site note: UFR tomorrow AM and PM. Sorry about the delay.
Breakout star Ben Gedeon [Bryan Fuller]
Oh, man, please do not excite me. PFF breaks down the Michigan-Ohio State matchup as only they can, and Michigan comes out ahead on most counts, including all three defensive units. Ben Gedeon is a surprise standout:
This was without question the biggest area of concern for the Wolverines heading into the season, but both Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray have played well thus far. Gedeon’s 89.1 run defense grade is second-best in the country behind only the Ohio Bobcats’ Blair Brown, and McCray has graded well in all three phases while posting 10 pressures (three sacks) and a QB rating against of 42.1 in coverage.
That's a huge boost to a defense that didn't really need one.
Ohio State's biggest advantage is quarterback, unsurprisingly. JT Barrett and Wilton Speight are grading out similarly as passers; meanwhile there is a slight Barrett advantage on the ground. The overall tone of the article is... uh... far too encouraging for me to be comfortable with.
But the level of dominance the Michigan defensive line has achieved to date can only be challenged by Alabama, as six players have run defense grades of at least 80.0 (by comparison, Alabama has two) and five have pass-rush grades higher than 75.0 (Alabama has six). DTs Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst and DEs Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton are all likely top 100 picks (should they all choose to enter the draft this year), and last year’s No. 1 recruit DE Rashan Gary has been as good as advertised.
Michigan is now slightly favored in the Game by S&P+ and it sounds like PFF would pick Michigan as well. This terrifies me.
Lewis on Lewis. Rather frank self-scout right here:
"There's still a few things I can clean up," Lewis said this week. "I've let a few guys behind me a little bit and have just relied on my quickness and makeup speed. But I've got to stop cheating (with my eyes) and use my technique more."
Not as harsh a self-assessment as Peppers giving himself a C-, but that is accurate. Three or four times the ball has gone in the air with Lewis in seemingly bad position; he's made a play each time. Ideally he'll be able to wipe out that moment of nervousness when the ball is in the air.
The Peppers factor [Patrick Barron]
Fancystat fight. Football Outsiders has two advanced CFB metrics: S&P+ and FEI. FEI, a drive-based metric, doesn't release until this week, and so we haven't been able to compare the two yet. In general FEI is less impressed. Michigan is third, not first, and their defense is fourth instead of an absurd runaway #1. OTOH, FEI has Michigan's offense third in the country, which seems optimistic.
The thing that really leaps out is special teams, though: S&P+ has Michigan 107th. FEI has Michigan 1st.
The FEI drilldown is how you'd expect. Michigan's been horrible at field goals (119th), meh at punting and returning kickoffs, and very good at their own kickoffs and returning punts. That shouldn't add up to the #1 team in the country but FEI also includes metrics for starting field possession on offense (#1) and defense (#13) that must factor in? Those numbers are only slightly about special teams.
S&P+ relies on "success rate" for kickoffs and punts, which has always seemed odd to me since there's no first down to shoot for. A yard is a yard on special teams. In any case, Michigan's terrible S&P+ rating is due to a heavy weight for FG kicking, which fair enough, and a poor punting success rate.
FWIW, the Mathlete's numbers that convert everything to points lost and gained have Michigan 16th.
My take: FEI is overrating the special teams because the defense is so dominant that it's moving field position outside the bounds of normal, and S&P+ isn't weighting the explosive Peppers returns enough. I asked Bill Connelly, the S&P+ purveyor, about this, and he said much the same thing. He's got good reasons to go with success rate but a guy like Peppers blows assumptions inherent in that choice out of the water.
Glasgow getting it done. Graham, that is. He got his first start this weekend and a newpaper breaks down film(!!!), where he impressed:
First and foremost, we have to highlight the performance of rookie Graham Glasgow, making his first start. Playing left guard, no Lions lineman drew Donald more often, matching up against the All-Pro 16 times, including 11 snaps in pass protection. Surprisingly, Glasgow rarely was given the assistance of a double-team, getting help from a teammate three of those snaps.
