 15 was optimistic. 25? Sure. 15? Probably not. The above chart is convincing enough to close some of that gap, IME.
You rang? There are three main questions going into the season. One: can Manny Harris reduce appearances of Evil Manny to a couple here and there? Two: will one of the wing players step up to be a true three-point gunner with an eFG percentage Salim Stoudemire would be proud of? And three: will we get anything from a big lumbering gumpy white guy?
BLGWG #1 is Zack Gibson, who can't shoot threes like he thinks he can and doesn't do much offensively but has erratic moments of OMGIBSON ownage. College bigs like him often take some time to get it together and find themselves blossoming into useful, even good players their senior year. Examples from recent Michigan vintage include Graham Brown and Chris Young. And late last year Gibson was a huge factor on defense, making a lot of plays that no one else on the roster can make for reasons of being 6'5" tops. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a quasi-breakout year that no one except Michigan fans notice.
BLGWG #2 is Ben Cronin, who Mike Rothstein hyped up a few days ago on AnnArbor.com:
“My legs are in the best shape they’ve been in in a long time,” Cronin said. “I’m sure it’s going to turn over on the court where I guarantee I’m going to be a little more explosive than I’ve ever been. And my endurance is going to be better because of the track, so I’m really excited about where I’m at.”
Cronin is what Beilein looks for in a big man. He’s intelligent. He has good passing skills, something demonstrated during Saturday’s open practice when he found cutting players from the high post.
He’s also demonstrated the ability to shoot three-pointers - something Beilein’s most well-known big man, former West Virginia center Kevin Pittsnogle, was known for.
There's no way Cronin is an effective or frequent three-point shooter and the conditioning/hip issues are probably going to limit him to 10-15 minutes a game—Beilein says Cronin "doesn't have his bounce back" in the article. But in his cameo last year before the injury redshirt he showed some skills to go with his hugeness. If he can spell Gibson effectively Michigan will be able to roll out a decently sized lineup against the big thumpers of the world, which would do wonders for Michigan's atrocious 2PT FG defense.
No. This guy attempts to defend Deadspin for the Phillips Incident, stating that the rumors weren't "unsourced" based on Daulerio's round of contrition interviews in which he repeatedly stated that they weren't just publishing random emails. I don't know if I believe that; given the way it was framed it was clear Daulerio didn't care either way, really.
And let's remember what the "news" is here: Deadspin has successfully ferreted out the very newsworthy information that one ESPN vice president is in a relationship with another ESPN vice president. Armed with this knowledge, we will defeat cancer and Marcelo Balboa. Daulerio's wandered around giving interview after interview in which he acknowledges he had a hissy fit, which he apparently thinks will earn him credit, before claiming that there was a noble purpose—exposing ESPN's inconsistent enforcement of sexual harassment rules—behind everything. The evidence marshaled for this consists of the following items:
- An ESPN radio host sexually harassed someone and was suspended for it.
- ESPN VP 1 is dating non-related ESPN VP 2.
Daulerio's attempts to explain his actions after the fact are feeble post-hoc justifications for a mean-spirited, purposeless expose on the private life of a non-public figure.
Etc.: I'm not sure why, but EDSBS has a photoshop of Gruden-as-M-coach on a post about Steve Kragthorpe. I noted that I didn't understand the blocking scheme on a particular run play that Penn State ran last week; Smart Football says it's a zone variant called the "pin and pull"
Somewhat less than timely, but still good. Michigan softball player Bree Evans, who suffered a scary injury at the beginning of the month, is out of the hospital. She's been out for a good long while…
Evans was released from the hospital two weeks ago, according to Michigan sports information director Leah Howard. Howard declined to comment on details of Evans’ injury.
…but better to know late than never, I guess.
Well, let's be explicit about it. Deshawn Sims and Mann Harris talking to Fox Sports's Jeff Goodman for a Beilein fluff bit before the season:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - DeShawn Sims had just finished up his freshman season at Michigan when he heard the news that John Beilein had been hired to replace Tommy Amaker. At the time, Manny Harris was the Wolverines' top signee, and the word quickly swirled that he would explore other options.
"People were saying Beilein's system was for white boys," Sims said.
"I heard he didn't even like players that dunk," added the athletic Harris.
