Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one. Something like… Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
Mascots are as much a part of college football as cheerleaders and marching bands. The continued use of numerous Native American tribes as mascots has fallen into disfavor, with many schools, including Illinois, having stopped the use of what have been long-standing symbols of universities across the nation. The NCAA actually bans schools that use mascots they call “hostile and abusive American Indian nicknames” from hosting postseason games and NCAA sponsored tournaments. While I agree these are measures that were long overdue, they just don’t go far enough. ALL MASCOTS MUST BE BANNED!
While the NCAA has virtually eliminated Native American mascots, they’ve done nothing about those that promote the use of banned substances. What about MSU’s steroid enhanced “Sparty” or the “Rainbow Warrior”—an obvious abuser of psychedelics? How are these symbols allowed to remain on the college landscape? Why hasn’t the ASCPA championed the ban of the innumerable animal mascots, from the obviously neglected PSU lion, to the endangered Maryland Terrapin? And then there’s the University of Maine’s “lobster baby” – an actual baby dressed as a lobster and carried around in a cooking pot! Is it animal cruelty or child endangerment?
On the food front, there’s the "Fighting Okra" of Delta State University and the :Fighting Artichoke" of some school in Arizona. The most outrageous food mascot ever could be Endworth College’s "Badnana." This was a banana whose skin was increasingly peeled back during the course of the season, to expose its phallic fruit. (However, the Rhode Island School of Design pushes the anatomical boundaries even more with “Scrotie” a giant…you know what… that, along with “The Jockstraps” (cheerleaders), root on the school’s teams “The Nads” (hockey) and “The Balls” (basketball).
Mascots have become a scourge nationally, if not worldwide. Can you remember any of the Olympic mascots? Of course not, because they were created by someone who was obviously under the influence. The line has to be drawn people. And as Michigan fans, you’re in the forefront of the anti-mascot crusade. No poor student wearing a smelly costume with a too big head will roam our sidelines! Ever!
Michigan 41 Illinois 17
By Nick RoUMel
Nobody expects Illinois to beat Michigan. Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition either, yet it still happened.
Every time Michigan plays Illinois we are favored. Yet during the throes of “The Curse of Dino” (Football Guide 11/16/96), we failed to win two consecutive matchups against Illinois that we were expected to win handily. Another heartbreaker occurred in 1999.
The point is that Michigan has been involved in far too many games where the unexpected has occurred, defying the pundits who pick the percentages. Today will be one of those days.
Yes, certain things can be counted on. Homecoming will be a grand time, with grey haired alumni honorees and former cheerleaders squeezing into their old uniforms. An impressive flyover will occur; the Wolverines will burst through the tunnel; and Denard will dazzle. The student section will stand the entire game, and despite a cold rain, drunken frat boys will stand shirtless, with runny maize and blue paint on their hairless chests.
And before the game, tens of thousands of fans will fruitlessly seek the passer-outers of the free Michigan Football Guide, to see what Punt and Counterpunt have to say about the game. (Hey, fans! We’re online now—it’s SO 21st Century!) After the game, Punt will soak his feet in Epsom salts and enjoy a Long Island Iced Tea.
Other events will be less predictable. Will Fitzgerald Toussaint gain more than 50 yards? Will Jose “Papagrande” Valverde hold the Tigers’ lead? [ed: no.] And will the Inquisitors come to your house in the dead of night, and torture you until you confess your lifetime loyalty to the Michigan Wolverines?
Here is where Counterpunt, seized with uncertainty, will go out on a limb. Cobbling together scant evidence, I predict a stunning Illinois victory. After all, they did trounce Western Michigan, and shut out Charleston Southern. Compared to that, Michigan will be low hanging fruit.
So brave the rain and admire the drunken frat boys, but otherwise, prepare for the unexpected. It’s the only way to survive Saturday’s Inquisition.
ILLINOIS 27, MICHIGAN 26
|WHAT||Michigan vs Illinois|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM EST
October 13th, 2012
|THE LINE||M -25|
|TELEVISION||ESPN/ABC reverse mirror (I KNOW)
|WEATHER||around 50, light rain all day w storms at gametime|
Bring your ponchos out. Image via Dubsism.
HEY GUYS I'M KIND OF TERRIBLY SICK AND IF THIS IS LATE AND MAYBE LESS EFFORTFUL THAN NORMAL JUST BLAME EVERYTHING EXCEPT ME.
