Unverified Voracity Is A Pretty Bear Indeed

Unverified Voracity Is A Pretty Bear Indeed

Submitted by Brian on December 8th, 2016 at 2:51 PM

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WOOP [Eric Upchurch]

Exit Shane Morris. Per Tom Van Haaren, Shane Morris will pursue a graduate transfer. CMU is the most likely destination.

Morris never lived up to the titanic hype that his arm strength generated when he was a high school junior. First, a bout of mono his senior year put him behind the development curve; second, Al Borges finished the job. An inexplicable start against Minnesota in 2014 resulted in a probable mild concussion, setting off a firestorm of controversy Dave Brandon's incompetence stoked until it resulted in both his and Brady Hoke's firing.

Morris will, but shouldn't be, remembered mostly for that. He was a Michigan kid through and through, to the point where he played slot receiver in the spring and was happily a lead blocker on sweeps. It didn't work out at M; here's hoping he goes Thomas Rawls at CMU.

We were already banking on Morris's departure in our recruiting calculations, so that won't affect the size of the class.

PFF's All Big Ten team. Michigan folks:

  • Offense: Amara Darboh ("highest-graded run blocker among Big Ten receivers ... 2.65 yards per route run average ranks second in the conference"), Khalid Hill, Erik Magnuson (2nd), Mason Cole (2nd).
  • Defense: Taco Charlton ("absolutely dominant force in Big Ten play"), Ryan Glasgow("posted four sacks and 14 total pressures to go with nine total defensive stops" in final four games), Maurice Hurst(2nd), Mike McCray("24 total pressures on just 77 reps"), Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling (2nd), Jabrill Peppers (as a slot corner), Delano Hill(2nd).

Peppers was obviously the punt returner; Jordan Glasgow was their All Big Ten special-teamer. Entertainingly, OSU punter Cameron Johnston was the ABT punter and was graded out at –13.8 before the Michigan game. PFF hates specialists, like any red-blooded American.

You'll notice a few omissions: Mackey winner Jake Butt, Chris Wormley, and Ben Gedeon. Wormley scored around +31(!), basically level with Charlton and Hurst and a hair behind Glasgow. He got left out because of Jake Replogle's existence and some guy named Steven Richardson from Minnesota. Butt got a bunch of pass blocking minuses(?!) and didn't have the same kind of receiving impact he did a year ago. (If we're being honest, he should have won the Mackey last year; getting it this year is a bit of a lifetime achievement award.) Gedeon was +12, so he was on the verge. There were a ton of good linebackers in the league. 

So you're saying there's a chance. Jabrill Peppers made an appearance on the Dan Patrick show ("THAT'S RIDICULOUS," exclaim Ohio State fans, "MALIK HOOKER SHOULD HAVE MADE AN APPEARANCE ON THE DAN PATRICK SHOW"), and on that show he denied that he'd made an NFL decision:

During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Patrick asked Peppers -- who is eligible for the NFL Draft this year -- why he would stay at Michigan?

His answer?

"To get a degree, to try to finish some unfinished things here, to keep getting better at my craft," Peppers said. "I don't know, man. I've got a tough decision to make."

I... no. I am not taking this seriously, but I appreciate Peppers making it sound like a hard choice. FWIW, Peppers also said he'd vote for Deshaun Watson for Heisman.

This is probably fine. Buried at the end of an Ole Miss press release about Hugh Freeze dumping his offensive coordinator:

No word about the "assistant athletic director for football operations," John Miller, who directed Tunsil to talk to Farrar about getting some more money.

I throw many shades at uniformz so only fair to acknowledge the flipside. These are gorgeous.

I miss playing Alaska-Fairbanks, for the 8-0 wins Friday and inexplicable 2-1 losses Saturday, and for the two free games Michigan got whenever they went up there. Also I cannot figure out how to buy this jersey.

Knives out for Butch Jones. 247's Travis Haney has a feature article featuring an absolute ton of people slamming Butch Jones as not up for it:

“You talk about the time and place to say something like that - and that is not what our fans wanted to hear,” one Tennessee administrative source told 247Sports, referring to the “champions of life” comment. “That will never go away. That soundbite will never go away.” ...

“It’s like he doesn’t think he should be there,” [another] source said. “It’s like he doesn’t think he belongs. And that permeates through the program. Everyone feels that.” ...

“The culture is a disaster,” said someone who works in the football building.

There are many more quotes from different people; even the supportive folk on the record are mostly talking about how Jones's accomplishments, such as they are, have not been fully appreciated. Add in Jalen Hurd's highly unusual midseason transfer and it looks grim for the future of the Jones regime. Regardless of the veracity of the claims in the article the number of people saying those things, even anonymously, for publication gives off a strong Rich Rodriguez vibe. He has problems of his own making, and now that he's down in a hole the rest of the program is digging for him.

This is of tangential interest to Michigan fans because of two things: Marcus Ray's bizarre insistence that Jones should have been the man instead of Harbaugh and Jones topping that hot take by hiring Michigan Olympic sports administrator Mike DeBord as his offensive coordinator. The parallels between Tennessee's breakdown of culture and discipline and those of the late Carr era are obvious.

