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
Last week, one of the comments asked the question “Am I the only one that doesn’t really understand what this is supposed to be?” in reference to the columns appearing here on game day. Lest any of our readers wallow in ignorance, here’s the genesis of (at least what I believe it to be) Punt/CounterPunt.
Search for Point/Counterpoint and you’ll find that this was the name of a segment aired on the CBS show 60 Minutes. The idea was to feature opposing political viewpoints on the issues of the day. You should also come across a YouTube video of a Saturday Night Live take on this segment [ed: embedding disabled, sorry kids]. Watch and you’ll understand why Counterpunt’s columns take the tone they do. Guess he’s just never evolved beyond that old comedy bit (though I admit it’s a classic). There—consider yourself learned.
That was the history geek coming out of me. Let's continue: the recent history of the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry in football has greatly favored our Wolverines. The last three games each had their season’s best finishes. The Denard Robinson Experience has been at its most spectacular vs. the Irish. Golden Dome worshipers have to wonder when divine intervention going to kick in on their behalf. Denard’s performances in these games have been truly a wonder to behold. He’s left his mark on one of the sport’s best rivalries, one that won’t be equaled for a long time to come.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly doesn’t seem to be much concerned with historical trends. I think he sees his lack of success vs. Michigan as merely a matter of unlucky breaks. (Bad luck and the crap load of yardage his defense gives up to Denard every game!) That would jibe with his persona, which is kind of smarmy. He’s like a cocky, fast talking Wall Street con artist who just lost (or stole) your life savings. So sorry, how did that happen?
As much as I’d love to see Denard put on another show, I think Coach Kelly has got the goods this time. The Irish defense looks strong—the Wolverine defense looks kind of squishy. Michigan’s receivers sho
uld give them an advantage in the passing game, but can the offensive line give Denard time to make comfortable throws? I fear the third time’s a charm for Kelly – Irish eyes will be smiling after this one.
Michigan 24 Notre Dame 35
By Nick RouMel
I am not too keen on pop culture. For example, I am vaguely aware that there is someone named “Snooki” who is wildly popular, despite having no discernible talent.
Similarly, someone who was not steeped in football history might wonder why there is all the fuss about Notre Dame football. Since Lou Holtz left in 1996, they are on their sixth coach (yes, I’m counting an 0-1 interim coach, plus non-coach resume-padder George O’Leary). On the field during that span, they have averaged 7-5 seasons, putting them on a par with fellow ACC football powerhouses such as Wake Forest.
Yet, like Snooki, the Irish still get media love. Why? Have we plummeted to such depths, that mediocrity plus media coverage somehow equals greatness?
You may discern that I don’t like Notre Dame. That is not entirely accurate. I despise Notre Dame with every fibre of my being. I hate them so much that I actually root for Michigan State to beat them every year, and the Spartans are well down my rooting hierarchy, perhaps a notch above Ohio State for third to last place. And what does Sparty do? Lose! Not that it broke my heart, but it gave Notre Dame this feeling that they’re back! That this year, they really mean it! Like Snooki having her baby, they now have a legitimate reason to be media darlings! [ed: "Vaguely aware" indeed.]
Why, just look at the Irish, sitting pretty at 3-0. Like they’re not supposed to start 3-0, year in and year out. (Remember they criticized Ty Willingham for only starting his first three games at 3-0.) So now the Irish are ranked, #11, and they host Michigan in their storied stadium tonight, with Touchdown Jesus, First Down Moses, and Illegal Procedure Paterno (whoops, wrong school) smiling benevolently at the beat-down. Their fans will be out for blood, looking to defeat Michigan for the first time in four years.
But they also fear the Wolverines, perhaps like no other team in recent history. The Irish have lost the last three contests in the last 40 seconds combined. Tate Forcier beat them in ’09 with 11 seconds on the clock, and Denard torched them twice - with 27 seconds left in ’10, and just 2 seconds from the final gun last year - when we rallied from a 24-7 deficit at home.
Yes, we have their number. Michigan’s recent football fortunes may still have us shackled in football prison, but if so, Notre Dame is in solitary confinement. And we are the envy of all the other inmates, because with those golden helmets and all, the Irish are even prettier than Snooki.