Glasgow was terrific throughout the first half. He didn't give up any pressure, until losing his block on Donald during Detroit's final offensive play. Stafford managed to escape that pressure, bailing from the pocket and finding Andre Roberts for a short touchdown on fourth down.
Is this an opportunity to say I foresaw all of this as early as Glasgow's first few games? Maybe. Probably. Yes.
The revamp is for real. John Beilein already had one major revamp of his program that ended in a Final Four run. Revamp #2 is on now, and it's seriously serious:
On @Hugeshow, Beilein says Billy Donlon ran today's practice, while he evaluated and studied it. First time he's done that.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) October 19, 2016
This is going to be a fascinating year.
Etc.: This midseason All Big Ten team is incorrect because the defense is not Michigan's starting 11, but it does have Ryan Glasgow on it so I give it ten points. Big Ten Geeks previews basketball. What went wrong with Notre Dame. People are so mad about this arm-grab thing from Richard Sherman that just looks like good crafty D to me. Early Big Ten hockey impressions. Brady Hoke could recruit some.
The linebackers on Saturday said they were getting sucked up sometimes in play action. On some of those slants, is that one of those cases where they were just a little too aggressive?
“Yeah, I mean, I think so. The bottom line is we want to stop the run first and foremost. That’s just kind of a learning thing, a seeing thing. I think we’re going to get better at that. But yeah, they did, they got sucked up a little bit in trying to stop the run. We’ve got to work on it and get a better feel.”
Talk about the impact of special teams and how it helped turn that thing around Saturday.
“Yeah, special teams is a huge facet of every game and we want to always make an impact. Our team, we talk about attacking and putting the opponent on their heels in all special teams categories. I think we were able to have an impact. It’s funny, because to everyone else it’s like ‘Oh, what tremendous game’ and then to me it’s like we left so much out there. We can get a lot better and make more impact plays on teams, and we’re working at that and working to build off of the game to do some more stuff. Yeah, we felt good and felt that we were able to contribute. That’s all we want to do is get out there and if the team needs a big-time special teams play, we want to be able to make it and switch the momentum.”
With the punt game and the amount of kicks you guys are effecting, are you doing something different schematically or is that just having the right guys in the right places?
“You know, it’s a lot of different things right. What I’m going to say is that the kids have bought in, they’re going hard, they’re understanding it, they love it, they take pride in it, and we’re doing whatever we see to try to effect it. We got a weapon back there, so it’s kind of fun calling that game because you kind of can do some different things and try to figure out what they’re trying to do. And then these guys have really bought into it. It’s cool.”
Jabrill being in the back gives you more options with the other ten guys on the field?
“Oh, absolutely, yeah. I mean, it’s a matter of are they coming with a block, are they coming with a hold up, are they coming with a block and a hold up, are they setting a wall—it’s just different things in different areas of the field what we’re able to do. He makes us more dynamic, I think, as any returner does.”
[After THE JUMP: why teams might still kick to Jabrill, more on the linebackers, fixing field goal issues, and how many plays Jabrill would play if he had his way]
You were with Coach Baxter last year and now special teams is kind of your baby. Talk about what you’ve taken from Baxter and what you’ve brought in yourself to make it what you want it to be.
“They’re kind of Coach Partridge’s and I’s baby together, I guess. There were some things with Coach Baxter that were great and that we’ve carried over and other things that kind of we took from other places and things we’ve done in the past. As with anything, it’s always kind of a hodge-podge of different parts of your experience and you kind of piece together whatever you think is best for your specific team and players, so it’s a little bit of everyone.”
How deep is this group and how many guys will play?
“At what position? Tight end?”
Tight end, yeah.
“It’s really deep. I think there’s like 12 people or something. I couldn’t tell you how many are going to play. I think I would like for five or six [or] seven guys to play, but you never know exactly how a game’s going to go. There’s certainly a group of five or six guys that are all capable of contributing, and as you kind of go down the totem pole a little bit some of the younger guys have specific roles in packages that are a little smaller.
“You talk about getting guys in position to do things that they’re good at, so if they’re a younger guy it might be a speicfic four- or five-play set whereas Jake Butt has the whole playbook he excels at. We’ll just kind of see how the game goes, but I would say I’d like if we ended with five or six guys playing.”
