"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Important (not important). This is a frog.
I have been exhorted to call this MGoFrog and make it a thing. I'm afraid that by doing so I will give Adidas an idea for a Michigan uniform, unfortunately.
Important (important). Will Heininger features in an Outside The Lines article on mental health issues for athletes:
"I had emotional pain that was overwhelming; I would wake up, and from morning until I feel asleep -- when I was able sleep -- I had troubling thoughts that were utterly consuming," said the 2011 Michigan honors graduate. "Not a minute would go by in a day, without my depression on my mind … this, this felt impossible."
One of the things CAPA is fighting for is better treatment for these sorts of issues; read the whole thing. Both of the whole things.
"Please enjoy this punch in the nuts." –DJ Newbill
CHAOS! Did you happen to watch the rote blowouts in the Big Ten last night? You did not, because Ohio State and Wisconsin lost to Penn State and Northwestern, respectively. At home. As our own BISB said:
Michigan and Michigan State are like two dudes in a hot air balloon over Pompeii right now.
— Bry Mac (@Bry_Mac) January 30, 2014
Yes. They're trying to push each other into the lava, but yes. Or Adam Jacobi:
The Big Ten Is Full of Blood and Spiders
Jacboi has a nice table that indicates the upcoming "no days off in the Big Ten"/"this conference is so deep" announcer memes are in fact on point:
|Year||Conf. Rating||Rank||Avg. B1G||Worst Team||Rating|
|2003||.7688||5||No. 56||Penn State||210|
|2004||.7520||5||No. 62||Penn State||218|
|2005||.7862||3||No. 47||Penn State||215|
|2013||.8459||1||No. 34||Penn State||148|
The closest thing to an easy out is the Northwestern team that is a half-game out of a first round bye in the Big Ten tourney; there's not even a last year's Penn State to kick around. There's a last year's Penn State plus Tim Frazier. See cliff above.
This is good and bad for Michigan. In the Kenpom world it's good since Michigan's beaten PSU handily and has yet to play OSU, but in the NCAA seeding world you get more credit for beating 6-seed OSU and terrible PSU than you get for beating 10-seed OSU and mediocre PSU. Neither of these effects are huge, so the correct reaction is probably just to point and laugh*. (And fume at how bad Big Ten refs are.)
*[But probably not at Aaron Craft. He got crossed over for the game winner, which was Newbill rushing a wrist-flick shot because Craft was coming. Meanwhile, Tim Frazier's statline: 8 points on 9 shot attempts, 7 assists, 6 TO. No offense to Derrick Walton, but put Craft on this Michigan team and they are a juggernaut. I shouldn't have mentioned this.]
Bill Carmody: gone, but not forgotten
The Wildcat conundrum. Meanwhile, we've been talking about how fascinating Northwestern is on the podcast for the last couple weeks. And boy, aren't they? Last year they were extremely bad, around 140th on both sides of the ball. The Wildcats then:
- fired Bill Carmody
- hired Chris Collins
- graduated two low-usage, mediocre efficiency seniors
- graduated a high usage, low efficiency senior
- got Drew Crawford back
- added a pretty terrible offensive player in freshman Sanjay Lumpkin, who they play starter's minutes
For some reason, the result is a massively unbalanced version of the team they were last year. Northwestern is 11th(!!!) in defensive efficiency on Kenpom for no discernable reason whatsoever. They have plummeted to 320th on offense. Their games are incredibly watchable for unwatchable games, because you're always trying to unravel the mystery of why the Wildcats are elite on defense. It makes no sense. No sense at all. Here's John Gasaway trying to figure it out.
Meanwhile, Northwestern is a half-game out of a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament and that gets BIG TENNNN, right? I think that's a BIG TENNNN.
By the way. Michigan shot 63% from two against the Wildcats and averaged 1.21 points per possession, and Alex Olah—Gasaway's best guess as to why NW is playing so much better D—was on the court for 30 minutes.
Recruiting battles past. OSU has a couple of guys on their team that Michigan pursued, and it's interesting to see their development. Or lack thereof, as the case may be.
Michigan stopped recruiting Amadeo Della Valle so they could go after Caris LeVert, who was right under OSU's nose. OSU grabs ADV; Michigan gets LeVert. In year two, Della Valle is a very poor man's LeVert: a skinny shooting guard with some ability to drive, but one who's only getting 30% of OSU's minutes as they struggle to generate anything on offense. LeVert generates a lot of assists; ADV is generating few. Hell, LeVert has replaced about 95% of Tim Hardaway's production a year after Michigan was trying to redshirt him.
The context of the team is important, but it seems like that Michigan made the right choice on that one.
The other guy on the OSU roster Michigan was involved with is Amir Williams, OSU's mercurial center. Williams has oven mitts for hands and gets pulled on the regular despite OSU's near total lack of post players to replace him with; he has seemingly not improved one whit from the absentminded freshman I remember from two years ago. Michigan was never really a consideration for Williams, but it's kind of amazing that OSU would probably trade him for Jordan Morgan without blinking.
Either way. In yesterday's post on Northwestern's prospective union I mentioned that the NLRB had flipped back and forth on the issue of student-employees being able to organize based on assertions from a 2006 paper. In that paper the most recent ruling had gone against the students trying to organize. Well, that has again flipped:
“There’s case law for the NLRB involving teaching assistants which supports their position,” Baum said. “There have been different decisions both ways. What they’re saying is that this really is a form of litigation to bring about change because they’re asking for something very similar.”
In December 2013, the American Arbitration Association announced that graduate teaching and research assistants at New York University had officially unionized. The group is the only graduate assistants’ union at a private university in the U.S.
Demonstrating the volatility of the NLRB, graduate assistants at NYU were granted the ability to negotiate a union contract and both improved health benefits and increased stipends in 2000. But in 2005 the ruling was switched following a case involving Brown graduate assistants in which the NLRB ruled that graduate assistants are students, not employees, and therefore cannot unionize.
The recent overturn of the 2005 ruling, though, is an encouraging sign for the newly formed CAPA.
One gets the sense that the NLRB tends to blow whichever way the White House does. In CAPA's case there seems to be no way to put the cat back in the bag if Northwestern does indeed get certified, so now is as good a time to strike as any.
Typical. FERPA means whatever Universities want it to mean, so the university says they will not release any details about Brendan Gibbons. This is in line with the university's general stance on releasing information—don't do it, because we have to cover our ass. Suspicious in most cases, here it verges on appalling given the fact that FERPA specifically states this:
The text of FERPA notes that the law shouldn’t “be construed to prohibit an institution of postsecondary education from disclosing the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by such institution against a student who is an alleged perpetrator of any crime of violence … or a nonforcible sex offense, if the institution determines as a result of that disciplinary proceeding that the student committed a violation of the institution’s rules or policies with respect to such crime or offense.”
