Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
...this guy definitely had to add that tiny apostrophe and obviously-not-centered E after a Northwestern fan pointed out that "Michigan Your Next" isn't English. Ladies and gentlemen, Ohio State fans!
CSTV is doing this "Battle of the Blogs" thing where Michigan and Ohio State bloggers tackle certain topics. Main page is up; my thing goes Friday.
In which I take aim at Michigan Monday. Passages of interest:
What worries me on offense? Basically, 1995 and 2003. I'm worried about Michigan coming out and being able to run the ball at will. Usually, when the game is in Columbus, I have no fears about Michigan's running game. Don't get me wrong, I don't see Mike Hart busting out like Tim Biakabatuka or Chris Perry, but the thought of Michigan getting five yards on first down every time concerns me.
Weird. The thought of Michigan running on every first down gives me hives; he's concerned about the rush defense. I do think there's reason to be concerned, FWIW, as the Buckeyes have given up quite a lot of yards per carry when opponent running backs are suffered to possess the ball, but I wouldn't expect an OSU fan to be worried about what's honestly been a pretty meh running game.
If Troy Smith gets time to throw, Michigan's secondary is vulnerable. The Wolverine safeties don't necessarily excel in pass coverage and the corners can only do so much. Leon Hall is a very good corner, and when he feels challenged, he always steps it up. Again, if Troy Smith gets time to throw, Michigan will have no favorable match-ups in four and five-wide situations. And that's why Michigan has to get to Troy Smith. If they don't, it's going to be nearly impossible for them to win.
I've addressed this before, but the persistent belief that the Michigan secondary is way vulnerable is also weird. And I agree: if Troy Smith is allowed to sit in the pocket with only one or no extra blockers in, we're screwed. But that's like saying that scoring points is a good idea. Uh... duh. For what it's worth, if OSU doesn't pressure Henne it's going to be almost impossible for them to win.
What about Michigan's passing game, you ask? Honestly, I'm not too concerned about it. Obviously, the screens concern me. In this game, they'll always concern me. But as far as the downfield stuff goes, I'll believe Michigan can have success with it when I see it. Of course, there's always the chance that Michigan has been saving something. Perhaps they'll choose to use the middle of the field more this week than they have in the past. Who knows. I feel the Ohio State secondary matches up very well with the Michigan receivers. The Buckeyes have three very good starting cornerbacks and two very good safeties. Without knowing how effective Mario Manningham is going to be, I think the Ohio State pass defense definitely has the advantage in this one. And don't forget, the Buckeye defense is averaging two interceptions per game.
See, to me something like "the Buckeye defense is averaging two interceptions per game" is a giant red flag, since interceptions are almost always someone on the offense's fault and are totally fluky unless a quarterback is hit while he throws. As a general rule, turnovers are a function of the offense's competency to avoid them, not the defense's ability to force them -- again, with the exception of quarterback pressure. Michigan is very good at avoiding turnovers.
Also: if he doesn't want to believe Manningham is healthy, that's his prerogative, but given everything we know about the nature and extent of his injury, plus the snaps he's taken in the last two games it's silly to assume he can't play. Wishful thinking. Nowhere in his column does he mention Alex Boone's status, and he didn't even play versus Northwestern. (Not that I think his injury will be an issue. The Bucks say he'll be fine, so I believe them.) Manningham is also fine, otherwise Michigan wouldn't risk him before the game -- that would be insane.
He revisits this later:
Receiver Mario Manningham. I won't be convinced he's healthy until I see it. What made him so good before his injury was his ability to cut and separate from the defender. I'm not sure he can do that as well as he needs to against Ohio State's secondary.
Seems like wishful thinking, IMO.
He's going to play most of the game this week due to Ohio State's spread attack. Ask your local Michigan fan how they feel about that. Assuming you know a Michigan fan that knows who Harrison is.
Well, you know, I wish he was like Justin King or whatever, but Harrison's been okay.
Braves & Birds takes a look at the MNC contenders and their average yards per play on both sides of the ball. Conclusions:
In addition to all the other factors that make this weekend's tilt exciting, Ohio State and Michigan look to be two very evenly-matched teams, especially when you take into account that Michigan puts the brakes on its own offense when leading more than your average college football power. (An unprovable assertion, I know, but I've watched a lot of football and I feel pretty comfortable in saying that no one employs the Milton Berle approach more than Michigan.) Michigan is a little better on offense, Ohio State is a little better on offense, and they both have wild card returners who can alter the balance of the game.
Notre Dame has no business being in the national title discussion. Against a relatively unimposing schedule, their defensive numbers are signficantly worse than those of any other national title contender and their offensive numbers are not nearly enough to make up for the shortcoming. USC should bury Notre Dame, especially if the USC team of Saturday night that can run the ball and play defense is the USC team that shows up on November 25. Furthermore, Notre Dame would either be there against a team that beat them by 26 in South Bend or in place of that team with the same record.
Amen. Lord knows what voters will do -- they have West Virginia in front of a Louisville team that beat them by two scores two weeks ago -- but I think they'd be hard pressed to dump the Michigan/OSU loser below ND given the BEAT DOWN in September. OSU would be more likely to fall than Michigan, IMO, since a potential OSU loss would be at home, the Buckeyes' primo win over Texas has recently lost some luster, and the computers are already turning up their noses at OSU's Wisconsin-free schedule.
Stadium & Main has more on the rematch thing.
I guess I should have pointed this out sooner... damn. Anyway, for much of the year the top result on Google when you type in "F*** Michigan" (sans stars) was my anti-Buckeye diatribe from last year. Something must have gotten rejiggered; now it's third. Damn.
BON busts out their "Under The Hood" series for Michigan-OSU, providing a complete statistical overview well worth your time. I also have to link anyone who busts out the time-tested and true "Charts? Charts." Charts!
Initial conclusion: approximately equal teams. Michigan slightly better on resume.
Okay. So a part of this process involves saving out a spreadsheet as a text file. I name these totally obvious things like "ufr-iowa-2006-d.csv." I named this file "ufr-osu-2006-d.csv." When I typed the title of this post I typed "Upon Further Review: OSU versus OSU."
Yeah... about that.
