2010 ohio state
Elsewhere in the thoughts of people who are Dave Brandon. Brandon speaking on the football team's season:
"The team has the opportunity to practice 15 days and prepare for a bowl game, which they've earned the right to," Brandon said. "I have so consistently stated what my process is, how I do this, and what is in the best interest of the program. That's what I do, and that's what I'm going to do. All of this desire for information sooner, all this speculation is fueling curiosity — it doesn't change how I'm doing my job.
"Back when we were 5-0, I said (this would be the evaluation process), along the way, I've said it, after exciting wins I've said it. This is how I'm going to do my job. I have not equivocated on that at all. Just because people out there are stirring the pot, that's not going to deter what I'm going to do."
Since every scenario out there has Michigan in a bowl on New Year's Day or a few days after Christmas (the Insight is the 28th), the final word will have to wait a full month. Stanford is likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl on January first, so a hypothetical transition could take place immediately without putting Harbaugh in the same bind Miles or Kelly was. There's a theory floating out there that letting Rodriguez coach the bowl is tantamount to keeping him for 2011, but given the Harbaugh situation I don't think that's true. It's not an indication either way.
Denard Robinson: awesome. Not a quarterback. So Denard Robinson is the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, which is nice and obvious. He's also not even on the coaches' All Big Ten list, which lolwut? I get Scott Tolzien—he may not have to throw much but when he does it's in the chest of his receiver every time—but Dan Persa? He's got the numbers, I guess, but being at the helm of an offense that's actually good at scoring and stuff is kind of important for a QB and the Wildcats are just 51s in total offense, 74th in scoring, and 21st in passer efficiency. That last number sounds good but is only 5th in a QB-heavy Big Ten. Kirk Cousins, Tolzien, Stanzi, and Pryor are all ahead of him with Denard not far behind and with a vast advantage on the ground.
In other All Big Ten QB news, Terrelle Pryor is still as likeable as Stalin.
Steadily more and more likeable. Meanwhile, Tate Forcier explained to his local paper his thought process about staying with the program after the infamous "I'm out" moment that sent Tom scrambling to Papa Forcier to put out the fire. Via MGoShoe:
“It’s hard to go from starting to backing up. A lot of people told me to leave. I wanted to leave. But it was just too hard. I didn’t want to leave the (coaching) staff or these players. I felt I was going to be a part of something great.”
“Two quarterbacks have to play in this offense. It might not happen every game, but you’re going to get your chance. I’m not banking on Denard getting injured. Nothing like that. But in this offense, you never know what can happen.”
“A lot of people would think me and Denard would have something against each other because he starts, but Denard is a good guy. We hang out. And he works hard. What’s hard for me is he’s having so much success and there’s nothing you can do about it except stay ready.”
“I’ve learned to be way more humble. I look back at freshman year, and I was a little cocky. I was getting too caught up in seeing myself on TV every week. I think that would happen to anybody who would go from being a regular kid in high school to a national stage like that. It was crazy.”
I said something early in the year about how Michigan would need Forcier down the stretch, and they did. He finished off the Illinois win and was a third and ten stop away from driving for the tie against Iowa; if he'd actually been "out" Michigan would not have been able to redshirt Gardner and we probably wouldn't be talking about retaining Rodriguez at all.
I also said I'd be meh about Rodriguez leaving, and while that's largely true I think my overwhelming feeling would be sadness that guys like Denard and Forcier and everyone else who signed up for the RR era would not get to finish their careers on the terms they started them.
These uniforms designed for personal fouls. Another reason it's good to get away from Nike:
"The gloves had a black ‘Block O' on the inside when you put your hands together and so that's what (Posey) was trying to do," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said.
But he didn't celebrate his redemption for long. The referee gave Posey a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration.
Gesturing to the crowd, even if it's your crowd, gets you a flag. Unless it's this…
…or dozens of other motions like shushing the crowd that go unpunished every week. File under the massive pile of data that suggests the NCAA should just drop excessive celebration penalties for anything short of taunting.
Opinions I Officially Do Not Care About but you might. Opinions on the Rodriguez job thing—you know, that—from Mets Maize:
Having said that, I do support Rich Rodriguez returning for 2011 IF changes are made on the defensive staff. My reasons are pretty consistent listed above, but the one that stands out the most is the offense. It simply makes no sense to fire the only man who can take this offense to the next level next year. People often talk about how "young" our defense is, which sort of implies we have a relatively older offense. If by "older" we mean not true-freshman, then yes, we have a veteran offense. But the fact is we're prime for not only 2011 but also 2012--Denard's senior year. So that leaves the defense to which I ask...
What added benefit does a change in HEAD COACH give to the DEFENSE that a change in DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR wouldn't bring?
Beaford at Maize n Brew:
Rodriguez should get broomed and Harbaugh should be installed here, but if that doesn't happen my reaction will largely be "meh." In the three years that he has been the head coach, the offense have demonstrably improved, just as we thought it would. The problem is that the defense has actually regressed each year. Even before the Woolfolk injury, this defense was set up to be likely the worst in program history.
And Markus at MNB drops references to David Foster Wallace on Federer and Brian Phillips on Pele, which means it gets autolinked. It's long and not really blockquote-friendly but recommended. My mom, by the way, believes Rodriguez is "not a Michigan Man" and would like to see him gone. Road Games also drops Richard Buckner.
Let's say it again, then.
Etc.: Anne Hathaway proposes "Anne Does Ann Arbor." As someone who has viewed the Get Smart remake I heartily endorse this idea. This Week In Schadenfreude is epic this week. Apparently I missed the date on the "Everyone in Iowa Drinks Four Loko" fanpost at Black Heart Gold Pants, but seriously I'm guessing that happened again after they lost to Minnesota. Brabbs surveys the Michigan-vs-cancer matchups going on. AnnArbor.com's take on the Denard Robinson story.
