Unverified Voracity Talks About Other Stuff Eventually

Unverified Voracity Talks About Other Stuff Eventually Comment Count

Brian January 10th, 2011 at 4:08 PM

So of course it didn't work out. This piece on the rise of the spread offense comes in anticipation of tonight's spread-mad national title game and recommended by Herb Hand, a branch of the Rich Rodriguez coaching tree. In it Rodriguez is approvingly cited multiple times:

Kelly constantly visited other staffs, including Clemson, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, Oregon and West Virginia. When Kelly visited West Virginia, he was most intrigued by the speed of Rodriguez's offense, Hand said.

When Hand was at Tulsa a couple years ago and watched film of a future opponent playing New Hampshire, he immediately noticed the West Virginia tempo.

"You cannot relent on the tempo," Hand said. "When you first install some of this stuff, you've got to understand it's going to be very ugly early. We used to say you have to coach in short verbal blasts.

"It's not like you're going to have 35 seconds to make your point. The execution is eventually going to catch up to the speed. Now, when you combine the tempo with the execution, then it's a beautiful thing. That's where Chip and Gus are at."

And we're where we are. I think Rodriguez did have to go after the bowl game but that was with the assumption Jim Harbaugh would be the next coach. With our current situation leaning towards either Les Miles or the guy who thinks zone running is insufficient for the needs of MANBALL, I wonder how many Michigan fans are having firer's remorse as they watch the recruiting class disintegrate and Michigan seemingly poised for plan C at best. It's not like Brandon had any good options after the bowl game, but whatever this is seems like the worst possible outcome.

Michigan will have to be more patient with whoever the new guy is than they were with Rodriguez if they want to get out of the massive hole they continue to dig themselves. Hiring a spread guy to continue the transition they've started seems like the best approach—possibly a reason why Miles and his flexibility with offensive styles would be preferable to Hoke.

OMFG. AnnArbor.com has an article featuring reacts from former Carr players and this is diametrically opposed to what we'd read for the last three years:

Part of that rift has been the alienation former players have felt from the football program. Rueben Riley, an offensive lineman from 2003 to 2006 who later played three years in the NFL, said former players have not been included in the program as they have been in the past.

“When I was around, you’d see guys like Hutch (Steve Hutchinson) come back and talk, (Gary) Moeller come back, and you could just see their passion,” he said.

“For a coach to have Lloyd Carr on campus and never have him back to talk to the team? That’s unbelievable to me.”

That is unbelievable. Almost as unbelievable as Michigan's head football coach coming under constant assault and getting nothing more than a single tepid statement of support from Carr over the course of his tenure, or various former Carr players badgering Brandon to fire Rodriguez on a near-weekly basis, or Mike Barwis's testimonial page having quotes from dozens of Michigan athletes who didn't play for Rodriguez, some of whom (like Jack Johnson) didn't even play football. Feeling "disconnected" from Michigan football is the flip side of Carr-era players largely treating Rodriguez like crap.

But wait, there's more!

Shea said it rubbed him the wrong way when Rodriguez disregarded the team’s traditional offense and installed the spread upon his arrival. He’d like to see the next coach return to running the football, playing stout defense and employing a fullback.

“And multiple tight ends,” he said.

And more!

“I think the most important thing, whoever it is, I want a guy that understands what Big Ten football is,” he said. “That’s the criteria, along with knowing the pressure that the job entails.”

This is the genesis of all the Hoke stuff, no?

Hockey bits. Michigan split with Michigan State last over the weekend thanks to a combination of stupid penalties and terrible refereeing that saw Michigan end up down 5-on-3 twice late, with State converting both times against Shawn Hunwick. Michigan's erratic offense got a few goals on Saturday and that played out much like the Big Chill did.

Just past the halfway mark it's time to start looking at RPI and the Pairwise—though the latter should be taken lightly given how much jitter it has. Michigan finds itself in a solid position, seventh in the PWR and eighth in RPI. Shockingly, if the season ended today Western Michigan(!) would probably make the tourney at 14th. With the dissolution of the CHA there's only one small-conference autoo-bid and the ECAC actually has some respect in the PWR this year so it's unlikely more than one autobid results in a team that otherwise wouldn't make it. Perpetual HE bottom-feeder Merrimack is also tenuously in the tournament, and Yale is far and away the #1 overall seed at the moment. Weird year.

Michigan also filled in another hole in its 2011 recruiting class by adding forward Phil Di Giuseppe from the Villanova Knights of the OJHL—the same league that sent Brandon Burlon and Louie Caporusso to Michigan. Yost Built has a recruiting profile on him; he's got a 14-30-45 line in 36 games and is the third-leading scorer on his team. The two guys in front of him are three years older, though, so he's obviously the best prospect his team has. He's the league's leading scorer in his age bracket. Here's Di Giuseppe throwing down:

Di Giuseppe's about a month too young for the upcoming draft so he's not on the CSB radar yet. It's hard to tell how big of a land this is for Michigan as a result. His coach provides a little scouting report:

"He is very coachable and more than willing to take advice from others," said Baker. "Phil is a very offensively gifted hockey player his speed and stick skills are second to none. He has made major improvements this year in his defensive play."

At the very least Di Giuseppe sounds like a scoring line type, though maybe not right away.

Goldilocks. If 113k was silly and 85k equally so, then this number—the final one—for Big Chill attendance seems just right:

Resolution to the attendance drama per Sara Wilcox at Guinness World Records PR: “Final number is: 104,073”

And lo, it shall stand for all time unless Michigan does this again at some point.

Etc.: Perry Dorrestein may have a gig waiting for him at the Milwaukee police department. Maize 'n' Brew spends a lot of time fisking Michael Rosenberg, which like… what's the point? Section 1 will love it, at least.


Unverified Voracity Exceeds Minimum Flair

Unverified Voracity Exceeds Minimum Flair Comment Count

Brian December 14th, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Is this inane or brilliant? Like all the best newspaper headlines, I can't tell if this News editor is serious or making a terribly sly joke:

New names add flair to Big Ten for next season

Flair you say?


The awful periwinkle logo does look like it belongs on a button that says "my other car is the incorrect belief I have a sense of humor."

Oddly, multiple readers have emailed to inform that the agency who put together this debacle is "highly respected." I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around a marketing firm named "Pentagram," which seems deliberately mom-terrifying and reminds me of Dan Akroyd in goat leggings and generally seems like a thing you should avoid if you don't want to give off the wrong impression.

Meanwhile, the public loves it:

According to an unscientific poll on ChicagoTribune.com, 6 percent believe Legends and Leaders "represent what the Big Ten is all about," and 94 percent say, "You have to be kidding … is this the best they can do?"

Similarly, 93 percent of those responding to a midwestsportsfans.com poll voted for either "terrible" or "it makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon." Others opted for "awesome" (2 percent) or "indifferent" (5 percent).

94%! You can't get 94% of people to condemn murdering six year olds these days. In two weeks all FAIL pictures on the internet will have been mysteriously replaced by images of Jim Delany.

The count. They announced 113,411 at the Big Chill by adding up every single person who was there and counting Red Berenson as six because obviously, but when Guinness sits down to actually put a number in the book it will be considerably smaller than that because they take a more restrictive view on what counts as a spectator:

The school counts players, media and others at the game to work. Guinness doesn’t count any of those people.