Highlights from Dangerous Logic!
|Um, okay. Leon Hall(+2) is in better position than the receiver on this deep ball. (Cover +2)|
|O31||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||WR Screen?|
|Playaction fake off tackle is followed by... well, I'm not exactly sure what. Lewis rolls out left a bit but the receivers to that side seem more interested in blocking than looking for a pass. Busted play. Lewis throws it away. Good pressure on the outside by Biggs(+1). (Pressure +1)|
|Crable(+1) comes around the outside, forcing Lewis to scramble. Branch(+1) is on a screen/QB spy assignment, sees Lewis flush, and attacks for the sack. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q. Probably see a fair amount of this Branch thing against Smith.|
|Branch-spy again is our rock to their scissors, as the OL is supposed to ride him out of the play, only there is no riding to be done as he stops dead. Woodley(+1) is allowed into the backfield but is too quick and disrupts the play a little bit, allowing Branch(+1) to finish at the LOS.|
|Way behind his intended receiver; if on target Chris Graham was going to fricking kill him. Or whiff hilariously. Either one. (Cover +1)|
|Nice pass and catch. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, two yards OOB. Receiver ends up bracketed by Trent(+1) and Adams (+1, cover +1); if Lewis held onto the ball for one additional second he was going to get sacked by Jamison(+1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 3 min 1st Q.|
|O27||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Slip screen|
|Harris(+1) tasked with the slot reciever... moves upfield first (blitzing?) before reading the play and tracking down the WR. Impressive reaction. Harrison(+1) also did a nice job to get to the outside of his man, forcing the play back to Harris.|
|O32||2||5||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||8||QB Draw|
|Ugly whiff by Graham(-1) turns a small gain into a first down. Get well, Prescott.|
|Hall's going to be there, but only to make a damage-limiting tackle. Lewis' throw is low and off. Still catchable, but is not. (Cover -1)|
|O40||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||Zone read|
|Simple handoff to Thigpen gets a chunk of yards... we're stunting on the left side of the line and they run right at it. No contain there, obviously, as Crable's pass rushing. He misses a tackle(-1) opening up a lane. Adams(-1) misses another tackle; Trent ends the play with a solid one.|
|Weird... third and one and still no Taylor. We line up with four down linemen, but Woodley is a DT and Crable a DE. We still stuff the POA fiercely; Sears (Josiah Sears) manages to lean for the first down. No complaints about the D here.|
|50||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||11||Scramble drill|
|I can see Troy Smith doing this a few times against us. We get an unblocked blitzer off the corner; Lewis steps up. Another rusher comes at him up the middle; Lewis rolls out. Woodley and Crable track him down to the outside; Lewis finds a guy and rifles a pass to him. A first down created by Lewis alone; not much you can do here. (Pressure +1)|
|Lewis not so fortunate this time. Crable(+1) knifes through two blockers, flushing him. Branch â€“ still spying â€“ cuts him off to the outside, allowing a pursuing Jamison(+1) to recover and sack. (Pressure +1)|
|M40||2||11||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||QB Draw|
|Sigh. Harris(-1) misses this tackle (apparently he's not infallible), opening up a bunch of yards, especially since we're blitzing from the outside. Van Alstyne in on this snap. Also, here starts the incredibly long Dick Enberg interview with no explanation from anyone as to why the game stopped. I assumed the next play I would see would be a third and goal from the five for Indiana. Helpless... rage...|
|Lewis' pass badly underthrown, actually hitting Adams in the back. Trent(+1) had outstanding coverage anyway. (cover +1)|
|Hall's jump is a moment late, allowing this completion. A half-second earlier and this is a PBU.|
|M23||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||1||Zone read|
|Graham manages to finish since he's unblocked. Think a charging Crable(+1) forced a cutback away from the play design and thus the unblocked linebackers.|
|Well overthrown. Harris(+1) in outstanding coverage. (cover +1, pressure -1)|
|Woodley(+1) dominates the RT and gets instant pressure; Lewis responds by rifling a pass way over the head of his receiver. Almost picked off by a safety. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 14-3, 11 min 2nd Q. Not that upset about this drive. A couple missed tackles are irritating but a lot of pressure and three of the first downs were either ORTP, an excellent play from Lewis, or a screwup from Graham.|
|David Harris(+1) obliterates this. I am increasingly incensed he isn't a Butkus finalist.|
|We blitz directly into this. Harris(+1) nearly overruns the play but manages to recover and tackle at the LOS.|
|Graham comes on a stunting blitz as Woodley drops off into a zone. Graham(+1) gets pressure, forcing a hopeful jump ball. Hall(+1) is in position, getting the PBU. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Perhaps the only consistent irritations on the day were these dumb little hitch routes we never seemed to cover. Hall's run off by a deeper route and can't recover in time to do anything but tackle, with the help of Harrison. (Cover -1)|
|See? Aarrrrrgh! (cover -1)|
|O45||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Hopeful Jump Ball|
|Lewis flushed and escapes contain. Finds a receiver running down the sideline with Englemon and nearly completes a pass. Two problems: receiver landed OOB and Englemon had forced him to step OOB before he came down with the pass. Good coverage. (Englemon +1, cover +1, pressure came off major blitz and let Kellen Lewis out of contain so no +)|
|Terrible PI call no matter what Bill Curry thinks. We blitz again, leaving Mundy man up against Hardy. Lewis, rattled, throws the ball well inside and Mundy, running stride for stride with Hardy, is flagged for being corporeal and not allowing Hardy to pass right through him on his way to the ball. Also, Goddammit Bill Curry can you for once in your life criticize something other than politically correct coaching points?|
|M40||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Jailbreak screen|
|Good job by Graham(+1) to fight through a block and make a tackle; Will Johnson's pursuit also helpful.|
|Hall right there but not close enough to do anything but tackle (cover -1). Curry goes off on some rambling tangent about cliches being cliches because they're true then never mentions a cliche. I miss Chris Spielman. Seriously, Chris Spielman is about a billion times better than Curry.|
|M29||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||13||QB Draw|
|Graham reacts to this very, very late, then sort of falls at Lewis' feet as he dashes by(-2). Yuck. He has to get better next year.|
|M16||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Hopeful Jump Ball|
|Hall(+1) on Hardy in the corner of the endzone. Great coverage, great play on the ball, PBU. (cover +1)|
|Wildly overthrown by Lewis. Free INT for Trent(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Int, 21-3, EOH.|
|RB forced outside the tackles â€“ good job by Taylor(+1) on what may be his first snap â€“ and run down by Woodley(+1).|
|Woodley dropping off into a zone again. After the play Hall's a little disgusted and motions to the neophyte DB, indicating he needs to get wider. (Cover -1)|
