this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
i do the south park analogy again
Officiating that even closely approximated what could plausibly described as normal, a breeze from a passing mosquito on a rim-balancing rock, a half-court prayer by the last guys you'd expect to get one of those answered…pick any two things that should or could have happened this year and that's the difference between the 1 seed in the Big Ten Tourney and the 5th.
As I lay in the middle of the B1G's final season standings, trying to will my defense out of entropy, I could see the faces of the weasels that did this to me and the hair cream aficionados responsible. When fortune smiles on something as violent and ugly as revenge, it seems proof like no other, that not only does God exist, you're doing His will.
Michigan shouldn't by all rights be taking the long way through the Big Ten Tournament. But fortune has seen fit to at least make that path go right through those whose ledgers with us are most in the red: Penn State yesterday, Wisconsin today, and pending survival there, almost certainly Indiana. That's our worst loss and then the only two teams who finished with winning records against us. In Indiana's case that won't change unless we meet in the NCAAs.
Can Wisconsin beat us again? I mean it's basketball: weird things happen even without the increased chaos of fewer possessions. Like for example sometimes the stripes inexplicably side with the harbingers of Rigelian swamp ball:
I felt paranoid watching all of this. It was a temporary window into the world of a 9/11 truther, seeing what looked like an insane conspiracy by Big Ten refs to keep Bo Ryan in their ears, screaming unprintable things about their mothers. A full half-dozen of the calls they made seemed literally impossible, from the two mentioned above to another breakaway layup that Burke missed because a dude hit him on the head and the charge Burke took on Berggren late that went the other way for a critical three-point play. Am I sane? I thought we got a fair whistle at Indiana. I did think that.
At this point a clunky start and a million defensive breakdowns by the freshmen and THJ wouldn't even be filed as weird things. Another weird thing would be an an outfit as attuned to profit margins as this Big Ten allowing a Rigelian sympathizer any kind of access to a whistle. If you need more than "it wouldn't fit the Kill Bill narrative" for reasons to be optimistic, Wisconsin in their own building needed probably the worst complete ref job in the conference's history and an impossible half-court buzzer shot to fall to beat us the first time. Those are thoughts. Here are diaries:
History lessons. Remember the funny Year in Review (with pics) things that saveferris used to write? Here he goes back to 1989, a time when the Simpsons was that new cartoon your mom didn't want you to watch, lest you turn into a spiky-haired scamp child who tells people to not have a cow, man. Most hilarious thing in the world in 1989 according to 1989 me: a nose tackle named Teeter. Teeter you all! Bad memories: the Tigers, kicking it to Rocket Ismail, and Phil Collins. Good memories: Berenson was just beginning to turn the hockey program around. Yzerman scored 155 points for the Wings, who won the Norris Division. The Pistons were at the peak of the Bad Boys period. Bo's last squad (and one of his best) with that backfield of Tony Boles, Leroy Hoard, Jarrod Bunch and Burnie Legette. And Glenn Rice, obvs.
Speaking of Bunch, he just popped up on the blog this week after someone noticed he was in the latest Tarantino film…
[After the jump]
Ah, I see you entrusted the future of your defensive backfield to Chris Richards
and Johnny Sears, and offered Carson Butler. You shouldn't have done that.
With the additions of two defensive tackles—the only sore spot really left in the class—the 2013 haul is starting to take shape, and this shape is looking pretty darn shapely. Granted we thought the same last year when thousands of 4-star linebackers and linemen burst out of their Ohio prisons to join the Wolverines, leaving—we thought—the staff several months to chase down a few 5-stars. Those didn't really materialize, and might not again. But it's just
November … August … Early JUNE (!) and there's 20 guys in the next class, and they're mostly blue chips, and unless ESPN has done something drastic to their scores I think an entire legion of superheroes just pledged to my alma mater.
If there's any doubt that Brady and Hokesters (this is a terrible name for our coaching staff) are killin' it on the recruiting trail, consider this is now the second year in a row that a board thread has been started to ask is this the Best Michigan Football Recruiting Class Ever?
M-Wolverine beat me to it, but the gold standard here is still 1995—in a word: CharlesWoodsonTomBradyeeeeeeeeee. Also Renes, the Williamses, James Hall, Tai Streets, Aaron Shea… That class was the core of the national championship squad and populated NFL rosters for the next decade. (SI Vault--->)
Putting Captain Hindsight on the sidelines for a moment, the anecdotal standard is 1998. That class was sterling at the top, headlined by Drew Henson (who had nine confirmed miracles by October of his senior year). Before pos-bang threads existed, the fanbase-wide giggle session from Henson playing catch with David Terrell in Central Park nearly toppled the young Internet. Marquise Walker (9th best player in the country overall according to Sporting News), Justin Fargas, Cato June, and Hayden Epstein were too considered Parade All Americans. LB/DL Dave Armstrong and LB Victor Hobson were close. Tom Lemming of Prep Football Report and Bobby Burton of the National Recruiting Advisor named Michigan 1st in the land; Allen Wallace of Superprep put us behind UCLA because they had DeShuan Foster.