Elsewhere in basketball, perhaps the most newsworthy thing to come out of Big Ten Media Day was Illinois coach Bruce Weber suggesting that the Big Ten will "probably" move to a full round robin "down the road." I got so excited about it that I retweeted it, so, yes, I am enthusiastic about the hypothetical change. It just makes sense, and now with the Big Ten Network it makes financial sense—in conversations I've had with them they have a strong preference for intraconference matchups.
And here's a Tim Hardaway Jr fluffy bit from ESPN, courtesy reader Woodson2Heisman:
Michigan checks in at #15 in both preseason polls, but this is slightly terrifying:
Junior guard Manny Harris - an All-Big Ten team selection Thursday - has battled pulled hamstrings since the start of practice and Beilein, himself a victim of the consistently tight hammys, has been extra cautious. …
“Now that it’s happened, it’s got to be a season-long therapy thing,” Beilein said. “We can’t let down. He’s always been tight in his hamstrings. I have tight hamstrings so I know what it’s like. It can lead to back problems.
“Stretching is not my favorite thing to do, it’s not his. Therapy isn’t, but he has to do it. “
Ugh. Season-long nagging injury for the unquestioned star of the team. This is not so good.
Because you're still on a Quest for Toronto. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, the fantastic Syracuse blog, asks "why isn't anyone talking about Scott Shafer?" Insert snark here. But then TNIAAM drops some year-to-year numbers that are a little bothersome since Michigan and Syracuse have essentially swapped defensive coordinators:
Syracuse Defense Rankings 2008 vs 2009 (through seven games)
|Statistic||2008 Defense||2009 Defense|
|Tackles For Loss||106th||49th|
|Opp. 3rd Down Conv.||117th||38th|
That's across-the-board improvement except in pass defense. So, okay, there's a lot of noise in these numbers and they'll probably fall with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh the next two games on the schedule. And Syracuse apparently returned a lot of people on defense, including all the good players. But it's at least an indication that Scott Shafer isn't a total git who lucked his way into the Michigan job and blew it all by himself.
On the other hand: the last time I offered a small complaint about Robinson, one of the guys from The Only Colors who does their version of UFR emailed me about a post he'd put up highlighting Robinson's halftime adjustments. That's pretty noisy, too, but in the offseason we'll take a thorough look at the two defenses.
Early signing. Don't know why this came up just now but Rodriguez is in favor of a couple changes to recruiting. One is an early signing day that this site has advocated before:
“I would be in favor of having an early signing day around the third week in December, when the junior-college signing date is, and then have another signing date like we do now on the first Wednesday in February," Rodriguez said on Tuesday's Big Ten coaches teleconference.
The other item he's mentioned is the past is allowing schools to offer official visits over the summer, something that makes sense for schools fairly distant from talent sources in Florida.
Adios, Ufer. Bob Ufer died this week in 1981, and a guy emailed me to let me know he'd been putting up some Ufer retrospective videos on the tubes:
I haven't spent a lot of time scouring youtube to confirm this, but I bet Michigan dominates it, what with Wolverine Historian and this poster ("Ghosts of Michigan") and now a zillion individual plays from UFR.
CONSPIRACY These are the items I was talking about Monday when I mentioned a number of questionable calls that went against Michigan. The illegal formation is on the right tackle here:
There was also the too-many-men call on the Robinson interception, or lack thereof:
You can see the ball has already been snapped.
Rodriguez is not happy about this stuff, nor is he happy about the ridiculous Schilling holding call—the second time in two Big Ten games that Schillling's crushed a guy and gotten a hold for his troubles. RR:
"Some of them I understand, when you twist and turn a guy, whatever," Rodriguez said. "But if you've got your hands inside in great position, you're drive blocking a guy and he falls down, because, one, he loses his balance or something, I don't think it should be called holding.
"There is more of a gray area, and there's more frustration, I think, in seeing some of the calls."
No doubt some Penn State fan will run back to his message board going "lol we won 35-10" so let's just be clear: this did not have an impact on the outcome of the game.
While I'm at it, here's Holly Rowe, Hoth Edition:
Etc.: College presidents complaining about how coaches' salaries are excessive. Adrian Witty is still planning to enroll in January. Beilein's top priority for AD is a guy who will renovate Crisler for serious. A package of reforms designed to make the money trail from shady college coaches to shady AAU coaches more illegal has passed in its entirety.
It lives! Tim has assembled and published the first edition of the 2011 recruiting board. Fear him. It's also up on the menu under "Useful Stuff" now.
