...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
big ten divisions
Being a sports fan means having very little control over a meaningless thing that can profoundly affect your life. I'm not even sure which year this started, but for 365-ish days after beating Ohio State life is a little better to live, while the same after losing to them makes life a little worse. Until recently I thought I was maybe mistaking the general depressing of age, the Cooper run having coincided with the years between the onset of puberty and the onset of responsibility. Then Courtney Avery picked off Braxton Miller and I felt 20 again.
There are few active metaphors left in entertainment for some old fashioned we're the good guys/they're the bad guys. As your focus shifts from defeating Skeletor to survival, you begin to gain perspective, which is anathema to such absolutes. In this new adult relativity, goodness is a thing you strive for, not something bestowed as a natural and obvious state. You learn too that two things opposed are rarely easy to identify as more good or less evil. We strive for a thing, they strive for a thing, this is all relative. We're for tradition, and culpability, and a really fast guy from Florida who says "WHAAAAATT?!" and will smile for anybody in the world. From all we can see, the thing they seem to be most for is them.
The last time Michigan won in Columbus it was 2000. I was about mid-way through my collegiate career, and John Cooper was nearing the end of his. I sat in the student section and fielded death threats and projectiles while Drew Henson and Marquise Walker and David Terrell played the kind of offense we always imagined they could. The fans around us started looking ready to make good on those threats, and we bolted before the end, a fresh fallen snow covering our escape.
For the first time since, I'll be returning to Ohio Stadium tomorrow. I've been advised to not make my allegiance too obvious, to not respond to the taunting, and to maybe pick up a red hat with a gray O to leave in my Michigan plated car so that I won't return to find the tires slashed and garbage in the gas tank.
There are awful awful Michigan fans out there, and wonderful people who root for Ohio State. But this is sports. It's a big, blatant, color-coded metaphor for the subtle battles we fight, including—especially—good vs. evil. Caveat relativity and caveat scale, but one program defines itself by the good it strives to achieve, and the other program defines good as itself achieving. Tomorrow during the last game of their bowl-banned season, Ohio State will be officially honoring Jim Tressel and the 2002 National Championship Team whose accomplishments might too have been erased but for the statute of limitations. It couldn't be more clear if we were eight.
Beat Ohio Stats
Not counting, you know, real life, only two things happened in the world in the last seven days: the Big Ten added two more Indianas, and Michigan prepared to play Ohio State. The former was dealt with in the diaries with grief counseling, the latter with statistics, and both were handled in this diary by Gordon that reimagines The Game since Bo if divisions (rather than… sense? tradition? goodness?) had existed all that time. The useful chart at right (click big) is by Coach Schiano and neatly sums up the results. Most of those years Michigan and Ohio State would have re-matched. Sparty would have played in 3 of the last 4.
I want to also recognize ehatch, a tempo-free fan who's been trying to apply some of those Kenpommish ideas to football. Some of the relevant among the results:
By the conventional measures Michigan has the best defense in the Big Ten. However, once we adjust for our slow tempo, we find that the defense drops to 5th. We love our defense how is that possible? I think there are a couple potential explanations: 1) Throw-God Trevor Simien and the elusive Colter -- Northwestern was Michigan’s worst performance of the year. 2) Michigan always seems to have one or 2 bad drives per game regardless of how bad the offense is (Illinois need not apply). MSU, Iowa, Minnesota all had 2 long scoring drives where it was completely out of character for both them and us. And since they are so bad offensively that bad drive is enough to put them above their average. In other words, Michigan has yet to put together a full game defensively.
Emphasis on "has yet to." Like I have yet to see the new Abraham Lincoln movie. Hey defense, what're guys doing tomorrow like noon-ish?
CoachW did a common opponent comparison. He didn't give a winner for each but I will. Give Ohio a slight edge for MSU since that was on the road, give Michigan that back for shutting out Illinois, and it comes down to Nebraska and Purdue. Michigan lost big but that may not be relevant unless Bellomy becomes so again; Ohio State gave up a lot of points but blew the doors on offense and won by lots. Michigan handled Purdue, who took OSU to overtime but that's not relevant since Miller was hurt. I guess edge OSU since they picked the better game to go without the centerpiece of their offense. But the margins are awful close.
Another study by glewe showed OSU's pass defense may be within the established Garder-KILL range. Docwhoblocked got bumped from the board for his study on punts to suggest Michigan ought to have both a deep and short guy. Like Dileo is short to fair catch the bouncers, and Gallon stands deep in case there's a return possibility. Also we're returning too many kickoffs (I figured) but I've been fine trading five yards of field position for that feeling you get when Dennis Norfleet has the ball in space.
LSAClassof2000 took five diaries to put out some charts and tables of the most basic stats. They're pretty straight-up, the kind of numbers you'll see put up on TV (my bias is toward the tempo-free above), but succinct. The QB one is worth a glance if only to see the Gardner effect, and the opening chart of the defense one is useful for quoting stats like "Michigan doesn't get as many sacks but we're averaging 6 TFL a game to OSU's 5.2." You know, if you talk like that. Here's the cliff's notes:*
Table of LSAClassOf2000 Diaries This Week
|Diary||Michigan And Ohio State - 2012||Michigan And Ohio State – Last 10 Yrs||Michigan And Ohio State - Defenses||Michigan's Rushing Game - 2001-Present||Michigan QBs - 2001 To Present|
|What we learned||Both even in rush/pass split, but theirs gets a 100 more yds a game.||Our respective passing offenses have been weirdly joined at the hip from Troy Smith on.||Pretty similar until we get to sacks, where they have John Simon and we don't have John Simon.||
Holy Molk's junior/senior years rushing Batman!
|Good good good good great okay DEATH okay great good good.|
*[This section has been edited from its original. See the comments if you care.]
