Based on Dr. Saturday's sadly extinct "Life on the Margins" series, this post breaks down the Michigan-Iowa game past the score and total yardage.
|Michigan v. Iowa|
|Yards Per Play||6.38||6.07|
|Yards Per Possession||29.46||43.50|
|Average Start||Own 34||Own 23|
|Yards For Points||405||296|
|Yards for Points and Wasted Yards include penalties; Michigan's 'assistance' to Iowa makes their scoring drives longer than their total yardage.|
By total yardage and average drive performance, Michigan should have won this game, possibly comfortably. Without their starting quarterback for most of the second half, the Wolverines outgained Iowa by nearly 150 yards. However, it was the Michigan mistakes [ed: (tm)?] that killed the team.
On top of four turnovers - two by Tate Forcier, one each by Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith - the Wolverines also had a 38-yard field goal blocked and returned into positive territory for the Hawkeyes. That's a five-possession swing, more than enough to compensate for a two-score loss by the Wolverines.
Michigan's turnovers occurred at inopportune times as well. Vincent Smith fumbled in the redzone with the Wolverines down 14 points, and Tate Forcier offered up an interception around midfield on the following drive.
Those Damn Penalties
Drive-killing penalties (on themselves) or drive-extending penalties (graciously extended to the Hawkeyes) also played a major role. Though Iowa took a few penalties as well, Michigan's errors had a greater impact on the game:
- A facemask on the opening kick return of the game gives Iowa the ball in good field position at their own 38. Thanks to a Hawkeye penalty (see above), the drive stalls. IMPACT: minimal field position swing.
- The Wolverines had a 2nd and 3 until a Taylor Lewan personal foul pushed Michigan back 13 yards. Second and 16 led to a three-and-out. IMPACT: Loss of drive.
- JT Floyd breaks up an Iowa pass in the redzone, but interferes with Allen Reisner on the play. The play only nets the Hawkeyes two yards and a free down. They go on to score a touchdown on the drive (after Jordan Kovacs can't reel in an interception two plays later). IMPACT: four points for Iowa since they would have been kicking on fourth and ten without the unnecessary hold around the waist.
- Michigan has a 3rd and 5 at midfield, but a Stephen Schilling false start pushes it back to 3rd and 10. Michigan is forced to pass, and Denard Robinson throws an interception on the next play. IMPACT: partially responsible for turnover.
- Michigan is threatening with a 1st-and-10 on Iowa's 15. A false start penalty leads to three straight plays for loss or no gain, and Seth Broekhuizen's 38-yard field goal attempt is blocked. IMPACT: significant. Most likely three points, maybe more.
- After an Iowa score, Jeremy Gallon returns the ball to the 25. A block in the back brings it to the seven. Michigan is able to move the ball on the drive, but eventually punts to close out the half. IMPACT: 50/50 loss of TD. With the additional 19 yards Michigan would have been at the Iowa 25 and would have had an opportunity to go for it on fourth and one.
- With Michigan in serious catch-up mode down 21 in the third quarter, a false start penalty on their first play of a drive doesn't prevent them from scoring a touchdown. It does take a little more time off the clock. IMPACT: minimal.
- On the ensuing drive, JT Floyd pulls Adam Robinson down at the Michigan 40-yard line... by the facemask. The Hawkeyes are able to punch it in from the 25 in three plays, pushing their lead back to three scores. IMPACT: aided Hawkeye TD drive considerably.
- Michigan kicks the ball out of bounds TWICE in the fourth quarter, giving the Hawkeyes the ball on their own 40-yard line. The Hawkeyes score on both ensuing drives (one touchdown, one field goal). IMPACT: argh.
Volume and timing of penalties conspired to doom Michigan on the day. Maybe a really good team can overcome those errors, but...
But What Does It All Mean?
Like Rich Rodriguez has been saying for the better part of three years, this team isn't good enough to play poorly and win. If "playing poorly" can include running up over 500 yards of offense, it should be happy times in Ann Arbor when they do finally play well. What's exciting is that we've seen that earlier this year, when Michigan had zero turnovers against UConn and Notre Dame.
So, can a bye week cure all the ills that plague Michigan? Probably not. But it can cure some. The coaches did an excellent job preaching discipline in fall camp, and the Wolverines committed very few turnovers and penalties to start the year. If they can drill that again in this two-week period, improvement is sure to follow.
