and... i like them? I think I like them.
Liveblog/chat event! The Big Ten Network is going to cover a Michigan practice tonight at 9PM EST, with a replay of last year's "Little Brother" game preceding the festivities at 7. MGoBlog will take the opportunity to spin out the Cover It Live software as a test run for a new feature this season. The tentative plan: have members of the Wolverine Liberation Army and some select others moderate CIL chats that will replace the chaotic free-for-all of the haloscan open threads. (If you've got a Michigan blog and will be available for home games there might be a spot or two open; drop me an email.) I won't be around since I'm going to 8 to 10 games this year and prefer my Ohio State games to be consumed in an atmosphere of solitary panic, but the WLA guys are pretty all right.
As far as tonight goes, we tried this once before when Sam McGuffie had his national TV debut and discussion quickly shifted from McGuffie to any and all things, which is fine. There will probably be some trenchant commentary on the event itself, but this will end up being more of a Q&A session with some good jokes/answers from the peanut gallery sprinkled in. A reminder: these are moderated chats so I have to approve anything that gets posted before it'll show up.
ESPN’s helmet clash was a stupid exercise designed to garner cheap hits and was unworthy of anyone’s attention. But this is pretty cool:
I think we know who the true winner is.
Cut like a razor blade so fast other DJs go damn. The Morgan Trent 4.13 forty is sadly, dead. Varsity Blue got some pictures from Media Day:
You can clearly see that "40" has no winners and the 413 was put up in the pro agility drill. You can also see that the fastest quarterback in that drill was... aww... goddammit... David Cone.
Moooooooo. Yeah, you know those enormous metal girders? You can’t walk through them. As a result, moooooving (ha! I kill me!) around Michigan Stadium this fall is going to be even more of a fiasco than it usually is:
Officials thought about opening the gates more than two hours before kickoff, but a review of scanned tickets shows the majority of fans wait until the last hour to enter anyway.
"Nobody likes to miss kick-off," Rademacher said. "If they don't get here early, there's a good chance they'll miss it."
Get to the stadium early and use the gate closest to your seat and avoid Main Street. If you show up late-ish things will be even more difficult than they've been in the past:
To help funnel fans who approach the stadium from the south around to the northern side of the stadium, one of the northbound lanes of South Main Street, from Stadium Boulevard to Keech Avenue, will be closed to vehicular traffic and open only to pedestrians.
A barrier closing off that lane to vehicular traffic will be installed before game day, said Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Brad Hill. "Officers there will be encouraging people to use that," Hill said.
Rademacher says it'll be quicker to walk around the stadium to the correct gate than to enter the stadium and fight the crowds through the concourses.
The traffic issues should be resolved by 2010, when a second concourse will be added for the plebes in the nosebleeds.
Sad? Funny? Both! Details of Kevin Grady's DUI arrest have been released. Going over them is sad and horrible and all that, but also... well... kind of funny. I'm sorry if this makes me a horrible person, but:
Thompson said he asked for a number between 12 and 14, and Grady answered "15." And when asked whether Mickey Mouse is a dog or a cat, he answered "dog."
That's comedy. Not comedy: the officer finding Grady passed out with the car running but his foot miraculously pressing the brake. Grady, BTW, has been seeing scanty first-team snaps even in the absence of Minor and Brown.
Sidenote: during my brief dalliance with college-level quiz bowl I attended a "trash tournament," in which the questions are all pop culture blah blah. At one point one of the bonus questions asked a player on the other team to execute a number of sobriety tests, one of which he failed. It was not "is Mickey Mouse a dog or a cat?"
Best Porn Name - For a Woman
Foxy Foxworth, South Carolina TE
This is strictly a soft-core porn name, since hardcore would be something like "Honey Titsworth."
Also, there is a man named "T-Bob" who is the son of a former NFL quarterback. If you guessed "Louisiana," give yourself a nickel.
Etc.: Carty relates Fred Jackson's insane ravings about the two freshman backs; Adam Rittenberg takes a look at Rodriguez's history with two quarterbacks. The first Blogpoll Roundtable is up and kicking at Hey Jenny Slater.
Houston, Texas, kicker Anthony Fera -- not actually foreign, but "I keeck a touchdown" is something you say whenever you can -- has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming tomorrow as a part of Tuesday Recruitin', but first a brief summary: he's a kicker.
For now the inexplicable first hit when you type "I keeck a touchdown" into Google Images:
Funny old world.
Ugh. Michigan’s offensive line, already paper thin after a wide variety of departures, is the last place Michigan can afford an injury. So this is lame: reports from Fan Day indicate that Mark Huyge has a high ankle sprain and the injury that held Corey Zirbel out of the last week of camp is going to last into the season. A high ankle sprain can linger a long time, so Huyge might not be heard from until midseason. He wasn’t being mentioned as a potential starter, but he’s one of the few non-freshman (of the true variety) available past the starters. Zirbel’s issue is apparently less severe but there’s talk of minor knee surgery and he will miss at least the Utah game. If you’ve got a Rivals subscription you can hear him say it sucks about 30 times in four minutes. Zirbel had locked down a starting guard spot. His loss presses Dave Molk into the lineup at center; David Moosman slides over to guard.