(Also in 1998, 548-year-old Brooks MacCleod Bollinger beheaded the Kurgan, won the Prize, and signed as a freshman with Wisconsin.)
The 2013 class isn't expected to be so rich at the top, and thus is unlikely to win the same beauty contest, but it's deeper, still naming high-three star types at the point of the list where '98 was tapering off into French Canadians. The ratings are bound to shift—down as do most early commits as more of their classmates are evaluated and placed on the board, and various uncommitted Top 25 recruits leap toward this year's shiniest object—but at this point there's already enough of it to start, you know, thinking about what all that promise actually promises.
Since '98 and other successful classes occurred before humanity shifted its considerable intellect from inventing things and pondering the meaning of our existence so we could figure out how teenagers work, there is no easily accessible written record from that era with which to compare, except the little from DeSimone. Certainly 5-stars and whatnots existed before 2002, but that's where the Rivals and Scout databases begin, so we shall too.
2002 to 2013 to Various Scouting Systems
Again, I'm throwing out hindsight for now because the Class of 2013s are currently 75 percent of their way through high school, an accurate assessment of their actual abilities not available until 2017 or '18. The class before them hasn't stepped on campus yet. Half of the class before that are redshirt freshmen right now. As to the rest, yes, individual players often vastly under- or out-performed their rankings. Insert usual essay about recruiting in the aggregate is legit yo.
You've seen the way I like to represent this before, putting the classes beside each other with heat-colored levels. I'm not sure if I explained why they're lined up that way; the idea is you can see how many blue chips (4-star and higher) on the left side of the mid-line, and assess how many depth guys and fliers (3-star and lower) you're filling in with. The yellow-green guys (5.7 to Rivals, 79 to ESPN) seem to be 40-60 to become solid Big Ten-level starters or better; the ones over the 4-star threshold something more like 55-45, thus I'm trying to represent a kind of mid-point.
Clicking embiggens, but you can see what's causing the excitement already: Scout is very bullish on the recruits Michigan has verbals from already, and ESPN has either dramatically changed their ranking system or somebody slipped them a press release about Shane Morris taking practice shots at Jake Butt. The numbers are on a Googledoc if you can see if/where I went wrong with this.
At this point we allow Captain Hindsight back into the room…
The captain says 2008 is going to be rough.
This is that column on the spreadsheet where I tried to reassign star ratings based on each player's performance. A 5-star is a major-impact player who probably got drafted in the 3rd round or better; a 4-star is an All Big Ten sort—the RVBs of the world, or a player like Kovacs who's a star but has an exploitable hole in his game (yes, Kovacs was added to 2008). A 3-star is a contributor but in a just a guy way, a 2-star someone we didn't want in there (think Savoy or Banks). The "NR"s are mostly injuries or early early attrition but not the later stuff; if we got a good look at what a guy can do I rated him, e.g. Mallett is still in there for 2007, since coaching change losses aren't likely to apply to us any time soon. This isn't supposed to correlate with performance; it's meant to see what recruiting classes yield.
What struck me most is how long we seem to have been going without those 4-star-like dudes, exactly the type of guys these last two classes have been filled with, and which characterized '95. I too hope some of the more epic blue chips we're after sign up, but even if they don't, the 20 guys in this class are already among the better ones signed in the last decade, and it's not out of the question that they may some day be the best.
Close-up of the stuff on Cartman's helmet.
Every year Michigan and Michigan State play each other for a piece of schlock the governor bought at Forwards in West Branch, and every year I discover I know a lot of annoying people who went to Michigan State.* Also: a lot of fellow Michigan fans who don't get why this is a big deal. This is why it's a big deal.
Out-of-staters are bewildered that so much attention is paid to a mid-season, in-state rivalry that stands at 67-31-5. Really it's not even a full-state rivalry, as the west is pretty much blue or Notre Dame. Those who grew up in Ann Arbor don't see what the big deal is either. It's mostly about Detroit, where Michigan fans are seldom more than 10 feet from a Spartan, where classes of 10-year-olds are 70% Michigan fans and only 10% of those will get in.