|Taylor(+2) loves to time snap counts, which is why I think he's the only Wolverine to have gone offsides all year. This time he gets it right, crashing into the backfield, disrupting the play, and drawing a holding call. Michigan takes the call on the assumption IU will go for it. Smart move.|
|Indiana goes empty; this time Michigan sends the house. There are more blitzers than blockers and those blocking are overwhelmed. A tide of humanity meets at Lewis. Uh... +1 Harris and Biggs. Note: Brandon Graham in at DT.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 12 min 3rd Q. Breaston houses the return.|
|Taylor(+1) gets into Thigpen's feet, occupying a couple blockers and allowing Harris(+1) to blow the ballcarrier backwards five yards. HULK SMASH.|
|The mirror image of the last play, faking the offtackle right and countering left. Harris(+1) is neither fooled nor blocked and flows and destroys. Crable(+1) also plays this well.|
|O13||3||9||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||1||Bubble screen|
|Well played by Graham(+1). Gilmore is forced to pivot and reverse his field. By the time he does that the cavalry has arrived.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Taylor(+1) and Johnson(+1) remove all traces of room in the middle.|
|Pretty decent coverage by Harris(+1) and Crable(+1) closes the receiver down immediately. (Cover +1)|
|Lewis gets outside the pocket... Will Johnson is the guy who gets out there. He's not quite fast enough.|
|Huge pass drop from Lewis... Harris(+1) reads, runs through a block and tacles at the sideline. Great play.|
|Jamison(+1) stunts around and snows Lewis under. (pressure +1)|
|Mutter mutter mutter. Barringer(-1) is slow reacting and whiffs a tackle that would have held this a yard or two short of the sticks. Don't mind the coverage, since if properly played it equals punt.|
|O41||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|Nice play by B. Graham(+1 â€“ this is going to be a pain next year when both are starters) to hold up at the POA come off, and tackle. He's going to be a player, whether it's at DT or DE. Don't think he's big enough to be a run down DT, at least not yet. His lack of a redshirt is a good decision... he's gotten a lot of useful snaps.|
|Miscommunication between players means wildly misthrown ball. Barringer breaks, but drops it.|
|Right: just like their last conversion except we substitute Hall(+1) for Barringer. Tackle made before the sticks. Punty time.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-3, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Pressure comes, though it's late. (Cover +1). Lewis is flushed and throws it OOB.|
|M37||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||5||Off tackle|
|C. Graham is unblocked on a blitz; he overruns the play, missing the tackle(-1). Brandon Harrison(-1) comes up too far inside, allowing the RB the corner. Should have been a loss of 4 or 5.|
|Throw is high and off the hands of Bailey; Hall in fairly tight coverage.|
|Graham beaten to the inside by his guy; pass is there; bobbled; Graham recovers to prevent the catch.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover On Downs, 34-3, 12 min 4th Q. Chris Richards is in on the next drive. No offense, Chris, but that == no more charting.|
(Also: Will Johnson's sack.)
OSU OSU OSU.
Things of slight relevance reveal themselves:
- We would much like Burgess back please. Graham made a few plays but also missed more tackles than Burgess has all year. Report is that he was left out as a precaution and will be fine for OSU. Hopefully that's true or we can expect a couple extra Troy Smith first downs via land.
- Expect a lot of 3-3-5 against the Buckeye spread, a lot of instances where six guys threaten at the line and then random players back off at the snap, including Jamison and Woodley.
- We'll probably use this DT spy thing quite a bit to capture a flushing Smith and shut down screens and the like.
- Terrance Taylor might not get much run unless the Bucks line up in some more conventional sets, which would be a shame. But English clearly has a preference for this 3-3-5 when he feels the run is not a big threat. We'll see.
|Woodley||3||3||Few decent plays in limited opportunities, but not a huge impact.|
|Taylor||5||5||Hardly played but made instant impact when he did, though that snap-timing thing has backfired more often than not this year.|
|Branch||2||2||Lifted midway through the second, I think, with an ankle ding.|
|Jamison||3||-||3||Could be key versus OSU.|
|Harris||9||1||8||I'm seriously. Never comes off the field, missed like his second or third tackle of the year against IU. A blitzer, a run-stuffer, a goddamn linebacking ninja.|
|C. Graham||3||4||-1||Get well soon, Prescott.|
|Hall||5||5||Maybe I could have dinged him for a couple of those stupid hitch routes, but it's not like he was ever badly out of position.|
|Trent||3||-||3||Not tested except deep, really. INT was a gift.|
|"Pressure"||8||1||7||Again very good though depressed by many short drops.|
|"Coverage"||10||5||5||Almost perfect except for -- yup -- stupid hitches.|
Story here is the linebackers: Harris was outstanding; Graham a major dropoff from Burgess. (This is better than last year, when bench scrubs who replaced starters maddeningly outplayed the starters.)
What about this rumoured "vulnerable secondary"?
Uh... okay. Michigan's now up to 11th in pass defense efficiency after the IU game. This is vulnerability? Yeah, I guess Brandon Harrison is short and misses more tackles than I'd like but an Ohio State gameplan that revolves around OSU's third WR would be AOK with any Michigan fan you choose to query. Leon Hall is going to be a top ten pick in the NFL draft; Kiper ranks Jamar Adams as one of his top five junior safeties, and, uh, Morgan Trent has been a little iffy on short routes but nigh unbeatable deep, whack pass interference calls excepted. Free safety has been kind of dodgy, I guess, and a number of Michigan's interceptions have been fortunate, but Michigan's secondary is only vulnerable relative to its run defense.
That said, every secondary is vulnerable to a quarterback throwing accurately and on time. More power to him if Smith can do that, but his window of opportunity will be a narrow one if the season to date is any indication.
Any concerns arise from this game?
Other than the obvious n eed to have Burgess back, no. Lewis got free a few times, but twice those were a direct result of Graham whiffs and sometime that's just going to happen versus a mobile quarterback. As Troy Smith previews go, it was reassuring. I would like to order a couple of those hilariously overthrown interceptions for Saturday.
No? Not so much?
Okay, seriously: I addressed this on Friday but did not fully understand the depth of Charles P. Pierce's mania re: Tom Brady getting screwed by Michigan. He's the guy with the book out on how Brady is basically, like, football Jesus, except LOL better. On Friday I knocked him for calling Michigan's coaching "incompetent." Now he's doing this thing at Slate where two guys send letters back and forth and he can't get through one without dropping something about how Tom Brady was basically, like, tortured and stuff by Lloyd Carr. It was like Abu Ghraib.
Article one has a throw-in phrase completely irrelevant to his point:
His entire competitive personaâ€”which he fashioned on his own, without a lot of help, especially at Michiganâ€”is based upon being a vital part of something bigger.
