The best quote. ESPN was offered full and frank access to a Wisconsin DBs meeting before the Ohio State game. This was kind of a questionable decision since ESPN published some takes on OSU's personnel that would seem to have a negative impact on Wisconsin's ability to use said takes. For example, Jim Leonhard's take on Curtis Samuel would seem ripe for Samuel to break tendency:
"You watch him, the thing that he gets guys on is if he kind of goes lazy in a route, don't believe it," Leonhard said. "He'll stem you. He's going to break hard as hell. Everything he's going to do, he's going to be patient at the top of routes. But if he starts just kind of bending into something, he's going opposite. Don't fall for the trap."
I almost always think coach secrecy is absurd paranoia but I was shocked Wisconsin let this get published, especially before the game even happened.
Anyway, at the end of the piece there is a quote directly relevant to your interests:
"You just have to communicate, which you've done a really good job of," he said. "Is that nearly as hard as Michigan last week? Michigan was something new every single snap. These guys are almost the complete opposite. You'll watch the game and be like, 'Damn, they did exactly what we saw.' We'll just have to see early recognizing the formations that they're going to be in, then we'll motion."
I can't tell you how many times during the Carr era that we'd be on the other end of that quote, with teams playing Michigan and then stating that M did exactly what they saw on film and nothing else. I love the alternative.
Meanwhile the other side of the ball just got the same makeover. I love that Michigan went out and got Defensive Jim Harbaugh in Don Brown. Michigan's gone from a very simple defense under Durkin to a blizzard of different looks. Craig Ross mentioned on WTKA that a Power 5 offensive coordinator told him that he spent most of BC week just trying to figure out what the hell Brown was doing.
Michigan is now an incredibly difficult opponent to prepare for on either side of the ball.
Brock Spack's best attribute is his mustache. This is a compliment.
Exit Darrell Hazell. Purdue pulled the trigger on their head coach after nine wins in 3.5 years, and is now on the Lowered Expectations dating scene. Everyone's got a list. Hammer and Rails has one, and here's a sad commentary on where they're at:
Name: Brady Hoke
Position: Oregon DC
Why?: Ya, Oregon isn’t very good right now. Hoke was up and down at Michigan. But, he has head coaching experience and is looking for another head coaching job. Getting back into the B1G isn’t easy, but this could be a chance for him as he could take over a Purdue program in shambles.
Chance: With how Oregon has looked this season, I don’t think we take a chance on him. But his head coaching experience in the B1G makes him appealing a little bit.
At least they're unenthused.
The candidates drawing the most mention seem to be WMU's PJ Fleck, former LSU HC Les Miles, and Illinois State HC Brock Spack. Fleck's probably going to get better offers this offseason and should wait on a less difficult opportunity; Miles is probably a real bad idea since by the time he'd have his players in he'd be close to retirement; Spack hasn't lit it up on the FCS level.
If those aren't the names, Purdue might repeat their Hazell move:
Pretty much every assistant at Ohio State and some at Michigan are likely to be candidates for Purdue, I’m told.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 16, 2016
Hazell had been a head coach at Kent State for two years, but he was close to a "close your eyes and throw a dart at the OSU assistant roster" move. It would be uninspiring and very Purdue to replicate their failed process from last time.
Bill Connelly points out that Purdue's only successful coaching hires in the past 30 years have been relative outsiders, and he suggests a selection of creative offensive minds at smaller schools. He's correct. This is the pool Purdue should be selecting from. They need something weird to overcome their talent deficiencies, and they have the financial resources to grab a guy from Tulane or Air Force or wherever.
Personally, I would loathe playing a triple option version of Purdue—never schedule Air Force!—and co-sign this tweet from Jane Coaston:
The solution to Purdue football: get someone who recognizes you can’t be OSU/M. Do something different.
What i’m saying is RUN THE OPTION.
— Jane Coaston (@cjane87) October 16, 2016
Ken Niumatalolo may not be poachable after he turned down overtures from BYU last year, but if the problem there was BYU's reluctance to go flexbone Purdue might not have a shot. Connelly mentions Air Force's Troy Calhoun, who's won eight games a year two-thirds of the time at a service academy and gave Michigan all it wanted a few years back, and he seems like a good idea. Willie Fritz ran a deeply weird pistol triple option thing at Georgia State; I mentioned him offhandedly during the portion of Michigan's most recent coaching search where I threw out every candidate who was even vaguely plausible. He'd be a good idea.
