I doubt most of this blog's readership gives a crap, and so this will be the last word. And that word is... basically, Alabama fans don't care.
If you get a scholarship offer to play football, you damn well better produce or someone else is going to take your place. Is that mean? Maybe, but I don't see you bitching about kids on academic scholarships that lose theirs because they don't keep their grades up. Produce and contribute, you'll be fine. Screw around and don't live up to your end of the bargain, tough, deal with it.
The fucking point is the NCAA allows non-renewal of grants-in-aid. There are specific rules for that. And you don't really know how many student athletes will be back next year. Additionally, your point the NCAA doesn't want you kicking kids off the team is a very large assumption. If that were so, the scholarships would be for longer than one academic year.
Pete Holiday on the Fanhouse, listing options when Alabama has 86 kids in August:
A non-contributing scholarship player who is not putting in the effort to become a contributing player turns into a walk-on. Scholarships are year-to-year. Nobody is guaranteed four or five years of scholarship. Cook draws an arbitrary line at fourth year juniors to try to advance his argument, but even he concedes that revoking scholarships is within the rules of the game.
They know. They don't care. This is the fundamental disagreement. These Alabama bloggers universally declare that "THERE IS NO PROBLEM!" but if there is a problem, then well that's just life isn't it? They've given up on arguing against the idea that the Alabama roster is going to be a precarious place because of Alabama's massive oversigning and are now arguing that cutting a kid halfway through his collegiate career is okay. The rest of it... ad hominem of truly impressive length that doesn't address the fundamental point. It's telling that so many of 'Bama fans words on this topic have been about me and a couple of throwaway lines, and not about the actual matter at hand.
The best argument Alabama fans have is that there's a chance the roster crunch resolves itself without anything untoward happening to anyone on the current roster and that we should wait to see what happens before declaring Saban in the wrong. If you think having a chance at not doing something untoward is sufficient... well. Suffice it to say I don't.
A line at fourth year juniors is not "arbitrary." College degrees are designed to be acquired in four years. There is a major difference between cutting a kid who is about to get his degree and forcing a kid who is in the middle of his college career off of scholarship and possibly to another school.
'Bama either has a scam going or Michigan should institute the "Everyone Scholarship." The 'Bama bloggers are making much of this hypothetical "Bear Bryant scholarship" and how it will allow one of the incoming players in the class to not count against the 85 limit. If that's true it's a scam the NCAA should shut down. Think about it: it's a scholarship for walk-ons. Uh... remind me of the definition of a walk-on again?
In order for a National Letter of Intent it be considered valid, it must be accompanied by an athletics financial aid award letter, which lists the terms and conditions of the award, including the amount and duration of the financial aid. The athletics financial aid offer must be signed by both the student and his or her parent or legal guardian. Simply put, there must be an athletics scholarship for a National Letter of Intent to be valid.
This Wesley Neighbors guy signed a letter of intent with Alabama over offers from Georgia Tech and Vandy, so he should count against the 85 limit from the day he steps on campus.
This so peripheral to the argument at hand, though: even if the NCAA lets an actual football prospect with other SEC and ACC offers spend two years at Alabama without counting against the 85 limit, Alabama's still 5 scholarships over without a reasonable way to remove any more than one or two more players from the team legitimately.
Nick Saban isn't alone in this. You might be able to make a case that Saban has even less time for NCAA regulations, ethics, and the like than most coaches if you were really trying hard or an Auburn fan. Personally, I don't care and believe that even if Saban is the winner it's by a nose over everyone except Jim Grobe. I only wrote the thing on Saban because of the Gayle article that drew a picture of severe oversigning even when you take most of the reasonable departures into account. This is a general hobby-horse of mine.
Any anger you've seen about this thing is a reaction to the ludicrous excess and, frankly, overwhelming stupidity of most of the responses. I apologize that my temper has obscured my point if you really get worked up about the rhetorical deployment of profanity.
There should probably be some sort of Baby Godwin Award. IE: the instant you put up a picture of a crying baby, you lose the argument.
Put your face where your mouth is. Lord knows this blog isn't above calling someone "horseface." A well-executed ad hominem is funny. But it's poor form to taunt someone's appearance without providing the target an opportunity to respond in kind.