11/27/2010 – Michigan 7, Ohio State 37 – 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten
The Ohio State game has the power to make whatever happens in it seem like Michigan's season in microcosm, and so the overriding theme of the 2010 season is looking up at the scoreboard at halftime to see Michigan on pace for about 500 yards and about twenty points. Michigan had 238 yards and seven points this time around and instead of a competitive game we got the usual.
The last couple weeks the "loss will cause me to" bit has been "repeat I expected 7-5." That kind of mantra to keep your boiling rage under control has been necessary and less than effective as Michigan has fallen behind massively against good opponents and shown little ability to get up, causing the chattering class to rush to their keyboards so they can point out the lack of progress after Saturday. In the Game-as-microcosm sense, it's true. Last year Michigan was an opponent that got Tresselballed to death. This year they weren't good enough to pose the vague threat. They made Tresselball into things like 98 yard touchdown runs (save an iffy holding call after ninety of those yards) and 85 yard kickoff return TDs.
In the larger scheme it's not. In the nonconference Michigan traded Eastern Michigan for UConn, who may have lost to Temple but is also a game away from the Big East title, and traded home for road against Notre Dame. The conference record of the two teams not on their Big Ten schedule (excluding the game between the two) is 4-10. Last year it was 7-7. They got two more wins. Last year their average yardage differential excluding the Baby Seal U game was –57 yards. Even if you hack out this year's most lopsided game against Bowling Green—something that's not fair to the 2010 team because of the schedule upgrade—this year they're +18. That's a huge swing.
And yet. Today even the most insanely patient Michigan fan feels zo unzatisfied.
This is the point where some sort of post from the summer that took a cold-eyed look at what Michigan had and what it would have in 2011 and set a baseline—what's that? It's Some Sort of Post From The Summer's music!
I know it's my role as the crazy fan blogger to demand the head of the coach when he fails to live up to my crazy expectations, but if we're seriously talking about an 8-4 regular season "not being enough" for Rodriguez to get a year four Michigan should have just fired him already. If this ends up being an 8-4 team the Mathlete's luck chart will have Michigan considerably on the happy side of the ledger. …
"This is still Michigan" is demonstrably false. Even in year three this remains a desperately young team with major holes in the secondary and no upperclass quarterbacks. Rodriguez's responsibility for the state of the state of the roster is limited to the absence of Terrelle Pryor, or any marginally acceptable option at quarterback from his first two months on the job, and a couple of would-be-sophomores Rodriguez did not add to the end of his first full recruiting class. You can wave your hands and say "Michigan! Rabble rabble rabble!" all you want but if you dressed these guys up like Generic State University people would expect them to go .500. …
My personal measuring stick for Rodriguez: yardage parity and a winning record. I would be displeased with 7-6 but willing to grit my teeth and give Rodriguez a shot in 2011, when he will return both specialists, every starter on offense save Steve Schilling and all but three starters on defense. That will seem exceptionally kind to many, I know, but literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has.
2008 was a complete waste. To me, this is year two for Rodriguez, and 2011 is when I expect rubber to meet road.
That was before Troy Woolfolk blew up and Vlad Emilien and Justin Turner lit out. (While not having Emilien around is grating apparently Michigan just came up craps with Turner, who is heavily rumored to be out at West Virginia and headed DII; since this was a guy with an OSU offer it was not apparent this would happen.)
There are arguments that 7-5 is not good enough because this was the most unsatisfying 7-5 possible, and, yes, it was. Michigan's record in close games is 3-0, 4-0 if you want to count the Purdue game (UMass does not register since it featured an unrecovered onside kick). They fell behind massively in every loss and never had a chance to drive for even a tie in the second half of any. I've said before that if Rodriguez is broomed and Harbaugh installed here my reaction will be "meh" quickly followed by "what about Denard?" Because this is Michigan football Rodriguez will take Clemson to the BCS four times, but even that certainty doesn't dull the shine on Harbaugh.
But it's pretty hard for me to go back to what I thought before the season, see what it is, see what we got, and think Rodriguez didn't put himself in position for Put Up Or Shut Up 2011. Barely.
Non-Bullets of Something Or Other
Well, that was horrible. Awful refereeing plagued that game. There were the two inexplicable OSU personal fouls after TDs—the first I thought was for the dive but that was a legit dive with two guys coming at him—the iffy penalty on the 98-yarder, a terrible holding call on Steve Schilling, and a non-review of what seemed clearly like a non-interception followed immediately by a review of an OSU non-fumble that screwed Michigan both incompetent and competent.
Also, Michigan got called for "encroachment" before the snap, on offense. Can that even happen? WTF?
Well, that was horrible. Darryl Stonum emo 2010:
Well, that was horrible. Mmmm Seth Brokhuizen rugby punt. Kicker Nick Sheridan? Kicker Nick Sheridan. Not his fault he's seeing the field. Save us Justin Meram. Anyone.
Well, that was horrible. Michigan got what seemed like its first procedure penalties of the year from someone other than Taylor Lewan when Je'Ron Stokes and Jeremy Jackson picked up five-yard penalties. Jackson's wiped out a 30-yard gain and led to Michigan's only three and out of the first half.
Well, that was horrible. At least we won the "don't look retarded" game. 2-0, baby!
Well, that was horrible. Further adventures in hating Michigan fans:
Well, that was horrible. God… Roy Roundtree… not all of those were easy, but… arrrrrrgh.
BONUS psychoanalysis note: since everyone does it I might as well offer a protip so the evaluations are less annoying. If you're going to respond to something I say by discovering the way in which my brain is broken, you should say "excessively skeptical of using emotion in decisions and too fond of numbers."
Wind-down, offseason, bowl, etc. note: I am burned out. I'm not making any promises about UFRing this game. I might, I might not. This week is going to be relatively light and then we'll start talking about bowl stuff and whatnot, with an eye towards what will or will not happen with Rodriguez. I'll have something up this afternoon about what I've got, which isn't definitive at all but exists.