With lurid conspiracy theories flying back and forth, everyone would be better off if Michigan came forth and showed everyone exactly what happened to expel a student four years after the incident that got him expelled transpired. This is not an athletic department thing, but rather a larger pattern of CYA secrecy that's beneath the university. Or at least should be.
Vastly underrated; properly rated
Previously: The Offense
My look back at Brian's epic 2011 football preview continues with the defense. This one got a lot more interesting than the offense, because despite all the warm fuzzies we felt from the GERG-to-Greg transition*, expecting a jump from the #110 total defense to #17 would have been outrageous. As in get-this-man-a-straitjacket outrageous.
Thankfully, the performance of the defense exceeded all reasonable expectations, and even most of the unreasonable ones. Let's peep last year's predictions, shall we?
*Not to mention the Tony-Gibson-to-Anyone-But-Tony-Gibson transition.
The move to three-tech won't be an issue [for Ryan Van Bergen]. He played it two years ago and when Michigan went to a four man front last year they stuck him back inside. He's now 290, a three year starter, and a senior. He's a good bet to crack double-digit TFLs and get some All Big Ten mention.
RVB actually ended up at strongside DE, which probably helped him lead the team with 12.5 TFLs. He ended up earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from both the coaches and media and graduating as one of the most beloved Wolverines in recent memory.
Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.
Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.
A year after inexplicably having to move past not just Obi Ezeh, but converted fullback Mark Moundros, on the depth chart at middle linebacker despite subsequently making it painfully obvious that he should've been the starter all along, Demens had his breakout season. He led the team with 94 tackles—second was Jordan Kovacs at 75—and saw his TFLs jump to a respectable five. Like Van Bergen, Demens was an all-conference honorable mention.
Even so, [Kovacs's] season was a step forward from obvious liability to "certainly not a liability." Even if he's a walk-on and even if he's obviously small and slow, he should continue improving. He'll be a little less small and slow with another year of conditioning. Being in a coherent defensive system should help put him in positions to make plays. His redshirt year was not spent on the team so he's not as close to his ceiling as your average redshirt junior.
He's not going to be Reggie Nelson. That won't keep him from becoming the first Michigan safety you only hate a little tiny bit since Jamar Adams.
This may still be underselling Kovacs, who took to competent coaching even better than expected and became the team's rock in the secondary, covering for his athletic limitations with usually-impeccable positioning. No, he's not Reggie Nelson, but I don't think you can find a remotely rational Michigan fan who harbors even the tiniest bit of ill will towards Kovacs. Michigan's shocking lack of big plays allowed—both against the pass and the run—can largely be attributed to his play; despite missing a game, Kovacs led the team with 51 solo tackles. He also notched 8 TFLs. All hail Kovacs.
I have the same optimism about this Johnson/Gordon combo that I had last year. This, of course, terrifies me. It seems unnatural to think an unproven Michigan safety could be competent. I like Gordon's agility and tackling, though, and while there will be rough spots early by midseason he should settle into that midlevel safety range like Englemon or Barringer.
This time around, the optimism regarding the free safety position was justified. Thomas Gordon had his share of struggles, especially late in the season, but for the most part he was quite competent. Around here, safety competence is a luxury on par with consistent placekicking.
Sacks almost double from 1.4 per game to 2.4. That would be a move from 98th to around 30th.
Michigan finished with 2.3 sacks per game. That put them at... 29th. Tip o' the cap.
Turnovers forced go from 19 to 27.
Brian's continued insistence that turnover luck would someday go Michigan's way finally paid off; the Wolverines forced 29 turnovers. It also helped that this defense actually tackled people.
EVERYTHING SEEMS WONDERFUL
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW RIGHT THIS WOULD BE.
Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.
No full credit simply because Mike Jones was projected as the starter at WLB, a fact I had completely forgotten about until I looked back at the preview. Morgan ended up playing in 12 games, starting seven (the first being in week two against ND), and finished fifth on the team in tackles.
If [J.T. Floyd] gets a lot better this year it's time to take the Gibson chatter seriously.
This wasn't really a prediction, but... yeah. Tony Gibson minus all of the points.
Beyond Talbott it's true freshmen, but at least there's a horde of them. Maryland's Blake Countess arrives with the most hype and should be the biggest threat to play. (Caveat: last year Cullen Christian arrived with the most hype.)
Points for mentioning Countess as the most likely freshman to see the field. No points for giving him one sentence when he took over the starting job by midseason, especially considering the Christian caveat. As you'll see, the hype that should've surrounded Countess went—justifiably, in the preseason—to Courtney Avery.
Not So Much
Healthy again and less abandoned in the middle of the defense, Martin's numbers should soar. Before the sprain Martin was on pace for 11 TFLs and 4 sacks; after it he got just a half TFL the rest of the year. While the front of the schedule is a bit easier, Martin had 8.5 TFLs and 51 tackles a year ago. Reasonable progression should have gotten him to 11. Add in further progression plus three DL coaches plus a bit more help on the line plus a free-roaming QB attack role and 15 to 18 TFLs plus a little more QB terror should be within reach. He should be All Big Ten. He might be better.
I hate that I have to put this prediction in this category, but here it is. While Martin was the best player on the defense, his numbers were hampered by having to play the nose; he finished with six TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Despite the lack of statistical production, Martin's efforts were recognized with second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also forced a pitch on a speed option. See you on Sundays, MM.
"Experience" was why [Will Heininger] got the nod; that experience consists of backing Brandon Graham up. In is time on the field he rarely did anything wrong; he rarely did anything right, either. He was a non-factor. As a guy spotting Graham from time to time that's cool, but as a starter or a guy rotating with another equally obscure walk-on that's a recipe for zero production out of a spot that should see its fair share of plays. If this spot averages out as a zero next year that's probably good—and that's not good.
The biggest swing-and-a-miss on the list. Heininger swapped spots with RVB and started all 12 regular-season games at five-tech DT before missing the Sugar Bowl with a foot injury. He exceeded all expectations of a walk-on raised in the shadow of the Big House, proving he could hold his own against Big Ten competition and be a positive force on the interior. After the season, Brian ranked him as the third most siginificant departure on the defense, behind only Martin and Van Bergen. While part of that is due to the remaining depth along the defensive line, I don't think anyone thought Heininger's absence would be felt in such a way.
