...talks about how UConn hasn't been in contact and how they're out. (HT: UMHoops)
I feel happy!
Every offseason there is someone (often named Gary Danielson) who goes on record proclaiming the doom of the spread offense and a return to the paleolithic days when quarterbacks were pale and made of granite. The best and dumbest remains this from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
This may sound strange when coach Mike Leach's version of the spread has Texas Tech near a national title game, but Michigan's struggles this season while Rodriguez has implemented his system into college football's winningest program might be a sign: The spread, in fact, is dead.
The scheme was designed to give underdogs some hope, when a team could open up the field by recruiting a smaller quarterback with a sharp mind and a quick release, and a handful of speedy receivers. But the offense intended to confound the big boys has now been adopted by the big boys, and that may have started its demise.
But that was two years ago.
This year's evidence centered heavily on…
Texas abandoning the vestigal Vince Young-y bits from its offense after the graduation of Colt McCoy and ascension of monolithic Garrett Gilbert to the helm:
With the exit of Colt McCoy, so goes the shotgun spread for the Texas Longhorns. For the 2010 season, Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis have decided to go under center with starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
Going under center could mean the beginning of the end for the spread, a style that was made popular by powerhouse SEC programs and then picked up by other conferences.
Florida abandoning the Tebow offense in favor of a conventional pocket passer:
Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio tweaked the spread offense to tailor Brantley’s strengths, putting him under center more and eliminating many designed quarterback runs.
The effectiveness of Alabama's traditional battering ram of an offense featuring returning Heisman winner Mark Ingram:
When Alabama prevailed last season, it was with gnarly defense and a vanilla offensive scheme — albeit led by Heisman Trophy-winning back Mark Ingram.
That profile in turn had ripples for Texas, a 37-21 loser to the Crimson Tide in the title game, that perhaps suggest a shift in the broader landscape.
and spread 'n' shred HQ Michigan sucking:
How are these memes working out so far?
Texas fans are livid that Mack Brown's handpicked talent couldn't manage a meaningful touchdown against UCLA:
What is the Texas offensive scheme? My answer- We have a spread that we pass out of 80% of the time, and an under-center formation we run out of 80% of the time. We use the spread 70 – 80% of the time against quality opposition. We call very few running plays for the QB- just a couple of called QB draws per game. We don’t run zone read or lead option, which were core plays for us the last several years. Our offense has an H-back that can block on running plays or be a receiving option on pass plays.
The proposed short term solution is to utilize "more zone reads and option runs" and use whichever quarterback has the best combination of running and throwing ability.
Florida fans were clawing their eyes out after managing just over 200 yards of total offense against Miami (Not That Miami) and just over 300 against Tennessee (Also Pretty Much Not That Tennessee) but found joy in the redzone in the form of one Trey Burton:
The freshman scored six touchdowns in Florida's 48-14 victory over Kentucky, including five rushing as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation. The feat broke Tebow's old record of five touchdowns against South Carolina in 2007. … On Wednesday, UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said Burton's role as a quarterback in the Wildcat package likely will expand as the season progresses. Burton's role might be similar to the role Tebow played as a freshman, when he was a changeup to starter Chris Leak, who led the Gators to the BCS national title in 2006.
Alabama's grinding non-spread attack is sixth in total offense and just took out their most difficult competition to date by doing this with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson:
Ingram took eight handoffs out of the wildcat, nine from the pistol, three from shotgun and four when the quarterback was under center. Richardson only took eight handoffs, with his two biggest gains, 53 and 10, out of shotgun.
For those counting, Mark Ingram took four of 24 snaps from a conventional I-form against a top ten foe on the road.
Finally, no one's laughing at half of Michigan's team now:
Also there is Cam Newton, though Auburn highlight technology has a decidedly Soviet feel to it. FWIW four weeks into the season (almost nothing), three of the top four offenses in the country are dyed-in-the-wool spreads that feature a ton of quarterback runs: Michigan, Oregon, and Nevada.
We now return you to your regular programming, and Gary Danielson to the alternate universe he spends six days a week in.
This one goes to thirteen because we aren't dead yet. Again, a combination of overall impact with a heavy emphasis on how awesome that moment was—if eligible the Donovan goal against Algeria would be the perfect candidate. #13 is admittedly valedictory.
