just what the Pistons need: a third string center. Joe Dumars was replaced by a mean ol' alien a few years back you guys.
The narrative so far:
- Week 1 - Michigan plays an easy breezy beautiful home opener against Central Michigan. We find out whether Shane Morris will lose his redshirt. Prediction: he does.
- Week 2 - Notre Dame comes to town, chaos ensues under the lights, we awake Sunday morning in a stranger's backyard and discover that we are missing a shoe.
- Week 3 - Fitz Toussaint and Derrick Green each rush for 100+ yards.
Since this is part 2 of a home-and-home, I think we should go back a few years to get the proper context.
Michigan and UConn agreed to play a short series with each other in 2009. At the time the matchup was intriguing because of three things: Rich Rod’s ties to the Big East (and undefeated record against Randy Edsall), UConn’s apparent emergence in being okay at football (8-5 in 2008), and the basketball team’s own series with the Huskies. In addition to the fact that the 2010 game would be a home opener in a freshly renovated Big House, the anticipation for part 1 of the home-and-home was significant because none of us really thought the Wolverines, still smarting from a 5-7 season, would do all that well.
That was until Brock Mealer, Denard, and 60 minutes of domination happened. You can relive the best moments here:
The pure awesomeness on display (and the awesomeness the following week) is the sort of thing that makes you think Michigan would play in the Rose Bowl, Denard would win the Heisman, and Rich Rod would be our coach forever and ever.
By the time we realized none of those things would come true, UConn and 2013 seemed a million years away. When your fandom devolves into stalking Dave Brandon while listening to songs by the Smiths on repeat, you’re not in a place to properly consider other people, or the future.
Did you know that the Huskies actually went on to win the Big East that year?
They did (or at least a share of it) and had a better resume than anyone else in that conference, so they got the auto-bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where they were summarily executed by No. 9 Oklahoma. Edsall bolted for Maryland pretty much the next day, and he has since been spending a lot of time there designing uniformz and losing. See you next year I guess.
So UConn hired Paul Pasqualoni, a former Syracuse head coach who lost his edge in the early ‘00s, left Syracuse, and floated around the NFL for a couple years. After taking over the Huskies, he's led them to back-to-back 5-7 seasons. Rebuilding, yes, but the outlook does not appear to be bright.
Had Edsall stayed in Storrs, the rematch with Michigan would have been a lot more intriguing, and the game would probably be a lot more competitive. Now it's just kind of sad.
Okay, the real recap part. Let’s keep this brief: last season the Huskies were an unpredictable outfit that beat Maryland, Louisville, and Pittsburg, but lost to nearly everyone else, including Western Michigan. Defensively they were okay, limiting opponents to under 20 ppg. Offensively they were horrible, scoring 17.8 ppg. If the Big East were the Big Ten, UConn would be Michigan State.
Being horrible on offense is what usually happens when you break in a new quarterback. Whether he’s sufficiently broken in or just broken, he’s likely to be the guy Michigan will see on Sept. 21.
A/S/L: Chandler Whitmer, junior QB. Not much of a runner, not much of a passer. Last season he completed 57.6% of his passes for 2664 yards, 9 TDs, and 16 INTs. This year he’ll have back his leading receiver, junior Geremy Davis (44 rec, 613 yards, 1 TD). Junior Deshon Foxx is another name to be on the lookout for. Reports from their spring game say that he caught a bunch of 70-yard bombs and was the only player to score in a 6-0 affair.
The run game was also pretty disappointing last season. Lyle McCombs, the team’s top running back, will return as a junior and try to make things better. McCombs is a durable but limited guy. He’s small -- listed at 5-8, 169 lbs -- and not all that quick or speedy, which kind of defeats the point of being small. Regardless, he's got good enough vision and takes the bulk of the handoffs, which has earned him the "workhorse" monikor. In fact, he's one of a small collection of FBS players to combine for more than 500 carries over the last two years. Last season he got 243 carries for 860 yards, which comes out to about 3.5 yards a carry. Not bad but not great, considering he broke the 1,000-yard mark as a freshman.
The offense will probably improve. Most of the line is returning, and UConn picked up a new offensive coordinator in T.J. Weist from Cincinnati. Weist had been with the Bearcats since 2010, and his pass-happy offense there led the conference in a bunch of categories. I doubt they’ll find their rhythm by the time Michigan rolls into town, however. Either way it'll be interesting to see what Mattison thinks of Weist's offense.
The narrative here is kind of opposite that of the offense: really good last season but not returning a whole lot of guys. Of UConn’s top 10 tacklers in 2012, more than half of them were seniors.
At least the top tackler is coming back. The name to know here is Yawin Smallwood, a 6-3, 244-lb middle linebacker who was named the Defensive Scout Player of the Week as a redshirting freshman right before the 2010 Michigan game. Smallwood had 120 tackles, 15 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks last year. He’s pretty high up on draft boards, so his production is likely not just a byproduct of “plays in the Big East.”
