Illinois took the field at Camp Randall Stadium last weekend hoping that a game against a struggling Wisconsin squad was just what they needed to turn around a nightmare season. After keeping it close through three quarters in which neither team could move the ball, they gave up 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 31-14 loss. The Badgers, which entered the game averaging just 309 yards of total offense, put up 427 on 7.4 yards per play; the Illini could muster just 284 yards of their own.
As you can see, first-year head coach Tim Beckman couldn't bear to take in such a performance without putting in a lip-full of dip. Like pretty much every other decision made by Tim Beckman this year, this was stupid:
Illinois self-reported a level 2 secondary violation to the Big Ten Conference after coach Tim Beckman was seen chewing tobacco during Saturday's game against Wisconsin.
The NCAA prohibits the use of chewing tobacco for coaches, game officials and players during practice and games.
"It's a bad habit, and one that definitely will be corrected," Beckman said on Tuesday.
Illinois football, ladies and gentlemen!
[Hit THE JUMP for the full breakdown and definitely not more pictures of Beckman channeling his inner redneck. No, definitely not more of those.]
[bump: we got guys yo]
This might be one of those things that's cool only to me, but the chart below depicts the current rankings of prospects in the class of 2013. I used 247's composite rankings, which combine those from 247, Rivals, Scout, and ESPN. Each colored sliver represents a committed recruit. The total number of commitments for each program is provided next to the school's name.
I've binned these by 50s, so there's some rounding going on. Basically, if you look under the "1" on top, you'll see a sliver for every player ranked 1-50 in the national composite rankings. OSU has four of those, Penn State has two, and we have one (Morris). The last group ("1001+") represents recruits ranked 1000 or lower or, in almost all cases, unranked recruits.
I had to be creative with the rankings for a few recruits (e.g., JC guys), but I just figured out where their ratings would place them on the regular high school recruit scale.
A few of my observations:
Big two, little ten. For real. Those two programs are drawing from an entirely part of the distribution from the rest of the Big Ten programs.
These group together pretty nicely. It looks like there are basically three tiers. The top tier is Michigan and OSU. The second tier is Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State (for now at least), MSU, and Iowa. Then there's everyone else.
- Someone should make sure that Minnesota's planning to continue its football program. One key ingredient for a football program: football players. Minnesota, you might want to get a few of those.
[Special Toussaint Mini-UFR is what this is but it didn't seem like a good title.]
The single downer from the Purdue game was Fitzgerald Toussaint's anemic output: 17 carries, 19 yards, and at least one kicked cat in the Toussaint household after his return from West Lafayette. What happened? Should Thomas Rawls be inserted as a replacement? Let's look at pictures and try to find out.
First, let's set aside three short-yardage carries. One was a third and one power that just made it; two were goal line attempts that got in. (There was a third goal line attempt that did not wiped out by penalty.) Now we've got… 15 carries for
22 16 yards, one of which went for two yards but was wiped out by an irrelevant chop block. Dios mio, man.
How much of this is on Toussaint, how much the OL, and how much the line? Let's find out. Toussaint's non-goalline carries ordered by play type.
|M27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel even||Run||Inside zone||2|
|Poor damn Toussaint. Again he's eating an unblocked guy in the backfield. The end shuffled down and then collapsed on the handoff; give or not is a push for Denard because the corner was blitzing. Play was dead on the snap. RPS -1.|
Barnum gets blown into the backfield here by a Short slant that can happen because of a corner blitz:
Toussaint is forced to cut behind that and then the end shuffling down behind makes the play.
VERDICT: 75% RPS, 25% blocking.
|O22||2||7||,Shotgun 2TE twins||1||2||2||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||6|
|OLB comes off slot; Kwiatkowski blocks him out. Purdue slides its line playside and has a linebacker behind who's unblocked thanks to the blitz. He's staying outside, so handoff. The slant gets the Purdue OL past the M OL but the M OL gets good push on a couple guys. Mealer(-1) lets Short by him in frightening fashion; Lewan(+1) gets his guy two yards downfield and makes him give up a lot of space. Toussaint(+1) cuts backside and avoids that linebacker, stumbling as he manages to power through the arm tackle. Short can now finish the job from behind.|
This worked well enough that we can dispense with the Verdict Of Blame.
|O15||2||10||Ace big||1||3||1||Base 3-4||Run||Inside zone||0|
|Michigan runs an inside zone away from the strength of the formation and into five guys against four blockers. This doesn't work, especially when the playside ILB bugs out to beat a block. Maybe this should have been a cutback. Yeah, maybe, but tough when Barnum(-1) has just caught a guy and is a yard in the backfield. Still, Toussaint -1.|
This was not set up well from the start:
Michigan's running to the left of the center, where there are four Boilermakers and three blockers. A cutback develops and I have a sneaking suspicion that this run is supposed to cutback just because it can't work if it's run directly at where the action goes.