More Butch Jones. Tennessee just got a commit from Trey Smith. Depending on who you listen to Smith is the top OL and possibly the top player in the country. Tennessee's sales pitch?

wut

As Get The Picture points out, their real sales pitch was "we will give your sister money to be executive assistant to the head coach." At least Michigan hires actual football coaches.

Also knives out for someone you may know. Also in bad-idea coordinator hires:

I confess that I thought hiring Brady Hoke might not have been the worst idea in the world—look at his track record with under-recruited Michigan DL. It turned out to be... unhelpful. At least. It's possible that he took over a unit so far away from competence that he was doomed either way; it is extremely unlikely anyone will take that chance. Tell you what, though, whoever hires him as a DL coach is not wrong.

The Counterfactual. The #1 alternate universe of the past ten years in college football: what if RichRod takes the Alabama job? Nick Saban goes... somewhere. Michigan hires... somebody. He probably still fails extensively. John Talty looks back at one of the most fascinating coaching searches in CFB history.

Etc.: Excellent scouting report on Will Lockwood, one of the bright spots on the hockey team. A major reason Willie Taggart got the Oregon job: Jim Harbaugh. Lane Kiffin still the frontrunner for the Houston job. Me, I'd just hire their DC. Assistant salaries skyrocket, they have the money to pay players, etc.

Unverified Voracity Has New Hockeybear

Unverified Voracity Has New Hockeybear

Submitted by Brian on December 2nd, 2011 at 4:31 PM

New Hockeybear. The Alaska hockey series is previewed by Yesman. Alaska means hockeybear. There is new Hockeybear.

Yeah, it's not as good as last year's, but they were due for a comedown after making the greatest hype video in the history of the world. I do like that it makes me think of Take On Me.

UFR update. It is not going to happen this week. It's a long story but I ended up having to disassemble my laptop almost wholly—I still have a half-dozen screws left over, looking for a home—over the course of the week. This was accompanied by the usual shouting and banging that precedes total laptop disassembly. Sorry; look for both halves early next week.

We are 2% of the way to this game. The thing the man said to the people at Tulane about wanting a game against Michigan turns out to be a real thing:

Rich Rodriguez wants a piece of his former employer.

UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday he and the Wildcats' new coach discussed playing Michigan, which fired Rodriguez after the 2010 season.

"He brought it up like, 'Hey, let's look at this down the road,'" Byrne said. "I said, 'Sure.'"

But not a really real thing.

Byrne said the conversation lasted 10 seconds. He has yet to contact the Wolverines.

"It's a two-way path to play a game," he said.

I'd rather not dredge that up again, but if they want it enough to do a one-off at Michigan Stadium it's better than playing East Nowhere.

Something that turns out to not be true. Yeah: the seat filler thing was a hoax that lured me in. Mea culpa. Well played, whoever you are.

Iowa on the decline? The High Porch Picnic breaks out the recruiting stars for a rough evaluation of the amount of talent available for the Hawkeyes next year, finding that the offense will drop a little (from 3.0 to 2.9) and the defense will fall off a cliff even from its current dilapidated state. This year Iowa's average is 2.7; they graduate seven starters and will be dealing with this:

Defense:

Dominic Alvis:

Steve Bigach:

Joe Gaglione:

Carl Davis:

Christian Kirksey:

James Morris:

Quinton Alston:

BJ Lowery:

Micah Hyde:

Collin Sleeper:

Tanner Miller:

Average: 2.36

Standard disclaimers about stars not being the be-all and end-all apply but holy dang, man. Remember that window when Iowa was recruiting at a top 25 level? Not so much these days. HPP sums up:

Not only do we lose 7 starters to graduation but their replacements (based upon our current depth chart) aren't highly touted. For guys like Alvis, Hyde and Miller the stars don't seem to matter much. For everyone else, especially the rest of the defensive line, it's one big GOD HELP US. That's just something to think about following the bowl game. Remember when Vint wrote this article and Ross wrote this one? Yeah, just like Penny Lane said: it's all happening.

With a couple of disappointing years in the rear-view mirror already, unless that defense vastly outperforms recruiting expectations this could be the beginning of the end for Ferentz. While Iowa is grateful and patient it will be hard to look at the trajectory there and get excited about it.

BONUS IOWA WORRY: They lost a freshman WR to a transfer in a class Vint says this about:

Grant is the third member of the Class of 2011 to leave the program -- defensive end John Raymond left in September under similar circumstances (Raymon was from the Philadelphia area and got homesick), and Rodney Coe was unable to qualify and left for Iowa Western C.C. -- which, coming off massive attrition in the classes of 2008 and 2009, is a troubling number for a class that Iowa desperately needs on the field.

Boy, we've been there. Now if Ferentz can maintain his puntasaur ways against us we're in business.

Speaking of corn. Iowa State is this weekend. UMHoops has a full preview; the Cyclones are a hodge-podge of former Big Ten players like MSU's Chris Allen, Minnesota's Royce White, and PSU's Chris Babb.

