4/10/2008 - Michigan 4, Notre Dame 5 (OT) - end of season
During Billy Sauer's period of extreme incompetence at the beginning of his sophomore season, I figured out which of the parents in the Michigan section was Sauer's mother. There were hints -- she always sat next to a woman in a Sauer jersey, for one -- but the key "this is definitely her" event came when I made a sarcastic remark about Sauer and her head whipped around to identify the offender. We kept the volume of our sarcastic remarks down thereafter.
Our prior restraint was soon unnecessary. The sarcastic comments stopped once Sauer first reached competence and then exceeded it, but the presence of Sauer's mother remained something of a burden. Though I don't know what anyone else's parents look like except those of Jack Johnson -- for obvious reasons -- and Scooter Vaughn -- for equally obvious reasons -- I imagine they come off as less... severe.
Jack Johnson's dad had the time of his life at each and every game. While Mrs. Sauer may be a vibrant woman in the course of her everyday activities, at Yost she's always seemed grim and sad. This probably says more about being the mother of a goalie than her. I have made a mental note to never let hypothetical children of mine guard anything other hypothetical children are supposed to put balls or pucks past.
I find attempting to analyze hockey impossible. Football is discrete and measurable. It lends itself to charts. Basketball is in the early stages of a tempo-free statistical realignment. And baseball is a stat heaven. Statistically-minded hockey fans are out of luck. NHL fans can find shift-chart data and make some calculations about even-strength goals for and against. The next step is to take a player's opposition into account and normalize for strength of schedule, resulting in... a vague idea that a player is kinda good when averaged across hundreds of minutes. The idea of analyzing a single game is absurd. Pucks bounce.
The INCH podcast previewing the Frozen Four brought this point home. I listened to it and thought their analysis was pretty stupid, then attempted to improve it mentally, then failed at that, then was enraged by their Hockey East knob attempting to justify a Gerbe Hobey because "every great player" spears opponents to get an edge.
In contrast, I spent the week before the Ohio State game predicting that Vernon Gholston would obliterate Steve Schilling and Beanie Wells would grind out 200 yards on an excessive number of carries; this was (unfortunately) exactly right. But it's not the exactly right bit that matters: it's impossible to make a statement of that specificity about a hockey game without being ridiculous.
What are you supposed to say? "Watch out if Sauer lets in an early goal, freaks out, and lets in two goals so horrible you nickname them 'Nickelback' and 'Creed' because the furious comeback the team mounts in the next half-hour will see them tie the game but cost them their legs and cause them to lose in overtime"?
Hockey is a bitch, and makes the observer feel helpless. The observer is always helpless -- this is the definition of "observer" on a non-quantum level -- but the random number generator that produces goals emphasizes the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. If all sports fandom is a form of emotional gambling, football is poker and hockey is roulette. In the NCAA tournament said roulette comes with a gun and the appellation "Russian" -- how apropos -- and I'm terrified. Every time. I cannot function.
So I understand Billy Sauer pretty well, I think. I empathize. I wish I didn't.
We were exiting the arena in a herded mass, attempting to come to grips with what just happened. I saw a woman in a Sauer jersey ahead and was just perceiving the import of that, picking out the woman I've seen at Yost for three years, when I heard one of the people I was with sum up his opinion of the game.
She's probably overheard her share of nasty comments. She's definitely heard me say something meaner. This one was worse because it was matter-of-fact, evenly delivered, and indisputably true. It lacked hyperbole, utterly.
"Sauer dug them a hole they couldn't get out of."
She turned around. Her eyes looked bloodshot and tired as she scanned for the offender, then she gave up and moved off into the crowd with her husband.
- Remember how I spent a month advocating Notre Dame's inclusion in the tourney before the seventh and/or eighth WCHA team? Nevermind, bring on Mankato.
- I didn't have a great angle on the third ND goal, the backhand one, and kinda thought it might have picked out the top corner. Not so much:
- For both semifinal games the NCAA put the pep bands on the other side of the arena from their fans. WTF?
- North Dakota fans made a very strong showing; too bad their team did not follow suit. They had more fans than any other school, and even after getting housed a lot stuck around for the late game. Just about every BC fan left.
- I don't think I have to tell anyone this, but: as long as Jeff Jackson is around at Notre Dame they're going to be a good team. Jackson turned Dave Poulin's rag-tag bunch of losers into a tourney team and is now recruiting on a level better than anyone in the league save Michigan. He's 53.
- So we've got a decade of regular tourney appearances by ND on the docket. Miami's got a new Goggin and will not be going away any time soon. (Carter Camper say what!) The era of the Big Two and Little Ten in the CCHA is over, and not a moment too soon. I'm looking forward to more than four big conference games a year.
- You'd think something as heteronormative as all the men bellowing something and the women screeching in response could not possibly be gay, but the Notre Dame pep band would prove you wrong on that.
- Excellent turnout by Notre Dame fans -- better than BC. Could this be the turning point for Notre Dame hockey fan interest? They get the Cinderella tourney run complete with overtime victory over Michigan, then get beat by BC of all teams in the final. Carrot... carrot... STICK STICK STICK. It's a great way to get hooked.
Separate list of confirmed sightings.
One of the super-cool things about the Frozen Four is it acts as a community gathering for the entirety of college hockey, which is just big enough to pack an NHL rink and just small enough for everyone to fit inside.
Jerseys or other paraphenalia representing the following teams were located by myself or compatriots:
(all but UAA.)
(I'm sure there were some NMU/LSSU fans there, but we didn't make any contact.)
Providence (including one guy with a killer handlebar mustache)
What is the chance of us getting a prime time night game at U of M? There is a ton of exposure goes on with night games and the athletic department can't just sit and watch other schools take away that exposure. Now that Rich Rod is here is it more of a possibility?
