Mailbag: Worst Year Ever? Seriously, Is It?

Mailbag: Worst Year Ever? Seriously, Is It?

Submitted by Brian on December 17th, 2013 at 11:35 AM

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THIS POST IS NOT FUN, SO HERE IS A SMALL CHILD ENJOYING THE BUBBLE HOCKEY TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS [Bill Rapai]

HEARTBREAKER, LOVE TAKER

Brian,

Is this the most heartbreaking year in the history of Michigan sports?

Along with other painful experiences, we have lost by one play, one shot or one call the following four things of real consequence:

The Big Ten regular season hoops championship

The hoops national championship

Defeating undefeated Ohio State

Defeating #1 Arizona

And hell, let's just throw in the Tigers losing on a grand slam in the 9th inning to let the ALCS slip away.

I'm not sure I can watch this bowl game. I fully expect it to go to five overtimes, whereupon Gibbons shanks a kick, decapitates Hoke and Borges is made head coach.

dh

Oh man. It is bad when I see this list and immediately think not "wow, that's pretty grim" but "don't forget losing the Outback Bowl on the last play of the game." Oh and also "don't forget losing to Notre Dame in the CCHA championship game to break a 22-year tournament streak in hockey." Oh and "Wisconsin." Jesus. If I was a Lions fan…

But I'm not, so let's self high-five on that one. /self high five

My one quibble with your list is that Michigan was probably two or three plays away from beating Louisville. But with your things and my things we can create an Arbitrary Heartbreak Point Amalgam (AHPA) and compare it to previous years. I'm including hockey because I like hockey and you can eat your own face if you don't.

Outback Bowl outcome. 1 point. It's never too much of a heartbreak to lose the Outback Bowl. The way it went down was very frustrating, as Floyd's suspension came back to bite Michigan at the worst time. Did want Denard and Kovacs to go out with wins.

THAT GODDAMNED WISCONSIN GAME. 6 points. Championship not as obviously on the line (and even if they win that game they would still finish one game adrift of Indiana) but seriously, Wisconsin is the vanguard of the bug people.

Losing Big Ten hoops championship on missed Morgan putback. 15 points. This is a lot of points, because Michigan flat-out blew that game and then had it back in the palm of their hand not once but twice with Burke flying down court and then the putback. Winning that game means Michigan gets a banner from the best year of Big Ten basketball in decades. That one still hurts.

Losing tourney streak in hockey. 4 points. That game was always tilted towards Notre Dame and you just wanted them to get in for the streak's sake, but that streak was pretty great. Frustration factor high. Heartbreak factor not so much.

Outcome of national title game. 8 points. Conflicted. Michigan was on borrowed time after the Kansas game, played great, everything was terrific and fun, and just lost. Probably my favorite loss ever. But… so close.

Penn State outcome. 5 points. I was super mad about this, and the game did feature missed 40 and 33 yard field goals to win plus that game-tying drive. Though it meant little in retrospect, at the time it felt like Michigan had just given up a lot of ground in the division title race. Which lol, of course.

Ohio State outcome. 15 points. 11 of 13 feels bad; would be more points but by that point Michigan had outplayed expectations significantly.

Arizona outcome. 1 point. Probably a seed difference in March.

Professional baseball. 0 points, but I feel for anyone who is a fan of both Michigan and Detroit pro sports teams, as on top of all the crap listed above they've had to deal with Joe Dumars passing on Trey Burke for a guy who was so good at basketball that he led Georgia to a .500 SEC record and first round conference tourney exit, baseball happenings described above, and the continued existence of the Detroit Lions. This year the flavor is hilariously heartbreaking instead of hilariously incompetent.

I don't even know what I would do if I truly cared about those teams and Michigan. "Psychotic break" is a prime contender.

I have 55 points. This is offset by things like Michigan's tourney run and the Northwestern game, but I've built a lot of the offset into points given for the Louisville loss and seriously nobody cares about beating Northwestern as part of their overall happiness level, especially in that game.

I am all but certain that this total cannot be matched, as it requires investiture in all three sports and major things on the line. If anything is going to give it a run, though it's…

2006

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This is all based on your opinion of how much Football Armageddon was worth. The worst thing in the last 20 years of Michigan football is without question the Crable helmet-to-helmet call, and while there was still a lot of work to do even if that flag is not thrown, losing that game gets ever more heartbreaking in retrospect as it set the stage for Ohio State's dominion of the series and represents the last moment that Michigan could claim its place amongst the college football firmament. Some things fade as time goes on… next year the Arizona outcome probably wouldn't register in a post like this. Football Armageddon just looms ever larger. How many points is that worth? 40? I don't know, entirely, but it's in that ballpark.

As a bonus, that year's basketball team was 16-3 with a win against MSU on February 1st only to lose 7 of their last 9 games, including a 14(!) point loss to a miserable Purdue outfit that would finish 3-13 in the league and a 2-point home loss on the final day of the regular season against Indiana. Even then Michigan probably makes the tournament except for an opening-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota, which finished 5-11 in the Big Ten.

The hockey team was pretty bad that year and got a three-seed in Denver against North Dakota; North Dakota ran them out of the building. Frustration there, but not heartbreak.

Is that worse? I don't think so. Any other candidates are before my time, but if you want to make a case, uh, go ahead. 2005 was called the Year of Infinite Pain around here, but that was pure naiveté.

Litmus Lloyd

Litmus Lloyd

Submitted by Brian on December 7th, 2006 at 9:10 PM

This is not about Florida. It is not about Florida. Comments will not be about Florida. There is no Florida. There is only Zuul.

Visitors, Michigan is not your football program. One thing this Recent Event Not Involving Florida has done is reveal the deep-seated weirdness of Michigan in relation to the rest of the world. Anyone who sat through WVU and Rutgers' three overtimes to catch Lloyd Carr's rare appearance on SportsCenter probably wondered why he bothered at all. His entire segment consisted of a brief appeal to not punish Michigan for finishing its schedule before Thanksgiving followed by "I don't want to campaign" repeated ad nauseum until the helpless anchor bid Carr adieu. His only other public statement before the fateful Event came on Michigan Replay, when Carr said this:

I just think that based on some of the comments the Florida coach has made in the last two weeks, he has been campaigning strenuously for a berth in the championship game and making some statements about Michigan that I think were inappropriate. That certainly is going to stir a controversy, and who knows what that's going to lead to.

The press, desperate for any word out of Carr's mouth, slapped up story after story on that single phrase "I think [his comments] were inappropriate," delivered with all the ferocity of a euthanized koala bear to Jim Brandstatter on Michigan Replay.

Oddly, this has spurred a lot of passion. Stewart Mandel's bizarre response:

I wasn't particularly thrilled with either coach's approach, and I think the whole exchange marked a particularly ugly moment for the BCS. ... [Stuff criticizing Meyer snipped]

All that said, I thought Carr's response to Meyer went completely overboard. Never once during the final two weeks of the season did Meyer say anything derogatory about the Wolverines. He never even said his team was better than Carr's. All he said was that Michigan had its shot at Ohio State and that he felt his team had earned the right to get its shot at the Buckeyes. So don't give me this "Carr took the high road" nonsense.

It's not like this is a great shock or anything, but Mandel's plain wrong. In the immediate aftermath of the Ohio State game, Meyer is the one who went overboard:

"If they do that (rematch), there should be a playoff system next year," Meyer said. "And I do think those are great teams, because I tried to watch every snap, but I believe as we move on, we need a playoff series. I think if that (rematch) happens, I think it's over. All the presidents would need to get together immediately and put in a playoff system - like, now. I didn't think it was possible to do with all the stadiums and selling tickets, but I believe there's enough firepower out there now to get that done."

 

Should the Wolverines upset the Buckeyes in a rematch, Meyer would not consider Michigan the champions.

"Absolutely (there would be no national champion)," he said. "If I'm Ohio State, I go get a bunch of rings and say, 'We won the national championship.' That's not right."

Aside from the strong implication that Meyer's been watching too many Larry The Cable Guy specials, that's a blindingly stupid statement and undoubtedly what Carr was referencing as "inappropriate." I hate deploying the word "whine," which -- along with "drinking the Kool-Aid," "thrown under the bus," and "special" -- is one of the four leading indicators that the person you're dealing with is a bonafide moron, but goddamn, son, that's a whine right there. It probably warranted some mild opprobrium on a regional, little-watched coaches show. As a Michigan fan it ticks me off a bit, and I'm glad Carr called him on it. Mandel's assertion that Carr went "overboard" and thus forfeited the high road which you're goddamn right he took -- that road was less "high" than "orbital" -- further proves that whenever you ask a Northwestern graduate about Michigan, they lose their capacity for rational thought. (Something like "I could have gone there, not suffer miserably for four years, and come out with a degree just as prestigious" does not sit well.)

Exhibit B is PTI's Michael Wilbon, also a product of Northwestern, who called Carr a "Neanderthal" in the aftermath of the Recent Event, then said he'd acquired all the negative personality aspects of Bo without any of the positives. And there's the litmus test. Either you see Carr and by extension the entire Michigan program as a throwback to the bad old days... or a throwback to the good old days. You exhort Carr to emulate Mamet characters or exalt Lloyd as the dumpy guy from the Mac commercials (in one of the weirdest analogies I've seen work in a while).

In short, you believe in what the ads call The Michigan Difference or you don't. If you don't, that's fine, but then at some point we're going to do our version of the Nebraska thing and ditch it. What's Nebraska now that they chucked Frank Solich and the triple option? Just another mediocre North division team that loses the Big 12 championship game. They ditched it, and I bet in their heart of hearts they regret it.

 

In the end, I don't really care about narrow aisleways or too-small seats or cold metal bleachers. I don't care about the infinitesimal chance that if Lloyd Carr had spent the last two weeks on a media blitz that we would be in the national championship game. I don't care that Michigan's never going to have a recruiting run like USC or go on some five-year streak where losses flash across the sky with the infrequency and populace-terrifying inexplicability of comets. Or rather, I do care about all these things but I regard them as a necessary cost of doing business, because I believe that Michigan does stand for something that other athletic programs do not. And whatever that thing is, it is deeply intertwined with Lloyd's refusal to do anything resembling campaigning.

