FORMATION NOTES: Michigan did a lot of that stuff the Redskins did in Tecmo Bowl, lining up in one formation and then changing everyone around. There were some oddities.
This I called "near twins." You can see that Kerridge is the nominal tailback and Denard is aligned to his left.
In the NCAA football games that constitute the closest thing to a Unified Internet Football Lingo Database this might actually be "far." I don't remember. Someone tell me which it is and I'll fix it going forward.
This was "full house near," what with the two fullbacks and Denard:
And this is "I-Form offset tight":
Michigan also ran a few plays where Schofield and Lewan were on the left side of the line with the tight end playing right tackle:
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner was at QB the whole way except for a few Denard QB plays, and often he was at WR when those happened. Denard was essentially the starting tailback; Smith came in and that was it at RB. Kerridge was full-time at FB.
The line was the usual save for one drive on which Lewan got knocked out; when that happened Schofield flipped to LT, Omameh slid over to RT, and Burzynski came in at RG.
WRs were the usual rotation heavy on Gallon and Roundtree with Dileo and Jackson filling in.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Gardner gets wobbly, Gallon owns people, Lewan vs Clowney verdict]
GENERAL NOTE: I am not doing the chart because of Michigan's uniformz. It was just about possible to tell white guys from black ones and big ones from small ones but an awful lot of the time I had no idea if a player was Beyer or Roh, Morgan or Bolden, Pipkins or Washington, Clark or Black. I noted this early but eventually I just started going "eh." I did do the plus minuses in the chart but adding them up is an exercise in futility that people will take as gospel in a year. Nope.
It's not going to be that exciting anyway. Because of the nature of the game the linebackers and linemen all had very few opportunities to even get +/- and the secondary just got destroyed. If you want to imagine it: Black and Washington are good, Campbell was bad, Wilson got destroyed, as did Taylor, Kovacs and Gordon are moderately negative, and all the linebackers get 0-0-0.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan had some oddities going on but the exotic packages were kept to a minimum by their inability to substitute in the secondary and South Carolina consistently spreading the field. One thing of note was Michigan's frequent deployment of a 3-4, like so:
South Carolina was little threat to run—the starting tailback had 5 rushes for 6 yards and the only reason SC got anything on the ground was two Will Campbell busts on midline zone read plays—and Michigan used this to send four man rushes from a variety of angles. A GERG-like side effect was a large number of three- and even two-man rushes.
They did this a bit on passing downs. Note that the DT in there standing up is a linebacker:
As per usual I called this 3-3-5 nickel.
SUBTITUTION NOTES: Again because of the uniformz I'm partially guessing here. Mostly, actually. The line seemed to be the usual in four-man fronts but Michigan spent a big chunk of the game in that 3-4; when they did that it was Roh/Washington/Black as your first options on the line with Clark and sometimes Cam Gordon as the extra LB type. In the linebacking corps, Kenny Demens left early and never returned (probably), leaving Joe Bolden to pick up a ton of snaps.
The secondary lacked JT Floyd, of course, and Michigan responded by putting Avery and Taylor outside and really, really trying to avoid nickel packages. When they did run nickel—mostly on the last drive—they brought in Jarrod Wilson and shuffled Gordon or Kovacs down as the nickelback. This would end in disaster.
[After the jump: a big damn table and moaning about big plays.]
After last week's roundtable, Heiko and I got into an argument over which safety position Gordon will play this year, and whether we've all been wrong to assume that the "Kovacs position" was indeed going straight to Jarrod Wilson. Let's investigate that.
Through various defenses this site has covered, I have kept defaulting to "free" to describe whatever guy is the deep man, and "strong" to refer to the one who typically plays up. With Mattison's—I'm sorry—Michigan's defense these days those terms are becoming such misnomers that we may want to stop using them.
Michigan aligns their safeties to the boundary, not the strength of the formation, so "strong" and "weak" stuff for Michigan's D usually means "field" and "boundary."
With the offense on its left hash the "strong" side is to the field. Here's where you need your more athletic guys who can cover more ground. When the offense is on the opposite hash Michigan flips the personnel:
Everyone knows where to go as soon as the ball is placed, and then they'll move around to match what the offense shows. Whatever the offense may gain from constantly shifting the strength of their formation opposite what Michigan aligns to, the expectation is they'll lose that by squeezing their space.
The front seven isn't so predictable; most often they will align so that the strong side is with the Y tight end—usually the "strong" side of the formation—to preserve the appropriate matchups. However when the formation flips the safeties hardly ever go with it. The coaches have said they want the safeties to eventually be interchangeable, though with such a disparity in makeup between Kovacs and any other guy on the roster the roles have been more defined. The biggest change from 2011 to 2012 was Kovacs did progressively more and more in coverage. You could see it in the dramatic shift in Kovacsian tackles as the linebackers got better.
