So. What seems clear disappears into a heap of confusion as the season clatters to a halt. Troy Smith bites the dust against Florida. Darren McFadden goes meekly against Wisconsin. Slaton's fumbles still haunt WVU, and it's not like I was voting for Brady Quinn anyway but good God the NFL has to perk up to these performances sooner or later, yes/no?
Jumble jumble. So who was the best player in the country? Hell if I know. Candidates in no particular order:
PRO: Indisputably best defensive back in the country no matter what the Thorpe people think. Crusher who mixed highlight reel hits with actual interceptions (and interceptions caused either directly or indirectly). Leader of a secondary that plain annihilated Heisman winner Troy Smith. Possesses kickin' dreads.
CON: Is a safety, and not one of those run-supporting terrors that rack up a lot of tackles. Statistically thin: 6 INTs, 34 tackles, 2 TFL. (Noted that the INTs are not thin.)
PRO: Man-mountain defensive tackle was the real motive force behind the Michigan defense all year and can't be blamed for its secondary-based implosion. One of the few Michigan defenders to show well in games against OSU (two turnovers and can't be charged with any of the damage done) and USC (key in limiting USC's run game when they bothered with it). Featured abandoning the carcass of Anthony Morelli in one of the year's iconic images. Guaranteed top ten NFL draft pick, which is not what the award is about but is an indicator of his talent at a position the layman finds hard to judge.
CON: Like Nelson, plays at a position that is not looked upon kindly by statistics. Unlike Nelson, plays on a defense that was scalded in two consecutive losses at year's end.
PRO: Is Calvin Johnson.
CON: Erased in several critical GT games this year, whether it was by opposing defenses or Reggie Ball.
PRO: Few players can claim to have the sort of transformative effect on a program that McFadden did this year upon the Razorbacks. Houston Nutt was headed for unemployment at the beginning of the year after a crushing at the hands of USC followed up by limp and fortunate wins over SEC dregs Vanderbilt and Alabama. A nooner versus #2 Auburn on CBS loomed as the first step on a downward spiral that would end in a game versus a Sun Belt foe. Then -- poof -- like that, he's gone. McFadden went Keyser Soze on the Auburn defense, staked Arkansas to a lead and they didn't look back until they ran straight into vastly superior opposition in LSU and Florida. Before the ride was over McFadden had taken the Razorbacks to the SEC championship game and a New Year's Day bowl despite playing on a team with -- and I want to make this very clear -- not even the barest hint of a functional quarterback. Also was bestowed with the year's coolest nickname: "Humanity Advanced."
CON: He was bottled up and watched his team lose the aforementioned SEC championship game and New Year's Day bowl.
PRO: Is also Calvin Johnson, basically.
CON: Missed significant chunk of the year with an injury. Of no use in MNC-shattering loss to UCLA.
PRO: A defensive tackle who throws the ball willy-nilly all over the field and to extraordinary effect. Fastest waddler in history of college football. Culpepperian/Lorenzenian dimensions always good for a laugh/wonder.
CON: Singlehandedly responsible for most of LSU's turnovers against Florida and thus actively lost his team's most important game of the season. Other players with resume flaws were usually neutralized.
...but seriously, folks...
1. Reggie Nelson, Florida. I will admit to the possibility that I have been seduced by extracurriculars that have little impact on his play on the field (Orson's mancrush, his ability to fill the disappointing shoes of the last guy who looked like the Predator, Omar Jacobs, with bone-mangling authority befitting the hairstyle -- which should now be passed on to sufficiently badass Florida safeties until the stars grow cold and dim, like the #1 finds its way onto the shoulders of Michigan receivers). But six interceptions and a convincing case from various announcers during Florida games that a fair number of the rest of Florida's staggering total of 21 picks were caused either directly or indirectly by Nelson make a convincing case outside of personal biases. Florida was fourth in pass efficiency difference in a year when knowledgeable Florida fans were downright panicking about everyone other than Nelson in the secondary.
Plus... you know you're dealing with some sort of eccentric football genius if you've ever watched the guy line up 15 yards deep presnap. Who does that? Who aligns themself like that and singlehandedly removes the deep pass from every opponent? A cover-two in one body, I give you Reggie Nelson.
