USA vs Algeria: Wednesday 9:30 AM , ESPN.
But don't tell them that because they'll cut you.
Brady2Terrell has a clear and comprehensive breakdown of what the US needs in a message board post. To make it even more concise: a win means the US is in. A loss means the US is out. A draw and the US is waiting on the result of the other match. In that case, England winning puts us out. Basically anything else and the US is through. Draws in which England scores three more goals than the US does—very unlikely—put England through instead. Draws in which England scores two more lead to a decision based on card accumulation, in which the sides are tied.
Those things are maybe 1% probable. Slovenia goes through with a draw and is very experienced at bunkering; England's offense has been impotent thus far in the tourney.
Ignoring that, your rooting interests:
- Do not lose
- If tie, hope England does not win.
Since both games will happen at the same time this promises many tense moments unless the US goes up two (raise your hand if you think that's likely, and if you've raised your hand please relocate yourself to a national team that apparently does not exist). Wednesday will be knee-buckling.
Algeria is a strange team. Every time Nadir Belhadj (above) makes a darting run forward I am literally angry that Algeria can pump out a left back like that and we're left with Jonathan Bornstein and a centerback gamely playing out of position. Rangers manly-man Madjid Bougherra would probably be the USA's first-choice centerback with Onyewu's injury and lack of form. Abdelkader Ghezzal may not score a lot in Serie A, but he's actually in Serie A. Serie A would laugh at the entire US forward corps, then consider them again just to laugh some more. If you were to pick a starting eleven from the combined rosters of the same team, the position at which Algeria would win they would win by a country mile.
But… that's kind of it as far as obvious Algeria wins goes. Their goalkeeper, described as "very, very dodgy" by Zonal Marking even before the tournament started, was replaced after giving up a game-winning goal to Slovenia that was almost but not quite as bad as Robert Green's nation-horrifying mistake. His replacement got his first international start against England, making a couple of good saves while looking equally dodgy on balls played in from the edges. He plays in the Bulgarian league. Knock on wood, but the chances he gives up a game-changing mistake are much greater than Tim Howard's.
Tactically, Algeria is extremely variable. They shifted from a three-man backline in the African Cup of Nations to a 4-4-2 in their pre-WC friendlies, then went with a 3-5-2 that was closer to a five-man backline against England.
With Ghezzal available—he was suspended for the England match after picking up two yellows in just over twenty minutes as a second half sub against Slovenia—and Algeria needing to win by two goals to guarantee advancement, the Desert Foxes will probably adopt a more attacking posture against the US. This will see Nader Yahia move back to right back after being drawn inside to play centrally against England, with the rest of the midfield adopting more aggressive attacking positions.
Left: Algeria (white) against Slovenia. Right: Algeria (green) against England. While the England formation looks more aggressive, in reality the two wing-backs operated mostly as defenders.
The two central midfielders were described by Zonal Marking as "simple defensive-minded midfielders" before the tournament and have lived up to that reputation. What attacking the Algerians manage is usually through Belhadj and Wolfsburg attacking midfielder Karim Ziani, easily recognizable as the douchiest looking guy in the tournament thanks to his blond dye-job. (Algeria, as a group, look like Aqua.)
The attack broke down in the final third against England when Matmour, normally a midfielder, provided no threat:
Algeria dominated possession for periods of the game, as you would expect for a side essentially fielding six midfielders. Indeed, you can stretch that to seven – because Matmour is plainly not a forward, let alone a lone striker. His movement was decent but he offered no threat in behind, which is the obvious way to catch out a defensive partnership of John Terry and Jamie Carragher.
Threats in behind are also an obvious way to catch out the defensive partnership of DeMerit and Onyewu, so it's nice that Algeria doesn't have a consistent way to generate any. Ghezzal is a strapping 6'1" guy who shouldn't be a huge matchup problem for Onyewu and Demerit.
ZM sums up their first two games as "dogged" but says they've "offered nothing in an attacking sense" thus far. Whether that will hold true against a leaky USA defense is another section.
The Nats are in an unusual and advantageous situation. Algeria has a shot to advance but absolutely must win. They will be forced to attack against a team they might have bunkered against if they'd faced them in one of the first two group matches. This should play into the USMNT's hands. They're an excellent counter-attacking team even against world class sides like Spain and Brazil, and Algeria's defense has a tendency towards Michigan 2009 errors. Marauding fullbacks and erratic passing will yield plenty of opportunities for the US to strike back.
So… this is a situation in which a ball-winning central midfielder next to Bradley is a priority. I haven't been a fan of Clark, but Edu's second-half performance against Slovenia wasn't much more impressive. Either would be fine as a starter; Torres is set to be a second-half sub if the US needs a goal.
As far as the forwards go, take your pick between putting Buddle in the starting lineup and thrusting Dempsey up top and putting Holden into the fray. With Algeria's games to date proving Belhadj the Algerians' most effective attacker, I vote Holden plus Dempsey. Holden is a young, pacey, work-rate-heavy winger capable of tracking Belhadj's runs better than Dempsey, and tasking Holden with the most important defensive responsibilities frees Donovan to be Donovan*. Holden is the only US player who gives the team any width, and his ability to get deep and cross should be an effective way to test any of Algeria's flappy goalkeepers.
The seemingly odd substitution of England winger Aaron Lennon (generally regarded as by far their best wide option) for national whipping-boy Shawn Wright-Phillips was because Lennon kept cutting inside:
Aaron Lennon constantly came inside rather than getting down the touchline. He needed to be braver and give Nadir Belhadj more of a problem by staying wide and high when Algeria got the ball – this would have either pushed Belhadj backwards to pick up Lennon, and therefore take him out of the equation, or forced one of the three centre-backs to come across to the left-back position, which would have removed Algeria’s luxury of a free man at the back.
Tracking Belhadj and threatening him with an actual winger will go a long way towards shutting down the Algerians' main attacking threat. This could be a game where Beasley makes sense as a second-half sub, possibly for a ragged Holden.
The United State has another huge advantage in the game: set pieces. The US was consistently dangerous on them in the first two games because of Landon Donovan's excellent service, and Algeria was often disorganized in their first two games. It's easy to envision the US pumping in a goal or two from dead-ball situations, another reason to focus on wide play—and the resulting corners that come from it.
(SIDE NOTE: why has Donovan been so excellent in a tournament in which every well-hit cross sees four or five fly wildly out of control? One: he's good. Two: MLS is our secret weapon. Many observers are convinced that a lot of the crappy play in this World Cup (goalie errors, wack crosses, zero free-kick goals) stems from the Jabulani ball, and that the Germans' proficiency with it is traceable to the Bundesliga's adoption of the thing six months ago. Guess who else is using it?
On a domestic front, the Jabulani has made an appearance in Portugal’s league, Argentina’s league, America’s MLS, the Dutch league, the French Cup and the Swiss league.
So there you go.)