For the safeties this means the actual "strong" safety will align to the field. He'll have more space to cover and also more guys to deal with. He's more likely to end up one-on-one with a slot receiver. The boundary safety will be more likely to draw a tight end or someone out of the backfield.
What was Kovacs Last Year?
Kovacs was the boundary safety. He aligned to the weak side and usually lined up a few steps closer to the line of scrimmage than did Gordon. Here's screencaps from the first two plays of the Outback Bowl to illustrate:
That's not to say this was written in stone. Two snaps later SC aligned with trips to the strong side and Gordon came up to take away anything short and easy for the slot receiver:
No, the TE is not allowed to line up two yards behind the L.O.S. #SEC #CHEATERS
This screamingly illegal formation was a touchdown as Ryan and Gordon both followed the inside slot. Kovacs took the middle guy's post route and Raymon Taylor ended up 1-on-1 with the outside receiver and got burned.
This is a thing SC did a lot of in order to shift Michigan's defenders out of their core competencies. On the defensive last play of the game Kovacs again ended up the overhang guy where his speed deficiency could be exploited. You know how that ended. They weren't the only ones, though Michigan didn't always react the same way:
Same safety positions: Gordon is the deeper guy on the field side of the ball and the strong side of the formation—the position that's called "FS" on your EA Sports game—and Kovacs is the short, boundary guy that your game would call "SS." Note this time the front seven flipped so Morgan ended up over Eifert and Roh/Ryan were to the side of the Y tight end. So nothing is exact, but even when the formation flipped the safeties stuck to their roles. With the WLB to his side Gordon backed out to show Cov2 and ND ran a counter-right which picked on Clark; the linebackers shut it down.
Simple form: Kovacs was the boundary safety, Gordon was the field safety. What about this year?
What is Gordon This Year?
Sorry Heiko, but I think Gordon is still the nominal field safety. Here's the first snap of the 2013 Spring Game:
Gordon's the field, Wilson's the boundary. Jarrod Wilson has apparently inherited the Kovacs position while Gordon remains what he was. But something has changed. Spring Game play the fifth:
Yeah the front seven is flippy again but the safeties aren't: that is Gordon who has come up over the right TE (Williams) and is telling Wilson to "get back, get back!" Wilson then backed out of the screen. Now, the safeties switched roles plenty last year, but over the course of the Spring Game, I saw Wilson the overhang man more often than not, and this wasn't because the offense was overloading one side or another. I mean, this is a pretty straightforward Ace 2TE set.
So while Gordon's position hasn't changed, his role may have. Kovacs last year would often come down then have a deep cover responsibility. Or he'd be given complicated reads and be responsible for changing coverages on the fly much as an Air Raid offense changes receivers' routes based on what the defenders are doing after the snap. That's because he's Kovacs. The expectation this year is that Gordon will be doing much more of the fancy stuff while Wilson's job on most plays will be to not let anything over his head. The more Jarrod progresses, the more Michigan can have him do the fancy Ed Reed things and the less predictable the defense will be. Wilson may have taken Kovac's position, but for the most part Gordon has his job.
Football is here, and it is beautiful. Two pallets filled with boxes with 55 books apiece arrived at Underground Printing's warehouse yesterday afternoon. The people with rush orders ought to be getting them in their mailboxes today. I've moved the writeup over to the diaries for now so all those who helped can remain standing and be recognized. If you happen to run into any of our authors, production folk, photographers, etc., celebrate these people. Hold a shindig in their honor, build a statue in their commemoration, and declare the day Eric Upchurch Day or Greg Dooley Day or Courtney Fathers Day, etc. Maybe bring a cloak and scepter to work today in case you need to drape one over them. Basketball-hockey is now in production and should be out around late September.
Diaries were weak this week. LSA's thing compared turnover margin to winning over time among too small a sample and offers no conclusions. The other was k.o.k.Law remembering the Ed Martin scandal and the '98 Rose Bowl before coming back to finish his trip to the hoops championship game story. Best to head to the board.
PEOPLE WHO PROBABLY ALREADY HAVE DAYS NAMED FOR THEM
If you're looking for former players, try…paintball?
That is Vincent Smith, but those are not finger guns. People who helped support the Hope for Pahokee thing got to play a round with the Pahokee guys. I prefer to remember Smith jackrabbitting around as a freshman and finger-gunning and blocking like a mountain goat, not for his role as a supporting actor in how great Clowney looks when nobody blocks him.
