that is nice bonus change
Have you been outside today? I wouldn't recommend it. It's cold. It's gray. It's just windy enough to ring the side of the road with ice, and penetrate your jeans so that when you get back inside somewhere, a good thigh rub will be in order. You're used to this: it's Winter in Ann Arbor.
But for a moment yesterday it wasn't. For a moment, the sun came out and it was 50 degrees. For a moment, Michigan's defense was attacking plays and the offense was rolling down the field and into the end-zone. For a moment, Michigan led 7-0. For a moment, I remembered watching the UConn game, when the ice laid down by Woolfolk's injury and Turner's departure was thawed by the revelation of Denard.
Then the sun disappeared. The temperature dropped. The wind picked up. Michigan's defense reverted to its season-long status as a minor inconvenience to opponent scoring, and Michigan's offense became an experiment to see how many ways they could find to make Roundtree drop a 4th down pass without the viewers switching to Penn State/Florida. And so the vicious, three-year winter of Michigan football continued in its lazy, hazy way, finding new jackets to penetrate and souls within to crush.
To pretend like there wasn't something beautiful about the Rich Rodriguez era is to say there was never any reason yesterday to be outside. The moments of joy have been fleeting: the overtime Tatefest against Illinois, two comeback victories over Notre Dame, UConn. Each sparse day in the sun we took for a sign of Spring. This is because we are Michigan, one of the great programs, and the great programs know greatness will return the same way the inhabitants of Earth know the snow can't last forever.
Tomorrow night Stanford will play Virginia Tech, and we'll see if whatever Jim Harbaugh has done to the Cardinal could beat the closest analogue to Lloyd's last Michigan team you'll ever find. Later in the week Dave Brandon will ascend the podium of Gobbler's Knob, pull out a prognosticating marmot, and tell us whether he sees Rich Rod's shadow. Either way, this winter isn't going to be over until our defense has the talent and structure and experience to stop somebody, which will take a lot more than six weeks on anybody's calendar.
Is it possible that the winter of our discontent can last forever? Well, sure, it's theoretically possible. But it would also take a major climatic shift for that to happen, because Michigan's place in the college football solar system is backed by a huge national audience, a ridiculously wealthy alumni base, the biggest stadium in the country, and an axis set by Yost when the universe was still young. Plus our helmets have wings.
On the other hand you can bet this winter still has at least one more good storm left in it. If you're going to survive it with your soul intact, I recommend a thick coat.
On Faith, Science & Business
I have a rough memory from something in college where we discussed three different paradigms of thinking. The trick was to identify which type your audience is and use his kind of reasoning: if you have a "believer," then discuss agreed-upon moral precepts; if it's a pragmatist make analogies to previous "successes," and follow these proven-successful decision-making processes; if it's a scientist, make the case with data and then argue against yourself until you've shown you can exhaust rebuttals. Nobody is just one or the other, but you're probably aligned more toward one and/or against one.
For the Believers:
Blazefire came in with a short essay on faith in leadership, specifically one's head coach.
During a sermon, a pastor once said that when you ask God for something, there are three possible answers; Yes, No, and Wait. I couldn't argue with this statement. That's logical for a request made of anyone or any being. The requestee can either say "yes", and provide, say "no" and refuse to provide, or say "wait, maybe later", and put something off till a later time. The implication of all this was to help understand God's answers, so on and so forth. That isn't really the part that hit me as far as the game and the program are concerned. The part that hit me was in the answer "wait".
For the Pragmatists:
Thanks to iawolve, we get a peek into how David Brandon's mind may be working given his experience as CEO of a private firm, from the point of view of another who has been through that same gauntlet and learned similar lessons. A few conclusions:
What does this all mean? It means Brandon spent 1999 through 2004 (IPO) under the management of Bain Capital. He survived the gauntlet and remained the CEO post-IPO for another 6 years. He would be a person that believes in:
- Pay for performance
- Strict monitoring of progress
- Taking chances by changing the status quo in order to achieve results
- No surprises
For the Scientists:
You've met Enjoy Life: author of your weekly in-season looks at college football's sabermetrics, as well as turnover tracking. This week, in true scientist's form, he calls his own work generally useless because, well, that's what the numbers say:
Uh yeah, we have all been wrong (myself included). I started looking at turnovers (TOs) in detail after the 2008 season when Michigan went 3-9 with a turnover margin (TOM) of –10. I wrote a series of diaries that concluded double digit TOs were caused primarily by the skill & experience of a team and not primarily by luck. Thus, good teams tend to have positive TOMs and poor teams tend to have negative TOMs. This is basically the opposite of believing that TOs are a primary factor in determining whether a team is good (i.e. winning record) or poor (i.e. losing record) – sorry, Phil Steele.
Previews That Didn't Say We'd Get Clobbered
At this point it's not all that helpful, but two hours before kickoff yesterday, jamiemac of Just Cover Blog finally hit "post" on this masterpiece, which previewed the smart money on the Gator Bowl. Jamie's conclusions gave warning that something ugly was possibly about to unfold, noting that RR has not been covering the spread in Big Ten play, and noting a likely (extant?) motivation question for Michigan.
When judging this Michigan team, you have to take into account their mental state with the coaching situation swirling around. We've seen West Virginia and Miami look like they'd rather be a million other places than playing with their coaching situation. But we've also seen Maryland rally around their deposed coach and play lights out. We also saw Oklahoma State send off their offensive coordinator Holgerson with a great effort, despite him splitting a lot of time between places in the bowl run-up, because the players were genuinely happy for him. None of the Michigan players know who is coaching them next year. But, they know who is coaching them this year. It's Rodriguez. As a fan, I'm proud at how the coaches have handled this situation. That will carry over to their players. I think the Wolverines will play hard for this coaching staff. This will be a lot more like the Maryland effort and nothing like we was with the Canes and 'Neers. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Yes, then we got curb-stomped.
Still, though its shelf life was short, considering I didn't get last week's DD out until Tuesday so is my list of contenders; this is your Diarist of the Week.
Also written on deadline, BlueSeoul, on advice from counsel, gave us a final preview of the Gator Bowl based on his analysis of each game:
Well, maybe those last two were different, but it didn't matter. Based on the results, you'd have to say that Tressel has been a master when it comes to The Game.
If RR were going to make one of those for the gator bowl, it should read something like this:
- Stop #28
- Stop Relf with run blitzes
- Pressure Relf up the middle on passing downs
- Don't let Relf pull the ball down on a scramble and head up the middle
- Yes, this means designed draws too! Especially on the designed draws!!
- For god's sake, if you have to choose between going after Relf or someone else, go after Relf!!!!
- Seriously, RELF!
Apparently, he forgot "CATCH THE DAMN BALL" and, uh, "play football."
Michigan Paintball: This is serious. Michigan, in our quest to be better at everything, now competes in Paintball. It ain't varsity, but team member heffman has the lowdown on the team's successful start.
Michigan Men's Ice Hockey: For a brief moment this week, "CC" on this blog meant "Colorado College," not the other thing. During this time I managed to score tickets to see Michigan defeat CC at the Joe and replace that ugly green banner with a maize and blue one. Of course, I need not have gone through the trouble, since CC alum denverblue managed to preview the thing down to the color of Jaden Schwartz's bloomers.
Next week we'll let you know who's Michigan's head coach, and talk about how much longer this winter will last. Until then, maybe just stay indoors.
All I want this year is for Michigan to get a kicker…oh and for Ohio State to implode and have their best players all lose their eligibility because of some stupid yet indefensible scandal…
MERRY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
The well known bloggist Geaux_Blue started a diary series this week called "Shunning Wings," wherein he promises to profile various recruits who spurned Michigan. The first candidate is Terrelle Pryor who, for better and for worse, put an indelible mark on both programs, leaving Michigan virtually empty at QB in '08 and resigned to underclassmen for '09-'10, and putting the exclamation mark on Jim Tressell's conservative, unlikeable iteration of the Ohio State program.
Facts: Dude got discounted tats in return for his autograph. He sold off the gold pants lucky charm they give out for beating Michigan. He sold his 2008 Big Ten Championship ring. He sold his Sportsmanship Award from the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.*
Of course, considering how badly we wanted Pryor, and how badly Rich Rod wanted Pryor, we can't pretend like this is a "this is the type of guy other programs recruit" kind of thing.
