Dear Diary Takes Charge[s]

Dear Diary Takes Charge[s]

Submitted by Seth on August 3rd, 2015 at 4:56 PM

Got a bunch of events and site business to go over today:

See you in this: We FINALLY got the J-Mo one done and approved and for sale:

You have no idea how many conversations can be had about a bracketed 's'. Take the biggest number you could think of, then think of more. In two years we should finally have approval on the Harbaugh Pyramid of Greatness, by which time all of humanity will have weighed in on whether parentheticals are necessary.

See you Friday: We're going to be at Literati at 7 this Friday, doing whatever they do at book readings except this one we talk about Michigan football. But you can totally omit that last bit and sound cultured to your Ann Arbor friends when you say you want to be at this book reading downtown. If they press, it's the story of a lonely and misunderstood middle aged man who returns to his hometown from years of rule by a company that didn't know how to use guards correctly.

Brian will see you in D.C.: Brian will be there next week, speaking at the alumni association's get-together on Tuesday, August 11. While we're on the capital's alumni association club, if you're going to the Maryland game, that will be the association's big annual away tailgate.

See you for homecoming. We've been invited to the big homecoming tailgate with the alumni association, noon to 3:30 before the Northwestern game (10/10). We talked it over and decided not to ever get company polos for it, but we do have plans to wear snarky t-shirts. And to put Brian on stage. You'll find David and me over by the TVs since there are at least three noon Big Ten games.

Diaries:

Football on the decline? Is this a stupid question?

I didn't open any of the threads where this popped up this week (I think somebody had a poll), but BlueBlood2991 was recovering from surgery so he tried to answer it by comparing population shifts and economic changes to high school football participation.

There is of course some correlation, but he explains population shift as the primary factor behind huge leaps in football participation in Georgia and North Carolina. This could be a fallacy: Ad hoc, ergo propter hoc. It could be an effect of money moving into new-build suburban communities, and parents using sports to put their kids in social situations, or the kids using sports to prove their worth to their new schoolmates. Football interest is hard to show in participation except over longer than a decade periods. But who's participating is interesting:

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Again, correlation does not imply causation. Less educated families may be poorer, thus less able to afford sports, especially football which does get quite expensive even if your school provides most of the equipment (very few do).

Etc. Alum96 is on to M00N with his previews. MaizeJacket had a counterproposal to my "let's everyone join one conference then dictate terms" plan—I like his "Challenge" idea but like a lot of good ideas it won't happen because teams want to schedule as many games as possible way ahead of time.

Best of the Board:

They don't mention puking on the recruiting trips:

From a story by Bennie Joppru about practicing with Carr. This part comes after four puking sessions:

I went back to the dorms in south quad and started to pack my clothes. "I'm heading back home to Minnesota and I'll walk on and be a Gopher". I knew I couldn't walk out the front on the dorm with my clothes so I threw my bag out the 12 floor window and walk down the stairwell, avoiding the elevator. I got the first taxi I saw and said "take me to the bus station". 

I got to the bus station only to find out I was 25 dollars short of a ticket. This was 1998 so CD's were as good as money then and I had plenty. I told the ticket guy if he gave me the 25 dollars I needed for a ticket he could have any 10 CD's he wanted.

Of course he picked all of my favorite CD's, but I had my ticket, no more puking I thought to myself.

Then a man tapped him on his shoulder. For those who don't know already, Joppru is basically what would happen if a blogger had football talent.

Rostering!

Back when they could still get away with selling me the opportunity to play as Denard without paying Denard, EA would make some minor tweak to its NCAA game, maybe add some stupid feature like emails from your mom or mascot teams, and basically sell you the updated roster pack as a new game every year.

Since they're still working out how to make this game while paying the people who make it so valuable, the internet has taken over and done a better job for free. The roster pack is basically going to be this year's game. I'll have a full post on it. All hail those of you who worked on it.

Preposterous Stolen Victories Over Northwestern Now Worth Half

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Not all 50/50s are created equal: @Maryland is looking like 60/40, BYU/Utah the opposite.

Saturdayedge's annual Big Ten betting prospectus (it's free but only with an email signup – NOW with non-depressing cover!) came out last week. The writing is very cliché, and they seem to be too fixated on recruiting stars, but I always value the betters' perspectives because accuracy really is their prime motivation. That Michigan averaged 5.25 points under the spread (by far the worst in the conference) should come as no surprise, nor that the two rivals, even at home, are the two near-guaranteed losses.

This is something I haven't seen in a Michigan preview in a long time:

Strength – The Running Game: Running backs De’Veon Smith, Derrick Green, Drake Johnson and Ty Isaac can all produce if they get the chance.

He mentions the O-line should be decent and Harbaugh teams always run well, but unless this means "knows how to run into a gaping hole (sometimes)" that seems overoptimistic. He also joins Shane Morris on an extremely short list of people who think Shane Morris might start. Anyway for those who can't corner Jamie Mac on the regular, a free and at least fly-by informed gamblers' perspective on the conference is worth your time.

Unless you're drafting against me in Draftageddon in which case you should read only preseason award watch lists and ESPN's Top 25 list. Tommy Armstrong's still on the board, Adam!

Not a new pos-bang record:

WD is an internet obsessive, which as an internet obsessive who is friends with many internet obsessives I have great appreciation for. But then, that was a bit much:

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The post that currently holds the pos record is 465/0 to the turn-based RPG gif by chunkums. Chunkums is LEGEND. Upvotes go away after a time but I made sure to catch that one when it did so a few years ago.

Etc. Liz, our podcast sponsor, made a Top 5 hottest college coaches, because Liz.

Your Moment of Zen:

This guy does hype videos well.

Unverified Voracity Abandons The Field

Unverified Voracity Abandons The Field

Submitted by Brian on July 18th, 2013 at 1:16 PM

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sometimes google image search is art

We are not worried about this frivolous lawsuit. NCAA Football is dead, you guys:

NCAA will not renew EA Sports contract

The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports NCAA Football video game. The current contract expires in June 2014, but our timing is based on the need to provide EA notice for future planning. As a result, the NCAA Football 2014 video game will be the last to include the NCAA’s name and logo. We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.

Paired with the credit-rating downgrade the NCAA just received, that sounds like a team of lawyers running around in circles shouting "THINK OF SOMETHING" to each other. Most favored bomb-thrower Patrick Hruby:

What gives is lawyer-ese. The NCAA is never going to publicly say that the O’Bannon case has them scared, because that would imply they’ve done something wrong and therefore have reason to be afraid of adjudication. However, the current facts of the case don’t look good for it: O’Bannon’s claim is rooted allegations that the NCAA and co-defendants EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company colluded to profit from the unauthorized use of former players’ NILs – price-fixing their value at zero – and documents uncovered by the plaintiffs’ lawyers during discovery strongly support said allegatioons.

The other tell? Check out the rest of the NCAA’s brief statement, which says that “given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.” (Bold added.) In this case, current business climate and costs of litigation are lawyer-ese for ruh-roh.

Individual schools and conference can still license their trademarks to EA. Will they? I'm guessing yes, as Kotaku explains that most of the licensing is through the CLC, making the NCAA's decision "nearly a technicality."

If not get ready for EA Sports Football Type Substance And Incredibly Easy To Edit Thing 2015. Back in the day when I was playing the college version of Front Office Football I had to download a file to turn "South Bend" into "Notre Dame," and such, but it's a lot harder to import winged helmets than change names.

Shots fired. Will Muschamp is pretty cheesed off at Urbs, you guys. SEC Media days are ongoing, and Muschamp's turn at the tiller included this gem:

Muschamp, who succeeded Meyer as the Gators' coach, is even borrowing a page from Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who won't even call Ohio State by its full name.

"That's really a dead issue with me," Muschamp said Tuesday at SEC media days. "In both situations, we were turned in by Ohio. We didn't do anything wrong. The University of Florida didn't do anything wrong. And so we appreciated our friends from Ohio making sure we're compliant with NCAA rules. They certainly know a little bit about that subject."

That zing was followed up by a personal shot at Urban Meyer for fostering a murderer he is responsible for. No, seriously:

"You can’t expect a coach to know where all 125 players are all the time," Muschamp said. "But you also can’t stick your head in the sand and think everything is OK. You're 100 percent responsible."

Arrest Urban Meyer! Unless that would help his recruiting, which it might. Arrest Urban Meyer or take a picture of him checking out a Justin Beiber concert?

I hope you guys are better at real defense than computer defense. Ondre Pipkins played Dymonte Thomas in NCAA and came out with a screenshot that is just all kinds of wrong:

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Are these 30 minute quarters? Why are you taking Ohio State? Why has Ohio State scored if that was the case? What is going on? IS URBS GOING TO FLIP DYMONTE?