I would assume that it's more of a possibility with Rodriguez around, as WVU was willing to play on a Tuesday at 3 AM if it got them on TV, but probably not a strong one. Rodriguez can change some things by fiat; this is not one of them. For evidence of this check the Michigan stadium renovation plans, which do not include lights.
The opposition to night games is an institutional and cultural one that won't go away overnight. The administration doesn't like the idea of a night game because
- Old people would fall asleep in the third quarter and maybe die from cold
- Young people would pass out in the third quarter and maybe die from drink, and
- Middle-aged people would get cranky about driving back to Chicago.
I wouldn't mind a night game or two, personally, but I understand the admin's reluctance. It's not like Michigan is suffering for television exposure.
One idea I think might work: pick a Big Ten opponent and play one night game every other when that opponent comes to town. That would provide said game with extra cachet and maybe amp up the stadium experience for that particular contest. Ideally, the team should be consistently good and not have any extant tradition or rivalry. This rules out Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Indiana. Purdue... meh. Illinois must never get the impression that we care about them in any way whatsoever, so they're out. Candidates, then: Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
I have one question for you, regarding two certain web sites I think you have had plenty of experience with. Which site would you recommend subscribing to: Scout.com or Rivals.com? I only want to join one, and I am hoping you say the better site has the better mag as well.
I must confess to having considerably less experience with Scout than one might expect. I was briefly a subscriber there but let it lapse. (Subscribing to two separate recruiting websites is a bridge too far even for me.) Also, I've never gotten either site's magazine. I've leafed through a copy of The Wolverine or two and it seemed fine for something on "paper" or whatever you call it. From what I've gathered, Scout's mag is weak sauce that only exists so the U can't turn them down for press credentials and the like.
I do have some experience with both, and participate -- mostly lurk -- on a message board where opinions about the sites are often bantered. What follows is a combination of personal experience and the collected wisdom of said message board.
Scout and Rivals are extremely different sites. The Wolverine is amongst the most professional recruiting sites out there. Go Blue Wolverine is a cult. This isn't all bad for GBW, since the cult is based around Tom Beaver, the chief koolaid purveyor* in all of Wolverine land. Name a personality disorder and Beaver probably has it: megalomania, workaholism, ellipses fetishization, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Slightly over half of these are very annoying; the other half are useful. The end result is the premium message board at GBW, a "TJBlog"-laced minefield of unreadable crap, hero worship, outright speculation, and a really spectacularly annoying system of "percentages" wherein a wink-wink lock is "50.1" to Michigan and a no-way is "49.9" and it's just all very grating.
HOWEVA, within that minefield is more information than is generally provided at Rivals, for a given definition of "information." Occasionally GBW will be out ahead of a story; occasionally they'll be out ahead of a story and just be plain wrong, which cues another round of highly annoying recriminations. Eight now they've collected a set of program insiders and coaches who are providing a wide array of spring practice information that Rivals is getting a shadow of.
- Hockey coverage. Though much of it is free, it's much better than GBW's nearly nonexistent version of same and you should support it on principle if it's important to you.
- Prose. Rivals isn't David Foster Wallace but Beaver and the people he hires sometimes seem nearly illiterate.
- Software. Scout was programmed by gibbons and it's damn near impossible to navigate. Rivals has a more navigable, more usable site.
- Professionalism. This is a matter of taste. Rivals will let you read between the lines when they know a kid is going to commit to Michigan but not come right out and say it. The annoying hero-worship aspect that overwhelms at Scout is still present at Rivals but toned down.
- Big stories. Rivals killed Scout during both coaching searches. I think it's clear they're much closer to the administration. This is no surprise since Beaver lives in Texas, IIRC.
- Insiders. Often the best content on the premium sites is provided gratis by mysterious program insiders that just want to be internet heroes. With the dissolution of Fort Schembechler their importance is lessened in some ways (injuries and the like are no longer state secrets) but heightened in others (open practices attended by high school football coaches are a goldmine of information). Right now GBW has an array of guys providing their takes on what they've seen that outstrips Rivals' considerably.
- More updates. If you're the sort that needs to know what's going on NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, and NOW, GBW is probably for you.
- They don't delete MGoBlog links on sight. I'm just sayin'.
Both sites have pretty weak basketball coverage.
What it comes down to is your tolerance for bad information and general stupidity versus your desire for every tidbit, dubious or not, you can scrounge about Michigan football. The choice is yours.
*(usage note: references to "koolaid" and the Jim Jones suicide cult have been driven into the mainstream by Jim Rome and his robot followers and now rank amongst the greatest crimes any sportswriter can commit, but in this case the metaphor is highly apt and must be used.)
- It's snowing like a mother; Saturday it will be 60.
- There is a woman on the local news actually named "Amelia Earheart," no foolies.
- This area of Denver is the designated convention-center type thing and is pretty cool, but a little weird: right next door to a candle shop is a payday loan place. And not two blocks from this shmancy Hyatt Regency is a ghetto pawn shop/dive bar area.
- A few people have inquiring about a potential beerfest; if you are so inclined our party will be retiring to the Wynkoop Brewing Company -- recommended by Starbucks baristas when prompted for a snooty microbrew bar -- after the game for the celebration/wake, as is appropriate. Map. I look sort of like this, except now more like a dirty hippie and less like a middle-aged housewife.
- I've got a couple mailbag questions answered so I might as well post 'em.
Avalanche. You can note on the right sidebar a number of new clip reels put up by Wolverine Historian recently. And there's more, oh, more. How about a five part retrospective on 1997?
