"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Seven interceptions, heat from the fans, lots of running to come. Sounds familiar, but it's 1982.
"Wild man" Mike Boren also features in the pregame. Via WH.
The lemon bet. A few weeks ago Mike Farrell tweeted that Yuri Wright's top two were Colorado and Michigan, to which I responded that I would eat a lemon and put it on the internet if Michigan lost Wright to CU*. I'd rather have a super athletic, if raw, corner than do this, so this quote($) from his trip to Boulder is a relief:
“I wish they would have picked a different weekend [ie, not finals] for me to come out there, but I still had a good time for the most part. I know it’s a good school.”
A small relief. I mean, I'll believe a guy with options like Michigan and Notre Dame going to Colorado several years after I see it.
*[FINE PRINT: Lemon will be consumed if Wright ends up signing with Colorado AND Michigan is still pursuing him at the time of his commitment. If M picks up Armani Reeves and stops going after corners, bet is void. To prevent this from being weaselly, this will have to be a direct quote to that effect or something from Sam Webb.]
Bust bits. The football bust transpired without hand-holding or weeping and with a minimum of Rodriguez hur hur that was made awkward when players thanked Rodriguez during speeches. There was one notable newsbit:
LIVONIA -- Michigan football coach Brady Hoke said at the team's annual bust Monday that he does not expect linebacker Marell Evans to return next year.
The fifth-year senior from Richmond, Va., has not played this year. Hoke, who declined throughout the season to elaborate on the situation, revealed at the banquet that Evans had eligibility issues because of "a twist of fate" resulting from his transfers.
You can remove the vague possibility Evans is on the team from your scholarship calculations. Also Molk made certain people feel bad:
"Going through what we did for five years … it's hard to put into words truly what it means and truly what we've been through," Molk said Monday night at the Laurel Manor. "Because frankly, I don't think there's many people in this room or in this country that understand. Unless you've been a fifth-year senior here, you don't know. You didn't live it you didn't feel it, you didn't see the pain, you didn't hear the anguish, you didn't hear the hate."
Take that, guy I threw an empty water bottle at after the Toledo game. You probably think Demanding Excellence is what got Michigan back on track. I hate you so much.
Q: How many times will people make the joke about Fred Jackson having coached Tom Harmon? IIRC, Rodriguez (of all people) was one of millions to get that zinger off. It is as traditional as Fred Jackson proclaiming all tailbacks to be Olympian gods.
AnnArbor.com has the fullest rundown of things that were said.
No sale, literally. If you're still looking for Sugar Bowl tickets, Virginia Tech has a deal for you:
As of Monday evening, Virginia Tech had sold a little over 9,500 of its 17,500 ticket allotment to the Sugar Bowl, a number that is only slightly higher than the 9,200 the school announced last Friday. So it's clear ticket sales -- at least through the school -- are slowing to a crawl at this point.
I bet Kansas State would have done better.
I've seen many a tweet about Kansas State and Arkansas' rush on Cotton Bowl tickets as proof that the Wildcats should have been chose for the Sugar Bowl instead of the Hokies. Kansas State reportedly sold out its 12,500-ticket allotment before the bowl was announced. Tickets are so in demand for the Cotton Bowl that the cheapest on StubHub are going for $219.99. Only the BCS title game ($1,299 for the cheapest seat) is a tougher ticket right now of the bowl games.
Andy Bitter suggests that's a factor of the distances—Dallas is driveable for both fanbases, but they're enthused after a big year and VT is coming off a hammering in the ACC title game.
VT is struggling in part because resellers are currently undercutting VT by two to one. An interesting note from Bitter: the ACC now picks up the tab for unsold tickets once schools get over the 8k mark. At least the risk the bowls have migrated from themselves to the teams is being spread over a greater number of institutions these days. Still: scam, scam, scam.
First halves maybe some. Your impression that Tim Hardaway spends many first halfs chilling, relaxing, maxing all cool are accurate. Via Wolverine Nation, Hardaway averages 5.2 points in the first half and 11.2 in the second. That's… more scoring in the second, there. I'd be fine if M started every game with a possession on which Hardaway is given those double high screens and given the green light to shoot if he comes open for a three. There are points in the first half when it feels like the offense bogs down because Hardaway isn't being enough of an option.