Denard does it again, with a second left:
MICHIGAN 24, NOTRE DAME 23
Brief position paper on hanging a banner on the other team's stadium. It's better than not doing it. It involves scaling a locked fence and risking a night in not just any jail, but a Northern Indiana jail. Judging from the billboards you pass to and from Chicago, the very bars of said jails are made from child molesters righteously imprisoned by the local sheriff.
So, like, what's up, SI? Not one but two of their CFB folks have dumped on the above. Aunt Stabby:
Son, I am disappoint. So here’s the thing: You travel from Ann Arbor to South Bend. You get close to the stadium, circumventing students guarding its iron and concrete honor or whatever. You hang what looks, from a distance at least, like a very well-made banner on a stadium gate. And that banner says … “BEAT THE IRISH”??
We'll discuss the changing fan culture at Notre Dame in more depth later, but Michigan may also want to embrace a new, snarkier age. How could the same fan base that gave us MGoBlog -- one of the best, most irreverent college football sites on the web -- embark on anOcean's Eleven-style caper to infiltrate Notre Dame Stadium only to hang a banner that says "Beat The Irish?" You're traditionalists? Fine. I get that. But in bygone days, college football fan bases also committed better pranks.
Flattery gets you nowhere, Staples. Yeah, okay, it would be a lot better if the sign said simply "RETURNING TO GLORY SINCE 1993" right under "University of Notre Dame. But did Clemson students scale something or other at Doak? Did Notre Dame students set Sparty's head aflame? Bah, bah on you and your bahing. Bah. I bah at you.
ATTENTION STUDENTS THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN THE FUTURE: I am now available for snarky consultations on these matters.
I can post this again, I think. If Special K hauls you-know-what out again this will be in error, but since I believe we have dumped you-know-what for good, it's Freekbass time on mgoblog again:
That feels amazing.
BONUS GRATIUTIOUS YOUTUBIN':
2010 from the field from Ryan Terpstra:
Unfortunately the original Yakety Sax went up in flames thanks to Thought Equity Motion.
Holy crap! Mike Rothstein profiles Roy Roundtree and drops a fact that I can't believe no one knew already:
The first major change in Roundtree's life might have set everything else in motion. When he was starting school, his maternal grandmother died and his mom, Sheila, took the Roundtrees from Pahokee, Fla., to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Roundtree is originally from the Muck. Small world. Also read that, it's good and not paywalled.
Previewland! Hey, guess who forgot to link to everyone's previews in the preview post? This guy. Here you go:
- BWS: "Arbitrary percentage that Michigan wins: 43.79%"
- MNBN: "I have no earthly idea who is going to win this game. I don't even have any criteria in which to make an educated guess. I got nothing."
- M&GB: has an average score of 30-28 M. Also preview.
- TTB: not exactly out on a limb with "Denard Robinson has his worst career performance of the Notre Dame series," predicts 24-20 ND.
- HTR: "This is essentially a greatly scaled down version of the Alabama game," predicts 27-17 ND. Also Who Are You, Why Do We Care.
- Tremendous breaks down the ND defense.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone.
- Meinke predicts the spread, the crafty dog, with ND 31-27.
Auerbach on Mealers. Go:
"After all the bad things, it's been hard to push through that and continue to believe that good things are going to come our way," Brock said. "I just love being able to see him succeed in something he's worked so hard for. He's put in that time and effort for the last four years, and he inspires me the same way so many people tell me I inspire them."
I don't even want to know you. Bacon hears these people on the radio and has written about it in the News:
So, the day after Michigan slaughtered UMass, I was not surprised to hear fans complain about quarterback Denard Robinson's performance. Mind you, Denard ran for 106 yards and a touchdown, and passed for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns.
And that, to one caller, was the problem: "I'm tired of living and dying with Denard." In other words, Robinson was too good for that fan's taste.
hate you hate you hate
Etc.: Ugh, enforced know-nothing user content highlights plague Baumgardner's life. Let's all keep him in our hearts. Also from him are Michigan coaches' first trips to South Bend. Infante on the O'Bannon case documents.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Notre Dame|
Notre Dame Stadium,
South Bend, IN
|WHEN||7:30 pm Eastern, September 22nd 2012|
|THE LINE||ND -5|
|WEATHER||rainy and mid-50s most of the day, but clear by gametime, minimal wind|
Run Offense vs Notre Dame
the thing no one remembers about this is Te'o made this tackle about two yards downfield
This was a slog for Purdue and not particularly effective for Michigan State, though the Spartans may have been better off imitating their Boise State gameplan: LeVeon Bell averaged 4.1 yards on just 19 carries.
