spoiler alert: i linked this
With only one day to accept comments, I'll cut right to the chase:
A few notes:
- A case can definitely be made for TCU jumping Boise at this point. I erred on the side of status quo, but if they can beat Utah, they'll definitely jump the Broncos.
- I think I'm satisfied with the order of the Big Ten teams. Although Michigan State got stomped by Iowa, they have a (convincing) head-to-head against Wisconsin, who has the same over Ohio State. The Hawkeyes' out-of-conference loss dooms them to fourth place.
- At the end of the poll, I wasn't scrambling for teams to fill in, but rather had to leave a potentially-deserving team (Nevada) out. I think there's a case to be made for 3-loss USC to be bumped in their favor, no?
- Baylor definitely deserves to be ranked, but the lack of a big win (which, lol that Texas doesn't qualify) leaves them near the end of the list.
All other comments are welcome, and the resume chart lives here.
Schadenfreuede starring you. You may be featured in TWIS…
It's time to play "MGoBlog Content Or Smiths Song?"
…but so am I so it's only fair. Also the first one isn't actually MGoBlog content, it's from MGoFootball, but it was too perfect.
What happened when that other thing was happening. If you weren't one of the sixteen people at Yost on Saturday this is what happened:
That completed a four point weekend after Michigan's last-ditch tying goal led to a shootout loss in Big Rapids. The NCAA does not use shootouts as part of the PWR formula so to them it's just 1-0-1, which is a decent enough weekend against an opponent that traditionally plays Michigan very tough at home.
Michigan heads up to Fairbanks this weekend for a tough series against Alaska (That Alaska):
The Nanooks are 5-2-1 on the year and have a win over Colorado College; they've beaten some weak teams and lost to North Dakota at home and had a 0-1-1 trip at Munn in their first and only weekend outside of Alaska. After that Michigan gets a rejuvenated Notre Dame program at Yost; the next two weeks will go a long way towards establishing just what Michigan is this year after a slightly shaky start.
Brian Kelly terror level: reduced. I'm on record saying that in Brian Kelly Notre Dame had found a real coach who was likely to whip the talented but lost Weis leftovers into a formidable team sooner or later, likely sooner. Eh… not so much. The decision to have your freshman backup toss a fade to Michael Floyd when you need a field goal to win and a Groza candidate at kicker is Weis-level outsmarting yourself. Also it was against Tulsa.
So that's one thing. More damning still was what happened in the Navy game. At halftime Brian Kelly mumbled something incoherent about the "veer" to the sideline reporter, implying that the Mids had brought out the fireworks for their big game against Notre Dame:
If you saw the game you might have thought this was weird since the Navy offense looked pretty much like the Navy offense always does except the fullback wasn't getting tackled until he was 20 yards downfield. Navy blog The Birddog, which breaks down Navy games in detail equivalent to UFR, explains what the fancy new scheme was:
Kelly and Diaco just have absolutely no clue how the Navy offense works.
Navy started the game in the heavy formation, with two tackles lined up on one side and a wide receiver in the tackle position on the other side. Contrary to Kelly’s comments, this isn’t unusual at all for the Navy offense. Offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper frequently uses the heavy formation when the defense has an inside linebacker with exceptional playmaking ability; in Notre Dame’s case, that would be Manti Te’o. … The first down lineman on or outside the B gap is still unblocked as the quarterback’s first key, and the next player out is still #2 in the count. Since it is the lineman in the B gap that is left unblocked, that’s the path that the fullback takes on his run. If that lineman steps upfield and takes the quarterback, that’s where the running lane will be.
That isn’t something new that the Navy coaches saved for Notre Dame. That is Navy Offense 101. It’s the absolute basics; the bread and butter play run in every game out of every formation. If Diaco and Kelly hadn’t seen it before, then I have no idea what film they’ve been watching, or if they even watched any at all. That isn’t even hyperbole; they thought that Navy’s fullback ran through the A gap. And that was their plan– to send the inside linebackers crashing into the A gap that nobody was running through.
The Birddog explains Kelly's odd veer comment as a fundamental misunderstanding of the Navy offense based on the idea they run the midline a ton (they did run it against ND, but only twice). Which fine he's an offensive guy but that's got to be the explanation he got from DC Bob Diaco, then, so you're just devolving the gaping incompetence to the coordinator level. (This does not sound familiar at all.) So Notre Dame goes in at halftime aware they've made a fundamental mistake when it comes to the Navy offense and they change their scheme up like so:
Those ILBs kept running into the A gap for the entire game. Once or twice Te’o scraped outside to make a play in the backfield, and I’d think,”OK, now we’ll see something else.” But we didn’t. Notre Dame would go right back to the same old thing on the next play, and the Mids would pick up a big gain.
That's how you lose 35-17 to Navy. Navy then went out and lost to Duke, rushing for 148 yards at 4.0 a pop. So… yeah. As long as Diaco's around I'm not going to be that terrified of Brian Kelly. (This is not a criticism you can level at Michigan.)
Give me back mah bukkit. Elsewhere in Charlie Weis comparisons, Danny Hope is one easily-peeved walrus:
After Purdue cut its deficit to 37-10, Illinois threw three passes on a 57-yard scoring drive, including a 15-yard scoring strike from Scheelhaase to Chris James with 1:36 left.
"I probably would not have done that but I’m not going to cry about it," Hope told reporters after the game. "That's their choice, their call. I would not have done it. He’s the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, call it, chuck it and run it up."