Michigan State, 2007: Mike Hart scoops up a Mallett fumble and conjures a first down from air.
If Mike Hart did anything other than run for thousands of yards at Michigan it was pick up blitzers on the most famous Michigan plays of the decade. There weren't any Mike Hart runs on this list because the guy always got caught from behind and Michigan's offense was set up to get its big plays from the passing game for the duration of his tenure, but Hart will block on three of the top four. This had to be rectified, but how? There was that eight yard run against Penn State, but that lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. It was in the first half, for one.
How about this rescue instead?
This may be the most Mike Hart play of Mike Hart's career. Ryan Mallett's come in the game for one play after Chad Henne limped off, and Mallett does what he always did, which was fumble. Michigan's about to be facing a second and forever even if they get the ball back when Hart pops out of the pack, ball in hand. He then jukes one Spartan out of his shorts and plows over two more for a game-changing first down. He then heads to the sideline because he's so injured he shouldn't even be in the game.
2003 Illinois: Steve Breaston fields a punt on one sideline and glide-cuts his way all the way across the field, juking six separate Illini before finding a seam and setting sail for the endzone. NOTE: Unfortunately, I can't find this in an embeddable form. It is 15 seconds into this Breaston highlight reel. Picture not relevant.
…was the name message board posters sarcastically bestowed on Steve Breaston as he redshirted and reports of his practice exploits became progressively more ludicrous. "Freshman you've never heard of fails to live up to epic practice hype" is perhaps the most common fall storyline across the country, and Michigan has had more than its fair share of epic busts from Grady Brooks to David Underwood to Kevin Grady. The nickname was a shield against disappointement
When Steve Breaston took the field, though, he somehow managed to exceed the expectations built up over the offseason. This return was the crowning glory; after a half-season full of almosts where he'd get tackled at the five or have something called back on a penalty he didn't need, he waited and waited, making two of those looping back-cuts that would become so familiar and exploding up the sideline.
For the most part teams stopped punting to him after this play, and though he remained amongst the country's most dangerous returners for the duration of his career he never quite recaptured the magic of the first two-thirds of his freshman year. At the moment he did this, though, he could do anything.
11. Ernest Shazor just killed a guy. No, seriously, he's dead
Purdue, 2004: Michigan has a narrow lead in the dying minutes but Purdue wins with a field goal and is driving. Dorien Bryant, then merely a freshman and not yet the Brooks Bollinger memorial eighth year senior, grabs a ball over the middle and starts picking up tons of YAC. Purdue is already in field goal range when Brandon Williams grabs at Bryant's feet, sending him into the air. This is where Ernest Shazor murders him. Bryant coughs up history's most understandable fumble; Leon Hall recovers, ending the game.
I've seen a lot of murderous hits in football, but they're mostly for show. Football's violence is a thrilling, sometimes sad sideshow to the main event; only rarely does the sheer intimidating force of a guy running directly at another guy matter immediately. Not so here. This hit turned a very likely loss into a sure win and ranks as the most CLICK CLICK BOOM play of the decade.
After the hit Shazor evaporated, providing only theoretical resistance against the first terrible appearance of That God Damned Counter Draw in the Michigan State game, about which more later, and entering the NFL draft early only to be passed over entirely. Despite being dead Bryant would go on to be probably Purdue's finest receiver of the decade, though I'll leave that judgment to the Purdue blogs' decentennial glazomania.
This play is lower than I expected because the feelings were more relief and frustration at the defense. A close call against a Purdue team that wasn't at all good (7-5) nearly derailed Michigan's season. Other plays in crappier seasons were fraught with less expectation and more enjoyable, like for instance…
10. The Blip
MGoRetro: We're From Phoenix
Wisconsin, 2008: Donovan Warren breaks up a slant, sending the ball on that parabolic trajectory that screams interception but often ends up hitting the turf. In this instance, Johnny Thompson is in the right place in the right time, catching the ball and picking up a defense's worth of escorts.