It's open. Press release:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team will open its practice to the public on Saturday (Oct. 24) from noon to 2 p.m., prior to the Wolverine football team's game against Penn State at 3:30 p.m. at Michigan Stadium.
All Wolverine fans will enter and exit through the Crisler Arena tunnel. The concourse will not be accessible to fans during the practice. Admission is free.
Worth checking out, probably, as long as the noon games are lame. Which is a strong possibility.
Hello Cissoko? Boubacar Cissoko may return to the field this weekend according to Rodriguez:
"If he does what he needs to do (Friday), he’ll be ready to go in action Saturday," Rodriguez said.
He's struggled so far but given the depth at corner even a struggling player is an important addition. If he gets his head right he can contribute this year and possibly even start next year if Warren makes the leap to the NFL everyone expects he will.
And stay out. The NCAA is about to adopt legislation that would significantly relax restrictions on players who happen to play with professionals but aren't professionals themselves. The main thrust is to allow the Robin Benzings of the world to not get screwed over because they practiced with some bearded professionals:
Of the 490 incoming athletes penalized for amateurism violations last year, 434 were foreign students, according to the NCAA. Punishments range from being forced to sit out games to, more rarely, permanent ineligibility.
That might be a slight aid to the Eurobig-friendly basketball program.
Interestingly, NCAA hockey wants no part of this. Puck Daddy highlights an NCAA hockey request for an exemption to the rule relaxation:
The ice hockey community believes that prospects who wish to participate in NCAA hockey would choose to participate in Major Junior A hockey before coming to college, and the recruit could be influenced to take action that could jeopardize his eligibility at the NCAA level (taking more than actual and necessary expenses, signing with an agent or signing a professional contract that provides more than actual and necessary expenses). Additionally, time demands of participation in the Major Junior A hockey league could hurt a recruit's academic performance.
Basically, NCAA hockey doesn't want to give kids the option of heading to major junior with the intent of attending college at a later date. It makes sense: any major junior team that acquires a kid with NCAA aspirations will have a ton of motivation to render him ineligible by hook or by crook. The natural inertia of playing in MJ, plus the lack of academic emphasis there, would see virtually no players actually follow through on the their NCAA plans. All it would do is help MJ recruit against the NCAA.
With the USHL and NTDP in place, college hockey has feeder leagues that feature play essentially equivalent to the CHL and shouldn't be losing anyone because they don't have a good place to play at 16 and 17, so there's no benefit here.
And as long as we're on hockey, a scouting blog checked out one of Lucas Lessio's games. The report is strangely muted for a player called "arguably the top 1993 player in OHL territory" and "probably a top half first rounder in 2011":
On the ice, he’s not the most flashy player, but he’s a very effective one. He’s got good size, and he’s a player that competes extremely hard on the ice. He’ll go to battle for loose pucks in the corner, and he’s not afraid to take a hit to make a play, or dish out a hit when he has the opportunity. His skating is above average, and could use some work, but he does a good job of protecting the puck in stride. Lessio has a pretty good set of hands, but his poise could use some work. Sometimes he overthinks the game when he has the puck, and he doesn’t have the same natural creativity that high end goal scorers have. His niche is definitely driving the puck to the net. He has a very good shot, and he has a knack of finding loose pucks around the goal mouth, which is where he can make a big impact.
The report makes him sound like a version of Brandon Kaleniecki that goes in the first round of the draft, which is a hard player to conceive of.
Also, Ben Winnett missed last night's game against Niagara with a "nagging groin injury."
Etc.: Rivals ranks basketball #14. I thought this was going to be about Corey Tropp for some reason as I'd forgotten about the incident that made some guy swinging a stick at Kampfer's head even scarier than it would otherwise be: former football walk-on and wrestler Mike Milano has been convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge for the incident that put Kampfer in a neck brace. Oddly, the judge in the case complained about the verdict.
Programming note: the Martin news and AD search was clearly more important than slapping up half of the Delaware State UFR, so both halves will land tomorrow.
A couple AD clarifications. The thing about Dave Brandon politicizing the AD position was not meant to suggest a staunch anything couldn't run the department—Bo, good God. The thing is: Brandon almost made a run for senate the last time around and is considering a run for governor. If he's got political aspirations he'd have to resign to pursue them, and Michigan would just be at square one again.
