Dear Diary is Bundled With Half-Life

Dear Diary is Bundled With Half-Life

Submitted by Seth on April 13th, 2012 at 8:51 AM

Quick reminder: you've got one week to get it at the lowest price ----------------------->
so if you were waiting to get 13 more for grandma, better act fast.

Burkesportal

So in preparation for Brian to be laid up on a cocktail of drugs they won't let you take while operating devices with internet connections, we underlings were fully prepared for one of those M.A.S.H. episodes when Colonel Blake has to leave the base and Hawkeye and Trapper hire a circus or something. Alas before Ace and I could declare ourselves the Pros from Dover and infiltrate the alumni golf game Brian turned out to be mostly lucid, meaning we now have loads of weird unpublished things taking up space in the hopper.

Here's one of those on Burke's return, which if you're old/young enough to get the phrase "The Cake is a Lie!" you'll get it; if you don't, don't bother.

A one-man advantage. If you like hockey and/or wanted to know what was up with Michigan's power play, I mean like 1265151422-slap_shotreally wanna know, your Diarist of the Week is JeepinBen for the first two parts of a three-part series on special teams strategy. Part the 1st, which got the bump, covered the basics and Part II got into penalty killing and controlling the neutral zone. Sample:

The powerplay is a lot like football plays – constraints are huge

This will come into view with the “Penalty Kill” diary, but depending on what the offense is doing, the defense does something and vice versa. There are ways to break kills, kills designed to stop specific powerplays, etc.

Learn what you were actually doing when you selected "umbrella or something" in NHL '99, and you too will be able to offer intelligent criticism when Michigan uses 25 minutes of man advantage in an elimination game to stand around with the puck. Not sold yet? There's Slapshots clips in those links.

Stray thought re Slapshots clips: Do you think Valeri Bure used to skate behind guys' nets and exclaim "I'm doing D.J. Tanner!" because that would totally screw with pretty much every guy in my generation.

Spring's springing. We have this one week to sample this year's line of football. It's not a real game so there won't be predictions and MonuMental backgrounds for this one coming, but Lanyard Program came out with one of his programs. The part that is totally real is the lacrosse game immediately after the fake football: Michigan will finally face Ohio's state university letterman to letterman. MaizeAndBlueWahoo, our resident LAX man, got his lacrosse primer bumped.

HokeIsComing

Winter's coming. By which we mean the cessation of football hostilities and many peaceful months pockmarked by commitments before fall football begins and the wars resume. User Silly Goose compares various programs to Game of Thrones houses. When describing Michigan as the Starks he left out the part about how we chop off the heads of deserters, which teaches us important moral lessons about leadership. And instead of all of the houses battling it out in a single playoff they decide things by getting into ill-defined wars between each other. The allegories fit pretty strongly, which probably says something Campbellian about ascribing character archetypes to sports rivals (if you make this your essay for Rabkin's class I wanna see it!). Blazefire seems to think when winter comes it will be zombies from Ohio THE Stadium.

Etc. Ace's weekly rankings. The Gedeon announcement will bump next week's but if you want to get a jump now to see Midwest power programs filling up—not like 16 commits in April filling up, but 7 to 10 each—it's here. Tennis wins. Blockhams are reliving the best 1:17 of their lives.

#Best of the Board

OHIO WANT IT THEN THEY SHOULDA PUT A RING ON IT

Oh no did Jared Sullinger just pose in drag in front of a light, easily crop-able background? Photoshoppers, start your graphics engines:

shouldawonaringwithit_thumb

The more I learn about the methods people were using to lure Trey Burke to the NBA…

NOTRE DAME IS QUARTERBACKLESS, USING A RECEIVER AS THEIR HB, HAD ONE OF THEIR BEST PLAYERS RECENTLY RETURN FROM A VISION QUEST, AND OF COURSE ARE GOING TO WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BECAUSE IT'S NOTRE DAME.

Those are the key points from hart20 on the state of things in the town under our state.

#HASHTAGS CREATE BUSINESS SYNERGY

This doesn't have anything to do with anything but this blog by friend of MGoUser antoo had six rounds of ideas for hashtags Dave Brandon should copyright in order to better use technology as a competitive advantage to engage and connect to fans who use hashtags.

HE'S GOING TO EASTERN MICHIGAN!

thumbnail.xlarge.1.1307107840.pick-a-little-talk-a-little-ladiesmusicman_6442

The moderator sticky is a serious place where the moderators and editors and other site personnel solemnly explain why your post was deleted, your points were docked, and your avatar is suddenly a pretty pink pony. We take this very seriously and are totally not making fun of you in there.

Unverified Voracity Wants Money For Nothing

Unverified Voracity Wants Money For Nothing

Submitted by Brian on October 4th, 2011 at 5:29 PM

Brilliance is brilliant even if it's not yours. Via the comments of The Only Colors:

2cdhj89[1]

This is not a criticism of Brady Hoke. Brady Hoke went for it on fourth and two. Hoke uber alles.

Fleming many places. The AV Club has launched in Ann Arbor with a few stories, one of them focused on the response to Patrick Fleming's death not only at Michigan but around the marching band world:

A group of representatives from the Ohio State marching band drove from Columbus to Ann Arbor just so they could say a few kind words during Wednesday’s practice. And MSU posted a YouTube recording of their entire band playing “Amazing Grace” as a tribute to Fleming. (The band’s version of the song, by the way, is just the way it should be: proudly, wonderfully loud and brassy.) 

The goodwill doesn’t stop with the Big Ten. If you go to the MMB’s Facebook page, you’ll see condolences from members of seemingly every college marching band in existence. Notably, there are a fair amount from the University of Massachusetts, the roles reversed from when their band director George Parks died last year while his Marching Minutemen were en route to Ann Arbor.