The Huskies’ defensive line is fairly experienced in the interior, less so on the outside. DT Shamar Stephen was a solid contributor last year with 26 tackles, 2 for loss, and Angelo Pruitt looks like he’ll probably slide inside (he played end last year). For what it’s worth, these guys aren’t small. Stephen is 6-5, 320 lbs, and Pruitt is 6-3, 300. That could be a problem for Jack Miller and whoever the two new guards are. At end, UConn is getting a sixth-year rush end back from injury, and they have another guy on the strongside who is 6-5, 301. Again, not small. At least their athleticism won’t be nearly as terrifying like Notre Dame’s line is, so Lewan and Schofield should be able to handle them without too much trouble.
Things are a little fuzzier in the secondary. From what I can tell it looks like UConn is set at safety, at least. They bring back three guys with varying degrees of experience and a hefty collection of career tackles. The cornerback situation is not good though (when is it ever? I mean, seriously). I think at this point they still have no idea who's going to start, so they're move their most experienced safety, junior Byron Jones (87 tackles, 1 INT), to corner while the other guys figure themselves out. Best 11, I say.
The Huskies’ defense will probably be pretty competent even with six new starters, but they'll be imminently beatable. In 2012 they put five of their guys on the all-conference roster, and when a defense produces multiple honorees that usually means the coaching staff is doing something right. Will they simply reload in 2013, or must they rebuild? I guess we’ll find out!
This team is kind of like: A rock.
Is it too early to bring out the rock? Maybe, but I glanced at Michigan’s B1G schedule and no one else fits the bill.
Vs. Michigan: Michigan’s non-conference slate is awfully reminiscent of the one they played in 2011. If so, UConn is this year’s version of San Diego State, with major differences being only that the game is away and Hoke didn’t coach any of these guys.
The Wolverines shouldn’t have much trouble stopping the Huskies offense. Whitmer, if coached properly, will probably top out around where Ryan Lindley ended up. That kind of development takes a while though. When Michigan visits he’ll probably struggle with Mattison’s nefarious schemes, and once the Wolverines pass rushers break through it’ll be game over. The Heininger Certainty Principle says that Frank Clark and/or Taco Charlton will have a good game.
Offensively Michigan will probably struggle with Smallwood. Hoke and Borges seem to prefer a safe, run-heavy approach on the road, and against that defensive line I can’t see any of the Wolverines interior offensive linemen getting to the second level on a consistent basis. If Michigan’s defense plays well, it won’t matter. Borges can keep running his new toys up the middle until the game ends at 14-6.
UFR coming fiveish. Sorry for the delay.
Bo + DKR + Keith Jackson. Self-recommending, from before the 2005 Rose Bowl:
The Trouba hit. Here it is:
Keep your head up. I guess that's a point of emphasis and stuff, but a few years ago that's just a bad spot to put yourself in.
Michigan takes on State this weekend; Yost Built previews. Rutledge gets the start tonight; Trouba and Serville return to the lineup.
Predictorama. Blogs say things!
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care predicts Michigan 31-17 in unnecessarily tiny font. Fouad agrees, as does The Big House Blog.
- The MZone goes with 31-24, Michigan.
- TTB says 38-20, Michigan.
- Maize and Go Blue says 28-17, Michigan.
- Northwestern's Scout guy says 31-23, Michigan.
- BWS goes with 20-17, M.
- Maize and Brew says 20-18, which is like a score I would predict.
- Maize and Blue Nation goes with 32-13.
- Tremendous goes 30-23.
- Three of four SOP folk predict a Michigan win with one holdout who always picks Northwestern to win and one guy talking soccer.
Talkin' Wildcats. I do the Q&A thing at Lake The Posts…
LTP: Finish this sentence. Northwestern wins on Saturday if they prevent __________ from ___________
MGB: Michigan’s linebackers from flowing to the ball. Given the pass offense NW has–Nebraska is NU this year, remember–if Northwestern is going to put up enough points to win it’ll have to be on the ground, and Michigan’s linebackers are flowing clean thanks to a bunch of Mattison slants. Get to them and you’ve got a chance.
…and Sippin' On Purple:
Northwestern is "ranked". Michigan "isn't." Should they be? Do you like the fact that you played two still-undefeated teams in non-con play?
Mgo: No. No Big Ten teams should be ranked, and in fact anyone who votes for a Big Ten team should be put under house arrest. Indiana may go to the Big Ten championship game. QED.
I like playing ND. Check that: love playing ND. I hate those guys. I love going to Notre Dame Stadium, and am immensely depressed the series is coming to an end so ND can play Stanford for some reason. And Purdue! Come on man. They're good this year, but that series is a bedrock of my Michigan fandom.