Buckeye etc. (non-statistical): The k.o.k.Law memories trip continues with '76 and then through the '80s. THE_KNOWLEDGE pontificates. Lanyard program progrifiates. Jonvalk wallpaperates. Blockhams burninates.
Rationalizing Rutgersyland. History was made this week when Delany became the first commissioner to voluntarily add teams that weaken the average strength of his conference (oakapple). Course nobody around here
believes wants to admit that these guys are so utterly out of touch and/or incompetent as to grab a couple of debtors for the Weak-ass Woody Division, flip Illinois to the Bo, and spend the next 14 years trying to convince New Yorkers to care. Gameboy says it's about TV markets, and shows us the numbers he thinks the Big Ten was looking at. Turtleboy talked about the scheduling situations that large conferences create.
This last got me thinking about another reason Maryland and Rutgers might become a net benefit to the conference: they can be trusted to lose. If you figure they pretty much have to go to 9 conference games now, a few extra Indiana's on the road could go a long way toward making the top of the conference look more Top Ten-ish and playoff-viable (see: SEC this year and how the top half has capitalized on beating up the wretched bottom half).
[Jump, then Weeklies, then lots of Ohio and expansion carping on the boards]
The Michigan Difference. From the Iowa game:
I will take this radio host's opinion and trust it because that's what I want to do. Gene Smith just stopped by the local sports talk radio station and said the following things:
Gene "probably leaning to playing more conference games considering the amount of teams we are at"
And said this as well, paraphrased:
Gene was emphatic that preserving that game is job one. Good news as far as Im concerned.
And the guy doing the interview got this impression:
Get the feeling talking to Gene just now that OSU and Michigan in same division will be a likely endgame.
At least there's one guy maybe trying to do the thing that makes sense. Good job… Gene Smith? We have reached a strange place indeed.
Mitigating damage. We've heard this before only to have it beaten back by the need to squeeze every penny out, but if they don't expand the conference schedule now come on man:
After announcing the addition of Maryland to the league Monday, Big Ten commissioner said during a national teleconference that the league's conference football schedule could increase to nine games, and the league's basketball slate could jump up to as many as 20 contests for each team.
"I think more games is on the table," Delany said. "One of the reasons we stayed at 11 (members) and stayed at 12 is because we love to play each other more, not less."
My wacky idea for the basketball schedule is to play everybody once, draw a line in the middle, and then play six more with the top teams facing off and the bottom teams facing off. Never happen, but it would at least make the regular season title a nonrandom event based heavily on who you didn't play.
Meanwhile, a nine game conference schedule in football with the current protected rivalry setup would mean teams played opponents in the other division 33% of the time. Better than twice every twelve years; still less than is necessary to support any true rivalry with the opposite divisions.
Guaransheed! Mark Dantonio:
"When we win Saturday -- and I'll say when -- we'll be a 6-6 football team, not climbing out of the cellar as a 2-10 football team," Dantonio said.
Would you like to backtrack like whoah, though?
It sure sounded like a guarantee. So I asked Dantonio later on the Big Ten coaches' call whether he was, in fact, guaranteeing a victory.
"I don't guarantee anything," he said. "I'm saying that's the mindset we bring when we come."
Aw man just roll with it.
The hate. MVictors has created a grid of hate.
I assume that ending the losing streak has cooled off some of the Penn State hate; when I went in 2006 I would have classified that as orange. Also, Illinois should be red for them and green for us—when my wife, an Illinois undergrad not too up on sports, came to Michigan for her PhD she was under the impression that Michigan was Illinois's primary rival.
Meanwhile, fire up Rutgers and Maryland versions: all Big Ten teams totally indifferent towards them, Maryland and Rutgers getting continually more pissed off that Big Ten fans would like to see their universities vanish from the planet.
This is not about TV? Delany:
Delany said that, in his opinion, too much has been made about the move to add Rutgers as a pure cable television play. He emphasized how difficult it will be to integrate the Big Ten Network into the lucrative New York and New Jersey market.
"It's a difficult business," he said. "It's not always successful. You have to be good and lucky and hardworking at it. People treat it as if there's a no-risk assessment. There's always a risk. This initiative has risk. If it was so easy why didn't it happen a long time ago?"
Delany said the media has a perception that growing into cable homes in the East and mid-Atlantic regions is easy. He strongly disagrees with that notion.
"It's not that way," he said. "We went a year with the Big Ten Network without distributing in core areas. We decided we wanted to do that we did it and hung together. We'll have discussion with people."
Hmmm. I am not sure this is the best idea I have ever heard.
How will we spend the money? This is the saddest thing I've read about all of this, a post from On The Banks about what they'll do with all the money:
That being said, staff raises and respectable budget should be in order all around.
Yes. Get The Picture takes apart an annoying Andy Staples article:
This is Staples’ blessing of the situation:
None of us grew up with Ohio State-Maryland or Michigan-Rutgers. This is different, and different is always scary. But the Big Ten saw a chance to add value, and Maryland saw a chance to make more money in a time of economic uncertainty. This marriage may not square with your idea of which teams should or shouldn’t play in the Big Ten, but in this economy, none of us should be criticizing a school for making a sound fiscal choice.
It’s not that it’s scary. It’s that it’s boring. It’s like shopping for an insurance policy instead of a new car. We’re fans. We don’t give a rat’s ass about our schools making sound fiscal choices. (Just ask Tennessee fans about that right now.)
This is soul-numbing. And it’s been done in such an in-your-face way that it won’t even be worth making an effort to laugh the next time Delany has the stones to invoke tradition when he talks about the television programming he schedules, er… conference he leads.