As long as the game remains tied, the advantage is to the US. With the sketchy central defense and the situation they can adopt their usual slightly defensive 4-2-2-2 and wait for the opportunities that will surely come.
D: Cherundolo, Onyewu, Demerit, Bocanegra
M: Donovan, Clark, Bradley, Holden
F: Altidore, Dempsey
*("Landycakes" is dead. You hear me? Dead.)
The Important Thing
Do not go down a goal in the first fifteen minutes. Algeria probably couldn't go in a shell at that point—they need to win by two to guarantee they go through—but they would pull back somewhat, waiting for information from the Slovenia-England game. The longer Algeria's kept off the board, the more they'll have to press and the more vulnerable they'll be.
This section is totally obvious and useless, I know.
Some other important things:
- Play wide and quickly to exploit the space left by the attacking Algeria fullbacks.
- If Dempsey is up front consider dropping back into a 4-5-1 that would give Donovan and Holden more license to press high, potentially taking Belhadj and others out of the offense.
- Keep the wing players outside and allow Demerit and Onyewu to do what they do best: clear crosses.
- Pick up as many set pieces as possible.
No Kinard. This has been in the wind for a couple weeks now, but it is now official:
Jeff Whittaker, the coach at Youngstown (Ohio) Liberty, said Sunday that linebacker Antonio Kinard is weighing three options for this fall, playing football at prep schools Fork Union or Hargrave military academies, or signing with a junior college in Kansas.
"He’s looking at it like it’ll be his redshirt year," Whittaker said. "It just won’t be at the university and then he’ll be able to get it in order and finish this test and get back on track coming up."
Kinard still wants to come to Michigan and will attempt to do so after a prep year. If he goes to a JUCO, he's probably out, but Michigan's taken military academy kids before, with Chris Perry the most prominent. Demar Dorsey, meanwhile, has frustratingly signed with Louisville and will be on a college campus this fall.
For what it's worth, this does leave Michigan with a couple of open scholarships if they want to get in on any USC players who might like to transfer. Rodriguez didn't make it seem likely, though:
“You got to have scholarships first to give out, and there’s got to be mutual interest and all that,” Rodriguez said. “So we’ve been concentrating on our guys. And guys that have been on campus and taking summer classes and the freshmen that we expect to come on the 26th, that’s had most of our attention.”
With USC's appeal likely to delay their penalties to the 2011 season, seniors will get their bowl game. Juniors will be told that the NCAA will repent, repeal everything, and give USC ice cream, and will buy this for reasons unknown.
The read option. Having gotten sick of the poor quality, I haven't bought NCAA in a few years now. But after Madden's sales collapsed, EA switched focus from awful new features that add nothing but sound impressive in the gaming press to an effort to actually make a playable, realistic football game. Result: increase in sales.
I'm probably not going to get it this year, either, but this actually looks sort of like a read option:
Sure, the middle linebacker took off for the other side of the field, but the blocking on the line actually looks extant and readable, which is more progress in a few months than the series has made during its entire time on this generation's consoles. They've added a lot of RR's offense to this edition and it might actually work. I follow a couple blogs that look at EA games with a jaundiced eye; if they say it's worth getting I might take the plunge.
Budget stuff. The University has submitted its annual budget to the Regents. While we'll have to wait for a real journalist to FOIA the exact details, the overall picture is unsurprising for anyone not on the "Save the Big House" organizing committee:
Total revenues for FY 2011 are budgeted to be $105.0 million and total operating expenses are budgeted at $100.3 million. The athletic department is a self-supporting unit that does not receive financial support from the University's General Fund.
With the revenues derived from the Michigan Stadium expansion, the U-M Athletic Department will realize an additional $11.0 million, taking revenues over the $100 million mark for the first time. …
"The athletic department projects a $16.1 million operating surplus for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, and will start fiscal year 2011 with $35 million of unrestricted operating reserves," said U-M Athletic Department Chief Financial Officer Jason Winters.
Successful businessman with extensive capital and under-utilized resource creates bonus revenue. News… this is not news. Cat videos at 11.
Meanwhile, this enormous pile of money may have actual payoffs for the people providing it:
“We’re looking at some updates and enhancements to Yost - bleachers, the concession areas, the circulation space, lighting,” Brandon said. “And we’re looking at some real interesting things as it relates to the scoreboard and technology in all of our venues, including the football stadium.
“We’re in a situation where one of the things we have to attend to at some point in the future would be update the technology because there’s HD technology, bigger screens and higher resolution that our fans would really enjoy.”
Though Munn Ice Arena is a sterile environment easily raided, they do have a sweet replay board. Yost has no capability outside of cartoonish GO FIGHT WIN screens.
Penn State hockey? This seems like your usual off-the-cuff mental doodling from a newspaper columnist who just likes sayin' stuff, but this is more evidence that a Big Ten team might add hockey than has ever existed before:
There's a rumor afoot I cannot yet confirm that Penn State is looking into retrofitting the Bryce Jordan Center for hockey. I left a message for Tim Curley on Wednesday but heard nothing back. I've been told by PSU sources it would easily be an 8-figure undertaking, involving the dismantlement of the arena floor, demolition of some seats and the installation of a cooling system for the ice. That's a lot of coin.
Apparently there's a Penn State alum who just sold some acreage to Shell for a ridiculous amount of money who "has been a youth hockey coach." So this is definitely happening and is not something that Penn State's AD will privately laugh at.
Is this… fluff? Angelique Chengelis dropped an article a few days ago that is your typical slice of profile fluff wherein someone who is involved with sports does something nice for someone else. The only surprise is who got the treatment:
On April 16, a Friday and a day before Michigan's spring football game, the team's final practice before August camp, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and his wife, Rita, were at Mott Children's Hospital visiting sick children, as they often do. Michigan offensive linemen Perry Dorrestein and John Ferrara also were there that day.
Rodriguez was running late for practice, as he walked through the hallway of the pediatric intensive care unit.
Dave Page was wheeling his wife to their baby's room to say goodbye. David III was dying, his organs failing, and it was only a matter of hours before he would lose his battle.
Page passed Rodriguez, who was in the middle of a conversation, in the hallway of the intensive care unit.
"All I could think to say was, 'Go, Blue' because I had my mind on other things," Page said. "And (Rodriguez) stopped, had a big ol' smile and said, 'Go, Blue.' "
It goes on from there in a fashion that's only unusual in that it's typical of these sorts of articles. Even the arrogant and unpleasant Charlie Weis got regular praise for his charity dedicated to autistic kids. (His daughter is affected.) When people end up having a lot of money they try to do nice things for other people who are less fortunate. It's not a surprise, or at least shouldn't be without two years of relentlessly negative media coverage that painted Rodriguez as a demon hick with the temerity to attempt to negotiate a buyout down.
Etc.: Hammer and Rails previews a common opponent: Notre Dame. The hockey schedule is out. MGoUser willywill9 has a conversation with a former WVU player in which Rodriguez is described as the "best coach in the country," something that happens about every three months: former WVU player flags down a guy wearing Michigan gear and praises Rodriguez apropos of nothing.
