there would have to be some to wash away
The meaningless expectations of SIDs picking team names at random as long as they're from the SEC has landed. The top ten:
- Florida State
- South Carolina
Wisconsin is 12, MSU 13, Nebraska 16. ND is 24. Ohio State is ineligible due to bowl ban. So is Penn State but… yeah, probably not relevant there.
I'd say Michigan is too high but Arkansas. Seriously: Arkansas. The team coached by a raving duck-man is tenth. So I guess we're good. It doesn't take long for expectations to rebound to the usual when you are a college football blue-blood.
BONUS DISPUTE: VT is heinously under-ranked at 20. Logan Thomas is going to blow up this year. They crushed #8 Michigan everywhere but the scoreboard in the Sugar Bowl, and IIRC their defense was flush with sophomores last year. They have to replace almost everyone other than Thomas on O, but it won't matter that much early.
Nosie. Boise announced their big nonconference game… and it's against Virginia Tech, which you will note is not Michigan. M is still casting about for a reasonable opponent to open the 2010 season. Options are getting thin on the ground.
Ok, let's talk about this again. Tennessee is pushing Eric Berry for the Heisman, which isn't going to happen unless Tennessee is way better than everyone expects they'll be but fine. I enjoy quixotic Heisman campaigns of all stripes and miss the defunct blogger version of the Heisman—even if it handed its lone trophy to Colt Brennan—because defenders and the occasional lineman featured.
Unfortunately, ESPN's Chris Low—the SEC version of Rittenberg—took the opportunity to launch a broadside at Charles Woodson's '97 win, which is for my money one of the few times the award has managed to make any goddamn sense. The reasoning, as you might expect, is flimsy and insular. A brief fisk:
The Heisman Trophy has been a dirty word on Rocky Top ever since Peyton Manning was jobbed of college football's most prestigious individual award back in 1997.
How does one get "jobbed" out of an award where people are handed ballots and asked to vote on who they think is the best player? Were there chads?
I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists…
This phrase is always followed by the author suggesting and supporting a conspiracy theory.
… but there sure seemed to be a movement by some in 1997 to keep Manning from winning the award.
See? "I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists" is a phrase that always means its opposite. There should be a word for that.
Part of it was his being forced down everybody's throats for four years, and part of it was the fact that he was winless against Florida.
Never mind that he delivered Tennessee its first SEC championship since the advent of the league championship game, was the driving force behind the Vols' remarkable 45-5 run from 1995-98 and threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns his senior season.
Q: What does Tennessee's '98 national title season have to do with Peyton Manning?
Chris Low A: Something.
Sane Person A: Not a goddamn thing.
He was saddled with the label of not being able to win the big one -- and despite his enormous talents -- became that guy some voters took glee in voting against.
Dude, the award purports to reward the best player in college football, and against Florida Manning threw two interceptions, one an 89-yard pick-six, and saw his team fall behind 33-14 before Manning managed a meaningless garbage time touchdown. He'd been outplayed by Doug Johnson. That opened the door. The New York Times on Manning after the Florida game: "A Heisman candidate? Yes. A hands-down winner in the fall? Please."
Then Woodson bashed through it by dominating Michigan's season-ending showdown against Ohio State by intercepting a pass, setting up one of Michigan's touchdowns with a long reception, and doing this:
One player failed, and another did not. It's harsh to say Peyton Manning "couldn't win the big one" but it's not a stretch to claim that Charles Woodson blew him out of the water in both teams' most important games of the season.
How else do you explain 93 of the 921 electors that year not even having Manning on their ballots?
I'm not sure where Low's getting his numbers, as the official site has vote counts that disagree with his accounting. There are 815 first-place votes accounted for of 921 electors, leaving 97 ballots without Manning. Woodson was left off 75. As Low's amply demonstrated here, "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity" may be a general-purpose axiom but it goes double for sportswriters.