VERDICT: 50% Toussaint, 25% RPS, 25% blocking.
[AFTER THE JUMP: BLAME! BLAME! BLAME!]
Welcome bloggers to the newest regular MGoFeature, and the only one that gives you free stuff. Usually it'll be something from the MGoStore; occasionally someone will donate or sponsor a different item. It works like thusly:
- Wednesday mornings I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
This Week's Game:
Illinois Fighting Illini of Illinois (We're from Illinois!) vs. the Michigan Wolverines, in a contest of footballs.
This Week's Prize:
The latest in wearable technology from MGoBlog, this shirt may cause a sudden Aneurysm of Leadership. Your friends will remark upon your incredible grit, and late-game three point shooting ability. Options are Six Threes at Breslin Maize, or Big Ten Title Blue.
Notes: If you win and prefer another shirt, that's cool; pick an MGoShirt.
Yes I feel a tiny bit bad about THE_KNOWLEDGE except 1.) I figure you like free stuff more than being a "top friend"; 2.) We've had this in the works for a very long time; and 3.) Being from the future he was well aware of this.
Rules: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). If nobody gets the score, this week's prize carries over to the following week's. Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game (since I won't have time to pull them on gamedays). MGoEmployees and Moderators--anyone else with moderator priveleges--are exempt from winning (because you could change your timestamp). If you choose the score that Brian published in the official preview and it actually ends up the final score, well, that would be pretty amazing because Brian picks scores like 29-11 all the time.
“How’s it goin’?”
“How we doin’?”
“Where’s your glasses?”
I don’t wear them every day. Yours look good though.
“You’re losing the effect. I’ve gone to all glasses. People started to think I was dumb. Now they just think I’m dumb with glasses.
"All right, you guys. Let’s have it.”
Were you surprised by how Purdue defended you?
“They played a little more 3-4 than I thought. They had -- it’s not like we didn’t prepare for it, but there was a little more 30 front than we thought, but the back end was kind of as we anticipated. There’s always a little nuance to handle Denard, the kind that guys borrow from other teams they watch on tape they think they might have had some success playing Denard, so they take pieces of that, and if they think it fits their team.”
Did you feel like they were trying to take away Fitz?
“Oh no doubt. If you watch the tape, they were following Fitz all over the field. Fitz had very good running opportunities on 17 carries. I went over the whole tape. It was the good news and the bad news though. We pulled a couple zone reads when they were all over Fitz, and Denard was wide open down field. It wasn’t like it was bad. It just didn’t make Fitz’s numbers look very good, but he helped us win the game, you know, kind of like a guy that has a sacrifice bunt. Helps you win the game. That was kind of the way they decided to defend us.”
[THE SCENE: A member of the media (who shall remain anonymous) talks about being involved in a recent car accident. Enter Greg Mattison]
“… You really didn’t go get an ambulance to take you to the hospital, did you? You really didn’t do that, did you? Come on.”
I hurt my back and neck.
“Come on ...”
I hurt my back and neck! It’s not my fault they rear-ended me.
“Come oooon. I mean, just think of the force these guys out on the field that get hit with. Sheez.”
Hey, they might get hit with the same force, but … they’re expecting it!
[Sigh.] “What do we have? What do we got?”
You had to be pleased with the effort last Saturday, huh.
“Yeah I was pleased with the effort. We’ve stressed so much about you’ve got to run to the football, you’ve got to play as hard as you can on each and every snap, and when they feel, I think, that you’re sincere in having a rotation and having guys go in that game and you’re in the Big Ten, you’re playing for all of it each game. It was good to see them buy into that and play extremely hard on every play. There were plays in that game that I was very pleased, when you looked out there, it was the way I perceived Michigan defense, where you had all 11 running as hard as they could to the football. Not nine, not eight. And then when a young man had played a number of plays, then the next guy goes in and he did the same thing. Still our technique, still we’ve got a long ways to go that way. We had a couple missed assignments that you can have, but all in all the effort was very pleasing.”