Brink will play. After mentioning Heininger's experience he said Brink has "practiced very well, played well, been productive" and promised to rotate six guys on the line. Six is a weird number because it means one of Black, Campbell, or Brink is on the fringe. Given the lineups Campbell seems the most likely even though that seems unlikely.
If you're saying "who?" you're probably not alone (though you read this blog, so you probably aren't saying "who?"). Walk-on Nathan Brink was penciled in as the starting SDE at one point in the fall, earning much preseason praise for his unlikely rise up the depth chart. After garnering all that hype, however, he made almost no impact, recording just one tackle while barely seeing the field. He's a prime example of why you must take all offseason practice hype with a grain of salt, especially when said hype involves previously-unknown walk-ons.
We've yet to see the much of the pass-rushing skill that made Roh a top 50 recruit. He's displayed hints of the ability to zip past tackles before they know what hits them when suffered to rush the passer—there's a chance that when he puts hand to ground and is told to let it rip that he goes bonkers. Roh is the biggest X factor on the team. He could end up with anywhere from a half-dozen to twelve sacks.
Playing his third position in three seasons, Roh didn't quite go bonkers, tallying four sacks and eight TFLs. Roh's play still markedly improved from his previous two seasons, but he still hasn't lived up to the sky-high recruiting hype. Much of the blame for that can fall upon the shoulders of Greg Robinson and Co., and we'll see if one last position switch, this time to SDE, finally results in Roh producing double-digit sacks.
In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.
Ryan became a pleasant early-season surprise when he started against Western Michigan and made his presence felt by batting an Alex Carder pass that Brandon Herron would intercept and return 94 yards to the house. While certainly more of an asset against the pass than the run—his balls-to-the-wall approach was great on blitzes, but not always sound when keeping contain—Ryan proved that he was by far the best option on the strong side. Just one year later, all-conference honors are very much in play.
Assuming he's healthy, another year to learn the position and get bigger should see him improve on his previous form. There is a nonzero chance his earlier performances were not representative of his ability, but the smart money is on Woolfolk being at least average. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him go at the tail end of next year's NFL draft.
Troy Woolfolk's return from the exploding ankle of doom wasn't as triumphant as we all hoped. While he started ten games—six at corner and four at safety—Woolfolk never looked fully comfortable on the field and was supplanted at each position by a younger player (Countess at corner, Gordon at safety). It would be quite a surprise to see him taken in this week's NFL draft.
Courtney Avery busts out. Going into next year people are talking about him as an All Big Ten performer.
After showing much promise as a true freshman, Avery was the obvious candidate to grow into a big-time role as the team's top corner of the present and future. Instead, he started the first two games, then ceded that role to J.T. Floyd, Woolfolk, and eventually Countess. Avery was a solid nickel corner, and should reprise that role in 2012, but his progression wasn't as great as expected.
Craig Roh leads the team in sacks with eight.
Nein. Despite Michigan's impressive rise in team sacks, they were spread pretty evenly across both the D-line and the back seven thanks to Mattison's blitz-happy approach. Ryan Van Bergen paced the team with 5.5, with Jordan Kovacs actually tying Roh for second with four.
Michigan noses just above average in yardage allowed. Advanced metrics have them about 50th.
I know Brian has no complaints about being so hilariously wrong on this one. As noted above, the Wolverines finished 17th in yardage allowed, and they also shot up to sixth (faints) in points allowed. Football Outsiders's FEI metric ranked them as the #16 defense in the country. Despite watching every second of the 2011 season (usually twice), I still have a hard time not believing I'm the victim of an elaborate hoax or a drug experiment gone horribly awry. If you see me waking up in a gutter and GERG is still the defensive coordinator, please do me a favor and run me over with an SUV. Make sure to double-tap, please.
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE
Van Bergen and Martin, Heininger
- NT Mike Martin. Penetrating, active nose tackle a major factor in Michigan's massive improvement in run defense; forced a pitch on a speed option; late-season run was absolute dominance; backed up by air, hope, and freshmen.
- SDE Ryan Van Bergen. Crafty veteran and iron man was less explosive than Martin but not by much; turned in huge OSU game; consistent production in UFR even if the actual numbers aren't that amazing; backed up by walk-on.
- DT Will Heininger. Walk-on evolved from liability against MAC teams to solid, maybe even better than that, Big Ten DT; made a play or two every game after the nonconference schedule; replacement will be Will Campbell and the hope he can finally play some football.
CB/S Troy Woolfolk. Bounced from CB to S throughout career; basically a NEVER FORGET poster all to himself after series of injuries robbed him of all or much of his senior year twice; marginalized by injury and burned by Posey; did not start Sugar Bowl.
- JB Fitzgerald. Touted recruit never managed to see the field except on occasional snaps spotting Demens or playing DE under GERG.
- Brandon Herron. Scored two touchdowns against WMU and was never heard from again.
- Jared Van Slyke. Saw some snaps due to injury over the course of his career.
Kovacs, Ryan, Roh
- SS Jordan Kovacs. Never going to be a great deep half guy but the best damn tiny linebacker there's ever been; great tackling in space; great angles; huge part of Michigan's lack of big plays given up; best safety since at least Marcus Ray and probably further back.
- SLB Jake Ryan. Explosive edge athlete with a burst opponents are unprepared for; did get confused sometimes as a freshman; outstanding flow; nickel DE.
- WDE Craig Roh. Solid, but did not provide the explosive edge rush Michigan was hoping for. May end up moving to SDE, but his size and body type seemingly disqualifies him from that.
- CB Blake Countess. Touted recruit stepped into the starting lineup when Woolfolk was struck down and played very well; crappy edge tackling needs work; had tough close to the season against OSU and VT.
- CB JT Floyd. Resurrected his career and even turned in a big play or three along the way; jumped a route against Illinois to salt that game away; best technique amongst cover guys; still not that fast; also crappy edge tackling.
- MLB Kenny Demens. Ate a lot of blocks after move to new system; hopefully will get more decisive in year two; highly underrated cover guy; not much of a blitzer; may seem a lot better if the NT in front of him is a space eater instead of a penetrator.
- FS Thomas Gordon. Also a big part of Michigan's excellent big play prevention; largely exempted from secondary criticism after OSU game because he was not on the field for the worst of it; sweet-ass interception against EMU; probably a better fit at SS.
WLB Desmond Morgan. Wrested the job away from a couple veterans once he got healthy, whereupon he was okay for a freshman; problems in coverage; problems with misdirection; a big chunk of Michigan's outside vulnerability; will either improve or see someone yoink his job.
- Nickelback Courtney Avery. Diminutive but quality underneath cover guy; PBU and INT sealed OSU game; also a crappy edge tackler; fine option as a third corner.