Run Offense vs Illinois
Do not get used to this statement about the Illini football team: hey, this isn't half bad. Every other Illini stat of relevance languishes 80th or below; Illinois is 38th in rush defense despite acquiring almost no sacks. The problems only happen against bad BCS rushing offenses:
PSU is currently 80th, Wisconsin 90th in rush offense. Arizona State is okay at 55th. The week before the Illinois-Wisconsin game, the Badgers got Montee Ball 93 yards… on 31 carries. You can probably chalk the relative statistical success here up to schedule effects that will evaporate as the season goes along.
Spence's star has started to fade without departed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Akeem Spence*/DL/Illinois: Spence recorded 9 tackles during the loss to Penn State, but the statistics don't tell the whole story. The junior tackle was manhandled most of the game and pushed off the line of scrimmage or controlled in man-on-man blocking. Spence did not turn in a terrible performance, but did not look like the first-round prospect most believe him to be.
My memories of Spence are mostly David Molk reaching him like a boss.
Okay, okay, but Wisconsin had about half of those yards in the fourth quarter when things got out of hand, and Michigan has not been pushing guys around. Everyone's concerned about Fitz Toussaint's production, or lack thereof, and despite the numbers above this just doesn't seem like a slam dunk, especially if Michigan is going to put the passing game in the barn again.
That said, fits and starts are the order of the day, with starts being long long runs when Illinois busts something and the fits coming when one of their players shoves someone other than Lewan into the backfield. It'll be an ugh-ugh-WOO kind of thing.
Key Matchup: Mealer/Omameh/Barnum versus Spence and Other Guy. Would like to see some movement here, some inside zone doubles that actually come off, some Toussaint yards. Our operative theory so far is that it's hard to deal with Short and ND's 3-4s in Michigan's non-Denard Run Game; movement Saturday is necessary to continue that narrative.
[Hit THE JUMP for Champaign
Wondering why you are all the wonderful things you are.
Don't tell Danny Hope, but there was more than one hard-G GIF animating the boards this week. The Flying Denard Photoshop thread, as cropped by blue95, was almost as fruitful as the Lewan twosie and worth your visit. Denard can be seen attacking imperial walkers, pulling Santa's sleigh, riding Falcor, and traveling via DeLorean back to 2011 to screw Tommy Rees. Drkboarder wins two internets for that last. More from the board later; first diaries.
They can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. In case you missed it among the 10/10/2012 post-a-thon, turd fuguson's graphic representation of the B1G 2013 classes is quite helpful so long as you can resist the urge to defrag it:
Why do so many people have to die for the crime of the century? The newest addition to the weeklies is a preview of the opponent's defense, Illinois being the flavor du semaine. This is death by trident, the guy I bumped for his Purdue front 7 preview last week. He followed up with the Purdue secondary after that. The Illinois one covers personnel, stats, and a lot of scheme: You'll recognize some of Ohio State's terminology on this one. He nailed the thing about Supo Sanni. He also brought up the thing about how this is another game Toussaint dominated last year, not that they're all that likely to try the same "force Denard beat us with his legs" gambit that worked so well for Purdue. Diarist of the Week, this. Other weeklies:
ST3: Inside the Box Score was quickly disabused of any notion that the Purdue game was closer than it looked. Revel.
Enjoy Life: Statistics and FEI Prediction is starting to come back to common perception, with Michigan ranked 24th overall. And here's a weird thing that shows just how far we've come: the defense is ranked ahead of the offense. Turnover Analysis shows just one forced fumble all year, which may be keeping the recovery rate depressed.
[After THE JUMP, the board produces an NFL depth chart of Wolverines, and we grieve for some heavy losses to the world of sports.]
About Last Saturday:
Michigan 44, Purdue 13
Mike DiNovo / US PRESSWIRE
The Road Ahead:
Illinois (2-4 overall, 0-2 B1G)
Last game: Illinois 14, Wisconsin 31 (L)
Recap: Illinois scored first at Camp Randall on a Nathan Scheelhaase keeper, which was so exciting that they forgot to do anything on offense again until the fourth quarter, when they were trailing 24-7.
Two years ago -- maybe even last year -- this game would have been much more impressive to behold. Tough defensive battle. Field position chess. Making Plays. Manball. But given the way both teams have been riding the strugglebus since September, I don’t think either team left the field being overly excited about anything.