One down! At this rate they'll be done by April:
Alabama freshman defensive lineman Jeremy Elder has been arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree robbery.
Elder was arrested Sunday and remained jailed Monday morning on $120,000 bond.
RBR says that "this is one of the reasons you oversign in the first place"; not even I think Nick Saban plans for six kids to commit armed robbery by fall.
The final point in a pithy a form as I can muster: Schools should never put themselves in a position where they are actively hoping to remove someone from the roster.
There is also an interview of me over at Alabama Gameday for those wishing for even more kerfuffle; I don't remember some of those commas and believe they were erroneously inserted in the editing process but the gist of the thing is correct. Also, MATW has my back.
Fin. No more.
Swearing herein. Save the children.
Wednesday: at the Fanhouse I pick up an article from Tim Gayle and expound, once again, on the dodgy practice of oversigning, using Alabama's class as an exemplar of shady behavior. The past two days: everyone in the state who can write and has an internet connection responds.
Awww, that's not fair. I can't make a joke about Alabamans' inability to count or read when the Joe Cribbs Car Wash put up an excellent post about the situation. No, it appears the disease is restricted to Tide fans. Maybe that's why they have numbers on their helmets.
There are two separate issues here.
Issue #1. Alabama is unlikely to actually have the nation's top recruiting class because a large chunk of it isn't going to get to campus. This is an irritation I have with the guru rating services and not an issue with Alabama per se. The best example of this phenomenon was Auburn's class last year, thirty-strong and top-ten on signing day but reduced by a third by the time fall practice rolled around and decidedly not top-ten.
This is indisputable. We even looked up the numbers last year. SEC teams often sign guys with little or no chance to qualify, and their swollen classes end up looking better than they actually are. The average SEC team experiences an attrition rate double that of the average Big Ten team, but this is not accounted for.
Issue #2. Nick Saban has taken the concept of oversigning and stretched it unto its breaking point. This is a nasty, filthy practice only undertaken by a program that couldn't really give a crap about the idea of a mutual commitment between player and school.
Issue #1 is a personal quarrel with the recruiting sites and doesn't have anything to do with Alabama. Some of the angry hornets went "LOL" and contested that in unconvincing fashion; I'll let that drop. Issue #2 is what really riled, and I'll attempt to address some of the claims put forth by "coachbots," as the JCCW eloquently dubs them.
I don't see any substantive points in the posts at Third Saturday in Blogtober, the Capstone Report, or Tide Druid and won't address them directly. Since they're all chock full of personal insults and insights into my "obsession" with a guy who coached Michigan's third-biggest rival a decade ago, let me point out that each of the above-linked posts is a tribute to Alabama's fine educational system and its constant focus on things like grammar and knowing how to use spell check. Gentlemen, there are typos and there's you.
The voodoo math over at Roll Bama Roll, however, deserves a response:
Actually, this class really only included 30 signees, not 32. See, this is where, you know, actually following Alabama football closely -- as opposed to following it via the headlines and then heading off to your computer to piss and moan on your AOL blog -- really pays off. Two of our signees, wide receiver Chris Jackson and kicker Corey Smith, graduated high school early and actually enrolled this past January. Those two signees are thus back-counters, and are part of the 2007 recruiting class, not the 2008 class. As a result, just doing the basic math, our 2008 class effectively consists of 30 signees, not 32.
I love it when someone condescendingly makes a moronic "point." Yes, early enrollees are permitted to count against the previous class. No, that does not mean they are fairy players who don't take up a scholarship spot. The issue is Alabama loses fifteen seniors and brings in thirty-two players. This means 17 slots have to appear from nowhere. Early enrollment doesn't help that.
And that is even if you don't consider the fact that Wesley Neighbors may very well end up on a Bryant scholarship -- since he is most likely not going to play in his first two years on campus anyway -- and therefore he will not count against the scholarship limit this year. If that is indeed the case, as many expect, this class suddenly goes down to 29 players.
Anyone on scholarship and on the football team counts against the 85 limit.
Moreover, you act like Alabama and Miami are the only two programs to sign that many players, completely ignoring the fact that signing 30 or more players is a relatively common occurrence. This year alone, aside from the aforementioned two schools, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Ole Miss, and Kansas State also signed 30 or more players. In 2007, Tennessee, Auburn, and South Carolina all signed over 30 players, just to name a few. In other words, if you really think signing that many players is an aberration, you haven't been paying attention.
