“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
i didn't mean this to be so creepy
Somebody try to cover Jeremy Gallon just so we can figure out if that's even possible. Actually, don't. Play action from under center and running from the shotgun, welcome to 2011.
Tempo tempo tempo. Will the real Ray Taylor please stand up? Can Channing Stribling remain part of this dimension for ten seconds at a time? Am I terrified of losing a game to Indiana in the near future?
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
We call Jamie a dork because this is Indiana week, but we love him all the same. Michigan State's offense comes back to earth. OSU fends off Iowa. Darrell Hazell as MAC Coach Du Jour.
"Across 110th Street."
"Jimmy The Exploder," The White Stripes
"Sacrilege," Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The usual links:
10/5/2013 – Michigan 42, Minnesota 13 – 5-0, 1-0 Big Ten
Jon Falk has a compatriot at Minnesota. He's probably had a dozen over his 40 years as Michigan's equipment manager. Some guy who comes in with the latest Gopher coaching staff, wonders what it's like to hold the jug in his meaty palm, and maybe once gets to shepherd it for a year. Since Falk arrived at Michigan a fresh-faced young thing four years into Bo's career, his opposite number has had this experience three times.
In proof lingo, this means that beating Minnesota—beating up on Minnesota, usually—is a necessary but not sufficient property of Michigan teams that want to do anything with their seasons. Sometimes you can retain the Jug despite not being very good; sometimes you can retain the jug despite being headed for 3-9 because Nick Sheridan has an out-of-body experience. When you're headed for 3-9 you get a little misty about the Jug coming out. When you're not the worst team in Ann Arbor since the 1930s it's a checkbox to fill out.
Michigan did so in perfunctory style, grinding out a second half in which they went from vaguely threatened to bored. Since this came on the heels of narrow escapes against teams that lost 43-3 to Ohio on Saturday and 41-12 to Buffalo last week, it's progress. How much is unknown.
This game settled into a grim fugue state almost from the drop, as Michigan manballed its way into the endzone on a Statement Drive to start the game. Unfortunately, that Statement was "by putting Taylor Lewan next to Michael Schofield we can bull our way down the field against Minnesota." That statement is unlikely to apply to many teams on the schedule. But, hey, progress.
Then Minnesota donned turbans and embarked on the Ishtar Drive. An epic production galaxy-spanning in its dullness that arrived at its destination two hours too late and failed to have the desired impact, it ate up the rest of the quarter. Michigan left it without having attempted a pass.
This was a little dull.
It was the kind of dull that had Space Coyote, the Michigan's blogosphere's resident instant analysis savant, pleading with the masses that the intricacies of a well-blocked power play were just as appealing as, say, watching 175-pound Venric Mark activate his truck stick on an Ohio State safety. I can't imagine there's another Michigan fan in the world more receptive to that argument than yours truly and even I wasn't buying that as the secondary effect of all that manball kicked in: punt, commercial, play, end of quarter, commercial, play play, punt, commercial. Touchdown, commercial, kickoff, commercial—the NFL special. As the teams' attempt to blow through this game in record time was thwarted by the networks, being in Michigan Stadium became the worst concert of all time interrupted by bouts of football-related activity.
It was the kind of thing that made you consider what the purpose of your fandom was. Am I only here to see Michigan end a game with a larger number on the scoreboard than Opponent? Is there any valid goal outside of this? Am I a bad fan for wishing something interesting would happen? Do the people on twitter who scorn you for having feelings other than Go Team have a point? What is the point of any of this, and why can't they make the wifi work?
At halftime, the guys in front of me discussed whether they would bolt for Frazer's, and two did. I'm usually a guy who thinks leaving an athletic event before it's decided is a mortal sin, but I kind of envied the guy in the home-made muscle shirt screwing off to a place where he could get a beer and not hear "Build Me Up, Buttercup." At any other time, I would have thought this man's attendance at Michigan Stadium was a necessary property of a fan that he had just shown was not sufficient by leaving a touchdown game at halftime like he was a sorority girl about to blow a .341. On Saturday, I was with him in spirit.
This is a fearful development. I don't want to think like that. I want to be forever ten years old, excited by everything. On Saturday I had a long look down the elevator shaft.