Slive pushing. Self-interest, sure, but self interest in the name of providing a fig leaf of player compensation is better than the alternative:

"The NCAA has not been successful in meeting the full cost of attendance of our student athletes, whether through the so-called miscellaneous expense allowance or some other model that provides broad access to additional funds," said Slive, about to begin his 12th year as commissioner.

The issue, in a nutshell, is that some schools can afford to pay the stipend and some can't. Those that can't are able to keep the idea bottled up. Those that can, like schools in the SEC, are getting tired of it.

"Conferences and their member institutions must be allowed to meet the needs of their student-athletes," Slive said.

Slive followed up by saying that in meetings with other conference commissioners "there appears to be a willingness" to go through with a cost of attendance adjustment, at least until individual schools submarine it through the override process.

Mitch staying. SI spotlights Mitch McGary in a manner that'll get your salivary glands going:

When he submitted his name to the NBA's draft advisory board, McGary was told what he already suspected: He was a surefire first-round pick, and very possibly a lottery pick. The vast majority of college players would have jumped at that opportunity, but McGary defied convention and announced he would stay in school. "I want to prove to people that my potential is much greater than what I showed," McGary explained. "The way I look at it is, so far I've only cracked the glass. Next year I'm trying to break through it."

McGary is down to around 255 after starting last season twenty pounds heavier—too heavy—and you could see the increased stamina and athleticism late. That was the #2 recruit in the country, and Michigan figures to get that this year.

TSN's Mike DeCourcy, meanwhile, says McGary is still a load even at the lighter weight:

4. Jadeveon Clowney was a big topic of conversation at SEC Media Days. What current college hoops player could take your head off if he played football?

DeCourcy: Michigan’s Mitch McGary. Not messing with that dude. If Mitch had been the Wolverine in possession of that football instead of Vincent Smith back in the Outback Bowl, it might have been Clowney whose helmet went flying.

So much for that. If you were hoping that Fox Sports 1 would be an alternative to ESPN, it will, but not in the way you want:

…to differentiate FS1, to lend it personality and create a distinct brand, Fox is going with a concept that David Hill, chief executive officer of Fox Sports, calls “jockularity.” The plan is for FS1 to be the funny, irreverent, less serious sports channel.

Among other things, that involves hiring a couple of Canadian pranksters to anchor the network’s flagship program and building another show around Regis Philbin.

So much for that unless the Canadian is Norm Macdonald.

Never say die. The Big Ten has created a new bowl at Ford Field, but the Pizza Bowl guys won't let it die:

Ken Hoffman feels there’s no reason Ford Field can’t handle playing host to two bowl games starting in 2014.

Hoffman’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was on the outside looking in following the news Wednesday the Detroit Lions bowl game was official, starting Dec. 30, 2014, with a Big Ten team going up against a team from another power conference.

Guys. It's over.

Etc.: Eleven Warriors' guide to visiting Ann Arbor is seemingly designed to get you to dislike Ann Arbor, but I guess it's aimed at guys who get ATV catalogs. Pro sports attendance beginning to suffer in baseball and basketball. Average Boston Red Sox ticket cost: 88 dollars! FIFA can't sell the World Cup to pay-TV in the UK.

Music City Bowl will pit an SEC team versus an ACC/B10 team for the next five years. A la carte ESPN projected cost: 30 bucks. Thanks, people who don't care about sports but pay for ESPN anyway. Old man yells at cloud. Potential VCU rematch in the second round of Puerto Rico.

NCAA 14 Review: Change You Can Believe In

NCAA 14 Review: Change You Can Believe In

Submitted by Ace on July 9th, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Previously on MGoBlog: Seth's review of the same.

NCAA 14 hits the shelves today, and EA Sports was kind enough to give us an advance copy to review — for the last four days, I've dutifully ignored the lure of sunlight, company, and basic hygiene in order to cram in as many hours as possible with the game. The things I do for you people.

My review of last year's edition eschewed the normal overview of gameplay and the various modes, instead focusing on how to make another underwhelming, mostly-redundant NCAA an enjoyable gaming experience. For the last several years, the basic debate surrounding NCAA has been whether to drop $60 for a couple gameplay tweaks (and, inevitably, a few new gameplay bugs) or save the money and hope for a good roster update.

This year, EA finally made enough changes that it truly feels like a new game in most aspects. Dynasty Mode got a much-needed overhaul, the gameplay adjustments are mostly positive, and the game as a whole feels more realistic. There are gripes, to be sure, but overall I think this is the strongest NCAA in a while.

GAMEPLAY

There have been enough changes to the gameplay (I know, right?) that even experienced players will want some time to learn the new features and hone their skills. Before doing anything else, I'd highly recommend going through the "Nike Skills Trainer"* — a series of tutorials/drills that covers all aspects of the game. Doing those not only helps you get used to some new controls, especially with the overhauled option (more on that later), but the drills are fun on their own — I found myself hitting "try again" several times to see if I could earn a gold medal in each drill, which unlocks a player for the online-only Ultimate Team mode. The skills trainer replaced the mini-games (option dash, tug of war, etc.), which I miss dearly — while the skills trainer is fun, you can't play against anyone else, and the mini-games were great for quick round-robins with a few friends — but it's certainly a worthy addition.

The biggest change once you're ready to hit the field is in the running game, where EA has implemented the physics engine that made last year's Madden so enjoyable. Running looks and feels much more like real life than in the past — setting up blocks is paramount, size matters in collisions, and there's a bevy of new animations that mostly look great (there are still kinks — a few tackles I've seen defied physics). With a good offensive line, running between the tackles can actually be effective.

More importantly, the option — and spread option — has been completely revamped, and I'd guess most players will find that running it in some form is their favorite way to play on offense. The game now helpfully points out the defender to read at the mesh point (for the read option or triple-option dive) or for the pitch (traditional option) before the snap, and variations like the mid-line option and inverted veer are now in the playbook. Backs maintain proper pitch relationship — an issue in years past — and quarterbacks can take hits without consistently getting injured or fumbling (this varies depending on ratings, of course, but QBs used to be outrageously brittle). The CPU can finally run an effective option, as well, with no more inexplicable pitches landing three yards behind the back; defending the option is hard, as it should be.

The passing game is mostly unchanged. Ill-advised throws are going to get picked off more often than not, which is realistic but also tough for gamers who don't know how to read defenses. There are still a few money routes — thank me later for recommending TE Trail in short- to mid-yardage situations — but I've found I can't predetermine where I'm throwing the ball unless the defense is completely misaligned given my playcall. Linebackers no longer are supermen, which helps; I wish receivers would do a better job on their own of adjusting to the ball in the air, though.

Defense is, one again, pretty damn difficult, especially if you want to play in the back seven. CPU quarterbacks are ruthlessly accurate; on All-American difficulty, my best hope of stopping a pass was to blitz and hope for a sack or throwaway, which along with the occasional drop appear to be the only ways to force incompletions. There are little-to-no mistimed routes, passes just out of a receiver's reach, or panicked chucks under pressure; even with a stellar secondary, interceptions and incompletions were very hard to come by, and instead I had to sell out with the pass rush or play conservative zones to keep YAC to a minimum.

Run defense is largely about calling the right play; from there, unless you're quite adept at linebacker or safety, the way your CPU teammates react is the biggest determining factor in a run play's success — this isn't unrealistic, but it doesn't make for a particularly enjoyable defensive experience. I've mostly lined up as a DT and focused on getting a big push into the backfield, which is more fun than it sounds (at least for me) and can have a big effect on both the pass and run games — collapsing the pocket on a QB is by far the most effective way to stop a passing play, as they often slide right into an awaiting DE.

The good news here is that EA now allows you to set separate difficulties for offense and defense. If you find yourself turning the ball over on half your possessions, you can knock the offensive difficulty down a notch; same goes for defense if you can't get a stop. This is an imperfect solution to a major problem — defensive gameplay is still quite frustrating — but it's still appreciated.

DYNASTY MODE

Now here's where things get really fun. Dynasty Mode finally got an overhaul, and it's a good one. First and foremost is the addition of "Coach Skills" — as you progress through your dynasty, you'll earn points for both on-field and recruiting accomplishments, and those points earn upgrades (the details of which can be found here). This adds a RPG-like angle to dynasty that makes it feel like you're really building towards something, not just running through the same season over and over again. You'll have to decide early on if you want to focus on earning in-game boosts (like Coachstradamus, which at its highest level gives you a 25% chance of identifying the opponent's play type before the snap) or an edge in recruiting (Kitchen Sink, for example, raises the cap on points you can spend recruiting individual players). Other coaches earn these same boosts, so you don't just lap the field as your dynasty wears on.

The second major change is the streamlined recruiting process. You get a certain number of points each week to spend on scouting, offering scholarships, and pitching players — those points aren't separate, so you have to find the right balance of scouting and recruiting early on. The critical change is that you don't have to unlock pitches or reset the number of points spent on a recruit each week — you know from day one which pitches a recruit likes and how many bonus points you'll get each week from them, then choose how many additional points to add from your pool. Those points don't change from week to week unless you change them; if you want, you can set your board in Week 1 and then forget about it (though I wouldn't recommend it). Even if you decide to spend time recruiting each week, the process goes much faster — including in the offseason, where the recruiting process has been cut down from a bloated five-week ordeal into a one-shot bidding war (you get a pool of 10,000 points and all caps for individual player spending go away).