"It's a combination of scans with the barcodes on tickets," Janela said, explaining how Guinness reaches its number. "It's not for tickets sold but for people who actually show up. People who weren’t ticketed, marching band for instance, or people who were given special passes."

Media and players, he said, do not count in the numbers because they are not actually spectators of the game.

UPDATE: Wow. Guinness says the actual count was 85,451, which seems low.

Also from that article, a ref skated over to the Michigan bench after the Wohlberg extra-point celebration and said any more funny business would result in a penalty and Rick Comley said it was "uncalled for." The NFL infects all.

Speaking of. A reader emails that the XP is not lost to history:

I also broke a cardinal rule of game columns by not checking my feed before posting, so I missed an extensive WH highlight package:

Casteel Watch. Jeff Casteel remains the most plausible defensive coordinator candidate out there, having established a level of performance with the 3-3-5 that's become as impressive as Rodriguez's WVU offenses were. That level is "really impressive… for the Big East." Even with that BE caveat, WVU's defense is #1 in FEI this year and equally impressive in conventional metrics. The three years before this they were 33rd, 28th, and 8th. I'd be willing to roll with Rodriguez again if the band got back together.

Unfortunately, after two swings and misses the chances of that are miniscule unless Bill Stewart whittles on down that road. Fortunately, there are machinations afoot in Morgantown, with Oklahoma State OC Dana Holgorsen heavily rumored to be taking the job after Stewart coaches the bowl game*. Though a Smoking Musket rumor that Stewart was out was refuted on the twitters by multiple players, actual newspapers are saying that may be a matter of timing:

Sources confirmed today that a high-ranking official from West Virginia's athletic department has been in contact with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen about the head coaching position at West Virginia, even as there is no vacancy. …

A source confirmed it is probable Stewart will be fired if West Virginia does not win that bowl game, and could happen regardless of the outcome. A win in the bowl game would give the Mountaineers a 10-win season.

It's possible Holgorsen would look at the defensive side of the ball and decide that he shouldn't fix what isn't broken but the chances of landing Casteel go from zero to non-zero if Stewart gets the boot. Let's hope NC State wins 3-0.

UDPATE: Newspaper type folk are reporting that Holgorsen is in as OC/coach in waiting and will replace Stewart after next year without touching the defensive coaching staff. Dangit.

*(Is it just me or are there an inordinate number of coaches in limbo this year? Usually it's fire and forget immediately after the regular season, but this year the coaching carousel has a number of schools half in, half out.)

Darius as mini-Denard part two. Way back on Friday Michigan dismantled Utah in an 11-point game that wasn't really as close as that, and people are beginning to pick up on Darius Morris's leap forward. Someone was asking about surprise teams on the most recent Big Ten conference call and both Tom Crean and Matt Painter cited Michigan, with Painter specficially mentioning Morris as the reason. Big Ten Geeks:

Darius Morris led the way with 19 points to go with 10 assists, and it’s hard to ignore his play so far this season.  A role player last year, Morris has become much more assertive in running the offense.  This is actually somewhat of an exception--role players don’t suddenly start consuming possessions over an offseason in general--but one should keep in mind that with Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims monopolizing the offense last season, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Morris.  It’s been a different story in his sophomore season, as Morris is quickly becoming one of the Big Ten’s best floor generals.  He’s shooting an amazing (for a 6-4 guard) 61 percent from 2-point range, along with one of the best assist rates in the country. 

At times in the Utah game the problem with the offense seemed to be Morris's lack of assertiveness—most of Michigan's worst possessions saw him with limited time on the ball.

If Morris is shooting 61% from two he's probably not shooting enough, which is an interesting problem to have. Last year Manny Harris was sucking up 30% of Michigan's possessions while shooting 48% inside the three-point line. The rest of the team shot at a higher clip, and while that was because Harris drew so much attention I often felt like the team would have been better if the shots were more evenly distributed.

This year Morris is killing people; the rest of the team is doing well but can't keep up. Major SOS caveats apply, but I think I'd like to see Morris try to get a few more shots off per game. A complicating factor is Morris's assist rate, which is fifth nationally—a major reason he's not getting off more shots is he's turning Jordan Morgan into a 61% shooter, too.

Speaking of Morgan, he bounced back from a couple of rough outings with solid, annoying post defense against Utah's bigs, who are very big indeed. UMHoops grabbed a sequence in which he took a couple offensive fouls:

I wish they'd also clipped the possession before that, in which Morgan went to war with Foster for the duration of the possession and eventually got an elbow to the head for his troubles. The ref let that go but was looking for any funny stuff on the next trip and got it when a pissed-off Foster barged into him. Foster's not any good offensively—his usage rate is an amazing 8.9%—but he also did a good job on Washburn, and this year I think all we're looking for out of Morgan is holding his own against the mediocre and beating the bad.

Morgan drew a third charge with help defense later, but since he was 1) moving and 2) directly underneath the basket in the pretend no-charge circle the NCAA instituted last year that was positive reinforcement of a negative play Michigan got lucky on.

OH SO TINGLY. I may not be a fan of Michigan Stadium hosting dancing curly fries but some of the things Dave Brandon is plotting are major compensations:

Q: You also have talked about new scoreboards for Michigan Stadium. Your vision is not Cowboys Stadium huge, but pretty huge?

A: Pretty huge. If you picture the size of those (current) scoreboards and maybe something that's 30 percent larger, 40 percent larger, but then the entire surface or at least the vast majority of the surface would be video screen. I think those scoreboards look wimpy now with this structure and then the fact the HD video portion is only about a third of the surface. We can't do what our fans want us to do in terms of showing them really high-resolution replays, game action and even a lot of the marketing stuff we're doing with videos and pre-game and halftime shows — these screens are just not acceptable. This is very old technology, and they don't look very good, either. Think 30 or 40 percent larger and think big-image area for high-definition resolution screens. I think our fans will love it.

If you have never been to a stadium with video boards that size, it's a massive difference. It is Brandon's "hope" they are in for 2011. Brandon also re-iterates that advertising for the Big Chill does not presage advertising during football games. That's part of an extensive interview with Angelique Chengelis, BTW, that you should check out.

Time to go. The Only Colors takes an unprecedented step for them and calls for the replacement of Rick Comley as Michigan State's head coach. Despite how much I've been enjoying this stretch in MSU hockey, I'm with them. This is the third straight year they'll miss the tourney and the second time in three years they're virtually indistinguishable from Bowling Green, a school that's considering dropping their program. This year is like Rich Rodriguez having another 3-9 year two years after his first, and while Comley does have a fluke national title that sort of thing shouldn't be survivable at a program like MSU.

Etc.: Doc Sat points out how weird it is that awards lists are featuring Denard Robinson as something other than a quarterback when they were fine with Eric Crouch, et al, as QBs. Robinson completed 60% of his passes… what more do you need? Basketball takes on North Carolina Central at 7 this evening.


Events Of The Weekend: Big Chill

Events Of The Weekend: Big Chill Comment Count

Brian December 13th, 2010 at 1:03 PM

12/11/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 0 – 10-5-4, 9-3-1 CCHA


via Maize and Blue Nation

Michigan State is bad at hockey.