The goodwill doesn’t stop with the Big Ten. If you go to the MMB’s Facebook page, you’ll see condolences from members of seemingly every college marching band in existence. Notably, there are a fair amount from the University of Massachusetts, the roles reversed from when their band director George Parks died last year while his Marching Minutemen were en route to Ann Arbor.

How much money again? Via the magic of FOIA, AnnArbor.com reveals the finances of next year's matchup against Alabama, but they are not specific enough about a critical detail:

In addition to $4.7 million, U-M will receive 200 tickets, two luxury boxes and one field-level suite. The U-M marching band will receive free entry and reserved seating. U-M cheerleaders, dance team and mascots will also receive free entry.

Officials will provide approximately 25,000 tickets for Michigan to sell.

Does Michigan buy those tickets to resell at basically no gain or do they get them for free? The difference there is huge. If it's the former that $4.7 million makes this a negligible financial gain. Michigan made $41.3 million from spectator admissions last year, or about $5.2 million per game. They have to write checks for bodybag games but if bowl trips are any indication the cost to ship the team and the band to Dallas will be at least as much as half-million or so Michigan is hypothetically making if it's just the 4.7 million they're banking. If they're also flogging 2.5 million worth of tickets that's a big bump.

There are also some quotes from Brandon than make this seem awesome because it's like "a regular season bowl experience," by which he means a crappy environment thousands of miles away from either school run by a guy in a blazer. I'd rather play Alabama than San Jose State but Michigan playing in Dallas against a team from Alabama just reinforces how fan-screwing college football has become.

Here's a fantabulous statement that should totally obliterate your opposition to players getting more of what they bring in:

Brandon said the 967-mile trip is a part of U-M athletics’ effort to rebrand itself.

In the past year, U-M has hosted its first night game, purchased and installed a $20 million pair of scoreboards and drastically restructured its athletics marketing arm to include more than a dozen marketing professionals, up from three at the start of 2010.

“Where we were before, I don’t know if we would have considered going off campus to play a game like that,” Brandon said of the Alabama-Michigan game.

Insert Lloyd Carr sneering "money" here. Guy was 150% right about the direction college football was going upon his retirement. Maybe I'm just watching baseball right now, but rebranding the Yankees would get you shot, and deservedly.

(Budget HT: cutter)

BONUS BONUS, and by bonus bonus I mean not bonus not bonus. Michigan just sent out a letter to everyone on the season ticket waiting list telling them "500 bucks or GTFO." The 500 bucks guarantees you nothing except the privilege of waiting for season tickets. The privilege of buying split-season non-guaranteed seats will run you $100.

This may be a good time to revisit next year's home schedule:

Air Force
UMass
Illinois
Michigan State
Northwestern
Iowa

You could scalp half the season for the 100 bucks they're charging you just to be in line for tickets.

Hoover Street Rag on this development:

I've always wanted my own Michigan season tickets, and I was waiting out my opportunity.  I've cobbled together season ticket packages from the Alumni Association, from the Athletic Department's general sale, from friends, from other means.  So I have gone to my share of games, especially over the last five years.  But the reality is simply that I don't have $1000 to spend on six games in 2012, especially if the highlights are Michigan State and Iowa.  I suppose this is the new economic reality of big time college football, the middle class are being squeezed out of a stadium that can hold a medium sized Michigan city; the wealthy, those who can afford to donate to the athletic department, are the lifeblood of the program, the core customers to whom need to be catered, both figuratively and literally.  Season tickets are not about having tickets for all of the games, but rather assuring that you have tickets for Ohio State or Michigan State, depending on the year.  This is not new, but it's going to become more and more common with the ever escalating financial demands on the season ticket holders.  The Athletic Department now faces a stadium for the Ohio State game which may lack an enthusiastic student section because of the post-Thanksgiving date of the game, and may lack the focused pro-Michigan crowd they want due to potential highest bidder ticket sell off by season ticket holders.  Perhaps it doesn't matter to the Athletic Department.  As long as the ticket has been paid for, it doesn't matter who is in the stands.  The partnership with StubHub seems to indicate this line of thinking may have merit.

I wanted to quote a lot less of that just so you'd click through but there's at least twice as much discussion of this. During the season I don't have a lot of time to spend on this but I feel the papercuts incrementing. In the long run finding the exact breaking point at which your mostly-full stadium puts up with your marketing seems like a recipe for long-term decline.

Speaking of long term decline…

Ohio State business. There is more of it and it further tests the idea that there is anything resembling compliance or control within a 200-mile radius of Columbus. I'm wary of exposing myself to more homerderp statements in the aftermath of the NCAA not even bothering to charge failure to monitor, let alone lack of institutional control, in the aftermath of tatgate, but, like, seriously.

Even the intentionally bland ESPN Big Ten blog is beginning to ask WTF:

"These failures are individual failures, failures of individual athletes, obviously a previous coach," Smith said Monday. "It's not a systemic failure of compliance."

There's that line again. Just a few bad apples. Apple cart's fine. Nothing to see here, NCAA. Keep moving along.

"These individual decisions were made to go off the reservation," Smith said. "At the end of the day, it’s not a systems problem."

Remind me to ask Smith where I can find this reservation. Getting paid for not working? Sign me up!

"These were individual decisions by individual people," Smith said. "It's not 30."

It's getting close.

Doctor Saturday on the same issue:

As of today, that list of wayward individuals includes:

• A former head coach who admitted to (and was formally charged with) covering up major NCAA violations by multiple high-profile players for nearly nine months, including the entire 2010 regular season and the 2011 Sugar Bowl, even after said violations became public.

• A starting quarterback who was initially suspended for accepting more than $1,000 in improper benefits, and later forced to leave the team amid reports that he a) Accepted tens of thousands of dollars more in exchange for autographing memorabilia, and b) Had been regularly accepting money from a businessman in his hometown, with whom the head coach kept in frequent contact, for more than two years after they had been specifically warned to cut all financial ties.