Sean McKeon: you had him in the spring and all the way through fall camp. How have you seen him progress as a true freshman in that time?
“A huge amount. I mean, he’s a tremendously hard worker. It’s just the knack for—you tell him to do something or say, ‘Hey, I want you to work on this’ and he just does it and doesn’t overthink it. He just puts in the work. Very blue-collar in his approach. He’s improved a ton in really every way. Specifically as a route-runner [and] his ball skills.”
Jim talked about how happy he is with Kenny Allen. He did a good job for you last year. Where have you seen some improvement in all of those phases?
“He’s another guy—I mean, pretty much everything he’s improved on. We asked a lot of him to really shoulder the burden in all three phases, which not many guys do in the country. I think Hawaii’s guy was one of five guys in the country to do it last year, the Sanchez kid, who’s a very talented kid. Kenny’s excelled. He’s improved in every way. It’s exciting for him as a senior to be playing so well in every category.”
Would you be comfortable with him doing all three?
“We’d be more than comfortable with it because he’s physically more than capable of doing all three and he has the talent. I think ideally you’d like to take a little bit off of his plate, but it’s a long season and as other guys develop into certain roles I think that could happed. We’d be more than comfortable with him doing it if need be.”
There are so many athletic guys in this recruiting class that did all these good things in terms of returns and things in high school. Are you more apt to try and work them in there to not put a burden on Jabrill or Jourdan or Jehu?
“Yeah, there are a few guys that will have an opportunity.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
Everyone should go back to these logos. Wisconsin never changed theirs, but the lack of Jaunty Iowa Newsie in my life has been acute:
1978 Big 10 Conference football slide schedule pic.twitter.com/gzoNcRQY2v
— Sports Paper (@PressRoomGFS) February 22, 2016
[HT: Hoover Street Rag]
It's not like the results are good when he does open his mouth. Useless person Jim Delany:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told CBS Sports this week he has “no reaction at this point” regarding Michigan's spring break trip to Florida.
While this is disappointing, keep in mind that whenever Jim Delany talks he sabotages his own side. When called to testify in the Ed O'Bannon trial he accidentally firebombed the NCAA's case. Delany didn't bother to fight for home games in the Cofopoff. He said he "didn't have a lot of regard" for Alabama right before they curbstomped Michigan. The current SEC dominance was preceded by Delany writing a snotty open letter. Having him on your side is like having Mark May pick you to win. It ain't good.
But this is such a slam dunk that even Delany might be able to make a couple good points. Someone ask Greg Sankey what his opinion of this trip is:
The Vanderbilt baseball team will travel to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to start a six-day fall break team trip.
The Commodores will tour the capital and practice three days at the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Md.
“That’s a huge plus for our kids just to be on the Naval Academy’s campus,” coach Tim Corbin said. “… It’s an opportunity to educate your kids in another way besides baseball. I’ve always wanted to take them to the capital.
Nobody cared about this then, and the only reason Sankey cares about it now is because of recruiting. That is transparent.
Team stuff. Harbaugh signed a bunch of autographs a couple days back and took some media questions while doing so; in addition to the Sankey stuff he revealed a couple of position switches, at least temporary ones:
Khalid Hill is going to work at fullback. Zach Gentry will stay at TE
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 19, 2016
I imagine that Hill's tenure as a fullback will be similar to Poggi's: he's much more likely to go out for pass than carry the ball, but he's good at that bit and a squat 270, so I can see that working. It's still pretty much the same fit for him as a blocky/catchy guy.
The Gentry move is a lot more interesting. It says either one or both of these things:
- the quarterback battle is all but decided, likely in John O'Korn's favor, or
- Gentry's brief moonlighting at TE during bowl practices was too impressive to ignore.
I lean strongly to the former since O'Korn's had the opportunity to play QB in front of Harbaugh for a year; Gentry may have impressed at TE but not enough to remove a touted competitor from the single most critical open position on the team… unless that position is not particularly open.
That's good since it's a tangible piece of evidence supporting the extremely positive practice chatter in re: O'Korn.