The fucking point is that fucking Alabama is going to kick kids off the fucking team for no fucking reason. The point is not that violating the NCAA's made-up limit is evil. The NCAA limit is there because the NCAA would like you to not kick kids off the fucking team, but for various reasons the rule's pretty easy to skate around. The issue is not 32 > 25. The issue is that 70 + 32 > 85.
There's more not easily blockquoted, but OTS contests the idea that many kids won't qualify by saying that "everyone has a very legitimate chance to qualify" and then immediately asserts three or four won't make it, then further asserts later that the estimate -- Tim Gayle's estimate, not mine -- that four to six guys won't qualify is "completely bogus" and "laughable."
Attention asshat: five players in this Alabama class will not be on the team this fall. That's that NCAA maximum thing. Maybe there's a grayshirt or two in there, but a about a sixth of the class is going to JUCO... whether they qualify or not. More kids qualifying only makes the oversigning dirtier.
There is a stupid paragraph about medical scholarships intended to combat the idea that they're shady, something I never advanced and don't think.
And then there's this:
And "forcibly extracted"? What are we doing here, pulling teeth? It sounds like it, anyway, with terms like that. In reality, players are going to leave and we all know it. Many of the former staffs' previous signees, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, do not fit with the current scheme and may very well end up going elsewhere. I guess since you are a Michigan blowhard, we'll call this Ryan Mallett Syndrome so it will hit a little closer to home. Others will simply leave because they cannot handle the Fourth Quarter Program. Either way, no one is being "run off" or anything sinister of the sort.
There is a difference between what's likely to happen at Michigan after spring practice -- a few transfers from kids that no longer fit in the offense -- and what has to happen at Alabama. Michigan will be operating under the 85 scholarship limit this fall and has every incentive to keep
those players around. They will be leaving of their own volition. Alabama has every incentive to dump guys. They flat out have to. If a kid is struggling with his academic eligibility how motivated will Alabama be to help him? If a player commits a petty offense how eager will Alabama be to boot him? If Nick Saban knows that by August he has to say goodbye to six kids and it's July and he's only got four down, then what?
I'll tell you what: someone gets it right in the ass.
That's why oversigning* is scummy. Attrition is bad, but tolerable when it's clear a kid who's transferring away is doing so voluntarily. If Mallett transfers to Arkansas because he likes the offense better, fine. Without oversigning we know that if he stayed the scholarship would be there for him. When you have to cram 91 kids into 85 spots, the very real specter of a push hovers over every jumper.
Though all scholarships are technically one-year commitments, in practice players are guaranteed four years as long as they remain eligible and keep their noses clean. There is one legitimate way to remove a kid from your team without some sort of malfeasance on his part: fourth-year juniors are commonly not offered a fifth year unless they are contributors.
'Bama has a few of these, but some of them are already accounted for and others are obviously going to return. By situation:
- Ezekiel Knight, Will Oakley, and BJ Stabler are all mentioned as medical scholarship candidates by Gayle; the six scholarship gap is only a mere six because they've been removed from the calculations already.
- Rashad Johnson, Nick Walker, and Antoine Caldwell are starters and will be back.
- OL Cody Davis is a candidate.
- WR Jonathan Lowe has academic issues; he's a useful returner who would normally return.
I went over the roster closely; these appear to be the only redshirt juniors on scholarship. Potential non-shady departures not already accounted for are, at most, two.
So what's Saban's motivation here? He has somewhere between five and a dozen scholarships to free up (the latter will only happen if the NCAA repeals the limit next week and OTS's prediction that I'll "eat my words" about players failing to qualify comes true). Is he going to help Lowe stay eligible? Is he going to shuffle the deck so that guys who could be eligible this fall are not?
The JCCW sums up:
So unless six guys have a fantastic conversation with a representative from their local congregation of Latter-Day Saints and take off for a two-year mission in Estonia, Saban's going to have to, well, tell six guys they're now responsible for their own $12,000 a year if they would like to continue receiving a college education from the University of Alabama. Given that any player Saban chooses to cut is likely to also be the sort of player he can't find a use for on the field (given that if you are useful, he will find a way to get you on the field, by golly), those scholarships and the education attached possibly carry even greater importance to the players in question than most of the team.