In non-option options: Jeff Brohm at WKU has assembled Tiller-esque explosive offenses. I'd at least kick the tires on Chris Klieman, the third-year NDSU head coach who's kept Craig Bohl's train running without a hiccup.
For your sake, Purdue, don't close your eyes and grab a manball retread or an assistant who's operated with an embarrassment of riches. Look to someone scrabbling up from down below.
SLEEPER THOUGH. Charlie Strong.
Michigan assistants? Drevno and Fisch draw mention from Feldman in the Others Receiving Votes section of his list. While I think both guys are good coaches and will be HCs somewhere down the road, neither seems like a good fit for perpetually undermanned Purdue, and both guys can find themselves jobs less likely to end in termination. If Purdue's smart they won't focus on either guy; if either guy is smart they'd wait for something like Maryland or Cincinnati.
Another Endzone excerpt. The Postgame runs a piece from Bacon on Harbaugh's long-term prospects in Ann Arbor:
As one of Harbaugh's closest associates, attorney John Denniston, told me, "Jim doesn't like to recruit. He loves to recruit." If that sounds like hyperbole, you might consider the 22-state, 38-stop satellite tour, which Harbaugh described as "more fun than you can possibly imagine, like a pig in slop."
The only issue on that list that would seem to present a compelling reason for Harbaugh to leave is the health of Michigan's athletic department. When people on the book tour asked me to predict how long Harbaugh would coach Michigan, my answer was simple: It depends on his relationship with the next athletic director.
Quinn on Rahk. MAAR's development is probably the second-biggest key for Michigan this year behind that of Mo Wagner:
"For two years now, I've seen a great evolution in his game," Beilein said. "I want to see much more. He's capable of being a superior athlete."
A few things need to happen.
Abdur-Rahkman's jump shooting needs to improve. He raised his 3-point percentage from 29.3 percent (12-41) to a respectable 36.5 percent (31-85) from his freshman to sophomore year, but another jump could elevate Abdur-Rahkman among the best guards in the Big Ten.
His playmaking also needs to improve. Despite playing in 21 more games than LeVert last year, Abdur-Rahkman finished with 13 fewer assists for the season. His 3.7 assists per 100 possessions ranked below Duncan Robinson and Kameron Chatman. While his 27 turnovers in 1,001 minutes played were impressively meager, they also speak to a lack of facilitating for others.
Ian Boyd on OSU. This piece went up before the Wisconsin game and looks fairly prescient right now. It's SBN's Ian Boyd on certain flaws that OSU has demonstrated so far this year:
So if the Buckeye run game were stopped or slowed?
An opponent that knew how to line up against Urban Meyer’s arsenal of formations and variations on option run schemes would undoubtedly have a chance to force this particular team into some obvious passing situations.
The Buckeyes have had 40 TD drives so far this season and 14 of them (35%) required 10 plays or more. They’re very used to having to grind their way down the field with the run game and if you stopped up the works they’d be forced to rely more on their passing game.
Venturing back up to our handy chart, we notice that against the three toughest opponents on Ohio State’s schedule that Barrett threw 63 passes for 394 yards at 6.3 yards per attempt with five TDs and a sole INT. He’s been good at avoiding turnovers, though that may be partly due to simply not throwing many passes in the first place, but simply hasn’t been that threatening throwing the ball. If not for the four touchdown passes he threw to big Noah Brown in the red zone against Oklahoma, those numbers wouldn’t be too impressive either.
Barrett had a good second half against Wisconsin and managed to get OSU to 23 points in regulation. It was a struggle the whole way, though. Michigan's defense is another level up from Wisconsin's; that game gave me great hope that Michigan can turn the Game into a defensive slugfest.
Illinois week. The Illini probably won't be much of a challenge—they got outgained by Rutgers last week and Michigan is a whopping 35-point favorite. But it is an opportunity to point out Illini Board, which is a good Illinois blog/community. Their take on Rutgers:
Because this is just year one. The idea is 2019, with Michigan in Champaign, with the roster rebuilt, and that defense taking the ball away from the Wolverines and stopping them on fourth and one. I flipped the switch to rebuild mode last week, so watching this game in rebuild mode, it was great to see those plays from Milan and Watson. Bodes well for the future.