Most years Peyton Manning would have been a slam dunk. He'd be a more deserving winner than 80% of the guys who actually got the trophy. But he had the misfortune to run up against the only compelling (primarily) defensive player in the history of the award. I'm sure a few people were swayed by the idea it was cool to vote for a defender, but it's not like he was undeserving. That's what grates about every Tennessee bitch: they all assert, directly or in-, that Woodson didn't deserve it and the '97 Heisman was a sham and a fraud. Well, whatever. Scoreboard.
BCS bowls were a candle in the wind. Yeah, I follow Charlie Weis on Twitter. I also follow Rich Rodriguez, but Rodriguez hasn't posted anything in months, which is probably wise. Weis still hasn't gotten the concept of self-contained 140-character thoughts—needs to do some self-scouting there—but does provide awesome biographical details:
Got home even later than that last night returning from Chicago, where I saw a concert at Wrigley Field.
Some google sleuthing reveals these guys to be the target of Weis' concert-going affections:
Which lol perfect. Both appear to be on the same strenuous diet of porkfat ice cream that Weis is, too.
Secret cabal postponement. The coaches poll's plan to go dark—complained about in this space earlier—has been delayed. The heroes are the same bunch of villains that got us in this mess:
The return to a lack of transparency upset BCS officials more than what was originally known. There are indications that the change could be a deal breaker, going forward, in the coaches poll's inclusion in the BCS.
In this, at least, the rabble and the Powers That Be are united. If the BCS was ticked off this year they're not likely to be less ticked off if the coaches poll attempts to pull this stunt in the future; I expect we'll see the secret cabal stuff quietly shelved and put next to Hated Rule 3-2-5e on the Shelf of Horrible College Football Ideas.
(HT: Wizard of Odds.)
Spread origins and expansion. It seems like I link 80% of Smart Football's posts, but I blame Chris Brown for making everything so interesting. This latest exchange is more relevant than stuff about four verticals so it avoid the sidebar. Post the first concerns late Northwestern coach Randy Walker's adoption of the Rodriguez spread and what he brought to it:
what Rodriguez showed them was less a new way to attack the problem of good defenses but more just a new way to think about attacking the problem. Rodriguez showed them the shotgun and the zone read stuff they were doing at Clemson and had done at Tulane, but the reason it clicked for Wilson and Walker is that they realized that they could run all their old stuff -- the zones, the power, counter, option, etc -- all from spread sets.
And this was probably the great leap forward for the spread. Indeed, if you look at what Rodriguez was doing at Clemson, a lot of it is there in terms of the zone read, but a lot of it too was just Woody Dantzler running around. It was Walker that took the idea of "spread-to-run" and "zone-read" and systemized it.
The incessant linking must have garnered Chris a number of consistent Michigan readers, because he followed up that post with another one defending his sort-of demotion of Rich Rodriguez from spreadfather to spread… uh, something else.
Really? I try not to tread too heavily on the premium sites' information. I'll freely link to headers and free articles, and will summarize the general feel for a recruit on the interwebs, a feeling that usually starts with posts from insider-type people and then flows outwards onto message boards here and elsewhere. But I rarely lift quotes directly from premium articles*, and even then it's usually to pull something awesome out like Brandon Herron calling Texas Tech "a box surrounded by dirt."
The Free Press has no such qualms anymore, I guess, as they've grabbed Barry Every and Scott Kennedy's brief, premium evaluations of the Elite 11 quarterbacks and posted the Devin Gardner bits. Is this uncool? I kind of think so since the only reason you'd send people to the Elite 11 is to get people to pay for the assessment of their commited QB.
FWIW, Gardner killed it, with Every asserting he was one of the top two quarterbacks in attendance:
"He may not be as big or fast as current Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but he is a close second. I am torn between him and Bolden as to who I would take to build a college football team around."
State fans go "doh" in unison here.
*(The one major exception to this was when ESPN's player evaluations were behind a paywall; I'd usually pull out a few sentences of a three-paragraph scouting report when putting up a commit post. I figured they'd take the tradeoff of links and exposure for ESPN Insider, and they soon opened up their evaluations to the general public anyway.)