Unlike former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who had a heated postgame exchange with Wisconsin's Bret Bielema after an Oct. 9 game in Madison, Hope doesn't intend to confront Zook.
"Why would I say something about that?" Hope said. "Game's over. It's his call. It’s done. I'm not going to cry about it."
Charlie Weis press conferences were laden with statements like "I'm not going to blame Jimmy Clausen for overthrowing Golden Tate, I take that responsibility myself. Another thing I'm taking responsibility for: our defensive line being comprised of mewling kittens. That's on me, and does not reflect poorly on the character of Ian Williams." Here Hope repeatedly states he's not going to cry about the thing he is crying about.
Etc.: 2011 PG commit Trey Burke continues to play well in local tournaments, going head to head with a top-50 player and coming out almost even in points (33 to 34) and seeing his team pick up the W.
[Ed-M: Added the video provided by Boyz n da Pahokee]
"It's an attitude adjustment... it can't just be some half-assed work ethic." Guys need to fight every game, every down. "We're gonna realize that shortly, and we'll get it done."
"Losing isn't good. Losing looks bad, and we don't deserve it. We've worked too hard, gone too far, and done too much, and this shouldn't be the outcome. It's going to change. I'm going to do whatever I can do, as much as I can do."
Every young football player coming in needs to make an adjustment to the next level. It comes with the experience of playing in college. "It's coming. It just needs to show."
The team has ability, and is showing effort. "It's just the mental apect, we need to improve our technique, we need to improve our reading skills. It's something that will come and I'm hoping it comes fast." The mental game is an acquired talent, you don't just wake up one day and know how to play football. Guys need to work at it, and they are learning it. "We're moving towards the place we need to be. We're just not there yet."
How to avoid pointing fingers at D? "We're a team for a reason. We're not an offense and a defense. We're a team. And when you point things at one side, it just kills it. There's a chemistry that we have as a team, and will build on for years to come."
Illinois is a good defense with a strong defensive line, and a good linebacker in Martez Wilson. "They're a solid defense, a very solid defense, but I think we should do well against them."
What was it like to miss last year's game? "I mean I've answered this question probably 300,000 times at every media event I've ever been to. Obviously it's not good. I don't like sitting at home watching it with my leg up."
Mike Martin's ankle injury - the only thing that hurts him is the physical injury. It's hard to come off that, but you adapt to the pain. No football player has ever been 100% healthy the entire season.
Rich Rod doesn't need his players to play psychiatrist with him. "He's his own man and he can handle himself. He doesn't need one of his players to mediate him and make sure he's calm."
What does the team think about media criticism of Rodriguez? "I could care less. I don't think I've ever read or listened to a single media thing that you guys have ever put out. So, I mean I could care less."
"We haven't had a team meeting yet, but from what I've seen from lifting today, our spirits are still pretty high."
The expectations on DL aren't on the player, but the position. Adam Patterson and Renaldo Sagesse have to step in for MIke Martin's production if he goes down.
The defense: "We spoke to each other after the game. We're all on the same bus... we told the young guys 'you're not a freshman no more. You're all a year into what, your sixth or seventh game.'"
RR's fourth quarter speech was about reminding players that the big stage is why they came to Michigan. They need to play together as a unit and step up, making the plays when available.
Scheelhasse can run and pass, and his teammates have been supporting his production very well. "He did it both with his arm and his legs." Have to prepare for dual-threat QBs every week practicing against Denard. A few of the guys Michigan has faced prefer to stay in the pocket, but seize the opportunity to run if they get it.
"Where we need to improve is our tackling and our third-down efficiency. We all take the responsibility for that. Me as a defensive lineman, I take a heavy burden on third down, because we need to get more pressure on the quarterback."
"The onus is on us. I mean the coaches, they can only do so much. The rest of it falls into the players' hands." Greg Robinson is a great coach, the players' execution in tackling, etc. is letting them down. "He's putting us in the positions, we're just not executing."
Nobody's gotten the Michigan defense's best shot this year. They haven't had 100% effort, execution, and responsibility in any game yet.
The team is excited every Monday to get back to work. They're disappointed with Saturday's performance, but can't dwell on it, need to try improving.
Not sure how the defense can force more turnovers: "If I had that answer, I'd be a coach right now." There's a necessary mentality that the team needs to improve. Same story on 3rd and long: "Those are key parts of the game that we definitely need to improve on. I don't know what it is, why we've struggled with it, but I'm sure the coaches know and we'll get into that this week."
Hasn't heard the rumors about Greg Robinson being demoted.
Players beat themselves up after the game about individual mistakes, not the play of the other guys on the defense. "What could I have done to help the defense play a better football game, and stuff like that sticks with you a little bit."
Ray Vinopal had a great week of practice, with a few picks. "He came in a little wide-eyed... for the most part, I definitely thought he played very well." He made some plays, didn't allow anything big.
They work on 3rd and long defense every day. "I guess that's not something you can improve on just in practice. It comes with game reps." They'll continue to improve with experience.
"Guys are still hungry. It's not gonna be like last year; We're gonna turn it around. We're just gonna continue to fight, and that's what this team's about... This group fights, they're hungry, these guys want to win. I guess that's just different than last year." They are different years, and there's no purpose i dwelling on similarities.
"We've been playing a lot of freshmen." Jibreel Black, Ray Vinopal, Terrence Talbott, and Courtney Avery have improved over 8 games, and will continue to do so.