Exactly one good thing happened in the entirety of 2008, and this was it. Michigan had just gotten a touchdown thanks to a supremely ill-timed Wisconsin blitz that set Brandon Minor free. One play later Michigan would be in the lead:
Michigan would add another touchdown thanks to a 60-yard Steven Threet read option keeper and hang on for dear life, surviving a two point conversion that tied the game thanks to an illegal formation penalty and stuffing the second attempt.
At the time, the win over a top-ten Wisconsin team seemed like an indicator that even in this season of transition and quarterback incompetence something of Michigan would persist. It seemed super important, and then Toledo blew everything to hell.
9. Chad Henne robot apotheosis
Michigan State, 2007: Chad Henne completes his transformation from inept and injured to flawless robot incapable of understanding pressure by shouting "reprise" and pretending Mario Manningham is Braylon Edwards, completing an improbable Michigan comeback.
I'd somehow managed to get tickets on the 50 yard line in the Michigan student section at Spartan Stadium, and things were tense. Some unlit-cigar-chomping State fan was in my seat and insisted it was his seat to the point where he called the cops over so they could look at my ticket and shrug. He'd eventually switch places with a few Michigan fans outside of the section. At some point early in the second half a woman who looked like she watches a lot of Jenny Jones turned around and screamed something incomprehensible but very angry. She proceeded to do this every five minutes until someone figured out the thing she was saying was "Art Fag U," at which point the guy standing next to me went off about how bigoted that was whenever given an opportunity for the rest of the game, which was every other play.
Meanwhile on the field, Michigan was busy blowing a 14-3 lead in the immediate aftermath of Mark Dantonio's "pride" comments. They gave up three straight touchdowns while managing only one play of significance, a hopeful downfield jump ball that Mario Manningham came up with. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Michigan was cooked.
In my head, this is when Hart went over to Henne and slapped him really hard. Michigan State backed off their coverage and Michigan marched down the field for a touchdown, dodging the Mallett disaster above, got the ball back, drove some more, and then decided to inflict the maximum amount of pain by joining the Braylon Edwards Historical Reenactment Society:
This is why Michigan State bloggers won't ever delve into their version of the Worst Plays of the Decade. As bad as you thought that was, Michigan State's edition would be typed equivalent of the Hurricane Katrina Valenti rant.
8. "I Saw Cover Zero"
MGoRetro: Moxie and MacGyver.
Notre Dame, 2009: leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan faces a 4th and 3 in the no man's land where field goals are dodgy and punts get you put on the Worst Plays of the Decade list. Michigan goes for it, calling a bootleg pass for Forcier. Notre Dame's Stephen Filer cuts off the angle, so Forcier breaks his ankles and cuts up into the wide-open middle of the field.
This could have been one of Forcier's scrambles on the game-winning drive or the touchdown that won the game or Charlie Weis's decision to call a 40-yard fly route during Notre Dame's attempt to kill the game—miss you, big guy xoxo—but for sheer impact it's Forcier rewarding Rich Rodriguez's ability to do math:
Forcier's moxie would see Michigan through another two games of desperate fourth-quarter action before disintegrating in overtime against Michigan State and the fourth quarter against Iowa. In this it's similar to the Thompson interception, where early-season hope gave way to the cruel reality of the situation and the opponent turned out to be something less than they were supposed to be.
7. A Knee On The Ground
Citrus Bowl, 2007 season: with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne takes a snap and falls to the ground.
The definition of bittersweet.
Michigan had just finished racking up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State, so of course they come out in a shotgun spread attack and put up 41 points on Florida en route to yet another bowl victory over the SEC. Every downfield strike conjured forth a cauldron of mixed emotions: immediate joy. Fist-shaking at the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. Depression about the missed opportunity represented in Chad Henne's healthy shoulder. An entire extra layer of confusion about Mike DeBord. It was like being 15 again, like being 15 again and stuck in a never-ending afterschool special.
But when Henne kneeled and Marques Slocum, of all people, was the first to get Lloyd Carr up on his shoulders, well… IT IS VERY DUSTY IN HERE RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR AIR FILTERS. I have allergies, you know. Severe allergies.
At some point you just have to let that frustration go and accept the program for what it is, accept Carr for who he is, and say thanks. He did hole up and punt with a six point lead against Tim Tebow, but how could he go out any other way?