Etc.: Smart Football on yet more lawsuits targeting the NCAA and EA Sports. Ace continues his series on goofy team photos with impossibly young-looking freshman future stars. The Ann Arbor News expires, puts up photo wall a la Battlestar Galactica.
Light day today due to Spain-USA. May we die with honor. Braves and Birds previews it for you.
Times and dates. A press release containing every exciting Big Ten matchup against Towson has been C&Ped into the diaries. Michigan games listed:
- Western Michigan at MICHIGAN, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Notre Dame at Michigan, ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
- Eastern Michigan at MICHIGAN, Big Ten Network, Noon ET
- MICHIGAN at ILLINOIS, ABC, 2:30 p.m. CT
Yes, Western Michigan at Michigan is a 3:30 ABC game. Woo! It's not like there's anything else going on but Jebus. If the rest of the schedule wasn't dire enough to get WMU @ M on ABC I'd put in my usual complaint about a home 3:30 start really impinging on my ability to see games around the country.
Also: was it widely known that the Illinois game would be a 3:30 ABC affair?
We were good except for the eighty yard touchdown we gave up six times. I couldn't dig up a specific instance of this concept in the archives, but I'm pretty sure at various times last year I described the defense as doing pretty well except for the four long touchdowns. Michigan wasn't a team you drove the field on, it was a team you mostly failed against until someone in the secondary or one of the linebackers screwed up and then you ran for a long time and got seven points. Sometimes this happened most of the day (Illinois), sometimes it didn't.
It turns out there are numbers to support this idea:
The most interesting name on this list is Michigan. They were seventh in Success Rates+ but 62nd in PPP+ [Points Per Play]. That suggests that they played pretty efficient defense overall, not giving up consistent gains, but the breakdowns they did suffer were large ones, and they gave up far too many big plays.
There aren't any helpful glossary links that explain exactly what goes into these metrics, unfortunately, so I can't tell you if they attempt to account for the terrible field position Michigan found itself in time and again, but even that can't explain all of this discrepancy.
So: the stats point a finger squarely at last year's safeties, with some bonus points accruing to the sloppy linebacking.
More metrics for good. The Free Press summarizes Steele's metrics on Michigan, all of which point in the right direction. Many of them will be familiar to readers of this blog:
- Teams coming off extremely negative turnover years improve 80% of the time.
- Teams who lose three or more close games than they win improve basically 80% of the time.
- Michigan returns many starters.
- And holy hell the offense has to be way better.
Steele predicts an improved season for the Wolverines, the fourth-most improved season nationally, trailing only Illinois, Ohio and UCLA. He also sees them in the Champs Sports Bowl against Miami (Fla.).
Raise your hand if you'd take that right now. That appears to be everyone.
Another bullet in the head. Man, this coaches poll thing… eh… not so good:
the Coaches poll is a different story. Only 5 of the 18 non-BCS teams have a positive average, meaning that the overwhelming majority of non-BCS teams drop further in the Coaches poll after a loss than the average team does. (It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots.) In fact, the Coaches dropped non-BCS teams more than the average in nearly 2/3’s of their losses. Looking at it one final way, all of the BCS teams combine for the average 0.0 in the Coaches poll – non-BCS teams combine for a -1.6 average, losing a spot and a half more per game than BCS teams.
And Carson went forth amongst the Hittites, and slew many, and gloried in the destruction, whereupon he was released from the football team to the annoyance of his high school coach. Minor PR fire at Detroit Renaissance arising from an interview with its head coach. First, the facts: Ren's Antonio Watts is being interviewed by "Hondo," who's a Spartan-slanted (and apparently unemployed now) TV guy the RCMB mocks.
First he references Carson Butler—"now with the Green Bay Packers"—as one of the major athletes in Renaissance's past, at which point Hondo asks why everyone loves Dantonio, at which point Watts says, in effect, "Dantonio shows up."
