Preview 2017: Heuristics and Stupid Prediction

Preview 2017: Heuristics and Stupid Prediction

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A Offense. 5Q5A Defense.

Heuristicland

Turnover Margin

NotreDame-Rees-fumble-vs.-Michigan[1]

The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.

Year Margin Int + Fumb + Sacks + Int - Fumb - Sacks -
2007 0.15 (41st) 14 15 2.46(33rd) 14 13 2.17 (67th)
2008 -.83 (104th) 9 11 2.42(33rd) 12 18 1.83 (57th)
2009 -1.00 (115th) 11 5 1.83(68th) 15 13 2.33 (83rd)
2010 -0.77(109th) 12 7 1.38(98th) 15 14 0.85(10th)
2011 +0.54 (25th) 9 20 2.31 (29th) 16 6 1.38 (33rd)
2012 -0.69 (99th) 7 11 1.69 (69th) 19 8 1.38 (28th)
2013 +0.38(33rd) 17 9 1.9 (64th) 13 8 2.77 (109th)
2014 -1.33 (124th) 5 5 2.4 (49th) 18 8 2.2 (63rd)
2015 -0.31 (92nd) 10 2 2.5 (32nd) 10 6 1.4 (28th)
2016 +0.54 (24th) 13 6 3.54(5th) 7 5 1.69 (39th)

Michigan had an uptick from their incredibly bad fumble luck from a year ago but were still shorted their fair share of turnovers on defense. Despite having one of the best secondaries and most chaos-inducing defenses in the country a year ago they were only 67th in turnovers acquired.

They were probably a bit lucky on the other end, with just 12 giveaways. (Three of them had to happen at the worst possible time, naturally.) That was fifth nationally.

There does seem to be a Harbaugh effect with the interceptions, which have been at blog-era lows the last two years. With a returning starter those should remain low. De'Veon Smith and mostly good pass protection are the main drivers for the low fumble loss rate. One of those is definitely gone and the other may or may not be.

You'd expect both turnovers caused and lost to tick upwards this year; Michigan should be solidly positive again. "Expect" is a dangerous term when dealing with something so high-variance, of course.

Position Switches

Jibreel Black Ohio State v Michigan 8THB4vo8SwAl[1]

Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball.

The dossier of position switches:

Mason Cole to left tackle. Mandatory after the Newsome injury, and while he's going to be fine he's not an ideal left tackle. Concern: moderate.

Jon Runyan to right tackle. Runyan was never considered a tackle until this spring, and he almost won the job. Despite this being a minor shift, not offense to defense, this one is a bit alarming. Concern: moderate.

Metellus and Hudson flip viper/SS. As discussed in the 5Q5A post, these are close to interchangeable. Both guys are taking snaps at the other spot even now, because Michigan likes to flip 'em on motion. Concern: zero.

Ben Mason to fullback. Ordained from the time of his commitment and necessary for next year. Concern: zero.

James Hudson to OT. If anything this is encouraging about Michigan DT depth. Concern: zero.

Nate Johnson to CB. Probably more about Johnson getting buried at WR and Washington's departure than anything else, but the flip does speak to Michigan's scary CB depth. Concern: slight.

An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt

Worst Case Barring Extreme Injury Scenarios

This is another year where Michigan has a lot of games they should win. I can't find it now but I saw that one sportsbook had season lines up and only four games were less than two touchdown spreads. 8-4.

Best Case

Michigan can enter the OSU game undefeated if they win those 14-point spread games, beat a Florida team that may arrive in Dallas with only six eligible players, and win at Penn State and Wisconsin, teams that exploded into dust with one glance at a Don Brown defense. And yeah they have a shot at OSU at home. 12-0.

Final Verdict

Not a lot of drama here. They've got four games with relatively tight spreads and they're likely to split those games.

OOC
9/2 Florida (N) Lean to win
9/9 Cincinnati Must win
9/16 Air Force Must win
Conference
9/24 @ Purdue Must win
10/1 MSU Must win
10/8 @ Indiana Must win
10/22 @ PSU Tossup
10/29 Rutgers Must win
11/5 Minnesota Must win
11/12 @Maryland Must win
11/19 @ Wisconsin Tossup
11/26 Ohio State Lean to loss
Absent:

Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois

I do think Michigan should expect to beat Florida, PSU, and Wisconsin, but by "expect to beat" I mean "there is a 60-65% chance Michigan wins against team X". They should expect to lose to OSU, but in a 40-60 kind of way. 10-2 is right down the middle, then, as there's always a chance that football does football things to you and Michigan is suddenly faced with a feisty Piggy or something.

Preview 2016: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Preview 2016: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2016 at 3:06 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense. 5Q5A: Defense.

Heuristicland

Turnover Margin

NotreDame-Rees-fumble-vs.-Michigan[1]

The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.

Year Margin Int + Fumb + Sacks + Int - Fumb - Sacks -
2007 0.15 (41st) 14 15 2.46(33rd) 14 13 2.17 (67th)
2008 -.83 (104th) 9 11 2.42(33rd) 12 18 1.83 (57th)
2009 -1.00 (115th) 11 5 1.83(68th) 15 13 2.33 (83rd)
2010 -0.77(109th) 12 7 1.38(98th) 15 14 0.85(10th)
2011 +0.54 (25th) 9 20 2.31 (29th) 16 6 1.38 (33rd)
2012 -0.69 (99th) 7 11 1.69 (69th) 19 8 1.38 (28th)
2013 +0.38(33rd) 17 9 1.9 (64th) 13 8 2.77 (109th)
2014 -1.33 (124th) 5 5 2.4 (49th) 18 8 2.2 (63rd)
2015 -0.31 (92nd) 10 2 2.5 (32nd) 10 6 1.4 (28th)

2015 was nothing like the other new-coach uptick in recent history. Michigan recovered and absurdly low 2 fumbles in 2015; Brady Hoke's first team hopped on 20. With very similar pass rush numbers that's just damned bad luck.

With De'Veon Smith back fumbles lost should remain low. Interceptions are an open question with a new QB and new left tackle. Takeaways should increase as Michigan moves to more zone, specifically sneaky disguised zones, and because of dumb luck on the fumbles. I'd be surprised if this doesn't end up in the top 30, except I'm never surprised by turnover numbers since they're so low sample.

Position Switch Starters

Jibreel Black Ohio State v Michigan 8THB4vo8SwAl[1]

Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.

The dossier:

Chris Wormley to three-tech. Half the time he'll be playing SDE and he's already displayed an ability to play the spot. Concern level: zero.

Maurice Hurst to three-tech. His best spot. Concern level: zero.

Mason Cole to center. Also his best spot. Concern level: zero.

Jabrill Peppers to SAM. This is mostly a relabeling of his previous position and an acknowledgement of modern football. Concern level: zero.

Taco Charlton and Chase Winovich to WDE. Charlton actually moved their last year and got a few starts in. I'm not concerned about that. Winovich as a position-switch top backup who will see time is less than ideal. There have been some reports that he gets edged fairly routinely. But he is the backup. Concern level: slight.

And that's it. This is the fewest number of significant moves in the history of this preview series. It's basically Winovich, the end.

An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt

Worst Case Barring Extreme Injury Scenarios

There aren't many games on the schedule that will be single digit spreads for Michigan. They're favored at MSU and Iowa and only a significant dog at Ohio State; while they could stub their toe against PSU or Wisconsin both of those teams are taking new QBs on the road behind shaky offensive lines. Indiana looms because #CHAOSTEAM, but after seeing last night I'm guessing their offense takes a big step back.

They could lose the three big road games. 9-3.

Best Case

Michigan has more talent than anyone they face. Only Ohio State can argue otherwise, and they've got to replace a zillion starters. If they slip up 12-0 feels way more likely than it should.