When current New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles played pee-wee football, he was so unfairly fast that his league instituted the "Darren Sproles Rule", which barred him from running sweeps—otherwise, he would score on every play.
Given Malik McDowell's dominance at the Class C (enrollment limits: 217-448 students) level of MHSAA football, I'd have to assume that a hypothetical "Malik McDowell Rule" would prevent him from playing entirely.
McDowell is listed at 6'7", 290 pounds, and that does not appear to be an exaggeration despite the fact that he's not playing with any bad weight. On Friday, I watched him lead Detroit Loyola against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, a team featuring players with names like Zach Beans, Vinny Puma(!), Clay Senerius, and McLane Burtrum.
It went as you'd expect.
By my count, in four very short possessions' worth of work, McDowell amassed 11 tackles, five TFLs, a sack, and a forced fumble, while also adding a few thunderous hits on a justifiably terrified Our Lady quarterback. This week's video highlights are short and sweet; these include less than half of McDowell's tackles thanks to rain and a brief period when the camera refused to focus:
Soundtrack: "Saw Myself Today" — Oddisee
It's tough to break down McDowell from a technical standpoint when he's so physically dominant over his competition; on most plays, he simply bowled over an interior lineman and moved on to wrecking whomever possessed the football. However, you can see him display a very effective swim move in the first two clips of the above video; despite it probably being unnecessary, McDowell regularly switches up his attack between that swim move and a simple bull rush.
Our Lady of the Lakes lacked a downfield passing game—or even the ability to go into the shotgun—which made it impossible for them to call plays that avoided McDowell. He swallowed up interior runs, at least contacted the quarterback on all but a couple dropbacks, and chased down both attempted toss sweeps for big losses. McDowell proved very adept at reading plays, staying home when runs came at him and reacting quickly when the play went outside.
McDowell's athleticism speaks for itself; he covers the field sideline-to-sideline from defensive tackle, gets a great burst off the snap, and has the strength to match his size. He's all the more impressive when it's noted that he's currently dealing with nagging injuries to both his shoulder—which caused him to exit the game on two occasions—and hip. Despite having to gingerly peel himself off the turf after tackles, he brought full effort on every play.
Caveats apply due to the low level of competition, of course. That said, McDowell is the most physically impressive and dominant prospect I've seen in these last two years; he deserves every bit of the hype coming his way. While I'd like to see what he can do against viable competition, the praise accompanying his camp appearances suggests that he is by no means a mirage produced by lower-division football.
If I had to rank the best players from the 2014 in-state class, it's McDowell first, then Damon Webb, then a large gap before getting to the Cass Tech linebacker trio and Detroit MLK's Carl Fuller (though I haven't seen Drake Harris in action, and rankings suggest that he's right around Webb in terms of potential, nor have I seen Chance Stewart).
A brief note: Our Lady of the Lakes junior kicker Spencer Howell showed off a strong leg on kickoffs, booming one completely through the end zone, and drilled a ~35-yard field goal. I can't find much information on him online but he's a guy to keep an eye on for a potential walk-on spot down the road.
This Week: Speaking of Cass Tech and Fuller, the Technicians take on King on Friday at 7pm. I'll either head there or check out Wyatt Shallman and Catholic Central take on Orchard Lake St. Mary's, also kicking off at 7 on Friday.
Hail Mattison. Tube sock brigade == ND's line in the eyes of a guy who might know, Purdue OC Gary Nord:
Gold and Black: Are you having trouble with your offensive front, and is that affecting your run game?
Nord: "No, I think the offensive line played the best game they've played this year, I really do. They probably protected better than they've ever protected. I think Michigan's defensive line was probably as good as any that we've played. They were very good. They held Notre Dame to about the same number of yards we had and they had five turnovers on them. They played two of the better teams in the country in Alabama and Notre Dame, those two, so their stats were screwed up a little bit going in, but watching them man-for-man and for the four-down guys and two linebackers, they're as good as there is in the country."
Coachspeak? Never. Gary Nord speaks the gospel truth at all times thanks to an ancient curse passed down from Nord father to Nord son that turns them into a walrus if they ever say anything other than the unvarnished facts of a matter.
Danny Hope has it too, and fell from the straight and narrow.
That's so Weis. I mean, seriously.
The US government needs to disguise Weis as an Iranian ayatollah and send him into deep cover. Within weeks the country will collapse in the world's most disorganized civil war.
Yeah, I know about Somalia. I stand by what I said.