(And should take heart that the "whoops, seeya!" given to four Auburn players isn't as bad as it looks, as three of the four are fourth-year juniors.)
Maybe oversigning by one or two is reasonable, but not in the quantity seen at Alabama.
Now, Saban is not alone in this. In the blog post by Bruce Feldman cited in the Fanhouse post, Feldman asserts that schools can make incoming kids ineligible if they want to. I know of at least one player this happened to: erstwhile Michigan defensive end Eugene Germany, who signed a letter of intent with USC but "didn't qualify." He did nothing the fall semester, then USC asked him to take some classes at a local JC. He declined, did nothing further, and enrolled at Michigan the next fall. Germany got jacked because USC ran out of spots.**
This is a widespread issue. Unfortunately, I do not have convenient summary articles for Miami or LSU or USC. Oversigning should be halted. You should not be able to sign a player to a letter of intent unless that player is qualified and you can demonstrate where his scholarship is coming from. No one should ever be locked into a commitment that doesn't go both ways.
Does this happen in the Big Ten? Not really. Though oversigning was sort-of approved, you have to explain where the scholarship is coming from:
When the Big Ten made the change in 2002, it instituted a policy where teams could oversign by no more than three players, and DiNardo said a detailed explanation behind the oversigning had to be submitted to the Big Ten. The SEC is among the conferences with no guidelines.
As a result, very few Big Ten teams even attempt to oversign, and none by the margins seen here. (Minnesota and Illinois have brought in large classes the last couple years but had been operating well short of the scholarship limit before that.)
This should be universal NCAA policy, and already is in some sports: Michigan hockey could not sign probable first-round pick Brandon Burlon to a letter of intent this fall because they could not demonstrate where the scholarship money would come from. Football should follow suit. Now.
*(just to be clear for any morons reading this, we're not talking about going over the NCAA limit here, we're talking about signing so many guys that you are forced to remove a number of players from the team to meet your obligations.)
**(Germany got tackled from behind by a cop after stealing some chick's phone and then had a series of team rules violations; he transferred to a JC and is now at Arizona State, but he could have gotten his malfease on at the same time the rest of his high school class entered school.)
1/1/2008 - Michigan 41, Florida 35 - 9-4, 6-2 Big Ten
1/2/2008 - West Virginia 48, Oklahoma 28 - 11-2, 6-2 Big East
Every year in February, people around the country who happen to be something other than Chinese vaguely recognize the existence of the Chinese New Year, a holiday that seems simultaneously old and strangely futuristic, much like the odder outposts of Chinese cooking. ("Oyster cake." The mind reels.) Chinese people, of course, go nuts for the biggest holiday on the calendar.
It's later than it should be, it's flashy, enticing, and rousing, and it seems vaguely superior* to old fashioned New Year's largely because of unfamiliarity: the past two days have been Super Chinese New Football Millennium for Michigan fans.
It was nice to send out the old regime with a rousing win. It was better to see it happen with an offense that looked remarkably similar to Rich Rodriguez's spread 'n' shred. And, truthfully, it was better still to watch West Virginia carve the nation's #9 scoring defense into Sooner tots and hold the nation's #3 scoring offense 15 points under its average. Hell, if West Virginia wasn't forced to play Ryan Mundy they would have yielded two fewer personal fouls and one fewer 60-ish yard pass reception and possibly turned the game into the laugher it always threatened to become.
Rich Rodriguez put that team together, and though he was absent the framework of that team's offense and defense were his responsibility. That team's offensive and defensive coordinators will be Michigan's offensive and defensive coordinators. That team's recruiting coordinator will be Michigan's recruiting coordinator. And that team was a national-championship-caliber one cobbled together from quarterbacks LSU wanted as a wide receiver and terror-beast fullbacks from Division III schools in Wisconsin.
This might have been a good hire.
