"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
The last walkoff goal line stand. Via Wolverine Historian, Illinois 1982:
Health bits. Rudock should play Saturday. Smith's having issues, he will continue to have issues, he has an injury you can play through but always hurts and won't stop hurting until the offseason.
Excellent, responsive, transparent. The athletic department surveyed 4,500 season ticket holders and is releasing that information over the next couple weeks. I love that. It shows the department is listening to fans and allowing us to talk about the data they gathered in public. That is something I've wanted them to do for a long time. So:
Question 4: Did you enjoy the balance of piped-in music and band during the game (not including pregame or halftime)?
• It was a perfect balance (43%)
• Would prefer a lot more band, a lot less piped-in music (20%)
• Would prefer a little more band, a little less piped-in music (28%)
• Would prefer a little more piped-in music, a little less band (6%)
• Would prefer a lot more piped-in music, a lot less band (1%)
• Didn't care (3%)
That's about a 50/50 split between people who think the music is fine and those who want it toned down. (I am obviously in the 20% group.)
I'm disappointed with this answer:
Question 3: How would you rate the overall video board presentation (highlight videos, replays, prompts, information, etc.)?
• Excellent (49%)
• Good (44%)
• Fair (6%)
• Poor (1%)
Alas! Have I not yelled about pore-o-vision sufficiently to move the mass of public opinion?
I'll say this much for Dave Brandon. He didn't land Michigan in a congressional report about how many of the military patriotism events at sport events are bought and paid for. The NFL, of course, is the biggest offender here, but Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue are the college programs that managed to show up. In those teams' case they seem to be selling a bunch of game tickets to their local National Guard units, which 1) is not a good use of taxpayer dollars and 2) in the case of Indiana-Purdue football is just not nice to our military reservists.
But mostly it's just NFL teams taking millions of dollars to pretend like they care about anything other than millions of dollars. Which is the best! It is infinite NFL.
Speaking of things we aren't getting paid for. Flyover this weekend:
— Michigan Athletics (@UMichAthletics) November 5, 2015
The answer is "most deserving." Chris Brown asks what the goal of playoff rankings should be:
What criteria should we use to determine who gets the title?
One answer is that the champion should be the season’s “best team,” possibly defined as the best overall team or the team we think would be favored to beat every other team on a neutral field. Another answer is the “most deserving team,” loosely defined as the team that produced the best overall season. These two things are not always the same. It’s perfectly possible for the best team — i.e., the most formidable — to lose a close game or even two on a bad kick or a fluke play, while another team runs the table by winning close games.
Alabama lost a game to Ole Miss in which they had an avalanche of fluky turnovers and this happen to them:
That doesn't really impact my opinion about how good Alabama is. I think they're better than Ole Miss, probably a lot better. But that is just, like, my opinion, man. Once you start talking about "best" because team X has fancy S&P stats or a bunch of NFL first rounders you lose the reason we even play the damn fluky thing that is football. You play to win the game. Bama didn't win.
Now, in a sport like college football you can't just add up wins and losses and call it a day. Schedules are imbalanced and short. Style points have to come into play because a lot of teams will have similar records. A 58-0 blowout of a team should matter more than a 21-20 win. But once you start looking at the why you start eroding the fundamental reason I should care about, say, a one in a million punt drop disaster.
Moving the game to a Vegas-style "eh, don't care about results" model is not good for the sport and is fundamentally a guess that football keeps proving us wrong about, and thus we should dump why and how from playoff rankings in favor of a deeply researched take on what.
I demand a Drake Johnson television show. He killed it at his press availability oh and also
@DRAKEington So does this mean you can Fus Roh Dah opposing linebackers?
— Helios Eusebio (@MGoPhoenix) November 3, 2015
Skyrim bartering is bad but I'll allow it.
On that one site with all the liars. Hey. So Chatsports just lies about things, all the time, in search of traffic. Don't pay attention to them. This was Georgia QB commit Jacob Eason's dad in the aftermath of another Chatsports fiction piece:
The “story” that came out yesterday about him contacting multiple schools really struck a nerve.
Tony Eason called me on Wednesday morning and he was not happy about it.
“Who the h$#** is Marc F&%*% and where did he get that Bull Sh$%$# story at?”