It'll pass like the moment above did. Someone will do something interesting, and there will be something at stake other than a piece of crockery that just means you're not horrible, and sometimes not even that. I had a bad day, I was pissed at Dave Brandon when I discovered I was thirsty but knew I couldn't do anything about it without missing a large chunk of the game I was there to see even if it was narcoleptic, I was emo after the last few weeks of expectation-depressing terror. It'll pass, and the doors will close on the moment where I reached out and felt the slight outlines of a limit to my fandom.
Michigan won by a lot, eventually.
Completely one-sided highlights:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Has to be Michigan's new favorite worst nightmare at wide receiver: Devin Funchess. Relieved of many blocking duties and deployed on the outside, Funchess displayed fantastic hands on a couple of catches outside of his body, ran routes that got him tons of separation, and went right by a Minnesota cornerback(!) on a straight-up fly route(!) to prove himself Michigan's best deep threat(?). By the end of the game he had newspaper types plumbing the statistical depths for completely invalid comparisons to Jim Mandich, who was a tight end, which Devin Funchess is not.
Honorable mention: No Turnovers, which may be Devin Gardner's temporary name until such point as he turns it over. Schofield and Lewan were mashing as tackle brothers. Blake Countess did have a pick six, albeit one of no importance. James Ross and Desmond Morgan had lots of tackles, usually at the LOS when not facing spread formations.
Epic Double Point Standings.
1.0: Devin Gardner (ND), Jeremy Gallon (ND), Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
I guess? [Upchurch]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Wow. Are we at a loss here? We might be at a loss here. Countess's interception was after the game was decided, as was the long Funchess fly route thing. Michigan's longest run went for not many yards. I guess we're going with Fitzgerald Toussaint scoring an easy ten-yard touchdown, as it hinted that Michigan may be able to run the ball forward? Yeah, okay.
Honorable mention: Funchess reception, pick one. Countess pick. Black FF.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
[After THE JUMP: actual game analysis instead of pathetic emo self-pity mooning!]
Hemingway slot business.
As I understand it, you use smaller, quicker WR's in the slot because they are matched up against lumbering LB's who can't keep up. You then use bigger, stronger WR's on the outside against the smaller CB's. It seems like we use Hemmingway in the slot quite often with Gallon or Odoms on the outside. Am I missing something here? I just don't understand why Hemmingway is in the slot so much. It's not like he is Floyd or Calvin Johnson, and they are trying to move him all over the field to keep defenses question because they are so freaked out about Hemmingway.
If you're not going to screen with those slots or use them as runners, there's not a whole lot of point to making those slot dudes little buggers. Putting your top WR there does get you some advantages.
One: it's hard to jam the guy since he's starting off the line of scrimmage and many defenses don't feature a guy directly over the slot. Two: you're essentially preventing the opponent's top corner from covering the guy man to man. If that's not the case you're forcing a nickel package on the field and forcing that corner away from his regular spot. This can have negative impacts on run fills from both members of the secondary. Three: hypothetically your big guy is a relatively good blocker and having him in the slot can help you attack the edge. This works better when we're talking about Floyd or BJ Cunningham.
Just because Hemingway isn't Floyd or Megatron doesn't mean he's not the closest thing Michigan has available, and since the Michigan offense involves zero quick throws to the slot, putting him there doesn't cost you anything.
A timely response on next year's OL.
Despite the awesome win at Illinois this week I still felt like Omameh had a rough day as I saw him get beat on a few occasions. Here's a question for you - based on the outlook for 2012, do you think the coaches might consider moving him to RT and keeping Schofield and Barnum as the two guards? Maybe Omameh just isn't cut out for mauling large DT or pulling, which is what the guard needs to do in this offense.
I think that's a possibility, but one that will depend on how quickly Chris Bryant progresses and how ready to play Kyle Kalis is more than Schofield.
I bet a dollar Schofield is the starting right tackle next year. He was neck and neck with Huyge for the starting job there before Barnum went down; Omameh has not played tackle in two or three years; there are no other tackles on the dang roster. If Schofield isn't the second-best pass protector on the team next year I'll be shocked. So he goes outside.
