12/11/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 0 – 10-5-4, 9-3-1 CCHA
Michigan State is bad at hockey.
12/10/2010 – Michigan 1, Ak—
Oh, all right.
Michigan State is really bad at hockey, bad to the point where it seems like the next time their program is anything better than decent it will be under their next coach. While I find this 80% delightful the other 20% is depressed that the grand terror of a game against Ryan Miller* has been replaced by the usual mild discomfort when a crappy CCHA team comes to town against a Michigan team capable of blowing it against a crappy CCHA team.
So the only differences between this game and Michigan's series against BG earlier in the year are the size of the crowd, my annoyance at the State band, and my lingering antipathy for Rick Comley for his non-handling of the Kampfer incident. I have a sense of how Ohio State fans must feel about Michigan football's struggles now.
As a result the Big Chill lacked the grandeur of the Cold War despite being bigger and having more fireworks and an equal amount of appalling pregame musical guest. The thing on the ice was no longer #1 versus #4. Ryan Miller was not there, nor was Mike Cammalleri or a half-dozen other guys currently plying their trade in the NHL. Midway through the second I wished Michigan had scheduled Notre Dame or Miami, because if Michigan State's going to return a big chunk of their allotment anyway we should at least have a hockey game worthy of 113,000.
If you're going to schedule a team that's hanging out with Bowling Green in the conference slums, though, you should at least chop them up into tiny bits and serve them as hors d'oeuvres to the assembled throng. Michigan did, leaving the crowd's biggest reaction to come at the tail end of a 5-0 game when the most important thing was holding on to the shutout. This year it appears symbolic acts will be the only important ones, and in ten years when this happens again and they dig out the record books for outdoor games past that zero will read "Comley" to me, and I'll remember that weird period when Michigan State was horrible.
Non-bullets got very cold towards the end
A lovely touch. This is the opposite of Cal playing Chariots of Fire on their scoreboards after Washington pulls off a last-second win: event organizers forced Michigan State to sit through the fireworks in the cold after losing 5-0; when they tried to leave halfway through they were prevented.
A fishy number. The stands were almost full, but with the top end of one endzone was sparsely populated I'm a little dubious about the Guinness-endorsed 113k since it seems like a football game would have hit that this year. I've assumed Michigan counts every last person in the building for football, but maybe not.
Hey, that looked intentional. First, highlights:
The Rust-to-Merrill goal was a two-on-two rush that resulted in a pretty goal, something Michigan fans haven't seen much of this year. The rest of the goals were also intentional but born more of hard work finding rebounds or just shooting—the slick passing to get someone open has not been a regular feature.
Celebrations. On the reel above you can see Carl Hagelin either attempt to saw off his arm at the elbow or play the world's least tiny violin after his first goal, but they missed a celebration in the third wherein the team assembled to kick an extra point. This has apparently been lost to history.
The road ahead. Notre Dame and Miami split two weeks ago, leaving the three-way race at the top of the league very tight. Michigan would be ahead in hypothetical baseball standings as they're a point back of Notre Dame with a game in hand and one clear of Miami with two in hand, and their schedule is looking pretty easy down the stretch:
- The GLI features State, an MTU team that's lost ten straight, and a 7-5 Colorado College team. Michigan should meet CC in the final.
- Games against very bad CCHA teams: Three more against MSU.
- Games against mediocre CCHA teams: two against Ferris (home and home), two against OSU (home), two against WMU (home), two against NMU (away)
- Games against good CCHA teams: two against Alaska (home)
- Series of the year: two against Miami (away)
The CCHA is the three teams at the top, LSSU, MSU, and BG at the bottom, and then a mass of five teams that are tough to differentiate. Miami has to play both ND and Michigan again, but Michigan has already gotten its series with ND out of the way—advantage teams that aren't Miami. Michigan also has a ton of home games. They'll have to get a bit better in goal and score more goals they mean to if they're going to win the league, but they've put themselves in good position.
Unfortunately, without tearing through the back end of the schedule Michigan is probably locked out of a one seed with their mediocre OOC performance. Hockey puts inordinate emphasis on OOC.
A rule not so good. Michigan State did score, though. They put in a power play goal when a puck deflected high off Hunwick and fluttered to the goal line to be batted in, but a nanosecond before that happened Hunwick fell into the net and knocked it off. While the refs got the call right, it was totally unfair: you definitely scored, you didn't do anything to get the net off, and you still get nothing. They should probably change it so that if your goal is imminent when the defense knocks the net off you still get it.
Merrill actually doesn’t remember the first goal. He closed his eyes when he shot it and the next thing he knew, he was mobbed by teammates. Everything else is a happy blur.
Not recommended for drivers, as your blur will not be happy.
*(I have superficially hated many opposing athletes but Miller stands out as the guy I hated only because he was so unbelievably good. He did nothing but save everything.)
The Big Chill was a success both on the ice and as a recruiting event for the football team. There were no commitments, but the overall feeling from the recruits was favorable for Michigan. Here's a few reactions from the visitors and some extras.
6'5", 320 lbs.
Chris has been on campus a few times now, but wanted to take an official visit to experience more of the social side of Michigan. He was hoping to get closer with the players and coaches, and see what it's like to be around them.
The visit was great. I got a chance to meet a lot of the players and really be around the coaches. Overall it was awesome. What stuck out the most to me was how cool the players were, and how highly they speak of the university.
Taylor Lewan and Patrick Omameh were Chris's hosts, and yes, Lewan did show off his mustache tattoo. Bryant brought along a few members of his family. They came away with the same impressions that he did.
My family liked the visit a lot, too. They really liked all the coaches and all the players.
Bryant is still unsure if he will take any more visits and hasn't planned out when he will make his final decision. It might be safe to say that he's just waiting to see what happens with the coaching situation to make those moves.
5'11", 180 lbs.
Richardson's name is a new one in Michigan recruiting. Though he's currently committed to SMU he wanted to check out what the Wolverines had to offer.
Overall the visit was great; they really laid out the red carpet for me. The coaching staff really stuck out to me. They seemed genuine when they were talking to me. They told me that playing time isn't guaranteed, but if I worked hard and did what I'm supposed to I could play. The hockey game was great. I've never been in an environment like that, and they said the football games get louder, so that's crazy.