Raise your hand if you're shocked. Mario Manningham attended UAB during his Michigan career, if you know what I mean:
After hiring an agent, however, Manningham showed up in better physical condition at his pro day and ran considerably faster. He also distributed a letter to NFL team officials admitting that he "wasn't straightforward" during team interviews at the Combine, had failed two drug tests while at the University of Michigan and apologized for any confusion he caused as a result of being "nervous and scared."
"I don't use marijuana anymore â€” and I have passed tests since," Manningham wrote in the letter. "I know what is at stake for me, and my career. I am learning what it is going to take to be a professional. I am writing this letter because I just want a fair evaluation, and I want to be accountable for my actions. I am willing to be re-interviewed, re-tested, and to undergo any evaluation any team wants me to undergo."
The way we hear it, Manningham, despite handling the situation poorly at the Combine with little guidance, is viewed as less of a character risk than Talib, who has been removed from more draft boards than Manningham, based on conversations PFW has had with nine NFL teams.
I guess now it can be told: multiple tipsters reported during the season that Manningham's suspension for the EMU game was the result of Manningham (and housemate Johnny Sears) getting evicted for blazing constantly.
Manningham's senior season was odd. Many Michigan fans crabbed about Manningham's demeanor, attitude, and production. While the first two items might have been legitimate issues, the third... uh...
Manningham also had 53 yards rushing on a combination of jet sweeps and technically backwards passes in the Florida game.
Bolded are the games piloted by Ryan "Whoops" Mallett; but for one 97-yard touchdown horrifically misplayed by a Wisconsin safety they -- when taken with two games in which Henne was doing his best Whoops impression** -- represent the only games of the year in which Manningham's total contributions were less than excellent. The only thing that held him back this year was incompetent quarterbacking.
If this is Mario's brain on drugs, whichever team drafts him should include a kilo of pot in his rookie contract. He's stoner Popeye.
*(post-apocalyptic oregon game)
**(one of those horrible games from Henne was due to a separated shoulder, duly noted.)
Oh, like, duh. This is as shocking as Mario Manningham's pot use. Re: AANews eighty-part investigative series launched in 1856:
Michigan notified the NCAA and the Big Ten about issues raised in the newspaper before the series was published, according to Kelly Cunningham, a university spokesperson.
A statement posted Tuesday on the university's Web site read, "Based on the university's extensive internal review and findings, neither the NCAA nor the Big Ten intend to pursue this matter."
And that's that.
It's like the Marines except with less Demi Moore, who wasn't even a Marine in that one movie but she was bald so close enough. Rodriguez apparently has a press conference every time Michigan practices or he has to make a sandwich. (MGoBlue is archiving the audio here.) In the latest, he was asked about the offensive linemen who have fled in terror:
"I don't know if it's so much about the style (of offense) the guys who stayed, they just like to work," Rodriguez said. "They don't mind being pushed and demanded to take themselves to a place they can't take themselves. You don't have to be a certain style or size of player to do that. You just really, really have to want to play."
Herein, I think, are the seeds of Rodriguez's success at West Virginia and a reason his behavioral outliers are Chris Henry-extreme. He's looking for people who are kind of deranged in the same way investment bankers or politicians are. Really driven people are often driven because they've been damaged in some way -- for evidence check any movie montage ever. Sometimes this turns into Owen Schmitt and other times you get Henry.
"I think we had a lot more guys interested in talking about how tough they are than showing it," Rodriguez added. "So we have to explain the difference to them. I didn't think it was a very good scrimmage. It wasn't a waste of time, because there are some things we can teach off of and all that. The intensity level that we expect to play at, it wasn't even in the same atmosphere."
It's redundant at this point to say "wow, there's a new sheriff around these parts!" but like... dude.
A small glimpse into one of the practices:
We are your sport-specific rulers. I ran across something called "Sports Tech Now" and what appears to be an attempt to order the top sports blogs based on different traffic metrics. I'm not sure what their methodology is -- it doesn't help that I can't figure out how they picked MGoBlog #10 because of the mirroring I've got going on with mgoblog.com -- but let's 1) assume they're right or right-ish, and 2) remove the general/"lookit the boobs" blogs like Awful Announcing, Deadspin, and Busted Coverage to look more closely at sport-specific blogospheres. We get this:
|5||MLB Trade Rumors||MLB||88441||70773||38969|
|8||Kissing Suzy Kolber*||NFL||80814|
|17||Fan Blogs||College Football||22940||19652||323302|
|18||Burnt Orange Nation||College Football||10240||14953||259662|
|20||Minor League Ball||MLB||11957||13596||138590|
|22||Golden State of Mind||NBA||12699||12574||111052|
|23||Fire Joe Morgan||MLB||16602||12067||143345|
|25||Need 4 Sheed||NBA|
And though I love FO, I don't think it qualifies as a blog and mentally remove it. The top 25 is then dominated by baseball -- no surprise -- with college football a close second. I mention it because I've always thought the CFB blogosphere was a particularly vibrant one, out of proportion to the sport's media profile.
I'm leaving on a jet plane for Denver early Thursday morning, and leaving in an SUV Wednesday night because said jet plane departs from Chicago. Then I'm going to be busy finding reasonably priced tickets and watching both semis, and skiing the next day. The upshot for the reader:
- No content Thursday other than an open thread. Maybe something late depending on the quantity of revelry.
- I will try to get something up Friday but it's going to be late in the day, 6 or 7.
- I plan on going WOOOOOO until I get tear-gassed, brah, if Michigan wins the national title and will be flying back early Sunday, so celebratory content this weekend is not likely. If we lose, I'll wait till Monday for sure.
Posting will be as normal tomorrow.