Those who've been here since the site moved from blogspot, happy 5 years of Never Forget banners, Shavodrick Beaver news. Those who've been around since the before times will remember what it was like to live through the first coaching search. Aye, before there were sailboats there was utter panic and profiles in heroism and way more Flight Tracker. There was also the Fandom Endurance Badge, which props to the Glove for framing it.
Let's everyone Bruce Lee kick a Buckeye in celebration.
REVERSING THE O'BANNION EFFECT
You know how Beilein likes to get those younger-than-they-should-be guys like LeVert then cackle when they turn into 6'6 wingers. The other side of that is kids who get held back a year so that they're a year larger and more athletic while trying to distinguish themselves against high school and collegiate competition. This was going on at least as long ago as when I was a kid. Some of these kids then leap back to their correct grade if they've reached the elite mark, in order to get to the NBA sooner.
RIVALS MAKES A LIST, WE CHECK IT TWICE
MGoBlue.com put up a bunch of interviews with Michigan coaches of the various sports on Wednesday and fished a Michael Spath article out of it. Read it as "Michigan has five coaches ranked higher in their sport than Brady Hoke if anything before 2012 is a dark and mystical past." Red Berenson isn't even among the five. Frankly I'm surprised it's just that many. There are a bunch of coaches in college football's ranks who've won one or more national championships, built multiple programs to prominence, and have been simply doing it much longer than Hoke has. Meanwhile Michigan is an annual competitor for the Director's Cup because the athletic department shells out for the best of the best in many sports that SEC teams don't even bother playing. If we're not tilting to the sports people care about I don't know if Beilein would be first either; he is tops on their list because Rivals is a very "What have you done for me lately" kind of outlet. But if we're being serious about his, I mean: Carol Hutchins, Red Berenson, Kurt Golder. Chaka Daley didn't even make Spath's Top 10. Wrestling just brought in the country's top recruiting class.
A confession: before yesterday I had attended one bowl game in my life, that the 2007 Rose Bowl in which Michigan was tied 3-3 with USC at halftime and got their doors blown off in the second half when Pete Carroll told his OC to stop running the ball, period. That was crushing despite the inevitability of the loss once Michigan's severe lack of corner depth was put to the test.
This game was far closer to even—South Carolina was in fact one yard better than M before their final drive, one which almost didn't get off the ground—and yet by the time I exited the stadium I was pretty much over it. This was weird for all sorts of reasons, foremost among them a sense that I would have cared more if I had watched it on TV. As the game reached its frenetic pitch I did reconnect, to my relief. Still, it took a lot to recover from finding out Michigan had been designated Team Coconut Shrimp, or something. There's just not that much difference between four and five losses.
In retrospect this season lost its urgency the moment Denard's elbow banged the Memorial Stadium turf and Michigan's offense died in Lincoln. That game staked the Huskers to a lead they would not relinquish no matter how they tried. Michigan was reduced to playing out the string without Senior Hero at quarterback, without a shot at the Big Ten championship, without the storybook ending every Michigan fan entered the year pining for.
There were moments of vitality when it looked like Nebraska might blow it, but Michigan wasn't playing those games. By the time the bowl rolled around it was exhibition time, with little on the line other than a few spots in a poll that would have Michigan 15th at best. A starting cornerback and the punter confirmed that analysis by violating team rules and being left home.
I went to see Denard for a last time, and ended up squinting to make sure he wasn't Vincent Smith. He ran 23 times, picked up 100 yards, ground out 4.8 yards a carry, and reminded me of that picture of Mike Hart in a Colts uniform Johnny put up in a post, where Hart looked old—erosion old—and like he was doing something as a job. It took about 20 open tabs to find it, but yeah.
I think Johnny was maybe projecting his own thought processes onto Hart a little when he wrote this…
But he’s more mechanical now; he doesn't smile like he used to, he isn’t as self-indulgent. His cuts aren’t as risky – more just graceful, cautious lunges. He’s a professional now, measured and stoic and less eccentric. He looks stronger, and too focused. It used to just be a playful resentment for the institution, but now he seems like he respects it. It’s like the NFL has tranquilized him.
…because I know that Denard hasn't changed much since he made everyone laugh and caused me to bolt upright when he ran through two Ohio State tackles at the end of the first half of The Game.
and I'm a little disoriented. This season was not supposed to end with Peter Pan becoming an accountant.
He was good. He seemed like a plausible NFL running back once he learns how to block. He joins LSU's Jeremy Hill as the only running back not from Wofford's triple option to crack 100 yards against Clowney and company. For him there is still a lot at stake, and yesterday was important. It is a fine career that awaits him.
