mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
11/13/2010 – Michigan 27, Purdue 16 – 7-3, 3-3 Big Ten
I lasted a quarter and a half before giving in to my inner old man and muting the television. Chris Martin had not just said that the receiver Roy Roundtree reminded him of was Braylon Edwards, but that's all I remember from the first hour. I love the Big Ten Network's picture quality and was pleasantly surprised when Saturday's director consistently cut away from highlight packages to show the game. Not so much the people paid to talk.
I was home alone since the last time I tried to watch a game in the company of people it was the Penn State game. I went home at halftime after demonstrating my severe case of sports Tourrette's. I didn't trust the team enough to expose the world to me for those three hours on Saturday, and that turned out to be a good call. Slop happened, swears were deployed, and sometime in the third quarter Sean Robinson threw a ball directly at James Rogers for the ninth turnover of the day.
It was a this point that Yakety Sax spontaneously started playing in my otherwise silent apartment.
Possibilities washed over me. One: I have been driven insane by last four years of Michigan football. Two: I am now dangerously, thrillingly super-sane and will walk-around hearing situationally appropriate music everywhere I go. I will hear "Yes We Have No Bananas" and know I don't need to bother with the produce section. People will have to tell me what Mark Dantonio says as "Breakin' The Law" thunders in my skill. I will stop complaining about Special K because instead of "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor," I will hear the marching band.
I ONLY EAT BANANAS AND HEAR YAKETY SAX SPONTANTEOUSLY WOOOOOOO—damn. It turns out that I still had a liveblog window open and when you post a video it auto-plays because it loves breaking the cardinal rule of the internet. Elaborate sigh, dreams deferred.
I'd forgotten because I don't participate in the liveblogs mostly because I'm at the games. Even when I'm not I avoid them—I don't like my own furious overreactions, let alone the furious overreactions of hundreds of other people.
What have we learned in week ten? Eh… I'm not sure you can take much out of this game except a growing concern for Denard Robinson's turnover issues and healthy fear of Ryan Kerrigan. Football played between good teams gets ugly when the rain is constant and the field starts coming up in big sliding chunks; football between bad teams causes spontaneous yakety sax. I don't think we're under the illusion that Michigan is a good team.
The footing issues were most apparent with the tailbacks but applied to everyone, so I'm not sure how much the offensive line getting owned was the conditions and how much was Kerrigan being Brandon Graham 2010 and how much was just the offensive line getting owned. The rest of the problems extended from that—Denard got the first serious, consistent pressure of his career and responded like most quarterbacks dealing with their first case of happy feet do. The running game was a slog. This week's epidemic of dropped passes has a good reason.
Unfortunately, the same logic applies to the other side of the ball, where Michigan took on Gritty Eckstein at tailback and went to work against a team that got the ball down 11 with no timeouts and a minute and a half left and decided this was the best course of action:
- Throw in the flat from one freshman quarterback to the other freshman quarterback, who had lined up at wide receiver.
- Tunnel screen.
- Five yard hitch.
The scariest thing Purdue's offense did all day was start Justin Siller. We have finally found the team whose offensive incompetency outstrips Michigan's defensive incompetency.
There is no data here not obviously affected by the opponent and the weather. Next week when the footing is solid and the opponent has a quarterback whose default option is not a dumpoff to the other quarterback everything will be completely different. Since it was a win—one that was in retrospect not in much danger after Michigan scored to go up 20-13—this game will be relegated to the scrap heap of mud-ugly games past and forgotten.
Now if I can just figure out where "Livin' on a Prayer" is coming from, we are in business.
Non-Bullets Der Wet Catten
This did not happen. Remember that these things can be much, much worse. The saddest picture in the history of Michigan football came from the 2008 Fandom Endurance III game:
The Orin Incandenza Award. The play of the game is Will Hagerup's 72-yard bomb early in the fourth quarter that put Purdue on their own three. Courtney Avery would biff a long handoff on the next play but give the ball back on a fumble. Michigan punt, Purdue punt, Michigan excellent field position for clinching touchdown. Watching this game was a blast from the past; feeling my decision matrix switch from GO FOR IT GO FOR IT GO FOR IT to "it's third and seven, we should run it and then punt" was like being possessed by the ghost of Lloyd Carr*.
That thing flipped the field position in a game where field position is a tug of war instead of a minor inconvenience en route to the endzone. It soared. The returner is a lithe whippet of a man somewhere around 20 years old and he didn't bother to run since it was too long. Ain't running that far. That's going to China, yo.
*(The author is aware that Carr does not actually have a ghost.)
Growing concern for turnover issues. The interceptions were bad but maybe that just happens because of the weather and the pressure which may have been caused by the weather, etc., but the fumble was the continuation of a bad habit we've seen all year: when Denard gets outside he does not switch the ball to the outside arm. On Saturday that allowed some guy to come from the inside and strip the ball as he spun Denard to the ground. That's a basic coaching point and I'm not sure why a guy who runs as much as Denard hasn't had it hammered into his skull.