2. Alan Branch, Michigan. The one benefit of Smith performing so miserably and OSU losing so heavily -- other than schadenfreude and a sudden thinning of the OSU troll horde in the comments and the crowd shots of OSU fans late in the MNC game and... let's start over.
One of the many benefits of Troy Smith performing so miserably and OSU losing so heavily in the national championship game is it allows me to vote for defensive players with a clear conscience, which I must confess was always my hope. For a long time it looked as if my MaxwellPundit ballot would be indistinguishable from that of an addled Heisman voter who only acknowledges that players exist on one side of the ball. Not so in the wake of Smith's sudden (and severe) mortality.
So here goeth Branch, which may be homerism of a sort, but all I can say is that I've watched every snap he's played this year and good God. Michigan returns Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson, two very promising players who were outstanding as mere sophomores this year, but Branch is a once-in-a-generation talent for the Michigan program. But, really, this is the reason:
For ten games this year the story was the Michigan defense, and though it came crashing down around him Branch remained steadfast in the middle.
3. Darren McFadden, Arkansas. Sheer improbability counts for something. Earns major style points for the Wildcat stuff. Featured in one of the year's turning point plays; threw touchdowns when too bored to run them in himself; arose and dragged Arkansas through the muck. This year's Atlas, and next year's, too, if Mustain doesn't improve quickly. Bonus points for nickname and tendency to zip into endzones.
4. Troy Smith, Ohio State. Hideous failure slides him way down. What do you do with this guy? He was magnificent when called upon, aside from that Penn State game, -- and even then he turned in one of the year's most memorable plays -- until the final hurdle, when he almost literally could not have played worse. There is much crowing about speed and pressure and blah blah from slack-jawed yokel country, but from this observer's perspective the only speed deficiency suddenly apparent in the Not Fiesta bowl existed in Smith's synapses. Particularly inexcusable was the final nail in OSU's coffin where he held onto the ball far, far too long, allowing Jarvis Moss to rattle it free from behind.
I still can't shake the terror that bastard engenders in me, though, so on the list he s tays.
5. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech. Pure sentiment, I'll admit, the equivalent of a Heisman voter slapping a token defender third on his ballot or that guy who voted for an Alabama punter one year. What could have been if Johnson had not saddled himself with -- and I submit that this is no exaggeration -- the worst four-year starting quarterback in NCAA history? No one knows.
Viva la defense!
The Heisenblog has all college commits and players helpfully listed. I distill further:
23 PACIORETTY, MAX USHL SIOUX CITY 20-Nov-88 6' 1.5" 203 * LW L
68 PALUSHAJ, AARON USHL DES MOINES 7-Sep-89 5' 11" 170 * RW R
89 WINNETT, BEN BCHL SALMON ARM 3-Apr-89 5' 11.75" 173 * LW R
90 LLEWELLYN, TRISTIN USHL TRI-CITY 2-May-89 6' 1" 189 * D L
124 RUST, MATT USDP USA U-18 23-Mar-89 5' 9.5" 192 * C L
152 CAPORUSSO, LOUIE OPJRA ST. MICHAELS 21-Jun-89 5' 9.25" 185 * C L
(Note that D commit Kevin Quick was a third-rounder last year and G commit Bryan Hogan is ranked #14 amongst goalies.)
Now, these are all "NA" rankings. The CSB holds North American Skaters separate from Euros until their final rankings, so mentally shove everyone down a few rounds. Pacioretty is probably a second-rounder. Palushaj fourth, Winnett and Llewellyn fifth or sixth, and Rust and Caporusso will either go at the tail end of the draft or not at all.
Note: if you see last week's poll it's a cache thing, I think. Refresh should cure it.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Four voters bail and swim to the flatly indefensible idea of Boise State, national champions. Don't take my word for it: SMQ demolished blue-turfed hopes yesterday. Defectors from the cause of sense and sensibility:
- Card Chronicle
- Pitch Right
- The Nittany Notebook
- 50-Yard Lion.
Penn State loves them some contrarianism or hates them some Urban Meyer, take your pick. Despite said aberrations, Florida is your 2006 Blogpoll Champion.