This is going well. This has no relation to anything you care about except the tenuous connection I can make between all bad coaches and Charlie Weis, but man does Randy Edsall remind you of an even less accomplished Charlie Weis or what? One of the early warning signs that Weis's colossal dickishness wasn't a Parcell-style asset was when starting defensive end Ronald Talley, a guy with almost no competition on the depth chart, transferred. To Delaware.
Presenting Randy Edsall's Maryland:
In a move that surprised no one, D.J. Adams announced his intention to transfer. The controversial running back had the class to wish Edsall and the program luck in a statement. Meanwhile, we're still waiting for Edsall's thoughts on losing the most talented tailback the team had after Davin Meggett. Heck, we're still waiting to hear why Adams was benched for most of the year.
Offensive tackle R.J. Dill — a starter and one of the team's best linemen — is transferring, too. Not only does it hurt the team from a football standpoint in the short run, but it also begs the questions: Who else is leaving, and who is going to come to College Park now?
Edsall went 2-10. Meanwhile, Freidgen coach-in-waiting James Franklin had something of a breakthrough year at Vandy and Maryland is dropping a bunch of sports after paying massive buyouts all over the place to hire Edsall and Gary Crowton. The yutz at Tennessee resigned in June, so Maryland's Kevin Anderson is now Worst Athletic Director In The Country.
In case you haven't seen it. Tom Crean's expression after Indiana hits their game-winning three against Kentucky is priceless:
Court rush approved. Indiana has spent some time in the wilderness after their disastrous decision to hire Kelvin Sampson (speaking of yutz athletic directors…) and this was a "OMG we're back" moment. Also beating #1 on a buzzer beater… yeah. That court rush is the reason everyone's so upset when people rush for dumb reasons.
Etc.: Dylan previews Arkansas Pine Bluff more thoroughly than they have ever been previewed before. The Pac-12 is not good at basketball. Floyd and Woolfolk are rehab BFFs. Why is the NBA stuck with the Hornets? Because of their publicly funded stadium.
Obvious. As part of his annual defense of the recruiting-industrial complex, Doctor Saturday has surveyed many things. Now he has struck upon the most over- and under-achieving teams as seen through the lens of recruiting classes. The overachieving list has a variety of causes:
- Oregon. Spread genius.
- Oregon State. JUCO/grayshirt addiction.
- Virginia Tech. FSU, Miami, UNC, and Clemson all recruit like demons and suck on the field. The methodology here prioritizes wins over teams with good classes no matter their results on the field. The ACC champion is set up to do well here.
- Iowa. Own Penn State, greatly benefit from Michigan's implosion.
- Stanford. Harbaugh. Sigh.
The underachieving list… well, you don't even have to look, really. Guess which big time rivalry finishes 1-2? You get zero opportunities. You got it anyway:
Hurray! In Michigan's case the underachieving is due to massive attrition, a change in program philosophy, the program delightfully eating itself alive, and the dumbest hiring decision in the history of the world. Notre Dame had a decided schematic advantage.
The rest of the lame are UCLA, Texas A&M, Miami, and FSU. Unsurprisingly four of these teams have changed coaches in the last two years. UCLA is going to have a hard time not firing Neuheisel next year, leaving A&M the only school that may be able to dig out under the current leadership.
Special K is a disease. He infects the world. I could help but think about Special K when I read about UConn's spelling cheer. It's the generic spelling cheer wherein you spell out the thing you like and repeat it three times. Example: "B-A-C-O-N bacon bacon bacon!" In this case it's U-C-O-N-N. It would be better if it was bacon, but it's UConn.
UConn's version is actually a cool tradition, however, because of this guy:
His name is Kenny, and the reason UConn has a cheer almost as good as B-A-C-O-N is because this lone nut created it via force of personality. People love this:
The reason Big Red's cheer has caught on and become a marker of UConn's success for the past 20 years is because, unlike so many things at UConn games, it is organic. There is no sponsor. It is not forced. It is not pre-packaged. No, instead it is a reflection of pure joy at the success of the young men who step out on the court wearing the jerseys that say "UConn." It is beautiful, and cheering along with Big Red is one of my favorite parts of being a UConn fan.
Unfortunately this year the cheer has been pirated by the PA guy and is deployed at times completely irrelevant to the game situation. It's basically WHO WANTS SOME FREE UCONN CHEER. In two years it will be WHO WANTS SOME FREE UCONN CHEER BROUGHT TO YOU BY CORPORATION. It is in this way that genuine things are co-opted and destroyed by marketers.
Also: bacon, bacon, bacon.