The points system adds much more clarity to recruiting; you know exactly how far ahead or behind you are with a recruit, the bonus points your competition is getting each week, and the baseline number of points you'll earn on a given visit. This allows you to be much more strategic when it comes to targeting recruits, especially the longshots. With the roster cap still at 75 (ugh) and yearly scholarship caps at 25, I've found that narrowing down my recruiting board early and bringing in classes of 15-20 recruits gives me the best chance at landing a top class. Other recruiting tips:

  • If you can, max out the Scouting coach skill as quickly as possible. There are plenty of "gems" and "busts" in the prospect field, and identifying those guys early is an easy way to cut down your board and focus on the best prospects. This is especially useful in preseason, when you get 1,000 points to spend solely on scouting.
  • DO THE MATH. You can figure out precisely how many points you need to give a recruit based on the bonus points other teams are receiving and the weekly changes on a prospect's top schools board. Sometimes, even if you max out a recruit's weekly points, it's impossible for you to catch another program (usually Alabama). Drop those recruits like they're hot.
  • After a certain amount of time, a recruit "locks" into a certain number of schools, and the rest are eliminated from contention — the numbers of schools locked in and how early this happens depends on the recruit. It's worth searching the board on occasion for prospects who are still <25% locked in the latter half of the season; even if the prospect doesn't have initial interest, you can often swoop in and pick these guys up late. This is a great fallback if you miss out on a prospect at a position of need.
  • Pay attention to pipelines. Having a certain number of prospects from a specific state makes that state a pipeline, and you earn bonus points with a prospect if they hail from that state. Again, it's all about maximizing your limited number of points, so any edge you can find is helpful.
  • The game gives extra points for scheduling visits late in the season — your goal with most prospects should be to get their final visit, and the game encourages you to schedule everyone as late as possible. DON'T ALWAYS DO THIS. Visits can cause huge swings in points, so if you have a comfortable lead for a prospect early, bring them in ASAP and you'll probably lock everyone else out and earn his commitment. Scheduling an early visit can also save you from being locked out, though you'll then have to sweat out the recruit's subsequent visits.

Other than recruiting and coach skills, dynasty mode is mostly the same, which is good — that's always been my go-to mode. My biggest gripe is that there is no playoff starting in 2014 — you're stuck with the BCS in perpetuity, which is especially unfortunate since the game occasionally produces some wonky title games. Exempli gratia:


Even worse: Stanford beat Washington by 30 in their simulated matchup.

EA is probably waiting to unveil the playoff (sorry: cofopoff) as a new "feature" in next year's game. This is pretty lame, EA.

Overall, though, the changes to dynasty mode are a big step in the right direction, making an already enjoyable game mode even better. My only gripe with the coach skills is they can sometimes make things too easy — if Coachstradamus tells me the defense is in a Cover 2, I know enough to audible to a play that will gain 15 yards at worst — but you can set how difficult it is to level up, which helps mitigate that issue. The RPG aspect is something I very much enjoy; I found myself tempted to race through seasons so I could pick up more bonuses and build a true juggernaut.

OTHER GAME MODES

Road To Glory — in which you take a player from high school recruit through his college career — is still in the game and, as EA admitted, is essentially untouched. If you liked the mode in years past, you'll still enjoy it. If you didn't — or found it less compelling than Dynasty Mode — then it's not worth trying again.

EA imported their popular Ultimate Team feature — in which you unlock players through in-game accomplishments, then use them in games against online opponents — to NCAA. You can use these players, which include several all-time greats and (until yesterday) one "oh shit, get him out of here", in head-to-head online seasons or solo challenges. I haven't had the chance to delve into this mode in depth, so I won't comment on its merits except to say that it'd be nice if there was an offline option.

If you're the type who just wants to play the game but still want to play for something, there's a new "2013 Season" mode, which is exactly what it sounds like — you play (or sim, though that seems to defeat the purpose) your way through the 2013 season without having to worry about recruiting and the like. This won't be a feature I use but I'm sure some of you will appreciate it.

GRAPHICS/SOUND

It's pretty clear at this stage that EA has maxed out what they can do on the PS3 (oh, hey, just in time for the PS4!). There are some minor graphics improvements — players' muscles are more defined, for one — but the atmosphere falls flat at times; players on the sideline look like they're imported from a PS2, the field and crowd often look flat and dull. This isn't a big deal for me as much as the actual gameplay, especially since it's clear that EA has to hold back on minute details to ensure the game runs smoothy (and I'll take that over picture-perfect fieldturf).

In a long-overdue move, NCAA has new in-game camera angles, including a wide-angle view that allows you to see all 22 players on the field. I haven't toyed around with them much — on the first try, I found the wide angle to be a little too zoomed out — but at least there are options now.

As for the sound, you're still getting the same generic commentary in games, and the same repetitive marching band music in the menus (my first move is always to turn off the menu music and sound FX so I can listen to whatever I want while moving through my dynasty). EA has tried to add to the atmosphere by including piped-in music — yes, "Seven Nation Army" is in the game — which you'll either slightly appreciate or hate with the fury of a thousand suns. (Hi, Brian.)

BUGS

Aside from the BCS tomfoolery, I've found the game pleasantly devoid of glitches or major issues with simulation. The only real glitch I noticed occurred once, when my CPU opponent went into the hurry-up and, with the rest of the offense set, the center stood over the ball until the play clock ran out. That hasn't happened since and the CPU loves to run the hurry-up, so that's hopefully an easy fix when EA releases the inevitable patch.

This isn't a bug, but a new recruiting feature is "complimentary" visits — no, this doesn't mean your coach heaps an excessive amount of flattery on a recruit, but instead that the player is visiting along with recruits of compatible positions (e.g. having a QB and WR visit in the same week). As a writer, or at least a person with a decent command of the English language, this drives me nuts.

OVERALL

This is my favorite edition of NCAA since they moved to the PS3. The run game is a lot of fun, especially the option, and unlike many I think the passing game is enjoyably challenging. Defense still needs plenty of work, especially in defending CPU quarterbacks, but I'm holding out hope that messing with the sliders — or perhaps a major patch — will alleviate some of the issues. (I didn't touch the sliders for this review so I could give a fair impression of the game right out of the box; if you're a serious gamer, I highly recommend checking the Operation Sports forums for tips on setting sliders.) With the improvements to Dynasty Mode, this is the first time in a while I've felt confident in saying a new edition of NCAA is worth the price tag.

Now if EA could just add the playoff and bring back the mini-games, baby, we'd really have a stew goin'.

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*Product placement and ads for in-game extras are both quite prevalent. I found this fairly annoying — and I'm sure Ed O'Bannon does, too — especially when it comes to EA suggesting you purchase booster packs for a game that already costs $60. Long live capitalism, I guess.

NCAA Football 14: An ePinion

NCAA Football 14: An ePinion

Submitted by Seth on July 5th, 2013 at 1:53 PM

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Dilemma: The HTTV proofs were delivered at the same time as the game.

First a confession: the last time I bought EA's college football game was 10 (the 2009 season) for PS2. I used to get it every year from the Woodson cover to the Desmond cover and play until it was taking more time than I could excuse because an exercise bike was involved. The exception was '05, which I played for four days before going back to 2004, still the gold standard of the series.

The versions I had were all great for power runs to set up bombs but in the summer of 2009 I was mostly interested in wrecking offensive rushing records with Rich Rod's offense. Like anybody with a touch of ASD, I cannot play until I've filled in and fiddled around with Michigan's rosters. Tate Forcier was like an 80 overall when I was done. Denard was probably set to move to cornerback—remember this was the 2009 offseason, when old men in conference hotels were dancing to Weapon of Choice:

Then I started playing and videogame Forcier would throw 8 interceptions per game because linebackers could leap 100 feet in the air. There was no such thing as an incomplete pass; you threw screens or you threw interceptions. It took just three games for my frustration to turn me off from the series and turn me into one of those people who delights in The Consumerist ripping on EA. Other than goofing around on my 2004 dynasty NCAA the game was dead to me.

Then they put Denard on the cover (and the wife let me get a PS3 once I proved how awesome it is at Netflix). And since I'd moved on from guy at convention hotels to guy who works for a college football blog, it turned out I could get an advance copy of the thing with Denard on the cover in return for telling people how I felt about it. A part of me finds it ridiculous that I can get away with this. Since I've been out of things for awhile (and Misopogal has grown skeptical over all this "work" I've been putting in) I'm gonna deliver the game to Ace after I post this, and next week you'll get a review from someone with a  frame of reference within the current console generation. Here's the things you should know now:

1. IT HAS DENARD ON THE COVER. Truly it is the most beautiful thing to grace a cover since...NCAA 06? NCAA 99? A baby swimming toward a dollar on the album where music got its balls back? If Denard was smiling maybe.