What I care about is that when you enter Michigan Stadium all it advertises is itself, and what I pity is the kind of person who would walk in and think about all the revenue they could make if they would just stop being cavemen.

BlogPoll Week 15

BlogPoll Week 15

Submitted by Brian on December 6th, 2006 at 3:59 PM

Previously: Preseason; Week 2; Week 3; Week 4; Week 5; Week 6; Week 7; Week 8; Week 9; Week 10; Week 11; Week 12; Week 13; Week 14.

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.

Yes, that's Michigan #2. Full disclosure: last night I sent out an email reminding voters that, unlike the other polls out there, the BlogPoll has a specific mandate to rank the teams in order of who is "best," whether you arrive at that conclusion by resume or another method, and that rematch concerns should not influence voting. (This would seem fairly straightforward since the BlogPoll isn't, you know, able to set up a rematch. But one of the oddest things about the BCS-aftermath articles were quotes from AP voters like this:

AP poll voter Michael Vega of The Boston Globe said he wasn't against a rematch but found it hard to justify one this time.

"I had to reconcile a fundamental problem with giving Michigan a chance to win the national championship when it didn't even win a conference championship," he said.

Uh... for a newspaper guy you're not up on current events, Mr. Vega.)

We do have two voters who succumbed to minor Harris-ism by breaking up the OSU-Michigan-UF trifecta in the first three spots: 50-Yard Lion ranks Michigan behind both Florida and LSU while Bevo Sports has LSU #2, Michigan #3, and Florida #4.

Another discrepancy of note: Wisconsin keeps creeping up despite having proven little in the other polls, but BlogPollers knocked the Badgers down a slot behind Oklahoma. Also, USC was hurt less by its loss than in other polls.

Risers: It was mostly just sliding up where others fell, but Wake Forest did leap Virginia Tech to become the highest-ranked ACC team. As mentioned, Oklahoma leapt Wisconsin.

Fallers: USC took a four-spot tumble after gacking against UCLA, as did Rutgers. Georgia Tech finally slouched its way out of the poll.

Wack Ballot Watchdog: Suspended this week.

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 Eagle in Atlanta, and it's easy to see why: USC plummets from #2 to ... wait for it ... #17 after their UCLA loss. Rutgers also drops nine after a triple overtime loss at West Virginia, who re-enters the poll at #21, three spots behind Rutgers. Having all those teams so low makes a lot of other teams berry, berry high and results in "Mr. Bold."

USC... #17? Can we get an explanation on that?

Mr. Numb Existence is Double Extra Point again. For the fourth time. Uncanny or a cynical attempt to get attention? You make the call!

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 is also Eagle In Atlanta's. Going for a clean sweep of the nasty ones, he is. Boston College #19 doesn't seem too offensive, though.

Straight Bangin' Award is Burnt Orange Nation for the second straight week for ranking the Longhorns a spot worse than the poll at large. This is probably not a sign of mental illness. Moving 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 is Badger Sports. Why? They forgot about Oklahoma last week.

Mr. Stubborn is Frank McGrath, who bumped last week's losers do wn only a tiny bit.

Unverified Voracity!!!!! With Exclamation!!!!!

Unverified Voracity!!!!! With Exclamation!!!!!

Submitted by Brian on December 5th, 2006 at 7:14 PM

Expect more Saturday night in the future. This is a bit old, but, uh, yeah. Busy. Anyway, ABC's Saturday night football initiative was a major success:

An average of 14.5 million households tuned in to ABC's Michigan-Ohio State on a Saturday afternoon, making it college football's most-watched game since 1992. But the next seven most-watched games this season — Notre Dame-Southern California, Ohio State-Texas, California-USC, Florida State-Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame-Michigan State (leading regionalized coverage in a slot also including USC-Arizona), Notre Dame-Georgia Tech and Ohio State-Iowa — were all in prime time.

They were also all on Saturday nights on ABC, which raised its Saturday prime-time ratings 28% by focusing on football. The exception was FSU-Miami on ESPN. That was on Labor Day night, back when experts said both teams were actually good. The only other game drawing more than 5 million households: NBC's Penn State-Notre Dame, a day game that got 5.3 million.

Michigan has long resisted night games, but that's going to get more and more difficult as ABC pushes for winged helmets in its prime time slot. There have been rumblings that Michigan can either choose between a home game at night or three on the road in future years; they might have to cave. Probably not next year, though. Michigan's road slate doesn't exactly scream "FEATURE ME":

  • @ Northwestern
  • @ Illinois
  • @ Michigan State
  • @ Wisconsin

You can probably pencil in Wisconsin as a night game -- and a hell of a challenge if the Badgers adequately replace Joe Thomas and John Stocco -- but the rest of that slate is ratings death.

 

Dan Steinberg is excited!!!!!!!!!! "Vegas Chooses Michigan!!!!!," says Dan, and that's a sequence of punctuation I am deeply uncomfortable with. Anyway:

Some people, including Brian at mgoblog, said loudly that I was wrong [about letting Vegas guys pick the BCS]. And now, in the most delicious of all possible ironies, an apoplectic Brian is using Vegas as justification that Michigan is being robbed!!!!!! I told you Brian!!!!!! You should have listened to me!!!!

For the record, this was my stirring conclusion in the piece cited above:

Striking a balance between style-point madness and rote you-win-you-stay is a delicate thing. While you can very plausibly argue the latter holds too much sway in the BCS selection process, the oddsmakers are the communism to our current fascism: yeah, they're diametrically opposed, but neither is a good idea.

My main complaint with the Vegas rankings as deployed was their wild under-reaction to events. At the time that poll was posted, LSU was 5-2 with wins over nobody and losses to Florida and Auburn. They were #5, ahead of Florida and Auburn. To Vegas, the games hardly mattered. Anyone rushing to say that LSU at #5 was darn prescient should note #2 Texas, 6-1 and then ahead of a wide array of undefeated teams. Hell, suddenly Alamo-bound Texas is still #8 in their poll.

My objection was to letting Vegas' opinion override wide disparities in actual performance on the field. When you have two teams that have virtually identical resumes by every objective measure you can apply that's a very different situation, one in which you have to look at how the teams reached their finishing point and who looks better, because there's no concrete way to separate the two. In that case, the opinion of Vegas wiseguys is highly relevant.

But when it comes down to it... I must offer a mea culpa in the spirit of Dan's post (!!!!):

DAN STEINBERG IS THE GENIUSEST!!!!! HE IS RIGHT THAT A SMALL, INFORMED GROUP OF EXPERTS WHO ARE EMPLOYED BASED ON THEIR ABILITY TO PROJECT FOOTBALL GAMES IS A BETTER WAY TO PICK THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME THAN LETTING A BUNCH OF DOOFS VOTE*!!!!! I OWE HIM SOME BEER!!!!

If you need a letter of recommendation or something, Dan, I got your back. With a select group of Michigan engineering students, there's no better reference.

*(As long as some other group narrows down the potential candidates so they can't pick, say, a 9-3 Texas.)

I was already going to call him "Jimmah!" The Chicago Sun-Times sucks up to Notre Dame fans with this hilarious headline:

'He's just little Jimmy'

Dad's comment aside, Notre Dame awaits special QB

The manual says insert unflattering image of Clausen here...


Check. Manual further instructs to highlight this quote:

[USC commit Marc] Tyler, who is black, also saw in Clausen someone capable of fitting in with anyone.

''Jimmy's really into hip-hop music,'' Tyler said. ''He's always trying the latest dances: 'Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It,' the 'Chicken Noodle Soup.' It's like he's black on the inside.''

I got nothin'. That's just a weird quote, and anything I say could come out really wrong. Moving on.

Yeah, we're not happy. I didn't want to wrap up the Michigan outrage. Thankfully, Double Extra Point did it for me. Missed a couple Hoover Street Rag posts, including the best headline anyone's thrown up: "Quag-meyer." Sad giggity. Also excellent: a simple "INFAMY!"

He's Michigan. Forget that. From the SBT:

Notre Dame professor Brad Malkovsky was in the middle of teaching his "Christianity and World Religions" course a few weeks ago when the classroom phone rang.

Never in his 15 years of teaching in that room had the phone even made a peep.

Startled, Brad picked it up.

"A woman on the phone, who sounded like a reporter, asked if this was Lloyd Carr, the head football coach of the University of Michigan," Brad says.

So he repeated the women's inquiry for the benefit of his 70-some students: "No this is not Lloyd Carr, the head coach of the University of Michigan football team," Brad answered.

She apologized and hung up.

That is a hell of a wrong number.

That's right, Tom. Brady on Fiasco '06:

"Anyone who has seen (Florida) play realizes it is a no-brainer. Florida is not very good. I watched that game (Saturday) night and that other (Arkansas) quarterback completed like three passes the week before. They have 18 guys out there throwing passes for Arkansas," Brady said.

When a reporter countered that Michigan already had its shot at beating the Buckeyes, Brady said, "But that's not the way the BCS works. It is supposed to be the two best teams in college football. I would vote for Michigan to play Ohio State if I had a vote."

So meone get that man a vote.

 

Etc. Wetzel on Don Canham. Mick McCabe declares incoming freshman Manny Harris the best player in the state. Kelvin Grady is #11. OSU is going to turf next year. Bo recollection from a friend of Shemy's. They have Drew Sharp in California, too. EDSBS gives us ten reasons to be happy.

On Notice: Fiasco Edition

On Notice: Fiasco Edition

Submitted by Brian on December 4th, 2006 at 6:51 PM

There's no in or out. It's all in.

REGGIE FISH: Seriously dude, what the hell was that? I have never seen someone try to catch a punt over his shoulder at the five with four defenders bearing down on him. That was the stupidest play in the history of college football. (Plaxico Burress spiking a live ball wins "all of football.") The free touchdown you gave them was the difference between a 10-point Florida win and an Arkansas drive to tie or win that has time to utilize McFadden and Jones. I kind of hate you.

JIM WALDEN: If you claim "the Big Ten is a joke," what does that make you and your 0-17-versus-the-Big-Ten ass?