Final Verdict

This team will be a national championship contender. Michigan is stacked everywhere except OL, LB, and QB. Those slots project to be average-ish, not season-ending debacles. Meanwhile, the schedule…

OOC
9/3 Hawaii Must win
9/10 Central Florida Must win
9/17 Colorado Must win
Conference
9/24 Penn State Must win
10/1 Wisconsin Must win
10/8 @ Rutgers Must win
10/22 Illinois Must win
10/29 @ MSU Lean to win
11/5 Maryland Must win
11/12 @ Iowa Lean to win
11/19 Indiana Must win
11/26 @ Ohio State Tossup
Absent:

Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska

…is super pliable.

Here's where I talk about combinatorial mathematics and how it's impossible to predict 12-0 seriously. Let's assume 3-0 in the nonconference. If Michigan has a 90% chance to win every conference game, the chance they go undefeated is 39%. Michigan does not have a 90% chance to win every conference game. There's literally no team in the country you should ever predict goes 12-0. Connelly's S&P rankings think that no team is even 50% likely to go 11-1.

This is why it's stupid to predict 12-0. I've never done it and never will, probably. Predicting 12-0 is an act of bravado not rooted in facts.

12-0.

Unverified Voracity Drops By Half

Unverified Voracity Drops By Half

Submitted by Brian on July 18th, 2016 at 12:38 PM

Harbaugh hanging out with Rich Eisen. 24 minutes:

Remarkable how much different Harbaugh is when he's talking with a person he's comfortable with.

Rashan hype. Jourdan Lewis is impressed:

“You should see Rashan move,” Lewis said this week. “He’s very, very light on his feet. He and (nose tackle) Bryan Mone, it’s crazy. You should see them on the ladder drills. Oh my goodness, it’s unbelievable. At that size, you can’t teach stuff like that. It’s mind-blowing.”

Mone is listed in the spring roster at 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, while Gary is 6-5 and pushing 300 pounds.

The ladder drill develops footwork and quickness.

“It’s about how clean you are, and they barely touch that ladder,” Lewis said. “They are really fast on the ladder, and it’s really crazy.”

Hooray for that. Also hooray for quotes in the offseason. What sorcery is this?

Zordich's impact. We heard a ton about Greg Jackson a year ago but no so much about Zordich. Lewis offers up some praise for Michigan's second-year DBs coach:

“When Coach Zordich got here, he really broke it down for us. We have to know every formation by name. He has specific names for formations and we’ve got to know them. That’s the standard. Technique always has to be precise, because that’s the difference between a pick and a reception. I had knowledge of the game and knew when I could do certain things. But when he came in and he showed us these different formations and tricks when you see different looks, it has really helped my game. He’s been a huge part of our development as players.”

Before Zordich and Jackson came in Michigan's DBs coaches were a linebackers coach and Mike Curt Mallory, who Michigan wanted to get rid of but Hoke held onto because he was excessively nice.

I have a lot of problems with you people. The Michigan Scout board recently had a kerfuffle about ranking in the aftermath of Dylan McCaffrey dropping out of their top 100 in aftermath of the Opening. I shrug at that, like, opinion, man. I think whoever doubts a guy with the last name McCaffrey playing quarterback for Jim Harbaugh is eventually going to look real dumb, but it's just one dude.

I do have a thing that bugs me about Scout's rankings.

ce8ddb37fc222f4de53e4a61ceefb55e_crop_north

That is a map of NFL players by home state. Scout's Midwest region consists of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. Collectively those states provide 260 NFL players, 16% of the league's total membership. While college rankings aren't direct NFL projections, all the sites admit that it plays a large role since they're so often judged on their ability to project guys to the league. Meanwhile football players are generally good or not good; serious disagreements between spread-heavy colleges and the pros are mostly limited to 5'10" quarterbacks and slot receivers. For the other 95% of players NFL counts are an excellent proxy for ideal recruiting rankings.

Scout has a top 300; by NFL reckoning this means that approximately 48 players in the Midwest should make that list. This no longer happens. You have to go back to 2014 to get a representative sample of 47 Scout 300 members from their Midwest region. Since there has been a steady and unexplained decline. There were 39 Midwest Scout 300 players in 2015, 38 in 2016, 29 in 2017, and 27 in their early 2018 rankings. Scout has made no effort to explain why they believe the number of future NFL players in the Midwest has dropped 50% in just four years. Talent fluctuates year to year but that's not a fluctuation—it's four straight years of decline, a severe one in 2017 and 2018.

And while I'm on the subject of recruiting ranking things that bug me. Most every year sees 3-6 kickers and punters drafted. The top end guys should get four stars.

Other adventures in Michigan's turnover luck last year. Per LSU blog And The Valley Shook, PBUs convert into interceptions at a relatively reliable rate:

Interception rate is a lot more steady. Last year, defenses intercepted 19.14% of the passes they defended. The average team defended 63.07 passes and had 12.07 picks. The 2014 rate was 21.44%, so we're looking at a fairly constant twenty percent rate. Still, we'll use the 2015 average rate of 19.44%.

Michigan had 55 PBUs a year ago and ten interceptions so that's very close to on point. It's really the lack of fumbles forced that made Michigan's defense lag TO expectations a year ago.

Rule changes. There aren't many new rules this year. You've probably heard about coach ejections being a thing now. They're probably not an actual thing, though:

The NCAA Football Rules Committee has brought football in line with other intercollegiate sports and increased the accountability a coach has in maintaining decorum. Just as with a player, a coach is now disqualified if he collects two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls during a game.

IIRC Bo Pelini did get hit with two unsportsmanlike flags in one game. That's the only instance I can remember in which this rule would actually get deployed. Even the infamous Will Muschamp rage only resulted in a single flag.

The other change of interest to Michigan fans is a clarification of the rules on sliding to the ground:

Rules-makers continue to expand the scope of targeting. Now they will protect any ball carrier who slides feet-first, giving sliding players the kind of protection they've had in the NFL, as some have advocated. If a defender makes "forcible contact" to the head or neck of a runner who has "given himself up," the defender will incur a 15-yard penalty for his team and be disqualified for at least the remainder of the game.

Jake Rudock took two or three nasty head shots on feet-first slides a year ago. Harbaugh actually changed the way he taught sliding as a result, with Rudock falling forward a couple of times in the bowl game. This year anyone blowing up a QB who's going to the ground will get booted, which kind of sucks for defenders expecting to tackle a ball-carrier instead of a guy sliding into second. No word on whether getting blocked into the QB after a play is still an ejection.

I call it trips TE. MMQB breaks down the "Y-iso" formation. Y-iso isolates your pass-catching tight end:

ISO3

That's Greg Olsen to the bottom of the screen, and he'll catch that corner route for a big chunk as Richard Sherman bails for the inside slot receiver's deep route.

Y-iso snaps have doubled in the last four years of the NFL and with Jake Butt on the roster and Harbaugh's million NFL contacts, not least his brother, there's a good chance you see a significant dose of this in 2016. The rationale given for the formation certainly applies:

“If a team played man, your tight end is gonna get a safety or a linebacker on him and all the corners are gonna go over there and match up on the receivers,” Smith explains. “The tight end has to be talented enough to win that. That has to be a match up you want, depending on the team you’re playing. There’s probably not many of those match-ups that we don’t look at as favorable with Kelce. He’s that kind of player.”

The number of players with the speed to keep up with Butt and the frame to challenge him on balls up high is vanishingly small.

FWIW, I don't think Michigan lined up with the TE split out like this last year; when they ran this it was Butt in a three-point stance.

