I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
michigan marching band
Ann Arbor Torch and Pitchfork gets it done:
Michigan marching band received a letter today from Dave Brandon informing them that they will be heading to Dallas for the 2012 FB opener
Also some well-heeled donor or six dropping benjamins. Nickel and dime, nickel and dime.
Meanwhile, David Brandon on the financial realities of Jerryworld($):
Brandon acknowledged that the athletic department would have made more money had it just hosted a game at Michigan Stadium. "If it was just about the money," he said, "we would have hosted a game here."
But the exposure, the primetime slot and the opponent will do wonders for the program. Brandon said there was no way he could have gotten Alabama or a similarly high-profile opponent to do a one-off game in Ann Arbor. And with the Wolverines' 2013 schedule already full, a home-and-home series would not have worked, either.
…says an athletic director looking at a 2013 return game with UConn for a game scheduled in 2010, in a department that waited half a decade to get a return game from Oregon.
Whatever. Even if it's a grim idea financially for both the department and Michigan fans it's better than a MAC game until we're down two touchdowns. I'll be extremely disappointed if this sort of thing happens again, though. Price marquee games appropriately and there's no reason Michigan can't make it work financially with home and homes. No more middlemen, sterile NFL arenas, etc.
Speaking of, Brandon mentioned that Michigan is pursuing a home and home with a Pac-12 team that should launch in before the 2017, when the conferences will play annual games against each other. Hopefully that means a home game in 2014, when Nebraska/OSU/Notre Dame are again on the road. (Michigan at least adds Penn State to the home schedule that year.)
If that's the case, possibilities are:
- Cal. Cal has already scheduled a game at Northwestern, however, and probably wants a couple of bodybag home games to fill things out.
- Oregon. Home date with MSU in 2014 and on the road in 2015. Probably does not want to double up with the state of Michigan, but the schedule seems to work out.
- Stanford. Similar issue to Cal's: Already @ ND in 2014.
- USC. USC ain't scurred of filling up its schedule with BCS teams and has a home game with ND in 2014 plus a game at BC(?!?). They'd probably be willing to take on a challenge since BC is going to roll over and die. Complication: this would be smack in the middle of the period sanctions should bite them and they might want to ease up on the scheduling.
- Utah. Hasn't scheduled anything.
- Washington State. Has a home game against Wisconsin in 2014 and a road game against Nevada. Unlikely they'd want to go on the road that year.
Everyone else is full in 2014. Utah or USC seem like the most likely options. A home and home with a Utah team that has twice come out for one-offs in the past decade would be something of a letdown.
BONUS RANDOM NOTE: It looks like the prophesied resurrection of multiple interesting nonconference games is coming to pass. Body-bags guarantees and rising ticket prices have finally created an environment where it makes sense to keep people on the hook with games against actual opponents. At least there's that.
Dave Brandon, Jerry Jones, and two weird old guys. Unless I've got that wrong.
A lot of people are pretty mad that Michigan's band is not going to Alabama. So many people are mad that there is a backlash against the mad people. The strength of the reaction is a combination of a number of things, amongst them the sudden reversal, how bush-league we look in comparison to Alabama, and the growing feeling that maybe this wasn't such a coup after all.
Remember back when this thing was scheduled and we were assured that the take from this was going to be epic? Back then, I thought it was a good idea because it seemed impossible for Michigan to schedule a real nonconference opponent in any other way. This came paired with rending of garments about that fact, how college football is broken, etc., but the fact remained that 2012 would be the first season in a long time in which two nonconference games would be against truly interesting opponents. It was the only way.
That assumption has steadily eroded as we find out more and more details and observe Big Ten scheduling trends in general. The conference announced a scheduling alliance with the Pac-12 that will force every league member to undertake regular home-and-home matchups against comparable opponents, no neutral site funny stuff (or at least not much). Michigan State jumped the gun on that agreement to schedule Oregon to a home-and-home. The year after that series finishes, the Spartans will take on Alabama in a home-and-home, in years when they also play Notre Dame. It can be done. Michigan just didn't do it.
As for our Alabama game, Michigan's announced take, $4.7 million, is so low it seems impossible it's correct. If that's all Michigan's getting from the game that's at best equivalent to playing a body-bag game at Michigan Stadium. Assuming random one-off opponent cost a million bucks, Michigan would match 4.7 million in gate receipts alone by charging an average of 52 bucks a ticket.
Michigan's 2011 budget shows $41.3 million for last year's eight-game home season in pure ticket costs minus guarantees, $8.7 million in PSDs, and $13 million in premium seating donations. Everything included, the average price paid for a seat at a Michigan game last year was about 72 dollars. Without all the donations, it was $49 last year; ticket prices increased by an average of $4.64 this year. $4.7 million is about 300k less than they'd get from a home game on ticket face value alone.
Add in Michigan's expenses for getting down to Dallas and the ancillary benefits of having a home game (parking and concessions seem to be around 300k per game and there would be some level of increased donations required to get a season ticket) and either $4.7 million is undershooting it by a lot or Dave Brandon sold a home game to Dallas for no financial benefit whatsoever. Meanwhile, tickets for Dallas start at $125. At that price Michigan could easily afford a home and home with a high-quality opponent.