They're better than they were a year ago but haven't really played anyone—Lehigh and Northern Iowa are their only top 100 opponents in Kenpom—and lost games against Drake and UNI, both in-state mid-majors. Their offense is humming along thanks to a 56.8 EFG%; their defense is still pretty crap. They let opponents shoot a lot of uncontested shots (223rd in EFG% D, 300th in turnovers forced, 22nd in FTAs allowed) and rebound well.

Michigan should win. This is a team that was 3-13 in the Big Twelve last year and they haven't so much as played a major conference school to prove they're much different. Kenpom has them an eight point favorite with around an 80% chance of victory.

More NBA draft. The Daily hits up Ford for his opinion on Burke:

“I spend the start of my year talking to our high school scouting guys about who are the freshmen to watch, who are one-and-done candidates — he wasn’t mentioned,” Ford said. “He was a steady kid, not flashy like a lot of the players can be. I think a lot of the scouting guys … see that and they say, ‘He’s not as good.’

“Well now when you see him play that way in college, it’s all poise. He’s unselfish, he’s getting people involved, he gets his own shot, but he’s not out there just primarily looking for his own shot.” …

“One of the NBA GMs said to me, ‘Well look, think of the 30 backup point guards in the NBA and then look at him and what he does and say, ‘Could he do that?’ And I think the answer is yeah.”

There's some one-and-done chatter, which is a bit scary. Michigan does not have a Burke waiting in the wings like they did last year and would have to go with… uh… Brundidge? That's a scary prospect since he's currently behind Eso Akunne. I still think anyone not going in the lottery this year will be inclined to hit up a much weaker draft in 2012, but can a brother get a four year player around here?

Exit Burns. The only head coach in the history of Michigan soccer is gone:

"As a Michigan alum, I'm proud of everything we've been able to accomplish within the soccer program," Burns said in a statement released by the Athletic Department.

"I will forever cherish the relationships that I have developed over the past 12 years with players, assistant coaches, support staff and fellow coaches within the department. However, it's time for a new direction in my life and leadership for Michigan soccer."

Losing Meram, both Saads, and his top incoming recruit was too much to deal with and the team collapsed from a College Cup appearance to a 5-14-1 record. Speculation as to his successor naturally focuses on Caleb Porter, the piped piper of Akron and the Olympic team's coach. It was Porter's team that made Michigan look like the USNT against Brazil in that College Cup game.

Many in a thread with a lot of people close to the situation say he won't leave, but there's got to be a chance. Michigan should punch him in the face with the highest salary in the country; this is a high leverage opportunity to make one of your programs a national power for a relative drop in the bucket.

Montoya on Yost. Bang:

“I’ve played in some great rinks in the NHL and with Team USA, but when you get those 7,000 fans in Yost Ice Arena, there’s not anything like it,” he said. “I’m glad I went to a program like that.”

Etc.: Other Brian unearths self for Genuinely Sarcastic column, receiving bonus points for reminding me of Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat by referencing historical events with no apparent connection to the game in question. If Johnny posts I think we'll have everyone save IBFC covered in the aftermath.

Bacon on beating OSU. OSU fights to keep the Sarniak-Tressel emails secret under FERPA.

Uneasy Street

Uneasy Street

Submitted by Brian on January 24th, 2011 at 3:39 PM

1/21/2011 – Michigan 2, Alaska 0 – 16-6-4, 13-4-1 CCHA
1/22/2011 – Michigan 4, Alaska 3 – 17-6-4, 14-4-1 CCHA

Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick tries to keep Alaska Fairbank's Chad Gehon, right, from scoring during second period action of Saturday, Janaury 22nd's clash between the two teams at UM's Yost Ice Arena.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com

Red Berenson:

"We had a lot of guys playing hard, but our team didn’t play as well it needed to.”

I've been going to Yost for a long time and I don't think I've ever seen Michigan outshot on consecutive nights, let alone by the margins they were outshot this weekend. And yet they still won. They won because Shawn Hunwick was both awesome and fortunate—at least three pucks sailed harmlessly through the crease behind him on Saturday—and Alaska demonstrated that they are the sort of team that scores two goals a game even when the other is dead-set on making a pile of errors.

I swear Michigan athletics is designed to make me look bad. A week after suggesting this set of defensemen was a near-flawless machine they coughed pucks up left and right, failed to check guys screaming through the slot, and gave up an epic number of odd-man rushes. On Saturday Alaska had a 2-on-0 thanks to Mac Bennett blowing a tire at the blue line. They didn't score. That was kind of the weekend.

Even Merrill broke character to join in. Of all people, he was the guy headed to the box to give Alaska a minute of 5-on-3 with five minutes left in the weekend and the game in the balance. His slash was pretty dumb. That was also kind of the weekend.