Illinois has a versatile offense with a good running back, multiple offensive formations.
Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press. Photo from file.
Mike Martin is going to be OK this week. "He's our best defensive... one of our best defensive players period. One of the best in the league when he's healthy." Other people need to be able to step in.
Perry Dorrestein should be able to practice by tomorrow. "Michael Shaw and maybe even Fitz Toussaint, we'll see if he can get back in the mix there." Will Heininger will be more in the rotation this week. "You'll probably see him more likely playing going forward."
Cam Gordon is now the starting Hybrid [Ed-M: Spur], backed by Thomas Gordon. Ray Vinopal is the starting Free Safety, backed by Carvin Johnson. "I thought the personnel moves defensively, I think were good for us in the short term and the long term." Cam Gordon more comfortable closer to the ball. Vinopal did "ok" for his first time out there. Staff is trying to figure out a unit that can get some stops, part of it is just getting them to play better.
There haven't been changes to the defensive coaching staff. "No. I've just met with the defensive staff the last couple hours, and we talked about some of our issues and talked about what to do to get ready for Illinois." "Y'all don't deal with rumors do you?" Everyone is frustrated, but it's always a collective effort, win or lose.
He'll be spending more time on defense this week, because the more inexperienced players over there might need more coaching. Injuries will affect lineups, different packages. "We have what we have." If there was somebody else there who could help, he'd be contributing by now. "I have a critical view of everything, every coach, every player, everything in our program every day... That's what head coaches do, you evaluate everything with everybody every day."
"Schemes are way, way overrated as far at 4-3, 3-3-5." There's no front that does or doesn't work in a particular league. "It's the execution of the schemes. We've gotta coach the schemes the right way, we've gotta execute the right way." They'll try moving Craig Roh around a bit. Laughed when he heard rumors of defensive staff changes.
"They're a big screen-draw team." They hadn't done much of it with their fullback yet. Defensive recognition wasn't great on that, partially experience. "When an experienced player gets hurt [Mike Martin] - I'm not making excuses - whether you put a senior, junior, or freshman in there, when a guy hasn't played a lot of football, it's different."
"That was one of the positives of the game, is I thought Denard played pretty well." They were close to breaking a couple big ones. He landed on his hip the one time, but was able to come back from it. "His shoulder was better. It's good, but it's not 100%."
Speech to defense at the start of fourth quarter was just a pump-up one, nothing particular schematically.
Personal foul call? "Well, I don't want to get in trouble here. There's some plays I'll send in and get clarification on the rule." Turn in a few plays every week "there's a few more this week."
Illinois - Not a rebuilding year, because they returned plenty of good athletes this season. "They're playing at a very high level right now - probably playing their best football." One of the more athletic teams in the league and that Michigan has played in the last two years. Illinois is playing with confidence.
Illinois has a bit of a rhythm, their young quarterback is playing well for them. They have really athletic guys.
Illinois has a similar offensive scheme to Michigan, it may help the defense be prepared for it. It'll be different to do it live, because they don't tackle Denard in practice.
Goods drive at the game (Gates 2 and 8) to send to troops and families in Afghanistan. Tim Horton's is donating 720 pounds of coffee to send as part of it. Team will be wearing a flag on the back of the helmets. The American flag will be embroidered on the coaches' hats (not the Adidas ones from the Sep. 11 game).
Some of the D problems aren't going to get fixed overnight, etc. "Not just the freshmen, we've got a lot of inexperienced players playing defensively." There is a bit of improvement at this point, but not to the amount that they need.
"We've gotta get faster and more athletic defensively." That was painfully obvious from the film.
"I don't have any grand magic wands to wave [at the defense] and all of a sudden they're going to be playing better." Spending more time with the D is something he's done a few years in the past. If it was an easy fix, he'd have already done it.
Talking about defensive turnovers gained "We're almost like next to last in the country." They're trying to improve that by making sure they get guys in the right positions, working on recognition, aggressiveness. "If it doesn't work out, don't go in the tank the rest of the game."
3rd and long conversions: "If it was jut one particular thing, it would be easier to solve... or one particular guy." It's always something different. They need to look at doing enough third-down work in practice, already doing more than they've ever done.
"We're playing OK offensively, but I think we can play even better when we have more of a rhythm." Defense getting opponents off the field will help establish that rhythm.
"When you play a whole bunch of freshmen in the secondary, do you want to play a lot of man coverage or cover-0?" Need to find a balance with inexperience. Took a couple chances against PSU, and got beat.
Stop a slide like last year? "I don't have to think about it. Everybody else writes about it." People want to focus on the negative, because it sells papers. Team is better offensively, team is closer as a group, making strides in classroom and weight room. Young men are growing up. The wins and losses are bad, but there's more to it than that.
"These guys that are playing young and inexperienced from now, they're going to be experienced a year or two from now. I'm not happy, but I'm optimistic."
"Nobody's happy we've lost the last three games. We're still five in the good and three in the bad." People can't walk around moping, just need to learn from the mistakes, be mad for 24 hours, and start working on the next game.
Turnovers "I thought we were really pretty good at it most of the year." Denard used the bye week to go back and remember to have his eyes in the right spot. "Denard threw one ball he'd like to have back that could have been intercepted," and Hopkins had the fumble, but it was good other than that.
Defensive scheme change help? "we're gonna try." Trying to simplify some, but still give them the opportunity to be aggressive without exposing the secondary.