Surely this can't be right. Dave Brandon didn't send Michigan down to Dallas for no reason whatsoever, right? My previous belief was that there was something we were missing in the numbers. But the sudden about-face about the band—and it was an about face given the contract and the conspicuous "Michigan band" sections on seating charts—suggests that the financial picture could be as grim as that: $400k is a significant chunk when you're already getting hosed backwards and forwards.
I finally took a close look at the contract. We are getting hosed backwards and forwards. Check it:
CSLP will … pay $4,700,000 to Michigan. The team acknowledges that the Team Guarantee constitutes the sole financial compensation for the Team for playing the Game, and that no other compensation will be due or owed to the Team under this Agreement in connection with the Game. … The parties acknowledge that the Team may be entitled to compensation from its conference related to broadcast of the game. CSLP … will … retain all other revenues from the game. CSLP and ESPN acknowledge and agree that (a) all rights to telecast of distribute the programs of the Games have been assigned by Michigan to the Big Ten (b) Michigan has no ability to grant to ESPN any rights for telecast or distribution of Games played pursuant to this agreement and c) as between Michigan and ESPN, ESPN is responsible for obtaining such rights from the Big Ten. Notwithstanding the forgoing, if ESPN has the broadcast rights [they can get a title sponsor, etc.]
The TV point is important: my Big Theory for why this makes sense is that the teams would get the TV rights to themselves because the game is outside of their conference footprints. That's not the case. The money Michigan gets from television will be split twelve ways—every extra dollar they make for playing a big time opponent also goes to OSU.
Michigan gets a couple hundred tickets, a couple suites, seating for the band, a field-level "party suite" and right to purchase 500 tickets near it, and 100 parking passes. Cheerleaders get in free. They get one "official retailer" in the stadium that CSLP takes a 22% of the gross of. So that's nothing. An addendum makes it clear that "hotel rooms, and other costs of transportation and lodging, shall be at the cost and expense of the individual institutions." Even the police escorts are at the respective teams' expense.
The only thing that could possibly redeem this is if the Michigan got the revenue from the uber-expensive tickets, but the contract makes it clear they don't:
CSLP shall also provide a minimum of 25,000 tickets for Michgian to re-sell to its fans as specified on the stadium map as an addendum to this document.
Michigan got no more money than they would for an average regular season game and is charging their fans 60% more (at a minimum!) to attend it. There is no way to read the contract other than this: Dave Brandon got ripped off.
So when Dave Ablauf tells AnnArbor.com that they're treating Dallas like "any other road game," it's because they have to. This supposed financial windfall simply does not exist. At best it's a break-even proposition even without the band. They will probably make more against Air Force the next week. Michigan gets a "bowl game experience" in an NFL stadium without its band at "neutral site" Michigan is twice as far away from as Alabama. Meanwhile, Mark Hollis gets Alabama at home. Michigan got owned by Mark "people u is" Hollis.
You can consider the future created, yo.
BONUS: I hope this came from Brandon.
Dave Brandon creates the future: the tag: the picture
The Michigan Marching Band has been informed that they won't be going to Dallas, presumably because it puts a dent in the pile of money Michigan will get by selling a home game. Sorry, people who bought tickets. Yes, seats for the band are in the contract. Yes, you've been duped. No, you can't get a refund unless you pay $500 to get on the refund waiting list.
Think about that as you look at a home schedule on which Michigan State is the featured attraction. Dave Brandon couldn't even get the Nebraska game to not be on the road in the same year OSU and ND are. He sold a home game to Jerry Jones because it sounded like a lot of money, then we found out that because the minimum ticket price was $125 he could have scheduled a home and home instead. Jerry Jones is probably laughing his ass off somewhere.
Anyway. I think we should start a Dave Brandon for Governor fund. I'd vote for him! With no ulterior motives whatsoever! #DB4MGov!
[Guh. Google image search for "rugby punt" and one of the first images is Zoltan making his very bad decision against Michigan State. Thanks for nothing, BWS.]
Rugby punt responses.
What do you think about having an up man for punt returns when we play against a rugby style punter? How many times have we seen 25 - 30 yard punts turn into 50 yard net results because it was impossible for one man to cover enough ground to catch the ball. If we had an up man he could immediately start moving toward the side that the punter runs toward and would be in position to fair catch many of these 30 yard floaters. I actually like a two man return set up for all punts but it certainly seems to make sense against the rugby style. My nomination for up man is Drew Dileo - great hands, dependable and seems to have an unflappable field presence.
All the best,
Jerry in Ibiza
Against traditional punts putting a second guy that far back could be an invitation for the opponent to run a fake. You could get away with it for a few games but once opponents plan for 9-on-11 you're asking for trouble.
That problem doesn't exist with spread punting*. Fakes there are invariably the punter taking off after he sees the opponent bug out downfield, something the returning team can prevent with three or four guys. So… yeah, I've been in favor of a second returner for a while now. The combo of spread with rugby style punting means returns are infrequent and the best you can hope for is to field the thing on the fly and hope to get lucky—having a guy a closer to the roll side who's 30 yards deep could save you dozens of yards of field position.
In the last year of the Rodriguez regime we actually saw something like that in the open practice. Michigan came out with three returners, one at normal depth in the middle of the field and two guys outside of him closer to the line of scrimmage. Never actually saw it in a game, though, and the punting was so terrible in that practice that we never even saw it return in practice.