You're probably all like "none of those teams have Denard Robinson," and that's true. But Michigan only got 114 yards last year, almost literally all of them from Denard. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, and Stephen Hopkins combined on eight carries that gained ten yards with a long of three. Denard managed 113 on 15 carries. This was very early in Borges's wild ride with the spread, though, and his first against a real opponent. The next week Robinson would carry 26 times against EMU, which is either inexplicable or Borges trying to get a handle on something he hadn't been able to against the Irish. Much rests on that handle being acquired by now.
Notre Dame's star is of course Manti Te'o, the inside linebacker from Hawaii who etc etc etc you've watched him meet Denard probably thirty times, you know all about Te'o. He's kind of good, you guys. This year I'm not even sure the ND LBs are freaking out enough to burn them on misdirection—whatever reads they're making have been accurate. The other guys aren't quite to that standard. Chris Fox is pretty vulnerable in space, whether it's tackling a guy or covering one; Carlo Calabrese is good, but not great.
The line is getting nasty. Nose tackle Louis Nix was a stumbling battleship last year; he's slimmed down and is two-gapping opponents effectively. Stephon Tuitt is a 3-4 DE at 300 pounds who has five sacks on the year, about which more later. They'll put LB Prince Shembo down at DE on passing downs and use Kapron Lewis-Moore (a strong candidate for Brooks Bollinger eighth year memorial senior) as a stouter run defender. These guys are all playing effectively, albeit against questionable offensive lines.
ND's 3-4 is predicated on two things: making you double those linemen to move them and getting both inside linebackers to the gap clean. This is happening a lot. The results are above.
Michigan has Denard!
Right, so that. Denard is a problem for anyone on the ground because he gives the offense an extra blocker. Opponents generally combat this by bringing down a safety, which ND will likely do by splitting him over the slot when there's a slot. There is a not-insignificant danger ND will not have to do this. Michigan's interior line has been worrying, and it's hard to see any of Michigan's OL in there being able to prevent Nix from bulling his way into the backfield without help. If Schofield can't hold up against Lewis-Moore or Tuitt, two linebackers will be enough when one of them is Te'o quality.
Misdirection is called for. Neither of ND's first two Big Ten opponents could use much of that for whatever reason, but Michigan has a big threat wearing 16 and a mad scientist OC who had better damn well have something up his sleeve after two weeks in which the offense was "whatever because it works" and a third in which the offense was "don't get Denard hurt."
Key Matchup: ND ILB versus second level blocks. Must get hat on opponent or Denard goes no places.
[Hit THE JUMP for Hannibal Lecter DE, Brian Kelly cat, and oh God I have to predict something don't I.]
It's strange that Notre Dame is considering giving this up for more Syracuse and stuff. In the relatively short time since bringing this thing back, it accounts for some of the greatest moments of the season's first quarter. It's Remy Hamilton, and Desmond laying out for a 4th down dagger, and time running out at the 11, and Denard going DENNIS BERGKAMP! (compare to Wheatley with a crease), and several more increasingly preposterous ways to beat them by 4. Even when it's terrible, it's crazy-ass yakety-sax in a freshman quarterback terrible. And oh, TD Jesus knows this rivalry has seen its freshman quarterbacks, from Henne, to the stork-off of 2007, to The Jedi of Moxie, and now the Golson Show. So whether you're making the drive to South Bend or the walk to your living room, start off with a stroll through inthebluelot et al.'s special gallery of Great Images from the Battle of the Winningests. Bonus 2012 exhibit: first blood Michigan.
Since we're leading with Best of the Board, here's the rest of that:
WORST QB PERFORMANCE OF ALL TIME?
The first two episodes of that famous M-ND saxophonic trilogy were submitted along with Bauserman, Buffalo's Alex Zordich last week (4-22 with 2 INTs), and "any game where Lovie Smith said 'Rex is our quarterback.'" #loldabears. Then came the Mathlete:
Pulled the old database up and Brian Luke from Kansas gets the worst showing at -28 in a 2005 game against Oklahoma. 11/30 86 yards, 3 INT and -40 yards rushing
Juice Williams narrowly edges out Henne for worst B1G game, with a -20 in 2008 against Penn St
If my fist had ever stopped shaking at 2007 it would start shaking again. The opposite side of this coin is the Charles Woodson vs. All Time Best NFL DBs thread.