Grating: Wisconsin over Michigan, as there's little doubt Wisconsin's record would also feature two losses had they bothered to play Ohio State; add in the matter of Michigan's two-touchdown victory over the Badgers in the Big Ten opener and that ranking smacks of rote AP-ism. Bad voters.
Risers: Cal was your biggest winner, up six after blowing A&M into ag nuggets in the Holiday Bowl. Boise shot up to #4 after Fiesta Del Johnson.
Fallers: Though oddly forgiving of Ohio State's thorough beating in a bowl game because their offensive line decided they couldn't block, voters hammered Michigan six spots. Notre Dame's thorough beating for similar reasons -- sensing a midwestern trend here -- similarly cost them six spots. But the biggest dropper was Tennessee, down eight to #25 after losing to Penn State.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is 50-Yard Lion, one of our Boise fans. Other anomalies: Hawaii #16, Texas #20, Arkansas #22, BYU #10, TCU #14. Mid-major mad is 50YL.
Mr. Numb Existence Is Maize 'n' Brew; in case anyone is wondering that 0.75 is extraordinarily low. But you weren't so nevermind.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
Straight Bangin' Award is Rocky Top Talk's for excluding Tennessee from his ballot. Since Tennessee is #25 in the poll at large, this can be safely filed under "sane" and we can move on.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive goes to Orange 44, and it's fairly easy to see why: WOOOOO BOISE STATE, up 18(!) to #2. The rest of the ballot follows in that vein.
Mr. Stubborn is the 614, an Ohio State blog who probably wishes it was still last week and his ballot reflects that.
Warning: if you like pot way too much stop reading right now before it's too la--
Duuuude. Freaky. I am your duly appointed nomination representative for the following awards.
The Trev Alberts Quits To Do Construction Award
(AKA "The Award Winner For Winning The Most Clumsily Named Award Category Winner Award Award," AKA "The Trev")
FOR: The funniest blog.
(Wait... where am I? This is bullcrap! This is just like the BCS.)
Best New Blog
FOR: The best blog started within the past year.
- Card Chronicle
- Fire Mark May
- Conquest Chronicles
- Saurian Sagacity
- Corn From A Jar
- Double Extra Point
Best Podcast/Audio Thing
FOR: A somewhat abstract category, this is either for the best (semi-) regularly produced college football podcast or the single best piece of audio put out by the college football blogosphere during the year.
- Lee Corso Slo Jam, Every Day Should Be Saturday
- The Orgeron Song, Verno's Blog
- Michael Lewis Interview, Every Day Should Be Saturday
- In The Bleachers, In The Bleachers
- Midwestcoast Bias, Midwestcoast Bias
- The Double A Zone
- Friday Night Lites, The House Rock Built
Note that the first three are individual things; the latter four regular podcasts.
Best MSM Blog
FOR: The best blog rocked by an Official Journalist. For the purposes of this category, "Official Journalist" is anyone blogging in said capacity at either a newspaper website or one of the big internet sites like SI.com or ESPN.com; Official Journalists with indie side projects go elsewhere.
Hurray those are the nominees hurray.
Peter Bean has the next batch of soon to be incredibly rich and famous nominated bloggers over at Burnt Orange Nation. He'll post his list around 1 PM.
Unfortunately... ballots were due like an hour ago so no revisions this time. But here.
Poll coming ASAP.
Update 1/9: Removed a fair number of commitments to other schools. Moved CA CB/S Michael Williams to committed. Added NBC's US Army Bowl "highlights" which are less highlights and more "every play." Michael Williams features intermittently, but they're under Mallett (and here: first quarter second quarter third quarter fourth quarter). You'll have to watch Mustachioed Non-Heisman Winner plug Sprint four times, but you can also get in the entire game in like 25 or 30 minutes, which is way less creepy and pedophiliac than watching it live. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. Game fallout: guy who looks like he walked right off the 1988 World Series of Poker set and into the Texarkana Gazette goes OMG Mallett; GBW gushes; ESPN says that Mallett is at least Clausen's equal($) but they aren't "in love" with any of this year's quarterback class -- they still lifted him from #54 to #12, though.