Update 3/31: Added NJ DE Anthony LaLota, OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, AZ DE Craig Roh (offer, USC lead), CA OL Everett Benyard, CA WR Shaquelle Evans, SC QB Stephon Gilmore (article header), FL S Frankie Telfort.
Removed KS LB Jaydan Bird (OK), OH FB Zach Boren (just a feeling), TX S Craig Loston (dropped us).
Editorial Opinion: Ok. Sorry this took so long. I eventually gave up on noting all the various additions and articles as I google many of the new names. At this point things are still very fluid and providing blow by blow updates on half the country is probably not a good use of your time. So how about a general feel as to where things are going?
Quarterback. No movement from that update a while back: Michigan's looking at a half-dozen dual-threat and has no clear #1 choice now that Russell Shepard is off the board. Tate Forcier and Kevin Newsome remain the most prominent names who've mentioned Michigan amongst a leading group. There are a couple more guys who claim offers but little is known about them so far.
One upcoming event (no permalink available) that is of interest:
Chesapeake (Va.) Western Branch quarterback Kevin Newsome has said in several interviews recently that visits will play a key part in his decision. Showing his interest in Michigan, the 6-3, 215-pound quarterback has made plans to visit Ann Arbor.
"Kevin, myself, Kevin's father and [his grandfather] will be coming up to Michigan on Saturday," reported Newsome's mother Sunday evening.
Tailback. Jones is in the fold and Michigan is looking for maybe one or two more. They could take some ridiculous number with the intent of throwing them all in a pile and finding a couple guys to play slot or in the secondary.
In fact, let's just pile them together...
Wide receiver. Also a huge area of focus. I thought Michigan's WR haul was pretty respectable last year but Rodriguez and co are going full-bore after ten or so guys. Bryce McNeal, about whom more later, seems the most likely to drop to Michigan, and that possibly soon-ish. Many others are just starting their recruitments.
Between these two positions there are about 20 kids with known offers, and this is a year after Michigan took nine RB/WR/TEs. Rodriguez has made noises about getting the numbers up at the wide receiver position and it's clear he means it.
Offensive Line. This will probably be another four or five person class; there's been little movement here except consistent articles on instate OL/TE Reid Fragel, who's 6'8" and 250. Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State are all feeling him out but there are no offers on the table yet.
Defensive Line. Five-star Will Campbell was Michigan's first commit but is a little soft in that commitment; picking up Jones will probably help with that. Other than that, little movement. Some more offers have gone out to defensive ends but none seems a high probability at this point. Jay Hopson's offered every kid bigger than 250 pounds in Mississippi, it seems, but I remain skeptical about Michigan's ability to pull kids out of a place that's as deep south as it gets.
Linebacker. A ton of players here a year ago makes this an area of only moderate need, which is good. Michigan hasn't appeared on the short lists of any good prospects yet -- though they are on the longer lists of a number of players who haven't started whittling.
Secondary. Two commits, one of them a top 50 player, is an excellent start; Michigan continues to pursue a bunch of other guys, too. They have offers out to and are getting vague mentions by most of the top guys in the country, most of whom will probably head elsewhere. If they get another blue chip to go with Turner that would be outstanding; I kind of expect a lot of strikeouts and a lower profile guy or two.
At safety, Isaiah Bell's guru ratings after his early commitment will be interesting to track. Though he's not rated right now, that gushing ESPN scouting report implies he'll be a member of their top 150.
One guy worth providing blow-by-blow updates on is MN WR Bryce McNeal. Allen Wallace on McNeal:
"I'm not sure why, but my parents really like four schools," he said. "They like Colorado, Clemson, Minnesota and Michigan. My dad lives in Chicago and I live with my mom so they each have different reasons for liking these."
While McNeal says he likes each of those, Michigan is likely the favorite of those four. "They have a new head coach (Rich Rodriguez) and I'm eager to see what kind of changes they make to their offense. Also, I want to see how they do under coach Rodriguez. I think he'll be a great fit for them."
McNeal visited earlier and was impressed; he plans a return visit after he checks out Louisville's spring game. Ron English is recruiting him, which is interesting. GBW's Sam Webb on McNeal:
Expect McNeal's name to be on the rise in the coming months. He stood out from many other receivers in attendance with his ability to get separation on defenders. He often ran wide open through the secondary after a good route or a burst of speed. He also displayed good leaping ability and strong body control.
He's currently in the Rivals 250 and upward mobility from there would be good, though his offer list (the above mentioned four, Nebraska, UNC, and Iowa are the biggest names) lacks the pop of a truly OMG shirtless five star stud freak stud.
It's a little hard to tell because the below video has about four frames per second and looks like it was processed with the Atari 2600 in mind, but I think this is an impressive eight minutes of highlights:
The above-linked "Wire" area of Rivals says the McNeal visit will be the weekend of the 18th; a commitment seems a real possibility.
Appalachian State. Every one of Michigan's rivals (and, frankly, the rest of the planet) loves them some Appalachian State after The Horror, but State fans latched on to it harder than anyone else. Ohio State fans have their own -- for a given definition of "own", anyway -- accomplishments to brag on. Penn State fans have a decade of futility against Michigan and shreds of dignity and self-awareness. And Notre Dame would have lost to Appalachian State by 30. After a brief whooping period they kind of got over it.
Not so at State. Running back Jehuu Caulcrick:
"It felt like we won two games today," he said.
State is long-plagued by similar upsets -- Louisiana Tech, Rutgers before that was respectable, Central Michigan, Central Michigan again -- and improbable snatch-defeat-from-jaws-of-victory losses -- oh, God, too many to name -- so for Michigan to finally get the short end of the stick was sweet, sweet justice. Go to Michigan State's campus in the fall and you'll see so many people wearing black and yellow that you'll pull out a roadmap and mutter "how the f&#$ did I end up in Boone, North Carolina?"
