"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
Ouch. My Retinae.
You probably heard that Jason Collins came out of the closet on Monday, making him the first active athlete in one of the four major sports to do so. And as you would expect, the announcement sparked a mix of debate, encouragement, and less-than-flattering comments from all corners of the sports world.
Fortunately, after several hours of often heated discussion, the sporting world was brought back together in unison. Gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, black, white, hispanic, Asian, Native American, and any Panera you-pick-two of the above, we all spoke loudly in one voice that NO NO NO DO NOT WANT:
I’m not a smart man, and my knowledge of genetics, sociology, and biology are woefully inadequate. Debates about the origins of sexual orientation are best left to people wiser than I. But I know this: the words “Tim Brando Sex Tape” are not going to do anything for Team Heterosexuality. Every time someone tries to play the “the gays are ruining everything” card, someone will throw in a copy of Brando Does the SEC, and the conversation ends with everyone rubbing guacamole in his or her eyes to dull the pain.
Oh, but it gets worse. Dick Vitale, probably inspired by Brando’s positive body self-image, jumped in with HIS two cents about interpersonal relations vis a vis Martha Stewart. And I ain’t sayin’ he’s a gold-digger… but he ain’t messin’ with no broke domestic solutions specialists.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) May 1, 2013
“Oh yeah. That’s awesome baby…”
It could be worse, though. I know of at least one announcer who has lots of time on his hands these days, and may be looking for a new project:
And then Marv Albert gets involved, and then the very fabric of society tears asunder as the masses try desperately to flee. Do you see what you’ve done, Jason Collins?
BONUS: Early Jose Canseco Update
Just when you thought this whole cluster had reached its merciful conclusion, things jumped the crazy shark, which in this case might be a euphemism for some sort of random and terrifying sex act:
I don’t know if he’s serious. And neither do you. But let’s agree to NO ONE CALL HIS BLUFF.
The NCAA announced yesterday that colleges are no longer allowed to paint hashtags on the field. This is obviously a watershed moment in college sports, and one that will lead inexorably to the resolution of all the other minor problems facing college athletics like amateurism and concussions and whatnot. Asked to explain the hashtag ban, national coordinator for college football officials Rogers Redding explained that it was all about integrity:
"If they have stuff on the sidelines, or on the walls that go around the stadium, it's OK," Redding said. "The idea is just to preserve the integrity of the field and not open it up to other kinds of advertising."
Yep. You read that.
The integrity of the field.
This was said with a straight face.
Hashtags would ruin these pristine natural playing surfaces, man. As a Michigan fan, I’m totally cool with never seeing a hashtag on a field again. But why the NCAA thinks this needs to be a rule is beyond me. I mean, have you SEEN some of the football and basketball uniforms Adidas and Nike have trotted out in the last couple of years? And you think a pound sign is going to make a difference?
Also, because of some confusion, the NCAA felt the need to clarify that they are not banning the existence of hashtags as a metaphysical matter:
So good news, Twitter users. You can continue to use hashtags without the NCAA busting in, urinating on your laptop and/or smartphone, and issuing you a Notice of Allegations. But you get the feeling that they considered banning hashtags (along with gifs, blogs, and NCAA related water cooler conversation), but decided against it. They are, after all, benevolent overlords.
Not Sure if Serious, or if Terrible Evaluator of Talent
Every year when the draft winds down, fans hold onto hope that their favorite college player will be plucked in the last few picks. Some go so far as to tweet NFL teams asking them to take their favorite players, as if real teams actually use the “show of hands” method of drafting.* I suppose it’s a harmless thing to do; it’s like the audience at the Price is Right shouting that they think the Cream of Wheat is more expensive than the Ziploc bags. They’re probably wrong, but damnit that’s half the fun of being in the audience.
But when some random guy suggested that the Colts draft Robert Marve as Mr. Irrelevant last week, the Colts shouted back that, Cream of Wheat? Are you stupid or something?
It’s rare, and somewhat refreshing, to see a team react this honestly to a fan. The easiest thing in the world would have been to either ignore it, or to respond with a non-committal “we’ll see what happens, so stay tuned.” But instead, we got “Robert Marve? Seriously? The guy who has torn his ACL like twelve times? Seriously? I mean, his numbers aren’t terrible… but have you watched him play football? You want us to intentionally choose him for our professional football franchise? Hell, no one wanted Tyler Bray or Collin Klein or Matt Scott, and those guys are 50 times less terrible than Robert Marve.”
Or at least they would have said that. Damn 140 character limit.
*Some have suggested the Raiders draft by show of hands, but they technically use a Modified Show-of-Hands/Blindfolded-Lemur-Throwing-Darts-at-a-Draft-Board system. So it’s not quite the same thing.
Who is Canada’s Version of Barbara Streisand?