Couple that with the healthy return of the team's best quarterback (and I don't mean to bag on Forcier, because he was mostly good, but the team's backup quarterback was responsible for 2 turnovers), running back, offensive lineman, and defensive lineman, and the future is maybe not as bleak as it seemed after Saturday's game.
[Ed: This shouldn't be construed as a "Michigan deserved to win" post. Errors are errors, and Michigan's were severe. The field position difference is enormous: 11 yards over 11 drives is 121 yards, or almost all of Michigan's yardage advantage.
We should distinguish between talent breakdowns like Denard bombing away to Tyler Sash and plain stupid crap like Lewan's PF and the false starts or the kicker putting two(!) kickoffs out of bounds. The former's more likely to recur than the latter, and Michigan made a number of their mistakes because they were forced into them in ways that Michigan's defense could not replicate. Some of the extra mistakes are a real trend... but how many?
The next three weeks will tell.]
Too busy to read the message board? Watch it. So this happened. It is a NSFW postmodern message board conversation verbalized by xtranormal:
Listen to the British woman.
Lord of the flies. An injury update from Penn State has more bad news for the Nittany Lions:
"Latimore, I'd be doubtful if we get anything out of Eric the rest of the year, although he may be ready for a game or two. Crawford has not done anything yet. ... I doubt if he'd be ready this week. Crawford might be ready next week."
That would be Eric Latimore and Jack Crawford, the nominal starting defensive ends. Latimore will be out for Michigan, with Crawford either on the bench or gamely giving it a go. Sean Stanley's status is still up in the air after it was revealed his violation of team rules was a marijuana arrest. He's practicing with the team and I'd be shocked if a simple possession charge would keep Stanley out four games. He's already missed two. Unless there's something else going on he'll probably start in Latimore's place, with either Crawford or unimpressive journeyman Kevion Latham on the other side of the line.
If Michigan held Iowa's DEs in check, the rag-tag PSU DEs shouldn't be a problem. Michigan will have a test against Still and Ogbu on the interior.
Penn State has a bunch of walking wounded they hope to get back for Minnesota; we'll see how many do.
And now a random dumb thing a Penn State blogger said. Take it away, Some Guy At BSD:
I hope that Denard Robinson gets healthy during Michigan's bye week and starts at QB in Happy Valley Halloween weekend. Choir boy / line-dancer Tate Forcier may provide more visual fodder for the blog, but I think he's a bigger threat at QB than Robinson. Denard Robinson can run all over weak competition, but in the Big Ten, where every defense is designed to stop the run, a competent passer like Tate Forcier is actually more deadly.
This is not factually wrong so it's not Fiutakin' it, but good God. This is the worst bit about turning it over seven times in two weeks while racking up 900 yards of total offense against the #28 and #13 defenses in the country:
"It doesn't work in the Big Ten" cannot die soon enough.
This is a disturbing indictment of nothing in particular. Will Campbell is going to get a look at guard:
“He may be better-suited to play guard,” Rodriguez said.
No decision had been made, but Rodriguez said he’d convene with his coaches tonight to discuss possible position changes. …
“He’s not playing much on defense,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know if it’s possibly to switch and learn a position that quickly, but we’ll probably talk about him tomorrow. He’s got a good attitude. He’s working hard and is willing to do whatever’s best for the team.”
What does it mean? It means that ESPN was right to be skeptical of Campbell, who has a ridiculous physical package but doesn't play football very well. It was apparent to me the first time he got on the field against Iowa and immediately got gashed; freshman or not the passivity and inability to get under anyone's pads was alarming. This would be no big deal if Michigan had gotten either or both of Pearlie Graves and DeQuinta Jones a couple years ago, but since they whiffed on both the depth chart at DT is thin enough that one guy not working out leaves you a big hole after Martin.
It does not mean that Bruce Tall is an idiot who can't coach—Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen say STFU, please. Also Brandon Graham.
Not their fault, except for that one guy. The BCS computers come in for another round of bashing, this one in the New York Times. At least this time there are quotes from the guys who run the things complaining about the What About The Children decision to remove margin of victory from the metrics. That is a major source of computer rankings DERP. And this is a delightfully blunt assessment of Richard Billingsley:
“I’m not a mathematician,” Billingsley said. “I’m not even a highly educated man, to tell you the truth. I don’t even have a degree. I have a high school education. I never had calculus. I don’t even remember much about algebra. I think everyone questions everything I do. Why is he doing that? Does he know what he’s doing, a crazy kook in Oklahoma?”