Playing Alabama in Dallas sounded like a good idea when it was scheduled. By the time the game rolled around it was clear that it was not.
Denard in the NFL. Rotoworld takes an interesting look at the kind of things Denard might be able to do in the NFL:
When I watch Robinson run (and the way Michigan uses him), I can't help but think his best role would be to start out as a returner and as a situational running back. He's listed at just 6'0/197 pounds, but has a thickly built lower body. The Michigan offense has taught him to make the same types of reads NFL runningbacks are taught. He's totaled over 200 carries the last two seasons, and he was the entire foundation of their run game in 2010 - totaling 256 attempts for 1702 yards (6.6 YPC) and 14 touchdowns. He has a tendency to get upright, but he's a tough and patient inside runner who reads and sets his blocks up well, hits cutback lanes with authority, and has the speed to do damage in space. …
Highlighted in green, the playside linebacker moves Michigan's tight end into the backfield. The strong safety has filled hard off the edge, and the two inside linebackers are scraping hard playside. Instead of allowing the defense to string the play out, Robinson takes advantage of Alabama's pursuit, planting his outside foot, re-directing, and hitting the crease swiftly.
Denard gets skinny through the trash in the cutback lane. He leans and squares his shoulders through the tackle, which allows him to pick up an additional three yards.
Much more at the link.
More Ferns. Tom Rinaldi is just warming up for this guy:
They're not moving it. Dave Brandon will not let the whole playing at Rentschler Field thing die:
"We continue to have discussions with UConn to see if there isn't a better plan," Brandon told a small group of reporters Friday shortly after speaking at the Michigan Sport Business Conference at the Ross School of Business. "Anything's possible.
"It's totally in their control. We're trying to provide them with as much persuasion as we can, in the form of financial benefits for them to move that game to a bigger stadium."
This is not happening. The Connecticut legislature put a bunch of money into that stadium and it is now losing more money than projected; they will freak out if the Michigan game, a guaranteed sellout, is moved.
Michigan is paying BYU and Colorado 1.3 million to come out, BTW. The gap between that and 900k, 1 million dollar snackycakes is incredibly small.
Wait what? I missed this when it happened, but apparently the Orange Bowl is now going to be a potential destination for Big Ten teams that miss out on the Rose:
The Orange Bowl matchup in the new playoff era has been finalized multiple sources told CBSSports.com on Wednesday.
The ACC champion will play the highest-ranked team among Notre Dame and available teams from the SEC and Big Ten beginning after the 2014 season.
This is a problem for the Pac-12 and Big 12, who want access to more than one big bowl but the problem…
"TV doesn't want it," said one official intimately involved in the process.
Etc.: Jeopardy does CFB names. Lloyd Brady profiled by ESPN. "Deal with it Jesus" is amazing. Stubhub wins over season tickets this game; by end of year it will be a better deal, I imagine. A report from an alternate universe. Slippery Rock preview. Delany talks big about Big Ten scheduling, but which he means Ohio State scheduling. And MSU, I guess. Dump these divisions already.
Bo. Via MGoVideo:
Playoff bits. So now the Big Ten is saying "screw playoffs altogether." Jim Delany is advocating for the four best teams in any playoff that does occur, and everyone hates the system of voting we have in place now. Delany:
“Everybody recognizes that the present poll system is not a good proxy,” he said. “It’s flawed, it’s not transparent, it has people who have a stake in the outcome voting, it measures teams before they play a game.”
I hope Bill Hancock has a fainting couch.
At this point it's clear that most fans don't have the same priorities in mind as the people in charge of the leagues they're fans of—see SEC expansion—and arguing with them on the internet is pointless. It's like trying to communicate with sentient mushrooms. Their desires are so alien that attempting to comprehend them leads to you shooting railguns at a distant planet for no reason other than fear.
Whatever happens, we can be assured that everyone was in favor of it at some point. Even the generally sober folks employed by actual newsgathering organizations are getting peeved at this point. Adam Rittenberg:
"A computer doesn't have an eye," Delany said. "So an eye test is missing if there is an injury" or other issues with a contender. Delany also said the impetus for change is that the BCS "has been battered and criticized" and treated "like a piñata" for the past 15 years. So to reiterate: The Big Ten's No. 1 preference would be to keep a current system that everybody hates and which uses a totally bankrupt formula to select its teams. Gotcha.
Sentient mushrooms, man.
IRONY EXPLODE. Dave Brandon, one of the Big Ten's most prominent complainers about a playoff:
"Every change I have ever proposed has been met with resistance," Brandon told the crowd… "I don't care what it is, any change that's been proposed, this has been a culture that wants to resist it, because we all want to go back to the way it was when we were there because that's friendly and that's comfortable."