Michigan's last loss was courtesy of back-to-back dumb 5-on-3s ceded to Michigan State. Michigan's penalty kill is really bad this year. The building was braced for a red light. But then Chad Langlais dove to chip a puck out of the zone off the faceoff, Rust and Hagelin played with the puck for thirty seconds, and by the time the Nanooks got set up in the zone they'd spent 80% of their 5-on-3. Ten seconds later it was over, Yost was on its feet, and Michigan had swept an Alaska team that had gone two years since coming out of a weekend without a point.

Today varsity is two points clear of Notre Dame with a game in hand. They've won nine of their last ten and dropped the one in overtime. They're one Ferris State win away from a one seed. But this week the amalgam of parts that add up to more than they should individually looks like a ramshackle jalopy ready to fall apart. Hopefully this can serve as a wakeup call, rather than actual losses foretold by Saturday's performance.

Non-bullets of escape

Strategery Q. Should Alaska have pulled their goalie during the 5-on-3? I don't know, but I think I would have. You're not going to get a better chance to score and the chances a three-man group can break out against six skaters seems incredibly low.

Adding to the uneasiness. The only even-strength Michigan goal of the weekend that wasn't a point shot came from Scooter Vaughn directly off the draw. (Rust's goal was a deflection from Moffie.) Michigan's defensemen can really pick them out from the point but I doubt that's sustainable.

Moffie, yo. Lee Moffie had a three game goal streak and picked up an assist on that Rust goal when another point shot of his was deflected in. And he didn't seem responsible for much, if any, of the scary defending on Saturday.

Greenham FTW. After Michigan's first goal on Friday a student chucked a small plastic ball on the ice. Moments later, Carl Hagelin was decked as he skated by the Alaska bench. A scrum ensued, followed by one of those interminable referee conferences where they take ten minutes to give everyone matching minors.

In this window of time Alaska goalie Scott Greenham attempted to flip the ball back into the crowd. His first attempt was unsuccessful and drew boos. The second worked, but Greenham had miscalculated: he put it back where it came from. Whoever caught it chucked it right back on the ice. Greenham sighed demonstratively and set about trying to flip the thing over the boards on the other side, but couldn't. He eventually hit it to Rust, who put it over in one, causing the crowd to blow up and Rust to celebrate like he'd just won the Stanley Cup.

It was the best interminable referee conference ever.

Speaking of interminable referee conference. How does Michigan come out of that with an unsportsmanlike bonus penalty to Carl Hagelin? He took a penalty for getting nailed. Other frustrations from the refs:

  • not immediately waving off the hypothetical Alaska tying goal for goaltender interference, and then not giving Alaska a penalty for running Hunwick over.
  • watching two Michigan sticks cleaved in half right after Merrill had gotten out of the box for his slash and calling neither.

I thought the reffing over the weekend was actually pretty good, but those were weird/frustrating.

Yost bits. A couple of student cheers that were memorable: shutting up the Alaska parents section after their third goal with a "Sarah Palin" cheer and chanting "where's our candy?" at a linesman who had flipped them some the night before.

Pairwise bits. Bits flipped somewhere in the PWR and Michigan now slides behind Boston College. They're sixth. This is probably because Ferris dropped under .500 in RPI and Michigan lost their shiny TUC record against them. That's enough to flip the BC comparison.

For an example of how volatile the PWR is, especially at this point, RPI was mentioned as the #16 team in the preview. After the weekend they're up to 8th. Swings all over the place.

I did take a look at a couple of the comparisons Michigan is losing right now and it does seem possible that they would be able to pass some of the teams in front of them without passing them in RPI. They will not win the North Dakota comparison without heaven and earth moving, but they would win comparisons with BC and Denver if Ferris was still a TUC; the UMD comparison would be very much up for grabs with a narrow margin in the common opponents category making the difference.

Puck Preview: Alaska

Puck Preview: Alaska

Submitted by Brian on January 21st, 2011 at 2:55 PM

HOCKEYBEAR IS GO

alaska-nanooksThe Essentials 

WHAT Alaska @ Michigan
WHERE Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 7:35 PM Fri/Sat
THE LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TELEVISION Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: BTN.com
(ie, not TV)

Alaska

Record. 10-8-4, 7-7-4 CCHA. The Nanooks have won two of their four shootouts and are one of a remarkable four teams sitting on a .500 conference record, give or take some shootout points. They're tied for fifth in the league with those teams, a tiny bit behind WMU.

In terms of goal differential, Alaska is +4 on the season and +1 against their CCHA schedule.

Previous meetings. Michigan split a pair in Fairbanks, losing 3-0 on Friday before rebounding with a 5-2 win on Saturday.

Dangermen. Goals have been hard to come by for Alaska. They're languishing at 50th (of 58) in scoring.

Andy Taranto, last year's CCHA freshman of the year, leads the team with seven goals. Four others follow with six. Freshman forward Cody Kunyk and junior defenseman Joe Sova lead the team with 16 points—0.72 per game. No one puts the fear of God into you, but a half-dozen players are at least okay at putting the puck into the net.

Defense and goalie and whatnot. The only entity to have seen time other than junior Scott Greenham has been Open Net. In 22 games Greenham's racked up a .926 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA—he, and the Nanook defense, are your answers to the question "how can a team scoring two goals a game be .500?"