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Wooo, motherfuckers, woo.
Talking about how hot the chicks are. Approach any Michigan State fan, grad, or provost and mention the words "Michigan," "Ann Arbor," or "University," and you will immediately be regaled with a dual-part homily. Part A will describe the Michigan acceptance letter the fan, grad, or provost has framed upon their wall. Part B will be a rousing encomium to the ladies of Michigan State.
Even the women will do this. It does not matter that this fan, grad, or provost might, say, be a 180 pound 5'2" woman, or, more commonly, a moderately in-shape girl with a blond dye job and a face Sarah Jessica Parker would find unpleasantly equine. She will regale you with tales of all the hot poon available for any brah with a barbed-wire tattoo and a 30 of Natty Ice.
Do you think I'm kidding? I am not kidding. The first two identifiable Spartan comments on the EDSBS "Things Maize & Blue People Like":
>> Michigan may be rocking its fair share of beddable, biddable, beautiful women
You've never actually been to Ann Arbor, have you?
Comment by SpartanDan â€” March 26, 2008 @ 1:54 pm
Concur with #42. On my HS visit to Ann Arbor, I made a conscious effort to count all the beautiful women. There were about 3. The entire day.
Also Orson, there used to be layers. Now, the ladies wear tights posing as pants. It helps a little, but still, it's a cold, hard winter.
Luckily, Oberon just came out, signaling the start of spring.
Comment by Ground0EastLansing â€” March 26, 2008 @ 1:58 pm
Their degrees may be worth $6.25 on the open market, but by God they've gotten to look at the asses of women they'll never have a chance with* every day.
*(They post comments to college football blogs.**)
**(other than the virile, model-nailing populace of this fine establishment, that is. You go, model-nailing virile commenters!)
Notre Dame Stadium. Michigan State -- MICHIGAN STATE -- has not lost at Notre Dame since 1993, a streak of six games. During that time Notre Dame has usually been somewhere between mediocre and flailingly bad, but that still has to be one of the weirdest current records in college football. I haven't bothered to look this up, but I'm willing to bet the only other teams that share that distinction with Notre Dame are teams State hasn't played since '93.
Rioting. This was going to be a cheap shot based on some long ago Final Four shenanigans until some of the brahs obliged over the weekend:
There isn't a group this side of Palestine more acquainted with the sweet smell of tear gas. I hear the Dupont '95 is developing a lovely honeyed nose, but the East Lansing police insist on using crap from South America that's well past its peak.
Update: Dude, Brah, it was intense:
Strapped like the Navy. Make sure to check the comments out.
Basketball. This is natural when you're the "state" -- or, like, "commonwealth" in Virginia -- school in any state with a flagship U-of that consistently beats the hell out of you in football, but State fans take it to a preposterous extreme. Anecdotal evidence from just last week: after Michigan took out Clarkson we decided to hang around the bar we were at for a while to catch a portion of the CC-Michigan State game, Michigan State being the one team Michigan did not want to face at any point during the tournament. At the same time, Derrick Rose and company were busy beating the everliving hell out of Michigan State.
Ann Arbor is the reluctant home of many Spartan fans and the owners of this place are alums, I believe, so the place was packed with brahs, all of whom looked like... well, probably a lot like I did during this year's Ohio State game. They were purely miserable. Meanwhile, the hockey team was a huge underdog -- a third place CCHA team playing the WCHA champs at altitude on an Olympic rink on their home ice -- and scored. No reaction whatsoever from anyone except the Michigan fans still around. They scored again. No reaction. At this point we start pointing at the televisions carrying the hockey game and begging them to pay attention to their very successful hockey team that's about to pull off a killer upset. It's halftime. Michigan State is down 30 to Memphis. And no one even looks when State scores again, because hearing Clark Kellogg say something like "JESUS CHRIST, if there are any women or children watching please turn on EWTN" is more important than actual success.
Michigan State's hockey team is the defending national champions.
I'm not sure if this is a compliment or an insult or what, but at this point State basketball fans are basically Michigan football fans, except with more brah, brah.
Anyone who does anything that harms or slightly inconveniences the University of Michigan in any way. See: Appalachian State.
300. Every Michigan fan who made the unwise decision to watch "300" spent the entire running time thinking two things: "my God those are some oily, slow-moving sixpacks," and "goddammit I bet whenever I go to a Michigan State sporting event, party, or commencement they're going to reference this movie in a really annoying fashion."
Apparently they've got a big Hoohoohoo factory in East Lansing.
Next Year. Because, man, that's the year they beat Michigan.
Chris Graham has just had tragedy befall his family:
NFL hopeful and local son Chris Graham tragically lost his sister, Jacqueline Love, in a house fire this past week -- a portable kerosene heater was the cause of the accident. Jacqueline, a single mom, leaves behind her 10-year old daughter, Jada Love. The child escaped the fire with minor injuries, but lost all of her belongings. The family is now struggling to pay for a funeral and has asked for the public's help in raising funds.
Donations can be sent to this address:
c/o Jeff Terry
4345 Forrest Manor Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Glasnost. It's no secret that Michigan has, until recently, operated at a level of paranoia and secretiveness rivaled only by Scientology. What's a secret? Everything else. Enter Rich Rodriguez as Gorbachev, and the walls come tumbling down:
For decades, the program operated under a shroud of secrecy that led to extremely limited media access. Last week, however, this reporter was able to walk right into the Schembechler complex, speak with not only the head coach but also the assistants and -- drum roll, please -- watch an entire Michigan practice.
That's Stewart Mandel, who -- like many members of the media -- has long been crotchety about Carr's... uh... crotchet-osity. Or whatever. You try turning that into an object.