In the absence of the two injured linemen, Michigan now has one backup who’s not a true freshman: redshirt sophomore tackle Perry Dorrestein. Hopefully Zirbel returns ASAP.
How have you been in the last 30 seconds? Rodriguez’s press conferences are coming so fast and furious that they are now largely devoid of information that hasn’t already been relayed. The latest was Media Day, and it was mostly been there, done that. (The injury information above was pried out of the players themselves by inquisitive fans.) A few points of interest, though:
- “It's pretty exciting, but at the same time, pretty nerve-wracking, when you're going to have upwards of eight, nine, 10 true freshmen that may play significant time in your first ball game.”
- This was followed by the usual list of players: Odoms and Robinson—mentioned as a slot unit—, McGuffie and Shaw—also mentioned as a unit. Stonum and then a surprising mention for stick-thin Roy Roundtree. On defense: Floyd, Cissoko, safety Brandon Smith, and DT Mike Martin.
- Rodriguez was really noncommittal about who’s going to start at running back. Brown and Minor, the two presumed leaders, “will play” because they are “good players” but there was no indication anyone had any sort of hold on the job.
- Fast guys will return kicks. Greg Mathews was mentioned at punt returner but that was after Donovan Warren and along with the two slot electrons; kick returns will fall to Shaw, McGuffie, Trent, and Harrison.
- Feagin is suffering from “information overload” and a shoulder injury; he is not in the mix to start: “He's not close to being ready, but I wasn't overly optimistic he would be because there's so much you have to learn here in the first year.”
- Cheery: “There will be some anxious moments in a couple weeks.”
- Also cheery: “Offensively, we still have depth issues, all across the board at every position, and particularly up front.” More on the offensive linemen: “Some of the offensive linemen, the true freshmen, they're not quite ready, but some of them are in the two deep by default. It's a little nerve wracking, but they're working really hard. I like that class. It's a really good class.”
So there you go. Very little in the way of actual news outside of kick returners, but a totally awesome sense of foreboding that I am digging right now.
One thing you can glean by reading between the lines: Shaw’s position has been in doubt ever since he signed with Michigan, but it’s clear now he’s a tailback first despite the fall roster listing him at wide receiver. Rodriguez talked about him as a running back several times usually in concert with McGuffie. Also, that “Michigan drill” thing in which Shaw was so impressive is a RB drill. Running backs can line up all over the field in Rodriguez’s offense, so we’ll probably see him in the slot from time to time.
Terrence Robinson looks pensive. And short, short, short.
“Camp Confidential” comes to you courtesy Carlos Brown. Mostly fluff, but further confirmation that Odoms, Robinson, and McGuffie are looking good. Also this:
We'll have a Gong Show next week, which will be interesting because I've never been a part of something like that before.
Some bullets from MGoBlue indicate that freshmen are getting the opportunities they are because minor dings are holding certain players out of the lineup. Reports are Minor has a hamstring issue—nasty, as those can linger—and Brown has yet another undisclosed minor ding. Given the current trajectory of his injuries (broken hand last fall, finger injury from “freak weightlifting accident” this spring), I assume he had the tip of his pinky finger bitten off by a grue.
Senior/junior punter Zoltan Mesko has continued to impress in camp.
Space aficionados will enjoy this minute and a half of Zoltan punts:
Why? I don’t know. I don’t care.
Eroc has some interesting stuff at his site, including an extended discussion of quarterbacks. Some items that jumped out:
Regarding Chambers playing this weekend, it seems that Coach Shafer and Defensive staff have put in a dime package off the nickel look.
So Chambers is playing some WLB/safety hybrid thing. Interesting. Michigan had high hopes for him before a Big Ten eligibility snafu booted him from the field, but that says to me that Michigan’s linebackers aren’t impressing. Also, Babb and Herron are mentioned as guys who might end up transferring for more playing time. FWIW.
Other stuff: more stuff on quarterbacks from Mark Snyder; Rivals has a freebie interview with JT Floyd; Carty picks out ten things we don’t have to worry about and starts the list with Fred Jackson and Zoltan, which, like, no offense to either of those guys but shit.
Big East what? I appear to have half of the Big East in the top twenty five. This is… odd. West Virginia is a given, but maybe I’m being too kind to Cinci, USF, or Rutgers?
I’m tempted to throw Texas Tech way up high but that seems a typical case of overrating a couple of skill position players and ignoring the general lack of talent elsewhere. It’ll be hard to tell given Tech’s early schedule.
No Michigan. I mean, obviously.
Ouch. Or seeya. Some injuries and departures of note:
- Illinois defensive tackle Sirod Williams, a starter for them, tore his ACL and is done for the year.
- Michigan State lost two safeties yesterday, including the projected starter at free safety.
- Notre Dame wide receiver Richard Jackson is the sixth member of Weis's 2006 class to transfer from ND.