"I'm not sticking my head in the sand... we know what we have, we know what we've gotta have, and we'll try to fix that going forward."
10/30/2010 – Michigan 31, Penn State 41 – 5-3, 1-3 Big Ten
these were the same pictures used in the very first Greg Robinson post and were named –fail1, –fail2, –fail3.
A few years back my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I had one of those conversations that draw out over two weeks. You have them when the other person's position is so bizarre and unbelievable that unlocking the reasoning behind it is important if you're going to hang around this person for a long time—because it's possible the reasoning goes something like "I'm a stabby person who stabs you in the stab places."
The argument was about the narrative of overarching, capital-P Progress that the world is or is not making. I, the engineer, pointed to various statistics that all point in the right direction. She regarded all of it as different paths to the same thing: misery for all but a few. A Foxconn factory is just a handy place to jump off, and they take even that away from you.
I don't think we ever came to a satisfactory conclusion despite the lingering threat of stabbing, but I don't think we have to anymore. Since that conversation the world's financial system exploded, the economy fell into a deep and lingering malaise that figures to last most of a decade, and Greg Robinson was hired to coordinate Michigan's defense.
The worst part has been the illusion. Actually, the worst part has been the actual progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress. The worst part has been a combination of the illusion and the progress and the relentless losing.
The illusion: two straight years Michigan has leapt out to a hot start only to see all the supposedly quality wins evaporate. A thrilling win over Notre Dame devalued as the Irish collapse into a heap of laughable crap. UConn goes from team on the verge of a Big East championship to a team that can't even keep its head above water in a horrible conference. Indiana is still not a surprisingly good, competitive version of Indiana. It's just Indiana. Then there is losing, and not competitively.
The actual progress: Michigan has the #1 yardage offense in the Big Ten by a huge margin. The gap between Michigan and #2 Ohio State is considerably bigger than the gap between Ohio State and #7 Iowa. The prophesied Rodriguez Leap, which did happen last year, happened again this year. Rodriguez is what he was sold as.
That progress looked like enough to get Rodriguez through 2010 into a prove-it 2011 until some walk-on shredded Michigan for 28 first-half points. If Progress means not being Minnesota, Michigan is failing. At some point last night the extremely depressing score was 31-10 and the ticker scrolled to the OSU-Minnesota game, which was also 31-10. The Gophers managed to hold Penn State to a mere 33 points and caused them to punt an astounding six times. Michigan did it twice. A comprehensive description of the ways in which Michigan's defense failed last night is impossible, but here's an attempt: Penn State scored 24 points against Kent State, 22 against Temple, 13 against Illinois, and 44 against Youngstown State… with their starting quarterback.
Youngstown State is a 3-6 I-AA team ranked 94th in total defense. They are the closest comparison to Michigan's D amongst Penn State's opponents to date.
Greg Robinson should be fired. Tomorrow, yesterday, bring in Gary Moeller, bring in anyone, don't care. He should never have been hired, just like Jay Hopson and apparently Scott Shafer. At the time of his hiring he was a decade removed from his last sustained success, fresh off driving a respectable Syracuse program into Washington State territory. As a head coach, he sounded like an idiot. His team played like he was an idiot. Michigan hired him and has gotten exactly what they deserved.
The worst part other than the illusion and the actual progress and the relentless losing is that this was obvious at the time:
Anyway: being a stunningly incompetent head coach does not necessarily mean one is a stunningly incompetent coordinator. Numbers will have to make that case. Go, numbers, go!
Year Team PassEff Rush Scoring Total 2008 Syracuse 101 101 101 101 2007 Syracuse 109 108 104 111 2006 Syracuse 81 110 72 107 2005 Syracuse 37 97 67 57 2004 Texas 31 16 18 23
I'm a little stressed out by that. Robinson walked into a good situation at Texas* and managed not to screw that up, then went to Syracuse, where he had an average defense on a horrid team (1-10), which he then proceeded to crater for the next three years. Before his brief, star-making turn at Texas—again, for doing nothing more than treading water—he presided over one of the worst defenses in the NFL, getting fired after three years. The last actual success you can plausibly attribute to Greg Robinson came during his tenure as the Denver Broncos' DC, when his defenses were top ten in the NFL and a significant aid in Denver's back-to-back championships. Since then it's been abject failure save the one year in Texas.
Now it's even more blitheringly obvious. Syracuse is 6-2 despite Doug Marrone having R-U-N-N-O-F-T huge swathes of Robinson's leftover pack of unmotivated jackaninnies and while Scott Shafer's defense has gotten bombed in a couple games and is severely overrated because of games against two terrible I-AA schools and the worst I-A school (0-9 Akron, 56-10 losers to WMU and everyone else), the last two weeks they've allowed 7 and 14 points in road games against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Neither of those teams is good at offense, but neither is Penn State.
Greg Robinson is a terrible football coach. Hiring him was literally the dumbest thing Rich Rodriguez could have done, and he did it. Hiring Jay Hopson to see him leave two years later was a terrible decision, as was whatever the fiasco was with Shafer. The rot on defense goes deeper than Robinson, though—Michigan has insisted on being "multiple" this year, to what purpose is unknown. Week after week Michigan plays teams that sit in a 4-3 with a two-deep shell and play defense adequately enough for this Michigan team to be headed for a New Year's Day Bowl; Michigan has not maintained the same system year-to-year during the Rodriguez era, largely because the leftover guys on the staff are all 3-3-5 guys and they keep insisting that these DCs who have never run the system become One of Us. Braves and Birds nailed this problem when he compared it to Tommy Tuberville's zombie offensive assistants submarining Tony Franklin and eventually Tuberville himself.