6/18/2010 – USA 2, Slovenia 2 – 0-0-2, 3 GF 3 GA, in with a chance
Since college football happens on Saturday and people read the internet at work, I usually have the luxury of taking a day or two to compose my thoughts on an emotionally wrenching event before pouring them out into this space. No such luxury after a 10 AM game on Friday.
It doesn't matter in this case since I won't know how to feel until the US plays Algeria. Go through, and the second half was Yes We Can We Are Amurrica It Is Morning And Let's Roll Up Our Sleeves And Get Out Of This Recession. Fall short and it's time to bomb Mali. That would be unfortunate since some 13 years ago I was sitting on the internet playing checkers at 3 AM after a night of Jedi Knight and my opponent said "hello from Mali." We had a nice conversation. I explained what "doh!" meant and he told me he was using the only computer in his village of 300 to play checkers at 10 AM. Erroll77 is now 29. If I was him I would find a TV and root like hell for the USA against Algeria. The USA didn't bomb Germany after that mad dentist conjured a penalty out of nothing in the Ghana game, but they're in NATO. We do what we must.
I digress. What just happened is Schrödinger's Cat: World Cup Edition. At halftime I left the noisy bar and thought dark thoughts about how the US has largely moved away from MLS players but remains addicted to MLS managers. Jose Torres was brought on and the first half was spent seeing Slovenia cover passing lanes until one of the center-backs aimlessly booted a ball upfield that Robbie Findley might run onto, for whatever good that might do. The US had conceded a goal built from sheer lazy marking from Bocanegra, who allowed Walter Birsa to tuck inside totally unmarked and launch a shot Howard, off his line, had no chance at. The second goal was a World Cup-crushing gut punch that followed a sequence in which the US was one wrong touch or Donovan sliding tackle away from equalizing.
Then something decayed. At halftime I was busy composing a rant about how the loss had nothing to do with the USA's inability to play above the level of their competition and everything to do with their inability to do anything except on the counter and the unfamiliarity with defending it. The US then got a couple goals off hoofed long balls and managed to avoid further crippling goals on the counter. Why is unclear.
It wasn't the substitutions, neither of whom had anything to do with either US goal allowed to stand. Before he got on the end of the Donovan service Edu was frankly bad, and Feilhaber's contribution was limited to a couple of ambitious passes that didn't come off. It wasn't the run of play, which was the same as it was in the first half, with the teams splitting possession and the US having slightly more edge in the final third. It just went differently for no immediately understandable reason. It just happened.
They're still in it, though, and since I'm at a loss as to what, exactly, to think I will default to my mode of operation in 2002, when I was in a Galway pub and Niall Quinn knocked down a header for Robbie Keane to blast past Oliver Khan:
The situation then is creepily close to what the USA just faced down. Ireland had drawn their first game 1-1. The last game of the group was against a team from the Arab world widely regarded a minnow (in their case, Saudi Arabia), and a draw was required if they were going to have a chance to advance. The goal is a carbon-copy.
Keane scored deep into stoppage time, so Ireland didn't have time to punch in the winner and see it set on fire. The country decided to take the rest of the day off and drink by the river. I've still got to watch the England game, but in many things the Irish approach to life is the wise course. For now, a stirring comeback that leaves the USA's fate almost entirely in their hands, and a reason to keep faith even when the weight of history tells you to go home and sulk.
While it's up:
But first! The Run of Play wins twitter in the aftermath. Read from the bottom:
- Jozy's finest game in the US uniform and not even close. Consistently dangerous, drawing a bunch of free kicks around the area, one of which resulted in the Edu goal-type substance, and knocked down the long ball perfectly for Bradley. Had a couple of those thrilling runs that are becoming a regular occurrence, too.
- Torres didn't do much and got pulled at halftime, but I'm not sure how much was even his fault since there didn't seem to be any passing lanes available.
- In retrospect, the horrendous Edu call was coming. In the first minute of the game Dempsey should have gotten yellow for an elbow to the head, then Findley got a yellow for handling the ball with his face. Other than Jorge Larrionda (surprise!) making a hash of whichever game he did a couple days ago, we haven't seen that many bad calls in a game, let alone a half.
- Speaking of Findley: anyone else actually happy he has to sit for the Algeria game? Pace is nice but it's almost sad to see Findley run a ball down. What's he going to do with it? Boot it directly out of bounds? Ah, yes.
- Feilhaber instead of Holden was weird, right? I guess the former might be more likely to spring a guy with a throughball through a crowded defense.
- The US had to make the balls-out switch to Gomez but, man, having Edu in the back in a World Cup game was terrifying.
- It's too bad the US doesn't have a true destroyer they can rely on because allowing Bradley to go box-to-box makes the US attack considerably more dynamic. His late runs into the box find him open all the time. This time, unlike Australia, he shot.
- The outcome of the Algeria-England game does not matter much for the US. As discussed in the preview, the only way an Algeria win does not put the US through is if 1) the ENG-SLV game is a draw, 2) that draw sees Slovenia score two more goals than the US does against Algeria. That's a highly unlikely outcome. Anything other than an England win means the US just goes through if it wins, so root for Algeria, but it's not likely to matter either way.
- Germany outcome removes any incentive to finish first. You'd like to avoid the Germans since they only lost because of a questionable red card to Klose (like Eddie Pope's sending off in 2006 the first yellow was a "huh" moment), a saved penalty, and some heroic goalkeeping by the opposition even after Germany went down to ten. But you have no idea where they will finish in the group.
Ed: Tom scored an interview with Ryan LaMarre, the recently-departed star of the baseball team. LaMarre was drafted in the second round by the Reds and just signed, giving up his senior year of eligibility. In his first game in the minors he stole three bases(!).
TOM: Let’s go back to high school to start. What sports did you play, and when did you know that baseball was the sport you’d go with?
RYAN: I played baseball, football, and hockey for Lumen Christi in Jackson. Probably at the end of my sophomore year of baseball is when I knew. I took an unofficial visit to Michigan at the end of that year. That was really when it started clicking that I would have to seriously start playing summer baseball, and try to get to that next level.
TOM: What made you decide on Michigan? I’m assuming there were other schools calling.
RYAN: It was probably coach Maloney, first and foremost. I had a couple other schools lined up that I wanted to look at. I actually had an official visit scheduled to North Carolina the week before my senior season started. Coach Maloney found that out, and he came in on an in home visit. He told me where he saw me fitting in, and sold the program really well. I never ended up taking the visit to North Carolina, and committed to Michigan.
TOM: Did you have a particular game that stood out to you at Michigan?
RYAN: Coming into this year, it was hosting the regional; the game against Arizona. The atmosphere, and the importance of the game, it was a pretty cool experience. The last couple years haven’t been as successful as we would’ve liked. The northwestern game, though, when we cam back from 13 runs. That was the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of.
TOM: There were rumors from the start that you maybe had a plan of playing at Michigan for three years, then leaving. Is that true?