Meanwhile, Allen Trieu reports that Rashan Gary will start as a strongside end (or "anchor" in Brown's system) with Taco Charlton moving to WDE. Both of those are moves that we've projected for a bit. That does create a bit of a problem. Matt Godin was pretty good as Chris Wormley's backup early in the year—he actually played about as much as Wormley did—and not very good as a defensive tackle when injury pressed him into duty there. Michigan needs a fourth DT to rotate in with Glasgow, Mone, and Hurst. With Gary at SDE, either Wormley or Godin is likely to get sucked inside.
Finally, Harbaugh said that Mason Cole was going to play a bunch of center in spring.
PRATT. JUST PRATT. The highlight from Harbaugh's presser:
Pratt, my man Pratt’s got to get past a few more things. He’s one of the students. We had about 14 guys who were students who tried out about a month ago and did really good. They’ve been keeping up well, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing them on the field. Guys that were just going to the University of Michigan.
“A lot of them are freshmen. Pratt’s one that’s a junior, but if he walked in here right now, you’d say ‘okay, he belongs.’”
On if there are any fullbacks in the group:
“Yeah, there are. There are two or three fullbacks in the group and some linebackers and a kicker, a snapper. Pratt’s an offensive lineman.”
On what his first name is:
“He’s Pratt right now. He’s just Pratt.”
This will probably be the last we heard of Pratt just Pratt but it was memorable.
A DB coach candidate. Aubrey Pleasant is one possibility; Michigan is also interviewing Chip Viney, a QC coach for Oklahoma. Viney is a former UCLA corner who took a grad transfer to NMSU in 2011; afterwards he was scooped up by Oklahoma as a grad assistant before transitioning to the QC job last year. He is a Harbaugh kind of guy:
Viney also surprised the players by frequently wearing his cleats to workouts and challenging both other defensive backs and receivers to one-on-one battles. He went head-to-head against guys like Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders.
“A lot of those guys think since he sits in an office he doesn’t have it, but he still does have it,” Sanchez said. “Guys would talk, but if he put those cleats on, he will get you."
Viney is widely credited with Oklahoma's success recruiting the Fresno area and California more generally:
Chip is awesome,” first-year defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks said. “From a personality standpoint, he’s as good a recruiter from the G.A. spot I’ve ever been around. It’s easy for him to be relatable to these players. He’s phenomenal with that.
“He’s played the position and played it at a high level. He knows the details. I have complete confidence with Chip. It has been a blessing to have him.”
Viney, who played at UCLA, has become the name synonymous with OU’s recruiting success in the state of California.
Viney's a former corner; Zordich is a former safety. He's young, upwardly mobile, and an excellent recruiter in a part of the country that is a major focus for Michigan's national recruiting. Everything looks like a fit. The Oklahoman just published a glowing profile of him a week ago; would not be surprised if he was the guy. Harbaugh specializes in finding guys like him.
While we're on coaches. I don't think I mentioned that one of the open analyst spots is going to be filled by Jimmie Dougherty, who a lot of people though was going to be Michigan's WR coach before Jedd Fisch fell into Harbaugh's lap. Meanwhile, Matt Doherty returned to Miami.
OSU postgame, 1995. Via Dr. Sap:
Also here's 1981 MSU via Wolverine Historian:
Now that we definitely have a draftee can we have Willie Henry back? Kiper is projecting Graham Glasgow in the second or third round, and Harbaugh's unvarnished opinion is a major aid:
"Jim's highly regarded and highly respected, he's done a phenomenal job wherever he's been," Kiper said. "Jim's a phenomenal coach, whether it be in the NFL (or in) college football. He'll have Michigan right there with Ohio State and the best teams in the country, had a real good recruiting class ... his opinion is huge."
Henry is getting lost in the shuffle of a deep DL class, he says, but the combine could be impressive for Henry if that playing strength translates to bench press reps. Kiper also says Rudock will get drafted. If that happens it'll be a testament to Harbaugh's development skills.
Why you want the money to be on the table instead of under it, Part N. Somehow the Big Ten continues to lead the universe in TV ratings:
Amateurism is a handicap for the Big Ten.