James was accompanied by his mom and stepdad for the visit. While his stepdad wasn't worried about the distance, his Mom had some initial doubts about her son going to school so far away.
My mom was kind of nervous about it, but she fell in love with the place. She was worried about me being so far away, but she thinks the coaches would really take care of me up there. We were kind of worried about the weather too, because everyone told me to pack a bunch of layers of clothes. I wore five layers of clothes and I was sweating out there. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, so that's fine too.
James is a three star corner with some smaller offers, but he's being compared to last year's sleeper from Louisiana—Carvin Johnson. It's probably not a coincidence that Carvin was the player host for James this past weekend. The players were a big part of why he enjoyed his trip.
I had so much fun with the players. I was with Carvin (Johnson), Denard (Robinson), and the corner they call Buc (Cullen Christian). I watched Denard all year, I thought he was going to win the Heisman, so it was cool to be around him like that. He's a really cool guy, really humble.
James plans to wait until after Michigan's bowl game to make his final decision, sometime in early January. He said he'll weigh out his options for SMU and Michigan, and also noted that Michigan has a better chance if Rich Rodriguez is still the head coach.
5'10", 170 lbs.
It was kind of a surprising when slot receiver Darius Patton said he would be going up to Ann Arbor this weekend. He does fit with Michigan's offense, but with Justice Hayes now in the class it doesn't seem like there's room for another slot receiver. Patton did come away impressed with Michigan, but maintains that everyone is equal.
There isn't too much you can't say about Michigan. Everybody knows that they pack the Big House, and their academic prestige. We all know what Michigan is about when it comes to academics and athletics, and their tradition. It was a great visit, they fit me offensively just like my other schools do. Everyone is equal right now with Michigan, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.
I got the impression from Darius that he was impressed, but may realize the depth chart at Michigan isn't in his favor. He may not have a commitable offer at the moment.
- JUCO DB Anthony Baskin will be at Michigan's practice this Friday. Originally from South Lyon high school in Michigan, Baskin said, "It's always been a dream to play in the Big House." Baskin has offers from Cincinnati, MSU, Texas A&M, NIU, Illinois, and Bowling Green.
- DT Darian Cooper told me yesterday that he has scheduled his official visit to Michigan on January 7th. I get the feeling from Darian that Michigan may be behind right now with his other schools. He will also visit Penn State and Iowa.
- S Roderick Ryles had his offer pulled from Arkansas, where he was committed. There's conflicting reports as to why the offer was pulled. I mentioned it in this thread, but I spoke with Chris Hayes from the Orlando Sentinel about this last night. Ryles told Hayes that it had nothing to do with grades, but he also said that Michigan is not in the running for him. I haven't confirmed this with Roderick myself, and this could change once the coaches talk to him about everything, so we'll see how that plays out.
I remember my first outdoor hockey game. It was some fellow 2nd grader's birthday party, I had to borrow skates from the kid across the street (all my equipment was for roller hockey), and we spent the first half hour freezing on the banks of Quarton Lake while paranoid parents checked the ice. By the time it was deemed game-safe the snow had grown thick enough to drown out sounds and generate enough fog so that parents and annoying little sisters sitting lakeside were totally ignorable. I remember the clack of sticks and skates, and shouts of hustling 2nd graders pillowed by the snow and cold gray. I remember sweating through layers of sweaters and the neighbor's well-used gloves, and my first whiff of the scent I would forever thereafter call "hockey."
I remember my first game at Yost. When I got to Michigan the hockey team was coming off of a national championship season and the basketball team was in the midst of the Webber scandal so: hockey. It was Michigan vs. Michigan State, and at the time M and MSU were to the CCHA what M and Ohio State used to be to the Big Ten and Miami (YTM) and FSU were supposed to be to the ACC. Hockey was that rivalry in its extreme: Michigan in its classic barn belting out cheers that said more about the cleverness of the fans than the game on the ice, the dour MSU fans from sterile Munn countering with a bevy of sub-pith about how overrated they found Yost. Michigan was famous for Brendan Morrison, and like B-Mo, Comrie and co. played like a pack of lost boys who'd just discovered faerie dust; State was Ron Mason's band of pirates (Adam Hall, Shawn Horcuff), terrestrial, slow-witted, and not much for good form, but holding a distinct size advantage.
I remember late-season Michigan football games. I remember being bundled up and trying to warm fingers by rubbing them against my jeans, which had the bonus effect of itching the long-johns beneath them (the jeans). I remember the line for Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, the warming effect of getting bustled along by the thick throngs of Greene Street and chanting "It's Great! To Be! A Michigan Wolverine!" I remember stripping off layers of sweatshirts that had begun to take on the unmistakable scent of hockey, throwing them into the corner of a booth at Arbor Brewing Company, and talking about whatever the hell felt like the most fun to talk about, feeling like the only bitterness in the world was the type that's on draft.
I remember because I had forgotten. The greatest moment I've had in Michigan Stadium over the last…what is it 7 years?…was being jubilantly relieved the 2010 team isn't really bad enough to lose to Illinois. Before that it was 2003, when it was cold, and there were roses.
Covering hockey, blogging about football, these things are fun, but they have also changed the experience of my two of my most favorite forms of entertainment, allowing adult cynicism to penetrate. The Big Chill was a pitch perfect combination: the entire Game Day experience mixed with just the right amount of Yost Ice Arena and Quarton Lake. Like Hook, it shouldn't be taken as a serious football game, or even a representative hockey game – larger surface, strange conditions, and all that – just familiar material brought back together for a few hours of raucously good show. I was enjoying it like a kid, and I wasn't the only one. Said Michigan State's Torey Krug:
“Ten years from now, I’m probably going to remember the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice,” Michigan State’s Torey Krug said. “Look at these 22-year-old men and they’re like little kids.”
For what was probably the 3rd but felt like the 20th time, Michigan forward Matt Rust made some Datsyukian pass that Merrill or Hagelin buried, the band blared "The Victors" into the December night, and then I was doing the Goal Count! cheer…in Michigan Stadium! For the first time since becoming a grownup and discovering I'm actually really good at cynical in-game quipping the only response I could think of was to put my big, potchy, grownup nose in Tink's clockhouse and say "I like this game!"
