I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Michigan Offers Sills, Settle
Michigan offered two 2015 prospects over the weekend; one came as no surprise at all, while the other was somewhat unexpected.
The former is five-star VA DT Tim Settle, who had rave reviews of Michigan after he visited for the Notre Dame game; with Hjalte Froholdt going off the board to Arkansas last week, Settle was at the top of the board for available DTs. Settle will have his choice of just about any program in the country, and while the Wolverines made a strong early impression, they likely have some catching up to do now that the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and USC have come through with offers of their own.
The latter is Eastern Christian Academy QB David Sills, whose name should be familiar to you for two reasons: first, he notably committed to USC—then coached by Lane Kiffin—at the age of 13; second, he's teammates with U-M commits Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson at ECA, the football-centric school founded by Sills' father. TomVH notes that there's another Michigan connection here:
On the David Sills offer, he trains with Steve Clarkson who also trains Wilton Speight. Clarkson and Borges have known each other for years
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 6, 2013
Five-star CA prospect Josh Rosen is the only other 2015 quarterback with an offer; while he's recently expressed some interest in a visit to Ann Arbor after previously saying that wouldn't happen, he's very much a longshot. Although Sills hadn't been talked about as a prospect under serious consideration for the next offer, it's clear he's the #2 guy on the board, and per TomVH the coaches will have to wait and see if he's willing to open up his recruitment after the coaching change at USC ($):
According to his father, Sills wants to wait and talk with [USC head coach Steve] Sarkisian before making any decisions or commenting on his status. Sills' father believes it is too early to comment or respond to anything just yet without giving the new Trojans coaches an opportunity to speak with their son.
We'll see where this goes; there's little-to-no precedent for a prospect committing to a program before he's in high school, only for that program to fire the head coach he committed to when the prospect is in the midst of his junior year. Add in Michigan's multiple connections to Sills and this could get interesting.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on two cornerback commits and their potential visit plans, how Michigan's commits fared in the state playoffs, and more.]
Evaluating Michigan's bowl opponent.
So there's this guy. We can expect one of these.
Whoops! Game is at 10:15 PM Eastern, not 8:15. So… yeah. If you needed any reminders about what this season was like, playing at 10 PM on December 28th should suffice.
You've come a long way… a moderate way, baby. Remember when KSU kicked the season off with a 24-21 loss to I-AA North Dakota State? Yeah, in retrospect that may not have been that much of a surprise as the Bison are currently undefeated and in the second round of the I-AA playoffs.
K-State, meanwhile, went 5-4 in the Big Twelve, losing to who you'd expect they would (Okie State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas) and beating who you'd expect they would. If you dismissed them after the opener, reconsider. Not only is NDSU rather good, KSU led Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State through three quarters. They were in every game this year save Greg Robinson's magnum opus. Football! Is ridiculous.
Kansas State hasn't really beaten anyone, but this is the Copper Bowl we're talking about. That was always going to be the case. On the whole, their season looks a good bit more impressive than Michigan's.
They gon' run. KSU had 286 passing attempts against 478 rushes, a 63% run rate.
The quarterbacks had multiple heads. Until sophomore Daniel Sams was relegated to the bench in the final two games of the year, he and junior Jake Waters had split time extensively. It took me a while to figure this out because a glance at the passing statistics makes it look like Sams is a garbage-time dude who picked up some attempts in the Oklahoma State game, presumably because of injury.
Nope! Sams is K-State's second leading rusher with almost 800 yards at 5.3 a pop. He's got monks and clouds and whatnot.
He is important.
K-State was on the verge of making him their full-time guy midseason when he rushed for 118 yards in the Oklahoma State game and completed 18 of 21 attempts. The problem: three of those were to Cowboys. That game was the only one in which Sams cracked ten passing attempts, but Bill Snyder has a knack for getting production out of broke-ass QBs. Sams was generally productive on the ground (West Virgnia of all teams was the only one to shut him down). He's between Gardner and Denard as a runner, more elusive in small spaces than Gardner but not goddamned incredible.
But Sams has been relegated, leaving Waters the presumed starter. Despite being the pocket passer (who is from Iowa) of the duo, K-State's by-any-means-necessary offense has seen him run over a hundred times this year, albeit with limited effectiveness. He's averaging under three yards an attempt on 106 carries, and while a good chunk of that is sacks it's impossible to figure out how much from box scores with Sams rotating in so much. His average game this year is about 10 carries for 30 yards. He's a keep-'em-honest guy on the ground.
In the air, dude wants to git it git it. His stats are quite close to Gardner's, but even more variable.