12/10/2010 – Michigan 1, Ak—

Oh, all right.

Michigan State is really bad at hockey, bad to the point where it seems like the next time their program is anything better than decent it will be under their next coach. While I find this 80% delightful the other 20% is depressed that the grand terror of a game against Ryan Miller* has been replaced by the usual mild discomfort when a crappy CCHA team comes to town against a Michigan team capable of blowing it against a crappy CCHA team.

So the only differences between this game and Michigan's series against BG earlier in the year are the size of the crowd, my annoyance at the State band, and my lingering antipathy for Rick Comley for his non-handling of the Kampfer incident. I have a sense of how Ohio State fans must feel about Michigan football's struggles now.

As a result the Big Chill lacked the grandeur of the Cold War despite being bigger and having more fireworks and an equal amount of appalling pregame musical guest. The thing on the ice was no longer #1 versus #4. Ryan Miller was not there, nor was Mike Cammalleri or a half-dozen other guys currently plying their trade in the NHL. Midway through the second I wished Michigan had scheduled Notre Dame or Miami, because if Michigan State's going to return a big chunk of their allotment anyway we should at least have a hockey game worthy of 113,000.

If you're going to schedule a team that's hanging out with Bowling Green in the conference slums, though, you should at least chop them up into tiny bits and serve them as hors d'oeuvres to the assembled throng. Michigan did, leaving the crowd's biggest reaction to come at the tail end of a 5-0 game when the most important thing was holding on to the shutout. This year it appears symbolic acts will be the only important ones, and in ten years when this happens again and they dig out the record books for outdoor games past that zero will read "Comley" to me, and I'll remember that weird period when Michigan State was horrible.

Non-bullets got very cold towards the end

A lovely touch. This is the opposite of Cal playing Chariots of Fire on their scoreboards after Washington pulls off a last-second win: event organizers forced Michigan State to sit through the fireworks in the cold after losing 5-0; when they tried to leave halfway through they were prevented.

A fishy number. The stands were almost full, but with the top end of one endzone was sparsely populated I'm a little dubious about the Guinness-endorsed 113k since it seems like a football game would have hit that this year. I've assumed Michigan counts every last person in the building for football, but maybe not.

Hey, that looked intentional. First, highlights:

The Rust-to-Merrill goal was a two-on-two rush that resulted in a pretty goal, something Michigan fans haven't seen much of this year. The rest of the goals were also intentional but born more of hard work finding rebounds or just shooting—the slick passing to get someone open has not been a regular feature.

Celebrations. On the reel above you can see Carl Hagelin either attempt to saw off his arm at the elbow or play the world's least tiny violin after his first goal, but they missed a celebration in the third wherein the team assembled to kick an extra point. This has apparently been lost to history.

Torrent. Torrent.

The road ahead. Notre Dame and Miami split two weeks ago, leaving the three-way race at the top of the league very tight. Michigan would be ahead in hypothetical baseball standings as they're a point back of Notre Dame with a game in hand and one clear of Miami with two in hand, and their schedule is looking pretty easy down the stretch:

  • The GLI features State, an MTU team that's lost ten straight, and a 7-5 Colorado College team. Michigan should meet CC in the final.
  • Games against very bad CCHA teams: Three more against MSU.
  • Games against mediocre CCHA teams: two against Ferris (home and home), two against OSU (home), two against WMU (home), two against NMU (away)
  • Games against good CCHA teams: two against Alaska (home)
  • Series of the year: two against Miami (away)

The CCHA is the three teams at the top, LSSU, MSU, and BG at the bottom, and then a mass of five teams that are tough to differentiate. Miami has to play both ND and Michigan again, but Michigan has already gotten its series with ND out of the way—advantage teams that aren't Miami. Michigan also has a ton of home games. They'll have to get a bit better in goal and score more goals they mean to if they're going to win the league, but they've put themselves in good position.

Unfortunately, without tearing through the back end of the schedule Michigan is probably locked out of a one seed with their mediocre OOC performance. Hockey puts inordinate emphasis on OOC.

A rule not so good. Michigan State did score, though. They put in a power play goal when a puck deflected high off Hunwick and fluttered to the goal line to be batted in, but a nanosecond before that happened Hunwick fell into the net and knocked it off. While the refs got the call right, it was totally unfair: you definitely scored, you didn't do anything to get the net off, and you still get nothing. They should probably change it so that if your goal is imminent when the defense knocks the net off you still get it.


Photo gallery from MNB Nation and GMBW. AnnArbor.com reports that people are rumbling about making this a thing that happens semi-regularly. Merrill has an interesting way of finding out he scored:

Merrill actually doesn’t remember the first goal. He closed his eyes when he shot it and the next thing he knew, he was mobbed by teammates. Everything else is a happy blur.

Not recommended for drivers, as your blur will not be happy.

*(I have superficially hated many opposing athletes but Miller stands out as the guy I hated only because he was so unbelievably good. He did nothing but save everything.)


Dear Diary Returns to Never Never Land

Dear Diary Returns to Never Never Land Comment Count

Seth December 12th, 2010 at 11:14 PM

peterbanning IMG_0275

I remember my first outdoor hockey game. It was some fellow 2nd grader's birthday party, I had to borrow skates from the kid across the street (all my equipment was for roller hockey), and we spent the first half hour freezing on the banks of Quarton Lake while paranoid parents checked the ice. By the time it was deemed game-safe the snow had grown thick enough to drown out sounds and generate enough fog so that parents and annoying little sisters sitting lakeside were totally ignorable. I remember the clack of sticks and skates, and shouts of hustling 2nd graders pillowed by the snow and cold gray. I remember sweating through layers of sweaters and the neighbor's well-used gloves, and my first whiff of the scent I would forever thereafter call "hockey."

I remember my first game at Yost. When I got to Michigan the hockey team was coming off of a national championship season and the basketball team was in the midst of the Webber scandal so: hockey. It was Michigan vs. Michigan State, and at the time M and MSU were to the CCHA what M and Ohio State used to be to the Big Ten and Miami (YTM) and FSU were supposed to be to the ACC. Hockey was that rivalry in its extreme: Michigan in its classic barn belting out cheers that said more about the cleverness of the fans than the game on the ice, the dour MSU fans from sterile Munn countering with a bevy of sub-pith about how overrated they found Yost. Michigan was famous for Brendan Morrison, and like B-Mo, Comrie and co. played like a pack of lost boys who'd just discovered faerie dust; State was Ron Mason's band of pirates (Adam Hall, Shawn Horcuff), terrestrial, slow-witted, and not much for good form, but holding a distinct size advantage.

peter_panI remember late-season Michigan football games. I remember being bundled up and trying to warm fingers by rubbing them against my jeans, which had the bonus effect of itching the long-johns beneath them (the jeans). I remember the line for Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, the warming effect of getting bustled along by the thick throngs of Greene Street and chanting "It's Great! To Be! A Michigan Wolverine!" I remember stripping off layers of sweatshirts that had begun to take on the unmistakable scent of hockey, throwing them into the corner of a booth at Arbor Brewing Company, and talking about whatever the hell felt like the most fun to talk about, feeling like the only bitterness in the world was the type that's on draft.