Hockey bits. Whatever doubt there was about Summers returning this weekend is just about evaporated. Berenson is "over 80 percent confident" he will be back:
"I thought he looked pretty good again [on Wednesday]," Berenson said. "He's such a free skater, and that's an advantage he has. And he's a senior. He's fit. He's worked hard in this whole rehab. If he gets through the next few days, he'll play."
As mentioned in the preview, I assume this means Lee Moffie gets sent to the press box. Hogan is still out.
I updated the preview with some extra television information, but if you missed it Saturday's game is now on Comcast so everyone should get it. Channels:
- Comcast: 900
- Dish: 432 and 436.
- DirecTV: 640 and 668.
The game is also on ESPN360 and will be on ESPNU on tape delay. Hypothetical Sunday game would be on ESPNU.
Rothstein has a piece on Fort Wayne's preparations for the NCAA tourney—he used to work at the paper there—and asks whether neutral sites really work for the NCAA hockey tournament. In my opinion, not really. It's goofy to have the most important games of the season played in sterile, largely empty buildings, and moving to home ice for top seeds would help make the tourney less of a random number generator. Playoffs should strive for a balance between unpredictability and a satisfactory champion. The NBA has too little unpredictability, MLB too much. College basketball is just right. Single-elimination hockey is on the MLB side of the scale.
Comley says MSU was the last team out of the NCAA tournament and if Michigan had not beaten Miami, then MSU would have replaced the Wolverines in the 16-team field. He is not for expanding the current 16-team format, although I am in favor of expanding it to 24 because a couple of teams with automatic bids, like Alabama Huntsville, are in the field with a losing record.
As Western College hockey points out, 24 teams would be 40% of college hockey. It would be all but one TUC. The tourney is more likely to contract back to twelve than expand further. Hockey is already over the 25% mark, the maximum amount of tournament participation advised by the NCAA. Also, Comley's wrong. Ferris State is the first team out of the tourney.
BONUS: Junior defenseman Jeff Petry is a holy lock to sign with Edmonton. I'm hoping Tropp heads out the door, too, so that karma delivering a fatality to him is the last thing that happens to him in college hockey, but it sounds like he's leaning towards a return.
So how's that working out for you, being ornery? Ever since the Free Press Jihad started there has been a wing of Michigan's internet fandom dedicated to the proposition that Michigan should pursue a scorched-earth policy with the paper. They imagine David Brandon revoking press passes and locking anyone from the paper with temerity to show up on campus in stocks on the Diag.
A popular sentiment amongst these folks in the aftermath of Urban Meyer going all no-you-di'in't…
…at the reporter who quoted Deonte Thompson saying he was glad to have a "real quarterback" was "that's how you handle the media."
This, of course, releases the hounds. (There's plenty more if you want it.) Two of those are from Bruce Feldman and Tony Barnhardt, adults capable of stringing together paragraphs. But the latter is from Mike Bianchi and is closer to certain local folks' speed. Prepare for the one-sentencing:
First Urban Meyer quits.
Then he comes back.
Then he takes a leave of absence.
Then he doesn’t take a leave of absence.
Now, incredibly, he is threatening reporters because one of his players was quoted … correctly?
Can you say Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?
Good grief, that Florida coaching job really is a pressure-cooker, isn’t it?
Urban Meyer has to care zero percent because he has a two-deep at crystal football, but it's an illustration of the cliche about not getting in arguments with people who buy ink by the barrel. It doesn't matter that according to people on the same beat think Urban was basically right about this guy…
other Florida beat reporters contend Thompson's quote was merely a poor, vastly overblown choice of words by a 21-year-old who will never be mistaken for Barack Obama as a public speaker, and I can tell you some of them think Fowler has had it coming for a long time.
…any time a reporter takes a shot from a coach, rightly or wrongly, it's time to close ranks and howl at the moon. Meyer didn't even raise his voice here; his "threat of violence" was phrased as a hypothetical from the start. And this reporter basically deserves his chewing out. But get pissed off at a guy and you'll never hear the end of it, no matter how righteous your wrath is.
So… yeah, Michigan's doing the right thing by sucking it up and smiling nice for the cameras. Sadly.