Meanwhile in Orlando, Michigan put on a show that was at once tantalizing and depressing. Let's be clear: Michigan's ability to put up numbers like this would not have saved them against Wisconsin and Ohio State, when Ryan Mallett and Chad Henne's busted shoulder combined to put up the worst back-to-back quarterbacking performances in Lloyd Carr's career, but it's impossible to watch Michigan refuse to punt after the first quarter and not wonder "what if" about a half-dozen games over the past decade. Even the one standout piece of Lloydery, Michigan's final run-run-run-oops-let's-FG drive, was apparently the result of a screwed up Henne check instead of Lloyd Carr giving his old "how to lose in the fourth quarter" playbook one last spin.
(Not that there should have been the option for a run check there anyway, and it is mighty suspicious that Henne would prefer said run, as it makes no sense unless you've undergone some serious protect-ball-all-costs brainwashing. But nevermind all that. It doesn't matter.)
And any questions about said lose-it-late playbook were obliterated when Ron English did what he'd done all day: make the Florida offensive line look like Ohio State's in the Not Fiesta Bowl last year. He attacked.
The whole team attacked; the whole team looked entirely different, like a group of people determined to make the future something of their own devising. One of the most frustrating aspects of the Carr era was the frequent appearance that Michigan is coached like it is afraid of a poor outcome. For an example, check any late-game punt from inside the opponent's 40. Too often Michigan has passed up the right call in favor of the safe call, and it has cost them.
But not this year, and not in the future. Michigan took control of the Heisman winner, battering him until his final pass wobbled skyward and fell to the ground. West Virginia met every attempted Oklahoma comeback with a thunderous riposte. No shells. No idly hoping things fall your way. No waiting to be given something. Reach out and take it. It's a new year.
- And so it goes when Michigan plays the SEC. Even leaving aside the Vanderbilt game, Michigan is 5-1 against the home of "southern speed" in their last six bowl matchups. Why does the SEC suck so much? Why can't they be competitive against us? Am I enjoying being as parochial and narrow-minded as virtually every football fan south of Maryland? No, not really.
- Do we like the 3-3-5 a little more now? The final numbers were respectable for Oklahoma -- 419 yards and 28 points -- but WVU was ahead so much most of the night that OU was in desperation mode from midway in the third quarter on. OU's final two drives netted a useless 76 yards as WVU was correctly in a full-on prevent; without those this team held OU 100 yards under its season average. (This is obviously not quite fair, but if WVU had been grinding the clock out instead of, like, scoring on the first play of every drive those yards would never have happened; WVU's D faced 14 drives, a hefty total.)
- And that was with OU almost literally holding on every play, the sort of holds that get called "egregious" by the announcers, not the sort of holds Penn State fans envision whenever someone in a winged helmet deigns to block anyone. OU picked up a half-dozen holding calls; another half-dozen must-calls went unnoticed. WVU dominated one of the most grinding, powerful offensive lines in the country with their speed and angles. They did this without the use of their best defensive lineman for most of the night.
- Jeff Casteel would be A-OK by me.
- FOX is a terrible network to watch college football on. At points during the Fiesta last night we were treated to the following instead of onfield action: 1) an ad for some stupid movie, 2) an inversion of the "dingle berry" picture that lit up the hur-hur-hur sections of the blogosphere earlier this year, and most egregiously 3) completely inert Gatorade containers. Anyone who wasn't Pat Haden was completely useless.
- B&B made mention of this, and it's true: the gap between Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge is immense. Blackledge made the most salient point I've heard an announcer make all year when he pointed out that though Tim Tebow has a gazillion rushing yards and touchdowns, he's not Dennis Dixon or Armanti Edwards and the threat of Owen Schmitt taking off and rumbling through your secondary just doesn't come with the same elevated threat level. I actually said out loud to no one in particular "huh. That's a really good p
oint." Meanwhile, Mike Patrick called Arrington "Harrington" for most of the first half.
- The one downer in an otherwise schwing kind of game yesterday was the parade of personal fouls; twice WVU got not one but two on the same play; both times one of the offenders was Mundy. This is probably a fluke; I'll take a look at RR's penalty yardage over the years at some point in an attempt to confirm. Also, we can blame that on interim head coach Bill Stewart.
- SMQB has us pegged.
- Achtung, pounding PA FB/HB Christian Wilson and your potentially iffy commitment:
This offense... it's not so bad for you.