I remember because I had forgotten. The greatest moment I've had in Michigan Stadium over the last…what is it 7 years?…was being jubilantly relieved the 2010 team isn't really bad enough to lose to Illinois. Before that it was 2003, when it was cold, and there were roses.

Covering hockey, blogging about football, these things are fun, but they have also changed the experience of my two of my most favorite forms of entertainment, allowing adult cynicism to penetrate. The Big Chill was a pitch perfect combination: the entire Game Day experience mixed with just the right amount of Yost Ice Arena and Quarton Lake. Like Hook, it shouldn't be taken as a serious football game, or even a representative hockey game – larger surface, strange conditions, and all that – just familiar material brought back together for a few hours of raucously good show. I was enjoying it like a kid, and I wasn't the only one. Said Michigan State's Torey Krug:

“Ten years from now, I’m probably going to remember the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice,” Michigan State’s Torey Krug said. “Look at these 22-year-old men and they’re like little kids.”

For what was probably the 3rd but felt like the 20th time, Michigan forward Matt Rust made some Datsyukian pass that Merrill or Hagelin buried, the band blared "The Victors" into the December night, and then I was doing the Goal Count! cheer…in Michigan Stadium! For the first time since becoming a grownup and discovering I'm actually really good at cynical in-game quipping the only response I could think of was to put my big, potchy, grownup nose in Tink's clockhouse and say "I like this game!"

I figured porting Yost into the House that Yost Built would lose something in the translation, that the clever cheers and the likelihood that the person sitting in front of you is a player's relative would be perceptively absent. Except when we changed seats to get away from the increasingly souring Spartan fans, I then found myself right back on the shore of Quarton Lake, listening to pillowed hockey sounds beside the players' parents, and Matt Rust's sister,* hooting away the end of the waning moments of the third period and checking the time so I wouldn't miss (again) the "how much time is left?" thing, just as if I was back in a barn with 6,000 close friends.

In these few dark years of defenseless football and hoops meh-laise, hockey has provided the in-state rivalry's sweetest moments. One was last year's Usual Suspects twist, the second was inviting an irritatingly uppity-as-of-late Spartan fanbase over to our house, and then getting to ignore their un-clever attempts at sourpuss-ing** the moment while our pretty good team of passing stars utterly demoralized their hopelessly mediocre band of towering thugs. The best part of last night was the return to Never Never Land. It's not going to re-set any counters, but the second-best part of last night was taking Little Brother back to grade school.

Other MGoReactions to the game are in this thread.


* She reads MGoBlog and Yost Built

** Big Schadenfreude thank-you to the State fan behind me for hating everything from the word "sieve," to Blues Brothers, to the theme song to Rocky & Bullwinkle. He didn't stay, but I'm pretty sure he hates fireworks too.


Lewd, Crude, Rude Bag of Pre-Chewed Food Dude

I missed the morning of tailgating, since Misopogal's sister was graduating from MSU, but I did manage to catch some career advice from Michigan State's latest doctor of business:

Yes, that is MSU's 2010 Winter graduating class being told by Magic Johnson that it should be their goal to be named Employee of the Month and achieve mention in their companies' newsletters, fitting advice if your future's at McDonalds. Bonus: guess what the second "S" in "Spartans" stands for?

"And then 's' stands for 'Special.' Because everybody that comes from this campus, that goes to Michigan State University, they're special."

In case you're wondering, the person rudely giggling his ass off in the background is me. As Misopogal summarily compared:

"President Obama….Magic Johnson."

Double bonus: their gift to the school is $19,000 to get Sparty a new uniform because "the old one has been starting to smell," presumably from all the Axe body spray and burned upholstery.

Nearsighted Gynecologists


The above is a play from Mississippi State's game against Georgia, where MSU ran its triple-option to the left and Georgia's version of Jonas Mouton Obi Ezeh is yelling for mushrooms when he sees three potential ball carriers and a downfield blocker have all gotten playside of him. The scene is taken from BlueSeoul's ongoing series of scouting Michigan's Gator Bowl opponent.

Part 1: Memphis

Part 2: Auburn

Part 3: LSU

Part 4: Georgia (with pics).

This much is obvious: Mullen is a great offensive coach, and BlueSeoul is a fantastic diarist, a Diarist of the Week, even.

Also in bowl games, I did a few comparisons using (now outdated) FEI ratings to determine things like how to fill in my confidence office bowl squares, which bowl games are likely to be close or blowouts, which will be high-scoring affairs, and which really have the most talent on the field, using all three to figure out a bowl watchability index for spending my precious 2.4 wife-allocated football games per week over vacation. Plus some other stuff.

The data gave up some other interesting bowl tidbits:

  • USC (28th, with an FEI of 0.113) is the best team that's not going to a bowl game.
  • The best team not going due to things other than NCAA sanctions: Arizona State (41st, 0.061), those unlucky bastards.
  • Miami (Not THAT Miami) is the worst team going to a bowl; their -0.198 is 110th out of 120.

I meant to update this today, but spent the day doing anti-Virus and anti-snow activities. Look for it this week.

Erik_in_Dayton took on a very relevant question: does the 3-3-5 have a structural deficiency against power running teams? To answer this he used WVU's numbers against the run from 2005 to 2009 (this year's left out because WVU was far better than average defensively).

Math Tutors


Lost, lost, lost, lost.

Lost what? Your marbles again?

No, no. My offensive possessions. Lost, lost, lost.



Found: Enjoy Life's turnover margin year in review.

Conclusion #4: Positive TOMs Helped Michigan Win As Many Games This Year As Negative TOMs Contributed To M Losing Games. M had 2 games with a positive TOM and the TOs helped win both games (UConn & ND). Michigan had 6 games with a TOM of –0- and won 4 of those games (UMass, BGSU, Indiana, Purdue) while losing 2 (Penn State, Wisconsin). M had 4 games with a negative TOM and actually won one of those (Illinois with a TOM of –4). Of the other 3, TOs were a primary factor in 2 losses (MSU and Iowa) but in one (osu) it is doubtful TOs were a significant factor in the loss. Therefore, if all games had ended with a TOM of –0-, it is likely M would still be 7-5 but with losses to UConn & ND and wins against MSU and Iowa. (And, yeah, that would be a lot better.)

Also found: how Michigan fans in general feel about Rich Rodriguez from Public Policy Polling. I gif:


There's a lot of other neat graphics in there that break down the results. The poll results even break it down by political, age, and ethnic groups.

Lastly in statistication, NOLA Blue asked the question that everyone some guy on a TCU blog is asking: "were Sagarin's rankings rigged to keep TCU out of the BCS Championship?" No, Wimple.

Two-Toned Zebra-Headed, Slime-Coated, Pimple-Farmin' Paramecium Brain, Munchin' On Your Own Mucus, Suffering From Peter Pan Envy

Bowl Bid - 2011 Gator Bowl Wallpaper Preview

Your new wallpaper, courtesy of monuMental. I'm starting to doubt my decision to use the Peter/Rufio duel of schoolbus insults for section heads here; alas we forge on.