Quarterback rotation. I thought putting in Forcier here and there was the right move even if it didn't result in any of those yard things (Forcier was one for four and his one completion was blown up by a Molk hold, leading to another pooch punt) since the offense wasn't going anywhere and the two quarterbacks are different enough that it's plausible Forcier could do something Denard couldn't, especially after the two INTs.
I also liked Rodriguez's response to some question about "benching Denard." To paraphrase: benching is a strong word. If he's a tailback or wide receiver he's getting a rest. We put him back in. You are making 1000 times less than me for a reason.
Last part probably another hallucination.
Might as well try it.
Right, I mean? Right? I think the headphones are key.
Grim weather past. All games played in driving rain on shoddy turf kind of melt into each other, a never-ending parade of fumbles, third and eight runs, five yard throws that hit spectators in the face, and either shots of people looking wet and cranky in ponchos or looking grim and cranky in a poncho yourself.
But in one specific way, this game reminded me of a previous slopfest around 2002 or so when a to-that-point disappointing Justin Fargas had the first and only 100 yard game of his Michigan career in a mud pit against Northwestern. Fargas was much better than Michigan's other backs because he was small* and could change direction without engaging pratfall warp drive. I thought of him as Vincent Smith changed direction relatively quickly and came up a yard short of the first 100 yard game of his career not played against baby seals.
I also was like "aaargh why aren't you a step faster" several times. Smith's had a good couple games but unless he's not really 100% after the knee injury it seems like it's cost him some of his giddyup.
*(He would get Brian Cushing roid huge at USC—at Michigan he was diminutive.)
A moment of pure terror. Was anyone else about to have a conniption fit after Avery let that WR zip by him with nothing but Ray Vinopal between that guy and the endzone? Rogers was pursuing to the backside so if Vinopal missed he just had to slow the guy or make him cut back, but watching a true freshman two star scurry down his angle as the last thing between Purdue and a 97-yard wide receiver screen touchdown is a whiskey-inducing experience.
Vinopal made a fine tackle and Purdue had the decency to fumble on the next play, so the moment passed successful. But jeez.
I-form: die. Die die die. Die die die die die.
Oddities. One: Gallon was clearly not making a fair catch signal and shouldn't have been flagged. Two: Purdue kicked off from the 35 once. WTF?
No Video of All Varieties yesterday because the pickings were understandably slim, but here's a bird talking about the game. Stay tuned for the twist ending:
I wish this would happen to certain WTKA callers. There is also a Wolverine Historian clipreel:
Purdue bloggers say their defensive back who scored "displayed shades of Deion Sanders" by having a ball thrown directly at him whilst being five yards from the nearest receiver. They do post video of girls fighting. The guy who guaranteed a win declares the game the "ugliest football game" he's ever attended, which yeah pretty much. The comments are weirdly negative. If mean, if anyone deserves a pass it's Purdue and their new mascot:
On to Michigan blogs: the Hoover Street Rag drops a Warren G. Harding reference that I misread as a "Warren G" reference when they tweeted it out. Alas, these guys are still bandos and history teachers (I'm guessing, anyway) and we don't get to find out what bandos/teachers would say in re: Warren G and Michigan football. The Harding bit:
Harding was widely reviled for his incompetence, his willingness to let his friends do as they pleased, the general sense of fail that emanated White House followed him until his death in 1923. Except, when historians look back, they see that things were not as bad as they once thought. Harding was blamed when things went wrong, but got little to no credit for the things that went right. People saw what they wanted to see and argued their points as they chose a new path to their future. Then again, Harding never got America bowl eligible, so we'll see.
Chances Sarah Palin adopts "get America bowl eligible" as a campaign slogan: 50-50. The Big House Blog has a very silly picture of a dog in a poncho and The Wolverine Blog grabs a shot of Lewan rumbling with the ball.
MGoBlog Ballot - Week 12
|3||TCU Horned Frogs||--|
|5||Boise St. Broncos||-1|
|9||Michigan St. Spartans||--|
|10||Ohio St. Buckeyes||--|
|11||Alabama Crimson Tide||--|
|12||Oklahoma St. Cowboys||--|
|16||South Carolina Gamecocks||5|
|17||Mississippi St. Bulldogs||2|
|19||Nevada Wolf Pack||4|
|20||Texas A&M Aggies||4|
|21||Virginia Tech Hokies||-1|
|22||N.C. State Wolfpack||3|
|Dropouts: Utah Utes|
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »
As always, comments are open for questions, suggestions, merciless insults, etc. Resume chart.
This weekly update is going to have a little bit of everything in it:
As always I will have a permanent list in the diary section as I confirm more recruits visiting. It looks like this might be a small group, though, with the playoffs still ongoing. Two big visitors are confirmed for officials though:
- LB/WR Kris Frost - Kris just got back from a visit to Auburn. I know that he enjoyed himself, which he usually does, but the Michigan visit comes after the Auburn visit and his parents will be with him. I still believe Michigan is in good position.
- TE Jack Tabb - Tabb has been trying to schedule his official visit for awhile now. His team was eliminated from the playoffs, so he will be in. The coaches really want a tight end in this class, and Tabb would be a good option.
