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The Postseason Before The Postseason
The Big Ten Tournament walks a weird line between being the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason. It also happens to be Michigan's only chance to, like, make the postseason (they do not plan to accept a CBI bid if they don't make the NIT). In Round 1, Michigan faces off against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 8/9 game, with a rubber match against Ohio State lurking if they should advance. Your full bracket, from the Big Ten:
To make the NCAA Tournament, the tall order of defeating Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue or Michigan State seems to be necessary. Basically what I'm saying is that there are only a couple basketball games left this season, so try to enjoy them.
Lists: We Is On Them
"We" being only DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris, of course. The Official Big Ten All-Conference honorees include DeShawn Sims as a Second-Team selection and Manny Harris as a Third-Team nod. Manny was named to the official First-Team squad in the preseason. Ohio State's Evan Turner was named the conference POTY.
Other outlets making lists include the Big Ten Network's Big Ten Geeks, whose squad (first team only, plus freshman of the year) includes no Wolverines (HT: UMHoops). The outstanding Michigan State (durr: oxymoron, durr) blog The Only Colors determines the Big Ten players who are most valuable based on PORPAG, whatever that means. Points Over Replacement Player Per Adjusted Game decrees that DeShawn Sims is worthy of his Second-Team consideration, and Manny Harris was one of the great disappointments in the Big Ten this year. Players of note:
|Big Ten PORPAG|
|1||John Shurna (NU)||4.41|
|2||Jason Bohannon (UW)||3.96|
|3||Robbie Hummel (Pur)||3.75|
|4||Evan Turner (OSU)||3.59|
|5||Demetri McCamey (Ill)||3.23|
The stat is imperfect - it only covers offense, and defensive rebounding is one of Manny's great strengths - but it indicates that he has a lot of offensive work to do, and would probably be better-served by staying in college for his final season.
Post-hoc validation: So, yeah, I didn't watch that awards show, and a good thing, too, since it was dumb. Let us count the ways:
- They need to get rid of whatever the Maxwell trophy looks like and replace it with a bridesmaid crying into her wedding cake if they're going to insist on giving it to Guy Who's Not Winning The Heisman Guy every year. If there's an award for "Best QB" and you don't win it, how do you win "Best All-Around Player"? Did I miss Quinn returning punts?
- I don't think Leon Hall should have won the Thorpe, but if he was going to lose it should have been to Reggie F-in' Nelson instead of Aaron Ross.
- More "We don't understand set theory": Woodley wins best OL/DL/LB, Posluszny wins "best defensive player." (For what reason? Posluszny, good though he is, is possibly the most over-decorated linebacker since these fancy awards started coming out. Though Laurinaitis is off to a good start.)
Anyway, Woodley won some stuff and he, Long, and Hall were first-team AA. Hart was second.
- n00b Maize And Blue Tailgate has some suggestions to prevent this from ever happening ever again. Among them: don't schedule more macky-cakes, play after Thanksgiving, and accede to night games.
- Stadium and Main takes a look at next year's schedule and Michigan's prospects. Outlook: good. There are few returning QBs on the schedule. More discussion of that flashing TBA.
Personally, I think we should get a middling BCS team on the road to fill that hole in their schedule. Anyone who will give us a 2-for-1 and promises to be a respectable opponent. Hell, they can even be awful next year, don't care. North Carolina, maybe? An eighth home game against a stupid team opens us up to mocking columns about never leaving home to do anything on the road. If we can avoid that and get a pair at home against a respectable foe, awesome.
We will need more players on ice. Bob Miller of the Wolverine has some brief scouting reports on players who won't get to Michigan for a long time, three '09s and '10 commit John Merril. One, Kenny Ryan, is a recruit, not a commit. Yes, he's the younger brother of punter Ross.
We will also need more players this weekend: Dest is out for a month. Jack will miss Friday's game and is questionable for Sunday, when Andrew Cogliano will be off at Canada's WJC camp. Steve Kampfer will obviously draw in, but that leaves Michigan a defenseman short for ND. Will Red drop Rohlfs back or just go with five, giving Montville a token dressing? Don't know. Do know: this is awful timing for two critical games against ND.
