this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
This is the kind of post Diarist of the Week was invented for: Ladies and gentlerines, I give you MSU's latest Narduzzi defense, as broken down by colin. If you missed it on the front page yesterday and when Ace linked to it, now is your chance.
The defense he describes is a version of the thing we faced from Ohio State and Virginia Tech last year, a run-sound Cover-4 scheme that is built to beat north-south spread offenses and 4 verts, and weakest against great edge rushers and outside receivers who will always win a 1-on-1 matchup. Short version: Michigan can move the ball by running over an overhyped Gholston, optioning off Marcus Rush, getting a hat on the playside linebacker, and Denard getting by Isaiah Lewis. It's a good defense.
It's also a good institution of higher learning, with a fantastic teaching school, one of the nation's best ag schools, and a packaging program that is not the joke you think that is. In this vein of non-sarcastic appreciation for our worthy in-state rival, turd ferguson offers this panegyric to their football program's unparalleled off-the-field accomplishments since Dantonio arrived:
Spartans are known to generously extend a hand to those in need. They’ve developed a prison-to-work program seen by many as a model for how to reduce to an absolute minimum the time between prison and work. Their athletic director moonlights as a volunteer career counselor and their football coach as a public speaking coach, offering their time even to supposed athletic rivals. When one of their neighbors could use help just stretching his neck, scratching his eye, massaging his arm, or bludgeoning his face, a Spartan is always there to assist.
Defensive Analysis. If you read just one comprehensive, detailed analysis of Michigan State's defense this week, read colin's. If you read two comprehensive, detailed analyses of Michigan State's defense this week, tune into the more personnel-oriented one by death by trident. Things you may have missed: Darqueze Dennard doesn't show on the stats but is the field and probably the better corner than Adams, and the man Ace called the "best linebacker in the conference" hasn't registered a sack, though he's done everything else. Weird he said that because Ace has Mauti and both Wisconsin guys.
Tea Leaves. Eye of the Tiger checks back in at the midline to see which Star Wars episode this season is turning out to be. So far Michigan has fought its most pivotal battle using Ewoks and a game in South Bend featuring plenty of LANDO! so we're definitely not in Eps IV or V. I submit we use the special editions to specify which games are lost:
- Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition: 12-2, win Rose Bowl. Do you remember the part at the beginning when the Wampa ice creature that haunted your childhood nightmares turned out to be a guy in a white bear suit? No you don't. Because Han is frozen in carbonite and could be anywhere in the galaxy and Luke has begun to consider the dark side, and Threepio hasn't said more than "Help, I think I'm melting" in 15 minutes.
- Return of the Jedi: Beat MSU and OSU, blow up Death Star, celebrate with teddy bears, then lose to Admiral Chip Kelly in a licensed fan fiction called Star Wars: The Pasadena Affair.
- Return of the Jedi, Special Edition: Lose Big Ten Championship to Wisconsin. Would be like defeating the Empire, and then having the ghost of Hayden Christianson show up claiming to be your dad.
- A New Hope, Special Edition: Still the epic you remember, but the beginning is now a disaster ruined by Stormtroopers riding dewbacks and a Jawa falling off a Paraceratherium, and ILM family members wandering around in Halloween costumes. Then there's Han shooting first. Along the way there's a point where Borges decides to use the "Han steps on Jabba" scene, and the result is depressingly worse than it should have been.
Advancystats: FEI says 45 points on Illinois just isn't trying hard enough. The defense had a moderate climb but Michigan dropped badly in offense and overall because those stats are now opponent-adjusted. Enjoy Life has some words for the numbers:
That said, WTF!!!
After a 45-0 drubbing of an admittedly weak Illinois team, FEI blasted the overall rating to #47 (from #24 last week) and pummeled the offense efficiency to #63 (from #40 last week). Defense efficiency improved to #27 (from #33 last week).
A Box Score's Gooey Insides: The carnage isn't as gruesome when reduced to statistics, but I still wouldn't recommend letting children under the age of 11 see the Illini's final passing totals.
Etc. Chris of Unborked Logic has brought back Moving Picture Pages. Whoever the mystery person is who gave their idea for this week's Blockhams should have had the socks turn out to be kind of sticky, and then show Denard losing his shoes right and left on TV.
[After LE JUMP, MGoHalloween costumes, free indoor club seats to two lucky readers, and tinfoil Sparty hats are for realz!]
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?