Michigan's addiction to the 3-3-5 is causing them to do the exact same thing Rodriguez rejected as dumb his first year when he installed the spread because that's what he knew how to coach—they're shoehorning a coach into a system when that coach doesn't even know how to properly align his middle linebacker. At left, Michigan's horrible defense. At right, West Virginia's excellent 2007 D:
Kenny Demens finally moved further from the LOS in the second half of the Penn State game. The supposedly attacking, slanting, different-front-making defense has been a passive heap of quivering goo coached by someone who clearly doesn't understand what the system he is running is supposed to accomplish. Robinson's been put in a terrible position, but he has no track record save blithering idiocy and there is no reason to retain him.
As for Rodriguez, well, hell. The are four games left, for one. Michigan is #4 in total yardage nationally and isn't scoring at an insane pace only because the special teams and defense have been beyond terrible. The special teams were not a problem before this year and really the only problem this year has been the kicker*, which is a thing that just happens sometimes in college. If they overhaul the defensive coaching by either bringing in an actual 3-3-5 guy like Jeff Casteel—who may be in need of a job after the season—or toss the Tuberville saboteurs overboard and bring in a Serious Man, I'd be willing to see where the Denard Robinson era ends up.
*(Willing to bet that by year's end Michigan isn't giving up any yards on an average exchange of punts; kickoff returns have been bad but that's an incredibly minor facet of the game—an average team is gaining one more yard per attempt than M.)
Change please. How many terrible decisions does Jeremy Gallon have to make before he loses his job at returning things?
Also: gararagagagargh Vincent Smith third and two. Hopkins's fumble was not his fault; Robinson put the ball in his shoulder. (I'm surprised he handed the ball off high—if Smith was in the game Robinson's handoff would have been in Smith's facemask.) Shaw can't be healthy, Cox is not healthy, Toussaint is not healthy… it's actually possible that Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God has been more wroth than Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God this year. The tailback situation is so bad that even Fred Jackson has gone no sugarcoat:
“We have to play better,” Jackson said. “Let’s call a spade a spade. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got plays there to be made and we’re not making them, I’m talking from the running back position.
“We have to play better.”
This is different from Jackson's usual approach of calling a spade a fantastical thousand-story casino in the clouds.
DerpBord. The circumstances behind hiring Greg Robinson are eerily similar to those behind the re-hire of Mike DeBord after his "no mas" faceplant at Central Michigan, down to the seemingly more competent guy being pushed out due to unconfirmed but widely speculated conflict. One dollar Robinson is assistant (to the) linebackers coach in the NFL next year.
The Ron English Effect. The next defensive coordinator (or next head coach, depending) is in line for a mega Ron English Effect, wherein some guy takes over a crew of players returning a ton of starters and looks like a genius for improving them when all he really did is not prevent his players from aging normally. In 2006, Ron English inherited Alan Branch, Lamarr Woodley, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, and Leon Hall and looked like a genius. The next year absent all those guys save Crable he was bombed into oblivion during The Horror and Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game.
Anyway, next year's DC gets every starter back save Mouton, Rogers, and Banks, adds Troy Woolfolk, and should have a healthy Mike Martin. He could pick his teeth and look SMRT.
Martin doom. It's clear by now that Martin's injury is the dreaded high ankle sprain and we probably won't see him play effectively the rest of the season. Hurray.
Aw, hell, it's just variations of this with either equal or slightly less tolerance for Rodriguez's terrible choices on the defensive side of the ball. I do like the Hoover Street Rag saying the "shields are down." That's about right. Zook is loading his photon torpedoes.
[Update: I didn't realize commenting was off. Sorry for those who wanted to reply. You can now.]
Every man has his breaking point, when desperation overrides rationality and he's ready to start flinging excrement at the wall in the hope that it magically becomes a castle.
Mine came at 10:23 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010.
Michigan at this point is down 31-17, Penn State is driving, and Renaldo Sagesse just picked up a ludicrous (re-watched it 5 times on slow-mo) defensive holding for being double-teamed on the backside of a running play that went to the opposite sideline. Nothing Sagesse did helps the result of the play, which sees Black slant into the backfield and get pushed passed the running back, Kovacs, the deep (!) safety because true freshman Kovacsgrit clone Ray Vinopal didn't stick to the wall, getting blasted by a lineman twice his size, and a bevy of other would-be tacklers overrunning the play or sealed.
Rich Rodriguez at this point is on a sideline in Beaver Stadium, nestled between State College, Pa., and University Park, Pa. in a middle-of-nowhere geographical formation named, presumably without foreknowledge of its tremendous future irony, "Happy" Valley. He is dressed like a Michigan football coach, with parka, M hat, and headset, and is screaming at whichever referee could let such a travesty stand. Starting defensive tackles Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen are standing beside him, the former trying to bounce up and down because he has two ankles that can't take lateral movement, the latter just sucking air from being the fulcrum point of PSU's slow onslaught for three periods.
I'm standing on a couch at a mostly evacuated Halloween party in Commerce, Mich., dressed in a t-shirt with a nametag that says "PETER" in large letters, and orange makeup and silly string bits smeared around my mouth, coller, and chest. Unlike my school's head coach, I still have two entire lung-fulls of air, but that air is building, compressing, to the point that its release could have dire repurcussions.