O RLY. So there's this book coming out on last year's Springdale HS team that eventually sent five guys and its coach, Gus Malzahn to D-I schools last year. If you are a recruitnik you may remember that OMG Shirtless Arkansas freshman Mitch Mustain committed to Arkansas, decomitted and was widely speculated to be going to Notre Dame, then recommitted to the Razorbacks. Well, yeah:
A few weeks later, Mustain backed out on Arkansas and kept silent about his plan to attend Notre Dame, waiting on a promised scholarship.
Voigt recounts how Notre Dame offensive coordinator Michael Haywood was fine with Mustain's timetable until a few weeks before signing date. Then, the squeeze began. On his cell phone, Mustain heard Haywood say the Irish needed an answer in 48 hours.
It was at that point that Mustain called Nutt and requested a meeting. Nutt agreed and then realized it was a dead period and called right back to ask, "Does your mom mind you being out late tonight?"
Mustain thought Nutt meant 10 p.m.; the coach was talking about a minute after midnight. When Mustain arrived on campus that night, Nutt was there along with Malzahn, offensive line coach Mike Markuson and new quarterbacks coach Alex Wood.
They talked and Haywood called again the next day. Mustain reminded him he wanted to visit South Bend before making a commitment. He could wait only 24 more hours, Haywood said. That day, Mustain and Wood talked for almost an hour, drawing up plays on a dry-erase board. Markuson entered the room, acknowledged the rumors of a rift between himself and Malzahn, then wrote the names of his wife and children on the board, and told Mustain, " ... I'm not going to screw this up."
A short time later, Mustain decided to re-up with Arkansas and ignore Weis and Haywood. However, a recruiting writer penned a piece that said Weis wasn't interested in Mustain because he had verbal commitments from two quarterbacks and had told them he wouldn't take a third.
Mustain's mom was furious and said Weis planted the story "just so they could look good for the national people."
One guess as to who the "recruiting writer" was. Yup: Tom Lemming. What a weird sequence of events. Unlike Texas' pressure on Ryan Mallet, which was spurred by John Brantley's desire to commit ASAP, pushing Mustain for a commitment had no possible benefit for Notre Dame. It eventually cost ND Mustain's services. Doubly weird because Demetrius Jones is a dual-threat guy a lot of people saw eventually moving to WR or wherever.
I wonder if this is just Weis-ian SOP. Martez Wilson was an ND lock lock lock lock, suddenly wasn't interested in ND -- probably because his scholarship got pulled for some reason that's probably being spun retroactively as "grades" but was more likely another deadline -- and is now presumed to be an ND lock lock lock again. Would also explain their sudden lack of interest in Barksdale if they pulled a similar stunt, since Barksdale seems like a primadonna who holds grudges. ND gave him the hard sell and he reacted adversely to that.
Etc.: the Worldwide Reader blows up some dumb anti-playoff arguments brought forth by Bomani Jones; Wetzel on UF president Bernie Machen and playoff possibilities. EDSBS was taken over by Subcomandante Wayne yesterday, BTW.
The official teams just bucket players into three categories: line, LB, and DB. I think this is dumb. For instance, all four first-team DBs are cornerbacks. Uh... okay. This list breaks the line down into DT and DE and the defensive backs into CB and S. Linebackers are still one big bin.
Remember: Notre Dame worthies are included, though this is way less funny for the defensive side of the ball.
1. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
If you read this blog, you know about Woodley. He has 11.5 sacks and equal-if-not-greater contributions that only show up in OCD game charting. He is the face of the Michigan defense that was so magnificent for 11 of Michigan's 12 games and one of the premiere defensive ends in the country. Justifying his inclusion is like justifying Troy Smith's.
