Bloggers! Do you cover college football? Join the BlogPoll. It's like the coaches poll except with actual thought put into it--plus snarky accusations and bitter recriminations (sweet). You should also sign up for The Truth Laid Bear's college football community. E-mail me to be added after you sign up at TTLB.

Readers! mgoboard awaits your participation. Now with people posting on it and stuff!

Monday, January 09, 2006

 

Unverified Voracity: Unfathomable Idahoe Edition

Note: The final BlogPoll will be posted at noonish tomorrow. Get your bets in.

In other news, Ohio State stands for gooded edumuhcation and strict NCAA compliance. Recently dismissed Miami running backs coach Don Seldinger:
'The one thing that bothers me is the U stood for family and tradition and all the things that other colleges don't have,'' Soldinger said.


You knew this picture was coming. (Er... second bullet.)
Holy balls. What is Seldinger's family like? Is he part harpy? Has he gotten his double-digit Jerry Spring guest chip? Is the most delusional thing that has been uttered in the last ten years? Fifteen?

Also of note: Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe got the boot despite approximately two million years of quality service. He's regarded as one of the best, and with current OL coach Andy Moeller a former linebacker and current LB coach Jim Herrmann, uh, looking around, we could finagle ourselves an opening... nah.

Unfathomable! Inconceivable! I guess if you live in Idaho many things aren't fathomed on a regular basis, like disliking potatoes and turf that doesn't burn your eyes and, like, electricity. Thus Gutierrez's decision to leave Michigan gets this sentence in the Idaho State Journal:
The thought of another year on the sidelines as Henne's backup was unfathomable.
Other than that instance of thesaurus overload, the rest of the article on Gutierrez's future is quite good. Peruse.

(HT: "Wolverines," the simply-titled MLive blog that replaced Gregg Henson's abomination.)

Good riddance, various NFL-bound future opponents! The list of people we won't have to deal with next year is fairly heartening:
  • OSU has lost WR Santonio Holmes, CB Ashton Youboty, and S Donte Whitner, bringing their total count of returning defensive starters down to two. Despite graduating the finest assemblage of remarkably ugly, remarkably effective linebackers in all the land, I wouldn't expect that unit to be anything less than average next year, but the secondary is now looking questionable at best.
  • Notre Dame TE Anthony Fasano has left early. No doubt Weis E. Coyote will construct a new tight end from the mighty sinews of his frontal buttocks.
  • Laurence Maroney and his warp drive are gone, though Minnesota seems to have a never-ending supply of guys they can plug in who will grind out 1,500 yards and watch helplessly as their defense blows yet another season. Gary Russel is next in line, though he won't have the opportunity to run behind Setterstrom and Eslinger.
  • Diminutive, evil, Michigan-smiting Brian Calhoun has not officially announced his departure but is widely expected to enter the draft. His replacement can't possibly be as good... right?
  • Purdue isn't technically an opponent, but there is a slight chance that they could be a bothersome contender for the Big Ten title next year (hey, I said a slight chance). This chance has gotten even slimmer, as both trash-talking safety Bernard Pollard and prototype DE Ray Edwards have declared.
If you can't beat 'em, inflate their NFL prospects enough to make 'em jump to the league, I guess.

 

Unverified Voracity: This Time I Really Mean It Edition

Say goodbye to your little friend? After last year's dismal defensive finish there was a small assortment of tentative rumors regarding Jim Herrmann's demise that amounted to nothing. This year the rumors have returned after a year of Barry Bonds' Totally Legal And Healthy Supplements. They're pissed off... and likely true. Herrmann is reportedly scouring the professional ranks for a face-saving job of any description whatsoever (maybe he can be Butt of Cato June's Jokes Guy for the Colts), as he is unlikely to have a post at Michigan much longer.

Zounds! Three or four years after most Michigan fans had mentally written Herrmann out of the Michigan will and he finally takes the pipe... probably. Replacing him? That's not clear at this point. Humor me for a moment when I say that poster "dwags" from the RCMB has proven in the past that he knows a Michigan insider of some description and gander at this misspelled beauty:
Anyway, English and Lafloer? What do you think of that combo?
(Might have to start calling him "Guy.") I realize this is not the most rock-hard evidence in the world, but others have offered up a comparable rumor; I think there's a good chance that one or both will come to fruition. Loeffler is clearly in line for bigger things sometime soon, either here or elsewhere, and is a key player in the recruitment of one Ryan Mallet. Michigan is probably plotting clever ways to get him more responsibility without thrusting a guy who still gets carded into the role of full-time offensive coordinator.