I figured porting Yost into the House that Yost Built would lose something in the translation, that the clever cheers and the likelihood that the person sitting in front of you is a player's relative would be perceptively absent. Except when we changed seats to get away from the increasingly souring Spartan fans, I then found myself right back on the shore of Quarton Lake, listening to pillowed hockey sounds beside the players' parents, and Matt Rust's sister,* hooting away the end of the waning moments of the third period and checking the time so I wouldn't miss (again) the "how much time is left?" thing, just as if I was back in a barn with 6,000 close friends.
In these few dark years of defenseless football and hoops meh-laise, hockey has provided the in-state rivalry's sweetest moments. One was last year's Usual Suspects twist, the second was inviting an irritatingly uppity-as-of-late Spartan fanbase over to our house, and then getting to ignore their un-clever attempts at sourpuss-ing** the moment while our pretty good team of passing stars utterly demoralized their hopelessly mediocre band of towering thugs. The best part of last night was the return to Never Never Land. It's not going to re-set any counters, but the second-best part of last night was taking Little Brother back to grade school.
Other MGoReactions to the game are in this thread.
* She reads MGoBlog and Yost Built
** Big Schadenfreude thank-you to the State fan behind me for hating everything from the word "sieve," to Blues Brothers, to the theme song to Rocky & Bullwinkle. He didn't stay, but I'm pretty sure he hates fireworks too.
Lewd, Crude, Rude Bag of Pre-Chewed Food Dude
I missed the morning of tailgating, since Misopogal's sister was graduating from MSU, but I did manage to catch some career advice from Michigan State's latest doctor of business:
Yes, that is MSU's 2010 Winter graduating class being told by Magic Johnson that it should be their goal to be named Employee of the Month and achieve mention in their companies' newsletters, fitting advice if your future's at McDonalds. Bonus: guess what the second "S" in "Spartans" stands for?
"And then 's' stands for 'Special.' Because everybody that comes from this campus, that goes to Michigan State University, they're special."
In case you're wondering, the person rudely giggling his ass off in the background is me. As Misopogal summarily compared:
"President Obama….Magic Johnson."
Double bonus: their gift to the school is $19,000 to get Sparty a new uniform because "the old one has been starting to smell," presumably from all the Axe body spray and burned upholstery.
The above is a play from Mississippi State's game against Georgia, where MSU ran its triple-option to the left and Georgia's version of Jonas Mouton Obi Ezeh is yelling for mushrooms when he sees three potential ball carriers and a downfield blocker have all gotten playside of him. The scene is taken from BlueSeoul's ongoing series of scouting Michigan's Gator Bowl opponent.
Part 1: Memphis
Part 2: Auburn
Part 3: LSU
Part 4: Georgia (with pics).
This much is obvious: Mullen is a great offensive coach, and BlueSeoul is a fantastic diarist, a Diarist of the Week, even.
Also in bowl games, I did a few comparisons using (now outdated) FEI ratings to determine things like how to fill in my confidence office bowl squares, which bowl games are likely to be close or blowouts, which will be high-scoring affairs, and which really have the most talent on the field, using all three to figure out a bowl watchability index for spending my precious 2.4 wife-allocated football games per week over vacation. Plus some other stuff.
The data gave up some other interesting bowl tidbits:
- USC (28th, with an FEI of 0.113) is the best team that's not going to a bowl game.
- The best team not going due to things other than NCAA sanctions: Arizona State (41st, 0.061), those unlucky bastards.
- Miami (Not THAT Miami) is the worst team going to a bowl; their -0.198 is 110th out of 120.
I meant to update this today, but spent the day doing anti-Virus and anti-snow activities. Look for it this week.
Erik_in_Dayton took on a very relevant question: does the 3-3-5 have a structural deficiency against power running teams? To answer this he used WVU's numbers against the run from 2005 to 2009 (this year's left out because WVU was far better than average defensively).
Lost, lost, lost, lost.
Lost what? Your marbles again?
No, no. My offensive possessions. Lost, lost, lost.
Found: Enjoy Life's turnover margin year in review.
Conclusion #4: Positive TOMs Helped Michigan Win As Many Games This Year As Negative TOMs Contributed To M Losing Games. M had 2 games with a positive TOM and the TOs helped win both games (UConn & ND). Michigan had 6 games with a TOM of –0- and won 4 of those games (UMass, BGSU, Indiana, Purdue) while losing 2 (Penn State, Wisconsin). M had 4 games with a negative TOM and actually won one of those (Illinois with a TOM of –4). Of the other 3, TOs were a primary factor in 2 losses (MSU and Iowa) but in one (osu) it is doubtful TOs were a significant factor in the loss. Therefore, if all games had ended with a TOM of –0-, it is likely M would still be 7-5 but with losses to UConn & ND and wins against MSU and Iowa. (And, yeah, that would be a lot better.)
Also found: how Michigan fans in general feel about Rich Rodriguez from Public Policy Polling. I gif:
There's a lot of other neat graphics in there that break down the results. The poll results even break it down by political, age, and ethnic groups.
Lastly in statistication, NOLA Blue asked the question that
everyone some guy on a TCU blog is asking: "were Sagarin's rankings rigged to keep TCU out of the BCS Championship?" No, Wimple.
Two-Toned Zebra-Headed, Slime-Coated, Pimple-Farmin' Paramecium Brain, Munchin' On Your Own Mucus, Suffering From Peter Pan Envy
Your new wallpaper, courtesy of monuMental. I'm starting to doubt my decision to use the Peter/Rufio duel of schoolbus insults for section heads here; alas we forge on.
Substitute Chemistry Teacher
Last week I told you about user jhackney, who exploded onto the board scene of late by responding to coaching change speculation with atomic irreverence. Our resident iconoclast this week stepped out of the boards to take us on a savage journey to the heart of the Wolverine dream. His Fear and Loathing in Ann Arbor series (Part I, Part II) is a Thomson-esque retelling of the 2010 season:
They were all laughing at me. I grabbed some whiskey off my leather-covered icebox and went outside to be alone with my thoughts and humiliation. My worst fears came true. I was a public Dupe, soon to be jailed for crimes of cruelty to myself for investing so much damn emotion and confidence into a game that ended with me stone drunk and stone naked on my porch. How had it happened? Had I finally loved Michigan too much?