Money is a zero-sum game. It can only be used on the facilities treadmill and coach salary treadmill. It does nothing for the people the money actually comes from, especially when the richest conference in the country goes out and hires Jerry Kill and Danny Hope and Tim Beckman.
The overwhelming feeling of adding Rutgers and Maryland is boredom. No one is going to wake up the morning their team plays either of those schools and do anything but shrug, and as the expansion continues that will spread to other teams. Michigan State and Wisconsin have a nice thing going; now they don't meet for four years. In the future there won't even be a way for those nice things to get going, because oh God Rutgers is on the schedule again.
More on the dissolution of the bundle empire. Conveniently timed SBJ article:
Nobody thinks that the World Series or NBA Finals will be on YouTube any time soon. But top executives with MLB and the NBA said they’ve seen increased interest from digital media companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple in recent months.
“They are sniffing around,” said MLB’s Brosnan, who just negotiated media deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner. “Pay-TV services are never secure, but with TV Everywhere starting to gain some traction, pay TV is looking like it’s building a model that might have some traction and will be here to stay.”
Stern, whose NBA is in the fifth year of eight-year media rights deals with ESPN and Turner, said he anticipates a time when digital media companies place a bet on sports rights in the same way that Fox Sports invested in the NFL in 1994.
The problem for the BTN model is not going to be actual fans signing up to pay but increasing numbers of sports-indifferent cord-cutters who opt out of subsidizing sports fans and just Netflix/Hulu/whatever everything. The current model is going to be the newspaper business in short order here, wheezing out a decline.
The 60 Minutes thing. It is here:
And there is a bonus thing.
Etc.: Fake conversations with Jim Delany are about to become a cottage industry. Penn State loses Tim Frazier for the year, which just obliterates them. They were outscored 53-24 by Akron in the second half after Frazier went out. He'll be back next year. Weinreb bombs everything. The Iowa game from the Hawkeye perspective.
no no no no no no no no no
BTW: you can only admire Rodriguez's daughter if you are <18
Let's schedule Arizona!
I read with interest your article on “Who replaces Notre Dame?” and was wondering if Arizona might qualify as a worthy replacement. Seems to me they’d be a step down from Notre Dame but my guess is that RichRod would do just about anything to get Michigan on his schedule. I’m not even sure if we’d want to play him but I suspect that this matchup would generate a lot of interest.
I didn't think a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998 was going to be a hot ticket, even if Rodriguez is there. FWIW, the Wildcats have a game at Nevada in 2015 but nothing else on the docket in the relevant time frame.
I'm opposed to an Arizona series, because the upside is low—you beat a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998—and the downside is high. By 2015, Rodriguez will presumably have some fleet-footed bastards to scare the crap out of you (or he'll be fired, but… probably not). Casteel will still be there and they'll have a weird defense that's kind of like playing Air Force on the other side of the ball. And Rodriguez will start gameplanning for the thing as soon as it's announced. That is a dangerous situation leading to much mirth if it comes off poorly, and you're just a bully if it doesn't.
It is a very Dave Brandon thing to do, though. Not including them was a wishful-thinking-based oversight.
Thanks for putting the thought into the open scheduling date; interesting stuff (as always).
But is the MGoBook putting odds on the open dates turning into additional MAC snacks? And the better question; given the incentives that the current BCS/limited playoff creates, wouldn't it be completely irrational (and, frankly, negligent) to actually schedule a competitive opponent?
Also: I pledge the first $1K to whatever institution (charity, UM, MGoBlog) that would help apply enough influence/pressure to turn this into an Arizona-Michigan home-and-away. Do you think Brandon could ignore a pledged collective $500K to Mott's Children's Hospital by fans if Michigan were to schedule a home and away with Arizona? I think he'd find a way to ignore it, but I would revel in the all the headlines if the story gains traction. And I'd also be interested to see how much fans would be willing to pledge to see these games take place (I realize there is a difference between "pledge" and "pay," but perhaps there are ways around that as well). And we already know RichRod would take the games in a heartbeat ...
Why? Why do you people want this? For revenge? Revenge on a guy Michigan fired after three years? I know Rodriguez was a disaster here but it's not like he was trying to be. Playing Arizona is beating up on the guy we already beat up on for three years… or losing to that guy. Just say no to Arizona.
As far as the 2015-2017 ND games turning into MAC games—snacks is out the window after last weekend—they might be able to get away with it in 2015, when they've got Utah and Oregon State already on the docket. 2015 is an ND/Nebraska home year. In fact, expect that slot to be filled with a one-off guarantee game.
2016 needs a marquee home game. The current home schedule: Colorado, MSU, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa. Unless the Buffs get it turned around in a major way, that's a repeat of this year's lame schedule minus the Dallas game. The Dallas game may have been a stupid thing to do but it was at least a hook for donors. Michigan needs one of those in 2016 and will have to return a trip in 2017.
As far as the limited playoff structure's incentives, I think the new system will be more inclined to reward quality nonconference schedules. Moving to a committee from polls makes it much easier to come to an agreement about the importance of tough schedules and promote last year's Oregon team over Stanford. Polls would never do that because no one is talking to each other and no common goal is settled upon.
Most years there will be a throng of one-loss teams arguing for one of two or three playoff spots, and those teams will be sorted out by schedule strength.
Let's not schedule Arizona!
Brandon won't schedule Arizona because…
I don't think Brandon would schedule Arizona because the risk / reward isn't there. If Michigan loses or splits with Arizona and Brandon's decision to replace RR with Hoke looks very bad. If Michigan sweeps Arizona, he's somewhat vindicated but given the number of down years Arizona has had, the expectations to win will clearly be on Michigan. Just my two-cents.