- WDE Jibreel Black. Spotted Roh, could not take his job; may be a candidate to move to SDE if he can put on the weight; emergence of Frank Clark threatens to cut into playing time.
- DT Will Campbell. Alternates tossing his man into the quarterback with passive acceptance of blocks. Conditioning and effort an issue.
- WLB Brandin Hawthorne. Tiny safety-sized LB a man without a position after Michigan ditched the 3-3-5.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
please don't be our DT.
Most of the DL. YAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYYYYY. The best unit on the team is strip-mined by eligibility expiration, leaving the next generation to… oh, right, the next generation doesn't exist. Fantastic.
Michigan's options at SDE are redshirt junior walk-on Nate Brink, who saw occasional snaps this year and was blown up on 80% of them, guys no one has seen or heard from like Jordan Paskorz, or true freshmen. At defensive tackle they've got two spots to fill and two guys who have seen meaningful snaps, Quinton Washington and Will Campbell. Kenny Wilkins and Richard Ash exist, Chris Rock will be coming off a redshirt, and there are some freshmen arriving. The most prominent is 330-pound tank/battleship/Hoke impersonator Ondre Pipkins.
I'll wait for you to finish retching.
All right! We retched it real good! Anyway. Massive dropoff is all but inevitable here. I'm betting Brink, Pipkins, and Campbell are your opening-day starters with Washington a guy who rotates in on the interior; Godin, Strobel, and Wormley will all play immediately due to necessity, leaping past Wilkins and Ash. Rock may also get some PT.
Nothing else. So we've got that going for us. Except…
Maybe WLB. Desmond Morgan is far from invulnerable at WLB, especially with Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer enrolling early. James Ross is extensively praised for his play identification ability and should be a candidate for early playing time. Teeny-tiny Antonio Poole is coming off a redshirt and is presumably less teeny-tiny.
That is a lot of guys vying for a single starting spot, many of them more athletic than Morgan at a spot that puts a premium on athleticism. Meanwhile, Kenny Demens is backed up by Mike Jones and more freshmen. Like Omameh, displacing him from the starting lineup provides an ancillary benefit by creating a quality backup where there is none already.
WHAT'S THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Sanity. O Mattison, without whom we are naught, yea, verily doth we bring these burnt offerings to your lustrous feet. May they keep your pecs jiggling as they command our forces to do something wondrous.
Experience. Michigan has it with eight starters back. For the first time since Carr's final season Michigan will go into the year running the same thing they did the year before. Run and tell that.
Depth at linebacker and quasi-linebacker. Michigan may have to pirate one of the three valid options at WDE to help out on the other side of the line but right now you can have decent confidence in any of Roh, Black, and Clark. At SLB, Ryan is a bust-out star, Brennen Beyer is coming off a freshman season with some promise and a role in short yardage, and Cam Gordon's still hanging around. In the middle, a flood of touted freshmen arrive to back up returning starters; Poole is also around.
Bending but not breaking. Kovacs and Gordon gave up vanishingly few big plays over the course of the season; both return.
WHAT'S THE LAST SEASON OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
The line, obviously. There's some talent there but if Michigan doesn't experience a massive backslide it's time to assume that Michigan's DL will be great as long as Hoke and Mattison and Montgomery are around.
okay, but what about, like, teams other than Western Michigan?
Getting to the quarterback. Roh did not blow up as we hoped and most of the options to replace other guys are ponderous. Campbell and Washington and Pipkins are going to be the sorts of guys who shove a couple dudes at the LOS on passing plays. Michigan got away with a lack of pass rush from the outside last year because a couple of their inside guys were great penetrators; next year Michigan needs their outside LB types (WDE and SLB) to MAKE PLAYS or opposing quarterbacks will be able to grow small businesses in the pocket.
Secondary athleticism. I love Kovacs with all of the hearts and think whatever athleticism he lacks is more than made up for by his smarts. At this point I'm not sure athleticism is even an issue. I can't remember the last time it came up in a game.
The rest of the secondary… we don't know about. Sometimes you're going to get burned over the top. When you have great recovery speed you can live. When you don't you die, which happened to Michigan time and again against Devier Posey. JT Floyd is much better but isn't likely to get a sniff from the NFL; Countess and Avery are faster but little buggers ill-suited to take on the Michael Floyds of the world. Thomas Gordon has decent to good speed; he still got burned over the top big time by Nebraska.
There are no blazers and the big guy in the secondary is almost kind of maybe outright slow. Yeah. So… could be an issue.
WHAT'S INEXPLICABLE JIMI HENDRIX
Can these coaches salvage the line? Tell me lies, baby.
How ready to play are some of these freshmen? If Bolden comes in and rips Morgan's job away from him that's probably good, but we're really talking about Ondre Pipkins, Chris Wormley, Tom Strobel, and Matt Godin here. Pipkins all but has to start from day one and two of the other three will be frequently-used depth guys.
Are the cornerbacks for real? They seemed fantastic over the first 11 games but the results against OSU and VT are alarming.
MANDATORY WILD-ASS GUESS
I'm torn. There is a case for a backslide despite returning eight starters. For one, the fumbles will not be as plentiful. For two, a lot of Michigan's weakness was covered up by Mike Martin being essentially unblockable the back half of the season and Van Bergen being so reliable. I'm worried that without those two, Michigan is going to have issues. In the best case scenario the new guys prevent OL from getting to the second level, making a lot of plays available for the linebackers that the linebackers might not make. I also don't see where the heat comes from.
But they do return eight starters and go from year one to year two in the same system. They seem pretty injury-resilient at spots that aren't Jordan Kovacs and bring in a lot of talented freshmen. They will be much older at just about every spot.
It's mandatory, though, so… yeah, they'll be worse. The lack of consistent pressure will be a year-long problem that exposes some of the issues in the secondary and the linebackers are not at the level they need to be to benefit from planetoid DL.
Sacks backslide into the bottom half of D-I after finishing 29th, total defense slides into the 30s, and the scoring defense does not repeat its top ten performance from a year ago.
The DL took a hit for the Sugar. Nate Brink is out, leaving I Don't Know behind RVB at strongside defensive end, and Will Heininger is "questionable" with a foot thing. No one expects him to play. Heininger's absence would probably mean a start for Will Campbell and more playing time for Quinton Washington, plus a tired Mike Martin since he won't have anything approximating a plausible backup:
"(We have) two other seniors up front that are going to play their last college game and their last game for Michigan," Hoke said. "Sometimes, you’ve got to be an iron man."
The line is thin.