For the uninitiated, or those who only know HST's work as a bit of cult film for drug users, his Gonzo style journalism was the spirit predecessor of sports blogging, particularly in that the author makes himself part of the story. J sticks a bit too closely to the movie script but such magnificent highs and crashes of modern Michigan football fandom can perhaps only be told by someone used to riding these types of roller coasters.
In Your Face, Camel Cake!
In etc., stubob's Ugly Game of the Week: Bowl Edition.
And you know probably how Section 1 (the blogger, not the blue hair brigade of the 50 yard line) feels about the Freep, but that shouldn't discredit his comparison of Rosenberg's speech to Dave Brandon's a year later to the same suburban Detroit alumni group.
Till next week, diarists, you know that place between sleep and staying awake to write stuff on the internet? That's where we'll be waiting. Bangarang!
Reminder. Soccer liveblog starts at around 10:30.
Other soccer bits. AnnArbor.com has another story on Jeff Quijano and his journey from starter to backup and back. Quijano's the first Michigan athlete to cite Michigan Stadium's elaborate wave as a reason he came to Michigan:
“I know it sounds weird, but I saw the wave, all those people…it was like nothing I’d ever seen before,” Quijano recalls. “I was hooked.”
Everyone in the student section who does the arm-wave motion to cross the streams feels a tiny bit of pride about this. The Ultras have picked Buffalo Wild Wings as the gathering place of choice for those in the mood for compatriots. That's where I watched the USA-Algeria game, so hopefully we score the winner a minute into stoppage except stoppage doesn't exist in college.
The Daily actually makes a fairly good Miracle on Ice comparison; the US got blasted 10-3 by the Soviets before the Olympics, not unlike what happened to Michigan earlier this year. Like all Miracle on Ice comparisons it's still stretched.
Heisman back in the day. The Woodson presentation:
I still remember the dorm-wide "YEAH" that erupted. People who didn't care about football must have been mystified.
Blunt Brandon brandishes bludgeon. A brief interview excerpt from Sports Business Daily has some real talk about the NCAA investigation:
Q: What is more challenging, complying with NCAA rules or SEC [ed: Security Exchange Commission] rules?
Brandon: NCAA. I spent less time with lawyers doing a billion dollar transaction than I did with the recent NCAA case. The amount of resources and effort we used from something that started as a newspaper article was huge. If you aggregate the cost, it was between 1.5 and 2 million dollars in internal costs. My understanding is there are north of 80 to 90 cases currently in the NCAA queue. We’ve created a cottage industry that is stripping resources out of the athletic departments. It’s a broken system and needs reform.
That's to the point. I'm not sure what the reform would be, but we're heading towards an era with more enforcement, not less. He also says one of the things he's learned in the first nine months is "don't read blogs," which ouch. Pimp hand don't hurt me no more.
More maniacal bits. The Mississippi State defense against LSU:
I'm not sure how relevant that is against Denard, but it sure looks like they're going to damn the torpedoes and come after him when he throws. When Jefferson breaks contain early he's got acres of space.
Consider the following: our universities are flagships - meaning that they're the oldest, most well endowed, widely recognized, most highly publicized, and most readily associated with the famous and influential sons and daughters within our respective states. Our universities are liberal arts oriented institutions nestled in unique, quirky, and revered college towns. We revere and contribute to the arts and humanities. A significant portion of our alumni associations are attorneys who hate their jobs. Et cetera.
Undying loyalty is offered in exchange for victory, which I'll gladly take anyway.
Etc.: Bacon's latest is on the journey Red took from handing out tickets on State Street to playing in front of 100k. More on Mississippi State from BWS, with a season overview and analysis of how they held Auburn under 20 points. UMHoops previews the Utah game, starting in 1.5 hours. The HSR says Denard's melted bag of snow was a metaphor for the season.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Utah|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
6:30 PM EST
December 10th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan -8*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
These two teams squared off last year in Salt Lake City, with the Utes emerging victorious in an ugly 68-52 contest. Both of these teams have changed a lot in the year (exactly!) since that game, however. If it were to be played again with only current players' scores counting, the final score would be 16-15 in favor of the Wolverines. Yay! WE WON!
Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims were Michigan's only double-digit scorers in that game with 25 points and 10 points, respectively, and neither suits up in maize and blue anymore. Zack Gibson, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Anthony Wright all played at least 10 minutes in that contest, and aren't in Ann Arbor anymore. Even Eric Puls and Ben Cronin(!) got playing time in that game, and are no longer playing basketball. On the positive side of the ledger, Zack Novak had the flu and didn't travel. Darius Morris, Stu Douglass, Eso Akunne, and Matt Vogrich are the only players still on the team from that game.
The Utes have experienced similar turnover, though maybe not to such an alarming degree. Marshall Henderson (22) Carlon Brown (12), Luka Drca (12), and David Foster (10) were the leading scorers in that game, and only David Foster "my name distinctly lacks a Wallace" returns as a defensive specialist. Among other departures for Utah are Kim Tillie and Jordan Cyphers.
The players to watch for Utah are junior forward Will Clyburn, a Detroit native who's the team's leader in shooting and 3-point attempts, junior guard Josh Watkins and his older brother, senior forward Jay, and sophomore center Jason Washburn, a 7-footer who leads the team in blocks and is one of the top rebounders.
With a few games under each team's respective belts [Ed-M: ours is the one without the obnoxious buckle], it's finally reasonable to look at the stats. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Northwestern: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Utah Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. UU Def eFG%||145||68||U|
|Mich Def eFG% v. UU eFG%||23||228||MMM|
|Mich TO% v. UU Def TO%||114||191||M|
|Mich Def TO% v. UU TO%||247||118||UU|
|Mich OReb% v. UU DReb%||144||167||M|
|Mich DReb% v. UU OReb%||17||241||MMM|
|Mich FTR v. UU Opp FTR||316||268||U|
|Mich Opp FTR v. UU FTR||10||8||-|
|Mich AdjO v. UU AdjD||119||78||U|
|Mich AdjD v. UU AdjO||39||162||MM|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
The Wolverines, with their personnel turnover, are a very different team than we saw last year. They've displayed some competency shooting the ball(!!!!), and have gone from a very bad rebounding team to a solidly above-average one. In the meantime, the Utes have gone in the opposite direction in each of those metrics, and have also gotten much worse in opponents' shooting.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, though. The Utes are yet again one of the tallest teams in the country, with an average height just over 6-6. Teams with size gave Michigan a host of troubles last year, but now... well, the maize-and-blue has a bit of height of their own. Adding a 6-6 small forward, a pair of centers with legit size, and a couple power forwards that aren't (very) generously listed at 6-5 can work wonders.