• Four other veteran players suspended along with the quarterback for accepting thousands of dollars in improper benefits.

• Two of those same four players suspended further for accepting more improper benefits after having already been suspended for accepting improper benefits.

• Three other players suspended for accepting small cash payments from a booster, apparently via a teammate who had already been suspended for improper benefits.

• A booster formally disassociated from the program for providing said payments.

That's what Ohio State has more or less owned up to, not including the discounted cars and other assorted freebies that have failed to progress beyond the "rumor/allegation" phase. That's what we can realistically say we know.

So... that seems sort of less than controlled, you know? Here's someone who agrees:

The fact that Smith has failed to notice Bobby DiGeronimo, an OSU booster who has apparently been secretly paying OSU athletes for years, or Edward Rife, the architect of the tat-gate scandal, to communicate with its athletes is embarrassing. Even after all that has ensued this offseason with the punishments and sanctions, athletes are still finding ways to get in trouble. For Smith to say OSU doesn't have a problem with their "system," is a joke.

That's Fox Sports's Thayer Eva—Wait… that's Eleven Warriors. What?

Etc.: Not one but two sets of excellent Northwestern wallpaper. The Illinois-Northwestern game in full. Five hours of Calvin Magee explaining the spread n shred three years too late. Shorter Houston Nutt: "a verbal commitment is a sacred bond; a signed letter of intent is for me to poop on."

Yost Built previews the hockey season: defensemen and goalies; forwards.

Unverified Voracity Features Terrifying Heads

Unverified Voracity Features Terrifying Heads

Submitted by Brian on October 14th, 2010 at 11:52 AM

Power pellets. Denard as envisioned by BHGP:

Denard_PacmanGame_medium

They also envision a Pacman board with no pellets and something like 20 Hawkeyes, but they are #4 in total defense so they may  be entitled to some cockiness. Also their version of Denard is gritty.

Trick or treat. Wolverine Historian has assembled a set of trick plays over the past 20 or so years:

I'm surprised that transcontinental worked as much as it did since Michigan ran it from the same goofy formation they never ran anything else from for 20 years.

The Demensing. It is apparently happening. Kenny Demens, who you could be forgiven for thinking had the first name "TheEnigmatic," is mere days away from actually playing:

"In the last game, we played quite a few in the secondary and a few guys up front, but we didn't rotate a lot of guys at linebacker, and that's something we have to look at this week."

Rodriguez said he expects to see Kenny Demens, J.B. Fitzgerald and Mark Moundros in the mix a bit more against the Hawkeyes.

"Particularly if they have a good week in practice," Rodriguez said. "Kenny Demens in particular has had some real good practices and has shown some pretty good things when he's had an opportunity out there. So it looks like they've warranted the opportunity to see what they can do in the game."

One of these two things will happen when Demens gets on the field:

  • he is obviously better than Ezeh and everyone wonders WTF is with the Michigan coaches' talent identification skills, or
  • he isn't obviously better and everyone wonders WTF is with the Michigan coaches' development skills.

I'll take option one, please. If Demens can come in and be person with clue at MLB Michigan might be able to bridge this gap between the currently devastated upperclass linebacking corps and the guys who will come in this year and next without resorting to true freshmen. A novel concept, yes.

FWIW, People have been talking up Demens's abilities in run defense and criticizing his coverage. I haven't seen much either way. The reports of excellent play in the spring game didn't come from me; even when I watched the tape I didn't see much good or bad from him.

In other bits from the RR teleconference, the chance that Odoms returns this year is "slim."

Basketball recruiting pointers. Alf goes here because Dom Pointer, a 6'5" 2011 wing who is Michigan's primary target to fill their last slot in the upcoming recruiting class, is coming in this weekend. He can dunk some. According to Sam Webb he's just dropped West Virginia, a rumored favorite, and will decide between Michigan and St. John's. His parents are in one corner:

"I really, really like the staff and the people of St. John's. I was really impressed with all of them, but they are not Michigan. Me and his mama — that's how we feel. But if he really feels that strongly about St. John's, I'm not going to kill him. I'm going to be mad at him, but I've got to stand next to him. The way he made the U-turn and changed his life, what can I say? Yeah, I'm a Michigan fan. I'm Michigan all day long, but if I got a kid that made a total U-turn with his whole life, I can't criticize him about making his choice if it's St. John's."

Webb's stopped short of offering up the gut feeling that indicates a silent commitment but Michigan is in a strong position here. With Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge in the fold Michigan would have three consensus top 100 players if Pointer committed, with two of them brushing up against the top 50 in ESPN's rankings.

FWIW, ESPN was the service highest on Tim Hardaway, Jr., and that prediction looks like it will bear fruit as early as this year. Scuttlebutt from practice suggests he might be the team's best player, which is bad for this year but may be good down the road. This could be a good team in 2012. Yeah.

THIS MAN LIVES IN A HOUSE. What a country!

This person currently has a home. They may be borrowing it, or living with their parents, or squatting like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, but there is still something between him and rain. What recession? Srsly. Find me a recession after watching a guy sing

"You can get yourself drunk//you can tailgate//you can bring your daaaaate!"

on the internet. You can't anymore. Go America. Anywhere else, even Canada, and this guy would be used in a government-sponsored human beef jerky project.

Midline AAAAAAAH.

3tech

Usual complaint about midline and lack thereof, backed by Smart Football highlight its effectiveness this weekend in the Purdue-Northwestern game, which Purdue won despite getting less than 50 yards passing from Rob Henry:

“We knew they were going to run the quarterback; how they were going to run him we had to adjust to,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “They changed up their scheme a little bit, and were reading our tackles as opposed to our defensive ends. There were times when we fit it very well, and there were times when we didn’t.”

It's not magic or anything but one of the things that Juice Williams murdered us on (other than everything) was the midline, and using it periodically should increase the effectiveness of the running game. If it can get Dayne Crist 20-yard gains what can Denard do with it?