Interesting job. Michigan posted an interesting "analytics coordinator" job with a bunch of responsibilities:
1. Perform data analysis for identification of play calling tendencies and strengths and weaknesses of our team and our opponents
2. Creation of and provision over research in regards to specific teams, conferences, styles, and College Football as a whole, that lead to insightful measures and reports
3. Weekly video scouting of top opponent players through an in-house created Player Evaluation System
4. Creation of Michigan post-game summary statistics and advanced measures of success
5. Weekly management of coach-produced player grades and helmet stickers
There are many other things, all of which seem like good things for Michigan to be keeping track of.
This is a good omen. When you have three really good scorers you tend to do well in the tourney:
Over the last 17 years, a handful of college hockey teams have had similar production from a standout trio. Of the eight teams that finished with three top-10 scorers during that stretch, three won national titles and another three finished runner-up.
Miami was the most recent in 2011; they got dumped in the first round. Red called Racine "the difference" in the Ferris State game… I can't agree with that, but he has been critical over the past month.
Half of this is Baxter, the other half Ferrigno. Michigan's increased emphasis on special teams paid off a year ago even if there were some hiccups:
— SportSourceAnalytics (@SportSourceA) February 22, 2016
Will be interesting to see how Michigan maintains there without Baxter. I don't think they'll give back all the gains. Harbaugh doesn't carry around guys who don't pull their weight like Hoke did.
Etc.: Illegal man downfield rule to be enforced vigorously. I'll believe it when I see it. Michigan moves up to 14th in Baseball America's poll after a 4-0 start. Omaha.com names them a CWS dark horse(!). Will Carr goes from GA to analyst at Texas. Rashan Gary's decision process; contains lots of fun quotes.
Sponsor note. I tailgate, but I do not set up tailgates. They are a large undertaking. If you are daunted by such an undertaking, Tailgater Concierge can take care of all that for you. They'll reserve you a space, set up chairs and tables and silverware, and grab whatever food you desire.
Then they clean it all up afterward so you can be inside the stadium before Grapentine asks the band to take the field. They have spots at Pioneer right across from the stadium for maximal efficiency and real bathrooms. If you've got a corporate event they can take a load off your mind, as well.
They're coming. They're wearing gorilla suits and transformer heads.
You can also check out this guy's Oreos review.
YOU DON'T SAY. The infinite anger machine can take slight at anything, including "people looking at football":
Connor Cook on being underdogs to Michigan: "It doesn't take much to put a chip on our shoulders."
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 13, 2015
We'll see how much that chip helps against Jim Harbaugh.
Breaking down the beast. PFF takes a look at Michigan's "terrifying" defense:
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this defensive run isn’t the results, but the grading at the heart of it. Of 26 players that Michigan has used on defense this year just two of them have a below-average grade, and none is worse than a -1.8, which is still closer to average than disastrous.
16 of those 26 have strong positive grades and of the players that are left, five of them have played fewer than 20 snaps. In fact, the Wolverines have just one player on defense that has played 100 or more snaps and doesn’t have a significantly positive grade.
They include a number of illustrative graphics as well:
They are happy to leave defenders in man coverage and attack with overload blitzes up front, and that too happens with speed, but watching any time Northwestern tried to gain the edge against this team was an incredible display of hustle by the Wolverines.
Take the play above, which was not in any way held up or delayed. A simple option trying to stretch the defense and the running back ends up facing five separate defenders all converging on him behind the line of scrimmage. That should not happen, and does not happen with most defenses. There wasn’t even a catastrophic breakdown in blocking assignments to create it. The Wolverines just read, diagnose and attack the football like a pack of hungry dogs chasing after a wayward ribeye steak.
There is much more; strongly recommend you read the whole thing.
A slight difference. Brian Fremeau's stats site has game-by-game breakdowns in which he assigns point values to all three phases of the game. For example, against Utah the offense was –6.2, the defense –1.8 and the ST +1.0. These aren't schedule adjusted, they're just trying to explain where the final margin came from.
I particularly like Fremeau's special teams numbers in this department because he takes field position into account for field goals and punts and the like—his stats are going to understand that a 32-yard punt that ends at the 3 is a good thing. Also, SOS isn't a huge factor on special teams.
