this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
This is going to be a short diary, with more a focus on college football generally than Michigan football’s last two weeks of the regular season. I say this every time, but I mean it. Also, please make sure to read my comment regarding Frank Clark and what has come out in the past couple of hours.
Best: A Michigan-free Football Saturday
Virtually everyone here is a diehard Michigan fan; I kinda doubt you’d be posting and reading this blog if you weren’t. But it should come as no surprise to many that watching this version of Michigan football the past couple of years is not an overly-entertaining affair.
So I’ve come to enjoy watching football on bye weeks because I can just enjoy football for what it is, with no real rooting interest or aneurysm-inducing reactions to what’s going on during the game. I can watch Miss. St. vs. Alabama, OSU vs. Minny, or FSU vs. Miami and just enjoy watching other teams without having to be overly critical of What It Means or The Future of the guys on the sidelines. Plus, I got to see Notre Dame blow a game to Northwestern (!) and Auburn get waxed by Georgia and get a bit of revenge for that insanity last year.
Best: Seriously, Irish?
You get down with your bad self, Pat!
Nothing is more fun than seeing ND lose due to their own hubris, and a piece of me is happy to one-half of M00N get a little bit of a gift.
Worst: Smart football?
So this conference really does suck at football.
Okay, take a step back.
This conference sucks at smart football compared to the rest of the country.
Minnesota and OSU was amazing in so many ways, from the two turnovers by Jalin Marshall (one on a probable score and another on a muffed punt that set up a Minny TD), to the worst onside kick I’ve seen in a long time (the Minnesota kicker both kicked it softly AND directly at the OSU hands guy), to Mitch Leidner going 7/19 for 85 yards and 2 INTs, 36 of those yards on one completion to Maxx Williams. But at least those are football-type events; Cole Stoudt completed 3 passes to Clemson players and 3 to Georgia Tech DBs, and two of these were returned for TDs.
No, what was amazing was Jerry Kill deciding late in the 4th quarter, deep in OSU territory and on 2nd down, to kick a 34-yard-field goal while being down 10.
Obviously, you need the FG and the TD, and on 4th down I absolutely understand taking the points versus going for a TD. But he had a bit over a minute left, and while he had no timeouts (which he used to slow down OSU’s previous drive), there was little danger in at least trying to throw to the endzone once or twice. You need that TD at some point, and passing from the 17 at least gives you some options; trying to throw from the 40 (or wherever they’d be on a successful onside) with under a minute wasn’t going to be any easier. And while Minny’s kicker had missed earlier, it was a 50-yarder doinked off an upright with more than enough distance. Instead, the Gophers ran up, spiked the ball, then trotted out the FG kicker for a chipshot and then failed to recover the onside kick. It was baffling enough for the announcers to question it as it occurred, and is even more inexplicable in retrospect.
I hate picking on Kill because he is a good coach who has helped Minnesota recover from the dregs to be a decent mid-level conference program, and his medical condition is obviously quite draining and it is a testament to him that he is performing as well as he is. That said, this was a crazy end to a game that probably shouldn’t have been that close anyway.
Best: Running Back ConfUrence?
I know PSU is known as Linebacker U (yes, and for other things). But for all the crap that the conference gets for being less innovative than others, but what it does have is the most complete and impressive collection of running backs in the country, with 4 in the top 10 nationally, including the top 2 spots.
Melvin Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s FBS record for rushing yards with 408 yards on 25 carries (!), which I’m not sure I could pull off playing NCAA Football 2014 on easy mode against Southern Directional State U. And Nebraska is no slouch defensively; they were comfortably in the top-25 defenses by FEI coming into the game, and were only giving up 3.7 yards per carry. By comparison, Tomlinson put up his yardage against Texas-El Paso on 43 carries(!). Wiscy has had some great backs in its history, but Gordon seems otherworldy right now, and for once I’m happy that the weird scheduling quirks at the conference kept him off the schedule.