This is why MGoBlog hasn't made a very big deal of the million minor mishaps accrued each year at various collegiate football programs. Giving a moral "tsk" to a 21-year-old athlete – even if it's way beyond your own "never tell the kids" collegiate transgression list – is hypocritical if you root for an FBS team. And since a million crotchety people with internet connections already do enough of this, it's trite. If ever you find yourself sounding like a Yahoo commenter, even if you can't figure out what's wrong with what you're saying, it's probably wrong (this also goes SEC media types).
And not to mention that the whole thing reeks of the NCAA's worst hypocrisy. This is a tax-exempt organization because it's all for the kids, yet here they are laying out a five-game suspension for selling off the same schwag that OSU itself can't push enough. I can't honestly connect the NCAA's decision to delay suspensions until after the Sugar Bowl to money, but does anyone think having them sit out for MSU next October instead of Arkansas in January was made in the best interests of preserving a spirit of amateurism?
So, how to respond to all of this? A list:
- Ohio State fans: Five games for some schlock when Cam Newton was shopped for a fortune?
- SEC fans: NCAA's just protecting their golden conference – everyone knows the world revolves around OSU's record versus the SEC in BCS bowls. S-E-C!
- Big Ten fans: Wow, can Ohio State be any more of an SEC team?
- A.J. Green/Georgia: Wait, you can delay that?
- Misopogal: What were the tattoos?
- Michigan State: Adding a fifth game was a nice touch.
- Rest of World: This looks really bad.
- Michigan fans: …?
I mean, yes to all the caveats above. But this is still our big rival. This guy spurned us. And now he and his buddies are giving the Buckeyes some well-deserved time in the mud. If you're waiting for an official stance on this from MGoBlog, get it out of Brian. As for me, co-sign on any hand gestures toward the NCAA, and otherwise I'm here:**
User bluesouth breaks down the OSU plan in xtranormal form on the boards.
* I know what you're thinking: They gave him an award for sportsmanship?
** Not a Blue Fan et al. reserve the right to call us their bitches until such time as Michigan beats Ohio State in a contest of football.
CRISP These Now!
Before 1994 this was registration. After 2000 everything was done online. In between you wanted to kill someone.
If you were at Michigan from about Tom Brady's freshman season to Drew Henson's last, you will remember the CRISP* lady. If not, consider yourself lucky that you have no idea what we're talking about. This was Michigan's phone-based class registration system before it went all internet. Imagine maneuvering through the world's most complicated touch-tone, automated service system. Now imagine the most annoying lady's voice in the world is behind all the recordings (there was a persistent rumor they were after James Earl Jones to re-record it, which I guess they never did because students who thought this was some sort of Death Star Torture device would just starting yelling out the location of the Rebels' secret base). NOW, imagine only 127 people can use it at a time, so you are given a specific time (like 7:03 a.m. to 7:26 a.m.) that you're allowed to call, and while you're fiddling around in the system and it's misreading your inputs, your classes are filling up quickly so you will need to have backups for all of your timeslots and already know their codes. Now imagine they give you rotary dialed phones in all the dorm rooms.
Nowadays if you're interested in a course, you click on it and it fits automatically into your schedule based on parameters such as location to each other, lunch break, drinking nights, and your hall's designated videogame hour, right?
This is all a long way of introducing some courses you ought to pick up:
Course Name: History of Mississippi State's 2010 Football Team: From Arkansas to Ole Miss
Counts As: History, Non-North American/European History Requirement, Foreign Language Requirement
The dreaded "inverted option":
We'll be seeing a lot of this play or some variation of it. Although this one isn't really part of their option series, it is third play of their sweep series. (The first 2 being the sweep and the counter sweep.) You can tell that this play is a designed QB keeper by the blocking assignments. It doesn't matter what you call it, Relf will have the ball, and he will be running between the tackles with 1, 2, or even 3 lead blockers.
MSU is in a split back slot right. Ark responds with a 4-3 and a late shift into an outside blitz. The safety moves up into man coverage and the MLB fakes a blitz.
In the comments for the Ole Miss one sammylittle asked BlueSeoul to provide a series summation before the bowl. Co-sign that!
NCAA Rankings 412
Course Name: Graph Theory Ranking: Post-Season
Prerequisites: NCAA Rankings 312
Counts As: Statistics, Math, Global World View
Course Description: In this class you will learn which teams in FBS had the best seasons in a statistical revamp of the rankings system. Essentially it's a new computer poll, and better than some of those that are used for the BCS. Then again, uh, Auburn is 4th. Here's his Top 10:
1 Oregon 1.677444 2 Stanford 1.963008 3 TCU 2.011924 4 Auburn 2.066706 5 Oklahoma 2.25209 6 Boise State 2.321805 7 Wisconsin 2.461991 8 Ohio State 2.473381 9 Missouri 2.555164 10 Virginia Tech 2.564181
Sign up to learn more.
* C.omputers R.eally I.rritate S.ome P.eople
More Ohio State
This is a snapshot from this year's edition of The Game, in case you thought that was Fresno State or something opposite Denard and Co. It's also a screenshot from this year's UFR of Ohio State (Not THAT UFR). Unfortunately, Brian seems, for the moment, to be continuing the recent tradition of drowning in sorrow rather than taking the time for a post-OSU Upon Further Review since 2008. This year he didn't even bother with the un-kempt promise, which doesn't bode well for us, but UFR fans may take some solace, for the mighty mighty stubob has stepped up.
Upon Further Review: Ohio State (by stubob)
I'm still working on getting the charts a bit nicer, but the job is a good one. As Brian or anyone else who've UFR-ed a game will tell you, it's a heck of a job. And stubob did one heck of a job. Diarist of the Week.
This doesn't mean you're off the hook, Cook.
It's the end of the semester, which means it's time for report cards. AC1997 has a two-part series giving each position a grade. The position breakdowns are a bit strange, and it's more of a "how do we look next year" than "how did we do this year" kind of thing, but they're good reads and good argument-starters.
Quarterback – A+
That’s right, I went there. I struggle to see how this position could be any better. Denard will be a Heisman candidate for the next two years, Tate has proven to be a very good backup quarterback and spot starter, and Devin will now be a freshman next year and one of the highest ranked dual-threat talents of the past three recruiting classes. I guess it would be nice to have a developmental prospect, but fourth string QBs grow on trees.
I took the liberty of converting to Michigan-style grading:
FINAL GPA: 2.42
The offense's grade was hit severely by the Failure grade at kicker, which I guess is true. I'd much rather he'd just graded '10 and left the '11 predictions for later on.
Alternate backgrounds from monuMental, depending on whether you've been naughty or nice. Does wanting to eat the "Nice" one make one naughty? Also, since I'm late in posting this week, here's this week's masterpiece:
I shall leave you with a bit of poetry from SpyinColumbus: 'Twas the week before the Gator Bowl, and back in A-squared…
I hope your monitor likes cyan…
I've never been much for criticizing someone else's taste in art. It's a fact of life that some people (my wife) will think a Chagall* is perfect where another person would have a motivational poster or, I dunno, someone's copy of the cover of the Michigan Daily from early January, 1998. Who am I to judge?
Of course, people can come to a general consensus on some art based on a particular work's evocation, effort, insight, execution, etc. For example, 90 percent of Big Ten fans who bothered to approach Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany this week think this is bad art:
And apparently, the commish is listening:
"I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating," Delany said during the interview. "But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising."
Six Zero, official MGoArtist, chimed in with a professional perspective on logo creation, stressing there's a lot more that goes into a logo design than creating something that looks good on a blog. Like writing all the documentation that goes with it, and various formatting options, and vectoring. Suffice to say, your version of Paint probably isn't powerful enough to design the next official Big Ten logo, let alone the accompanying paperwork:
For example, the UM sports department probably issued a new brief last year telling everyone NOT to use the block M with 'MICHIGAN' through the middle, and not to use the one with the blue stroke, and instead use only the single color block M. It might also say you cannot add to the mark, rotate the mark, use different typography for the mark, etc etc. All of this has to be prepared, developed, and considered so that no handling or manipulation of the logo is open to interpretation.