Meanwhile, three Michigan commits -- WR Toney Clemons, S Jerimy Finch, and C David Molk -- featured in another game that no one saw because it was on ESPNU. Scout has a recap. Sounds like Molk did well; Finch has been shooting up Rivals' -- the lone dissenter on his awesome talent -- board for a while now. He's #30 with a bullet in their latest top 100.
Linked to article on NC DE Kourtnei Brown.
Editorial Opinon: I missed the Army Bowl, which I plain forgot was on, but NBC's extremely helpful video clips above are the entire game compressed into about 25 minutes, so I saw the Mallett exhibition. And... like... damn. He was ponderous on the one designed run they had, but he's ginorbous so that's okay. Most impressive to me were a couple of plays outside the pocket late in the third. One was a waggle bullet put right in his receivers' numbers well downfield, and the second was a similar rollout, only this time Mallet evaded two unblocked defenders smoothly and rifled a ball in-between a couple of defenders. There were also a couple sweet seams, but Clausen and a couple of the harried East quarterbacks found similar success looking for that route so I lean towards coverage restrictions making that a money play in this particular All-Star format.
MGoBlog philosophy on All Star games is this: chemistry and odd rules issues make a poor performance excusable -- dismiss mucho-hyped recruits based on half a game's worth of snaps at your peril -- but there are generally a few players in each game who jump out and establish themselves as no-doubt stars. Witness Justin Boren's roadgrading a year ago, Desean Jackson's explosive performance two years back, etc etc. To me, three guys leapt off the screen: USC commits Everson Griffen and Chris Galippo plus Mallett. Extremely encouraging.
Williams didn't see much action aside from acting as the punt and kickoff returner for the West. He had a couple decent returns but didn't look like a monster threat. At defensive back, he wasn't tested and it's impossible to know if he A) didn't play much, B) covered scrub-ish WRs, or C) was good enough in coverage that QBs shied away from him. Anyone with a more comprehensive opinion on Williams' game is welcome to post it in the comments.
No one saw that other All Star game, but some general impressions from, er, the impressions I've seen:
- Toney Clemons looks like a future star, emphasis on "looks." Raw as hell at the moment, so raw you might want to spell that hell "hail" and put it in italics, mentally.
- Molk is still short but a good pickup anyway. From the above-linked GBW recap:
David Molk really impressed in this All-Star game with his blocking ability and his athleticism. The East's Head Coach, Don Soldinger, when asked who the best player on the team was said -- David Molk. He possibly could be the most athletic offensive center Michigan has had in a very long time. He gets under the pads of the defensive player and drives him down the field and then he searches out the linebacker to block.
Discount for standard GBW-OMG-hype but still something in the plus column for Molk.
Many commits elsewhere. I think the only one I was holding out much hope for was Lorenzo Edwards, who ended up at Florida. That may have been presaged by some MGoBlog commenters who made it clear that majoring in architecture and playing football were not compatible endeavors at Michigan.
The Stretch: Michigan now has 20 commitments and can hypothetically take five more (or even more if they're willing to bend/stretch stuff, but that seems unlikely). Guys remaining we have a shot at:
- TN WR Rashad Mason. Proverbially "blew up" after his senior year. A true sleeper who lost his junior year to a severe car accident. Mason's a 6'6" leaper whose senior film got him offers from a bunch of places. Has set up visits to M, UCLA, and a few SEC schools. Decent shot and this is a recruit Michigan wants badly, stars or no, given the 3 or 4 wideouts already committed in this class.
- MI CB Ronald Johnson. The most shirtless of all corner recruits this year. Widely proclaimed to be a Michigan lock since his name started circulating over a year ago, but we all saw what happened with Dionte Allen. Not a stretch to say that a class with him in it is a success (albeit still slightly disappointing) and one without him is a failure. If any recruit is a must-get, it's him.
- OH LB Jermale Hines. Glenville linebacker now has an OSU offer. Not coming.
- CA CB Donovan Warren. Down to Michigan and various California schools. Not USC would be a shock.
- IN DT Jeff Boyd. Marginal Michigan recruit. Committed to KY but looking around. Teammate of Finch.
- NC DE Kourtnei Brown. Alabama soft commit that will likely firm up his verbal now that Alabama finally has a coach. Says he will decide on signing day between Michigan and a wide array of southern teams. Highly improbable.