Shall we review this year versus last year?
Much of Michigan's positive value last year came on a blocked punt that Gedeon returned for a TD against Appalachian State. I'm not actually sure what Michigan did to get solidly above zero midway through the season other than blocking a Northwestern field goal. Best guess is that the punting was good and they didn't give up big returns for that section of the season.
Anyway: things are different now.
Goodbye to The Head Ball Coach. Steve Spurrier was and is a living avatar of college football and why it's so awesome. He ran up the score, he bombed people in press conferences after, he talked like a human. He simultaneously had all and no chill. He was college football's Roger Sterling. In the aftermath of his departure people collect his best lines…
7. On a fire at the Auburn library that destroyed 20 books: “The real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.”
…and even those who hated him admit that he was pretty awesome. Spencer on Spurrier is required reading:
Another coach Spurrier liked to tweak later in his career was Nick Saban, someone Spurrier would point out had taken the Alabama and LSU jobs.
"If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they've always won there at Alabama."
You could take favorable jobs as a bad coach and look okay, or take great jobs as a good coach and look orders of magnitude better than you might actually be.
Spurrier, in contrast, took the Duke, Florida and South Carolina jobs, jobs that were garbage scows before he arrived. He won at all three, in biblical fashion — the Old Testament Bible, where locusts ate your crops, lightning blew up your houses, and your village was flattened by a tidal wave before your rescue boat was swallowed by a whale. He drew the ire of illiterate nanny-take pissmerchants like New York columnist Mike Lupica, who accused Spurrier of running up the score, whatever that means.
Hard to imagine the HBC existing in any other sport. I plan on sleeping well past Gameday but if you want to do me and college football a favor, it would be pretty awesome to see a Hatin' Ass Spurrier sign.
What are you even doing? BC Interruption breaks down the ludicrous ending of their 3-0 loss against Wake Forest. After recovering a fumble on the Wake Forest 11 with 56 seconds left. BC ends up with first and goal, 29 seconds left on the Wake Forest 1:
0:29 left, 1st and goal from the Wake Forest 2. 108 seconds after the possession began.
Because the play wasn't communicated to the team, BC huddles and as Chris Berman would say "tick..tick.tick". The Eagles break the huddle and with everyone in the building screaming at them to hurry up snap the ball some 11 seconds after the ball was marked ready for play at the 18 second mark. The game was essentially down to one play.
Result: Rouse runs the ball into the A gap on the right side. The play is blown up and Rouse does not even quite make it back to the original line of scrimmage. The whistle is blown with 12 seconds remaining on the clock.
From 29 seconds with a stopped clock for a first down, BC gets one play off. That reminds me of you know who. At worst BC should have been able to spike the clock and then take two shots on pass plays before a do-or-die fourth down (or, knowing Addazio, a chip shot field goal).
Just brutal. Everyone needs a Madden 14 Year Old Assistant.
On joking about problems that turn out to be serious. I am frequently bothered by the rush to condemn people on twitter with egg avatars who have terrible opinions. (Exception: "Denard Robinson is not a QB" eggs during his tenure at Michigan. You people can go straight to hell.)
When something like CC Sabathia entering rehab transpires there is inevitably a flood of righteous tweets that seem directed at Mike Lupica columns from 1980 that do not in fact exist. These are designed to acquire twitter status, which is the worst status to have. I do not give twitter points to people for not having awful opinions, or pointing out that other people should not have awful opinions. You get none of my points. You are wasting everyone's time.
This just came up in college football when Steve Sarkisian's alcohol issues went from an odd but isolated incident to a scary pattern, and I think Ryan Nanni hit exactly the right tone in response:
I think we make these jokes because we see these as isolated ncidents of failure, like laughing at a friend who busts his ass on an icy sidewalk or has a soda explode when he opens it. Steve Sarkisian getting drunk at a booster dinner is funny, in isolation, because it's wildly unexpected. Placed in the larger context of what appears to be fairly serious alcohol problem? Now I just feel like an asshole for that throwaway tweet, laughing and pointing at someone who's grappling with a disease that sent over a million American adults (and another 73,000 adolescents) to treatment in 2013.