Marc Furballson is the updated nom de plume of Ace Williams. If you post a chatsports link to the message board we will delete all your points. AND THEN WHAT WILL YOU DO
They won't listen. Mike Freeman on Harbaugh availability:
I asked one general manager about Jim Harbaugh returning to the NFL. His response: "He's going to have at least six teams come after him. He'd be able to have any open job he wants." The GM didn't name the teams, but it's not hard to figure out who some of them will be.
Then, the general manager said some NFL teams have already reached out to Harbaugh's camp to see if he'd be available once the season ends. Those teams, the GM explained, weren't told just "no." They were basically told "no freaking way."
Harbaugh isn't going anywhere.
Not that you needed to be told that.
I get it. Bruce Feldman on the Minnesota job:
Hearing more & more this week that there is a lot of key support for interim HC Tracy Claeys is keep the #Minnesota job full-time.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 5, 2015
For one, they don't even have an AD right now. Getting a new coach without a permanent AD is going to be very hard unless you have a Harbaugh; Minnesota doesn't. For two, cheap. For three, this is not a job market Minnesota particularly wants to be in, and you can make a long-term decision on Claeys after a year or two since there should be staff continuity.
Heavier now. MVictors went back and found the average weight of Michigan's starters since the beginning. After a plateau to start weights have crept upwards at a near-constant rate for around 100 years:
Things have leveled off a little bit since the 1990s.
Etc.: Rainman previewed. Dylan Larkin is good at hockey /weeps about last season. Exit Frank Beamer, real good dude. Bill Daley remembered. Rutgers blog is doing a 68-coach bracket to determine who their next dude should be and John Baxter makes a play-in game. Spike profiled. Blake O'Neill and a small child. More of a medium child, actually.
Nebraska's athletic director is… working on extension? That's one way to approach things. Things are going down at Georgia. Chaos there helps Michigan with Isaac Nauta and Mecole Hardman. OSU/M tickets next year will be expensive, still under demand.
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.
10/10/2015 – Michigan 38, Northwestern 0 – 5-1, 2-0 Big Ten
It was one fan, maybe two or three, in the south endzone. He or she or they wrote themselves into a corner of Michigan lore with one of the simplest chants in sports. It's the one that gets deconstructed into the letter D and the outline of a fence at NFL stadiums across the country. It is about as unique and special as "Seven Nation Army" at this point, but life is all about timing.
I have been to every Michigan home game in the last 18 years and I have never heard that. It is alien, the kind of thing I recoil from because it represents the melting of our special Michigan snowflake.
And holy shit, man. The little pin-pricks all across your scalp; the tremor in the hands; the flush of sweat; the welling of tears manfully suppressed. I could not participate myself. I was too gob-smacked to do much of anything at that moment. Michigan was up 38-0 with time about to expire. It was 4th and 17. If you had asked me to draw a card from the deck at that moment I couldn't have managed it.
Since the podcast started I've looked at a lot of lyrics from songs I love, and on the page they're flat nothings. This was the inverse of that. Two syllables; one word; and yet, poetry.
This is it, already. The building process turned out to be a single offseason of four-hour practices and competition over everything from starting positions to the most elegant mashed potato sculpture at dinner. Brady Hoke may not have been able to point his team in the right direction given two tries, but he could recruit, and the fruits of his labors have been honed molecule-thin by a man who can get hat-displacingly angry up a billion points in the second half.
Michigan fans were dying for this. Barely anyone left until deep into the fourth quarter, and there were still enough people ready to run through a wall with 29 seconds left, enough people to rattle the press box and send electricity up your spine.
The recent Harbaugh-to-NFL flare ups caused Michigan twitter to once again latch on to the pant leg of anybody who dared assert that Harbaugh would ever leave the confines of Ann Arbor (save for road games, of course). In the aftermath, media members got rabies shots and quietly conferred about how Wolverines fans are low key the most annoying on the internet.
They are not wrong. We take after our mascot: outwardly innocuous, secretly vicious bastards with a pipe-crushing grip. Anyone threatening the precious will be verbally berated until they give up in exhaustion. After the last eight years in the wilderness even the thought of a diversion enrages.
I emceed the Alumni Association's tailgate on Saturday, and I heard an awful lot about how things have changed in just a year. Indeed they have. I went back to the game column after game six of 2014, in which I meditate on the mournfulness of the Kids In The Hall's theme song and embed their "Each Day We Work" sketch. This was the entirety of the bit about football:
Football happened, in the usual way.