And then this:
And he did that believing, with the fundamental conviction that most great athletes have, that he was a better quarterback than the guys who had the advantages over him, whether that was Drew Henson at Michigan or Drew Bledsoe in New England. That's a difficult feat of locker-room diplomacy, but he managed it well on both occasions, particularly at Michigan, where he really did get a raw deal.
Article two further reminds us that Tom Brady overcame political machinations so staggering they boggle the mind to get anywhere near the NFL:
One of the things that first bound Tom Brady to Belichick was the fact that the latter runs as close to a pure meritocracy as there is in the league. After what Brady went through at Michigan, where his progress as a starting quarterback was consistently retarded by off-field politics that would have embarrassed Machiavelli, that kind of system was exactly what he was looking for.
(Such transparent crap: Brady was drafted by the Patriots. What he was looking for was "a team that wanted to draft him." And the Patriots meritocracy was so pure that the only way Brady got in a game was for someone to explode one of Drew Bledsoe's lungs. This stuff is worthy of deranged message board posters.)
Article three manages to avoid mentioning how Michigan dipped Brady's toes in acid before each game, but only because it mostly discusses contracts and kickers. Brady only shows up in one sentence.
So what do we make of all this? I'm not inclined to read books that only purport to be non-fiction, especially when they're no doubt filled with details of Lloyd Carr's daily meal of breakfast burritos made from the souls of dolphins, but we can observe the overall tone of Pierce's book from a statement his correspondent made in his initial salvo:
Brady's career arc lays waste to the clinical approach that dominates personnel evaluation in our most bureaucratic and CW-driven sport. Your book demonstrates that old sporting tropes like "character" and "perseverance" actually can matterâ€”if the athlete applies them to himself. What surprised me is how much material you found in the short life of a suburban kid whose toughest choice growing up was whether to hit a 3-iron or a 5-wood. This isn't an indictment of your portrait of the athlete as a young man, but I kept waiting for Brady to race into a burning building to rescue a litter of kittens.
Ah. It all becomes clear. To use the terminology of the dead-end sports-scribe, Pierce is a "fanboy," specifically a Tom Brady fanboy. He thinks that Brady's success in the NFL is because of character and perseverance instead of, say, his incredible ability to read defenses and accurate arm. You could read that sentence as "Pierce is dumb about sports," if you're so inclined. And you are. To prop up his idea that Brady's character and perseverance saw him through, he invents tragedy (the "material" referred to in the above quote) in the form of Michigan's "incompetent" coaching. No matter that literally every school in the nation looks up at Michigan's record of putting quarterbacks into the NFL. So he got a "raw deal" at Michigan which somehow explains his low draft status. No matter that in his two years as a starter he racked up approximately 700 attempts to Drew Henson's 150, a portion of those in garbage time. So Brady's progress as a starter was "consistently retarded" at Michigan. No matter that he was All Big-Ten both years and led Michigan to an Orange Bowl victory.
It would appear that the only thing here consistently retarded is Charles P. Pierce for Tom Brady.
(Note that Peter damn King apparently writes completely fictional columns that should not be cited.)
- Well... it's a guess. Florida's struggles are reaching a point as epic as those USC has undergone and the Trojans may be finding their stride. Florida's big wins keep getting devalued -- looks like the SEC is just as crappy as everyone else this year -- while USC's keep rising in value.
- Meanwhile, Arkansas continues to take names and kick ass. Is Darren McFadden impersonating Tim Tebow or vice versa? I don't know. I do know that is one large, agile, fast mofo and Arkansas is riding high. It's hard to believe this is the same team that squeaked by Vandy and Alabama and was stomped by USC -- who I have ranked one spot behind them... hmmm, might have to change that -- but whatever. Houston Nutt's gone from the hot seat to his choice of fine Arkansas livestock.
- Rutgers... that feels about right, right? These Big East games are having the overall effect of shooting the three BE contenders up in my poll, because it's hard to actually watch Steve Slaton and think "oh, it's just the level of competition." Dude is fast no matter who he plays against. Since he is fast, respect for everyone goes up? Or maybe it's just that everyone else keeps losing, especially to Maryland?
- #9 Wisconsin I am deeply uncomfortable with, but they handled their KSU equivalent in Iowa, albeit narrowly, and they didn't lose to the Arizona equivalent (Purdue? Minnesota?).
- I guess I can stop ripping on Texas and Auburn now. And you can clear a place for the Thorpe award on Leon Hall's shelf after the Texas secondary got burnt all toasty for the second time in the past month, this time in a loss.
- Why yes, spots 22-25 are totally unsatisfactory and I considered voting for Southern Mississippi because I like SMQ, Duke because I like Steve Spurrier, Michigan State because I like coaches who slap themselves, and Army just to get off a "ND goes for the Commander-In-Chief's trophy" joke. But I didn't. Because I am mentally strong.
Watched: Michigan-IU, OSU-NW, some of UF-SoCar, very end of Arizona-Cal, Texas-KSU, Iowa-Wisconsin, bits of Purdue-Illinois (feel the Big Ten excitement!!!), Rutgers-UL.
This may hurt my street cred, -- as a youngish former student and Michigan devotee I should by all rights be scrapping for endzone tickets like my late-twenties peers -- but due to familial connections and a line of checks made out to the athletic department unbroken since 1958 I have the rare privilege of being close enough to the tunnel to hear the team emerge for their pregame warmups, since I am also the sort of fan who gets twitchy if not in my seat 45 minutes before kickoff.
I am not close enough to make out every word of the rhythmic chant that accompanies them out of the locker room, but one thing does come through loud and clear, one question and one answer.
And so. Here we are, on the cusp of the biggest football-related event in any of our lives. Good is 11-0. Evil is 11-0. Good is #2. Evil is #1. I am a wordy, analogy-laden person and words and analogies fail. This is like what? Nothing. This can be described how? With some gaping, useless jaw-movements sans audio and a defeated shrug.
There is no possible way to make this game more intimidating or more important. Coming off the disastrous Year of Infinite Pain, Michigan has resurrected itself in astonishing fashion. The waltzed into Notre Dame and delivered a BEAT DOWN of epic proportions. They've dominated every game this year except... uh... Ball State. They're 11-0, one of the best teams in the country and should be finishing up their season against some team they're favored against. But this is not so. Fate has conspired to place the only team in the country ranked higher than them as the last obstacle. It has also conspired to place it in Evil's stadium at a time when -- whether it's just luck over a small sample size or actual "owning" -- Good is 1-4 versus Evil in their last five matchups.
In short: that's no moon. It is a veritable Death Star of a game, implausible Jerry Bruckheimer style. The last step is less a step and more a sheer cliff, but no matter
Let's get it on.
Respect and love.
Awards and stuff: Woodley is a finalist for the Lombardi along with Justin Blalock, Quinn Pitcock, and Paul Posluzny (the Lombardi is sort of a stupid award that's open to linemen from either side of the ball and, for some reason, linebackers.) Chances he wins seems sort of good. Posluszny is saddled with a crappy team and neither Blalock or Pitcock plays a sexy position like DE or tackle. Relatively sexy, anyway. Work with me.
Leon Hall is a semifinalst for the Thorpe. At first glance he seems a shoo-in for finalist status along with Texas' Aaron Ross and Bad Reggie Nelson of Florida, though if the voters are really stupid people who only read fawning media profiles and low-level boxing recaps they may jam in Tom Zbikowski's name for no reason.
Irritatingly, David Harris was passed over for Butkus finalist status in favor of James Laurinitis, Posluszny, and Patrick Willis of Ole Miss. Henne is a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien but won't win it (nor should he).
It will not die. The MZone points out that this new book on Tom Brady contains this little snippet:
This is the journey Tom Brady has taken on. It began in a family wherein the spirit and documents of the Second Vatican Council mean as much to his development as any playbook. It moved along to college, where the whims of incompetent coaching nearly brought it to an end.
Note that that "incompetent coaching" did these things in the four years Brady was at Michigan:
- Won two BCS bowls.
- Turned Brian Griese from a preferred-walk-on to a third round pick and multi-year NFL starter.
- Won a national championship.
- Got Tom Brady into the NFL.
Pierce's book is a hagiography, as everything written about Brady is, that must blame someone other than Brady for the fact that he didn't enter the NFL on a golden palanquin held aloft by seraphim. Somehow the fact that Drew Henson was around and seeing the occasional series has balooned into a fictional alternate reality where he was relegated to the bench (Brady started all 25 of Michigan's games in '98 and '99), wasn't allowed to throw even when he got in (Brady set a Michigan record for attempts, though John Navarre would later break it), and that Charlie Weis is responsible for turning Brady from a sixth round pick into Football Jesus (Brady was an outstanding, clutch quarterback for his entire term as Michigan's starter; also, Charlie Weis is fat).
Kapsner, a backup quarterback during his four years with the Wolverines, said the Michigan coaches essentially ignored Brady in 1996 and '97. In 1998, Drew Henson, as a freshman without taking a snap, moved ahead of Brady, then a junior, on the depth chart.
Hartman combines spin and utter fiction in one tidy sentence. In 1996 and 1997, Brian Griese was an established starter with an NFL future. Brady was a redshirt freshman/sophomore with no on-field experience. There isn't a program in the country that would have played him. In 1998, Henson started zero games. There was something of a competition designed to keep Henson pleased but by the time the season got serious, he was on the bench.
The notion that Tom Brady was a nobody, the Rodney Dangerfield of Michigan quarterbacks, before becoming everyone's fave-rave makes a terrific story. But it's just a story. If you choose to tell it you may as well add in some radioactive biker mice from Mars, because those are pretty cool, too, and just as true to life.
Fantastic FO article on rush distribution in the NFL that I'd love to see applied to college, where there are no doubt differences. Upshot: while the NFL rushing average is 4.1 YPC, a small number of long runs distort that. The most likely outcome for just about any back crossing the LOS is a whopping two yards, which has all sorts of fantastic implications for cursed "ball control" strategies. Of the backs picked out of the pile, our own Mike Hart is more Mike Anderson than anyone else, IMO.
Rod Gilmore is a lawyer. This is hard to believe if you've ever heard him broadcast football -- though admittedly less difficult than imagining erstwhile partner Trevor Matich with a law degree or, indeed, a cerebrum -- or write ESPN columns. Embarrassing error($) not excused by "it's just a blog":
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema's antics in the Penn State game Saturday is evidence of coaches who don't care about players. I couldn't believe what he did.
Pedantry? Perhaps. But I can't stand me some subject-verb disagreement. Also note the trademark Gilmore finger-wagging paternalism and offense-taking at a completely innocuous slight. What is it with wispy-mustached ESPN "talent"?
Indiana is a fine football team worthy of our respect.
Run Offense vs. Indiana
Running the ball was the one thing Michigan fans could not complain about after the Ball State near-fiasco, as a trio of Michigan backs racked up over 300 yards. Michigan finally got its backs loose into the secondary, getting 20+ touchdown runs from Jerome Jackson, Mike Hart, and Brandon Minor. Meanwhile, Indiana features the nation's 100th-ranked rush defense. They give up 4.6 yards per carry; they're also missing a starting linebacker. This has the potential to be just about as ugly (for the opponent) as the Ball State game was, especially if Indiana safeties react to Manningham like Ball State's did: freaking out and running backwards at the snap.
If Indiana adopts a similar posture -- and given their massive troubles in the secondary, it seems likely -- Michigan will grind away against an undersized front seven ill-equipped to deal with... well, anything really. Michigan will likely run on 80-90% of their first downs again and I'll mutter something under my breath about expectation and deception and ugly statistics as Michigan rumbles towards another win. Pay me no mind, I'm just like that.
Key Matchup: Interior offensive line versus penetration. We're going to be predictable, and the line is going to have to deal with a lot of small guys slanting playside. Blocking them is going to be tough.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana
...is likely to be voluntarily MIA despite the tantalizing numbers put up by opposing pass offenses. Indiana is 116th in pass efficiency defense and is coming off a week where they allowed Brian Cupito(!) to throw for 378 yards on just 33 attempts. Along the way he picked up four touchdowns, too, as Indiana gave up 63 points to a Minnesota offense that's a mere shadow of last year's. The Hoosiers are also 108th in sacks, averaging just over one per game. The invitation is wide open: throw throw throw throw. We probably won't, much.
What we will do is work Manningham back into the swing of things. He saw 8-10 snaps last week, running nothing but fly routes that cause the aforementioned safety freakouts. He was targeted once while double covered. It was overthrown. This week he'll see most of the meaningful offensive snaps, according to Carr, and will no doubt be targeted frequently to get his timing back and shake off any potential rust. With the wretched Indiana secondary awaiting him, he won't have to deal with tight coverage and should have a big day.
Also potentially returning are tight ends Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey. Massey's only been gone a couple weeks but Ecker left after the first play of the Minnesota game; Michigan will endeavor to get those guys a few touches as well. Carson Butler will rotate in as well.