6'0", 190 lbs.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wayne has his official visit to Michigan set for December 3rd, and if you remember Michigan at one point was on the outside looking in. I asked him what made him decide to include Michigan as one of his five official visits.
I like the school, and the coaches are real cool. They did a good job of recruiting me, and I see how bad they need defensive backs. I'm still going to Nebraska and Stanford, too.
Lyons is going to announce his decision at the Army All American game. He had injured his knee earlier in the season, but has already recovered from that injury. In fact, Wayne played in his team's last game, and said he's good to go.
5'11", 180 lbs.
Malcolm was in for an official visit for the Illinois game, and came away impressed. His coach on the visit:
Malcolm enjoyed himself, and he was at a real good game. He sat with all his position coaches, and they were saying some good things. He's going to Cincinnati on November 20th, and doesn't have any other visits scheduled yet.
Malcolm doesn't have a date set for deciding his school. He is still committed to Cincinnati, and I wouldn't be surprised if he stuck with that commitment. We'll find out after he takes his visit to UC on the 20th.
6'4", 285 lbs.
I was on hand for Cyrus' first playoff game this past Friday. His team won 56-28, and if you follow me on Twitter you'll know that I am very high on one of his teammates. 2012 ATH DJ Foster (5'10", 180 lbs.) plays running back, slot receiver, and cornerback for Saguaro currently. Foster had 5 total touchdowns in this game, which was exactly what he did to this opponent during the regular season.
Foster hasn't heard much from Michigan, and his coach even asked me why Michigan hadn't been in contact. Both DJ and Coach Sanders from Saguaro thought it was strange that Michigan wasn't recruiting DJ harder, especially since he and Cyrus are best friends.
I took my first video interview with both of them, which didn't go as planned. Here's the interview with Cyrus below, which I had to cut myself out of because I couldn't hear him, and had to keep telling him to speak up.
- The Dr. Phillips group visit isn't happening until after the playoffs. It hasn't been rescheduled yet, since they don't know when they'll be done. Dr. Phillips went 11-0 last year but lost I believe in the quarterfinals, so they don't want any distractions. The uncommitted teammates want to get up to Michigan before they say yes or no.
- Maryland DB Blake Countess has scheduled his official visit for December 3rd, which is the same day as Wayne Lyons.
- DT Kevin McReynolds is not likely to pick Michigan. This could change, but as of right now it's not looking good.
- An emailer asks, "If you had to guess will Michigan get Sammy Watkins, Timmy Jernigan, Cyrus Hobbi, Avery Walls, Mickey Johnson, or Anthony Zettel?" I think we have a good shot with Watkins, Walls, and Zettel. I'm not convinced yet with Hobbi until he takes his official. I don't think we'll get Jernigan or Johnson. I will tell you that I'm nervous with regards to Avery Walls. I think Oregon has made a big push for him.
Second photo courtesy of MGoBlue.com
Someone (*cough* Penn State) once said that Michigan fans act as if our team is playing only itself, i.e we attribute all good things to great Michigan play, all bad things to bad Michigan play; Good luck = return to the mean; Bad luck = somebody on Mount Olympus with a bug up his ass.
Well, today is not that day.
Throughout Saturday, I kept envisioning 3rd-and-7 Denard side-arms or Tate scrambly moxie-ducks turning into the Pick-Six that finally put the Boilermakers ahead. At no point however, even with the worst Michigan defense of my lifetime on the field, did I think our 4-point lead was actually in danger from Purdue's offense, especially after Hope got the silly idea that he should try passing the ball.
I am hereby opening up the MGoWarehouse and donating all of our leftover, unused boxes of
patches to the good people in Black and Gold who managed to depart Ross-Ade Stadium after 3:30 p.m. yesterday without kicking a cat. Don't worry about stocks running low: there's about 90,000 left from the people who walked out of a one-score 2008 Michigan-Northwestern knowing the combination of a sleet monsoon and a mediocre Big Ten defense was too much for an offense made of broken down car parts, duct tape, and the guy in the front row eating fat free pretzels. It happens.
This was 2008 all over again, except it was happening to someone else. At least Danny Hope kind of deserves it.
As for our offense, I'll abide by ruling of the UFRs but my take on the game was that the containment of Rich Rod's Traveling Flag Football Stars and Spread Kings (for lack of a better barnstorming nickname) was about 10 percent Denard's increasingly worrisome accuracy issues (diary by papabear16), 45 percent whatever pissed off Poseidon, and 45 percent Ryan Kerrigan = Brandon Graham only maybe better at football.
Nuclear Disarmament Poll
My personal meme for Jonas Mouton has been to compare him to some sort of devastating yet unstable goblin weapon that is capable of causing unfair levels of damage to your opponent, but so long as he is on your side there is an almost equally likely chance that he will explode spectacularly on friendly targets. In video games and the like I have generally avoided such weapons, then become enraged when they're used against me to effectiveness.