P.S. If RR came back to A2 with AZ, I would give him a standing ovation. Three years can change a lot of things, but if the game were played tomorrow, I'd probably be (secretly) rooting for RR to upset my own team. Does that make me a bad fan? Am I the only one who would feel that way? I wonder, though I doubt we'll ever know.
This is the thinking of a rational man. The first bit, anyway. I am not down with defecting to Team Rodriguez. Yeah, we screwed him. He screwed us, too. Let's just move on and not have that awkward conversation at the DMV.
In re: why Brandon won't do it, that's the same argument that everyone makes against the Horror II and that's still on the schedule. He does not think like other people. He likes to do things that get attention, no matter what sort of attention that is.
Let's fix our things!
Is Brandon going to take this opportunity to fix the odd-years-good-season-ticket, even-years-bad-season-ticket issues? Perhaps, making it a point to schedule our new games so that they are not away in years we go to Braska and Hell-hole?
Side note: it is amazing how screwed Michigan got in the conference alignment breakdown. Not in OSU's division—which means I'm rooting for the bastards this weekend because it's in my self interest. The four other teams in the division who aren't Minnesota have crossover games with Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue. Michigan gets Ohio State. And Brandon couldn't even wheedle out a tiny concession like splitting the Nebraska and OSU games. Hell, when Wisconsin comes on the schedule again Michigan gets all of them on the road in 2016.
The Big Ten division split literally could not have been any worse for Michigan.
They really should flip MSU and Michigan into the other division and hand Illinois and Wisconsin back. That's got better competitive equity now, especially from an intra-division standpoint. It preserves all the relevant rivalries without requiring awkward crossover games and provides a lovely parallelogram of hate between Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. And you can call them "East" and "West".
Gardner slant suck.
This will just turn into more "you love Denard and cannot be trusted", but FWIW:
I don't know if this means much but I played WR at a small college so I have some background when I say that the slant-interception was on Gardner. My HS or college coaches would have chewed my ass for days had I come out of a break that slow.
The key to the slant is your third or fifth vertical step is a hard jab with the outside foot and a sharp turn at less than 45 degrees to the inside. You get low over your toe on the break and accelerate across the middle. The DB is
going to be closing hard and when you round your cut or get out slow they beat you to the ball. I watched that in real time and thought right away it was on Gardner and the replay only confirmed that. He comes out of his break standing straight up and his first two steps are not full speed. Little guys run slants well because they are quicker out of breaks, big guys are better targets because they can block out a crashing DB. Gardner was slow out of the break and he was standing straight up so the jab step wasn't as convincing. That throw was on the money if Gardner runs a good route.
Now, the DB was in great position so that may mean Denard should have gone elsewhere but if Gardner runs a great route the worst that happens is a PBU.
Just my two cents,
Denard throwing it directly at the CB actually lends this credence (also, like, this guy knows what he's talking about) since the DB is expecting the slant to go where he is so he can tackle; Gardner is not there and CB is like "look what I found."
This does not change my depression level because it just moves some of the incompetence to another guy who is critical to the success of the whole thing.
I was wondering how effective you think it is to call for a fair catch when the ball is inside the 10. Shouldn't the returner gamble on the fact that it might bump into the end zone. Is there any real advantage to getting it at the eight instead of say the two?
The conventional wisdom seems to be shifting a bit on punt returns. Previously it was heels at the ten and no steps back. Now punts at the seven or eight often get fair-caught. Until someone charts the percentage of punts that end up in the endzone after landing at the five, six, seven, etc., we won't have a yes or no answer to this, but I think catching punts a couple yards inside the ten is the right move. The value of field position is close to linear for most of the field but plunges once we start talking about the one or two yard line:
The reason for this is obvious: most coaches will trade a down for a yard or two instead of risking the safety. I had the Mathlete take a look at whether this was correct strategy a while back, but unfortunately can't find that post. IIRC, he said that was the right move given the costs of a safety and how frequently you'll suffer one if you just run your usual offense.
By catching the ball at the seven or eight you're giving up the shot at a free first down, essentially, but you're also removing that awkward situation where you're burning a down and still trying to get out from your own goal line. It's the safe play, and probably the right one.
Internet, you are called out.
Amidst all the whining about football refereeing these days, people are STILL complaining about Mike Lantry's kick in 1974.
You would think after almost 40 years of controversy that you or one of your nerdy engineering friends could use modern technology and run a computer simulation to end the dispute once and for all.
This is much more important than the Kennedy assassination.
West Bloomfield, MI
Well? I mean, he's right. Computer engineers, assemble!
PREVIOUSLY ON "MGOBLOG WRITERS DRAFT BIG TEN TEAMS SO YOU CAN NOW, FINALLY, VOTE FOR THE TEAM THAT HAS DENARD ON IT"…
Rounds 1-3: At Jim Leyland's lakeside mansion in Somerset, quarterbacks are divided.
Rounds 4-7: In the War Room of the Toledo Ramada Inn, Heiko is replaced by a mysterious stocky middle-aged man with a mustache.
Rounds 8-12: In the Presidential Suite of of the Ishpeming Red Roof Inn, a 1970 Fiat 500 assumes the commissioner's chair, rules all picks must get 30 mpg.
Rounds 13-17: In a Secret Submarine Headquarters Underneath the North Atlantic, iPhones apparently get zero bars.
Rounds 18-something whatever: Onboard the Voyager II Spacecraft at the Edge of the Solar System, quarterbacks are put through a series of zero-grav tests to determine if there is anything they can't do.
Weary and ignoring the complaints of abused livers, SETH, HEIKO, ACE, and something that looks like a lanky sheep dog emerge from a secret lair in the PHOSPHATE MINES of the PACIFIC ISLAND OF NAURU. They ask for your ballot…
Seth "Progress" Fisher/Heiko "Progress" Yang/Ace "Progress" Anbender/Brian "Progress" Cook
POLLS ARE NOW OPEN. Go vote!