SMARMY-ASS CBS: CBS has long been in a neck-and-neck race with NBC to see who can put out the most feminized, patronizing sports broadcasts. The amazing thing is that SEC fans constantly decry ESPN/ABC as some sort of Big Ten propaganda machine. On Saturday night ESPN and ABC featured debate. Corso, Mark May, Lou Holtz, and Craig James all argued for Florida. Herbstreit, Flute, Fowler argued for Michigan. By comparison, CBS was Pravda, beating out a steady SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC drumbeat without the barest hint of debate. The second half of the the SEC championship game was less a football game and more an informercial for the magical juicing power of Florida. It was unprofessional, inappropriate, and hypocritical. I never want to hear another word about "bias" from SEC fans.

THE HARRIS POLL: I say this in all seriousness. If you gave me ten percent of the funding and a year, I could turn the BlogPoll into something more reliable and respectable than the Harris Poll. I'm close to saying "if you gave me no funding and made me deliver it right now" after Walden's comments.

RYAN SUCCOP: Three blocked kicks, one an extra point? You missed an extra point! You suck! Aaaaaargh.

SPAIN: I swear to God I'm going to get you for this, Spain.

"THEY HAD THEIR CHANCE." I guarantee you that when Florida loses to OSU that I will reference the 2006 Gators as the SEC's "chance" and incessantly argue against any SEC team ever making the title game again. Because they'll have had their chance. This will be stupid. It will also be the point.

URBAN MEYER: Wetzel has a column on this. I don't know if it's something in the water in SEC states that makes their coaches paranoid, bitchy, and irritating, but it seems to leak out from Tommy Tuberville and infect everyone around him.

And, in the grand finale:

DEAD TO ME

GARY DANIELSON: I can't summon my mental faculties to give him what he deserves. It would be a string of personal insults bordering on the obscene. So I'll let Braves & Birds say it:

Gary Danielson's performance last night was an absolute disgrace. I understand that he's reputedly a human being who is paid to have opinions, but I've rarely seen an announcer turn the fourth quarter of a football game into a 30-minute advertisement for one school. The fact that Danielson (a) was not recruited by Michigan (and thus went to Purdue) and (b) is working for the one network that exclusively covers the SEC surely had nothing to do with his open rooting for Florida and his subjective, idiotic comparison of the two team's schedules. Regardless of the result of the vote this afternoon, Danielson is going to go down in Michigan lore along with Sean McDonough, who performed a similar role in 1997 during CBS's broadcast of the Nebraska-Tennessee Orange Bowl to facilitate the Huskers picking up part of the national title.

CBS and Danielson framed the debate by focusing on the points that favor Florida - more good teams on their schedule - and ignoring the points that favored Michigan, such as the critical "not outgained by Vanderbilt" category. Thus, you ended up with voters hearing the Florida talking points drummed into their heads for the final hours before casting their ballots. The voters who stayed up for ESPN2's College Football Final then had those points repeated by Lou Holtz and Mark May, so they ended up going to bed with the impression that there was consensus that Florida was #2. Groupthink, anyone? You think these people wouldn't have sung along with "Throw Lloyd Carr down the Well" if May and Holtz were singing it?

Danielson irresponsibly used a captive audience and may have seriously harmed Michigan's chances of getting to the national championship game with his incessant, retarded assertions that Michigan didn't deserve the national championship game because it was a "second place team." He's lost the considerable respect I had for his color commentary. Now I only hope I can identify him getting out of his car so I can STAB STAB STAB STAB HIM IN THE STABBY PLACES let the air out of his tires. KNIFEY NEEDS BLOOD TO BREATHE I don't like him very much.

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

Submitted by Brian on December 4th, 2006 at 5:19 PM

... not that it ever was.

Someone was getting screwed yesterday. If Michigan went, Florida was getting screwed. Every other year the BCS claims another fanbase as its virgin sacrifice on the altar of "#1" versus "#2," and you're damn skippy those are airquotes delivered with maximum sarcasm. It just so happens that this year it's us.

I had planned on slapping up a column today boldly titled "FLORIDA GOT SCREWED." This would have been preferable to the above title for many reasons, the foremost among them being that since it isn't it's Michigan fans who are quietly swearing oaths of revenge against poll voters. But it would also have removed the waft of sour grapes from this post and allowed me to be really frickin' righteous. Alas.

I spent a good portion of the day jumping from from Tradesports to the coaches poll to the computer rankings, pounding refresh. When the coaches poll came out I slapped some stuff up, updated it a few times with more detail, and then clicked over to Tradesports. Naturally, Michigan had collapsed and Florida had surged. What stood out, though, was Ohio State's price, which shot up in concert with Florida's.


The market was telling Ohio State to breathe easier because the coaches had decided that the number three team in the nation was number two. Over the course of yesterday, OSU shot up from a 64% chance to win against either Michigan or Florida to a 73% chance against just Florida. If you think a win premium was built into Michigan shares, the market was 50-50 on who would get picked, so a reasonable assumption is that the market felt Ohio State was around 55% to beat Michigan.

That's what draws my ire. It seemed clear to everyone from sea to shining sea that there was a choice between the best team and the matchup that least highlighted the staggering absurdity of the BCS. The vast majority went with the latter. Some people are at least forthright enough to admit it:

George Lapides, a Memphis sports radio talk host, said he believed Florida would lose to Michigan if the teams were to play. But he jumped the Gators from No. 4 to No. 2, past the Wolverines, after Florida beat Arkansas.

"I liked the idea of a conference champion playing a conference champion," he said. "I think that's more appealing than a rematch. I think you try to pick something as appealing as possible."

God... this is what it's come down to? We're having sports talk radio hosts choose who plays in the national championship game? Sports radio is a medium built around saying and doing dumb things for attention. If there's a profession less suited for the careful consideration I would like to think is the main attribute of a good poll voter, I can't think of one.

Uh, nevermind. I forgot about football coaches. Here's Jim Walden. He's the guy who voted Florida number one, and his reasons for doing so are subtle and reasonable:

"If you look at the Big Ten conference, it is a joke," Walden said in a telephone interview late last night. He added: "I voted my heart and I voted my strength of what I believe in. In my opinion, Florida is the No. 1 team in the nation."

If I stumbled across that sentiment on a Rivals message board, I would dismiss that guy as one of the board idiots. This guy has a vote that determines who goes to the national championship game. (Wikipedia temporarily has this nugget of joy on Walden: He still hosts a Sunday evening radio show in Iowa on WHO called "Two Guys Named Jim," or what some may call "One Guy Named Jim and One Guy Named Urban Meyer's Bitch!"Wooo open source encyclopedia. Also note that Walden was 0-17 against the Big Ten in his coaching career.)

Then there's former MSU coach George Perles:

"They lost one game to the best team in the country," Perles said in a telephone interview from his home in East Lansing, Mich. "And No. 2, because they're from the state of Michigan, and I just so happen to live here."

I did not realize that geographical proximity was supposed to be a factor.

It's Pat Hill, the D-I coach voted Most Likely To Be Mistaken For A Janitor, who comes off the best:

"It was hard," Hill said in a telephone interview. "I think Michigan had their shot at Ohio State. They didn't get it done."

...for a given value of "best," anyway.

Bowl advocates constantly tell us that the entire regular season is a playoff. If that's so, it's the world's dumbest, one where teams either can lose or can't, either must schedule tough teams or don't have to, either have a history of good teams or don't. It's a "playoff" where over half the time some team with as much or more of a claim is cast aside, leaving their fans and coaches to gnash their teeth and, if they're from the charmingly insecure and paranoid south, bring it up for years whenever their team hits 6-0.

There's no conspiracy here save that of stupidity. The BCS is a Lovecraftian monster with parts swiped from any system that was handy. A playoff beak here; bowl tentacles there. It is a playoff, a two team playoff, which is no playoff at all. It has ruined college football's most hallowed traditions, kicked a half-dozen teams directly in the nuts, and given us mostly grief. The people who run the BCS are, bluntly, idiots. The Harris poll has talk radio hosts in it and guys who vote Boise #2. Richard Billingsley's formula is a disjointed mess. The rest of the computers are crippled by an inability to consider the same factors humans do. The coaches -- glorified gym teachers all -- are hopelessly biased. Only Jim Tressel, who abstained after looking at the absurdity of picking one of two teams and seeing it spun as an insult to his opponent either way, seems sane to me.

And somehow people who oppose a playoff will tell me that watching a bunch of idiots decide that my 11-1 team doesn't deserve to go to the national championship game because there's a much worse 12-1 team that had the good fortune to play in a conference without Ohio State is a beautiful thing that adds to the unique charm of college fooball. To them, I only say that I wish you would die in a hideous and painful fashion because a bunch of gym teachers held a vote.