Key Matchup: Everyone versus Traitorous Hands. Everyone except the seldom-targeted Greg Mathews has dropped at least one ball so far this year. Henne's been accurate; too often his receivers have let him down.
Run Defense vs. Indiana
Indiana does run quite a bit -- 341 carries -- but their runs don't go anywhere. They're 88th in the country and their leading rusher is quarterback Kellen Lewis with... wait for it... 333 yards. Nominal starter Marcus Thigpen has been banged up in recent weeks but is expected to play. Not expected to play: their starting left tackle. Thees, not so good. Ball State managed the most success anyone's had on the Michigan defense since Amir Pinnix almost cracked 100 by spreading Michigan and finding small gaps in the line. Expect Indiana's "finesse" (read: crappy) offensive line to try the same thing. They'll try to misdirect us by using Lewis as a run threat, get us confused, and get someone to miss an assignment. This will probably happen at least a few times, but there will be TFLs in spades to make up for it and eventually the Hoosiers will find themselves in third and long.
Key Matchup: Harris/Burgess versus Misdirection. If they get out of position we could get gashed.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana
Lewis has emerged as the starter and can be thought of as Troy Smith lite if you're so inclined, but he's not anywhere near the passer Smith is. That's to be expected, as Smith has three years of experience on Lewis. One thing Lewis has that Smith does not is 6'7" James Hardy, the man who singlehandedly threw Iowa's season into the Pit of Despair. Hardy has nine touchdowns, seven of them in just two games: the aforementioned Iowa victory (three) and Indiana's demolition of Michigan State (four). Against Ohio State he was held in check with four catches for forty-five yards. He's a deep threat and a hard man to stop along the sideline.
It will be interesting to see if Michigan matches anyone specific on Hardy and, if so, who. Morgan Trent's been excellent in deep coverage (despite the referees' strange insistence on calling nonexistent pass interference calls) but dodgy at best underneath. Hall has been an all-around standout when targeted, though that's been infrequent. Michigan may use Hardy as a test case for the MGoBlog-supported hypothesis that Trent's speed can neutralize Ted Ginn. Or they may just let him roam free against whoever he'd like to line up against.
Key Matchup: Hardy versus Whoever. He's their best player and only playmaker.
Another interesting test for Football Armageddon, Indiana's return teams are excellent. The Hoosiers rank in the top 25 in both categories. Marcus Thigpen has three KO return touchdowns and ranks fourth in the country in average. Michigan has been suspect at times (specifically, Central Michigan and the opening kick versus Penn State). Tracy Porter, the punt returner, has a touchdown in only seven return attempts. Amazingly, Indiana has only gotten 13 chances to return a punt this year. That's all you need to know about the Hoosier defense, I guess.
Key Matchup: Coverage teams versus Whatever You Do to Be Good At Coverage. I don't pretend to understand the ins and outs of covering kicks, but I would very much like to see two things: good Whatever You Do and some Mesko kicks that do not have 75-yard Ginn Return Touchdown written all over them.
No kittens; 19 point spread.
- Johnny Sears and Charles Stewart appear with the game still in doubt.
- Our receivers continue to drop third-down conversions.
- Mario looks off or gimpy.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- A couple of Henne bombs find their way into Manningham's hands.
- Kellen Lewis is chased by angry defensive linemen.
- We look crisp.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You're Indiana, +1 for They Were Ball State, -1 for That Is Not A Defense It Is A Point Yielding Machine, -1 for Fresh(man) Meat).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... gibber, blubber, and faint.
Win will cause me to... AAAAAAHHHH FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Well, we win, though Indiana is a team worthy of our respect and admiration that I would like to make very clear does not suck at all, not even a little bit, except on defense.
Right, that defense: it's not good at all in either phase of the game and will likely cede a number of big plays either on the ground or through the air. I do assume DeBord will go for Manningham deep if it's available since getting him some game reps and a touchdown or two will make everyone breathe easier heading into Football Armageddon. So the playbook should inch open a tiny bit until midway t hrough the third quarter when we have a six point lead and Carr brings in the backups and runs zone left for the rest of the game.
Indiana's offense has the opportunity to hit us for a few big plays, but trying to run Lewis with frequency is going to get him Branched eventually. I expect a lot of sputtering, one or two long completions to Hardy, no ability to line up and run, and etc. etc. etc. Basically the same thing Michigan's done to everyone since day one.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually. (Take four.)
- Henne has fewer than 20 attempts.
- 30-13, Michigan. (Indiana cover! Look at the respect!)
Somewhat obligatory! Somewhat rote! Definitely slapped together as an ill-thought-out-spur-of-the-moment replacement for UFR! Iiiiiiiiit's... MICHIGAN BASKETBALL.
GONE GONE GONE
Skilled, turnover-prone, oft-injured-or-suspended, and mercurial point guard Daniel Horton slipped through the NBA draft and is now plying his trade somewhere in Europe, no doubt, after getting cut by the Heat.
Skilled, turnover-prone, oft-injured, and mercurial power forward Chris Hunter has taken his game to somewhere in Eastern Europe. Probably.
Unskilled, turnover-prone, rock-solid rebounding machine Graham Brown could potentially be plying his trade in NFL Europe but probably isn't.
BACK BACK BACK
Skilled, wildly turnover-prone, mercurial post Courtney Sims and unskilled, turnover-prone human trampoline Brent Petway.
Sims is perhaps the most frustrating Michigan player since... um... Daniel Horton. Depressingly recent comparisons aside, give Sims the ball on the block against a single defender and he'll murder you. The guy had 226 shots last year, all within the arc, and made 63% of them! His usage rate was 24%, too. Maintaining that kind of usage and that kind of shooting efficiency is nearly unheard of. So why did he only average 10 points a game? Why did he only play barely half the time? Sims has two forms of kryptonite: little bulldog bastard defenders who can shove him out from the block and doubling. Look at Sims' points over conference games:
|1/25||Mich St||W 72-67||17||1||3||2||4||4|
|2/1||@Penn State||W 71-65||12||1||6||0||0||2|
|2/9||Ohio St||L 94-85||34||13||16||0||1||26|
|2/18||@Mich St||L 90-71||14||5||6||5||5||15|
|2/25||@Ohio St||L 64-54||30||5||9||0||0||10|
Are these at all explicable? 50 minutes versus Purdue yield 13 points while 15 versus UW yield 18? 13 of 16 versus Ohio State? Four field goal attempts in two games versus Indiana? I don't know. I do know this: I watched the Wisconsin and Ohio State games. Both teams placed an indifferent defender on him and did not double. (UW's entire defensive strategy is built around man-on-man defense, no doubling, and no fouling. OSU was trying to keep Terrance Dials in the game. I wonder if there was similar Augustine foul trouble in the first Illinois game.) End result was a torching. Teams that think they can play Sims man-up are wrong. The Purdues and Penn States and Indianas (remember, no DJ White and Killingsworth was a foul machine and indifferent defender) of the world who have no illusions about the defensive competency of their post players swarm Sims and force hideous turnovers. Then he is forgotten about.