As for English, he arrived from Arizona State three years ago with a reputation for liking big corners and press coverage, so I think it's safe to say that last year's gameplan did not heavily feature his input. Certain insiders have muttered about English's frustration with the passivity employed by the Wolverines leading to his departure sooner rather than later--that would clearly change if he was the guy in charge of the passivity... er... defense.

English and Loeffler as Michigan's offensive and defensive coordinators would likely signal a wholesale change in the philosophy of the program. Long known primarily for his stodginess, Lloyd Carr would be sporting two charismatic coordinators, one of whom is ethnic, under 40. And we might see a cornerback within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. I suggest you cease praying for orphaned dolphins and switch to an English/Loeffler double bill.

Also saying goodbye is backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez, who is transferring to I-AA Idaho State so he can play. Good luck to Matt, who got a major beating from fate about a year and a half ago but handled with as much class and maturity as is possible. It wouldn't be surprising to see him back on the sidelines in some capacity sometime in the future.

Also also (probably) saying goodbye is greasy-armed malcontent Max Martin. No doubt this will prompt a storm of criticism from those who saw him as something other than Fumblor The Misplaced Linebacker, but um... trust me on this one: we're better off without his presence. Gird yourselves, women and bouncers of Tuscaloosa, for he is coming.

All aboard the I-AA train of total boredom. Michigan finds themselves in a tough spot since the NCAA has authorized a 12-game regular season schedule but no additional week to play it in. Thus if Michigan is to schedule that 12th game it has to be their Big Ten bye week, November 4th. Obviously, this isn't the easiest date to find a free I-A school that wouldn't demand a return engagement. As a result Michigan is likely to welcome someone like the Maine Black Bears for a ritual slaughter.

There is another option: decline to schedule a glorified scrimmage in the middle of November and forgo the five million dollars. Fat chance of that even though Lloyd Carr has publicly slammed the twelfth game, as that five million could be used to build another opulent palace in which to stash the ever-more-important harem girls academic advisors that are the linchpin of modern day recruiting. It seems more and more apparent that collegiate sports needs its own version of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Each BCS team has more than enough firepower to provide sexual congress to every recruit in the country hundreds of times over. It's time to stop the arms race.

 

Final BlogPoll Ballot... Offiicial

RankTeam Snark
1
Texas Why, yes...
2Southern Cal ...this is the exact order...
3
Penn State ...these somewhat controversial...
4
Ohio State
...top four teams were in before. Ha.
5
West Virginia
Uh... and I had WVU 13th.
6
LSU Please make up your mind about the sucking.
7
Virginia TechAt least next year will be mercifully devoid of Michael Vick and his chili cheese fries.
8
WisconsinMy great hope for the BlogPoll is that a 10-3 Wisconsin team that played a very tough schedule and beat the tar out of a 9-3 Auburn team ends up, you know, in front of Auburn. Then, and only then, can the BlogPoll declare victory.
9
AlabamaIt's good! Sort of!
10
Georgia
Kyle said it best when he bemoaned the fact that we won't be getting rid of this Big East autobid thanks to the Sugar Bowl.
11
Miami
Christ almighty.
12
Auburn
DNP.
13
FloridaWere handed the game by Iowa with a small assist from Conference USA. Still, 9-3, tough schedule, defense that tends to choke small children to death, etc.
14
TCU Stupid SMU game.
15
Notre Dame Fiesta was a few OSU turnovers from being a lot like that game against the other OSU (Oregon version) a few years back. In the end, ND's best result was a loss to USC. They beat one meh team in Michigan but showed that in reality not even a Super Genius like Weis E. Coyote can make his cornerbacks fast. Worse resume than any of the 9-3 teams ahead of them, thus the harsh assessement.
16
UCLAHard to believe they're 10-2.
17
Louisville
Oversight on first draft.
18
Boston College
Winning the Depression Bowl a tough trick for many teams.
19
OklahomaNot so much of a disaster after all.
20
OregonThe Holiday Bowl: shutting up Pac-10 teams that whine about BCS at-large berths since 2004. And thank you for that.
21
Texas Tech
Hyyyarrr.
22
Florida StateWide everything!
23
Toledo
Sure.
24
Michigan
Best 7-5 team ever.
25
Iowa
Second best 7-5 team ever.

Games I Saw: BCS bowls, Alamo fiasco, Iowa-UF, AU-UW, bits of VT-UL, and some other random stuff.

Help requested: Anything. There is a vast swath after about #8 where arguments are being heard.