The Final Snarkdown
BRIAN COOK AND THE FLYIN' ZOOKS:
OFFENSE: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB, M), LeVeon Bell (HB/FB, MSU), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), MarQuies Gray (QB/WR, Minn), Kevonte Martin-Manley (WR, Iowa), CJ Fieodorwicz (TE, Iowa), Taylor Lewan (LT, M), Ryan Groy (LG, UW), Matt Stankiewitch (C, PSU), Chris McDonald (RG, MSU), Jack Mewhort (RT, OSU).
DEFENSE: Ra'Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota), John Simon (DE, OSU), Beau Allen (NT, UW), Akeem Spence (DT, ILL), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Desmond Morgan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL), Bradley Roby (CB, OSU), Blake Countess (CB, M), Daimion Stafford (SS, UNL), Christian Bryant (FS, OSU)
I didn't mean to do this but I ended up with a Rodriguez spread'n'shred circa 2007 with a running quarterback, a damn fast outside back, and a fullback type who can rip off runaway beer truck touchdowns. The offensive line is a lot more POWER based but I figure that's fine since Auburn and others have made the inverted veer and related plays major spread drivers. Then you've got an array of excellent WRs with big catching radius: the deep threat (Abbrederis), the unstoppable guy on intermediate routes (Gray), and a promising TE.
The defense is Greg Mattison.
FINAL SNARKDOWN (by Heiko): Dear Brian: You know that red and gray plaid shirt you wear all the time? You should wear it less. Oh, something mean about his team? Ummmm... None of your QBs have a winning record. I've seen Desmond Morgan in person, and he's still really small and liable to get crushed by offensive linemen. And you drafted two LOLphers.
[The drafters still got some splainin' to do. For the rest of the roundtable, and which school had the most picks, and stuff, HIT THE JUMP.]
10/29/2011 – Michigan 36, Purdue 14 – 7-1, 3-1 Big Ten
At some point, Michigan will find out what it is this year. I have no idea when that point will come.
We know they're better than they were last year. How much better remains frustratingly murky. You think you have the answer when Michigan is punked in East Lansing, but then the Spartans get throttled and Michigan beats Purdue and there they are again in the national rankings…
10. South Carolina
11. Virginia Tech
15. Penn State
…and you wonder what happened to the rest of college football. This team is transparently flawed, incapable of going ten pass attempts without throwing the ball to the other team, and one year removed from having a defense that couldn't slow down a band of coked-out lemurs. So of course they are on the cusp of the top ten, hanging out with Houston, South Carolina's dumpster-fire offense, and Penn State's bold experiment into quarterback-free football. College football 2011: contagious and 100% fatal.
With one loss and seven wins everything is on the table as long as Sparty manages to biff it once down the stretch (don't get your hopes up)… and no one knows if they're any good.
This must be what it felt like to be a Minnesota fan in the middle of the Glen Mason era. Consider: you were a national power, and then you were wretched forever. One 3-9 year counts as "forever" to Michigan fans. We are sheltered, sheltered people.
You start showing signs of life. One season you get off to a great start, and collapse. Okay. We got off to a great start! It's better than being wretched!
The next season you get off to a great start, and collapse slightly less. Okay. We are building something here.
The next-next season you get off to a great start, are ranked in the top 15, have an unstoppable ground game, and… well… is there going to be anyone on the schedule? No? No teams at all?
Ah, Michigan. Here we go. /dies
It wasn't like this before. Michigan was Michigan, fergodsakes. All victories were expected and all teams were inferior and all losses were inexplicable or unjust and there wasn't a question about any of this. Michigan was just better.
Evidence to the contrary was suspect and invariably proven—or at least argued to be—false. There was this call or this mistake or this thing, and if the game had continued until a victory was well and truly certain, the opponent would have left shattered into a thousand mournful pieces*. This mentality was so pervasive that Michigan fans still have a reputation for the above thought process even after the last five years.
I don't think like that anymore. At first I was like the materialized whale from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.
"Big Ten? What's that? I wonder if it will be friendly."
Now I'm trying to figure out whether I am the bowl of petunias…
The only thing that went through the bowl of petunia's mind as it fell was Oh No, not again.
…or if something novel is happening, something like not plummeting to my doom after materializing in an area where gravity is not my friend.
The Big Ten is not helping out here. At all. Michigan's conference wins are over Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue, teams which have lost to North Dakota State, Army, and Rice, respectively. Meanwhile, where is the proverbial other shoe? The nearest proximate shoe just lost to the Gopher team so bad they inspired GopherQuest. Gopher blog Fire Jerry Kill shows how this is possible by splitting out various quarterbacks' stats when they are playing Iowa vs Not Iowa. Here's MarQuies Gray:
OPPONENT CMP/ATT YDS CMP% Y/A TD INT RATING
Not Iowa* 9/19 125 47.3 6.6 .5 .7 104.3
Iowa 11/17 193 64.7 11.3 1 0 179.5
And here's Steele Janz:
This is not much of a shoe.
The next potential shoe lost to the Purdue team Michigan just outgained two to one. They didn't score against the Boilers until there were ten minutes left. And they're coached by Ron Zook. Comparative scores are a dumb way to do anything because football is weird, but it kind of seems like football will have to be weird for those shoes to drop. There is a strong possibility that Michigan reaches ten games this season without playing a decent team other than 1) the one they beat thanks to a fluketasm and 2) the one they lost to in a trash tornado.
Then it's just Nebraska and Ohio State. Just.