Wisconsin got back on track in the running game with RBs Montee Ball (19 carries, 116 yards, 6.1 ypc) and James White (6 carries, 42 yards, 7.0 ypc) against a decent Illini rush defense (ranked somewhere between 30th and 40th), but they got most of their yards late in the game when the game was pretty much out of hand. They did nothing before the end of the third quarter.
Badgers QB Joel Stave (16/24, 254 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) proved himself an apt replacement for Danny O’Brien, but the offense did an awful job on third down, converting only two of 10 attempts. Stave threw one bomb in the fourth quarter to WR Jared Abbrederis (7 rec, 117 yards, 1 TD), but was otherwise unremarkable. His other long TD was a screen to White.
So … what about Illinois? Illinois has a running quarterback and a couple scary-ish guys on defense. The rest of the team wears jerseys with nameplates that alternatingly read “Despair” and “Self-pity.”
Personnel note: CB Terry Hawthorne was involved in a nasty collision during the game (he got flagged for the dangerous hit), lost consciousness for several long moments, and had to get carted away in an ambulance. He’s deemed “questionable” for Saturday and needs to clear a bunch of concussion tests and cardio workouts, and then endure practice. Yeah. I don’t think he’s playing.
This team is as frightening as: Once upon a time Illinois was a rock: full of inertia, heavily influenced by gravity, a hazardous roadblock. Then someone stuck a stick of dynamite beneath it and blew it into a pile of rubble. Now all anyone needs to do is roll over it slowly and watch for jagged edges, of which there are few. Fear level = 2.5.
Michigan should worry about: Every once in a while a flailing team coordinates all its movements to put together an improbably coherent and effective performance against a confidently unsuspecting opponent. You can’t have followed Michigan football over the last several years and not experience this feeling on a weekly basis.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The fact that they were better under Ron Zook, which is kind of like saying chocolate was better with orange juice because now all you have is tobacco juice.
When they play Michigan: Home game Big House wooooooo.
Next game: No. 25 Michigan
News bullets and other important items:
- Brandon Moore and Stephen Hopkins still have unclear injury status. They may or may not play Saturday.
- The staff is wearing the Chuckstrong t-shirts on the way to the stadium.
“Uh, thanks for coming. Good practice yesterday. Liked how we’re preparing right now. I think the intensity level hopefully will be the same today from an offensive standpoint. I think talking to Al, they got a lot of good work done yesterday. Defensively, I’d say the same thing. I think both coordinators were pleased. I mean, not happy, but pleased with the preparation that we have.”
Were the practices as good as they were last week?
“Uh, I think it was comparable. I think coming off the bye week and not playing for a week, I think you always have a little more intensity it seems like. I think they’re comparable.”
Illinois took the field at Camp Randall Stadium last weekend hoping that a game against a struggling Wisconsin squad was just what they needed to turn around a nightmare season. After keeping it close through three quarters in which neither team could move the ball, they gave up 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 31-14 loss. The Badgers, which entered the game averaging just 309 yards of total offense, put up 427 on 7.4 yards per play; the Illini could muster just 284 yards of their own.
As you can see, first-year head coach Tim Beckman couldn't bear to take in such a performance without putting in a lip-full of dip. Like pretty much every other decision made by Tim Beckman this year, this was stupid:
Illinois self-reported a level 2 secondary violation to the Big Ten Conference after coach Tim Beckman was seen chewing tobacco during Saturday's game against Wisconsin.
The NCAA prohibits the use of chewing tobacco for coaches, game officials and players during practice and games.
"It's a bad habit, and one that definitely will be corrected," Beckman said on Tuesday.
Illinois football, ladies and gentlemen!
[Hit THE JUMP for the full breakdown and definitely not more pictures of Beckman channeling his inner redneck. No, definitely not more of those.]
“How’s it goin’?”
“How we doin’?”
“Where’s your glasses?”
I don’t wear them every day. Yours look good though.
“You’re losing the effect. I’ve gone to all glasses. People started to think I was dumb. Now they just think I’m dumb with glasses.
"All right, you guys. Let’s have it.”
Were you surprised by how Purdue defended you?