On the other side of the field, Abdullah struggled running the ball, especially once Wisconsin started to pull away, but any other year he’d be in the conversation for best back in the conference despite being injured the past couple of weeks. Befitting the tire fire that has been Indiana this year in conference, Tevin Coleman put up over 300 yards running the ball and still finished over 100 yards behind the day’s leader while IU lost by 22. Similarly, David Cobb has been a major force behind Minnesota’s renaissance this year, and yet I’m not sure most people realize he’s the eighth-leading rusher in the country. And you have guys like Langford at MSU and Elliott and OSU putting up really good numbers as well.Gordon and Coleman could return next year, though I wouldn’t hold me breath on either.
As a Michigan fan it is obviously distressing to see so much talent at the running back position seemingly everywhere else except in Ann Arbor. I don’t know much about Fred Jackson and his coaching style, but it is clear that there is talent in the region and Michigan is either (a) whiffing horribly, or (b) failing to develop it into competent on-field performers. Still, it’s been fun watching these guys play so well, and I’m going to try to enjoy it because I’m not sure we’ll see this concentration of talent anytime soon.
Worst: M.C. SECher
Michigan was never going to sniff the college playoff this year, and as soon as Oregon trounced MSU and OSU got blitzed by VT nobody in the conference stood much of a change of competing for a spot; I guess OSU has a slight chance if they win out and a bunch of teams ahead of them lose, but that seems unlikely. Not only is my team not involved in this first year, but the two teams that are my mortal enemies are most-likely out, so hate-watching isn’t on the table either. So instead, I’ve been watching the past couple of weeks play out nationally with about as much detachment as one person can have for the sport.
So this weekend #4 Alabama beat #1 Mississippi State at home, #15 Georgia blitzed #9 Auburn at home by 27, #24 Texas A&M lost at home to a Mizzou team that lost to Indiana at home and probably won’t finish the year with a win against a ranked team, and #17 LSU was shut out by 5-5 Arkansas a week after nearly upsetting now-#1 Alabama. This came a week after A&M upset Auburn on the road.
Now, on the surface these results should be exciting; highly-ranked teams playing each other in important games are what college football is supposed to be all about. Well, that and money. Lots and lots of money. Oh yeah, and maybe education.
But as has been the case all year, it feels like a shell game is going on in the SEC and the media (read: ESPN) is all too happy to keep it going for the watching public. This year has seen an unprecedented number of SEC teams ranked, and in a down year for college football some of the best teams do reside in the Southeast. But these rankings have become more and more dubious as the year has gone on and we realize that teams like LSU, Auburn, and A&M aren’t sleeping giants but instead deeply-flawed outfits with inconsistent performances.
The problem is that because the perception remains that the SEC is the dominant football conference by leaps and bounds, you have this weird feedback loop wherein everyone has “good” wins and “good” losses because everyone is ranked, even though objectively they probably shouldn’t be. I know the fashionable term is SEC bias, but it isn’t even that; it’s just laziness and an inability to look beyond the numbers next to the logo.
LSU has two wins against ranked teams on their schedule – 28-24 against Wisconsin to open the year wherein the Badgers forgot to give the ball to Melvin Gordon at halftime and let LSU score 21 points, and a 10-7 fugly win against Ole Miss that had “drama” the same way a couple of drunk housewives throwing crap at each other on a Bravo show have “character development.” And yet, they were #17 in the country going into the weekend because they had losses to highly-ranked Auburn, Mississippi State, and Alabama, who themselves benefited from “good” wins against the usually-ranked Tigers.
Miss. State was #1 in the country before this weekend because they beat 4-loss LSU, 3-loss Auburn, and 4-loss A&M. Since then, they struggled to beat Arkansas and had a meh performance against Kentucky, but are still in the playoff hunt and will basically play an elimination game against Ole Miss to end the year, a team that had an okay win against Boise St. to open the year (don’t be fooled by that 35-13 score; it was an ugly game until well into the 4th quarter), a legit good win against Alabama, a victory over that same A&M team, and “good” losses to LSU and Auburn.
