Opponent Watch 2015: Week 2

Opponent Watch 2015: Week 2

Submitted by BiSB on September 18th, 2015 at 9:11 AM

About Last Week:

Duck… and cover

The Road Ahead:

UNLV (0-2, 0-0 MWC)

Last week: Lost to #13 UCLA, 37-3

Recap: UNLV has… well, let’s be polite and say that they have some issues. Their starting quarterback, Blake Decker, pulled a hamstring or a groin early in this one. His replacement, Kurt Palandech, went 4 for 15 for 4 yards and an INT. No, that is not a typo. 4 yards on 15 attempts. Overall, the Yes We Are The Rebels Deal With Its were outgained better than 2-to-1 (526 to 237). Their only scoring drive was a four play, zero yard march after they intercepted UCLA’s backup at the UCLA 14 at the veeeeeeery end of the 4th quarter.

This team is as frightening as: A cow being lowered into the velociraptor cage. Fear Level = 1.5

Michigan should worry about: You see… uh…

Michigan can sleep soundly about: UNLV has lost 8 in a row, and are currently ranked #117 in FEI and #123 in S&P+. They are bad at football.

When they play Michigan:


This week: @ Michigan, noon, BTN

[After the jump: a guide for when to punt]

Dear Diary Craps on Sochi

Dear Diary Craps on Sochi

Submitted by Seth on February 7th, 2014 at 11:34 AM


Soady two-holer > Sochi two-holer

One of the mods already put this in a thread but a front page reminder can't hurt: don't post scores or spoilers of Olympic events on delayed telecasts. This goes especially for the results of hockey games that will be broadcast in primetime. Laughing at the myriad (mostly toilet-related) follies of bored and pampered journalists with nothing else to talk about for four days is fine.

The NHL kindly added the hockey games to its schedule, and I Bleed Maize N Blue put up a list of Michigan folk. Your Wolverines are hockey players Carl Hagelin (Sweden), Brian Lebler (Austria), and Max Pacioretty (USA), and U.S. figure skaters Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Maia & Alex Shibutani, and Evan Bates.

Viewing guide:

Date Event Broadcast Channel Wolverine(s)
Fri 2/7 Opening Ceremony 7:30 PM NBC All
Sat 2/8 Ice Dancing 9:30 AM NBC Davis & White
Wed 2/12 Hky: Czech-Sweden 12:00 PM USA Hagelin
Thu 2/13 Hky: Finland-Austria 3:00 AM NBCSN Lebler
Thu 2/13 Hky: Slovakia-USA 7:30 AM NBCSN Pacioretty
Fri 2/14 Hky: Sweden-Switzerland 7:30 AM NBCSN Hagelin
Fri 2/14 Hky: Canada-Austria 12:00 PM USA Brian Lebler
Sat 2/15 Hky: USA-Russia 7:30 AM NBCSN Pacioretty
Sat 2/15 Hky: Sweden-Latvia 12:00 PM USA Hagelin
Sun 2/16 Hky: Austria-Norway 3:00 AM USA Lebler
Sun 2/16 Hky: Slovenia-USA 7:30 AM NBCSN Pacioretty

Makes M's Happy


Sara Driesenga pitched 263 innings with an ERA of 1.89 last year [Terra Molengraff/Daily]

Softball is my chosen sport for following without obsessing. Carol Hutchins is one of the best coaches the sport's ever had, and the team still exudes a spirit that's so so enjoyable. Just don't think too hard about the competitive aspects, or how large a role a pitcher plays in the outcome versus the rest of the team.

If you'd like to know how this team looks, the answer is "very good" again. Like the Tigers, they return ridiculous pitching—Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga are both aces, and they're joined this year by highly touted freshman Megan Betsa—and one of the game's best hitting infielders (shortstop Sierra Romero), but lost their cleanup hitter. Also like the Tigers they're not a very good defensive team.

Etc. Survey results for RunTheFootball's expectations thing says Michigan's not living up to those. Your weekly goal by goal analysis covers the tallies vs. Wisconsin last weekend. Michigan is still shooting the lights out in conference play except against Indiana, not updated with Nebraska game yet. Lacrosse. Softball.

Best of the Board



The night before signing day I got an email from a source who's been spot-on before that Peppers was thinking about holding off signing his LOI the next day—nobody else had that info so I didn't publish it, but it appears he was correct and that Peppers's coach talked him down off the ledge. Since this source has been right about everything so far, I'll share the reason he gave for the wavering: another program's coach, claiming knowledge from an NCAA source, was in Peppers's ear about "possible major sanctions at Michigan," presumably for the Gibbons thing. Crutin, man.

Clarification Update: He didn't say which coach, and guesses are just that since virtually every coach goes around flingin' B.S. on signing eve. Playing defense keeps other coaches from going on the offensive against your class. It's just Crutin' man.


  • Clarity on LB recruit positions: Winovich is a Jake Ryan-style SAM, Ferns is a MIKE, Furbush is a MIKE or WILL, Wangler is a WILL or Stevie Brown-style SAM.
  • Dymonte Thomas will just be a safety, no more nickel and diming
  • Canteen is a slot guy
  • Furbush cut his own cast off using a hedge trimmer.

Thanks to Every Roh Has Its Thorn for collating these.



Monte Robbins [source] / Zoltan Mesko [Scout] / Adam Finley [Desimone]

Now that the stat-heads have shown the punt is the least important play in football, the NFL Hall of Fame, which is the second-least meaningful of all Hall of Fames (they're heavy on skill players and big names, light on understanding the game; the college football one is worse), has finally decided to let in the Guy (ha!) they named the punting award for.

This got me wondering if there's a punter in Michigan history who could surpass those I can personally recall. Punting stats have been kept only since 2000 by the NCAA, and Bentley only goes a few years further back. They're very wonky stats when they're good, and very badly curated, and the most accessible ones are more suggestive of a terrible offense than a great leg. Zoltan is the obvious if-memory-serves candidate for best Michigan punter ever. I remember thinking Adam Finley was underrated because he could pow it very high or place it out of bounds, and that Hayden Epstein was overrated because all he did was thwack it.

Great Grandpa Alfonse used ta say if you're lookin' back at the tings you missed you won't know what hit ya.

As for how Wile did I can pull 2013 conference data from cfbstats if you like:

Player Team Atts Net YPA % Ret
Cody Webster Purdue 70 42.5 31%
Cameron Johnston Ohio State 49 41.7 16%
Mike Sadler Michigan State 76 41.0 25%
Sam Foltz Nebraska 71 39.9 21%
Erich Toth Indiana 52 39.4 25%
Peter Mortell Minnesota 62 39.0 42%
Justin DuVernois Illinois 51 38.8 41%
Alex Butterworth Penn State 51 38.5 22%
Connor Kornbrath Iowa 65 38.4 34%
Matt Wile Michigan 61 37.7 46%
Drew Meyer Wisconsin 53 36.8 25%
Brandon Williams Northwestern 58 35.3 22%

That 46% of punts returned (ie didn't end with a fair catch, downed, out of bounds, or touchback) is the dinosaur punting. This is enough about punting for today.


UM Engineers are getting into the helmet-improvement game to understand the biomechanics of football hits.

Your Moment of Zen:

Jabrill Peppers Endless Love Tribute from mgovideo

The Weekly Maths: Reality Check

The Weekly Maths: Reality Check

Submitted by The Mathlete on November 8th, 2012 at 4:09 PM

A win over Ohio, a BCS game win and a couple of killer recruiting classes have quickly escalated expectations of the Brady Hoke era. It’s time to put those expectations on ice. Not forever. But for another year or two it's safer to look at last season as the exception not the expectation.

This Year

The defense has been better than expected and I think this Greg Mattison thing is going to work out. They even have a fancy #7 ranking in total defense and a #13 scoring defense rank that’s not aided by fluck this time.

The offense has been a disappointment as Denard and Borges still seem further apart than ever, the offensive line has struggled and Toussaint hasn’t shown much when he does have a rare look at space.