After seeing Mark Moundros trying to fill Mouton's spot for one game – a game by the way that featured the statistically best defensive performance of the year – I'm ready to go back to Weapon X. The UFR will know for sure, but the supposedly stable Moundros didn't really differentiate himself that much from Obi Ezeh on live watch. I'm interested to know what you folks think. Poll time:
Public Service Announcements
Before moving on to the others, a couple of
abuses of power public service announcements:
Last year I was very proud to see the visible level of MGoInvolvement in this annual charity event. Basically we go to two Detroit homeless shelters on Saturday, Dec. 4, and throw a Christmas party for the kids while the parents shop for gifts among donated items. We need volunteers and gift donations, and specifically I am casting about for a functional photo printer and a place that makes bagels who would like to donate bagels for 200 people, maybe plus cream cheese but I won't press that. One thing you can do is buy a gift on Amazon (which gives Brian credit) and have it sent to one of the parties.
Kathy is still there, and is currently trying to get a good design locked down so new History students can walk around in cool t-shirts. Current plans are to have them available for alums/current students on a specific time and day because they really don't have the time to get into shipping and selling online. The ones they are currently considering are pathetic, but Kathy has given MGoBloggers a shot at coming up with better. Get something to Kathy by November 17 to have your design put in.
Recruiting Fans: I….I Didn't Know.
Saginaw native and Tennessee commit DeAnthony Arnett is taking his talents out of Michigan, but not before giving the closest followers of his recruitment the Randall Monroe treatment. The four-star receiver spent his commitment eve posting twitvids of him committing to all of the following:
- Central Michigan
- Slippery Rock
- The University of Michigan State
- University of Cal
The kicker: on the last video DeAnthony unveils what I'm pretty sure is, verbatim, the script for the entire production, which was taken directly from Internet message boards:
To everyone who filled threads on this site and elsewhere with responses to the effect of "Arnett's an attention whore," I think you're wrong: he's just clever and has an ironic sense of humor. In fact, just to spite you all, and because this is bar none the best mockery I've seen yet of the Internet's sordid obsession with college football recruiting (in which I'm a participant), I'm naming DeAnthony the Diarist of the Week.
What, like the MGoDiarists didn't have anything good this week?
Oh, they did…
If wasn't being a dick and giving the award to a future Tennessee wide receiver, it would have gone to maizedandconfused for his Must-Read analysis on tackling over UConn, ND, MSU, and Iowa:
A few notes from the individual analysis:
- Kovacs is by far our best tackler, with Mouton, Johnson and surprisingly Gordon #15 as the 2,3,4 respectively.
- Of the guys on this list, the biggest surprise was Martin, however I think it is important to remember that this tackling eff. calculation puts weight on total tackles made, and Martin gets doubled. A lot. (in review of my stats, Martin only missed 3 tackles total, with 2 by bad form)
- In the two games Demens played, he was an absolute tackling machine.
- Ezeh really cannot tackle.
Of course tackling doesn't do any good if the opponent has an eligible receiver on your 1-yard line and your nearest defender is in the Delta Quadrant.
I claim this great expanse in the name of Lincoln
Hey, remember when RB wheel routes were hand-wavingly open against us and stuff? Well dnak438 wasn't about to wait for Brian or other Brian or Not a Girl Named Brian to picture-page the thing and took the initiative…
Avery, meanwhile, has taken the outside receiver into the center of the field. T. Gordon doesn't stay with LeShoure, presumably because he sees Pollard in the flat. The result is that LeShoure is wide open.
It's a two-for-one PP, as both the original and the just-as-awful sequel make it in:
Same mistake as Wheel of Doom #1: Avery (red arrow) is following the inside receiver who is running a post, leaving vast amounts of green behind him. Mouton is on the 13 yard line, stopping the in route of the outside receiver.
For the record, the lady with the shrill voice in my section who finds things "UNACCEPTABLE" found both of these plays "UNACCEPTABLE." Shrill Lady is angry, Mr. Robinson; what are you going to do about it?
And because we can't get enough of Picture Pages around here, Chris of Dangerous Danger Logic that is Dangerful (We're from Danger!) has obliged us with two more Moving Picture Pages this week, one on the Snag Package, and another on Michigan's adjustment to Illinois blitzing behind the optioned DE.
While we're on tactics, Blue_n_Aww takes a look at whether Michigan should have gone for two points after scoring in the 2nd overtime:
I did a bit of research and found a study that showed that the team that starts on defense wins about 52.25% of the time in the third overtime and later. You can find the study here. And, looking at M’s kicking statistics I’ve found that the team is 46/47 on extra point attempts, 98%. I used that for our success rate in this spot. So when we kick the extra point we’ll win .4775*.98= .468. So if we can convert the 2pt conversion 47% of the time, we should go for 2.
papabear16, as linked above, discussed Denard's mechanical issues and how fixing those might make him a Heisman candidate again next year.
We also get a collection of scrape and contain plays for discussion from tasnyder01, who, diary-wise, is still pretty raw, but he's starting to use the WYSIWYG. Campbellian patience is urged.