Remember the Minnesota game in 2008 when we outgained them something like 550-310 yet we lost because we kept turning the football over? That was a few months before I started the blog, but if I was blogging that fall, that game would have been my first “Turnovers Are Football” post. So many times, being on the wrong end of turnovers cost us.
And today, being on the right end delivered a win.
Lovie Smith is the most credible head coach they've had in a while, but it's going to take a long time to get out from underneath the Beckman denouement.
We've been there. Georgia lost to Vandy and their irritating athletic director hasn't crossed the line to get axed, so Get The Picture is feeling pretty gloomy:
It dawned on me leaving the stadium Saturday that one thing is really missing from Georgia football — it’s not fun to watch. By that, I don’t mean losing sucks. It does, of course.
What I mean is that watching a Georgia game feels like more of a chore these days than entertainment.
Man, did I write a column or two like that a few years back. It must be frustrating to be UGA and always be good but seemingly never be great—oh right, we know what that's like too. Throw in the fact that Ann Arbor and Athens are almost the same city and the UGA and Michigan fan bases are the most golf-apparel-friendly ones in the country and the parallels go deep between the two schools.
Anyway, this season is super fun and let's be sure to savor it.
Desmond Morgan gets into coaching. He's a GA at Wayne State:
Q: What are some of your responsibilities at Wayne State as a graduate assistant?
Morgan: One thing that’s been really interesting is that playing at Michigan, I was really used to the Division I level, where there’s resources and funding. There’s almost a paid position for everything.
At the Division II level, the resources are very limited. The money isn’t there. Something that I learned quick is that you’re not just a GA who helps an assistant. You do a bunch of other things on top of it.
Here, I spend 8 to 10 hours a week making sure highlight films are done on Friday nights, and we do all of the importing, editing and transcribing of the film. We help coaches with their daily responsibilities, like making copies, making sure meetings are set up to be run.
Juan Harris is single again again again again. The enormous IA DT decommitted from Indiana after three separate Iowa commitments. I can't wait to see where this rollercoaster goes. Hopefully back to Indiana twice more.
Etc.: The Big 12 probably isn't expanding because the TV networks will pay them not to. This might seem like a fiasco but could it actually be a bit of Machiavellian brilliance? What went wrong under Hazell other than everything. Nigel Hayes visited Gameday to protest not getting paid. Fred Jackson is the head coach at Ypsi High now. Indiana's struggles in the redzone dissected. The playoff looks all but set, so of course things will implode over the next month.
The question: Of those (if any) you've visited, what's your favorite road venue for a college football Saturday? I don't just mean the stadium but the whole package--the city, the burger, the rival fans, the drive, etc. Or which would you want to do first?
Ace: I'm back from Florida and have way too much nothing planned for the next couple days, so I might as well answer the question...
Between my time at school and this job, I've managed to make it to six road venues, one of which doesn't really count because it shouldn't have ever been a college football venue: Spartan Stadium (2007, '09, '13), Camp Randall ('07), Beaver Stadium ('08, '13), Notre Dame ('08, '13), Cowboys Stadium* ('12), and Ohio Stadium ('13). If you looked at that list and said I should never attend a road game again, you're quite astute, and trust me when I say I've considered it.
|Movie night, or perhaps annoying white guy tryouts.|
My favorite, despite the particular game I chose to attend, is Camp Randall. Madison is a gorgeous college town with a phenomenal bar scene—we wandered around so much the night before the game that I can't give a recommendation besides "just go to Madison already"—and while I've heard less-than-complimentary things about their fans, we were treated well despite being a crew of intoxicated students with a couple guys who didn't shy away from stirring the pot. As is the case in Ann Arbor, the campus and stadium are conveniently intertwined with the town, so getting to and from the game isn't a pain like it is in, say, South Bend, where off-campus housing tends to be a very long, boring walk away from the stadium. While the drive to and from Ann Arbor isn't a short one, having Chicago as a stopgap is a major bonus; I'll deal with some extra traffic if it gives me the chance to visit a great city with no shortage of transplanted Ann Arborites and Michigan grads.