Molk to return. It sounds like David Molk will return to the lineup against Penn State:
"Medically, everything has been cleared for him to go to practice, so I think it is just a matter of how comfortable he feels with that and getting back in action," Rodriguez said. “He really hasn’t done much football wise. He did a little bit last week, but nothing with full pads so tomorrow will be the truer test as opposed to today."
Moosman would slide over, leaving Huyge and Dorrestein to fight it out for the last spot. Everyone else is on track to go, with Forcier declaring himself "100%" yesterday. To steal some of Tim press-tweet thunder:
Molk healthy, will start at C. Moos to RG, Dorrestein or Huyge at RT // CBrown, Tate healthy. RB starter depends on Minor's health and play selection. Minor's injury day-to-day.
Everyone's full-go, then, except Minor, and that's just life with Brandon Minor.
Down, pull, tomato tomato. So that play that Michigan got burned on a few times against Eastern Michigan and exists as the staple of the Michigan State rushing offense has been called at least two different things around here. Steve Sharik calls it "Down G" because the line blocks down and a guard pulls around. I've tended to call it "power off tackle" because it's a power run that usually goes off tackle. Chris Brown splits the difference, calls it "Power O," and breaks it down in the usual clear language that teaches you something:
The lineman to the side the run is going (playside) essentially “down” block, meaning they take the man to the inside of them. For the guards and center, that includes anyone “heads up” or covering them, but for the playside tackle, he does not want to block the defensive end or other “end man on the line of scrimmage.” These lineman use their leverage to get good angles to crush the defensive lineman, and the fact that they don’t have to block a couple of defenders on the playside frees them to get good double teams and block the backside linebackers. To use Vince Lombardi’s phrase, the idea is to get so much force going that direction that they completely seal off the backside.
There are four or five additional aspects to the play and accompanying cut ups. Every once in a long while Michigan will run this, but not often; usually they just zone to one side of the field or the other. They did bust it out a couple times against Delaware State; they use it as a short-yardage play. (As opposed to DeBord, who loved running the stretch on third and short.) They tried it on the goal line once but Vincent Smith didn't get the memo and ran directly into the space the pulling guard had vacated.
If they do run it in non I-form short yardage sets in the future, I'd expect it would be from a set featuring Robinson and Minor in the backfield.
Michigan gets exposed to this play on defense a ton, though, and the key to it is for the unblocked defensive end to prevent this from happening:
First, the fullback (or, more often nowadays, some kind of H-back or other player) is responsible for blocking the otherwise unblocked end man on the line of scrimmage (”EMLOS”). He uses a “kick out” technique, simply meaning he blocks him from the inside to out, in order to create Lombardi’s famous “seal” going the other way.
EMLOS: football jargon or the cybernetic virtual intelligence gone awry that you must defeat to save the station and turn the zombiefied crew back into humans?
Er. Anyway: the defensive end has to get inside that block. If he does this he almost always turns the pulling guard into a useless hunk of meat stuck in the backfield and then "spills" the play outside, where an unblocked linebacker should have an easy time stringing the play out and tackling for a minimal gain. At least in theory. Michigan's done this a lot this year and sometimes the linebacker has not made the easy play on the outside. Por ejemplo:
That's JB Fitzgerald there but Mouton has also done that more than once. Not recently, though, so that's good.
Not exactly making a sandwich with someone else's cheese. I guess this qualifies as trash talk, but it has a decidedly Victorian air to it:
“I think we feel like we’re the better team and we can go out there and still beat them," Royster told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for a story published Tuesday.
Not one but two qualifiers there. Graham in response:
“He’s just going to have to show it,” Graham said on a teleconference. “We’re going to come. They better come hard, cause we’re coming. I just don’t think they really know. How much preparation and how much we’ve been waiting for this game since last year. If he feels pretty confident, they better prepare. That’s all I have to say.”
Good show, Mr. Graham. Your delicately phrased bon mot will be the talk of the salons this day! I daresay the viceroy's daughter may even catch wind of it and permit herself a lady-like titter. Write her a letter confessing your affections, but beware her devious half-brother's designs on the throne—and milady's heaving bosom!
Stat abuse. I mentioned the huge swing in Michigan's statistics after the Delaware State game in the game column; Ace has a fuller breakdown over at his site. My favorite line in the table is Zoltan & Co jumping from third in net punting to second on a day with no punts. More drastic than even the huge jump in offense rankings are some of the individual statistics. Denard, welcome to the realm of the statistically viable:
Denard Robinson’s season (and, therefore, career) passer efficiency rating skyrocketed from a paltry 55.39 (for context, the 100th best qualifying passer in the country, Clemson’s Kyle Parker, has a rating of 106.55) to a very acceptable 131.83 (which would qualify for 54th in the country, just above Northwestern’s Mike Kafka). David Cone’s season rating went from 0.00 to 150.72.