- NY OT John Elliot. High profile tackle down to four schools with the instability at BC. All are academically good: Rutgers, UVA, Michigan, etc. Doubtful he comes but not impossible.
- MO OT Donald Stephenson. Three-star OT, Kansas decommit who is visiting. Competition is various Big Twelve schools. Maybe?
Realistically there are two-ish commitments on that list, so Michigan might go scouring for Engelmons as signing day approaches if it has some pending transfers or guys that are not returning for a fifth year and thus surplus scholarships.
Michael Williams, a moderately shirtless -- call it a tank top -- CB/S from St. Bonaventure, California, committed to Michigan at the Army All-American game this weekend sometime between Ryan Mallett schooling fools and Ryan Mallett throwing perfect-but-dropped touchdown passes to wide receivers totally unprepared for his glory. This is good for Michigan, which needs dudes in the secondary and how, but slightly difficult for your blogger, who for Google-related reasons prefers outlandish names like "Zoltan Mesko" or "K'len Morris" that don't turn up accountants, fifth graders, and CEOs.
Nevertheless, sifting provides the following information: Williams was quickly down to Michigan and Notre Dame, and though the occasional California school (or, oddly, Northwestern) would pop up in a list from time to time it was a battle between midwest heavyweights who cower at bowl games the whole way. Michigan won, obviously.
Williams is either 5'10" or 5'11" or 6'0", depending on who you believe and, as mentioned earlier on MGoBlog, is being recruited as a "nickelback," which is the odd corner-safety hybrid Michigan deployed Brandon Harrison and Ryan Mundy in for much of the year. A report from September on the USC Scout site:
St. Bonaventure â€“ I was pretty impressed with Michael Williams. He was very active from the safety spot, he came up and hit people and he was also dynamic on special teams. I had heard reports that he might be smaller than advertised but I thought he looked around 6-0, 190 and that is plenty big to grow into a fine college safety.
The various sites all liked him about the same. Scout and Rivals have him a high-ish four star but not in their top 100s while ESPN ranks him #94 and breaks all my cliche alarms with the opening of their fawning scouting report ($):
This kid is a flat out football player. Williams is a safety with a linebacker menatlity [sic] versus the run and cornerback skills in pass coverage. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands and is a threat to score everytime [sic] he touches the ball... [redundancy sic]
Flat out! Football! Player! Woo. The whole thing goes on like that and you end up wondering how he got pegged the #10 safety in the country even after he defeated Godzilla in single combat. There's a full profile from the Ventura County Star:
"What makes him a great player on defense," says [St. Bonaventure head coach Jon] Mack, "first is his intelligence, and then second his speed and physicalness.
"He knows where he's supposed to be, and he gets there in a hurry, and then when he gets there, he can inflict some punishment."
It sounds like he was one of the more impressive players in the Army Bowl practices and may find his way into the tail end of top-100 lists when the sites re-order them.
In sum: very, very important pickup of a player who will see immediate playing time in the secondary next year and possibly as a returner. Board update coming probably tomorrow with a look at the recruiting stretch run.
Hockey hockey hockey. HF article on incoming recruit Ben Winnett. Relevant quotes that give you a hint about what sort of player he'll be:
"I'm a fast skating and offensive player who likes to shoot the puck but also likes to set up my teammates, and I have a bit of a physical side to me and like to play gritty and finish my checks when I can," said Winnett in describing his style of play.
Nash and Silverbacks Head Coach Ty Davidson tend to agree with his assessment and are both clearly big fans' of Winnett.
"[Ben is] a pretty good player," says Nash of his teammate. "He buries almost everything he gets, every good opportunity at the net. All I know is I have to get him the puck and he's going to put it in there".
"He's a very good player. He's got, I would say, NHL speed already," Coach Davidson said about Winnett. "He's got a good hard, quick, shot. He's a dependable guy defensively; he's not one of those one-dimensional guys. The other good asset is that he plays with an edge. He's very feisty, he's not afraid to go into the corners or to the front of the net. Very competitive, like I said, dynamic is the best way to put it. He has almost European-type speed and skill."
Ah, Canadian hockey coaches. We can compare his speed and skill with an Actual European next year, so we'll get back to him about that. (Via Yost Built.)