RYAN: I had heard that I had a chance to get picked up out of high school, and once I committed to Michigan I told everyone that’s what I wanted to do. It’s definitely something that I worked on everyday, because it was a dream for me to play in the majors. IF I had to stay at Michigan another year, there wouldn’t have been a problem either. It was a tough decision, leaving those guys, that was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. The Reds made an offer that I couldn’t really turn down. I’m happy with how things have turned out.
[Ed: remainder after the jump.]
There are varying opinions on whether the Slovenia game is a must-win or must-tie; I'm in the tie camp. If the US ties and England beats Algeria as expected, the final matchday will see Slovenia and England enter with four points and the US two. The US would go through if they win against Algeria and…
- England wins
- Slovenia wins
- there's a draw and the US wins by two
- there's a draw and either Slovenia or England scores fewer total goals than the US.
That is almost all possibilities that include a win over Algeria. So they can't lose. But a tie is far from tragic.
On the other hand, a win gives them more leeway against Algeria and could see them escape the knockout game against Germany everyone would dearly like to after the machine mistook Australia for Austria and acquired plenty of lebensraum. Winning is good.
Unfortunately, the US is not going to have a couple of pieces of key information before they go into Friday's matchup against Slovenia: what happened in the England-Algeria game, and if Germany as terrifying as it seemed or if Australia just a team that can give up four goals to anyone. If they knew these key bits of information they would know whether they should attempt to win by a lot or just win.
Without that information and given the situation in the group, the right answer appears to be "just win." This, I'm sad to say, may see Ricardo Clark start again.
Slovenia, as you might expect given their population is approximately equivalent to Iowa, is a boring defensive team. They do have a few talented attacking players but their overall lack of talent sees them play a traditional 4-4-2 that you could call a 4-4-1-1- if you wanted, or a 4-2-2-2, or… well, a lot of different things. A 4-4-1-1 plays pretty similarly to what England does with Rooney and Heskey—Rooney comes deep for the ball, Heskey presses up the pitch—and so you could see some situations similar to the ugly breakdown that led to the England goal, hopefully minus the ugly breakdowns.
Here's my Torres pitch: I think this actually is an argument for Dollar Store Xavi. Torres operates best as a deep-lying playmaker who does not get dragged up the pitch much. Though he's not exactly spectacular in the tackle, the Slovenia attack is not athletic enough to punish him the way he would have been against England and his presence at the back will be more consistent than Clark—who tends to get dragged out of position—and Bradley—who also tends to get dragged out of position, but at least with him there's usually a point. The US defense is less likely to get pulled out of shape when he's around and more likely to spring quick attacks that bypass the Slovenian's compact discipline as much as that is possible. Clark's positioning has been erratic at best over the last month.
SI's Jonathan Wilson describes the Slovenes as essentially identical to the US, with their best and most creative players operating as tucked-in wingers:
Slovenia's only real creativity comes from the wide midfielders, Valter Birsa and Andraz Kirm. Both tend to tuck in when Slovenia is out of possession, pulling wider when the ball is won, while still looking to cut in on the diagonal -- just as Donovan and Dempsey do. They also tend to switch during games, occasionally playing as orthodox wide men and looking to swing in crosses, but more usually playing as inside-out wingers.
The back four and the two central midfielders are defensive players first, and the central defenders are good but not great. With Slovenia set to sit back and look for the counter themselves, opportunities to break will be minimal and this might be a game for Edson Buddle and his recent run of finishing instead of a Robbie Findley more likely to waste possession and biff open nets. Buddle's also a much greater threat in the air. With a lot of the USA's offense likely to come from overlapping fullback crosses, aerial power seems preferable to speed. Also, if you're bringing in Torres you might want a little more size elsewhere for set pieces for and against.
Slovenia's goalie, unfortunately, is damn good.
I've already brought this up in the previous sections: if I was Bob Bradley I'd swap Torres for Clark and Buddle for Findley, expecting that Torres would be sufficient defensively against a side lacking the sort of middle-of-the-park power England has and more likely to hold possession and unlock the Slovenian defense. Buddle, meanwhile, is more likely to get on the end of a cross or set piece and more likely to finish any opportunity that happens to come his way.
Will Bradley actually do this? I don't know. I think you might see Clark or Edu in the first half with Torres a halftime sub if the US needs a goal. Findley… well, I reviewed the England game and he was a much better hold-up forward than Altidore, consistently bringing down long balls and getting the midfield involved in pressure situations. That more than his speed was his contribution. Against a very different opponent I'd rather have a guy to get on the end of things.
The other option is bringing on Holden, which would probably see Dempsey move up top. That's an attractive option too since Slovenia is set up to give up space on the wings and Holden is probably the USA's best winger. The USA as set up against England is exceptionally unlikely to get in a good cross. This game seems to call for more width, and Holden's about the only guy who provides that unless you want to pretend it's 2006 and DaMarcus Beasley is a good option.
Everyone except Clark and Findley is a sure starter. Those nine plus tactical whateva should be enough to get a result, but Spain-Switzerland and whatnot, and we are not Spain.
It's a doubleheader Saturday for Michigan's Class of 2010. The Big 33 All-Star game takes place in Hershey, PA with Michigan's Talbott brothers playing for the Ohio Team. Taking place in East Lansing is the Michigan High School Football Coaches' Association All-Star game at 3:30PM. (The game will be aired on TV on Comcast 900 on Monday at 7PM and Tuesday at 8:30AM.)
Though Michigan doesn't have any scholarship players participating in the game, a number of other Big Ten schools do (Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Indiana). Michigan's sole player in the game is preferred walkon Baquer Sayed. I caught up with him and East coach Jim Sparks at media day for the game.
Tim: When are you getting up to Michigan?
Baquer: I'm moving up there in like two weeks.
Tim: Why did you pass up scholarship offers from MAC schools to walk on at Michigan?
Baquer: Family-wise [the media guide says Sayed is one of 9(!) kids in his family], and school, and degree, and everything. It's made up for by the school. If the NFL doesn't work, Michigan's better than all those offers I got in the MAC.
Tim: How would you describe your game?
Baquer: Speedy, long-ball quickness.
Tim: What can we look forward to seeing from you on the field Saturday?
Baquer: Just getting the ball and going in a scoring. Catching the fades over the corners, that's what I like to do.
East Head Coach Jim Sparks (Clawson High School).
Tim: You're running a spread offense on Saturday. Is it more run-focused or pass-focused?
Sparks: What kind of coach would I be if I told you what we're going to do? I'm just gonna say "yes."
Tim: Am I gonna see Baquer Sayed catch some passes though?
Sparks: Yeah, I would expect him to. He's a tremendous athlete, and that's why we run the offense that we do. We have so many athletes that the trick to the spread is just get those kids the ball in space and let them do their thing.
Tim: He told me he likes to go up and get the fade. Is that what you see in him?