Filling in another hockey blank or two. Hockey gets a 2012(?) commit from Max Shuart, a nephew of former Wolverine captain Alex Roberts. Shuart's playing for major midget—unusual for a Michigan recruit at this stage in his career—and has filled in with the U17 team this year. He's got no points in three games with the U17s.
Michigan also just picked up an Alex Kile from Compuware for 2013. Kyle leads his team with 18-19-37 in 32 games, and is ninth in the league in scoring. He was a 14th round pick of London in the OHL draft—it's always hard to tell how much of that seeming lack of respect is talent and how much is signability.
MHN points out that Kile and Shuart were born only ten days apart, so Shuart may be ticketed for 2013 instead of 2012. That would make more sense since a guy who's doing well, but not amazingly, in midget doesn't seem like a guy who's going to make an impact in two years. I couldn't find anything on the internets indicating either guy was getting early hype, FWIW.
Random two year old sings fight song. Aww.
Is there a way to avoid this pun? Rumors of Soony Saad's departure for Europe are no longer rumors. Michigan's going to have to replace basically all of their scoring next year, which totally sucks because with Saad they were probably Big Ten favorites and in position to establish the sort of success that sustains itself over years. Now I'm not sure who the hell is going to be probably better than Robbie Findley.
Yes, dolla bill. The number for Michigan's guarantee game against Air Force: 1.1 million, which tops Ohio State's million-dollar payout to Navy by a few thousand dollars but not their $2 million guarantee to Colorado. It's a little scary that we just went back to a mid-90s Michigan DC and we're going up against the triple option, no?
Bug status. Items fixed:
- The iPhone app.
- IE bug where content would show up way down the screen. (Inline CSS wasn't getting used on pages other than the homepage, for some reason.)
- Up/down voting has returned. It's a bit different, as an update in the software brought a new widget that tracks up and down votes separately and more obviously. There's also a setting to "dim" comments that fail to meet a certain threshold; I picked –5. No idea what that will do yet. [It appears the answer is "nothing," but maybe it puts classes on these items that I'm not doing anything with yet.]
- Have restored image upload facilities for trusted users using WLW. There is new login information that can be found in the post that explains how to use WLW with MGoBlog.
List of known issues in approximate order of importance:
- IE 7 users (and I think just IE 7 users) are having issues seeing the box wherein comments are composed. Note: I don't even try to support IE 6, so if your company hasn't updated its browser in ten years I cannot help you.
- The message board is ugly and uses space inefficiently again (but at least there are permalinks).
- Voting is not applying points to user accounts.
- mgolicious is not automatically updating.
- Sidebar pagers are goofy.
- The message board homepage is also in an undesirable state.
If there's something else wrong email me about it, please.
Etc.: There was a very silly AnnArbor.com article that chalked up Forcier's departure to the "impossible expectations" placed on his shoulders, such as going to class and not taking incompletes. It cried out to be fisked; The Wolverine Blog has fisked it. Tom Harmon is the #5 Big Ten Icon, so 1-4 better have dominated jungles, too. Braves & Birds explores why commentary is so dumb. Wrestling takes out OSU and Indiana; I stumbled across the OSU dual on BTN and decided "what the hell" since Michigan was ahead. It was surprisingly entertaining.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Connecticut|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, September 4th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan -3|
|TELEVISION||ABC/ESPN2 (Coverage Map)|
Run Offense vs. UConn
With a stable of backs six-deep, a strong interior line, and a quarterback who runs on dilithium, the run game should be one of Michigan's strengths this season. UConn's starting defensive linemen range from the tiny (225-lb Trevardo Williams) to the light (255-lb Jesse Joseph) to the good-sized (both defensive tackles are in the 290s). If Michigan's offensive line has made the improvements we think they have, they should be able to push this defensive line all over the field.
UConn's front four is built for speed, rather than power, which might make outside running a little tougher, but the Wolverines should be able to generate a good push up front. At the second level, the linebackers are all seniors, and all have pretty good size. However, the man in the middle, Greg Lloyd, is an enigma. He started the fall at defensive end, then was lost for the season with an ACL injury. A couple weeks later, and he's the starting middle linebacker. Might that make him more tentative? On the weakside, Lawrence Wilson is an athletic 226 pounds, which should give him the ability to chase Michigan's quarterbacks around.
Key Matchup: Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee v. The Husky Scheme.