I realize that expecting anyone to stay ever is foolish, but I am an Oilers fan who monitors most of the more reputable blogs in the clumsily-named-but-awesome Oilogosphere and they think that the organizational plan for Andrew Cogliano is to keep him at Michigan. Snippet from Lowetide in a post on the possible signing of UND's Taylor Chorney:
It's also interesting the the Oilers have stated several times at several different levels of management that they expect Andrew Cogliano to stay in college for the full 4 years.
Take that FWIW; I've heard from other guys close to the program that they expect him to bolt. But the Oilers are notoriously penny-pinching and don't even have an AHL team of their own. If Lowetide asserts that the Oilers organization isn't likely to press for a signing we may just be able to keep the tiny fast dude another year or two.
Andrew Ebbett is doing very well in the AHL and has an article about him up at NHL.com. Thrilling DMV story incuded. David Moss, long underrated IMO, has gotten a callup to the Flames and dumped in dirty crease goals in his first three games.
Interesting article in the Toronto Star about the three collegians on the Canadian WJC team, one of whom is obviously Cogliano. Favorite part to rub in the noses of LOL NCAA partisans of the CHL:
[Canadian WJC coach Craig] Hartsburg, who is the coach and part-owner of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, said all three collegians "would develop in the Canadian Hockey League. They're good players. It doesn't matter where they play."
...which is what NCAA fans have been saying for years to irritating Canadian preteens on hockey prospect message boards. Hypothetically.
Yes, there's a game Tuesday, which is tomorrow. Don't forget.
I am not one for the proverbial horn and the tooting and the LAVEN. But the NYT deployed "Cheatypants Sweatervest" -- properly omitting the superflous "Mc" though oddly double-capped -- in an article that gets as close as New York Times will ever get to mentioning what some refer to as Tressel's "creepy child molester vibe."* Relevant passage:
Yet Tressel also has detractors who dispute the authenticity of his image, mock him on Internet message boards as CheatyPants SweaterVest and note that he has been touched by scandal both at Ohio State and Youngstown State, where he previously won four Division I-AA national championships.
Cheatypants Sweatervest had its origin here, then gained popular cachet when it was frequently deployed by Orson. So that's cool.
*("some" in this case == "I", but I'm trying out these cool Official Journalist tricks in an effort to strip any personal responsibility out of my writing.)
We've got suggestions. Apparently a bunch of Time, Inc., magazines are going to cut dead weight:
CUTBACKS, 2007, now playing at a Time Inc. magazine near you.
The latest casualty figure is 150 people - with the ax being honed and a decision possibly due from bosses like CEO Ann Moore in the next two weeks...
People, which had largely been immune to cuts over the past year, will take its hit this time as will Sports Illustrated.
I've managed not to spend thousands of words refuting the irritating, irritating conversation Musberger/Herbstreit/Davie had about evil Michigan blogs, but others have not. Gunslingers goes point-by-point to anyone out there still wondering what a blog is. This would seem to be unnecessary for anyone, you know, on a blog, but in case Brent Musberger wanders by there it is. Click the blue underliny stuff to go to that article, Brent, which is not a "blog" but a "post." Move the little mouse thing. No, it's not a real mouse. Notice how it's cold and dead instead of wriggling away from your gras-- okay, sure I suppose it could be a dead mouse. Move the human interface devic-- no! Stop eating it. You just said you thought it was a dead mouse! Put it-- screw it. You just go on drinking in your car, Brent.
Motown Sports Revival also deconstructs the dumb.
Etc: article about Rose Bowl preparations from the News that takes you inside the team meetings and stuff. EDSBS' Not Fiesta Bowl podcast features me, but all I talk about is Ohio State so you might want to skip it.
Unfortunately, there was a game and, doubly unfortunate, I guess I have to say something about it. There isn't much to analyze. Michigan lost because its offensive line got its ass handed to it by USC for the second time in four years. The game was a virtual replay of the 2004 game: USC sacks, a killer fluke turnover, a defense hanging in decently well until USC finally connects on a deep ball or four, and a fourteen point final margin.