Fans have been clamoring for more openness for a long time, for selfish reasons like it's nice to hear things like this:
Led up front by veterans Tim Jamison, Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson and Brandon Graham, and with both Trent and freshman All-America Donovan Warren (by far the most impressive player in practice) at cornerback, a dominant defense will likely be Michigan's best hope for a respectable transition season.
Fans love any piece of information they can get their greasy mitts on; Carr and company thought it detrimental to the program. Why? I don't know. I don't think they considered Michigan's media profile particularly important -- which it wasn't in 1969, the last time anyone updated the drapes or changed the culture around these parts -- and were loathe to let anyone know about Michigan's very tricky secrets like "run left on first play of game every game".
In 2008, things are different. Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer turned their programs into media darlings by 1) winning and 2) being accessible and, in Carroll's case, thinking everything is awesome. That tie you're wearing? Awesome. The donut you're eating? Awesome. Snoop Dogg? Awesome. Result: Shelly Smith is surgically attached to Trojan football and recruits all over the country spurn the local schools to be sixth on the depth chart. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
A quick check of any message board on the planet will reveal that every fan thinks the media is biased against their team. Incontrovertible proof: You can go to NDNation and read not-irregular complaints that NBC is biased against Notre Dame. QED, MFer. In reality, the media is mostly biased in favor of itself. Carr made their job hard by staring holes in their face whenever they asked an impertinent question and hardly ever providing the sort of access that makes a good story. Result: generally negative coverage of the program in the media. Rodriguez says "come in and watch this and I'll tell jokes about the Lion King." Result: stuff like the Mandel piece above. Media-friendly is the way to go.
Speaking of the media... the Daily meta-interviewed some of the Ann Arbor News interviewees and turned up something unethical:
Kolarik said he was misled by Ann Arbor News reporter John Heuser, who interviewed him for the story, about the article's subject matter.
"He told me it was going to be a tribute to Hagen's retirement, because he retired from one of his jobs this past fall," Kolarik said.
Kinesiology sophomore Greg Mathews, a wide receiver on the Michigan football team who was also quoted in the story, said he too felt misled about the focus of the story.
Mathews said the Ann Arbor News reporter who interviewed him - he said he didn't know who that was - told him the story would be a tribute to Prof. Hagen because he had retired from his position in the Society for Research in Child Development in the beginning of September.
I wonder if I Are Serious Editor has stopped spending every moment agonizing over Michigan's "culture of denial" and can now focus some time on an investigation that turned up almost nothing, outed embarrassing GPAs of innocent students in violation of federal law, and used unethical reporting tactics to get incriminating quotes from students who thought they were doing a professor of theirs a favor.
The administration is also looking for whoever leaked student's transcripts to the press -- which, like keeping an amphibious rodent for, uh... domestic... within the city limits, isn't legal -- and will undoubtedly fire the guy.
You remember how the News complained about the University being unresponsive and turned down an interview with Mary Sue Coleman because the U wanted it over email?
Heuser did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.
Jim Knight, managing editor of The Ann Arbor News, did not return repeated calls for comment last night.
Mmm, like rain on your wedding day except actually ironic.
Side note: back in October, Heuser acted like a dick during a press conference and got snipped at by Carr.
Why not? Rakes of Mallow, in the midst of complaining about Notre Dame basketball's nonconference schedule -- 250th in all the land:
Big Ten teams- A few years ago, the Irish played both Indiana and Michigan, a trend that sadly stopped the last couple seasons. While the team may eventually face Tom Crean's Indiana Hoosiers in Maui (one NCAA win in five seasons! As long as he can get Dwyane Wade to come to Bloomington, great hire, Hoosiers!), what's the reason for not facing Michigan, Indiana and/or Purdue on a yearly basis?
Word. Michigan and ND just locked themselves into a football contract that expires when the sun does; they're also in the same hockey conference. Why don't they play Notre Dame every year? There's an existing rivalry between the schools, ND is nearby, and the ND program is respectable but not exactly Duke or UCLA.
I briefly inhabited the city of Cork, wherein an unpleasant woman showed me a room with black plastic where a window should go, the view was nice but I decamped to Galway and that was Cork. The most bizarre biographical factoid about MGoBlog bete noire John Pollack, he of "Save the Big House" and Tiananmen Square fame: he built a boat
out of wine corks and floated it down some river. No, seriously. If you don't believe me, believe 20/20:
Pollack's childhood fantasy was to build his very own boat and sail off on a magical adventure, and he made that dream a reality.
20/20 thinks this is cute; around these parts not so much.
Hockey FR. Yost Built has "Going Upstairs" posted for Michigan's regional games and plans like editions for Michigan's games against Notre Dame this year; surprisingly there was no mention of how frustrating the refereeing was during the Clarkson game. Clarkson, like Michigan State, specialized in "good defense," which means grabbing and clutching and grabbing and interfering juuust short of a penalty unless the game is undergoing one of its periodic crackdowns on obstruction. They also specialized in punching guys in the face, which only got called sometimes.
But he had the benefit of replay, and concluded:
I should also point out that I don't think the officiating was nearly as bad as I thought it was the first time I watched the game. Most of the ones we got replays for were legit calls. A couple of bad missed calls, but overall a pretty well-officiated game, despite my earlier comments.
Ohhhhhhhh... As mentioned on the sidebar yesterday, MSU's Jeff Abdelkader signed with the Red Wings and will not return for his senior season. Yost Built notes that there is a guy on the RCMB claiming sophomore defenseman Mike Ratchuk has signed with the Flyers. Since the same guy reported both the Abdelkader and Brian Lerg (who signed with Edmonton) signings hours before the news became public, it's probably legit.
