that is nice bonus change
This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. It was supposed to be something like what happened to Big Ten Wonk: start a blog, operate it with verve and panache, and the team nearest and dearest to your heart will repay your affection and devotion with a remarkable season, going something like 37-2 or whatever.
Check and check.
Well, Michigan's got the -2 part done already, but the 35- bit looks like it will take them the better part of eight to ten seasons to reach. Let it be declared that this is the low ebb of Michigan athletics in my cognitive memory, which dates to the late 80s. Nothing good has happened since the end of the Northwestern game last year. Michigan was humiliated by an average-at-best Ohio State team, then blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead against Texas. The basketball team either beat up women or broke critical portions of their bodies or both and limped through another year of miserable failure. The hockey team blew a 3-0 lead in the second round of the NCAA tournament and then lost its best player to the NHL at the last moment, blindsiding teammates, coaches, and fans... again. This football season has two scintillating victories over MAC teams and then two other events which are strangely absent from my memory.
All told, you have a football team that's lost its last four games against non-MAC competition, a hockey team whose mythical aura of tournament-crushing was punctured in a major way and now limps into this season sizably reduced in stature, and a basketball team whose persistently hilarious incompetence is a source of black humor, scorn, and little else. The soccer world has a term for that one magical year when everything comes together and championships and cups flow like Guinness in Dublin: annus mirabilis. Michigan is currently undergoing the theoretical opposite of that--annus terriblus, maleficus, Stephen A Smithicus, whatever--and it is Not A Good Time. It is Too Little Fun. If Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is to be believed, all across Michigan men are testosterone-depressed weenies--the birth rates in the state will plummet nine months from now.
I'm not one to panic. This has happened before; Michigan's 2003 team lost to Oregon and Iowa early in the year and then didn't lose again until the Rose Bowl. The key difference between that team and this one, however, appears to be that the 2003 team was good. Both losses were due to a horrendous special teams meltdown that was largely fluky. The 2005 team appears to be bad. What appeared to be an unrepeated offensive meltdown against Notre Dame has revealed itself to be no such thing. Chad Henne has gone backwards (and unless you think Braylon was 11 feet tall and/or Stretch Armstrong, he wouldn't be much help). The interior of the offensive line completely failed to push back the 200 pound 10th graders Wisconsin ran out there to play on the DL. Steve Breaston can be found on the proverbial milk carton. Our running backs are fumblers.
This is usually the point in the year during which Carr does his best Wayne Fontes impression and pulls Michigan's ass out of the fire, but... yeah. Not so much. Unless a miraculous turnaround arrives right freakin' now, MSU is going to beat us, and since we haven't held any running back that's opposed us under 100 yards you have to figure the Minnesota game will be a dogfight at the very least. At this point the Alamo Bowl looks like an appealing proposition.
So, rather than list all the things I was completely and totally wrong about, I'll save you all some time and just list all the things I was right about:
- Drew Stanton is the best QB in the Big Ten.
- Indiana is bad.
- The Gang of Six is a crappy idea.
Safe to say that the only people in the blogosphere who have managed to be wronger than me have been the "Gang of Six, er, Two... er... Probably Just USC" (BTW: USF 45-14 Louisville? QED, MFer) but I would trade that--even though the OMG BLOGGERZ set would be intolerable--for a football team that wasn't squandering every advantage it ever had.
The proposition that Lloyd Carr is somehow responsible for Max Martin's fumble or Henne's slide to "maybe better than Michael Robinson" still has a faint patina of ridiculousness, but 0-7 is incrementally harder to justify than 0-6, especially since the script seems so similar: domination of the first half but no reflection of such on the scoreboard, turnovers, conservative offensive playcalling (questionable in this game--did you really want Henne's Random Pass Generator hurling the ball downfield), and a late defensive collaspse == uptick in knife sales across the Wolverine diaspora. Remember kids, cut down the artery, not across.
There will be no "Fire Carr?" ponderings here since it's a moot point: he's not going anywhere until he chooses to do so. You can't fire someone with his track record unless you can get someone like Bill Callahan, and, my friends, The Great One is busy beating Pitt 7-6. But I'm tired of this, like everyone is, and at this point I'd probably greet Carr's retirement with renewed optimism towards the program. At least, I will if this damn pill bottle's lid won't come off.
Trackbacks and comments about the action this weekend go here. How about that Army-ISU game?
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
Michigan will probably run early and hope to have enough success to turn that "early" into "early and often." The statistics imply that this is suicidal, but they're extremely flattering to a UW front seven that will be getting its stiffest test of the year in this game. Wisconsin's yielding under 40 yards a game, but that's due in large part to Omar Jacobs being busy throwing for 458 yards and Temple being Temple. To their credit, the Badgers did shut down a UNC team that had a middling ground game in the ACC last year. Michigan's ground game has methodically crushed its MAC opponents--think Star Wars trash compactor scene--but was only okay against Notre Dame. Michigan gained over 4 YPC but that was greatly aided by a 30 yard reverse.
Injury woes have beset both teams. Michigan is down its best running back, tight end, and tackle; Wisconsin has lost a starting defensive tackle and its best defensive end, Jamal Cooper. This appears to be advantage Michigan, as the Wolverines have capable replacments in Max Martin, Kevin Grady, Tyler Ecker, and (hopefully) Mike Kolodziej while the Badgers are scrambling on the defensive line. A 225-pound true freshman steps into the starting lineup with Cooper out and the coaches may actually play OT Joe Thomas at DE if the need arises.
Expect to see Max Martin start; the uncertainty and youth at defensive end combined with budding star Nick Hayden at DT means that outside appears to be the place to go and the high-stepping, slashing Martin is the back to go there. Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson will rotate in, sooner rather than later if the sweeps and stretch plays aren't working against the Badger D.