From a physical standpoint, Michigan should be able to move the ball on the ground against UConn. Randy Edsall's coaching staff is aware of this, so they'll throw some things at Michigan's offense (such as the scrape exchange, maybe some run blitzing) to offset that advantage. The offensive braintrust must know when these tricks are coming, and how to counter them.
The Huskies were subpar against scrambly types last year, with West Virginia's Jarrett Brown, Cincinnati's Zach Collaros, and South Florida's BJ Daniels having particularly good days with their feet. UConn is going to come up with some new ideas to prevent Michigan from repeating this success.
Pass Offense vs. UConn
UConn's pass defense had a world of trouble last year, particularly once starting corner Jasper Howard was murdered in October. Part of that was the competition (Cincinnati and Notre Dame were very good passing teams last year), but part of the Huskies' #85 ranking in pass efficiency defense was simply not being very good at football.
So, losing a couple starters to the NFL is a good thing, right? No? Robert McClain (7th round, Panthers) and Robert Vaughn (undrafted, Packers) are both out the door, and this secondary was bad WITH two future NFLers roaming it. The returning starters are redshirt sophomores safety Jerome Junior (listed at second-string on UConn's depth chart) and corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Moving on up into starting roles are junior safeties Harris Agbor and Kijuan Dabney, along with redshirt sophomore corner Dwayne Gratz. Both second-string corners are true freshmen.
The one area of pass defense that the Huskies did well in last year was getting after the quarterback. They finished 28th nationally in sacks, and Michigan's projected starting tackles aren't known for their pass-blocking skills. However, leading sacker Lindsey Witten is off to the Pittsburgh Steelers (undrafted), and with him go 11 sacks. Expect a step back in that department from UConn.
Key Matchup: Michigan's Receivers v. Getting Open.
There have been enough reports throughout the offseason that Roy Roundtree and Darryl Stonum in particular, and the receiving corps at large, have improved in catching the ball. We know Roundtree has a knack for getting open, but the rest of the unit has had its share of struggles.
This UConn secondary might be Michigan-level bad (does "true freshmen in the two-deep" sound familiar?), but it's up to the receivers to take advantage of that. If they can get open against a weak UConn back four, there could be plenty of room to run after the catch. That will back up the defense and open running lanes, which is where Michigan is going to do most of its damage in this game.
Run Defense vs. UConn
Now things start getting sketchy. UConn's offense, like Michigan's, should move the ball on Saturday. Randy Edsall's team last year focused on the rush, and they'll probably do the same in 2010. Jordan Todman is a tiny speedy guy, and should see the majority of the carries. Robbie Frey and USC transfer DJ Shoemate (a wide receiver-turned-fullback for the Trojans) should do a bit more of the pounding.
The Husky offensive line is experienced (two redshirt seniors, two redshirt juniors, and a redshirt sophomore) and big (they average over 300 pounds, and the right side, which I assume will be a focus in rushing, features a 325-pounder and a 333-pounder), just as you'd expect from a grind-it-out offense. Michigan's defensive front is bigger than last year, but they still have their work cut out for them.
Without knowing as much as we'd like about Michigan's scheme, we do know that the linebackers, on the whole, have been disappointing so far in their time in Ann Arbor. Obi Ezeh is the heaviest one on the team, but the mental game has never been all there for him, which means he'll probably be replaced by Mark Moundros in the starting lineup. Craig Roh, who will be a blitzing specialist, has added enough size to make him effective against the maulers up front.
Key Matchup: Michigan's Linebackers v. Their Performance To Date.
Outside of Roh (who could be considered a defensive lineman), the linebackers had a seriously disappointing 2009. Jonas Mouton regressed from a strong 2008, and Obi Ezeh didn't show the improvement we've been waiting three years for. Michigan won't win this game if the linebackers can't get their pads on Todman and wrap him up, because he has the speed to do serious damage once he's past them.
Mark Moundros, former walkon and converted fullback though he may be, has been praised all offseason by the likes of Rich Rodriguez, Greg Robinson, and his teammates as someone who 1) plays with a physical edge and 2) understands the game, and is willing to work in the film room on schemes. If he supplants Ezeh, He's less physically talented, but also less likely to make Michigan fans groan with a poor play.
Pass Defense vs. UConn
Rich Rodriguez expects the Huskies to use play-action as a basis for their pass game, as they did last year. With a trio of inexperienced defensive backs patrolling (not including hybrids), that should scare the living daylights out of you, the Michigan fan. There are a couple reasons for optimism, I guess.