Mostly right but when you're wrong whoah buddy. ESPN publishes an "all-century" team that cops out on QB by listing Denard Robinson as an all-purpose player. It's mostly right, though it does that annoying thing where you list two running backs, no fullbacks, and two wide receivers. Also they list three corners and one safety. Marlin Jackson is one of those corners and he did play safety as a junior so whatever man. Errors as I see them:

  • Bennie Joppru over Jake Butt. Joppru did have a big senior season; Butt just about matched it last year and is set to shatter the all-time TE receiving mark held by Jim Mandich.
  • Gabe Watson over Mike Martin. I defend Watson endlessly to people disappointed in his two-time All Big Ten first team career, but Martin was far more impactful. Watson occupied guys; Martin blew through them.
  • Shawn Crable over David Harris. Harris is an all-timer MLB. Crable's nutty 28.5 TFL season in 2007 was as a defensive end, and I'm still taking Woodley and Graham over him.
  • Ernest Shazor over most Michigan safeties in the past 16 years. Big play factory largely responsible for Braylonfest having to be Braylonfest. Did murder that Purdue WR, then fell off a cliff. Prefer Jarrod Wilson.

Etc.: Feldman names Michigan the #4 secondary in the country; no anonymous coach quotes this time. CU athletes refer to their academic center as "the Plantation" and CU's president is talking about why they do this and how to address their grievances. New letter jackets for female letterwinners have gone out. Jibreel Black doing a ton of volunteer work. "The Ballad of the Sloop John Belein."

Unverified Voracity Has An Okay Defensive Line

Unverified Voracity Has An Okay Defensive Line

Submitted by Brian on July 6th, 2016 at 2:05 PM

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[Bryan Fuller]

Two more gentlemen are good. PFF extended its list of the top X players in the country by ten and hit on another two Wolverines. Taco Charlton:

  1. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

The Wolverines’ defensive line is absolutely loaded for 2016. Taco Charlton provides them with pass rush production from either defensive end position. Charlton generated 41 total pressures on 213 snaps in 2015 and his 15.1 pass rushing productivity rating ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS 4-3 defensive ends.

I did not realize Charlton's snap count was that limited. I mean, I knew it was limited because of Wormley, but that count is barely more than a third of Wormley's snap count, half of Hurst's, and about 33% lower than Glasgow, who got knocked out for the year against Rutgers. If Charlton 1) gets a bunch more snaps, 2) gets even a little better, and 3) gets most of his snaps at the WDE spot that is the glory position for most 4-3 defenses, he's going to blow up.

Jake Butt:

Butt is one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in college football. Butt showed in 2015 that he could line up in the backfield, in the slot or in-line and still get open. Butt’s +10.1 receiving grade ranks No.1 among returning FBS tight ends.

You'll note the lack of mention of Butt's blocking prowess. IIRC he came out negatively for the year, albeit slightly. I don't expect that to improve much since adding much more weight to his frame will detract from his killer receiving ability.

Meanwhile PFF surveys the state of Big Ten quarterbacking:

  1. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

C.J. Beathard is the only returning Big Ten signal-caller with a positive passing grade from last season.

Woooooooooof. Wes Lunt and Mitch Leidner are #4 and #5 on this list. Michigan's quarterback situation is already better than the vast majority of the league simply by virtue of having Jim Harbaugh.

It does look like Charlton will flip back to the weakside. Baumgardner profiles Charlton and gets some interesting quotes about this year's defense versus last year's:

"Last year we played in the 3-4 and (I was at a) tackle-type position. Now I'm back outside in a 4-3 defense doing what I'm more comfortable doing. Now I can get back to rushing that passer on the outside and using my speed a little bit more."

That doesn't fit with what my conception of a 3-4 is but whatever. Here Charlton seems to confirm the Sam Webb report that Michigan's starting DL is likely to read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton from strongside end to weak; Charlton spent the spring at SDE with Chase Winovich trying to display his qualities on the weakside.

More defensive line praise. Bruce Feldman kicks off a list of the country's top DLs and leads it off with Michigan. Ryan Glasgow comes in for some praise, described as "pretty salty" by a Big Ten OL coach, and the addition of Don Brown veritably looms:

"What he does from a schematic standpoint because he's so outside the box with the way that he packages his pressures where they're bringing five, six every snap trying to get ready for all that stuff in one week's time is a bitch," one veteran offensive line coach said. "The scheme will definitely help their production."

OSU comes in tenth despite some questions at DT; MSU is an honorable mention largely because of Malik McDowell.

This bad thing is actually a good thing probably, but the good thing is a bad thing maybe. ESPN evaluates reasons Michigan will make the playoff, and I'm a little dubious about where a couple of them are classified. Michigan's schedule is not particularly hard:

Easier path to the playoff: Based on FPI, Michigan has the second-easiest schedule of any Power-5 team. (Oklahoma has the easiest.) The Wolverines will leave the state only once prior to Nov. 6, and that’s to take on Rutgers in New Jersey. Their three non-conference opponents -- Hawaii, UCF, Colorado -- went a combined 7-31 last season. That’s not to say the schedule is without challenges, but those challenges appear to be the exception. That’s why Michigan is expected to have some of the most blowout wins in the country based on ESPN analytics.

This is judged a good thing, and it is for Michigan's chances of getting through the season undefeated. It's not a good thing once the hairs start to get split amongst one-loss teams. It's not hard to see one-loss teams from virtually every other conference jumping Michigan in the queue if M is 12-1.

Meanwhile this bad thing is not necessarily a bad thing: 

Wrong side of the turnover battle: Last season, only Notre Dame fared worse than Michigan in the turnover battle while still pulling off double-digit wins. Neither team was very good in that department. On offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times -- but the defense forced just 12 turnovers. Michigan ranked No. 92 nationally in turnover differential (minus-4) and ranked No. 117 in turnovers gained. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is banking on a more aggressive unit to increase those numbers, but a new quarterback also has the potential to cancel out any defensive gain. At any rate, it’s rare for a playoff team to wind up on the wrong side of the turnover battle. That’s something Michigan needs to correct.

Michigan's lack of turnovers was freakish for a defense as proficient as the 2015 unit. Michigan only forced five fumbles all of last year, 123rd nationally, despite finishing well above average in sacks. (They recovered two.) Judging from PFF's take on Michigan's DL they were probably even better at getting pressures. QB pressure is the single most important factor in forcing turnovers. Sacked QBs fumble; pressured QBs throw passes where they shouldn't. Michigan should be quite good at getting to the QB again, and should do much better in TOs acquired.

Going from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is promising as well. Durkin was content throwing an absolute buttload of man coverage at opponents. Brown will mix that up with various zones that have the potential to put people in places the QB does not expect them to go, and blitzes that promise to up the chaos factor even further.

This is so dumb but it might help recruiting. Every year there is a new batch of articles featuring NFL coaches complaining about spread offenses. SI has one as part of a series on developing quarterbacks. Its lead example? Marcus Mariota:

…in the months leading up to the draft, Mariota faced questions over his viability as a pro passer. The main gripe—from the perspective of TV analyst X, anonymous scout Y and a parade of others weighing in on that year's collection of quarterbacks—was that Mariota may have difficulty transitioning to the NFL because of his history playing in Oregon's spread offense as opposed to a pro-style attack. The criticism didn't just obscure Mariota's illustrious college track record, but the top-line speed and improvisational playmaking that made him such a highly regarded prospect.

All of it must have felt like a wake-up call for the growing number of college coaches who hope to attract elite high school quarterbacks to run their spread offenses.

Mariota evaporates from the article at this point, which is a shame because the skepticism directed his way was a perfect example of how overblown this chatter is. Mariota completed 62% of his passes for 7.6 YPA as a rookie. His QBR was 61, indicating he was an above-average NFL QB as a rookie coming out of a the most spread system in the land.

A lot of quarterbacks bust for a lot of reasons. NFL people say it's college's fault because their jobs are at stake, but there's little relation to reality there. Even so their complaining helps places like Michigan, Stanford, and Georgia:

Clemson co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, who helped lead the Tigers to the national title game last season, says he has heard a similar line trotted out. "Just guys that say, 'You don't want to go play in that offense because it's a spread, gimmick offense, and it's not going to prepare you for the NFL.'"