Key Matchup: TE Tyler Ecker and FB Brian Thompson versus Badger OLBs Dontez Sanders and Andy Crooks. If Ecker and Thompson can seal the somewhat undersized Badger linebackers they should have the edge when they want it, but neither has proven themselves to be a Dudley-level blocker.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
If things had gone to plan against Notre Dame, this would be a glaring mismatch and evil cackling would substitute for serious analysis in this section. Wisconsin was absolutely torched by Jacobs for those 458 yards and 5 touchdowns and didn't do much better against North Carolina, ceding 281 yards and escaping a 300 or 350 yard day only because of several untimely drops by the Tarheel receivers. Cooper's loss is a big blow here as well as he was clearly the team's best pass rusher at this point in the season. Wisconsin starts a true freshman opposite senior Brett Bell, has lost the quietly spectacular safety play of Jim Leonhard, and has no surefire pass-rusher without Erasmus James and Cooper. They're vulnerable.
However--and unfortunately for small children in my immediate vicinity--the Notre Dame game did not go as planned. Chad Henne was pressured repeatedly by Irish blitzers. Late in the first half he got rattled and early in the second he threw the game in to the waiting hands of Tom Zibikowski as Michigan went down to dismal defeat. Presumptive deep threat Steve Breaston is the functional equivalent of Featherstone from Unnecessary Roughness at this point. Ruben Riley has definitively proven that as a tackle, he makes a fantastic guard.
So I won't say something as potentially stupid as "the real question here is how brutally Henne dissects the Notre Dame secondary," but I will tentatively assert that Michigan should be able to throw effectively against the Badgers as long as Henne keeps his cool and his line keeps his jersey relatively clean. Someone needs to step up opposite Avant this week--whoever the second WR is will be opposing a true freshman who's been annihilated so far this year. There's no time like the present.
Key Matchup: Mike Kolodziej versus Mysterious Tingly Illness. Michigan needs Kolodziej to return and keep the pressure off of Henne, who performs worlds better when he has faith in his pass blocking. Riley had trouble against Eastern Michigan. Whoever gets thrown out there in place of Cooper is probably at least that guy's equal.
Run Defense Vs Wisconsin
Falcon defense feels like a kitten!
Brian Calhoun's early season romp through the dandelion fields of Bowling Green and Temple is meaningless--those two teams may have the worst run defenses in I-A--but his performance against North Carolina is another matter entirely. 171 yards against any half-decent BCS team in your first game against a real defense is something to take note of, and take note we the watchers of the Big Ten have. Calhoun repeatedly darted through holes that didn't seem to be there, hitting the Tarheel secondary with authorita. In general he looks like a slightly bigger version of Anthony Davis with one major difference: he has a tendency to wear helmets and pads instead of street clothes when the game rolls around. He's good.
That combined with Michigan's struggles against similarly darting backs Garrett Wolfe and Darius Walker have led many to regard this game ominously, but I think the run defense is coming around. Walker ripped off a lot of his longer runs in a three wide set which Michigan chose to oppose with six guys in the box--there's small chance of a similar formation drawing a similar reaction given Alvarez's propensity for grunting pig-sooey ball and Stocco's general shakiness. Towards the end of the game when Notre Dame was going to run and Michigan knew it, Walker was stuffed repeatedly. David Harris is a night-and-day improvement from Scott McClintock at middle linebacker and the new starters on the outside are beginning to settle in and play solid assignment football. The run defense is going to be okay.
Calhoun will get some yards, maybe even 100 of them if Alvarez keeps feeding him the ball, but 170 is unlikely and a 200+ yard downfield romp is out of the question, especially with safeties who have shown a tendency to tackle things. Wisconsin will probably 'win' this battle, but it won't be a blowout.
Key Matchup: Gabe Watson vs. Lloyd Carr's doghouse. Watson apparently caught 90% of the flak from the first, awful game against the Huskies and has found himself playing strictly backup minutes in the last two despite the fact that he has a higher rate of making plays than starter Pat Massey and erstwhile starter Will Johnson (replaced by Alan Branch this week)... combined. If Carr continues to short his playing time because Watson is fat and happy instead of slightly less fat and mean, he's cutting off his nose to spite his face, especially given Massey's tendency to crumple at the line of scrimmage at Watson's tendency to drive his blocker three yards backwards.
Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin
I've gone on record suggesting that John Stocco is the crappiest crapperback in all of crappyland, but he's not a total incompetent and can hurt Michigan if they get caught expecting run when Wisconsin passes. Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr, and Owen Daniels are all at least competent and Williams and Daniels may actually be rather good--it's hard to tell in the Badger offense. That said, there's a lot of uncertainty on the offensive line outside of Thomas and Raiola and time the pass will probably be limited if the line performs anything like it did against North Carolina, when Stocco was repeatedly hurried by a probably-not-great UNC defensive line. Given the play of Alan Branch, Lamarr Woodley, and (fingers crossed) Tim Jamison plus a surprisingly competent Wolverine secondary, it is extremely inadvisable for the Badgers to put themselves in obvious passing situations. They will not go well for the home team.
If they're throwing on first and ten, second and five, and third and three, however, they can and will be effect
ive, especially with play action given the fact that Michigan has to respect Calhoun's running. Owen Daniels is probably going to be a bit of a thorn given the Michigan linebackers' inexperience and that Calhoun guy. He'll be open, and if Stocco can hit him a few times Wisconsin will have something going. The threat of the run will be what opens up an effective passing game for Wisconsin. It won't be consistent enough to roll up and down the field but Stocco won't be completing 30% of his passes for 2 yards each.
Key Matchup: SLB Prescott Burgess/MLB David Harris vs. TE Owen Daniels. As mentioned above, Daniels is a threat over the middle on play action.
Each team has a big return against a team that doesn't really count--Brandon Williams against Temple and Steve Breaston against Eastern--and has some moderate threat in the return game plus solid but unspectacular kickers. This is a push.
Key Matchup: Michigan's Historic Special Teams Idiocy vs. My Continued Sanity. The common thread of the road opener loss thing has been OMG DISASTER special teams. If it happens again, expect this blog to abruptly change from something fairly erudite and witty into insane ranting about how football should eliminate special teams altogether and possibly tar and feather anyone who tries to block a kick.
I still don't believe in them, if you must know.
- Kolodziej does not play.
- It looks like another day of light duty for Watson.
- Michigan's contain problems continue to burn them--Calhoun is the kind of guy who can exploit that.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Martin gets the corner a couple of times early.