If you’ve ever been on the Internet (and if you’re reading this, that’s you), you’ve been accused of something horrific by an anonymous commenter on some random message board. The same goes if you have ever done anything that was discussed on the internet. In fact, if you have ever done anything that involved things and/or stuff, you have been accused of being somewhere on the spectrum of pickpocket to Serbian war criminal. I’ve personally been accused of a string of penguin molestations for which I TOTALLY HAVE AN ALIBI. But we all know two things about these rumors when we see them: that these rumors are almost certainly false (especially those that are penguin-related), and that the targets have absolutely no recourse.
Recently fired Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, however, cares not for your rules. He is suing eighteen anonymous internet message board users for defamation. Among the named defendants are “poonerman,” “sir psycho sexy,” “KaBoomin8,” “Loob,” and “mowerman.” Burke is alleging that these guys and gals (but guys, because we’re talking Canadian hockey message board users here) spread rumors that he was fired by the Leafs because he fathered a child out of wedlock. His motivation here is pretty straight-forward:
“That’s kind of the point,” [Burke’s attorney Peter] Gall told the Star. “A lot of people think that they can with impunity say whatever outrageous things on the Internet and nobody’s ever going to be able to find them or hold them accountable. Brian is going to hold them accountable.”
Brian Burke is going to police the internet for us. Pack it up, mods, there’s a 57-year-old former hockey exec on the job.
I’m not well-versed in Canadian libel law, but this seems to me to be a ridiculous suit. For one thing, he’s gotta demonstrate damages, which he probably can’t do because he was fired BEFORE this stuff went public. In other words, he has to prove that some people out there would be like, “well, I didn’t think this guy was fired for fathering an illegitimate child, but now that LOOB has said so, I totally believe it.” He also wants an injunction prohibiting the defendants from making further defamatory statements, which… good luck with that.
The bigger problem, though, is that Brian Burke has obviously never heard of the Streisand Effect, whereby the act of trying to squash things that happen on the internet typically make them a much bigger deal than they otherwise would have been. Before the suit, this was confined to a series of 18 posts on a Wordpress blog. And now?
I’ll give you three guesses at the rumored name of the alleged mother of Burke’s love-child. Way to put the kibosh on those rumors, champ.
Additional Sloopy Sighting
A friend of mine texted me this picture from West Michigan yesterday:
Someone must know this confused soul. Find him. I wish to interview him. I know there is much we can learn from each other, if we can negotiate a truce. Can there be a peace between us?
Regularly Scheduled Canseco Update
Maybe he can parlay the Brando fame into an invite to the White House. We’ve got our fingers crossed for you, man.
Kickstarter, eh! After many requests we have added a couple of kickstarter tiers for international folks: 20 bucks for one mag, 40 for both, and we'll eat the extra costs for anyone who goes for the 50+ tiers.
Reminder: we have made our base goal and are now shooting for the 50k stretch goal, whereupon the basketball/hockey preview mag is a real thing on paper.
Meanwhile if you're in the giving mood check out Marlin Jackson's Fight For Life charity. Very good cause. Seth posted extensively on what they do this morning.
Our linemen are a wonderful freak show. They're all having huge lumberjack beards and looking like Freddie Mercury and, uh, this:
That's walk-on Dan Gibbs's twitter avatar. We probably should have started him against Jesse Williams, who Gibbs is seen riding. Equal to the task is Gibbs's twitter avatar: DJBunyan.
Speaking of offensive linemen, Elliott Mealer has shaved the beard.
as if millions of follicles suddenly cried out in terror
We will always remember you, ZZ Top beard.
This year's OL has a lot to live up to. They are off to a good start, at least.
Michigan has a five star basketball recruit for the second straight year. (isportsweb)
It's too bad he can't compete with the big boys. Rivals has given Zak Irvin the GRIII bump, moving up ten spots after his Mr. Basketball season in Indiana. This nets him the coveted fifth star. Walton is #37—also a ten-spot bump—while Mark Donnal is #111, one of the last four-stars. IIRC Donnal was just inside the top 100 last time. He got one of those "you stay the same and we find twelve guys we like a lot" downgrades.
Indiana's six-person oversigning extravaganza is the best class in the Big Ten according to the sites. Michigan is second, #13 nationally at ESPN. Illinois and Wisconsin are next, but it's always hard to figure out how to rank basketball classes because they're so divergent in terms of numbers.
Speaking of Tom Crean…
You're Nick Saban, dude. A year after Indiana signee Ron Patterson was told he couldn't enroll at Indiana in August—ie, the Les Miles—Tom Crean signs six players and is oversigned by one going into the late signing period. Out you go, Remy Abell. Indiana currently has 13 players. They've just offered Jaren Sina, the former Northwestern commit who opened up his recruitment when Bill Carmody was fired.
Now is the time on Sprockets when brows are furrowed about young men and how it's disappointing they've left the program and etc. etc. etc. It's not disappointing, it is mathematically required by Coach Schrute's recruiting. Someone was going to leave, full stop. There's no difference between what's going down at Indiana and Nick Saban's annual purge. In this, OSU and Michigan fans are united.
The thing is: Crean's just flat out saying they're oversigning, which is at least more honest than Saban's approach.