But I just keep thinking of that throw he made, and what it represented. How those moments where he'd go to the sideline holding his hand built up and finally washed over the levee. If his arm had held up, or Rich Rodriguez had recruited some OL, or Devin Gardner had stayed at quarterback… if.
That's a burden now: what if Denard dot dot dot. Instead of an exclamation point, we end with an ellipses. Unspoken thoughts, trailing off. Re-carving a rock-hard past into something more pleasing. What could have been, etc.
I don't understand why I felt disconnected. I guess it was because this thing I was at was not what I thought it would be, and for once someone managed to keep Denard from obliterating all doubt.
Well okay. No real complaints about Borges this time around, but it was really odd how South Carolina reacted to the Denard plays at QB, all predictable runs save the attempted screen. They still dropped a safety 20-30 yards deep, sometimes two guys at 15 yards, and while they tended to blitz they did not sell out like Ohio State did in the second half, even after Denard's lame duck of a throw.
I'm still a little disappointed that Denard wasn't used more as an attention-grabbing decoy. Despite that Michigan had a solid day on offense that would have verged on excellent if Gardner's accuracy had been better.
Wither Northwestern/Iowa Devin? With five games under his belt I think we can say that Gardner's accuracy leaves a bit to be desired. The Minnesota game was effective but shaky; he blew through Northwestern and Iowa, and now he's had a couple of games where some bad decisions and awkward throws hurt him against quality defenses.
In this one he hit 18 of 36 for 214 yards, 3 TDs, and an interception. 5.9 YPA is poor. There were throws to make there, and he just missed them. He made up for that with a couple scrambles, I guess.
WR corps 2013: not a problem maybe? Jeremy Gallon may be small in stature, but he is his own imaginary 11-foot-tall friend made of dreams. This is not quite the rocket boots touchdown from the Minnesota game, but I mean come on pretty nice:
Meanwhile, his other touchdown came on a post route on which he got open one-on-one a play after he smoked that same corner crispy on a corner route that Gardner actually threw a split second too early, before Gallon had even made his break. The TD:
Gardner trusts the guy to get open, that's clear.
His 9 catches and 145 yards push him up to 49 and 825 on the year, which is impressive production given that he caught a lot of screens that would normally make achieving a 16.8 YPC impossible and that the quarterbacking for much of the year was erratic.
Gallon's season totals are now in a virtual dead heat with Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis for second in the league behind thousand-yard-guy Allen Robinson of Penn State, and he made an array of tough catches without more than a drop or two all season.
As a senior is he a quality #1 option? I think the answer there is clearly yes. Take his production in the Gardner era and extrapolate it across as season and you get 81 catches for 1329 yards—ie, one of the top ten receivers in the country.
I'll be interested to see what his yards per target is if Football Study Hall updates those numbers that showed Junior Hemingway was probably the most underrated player at Michigan in a long time. While Gallon's small stature doesn't hurt him in the UFR catch numbers, the simple fact that he's not 6'4" turns balls that Devin Funchess could nab easily into uncatchable zeroes. I think he'll come out well—last year he was top five in yards per target with a per-catch average of 14.6.
Add in Dileo—an excellent underneath option—with a maturing Funchess and you only need one of Darboh/Chesson to step up to have a solid set of options.
Nope, but pretty much anyway. Denard bludgeoned out 100 yards on 23 carries as basically a tailback, which was quite good against a quality run defense behind an offensive line that couldn't get anyone else an inch. It, however, dropped Denard's season YPC to 7.2, a tenth behind Ty Wheatley's 1992 campaign. If we take out sacks Robinson suffered he would pop back above Wheatley, but that's not how it looks in the record book.
Of course if we're going to start poking around at sacks we might as well take a larger view. This line versus to Michigan's 1992 outfit featuring future longtime pro Steve Everitt, three other All Big Ten linemen (Joe Cocozzo, Rob Doherty, and Doug Skene) plus future first-round NFL draft pick Trezelle Jenkins*? There is no comparison. Four of those guys were drafted, two in the first round. Lewan will go high and I bet Schofield works his way into mid-round consideration, but there's no comparison between the interior lines.