Wow did things get stat-y this week. In chart form:
|Statistical Analysis of Defense During B10 Games - *Updated Through Purdue*||matt D||Compares the D performance in each game by metrics like Stop%, Pts/Drive, etc.|
|Progress, Quantified||Coach Schiano||A real comparison btw '09 and '10 performance|
|Communist Football||Weekly update (as of Purdue) of records broken this year|
|Illinois Recap: I was there when…||The Mathlete||PAN recap after Illinois game|
|What would Michigan look like with a better defense?||The Mathlete||The O can't get much better but if D is avg. how good are we?||
|Bradley-Terry Statistical Rating (KRACH) for FBS Football||quakk||Bradley-Terry method applied to BCS standings|
Grid of Expectation
|Over/Under: Michigan at Purdue||jamiemac||Vegas lines||M, 41-31|
|Purdue Preview||The Mathlete||Brings the PAN||M, 35-30|
|Week #10 National Rankings and Predictions for Purdue||Enjoy Life||Sagarin, Fremeau||M – 4.8 pts.|
|Post Week 10: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||YPP, PPD, etc.||M, 48-24|
|Preview: Purdue 2010||Brian||M, 35-24|
|Weather Charts on the NET||NOAA||Highs, Lows||Yarrr!|
This epic diary from Billy Shears was front-paged because the guy who owns this blog is the kind of person who will constantly foist The Smiths on his friends because he has seen Morrissey's hidden genius and believes the rest of us will be able to listen to that crap and pick out the ideas that sparked alt rock and post punk while ignoring the bleeding of ears. Also: it really captures the feel of this season (right down to the part where you're squinting and trying imagine how these concepts will coalesce into a National Championship season eventually).
Those who have been enjoying monuMental's weekly Windows backgrounds will delight to see how one of these artistic masterpieces comes together:
bklein09 makes the case for Denard to win the Heisman this year, and a statistical glance like this does make a hell of a case. But the picks, man. The picks.
A new commit for the Wolverines means this hits the front page. Action since last rankings:
11-12-10 Michigan gains commitment from Dallas Crawford. Purdue gains commitment from Akeem Hunt.
11-14-10 Penn State gains commitment from Anthony Alosi. 70espn NR rivals NRscout.
Rivals and Scout have updated their rankings over the past couple weeks, so there are some shakeups in there.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45).
|#1 Ohio State - 18 Commits|
Braxton Miller moves up to 6.0, Jeremy Cash falls from 5.8 to 5.7 on Rivals.
|#2 Notre Dame - 17 Commits|
|George Atkinson III||S||CA||5.8||4||79|
No change for ND.
|#3 Nebraska - 16 Commits|
Rivals bumps Aaron Green down to 5.9, but David Santos goes from 5.6 to 5.8.
|#4 Michigan State - 16 Commits|
Darien Harris upgraded to a 5.7 on Rivals.
|#5 Michigan - 13 Commits|
Lots of movers and shakers among the future Wolverines, on top of picking up a commit from CB Dallas Crawford. Demetrius Hart was described as "the best RB I've seen this year" by Barry Every... then Every's Rivals scouts proceeded to rank him the #5 RB in the country. He's up to the top 4-star, however. Everybody else is a faller, as Chris Rock goes from 5.7 to 5.6, Greg Brown and Tony Posada go from 5.7 to 5.5. Rivals still has Jack Miller at 5.5, about which LOL.
|#6 Indiana - 22 Commits|
|#7 Wisconsin - 18 Commits|
AJ Jordan loses his fourth star in Scout's re-rank, but Jake Keefer picks one up. Jordan also drops from 80 to 79 on ESPN. On Rivals, Makinton Dorleant goes from 5.5 to 5.6, and Bennett Okotcha goes from unrated to 5.6.
|#8 Iowa - 16 Commits|
Ray Hamilton is stripped of his fourth star in Scout's re-rank, but he picks one up from Rivals. Go figure. Orloff gets a HUGE bump on ESPN from 69 to 70.
|#9 Northwestern - 13 Commits|
Green goes from unrated to 5.3 on Rivals.
|#10 Minnesota - 15 Commits|
Mike Moore is up to 5.6 (from 5.5) on Rivals. Cameron Brown and Samuel Oyenuga go from unranked to 5.5 on that service.
|#11 Illinois - 17 Commits|
Thornton and Rhodes pick up 5.4 ratings from Rivals.
|#12 Penn State - 4 Commits|
Finally a new commit, but still with the embarrassingly empty class.
|#13 Purdue - 8 Commits|
Purdue picks up Akeem Hunt, and none of their other rankings are changed.
Okay, probably undeserving of muppets. But this probably popped into existence five seconds after the tenth turnover of the game and must be deployed:
Hurray for monsoons!
Just a year ago, the Michigan basketball team was fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade and expectations were high in Ann Arbor. Two walkons and a Canadian (CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Jevohn Shepherd) were the only departures, and the Wolverines were ready to take the next step forward.
So that went well, right?
Not so much, no.
Michigan sputtered the entire year, unable to find the spark that they'd ridden the previous season thanks in large part to their inability to find the bottom of the net. In retrospect, it should have been obvious: though they weren't frequently deployed, CJ Lee, David Merritt, and Kelvin Grady (who quit the team and eventually joined the football squad instead) were the team's best 3-point shooters. They were also the only point guards on the roster. Maybe those freshman phenoms from Indiana weren't as magical as it seemed.