- Wisconsin can't seem to avoid second and ten.
- Someone not named Avant starts catching some passes.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for road opener, +1 for sort-of-night game, -1 for historic lack of Barryball success v. Michigan, +1 for injuries, -1 for their injuries.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 break this road opener thing, +2 we can't go 2-2, +2 we can't go 2-2 going into East Lansing.)
Loss will cause me to... er. I'd stay away from the immediate vicinity of any campus belltowers.
Win will cause me to... start panicking about Drew Stanton.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Victory. But not an easy one.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Calhoun gets 80-90 yards.
- Ecker has another 6-7 catches.
|1||10||O20||Pass||22||Not a good start. No pressure on a 4 man rush and the zone has a big hole in it.|
|1||10||O42||Pass||5||Three step drop and fire. Note: everyone on the EMU OL chops. No batted pass.|
|2||5||O47||Pass||Inc||Nice play by Harris(+1), Woodley(+1) gets pressure on a three man rush.|
|3||5||O47||Pass||Inc||Another blitz from Hall, who's lined up as a linebacker. Nice call from Herrmann to pull Burgess into a short zone from a three point stance, which confused Bohnet.|
|Drive Notes: The three man rush rears its ugly head again, but we actually get a play from someone in zone coverage.|
|1||10||O45||Pass||Inc||Again the chop and fire. Bohnet just throws it low.|
|2||10||O45||Run||4||QB draw. Nice play by Woodley(+1) to come back and make the tackle.|
|3||6||O49||Pass||Inc||Another three man rush. The EMU guy dropped it, but Harris(+1) was in good position and very close to making a play.|
|Drive Notes: Largely EMU screwups this time.|
|1||10||O20||Run||0||Burgess(+2) fights off a block and buries the RB. Nice play.|
|2||10||O20||Pass||Inc||Harris(+2) reads the QB, breaks on the ball, and deflects the pass.|
|3||10||O20||Pass||Sack, -10||Branch(+2) is in the backfield instantly, allowing Woodley(+1) to come off his block and make the sack.|
|Drive Notes: Three nice plays. Branch has been our best DT so far this year. He has the power to hold up in the run game and the quickness to get penetration and rush the passer. It's just EMU, but this drive (or lack thereof) is sweet.|
|1||10||O17||Run||3||Burgess(-1) misses a tackle that would have kept it to 0, Harris(+1) reads and sheds to make the tackle at 3.|
|2||7||O20||Pass||5||More of this short yardage stuff. If it was a five or seven step drop Biggs(+1) was going to sack Bohnet, though.|
|3||2||O25||Pass||1||Woodley(+2) stays home on the tricky shovel pass thing that used to kill us. Nice.|
|Drive Notes: OMG lane responsibility. Continued good play. Just... Eastern... not... excited.|
|1||10||O19||Run||0||QB keeper on the offtackle counter option a lot of spread teams run. Burgess(+1) makes the tackle but it's because Engelmon(+1) came up and had good contain.|
|2||10||O19||Pass||Inc||WR was open but Bohnet shortarms it.|
|3||10||O19||Pass||Scramble, 3||Another three man rush. Bohnet just takes off even though there isn't much pressure.|
|Drive Notes: Nice play on first down by Engelmon (OMG CONTAIN) but the other two plays are just EMU screwups.|
|1||10||O20||Run||2||New QB. Is it a rule that when you put your black QB in the first play he has to run is a draw? Football is racist. Engelmon makes the tackle. HUGS ENGELMON.|
|2||8||O22||Pass||Inc||Counter option with a pass attached that's dropped after being thrown too hard. Probably goes for 5 if it's caught.|
|3||8||O22||Pass||Scramble, 5||Graham(+1) comes up and prevents the first down.|
|Drive Notes: Someone describe a difference between this guy and Troy Smith. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?|
|1||10||O16||Pass||0||Screen to the French guy, who surrenders to Burgess and Mason. Ha! I kill me!|
|2||10||O16||Pass||19||Same thing as the first play of the game. Bohnet has time and fires between levels in the zone.|
|1||10||O35||Run||1||Watson(+2) is in and crushes his man into the backfield, disrupts the hole, allows the linebackers to slice up, and then assists on the tackle. Same page!|
|2||9||O36||Pass||33||Fluketasm where Bonhet just heaves up a prayer which is answered. Crable(+1) gets a really nice pass rush but fails to make the sack.|
|1||10||M31||Pass||Inc||Bohnet throws this out of bounds, probably because Jamar Adams(+1) jumped the route and throwing to the receiver would be unwise.|
|2||10||M31||Pass||Int||Bohnet badly overthrows his man. Trent makes a nice play to come off his man and make the pick.|
|Drive Notes: The closest thing to a drive EMU mounts until the second/third stringers are in, and it's one nice play and one ball that was just heaved in to the sky.|
|1||10||O27||Pass||Inc||Three man rush. Branch actually gets some pressure after a bit but can't make the sack. Bohnet just launches it downfield.|
|2||10||O27||Pass||Inc||Inaccurate pass underneath prevent coverage (it's just before halftime).|
|3||10||O27||Run||3||Sarcastic bastard screams key play, key play into the sideline mic (It is also 38-0 or something now).|
|Drive Notes: Halftime.|
|1||10||O19||Run||3||Biggs(+1) holds the corner and makes the tackle.|
|2||7||O22||Run||5||Draw. Watson(+1) holds his ground on a double team and slows up the RB a little bit, but can't make the tackle, and there's no one to fill the hole.|
|3||2||O27||Pass||3||Mason(+1) reads the short pass in the flat well and prevents any YAC but EMU squeaks the first down out anyway.|
|1||10||O30||Run||-2||Watson(+1) holds the point and when the RB bounces it outside Biggs(+1) disengages and makes the TFL.|
|2||12||O28||Pass||7||Three step drop and a slant with the corners playing off.|
|3||5||O35||Pass||7||Another three man rush/soft zone combination.|
|1||10||O42||Pass||9||Jailbreak screen that Harrison(-1) and Thompson(-1) don't read very well.. I think.|
|2||2||M49||Run||4||Dunno. Again a replay obliterates the live action.|
|1||10||M45||Pass||Inc||Thompson(+1) has good zone coverage and forces the drop.|
|2||10||M45||Pass||11||A lot of time for Bohnet and he hits an outlet on the sideline, and Lloyd is PISSED at someone? Hood(-1) I think for a really weak tackle.|