Alaska is fifth in scoring defense at 2.14 goals allowed per game. Possibly heartening item: Ferris State was second before last weekend's series and Michigan doubled up their averages. They're now sixth.

Special teams. Your power plays per game:

  Alaska Michigan
PP For / G 4.6 4.5
PP Ag / G 4.6 4.7

Michigan lags ever so slightly. As to what happens when the specialty units get on the ice, Michigan's power play is mediocre (19.6%, 20th) but Alaska's is worse (15.8%, 38th). Michigan's penalty kill has been terrible (80.3%, 41st) and Alaska's mediocre (84%, 18th). This is a push.

Michigan Vs Those Guys

Scoring first highly recommended. It is always highly recommended but is even more so when you're playing a team with the profile of Alaska. This is also an opportunity for Michigan to jump on an opponent on Friday night—Alaska has traditionally been jet-lagged and horrible on Fridays, but much more competitive the next night.

Don't give up anything cheap. A team with issues scoring like Alaska is going to have a tough time against Michigan's deep and solid D corps/Hagelin unless there's a parade to the box or some of the guys in the bottom six/third pairing are turnover machines. Issue: turnover machines exist on those lines. Lee Moffie's +/- will be a bellwether.

Fire them from many places. Open shots from the point should come paired with traffic and should just be taken. Alaska's good defensively and any opportunity to chuck it at the net is a good one, especially when you've got the shooters at the point Michigan does.

The Big Picture

It's still too early to start poking the PWR in earnest, but that didn't stop the NCAA committee from making it slightly worse by going back to an old definition of what a "team under consideration" is. A few years ago it was anyone with an RPI of .500 or better. It was changed to the top 25 in RPI for a few years and now it's suddenly back to the old style, for whatever reason.

This ups the number of TUCs from 25 to 34 and slightly increases the stupidity of that category since now games against #1 are equivalent to games against #34. Before you had to be 25th to get that equality. Also it's ridiculous that six teams with an under .500 record are "under consideration" when the NCAA banned under .500 teams from getting at-large bids after Wisconsin managed that trick one year.

At this instant the change is a slight help to Michigan since it includes Michigan's 5-1-1 record against Ferris and MSU; they move up one slot to fifth in the revised rankings. Unfortunately, a quick glance at the individual comparisons suggests this is about as far as Michigan can move up. The PWR has morphed into a system that slightly alters RPI. Michigan is sixth but manages to make up a big difference in RPI with BC for stupid reasons; those may correct. Meanwhile, the top four all have massive advantages in that category that will be tough to overcome unless Michigan tears through the back half of its schedule. Even then it may take a collapse from teams at the top to snag a top seed.

It's much easier to envision a scenario where Michigan falls down the rankings; they're at the top of a tightly packed bunch. The difference between Michigan and #4 Denver is equal to the difference between Michigan and #16 RPI. Stumbles will see them give ground quickly.

Elsewhere

Yost Built has ten things for you.

Bonus: Michigan picked up another 2011 commit, a Travis Lynch from the USHL. He's got 13 points in 33 games and sounds like he's going to be a checker and penalty killer a la Scooter. If they can find one more scoring line type that would just about finish the class.

Demon Bear Exorcised, Mostly

Demon Bear Exorcised, Mostly

Submitted by Brian on January 18th, 2010 at 12:59 PM

1/16/2010 – Michigan 6, Alaska 0 – 13-10, 8-7 CCHA
1/17/2010 – Michigan 3, Alaska 3 (Alaska 1-0 shootout), 13-10-1, 8-7-0-1 CCHA

image

Hockey doesn't have grand narrative arc of a 12-game football season so usually I'm at a loss when trying to come up with a column-type substance. Instead, this is mostly items.

With about five minutes left in Saturday's third period I was stewing. After two periods of near-total domination interspersed with a terrible turnover from Chad Langlais, a terrible penalty from Tristin Llewellyn, and the goals that resulted from them, Michigan trailed 3-2 but looked like they'd come storming back in the third. Instead, Alaska kept them penned in their own end with help from a series of dumb or questionable penalties. Michigan had one scoring chance.

It was the exact same script they'd followed all year: own territorially, fail to generate goals off that dominance, make enough undisciplined plays to get behind. It was the same script they'd kicked the year off with in a 2-0 loss against the Nanooks in which they outshot the opponent by more than two to one. It threatened to undo the good from the Friday night shellacking. It was very annoying.

Then Langlais dashed into the slot to pick up a loose puck and fired it through the goaltender and outshot Alaska 6-1 in OT—though the Nanooks didn't get credit for a shot that zinged off the inside of the post—and everything seemed okay. Michigan is 3-0-1 after the break and moving towards the NCAA bubble. They're showing some fight, at least, and it seems plausible that they do something this weekend against tourney-bound Ferris.

Items? Items.

The shootout doesn't really matter. It matters a little for CCHA standings but in the eyes of the NCAA it's a tie. For the PWR, Michigan picked up a three-point weekend against a pretty good opponent.