Then there's some garbled ungrammatical stuff from Hondo about the current Ren kids at State; Watts launches into this apropos of nothing—Hondo never mentions Michigan:
"I had two kids who went to the University of Michigan with Lloyd Carr and when Rodriguez took over last year, in my opinion they weren't done well. They weren't treated well. Carson had to leave early… to the NFL, and Andre Criswell, who's still up there, he's a graduate assistant who's not doing anything. And that hurt my heart. And I have a kid at West Virginia who's not very happy there. And I feel that."
Well, then. One: don't expect anyone out of Ren to go to Michigan in the near future. But let's not confuse this coach's slant with reality. Criswell is a great guy but he was the last guy in his recruiting class, a guy Carr offered on signing day because he had an extra scholarship. He came in as a fullback, never played under Carr in three years, and never played under Rodriguez. As mentioned, he's currently a grad assistant. I'm finding it difficult to see how that can be spun as anything negative. I'm even assuming his withdrawal from the program was entirely his decision: Michigan has extra scholarships this year. So what the hell?
And Carson Butler… well. Carson Butler is the most embarrassing program alum in the last decade. He punched a Notre Dame player last year. The year before that he participated in the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, was kicked off the team by Carr, and only let back on after he managed to evade legal consequences. At the time it seemed clear that Carr would have rather washed his hands of him then and there but couldn't justify it since he was acquitted. On the field the guy was a false-start prone headcase whose interest in blocking was nil.
And the stories that have hit my inbox about him have been either hilarious or disturbing, or both. There's a typical Carson Butler story in that thread linked above; I've heard three or four others of similar vintage. Unless this is an amazing hoax, the guy is a sociopath who got far more consideration than he deserved from Michigan.
So over it. A couple of weeks ago, Rich Rodriguez called up a couple of guys in West Virginia in an attempt to bury the hatchet. Here's how that went:
My wife is not a sports fan.
Recently, though, she read the front page article by the Daily Mail's Jake Stump about Rich Rodriguez, the one where the former West Virginia University coach said how much he loved West Virginia and hoped the tension between him and hard-core Mountaineer football fans was fading.
Her observation after reading the article was, "Who is this man? What a pitiful, whiny, self-serving creature."
You, sir, have a very dramatic wife. Who likes adjectives.
Teeny tinies are the trend. Some of the roiling sea of consternation about Michigan's future is about the tiny wide receivers and their unsuitability for the NFL and that sort of thing. Maybe this helps?
Though there were no wide receivers taken in the first round in 2008, 10 went in Round 2, and a quick look at their first-year statistics paints an interesting picture. The success among the smaller guys was led by 5-10, 182-pound Eddie Royal of Denver, who embarrassed then-Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener on Monday Night Football to the tune of nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. That was just the opening salvo in a season that saw Royal finish with 91 catches for 980 yards in 15 games.
Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson is another example of a small receiver having a big impact as a rookie. At 5-10, 175, he finished with 62 catches for 912 yards, but only two touchdowns. Even the surprise first receiver taken in 2008, 5-11, 184-pound Donnie Avery of St. Louis, had a stellar debut. He had 53 catches for 674 yards and three touchdowns, not too shabby for a 'rook.'
Meanwhile, all the big guys from that draft haven't done anything. Now, none of these guys are 5'2" or whatever Jeremy Gallon is, but they are in the range that of a Je'Ron Stokes. And if you're one of these guys you're probably going to go to the school that can best deploy your tiny windmilling legs, right?
Aaand scene. Rivals is the last major scouting service to revise its rankings after Evan Smotrycz's impressive AAU showings. The result:
Evan Smotrycz A highly skilled forward with some bounce.
Smotrycz is about a dozen spots away from the last four-star, FWIW. He's gone from flier to the highest ranked post Beilein has ever recruited ever. Woo!