Again, this was not unexpected, and IU coach Tom Crean admitted as much when he spoke with assembled media in Bloomington, Ind., Thursday afternoon. He knew he might have two guys leaving early, in addition to three seniors (Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston) which is, Crean told the Indianapolis Star, "one of the reasons we oversigned."
Wait ... what?
Yes, the Hoosiers enter the second straight summer with more players signed than scholarships to give out — this time 14 for 13. (Last season, IU's 15 signed players ended with senior guard Matt Roth's seemingly confused, thensuddenly uber-positive, departure, and a fortuitous turn in freshman Ron Patterson's academic ineligibility.)
Even without further departures Michigan will go into next year with an open scholarship. Purdue's down to ten. Schrute is looking for more guys to run off. Hard to have the moral high ground as a conference when you… uh… don't have it.
Godspeed, Tom Hammond. The Great and Powerful Hammond is being replaced by some guy named Hicks on Notre Dame broadcasts. A tip of the cap to a man who overcame his fear of cameras to be on television, like, all the time. We'll always have the picture and the tie.
See you around the rhythmic gymnastics odeon. /brohug
Baseball making it happen. Rich Maloney's ouster last year was sudden and controversial. So far it looks to have been the right move as the previously moribund base-to-ball team is currently 7-2 in the Big Ten behind freshman starting pitcher Evan Hill's dominating 1.89 ERA. Baseball America takes note:
The future looks bright for Michigan, which has a strong freshman core leading its resurgence this spring. Michigan’s best starter has been freshman lefthander Evan Hill (6-1, 1.89), whose projectable 6-foot-5 frame helped him rank No. 165 on the BA 500 heading into last year’s draft. Hill still is just scratching the surface of his potential, but he is maturing quickly and has settled nicely into the Saturday starter role.
“He still is a projection guy—his best years are ahead of him,” Bakich said. “But he’s very talented, he works extremely hard. The mental game has been critical for him, because he’s learned how to breathe and focus on executing the next pitch, that’s been a big part of his development mentally. But he’s still a long, lean, tall, thin guy who has a good fastball, and he’s got good offspeed pitches. He just doesn’t always have the command that he’s going to have in the future of his secondary stuff. But a lot of his success has come from pitching off his fastball. He throws a cutter and a curveball, and when those are on, he usually does pretty well.”
Two other freshmen have earned starting jobs on the left side of the infield and in the top half of the batting order. Travis Maezes (.308/.396/.421) has shown good athleticism, instincts and arm strength at shortstop while hitting in the No. 2 hole. And third baseman Jacob Cronenworth (.339/.397/.460 with two homers and a team-leading 26 RBIs) has been very steady in the cleanup spot. He has a balanced, line-drive approach from the left side of the plate to go along with good speed. Cronenworth also has a strong arm at the hot corner, and he can run his fastball up to 92 mph off the mound, where he has emerged as Michigan’s closer, posting a 1.06 ERA, six saves and a 16-3 strikeout-walk mark in 17 innings.
That's a hell of a freshman class.
Michigan's coming off consecutive sweeps of MSU and Penn State; they take on ND today at 4, with Eastern coming in tomorrow at 6. If you're in Chicago, Michigan plays Northwestern at Wrigley Saturday.
It was a bet with Zak Irvin. A picture of a displeased Gary Harris wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt made the rounds on twitter recently, and I was all like "dude lost a bet with Zak Irvin?"
M&GB: Can you tell us about that picture of Gary Harris that surfaced on twitter of him wearing a Maize Rage t-shirt?
Irvin: (Laughs) As a matter of fact I was just talking with him about that a couple hours ago but that was from last year. When Michigan played Michigan State we had a bet that whichever team won, the loser had to wear that team’s shirt to school the next day, and Michigan won so Gary had to wear a Michigan t-shirt all the next day.
Just not a recent one.
Not playing coy about Dymonte Thomas. Courtney Avery's job is officially in serious danger given the way Michigan usually talks about freshmen. No one's bothering to say Dymonte Thomas is a long way off or whatever:
"He’s a very conscientious young man. For a guy that comes that should have been at his prom to be here the whole time, and for him to pick it up like he did ... Dymonte Thomas had a very, very good spring for a freshman.”
So there's that. He's playing. Starting? We'll see.
Cumong, NCAA man. Oregon and the NCAA agree that Oregon paid Willie Lyles 25k to help recruit players. Also this:
There is no information," according to the NCAA, "in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon. That said, Lyles did provide a meaningful recruiting advantage by orally providing background information about prospects to the coaching staff and also by serving as a conduit to facilitate communication with prospective student-athletes."
I hate you, NCAA enforcement. Oregon has proposed two years of probation and one lost scholarship for a few years. Seriously. Sic 'em, Get The Picture.
Etc.: A tribute to Trey Burke. His finest moments. Oh yes "Roger Federer as a Religious Experience" reference in regards to Trey Burke, oh yes. HSR on the end of basketball season.