it's impossible to take a bad picture inside Camp Randall
Since I'm not the type to be offended by profanity, I love the in-game atmosphere, as well. Our seats in the visitors' section were at the top corner of the upper deck, where visitors' sections ought to be, and feeling the mass of red-adorned fans below literally shake the stadium during "Jump Around" was outrageously cool, albeit a bit unnerving. Despite our high perch, the sight lines for viewing the game were great, thanks to the steep incline of the seats. They don't play the same two songs over and over and over again, giving Camp Randall a decided edge over Beaver Stadium, and they don't play in front of 100,000 Ohio State fans, giving it a decided edge over Ohio Stadium. Even if the drive is a bit long, the tailgating and viewing experiences alone are worth the trip.
As for my least favorite, it's Spartan Stadium, since I won't pretend that Jerryworld is a legitimate answer here. East Lansing is one of the least charming college towns I've visited, parking there is a nightmare, the stadium is a shrine to concrete insipidity, and an all-too-large portion of the fans don't grasp that trash talking shenanigans are supposed to be cheeky and fun, not cruel and tragic. It's the only place I've been where a total stranger has attempted to forcefully remove me from the sidewalk—I did nothing to provoke this aside from wearing maize—and that occurred even though I was accompanied by a green-clad Spartan grad. At least I went there last year, so I'll get a respite this seas—DAMMIT, POWERS THAT BE, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
*The aforementioned "doesn't really count" venue, in case that wasn't painfully obvious.
After the jump: more things Delaney thinks we'd like to see less than New Jersey.
Trying a new feature on here, where we ask a question to the staff each week about whatever Michigan fans are obsessing about at that moment. It's kinda like a roundtable, but just one question. Please feel free to suggest future questions in the comments, and offer any other suggestions. Given the vagaries of our schedules you won't see responses from everyone every time, for example I kinda sprung this on everyone last night and anyone who keeps reasonable sleep hours probably hasn't seen the email yet.
Brian Cook: Editor, Lord Commander of the UFR, and Wielder of the Holy Stick of Snark
Ace Anbender: Recruiting Coordinator and Head of the Council on Rhymes
Seth Fisher: Associate Editor, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Handler of the Royal Pig
Heiko Yang: Press Coordinator and President of Al Borges Fan Club
Mathlete: Grand Maester of Charts and Keeper of the PAN
Blue in South Bend: Master of Twitter'ers and Vice President of Social Media Relations
And for this week's question I thought we'd go with a broad stroke:
What exactly is Hoke building here? Is there another program in modern history that it most closely resembles in expectations for annual competitiveness, ceiling, floor, and general makeup?
Brian: You ask as if we know, man. We've had two years of Brady Hoke, and still know little. He inherited a quarterback he would never have recruited, no linemen (okay, two linemen), a defense coming off a triple-digit GERG crater. We've had a Sugar Bowl winning year in which horseshoes flew out of everyone's butts and an 8-5 year that could have been a lot better if we hadn't volunteered to get rochambeaued by Alabama and Denard's elbow hadn't gone on the fritz.
You want to draw conclusions from this business? I have two:
1) Brady Hoke would win a poker tournament against the D-I coaching field with ease.
2) He could sell toilets to Ohio State fans.
This likely leads to satisfaction. But, like, am I to declare this to be something else already?
Mathlete: When Hoke came in I think the program really resembled where Nebraska was when Bo Pelini was hired. A program that was used to success and was coming off of a failed attempt to reinvent their identity. Hoke's recruiting the last 2.5 cycles have elevated the expectations beyond that level. If the on field results match the recruiting and those two continue to feed on themselves the best case scenario is a bizarro version of Pete Carroll's USC Trojans. Michigan would mirror USC with a strong program/school identity and coach that embodies it and its history. The definition of that culture will be 180 degrees different in Ann Arbor but the concept would be similar. This season will be critical in terms of timeline. I think the roster is still another year away but if the staff and team can generate a season similar to Hoke's first, the ceiling will be lifted from the program.