The thing that makes me want to run it more than anything is that it prevents teams from doing what Michigan State did. They left a defensive end in contain all day, which should be a win for your offense but Michigan's tailbacks are not very dynamic. Our Helmets Have Wings notes that after the first three drives Michigan ran zone read plays twice(!). The game situation had something to do with that, but so did that Vincent Smith third and one stuff.

Here is an opportunity to eliminate a player with an option read and get Denard in space.

Etc.: Occasional MGoPunchingBag Gregg Easterbrook describes the Oregon offense and gets it almost entirely wrong. Basketball media day happened. Rothstein wanted a nap 30 seconds in.

Preview: Michigan State

Preview: Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 2nd, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Note: had more planned for today but illness intervened and saw me sleep for 12 hours yesterday. So we'll see how it goes the rest of the day. Will be slightly light, unfortunately. Right: no respect, I tell you. Via Kevin Rozek.

The Essentialsmark-dantiono-no-respect

WHAT #20 Michigan vs Michigan State
WHERE Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
WHEN 12:00 EST, October 3rd, 2009
THE LINE Michigan State –3.5
TELEVISION Nationwide on BTN
WEATHER 50s, 60% chance of rain

Run Offense vs. State

The strength of Michigan's team goes up against the relative strength of the Michigan State defense. Numbers from games against I-A competition:

  Carries Gained Lost Total TDs YPC
CMU 26 86 5 81 0 3.1
Notre Dame 35 163 14 147 1 4.2
Wisconsin 50 209 16 193 1 3.9

That's shinier than Michigan's defense has done so far. ND went for 154 yards on 30 carries against Michigan. But Michigan's rush offense sits at #8 nationally even after a comical parade of botched snaps and odd rules (intentional grounding counts as a sack in the stats and comes off your rushing totals) saw Indiana "hold" Michigan to 149 yards that were more like 220.

Still, Michigan's only gone up against one defense that should be of the approximate caliber of Michigan State and it was ND. Against ND, Michigan acquired 199 yards on 36 carries, 5.5 per attempt.

Will Michigan be able to replicate this? Points in favor:

State is scrambling on the DL. Four-star C recruit Blake Treadwell, a coaches' kid, got moved to DL and is set to lose his redshirt in this game:

"When it's time to play, it's time to play ... If he's ready to play and he can help us, coach Dantonio and coach Treadwell feel good about it," Narduzzi continued.

Spectacularly named Kevin Pickelman is "banged up"; starter Jerel Worthy is a redshirt freshman and kind of tubby, so he's prone to tire. Meanwhile, the Free Press was reporting that Dion Sims might be moved to DE for this game (wha?), but the reliable paper in Detroit says that's not the case:

"I don't know anything about that," Gill said. "Don't even search for that. He's a tight end in our offense and that's what he plays."

Non-Jones linebackers appear to be horrible. It's too bad the MSUFR folks just got up and running because then it would give some context to these numbers from the UW game:

Player Plus Minus Total
43 Gordon 1 20 -19
53 Jones 10 6 4
34 Denson 2 3 -1
36 Misch 7 18 -11
55 Decker 2 2 0
48 Stevens 2 3 -1
10 Norman 0 1 -1
Totals 24 53 -29

Jebus in a handbasket going to church on Tuesday. This speaks of metric fail to me, and Dr. Detroit:

First, the scoring system is inconsistent.  I gave points to Misch and Decker that I did not give to Jones, so the numbers are too positive.  Second, the scoring system I setup is pretty much guaranteed to have LBs be in the negative.  Every time a LB gets blocked, I scored that as a negative.  Gordon and Misch got blocked a lot.  This could be intentional.  They eat up the blockers and Jones is then able to make a play.  It would be really stupid for it to be intentional though.  Misch did have a play where he avoided a blocker and made a tackle which leads me to believe they are not trying to engage blockers.  Misch looks like he needs more experience and practice at avoiding blockers. 

It's apparent that the MSU coaches are trying to replace Misch with true freshman and hyped recruit Chris Norman, but he's just not ready. the other OLB is Eric Gordon, who Dr. Detroit describes as a block magnet. If Michigan can get to Jones, the safeties are going to have to make a lot of tackles.

Points against:

Michigan State will adjust to this year's big gasher to date. Our beloved zone counter dive was defended by Indiana and Michigan saw a steep decline in bighuge running plays. Only three Michigan rushes broke ten yards. Defending this like so…

…naturally opens up other things; Michigan will have to adapt and throw something out that's not a proven winner. I'm betting they will, but it remains to be seen whether that's going to be as much of a winner. My bet? An effective variant of the "Cut it up Tate" play where the H-back peels off and kicks out the contain LB, opening up copious room for Tate or, better, Denard.

David Molk is gone. From the snap issues to the presence of a non-starter in the lineup to the wholesale realignment of 3/5ths of the line, that's damaging. David Moosman got a few sweet blocks against Indiana but this Worthy guy is a bigger dude and may be tougher to handle. Or he may just get tired easily and not have the agility to keep up.

All told? Michigan will get its yards on the ground against a DT rotation that's thin and prone to tire and a linebacking corps that Michigan might not actually trade for. Rodriguez should prove his gashing bonafides.

Key Matchup: Schilling and Huyge against Jones. Getting Jones to the ground is how Michigan turns five yards into 50.

Pass Offense vs. State

First, an interlude from the Notre Dame-Michigan State game:

Our pissed off play annotator has revealed something: even against spread personnel Michigan State generally sticks with a 4-3 package, using WLB Eric Gordon as a slot defender. This is in contrast to Michigan's other A-level opponent to date. Notre Dame stuck a safety directly over the slot and took away perimeter screens. If Michigan State stays in the same package they've been in so far, the slots should find themselves considerably more involved in the game plan.