The short answer is no. Billingsley’s ranking system is vilified by professional mathematicians and a subculture of amateur computer rankers.
I'm not either but I've already got my vilification in. Any attention Billingsley's inane system gets that might get it booted is welcome. I mean: "It is a simple formula, he said, because he is a simple man." This guy isn't fit to decide what to eat for breakfast, let alone who should be playing in the national title game.
Just a love machine. The MZone highlights a program from 1978 featuring the sex machine that is Mike Gittleson:
You have to admire that dedication to facial hair: 32 years without even thinking about a change. Also, yes, that Jack Harbaugh.
Hail Zoltan! Zoltan just launched the punt of the year, nay the punt of the decade:
During the Patriots OT struggle with the Ravens last Sunday, punter Zoltan Mesko may have made the punt of the year. Facing a 4th and 6 from their own 16, Mekso was called in try to bail out the Patriots.
Typically, punts from that region of the field net about 39 yards, putting the Ravens at their own 45, and it looked like the Ravens were going to win the field position battle. From there, it only takes one or two first downs to move into striking distance for a game winning FG attempt. When Mesko trotted onto the field, the Patriots' win probability (WP) was 0.33.
Mesko’s punt went for 65 yards, aided by wind and by poor fielding by the Ravens returner. When the ball came to rest on the Baltimore 19 yard line, the Patriots had gained the upper hand with a 0.54 WP. The punt was worth +0.21 Win Probability Added (WPA), an impact extremely rare for a punt that neither results in a long return nor a fumble.
Hagerup did something similar—though it wasn't in such a high-leverage situation—when he bombed one past the Iowa returner midway through Saturday's game.
Really? Iowa guy who looks at a lot of film says this:
A couple of times Iowa made good audibles and a couple of others they missed their chance to hit Michigan where it hurt. It definitely seemed the crowd noise was a factor late in this one and it made it hard to change calls at the line. I would guess they'll make some tweaks to their audible calls this week, especially on their scripted series calls.
That would be something close to unprecedented. Woo luxury boxes?
Etc.: Entertaining WSJ piece on alumni cheerleaders focuses on Michigan's homecoming festivities. Hey let's fire Turner Gill already! (Note: it took all of two months for Gill to go from a molder of men to a "Victorian-era" fuddy duddy what with his rules against ladies and cell phones. Rich Rodriguez should start a support group.) Twelve pictures to sum up TRY FIGHT
WIN. One of these five men will be Minnesota's next coach. (HT: Eleven Warriors.)
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.
"This week is probably coming at a good time for some of those guys." Mike Martin and David Molk should be 100% with a week off. Mike Shaw's been limited in practice with a sprained knee, but should be fine.
Denard sprained something in his rotator cuff; it gets aggravated or sore when you fall on it. Worried about the big guys falling on him more than anything. He's not as hurt as Tate was last year, and should be good with a week off. "Hypothetically, we won't talk," but Denard would probably be good to start if there was a game this weekend. He's still the team's starter, despite Tate's solid play on Saturday.
On Fitzgerald Toussaint: "I'm optimistic he can practice this week."
Not sure how long Odoms will be out. "That's a tough blow because he was playing pretty good football." If he can return by the end of the year, he could play a bit.
Defensive personnel moves "Kenny Demens we thought played pretty well... He's played well enough that Obi will have to beat him out in practice over the next week and a half."
"Carvin Johnson we thought did some good things at Spur." With Mike Martin's injury, Adam Patterson got a chance to step up and he did well.
The Bye Week
No practice Monday-Tuesday (players are on fall break), but the team will practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for sure.
Big recruiting week for the staff since they don't have a game. "Used to go out a lot on Fridays," but it's tough to get back from a HS game and be ready for a noon game the next day. Coaches are on the road recruiting today and tomorrow.
Get young guys a little better fundamentally. "We'll do a preliminary thing on Penn State as well, try to get a little bit of the game plan in."
No school today or tomorrow, get a break to refresh with no football either. The 12 or 13 true freshmen who have played maybe have hit a wall. Having a bit of a break might make them refreshed this week.
On the day off Saturday, RR will watch some film, maybe watch some future opponents' games. His son Rhett has a Pop Warner game on Sunday.