The stakes here are simple and vast as the ground that may or may not be rushing up to meet us: a satisfying season. That's something Michigan hasn't had in almost a decade. 2006 left a nasty taste because of the way it finished. Michigan hasn't beaten Ohio State since 2003, hasn't done that and won a bowl since 2000. Expectations keep deflating but we still haven't hit the point where they cross the actual accomplishments of the football team.
I want to believe. I miss the days when accusations of Michigan arrogance were accurate. I just don't know, man. I don't feel the air rushing past my face, but it turns out I'm not very good at identifying certain doom rushing up from below.
*[Unless it was from the Pac-10 or Florida, in which case please take your 30-point victory and GTFO before we have to alter our mentality.]
Via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:
Bullets That Hope To Be In Orbit Or Something
Kovacs. I sort of had the Kovacs information but it was only one unconfirmed source so I held it and hoped it was not true. Now that it is obviously true I can tell you a couple things about it:
- It is supposed to be an MCL sprain, which means he can barely move his leg at the moment and will be out a few weeks. When the coaches say he's "questionable" for Iowa they're in all likelihood…
- …lying their boo-boos off. Kovacs did not practice Tuesday but no one noticed this because they threw Matt Cavanaugh out there in #32.
The Cavanaugh thing is the clincher after a season of mysterious fake-seeming injuries that conveniently explain things like why the national defensive player of the week immediately ate bench. Hoke will bend the truth for better PR or gamesmanship purposes. It's back to the Fort. This is a 180 from the injury-report-issuing Rodriguez, though IIRC Rodriguez would occasionally surprise by leaving off a guy who was not already known to be dinged up.
Anyway, the plan going forward is to take any Hoke statement about the injury status of a player with a grain of salt. So no, I don't believe Woolfolk was moving to safety before this happened.
We have to talk, scoreboard person. An artist's impression of the replays on the brand new scoreboards at Michigan Stadium:
The scoreboards are very big. The replays are even bigger, to the point where they are useless unless you're a helmet fetishist. Widen your shot, good sir, and the blessings of Bo will be upon you.
The next defense. After years of being an untenably young defense, Michigan has reached average-ish. Despite that they're slated to lose only four players next year, one of them a walk-on. With the swap at WLB and the seemingly permanent insertion of Blake Countess into the starting lineup the breakdown is like so:
- Three freshmen (Ryan, Morgan, Countess)
- A sophomore (Gordon)
- Four juniors (Roh, Floyd, Demens, Kovacs)
- Three seniors (Martin, RVB, Heininger)
And then there's Woolfolk, who is a starter as long as Kovacs is out. If only Rodriguez had recruited some dudes in the middle of the line you could project the returners to be non smoke-and-mirrors good. Even as it stands you've got a senior Campbell and hope for decent play from Washington, Rock, and a bunch of freshmen. They should be able to maintain their play next year.
The one true tiebreaker. Everyone's talking tiebreakers in the West division because it was looking like a bunch of cats in a sack at the end of the year before Iowa went out and ended GopherQuest. The Big Ten's are typically goofy, prioritizing head to head over a better measure of superiority: the record of your conference opponents.
The first tiebreaker should be the conference record of your opponents in the other division, which works for two- and three-way ties. Right now that looks like this:
- Nebraska: 9-4 (Wisconsin (2-2), PSU(5-0), OSU (2-2))
- Michigan: 6-7 (Purdue (2-2), Illinois (2-3), OSU (2-2))
- MSU: 4-9 (IU (0-5), Wisconsin (2-2), OSU (2-2))
If the season does end in a three-way tie here* any system that would give the nod to the team that played Illinois and Purdue or IU and Wisconsin instead of Wisconsin and Penn State is a broken system. Instead the tiebreakers are all head to head and divisional record, which makes no sense. You've all played eight conference games and proven yourself equal—it's time to figure out who played the tougher schedule.
*[Say M beats Nebraska, loses one other, MSU loses to… uh… Iowa, Nebraska wins out with exception of M loss.]
Jake Ryan edge update. I have negative complaints this week. This is also known as praise. There were no sections confused by my "AAAARGH JAKE RYAN" outbursts because the most notable thing that happened in This Week In Jake Ryan's Edge Play was Ryan annihilating a sweep in the backfield by submarining a blocker on a blitz and tackling. +3, Mr. Ryan.
Quite a find there, especially considering that Michigan picked him up because he was an effective blitzing OLB in a 3-3-5 in high school. He could be a fish out of water in this scheme.
Michigan under-center running update. It… worked? Somewhat. I have no idea how to classify things like Fitzgerald Toussaint taking a toss play opposite that Denard jet action and motoring 59 yards. That's not really manball. It's not spread 'n' shred. It's gimmickball.
It worked, though. It looked like Michigan finally got that pin and pull zone operational, possibly because they identified an issue with Purdue's DEs. If they're easy to seal the pin and pull gets you the advantages of an outside sweep in a faster-developing play. The pulling linemen have less distance to cover.
The I-Form stuff did work to some extent. As we'll see below, the extent was such that every newspaper in the state is running a piece on how
1: Lo, Bo looked down from Football Valhalla and said "I am pleased, my son." 2: "It is the will of Old that the quarterback shall taketh the ball from the center by hand and turn his back to the line of scrimmage." 3: "Motion of the ball through the air, whether forwards or backwards, is an abomination to Old." 4: "Pitches are excepted."
Judging the effectiveness of the base offense will have to wait for the UFR to break down the yardage. I'll probably have to categorize the gimmickball separately.
Inverted veer. Rodriguez played with it some but never really put it in the offense for realz; Borges whipped it out against the Boilers to good effect.
That's a play that gets Robinson going north-south with a pulling lineman if the defense doesn't force a handoff, which Purdue didn't. That was to their detriment.