The one thing the 2010-11 Utes truly do well is get to the free-throw line, which is unsurprising given their size. However, they've played a motley crew of tiny opponents (and an oddly well-sized but horrible Pepperdine team), and Michigan should have the best combination of size and skill they've seen.
The factors that have the greatest effect on their efficiencies are shooting on offense (which is a huge advantage for Michigan) and offensive turnover percentage (a big advantage for the Utes).
Utah hasn't played a team with both the size and skill of Michigan, which should give them trouble. However, Jordan Morgan struggled against Concordia (which, you may note, is an NAIA school that started a 6-5 center), so expect Utah to get some production on the interior, and frustrate Morgan at times.
However, I think Michigan's letdown game against the Cardinals will serve as a serious wakeup call that they can't sleepwalk through any game, so they'll have a renewed focus against the Utes. That means a snap back to form for Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz, with Darius Morris continuing his run of strong play.
Chances to look stupid:
Tim Hardaway Jr. or Jordan Morgan becomes the first Wolverine to foul out this season. Darius Morris records his third double-double of the year. Zack Novak puts together a solid game statisticaly to make up for missing last year's contest. Both teams trade some blows, but at the end of the day, I see a 70-58 game in favor of the Wolverines.
Why is your name all wavy, Wade?
Three years ago when Michigan was waddling about gently poking jowly coaches of the Midwest in search of their next head football coach, I relayed a ton of different things that hit my inbox about Kirk Ferentz and Jim Grobe and Greg Schiano and, yes, Brady Hoke. Many of them seemed ludicrous even at the time, like Michigan offering Ferentz a massive paycut to become Michigan's coach or Greg Schiano accepting the job before changing his mind (twice!), but are now part of what passes for the unofficial history of those maniacal three weeks. It was a weird time.
I tried to balance the inherently contradictory reports by relaying the things I'd heard and laying out what I thought based on those things, but from a distance of three years I think I made a mistake in my coverage. That mistake was assuming that all information being passed was a good-faith attempt to help Michigan fans figure out where the search stood at that point. It did not occur to me that while that assumption was probably correct about the people directly emailing me I had no way to judge the sincerity or connectedness of the people passing them information.
So. Any Michigan message board you pick has both shadowy insiders and now moderators throwing out Brady Hoke's name a "very serious" candidate to be Michigan's head coach. I've gotten the rumor myself from someone I trust, citing solid sources within the athletic department. But this is not then. I'm not going to rush to my keyboard and spit out all the reasons Hoke is not a plausible candidate for the Michigan job like I did three years ago.
I would if I thought there was even the slightest chance Hoke would replace Rich Rodriguez in early January, because that would be the most insane coaching switch of all time. This is not going to happen. Brady Hoke is not a serious candidate for the Michigan job. He is not any sort of candidate. If Dave Brandon was willing to hire Hoke to coach Michigan, Rodriguez would already be out the door because there would be a dozen people he'd rather have coaching Michigan than Rodriguez. Unless meteors hit both Jim Harbaugh and Rich Rodriguez, the chance Brady Hoke is Michigan's coach in 2011 is zero point zero percent.
Yes, single sentence paragraph time.
Do you know how I know this? Because three years ago the rumors about Hoke were heavy enough that I scurried to the keyboard to point out this was a guy with one winning season, that 7-5, at a MAC school. While he's a plausible candidate for the Minnesota job now, back then he wasn't a plausible candidate for the job he was actually at. If Ball State's job was open they wouldn't have hired a coach with Brady Hoke's resume. And yet there were rumblings from within Fort Schembechler that had everyone panicked, just like today.
The obvious conclusion is that there are people who know and like Hoke in the athletic department, who hate everyone else who's ever been rumored for the Michigan job, and there are credulous people willing to relay anything that comes from a person with a job in Schembechler Hall. None of these people are Dave Brandon.
Brady Hoke will not coach Michigan in 2011. You may resume your day-to-day lives.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Michigan State|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:00 Eastern, December 11th 2010|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||FS Detroit/Big Ten Network|
20% chance of rain/snow
The Only Colors has a preview from a Michigan State perspective that's essentially what I'd write if I was going to put one together. After a decent start Michigan State endured an awful 1-6 stretch that's put them behind the eight ball in the league and the (hypothetical) pairwise.
The last couple weekends they've recovered to split in the Showcase and against a decent Ferris State team, but the losses of Petry, Tropp, and Rowe have been too much for a talent-deficient MSU team to overcome. As long as Comley's around the Spartans are going to be bad or very bad when they only have two seniors and four draft picks. Both programs have fallen off from where they were ten years ago for the Cold War, which was a season-opener in October that saw #1 Michigan State take on #4 Michigan, but Michigan's fallen back from dominant to very good while Michigan State has turned into Northern Michigan, except Northern never ends up tenth in the league.
There's a big gap in the goal differentials:
MSU: 42 GF, 46 GA overall (2.47/2.71 per game), 23/29 in conference (2.09/2.63 per game)
Michigan: 58 GF, 45 GA overall (3.22/2.50 per game), 38/26 in conference (3.17/2.17 per game)
Michigan's goal difference is about where it was last year (higher in conference but lower overall). Ours, on the other hand, has gone well into the red. This time, the records actually match the goal difference numbers, unlike last year where we finished 2nd in conference and Michigan was 7th despite a better goal difference.