Meanwhile, Michigan has been outgained in four games against BCS opponents.
Understated positivity, also ROOOOONEY! You probably have no idea who Martin Tyler is unless you're British or have FIFA 200X, but even if you don't you have to understand this is good news:
SI.com has learned that Martin Tyler, the venerable British announcer who was voted the FA Premier League Commentator of the Decade, has been hired by ESPN to be the lead play-by-play voice for the network's English-language coverage of next summer's tournament in South Africa. The formal announcement is expected this week.
Guess who's not watching the 2010 World Cup in Spanish? This guy. This is going from Pam Ward and a howler monkey that spends 90 minutes screeching your embarrassing personal secrets to the world to Keith Jackson and a somewhat annoying Irish guy. The guy behind this delightful turn of events is the improbably-named Jed Drake, and he's possibly signaling a shift in ESPN policy away from "let's try to make Brian stab the cat":
"After the ['08] Euros we said, 'OK, let's take the presumption that we are going from scratch and start looking at those who can contribute at the highest level to our ongoing efforts in the world arena of football," said Jed Drake, ESPN's senior vice president and executive producer, event production.
Yes. Yes please.
Etc.: Cinci radio stations are getting uppity re: OSU. UMHoops interviews John Gasaway, the artist formerly known as Big Ten Wonk. Chuck Klosterman's new book is excerpted on Page 2; Michigan zone readin' it against Minnesota is a jump-off point for a Klosterman discursion into life, the universe, and everything. It probably says something uncomplimentary about me that I thought Klosterman's description of the play was irritatingly inaccurate in an article where Klosterman apologizes for the excessive football detail four or five times, even inviting readers to skip ahead.
Liveblog help. The liveblog needs more assistance, lest the current moderators die in a hail of comments. If you've participated in the commenting frequently, have a decent bank of MGoPoints, and would like to help out, please email me.
Madness! Madness-type object that's not at midnight goes down tonight at 9PM in Crisler, with doors at 8 and a "barbecue" from 7-8 on the east lawn, which sounds like a good idea except it's mid-October. Dylan has a primer for you. In celebration of the basketball team's achievements and in an attempt to make money, allow me to present MGoBlog's sweet basketball shirt:
It is, as per usual, by Six Zero. I know what you're thinking, guy who took Spanish in high school, but you're wrong: "sofa" is irregular and takes a masculine article. I looked it up three times.
While we're on the basketball team, Big Ten Geeks has a two-part preview of the season that focuses on tempo-free stats. The first part shows what you already know: Beilein's second year was a huge leap forward from his first. They ask this question;
Note that leap goes only to 50th, not the 40th you'd expect from Michigan's tournament seeding or the 32nd-ish you'd expect from their advancement to the second round. I expect the team to improve this year, but I'll be marking improvement from 50th.
The Geeks then attempt to answer their question with an array of tempo-free charts comparing Michigan's first two season under Beilein to West Virginia's first three. It appears the offense can expect another step forward in eFG%, but is probably maxing out in 3FGA/FGA and minimizing TOs as much as humanly possible.
Note: a reader gave me the idea for this shirt but a search of the ever-expanding, world-encompassing inbox does not turn up who it is. If it's you, email me and claim your reward.
Bombshell! This is what passes for the biggest story in the Free Press's world:
That's right: "Mom popped hood so boy could get gun, kill" and Taylor Swift (!!!) get second billing to the Free Press FOIAing the University for grade records—the one thing actually covered by the FERPA law that athletic departments abuse willy-nilly—multiple times and Rodriguez saying this:
I have mentioned publicly several times that the football team last year achieved the highest average GPA ever, and I'd like to set the record straight on that statement. Last fall, in order to boost academic performance, I asked the Academic Success Program for the highest-ever team GPA and challenged the players to beat it. The ASP doesn't track team GPAs, so they provided me with an estimate based on their experience dealing with individual performance. They did not make it clear that the number was just an estimate and not an exact calculation
The bastard. In a TLA, LOL. This
is getting has long been comical.