This isn't me putting on my Joke Police badge; one of the fundamental aspects of EDSBS is that we write what we think is funny, even if other people don't, and that's fine. Declarations that something is or is not humorous are as tiring as they are useless. It's like claiming shrimp is poison because you have a shellfish allergy. You can still think Steve Sarkisian coaching the Arizona State game under the influence is really funny, and I'll disagree with you.
Back when the Brendan Gibbons thing was going down there were a number of commenters who yelled at me because I didn't make the prescribed statements about how rape is awful. I don't do that because it's obvious and I don't need to polish my wand in public. If you demand someone else do it it's probably because you're not as great of a dude as you want to make everyone think you are.
Injuries. Injuries will be a major story for the game. Michigan has a banged-up running back corps, with De'Veon Smith missing the Maryland game and both Smith and Johnson limited against the Wildcats. Joe Kerridge missed the two games before Northwestern but seems fine now. Channing Stribling has missed the last two games but should be ready to go against the Spartans:
"It was longer than a one week (injury)," coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. "He was very, very close this past weekend. He could've played, but we thought it was more prudent to not play him.
"I do (expect he'll play Saturday)."
Michigan is also down Bryan Mone and Mario Ojemudia for the year. They will also be without James Ross for the first half—and in MSU Michigan finally plays a team they want to run a bunch of 4-3 against.
MSU has a slightly longer list of the wounded, most importantly on the offensive line. Backup LT Dennis Finley is done for the year. Jack Conklin hasn't played in two weeks; he was available in an "emergency" against Rutgers but it's kind of hard to imagine what that emergency could have been that didn't see him on the field late. That's because Kody Kieler tried to give it a go but had to leave, and very late center Jack Allen took a nasty hit from the side that knocked him out of the game.
Anywhere from zero to three of those guys will be available; I'm guessing that both tackles suit up and at least try to play. Allen is a much murkier proposition. Some dubious twitter rumors held that he was done for the year but in that case you'd probably have confirmation from the program, and from students on campus who spot the guy in a cast or something. I wouldn't lend those much credence.
Changing some minds. Inside NU's podcast covers the Michigan game this week, and they kick it off by talking about how the atmosphere inside the stadium greatly exceeded its reputation:
There's a lot of interest to M fans until about the 25 minute mark, when they turn the page to Iowa.
They also have an article up from a former Northwestern linebacker detailing the various things that went wrong. I'll address it in more detail in UFR; you can read it now.
Surprise. The only difference between Laremy Tunsil and the other guys Ole Miss has pirated away from bigger programs is that Tunsil had a stepfather sell him out. He has been reinstated after it was revealed had acquired a raft of illicit benefits:
Ole Miss is lucky to get Laremy Tunsil back at all.
That was my first thought reading the full list of charges brought by the NCAA against Tunsil, and after letting it digest for a little while it still holds. The list of impermissible benefits Tunsil has received in Oxford is lengthy and more than just the one loaner car which had been previously reported. It was about three of them, over a six-month period without payment. A four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate and one day use of a rental vehicle were also among the impermissible benefits Tunsil has received in Oxford. Tunsil was also apparently less than truthful with the NCAA when first asked about all these things, and the NCAA is a lot like a mother in this regard: lying only makes it worse.
That is just the tip of the iceberg, no doubt. In addition to being the right thing to do, paying people legitimately will help reduce the impact of side benefits like Tunsil's. I think the NCAA needs to give up the ghost here and focus exclusively on making guys get actual educations, but I remain annoyed at programs that are flagrantly breaking every rule they can think of before that happens.
Etc.: Carr to the M Athletics HOF.Weather for MSU tentatively expected to be chilly but dry. Dude who exposed the Volkswagen fraud was a Michigan alum. Mama said knock you out: Michigan is killin' em early. Weztel on the game. Warning: autoplaying audio.