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I adore all of you!

He is actually the most appropriate cover athlete for a version of this game since they put Ricky Williams on the one with unstoppable running backs because…

2. OPTION OFFENSE is awesome. They completely redid that and now read options work the way they're supposed to. EA also gave the defense its option-crushing corner blitzes and scrape exchanges.

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I keep forgetting to sub Green in at FB

However the counter to the counter sucks. They put bubble and PA split end screens in the playbook, but the defense reads these way too quickly on any difficulty worth playing. Also I've found my skill position guys tire so fast that when I go to it I keep getting Jeremy Jackson. Anyway the option stuff is the most fun, specifically the read and triple options. Too bad Michigan went back to the future on offense since...

[after the jump]

Unverified Voracity Chases Stanford Futilely

Unverified Voracity Chases Stanford Futilely

Submitted by Brian on April 24th, 2013 at 12:30 PM

YOU'RE A TALLER. User Bombadil reports that Ian Bunting is still getting mail from Mississippi State, too.

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This may be fake but probably not.

WE'RE ALL FLIPPER. Congrats to the men's gymnastics team, national champs. Sam Mikulak is your champion on parallel bars and high bar plus the overall individual national champ.

With men's swimming bringing home a title of their own plus the basketball team's run to the final, Michigan is actually threatening Stanford's Director's Cup hegemony. When the Director's Cup releases their updated standings tomorrow Michigan should be on top of the rankings with only a few sports left: golf, base/softball, track and field, women's water polo, women's lacrosse, and men's volleyball.

Michigan's pretty good at some of those… but, uh, unfortunately Stanford is better.

Top 25 Rankings for Stanford in spring sports, most rankings updated last weekend:

Softball - 16

Men's Golf - 8

Women's Golf - 12

Baseball - receiving votes

Women's T&F - 9

Women's Water Polo - 1

Men's Volleyball - 6

Women's Rowing - 9

Women's Tennis – 12

This is how you dominate the Director's Cup since a year after its inception. If you want even more details, the board has you covered.

Goodbye, 11 to 15 minutes. Draft Express's Trey Burke draft video is all kinds of fun. Even the five minutes dedicated to Burke drawbacks features a number of Kobe assists or shoulda-been Kobe assists:

What an awesome player.

YER A BALLERZ. The NCAA 14 cover:

large[1]

Will I buy this crap-pile of a game from the worst company in America because it has Denard Robinson on the cover? Maybe. Have they fixed the kangaroo linebackers yet? Made any positive changes to gameplay since 2004?

ORGAN TRAWLERZ. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau has released their final rankings, with a slew of future Wolverines included:

  • #34 JT Compher
  • #49 Michael Downing
  • #84 Tyler Motte
  • #111 Nolan De Jong
  • #136 Alex Kile
  • #142 Andrew Copp
  • #157 Evan Allen

2014 recruit Dexter Dancs fell out of the rankings after being 154th in the midterm. Everyone went up save Compher, who dropped from #20. Default reminder: the CSB has separate lists for goalies and Europeans, so add 30% to each guy's ranking to get a projected draft spot. FWIW, Compher and Downing have appeared in a lot of first round mock drafts I've seen.

So. Michigan's class may lack a Trouba-level dominant star, but it is extremely deep. Everyone who's coming in next year* save recent goalie pickup Zach Nagelvoort and Bryson Cianfrone is likely to get picked in the upcoming draft. Kile in particular is a bonus after being passed over a year ago. He nearly doubled his points in the USHL this year and gives Michigan another option for a scoring-line forward.

That helps make up for the fade from Cianfrone, who was headed for the first round of the OHL draft before his Michigan commitment. He's off NHL draft radars and has a 6-15-21 line in the USHL this year. He is a 5'8" kid who's coming in as an 18 year old, so you can construct a picture in which he still develops into what he was supposed to be a couple years ago.

Anyway: strong incoming class that hopefully sticks around long enough to be impact upperclassmen. And how about Andrew Copp?

*[Spencer Hyman and Max Shuart may also arrive, but neither signed a LOI so I assume they are walking on.]

And we're done. Show us what we've won. Oh, it's a wheezing dog and a dead iguana. Jim Delany on further Big Ten expansion:

"Given everything that has gone on, yes," Delany said when asked about the ACC’s deal cementing the current five major conferences to their respective lineups.

Although Delany said the 16-team superconference format was also "an arbitrary number" that he wasn’t part of, the Big Ten was open to further expansion. ... There still is the possibility that a team from the SEC (Missouri) could leave for the Big Ten -- the SEC has no grant of rights or exit fee -- but that’s a pipe dream, at best.

So here we are. Playing Rutgers and Maryland every year, and not Iowa and Wisconsin and Nebraska. It's hard not to see Delany as a giant middle finger to fans, just walkin' around. Mighty big hand you escaped from there. Tell us more about media markets. Please, yes, just like that. Yes. Like that. About media markets.

What is a name, anyway? The powers that be paid someone millions of dollars to tell them to call the college football playoff "College Football Playoff." Nice work if you can get it. Not quite as good as Bill Hancock's job, which is to say whatever the hell he wants at any time without bothering to pretend he believes it.

That is not actually a name. If you call your dog "dog" you have not named him but described him. It is bad when your "name" for a thing is in fact a description of a superset of what you are—there are already other, separate college football playoffs. Delany:

"I'll be happy with whatever. Obviously I'm not great with names."

Yes, but that's no reason to eschew the concept entirely. You can try again, Mr. Delany, as long as you float some trial balloons to see if the entire internet mocks you before you make a decision. You can love again.

Anyway. These folks trademarked their name-type substance. Can you even do that? I want to make shirts that say "COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF" to test this out. If Xerox is too generic to be a trademark, how can "college football playoff" be unique enough? Someone who likes being in lawsuits, please find this out.

Further confirmation. In not-quite-announced news that's pretty much announced, yeah, Desmond Morgan is permanently moving to MLB so James Ross can start at WLB:

“Playing in space is something I definitely had to adjust to my first two years here because I wasn’t used to that in high school. I was more of an in the box kind of guy,” Morgan said. “Going back over to MIKE, I kind of feel a little bit more comfortable in a sense because of that.

“During the spring, it’s been an adjustment but it was something I kind of grew up playing.”

Joe Bolden and Royce Jenkins-Stone will back up the MLB and WLB spots, respectively.

BONUS: James Ross named "most improved player" this spring. Hype rocket is entering stage two.

Ann Arbor is pretty all right. Click for big.

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WE AGREE OH MY PANTS. Dave Brandon and I both think a ten game conference schedule is a good idea.

"I'm in favor of looking at it for the same reasons we went from eight to nine," Brandon told MLive.com. Those reasons include more competitive schedules, as well as greater ability for players to see each of the league's 13 other teams in their careers.

The money thing is an issue, but raise your hand if you'd willingly eat the extra costs from a hypothetical exhibition game in exchange for a tenth conference game. That's everybody, right?

Etc.: "In a sign of the times, Michigan has competition at fullback." : /

25 memories of "college sports' dumbest goldrush." Blake McLimans taking his talents to Oxford. RIP, Toomer's oaks. Senior highlights from Mark Donnal. Stretch four, yo. Athletic directors are sad. David Thorpe really likes Trey Burke($).

Unverified Voracity Would Settle Everything at Trafalgar

Unverified Voracity Would Settle Everything at Trafalgar

Submitted by Seth on February 21st, 2013 at 4:23 PM

8347157127_b0b7767256_o

Legolas is cooler than Treebeard. Brian's taking a short vacation and left me to write UV today. That's too bad because he's missing the party after Spath heard from Norfleet's mentor/7-on-7 coach ($) that the MGoFavorite little bugger's defensive foray was a temporary thing:

"He's supposedly going back to offense," Blackwell said. "They will use him in the slot and in the return game, and some as a running back. Coach [Greg] Mattison is saying he can still use him on defense and is making an argument to keep him there, but Dennis' passion is for the offense. That's where he wants to play, and from talking to Dennis it appears that's where he's going to play.

Putting him with the other elves made some sense when the cornerback two-deep was the starters, and what carries he could siphon last year from Toussaint, Rawls and Hayes would now have to be defended from Drake Johnson and three highly rated incoming freshman. The rooting for Norfleet to take over Smith's role comes from simple fan interest: it's way more fun to hold your breath and watch this guy scamper around like a maniac than to plunge a tree into the enemy lines and watch him fall forward for the same result.