Upon Further Review: Offense vs OSU

Upon Further Review: Offense vs OSU

Submitted by Brian on December 1st, 2006 at 5:33 PM
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M20 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 3 Hart Zone left
Third wideout is actually Butler, who comes in motion to the playside. He kind of whiffs on the linebacker but with the help of Ecker, turns him out. Gholston, lined up over Long(-1), gets free, forcing Hart back inside of him and into the remaining linebackers.
M23 2 7 Ace Offset Pass 24 Manningham Slant
Smith owned. Henne lays it right in stride to Manningham, allowing him to rack up a big gain after the catch. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)
M47 1 10 Ace Offset Pass 9 Manningham Stop
First indication that the field might be an issue, as Washington slips trying to break on this. Wouldn't have done much other than hold the gain down a yard or two, but still an indication. Ohio State's doing this flyaway thing I've seen them do quite a bit where they line up in press cover, then start bailing at the snap. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O44 2 1 Ace Offset Pass 9 Butler Cross
Ton of time for Henne. Henne looks deep, then comes down to Butler for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O35 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 9 Hart Delay
I'm not sure what to call this. It's not our typical zone stretch but it's not really a draw either. Oluigbo leads weakside as Michigan OL start pass drop, then engage. The OSU defensive line has started shifted right, over the tight end, and is walled off fairly easily. Obi kicks out a blitzing corner. Laurinaitis and Kerr get sucked up and blocked – Kerr tries a diving tackle that Hart bursts through – and Hart's into the secondary for a good gain.
O24 2 1 Ace 3-Wide Pass 23 Manningham Post (2)
Press-bail again, where the cornerback immediately turns his hips and starts flying downfield, reading the quarterback. Michigan is ready for this, running a post against cover 1 (seven in the box versus this formation that features Ecker spread wide to the top of the formation). Manningham gets inside Smith easily and throws a perfect dart. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
O1 1 G Goalline Run 1 Hart Zone right
Yeesh. Nearly a hold on Butler as he grabs a cornerback's arm, and then he falls to the ground. Obi gets the other corner hooked and Hart has the corner easy.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q. I didn't realize the Dave Matthews Band had kicked in for this game. Anyway... uh... yeah. That was machine-like.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M20 1 10 Ace Pass Inc Manningham Out
Manningham slips... he was open and the ball was there despite pressure. Ball was there. (CA, 0, protection ½)
M20 2 10 I-Form Run 4 Hart Zone right
Michigan has the outside sealed – Laurinaitis swept up by the guard and then Obi – but Arrington can't maintain his block on Jenkins. He comes free and shuts Hart down for a moderate gain. Riley(-1) driven backwards, delaying Hart's progress around the edge and giving Jenkins time to come up.
M24 3 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass 7 Breaston Slant
Second read nails Breaston between the numbers. Excellent coverage. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
M31 1 10 I-Form Twins Penalty -5 Mitchell False Start
OMG DEREK JETER
M26 1 15 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Bomb
Ugh. Manningham is ten yards past Jenkins and heading for an easy touchdown but Henne overthrows him. Manningham throws his arms up in despair. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M26 2 15 Ace 3-Wide Pass 10 Butler Dig
Another second read. This one is a bit in front of Butler but still reeled in for a good gain. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
M36 3 5 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc -- Throwaway
Plenty of time. Ecker is jammed at the line and held. Henne appears to have Breaston short quickly but he never comes to him. Eventually he tosses it away, trying to avoid pressure. Musberger getting intolerable. (TA, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 1st Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M14 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass -3 -- Sack
Henne has a moment before Lawrence Wilson drives Ecker(-1) into the pocket, forcing a panicked scramble. He has to realize what's happening and do something like dump the ball off to Hart, who looked like he had some room to make positive yards. Instead we get the same thing we've seen a lot this year where Henne takes his eyes off his receivers and gets sacked. (PR, --, protection 1/2, Ecker -1)
M11 2 13 Empty Pass 12 Manningham WR Screen
Well executed. Good blocks by Arrington(+1) and Butler(+1). (CA, 3)
M23 3 1 Ace 3-Wide Run 0 Hart Zone right
Oh, how I despise this playcall. I've been bitching about this all year, no? Third and one, we bring in three wideouts and run a stretch play without a lead blocker. They stuff the box, sell out on the zone play, and stuff it. Musberger credits Laurinaitis when all he did was chase down the play after everyone else did the hard work.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Dear Animal, Your Kid Is Overrated.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M27 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 1 Hart Zone left
With two receivers to one side, OSU shows eight in the box then backs out of it just before the snap. OSU gets far enough upfield to cut off the outside and with the still aggressive safety on the backside the linebackers are free to flow to the ball, outnumber the Michigan blockers.
M28 2 9 Ace 3-Wide Pass -17 -- Sack
Actually an intentional grounding call but it goes down as a sack. Henne has time and the ability to make a throw here but hesitates and starts r unning around, at which point he's dead. Strange thing is that he started running into pressure instead of moving up into the pocket. I have no idea if his man was covered or whatever, but this is brutal play. Step up in the pocket, throw it away... do something other than take a 17 yard sack. Goddammit. Now I see why the hesitation: Henne's receiver (the second read) ate turf trying to cut. He was open, so Henne didn't come off of him, and when he went down the blitz had gone from picked up to not picked up. Filed as a BR for poor pocket awareness but with an asterisk. (BR, --, protection 1/2)
M11 3 26 Ace 3-Wide Pass 14 Ecker Dig
Open underneath deep coverage and picks up half of it. I don't have a huge problem with the call. It's 14 yards of field position and getting it on third and twenty seven is not likely. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M25 4 12 Punt Penalty 15 -- Whackin' the Center
Yeah, you can't do that. Ever wonder why long snappers are always the third guy downfield on punt coverage? Because you can't hit 'em until they get their head up, by which point hittin' em is useless.
M40 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 0 Hart Zone left
Against the strength of the formation. There's a bit of a problem with the exchange, but it doesn't affect the play. No one gets a block on the second level or much push. Riley(-1) is so late he tries to go out and block the corner to that side because the linebacker's already yards inside of him. Hart cuts back. There's a lot of space but two unblocked linebackers.
M40 2 10 I-Form 3-Wide Pass 4 Hart Screen
No blitz and hardly any penetration from the DL. Weird looking screen. The third "wideout" is actually Ecker screen side, which might be a tipoff. Pitcock reads it and tracks down Hart; Hart jukes past him easily (Kraus slips to the turf trying to turn and block him) but the delay holds down the gain. (CA, 3)
M44 3 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass 5 Breaston Cross
Henne checks down as Manningham is covered and hits Breaston on a cross. He's tackled immediately by Freeman. Nice play. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M20 1 10 Ace Trips Pass Inc Manningham Hitch
Smith bails out, giving Manningham a ton of room. There might be a miscommunication on this as the throw is a yard or two further downfield than Manningham expects. Still catchable but only marginally accurate given the error. Not sure who to blame. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)
M20 2 10 I-Form Run 30 Hart Lead Draw
Woo. Life. Laurinaitis is plowed by Oluigbo and out of the play, then Hart puts a move on the safety to break past the line of scrimmage. He puts a second move on Jenkins, bursts past him, and is tripped by by a diving corner.
50 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 1 Hart Zone right
Extra guy in the box; they're in cover one with a seven man front. No likey run here. The front side is jammed up – we can't crease them so far – and when Hart tries to cut to the backside Gholston is there. Butler was confused, initially blowing past him in an attempt to get out on a linebacker, then turning and trying a half-hearted grab a second later. Gholston would have been vastly out of position on the waggle if Henne kept the ball.
O49 2 9 I-Form Twins Run 7 Hart Zone left
This is kind of weird. Looks like OSU is caught in a nickel here. They have one safety way back in the middle of the field and one shaded over Arrington and Manningham. The third corner backs off the LOS before the snap in that weakside zone technique you see a lot. We run at him. We finally crease the line, giving Hart a lane. Someone dives at his feet, he hurdles forward and falls for seven yards.
O42 3 2 Ace Pass 15* Manningham PI
I bet an OSU fan a dollar about Herbstreit's opinion on this. Jenkins jams Manningham about eight yards downfield as Henne lofts a ball up for him. Flag comes down as the ball was in the air. Bet is a push, as Herbstreit offers no opinion either way. (Not charted, 0, protection 1/1)
O27 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass -10 -- Sack
Poor Alex Mitchell is asked to block two defensive linemen as we bust a blitz pickup. Henne's snowed under, no chance. (PR, --, protection 0/3, Riley-3) It's Riley who decides to take a late blitzing corner instead of blocking Gholston.
O37 2 20 Ace 3-Wide Pass 37 Arrington Wheel
Combo route with Manningham gets Arrington millions of yards open – this will happen again in the second half but Henne will miss him – and leads to a touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-21, 2 min 2nd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M40 1 10 Empty Pass 1 Manningham WR Screen
Massey slips trying to set up and block Smith; freed of Ecker, Smith makes the tackle. (CA, 3)
M41 2 9 I-Form Run 8 Hart Draw
Laurinaitis does a great job of fending off Oluigbo – first time I've ever seen him do that – and manages a tackle attempt near the LOS. Hart runs through it. The other linebacker, Kerr, was engaged on the second level nicely by Bihl(+1) and can't do anything but chase Hart down from behind.
M49 3 1 I-Form Run 33 Hart Iso (2)
This is Adam Kraus' hole. He gets an outstanding, driving block on Kerr. Long kicks out Gholston; Bihl chops and removes Pitcock, who was firing forward at the snap. Oluigbo takes out Mitchell, opening up a hole for Hart.
O18 1 10 I-Form Run 16 Hart Zone left
No presnap formation; we join the play just as Hart gets the ball. Don't know if we caught them off guard or what but they have their linebackers shifted towards the open side of the field, away from where we're running. Patterson gets in to the backfield but can't get out to Hart before he shoots up into the hole. Bihl(+1) scoops Pitcock out of the way, and gets out on Laurinaitis. Hart reads everything beautifully and cuts his way through the ho le, past Bihl, and into the secondary.
O2 1 10 Goalline Run 2 Hart Zone right
Obi motions out to be a second TE on the right side. Great job by Butler(+1) to seal the DE, then impede Laurinaitis enough to give Hart the corner easily.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-28, 12 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
O25 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 5 Hart Zone left
Nominally eight in the box – Jenkins on the weakside covering a short zone – but we run away from two blitzers who shoot upfield and take themselves out of the play. As a result, the backside is wide open. Hart sees it... cuts... slips. His hand hits the turf and he stumbles. Out of position linebacker (55?) recovers. He makes that cut cleanly and he has one safety between him and the endzone and a sure first down.
O20 2 5 I-Form Twins Run -2 Hart Zone right
Playside block for Bihl on Patterson that he does not make. A replay of various runs all season where a DT drives one of our interior linemen into Hart in the backfield. Hart breaks the tackle but by that time he's swarmed.
O22 3 7 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Out
Gholston and Pitcock stunt; Gholston blows up Kraus(-1) and gets pressure on Henne, who ends up throwing the ball away in the general direction of Manningham. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Kraus -2) No Gholston likely means he throws to Breaston free on a crossing route after coming off Manningham.
Drive Notes: FG, 24-28, 8 min 3rd Q. The obvious issues with the field are actually affecting our offense more than our defense. Hart was one move away from the endzone on first down here.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M20 1 10 Ace Pass Inc Manningham Slant
Batted down at the line. (BA, 0)
M20 2 10 I-Form Run 6 Hart Zone left
Quick snap. Long(+1) gets great push on Richardson, allowing Hart the corner. Obi takes out the nearest linebacker and Hart goes up the sideline until the defense converges.
M26 3 4 Ace 3-Wide Pass 15 Arrington Dig
Ohio State blitzes; we pick it up. Mario comes across the formation and is trailed by a defender, revealing man coverage. With time, Henne finds Arrington, who's beaten Smith to the inside by a couple yards. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)
M41 1 10 I-Form Run 1 Hart Zone left
Quick snap. Long(-1) is hesitant (slip?), allowing Gholston to burst into him and shove him back. He then definitely slips. With the DE to the playside free, there's not much Hart can do except cut up into bodies.
M42 2 9 Ace 3-Wide Pass 25 Arrington Seam
Beautiful pocket. Henne drops back and fires it to Arrington running in between levels in the zone; right on the money. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O33 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 0 Hart Zone left
Smith brought off of Arrington in the slot to blitz; does so right into the play. Arrington comes in motion before the snap and manages to wall off Smith without blocking him in the back. Hart jumps outside of him. Timing disrupted, the safety already creeping towards the line of scrimmage, Hart has the outside cut off and has to head upfield.
O33 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Butler Out
Don't know what Long's doing. The DE slants inside and gets there, driving towards Henne. Henne has to get rid of it and throws to an open Butler but can't step into the throw with the pressure and sails it. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Long -2)
O33 3 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc -- Throwaway
Stunt. Patterson splits the gap between Riley(-1) and Mitchell(-1). Henne, under tremendous pressure, has to toss it away. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Mitchell, Riley -1)
O33 4 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 5 Breaston Cross
We've seen this play all year, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's a checkdown to Breaston on the crossing route a few yards short of the sticks. Breaston cuts and slips to the turf. Does he make it otherwise? Maybe. We've seen him do it before. He had Jenkins to contend with... 50/50.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 24-35, 4 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M34 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Arrington Wheel
Ugh. The aforementioned overthrow on the wheel route. Arrington was open by about ten yards and all Henne had to do was lay it in there for a 20 or 30 yard gain. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M34 2 10 I-Form Run 9 Hart Lead Draw
OSU blitzes right into this. Obi gets a piece of Laurinaitis and allows Hart a crease to split the two linebackers; Hart then owns Brandon Mitchell for another four yards.
M43 3 1 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Bomb
Jenkins step for step with Manningham but has given him way too much room inside. There's a window here for a completion... unfortunately, Long passes Gholston off to Kraus, who hasn't slid his protection. Result: Henne hit as he throws, underthrown ball, and a punt. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Kraus -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
O9 1 G I-Form Run 0 Hart Zone left
Ohio State strings this out nicely. Obi decides to head outside and Hart follows him. Ecker is battling Gholston to a stalemate when Wilson shoots past Long(-1) and grabs Hart from behind.
O9 2 G I-Form Run 9 Breaston End-around
Play is made by Arrington's killer block on Washington. Breaston's speed got him outside the defensive end. I don't see how this replay is indisputable, by the way.
O1 3 G Goalline Run 1 Hart Zone right
By all rights should be stopped at the one by an unblocked Mitchell with Kerr impacting him a moment later. Hart plows in anyway.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-35, 14 min 4th Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M32 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Cross
Henne stands in bravely as Patterson goes right past a confused Mitchell/Bihl combo and hits an open Manningham for about six yards with a lot of YAC potential. It's dropped. (CA, 2, protection 0/2, Mitchell -1, Bihl -1)
M32 2 10 Ace Run 7 Hart Draw
Open and he's immediately into the second level with the linebackers dropping way downfield.
M39 3 3 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Breaston Slant
Washington jams Breaston and he's yards away from the ball as the pass is thrown. Uh...BR, I guess. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-35, 10 min 4th Q.
LINE DOWN DIST FORM TYPE YARDS PLAYER BRIEF
M19 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 5 Manningham Cross
Underneath the coverage for a few; need yards in bigger chunks here. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M24 2 5 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 8 Arrington Stop
Double clutch as Henne comes off Manningham and hits Arrington. It's a little low – there was an opportunity to get a few more yards and then OOB if accurate. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
M32 1 10 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 1 Hart Checkdown
Comes down to Hart as his first read or two is covered. Jenkins makes a nice ankle tackle to hold the gain down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M33 2 9 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 17 Manningham Post
Beautiful throw well downfield in between four guys in the zone. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
50 1 10 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass 6 Arrington Cross
Throwing under the coverage. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O44 2 4 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass -10 Arrington Dig
Holding on Riley and a call that has to be made. Henne puts this in a tiny window in the zone right on Arrington's hands. Arrington is blown up by Laurinaitis but holds on. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Riley -2) Shame. GOOD LORD. ABC does its standard "look at the guy who screwed up shot" and catches Alex Mitchell popping Riley's shoulder back into place.
M46 2 14 Shotgun 3-Wide Pass Inc Ecker Cross
Good for 8 to 10 if Ecker makes a simple catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M46 3 14 Ace 3-Wide Pass -2 -- Sack
This is just terrible from the right side of the OL. I can't get that mad at Riley – shoulder – but when the DE swims inside and no one's coming at Mitchell, he has to get out and help Riley. He ends up blocking no one, getting Henne sacked. (PR, protection 0/2, -1 Riley, Mitchell)
M44 4 16 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc + 15 Manningham Bomb
Weird. Herbstreit immediately bursts into a spiel about how that's obvious interference and I'm like 'no it isn't.' This ball is well underthrown – Mario had burned O'Neal crispy – allowing the S to get back into the play. He doesn't look, the ball hits him in the back or arm or something, and Manningham's progress is never impeded. This is the same kind of crappy call we've been getting on our DBs all year, and it's still crappy when it happens in our favor. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)
O41 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 5 Manningham Cross
Underneath again; a second read as Arrington was running the wheel again. Defender on that side dropped back to cover it and Henne's second progression was the cross. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O36 2 5 Ace 3-Wide Pass 20 Massey Seam
Not well thrown – Massey has to dive to the ground and scoop the ball off the turf as he gets into the second level – but I think Freeman's threatened bump caused Massey to get to the designated spot a little late. Great catch. (CA, 1, protection 2/2)
O16 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Arrington Corner
Though incomplete this is an excellent decision and throw from Henne. Arrington is bracketed and with 2:30 left in the game and no timeouts Michigan can't really afford little checkdowns anymore. So he fires it high and to the outside where only Arrington can get it. It would have been a miracle if he pulled it in but it was still the best option. Filed as TA. (TA, 1, protection 2/2)
O16 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 16 Ecker Stop
OSU blitzes; we pick it up but only momentarily. Henne starts moving up in the pocket and I'm like "aaah no more useless Henne scramblor", then finds Ecker wide open at the six; he takes it in for the touchdown. (CA, 3, protection ½)
O3 Conv -- Ace 3-Wide Pass 3 Breaston Stop
Just a little stop in front of the zone. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT), EOG