Next up: the University of Phoenix Phoenixes. TOC does a thing where they deploy Bradley-Terry ratings for college football* in the service of predicting things. They've got a margin-aware version, too. The West is a sack of cats with Michigan a tiny favorite thanks to not having a conference loss yet; the by-far top two teams in the East are the ineligible ones. BIG TENNNNNN.
Michigan's opponent this weekend… eh… not so good.
Blowout of the Week (Illinois Division): Illinois @ Michigan
Not only has Illinois only won one game against 1-A competition (Western Michigan), last week's 17-point loss to Wisconsin was their closest loss. This will not end well. Michigan is an 80% favorite according to the basic method, 93% (17 points) according to margin-aware.
The Illini have a one in 70,100 chance of winning out, though.
Over at A Lion Eye they're trying to figure out how on earth you fire Ron Zook and get a lot worse:
Our last four losses by 17 or more under Zook:
11/26/11: Minnesota 27, Illinois 7
11/12/11: Michigan 31, Illinois 14
10/16/10: Michigan State 26, Illinois 6
10/03/09: Penn State 35, Illinois 17
So if you’re scoring at home, that’s four 17+ point losses in the last five weeks for Illinois. And before this season, four 17+ point losses in the last 35 games. You know what, let’s make this one hurt a little more. 2006 through 2011. Six seasons, eight losses by 17 points or more. This season, four of our six games were losses by 17 points or more.
Illinois's run game has fallen off a cliff you already thought it had fallen off, dropping from 11th in 2010 to 41st in 2011 to 94th(!) this year, 94th when three of their opponents have been WMU, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. Every La Tech opponent has rushed for more yards against the Bulldogs than Illinois.
BONUS: after collecting 41 sacks a year ago, Illinois has nine in six games this time out. They returned everyone but Mercilus. They're 109th at sacks allowed. Illinois: not good.
*[college hockey fans may know this as KRACH]
Another tough injury for State. Dion Sims missed most of the Indiana game with an ankle injury. He's day-to-day-ish:
"I don't know that he'll make it this week," Dantonio said of Sims, "but he may make it next week. We'll have to see how he responds in the next couple days, really."
This week is Iowa, next week Michigan. Sims is MSU's leading receiver with 313 yards, though if you give Aaron Burbridge a minute he'll eclipse that.
Sims's backup is a redshirt freshman, FWIW. If Sims misses the Michigan game the main benefit seems to be a lack of the multi-TE sets State used to spring Ed Baker to a big day last year.
Also in injuryland, OSU MLB Etienne Sabino is out four weeks with a bone fracture in his leg. That prognosis should have him back on the field for Michigan, but seriously you can come back from this sort of thing in four weeks?
Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino has a broken right fibula and will miss at least three weeks, possibly more, for the Ohio State football team.
Sabino was injured in the first half of Saturday’s 63-38 win over Nebraska. He had surgery on Sunday to implant a steel plate into his leg.
“He talked to the team afterwards, and it was an emotional moment,” Meyer said. “The best case is three weeks. The worst case is longer. We hope to get him back.”
I am terrified of football players. Sabino's replacement is true freshman Joshua Perry, but OSU spends a lot of time in a nickel package that he won't feature in.
Willis Ward to be honored. All it took was action from the state legislature:
Oct. 20 (UM vs. MSU) is Willis Ward Day in Michigan. Athletic Department spokesperson said Michigan plans to recognize Willis on that day.
I've always loved "recognize" as a thing that is done by official-type people. "Oh, hey… you're Willis Ward, aren't you? Rad. I suppose this IS a plaque with you on it!"
Yost to host. Hockey drops the puck tonight in an exhibition against Windsor; Yost Built previews the D and goalies. I agree with him that splitting Moffie and Bennett across two pairings makes sense. Something like…
…gives you offensive firepower at all times and a defensive guy who will cover up for the offensive guy when he lets his freak flag fly. I'll also be watching to see what kind of progress Brennan Serville can make. He was pretty bad last year but also very young; he could make a big step forward.
Red says Rutledge, Racine, and Janecyk will all play a period so hopefully that means Rutledge's eye thing is healed is ready to go for the real season opener on… Thursday? Guh.
Someone's got to do something about hockey scheduling. There's a game at Yost on February first this year. You know when the next one is? March. I assume this is just the CCHA screwing with Michigan because it can; hopefully next year they'll be able to move more home games into the back half of the schedule.