All of these teams are basically trading off wins; you go up and your opponent goes down, and next week you’ll trade places again. People call it “competitive balance” and that has some merit, but at some point balance becomes mediocrity, and I’m starting to think that is the case for the SEC this year. There are no dominant teams in the country; FSU is a paper tiger at #1 given how they’ve looked for weeks now, and the Pac-12 and Big-12 keeping get in each other’s way. So I get that the SEC feels like a safe bet because of their recent dominance. But actually watching these games, it feels like this year is the worst type of one for the new playoff format. Nobody really deserves to be #3 or #4, and if this was a skins game in golf you’d almost rather they roll over the 2 spots to next year when, maybe, there would be more deserving candidates. But what I do know is that barring a major immolation by a couple of teams, the SEC will probably get a 2-loss team into the playoff because of musical chairs in the polls, not because of any amazing evidence on the field.
Worst: F*cking Ohio
[Note: This report about Clark’s situation came out as I wrote this entry. Based on the details included therein, this is a bad situation for all involved and, if true, should lead to Clark’s immediate dismissal from the team. I’m leaving in my thoughts here because I feel the themes remain true.]
So I don’t know what happened to Frank Clark this weekend; seems like nobody does beyond the basics. He was arrested in Ohio for a misdemeanor domestic violence offense. It’s the most serious misdemeanor offense charge, but the heaviest penalty is up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. I’m still a registered attorney in Michigan as well New York state, but I never practiced in this area of law and have no experience in Ohio, so I’m not able to comment on the overall seriousness of the charges. But what I do know is that Frank Clark did something significant enough that police were called, he was arrested and charged, and (to my knowledge) is awaiting a bail hearing/bond posting. I’m sure there are threads out there in the ether where people claim to know more, but until I see something more credible than boojack321_UMSUX, I’m not going to take those claims with much salt.
It doesn’t surprise me that people have overreacted and started to concoct their own narratives regarding what happened this weekend; this is of course the internet, and the Michigan fanbase is as neurotic and reactionary as any others. I’ve read people calling for restraint until we hear more, others claim this is yet more proof that Hoke has lost this team, and (sadly) a number of people denigrating Frank Clark and distancing themselves from his association with Michigan. I remain steadfast in the insane belief that we don’t know enough to pass any judgment one way or another, but I’m also a philistine.
In no way should this be taken as some greater indictment of Hoke or the program; Frank Clark's actions on a bye week, miles away from campus, are his own alone. This is not Hoke's fault, nor the school's, nor anyone else's; these are the actions, whatever they are, of a single person, and in no way should be try to read more into them than that.
By this time tomorrow we should know much more about what happened and proper Internet Justice will be handed down, but it is safe to assume that Clark won’t be suiting up this weekend barring an extremely rare reversal of the legal process, and I’m guessing his final game may well have been against Northwestern. If so, it will be a sad coda to a career at Michigan that has been marked with some ignominy (the laptop incident) as well as flashes of brilliance on the field.
Obviously I hope justice is served, and that once all of the facts come out the proper resolution is achieved. That said, and I know I’m just spitting in the wind by this point, but I hope the UM community pumps the brakes a bit on the crucifixion until we know more.
So Michigan beat Hillsdale comfortably after some early-game jitters. The offense looks pretty good, and the defense has its issues with so much inexperience in the front court but it can absolutely turn it on in spurts.
I thought Walton looked great running the offense, and Caris messed around and nearly got a triple-double for his efforts. The freshmen looked like freshmen, but you can see the potential there. In particular, I thought Dawkins looked really explosive out there in his limited minutes, and should be a nice second-team scoring and energy option.
It’s early, but it was nice to watch a Michigan team take care of business and look fun and interesting while they did so.
Best: Two More Weeks!
Like most people, I’m ready for this season to end. The Clark situation is one last kick in the balls, but it should be over soon. As I said last week, I’m not excited about UM to make a bowl game if they do, but whatever, I’ll still be hoping they pull off the win against Maryland and get to 6 wins. But this year could not end any sooner.
After much ANGAR, RAGE, and internet stupidity, we have arrived at the first of two bye weeks in the Michigan football calendar. So while you'll have a chance to redeem the mistakes you make this weekend during Wife Day II - Wife Harder, your main excuse to sit on the couch and watch football this Saturday is going back to the drawing board, working on fundamentals, and getting ready for Minnesota.