Unfortunately for Michigan, Martavious Odoms is not Mike Floyd, but as we saw against Eastern this year and several times the year before, if you leave base personnel on the field and shade your linebackers halfway between the box and the slot (the "gray area," according to Rodriguez), Michigan will go to the slot guys with regularity.

There's the catch, though: last year Michigan State obviously spent a lot of time on the Michigan game and snuffed out Odoms' wheel routes with coverage packages that took it away. Threet had to come off it or throw horrible interceptions into it. I made the mistake of assuming Notre Dame would stick with two-wide packages against M and I'd like to not repeat that mistake. In the Wisconsin game, State did go to a nickel package on some passing downs. But to do that they lift a DL:

Michigan State had exactly zero plays with anything other than 3 LBs on the field.  MSU defensively is either in a 4-3 Stack with the LBs 5 yards off the LOS, or they are blitzing.  If I can pick it up that easy, so can everyone else. MSU will go to a nickel coverage.  … MSU takes out a defensive tackle and adds a defensive back.  Then sends a linebacker on a blitz.

Lifting Jon Misch, a former walk-on with all of ten tackles on the year battling for his job with a true freshman, is not exactly going to kill your defense. But so it goes.

Unless Michigan State shows something it hasn't so far, nickel packages will be 3-3-5s on obvious passing downs and Michigan will be up against the standard 4-3 against a spread, something that gave us all hives last year. And its giving MSU hives this year:

  This is simply a bad defensive scheme and there is no excuse for continuing in this fashion.

Compounding matters was a vast lack of pressure on UW QB Scott Tolzien last week. He didn't get sacked and was hurried maybe a couple times in the process of going 15 for 20 for four touchdowns. This goes against MSU's previous marker, when they got better pressure on ND than Michigan did, sacking Clausen twice. Even then, MSU fans seemed discontent with the DL:

- Unfortunately it seems our defense will be an issue all season. The lack of pressure from the front 4 will continue to be an issue in the run and passing game. Add in that with the disappointing play of the secondary to date and we’ll struggle against good offenses.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan's had serious pass protection issues at right tackle, though.

As far as the rest of the offense goes, Tate Forcier remains a scarily-accurate rollout machine who occasionally does something idiotic because he's a true freshman, and the receivers remain largely pedestrian non-deep threats. Given the tendency of the MSU linebackers to suck up against the run and the absolute field day UW tight ends had against Michigan State, this might be the game in which Kevin Koger goes nuts; also, if Michigan State isn't prepared for the Carlos Brown wheel route and tries to defend it with Misch or Gordon, Brown's streak of plays that go more than 50 yards might continue. Protection, protection is the key.

Key Matchup: Perry Dorrestein versus Trevor Anderson or Other Michigan State DE. If Michigan can get some lawyaz blocked, there is the potential for much fun toying with the State secondary. This is questionable.

Run Defense vs. State

aj-sturges Michigan State has been uninspiring so far:

  Carries Gained Lost Total TDs YPC
CMU 29 108 2 106 1 3.7
Notre Dame 25 109 4 105 2 4.2
Wisconsin 20 107 5 102 0 5.1

These are all sacks-removed, which significantly colors them. 5.1 YPC drops to 4, FWIW, if you include Wisconsin's two sacks. That's the whole point of removing sacks, but adjust your TV sets to take that into account. These numbers are obviously not great, especially when they've come against a collection of rush defenses as motley as the crew above. Though the total numbers don't show it yet because of wildly uneven schedules, whenever opponents have gone up against good rushing attacks they've crumbled. Arizona, a BCS team about on par with MSU this year, put up 246 yards against Central. Michigan hit Notre Dame up for 190 yards. And despite playing NIU, Fresno State, and Wofford along with MSU, Wisconsin is 73rd in rush defense. Fresno went for 179 yards on 39 carries, NIU 129 on 32, and Wofford(!) had 214 yards, though that was on 55 carries. The Woffordians must run some sort of crazy triple option because more guys got carries(10) than Wofford had passing attempts(7).

So MSU's run problems are real and the Wisconsin game improvement is at least partially an artifact of coming up against a seriously dodgy run defense. The other part is the steady fall of Caulton Ray down the depth chart in favor of Win-at-all-Costs Winston and freshman Larry Caper. Winston is either a smaller version of Brandon Minor or Jehuu Caulcrick with more burst. He runs through arm tackles, trucks people, and has good speed for his size but has zero wiggle. He runs in a straight line until tackled. This is probably good for Michigan's defense, which has been good about cutting off primary running lanes of late and terrible at controlling unexpected cutbacks. Caper isn't that different from Winston but has more jump; he popped outside Wisconsin linebackers a couple times and might actually be a better fit when it comes to attacking Michigan's defense. I'd be more worried about him, though as a freshman it's hard to give him a zillion carries when you're a passing team and his blitz pickups are, I assume, shaky.

In the Wisconsin game, State was running a lot of zone plays. This was odd to me after UFRing a couple of State games in which power off tackle plays were almost the only run play in the arsenal. Maybe it fits better with State's primary backs, as Winston is not a guy who goes anywhere except down if you make him bounce it outside, but as a one-cut mooseback he was decently effective against Wisconsin. The problem for MSU is that their linemen are mostly tubby guys recruited to blow people off the ball and MSU basically never got the nice playside DT reach blocks that are a staple of Michigan's stretch game. M linebackers should be wary of the cutback behind the center, where MSU did most of its erratic damage against Wisconsin.

One thing to note is that the Michigan State offensive line has been seriously banged up and is torn between getting starters back and putting what looks like a starting five on the field and dragging a true freshman on the field:

Henry Conway, a freshman tackle, made the team dress list for the Sept. 19 trip to Notre Dame, but has yet to play a snap this season. …Injuries to the line and the unit's difficulty to establish a consistent running game might create opportunities for Conway.