Columnists searching for an overarching reason to root for the Tigers and Lions last night invariably arrived at some version of "good for the City of Detroit." If the success of the Tigers and Lions and Red Wings bind the City of Detroit in brotherhood, Michigan-Michigan State is about putting those brothers in the back seat of an un-air conditioned Taurus wagon for a five-hour drive to Mackinac.
This week in 2000 my brother (the littler one at right) announced to a bar full of Michigan fans that Michigan State was now our biggest rival because MSU beat us in '99. This got him laughed out of the Brown Jug. Yesterday Pat Caputo made the same mind exploding-ly stupid assertion. He's probably repeating it on the radio right now but you wouldn't know because nobody with 10 contiguous, functional neurons can listen to Detroit sports radio this week.
Before the '09 game I covered the metaphor evoked by Michigan/Michigan State:
But you can handle the bully [Ohio State]-- what's really irritating is when Little Brother starts picking up on something the class bully says and repeats it again and again.
And you hear it, because Little Brother is always there -- going to the YMCA, camp, the bus to school, soccer practice, a friend's house -- you can't get away from Little Bro.
Are you getting it yet? Michigan-Michigan State is a big rivalry because Michigan State fans desperately want it to be, and are willing to go to any lengths of annoyance (not universally) to make it so.
The Only Colors, which is the rational MSU fan site, just front-paged a diary-equivalent that defines the rivalry through moments of "Michigan was mean to me from 1850 to 1950." Things we must answer for:
- In 1850 Michigan wanted to form an Ag school instead of a separate university.
- Michigan proposed a system merger at the time of the Morrill Act land grant.
- Yale said Michigan should be the site of a merged forestry program. (wait what?)
- One of their professors suggested his botany program be rolled into Michigan's.
- Michigan offered to house MSC's engineering department after a fire destroyed theirs.
- Michigan didn't want MSC in the Big Ten.
- Michigan regents opposed MSC's name change to MSU.
They in turn must answer for stupid billboards, letting themselves be Nike's ken doll on Saturday, thinking that "we have hot chicks" is about the only thing worth making fun of them for, using relevant Wikipedia articles to troll us, "The Situation," having a blog called "The Enlightened Spartan" which is actually their version of Damefan1, and the last three years of this:
That was Saturday: financial mathematicians screaming at Juggalos, and the Juggalos winning. The State meathead directly behind me literally said "bitch! fuck you!" whenever MSU tackled Denard Robinson for less than five yards. On Friday, Tim came back to his apartment to find a trail of blood leading to a passed-out State meathead who'd broken in. The same guys who clumsily spray-painted a bedsheet in 2008 to declare their glorious victory over the worst Michigan team in 50 years reprised their genius. As I walked home every glassy-eyed Stiffler that passed me upped the amplitude of my anger/depression cocktail. Jesus, they were everywhere. They came to Ann Arbor cocky and stupid and left cocky and stupid. Enduring it was brutal. In their eyes, that was probably the point.
Also for giving their Tressel acolyte, ski mask posse leading coach an extension for beating the three worst Michigan teams of my lifetime.
I find rating rivalries by level of hatred or categorizing them does a disservice to the rivalries. They're each specific to their respective fan bases and regions. Put two fandom-as-loyalty programs in the same state and you get the Iron Bowl; keep the ag school out of the conference and you get Cy-Hawk. This one is what you get when the model Morrill Act university shares a state with a (recovering) apex program. Outside of the state they're the reason non-sports fans often wonder why Michigan shirts are sometimes green.** But here in metro-Detroit we daily have to hear them say things like "I can't stand people who root for Michigan who never even went there," as if they've never heard of a Midwest Ivy whose only fans are alumni. I wonder if they'll same the same for Nebraska.
After last year one of the pantheon of Spartan nitwits on Detroit's airwaves suggested Michigan had become Northwestern. I heard this in literally the only five minutes of sports talk radio I listened to for the rest of 2010. Thus is the watch word of the Spartan faith: all history beyond last season is irrelevant except the Battle of Thermopylae as imagined by Zack Snyder (2011 addendum: and in basketball).
Hoke et al. immediately and dramatically ended the recent Sparty in-state recruiting party, so much so that Michigan fans are back to ingenuously praising a pair of Spartan commits in Ohio. The only reminder of that brief run should an annoyingly good spate of tailbacks and defensive ends for the next three years. At this point Brady Hoke can probably weather a loss to Michigan State without losing all the goodwill he's earned here so far. Beating them, however, would go a long way toward making Detroit a better place to live.
* Not you Stunt.
** Waitaminute…is there like a second Notre Dame in Indiana by any chance? Notre Dame A&M or something? Which one's the one with gold helmets?