MonuMental dropped wallpaper. It's uncommonly gorgeous even for MonuMental.
He also has a request for people who have enjoyed his work. Click through.
Denard got Sports Scienced. BIZANG
Virginia Tech's kicker got in jail. Like, jail-jail. I think I mentioned that already, but the new thing is VT's significant uncertainty at the spot:
Beamer said everyone made the trip except suspended place-kicker Cody Journell, who is facing a felony charge of entering a house with the intent to commit a felony. He spent six days in jail before being released this morning.
Beamer said senior Tyler Weiss will handle extra-point tries and field goals of less than 22 yards against Michigan, and senior Justin Myer will attempt longer kicks.
The Hokies have a guy who's deadly accurate from inside the five but can't get a 30-yarder over the bar. I look forward to seeing this strangely configured man.
The Big Ten and Pac 12 enjoyed a long, teary hug. Starting in 2017 the two conferences will have a scheduling alliance designed to "match teams of similar strength" in football, which is all that matters. The two leagues will also play in all other sports but in all other sports it's a matter of replacing one of your quality nonconference opponents with a Pac-12 school. Only in football does this make for real change.
While the move away from cupcake non-games is welcome, that was already on the docket as the Big Ten prepared to move to a nine-game conference schedule. That is now off the table:
The scheduling partnership means the Big Ten won't be moving from eight conference games to nine beginning in the 2017 season. The league had announced the increase in August.
"If it's not off the board, it's coming off the board," Delany said. "When this opportunity was raised, it's pretty much the understanding that it's in lieu of."
Instead of playing Wisconsin and Penn State more Michigan will play some Pac-10 teams. Honestly, I'd rather skip this business and expand the conference schedule. I'd rather have a more balanced conference schedule and more frequently revisited rivalries with the rest of the league than games Michigan could schedule anyway.
ANTI-BONUS: This hurts Michigan and Ohio State more than anyone else since they are locked into that cross-divisional protected rivalry. The other contenders in the West have annual matchups against Purdue (Iowa), Indiana (MSU), and the post-apocalypse version of Penn State (Nebraska). Michigan gets OSU annually. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes' main division rival's permanent crossover is… Minnesota. At least the Badgers won't be able to duck any and all plausible nonconference opponents anymore.
So it's a push leaning to not good right now. It will will be a total fail if Michigan takes the opportunity to ditch the ND series. Survey says… probably not($):
While Brandon said he wouldn’t want to predict anything in the long term -- and he said 2017 is not considered long term in his view of football scheduling -- if the current schedule were to remain the same, the Irish will remain on the schedule.
That schedule would be eight Big Ten games, a home or away game with the Big Ten/Pac-12 agreement, a home or away game against Notre Dame and two non-conference home games.
“They like to play us and we like to play them so that game continues to be on our schedule,” Brandon said. “As it relates to the long term, who knows. The long term is pretty hard to predict with the constant changes in college football, but for now we intend to play Notre Dame and they are on our schedule and we’ll be playing them for the next few years anyway.”
If the ND game stays in place that will take Michigan's interesting nonconference games from one to two in 2017, but you can say goodbye to the idea of playing anyone from the ACC, Big 12, or SEC in the nonconference unless Jerry Jones is throwing money around like a sad old lonely man. And that was going to happen in 2017 anyway with a move to a nine-game conference schedule.
The Big Ten got a lot of credit for envisioneering a multifaceted solution to the dynamic problems of college athletics. I don't get it. Not to pick on the MZone, but, uh:
And just like that, the SEC's addition of Mizzou and Texas A&M seems so...quaint. The Big East's addition of Boise State and...who again?... seems so 2011. As Scott points out, the B1G and Pac-12 gain a lot of the upside of expansion (broader reach, new markets and recruiting areas( without actually expanding. And with the conferences' TV deals with ESPN expiring in 2016, the BTN and the Pac-12 new network stand to make a financial killing.
The SEC diluting its product with Mizzou and A&M was never a good idea to begin with. This lacks any huge, stupid downsides like the SEC deal, so there's that, but at its heart it's one football game a year. Just because the man with the eyebrows says something doesn't mean it's true.
Michigan hired a soccer coach. He's from Providence, he's turned a nothing program into a consistent NCAA participant, he's not Caleb Porter, but he seems like a pretty good idea. More details in the board thread.
Tigerdroppings got cited by a newspaper. Tennessee WR DeAnthony Arnett is leaving Tennessee after Charlie Baggett's exit to be closer to his ailing father. You're probably wondering if Michigan will take a look after grabbing Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh in the last few weeks. There is a wild card spot open since Bri'onte Dunn decided to stick with the Golden Bobcats.
Michigan would be foolish not to explore the possibility. If he doesn't get a waiver he'd be coming off his redshirt year with three to play when Roundtree and Stonum exit. He fills a hole on the roster after Michigan didn't take any WRs last year. If Michigan doesn't hop on him his most likely destination is MSU. Since he's a transfer he doesn't have to be crammed into the 28 available LOI slots. His stock has not dropped over the last year: Arnett had 24 catches as a freshman. His timeline matches up well with Michigan's needs and he's got talent. I would grab him and see if Michigan suffers the one or two extra departures that would allow them to take 28 on Signing Day anyway.
That's beside the point. This is the point:
Arnett caught 24 passes for 242 as a true freshman for the Volunteers last season, but several factors have prompted Arnett to ask for a release from Tennesse, according to fan site tigerdroppings.com.
That link leads to a C&P of the Rivals article on his decision to exit.
OH TE Sam Grant is seeing Michigan's main competition fill up a bit. Kyle Kalis teammate Sam Grant just picked up an Oklahoma offer, which had the potential to significantly complicate what looked like a straightforward decision to avoid the tire fire that is BC football for Michigan. That offer may have just fell by the wayside with AZ TE Taylor McNamara's commitment to the Sooners($). McNamara was briefly a Michigan target before he decided Ann Arbor was too far from home.
That gives OU two tight ends in the last week, but Grant is still planning on a visit in January.
Josh Garnett said something reasonable. This was it.
Michigan recruit Josh Garnett: 'I'm like Suh, but on offense'
Also not sure if serious. Wait… what?
Despite his pro-style roots, Borges didn't shun the spread. After resigning from Auburn in December 2007, Borges took the next year off, his first since starting coaching, and made visits to college teams like Mississippi State, Florida and Cal as well as to the NFL's Detroit Lions.
Then, in preparation for Michigan's season, he consulted with spread-offense practitioners like Temple coach Steve Addazio.
Steve Addazio is a spread offense practitioner like Jim Tressel is an honesty practitioner.