There are increasingly few programs that can sell NFL-shaped QBs that they are the best place for them. Michigan is one of them. They're already two thirds of the way through a QB recruiting triptych matched only once in the star era of recruiting. Michigan pulled in Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, and Chad Henne back to back to back in the early aughts. If Michigan grabs one of the guys they're in on early in the 2018 class they'll match that, and then they'll probably continue going. Lloyd Carr did not: his next two QBs after those three were Jason Forcier and David Cone.

Etc.: Mike Bottom will be at the Olympics. Bring your mosquito spray. "Impermissible recruiting decoration." Big 12 defenses are another world, man. TTB reviews Jon Falk's latest.

Preview 2015: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Preview 2015: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2015 at 5:43 PM

Previously: Podcast 7.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive Tackle. Defensive End. Linebacker.Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams. 5Q5A: Offense.

Heuristicland

Turnover Margin

NotreDame-Rees-fumble-vs.-Michigan[1]

The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.

Year Margin Int + Fumb + Sacks + Int - Fumb - Sacks -
2007 0.15 (41st) 14 15 2.46(33rd) 14 13 2.17 (67th)
2008 -.83 (104th) 9 11 2.42(33rd) 12 18 1.83 (57th)
2009 -1.00 (115th) 11 5 1.83(68th) 15 13 2.33 (83rd)
2010 -0.77(109th) 12 7 1.38(98th) 15 14 0.85(10th)
2011 +0.54 (25th) 9 20 2.31 (29th) 16 6 1.38 (33rd)
2012 -0.69 (99th) 7 11 1.69 (69th) 19 8 1.38 (28th)
2013 +0.38(33rd) 17 9 1.9 (64th) 13 8 2.77 (109th)
2014 -1.33 (124th) 5 5 2.4 (49th) 18 8 2.2 (63rd)

I'd say there's nowhere to go but up here, but I said that during the Rodriguez era and it never happened. /kicks dirt

But… seriously, this should be a place Michigan gets a ton better. Not only are they replacing Devin Gardner with a guy who had an interception rate a quarter of Gardner's, they had a turnover acquisition rate anomalously low for anybody, let alone a good defense. With a fifth-year senior quarterback this should at least be even and if opponents don't have option of throwing at the wide open guy on most snaps, both sacks and bad idea throws should increase.

Or, you know, they might not. Turnovers are low-incident, high-impact events and sometimes the don't make any sense.

Position Switch Starters

Jibreel Black Ohio State v Michigan 8THB4vo8SwAl[1]

Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.

The dossier:

Braden and Magnuson flip spots. A logical decision given Magnuson's left tackle frame and Braden's issues in pass protection. Braden is an awkward fit as a guard. Concern: moderate.

Poggi and Winovich move to TE. Poggi probably belonged there from the start. Winovich is odd. Speaks to concern about depth at TE. Concern: moderate.

Jeremy Clark moves to CB, Wayne Lyons to safety. Only possible interpretation is that Lyons is bad and they're scrambling a bit at the other corner. Concern: high.

Freddy Canteen moves to CB, sort of. Weird move, also speaks to concern at corner. Concern: high.

Willie Henry to SDE. The positions are similar, Wormley is a capable 3tech, seems to be looking for some extra pass rush. Concern: minimal.

Royce Jenkins-Stone to WDE. With Ojemudia and possibly/probably Lawrence Marshall in front RJS only plays if he's going to do okay. Concern: minimal.

An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt

Worst Case Barring Extreme Injury Scenarios

Michigan has a high-variance schedule this year with few outright tomato cans and few top 25 teams. The top 25 teams are both at home; Michigan has four road games (Utah, Maryland, Minnesota, and Penn State) against teams that project to be decent to good this year. Meanwhile they have a new coach. Many scenarios are plausible.

In the worst case, Michigan's second corner gets torched all year, they can't get to the QB, and the D tops out at the same good-but-not-great level they've been at for the last few years.

On offense, Rudock is a checkdown machine and Michigan is just Iowa instead of a Rich Man's Iowa. The Big Ten is weak and Michigan has a lot of experience and talent, so truly bad records are probably out of the question but it's not too hard to see them dropping two nonconference games and going 4-4 in conference to finish 6-6.

Best Case

On the other hand, there are only two games that particularly alarm. Both of those are at home. OSU is a unanimous number one and is probably intractable given anything short of a miracle, but Brady Hoke played them tight the last two years with teams that were miserable. MSU is good; they have a few leaks this year.

Even if they win one of those there's enough rickety in this boat to assume they drop another game, probably the opener or road games against Minnesota and Penn State. 10-2 could happen.

Final Verdict

I don't really know, man. I do expect a significant and immediate improvement in Michigan's play. They return almost the entire team. They plug Desmond Morgan, Jake Rudock, and Jabrill Peppers into three of the gaps—maybe up to five depending on if Peppers can hack 3-tech.

The only two guys who don't have immediate replacements or even upgrades are Frank Clark and Devin Funchess. Either would be great to have around; because of the way last season developed neither had as much impact on the field as their talent suggested they should.

Even if Brady Hoke was still around this would be a year in which the arrow should point the right way. Turnovers should head the right way. That swing should be large and could be huge. On a down to down basis Michigan was pretty good until their general derp kicked in.

Harbaugh's teams don't derp it much. That is worth a lot.

Residual chaos will still do Michigan in once or twice this year; the potential issue at kicker looms large for a team that figures to play a bunch of low-scoring slugfests. It'll look like football, though. That much we can promise.

OOC
9/3 @ Utah Tossup
9/12 Oregon State Lean to win
9/19 UNLV Must win
9/26 BYU Lean to win
Conference
10/3 @ Maryland Lean to win
10/4 Northwestern Must win
10/11 MSU Lean to loss
10/25 @ Minnesota Tossup
11/1 Rutgers Lean to win
11/8 @ Indiana Must win
11/22 @ Penn State Tossup
11/30 Ohio State Probable loss
Absent:

Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa, Nebraska

It says 8-4 here.

Mailbag: Long Discussion Of Brandon Email Post, DANTONIOAD, Turnovers

Mailbag: Long Discussion Of Brandon Email Post, DANTONIOAD, Turnovers

Submitted by Brian on October 29th, 2014 at 12:46 PM

[ED: Hey guys! Ace is looking for a few good questions for a basketball season preview mailbag. Hit him up at [email protected].]

15473767250_49777b80e3_o[1]

Meta-response about yesterday's post.

[ED: I normally hack out praise from these emails in an effort to be as concise as possible but it was not possible to do so here without making bronx sound like a jerk.]

Hey Brian,

I've been trying to think of a better way to ask this, but I can't so I'll just come out with it:

What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails? 

Man, yeah, that comes across as condescending.  Let me try to explain.

I'm not saying they shouldn't be given their due. and I respect the hell out of you and Ace putting in the effort to figure out their veracity; count me in the camp of people who doubted WD's initial post due to the inconsistencies in his story.  Following through on the story and backing it up with multiple sources is the type of reporting you don't expect to see from a "fan" site, and yet you guys did better work than I've seen in a long time from more established media members in the community.  Heck, it's basically you guys and the Daily kicking ass in that department.

But once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward?  I've made my feelings known about Brandon and how, frankly, this really shouldn't accelerate his removal (I mean, if his handling of Gibbons, Morris, ticket prices, attendance, stadium experience, alumni relations, coaching snafus, losing, etc. doesn't do him in but bitchy emails do I'll be a bit disappointed in the administration for needing something so trivial to move them to action), but I honestly want to know your take.  Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward? 

For example, you mentioned in your podcast that fans' habits can be broken quickly and it can take a generation to get them back.  You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away?  Personally, I'm less and less excited to follow this team even this year because it is just a clown show made worse by the negative tone so many fans seem to hold toward it.  My Facebook feed is full of people linking to articles calling for Hoke an co. to be booted (many to mgoblog), and lots of them were moderately-sane fans before the last couple of years.  I'm not saying you and the site are to blame for any of it; you are just reporting and commenting on the shit show being trotted out every week.  But do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?