I doubt Michigan ever does something like this—using the old-style punting is indicative of a regime that's not particularly innovative on special teams.
*[Rugby punt googling also turns up a coaching video on the thing calling it "shield" punting and enumerating its many advantages:
The traditional punt formation has only two gunners. Everyone else is tasked with protecting the punter until the kick is off, which means they lose time they could be using to go after the returner. The basic shield punt formation allows for much better coverage by spreading out seven gunners on the line of scrimmage with three defenders protecting the punter.
The shield punt is a simple formation that results in your opponents giving you fewer looks and allows you to minimize practice time spent on punt coverage. Your athletes have limited assignments which translates into quick learning and fewer reps in practice.
Seven gunners, man.
BONUS RANDOM Australian team logo:
Is that a location or a description? ]
One of about a dozen emails about why we couldn't do anything against MSU.
Denard, Borges, and the o-line are rightfully getting a lot of heat after Saturday's loss. How much of the blame should go on the wide receivers? MSU loaded up the box and dared UM to beat them through the air. They manned up on the wide-outs and sent the house. I remember a few plays Denard missed open guys, but on most passes the receivers were blanketed. On one pass over the middle, Denard stepped up into the pocket and threw a bullet to Roundtree. The pass was slightly to Roy's left, but instead of sliding his feet, he just reached for it, and the ball glanced off his hands. The best way to stop a team from blitzing is to beat man coverage. On the Roundtree TD, it took a near perfect throw to fit the ball in there.
Clearly MSU didn't respect our wide-outs' ability to beat man coverage. This is the first game I think we missed Stonum's speed. He had that huge catch and run to jump start the team 2 years ago against State. He also got the offense over the hump last year vs. (gulp) UMass. Hemingway is a good position guy, crafty after the catch, great on jump balls, but he's no burner. What impact do you think Stonum might have had on Saturday's game?
PS - why no more bubbles? On the Denard pick 6, UM had 3(!) on 2 and didn't throw it. I don't think we're stretching the field enough horizontally anymore.
I have many of these arguing that various things were wrong with the offense, so if this isn't yours, apologies for not replying—I did read it and will go into UFR looking for it.
As for the wideouts, it seemed like the wind was also screwing with them. Michigan State suffered a half-dozen drops to go with Roundtree's. That's more evidence passing was not the best idea on Saturday.
Did they get open and if not was that their fault? It's hard to tell. While the WRs weren't open on that disastrous three-play sequence in the second quarter, other players were. If the QBs throw to the hand-wavingly wide open guys we're not having this conversation. On other plays they may not have been open because Michigan ran three guys deep into cover three. There was a shocking lack of short routes to exploit MSU's constant double-A-gap blitzing.
Just last week the WRs brought in seven iffy passes from the QBs against Northwestern, and while they aren't Edwards, Avant, and Breaston issuing those guys the blame when they hardly got a hand on the ball is goofy. The QBs and Borges were the main issues.
RE: bubbles. I don't know, man. Argh. They looked open all day. That's a symptom of a larger issue: lack of constraints in general. The base didn't do anything in large part because MSU was cheating it and Michigan had nothing to punish the cheating. It's possible they did but couldn't execute it—Meyer thought the pick six was a slant that a WR did not run.
Ticket wait list: not so good.
So I decided after many years to get my own tickets, expecting to go on a waitlist for end zone seats, maybe take a couple years or more for my name to come up.
I read the online info and sent an email to the ath dept to clarify.
To sum up what I learned, I'm told that I have the opportunity to make a donation of $500 to be on the interest list for this year. Key points: 500 minimum donation, but no guarantee of getting tickets. $500 puts me on the list for this year only. If I don't get them this year, then I need to cough up another $500 to try again next year. Or just donate a large enough amount move higher up the list. It's all about points. More points move you up the list. My degree is worth 5 points, which I could buy for a mere $500.
I told them to tell pass along my dislike to DB.
This is bizarre given the many stories floating around on the internet stating that over the past half-dozen years or so you could jump the season ticket wait list with a donation of $100, $150 at worst. To reiterate, this is next year's home schedule: Air Force, UMass, Illinois, MSU, Northwestern, and Iowa. You could pay $500 for the privilege of being on the wait list, or you could take your 500 bucks, scalp every game, and have enough for a Wii left over.
I'll be fascinated to see how this works.
Since there has been much criticism and analysis of the various systems deployed by current and former coaches, I am just curious: what is your ideal offense? As in, if you were to become an offensive coordinator, what would the personnel look like and which current system would it most resemble?
Oregon. Oregon has the whole toolbox: power, inside zone, outside zone, constraints on all of those, the zone read, and a downfield passing game that is often a blitheringly open touchdown factory. There are a number of other systems that I wouldn't mind—I like Oklahoma's "have an NFL first round QB throwing to NFL first round wideouts" strategy—but the tiebreaker for me is Oregon's ability to manipulate the tempo of the game in their favor.