Tate came in and made some plays, brought a spark. Had some bad habits come back as well. WRs helped him out, but Michigan has three pretty good, young quarterbacks.
Molk - "I think he didn't feel real good in warmups." After a couple plays, he told the coaches he was unable to compete at the level he wanted to. High ankle sprain, but not a severe one.
The coaches have talked to the field goal defense team about recovering blocked FGs, obviously didn't cover that well enough with the kick team. There was too much penetration on the block, but the kick was a little low, too.
Rocko Khoury competed well. He battled hard. "We were worried about his snaps some... and there were 1 or 2 a little bit off..."
Lewan was a little jumpy. Partially nerves going against Clayborn. Part of his troubles may have been unfamiliarity with Khoury's snapping rhythm.
Turnovers. "I think we pressed a little bit at quarterback some." Don't have to throw it 30 yards when you only need 10. The QBs know right after it happens. "Vincent Smith's not a fumbler."
As poorly as the team played, they had a chance to tie up the game, just couldn't make it happen.
Personnel and Schemes
On offense, they need to fix execution issues that lead to turnovers. "On defense, certainly the same thing. The same issues with execution and making sure we do that." On ST, kicking and returns have been bad, other units solid. "We've got a couple guys I think could be pretty good returners, we just haven't given them a chance."
All QBs are unique "As a runner, Denard's probably closer to what Woody was with burst." Speed more like Pat White. Denard is still a young guy, he's going to keep getting better, as will the young pieces around him. Offense has evolved to be more run-heavy over the years. "The designed quarterback runs probably started with Woody Dantzler in the late 90s." Nowadays, so many people have some version of it, so there's more defensive creativity to stop it.
"We're a little more multiple. We're probably simpler formationally than a lot of teams." Oklahoma, Oregon, Cincinnati, other spread coaching staffs get together and bounce ideas off each other.
The defensive staff all knows the issues, "I think they've talked about it at length, I know they have because I've talked with them." The players still believe in it. The team is close to playing good defense outside of a couple plays a game "but those two plays count." Need to work on some basics defensively, tackling, getting off blocks, etc. Will work on understanding scheme, which helps guys play faster. At times, tackling has been OK.
"At the end of the last couple drives it wasn't good." More disappointed in the (in)ability to get off blocks. Guys won't be coming free on every play. "Some of that's strength... some if it is technique and being able to see the play, recognize the play, get off your block and make it."
"Some of the issue we have defensively... the only way to get experience is to get experience." Some first-year players can play like veterans, but freshmen are going to have "freshman moments." The goal as coaches is to limit the impact if guys have those moments.
"If I still aspire to call plays and be involved in offensive planning and special teams planning, there's only so much hours in the day." The defensive coaches have expertise and they can devote their time to it. "Vince Lombardi could come too, and that's not going to fix some of the problems we have on defense."
The defense has gotten its share of criticism, but 4-5 turnovers in the past couple games and special teams are both issues as well. "With all that being said, we still have moments that we're playing pretty well against a couple pretty good teams."
Floyd thrust in as the "experienced guy" when Troy went down. Troy was the leader of the group, and will be again when he comes back. "When you look at those guys... you gotta remember most guys, their colleagues that age are being redshirted."
Hagerup kicking better because he's not as nervous.
"This is a really close team, there's no finger-pointing or anything like that."
Defensive concerns might affect makeup of the recruiting class. "Where are your numbers offense/defense, where do we need more help." Make sure you're looking for a particular position, etc. "We're looking all over the country" for a kicker worthy of spending a scholarship on.
"No question" that having a player seriously injured on the field (like Rutgers lineman) is your worst nightmare. "That's certainly is something that's an inherent risk not just in our sport but in all sports, and you always worry about it."
Big Ten shaking out about as expected. "I think the reputation of our league is pretty good nationally this year. It should be." Quality of play throughout the depth of the league is good.
"The first two years were extreme disappointments." Inside the program, you can at least get an idea that the program is being built and the future is bright. "If nothing else I think we're fun to watch." WIshes that weren't the case sometimes.
Playing Alabama in 2012 - "Just looking at the road games... pretty tough road schedule." Denard will be a senior, some of the young guys on this year's team will be juniors, etc. "Our hesitation was giving up a home game to do that." The pros outweighed the cons. Can use the excitement of that future game for recruiting.