Misopogal, dressed as a pumpkin, has stayed by my side, and is watching me warily, at once ready to disapprove of whatever comes out on all of that air, and privately scared to death of it. I look at her, and the release comes:
I'm ready to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, and apparently Rodriguez is right there with me. On the ensuing play, Michigan lines up with true freshman Cullen Christian (!) at deep safety, true freshman Terrence Talbott as the wide corner, and redshirt freshman and erstwhile receiver Cam Gordon as Bandit/nickelback. Fuck it. PSU's mite receiver immediately gets three steps on Gordon, and the mite's walk-on quarterback lays a nice one on the numbers during the enternity it takes for Christian to arrive. Fuck it. Penn State first down at the 10. Fuck it Fuck it Fuck it.
Tim grabbed the following nugget from RR's press conference after the game:
Terrence Talbott got some play at corner because the coaches were trying to see if they could find something to work.
It took three years, but we are there.
Where's the 'Paint'?
You were so loved, Don Schembechler. Why were you so loved, and I so feared?
At the beginning of this season I revisited the Decimated Defense thing again in hopes of finding hope. At the time I found small hope for the future, but not at all for this year. It included some breakdowns of our roster by position, recruiting profile, and time in the system, like so:
I was thinking about these charts last night when J.T. Floyd was on the ground, and I caught myself trying to explain to Misopogal that (after a night so terrible even she noticed) losing him would mean a huge dropoff to the next guy. The series discussed the attrition from transfers and graduation, but not injuries and busts, i.e. guys who just don't have what it takes to play Big Ten football. So I reworked them a bit, including positional transfers from Watson and Rogers, but then taking out the guys who either left the program, got injured, or were revealed to be upperclassmen for whom playing time would be a major liability.
Things that matter:
- Guys counted in charts above (c. 5/10/2010) no longer on roster: Justin Turner, Anthony LaLota, Vladimir Emilien, Demar Dorsey, Davion Rogers, Antonio Kinard
- Injuries: Mike Martin, Troy Woolfolk, Brandon Herron, Mike Williams (would probably have been a liability though)
- Upperclassman Liabilities: James Rogers, Adam Patterson, Renaldo Sagesse, Greg Banks, Steve Watson, Obi Ezeh, J.B. Fitzgerald?
Things that don't matter so much:
- Moved to Offense: William Campbell, Teric Jones
- Moved in from Offense: Quinton Washington (except remember this was like three days ago)
- Other moves since May: Carvin Johnson and Thomas Gordon to LB (Spur). Craig Roh to LB (SAM). Jake Ryan to DL (DE).
Click to enlarge.
As you can see, the troupe available for Penn State was ridiculously young.
This is a bit unfair to the senior D-Linemen, who on a better team probably wouldn't look as bad (I'm not at all sold on Greg Banks = Rondell Biggs). Rich Rod did what he could to limit the time of the senior defensive linemen, giving Black a lot of snaps at DE in place of Banks and platooning Patterson and Sagesse. But I saw these guys getting run over enough to start wondering if burning a redshirt for Talbott or Ash is a good idea; considering they're both project recruits, it's probably not.
Defensive back Sagesse/Banks/Patterson is James Rogers and...uh...yeah. Playing Cullen Christian at deep safety on a critical 1st and 10 is throwing crap against the wall, but look at the barrel: it's not like there's a lot else to throw out there:
When a true freshman whiffed on a PBU/possible pick-six on 3rd and 14, and the drive continued another 10 plays so that half the starters must rotate out, well, we're dipping into a lot of blue.
This is a really really bad defense that relies on a lot of 3-star freshmen and probably some guys who should have been 2-stars. UMass could tear us apart; why not Penn State with a walk-on quarterback?
The point is this: we already thought the defense would be bad in May. Since then, almost half of the possible defensive contributors either transferred, got injured, or proved themselves mostly useless. We aren't just the bottom of the Big Ten; without Martin, we're probably in the middle of the MAC.
How did this defense get so bad? Brian took a look at the upperclassmen this week, noting blame based off of who recruited whom. Next week, I'll try to do something similar, but more like a shoulda-woulda-coulda depth chart that puts a bit more on RR for some of the fellas who left and didn't pan out. At the moment, I'm inclined to say he shoulders a lot of the blame, but not all.
Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork
What's wrong, guy?
This morning I woke up to a bevy of new diaries, most of which were basically two paragraphs of telling everyone how done the diarists were with our current coaching staff. One guy wrote "Fire Richard Rodriguez" and then seemingly slammed his head against his keyboard for several minutes. This, I guess, could be construed as high art. If so, it's now high art on the board, along with some other emo pieces that didn't really say much more than "Hi, I'm a Michigan fan, last night sucked, when can we fire this guy?"
Unfortunately, nobody thought to write an actually useful case for firing our head coach. However, if you're way off the bandwagon, either recently or from long before, you can take solace from a number of Rich Rod supporters who now admit they (we) got little argument left. For example, in his diary I've got nothing left," fredsaysbtdabks admits that he's got nothing left to say to irksome bandwagonners; he's just hoping we see a postseason. Meanwhile, in his diary Searching for something to hold onto, Drakeep is searching for something to hold onto:
I've always been in the "youthy defense" and not the "coaches blow" camp. But after last night I finally had a few moments where I just went, "well maybe coaching..."