The guy to watch is Brett Perlini, a seventh-round pick of Anaheim who's Michigan State's leading scorer with an 11-5-16 line. Big and talented, he's the kind of player Michigan's finesse defense might have issues with. Daultan Leveille is a first round pick of the Thrashers and while he hasn't lived up to that hype in three years at State he's extremely fast and is the Spartan best able to take advantage of the Olympic sheet. Derek Grant is Perlini's setup guy and an Ottawa draft pick; past that the Spartans have diminutive senior Dustin Gazely, who is all right and has 5-6-11, and a bunch of guys named Chelios who are marginal players. Shut down the Spartans' top line and they have very little else. The only D who gets involved with the offense is Torey Krug
Michigan State goalie Drew Palmisano is having an okay year. He's about average in save percentage; given what I've seen from him in the past I'm betting he's facing an inordinate number of good shots.
I summarized the season to date earlier in the week and nothing's changed since then. To recap: Michigan isn't the team that went 10-10 before the break last year, but it's not the team that tore off ten straight to salvage an NCAA bid, either. It's a version of last year's team that's a little older and better. They spend most of the game in the opponent's end unless they're playing elite competition, get a lot of goals they don't really mean to score, and lack the top-end scoring star Red's teams have been built around for ages. When Berenson admits his group is "blue collar," you know there's a lack of flash. Yea, it is so.
They're still not bad or anything, but it doesn't look like this group is going into the NCAA tournament expecting to make a Frozen Four. Hoping, probably. Not expecting.
Hogan has earned the start this weekend, which may presage a shift in Michigan's goalie strategy long term. Two years ago Michigan split time between Hogan and Sauer, with Hogan taking over in the second half of the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see a repeat in the cards, with Hunwick getting a few games here and there.
Michigan has an advantage in that they've practiced on the outdoor ice (and Olympic sheet) the past week:
"Now we don't have to worry about the sun or the rain or wind or snow or bad ice or good ice. Now we can just worry about playing hockey," he said. "We know the environment, we know the scenario is unique, but I think the novelty is wearing off a little."
MSU will have one practice outside today.
You may notice the threatening chance of rain above. The temperature is excellent for December… unless it rains, in which case everyone is going to be thinking of the 2008 Northwestern game and wishing it was 25. There are different forecasts at different sites. Weather Underground says there's a 20% chance of snow, which would be fine. The Weather Channel says a 30-40% chance of rain/snow, which would be miserable.
IANA meteorologist but it given the temperatures—barely above freezing and way colder in the cloud layer—and the dew point, which some guy on Yahoo Answers said had to be below freezing, it'll probably be a wet snow that melts when it hits. This section is evidence of a diseased mind.
Anyway, Weather Underground also says winds will be in the 10-14 MPH range, which may be enough for the CCHA to stop the game midway through the third and have the teams switch ends. This did not happen in last year's game against Wisconsin despite Michigan's request (Hogan's crease was faulty), but the CCHA's on top of things.
This is a game Michigan should win by putting Hagelin and company out against Perlini and relying on those guys to overwhelm the slower MSU team with their skating. Lines two through four are major advantage Michigan and the game should be largely focused in the MSU zone when they're on the ice.
Michigan has a hard time turning possession into goals, however, and plays a large number of games against obviously inferior competition that they can't break open because of their lack of firepower. They just did it twice against Ohio State, struggled to finish off Lake State, etc. If they played this 100 times Michigan might win 60 with 20 ties and 20 MSU wins, but they're only playing once, so here's a stupid prediction of a 3-2 Michigan victory and snow.
HATE THE BCS? HATE AMERICA
The dumbest thing ever written. This is not literally true, but it may be the dumbest thing ever written about college football. It is this Bill Hancock guy's shoddily argued nonsense about the BCS. I've become a playoff guy over the past decade or so but even BCS proponents in the blogosphere (of which there appears to be one, the guy behind Get The Picture) have to wince at statements like this:
College football was one weekend away from Boise State participating in the BCS National Championship Game because of what happened on the playing field — not in a chatroom, a boardroom or a newsroom.
In the event that Auburn lost and Boise State won, yes. The reverse happened and instead the BCS works and is fair and that's Gary Patterson's artery spraying a red mist over most of the Southwest but how did you think Sedona, Arizona, ended up looking like that? Do you want a thriving tourist mecca to evaporate overnight when college football coaches cease venting the bloodmist that gently descends on the mesas?
Orson has gone FJM on the thing—it exists to be fisked, I thought about doing it myself—but you don't have to do anything other than blockquote to obliterate this extremely stupid system:
A playoff also would mean the end of America's bowl tradition as we know it. As Rick Baker, president of the Cotton Bowl, said, "A playoff system would ruin the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic."
We can't have that.
BONUS: Putting "Classic" in the name of your thing is a 100% sure way to tell that your thing is neither classic nor an actual thing anymore, in the, you know, traditional sense where entities are somewhat authentic outgrowths of desires instead of remanufactured bullcrap like "chocolate" diamonds that make me wish that authentic outgrowths of desires that form entities like Adbusters weren't equally odious and even more shrill. The "Cotton Bowl Classic" is at Jerryworld, not the Cotton Bowl. It can die in a fire for all I care.
OBLIGATORY REMINDER OF MGOBLOG PLAYOFF PLAN: Six teams, no autobids, byes to the top two teams. No more than two teams per conference, and those teams can't play each other in the first round. Home games until the final, one the week after the championship games, one on January 1st, final at the Rose Bowl January 8th, leave bowl system alone.
This preserves almost all of the urgency of regular season and guarantees that the champion is also the team with the best season-long resume since five of the top six lose and anyone not 1 or 2 wades through three elite opponents, staking an undeniable claim.
This year's hypothetical bracket:
1. Oregon vs winner of 3. TCU / 6. Ohio State
2. Auburn vs winner of 4. Wisconsin / 5. Stanford
If Auburn had lost to Alabama they would probably have fallen to fifth (ballparking it) and gone from a first round bye and January 1 home game to a first round game in Madison or Palo Alto—a freaking huge deal. Losing one game boots Boise and Michigan State, and two is fatal for everyone. Since the current system frequently sees one-loss teams into the championship game it's difficult to argue this system cheapens the regular season.
If you want a lengthier explanation I pretended I was talking to Joe Posnanski about it last January. In sum, there is no reason people who do not stand to lose money would oppose the idea.
This Week In Less Charismatic Than Stalin. Terrelle Pryor:
"I'll put it like this: You put me in any of their offenses — any of them — and I'd dominate," Pryor said, when asked about the attention afforded the likes of Newton, Robinson and Persa. "I'd dominate the nation. What those guys do, that's what they're supposed to do in their offense."