How's that working out for you, being a hypocritical weasel? Win at all costs is apparently a totally awesome strategy for John Calipari:
REFUSE TO LOSE. It sounds like such a simple, inspirational phrase for a team -- and it can be. But it also describes the man. He's a scrapper, and will weigh all of his options besides losing.
Calipari has done the most remarkable coaching job of this season, and nobody is close. Think about it: He convinced John Wall, Xavier Henry and DeMarcus Cousins to come to Memphis, inserted clauses into their letters of intent so they could go somewhere else if Calipari left, convinced Memphis to keep its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA quiet for three months, took the Kentucky job before anybody knew about that notice, then convinced Wall and Cousins to join him in Lexington. That is refusing to lose.
Can you guess who wrote that? It's freakin' Mike Rosenberg, the guy who's spent the last two years ripping Rodriguez for recruiting one kid who got in trouble, slightly exceeding allotted NCAA practice time, and a bunch of other inconsequential or totally imaginary crap. I'm too busy slamming my head into the desk to analyze this, so I beg you to head over to Braves and Birds for righteous indignation.
Etc.: I really wanted the Tebow Wonderlic prayer thing to be true because I thought it was hilarious. Football players pray all the time. They pray before games. They pray during games. They pray when they score touchdowns. They pray when someone's injured. They pray all the time. So Tebow wandering in and saying "HAI GUYS LET'S PRAY" so often that football players were getting exasperated at him was an awesome mental lollercoaster yesterday. So of course it is 0% true.
Kenpom's doing very well through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, but don't tell my bracket that. [shakes fist at Kansas] [feels douchey for bringing up his bracket]. Wisconsin fans want to demand more out of Bo Ryan. This is because they are insane.
New shirts! The MGoStore is rocking two new shirts. One of them is pretty obvious. The other is, er… not. Click either for link:
Yes, the back of the Cone shirt says "leave ya twisted with chalk around ya body" in tribute to Cone rapping up a storm. WOOOOO. Get 'em while they last. Shoelace will be around for a bit, of course. Cone will be in our hearts forever but since it's kind of doubtful he gets a fifth year you probably want to scoop those bad boys up ASAP.
NOTE for folks who live in Ann Arbor and hate the idea of paying shipping costs: MGoShirts are available at Underground's retail space on South U. My cut there is the same as the one online, for people super concerned about the cash flow here. (This does happen.)
Outback Bowlin'. Orson Swindle would do well to avoid this vein-popping Zook special, but you're not Orson so here's the Wolverine Historian version of the 2003 Outback Bowl:
Part Two awaits in the lightbox.
I don't know if this is good or bad. Justin Turner was credited with a special teams tackle on Saturday, but that did not actually happen:
MSU corrected the official boxscore Sunday to show Jonas Mouton in on the tackle, and Turner, the No. 2-rated player in Michigan's 2009 recruiting class according to Rivals.com, remains eligible to redshirt.
So he's probably going to redshirt, and JT Floyd is going to start. Hurrah for good roster management? Boo because of thin secondary depth and the oddity of having such a highly-rated guy on a redshirt track? You make the call.
Also of indeterminate benefit. Rodriguez is going to take a look at linebackers who aren't Ezeh or Mouton (both of whom are at least making a number of good plays to go along with their terrible horrible not good ones in the UFR I've gotten to):
Yeah, every job is up for grabs every week,” Rodriguez said. “It sounds like coach speak, but our guys know they have to play at a certain level. Jonas (Mouton) and Obi (Ezeh) have played very, very hard. … I think Jonas is a very active player, and Obi has played solid, as well, but we can all play better.” …
"You take away a couple of those scramble plays, their big third and long passes, and it was a pretty solid effort,” Rodriguez said. “But you have to count those. Those are part of the whole deal. … We've got to be more consistent I think is the word in all three phases, particularly defensively."
"Player X has played very hard" is an excellent backhanded compliment. FWIW, I don't think anything will come of the starting jobs potentially coming open given Fitzgerald's shaky cameo and Leach's meh performance in the Eastern game. At least Mouton, who does appear to be blitzing a lot more recently, has guru-approved (and obvious) athletic ability. Leach doesn't.