1. Anthony Spencer, Purdue
If Spencer's luck holds -- and let's hope it doesn't -- he'll be playing for the Detroit Lions next year. He was a capital-M Man without a defense in 2006. Anything the Boilermakers managed to do right on that side of the ball was a direct result of something Spencer did. And lord, he did a lot: a Matt-Rothian 26.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. His most impressive/depressing statistic, though was his 86 tackles, second on the team. At defensive end! Spencer was the Kevin Garnett of the Big Ten in 2006. Like Garnett, he should be commended for not snapping and breaking the neck of any of his incompetent teammates.
2. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State
Alternated terrifying edge rushes with equally terrifying (to Ohio State fans) wild run irresponsibility early. As the season wore on the former remained and the latter dwindled, making Gholston scary to only one set of fans. I don't like the idea of him next year, and that's what this list is: Michigan players I love and opposing players I hate. So, yeah. I hate Gholston. Congratulations.
2. Brian Mattison, Iowa
Doesn't have the stats a few others do, but what can I say? I just like the guy. Uh... hate the guy. You know what I mean. When I UFRed the Iowa-Michigan game, he was all over Michigan's zone running game. When I did a tape review of the Iowa-Ohio State game, he was the only guy with a concept of containment and the only guy capable of getting to Troy Smith. Those were Iowa's two biggest games of the year, and he was one of the best players on the field in both
1. Alan Branch, Michigan
Mountain of a defensive tackle who didn't rack up a ton of flashy stats except this one: #1, as in Michigan's rushing defense (despite those, uh, hiccups versus Ohio State, which only served to bring that defense back down into the realms of the mortal). Branch is a disruptor on the interior and a guy you single block at your peril, just like...
1. Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State
A sure first-rounder in April's NFL draft, Pitcock was far and away the best player on Ohio State's defense, crashing through interior lines like they were made of the slightest cotton en route to eight sacks, eleven tackles for loss, and a lot of easy plays for his linebackers.
2. Ed Johnson, Penn State
I know Alford had more sacks and tackles for loss, but when I watched Penn State it was Johnson who was the more consistent of the two Penn State tackles. Alford is a penetrator who relies a lot on quickness and runs himself out of plays here and there, while Johnson is one of those 6'0", 310 pound fireplugs that drives people into the backfield with remarkable regularity. Johnson made more plays than his partner, but fewer of them showed up in his statistics.
2. David Patterson/Terrance Taylor/Jay Alford, OSU/UM/PSU
Yes, this is a cop out. Each benefited from playing next to the above terrors. Alford is a penetrator and a playmaker like Pitcock, while Patterson and Taylor are more in the mold of Johnson. Each filled the space next to their partner with a second playmaking defensive tackle and created havoc in opposing offenses.
1. David Harris, Michigan
Made the leap from pretty good to outstanding his senior year, tracking down backs sideline-to-sideline on all manner of run and pass plays. Other than Branch, he was the man most responsible for Michigan's #1 rush defense. Criminally left off the Butkus finalist list, he's the best Michigan linebacker I can remember (this extends only back to Jarrett Irons, freaked out 40-something Michigan fans). He played nearly every snap Michigan's defense faced and made only one glaring error, a busted coverage that led to Wisconsin's touchdown. I hate the idea of a middle linebacker other than him.
1. J Leman, Illinois
Does anyone remember how awful the Illinois defense was a year ago? Probably not. If you have data about the 2005 Fighting Illini in your head, you are wasting space that could be more productively used with something like the jeans preferences of squirrels. Well, I know nothing about the sartorial splendor of squirrels (imagine Lou Holth thaying that five timeth fath), but I do remember that the 2005 Illinois defense was an abomination.
So if I told you that the 2006 version of same was above average, you'd want to hand out a medal. Well: here's the medal. Leman racked up 152 tackles, 19 for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles as the Illini shot up to 40th in total defense. He was the guy running around against Ohio State stuffing the Buckeye's six million second-half runs. He was... good. Which is weird to say about an Illinois player, let me tell you.
Also: his first name is "J". No period. No abbreviation. Just a letter. He is also unmistakably rocking a mullet in that headshot. Rocking a mullet and wearing an American flag tie. He is Joe Dirt, linebacker. That demands recognition.