So, what are you doing this Wife Day?
(Interlude on the history of the bye week being called "wife day" around these parts:
Six Zero's coining and epic preview: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/preview-wifeday-2010
Wife day 2011 content: http://mgoblog.com/category/tags/2011-wife-day
Wife day advice for those who aren't married: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/wife-day-advice-unmarried-reader
And JamieMac's case against "wife day" as an entity: http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/war-against-wife-day)
So, what's your wife day going to be? Building capital so that you can spend it in order to watch the Michigan games in future weeks? Going to a wedding from your friends who still suck because they're getting married on a fall saturday - but don't suck that much because they picked a bye week? Watching football because it's a fall saturday? Or you're not sure if you'll have enough time?
Seeing that it is "Wife Day" around these parts, there's no boxscore to pore over this weekend. So instead, in the spirit of Wife Day, I'll take this opportunity to share with you my badminton story. You might ask, what does badminton have to do with Wife Day? Read on, and you'll find out.
Our story begins, as most of my stories do, with me in the 6th grade. My gym class would spend a week or two on a sport and then move on to the next sport. (The one exception was the week we learned how to square dance. Promenade, two-by-two, promenade, that's what you do.) One week we showed up for gym class and the volleyball nets were set up, but instead of volleyball, we were going to learn how to play badminton.
I have some sympathy for the average grade school gym teacher, because it must be difficult to learn the rules of so many different sports, and maintain order with 25 kids screaming and yelling. However, I'm still a little upset with my 6th grade gym coach. He passed out the rackets, divided the class in half, and put one half on one side of the net and the other half on the other side. He tossed someone a birdie and said, "hit it." You can imagine the chaos that ensued as a dozen 6th graders on one side of the net tried to hit a single birdie. No more than five minutes into the class, I was hit squarely in the mouth with a racket. Three teeth went flying. I felt for my teeth with my tongue and realized nothing was there. Another classmate said, "Dude, you're bleeding" or something to that effect. I took off towards the bathroom to get some paper towel to stop the bleeding and rinse out my mouth.
While I was gone, the gym coach had the rest of the class scour the floor for my teeth, and had someone call my mom. She came to pick me up, and the gym teacher handed her a baggy with my teeth. We rushed to the dentist and told him what happened. My mom gave him the bag of teeth. He looked at it and laughed. Then he said, "What am I supposed to do with these?"
Six months of almost weekly dental visits followed, full of drilling, root canals, temporary crowns, and finally permanent crowns. Except they weren't really permanent because your mouth keeps growing as you get older. When I turned 18, I had to go back and have the whole thing done all over again. The only benefit out of this whole ordeal was I got out of playing the clarinet, which I dreaded.
As a result of this, I swore off badminton forever. At least I thought so.
Twelve years ago, I married a lovely lady from Taiwan, whom I met while we were grad students at UofM. Badminton is kind of a big sport in Taiwan. You might remember a little Olympic controversy with the Chinese badminton team. Anyway, my wife played a little badminton when she was younger, and wanted to get back into it. I said no way and explained to her how I was scarred for life from my dental ordeal. I don't ride rollercoasters and I don't play badminton. So she went to the local badminton club without me. Shortly after that, a friend stepped on her foot while we were playing volleyball, broke it, and sidelined her for a few months. The foot healed, and she went back, without me. Then she tore a calf muscle. Six months in a boot sidelined her again. Then she got pregnant. No more badminton. I tried to tell her that the universe did not intend for us to play badminton, but she wouldn't listen.
Little did I know at the time, but it seems I married the Earl Woods of Badminton Tiger Moms. When the boy turned five, she signed him up for badminton lessons. I told her, you take him, I don't want anything to do with badminton. And for the most part, I stayed away from the club. I did take him to the occasional practice, but that was it.
Then, nearly two years ago, my wife said to me, "ST3, I signed you up for a private lesson with the coach." I said, "You did what?!? Well, you signed up for the lesson, you take it." But I could see how important it was to her, so after a few days of her encouraging me to go, I reluctantly agreed to give it a try. I later learned that the reason she signed me up is that she was worried I had become a permanent couch potato and was going to stroke out at 50 if I didn't get some sort of physical activity in my life.
I went to the lesson and I wasn't good, but I wasn't terrible either. I had played some tennis growing up, and there are some things that carry over. The main thing I realized was that it was a fantastic cardio workout. I find 45 minutes of jogging or running on a treadmill to be incredibly boring. 45 minutes of badminton drills is over before you know it. It's also really fun and leaves you wanting to play more.
I had to admit to the wife that I enjoyed it, so she signed me up for two lessons a week, because you get a discount that way, and wifey is always looking for a discount. Soon enough, two lessons a week wasn't enough. So I started going with my son to his "team training" lessons. This is a group lesson with 10-20 beginners, ranging in age from 6 to about 16. Before I knew it, the coach had me out there hitting with the kids. After 6 months of that, he told me to come practice with the high school team. So now I've got my two lessons, occasional practices with my son, and two more with the high school kids. I'm up to 7 hours a week. In fact, this morning while wifey was taking the boy to baseball practice, I was over at the club sweating through a three hour badminton practice. And I get to wake up at 7AM tomorrow morning for another lesson...
I celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my awesome wife this year, and we just had our second child 3 weeks ago. As a man who is up to his neck in family obligations every day - not just Wife Day - I feel the need to render some advice for tomorrow's bye to those who have yet to enter this chapter of their lives. You will find no "/s" tag here; I'm seriously...
First, sleep in. When you wake up to the glorious mid-day sun across your bed, go right back to sleep. Can't sleep any longer? Just lay there and do nothing until you're hungry.
Once hungry, go to the fridge and pull out something that no self-respecting human being would eat for breakfast/lunch. See that left over piece of chocolate cake? It needs a side of kettle chips.
Bring your meal to the couch and see how the noon games - which at this hour should now be in full swing - are going. "But Michigan is not playing today!" Stop right there and listen to yourself. There is football on. College football. The Saturdays where you actually have the time to watch a full slate of games that does not include your primary rooting interest are numbered, and this is one of them. It expires no matter how you choose to fill your day, so embrace it. Enjoy it.
Now it’s time for the 3:30 games. Hopefully by now you're realizing just how good you have it. Things are only about to get better as now you are guaranteed to watch either Sparty or Ohio lose. Any other week you probably take in at least part of their games in hopes to revel in some sweet schadenfreude. Well today's your lucky day because one way or another, it's happening.
Hungry again? Fight the urge to cook something. You have a device within arm's reach that you can speak into and people will bring you food. I suppose it doesn't really matter what you order, but again I would highly recommend anything that you will undoubtedly enjoy now, and likely regret later.
By the time your food arrives, you should be ensconced in session three of today's games. You may be thinking that this is an awful lot of football to watch, especially with Michigan absent from the schedule. If so, I ask that you think back two months to when you would have done anything to see a live football game...let alone a conference game with division race implications. Bonus: rumor has it that both 'Sconsin and the Huskers will be wearing awful unis. Laugh at their Wow Experience. Laze with peace of mind that it isn't our team playing dress-up this week.
As the games come to a close, start drinking (if you haven't already, which of course you have). Libation of choice should be something that makes you happy, or better yet occasionally leads to adventure and/or trouble. The night is young - go out, stay out, and don’t come back until the next morning after a sunrise breakfast at some greasy diner before sleeping through the NFL games and easing into next week.
If this advice strikes you as lazy, gluttonous, overindulgent, or all of the above, you're absolutely right. There are certain things in life that you are able to enjoy now, but will be superseded by other priorities in future years - be it quality time with the kids, a memorable afternoon with your loving wife, or simply avoiding "that look" from the mrs. any time you sleep more than her, eat too much of anything unhealthy, turn on your third game in the same day, etc.
Don't get me wrong - these priorities (the first two, anyway) are awesome in their own right and more than justifiably replace (most) football games when the time comes. But for you, single reader, Wife Day is still on the horizon. This is your time. As I said, it expires no matter how you choose to spend it. So embrace it. Enjoy it.
I have to go change a diaper.