- Zach Frazer, the less impressive UConn quarterback last season, has been named the starter. Since then, Cody Endres has been suspended, so he won't be an option if Frazer struggles.
- UConn graduated its top two receivers in Marcus Easley (a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills) and Brad Kanuch.
That's it though, and the deep threat of Easley has been replaced by fellow speedster Kashif Moore. Tight end Ryan Griffin is available to get open over the middle for 30-yard touchdowns on third and 26.
MIchigan's scheme will be to play soft and give up some of the underneath stuff in order to avoid the Huskies going deep. With the roster as thin as it is, that's probably a good idea. GERG will probably also dial up some different pressure packages to take a bit of heat of the defensive backs.
Key Matchup: The Back Seven v. Broken Tackles.
If you allow an opposing offense to complete short passes, you'd damn sure better keep the gains to a minimum. Yards After Ezeh And Williams were huge last year, and with reports of iffy tackling in the fall scrimmage, that can't happen if Michigan is to win this contest.
Sophomore Dave Teggart returns to kick the ball, though he was iffy last year. He'll probably continue improving, so don't expect field goals to give the Huskies any trouble.
Punter Desi Cullen is out the door, leaving an unknown. With him, UConn was 24th in net punting last year, which is bound to take a step back. Michigan's punt return teams, of course have been nothing to fear. Tony Gibson has been newly-appointed the Special Teams Coordinator in the offseason, and having a single coach focused on the special teams game (at least in part) might improve that.
On the other side of the ball, UConn's return game has been outstanding the past couple years. Three different Huskies returned kicks for touchdowns last year, and all of them are back this season. They'll look for a new punt returner with the departure of Robert McClain, but I suspect they'll have some decent options there. Kickoffs into the endzone and punts with a lot of hangtime will be key.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
Come on, could it have been anything else?
The Wolverines re-open the Big House, Brock Mealer leads them out of the tunnel, and they're looking to (finally) break through under Rich Rodriguez. But those intangibles seem a little... tangible.
- UConn can generate more than one big play on the ground or through the air.
- The offensive tackles get Michigan's quarterbacks killed.
- Special teams seem... special.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan ends up with a positive turnover margin.
- Patrick Omameh and Steve Schilling are blocking downfield for a ballcarrier with a lot of daylight.
- The young corners look anything better than competent.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 ([Ed: Baseline 5, +1 for Aigh Woolfolk, +1 for Aigh Everyone Else In The Secondary, +1 for Srsly, -1 for Leadership Doesn't Shred Secondaries, -1 for UConn Loves to Grind, -1 for And They Can't Defend Athletic Spread Quarterbacks And We Have A Cheetah Strapped To A Jet Engine And Dropped Of A Plane.)
Desperate need to win level: 11 (Baseline 5; +1 for Season Opener, +1 for Brock, +1 for Stadium Opener, +1 for Let's Keep The Wolves At Bay For Like 30 Seconds, +1 for Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time, +1 for If The Stadium Sets An Attendance Record We'll Set The DNTW Record)
Loss will cause me to... Start worrying (for real this time) about Rodriguez's job security.
Win will cause me to... Immediately shift my terror complex from UConn to Notre Dame.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
This game looks to have the makings of an offensive shootout unless GERG Robinson is a miracle worker. Both defenses are expected to be subpar,
WesternUConn's offense is probably good, and Michigan's offense is an unknown decent trending towards good. One team will probably put up decent numbers in order to win. (Yes, this is almost verbatim from last year's Western Preview).
The question then, is which offense can better take advantage of the opposition's defensive weaknesses. Both offenses should be solid all around, but better in the running game, and both secondaries are weaknesses. I'll take Michigan's front 6-7 over UConn's front 7 though, partially because the UConn D-Ends are nowhere near big enough to hold up at the point of attack, whereas Michigan's are 285 pounds a pop. The Wolverines should also be more confusing in their pressure schemes.
The turnover battle will be where this game turns. The Wolverines have been awful the past two years, finishing in the bottom 20 each season. If they can at least break even this game, It's hard for me to see something other than a win. If they come out in the positive (and don't give it back in special teams), it could be a very good day indeed in Ann Arbor.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan plays all three quarterbacks if the game isn't in doubt in the fourth quarter. Denard Robinson will lead the team in rushing...
- ...but two other Wolverines score rushing touchdowns.
- The defense successfully executes the "bend quite a bit" tactic, giving up more than 200 yards through the air.
- Michigan, 38-30.