As long as we're talking about the possibility of walk-ons busting into the starting lineup, let's highlight this bolded bit from yesterday's press conference recap:
Mike Williams wasn't 100% going into the game, but taking him out for Kovacs was a substitution issue, not an injury issue.
IE: Kovacs is just playing because the coaches think he's better. Williams got yanked quickly, too, right after he failed to get out on a short zone when Michigan was running three-deep and gave up a 15-yard hitch on Michigan State's endless drive. I didn't even think that was his fault, FWIW, as he was tasked with faking a blitz and had no chance to get out there; with Warren playing in the parking lot that play was super easy. FWIW, Kovacs has turned in a couple of impressive tackles so far. He's probably a disaster in coverage but Michigan is using him as downhill run-stuffer, something he seems capable of.
Family values, but on the tee-vee. Elliot Mealer will feature on that ESPN newsmagazine show E:60. You know, the one with jump cuts of Jeremy Schaap. Details:
Sports leader ESPN has followed the Mealer and Richer families for a year documenting how each family dealt with grief while moving ahead with their lives. On Tuesday the segment will air for the first time on ESPN and ESPN HD on a program called E:60 at 7 p.m.
"I first got contacted really early in the morning after I had just spoken at a FCA event at Napoleon High School," explained Elliott Mealer, a senior at the time of the accident that claimed two lives. "We talked it over as a family and all agreed that this could be something that could bring a positive light to the accident and everything after. As a little kid you always dream about being on ESPN and I guess in this sense it is bittersweet. I really wish I didn't have a story to tell but the fact of the matter is I do."
Worth examining, yes, I talk like Yoda for no reason mmmm.
Oh noes! You probably remember the nonstop caterwauling from Notre Dame fans in the aftermath of the referees getting Armando Allen's screen non-touchdown right. I wonder if they will take up arms and demand justice from the Big East replay officials on behalf of Washington:
That knee you see on the ground is Robert Hughes's. His entire body, and therefore the ball, is outside the endzone at this moment. This is the two point conversion that Notre Dame got to go up three, and without it they would have lost 30-28 in regulation. The lack of a review here is inexplicable. It was obvious the instant NBC cut to a replay of the play. CONSPIRACY
(Also, people: download a torrent and get a frame from that instead of taking pictures of your TV.)
Etc.: This is not Mark May pantomiming Lou Holtz performing fellatio on Jimmah, but it kind of looks like it is. Barwis porn migrates to web comics. Braves & Birds is confused about how to feel about the game Saturday.
This is not about Florida. It is not about Florida. Comments will not be about Florida. There is no Florida. There is only Zuul.
Visitors, Michigan is not your football program. One thing this Recent Event Not Involving Florida has done is reveal the deep-seated weirdness of Michigan in relation to the rest of the world. Anyone who sat through WVU and Rutgers' three overtimes to catch Lloyd Carr's rare appearance on SportsCenter probably wondered why he bothered at all. His entire segment consisted of a brief appeal to not punish Michigan for finishing its schedule before Thanksgiving followed by "I don't want to campaign" repeated ad nauseum until the helpless anchor bid Carr adieu. His only other public statement before the fateful Event came on Michigan Replay, when Carr said this:
I just think that based on some of the comments the Florida coach has made in the last two weeks, he has been campaigning strenuously for a berth in the championship game and making some statements about Michigan that I think were inappropriate. That certainly is going to stir a controversy, and who knows what that's going to lead to.
The press, desperate for any word out of Carr's mouth, slapped up story after story on that single phrase "I think [his comments] were inappropriate," delivered with all the ferocity of a euthanized koala bear to Jim Brandstatter on Michigan Replay.
Oddly, this has spurred a lot of passion. Stewart Mandel's bizarre response:
I wasn't particularly thrilled with either coach's approach, and I think the whole exchange marked a particularly ugly moment for the BCS. ... [Stuff criticizing Meyer snipped]
All that said, I thought Carr's response to Meyer went completely overboard. Never once during the final two weeks of the season did Meyer say anything derogatory about the Wolverines. He never even said his team was better than Carr's. All he said was that Michigan had its shot at Ohio State and that he felt his team had earned the right to get its shot at the Buckeyes. So don't give me this "Carr took the high road" nonsense.