So... the field?

It clearly harmed Michigan on a few critical plays: stumbling receivers on various passes, a Hart run that was held down to five that should have been a big gain, a fourth down conversion attempt that ended with Breaston skidding to the ground yards short of the sticks. Overall, far more Michigan players ended up face down on the turf than Ohio State players, and though I gave the turf theory little credence in the immediate aftermath of the game I have to say that on replay there's about 8-10 instances where a Michigan player's inability to plant is relevant and maybe 1-2 similar plays for OSU.

How could this be true? Theories:

  • Michigan has guys who rely on sharp cuts more often. Manningham's a double move guy. Breaston's entire football usefulness is built around his ability to change direction faster than anyone else. Hart is a low-to-the-ground, compact back in a running game that demands wild changes of direction fairly regularly. Meanwhile, Pittman and Wells are more north-south guys and Ginn just runs straight past people.
  • OSU's used to playing on crappy turf, having dealt with this issue all year (OSU's resodded twice). Maybe they know what they can and can't do when you're on the football equivalent of ice levels in Super Mario Brothers.

Now let's not get all PSU here. Unless this is a brilliant conspiracy launched as soon as word of a zone rushing game reached OSU coaches' ears that sacrificed an entire year of reasonable field conditions and was immediately followed by the installation of fieldturf, the conditions were more fortuitous than a dark plot. But it's clear that the conditions harmed Michigan more than they did Ohio State.

This will no doubt lead to an assertion that "both teams played on the same field," but if Michigan installed a field that randomly shot white-clad players in the kneecap you would agree that this is not a situation that impacts both teams equally, yes?

Charts?

Charts. Henne:

Team DO CA IN BR TA BA PR
Vandy 4 9 5 4 0 0 5
CMU 4 8 2 1 1 1 1
Notre Dame 6 10 2 2 0 1 3
Wisconsin 5 16 2 1 3 1 1
Minnesota 5 13 2 0 3 0 1
Michigan State 2 9 5 0 0 0 1
Penn State 3 16 6 1 3 4 1
Iowa 1 26 2 4 1 1 2
Northwestern 4 10 3 2 1 2 0
Indiana 6 4 3 1 0 0 1
Ohio State 6 22 3 2 2 1 7
TROY SMITH 4 26 2 1 0 0 1

The difference between the two quarterbacks comes in the final column. Smith hardly ever had things filed "PR" because even when get got "PR-ed" he usually got off a short hitch to Gonzalez or Hall or Ginn or whoever because we couldn't cover long enough for unblocked blitzers to be useful. Henne, on the other hand, got swamped by linemen:

Protection: 34/55. Kraus -4, Ecker -1, Riley -7, Long -2, Mitchell -3, Bihl -1, assorted miscellaneous.

Some of that was just the scheme: Michigan's routes need time to develop. Primary reads on each play are long gainers and our little checkdown routes are slow-developing crosses. Henne spent vastly more time with the ball in his hand than Smith did. Some of that was just bad play. some of that was no doubt Henne-caused, as there were a few more instances of run-around-uselessly theater (though, like Navarre, Henne has started to indicate that he's getting better at this late in his junior season: see the Ecker touchdown).