That described a loss to Rutgers.
In that column I talked about how the most appealing bit of Kids In The Hall was always that theme song, titled "Having An Average Weekend"; I went back and listened to it, and now I think that song is genius. It filled me with a sense of contentment and optimism. That's an average weekend, just a year after things were so bad they spawned the first and only Wolverine Revolutionary Popular Front.
An average weekend ends with a stadium full of people exhorting Michigan to finish burying their opponent, with two syllables ringing through the nation's biggest stadium, once again full to the brim. With belief.
How I woke up this morning pic.twitter.com/RuyiRdECUL
— PeppyPep (@JabrillPeppers) October 11, 2015
Let those who would stand in Michigan's way come.
[Note: Alejandro Zuniga clipped the chant first but the sound quality wasn't what I wanted so I reproduced it.]
this will end badly for you son [Fuller]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jourdan Lewis had a spectacular YOINK pick-six in addition to generally being Jourdan Lewis. Gypsy seems real good with him currently.
#2 Jabrill Peppers annihilated the option several times, had 3 PBUs when tested in coverage (though one of them should have been an INT), laid the final block on Jehu Chesson's kickoff return, got the key block on Lewis's INT return, and fair caught all manner of short punts, saving Michigan dozens of yards of field position.
#3 Jake Rudock was efficient and capable; called into action on the ground he left a Northwestern LB in the dust on a play reminiscent of Tate Forcier's "I Saw Cover Zero" touchdown.
Honorable mention: All DL were excellent but Henry and Glasgow in particular stood out. Jehu Chesson's KO TD was more scheme than magic but dang he is fast and added a few nice plays on O. De'Veon Smith only had eight carries but had the entire Northwestern secondary on his back for one of them. AJ Williams led the team in catches and blocked well.
6: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern)
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
4: Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern)
3: Jake Butt (#1 Utah), De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland),
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU), Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland).
1: Willie Henry (#3 Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Jake Rudock(#3 Northwestern)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jehu Chesson wins the game in the first 15 seconds.
Honorable mention: Ridiculous Lewis pick-six.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
USA-Mexico. Seriously, I got nothin' from the actual game.
Honorable mention: Blake O'Neill's second touchback. I guess one of those third and fifteen conversions?
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
[After THE JUMP: this week's ways in which Harbaugh out-schemed his opponent, Happy Iowa Rudock, John Baxter's first BANG, and more defense defense defense.]
9/13/2015 – Michigan 35, Oregon State 7 – 1-1
AND YOU WILL KNOW HIM BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD [Eric Upchurch]
When Michigan got the ball back up 28-7 in the fourth quarter, the game was already over. Oregon State hadn't budged on offense since their first drive. If they were going to push towards making it a game it would have come after they intercepted Jake Rudock; instead they went nowhere and punted. That punt was waving the white flag, something Michigan fans have gotten used to over the last couple years.
Michigan took that flag and rammed it down Oregon State's throat. At one juncture they hit a bit of a snag and had to employ Ol' Skillet Hands Ian Bunting to get past the obstruction; afterwards it was smooth sailing. The end result was a 14-play touchdown drive featuring 13 runs and no trace of the Beavers' flag of surrender unless you want to count a palpably uncomfortable crimp in the Beavers' gait.
I used to think that was boring.
Back in the long long ago when "This Is Michigan" meant "this is an unstoppable factory of offensive linemen and tailbacks who will go too high in the NFL draft," they'd get the ball back from a reasonable team and proceed to do to the fourth quarter what time-lapse photography does to glaciers. It was a pleasant sort of boring, to be sure, but it was also a signal that the football had concluded. All that was left was to hear the muffled squeaks.
Part of the reason it was boring was that it was unsatisfying. I came of age during the Moeller era, when Michigan dropped four games a year, and except for the occasional deviation when Michigan had a killer defense(1997, 2006) games that featured boa constrictor drives like Saturday's were false positives. The most bonkers stat about the Lloyd Carr era is the one where the team was more likely to win if it entered the fourth quarter with a small deficit than a small lead, but #2 is that during Lloyd Carr's tenure Michigan finished in the top 30 in yards per carry once. You'd think a run game featuring Mo Williams, Steve Hutchinson, Jeff Backus, and Anthony Thomas would be able to crack the top 30 by accident. Not so much.