(*Less chance of waking up with a raging hangover and an ominous creaking/neighing sound coming from the other side of the bed; also the parades seem way more fun.)
Note: I previously stated there would be no CapOne UFR due to its general irrelevance for the program going forward, but since that was a pass-based spread offense that seemed to incorporate many facets of what Rodriguez does said irrelevance no longer applies and I'll do one early next week. I'm also downloading a couple WVU games and will provide those later this month.
Videos galore. A pre-bowl fluff piece with Carr:
And Carr's final locker-room speech:
Highlights from the Big Ten Network are at MSC; damn if I can figure out how to embed it, though. There are also kips from frequent clip provider Chris at Dangerous Logic:
TSN has the Arrington catch in all its spectacular glory:
And finally, MSC also links to this BTN video of Shawn Crable calling out Kirk Herbstreit:
Not sure of the wisdom of calling out someone for saying you have no D after giving up 35 points, but whatever.
Torrent is up here; Ten Yard Torrents registration required.
VEQ? Miscommunication, poor scheduling, and a post-Independence-Bowl -drinking-game induced screwup meant Orson and I did not hook up. And yes, I mean it just like that.
So, right. Tomorrow at 1 PM Michigan plays Florida. This is what we know:
Run Offense vs. Florida
Mike Hart's ankle injury seemed innocuous in the aftermath of the Purdue game, but quickly metastasized into a season-crippling disaster that lingered for the rest of the year. Though he played against Michigan State and Ohio State, he missed games against Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and was ineffective even when in the game.
Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were adequate to good against Illinois and Minnesota, non-factors against Michigan State, and swarmed under against Wisconsin; OSU had a steady diet of TFLs against a gimpy Hart and a lost offensive line.
Florida's 11th-ranked rushing offense appears to pose a stiff test, but a closer look reveals an inconsistent unit that benefited from a soft rushing schedule. Florida State was 96th nationally, South Carolina 101st, and a large portion of the rest of the schedule was Troy and Florida Atlantic and Vandy. Against teams in the same approximate range as Michigan's #44 ranking -- which is may be distorted postively by Michigan's run-pass distribution (56% run) but is also distorted negatively by Hart's extended absence -- this is how Florida did:
|Team||Rush Off||Att v UF||Yards v UF||YPC v UF|
(Note that QB and "team" carries were excised for everyone except Auburn's Kodi Burns and LSU's duo -- LSU uses a lot of option and QB draws even with Flynn in the game -- as Florida racked up a large number of sacks in certain games, distorting the totals. Team carries are almost always kneeldowns. Sacks are passing events and will be dealt with in another section.)
This concludes the pulse-bearing rush attack section of the Florida schedule. There is one dominant performance, one pretty good one, and three decidedly meh ones. I tentatively declare Florida's rush defense a paper tiger.
Will this matter given Michigan's downright dismal performances against Wisconsin and Ohio State? I lean towards no. Michigan's scheme has been void of new ideas since the Oregon game and is currently trying to make do with a terribly out-of-shape Alex Mitchell as a starter. Steve Schilling has also been ineffective most of the year, though more prominently in pass pickup, and Carson Butler is guaranteed to pick up one holding penalty and utterly whiff on three other blocks. There are too many points of failure, and Michigan's run offense is probably closer to the Tennessee-Auburn level than that of the three teams that seriously torched
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus His Traitorous Ankle. I should have an actual matchup for the Ohio State game, but nothing will impact Michigan's run game more than the status of Hart's gimpy wheel.
Pass Offense vs. Florida
Ohio State preview:
This preview assumes that Chad Henne will play; if he does not please substitute "HEAD FOR THE HILLS! ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE!" for the text in this space.
Henne did play, but was obviously broken. If he remains broken you can feel free to change the channel at halftime. The current state of injury rumor suggests that this may be the case, but we won't know until Henne starts throwing. More ducks like the OSU game and it'll be a long day. If he's on, really on, like Henne at his apex, Michigan can keep it close and maybe pull it out with a bounce or two, but I don't think anyone's banking on that anymore.