Speaking of that 2006 class, it's on its way to being about as overrated as the vaunted 2005 Iowa class. A seventh player (Bartley Webb) saw his career end due to injury, and an eighth (Darrin Walls) is currently dealing with "personal issues" -- at Notre Dame usually code for "should be academically ineligible but we'll shuffle him off to a community college for a while." That's six of the twelve four-star-plus recruits from the class, and four of the remainder are offensive linemen who apparently suck hard. Touted upperclassmen on the roster who play elsewhere: Raeshon McNeil and apparently overrated James Aldridge.
Oh, yeah: if you have Comcast, you now have the Big Ten Network. And hilariously cynical commercials claiming "no one covers the Big Ten Network like Comcast!" Do they think sports fans can't remember anything that happened more than 15 minutes ago? I remember Tyrece Butler, bitches, you can't fool me.
Channel 65; channel 255 for HD. Don't watch it today unless you want to watch the infamous Anthony Thomas football game. This is inadvisable unless you want to pretend that New Michigan is wearing purple uniforms and battling Old Michigan, except hopefully New Michigan's defense stayed at home and was replaced by oompa-loompas.
More stadium pictures. You've probably seen pictures of Michigan Stadium a million times since the renovations started. If you want to see more go here or here or here or here. It's all basically the same except there's some more metal.
I'm more interested in the possibility that the stadium's new configuration is driving locals bats:
"We call it `The Shadium,"' Stacie Steils said Thursday, looking through the windows of AAA Michigan at the iconic sporting venue. "It's just so big."
$50 Bowling! Michigan's holding a benefit for Brock Mealer. From the diaries:
The team will participate in a "Bowling for Brock" charity next Wednesday to raise funds to help ease the medical costs for Brock Mealer , the brother of freshman lineman Elliott Mealer .
The Mealers were involved in a car accident last Christmas Eve as they traveled to church. Mealer's father, David , and Elliott's girlfriend, Hollis Richer were killed. Brock Mealer was paralyzed, and Elliott Mealer suffered a shoulder injury, and likely will be redshirted this season.
The bowling and autograph session is at the Colonial Lanes (1950 South Industrial Highway, Ann Arbor) from 4-6 p.m. Admission is $50 for adults, $25 for children, and all proceeds will go toward Mealer's rehabilitation costs at the U-M Medical Center.
The revenge tour continues. Michigan basketball's quest to let everyone who feels wronged by the program a shot at vicious stabby humiliating revenge continues apace:
On Dec. 22, FGCU [Florida Gulf Coast U] will travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan as part of a two-game road swing that will also include a third meeting with NCAA tournament team Butler on Dec. 20 in Indianapolis.
FGCU lost to Butler 79-65 in Indianapolis two seasons ago and fell 78-66 to the nationally ranked Bulldogs at Alico Arena last season.
The Michigan contest also will mark the return of former Bishop Verot High School guard Reed Baker to Michigan after his transfer from the Wolverines to FGCU last season. He had to sit out a year following his transfer.
The Rainmaker will make us pay.
God, I hope not.
He eats, he sleeps, he eats he sleeps he eats. Amongst the MICHAEL PHELPS MICHAEL PHELPS MICHAEL PHELPS stuff going on in China was this surreal expose of Phelps' eating habits featuring Middle Kingdom, Prickly Pear, Maize 'n' Blue Deli, and some diner I'd never heard of named "Benny's":
I'm shocked there was a story about someone eating 10,000 calories a day in Ann Arbor that didn't involve Blimpy Burger.
Also, it's really weird to be watching NBC and see the nice old man from Middle Kingdom. Hey, I know that guy! Hey! I've been to that restaurant like twelve times! Hey, this is national television! Hey, I sound like that guy at hockey games who used to scream "HEY HEY HEY" whenever he thought there was a penalty, which was every ten seconds!
Sidenote: can Bela Karoyli please be on TV all the time? Can we replace Paul Maguire with him?
Yeah, this is a weird year. You are probably aware that we are playing Utah in the opener this year. You are probably not aware that some Utah fans outright expect the Utes to win. This is from Block U's "worst case scenario":
Something goes wrong against Michigan. Maybe it's Johnson who goes down, or Asiata sprains his ankle tripping over the serving cart on the flight to Michigan, only to fall on Mack's leg, breaking it. Maybe it's just the Wolverines are that much better than Utah, but for whatever reason, they do not leave Ann Arbor with a victory. It hurts, but is it the end of the world?
"For whatever reason" you leave Ann Arbor without a win is usually "you are a team not getting a return game playing Michigan." But now everyone's sizing Michigan up. Yeah, well, our walk-on quarterback is going to shut you up.
Etc.: Zach Putnam waited until the deadline, but he signed. Frown.
I know everyone has been panicking about DE recruiting, but I'm wondering if the coaching staff might have a different plan. We've recruited 3 people who can or most likely will play LB ( Mike Jones, Bell, Barnes) and are expected to land a commitment from Brandin Hawthorne, another LB. It would seem weird to bring in all these linebackers after numerous LB recruits we pulled in last year, but it got me wondering: what if we are going to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base front? This could explain the lack of DE recruiting and the large amount of LBs we've gotten. Michigan can pull in just one DE and be done for the class, instead of 2-3 DEs that everyone is praying for. I'm curious what you think about this, and is 3-4 used in college, and if so, what's it's pros and cons?