And again, I'm conflicted even asking this, because you guys have a duty to ferret out these idiots and bring them to the public's eye, and you do a great job at capturing the Michigan zeitgeist effectively.  But there's just such a toxic culture around the program, and I wonder even if they get some homerun hires (which I'm a bit dubious about), if some of this damage will linger. 

Anyway, feel free to respond however you want; if part of this makes its way into a mailbag or something then by all means out me and respond how you wish.  I'm fine with it.  I honestly just want to know.

Thanks.

-BronxBlue

I made a decision to let the original Have A Happy Life email stand—in fact I made a decision to re-instate it after one of the mods pulled it 200 comments deep—and from there things proceeded inexorably to yesterday's post.

I let it stand because I thought it was true.

[After THE JUMP: a full run-down of the decision to run with this story and evaluation about whether this was in error.]

Preview 2013: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Preview 2013: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Friends, Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Special Teams. Five Questions: Offense, Five Questions: Defense.

Heuristicland

Turnover Margin

NotreDame-Rees-fumble-vs.-Michigan[1]

The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.

Year Margin Int + Fumb + Sacks + Int - Fumb - Sacks -
2007 0.15 (41st) 14 15 2.46(33rd) 14 13 2.17 (67th)
2008 -.83 (104th) 9 11 2.42(33rd) 12 18 1.83 (57th)
2009 -1.00 (115th) 11 5 1.83(68th) 15 13 2.33 (83rd)
2010 -0.77(109th) 12 7 1.38(98th) 15 14 0.85(10th)
2011 +0.54 (25th) 9 20 2.31 (29th) 16 6 1.38 (33rd)
2012 -0.69 (99th) 7 11 1.69 (69th) 19 8 1.38 (28th)

Michigan's one year bounce was followed by a ruthless reversion to Rodriguez-era norms as Michigan's fumble recovery rate dropped to human levels and Denard threw a bunch of interceptions. Actually, Russell Bellomy made quite a contribution himself with four interceptions on just 21 throws. Vincent Smith also tossed one on his only attempt. That's quite an interception haul from 22 attempts.

Gardner's INT rate (3.9%) was not great, but it was a significant improvement on Denard and especially the random throws. If he'd taken all of Michigan's 318 throws he would have thrown 13 interceptions (actually 12.6), and one of his picks was a third-and-long chuck that became a virtual punt. Even if Gardner doesn't improve that INT rate Michigan can expect to drop a lot of interceptions.

Fumbles lost should stay at low levels as Taylor Lewan protects Gardner from blindside hits and low-fumble Fitz Toussaint gets the bulk of the carries. Robinson was a  consistent source of fumbles, too.

That should get Michigan to about even, and then you'd hope increased pressure on the quarterback and a defensive backfield more oriented towards MAKING PLAYS would increase Michigan's crappy takeaway rate.

I'd guess Michigan is in a range from turnover-neutral to +0.25, but as always with turnovers they can do wacky things.

Position Switch Starters

Jibreel Black Ohio State v Michigan 8THB4vo8SwAl[1]

Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.

The dossier:

WDE Brennen Beyer moves to SAM to cover for the Ryan injury. Fret level: none. Minor move and Beyer is competing with Cam Gordon to start until Ryan gets back for the meat of the schedule.

WLB Desmond Morgan moves to MLB so Ross can start. Fret level: negative? Morgan's more natural at MLB and the differences are minimal.

LT Ben Braden moves to guard and back, which leaves Michigan in a bit of a spot on the interior. Fret level: moderate. Michigan could use another bullet or two on the interior and obviously wanted Braden to grab the job.

CB Courtney Avery moves to safety, apparently to start. Fret level: severe.

This is actually a low level of motion, which is good.

An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt

Worst Case If Devin Gardner Is Healthy

The offensive line remains in shambles, though Kalis does bring a nastiness Michigan did not have previously. Any gains in the run game are offset by the loss of Robinson. Clark is JAG again, Ryan does not come back as Jake Ryan, and the pass rush remains stagnant as the secondary gets leaky. Gardner pulls out a couple of tough games; Michigan loses their other four and ends up 8-4.

Worst Case If Devin Gardner Gets Injured

apocalypse_by_push_pulse-d5my8ln[1]

Best Case

Michigan isn't quite there. If Gardner is all that and if the offensive line is okay, they still don't get enough pass rush and safety play in one particular game that blows up a potentially undefeated season. 11-1.

Final Verdict

Gardner's the man, Toussaint recaptures his glory, the offensive line is middling in the middle and great on the edges, Gallon blows up.

On defense, the line is a sold B+, the linebackers are good to start and great at the end of the season once Ryan gets his feet back under him. The secondary is solid but prone to giving up big plays.

Special teams is a hidden asset as some of the blocking issues get resolved, Michigan flirts with spread punting, and Norfleet brings some pizzazz to the return jobs.

Brady Hoke wins a game by going for it.

OOC
8/31 CMU Must win
9/7 Notre Dame Tossup
9/14 Akron Must win
9/21 @ UConn Must win
Conference
10/5 Minnesota Must win
10/12 @ Penn State Lean to win
10/19 Indiana Must win
11/2 @ Michigan State Lean to win
11/9 Nebraska Tossup
11/16 @ Northwestern Tossup
11/23 @ Iowa Must win
11/30 Ohio State Tossup
Absent:

Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue

Six games should be in the bag already, and road games against Penn State (freshman quarterback) and Michigan State (lost entire offense in the person of LeVeon Bell, four way QB duel) feature what should be immensely struggling offenses and solid defenses. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Ohio State are where the season will be made or lost. Only one of those is on the road, that a quasi-road game against Northwestern in the Little Big House. It looks like 10-2. 9-3 is more likely than 11-1.

[Last year I predicted 9-3, which was a game off. I claim Nebraska as an unforeseeable event, though.]

Dear Diary: Ce Matin, Pas de Lapin

Dear Diary: Ce Matin, Pas de Lapin

Submitted by Seth on March 22nd, 2013 at 10:08 AM

UM_VS_SDSU

Wallpaper by jonvalk.

Before we dip into this week's user content, go draft your FreeRoll team! You've got until noon. Draft Street kindly sponsored yesterday's liveblog.

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Kids who were my age in France all grew up with this song Ce Matin, un Lapin (this morning, a rabbit…) about a hare who turned the tables on a hunter and thus commenced the bunny revolution. The singer is a lady named Chantal Goya who spent years trying to carve out a niche in pop music by being ironically jejune, then found her calling by dropping the irony and singing kids songs on the French Disney Channel.

Kids my age who went to Michigan might remember a band called Tally Hall who have followed a similar career path. In 2005 I earned my Level 5 music cred badge by sharing a booth at a New York bar with the Atlantic Records people while Tally tried out for them. The music folk tossed around fancy adjectives like "jejune" to capture how fresh and cool it was to find a rock band that can occupy the antipode of metal the Beatles brushed with An Octopus's Garden. They signed them, but after one album the label forgot about them and that lapsed into that. Recently my best friend reported via Facebook that his three-year-old is a huge Tally Hall fan.

All this week Michigan fans shared a booth with all the really cool basketball people while they circle-talked themselves into the South Dakota State Jackrabbits as the hipster upset pick and Nate Wolters as the best point guard in the country (though you've probably never heard of him).

Nine minutes into the second half the rabbits were finally starting to lose pace with the Wolverines when Burke and LeVert* went up for a rebound and Wolters ran in to give Trey a 'Wisconsin Special' undercut hip check that sent Michigan's own pretty good guard crashing to the floor. As Burke clutched his head the panic claxons went off in yours. There was no foul (of course), the ball was awarded to the Jackrabbits (of course), and they of course went right down the court and scored.

burkefallen

Bryan Fuller|MGoBlog

You could imagine the Disney ending from here, a Cinderella advance amidst the cheers of Spartans in brand new turquoise tees. All it would take was 11 minutes of indifferent D, refs that hate us, threes that clang, twos that shouldn't have been shot, and Spike Albrecht running around with the ball like a mad chicken, to end the career of Michigan's greatest player since _____(?) with the prostrate pose above.