That means Omameh moving to tackle makes him a backup. Is that a realistic possibility for a would-be three year starter competing with freshmen, one of them a true freshman? Normally the answer there would be "no way" but watching him get chucked to the ground by Illinois (and everybody else) and seeing Omameh's inexperience pulling makes you wonder. He's been hurt more than anyone else on the offense by the coaching change and it's not a huge stretch to see a 340-pound mauler displace him, no matter the experience difference.
That might not be a bad thing. Omameh as the #6 lineman means there is a #6 lineman. Right now that looks far from guaranteed.
MGoBlog ruins relationships.
I've been dating an LSU alum for almost 3 months. In the week leading up to their big game I made the mistake of explaining (unsolicited) the ethical shortcomings of oversigning and the significant competitive advantage that it promotes. She follows CFB sparingly and didn't have much to say about the topic, but at her friends' game party on Saturday night she made sure to have the LSU contingent confront me. The return arguments went something like "you're jealous", "it's a numbers game", and "my friend's cousin plays for the team, he's not very good and he hasn't been cut", etc.
I'm no longer concerned with proving my point but rather with the chasm that oversigning has created in our relationship. Needless to say, she didn't agree with me and said that she just wanted me to be an LSU fan with her. Naturally, I want her to follow Michigan, too. I'm conflicted because I can't reconcile supporting Les Miles or the SEC with my own values. What's a man to do?
If your girlfriend is following LSU only sparingly she will not be able to tell the difference between your mild affection for the Hat's grass-eating insanity and a genuine desire for LSU to win. That will get you through games against the SEC West's collection of robot mercenary Bible salesmen. LSU is the lesser evil in their division if only because Miles is Loki incarnate.
Past that I can't help you. LSU had an assistant coach fired for arranging illicit benefits for a recruit. LSU's oversigning practices are just short of Alabama's for overall odiousness. LSU is mixed up in the Lyles scouting thing. If they were exposed to the same level of scrutiny OSU just went through, Baton Rouge would be a smoking, deliciously-scented crater. They're fun, I guess. I hate fun.
It kind of sounds like this girl is not a winner, anyway. Having her friends dogpile on you to offer sports talk radio opinions about oversigning is not a good sign. "Hey, I know what my boyfriend will like: being berated by a room full of people." Find a nice Texas alum so you can accuse the Longhorns of destroying college football, preferably at a Mack Brown house party.
[ED-S: Pro-tip: don't take relationship advice from Brian unless your relationship is based on an incomparable understanding of college football]
Coaching: it matters.
this year; last year
There's been a long line of assertions about college football being highly dependent on unusually gifted/determined athletes (It's not about X's and O's; it's about Jimmies and Joes comes to mind), and that coaching is more an area where the game can be lost and talent squandered (Ron Zook) or the marginal advantages in the same team strategy add up to wins over equally talented teams (Jim Tressel).
While it seems that some players excel regardless of coaching (Brandon Graham, Jordan Kovacs), the turnaround of Michigan's defense seems to be as good a test case as any for how coaching affects performance. They improved dramatically, but they did it opposite an offense that was similarly potent and returned almost everyone from a year ago, played similar caliber teams if not the same teams, and employed youth effectively in the secondary in stark contrast to previous years.
In light of this, all things being equal, how big a difference do you think having great versus "just good" coaching makes in college football (Like if Michigan had hired anyone who had the misfortune of not being born a Raven's defensive coordinator), setting aside that it only needs to be one point better in each game for the win?
The only thing Greg Mattison and Greg Robinson have in common other than first names—I'm pretty sure they're not even the same species—is their ability to mutter "scheme is overrated" when asked a question they don't really feel like answering. But if this year's Michigan defense has taught anyone anything it's that yes, scheme matters a lot. So does technique coaching.
Michigan did not go from 108th in the country to top 20 by replacing their players. They did it by playing a defense that made sense, delivering remarkably effective zone blitzes, and making certain total scrubs a lot better at football.
Scheme matters. So does everything else. Acquiring your pieces is a third of the game. Developing them into football players is a third. And deploying them effectively is a third.