The Wolverines turned their highest expectations in several years into a 15-17 record. Some losses were embarrassing, and the near upsets of Michigan State and Ohio State both ended with painful daggers from the opponent--one from mid-court.
Manny Harris has taken his talents to the Cleveland Cavaliers. DeShawn Sims took his to Greece, then back to America. Zack Gibson graduated, Anthony Wright is playing out his final year of eligibility at Toledo, Laval Lucas-Perry will ride the bench at Oakland for a season, and the most experienced players in Ann Arbor (outside of the opponents) are a pair of 3-star juniors and a sophomore.
Expectations are low this season, and understandably so. But does that mean Michigan fans should simply forget about the men of Crisler? Zack Novak has thrown himself on the floor, been elbowed in the face, and guarded guys half-a-foot taller than him too many times to be ignored. Stu Douglass has nailed one too many clutch shots, and learned one too many new positions (they call this one "point guard," whatever that is) for this team to simply fade away. Top recruits Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway Jr. did not sign up to lose games wearing the maize and blue. These players want to win big games, and they'll probably do it at times this year.
We don't know who will be the stars, or which freshmen will perform. We don't know if Michigan's inexperienced bigs will be able to slow down the likes of Syracuse, Illinois, and Purdue. We don't know if the Wolverines will finally be able to find the bottom of the net after a year of searching, but coming up with mostly iron. We don't know if they'll run an effective 1-3-1 and force opponent turnovers. We don't know what to expect from this team.
Ever the optimist, I think this team will surprise a couple opponents [Ed-M: "Surprise" as in "beat" or as in "ha, bet you didn't know some of us shave!"?]. However, with such a young roster, there's no doubt that they'll be upset themselves. The one thing they can promise, though, is that they'll be fun to watch. Maybe not in every individual game, but seeing these young players grow over the course of the season should be an entertaining - if often frustrating - experience all its own.
And though I mean it every time I say it, this one may come from a little deeper in the heart: Go Blue.
This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:
That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.
Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.
Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:
To the chart we go!
YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36 Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29 Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16 Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59 Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06 Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21 Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02 NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63 Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08 Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07 Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43
(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)
Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.
Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.
There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.
Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:
It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.
The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.
*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)
Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:
The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.
Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:
Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:
a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.
Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:
- Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
- Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
- If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
- It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.
You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.
NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.
Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:
Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.
Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.
Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.
|WHAT||Michigan at Purdue|
|WHERE||Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 13th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan -13|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
40% chance of rain
Run Offense vs. Purdue
At this point Michigan's rushing offense is what it is: ridiculous. Last week Denard Robinson had the worst day of his career (as a starter, anyway) on the ground and Michigan still put up 4.9 YPC against a team giving up more than a yard less than that against other opponents. With the longest run of the day Stephen Hopkins rumbling for 32 on an early zone stretch, Michigan's production was consistent and replicable across 53 carries. Michigan is 9th in rushing offense and in an exclusive club of teams averaging over six yards a carry. (The others: Nevada, Auburn, Oregon, and Nebraska. The spread is dead.) They are on pace to obliterate the best Michigan rushing offense of the past ten years.
On the other side of the ball, Purdue's run defense is surprisingly adept for a team coming off three consecutive bombings at the hands of ground-oriented opponents Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Boilers are 49th in raw yardage and 34th in YPC, though that latter number is heavily distorted by Purdue's ravenous appetite for sacks (sixth nationally). The Boilers in Big Ten games and against common opponent Notre Dame:
Taking out the sacks makes a huge difference, revealing Purdue to be a thoroughly mediocre run defense that is going to give up four and a half yards a carry to just about everyone.
When I looked at Purdue's humiliating defeat to Toledo (I mean lol amirite who loses to Toledo?) in the bye week I paid scant attention to the Boilers defense, declaring it awful minus Ryan Kerrigan. I think I shorted at least one player in doing that: DT Kawaan Short is a consistent penetrator of the type that's given Michigan problems the last two weeks, albeit one who's probably not in the class of Ollie Ogbu or Corey Liuget. The rest of Purdue's defense is unremarkable; linebackers get their tackles shed, the other DT is a freshman, and the safeties don't leap out at you.
The one concerning bit is that Northwestern, the purest spread n shred on the list (though not very pure under Persa), got clunked. I'm not sure how much relevance that has, but it's a note of concern. Another strategy note: since Marve went down Purdue's moved to an Illinois-style offense with a lot of midline and inverted veer. Michigan tried those a few times against Illinois until Martez Wilson exchanged with another linebacker and baited Robinson into a two yard run, at which point they decided that throwing this new stuff up against the core competency of Illinois was not such a good idea. I'd bet on a similar fate for the newfangled tomorrow.
Key Matchup: David Molk versus Gaston. Last week Molk abused redshirt freshman Akeem Spence on a series of stretch plays. He now gets another freshman tackle, and one who probably isn't as good. Short can play but if Michigan can stretch the field away from him and get Gaston locked behind Molk it's not going to matter and Michigan will have the usual cruise.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
By far the best aspect of Purdue's team is their pass rush. As mentioned, they're sixth nationally in sacks acquired. Ryan Kerrigan leads the way with 7.5; Short has an impressive six from the interior. No one else has more than two but Purdue deploys an array of effective blitzes that have seen 11 players other than Short and Kerrigan register sacks.