Meanwhile, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges had called a Power run to the left side. Wolverines offensive tackle Taylor Lewan -- whose play against Clowney on Tuesday further solidified his place near the top of the NFL draft if he chooses to turn pro -- noticed something amiss about Clowney's alignment. "The end lined up on me in such a gray area that I had to call a Deuce to the inside," Lewan said. Lewan explained that a Deuce call ties the tackle to the guard, and their responsibilities are the lineman nearest the guard and the backside linebacker. By making the Deuce call, Lewan had untied himself from tight end Mike Kwiatkowski, who had anticipated working in tandem with Lewan on the play. Lewan said Kwiatkowski didn't hear the Deuce call, and video replays make that quite obvious. Kwiatkowski fired off the line at an angle that would have been perfect had he and Lewan been working a combo block. But Lewan was working a combo block with guard Ricky Barnum. Clowney, the owner of one of college football's quickest first steps, shot the gap before Kwiatkowski could realize what happened. "He's got that little slip move," Spurrier said. "When they come at him, they get nothing but air." Smith never had a chance. "That miscommunication," Lewan said. "Those are the plays that can lose games."
Just a miscommunication that got Smith decleated—de-everythinged.
Terry Richardson, Delonte Holowell—thanks for playing. Disclaimers about young players improving apply.
That said, Michigan was so opposed to putting those guys on the field that even after four verts blew them to pieces several times in the previous three quarters Michigan still stuck with a nickel package featuring Jarrod Wilson at free safety and Gordon/Kovacs moving down over the slots, with the subsequent events we all know and are slightly depressed about.
Don't click play if you are still depressed.
Kovacs should never have been put in that position, covering South Carolina's leading receiver, and Jarrod Wilson seems super super late—he should not have been on the field.
That's not Kovacs's game, everyone knows that's not his game, there's a reason he was a walk-on, and for Michigan to resort to that indicates that the two small guys from Cass Tech basically can't see the field, period. As a true freshman Richardson still has some hope of finding his way as a nickel corner down the road; as a redshirt sophomore, if Holowell can't see the field in that game he's never going to. Since spring practice Michigan lost four corners (Floyd, Countess, Talbott, Carter) and still not a sniff. Bad news.
Also, WTF was with moving Norfleet then? At least give the guy a chance to be a third down back—Michigan is now in the market for one.
JT Floyd: guh. Michigan wins this game if they can go to the Avery nickel package with confidence; they couldn't because JT Floyd got left home for the final game of his career. I hope it was worth it, man.
Kenny Demens coverage: missed. I assume that Bolden can get there in time, but not all of the seam bustage was on safteies/corner folk. For one, I blame no one on that Ace Sanders touchdown that was in by about a millimeter—that'll happen. On the tight end completion I bet that was a linebacker not carrying that guy. It's still pretty great that Michigan went much of the game with true freshmen at LB and performed very well against the run.
Beyer will win the WDE spot next year. The huge South Carolina QB run was Frank Clark ignoring backside responsibility and chasing a tailback without the ball as two other guys tackled him. This is a full year after he was biffing these things against Scheelhaase; to make a mistake that momentous on a basic, basic play is a good indication that he's just not getting there mentally. If he was making big plays to repair his mistakes, maybe that's one thing, but the pass rush he adds is minimal. If he doesn't figure it out, he's going to fall off the two deep quickly with Ojemudia and Charlton pressing from behind.
Oblig. game theory bits. Plenty to chew on in this game.
ONE: Fake field goal on which Dileo runs around and stuff for a first down.
The box score has this a 4th and 6 from the 27; in the stadium they had it 4th and 9. Assuming that Everybody Loves Raymond Stadium was wrong, that's a push according to the Advanced NFL Stats calculator. The break even point is 53%; given how Michigan's fake field goals have gone I'd say that's a coin flip. Since M was down 11 at the time, increasing that variance is probably to your advantage.
TWO: Fake punt on which 9.9 yards is basically a first down, man.
This was fourth and four from the Michigan 37.
Loved this. Michigan was up one with around eight minutes left. If you can go on a drive, rip four or five minutes off the clock, and even get a field goal you've tipped the scales in your direction massively. If you fail, you are in a bit of a bad spot but a South Carolina score allows you time to respond. As it happened, Michigan got the first down (sort of) and still felt the sting of what failure would have been like—then they responded with a touchdown drive. Love Hoke going for the jugular there.
THREE: Unsportsmanlike conduct on South Carolina's second-to-last TD.
My initial instinct was to take the penalty on the two-point conversion (argh), which would have put that at the 18 and all but forced a one-point attempt. South Carolina didn't get it and subsequently kicked from the 20; Michigan got it out slightly over the 35.
I still think the play there is to take it on the two-point conversion, as you're significantly reducing the chance that is successful. That seems well worth the ten yards Michigan picked up.
FOUR: Spurrier is not Ferentz.
Michigan's ultimate demise came on another four verts play on which the seam came wide open as a Michigan seam defender—in this case Jordan Kovacs—got smoked. That was pure OBC, and won them the game.