Oregon can play lightning fast when they have the opponent off balance, which keeps the opponent off balance. If they were to hypothetically be behind in a game, the up tempo nature of the system helps them there, too. If you're trying to kill a game it's nice to have a rushing attack well over seven yards a carry. And finally being really good and playing fast makes you less vulnerable to weird stuff because you're putting more possessions in the game.
Oklahoma's air-raid derived passing spread is also quite lovely but seems more vulnerable to vagaries in quarterback talent. Oregon made Jeremiah Masoli an all-conference player.
We will make an exception this time.
I graduated from UM Law in 2006 and consider myself to be a huge Michigan fan. I went to Yale as an undergrad and was in an a capella singing group (I know, I know) called the Baker's Dozen. Through some weird circumstances, I found out last year that from the early '60s until the late '80s, my group sang and recorded "Hawaiian War Chant."
As you would imagine, or, I would hope, can at least understand, I freaked out and immediately found and purchased a copy of an album from the 80s that contained the song. In the meantime, an alum of the group sent me the attached mp3 which is a recording from the Baker's Dozen's 1960 album.
My wife's about to have twins, so I figure the only logical thing to do is to send the girl to Michigan and the boy to Yale where he'll join the same group and revive the song. That's not a weird plan, right?
Here is one without the other:
Someone in the readership will no doubt find a 60s a capella version of Temptation now. This is what the readership does. It is a machine.
Brilliance is brilliant even if it's not yours. Via the comments of The Only Colors:
This is not a criticism of Brady Hoke. Brady Hoke went for it on fourth and two. Hoke uber alles.
Fleming many places. The AV Club has launched in Ann Arbor with a few stories, one of them focused on the response to Patrick Fleming's death not only at Michigan but around the marching band world:
A group of representatives from the Ohio State marching band drove from Columbus to Ann Arbor just so they could say a few kind words during Wednesday’s practice. And MSU posted a YouTube recording of their entire band playing “Amazing Grace” as a tribute to Fleming. (The band’s version of the song, by the way, is just the way it should be: proudly, wonderfully loud and brassy.)
style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt">The goodwill doesn’t stop with the Big Ten. If you go to the MMB’s Facebook page color=#000000>, you’ll see condolences from members of seemingly every college marching band in existence. Notably, there are a fair amount from the University of Massachusetts, the roles reversed from when their band director George Parks died last year while his Marching Minutemen were en route to Ann Arbor.
The goodwill doesn’t stop with the Big Ten. If you go to the MMB’s Facebook page, you’ll see condolences from members of seemingly every college marching band in existence. Notably, there are a fair amount from the University of Massachusetts, the roles reversed from when their band director George Parks died last year while his Marching Minutemen were en route to Ann Arbor.
How much money again? Via the magic of FOIA, AnnArbor.com reveals the finances of next year's matchup against Alabama, but they are not specific enough about a critical detail:
In addition to $4.7 million, U-M will receive 200 tickets, two luxury boxes and one field-level suite. The U-M marching band will receive free entry and reserved seating. U-M cheerleaders, dance team and mascots will also receive free entry.
Officials will provide approximately 25,000 tickets for Michigan to sell.
Does Michigan buy those tickets to resell at basically no gain or do they get them for free? The difference there is huge. If it's the former that $4.7 million makes this a negligible financial gain. Michigan made $41.3 million from spectator admissions last year, or about $5.2 million per game. They have to write checks for bodybag games but if bowl trips are any indication the cost to ship the team and the band to Dallas will be at least as much as half-million or so Michigan is hypothetically making if it's just the 4.7 million they're banking. If they're also flogging 2.5 million worth of tickets that's a big bump.
There are also some quotes from Brandon than make this seem awesome because it's like "a regular season bowl experience," by which he means a crappy environment thousands of miles away from either school run by a guy in a blazer. I'd rather play Alabama than San Jose State but Michigan playing in Dallas against a team from Alabama just reinforces how fan-screwing college football has become.
Here's a fantabulous statement that should totally obliterate your opposition to players getting more of what they bring in:
Brandon said the 967-mile trip is a part of U-M athletics’ effort to rebrand itself.
In the past year, U-M has hosted its first night game, purchased and installed a $20 million pair of scoreboards and drastically restructured its athletics marketing arm to include more than a dozen marketing professionals, up from three at the start of 2010.
“Where we were before, I don’t know if we would have considered going off campus to play a game like that,” Brandon said of the Alabama-Michigan game.
Insert Lloyd Carr sneering "money" here. Guy was 150% right about the direction college football was going upon his retirement. Maybe I'm just watching baseball right now, but rebranding the Yankees would get you shot, and deservedly.
(Budget HT: cutter)
BONUS BONUS, and by bonus bonus I mean not bonus not bonus. Michigan just sent out a letter to everyone on the season ticket waiting list telling them "500 bucks or GTFO." The 500 bucks guarantees you nothing except the privilege of waiting for season tickets. The privilege of buying split-season non-guaranteed seats will run you $100.
This may be a good time to revisit next year's home schedule:
You could scalp half the season for the 100 bucks they're charging you just to be in line for tickets.