Contempt for compliance, not photos of Donna Shalala. The Miami (of course THAT Miami) case was to be the Austerlitz of the new and improved NCAA enforcement empire; instead it's going to be a summer of Waterloo metaphors and Shalala vs. Emmert lead images. SBNation's Robert Wheel's afore-linked take calls for Emmert's resignation, while admitting that won't do anything to fix the underlying problem:

If the NCAA were enforcing rules that didn't require a lot of investigation, then this lack of power would not be a problem. But as long as college sports remain a big time moneymaker with rich guys who want to circumvent the rulebook to see their teams win, said rich guys will find ways to try to outfox the rules. Unless we want to give the NCAA subpoena power (we really don't) then this will always be a losing battle. The NCAA will never have the ability or the resources to catch up to people breaking its rules.

In a real legal system the Canes could discredit the prosecution's only witness and get the case thrown out. This isn't a real legal system: schools don't get in trouble for breaking NCAA rules, they get in trouble by publicly reminding everybody that the NCAA can't really enforce them. USC tried this and got slapped down despite the evidence in hand being too weak for any court. Meanwhile investigators with bees up their butts couldn't prove what every 4-year-old knows in re: Ohio State gives players cars, or really much of anything in the original Tatgate story until the NFL forced Pryor to talk. For stonewalling so politely the extent of the Buckeyes' punishment was to end a 12-0 season with Meyer on their sidelines and Tressel on their shoulders. The dumbest thing Shalala could do is comply.* The second-dumbest thing she could do is say na-na-na-boo-boo to an organization that only slightly cares if it turned up doo doo.

The obvious answer is pay the players (FoxSports in re: Clowney and the risk of injury) and end the shadow ring where guys like Shapiro are the only people who can perform the otherwise perfectly legal function of paying adult U.S. citizens for the services they provide.

* There are a select few schools like Michigan who don't have a choice because our whole thing is being the good guys, and because we're among those who would benefit the most if tradition, competitiveness and the quality of education were the only factors in recruiting and retaining college football talent. Kind of like how Great Britain would prefer to settle everything with a sea battle.

Basketball on verge of spread revolution. Weinreb dug up a budding Mike Leach from a D-II school in West Virginia to highlight a story about how pacing in basketball has slowed way down while the smart guys beating up the lower ranks are going the other way. That coach's motto is "Don't do it unless you can rationalize why you're doing it." He's too old to end up in Ann Arbor, but apparently the Yost alleles for engineering-minded coaches are still going strong in Appalachia. Beilein small ball isn't speed ball, but this…

When Crutchfield recruits, he looks for kids who react quickly — "You can make up for a lot of quickness and speed if you react mentally," he says — and play with high intensity: If they get beat on defense and they don't D up even harder the next time down the floor, he starts to wonder if they might not fit into his system.

… is similar to Beilein. HT and board discussion itauditbill. While we're on Grantland's court Shane Ryan has updated his chart of the Big Ten's "Big Six" versus each other on the road:

grant_h_ryan_chart_shane_576

That's part of a discussion on how road game success can be a strong predictor of postseason performance. I've used it for predicting NBA and NHL playoff results, and March Madness would be right there with them if it wasn't such a crapshoot in general. HT again from the board: SoFlaWolverine.

Assistant Coaches like money too. There's a rumor that Oklahoma may be going after Jerry Montgomery (Meinke via Footballscoop). Cam Cameron you may have heard just joined Les Miles's staff, further evidence to my theory that LSU is the In a Mirror, Darkly evil twin of Michigan from another dimension.

lesmilesinamirrordarkly

Dark universe Les Miles is in his 5th season as head coach at Michigan, where he's been slowly rebuilding the school's reputation shredded by win-at-all-costs Evil Lloyd Carr

Cameron will be making $3.4 million over 3 years, and this has made internet people start buzzing about top assistants commanding the kind of salary you give the school president. /mind blown. /thinks about the difference between GERG and Greg. /mind unblown.

It's right because the internet said so. The NCAA cover vote on Facebook has moved to a semifinals where the S-E-C!!! vote has been split (to Eddie Lacy's doom and random A&M guy's benefit) and Denard now leads. Every time this appears on the board cynical-me goes to erase it because it's playing to somebody's marketing ploy, and enchanted-me says "But Denard on the cover would be a wonderful thing!" I wish Denard would be on the cover because he is the living symbol of what is singularly spectacular about NCAA football; I also wish they could have come to that conclusion without somebody "developing an engaging social media campaign" that might only settle on Robinson because a cat playing guitar hero wasn't allowed in the race. #AIRBHG2014

Etc. People of the East Coast, check your DVR schedule or wind up recording a Virginia-BC game. UMHoops takes on Michigan's defense, scores a bazillion points (ha!). Zoltan's foundation update. FAU's marketing department derps stadium sponsor, double-derps wikipedia entry. MGoAndroid App is updated, report bugs here. NFL logos if they were designed by British people.

Unverified Voracity Roots For Ties

Unverified Voracity Roots For Ties

Submitted by Brian on July 24th, 2012 at 12:14 PM

[Programming note: Ace is at a Big Day Prep Showdown event today and will be reporting from that. Recruiting roundup will be tomorrow.]

Jamie Morris breaks the record. Via WH, the 1987 Minnesota game:

Also Michigan gives up a 98-yard touchdown run.

FOOTBAW. Also from WH, the 1998 shutout of Penn State. Try to watch the first minute of this without punching something and thinking about FOOTBAW:

Keith Jackson, man.

UPDATE/BONUS: Fumble recoveries, man.

image

Luck be a lady tonight.

Your tears are so yummy, Scott. Run, don't walk, to ND Nation and imbibe the thread "An emo rant: I'm still not over the Michigan loss" if the suffering of other tribes stirs even the barest tremors of pleasure in you. You will not be disappointed:

I was there...
by mg73

and the worst part for me was the 45 min it took to wade through 100,000 rabid fans screaming and singing the entire time.

I had perfect seats right under the press box on the west side with my best friend who's a UM fan. There were so many head-banging letdowns during that game: The last drive, Denard continually throwing the ball up for grabs the entire game and having UM come down with it every time, Denard fumbling and then picking it up and running it in for a TD vs Rees having the ball just fall out of his hands in the Red Zone...

Fortunately my friend was very gracious in victory, as I would have been had we won. But it still makes me ill when I think about it.

My brother's response after the game summed it up perfectly
by jameszuro

"I don't know where to start cleaning up. Firs I sh*t myself I was so happy. Then I threw up all over the carpet."

Oh, man. I have to sit down after that.

He came with the power of LAW and gave unto newspaper reporters. Are you wondering what the only lawyer in America thinks about the Penn State sanctions? Wonder no longer:

On Sunday, Buckner filed a blog entry (read it here) stating that he is "extremely concerned about the possible NCAA sanctions and urge the organization to comply with its existing processes and procedures to address the Penn State sexual abuse scandal."

Further, he wrote that sanctions could "potentially violate federal and state notions of due and fair process" because, among other reasons, Penn State did not violate an existing NCAA rule, and the NCAA is not following existing procedures available to other schools.

He's got a blog now. Batten down the law-hatches.

Even more PENN STATE~! So the thing about the sanctions that is truly painful is that the roster restriction doesn't start for two years. The bowl ban is now, the scholarship reductions are now, but the roster cap of 65 does not come into effect until 2014. But since it's open season on PSU players and what's left of their 2012 recruiting class, PSU is likely to be way, way below their hypothetical maximum this fall, and then they've only got 15 slots to try to bring that up to par next year, and that's when the roster cap kicks in. Penn State has six years of extreme restrictions. Which… wow.

Q: assuming academic-fraud-laden and booster-runner-employing North Carolina gets charged with LOIC can Mark Emmert level a similar punishment? I think that's the test case for those theorizing about the New Era Of Enforcement. What went down at UNC seems as egregious a violation of NCAA principles as what happened at Penn State, though not the principles of basic human decency. If Emmert agitates for a similarly harsh, long-term punishment of the Tarheels, then I'll believe in the new era.

I'm on the fence as it is. Emmert is clearly trying to repair some of the things that suck about the NCAA. Under his watch they jammed through the ability to offer multi-year scholarships (barely) and were only thwarted by the Indiana States of the world when they tried to offer an additional stipend to the athletes. IIRC, both of these pieces of legislation took some arcane-but-direct route that got them through the legislative process without exposing it to votes involving the Indiana States until their only resort was the override process. That required a supermajority of 5/8ths to knock down the legislation and that is the only reason (THE OPTION TO OFFER!) multi-year scholarships got through. A majority was against it.

So, yeah, rail on the NCAA because you're Drew Magary or Charlie Pierce and railin' is your speciality, but really what we're railing at is the rickety structure trying to accommodate schools that spend millions of dollars annually on a bonfire called college athletics with the major schools that can build thousand-foot tall statues of Charles Woodson intercepting that pass against MSU*. When the big players try to lurch slowly towards a more equitable distribution of their massive revenues, the small schools cry "level playing field" with a straight face and knock it down. That's the real issue, and the only solution is to hack big football schools away from Indiana State.