|1||10||M34||Run||-1||Branch(+1) drives his man in the backfield, fouling the play up, and Woods(+1) shucks his guy at the line and cleans up the mess.|
|2||11||M35||Penalty||-10||Holding drawn by Jamison(+1), who beat the tackle around the end. I think this is his first play.|
|2||21||M45||Pass||1||Little dumpoff pass for a yard. Note: Jamison gets chipped by the RB.|
|3||20||M44||Pass||Inc||Crable's just unblocked and forces Bohnet to throw it away.|
|Drive Notes: Something resembling a drive here with the help of a lot of NIU-ish passive zone. A lot of plusses and few negatives because it's hard to really blame anyone in specific for those things.|
|1||10||O20||Run||-3||Jamison(+2) shoves his man three yards into the backfield and into the RB, Thompson(+1) cleans up.|
|2||13||O23||Pass||Inc||EMU QB#2 floats it way up high and lets Harrison get there and nail the exposed WR.|
|3||13||O23||Pass||Inc||Nowhere near the receiver here.|
|Drive Notes: A tantalizing glimpse into the possibilities of Jamison.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||-2||Screen to some dude but Hood is in press coverage. Uh.|
|1||10||O30||Run||2||Spread counter option but the QB falls down. Probably would have gone for a few. Walton bit hard.|
|2||8||O32||Pass||Sack, -6||Dude, Jamison(+2) you kick ass, and then immediately reach for your shoulder.|
|Drive Notes: Yes, the only reason I watched this thing was for the Jami-sack.|
Same question: does it mean anything?
It means more than the offensive performance, I think. Eastern had a pretty decent offense last year (21st nationally, albeit against the MAC and its matador defenses), had a returning quarterback, and were totally shut down by the Michigan defense. Eastern mounted two drives the entire game, one of which consisted of a good pass and a back-foot prayer. The other didn't even result in a field goal attempt.
The yardage numbers are slightly flattering--that disastrous punt snap ended up a 30-ish yard loss, but the defense held EMU under 200 yards and shut them out--they couldn't have performed any better. It is just Eastern, but it's a start.
Any new faces stand out?
Obviously Tim Jamison had an impressive debut (sort of... he did play a little bit his first couple of games as a freshman), drawing a holding call on what I believe was his first play of the season and notching a QED, MFer-type sack. Also of note was a running play where he drove his man into the backfield a la Watson. His shoulder's clearly still bothering him so he might not see a ton of playing time the next couple weeks, but it seems likely he'll be a contributor by midseason.
Morgan Trent has solidified the nickel spot and made a nice play on the interception. Not amazing, but efficient. Brandon Harrison also closed nicely on an overthrown ball and laid a lick on an Eagle wideout.
Give me that sweet table loving.
Note: the scale increased this week, and that combined with the dominating performance means the numbers got very high relative to last week. Comparisons between the two are probably not valid. Better to note who didn't make an impact.
|Woodley||5||-||5||Again didn't really show up on the stat sheet much, but didn't play much.|
|Biggs||3||-||3||Coming around on Biggs. He was overmatched at times against ND but has made plays the last two weeks.|
|Watson||3||-||3||Get on the same page, I beg.|
|Crable||1||-||1||Could have had a couple sacks if he would slow down a tiny bit.|
|Jamison||5||-||5||Impressve debut. If he can duplicate it against UW, get excited.|
|Branch||3||-||3||Now a starter. Deserves it.|
|Harris||5||-||5||Reading and reacting in the short zone.|
|Graham||1||1||0||Didn't really do much.|
|Engelmon||1||-||1||Another solid outing.|
|Trent||1||1||0||Has responded when called on so far.|
|Adams||1||1||0||Played a lot as a nickel back over the slot receiver. Looks more like a linebacker than a safety.|
|Hood||-||1||-1||Got chewed out by Carr with his team up 40 or 50--an accomplishment.|
|Harrison||-||1||-1||-1 might be harsh.|
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
Not sure. I'm very happy to see Branch listed as a starter. He's a star in the making. Burgess and Harris are playing well, the safeties are settling in, and the cornerbacks are at least three deep. I think the best DL for Wisconsin probably looks something like Massey-Branch-Watson-Woodley. Massey played DE in the 3-4 last year when the interior run defense was great, Watson may have motivation issues but is still like 600 pounds, and Branch and Woodley are just plain good. I'm optimistic that Calhoun will find the going tough on Saturday.
Ditto. EDSBS proves that it's over-edumacated. If you like football and took way too many English classes in college, this is the best thing ever.
OMG MOVING PICTURES can be found in spades over at IBFC. Vijay's putting 500 extra megs of internet space to the best use possible: spectacular Michigan highlights throughout the ages. Part one. Part two. Sweet.
Reason #2 I don't hate State as much as I used to is the RCMB, which is one of the few fan boards on the internet with a decidedly self-depreciating sense of humor. (Reason #1: last year was payback for 2001. Reason #1A: Ryan Miller is gone.) Check their thread on "things safer than a huge lead in a State football game" for evidence.
Saginaw point guard Tory Jackson, long thought to be signed, sealed, and delivered to Michigan, will attend Notre Dame instead, leaving Michigan without a point guard in this class. Internet rumblings claim that Michigan was the dumper here and Jackson the dumpee, but we've heard that before and the situation Michigan finds itself puts the lie to that claim. In 2006, the sole point guard on the team will be Jerrett Smith, a marginal recruit who's been reported to have problems playing defense, shooting, and passing at various times last year. While he's probably not Avery Queen 2005, it's safe to say that placing all of Michigan's point guard eggs in his basket or that of Dion Harris--who proved that he's not much of a point last year--is a risky "decision," if not an insane one.