(Question for peanut gallery: I'm thinking about adding a "marginal" category. It would live in-between "CA" and "IN" and exist for throws that are, well, marginal, like a slant that's completed but forces the wide receiver off his feet to catch it, removing the possibility of YAC. Yes/no? I'm bothered by the huge range of throws in the "CA" category.)

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Breaston 1 0 1/1 2/2 4 1/4 4/4 27/30
Manningham 4 0/1 1/3 7/7 6 1/4 5/7 11/14
Arrington 1 0/1 2/2 4/4 5 2/6 4/6 21/21
Massey 0 1/1 - - 1 1/1 0/2 4/4
Butler 1 0 1/1 2/2 5 1 1/3 9/10
Ecker 0 0 0 2/3 0 0 0 3/4
Mathews - - - - 2 0/1 2/2 4/4
Hart 0 0 0 2/2 0 0 0 9/9
Grady - - - - 0 0 0 1/1

A good day from the receivers, who got a ton more work in this game than any previous. Only one drop of a 3.

DeBord?

Well, if you had told me we would score 39 points I would have kissed the man. And even in the aftermath he revealed himself to be anything but a run-first curmudgeon when Michigan isn't being mind-bogglingly arrogant. DeBord used the pass to set up the run and this worked. We marched down the field mostly through the air on the first drive, and from that point on Hart picked up a number of huge gains on draw plays. He established Henne and Manningham as threats early and forced Ohio State to defend everything. I have few quibbles with anything DeBord did.

I do have some questions:

  • We didn't run play-action once. How bizarre is that? Henne's throwing the ball all over creation and there's not so much as the token draw fake we throw out there nearly constantly. No waggle, either, even though Vernon Gholston displayed a predilection for being wildly irresponsible about it.
  • I swear to God if I see another zone stretch in three-wide on third and short I am going to short-circuit. How many drives this year died at the hands of that call? I'm going to revisit this in the offseason, youbetcha.
  • The screen and Hart dumpoff nearly vanished from the playbook this year. That's understandable because the passing game spent much of the year in mothballs and why screen when they expect you to run every first and second down, but I still miss it.

That was the Michigan "scoring offense," and it scored. Next year, when our number of reliable cornerbacks dips to zero and quarterback pressure becomes less of a given -- in short, when our defense does not destroy (almost) all comers -- it will have to be deployed all game long, especially with a senior Henne.

How come we never throw over the middle?

What, are you stuck in 2005? This time-tested complaint should be shelved until 2008. Henne is now probing the middle of the fiel d on digs, crosses, seams, and posts with frequency and success. Yes, this is a reminder for the first game of 2007, when we run a really boring offense against a MAC school and everyone freaks out.

What does it mean for Probably LSU?

An interesting note on LSU's pass defense: it has faced no one who even approaches competent save Chris Leak. (We all agree to discard Brandon Cox from that category, right? Right.) Eric Ainge missed UT's game against the Tigers. Jonathan Crompton stepped in, but not very well.

Leak was held in check -- 17/26 with an interception for 155 yards -- but that's partially because Tim Tebow ganked his touchdowns. If we face the Tigers I'll provide a fuller breakdown, but a cursory glance at their opponents reveals a virtual who's who of D-I's worst passing offenses. Wait... make that worst offenses, period.

Anyway: Chad Henne was deployed fully for the first time since the Notre Dame game and turned in an impressive performance. He has total command of his reads and routes. His accuracy is greatly improved. His pocket awareness... needs work but is improving. So aerial fiesta against LSU? Maybe. The issue the game will turn on will be protection. Michigan struggled to keep Henne clean and LSU presents a similar challenge -- 7th nationally in sacks and just generally very LSU-y, which is to say good God they're terrifying.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs OSU