UMHoops talks to 2015 SG recruit Luke Kennard. MSU is selling spots in the press box for their spring game. How much? Next question. The definition of amateurism is "whatever the NCAA says it is," and changes constantly. Four(!) Michigan players make John Gasaway's final top 25 freshmen($), with Spike Albrecht making the tail end of the list at 25. That's for show, man. David Allen Grier gets Trey Burke to smile. It is possible. Drake Harris "commitment" scarequotes are unbecoming.
I'll miss you, Birds+Books APR image header, except I'll probably still use you
APR threat: downgraded. My annual fretting about the first-year Rich Rodriguez number has been a full-post kind of thing the last few years. This year it gets downgraded to a UV bullet because of this number: 984. That's Michigan's most recent one-year score, and it's shiny enough to get Michigan over the 930 Mendoza line even with that 897 anchor. Hurray for everyone.
Unless Michigan experiences another flurry of transfers—unlikely—the next few June days on which everyone reports APR scores because it's the middle of June will be opportunities to reflect on what a swell guy Brady Hoke is. Officially standing down on APR alert.
Michigan's other sports are all doing well, as per usual.
Playoff: almost officially happening. It seems like we've had articles about the inevitably of a four-team playoff for months now. At some point if the thing is so inevitable people would stop writing about it. No one's writing about players being required to wear helmets this fall. Anyway, it seems like there has finally been a meeting with an actual single endorsed plan. It is this (emphasis added):
While the B.C.S. commissioners did not announce the details of how they would pick the teams for the four-team playoff, a source with direct knowledge of the decision said the plan is for a selection committee to “more than likely” pick the four best teams.
There will be a preference given to conference champions in the selection, but how much is yet to be determined. Strength of schedule will also be strongly considered. There have yet to be any discussions about how the finances will be split among the teams.
The selection committee will subject a sport steeped in regional biases to a different type of controversy, although one that will likely die down a bit now that there will be semifinal and final games. The two semifinal games are expected to be played within the bowl system and the national championship will be bid on like the Super Bowl.
In a joint statement, the 11 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said that they had reached a “consensus behind a four-team, seeded playoff, while recognizing that the presidents will certainly present their views, including a discussion of a Plus-One.”
That's lip service. Presidents are going to rubber stamp it. Pop champagne? It could be better but it's a huge improvement. Other than the Big Ten's self-defeating opposition to home playoff games leading them to perpetual road travels, I'm cool with it. FWIW, even without preferences for conference champions, the SEC would only have grabbed multiple bids three times.
As for where the first one will be, bet on Dallas.
Why not both? This is a revamped sports bar split into MSU and Michigan halves.
VERNON TWP. — Uncle Buck’s Northern Exposure is making a dramatic change in format — from a nearly topless dance club to big-screen sports bar.
In fact, it was an overload of drama, says owner Ken Canfield, that prompted the change, including a different name: Crossroads Sports Bar.
Missed opportunity there.
Hockey schedule: again with the front-loading. Michigan's released the hockey schedule, which again has an extremely light back end. Nine of Michigan's final 12 games are away from home (one is at the Joe) and there are just six home games (and the U18 game) in 2013. Not like they could do anything about that what with the conference going away next year. Price of leaving.
Michigan plays no road games in the slim nonconference portion of the schedule. They've got two against RIT, another one-off versus Bentley, the game at MSG against Cornell, and the outdoor GLI. They'll open against Tech and get WMU or MSU in the second game.
I hope this isn't an indication of where Michigan's nonconference schedule will go when they join the Big Ten. It probably isn't. Red has sought out tough competition as frequently as possible since the program got its footing, and with a whopping 14 games to play with—16 if M makes the trip to Alaska—they should have room for annual series against the big powers.
Context at Maize and Brew.
Should you flip your defense or not? Generally the answer is "not" these days because of spread hurry up stuff. You may remember Michigan doing this a bit early in the year, but that was a stop-gap measure:
Why to Flip
Flipping the defensive positions based on strength of the Offensive formation started as a way to keep teaching simple.
Rather than having to teach a Defensive End to play either lined up either inside a Tight End or outside shade on a Tackle, you could teach him to always align to the strength, meaning he spent all of his time on the Tight End.
The teaching got simpler, as players had to know less about the entire game, and more about their own little piece of tunnel vision. It became easy to know very little about the game while still being a very good and knowledgeable player about your own position.
No more, because if you flip your bits people will run hurry-up on your face and get you confused. Better to have a general understanding these days than a hyper-specific focus. That's a subtle way in which the game's generally increasing specialization is taking a step back.
FWIW, the coach who posted this noted that a number of guys are using field and boundary calls to set their defense instead of opponent alignment. (IE, you line up to the wide side or short side of the field no matter what the offense does.) FWIW, Mattison is one.
More uniform concepts. This time Notre Dame does it to themselves:
The second comment is an image of Chris Hall—life's winner—and his glorious Tom Hammond tie. Well done.