Multi-year scholarships got overriden, too. That PDF only had 48 objections to the multi-year scholarship option so I thought it was in the clear. It is not:
More than 75 schools are asking to override a plan approved in October to allow multiyear athletic scholarships rather than the one-year renewable awards schools currently provide.
That's disappointing but at least the world is being alerted to the asshat factory that is the Indiana State athletic department. If it goes to an override vote, 5/8ths of the membership would have to vote it down to eliminate it.
Someone made Central Michigan's stadium in Minecraft. Srs.
CMU was not in my top ten "schools most likely to create 1:1 replica of their stadium in Minecraft." BOOM:
- Georgia Tech
- Washington State
- Notre Dame
Bowl lol continues. It's costing LSU and Alabama almost a million dollars to buy their band tickets for the SEC West title game. Clemson expects to eat 200k in losses for winning the ACC, too.
Michigan's uniforms were named the best in college football by, like, fashion people. WSJ:
Michigan: Of all the traditional uniforms, the Wolverines' maize-and-blue unis earned the highest marks from the panel. (Michigan also wore throwback uniforms this season that received mixed reviews, but our panel didn't evaluate them.)
American fashion designer Marc Ecko especially liked the color weight on the jersey, while graphic artist Josh Vanover praised the "bold, bright colors" and "clean" fonts.
But what really pushed Michigan to the top was its iconic winged helmet, which received near-universal praise for its creativity.
"Anyone that uses it, no matter what color you put it in, it's Michigan," said Anthony Coleman, the managing editor of the fashion and street culture blog SlamxHype. "You can use it, but realize that you're stealing from Michigan."
Maryland also came in for praise for their whatever that was, as did Oregon, so this is not a panel of get-off-my-lawn types. Michigan does their thing so well they don't have to resort to goofy things they've done so far this year.
Basketball had a scare against Bradley. A second-half run finally broke open an uncomfortable game as Michigan put the nonconference schedule (mostly) to bed. Holding the Rope has a holistic overview. Jon Horford's lingering stress fracture forced McLimans on the floor and there were a fair number of "OH COME ON" shots made by the Braves as they isolationed their way to a barrage of shots Kobe Bryant would find difficult. Still… Bradley went out and got annihilated 90-51 by a very good Witchita State team yesterday and the Big Ten is terrifying.
Without Horford it is even more critical for Morgan and Smotrycz to stay out of foul trouble. That is not likely. Michigan cannot drop tonight's game against Penn State. There's zero room for error in the league this year and there is a bright line between 9-9—tourney lock—and 8-10. This game against PSU is just one of seven Michigan has left against teams ranked below them in Kenpom (#143 PSU x2, #69 NW, #122 Iowa, #126 Nebraska, #93 Arkansas).
INSANE SMOTRYCZ SHOOTING UPDATE: 22 of 38 from 3 (58%), fifth nationally in eFG%. Novak is 16th with his 64%/42% shooting.
Etc.: Michigan scores best comeback on Doctor Saturday's year-end list of said comebacks. The Rees fumble that greatly aided that comeback leads off the list of gaffes. Penn State tire fire claims Drake, McGloin, Paul Jones, forces Bolden to start against Houston. Penn State still has no coach.
Rimington: acquired. David Molk is your 2011 Rimington winner as the nation's best center:
I haven't watched every snap of every other center's career in detail, but I have watched Molk and I would have scoffed if he didn't win. Good move, Rimington award. The scoffing… you don't want this, son.
With the award and the first-team All-American status that goes with it, Molk will be one of the guys you randomly stumble across pages for on the Bentley site when trying to figure out all-decade teams. He'll show up in an endzone of Michigan Stadium at some point, grudgingly waving at the crowd. This makes me happy.
Future centers need not apply for the 2010s All-Decade team, by the way. Your application is as likely to be successful as Charlie Weis getting another head coaching—SKREEEEEEEEETCH
Carry on my Weighward son. So this happened:
I'm still waiting for Orson to email the Kansas AD asking "who are you and when did you think of this," thus exposing the brilliant hoax. Because that ain't real. Kansas did not just hire an old sociopath whose college tenure is spectacular failure at Notre Dame and leading the Florida offense into walrusball territory. They did not shell out three million a year for him. These are not things that happen without Batman villains intervening in the water supply.
In the unlikely event this is a real thing that really happened, Michigan needs to schedule an annual series with Kansas. That's how you create the future, by causing the media to reminisce about things that your fanbase remembers as awesome.
Weis II >>>>>>>> Horror II. EFACT.
And now a word from Orson.
YEAH THE REASONS YOU CAME HERE WHATEVER I DON'T CARE I ASSUME YOU CAME WITH A SKI MASK ON AND SHOULD LEAVE WITH ONE BECAUSE YOU STOLE MONEY AT NOTRE DAME AND YOU STOLE MONEY FROM FLORIDA AND NOW YOU'RE GOING TO KANSAS AND THAT MAKES YOU SOME KIND OF SUBTROPICAL DEPRESSION THAT GUSTS INTO PRESS CONFERENCES RAINS TURNOVERS ON AN OFFENSE AND THEN SUCKS THE CASH OUT OF THE AIR BEFORE BLOWING INTO THE NEXT STOP. WE BOUGHT THE MONORAIL. WE DIDN'T SEE A WICKED THING COMING THIS WAY. WE WROTE THE CHECK AND SAID SURE YOU SEEM TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO LOST TO GREG ROBINSON AT SYRACUSE ON YOUR OWN HALLOWED HOME FIELD.
THEN YOU LEAVE AND THAT'S GREAT. SERIOUSLY I WOULD HAVE THROWN BATTERIES AT YOU AT THE BOWL GAME. YOU THINK I'M JOKING BUT I'M NOT MY FRIEND JON SAID "I'M GOING TO THROW BATTERIES AT HIM" AND FOR ONCE THIS MADE SO MUCH EMOTIONAL SENSE TO ME. I WOULD HAVE FELT BETTER. MY HATE AND FRUSTRATION WOULD HAVE CHARGED THE BATTERY AND THEN LEFT ME IN ONE CATHARTIC JOLT IN A CLEAN TRANSFER OF ENERGY FROM ME TO THE BATTERY TO YOUR WORTHLESS CARCASS. I WOULD HAVE FELT BETTER EVEN WITH THE MISDEMEANOR ASSAULT CHARGE. I REALLY WOULD HAVE ESPECIALLY AFTER I WATCHED YOU MAKE UP THAT BULLSHIT PLAN FOR THE GEORGIA GAME AND WATCHED US DIE IN PERSON FOR THE ENTIRE SECOND HALF SERIOUSLY YOU OWE JOHN BRANTLEY SEVEN YEARS ON HIS LIFE.