BSE Electrical Engineering
University of Michigan '05
I don't believe this is the idea. Scott Shafer is an avowed fan of the 4-3 and has repeatedly stated his intent to use it, and not the 3-3-5 stack Jeff Casteel deployed at West Virginia, as his base set. In some more recent interviews, Shafer's talked about how quickly Michigan's picked up the scheme and his intent to be a "multiple front" defense, but the 4-3 is and likely will be the base going forward.
This probably makes the most sense given the personnel, too. In the 3-4 you're supposed to have one honkin' nose guard who will absorb two blockers on every play and two "defensive ends" who are 270-280 pound guys closer to three-technique DTs than true DEs. During Michigan's one-year experiment with the 3-4 in 2004, Larry Harrison and Pat Massey -- two guys who were 4-3 DTs --were the ends. The traditional defensive end sorts often end up as outside linebackers, like Lamarr Woodley did in '04 (and is now with the Steelers). I don't think the move actually lessens the need for DE sorts, it just changes where they're deployed. But I'm not intimately familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of the 3-4. (Maybe GSimmons85 will bless us with a breakdown?)
I do know it's extremely rare in college. AFAIK, no Big Ten teams use it as a base set, and I don't recall any in outlying territories that do so regularly, either. Michigan did see a number of 4-3 teams revamp their defense into a 3-4 look designed to stop the zone read (Iowa and USC most prominelty), but those were one-game adjustments only. The big exception: Notre Dame, which adopted the 3-4 when Corwin Brown became defensive coordinator. It's early, but the results weren't inspiring.
Meanwhile in the NFL, the 3-4 has spread from the Steelers to a goodly portion of the league. Why are colleges lagging? I don't know but theorize that the defense requires the sort of athletes college teams can't get their hands on with enough regularity to make it a consistent winner.
Brian- What do you think of the possibility of Brown taking Feagin's snaps and have Feagin red-shirt? If Feagin isn't going to be all that great of an option, what would be the point? (Unless you want to have both of them in the backfield, which could be frightening I suppose.)
I guess what my question boils down to is, what do you think of Brown actually taking snaps as a QB?
Brown at QB is strictly a Wildcat thing, IMO. He's playing McFadden.
On Feagin: Rodriguez made it clear in his last press conference that Feagin was not making the impression he needed to if he was going to be a candidate for serious playing time, but conflicting reports from practice indicate the coaching staff still has hopes of working him in midseason. I take this as a vote of no confidence in the current QB starters, or at least an acknowledgement that it's going to be rough at times and once Feagin gets acclimated they'll have to give him a shot just to see.
I do take your point, though: if Feagin just can't throw enough to make defenses respect him as a quarterback, you're basically running the Wildcat and you may as well do that with Brown. That way you can maybe redshirt Feagin, see how he does when Beaver and Newsome arrive in the fall, and move him to one of the positions LSU and Miami saw fit to offer him at.
This is not likely to happen, IMO, as Michigan will put Feagin on the field at some point just in case. It's hard to argue with that thinking, as anything that helps the Rodriguez era get off on the right foot will greatly aid recruiting. Expect Feagin to see the field unless one of the two guys in front of him is unexpectedly effective.
Speaking of the Wildcat:
I tend to believe that Michigan's offense, given the QB limitations this year, stylistically is going to look like some combination of Northwestern(base)/Missouri(TE use)/Arkansas(Wildhog). My question, what percentage of the plays run at Arkansas were run out of the Wildhog formation? Is there a quick answer out there?
Robert W. Petti
Unfortunately, there is no UFR-equivalent for Hog fans and no handy compendium of how often the Wildcat was deployed. I dug up a couple things, though. In Arkansas' ridiculous upset win over LSU, it was the majority of the Razorback offense:
Arkansas ran the Wild Hog formation 31 times for 294 total yards and four touchdowns - 11 times for 67 yards and one score in the first half, 15 times for 216 yards and three end zone celebrations in the second half, and five times for 11 yards over three overtimes. The Wild Hog accounted for 57 percent of the Razorbacks' 513 total yards of offense and four of UA's seven touchdowns.
Arkansas had 77 snaps in that game.
In the bowl game it was less prominent:
• When lining up in the Wild Hog formation, Arkansas accumulated 82 yards rushing on 14 plays.
Arkansas had 83 snaps in that game; across those two games the Wildcat accounted for 28% of the Arkansas offense. It's not just a trick play here and there, it can be a part of a pretty decent collegiate offense... if you've got Robotbeastpig taking snaps. I don't think Michigan has that guy, but they do have the wide array of potential ballcarriers that could make the Wildcat effective.
THE MOST ENTERTAINING SUBPLOT of the 2007 season was "will Notre Dame's offense finish as the most pathetic of the millenium?" Despite finishing a whopping 27 yards behind last year's second most impotent offense, Florida International, the answer was no. Rutgers' 2002 abomination still stands.