Waters was as INT prone as Gardner, though I'm not sure how many Waters got away with. I know Gardner got away with lots late in the season. Waters was also able to accumulate an even gaudier YPA, and while a 90 yarder against Oklahoma does distort things somewhat hacking that down to 50 doesn't move the needle much.
The picture is clear. K-State wants to run the ball; when they are not forced into long yardage situations they will be 70-30 run. When they are not running the ball, they are trying to score right now. A good chunk of the 30% passes will be attempts to tear Michigan's face off with deep balls.
AND THEN I WAS LIKE "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'M A GUARD NOW" [Fuller]
Paging Frank Clark. Kansas State gives up a lot of sacks. Not as many as Michigan, which… oh God… was 116th in sack percentage allowed. Hi Kentucky! Florida! Rice! We're neighbors. Do you guys have two tackles who will be off the board by the end of the third round of the NFL draft? Probably not!
Anyway, they weren't much better at 90th. A chunk of this is the face-tearing thing. KSU spends a lot of time in the pocket working off play action with routes that take a long time to run. Like Michigan, if Michigan could run at all. The results are highly variable, like everything else about the K-State passing offense.
The other guy getting the many, many running opportunities. Virtually all K-State carries not allotted to one of the quarterbacks went to senior John Hubert, who had nearly 1000 yards on 182 carries, an impressive 5.3 YPC, especially for an offense that runs so much. His year was… variable. He busted Kansas for 220 last weekend; the previous two weeks he had a total of 15 carries for 42 yards against TCU and Oklahoma. He was effective in a midseason stretch; he got 12 carries for 41 yards against Texas and 7 for 30 against Oklahoma State.
Hubert's not overwhelming in his youtube clips, which also double as a quick look at the kind of things K-State does.
The Wildcat offense is misdirection running, misdirection running, misdirection running. Think Auburn or a super-sized high school.
As for Hubert, he's a little dude but he's got some Mike Hart in him.
Kansas State doesn't use him as a receiver much; he's averaging one catch per game.
Dangerman. When Kansas State does pass, most of the time they're looking for Tyler Lockett, who went Jeremy Gallon on Texas (237 yards) and Oklahoma (278). He did not have a similar impact in K-State other two conference losses only because he pulled up lame early in the Oklahoma State game and missed Baylor. He has returned to full health now, and Michigan will get a stiff test.
WRs Curry Sexton and Tramaine Thompson absorb most of the other completions. Thompson is as much of a deep threat as Lockett; as a team Kansas averages a healthy 15 yards a completion.
My name is Mueller. Prepare to die. Kansas State is middling at getting to the quarterback, with a sack percentage (ie, percentage of passing attempts ending in a sack) essentially equivalent to Michigan's. The teams are 70th (M) and 72nd. Unlike Michigan, KSU gets almost half their production from one guy. That is Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on out of Florida power St Thomas Aquinas who went from 14 tackles a year ago to 11.5 sacks this year.
Mueller is obviously a talented guy, but Michigan's tackles are quite good and have shut down just about anyone they've come across. At 6'2", 245, Mueller is strictly a DE/OLB type and could be vulnerable to donkeying by either tackle. In general a kickass DE does not bother me.
Meanwhile, Michigan has a bunch of bowl practices to familiarize themselves with the concept of a blitz pickup.
NAMES. Good gravy.
- Blake Slaughter. Countess's wrestling heel alter ego.
- Ajhane Brager
- Colborn Couchman
- Kip Daily
- Alauna Finau
- Kip Keely
- Charmeachealle Moore. Just stop naming your kid! It's over! You have used up all the letters you can for one name! No! I told you to stop! (Charmeachealle will have two more syllables by gametime.)
- Cre Moore. You can keep going.
- Curry Sexton. that's what she said
- Boston Stiverson
- Trent Tanking
- Kade True. He came from Salina, Kansas, with one mission: to stop Charmeachealle Moore's parents from giving their child a name so long it bankrupts the world economy. Can the power of earnestness overcome really long first names? QUEST FOR TRUETH. Summer 2014.
BONUS: In addition to two "Kips," K-State has two Dylans and a Dillon, a Tanner, four(!) Codys and a Kody, and two Travises.
Defense. K-State looks like a quality outfit, with a YPC allowed under 4 (sacks included) and a defense that's ceded just 6.3 yards per pass with more INTs (16) than TDs (13). But FEI hates 'em, ranking them 50th in a schedule adjusted system that puts them around the 25th percentile as far as BCS schools go. S/P+, which I don't like as much* but is another way to look at the data, puts K-State 53rd. The run defense is the issue, finishing 79th in S/P+.