Here's the available literature on Michigan's logo and use. It's enough to fill a small Web site, but it's really not so much that a savvy marketing student couldn't hammer out over a Christmas Break. From Six's description, the image side doesn't seem impossible for someone with the right Photoshop/GiMP/Inkscape plugins. His point, however, is well taken: the difference between putting up a cool-looking logo on MGoBlog and designing the Big Ten's logo is the difference between coming up with the name/logo/jersey design for the H.R.M. Jack Tars ("Halifax Jacks" for short) and starting a hockey team in Nova Scotia.
Of course, none of this excuses the sad and obvious lack of effort and creativity that went into the artwork itself.
On the other end of the spectrum, 99.9 percent of MGoBlog readers who have read more than one recruiting article since coming to this site agree that this is spectacular art:
Michigan's first battery powered defensive backfield recruit is welcomed by UMAmaizinBlue, who wrote an entire "Hello:" post for this guy, including guru rankings, the Scout screenshot above, offers, high school stats, fake 40 time, and Video? Video!!! Just put this thing on Lock-Down mode and watch all of your metaphors come true:
"His hips are always on a swivel: no seriously, his hips are welded to a swivel. As a result, Michigan Robot can allow his body to follow a tackle through to completion even if he doesn't get the initial stop on first contact, which never happens, so disregard that. How is this guy even legally eligible to play against humans?"
If you made it this far without clicking any of the above links to this excellent diary, my advice is click. This is what good art looks like: well thought out, satirical, pointed, and brilliantly executed. This is your Diarist of the Week.
And speaking of high art, y'all are gonna have a cow…
…for your weekly monuMental wallpaper. If you're heading south this New Year's, your standard MSU (YTMSU) jokes still apply.
* To be perfectly honest, I love the Chagall.
Oh Right, We Have Another Football Game!
As such, we continue with our regularly scheduled obsessing over Michigan's next football opponent. Obsessed Guy Number One, please step forward…
BlueSeoul: (waves) Hello.
Obsessed Guy Number One is a Wolverine-American wordslinger from Dictionopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom, who enjoys watching Mississippi State's 2010 entire season and then shooting off game notes in bullets, to varying degrees of graphicality (yes, Windows Live Writer spellchecker, I made that word up). The barrage continues this week with Alcorn State (with pics), Florida, Alabama-Birmingham, and Alabama.
Thank you, Obsessed Guy Number One. Obsessed Guy Number Two, please step out here…
Enjoy Life: (thumbs up). Glad to be back.
Obsessed Guy Number Two is a maize and blue number cruncher from Digitopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom. By this I mean he likes to take numbers and crunch them down so that hundreds of digits will fit in a diary-width graph:
A satisfying, tasty, mint-berry crunch.
EJ's weekly rundown of college football's sabermetrics predicts Miss St. a 5-point favorite. It's inspiring work, as it inspired this next guy too. Obsessed Guy Number Three, come on down…
Misopogon's bolded subconscious: Free Mo! Free Mo! Free Mo!
Miss St. Preview, and Bowl Watchability Index Using FEI
Cheating at my (ESPN confidence) office bowl game pool.*
Calculating how to maximize my enjoyment of Misopogal's 2.4 football games per week limit before asking why I spend so much time watching football in the bedroom instead of Real Housewives shows with her.
Then I realized the stats lend themselves very well toward predicting what the Miss St. game will look like as compared to other FBS Michigan opponents from 2010.
First, the Watchability Index revisited. I compared each bowl by three metrics of things I think make for a fun bowl-watching experience:
COMP: Competitive (how close are the opponents in FEI?)
PERF: Quality of opponents (total FEI of opponents combined)
OFF: Lots of offense (each team's OFEI plus opponent's DFEI combined)
Google spreadsheet lives here. You can mentally add a 4th for Big Ten games and a 5th for stupid names (Chick-fil-A is a stupid name). I'm trying to make this universal. The numbers are percentiles, a 0 to 100 scale, so high is always better. The results:
|Peach||South Carolina vs. Florida State||94.3||71.6||90.4||85.5|
|Orange||Virginia Tech vs. Stanford||64.6||93.3||97.6||85.1|
|BCS Championship||Auburn vs. Oregon||76.7||100.0||70.5||82.4|
|Sugar||Arkansas vs. Ohio State||60.7||87.1||92.4||80.1|
|Rose||Wisconsin vs. TCU||63.0||80.2||88.0||77.1|
|Independence||Air Force vs. Georgia Tech||89.9||39.4||89.2||72.8|
|Hawaii||Hawaii vs. Tulsa||84.7||30.3||97.2||70.7|
|Gator||Mississippi State vs. Michigan||83.4||48.1||79.3||70.3|
|BBVA Compass||Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky||80.0||56.6||68.5||68.4|
|Liberty||Georgia vs. Central Florida||65.6||50.8||87.6||68.0|
|Pinstripe||Syracuse vs. Kansas State||61.0||41.2||100.0||67.4|
|Capital One||Alabama vs. Michigan State||62.3||78.6||57.8||66.2|
|Dallas||Texas Tech vs. Northwestern||72.4||25.0||98.8||65.4|
|Insight||Missouri vs. Iowa||34.2||73.0||86.5||64.6|
|Alamo||Oklahoma State vs. Arizona||77.4||58.3||55.8||63.8|
|Poinsetta||Navy vs. San Diego State||83.7||49.0||53.4||62.0|
|Armed Forces||Army vs. SMU||66.3||25.2||93.2||61.6|
|Champs Sports||West Virginia vs. North Carolina State||13.4||75.0||94.0||60.8|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Nevada vs. Boston College||56.1||46.9||72.5||58.5|
|Military||Maryland vs. East Carolina||100.0||40.7||33.9||58.2|
|Cotton||LSU vs. Texas A&M||28.4||74.2||68.1||56.9|
|St. Petersburg||Louisville vs. Southern Mississippi||57.9||43.5||64.9||55.4|
|Sun||Miami vs. Notre Dame||29.6||63.8||72.5||55.3|
|New Orleans||Troy vs. Ohio||52.3||17.4||91.2||53.6|
|Outback||Florida vs. Penn State||39.5||42.2||76.5||52.8|
|Texas||Illinois vs. Baylor||75.9||37.6||44.6||52.7|
|Humanitarian||Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State||69.6||31.4||52.2||51.1|
|Meineke Car||Clemson vs. South Florida||0.0||56.5||82.5||46.3|
|Music City||North Carolina vs. Tennessee||49.3||40.6||48.6||46.2|
|Las Vegas||Boise State vs. Utah||43.6||60.9||32.3||45.6|
|New Mexico||BYU vs. UTEP||56.3||9.9||70.1||45.4|
|Fiesta||Oklahoma vs. Connecticut||33.7||63.4||27.1||41.4|
|Little Caesars||Florida International vs. Toledo||58.5||16.0||45.8||40.1|
|GoDaddy .com||Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)||25.6||0.0||76.9||34.2|
|Holiday||Nebraska vs. Washington||46.8||48.7||0.0||31.8|
Changes from previous: we look a lot more competitive when you put it that way. There's a lot of bowls with good matchups but our matchup is much closer to Arkansas/Ohio State than Alabama/Michigan State in how confident you should be of the outcome. On the other hand, the teams are decidedly middling.
The big question on my mind is where Miss. St. falls among our other opponents this year. So I did that too. I pulled comparisons of each opponent's O versus our D, their D versus our O, and their total efficiency versus ours. Field Position and Field Goals are there too. FCS opponents are removed. The results are all zero-ed at Michigan's numbers, so negative means we're better than them at this, and positive means they're that much better than us at it:
DFEI v M
|4||Bowling Green||no bowl||103||-0.200||-0.089||-0.931||0.042||0.094|
|6||Michigan State||Capital One||22||0.104||0.597||-0.290||0.006||1.739|
Wow does this ever tell the story of this year: our offense is better than any defense we faced, sometimes murderously so; our defense was worse than any offense we faced except for a MACrifice and a Purdue team whose plan for the Michigan game was to use their 3rd string running back with a gimp leg at QB and have him pass to the quarterback with a broken hand except then the RB/QB guy got injured on the first play. Field position was terrible except against…Indiana? And we never met a team who was a tenth as bad at kicking field goals as we are.