At first blush this seems to have little to do with Minnesota, but the Gophers were the defensive equivalent of Jimmy Clausen and the Yakety Sax Crew last year, finishing 119th -- dead last -- in total defense, well behind such luminaries as Rice, UTEP, SMU, and San Diego State. (Keep this in mind if Notre Dame RETURNS TO GLORY with an opening week offensive explosion of 14 or so points.) Think about that. Minnesota was the defensive equivalent of this:
Tim Brewster's got a lot of work to do.
Last year I predicted a brief, miserable sqeak of a head coaching career for the excitable but woefully unproven Brewster, who'd never been anything but a tight ends coach. Though this prediction is off to a stirring start, I was wrong about one thing: Brewster's recruiting. Suckered in by the lure of a stadium named after a bank or free Wild tickets or something, recruits flocked to Brewster's banner. Minnesota ended up with the #17 class according to Rivals The capture of Indiana dual-threat quarterback and Army All American Marqueis Gray was the most notable coup; there was also a healthy sprinkling of four-stars elsewhere, including a highly touted instate linebacker who, unfortunately, just had open-heart surgery. His career is in doubt.
Is it going to help this year? Eh... probably not so much. It's overrated because of its size (29 players) and JUCO-heavy. The best player in it is stuck behind a pretty decent returning starter, and there's only a few kids who will be around by the time Minnesota is rebuilt into an annoying midlevel Big Ten team.
This was a relative bright spot, I guess, but only in the sense that it wasn't a nuclear waste site. Minnesota implemented a Tulane version of the spread 'n' shred that was moderately successful. Freshman quarterback Adam Weber ran for around 600 yards -- he was the Gophers' leading rusher -- and threw plenty, racking up 449 attempts. For the first time since Jim Wacker was crushing the spirits of Gopher fans, Minnesota threw more than it ran. By the end of the year their numbers floated into the 40s in most statistical categories.
As per usual, however, Minnesota's lame-o nonconference schedule (two MAC teams, FAU, and I-AA NDSU) distorts things. In conference the Gophers were 7th, missing two defenses (Penn State and Michigan State) that were about average when taken together. Since the Gophers' horrible defense had them in a hole so often, large sections of season were spent against second stringers or soft prevent outfits trying to run the clock down.
Weber returns and should improve significantly, as freshman quarterbacks are wont to do. He'll be pushed by the aforementioned Gray, but chances are he retains his job.
The skill positions are relatively bare without Glen Mason's remarkable ability to unearth productive NFL running backs from nowhere in particular. Eric Decker is one of the Big Ten's most underrated wide receivers, but there's not much talent backing him up. Leetle sophomore Duane Bennett returns as the nominal starter at tailback; Michigan fans may remember him as the least impressive running back to crack 100 yards against Michigan's disappointing run defense. He's prickly about being pigeonholed, rejecting the terms "power back" and "spread back," and preferring "coachable." Which sounds like faint praise indeed, especially when you're the one saying it. Last year he averaged a pedestrian 4.1 YPC. He's small, not particularly fast, and was recruited for Glen Mason's system. Meh.
The last vestiges of Glen Mason's surprisingly prolific offensive linemen are exiting stage right, as Steve Shidell and Tony Brinkhaus graduate. Their replacements are thin on experience, especially since so many of them are getting bounced around, and talent, though one of them is the spectacularly named Nedward Tavale. Minnesota line coach Phil Meyer:
"It's a little makeshift, a little tough," Meyer said. "But there's not much you can do about it."
Awful, awful, awful. Awful. Also: awful. Worst in total defense, 114th in rushing, 116th in pass efficiency, 109th in scoring. Gave up fewer than 30 points twice, once against Iowa and once against a I-AA NDSU team that put up incredible numbers: 394 yards rushing and nearly 600 total yards. No North Dakota State drive was shorter than 31 yards. The Horror was bad. This was worse
The gravitational pull of average should see Minnesota float back towards the middle, but rebuilding this thing is going to be a multi-year project. Five starters return on the front seven, but only Steve Davis and Willie Van De Steeg can be seen as anything other than liabilities; a flood of JUCO prospects reinforce. Cedric McKinley, originally a Troy Trojan of Troy (We're From Troy!), was specifically called out by Brewster in his ten-minute monologue at Big Ten Media Days as a promising player.
That's the theme most places on the defense: "we suck, but look at this JUCO!" This will probably work for a player or three; most of the others will flame out uselessly, and Minnesota's defense will flail about. Pressure should get better with Van De Steeg entering his senior year healthy, and the defensive tackles should resemble Mario Cart speed pads less with a year of experience and time in the weight room. The secondary is going to be awful, as it has always been and always will be, peace be upon it.
Considerable improvement here still equals something like 90th nationally; this is a reasonable expectation.
THE TURNOVER THING
Minnesota is the platonic ideal in this category. In 2006 the country's best turnover margin obscured how far the talent level had slipped in the closing act of the Glen Mason regime. Minnesota racked up an astounding 32 takeaways and lost only three fumbles. In 2007, takeaways more than halved, Weber threw a bunch of interceptions (as freshmen quarterbacks are wont to do) and the fumbles skyrocketed to ten. Minnesota fell to 114th and watched their season implode. Turnovers are a harsh mistress indeed.