And now let's reminisce.
"They're going to have to learn about us, OK? Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Let's see how they are going to do. They've had their advantage because I've come into recruiting late. Well, now it's Xs and Os time. Let's see who has the advantage now."
I wrote a thing after the above game with a photoshop Kansas fans may want to have handy.
The only wonder is that the media spent the better part of 2.5 years pumping him up as Weis E. Coyote, Certified Super Genius, largely because Weis spent every available moment telling the media that he and his ACME catalog of incredibly sophisticated devices were worth a foolproof touchdown every game. Somehow I doubt even Tyrone Willingham would have Notre Dame scoring -7 points per game.
The result of all these fantastic toys? Literally nothing. No touchdowns. No rushing yards. No hope.
No hope… no hope. [Kansas football flatlines.]
A witch! Find the witch! If you're wondering why the parents of former Michigan commits are telling recruiting reporters that their sons are qualified, yesterday Rivals claimed a current commit was not likely to make it past the clearinghouse and please don't speculate as to who, which worked as well as it always does: not at all. At least the Inquisition didn't last long. When Anthony Standifer decommitted soon after, two was added to two.
I'm not sure what the deal is here. Michigan's main competition for Standifer was Notre Dame, not often hot after kids who won't qualify. In the Trieu article above his mom doesn't sound mad, claiming it was a mutual breakup:
"Both parties have decided to go their separate ways."
So, whatever. For whatever reason Michigan is down one Standifer. This has two major impacts:
- Michigan probably wants another defensive back. Hot prospect is current PSU commit Armani Reeves, a four-star corner Michigan finished second for back when Penn State didn't have… events. He seems to be opening it back up; it appears M was ready to grab Yuri Wright even with Standifer in the class and would probably take both Wright and Reeves without thinking twice.
- If Michigan handled this poorly there could be some fallout with LaQuon Treadwell, the 2013 WR from Standifer's school who has visited multiple times and seems to favor M. FWIW, Ace has a report on that indicating it won't impact his decision.
And now: children who hate football. The father in the first one is kind of a jerk.
Try not to think of the latter one the next time Michigan loses a game.
The coming funpocalypse. Every report that BCS automatic qualifier status is probably gone further enhances the belief that BCS AQ status is probably gone. The bigger issue is if the cap on the number of teams per conference will be lifted, as that will determine who benefits from the AQ removal: Boise State or SEC #3? Actually, with Boise now moving to the Big East, they're hurt by this. They finally wrangle themselves an autobid just in time for them to go up in smoke. They have been trolled expertly.
Every report that an expanded playoff field is inevitable further enhances the belief that Jim Delany is a Centauri diplomat. Andy Staples quoting Stanford's AD:
"I happen to agree with my conference colleagues about the plus-one game," Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday. "I think it's inevitable at this point."
That's the Pac-12, man. With the Big 12 having their Okie State hissy, the SEC and ACC already on board, and the Big East able to calculate the chances of one of their teams ever getting in a two-team playoff, the Big Ten is about to be dragged into an arrangement they don't want. As I said, Delany should have thought about the slippery slope in 1998, not now.
In other quotes that make me pump my fist:
[After complaining about the Sugar Bowl, Kansas State AD John] Currie then said something that should strike fear into the hearts of overpaid, underworked bowl directors everywhere, because while Currie may be the jilted, angry one now, he isn't the only administrator who feels this way. "College football doesn't need the bowls like it once did to build the brand of college football," Currie said. In other words, the schools and conferences can stage exhibition games on their own at a far lower cost, increasing their profits and cutting the bowls out of the equation entirely.
YES THIS YES. The NCAA needs goofballs in yellow jackets in no way whatsoever.
Staples also discusses a potential split in D-I between haves and have-nots, something I either don't care about (if the split does not prevent you from scheduling lower division teams) or adore (if it does).
Well, maybe. Meinke starts the fretting about next year's defensive line with some quotes from defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery. This is the most interesting:
One question that likely will fester into fall camp: Will either Roh, who will be a senior fourth-year starter next year, or sophomore Jibreel Black be moved from weak-side to strong-side end to replace Van Bergen?
They both played well this season on the weak side, so splitting them could be a way of getting the best 11 on the field.
Montgomery's answer: "It could happen, but I’m telling you, Nathan Brink is going to be a good football player. To say anyone is going to pass him at five-technique (is premature)."
When Brink got hyped up in preseason camp, that was a sign the world was ending at the Will Campbell spot. When he immediately faded in favor of Will Heininger, that was a sign things were even worse than implied when one walk-on was in the conversation. And Heininger had some struggles early.
Then a funny thing happened: Heininger stopped getting beat up by Eastern Michigan…
If the rest of the line did this there'd be nothing. Unfortunately, this is Will Heininger's fate (second from the top in the first frame):
You can see the blue stripe. Roh has his helmet on it. Heininger ends up a yard behind it and sealed away. That middle frame is a butt-kicking, and the third frame is the result: two Michigan players with no hope of making a tackle.
…and settled into a brief period of anonymity before emerging into a pretty good player late in the year. Heininger has been consistently positive in UFRs since about the midpoint of the season, and while he's not Mike Martin or Ryan Van Bergen he's far more effective than folks like Banks and Patterson were last year.
This realigns our perceptions. Michigan has never been a place that could get mileage out of walk-ons like Iowa or Wisconsin, so the default assumption has been walkons == doom. In certain cases (say, inserting a freshman student-body walk-on into the starting lineup) that remains true. But if Brink fends off Roh and Black for a job at five-tech there's reason to believe he'll be able to hack it.
Given his brief windows of play so far he'll have to improve massively to get there, but, hey, Will Heininger.
This year, last year. Stolen from the depths of the internet, a man who goes only by "Jeff" posts Michigan's plays of X yards or more allowed this year and last year:
Plays of 80+ yards - 2010 3, 2011 0
Plays of 70+ yards - 2010 4, 2011 0
Plays of 60+ yards - 2010 7, 2011 0
Plays of 50+ yards - 2010 8, 2011 2
Plays of 40+ yards - 2010 15, 2011 6
Plays of 30+ yards - 2010 29, 2011 13
Plays of 20+ yards - 2010 64, 2011 41
Plays of 10+ yards - 2010 211, 2011 150
Note that these numbers include *all* plays of longer than 10+, 20+, not plays for 10-19 yards, plays for 20-29 yards, etc. - we didn't give up 7 plays for 70+ yards in 2010, we gave up 3 for 80-100 and 1 for 70-79.