As far as the CCHA goes, Michigan is now within striking distance of that fourth place spot that gets the last first-round bye. They're tied for sixth with Notre Dame, four back of fifth place Alaska, and five back of fourth place Lake State, but they've got two games in hand on all those teams. If you believe in goal differential, Michigan should be able to distance themselves from those two teams over the final stretch: Michigan is +11 in conference while Alaska is –4 and Lake State is +1.

Bork! You know a player has developed into a star when your reaction to his line hitting the ice is "oh thank God," and Carl Hagelin has officially reached this level with me. I've been touting him for a while now but never had that visceral relief until this weekend. He's like a version of Jed Ortmeyer with little rockets in his skates.

Depending on what happens the rest of this season and next, he'll challenge Ortmeyer for champion of my personal Michigan hockey Valhalla. I fully approve of some intrepid students deploying a Swedish flag big enough to use on a battleship this weekend:

imageNo, I'm not the guy who looks like Chewbacca in this picture. I'm the guy who looks like Chewbacca who sits in the endzone. Also: Windows Live Writer has Chewbacca in its dictionary.

Speaking of students. Giant Swedish flag plus responsible vuvuzela guys* plus far more newspapers than usual plus  general liveliness equals one of—if not the—best student sections I've seen at Yost. They've even added a few things to the rich panoply of things people say at Yost. "Moose, sieve" is a fantastic addition to the selection of "noun, sieve" chants and this is the year the bizarre muppet-esque hooting that goes on when an opponent is trying to break out of its zone on the power play went from fringe weirdness to actual thing. I'm impressed given the crappy year and the crappy football year that preceded it.

HOWEVA, it is extremely bad form to give the opponent a "warm up the bus/sled/sorority" chant on Friday. One, it doesn't make any sense since they're not going anywhere. Two, it is jinxtastic. Also, a request: someone needs to have their cell phone ring be an incredibly loud plain ringtone as if from a, you know, landline, and they need to have their buddies call four or five times a game so the "Hey, [goalie], it's your mom" cheer can continue.

That is all. Carry on with all other things.

*(Another friend suggested everyone get them because they were "awesome" and I was all "with great power to annoy comes great responsibility." The current amount of crazy plastic horn noise is excellent; more would probably be a disaster.)

So to belabor a point. I don't want to be a creepy mean guy about a kid playing hockey but I do think this sequence was sort of amazing: someone with a 4 as the second number on their jersey runs in for a check on an Alaska player and gets an extremely dubious elbowing call. I turn to my friend and say "I give Llewellyn a lot of crap but that was a terrible call," and then it turns out the guy heading to the box is Brian Lebler. Seven seconds—seven seconds!—later, Llewellyn blatantly grabs a guy to prevent him from getting to a Michigan forward attempting to clear the puck and Michigan goes down two guys for almost the full two. Alaska scores twice. Argh.

Elsewhere in guys who I think had bad weekends: Langlais did score the game-tying goal Saturday but before that he was having a really rough weekend. Alaska's first goal on Saturday was the direct result of a Langlais turnover and he made a series of other mistakes, none of which remain so clear in my mind, before the great redemption. 

Lebler, meanwhile, had a really weird weekend. On Saturday he scored on two absolute lasers Brett Hull would have been proud of and zinged a potential hat trick off the post. I've never seen Lebler do anything of the sort before. Then on Saturday he picked up four minors, one of them the aforementioned weak elbowing call but the others were dumb stuff that you have to call.

Good things. Lee Moffie has established himself as an up-and-comer. He's not very physical but is steady, doesn't make a lot of mistakes—though he did fall down and create a two-on-one—and has an excellent shot. It's not heavy but it's seriously accurate; when he dove in from the point to pick up a great Hagelin centering pass it went top shelf, no mistake.

Lindsay Sparks, meanwhile, has gone from healthy scratch to third (second?) liner and kept up his hot recent play with a sweet powerplay goal on which he walked out of the corner and slid it five-hole. Sparks is sixth on the team in PPG and has as many points as Kevin Lynch and one more than AJ Treais despite the latter two having played twice as many games.

Michigan is moving on up. The last two weekends have had a huge positive effect on Michigan's numbers. They're currently 19th in RPI. Two weeks ago they were 29th, not even a Team Under Consideration (TUC). Caveat: it's a lot easier to move from mediocre to pretty decent than to move from pretty decent to tourney bubble. When you're 29th in RPI, the teams around you will go about .500. When you're 19th, they'll be doing better than that.

Even so, that's a big leap in just two weekends; if Michigan continues playing well they have time to break into the top 14 in PWR. Right now Michigan is 19th, exactly what their RPI rank is. Despite Michigan's ugly overall record, their peripherals aren't that terrible. They're 6-6-1 against other TUCs, though that's shaky since they've played three of the last six teams in and are 3-1-1 against them.

Root for Alaska and Minnesota the rest of the way out (not that it's a revelation that you'd like Michigan's nonconference opponents to play well). The other team on the TUC bubble is Notre Dame. Michigan split with them earlier in the year and plays them again the final weekend of the regular season; the desirability of the Irish as a TUC is yet to be determined.