1. Dan Connor, Penn State
Outperformed his more touted partner in the opinion of most Penn State fans, and that's good enough for me. He was a force in the PSU games I watched, slightly more likley to burst into the backfield and maul an unsuspecting running back. His 103 tackles came from an outside linebacker position, while Posluszny's 108 came in the middle: slight advantage Connor.
2. Paul Posluszny, Penn State
Probably didn't deserve the Butkus last year (AJ Hawk) or his finalist status this year (arrrrgh David Harris), but still a damn good linebacker. Against Michigan he refused to stay blocked on the second level, slanting and shedding his way to bottle up Mike Hart time and again. Though Hart would finish with 112 yards, they would be his toughest of the season.
2. Mark Zalewski, Wisconsin
I'm mildly upset at my own list here, which is virtually ignoring the Big Ten's fourth badass defense: Wisconsin. They have a couple first-teamers in the secondary, but hardly any representation up front, largely because they suffer from the same problem Ohio State wide receivers do: too much balance. Zalewski doesn't have a million tackles but he does have a mohawk and a bad attitude. (I was briefly tempted to have the second team linebackers be Zalewski, Prescott Burgess, and Shawn Crable so I could make some comment about pityi ng the fool who tries to run on them, but I was quickly tackled and injected with sedatives when I mentioned it. And thank God for that.)
2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
My position on Laurinaitis and his magic, leather-magnetized hands has been made clear: dude is way overrated and belongs nowhere near the Butkus finalist list or the All-American teams he'll no doubt feature on. I blame two people: Troy Smith and Brent Musberger. Smith is the primary motor for Ohio State's #1 ranking and Musberger's intolerable boosterism of him during the Texas game, Iowa game, and every other game was repeated so often that it became true in the minds of the brainwashed masses.
...but he does have his good points. He is fast, able in zone drops -- to get Drew Tate to throw the ball right at you you have to be in good position -- and a good blitzer. If he's kept clean he will fill and tackle ably. He's not bad by any stretch of the imagination and... sigh... deserves a place on this team. But on the second team, dammit, until he defeats a block. Any block.
1. Leon Hall, Michigan
I was confused about the Hall hype -- top corner in the draft, Playboy All-American -- going into the season, thinking him more a Jeremy Lesueur type who would be first or second team all conference and a second or third round pick. I was wrong. Hall is the best Michigan corner since Woodson, solid against both the run and the pass, a superb tackler and technician. He does not have the outrageous athleticism of someone like Justin King, but makes up for it with instincts and smarts. A probable top-ten pick in April's draft.
1. Jack Ikegwuonu, Wisconsin
By all rights should be playing for Purdue with that last name, but the Badgers are glad to have him. Ikegwuonu's matchup with Manningham was the most difficult the Michigan sophomore faced all year -- his long touchdown victimized Allen Langford -- as he found his outs, slants, and the like blanketed, leaving Michigan almost no margin for error on those throws. That's all you can do as a cornerback.
2. Justin King, Penn State
Let's get this out of the way: he can't tackle worth a lick. Run at him and he may as well be a ballerina. But in pure coverage terms, he might be the best in the league. Living up to the recruiting hype, as corners tend to do, his athleticism is NFL-caliber and his instincts are good. Hard to beat deep and hard to sit down in front of, King is a thorn in the side of opposing passing games.
2. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
A jam artist and a tough customer in run support, Jenkins is an up-and-comer in the league. If he manages to rein in his aggression and be smarter about when to back off, he'll be a complete corner. As of now he still gets burnt-crispy deep with some regularity. This year it wasn't relevant since Ohio State got so many sacks and faced so many hobbled or plain bad quarterbacks.
1. Roderick Rogers, Wisconsin
Rogers didn't have to do much against the run thanks to the imposing Wisconsin front seven (their absence from this team should not reflect poorly on them -- it's a tough year to get on this team up there). Free to play centerfield, Rogers picked off two passes, broke up seven others, and was key in Wisconsin's #1 ranked pass efficiency defense -- a number that's overstated due to the Badgers' Minnesota-worthy schedule but still damn impressive.