Before Desmond Howard, before I knew there was a thing such as rushing stats (let alone scoring defense), I learned to watch Michigan football with my dad and his friends. This is the opposite of a stadium experience: standing, hollering at refereeing, displays of game-induced emotions, etc. are not appropriate. The way old Jewish men watch football is to sit on very comfortable couches, the day's host holding the remote, while his wife puts out a spread of non-nutritious delectables that he isn't allowed to eat. We talk about this guy's law firm, that guy's consulting business, and by the end of the game everybody's had a chance to get their really cool thing out there.
My dad's best friend's really cool thing is usually an update on his nephew, Ann Arbor-born Mayer Hawthorne. This is typically prefaced with "my nephew's in the entertainment business…" Except this time, the Hawthorne update was totally one-upped by another old guy, who was like "my son's in entertainment too: Mike Posner, have you heard of him?"
For those not familiar with Posner (pictured above—you know, the one who isn't a tiny 2-star freshman safety) his shtick is Justin Timberlake oohhh girrrl cooing while looking like a well kempt bad-ass. If you apply this same formula to punk, you get Good Charlotte. If you apply it to rock, you get Nickelsuck. If you throw in Jeebus you get Creed. The formula is old, annoying, and tremendously successful. More importantly, it has been giving the music world's innovators and intellectuals and poets jealousy fits since Elvis Presley realized dodging tackles didn't require tacklers, and Big Joe Turner's friends muttered the '50s slang equivalent to "WTF!"
If you haven't yet figured out where I'm going with this analogy, Ohio State is Mike Posner, and every other teen idol, and boy band, and crappy formulaic rock band whose astounding popularity has deigned to piss me off. There's nothing creative about it, and any edge is some sort of manufactured, watered-down version of something that got stuffy parents upset 10 years ago. You will never say to yourself "gee, that is a really brilliant Creed lyric" the same way you'll never say "that play that Tressell came up with was absolutely genius."
Really, the Posners and Timberlakes added their own ludicrous hours and amazing talent to the formula, just as Ohio State's starters have probably put their bodies through more pain over the last three years than Michigan's football program has given my soul. But that's small consolation to those who imagine themselves artistically superior when the guy cooing on a Carson Daly show is getting megamillions and adulation and a blank check of support from the industry.
I will no more ever understand why people will keep going gaga for Mike Posner or Nickelsuck than I will understand why they keep committing to play football for Jim Tressell, except if every song is going to have the same beat anyway, it's best that everybody who likes music for its beat will agree on one song so everyone knows the words.
And there's the rub: cool begets cool.
All of this music bitching is hypocritical from a Michigan fan like me, because I had zero complaints when Michigan was chugging along on Bo's fumes and the cachet of four decades of success.
A Rich Rodriguez team is musical superiority, but just as a band will be judged by hits and concert turnout, a college football team is measured in wins and rivalry wins. Those of us declaring "Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" in late 2007 weren't doing so solely because Michigan's playcalling was going to be a lot smarter. The dancing bananas were because we were Warner Bros. and figured we'd just co-opted the college football equivalent of Nirvana: by 2010, painted fake buffoons obsessed with the smell of their own reverb were supposed to be toppling before 60-21 obliterations in Columbus. This was our destiny!
I spent the second half of my college years as the best friend of Oblivion, an intellectual Ann Arbor hard rock band (sample mp3) that we were convinced was going to make big. Those years provided plenty of opportunities to harden hatred and envy of Creed's success-based success. Eventually, we all managed to at least stop worrying so much about how much money Scott Stapp was making, and concentrate on making better music. Likewise, hating the Sweater Vest for his substantively vapid program gets Michigan nowhere. Michigan's purpose is to beat him, not be him.
And us: we're the friends, really with no more ability to generate Michigan wins over Ohio State than Mayer's uncle has of making a nerdy soul singer cooler than Mr. Posner's son.
1. There's a rhythm to Detroit Jewish baby boomer football viewing, where the interruptions for plays are conversational interludes that allow the speaker to think of the right word (proper word selection is important in this sub-culture) or to move on to the next thing.
1970s-80s Michigan football was perfect for this kind of fandom, a steady beat of 3-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, OH!, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 0-yard play, setup, AWW, punt, who wants pie?
Michigan in the Rich Rod Era is no better fit for that room than I am: 25 YARD PASS!, setup wait no it's called back, setup, GREAT PAAA aww he dropped it, setup GO GO GO GO DAMMIT, setup, HEY REDZONE, setup, WHAT A THROW 1ST DOWN ON THE 5 – WAIT HOLDING HOW WAS THAT HOL—interception—Wait no that hit the ground, REVIEW REVIEW—0 yard run EXPLODING SQUIRRELS! Fumble.
It's tense, and punctuated, a Pavlovian tease-fest that goes to the red zone more than 60-somethings go to the bathroom, and just as often comes away with nothing more than a fart.
2. If you were around M in the early '00s he's that guy in Athletic Mic League—you know, the white one.
3. FYI: A fellow Wylie E. Groves Falcon. Also, Misopogal thinks he's awesome.
4. Golly gee whiz?
5. Or 40 years ago, if you're talking devil horn hand gestures.
6. It's not the subject. Muse does as much religion as Creed, and Muse is awesome. Furthermore, my favorite album of all time makes a hundred overt references to Catholicism. It's just that it does so in brilliant metaphorical lyrics and musical compositions written to complement the poeticism of those lyrics, all in the context of a cohesive, album-long concept:
7. Lefsetz.com, who is basically my Brian for music, says Mayer's just a marketing creation too.
What We Need is a Miracle
Do you know the penalty for a head coach who loses a 7th game in a row to Ohio State?
Death by torture!
They shove a living snake up your ass!
No, but that's very creative.
People start making up irrational reasons for axing you!