Here's how it really went:

  • Stauskas drove hard (NJAS!) to the basket and through hard contact to make a layup and collect a rare and-one, which he made. 52-43.
  • Wolters forced to take a long two, missed, rebounded by Albrecht
  • Albrecht does his running around thing, gets the ball to Hardaway, TIMMMAYY makes a jumpshot. 54-43.
  • Wolters misses a three, Horford MANBALLS the rebound out of another contestant's hands.
  • Trey Burke returns, drives inside collecting ALL THE DEFENSE, then kicks out to wide open Hardaway for three, buried. 57-43.

That was enough for the Wolverines to finish off the rascally rabbits, final score 71-56.

As it turns out the audience for simple cutesy catchy formulaic music is little kids, rabbits tend to lose to hunters, and Michigan is better at major sports than those guys you've probably never heard of. Who could have imagined? Also as it turns out this little game column was all a prelude to the Diary of the Week by saveferris, who looked at the performance of past 4 seeds and found, well, the higher seed you are the better your prospects for tourney success. File all of this under the kind of duh that takes occasional reminding.

------------------------------

* His surname is French for "The Green" but a "leveret" is a baby rabbit.

------------------------------

Etc. Every goal from hockey's WMU sweep plus a few bad puns of blue/blew from MGoBlueline. The basketball game is at noon on Saturday so you can watch that then still make it to the Joe. LSAClassof2000 looks at run vs. pass balance over recent Big Ten history, finding Wisconsin and Ohio State run a lot. Need to get the 4th quarters and blowouts out of there though if you want to find the meat. Blockhams was drawn before Ryan was hurt, isn't funny anymore.

[Jump, Best of the Boards]

Hokepoints on the Day of Atonement

Hokepoints on the Day of Atonement

Submitted by Seth on September 25th, 2012 at 8:07 AM

8013858638_3fe6ed7366_o

Of the totally surreal and unnecessary things that could ever happen, Denard Robinson issuing an apology for his play against Notre Dame ranks right up there with Ryan Van Bergen claiming fault for the 2010 defense. Not so much that he took responsibility—I wrote in my HTTV article that personal culpability is one the hallmarks of this team—but that watching from above I felt like he wasn't entirely at fault.

Part of that was the drunk dude in my section yelling "awwww c'mon!" at Denard, to which I felt responsibility to point out things like "play-action out of the I-form" or "Schofield just got beat bad." Part of it to was my own culpability for last week's article being all "hey Denard can pass and Borges is doing an incredible job!" So in the mea culpa spirit of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (pretty much our Christmas) which begins tonight, I admit I have sinned, and that I'm not quite sure who sinned on all of our six turnovers this week. Let's find out where responsibility lies in this six-play al chet, using a combination of Seth's pathetic attempts at UFR-ing, with a bonus chart of culpability.

1. For the sin we have committed against you by trying to get too cute with Vincent Smith, who is not Tom Brady

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O10 1 G Ace TE Trips 1 1 3 4-4 under Pass RB Pass Dileo INT
Dileo and Roundtree lined up as H-backs on same side. Since it's a pass Dileo doesn't block Te'o, who shot into the gap the millisecond he read pitch and pressures Smith. Funchess blocked down an irrelevant crashing DE instead but that's the play. The CB bites hard so Dileo can leaks out into the end zone, where he has the safety beat to the corner, but Smith is 5'6 with the world's best college LB in his face. He jump-balls it way inside of his receiver, so when the safety looks back he is all "ooh, football--take." (INX, 0, Protection N/A, RPS –2)

When Michigan tried this against Minnesota it was from 30 yards out, and against Minnesota. It did get a guy open in the end zone, and was set up a little bit I believe by some pitch plays earlier. However leaving Te'o unblocked versus a tiny RB is a risk, but Smith has shown in games (and presumably many more times in practice) that he 8013857982_cf5e4abbb5_ocan throw the ball accurately enough.

What I really hated about this play call is there was no reason to get cute. This was meant to be a dagger play, just like the fake dive on 4th and 1 vs. Michigan State was meant to be the dagger in the trash storm game.

Borges likes his daggers. When Brian queried my UFR database on Michigan passing from Ace 3TE sets, I found the Funchess 30-yard (PA TE corner) and Gardner (Waggle) TDs, plus a PA dumpoff for good yards (until it was fumbled) against SD State last year. Daggers. Thing is about the grab-bag and dagger offense is that it doesn't adjust for things that are working, and until that point the offense was working. When Pompey backed out of Rome because he didn't have the troops to defend it, Caesar didn't say "oh waitaminute, this is a trap, I'm gonna go attack the Barbary Coast—ha ha they'll never suspect!" He walked into damn Rome.

Chart of culpability: Borges x2, ND Te'o is that good, Smith isn't Joe Montana

Mitigating Mitzvah: Jake Ryan sticks a receiver after he gains just 1 yard on 3rd and 4 from the ND37 to force a punt. ND shanks the punt.

------------------------------

After the jump, five plays more depressing than using a day off of work to fast and contemplate what a terrible person you've been all year.

I Got Jingos

I Got Jingos

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2012 at 10:59 AM

9/15/2012 – Michigan 63, UMass 13 – 2-1

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Eric Upchurch

I don't have anything incisive to say about Saturday's events. Even if I did it would be equivalent to taking a scalpel to a pig you dropped out of a hot air balloon: the scene speaks for itself, and you're not going to come out of it with ham.

I'm with this guy:

I started poking around previous events like this to figure out what you're supposed to say when the predictable thing that doesn't mean anything happens, finding this after the 2010 Bowling Green game:

It's been a long time since this has happened, but in the aftermath of a 721-yard outburst against a I-A opponent there's no grand emotional narrative arc to relate. Last year there was a sense of relief after the Western game; the Eastern game was a reminder that sometimes Michigan plays teams obviously worse than they are and beats the pants off them and isn't that nice but sometimes the quarterback goes down and that's not nice at all. The Bowling Green game was that minus a loss to a 3-9 MAC team the year prior—i.e., a pleasant nothing in which crappy special teams play was just an opportunity to rack up more yards on offense.

A couple years further removed from actual losses to these sorts of teams, or even vaguely competitive games and you can't even offer that paragraph. That game… existed.

Things happened, but the only ones you can derive anything slightly meaningful from are scattered opponent-independent events and those in which the domination was not dominating enough for your sense of optimism. Like the defensive line. You know, the one I tweeted my despondency about in the midst of giving up six points. Denard, who made everyone a little leery when he missed on any pass. Yeah, Michigan won by 50 but the only things that meant anything were a tiny bit bad because they implied you might be unhappy at a future date.

This is what happens when you play a UMass and you're still jumpy from the bad old days. Let's always be bored and have little to say, forever and ever, amen.

Photos

The Observer/MGoBlog cooperative had not one but two(!) guys on the sideline on Saturday. Regular man Eric Upchurch:

And new guy Bryan Fuller:

A bonus NOTE for anyone out there blogging: the MGoBlog flickr page now has tags and everything, so if you're looking for a Creative-Commons-licensed photo of player X, that's the place to find it. Just hit us with a link if you use one.

Highlights

This is all offense:

There's a shorter but more diverse MGoBlue version.

Bullets That Didn't Slip On Quite Enough Gore

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_3Brady Hoke not-that-epic double point of the week. Well… nearly 400 yards of total offense and another dump truck of articles wondering if this is something that will hold up in the big bad(?) Big Ten means it's Denard again, doesn't it?

Honorable mention: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Will Hagerup, Frank Clark, probably some OL.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS:

2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1: Jeremy Gallon (retroactively awarded for Alabama game)

Chasing Jim Mandich. Devin Funchess adds 34 yards and now needs 1355 to pass Jim Mandich. At his current pace he needs 29 games to do so.