Anyway, Emmert seems to be ramming things through the NCAA without regard to anything except how he can Get Things Done, and the things that he wants to get done are good changes. He can't help it that he's not a dictator.

*[Just sayin']

Paterno statue position paper. Should have left it up, but removed the "educator, coach, humanitarian" text under his name. Just let people look at as they would.

We've got a poll. The writers have taken it upon themselves to replicate the preseason polls the milquetoasty Big Ten has done away with. Results:

Leaders Division
1. Wisconsin (19 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State (5)
3. Purdue
4. Illinois
5. Penn State
6. Indiana

Legends Division
1. Michigan (16 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (7)
3. Nebraska (1)
4. Iowa
5. Northwestern
6. Minnesota

Michigan wins the championship game on 11 out of 24 ballots. If only it was slightly under 50% for the Rose Bowl this year. The inexplicable Will Gholston Hype Train continues, as he's the pick for defensive player of the year. Kawaan Short and John Simon are like "WTF I have beaten many blocks in my career page me when Gholston does yes I still have a pager also Tamagotchi."

The Elite 11 is a ridiculous thing now. You may not be following this closely, but there are now 25(!) quarterbacks at the Elite 11, which is, like, too many quarterbacks. Not only is your name silly but it results in events like this:

The third day of 7v7 began at the Elite 11 in which each quarterback takes eight throws. The duration of the day spread across a seven hour time frame makes for some strikingly different conditions. The early afternoon groups contend with a stiff ocean breeze that typically dies down late afternoon and into the evening.

Even more ridiculous was a redzone event where the QBs threw four times. Take all Elite 11 rankings with a grain of salt, as they represent little data made big. Shane Morris did well according to all observers, but did not make the camp coaches' Elite 11 list.

Isn't he doing this whenever he walks down a street? Will Campbell's Dukes of Hazzard fail magically transmogrifies into

Michigan senior defensive tackle Will Campbell accepted responsibility for a civil infraction of blocking a sidewalk Monday morning in the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Be narrower or pay $300 in fines or court costs. Campbell also has a sentencing hearing for misdemeanor destruction of property coming up. My punishment spidey-sense suggests this is a stairs-type offense that shouldn't impact his availability for football games.

Nevermind. The "Valley of the Sun Bowl" is no more. In its place:

The bastard child of the Fiesta Bowl, the Insight Bowl, will now shed its technocratic shell and become known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Please insert immediately obvious jokes about a field rigged with sprinklers and booby traps designed to take games into overtime here.

I hope other people are driven as insane by the idea people would go to a sports bar and cheer for a tie, or that someone could be watching the Detroit Randoms try a last-ditch Hail Mary down a touchdown and say "the only thing that could make this better is… OVERTIME" instead of "the only thing that could make this better is winning 68-0 and being at a place where the food comes on, you know, plates." I hate the fake BWW people so, so much.

Yessssssss. EA has agreed to give up NCAA licensing exclusivity as part of an anti-trust class-action lawsuit. The contract lapses in 2014. Bizarrely, it stipulates that EA won't re-acquire an exclusive license for "at least five years." If your position now is so crappy you're paying out a class action lawsuit settlement why would it be better in five years? I don't know.

Anyway, this opens the door for football games from other people that may not suck and may get EA to actually fix its product. A lot of folks in the comment thread were skeptical about the economics of just putting out a college football game, but I figure someone's got to take a swing. Also one guy put out a call for a CFB game akin to Football Manager. Working title: "Brian was never heard from again."

Etc.: Bonus news that will depress Penn State fans: top basketball recruit Brandon Austin decommits. UNC stuff gets incrementally worse. Luke Winn on transferring up in college basketball. Former Penn State player twitter roundup. Penn State punishment comment fallout. BHGP podcast w/ the original BSD mafia (Chris Grovich, Kevin… uh… I don't know his last name) on the Penn State stuff. The city of Grambling is saucy, yo.

Unverified Voracity Misses On Justin King

Unverified Voracity Misses On Justin King

Submitted by Brian on July 11th, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Goodbye Gateway. You probably have a vague familiarity with Gateway High School in Pennsylvania as that place that puts out a bunch of guys who Michigan recruits, occasionally secures, but more often go elsewhere in the Midwest, sometimes annoyingly. Justin King, one-time Michigan lock-type substance who ended up at Penn State, is the most frustrating loss in retrospect. While King's presence with PSU didn't help them win any games against Michigan…

justin-king-mario-manningham_medium[1]

…adding an All-Big Ten corner (even if a second team one) to the 2006 team had the potential to flip one or both of the OSU and USC games, in which you may remember Chris Graham and Morgan Trent getting torched repeatedly. In Graham's defense, he was a brick of muscle badly miscast as a nickel corner against OSU's passing spread that year, which is all the more reason King's presence could have been a game-hanging one.

You may also remember Gateway as the home of Shayne Hale and Cameron Saddler, two of the guys on the "Pittsburgh is basically Mississippi" list of players who inexplicably chose the local half-empty NFL stadium over, you know, Michigan. And others I suppose. I was pretty sure that Michigan had acquired at least a couple guys from that school (Marlin Jackson?) but Rivals shows none.

Anyway, this is an extremely long preamble to a surprising happening: due to severe budget cuts it looks like long-time Gateway coach Terry Smith may be forced out. The school district is dropping their athletic director position—also held by Smith—to part-time and the guy can get a regular gig somewhere else. Any impact this has on Michigan will be minimal since PA recruiting has been erratic at best since Teryl Austin departed, but apparently the mention of changes at Gateway are enough to prompt the fist-shaking realization of what could have been if Justin King had just gone where everyone expected him to. I still remember the post-it note I would scribble Michigan's hypothetical recruiting class on when in boring work meetings.

The comparison is inescapable. MGoFave-rave Brian Phillips spent the duration of Wimbledon at Wimbledon, returning with autism-spectrum-on-the-scene reports about a triumphant Roger Federer that frequently reference the capital-A "Apparatus" and find Phillips yelled at by a multicultural cornucopia of annoyed television people.

It's impossible to read them and not think about David Foster Wallace, and yet Phillips comes out looking pretty okay despite that inevitability. I enjoyed them… a lot. It turns out I like reading about tennis far more than I enjoy watching it. You might as well. Five parts!

I love Grantland. Viva Bill Simmons.

But you're supposed to be an incorporeal floating voice. Fouad goes down the twitter rabbit hole and comes out with Carl Grapentine in the flesh:

He's got a radio show in Chicago and is not a ball of soothing energy, which is quite a surprise. Fouad finds this a little disturbing, and I'm with him. But I find this more disturbing:

I know there are some anti-Grapentine folks out there in the fan base

Who are these people? We must find them and give them, I don't know, Fort Wayne Mad Antz season tickets. Grapentine's voice is as integral to the Michigan Stadium experience as Bud Lynch's is at Joe Louis. He's the voice of the program. I find the idea people would dislike him—maybe prefer the FREEEEE PIZZZZAAA guy—alarming.

Good luck with that. If you're not a season ticket holder and you want to buy single-game tickets to the MSU game, you have to buy UMass plus two of Air Force, Illinois, Northwestern, and Iowa. Total charge for the four games is $380, $95 bucks a ticket… which seems about double what you could get from scalpers on gameday. I'm guessing they'll sell out since scalpers will try to make it work selling to people pathologically afraid of going to the stadium without a ticket in hand.

NCAA reviews coming out. Unlike myself, Ace is still a feverish devotee thanks to a band of friends who he plays with online. He'll have a review whenever he can pry himself away. While you're waiting, MJD says "just buy last year's," which he thought was a major leap forward in the series. Midnight Maize highlights the OCD approach—which was mine when I kept buying the thing—taken by the serious folks at Operation Sports. Some of these complaints are the same ones I had five years ago:

Apparently, Brent Venables taught the NCAA Football 13 team all about safety play because receivers run right past them into the open field. Vertical routes with fast receivers are nothing but money, it's horrendous. …

There aren't penalties in football except for the occasional holding and offsides!" - Anyone [whose] only experience with football was through NCAA Football 13. …

There are more plays than just screen plays and deep passes computer AI. Seriously. The A.I. Playcalling is absolutely atrocious from what I'm seeing in the early going. Or maybe it's just the AI's execution? Regardless, the AI seems way off this year when it comes to running an offense.

I'm glad I missed the era when four years into your dynasty nobody had a kicker who could hit an extra point.

On the Dantonio impression. Shane Morris deployed one:

What makes this funny to me is that this is clearly a conversation that actually happened almost word for word. Shane's clearly talking about Taybor Pepper, the longsnapper who was going to walk-on at Michigan before Dantonio tossed him a scholarship. Shane adds a "State" in there when he means just "Michigan," so it's a little confusing, but it's clear that at some camp Dantonio approached Shane Morris and had a little exchange about the importance of long-snapping.