GRADES AT THESE THINGS FOR VARIOUS THINGS
- Acquire: C-
- Develop: F
- Deploy: F
2011 Michigan defense
- Acquire: C+
- Develop: A
- Deploy: A-
- Acquire: B+
- Develop: B+
- Deploy: A
- Acquire: A-
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: C
Jim Tressel regime
- Acquire: A*
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: A-
Brady Hoke so far (tenuous)
- Acquire: A
- Develop: A-
- Deploy: B+ (provisional)
Fight over the niggling half-grades if you must. To answer the guy's question, the difference between great and "just good" schematic coaching in college football is not a massive difference in win percentage—it's not going to win you three games a year—but when you're at the level Michigan expects to be, edging out an extra half-win per year has a massive impact on the overall prestige of your program. The difference between 6-6 and 7-5 is nothing. The difference between 10-2 and 11-1 is immense, as Wisconsin and their omission from national title discussion have found out.
*[Illicit or no.]
Spread: we wants it forever.
A question that I would love to hear Borges asked is, given the fact that he has run a lot of spread this year, for really the first time in his career because of Denard, has it influenced his offensive philosophy? How he will approach game planning in future?
He always talks about how he's changed over the years and added things to his concepts, and I would love to hear him talk about that. I have a hope that we actually do not move completely away from the spread once Denard is gone--I would love it if we retained some of that concept and retained the ability to run the ball from the QB position. I think it really complicates defensive planning to have a dual threat guy back there (no offense Shane Morris). Is it possible to have Heiko ask a question of that sort?
No one can be certain, but since your question conjured forth an image of Heiko trudging to a press conference with "Taps" playing in the background… eh… I'm guessing not so much. When these guys came in they told everyone in no uncertain terms that Michigan football was running power down your throat, and they kept trying to do that from time to time no matter how spectacularly ineffective it had proven.
Is the Denard Robinson experience going to change that? Probably not. Borges has been an offensive coordinator for decades. Two years of Denard are just a couple additional logs on an already raging fire of this metaphor makes no sense. When he's gone Borges will have Gardner, Bellomy, Shane Morris, and a clobberating OL of Lewan, Barnum, Miller, Kalis, and Schofield with Chris Bryant and others waiting in the wings. He might (should?) have Bri'onte Dunn. Even if he's learned some cool stuff over the past couple years there's not much he'll be able to carry over with the personnel he'll have. While Gardner's pretty fast he's nowhere near the runner Denard is. (Rodriguez's disastrous OL recruiting helps smooth this transition: all the underclass Omamehs are air.)
Maybe we'll see a zone read or two, an inverted veer here and there, but even now it's obvious what Borges wants to do despite not being able to do it even a little.
I do find this a little depressing, but only a little. If Michigan puts together a pro-style offense with personnel like they had through most of the aughts and actually lets it rip that promises to be fun, especially with Ohio State transitioning to an offense that wants different things than Michigan will. I'd still like them to take runs at QBs like Braxton Miller and Devin Gardner, but I think they will—they took Bellomy, who is a mobile guy with the ability to develop into a thrower.
left: no. right: no.
It was the kind of game that leaves you writing a rage list a la Artur Boruc. Here's the Iowa version of this:
THINGS THAT DON’T WORK, FRAN MCCAFFERY
- Having your entire defense collapse on a player charging into the low post area. THIS LEAVES AROUND 3-4 GUYS WIDE OPEN TO SHOOT A 3-POINTER. WHEN EVERY TEAM HAS AN “UNUSUAL” AMOUNT OF SUCCESS BEHIND THE LINE IT ISN’T BECAUSE THEY’RE “JUST HAVING AN ON NIGHT.”
- Having your power forward take countless jumpshots. UNLESS YOUR POWER FORWARD IS TIM DUNCAN, HE SHOULDN’T BE SHOOTING 15 FOOTERS.
Etc., etc. I felt a lot like the above during the game last night as Michigan ran a zillion ball screens on which Virginia showed harrrrrrd, resulting in Stu Douglass dribbling the ball 30 feet from the basket with ten seconds on the shot clock. Apparently our offense only works when the opponent is drunk on coconut milk. /shakes fist
/continues shaking fist
/gets tired, shakes other fist
/realizes he is doing dance moves now
Tony Bennett is a war crime. That was hard to watch. Anything involving a Bennett coaching basketball is. I guess it works. I get that Memphis and UCLA are stupid teams with terrible defenses ripe for Michigan to pick apart and that Virginia is not, but what I don't get is how Michigan tore Duke apart in the second half of that game in Maui.