Substitute Chemistry Teacher


Last week I told you about user jhackney, who exploded onto the board scene of late by responding to coaching change speculation with atomic irreverence. Our resident iconoclast this week stepped out of the boards to take us on a savage journey to the heart of the Wolverine dream. His Fear and Loathing in Ann Arbor series (Part I, Part II) is a Thomson-esque retelling of the 2010 season:

They were all laughing at me. I grabbed some whiskey off my leather-covered icebox and went outside to be alone with my thoughts and humiliation. My worst fears came true. I was a public Dupe, soon to be jailed for crimes of cruelty to myself for investing so much damn emotion and confidence  into a game that ended with me stone drunk and stone naked on my porch. How had it happened? Had I finally loved Michigan too much?

For the uninitiated, or those who only know HST's work as a bit of cult film for drug users, his Gonzo style journalism was the spirit predecessor of sports blogging, particularly in that the author makes himself part of the story. J sticks a bit too closely to the movie script but such magnificent highs and crashes of modern Michigan football fandom can perhaps only be told by someone used to riding these types of roller coasters.

In Your Face, Camel Cake!


In etc., stubob's Ugly Game of the Week: Bowl Edition.

And you know probably how Section 1 (the blogger, not the blue hair brigade of the 50 yard line) feels about the Freep, but that shouldn't discredit his comparison of Rosenberg's speech to Dave Brandon's a year later to the same suburban Detroit alumni group.

Till next week, diarists, you know that place between sleep and staying awake to write stuff on the internet? That's where we'll be waiting. Bangarang!


A Big Chill Preview

A Big Chill Preview Comment Count

Brian December 10th, 2010 at 1:02 PM

michigan-state-dumb-logo Essentials

WHAT Michigan vs Michigan State
WHERE Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 3:00 Eastern, December 11th 2010
THE LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TELEVISION FS Detroit/Big Ten Network
20% chance of rain/snow

Michigan State

The Only Colors has a preview from a Michigan State perspective that's essentially what I'd write if I was going to put one together. After a decent start Michigan State endured an awful 1-6 stretch that's put them behind the eight ball in the league and the (hypothetical) pairwise.

The last couple weekends they've recovered to split in the Showcase and against a decent Ferris State team, but the losses of Petry, Tropp, and Rowe have been too much for a talent-deficient MSU team to overcome. As long as Comley's around the Spartans are going to be bad or very bad when they only have two seniors and four draft picks. Both programs have fallen off from where they were ten years ago for the Cold War, which was a season-opener in October that saw #1 Michigan State take on #4 Michigan, but Michigan's fallen back from dominant to very good while Michigan State has turned into Northern Michigan, except Northern never ends up tenth in the league.

There's a big gap in the goal differentials:

MSU: 42 GF, 46 GA overall (2.47/2.71 per game), 23/29 in conference (2.09/2.63 per game)
Michigan: 58 GF, 45 GA overall (3.22/2.50 per game), 38/26 in conference (3.17/2.17 per game)

Michigan's goal difference is about where it was last year (higher in conference but lower overall). Ours, on the other hand, has gone well into the red. This time, the records actually match the goal difference numbers, unlike last year where we finished 2nd in conference and Michigan was 7th despite a better goal difference.

The guy to watch is Brett Perlini, a seventh-round pick of Anaheim who's Michigan State's leading scorer with an 11-5-16 line. Big and talented, he's the kind of player Michigan's finesse defense might have issues with. Daultan Leveille is a first round pick of the Thrashers and while he hasn't lived up to that hype in three years at State he's extremely fast and is the Spartan best able to take advantage of the Olympic sheet. Derek Grant is Perlini's setup guy and an Ottawa draft pick; past that the Spartans have diminutive senior Dustin Gazely, who is all right and has 5-6-11, and a bunch of guys named Chelios who are marginal players. Shut down the Spartans' top line and they have very little else. The only D who gets involved with the offense is Torey Krug

Michigan State goalie Drew Palmisano is having an okay year. He's about average in save percentage; given what I've seen from him in the past I'm betting he's facing an inordinate number of good shots.


I summarized the season to date earlier in the week and nothing's changed since then. To recap: Michigan isn't the team that went 10-10 before the break last year, but it's not the team that tore off ten straight to salvage an NCAA bid, either. It's a version of last year's team that's a little older and better. They spend most of the game in the opponent's end unless they're playing elite competition, get a lot of goals they don't really mean to score, and lack the top-end scoring star Red's teams have been built around for ages. When Berenson admits his group is "blue collar," you know there's a lack of flash. Yea, it is so.

They're still not bad or anything, but it doesn't look like this group is going into the NCAA tournament expecting to make a Frozen Four. Hoping, probably. Not expecting.

Hogan has earned the start this weekend, which may presage a shift in Michigan's goalie strategy long term. Two years ago Michigan split time between Hogan and Sauer, with Hogan taking over in the second half of the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see a repeat in the cards, with Hunwick getting a few games here and there.

Michigan has an advantage in that they've practiced on the outdoor ice (and Olympic sheet) the past week:

"Now we don't have to worry about the sun or the rain or wind or snow or bad ice or good ice. Now we can just worry about playing hockey," he said. "We know the environment, we know the scenario is unique, but I think the novelty is wearing off a little."

MSU will have one practice outside today.


You may notice the threatening chance of rain above. The temperature is excellent for December… unless it rains, in which case everyone is going to be thinking of the 2008 Northwestern  game and wishing it was 25. There are different forecasts at different sites. Weather Underground says there's a 20% chance of snow, which would be fine. The Weather Channel says a 30-40% chance of rain/snow, which would be miserable.

IANA meteorologist but it given the temperatures—barely above freezing and way colder in the cloud layer—and the dew point, which some guy on Yahoo Answers said had to be below freezing, it'll probably be a wet snow that melts when it hits. This section is evidence of a diseased mind.

Anyway, Weather Underground also says winds will be in the 10-14 MPH range, which may be enough for the CCHA to stop the game midway through the third and have the teams switch ends. This did not happen in last year's game against Wisconsin despite Michigan's request (Hogan's crease was faulty), but the CCHA's on top of things.

Useless Prediction

This is a game Michigan should win by putting Hagelin and company out against Perlini and relying on those guys to overwhelm the slower MSU team with their skating. Lines two through four are major advantage Michigan and the game should be largely focused in the MSU zone when they're on the ice.

Michigan has a hard time turning possession into goals, however, and plays a large number of games against obviously inferior competition that they can't break open because of their lack of firepower. They just did it twice against Ohio State, struggled to finish off Lake State, etc. If they played this 100 times Michigan might win 60 with 20 ties and 20 MSU wins, but they're only playing once, so here's a stupid prediction of a 3-2 Michigan victory and snow.


Red Berenson Big Chill Press Conference

Red Berenson Big Chill Press Conference Comment Count

Tim December 7th, 2010 at 5:04 PM


Outdoor History and The Big Chill

Players have probably never played in serious games outdoors. Red grew up playing 90% of his games on outdoor rinks. They'd have to deal with the elements, shovel the rink, etc. "It was a great way to grow up." The players have probably played only one game (last year @ Wisconsin) outdoors.