It's not like this is a great shock or anything, but Mandel's plain wrong. In the immediate aftermath of the Ohio State game, Meyer is the one who went overboard:
"If they do that (rematch), there should be a playoff system next year," Meyer said. "And I do think those are great teams, because I tried to watch every snap, but I believe as we move on, we need a playoff series. I think if that (rematch) happens, I think it's over. All the presidents would need to get together immediately and put in a playoff system - like, now. I didn't think it was possible to do with all the stadiums and selling tickets, but I believe there's enough firepower out there now to get that done."
Should the Wolverines upset the Buckeyes in a rematch, Meyer would not consider Michigan the champions.
"Absolutely (there would be no national champion)," he said. "If I'm Ohio State, I go get a bunch of rings and say, 'We won the national championship.' That's not right."
Aside from the strong implication that Meyer's been watching too many Larry The Cable Guy specials, that's a blindingly stupid statement and undoubtedly what Carr was referencing as "inappropriate." I hate deploying the word "whine," which -- along with "drinking the Kool-Aid," "thrown under the bus," and "special" -- is one of the four leading indicators that the person you're dealing with is a bonafide moron, but goddamn, son, that's a whine right there. It probably warranted some mild opprobrium on a regional, little-watched coaches show. As a Michigan fan it ticks me off a bit, and I'm glad Carr called him on it. Mandel's assertion that Carr went "overboard" and thus forfeited the high road which you're goddamn right he took -- that road was less "high" than "orbital" -- further proves that whenever you ask a Northwestern graduate about Michigan, they lose their capacity for rational thought. (Something like "I could have gone there, not suffer miserably for four years, and come out with a degree just as prestigious" does not sit well.)
Exhibit B is PTI's Michael Wilbon, also a product of Northwestern, who called Carr a "Neanderthal" in the aftermath of the Recent Event, then said he'd acquired all the negative personality aspects of Bo without any of the positives. And there's the litmus test. Either you see Carr and by extension the entire Michigan program as a throwback to the bad old days... or a throwback to the good old days. You exhort Carr to emulate Mamet characters or exalt Lloyd as the dumpy guy from the Mac commercials (in one of the weirdest analogies I've seen work in a while).
In short, you believe in what the ads call The Michigan Difference or you don't. If you don't, that's fine, but then at some point we're going to do our version of the Nebraska thing and ditch it. What's Nebraska now that they chucked Frank Solich and the triple option? Just another mediocre North division team that loses the Big 12 championship game. They ditched it, and I bet in their heart of hearts they regret it.
In the end, I don't really care about narrow aisleways or too-small seats or cold metal bleachers. I don't care about the infinitesimal chance that if Lloyd Carr had spent the last two weeks on a media blitz that we would be in the national championship game. I don't care that Michigan's never going to have a recruiting run like USC or go on some five-year streak where losses flash across the sky with the infrequency and populace-terrifying inexplicability of comets. Or rather, I do care about all these things but I regard them as a necessary cost of doing business, because I believe that Michigan does stand for something that other athletic programs do not. And whatever that thing is, it is deeply intertwined with Lloyd's refusal to do anything resembling campaigning.
What I care about is that when you enter Michigan Stadium all it advertises is itself, and what I pity is the kind of person who would walk in and think about all the revenue they could make if they would just stop being cavemen.
... not that it ever was.
Someone was getting screwed yesterday. If Michigan went, Florida was getting screwed. Every other year the BCS claims another fanbase as its virgin sacrifice on the altar of "#1" versus "#2," and you're damn skippy those are airquotes delivered with maximum sarcasm. It just so happens that this year it's us.
I had planned on slapping up a column today boldly titled "FLORIDA GOT SCREWED." This would have been preferable to the above title for many reasons, the foremost among them being that since it isn't it's Michigan fans who are quietly swearing oaths of revenge against poll voters. But it would also have removed the waft of sour grapes from this post and allowed me to be really frickin' righteous. Alas.