Hoover Street Rag on this development:
I've always wanted my own Michigan season tickets, and I was waiting out my opportunity. I've cobbled together season ticket packages from the Alumni Association, from the Athletic Department's general sale, from friends, from other means. So I have gone to my share of games, especially over the last five years. But the reality is simply that I don't have $1000 to spend on six games in 2012, especially if the highlights are Michigan State and Iowa. I suppose this is the new economic reality of big time college football, the middle class are being squeezed out of a stadium that can hold a medium sized Michigan city; the wealthy, those who can afford to donate to the athletic department, are the lifeblood of the program, the core customers to whom need to be catered, both figuratively and literally. Season tickets are not about having tickets for all of the games, but rather assuring that you have tickets for Ohio State or Michigan State, depending on the year. This is not new, but it's going to become more and more common with the ever escalating financial demands on the season ticket holders. The Athletic Department now faces a stadium for the Ohio State game which may lack an enthusiastic student section because of the post-Thanksgiving date of the game, and may lack the focused pro-Michigan crowd they want due to potential highest bidder ticket sell off by season ticket holders. Perhaps it doesn't matter to the Athletic Department. As long as the ticket has been paid for, it doesn't matter who is in the stands. The partnership with StubHub seems to indicate this line of thinking may have merit.
I wanted to quote a lot less of that just so you'd click through but there's at least twice as much discussion of this. During the season I don't have a lot of time to spend on this but I feel the papercuts incrementing. In the long run finding the exact breaking point at which your mostly-full stadium puts up with your marketing seems like a recipe for long-term decline.
Speaking of long term decline…
Ohio State business. There is more of it and it further tests the idea that there is anything resembling compliance or control within a 200-mile radius of Columbus. I'm wary of exposing myself to more homerderp statements in the aftermath of the NCAA not even bothering to charge failure to monitor, let alone lack of institutional control, in the aftermath of tatgate, but, like, seriously.
Even the intentionally bland ESPN Big Ten blog is beginning to ask WTF:
"These failures are individual failures, failures of individual athletes, obviously a previous coach," Smith said Monday. "It's not a systemic failure of compliance."
There's that line again. Just a few bad apples. Apple cart's fine. Nothing to see here, NCAA. Keep moving along.
"These individual decisions were made to go off the reservation," Smith said. "At the end of the day, it’s not a systems problem."
Remind me to ask Smith where I can find this reservation. Getting paid for not working? Sign me up!
"These were individual decisions by individual people," Smith said. "It's not 30."
It's getting close.
• A former head coach who admitted to (and was formally charged with) covering up major NCAA violations by multiple high-profile players for nearly nine months, including the entire 2010 regular season and the 2011 Sugar Bowl, even after said violations became public.
• A starting quarterback who was initially suspended for accepting more than $1,000 in improper benefits, and later forced to leave the team amid reports that he a) Accepted tens of thousands of dollars more in exchange for autographing memorabilia, and b) Had been regularly accepting money from a businessman in his hometown, with whom the head coach kept in frequent contact, for more than two years after they had been specifically warned to cut all financial ties.
• Four other veteran players suspended along with the quarterback for accepting thousands of dollars in improper benefits.
• Two of those same four players suspended further for accepting more improper benefits after having already been suspended for accepting improper benefits.
• Three other players suspended for accepting small cash payments from a booster, apparently via a teammate who had already been suspended for improper benefits.
• A booster formally disassociated from the program for providing said payments.
That's what Ohio State has more or less owned up to, not including the discounted cars and other assorted freebies that have failed to progress beyond the "rumor/allegation" phase. That's what we can realistically say we know.
So... that seems sort of less than controlled, you know? Here's someone who agrees:
The fact that Smith has failed to notice Bobby DiGeronimo, an OSU booster who has apparently been secretly paying OSU athletes for years, or Edward Rife, the architect of the tat-gate scandal, to communicate with its athletes is embarrassing. Even after all that has ensued this offseason with the punishments and sanctions, athletes are still finding ways to get in trouble. For Smith to say OSU doesn't have a problem with their "system," is a joke.
That's Fox Sports's Thayer Eva—Wait… that's Eleven Warriors. What?
Etc.: Not one but two sets of excellent Northwestern wallpaper. The Illinois-Northwestern game in full. Five hours of Calvin Magee explaining the spread n shred three years too late. Shorter Houston Nutt: "a verbal commitment is a sacred bond; a signed letter of intent is for me to poop on."
9/24/2011 – Michigan 28, San Diego State 7 – 4-0
A long, long time ago now a Lloyd-Carr coached Michigan team was struggling through the 2005 season when they met Northwestern. A lot of throws to Tacopants (Jason Avant's 11-foot-tall imaginary friend) on both sides later, Michigan emerged with a 33-17 win and I embarked on one of the first of an endless procession of stat-nerd diatribes about the evils of punting.
You've probably heard it already: punting decisions have not kept pace with the increasingly offensive nature of the game, leaving coaches in a perpetual state of risk- and win-avoidance. Romer paper, Pulaski High, Mathlete chart. Etc.
In this particular Northwestern game, though, Carr went for it on fourth and five from the Northwestern 23, a decision I thought was too aggressive(!). When paired with a number of similarly aggressive calls from earlier that season, it seemed like a sea change for the old man:
In multiple cases he's made tough, correct decisions: going on fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin, pounding it into the line twice against Michigan State, etc. Even when the strategy has backfired, he accepts the downside and persists in a more aggressive posture.