ETC. Mgrowold (who's spending time in the pony box for illegal use of avatar), apparently has the right tailgate spot, since both Hoke and now Mattison have stopped by it. Adidas, which is supposed to be a friggin' soccer company, manages to totally biff the soccer uniforms. Ultimate UFR experience: offense, defense.
The diaries, after THE JUMP
About Last Saturday:
Baby Seal 13, Club 63
The internet is a strange place.
The Road Ahead:
No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0)
Last game: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3 (W)
Recap: Another Michigan fan on twitter suggested that watching this game was like watching two douchebags trying to get with your sister at Rick’s. If that’s the case, congratulations to Notre Dame for the equivalent of having more than three dollars to pay for her drinks.
Anyway, Football. Right. The Irish beat Michigan State by a healthy margin. After scoring twice in the first half to get to a 14-3 lead, Sparty never came close to breaking the chokehold despite holding the Notre Dame offense to a pair of field goals in the second half. The Irish front seven was just as impressive as Michigan State’s. Their defensive line ran through Sparty’s offensive line on nearly every play, which made life miserable for MSU QB Andrew Maxwell (23/45, 187 yards) in passing situations. They limited RB Le’Veon Bell’s (19 carries, 77 yards) effectiveness such that Michigan State had to abandon using him in the second half. More importantly, the pass rush allowed the inexperienced secondary to make a few plays on Sparty’s equally inexperienced receivers.
The linebackers impressed as well, and Manti Te’o (12 tackles, 2 PBU) was Manti Te’O, despite dealing with the tragedy of losing both his girlfriend and grandmother just days earlier. There are lots of Notre Dame players who are very easy to root against. Te'o is not one of them.
Offensively Notre Dame was underwhelming but relatively error-free. The game plan was to rely on the defense to win the game, so offensive playcalling focused on the ground game save for a couple spectacular big plays that ultimately resulted in points. The conservative approach resulted in some ugly stats like 1 of 14 on third down conversions, but it won the game, so I won’t criticize. I’d be surprised if the Irish deviate from that plan against Michigan since offensive errors cost them the last two games in the series.
This team is as frightening as: Windows 7. The previous version was buggy and unintuitive and too complicated with all the bells and whistles -- it sucked. This one looks like it could actually be viable for the long term, but by this point pretty much everyone owns a Mac. Bill Gates was so last century. Regardless, fear level = 8.
Michigan should worry about: An Alabama redux. If Michigan doesn’t hit a bunch of passes early, there will be no room for either Denard or Fitz to run.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: With S Jamoris Slaughter out, Notre Dame’s secondary looks an awful lot like NEVER FORGET. Michigan might actually be able to hit a bunch of passes early.
When they play Michigan: If this were any other game, I wouldn’t bother getting my hopes up for a Michigan win. But it’s Notre Dame, and weird things happen when Michigan plays Notre Dame.
Next game: vs. No. 18 Michigan
PREVIOUSLY: FFFF—Notre Dame vs. Purdue
Notre Dame enters their contest against Michigan with an unblemished record and one of the year's most impressive victories—a 20-3 thumping of Michigan State in East Lansing—to their credit. Despite breaking in a new starting quarterback, the Irish have impressed on both sides of the ball, meaning we get another September full of "Is Notre Dame Back?" headlines and, on a more positive note, another hyped up matchup with the Wolverines.
Before I get into the film breakdown, let's take a moment to enjoy this quote from the ND-MSU game. Kirk Herbstreit dropped this gem while discussing the answer to the game's trivia question (Brady Quinn holds the ND-MSU record for most passing yards in a game from the '05 MSU overtime victory):
"That was the 'Bush Push' year in '05. That was a great year for Notre Dame."
The new standard for a "great year" for the Irish: A 9-3 season most easily identified by a soul-crushing loss. Delightful.
Anyway, on to the breakdown.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Brian Kelly is one of the coaches most synonymous with the spread offense, though he's not as much of a pure system guy as Rich Rodriguez or Dana Holgorsen. Kelly adjusted his offense back when Cincinnati went from statuesque pocket passer Tony Pike to scrambler Zach Collaros, and he's done much the same with the transition to Tommy Rees and Everett Golson—ND throws in a fair amount of under-center plays and is more run-heavy than Kelly's Cinci outfits.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass—the Irish running game almost entirely consists of inside and outside zone.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle, actually. Notre Dame's adjusted pace last year was 47.9%, just a tick below the national average (50%, obvs).