Notice how he switches back to "I" from "we" when he's talking about all the great stuff he does and not the fact that six different uniforms in a season may have been a tiny bit excessive.
No move. UConn's AD has restated that the Huskies will not move their return game scheduled for next year from their home field. That's fine by me but now the UConn bloggers are looking at the $2 million buyout clause and wondering if the game will ever be played. I'd guess it will since there's not a whole lot of time to find a suitable replacement, but Brandon's had occasional grumbles about the indignity of playing at such a place since he arrived.
UConn's ace in the hole may be their athletic director. They hired Michigan alum Warde Manuel away from Buffalo, so Michigan may be more willing to go through with things.
Incoming pointage. Those Indiana junior/senior All-Star scrimmages have kicked off and the first one featured a lot of the above-pictured activities. Glenn Robinson III was 9 of 10 from the field en route to leading his team in scoring. He also added seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Junior rep Zak Irvin was his team's leading scorer as well, though he didn't shoot as well as GRIII.
Pee and flee. A couple of OSU players are suspended indefinitely—or at least until they pick up their whatever misdemeanor plea bargains—for urinating on the side of a building, then taking off when the cops arrived:
Police in Shawnee Hills, Ohio, a Columbus suburb, spotted the two players and a third man not connected to the football team early Saturday urinating outside a restaurant near Stoneburner’s house, located just off the course at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Collins said the men dashed away when they saw a spotlight, unknowing it belonged to police. He said Mewhort and Stoneburner stopped about 40 yards away from the restaurant and did not attempt to hide.
This is not interesting—it's no defensive tackle Dukes of Hazzard attempt. I just wanted to call it "pee and flee." BONUS: these guys were peeing on the side of a building mere feet from a thicket dense enough to hide in. Sounds like they need to take OSU's Andy Katzenmoyer Memorial Drunken Decisionmaking 101.
Kind of good. A re-rank of the top 100 basketball prospects from last year finds Trey Burke in rarefied air:
5. Trey Burke, Michigan (84)
Along with Cody Zeller, Burke was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and second team All-Conference. He and Zeller are also, comfortably, the top two freshmen returning to school this fall. Burke came out of nowhere (or, at least, the "obscurity" of the non-McDonald's All-American section of the ESPNU Top 100) to be a superstar do-it-all point guard for an NCAA tournament No. 4 seed. He scored often, he scored efficiently, he passed, and he took care of the basketball. The Wolverines' round of 64 loss to Ohio shouldn't alter the fact that Burke had a fabulous season. Michigan returns their three key players from 2012 and adds a pair of recruits capable of making an immediate impact. There's a reason expectations for 2013 are high.
Cody Zeller is the only guy higher than him who will be in college next year.
Like Coke, but fast. Drake Johnson tells a delightfully weird story about Fred Jackson to Kyle Meinke:
"I'm sitting in his office, and there was a fridge right over there, and he's like, 'You hungry?'" Johnson said. "I'm like, 'No man, I'm not hungry.' So he's like, 'OK, I'm going to grab myself a Coke.' So he grabs himself a Coke and he sits down.
"He takes maybe two sips, and he's like, 'Hey Drake, you want something to drink?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm still good.' He's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself an orange juice.' I'm like, 'Dude, you have a Coke in front of you.' He says, 'It's fine.'
"So I'm sitting there, and maybe two minutes later, he's like, 'I think I'm going to get myself a drink,' and I'm like, 'Coach, you already got two drinks in front of you, man! Your thirst can be quenched by what's in front of you.'
"He says, 'I'm just going to grab myself some water. You want some water?' And I'm like, "Nooo, I have Gatorade in my hand, guy. It's fine.'"
My thirst cannot be quenched by what's in front of me, Drake. What is satiation? THE MOMENT BEFORE YOU'RE THIRSTY AGAIN. Now let me tell you about how you are a taller, quicker version of Jim Brown. /dondraper'd
Suggestion box. Cover It Live has decided to charge out the nose for use of its product. Running Signing Day liveblog alone would now cost $300. It would have cost the site almost a thousand dollars last November. All this for a moderated chat system. This is clearly not a good use of funds, so I'll be looking for alternatives. Let me know if you know of any.
Etc.: Will Campbell's hood-crumpling registers in the Fulmer Cup. Pro Combat uniforms for Northwestern. More on Big Ten baseball's tough spot. NHL draft roundup from MHN. Holdin' The Rope on the Denard play. The first one. You know, that one. We need a nickname for it. Shoelace in the dirt or something. Mark Donnal invited to the NBPA camp. Can we stop giving credit to Jim Delany's amazing foresight when the conference he's piloting has won two national titles in fifty years?
Please don't take offense at clearly manufactured Queensbury-style smack-talk emanating from real journalists at ESPN. None of the journalists cares one whit about anything that is not the relevance of the serial comma in today's fast-paced society.