Wolverines, for real. They're remaking Red Dawn, for some reason, but at least they're doing it with proper respect for wolverines:
For former Michigan players Sean Griffin, Charles Stewart, Darnell Hood and Brandent Englemon, playing high school football players -- for a team named the Wolverines, no less -- in the remake of the 1980's movie "Red Dawn," came, in some respects, almost naturally.
"It's just football," said Griffin, a 2008 U-M graduate and former long snapper.
It's not just football, it's a titanic struggle against communism in a dystopic alternate reality, Sean. Let's get with the program.
I once went to the world's worst staging of any play—they sang "Silent Night" at the end—just because Jamar Adams and Jake Long and Chad Henne were vaguely in it, so I guess I have to go see the remake of Red Dawn now. The dangerous precedents I set.
Happy fun time forever hurray! Rick Leach finally followed through on his promise to bring down the thunder on someone for not being all in for Rich Rodriguez. As you've no doubt already found out because I've been studiously avoiding the topic to the point where Doctor Saturday himself pinged me to inform me about this event, it was Lloyd Freakin' Carr:
This morning former U-M QB Rick Leach dialed up WTKA’s Michigan Insider with Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub to sound off about the report that Rodriguez backed off the claim that the team hit the highest GPA in team history. Leach painted it as another attempt by the media to discredit Rodriguez, paraphrasing: “turning a good story into a bad one.”
But then Leach took aim at former coach Lloyd Carr, asking folks to investigate where and with whom Carr sat at the Iowa game. … Per Leach, this act is effectively waving a “middle finger” at U-M.
I find this wonderful in all ways and love everything forever. Like everyone else who reads a lot of Michigan message boards, I've heard dark stories about Carr and Eastern regent James Stapleton—a guy who thought Brian Ellerbe's firing was racist!—and what some brilliant, anonymous person called the "shadow government" in Ypsilanti, all of the vague beyond the point of usefulness and extremely irritating. I've never found anyone worth citing, even if I maybe kind of believe certain aspects of it. Which I think I do. But I haven't heard anything worth publishing. When and if I do, I'll publish it.
Bracelet note. If you clicked the button on the top right to donate to Phil Brabbs and get yourself a cancer kicker bracelet, there is another step you have to execute: email email@example.com to tell them how many you'd like. Details here. Video blog from Brabbs and wife here.
You can see Hemingway two steps beyond his guy, loping down field. He pulls up, thus turning a potential deep completion into an easy interception. This guy's answer: no, it wasn't Hemingway's fault. If he'd kept going on his route he might have had a chance to break the play up but watch the video; watch how long the safety is just waiting for the ball to come directly to him:
Receiver or no, that is not a good throw. Especially with Odoms hand-wavingly wide open underneath.
Inside vs outside zone. I've struggled to recognize the differences between inside and outside zone plays for a long time now, but Chris Brown (Not That Chris Brown) has illuminated it for me, and for you:
On outside zone plays, the "covered" offensive linemen (those with a defender lined up directly in front of them) will take a little bit more of a lateral first step and try to "reach" the defender -- that is, get their body in position to seal the defender from chasing the ball outside. The running back aims for a point outside the tight end, though he can cut it upfield wherever a seam appears.
Michigan hardly ever gets outside the tight end, or outside the tackle, because defensive ends are coached to get upfield and force the play back inside of them. When they do get outside the tackle it's usually a big gainer. A large number of Michigan's outside zone (or "stretch") plays end up going between the tackle and the center; the guard to that side of the field releases downfield to get a block on a linebacker.
Anyway, this causes people to start flowing fast to the sideline, at which point it's time to hit them with a counter. The simplest zone counter is to just execute the same play with a slightly different goal:
Once the defense begins flowing too fast to the sideline, Wilson will come back to the inside zone. The rules are the same -- covered and uncovered -- except this is more of a drive block as the aiming points are inside. The play often results in a cutback if the defense is flowing fast for the outside zone, but the difference between the outside zone is one of technique, not assignment.
So instead of trying to get around your guy with a reach block and sealing him, you just shove him down the line and have Minor cut behind you.
Here's an a-ha I just had. You know how Michigan was blocking the backside end much of the day? All those must have been inside zone plays. These days unblocked DEs tend to crash down on the backside, turning cutback lanes into minimal gains. Blocking that guy gives your moosebot tailback the opportunity to cut back on the inside zone without getting an unblocked DE in his face.