Upon Further Review: Defense vs OSU

Submitted by Brian on November 30th, 2006 at 6:35 PM
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O31 1 10 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 2 Long handoff
Hall(+1) holds this down wonderfully, making the tackle after a stiffarm. (CA, 3 – screen) (Cover +1)
O33 2 8 Nickel Pass 11 Out
Combo route designed to beat zone coverage that OSU knows we're in because we have Burgess lined up over Ginn and Gonzalez. Burgess(-1) bites on play action, then slips on the turf as he tries to react to the pass. Slip was probably irrelevant. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Note: Biggs also slips trying to cut and attack the rollout of Smith. (Cover -1, pressure -1)
O44 1 10 Nickel Pass Inc PA Bomb
Play action is a speed option fake. Ginn gets open deep on Hall(-1, cover -1) but Smith overthrows him, probably because Woodley(+1, pressure +1) gets loose and plows him as he throws. (IN, 0, protection ½)
O44 2 10 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 6 Hitch
Smith throws underneath the zone to Hartline. Graham(+1) makes a nice tackle. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
50 3 4 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 5 Hitch
OSU goes five wide and motions a guy up into a three WR set at the top of the screen – something we do when we throw our diamond screen. They run patterns out of it against obvious zone coverage, flooding that zone and giving Smith an easy read of one guy. He steps out, Smith throws in. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, cover -1)
M45 1 10 Nickel Pass -6 Sack
OSU rolls away from Woodley and into Biggs(+2), who works through a TE block and even a double team to reach out and hurl Smith to the turf. (pressure +1)
O49 2 16 Nickel Pass 0 Screen
Woodley(+1) goes right around Schafer, nailing Smith as he throws. It's a screen but they were blocking the DEs. Pass still complete, but David Harris(+2) fights through a block and tackles for no gain. (pressure +1) (CA, 3)
O49 3 16 Nickel Pass 27 Post
Two blitzers, mistimed. A safety is yards from the LOS at the snap, and OSU rolls away from it anyway. Smith finds Hall well past the sticks as Sears(-1) is beaten badly. (cover -1) Where is the deep safety? We double Gonzalez on a shorter post... Smith just finds the open guy. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, pressure -2)
M24 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 5 Trap
We run ourselves out of this play. Stunting? Or just fooled? I think the latter, as we overreact to OSU's first step and get trapped. Biggs(-1) gave up the hole.
M19 2 5 Nickel Pass Inc Slip screen
Ginn in that "Ginnback" thing. They try the slip screen; Ginn drops it. A little in front of him, but come on. (CA, 3)
M19 3 5 Nickel Pass 10 Hitch
Ugly. All Hall does is run like five yards downfield and stop. He's open by yards... we're rushing three! Harrison(-1) misses a tackle to compound his coverage. (Cover -1)
M9 1 G Base 4-3 Pass 7 FB flat
Musberger calls it a "slant." At least when Jackson started slipping he had his essential Keith-Jackson-ness to fall back on. Anyway. Fake end around. Crable in man coverage against the fullback, can't get out there in time. (Crable -1, cover -1)
M2 2 G Goal line Run 1 Dive
Excellent job by Woodley(+1) to penetrate and get Pittman's legs in the backfield. Harris pops him to finish the play.
M1 3 G Nickel Pass 1 Out
Hall wide open on a pick play. (cover -1, CA, 3)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q. Herbstreit goes on about the confusion on the touchdown play, but that was a simple pick – a legal pick, since the receiver never impacted the defender – that was rock to our man-coverage scissors. OSU spread us out, putting us in obvious zone coverages, and found the open receiver each time. When we went to man on third and sixteen he found the mismatch against Sears. What can you say?
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O20 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 2 Zone?
OSU lines up in the I and runs. This is a zone play... weird. Pittman decides to cut it back inside as Crable(+1) cuts off the outside. Burgess is unblocked and makes the tackle.
O22 2 8 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 8 Slant
Woodley slips trying to explode into his pass rush. Trent(-1, cover -1) is also playing way off, certainly too far to bother this slant. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O30 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 4 Trap
Pittman manages to plow ahead for a few right up the middle; the pull to the outside doesn't open up any space. Harris fills but has to deal with a guard diving at his feet and so can't move up that quickly.
O34 2 6 Nickel Pass 7 Slip screen
Harrison is cut and Sears takes a couple steps back at first opening up the screen. (CA, 3)
O41 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 1 Trap
Taylor(+1) gets good push; Woodley(+1) is into the backfield too quickly for the pulling guard to block him properly. Pittman up into a mass of unblocked linebackers without a lead blocker.
O42 2 9 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Inc Stop
Smith fires to an open Ginn underneath the zone. It's a bit hard and outside and dropped. A catch was only going to get three, anyway, as we actually had this one reasonably well covered. (CA, 2, protection 1/1) (cover +1)
O42 3 9 3-2-6 Dime Pass Inc Throwaway
Michigan loads up with six rushers against an empty set. Smith is forced to backpedal and toss it away with an unblocked blitzer coming in. (pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q. Michigan goes three and out and gives OSU the ball back right where they punted it.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O42 1 10 Nickel Run 6 Boot
A designed run for Smith. Fakes the end-around to Ginn then rolls out. No pass option here as his wideouts to that side are blocking. Good contain from Adams(+1); Harris pounds Smith as he cuts back.
O48 2 4 3-3-5 Nickel Run 52 Zone left
It all starts out so well. Crable(+1) penetrates into the backfield and blows this play up. Wells spins away from Crable's tackle – unfortunate but at the speed Crable's going not shocking – and cuts up in to the line, managing to squeak behind Branch(-1) as he gets shoved by his blocker. Harris, reading the blocking, has moved to the frontside of the play and gets blocked out. Burgess is containing the cutback. Once Wells manages to cut through the line the linebackers are toast. Adams(-2) takes a terrible angle and Mundy(-2) reacts way late. A great play from Wells, some luck to find the hole after the spin move, and late reacting safeties.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 12 min 2nd Q.
O9 1 10 Nickel Run 3 Zone read
Taylor(+1) pushes into the backfield, forcing Pittman to cutback. He makes an ankle tackle for a small gain.
O12 2 7 Nickel Pass 40 Scrambly nonsense
Another late blitz. Smith hesitates – we must have covered someone – long enough for the blitzer to get there. Crable(+1) also disengages and is about to sack Smith when he rolls outside of him, steps up, and fires a dart to Robiskie 20 yards downfield. Hall(-1, cover -1) misses the tackle, allowing Robiskie another 20 yards. Trent is the last guy and makes the tackle. Alan Branch slips here trying to get upfield on the Smith rollout. (DO, 3, protection ½) Harrison wiped out trying to cut and tackle Robiskie, too. (pressure +1)
M48 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 10 Off guard
Taylor(-1) doubled and blown off the ball. He can't hold his footing or explode out of his stance. There's a big hole and no linebacker around because Burgess(-1) tacks too far inside.
M38 2 In Base 4-3 Pass 38 Bomb
OSU rushes up to the line in a big set and alarm bells go off in my head... it's second down, why pull out this quick snap thing for a second down? They playfake. Hall has let Ginn behind him but that's to be expected. What's not expected is Mundy(-2) having bitten ridiculously hard on a nothing conversion attempt, giving Ginn the center of the field wide open and Smith an easy throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) (cover -2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, 6 min 2nd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O20 1 10 Nickel Pass 11 PA Cross
Same zone fake Smith ran off of before the Wells touchdown. He rolls out, finds Gonzalez in a hole in the zone, and hits him, (CA, 3). Both linebackers bit hard on the fake, opening up the hole. (Crable -1, cover -1)
O31 1 10 Nickel Pass 7 Hitch
Hall playing way off in man. (-1, cover -1) (CA, 3)
O38 2 3 Nickel Pass 17 Post
Ugh. Hall(-1) getting killed. Robiskie gets inside of him on the post and Smith fires it in there. We were in some sort of blitz package that came way too late, leaving the secondary manned up. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) (cover -1, pressure -1)
M45 1 10 Nickel Pass Inc Throwaway
Smith hesitates though it looks like he has Robiskie on a simple hitch. That delay allows Crable(+1) to crush Smith and force an errant throw. (PR, 0, protection 0/2) (pressure +1)
M45 2 10 Dime Pass 14 Hitch
Four receivers to one side in this empty look; we have three defenders out there plus a deep safety. All defenders get run off, giving Smith an incredibly easy read and throw to a wide open Gonzalez. (cover -2, CA, 3, protection 1/1) Sears(-1) misses a tackle.
M31 1 10 Nickel Pass 3 TE Screen
Graham(+2) does a great job of reading this, beating a block, and tackling. (CA, 3)
M28 2 7 Nickel Pass 16 Short post
God. We aren't covering anyone. They have Gonzalez lined up against Graham... which needs a word stronger than "mismatch" to describe it. This actually appears to be a zone but there's so much space here. Easy. (Cover -2) (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M12 1 10 Nickel Pass 5 Hitch
Combo route against the zone. Corner steps towards Gonzalez, Smith goes short. We tackle this time. (Cover -1, CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M7 2 5 Nickel Pass 7 Slant
Graham(-1) is trying to cover Gonzalez. This works about as well as you would think. (Cover -1, CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-28, EOH.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O29 1 10 Nickel Pass Inc Hitch
A deep one at the sticks that's open. (Cover -1) Smith one-hops it. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
O29 2 10 Nickel Pass Inc Out
Ginn open on the out (cover -1); flat drops it. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O29 3 10 Nickel Pass Inc Hitch
Branch(+1) comes free on a stunt, forcing Smith to throw fairly quickly. He throws it low to Ginn, who can't pull it in. Trent was in position to tackle short of the sticks anyway. (CA, 2, protection ½) (cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-28, 14 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O17 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 2 Zone right
Branch(+1) plows into the backfield, forcing Pittman wide. Burgess(+1) comes up around a blocker to make a tackle near the LOS.
O19 2 8 3-2-6 Dime Pass Inc Out
Well timed blitz from Mundy(+1) gets one guard trying to block him and Harris(+1). Harris comes free, forcing a throw from Smith that's early and only vaguely accurate. (pressure +1) (CA, 1, protection 0/2)
O19 3 8 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Int Hitch
Smith hesitates – first guy is covered – Biggs(+1) gets free, as does Crable, forcing him to scramble out. Smith fires it to Robiskie, who's doubled by Harris(+1) and Adams(+1). The ball deflects up and is intercepted by Branch(!, +1). Poor decision. And we covered not one but two guys. Killer. (Cover +2, pressure +1, BR, 1, protection ½)
Drive Notes: Interception, 21-28, 10 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O35 1 10 Nickel Pass 8 Hitch
Easy pitch and catch in front of Hall(-1, cover -1). (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O43 2 2 Base 4-3 Run 57 Iso
They pull a guard around into the hole. With the FB they have blockers for both Harris and Burgess plus a sizable hole between Biggs and Branch(-1), who gets blocked down out of the hole. Pittman's through the hole fast and with Adams rolled up near the LOS, only Mundy(-2) is between Pittman and t he endzone. Yards after Mundy: 45.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-35, 7 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O28 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 3 Zone read
Same shotgun zone stretch play OSU has run or faked a few times before. There's a hole between Woodley and a doubled and blown off the ball Branch(-1), but the hole closes quickly.
O31 2 7 Base 4-3 Run -4 Iso
Taylor(+2) times the snap, shoots into the backfield, makes a six yard TFL, and picks up a holding call. Outstanding.
O27 3 11 Nickel Pass Inc Out
Woodley(+1) slips to the ground, manages to get up, and pressures Smith into a throw short of first down yardage to Nichol. Englemon(+1) is in great coverage, forcing an incompletion. (pressure +1, cover +1, CA, 2, protection ½)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-35, 3 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O20 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 5 Iso
Line creased as Branch(-1) slants inside at the snap right where they run the ball. Harris taken out by the fullback, and I'm about to sarcastically congratulate Ryan Mundy for making a good tackle until Brandent Englemon (31 instead of 21) gets up. Mundy was yanked after the Pittman run.
O25 2 5 3-3-5 Nickel Run -14 Speed option
First Smith fumble. Bad time to get a high snap when you're taking off as soon as it's snapped. Branch(+1) hustles for the recovery.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O26 1 10 Nickel Pass 7 Hitch
In front of Hall. (Cover -1)
O33 2 3 Base 4-3 Run 4 Off guard
Same quick pull of the guard they've been using with frequency. Johnson in at DT; Harris walled off by the FB; Englemon comes up and tackles.
O37 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 4 Off guard
Mirror image of the last play. Harris and Crable disengage and grab Pittman at the LOS, but their momentum is going laterally as Pittman's goes upfield, so he is able to drag them forward a few steps.
O41 2 6 Dime Pass 21 Hitch
Blitzing six against an empty set. Woodley comes free and nails Smith; Ginn runs a simple hitch that Trent(-1) plays too far off of then misses a tackle(another -1), giving Ginn a bunch of extra yards. (CA, 3) (cover -1)
M38 1 10 Base 4-3 Pass 6 TE Out
Graham(-1) late reacting in his zone; Nichol very open as he goes to the sidelines. (Cover -1)
M32 2 4 3-2-6 Dime Pass 3 Slant
Immediate tackle from Harrison(+1) prevents a conversion. (Cover +1, CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M29 3 1 3-3-5 Nickel Run -2 Fumble #2
Snap just falls out of his hand and rolls backwards.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-35, 12 min 4th Q.
LINE DOWN DIST PACKAGE TYPE YARDS BRIEF
O17 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 2 Draw
Taylor(+1) holds up at the line, sees where the play is going, and submarines Pittman as he gets to the LOS.
O19 2 8 Nickel Run 9 Bootleg
Think there might be a pass option here but filed as a run anyway. The DE on his side stumbles, opening up a ton of room and he takes off.
O28 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 26 Fake WR Screen
They fake that Ginn slip screen then turn around and hand off to Pittman going the other way. Harris(-1) starts flying towards Ginn and is gone. Branch manages to read it but can't get out there. Englemon slips to the turf as Pittman cuts past him. We were going to give up eight or so at least but the turf didn't help here.
M46 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 3 Iso
No pull this time. Harris stands up the FB and disengages as Michigan converges – eight in the box here.
M43 2 7 Base 4-3 Run 1 Iso
Same play. No room as Branch(+1) and Taylor(+1) hold up.
M42 3 6 3-2-6 Dime Pass 9 Slant
Hartline on a slant in front of Sears. (CA, 3, cover -1)
M33 1 10 Base 4-3 Run 0 Off guard
Nothing. Another good job by the DTs. (Taylor +1, Branch +1).
M33 2 10 Nickel Pass Inc Slant
Woodley(+1) crushes Smith as he throws, as he's unblocked. Okay. (Pressure +1)
M33 3 10 Nickel Penalty -5 Delay
M38 3 15 Nickel Pass Inc + 15 Goddammit
Smith has some time to start, until Branch(+1) bowls through a guy. Smith rolls out, avoids Biggs, and runs to the sideline, throwing up a prayer as he reaches the sideline that Robiskie can't get back to. Then, the flag. More later. (IN, 1, protection 1/2, pressure +1, cover +1)
M23 1 10 Nickel Pass 9 Slant
This could not be easier. Trent is hanging back, way out of position, and never breaks on the ball. Terrible. (-2, cover -1)
M14 2 1 Base 4-3 Run 1 QB Sneak
Whatever.
M13 1 10 Nickel Pass 13 Fade-stop
Ton of time. Ton. Smith sits back, waits for his receiver to cut, and fires to a wide open Robiskie. Trent, summing everything up, slips helplessly to the ground. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, pressure -1, cover -1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-42, 5 min 4th Q.

What happened?

God, I don't know. I've always believed that there's not that much you can do when an opposing quarterback is on like that. Several times in the second half we managed to get to him and force errant throws, but I think our much-ballyhooed defensive adjustments were overblown. Second-half drives:

  • Smith short-hops an open receiver on first down; Ginn drops a first down out on second; on third we do get a little pressure, forcing a throw that wouldn't get a first down even if completed.
  • Three straight good plays: a run stop, pressure, an then actual coverage.
  • Two-play touchdown drive.
  • Two runs get OSU in 3rd and 11, then Woodley pressure forces a punt.
  • The first fumble; unforced on second and five.
  • OSU drives down to the Michigan 29, then fumbles on third and one.
  • Crable-aided touchdown.