Revised opinion. I've cited Smart Football's concerns about a lack of sophistication in Rich Rodriguez's passing game a couple times because Smart Football is a blog by a football coach intimately familiar with the spread offense. When SF talks, I listen. So this is reassuring to hear:
I spent a substantial amount of time this offseason researching Michigan's offense (the results of which are to published, but not necessarily on the web -- though I hope to eventually get it out here or elsewhere that can be linked to). I will admit that I went into it thinking that there was some looming structural/strategic problem with Rodriguez's offense -- that's just my bent. Players win games obviously but I like blaming coaches more, and in any event all coaches have to work with what they have. But I quickly decided that, yes, there were things for Rodriguez to work on, but the biggest thing for Michigan was just to find a quarterback, any quarterback really. And, though he is but a wee true freshman, and a rather wispy one at that, Tate Forcier does appear positioned to at least be better for Michigan and Rodriguez than anyone they had last year.
This isn't a total retraction, as the criticism was one built on Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia. There Pat White obviated the need for whiz-bang passing systems; this did not so much happen last year and the results were plain to see.
SF's larger point, as I understand it, is that the spread has gone from exotic to standard: Rodriguez has lost the advantage of surprise and will have to evolve further if he's going to match the offensive output of West Virginia at its zenith. It has to evolve, anyway, as Tate Forcier is a nimble, deadly accurate passer and not possessed of ACME brand rocket skates a la White.
By the way: that research is going into Hail To The Victors 2009, about which I'm terribly excited.
About this we all agree. Ask anyone not directly affiliated with the coaches poll about said organization's effort to move the poll ever-deeper into secrecy and they will say "that's a retarded idea," or words to that effect. Ask the directly affiliated, though, and they'll spin your face off:
"The perception is that there's a huge bias, and we've never really found that," Teaff said.
Thankfully, someone bothered to look at the numbers and blew this up. The Blue-Gray Sky sayeth:
On average, each coach rates every team in his own conference about one position higher than the rest of the voters. … On average, a coach placed his own team 1.7 spots higher than the rest of the voters. … coaches ranked a team .7 positions higher if they actually played the team during the regular season. …
It comes as no surprise that the Coaches Poll is fraught with bias. However, since this is the first year we actually get to see the results, it's still somewhat shocking to see such blatant gamesmanship laid bare. The supposed advantage of the BCS polls, and the Coaches poll in particular, is that you have a body of "football experts" who are ranking the teams; their vast experience and acumen is supposed to lend the poll unquestioned authenticity.
There may be some debate about whether the numbers cited represent a "huge" bias. Take it from a guy who's run a squabbly, transparent college football poll for going on four years: that's a significant finding. (It's also one that would probably be replicated if you tried it on the BlogPoll; the argument here is not that the poll should be part of the BCS but that the coaches certainly shouldn't, especially if they're going to be secretive about it.)
Offensive linin'. The Wall Street Journal drills further down on their offensive line thing mentioned earlier, providing charts for every BCS conference. The Big Ten promises to put the lie to their theory about the importance of this, though: while Iowa finishes #1, the next four teams are Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern. Yikes.
Why can't they all be club sports? Michigan's lacrosse team is into the national semifinals after obliterating the Sonoma State Seawolves, and the Ultimate Frisbee team had a season-ending run that, if replicated in a major sport, would be legend passed down from generation to generation. The situation:
- Enter double-elimination regional tournament as the top seed
- Blow first game against Illinois (possibly after having an eighteen-point lead?)
- End Notre Dame's season in next game
- End Ohio State's season in next game
- Qualify for nationals, which are in Columbus
Ultimate Frisbee Diarist "uofmmarcum" has details for anyone interested in catching the national tourney:
If you feel like following the team at Nationals the tournament is Friday, May 22nd-Monday, May 25. You can follow it online at http://college2009.upa.org/
Also. A reminder that it's gorgeous today and the softball regional gets underway. Michigan faces off against Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) at 7.
Etc.: John Bacon's last lecture in glorious streaming video.