Etc.: Guess what Pryor's running now? The spread 'n' shred. Also this counter draw play OSU is running is something Michigan should put in the Robinson playbook. You can sign up to support Michigan Stadium's World Cup bid. There is a student protest today at City Hall to fight for State Street's right to party. The Beastie Boys would be proud. Correction: the Beastie Boys 20 years ago would be proud. The current Beastie Boys are very disappointed you're not thinking about Tibet.
Annoying reminder. Acquire your cancer kicker bracelets by donating on the right sidebar and help out Phil Brabbs. You will feel like much less of a heel after you do this. Brabbs and his wife also have a video blog up about their first week with Brabbs on chemotherapy.
Oops. You know, I saw this Daily article detailing this new pitch play Michigan was working on, and I thought "that's really cool, I wonder why more practice articles aren't this specific":
In a rotation that was repeated about four times, a quarterback and running back lined up to practice a simple outside pitch play. Though the play was basic, the pairings were different than usual.
FTR: Rodriguez apparently mentioned "blogs" a couple times when announcing that practice is closed. I'm not sure why, since this place hasn't detailed any specific plays Michigan was running during the open section of practice. Any mentions I've made of plays I'd like Michigan to run (tight end shovel! Denard as Percy Harvin!) are total speculation. Total speculation that should be immediately inserted into the playbook, but total speculation nonetheless.
Hanging by a thread, but possibly a thick one. Boubacar Cissoko missed the Iowa game, of course, and has been indefinitely suspended by Rodriguez for matters on the practice field and in the classroom. Weird little fib here:
Cissoko told a reporter earlier in the day he didn't travel with the team because he was "banged up," but would return in the next game.
I guess that's good? Like Cissoko wants to be on the team and might pull out of his tailspin? Or it's bad because he's a nasty fibber. I don't know. Cissoko Transfer DEFCON should be set at 3. He is still practicing with the team:
"Playing football is important to him," Rodriguez said. “And I think his academics are important. But to what level? It has to be at the right level."
I should clarify something I said on the radio yesterday that caused a message board thread; if I said a Cissoko transfer is "likely" that was in error. I meant to say it seemed possible without putting any sort of spin on how likely, or unlikely, that was to occur. Sometimes in the talking you say things less precise than you want to.
(Side note: every time someone shows up on MGoBoard with inside information they're roundly laughed at and negged, and then their info turns out to be accurate. This has happened with Craig Roh starting, Forcier's shoulder injury being more than a bruise, about which more later, and Cissoko not making the trip to Iowa City. MGoBlog is way more locked down that MLive; yes lol Chris Perry's broken leg but let's take context into account. Even someone with 50 points has put in 100x times more cred than an anonymous poster somewhere else. Information on the internet is usually good.)
The Salters thing. There's been quite a bit made of the Lisa Salters quote about Forcier's interaction with Rodriguez on the sideline just before he got pulled. The exact words, according to AA.com:
When a rattled Forcier came to the sideline, Salters said, “He kind of looked over at Coach saying, ‘I don’t know what you want me to do.’”
That sounds like speculation to me, not a direct quote.
The shoulder thing. Jason Forcier is pinged by the Daily and spills a bit more on Tate's shoulder injury:
His shoulder is more injured than I think the public realizes," Jason said. "It's the same thing (Oklahoma quarterback) Sam Bradford did. Maybe not as severe, but an AC joint is an AC joint. Once you injure it, it's hurt for the rest of the year." …
"(Tate)'s being tough," Jason said. "But he's playing against guys that are over three times his size."
Um… that would make Tate approximately 110 pounds. Which seems less improbable when you're talking about Forcier than any other quarterback hanging around, but still pretty improbable.
Meanwhile, this Rodriguez quote on Forcier's practice time from the same article confirms one of this site's theories about the super-lame offense against Michigan State this year:
"His shoulder really limited his practice time the last couple of weeks, but it didn't bother him too much in the game," Rodriguez said. "
This no doubt slowed Michigan's piecemeal installation of the vast and multivariate spread 'n' shred, allowing Michigan State to tee off on the plays they'd already seen with impunity and preventing Michigan from providing the sort of counter-punch they'd like to. A game against a 1-3 I-AA team should allow Michigan a couple weeks to put in new stuff for Penn State, and Forcier's shoulder should continue to get more cooperative as the year goes along.