Etc.: UMHoops gives the 1,000-foot view on Michigan's five-man 2012 basketball recruiting class. Rothstein horning in on my season intro column by discussing Hoke's inadvertent marketing genius. Baumgardner has a series on key moments from last football season. I disagree with Baumgardner's take on the 49% TD against Iowa—he seems to think the issue there was whether Hemingway was in, but the real problem was the nose of the ball hitting the ground.
Site business. Two things:
- I am getting married this Saturday in a top-secret location far away from any images of Fielding Yost. I am taking Friday and Monday off; Tom and Tim will produce content as per usual. If you've got a diary you want front-paged this would be an opportune time to post it. Content from me will be light this week because a bunch of friends I don't get to see will be in town, etc.
- I'm warning you about this a month ahead of time: honeymoon is in late July for about ten days and I am probably not even going to take my computer.
Your understanding is appreciated.
I'm partial to the rally pickle myself.
Mascot business. I took a rage day so that I wouldn't say anything regrettable in the aftermath of the mascot trial balloon, leaving the rest of the world to offer Dave Brandon a raspberry and Brandon to quickly clarify that while he is all seeing and all knowing he is very very wily and no mascot is pending. Even while doing so he leaves himself an out, saying it "may never happen."
Q: In retrospect do you believe that Brandon announcing the OSU game would be moving to midseason was really a super-clever way to get everyone outraged about it and therefore ensure it doesn't happen?
The M-Zone makes a compelling case that we should not. After that fan explosion we've had the uniform business and the mascot business and at about the same time we've had the night game business. (While I don't care that much about having a night game, it is a departure from tradition.) The evidence points towards Dave Brandon being so intent on "creating the future" that he has absolutely no grasp on what's important to the fanbase until everyone's freaking out about it.
Worse, he spends time belittling the kind of people who do really care. From the inbox:
Below response to my (very short and very respectful) email to Dave Brandon today asking him to reconsider a Michigan mascot. I actually responded to this, against my better judgment, and said that if there's a man in a furry wolverine costume on the sideline than it'll wind up being more life-changing for him than for me.
Please don’t be too concerned over this life-changing topic!
All will be OK…
Have a great weekend!
I'm not sure how this happened since Dave Brandon was actually on the team under Bo, but the current athletic director appears to have no more connection to Michigan's traditions than—wait for it—Rich Rodriguez.
I really care about what goes on inside Michigan Stadium; Brandon thinks this makes me a sap.
At least he's not alone.
Convenient timing. Meanwhile, one of the main counter-arguments against Old Testament kind of guys who like their coffee black, parole denied, and Michigan Stadium old-timey is that if we don't get that cheddar Michigan will be left in the dust by its rivals.
Presenting Michigan's 2012 budget:
For the proposed FY 2012 Operating Budget (described in detail on the following pages), we project an operating surplus of $11.4 million based on operating revenues of $121.2 million and operating expenses of $109.8 million. The budgeted operating surplus will be will be used to fund our ongoing capital needs and facility renewal projects.
Bill Martin's great accomplishment was killing the immediate cheddar issue dead without compromising the brand that packs the largest stadium in the country. Further squeezing starts to impact the uniqueness of the Michigan experience and erodes the reasons people shell out as much as they do.
Unfair and true and BERGKAMP. Here is Denard Robinson's 87-yard touchdown against Notre Dame last year, first narrated by Tom Hammond, then your inner monologue:
It's not fair comparing Tom Hammond to whoever the BERGKAMP guy is, but he does have a point. Maybe Americans get more confused about whether sports is serious business worthy of objectivity or not.
For a counterpoint EDSBS immediately goes to Sean McDonough, who's the first guy I thought of, too:
Q: Franklin is retired and Nessler is now on the NFL network, so is McDonough now the undisputed #1 college football announcer? I can't think of anyone I'd rather have doing a Michigan game.
Welcome to the field. The O-Zone reports on the latest edition of the Big 33 PA-OH All-Star game, in which Ohio annihilated Pennsylvania. Featured amongst the players of interest is WLB signee Antonio Poole:
Antonio Poole, LB Cincinnati Winton Woods 6'0” 195 (Michigan)
I think Poole may have been the most impressive defensive player on the field. He's only listed at 6'0” 195 pounds, but he sticks ball-carriers right between the numbers and they stay stuck. When he's in pursuit, he looks much bigger than he is. He certainly hits much bigger than he is. He may not be big enough to play linebacker in the Big Ten right now, but the Wolverines may not be able to wait.
That's true—WLB is currently Mike Jones and maybe Brandin Hawthorne.
Goalie zen part XVI. Red Line Report is down on this year's crop of goalies but they do have a solid #1. Prepare for the same scouting report you've heard several times before:
The clear-cut No. 1 guy is John Gibson, who combines excellent size and a calm demeanor in the most important games. He plays economically and is strong in the butterfly, using his long legs to take away the bottom half of the net. Gibson is a big netminder who plays big, challenging well and not leaving much space for shooters to look at. He's also calm and patient and allows the play to come to him. We like his mental strength and focus in clutch situations.
They don't like the other Gibson, so John is the only goalie they give a first round grade.