1. Brandon Mitchell, Ohio State
Ohio State safeties are beginning to bother me like Ohio State kickers do. Where do they unearth these people, and do they have a patent? I bet there's a lab somewhere.
2. Anthony Scirroto, Penn State
I give up and give in to five interceptions. I don't like doing this, but I begin to understand why there are four cornerbacks on the All Big Ten first teams.
2. Jamar Adams, Michigan
Michigan rotated four safeties all year, but what they really did is rotate three guys through free safety and have them play next to Adams, a solid run defender who's comptetent-ish in pass coverage. Yes, it's a weak year for safeties.
Note: I've never gotten the idea of All-Whatever teams with two running backs. Teams don't play two running backs. They play a fullback or a third wide receiver or maybe a tight end. Given spreadmania in the Big Ten, the first team offense has three wideouts. A fullback is on the second team.
Also: offensive linemen are broken down by position, which was stupid in retrospect.
Also also: MGoBlog feels sorry for Notre Dame. Since the Irish aren't in a conference, they can't get all-conference level recognition. In the spirit of the season, I've decided to share the Big Ten awards with ND. All deserving Irish players are included.
1. Troy Smith, Ohio State.
I don't want to talk about it. Fortunately, I don't have to since this is obvious.
2. Chad Henne, Michigan.
Wasn't asked to do much -- new Michigan offensive coordinator Mike Debord apparently gets a series of painful electric shocks whenever he calls a first-down pass -- but was efficient when called upon. His strike rate on bombs was exceptional this year and his overall accuracy was similarly improved after an uneven sophomore year. Henne is maturing into the player Michigan fans thought he'd be after an impressive freshman debut, though he was clearly a step behind Smith during The Game.
1. Mike Hart, Michigan
He's little, he's impossible to tackle, and he never fumbles except for that one time he did. But even that wasn't charged against him. Stupid rule, but we'll take it. The backbone of the Michigan offense, Hart led the nation in carries, finished seventh in yards, and drove Michigan up from the ashes of 7-5. He won't win the Doak Walker, but goddammit he should win something. Invent it. The Mike Hart: for being exactly like Mike Hart.
2. Tony Hunt, Penn State
Yes, he was badly outgained by Wisconsin's PJ Hill, but Hill had the following advantages:
- a quarterback
- an offensive line.
You will agree with me that these are important things to have in the game of football, yes? Hunt was the Penn State offense, such as it was. With Anthony Morelli completing a whopping 54% of his passes, teams could tee off on Hunt on anything that looked remotely like a running down. This they did, but Hunt dragged them five yards forward anyway. I went into the year thinking Hunt was average at best, but come out of it with a respect for his pounding style and yeoman service to a lost cause. Without him, Penn State reverts all the way to their 2003-2004 nadir. If you're handing out a "most valuable player" award in the Big Ten... well... Troy Smith still wins. But Hunt is second.
2. BranDon Snow, PSU
I love fullbacks, and place one on this team despite their rapidly fading relevance. Snow was the thumping hammer for Tony Hunt's junior and senior years, when Penn State's running game emerged to rescue it from the bowlless depths of seasons past. Like Kevin Dudley, Snow turns linebackers into a white-hot furrow of snapped limbs and smoke, and that deserves a "shout-out," as the kids say with the hippin' and the hoppin' these days.
1. Mario Manningham, Michigan
Missed three games and was used sparingly in another two after midseason knee surgery, but you can't overlook 19.5 yards per catch and 9 touchdowns, all of them deep balls that Manningham hauled in with a breathtaking gracefulness. Or maybe that last bit is just me. He's inexplicably, remarkably good, physically imposing in no way. The magic is in his routes, which get him yards past befuddled defensive backs, and his hands, which cradle over-the-shoulder bombs like they're kittens. Kittens of Wolverine joy.
1. Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio State
IS BETTER THAN TED GINN. Okay? Okay? It's a testament to Troy Smith that the Buckeyes spread the ball around so much that four receivers ended up with around thirty catches, but it did depress the chances of said receivers getting flashy postseason awards. Well, not here. Gonzalez is fast, smart, and sure-handed, and it was he -- not Ginn -- who turned in the year's best highlight reel moment from the Buckeye wide receiving corps when he turned a short dig route into a WOOP WOOP WOOP thirty yard touchdown against Iowa. Also, he didn't drop like five passes versus Michigan.
1. Dorien Bryant, Purdue
It's a shame that Purdue only has one defensive player who doesn't suck in all the ways you can suck (DE Anthony Spencer), as a Purdue team with a competent defense would have been a fun, dangerous team to watch the rest of the Big Ten play. Bryant was the unquestioned center of that danger, a waterbug of a wide receiver who was Steve Breaston's good twin over the course of his four years as a Purdue starter.
2. Logan Payne, Minnesota
He's big, kind of lumbering, and white, but kind of good and fast and stuff. Where did Logan Payne come from? No one knows. Where is he going? The middle rounds of the NFL draft. The most unsung offensive skill player in the Big Ten, Payne ended up fifth in receiving yards per game playing in a run-dedicated Minnesota offense. He's a dedicated blocker on the edge, quick enough to take a long handoff six or seven yards, and irritatingly good at getting open in zone coverage. This was supposed to be Ernest Wheelwright's spot, but Payne was the focus of the Minnesota passing game.
2. James Hardy, Indiana
Much debate here. Hardy's numbers came in great bursts against certain crappy secondaries (Iowa, Michigan State) but were interspersed with caverns of nothing production against real teams. Still, Hardy had to deal with bracketed coverage, a freshman quarterback, and the general Indiana-ness of Indiana and still played a huge role in most of Indiana's five victories.
1. Matt Spaeth, Minnesota
I've had a throbbing mancrush on the brobdingnagian Spaeth since his sophomore year, when he spearheaded Minnesota's perimeter rushing game with vicious abandon. He slowly became a viable option in the passing game; this year he was a weapon in both the run and pass games. I won't soon forget his down block on Tim Jamison when the Gophers played Michigan: he came in motion and then blew Jamison onto he ground like he was a child. Result: 20 yards for Amir Pinnix. Plus he catches and stuff. Farewell, O Mighty Spaeth.
2. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
...was a linebacker a year ago. This year, he's the Big Ten's second-leading receiver. Saddled with receivers named "Swan" who play like that irritating Asian stereotype from the always-unfunny MadTV, John Stocco had to find someone to throw the ball to. Someone turned out to be Beckum, a hyped defensive recruit a couple years who found an application for this athleticism on the other side of the ball. Beckum has hands and the ability to stretch linebackers down the seam. He's a mismatch waiting to happen and Tyler Donovan's favorite target in 2007, guaranteed.
1. Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
...will be a top five draft pick. Crooshed silly defenders en route to 1500-yard PJ Hill season. Yielded zero sacks. Uh, yeah.
1. Jake Long, Michigan
...will return for his senior year (please?). If he doesn't, will be a first-round draft pick. Michigan ran "zone left" on seemingly half its snaps a year ago, and Long was a major reason why.
2. Mike Otto and Sean Sester, Purdue
The Boilermakers threw a remarkable 505 passes this year. Curtis Painter was sacked only 17 times, largely because the veteran Purdue offensive line walled off opponents like whoah. (Also slightly because Purdue didn't play Michigan or Ohio State.)
Well... crap. I don't know enough about offensive lines and I haven't watched games closely enough to really tell you. So this is sketchy guesswork.
1. Adam Kraus, Michigan
I have watched a lot of Michigan games and observed the interior line play. Kraus has been solid in both pass and run protection. Occasionally he'll miss a block, but that happens to everyone, and when he does it's usually one of those playside nightmares against a slanting DL.
1. TJ Downing, Ohio State
2. Mike JONES, Iowa
2. Kyle Cook, Michigan State
On the theory that the coaches know what they're doing.
1. Doug Datish, Ohio State
2. Mark Bihl, Michigan
Again, coach agreeance by default.
Woo! Interior linemen! So hard!