He goes on to say the usual boilerplate about how he's all about winning, which could be interpreted as a mitigating factor if Pryor didn't manage to twist every bit of boilerplate into another reason to think Pryor should be locked in the basement by Tressel until his graduation. Doctor Saturday looks at the numbers and says pretty much what I did in the OSU preview—against defenses that are actually good Pryor folds alarmingly.
Robinson said he also remembers picking up some snow, playfully chucking it at Rodriguez, "and then running pretty fast after that."
Robinson also packed snow into a plastic bag for his return flight.
"Melted on the plane," he said.
How does Robinson know if he's running fast?
This Week In Coaching Blah Blah Blah. Have fielded a couple inquiries as to why I'm not covering the "coaching search" or "situation," depending on your point of view. I'm not because there is no "search" and there is no reliable information on the situation. Time and again I have been told by people one or two or three steps removed from insiders that Rodriguez is going to get fired after the Ohio State game. Or on Monday (yes, as in three days ago, which makes absolutely no sense). Or pretty dang soon. Or that Brady Hoke is a viable candidate. Or etc etc etc etc. I got so much chatter in my inbox that made no sense that even the plausible stuff now carries the sheen of ulterior motive (not necessarily from the emailer, but from the discontent insider-type person) or wishful thinking (from Brady Hoke's friends and family).
I have no updates that are reliable enough to relate. There is a cottage industry of people telling other people that Rodriguez is definitely gone that has proven inaccurate multiple times so far in the past month, so I probably won't be able to say much definitively unless I get something solid from a few established guys.
To reiterate, I've run everything I've heard through filters of reliability and making a damn lick of sense and come up with this:
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is not brought back or Brandon would have/should have already announced it.
- There is a nonzero chance Rodriguez is brought back or ditto.
- One game is probably not the deciding factor.
- Harbaugh exists. No other candidate strong enough to make a move compelling does.
- You cannot start a real coaching search that takes two to four weeks a month before Signing Day.
The conclusion is that on January second Harbaugh or Rodriguez will be Michigan's coach and that person will be the coach in 2011. No one peddling a story other than that is credible unless their name is Dave Brandon, and even then he's probably just having you on.
I don't know which is more likely. If I get anything that changes my opinion I'll mention it.
BONUS: A scientific poll shows that Michigan fans are split right down the middle: 35 percent want him gone, 32 percent want him to stay, and 33 percent are unsure. That's amazingly apropos. Too bad it doesn't include a section asking people "have you raged incoherently at someone about this opinion?" Three percent said they'd prefer Brady Hoke over Harbaugh (64 percent) or Miles(23 percent).
Penn State exodus? With Joe Paterno slightly old and doddering Penn State relies heavily on its ancient, incredibly stable coaching staff to prop up the ship. There was slight panic when DL coach Larry Johnson Sr. seriously considered taking the Illinois DC job a few years ago—it's testament to the loyalty of the staff that he stayed—and now with Pitt searching around BSD's a little concerned the Panthers might look at the blindingly obvious candidate: Tom Bradley. Bradley's considered the be the heir apparent to Paterno and probably should be since he's been the motive force behind the good bit of Penn State forever, but if he can't leverage the Pitt opening into something approximating a guarantee he's the guy he could be tempted to go. Too bad the NCAA put a kibosh on that coach-in-waiting stuff.
Meanwhile, LB coach Ron Vanderlinden is "linked to" the Ball State job. This will probably lead to nothing except a couple of raises but it's worth keeping an eye on if only to see how easy OSU's path to the Big Ten Championship game is going to be.
Etc.: The Daily's Nicole Auerbach scores a WSJ article about the Big Chill and the growth potential of college hockey. Big Ten Hockey cannot come fast enough. Thoroughly patronizing AA.com article explains to you what "faceoffs" and "hat tricks" are. Dave Brandon says Michigan is "highly interested" in adding D-I lacrosse if it proves viable. Monumental's series of awesome wallpapers continues.
|WHAT||#10 Michigan vs #3 Akron|
|WHERE||Harder Stadium, Santa Barbara, CA|
|WHEN||11:00 Eastern, December 10th 2010|
|THE LINE||College soccer lines, junkie?|
|WEATHER||Sunny, around 60
0% chance of rain
Right: meet the only context in which this is 100% appropriate.
Livebloggin' is in effect starting maybe a half-hour before the game.
And here's where the problem kicks in: how does one preview a soccer game? Stats are sparse on the ground, there's not a clean division between units that allows for easy compartmentalization, I haven't seen Akron play and have rarely seen Michigan, and while I am outstanding at Football Manager—truly righteous—most of my skill comes in identifying hot young talents other teams are content to give away for peanuts.
Let's start with what we know: Michigan's last loss was against this Akron team. It was not a pretty one. Michigan got clunked 7-1—Akron's biggest margin of victory on the year. They also lost 1-0 in a spring exhibition at the Silverdome.
Ives Galarcep's most recent MLS draft "Big Board" has Akron players at…
1. Darlington Nagbe, M/F
2. Perry Kitchen, DM
3. Kofi Sarkodie, DR
5. Darren Mattocks, F
8. Zarek Valentin, DC
18. Anthony Ampaipitakwon, M
25. Michael Nanchoff, ML
…this is seven of a starting eleven in the top 25. Michigan has one player, Justin Meram, at 25. (In the comments, a "Seth Brokekicker" admonishes Galarcep for hyping Meram up when he's needed on campus next year.) Someone asks about Soony Saad and Galarcep says he's on the 2013 board.
I bet not even Jamiemac of Just Cover can find a line for tomorrow's game, but if he does Michigan will be an impressive underdog. Akron is be the #3 seed and while Maryland was the #2 and beat Akron 3-1 in an exhibition last spring it's hard to find a reason Akron wasn't far and away the #1 seed in the tournament if they don't manage a single loss against Cleveland State(!) in late October. Their schedule wasn't great and as a result their RPI was fourth. Michigan's was worse. Before the tournament they were third in a stretch of Big Ten teams ranging from 12 to 15; Indiana was 12th and first in the league despite going only 9-7-2 against D-I.