Hinton on the aftermath at USC. Excellent data-laden Kirk Goldsberry article on how unassisted two point jumpers are the devil. Mr. Harbaughchav, build up this wall. Inside the basketball offense. Holdin' The Rope.
|Kicker||Yr||Punter||Yr||Kickoffs||Yr||Punt return||Yr||Kick return||Yr|
|Kenny Allen||Jr*||Blake O'Neill||Sr*||Kenny Allen||Jr*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr*||Jabrill Peppers||Fr*|
|Kyle Seychel||Fr*||Kenny Allen||Jr*||Andrew David||Fr||Jehu Chesson||Jr*||Jehu Chesson||Jr*|
No coaching upgrade on the team is steeper than special teams. Under Brady Hoke and Dan Ferrigno, Michigan featured adequate kicking and terrible everything else. Their usual MO was one blocked punt against an early tomato can, archaic punt coverage that was terrible even with 11 guys on the field, and return units that did little except take penalties when Dennis Norfleet finally managed to escape from ravenous packs of defenders.
John Baxter's Fresno State teams led the country in blocked kicks over the course of his tenure there—one that overlaps with Virginia Tech at its Beamerball peak—and in his only year at USC took their special teams units from nowhere to 2nd and 4th in the country in blocked punts and kicks, respectively. Special teams is a low data, high variance enterprise but if anyone's got the track record to suggest he's going to make an impact, it's Baxter.
Now about that scholarship kicker…
The holder becomes the holdee [Fuller]
This is looking hairy all of a sudden. Scholarship freshman ANDREW DAVID was immediately dumped well down the depth chart, and Michigan must turn to the walk-ons that populate any D-I team's kicking roster. One, KENNY ALLEN [hello post], was the heir apparent at punter until John Baxter rolled into town with an Aussie in tow; the other, KYLE SEYCHEL, is a redshirt freshman who fans didn't even know was on the team until fall camp.
Reports out of said camp have been worried. Those coming out of the open practice were mixed, but guys who had been around for more than a few attempts were disquieted. There are reports Michigan is reconsidering their decision to forgo a scholarship guy in the 2016 class. That is not a good sign. Neither is that OR on the depth chart.
"I dunno, is kicker" is always a valid thing to say about kickers you have not seen much of; in this case I'm just hoping for a guy to bang them in from 40 yards and in.
wait isn't this guy in twilight or something [Eric Upchurch]
The OR is much more welcoming at this spot. Things are looking just fine at punter despite the departures of both Matt Wile and Will Hagerup. Allen has been booming punts in practice for a few years now, and during the Hoke era we saw a lot of punts in practice.
And then there's that imported Aussie. BLAKE O'NEILL [g'day mate post] comes from a land down under where small children carry around football-shaped objects to punt at anything they run across that is poisonous. Everything in Australia is poisonous. (Yes, especially the koalas.) When the survivors reach adulthood, the resulting skills are impressive:
Asked if the 6-foot-2, 215-pound kicker is the type of special teams player who can change a game, Baxter nods, saying, "He's that."
"Listen," he continued, "if you put a trashcan out there 40 yards, he can usually hit it, OK? He's as accurate, and in some cases more accurate than, the quarterbacks."
O'Neill's first year in college football was last year, when he did this at Weber State:
O'Neill finished sixth nationally (Football Championship Subdivision) in punting during the 2014 season at Weber State. He played in all 12 games and averaged 44.1 yards per punt, setting a single-season punting average record for the Wildcats.
O'Neill tallied 62 punts for 2,737 yards with a long of 74 yards. He boomed 18 punts of 50-plus yards and notched 25 boots inside the opposition's 20-yard line. O'Neill ran for a first down on a fake punt and tossed a completion for a first down on another fake.
Are you ready for some punting highlights? Woo!
AUSSIE PUNTS: SKY TERRITORY sounds like a Chuck Norris movie
Not sure if he's going to be able to do the thing where he idles for a couple seconds before he punts at at D-I level, but Michigan now has a special teams coach with a terrific track record. If he can make it so, it will be so.
O'Neill can rugby punt with either foot and his directional kicking skills in the video above are creepy, Orin Incandenza-level stuff. Real life Blake O'Neill probably isn't going to be good as a fictional punter who is the highest paid player in the NFL. Probably.
[After THE JUMP: gratuitously placed Jabrill Peppers highlights designed to make you click through mooohahaha]