So in Total FEI, Mississippi State is a slightly better Illinois, and marginally behind Notre Dame:
Both games on either side of MSU were very close wins. We have one loss on a terrible performance below it, and other than ND no wins above it. Michigan is actually in an FEI virtual tie with BCS-by-segfault UConn (fact: Rich Rod teams would dominate in the Big East), so beating ND and Illinois were both reaches for us. But this thing is winnable.
MSU Offense vs. Michigan's Defense:
This is good news. Their offense is going to be among the worst we've faced, slightly below Penn State's half-McGloin/half-disaster total. If you look at the first chart with all the OFEI versus our DFEI, you can see this still makes their offense better than our defense (only BG and Purdue could be counted on to shoot themselves in the foot). If anything, this number is probably low for Miss St., since their offense relies heavily on a mooseback quarterback and the SEC West is the home of large and ponderous front sevens who depress the efficacy of moosebacks. Still, this is not Wisconsin's attack, nor the MSU/OSU slow murder. Maybe bump them up mentally to Illinois, but no further.
MSU Defense vs. Michigan's Offense:
The story of our defense is told above. Some teams we could simply run all over. Some gave us a few fits. Some were actually capable of stopping us. MSU is very much in the latter:
After Ohio State, this is the most efficient defense we've faced, according to FEI. They're not Ohio State, but rather indistinguishable from Iowa and Michigan State, two teams who ostensibly looked good against Michigan. Except, really, we were fine at moving the ball against those guys as they played bend-don't-break against us until we got to the red zone and inevitably threw an interception or Lewan got flagged for a false start or something. Forcier shredded Iowa in the just-short comeback. And neither of those defenses should be anything like what Mississippi State throws at us. As Brian's been pointing out, MSU is a blitz-happy squad, whereas MSU and Iowa defended against Denard by sitting back and trusting their linebackers and DEs to contain Denard. The blitziest opponent we faced this year has to be Notre Dame, but then they had the most success against our offense when the Irish stopped blitzing and went to a disguised 4-man front. This is as bad a matchup for MSU's defense as our defense is for their spread-n-moose offense. I expect them to look more like Notre Dame; if they stick to what they do best and send blitzers against Denard the whoop-master, well, good luck with that.
This doesn't get its own chart, but it's kind of encouraging in a kind of we've been to hell so what's Guantanamo kind of way. Little Miss State over here is in the Penn State/Iowa/Illinois field position range of better-than-M-but-so-is-everybody-else. HOWEVEA, in field goals they're the worst team we've faced since Bowling Green (who was using our old kickoff specialist. In kicking competence, they're probably good for 3 more points this game than Michigan will get.
* Guess what, readers from my office: I updated my picks after the latest FEI rankings came out, so if you're using my own table to beat me, yours was made with old data. Also, what's with like four people naming their entries some form of "I want Harbaugh"?
Other Adventures in the Tollbooth World
As we travel through the country of Wisdom, this week witnessed some great analytical work on dogging questions from the Rich Rod era and college football in general.
Is There a Barwis Effect?
You will come here. You will be destroyed. You will be rebuilt. You will be Barwisized. User bonobojones did the single most interesting thing yet with those weight stats that we have in plenty but are hard to glean any useful information from beyond "look how much the hog-mollies weigh at Wisconsin." This highly intelligent primate, who is unfairly hard on himself for something so interesting, takes three years of team weights and discovers there is a Barwis effect of losing bad weight and gaining good weight demonstrated in our players' progressions. Players tend to lose weight or gain it marginally from freshman to sophomore years, then gain quickly as upperclassmen. This was especially true, it seems, on defense. It's not nearly enough data to support a conclusion, but he offers one for the sake of argument:
Looking at the large changes taking place with OL, DL, and LB, it's obvious that these players should not be playing young. Or at least we should not be judging them so much based on performance in their first couple of years.
With over 100 comments, the argument has been healthy.
Does Time of Possession Mean Better Defense?
SmithersJoe came in with a graph-heavy breakdown of time of possession and how it relates to defensive efficiency (again, using Fremeau). In an addendum, he tried again to find a correlation in number of offensive possessions and defensive efficiency, to see if the style of offense has an effect. In both: not statistically significant:
What this says to me is that there are too many variables that influence how a defense performs; one cannot boil it down to a simple thing like Time of Possession (or experience on a depth chart, for that matter). All of those factors may play a part, but no one individual factor is significantly correlated to a team’s performance on defense. Football is just too complex to boil down into simplistic truisms.
Is Experience Necessary for Good Play?
The post linked in the above quote is that from ebv this week which takes a fresh look at experience independent from talent to see if gross years on a team make a big difference for how a defense or offense performs. The results: again, not statistically significant.
Translation: if this mattered a lot, the dots should look kind of like they're bunching around an imaginary line that angles from lower-left to upper-right. Rather, it's just…spotty. The other thing spotty about this: the blue crosshairs that represent Michigan show us to be an above-average team in experience. Wait…what?
Is it possible that we need more variables to make sense of this data? (Any stat experts know whether you can underestimate an effect by having too few variables?) It’s also possible that an interaction between several variables might provide a good explanation for our data; for example we might need experience, NFL-worthy talent and great coaching to produce an elite defense, but none of the three alone will do it.
Or it could be the obvious: you're giving as much credit to a team starting Adam Patterson and Courtney Avery (=2.5) as one starting two 5-stars, one a junior and another a sophomore, both whom started the year previous. But keep checking in on ebv's work here, because it sounds like he's building a good database that will yield some results once stuff like this is accounted for. My feeling is you need to judge performance versus expectation (based on Rivals Rating). You can pretty simply total up the recruiting average (dropping the lowest 25 percent of results from each class?) for each unit and compare that with FEI. Then see how much the difference between RR and FEI correlates to academic year.
Till next week, folks, stay out of the Doldroms.
I remember my first outdoor hockey game. It was some fellow 2nd grader's birthday party, I had to borrow skates from the kid across the street (all my equipment was for roller hockey), and we spent the first half hour freezing on the banks of Quarton Lake while paranoid parents checked the ice. By the time it was deemed game-safe the snow had grown thick enough to drown out sounds and generate enough fog so that parents and annoying little sisters sitting lakeside were totally ignorable. I remember the clack of sticks and skates, and shouts of hustling 2nd graders pillowed by the snow and cold gray. I remember sweating through layers of sweaters and the neighbor's well-used gloves, and my first whiff of the scent I would forever thereafter call "hockey."
I remember my first game at Yost. When I got to Michigan the hockey team was coming off of a national championship season and the basketball team was in the midst of the Webber scandal so: hockey. It was Michigan vs. Michigan State, and at the time M and MSU were to the CCHA what M and Ohio State used to be to the Big Ten and Miami (YTM) and FSU were supposed to be to the ACC. Hockey was that rivalry in its extreme: Michigan in its classic barn belting out cheers that said more about the cleverness of the fans than the game on the ice, the dour MSU fans from sterile Munn countering with a bevy of sub-pith about how overrated they found Yost. Michigan was famous for Brendan Morrison, and like B-Mo, Comrie and co. played like a pack of lost boys who'd just discovered faerie dust; State was Ron Mason's band of pirates (Adam Hall, Shawn Horcuff), terrestrial, slow-witted, and not much for good form, but holding a distinct size advantage.
I remember late-season Michigan football games. I remember being bundled up and trying to warm fingers by rubbing them against my jeans, which had the bonus effect of itching the long-johns beneath them (the jeans). I remember the line for Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, the warming effect of getting bustled along by the thick throngs of Greene Street and chanting "It's Great! To Be! A Michigan Wolverine!" I remember stripping off layers of sweatshirts that had begun to take on the unmistakable scent of hockey, throwing them into the corner of a booth at Arbor Brewing Company, and talking about whatever the hell felt like the most fun to talk about, feeling like the only bitterness in the world was the type that's on draft.
I remember because I had forgotten. The greatest moment I've had in Michigan Stadium over the last…what is it 7 years?…was being jubilantly relieved the 2010 team isn't really bad enough to lose to Illinois. Before that it was 2003, when it was cold, and there were roses.
