Football is back, and major props go to drum major—and Belleville native—Jeff Okala for nailing the traditional back-bend in his very first game:
I love that the BTN showed large portions of the pregame show; they had three(!) different camera angles of Michigan touching the banner. This one's my favorite:
Of course, I'm sure you want to see GIFs from the actual game. For Kyle Kalis and Devin Funchess setting their phasers to "kill", Taylor Lewan dominating with however many arms he pleases, epic ninja Hokepoint, and much more, read on below the jump.
I didn't have the heart to remove Becky's photo from the top of the front page. Weird thing: the (presumed) student equipment manager is in shorts and a tee but Brady has both slacks and a jacket on. I clearly remember Carr was wearing just a white polo all game. Was Brady really jacketed while the other coaches remained unfettered? At 5:27 on the tape you can see long-sleeved Brady walking behind angry Lloyd trying to explain to SEC officials that hitting is allowed in football. Weird. Diaries.
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan would face against particular 2013 opponents on one of Michigan’s key running plays and one of its key passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s key plays
So for example he'll take the play at right—the base 26 Power R, a common variation of Michigan's "Power O" (2 means RB carries it, 6 means they're going in the 6-hole, ie between the T and TE, and R means right)—and go through the personnel matchups on that play to see which team has an aggregate advantage. On the above Michigan's likely wins: Lewan on Prince Shembo. Things that seem to favor ND: Braden pulling to find WLB Dan Fox, down-blocks of Jack Miller on Sheldon Day, Kalis on Louis Nix, and Schofield on Tuitt, Joe Kerridge finding Danny Spond for a kick-out block, and Funchess executing a double-team on Tuitt then moving to the 2nd level to get to ND's middle linebacker. Advantage: Notre Dame, though I should point out a down block is one of the easier to accomplish since you start with leverage.
The Notre Dame one has three more plays: a PA pass from our offense, and then Michigan's D versus the Irish's base zone run and one of Kelly's favorite passing plays that we're guaranteed to see because it picks on Jarrod Wilson. Yesterday he posted a second one, which goes over UConn (M's power left and PA deep flood, and UConn's curls vs. Cov2 and 4-verts vs. Cov3). Again, these are things that schematically try to pick on Wilson. Part of that is there aren't many other unknowns on the defense, but I think it's becoming pretty clear where a lot of our attention is going to be early in the season. Prophesy: Wilson will look bad early in the season as offenses consistently do things that try to make him look so. In fact if he doesn't we may have something really nice there.
ESS-EEE-SEE! In people having fun with numbers you can find online, stopthewnbapulled January bowl data to show how the Big Ten has fared overall and against the SEC in all those virtual road games. It's not as bad as you might think, except when it comes to Rose Bowls (2-12 in the documented span) and times when a national championship is on the line or an erstwhile title contender dropped down into our range (USC vs. Michigan twice, MSU vs. Alabama). Something isn't right in his spreadsheet since I know for a fact that Northwestern isn't 2-and-anything in bowl games unless the data go back to the 1940s.
More interesting perhaps was maizeonblueaction's look at demographics since 1990 in Big Ten states versus SEC ones. In the comments EGD (man, that guy this week) suggested dividing the numbers by how many major conference (ACC/Big Ten/Big XII/Pac12/SEC plus Notre Dame) teams it has to support. So I did that, except I combined Indiana and Illinois since Chicago is really home territory for the Indiana schools. Result:
2012 Pop (est.)
Florida, Miami (YTM), FSU
Penn St, Pitt
Texas, A&M, TT, TCU, Baylor
Michigan, Michigan St
Illinois & Indiana
ND, NW, Ill, Pur, Indiana
Iowa, Iowa St
Ole Miss, Miss State
The demographic shifts matter but not as much as people seem to think: the part of the population that will disproportionately devote their lives to football isn't the part that recently moved to Atlanta or Nashville to work for an insurance company or relocated to Florida because the weather's easier on their joints. Mississippi can support more and better football programs than New Jersey can because life in Mississippi is more likely to suck so hard that people are willing to do anything to their bodies to get those bodies out of there. Not so much for recent Jersey/St. Louis/Philly transplants, but Ohio State's position in Ohio is a major advantage indeed.
This is bound to change now. LSAClassof2000 looked at red zone offense in the Big Ten since 2008: Michigan is second to last in overall success rate to the Hoosiers until you add Maryland and Rutgers, both worse. Less than a quarter of Michigan's red zone trips ended with a passing touchdown in that time. Our 2009 (converting just 2/3rds of possible points) matches Indiana's 2008 for most brutal ever. However this has improved dramatically every year since, and the 2012 team was really good at converting red zone trips into points (5.28 per drive), though getting there (3.54 times per game, about 40th percentile among data points) was a problem. In the comments I resorted the data to see where Michigan's teams fell. Wisconsin had the top three red zone teams. Michigan's 2012 was 12th out of 70. Suggestion for further study: I bet you this correlates to experience of the starting quarterback.
This was sent to me from HTTV volunteer copy editor Becky Long, who in 1998 was on the sidelines as UM cheerleader Becky Long. The wide-angle:
Click gets you full size, which is just 300kb or so (to a 1998 hard drive that's huge)but plenty for your need. That need is to cast this image in your head until the most Brady Hoke thing ever has claimed its rightful place next to Don't Make Lloyd Angry, and the Bo-Canham-Bump Press Conference in the Hall of Before-He-Was…
To my knowledge, until now the best Hokepoint from the Before-Time known to the internet was that overused thing with the uncharacteristic headset. Bonus: We now have a photo to use when we talk about Rob Renes and genetic nose tackles.
The only press box I've ever been in is Eastern Michigan's, and I was there to watch Devin Gardner play. He was at Inkster; Inkster was in the Big Day Prep Showdown. We even live-blogged it. The cadre of grizzled preps guys sat a few seats down. Their silverback called Gardner "high school superman" and Paul taped him from the sideline.
In an eerie prefiguring of Denard Robinson's career, Gardner had a ridiculously high percentage of Inkster's yards and made everyone feel ill when he got knocked out of the game. Inkster was on a grinding fourth quarter drive with Inkster down two. They had no kicker, so on fourth and seven from the eight they went for it. Gardner did a Vince Young impression down to the one and did not get up.
The backup came in to guide Inkster to minus three yards on the next three plays. Gardner was reinserted for fourth and the game. He rolled out into heavy resistance, drew coverage to him, and threw a weird mechanics-free jump pass that scored the go-ahead touchdown. His teammates celebrated; he laid under a defender. Defender removed, Gardner got up like a glacier tired of gouging lakes out of mountains. Weary. A thousand years weary.
In the press box, the preps silverback spake thusly: "and on fourth down, he rose again."
With Gardner on the sideline, Pioneer went 68 yards in 49 seconds to win. At halftime, the Free Press had launched their Rodriguez jihad, sucking any attention his Lazarus comeback may have generated out the airlock.
That's just how being Devin Gardner has gone. He arrived with an armload of hype and fell prey to an avalanche of it wearing dreads. He didn't even get to preserve his redshirt year thanks to Tate Forcier's inability to keep on the sunny side of life and Denard going out in about 2/3rds of Michigan's games. He moved to receiver, but called himself a quarterback. He saw the Nebrasaka game up close and personal. What was he thinking then about where he had ended up?
Things happen and you feel certain ways about them and you can only figure out why you felt the things you felt in the moment later, after. From distance I think my extremely complicated yesssnononononoyessss response to Gardner's rolling out stopping neh neh neh no lets turn around and run the other way touchdown heave was comprised of these three things:
Seeing that Dileo had broken open by twenty yards.
It was third and seventeen and Michigan hadn't been able to move the ball a lick against Minnesota, so that colored my expectations as well.
Mostly I expected that something hilariously bad would occur and I would tweet out gallows humor while scouting out Goldy for some Ohio Bobcat action. This expectation got much better when Gardner cleared the containment and broke to the backside of the play. It got worse again when Devin chucked it without setting his feet, and then it was a touchdown and I'm just like…
…oh. That was madcap. That's not happening again but at least we're seven points closer to not losing this game. I wonder how we will get any more? I think we should try the triple reverse throwback bomb to Lewan. Works every time when the universe has turned into a cartoon.