AN EMBARRASSING PREDICTION, NO DOUBT
Minnesota is going to be bad. Their best hope is that Weber improves dramatically and they unearth a whole bevy of Big Ten quality fill-ins from the JUCO parade, and even that will only get them to 6-6 because of the reliably nummy nonconference schedule.
This is team that gave up nearly 400 rushing yards to a I-AA school... and let that team's quarterback complete 80% of his passes! (And, miraculously, only gave up 27 points doing so.) They can't be nearly as bad as they were last year, except they can. 1-11.
It's not a stretch to predict improvement from a 1-11 team with the country's worst defense and a freshman quarterback. This is what I am doing, but Minnesota was so resoundingly terrible last year that there is a long way to go before that improvement shows up in the record. Big Ten fans may remember a similar situation in Ron Zook's first two years at Illinois: 2005 was an irredeemable debacle, so bad that even though the team returned something like 20 starters the improvement they turned in was only enough to turn the Illini from a traveling bye week into a team you kind of sort of had to be careful around until the second half. Illinois went from two wins to... two wins.
Minnesota wasn't quite as dire as that 2005 Illinois team and should see some of the tight games it lost last year swing its way. The problem is the number of tight games: there were six decided by a touchdown or less, of which Minnesota won one, and six blowouts, of which Minnesota was always on the wrong end. The Gophers were nowhere close to anyone in the Big Ten save Northwestern and Iowa, and the Iowa game ended on an unrecovered onside kick. Iron law of MGoBlog: if you didn't recover the onside kick the game wasn't that close.
The Gophers will probably swing an extra nonconference victory or two and may pick off an unwary, bad Big Ten foe, but bowl eligibility, or anything close to it, is not in the offing.
|8/30||Northern Illinois||Probable Win|
|9/13||Montana State||Probable win|
|9/27||@ Ohio State||Auto-loss|
|10/25||@ Purdue||Probable loss|
|Absent:||Penn State, Michigan State|
Eh. Looks like 4-8.
Carlos Brown pitching the ball; via the Daily.
There was another open-ish practice yesterday. It was significant for two events. Event #1 was Mike Shaw smoking guys. Jim Carty:
The freshman from Ohio sprinted past the first defensive player, then cut back around the second. If that had been all he did, it would have still been an impressive display of speed and shiftiness, but highly touted freshman corner Boubacar Cissoko was still between Shaw and the end of the cone.
Shaw hinted at a move and then simply squared up and pancaked Cissoko. Rolled right over him. With authority.
"Ohhhhhhh!" went the team.
"Wow," whispered a reporter.
Shaw and McGuffie were specifically called out as freshmen who will be contributors this fall:
"(They) are two guys who will not be redshirted," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "The biggest (issue) as freshmen coming in is, can they mentally handle the schemes and the pace? Those two have shown they can so far. They've done enough to convince us they can contribute as freshmen, and I think as much mentally as physically.
"They're both fast, explosive players that I think are good with the spread system, so we're excited about it. As much as anything, I like the way they practice. Coming here in the summer helped. They're practicing like they've been here longer than a couple weeks."
Elsewhere in the youth movement on offense: Odoms and Robinson are obviously taking hold of the slot position. Toney Clemons, the nominal spring starter at the position, is now moving between the slot and outside receiver. Kevin Koger got special mention when tight ends were discussed; sounds like that DE move is off the table; Barnum and Khoury mentioned in a question about which true freshmen OL have a shot to play. No O'Neill, about which more later
Event #2 was a seismic shift in the quarterbacks competition. You can read this on any of the premium sites or in the Carty article, and I believe it to be true: Nick Sheridan, not Steven Threet, is your probable starter. The media got to see Sheridan significantly outperform Threet yesterday in the 30 minutes they were allotted. I have some inside baseball on this one suggesting that this is no smokescreen or motivational ploy and that Sheridan is currently the legitimate favorite to start against Utah. Hide the children.
This may not be hugely important. No matter who starts chances are he struggles at some point and the other guy gets a chance to prove himself. But the assumption that it was Threet with Nick Sheridan an emergency option is right out. According to Rodriguez, Feagin...
Justin has been okay. He was a little hampered the last couple days with a sore shoulder. This morning he looked a little bit better, but he has got a long way to go, more mentally than anything else, because there is so much for him to learn.
...does not seem a viable option yet.
Inside bits! A previously-reliable emailer provides practice insights from someone with an opportunity to take in an entire practice session:
- Practice is extremely intense and the tempo is high. This would normally be blah blah blah but this individual has seen a lot of different colleges practice; this is a notable difference between Michigan and the typical program. Coaches were a little too intense, maybe, choosing to yell at guys instead of showing them how they screwed up. Notable exception: DC Scott Shafer, who was a technique hound instructing everyone on the defense.
- The offensive line, as expected, looks rough. O'Neill has a great frame and upside but is not ready to play this year.
- Confirmation that the young tailbacks looked excellent; Shaw "one of the fastest players I've ever seen in college."
- Thumbs up to Cissoko.