Henne did about as well as he could. He has his limitations, but when given time to stand and throw he was just about perfect. This was rarely. I don't know if some of his hestiation was due to coverage or if his routes and progressions just took way too long for the amount of time he was getting, and there was the underthrown fluke interception on a screen pass, but the vast majority of any blame you want to dole out belongs to the offensive line.
We stupidly failed to adjust to the pressure. I know Michigan has experienced games where it couldn't block anyone (see every game last year) and found ways to creak down the field. Here, we were content running the same stretch play that worked only sporadically and making the same seven-step drops that were getting Henne killed by everyone. He didn't even have time to scramble out uselessly and flail. We threw two wide receiver screens, both of them from the same empty formation where we motion out a tight end. USC adjusted to the second predictable playcall. Slants? No. Little hitch things? No. It seems even Michigan's short routes are those Breaston drags that take forever to develop.
The defense did pretty well. Perhaps strange to say that, but the last touchdown was purely cosmetic (and a stupid way to put Michigan in a position to make it a game) and before that USC was given two short fields on pressure-forced turnovers. In a game where Michigan's offense exists, which prevents the short field and reduces the number of USC possessions, the Trojans likely score in the low 20s, which is fine.
Game theory dork. I strongly disagreed with Carroll's decision to go on fourth and two from around the 24 or 22 leading by 13 at the end of the third quarter. A field goal gets you a 16 point lead, a touchdown gives you a 19 or 21 point lead. Relevance:
- Michigan does not score two touchdowns. Irrelevant, and the most likely outcome.
- Michigan scores two touchdowns. If you had a 13 point lead, you lost. If you have a 16 point lead Michigan must follow both touchdowns with two-point conversions, then win in overtime. Approximately 45% of two-point conversions are successful; we can peg the chances of winning in OT at 50-50. .45 * .45 *. 5 = .01 = 10%. Getting a field goal turns a USC loss into 90% of a USC win in the event Michigan scores two touchdowns.
- Michigan scores three times. Here USC loses with a field goal no matter what the Michigan score is. A touchdown makes Michigan score a (third) touchdown of its own.
If you believe that Michigan scoring three times in the fourth quarter is highly improbable, then a field goal gives you 90% of the value of a touchdown there. A decision to go on fourth and two -- no gimme -- when a conversion means you still have to go 20 yards to reap a 10% benefit is incorrect. USC converted by the nose of the ball and kicked a field goal anyway. Michigan ended up scoring two touchdowns, though the second was cosmetic.
Someone should be fired. Evidently, Brent Musberger laid into "the Michigan blogs" sometime late in the game for demanding Carr's firing. I only wish I had the presumption to criticize things I don't read for things they haven't posted. I support Carr. I received emails from Michigan fans calling me a homer after posting "Litmus Lloyd." Earlier in the year I raged against the idea that Carr was "on the hotseat," a suggestion universally put forth by know-nothing Official Journalists who just write whatever the hell they want to about the Michigan fanbase without justification, because, hey, they're Official Journalists.
I think this season-ending tailspin sucks ass and think there are certain problems with the way Carr does things that are not optimal, but you can say that for all coaches, including God amongst us Pete Carroll. (Please see above.) I don't think Carr should be fired and moreover know that the chances he is fired are zero. Zero zero zero. So why bother talking about it? "Should Lloyd Carr be fired?" is as useful a question to ask is "Should Care Bear ninjas be sent to Iraq?" The answer to both these useless questions is "no."
Here is a question of some use. Should Andy Moeller be encouraged to take a job elsewhere? I don't pretend to know a tenth of what I need to know to seriously criticize the job he does as the offensive line coach, but his main qualification for the job appears to be that he's former Michigan linebacker and the son of Bo's right hand man. His bio reveals that he was the offensive line coach at Missouri for a few years, so he's not completely devoid of experience, but he's not exactly Art Kehoe either. Michigan's OL was a revolving door a year ago and in two separate Rose Bowls his lines have been overrun by Trojans.
The answer here is probably "no," too, but Michigan's coming up craps with its offensive line recruits frequently these days. Most years feature at least one "oh God, that guy's starting?" Most disturbing was Matt Lentz's performance as a senior. He regressed, the first time that's happened to a Michigan lineman in a long time.