Brunnnndidge. Our 2011 PG/SG commit is on the youtubes, pretending to get interviewed by ESPN:
HE LIKES MATH! This actually took place after Carlton's freshman year, FWIW, and two months ago someone called him a lawya in the comments. Law on, lawya.
I'll fight the bear. Iowa's evident effort at targeting Donovan Warren was weird to me, and weird to Troy Woolfolk:
Woolfolk, who made four tackles Saturday, said he was surprised Iowa didn’t challenge him more.
“I was like really shocked,” he said. “I asked myself, 'Why aren't they attacking me, the fresh, young blood in the water.' They just kept going to Donovan.”
Iowa got some completions on Warren but it cost them, and the stuff they did get was often of the miracle-throw or safety-bust variety. It seemed foolhardy. Iowa did chuck a couple fades at Woolfolk but neither was completed.
Flowers for Algernon. Michigan Monday is getting pretty stupid of late:
For the game, the Wolverines carried the ball 45 times for 195 yards, a decent 4.3-yard average. Last week Michigan State held Michigan to 28 yards on 28 carries, so obviously things were better than the last time out, but I’m far from convinced that the Wolverines’ running game is “back”.
Of those 195 yards, 53 of them came on a drive in the third quarter where the Wolverines ran the ball almost exclusively from under the center. The drive ended in a touchdown, but the fact that Michigan had to go away from their true running style should be cause for concern. To further badmouth the running game, we need to also mention Michigan’s final two drives of the game, which saw Denard Robinson inserted for a benched Tate Forcier. Michigan started the first drive with 7:42 remaining, down by nine points. Iowa was more than happy to let the Wolverines run the ball the rest of the game, and that’s essentially what they did, rushing for 50 yards on their last two drives.
Basically, over half of Michigan’s rushing yards came when Iowa was happy to see the run or when Tate Forcier was under center, meaning the zone read was pretty well shut down again.
Blather about "true running style": inane.
Rodriguez's true running style is "whatever works," and I kind of doubt Iowa was happy to have Michigan run the ball down the field for a touchdown on a drive that started with eight minutes left, especially once the ball got inside the 20. Michigan didn't turn in a dominating day but consistently creased the Iowa OL and got good yardage all night; they did not break big runs because part of the reason for the consistent success was Iowa laying back with two deep safeties and waiting for Michigan to screw up, which they did. There's plenty to criticize about a Michigan team likely headed for a December bowl game of no note, so why twist yourself into knots in an attempt to knock down the one consistently good aspect of the team?
Outside perspective. Okay, we're off the high of the Notre Dame game and discontent and arguing with people who are yet more discontent still. At this point, though, it's clear that the true disaster projections—which seemed a possibility as Michigan nervously prepared for the Western Michigan game—have gone by the wayside. We're left with those preseason projections, which built in the information that Rich Rodriguez is a very good football coach. Doctor Saturday provides some perspective:
The fact that the Wolverines were banged up, outgained, and reckless with the ball and still only fell by two with a realistic to chance to knock off a conference frontrunner on the road would have been regarded as a very optimistic step five weeks ago, when we were unsure of Rodriguez's grasp on the team. Premature Heisman sites were launched and visions of New Year's Day had begun to dance in September, but this was supposed to be a 7-5 team struggling through growing pains en route to the Champs Sports, and it's beginning to shape up as exactly that.
Whee bowls. The Big Ten has picked up the Gator Bowl, which will be a boring SEC-Big Ten matchup but at least it's a boring SEC-Big Ten matchup that's slanted in the Big Ten's favor. And then they're adding some new thing in the Cotton Bowl:
A new bowl game to be played at Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas will have the No. 7 pick from the Big Ten, which likely will face a team from the Big 12 or Conference USA. The Cotton Bowl Classic will move to Dallas Cowboys Stadium beginning in January, and the new bowl is expected to be played around Jan. 1.
This bumps the Motor City down to #8 and essentially cancels any relationship between the Big Ten and it unless there's just a glut of 6-6 teams one year. Hopefully this is never relevant.
Concussion pants. Notes on Michigan's concussions: both Tate and Brown are good to go for Delaware State.
Etc.: Bowl projections have Michigan in the Champs, Insight, or Alamo against Kansas, Wake, Oklahoma State, or UNC. Bowl projections aren't very useful right now. MSU folk have put up their UFR-O equivalent; this one's way less depressing than the one that handles the other side of the ball.