This is where the Gator sacks come in: though they racked up huge numbers against Auburn and Kentucky above, Florida was actually pretty average at this: 58th nationally at just over two per game. UF has a couple of decent-to-good defensive ends -- as a true sophomore, Jermaine Cunningham is definitely promising -- but no one on the level of OSU terror Vernon Gholston. With some help for Schilling, Michigan may be able to forestall the Florida pass rush decently. This would allow them access to the Gator achilles heel, their crappy defensive backs. Every time people are surveyed about Michigan's preferred strategy in this game someone says "attack Florida's crappy defensive backs with your excellent receivers," and this makes sense around these parts, too.
The catch: Henne's shoulder was separated in the Illinois game and held together until Wisconsin, at which point he left the game and Michigan collapsed to two straight season-ending losses. Will it be better? Dunno. But I bet you can guess the next section...
Key Matchup: Henne versus his traitorous shoulder. Unless he's a lot better than he was against OSU, we dead.
Run Defense vs. Florida
Ohio State preview:
I'm looking for a way this won't be ugly and can't find one.
What do you get when you combine Armanti Edwards, Chris Wells and jean shorts?
Goddammit. The progenitor of the term "OMG shirtless," Tim Tebow went from uber-recruit to Heisman winner in two years. Michigan's rush defense has had two weaknesses this year: the zone read and interior running. Given this, Tim Tebow is hell in pads. Then there's Kehstan Moore, mighty mite Brandon James, and Percy Harvin.
Percy Harvin. Goddammit. Percy Harvin is also an uber-recruit, and every time I watch him play I'm reminded of this:
Considering that Ohio State's quarterback spent the day doing his best Jimmah Clausen impression and Tressel gave up on anything not totally predictable as soon as he got a two-score lead, Michigan did an okay job on Chris Wells aside from a 62-yard touchdown jaunt and several other trips into the secondary.
Key Matchup: Uh... Tebow versus cowering.
Pass Defense vs. Florida
This has been a pleasant surprise. Morgan Trent matured into a respectable corner and Donovan Warren has turned out to be worthy of his recruiting hype. Brandon Harrison had a fine year as the teams nickelback and even if the safeties weren't great they were fairly competent. A soft schedule helped, but Michigan still finished the year 13th in pass efficiency defense.
Problem: checking Florida's passing efficiency reveals a big shiny #1
. Tebow is not just a runner but an excellent passer; his ability to be a one-man play action only heightens his crazy ninja football skils. Harvin is a terror here, too; three other Florida receivers have more than thirty catches. This is an advanced, diverse, and threatening pass offense that plays off the Florida run game to excellent effect. Maybe Michigan could find a weakness here if they took away said run game -- Florida is even more run-heavy than Michigan, rushing the ball on 58% of their snaps -- but that is extremely unlikely to happen.
Key Matchup: Trent/Warren on Harvin? Hard to pick out anything in particular here, as Brandon Graham stopped being a dominant pass rusher once teams started running at him constantly and there is no #1 threat for Michigan to shut down amongst the panoply of Florida wideouts.
- Henne looks un-improved.
- The team looks listless. (IE: the team looks like it's looked most of the year.)
- Mallett transfers at halftime.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- We did hire Rich Rodriguez. And they'll probably talk about that. Cackle then.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Chrisanti Edwells, +1 for Yeah, We're Still Frickin' Gimpy, +1 for Not A Virtual Road Game, An Actual Road Game, +1 for And No One Cares, I Bet This Extends To The Players, +1 for Real Chance of Tennessee Replay).
Desperate need to win level: 2 out of 10. (Baseline 5, -3 for Who Cares?, -1 for I'd Rather Watch The 2005 Sugar Bowl, -1 for This Has No Bearing On The Future, +1 for I'd Like To See Hart Win Something, Anything, +1 for SEC Fans Are So Annoying)
Loss will cause me to... UFR WVU games.
Win will cause me to... UFR WVU games.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
We lose bad. This team has been disjointed and disinterested most of the year, and now they know they're in this bowl they don't deserve to be in against a team that's probably a lot better than them; the coaching staff is getting replaced wholesale, to boot.
And we're playing some sort of awful hybrid Michigan kryptonite, and it's a 100% road game, and it appears that one or both of Hart/Henne will not be 100%. Woo! Shoot me.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- 4 Michigan fans attend.
- They're pretty pissed off.
- Florida, 35-17.