The lead singer of Oblivion summed up his feelings on our head coach's job in this text from last night:
Two totally irrational reasons to get rid of Richrod: 1.) "Miracles" never happen when he's coaching, and 2.) he's the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet.
I have no rational reasons to not see another year with dilithium, only irrational ones.
The miracles thing was echoed in the comments yesterday in a TWIS bid by longtime MGoBoarder Tim Waymen:
I'm quitting the internet. No more TV, I want to stay the hell away from the Midwest except for Ann Arbor. This sucks.
Forget it. If he goes, he goes. He's a good coach, but maybe just not the right man for Michigan. I also blame God and the universe, karma, etc. How is this fair? We haven't had any miracles. I hoped that today would bring redemption for RR, but instead people now have a stronger case against him. Not just a close loss, but we're getting destroyed in a game I sincerely thought we could win.
That was in a thread criticizing – of all things – the refereeing, by the way. This is a typical response to any fanbase that remembers its good years better than its bad ones. Go back far enough and you'll find a group of unhappy Israelites at firemoses.com who thought parting the Red Sea and climbing a mountain to get directions straight from a 5-star deity is nice and all, but none of this is getting to us to the Promised Land. Dayenu.
More of this continued in the Emo Diaries of the week:
- Dr. Rodbaugh, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pimp, by Undefeated dream season of 1992 has the user tags Antietam, drang, and sturm, and basically says the fans deserve a new coach because this is a world where math is boring and (as once pointed out by Stephen Maturin) the verdict of the masses is seldom wrong.
- An avid follower of Brian's (currently) SB Nation column This Week in Schadenfreude, Meechigan Dan noted that recent championship teams all had a point when their brilliant coaches got their teams called in for the 'freude.
- JonSobel is sick of the bickering and arguing, says RR is Bo and Yost et al., but wants to fire him because it would shut everybody up.
- Oakland Press columnist and local radio press's Bob Wojnowski weighed in, earning him a ruthless MGoFisking by Ann Arbor Cardinal.
It's clear now that, while Dave Brandon is (I hope to God) going to be spending the next few months making this call the right way, i.e. exploring all avenues of information and options, we're going to be using a lot of Internet to share our views on it. So, before we embark on When Should We Fire This Guy: Round 3, let's set some ground rules:
Keep Rich Rodriguez
Fire Rich Rodriguez
|Let's first admit:||
1. We are disappointed with the results to date. Even if this year met expectations for the beginning of this year, 3-9, 5-7 and 7-6/8-5 was not the start to RR's Michigan career we envisioned.
2. Rich Rodriguez has made terrible, possibly fireable mistakes in his handling of the defense, especially in building his defensive staff.
3. Even with expected improvements, the 2011 team is probably not at a championship level.
4. Jim Harbaugh is a strong candidate, would unite the fanbase, and might not be this available again.
5. Keeping Rich Rodriguez as a win-or-go lame duck in 2011 is an anchor on recruiting, one that has been putting a noticeable damper on this already.
6. Unless RR can outperform expectations next year, something he's never done at Michigan, we've already lost the battle of perception.
1. This is a legitimately great offense, perhaps among the best in Michigan history (despite being young and mistake-prone) and Rich Rodriguez is the reason the offense is so good. Without him, we're looking at a rough transition, probably more transfers.
2. He's been building the program with integrity and keeping to his bedrock principles.
3. We haven't yet seen what RR is fully capable of. This is young guy who was a proven winner before coming here, and a big 2011 is not only possible, but could lead to several decades of great football.
4. If we fire RR and Harbaugh doesn't come/work out, we could become Notre Dame.
5. It's not exactly easy to find established coaches who share Michigan's higher academic expectations and also keep up with the Joneses of Ohio State and the SEC who have no such compunctions.
|Best-case scenario:||Jeff Casteel replaces Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator (although this probably keeps Gibson) and we see immediate returns in the bowl game. The defense gets to average in 2011, while the offense reaches maturity and we are next year's Oregon. This leads to Top 5 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, and we're a 10-win machine again until RR retires a Hall of Fame coach with 4 national championships in the 2030s, when his star disciple is given the reigns.||Jim Harbaugh takes over, convinces most of the recruits and players to stay, and rides the positive press of a new hire to finish 2011 recruiting strong. He manages to translate RR's players to a wide open and almost as effective Spread HD offense, while bringing a new attitude to defense. We beat MSU and OSU, and then in 2012 upset Alabama, and the Empire of Bo witnesses a Justinian revival.|
|Worst-case scenario:||This offseason witnesses more transfers and injuries, and another failure of a DC is brought in and told to run the 3-3-5 though he's never coached it before. A loss at MSU makes RR a lame duck, recruits know it, and the team goes on to a lame 7-win season, followed by a depressing coaching search that seriously uses the words "Brady Hoke" again.||Well, first let's imagine Harbaugh doesn't want to come, or that he was just lucky to have some great players at Stanford and can't repeat that. Players recruited to play for RR quit on him or transfer out, and it's 2008-2010 all over again, except by the time New Guy has his guys the Ohio State ticker is up to 10 years and Michigan State is a solid, Wisconsin-level Big Ten 2nd tier power.|
|Outlook for 2011||Offense is older and probably less prone to big mistakes, but the defense is very far away and we really have zero evidence that the defense can get better since it has regressed every year under this regime. However, the schedule is easier, with Ohio State at home and some of the tougher Big Ten teams off the schedule, and an Oregonian romp is not outside the realm of possibility.||Rebuilding with a new coach is a major gamble, especially because we would be firing the best possible person to run next year's offense given the personnel and their system experience. However, it's an instant press success, and a good hire cuts the anchor that head coach job speculation puts on recruiting. 2011 under any coach but Rodriguez probably has 1 or 2 more losses than otherwise, a sunk cost to regime change.|
|Outlook for 2012 and beyond||Continuing with Rich Rod means we are effectively putting all of our chips down on the bet that he will be successful next year. Otherwise, it's another wasted year, another class of guys who weren't recruited by their future head coach, and the likelihood of pulling out a miracle replacement is substantially lower than it is now.||Another rebuilding phase now would be a huge gamble on the new guy. However, keeping RR is also a gamble, and if there is going to be a regime change again, better to do it earlier. Michigan still has enough cachet that a bout of good press and success can attract 4- and 5-stars. I doubt Calvin Magee stays if RR goes, but it's possible that a few positives of the Rodriguez era can be retained in the fabric of the program and what we end up with is a rebirth of Bo's legacy that has had a Barwicizing wake-up call.|
Next comes a crap bowl, and then next year, which should be better just because so many of the starters return, and even the most ardent supporters of the coaching staff agree that some of them (the coaches) won't.