I spent a good portion of the day jumping from from Tradesports to the coaches poll to the computer rankings, pounding refresh. When the coaches poll came out I slapped some stuff up, updated it a few times with more detail, and then clicked over to Tradesports. Naturally, Michigan had collapsed and Florida had surged. What stood out, though, was Ohio State's price, which shot up in concert with Florida's.
The market was telling Ohio State to breathe easier because the coaches had decided that the number three team in the nation was number two. Over the course of yesterday, OSU shot up from a 64% chance to win against either Michigan or Florida to a 73% chance against just Florida. If you think a win premium was built into Michigan shares, the market was 50-50 on who would get picked, so a reasonable assumption is that the market felt Ohio State was around 55% to beat Michigan.
That's what draws my ire. It seemed clear to everyone from sea to shining sea that there was a choice between the best team and the matchup that least highlighted the staggering absurdity of the BCS. The vast majority went with the latter. Some people are at least forthright enough to admit it:
George Lapides, a Memphis sports radio talk host, said he believed Florida would lose to Michigan if the teams were to play. But he jumped the Gators from No. 4 to No. 2, past the Wolverines, after Florida beat Arkansas.
"I liked the idea of a conference champion playing a conference champion," he said. "I think that's more appealing than a rematch. I think you try to pick something as appealing as possible."
God... this is what it's come down to? We're having sports talk radio hosts choose who plays in the national championship game? Sports radio is a medium built around saying and doing dumb things for attention. If there's a profession less suited for the careful consideration I would like to think is the main attribute of a good poll voter, I can't think of one.
Uh, nevermind. I forgot about football coaches. Here's Jim Walden. He's the guy who voted Florida number one, and his reasons for doing so are subtle and reasonable:
"If you look at the Big Ten conference, it is a joke," Walden said in a telephone interview late last night. He added: "I voted my heart and I voted my strength of what I believe in. In my opinion, Florida is the No. 1 team in the nation."
If I stumbled across that sentiment on a Rivals message board, I would dismiss that guy as one of the board idiots. This guy has a vote that determines who goes to the national championship game. (Wikipedia temporarily has this nugget of joy on Walden:
Then there's former MSU coach George Perles:
"They lost one game to the best team in the country," Perles said in a telephone interview from his home in East Lansing, Mich. "And No. 2, because they're from the state of Michigan, and I just so happen to live here."
I did not realize that geographical proximity was supposed to be a factor.
It's Pat Hill, the D-I coach voted Most Likely To Be Mistaken For A Janitor, who comes off the best:
"It was hard," Hill said in a telephone interview. "I think Michigan had their shot at Ohio State. They didn't get it done."
...for a given value of "best," anyway.
Bowl advocates constantly tell us that the entire regular season is a playoff. If that's so, it's the world's dumbest, one where teams either can lose or can't, either must schedule tough teams or don't have to, either have a history of good teams or don't. It's a "playoff" where over half the time some team with as much or more of a claim is cast aside, leaving their fans and coaches to gnash their teeth and, if they're from the charmingly insecure and paranoid south, bring it up for years whenever their team hits 6-0.
There's no conspiracy here save that of stupidity. The BCS is a Lovecraftian monster with parts swiped from any system that was handy. A playoff beak here; bowl tentacles there. It is a playoff, a two team playoff, which is no playoff at all. It has ruined college football's most hallowed traditions, kicked a half-dozen teams directly in the nuts, and given us mostly grief. The people who run the BCS are, bluntly, idiots. The Harris poll has talk radio hosts in it and guys who vote Boise #2. Richard Billingsley's formula is a disjointed mess. The rest of the computers are crippled by an inability to consider the same factors humans do. The coaches -- glorified gym teachers all -- are hopelessly biased. Only Jim Tressel, who abstained after looking at the absurdity of picking one of two teams and seeing it spun as an insult to his opponent either way, seems sane to me.
And somehow people who oppose a playoff will tell me that watching a bunch of idiots decide that my 11-1 team doesn't deserve to go to the national championship game because there's a much worse 12-1 team that had the good fortune to play in a conference without Ohio State is a beautiful thing that adds to the unique charm of college fooball. To them, I only say that I wish you would die in a hideous and painful fashion because a bunch of gym teachers held a vote.