Red played in Oslo in 1959 for the Canadian team. Outdoor stadium, about 20k people. Helsinki and Stockholm after. They didn't have indoor rinks, they'd always play outside. Great venues. as a 19-year old, he played some. "Now we get a chance to play some of the biggest games in my recent tenure."

The Michigan team had concerns about playing outside 10 years ago at Spartan Stadium. There was rain during their scheduled ice time the night before, so they skated inside instead. Skated morning of the game instead, and conditions were perfect. They had a big freshman class with Nystrom, Gajic, et al. Camalleri was hurt that week and wasn't supposed to play, but he insisted on it and was the team's MVP of that game.

After the Cold War, were they thinking about playing at Michigan Stadium? "We talked about whether that could happen here." after playing at MSU outside. Red definitely supported if the AD wanted to go for an outdoor game. That decision was just made in the last couple years "it wasn't like that question was lingering."

Finalized in January, Seamless work by the AD. "When you think about all the things that go into this... it's a lot of commitment." Outdoor games in football stadiums are positive. The NHL doing outside games has helped the process go smoother and smoother with more practice. "These are great events."

"I've pretty much stayed out of the ice quality business." Red only worries about the water that goes in - the guys dealing with the rink are pros. There are 75-100 different inuit words for quality of ice. "I just skate on it, so I'm not worried about it." This is "outdoor-indoor" ice. Playing on an indoor rink with pumped water and artificial freezing, but doing it outside.

"I was so impressed with the whole Michigan family" in selling out such a big stadium. People are coming in from all over "but the Michigan people are the ones that snapped up the tickets." MSU sent tickets back because they didn't sell them, it should be 90-95% Michigan fans. Tickets were bought in summer: "People were excited about an outdoor hockey game in July," and that's special.

The Team

"We've been waiting for this and looking forward to it, and now we can say it's our next game, so we don't have to try and keep it off in the distance and worry about current games." Can't pretend it's not going to happen if you're worried about focus. Doesn't think it's been a problem.

The thrill of playing outside will be out of the way quickly, guys will have to just adjust to wind conditions, it'll be cold, there are tons of fans. All that can be a factor. The crowd: "I don't think they'll overreact to it, but they'll feel it." There's no motivation issues playing in front of 100k. "It'll be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the guys that are playing." Hoping to give the fans something to cheer about.

The players will skate outside on their own today, they'll practice outside Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri. Part of that is getting used to the Olympic-sized ice.

"The college sports spirit" is what made this event so big. It's a tribute to college hockey that this is a big deal. "We'll see down the road" if this big event can boost the profile of college hockey.

Goalie situation: "We'll definitely sit down this week, we'll look at the wins and losses and where they played and how they played, and experience and so on and so forth" and play one goalie, unless they get an opportunity with a big lead. "You'd do that more in an exhibition game. This is not an exhibition game." It was the same story at Wisconsin last year: they played to win the game. "We can't take it lightly and we won't."


Unverified Voracity Minds The Gap

Unverified Voracity Minds The Gap Comment Count

Brian November 12th, 2010 at 2:17 PM

This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:


That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.

Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.

Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:

To the chart we go!

  YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS
Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36
Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29
Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16
Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59
Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06
Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21
Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02
NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63
Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08
Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07
Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43

(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)

Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.

Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.

There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.

Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:

It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.

The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.

*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)

Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:


The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.

Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:

Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:

a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.

Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:

  1. Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
  2. Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
  3. If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
  4. It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.

You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.

NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.

Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:

Pro Bowl cornerbacks graph

Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.

Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.

Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.


Unverified Voracity Is Looking Corporate

Unverified Voracity Is Looking Corporate Comment Count

Brian July 14th, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Correction. The recruiting profile of Richard Ash brought up Jason Kates because he's the canonical recent example of a guy whose weight problems prevented him from becoming a player. In that post, I mentioned that Rivals had 'won' that evaluation since they issued two stars to Scout's four. I got that backwards. It was Scout that was skeptical and thus won.

The underbelly of disaster(!). Tim is taking in the official media bit of the tour (lunch!) and is tweeting brooding photos of empty stuff. Full post coming up later today; for those who can't wait UM Tailgate got in way early and already has the first of what will be dozens of galleries posted today. Swanky:


Meanwhile, Michigan has released this year's box-engorged seating capacity: 109,901, which puts it back in its rightful place as the largest in the country. Wikipedia was updated in nanoseconds:


Michigan Stadium's capacity will drop next year when the seats and aisles are widened but should still check in #1.

Beam me up. I can't control when I get the weird photoshops of recently graduated players, but here's this:


His people are Patriots. Thanks to Corey Ray.

Also in graphic stuff, TRSaunders expands his library of MS Paint crazy photo stuff with Cam Gordon.

Raid your own stadium. Tickets for the Big Chill are all but officially sold out as Michigan holds back the last few blocks for incoming freshmen. Unless you head to Michigan State's ticket department, that is. Buy away. Plot in the message board thread.

In graphic form. A poster named BlueMonster threw this chart up on Rivals. It speaks for itself:


Steele can be wobbly on certain things but not wobbly enough to get Michigan out of the overall cellar when they're so far behind the nearest competitor, especially since Steele's evaluation of Michigan's starters is significantly more veteran than the actual lineup will be.

Interesting to note that UConn, which had a rep as a very veteran outfit, comes in towards the bottom of the list.  Penn State, meanwhile, checked in next to Michigan at just below average on the Steele experience ranking but is well up the rankings here. Everything else looks to be about what you'd expect, with that Notre Dame game looming large as an opportunity to start off in a non-flailing fashion.

Expansion of the other variety. Everyone else has an opinion, so I should too: the NCAA has announced that the four play-in games will be contested in two groups: everyone who used to be a 16 seed plays for two spots and the last four at-large teams will play for the other two. So everyone gets slid down one more notch and the three teams that are added have to play for a spot with the team that would have been the last at-large in a 65-team tournament.

I was against any sort of expansion from the start and still think 68 is goofy, but if they're going to do it this is the best way. The 16 seeds are invariably weak opponents and bidding another one goodbye is not going to make anyone shed a tear. While the occasional interesting team finds itself a 15 seed, usually the worst 15 seed is no threat against the best 2. Meanwhile, having the last few at-large bids face off against each other will reduce the "what about X" complaining every year because X will have an opportunity to play Y, settling the argument on the court. More of those third place Mountain West or A-10 teams will get the opportunity to prove themselves better than Clemson or Minnesota.

The Artist Formerly Known As Big Ten Wonk dislikes this, calling it "dumb":

I realize many pundits are fine with this today, but wait until they see it in action with actual team names inserted into these brackets. Inevitably a five-seed will lose to a 12 that emerged from a play-in game and we’ll hear all the usual talk about the “advantage” and “momentum” the 12 had from playing already. And as for talk of 10-seeds being in play-in games, mark me down as absolutely terrified. I’m already on the record as thinking that tournament seeding has far too little to do with reality. (And note that today’s decision only raises the stakes that will be riding on a team’s seed.)

Now, if you’re talking about a team seeded as high as a 10, there’s a good chance that said team is way better than the selection committee could have realized. To require a team that good to win an extra game while every year the 64th-best team in the field is guaranteed a comparatively easy six-win path is antithetical to what’s made the NCAA tournament the best postseason spectacle in major American team sports. We’ve trusted the tournament’s outcomes precisely to the extent that the courts have been neutral, the brackets have been balanced, and the opportunities have been equal. 