Covering hockey, blogging about football, these things are fun, but they have also changed the experience of my two of my most favorite forms of entertainment, allowing adult cynicism to penetrate. The Big Chill was a pitch perfect combination: the entire Game Day experience mixed with just the right amount of Yost Ice Arena and Quarton Lake. Like Hook, it shouldn't be taken as a serious football game, or even a representative hockey game – larger surface, strange conditions, and all that – just familiar material brought back together for a few hours of raucously good show. I was enjoying it like a kid, and I wasn't the only one. Said Michigan State's Torey Krug:
“Ten years from now, I’m probably going to remember the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice,” Michigan State’s Torey Krug said. “Look at these 22-year-old men and they’re like little kids.”
For what was probably the 3rd but felt like the 20th time, Michigan forward Matt Rust made some Datsyukian pass that Merrill or Hagelin buried, the band blared "The Victors" into the December night, and then I was doing the Goal Count! cheer…in Michigan Stadium! For the first time since becoming a grownup and discovering I'm actually really good at cynical in-game quipping the only response I could think of was to put my big, potchy, grownup nose in Tink's clockhouse and say "I like this game!"
I figured porting Yost into the House that Yost Built would lose something in the translation, that the clever cheers and the likelihood that the person sitting in front of you is a player's relative would be perceptively absent. Except when we changed seats to get away from the increasingly souring Spartan fans, I then found myself right back on the shore of Quarton Lake, listening to pillowed hockey sounds beside the players' parents, and Matt Rust's sister,* hooting away the end of the waning moments of the third period and checking the time so I wouldn't miss (again) the "how much time is left?" thing, just as if I was back in a barn with 6,000 close friends.
In these few dark years of defenseless football and hoops meh-laise, hockey has provided the in-state rivalry's sweetest moments. One was last year's Usual Suspects twist, the second was inviting an irritatingly uppity-as-of-late Spartan fanbase over to our house, and then getting to ignore their un-clever attempts at sourpuss-ing** the moment while our pretty good team of passing stars utterly demoralized their hopelessly mediocre band of towering thugs. The best part of last night was the return to Never Never Land. It's not going to re-set any counters, but the second-best part of last night was taking Little Brother back to grade school.
Other MGoReactions to the game are in this thread.
* She reads MGoBlog and Yost Built
** Big Schadenfreude thank-you to the State fan behind me for hating everything from the word "sieve," to Blues Brothers, to the theme song to Rocky & Bullwinkle. He didn't stay, but I'm pretty sure he hates fireworks too.
Lewd, Crude, Rude Bag of Pre-Chewed Food Dude
I missed the morning of tailgating, since Misopogal's sister was graduating from MSU, but I did manage to catch some career advice from Michigan State's latest doctor of business:
Yes, that is MSU's 2010 Winter graduating class being told by Magic Johnson that it should be their goal to be named Employee of the Month and achieve mention in their companies' newsletters, fitting advice if your future's at McDonalds. Bonus: guess what the second "S" in "Spartans" stands for?
"And then 's' stands for 'Special.' Because everybody that comes from this campus, that goes to Michigan State University, they're special."
In case you're wondering, the person rudely giggling his ass off in the background is me. As Misopogal summarily compared:
"President Obama….Magic Johnson."
Double bonus: their gift to the school is $19,000 to get Sparty a new uniform because "the old one has been starting to smell," presumably from all the Axe body spray and burned upholstery.
The above is a play from Mississippi State's game against Georgia, where MSU ran its triple-option to the left and Georgia's version of Jonas Mouton Obi Ezeh is yelling for mushrooms when he sees three potential ball carriers and a downfield blocker have all gotten playside of him. The scene is taken from BlueSeoul's ongoing series of scouting Michigan's Gator Bowl opponent.
Part 1: Memphis
Part 2: Auburn
Part 3: LSU
Part 4: Georgia (with pics).
This much is obvious: Mullen is a great offensive coach, and BlueSeoul is a fantastic diarist, a Diarist of the Week, even.
Also in bowl games, I did a few comparisons using (now outdated) FEI ratings to determine things like how to fill in my confidence office bowl squares, which bowl games are likely to be close or blowouts, which will be high-scoring affairs, and which really have the most talent on the field, using all three to figure out a bowl watchability index for spending my precious 2.4 wife-allocated football games per week over vacation. Plus some other stuff.
The data gave up some other interesting bowl tidbits:
- USC (28th, with an FEI of 0.113) is the best team that's not going to a bowl game.
- The best team not going due to things other than NCAA sanctions: Arizona State (41st, 0.061), those unlucky bastards.
- Miami (Not THAT Miami) is the worst team going to a bowl; their -0.198 is 110th out of 120.
I meant to update this today, but spent the day doing anti-Virus and anti-snow activities. Look for it this week.
Erik_in_Dayton took on a very relevant question: does the 3-3-5 have a structural deficiency against power running teams? To answer this he used WVU's numbers against the run from 2005 to 2009 (this year's left out because WVU was far better than average defensively).
Lost, lost, lost, lost.
Lost what? Your marbles again?
No, no. My offensive possessions. Lost, lost, lost.
Found: Enjoy Life's turnover margin year in review.
Conclusion #4: Positive TOMs Helped Michigan Win As Many Games This Year As Negative TOMs Contributed To M Losing Games. M had 2 games with a positive TOM and the TOs helped win both games (UConn & ND). Michigan had 6 games with a TOM of –0- and won 4 of those games (UMass, BGSU, Indiana, Purdue) while losing 2 (Penn State, Wisconsin). M had 4 games with a negative TOM and actually won one of those (Illinois with a TOM of –4). Of the other 3, TOs were a primary factor in 2 losses (MSU and Iowa) but in one (osu) it is doubtful TOs were a significant factor in the loss. Therefore, if all games had ended with a TOM of –0-, it is likely M would still be 7-5 but with losses to UConn & ND and wins against MSU and Iowa. (And, yeah, that would be a lot better.)
Also found: how Michigan fans in general feel about Rich Rodriguez from Public Policy Polling. I gif:
There's a lot of other neat graphics in there that break down the results. The poll results even break it down by political, age, and ethnic groups.
Lastly in statistication, NOLA Blue asked the question that
everyone some guy on a TCU blog is asking: "were Sagarin's rankings rigged to keep TCU out of the BCS Championship?" No, Wimple.
Two-Toned Zebra-Headed, Slime-Coated, Pimple-Farmin' Paramecium Brain, Munchin' On Your Own Mucus, Suffering From Peter Pan Envy
Your new wallpaper, courtesy of monuMental. I'm starting to doubt my decision to use the Peter/Rufio duel of schoolbus insults for section heads here; alas we forge on.
Substitute Chemistry Teacher
Last week I told you about user jhackney, who exploded onto the board scene of late by responding to coaching change speculation with atomic irreverence. Our resident iconoclast this week stepped out of the boards to take us on a savage journey to the heart of the Wolverine dream. His Fear and Loathing in Ann Arbor series (Part I, Part II) is a Thomson-esque retelling of the 2010 season:
They were all laughing at me. I grabbed some whiskey off my leather-covered icebox and went outside to be alone with my thoughts and humiliation. My worst fears came true. I was a public Dupe, soon to be jailed for crimes of cruelty to myself for investing so much damn emotion and confidence into a game that ended with me stone drunk and stone naked on my porch. How had it happened? Had I finally loved Michigan too much?
For the uninitiated, or those who only know HST's work as a bit of cult film for drug users, his Gonzo style journalism was the spirit predecessor of sports blogging, particularly in that the author makes himself part of the story. J sticks a bit too closely to the movie script but such magnificent highs and crashes of modern Michigan football fandom can perhaps only be told by someone used to riding these types of roller coasters.
In Your Face, Camel Cake!
In etc., stubob's Ugly Game of the Week: Bowl Edition.
And you know probably how Section 1 (the blogger, not the blue hair brigade of the 50 yard line) feels about the Freep, but that shouldn't discredit his comparison of Rosenberg's speech to Dave Brandon's a year later to the same suburban Detroit alumni group.