Sparks: It's a huge part of his game. He's serious. I told him after you interviewed him that I've never seen a kid that has the ability to adjust to the ball and go up, and play that deep ball the way he does.
Thanks to Baquer Sayed and Coach Sparks for taking the time to talk to me. Here's Baquer's highlight video, for a taste of what to look forward to on Saturday:
Note: with Antonio Kinard's qualification status in doubt I'm going to hold off on him until we get an answer either way.
|Millersville, MD - 6'2" 195|
|Scout||4*, #7 S, #1 MD, #96 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #38 ATH, #10 MD|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #38 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Maryland|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post|
Furman on defense as a junior:
And this is from one game, Furman's ridiculous 414 yards against state #1 Arundel in the quarterfinals:
Thanks to youtube user fslade1267, you can check Furman highlights—mostly long runs—from virtually all games during his senior season.
The first thing on the Furman resume is ridiculous speed. Literally: the first Scout article written on him mentions "gaudy athleticism" in the headline. He clocked an electronic 4.36 at a Pittsburgh combine, causing Scout to declare his athleticism "off the charts"($) and ESPN to claim that his "elite testing marks … should help his recruiting stock continue to soar." The Washington Post cited another 4.36 from 2008, when Furman was just entering his junior year. He has the fakest 40 of anyone in this recruiting class by a mile.
More from ESPN on his ridiculous combine showing:
From a pure measurement standpoint, Josh Furman may have had the single best outing out of any prospect on this year's Under Armour combine tour. He posted a wind-aided 4.39 40-yard dash, a 42 inch vertical jump, a 4.12 short shuttle and a modest broad jump of 9 feet, 8 inches. His 16 reps of 185 pounds were also very impressive and a bit surprising given his longer, rangier frame (6-foot-2, 192 pounds). While he did look a bit lean, his great wingspan and overall body length suggest continued physical development. We believe he will eventually have a well-developed frame that will tip the scales in the 225-pound range while he'll maintain the great quick-twitch burst and speed we saw Friday night.
Hello, nurse. Quick-twitch 225 on a rangy frame is upside piled upon upside. Given the context, this quote from his coach seems more justified than most in its rapturous tone:
“The explosion and power this kid has, it’s phenomenal. I’ve seen kids with almost the same amount of speed like 5-10, 5-11. But being 6-2, 6-3, being able to run … I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s definitely a freak. Definitely a freak.”
Elsewhere his coach describes him as "lights out fast," as does the coach he victimized in the state semifinal, about which more later. For its part, Rivals echoed that assessment after he attended their Five Star Showdown, where he played offense:
His speed and burst jump out at you. He's fast and looks effortless when running. He's also very athletic and versatile, able to play many positions at the next level. … His effortless, galloping running style that simply outdistanced everyone who tried to cover him. You can't teach his combination of size and speed and he runs low despite being a bit tall for a tailback -- a good habit.
That athleticism bore itself out on the field, most spectacularly in a state quarterfinal game against #1 Arundel in which he ran for 414—not a typo—yards in a 58-55 double overtime win. The video is embedded above. He was as stunned as anyone about his stats at the end of that game:
“The only time you can run for that many yards is when you are playing the easy level on Madden,” he said referring to the popular video game. “Can you repeat my stats again? Did you say 414 yards and six touchdowns? I can’t even imagine doing that.”
In the aftermath his coach said Old Mill would "just keep feeding the beast" and the next week he ran for 201 yards, punching in the winning score with under a minute left in the state semifinal. He suffered a minor knee injury after just six carries in the state final but his team managed its first-ever state championship in a 17-16 thriller (highlights). By year's end he'd racked up 2,283 yards and 36 touchdowns, narrowly missing a state yardage record because of the knee injury. He was the local paper's blindingly obvious selection as the local athlete of the year.
With that combine pop and production it's a little surprising to see that two of the three services give him just three stars. ESPN rates him lower than Davion Rogers at OLB (though they end up with the same 78 grade). Their scouting($):
Furman is a big, rangy and physical football player with good vertical speed for such a lengthy athlete. Tall and physically intimidating as an outside linebacker. This guy is a real threat rushing from the outside. Has enough quickness to accelerate by an offensive tackle setting back to pass protect. Most running backs do no not want to take him on due to his size and strength. A very disruptive perimeter defender. Shows the speed and closing burst to run a ball carrier or quarterback down from the backside when rushing off the edge. … Furman is a very good football player that has size and quickness. The only area of physical concern may be flexibility in the lower body. A guy with a ton of upside and physical development left.
It's the "upside" bit that sees him rank lower than you might expect. In the same combine evaluation above, ESPN diplomatically says his performance was "a bit less extraordinary" when it came to football skills and that he was "a bit straight-lined" at times, displaying "some stiffness and inflexibility." Their prescription was for more bulk and improved technique. Touch The Banner has some specifics on those technique issues:
Tends to be undisciplined regarding his gap responsibility . . . Does a poor job of using his hands to disengage from blockers . . . Not a big hitter, more of a grabber . . . Does not bring his feet with him when he tackles
Rivals is basically in the same boat, naming him the #38 athlete—three spots off four stars.
On the other hand, Scout sneaks him in at the tail end of their top 100, and when Tom interviewed MaxPreps's Stephen Spiewak he cited Furman as possibly the second-best recruit in the class:
TOM: Besides Gardner, is there anyone in this class that you look at and say, Michigan really needed to get him, or they're going to be excited about him?
STEPHEN: I really, really like Josh Furman. I think he'd be able to contribute on offense, but I think he'll be a big boost to the linebacking unit. I have heard about Furman for a few years, and this year he really put it together and was flat out dominant. I know some people think he has NFL potential.
Opinion is decidedly split.
As far as offers go, West Virginia and Maryland were the first entrants. As early as signing day, Furman was being pursued by Clemson, Florida, FSU, Michigan, OSU, Tennessee and Virginia Tech and had a Pitt offer. By March, Virginia Tech had offered; they were followed shortly by Oklahoma and Michigan. The latter two made the unusual move of offering on nothing more than a highlight tape. Other prominent offers came from North Carolina, Rutgers, Illinois, Purdue, and Miami (That Miami). Florida was interested enough to have him visit but never offered($), and frankly that Oklahoma offer is a little dubious given the fact he never visited and Oklahoma fans never really heard of him. It's in the Post, though:
Furman's first major offer from a school outside of the region set off a frenzy. Oklahoma requested Furman's highlight tape. The school received it on a Saturday, and Furman had an offer from the Sooners three days later.
Furman's offers are encouraging but not quite the sort that demand four stars. I'll take any linebacker sort that Virginia Tech is after, though.
Early in Furman's recruiting Michigan was behind his father's alma mater, but after visits to all of his suitors, Michigan was far and away the choice. Prepare for a double-helping of the most common cliché in recruiting from Papa Furman:
"My mind was made up that he was going to Maryland and follow in my footsteps," Tyler Furman said. "When we went to Michigan, I was blown away by the coaching staff and the facilities. I was blown away by everything they had to offer."