Guess: Duke doesn't really have a PG and put either Curry or Rivers on Burke, which led to a ton of quality penetration and nine Burke assists. In this game Burke had a tough time with Virginia's similarly lightning-quick PG and the offense was reduced to chucking it around the perimeter a la Amaker.
And we're in pine for next year mode. My inner monologue never gets more AAAARGGGGGH than when Beilein fields a lineup mid-majors would laugh at, like late in the first half when Christian, McLimans, Douglass, and Akunne were out there. Like… together. I know. Novak was the other guy on the floor.
It's times like that when the talent on the team still seems desperately deficient. Next year that lineup reads McGary-Robinson-Stauskas-something-something, which seems more likely to score on large athletic people. Or anyone.
Tim Hardaway Jr. fouled out five minutes into the second half. That is the effect of sitting a guy with two fouls for the final 15 minutes of the first half. All coaches do this, so this is not a Beilein-specific complaint, but good lord. Hardaway averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 last year and Virginia had a couple of shooters on the floor… is Joe Harris really going to draw a ton of fouls on Hardaway?
By sitting your best player the entire first half you're enacting the worst case scenario of leaving him in. Hardaway picked up one foul in the 20 minutes he was allowed to play.
Novak. Nails. Can't guard actual scoring power forwards.
Morgan and Horford. Keep repeating "bigs take time to develop" to yourself. They were in a tough spot against guys taller, older, and more athletic than them. Anyone with that kind of front line is going to shut off Michigan's frontcourt scoring, not that there really is any frontcourt scoring that isn't set up by the guards.
The 1-3-1. Equals six offensive rebounds. The best play against it when you've got seven-footers is to avoid the risk of a turnover by throwing up a brick and crashing the boards. I have no proof of this but it seemed a lot less effective than straight man to man. (We hope to get some proof of this in the future.)
My wildly bipolar relationship with Evan Smotrycz. I was at an Interpol concert a few years back when I ran across this couple. He: a slightly nebbishy lawyer sort in a button down and flat-front pants. She: dyed red hair on the edge of punky, little zebra-striped dress, pouty, vacillating wildly between emotional states. The terms of the relationship were instantly clear. She did whatever the hell she wanted and he put up with it because, goddamn, that dress. I present a metaphor for my feelings about sophomore Evan Smotrycz that seems a lot creepier than I thought it was going to be when I started it.
I loathed Smotrycz for much of Maui and expected to hop on the internet to find that others were ranting about his lack of development only to find the opposite ; in this game he was 4/4, 2/2 from three, and… fouled out in 22 minutes. One, a bailout of their 88% FT-shooting power forward with four seconds left on the shot clock, saw expletives arc gracefully across my living room. All basketball players look incredulous when called for a foul but Smotrycz takes it to another level, especially when he's just done something 1) obvious even to me and 2) really, really dumb.
He is putting on the floor a lot more these days to good effect and he's still the floor-spreading four Beilein wants. It's just that sometimes I want to strangle him. That's all I'm saying.
8 assists. Glarg glarg glarg glarg. When is the last time Michigan had more turnovers (11) than assists under Beilein? Half of those came from Burke, BTW. The rest of the team generated basically nothing.
Open threes. They has them. We don't. Very frustrating. Burke had his moments but isn't at the point Morris was last year. Morris created an absolute ton of shots. Not only was he third in assist rate last year but he launched a quarter of Michigan's shots when he was on the floor.
Burke was never going to fill that void himself, so who else steps up? It looks like the answer is "nobody." Maybe Hardaway, but Hardaway has kept up his freshman tendency of disappearing for long stretches. He doesn't have the handle to create shots in an isolation situation so he has to get things from the framework of the offense. Maybe that means good defenses can shut him down? (See also: his coach leaving him on the bench for 15 minutes in the first half.)