A Plea for Patience from cbuswolverine compares the experience of starting secondaries among the best and worst defenses and -- surprise! -- finds that having mostly freshmen is not a good thing. We also got some Rational Venting from jsquigg, who awoke the spirit of the Great Otter of Soul-Crushing Ennui:
As the game ended against Penn State and I drov e home from BW3 where I was watching the game, I felt surprisingly unemotional. Usually I feel strongly one way or the other, but tonight it was like I knew what was going to happen even though it seems like Michigan should have an advantage on the field given the circumstances going into the game (Penn State injuries, walk on QB, etc.). I feel like I've seen this movie played out for the last 2.5 years.
If you're waiting for the standard Henri pic, dollars to donuts he'll be there for you tomorrow. As for an official MGoTake on Michigan's coaching staff, you'll have to wait for Brian; my advice is to think long and hard about what would make us the best possible team in 2012-2022. Nobody's getting fired this week.
Can We Talk About Something Else?
Okay. Here's a quandary. Say you are tasked with shipping a football to the opposite endzone across 100 yards of dangerous late-'90s Big Ten defense. You have a bunch of big uglies up front who can get your vehicle to the 2nd level, but from there, your choice of transportation is going to have to do the rest of the carrying on his own. Do you want:
a.) a Train, or b.) a Truck?
That's the question posed by Maceo24 in his epic Who Ya Got? diary. I went with A-Train, since for three of my university year falls he was my favorite player. I don't remember Ron Dayne being all that great, but I guess that's cause I only saw him play against Michigan in 1998:
Michigan had two tailbacks, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Thomas, each rush for more than 100 yards against the nation's top-ranked rushing defense. Playing its first game against a ranked opponent, UW couldn't clinch a Rose Bowl trip as its offense featured season lows in points, first downs, rushing yards, third-down conversions and time of possession. Dayne went the wrong way on three audible calls, saying he was bothered by an ear infection and crowd noise, and was held to a season-low average of 3.3 yards a carry.
After scoring on a 34-yard touchdown run, Dayne finished the first half with 88 yards on 14 carries. But eight more carries in the second half produced no net yards as Michigan's defense swarmed against the run and quarterback Scott Kavanagh was unable to make enough plays in the passing game.
The '99 recap also mentions Brooks Bollinger. Seriously, that guy was already around back then. Also: it's funny because Ron Dayne never beat Michigan.
This week witnessed the birth of a new MGoFeature, a video-ized version of Brian's picture pages, and the best thing in moving pictures since they told the drunk with the piano to take it to the parlor. Chris of Danger simply put the moment-by-moment analysis of these two plays right into the video. So far he's done Losing Contain, Again Again (above) and (More) Freshman DB Doom.
For facing down the horrors of videography and Youtube, and because we should all encourage him to keep it up, Chris (of Danger) is your Diarist of the Week.
We also had a great diary from Enjoy Life which took another look at The Mathlete's Master's Thesis on going for it on 4th down, but tried to apply a more practical cut-off for when to go:
This is probably better taken as "a conservative coach who doesn't want to lose his job should be calling it like this." I took his data, punched in some of my own numbers, and came up with a more specific chart, using Michigan's offensive and defensive statistics from Penn State, that we should use for the rest of the 2010 season:
Grid of Expectation
We had the usual bout of prognosticators again this week, although I fear this is the last we will see this season of one of them:
|Our Defense, Their Offense - Judgment Call||mistersuits||Normalized PPG and YPG||M, 28-24|
|Penn St Preview||The Mathlete||PAN||M, 35-24|
|A Halloween Statistical Look at Saturday's Game||Mr. McBlue and RR Too||RR's history on Halloween||M, 31-26|
|Post Week 8: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||Yardage-Score||M, 35-24|
|Things to think about this week+small PSU preview||tasnyder01||Bored||PSU < 350yds|
|Gray's Sports Almanac Volume II (2001-2050)||Metro Publishing||Dust-repellant paper||Cubs win 2015 World Series|
|Farewell to the season||THE_KNOWLEDGE||Is from Future||Went Back to the Future|
* Would the plural of "JoePa" be "JoePae" under the original Latin declension?
Fantasy football fan myrtlebeachmaizenblue put together an All-Michigan fantasy football team, and a bunch of responders came back with fantasy teams from other schools. The NFL Wolverines have a vicious passing offense behind Tom Brady behind Jake Long, David Baas, and the 2000 boys, and passing to Navarre's receiver trio (plus Super Mario). We have like no safeties unless you want to count Marlin (but you knew that). RB is Hart.
The Ugly Game of the Week by stubob went with mascots this time. Lesson: don't be a rebel.
On MSU, I figured I'd put this here, though it aint a diary: if you're wondering why Rucker's suspension is not like other 2nd time offenders' DUIs, here's a nifty chart of recent DUIs and the punishments faced. Findings: don't drink and drive, but if you're going to, it's best you have a scholarship to Ohio State.
Yooper tracked Big Ten blogs, a chance for MGoBlog, captain of M-Lore, to show its quality (the very highest). The Quantcast stats are a bit wacky, else RCMB would beat us, but they're not really a blog, so I'm cueing the Yay! girl and calling it a night.
In an effort to keep the moderators from pulling their hair out we've gone back to semi-lockdown, where you need 500 points to start a thread and 100 points to leave a comment. Things will return to normal Monday whenever I remember to change the settings back.
Yes, this is the same thing that happened after last year's incredibly depressing loss to a weak opponent on Halloween weekend. Here is a kitten:
[Ed-M: Big kudos to Tim, who got this up at 5 in the morning. Note: images are not from last night. Also note: the last interview was mine].