I probably won't complain about showing it against a weak opponent if/when it doesn't work down the road. Purdue was nowhere near the baby seal that Minnesota was. The game remained in contact until the third quarter. This is a different thing than knowing you can name your score after the first drive.
Taylor Lewan. @mgovideo tweeted "Taylor Lewan is undead" and I have nothing that can top that. Shoot him in the head, Gholston, or he's coming for you next year. Make sure to double tap.
Students who are not reading this: you suck. Weekly complaint about student section is lodged. No one reading this is included. It is your slothful classmates who must feel the lash.
Now, there are some extreme bottlenecks upon section entry that mean a lot of student who show up on time spend 15 minutes waiting in line before actually getting into the stadium. Vitriol towards the student section up to halfway through the first quarter should properly be directed at the athletic department's crappy logistics.
HOWEVA, when half of the upper reaches remain empty throughout a Big Ten game that's on various students who don't know what MGoBlog is. There's no reason to sell those people tickets at discounted rates if they're not even going to show up and be loud. The carrot and stick:
- Assign points to students based on ticket scans. 5 for 20 minutes before the game, 2 for before kickoff, 1 for showing up at all. Validated tickets do not score.
- Reduce the size of the student section by 10%.
- Prioritize renewals based on points, not seniority. Also prioritize bowl lotteries based on this. Top 10% get half off. Anyone below some crappy cutoff gets no tickets.
I'd love to see a similar policy enacted for regular season ticket holders but that's infeasible since they're already pressing them for maximum cash and cannot easily replace people pissed off by something like that with other super rich dudes.
This is the cost of luxury seating: seeing the most expensive seats in the building half-full at best. This is most obvious at Yost, where the club seats are literally 40% full for every game.
Special K: die in a fire. I've linked to various Penn State blogs complaining about the environment at Beaver Stadium to provide ominous warnings about what our future is like, but I thought that would be in five years… not five games. Volume: ear-splitting. Choices: inane. Seven Nation Army: played one dozen times, including before opening kickoff. It's bad when I am tired of 7NA. I once listened to 7NA for a half-hour straight until someone yelled at me to stop.
HSR suggests another White Stripes song:
That works. He probably would have gotten one that does if he had chosen at random. There are more Stripes songs that are plausible than ones that aren't. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told). Fell In Love With A Girl. Icky Thump. Conquest. Blue Orchid. Never has a local band had a better collection of killer opening riffs plausible for pump-up purposes. If the athletic department prioritized having their own thing instead of having the same thing everyone else does they might look into this.
Meanwhile, we're treated to "GET LOUD" and an animated train exploding on the videoboards. (Instead of replays, of course, because who wants to watch a football game anymore?) We are Michigan State. It took less than a season. I was all like "you go girl" to this Bando Calrissian comment:
Yesterday was the closest to a minor league baseball game experience I've ever had at Michigan Stadium. The RAWK was out of control(and more often than not earsplittingly loud), the Rocket Man deal struck me as an unnecessary gimmick (play the Space, Bitches PSA and call it a day), that train graphic on the scoreboards, everything felt extraordinarily cheap and generic. Very un-Big House-esque.
And, here' s a fun fact: One of the highlights of Homecoming has always been the alumni cheerleaders doing gymnastic tricks in the end zones during stoppages in play. It's fun, and always gets the fans really into things during lulls in the action. They were told this year they were not allowed to do flips and such on the field, or so one of them told a few of us in Alumni Band. And it was true, they basically just sat and did nothing for the entire game.
A little bit at a time, the uniqueness of Michigan is being chipped away in favor of a generic, corporate, sterile experience. Seems to me "revenue streams" and marketing gurus rule the day in DB's Athletic Department, and it really doesn't need to be that way.
Corporate ass-covering and focus-group research, all of it. What's happening to Michigan Stadium is reason #1 this site will always remain independent. This is what you get for hiring someone who made his living sending people things they didn't want in the mail.
Yeah, guy who doesn't care about any of this and complains about people who do, you're cooler than those who do. Pop that collar.
THE ONE GOOD THING: No dog groomers except once before the band came out.
ST3 goes inside the box score:
With apologies to Denard, this section belongs to Fitzgerald Toussaint this week. In fact, I will refer to him as Filthgerald. Filthgerald gained 170 yards on 20 carries, scored 2 TDs, had a long of 59 yards, and averaged 8.5 YPC. Can someone explain to me again why he only got two carries against staee? Forget that last comment, I’ve moved on.
There is also a way-too-early BCS standings look. No Hoke for Tomorrow, unfortunately.
Yes, I'm so damn scarred by the previous three seasons that, after Purdue's initial drive, I felt a flash of deju vu all over again. But Michigan stayed the course and eventually put Purdue away, pretty much by halftime and certainly before the 3rd quarter was over.
TTB on Toussaint:
Fitzgerald Toussaint is hitting his stride. Finally healthy after two years of long-term injury issues, Toussaint is showing what he can do. He had 20 carries for 170 yards, including a spectacular 59-yard touchdown run (Michigan's longest run of the year). He's averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season. Perhaps the best part of Toussaint's game is the way he finishes runs. Despite not being particularly big, he always seems to churn his legs for an extra couple yards after contact. His yardage total was the best by a Michigan running back since Michael Hart had 215 against Eastern Michigan back in 2007.
At this point, Michigan is grabbing wins like items at an Old Country Buffet; these things might not be of high quality, but this is America and MORE is better than anything else. Yes, I am comparing the quality of Big Ten competition to the lukewarm comestibles of a buffet chain.
The Purdue point of view is unenthused or bizarrely optimistic. The former:
Purdue's execution, especially when it was really needed was atrocious. Conversely, UM shored-up the issues that had been exposed v. MSU following their bye week...and played soundly all game.