Luck and miracles are X factors that don't mean anything beyond the psychological mindset of the team, recruits, and donors. Not having a single Big Ten caliber cornerback or free safety option after three years of running the team, linebackers who still look clueless as 5th year seniors, alignment mistakes that one trip through a Jeff Casteel instructional video could clear up: these are long-term problems that may not be fixable without drastic action. Ray Vinopal is a gutsy kid who has already outperformed his highest recruiting expectations, but even so there's about 20 teams in the country who would probably take him right now over their free safety.
The Decimated Defense split blame between shitty luck, shitty recruiting/retention by Lloyd, and shitty retention/recruiting/player development by Rich Rod. A year later, the shitty luck has continued, and the shitty retention/recruiting/development by Rich Rod has gotten even worse than the Carr year it replaced. At this point, the defense is more than half the fault of the current head coach. Any discussion of firing him should begin there, and any case for keeping him must demonstrate that this trend can be reversed. Conversely, we're all agreed that Rodriguez can coach/recruit/scheme offense better than any candidate we could hope to replace him with.
Those parameters set, go forth and discuss, keeping every comment, for or against, higher minded than anything put out on the subject by the Detroit media. Given the spectacularly low (the opposite of Mornhinweg-ian) bar they're setting, this shouldn't be too hard. Then again, a substantive debate on a coaching fire/keep situation on an Internet message board is probably just asking for a miracle.
After jump: More Diaries.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Ohio State|
|WHERE||Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 27th 2010|
|THE LINE||OSU -17|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
Mostly sunny, mid 30s
0% chance of rain
Image at right via reader Brian Walline.
Run Offense vs. Ohio State
You know, from skimming the Ohio State blogs in my reader I'd picked up a narrative of safety injuries and a somewhat disappointing performance from the defensive line that led me to believe the OSU defense was something less than its usual self. Then I go and check the stats as I do and they're third in rushing and total defense. They are fifth in pass defense. This is nationally, not in conference. So… not so much.
As anyone who's followed the Gordon Gee-Boise/TCU spat knows, a weak schedule has something to do with that. OSU has not played the Big Ten's #1, #4, or #5 offense and is the #2 offense.. They've had almost the kindest league schedule possible to date. However, in their matchup against #3 Wisconsin the Badgers only managed 330-some yards of offense; Iowa was held under 300. Do not be taken in by complaints about Orhian Johnson or fretting about freshman Christian Bryant—this is a smokescreen.
The sack-excluded numbers in the league (minus Indiana, which didn't seem even slightly relevant) reflect this:
College teams average 4.9 yards an attempt when you take out sacks; Ohio State has been somewhere between good and ridiculous through the Big Ten. This is not a huge surprise given the overall numbers.
Michigan's rushing offense is almost as shiny in the national stats at tenth. They have four triple option teams ahead of them—on a YPC basis they're fourth nationally. The last couple weeks opponents have really truly dared Denard Robinson to throw by putting a linebacker over the slot receiver and moving their safeties up into the box (Purdue) or just outside of it (Wisconsin). Rain and a crappy half for Robinson (plus a worse one for the defense) allowed both opponents to get away with their hyper-aggressive defenses. In the second half Robinson started hitting receivers who found themselves in single coverage deep and Michigan ripped off touchdowns on four of five drives, with the fifth headed inside the Wisconsin twenty before a Roundtree drop led to the inevitable batted-ball-to-INT combo.
There are risks involved with going so aggressive, especially when your safeties are indeed injury-plagued and young, and it doesn't seem like Tressel's style to go damn-the-torpedoes. It doesn't look like he'll have to, anyway, with those numbers above. I predicted Wisconsin would back off and Michigan's run game would bounce back. The former definitely didn't happen and the latter may have looked like it did but that relies heavily on a couple of meaningless draws at the end of the first half. This week, Ohio State probably will back off and it will be something like a fair fight on the ground.
Given OSU's results to date expecting something magnificent is foolhardy. The most relevant game above is probably the Illinois game, in which heavy wind and Nathan Scheelhaase's youth—that was his first Big Ten start—gave the Buckeyes an idea of what was coming before the snap. Michigan does have a better rushing offense than the Illini—they're about eight tenths of a yard to the good—and should provide more threat through the air than Scheelhaase, so you can/should expect something more effective than 4.1 YPC. Hitting 4.5-4.8 seems realistic. They'll need more than that to win, though.
Key Matchup: Denard versus Last Safety To Daylight. Okay, I'll take the bait: if safety is a weakness for the Buckeyes, Michigan might be able to spring a long touchdown on the ground, which would be nice.
Pass Offense vs. Ohio State
If Orhian Johnson is three times worse than Ohio State fans say he is we've got it in the bag.
Denard Robinson's sustained bout of inaccuracy lasted until halftime of the Wisconsin game, after which he was ruthlessly effective. He hit several downfield passes, picked apart the Wisconsin zone, and landed himself almost 10 YPA by the time the day was over. That's not enough to dismiss the previous three or four games, in which Robinson slew scoring drives by the hundreds* with passes behind or above but rarely in front of open receivers. It is encouraging. Robinson is in the top 20 in passing efficiency in an offense that throws about 40% of the time. While his legs are a big chunk of that, they are, you know, his legs. He gets opportunities others don't because of them.