On that thing that was on the field when the offense or special teams wasn't:
Can't say too much about what the breakdowns were until after seeing the film. It didn't seem like the team did a good job getting off blocks and making tackles. Some cutback lanes were open for Penn State. "I'll have to check our backside pursuit."
"We didn't execute well offensively either, in the first half. I thought there were enough plays out there offensively, if we could have got a few stops here and there, got a little momentum, that's what you've gotta do when you play in this kind of environment."
Rodriguez was disappointed with the team's trouble executing the no-huddle. "Our guys know that, and they'll try to be a fix for this week."
"The frustrating part is it's not just one person, it's usually a different thing. The inconsistency I think is a little bit frustrating for everybody, including our guys on defense." The guys didn't quit in the second half, but you have to make the plays when they're available.
"We've gotta put them in a position to make the plays. Gosh it seems like forever since we've gotten a turnover." The defense or special teams just needs one or two of those to spark them.
It's most frustrating to get the opponent in 3rd-and-long, and then still allow the conversion. "We've gotta play better, certainly. I didn't think we were real good on third down on offense today either."
On Mike Martin: "It was a different ankle. That's a blow, because there's no question that Mike makes a difference when he's in there."
Perry Dorrestein didn't play because of a knee sprain. "Denard got banged up but he felt good after." Jibreel Black and JT Floyd both went back into the game after minor injuries, and should be fine.
Denard had an OK game, but he'd definitely like to have a few of his throws back. His shoulder isn't quite 100%. "He's a great competitor, and I thought he competed all the way to the last snap." He landed on his hip funny when he briefly had to come out of the game.
Hagerup practiced kickoffs this week, because Seth had been struggling with them. He did a pretty good job.
Should he have used the onside kick earlier? "No, because there's plenty of time, we had a couple timeouts left. Again, you let them start about midfield..."
"Gallon did a good job returning kickoffs, except the one mistake when he was losing his balance. The blocking wasn't great.
It's Not an Excuse, but, uh, Freshmen:
"We've got a few upperclassmen that are really trying as hard as they can defensively. Sometimes our youth gets picked on somewhat." They're trying to help the young guys grow up, but there's only so much they can do.
Rodriguez doesn't want it to sound like an excuse when he refers to the youth on defense, but the facts are what they are. "You look out there and there's a true freshman, and another true freshman, and a redshirt freshman... Ray Vinopal got his first start as a true freshman, I thought he did OK, but there's probably some mistakes made too."
"We know where we're at right now, and we've gotta do what we can defensively so we can play at a higher level."
Terrence Talbott got some play at corner because the coaches were trying to see if they could find something to work.
"All throughout the game I think Denard played well."
The defense was blitzing a lot to force Michigan's offense into doing some things they didn't want to.
"We've got a couple of big-time losses and sometimes people start to think it looks kinda glum, kinda gloomy. We've just gotta persevere through it, win some football games, get bowl-eligible."
"We had some good protections. There's just a couple instances where a guy let in some penetration. It was really loud out there, so some of the snap miscues, but I think all-in-all we had a pretty solid day."
Injury? "Just a little swollen, couldn't play to 100%." Will you be back next week? Yes, yes."
The offense had a couple good plays, but they just stalled in execution a few times.
"We'll just get back to Ann Arbor, watch the film, correct our mistakes, and go from there."
Ed-M: Bumped due to info/graphic awesome.
Diarist Note: The Pick-4 contest is up and running at the JCB. We have an assortment of good football and soccer coverage over there to set you up for the weekend. I’ll have weekend picks up later, so you’ll know exactly which teams to fade while I try to gamble my way out last week’s slump.
In a season of transition for both programs, Penn State and Michigan meet in Happy Valley tomorrow night in what could prove to be a signature game for the winner. Neither club has any Big 10 Title aspirations, but critical bowl positioning and perhaps even the inside track to the Gator Bowl, will be on the line when the ball finally kicks off in anger in primetime.
This week’s Big 10 slate is highlighted by the showdown in Iowa City between the Hawkeyes and Spartans, but this contest has implications that loom as large, just in a different venue. What happens to the loser of this game? For Penn State, it means they probably will do no better than a 6-6 record. Or worse. Will the cries for Joe Pa’s head reach the levels of 2003 and 2004 if the Nits revert to their losing ways from the early portion of that decade?
And speaking of cries for heads, how about Rich Rodriguez. There isn't a coach in the country taking more heat for a 5-2 record than Rodriguez, the remaining residue from his 8-16 mark during his first two seasons. A third loss in a row and November might end up being more kind to turkeys than the Wolverines current head coach.
5-2 by year three is just unacceptable, dear.
Everyone here knows all those storylines, so I wont bloviate on and on there. Tomorrow night’s game should be a blast and it will help define what sort of final month either club will have. Here are some of the keys to the game, as I see it through the MGo Over/Under Board. Place your bets accordingly.
First, however, it should be noted that with the conference breaking into two divisions and Michigan and Penn State being seated on different sides, this will be the last PSU/UM in at least a couple of years. Who knows when the Maize and Blue will be back in Happy Valley, so to honor the moment let’s go back in the Way Back Machine, courtesy of Wolverine Historian, and remember the Wolverines' first-ever visit to Beaver Stadium:
Ah, memories. You shall be missed, oh second-largest.
(The picks, after the jump.)