Etc.: Penn State blog Linebacker U interviews Tom for his perspective on Michigan and Penn State recruiting.
First, and sadly: due to a honeymoon in Paris (not mine), longtime friendly adversary Brian of the House Rock Built was unavailable for a Vicious Electronic Questioning this year. I haven't run across any Notre Dame bloggers who aren't enthusiastically answering their roundtable question about why they hate Michigan with links to the Blue-Gray Sky thing they posted on this blog that mostly talks about people who have been dead for many years, so a replacement just wouldn't be the same. Who goes on a honeymoon during football season anyway?
But I can boil it down to its essence:
I know I feel better. On with shew.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, September 11th 2010|
|THE LINE||Notre Dame -4|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, 40% chance of rain, 10 mph wind|
Run Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan obliterated UConn on the ground, racking up 287 yards on 61 carries. That's 4.7 YPC despite running about 75% of the time and spending the last ten minutes of the game pounding it into a stacked line. Denard Robinson did the bulk of the damage running simple QB lead draws that UConn could not stop even after UConn adjusted to them and Michigan showed no inclination to stop calling rock. The tackles performed above expectations, Steve Schilling seems to have made a senior leap, and David Molk is back. The one sore spot on the line was sophomore guard Patrick Omameh. You probably know this bit already.
How meaningful that is is still a question. UConn returned five of its front seven (both defensive tackles and all three linebackers) but lost a projected starter at DE before the season and may have played Greg Lloyd at MLB despite an injury. Last year they were the #45 rush defense nationally largely thanks to playing a lot of terrible rush defenses. When it came time to play anyone with a mobile quarterback or a tailback, they got shredded. Jury may be leaning one way, but it's still out.
Third stringer Dan Dierking career YPC: 4.0. Versus ND: 6.2, although on just nine carries.
As far as Notre Dame goes, their opening matchup against Purdue is not indicative of much either. The Boilers lost Ralph Bolden before the season and went with a platoon of a dinged, unprepared Al-Terek McBurse and Dan Dierking, which latter the announcers tried to praise by saying he could play fullback too. You may remember Dierking playing against Michigan in the long-long ago when Purdue had a similar rash of injuries, but after a 42-carry freshman season his stats for the last two years combined are 12 carries for 38 yards.
A mélange of those guys, worse-at-running-than-he-thinks quarterback Robert Marve, and assorted who-dats went for 136 yards on 28 carries, Marve's four sacks excluded. That's… kind of ominous for the Irish, as it's a 4.9 YPC against Dierking and the Who-Dats (AKA: Who-dat and the Who-Dats.) Compounding the ominous Tom Hammond head hovering over the ND run defense, Purdue returned just two starters on the offensive line. Two of the new guys are position switch starters somewhere between ominous and klaxon-deploying: the right tackle was a backup defensive tackle last year; the center is a 6'6" converted tackle who had never played the position in his life before being told to practice snapping in June. Despite this, Purdue coaches were positive about him after the game:
"He graded out winning," Nord said of Mondek. "Peters Drey had a very good player head up on him the whole day and he held his own. He did an excellent job for the first time snapping in the game."
Also, in that article the Purdue coaches pin the blame for three of Marve's four sacks on Marve for not throwing the ball on time. The Boilers are going to rush for like six yards a game this year.
Last year's game is worth noting since the lines will be similar: Michigan went for 190 yards on 38 caries with a long of 32. Many arrows point towards schwing. The only one pointing away is the presumably increased competence of the ND coaching staff.
Key Matchup: David Molk vs Ian Williams. The first sign Molk was going to be good was two years ago in the driving rain at Notre Dame Stadium when he blasted Williams back time and again, opening holes up for what would be the best game of Sam McGuffie's Michigan career. A year later he was a major factor in Michigan's 5 YPC. If he can do the same thing this year, Michigan's guards will have free releases on the sophomore middle linebackers and Notre Dame will struggle to get Michigan off the field.
Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan fans' reaction to Denard Robinson's throwing in the UConn game was basically this:
And not without reason when you send Tacopants into a mopey sideline pout due to lack of playing time. Stipulated that UConn's secondary must be terrible and that Gary Gray and Darrin Walls will be a major step up. If the ground game is working like it seems it might, however, the excitable Te'o ("yeah, he missed that tackle, but he missed it like a FIVE STAR") and the rest of the Notre Dame linebacking corps will be tested more than the cornerbacks. The only times Michigan went after corners against UConn were on hitches; everything else was safeties and linebackers. That seems like a viable strategy against ND.
The questions for Robinson are the ones detailed in UFR:
It's more about what happens when his receivers are covered. Can he come off a primary read? Can he consistently recognize when guys are covered? Can he process information fast enough to get the passes out on time?
Notre Dame will spend a lot of time working on a counter to the snag that Robinson threw to good effect against UConn, leaving him riskier throws further downfield that require more recognition than "where is the linebacker"; UConn's inability to play anything but zone against Robinson hurt them badly.