The irrational worry that you all have too. Defensive tackles are killing us. Or will be killing us, at least. Possibly. QUALIFIERS. You get the idea.

Roh makes some plays here and there and will fill a hole, force a bounce, etc. Clark is making some plays, yes against not great competition, but that's something to hang a hat on maybe. The DTs? Yeesh.

It didn't help that Michigan ran a pass-defense crew out there with Roh and Black your two DTs with Clark/Ojemudia and SLB du jour at DE. That was their nickel setup and when Michigan ran it on standard downs the line let guys through. Usually for three or four or five yards, but we're talking about a team that has issues gaining one on most downs. Washington and Campbell weren't in much, were never in together, and Pipkins didn't make an appearance until garbage time. Ash was totally absent.

What do you make of that? Just practicing for what seems a very pass-reliant Notre Dame attack? Willfully giving up some rushing yardage just to get the linebackers reacting to QB draws and runs and whatnot? Or doom?

You can make a case for the former. Michigan started screwing around with their kickoffs to see if they could come up with anything better than Wile belting it eight yards into the endzone (verdict: no), and was probably just working on things they wanted to work on once the score got out of hand.

It gives me the willies, though. Especially Pipkins being exiled to the bench for so long. That implies he's further from the field than everyone wants him to be. Or that diabolical Hoke machinations are waiting for the ND game to spring the Great and Powerful Pipkins on unsuspecting Irish. That's the ticket.

7990023998_17dba3c643_z[1]Clark, at least. I know we've gotten just one and a half games from both Clark [@ right by Upchurch] and Beyer. Clark has had the full game versus UMass, Beyer the full game versus Alabama. This is not a strong basis for comparison.

Just eyeballing it, though, gives a clear edge to Clark. He is Making Plays™. Beyer didn't seem to be. Clark was by far the superior option against Air Force and was the most active DL on Saturday. He's making spectacular bat-downs of opponent passes something of a trademark. I like trademarks that aren't "I don't do anything much."

He and Ryan will have to get a ton of pass rush to keep heat off Michigan's secondary. Michigan really, really needs him to be a playmaker. He's the only guy who is consistently getting into the backfield even against the UMasses of the world.

FWIW, it looked like Ojemudia was doing a bunch of freshman things when he got in there. He'd overrun a play with a bad angle and let Cox cut back, giving up a big chunk, or he'd miss a tackle, etc. He's Clark last year.

7991699812_6844f6d5fb_b[1]Funchess. The touchdown was just Funchess being wide open and could have been scored by anyone on the roster, including guys out for the year with injuries. That third-down conversion was maybe something to hold on to despite it being Funchess's first catch of under 21 yards. [@ right by Fuller]

On that play Denard moved around a bit and fired a hard, low ball at the sticks. That was either a crappy throw or a great pass to keep it away from defenders; either way it was a tough, tough ball to dig out, especially when you're 6'5". Funchess had no problem. Give him hands to go with that frame and he doesn't have to add much weight—if any—to be a crippling matchup. If you've got a two-TE set out there the defense is either going nickel and giving Funchess someone he won't have much issue blocking or conceding the LB matchup that is never going to go well.

The wide receiver corps in general: hurray? Other than some of the guys being little buggers who are easy to overthrow, I think Denard's targets are way less of a concern than we thought they'd be at the beginning of the season. Funchess is a big part of that. Also coming through: Devin Gardner, who is looking downright comfortable three weeks in, and Drew Dileo, who may not be much to look at—he gets called the "white receiver" by his teammates, except he doesn't—but will snag that bullet you put too far in front of or behind him no problem.

Dileo's big reception was reminiscent of the key late crossing route he snagged against Ohio State, and twice this year he's kept his feet after tough catches for big hunks of YAC. He's a nice option to have.

Strength of competition disclaimers apply, but would you swap Michigan's WR/TEs for Notre Dame's? Maybe, but it's debatable. The Irish are running out versions of Jeremy Jackson (John Goodman) and Drew Dileo (the Toma kid), and Michigan's running out a guy who hopes to be Tyler Eifert (but fast!). How about Michigan State's receivers? No way. Ohio State's? Ask again later. I'll take that for a group that was supposed to be a weak point of the team.

7991687215_7073679782_b[1]

Fuller

One downer event here was Jerald Robinson not catching a 40-some yard TD pass that was in his hands. Before that he complicated matters by doing a 360 with the ball in the air—never good. If he'd just located the thing properly he could have used his body to separate from the DB and possibly have prevented the rake-out that occurred.

Oh, wait, right, the other thing.

Also a downer. The pick-six. Here's an endzone view:

That's a bad throw to a guy who was kind of open, but Jeremy Jackson being slow contributed a lot, too. He makes that post cut threat. The safety hardly reacts, then he jumps the out when Jackson rounds it off to the outside. That INT reminded me of Countess jumping a Jackson route in the spring game. Without any fear of being beat deep, that was easy pickings. Here you've got a UMass corner in straight man to man against a guy who threatens to go up the middle of the field by himself and still no separation.

I noticed something similar in the Air Force game when a heavily-pressured Denard fired one out to Jackson on third and long. Jackson had a shot to make the catch and could not, but wouldn't have gotten the first down anyway. Dileo was running the same route on the opposite side of the screen and had enough separation for some nice YAC. The smaller guys are harder to hit but they get away from opponents a lot more easily.

(Yeah, Denard has a couple other guys open here. He's also got an unblocked guy in his face and a player in man to man who should be able to get separation. It's not the decision but a combination of the throw and the route that are problems. I'm guessing Denard is repeating what Borges says here:

"It was a good read, just a bad throw," Robinson said.

)

The bu—LAZER screen. Michigan threw a couple of them. They gained nice yardage, because they always do. Borges has renamed it the LAZER(!) screen—the Z, I feel, is implied—and will hopefully swallow his pride long enough to test it out against Notre Dame. The Irish got smoked on all manner of WR screens against Purdue and it was only Zeke Motta making a great play that held down MSU's attempt.

MSU does not have a Gallon, and with Slaughter out Motta is either going to be in center field or Notre Dame will be rolling with a redshirt freshman who played WR last year as the last line of defense. Here's hoping the new nomenclature allows Borges to go after ND's inexperienced CBs and their tackling early and often.

TURNOVERS! Ain't got none. Problem? Eh. Most of Michigan's first two games were spent defending all of the runs, and the third did not feature many defensive plays at all. Opponents have fumbled seven times, but Michigan's only recovered two. One was Hagerup beaning the returner in the head, the other the meaningless one at the end of the half. Michigan has recovered two of seven fumbles on D and both of their offensive fumbles. So, like … about half.

Oh, that's too small of a sample size, you say? I hate you so much.

The real turnover concern. If Michigan can't get pressure on the QB, they will suffer a decline in fumbles and ill-advised passes generated, and without Mike Martin and RVB that seems a virtual certainty unless Clark busts out enormously. Save us, Mattison zone blitz machine.

 

Atmospherics

Cooper Barton. …probably shouldn't have gotten a bigger cheer than Ron Kramer. Priorities, people. Now we're just waiting for him to release a song on Youtube ("Michigannnn, Michigannnnn, gotta get down on Michigannnnnnnn") they'll play every game.

But he is cute!

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Maize and Blue Nation

Seriously. That is a cute five year old. Someone cast him as a gnome in something. Preferably something in which gnomes make no sense, like the next Fast and the Furious movie.

But at least there's a hole. Second straight week we were mercifully without "In The Big House." I'd crumble to my knees in thankfulness if there wasn't a small child in front of me who would kick me in the face as a result.

Heiko? This is not professional. BUT IT IS AWESOME

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(This is not actually Heiko. Obviously.)

7991670392_ef69906f5e_z[1]Kramer jersey. Giving it to Moore [@ right by Fuller] clears up a lot of things: they're just going to hand them out to people, they're not going to make sure they're stars, and anyone can get them. I'm not even sure they'll make sure they're around every year now, but I'd guess once the jersey is vacated someone will hop on it. I'd bet Butt or Hill is wearing #87 next year.

I do wish those patches were a little less busy. Last name, years present, those things better, no border. /boom runway'd.

There are other players. Michigan's still struggling to make their video boards not useless hunks of metal that annoy you with any advertisements they think they can get away with. To date this has been a struggle, but they took a big step forward last week by telling the goof running the replays to zoom out so you could see more than the texture of the ball. I have no idea when they made this change because I didn't even bother to look at the replay board until the second half, so well have they trained me to believe that there is nothing of use on it.

Speaking of…

There is no middle ground between nothing and everything. Spartan Stadium put their meat on the table with scoreboards BIGGER and MORE POWERFUL than Michigan Stadium's. Reviews:

You Know What Would Look Really Sweet On The Scoreboards??

    Some f---ing statistics. 5,412 square feet of scoreboard and you can't put any kind of statistics up at any point??? I literally never saw any stats at all the entire night. Hell, with our anemic offense, you only would have needed about 10 square feet for our stats. I'm glad to see that Huntington, Pepsi, GMC, Fly Lansing, and every other f---ing company in this damn state is sponsoring us, but I feel like it wouldn't be too much to ask to set aside some room on the ribbon to put stats up. There were points that the sponsor area on the scoreboard just had the MSU logo or some little design. I don't know why you can't put some stats up at that point. …
    That just really annoyed me and I'm just in a bad mood. Might already be a thread on this. Didn't look. Don't care.
    /rant

The only thing preventing Dave Brandon from doing this is the threat of outright revolt in the fanbase. That's something he's directly stated multiple times in the pass. He's already fitting advertising in anywhere he can. The poles outside the sections went from vaguely-plausible-here-is-our-Stubhub-partnership ads to flat-out Consumer's Power, Whichever Bank is the Sponsor Now things.

It's a slippery slope and any relaxation in the posture will result in the kind of stuff described in the blockquoute above. Remain strong, my people.

Hype videos. They're missing something this year. I really liked the last couple years with the people saying the things; now there are no people saying the things. Probably too late this year, but for 2013 how about something based around the famous Yost quote the HSR deploys on its sidebar?

"But do let me reiterate the spirit of Michigan. It is based upon a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways; an enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan men to spread the gospel of their university to the world's distant outposts; a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours."

--Fielding H. Yost upon his retirement as Michigan's athletic director in 1942.

Maybe you need to tighten it up a little, sure.

Throw that in the mix with last year's "Team, Championships, Heismans" thing and Bo's The Team The Team The Team speech and you've got a nice rotation.

Here

Inside the Boxscore resolves a mystery anyone watching at home experienced:

During one random play in the game, two M defenders ended up hitting the UMass ballcarrier at the same time, from opposite sides. The B1G Network announcer called this a “Malachi Crunch.” There’s nothing like B1G announcers breaking out a 36 year old reference to describe a play. For those still in college reading this diary, the “Malachi Crunch” refers to a demolition derby move employed by the Malachi brothers against Pinky Tuscadero, as shown in a three-part 1976 episode of Happy Days. Fonzi risked his life to rescue Pinky. Then, he baited the Malachi Brothers into trying the move on him. He moved his car at the last moment, causing the Brothers to Crunch themselves. I think providing you with this bit of worthless trivia is entirely consistent with my avatar.

Hawthorne(!) was our leading tackler.

Hoke For Tomorrow:

Will Hagerup - This guy is back and better than ever.  I must have re-watched the 70-yard-in-the-air blast off the facemask of befuddled UMass return man 7 times minimum.  Punts like that could be game-changers going forward.

Elsewhere

Media things and things. Things and stuff from Baumgardner. Meinke notes that Michigan should have Morgan, Beyer and Hopkins back for ND. Meinke on Robinson's assault on the Michigan record book:

Robinson threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns Saturday during No. 17 Michigan's 63-10 win over Massachusetts, passing both Brady and Harbaugh on the school's all-time list to move into fifth place overall.

In addition, he's now just 91 total yards shy of passing Henne and becoming Michigan's all-time leader in career total offense.

"To be honest with you," Robinson said after the game. "The only thing I think about is winning, and coming out and being accountable for my team.

Robinson has now thrown for 5,630 yards in his four-year career, and is 208 shy of Todd Collins for fourth all-time. He's also racked up 9,210 total yards with both his feet and his arm, just 91 shy of Henne's all-time mark.

The Daily on Cooper's day out. Vincent Goodwill at the news has a novel take on things: Denard is too important. Meinke is like "how does Michigan use Denard less" and I'm like "isn't it clear that's never happening by now?"

The Daily on the band.

Blog stuff and stuff. Hinton finds an excellent picture of a terrified umpire:

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I have no idea where this comes from

Hinton's survey of the CFB landscape is heavy on the Big Ten. We're not good!

Outside of Northwestern's 3-0 run in the Smartypants Series, Big Ten teams are 1-8 against their peer group, before accounting for other marks of shame like Minnesota's overtime escape from UNLV, Wisconsin's ongoing struggles with the likes of Northern Iowa and Utah State (see below) and Penn State's loss to Ohio U. of Ohio. Even the apparent bellwether, Ohio State – setting aside the fact that the apparent bellwether is coming off a 6-7 record in 2011 and is ineligible for the conference championship under a first-year coach –legitimately struggled Saturday to put away Cal at home. That still stands along with Michigan State's win over Boise State as the most valuable non-conference skins on Jim Delany's wall, and unless Michigan delivers another dagger to Notre Dame's fragile psyche next week in South Bend, it will have to hold up until the bowl season. Who's looking forward to that?

The prize for winning the conference now appears to be an execution at the hands of Oregon, USC, or Stanford in Pasadena.

MVictors is calling Brandon "#1000SSS" for some reason:

Old 98?:  Speaking of Legends and #1000SSS…while Tom Harmon is listed on the game tickets to be honored October 20th before the Michigan State game there has been no announcement of any formal plan to honor the 1940 Heisman Trophy winner.   My understanding is that it’s not dead yet and U-M is still trying to talk to the family.  Stay tuned. 

My ask: if we don’t honor Harmon, how about honoring Willis Ward on that day, the 78th anniversary of the fateful Georgia Tech game?

(P.S. do you remember the last time Harmon was featured on a Michigan football ticket?  Avert your eyes!).

Touch The Banner:

Oh by the way, f*** you guys. UMass running back Michael Cox, who played for Michigan from 2008-2011, had a pretty solid game for the Minutemen.  He ended with 18 carries for 76 yards (4.2 yards per carry) behind a bad offensive line with not much of an aerial attack.  There were a couple plays where he ran east-and-west when there was no hole, losing a chunk of yards.  But he had some impressive runs against a Michigan defense that should have been able to clamp down on the running game.  I never really thought Cox was a superstar, but I did think that he deserved a shot to play when the aforementioned Smith was being used as a feature back.  The knocks on him were always fumbling (he never fumbled at Michigan, though there was a botched exchange in this game), learning the playbook (I didn't see any missed assignments in this game), and running east-west too much (perhaps a fair criticism).

Everyone knew that was coming. I don't necessarily disagree, but the guy just reverses field all the time, and this has to drive coaches nuts.

Photos from Maize and Blue Nation. Here's Cox saying hi postgame:

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UMGoBlue also has a gallery.

HSR:

Ordinary is underrated.  Seriously.  Christianity calls any of its non holiday seasons "Ordinary Time" after all.  But, if we have learned nothing else from our social media revolution, it's that there is a certain beauty and joy in the every day, in the expected, in the run of the mill. That is, as Ann Howard Creel put it, the Magic of Ordinary Days.

Other recaps from Maize and Go Blue and Holding the Rope, plus M&GB taking a quick look at ND.