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Golson earned the starting nod in large part because of his mobility—he's at his best when throwing on the run or making plays with his feet. He showed off his wheels against MSU, escaping the pocket and getting the edge on a six-yard TD run in the second quarter. Brian Kelly doesn't give Golson much in the way of designed runs, but he's dangerous when he breaks the pocket—I'll give him a 7.
Dangerman: Tight end Tyler Eifert finished second to Michael Floyd in all three major receiving categories last year with 65 catches for 803 yards and five touchdowns, and he's started the year with eight receptions for 120 yards and a TD. As noted by The Only Colors, Eifert is basically a wide receiver now—he lines up on the outside or in the slot, and if he has his hand in the dirt—rarely, at this point—it's as an H-back. He gives Golson quite a security blanket at 6'6", 251 pounds, and is a tough matchup for defensive backs and linebackers alike.
Quite surprisingly, Eifert didn't record a catch against Michigan State, but I don't expect we'll see that replicated going forward.
Zook Factor: The Irish punted on 4th-and-7 from the MSU 48, which earns some Zook points, but with a first-year starter at QB against a great defense that's pretty understandable.
[The rest of the breakdown after THE JUMP.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Desmond Morgan will play on Saturday and will start.
- Richard Ash and Stephen Hopkins are likely to play.
- Brandon Moore and Brennen Beyer are out.
“Thank you for showing up. I think we had a very good practice yesterday. The tempo was good. The learning was good. I think we played fast and we competed well against each other, so that’s a good sign. I think we’re excited, obviously, to play in a great venue and play great rivalry game. It started in 1887 and [we’ll] continue it and go from there.”
Does the intensity ebb and flow with the varying strength of opponents over the past few weeks or is it consistent?
“You’d like to have it consistent. I can’t say it’s always been consistent, but you’d like the consistency be there every week so you can improve.”
Has it been consistent?
“It’s been decent. I think it was very -- a little more intense, but we’ve been talking about that a lot. The intensity and your focus and your concentration is at a higher level. Your speed of playing the game’s at a higher level. So I think that part of it has been good.”
“ ’Sup. Where’s your glasses?”
I didn’t want to look cerebral today.
“It’s up to you.”
MGoYouAreStaringAtMeButIHaveNothingToSay: So. Norfleet.
“You’re not even going to ask me about my daughter first?”
MGoOfCourse: HOW'S KINDERGARTEN?
“She learned about caterpillars. And you know what the word of the day is? Metamorphosis.”
They haven’t gotten to bubble screens in kindergarten yet? [Ed: This was not me.]
“Psh. Bubble screens. No. They blow bubbles.”
Are you expecting a metamorphosis from last year’s performance against Notre Dame?
“I’m hoping it’s better than that. Holy smokes that was just awful.”
What didn’t go right early last year that all of a sudden clicked in the fourth quarter?
“Well we completed some passes. That’s the thing, when people are crowding the line of scrimmage like that, kind of forcing the issue. They were keenly aware of what Denard had done the year before. They restructured their defense to kind of stop him and force the issue with the passing game. We just weren’t early on completing many. We made a couple adjustments at halftime with the run game, and it helped us a little bit, but they played good, too. They came out ready to play and, you know, we were still so unpolished at that time -- not that we’re real polished now, but we did not play well at all and they played well.”
“Well obviously you know this is a big week, and it’s a great, great football game and it’s going to be a great test for our defense, and just starting out I can tell you our guys are really excited. We as coaches are really excited, so we are looking forward to playing this game.”
How impressed were you with how Notre Dame played against Michigan State?
“Very impressed. They’re a very good football tam. They can run the football. The quarterback really impressed me with his ability to throw the football as well as he puts a lot of pressure on you when he takes off scrambling, and he can run. They’ve got some fast running backs. They’ve got a pretty good thing going.”
Is preparation for them different this year compared with last year?
“Uh, you know I don’t know if it’s any different prep. They’ve changed a little bit but they’re still Notre Dame. They want to run the football and they want you to make mistakes so they can hopefully get a shot on you and try to test your coverage with their speed and take shots down field. So I think it’s a lot alike. ”