I mentioned this in my season preview, but based on recruiting profiles and experience, this is the least talented Michigan team over the last 10 years [ed-S: I'm guessing attrition isn't taken into account?]. The Rodriguez recruiting bubble has arrived.

The other issue I was surprised to find this week is that Michigan is third nationally in a stat I call Garbage Points. For all of my analytics I exclude second half plays where the game is beyond two touchdowns, the approximate range at which teams deviate from their game plan and possibly individual effort in order to close out a less-competitive game. Garbage value has a pretty high correlation to team success because if you are good when it's close and in the first half you are having more drives in garbage time and probably having more success then, as well. Alabama and Kansas State are 1st and 2nd, Ohio cracks the top 10, but Michigan is the top team with a loss at #3 with a +57 EV during garage time. Lead extensions against UMass, Illinois and Minnesota all contributed to a Michigan spread that is one of the highest in the country. I have Michigan as the #28 in the country based on non-garbage time so a big spread between the two would likely indicate that Michigan has more of an issue with their official NCAA rankings being off due to extra time against over-matched teams.

Rank Team Garbage Points
1 Alabama 60
2 Kansas State 59
3 Michigan 57
4 Northern Illinois 56
5 LSU 56
6 Texas A&M 50
7 South Carolina 47
8 Florida State 45
9 Ohio State 43
10 Arizona State 41

Going Forward

Next year will be a first year starter at the most important position, which could be the newly popular Devin Gardner or five star Shane Morris. I’ll have more on this in the offseason but let’s just hope Gardner is able to win the job because the data on true freshman starting quarterbacks is emphatically troubling, even when they are elite recruits.

The defense should still continue on at a solid level, at this point the question with Mattison’s defenses is are they going to be good or great. A strong floor has been established.

Overall though, the talent/experience level isn’t going to be improved in 2013, in fact they may be worse. The upper classes will be Rodriguez’s final as well as the transition class. The elite classes will still be young enough that their contributions will likely be limited by playing time or play quality. By 2014, the team should be on par with the Carr-recruited, Rodriguez-coached teams in terms of talent and in 2015 back to the elite level of the late model Carr teams.

Michigan Talent/Experience Level By Season


Talent isn’t everything but it is certainly significant. At this point, the ability to overcome talent deficits seems more likely on defense than offense for Michigan, although the national trend is for talent to be more highly correlated to defensive success than offensive.

The other point of reference is that we aren’t talking about 2008-style drops, and especially in the current state of the Big TENNNNN! it could even mean conference championships. But don’t expect Michigan to make vast strides towards national elite until at least 2014.

Season Projection


Things keep coming back to eight wins. Northwestern is about 70%, Iowa 80% and Ohio 25% for the games remaining.

This week is probably Michigan’s last opening for the B1G Title game. If the Huskers survive a trip to Happy Valley visit from Penn St it’s hard to see them losing to Iowa or Minnesota.

Another little chart I put together shows who controlled their own destiny to the B1G title game by week.

Leaders division on top, Legends on bottom.

Dumb Punt of the Week

Not a lot of suspense for this one. Mark Dantonio was staring in the face victory and chose what any man with a strong jaw does. Hands the ability to win to the other team for 19 yards. It was fourth and 2 at the Nebraska 39. 1:27 on the clock and Nebraska out of timeouts. Hand it off to the best running back in the conference, watch him get 2 yards,  and that ices it. The WPA Calculator says that getting stopped gives Nebraska a 29% chance to win. A punt and touchback give Nebraska an 18% shot. Fourth and twos are successful 63% of the time, but even at 40% the return is positive. Even if you believe you can down them at the 1, going forward is at least neutral. Plus, Bell had just run five straight times in obvious running situations, gaining at least 2 yards on four of his five carries.

This week’s Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week goes to the refs in the Michigan St-Nebraska game for making Sparty punt the ball away.

Game Chart


Biggest Plays

+15% Gardner to Dileo for Michigan’s opening score

+9% Kirkwood stopped on 4th and 1 at the Michigan 41

+7% Nelson’s pass falls incomplete, forces Gophers into attempting long field goal at end of first half

-8% Gardner is intercepted at the Michigan 49

-8% Minnesota is on the board first with an 8 yard TD pass

-5% Nelson to Engel is good for 32 yards on third down

Devin Gardner, +14 EV, +30% WPA

Fitzgerald Toussaint, +4 EV (all on final run), +1%

Defense, +12 EV, +20%

Jake Ryan now 17th nationally in defender rankings, 11th in BCS players, 4th in Big Ten


Northwestern has surprisingly turned into a slightly more defensive than offensive player this year. Venric Mark is one of the nation’s most valuable running backs and the biggest threat from the Wildcat’s offense. If Michigan’s defense is up to task, the offense should be able to generate enough for a decent win.

Michigan 24 Northwestern 14

The Weekly Maths: Focused on Paul

The Weekly Maths: Focused on Paul

Submitted by The Mathlete on October 18th, 2012 at 8:09 AM

Dumb Punt of the Week

I’m tempted to award it to Iowa for punting on 4th and 2 from the MSU 39 last Saturday, but that wouldn’t be fair to Greg Davis whose call sheet’s only play listed for 4th and 2 says: Hail Mary.

This week’s dumb punt of the week goes to the Virginia Cavaliers. Trailing the Fighting Edsalls by 11 with 13 minutes and change left in the game, Virginia was facing 4th and 1 from their own 42. Giving up a precious possession near midfield down two scores in the fourth quarter for the chance to kick a 21 yard punt earns Mike London the Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week.

Game Chart


Not too much exciting on a game chart from a 45-0 nothing for a game that started as a 20+ point favorite. Robinson to Gallon provides the big jump in the first quarter and it was a slow burn off of Illini hope between then and early in the third quarter.

Game Scores

Due to a 17+ point lead in the second half, only first half plays are used to calculate numbers from Saturday’s game.

Rush Offense: +5 EV, +10% WPA

Pass Offense: +6, +15%

Rush Defense: +6, +12%

Pass Defense: +0, –2%

Denard Robinson: +13, +28%

Fitzgerald Toussaint: –2, –2%

Thomas Rawls: +1, 1%


A detailed breakdown of each unit and key contributors. All numbers are opponent adjusted except field position and special teams.

EV+, National Rank (leader), B1G Rank (leader)

Rush Offense

Michigan Offense: +3, 24th (Texas A&M), 3rd (Nebraska)

Michigan St Defense: +7, 1st, 1st

Denard Robinson: +4 (rush only), 7th among QB/RBs (Johnny Manziel), 2nd (Braxton Miller)

Fitzgerald Toussaint: –2

Thomas Rawls: -0

Pass Offense

Michigan Offense: +3, 27th (Baylor), 2nd (Nebraska)

Michigan St Defense: +5, 12th, 1st

Denard Robinson: +4 (pass only), 21st (Nick Florence), 2nd (Taylor Martinez)

Devin Funchess: +3, 83rd

Jeremy Gallon: +3, 118th

Devin Gardner: +2, 164th

Rush Defense

Michigan Defense: +2, 34th (MSU), 4th

Michigan St Offense: –2, 95th, 10th

Le’Veon Bell: -1

Pass Defense

Michigan Defense: +4, 23rd (Bama), 4th (MSU)

Michigan St Offense: +0, 59th, 6th

Andrew Maxwell: –2, 109th

Dion Sims: +4, 71st

Aaron Burbridge: +1

Field Position


2.04 expected points per drive (57th)

2.76 points per drive (30th)

135% conversion (26th)

Michigan St:

2.03 expected points per drive (63rd)

1.63 points per drive (99th)

80% conversion (100th)

Special Teams

Michigan: –1, 82nd (TCU), 7th (Iowa)

Michigan St: +0, 52nd, 6th

The defenses should have the upper hand. Michigan’s offense has clearly been better than Sparty’s but the model thinks that so far this year the Michigan State defense has been one of the best in the country. Michigan’s faced two other elite defenses and lost both times. This time they have the advantage of home field and a more defined identity. This is a game that Michigan could certainly lose, but directionally there seems to be much more upside for Michigan than for MSU. Dion Sims’ status could be huge as he is the only Spartan generated much offensive value. If the Denard/Borges fusion can have a good game Paul Bunyan should return to Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Michigan 17 Michigan St 13

Unverified Voracity Brings Back Dumb Punts

Unverified Voracity Brings Back Dumb Punts

Submitted by Brian on October 16th, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Sponsor note. I get a lot of emails from lawyers and guys with three letter acronym jobs, because it's the internet, where lawyers and blankEOs are everywhere. I assume some of you are big ballers. This Is Michigan, after all, the kind of school that spits out big ballers left and right, often from Ross. If you're one of those people who instantly zips to the end of any paragraph about ticket prices because it's just not relevant, I may have a watch for you.


I got lunch with Shashi Mara to talk about an advertising relationship and was impressed with the risk he was taking. He dumped a nice job for a pair of crampons he wandered around Switzerland in, finding wizened old men with amazing dexterity and inch-thick glasses to create an exclusive line of officially-licensed watches. He did this with absolutely no idea how it would work out, and still doesn't, but he was clearly thrilled just to have the things he'd set out to make. His attention to detail resonated with me, as did his desire to create something of his own.

If you're a big baller who has gravitated here, you may appreciate the similarities between what this place offers and the ethos behind MaraWatch. If you're at the point where you've rarely got opportunities to turn a number in a bank account into something you love, something you might get excited about handing down to the next generation in your family, a mutual accord to transfer numbers and goods awaits you at MaraWatch. Visit the site, email, or call (617-833-3819) to lock down one of just 50 pieces in this year's collection. You'll have to beat everyone to #16.

Bring it back man. MVictors scored some pictures from the old locker rooms painted by local artist Jil Gordon:


You can feel the Bo emanating from the walls.This one is from the hockey locker room:


Also, hello, I am six years old in a library.

Patrick Omameh a nice guy. He was one of 11 players on this year's Good Works team:

"I was in the room, and it was my first time meeting the kid," Kovacs said. "And then Patrick walks in. It's this kid's 13th birthday. And as soon as Pat walks in, this kid's face just lights up.

"It's just unreal, the spark in the room. It was a special moment."

Click through for awwww picture.

MSU injury checkup. Dion Sims is still not on the MSU depth chart, which generally means he won't play. I don't think we'll know until MSU's first offensive snap what his real status is; it seems doubtful he can return from what seems like a high ankle sprain in two weeks. In lieu of Sims MSU went with a lot of three-wide I-form against Iowa, FWIW.

Also, MSU starting safety Jarius Jones didn't dress against the Hawkeyes; guard Blake Treadwell only saw a snap when Chris McDonald's helmet popped off. Either could be available this week.  Jones is listed as Lewis's backup; Treadwell is behind Jack Allen at LG.

Michigan is fully healthy save Countess and a couple backup DL, knock on wood.

Nebraskethockey. Corn Nation discusses the possibility of a Cornpack hockey team after an AP writer suggested it was going to happen:

After hearing Eichorst give nod to Mark Johnson, I predict#Huskers will play B1G hockey within next 6-8 years

Opinions are split down the middle. The situation at Nebraska is fairly attractive, though.  Lincoln already has the USHL's Stars, who lead that league in attendance with a respectable 3,900 fans a game. They'd have a natural in-state rival in UNO, would get to join the Big Ten, are in the heart of USHL country, and could use the Stars' rink. A major gift has already been made for a couple of rinks near campus, and while those are not D-I ready a push from the athletic department could alter the course of that development. A new downtown arena has put in piping for ice facilities, as well.

If the Huskers became competitive—and if UNO can do it there's no reason UNL can't—they'd be an attendance success, I'm betting. We'll see what Eichorst wants to do—if he can find the money (and everyone has ALL THE MONEY these days) I bet he goes for it.

Lewan rising. Plz no leave think of the Jake Long?

Taylor Lewan*/T/Michigan: Lewan is the first of three offensive linemen rising up draft boards and an underclassman who continues to impress scouts. He looked outstanding in all areas against the athletic Illinois defense. His skills in pass protection were outstanding as Lewan had no problem controlling defensive ends or oncoming blitzers. Watching the big left tackle easily move down the field blocking in motion was especially impressive. There's a very good chance Lewan will be the first offensive tackle selected if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft.

Ah yup.

Levert right now? Rothstein on Caris Levert:

4. Expect at least one surprise

With this much talent on the roster, there is bound to be a surprise one way or another. So in that vein, pay attention in exhibition games to freshman Caris LeVert. His teammates raved about him during media day, and it did not sound like empty hype. Instead, it has been a consistent theme throughout the summer -- Michigan's final piece to its five-man recruiting class has a chance to be really, really good. He has already put weight on his thin frame since arriving at Michigan and while he might not make an immediate impact, he could be a surprise for the Wolverines sooner than later.

Zack Novak followed that up with a tweet: "I'll go ahead and ruin the surprise on 4. The kid can play." Michigan did essentially dump a ready-to-commit Amadeo Della Valle for Levert, and ADV ended up at OSU so they weren't tossing a scrub aside. Levert also won an Ohio player of the year award with a pretty nice track record:

JJHuddle Players of the Year
2012: Caris Levert, Pickerington Central (Ohio)
2011: Trey Burke, Northland (Michigan)
2010: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2009: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey (Ohio State) & B.J. Mullens, Canal Winchester (Ohio State/Charlotte Bobcats)
2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky (Ohio State)

I'll take two, thanks.

Dumb punt of the week. BONUS: I reminded the Mathlete of the Dumb Punt of the Week, which I missed dearly, and he promised to revive it. Last week's—as in games on the sixth:

Midway through the first quarter Akron faced a daunting 4th and 3 from the Bowling Green 32 and elected to punt the ball away.

Special note goes to Randy Edsall who punted from the 48 on 4th and 2 trailing by 1 in the 4th quarter. They later went on to score and go up 5 with about 5 minutes left and then kicked the extra point, to protect against two Wake Forest field goals in the final 5 minutes. Of course Maryland missed the PAT.

These make me feel wonderful about Brady Hoke.

inigomontoya.jpg. Fuggin' Walverines:

In Ann Arbor now, f'ing hate these &$¥+&&. Such arrogant snobs

A-maize-ing. Every idiot is wearing their colors today and the nurses and docs that know I'm a huge MSU alum/fan are all consoling me over the weekends games.... They're all like. ... Well this weeks game will be close.... Blah blah blah... We're not that good.... Maxwell is the next Cousins...... Illinois is horrible.... Blah blah blah

The nerve.

[After the JUMP: Josh Furman's gonna kill that poor woman, Walter.]

Unverified Voracity Is Storing A Sandwich In There

Unverified Voracity Is Storing A Sandwich In There

Submitted by Brian on August 14th, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Not dog grooming. Good news! It seems like they're shelving "In The Big House" for something else. That would seem to be this from a couple of walk-ons:

According to the facebook, anyway. It's… not dog grooming. Horrible thought: this may have no impact on dog grooming. Let's move on to happier thoughts.

Vintage Fred Jackson. Man I just don't know how does this even:

"He's got Mike Hart kind of feet, but a lot faster than Mike."

That's about Thomas Rawls, and it goes in the Fred Jackson hyperbole hall of fame. Jackson also got this quote off:

"Usually a guy with good vision is a little bit taller," Jackson said. "Thomas is probably, maybe, 5-8. He tells me he's 5-11 and I'm 6-2, I think, and I look down on him and eat soup off his head."

Why are you eating soup off of someone's head, Fred Jackson? Why is there soup there anyway? What kind of soup? Does Thomas Rawls have a circular depression in the top of his head? Doesn't that seem unsafe for a football player? Are you #$*#$ing serious about this Hart thing? Do you remember Mike Hart? Fred Jackson I am confused.

BONUS I JUST DON'T EVEN HOW DOES I DON'T MAN: Rawls has a "bete noire" tattoo for this reason:

He says it's French for "accomplish your hopes and dreams."

I do not think your tattoo means what you think it means.


Jackson said Rawls also reminds him of another former Flint star, Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama. Ingram (5-10, 215 pounds) and Rawls are similar in build.

"They were almost identical high school backs," said Jackson. "Obviously, Mark Ingram had a great (offensive) line at Alabama that helped him along, but Thomas is a lot faster than Mark, (and) has the same type of ability. I'm not trying to compare them in any way but when you watched them in high school, they were very similar running backs."


"Norfleet is as quick as any kid at Michigan since I've been here," said Jackson, in his 21st season. "I've not seen a guy that quick…."

But what about senior quarterback Denard Robinson? Is Norfleet faster?

"No, I don't think (anybody) is faster than Denard," Jackson said. "(Norfleet's) got the quickness that will put him in the same positions Denard gets in quicker than Denard will get in them."

Facial hair watch. Ace points out that walk-on and competitor at left guard Joey Burzynski has the makings of something special on his face:

Michigan offensive lineman Joey Burzynski during the 2012 Michigan Football Media Day, Sunday, August 12, in UM's Al Glick Fieldhouse.

With careful grooming and time, this man could be a facial hair All-American. This would give Michigan two, since Elliott Mealer either needs an acoustic guitar or a hammer fashioned by Odin to do justice to his face… thing:



BONUS: Mustaches for Michigan, where have you gone?

They might do it. Brady Hoke's old defensive coordinator Rocky Long, now the head guy at San Diego State, has heard of Pulaski High School—the Arkansas outfit that never ever punts—and is thinking about doing it:

After reading articles about an idiosyncratic Arkansas high school coach who never punts, always onside kicks, and has tremendous success doing it, Long is toying with the idea for his Aztecs of no punts or field goal attempts once they’ve driven inside an opponent’s 50-yard line.

Conceivably, San Diego State would go for the first down whether it needed a couple of inches or 10 yards.

And yes, Long — who apparently hasn’t yet tried it all in his 40 years of coaching — is serious about this.

“It makes sense,” he said, seeming almost giddy in talking about the possibilities.

“Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points,” he said. “It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense.”

It's not a sure thing yet, but I can't think of any better way to memorialize the WAC. Do it. You'd look so cool.

Oh my gawd. Please CBS, call this show "Boss Hog and the Zooker" and make it a crime procedural:

CBS Sports Network announces Houston Nutt will serve as studio analyst this year. He'll be joined by Ron Zook.

If college football does not take me up on my extremely reasonable plan to have JLS coach a different team on an interim basis every year, he could join up in 2013, and then our piss would indeed be hot.

Are these different? The M-Den says the basketball jerseys are different. I can't really tell:


I can still complain about it, right?

Jolly good show, catching me. I am quite elusive, you know. Fitzgerald Toussaint's OWI hearing is four days before the Alabama game. He's probably still getting suspended, but at least he's nicer than the average DUI recipient:

"He was extremely cooperative and gave us no problems at all," Saline Police Department Det. Don Lupi said Monday. "He was even more pleasant than the average drunk-driving arrestee. He was friendly and easy to deal with, unlike a lot of arrest situations."

"I say, you bobbies are really on your game."

Yes, imaginary Fitzgerald Toussaint is British. Because obviously.

The Fort. Man, running through my feeds and seeing open scrimmage reports from Arkansas and Ole Miss and Iowa plus A Lion Eye chastising himself for not checking out who the holders were at Illinois camp is a little depressing. Michigan's attitude towards this stuff is "please die, kthx." At media day it's clear the players were instructed to not answer questions about any freshmen:

I remember asking Jeremy Gallon how the freshmen receivers were coming along and his reaction was one along the lines of almost trying to keep things hush. He paused for a minute and then told me to talk to the coaches about it.

Will Campbell did the same thing on an interview I caught on WTKA.

Opening some stuff up is not just for mid-level programs (and Ole Miss), either: this space has noted some really cool access provided by Ohio State. Even Alabama, led by hater of all media Nick Saban, lets the media in to see some stuff. If Michigan's access is worse that Alabama's it's got to be the worst in the country, right?

I guess I get it since when Rodriguez was around the Free Press used the opportunity to talk to a couple freshmen to get them to issue misleading statements about how much time they were putting in, thus proving all long-held suspicions about the lizardmedia true. It's still frustrating that the hardest-hitting stuff we get is "what is your favorite Olympic event?" Not a 'wow' experience here. Someone put some pasta in a bread bowl or something.

It's on the up and up. The OHL came down harshly on Windsor for paying players under the table, which obviously never happens. My favorite part of all this is remembering the OHL's crocodile tears for their players when the NCAA was revamping their foreign player rules and hockey got an exception to keep CHL players out. They claimed it was just a shame that their entirely amateur league league was banned. Ugh. These guys are worse than the NCAA honchos.

Anyone want to bet a dollar that a pissed off Jack Campbell was a major source here? The WOTS about how these investigations came about fits Campbell's experience:

The league is choosing not to reveal names, though most believe some of the high-profile American players who played in Windsor could be responsible for the information leading to the sanctions. Some of those players were eventually traded, and it’s been suggested the trade could leave them feeling bitter and more prone to talk about their former team during an investigation.

But at least he's in the NHL already.

Etc.: More and more people are like WTF Emmert about this North Carolina thing. More photos from youth day, including a guy wearing an old old Rich Robots shirt. MVictors on achievable Michigan records. The Tigers are having a "Wolverines In The D" event next Friday—22 bucks gets you in, a shirt, and five bucks of it goes to the Pat Maloy Scholarship Fund.

Unverified Voracity Starts Sexy WWII

Unverified Voracity Starts Sexy WWII

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2011 at 4:12 PM

My eccentric Oregon financial advisor doppelganger. Smart Football points to a fellow who goes by FishDuck and is all about zone reads, feeding his dog, the violent-yet-genteel devouring of Mike Patrick, and more zone reads:

An interesting point picked up from Chip Kelly's presentations: Oregon has tipped inside/outside zone for six years without ill effect because declaring the play causes people to overreact to it, which opens up constraint plays. More than that, the zone often acts as its own constraint as over-aggressive players flow playside or bunch up inside, opening cutbacks and bounces.

He's also got a video on Oregon's deployment of power, which it uses as a counter to their usual inside zone stuff. We haven't seen this out of Borges yet, but I'm hoping. My desire to see Michigan pair an opposite-side-of-the-line speed option with the inside zone borders on lust. And by "borders on lust" I mean "invades Poland with sexy tanks."

On point. Doctor Saturday lays out the situation and the stakes on Saturday as well as you can:

When he was hired in January, Hoke's mission was explicitly to roll back the Rodriguez era, to restore whatever it was that made Michigan feel like Michigan again. To that end, even Wolverine fans seemed to find the sudden proliferation of countdown clocks, macho posturing and various Buckeye-related eccentricities laying it on a little thick. But six weeks in, the Wolverines are right on schedule in the national polls, the Big Ten standings and the weekly stat sheets. If they clear the midseason hurdle Rodriguez's teams never could at Michigan State, they can claim one more phase of the mission accomplished.

Kind of a big deal, this game.

Point: Tim. Reportorial ex-girlfriend Tim, who now goes by the bizarrely long moniker "Tim Sullivan" over at Rivals, was a committed skeptic about Rob Bolden since he was one of a trio of touted in-state quarterbacks in the 2009 recruiting class.

Despite the rankings, Tim said the guy didn't know how to play football. It seems like his scouting prowess has been borne out:

Game Over, Man.  Game Over.  This quarterback contest is done.  Urban Meyer remarked toward the end of Penn State's first offensive drive that at Thursday practice, he did not see Bolden complete a single pass over five yards.  This makes sense, as Bolden did not throw a single decent pass on the entire first drive.  …

Rob looks completely shattered at this point, and it's time for the coaches, players, and fans to embrace the crazy train that is McGloin Moxie Mania.

It's McGloin o'clock in Bolden's Penn State career. Beaten out by a walk-on, does a transfer again beckon? /NYT headline writer imitation

Point: Hoke. Shudder at the awful puntasaur display in the Iowa-Penn State game:

Iowa got to the PSU 33, faced 4th and 8... and punted.  That Guthrie was able to pin PSU on their own 10-yard line (a solid accomplishment) is irrelevant.  Punting from the other team's 33-yard line is A F---ING STUPID AND TERRIBLE IDEA.  I don't even need statistics to back me up on that one (although they would).  Even if Ferentz didn't want to try to convert on fourth down (4th and 8 isn't easy, obviously), why not give Mike Meyer a crack at a field goal?  It was a beautiful day, the ball was lined up near the middle of the field, and Meyer has made 50+ yard field goals in the past (this year, in fact).  But no.  Ferentz gave a vote of "no confidence" to both Meyer and his offense on that play.  Iowa probably deserved to lose the game for that decision alone. 

Of course, JoePa was determined to out-conservative -- or out-dumb -- Ferentz; he punted three times from the Iowa side of the field, including late in the game on 4th and 2 from the Iowa 36.  If he really didn't think his offense could rip off a two-yard gain against a gassed and reeling Iowa defense, I... I just have no words for the level of neanderthal football thinking on display in this game.

Of course, that coaching blunder on Ferentz's part might be narrowly eclipsed by the decision to eschew running a two-minute offense upon getting the ball at the Iowa 20 with two timeouts and 1:42 to go before halftime.  God forbid we try to score there.  It's not like we don't have a no huddle offense that's been effective this year or a kicker with decent range.  Nope. 

Even if trying the field goal with Gibbons is a mistake, it pales in comparison to that business. I cannot express how much I love the Mathlete's new Dumb Punt of the Week feature. The inaugural winner is Ohio State's Frank Solich, who punted on fourth and one from the Buffalo 36. Buffalo has the #91 rushing defense. After an 11 yard punt, Buffalo drove for a touchdown. Ohio State lost by a point. The game theory gods do not take kindly to being spited so grandiosely. (See also: Kirk Ferentz.)

I missed another Hoke game theory bit: he got the ball at the 22 with about two minutes left and did not pull the Ferentz. Robinson rushed for a loss of one on first down, then five straight passes got Michigan to the Northwestern 44 before Robinson's third awful interception set up a Northwestern field goal drive. While we've seen Hoke eschew half-ending drives a couple times this year, those were with a minute or less on the clock, not two.

Now… it didn't work out that time, but these things are never 100%. Did it make sense at the time to try to score with a couple minutes left against Northwestern's defense? Yeah.

Glarb glarb glarb. So when Michigan shuffled its fullback on third and one and got owned I had a conniption fit. This was the result of DeBord Doom re-emergence:


That's the corpse of Steve Watson you see getting annihilated at the LOS. Glarb.

BWS picture-pages this and points out that the shuffling fullback opened up the Gardner rollout TD on which he had either the run or pass; I'm not so sure showing the first play is worth the cost to get a yard when your redzone offense seems to be able to get a yard whenever it wants. I like diabolical machinations better when they're like the above Oregon stuff—plenty diabolical in their own right without the counter.

Mitchbreaks. Mitch McGary's impending Michigan decision now seems far less certain:

Recently, reports came out that Mitch was nearing or had made a decision. However, Tim refutes that notion “He hasn’t made a decision. I just talked to him tonight (Monday night) and we talked about it a little bit. He’s coming home Wednesday night and we’re going to sit down and talk about it. They get a four or five day break this weekend so he’s flying in to O’hare and my older son will pick him up. We’ll be able to sit down and sort things out.”

Likely rumor vector: AAU coach to national guy, national guy tizzy checks in with coach a few more times, everyone wants to back off. Confidence level: reduced, but still high.

Etc.: Denard Robinson is healthier this year because he is homeopathic or something. Mark Huyge has had a tough year. Holdin' the Rope doesn't like "smug, pompous buffoon" Mark Dantoinio. Jon Merrill suspension 50/50 to end his career. Sad face.

Where's the Manball?

Where's the Manball?

Submitted by Brian on August 11th, 2011 at 11:42 AM

brady-hoke-pointing someMAN IN BALL

Even before Brady Hoke started answering questions like this…

Q: How will Denard Robinson fit in this offense?

A: This is Michigan!

Q: What do you think about the goings-on in Columbus?

A: Though we have great respect for the Akron State Golden Bobcats, this remains Michigan.

Q: What kind of off—


Q: You—


/teaches journalist about Mad Magicians

…he expressed a certain disdain for fancy things like zone running, which is neither fancy or new or soft and has been used by teams from the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos to, you know, Michigan under Lloyd Carr. He swore up and down to everyone who attended the coaches' clinic that "A-gap power"—three yards and a cloud of dust, think Jehuu Caulcrick—would be Michigan's signature play. He has expressed a certain approach to offense that sends spread friendly folk like yrs truly and Braves & Birds into twitchy fits. His stated approach is neolithic.

So… like… WTF?


Date Opponent Surface Result Rush Pass Penalty Total
09/04/10 Nicholls St. Grass W 47-0 10 12 1 23
09/11/10 @ New Mexico St. Grass W 41-21 8 13 3 24
09/18/10 @ 18 Missouri Turf L 24-27 5 10 2 17
09/25/10 Utah St. Grass W 41-7 9 9 0 18
10/09/10 @ Brigham Young Grass L 21-24 3 9 0 12
10/16/10 Air Force Grass W 27-25 8 8 0 16
10/23/10 @ New Mexico Grass W 30-20 8 12 2 22
10/30/10 @ Wyoming Turf W 48-38 2 15 3 20
11/06/10 Colorado St. Grass W 24-19 8 10 1 19
11/13/10 @ 2 TCU Grass L 35-40 1 6 0 7
11/20/10 Utah Grass L 34-38 2 25 2 29
11/27/10 UNLV Grass W 48-14 14 13 3 30
12/23/10 + Navy Grass W 35-14 14 12 1 27
  Totals 92 154 18 264

San Diego State passed on 63% of its first downs. In tight games* SDSU passed on 79% of first downs. This was not a catchup effect. Missouri led by more than one score for all of 41 seconds; against Utah SDSU ran out to a 27-10 lead before bleeding it away down the stretch. This has something to do with Ryan Lindley and some all-conference receivers but SDSU was very slightly run biased in 2010 (51%), managing a respectable 4.8 YPC. In 2010, especially when it counted, San Diego State passed to set up the run.

Where the hell is A-gap power? Why the hell did The Mountain West Connection write this about Hoke's candidacy for the job?

Hoke would bring in another non-traditonal Big 10 offense to Ann Arbor. It would be a spread offense, but instead of having an offense where there is a dual threat quarterback he plays three, four and five wide receiver sets.

In short,


Where's the manball?

*[Missouri, BYU, Air Force, TCU, and Utah. CSU excluded because the narrow scoreline was due to a touchdown with 2:43 left.]

Is the manball in previous teams?

Hoke's previous SDSU team threw even more but was not very good. They were especially un-good at running, so numbers from that season reflect necessity instead of philosophy. And Hoke only had two years in San Diego, so maybe he wasn't able to mold his team into the A-gap power six fullback monstrosity he yearns for. 

How about the apex of his Ball State career?


Date Opponent Surface Result Rush Pass Penalty Total
08/28/08 Northeastern Turf W 48-14 12 12 2 26
09/05/08 Navy Turf W 35-23 12 13 1 26
09/13/08 @ Akron Turf W 41-24 14 13 3 30
09/20/08 @ Indiana Turf W 42-20 12 9 3 24
09/27/08 Kent St. Turf W 41-20 8 17 1 26
10/04/08 @ Toledo Turf W 31-0 11 13 0 24
10/11/08 @ Western Ky. Turf W 24-7 9 9 3 21
10/25/08 Eastern Mich. Turf W 38-16 8 11 2 21
11/05/08 Northern Ill. Turf W 45-14 7 14 4 25
11/11/08 @ Miami (Ohio) Turf W 31-16 9 12 0 21
11/19/08 @ Central Mich. Turf W 31-24 13 8 2 23
11/25/08 Western Mich. Turf W 45-22 8 11 0 19
12/05/08 + Buffalo Turf L 24-42 10 19 1 30
01/06/09 + Tulsa Turf L 13-45 3 6 0 9
  Totals 136 167 22 325

Hoke's first downs under Stan Parrish were also pass-biased. Again, Nate Davis had something to do with that but Ball State was significantly more run-biased than 2010 SDSU: 520 rushes to 405 passes, with those rushes picking up 5 yards a pop. A team that ran 56% of the time threw on 55% of first downs.

HOWEVA, that's not a huge difference from late-era Carr behavior. I know this surprises you. I clicked the link three times just to make sure it wasn't having fun, but in 2007 Michigan passed on 54% of first downs despite playing Ryan Mallett for significant chunks of the season. They also ran on 56% of all plays. That may be an artifact of Michigan not being able to run very well (4 YPC; insert infamous stretch against OSU here). In 2006, a monstrously run-biased outfit (62% at 4.3 YPC while the passing game was averaging 7.7) was 50-50 on first down.

Is the manball in the offensive structure?

Meanwhile, Chris Brown has the most interesting single factoid in Wolverines Kickoff 2011. It's about SDSU's bowl game, the one after which Ken Niumatalolo said "that's as good of an offense as we've seen." In that game, the Aztecs ran more zone-blocked plays than gap-blocked plays en route to a rout. Here's an inside zone:

A few plays later the Aztecs would bust out their first power of the night. Notably, it was a "constraint" play—one designed to keep the defense honest. They lined up in a pro set and handed it to the fullback for the second time all year. On third and two they manballed up. Result:

Starting running back Ronnie Hillman averaged 8.1 YPC without any distorting 80-yarders (long of 37) and finished the day with 228 yards. San Diego State's defense did not appear to have a stroke while watching this.

So how does that jive with this?

When asked recently about the influence of Oregon’s offense, Hoke subtly revealed his disdain for the tactical shift Michigan experienced under Rodriguez. He is convinced that modern spread option offenses can be counterproductive to the core values of smashmouth football and are, therefore, to be avoided.

“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time -- when you’re playing basketball on grass -- you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football,” Hoke said. “I don’t think you’re prepared.

It… like… doesn't. Unless Hoke just wants to have some power around so his defense doesn't turn into a bunch of lily-livered ninnyhammers and doesn't actually care how much it gets deployed in actual games. This would be good for the next couple years when what Hoke wants and what Hoke has will be severely mismatched.

Is the manball curling up in the fetal position with a narrow lead?

Unfortunately for manball-is-just-talk theorists, that above-mentioned close-ish Colorado State game featured an event familiar to Michigan fans. After Colorado State scored with about three minutes left to draw within five, SDSU ran three times for two yards and gave the ball back to the Rams having run only 53 seconds off the clock. They ran on 2nd 7 and 3rd and 9. Very MANBALL.

The way the Aztecs lost the Missouri game is also terribly familiar. They picked off Blaine Gabbert with 1:47 left, ran 25 seconds off the clock, and punted on 4th and 8 from the Missouri 35. It took the Tigers two plays to score the winning touchdown. To be fair, freshman Ronnie Hillman caused coaching blood vessels to explode when he ran out of bounds on the first play of the drive and the Aztecs did throw on third down. To be ruthless, that throw was a screen or something equivalently conservative (it lost a yard) and once it was completed the situation was 4th and 8 for the win or a 20-yard punt. Hoke chose the punt. He chose poorly.

Against Air Force the Aztecs faced a 4th and goal from the two with about nine minutes left. They led by eight. Hoke called for the field goal team. That's not indefensible*; it is conservative. Hoke watched his kicker Broekgibbons it anyway.

On the other hand, in the Utah game San Diego State kept firing after leaping out to a big lead (obviously). There's no evidence they ever put the scoring offense away except in a couple of end-game scenarios.

*[It's probably the right call. Going from 8 to 11 forces the opponent to score two TDs to win instead of one and a two-point conversion. Getting the touchdown gives you a tie in the unlikely event an option team with 12 points so far gets two touchdowns and a conversion in the final nine minutes. A failure does leave the opponent on its own two.

As it happened, Air Force did score two touchdowns in the final nine minutes. Unfortunately for the Falcons, sandwiched between them was a one-play SDSU touchdown drive and they lost anyway.]

The things that are said contradict each other

Hoke says he wants the team to act in a certain way—toughness toughness toughness—while simultaneously saying he will not futz with Al Borges. Al Borges has shown a predilection for lots of vertical passing and apparently does not care one way or the other about gap vs zone blocking. Hoke says he dislikes zone running and uses it plenty. He's recruiting large men to squash men who are not quite as large but has maybe 1.5 tight ends and Denard Robinson right now.

What Hoke wants is clear, and what he has is not what he wants. The record implies that he'll be relatively flexible. Michigan will still see a drop in yardage/fancy metric performance because they're spending time revamping instead of refining, but if under center isn't working they'll ditch it. Hell, against Navy SDSU's first drive formations looked like this:

  1. Shotgun 3-wide
  2. Shotgun 3-wide
  3. Shotgun 3-wide
  4. Shotgun 3-wide
  5. Shotgun 3-wide
  6. Shotgun 3-wide

They even ran a zone read. It went for a yard, but by God they ran it. When push comes to shove I think Michigan will go with what works, whatever that is.

Mailbag: Grayshirting, DTs, More Borges

Mailbag: Grayshirting, DTs, More Borges

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Brian -

I was wondering if you could answer the question as to why Jeremy Clark and Michigan would pursue a grey shirt versus a preferred walk-on.  In both cases the player has to pay their own way until a scholarship is available.  But with a grey shirt you can't practice with the team at all.  Is the thinking that they would then get a psuedo sixth year?  I would think having the player on campus and practicing with the team as a walk-on that first year would be better than hoping he earns a scholarship by sitting around doing nothing for a year. 

Also, I know we all share concerns about the size of this class and where the scholarships will come from - but I have a more specific question for you.  How do you feel about only taking one at the DT spot?  My thinking is that it is one of the hardest positions to project (cough-Will Campbell-cough), you need a healthy rotation of players, and you need size.  I have no idea why the staff wouldn't want two true defensive tackles in this class given the lack of depth and talent at that position.  I would even take one lower rated DT in this class if you get a star DT with another scholarship.  I think that's far more important than just about every other position at this point. 

Chicago, IL

On grayshirting: you do get a psuedo-sixth year since your eligibility clock does not start ticking until the subsequent year if you are a mid-year enrollee. Clark could enroll, redshirt, and have four years of eligibility starting in in 2014. Enrolling in the fall starts your clock, so the fall of 2012 would be Clark's redshirt year. Also, being a preferred walk-on costs money.

I'm not actually sure what path Clark will take since grayshirting is an overloaded term that refers to both enrolling without a scholarship and not enrolling until winter. It could be either depending on how quickly Michigan thinks they'd want to deploy Clark and if he wants to/can make the financial sacrifice to enroll without a scholarship.

On the defensive tackle spot: I don't think anyone gets Michigan's plan there. When the 2012 class hits campus the only potential nose tackles on the roster are Quinton Washington and Richard Ash; the only three-techs are Will Campbell and Terrance Talbott. Both Talbott and Ash have been dogged with rumors they have health issues and neither was exactly a slam-dunk recruit. No one has played; Michigan took no true DTs a year ago. Campbell will be a senior and Washington a junior.

Meanwhile, the defensive line sees more rotation than any other position in football—Michigan rotated four guys last year even when the options were walk-ons and journeymen like Adam Patterson.

So it seems nuts to me to turn down a consensus four star DT with the offers to match, as it seems they will if Pipkins and O'Brien both want to sign up. Even if they can move some combination of Godin/Wormley/Strobel/Rock/Wilkins inside, those guys are all tall dudes who probably can't deal with the nose.

That leaves essentially no one after Martin graduates. Hoke's made all the right moves so far but if he takes a scholarship fullback over a desperately-needed nose tackle people should question that.

Hi Brian,
First, the giant scoreboard at Yost:  on the post today it indeed appears to be gigantic and I was wondering if you had a chance yet to see if this thing might interfere with sightlines across the ice or corner to corner?  Don't know if anyone remembers/cares, but there was a giant block hangy-downy scoreboard there back at Yost in the early 80's and it hung down too far.  If you were sitting really high up in the endzones or even in the top couple of rows on the sidelines, the scoreboard actually hung down far enough to block your view across the ice.  It was worse than obstructed view at Tiger Stadium, though I guess that might be because Larry Herndon never ran very far.  So, the end-zone scoreboards were actually an innovation kind of because there were then no seats obstructed by the scoreboard hanging down.  Someone must have thought about that one before they hung this thing, right?  I am suspicious of change, get off the lawn, I miss the Apple IIC, etc. 

The board is currently closer to the ice than it will be when it is finally deployed, and while it's certainly larger than the current one I don't think it's significantly taller. And the top couple rows on the sidelines are now usually vacant because of overhangs.

Second, we've seen a lot of decision matrices about 4th down, go for it vs. field goal vs punt on different places on the field.  Would it be possible for someone to do a historic survey? 

For example, I bet that matrix looked a lot different for a 1972 Bo team than for a 1998 Lloyd team because of the efficiency - or not - of the passing game back then.  Bo going for it on 4th and 7 with his option teams was a totally different animal than Carr going for it on 4th and 7 with Henne and Braylon.  I guess what I'm asking is, can those 4th and charts be adjusted backwards for inflation?  I bet they would explain a lot about the evolution of 4th-and theory and about Carr's reluctance to not punt from the opponent's 41. 

A historic survey is outside the scope of a mailbag response but it's probably unnecessary anyway since the Mathlete tackled something similar in a past diary that got bumped to the front page. Two charts, one for high offensive expectation…

…and one for low offensive expectation…

…show the increasing viability of the punt as scoring decreases.

Game theory in the paleolithic era was probably better than it was over the past 20 years. It seems we've passed an inflection point where going for it is the choice, but teams are still being coached by guys who came up under old school coaches who had totally different probabilities in their head. It's like adding four cards to a deck and asking 1950s poker players to cope—eventually they'll make a mistake because the game has changed.

I think it is worth noting that the West Coast offense, which Borges favors, can be traced directly back to Sid Gillman, the same Sid Gillman whose offensive style was loathed by manball loving Woody Hayes when the two of them were rivals at Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio respectively. Also, the most famous west coast quarterback of all time is Joe Montana, and he was hardly an immobile pocket passer.

I am probably being overly optimistic, but do you think there is a possibility that Michigan's offense in 2011 will resemble Auburn's 2010 offense in that it will be a hybrid of spread elements and pro-style elements? Yes I realize that Denard's skill set is not identical to Cam Newton's, but based on some of the remarks Borges has made and Hoke's likely realization that Michigan fans aren't going to be patient for wins, I think this is the most likely direction for the offense.


I'm not sure I agree with the above emailer's police work there. Auburns' offense worked so well because they didn't even need any semblance of a pro-style attack because an inverted veer with Cam Newton was short-yardage gold. Newton was recruited to run the same offense he did run. When there was a mismatch between the offensive coordinator's vision, that of the head coach, and available personnel, both Tony Franklin and Tommy Tuberville got fired. Auburn is not a good analogue.

I'm not sure if there is in fact a good analogue for the transformation Denard is going to be asked to make. Usually when you have a talent like him at quarterback the head coach doesn't get fired because you win a bunch of games. I've searched my memory banks for an example of a successful returning spread quarterback dealing with a new, more pro-style system and can only recall the most ironic possible name: Pat White.

White, of course, was coming off of West Virginia's 48-28 demolition of Oklahoma; WVU was third nationally in rushing offense, 15th in yardage, and 9th in scoring. The next year Rodriguez was out and Bill Stewart brought in Jeff Mullen from Wake Forest; Mullen preached balance but seemed to respect the accomplishments of the previous regime:

“I don’t want it to be too much different. You’re talking about a group of men who left here who were very successful coaches, and they installed one of the best offenses in the country. I’m not going to come in here and turn it around,” he said.

WVU still ran the spread but lost some of its maniacal dependence on the run (70% in RR's last year, 63% in Stewart's first) and large chunks of its derring-do. West Virginia lost almost a yard per carry in the transition despite running less and retaining White and Noel Devine. Total yardage dropped to 59th, scoring to 73rd. You will not be thrilled to hear that turnover margin remained as ludicrously good as it was for the bulk of Rodriguez's tenure.

I think something like that dropoff may be in the cards for Michigan. Mullen was no slouch. He was able to staple together decent outfits at Wake Forest despite having a massive injury plague strike his already-depleted roster. But his expertise did not align with the skills of his offense and as a result a bunch of returning starters got a lot less explosive.

I do think Al Borges is going to put together something that tries to take advantage of the parts he has. If I had to guess I'd say Brady Hoke's public statements about manball are just statements—at San Diego State Borges had full sway to do what he wanted, and what he wanted was a lot of different things including quite a bit of zone running. But you can't expect Borges to be Rich Rodriguez when he's spent much of his career fiddling with passing routes instead of the slight adjustments Rodriguez used to keep Robinson ahead of the pack.

The falloff from the transition probably won't be as bad* but if Borges can just maintain Michigan's YPC I'll be thrilled.

*[Reasons: The offense wasn't as good as that WVU unit and shouldn't be exposed to such a withering regression to the mean, Denard is lower on his learning curve than White, there's no equivalent to losing Slaton, general coaching ept-ness will probably go up, field goals.]

Papercuts And Paddles

Papercuts And Paddles

Submitted by Brian on October 4th, 2010 at 1:08 PM

10/2/2010 – Michigan 42, Indiana 35 – 5-0, 1-0

 roy-roundtree-indiana-2010 image terrence-talbott-indiana-2010

AP, Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com (slideshow), MGoBlue.com

When you want to watch ESPNU in Sedona, Arizona, you go to this place called "Sticks and Steaks." To get there you drive past a massive tourist art complex with a faux-native name, a sign exhorting you take advantage of Angel Lightfoot's magic healing crystal expertise, and an enormous, profligate fountain in the middle of the damn desert. Whatever Sedona's purpose was when someone said "screw it" and set up camp in 1902 is gone, replaced by a talent for taking money that was jammed into old ladies' bank accounts and circulating it through the economy again.

Inside this place you'll find TVs, horse betting, and a motley collection of people who would rather be home for three and a half hours on Saturday. In front of me there were a couple peeved Texas fans watching their team get punked by Oklahoma. Behind me there was a Wisconsin guy who asked if I was wearing my lucky Michigan tie. (I wasn't: I'd neglected to bring one and had to drive back to the next town over and stop at their outlet strip mall to get one.) A couple of old women who didn't care about football ate there; as they left one of them said they'd gone to Indiana and was surprised the game was even that close.

I think it was an attempt to comfort me, as I'd spent the hour they were there pulling my hair back over my skull and swearing under my breath. Sometimes not so under my breath, too. I said something about how IU's quarterback was outlandishly good and hoped it was true.


I do not have to tell you this but I will anyway: that game was bizarre.

In the aftermath it stands as a tribute to how useless time of possession is. Michigan's put-upon defense actually got better in the second half of their 98-play version of Ishtar, and it turns out that a touchdown scored in three plays is worth just as much as a touchdown scored in 14. We have sufficient evidence now to declare this finding statistically significant. So that's nice.

In progress it felt like dying from a thousand paper cuts only to be brought back with the crashing thunder of paddles, conscious and fully aware you were about to do it all over again. The opponent holding the ball for 42 minutes might not mean much statistically, but it does make most of the game an agonizing slog.

As a result, records were set across the Michigan fanbase for "most muted response to a 70-yard touchdown." Such a thing wouldn't have been possible even four years ago. I remember thinking to myself "that's 25% of the points we need to win" after the first drive of the '06 Ohio State game, and I was delighted through a whole commercial break. I grew up with angry cold Midwestern football where touchdowns were hard-earned things only somewhat less rare than goals in soccer. Each one was a major step towards your goal, and punting a guy down inside their ten was tantamount to getting the ball back on the fifty.

Now a touchdown is just holding serve. When Denard fumbled the snap on the one I thought "this is going to be a 99-yard touchdown drive," and then it was a 99-yard touchdown drive. It's disorienting, and as Indiana is driving down the field again you can't even figure out who to scream at because no one's in the same zip code as the receiver, and you hate everything about everything because this is MICHIGAN we don't do things like this.

On the other hand, "this is MICHIGAN" also applies to an offense that could end up loaded with NFL talent and still come nowhere near this one. Michigan still has Denard and its blitzkrieg of an offensive line and a bunch of wide-receivers who draw straws to determine who gets this week's monster day. One day when the defense is capable of covering guys here and there, Michigan will club people. At the moment it's about having the ball last.


I got somewhat demonstrative during all of this, which is why the Wisconsin guy asked me about my tie and the Indiana woman offered a ham-fisted attempt at comfort. People found me entertaining as I alternated between brief flashes of happiness and long stretches of sports Tourette's, I guess. I probably would have too.

As I was leaving this other guy who I hadn't even noticed added his bit, jovially saying "Hey, you survived." I had. They had, unlike Texas or Wisconsin or Indiana. The Texas folk hadn't even made it past halftime. The fiancée, still able to engage in small talk beyond grunts and squeaks, asked who he was rooting for. He said "USC, but they don't play yet." When they did, they lost to Washington for the second straight year. There are worse things than getting bombed for 480 yards by Ben Chappell even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.


Stop it. I've defended the three man rush but good lord you have got to be kidding me. I defended the 3-3-5 but that's when I thought it would be used to create a wide variety of four-and-five man fronts with unpredictable blitzing. Michigan probably rushed more than three guys 10% of the time in the second half, and when they did that it was four. I can't support having Craig Roh and using him in zone coverage on every snap.

What's worse was the inane substitution pattern. Every Indiana run in the second half was a wasted down, and probably would have been a wasted down even if you replaced Banks with Roh and brought in a cornerback. One of this defense's few assets is the pass rushing ability of the outside linebackers, but Michigan is going out of its way to avoid using it.

Stop it, but the clock. I would have thrown a shoe at the TV if Michigan had botched time management at the end of the half like Indiana did. How do you get inside the 20 on that drive with a minute or so on the clock and end up with four seconds on third and goal? Indiana let the clock run from 13 seconds to 9 after a first and goal play before calling timeout, which meant they'd just blown an opportunity to run a fourth down. They got the TD anyway, but that was a sequence worthy of Les Miles.

Speaking of decisions like going for it on third there…

How Denard Robinson is like multi-way callers in a limit hold-em game. There is a phenomenon in limit hold-em called "schooling" where a bunch of weak players who call a lot of hands they should ditch accidentally make their play close to right, frustrating more experienced players with a strong hand they'd like to get heads up with.

I think about this every time an opposing coach defies his inner Lovie Smith and goes for it on a fourth-and-Romer down against Michigan or eschews a half-ending field goal attempt in an effort to score the seven it's obvious they'll need to keep up with Denard. Michigan has now faced 15 fourth down attempts on the season, which is double the next-highest total in the Big Ten and triple the average*. They've converted nine of these, turning a bunch of drives that would have been punts or field goal attempts against a less terrifying offense into touchdowns.

The difference is that the coaches' decisions are statistically correct, not just less wrong. Which is not so good for Michigan. Bill Lynch did manage to punt from the Michigan 42 on fourth and short, which just goes to show that it is the nature of all coaches to play it safe. I'm hoping as we get into the stodgy section of the schedule we'll see more insane decisions to punt when Michigan scrapes together a stop. Someone can tell Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz and Joe Paterno that they should go for it, but what are the chances they listen? Maybe 40%?

*(FWIW, I disagree with the author's assertion that the reason Michigan's opponents are exceeding their yardage season averages when they play M is because Michigan is the "red-letter" game on the schedule. It's just because Michigan's defense sucks.)

Same thing on our side of the ball. Michigan should have gone for it on fourth and one in the second half; instead they sent Forcier out to pooch it. I'm fine with the pooch punting in general, as it's impossible to return or even catch one. Michigan netted 39 yards on Forcier's attempt, which would be good for 23rd nationally as a season-long average.

But punting in that situation? No thanks. When your offense is tearing through the opposition like M's offense was that Mathlete chart about correct decisions swings way towards going for it there.

Part of the problem may be the apparent lack of faith in Michigan's bigger backs. Cox didn't appear at all and Hopkins was just used as a blocker; when Vincent Smith is your best TB option (blocking or running) short yardage is less of a certainty. I'm still not a fan of Smith this year despite the long run against IU. He didn't have to do anything except run through a gaping void and run through an attempt to tackle him from behind. He's reliable, but having him at tailback is like having Greg Mathews on punt returns.

False. I knew this would happen in the aftermath; I could even feel Pam Ward complain about it despite not having any sound for the game: time of possession is a Problem That Must Be Solved:

It could not be clearer that Michigan doesn't need much time to score.

But what the Wolverines do need is the ability to keep their defense off the field. This defense is young, and it's still learning, and without the Michigan offense, its flaws would be that much more evident.

The Daily's Joe Stapleton also offered something along those lines.

Anyone who's read this blog for longer than a couple weeks knows the general outline of what's to come but whatever here goes: a touchdown is worth seven points no matter how long it takes to score, and having an offense that rips down the field in three or four plays against Indiana is not a bad thing. Against better defenses those opportunities will be much rarer. And what is Denard supposed to do, anyway? Kneel down at the 20?

It's the defense's job to get off the field. The offense is a thing to score points with. Was it good that Roy Roundtree got caught at the three? Not so much. If Michigan wants to bring TOP closer to even they'll have to get much better or blitz like madmen, but since that's a stupid goal to have they should only do the latter if it also makes it more likely they'll get stops.

Slight mitigation. One effect of Michigan's rapid-fire touchdown drives was to inflate Indiana's opportunities. Both teams had twelve bonafide drives in the game. That's 50% more than the opener against UConn; Michigan would have expected to give up 23 points if they'd faced eight IU drives. Which is still terrible, but maybe slightly less so than it seemed.


I was in transit yesterday so no VOAV; apologies. Here's the Michigan defense highlight reel:

Something slightly longer from WH:

There are also BTN and MGoBlue highlight packages.

In non-video items: a serendipitous sideline photo gallery. Michigan's ridiculous "on pace for" numbers. Mike DeSimone has resumed his incredibly useful photo collecting. Wow, Les Miles. Wow Denard from the Indy Star:

There are certain moments that reveal a potential Heisman Trophy winner's essence, and that came on that final five-play, 73-yard game-winning drive that sealed the 42-35 victory.

"Shoelace'' has got my Heisman vote, and it would take an act of God to make me change my mind.

ESPN's Heisman watch says it's "Robinson and everyone else":

Now it's just getting ridiculous. I mean, at some point shouldn't we stop being amazed? We've seen it for five weeks now. Shouldn't we be used to it? I'm talking, of course, about Michigan QB Denard Robinson, and the answer is no. We haven't seen this type of college football playmaker since … Barry Sanders?

Postgame GERG-RR stills from MVictors are… not so happy. Ace asks if we're jaded already. I'll talk about this more in a bit but despite the stuff about the three-man rush above, complaints like those of BWS

The real story is that Greg Robinson's defensive schemes do not work. No longer is this a question of defensive talent or improper personnel. No, sadly, this is far more systematic: Greg Robinson's schemes Do Not Work.

I've been advocating a man coverage package for the last three weeks. Robinson has shown it sparingly. Not that I'm more qualified to run this defense, but Robinson's inability--or maybe stubbornness--to show new looks is far and away the most disappointing aspect of this season. Play after play (and now game after game), teams are running quick slants and seven-yard hitch routes and absolutely shredding Michigan's defense. And it's not that the defense looks athletically overmatched. They look unprepared and poorly coached.

…are kind of ridiculous. James Rogers cannot change direction. Jordan Kovacs cannot cover people man to man. There are massive personnel deficiencies that need covering up.