Carr's teams were consistently good and had an amazing knack for getting off the mat, but there was a persistent frustration in the fanbase. It felt like Michigan was not getting the most out of its talent. When Rich Rodriguez came in, he had three functioning offensive linemen, a freshman and a walk-on at quarterback, and freshmen everywhere else. That his 2008 team's ground game would have been one of Carr's better ones was evidence enough that the frustration was warranted.
So I was encouraged by the general splattening of a bad team; I was more encouraged by the fullback traps that saw Sione Houma thunder through the line trailing a wildfire of hair. Harbaugh's run game is diverse and weird. By the end of that game Oregon State didn't just feel physically beaten but also confused as hell.
You can't just line up and do the one thing you're good at a lot and expect to succeed anymore. Harbaugh doesn't do that. It can look like he's doing that, but his run game is closer to Paul Johnson's than Lloyd Carr's. Johnson is constantly tweaking his blocking schemes. If you stick to one pattern to defuse his flexbone option he will eventually send one of his guys in a different direction and all of a sudden there's a dude ripping down the sideline. Harbaugh uses all those tight ends because they give him the ability to add gaps where defenses don't expect them—and this goes double in an era when teams are increasingly reducing their options on the interior.
Michigan is on a long path to being both good and confusing. If the coach has a nuclear meltdown on the sidelines—because he's right about something—as an amuse bouche, all the better. Of course, it does not do to get ahead of ourselves. They're not going to be able to do this against top-end defenses right away. We saw that against Utah.
Saturday wasn't the opening credits to this year's movie. But as a preview of coming attractions it felt pretty pretty good.
Yet To Be Named Harbaugh-Themed Guys Who Did Good Award.
you're the man now, dog
#1 Chris Wormley deployed beast mode on a sack that was a yard or two away from a safety, had two or three other TFLs depending on what mood you catch the official scorer in, and generally nosed in front of an otherwise killer defensive line.
#2 De'Veon Smith spent most of the game picking members of the Oregon State back seven out of his teeth.
#3 AJ Williams had a 20-yard catch and, more important, was one of the key guys blowing the perimeter of the Oregon State defense off the ball. Really. I am all about how AJ Williams played in this game, pending UFR review.
Honorable mention: Pick just about any defender. The offensive line in general.
5: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State)
3: Jake Butt (#1, Utah)
2: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State)
1: Willie Henry (#3, Utah), AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State)
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
For the single individual best moment.
Oregon State offers Michigan a free touchdown by sailing a punt snap yards over the punter's head just before halftime. That this was the culmination of a series of mishaps directed by the angry gods of probability only adds to the mirth.
Honorable mention: Michigan's 13-run, 1-pass game-sealing drive. Ol' Skillet Hands trucks a defensive back for an important first down. Rudock finds Smith for a fourth and five conversion. Any of a half-dozen runs on which you will know De'Veon Smith by the trail of dead.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Wait: let's talk about this. Epic Double Bird is pretty epic. But is Harbaugh Meltdown epic? Should we change this? Let me know. Anyway:
This week's worst thing ever.
Michigan, already down 7-0 early, busts a blitz pickup. Jake Rudock has nowhere to go with the ball and gets blown up on the sack. He fumbles, Oregon State recovers, and a certain Brady Hoke feeling descends on events.
Honorable mention: Ridiculous missed Darboh endzone PI, the roughing the punter penalty that caused Harbaugh to go nuclear, most of Oregon State's opening drive.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
[After THE JUMP: TOOT TOOT]
Jim Hackett talked to the Daily yesterday, and the words that he said were as encouraging as possible for a fan who likes his college football to be as distinct as possible from the pro experience:
The topic of conversation soon shifted to the student experience at Michigan Stadium and the tendency of many students to leave games well before they end. Hackett believes the issue will most easily be resolved by the improvement of the on-field product.
“I don’t want to sound sarcastic,” Hackett said. “What I don’t want is more entertainment that’s not football. I think that works in the pros, but we’re in college. I believe college shouldn’t be like the pros. It shouldn’t cost like the pros.”
Hackett specifically noted that he didn’t want the games to feel “corporate,” a complaint that was commonly voiced by Michigan fans during Brandon’s tenure.