Update: Bumped Oregon down and UCLA up (in front of Oklahoma), Added Louisville at #17, revamped the bottom of the poll to be more internally consistent: if I'm going to overrate Big Ten teams it may as well be the right ones. Thanks to commenter statprof for offering a strong argument in favor of the Cards.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

 

Nice Hat, Jai Eugene



That's Jai Eugene. You recognize the hat, I'm sure. Mr. Eugene is a Louisiana cornerback who everyone thinks is totally excellent (Scout #30, Rivals 250)... the first really high profile corner recruit Michigan has latched on to since Marlin Jackson. Informative update coming; until then Scout has a bunch of pictures and stuff; Rivals has an article.

Also, the basketball team managed to squeak by Purdue 68-65... less than inspiring but better than a loss. Mas later.

Update: There's clearly a strong difference of opinion between Scout and Rivals in this case. ESPN sides with Scout's "yowza!" take, giving him a grade of 7.9 and ranking him #15 overall and the #1 corner:
Eugene has all the tools to develop into a special player at the next level. ... has cover corner written all over him. He is the definition of a fluid football player.
They also chip in some caveats about experience, since Eugene is such a freaky athlete he ended up playing mostly quarterback--much like Antonio Bass. An article announcing his selection to the Army All-American team has a couple additional quotes on his ability (warning! Lemming alert!):
"A quarterback first in high school, Jai has tremendous athleticism. He sees the game extremely well, and has the physical tools to star at corner on the college level," says Scout.com.

"Jai shows big-time speed, instincts, and always gets a good break on the ball," says Lemming. "He takes good angles to the ball and shows tremendous range."

...and finally, this article has a quote from Eugene's coach:
...School's best prospect since safety Ed Reed, an All-American at Miami and first-round pick of the Ravens. "Everybody is looking for cornerbacks with the speed and physical ability to shut down the passing games in college," Destrehan coach Steve Robicheaux said. "Jai will fit the bill."
A selection of local news articles were also located: 13 completions for 276 yards(!); uh... yeah, this guy is a lot like Antonio Bass:
Destrehan quarterback Jai Eugene already had thrown five interceptions, including picks on the previous four possessions. But when it mattered most, Eugene lofted a pass to Joshua Martin at the 25-yard line, and Martin broke away from the St. James defense to sprint into the end zone for the winning touchdown.
; track supahstar.... as a sophomore.

Tennessee was also recruiting Eugene heavily, thus a series of articles concerning him from orange-clad parts. Here's an extensive one from April concerning him and his infant son (Google cache link; here's the original with Annoying Reg) with some quotes that if I had seen earlier I may have considered Eugene a strong possibility:
"That's [LSU's proximity to home] the only reason I'd stay here for school," Eugene said. "I like LSU a lot because my family can see me. I'd be here more. LSU is great. They have great fans. If I went there, I'd be able to see my son and my family. I'd say I'm 75-80 percent sure I'll go out of state, though.

"...I'll go to whichever college I need to, which one fits me best."
For extra bonus creepiness, check the comments out and revel in Tennessee eating it at the hands of, um, everyone this year. Actual quote: "God does not condone fornication." Yeah, well God doesn't condone Tennessee, either. You can tell because of the smiting. You can check out this video interview and see for yourself that Jai's a personable young man.

Insightful Editorial Summary: OMG YAY. This is the year of defying the curse of the south and picking up really fast dudes. Given Michigan's persistent whiffery on Darrin Walls, Justin King, Victor Harris, and every other major corner target Michigan set its sights on over the past couple years, Eugene's commitment is a unexpected, important bonus going forward. I would not expect him to redshirt, as his combination of freaky athleticism and financial need means that he will probably enter the NFL draft as soon as it makes sense.

Also, this is the second improbable commit who has been eerily projected by anonymous commenter "Matt," in case you're wandering around said comments wondering who to take seriously.

The Larger Picture: A second southern heist of one of the country's best athletes changes the perception of this recruiting class drastically. Michigan still needs an offensive tackle badly, but every other major need Michigan entered the year with has been met. An edge rusher, a second safety, and a tight end would all be nice, but if all of Michigan's commitments stick and reasonably good players fill out the rest of the class at a minimum it will grade out as a B, which isn't bad at all given the down year in-state, the excitement of new coaches at Pitt and ND, and the dismal on-field results.

Friday, January 06, 2006

 

Jumble, Jumble

Mutterings abound in the aftermath of the Season of Infinite Pain, and they're coming from everywhere--mysterious message board !nziD0rZ, reputable newspaper people, talk radio ravers, and the maniacs that compose the bulk of all sports fans who bother to post on the Internet. In general, they concern coaches and their roles on the Michigan staff... or potential lack thereof. Rosenberg's latest contains a lot of unverified voracity that's nigh blog-worthy:
Lloyd Carr is about to do something about it.