Michigan went with "fade route to 5'8" receiver in jet boots." Close enough. No one adjusts to the laws of physics going all looney tunes like the Michigan Wolverines.
Yeah, Minnesota is just a high school team with a nice stadium that disguised their pass defense in the wreckage of 2012 Big Ten quarterbacking. Yeah, everyone is getting way ahead of themselves praising Gardner when his performance seemed split about 50/50 between yakety sax (but good!) and receivers bailing Gardner out on balls they have no business catching. Yeah, Gardner's mechanics still look bizarre. The main takeaway from that game was uh-oh, Ohio State. Sure.
I don't think Devin Gardner cares after years of being a two-snap sideshow. That ridiculous heave was the first hint that he might be able to hack it next year, and that's a huge relief for everyone. It took three years and third and seventeen, but Devin Gardner got up and recaptured some of that old magic.
A close race this week. I did tweet "JMFR" after that and meant it. Nine tackles, five solo, three TFLs, various other things that don't show up on the scoreboard but let other people make plays. However, Jake Ryan got edged again and I'm pretty sure he was the guy who let Minnesota's tight end get so wide open on their touchdown.
So… Wide Receivers As A Unit, come on down! Drew Dileo: I'm not even laughing at the inevitable Wes Welker comparisons. Jeremy Gallon: separate like a boss, leap like a man with rocket boots. Roy Roundtree: Devin Gardner TARP. If those three guys don't collectively play out of their minds the narrative about Gardner is quite a bit different today.
Honorable Mention. Devin Gardner, about whom more in a bit, Jake Ryan(beastmode on several plays), Jordan Kovacs (damn you fluck), Desmond Morgan (when he hits you on third and short stops happen).
Coach Brady Hoke said after the game Gardner now is entrenched as Michigan's backup quarterback while Bellomy deals with an undisclosed injury, although he was guarded about what exactly is ailing the redshirt freshman.
"Russell's situation is a little different," Hoke said. "Not one I want to discuss."
Asked to clarify whether the issue is injury related, Hoke said "Most likely. Yes. A boo boo."
There's an art installation about the nature of truth and reality in Hoke press conferences. UMAA, get on that.
The Michigan Athletic Department delivered the sobering news minutes before kickoff: senior quarterback Denard Robinson would not start against Minnesota due to an “undisclosed injury.”
Hoke is "very optimistic" he'll be back next week. Amazing thing: that was the first game Denard has ever missed with injury.
Obligatory Gardnertake. Obviously he'll be the backup QB the remainder of the year what with Denard being even more fragile than normal and Russell Bellomy being both injured and the primary author of the second half of the Nebraska game. And he's finally done something other than worry everyone about his future not living up to what people were hoping it would be. This is major progress.
I still find myself way on the conservative end of reaction to Gardner's performance. Some other blog takes to set the table:
"After a frightening start, Gardner was amazing. I’m amazed that he can spend basically one week preparing for this game and do that. Yes, I realize it was The Gophers and like everyone else I’m prone to oversteer after a win, but that was remarkable. So that is the 5 star guy that everyone was salivating over out of high school."
Robinson didn't play at all, and converted receiver Devin Gardner made him look utterly expendable. Lining up at quarterback for the first time this season, Gardner was 12-of-18 for 245 yards – he had three completions covering at least 45 – and two touchdowns, good for a sky-high pass efficiency rating of 206.6.
Devin Gardner's stellar performance leads Michigan to rout
This may be an effect from sitting in the stadium instead of catching it on TV: Gardner had plenty of wide open dudes, and his throws were erratic. On the one hand, there was the picture-perfect bomb to Gallon; on the other, Dileo and Roundtree bailed Gardner out hardcore on the touchdown drive that put the game out of reach. The Dileo catch was a circus catch all the way, one that could have been made much easier.
Meanwhile Roundtree broke open by yards and would have had an easy touchdown if Gardner had gotten the ball to the endzone on the opposite hash. As it was he had to circus Michigan out of an interception. I'm torn on pressured completions to Jerald Robinson and Roundtree that were wobblers but did pick up big chunks.
Gardner does have a much better sense of when to run around like a lunatic than Denard. His High School Superman mode picked up the Dileo touchdown and a critical third down conversion on Michigan's second touchdown drive. He's still having trouble adjusting to what he can get away with in college, as his second attempt to reprise his MSU 2012 Yakety Sax (except good(!)) ended in a crazy whip-around throwaway that is easy to see resulting in something worse than a harmless ball out of bounds.
Compounding everything is the complication that Minnesota is Minnesota, and Minnesota, despite being Minnesota, was the top pass efficiency defense in the league entering the game. I tend to give more credence to the Minnesota bit of that given Ace's FFFF of Jared Abbrederis hand-wavingly wide open and seeing plenty of that in person Saturday. Gardner had doorwalls, not windows.
The passing game wasn’t difficult to acclimate to, Gardner said, but recognizing new protections and familiarizing himself with the ground game took some time. He called offensive coordinator Al Borges’ gameplan a “safe” one, due to the extreme lack of depth at quarterback.
“They couldn’t run the quarterback,” Gardner said. “I’m comfortable with doing that, but there was no way we could have done that, it just wouldn’t have been smart.”
…okay yeah I'm with you.
Running game, turrible. Michigan got a short-yardage romp from Fitzgerald Toussaint in garbage time to make the final numbers look okay. Extracting the final two drives (four Thomas Rawls runs for 6 yards and four Toussaint runs for 50), suck out sacks (three for 23), and Michigan's run game did this:
30 carries for 122 yards.
That is a hair over four yards a carry, and suuuuuucks. Even if you add in the garbage time they only get up to 4.7 YPC, which is almost two yards worse than Minnesota's best performance to date in the Big Ten.
Kids, it's sackcloth and ashes time. I had a little fit in the stands when Michigan ran an iso on one of their first couple drives and it went for three yards because it was Rawls running into an unblocked linebacker instead of Toussaint running into an unblocked linebacker and getting two yards. Things got marginally better from there, but only marginally. Michigan's long run other than the Toussaint TD was a Gardner scramble. Their next two were 1) a Gallon end-around that didn't require much blocking, and 2) the Rawls counter pitch that required none. I'm guessing that when I do the UFR the offensive line won't come out much better than they did against Nebraska.
That's mystifying after they did pretty well against a rampant ND defense and throttled a couple bad Big Ten teams. Minnesota and Nebraska aren't much better than Purdue and Illinois on defense. Michigan crushed the latter two, and essentially got crushed by the former two. Denard's absence has a lot to do with that; it's still depressing to think of Michigan's rushing offense as the worst in the Big Ten minus #16.
Hagerup dup. Will Hagerup, please report to the garage for a tuneup: three punts for an average of 29 yards each. Yorp.
Minnesota trip report section. The Gophers' new stadium is nice, as you would expect. Unlike Northwestern—the Big Ten stadium of comparable size I've been to—even the far reaches in the corner are pretty good seats, and the video board is far superior to Michigan's. I looked it up on the wikipedia: their main board is 5184 square feet to M's 3,991 and has a higher resolution. Michigan's down to 14th on their list of biggest screen things; kind of feels like the boards installed just a couple years ago are already dated.
I was on the aisle. I spent most of the game looking around people going up or down, because 1) they serve beer and 2) Minnesota fans in our section made Michigan students look like ruthless drill instructors with their punctuality. I guess it was an 11 AM local start. Even so my strategy as a Minnesota fan would be to show up for the part of the game where you're competitive and exit early if and when that ceases to be true. At least they were nice. I didn't see a single negative interaction between Michigan and Minnesota fans.
The chintz factor was pretty high, largely because the announcer would prompt everyone with "THAT'S ANOTHER GOLDEN GOPHER…" and then a variable number of fans would say "FIRST DOWN." The PA guy's mood shifted wildly with the fortunes of the game, too. By the end of it he was almost surly. The Minnesota marching band is 350 strong and the only thing I remember them playing was the Mortal Kombat theme sometime in the third.
Logistically, the stadium is in a good spot. We tailgated at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul, which was a ten minute bus ride from the stadium on a private university road. That last bit is key: no traffic. After the game I went to a sportsbar to watch an epic Sparty No moment with various folk; another set of companions went right back to the car. The bus line: about ten minutes and then you're out of all traffic.
Oh so Sparty. Oh, Sparty. You sonsabitches. First you have to run out to a two-score lead and then salt the game away before getting their world-class Sparty No(!) moment in on a personal foul on a pick six—one of like six you sonsabitches took after being on your best fairy godmother behavior against Michigan because really you're just misunderstood—and then getting outright screwed in a fashion that I couldn't even enjoy because you needed to win that game.
It took exactly two weeks to go from "where's the threat" to Same Old Spartans. Well, okay. I actually hope you sonsabitches make a bowl game because thanks to the ineligible teams you'll get sucked into a NYD thing against an SEC team and lose by 600.
BONUS BONUS BONUS
Kid's got a future with Vince McMahon if the football thing doesn't work out.
The player is trailing the play, looking at what's going on. He's Kenny Bell—he's fast. There is a possibility the play cuts back to where he's relevant, and Adams doesn't hit him in the head, he just shoulders him to the ground. It's not dirty or excessively violent. It's the equivalent of the PF Michigan got last week for hitting Martinez late—overprotective busybody stuff done in the name of PR. Unlike last week, it swung the game.
AND I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO LIKE IT ARRRGH
Fake field goal thing. Minnesota folk were livid at it but after seeing it on replay I think Kill almost got us.
Kill had something up his sleeve and used it, getting his quarterback wide open on the sideline with no one covering him. If he'd run downfield and the guy had thrown downfield, touchdown. Bizarrely, despite setting this up and getting a quick snap in the throw was on the LOS and Michigan could recover because they were not rushing seriously. It didn't seem like it was a screwup by the guy throwing the ball, either: Nelson just sat on the LOS instead of running downfield.
I don't get that bit, but the idea worked. The execution/play design was busted.
Side note: if you're wondering how that happened after the rules were changed such that anyone checking into the game has to do so between the numbers: Nelson was already on the field and just stayed on as the rest of the offense jogged off. I'm not sure why you'd put Nelson out there instead of a receiver in that case, another strange thing about that play.
So… yeah, everything that happened after the snap was weird and bad. The gamble itself I can get behind when your kicker is .500 on the season.
A plea for pass interference sanity. I'll probably expand this into a larger post after the season but Saturday really crystallized how much I hate the pass interference rule as currently implemented. I actually thought this when Michigan got the benefit of it on the long incompletion to Roundtree on which the DB had excellent position and Roundtree kind of flung himself all over the dude's back.
IMO, if the DB is over the top of the WR, he's earned the right to slow down and prevent the guy from getting to the ball. If he's behind him and the ball is crappy and underthrown that is the offense not executing. You should only be able to commit pass interference with your arms or by actually hitting a guy. You have a right to your momentum, and to exist. Grabbing, holding, blowing a guy up before the ball gets there—all of these are legitimate calls. Running over a guy because he suddenly stops because the QB left the ball 10 yards short is not. I'm really tired of plays on which the offense is bailed out when a terribly-thrown ball turns into 15 yards.
Defensive backs are corporeal beings! Let's treat them like that! I'm founding the We're Made Of Matter Too League.
Michigan by 13.5 over Northwestern? That's higher than the opening line for Michigan vs. Minnesota.
Home/away yeah but Northwestern is competitive against teams not named Purdue. This does make me feel so much better about that game. PREVIEW PREVIEW: Not picking the spread this time, probably.
Oh, right, defense. The defense held Minnesota to 13 points and under 300 yards—though if pass interference penalties were credited as offensive yards they would have gone over—and other than some Jake Ryan chatter above this 4000-ish word post has nothing to say about it, because that's just what happens. Being seventh in yardage defense just happens. Hail Mattison.
It's Michigan versus Minnesota week, at Minnesota, which means one thing. A University of Michigan quarterback is going to have a career day. In 2008, Nick Sheridan was 18 of 30 for 203 yards and a 127.8 QB rating. In 2006, Chad Henne was 17 of 24 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and a QB rating of 211.5. That may not have been his best performance, but I don't ever remember seeing a QB rating greater than 200. In 2003, John Navarre was 33 for 47 for 353 yards and 2 TDs. During my college years, we put up these scoring numbers at Minnesota: 49, 52, 58, and 44 ('89, '91, '93, '96.)
I guess what I'm saying is, we shouldn't have been surprised by what transpired yesterday, but after that first quarter, I'm betting that I'm not the only one that was shocked by the next three quarters. After 9 consecutive TD-less quarters, we scored 5 in the next 3.
Blog folk. MVictors also made the trip, where he took in the game from the resplendent comfort of the press box. He was also not impressed by Gopher timeliness, and reminded me that I was also astounded by how into the Kiss Cam everyone was.
QUINTON WASHINGTON – To me it seemed like every time a Golden Gopher ball carrier got up from a run up the middle, Big Q was at the bottom of the pile. There may have been some questions about the strength of UM D-Line, but Washington is starting to clog up the middle, making it tough sledding for opponents to run on Michigan this year.
I think one of the hardest things college football fans have to reconcile is the ephemeral nature of players. When you consider depth charts, redshirting, and the like, we may get about three years with them at most, four if we're really lucky. We get to know them, we come to appreciate them for what they can do, and then, like that, as quickly as they came, they are gone, leaving only memories, and occasionally questions of what might have been.
Gardner looked like a Jim Tressel-led Terrelle Pryor: an athletic, tall quarterback being forced to play under center and make plays only when he's asked to while allowing the defense to carry the load. In this game, Gardner was able to do so, but this was against a Minnesota team that allowed 44 points to New Hampshire and 28 to Western Michigan and Purdue. Does Gardner's obvious improvement actually resemble a sustainable winning offense? That's debatable.
There is a flowering of "no QB controversy" posts, BTW: Maize and Go Blue has one, and the MZone leads with:
Repeat After Me: There is NO QB CONTROVERSY
After Devin Gardner's amazing game (minus the 1st quarter), I joked on Twitter that the easiest way to identify a so-called "Walmart Wolverine" on sports talk radio this week will be the guy calling in asking if there's a QB controversy now in A2.
There is not.
Devin was outstanding (minus the 1st quarter). He was outstanding by any measure, but more so since he hadn't gotten any meaningful game reps at quarter back since... Illinois 2011? But as soon as he's 100% again, Denard is Michigan's QB this season. Period.
When Michigan has needed to scramble this year, it has turned to Gardner.
Gardner was never really given a fair shake. He came in as a five-star recruit marooned behind a once-in-a-generation talent. Next year, he’ll have to compete with another hyped recruit, Shane Morris, who better fits Michigan’s pro-style system.
This year, he was asked to move to receiver, though it’s unclear whether he had a choice. The extent of his protest was to say he still considers himself a quarterback.
On Saturday, Michigan thrust him into uncharted territory: a wide receiver given one week to prepare for quarterback. There was little run game to bail him out, and even with Robinson, Michigan hadn’t scored a touchdown in two games. Gardner had taken reps at quarterback in his first two years, but he had to learn new protections and run packages in days.
“I was pretty nervous coming in to know how I would handle that,” Gardner said. “But I feel like I handled it pretty well.”
I’m guessing you have received various emails about this subject, but I’m wondering if you are read anything into Coach Hoke’s comment in his 8/21 presser regarding BWC practicing at 3-tech? Do you think this is an issue of Campbell not producing at the 1, or is it Pipkins showing that he can play immediately? Is it more related to issues with Beyer (assuming Clark is out of the picture for the near future) or Black forcing a complete reshuffling of the line? Or am I completing overanalyzing as I haven’t seen an honest to goodness live Michigan football game in over 8 months? Is it best to seek therapy or self medicate with bourbon? Have I asked enough questions, or did you stop reading after the first 3?
My hope is that it is Pipkins practicing well and a realization among the coaches that he is a talent that needs to be on the field now. Hopefully this would take some pressure off of BWC, who I think most would agree is the key to D-line play this year.
Anyway, thanks for all your work, you truly provide both great writing and pertinent information for all levels of Michigan fans.
Well, we’ve been throwing Will a little bit more at the three-technique … Richard Ash and Quinton Washington and Ondre and Ryan Glasgow have been playing a lot of the one. We felt we needed to -- Jibreel’s going to be able to play the three. At times you’re going to need a little heavier package in there, bigger guy, and Will gives you that. So we’ve kind of been trying to get as multiple as we can.
I read that as a short-yardage/goal-line/MANBALL offense package. In those types of GRAARGH plays Black's size is proving a liability and they want a couple of fire hydrant types at those DT spots.
Pipkins may be forcing that move, but remember that one of the surprises of the spring game was Richard Ash popping up in the backfield to blow up running plays a few times:
Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.
It's not out of the question that he turns into a player—as a recruit he briefly had big time offers. He's got a chronic medical thing that has slowed him, but if he's finally rounded into shape he retains the body type to be a quality nose tackle.
A darker possibility: Black is not cutting it and Michigan is preparing a backup plan in case an Alabama lineman sits on him for the entirety of the first drive. Any and all of these are possibilities.
CHL union business.
Would this have any effect on the NCAA hockey schools in terms of making the CHL more or less attractive to prospects? Further, whether the CHLPA succeeds or not, what kind of precedent could this set for NCAA athletes to do something similar? It seems the CHLPA's argument for more pay, etc, is pretty similar to what NCAA athletes could claim.
A semi-related question: Would you be for the Big Ten breaking off from the NCAA in hockey and forming their own semi-pro league similar to what you have proposed for baseball? I hate the NCAA, and Big Ten hockey is more competitive than Big Ten baseball, so I think they could actually make more money via BTN and other endeavors.
Go Blue from Cairo,
If a CHL union does get off the ground and forces the owners to pay them a reasonable amount, that could do any number of things to the NCAA's efforts to recruit against them. More money obviously makes junior more attractive, but if the end result of all this is some sort of strictly-enforced cap on how much any particular kid could get that might help the NCAA with the top end kids. Even if there isn't a hard cap, CHL teams forced to pay third-liners some variety of wage would have less to spend on the Troubas Jack Campbells of the world.
Unless it's a lot of money I don't see it making a big difference. CHL kids are gambling that their hockey career will pay the bills; NCAA kids are betting the education they get is more valuable than whatever stipend they would get in junior.
I don't know what the NCAA's argument is re: the CHL, but they probably have a better leg to stand on because they're affiliated with nonprofit educational institutions instead of out-and-out businesses. IANAL.
About Big Ten breaking off in hockey: what? There are only six Big Ten teams, and going semi-pro only increases costs. Who would they play? Why would they make more money as semi-pro teams (more high profile players I guess, but I'm skeptical)? It only makes sense in baseball because NCAA baseball is stacked against Northern teams so insanely. Playing the first month of the season on the road and never ever getting a Southern team to come to your place is a handicap you just can't overcome. There are no similar problems in hockey, and it's tight-knit enough that Michigan has rivalries with North Dakota, BC, Notre Dame, and to a lesser extent others. I award you no points for this idea.
LOInjury. That's LOI, not LOL.
With all the early offers out there, this seems like it is a discussion worth prepping for. what happens if a commit who has not yet signed his LOi has a career ending injury prior to joining the team? Would UM honor the commitment somehow even if he cant play? Is that allowed by NCAA? Is there a track record of this? Formulate a response now and pray we never have to use it.
We'll get to see how Michigan responds to this next year when Austin Hatch does or does not join the basketball team. It seems like a pretty easy solution: sign the guy and medical him as fast as possible. If you have to carry the guy for a year, that doesn't seem like a huge burden—most of the time you're just throwing that scholarship to a walk-on anyway.
In his interview with Grantland, Coach Hoke revealed his music tastes. "To this day, those records are the ones I still listen to — Hall & Oates, early Stones, REO Speedwagon, Aerosmith. I love Hall & Oates. "Rich Girl" and "Sarah" can bring a tear to my eye."
It's now clear who Hoke learned his epic point from:
At least the worst-case scenario was narrowly avoided. The tournament will only be on the far west edge of the conference half the time. The rest of the time it'll be at the Joe, or wherever the Wings happen to be playing.
It will surprise no one that I think this is kind of dumb. The Big Ten is going to get five games in one weekend when they could have set it up to get 10-15 over three. Unless these things are crazy-popular sellouts with separate tickets for each games—and they won't be—the Big Ten's taking in less revenue so they can play fewer games. But high school tournaments are a go, so there's that.
The other format. Teddy Greenstein has some bad news for fans of home games in a college football non-playoff event:
So what is most likely to happen?
Sorry, Big Ten fans, but Delany's "home game" model is on life support. It makes sense in that it would boost the regular season by rewarding the top two in the rankings. And it would eliminate the sham of another LSU-Ohio State national title game in the "neutral" setting of New Orleans.
So what's the problem?
Aside from SEC teams not wanting to play in Ann Arbor or Columbus in late December, it's logistics. Many schools won't have the infrastructure then because they're on holiday break. Stadium size would be an issue with schools such as Cincinnati (35,100), TCU (50,000) and Oregon (53,800). If there's a playoff, officials will want to maximize revenue by selling hospitality and luxury suites. And, besides, most fans love going to bowl games in places like New Orleans and Glendale, Ariz. Delany cited the comfort of the fans when he helped choose a neutral site (Indianapolis) for the Big Ten title game.
"Logistics" is of course a laughable excuse, as is citing Cincinnati's stadium size as a hurdle. Cincinnati? Seriously? But Greenstein is forced to repeat what people tell him, so that's what people are telling him. Woo back to back travel weeks making it even dumber for Big Ten teams.
As they say in showbusiness, if you want daddy to stop drinking, stop doing that. The first step in doing that is getting those linebackers shifted over to the strength of the formation. Here Hawthorne (near) gets clubbed and Demens (far) has no shot.
More detail at TOC; dealing with these outside runs is priority #2 for Michigan this year. #1 is, of course, not letting two linebackers fly up the middle of the field untouched on 10 snaps.
The AAU deluge begins. In terms of recruiting service rankings, the next three or four months will be more important than any others for Michigan's three 2013 basketball commits, The summer before your senior year is when the pencil of early rankings turns quickly to pen. One of those weird erasable pens, but pen.
MI PG Derrick Walton is off to a good start in Las Vegas. Rivals's Eric Bossi:
Michigan has itself another nice point guard on the way in Derrick Walton. The four star point guard runs his team and has a burst off the dribble that allows him to get into the lane and make plays with regularity. He's also a communicator, plays hard and will ultimately be a very good replacement/complement to Trey Burke.
Dave Telep also chimed in with some Walton praise, adding a similar "no Burke, no problem" view.
Michigan has got themselves a good one in Mark Donnal. The 6-foot-9 big man is a smart and productive player who has a serious competitive streak in him. His footwork is outstanding and he’s a good athlete who can finish through contact.
Scout's Evan Daniels called him "physical and talented" and "much improved" on the twitter. Athleticism is the issue that might keep him from flying up recruiting rankings; in any case he'll be a great fit with Beilein.
The intensity level of play increased when bracket play began on Sunday and Irvin’s play rose to the occasion. He struggled shooting the ball in his first Sunday game, but found other ways to make an impact. He commanded the ball, frequently playing point guard, and he sparked a crucial run by facilitating and getting his teammates easy baskets. With his team facing its only adversity of the tournament against Team D-Rose, Irvin became a better vocal leader. He displayed a calm demeanor and elevated his game as the moment grew.
He didn’t take long to get over his poor shooting performance, scoring a game-high 25 points, leading his team to a one-point overtime victory over the Illinois Wolves later in playoff action. He caught fire and was scoring in a variety of ways – establishing himself as the best player on the floor and everyone in attendance took notice.
Michigan is poking around numerous guys for the 2013 and 2014 classes; UMHoops has the details. Sam Webb has recently mentioned that Michigan continues to look for a grad-year transfer who will be eligible this fall, but no names yet except a guy who decided to stick at Xavier. There is a four year 2012 guy on the radar, though…
Possibly not done yet. As broken by Sam Webb($), Michigan is looking at OHIO(!!!) decommit Caris Levert, a rail-thin 6'5" shooting guard who opened up his recruitment in the wake of John Groce's move to Illinios. Levert appears to have had a monster senior year and has multiple Big Ten schools after him now, including Groce's new home at Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, and of course Michigan. Dayton is also in the running.
He saved his best performance for the state playoffs, getting top billing($) in ESPN author John Stovall's evaluation:
Caris Levert (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central)
2012, SG, 6-5, 185 pounds
He is one of the most improved players in Ohio. He was a 5-9 guard as a freshman and has continued to grow physically and from a talent standpoint. Caris is very good off the dribble, has the ability to create his own shot and has a chance to be a special talent at the next level if he continues to improve.
*Levert led Pickerington Central to the school’s first boy’s basketball state championship with a 45-40 win over Toledo Whitmer in the Division I title tilt. Levert scored 20 of his team's 45 points in the championship game including 11-straight in a pivotal third period and playing all 32 minutes. The Ohio University commit averaged nearly 19 points per game throughout his outstanding senior campaign. Coming into the year, Levert may not have been a household name, but his name is in the mind’s of many following this past tournament run along with a more than stellar regular season. Levert became the type of player capable of getting a bucket whenever the Tigers needed one. There were less than a handful of players in Ohio capable of doing so and the lengthy bundle of talent was at his best in big games. Levert shot slightly over 53 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range along grabbing 3.4 rebounds and swiping 3.4 steals per contest.
JJHuddle Players of the Year 2012: Caris Levert, Pickerington Central (Ohio) 2011: Trey Burke, Northland (Michigan) 2010: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State) 2009: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State) 2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey (Ohio State) & B.J. Mullens, Canal Winchester (Ohio State/Charlotte Bobcats) 2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky (Ohio State)
While it's not a great year for Ohio talent—the only OH players in the Rivals 150 are UL commit Terry Rozier (#80) and MSU commit Kenny Kaminski (#113)—he sounds legit. Ohio does have a top 50 junior in OSU commit Marc Loving who Levert beat out.
No idea where he's leaning yet. He is a teammate of Taco Charlton, so Michigan will have a guy in his ear. Obviously they like Levert quite a bit more than new OSU commit Amedeo Della Valle; hopefully Michigan's sudden cancellation of his trip indicates they've got the inside track here. UMHoops has a bit more on Lavert's game plus some 2013 and 2014 notes.
"I've been watching Zack Novak play since the first grade," Albrecht recalls. "He was tough back then, too."
No longer a first grader, and no longer the little kid whose obsession with constantly wearing baseball cleats earned him the nickname "Spike," the undersized Indiana-born point guard is ready to do whatever it takes to make an impact in Ann Arbor.
Just like Novak.
Wait… um… math. If Spike Albrecht is currently in fifth grade I think we've got ourselves a steal here.
The spokesman said that when a player opts to transfer from Michigan -- as Smotrycz, Carlton Brundidge and Colton Christiandid last month -- it's Beilein's preference that the player not choose a Big Ten school or a program that Michigan has on its schedule over the next two years.
That's his preference.
However, it's not a policy, the spokesman said. And it's not a hard and fast rule.
The spokesman said that should a situation arise where a transfer student shows a strong desire to attend a school Michigan has scheduled down the road, then Beilein would be open to having a discussion about the situation, and would not be absolutely opposed to allowing the transfer to occur before the discussion took place.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten transfer rule has changed. Previously, you could not be on scholarship at all. Now you can, but you lose the year of eligibility you would otherwise retain by not playing. The upshot is anyone who hasn't redshirted has a powerful incentive to transfer out of the conference, but anyone who has may as well go to Purdue or wherever because it doesn't make a difference.
It will still be extremely difficult to get a release to a conference school unless Lloyd Carr thinks you belong at OSU, though. That's one restriction I don't have a problem with. If transferring player X can't find a suitable home outside of his current conference that's more on him than on anyone else.
Etc.:A Lion Eye takes stock of where the Illini sit going into fall in a two-parter considering offense and defense. Offense might have some issues at tackle, where two redshirt sophomores are backed up by redshirt freshman, and running back. Defense seems sunny in places that aren't the secondary. Brandon "hopeful" that band will make it to Dallas, undoubtedly with someone else's money. Andy Staples with this year's edition of "recruiting rankings are valid."
Mike Martin bombs the GERGfense as "backyard defense" and says that Bruce Tall didn't know anything about coaching defensive line. Let's all have arguments about RR again!
Now, it doesn't matter for the Big Ten regular season...it is what it is, we went 13-5, and earned a share of the title. But what does it mean for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA?
Ask yourself this question when it comes to evaluating the Michigan season...was it a solid 13-5 or a weak 13-5? Was it a 13-5 that with a few breaks was 15-3? Or was it a 13-5 with a bunch of breaks that could have easily been 10-8? Which of those is more representative of the basketball we saw this year? Death from above in the two tournaments?
Northwestern looms. Twice we played them. Twice we went overtime with them. Could have lost both. Didn't. Positives to be sure. But who shows up come Friday? …
To me, happy we share the title. Not convinced at this point we are as good as either of those other two teams. Proud of the heart, proud of the overall result. Concerned about the two tourneys.
Bluntly, Michigan was not as good as either of the two teams they tied with. You can see that in the efficiency margins:
Kenpom will confirm that for you: it has MSU and OSU #2 and #3 behind Kentucky with Michigan idling at 20.
Meanwhile, going 13-5 would not have netted Michigan a title in any other year since the Big Ten went back to 18 games. Most years they wouldn't even be within a game. There's no denying they were fortunate to end up where they are now. Michigan lost one close Big Ten game (@ Indiana, 73-71) and won four to six (NW x 2, MSU, Purdue, maybe Minnesota and OSU depending on how you feel about five-point games). You can grub grub grub about will to win and finding ways to win and winning is for winners; I don't buy that stuff.
In terms of efficiency margin and Kenpom rankings, Michigan is about where we'd hoped they'd be before the season: slightly improved despite the loss of Darius Morris, short of truly contending for a conference title. In terms of wins they're a three seed and a Big Ten champ.
I don't say this to bring anyone down. It's wonderful. For this team to accomplish what they have is fantastic, and at this point anything after winning a 3-14 matchup in the first round is gravy.
I do think they'll be a particularly vulnerable three, though, and won't be surprised to see them flame out in the second round*. I also won't let that damage the wonderful run they went on to erase a lot of bad streaks. From a logical perspective I get the "concern"; from an emotional perspective it went from 90% house money to 110% as soon as Buford hit that shot. The worst that happens is Michigan State fans say "see you weren't really a Big Ten champ." This will not prevent the banner from going up.
*[I'm not predicting that by any means. Michigan gave Duke all they wanted last year and a hypothetical second-round opponent will be much worse than the Blue Devils were last year. Beilein is a consistent outperformer when he reaches the tourney.
HOWEVA, I do loathe the prospect of drawing a couple of the current six-seeds in Jerry Palm's bracket. They are all dangerous mid-majors: UNLV, New Mexico, Wichita State, and St. Mary's. In Kenpom's eyes that's two teams better than Michigan (Wichita, New Mexico) and two who are a dozen or so spots worse (UNLV, St. Mary's).
You may remember the Dohrmann UCLA article mentioning the success of a couple transfers out of the program: that's basically UNLV. Chace Stanback is a 6'8" guy hitting 47% from three; Mike Moser is a 6'8" guy in the top ten in defensive rebounding with high usage and an inside-out game.
I find Palm's fives a lot more palatable: Louisville (#30 Kenpom), FSU (#28), SDSU (#51), and Creighton(#35). No matter what I expect a second-round nailbiter.]
The golden child's effect on the OL.
Brian or Ace or Anybody;
I am confused, when talking about o-line prospects in the 2012 or 2013 class, some say "Fox makes an ideal RT" or "LT-T is the prototype Left Tackle.". Is the fact that Shane "Obama circa 2008" Morris is a southpaw baked into the projections as to who plays where on the OL? Wouldn't the proto LT be moved to RT for a lefty QB, or no?
Are you and your Bloggy ilk keeping this in mind, does it make a difference for a lefty qb?
I don't think it matters much. Many players at Michigan and elsewhere have flipped from right to left tackle without a problem; when Morris becomes the starter Michigan will put their best pass protector at right tackle and he'll adjust over the course of an offseason. Jake Long switched from right to left after his first year as a starter; Mike Schofield was pressed into service as a left guard after practicing mostly at tackle and did fine.
There might be some slight issues if Morris is either in (because of Gardner injury) or out (because of a Morris injury) of the lineup unexpectedly. In that case you probably wouldn't want to screw up the line's performance by flipping them mid-game and will be exposing either Morris's or his backup's blind side to slightly worse protection. That's life.
Even if that happens it doesn't look like there's going to be a huge difference between the starting tackles at any point in the near future. Whoever the #2 guy is will have beaten out an array of 6'5"-6'7" blue chips. This is not going to be Jake Long opposite Rueben Riley. It's going to be Almost Jake Long opposite Decent Approximation Of Jake Long.
MANBALL concerns revisited.
I WANT YOU TO JOIN UP
ALL OF YOU
THAT WAS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
You have argued over the past several years that you think Michigan will be at a talent disadvantage compared to teams like Ohio and SEC oversigners like Alabama, so long as the status quo persists. You've also argued that, schematically, the best way to deal with this deficit is the spread offense. I am curious if you think Hoke (and Borges) can build an offense in their mold that can truly compete on the national stage. What do you think it will take in terms of recruiting and scheme to be a legitimate contender for the national championship? Do you think that we have the ability to recruit the offensive talent we need to contend for a national title? Or is it perhaps too early to tell?
Obviously an elite defense, which I think we are building, mitigates the need for an elite offense, but recent BCS title games have demonstrated that you can't rely on just defense to win that game. Ultimately I am asking what combination of scheme and talent you think we need to achieve in order to win the national championship.
All the best,
My concerns about Michigan's ceiling have been blown away by Hoke's early recruiting returns. If Michigan is bringing in top five classes consistently—Hoke's already two for two a month into his second class—and is approaching games with the controlled aggression that Hoke, Mattison, and Borges displayed in their first year, there is no reason they can't run a conventional offense and compete for national titles.
When you have a huge talent advantage or are Wisconsin you can line up and beat heads in: top ten FEI offenses* this year include Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC. Alabama was #11. All you need to replicate that is a ton of NFL guys on the line, an NFL quarterback, and some NFL skill guys. Check, check, well… we'll see.
I get the vibe from your email that you're a bit skeptical of Michigan's skill position recruiting. I think that's premature. Shane Morris is a Henne-level QB recruit. Michigan did pick up a consensus four-star in Amara Darboh at WR and came close to flipping Brionte Dunn; this year they've got a top 100 tight end (for now, anyway—Butt will probably fall into the 100-200 range as the year progresses) and seem to lead for a couple five-star types in Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell. If Hoke lands those guys Michigan's weak spot in the 2012 and 2013 classes is…
…uh… cornerback? For now, anyway.
Even if one of those two guys escapes we're still 11 months from Signing Day; more targets will emerge. It seems like Michigan's going to be able to focus a lot of attention on any holes they have in the class come, oh, May.
My main concern with Michigan's scheme going forward is a potential over-reliance on a fullback. It seems like most pro-styles have moved to double TE sets. See this Chris Brown article on Alabama's very MANBALL, very NC-worthy offense. I hope that's where Michigan's going, too. Tight ends threaten defenses vertically in a way that fullbacks do not; they're better athletes, generally, and better targets for downfield passes. Fullbacks… eh.
I think this is also where Michigan's going. Their TE recruiting is massive—they're looking for a fifth in two years—and there's clear distinction between guys like Jake Butt and Khalid Hill, a 6'2", 230 pound guy designated a "U-back" or "move tight end" according to TomVH.
So, like, whatever. My beefs 14 months into the Hoke era are "that one punt against Illinois" and "taking a scholarship fullback." Oh, and the complete implosion of the offense in a couple games. But that's not a long term issue.
Hoke has dumped game-changer after game-changer on us since his hire to the point where the internet is making memes like this…
Ben Gedeon's visiting, you say?
…if we're feeling for a ceiling it's a bit hard to find right now. One will probably come, but there's no reason to go looking for it just yet.
*[I know FEI put up some weird results this year what with Navy and Miami in the top ten as well but it at least tries to account for strength of schedule and pace of play; FWIW, Stanford was 8th in total yardage, Wisconsin 14th, USC 21st, 'Bama 31st.
Also, as long as you're down here, how about Paul Chryst? I predict Wisconsin has a noticeable dropoff in his absence.]
WARNING: Christmas is approaching. You may already know this.
Since no one's going to be on the site anyway, this is an opportunity for the blog to take a little time off. The blog will be mostly dark from Thursday, the 22nd, to Thursday, the 29th. That means I'm not writing anything. I'll pop on enough to bump any diary that seems interesting enough, and it's possible some of the regular contributors might post something.
I wouldn't count on it. It's just that I don't run their lives and they might feel compelled to post something about, say, Eastern Michigan's season. I know that would be weird. This place is weird.
If something major breaks we'll cover it, but nothing major ever breaks over Christmas.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's contributed to the site over the year, especially those who do so out of the goodness of their heart and a craving for e-attention. Every football season I'm astounded at the quality of the user-generated content around these parts.
Six Zero, Boyz n da Pahokee, Maize_in_spartyland, Enjoy Life, Blue Seoul, AceUofMer, patstansik, Yesman2221, Eye of the Tiger, Ghost Of Bo, CRex, mfan_in_ohio, MaizeAndBlueWahoo, Lordfoul, ST3, mgoweather, LanyardProgram, chunkums, Chris of Dangerous Logic, that guy I photobombed who posted it on the message board, the hundreds of people I've undoubtedly forgotten in the diaries and the board, and even THE_KNOWLEDGE: thank you for helping this new media spectacularrr rumble along.
And most of all the moderators. Thank you, moderators. Without you, this place would be a desiccated horrorscape.
Anyway, content tomorrow and then the break. Merry holiday of choice.
In a world where CJ Barnett is a better safety than Jordan Kovacs, a 10-2 Michigan team must be coached up the wazoo, to the hilt, and beyond. Lo, it is so.
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday (Nov. 30) that University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke was chosen as the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, as selected by conference coaches, and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year, as picked by the media.Hoke is the sixth first-year coach to earn the McClain Coach of the Year award, which dates back to 1972 and is named for the former Wisconsin coach. This is the inaugural awarding of the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year honor, which pays tribute to Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler.
This will be the only time in the history of the award someone from Michigan or Ohio State actually wins it. This is Hoke's third COTY award in four years. Neat trick, that.
In a distant place a long time ago they played a football game in a dark and remote land. The opposing team's coach was a confused person who thought he had a pretty good team. Michigan scored a couple touchdowns but couldn't put the game away; at some point during the second half the confused coach's confused offense finally put together a touchdown drive to narrow the game, and I felt… irritated. Annoyed. Peeved.
This was a strange feeling to have about a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already, because every damn game Michigan lost against teams not named Ohio State could be described as "a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already." Despite this I was not casting about for pearls to clutch or pre-perforating my garments for easy rending when the time came. I was worried about the stats. This was odd.
Then: near interception, four-yard out, incomplete, incomplete, ballgame. Instead of a roar there was but a flat, damp squeak as Michigan landed the final clubbing blows and emerged from the lion's den with a rug in tow. There are no arguments about this game. No two seconds, no questionable heels or holding calls or other fantasies about if this or that. There is no "if". Michigan has still not been threatened this year. No opponent has moved the ball except when fortunate or permitted to. Its dominance is unquestioned by the foes it leaves battered in its wake. Sometimes -- and I know this is hard to believe -- seven points is a very large lead indeed.
Yeah, that game.
Of all the magical things that Greg Mattison has done since arriving in Ann Arbor for a second tour of duty, making me think about the 2006 Michigan defense a year after… that is hard to top.
2006 happened a century ago. I looked it up. The top songs were "I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad)" and "Down By The Old Mill Stream." Long-distance communication was conducted by banging rocks together and hoping to startle a pigeon in a way that communicated "happy birthday" instead of "everyone is dead of typhoid again lol." Football games were played between competing sawmills and textile factories; a strict limit of two cattle per offensive line was still controversial. People in Alabama were accused of over-bovining. Craggy men who remembered the invention of writing like Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel, and Lloyd Carr roamed the sidelines. People did not reflexively talk about real good times.
2006 was a long time ago. The ten-volume history of the intervening century is a narrative of relentless, soul-crushing decline on defense.