Which is really important starting NOW. 2011: no one cares about long-snappers even a little. 2012: Auburn pays 180k for one.

The pointlessness of watch lists. It's watch list season, when every returning starter in America is named to their positionally-appropriate reminder that Award X exists. This will be the only time watch lists are mentioned on the blog, because this is how silly they are:

Brendan Gibbons converted 1-of-5 field-goal attempts as a freshman in 2010, which helped lead the Michigan football team to a last-place finish in placekicking -- nationally.

Two years later, he's one of 30 players to land on the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top kicker.

No offense to Keith Stone, but Gibbons's career long is 43 yards. Watch lists are inane.

Quality people. Kitchener has apparently filed a pointless lawsuit against the Daily because they said they offered Trouba money. Given the standards for libel prosecution on both sides of the border, the chances of success are 0% and the Rangers are threatening freedom of the press because they'd like to maintain the fiction that certain OHL players get dollars in excess of the $50-a-week stipend they haven't changed since the 80s.

Etc.: The free Blue Ribbon Big Ten preview this year is Michigan. The primary question it asks is "why would anyone pay for this"? Their prediction is… not made. Woo! Meanwhile, Phil Steele says M is one of 11 teams that fit the "national championship mold".

The Insight Bowl is now called the Valley of the Sun Bowl, not to be confused with that other Sun Bowl. It is now the only bowl game other than the Rose and Gator to have an actual non-sponsor name, which means it's probably not long for this world.

Brady Hoke back in bear-waving-toothpick mode. More Mark Donnal highlights.

Unverified Voracity Finds A Mascot

Unverified Voracity Finds A Mascot

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2012 at 1:32 PM

HTTV delivery schedule. I've gotten a lot of emails about when your hands can wrap around a copy of Hail To The Victors, and the answer is "soon." The launch party was the first I'd seen of the magazines myself and we're having some teething problems when it comes to getting them in the mail in a cost-effective way. (Kickstarter's reporting mechanisms are not complicated enough to handle what we wanted to do so we did quite a bit of shoehorning.) I'm expecting this will happen very soon. If you filled out a kickstarter survey, you're good. (If you haven't: do so ASAP.)

UPDATE: Unless we don't have your shipping info, everything that doesnt get a specialty t-shirt will be going out this week. Everything with specialty shirts will be going out mid next week.

Van Bergen 2.0. That's DT commit Henry Poggi, man:

Tremendous: OK, so I have to ask if you've ever seen a picture of Ryan Van Bergen. You can't deny the resemblance.

Henry (laughs): Yes, yes I have seen a few. Actually, when my brother Jim heard that I was looking at Michigan and sent me a picture of Van Bergen on Facebook and told me I looked exactly like this guy.

Tremendous: When we first started doing the site, we did a breakdown on you and I remember Keith calling me going off about how much you looked like Van Bergen, especially with the long hair. What are the long term flow plans?

Henry: I will definitely be staying with the long hair.

Mascot model. He's got a bike, he's in a suit, he's a mascot apart.

usa-jaguar[1]

Yeah, he's a jaguar, not a wolverine. If he's willing to be environmentally friendly and stand on the sideling clapping disinterestedly while talking about real estate, he's Michigan's man. Jaguar. Whatever.

That's all that's left. It's testament to the work Wolverine Historian has put in that he's just posted highlights of the 1995 Memphis game:

He notes you should keep an eye out for Charles Woodson's hair around the 2 minute mark.

New bowl order. In the long term, John Junker's Fiesta Bowl plunder may be a benefit for college football since it seems like it was a wakeup call to college football conferences. Slapped with a torrent of bad publicity, various commissioners descended to the war room to plan strategy, found that they had all the power, and proceeded using it. First the SEC and Big 12 decided they'd co-own a bowl, now the ACC(!) has made a power play with the Orange Bowl:

If there was any doubt that the bowls are the biggest losers in the new postseason arrangement, the new ACC-Orange Bowl deal should put that to rest.  That’s because the most significant part of it is this:

Along with the announcement that it will be aligned with the Orange Bowl, the ACC also told ESPN that it now controls the broadcast rights to the bowl, meaning that it will be taking bids on who broadcasts it, and will be taking at least 50 percent of those broadcast rights for itself.

It’s evidence of a sea change in who’s calling the shots.

“It’s a de-centralization,” one BCS source said. “Conferences taking control of their bowl games and determining who participates in the games. It’s the conferences really loaning their bowl games to us to have semifinals.”

I wonder if the Big Ten and Pac 12 are exerting the same leverage under the table with the Rose Bowl. That seems 50-50: Delany has been pretty ruthless at acquiring the money but Grandaddy don't hear too well these days, sonny, lean in so I can hear you better…

What was that again?

In other bowl rejiggeration news, we've found out what happens when the Rose or whoever loses a team to the playoff:

So when you hear the term “contract bowl” to describe the Rose, Champions and Orange bowls, it literally means those games have their own contracts with individual conferences. Hence, if they lose one of their contracted champions to the playoff, they can replace that team with any other team from that partner conference, minimum ranking be damned. The BCS is not dictating which conferences get these contracts. There’s nothing stopping one of those bowls from signing the Big East or Mountain West, but realistically it’s not going to happen.

That's Stewart Mandel, who also says that this AQ/non-AQ business that was supposed to be going away actually isn't: if the Rose is hosting a semi and the Big Ten champ doesn't make it, they have a guaranteed slot in one of the three "access" bowls that will fill out the new six-bowl red carpet lineup. No such luck for the Big East, let alone anyone else. In practice, expanding the number to 12 and going strictly on the selection committee's rankings of who are the best teams will get remotely deserving minor conference champs in most of the time.

We must protect the Rose Bowl from the horror of hosting the Pac 12 and Big Ten champions. Meanwhile… what the hell?

At least? Big 12 consultant Chuck Neinas and BCS executive director Bill Hancock have told CBSSports.com it remains uncertain how many times the Rose and Champions bowls will host semifinals. Both bowls have reasons to host less than four semifinals each over the course of the 12-year agreement. (24 semifinals in 12 years divided by six bowls = four each.)

We all know the Rose would prefer to have its Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup as often as possible. A little known codicil at the end of the current BCS deal required the Rose to take a non-BCS school only once in an eight-year period. (That was TCU in 2011).

The Big 12 and SEC own the Champions Bowl, essentially a start-up whose valuation grows by the day. The two leagues could find more money playing outside the semifinal (more often than not) with a separate rightsholder.

Protecting the Rose Bowl was priority one for the Big Ten, but this system is not the "if you're in, Rose hosts" system. It's a random rotation that will expose the Rose Bowl to potentially non-sanctified games in some years and has the potential to make the Rose the Grandaddy of Conference Runners-Up when the semifinals rotate away.

That's nuts. By handing away semifinals the Big Ten and Pac 12 are putting their faith in the Rose Bowl's brand over the cachet of the national championship… which, okay, I guess isn't surprising since that's been the MO here since home games were abandoned.

I thought the plan then was to put any game featuring a #1 or #2 ranked Big Ten/Pac-12 team in the Rose, which would have preserved its importance. Now it's mostly a consolation prize in the same way it would have been if there were home games—and the powers that be are trying to make it even more so. We must destroy this tradition in order to save it.

Walton something something. Wiggle? Rod Beard profiles 2013 PG commit Derrick Walton in the News:

"He's a point guard in the pure sense," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Sam Webb. "He had always been a pass-first point guard, but he was a pass-first, pass-second and pass-third point guard. He really had the ability to take over games offensively but was overly concerned with getting his teammates involved.

"There were times when his dad would say to him, 'I need you to go out and get it done offensively.' On the AAU circuit, they told him the same thing with the (Michigan) Mustangs. I remember he responded with seven 3-pointers in a game after he had deferred a little too much."

He probably won't have the immediate impact of Trey Burke because that's a once-in-a-decade kind of thing for anyone outside the realm of obvious one-and-done sorts, but Michigan should be able to survive a Burke departure after this year.

Sure, why not? EDSBS posts "We Are ND" for no apparent reason, which is enough of a reason for me to post it.

This serves as a reminder that we are We Are ND until such time as a pile of "In The Big House" records are burned at midfield.

Brief EA NCAA rant. Their latest gimmick is putting former stars in the uniforms of top rivals—sorry, putting people wearing certain numbers who may or may not be Tebowing but certainly aren't representations of current or former college players—and putting it on the internet to horrify people. They started with Desmond Howard in an OSU jersey and have now put Tim Tebow in a Georgia uniform.

In a nutshell, this is why I quit buying NCAA a few years ago. Instead of making an edition of the game in which receivers catch a realistic number of balls instead of dropping half of them or making a 50-yard pass actually difficult to complete, EA has spent the last decade working on stupid gimmicks and letting their franchise stagnate on a treadmill. Damn you, exclusive licensing.