Since the season ended, Carr has met with each of his coaches individually and told them he will make changes to his staff. That probably doesn't mean outright firings, but it will mean a significant shuffling of responsibilities.

Like demoting a coordinator.

Maybe even two.

This, coupled with natterings from the aforementioned insiders that hint darkly at things going bump in a "locked down" Fort Schembechler that is on edge unlike any time in recent memory, has the Internet fanbase a tizzy with rumors.

well the wind is blowing, where am i going
off a bridge and falling, nobody's calling
on the ground and laying, nobody's praying

why can't you be nicer to me?
A sampling:
  • QB coach, uber-recruiter, and all-around Boy Genius Scot Loeffler is being promoted to offensive coordinator. Or co-offensive coordinator. Or being given more responsibility in the offense. Or pissed off and about to leave.
  • Former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who went splat at Central Michigan, is going to retake the post or co-retake the post and is being set up by Carr as his designated successor.
  • Terry Malone is ceding some responsibility, or all responsibility, or has been shot.
  • Jim Herrmann has a silly mustache.
  • Also he may be relieved of his linebacker coaching duties, or his defensive coordinator duties, or just left to stand because that's how we roll. The mustache remains intact.
  • Defensive backs coach Ron English is either about to leave for the NFL, about to be defensive coordinator, or about to undergo a strange procedure that leaves him crippled but able to deflect passes with his mind, like that cat.
  • '07 uber-recruit QB Ryan Mallet of Texas has been told that Scot Loeffler will be offensive coordinator/mayor by the time he arrives and is polishing up for an unprecedented run of twelve Heismans.
  • Former coach Gary Moeller is coming back to be defensive coordinator or something. Yeah, far out, dude.
  • Ohio State is about to get hammered by the NCAA.
  • Bobby Petrino is about to be the new coach.
  • None of this will matter because Carr is still the coach and OMG LLLLLoyd is a LLLLLoser. oneoneone. two.
In short, all hell has broken loose. Up is down! Left is right! Cats and dogs sleeping together, mass hysteria! It looks like the only thing we can be sure of is that Notre Dame is really racist.* Hold to that one piece of knowledge in the swirling maelstrom of uncertainty ahead, my friends.

*(OMG joking, Irish fans.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

 

The Five Stages of Vince Young

I did this last August, but I think now is a good time to bump this to the top. Recent events and all. Yeah, we've been there.

(So, I found this Build-A-South-Park-Character thing via EDSBS. I built a rough analogue of myself. And then, well, I did this. Why? It is the mystery.)

Overconfidence


Hey, we're up 31-21. We're gonna win.

Surprise


Um. That guy is kinda fast.

Alarm


OMG THAT IS UNPOSSIBLE.

Shock, Horror, Disgust, Fear, Wailing; The Beating Of Your Chest, Rending Of Your Clothing, And General Renunciation Of God; In Brief, A Short Glimpse Into The Very Bowels Of Hell


AAAIGH! Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?*

Possessed By The Devil, A Murderous Rampage**


Mr. Hat says: Find the Herr-mann. Smite him. Eat him, eat all of him.***


* (Pure blasphemy.)
** (Look ma, I'm a New York Times headline writer!)
***(mgoblog does not condone the smiting and subsequent consumption of anyone, even people with redundant German last names and no ability to stop mobile quarterbacks.)

 

Yeah, That Did Look Familiar...

...now that you mention it. No doubt others have/will touch on the general unpossibility of Vince Young, but it bears repeating: um, dude. Seriously. Bullets, baby!
  • Our long national nightmare is over. No offense to the USC players, who seem as blameless as college kids with inexhaustible sources of hotties willing to do anything and access to vast quantities of alcohol can be, but no one without a direct tie to the school was rooting for them thanks to ESPN's general insufferability in regards to the Trojans. Now it can be told: there is no doubt that the 2005 Trojans are the greatest one loss team in the history of college football. And proud we are of all of them.
  • Can we shut up about Mack Brown now? Blah blah blah never win big game blah blah blah never beat OU blah blah blah never does anything with all his talent... totally bleeding ridiculous given the state the program had fallen to under Mackovic and the powerhouse Sooner teams that kept Texas down for so long. That's what they said about Tom Osborne. Look: winning national championships is hard. No matter how much goddamn talent you have. Football is a game where it's near impossible to get through a season without having at least a few games balance on a razor's edge. Look at USC, undoubtedly the best team ever: a desperate sneak against ND, a squeaker against Fresno, a late rally against Arizona State, and a loss to Texas. A few plays here and there and they could have ended up 8-4.