Starting left guard Joel Foreman didn't play against the Badgers because of an ankle injury. Tackle J'Michael Deane injured his leg earlier this season and also didn't play. Joel Nitchman, a starting center, moved to guard at Wisconsin, while John Stipek once again played center to help fill a void.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan has been pretty damn uninspiring itself, allowing an 85-yard touchdown to Indiana and turning Armando Allen into a massive threat. In the first four weeks of the season, Michigan has decided it's going to slant like hell, leave the linebackers back, and watch them screw up a lot. The slanting was a problem that got fixed; the linebackers are still a work in progress They have begun to screw up less often these days, but seeing a Caper bounceout like a couple that happened against Wisconsin is extremely easy. Winston might have a couple runs that crease the line; most of the time he's just going to run up into a bunch of dudes and go not very far.

Key Matchup: Caper versus Mouton/Brown on bounceouts. I think the problem with the State run game is a mismatch between the line's talents and those of the backs, and that Michigan's slanting, undersized, athletic line will be well suited to crush the zone plays Winston does well in. So then you've got the athletic guy versus linebackers dodgy at contain. I think this is where MSU gets any runs longer than ten yards.

Pass Defense vs. State

bj-cunningham

Yerrrrgh. For the record, Michigan State is not really the top passing offense in the Big Ten. Almost half of their passing yards against Wisconsin game in pure garbage time when Nichol came in with 5 minutes left in the game and Wisconsin up three touchdowns. Without that they fall all the way from 320 yards a game to 276 and are now the… uh… #2 passing team in the Big Ten, behind Northwestern. Hamburgers.

This almost can't go well. State has three excellent receivers, two of whom have the size and speed to get deep. Mark Dell showed an outstanding ability to adjust to deep throws against Wisconsin and caught a picture-perfect 20-yard-fade from Cousins for State's first touchdown. And BJ Cunningham had a spectacular touchdown reception of his own. Dion Sims and a vast array of other TEs—seriously MSU has like 4 or 5—look like field-stretching seam threats. And when Kirk Cousins isn't inexplicably throwing the ball directly to an opponent (he did this again versus Wisconsin) he's zinging darts. Sometimes the darts are thrown way too high and hard; sometimes they are deposited into the receiver's facemask.

There's just one hope, and it's the usual when your team can't cover a dead donkey: pressure. I do think there's some chance Michigan gets to the quarterback consistently. My stream of consciousness notes on the UW game have several instances of same:

no agility... roh? PI first down.

wisconsin gets to cousins, he throws terrible int. lots of UW pass rush so far.

max pro on third and thirteen still gets pressure, flushing cousins, sidearm dart (DO, 1) to dell on sideline for first(!). ooh went oob first.

zig route thrown behind with pressure. maybe not so good with pressure?

horrible lack of pickup on four man rush causes short hitch 3 yards

There was also an instance where Cousins scrambled out of the pocket and could have run for ten or so yards but instead attempted to rifle the ball and it went way out of the endzone. He is a pocket guy not comfortable on the move and if Michigan gets to him he will not respond well. My prescription for this game is TAH-NOO-TAH; I will cringe at any three man rush. If you're worried about screens spy with a DT.

Note: Roh? I mean it. Wisconsin had a true freshman OLB they were sending on edge rushes who was just going right around the MSU RT; his lack of agility was apparent. On passing downs where Roh can just unleash the eyebrows, he can get to Cousins.

Key Matchup: Pounding rain? If not that, yes, again, Brandon Graham versus the life that hates him very very much.

Special Teams

The special teams were huge for Michigan against Indiana but this figures to be an even matchup. Stone me for this heresy, but the punting battle should be about even. While Zoltan the Inconceivable has punted Michigan into the top ten in net punting with a 42.2 net average, Michigan State's guy is just a yard behind. Michigan should be more likely to get a decent return, FWIW: half of State's punt have been returned for almost nine yards each; fewer than a quarter of Michigan's have come back and opponents are average under six yards a return.

Michigan State has an edge at kicker, where Brett Swenson is excellent. Jason Olesnavage has been pretty good so far, going 3/4 on the year with a couple outside 40 yards, but missed a chip shot in the Notre Dame game.

Michigan combats that edge with an edge in kick returns, where they're 22nd to MSU's 52nd. Darryl Stonum has consistently been bringing kicks out to the 30 or 40 with the odd return that ends up on the opponent's side of midfield or in the endzone.

Key Matchup: It's rainy. HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.

Intangibles

Glenn Winston cat is Glenn Winston cat.

karate

Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • Trevor Anderson is zipping past Dorrestein when Michigan tries to throw out of the pocket.
  • Tate's throwing arm explodes.
  • Michigan is not getting to the quarterback.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • It rains like a mofo.
  • Graham and Roh give Cousins no time to throw.
  • Hello, Keith Nichol!

Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for First Road Game For Many, +1 for Kirk Cousins vs CissokoFloyd, –1 Forcier vs DavisClark And That's Just One Last Name, +1 for Their Receivers Are More Likely To Make Sucky Secondaries Pay, –1 for They've Got More Chaos, –1 for Pucker, Pucker, Pucker, +1 for  Weather Could Do Anything).

Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for Would Be Totally Understandable To Lose This One, +1 for But Really, Really Annoying, +1 for Would Make Dantonio's Offseason Bluster Laughable Psych-Out Stuff, Man,  +1 for Not Winning Would Make For A Week Of Columns Praising a 2-3 Team So Dumb I Might Have An Aneurysm.)

Loss will cause me to... promise to myself I'll avoid columns of legendary stupidity this week, and then break that promise.

Win will cause me to...  can you frame a post-game press conference? Someone let me know.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

There are too many wild cards—first road game, weather, Forcier's shoulder—in this game to have much faith in the prediction below, but, you know, strictures and conventions.

I'm really bothered by the line shift. Michigan was favored by one early in the week and is now a 3.5 point dog. Getting over 3 is kind of a big deal. What is it that the books see that's not apparent here? It is clear that Michigan and State are far closer than your average 4-0 and 1-3 teams, and the smart money isn't dumb enough to fall for Michigan State's offensive explosion against Wisconsin second-stringers, right?