Furman delayed his announcement so he could do it at the Maryland Crab Bowl, but as soon as he left Michigan's campus his recruitment was over. His reasons why:
“Going through the recruiting process I came to realize that this is a business and I think out of all 13 scholarships I had, Michigan, the coaching staff and the recruiters were the most honest and realistic with me,” Furman said. “I went up there for the Michigan-Notre Dame game, I just loved the atmosphere. It just had so many positives toward the college. I know they had two bad season, but if you really look at it they’re not a bad team at all, and I think they’re going to be a good team for the next four or five years.”
Here's hoping that's true.
In Ann Arbor, Furman is ticketed for the spur/spinner slot occupied by Stevie Brown last year and tentatively assigned to redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon for 2010. This is, apropos of nothing but a West Virginia offer Furman didn't seem that interested in, the exact position Scout analyst Matt Alkire suggested would be his home:
Having watched his film personally, one position he could fit very well in is the “spur” safety position Rich Rodriguez used in his 3-3-5 at West Virginia. Mike Lorello was an excellent player for the Mountaineers in it and Furman has the range to cover the field and the power to hammer people as well.
ESPN concurs, saying he "projects best in a heavy-pressure defense in which he can attack vertically" similar to his high school defense… which is (surprise!) a 3-3-5:
"We play a 3-5 defense just like West Virginia and Coach Casteel could see me fitting into it. That's where they offered me," said Furman.
Interestingly enough, West Virginia's early interest was for outside linebacker, and Touch the Banner suggests that Furman's natural position is weakside linebacker, comparing him to Shawn Crable.
Why Stevie Brown? I already used Crable, who seems like a pretty good comparison, and Furman has the combination of athleticism and linebacker-tweener size that Brown did. Brown also took to the spur spot like John L. Smith to Michigan's recent repeal of an anti-dueling law. Brown, unfortunately, also had major tackling and coverage issues that were only mitigated by his senior-year move.
Etc.: Scout interview before his official. Early Scout article. Forcing a fumble. A Washington Post video feature that describes his six-sack half(!!!) as a freshman defensive end and features Ecstasy of Gold. Worth watching if only to see him make up 15 yards on some kid on a kickoff return tacle.
Guru Reliability: High despite the difference in opinion. Furman went to combines, suffered no injuries, and embarked on a crushing campaign that resulted in a state championship, and you can't poke an analyst about him without getting the "crazy athletic and raw" refrain. Look at the ranking difference as a reflection of his variability: he could be an All-American, or he could be a frustrating loose cannon who never develops.
General Excitement Level: Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Roll them dice and hope Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite are the savants they're reputed to be. I will say that some of the skepticism at ESPN and Rivals appears to be based on questions about his fit in a 4-3 system and I lean towards the positive side since he'll be walking into (but not on to) a defense that plays to his strengths.
Projection: Man… I don't know. With Michigan currently running out a walk-on on the two deep at his position it's hard to imagine him redshirting, but it's also hard to project him contributing much as a true freshman given his offensive focus in high school, need to add weight, and technique deficiencies.
It's a good thing we have an almost direct comparable, down to the dreads: Furman is Denard Robinson on defense. Expect a mostly wince-worthy but occasionally tantalizing freshman year followed by a mountain of hype going into 2011. From there? Ask again later.
With camps and unofficial visits in full swing, news is coming in fast and furious. Check out the all-time updates on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board.
KY LB Lamar Dawson (at right) plans to visit Michigan this summer, he told ThaRinger.com:
Dawson has a few visits scheduled this summer and will also showcase his skills on the national stage in July. “I’m just going to visit a couple places. I’m gonna go to Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and I might go to Arkansas. I got invited to this Gridiron Kings by ESPN. That’s in July, it’s a 7-on-7 camp.”
Michigan is currently outside his top four, which consists of Kentucky, USC, Louisville, and Florida. However, the Wolverines have a chance to make up ground when he hits campus. Box of M.E.S.S. also talked to Dawson, and he's not down on Michigan for the subpar record the past couple years:
Michigan was overall 5-7-0 and 1-7-0 in their conference, could last years record affect your decision or will you give them an opportunity no matter what?
Dawson: I’m going to give them a chance because they have the most wins in NCAA history so they know how to win all they need is the right players to do it.
Vaught's Views also provides some recruiting fluff on Dawson, mostly related to Kentucky's attempts to keep him in-state.
VA LB Curtis Grant plans to visit Michigan in August. He also gives Tom a brief rundown of his game:
"I'm going to try to work on everything as a player. One of my strengths is being able to read and attack. I also think I need to be the leader on the field. I call the plays, and keep the team motivated, so that's important. I really see myself as that kind of player at the next level, too. I like being the leader," he told me.
He's a highly-regarded prospect, and a visit is a good sign.
OH LB Sean Duggan visited Ann Arbor recently, and he came away enthused, as he tells Tom. Michigan is now in his top 3.
Michigan makes the top 5 of VA LB/DE Corey Marshall, but Tennessee and Virginia Tech seem to have the edge.
PA LB Armstead Williams holds a Michigan offer and plans to visit at the end of this month.
There Shall Be Only One (Quarterback)
It seems as though this is starting to become a weekly feature, at least until Michigan lands their quarterback in the class of 2011. With only one spot available at the position, and very few offers out, it's worth keeping an eye on.
A couple shakeups in the past week then, as we bid Happy Trails to FL QB Jerrard Randall, who has committed to Oregon. No word on whether teammates and fellow Michigan offerees FL S Jonathan Aiken and FL WR Curt Evans are likely to follow.
I was going to write a long segment about how Randall's commitment could have a positive effect on Michigan's recruitment of AZ QB Brett Hundley—who had been favoring the Ducks—but he eliminated Michigan yesterday.
VA QB Marquise Williams has accelerated his decision timetable ($, info in header). Since he won't get the chance to visit Michigan before that commitment, it looks like the Wolverines may be on the outside looking in.
So where are we now? OH QB Cardale Jones is the only quarterback prospect still out there who is holding an offer. This makes it much more likely that FL QB Kevin Sousa (seen at right) eventually lands that coveted letter from Rich Rodriguez. In fact, I suspect the coaching staff may be holding off because they think he'd immediately jump on it, leaving them out of luck with the prospects they like a little more. He continues to rack up mid-level offers, and Colorado State is the latest. His skill set sounds very good for Michigan's system. Though he's a project, Michigan has time to let him develop behind Forcier, Robinson, and Gardner.
Additional Happy Trails-ing.
FL WR Ja'Juan Story, who had previously seemed pretty enthusiastic about Michigan, has eliminated the Wolverines in his most recent cut.
SC WR Charone Peake committed to Clemson.
Happy Trails to NJ OL Shane Mertz, who committed to Northwestern.
Happy Trails, WI DT Donte Phillips. Committed to Indiana. He was squarely in the "sad josh" category, so his coming off the board is not a big negative.