Till next week, diarists, you know that place between sleep and staying awake to write stuff on the internet? That's where we'll be waiting. Bangarang!
Before Desmond Howard, before I knew there was a thing such as rushing stats (let alone scoring defense), I learned to watch Michigan football with my dad and his friends. This is the opposite of a stadium experience: standing, hollering at refereeing, displays of game-induced emotions, etc. are not appropriate. The way old Jewish men watch football is to sit on very comfortable couches, the day's host holding the remote, while his wife puts out a spread of non-nutritious delectables that he isn't allowed to eat. We talk about this guy's law firm, that guy's consulting business, and by the end of the game everybody's had a chance to get their really cool thing out there.
My dad's best friend's really cool thing is usually an update on his nephew, Ann Arbor-born Mayer Hawthorne. This is typically prefaced with "my nephew's in the entertainment business…" Except this time, the Hawthorne update was totally one-upped by another old guy, who was like "my son's in entertainment too: Mike Posner, have you heard of him?"
For those not familiar with Posner (pictured above—you know, the one who isn't a tiny 2-star freshman safety) his shtick is Justin Timberlake oohhh girrrl cooing while looking like a well kempt bad-ass. If you apply this same formula to punk, you get Good Charlotte. If you apply it to rock, you get Nickelsuck. If you throw in Jeebus you get Creed. The formula is old, annoying, and tremendously successful. More importantly, it has been giving the music world's innovators and intellectuals and poets jealousy fits since Elvis Presley realized dodging tackles didn't require tacklers, and Big Joe Turner's friends muttered the '50s slang equivalent to "WTF!"
If you haven't yet figured out where I'm going with this analogy, Ohio State is Mike Posner, and every other teen idol, and boy band, and crappy formulaic rock band whose astounding popularity has deigned to piss me off. There's nothing creative about it, and any edge is some sort of manufactured, watered-down version of something that got stuffy parents upset 10 years ago. You will never say to yourself "gee, that is a really brilliant Creed lyric" the same way you'll never say "that play that Tressell came up with was absolutely genius."
Really, the Posners and Timberlakes added their own ludicrous hours and amazing talent to the formula, just as Ohio State's starters have probably put their bodies through more pain over the last three years than Michigan's football program has given my soul. But that's small consolation to those who imagine themselves artistically superior when the guy cooing on a Carson Daly show is getting megamillions and adulation and a blank check of support from the industry.
I will no more ever understand why people will keep going gaga for Mike Posner or Nickelsuck than I will understand why they keep committing to play football for Jim Tressell, except if every song is going to have the same beat anyway, it's best that everybody who likes music for its beat will agree on one song so everyone knows the words.
And there's the rub: cool begets cool.
All of this music bitching is hypocritical from a Michigan fan like me, because I had zero complaints when Michigan was chugging along on Bo's fumes and the cachet of four decades of success.
A Rich Rodriguez team is musical superiority, but just as a band will be judged by hits and concert turnout, a college football team is measured in wins and rivalry wins. Those of us declaring "Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" in late 2007 weren't doing so solely because Michigan's playcalling was going to be a lot smarter. The dancing bananas were because we were Warner Bros. and figured we'd just co-opted the college football equivalent of Nirvana: by 2010, painted fake buffoons obsessed with the smell of their own reverb were supposed to be toppling before 60-21 obliterations in Columbus. This was our destiny!
I spent the second half of my college years as the best friend of Oblivion, an intellectual Ann Arbor hard rock band (sample mp3) that we were convinced was going to make big. Those years provided plenty of opportunities to harden hatred and envy of Creed's success-based success. Eventually, we all managed to at least stop worrying so much about how much money Scott Stapp was making, and concentrate on making better music. Likewise, hating the Sweater Vest for his substantively vapid program gets Michigan nowhere. Michigan's purpose is to beat him, not be him.
And us: we're the friends, really with no more ability to generate Michigan wins over Ohio State than Mayer's uncle has of making a nerdy soul singer cooler than Mr. Posner's son.
1. There's a rhythm to Detroit Jewish baby boomer football viewing, where the interruptions for plays are conversational interludes that allow the speaker to think of the right word (proper word selection is important in this sub-culture) or to move on to the next thing.
1970s-80s Michigan football was perfect for this kind of fandom, a steady beat of 3-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 4-yard play, setup, OH!, setup, 4-yard play, setup, 0-yard play, setup, AWW, punt, who wants pie?
Michigan in the Rich Rod Era is no better fit for that room than I am: 25 YARD PASS!, setup wait no it's called back, setup, GREAT PAAA aww he dropped it, setup GO GO GO GO DAMMIT, setup, HEY REDZONE, setup, WHAT A THROW 1ST DOWN ON THE 5 – WAIT HOLDING HOW WAS THAT HOL—interception—Wait no that hit the ground, REVIEW REVIEW—0 yard run EXPLODING SQUIRRELS! Fumble.
It's tense, and punctuated, a Pavlovian tease-fest that goes to the red zone more than 60-somethings go to the bathroom, and just as often comes away with nothing more than a fart.
2. If you were around M in the early '00s he's that guy in Athletic Mic League—you know, the white one.
3. FYI: A fellow Wylie E. Groves Falcon. Also, Misopogal thinks he's awesome.
4. Golly gee whiz?
5. Or 40 years ago, if you're talking devil horn hand gestures.
6. It's not the subject. Muse does as much religion as Creed, and Muse is awesome. Furthermore, my favorite album of all time makes a hundred overt references to Catholicism. It's just that it does so in brilliant metaphorical lyrics and musical compositions written to complement the poeticism of those lyrics, all in the context of a cohesive, album-long concept:
7. Lefsetz.com, who is basically my Brian for music, says Mayer's just a marketing creation too.
What We Need is a Miracle
Do you know the penalty for a head coach who loses a 7th game in a row to Ohio State?
Death by torture!
They shove a living snake up your ass!
No, but that's very creative.
People start making up irrational reasons for axing you!
The lead singer of Oblivion summed up his feelings on our head coach's job in this text from last night:
Two totally irrational reasons to get rid of Richrod: 1.) "Miracles" never happen when he's coaching, and 2.) he's the unluckiest son of a bitch on the planet.
I have no rational reasons to not see another year with dilithium, only irrational ones.
The miracles thing was echoed in the comments yesterday in a TWIS bid by longtime MGoBoarder Tim Waymen:
I'm quitting the internet. No more TV, I want to stay the hell away from the Midwest except for Ann Arbor. This sucks.
Forget it. If he goes, he goes. He's a good coach, but maybe just not the right man for Michigan. I also blame God and the universe, karma, etc. How is this fair? We haven't had any miracles. I hoped that today would bring redemption for RR, but instead people now have a stronger case against him. Not just a close loss, but we're getting destroyed in a game I sincerely thought we could win.
That was in a thread criticizing – of all things – the refereeing, by the way. This is a typical response to any fanbase that remembers its good years better than its bad ones. Go back far enough and you'll find a group of unhappy Israelites at firemoses.com who thought parting the Red Sea and climbing a mountain to get directions straight from a 5-star deity is nice and all, but none of this is getting to us to the Promised Land. Dayenu.
More of this continued in the Emo Diaries of the week:
- Dr. Rodbaugh, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pimp, by Undefeated dream season of 1992 has the user tags Antietam, drang, and sturm, and basically says the fans deserve a new coach because this is a world where math is boring and (as once pointed out by Stephen Maturin) the verdict of the masses is seldom wrong.
- An avid follower of Brian's (currently) SB Nation column This Week in Schadenfreude, Meechigan Dan noted that recent championship teams all had a point when their brilliant coaches got their teams called in for the 'freude.
- JonSobel is sick of the bickering and arguing, says RR is Bo and Yost et al., but wants to fire him because it would shut everybody up.
- Oakland Press columnist and local radio press's Bob Wojnowski weighed in, earning him a ruthless MGoFisking by Ann Arbor Cardinal.
It's clear now that, while Dave Brandon is (I hope to God) going to be spending the next few months making this call the right way, i.e. exploring all avenues of information and options, we're going to be using a lot of Internet to share our views on it. So, before we embark on When Should We Fire This Guy: Round 3, let's set some ground rules:
Keep Rich Rodriguez
Fire Rich Rodriguez
|Let's first admit:||
1. We are disappointed with the results to date. Even if this year met expectations for the beginning of this year, 3-9, 5-7 and 7-6/8-5 was not the start to RR's Michigan career we envisioned.