One man's scouting report follows. This guy has seen three games this year, has not had the benefit of replay except once, and is not Zonal Marking, so bear with me.
Meram vs Maryland. Jake Fromm/Daily
Anyone will tell you that Michigan's strength is in their attackers and this is true. Freshman Soony Saad is the nation's second leading scorer and rookie of the year with 19 goals; he's a crafty shooter who scored from his own half this year and scared the hell out of UCF's goalie when he tried it again in Michigan's tournament opener. Strike partner Justin Meram is a soccer version of TJ Hensick or Mike Comrie, a gifted dribbler and accomplished sniper who's all right physically but will not wow you. At the UCF game a friend of mine turned to me and said in all seriousness "he's better than Robbie Findley," and I thought to myself "this is literally true." When in doubt Michigan chucks it up to Meram and hopes he can run onto it.
Soony's brother Hamoody alternates between a central attacking midfield role (Michigan plays with a dedicated destroyer behind him, relieving Hamoody of many defensive duties) and a wing spot, where he interlinks with both forwards. He's often the player who touches the ball right before the guy who gets the assist. He's not as much of a threat with the ball at his feet as the two strikers but is good at getting them involved in space.
The two wingers are usually senior Alex Wood and sophomore Latif Alashe; Alashe is more immediately impressive but Wood was the guy who sprung Meram for the tying goal against UCF. Alashe deflected the winner into the net. Those five attackers are the strength of the team.
so gritty snow follows him around in the hopes it will become sand.
On defense it's considerably wobblier. The defensive midfielder is redshirt junior Adam Shaw, who is a gritty, gritty man. By this I mean "5'8" and not very fast." He makes up for this by being dogged. The word just sort of leaps into your mind as you watch him play. That kid—dogged, that kid. He could be to be a weak link against a rampaging Zips midfield. With Hamoody Saad upfield and multiple Akron players capable of dropping into the hole or effectively transitioning into attack he's going to have his hands full unless Michigan makes a tactical change.
The defense has scared me in games against mediocre opponents this year and was obviously gunned down in spectacular fashion in the game against the Zips earlier in the season. Since it is my fate to not like the left fullback on any soccer team I've ever watched I haven't been a big fan of Chase Tennant; he was pretty weak in two of the three games I saw and while he was better against UCF he still gives away possession flamboyantly. He's not an offensive threat.
Right back Jeffrey Quijano is a senior who fought through a challenge for his job and reclaimed his starting spot midway through the season. He's prone to leave his feet in bad situations but is much better on the ball than Tennant and can be a threatening presence down the wing. Quijano scored one of Michigan's goals against Maryland and put Meram's on a plate after slaloming through several defenders. (Or so Goal.com says. I have no idea since I was at the basketball game.)
The central defenders are okay. I like Kofi Opare better, as he seems less prone to misjudge long balls and better at developing possession from the back. Brian Kemczak is his running mate and has come off like Jay Demerit—solid defensively but a hoofer as soon as it touches his foot. I have gotten a sense of vague disquiet whenever the ball is bouncing around the box and can't tell if that's justified or just how I watch soccer.
I didn't notice much about goalie Chris Blais but the guy next to me at the UCF game muttered something to his friend about how he had "frankly been a weak link." That guy sounded like he really liked Prairie Home Companion and said something patronizingly moralistic about a yellow card he thought had gone to Soony Saad for rolling around theatrically after someone had stepped on his foot. Said yellow had actually gone to his brother for dissent. So take that with a grain of salt. I thought he could have done better on the UCF goal, which pinged around the box and probably should have been fisted away*.
Miscellaneous bits. Michigan is very good at set pieces. Soony Saad is a bomber who's a threat to score by shooting; Hamoody takes the corners and usually drives hard in-swingers. He was the motive force behind Michigan's game-winner against UCF when he swung in a terrific ball that was headed for the net and just needed a tiny deflection to wrong-foot the goalie. It reminded me of David Beckham's World Cup goal against Paraguay:
In this case the touch was from a Michigan player; on both the initial ball did 90% of the work.
Michigan did catch a bout of short corner disease against UCF, so be warned.
Search me. They're really good, tied for the national lead in scoring at 2.65 goals per game (tied with most recent Michigan victim Maryland) and sixth-best defensively, ceding just 0.63 per game. Michigan's at 2.17 and 1.42, respectively, so they're close to the Zips on the front line but not so much on the back. If you take out the Akron game those margins get way smaller, but hey—we're playing Akron.
Coach quote from the Tulsa guy after getting whipped:
"They're very opportunistic," Tulsa coach Tom McIntosh said. "And they are very good on set pieces. They don't need many chances for goals. The problem is we got two goals down, then we had to chase the game. This is not a team you want to chase a game against."
Michigan can vouch for that. There's an interview with a couple recent alums that is beyond boring.
Grant Wahl** names literally half of Akron's outfield players as people to "keep an eye on" and naturally picks them for the title:
Keep an eye on Akron forwards Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks, midfielder Perry Kitchen and defenders Kofi Sarkodie and Zarek Valentin; Michigan forwards Justin Meram and Soony Saad; North Carolina midfielder Michael Farfan; and Louisville defender J.T. Murray. The national semifinals will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN2 on Friday, with the final being shown at 4 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.
I'll go with Akron to win it all. Coach Caleb Porter has had the most talent in the country for a while now, and all he needs to validate his program's success is an NCAA championship.
Wait… what? Their coach is 35? That's loony.
Soccer predictions are even dumber than football ones, which are dumb but I feel I have to do. But: given the previous matchup, the ridiculous concentration of talent on the Akron roster, and the feeling they're the heavy favorite to win the entire tournament, I'm not expecting victory.
On the other hand, Cal almost ended them in OT and soccer specializes in WTF moments. Back in 2002 I've got no idea what's going on when I turn on the TV in Ireland and catch Manchester United playing the improbably-named Zalaegerszeg. Man U dominates but never cracks the defense and then in stoppage time this happens:
This would not be anywhere near as titanic an upset, obviously, but it's tonic for anyone looking at 7-1 earlier in the year and wondering how the rematch could play out the other way.
*(If you're looking to start a soccer blog you could do worse than "Fisted Away.")
**(Prepare to experience the odd frisson of a relevant Grant Wahl tweet in a liveblog, kids.)