In context, the Penn State gaffe seems more like one last hit of that sweet Bombay Popsicle* snuck in-between rehab sessions than evidence of 1970s thinking taking hold. Lloyd Carr has checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center for Coaches Addicted to Low Variance. I wouldn't expect a flying-colors discharge any time soon, but he's made the first, biggest step.
*[I don't know either.]
That change lasted into the fourth quarter of that year's Ohio State game. Having acquired a two-score lead by converting a fourth and inches around the Michigan 40, Carr reverted to his primitive instincts at the crucial moment. With three minutes left from the Ohio State 40, he called for a wide receiver screen on third and ten. It gained six yards. With a two point lead, three minutes on the clock, no Ohio State timeouts left, and a fourth and four on the Ohio State 34, Carr punted. Ohio State drove for a touchdown; Carr would never again have the opportunity to kill a game against the Buckeyes.
In the moment, Carr choked. Six years on that single decision seems like the best way to explain why a lot Michigan fans found his tenure frustrating despite its high rate of success: the program was perpetually making poor decisions because a combination of fear and arrogance. Something could go wrong if you made a high variance decision, and Michigan could spit on expected value because This Is Michigan. See any game in which Michigan acquired an 18-point lead or the first half of the Orange Bowl for confirmation.
Carr coached like he had a kickass running game and killer defense no matter the facts, which was the difference between being a legend and a being a B+ coach who lost the battle with Tressel authoritatively. Hell, even Tressel blew games when he failed to adjust to the reality that sometimes his defense and special teams were not enough, and he ran roughshod over the Big Ten for nine years.
Part of the reason a segment of the Michigan fanbase (including the author) blew up at Hoke's hire is because it seemed to represent a return to that expectation-spurning 1970s decision-making.
Brady Hoke put a lot of those fears to rest by going for—and getting—the win against Notre Dame with eight seconds left. That decision was a no-brainer. If the field goal team had run out onto the field, I would have been livid. That was a test he passed, but it was one with a low bar.
On Saturday, Hoke sent out the punting team with about two and a half minutes left in the first half. It was fourth and two around midfield, and I was mildly peeved. It was not the percentage play, but I've watched a lot of football and it seemed too much to hope that even the rootin'est, tootin'est, eyepatch-wearingest pirate of a head coach would go for it. Needing more than a sneak and up fourteen in the first half, the world punts. My peevishness was directed at football coaches in general, not Hoke in particular.
And then an angel came down from the sky, and signaled timeout. Great trumpets erupted from the flagpoles, playing a fanfare as a golden staircase descended. Each of the steps was engraved with the names of World Series of Poker winners. Down from the clouds strode Doyle Brunson, clad in a jacket of hundred-dollar bills. And lo, Texas Dolly spaketh unto the people: "check-raise." Brady Hoke sent the offensive line onto the field.
This was a really, really good decision. Even if you don't believe the exact outlines of the Mathlete's calculations, it is not close: average offense versus average defense means the break-even line is around eight yards. This was not an average situation. Michigan had Denard Robinson against a pretty horrible run defense. And that number does not take into account the game situation. If Michigan gets the first down they are almost certainly robbing San Diego State of a possession. Punting gets you thirty, forty yards of field position. Getting the first down puts you in good position to score and is essentially another +1 in turnover margin. You need two yards and you have Denard Robinson.
stealing a joke from the internet: the guy on the right looks like he just looked into the Ark of the Covenant. via the News.
One speed option later Michigan was en route to the endzone and had essentially ended the game. Without that massively +EV decision they go into halftime up maybe 14, maybe 11, maybe 7 points. That ugly third quarter becomes the gut-check time most were predicting before the game. Maybe Michigan comes out on top (24-21, say). Maybe not. That didn't happen because when Michigan had its boot on San Diego State's neck, Hoke called Z 22 stomp right.
The Lloyd Carr example above shows we don't know that Hoke's going to do this consistently, that he'll stick to the non-pejorative MANBALL when the pressure is at its greatest, but so far so good. Even my doubts about Hoke's ability to math up in the waning moments of an Ohio State game are faint. When things go wrong he does not scowl or pout or throw headsets like Rich Rodriguez or Brian Kelly or Bo Pelini. He does not go on tilt. He calmly talks to guys about what in the hell they were thinking.
Hoke continues to leave best-case scenarios in the dust. Saturday night I watched Dennis Erickson punt on fourth and five from the USC 37 and thought "my coach would never do that." Then I watched Erickson chew out the punter who put the ball in the endzone because that's what happens when you punt from the 37 and thought "my coach would never do that."
That felt good. It felt invent-a-time-machine-to-assure-yourself-its-all-going-to-be-okay good. It feels like Michigan has finally learned how to gamble.
Boy do I want to play poker with certain people on the internet. Evaluating the decision has popped up on every Michigan message board. It's mostly been met with praise, but man, there are a lot of people who can't estimate and multiply out there. Maybe it's Carr Stockholm syndrome.
A reminder: anything on the MGoBlog photostream is creative-commons licensed, free to use for non-commercial applications. Attribution to Eric Upchurch, the Observer, and MGoBlog is appreciated.
Mark Huyge is delighted to be here. From the above SDSU photoset.
It's not quite the Molk death glare. It's more like Shifty-Eyed Dog.
