I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
Old Mailbag Updates
On old spellin' guy:
Regarding the emailer who asked about Old Michigan Spelling Guy last week, I can confirm that both OMSG and Superfan were in attendance for Homecoming against Indiana. OMSG did the cheers, and Superfan just wielded his cowbell (feel like I should say "of Truth" or something after that).
I didn't know about either of these guys 'til this year; I've normally sat in the southeast corner prior to this year. But I saw Superfan doing these cheers against Western and knew what the emailer was talking about. Where OMSG has been for the other games is beyond me. But since they sat next to each other, Superfan would probably know if asked.
So… he's fine, workin' his magic. On the thing that isn't people shaking keys:
Brian,As a sort of answer to the question about the 3rd down student cheer.I had student tickets from 04-08 and I was at the WMU game also in the student section. I don't really know what to call the cheer, it really just started last year. The band broke out some new (at least I don't remember hearing it before last year) song they play on 3rd downs. As they play it the band director and some of the band sticks their hands out and shakes their hands and fingers, which is why some of the students have picked it up and started doing it along with them. I've noticed that some of the students still pull out the keys and some do the little hand wiggle thing, it's kinda split. I'm not sure what the motivation was for the new song and hand thing, it surprised me a little last year when I saw it the first time. If there was some sort of message to the students last year about doing the new cheer I missed it somehow. As far as I know, the students that started doing it just picked it up from seeing the band do it.Jesse
As I’m assuming you’ve heard by now, that cheer has been used by the Marching Band for decades. I was in the MMB starting in 1993 and we used it back then. And we use it as part of our cadence to and from the stadium. Now, you may be correct about when it was picked up by the football team and then the fans. I remember some of the football players picking up on it late in my tenure (93-97) when we’d do a practice performance for them in the fall. Whether it was specifically 1997 or not I don’t know.
Anyway, thought I’d pass that along. The band usually does the “Great to be….” And “Go Michigan, Beat the XXXX” cheer as part of every game’s cadence.
Adam R. Cole
New Items, But Slightly Old
Brian – I'm sure you are no stranger to this complaint - is it just me, or does Pam Ward's announcing just crawl under your skin and annoy the **** out of you? Her ad hoc commentary is so pointless, is, at best, pawned from the media guide, and sounds no different than what you would imagine to hear if you ever decided to watch a college volleyball game or gymnastics tournament. She can't offer any meaningful insight on football strategy. Her announcing actually made me madder and more hostile while watching the "survivorfest" vs. IU last weekend. She does not belong in a football booth. Is there any way we can get ESPN to permanently put her on Northwestern duty (except, of course when we play them)?
I'm with you. It's not that Pam Ward is a woman, it's that she's terrible. The difference between Ward and McDonough, who was terrific in a game just as crazy, was striking. McDonough injected the game with more drama; his "DROPPED!" on Savoy's drop was outstanding, as was the rest of his call. Ward has this crazy ability to suck energy out of a play. On Indiana's 85-yarder, well…
She doesn't start talking about the play until Willis is ten yards downfield, and when she does it's "Wow, big run out for Darius Willis. Willis down the left sideline. Nobody's going to catch him." She can't sound excited. That's why she's on nooners on ESPN2, I guess. It's Michigan's job to make this irrelevant by getting good enough to get out of that timeslot or hammer their opponents to the point where Ward's lack of excitement mirrors the game.
While I've seen most of the team improve compared to last season, I'm mystified by the punt return. I've got know-it-alls around my section yelling for Mathews head after all his fair catching, but could it be this new fangled punt formation that is affecting the statistics? I know Michigan is using the same type of coverage and while I still think Space Emperor is the reason why our punt coverage is good, could it also be the formation?
I don't care much about Mathews calling a lot of fair catches since he's had little opportunity to actually make any returns. The problem has come when Mathews doesn't field punts. He gave up about 50 yards of field position against Eastern Michigan and failed to field one punt against Indiana that should have been easily acquirable.
Fielding the punt seems about all you can do these days. As you noted, the spread punt formation now sends six players downfield immediately, severely reducing the ability of opponents to get good returns. A brief trip to the spreadsheet to compare 2000's stats with 2008's indicates there's some meat to this theory: In 2000, 46% of punts were returned with team averaging 10.1 yards each. By last year, the spread of the spread punt formation had seen punt return percentage drop to 39% and return average drop a full yard to 9.1. Since there are still a bunch of teams running old-school formations, those numbers underestimate the increased efficiency of the spread punt formation at least somewhat. Anecdotally, I think the difference is considerable.
As returns drop, "catch the damn ball" becomes an increasingly important part of being a good punt returner. Mathews has done that, except when he hasn't, and I'm fine with him back there.
Side note: I'm sick of fair catches. I'd like to see the NCAA institute the NFL rule; in the NFL you can have an illegal man downfield on a punt. I assume that rule is the only thing preventing the widespread adoption of the spread punt in the NFL; the numbers prove its efficacy.
The mercifully Paul-Maguire-free 2009 ESPN college football announcin' teams have been announced. Of primary interest to Michigan fans are these trios locked into ABC 3:30 games:
Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, and Holly Rowe
Mike Patrick, Craig James, and Heather Cox
You will never escape the vast reach of Matt Millen, Detroit. Never.
Also the ESPN afternoon slot will probably be heavy on Michigan, so expect a goodly dose of Dave Pasch, Chris Speilman, and Bob Griese. If Michigan gets relegated to ESPN2 nooners it's Pam Ward, as per usual, and any night games (read: Iowa) will be handled by the usual Musberger-Herbstreit pairing or Brad Nessler-Todd-Blackledge-ERIN ANDREWS ERIN ANDREWS ERIN ANDREWS. Good to see Nessler and Griese finally got that surgery and can now be in different rooms—different states, even.
All of this is fine, good even. Before Matt Millen was the worst general manager in the history of professional sports—I defy anyone to contradict that statement—he was a good-to-excellent color guy. Hell, the reason he got the job with the Lions seemed to be his outstanding color commentary. It's not like he had any other qualifications whatsoever. So he and McDonough seem fine; I know some people think he's got it in for Michigan or something but that's because some people are crazy tribalists.
I'm considerably less enthused about the prospect of drawing Mike Patrick and Craig James. Patrick remains stained by his association with The Worst Football Booth Ever—Patrick, Maguire, and Joe Theismann—and seems like a guy who's still pissed off he has to work this small time rah-rah crap instead of the NFL. James, meanwhile, is a consistently smug presence in the ABC studio. Way back in the day I rated him only slightly less offensive than side-mouth-talkin' lunkhead and soon-to-be unemployed Aaron Taylor. I also find it hard to believe he can have a job analyzing college football given his role in the NCAA's Chernobyl moment at SMU.
I know nothing about Pasch. A quick google search finds an Awful Announcing post wherein he describes a portion of the ND-Hawaii bowl game a "golden shower." He sounds competent, if in serious need of an inner 13-year-old. Nice voice.
I'm an avowed fan of Spielman and Griese, two guys who tend towards wonkiness when allowed to and should work well together analyzing opposite sides of the ball. I even defended Spielman's right to call Michigan games against the good Doctor's j'accuse in the aftermath of some impolitic comments on a Columbus radio station, because he is not Andre Ware no matter how often TV execs demand he spend more of his time on-air saying "BOOM" or "POW."
So, yeah, not perfect but the important thing: no Mark Jones, no Rod Gilmore, no Andre Ware. Hell, Ware's been relegated to Dave sidekick and will be doing Vanderbilt-Mississippi State. ESS EEE CEE, indeed.