The setup: South Carolina's kicker was 11 of 15 on the season but had missed a moderate length field goal and had another blocked. They had a timeout left, it was second and ten from the 32, and the Gamecocks had been pounding the seams all day. Spurrier gets Kovacs lined up over Ace Sanders, ballgame. Tip of the cap. This was a game in which both coaches went for the win.
THEY S'POSED TO BE NFL
Everyone Hates Raymond Stadium. If you're ever on the fence about going to an Outback Bowl in the future, don't. I imagine the scoreboard situation is going to get repaired in the near future, but until then that stadium has the worst I've ever seen. They're useless. They're tiny, 40% of them are given over to ads during replays, and you can't see anything on them anyway. They're worse—much worse—than the boards Michigan just replaced. It was flabbergasting. I mean, it's an NFL stadium. I hear they're doing fairly well for themselves.
Meanwhile, the stadium itself has an incredibly shallow rise, which means if you're unfortunately positioned in what purports to be a good seat*, you spend large chunks of the game looking around beer vendors or Only Guy In The Section Standing Up Guy. The sidelines are huge; the field is not that far below seat level. The end result is a lot of very bad seats, and not much recourse when you can't figure out what happened immediately.
In addition, the area around the stadium is run-down and amenity-free. There's nothing within walking distance. It is the opposite of stadium districts in Detroit, Denver, Columbus, Minneapolis, Pasadena, etc. Unless it is geographically convenient or your favorite player(s) are entering their last games ever you probably shouldn't go. The guy who makes 800k for running the thing probably deserves it for keeping such a crappy venue high up in the pecking order.
Tampa is everything it's reputed to be, as well. Most Tampa thing: all the police cars advertise their website located at www.tampagov.net.
*[This reminded me of Wrigley, actually. A fan of the blog with access to nice tickets threw us a couple a few years back and I spent literally an entire half-inning looking into the paunch of a beer vendor since Wrigley's rise is minuscule. Vertical stadiums are the best.]
Everyone Hates Adidas. I mean, who could have known that putting light yellow numbers on a white jersey would make it impossible to tell who was who? It's almost as if these uniform stunts aren't well thought out.
I was skeptic in re: guys on message boards proclaiming that Nike was the best and that moving to Adidas was a mistake despite the fact they would give Michigan all of the money. I was wrong.
Two things have finally torn it:
This uniformz debacle. Completely impossible to tell who was who. Didn't figure out Demens wasn't playing much, if at all, until second half, and that was because twitter was talking about it. I had no idea which DB got burned on the first touchdown until twitter told me, as well. Idiotic.
Hockey third jerseys. You have to see these in person to fully appreciate how awful they look. It's not just the weaselferret. It's not even sort of the weaselferret. It's that they look like they came straight off the rack from the Walmart replica section.
Once this contract is up Michigan should flee. They will just take whoever offers them more money; after what Underarmour did with Northwestern this year I am rooting my ass off for those guys. Yeah, Maryland, whatever. That's on the AD. If M screws it up as much as the Terrapins we'll know what the problem is.
WE DIDN'T LISTEN
WE DIDN'T LISTEN
I'll collect game reacts later; this is tough to do in a day now that it's ballooned into a 5000 word monstrosity.
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.
NOW ON THE ROAD!
PUNT/COUNTERPUNT TRAVEL DISPATCHES
12/30/12 – Dateline: Chattanooga
No two words make a vacation more festive than “Chattanooga, Tennessee.” Punt and I settled here last night into a hotel, after a mere 600 miles of driving, abbreviated by two social visits and swirling Kentucky snow. We lulled ourselves to sleep watching Sparty in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and awoke early for the 570 remaining miles to Tampa, with a breakfast stop at the Marietta (Ga.) Diner, a destination recommended by “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Nothing like a Greek omelette with grits, especially when served by Bulgarian beauty Tatyana, prompting Punt to comment, “Isn’t immigration wonderful?”
Punt occasionally converses with me, but directs most of his comments towards other drivers, offering insightful observations about their lane usage, lack of turn signals, and general inattentiveness to the roadway. I am in the passenger seat, my mobile office cluttered with laptop, jet pack, Blackberry, iPod, and our GPS companion (Sari), who did not even bother with a “good morning” before brusquely directing us back to I-75 from the hotel. Car travel has its own rhythm, the hum of the tires over the undulating highway, sunlight and shadow through the Georgia Pines. We are then rudely interrupted by Sari’s snappish direction to turn right on South Marietta Parkway, Southeast – then sending us in a pretzel-shaped series of turns before landing in the parking lot of the diner. I suspect Sari’s irritation stems from her resentment over the success of her much more famous sister Siri, the voice of the iPhone, but who am I to psychoanalyze the disembodied female voices of electronica.