Michigan's got some complications, however. Martavious Odoms is done for the year and both other starting wideouts appeared on this week's injury report. It sounds like Darryl Stonum will be good to go, but the perpetually questionable Junior Hemingway is questionable again. Je'Ron Stokes and Jeremy Jackson may get more time than Michigan coaches are comfortable with. Roy Roundtree exists, though, and Michigan can shift its production around without affecting their efficiency too much—usually the choice is not between covering the outside guy and covering Roundtree, but dealing with Robinson and covering Roundtree.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State fans still manage to sound disappointed in the #7 pass efficiency defense in the country. They are pretty weak at getting to the QB—hardly better than Michigan—and they do have safety issues and they don't have a shutdown corner like they usually do. They've also missed two of the league's best QBs in Kirk Cousins and Dan Persa. Like the rush defense, they haven't played a big chunk of the Big Ten's good passing offenses. They played 1 and 2, but haven't gotten to 3-6 yet. Performance against 1 and 2:
This just in: Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien. Anyway, that's a bad performance in a game Wisconsin hardly threw in and a pretty good one against Iowa. Everything else is brutal strangulation of doe-eyed innocents and the Jacory Harris Interception Spectacular. There aren't many good comparables for Michigan.
Assuming Tressel plays it low-variance, Michigan won't have a ton of opportunities to hit it deep but this will open up the underneath stuff, especially Roundtree's hitch routes, or more likely a variation on them that Ohio State hasn't scouted to death. We've seen QB Lead Oh Noes disappear over the past few weeks; maybe that can be used to exploit Ohio State's youthful safeties. The last time they ran it they had Martell Webb streaking open for what would have been a touchdown if Martell Webb wasn't pretty slow and the ball wasn't chucked directly at an Illinois safety.
*(This may be a slight exaggeration.)
Key Matchup: Robinson's Accuracy versus That Stuff Whatever That Was. No one has been able to consistently defend the run and pass against Denard, so they've chosen the run and have been right more often than not. Michigan needs two halves like the second against Wisconsin—occasional error, mostly deadly—to have a shot.
Run Defense vs. Ohio State
Ohio State doesn't quite have the Badger ground game, with emphasis on "quite". Wisconsin is 12th, Ohio State 17th, with OSU trailing the Badgers by a quarter yard per carry. The main guy is Boom Herron, a compact, powerful runner without a ton of shimmy. He makes a lot of yards by sliding through tackles thanks to his low center of gravity and tree trunk legs. He's not likely to break anything long. He's what Kevin Grady was supposed to be.
Backup Brandon Saine has found himself marginalized as the season goes along. He's a lot like Michael Shaw, combining blazing speed with a lack of tackle-breaking power and a nasty tendency to avoid the intended hole. He's come on as a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot and will probably get a half-dozen carries.
And then there's Pryor, infrequently utilized but wildly effective when deployed. If you take out OSU's sacks he's averaging 8.2(!) YPC on 87(!) attempts this year, numbers that boggle the mind when combined. 87 carries takes the YPC outside the realm of fluke, so… how does a guy averaging 8 yards a carry only get 87 attempts? Tressel, yo. I get the argument you'd like to spare your QB hits against teams with little chance of winning, but Ohio State desperation catchup mode is the spread option. This is frustrating to both Michigan and Ohio State fans.
The script last year against Michigan was similar: OSU came out and ran their I-form "Dave" package with little success most of the day; when Michigan scored to draw within a touchdown out came the spread option. Pryor ran right down the field, touchdown, flood of Michigan interceptions, ballgame. Michigan doesn't have Brandon Graham anymore so the regular package should be more successful than it was last year, hampering Michigan's ability to get the three and outs that kept them in that game.
Key Matchup: Michigan Tacklers versus Herron's Thighs. With Mouton and Demens around it's likely that FBs will be taken on near the LOS and Michigan will have opportunities to get the Buckeyes in long-yardage situations in which Pryor's had some difficulty. One of the many, many problems against Wisconsin was Michigan tacklers not tackling, or giving up two or three yards after contact. That seems like it might be more fixable than Greg Robinson's beaver brain or the incredible youth of everyone.
Pass Defense vs. Ohio State
Terrelle Pryor hasn't exactly developed into the world-beating Vince Young (except better!) imitator he was supposed to be out of high school. Against the good defenses on OSU's schedule he does stuff like this:
The other somewhat average pass D on the schedule was Penn State; Pryor threw just 13 times, completing eight.
Unfortunately for Michigan, "good" is nowhere in the conversation when it comes to Michigan's pass defense. They're looking up at "putrid" and hanging out with "fairly good reason to go insane." I think they peed on my couch and tried to sop it up with a handful of crushed Cheetos. I do not mean this as a metaphor.
They're currently idling at 92nd in pass efficiency defense. Pryor's performance against Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota, the—sigh—closer comparisons for Michigan's crew of befuddled freshman and slow guys:
Good Lord. Pryor meets a level of defense at which he is suddenly mediocre or worse; below that he is a ruthless bomb-thrower. Adding it all up gives you a quarterback who's 14th in passer efficiency this year and still hasn't had a good game against a real defense.
Pryor's main targets are his outside receivers. Both have around 50 catches, with Dane Sanzenbacher averaging considerably more YPC and has nine touchdowns to Posey's five. The tailbacks and TE Jake Stoneburner are secondary targets, and then there are guys scattered down the roster with the occasional catches. The line's pretty mediocre at pass blocking, giving up almost two sacks a game (59th) despite being 85th nationally in pass attempts.