I am still a little hesitant to open the ol' heart to the new AD because I remember the brief, stretchgate-inspired Brandon honeymoon that we all had a few years back… but I'm hopeful that Hackett takes the project of making Michigan Michigan seriously, and am more so every time he is quoted.
We're even seeing some specific steps discussed not only amongst the fanbase but with the guys in charge. After a student complained about the piped-in music, Hackett replied thusly:
Hackett asked the new coach what he thought of piped-in music during warmups. Harbaugh was firm in his answer.
“I don’t care. We don’t need it,” Harbaugh said.
Hackett agreed with Harbaugh, noting that in the past, the loud music has almost discouraged him from sitting through the team’s warmups when he has visited Michigan Stadium. As a result of the preferences of the coach, athletic director and many fans, the Athletic Department is in conversations with the band to have it play more during games.
I did not dream of a day when Michigan would look at the music during warmups as an issue to be addressed, let alone the actual in-game experience. I don't even mind the warmups music that much. I did treasure the quiet buzz of anticipation 45 minutes before the game, though, and if that comes back the stadium will be a step closer to what it used to be.
That thing it used to be was merely itself. The band, the lack of advertising, the silences in between the shouting. The natural up and down of a crowd was an important part of my formative experiences as a sports fan, and I still wince at the idea that doing something for the entertainment of the people in attendance actually, you know, entertains them. Too often piped-in music turns fan participation off instead of on. It's a convenient way to cover the fact that you have a lack of atmosphere. I prefer an athletic department that asks the hard questions about how to create one out of the materials they've been given. If MLS can do it—hell, if Detroit City can do it—there's no reason Michigan can't.
Here's hoping Hackett's the man to do it.
We talked about this some on WTKA today: it sounds like when the Adidas contract comes up in a year, Michigan is seriously considering a switch even if that move costs them some money.
“In my first months here, the question of which brand we wear is a big one,” Hackett said during the fireside chat. “We’ve organized — this is a secret — a project team to look at the question of, there’s really three players: Adidas, Under Armour and Nike.”
"Was" a secret if you're talking about it in a fireside chat with students. Adidas or UA will offer the most money; Nike offers the gear it seems like most of the athletes prefer… and it opens doors in recruiting, especially basketball. Like it or not, that is fact.
The mere fact that there's something other than a number in a spreadsheet being considered here is an excellent development. I don't understand people who care a ton about the style of an athletic clothing supplier, but there are evidently legions of them.
Personally, I would prefer Under Armour, which tends to create (or maintain) signature looks for the schools they have. Adidas and Nike both love to suit people up in things that say "this team is part of Adidas or Nike"; UA is better about working for the team, the team, the team.
Okay yes Maryland's flag uniforms are kind of a disaster, but it's not like they've got anything iconic to hang their hat on. Meanwhile I love what they've done with Northwestern and they've left Auburn's classic look virtually untouched. But UA is a distant third when it comes to recognition and door-opening.
It's a tough decision.
9/13/2014 – Michigan 34, Miami (Not That Miami) 10 – 2-1
Jake Ryan did a good job of not blowing up Hendrix for penalties [Eric Upchurch]
Michigan Stadium was a roomy place on Saturday, somewhat full of cranky people waiting for an opportunity to vent their ire. They held their fire after a Gardner interception; they held their fire when Michigan was tied 10-10 with a team that hadn't won a game since 2012 midway through the second quarter.
This was a bit of a surprise. Hell, the 1997 team(!) got booed at halftime of their game against Iowa when they went into the locker room down 21-7. (This was definitely performance-related, exacerbated by a late Tim Dwight punt return touchdown. The tenor of the boo was WE KNOW YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS LET'S GOOOO and when they came out of the locker room the corresponding cheer was much louder than it usually is. But damn we used to have some expectations.)
In 2014, after seven years of mostly unrelenting failure, on the heels of a humiliating shutout in the Last Notre Dame Game, I was expecting more audible grumbles. Michigan fans held off, possibly too stunned by last week to do anything but meekly absorb events in front of them.
Then Michigan took a delay of game penalty (after a timeout!) and decided to punt from the Miami 37 with a minute left in the half. This was pure coaching malpractice that reminded a grumbly Michigan Stadium of last year's Penn State game. The boos rained down. It was loud. It was grumbly. It was statistically accurate.
As the game rolled along and Michigan proved themselves about as superior as you'd think they should be, this game receded from the hateful constellation of lower-level matchups that turned into stomach-churning wins or even losses.