Escape from Ann Arbor
But that's okay! The instate crop for '07 is loaded with awesome high major prospects that will fill out Michigan's scholarship allotment with pure asskicking fury. Don't get distressed about a guy who was either already committed or an inch and a half from committing who decides to go to a strange, unmentioned school after strange rumblings and implied cries of "shenanigans" from UM basketball loyalists.
Er... wasn't that supposed to be this year? Wasn't this year supposed to be the Sims/Jackson/Herzog/Lighty/Morris uberclass that vaulted us into the lofty realms of the NCAA tournament? Well, Sims is aboard, Morris is the Ray Jackson of the class, Lighty's going to OSU, Jackson's going to ND, and Herzog is still very much up in the air and if you made me guess right now I would say he's probably Not Coming Here. So now the drumbeat starts about Alex Legion, Kelvin Grady, Durrell Summers, Chris Wright, Josh Southern, and Kalin Lucas, the '07 guys who will light up scoreboards next year, be OMG Michigan LOCKZ(!), and go somewhere else.
Let's be serious: no matter the devious machinations behind the scenes here, Amaker screwed up again. The near-exclusive focus on Jackson in this class, like the focus on Crawford and Hairston in 2003, leaves Michigan grasping at kids in next year's class that may or may not come. "Not" is a 3-2 favorite. Maybe by this point we would be wise to the fact that basketball recruiting is a shady and infuriating business full of dubious advisors who mainly seem to advise players to avoid Ann Arbor and plan accordingly. (That is, if you buy this shady business at all, which I don't: Jackson is heading to ND, not Florida or Missouri. Unless Holtz has decided to channel his inner Bobby Knight, the ND program is about as rogue as a bunny rabbit.) I don't pretend to know the inner workings of basketball recruiting, but this is the second time in three years Michigan has been left in the lurch by assuming someone was in the bag when he was not.
All you have to do is watch a single disjointed offensive possession that involves 30 seconds of passing it around the perimeter and one off-balance, contested three-pointer to realize that Amaker was brought here to recruit. Unfortunately, the wages of his recruiting appear to consist largely of sleepers who are role-players at best (Smith, Coleman, Brown, Petway), soft guys from Boston, and guys that not even Amaker could screw up (Abram, D. Sims). The future bodes unwell. I do have it on good authority that Michigan is in on some kickass sixth graders, though.
Hurray we're different. Sort of. Struggling Joe has been tracking the BlogPoll in relation to the AP poll for the last few weeks. This week we've managed to put different teams in 19 of the 25 spots, but in general the differences are just transpositions. The biggest disagreements are about Cal (AP 13, BP 16), Arizona State (AP 18, BP 15), and UCLA (AP 25, BP 22). These similarities will probably only increase as the season shakes itself out and things get more and more obvious.
Strange that 45-50 bloggers with obviously different voting philosophies--Eagle In Atlanta pounds teams for every loss (not to pick on EIA--it's not wrong, just different) where I've moved teams like NC State and Arizona State up after tough losses against excellent competition--and ballots that range from staid to flapjack nuts would produce a result so similar to the AP poll... unless you assume that they're just flying blind, too, which I do.
Readers and bloggers are hereby invited to ponder and respond to the following queries:
Is being different even desirable?
I assume so, since a poll that's exactly the same as the existing polls isn't very interesting to anyone.
Is achieving difference via "wacky" ideas a terrible idea?
I had an idea that you could pick a team or two and your ranking of that team would be counted double or triple. So you pick a team you feel very strongly about that seems under/overrated to you and your opinion there carries more weight. This could be another poll auxilary at first maybe become more official at a later date if everyone likes it.
Is being different even feasible?
To some extent the results towards the beginning of the year are total speculation and thus not really subject to callouts--I said that the Enlightened Spartan's ballot preseason was terrible and look how that turned out. Results towards the end of the year are largely dictated by results. So, early in the year our ability to analytically do something different is limited and late in the year our ability to move teams around without looking ridiculous is likewise limited.
Should we agree on a set of guidelines for all voters?
Right now we're definitely voting at cross purposes; what's reflected in the poll is not only a difference of opinion but a difference of methodology. I have to believe that if people were voting strictly based on how good a team appears to be Arizona State would be much higher after losing to LSU on a couple of very fluky special teams touchdowns. If people were voting strictly on results, Michigan would be behind ND. But because people voting with 100% of A or 100% of B or 50/50 or whatever combination you desire and strictly on a whim in some cases, we get the poll as it is, which looks an awful lot like the AP poll and has the exact same incoherencies.
So, then, what should those be?
And, finally: How can we communicate better?