Try to look at Mark Huyge ever again without having that play in your head.
That's a great question. Just as our rationality leads us to a belief in an objective reality, Kant believed there is an objective morality we can locate from the same process. The Categorical Imperative is an absolute, fundamental moral law on par with Minnesota losing to teams from the Dakotas. Things are either right or wrong—there are no gray areas, and context does not apply. You could call him the BJ Daniels of philosophy*.
*[Ten-cent summary of Kantian philosophy cribbed from Three Minute Philosophy, which is terrific. Philosophers wishing to quibble with my paraphrase of a comedic summary are invited to consider the moral consequences of their actions and also jump in a lake. USF fans wishing to WOO BJ DANIELS can skip to the latter.]
And the internet eeeed Countess. When Troy Woolfolk headed to the sidelines, all Michigan fans everywhere winced. When Blake Countess replaced JT Floyd in the third quarter, all Michigan fans everywhere prepared for the deluge.
It never came, and as a result everyone from my uncle to the internet to the newspapers are having little freakouts about Michigan's #4 corner. I am with all of you. The only thing stopping Countess from having a few PBUs or interceptions was Ryan Lindley's inability to throw the ball anywhere near the guys Countess had blanketed but Lindley targeted anyway.
For most of the third quarter I stopped watching the offensive backfield and started watching downfield coverage and while I won't be able to confirm this on the tape I think Countess was doing really well even when people weren't going after him. I'm with the rest of the internet when I suggest that Troy Woolfolk should take the Minnesota game off to recover from his multiple nagging injuries so we can see some more of the freshman.
I thought Avery did well, too. He had a third-down slant completed on him and was the DB victimized on the touchdown but in both cases he was right there tackling/raking at the ball. Is he doing something wrong I'm not perceiving yet? Because I think he's playing better than Woolfolk, who gave up some groan-worthy easy completions. (I don't blame him for allowing Hillman to bounce on one third down conversion because he was clearly held.)
Release the Martin. This week in the I-told-you-so files: Mike Martin is just fine. His good day last week was obscured by EMU never throwing and having quite a bit of success attacking away from him. Against SDSU he was nigh unblockable, bowling a veteran offensive line over backwards multiple times and drawing holding calls left and right. Craig Roh had two big plays and will show up doing little things when I do the UFR; Will Campbell had a couple of line-pushing plays. Hillman's YPC was still over five, so there are issues but I think a big chunk of them are localizable to…
Problems. So… everyone's talking up Jake Ryan, too. I'm with everyone in a general, long-term sense but a little less enthused about his performance on Saturday. One of the results of the first few weeks of UFRing/picture paging is that whenever the opponent tries to get outside I immediately focus on Ryan. Result from last week: three "aaargh Ryan" screams that no one in my section comprehended. He's still giving up the corner way too easy.
Also, there are two caveats to an otherwise encouraging performance from the secondary. One: Lindley and his receivers were flat bad as a group. Drops, bad routes, and bad throws artificially boosted Michigan's efficiency against him. Some of that was caused by pressure. Some of it was just a crappy opponent. Two: I wonder if Michigan's familiarity with the SDSU offense allowed them to beat the Aztecs' favorite routes into Michigan DBs heads.
Still, 5.3 YPA and actual depth at corner. +1 Mallory.
Offensive construction bits. Another week, another confirmation that running Denard is the offense. While I still groan whenever they line up under center, snaps from there were limited. I would really prefer it if they never ran I-form power on first and ten again, though. They've mixed in some inexplicably effective short play action so far; if they can't run that will probably dry up.
Things I liked: That screen to Smith. The essence of an RPS+3 is when three offensive linemen have no one to block for 30 yards. And then the much-discussed speed option debuted. I'd gotten a couple insider emails telling me it was part of the offense but thought it would be extremely bad form to publish that, so I'd been waiting. It was quite a debut.
I'm hoping we see Borges add wrinkles at the same rate Rodriguez did. He'll have to to keep the run offense ahead of the wolves. He's off to a good start.
via the Detroit News.
Tailbacks. I'm suddenly happy with Michigan's tailback situation after Vincent Smith made a lot of yards on his own, including the above touchdown where he kept his balance at about the five and managed to drag a safety into the endzone. There was also the zone play where he squeezed through a crack in the line it's possible literally no other D-I back would have fit through.
Toussaint, meanwhile, didn't have the yards Smith did but ran hard on the inside; I still like him best but understand if they're going to split duties between the top two. I feel bad for Shaw—maybe it's time to put him on kickoffs? He's got speed Smith does not.
The Denard question. So they did run a curl-flat. Denard went to the curl way late and threw his first interception. Not sure if that was schemed or just bad execution by the offense. If it's the latter that might be attributable to not running it over the offseason as Borges attempted to install his route packages, route packages that now seem like things Denard just can't do.
A three-point plan in an attempt to get Denard back on track:
- Stop throwing on the run.
- Provide some easy throws early—all hitch, snag—in an effort to get him calmed down.
- Develop some sort of counter-punch to the opponent getting all up in Denard's face on the rollout PA. A shovel pass?