Even Pryor and the OSU passing game is something of a paper tiger, that fact obviously has no relevance against the Michigan secondary. Scott Tolzein's passes never hit the ground last weekend; Wisconsin went away from the passing game because the run game allowed them to. Amongst the many things the Michigan pass defense cannot do are pressure the quarterback (1.5 sacks per game, 94th), cover receivers (yeesh), tackle, and provide anything more than a slight hindrance to quarterbacks more competent than a rain-soaked Sean Robinson.
Key Matchup: HAHAHAHAHA
OSU's been good with the ball in its returners' hands, solidly above average in punt returns and very good at kick returns. They've been worse than bad in coverage, giving up 12.7 yards a punt return and yielding a touchdown against Miami. Two kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns, too.
The usual story at kicker: OSU's Devin Barclay is 16 of 19, Michigan's blah blah blah. This week I can point out their proficiency at onside kicks, though.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
- OSU aligns in the spread, the formation in which Terrelle Pryor is actually quite effective.
- OSU aligns in the I.
- Robinson inaccuracy allows yet more creepin' on the run game.
(Site note: Jebus. One of the "worry ifs" from last week was "Scott Tolzien completes every pass he throws.")
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Orhian Johnson turns out to be a true freshman two star.
- Denard goes back to his UConn form.
- Ohio State's years-long defiance of karmic comeuppance goes supernova.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Terrelle Pryor Eats Baby Seals And I Can See The Club For Miles, +1 for Despite Everything This Is The Top D In The League By All Measures, +1 for Ours Is Not Very Close HA HA HA, +1 for Turnover Margin: 5 vs 101, +1 for They Are A Much Better Football Team)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +5 for The Game)
Loss will cause me to... continue repeating "I expected 7-5" until the bowl game.
Win will cause me to... dissolve.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There's no reason for optimism, as not even the Epic Pryor Meltdown scenario seems to result in a win a week after Wisconsin didn't throw in the second half.
Tressel won't even have to risk it, as he should be able to grind it out on the ground with success and watch his excellent defense bottle Denard up sufficiently to stake the Buckeyes to a two-score lead they'll maintain most of he day. They'll take the Maserati out of the garage and run the inverted veer when/if Michigan brings it within a score, immediately going down the field to push the margin back out. The defense will be toyed with.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Pryor throws fewer than 20 times.
- Two Michigan drives die on the vine around the OSU 35.
- The bitter hollowness of defeat has a piquant familiarity, almost like an old friend.
- Ohio State, 35-20.
This game means a lot to the seniors, but also the last couple classes that never got the chance to beat OSU. "If we could put a stop to that streak too, maybe start our own streak of beating them" would be a big deal to the team. "It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year. We've gotta get back in the win column."
"These last few years have been a little different Michigan, I guess, than the previous years." This win would be huge. "In a way, it could help rectify the four losses we've had. Obviously, it doesn't make up for them."
Never played in Columbus - he was injured 2 years ago. "It seems like a fun place to play." Jealous he didn't play last time.
Shown progression last three years, doesn't think about playing for Coach Rod's job this season.
The team has been trying to play catch-up in all four losses. Want to try for an early lead, maybe run some clock "especially in Columbus."
"We definitely think we have the ability to play with anybody when we're playing at our best."
Different intensity in Schembechler this week. "Put some band-aids on your wounds and get after it. Leave it all out there this Saturday."
The many good DL they've faced lately bring different skills to the table. "Arguably the top 4 defensive ends in the country play in our league." Heyward's great, played since he was a freshman. He has the whole package, and will be a big-time NFL prospect.
Don't want to see turnovers, protection from the OL has to help avoid it.
Denard has played well, set some records, but the team has struggled at times. Schilling doesn't worry about whether Denard is B10 player of the year. Denard's always got a positive attitude, no matter what's going on in the game. He loves playing football, always smiling. "You can tell he loves to play the game, and it's exciting to be able to block for a guy like that."
"Obviously my blood always ran Blue. My dad walked on here." Exciting rivalry, surreal to be a part of it. He was at the game the last time Michigan beat OSU. Sitting in section 27 with his parents and brother. Been to several games in Columbus, 2002 Game. Several M-OSU games. Didn't go to 2006, but that was the first one he missed.
Converted a couple buddies to M fans, some of them are still diehard Buckeye fans. "I do have some friends who go to Ohio State, and we're excited to go down there." Expects to hear from his buddies, win or lose. "Hopefully I can shut them up for a year, but we'll see."
Thrown in the mix early last year, gradually has become more comfortable with the defense. One of the more veteran guys on the defense already. Excited about the development of the young guys.
Pryor - "He's very versatile. He's a big guy... he can run and throw." The offense has a lot of different packages. They should be a great challenge.
"Anytime that you can make an offense one-dimensional, you've got a good chance of playing some good defense. If we can stop them on first and second down and put them in third-and-long, obviously we can create turnovers that way. But that's much easier said than done, and we've struggled with that so far."
Lost to Dane Sanzenbacher both times they played in HS. "I'm still looking for my first victory against him." He's not a big-name guy, but makes huge plays for the Buckeyes. "I wouldn't say that he does anything great, but he does a lot of things very well."
"We know we're going to have to play a flawless game." Guys are looking forward to getting into the film room. "We're confident. We're excited about this challenge."
"I'm playing this week, no matter what." Had "a little head trauma," wasn't cleared to play in the second half. "It doesn't matter for this week, because I'm going to be playing."
Defensive players draw confidence from each other, looking at each other's work ethic, etc. Defensive struggles are a mixture of several factors, but everyone on D is working as hard as they can to fix what they can contorl.
"Our defensive goals each week are six 3-and-outs, three turnovers." If they can pull that off, the team will have a pretty good chance of winning.
Didn't know too much about Michigan or Ohio State in 2003. "I was just in Arizona, you know, chillin'." Can't take M-OSU rivalry away from college football. Glad they'll still play when the B10 goes to divisions.