I think that's an anticipation about talking heads doing the thing where they have a fierce disagreement over a petty issue because of Stephen A Smith and not an actual argument that this will be a factor, but even so I must dissent from Gasaway's dissent. A case where the second to last at large spot is actually a 10 seed will be exceedingly rare. The equivalent would be the last at large in the current tourney being a 10, which I'm pretty sure has never happened. Meanwhile, the 64th-best team has earned something (the auto-bid) the last teams in have not. It's not entirely fair but if it keeps a bunch of small teams from getting shuffled to "TruTV" in favor of major conference mediocrities, I'm in favor of it. Seeds are mostly guesses and a small conference team that won its championship and avoided the play-in has proven itself better than a subset of college basketball; major conference teams that finish seventh have not done this.

The committee did the best possible job given they had to assemble a 68-team tournament and include a cable channel no one's even heard of.

Leader for real. Now that the World Cup is over it can be said: ESPN has shed its Mark Shapiro skin and has returned to something that people can both love and hate instead of just the latter. Not once during the 2010 tournament did I pine for the Univision that I had in HD in 2006 but not 2010, and this is despite the fact that Univision is such terrific fun that I would occasionally flip on replays of games I'd already watched just to hear someone's head explode because of Diego Forlan. Also, 30 for 30 is an unqualified success, the sort of original programming that ESPN always should have done instead of "I'd Do Anything" or literally everything else Shapiro ever came up with. (His latest trick: running Six Flags into the ground.)

Everything from the play by play to the studio crew was fantastic—even Alexi Lalas was genuinely fun when he ribbed the English. My only complaint was the time spent showing replays when action was going on, and that wasn't even ESPN's fault since FIFA controls the feed. There has never been a greater turnaround between consecutive broadcasts of a single event. Last year we were stuck with Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa.

Why can't they do this for other sports? Well, if you took ESPN's top four college football announce teams (PBP: Musberger, McDonough, Franklin, ?) they would probably come close to the four excellent teams put together for the World Cup. When you get to #8 it's Pam Ward, and by #12 it's that awful Rod Gilmore/Trevor Matich color pairing that had a combined IQ approximately the equal of tapioca pudding that went 12-20 in 15 years as as boxer. Plus ESPN had the pick of any English announcers they wanted. If you could put together an All-Star roster of college football from ESPN, CBS, Fox, and, uh, NBC… well… you'd get Verne Lundquist. Never mind.

Initial NCAA impressions. If you're like me and have gotten tired of EA's consistently lame NCAA franchise, I suggest you check out GameShark folks Bill Abner and Todd Brakke's "Nut and Feisty Weasel," where they'll be posting their annual stream of consciousness reviews of the latest edition. These are always unvarnished and far more useful than any review ever is.

The first impression, as always, is promising. This is something that I don't know if an NCAA game has ever managed before:

John Clay had 88 yards on 20 carries. He was hard as hell to tackle. Michigan? I shut that team down with impunity. I had a chance late to get the ball back against Wisky and they marched 30 yards to nail the coffin shut.

Against UM my DE Cam Heyward was UNBLOCKABLE. He was KILLING whoever the Michigan RT is. 3 sacks, multiple pressures, etc. In years past this would raise a quick red flag. This is a potential pattern that could really kill the game because before--something like this simply meant...the AI blocking sucks.

Against Wisky? Heyward was as non factor. And believe me...I tried.

Abner is an OSU fan, unfortunately. Let's hope the game's projection for Mark Huyge is pessimistic.

Etc.: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get the 2013 and 2014 Frozen Fours. Fine by me; at least Pittsburgh is drivable. Boston fans are complaining about the FF's long absence from their neck of the woods—by 2014 it will be a decade—and I would have some sympathy if the Detroit FF was the first time in forever that the perpetually-screwed CCHA had gotten to host one. Rivals ranks Michigan a job-saving #41.


Unverified Voracity Scales Mount Indiana

Unverified Voracity Scales Mount Indiana Comment Count

Brian April 23rd, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Bubbly. AnnArbor.com catches up to a smiling Brandon Graham after his selection by the Eagles:

Rarely have I been so happy for a Michigan player. After the last two years, Graham deserves every good thing that can possibly happen to him. I hope he learns how to fly.

(Also: can I take a moment to tout how useful UFRs have been in tracking Brandon Graham's impact? I was a little worried that BG was outperforming Woodley, but there he is in the top half of the first round after the NFL saw how unblockable he is.)

Denard-o. Gerry DiNardo has lost more football games than you've ever watched, but he's still on the television so people ascend to his yurt high up in the Indiana mountains to beseech him for his wisdom. Last year his wisdom was "Denard Robinson is going to start at quarterback," which is a strong indicator as to why he's lost more football games than you've ever watched. DiNardo single criterion for choosing a starting quarterback is "is it vaguely possible this kid was named after me?" By no other measure was Robinson a plausible starter in 2009.

In 2010 things are different. Denard Robinson is still named after Dinardo, though:

"I think it has to be Denard Robinson," he said. "If you think about the way Rich Rodriguez became so successful at West Virginia it wasn't with a drop-back quarterback that threw 50 times, even though that approached worked for him some as an offensive coordinator. He wants to play the game that Denard plays, with a greater emphasis on the running attack than the passing attack. He wants to have that guy that can tuck the ball and make you miss even when the blocking isn't perfect, that can make you miss even if he misreads the read-option, and from everything I've seen, Denard Robinson is that guy.

"In college football nowadays, defenses, as much as they try to practice this, cannot tackle in space. From the earliest age, you're not coached to tackle one-on-one without help. The instruction is always about rallying to the ball and then for your defensive backs to use the sideline as their friend. But when you're stuck in a one-on-one situation, against an athlete like Denard Robinson, most of the time you're going to be left grasping for air.

"So when I see what he can do, and then I see what Forcier did last year - to me there is no comparison for where this offense wants to go."

I'm not sure he's right that Rodriguez is dedicated to running 75% of the time, but his other points are solid. The bit about defenses being unable to tackle in space could be the operational philosophy of Rodriguez's entire offensive system. Tate missed reads on the option plenty last year—most of the time, it seemed—and while he was slippery enough to evade lumbering defensive ends he wasn't fast enough to turn his frequent missed reads into anything more than a few yards. A prime example from the Illinois game:

It's possible Robinson can turn this into another couple yards, or even break something long (although probably not on this particular play). A quarterback who can get that extra couple yards is an extremely dangerous option. For all Forcier's flaws, he was an effective runner. If you cut out the copious sacks Michigan gave up last year (24 for 184 yards), he averaged 4.7 YPC. (This is slightly optimistic since Robinson probably took a couple sacks, so you may want to mentally adjust that to 4.5 or so.) A version of Denard Robinson that can run the zone read and throw well enough to keep linebackers honest will obliterate that.

Keeping the linebackers honest will take some doing, but the nice thing about being Denard Robinson is that when you go to play action, it's time to cheat like a mother for all but the best defenses. I don't think Ohio State is going to be particularly vulnerable to a raw sophomore like Robinson, but I also don't think Illinois or Purdue has much of a chance to stop him.