With Tim Kennedy widely expected to sign with Buffalo, State will enter next year minus four of its top five scorers, three of its defensemen, and some pointless fourth-liner. If Jeff Petry -- who, IMO, was terrific in what I saw of him -- signs with Edmonton, they might have a rough year.
Oh... snap? Jim Tressel:
"Is there a gentleman's agreement between Big Ten coaches that once a player verbally commits to a school, the other coaches are supposedly hands off?"
This was Tressel's answer, after about a one-second pause.
"I guess only between the gentlemen."
OSU's Scout site refers to this as a "thinly veiled dig"; the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, linked above, is more circumspect. Is it? It seems remarkably hypocritical to imply you're ethically superior to another coach when you yourself just tried the exact same trick. (Columbus OL Patrick Omameh picked up an OSU offer the day before signing day, just like Michigan and snake-oil-eruption-causing Roy Roundtree.) And it seems out of character for Jim Tressel, Most Boring Man On The Planet.
It kinda sounds like a dig, though. And by God I hope it is. MGoBlog's policy on trash talk is "trash talk is awesome, always."
Etc.: Tyler Sellhorn explains the flexbone, may be of relevance to option-interested Michigan fans.
While Isaiah Bell and Teric Jones are "under the radar" "sleepers" at this point in time, Justin Turner is "wicked sweet" and "maybe the best prospect in Ohio." He's currently #42 in the Rivals 100, and #137 at Scout. ESPN has him on their watch list for their top 150, saying thusly($):
Great blend of size and speed at defensive back and possesses a coveted frame for a cover corner. ... Very athletic in deep coverage with proper positioning, good range and ball skills. Excellent leaper who knows how to high-point the football. ... Turner is blessed with great athleticism and could be molded into a good corner at the next level, particularly in zone schemes, but his measurables, range and physicality are exciting when projecting as a college safety.
Turner's a generic DB, I guess; with the commitment of Bell I've moved turner to corner on the board. If Turner can be an effective corner with his size (6'2") he's a potential high first round draft pick and All-American. Hey, take it from him:
Amazingly enough, Turner never played cornerback until last season. However, the switch from safety to cornerback proved to be almost flawless, as he finished with a team-best three interceptions to go with four pass break-ups, a forced fumble, 32 solo tackles and 12 assisted stops. He added five tackles for loss and a quarterback pressure.
"All of these coaches, they like big corners," Turner said. "You really don't see 6-3 corners. The corners are usually 5-10, 6-foot. Once they see a 6-3 corner on the field with good footwork, I think it catches their eyes."
The same article notes offers from Michigan, Ohio State, MSU, Illinois, Pitt, and West Virginia as of a couple weeks ago and states M, OSU, and ZookU were recruiting him as a corner. SI's Andy Staples mentioned him in an early look at 2009's top prospects:
Justin Turner from Massillon (Ohio), has safety size (6-2, 190) and cornerback speed. He's also an excellent kick returner.
The ESPN scouting report also mentioned he could be a special teams "stud" -- ooh la la -- FWIW. Michigan will be spoilt for choice on kick returners in the near future.
- There's an interview with Turner on what looks like a school-sponsored site devoted to Massillon basketball; in it you can discover his love for math, Madden, and spaghetti.
- Fluff article from Yappi.com, from his sophomore year.
- Tremendously long article from "Massillon Proud" after his freshman year. Mom, though misguided in her college preferences, is hard on him about grades:
"Grades is a number one priority and he must maintain a certain grade point average in the classroom. If he does not, there will be a problem," she said. "If he does not meet standards, he will lose some privileges such as no Playstation. Grades are #1."
"Right now, he has maintained a 3.0 average. When we went to parent-teacher conferences, his teachers all had good praise for him."
No playstation! Monster! Also, probably no issues with qualifying.
- Scouting Ohio, as per usual, has highlights.
Editorial Opinion: It's never bad to pick up a top 50 player, especially from Ohio, and it's good that Turner was quickly reassured about Michigan after the coaching switch. If Turner can hack it as a cornerback he's got NFL all-pro protential (obviously that's way, way off).
Potentially interesting side notes: after a huge post-Marlin-Jackson drought on top corner prospects this is the third year in a row Michigan's picked up a blue chip at the position. And of Michigan's 11 under Rodriguez, six are from Ohio. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida (where he's also had good success) were Rodriguez's main stomping grounds at WVU. Pennsylvania's lagging a bit here.
Finally, an update on Isaiah Bell. Helpful readers point out that ESPN just slapped up an evaluation of Bell, placing them on their top 150 watch list and gushing:
I don't know if the "I" in Isaiah stands for interception or the "B" in Bell means big playmaker, but one thing for certain, this guy is a good football player. He shows outstanding ball skills and at 6'2" and two hundred pounds he is a big safety. Rules the secondary as a free safety. ... A magnificent kickoff return specialist. ... Bell will be a big time player at a big time college.
Emphasis mine, cause, like, dude. ESPN's entry into college recruiting has been interesting contrast with Scout and Rivals. The latter are generally rah rah about everything and anyone; ESPN takes a much more critical look at players in their scouting reports. I've never seen anything so cheerleadery from them. Two possibilities: this guy will fly up recruiting boards or ESPN just hired a new guy who doesn't quite get it.
There's also this from Duane Long, now an analyst at Bucknuts:
29. **** Isaiah Bell (6-2, 215, S; Youngstown Liberty)
Simply put, Isaiah Bell is the best safety nobody is talking about.
He has the instincts of a linebacker against the run and is a very good sized safety. The 6-2, 215 pounds seems a bit on the small side. He looks to be a bigger kid but Liberty head coach Jeff Whitaker reports accurate heights and weights.