As far as ND goes, Marve struggled against the veteran secondary, throwing a pick when Walls sank into the deep route in cover two and Marve chucked it anyway and completing a large number of uselessly short passes. Though he went 31 of 42, all those completions only gained 220 yards, a Threet/Sheridan-esque 5.2 YPC. The longest completion of the day went for 16 yards. Notre Dame also racked up four sacks, though as mentioned the coaching staff put the blame for three of them on Marve; the fourth was blamed on a tailback's blitz pickup. Notre Dame looks to have the same low-mistake secondary they've had for a long time.
Key Matchup: Play action OMG versus ND linebackers. More play action combined with a successful run game and some inexperience at MLB could yield a big day for slots and tight ends.
Run Defense vs. Notre Dame
First, everything ND did on offense against Purdue:
Did you get all that? AAL breaks it down in various ways. The bit relevant to this section:
On 1st and 10, the Irish were 68% run, 32% pass. On all other downs they were 21% run, 79% pass. … Most popular runs: Power (8), Inside Zone (5), Draw (3), Read Zone (3) … Purdue plays a 4-3 and was happy to sit in Cover 2 for almost 50% of all plays. Often a nickel back was in the game replacing the Sam, but serving the same function. The safeties sat at 10-12 pre-snap and weren’t going to let anything over their heads.
Despite the predictability of ND's run distribution, tailbacks Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined to have an almost Denard-like day with 25 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown. As you can see above, they looked good doing it. (The move to the spread has apparently spelled doom for Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray.) Notre Dame also ran Crist seven times for 20 yards, though he looked bad enough at it that I assume they'll either drop it entirely or keep it as a very occasional effort to keep defenses honest.
Is Purdue's run defense any good? Eh… probably not. They returned 4-5 starters in their front seven but those guys were good for just 94th nationally last year.
Of course, the next question is "is Michigan's run defense any good?" They were 91st (WOO SUCKIT PURDUE) last year and though they return 5-ish of their front seven from last year (counting the spur as a linebacker) the losses were Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown, AKA definitely the best run-defense players on the team last year.
The UConn game does give reason for hope. The Huskies returned four starters and Jordan Todman from a rushing game that was 39th nationally a year ago, but only racked up 138 yards on 30 carries, with 26 of those coming on two carries when Michigan was in a full-on prevent. When Michigan was in their base defense, UConn averaged 3.6 YPC. If Michigan can replicate that they'll be in good shape.
Key Matchup: Mike Martin vs Braxton Cave. Cave was a surprise starter when Dan Wenger suffered a concussion in fall camp, and while he was a decently well-regarded recruit Martin should be coming into his own this year to the point where he tears through Cave like his presence is theoretical. If this happens, Notre Dame's ground game will suffer.
Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame
HAHAHAHA. End preview.
All right, fine: this looked like a pending disaster before the season and looks like a pending disaster after week one, but maybe slightly less of one? Michigan's corners were effective against UConn's short passing game and blameless on their long completions. Cam Gordon made one understandable mistake amongst a reel of good angles, big hits, and mostly responsible play. This is still going to be a horror show; maybe it will be slightly less of one than everyone expects.
On the Notre Dame side of things, Crist proved he wasn't Jimmah, at least not yet, several times. He overthrew several receivers and did not react well when Purdue let the dogs out:
Purdue only blitzed 3 times before the score was 20-3. The Irish handled it at that time (+5, +12, +7). After, Purdue blitzed 8 times netting 2 sacks, 3 incompletions, 1 scramble (for 0 yards), and a safety on a run play. Against the late blitzes, the Irish succeeded once on an Inside Zone run (+18).
Even with those negatives the final numbers were 19 of 26 for 206 yards and a touchdown: efficient but not explosive. His YPA was actually worse than Robinson's, his YPC slightly higher, and this was against a secondary replacing all four starters. IE: probably not a ton better than UConn's. The deep ball was not part of the arsenal. Was Purdue able to bracket Floyd because the guy opposite him this year is Duvall Kamara—all but a tight end—instead of Golden Tate? Is Crist significantly worse at it than Clausen? Was it just one of things? Data not found. Blue Seoul suggests it might be the Crist bit:
Still big, still fast, still got great jumping ability. Unfortunately for him, Crist doesn't seem able to hit him on a fly. Twice they tried a double move, with Crist missing badly. Something's not right with their timing. But he's a huge threat on deep hooks and other sit down routes against a zone.
Even with all that mitigation, your hopes are probably an inch off the floor and that's where they should be. Keeping Floyd off the board on the long ones is all but impossible unless Michigan's pass rush is murderous, and while they were good against UConn they were not murderous.
Key Matchup: Mouton and Roh and to some extent Van Bergen vs ND tackles. ND went empty a ton against Purdue, leaving one-on-one matchups for their offensive linemen. The ND tackles are new and didn't do so hot against Ryan Kerrigan, though that might be understandable. Meanwhile, Roh displayed far greater pass-rush ability against UConn than he did as a freshman in limited time since Michigan rushed three frustratingly often. Van Bergen did not have an impactful game in his first game as a DT, but when Michigan goes to its rush package and Mouton puts his hand down he's a difficult matchup. If Michigan can get to Crist with regularity they win. If not, they probably lose.