- Regarding EEEE Barwis: it's not so much that Barwis is a god who raises wolves and all that, but that Michigan's previous regime was hopelessly out of date. Of all the football factory schools, Michigan had a reputation around the NFL for having the least prepared, least conditioned athletes. [I find this a little hard to believe given all the guys who leap directly into NFL starting roles, but this guy's assessment comes from a place of great credibility. It does seem clear that some guys had ample motivation and training (Edwards, Hart), but others (Watson) were just this side of "blogger." -ed]
- Trent is "way ahead" of where he was last year at this time and is the best NFL prospect on the defense. (Of players eligible for the next draft, so it's basically just him and the DL. I don't know if that's good. Next bullet.)
- The defensive line plays too "stiff" -- not exactly sure what the upshot of this is -- and was not as impressive as Michigan fans might hope.
- Not shocking: things are "ridiculously open" compared to the Carr regime.
Let's see Weis try this. Entertaining tidbit from Mark Snyder:
[Rodriguez was] standing over kicker K.C. Lopata as well, trying to rattle him on each successive kick, wagering something out of our earshot. Yet it became abundantly clear when the kicking drill was done and Rodriguez himself hit the deck and cranked out a bunch of pushups in the middle of the field. Rodriguez's energy with the players was clear and they all seemed to be engaged by his interaction.
And finally we can say what we've been waiting to say. The uniforms are official, the pads are on, and there's no quarter left for Michigan football fans:
The away jerseys suck.
Uncle. The thing with the massive season previews that are a summer trademark of MGoBlog is this: they take a buttload of time. This is the point. They're supposed to be the bar-none definitive preview, relatively error-free and more penetrating than your generic "X starters return" item. But I sunk two months into the new site this summer instead of, like, anything else, and have two previews up three weeks before the season starts. The rest are obviously not going to get done, and this is a Michigan blog at a time when Michigan is entering a new era of its program. So, like, screw the rest of the league.
- Purdue and Penn State are done.
- Michigan State is already half-done so I'll finish that one.
- I'll try to do Wisconsin and Illinois since they're interesting.
- Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State will get vague overviews, but not the full treatment. (Four meh-ish teams, two of whom are off the schedule... and Ohio State? Well, what is there to say about OSU that's interesting? Obvious favorite in the league, potential issues at DT and QB. End.)
- Michigan gets the usual.
A stranger could have loved that town. File under "Only In Ohio":
A teenage employee celebrated his birthday by taking a bath in the utility sink at the Burger King in Xenia. Greene County Health Commissioner Mark McDonnell was emailed the video that appeared on MySpace.com and is now using it as evidence. ...
In the video, the employee dumps water on himself using a bucket marked with the words, "sanitary solution." But McDonnell said the sink is used to clean utensils and there is nothing sanitary about what the teenager did.
If you're in the Xenia Burger King you've already died and are in hell, so feel free to eat whatever you want.
If you missed it, I wrote a Deadspin-ish preview of Michigan for Deadspin. The commenters were unimpressed because they are Deadspin commenters and if they were to actually enjoy anything that wasn't a dick joke they would burst into flame. This inscrutable comment was my favorite:
Was this article turned down by Slate?
Is that compliment? I like Slate. What does it mean to be an article turned down by it?
Rings and stuff. I've gotten a couple requests for Olympics coverage. This is not happening. As mentioned I'm kind of all like "F*** ITS THREE WEEKS TO FOOTBALL" -- which is a weird feeling, let me tell you -- and the Olympics... well... meh. I enjoyed the 56kg weightlifting competition because watching tiny men lift Charlie Weis-equivalents is always fun, and seeing Middle Kingdom on national TV was pretty surreal, and Bela Karoyli says things like this:
"they're on the better place than to be in the first place right now. they are under UMBRELLA. UMBRELLA of PROTECTION -- PROTECTIVE UMBRELLA."
And that is awesome. But I'm not going to cover it. I suggest checking out MGoSwim for all your Michigan-related swim Olympics stuff.
We will use it for good. Lake The Posts highlights an particularly relevant section of an SI article on the spread offense:
...there was a great nugget in the piece on the fact RichRod and Walker were good friends. RichRod taught Walker the spread and as RichRod claims in the article, we took it and ran with it without even changing the signals.
This is particularly relevant because of the delightful table I constructed in the process of writing the "Holy Hand Grenade" article for Hail To The Victors 2008 that showed Northwestern smoking Michigan in YPC until Walker's death a couple years ago. Here it is, live in memorex:
|YPC||Nat'l Rank||YPC||Nat'l Rank||YPC||Nat'l Rank|
I've seen a lot of Northwestern's offense over the years and was confident it was similar to the Rodriguez spread 'n' shred; I didn't think it was the exact same thing.
That sounds like a battle tested guy. The AP inadvertantly summarizes everything about how Jimmy Clausen was the platonic ideal of an overrated recruit:
Jimmy Clausen figures he got hit a total of five times while his teams went 42-0 in high school. At Notre Dame, he was sacked six times in his first start and was so beat up after seven games he missed the next two.
A smallish quarterback two years older than his competion playing for a small-school power surrounded by major D-I talent who never so much as saw a rusher or, like, coverage is not "the Lebron James of football," as he was dubbed.