Bell has the wingspan of a lineman. In fact, I would not be surprised if he ends up growing into a linebacker. He has a nice frame and I have noticed these long limbed kids tend to fill out a good bit. He is big enough to take on blockers and still make plays but he is fast enough to make plays in the open field. Once he finds the ball, he closes like nobody's business.
But Bell has such tremendous ball skills that he could just as easily be a free safety. He has the best ball skills I have seen from a projected safety in this class.
He returned two interceptions for scores last year, including one for 102 yards, and one punt. He has more return yards off of interceptions, punts and kickoff returns than any player in this top 100.
Maybe Michigan got their teeth into a real player before he got a lot of attention?
I was going to update the recruiting board but a computer crash ate it. So: #$*((#$. Delay.
Tickets. Have received several emails about the best ticket strategy for the Frozen Four, so: I'm not an expert since I've only gone to one, that in Buffalo in 2003, but that experience leads me to believe that tickets will be available in abundance. In Buffalo you couldn't throw a rock without hitting someone hawking 4 tickets; some guys were carrying around enormous packets.
We ended up buying lower-bowl seats right behind the net where Jason Ryznar's goal was waved off (woo!) for face value; when the immense depression of that game's OT loss combined with the lethal carnie strip of "attractions" on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls border to force us home ASAP we left our (stupidly, arrogantly purchased) tickets for the final with my brother, who ended up selling them for just over half of face.
With both Colorado schools bombing out in the regionals (thanks, MSU and Wisconsin!) the situation in Denver is likely to be similar. BC is half a continent away and Notre Dame fans barely know they have a hockey program. The other ND and Michigan figure to bring large contingents, but Buffalo was much closer to participating programs and the aforementioned scenario played out.
So given all that, I'm pretty comfortable with the idea of heading out there with the intention of buying tickets on the street. Unfortunately, this year the second semi ends within an hour of the first one and there is a single ticket for both. In previous years there had been separate tickets. This scuttles the post-semi dump wherein fans of the losing team sell tickets to the second semi.
We're going to print out a Pepsi center seating chart and go for the gusto. IIRC, the athletic department tickets were lower-bowl but in the corners in Buffalo.
What? Notre Dame is selling your standard a "woo frozen four shirt" on their official site. But apparently they got theirs from a mirror universe:
This seemed like an easy opportunity to make fun, but on closer inspection it's just weird. Michigan goes out in the first round to Northeastern, which didn't even make the tournament. Northeastern then plays Wisconsin, which beat UMass -- also not in the tournament. In fact, every first-round game is wrong and the only thing the shirt got right was a second-round matchup between ND and State going to ND. So that's... bizarre. It's as if they said "hey, no one's going to believe ND is in the Frozen Four anyway, let's just go all the way with this."
Movin' on up. I previously speculated that Brandon Minor might be headed elsewhere because of the shift in offensive philosophy; initial returns on that are as good as "Porter is a creation of Hensick":
Junior running back Brandon Minor and senior cornerback Morgan Trent have become early vocal leaders of the team, Rodriguez said.
That's a week or two old. This is new:
Defensive standouts: Rodriguez listed fifth-year senior John Thompson, redshirt sophomore Obi Ezeh and junior Stevie Brown as the defensive players who have stood out in the spring.
Thompson is trying to take the starting middle linebacker job from Ezeh, who was a Freshman All-American last year. Redshirt sophomore Jonas Mouton and sophomore Marell Evans appear to be leading the way at the outside spots. Rodriguez said the linebacker corps was one of the deepest units on the team.
How are these items related? Evans and Minor both attended Varina High in Virginia. Minor was generally well regarded -- a mid four-star, IIRC, though some sites rated him as fullback -- while Evans was virtually ignored. How ignored? He's the first two-star Michigan prospect (kickers excluded) since Andre Criswell two years before, and Criswell was a last-second edition. Michigan can get a commit from the most obscure Estonian and Rivals will give Argpan Ekerbajain a third star if given a couple weeks to re-evaluate him. Evans, not so much. Michigan recruited Evans specifically because Brandon Minor told them he outworked Brandon Minor; I probably should have given him more credit.
I find the leaders at linebacker interesting for these reasons:
- Jonas Mouton was just a redshirt freshman last year but I'm going to be pretty ticked if he has a good to excellent debut season; last year he was stuck behind a mediocre to bad Chris Graham. Since the coaches were willing to boot Graham to the bench in 2007 I think he got something less than the full-on Massey treatment and Mouton might have a year like Ezeh in 2008: "promising" but pretty meh.
- Johnny Thompson and Obi Ezeh both impressing and Evans being the leader at strongside linebacker. Ezeh was a SAM until the dire situation at MLB forced him over. Presumably either he or Thompson could shift back. So if Evans does get to start he's beaten out either a returning starter or (more likely) a fifth year senior with spot starts to date.
Varsity Blue has some video from spring practice. Remember that year in NCAA when 1) John Navarre was Michigan's quarterback and 2) the option was unstoppable anyway? Yeah, watching David Cone run a triple option brings back the memories:
There's another set of clips at VB. I watched them, for what little value that provided. Main impression: holy God, Jason Kates still blocks out the sun.
I usually don't go in for the predictable photoshopped baby in the aftermath of someone bailing or complaining or something, but good freakin' lord this is creepy:
Mmm, that's good nightmare fuel. Image you'll see in your sleep tonight prompted by this Matt Hayes article in which he checks out Michigan practice and finds a distinct lack of blood orgies.
Etc.: MVictors actually cased Saline High's football field in an effort to scout out spots from which you, the fre
nzied, BTN-less Michigan nut, can espy Michigan's spring game. The internet at its best.