Happy Trails, FL S Jabari Gorman. He has narrowed his list to a final three: Alabama, Miami, and Ohio State ($, info in header).
OH WR Devin Smith recently picked up an Ohio State offer, so we could be bidding him adieu soon. For now, he remains on the board.
New Offers, Enthusiastic Recruits
OH DE/DT/OL Jack Miller visited Michigan a couple days ago, and managed to head out of Ann Arbor with an offer in hand ($, info in header). Michigan likes him on offensive line, which is where I'd had him projected on the recruiting board. His offer list is actually much more impressive than you'd expect, given his rankings:
Miller estimates his scholarship offer total to stand at between 20 and 25. His list includes Michigan State, Boston College, Illinois, Northwestern, Pitt, North Carolina, West Virginia, Stanford, Louisville and Syracuse.
Big East and ACC aren't exactly SEC, Big... uh... 10 or Pac... 11, but significantly more impressive than MAC. Jamie Mac of Just Cover turned me on to Miller a while back, including some Toledo INSIDERZ information:
I am sure you are on top of things, but the Toledo grapevine is buzzing that Jake Miller, a OT/DE recruit from Toledo St John's will be getting a Michigan offer pretty much any day now. He'll probably get an OSU offer shortly thereafter.
I have no idea if he's leaning in any direction, but he [has said] that a Michigan offer would be a game changer for him in the recruiting process.
Should we be on commitment watch? Tom also interviewed Miller:
JACK: [I]t's safe to say that Michigan and Boston College are my top two... I have the offers I want, so it's time to decide. I'm really going to thin it out this week, and I'll hopefully have the decision made by the end of the week.
Commitment watch indeed. Miller should either be a Wolverine or an Eagle by the end of the week. There's also more in Tom's post about his connection to another Wolverine target from Ohio.
In other "Recently Offered and Michigan Probably Holds a Healthy Lead" news, MI LB Ed Davis heard the good news from Rich Rodriguez over the weekend ($, info in header), and he has Michigan atop his list. He may not commit immediately, but conventional wisdom has him joining the Maize and Blue. He was one of the more impressive prospects at the Michigan Football Showcase.
[Ed: Davis attends Detroit Southeastern, a school that Michigan has had extreme difficulty recruiting of late. With the departure of Archie Collins to be a Michigan State video coordinator, Southeastern looks like it will be friendlier in the future.]
Michigan has offered IN OL Nick Martin ($, info in header).
Chris Rock (Still) Goes Blue
The Columbus media has finally gotten around to covering OH DE Chris Rock's commitment to Michigan:
"Chris is excited," Stallions coach Ryan Wiggins said. "He ended up with 20-plus BCS offers and he just felt very comfortable with Michigan. We have a player there and our football community is pretty tight-knit, so I think Patrick helped recruit him there."
Wiggins also talked briefly about what Chris brings to the team:
Rock has impressed as a defensive end and a tight end in his time at DeSales but may bulk up to the point where he could see time on the interior of the D-line at the collegiate level.
"I think he's a versatile enough kid that he can do a lot of things," Wiggins explained. "That's one of the reasons he's so good. I think the question will be how much bigger he'll get. That'll be up to the guys at the next level." ...
"He's big and he's very athletic for his size," Wiggins said of the 6-foot-5 Rock. "That's the biggest thing. I think he's a fast learner, too. He plays fundamentally sound and he's coachable."
If Rock is healthy this season, he could rocket up the rankings.
The recruitment of FL RB Demetrius Hart takes another turn, as he now plans to wait until January to make a commitment.
A couple different sources evaluate FL WR Curt "Spiffy" Evans. First, the Miami Herald:
From the first time he handled the ball at the youth football level at Northeast Hollywood, there was little doubt that this was going to be a future standout on the gridiron.
Speed, athletic ability and a knack of reading defenses has provided this quality football player an opportunity to get noticed.
After starting his career at Hollywood South Broward, his decision to attend Chaminade-Madonna has worked out as college coaches have had the chance to watch him catch balls and lead the team on offense, and now as he heads toward his final year, look for him to play defensive back and fill a void at running back.
...and newly-formed Minnesota blog I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team:
Curt can make cuts on a dime and showcases outstanding body control to not only make difficult catches in traffic, diving and stretching for poorly thrown balls, but he also makes lethal jump cuts that make him a nightmare to bring down in the open field...
In route running, Evans closes the gap on the zone defender quickly and makes a fast, fluid break to get open. Gets up the seam in a hurry and makes the tough over-the-shoulder catch look easy.
As noted above, his teammate Jerrard Randall committed to Oregon, so the package deal is off the table. He won't be at Michigan's camp, but hopes to visit at some point this summer.
MI WR Jermal Hosley, a prospect at the slot position has received his first offer, from Ball State (free on Scout). He's hoping to re-schedule a camp visit to Michigan.
IL OL Rafe Kiely attended Michigan's Elite Camp, and followed it up with an impressive performance at a Chicago Under Armour Combine:
"I thought I did extremely well at Michigan and that carried over today," said Kiely, who carries a 4.2 GPA. "There's a lot of competition out there for scholarships and I'm looking to prove myself worthy this summer by attending the camps and combines."
"I really liked Rafe Kiely," [Under Armour O-line Coach Mike] Barry said. "He's got what it takes to be a solid guard at the D-I level. Rafe moves well, he competes his tail off and he's extremely coachable."
He hasn't been offered yet, but keep an eye out for him.
IL DE James Adeyanju holds a Michigan offer, but he currently favors Illinois, Arizona, Boston College, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
PA CB Kyshoen Jarrett finally got the Penn State offer he was waiting for, but that doesn't mean he's going to commit to the Nittany Lions any time soon:
There won't a be rush to make a decision. Jarrett plans on taking his allotment of five official visits and going from there.
"I've been hearing a lot of people who are very protective, a lot of guidance, saying commit before the season," Jarrett said. "I do want to take my officials though out of the top five that I have by then and honestly I'm just going to pray on it. Hopefully whatever happens happens and I get my answer."
I get the strong vibe that whatever happens will indeed happen, so Jarrett will get his wish.
Tom interviewed MD ATH Brandon Phelps:
TOM: You said most schools are recruiting you for defense. Which schools are recruiting you the hardest right now?
BRANDON: Probably UCLA, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, and Penn State...
TOM: Where does Michigan fit into that? Are they getting a visit?
BRANDON: Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to try to get up there; they're on my list. Growing up I really liked Braylon Edwards, and I watched them on TV, so I've been following ever since. My coach said the Big House is unbelievable, because he's been there for a game. He told me that whenever I visit, he's coming with me.
Michigan is looking at Phelps as a safety or slot receiver.
For updates on NC LB Kris Frost (camping this weekend), FL OL James Elliott, and FL Slot Prince Holloway, check out Tom's Monday update. If you want a full list of visitors to this weekend's camp, Tom has that covered as well.