And when you look at K-State's game by game, it does look pretty grim for them. NDSU blazed them for 215 in the opener; Texas went for 227; Oklahoma 301. In between those games are some better performances on the order of 30+ carries for 120, 130 yards against a bunch of passing-oriented Big 12 offenses. Is it good or bad when Texas Tech runs 27 times for 135 yards against you? Bad.
Who knows if Michigan's going to be able to do anything about this, but they have moved the ball on the ground reasonably well in two of their last three games.
*[I prefer drive-based systems because it feels weird to me that play systems look at 3 play, 90 yard drives differently than 11 play, 90 yard drives.]
Coach Hoke and his staff have made a habit out of filling recruiting classes up rather early with little to no defection. That trend has already started again in the 2016(!) class with the very early commitment of OL Erik Swenson. Swenson is just a sophomore but already stands at 6’7” and tips the scales at right around 300 lbs. His size, athleticism, and rather solid technique for a young player has earned him some big-time offers from the likes of in-state programs, Illinois and Northwestern, along with Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech. As soon as Michigan offered him he wasn’t shy about naming the Wolverines his leader and it was only a matter of time before he made it as official as he can for now.
As a sophomore what kind of a player is Erik Swenson right now? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
I’ve already gotten a lot faster and stronger off the ball. I still want to develop my punch so I can really deliver a blow to somebody. My pass blocking is probably my biggest strength right now and I wouldn’t say I really have a weakness just some things to perfect.
When you arrive in Ann Arbor in a couple of years what kind of player do you want to be then? How would you like to be different from now?
I just need to be bigger, stronger, and faster. The rest of it will come with training and coaching.
I know you’ve been to Ann Arbor quite a few times. How many visits have you made and why do you like going there so much?
I’ve been there six times and they get better and better each time. The people, city itself, the coaches, the facilities, the restaurants. I just love it up there.
Liking it so much did you ever even think about anywhere else?
Northwestern was a little hard to say no to, but not that hard compared to Michigan. (Laughs)
You mentioned the coaches, tell me about your relationship with them.
They’re wonderful! Their wives act like they’ve known you for 20 years already. You can just tell that they all really care about you. The entire family feel is not forced at all. It’s very genuine.
So when did you definitely know that Michigan was going to be the place for you?
Right after the Notre Dame game. I wanted to wait until my season was over to announce it but I knew it after that game. I just knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else and no other college could compare to Michigan.
Tell me about how your commitment actually happened.
I called Coach Funk on Sunday night (11/24) telling him that I wanted to verbally commit and then on Saturday at the game I was able to shake all of the coaches hands and they just smiled and said welcome to the family.
The commits for Michigan are notorious for being close before they even arrive on campus. Has that started for you yet?
Yeah a little. Ian Bunting is probably #1 as far as who I’m closest with right now. All of the guys are friendly though. It was easy to see during my last visit.
I know there are only a few 2016 with offers from Michigan right now but are you eyeing anybody to recruit?
Not really yet. I tweeted at Issac Nauta soon after I committed. I’m definitely eyeing him for sure!
The number 77. What’s that mean to you and especially to you at Michigan?
Yeah man, I talked to Coach Hoke about that already. I just asked how do you get #77 and he said that he picks if you are worthy enough to wear it. That was pretty much it, but I know it’s a big deal.
Legends numbers, The Big House, the history. Tradition is obviously a big deal at Michigan. What does it mean to you to be a Michigan Man?
I think it is a great honor to be considered a Michigan Man. I can not wait to play on that field.
Erik Swenson is another great ambassador for the Wolverine football program. He was very polite and well spoken and his passion for Michigan is very clear and he will wear the uniform as proudly as anyone. He has a chance to be one of the highest rated offensive linemen in the midwest so nabbing him this early is a pretty big deal. He already has near prototypical size for a left tackle and he still has two more years of high school ball to hone his skills and grow. He could be an absolute monster by the time he gets to Ann Arbor. The number 77 has to be earned and after talking with him I think Swenson will earn it.
Photos by Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog. Optional, highly recommended soundtrack.
While most of you were probably watching football, Michigan blasted an overmatched Houston Baptist squad this afternoon, tying a school record with 16 three-pointers en route to posting an absurd 1.64 points per possession and winning literally every statistical battle.