I am disquieted, because I don't think State's schedule has been that much tougher than Michigan's relative to their performance. I-AA vs Eastern is basically meaningless. ND is the same except for home/road, and Western and Central may not be equal but one was a 24 point win and the other a loss in which MSU got outgained badly. And though Indiana at home is way easier than Wisconsin on the road, this Wisconsin team scraped by NIU and went to double overtime against a non-good edition of Fresno State, and oh by the way Michigan beat Indiana and MSU was basically blown out by Wisconsin until garbage time hijinks brought it closer.

The impressiveness of these games, IME: Push, push, M, M. So why the line swing? The only news during the week of relevance was the continued insistence that Tate Forcier would be totally fine. I don't get it, and I don't think it's meaningless, and that makes me nervous.

But I don't get it so let me forge ahead: I think Michigan's rushing defense is much better equipped to handle a Glenn Winston than a bouncy outside back and I believe the slanting issues against Notre Dame have been fixed, which means MSU's to-date moribund ground game shouldn't be much better than it's been so far. Cousins will tear Michigan apart but that line should crack enough to allow a sack or three and Michigan will get its share of stops.

On the other side of the ball, it all comes down to pass protection. I think they'll get their yards on the ground to the tune of at least 5 YPC and will do well enough in the passing game.

Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • Brandon Graham never sacks anyone again.
  • Minor and Brown about split the carries, with one going over 100 and the other coming close.
  • Michigan pulls something out of the bag of tricks.
  • Forcier does not get nervous.
  • Michigan, 31-27.

Unverified Voracity On The Ceiling

Unverified Voracity On The Ceiling

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2009 at 1:57 PM

tate-forcier-sistine-chapel

via reader Brian Hale

Take his and graduate 'em, take yours and graduate 'em. It's not noble to take guys with two good parents and a Catholic-school education and not screw them up. That's one of the things that's always bothered me about Notre Dame's smugness. They've positioned themselves as the nationwide destination for kids who end up at places like Oaks Christian, and when these kids fail to screw up they take pride in it. Michigan, meanwhile, has been more willing to take on potentially troubled kids. Not as willing as some other schools, but willing.

This is always spun as a negative when you get a Feagin situation. When you take kids out of Pahokee or Detroit or Delray Beach who did not go to a good high school and didn't have a stable home life and are just looking for a way out, some of them are not going to overcome their backgrounds. It's tough to do that. It's no accomplishment to graduate Craig Roh. That kid grew up like  an enormous, athletic, magnificently-eyebrowed version of me; he's going to graduate no matter where he is. It's a risk to stick out your neck for a talented kid who went to a school with textbooks from 1978 where dropouts are more common than graduates.

The reason I bring it up is an epic article on Pahokee, the home of three current Wolverines, in the Daily. I've been reading the Daily for twelve years now and it's without question the best article to appear in it in that time frame. It wouldn't seem out of place if you threw it up on ESPN.com in one of those fancy presentations they give Wright Thompson. It highlights the environment these guys come from:

He pops in one of the myriad discs. It’s a guerrilla-style video called “Palm Beach County: Gangstas and Thugs.” Local gun-toting gang members flash across the screen, beating each other senseless and shooting AK-47s into the air.

“That’s my cousin; he’s in jail,” he says pointing, to the screen. “Oh, and that kid’s dead. He was 17.”

Trouble in such places is easier to get into than avoid, and honestly working with these kids so that they get out of college and go somewhere else is a calling beyond giving kids who went to Catholic school calculus exams. Michigan has to live up to that charge, of course. In four to six years we'll have Rodriguez's graduation numbers, and in five more we'll have some sense of how the institution has served them. I'll be watching it carefully. I hope—and think—Michigan will do right by them. They are owed that.

No, you can't do that. Apparently ABC never showed the Armando Allen taunting penalty, but the News got a shot of it:

armando-allen-unsportsmanlike-conductNCAA rulebook on unsportsmanlike conduct:

a.  Specifically prohibited acts and conduct include:

1.  No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall  use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:

(b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally.

(c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition.

Ssssh-ing the student section is an obvious flag that will get called 1000 of 1000 times. It doesn't matter if he said anything or not. Weis being an ass in the postgame (no, seriously, watch his bitchy press conference… what a horror it would be to have such a thoroughly unlikeable person* in charge of your football team):

"Armando was really distraught at the end of the game, because he felt that he  got called for a 15-yard penalty for going 'shhhh' when he got to the end zone," Weis said. "Now I guess, technically, that's taunting, but he felt really bad about that and I told him we're all part of this loss and don't put it all on your shoulders."

Indeed, it is "technically" taunting in the way Michigan's pass to Mathews was "technically" a touchdown. Meanwhile on that same play, Clausen was doing a fey little dance that could have drawn another flag. Why must Weis recruit these thugs? Why can't he have nice boys like Greg Mathews, who politely handed the ball to the referee after his gamewinning touchdown?

A note on one of the other ND refereeing complaints: Theo Riddick did touch that kickoff, as was extensively discussed on Sportscenter, so running two seconds off the clock was appropriate. And when Tate caught the ball on the last play of the game and got tackled with one second left, the key distinction to note is that the official timekeeper doesn't stop when he thinks the play is over—not his job—but when the referee signals him to. You can clearly see that the referee signals to stop the clock well after :00 is hit. (Yes, maybe that's a conspiracy too.)

*(dollars to donuts that caused any West Virginia, Michigan State, or Ohio State fan reading it to have a head asplode moment, but… seriously. Watch the video. There is no comparison between that and corny jokes and twang.)

Tempting fate. If Michigan loses the next two weeks you can stick my head in a blender for what I'm about to do.