Michigan was shaky a week ago. Jeremy Gallon let a punt bounce down to the four, made a ridiculous decision to run up under a 30-yarder and got the muff we all knew was coming. Michigan recovered. Brendan Gibbons missed a 42-yarder, made a 24-yarder, and missed one of four extra points. Kickoff returns were eh, and Michigan elected to frustratingly squib several kicks.
In the aftermath, Rodriguez attributed almost all of that to the wind, gave Gallon a vote of confidence on punt returns, and said Gibbons was good to go this week.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, got a big punt return from Armando Allen—on Purdue's only punt—and saw their field goal kicker go 3/3. On the other hand, their net punting average is just 31.7 yards.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
- Craig Roh and Mike Martin aren't getting to the quarterback on five- and seven-step drops.
- Patrick Omameh looks as shaky as he did against UConn.
- Crist launches anything downfield.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- David Molk puts Ian Williams on skates again.
- The run game's making the linebackers jumpy and vulnerable to the Oh Wide Open we saw against UConn.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Aigh Secondary!, +1 for Aigh Mike Floyd!, +1 for Aigh The Combination Of The Two!, –1 for Wow Purdue Is Hot Ass, –1 for Dan Dierking YPC: 6.2, –1 for He's White!, +1 for First Road Start For QB, +1 for And The Horrible Things Always Happen At Notre Dame, –1 for …But Usually To The Favorite.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; –1 for Playing With House Money to Some Extent, +1 for But Yeah This Would Be Well On Path Towards Avoiding Doom, +1 for All Internet Notre Dame Fans Are Basically Reprehensible, +1 for Boy The Next Two Weeks Would Be Relaxing With This Under The Belts, –1 for Fairly Understandable Loss If It Happens, +1 for But If It's Doesn't We Might Have Something Here, +1 for Maybe They'll Hire Weis In Three Years If Kelly Does Poorly)
Loss will cause me to... spend three weeks attempting to ignore grumblers until we get more information.
Win will cause me to... definitely not say anything about the Outback Bowl.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Oh, why the hell does this section exist? I don't know. I don't know what will happen, either.
I think Notre Dame can force Michigan into two or three deep coverage and exploit that, I think Obi Ezeh is going to be a key player with Notre Dame running it down his throat a lot from spread formations, I think Michigan's best hope to kill drives is to blitz so those tackles don't have help against Mouton and Roh but that inescapably exposes Kovacs to God knows what. I can see Crist whiffing on some key passes and either fumbling or tossing an interception when he gets pressure. I can also see the Mike Floyd show.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame's performance against a hacked-together bunch of third-string scrubs, converted offensive linemen clearly unsuited for their positions, and a cluelessly arrogant quarterback bodes well for Michigan's ability to run all over them. Once that's established, Robinson's reads get considerably easier and the offense goes right down the field.
I think I'm flipping my position on this after looking more closely at the ND-Purdue game. Total yardage in that game was 350-320, and on review Purdue looks like a team that should be terrible this year, especially if Marve is going to be that guy all year. Is UConn better than Purdue? Almost certainly. Did Michigan disfigure them in terrible ways? Yes. Am I a tiny bit more confident in the reliability of the Michigan offense? Yes. Do I think there's more chance of a turnover when Michigan blitzes Crist than a Notre Dame defense that almost has to sit back? Yes.
So… yeah. I am about to do this. I have no confidence in this prediction.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard only, and he again cracks 100 yards and 5 YPC. Completion percentage comes down to 65%.
- The tailbacks look much better than they did last week, with someone, probably Shaw, breaking a long one due to excessive Denard attention.
- Michigan wins the turnover battle.
- Michigan, 31-27.
Excited To See You Tom Hammond is no longer the most terrifying Notre Dame-related thing on the internet. I know this is hard to comprehend.
But never has a school been so ably summarized in four emasculating minutes:
You have to watch it. It will be the most conflicted four minutes of your life. It will be so horrible, but it will be awesome because it will be more horrible for the people this abortion ironically purports to represent. That guy redefining maximum levels of whiteness goes by "Freekbass," by the way, and has won an award. It is a sexy lamp sort of award, but it's an award. Soon he will have another award.
Explains the last 20 years, doesn't it? The people in charge of Notre Dame thought this was a good idea. They got poor Brian Kelly to show up in this thing. They deployed the school's cheerleaders as a hearty midwestern dance backdrop. They spent a lot of money and time to aim very carefully at their own testicles with a shotgun and pulled the trigger on their official youtube channel.
Of course they hired Bob Davie, George O'Leary, Ty Willingham, and Charlie Weis. Maybe they will end up in the Big Ten after all.
UPDATE: Reader Nick Gorski provides the perfect comparison: this is the exact opposite of Hockeybear blowing up Earth.