One 2012 note: keep an eye on MI OL Kevin Darcy. The teammate of Wolverine freshman Austin White impressed at a Chicago combine.
Jack Miller is a versatile athlete out of St. John's Jesuit, in Toledo, Ohio, who just added a new offer to his list. Jack was in Ann Arbor two days ago, and received an offer from the Wolverines. This was an offer Miller was hoping for, and was very excited about it.
He's versatile, currently plaing on the defensive line for his team, but Michigan happens to be recruiting him for the offensive line. Here's a look at his film, and what he had to say about Michigan.
TOM: Who from Michigan have you mainly been in contact with?
JACK: Coach Tall recruits Toledo, so it's mainly been him.
TOM: How did this offer come about, and how many are you up to now?
JACK: I visited up there today (yesterday, June 14th), and they offered me. I have somewhere around 20 or 25, something like that.
TOM: With all those offers, where does Michigan rank in there?
JACK: They're pretty high up there, that's for sure. I'm still processing everything, but it's safe to say that Michigan and Boston College are my top two. I've taken a visit to Boston College already, too, so now I just have to figure out which school is the best place for me. I'm actually best friends with Ray Hamilton, too, so we've talked a little about it. We've been best friends since first grade. Our approach is to find the best place individually for us. If that turns out to be the same place, then that will be cool.
TOM: When do you think you'll know?
JACK: I have the offers I want, so it's time to decide. I'm really going to thin it out this week, and I'll hopefully have the decision made by the end of the week.
TOM: Where does Michigan see you fitting in?
JACK: They'r recruiting me for offensive guard, or center. I'm comfortable on the offensive side, and I really like the idea of playing offensive line for them.
TOM: Oh, wow. What is your height and weight right now, then? I think there's some varying numbers out there.
JACK: Yeah, I'm at 6-foot-4, and I weigh 270-pounds right now.
Worst State Ever goes national. On cable, but still:
You, too, can own this piece of History Channel-famous clothing. If you already own one, your Grandma needs one.
Why the hell? This is apparently the reason the Big 12 did not fall apart:
No FSN deal has been signed, and nothing is expected for several weeks at the earliest. But sources say FSN has told Big 12 officials that it would increase its annual payout to as much as $130-$140M per year. It currently pays $19.5M per year for the cable TV rights, a deal that ends following the '11-12 season
How in the flaming hell is that a good business decision for FSN? You're increasing your payout 600% for games that are on average less interesting without Nebraska—the Big 12 was recently reassured that ESPN would not demand a "rebate" on their existing contrat.
Sports Business Daily says that along with that payout will come "third tier rights" that include radio, stadium signage, local media, and third-tier TV rights. I'm not exactly sure what the value of that stuff is but since IMG is involved I imagine they're similar to the rights deals M and OSU have with IMG that amount to something like 8-10 million annually, with teams like Purdue getting maybe half of that. Ballpark those at 4 million per school (which is a complete guess*) and Fox is only… uh… more than doubling its commitment to the Big 12 after it lost a good bit of reach and interest.
We may see a system where more rights devolve to the league itself, thus artificially boosting the conference distribution without actually boosting the revenue much. It'll be like a heavily back-loaded NFL contract that's more show than substance. I'm sure the Big 12 will increase its payouts in a real sense, but the demographic realities that almost saw the conference implode aren't going away. I agree with this guy who is cited by USA Today as an expert:
However, he called the projected average annual TV splits of $20 million for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M, with the other schools getting $14 million-$17 million each, "too high, just not realistic."
"Now, who knows? Maybe they can break the mold and come up with a model nobody's seen."
More likely they'll just dress it up real purty to save face. Doctor Saturday has more.
*(But I think it's the right range since schools will be able to hold onto whatever other rights they require to start their own networks.)
Appeal not so much. The #1 must-read piece on USC's sanctions comes from the Bylaw Blog, which delves deep into the record-length document to reach some conclusions no one else has the expertise or care to. The main takeaway:
In that detailed account, the Committee on Infractions lays out the case that USC took in two student-athletes with no regard for the amateurism rules, and then failed to notice when they began accept benefits and enter into agreements in violation of the rules. The overall gist of the NCAA’s stance was summed up by one quote from Paul Dee, the chair of the Committee on Infractions during the teleconference discussing the report:
High profile players demand high profile compliance.
IE: no more see/hear/speak no evil for Carroll and Friends. Compliance Guy also provides a heartening opinion on why the document is so long and took so long: the NCAA lacks a true smoking gun and instead laid out its case meticulously in anticipation of a USC appeal. The top priority was making the penalties stand.
At this point a USC appeal would probably damage the school more than help it, as the penalties would just be delayed. So, go ahead, USC. Appeal.
Seriously pissed off, you guys. The hockey committee dropped a couple of major rules changes on college hockey:
- Icing always counts even if you're killing a penalty.
- Hits to the head are an automatic five and a game.
The second is just another version of the committee's temporary freakout about hits from behind after North Dakota's Robbie Bina was seriously injured by a dangerous check from behind by Geoff Paukovich. The NCAA decided to combat incompetent refereeing by making all hits from behind five and a game, leading to a brief period when every hit along the boards was accompanied by a nervous glance at the ref just in case he decided to toss your guy from the game. Refs started calling boarding instead and a few years later we're back to square one when it comes to hits from behind: still illegal. We'll have an annoying period where routine minors are wildly overreacted to, refs will start calling roughing, and everything will go back to the way it was.
The icing change promises to greatly increase the efficacy of power plays and has been met with fuming, largely because the coaches voted against it… unanimously:
“I think it’s just a crime,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “I’ve been in college hockey for 18 years and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. It was almost unanimous for the entire coaching body. How can the committee overturn the entire coaching body? I think it’s sad, the lack of respect that the committee had for the coaching body.
“We didn’t spend any time even talking about it because it was so radical. We just voted 12-0 and moved on.”
Coaches are also irritated by a change to delayed penalties where a team that scores on the delay still gets the power play, but that hardly ever happens so at worst it's a minor annoyance.
- Goaltenders now change ends in overtime. This might be a direct response to what happened at the Fort Wayne regional, when Michigan got stuck with the long change for four out of five periods in the double-OT game against Miami. It's not a rule change that will have an impact anywhere else, but it's a good one anyway.
- Icing modifications. The "obtainable pass" rule where a player who attempted to pass to a teammate who just missed it saw his icing waved off is gone, which I don't like. On the other hand, if an offensive player is clearly going to beat the defender to the puck they will wave it off. Net impact is about neutral, I guess.
The half-shield proposal was tabled so that more studies about injury could take place.
BONUS: That last article suggests the CCHA will drop the shootout. I actually didn't mind it once they went to a system where all games were worth the same number of points.
Etc.: Bacon goes way back to cover Michigan's brief withdrawal from the Big Ten around the turn of the 20th century. All of the CU/NU penalty fees will go to OU, Texas, and A&M. NHL.com profiles Carl Hagelin. Contrasting Michigan's response to the NCAA with USC's.