Demon bear. Mandatory. We're using this one from now on because the Demon Bear superfluously blows up Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State before annihilating the planet.

Alaska Fairbanks Demon Bear Is Back

Alaska Fairbanks Demon Bear Is Back

Submitted by Brian on January 15th, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Um, so Little Bro posted it in the Alaska preview comments. It has fewer than a thousand views on the Youtube so it must be under the radar still. This lack of aggression will not stand.

So… yeah… the bear video came into our lives and was fantastic. There is another. I know what you're thinking: this can only be a disappointment. That's what I thought. I was so very wrong.

Here's a youtube comment:

Is this plot line taken from Scientology scripture?

Now you watch.

Wasn't this the plot of Battlestar Galactica, except awesome?

Preview: Nuclear Space Bears Of UAF

Preview: Nuclear Space Bears Of UAF

Submitted by Brian on January 15th, 2010 at 12:22 PM

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

THEY'RE COMING. ACTUALLY THEY'RE PROBABLY ALREADY HERE.

Alaska_Fairbanks_NanooksThe Essentials

WHAT Michigan v. Alaska
WHERE Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 7:35PM EST
January 15/16th, 2010
THE LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TELEVISION Friday on FSN Plus
No TV Saturday

What's this then?

It's a hockey weekend preview. Am I doing this solely because of the bear video? No. Ten percent of the desire to do this results from Yost Built's lamentable "job" that prevents him from posting as fully as he usually does. [Update: so of course he posts a ten things.]

Alaska Fairbanks

Record. 10-6-4, 7-6-3-3 CCHA. Currently 4th place with 27 points. Michigan is tied for seventh but has two games in hand.

After a hot start during which the Nanooks picked up wins over Michigan and Ferris (twice), Alaska has cooled off significantly. They split with UNO last weekend and split with UNO the last week before the Christmas break. Before that, they got one point out of Western Michigan and tied Northern twice. Before that they had three splits, two of them against Lake State and Bowling Green. They, like Michigan, have been an almost perfectly .500 hockey club since about mid-November.

Road/home splits don't mean much in hockey, IME, but I make an exception when you're coming from Alaska and spend weeks at a time on the road and I've seen you wander into Yost to get hammered 8-0 on Friday only to win the next night. So: Alaska is 7-2-3 in Alaska* and 3-4-1 outside of it.

*(UAF opened up the season with a preseason "tournament"—there were no brackets—in Anchorage where they played Michigan and Mercyhurst, winning both.)

Dangermen. Freshman winger Andy Taranto is Alaska's top scorer with a 9-15-24 line, good enough for 29th nationally. (And better than any Michigan player. Carl "Bork" Hagelin is Michigan's top scorer with 12-13-25 in two more games. When was the last time Michigan's top scorer was outside the top ten in PPG, let along the top… uh… 38?) Taranto is second in freshman scoring; Alaska appears to have picked up a diamond in the rough.

Dion Knelsen is the other big(-ish) gun with 10-9-19; no other Nanook has more than five goals.

As a team, Alaska has a little more pop than usual. They check in slightly below average in scoring at 2.90 goals per game.

Defense and goalie and whatnot. Alaska usually substitutes grit, hard work, and caution for scoring prowess and this year is not much of an exception. After losing Wylie Rogers and his .922 save percentage, in comes sophomore Scott Greenham and his respectable .914. That's 23rd nationally. Bryan Hogan is 54th of 75 eligible at .900.

Alaska is 11th in scoring defense at 2.40 goals per game.

Special teams. As is almost always the case, Michigan goes into this series expecting to take more penalties than the opponent. But it's not usually this stark. Michigan is 9th nationally with 17.3 penalties per game; Alaska is dead last with a measly 172 minutes—8.6 per game—on the season so far. That's somewhat misleading, though. I prefer power play opportunities since that measure washes out things like misconducts and coincidental minors. It allso gives you a sense for how good a team is at forcing penalties out of the opponent:

  Alaska Michigan
PP For / G 5.1 5.6
PP Ag / G 4 5.4

The difference isn't nearly as stark from that perspective, but Alaska does have an advantage.

This is where Alaska makes its hay. They're 22/102 on the power play so far this year and haven't given up a shorthanded goal. They're scoring at a 21.6 percent rate, better than Michigan—though not much better. (Given how much I dislike Michigan's power play I'm surprised it's converting at a respectable 20.2 percent rate.) The penalty kill is just okay at 83.8 percent and zero shorthanded goals. But, again, they don't end up in the box much.

Michigan's Hagelin-led penalty kill (third nationally at 89%) is the best aspect of the team, FWIW.

Michigan Vs Those Guys

Obvious: keep out of the box. Alaska has scored 36 even-strength goals in 20 games and will be on the road, where they are vulnerable. Michigan has 43 goals in 22 games at even strength, and while that doesn't seem like a big gap it does get bigger when you account for the two extra power plays that occur in an average Michigan game.

Match Hagelin on Taranto and Knelsen. Alaska's a team that has one main line and Michigan's got the best defensive forward in the CCHA.