Let's talk about Michigan State, Michigan's first road game of the season and next opponent against whom the spread will be in the single digits. State lost to Central Michigan in quintessential "Sparty, No!" fashion, but don't let the flukes at the end of the game overshadow the overall theme of the day. A worried The Only Colors explains:

While hanging our heads obviously doesn't do any good, I really have a hard time seeing Saturday's outcome as a fluke.  Sure, the events of the final 30 seconds all broke in the Chippewas' favor.  But we'd been outplayed by a significant margin for the 59 minutes and 30 seconds that preceded those 30 seconds--outgained by 74 yards and outconverted by 8 first downs.  And when it mattered most, we couldn't stop them.  Central gained a total of 147 yards to reach the endzone on both of its final two non-onside-kick-commenced drives.  We were lucky to be in position to win the game with 30 seconds to go.

Maybe CMU's a top-40 team and this loss isn't quite as bad as it looks right now.  But they certainly didn't look like a top-40 team against Arizona a week ago.  And you have to beat top 40 teams at home to get to a New Years Day bowl.

That is a strong indication that internet skepticism over a team that was outgained in conference play last year was better founded than the assembled Big Ten Media's assertion that Michigan State was the third-best team in the conference. Not that we needed anyone to tell us that the internet tends to do better research than newspapers. State should get better as Kirk Cousins solidifies his hold on the starting quarterback spot, but after some initial optimism in the comments that post bogs down into pessimism about a ton of things, most prominently the pass rush.

Compounding things for State in their matchup against Michigan: Central Michigan is headed by the Rich Rodriguez coaching tree, also known as Butch Jones, and quarterbacked by Dan LeFevour, a mobile, accurate quarterback that's a more veteran but less hyped version of Tate Forcier. LeFevour was 33 of 46 for 328 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. The State game now looks very winnable.

The move? Freshman Cameron Gordon's seemingly inevitable move to linebacker may be a fait accompli according to MGoPoster Jaggs:

Was at the ND game this weekend and my dad ran into a guy purporting to be Cam Gordon's dad (I have no reason to doubt it was him). The guy told my dad he was a father of a player on the team etc, and my dad asked him who he said his name which my dad forgot but remembered the guy said #84 a linebacker. A quick search of the program and mgoblue.com shows Gordon as the only #84 so sounds like Gordon.

Quick check shows 86 points, which isn't much, but also that this guy's been registered for eight months. Credibility rating: at least moderate. We're still looking for confirmation and will provide it if/when it comes.

Yeesh. I think this was just an mgolicious link. The numbers say, I don't know, something:

3. Inbound links checked daily. The day before I visited, logs for the Chronicle’s WordPress site reported that it had drawn 277 visitors from a local sports blog, 28 from a local school blog and 23 from annarbor.com, the reincarnated Ann Arbor News.

Probably what it says is that AA.com's traffic is far more dispersed, where this site is basically a single framework with varying content presented.

Etc.: Been struck with a burning desire to have Zoltan's biff immortalized for all time on your wall? Michigan obliges. Bleed Scarlet notes the one-year anniversary of David Foster Wallace's suicide.

Unverified Voracity Says There Is No Try

Unverified Voracity Says There Is No Try

Submitted by Brian on September 7th, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Mustache update. Dang:

Boda

You know it's good photoshop when you're futilely scanning for the LSUFreek watermark. Mustaches for Michigan provides, and explains:

My ally is the Mustache, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Mustache around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, the football, everywhere, yes.

The power of the mustache was powerful enough to offset the long-established MGoLiveblog curse, mmm.

On the 'Downfall' thing. There were a few complaints about the Downfall parody posted last week, all of which cited Rosenberg's (presumed) Jewishness vis a vis Adolf Hitler's… well, you know. His opinions, man. I'm not trying to be an insensitive clod here but Youtube is filled with videos of Hitler being enraged at the Dallas Cowboys, XBox Live, Windows Vista, World of Warcraft, the failure of Michael Jackson to perform at his birthday party because he is dead, and everyone on the internet screwing with his subtitles. Oh and yes Hitler is also pissed off because Rich Rodriguez is evil. At this point the comic trope is so well-established that the whole Hitler bit is… well… maybe not secondary, since it's the reason it's always funny, but tangential. If the thing had mentioned the word "Jew" at all, it would have been in bad taste. It didn't.

I think this was on "Automatic For The People." Terrelle Pryor on Michael Vick, who Pryor paid tribute to on his eyeblack—hey, it's either that or John 3:16:

That's right: "everybody murders.":

Not everybody is a perfect person in the world. Everyone kills people, murder people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever.

Who loves the fact that this blog's already got a "terrelle pryor has emotional problems" tag? This guy.

Excellent. The New York bowl game I've been advocating is a possibility, albeit a down-the-line one:

The Tribune has learned Big Ten officials have met with Yankee Stadium representatives to discuss a bowl game that would be played at the so-called "House that George Built."

"It's an interesting concept," Big Ten Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner said. "It's compelling."

Hypothetical New York Bowl is not an immediate possibility, but if it gets established it sounds like the Big Ten will give it a serious look in 2014, the next time contracts come up for renewal. By that time Florida fatigue may have set in and an attractive, if cold, destination like New York should be appealing.

SON OF A. The music was piped in, and I cringed, and then Bill Martin jumped aboard and oh God:

Fans saw a winning product again and were entertained before the game and during breaks in it with piped in music such as AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

“We need to liven this place up,” Martin said. “When the band is taking a break, I think the music helps the atmosphere. There were about 25 songs on the playlist, I listened to every one and cut about five.”

Ugh. Band members: do you need breaks? Could you have played Sweet Caroline, thus transforming banal minor-league hockey atmosphere into authentic college football atmosphere? Are you happy or irate at the piped in music?

Etc.: Vijay isn't blogging again but he has put up a post with some clips and analysis from the last game. A blast from the past for blogosphere old hands.