I don't get the feeling that we're really absorbing information from other pollers and adjusting our polls accordingly, which is, like, the primary goal here. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
|1||G||O10||Run||Martin||8||Nice blocking by Thompson, taking out two Eagles.|
|Drive Notes: Not much to say. It's Eastern. I do think Martin looks pretty good here.|
|1||10||O20||Run||Martin||8||Martin makes a nice read here, cutting up into the hole as soon as it opens. Kraus gets enough of the EMU linebacker to give him the lane.|
|2||2||O12||Run||Martin||2||This is a really nice run, actually, as Henige gets beat and his man is right in the hole, as is a blitzing linebacker. Could have been a loss of 4.|
|1||G||O10||Run||Martin||10||Touchdown. Again a couple of nice cuts. Martin seems to understand his blocking pretty well.|
|Drive Notes: See previous drive.|
|1||10||O49||Pass||Breaston||8||One of those long handoffs to a WR. The route is stop and wait for the pass.|
|2||2||O41||Run||Grady||3||Not much push from the line, but Grady leaps and spins for the first... his YAC ability is closely related to his fumbling, I think.|
|1||10||O38||Pass||Avant||Inc||Avant is wide open and Henne misses him. Nice triple route to the left that Henne reads correctly, though.|
|2||10||O38||Pass||Breaston||11||Breaston makes 3 after the catch by cutting inside the corner. Henne sort of sidearms this, disturbingly.|
|1||10||O27||Pass||Avant||13||Easy, easy short pass where Avant is wide open. They're on the 27 and giving a 10 yard cushion.|
|1||10||O14||Pass||Avant||14||Touchdown. Henne gets nailed as he releases this due to miscommunication between Mitchell and Riley, who fail to block the DT. That's on Mitchell, who doubles the other DT even though Riley clearly has the responsbility to take the DE.|
|Drive notes: Well, 4/5 for Henne here. All I remembered from the game here was the badly missed Avant. There's no coverage at all, so it doesn't mean much.|
|1||10||M33||Pass||Avant||8||Long handoff. EMU is all like way back and stuff.|
|2||2||M41||Run||Jackson||5||Jackson looks quick.|
|1||10||M46||Run||Jackson||2||This another missed block by Mitchell, who just sort of runs at the DE without engaging him. He's not ready.|
|2||8||M48||Pass||Bass||Inc||This looks like a bad pass from Henne but postgame someone mentioned that Bass rounded his route off and was in the wrong place when the pass was thrown, which I buy given the location of the pass.|
|3||8||M48||Pass||Bass||Inc||Ball was there but not well thrown and Bass dropped it. Would have been short anyway. Major problem with the play, though, is Riley, who gets beaten badly by the DE, who hurries the throw even though Riley held him.|
|Drive Notes: First disturbing play from Riley on the day, who had trouble with the EMU DE.|
|1||10||O40||Run||Martin||7||Another sweep, facilitated by a nice block from Paul.|
|2||3||O33||Run||Martin||4||Mostly just crushing blocking here. Ball pops out when Martin hits the ground--not what the coaches wanted to see, even though it wasn't a fumble.|
|1||10||O29||Pass||Avant||3||Long handoff is well defended this time.|
|2||7||O26||Pass||Avant||26||Touchdown.I mean, it's nice and all, but so easy that it probably doesn't mean anything. Avant's open by a couple yards.|
|Drive Notes: Like the NIU game, the running game is unexplosive but very steady. The coaches must like Martin's vision and cuts, because they keep giving him the zone stretch play that Terrell Davis made famous and Fred Russell drove me nuts with.|
|1||10||M39||Pass||Grady||10||Just a flat dumpoff, appears to be the primary read, too. Grady breaks a tackle and makes five extra yards.|
|2||1||M49||Run||Grady||10||Sweep with the crushing blocking again. Key block is Ecker, who seals the DE with authorita(!).|
|1||10||O41||Run||Grady||7||Crushing blocking again. Very Big 2, Little 8, this blocking.|
|2||3||O34||Pass||Avant||5||Quick out for Avant, which EMU can't defend if they insist on playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.|
|1||10||O29||Run||Martin||-2||Draw and EMU stunts... I think this is just a defense winning the rock-paper-scissors.|
|2||12||O31||Pass||Avant||Inc||Avant dropped a pass! My world is ending.|
|3||12||O31||Pass||Henne||Scramble, 13||You can hear the sorostitutes screaming as their precious Henne starts rolling down the field|
|1||10||O18||Pass||No one||Sack, -7||Riley beaten like something beaten a lot (insert domestic violence joke).|
|2||17||O25||Pass||Grady||17||Screen, and Grady puts a nice juke on to get six or seven yards.|
|3||1||O9||Run||Grady||5||They run behind Steno and Henige and they crushify the opposition.|
|1||G||O4||Run||Martin||-2||The DT slips behind Kraus here on the zone sweep they run with Martin a lot and he makes the tackle.|
|2||G||O6||Pass||Thompson||6||Touchdown. Henne had Thompson open earlier but took a while to get to his read here. Nit, yes, but nits is all you get against EMU. Hyyyaaaaarrr!|
|Drive Notes: Yes, I knew the screen was coming, but it worked anyway. Second incident of Riley being beaten by the EMU DE.|
|1||10||M14||Run||Martin||5||Another zone sweep which Martin cuts up inside.|
|2||5||M19||Run||Martin||4||More outside. I think he got what he could but Breaston misses his block entirely or he could have gotten the corner and gone zip.|
|3||1||M23||Run||Martin||4||Finally an inside run for Martin, who picks the right hole, but is seemingly a little slow in getting there.|
|1||10||M27||Pass||Henne||Scramble, 3||This was supposed to go deep but Henne pumps and decides better of it.|
|2||7||M30||Run||Martin||3||Martin against cuts it up inside as Riley gets shoved back a bit.|
|3||4||M33||Run||Martin||13||Martin gets to the corner and fast.|
|1||10||M46||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Henne shortarms the long handoff.|
|1||10||O38||Run||Martin||4||Martin cuts it back outside when the planned run doesn't appear to be there.|
|2||6||O34||Pass||Massey||17||Massey's wide open underneath the coverage.|
|1||10||O17||Run||Martin||4||This is a run that Martin could have broken bigger but getting outside faster.|
|2||6||O13||Run||Martin||-6||All I see of this is the very end as a replay replaces the play. Thanks ESPN+!|
|3||12||O19||Pass||Avant||Inc||This comes out of Henne's hand funny and launches on a ridiculous trajectory that takes it out of the end zone.|
|Drive Notes: FG. At this point I should note that Martin is running exclusively outside. Gutierrez takes over after this.|
|2||6||M43||Run||Martin||3||Draw. I think Martin is tentative when he's facing opponents, he doesn't set them up and juke past them, a la Hart.|
|3||3||M46||Run||Martin||7||Gaping hole and Martin does make a few yards after contact before going down.|
|1||10||O47||Pass||Avant||13||Slant and then six or seven yards afterwards.|
|1||10||O34||Run||Martin||8||Some miscommunication, as Martin has Bihl out with him and one corner to block, and he cuts inside of Bihl, who misses the corner.|
|2||2||O26||Pass||Thompson||8||Gutz loops this one out to Thompson... the difference in arm strength is remarkable.|
|2||7||O15||Pass||Gutz||Scramble, -3||Rollout that Gutz just takes out of bounds when no one is open.|