Merrill rising, talkin' smack. Incoming defenseman Jon Merrill saw his stock slip slightly over the course of his final year with the NTDP, but a strong U-18 tournament (where the US is obliterating all comers) has seen Merrill's stock pop up into the rarefied air of a potential top ten selection once more:

At the beginning of the tournament Gudbranson had the inside edge as the potential top defender to be selected this year, battling it out with Windsor's Cam Fowler, but the gap is closing.  The play of Merrill, along with the struggles of the Gudbranson-led Canadian team, may have catapulted Merrill into that coveted position and certainly into the overall debate. 

Coming into the tournament many even felt Forbort would likely be ranked and selected ahead of Merrill, and even though Forbort has looked strong, the abilities that Merrill has showcased so far during this tournament have pushed him ahead in the eyes of many scouting circles.  Merrill is a tall and lanky player with a lot of room to build on his frame.  He has tremendous speed and has extremely good intelligence with and around the puck.  Merrill has been the kingpin of the US's powerplay and quarterbacks it tremendously well. 

Merrill will jump into Michigan's top four on day one and I'm betting he'll be on the top powerplay and top pairing by midseason at the latest. He was also interviewed by McKeen's, and because he's going to play in college he was asked to justify his existence. He did so with aplomb:

I think a lot of guys make the argument that the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) is the most similar to the NHL in style of play, and you play a lot of games, and things like that, but you’ve got to look at it from my perspective. I’m 18 years old. If I went and played in the CHL, there’s 15 and 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds, in the league. There’s top-end 18 and 19-year-old guys, too, but if you go to college, everyone’s older than you. I’m a freshman in a bigger, stronger, faster game, and you get up for every game, because you only play 35, 40 games, or whatever it is. Every game is a big game. Whereas in the CHL, you’re playing in Sudbury on a Tuesday night, and how do you get up for that, you know?

Tuesdays in Sudbury is a best-seller by Bizzaro Canadian Mitch Albom, but not a particularly attractive option compared to playing outdoors in front of one million people, give or take nine hundred thousand.

Nothing on Moffatt, unfortunately. He has just one assist for a rampant USA. The U18s are the last opportunity to put it out there for NHL scouts and he's not drawing a whole lot of notice. Hopefully he'll slide in comfortably—a mid-round NHL draft pick is usually a good player—but an instant impact is unlikely.

Side note: please don't read anything about Jack Campbell. It will make you sad.

(Interview HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)

About the one million people. Sales for Cold War II have been ridiculous so far:

General ticket sales began Wednesday, netting 14,700 purchases by 4 p.m., according to an athletic department spokesman. When added to the that seats have already been sold or committed to by season-ticket holders, former players and other groups, officials announced Wednesday that close to 80,000 tickets have already been sold.

"This has just taken off. You knew it would when you have something this special at the Big House - the first time ever, maybe the only time ever," Berenson said in a statement. " Everybody wants to be there. I think we'll be sold out before we know it. It'll be a tough ticket to buy."

With the original Cold War still the all-time hockey attendance record, the question at this point is not if this December's game will break it, but if the record shatters with enough force to match the destructive power of a bear dropping a bomb into a volcano.

Probably not. But it will be close, yo.

Cancer, again. Chris Perry's arrest was a family thing in which something went down with a cousin, possibly because Perry's mom is terminally ill with the cancer she was battling when Perry played at Michigan. Irene Perry is the main reason Chris didn't transfer a couple years into his career. Best wishes, for whatever that's worth, to the Perry family.

Etc.: Martell Webb and a tiny child.


Unverified Voracity Avoids Rake, Steps On Rake

Unverified Voracity Avoids Rake, Steps On Rake Comment Count

Brian March 2nd, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Yes please. Google is going to turn some city into the future by hooking them up with crazy gigabit fiber lines. That is one gigabit per second. That is 100 times faster than current high speed lines. You want this. The city and university have put together a fiber site that you can hit up and take action if you'd like to download wholesome educational programs at incredible speeds. Join the facebook page, submit your desperate plea to Google—if you're an orphan this is mandatory—and maybe hold a prayer session.

I will mention this again.

Delegation and goodbyes. So Tim is out of town this week and I think it's more productive to look up every last word written about Ray Vinopal than preview a Minnesota game that may make or break Michigan's NIT chances. UMHoops has its typically excellent preview if you are hankering. [ED: Ha ha! Tim just told me he's put up a preview. What part of vacation he doesn't understand, hat hat hat.]

It is senior night, and a word on DeShawn Sims: last year I thought Sims would escape the Lavell Blanchard limbo. Blanchard was a pretty good player on a series of lousy teams in the midst of Michigan's long period of raketastic basketball.



He did and he didn't. He was singlehandedly responsible for burying Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament game that was Michigan's last chance to blow its first tourney bid since the Pyramids were built, and for that we thank him. He could not do enough to turn this season away from its head-on course with more rakes, and for that we feel sorry for him. He'll have a long professional career (probably in Europe) and come back in a while to a standing ovation he'll deserve.

As for Anthony Wright, who will not return for a fifth year: thanks for keeping us in that Oklahoma game. There are worse things than being remembered as the guy who inexplicably exploded in a second-round NCAA game. Zack Gibson: I thought they should have played him more, except when they did.

Emo Cold War details. Big Chill details have dropped. Bullets of interest:

  • Hockey season ticket holders get the first crack at primo seats.
  • Football season ticket holders get the rest of the primo seats.
  • MSU's section is sizeable and pretty decent.
  • Students are where students go.
  • Sideline seats are $25, endzone seats $15. Seems a bit more expensive than I would have gone with.

Chart? Chart.


If they put the MSU students… nevermind. MSU students don't go to hockey games. If, hypothetically, there were going to be any MSU students at the game and they got put in that overhang in sections 3 and 2 they will stand up and there will be crankiness similar to the first Cold War. Suggestion: don't do this.

More Graham. Brandon Graham tweaked his hamstring at the combine but put up an impressive bench and a 4.69 40, further solidifying his status as a first-round pick. He may be a high, high first-rounder:

Graham often gets knocked for his lack of height, but I saw him standing next to TCU’s Jerry Hughes, a very similar player, and Graham’s shoulders were visibly higher and wider than Hughes’. Graham also had better 10 second splits than Hughes, who is universally lauded for his explosiveness. If Graham had a neck he’d be at least an inch and a half taller, and then nobody would question his top 10 draft status. I know the Seahawks, who pick at #6, were paying real close attention.

There's also an approving mention from a Buccaneers site.

Brabbs update. Cancer-striken Husky slayer Phil Brabbs is done with chemo and now preparing for a bone marrow transplant from one of his many sisters. AnnArbor.com catches up and gets the latest.

Etc.: Interesting News article on the divergent financial situations at Michigan and Michigan State. M is one of the few elite school still hiring and is thus getting their top picks just about everywhere; State is cutting almost a sixth of their undergraduate programs. Donations, endowments, and Michigan's high percentage of out-of-state undergrads are the difference. Will Leitch writes on Roger Ebert. Every time this happens it is a reminder of why Deadspin used to be something better than TMZSports. Rutgers fans know how we're feeling about the media.