Etc.: John L Smith declares bankruptcy, confirming that he is the Most Interesting Coach In The World. Purdue blog Hammer and Rails previews Michigan, asserts Boilers will lose 31-20. Notre Dame would like to beat Michigan this year. Jerry Hinnen profiles Betsey Armstrong, who will start in goal for the women's water polo team and could probably tear your arm out of its socket. Apply to be an assistant cheerleading coach. This is where your money is going.

MHN runs down hockey players who never showed up. Amazing how Jack Campbell worked out for Michigan: they get the statistically-best goalie in program history, Campbell puts up a sub-.900 save percentage in the OHL. Western College Hockey blows up Kitchener's libel threat at Slovin.

Dear Diary Had a Lucid Dream About Bears

Dear Diary Had a Lucid Dream About Bears

Submitted by Seth on June 15th, 2012 at 8:32 AM

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Upchurch / "We don't need to drink blood to know what it tastes like"

My favorite day of the year growing up was right about now, a morning in mid-June when I woke up and it was still sunny as it had been when I went to bed, and I'd sit up and go through the painful transition from a reality where the Care Bars (or post-1991 Desmond Howard) and I solve crimes, to one where Number 2 pencils are a thing. Then mid-boot it would suddenly dawn on me that yesterday was a half-day and today is…

Then there was a morning when I was already working but still living in my college house and realized that school and the first day of summer vacation were a package deal. This is young adulthood: trying to find meaning in everything because that which used to have meaning is gone, and you don't yet know what having kids is actually like. That day my buddy convinced me to see a local post-6411555271_43a84798f0_opunk band based on the challenge of how much crap the lead singer could threaten to break before the set ended/he actually broke something important. And they sang something about losing that first day of summer, or I thought it was about losing that day. Anyway fast forward to that train track-ity walk home from the Blind Pig and two recent grads calling the world insufficient when I brought up, "well, we beat Ohio State this year." And that worked, because I had no idea we wouldn't beat them again for eight years.

Since November I've had another pinprick thought to convince me to leave a dream just on the edge of lucid and reenter this plane of existence: Guys, we beat Ohio State this year. This is the payoff for all of those years of traversing the darkness rather than sucking it up and hiring Les Miles or something. We get this little ray of first-day-of-summer-vacation-level happy that we can access any time, and it doesn't even poop itself!

Doing lines. From his opening paragraph I can tell jamiemac has been doing the same thing. The post itself covers the Vegas lines for highlight-able Michigan games this year. I'm not much of a gambler (I like picking but not risk-chalktaking) but I love reading their stuff. People trying to play the margins necessarily have to cut through all the fluff, including their own biases. Movement of the lines set by casinos trying to entice people to bet, and where that movement ends, is a far more accurate power ranking than that produced by columnists with 30 logo pictures and 30 snark remarks.

This one is especially well written and speaks volumes about what the smart money thinks our chances are against rivals and power programs. There's wonkiness too—like a poker player who always plays Jack-Nines because he won big on those a few times, he always takes the underdog in Michigan-Notre Dame. Then again you've got two programs who often enter seasons ranked above rationality—especially ND—and presumably this affects the higher ranked of the two each time, so maybe that's the effect? Anyway Michigan's the dog so yay. If you were handicapping Diarist of the Week, the smart money's on jamiemac.

The smart football. There will be more on this over the summer but Chris Brown has collected some of his best works into a book, something Brian thought of doing before we realized nobody wants to relive either of the eras his best works were written in. You can buy the book, which is like $5 for an Amazon download, or read the columns on his site and Grantland, or get the Cliff's Notes from a friend. This friend is DonAZ, who added his own thoughts as to how the lessons relate to Michigan. They're in the teddy_bearform of questions, some of which are answered well in the comments. Also in the comments is a jackass complaining about improper conjugation of forms of "thee."

Hey Rube, easy on the bears. Hunter S. Thompson once shot his assistant while trying to shoot a bear. If you guessed this my lead-in for a jhackney diary, you know your diarists too well. His dream is similar to mine but with more members of carnivora:

Unfortunately, I missed half the game studying an accordion type device that promised to send you to a planet of unicorns, badass grizzly care bears, and a bottomless plate of fat free/vitamin rich BBQ spare ribs. I did return from the outer reaches of the universe to see an anemic offense get in a position to win the game with a field goal. At first I thought I ended up on an episode of Sliders, reaching a parallel universe.

The Sugar Bowl was real! Ohio State was real! Trouncing Nebraska was real! Bears are real!bearholdingshark

Going for the jugular is real. The Mathlete says so, or I should say his database says so. By this I don't mean a bear trying to make your trachea dangly, but a coach trying to "capitalize on momentum" by attempting a +20 yards pass on 1st down after a turnover/punt/momentum shift. I'll go ahead and ruin it because you're going to read it anyway math junkies: coaches absolutely do this, and it doesn't seem any more effective than the rest of the offense. In the book a poker-loving roommate used to leave in the bathroom I remember it saying players who just won a big hand will bluff immediately after (the loser will fold something decent, then go on tilt). Whatever the poker move, as anyone who spent a significant part of their adult life with Carr teams, if it gets them throwing deep, fine. But since coaches seem prepared for it, the best move would be a short and easy pass. Get 5 yards, keep the crowd into it, get the QB comfortable in a rhythm, and wait to catch the defense on tilt.

Half-way through high school. The 2014 offer list is out, courtesy of Sinsemillaplease. Needs more list of competing offers. Also MOAR of these guys:

 
smileybluesm  smileyhappysm  smileyneutralsm  smileyunhappysm  smileydeadsm

 

That's Mr. Blue, Happy Teeth, Data, Nefarious Eduardo, and Sad Josh to those of you with precisely manicured MGolawns. If you weren't a recruiting board follower pre-2009, these are what recruits looked like before kids committed to their schools before 4th grade. Most of the players on that list have drivers licenses, though not all. If you want to just skip to the part where the Class of 2014 are graduating with multiple Big Ten Championships, ask the guy from the future, if you can get him to stop predicting Heismans for Houma.

Etc. TSS was breaking the server late last night, so I imagine he'll have something about comparing Alabama's roster to Michigan's in the near future, if it's not up already. The little he had uploaded as of 1 a.m. had me refreshing in hopes of more.

Best of the Board

IN A WORLD WHERE LES MILES CHEWS FIELD TURF.

This is one of those posts that goes to a link but the MGoDiscussion is better than that on the site with the article (happens all the time with Yahoo). This time Andy Staples pretends the world hinges on one 3rd down scramble by Chris Leak that saves Zook's job in Florida. From this point the timeline skews into a tangent, creating an alternate 2012 in which Bobby Petrino is rich, and powerful, and married to your mother, and where this has happened to me:

When the bracket is announced the following day and Stanford and Florida make the playoff as at-larges and Michigan doesn't, Miles delivers an impassioned speech on ESPN that will be studied by linguists for decades. His message? Who really knows? But he uses the word "chest" 57 times in seven minutes.

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But hey we win the 2006 national championship all Alabama style and somehow this reminds Crable to block the guy so no Horror, no Peanut Butter Jelly Time and, uh, Denard Robinson at Florida State with Chip Kelly? Like people who've been through actual horrors, I'll keep the guys I survived hell with.

IN A WORLD WHERE DENARD HAS LOWER ACCELERATION THAN LEWAN

Alternate title: OUR QB IS ODDJOB!

Every year EA Sports gives us plenty to complain about, and every team that isn't us way more to complain about (I still hear it from my brother about Greg Jones being rated under Will Campbell in NCAA 2010, which is for 2009, which are they ever going to fix this?) Mr. Yost put together an extensive formula for re-rating guys, then stuck Ricardo Miller on the WR three-deep, starts Funchess, and Gallon's not even the slot receiver. I'm sad this is the last year 12-year-olds will be asserting a neighborhood rule against using Michigan because Denard plus EA game mechanics is "unfair."

IN A WORLD WHERE TACKLES CAN WEAR 11 AND CENTERS CAN WEAR 48

Informal poll: un-retiring numbers or no? This was a prevailing theme over several threads as further Legends jerseys were leaked. This is one of those places where I don't care what a majority of fans think—I want it given to freshmen, redshirt freshmen, sophomores, or at the latest a redshirt sophomore. I want them to be recruiting tools and to not interfere with already purchased jerseys and databases and most importantly my dreams of long-term Michigan starters riding around in their signature numbers on unicorns and helping me fight crimes. I find this very important indeed.

IN A WORLD WHERE COUNTING SYLLABLES IS CONSIDERED HIGH ART

Offseason Haiku.

IN A WORLD WHERE WILL CAMPBELL AND "SLEEK" ARE IN THE SAME SENTENCE

This is Wendyk5's description of BWC. See this and other snippets from the Women's Football Academy. Things in that video: Borges's arm is in a cast:

borgeswing

Darrell Funk looks like a Law & Order policeman. Several times the girls ran Denard Power from the shotgun spread.

Your moment of zen