Since Purdue's secondary depth chart doesn't look that much different than Michigan's (or at least didn't before the JT Floyd injury), you can explain probably 80% of Purdue's respectable pass defense numbers by pointing at the line. Unfortunately for the Boilers their efficiency numbers are what you'd expect for a secondary with one upperclass cornerback in the two deep, that a backup. They're 96th—i.e., essentially as bad as Michigan. Because NCAA stats are dumb they don't account for the sacks, but the numbers suggest that when you get a pass off it's likely to be complete and go a long way. Results:
For reference, the average YPA for a D-I team this year is 7.3. That's one good performance, a couple average-ish ones, two bad ones, and one debacle.
Michigan's now 14th in passer efficiency, mixing hilariously wide open touchdowns with a healthy dose of efficient chain-moving curls and a smattering of frustrating incompletions/interceptions on plays that could or should be hilariously wide open touchdowns. Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway are decent or slightly better Big Ten receivers, and infamous snake oil recipient Roy Roundtree just blew up the single-game Michigan receiving record. Denard Robinson has some accuracy issues and still reads defenses slowly from time to time but has completed a mindboggling leap to become the #11 passer in the country. Meanwhile, Michigan's line and the terror inspired by the possibility of a Robinson scramble sees Michigan tied for fourth nationally with just four sacks allowed.
This should be a good matchup for Michigan because their passing game manages to get big plays without exposing the quarterback to a lot of pressure. QB Lead Oh Noes is a quick pass that gets big chunks and general terror about Denard means that unless Michigan gets stuck in a passing down the defensive linemen are operating at a severe disadvantage when it comes to getting to the QB. The reason Denard never scrambles is because defenses are scared of getting out of position; if the big thing is getting passes off this is advantage Michigan.
Key Matchup: Denard versus His Mechanical Issues That This Guy Explains And Mean That He Leaves Balls Behind His Receivers Not Infrequently. The biggest issue with the offense right now is Denard not taking opportunities in the passing game. This is a little tiny bacteria of an issue compared to everything on defense but it's there.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
As mentioned, after Marve went down Purdue basically installed the Juice Williams offense, figuring that if Williams and his flippers where arms should go could survive in the Big Ten it must be a pretty good bet when you're down to third-string freshmen and worse. They run a lot of inverted veer and midline, with the quarterback picking up 10-15 carries a game. The rest go to gritty, heady Dan Dierking and a rotating cast of wide receivers, fullbacks, and even quarterbacks(!) with crushed fingers who can't pass. Nine players got carries against Illinois. Meanwhile, the offensive line moved a 6-6 guy to center and is starting a converted defensive tackle.
This rickety contraption wouldn't be street legal in Bangkok but Danny Hope's managed to eke a somewhat good running game out of it. You will yawn expansively at this given Michigan's numbers: they are 39th nationally at about 4.5 YPC. Okay, vast quantities of those yards came against Northwestern and Minnesota and Ohio State hit them over the head and Robinson and Dierking combined for 86 yards on 28 carries against Wisconsin. But still: 4.5 YPC in a car with wheels made of toothpaste. This is MacGuyver level coaching.
Such a mutable running game is difficult to get a grasp on but the Wisconsin game is most recent and provides a blueprint. Dierking will get 15-20 carries and will get about what his blocking gives him. Robinson will get another ten and do the same; he's not on the same level as the athletic Henry. Backups will get another ten carries, some of the end-around variety, and at the end of the day Purdue will have a lot of of zero to three yard carries and a few that break longer. These longer runs will likely be around 20 yards—there was one 60 yarder for Al-Terek McBurse against Illinois but Purdue lacks gamebreakers in a serious way.
Michigan's run defense is susceptible to breakdowns, especially on the edge, and will probably give Purdue a number of opportunities to break those long-ish runs. On the other hand, since Kenny Demens came into the starting lineup quick bursts into the interior of the defense have been few and far between—I can't actually think of any—and this should go like a slightly crappier version of the Wisconsin and Illinois games, where bursts give up yards here and there but there's a lot of third and medium.
Key Matchup: Cam Gordon and Jordan Kovacs containing the veer and any options that Purdue pulls out after seeing it work for Illinois. Keep them inside and Michigan should do well.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
When Marve went down against Toledo, Purdue was forced to go with third-stringer Rob Henry, a redshirt freshman currently rocking a 51% completion rate and a 5.1 YPA reminiscent of Michigan's Sheridan/Threet combo in 2008. Then Ohio State crushed his finger, forcing the Boilers to peel the redshirt off true freshman Sean Robinson. Robinson is currently rocking a 47% completion rate and averaging an amazing 3.3 YPA. He's got 4 interceptions against two touchdowns. This is Purdue's 2010 season in a nutshell:
That's fourth string freshman QB Robinson entering a mesh point with third string freshman QB Rob Henry in a real game. A Purdue blog looking for a season postmortem could do worse than just posting that picture.