The mentality of each guy on the team shows how important the OSU week is. Everything encompassed into one is what makes this game so important.
Has only heard about going into Columbus from a fan's perspective "I'm expecting the worst, and it's going to be exciting."
On the stuffed whatever: "Are you saying there's an animal on the sidelines? Next question."
Playing for RR's job? "No. We're playing for each other... It would be a great win for Rich Rod, for the team in general."
"I love Rich Rod as a coach. He's just a tough working guy." Has a positive attitude, despite what he's been through. That positivity wears off on guys.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I don't remember that one. I would have been 14." Probably just playing BBall and chasing girls in 8th grade. Charles Woodson with the Rose in his mouth is one of his first Michigan memories.
From the West side of the state, his mom is always heckled by MSU fans. This week, people are coming in to offer her encouragement. She's now realizing their ulterior motives, as Michigan can help send State to the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of the guys in my class, it's their last year. One of the big things for seniors is you never want to leave this program without beating Ohio State." Guys who have left say there's a feeling of emptiness. When you come to Michigan, you know your performances against Ohio State will make your reputation. "If you come out against Ohio State and have your best game, a lot can be forgiven."
Some criticism of the team is unjustified: they've been able to play with some of the top teams in the league. "For some reason, we haven't gotten that attitude to come out on the first play." Need to be able to come together and do that throughout the full game. Older guys, RVB included, need to help motivate everyone.
The defense's performance against Wisconsin - "Most of it was schematic. I mean, They schemed us really well. They had a play where they pull the tackle and a guard and the tight end blocks down. They scored 2 or 3 touchdowns on that one play. All of those were explosive plays." It's not a good thing, but there were positives to take from it, some guys played with a physical edge. "We can adjust our scheme and be ready for Ohio State X-and-O-wise. I think we can definitely play with them."
Terrelle Pryor, canon for an arm, fast, big, has a bunch of talented, fundamental WRs, good running backs. "They're a very dangerous and explosive offense, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Team and program are making some big strides. "I think that next year, the guys we return, there's definitely going to be a chance that we're gonna be big-time contenders."
Mike Martin - Aggressive, relentless. Off the field, he's... "cuddly."
"Lot of time in the training room and rehab. I've been struggling a lot with my ankles this season, which is a pain." Trying to play through it, doing as much as he can. Tough to push off with his ankles. Big mental thing, trying to play through it. "Hopefully that adrenaline kicks in, you know?" Only one of them is a problem at this point. Trying to be a leader when he's been unable to make an impact on the field. Adam Patterson has stepped up well in Mike's absence.
"It's tough, obviously, being on the team and being a fan. Any fan doesn't like that." Doing whatever they can to reverse OSU's dominance. No matter what each team's season is like, they'll both fight hard.
Has talked to guys who played in the 50s and 60s about the game. "We're just gonna play as hard as we can and make those guys proud."
Would feel really good to stop he streak. Overcome a lot this season, trying to improve each week. Anything is possible. "It's not about Ohio State, it's about us and what we do." Not looking to be spoilers, looking to win for themselves. "We're gonna control what we can control."
"It's gonna start with us down in the trenches." Need to force Pryor to move his feet, get him off-rhythm. Need to get pressure, wreak some havoc.
"I think they hate us, we hate them. That's just how it is, that's what it is." That leads to getting each team's best shot, no matter what. Different sense of intensity in the air this week. "You don't really need a motivational speech to get excited for it."
"We're not gonna get ran off the field. That's not gonna happen." They'll play hard to the final whistle. "That's not us, that's not our team, and we won't allow that to happen at all."
OSU might have a couple tricks up their sleeve, but this game is more about going straight at each other.
Not worried about what their impact is on MSU, just want to win for themselves.
Stuffed animal - "That's the defense's thing. We're not gonna talk about that."
"I don't really remember the game" last time M beat Ohio State.
Gave OSU a serious look in high school, but felt right in Ann Arbor. Talks to Roundtree about it. OSU wanted him on either side of the ball. His dad was a Michigan fan, that played a role in his decision.
Split in Toledo between OSU and M fans among his friends. Hears "I'm an Ohio State fan but I'm also a Kevin Koger fan" from most people he knows.
Have to take care of the ball to have a chance to win. Can't turn it over 5 times against OSU and still win. Need to pay attention to details. "It's not anything the coaches can do. It's definitely on us."
"It'd definitely mean a lot to us. Every game means a lot but this one means a little more."
Rivalry hasn't lost its luster even though OSU has won a lot. Streak is a bit embarrassing "It's on us to stop it."
"Hate? That's such a strong word." Respects, but does not like them.
"I guess I have to agree with Koger. Got respect for them, but don't like them." Wasn't aware of the rivalry that much in HS. Looked at the FSU-Miami rivalry, and heard that M-OSU was a bigger deal. "You expect a physical team, a great coached team, and a great team." against OSU. You have to be even more prepared than past games.
Knew last year's game would be intense when he saw Shaw's altercation with an OSU player going into the tunnel. He's also seen video of the famous Woodson/Boston battle. "It's a big game. It's still a football game. Still a game."
1500 rush yards: "That's a great accomplishment, but I don't know what to say about it."
It would be a big deal to get invited to NY for the Heisman ceemony, but can't worry about it while there are still games to play.
"We can't come out flat like we did against Wisconsin. We've gotta perform all four quarters." Need to protect "the program" the ball. They've been making a few more mistakes lately, and that can't continue.
"I think our defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. I don't care what nobody say. We face them every day, and they just help us get better."
Pryor reminds Denard of Devin Gardner. Big, and he can run and pass.
He's going to ask Falk about the 'Shoe once he gets the chance. Iowa and Penn State were also tough environments.
Felt fairly healthy the past month. "90%, pretty good." Doesn't know when he got dinged up, but he's healthy enough to be as fast now as he was in the first few games. "I thought I was gonna break a couple of them, and I just fell" against Wisconsin.