2. Rich Rodriguez has made terrible, possibly fireable mistakes in his handling of the defense, especially in building his defensive staff.
3. Even with expected improvements, the 2011 team is probably not at a championship level.
4. Jim Harbaugh is a strong candidate, would unite the fanbase, and might not be this available again.
5. Keeping Rich Rodriguez as a win-or-go lame duck in 2011 is an anchor on recruiting, one that has been putting a noticeable damper on this already.
6. Unless RR can outperform expectations next year, something he's never done at Michigan, we've already lost the battle of perception.
1. This is a legitimately great offense, perhaps among the best in Michigan history (despite being young and mistake-prone) and Rich Rodriguez is the reason the offense is so good. Without him, we're looking at a rough transition, probably more transfers.
2. He's been building the program with integrity and keeping to his bedrock principles.
3. We haven't yet seen what RR is fully capable of. This is young guy who was a proven winner before coming here, and a big 2011 is not only possible, but could lead to several decades of great football.
4. If we fire RR and Harbaugh doesn't come/work out, we could become Notre Dame.
5. It's not exactly easy to find established coaches who share Michigan's higher academic expectations and also keep up with the Joneses of Ohio State and the SEC who have no such compunctions.
|Best-case scenario:||Jeff Casteel replaces Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator (although this probably keeps Gibson) and we see immediate returns in the bowl game. The defense gets to average in 2011, while the offense reaches maturity and we are next year's Oregon. This leads to Top 5 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, and we're a 10-win machine again until RR retires a Hall of Fame coach with 4 national championships in the 2030s, when his star disciple is given the reigns.||Jim Harbaugh takes over, convinces most of the recruits and players to stay, and rides the positive press of a new hire to finish 2011 recruiting strong. He manages to translate RR's players to a wide open and almost as effective Spread HD offense, while bringing a new attitude to defense. We beat MSU and OSU, and then in 2012 upset Alabama, and the Empire of Bo witnesses a Justinian revival.|
|Worst-case scenario:||This offseason witnesses more transfers and injuries, and another failure of a DC is brought in and told to run the 3-3-5 though he's never coached it before. A loss at MSU makes RR a lame duck, recruits know it, and the team goes on to a lame 7-win season, followed by a depressing coaching search that seriously uses the words "Brady Hoke" again.||Well, first let's imagine Harbaugh doesn't want to come, or that he was just lucky to have some great players at Stanford and can't repeat that. Players recruited to play for RR quit on him or transfer out, and it's 2008-2010 all over again, except by the time New Guy has his guys the Ohio State ticker is up to 10 years and Michigan State is a solid, Wisconsin-level Big Ten 2nd tier power.|
|Outlook for 2011||Offense is older and probably less prone to big mistakes, but the defense is very far away and we really have zero evidence that the defense can get better since it has regressed every year under this regime. However, the schedule is easier, with Ohio State at home and some of the tougher Big Ten teams off the schedule, and an Oregonian romp is not outside the realm of possibility.||Rebuilding with a new coach is a major gamble, especially because we would be firing the best possible person to run next year's offense given the personnel and their system experience. However, it's an instant press success, and a good hire cuts the anchor that head coach job speculation puts on recruiting. 2011 under any coach but Rodriguez probably has 1 or 2 more losses than otherwise, a sunk cost to regime change.|
|Outlook for 2012 and beyond||Continuing with Rich Rod means we are effectively putting all of our chips down on the bet that he will be successful next year. Otherwise, it's another wasted year, another class of guys who weren't recruited by their future head coach, and the likelihood of pulling out a miracle replacement is substantially lower than it is now.||Another rebuilding phase now would be a huge gamble on the new guy. However, keeping RR is also a gamble, and if there is going to be a regime change again, better to do it earlier. Michigan still has enough cachet that a bout of good press and success can attract 4- and 5-stars. I doubt Calvin Magee stays if RR goes, but it's possible that a few positives of the Rodriguez era can be retained in the fabric of the program and what we end up with is a rebirth of Bo's legacy that has had a Barwicizing wake-up call.|
Next comes a crap bowl, and then next year, which should be better just because so many of the starters return, and even the most ardent supporters of the coaching staff agree that some of them (the coaches) won't.
Luck and miracles are X factors that don't mean anything beyond the psychological mindset of the team, recruits, and donors. Not having a single Big Ten caliber cornerback or free safety option after three years of running the team, linebackers who still look clueless as 5th year seniors, alignment mistakes that one trip through a Jeff Casteel instructional video could clear up: these are long-term problems that may not be fixable without drastic action. Ray Vinopal is a gutsy kid who has already outperformed his highest recruiting expectations, but even so there's about 20 teams in the country who would probably take him right now over their free safety.
The Decimated Defense split blame between shitty luck, shitty recruiting/retention by Lloyd, and shitty retention/recruiting/player development by Rich Rod. A year later, the shitty luck has continued, and the shitty retention/recruiting/development by Rich Rod has gotten even worse than the Carr year it replaced. At this point, the defense is more than half the fault of the current head coach. Any discussion of firing him should begin there, and any case for keeping him must demonstrate that this trend can be reversed. Conversely, we're all agreed that Rodriguez can coach/recruit/scheme offense better than any candidate we could hope to replace him with.
Those parameters set, go forth and discuss, keeping every comment, for or against, higher minded than anything put out on the subject by the Detroit media. Given the spectacularly low (the opposite of Mornhinweg-ian) bar they're setting, this shouldn't be too hard. Then again, a substantive debate on a coaching fire/keep situation on an Internet message board is probably just asking for a miracle.
After jump: More Diaries.
When he was doing his summer interview series, Six Zero asked how I became a Michigan fan. My answer (short version):
…when I was 11, I was invited to spend a long weekend with my cousin, then an engineering student in Ann Arbor. We had the best pancakes I ever tasted at this place just west of the Nickels Arcade, then went to watch Desmond Howard singlehandedly demolish Indiana. After the game we bought a used copy of Alice in Wonderland from that book dude on State St., then warmed up over hot cider at the Brown Jug. After, I splayed out on a sleeping bag next to the couch in his apartment watching his two female roommates walk around naked. And I was like "This is it; I wanna go to Michigan."
That cousin is still in Ann Arbor. His wife, who must be one of the 90 kindest people in the world, is a pediatrician and huge Michigan fan who spent the morning preparing her house for an invasion of some 25 family members, aged 14 to 70, all of whom were to have parking, tickets, and passes either to the new box, or at least the Crisler bathrooms. Their two kids, girl 11, and boy 9, had helped Mom by taping a large paper banner across the kitchen door that read "Hello Cousins! M Club Welcomes You!"
Adorable children have a way of appearing when Brian's about to hurl profanities, so I marched to Michigan's last home game of 2010 with an army of them. It does help with the profanity –- the worst thing I did at a game full of perfect exclamatory moments was to face the sky after the batted interception and yell "I thought you hated Wisconsin!"
The 14-year-old loved that one. He also loved his first view of MGoBlog, which I had him pull up at half-time on his smart phone (yes, 14-year-olds come with smart phones now). When Denard whooped a guy about to kill him then sauntered into the end-zone, 14-year-old was the one telling me the record had been broken.
The serendipitous presence of a kid is great for writers trying to capture something too profound to be believable from a cynical adult. Sometime MGoCommenter Glen Masons Hot Wife has a little tradition now of (kind of dickishly) telling me I can't write as well as Brian (or Johnny of RBUAS) after these posts. Don't think I don't know I can't (triple-negative!) use a rhetorical moppet with the aplomb of Cook; I wish I could. To be fair, Brian said he wishes he could moppet like DFW.
My actual recollection of childhood was that by the time I cared about sports I wasn't that innocent anymore. My world-test wasn't necessarily "is this awesome?" but "is this cool?" with the latter being something I didn't actually get to determine. I thought Desmond Howard was awesome, but I was almost as happy again when I learned that Desmond Howard fandom was really cool.