When you end up giving up fewer than 200 yards to an opposing offense you've established that they are very bad and you are not. Eventually Michigan's ground game kicked in and put up similar YOU ARE BAD numbers. Erase some pretty random turnovers (deflected pass at the line, redshirt freshman pop-up kickoff fumble) and this is 45-0 or thereabouts.
I know you don't believe turnovers are random, person on the internet who I am anticipating a "LOL" comment from, but even you have to admit that when a throw goes from probably on target to directly in the chest of an opposing player because it glances off a fingertip that's just life giving you the middle finger, and not—oh you just said MAKE PLAYS in seriousness on the radio nevermind this sentence. Players make plays. Etc.
Anyway: in retrospect I am not stressing about this game.
I was in the second quarter, like everyone else, and while I didn't actually boo—I am in the too-shocked-to-do-anything club—I agreed with it. What's more, I deeply appreciated that the people still mad enough to let someone know about it waited for the perfect moment.
When Pat Fitzgerald was asked about Northwestern fans being upset in the aftermath of the Wildcats' 0-2 start, he responded thusly.
This is a press conference answer to get behind. It is brief, quotable, and addresses the situation. Fitzgerald is not surprised that fans are upset; he is upset (he called the team "an embarrassment to anyone that ever put on the purple and white"); fans should be too.
When Brady Hoke was asked an open-ended question about his message to the fans, he said this:
As far as the fans that watch from the outside and see some of the similar issues that they saw last season, what would you say to them and how concerning is it as a coaching staff?
"If they’re truly fans they'll believe in these kids and what they've done and the hard work that they've put in. If they’re not, they won't."
To the great misfortune of someone whose words are repeated verbatim on the internet, he would later claim to be misquoted. At least he has been told that knocking the fans who pay his salary and are currently leaning towards "tar and feather" over "put FOR SALE signs on front lawn" is not great, Bob.
But he has succumbed to the post-9/11 Godwin's Law: eventually someone in charge of the troops is going to tell you to support the troops, because he thinks that's the best argument he's got left. You think knocking over tinpot dictators halfway across the world with no real hope of installing anything that won't collapse the minute you leave is a bad idea? Support the troops, buddy. Why don't you support the troops?
So kudos to Michigan Stadium for holding its fire until the guy on the sideline with the timeout blundered his way into a fourth and eleven punt that went into the endzone on the fly. It was 1000% clear who was and was not supported at that moment.
Michigan is at least tolerant of the troops even when they're struggling against Not That Miami. Michigan is pissed off at the guys in charge. No amount of deflection will hide that fact.
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. #1 is Derrick Green, who was often the recipient of gaping holes but hit them and even made some yards himself.
#2 is Jourdan Lewis, who turned in excellent coverage all day and came up with an excellent interception.
#3 is Brennen Beyer, because it is impossible to really distinguish between the various guys whipping up on Miami's OL but Beyer got a sack.
Epic Double Point Standings.
6: Devin Funchess (#1, APP, #1 ND)
3: Derrick Green(#1 MIA)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP), Willie Henry (#2 ND), Jourdan Lewis (#2 MIA)
1: Ryan Glasgow (#3, ND), Brennen Beyer(#3 MIA)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
This was a one yard run but let us sit and savor the fact that even against a terrible defense Michigan had a touchdown that looked like this.
Honorable mention: Jake Butt shakes free for a fake screen(!) touchdown, something we haven't seen since Hoke's arrival. Jourdan Lewis runs a guy's fade for him, picks off a ball thrown too far inside. Dennis Norfleet and the KO unit execute a right-sided return on a kick to the left out to the 50. Derrick Green breaks backside and breaks a tackle for a 20-yard gain.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MIA: Derrick Green scores a goal line touchdown without being so much as touched.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Worst. Event. Ever. This Week.
Devin Funchess standing on the sideline because Michigan threw him a bubble screen halfway through the fourth quarter of a 31-0 game.
Honorable mention: Delay of game ack ack ack, Gardner interception (deflected, FWIW), kickoff mishap, Darboh fumble, various early runs that didn't go anywhere.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
ND: Countess nowhere to be found on fourth and three.
Miami: You did what to Funchess now when?
[After the JUMP: getting it together, strangling the opposing offense, and goodbye gun.]