BONUS SCHEDULING TIP: The Big Ten should seek out opportunities to have rival weekends where, say, Minnesota football and hockey come to town at the same time. The travel equation changes dramatically when you get a hockey series on top of your football game.
Compher so pretty. JT Compher had another career lined up if hockey didn't work out:
"When I was younger I did toddler modeling and I was on the front of a catalog," Compher told NHL.com. "I got to keep the red scooter that I was modeling. That was pretty cool."
Compher said he can't remember what company the catalog was from, only that he was 3 or 4 years old at the time and got a pretty cool new toy out of the deal.
Okay, okay, this happened. Stop emailing me about it plz:
As I said on the twitter, my favorite part is that he appears to have misspelled his own damn name in his twitter handle.
Etc.: Ramroth Finnegan! I bet he ends up at Cincinnati. Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne was taken off in an ambulance last week but may return Saturday. Weinreb on Penn State remembering this football thing. Tim Hardaway expectation tracker. More numbers displaying that Illinois is bad yo. Denard throws are key.
It's almost mid-season, so it's time to check in on the Draft-o-Snark teams and see how this whole Big Ten(nnnnnnnN!) thing is shaping up so far. Spoiler: euh.
Who we drafted:
The sacks have been removed, and I've combined the rushing and passing totals.
*Heiko took Martinez as a running back, and Braxton Miller was turned into a fullback when he drafted Danny O'Brien. Andrew Maxwell was a backup option chosen in lieu of having a punter. Gray and Colter were taken strictly as wide receivers.
Who's winning: Heiko's running back, followed by Heiko's fullback. He is better off with either of those guys than his designated passer Danny O'Brien, who lost his job to Joel Stave (stah-VAY) after Week 2. The competition matters, but Taylor Martinez has been the conference's best quarterback so far, and Braxton Miller holds a strong second.
Denard looks really good in most stats but already has 8(!) interceptions. He's faced the hardest schedule so far (Alabama and Notre Dame) though nobody else threw 4 picks against Notre Dame, and guys like Miller have already faced MSU's DBs. Also Michigan has had a bye week, while most of the competition has played 6 games, so some of his totals are not quite comparable.
Of Brian's two guys, Scheelhaase has been barely productive. Weirdly he hasn't rushed much, just 160 yards on 34 carries for 4.7 YPC with sacks removed. So much for the new coach being a perfect fit. If you don't believe me when I say Denard's interceptions haven't all been that bad, watch a few of Scheelhaase's. His O-line isn't doing him any favors, FWIW. Maxwell has been a bit better than his worse-than-Vandenberg stats might tell you; those stats have been suppressed by awful receiver play, though he's sent his share and some to Tacopants and Nachoshorts as his offensive line deteriorated. I'm all this is Threet if Threet was in the right offense for his abilities.
Vandenberg isn't helping the Ace cause very much, failing to throw a touchdown the first three weeks against not-good secondaries; Iowa currently ranks 95th in pass offense nationally and last in the Big Ten. He had a decent game last week against the toughest defensive backfield he's faced yet, unfortunately that was Minnesota's.
Guy we should have drafted (?): Nobody, really. Joel Stave's YPA will come down when a 62-yard screen to James White isn't 1/10th of his yardage, but he's still been impressive since taking over for O'Brien. That pass which ended with (Illini CB) Terry Hawthorne in the hospital was floated directly into the palms of his tight end along the sideline, in stride, and between two defensive backs. OTOH he has had the new-guy struggles.
QB Standings: 1. Heiko, 2. Seth, 3. Brian, 4. Ace. Should I penalize Heiko for turning the best two QBs in the conference (thus far) into RBs?
[Bad receivers, terrible offensive linemen, and an exclusive, dramatic reenactment of AIRBHG being foiled by Jewish Vin Diesel, after THE JUMP]
ACE YOU'RE SEEMING ACEXCEPTIONALLY ACEY THIS ACE DAY. What do you mean, "I'm Heiko"? I've never heard of such nonsense.
GROUND AND POUND. Also pound and ground.
ACE MAKES ME FEEL SAD FOR MISPRONOUNCING THINGS. STOP CALLING YOURSELF HEIKO
FUNCHESS HAD A BADASS CATCH. Yup.
I KNOW WE NO CAN RB RUN. How why guesses but no answers.
OH SO DEFENSE. How does it happen?
TALKIN' BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC. One more week I hang on to Boilermania. Also, the rest of the league is not as good as you may have been led to expect by 1970.
The usual links: