Unverified Voracity Isn't Perfectly Accurate, Surprise

Unverified Voracity Isn't Perfectly Accurate, Surprise

Submitted by Brian on February 7th, 2014 at 12:36 PM

13_PennSt_InauguralSeason-Final[1]

Penn State on the docket. Michigan goes to Happy Valley for their first-ever games against the nascent Nittany Lion program. As you might expect, Penn State is not particularly good. They're 4-17-1 on the season, 0-8 in the league, and have been outscored 35-13 in those eight games.

They've had some close outings, including one-goal losses to Minnesota and Boston College in January; they're still real bad. Not a huge surprise when they have zero seniors. Goaltending is a major issue, with both platoon-mates under .900; leading scorer Eric Scheid has a 10-5-15 line.

Michigan needs to sweep this series if they're going to maintain any hopes of winning the league. That door opened up a bit yesterday when Wisconsin beat Minnesota 2-1. Michigan can draw within six, or even three, points if they keep the Nittany Lions on the mat.

Hyman making a move. I'd pumped him up a bit earlier this year, but the points did not follow. Nowadays, though, Zach Hyman's centering a line that can be reasonably described as "his" and they are performing:

With Hyman centering the third line between freshman Tyler Motte and senior Luke Moffatt, the performance of all three players has quickly escalated. Hyman and his linemates combined for four goals in two games against Wisconsin last weekend and supplied high energy in the offensive zone.

Hyman scored one of those goals, a Kaleniecki special where he blasted in a rebound from the edge of the crease. He's been near-impossible to bump off the puck on the cycle all year and hopefully now he can maintain some scoring production over the rest of the season.

Firing, firing, firing. Via Five Key Plays, Zak Irvin making it rain:

Scouting Stauskas. NBA scouts, this video starts at 8:35. Before that it's just Golden Girls reruns.

It's time to eat (a low-carb diet high in protein). Derrick Green seems to have acquired the message about being smaller and nimbler, and is tweeting out pictures of how much he weighs.

May he reach 220 by spring and leave corpses in his wake in fall. But fun corpses!

Obligatory signing day articles. Did you know that not every highly-ranked recruit works out? Well, they don't. Also, sometimes low-ranked guys do. Now prepare for the parade of quotes from players and coaches saying they don't care about rankings. Are you prepared?

“I don’t put much stock in (the star-rating system),” Hoke said.

“I think it’s a joke,” Mueller said. “I believe there’s some talented guys, and it’s obvious to point out who the elite college football players are coming out of high school, but there are a lot of guys who get overlooked.

“I do not think it really does anything for any of the college coaches — the star system at least. The kids themselves and parents, it’s more of a headache."

Sorry. You cannot be prepared for that much quote. Anyway, annual article from newspaper about how recruiting rankings are not right every single time is matched by Matt Hinton's annual article in which he comes up with a new way to show that, yes, recruiting rankings are generally predictive.

It's a landslide. On the final count, the higher-ranked team according to the recruiting rankings won roughly two-thirds of the time, and every "class" as a whole had a winning record against every class ranked below it every single year. (The only exception came last year, when "three-star" teams came up short in head-to-head meetings with "one-star" teams. Otherwise, the hierarchy held across every line.) The gap on the field also widened with the gap in the recruiting scores: While "one-star" recruiting teams fared slightly better against blue-chip opponents than "two-star" teams, both groups combined managed a grand total of 19 wins over "five-star" opponents in 112 tries. Broadly speaking, the final results on the field broke along a straight line demarcated on signing day.

There are outliers, of course. Michigan is likely one in a bad direction, but Hinton only picked out those who are outperforming. They include most recent opponent Kansas State, which takes so many JUCOs they are near-impossible to rank reasonably, and Michigan State. Which sigh.

If you were really in charge you wouldn't have to keep saying you're in charge. This is, in fact, an article from this week:

Brady Hoke: I'm running Michigan football program, not Dave Brandon

This is from the press-conference-type substance. Speaking of that…

Usual PR debacles. The odd "press conference" that blew up into a bunch of finger-wagging once the Daily complained about not being there was less a press conference and more five requested one-on-one interviews crammed into a brief, mutual window:

“We did not hold a press conference (Monday),” Ablauf said Tuesday. “Five reporters requested to meet with Brady to discuss football topics, so we arranged this meeting about three weeks ago and set the meeting day and time over a week ago (prior to publication of the Daily story about Gibbons).”

But when five different reporters start tweeting out things Brady Hoke is saying, it looks like a press conference. And when you release the statement about the Gibbons thing that stands as the only thing you're going to say about that topic to five hand-picked reporters, that looks horrible.

Michigan actually did something about a sexual assault on campus that they didn't have to do—unlike, say, Florida State. That they managed to come out of that looking like they do is miraculously bad PR.

Unfortunately, it's not a surprise. This space has been sarcastically declaring "it's almost like the athletic department didn't think things through" jabs for the past year as one bad idea after another was rolled out and quickly rolled back. This is the culmination of the tiny debacles with noodles and seat cushions and the band going to Dallas and not preparing Mary Sue Coleman to speak in a situation with feedback. The same shitty attitude towards everyone outside of the Circle Of Trust from the past few years finally got applied to something important, and now Dave and company are receiving their just desserts.

Hopefully they'll learn something this time.

Uh-huh. The annual Detroit News Blue Chip list generally comes with at least one salty remark about Michigan or MSU, and this year's winner is MSU commit Nick Padla on Michigan:

They talked about tradition (but) I was thinking about the future.

The previous sentence also might have something to do with it:

They were recruiting me my 10th grade then kind of stopped.

Etc.: Enormous piles of NBA data could lead to a holy grail stat to end all stats, but it'll take supercomputers to produce it. Stat updates on Michigan's hockey recruits. Everything you ever wanted to know about Derrick Walton's efficiency leap.

Unverified Voracity Braces For Departure

Unverified Voracity Braces For Departure

Submitted by Brian on January 21st, 2014 at 12:54 PM

amf.WRS_.vsminnesota.1.19.14.1745AA_1[1]

ROAR [Allison Farrand/Daily]

SHERMAN'D. Congrats to Michigan wrestling, which took down #2 Minnesota over the weekend thanks to a dramatic OT win by heavyweight Adam Coon over Minnesota's two-time defending national champion Tony Nelson. Well done, sirs.

Meanwhile, Dave Brandon captured the most important part of the meet:

Kudos to you sir on your triumphant victory.

Well… that sounds not ideal. Michigan's been extraordinarily fortunate to have their supposedly-middling recruits blow up into NBA first-rounders (yes even if we assume that John Beilein is a crazy talent evaluation ninja), but also kind of sort of unfortunate that their super good players have been of the variety the NBA covets instead of terrific college players the pros are indifferent to, like McDermott/Payne/Craft/Berggren etc.

You thought Nik Stauskas might be one of those four year awesome guys, but… uh… you've probably seen him play of late. And unless Joe Dumars clones himself and gets himself appointed to every other NBA GM job, chances are the NBA will think he's pretty good. If they do, don't expect Stauskas to pull the McGary. From a recent SI profile on the most swag Canadian:

“He sees the brass ring, like three inches away from his nose,” [father] Paul Stauskas said. “He knows all he has to do is keep his nose to the grindstone for another couple of months, and there’s a really good possibility he might be able to go pro. He’s working really hard to achieve that.”

Can't begrudge the kid, obviously, but a Stauskas departure would leave Michigan a bit thin next year on the wings. Also they would not have Hypothetical Junior Nik Stauskas, which…

homer-drooling[1]

The ideal is that the Uber-Loaded 2014 NBA Draft™ convinces Stauskas to return for one more year. I would brace for departure impact if Stauskas keeps doing what he's doing, though.

GRANDPA ASSASSIN. John Beilein's version of the Richard Sherman promo in the aftermath of the Wisconsin win:

"I don't care," the Michigan coach said Monday night, later adding, "It will be a good win if we have a great season." …

"Things that happen during the year, yeah, they’re cool and our guys like them. But where people are rated right now is such a projection. You can beat a team (that is) No. 1 in the country and by the end of the year, they might not even be in the top 25. So did you really beat the No. 1 team in the country?

"Here’s what it is: Any road win, I don’t care if we go to Concordia to play, is a quality, quality win. And (Wisconsin) was a quality win."

A requirement given Michigan's next two games. Me, I'm refreshing Kenpom every five minutes.

Tim Miles is okay by me. Nebraska picked up its first Big Ten win of the season last night, beating Ohio State at home. In the aftermath, Husker coach Tim Miles told BTN  that he should probably go jump around during his post-game interview, and then took a selfie with a fan on the court.

BeemQz8CQAAXU0a[1]BeejAVcIMAANeg7[1]

Miles also has an entertaining-for-a-coach, actually-him twitter account and a Beilien-esque track record of success at smaller schools that led him to Nebraska. Viva Tim Miles. Viva Nebrasketball.

Lohan come back. Injured Michigan defenseman Kevin Lohan is badly needed with the Wolverines leaking goals and slipping in the pairwise. He should be back soon:

Right now, Lohan says he’s at about 90 percent — while the recovery process has been long and arduous, he’s progressing well ahead of schedule. On Nov. 5, Berenson said the injury was a “worst-case scenario” and that it would take at least three months until the defenseman had a chance to play again.

“He’s doing really well,” Berenson said. “He’s pretty close to going all-out.”

He won't play this weekend's series against MSU; the next week or the week after are targets for a return. Mike Spath reports that when he does come back, only Bennett, Downing, and Sinelli(!) are safe. This says much about the development, or lack thereof, from Clare and Serville.

Wisconsin takes. They come from the Daily, UMHoops, Maize and Brew, and MLive. Meanwhile, Fran McCaffery lays it on a teeny bit thick in the lead up to Wednesday's showdown with Iowa:

“If you look at John over the years, he’s one of the best coaches of our generation,” said McCaffery, who will bring Iowa to the Crisler Center on Wednesday. “And the numbers bear that out. He’s going to stick with his style of play. They play a certain way. They can beat you in halfcourt, they can beat you in transition, they’re going to guard you.

"His offense is really sound, it’s not easy to guard and he’s going to plug the people into those positions and he’s going to go to those guys."

Meanwhile, Beilein provided an informative update on what's going on with redshirting Mark Donnal:

"He’s increased his strength a great deal. He’s probably like Horford or Morgan as far as a rebounder. Great hands. But he’s so much stronger than he was. He’s country strong anyhow, I mean he’s strong. He’s gaining weight. The one thing he has, which I’m looking forward to coaching, is he can really shoot the ball. He can really pass the ball. When you have big men who can do that, it can really open up your offense. But this was absolutely the right decision, because in all the other things freshmen go through — learning the offense but most importantly, defense — he needed this year to develop.”

Donnal will be Beilein's first post-type substance at Michigan who might resemble Kevin Pittsnogle in any way whatsoever. Will be interesting to see how that works with Michigan's current style of offense, which I assume isn't going away even if Stauskas exits since LeVert and Walton can pick up the pick and roll burden without issue.

Etc: Stauskas on the Journey. Wyatt Shallman shaved his head to look more like a kid at Mott. Michigan much better at offense, worse at defense without McGary, correlation is not causation. Michigan continues to dominate the USA's ice dancing program. Looking at Iowa's success.

Michigan To Play Florida In 2017, In Dallas

Michigan To Play Florida In 2017, In Dallas

Submitted by Brian on December 19th, 2013 at 10:27 AM

jerry-jones-cowboys[1]

Just about all of the luster has gone out of the idea of playing a football game in Dallas after Michigan got pounded by Alabama to not make any money, to the point where actually getting the band there required Dave Brandon to squeeze half of the cost of that out of donors.

So guess what, guys!

I'd say this further proves that Dave Brandon charged his family for Thanksgiving dinner, but like playing a canned version of the Victors against the #1 basketball team in the country, money isn't actually a good explanation. These games are kind of inexplicable when OSU and MSU are locking down quality home and homes.

This leaves… I don't actually know. With dynamic pricing shoving marquee prices into the stratosphere and Michigan charging extra for premium opponents, a home and home is at least a financial push compared to these one-off neutral site games, and then you have a nice thing to show your season ticket holders instead of a six-game home schedule featuring Cincinnati and Air Force as your nonconference draws. If Florida won't agree to it, maybe someone else would.

The only thing I've got is that this gives Dave Brandon a chance to hang around his idol some more.

FWIW, this completes the unerring accuracy of that list the BTN leaked a few months ago.

Unverified Voracity Sends Everyone Everywhere

Unverified Voracity Sends Everyone Everywhere

Submitted by Brian on December 13th, 2013 at 12:39 PM

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Alex Kile's pointless game winner [Bill Rapai]

And it was the most pointless of all events. Michigan got a 2-2 tie out of a tightly contested game against a quite good Ferris State outfit on Wednesday, and fans were treated to a shootout at the end. The shootout decided nothing and meant nothing and took about 85 shooters to complete, but it was superficially fun all the same. Wow experience.

Anyway, Michigan staged an epic comeback in the shot department after a first period that Ferris dominated there and on the ice. M went from 14-4 down to 22-22 after two and went toe-to-toe; in the third they were held without a shot for a long time mostly because they kept tipping the puck two inches wide of the post, agonizingly. Ferris's tying goal came on a screened shot where it looked like Nagelvoort was unaware of who even had the puck and was badly positioned; other than that he was pretty damn good.

Michigan needs Kevin Lohan back, and soon, so they can sit Clare. Clare saw a potential two-on-one developing at center ice and decided to charge it, for the rare center-ice pinch. Upside: Clare gets the puck just outside of the blue line with three M skaters in the offensive zone. Downside: two on one featuring Sinelli as the last guy. Completely insane decision, one of many.

Other than that, a damn good game between two good teams without a lot of offensive wizards on their roster.

GO AWAY. EVERYBODY GO AWAY. Pat Narduzzi turns down the UConn job, which makes perfect sense. Bob Diaco then takes it, which doesn't but does mean Notre Dame has lost both its coordinators this offseason. Offense hardly matters since that's Brian Kelly's show; Diaco's departure might put some wobble in a unit that's been pretty good ever since he figured out how to defend Navy.

ND players certainly freaked out about it. Stephon Tuitt in a since-deleted tweet:

tuitttweet[1]

It is called that, Mr. Tuitt, and my suggestion to you is to do the same.

As for Narduzzi, he seems to be holding out for a job that is not an AAC death trap. This is probably the right idea. Unfortunately for Michigan fans hoping for some shakeup in the MSU program, with all the heads on the table save Mack Brown it doesn't look like there's going to be an opening of appropriate attractiveness this offseason unless someone gets poached by the NFL late. I'll pencil him in as Illinois's coach starting next year.

Coaching trees. Diaco is the third Brian Kelly assistant to get a head job (Charlie Molnar is at UMass and Chuck Martin was just hired at Miami). Current head coaches from Carr/Hoke era assistants after Ron English (understandably) lost his mind at EMU:

  • Brady Hoke, Michigan
  • This is not a tree.
  • You need branches for that.
  • It's a coaching line.

With Mattison and Borges not candidates for head jobs due to a variety of factors, that's not going to change. Hell, the only Michigan guy under 50 to have reached a coordinator spot is Scot Loeffler, who may not be long for that role after one-year stints at Temple and Florida were followed by a miserable opening year at Virginia Tech.

That's alarming. Compare Carr's coaching tree to Bo's… actually don't even bother doing that, compare it to Gary Moeller. It's not good that the only major school still willing to hire Michigan coaches is Michigan.

YES GO AWAY. Braxton Miller's looking at the NFL:

“It’s tough,” Miller told the Tribune. “I just don't know. I’ve really got to sit down and go through the pros and cons. I’ll talk to my parents, take it slow.
"Hopefully ball out on January 3rd and see what the scouts are looking at.”

The NFL is looking at Braxton Miller and seeing a guy who's nowhere near an NFL quarterback right now, so this probably won't come to anything. But it should. Go away!

I like big Butt. Sorry. Inevitable that was going to happen at some point. It couldn't be helped, really. Here's why it happened:

Butt entered his first year at Michigan as a scrawny, 6-foot-6, 209-pound prospect with potential.

He'll leave it some 37 pounds heavier, at 6-foot-6, 246-pounder with 11 percent body fat and an appetite for much, much more.

"(The coaching staff) wants me at 255, but I think I can get to 260, I'm a skinny 246 right now," Butt said. "I can put on more."

That is a crazy amount of weight in one year. Contrast that to Devin Funchess, who was listed at 235 as both a freshman and sophomore. While that lack of weight gain was mostly due to the roster lying its ass off about Funchess as a freshman, hey look one of those guys is a tight end and the other one is a wide receiver who occasionally puts his hand down.

If Butt can get to 260 by next fall, Michigan could have an actual dual threat tight end. This would make everyone happy: Borges would have a guy who's an actual matchup issue and I wouldn't have to watch Borges put tight ends on the field over guys like Dileo when that makes no sense at all.

Come on baby.

You wouldn't even recognize my blocking (back in the spring compared to know), I didn't know which foot to step with or where to put my hands, it's night and day," Butt says. "I look at the film and wonder 'who is that kid?' The coaches here put a complete transformation on me."

They're going to play tight ends; hopefully they'll have one worth playing.

This used to happen all the time! Michigan's safety play was not great this year but got a lot worse once Michigan started futzing with their starters, inexplicably at first and then apparently injury-forced, and I still don't get why Michigan was so down on Thomas Gordon. Was he great? No. Did he do this?

For instance, below Michigan State packages mesh with a smash variation combining a corner and swing route. The goal is to put a man beater to the boundary and a hi-lo stretch to the field against a cover 2 corner.

Screen%20Shot%202013-12-10%20at%207.28.58%20PM[2]

At the snap, Cook reads cover 2, so he knows he is going to the wide side of the field, where he has the 2 on 1 against the squat corner. Cook knows that the corner must cover the swing to the wide side flat, and he can throw the flag pattern before the cover 2 safety can react.

So Michigan State has a good call against the Buckeye coverage. But a completion is one thing. Throwing gasoline on the fire, Corey Pitt Brown takes a horrible angle, coming under the throw and violating a cover 2 safety's primary rule, which is not get beat deep. Seventy-two yards later Michigan State was up 10-0.

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No. He was a boring person who did boring things like be a step late on well-thrown corner routes. This is pretty good in the grand scheme of things.

Given what we saw out of Avery and Furman when they were inserted it's clear no one was pushing through; messing with the safeties was a counterproductive move likely borne out of panic about the offense making the defensive coaches try anything that might improve the defense. By the OSU game their hand was forced by Wilson's injury, which is one of about ten things that may have cost Michigan that game.

Compare and contrast. Michigan State got inundated with Rose Bowl ticket requests to the point that they had a choice: cut out some low end folks or reduce available tickets for big ballers from 6 to 4 and medium ballers from 4 to 2. They went with the latter.

"At some point, you have to be true to the character of your institution, your history and fanbase. We're not elitist. We realize we have tremendous fan support and we know the sacrifices people make to be donors.

"The decision was made to be in line with the inclusive character of our university," Schager added. "The bottom line is Michigan State University wants to accommodate as many people as possible (for) this experience that everybody wants to be a part of."

As soon as Michigan got a good basketball team, they reseated Crisler such that people who had put in the time to watch ten years of dreck got booted upstairs if they weren't huge donors.

And there's not going to be a pep band on Saturday… for some reason. The pep band people are irritated, so it's not them, but it seems insane for even Dave Brandon to try to milk some 100 extra seats out of one regular season basketball game. That appears to be the case, though.

One of these athletic directors is making decisions based on building loyalty with his whole fanbase; the other is still running a company that markets cardboard as pizza.

Amir Williams! Oh man I feel your pain, Amir Williams.

Etc.: Bowls are popular. WH Frank Beckmann tribute.

Mailbag: More Sad Football Things, All Caps Sad Football Section

Mailbag: More Sad Football Things, All Caps Sad Football Section

Submitted by Brian on November 15th, 2013 at 11:59 AM

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Bryan Fuller

Hi Brian,

I don't pretend to know the intricacies of football but during the Nebraska game it seemed that Toussaint, in pass protection, would wait for his blocking assignment to come to him before engaging the player. Seeing as Toussaint is significantly smaller then the LB or lineman he's been assigned to block this usually resulted in Toussaint getting pushed backwards (physics and all). Is this how RBs are typically coached to play pass protection?

Thanks,
Jack C.

I mostly stay away from the how of any particular technique failing; more of a "what" guy since I didn't play the game, etc. But to me Toussaint's blocking issues stem from three problems:

  1. Michigan's line has to resort to slide protections that often expose him to a pass-rushing DE. This is a bad matchup for anyone.
  2. He's part of that need to resort to slide protections since his recognition isn't good; when he is tasked with identifying guys to pick up he often catches them. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart would find guys and then get some momentum before making contact.
  3. He hits guys too high sometimes, which makes it easy for them to shed him and attack. Smith and Hart got low, or in Smith's case existed in a perpetual state of low-ness.

3 is his problem, 2 is part his and part a holistic inability to pick up blitzes, and 1 is not his fault.

What's different about this year?

Greetings –

Regarding the offensive line, I saw some comments that intrigued me that intrigued me the other day and I’m curious your perspective.

Borges indicated that another variable in the mix this year is that it’s “the first year in the scheme we’ve wanted to move to.”  Based on your work therefore, do you conclude that:

1) There is a significant difference this year in scheme, protections, and what the offense is asking of the o’line?

2) That experienced lines would be impacted by such a scheme change?

3) That inexperienced players would unimpacted (i.e. just as inexperienced)?

4) That therefore the years experience/games experience would also be negatively impacted from a production standpoint.

So that in conclusion – there’s actually hope bc the ones that are young are young and the ones that are supposed to have experience have less experience than one would otherwise understand to be true.

And – that next year or the year after really will be better!

Keep up the good work.

-Andy

Unfortunately, I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence for that rationale.

Borges's comments make no sense. This year started out with Michigan running a bunch of stretch plays, which was a departure from what they'd done the first two years… and a staple of the Rodriguez offense. If that's what he meant, he could have just, you know, kept running the stretch.

Instead Michigan was almost exclusively an inside zone and power team their first two years here, and the differences between running those things from under center versus the shotgun are minimal. There has been a more concerted effort to run plays from under center, but that shift was even more pronounced late last year after Gardner took the helm of the offense.

If anything's changed this year from last year in terms of blocking it's that Denard isn't around to bail it out. Borges trying to use him to cover his ass by claiming he somehow couldn't run the schemes he wanted to be cause the guy running behind them was also the one taking the snap is a weak excuse that throws Denard (of all people!) under the bus.

[After THE JUMP: WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER]

Hokepoints Reviews Fourth and Long

Hokepoints Reviews Fourth and Long

Submitted by Seth on November 5th, 2013 at 10:59 AM

fourth-and-long

Previously in this space: The excerpt. Bacon Q&A with Brian and readers.

So there was a new Bacon book this year. We need to review this book. I'm going to do this with the expectation that you have either read it already or are going to. You should. It is a Bacon book. You are reading MGoBlog; either you are a person who appreciates Bacon or else a visiting Sparty looking for more trolling fodder, in which case help yourself to the board where I promise you there's plenty. Or better yet, read some Bacon—you're in the Big Ten; this concerns you too. And he says the Red Cedar is nice.9040891

This is not a negative review, even though I have a tendency to focus on the "needs work" aspects—I'm the guy who walked out of The Return of the King after five years of unmitigated Peter Jackson man-crushing and complained that there were too many endings. So apologies to John U., who's higher in my esteem than Mr. Jackson and just about everyone whose quotes aren't emblazoned on a wall somewhere, for the plurality of minuses below.

The book is available wherever they sell books these days. Amazon links: Kindle, Hardcover. I bought it on Kindle.

More Bacon. Ever since Bo's Lasting Lessons, the chance to devour a new Bacon book has been somewhat of an event around these parts. As a Michigan fan it would be tough to follow the unparalleled access and insight into the Rich Rod program accomplished with Three and Out, specifically because that unvarnished snapshot was so starkly antithetical to Dave Brandon's meticulous staging of his Michigan show: You knew at the time that no true journalist would be allowed to see behind the bunting again, so it should only come as a mild disappointment that there is little about the Michigan program in this book that you didn't already know.

Fourth and Long: the Fight for the Soul of College Football is four unequal looks at four 2012 Big Ten programs, or four and a half if you count a mini-treatment that Michigan State and Mark Hollis receive as host of an Ohio State road game. In order of detail:

IMG_2803
The Kindle X-ray. The next 20 keywords, in order, are Mike Zordich, Ohio State Buckeyes, Dave Brandon, Matt McGloin, Pat Fitzgerald, NFL, Joe Paterno, Nebraska, Wolverines, head coach, Wisconsin, Ohio, Rich Mauti, Jordan Hill, Denard Robinson, Chicago, Spider Caldwell, and Dave Joyner.
  1. Penn State from the point of view of its players, former players, coaches, and equipment managers as they find themselves taking the brunt of the Penn State Awful Thing, and the NCAA's and PSU brass's callow responses to it.
    ======HUGE GAP======
  2. Michigan from Bacon's own point of view of its fans, as those fans interact with Brandon's corporate-itude.
  3. Ohio State from the P.O.V. of Urban Meyer as he goes from win to win trying to get Zach Boren to like him, and
  4. Northwestern as the paragon of virtue.

Bacon set out, as is evident from the title and made clear throughout the book, to examine these four schools from different points of view (players, AD, head coach, and president, respectively), and use the findings to determine if any of the Big Ten's current models for college football are sustainable for college football in general. In it he consistently finds players and fans who "get it" while the people in control seek new and better ways to milk it.

But he could only use what he got from each school. With Ohio State the access was mostly restricted to Urban on game days. He brushes against tatgate but doesn't get into the cars or any other "everybody knows, nobody can prove" things—you have to appreciate that Bacon will never accuse somebody without proof (especially considering he's an avowed Michigan fan talking about Ohio State) but it's really hard to talk about college sports and the competitive problems therein without admitting there are relative bad guys. The Gee quote—"I hope he doesn't fire me!"—is in there in reference to the bloated role of college football head coach in America. The closest he comes to pointing out OSU's exceptionalism in this regard is when addressing the carrying off of Tressel after last year's Game:

"The Buckeyes do not run a renegade program, but they once again demonstrated they don't seem to care if their actions make others think they do."

This isn't a complaint; Bacon handled a sticky situation about as well as he could. With Northwestern he got some key interviews, particularly with Pat Fitzgerald, but no warts (this could be because they don't have any).

With Michigan Bacon was outside looking in, so he used some of the Bacon-usual suspects—Carty, the dueling barbershops, the public comments of James Duderstadt and Don Canham, Brian Cook of MGoBlog, etc. There's also an inside look at the Mud Bowl, and most interestingly, a candid interview with Michigan's band director about Send-the-Band-to-Dallas-gate. I was more intrigued by the comments made by Bill Martin on the corporatization of NCAA football, which I'll come back to. The whole Notre Dame saga is covered. Except for the band's comments most of this is old news to you.

The result is a book that's 52% about Penn State trying to survive 2012, with a bunch of stuff thrown in about some other schools and corporations to underscore a point made clear without leaving Happy Valley.

[After the jump: it's just, like, my opinion man.]

Unverified Voracity Has A Small Conflict

Unverified Voracity Has A Small Conflict

Submitted by Brian on September 20th, 2013 at 10:22 AM

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SPW_webSponsor note. You may have noticed HAIL2VICTORS recent diary detailing his Sports Power Weekend for the Notre Dame game. I ran into that dude at Angelo's early that day and he didn't mention he was on an SPW trip, but he was yet to be impressed with the fact that Jared tracked down tickets, a field-level Big House tour, and—the capper—hotel rooms actually in Ann Arbor. I get emails about this. They are piteous emails that I can do nothing about.

If you would like to exchange money for the goods and services of a no-hassle trip to see Michigan do the opposite of whatever they did last weekend, you can grab a bus from NYC or DC to Penn State (UConn's sold out) or grab packages for home games against Nebraska and Ohio State or road games at Northwestern and Iowa. No Stubhub wrangling or sleeping on a piece of cardboard that doesn't even offer a continental breakfast. Also if you're the guy who gets stuck driving, buses are so clutch.

Kickstart this, sirs. Here's a Kickstarter that endeavors to print Brown Jug shirts and paraphenalia and also honor John Falk on the MGoPatio.

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It got over the goal, but there's still cool stuff to acquire. Two hours left.

SKYWRITINGGATEGATE. I am a hopelessly naïve cherub, so I assumed that the "GO BLUE" that people saw over Spartan Stadium hours before MSU curbstomped Youngstown State and Michigan had a near-death experience against Akron was the work of a not-very-creative alum or a rogue skywriting company agent taking matters into his own hands. Alas:

Suzanne Asbury-Oliver, who runs Oregon Aero SkyDancer skywriting with her husband Steve, told MLive the Wolverines' athletic department hired her business to put Michigan slogans into the air above Ann Arbor then East Lansing on Saturday.

The department denies this, stating that locations all over SE Michigan were targeted. I asked twitter and no one saw anything outside of Ann Arbor that hasn't been used by a Spartan alum to make M look stupid while raising money for cancer.

This continues a pattern of behavior from the department where they do something inadvisable and then go into damage control mode. Just in the last couple months we've seen noodle, seat cushion, and field goal net gates. They seem to be sticking by their guns after overselling the student section by 50%, but that's a math problem with one answer so they kind of have to. That, too, looks like a panic move (even if I agree with the principle behind it) since Michigan announced their ticket policy a month before the season, after they'd sold 4,500 tickets under false pretenses.

So either the athletic department knows exactly what it's doing or they have no idea what they're doing. Which of these possibilities is worse is an exercise left to the reader.

A LIST OF THINGS THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MAYBE WORTH YOUR TIME TO SKYWRITE OVER SPARTAN STADIUM.

  • 68-32-5
  • GO STAEE
  • WE WANT TERRY
  • FIRE IZZO
  • WHERE ARE MY PANTS
  • HOW DO I LAND
  • TREY BURKE STEAL DOT JPG

The worst part about all of this is how boring it is. "GO BLUE" is weak troll game. The only people the athletic department is good at trolling are Michigan fans.

A quainter time. Remember when coverage maps were important? When you play an AAC team on the road at night they become so again. Yellow is saved, blue is watching on ESPN3:

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Nebraska, you're in the Big Ten now.

Transfers to make more sense, possibly. After a crapton of bad publicity as some coaches punitively limit their transfers' options, the NCAA finally seems to be moving towards a more reasonable system:

"It would be a situation where a kid would provide notice that he's transferring and wants to talk to these five schools, for example," Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, told ESPN.com. "Schools can't say, we're giving you permission but not to these five schools. It's in the student's control more."

I still think it's reasonable to prevent a kid from transferring to another school in the same conference; other than that, fire away. Coach K suggests to do away with all transfer waivers, because something something something.

Everything about Mitch McGary. Wish I could embed part of this, but can't. Here's the entire life history of Mitch McGary, from UMHoops:

I like Mitch McGary.

Hockey schedule. There are a lot of Michigan hockey games on television this year, 28 games to be specific. Excellent for most purposes, but I'm a little concerned that there are four 6:30 home games on Friday and the vast bulk of the rest of them are at 7 PM. A decade ago Michigan standardized its games at 7:35 PM to help attendance. This isn't going to help.

On the other hand, Wisconsin has just 11 games televised this year. Pick your poison.

Etc.: Here is a gent who's been to 504 straight games, dating back to 1971. We'll update basketball recruiting during the bye week, but for now here's UMHoops running down where things stand. Todd McShay ranks Gardner a third-day NFL draft prospect. Hurray? Meanwhile, SI's guy lists Taylor Lewan as a faller because M struggled with Akron, something he had zero to do with.

Good luck with that. Alex Guptill's got some sort of issue. A hearty start to hockey season.

Unverified Voracity Catches Up

Unverified Voracity Catches Up

Submitted by Brian on September 3rd, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Note: some of this is very old, because last week was not good for UVing things.

AHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHHH

Anybody in the world who had anything to do with this stopping: I hate you.

Other hype video. Old Hat put the new one up.

As mentioned in the game column, a large improvement on last year's. Old Hat's videos have been the one consistently good thing about the Stadium Atmosphere Buzzword Utilization Reframing.

Fig things. Just figgin' my things. You've probably seen this, but if not:

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Now you have.

Well is it or isn't it. Brian Kelly adopts AD's talking points, calls Michigan a "regional" rivalry, makes ND Nation squee, gets so much pushback from people pretending that Michigan-Notre Dame has been going on since the Dark Ages that he recants at his next press conference.

A stupid media kerfuffle but one that indicates how central Michigan-Notre Dame is to college football and how wrong it is that the series is ending.

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Northwestern corner Dwight White

A major loss for nerds. Northwestern starting corner Daniel Jones is out for the season with an injury suffered in the Cal game. This is Northwestern, which is always putting together its secondary out of remaindered Hello Kitty plush toys, so the result was about what you'd expect:

Next up for the Wildcats is Dwight White, a redshirt freshman who got more or less torched by Cal's Jared Goff in his first game as a Wildcat, allowing a 52-yard touchdown grab to Cal's Chris Harper as well as several other big plays. He'll have to learn on the job, and fast, if Northwestern wants to avoid further 450-plus yard passing performances as the year goes on.

Looks like it'll be another haywire season for the Wildcats. Say what you want about Northwestern, but gotdayum they play some fun games. They can even make MSU watchable. Maybe.

At least watch it for the intro. MGoVideo has unearthed a copy of the 1994 Purdue game, which apparently wasn't televised but was available on something called the "Michigan Video Ticket," which cut out all the huddles but did include a play by play guy who can't pronounce Remy Hamilton's name:

1994 Michigan at Purdue by mgovideo

You are probably thinking "Wheatley and Biakabutuka at the same time. /drool" I am too.

In even more vintage recordings, a 1927 newsreel from the Detroit News detailing the graduation losses suffered:

More in a similar vein: Oosterbaan honored by Muskegon, Michigan beats Chicago in front of 57,000 road fans (both teams apparently wore the same uniforms), Michigan beats Navy, and Michigan goes down to Minnesota, "Giants of the North." Last one contains an aerial shot of Michigan Stadium back in the day. Michigan had a player named "Pucklewartz" at the time.

Speaking of Oosterbaan, here's Jake Ryan with his godson:

JakeRyan47_thumb[1]

Just don't yank around seniors' numbers and we'll be cool, legacy jerseys. Not that you are actually sentient, legacy jerseys. And don't think about getting sentient, either. I've seen Terminator.

Cutting the cord, part 60 or something. ESPN is negotiating with Apple and others to provide the whole package to internet providers, no cable or satellite required. That would be an enormous shift. I wonder how much it would cost? Some cable analyst said 30 bucks a month, but that was under a basic assumption that 80% of cable viewers would drop it—dubious, to say the least. The mothership is six bucks a pop, but the rest of the package has minimal value outside of ESPN2.

Stauskas throwing down. Game, blouses:

Wow, this is old. Yeah. I told you.

Combo forward search continues. Michigan target Devin Robinson released a top five that does not include the Wolverines. He was probably Michigan's top target after Looney dropped them, so now the field opens up. Ypsi's Jaylen Johnson visited recently and is improving his offensive game; Aussie import Jonah Bolden just popped up on the radar and claims to be a Michigan fan from way back.

Meanwhile, if you're still holding out hope for Luke Kennard, I wouldn't. He just made another visit to Lexington on a "spur of the moment decision."

The Process. A decision-making flowchart:

  1. Decide to do something for a tiny amount of short-term revenue without regard to your brand.
  2. Wait until the decision reaches the internet.
  3. Panic as half of internet rolls its eyes at the stupid decision and the other half invades Ann Arbor Torch and Pitchfork, rants at you.
  4. Hastily reverse decision.
  5. Blame the internet for overreacting, make nonsensical argument that it leapt to conclusions.

This has happened three times in the last month. First it was the field goal nets, then the seat cushions, then the giant noodle. I'm not sure what's more worrisome: the lack of foresight in the decisions themselves or the open contempt for people who don't like those decisions. The seat cushion thing was especially rich, as the department blamed the internet for thinking that a policy stated in bold on the official site was the official policy of the University of Michigan. That is not leaping to conclusions. There is not even a conclusion to draw. It is a fact.

Etc.: Here's Notre Dame-Temple if you want to check out Saturday's enemy. Bruce Feldman interviews Devin Gardner. Expanding Tom Hammond head. Every Play videos seem dead but here's some other guy putting together everything Gardner did from Saturday. Michigan Monday. Brabbs on his kick to beat Washington.

Monumental has wallpaper. Catching up with Michigan's departures.

Dear Diary Adds to the Wood Bling

Dear Diary Adds to the Wood Bling

Submitted by Seth on August 30th, 2013 at 12:07 PM

First some housekeeping things:

One: Meet the new tshirts:

Chicken_4C_T_1024x10241784_21_inch_rubber_chicken_1__96610.1375991605.400.400

The chicken one is a LIMITED EDITION we're printing just for this game, since afterwards there won't be any more of the cluckers around to show it to. We will be collecting orders and shipping out on 9/3. After 9/3 we will print limited run extra but then when we are out we are out, so get on that now. Also recommended: bringing rubber chickens to that game (we're not responsible if they get confiscated.)

Two: Reminder: Next Friday at MGoTailgate (on Berkeley across from the stadium), free beer, meet Marlin Jackson and others, learn things, be social.

On with the show.

There are just…

IMG_3915 plus-sign-md Fuller - Ross2

…and-a-half hours until Michigan football. As such the users have gone into their regular pre-season epic content production mode. Let's just get right to it starting with Diarist of the Week and personal favorite MCalibur.

Wait, first let's do Things You're Not Allowed to See. The first rule of Fall Camp is what happens in Fall Camp stays in Fall Camp, unless some dude spills the beans to his friend and he puts it in a diary and we confirm things like Garder==awesome, Fitz==awesome, Butt==feasible in a Funchess-last-year kind of way, OL looks like 1997's, DL depth charts are deep, Wilson is still learning, kicking==good.

Also the first rule of Mott Scrimmage is what happens at Mott Scrimmage stays at Mott Scrimmage (unless someone writes it up as a Diary that pretty much saw everything I saw). Speaking of scrimmages reshp1 went and UFR'd everything from the scrimmage featured in Countdown to Kickoff last week.

Also also the first rule of Camp Michigania is what happens at Michigania is really boring and I don't want to hear it. Anyway I can already see everything you did because it's on your kid's activity bling:

Michigania

Yes, Lizzie has been cited for improper logo use and will serve a three-game 'timeout'

Wait, Lloyd? Okay I'm sorry;  tell me tell me tell me tell me!!!! Now on to MCalibur.

[…after the jump. Also after the jump: Gardner footwork analysis, Dave Brandon's rape noodle, and other stuff]

Fourth And Long: The Excerpt

Fourth And Long: The Excerpt

Submitted by Brian on August 23rd, 2013 at 11:53 AM

John Bacon's latest book Fourth and Long is a look at four Big Ten teams in various places as the 2012 season progresses: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern. While the Penn State stuff is unbelievably compelling, Bacon also touches on the increasing commercialization of the game—a hot button topic here—in multiple sections, including Michigan.

The following is an account of what went down during the Great Band Fiasco Of 2012. If you desire a look at the Northwestern and Ohio State sections, Sippin' On Purple and Eleven Warriors both have excerpts today.

147896042LH010_Michigan_v_A

Cowboy Stadium

On Friday morning, April 20, 2012, while I watched workers set up the stage for the groundbreaking ceremony for Penn State’s $104 million hockey arena the day before their football team’s spring game, I took my weekly call from Ann Arbor’s local sports-talk station, WTKA.

This being six days after Michigan’s spring scrimmage, I assumed the morning hosts would ask me how Michigan’s second-year coaches, who favored a pro-set offense, were meshing with soon-to-be senior Denard Robinson, the consummate spread-offense quarterback. So I was a little surprised when Ira Weintraub and Sam Webb asked me about the Michigan-Alabama game, scheduled more than four months away, on September 1 in Dallas.

It was already being hyped as a clash between two tradition-rich programs, both ranked in the preseason Top 10, and two tradition-rich conferences. But it was bigger than that, because the schools had struck a deal with the Dallas Cowboys’ celebrity owner, Jerry Jones, to play the game in his shiny, new, $1.15 billion, state-of-the-art pleasure dome, nicknamed Jerry World.

They called the game the Cowboy Classic, a four-year-old version of the former Kickoff Classic, and it had come to represent the apotheosis— or nadir, depending on your view—of all that modern college football was becoming: the colossal, professional stadium; the seemingly endless corporate tie-ins; and the orgy of interest in a game between amateur athletes.

Although Michigan did not sell out its allotment of 17,500 tickets for the Sugar Bowl a couple months earlier, the athletic department had no trouble selling all 25,000 tickets for the Cowboy Classic, before they could even offer them to the general public. They were gobbled up entirely by Victors Club members: first to those with the most “priority points” (which they accumulate largely through donations), down to those with just one priority point. Thousands of fans with no priority points got shut out.

It was all the more impressive because the tickets for the Cowboy Classic weren’t cheap: $125 for a seat in the rafters and $285 for one on the 50, plus $80 for parking across the street. Jerry World also offered standing-room-only tickets, which one website packaged with vouchers for a beverage, a hot dog, and a bag of chips for $89—and sold more than twenty-three hundred of them.

“Let’s put it like this,” the ever-quotable Jerry Jones said the week of the game. “I’m going to compare it even to the Super Bowl. They’re two different events—but this is the hottest ticket . . . of any game or any event that we’ve had at that stadium.”

Michigan would net $4.7 million for the Cowboy Classic matchup with Alabama, the highest payout ever for a Kickoff Classic/Cowboy Classic season opener. After the department publicized that fact, fans were surprised to hear athletic director Dave Brandon announce he would not be sending the Michigan Marching Band to the game because the athletic department couldn’t afford the $400,000 travel expense. That decision lit up sports-talk shows across the state.

This seemingly simple decision to leave the band at home raised an equally simple question: How important is the marching band to the fans?

A few weeks before Brandon’s announcement, he sent band director Scott Boerma an RFP, or a “request for proposal,” which is how CEOs ask for a sales pitch. Brandon told Boerma to put together a page of bullet points explaining why Boerma thought it would be better for the band to fly to Dallas for the season opener against Alabama, on September 1.

“We did so,” Boerma told me, “and we turned it in. We never expected Brandon to fly us down, but we hoped. At that point, it was my assumption that we would have a conversation about those bullet points, most likely making compromises on both sides. But a few days later, we heard that the answer was simply no. And that was it.”

Ann Arbor Torch And Pitchfork

Michigan-band-walks-onto-the-field-Jeffrey-McMahon[1]

Boerma and his band were stunned, but not as much as their loyal following, who blasted the decision through just about every medium available. For a week in late April, the band’s fate dominated Ann Arbor sports-talk radio—a first, to be sure. Invective aside, the callers’ main complaint was that if Brandon eliminated a home game or the possibility of an attractive home-and-home against Alabama for the chance to play in Jerry World primarily for the record paycheck, as he stated, then why couldn’t Michigan afford the $400,000 it would cost to take the marching band? After all, the band had to be one of the main attractions of college football Jerry Jones surely expected when he invited two college teams to play in his pleasure dome.

There seem to be a few reasons behind Brandon’s initial decision. A $4.7 million payday sounds like a lot, but according to MGoBlog’s Brian Cook, it was actually about $300,000 less than Michigan would have made if Brandon had scheduled Alabama for a home-and-home series, on the same terms Michigan had with Notre Dame. The deal looks even worse when you take into account the team’s travel costs to Dallas, and the substantial revenue from parking and concessions Michigan would have kept for a home game—not to mention the excitement such a game would generate among season-ticket holders from the day it was announced. Cook concludes, “This supposed financial windfall simply does not exist.” [Ed: the department would later cop to this fact.]

But if you looked at Brandon’s initial decision to leave the band behind purely from a short-term business perspective, it made sense. The band trip would cost real money, coming right off the bottom line, but would not necessarily influence the outcome or ticket sales or TV ratings. Fans would not wait in long lines to buy Michigan Marching Band uniforms—be they classic or “alternative”—and EA Sports was not champing at the bit to put Michigan’s drum major on the cover of its next marching-band video game.

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from "Day 2 Marching Band Not Going To Dallas Rage Thread"

If you bring it back to the simple question of keeping your fans happy, however, Brandon’s decision was as foolhardy as the CEO of Cracker Jack eliminating the prizes at the bottom of the boxes because, hey, you can’t eat them, and those things cost money. If there is one symbol of college football that distinguishes the irrational, romantic notions fans feel for their favorite sport from the streamlined sensibilities of the pro game, the marching band might be the best place to start. When the band plays, the students feel connected to their parents, and their parents feel connected to their past, traveling back in time to their college days.

It is the prize at the bottom of the box.

Shortly after Bill Martin became athletic director in 2000, he commissioned a survey titled “Fans Speak Out on Game Day Experience,” by his good friend, Republican pollster Bob Teeter. The response rate alone told them how passionate Michigan fans were about their team. While most consumer surveys attract a 6 to 8 percent rate of return, fully 64 percent of the three thousand Michigan fans randomly selected responded—or about ten times the average.

When these season-ticket holders were asked to rank the importance of twenty-three aspects of the game-day experience, the survey readers weren’t too shocked to find seat location atop the list, with 88 percent of respondents ranking it “important.” But the marching band finished a close fourth, with 83 percent, two places ahead of the final score, and four ahead of the quality of the opponent. Thus, whether the Wolverines won or lost, or which team they were playing—in other words, the football game—was less important to the fans than seeing the marching band. After all, the band remained undefeated.

Brandon took some hits for his decision from fans, who flooded his e-mail account, but donors soon stepped up to cover half the $400,000 tab, leading some to believe the whole incident was a ruse to get someone else to pay the bill. But UM’s band director at the time, Scott Boerma, wasn’t buying it. “I do not think he planned on the backlash,” Boerma told me, “nor do I think it was some clever way to get donors to pony up for it. Dave was genuinely surprised.”

After Brandon finally capitulated, he told the Detroit Economic Club in August that it was all a “misunderstanding,” akin to a “family squabble.” He said he had agreed from the outset to fund the $100,000 necessary for the band to take buses down to Dallas, allowing them to play concerts along the way."

“The band changed their mind,” Brandon said. “They decided they didn’t want to be in buses and they didn’t want to play their way to Dallas, and they came and said, ‘We’re planning on coming to Dallas, everybody’s planning on coming to Dallas, but we’re not going to ride in buses—we’re going to fly in a jumbo jet and here’s what it’s going to cost.’”

But Boerma recalls the dialogue differently. “I think it’s important for people to know that we never ‘changed our mind.’ We never agreed to busing down and playing gigs along the way. We offered to look into that possibility, but when we did, we determined that it really wouldn’t be best for all concerned, especially because it would be the weekend before classes started, and we would lose several days of our pre-season rehearsals, when we prepare for the entire fall ahead. We never refused to bus down, as Brandon said. We were never given the opportunity to refuse anything, because there was no follow-up conversation.

“When it all hit the fan, I made sure that it wasn’t the band students and staff causing a commotion. We just laid low and waited for it all to work out. If the decision to not take the band down remained intact, we would have been fine with that. It was Brandon’s decision; he was paying the bills, and that’s his business.”

Of course, some fans angered over the decision included big donors, who ultimately stepped up to cover half the cost of the band’s trip.

"The band is coming to Dallas," Brandon told his audience. "And I hope you enjoy every note."

Leaving the band behind for a big game proved not to be an option—at least in 2012.

As the arms race escalates, Brandon does not seem terribly interested in slowing down to ponder it all. He is too busy pressing full steam ahead. “I don’t talk the past,” he said several times in his first year as Michigan’s athletic director. “I create the future.”

He might just be right.

If the future of Penn State was in the hands of its players, and Ohio State in the hands of its new head coach, Michigan’s was in the hands of its new athletic director.

Fourth and Long is available everywhere: 11  bucks on Kindle, 16 for a hardcover. Worth it just for the story about Jay Paterno getting chased out of his own locker room, and there are 200 more pages.