BiSB: In an ideal world, we're looking at the beginnings of 1990s Nebraska. The Huskers were built from the lines outward on both sides of the ball. They featured an aggressive, thumping defense with an all-consuming front seven, and an an offense that was exciting in its face-denting smashmouth boredom. Osborne's teams never lost more than three games, taking advantage of a low-variance formula and a massive home field advantage. Their prospects on any given year ranged from a mid-teens finish in the polls to a national championship. Of course, projecting anyone to become Lawrence Phillips and the Blackshirts (note to hipster alter-ego: this would be a great band name), or expecting Derrick Green to change his name to Ahman, is asking a lot.
A more realistic range would be the Red River Rivalry from the early-to-mid 2000's. Michigan and Ohio State will play the roles of Oklahoma and Texas, who dominated the Big 12 the entire decade both on the field and on the recruiting train. Their division (the South) was by far the more difficult, yet between the two of them they won every division title that decade (no one else even grabbed a co-championship between '00 and '07). They won eight of the ten Big 12 titles between them, and from '02-'10 only twice did anyone else finish among Rivals top two Big 12 recruiting classes. Each entered most years with national ambitions, with the Red River Shootout serving as an elimination game of sorts. Neither achieved dynasty status, probably because of the less-than-stellar perception of the rest of the Big 12 and the zero-sum nature of such rivalries, but both teams won national titles, and both hovered around the top 10 more often than not.
Seth: I'm not so sure the Big Two will be able to dominate so much. Consider: two weird losses in a season can make a team full of five stars seem to drop right back to the pack. In 2014 Michigan has to travel to all three rivals (THANKS BIG TEN!) in addition to facing Utah, Penn State, and Maryland at home. Three excusable losses there at the wrong time could drop Michigan well out of the race for the division and produce all sorts of Dynasty talk for Ohio State.
Hedging, I put us closer to Mark Richt's Georgia program, except with far less frequent misdemeanors and without Richt's pious sanctimony.
Hoke's first three classes are about even with Richt's in star power:
*Meyer's two OSU classes are extrapolated into three
Actually it's closer to Carroll's USC. However Carroll and Tressel kept themselves annually competitive by improving the lifestyles of their NFL flight risks. Georgia has been a (mostly) clean program in the Old West of the SEC, usually beating the softer SEC East teams they should and sometimes getting bitten by a pesky obsessive in-state rival. He even had Urban Meyer on his southern border for a time. They also proudly display their "Old Man Football" t-shirts when somebody makes fun of Pro Style offense. Over 12 seasons Richt has gone 118-40, 67-29 in the SEC, and played in three Sugar Bowls, winning one. Now imagine Georgia if Nick Saban wasn't in the same conference…
Ace: I'm late to the party and BiSB stole my answer, so this is off to a rollicking start...
I've been thinking about the basketball and football programs and their very different approaches in working to get to the top of the Big Ten. John Beilein has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to basketball strategy, and right now the hoops world at large is conforming to his style of basketball—less reliance on big men, more spreading the floor and creating layups or threes (anyone watching the NBA playoffs in the last couple years can see this is happening at all levels). Beilein is arguably better at identifying players that fit this system—and then coaching them up—than anybody in the country, and we all saw the benefits this spring.
Brady Hoke and his coaches, meanwhile, are sticking to a decidedly old-school style of football, especially on offense—this as the rest of the country trends towards high-tempo variations on the spread-and-shred. Like their hoops counterparts, the football coaches are adept at identifying and landing talent—obviously, recruiting is going pretty well lately—and like the basketball team they have a distinct system for which they're recruiting; Beilein's offense is now a Michigan signature, and smashmouth football on both sides is what the football team is hoping to make their hallmark.
Bryan brought up 1990's Nebraska, a program that stuck to an old-school style past its supposed expiration date and succeeded wildly by bringing in top talent—good lord, look at Tommie Frazier film sometime—and running the offense with masterful precision; and, of course, combining that with the famed Blackshirt defense. I think that's the peak we're talking about here, though Alabama has beaten Michigan to the punch when it comes to assembling this kind of team — national championships are still going to be remarkably difficult to win.
The floor? I think we saw it last year, though it could happen again — a key injury to a quarterback here, a couple high-profile busts there, and this team could easily underachieve, especially if Al Borges fails to adapt enough to today's game (with his increased recruiting of tights ends of all sizes, I'm optimistic this won't be the case).