So, yeah, there are a couple good plays interspersed in there but it was usually one of every three snaps. The difference was some OSU errors -- drops, an errant throw, fumbles -- and OSU's decision to go with less consistently effective running plays. There was no adjustment to be made that would suddenly make that four and five wide package anything other than a mismatch.

The really disappointing part was not the pass defense -- that guy's going to win the Heisman and for good reason -- but the two free touchdowns on runs up the middle. The Wells touchdown was dangerous as soon as he slipped through that crack in the line. The backfield spin changed his direction suddenly and oddly, putting linebackers in untenable positions. Branch is a big guy flowing down the line and he couldn't stop his momentum (footing may have been an issue) in time to slow him down. A running back coming straight down the middle of the field with a head of steam and no linebackers is a recipe for disaster, and disaster it was.

Helmet to helmet?

Well, it was helmet-to-helmet. So, yeah, it was a good call as the rule book is constructed.

But it was irritating, right? Not just in the "oh god now we're going to lose" sense, but because it was irrelevant and arbitrary. Shawn Crable's just trying to make a play. He's running full speed, Smith's running full speed, and he's just trying to make a play. If Smith was any other player taking that hit, they don't throw a flag. I can understand the rationale for trying to keep a stationary quarterback protected from headshots, but if he's running willy nilly all over the field a defender's ability to control exactly where and what he's hitting is limited at best.

Is this a nation of men? Should we just outfit quarterbacks with pink jerseys and frilly tutus? The Russkies must be licking their chops.

Chart?

Chart.

Player + - T Notes
Woodley 6   6 Never quite got to Smith but forced a number of errant throws with pressure.
Biggs 3 1 2 Had a sack. Woo.
Taylor 6 1 5 Lifted a lot. Held up against OSU's late game runs and helped kill a drive with a four-yard TFL.
Branch 7 4 3 A lot of good plays; a lot of slanting away from run plays. Hell of an INT, though.
Johnson - - -  
Germany - - -  
Jamison - - - Hardly played.
B. Graham - - -  
Crable 4 1 3 Don't blame him for the penalty, really.
Harris 4 1 3  
C. Graham 3 2 1 Not a cornerback.
Burgess 1 2 -1 Tried to go but was eventually lifted.
Hall 1 5 -4 Disappointing.
Harrison 1 1 0  
Stewart - - -  
Sears 0 2 -2 Overmatched.
Adams 2 2 0  
Englemon 1 - 1 Why Mundy instead of him?
Barringer - - -  
Mundy 1 6 -5 Jesus.
Trent 0 5 -5 Aaaand the corner position next year is very much in question.
"Pressure" 11 6 5 How did this happen? Well, Smith scrambled out on a few instances of pressure, the coverage was so bad that he threw a ton of short routes, and hardly ever held the ball long enough for pressure to come.
"Coverage" 8 29 -21 Disaster.

Heroes?

Um. Alan Branch intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, plus did fairly well late in the game when OSU lined up and ran it (as did Taylor). Lamarr Woodley was pressuring Smith all day, albeit often unblocked and never in time for a sack. But when you give up 42 points and over 500 yards of offense there's not a lot of backslapping going on.

Goats?

I do hate this bit. I wince at the idea that Pat Massey stumbled across this thing and swore a silent vow to choke me to death should he ever run across me (If so, Pat, this is what I look like).

But goddamn, sometimes it just has to be said: Ryan Mundy is a 50 yard touchdown waiting to happen. He was out of position on the Wells touchdown, blazed by Pittman on his long run, and -- most egregiously -- came up hard on what was a second-and-inches fake dive, robbing Leon Hall of safety help he expected and needed. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of safety play, but I don't think I need to when we give up a million long run in 2004 with Mundy the starting FS, one in the first half of 2005's first game that's obviously his fault, none the rest of the year with Mundy out injured, and none in all of 2006 until Mundy is pressed into heavy duty with Barringer out and Englemon inexplicably benched.

Not that the rest of the secondary was any better. Hall and Trent were both victimized repeatedly on any route you care to name. And while we knew that Trent was kind of dodgy on short throws, Hall's inability to so much as slow down whoever he was covering was a killer. Hall does get bonus points for limiting Anthony Gonzalez -- I believe they were matched up most of the second half and Gonzalez was not effective -- but whenever he was thrown at his man was open.

Chris Graham isn't a cornerback. But you knew that.

What does it mean?

Well, I was wrong about the Ball State game being irrelevant: Johnny Sears was indeed forced onto the field with frequency and that didn't go so well. If we do get LSU we will be facing a highly efficient pass offense, but is it more Notre Dame or Ohio State? I haven't seen enough of them to know, but only three wide receivers have more than six catches this year (though Jacob Hester has only 91 rushing attempts in LSU's running-back-by-demographic-trend and 34 receptions... third down back or RB/WR?), meaning that it's unlikely we see the four and five receiver sets that murdered us versus OSU. At they very least, if they do they'll be shoehorning them in and throwing to guys who haven't seen much of the ball.

But LSU is a statistical nightmare: 6th in pass efficiency, top ten in every defensive category aside from rushing, where they're 15th. Badass up and down.

Glorified Slip 'n' Slide

Glorified Slip 'n' Slide

Submitted by Brian on November 22nd, 2006 at 6:35 PM

Guest post from Jon Chait here on the field conditions, which I overlooked in the game recap. They were pretty awful in person, where you could see the downfield coverage try not to fall over. I neither endorse or un-endorse Jon's viewpoint.

It's astonishing to me that all the commentary about the Michigan-Ohio State game has missed what seems clearly to be the dominant factor of the game: the shoddy field conditions, which crippled both defenses.

Before anybody accuses me of simple Michigan homer-ism, let me concede a couple points:

1. Ohio State made its best effort to create a playable field
2. Ohio State outplayed Michigan and won fairly
3. There are plenty of good reasons to avoid a rematch in the title game - for one, it's impossible to know with any precision which two teams are best, so providing an interesting match-up ought to be an important consideration, and rematches are generally less interesting.

Nonetheless, the most popular argument against a rematch is that Michigan "had its chance." That argument loses much of its force if you consider just how badly the field distorted the game November 18.

For those who don't know, Ohio State had had to completely re-sod its field twice this year, including once in November. The latest re-sodding obviously did not take root, which should not be a surprise for the Midwest in November, and the result was a loose carpet of grass that provided very little traction. It was a lot like running on a rug that sits on a hardwood floor. You can run straight pretty well, but if you try to change direction quickly you're likely to fall.

Why did this hurt the defense? Because offensive players know when they're going to cut, and they can get their bodies under control before planting. Defensive players, who have to react instantaneously, can't keep up. The result was a farce. Neither team could cover anybody. Neither defensive line could get any penetration against the run, or generate any pass rush. (If neither lineman can move quickly, the result is a stalemate, which benefits the offense.)

Most sports reporters and fans missed the full extent of this distortion for a simple reason; it produced lots of scoring, and most sports fans think high scoring means a great game. But the results make it pretty clear that the scoring was grotesquely inflated by the field. These were pretty universally regarded as the two best defenses in college football. Yet Ohio State scored more points against Michigan than it did against all but three opponents. Michigan scored more offensive points against Ohio State than it did against anybody. Mike Hart averaged more per carry against OSU than he did against all but two opponents. And so on. That wasn't a football game, it was a video game.

There were some ways in which offensive players were hurt. Chad Henne overthrew a sure touchdown pass to Mario Manningham because Manningham couldn't get out of his break at normal speed. It's probably no coincidence that the shifty Anthony Gonzalez, OSU's leading receiver, had less yardage than straight-line speed demon Ted Ginn.

Did the field benefit Ohio State vis a vis Michigan? I think it probably did, though you could argue the point. The Buckeyes had more experience playing on a shoddy field (and Michigan's 11 point second half margin would suggest that getting used to the field helped.) Turning the game into a shootout probably suited OSU's style more comfortably than Michigan's.

But the point is not which team benefited over the other. The point is that the game itself was massively distorted by the field conditions. For a comparison, in 1950 Michigan and Ohio State played a famous game in a blizzard, and Michigan won 9-3, with a blocked punt for a touchdown, despite not gaining a first down. As Ohio State's alumni magazine recalled, "The snow, wind, and insecure footing made the game a mockery - an imitation of football only by a stretch of the imagination."

Now, the terrible Ohio State field last Saturday did not distort the game as much as the 1950 blizzard did, but it distorted it quite a bit. The fact was simply obscured because it was the defenses rather than the offenses that primarily suffered. Michigan certainly deserved to win the Snow Bowl in 1950, but you can't say the game proved a lot about its superiority to Ohio State.

The same is true, to a lesser but still very significant degree, of last weekend's Turf Bowl. If Michigan and Ohio State were to play on a decent field, the game would like nothing like the one that took place on November 18. Ohio State would have an even chance - perhaps a slightly better than even chance - of winning. But there would not be anything like 81 points or 900 yards of offense. It would be, in other words, a far more fair contest of which team is better.

BlogPoll Ballot Week 12

BlogPoll Ballot Week 12

Submitted by Brian on November 21st, 2006 at 5:28 PM
Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State --
2 Southern Cal 1
3 Michigan 1
4 Arkansas --
5 Florida --
6 Notre Dame 1
7 Louisville 1
8 Wisconsin 1
9 West Virginia 3
10 Texas 1
11 Oklahoma 5
12 Rutgers 6
13 LSU 1
14 California 4
15 Georgia Tech 5
16 Boise State 1
17 Auburn 1
18 Boston College 5
19 Tennessee 2
20 Brigham Young 2
21 Virginia Tech 5
22 Wake Forest 9
23 Kansas State 3
24 Hawaii 2
25 Clemson 1

Dropped Out: Maryland (#19), Nebraska (#21), Penn State (#24), Central Michigan (#25).

Notes:

  • Only thing I saw was Michigan-OSU so please... any help is appreciated.
  • Carnage at the bottom. I think I might still be underrating BC based on their resume, which is full of dangerous teams that have been mostly defeated. Everyone down there has issues -- losing to NC State is an issue -- but few have the wide array of scalps BC does.
  • Evidently I can't decide whether I hate Nebraska or not.

Again, help please. I'm off to the Bo memorial. Will post about it whenever I get back.