That is slight improvement there. Safeties, safeties, safeties. The difference doesn't really kick into full force until you get to plays of 30 and 40 yards. Too bad the defense had a bit of a meltdown against OSU or that plays of >30 yards number would be ridiculously low.
Etc.: Video from the 1930s. Of Michigan Stadium. The Daily notes that there are two guys in lobster costumes in the student section calling themselves "Smotrycz's Lobstryczs," which is incredible. You men are heroes.
They marched past in tight formation, the drumline rapping out their cadence, occasionally punctuated by a solemn chant of "Ohio!" The Game was over, by now a good 15 minutes over, and the devastation set in as pandemonium ensued on the field of the Big House. You could tell instantly from the looks in their eyes—many welled up with tears—that the Ohio State Marching Band was not marching nearly fast enough.
I knew that look, that feeling. For the seven years prior, that was me, just doing my best to stay composed—it's a game, after all—until I could find a place away from everyone, and especially away from anything resembling football—because, after all, it's really more than just a game. On Saturday, however, I stood in the front corner of the tunnel, watching a beautiful scene unfold while doing my best to maintain some level of professionalism. Despite being all-too-familiar with their pain, I felt no sympathy towards the opposing band; they were merely collateral damage in a world returned to its rightful state.
I was spoiled. Since my dad decided to move the family from San Francisco to Ann Arbor—home of his alma mater—in the summer of 1993, Michigan had gone 6-4 against the Buckeyes, and 3-1 in games I had attended. This included Tim Biakabutuka's 313-yard game in '95 and the Rose Bowl clincher in '97, when Charles Woodson cut once, then once more, and streaked down the sidelines towards our end zone seats.
It was the fall of 2003, and I was a baby-faced high school sophomore. My friend Amy sat down with me in the lunchroom at Pioneer and told me she had her grandmother's tickets for The Game, and I could come if I want. She already knew the answer. What she didn't know—what none of us could know—was that we would be watching the last Wolverine victory in the rivalry until we were both out of college. At the time, I watched the game with the full expectation that Michigan would win—despite the presence of some vest-wearing guy from Youngstown State named Tressel, who had inexplicably coached OSU to victory the previous two years—and when they did, we walked home with little fanfare. This was normal, and it was good.
After eight games, there is still no part of me that feels like a day in the Michigan Stadium press box is just another day at the office. That feeling was only reinforced as Jake Long strode by amidst awkwardly-loud whispers of "Is that Jake Long?" Meanwhile, a relaxed Gene Smith schmoozed with some unidentified bigwigs, the press box was announced as being full for the first time all year—yes, including the Notre Dame game—and Mike Rosenberg even made it for the first time since the release of the advance copies of Three and Out. In a year chock-full of remarkable scenes, this stood out as particularly surreal.
Still, once the game began, I fell into routine easily. Watch the play, attempt to think of something insightful, tweet (usually regardless of whether or not an insightful thought actually occurred), perhaps crack a joke to Heiko, rinse, repeat. At halftime, the nerves began to kick in, because despite seven years of misery the thought never crossed my mind that this game could end in anything but righteous victory.
With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter—not long after I tweeted "End of third quarter update: I'm dying inside"—I packed up my laptop and followed TomVH and Chantel Jennings down to the field. By the time we reached the concourse, we were practically running. Michigan held a three-point lead and was driving, and this was no time to be cooped up far above the action where anything resembling a partisan cheer is met with withering glares of contempt.
We watched, helpless, as Fitz Toussaint scored but did not score, as Denard ran it in only to be rebuffed by yellow flags, as Michigan settled for a Brendan Gibbons field goal, and then as Devier Posey ran right by J.T. Floyd, only to be overthrown by a margin too close to keep my heart from nearly escaping my chest cavity. The next thing I knew, Braxton Miller had spiked the ball on third down—to the amazement of the surrounding media members and the incredulity of the Buckeye fans in the visitor's section behind me—and then Courtney Avery came down with the football.
As Denard Robinson chucked the ball high into the sky, setting off the "bomb" celebration that so hilariously rankled Zach Boren, I was already walking onto the field. I never had the chance to rush the field as a fan, but now, thanks to a job I did not possess a mere four months ago, here I was accidentally walking right behind Fitz Toussaint as he answered a television reporter's questions.
Toussaint wrapped up his interview quickly and sprinted towards the end zone, to his teammates and their student brethren. I followed, snapping pictures on my phone and keeping an eye out for my younger brother, who had lucked his way into a front-row seat in the student section. By the time I reached the end zone, the stampede began—the players ran towards the tunnel as the first wave of students streamed onto the field, and for a moment I wondered if I would be trampled. I wasn't worried about myself, but instead hoped that my parents would understand that I died happy, doing what I love.
I snapped out of it, because getting bowled into by a drunk, screaming engineer in a "Shoelace For Heisman" shirt will kick in your survival instincts. I turned and went with the flow of the crowd, capturing a few poignant moments along the way: a homeless-looking Steve Everitt hugging Taylor Lewan, Brendan Gibbons embracing Mark Huyge, walk-on Zac Johnson—one arm raised in triumph—soaking it all in.
By the mouth of the tunnel stood Mike Martin—and I didn't realize it at the time, but he was next to John U. Bacon—and his look of pure elation nearly brought a tear to my eye. To the right, Denard Robinson flashed his 1000-watt smile as he was mobbed by adoring students, then lifted a cheerleader off the ground—Lewan would have been proud. The players, the fans, and yes, the media members, nobody wanted to leave. We were unleashing seven years of pent-up frustration, but more than that, we were basking in the joy of the players, the guys who have been through more than any others in program history.
After several minutes, when the team had finally gone off to the locker room, I slipped into the tunnel to watch the recruits—and, as it turned out, the Ohio State band—make their way through. The faces of the visiting prospects said it all: a mix of jubilation and wonder, the wide-eyed looks of those wondering if this all was real. Devin Funchess snapped out of his joyful daze just in time to sidestep an equipment box being pushed by some Buckeye band members—"Man, they're trying to kill me!"—then proceeded to laugh his way out, bouncing with each step.
Just when things seemed to be quieting down, the traffic through the tunnel thinned out, three men emerged from the Michigan locker room, smartphones in hand: Captain Mike Martin, the heart and soul of the defense; Ryan Van Bergen, the face of "Those Who Stayed"; and Will Heininger, the Ann Arbor native who turned down a potential baseball career to walk on to the team he grew up idolizing. They headed back into the fray, capturing the moment for eternity.
They didn't just stay. They had returned.