By this point everyone's given up on Petway as anything other than decent rebounding and a couple of really fun blocks a game. If you get the ball to him somewhere near the rim he will throw it down and roar. That's fun, too.
Twin offensive engines and seniors Dion Harris and Lester Abram. Abram is a model of shooting efficiency... when he manages to stay on the court. This has been infrequently, something that cannot continue if Michigan is to have any chance this year. Remember 2004, when Harris was stripped of Abram and Horton? Yeah, that'll happen again.
Abram's ruthless efficiency is strictly a points thing, though. He doesn't provide assists or blocks or steals at an appreciable rate, though he is a decent defensive rebounder. He is an effective shooter but not a volume one, one of the many guys on the team who has a specific subset of things he's very good at but not at creating his own shot. He'll move around in the structure of the offense. Sometimes he'll find something he likes. Sometimes he'll move the ball to someone else, and sometimes this process will repeat itself until someone -- probably Harris -- is jacking up something contested with the shot clock winding down.
Harris is basically Horton minus half the assists, most of the defense, and almost no free throws. No, seriously, his free-throw rate is amazing Despite playing over 70% of Michigan's minutes and firing 123 two-point shots (three-pointers hardly ever draw fouls), Harris had but 39 free throws a year ago. His free throw rate is one-third Horton's, probably because his 42% 2PT% strikes fear into precisely no one. The sad truth is that Harris is awful within the three point line, especially for a guy expected to be Michigan's primary scorer this year. If Harris sets for three, celebrate. If he steps inside the line, cringe.
Also returning are backups Ron Coleman and Jevohn Shepherd, though filing Shepherd and his 45 shots under "returning" may be generous. Coleman is a decent role player capable of stroking an open three but not much else. He hits but 45% of his two-point shots, doesn't dish assists, block shots, or rebound much. Shepherd came out of Canada with a fair bit of hype then failed to deliver. Last year would have been better spent redshirting, as when he came in the game he was incapable of doing much other than pass around the perimeter.
Defensively, both backups were complete and total nightmares. Coleman, in particular, was pressed into duty guarding actual wing players and put on clinics on how to not get out on three-point shooters or prevent penetration.
The basketball team's Garret Rivas Award Winner for Outstanding Impression Of An Athlete By A Slightly Pudgy Short Guy, point guard Jerrett Smith. Would you like to be terrified? Okay: forty percent of the time Jerrett Smith did something that showed up on a box score last year, it was a turnover. When he was on the floor teams pressed him mercilessly and were richly rewarded for their efforts. Now this man steps into the shoes of a guy who used 28% of Michigan's possessions a year ago. He has no real backup -- Dion Harris will see some minutes at point and I guess Reed Baker exists -- and not much in the way of upside.
The good news? The flipside of Smith's generous ballhandling is that it's also generous to Michigan players. When he was on the floor last year, 26% of Michigan baskets ended in Smith assists. He does have a knack for finding the holes in a defense forced by penetration. It's just that he's singularly incapable of getting that penetration. Combine his head with Jevohn Shepherd's body and you have an NBA star. The Life Sciences Institute is working on it as we speak.
NEW NEW NEW
Class star DeShawn Sims from Detroit, a 6'9" power forward with an advanced offensive game, the ability to score facing or with his back to the basket, and a recently deceased younger brother, shot in a burst of senseless violence. Who knows how available or into basketball Sims will be for the next year, and who could blame him if he's not? If he's with it, he should see lots ot time and soon.
Stealth recruit Epke Udoh, the player who may be the key to not only this year but Amaker's very survival as Michigan coach. Udoh futzed around this year sporting offers from Pitt and Michigan and talking longingly about schools like Kansas, UConn, and UNC. He announced that he'd be prepping for a year in the hopes of grabbing the attention of a powerhouse, then made a late 180 and committed to Michigan. Initial reports out of open gyms are unanimously enthusiastic. Udoh is one of those guys who looks like a permanently stretched Stretch Armstrong, a shot-blocker and rebounder who has a nice short jumper.
Wing K'len Morris, who's white (someone call the Freakonomics guys), is a 6'5" guy who hovered around the edges of the top 150 lists recruiting gurus put out. I have no handle on him or his projected role or ability.
Kendrick Price redshirted a year ago since he was 6'9" and 65 pounds. Michigan may deploy him either inside or outside but he's another player I don't know what to expect from. Either of these guys contributing would be a bonus.
Aaaaand Reed Baker, Rain Maker. You may remember Baker from such posts as "Shouldn't Tommy Amaker Be Fired For This?", "Seriously," and "Like, Seriously." Passed up by the Citadel and desperately searching for a scholarship anywhere, Baker arrived on campus, attended a Michigan open gym, and rode his Big Wheel home a Michigan commit. Of note: though Baker attended this particular open gym, Tommy Amaker did not. Site unseen, Baker showed up on campus and proceeded to drain 5/6 threes in Michigan's exhibition games. He's Steve Nash!
NET NET NET: OFFENSE
Rebounding. Holy pants: Michigan kicked ass at this last year, topping the Big Ten. Petway's crazy pogo legs -- dismissed below -- are a major asset in this category. For all of Courtney Sims' mincing with the ball in his hands, he's an able rebounder on both ends of the floor. Brown's lumbering, wide-body stance was a tremendous boon on both e
nds of the floor but had more impact on defensive rebounding; we should be fairly good here again.
Turnovers. Will be even more rampant than last year. We lose three turnover-prone players only to replace them with even more turnover-prone players, Smith in particular. Without a reliable ballhandler or an identifiable way to create shots (more on that later), we will be much like last year's team: damn good at knocking down the open shots we manage to get off but horrible at getting those open shots. Dion Harris will again be forced to hurl up a wide array of prayers at the buzzer.
Shooting. As above. Everyone on this team except Petway can shoot and shoot they will. I expect a modest downturn since Horton's efficiency and ability to get others open looks is gone, but this is still an above average team when the ball has been released.