This summer the UM Club of Greater Detroit invited me to their kickoff dinner. There I sat on a roundtable with Greg Dooley of MVictors and Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News as various guys with nametags peppered us with questions.
These things always have a pattern: I start out nervous because I'm just this guy, really, and there's a chance someone asks "why should we listen to you?" Since my response is necessarily "I have this blog… it's on the internet!" it's not a question I look forward to. These concerns are a little more pressing when the room is full of people who look like they still get newspapers home-delivered.
But the questions remain hypothetical because I start talking about these things and it turns out that doing what I do on a weekly basis fills your head with esoteric knowledge about all things. Denard Robinson was 84th of 100 qualifying quarterbacks last year in interception percentage. That sort of thing is just in my head, ready to be dispensed. After my head pops open and I start depositing THE KNOWLEDGE like the world's least appetizing Pez dispenser, there is a groove of confidence.
I mention it because there was one question from an elderly gentleman with a pleading edge I still remember. It was about the defense and why anyone would think it would get better. I was already on the record that this was an eight or nine win team; Dooley and Chengelis were pessimists. They cocked their heads and passed the mic.
I said that if you had only watched every play from the last three years over and over you would know. You would not know but feel the mass incoherence, the week-to-week changes, the insane personnel decisions (Demens, Roh as a LB, moving Woolfolk to corner in 2009, Cam Gordon as FS). That if you felt this thing having a guy the Ravens had coordinating their defense could only result in instant, massive improvement. At the very least they would have a plan*.
Though I believed it, as I was saying it it seemed like a reckless thing to tell people. If…that, or anything like it, happens again people will remember someone told them it was going to be all right, and then it wasn't. I hoped I wasn't telling them about the rabbits.
This was the point last year where everyone wrote off JT Floyd. It was the logical thing to do.
Twelve months later Floyd is holding AJ Jenkins to five yards a target and jumping a short route for a shoulda-been pick six for the first time since… God. A century ago. Time is working funny again. Greg Mattison has a phonebooth time machine he sent the secondary back to Charles Woodson's childhood in; they have emerged with ZZ Top beards, children, and skills.
This is a foundation for the future. Wrapping this motley crew of walk-ons, freshmen, people who were totally incompetent last year, Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen into a top 20 defense is a QED achievement no matter the quality of the opposition. The level of coaching required to go from that to this is a constant Michigan can build its program on.
Last year the quality of the opposition didn't matter. Matt McGloin had the above to throw at, and he did. This year Michigan has been average at worst after Mattison figured out he didn't have Ed Reed. Some days they stroll off the field and if you squint you can just convince yourself the last century never happened. You can envision a future where Michigan isn't wondering about its place in the world.
*[Then I told everybody that Denard Robinson's turnover rate would drop like a stone. One out of two isn't bad. ]
There's also the Illinois POV. In their world Illinois wins 14-0 in a thrilling game lasting exactly 1:30. Parkinggod highlights miss the first drive thanks to ESPN sticking with the PSU press conference, but prove that Michigan's everything-is-wonderful POV still goes ten minutes.
Borgeswatch. 95% thumbs up. As it transpired I was frustrated with the lack of play-action after Illinois started selling out on the run game, but I forgot about the wind. I much prefer that to being reminded about it every 40 seconds like we were against Michigan State. I wonder if Scheehaase's propensity to wing it wide on Jenkins out cuts was due to the wind. While he's not the most accurate guy in the world he seemed particularly off Saturday.
It may have taken two harsh wakeup calls but at least Borges got the message. Run/pass breakdowns in the three windtastic road games against teams with secondaries:
MSU: 39 passes, 28 runs
Iowa: 21 passes, 28 runs*
Illinois: 16 passes, 47 runs
The Gardner package also went away after its momentum-killing outing last week.
A large chunk of getting that play distribution was getting the running game to work. I don't know all of how or why that happened yet, but giving Toussaint the ball 27 times instead of two is part of it; using enough outside runs to get creases on the inside zone is part of it; making Denard a threat is part of it.
While Denard only managed 3.5 YPC on his 11 attempts it's hard to imagine what turned the #15 rush defense** into Swiss cheese if it wasn't Illinois paying too much attention to 16. This was clear on the first drive of the game. Watch the free safety who would be tackling Toussaint after ten yards but for one Denard Robinson:
By the time that dude realizes Denard does not have the ball Toussaint is gone. A similar screwup does not happen if Michigan is operating from under center.
Since I'm usually at games I'm not often able to participate in the internet zeitgeist to the extent I was the past couple weeks. Last week I was in line with everyone being real mad. This week I was surprised by the amount of heat Borges was taking for stuff that wasn't his fault at all. When Denard fumbles and Michigan misses a field goal or Huyge gets destroyed by Mercilus and Denard doesn't see the guy coming right at him, that's not on the OC. The reasons Michigan didn't score touchdowns in this game seemed to be out of Borges's hands.
*[Not counting the final three drives. I did move the two sacks, the fumble, and one Gardner scramble. I made similar adjustment to the other two games; they may be off by one or two but you get the idea.]
**[15-ish. Illinois's sacks distort that. Still a very good unit.]
Fourth and one. The 5% thumbs down, very down, was the fourth and one from the Illinois one yard line. If you're not willing to throw it when you spread them out and they don't spread out…
…I don't think you can do the wacky thing. Those guys to the top of the screen are late arriving and have no idea what they're doing. If you're going to swinging-gate them like this you've got to be able to take advantage of what they give you.
That fourth and one continues a couple trends: speed option and Borges getting cute. I wouldn't have minded it if they had lined up in one of those massive Tebow sets and tried something like this, but going without so much as a tight end in this spot is asking for trouble. The snap didn't help but I don't think it mattered much.
The immediate aftermath. Hoke calmly pointed his defense onto the field:
You are experiencing an unusually calm sensation. Which reminds me:
EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm terribly sorry that I inaugurated this thing and then immediately forgot about it. It returns this week because of one man being so ridiculous I thought I should have some sort of special award… oh wait I do.
Your Illinois winner: JT Floyd. AJ Jenkins may have gotten his requisite eight catches for 100 yards but Scheelhaase had to work for it. At one point they showed some Jenkins stats and noted that he had five catches… and fourteen targets. According to Adam Jacobi he ended with eight on 20. That's 5 YPA throwing to a guy who may be the best WR in the Big Ten.
Even that undersells Floyd's day. The deep ball that took Jenkins's stats from mediocre to decent was zone coverage in the middle of the field Floyd was not directly responsible for (and it came after Scheelhaase was given all day). When involved Floyd was all over double moves and jumped a third and short pass for the interception that sealed the game with a little help from Gardner and Odoms.
Even Magnus thought he was "okay for once." WHAT MORE CAN ONE MAN DO?
Honorable mentions go to Al Borges (for his gameplan and getting in on the pointing his ownself), David Molk, and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
RETROACTIVE EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINTS.
Michigan State: Ryan Van Bergen, for being the only person to have a good day. HM: None.
Purdue: Fitzgerald Toussaint, for making the tailback spot a plus for the first time in forever. HM: Mike Martin.
Iowa: Mike Martin, for being GET IN THE CAR Mike Martin. HM: David Molk.
EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.
2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).
Weekly bubble bitchin'. Only Ron Zook could send his team out with two deep safeties and three guys tight over WRs against a team that hasn't run a bubble all year:
That's nuts. That's one reason you have that play in the playbook. If they take it away by alignment they've opened something else up. Usually not by putting five guys in the box—that's a Zook special.
What I really meant by posting "We Are ND" after Hoke hiring. I meant that we'd ride a soft schedule to an iffy BCS berth and get our faces crushed. If Michigan wins out—obviously a big if—that could happen. A 10-2 Michigan team will be second in the Big Ten pecking order since everyone other than the champ will have three losses.
Michigan will then be in competition with…
Boise/Houston. Houston's 11th in the BCS standings and will get an autobid if they remain in the top 12. Boise's actually a spot in front of the Cougars still. One or the other will get a bid. All they have to do is finish in the top 16 since the Big East winner is going to be below them.
Alabama/LSU/Arkansas. The SEC will get a second bid.
Stanford/Oregon. If those two win out Stanford will probably get a bid.
ACC runner-up: a two-loss Clemson or Virginia Tech.
Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Michigan's a lock to beat out a team coming off an ACC championship loss, but one-loss versions of Stanford or Oklahoma State would be tough—Jerry Palm has an all-at-large matchup of those two teams right now. If OU loses Bedlam that would also be tight.
Not making it would be just as well. I'd be happy playing Georgia in one of the infinite Big Ten/SEC matchups. I like nine wins and I cannot lie.
Special teams: actually a positive. FEI's not the only advanced stat rankings system purveyed by Football Outsiders; there's also one called F+. Last week F+ integrated special teams data for the first time; Michigan dropped from 17th to 25th. The special teams… eh… not so good.
This week they were. Matt Wile put five kickoffs in the endzone, Jeremy Gallon averaged 15 yards on four actual punt returns, and the missed field goal was off by about a foot. The only downer is Will Hagerup's persistent mediocrity. He averaged under 35 yards a kick and Michigan is now 112th in net punting. Even if you exclude all the coffin corner stuff from the MSU game he's averaging just 37.7 yards a kick. Wile was doing significantly better during Hagerup's suspension.
Unfortunately, it's likely Gallon's momentary renaissance and the Wile bombing are effects of the opponent and the wind. Illinois's punting is also in the triple digits.
Derp du jour. Seeing some revival of the "we can't run Denard because he won't last through the season" meme, which… like… guh. He's missed a series last week and the last quarter and a half this week because he banged his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet. Twice. The first time he was back in after a series. The second time he could have come back in if necessary. Cancel the spread offense.
Denard's lasted through the bulk of the Big Ten season and with Nebraska and Ohio State left on the schedule, restricting his carries in case he gets hurt is nuts. What are you saving him for?
BONUS: Devin Gardner did two things and Michigan's offense went from racking up yards (and shooting itself in the foot) to not doing the former (and getting short fields). There is no QB controversy. If Michigan makes a 39 yard field goal and Borges doesn't get too cute on the goal line it's 24-0 at halftime and we aren't having this conversation.
Mike Martin lead us with 9 tackles. That’s right, an interior defensive lineman lead us with NINE tackles. I’m going to miss that guy. He also got half a sack and 2 QHs. Roh also had 2 QHs. We were QH’ing Scheelhaase all game long.
That's three straight games he's crushed the opponent. Moving towards what we all thought he'd be this year. Too bad it will be tough to crack the All Big Ten team with Short, Still, and Worthy also tearing up offensive lines.
Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known. It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks. Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010. Their record following these bye weeks? 0-6:
2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24
2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36
2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23
2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!) 31-14
That is epic fail. Ron Zook should be fired.
Bye weeks aren't actually helpful, but come on.
CollegeFootball13 throws together some stats; he's too generous to the special teams (C+) but just look at that shiny justified A- next to the defense. Commenter Vasav brings up the year-to-year FEI:
2010:: Total: 8, Scoring: 25, FEI: 2
2011:: Total: 40, Scoring: 37, FEI: 17
Our youthful inexperience has been replaced by transitional inexperience - so we still are inconsistent and turnover-ridden.
The FEI is most indicative I think - we went from an O with the potential to be great (if we had any kind of ST and D) to one that is just very good. I think after Borges was hired, this is sort of where we expected to be offensively - a step back, but not disastrously.
2010:: Total: 110, Scoring: 107, FEI: 108
2011:: Total: 16, Scoring: 5, FEI: 17
Mattison == Awesome. Last year, I said that I thought our D played worse than the personnel. Nevertheless, even if they were being outcoached by say, twenty teams in FEI, and the extra year of experience is good for another twenty teams - Mattison still improved the baseline by about 50 ranks. The defense is now as good as the offense.
Keep in mind that FEI adjusts for schedule strength so a realistic benchmark for an average BCS offense is not 60th. I just chopped out all the non-BCS teams and an average offense is 48th. That's actually lower than I would have guessed. Unfortunately for Michigan, their lack of success has been highly concentrated.
So there's two twenty-four left. We just got the ball back down… what is it… 31-14? And I… I really have… I'm like "oh, what's my emotion? What am I going to record?"
Uhhhhm… dead inside? That doesn't sound right. But it's kind of a… I don't know. I guess the only way to describe it is—oh, and a sack.
I recommend the whole thing not necessarily for the schadenfreude (of which there is plenty) but because it's reassuring that we're not jaded. You may think you're jaded after the last century, but you have no idea. I mean: "I'm just normal right now."
"Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle."
I think we can all agree that yesterday's game was a classic example of "left wanting". Though Michigan had a two score lead, on the road, against a team that considers Michigan its arch-rival*, it still felt like all of the missed red zone opportunities were going to come back to haunt Michigan, because we're taught that when you don't put the boot on the throat, it will cost you. Except, it didn't.
Refs. They obviously made a decision to only call holding if the offensive lineman actually removed the jersey of rusher. And on the play where Avery picked up the ball and scored the touchdown, they made three bad mistakes on a single play. The unholy trinity: 1. It wasn’t a fumble in the first place, that’s somewhat forgivable. 2. If it was a fumble, Avery was clearly on the ground (and thus down) when he picked it up, but they gave him a touchdown. 3. They didn’t adjust the clock after the play was reversed, should have been 19 or 20 seconds left instead of 14.
Hoke even complained about #3 and got nowhere. That is almost inevitably a call the refs give coaches.
My first impression was one of doom and gloom, but, the more I think about it, maybe it's not so bad. Michigan put up 31 against a formidable defense, more than any other Illinois opponent save Northwestern (qualifier: yeah, those are some bad offenses on their schedule, but it's all relative at this point). This is of course not even mentioning the inopportune turnovers and the Illini's general inability to move the ball, additional reasons to not feel so bad about things. Obviously you can't just take turnovers out, but Michigan could have very easily scored in the 40s, on the road, against a pretty good defense.
There was a lot of the doom and gloom on the internets, which I don't get. Michigan failed to put up 24 in the first half on the #6 defense in the country by shooting itself in the foot. While that's frustrating, it is so much worse to have a performance like Iowa where the offense is neither scoring nor moving the ball. Sometimes bad things happen. Michigan outperformed Illinois's yardage average by 80 despite playing in adverse conditions.
Mattison is installing this defense a lot like Rodriguez or Borges installed their offense. Week by week, Mattison introduces a new formation or coverage scheme to the defense--usually only one. Early in the season, it was a basic stuntmove intended to overwhelm one side of the offensive line. Against MSU, he debuted an A-gap zone blitz. Purdue: nickel blitz. Iowa: crowding the line of scrimmage. Michigan's base defense is a 4-3 under, man-coverage look that Mattison can slowly and effectively build upon. While he doesn't go back to the cookie jar in later weeks, the hope (and my expectation) is that when Michigan plays Ohio State, they'll have an arsenal of blitzing plays that can be deployed in unison, creating a defense that is as unpredictable and consistently effective as the constantly tweaked offense under Rodriguez.
Senior defensive lineman Mike Martin led the team with nine tackles. Linebackers Desmond Morgan and Kenny Demens had eight and seven tackles, respectively, and senior Ryan Van Bergen had 2.5 sacks.
Safety Jordan Kovacs forced a fumble, and Thomas Gordon made the recovery, his fourth of the season, and cornerback J.T. Floyd made a pivotal interception in the fourth quarter on a third-down play at the Michigan 40-yard line. He returned it 43 yards and Michigan converted into a touchdown to make it, 24-7.
That is many contributions. Kovacs's in particular was a MAKE PLAYS moment, putting his head on the ball after Michigan had found its line creased and forcing a turnover. That fumble was forced in a way that some of the previous ones haven't been.
“That was a Michigan defense,” Mattison said like a proud father figure, admitting it for the first time all season. “They played as hard as they could, they did whatever they had to do. Without a doubt, that was a Michigan defense.”
The Michigan football team had just won the game on defense, holding Illinois to 30 yards, including minus-14 first-half rushing yards, before ultimately allowing 14 points and just 214 yards of offense en route to a 31-14 victory on the road.
“They’re Michigan Men,” said an emotional Mattison. “We talk about it all the time, that there’s a standard at Michigan and you’ve got to live up to that, and you're judged by it. We haven’t come to that final point where you win the game on defense, and we said, ‘This is your last away trip to do it.’ I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys.”