Henry got some spot duty two weeks ago at Illinois, playing the first series despite not being able to throw and then featuring as an anti-wildcat by lining up next to Robinson as a running back, but has not thrown a ball the last two weeks. His projected return was for tomorrow but the Purdue depth chart lists him behind Robinson and in an OR situation with redshirt freshman walk-on Skyler Titus. Robinson is expected to start.
You will note the total absence of Justin Siller from this conversation, which is because Siller is still not recovered from a high ankle sprain suffered earlier in the year:
"And we're still not sure where Siller or Rob Henry is at. They weren't able to go on Saturday, and that was only a couple of days ago. I don't know how much their status has changed since then. Both did a little bit on Saturday, but were a long way away from full speed."
You may surreptitiously high-five yourself about this even if it is gauche.
Compounding difficulties for Purdue is a similar ravaging of their receiver position. #1 Keith Smith has missed the entire year due to a knee injury. Siller, who was their second or third guy, is out. Freshman OJ Ross, who you may remember Michigan recruiting for a while last year, is out. That leaves Cortez Smith, now far and away the top downfield threat, Antavian Edison, and tight end Kyle Adams as the main threats. All are averaging around ten yards a catch save Adams, who is somehow managing six yards per. Some of these numbers in the Purdue passing game are amazing.
So. Michigan faces a true freshman quarterback down approximately his top three targets behind a mediocre line (45th in sacks allowed) and I've given you the stats and I know what you're thinking: you hate it when I point out that this upcoming passing attack is awful because then that passing attack goes B-A-N-A-N-A-S on Michigan's secondary and you're just watching it thinking "oh my God this is a walk-on or freshman oh my God." I'm sorry. I cannot change Sean Robinson's age or career YPA.
So… is this a team Michigan can post a respectable result against? And by respectable I mean "allow Robinson double his YPA"? If there's anyone on the schedule this is true for, it's Purdue. If. The Mathlete should have replaced this graph with a picture of a pillow fight:
Yakety sax all around here.
Key Matchup: Um. What do you go with when the opposing QB is averaging 3.3 YPA? Tackling, I guess. Underneath tackling.
Purdue's return game is awful (105th punts, 112th kicks) and their punting mediocre (65th), so Michigan's array of confused and alarmed on special teams should be able to see them start some drives on or around their 20. As per usual, massive advantage opponent when it comes to field goals: Carson Wiggs is 10 of 14 on the year.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
this is the purdue running game
- Michigan turns Sean Robinson into Sean "P Diddy" Combs, and by that I mean a real quarterback for some reason.
- Every Purdue drive starts in Michigan territory because Michigan starts hitting their kickoffs backwards.
- Insane fate demons decree Michigan turnoverfest.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Taylor Lewan thunks Kerrigan a la Clayborn.
- Purdue brings a guy into the box and Michigan gets the crazy open guys again.
- Molk's matchup against that freshman DT goes like you might expect.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; –1 for Seriously This Time The Fourth String Quarterback Is Really Bad, Guys, Seriously, –1 for And Almost Literally Every Offensive Skill Position Starter Is Out, –1 for Purdue Secondary = Michigan Secondary, –1 Remember When We Lost To Toledo? Yeah, We Weren't Very Good Then, +1 for General Overconfidence Check, +1 for Turnover/Special Teams Facepunchin' Spectacular, –1 for But Purdue's Pretty Much The Same When It Comes To The Facepunchin', +1 for That Feeling In The Pit Of Your Stomach, You Know What I'm Talking About.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 Constant Rich Rodriguez Job Reclamation Project, +1 for Winning Season OMG, +1 for It Was Nice To Have A Week Where People Whined About A Victory And How It Shouldn't Save Rich Rodriguez's Job, Relatively Anyway, +1 for If We Lose To This M.A.S.H. Unit It Will Be Very Sad, +1 for Danny Hope Comeuppance Ahoy)
Loss will cause me to... resign myself to the end. Of Rich Rodriguez, people, not me.
Win will cause me to... OH MY GOD PETE FIUTAK THINKS WE'RE GOING TO THE INSIGHT BOWL YESSSSSSSSSS.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Vegas, statistics, and common opponent comparisons…
- Michigan beats Notre Dame 28-24, Purdue loses 23-12
- Michigan beats Illinois 67-65, Purdue loses 44-10
…all suggest a comfortable Michigan win. You're nervous, I'm nervous, everyone's waiting for the other shoe to flutter in the window and smack us in the face with a six-turnover day during which Lewan takes sixteen penalties and a disastrous chest bump sees all three Michigan quarterbacks tear ACLs.
But this is not reason! People! Set aside your paranoid fantasies, no matter how justified, and partake of a team that is somewhat hopeful because last week they were within a touchdown of Wisconsin late and only lost by three touchdowns. Even if their incredible passing YPA gets much better, there's no way Purdue can keep pace with Michigan's offense unless most of the aforementioned things happen.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Forcier enters the game by choice for a drive or two.
- Lewan mostly shuts off Kerrigan if they match the two up, but gives up at least one ugly sack or holding call.
- Robinson goes ham on the ground—150 more.
- Michigan, 35-24.