Far more genial is our UM talisman, “GnoMie,” content to be wrapped in a UM blanket in the back seat for most of the trip. We had been planning to arrive in Tampa by late afternoon, but after Punt’s expansive tour of the Atlanta metropolitan area in search of a car wash, I have revised that to evening. In the meantime, we roll down I-75, the sun continues to shine, Sari is blissfully silent, and even Punt seems momentarily content with his fellow drivers.
It’s been many a year since Counterpunt and I have taken to the roads to attend a Michigan bowl game. Not since the ’84 Sugar Bowl vs. the Auburn “War Eagles.”
When Counterpunt propositioned me with the prospect of attending the Outback Bowl, I figured, why not? Unfortunately it was too late to get a reasonably priced airfare, so this became a true road trip—me gassing up the Rav 4 for the 1000+ mile trip to Tampa.
After many miles, stops to see friends of Punt and Counterpunt, associates of Counterpunt, and attempts to see “clients” of Counterpunt—vetoed by yours truly—and getting served breakfast by a Bulgarian bombshell named Tatyana - we finally arrived at our destination. It now time to turn to the reason for our travels.
I’m having a hard time deciding how this game is going to go down. Some people are of a mind that Michigan has little to fear, that South Carolina is a predictable offense, and that Mattison will have had time to come up with the defensive scheme from Hell. But the Gamecocks are ranked #10 in the nation, are a top tier team in the all-powerful SEC and have the “Old Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier, running the show. Hmm, who do I pick?
I think it’s clear that Michigan has more to gain from a win than South Carolina. They need to keep their momentum and return the Wolverines to the upper echelons of college football. My heart bleeds Maize ‘n’ Blue, but my head says:
MICHIGAN 26, SOUTH CAROLINA 31
My mind is still boggled at Seth’s detailed analysis of this contest (“Hokepoints Previews South Carolina” 12/27/12), fueled by six hours of watching Gamecock football, which is about 5 ½ more hours than my total bowl viewing thus far. I come at this game with a far less scientific mindset, tending to break down in adolescent laughter every time I see the word “Cocks.” But here goes my take on Michigan’s noble battle with the evil SEC and cocky Steve Spurrier.
On the offensive side of the ball, I trust Al Borges about as much as Ronald Reagan trusted Mikhail Gorbachev; but if Borges utilizes Gardner and Robinson to maximum effectiveness, we should be able to neutralize Clowney’s disruptive domination. The Lewan/Clowney matchup is much anticipated, but even an All American will need some help against that beast, and Borges may have to utilize a blocking back to assist in this regard.
Defensively, without J.T. Floyd in the lineup, we may have some difficulty handling Carolina’s speedy Smurf-outs; but on the whole, I am less concerned with our ability to contain the ‘Cock offense than I am with intangibles like turnovers and special teams.
On the whole, I believe the circumstances are ripe for Michigan to go out on the winning side, which will certainly make the ride home a lot more pleasant. Who knows; if Punt is sufficiently elated, he may be inclined for a return to the Marietta Diner, and ask Tatyana if she wants to come live with him in the melting pot of Ann Arbor.
Again this preview assumes that Denard Robinson is basically a wildcat guy when he lines up at quarterback now. Hoke just reiterated that Gardner will start and Robinson will play "some quarterback," and by "some quarterback" he means "wildcat guy."
Run Offense vs South Carolina
This was two things against Ohio State: Denard Robinson and disaster. Stripped of the one back with any credentials to his name by a gruesome injury to Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan all but abandoned any thought of running the ball with the men misnomered "running backs" in the first half, and then proved the wisdom of that decision—if not the wisdom of their second-half playcalling—by getting stuffed almost literally every time they touched the ball after halftime.
The results were grim. Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls had ten carries between them for a total of 14 yards. Rawls gained a total of two yards on five carries while turning in this career lowlight:
That is likely the point at which we remember Rawls hype deflating entirely as he's relegated to Kevin Grady duty for the rest of his career.
It's not like Rawls is alone in that department. Toussaint followed up a breakout 2011 (1041 yards on 187) by dropping almost two yards from his per-attempt average, going from 5.6 a pop to 3.9. Vincent Smith managed 2.8; Rawls is actually at the top of the heap with 4.2 thanks to a couple of garbage time runs against Purdue and Illinois. When Rawls was forced into the lineup in earnest this November, the results were ugly: 32 carries, 57 yards, less than two yards an attempt. I'd be more receptive to the argument that Rawls saw a lot of short yardage carries that artificially depressed his YPC if he wasn't a major reason he saw so many of those carries by failing to get any YAC on the goal line.