Just what they needed. Adam Rittenberg's Big Ten blog on ESPN has been invaluable in my previewing, but I wonder which Michigan State he's been watching the past thirty or so years:
"All the time," linebacker Adam Decker said when asked how much the players discuss Michigan. "Coach Dantonio came in here and made that game a point of emphasis. As a player, that's great because I'm from the state of Michigan [Rochester Hills]. As a Michigan State player, you want to beat Michigan. It's emphasized every day."
This is thought to be a good thing despite Rittenberg noting that the "sleeping giant" Michigan State program has a history of October collapses. Until recently, the annual October collapse was always because they'd shot their wad against Michigan and felt free to descend into an orgy of incompetence.
Note to poll voters: if you did not receive an email from me, please let me know. The first poll comes out Monday and you must be apprised of URLs and such.
SB Nation's excellent Missouri blog Rock M Nation will be joining the BlogPoll this fall, and they've thrown out a question to their readers: how the hell should we put together our ballots? This shows seriousness, which is an admirable quality in a voter, but a lack of deference to the poll's President For Life, which is neither admirable nor uncommon.
I've learned over time that I can't tell people what philosophy they should follow when compiling a top 25 poll. Or, rather, I've learned I can tell people what philosophy to follow and they'll just do what they want to anyway. There's only so much control you can pretend to have when the most respected college football blogger around thumbs his nose at some of the poll's published guidelines and the funniest one slaps up haphazard ballots 30 minutes after the deadline, usually after IMing me something like "oh crap give me a few minutes."
So vote how you like, with one exception. This is the exception: ballots designed to call attention to themselves are verboten. The lone spiked ballot in poll history came from Notre Dame uber-blog Blue Gray Sky after the first week of the season. Because I am stupid I deleted it, but by BGS's own admission it was designed to highlight how silly releasing a college football poll after one week of play is. This is a perfectly fine argument to make, and one I might even agree with, but your ballot is not the place to make it. Some voters tend to call attention to their ballots by their voting patterns, whether it's Straight Bangin's sadly prescient Michigan pessimism or SMQ's resume-only first week ballot or Double Extra Point's uncanny ability to have the most boring ballot; these are okay because their notability is a side effect of the voter's habits, not the entire point.
Other than that, feel free to be stupid -- because you will be stupid, iron law of polling, that -- in whatever way you want to. But I do think a unified philosophy benefits polling. SMQ highlights how goofy this polling enterprise can be:
But no one involved with any of the mainstream polls, despite their all-too-frequent use of the term, has ever defined exactly what they mean by the concept of the best team, or how they reach that judgment in comparison with that team's peers. Most of the time, the terms are described in an abstract way, as a mental sum of perceived parts, as if there existed a secret rating system, EA Sports-style, that could settle the issue once and for all.
The BlogPoll's concept of the best team in a sentence: the BlogPoll attempts to rank teams in order of season quality. This is impossible to do before the season and silly to do in the first few weeks, and at these times the poll should be regarded as an approximate guess of which teams will end the year with the highest season quality.
Suggestions to effect this ideal follow.
Once you have enough information, vote by resume only. What qualifies as "enough information" will vary from voter to voter, but I'm sure most will agree once teams are eight or so games into their schedules there's plenty of evidence to go on. Personally, by week five I try to excise everything except results. At that point there's no reason to look at future schedules, no reason to look at preaseason expectations or shiny offensive baubles. Just the facts, m'am.
When you don't have enough information, vote by your guess at team strength, not schedule. In an ideal world everyone would play an identically difficult schedule and this wouldn't be an issue. This is far from an ideal world, and some team just have nummy soft schedules. This is often cited as a reason to rank them high -- SMQ explicitly calls it out as a factor in his preseason ballot -- and drives me crazy.
Place great importance on schedule strength. The poll's greatest development in three years of existence was its continued, extreme skepticism of a Hawaii team that barely eked out victories against poor WAC teams and found itself in the top ten of most major polls and in the BCS against Georgia. That ended with Warrior limbs flung across most of New Orleans and everyone hurredly pretending like that never happened. You should take schedules into account more than it seems the other polls do, IMO.
Style counts. This is really tricky. If a team has three fluke plays go against them and loses a game it statistically dominated, what do you do? Dan Steinberg's pet Vegas Top 25 virtually ignores fluky results and thus can claim to be a better predictive device for upcoming games. The BlogPoll aims to be descriptive, not predictive.
The sad reality of college football these days is that schedules are so watered down and multiple teams will have the same records or nearly identical records at the end of the year but they'll have taken different routes to get there. So, yeah, team A had a better season if it crushed all comers and were under serious threat only a few times while team B squeezed by by the skin of its teeth, assuming schedules are approximately constant.
Back to SMQ for a pithy summary:
That is, assumptions about "the best" are frequently proven wrong by actual events. The best system, then, is not a rigid assessment of perceived strength, but an extremely fluid, strictly achievement-based approach that systematically rejects assumptions and accounts for chaos -- the inevitable black swan -- as the natural order. If South Florida's resumé is the second-best in the country in late October, then yes, it's the second-best team at that point. But probably not for long.
Co-sign. Man the ballot stations.