Nik Stauskas led the team with 25 points, shooting a scorching 6/9 from downtown and looking quite spry on his previously-injured ankle after being rendered completely ineffective Tuesday at Duke. Glenn Robinson III scored 17 points on 6/9 shooting, mostly getting his buckets in transition, including a couple of spectacular alley-oops. Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin each posted 14 points; Irvin was very effective wit his perimeter shooting (2/2 2-pt, 3/5 3-pt) while Walton was a perfect 3/3 from downtown.
The story of the game, however, was Mitch McGary, Fast Break Point Guard Extraordinaire. The master of chaos finished with a stat line of 14 points, nine rebounds (one off.), six assists—tying his career high from last year's Syracuse game—four steals, and a block; five of his six dimes came in transition, as did a couple of his buckets.
#10's face pretty much says it all (Fuller)
"He's one of our better push men," John Beilein said in the post-game radio interview, referring to McGary's ability to start the fast break. "I don't think anyone wants to take a charge from him."
No kidding. I can't describe the experience of watching McGary charge down the court any better than The Wolverine's Andy Reid:
Mcgary leading a break is like seeing a car skitter uncontrollably down an icy hill, then whip around perfectly into a parallel parking spot
— Andy Reid (@AReid_Wolverine) December 7, 2013
For a brief moment in the second half, it looked like McGary's day had skittered to a halt; after attempting to block a Houston Baptist shot, he fell hard onto his back and lay on the court in what appeared to be a good deal of pain. Being Mitch McGary, however, he popped up to his feet, attempted to wave Jon Horford away from the scorer's table, and waved for the crowd to cheer louder as he skipped—no, seriously, skipped—to the bench. The crowd obliged.
From there, McGary continued to put on a show, a freakily-skilled bull on parade leaving terrified defenders in his wake. Yes, it was a rote blowout against a bad team—the 54-point final margin was the largest for Michigan under Beilein—but it was a pleasure to watch. If this is Mitch McGary still rounding his way into shape, I can't wait to see what he looks like at full strength.
I may or may not do something like this again, but UMHoops does 'em and they seem like a good idea. Since I've mentioned my general dissatisfaction with the way things have been going around here in a couple of different formats, I figure a fuller explanation is due to everyone who doesn't listen to the podcast or care about Twitter, and Twitter was about six sentences anyway.
I've gotten a lot of emails and tweets in support and while I appreciate them a great deal, I feel like it's not really all that bad and perhaps I haven't expressed any of this clearly enough. So here's an attempt.
THE BAD THING
We moved servers just before the season, and for some reason this imploded the Drupal module we were using that did the voting/comment-graying. Don't get me started on that unless you want the animated gif above to be my fate.
The new server is a champ, and was direly needed. We only blew up during the Hand commitment aftermath, and I guarantee you that the blog would have been crushed four or five other times during the year if we had not moved. At times this has been a mixed blessing—it probably would have been nice to be down after Penn State—but having your internet site on the internet is a goal.
The cost was steep, as without the obvious disapproval provided by your comment shrinking into a gray box, dumb comments multiplied and fights about those comments multiplied since there was not an obvious indicator that other people had already dismissed it. I felt this would happen but had very little time to do anything about it since this event happened smack-dab in the middle of me pounding out the 50k-word season preview.
Flaming went up, signal got obscured, and things veritably roiled.
We brought Brandon on board to be a recruiting reporter and he posted an interview with a 2016 kid; he gave us a picture in which he looked pretty young. I thought nothing of it because I follow hockey closely and there kids who don't have to shave commit all the time. (A kid born in 1998(!) just committed. The OHL speeds up their timelines.) Michigan just took a 2016 commit in football, and has a half-dozen offers out. But this resulted in a comment thread in which a lot of people made jokes about the kid not having to shave; others put on their Serious Issue faces and wondered if this was ethical. Then the prospect posted a screenshot of people making fun of him on twitter. SMH, man.
By this point we'd had a lot of crap on the board and this was a seeing-red moment. I posted a thread about how this was unacceptable, etc., whereupon there was a huge comment thread in which concern trolling featured heavily. The ethics of talking to high school kids about where they might go to college was frequent topic.
This was and is ridiculous. We're not about to Rosenberg these kids, both because we're not [REDACTED] 5'2" [REDACTED] goobers who'll do someone dirty to get ahead in the world and that going Rosenberg on someone would completely crush us with our readers, deservedly.
We're going to ask them softball questions and publish them after correcting any spelling mistakes, and you, the reader, are going to post comments like "Good luck wherever you go!" because that's the social contract we have here. That's how this works. You are going to assume that high school kids are going to read anything they can about themselves online, and we're going to throw Charmin at them in slow motion. This is not hard-hitting journalism here.
Anyway. The primary concern troll was a guy who'd been around since the very beginning of the site, chitownblue. He quit in a huff once, then came back as chitownblue2, and almost never appeared except to chide someone about something. At some point virtually everyone who writes for the site complained to me about him. The rest of the people who had posted things that broke the social contract in that thread quickly apologized; he dug in to fight the battle of the Somme. Another complaint about him happened in the midst of that thread, during which my dander was up and finger already hovering over the button. So I banned him, and various compatriots. And I've had an itchy trigger finger since.
They'd been around forever. I regret nothing, except that I waited so long. I hated that guy.
A friend sent me this post from 4chan's founder in response to similar issues he'd had, in which he cites another post from Steve Pavlina about why he shut his popular forums down. Pavlina talks a lot about entitlement of longtime users and standards that he felt weren't being met, both of which I kind of feel. But moot's thing is the thing:
Something that’s always surprised me is how often people seem to forget how large the overall 4chan community is outside of their own respective interaction with it. Some simply don’t care, but I think others plain don’t realize they’re just one of millions of people who post and browse 4chan on a monthly basis. …
My view is that it simply isn’t possible nor prudent to attempt to please everyone, and so I don’t. This can be misinterpreted as not caring, but it’s far from it—it’s just a reflection of my belief that the needs of the community outweigh the needs of individuals. Which is an ideal I think most would agree with, but when emotions run wild and tensions run high, we often lose sight of it.
The general rule of thumb is that 10% of your readers will read the comments/forums and 1% will leave most of them. I believe our numbers are quite a bit higher than that, but even so that the the primary thing that happens in the comments is lurkers reading them. From the perspective of the commenters these people do not exist. From my perspective, they're the majority of the readerbase.
Most of these people seem to like the site. They visit it. That majority has not been reflected in the comments. Of late when people recognize me I wince a bit, because I'm not sure how this interaction is going to go. I'm kind of waiting for someone to unload on me. This never happens.
As the season's gone along this disconnect has become apparent. And I'm finding the complaints harder to deal with because with the demise of voting so many of them have become personal attacks hardly sheathed in anything resembling logic. Brandon just took a lot of crap for posting that usually when recruits are open with him that means they're excited about Michigan and Malik McDowell was tight-lipped, which may not bode well. This exploded into controversy for some reason: that reason is there are a bunch of people who just complain about everything about the site.
IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME
Why these people can't let go and do something else, I don't know. They're locked in a prison of their own devising, being miserable about the state of the blog while they make it worse by constantly complaining about it.
I am going to help both these folks and myself escape from purgatory by hitting the eject button on them. Like this guy who has 41,000 points, most of which seem to be accumulated complaining about the site. And this guy. Great news for everyone: they're banned. Now they are free to explore the rest of the internet, perhaps to find something they don't hate.
This represents a policy change. In short, that is: if the people who write for this site hate you we will ban you. That is the upshot of the twitter burst and the podcast thing. This is not really a change for most people since we did that for anyone with a few points who came in guns blazing. This mostly applies to folks like guy I just banned who'd accumulated the third-most points on the site. I hated that guy! For three years! And out of some idea about respecting the community I let him fart all over it.
To respect the community, we should ban jerks, even if they've been around so long that it seems that there must be some redeeming value in having them around.
If you don't like the way the comments are laid out, or you think there should be more jumps, or fewer jumps, or have a substantive disagreement with what I think, or even have argument-free opinions I roll my eyes at every six months or so, fine. I have to get to know you to loathe you. All you people are good. In fact, here are protips to not get banned under this new regime:
- Don't have an avatar. You're less likely to get noticed.
- Don't be a jerk to people who write for the site. Much more difficult that #1, but still doable if you try.
- Don't constantly complain about the people I hire. If you want to send me an email, fine. Publicly crapping on the other guys who write for us is filed under jerk.
- Don't get mad at me for having a particular emotional state. This happened constantly throughout the season, as if the internet tough guys who were taking the bullets the season threw at them could somehow improve my mood by berating me.
I can understand how the last few years have put people in a place where they find me irritating after once enjoying the site, but all the comments in the world aren't going to be able to change what is primarily a sports blog about what it feels like to be a Michigan fan. If you feel differently, okay! I accept that you feel differently. If you want me to feel like you, that is an argument you are welcome to have anywhere else.
It's been a trying year for everyone, and I'm about to go figure out how to get the damned voting back on comments, so hopefully things will recede from this, their irritating zenith. Thank you to everyone who did not expect me to be an emotional clone of themselves this year, which is like 99% of you. I enjoy you.
One Play. I got really into this piece by Brhino where he went over Michigan football seasons going back to the "Year of Infinite Pain" (i.e. 2005) to point out games where one play may have meant the difference. Interesting way to reassess how we view the seasons. For example this year's team was a couple things going right away from 11-1 and a BCS bid (MSU would have still have won the Bo Division, with BCS eligibility riding on that), and a couple of things going wrong away from 4-8. I chart:
Bicking makes it cligger.
Quibble: I may be stretching "one play" too far, but Football Armageddon had that late hit out of bounds by Crable on 3rd and 15. OSU scored on that drive to go up 10. Who knows if Michigan can drive the ball the same as they did on the next possession. NFL win probability calculator says OSU was 79% to win if Crable doesn't make that hit, and 91% after the call. Fan brain says Michigan would have drove for the victory, beaten essentially the same Florida team they played the following year, and cured cancer.
Trend Lines. If you're into seeing how the rest of the Big Ten progressed on offense as this season did, dnak followed up last week's Michigan chart with some for the rest of the field. MSU is a young offense slowly growing up, Michigan's is one coached by insane people.
Hypothesis: UConn was just a bad game and the coaches over-responded to it, putting themselves behind the 8-ball the rest of the season. I submit as a different model Penn State, which had more than a few personnel shortages but big talent in places and stuck with their scheme all year, seeing noticeable progression but no spikes until the last game.
Goals! The Corsi Charts have been shelved for the moment so MGoBlueline can do those goal analysis things I like much better anyway:
Compher wins the faceoff, which is huge. Even more important, however, is that DeBlois is able to tie his man up. This allows a clean tap across from Compher to Guptill…
The OSU weekend's tallies at the link.
Charity. Tomorrow is Adopt-a-Shelter and both sites still could use some volunteers. K.o.k.Law had a tailgate at the house next door to MGoPatio, the cause being to fix up the house of an 11-year-old with a terrible illness.
Weeklies. Turnover Analysis talked about the Countess interception, which had a negative result of half a point. I still would have taken it; I think Furman stood there amazed for a second while OSU's receivers recovered, and if he hadn't he was in the exact right spot to make a key block. Turnover margin has been steadily climbing to the good since UConn, though the offense going into a shell to make that happen might have negated the good that's done. Inside the Box Score. Best and Worst talks about Ben Gedeon. LSA's usual stuff.
[Jump to learn an important lesson about swearing.]
After Jabrill Peppers announced his intention to take official visits, multiple outlets speculated that this brewing storm could very well blow over by the time Peppers has finished taking his official to Ann Arbor next weekend. According to Mike Farrell, that appears to be the case ($):
Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic cornerback Jabrill Peppers made a huge splash last week when he tweeted that he was going to take official visits despite his commitment to Michigan. Now the word is that Peppers will take his official visit to Michigan on Dec. 13 with his mom and that will likely end the process. Alabama appeared to be the biggest threat to the Wolverines, but now I hear that most close to Peppers want him to stick to his word and play in Ann Arbor. Stanford was the only school everyone green lit and that apparently isn't going to happen this late. Michigan coaches will be on hand en force this Friday for Peppers' final game and then the following weekend I expect them to close things out on his official. Crisis averted barring a surprise.
Further corroboration comes from Peppers himself, who contemplated his future Michigan uniform number on Twitter yesterday:
— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) December 5, 2013
In this case, the (mis)use of "Big Blue" is completely forgiven. The important part is Peppers wanting to follow in Charles Woodson's footsteps.
THIS CALLS FOR A FEAST.
Coach Hoke had a nice feast with the Mone family last night for his in-home visit. pic.twitter.com/DaKu7m8S0q
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) December 4, 2013
Forks are for spread enthusiasts, anyway.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell's top schools and visit plans, the 2014 running back situation, visit reactions from The Game, and more.]
Central Michigan (6-6, 5-3 MAC)
Since we last spoke: Central Michigan 37, UMass 0; Central Michigan 42, Eastern 10
Pre-season Fear Level: None.
Hindsight Fear Level: 2
Best Win: Ohio (26-23)
Worst Loss: UNLV (31-21)
Season Recap: Central was not a good football team this year, but damned if they didn't get to 6 wins and bowl eligibility somehow. They won 5 of their last 7 games, but their opponents in those games were a combined 11-49. Their most impressive win over Ohio (YTO). They finished 110th out of 125 teams in FEI.
Bowls. There are too many of them.
The Michigan game in hindsight: Ah, when things were fun and the offense worked and hope was a thing.
Notre Dame (8-4)
Hope sprung eternal.
Since we last spoke: Notre Dame 23, BYU 13; Stanford 27, Notre Dame 20
Pre-season Fear Level: 7.5
Hindsight Fear Level: 7
Best Win: Arizona St (37-34)
Worst Loss: Pitt (28-21)
Season Recap: Notre Dame made a strong bid for ChaosTeam '13, beating some impressive opponents (Arizona State, Michigan State, Kiffin-exorcised USC) while losing to Michigan and Pitt and ALMOST losing to Purdue. Much-maligned quarterback Tommy Rees finished just south of 3,000 yards and 27 TDs against only 13 interceptions, but completed only 53% of his passes. TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels formed a solid 1-2 punch in the receiving corp, and Cam McDaniel led a running-back-by-committee that put up 5.2 yards per carry. You just found yourself jealous of Notre Dame, didn't you? That's a bad feeling. Don't do that again. Here. This will help.
This. Always this.
Coming into the year, we expected the defense to carry a somewhat mediocre offense. Instead, the defense may have actually been the weaker unit. The offense put up 27 points and almost 400 yards per game, and scored 20 or more points in every game other than USC (when Tommy Rees was hurt) and Michigan State (when obviously). The back seven of the defense, however, never really gelled, and they finished as a middle-of-the-pack team in most advanced stats (30th in defensive FEI, 51st in Def SP+).
The Michigan game in hindsight: Once again, Notre Dame played Lucy to Michigan's Charlie Brown. DAMNIT NOTRE DAME STOP GIVING US FALSE HOPE EVERY YEAR.
[after the jump: everyone else is better than you think except Michigan and the teams who beat them]
An annual tradition: the post where I spit out a bunch of hockey thoughts right after football season ends.
Andrew Copp emoji state.
AT RIGHT: Friday night immediately after OT goal
They are going to the tournament. Michigan's fantabulous 10-2-1 record has come against a tough slate of opponents; unadjusted win percentage has M's opponent's third; the more sophisticated KRACH system has them 12th. As a result they are second in both RPI and KRACH, behind only Minnesota. They're also tied for second in the revamped Pairwise*. Unless they implode, Michigan is on pace for a bid. Hell, they're on pace for a one seed.
They are living on the edge. Michigan isn't as good as their record. Don't take it from me, take it from Red, who said something along those lines a few weeks ago. They have played only three games not decided by one goal: 3-1 over BC, 6-0 over Niagara, and 7-4 over RIT. Hooray winning one goal games and all, but:
- Michigan is 3-0-1 in five minute OT sessions.
- Their goalies have a collective .937, and that's not because every shot is from the blue line.
- Shots for and against are dead even at 428.
- Pythagorean expectation (upshot: goal differential is a better predictive metric than record) works just as well in the NHL as it does MLB, and Michigan is 7th in scoring margin, way behind the Gophers.
Who's happy with #7 in goal differential? Everybody. But they're not playing like the elite team their record and the rankings suggest. There's no denying they've had a hefty helping of fortune so far and replaying this season results in a record this good maybe 5% of the time.
The blue line is a large problem. Bennett's great; everyone else is worrisome at best. The OSU comeback Monday was a collection of gross errors from the defense corps, from Chiasson wandering out to a player behind the net without putting his stick down, thus allowing a centering pass right through him, to Downing sliding his way behind the net on a 4 on 3. On Friday, Clare threw a blind backhand pass behind his own net with three minutes left in a one goal game instead of chipping the puck out of the zone; five seconds later it was no longer a one-goal game.
With Serville hurt, Michigan turned to junior forward Andrew Sinelli as the #6 D, and my buddy and I went from panicking about this to wondering if Michigan would sit Clare in favor of him when Serville was back. Since he hardly saw a shift late Monday you'd think the answer to that is undoubtedly "no," but Spath says he's threatening Serville:
"I like his quickness," Berenson said. "He's a good skater. He goes back to get the puck and he'll win that race. He'll take a hit to make a play. And he's a defensive forward so he has good defensive instincts in our zone."
Szuma missed some time with a concussion but after a long and thorough rest, he's back at practice. It appears, though, that for now, Sinelli has won the job and he will be given every chance to compete with Serville to be the Maize and Blue's sixth defenseman.
Chiasson has apparently slid past Serville to solidify his job, which makes sense to me. Clare holding his spot without threat… not so much.
Sinelli is much defter with the puck than most of Michigan's available defensemen and surprisingly physical for a small guy. He effectively pinned a bunch of guys to the boards and didn't make any glaring errors. He could help. This is both an endorsement of Sinelli and a cocked eyebrow at the rest of the crew.
But hey Bennett. Getting any scoring from the D has been the main issue with Michigan's offense so far. They're 16th in scoring with virtually no contribution from the D. Bennett pulled both of those OSU games out of the fire, first with the great stretch pass embedded above, then with a plunge into the goal mouth to take a cross-ice pass from Chiasson(!) to complete the World's Most Dangerous Goal.
If that had rebounded such that OSU got a quick breakout that was a 3-on-1 developing with Di Giuseppe back. Yikes. But it went in, so hooray.
Guptill's penalty shot against BU is one of five goals on the year for him [Bill Rapai]
The forwards are deep with little top end. I love me some Copp and Compher, who just scored two of the dirtiest crease goals Michigan's put in since… well, it's been a while since Michigan's had a true goalmouth fiend. Those guys bring value beyond their scoring lines and both are at a PPG.
But while it seems like Di Giuseppe, Nieves, Moffatt, and Guptill is a hell of a supporting cast, not a lot is happening 5 on 5 here. Those scoring line veterans have six goals 5v5 in 13 games. That's a little disappointing. The power play, clicking at 25%, is keeping everybody afloat right now; they're going to have to get some more even strength production if they're going to keep winning games if and when the save percentage and PP come back to earth.
Speaking of clicking. The turnaround in the power play is kind of incredible. Last year their single idea was get the puck to Trouba, and this was an okay enough idea to get Michigan to 19%. The year before they were completely miserable at 15%; they were at 17% the year before. All of these numbers seemed deserved.
This year's number also seems deserved. Michigan gets much better puck movement and regularly finds guys for cross-ice bombs that have been the most effective way to put the puck in the net since NHL 94. I don't get why it's happening this year instead of previous years, but I'll take it.
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
No Racine is no problem. [Bill Rapai]
Goaltending is weird. Steve Racine started Monday's game out with some shaky rebound control before righting the ship and turning in one of the best four goals allowed performances you'll see; he has a .925 this year, building on the .920 he put up in the final ten games of his freshman season. And this is nothing compared to Nagelvoort, who's putting up Hunwick numbers: .945, 1.65 GAA.
Quite a difference there… and sad to say probably not a sustainable one. Teams that manage to have those kinds of save percentages over the course of the year are generally Cornell or Ron Mason-era MSU teams that place a heavy emphasis on defense and conservatism; Michigan just scored on a cross-ice goalmouth pass from D to D. Meanwhile, the shaky defense corps is giving up a ton of Grade A opportunities, and eventually those are going to start going in unless Michigan gets it together.
Even if it's not sustainable, that's 23 consecutive games of goaltending ranging from high quality to outstanding. At some point the sample size is about as good as its going to get, and we can put the terrible memories of last year behind. That point is coming up very soon.
Is Josh Blackburn still working with Michigan's goalies as a volunteer? Can someone buy him a smoothie or something?
The rest of the league is Minnesota and poop. I fielded a couple of questions about why I was high on Minnesota instead of Wisconsin and didn't really have an answer other than "Wisconsin always does this," and Wisconsin is doing it again: they're 4-5-1 on the year and just got swept by the Gophers in their first Big Ten series; they got blown out by both Boston schools. And they're probably the third best team in the league. The rest:
- OSU is 8-6 with seven of their wins against Robert Morris, Niagara, Canisius, and BGSU (a split with UMD is the final win). They played well against Michigan but still got swept; they were swept by Miami in their first series of the year, and Miami's not that good right now.
- MSU is 5-7 with 4 wins over American International (3-8) and Princeton (3-10); they were recently swept by Michigan Tech.
- Penn State is 3-7-1 with wins over Army, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart; they were swept by Air Force and Union.
- Minnesota leads the nation in goal differential and is rather good at hockey. They've beaten UNH and taken a three point weekend from BC, plus split against ND.
Minnesota's the heavy favorite to win the league, and Michigan should finish second. No one else is likely to make the tournament.
*[I don't have a handle on what the changes did yet. In previous years I've downplayed the Pairwise until late in the season due to its volatility, preferring RPI as a better projection of where you would finish in the PWR at the end of the year than the actual PWR. If that seems like a dumb ranking system to you, well, at least they overhauled it?]