Anyway. The failure of the Michigan running game is comprehensive. The interior line can't block, the tight ends are too young, the tailbacks miserable. Except…
In this context Denard Robinson's season is nothing short of miraculous. His historic season has been obscured by injury and interceptions, but here it is: 1166 yards on 154 carries, an average of 7.6 per despite missing games against Minnesota and Northwestern. That will be a record dating back to at least 1948 (100 carry minimum) if he keeps it above Ty Wheatley's 7.3.
Meanwhile no other player on the roster can grind out half of that outside of garbage time. It is time to shake our fists at the fickle whims of injury and Rich Rodriguez's offensive line recruiting, with a bonus shake at the motley collection of tailbacks on the roster.
ok one more
Ok. Now, the opponent.
South Carolina's got shiny numbers that are a bit distorted by their rampant sackage. They're 16th nationally, giving up 119 yards a game. Removed 40(!) sacks for 253 yards and opponents do get up to 4.0 yards a pop. This is a good run defense, yeah, but it's not on the same level as Alabama, Notre Dame, MSU, or OSU (when OSU isn't giving up 70-yard touchdowns). The defensive tackles are not pocket-crushers, the safeties like to shoulder-block people down after they get first downs and stand over them like idiots, which might be an asset when Denard breaks into the secondary if any of them have the chutzpah to try that against 16.
Is it going to matter? Probably not. In the game of "can Michigan run a football with Not Denard," bet on "no." Can Michigan effectively integrate Denard into a 20-carry presence if he's not playing quarterback? Well…
Key Matchup: I wonder if two months is enough time for Borges to figure out how to put Denard and Devin on the field at the same time. Denard's great; he can't beat out 10 guys going for him on the snap; just Percy Harvin the guy already and stop holding up a huge sign that says RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN when Denard is at QB. Also you can probably run Gardner some since it's the last game of the year.
Hey. Life rolls on. Thank you to those who have expressed condolences.
One of the running jokes on the podcast this year has been theorizing that the athletic department has someone specifically dedicated to trolling me. Evidence: "In The Big House" did not return until after the nonconference season had convinced me it was gone, and Michigan waited until the last possible moment to change Jordan Kovacs away from #32. Taken with the deployment of Denard and Devin against Ohio State, this is strong evidence indeed.
If they are deep enough inside that they knew what I was writing up this morning and chose that hour to release the latest in the ever-growing line of uniformz, I am terrified because the sleeper agent is probably me.
Anyway. We knew this was coming because Michigan's promise after they announced the Alabama uniformz was that they would not screw with the jerseys during the regular season. They are here. If you have not been on the internet, here they are:
They finally screwed with the helmet. Also Ramzy pointed out that there seem to be four different shades of yellow on this thing.
Yes, yes, the kids love it, which is why Alabama and USC are struggling to recruit these days. It is possible the kids are not quite so stupid as that meme thinks they are and make decisions based on things other than wearing goofy alternates a couple of times a year. Your assertion as to what the kids love does not seem to have much bearing on where they go to school. Alabama did not need fancy duds to annihilate Michigan earlier this year.
What gets me is that many iconic uniforms are not being futzed with, including the aforementioned teams plus Texas, Florida State, Penn State, and Oklahoma*, but the people running those athletic departments must be wrong and the man who brought us pasta inside a bread bowl must be right. I do not agree that this is necessarily the case, Kids Love It Arguer Guy.
I mean, the brand-manic NFL has strict restrictions on third jerseys, with many of the teams deploying them once or twice… ever. NFL teams are prohibited from wearing alternates in the Super Bowl, and only the Chargers have ever deployed them in a playoff game, probably because the Chargers' alternates are themselves a great tradition revived from the 1960s.
It's no real loss if Michigan looks dumb playing in Tampa, but I'll be sad if Michigan plays a Rose Bowl in anything other than classic Schembechler blue. And if you wouldn't want to wear it at the Rose Bowl, why would you want to wear it anywhere?
I promise to write another version of this post in August when alternate uniforms for the ND game are announced, because it is tradition, and tradition is important. #thisguygetsit
*[All of those teams have largely if not entirely opted out. Oklahoma wore some all-whites that were roundly panned in 2009 and scrapped the concept, and Texas altered their helmets to honor Darrel K Royal this year but that's a whole different thing everyone should be okay with. IIRC Alabama did have some sort of subtle houndstooth thing in one game. In each case any uniform alterations were one-offs or close to it, not Michigan's parade.]