Michigan seemed to want to test Purdue physically in the trenches and Purdue failed as they looked pensive, slow and soft when popped in the mouth. The end result was a sound defeat for Hope's squad, 36-14...but it felt much worse than that score.
Yes, the final margin was 22 points, but we were close through three quarters and the difference of a few plays swung the scoreboard wildly in their direction. Things got wildly out of control after a few key mistakes, as often happens in college football.
I'm just all like… it was 36-7 at the start of the 4th and Purdue had 200 yards of offense to Michigan's 510. That's not a game that swung on a few plays. Elsewhere in his post Hammer and Rails's T-Mill gives Michigan plenty of credit, so this isn't a lol delusional homer thing. I'm just surprised anyone could do the point-at-critical-plays thing after that.
Media, as in dying legacy organizations (and ESPN). Before we get into the scoffing, the Daily covers the jetpack flight in column-length detail.
The scoffing! Man, does everyone want to seize upon this as proof Brady Hoke Gets It, This Is Michigan, and This Is Not Last Year:
Just like that, Fitzgerald Toussaint proves the Michigan football team can resemble its old self
Sometimes I wonder if my brain has mutated to the point where I'm not even watching the same game as some of these people. This is about the MSU game:
With the backs providing little to no punch offensively, Robinson was forced to become Michigan's exclusive run threat. Partly because of that, he was also subject to immense pressure in the passing game, as he was sacked four times and eventually forced to leave the contest early due to injury.
My version of this paragraph is "With Al Borges inexplicably enthralled with the passing game, Robinson only got twelve carries to go with Toussaint's two. Because of something entirely unrelated that also impacted the ground game, he was also subject to immense pressure in the pocket. Later he left with an injury caused by a late hit."
Yes, this is the usual mumbling about media narratives that have no relation to reality. You're like 3000 words into this post and are clearly addicted. Suck it up. This is the point in Requiem for a Dream where your arm is a mass of black veins and you're still shooting up.
Martin leads resurgence of traditional Michigan defense against Purdue
…against… yeah, them.
This is a different Michigan team
…than the one that beat Purdue last year.
Wolverines' 'old-school' whipping of Purdue would've made Bo Schembechler proud
This one is a wow experience. I mean:
[Toussaint] transforms into a sledgehammer when he runs between the hash marks.
He's not Carlos Brown but come on, dude. And I challenge you to distinguish this from a seventh-grader's B- paper:
Even against a powder-puff Big Ten team such as Purdue, the Wolverines regrouped after surrendering a 48-yard pass on a simple slant-screen that shredded the defense for a touchdown in the opening minutes of the game. No one panicked on the sideline. Instead, the much-maligned unit discussed it and agreed the appropriate response called for equal parts inspiration and perspiration, but no more excuses.
Holy pants. Someone agreed this paragraph should be set down in print and copied thousands of times so its wisdom could spread throughout the land, no more excuses.
Even Wojo fell prey to some extent:
In finding running game, Michigan re-joins Big Ten title race
Ann Arbor— As the day's events unfolded, one thing became clearer and clearer. Michigan is back in the running, and it got there by getting back to the running.
The Wolverines pounded a weaker foe Saturday, which isn't a big deal unless you acknowledge how it happened, and what happened elsewhere in the Big Ten. Michigan bashed Purdue, 36-14, and did the job without everyone waiting around for Denard Robinson to do the job.
Michigan's rushing offense before playing Purdue: 12th nationally. Rich Rodriguez: not involved with the decision to throw two-thirds of the time against Michigan State.
Strategy matters, simple things unrelated to hearty grit toughness can provide huge swings, coaches make mistakes frequently, and no one at a newspaper ever watches a game a second time. Facts.
aaargh unnecessary comma
When Twitter blew up at noon I figured something inane involving Jim Delany had just happened—this is my default assumption whenever Twitter blows up and has always been right, even when Michael Jackson died—and good lord, inane doesn't even begin to cover it. You know this by now but to remind you that the people in charge of marketing the Big Ten are either very stupid or think you are very stupid, the Big Ten Divisions are called "Legends" and "Leaders."
So. A group of people responsible for turning the Big Ten Network into a spigot of filthy lucre so gushing it can afford to employ Chris Martin is also responsible for making the Big Ten the Successories Conference. They've created division names that signify nothing about the teams inside of them—the only way I can remember that Michigan is in the "Legends" division is that "Leaders" is part of the friggin' fight song and we're not in that division. Their inane names don't just start with the same letter, they start with the same two letters. They are unusable.
And they've done this with 15 minutes in photoshop:
Note the use of negative space. Also note how stupid it looks.
By comparison, the new Pac-10 logo would look badass on any soccer shirt in the world:
How can the same group of people responsible for creating the BTN be responsible for this? Obviously the visionary bits of the BTN arrangement come from Fox, with Delany and company the lucky nomads who parked their camels in the right bit of desert and now get to call themselves an emirate.
These division names do not exist. I'm not using them. Michigan is in the West. Ohio State is in the East. Wisconsin has to deal. It is immediately obvious which teams are in the West—the ones mostly in the west. Michigan can be Champions of the West, and no one has to think about how leadership is more about character than authority.
Can we make this a blogosphere-wide insurrection? Please? Everyone just use "East" and "West."
Remember when you'd go in your room and imagine that instead of a broken down tricycle you had a flying unicorn that could take you away from mommy and daddy's screaming? Yeah, this will be like that.
BONUS: someone on the twitters said "I'm pretty sure an ordinary @MGoBlog thread could have produced better logo options," which is true. So do it either in the comments or by email and I'll pull up the best five and we can vote on the Unofficial Big Ten Logo; I hope I can work out a deal with the winner so we can offer it to the conference for free, if only to shame them.