|3||10||O18||Pass||Manningham||3||This looks like a bobbled pass at first glance but it's actually a GREAT catch where he sticks one hand out to slow a ball too far out in front of him and then makes the catch and cuts upfield.|
|2||G||O7||Run||Martin||3||Martin gets to the outside but can't beat the corner and get in.|
|3||G||O4||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Caught out of bounds... Gutz can't come off the covered Ecker in time to get it to Breaston in the end zone.|
|Drive Notes: There's noticably less to critique because everything works, essentially. That Manningham play was the definition of tantalizing--smartly spearing and catching a poorly thrown ball and then making 12 extra yards with moves that would make Smoove B proud. FG.|
|1||10||M12||Pass||Tabb||Inc||Gutierrez has all day, all night, and then a taco afterwards, rolls around and then nearly throws a pick. Not his best play.|
|2||10||M12||Run||Martin||12||Huge hole up the middle and Thompson gets a good block. Martin does well here to get all he can.|
|1||10||M24||Run||Martin||10||Another hole, and he makes a good cut to pick up another five, but his cutting doesn't look like it will work against better teams.|
|1||10||M35||Run||Grady||2||Cuilla pulls around but doesn't block the linebacker in the hole.|
|2||8||M37||Run||Grady||2||Seems to make the right cut outside here but can't get by the guy that Bihl's blocking.|
|2||6||M39||Pass||Massey||7||Wide open, again.|
|1||10||M46||Run||Jackson||14||A cavernous hole on the right side features Kraus pancaking a guy and Jackson just sort of cruises up the sideline.|
|1||10||O40||Pass||Manningham||22||12 YAC with some dipping and diving and moving and stuff. I think he's the real deal.|
|1||10||O18||Pass||Bass||11||Long handoff and Bass shows his stuff, juking two guys out of jocks and making five after contact. Woohaa.|
|1||G||O7||Run||Jackson||7||Touchdown. Jackson takes the corner on low at the four yard line and just plows into the end zone.|
|Drive Notes: I like 'em both.|
|1||10||O41||Run||Jackson||3||Kraus can't get out on the LB quick enough.|
|2||7||O38||Run||Bass||2||Bass lines up under center and runs a sweep, he slips so it's hard to tell if it would have worked.|
|3||5||O36||Pass||Tabb||5||Kind of a low, sloppy throw from Gutierrez.|
|1||10||O30||Run||Bradley||-5||Alijah Bradley? Yeah, this is the last drive I'm blogging.|
|2||15||O35||Pass||Tabb||17||Should have been a pick six by the EMU defender. I think the concerns about Gutz's arm strength are legitimate.|
|1||G||O1||Run||Bradley||1||Yay 5'2 walkon touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: I can't believe I blogged this. Someone get me into detox.|
So... what does it all mean?
Probably not a whole lot. It was interesting to see the running game completely change with Martin in the game--runs between the tackles were few and far between, zone stretches as far as the eye can see, etc.--but the only thing we really learned is that we really need Kolodziej back as soon as possible, because Riley just isn't a tackle.
New guys who impressed?
Alex Mitchell got extensive playing time and did all right, though he missed a couple blocks, one of which got Henne killed. Manningham and Bass... well, I wish one was redshirting, but it looks like both are the kind of guys that when they say "I want to play as a freshman" you nod and say "yessir," Manningham in particular. It might be next year when they come to the forefront--both had some freshman issues with their routes (mostly Bass, though)--but the kids are all right.
Max Martin also counts as new, since I'd never really seen him with an opportunity for extensive playing time. You can see why the coaching staff likes him. He does have a very high top speed and has good vision when it comes to picking a hole at the line of scrimmage. He's big enough that he can deliver a whack at the end of the play, too. But he's not much for making guys miss and Michigan didn't even attempt a pass to him--either they're k eeping it under wraps (certainly possible) or the whole Martin's-like-Reggie-Bush thing was just a private joke the coaches were playing on us.
Impossible to tell. Eastern rarely got pressure and what they did get was all due to Riley or Mitchell. The results were a sack, an incompletion, and a 26 yard touchdown to Avant. A lot of his completions were long handoffs to receivers and he badly missed a couple passes. The chart looks good, though:
|Team||Dead on||Catchable||Inaccurate||Bad Read||Throwaways||Batted|
The competition was so soft it's meaningless, though, and a large portion of those throws were very short and easy. He gets an incomplete for the day.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
We'll probably see Martin start and a lot of Manningham.
Wisconsin BlogPoller and King of All Duluth, Minnesota Media Bruce Ciskie was kind enough to answer some questions about this year's version of the Badgers, which seems a lot like every year's version of the Badgers. He'll have the inverse up sometime in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy some insight from the badger's mouth, as it were:
1. Michigan's offensive line has been wracked with injuries, but so has the Wisconsin defensive line. Who's out, who's questionable, and who replaces the absent? What kind of effect will it have on the game?
Ostrowski is out. He's a big DT who is a monster on NCAA '06. Jamal Cooper (the 220-pound DE) is out for the year (ACL). Nick Hayden plays one DT position and Jason Chapman starts at the other. Hayden is going to be a very good player. The line isn't nearly as good as last year's, mainly because they don't have that one unblockable player (Erasmus James was that last year). DE Kurt Ware has chicken pox and might be out. But don't sell this defense short. Come hell or high water, Bielema appears prepared to get these guys to make some plays. One of the guys he may call on is future NFL OT Joe Thomas, who might volunteer to play DE...regardless of Ware's status. Redshirt frosh DE Mike Newkirk might see some action, too.
[No offense to Bruce, but if Thomas ends up at DE that seems more like a Terrell-at-CB move than a Woodson-at-WR move. Sounds like they're scrambling. -ed]
2. The pass defense has given up a ton of yards so far. What's the problem there? Coverage? No pressure? Just general Omar Jacobs being awesome?
Baker (UNC QB) got lucky and unlucky on Saturday. He was peppered, but the Badgers didn't do a consistent job of finishing plays, leaving him upright to make some throws. Baker could have thrown for 350 if his receivers knew how to catch. The Badgers' problem is that their safeties aren't nearly as good as they've been in the past (they really miss Jim Leonhard). They can run with people, but they look to be a bit short on technique at this point. Their success against Jacobs in the opener came when they blitzed the living crap out of him in the second half. I'm a TMQ believer...you can't make a living out of blitzing people. Eventually, you're going to get burned. Badly. Up front, the line has been good, as I will mention later when I answer question 1, but they really don't have THAT GUY that can get pressure on his own. Jamal Cooper could have been THAT GUY, but he is only 220 pounds and now has a blown-out knee.