Much of my adult life has been about trying to recapture that which is genuine and awesome (I would argue that David Foster Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest, is about this too) after years of pursuing cool. The cynic who blamed God when a 6'0 quarterback kept having his passes batted right to defenders became so because when we're being honest, watching Michigan get crushed by Wisconsin just hurts.
What makes it easier is knowing things will get better. For me, Greg Robinson will probably be gone, and hopefully the 3rd time will be the charm (if it's not, well…), and other than the few guys who walked with their parents under the banner this afternoon, almost all of the starters will be back next year.
Those kids: Greg Banks, James Rogers, Steve Schilling, Adam Patterson, Renaldo Sagesse, Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh, et al., moppets themselves when I was in school, stayed when most of their classmates bailed. Some were redshirting for '06, but their first day of eligibility was The Horror. A coach whom they might never have signed up for changed the program to something that's about trying harder, and they did it. They lost to Wisconsin today, and all those other times, not because of effort but because they simply weren't as good as Mark Messner, Charles Woodson, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Branch, Glen Steele, Jarrett Irons and Larry Foote. They never grew cynical because there was always another chance, an opportunity for something awesome to happen.
The injuries sustained today – Roh, Rodgers, Stonum, Smith – may make it impossible, but there's still a chance for awesome. That's why playing for Michigan is different than for every other school, because no matter how the season goes, that chance for awesome is always going to be right there at the end of it. For the seniors, it's the last one. For my 14-year-old cousin, there will be so many more that one loss to Wisconsin is nothing next to years of Denard Robinson and whatever amazing things are ahead.
But here's this kid who's 14 years old, knows what "Ndamukong" means, pulls up rushing stats on SportsTap more than I do, and he doesn't remember Chris Perry because he was fucking SEVEN the last time we beat Ohio State. I don't expect the 2010 Michigan team to play defense like '97, because they're not that good, the same way that this column will never be written as well as the Brian's post-game the next day, and that post-game won't be as good as DFW's tennis coverage was, and DFW's genius was not that of the bard.
For him, for the moppets who made the banner, for the seniors, for the fans, for the coach, for the team, to go into Columbus this year and beat Ohio State, well, that would just be awesome.
Much Ado About Nothing
The Grid of Expectation:
|Wisconsin Preview||The Mathlete||PAN-fried||Wis, 38-37|
|Post Week 11: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||Weighted YPG||M, 42-38|
|Week #11 National Statistics and Predictions for Wisconsin||Enjoy Life||Sagarin, Fremeau||Wis, 41-30 (FEI) or W-4.5|
|Preview: Wisconsin 2010||Brian||fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms||Wis, 34-27||
The Taming of the Overgrown Shrew
In the last week of the normal Big Ten season the Diarists had to dig deep (get it?) to get up for a visit from the 10-1 Badgers. First, the Shred Dude, and his remake of Shakespeare's section title-referenced play: 10 Things I Hate About The F-ing Badgers.
Whats that shit on your face?
2. James Kamoku- You son of a bitch! You think you can put your god damn hands on Steve Breaston and get away with it? DO YOU!? This amateur during a 2006 UM vs UW punt return decided to try and rip Steve's ankle off. It was caught on TV. Karma is a bitch since last I saw you played for some fake football team called the "Wolf Pac". Guess what happened to this dirt ball for his bush league act? NOTHING!
Other things Shredder hates: suffocatingly boring, anti-points white-guy basketball, green giants, band camp, dirty campgrounds, letter people, candy canes, trucks, and the cast of That '70s Show except Red. Also: guys who switch positions mid-Paint:
Meanwhile, Coach Schiano visualized a motivational post-Wisconsin speech by Rich Rod. Denard, Kelvin Grady, et al. respond in a telling reminiscent of the random heroism of football.
Alls Well That Ends Well
The funny thing about accomplishing something in sleety driving rain: you are miserable when you're in it, but afterwards you just love talking about it. True to form, the MGoStatisticians took to the spreadsheets to test all sorts of wild theories that indirectly might maybe possibly suggest we beat Wisconsin and Ohio State:
Hypothosis: The Defense is Approaching Average, by matt D.
Observations: Michigan is kind of but not quite comparable to Penn State, which is an average defense:
3 & Out %
Conclusion: You can judge for yourself. Matt says the defense is put in bad situations. Irish brings the sanity:
75th in rush defense and tackles for loss
86th in pass efficiency defense
91st in sacks
93rd in scoring defense
100th in total defense
103rd in turnover margin
114th in pass defense
Hypothesis: 'Tis better to play at home, by The Mathlete.
Observations: Teams seem to perform better against expectations when at home. And whoa last year:
Conclusion: Over these years Michigan is on the low end of home field advantage, in the Big Ten above only the polite and purpled few of Evanston, and Illinois, but it's still worth almost 2 points a game in PAN. Poor Notre Dame is worse at home than on the road.
Hypothesis: Michigan makes a difference, by TennBlue.
Observations: If you normalize our schizophrenic team (SCORE! INTERCEPTION! FUMBLE! SCORE! SCORE! MISS FG! SCORE! INTERCEPTION!) our opponents look a little different than the final score may indicate.
M's affect on Total D Rank
M's affect on Total O rank
|Connecticut||-10||1||W, Good O, OK D|
|Notre Dame||-10||19||W, Good O, Terrible D|
|Bowling Green||-17||0||W, Awesome O, OK D|
|Indiana||-11||14||W, Good O, Terrible D|
|Michigan State||-1||16||L, OK O, Terrible D|
|Iowa||-10||-2||L, Good O, OK D|
|Penn State||-8||4||L, Good O, Bad D|
|Illinois||-20||14||W, Awesome O, Terrible D|
|Purdue||-4||-2||W, OK O, OK D|
Conclusion: Yeah, it kind of does. We underrated Penn State a bit, and maybe overrated Michigan State.
Hypothesis: Michigan is so good we can turn it over and suck at special teams and still win at football, by Enjoy Life
Observations: With a turnover margin of minus-7, a bad return team, a worse coverage team, and no chance of making a field goal, Michigan is amazingly unscathed.
HOLD ON TO THE GOD DAMN BALL AND THROW THE GOD DAMN BALL TO OUR RECEIVERS!!
Also it seems the reason we can get away with this is that our offense is so radically good, and our defense is so generally bad unless we're facing an offense that's radically bad, that what's a few more radicals thrown into the mix.
Hypothesis: All you need to know you can learn from Revenge Movies, by bronxblue
Hypothesis: Michigan could win another Big Ten game this year, by the Mathlete
Observations: We beat Purdue, and the PAN before the Wisconsin game said we were at 46% to finish at the 7-5 we expected, and the rest…well, nowhere to go but up, right?
Conclusion: Three excellent diaries this week again. Dylan can write songs, Gretzky can play hockey, Mathlete can write diaries.
Conclusion: The Mathlete is your Diarist of the Week.
As You Like It (Etc.)
Yes, another Moving Picture Pages of Chris, by Danger of Dangerous Logic. That one's the earlier throwing of rock. He has another from Friday night in which even more rock is thrown. Somewhere, DeBord is coaching in a city that doesn't have internet and thus missing this opportunity to nod in solemn approval.
For those (like me) who have to look more than once to comprehend what "Michigan+4" means, Blazefire and his bolded subconscious multiple personality* put on a little clinic to explain what the line actually means:
The line is not a means of picking a winner of a game, nor is it intended to do so.
The line is a form of handicap, suggesting that under given circumstances, adjusting the final score by X points (subtracting for the team expected to win or adding for the team expected to lose) would create a tie score. It is an attempt to put the teams "on par" with each other.
The line is a betting tool, and is not intended to predict the score of the game.
Betting with or against the line is an agreement or disagreement with Vegas, not a belief or disbelief in one of the teams.
* How many people on this blog have bolded subconscious multiple personality disorder anyhow?
You try watching the last decade of Michigan football and staying sane, putz.
Finally, oriental andrew's Opponent Press Conferences returned this week to interview "that big meathead … and his meaty Badgers."
That's enough of weeks past and Big Ten seasons concluded. It's Ohio State week.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit.
The game's afoot: follow that spirit t'ward dark Ohio
Cry "hail" for Michigan! For Rod! And Saint Bo!