Haven't talked too much about other future OOC scheduling, because they don't know when the Big Ten schedules will be finalized.
10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten
When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.
Last year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.
Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."
And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.
They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.
On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.
As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.
This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.
Of course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."
Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.
*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)
To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.
Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.
Crap, I guess that's job talk.
Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.
How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.
Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.
Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.
Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.
The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.
Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.
Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.
On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.
Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.
Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.
Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.
Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.
Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.
Meanwhile, In Rod We Trust kicks off its post like I wanted to:
Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on. Something, something, not 2009.
While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.
I hate it when he is sad, and not just because I feel the same way.
Ridiculous wallpaper part 7. Via user monuMental and his ridiculous talents:
How could this possibly happen? So when people say things along the lines of "could we really have the worst defensive talent in the Big Ten" and I say "yes," no one believes me. This is usually because one sophomore four star in the starting lineup at a particular position looks like talent and two fifth-year-senior three stars do not. Here's the Iowa two-deep on defense:
There are 22 players. Five of them are underclassmen, only one of those a starter. Nine are seniors, and this is minus a senior starting linebacker who would shove a freshman out the door. Michigan's starting lineup has as many sophomores (Floyd, Kovacs, Roh) and freshmen (Gordon, Gordon) as the entire Iowa two-deep, and where Iowa has seniors backed by seniors or sophomores backed by juniors in many places Michigan has freshmen, freshmen, and more freshmen. This is why it's impossible to tell anything about Greg Robinson yet. You could take an established genius and give him this roster and the results would be, oh, I don't know… somewhat depressing:
|Pass Efficiency Defense||92||139.01|
|Tackles For Loss||66||5.83|
That's not Michigan. It's USC. USC's secondary:
- Senior CB Shareece Wright, a top 50 recruit
- Freshman CB Nickell Robey, a top 250 recruit
- Sophomore S Jawanza Starling, a top 250 recruit
- Sophomore S TJ McDonald, a top 50 recruit
This is a "talented" secondary. It is also awful because it has one upperclassman; they're trying to bolster things by moving freshman and starting WR Robert Woods to nickelback. That sounds familiar except in Michigan's case it's a guy who should be a linebacker moving from wide receiver and being forced to start instead of being Courtney Avery.
Michigan does not have near that amount of recruiting mojo, nor does it have the veteran consistency of Iowa. Yes, if Michigan is not more experienced and less awful next year it's time to focus the firey finger of blame entirely on Rich Rodriguez. Not quite yet, though.
Parachute in. While everyone was looking at that guy in the parachute he was looking at us:
AIM FOR THE YELLOW.
Alabama-rama. Some final thoughts on the Alabama game, but first Dave Brandon:
"I just thought it was a terrific opportunity for our team, our coaches and our fans," Brandon said. "But we got the numbers right, we worked really hard to make sure there was plentiful availability of tickets, because we wanted to get that right for our fans. We hope to think of this as a preseason bowl trip where we can bring lots of people and really make it a special Labor Day weekend."
Booting the Notre Dame game is not an option, so Michigan will go on the road to face Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Alabama (sort of) in the same season. Have fun, senior Denard. Anyway, thoughts:
- I am almost certain the reason introducing a middleman is preferable to a home-and-home are the messed up TV contracts. If Michigan plays a home and home with Alabama they split the extra TV money with the rest of the conference. It sounds like by doing this neutral site thing they are getting the financial windfall all to themselves. If you dislike this trend—and as a guy who would rather travel to Tuscaloosa than Dallas, I do—the only solution is to let teams keep all the profits from their nonconference games to themselves.
- As to why it's in an irrelevant place like Dallas: when ND started its "barnstorming" games it quickly discovered it couldn't play anyone in a relevant location because TV contracts prohibit anyone from playing a neutral site game in their conference's geographical footprint unless that game is going to be on the appropriate network. The result was ND-Washington State in Texas.
- This will be the biggest nonconference game played against anyone other than Notre Dame in…a very long time. Maybe the 1996 Colorado game? Michigan accidentally played a 13-0 Utah team in 2008 but in terms of pregame hype that pales in comparison. Washington was #9, IIRC, so Alabama will outstrip that.
Etc.: Hockey has a critical road test against UNH this weekend. People are still projecting us for New Year's Day. The Daily takes a look at college amateurism and whether it can or should go away. BWS picture pages the Webb TD.