3. What do you think Wisconsin will do to try to limit the Michigan offense?
Hopefully, they'll go against my beliefs on defense and blitz. If they leave Henne alone, he'll find open people...unless the light comes on for this secondary this week. If they get some heat on Henne, they at least present the opportunity for some sacks and turnovers. The interior of the Badger defensive line is very solid, so I'm not too terribly concerned about Michigan running at will.
[I think that's probably what the Badgers will do given the problems Michigan had against the blitz versus ND. My guess is Martin starts since he's had a year of pass protection already and seems better suited to attack the outside of the UW defense. -ed]
4. Wisconsin's main tactic this year has been to pound the ball constantly, which worked well against MAC foes and UNC. Calhoun's off to a huge start. Do you think he'll duplicate his performance against Michigan?
Calhoun will be solid. He'll go over 100 yards, but it might take him 25 carries to do it. Obviously, numbers posted against the BGSU and Temple defenses are null and void. That said, I think Michigan is a bit vulnerable against the run, and the Badgers should be able to rack up some yards.
5. Calhoun reminds me a lot of Anthony Davis. How are they similar/different?
Calhoun is somewhat like Davis. He is a little bit bigger, and he strikes me as being a bit stronger on his feet. He runs low to the ground and delivers the shots more consistently than Davis did. Not only that, but a wet paper towel is more durable than Davis was. Hopefully, so is Calhoun.
6. Stocco hasn't been impressive when asked to throw. Is he just limited? Are the receivers not getting open?
Stocco looks more comfortable this year than last. His numbers haven't reflected it because, frankly, he hasn't had to throw at all. He had a few drops in the UNC game on Saturday, and he was largely effective when asked to throw against BGSU and Temple.
7. Who's the player Michigan fans haven't heard of that they should know about?
You may have heard of Brandon Williams, but most Michigan fans probably haven't. He wears #1, plays WR, and is a very good kick/punt returner. While he's deadly on runbacks, he's developed into a pretty good receiver. Outside of Owen Daniels, Williams has clearly become Stocco's favorite target.
8. Finally: what's your prediction?
There's no way I'm picking Wisconsin to win this game. I don't trust this defense yet, and I don't trust Stocco to play well enough to keep Michigan from using eight-man fronts to stop Calhoun. What really sucks is that I'm going to be on a bus home from Iowa during the game. Luckily, the VCR still works. Michigan wins, but it won't be easy...17-10.
[VCR? What, do you still have a player piano, too? OMG JOKING Bruce(!). -ed]
So, there you have it. Thanks much to Bruce for his input.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Big mover this week is Michigan State, who popped up from unranked to #17 and slid in front of Notre Dame--though both schools are still behind Michigan, OMG BIAS. Small dings were given to OSU and Cal for less than impressive victories against bottom-feeders. Looking at the PPB and standard deviation (below) indicates that we have a near-unanimous #1, a near-unanimous #2, and then LSU, UF, and VT in a group of chasers at 3-5 before a major drop to Georgia at #6 and a precipitous drop to Florida State at #7. Another cliff shows up after OSU at #9.
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.
A consensus is building at the top of the poll, but there are some wild disagreements in the middle. I believe Cal set an all-time (four weeks!) record for standard deviation this week. Personally I don't even have them in my poll after they needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat Illinois, but Chris Wilson has them #7. In fact, if you look at their vote table, every rank from 7 to unranked was chosen by a voter save 8 and 24. Now that's some impressive disagreement.
FYI: The top five teams in the standard dev category are all Big Ten or Pac 10 teams.
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.
Eagle In Atlanta's habit of brutally penalizing any loss has garnered him Mr. Bold for a second consecutive week. That and a couple of huge moves for UCLA (up 13 to #7) and Michigan State (up from unranked to #10), Vandy at #19, and stuff. I know we all like Vandy The Underdog, but #19 seems... generous.
Mr. Numb Existence is Texas blogger PoliBlog. I again find it difficult to comment on this category, but the ND 15-Michigan 16-MSU 17 trifecta seems specifically designed to piss Spartan fans off, so I give it a thumbs up.
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.
The CK Award has been wrested from the grasp of The Enlightened Spartan, who has taught me a valuable lesson about running my mouth before the season. Yes, MSU is a head of Michigan on my poll this week. You were right. Now you can silence the yammering. Our new winner is Buffs.tv, who has Colorado at #18. They probably won't get the opportunity to repeat, since Colorado plays Miami next week and will either start getting a lot more votes or lose and force Buffs.tv to drop the alma mater.
The winner of the Straight Bangin' Award is the once and future king, Straight Bangin', who wrested the crown back from iBlog For Cookies after losing it for the first time. The reason? IBFC bumped Michigan up one spot; Straight Bangin' dropped them, figuring that Texas A&M's 66-8 win over SMU was more impressive that Michigan's 55-0 win over EMU. Go figure.
Swing is essentially 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 is I'm a Realist, who went (wait for it...) flapjack nuts over the Miami-Clemson game, rocketing the 'Canes up from #24 to #12 and killing Clemson for the loss, dropping them nine spots to #24. I don't get it--the game went to triple overtime and the teams have the same record with one good win, Clemson over A&M and Miami over Clemson. There's the season projection argument I made re: UM/ND, but if that's the case why have Miami so low and Clemson so high in the first place? IAR, got an explanation?
Two things also of note: One, a week after winning Mr. Stubborn, I'm second here. My manic-depressiveness is itself manic-depressive. Two, you can see the numbers settling down here. Whereas our winners in the first couple weeks in the 100s, 110s, or 120s, IAR barely cracked 80 this week.
Mr. Stubborn is Army blogger King Mouse, who moved a total of six teams and only knocked BC and ND two slots each for losing, but does have a H2H-plausible MSU/ND/UM triplet at 14-16.