“They played a little more 3-4 than I thought. They had -- it’s not like we didn’t prepare for it, but there was a little more 30 front than we thought, but the back end was kind of as we anticipated. There’s always a little nuance to handle Denard, the kind that guys borrow from other teams they watch on tape they think they might have had some success playing Denard, so they take pieces of that, and if they think it fits their team.”
Did you feel like they were trying to take away Fitz?
“Oh no doubt. If you watch the tape, they were following Fitz all over the field. Fitz had very good running opportunities on 17 carries. I went over the whole tape. It was the good news and the bad news though. We pulled a couple zone reads when they were all over Fitz, and Denard was wide open down field. It wasn’t like it was bad. It just didn’t make Fitz’s numbers look very good, but he helped us win the game, you know, kind of like a guy that has a sacrifice bunt. Helps you win the game. That was kind of the way they decided to defend us.”
[THE SCENE: A member of the media (who shall remain anonymous) talks about being involved in a recent car accident. Enter Greg Mattison]
“… You really didn’t go get an ambulance to take you to the hospital, did you? You really didn’t do that, did you? Come on.”
I hurt my back and neck.
“Come on ...”
I hurt my back and neck! It’s not my fault they rear-ended me.
“Come oooon. I mean, just think of the force these guys out on the field that get hit with. Sheez.”
Hey, they might get hit with the same force, but … they’re expecting it!
[Sigh.] “What do we have? What do we got?”
You had to be pleased with the effort last Saturday, huh.
“Yeah I was pleased with the effort. We’ve stressed so much about you’ve got to run to the football, you’ve got to play as hard as you can on each and every snap, and when they feel, I think, that you’re sincere in having a rotation and having guys go in that game and you’re in the Big Ten, you’re playing for all of it each game. It was good to see them buy into that and play extremely hard on every play. There were plays in that game that I was very pleased, when you looked out there, it was the way I perceived Michigan defense, where you had all 11 running as hard as they could to the football. Not nine, not eight. And then when a young man had played a number of plays, then the next guy goes in and he did the same thing. Still our technique, still we’ve got a long ways to go that way. We had a couple missed assignments that you can have, but all in all the effort was very pleasing.”
Hail Mattison. Tube sock brigade == ND's line in the eyes of a guy who might know, Purdue OC Gary Nord:
Gold and Black: Are you having trouble with your offensive front, and is that affecting your run game?
Nord: "No, I think the offensive line played the best game they've played this year, I really do. They probably protected better than they've ever protected. I think Michigan's defensive line was probably as good as any that we've played. They were very good. They held Notre Dame to about the same number of yards we had and they had five turnovers on them. They played two of the better teams in the country in Alabama and Notre Dame, those two, so their stats were screwed up a little bit going in, but watching them man-for-man and for the four-down guys and two linebackers, they're as good as there is in the country."
Coachspeak? Never. Gary Nord speaks the gospel truth at all times thanks to an ancient curse passed down from Nord father to Nord son that turns them into a walrus if they ever say anything other than the unvarnished facts of a matter.
Danny Hope has it too, and fell from the straight and narrow.
That's so Weis. I mean, seriously.
The US government needs to disguise Weis as an Iranian ayatollah and send him into deep cover. Within weeks the country will collapse in the world's most disorganized civil war.
Yeah, I know about Somalia. I stand by what I said.
Next up: the University of Phoenix Phoenixes. TOC does a thing where they deploy Bradley-Terry ratings for college football* in the service of predicting things. They've got a margin-aware version, too. The West is a sack of cats with Michigan a tiny favorite thanks to not having a conference loss yet; the by-far top two teams in the East are the ineligible ones. BIG TENNNNNN.
Michigan's opponent this weekend… eh… not so good.
Blowout of the Week (Illinois Division): Illinois @ Michigan
Not only has Illinois only won one game against 1-A competition (Western Michigan), last week's 17-point loss to Wisconsin was their closest loss. This will not end well. Michigan is an 80% favorite according to the basic method, 93% (17 points) according to margin-aware.
The Illini have a one in 70,100 chance of winning out, though.
Over at A Lion Eye they're trying to figure out how on earth you fire Ron Zook and get a lot worse:
Our last four losses by 17 or more under Zook:
11/26/11: Minnesota 27, Illinois 7
11/12/11: Michigan 31, Illinois 14
10/16/10: Michigan State 26, Illinois 6
10/03/09: Penn State 35, Illinois 17
So if you’re scoring at home, that’s four 17+ point losses in the last five weeks for Illinois. And before this season, four 17+ point losses in the last 35 games. You know what, let’s make this one hurt a little more. 2006 through 2011. Six seasons, eight losses by 17 points or more. This season, four of our six games were losses by 17 points or more.