Equally obvious: freakin' score. Michigan started the year off in Alaska with a game that foretold this year's incredible frustrations, outshooting the opponent 2-to-1 but failing to put a puck in the net and losing 2-0; Bryan Hogan gave up a soft goal from just inside the blue line.

Michigan had a huge territorial edge in that game and figures to have more of the same this weekend, but the story all year has been failing to make that edge count.

Jump on them early Friday. I've been watching UAF wander into Yost for a decade now and I don't think I've seen them not get bombed in the first period of the Friday game. If Michigan doesn't come out of tonight's first period with a lead that's a major missed opportunity.

The Big Picture

If Michigan sweeps Alaska we can prepare for a critical Ferris series with hope in our hearts, but it just about has to be a sweep. I guess a three-point weekend is theoretically helpful but Michigan hasn't tied a game in almost two years* and at this point Michigan is so far behind the eight-ball that they can't give away home games against average hockey teams.

Can they? It is obviously within the realm of possibility, but it's hard to go back any farther than the sweep against a terrible Western team and have faith in this team's ability to turn its huge advantage in shots and chances into wins. I lean towards a split, but hockey games are even dumber things to predict than football games so will forgo anything on the record.

*(The last one was a 5-5 tie with Miami on February 9th of 2008 that finished a stretch of four ties in five games. Michigan hasn't gone to overtime since the CCHA implemented the shootout.)

Finally

YESSSSSSSSSSS

Unverified Voracity, Quickly

Unverified Voracity, Quickly

Submitted by Brian on October 9th, 2009 at 4:00 PM

I'm headed out to Iowa City soon, so somewhat abbreviated today.

Get a bracelet. Phil Brabbs has just started his chemotherapy, which you can read about on his blog, and he's also offering up these stylish "cancer kicker" bracelets for the impossibly low suggested donation of $2:

cancer-kicker You can get them by donating the funds (and possibly, you know, another five bucks or so to defray the costs of freakin' cancer) to [email protected], or you can just click the donation button to the right. It should donate to the right place and either ask for or confirm your shipping address with PayPal. Consume! I will repost this Monday!

Elsewhere, MGoTalk has posted an interview with Brabbs.

Hey, wow, this might be a good idea. Jay Bilas says the NCAA basketball committee is thinking of getting rid of limits on phone calls:

The NCAA is on the way to getting something right through a proposal to allow unlimited phone calls to recruits during contact periods. I have long been a vocal opponent of the phone call restrictions on college coaches in recruiting.

While well-intentioned, the rule prohibits coaches from normal contact with recruits while the rest of the free world gets unfettered access to them. The unintended consequences from the rule swamped its good intentions, by making those outside of the NCAA's reach more powerful and criminalizing normal communication.

As per usual when Jay Bilas is not talking about Tommy Amaker, I agree. They'd have to get rid of the limitations for all sports, right? And then texting limitations seem archaic and silly. Ron Zook is walking around looking like that creepy Enzyte guy and has no idea why. On the other hand, Kelvin Sampson knows exactly why he wants to punch a baby seal.

Yuck. This quote from Trevor Anderson is decidedly Carr-esque:

"They did everything that we practiced this week,” Anderson said. “When they decided to put in (Denard Robinson), we knew they were going to run the ball. They couldn’t throw it with him. As far as Forcier, we knew about his little stutter step, he’s going to jab to the outside and come back in. Everything that they practiced, we did."

Evidence for the mania. The point on Robinson is very duh, but the rest of it suggests Michigan did not pull new stuff out against State. Also—and this is a point Tim made on the podcast—with Forcier limited in practice on Monday and Tuesday, Michigan probably couldn't get confident enough in fancy new stuff that might, say, require option pitches and whatnot, to run it. It's probably hard as hell to install a new package when your freshman quarterback has his arm in a sling. That's probably not great for this weekend since Forcier was apparently limited early this week as well.

Next year, I expect Rodriguez will have a bunch of new stuff for MSU; if he doesn't I'll be disappointed.

Hockey weekend. Yost Built has your ten things for Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage this weekend. Here's my one thing:

YEAH!!!

White pants? You know, I did ask Bruce Madej if he could confirm or deny that Michigan would wear white pants this weekend. He said he could not confirm or deny, which seemed like sort of a confirmation. Mark Ortmann hopes it isn't:

Against Iowa, the Wolverines may complement their white away jerseys with white pants, but an Athletic Department spokesman told The Michigan Daily last night he had “no definitive answer.” The uniform change would include everyone, even the 300-pound linemen.

“I can’t imagine,” left tackle Mark Ortmann said with a laugh. “We already have some pretty self-conscious offensive linemen. I don’t know if that will help out."

The strangest thing about all this is that no one will say yes or no about it, as if it's a state secret. The pants! They are white! We all must die!

Etc.: Chris Brown describes how the wildcat works. Tate Forcier just MAKES PLAYS—this is literally the headline. Rumeal Robinson… facepalm. Spongebob and Da U.

I'm out. Wish me luck.