NET NET NET: DEFENSE
Rebounding. Looks poised to drop off a cliff if you look at Pomeroy's statistics, but Michigan's non-conference schedule full of schools from the Yukon and North Korea wildly inflated our competence in this area. In conference, Michigan was only "meh" in defensive rebounding despite Brown vacuuming up anything in his vicinity: 7th at 67%. This could be a real worry. Though losing Hunter is no big deal, Brown was an astoundingly good rebounder for someone who couldn't jump at all. Despite Petway's "mad hops," as the kids say, he only rebounded 18% of opponent's misses when he was on the floor, a far cry from Brown's 24%. Since Michigan did not often deploy the total offensive black hole represented by a Brown-Petway front line, his numbers can't be excused by Brown's presence. Petway's leaping is more than offset by his failure to box out and his tendency to attempt spectacular blocks on anything and everything, leaving the weakside wide open.
Unless the freshmen help significantly or Petway suddenly gets basketball fundamentals religion, Michigan will remain mediocre here. Sims is good but not great; he'll need help.
Shooting. Michigan will not yield 39% shooting on three-pointers two years in a row. Regression to the mean. Even if Michigan's defense was awful, it wasn't that awful. Whoever replaces Graham Brown will be more of a shot-blocker, be it Udoh or Petway or Sims, but less likely to apply his muscle cleverly or take charges. The net effect should be similar for post defense, but the forest of potential shot blockers will make driving the lane a dodgy proposition, and that's good, because there are going to be a lot of drivers.
Jerrett Smith has shown no inclination to get between men and the basket -- another nasty habit for a point guard -- and now will be squaring off against the opposition's primary ballhandler. This is going to end badly.
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
Who in the sam-hell is going to create shots? Separately Michigan appears to have three proven collegiate scorers in Courtney Sims, Dion Harris, and Lester Abram, but not one of them consistently gets his own shot. Harris' distinction is stark: outstanding when he finds himself a three-pointer to take but saddled with a 2FG% frankly awful: 42%. Whoah, there, Iverson! Abram and Sims have consistently shot the lights out but have coupled that with eye-gouging assist-to-turnover ratios, Sims in particular. He's a black hole in the post. Once it goes in, it's going up or it's dribbling weakly out of bounds as Sims shrugs in disgust.
For all of Horton's faults, he was a somewhat reliable penetrator who occasionally created something for another player. Michigan doesn't have anyone matching that description this year.
Michigan has scheduled itself into a corner. Like Wisconsin football, it will be hard to get any respect in the early part of the season, as the schedule is divided into two sorts of teams:
- "I didn't know they had a college called that."
- Georgetown and UCLA.
Unless we pull out an upset in our two opportunties, the committee will have every reason to look down its nose at our candidacy, especially if the Big Ten is as bad as it looks like it will be and if this team fumbles its way to a mediocre record in the league. Can this team get to 11-5? It may have to.
I don't pretend to know enough about the rest of the league to provide a solid prediction, but here are some things I think will happen:
- Petway is replaced in the starting lineup by the Big Ten season.
- Jerrett Smith is not quite a disaster but is an obvious millstone around our neck on both ends of the court.
- Sims rolls up huge numbers against the weaklings on our schedule, gets everyone excited, and then pulls the same disappearing act he did last year.
- The team looks about as well-coached as Michigan State... football.
- We miss the tournament.
HOW DO WE MAKE IT?
Jerret Smith has to function. He doesn't have to shoot but he does have to maintain a respectable A-TO ratio and find his teammates open shots. There is some hope here: as a freshman he looked frankly better at that than Horton ever did. (Horton was always more of a shooting guard with a nice handle.) But his ballhandling and defense must improve radically for him to be anything other than a liability.
The other thing that could tip the balance is DeShawn Sims and/or Udoh busting out like whoah. Either could; much has been said positively about them. A major post threat would open up all sorts of excellent kickout options.
The rest? Name someone Amaker's coached other than Graham Brown who has changed as a player under his tutelage.
SOON TO BE HILARIOUS NUMBERS
12-3 OOC, 9-7 in conference, second round of BTT, 22-11, NIT bid.
WTF IS UFR?!?!?!?!? "W" stands for "where" in this instance. Ask damned Comcast. Cable box hasn't worked for two days and that's where the OSU games are. So I'm all calling and stuff. Yes, this stuff does always happen to me. This is much better than last year, when everything evil happened to players on the field. I'll take this. Anyway, UV...
Probably not good when you're Indiana, you're facing Lamarr Woodley, and your starting left tackle is out. Also out is serendipitously-named linebacker Matt Mayberry.
Sure to draw a depressed comment from Matt Glaude, this Syracuse-area column is just tickled pink about Mike Hart's remarkable success at Michigan:
[It] remains our area's ongoing delight to know that Mike Hart, as remarkable a player as there is in the Big Ten, showed up at Michigan from Onondaga Central School.
The incredible prestige. From a recent article on Brady Quinn's Heisman chances from the South Bend Tribune:
Quinn threw three interceptions in the 47-21 loss, fumbled away another ball that was returned for a late Wolverines touchdown, and generally acquitted himself so poorly -- with the help of a porous offensive line -- that a lowlight reel for the game, set to the theme music from the "Benny Hill Show," became an instant smash hit on youtube.com.
"Smash hit" is something of an overstatement -- Brady Quinn for Heisman is no gyrating Argentine -- but it's nice to be recognized.
Note that the above article is penned by momentarily-blackballed Jeff Carroll, who's returned to writing sunnier things in line with the worldview of ND fans. In his article titled "Heisman race all about the politics," no mention is made that if Quinn played for a MAC team -- where he also could have faced an array of the nation's worst pass defenses, beaten Penn State, and lost by 26 to Michigan -- he'd be as prominent in the race as Garrett Wolfe.
Normally, basketball signing day is boring faxes. But not when Tommy Amaker's your coach. Yes, all three recruits signed letters of intent. No one decommitted. Hurrah.
File under "gloriously backhanded." A reader sends in an NRO editorial on Michigan's Prop 2:
Students who struggle in Ann Arbor through no fault of their own (they may have received substandard Kâ€“12 education, for example) may be able to thrive in East Lansing, at Michigan State University. Insisting that they belong at the University of Michigan is like telling a football team in the NCAA's Mid-American Conference that it can play in the Big Ten and expect to compete with the Wolverines, Buckeyes, and Nittany Lions.
Note that this does not constitute endorsement of any viewpoint other than "Michigan State is a backwater for people who can't hack it at Michigan."
Closer still. Bruce Feldman throws out a couple names for the Iowa State coaching search everyone expects to happen this offseason. One name: Jim Harbaugh ($).