Illinois's run game has fallen off a cliff you already thought it had fallen off, dropping from 11th in 2010 to 41st in 2011 to 94th(!) this year, 94th when three of their opponents have been WMU, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. Every La Tech opponent has rushed for more yards against the Bulldogs than Illinois.
BONUS: after collecting 41 sacks a year ago, Illinois has nine in six games this time out. They returned everyone but Mercilus. They're 109th at sacks allowed. Illinois: not good.
*[college hockey fans may know this as KRACH]
Another tough injury for State. Dion Sims missed most of the Indiana game with an ankle injury. He's day-to-day-ish:
"I don't know that he'll make it this week," Dantonio said of Sims, "but he may make it next week. We'll have to see how he responds in the next couple days, really."
This week is Iowa, next week Michigan. Sims is MSU's leading receiver with 313 yards, though if you give Aaron Burbridge a minute he'll eclipse that.
Sims's backup is a redshirt freshman, FWIW. If Sims misses the Michigan game the main benefit seems to be a lack of the multi-TE sets State used to spring Ed Baker to a big day last year.
Also in injuryland, OSU MLB Etienne Sabino is out four weeks with a bone fracture in his leg. That prognosis should have him back on the field for Michigan, but seriously you can come back from this sort of thing in four weeks?
Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino has a broken right fibula and will miss at least three weeks, possibly more, for the Ohio State football team.
Sabino was injured in the first half of Saturday’s 63-38 win over Nebraska. He had surgery on Sunday to implant a steel plate into his leg.
“He talked to the team afterwards, and it was an emotional moment,” Meyer said. “The best case is three weeks. The worst case is longer. We hope to get him back.”
I am terrified of football players. Sabino's replacement is true freshman Joshua Perry, but OSU spends a lot of time in a nickel package that he won't feature in.
Willis Ward to be honored. All it took was action from the state legislature:
Oct. 20 (UM vs. MSU) is Willis Ward Day in Michigan. Athletic Department spokesperson said Michigan plans to recognize Willis on that day.
I've always loved "recognize" as a thing that is done by official-type people. "Oh, hey… you're Willis Ward, aren't you? Rad. I suppose this IS a plaque with you on it!"
Yost to host. Hockey drops the puck tonight in an exhibition against Windsor; Yost Built previews the D and goalies. I agree with him that splitting Moffie and Bennett across two pairings makes sense. Something like…
…gives you offensive firepower at all times and a defensive guy who will cover up for the offensive guy when he lets his freak flag fly. I'll also be watching to see what kind of progress Brennan Serville can make. He was pretty bad last year but also very young; he could make a big step forward.
Red says Rutledge, Racine, and Janecyk will all play a period so hopefully that means Rutledge's eye thing is healed is ready to go for the real season opener on… Thursday? Guh.
Someone's got to do something about hockey scheduling. There's a game at Yost on February first this year. You know when the next one is? March. I assume this is just the CCHA screwing with Michigan because it can; hopefully next year they'll be able to move more home games into the back half of the schedule.
BONUS SCHEDULING TIP: The Big Ten should seek out opportunities to have rival weekends where, say, Minnesota football and hockey come to town at the same time. The travel equation changes dramatically when you get a hockey series on top of your football game.
Compher so pretty. JT Compher had another career lined up if hockey didn't work out:
"When I was younger I did toddler modeling and I was on the front of a catalog," Compher told NHL.com. "I got to keep the red scooter that I was modeling. That was pretty cool."
Compher said he can't remember what company the catalog was from, only that he was 3 or 4 years old at the time and got a pretty cool new toy out of the deal.
Okay, okay, this happened. Stop emailing me about it plz:
As I said on the twitter, my favorite part is that he appears to have misspelled his own damn name in his twitter handle.
Etc.: Ramroth Finnegan! I bet he ends up at Cincinnati. Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne was taken off in an ambulance last week but may return Saturday. Weinreb on Penn State remembering this football thing. Tim Hardaway expectation tracker. More numbers displaying that Illinois is bad yo. Denard throws are key.