Bending but not breaking. Michigan's giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Frankly, some of this is luck. They are acquiring turnovers at an unsustainable rate. Not unsustainable for a mediocre defense, unsustainable for Michigan 1997. When the well dries up they'll do some more breaking.
The other thing is the secondary. Michigan's newfound ability to make plays on deep balls and Jordan Kovacs being stone-cold reliable (so far /crosses self) have erased cheap touchdowns for the opposition. WMU's touchdown came on a 15-play drive. ND touchdown drives went 7, 10, 7, and 4 plays. San Diego State's took six plays but started from the Michigan 38. The only quick drive Michigan's given up all year was ND's desperation drive, on which Michigan gave up chunks on purpose because of the time situation and then tried an NFL-style defense they weren't ready for and blew it. The longest touchdown other than that was the 16-yard pass Lindley hit in the third quarter.
Opponents have ripped off chunks on occasion, but they have not been handed free touchdowns. Michigan's at least making them earn it. That's a necessary first step on the road away from completely awful.
The next opponent. When Minnesota managed to hang with USC on the first weekend of the season they seemed like they might be more intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Then they lost to Not Even The Good New Mexico and North Dakota State and seemed even less intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Compounding matters: Jerry Kill is again out of commission with his seizure issue.
I did not VOAV this week for reasons of being spooked. Boyz In The Pahokee provided the usual bounty if you are jonesing.
ST3 goes Inside the Box Score:
Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.
Wile's just lost his punting job; if that allows him to improve his kickoffs and compete for the field goal job, Michigan's kicking could be one of those strength things by midseason.
Lordfoul's weekly Hoke for Tomorrow:
Michigan needs Hagerup back.Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer. Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down. Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!).
Player participation notes from jtmc33.
You see that conch shell he's got in his hand? At some point in the first half he was talking into it like it was a cell phone. That is all.
Media, as in blog rabble. BWS hops aboard the Countess bandwagon and points out Denard can't throw.
MGoBlog : The Big Lebowski :: The Hoover Street Rag : The Hunt For Red October:
After the Notre Dame game, I tweeted very simply: "And the singing, Captain?" "Let them sing." The moment was too good to start worrying about the future. But at some point, the future arrives and you need to deal with it. How well prepared you are for that future plays a large role in how well you're able to handle it when the moment arrives. The non-conference schedule, particularly one played as four games at the start of the season should, theoretically, be a nice combination of challenges and the working out of kinks. Before the mission starts, you must know the capacity and capabilities of your crew.
Media, as in local newspaper. John Niyo on the defense, which is extant. Chengelis on the fact the team is not vintage. San Diego State had big pictures of their former coaches as signals. The Daily on RVB's Hillman chase:
Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen caught Hillman from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocked the ball loose for the second fumble.
Try reading it this way: a 288-pound defensive tackle caught the nation’s second-leading rusher from behind in the open field — 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.
Van Bergen got a block from fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mike Martin, but most of his help came from practice.
“But when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in our backfield,” Van Bergen said. “We get to play against (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson), so we’ve learned how to take angles at guys who have speed.
“I took off on my horse just thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before, maybe I can catch this guy.’ ”
“They were very emotional after the game, depressed, disappointed, upset, however you want to say,” said Long, whose team dropped to 3-1 after Saturday’s 28-7 defeat. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game and not in a good sense.”
They probably would have done a “poor job” of answering questions, Long said, so he kept them behind closed doors. “It’s my job to protect them,” Long said Sunday. “This is not pro football.” …
"The defense got shocked by the speed of especially one guy (Robinson),” Long said. “They got shocked by the strength they had up front and the speed of quarterback early in the game.”
• Offensively, Michigan is 13-for-13 on red-zone opportunities. It is one of 13 teams in the country to have scored on every trip inside the 20-yard line this year.
• Even better? The Wolverines have scored touchdowns on 12 of those 13 trips. That 92-percent touchdown rate trails only Texas Tech nationally.
One of the main arguments made in favor of Shotgun Forever is that red zone efficiency is not a stat that shows much repeatable skill year to year and that the huge chunks of yards Michigan picked up without, you know, scoring in 2010 would turn into points if you just left the damn thing alone (and got a kicker). The early returns are excellent.
National takes. Smart Football:
- Michigan 28, San Diego State 7. Brady Hoke’s new team faced his old team, and I’m still not sure, despite their 4-0 record, that we know anything about this Michigan football team. The defense seems to be improving under DC Greg Mattison, but they’ve been using so much movement and motion to cover up their talent weaknesses it’s unclear how the defense will fare against a polished opponent. And while the offense has found a better rhythm running a Rich Rodriguez-lite Denard Robinson attack — including Denard’s long TD run on the speed option — his passing line was abysmal: 8 of 17 for 93 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. He’s obviously uncomfortable in the new offense. He looked like a more polished and comfortable passer last year. I chalk some of this up to the fact that the very techniques he’s using are new, but he’s going to have to improve for UM to have success. That said, given Michigan’s favorable schedule — no Wisconsin and the easy part of the Big 10 schedule up next — we may not learn anything about Michigan until the last three weeks of the season, when they play Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.
No one else bothered. A couple weeks after puntosauring himself into a loss against Iowa State, BHGP documents Kirk Ferentz opening Iowa's game against ULM in a shotgun spread, demonstrating the Carr thing above perfectly.