    Can't people just accept that not everything is ordained from on high by talent and skill?
  • Also can we learn our lesson? All talk about "greatest ever" anything should be banned after that ESPN fiasco. Who knows? No one. Who can prove anything about anything? No one. So can we stop the inane assertions of the finest performance, best quarterback, best game ever? I don't care. It was a great game. Vince Young is a great player. That's enough.
  • A blessing and a curse. The game reasserted the case for replay in no uncertain terms, even though it did not work flawlessly. A couple of plays--the Vince Young pitch and a linebacker's near interception--were not reviewed, but several critical ones were and there were a couple overturned calls that were critical to the game. The infamous Jim Augustine--the man who blew the Chad Henne "fumble" in the MSU game--was the review official, so you knew there would be screwups but on balance the game was improved by its presence. Any Penn State fans want to check in with elaborate conspiracy theories about how the Witvoet crew was conspiring against Penn State tonight?
  • Speaking of insufferable. By the way, Fouts, the refs were checking with each other to see whether Bush had stepped out of bounds on his leaping touchdown in order to get the call right, not because they "don't see anyone like Reggie Bush in the Big Ten," you smarmy ridiculous-bearded hippie.
  • Thanks, Keith. Fading, sure. But, like Johnny Cash a few years back, anyone focusing on his momentary confusion from time to time and harping on his declining form is missing out on the last days of an inimitable voice that the world will soon be poorer without. Much poorer.
So... is it September yet?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

 

The Expectation

1/3/2006 - Michigan 63-70 Indiana - 10-2, 0-1 Big Ten

Yeah... so that's why I sort of hate college basketball. When you are me and shamelessly parochial in your sporting interests, most of your viewing time is occupied by watching the teams you support. The opponent changes but one team remains a constant, though the uniforms flip from home to away on a regular basis. When I take all the drawings that form my impression of this particular sport and animate them into a flipbook of This Is... NCAA Basketball(!!!) the signal that emerges from the noise is heavily influenced by the one team my viewing revolves around.

What do I see? Turnovers. Awful passes. Stupid decisions. A bonus ten seconds wherein college teams get to sit around doing nothing in particular. Big guys camping out in the lane, rendering driving useless. A three point line better suited for sixth graders. Scores reminiscent of offensively proficient lacrosse. Sun Belt-esque refereeing. In contrast, my opinion of the NBA must be hilariously divergent with that of the general populace since my chosen team therein plays a brilliantly effective, efficient, and intelligent brand of basketball. But what can you do? My brain has all this data. It has to do something with it.

I spent a large portion of the Indiana game cursing the stupidity of everyone on the floor, though I hope you'll agree it was not totally outside the realm of reason. Michigan hung around Indiana largely on the strength of Graham Brown rebounding everything and... um... good defense I guess (except when it wasn't), but there was no point during the game where it felt like Michigan could assemble any semblance of offense aside from the occasional three pointer when Indiana forgot that Michigan was capable of little else. Eventually I started hoping that Michigan would start jacking up contested three pointers, since the alternative was a contested two pointer or a turnover. Grim. And totally expected, just like Courtney Sims finding himself opposed by a mean man who fights for position and ending up neutralized.

Perhaps this is an overreaction to an abberrantly bad game, but let's be serious: if you were to pick any game from the Amaker era against reasonable competition and peg the under/over on turnovers, 20 would not be a totally implausible estimate. 16 would probably get you even money. Why is this? I don't know. Amaker seems set on running a motion offense he doesn't have anywhere near the personnel for. As I understand it, the motion offense relies on big men who can pass competently and shoot from outside the post. Michigan has no post who can do the former and only Chris Hunter is capable of the latter. It requires every player on the floor to be able to read each other's intentions and make intelligent cuts for easy baskets. Michigan tends to throw the basketball out of bounds several times a game because intentions may as well be ancient Sumerian cuniform to them. The similarities between the basketball team and football team are depressing: the expectation is for the position.

Special ITYSO Bonus!

Big Ten Wonk:
By the way, that thud you just heard was Courtney Sims officially falling off the All-Wonk Team. (The guy's a one-man assault on the very concept of stats: he looks good on paper because he stockpiles inordinately beautiful numbers against inferior opponents.)
This here blog in the preview:
There's no questioning Sims' shot blocking and post ability, but he has shown little fire or competitiveness in his first two years at Michigan, often getting dominated by players with half his physical gifts but twice his determination. Sims got shoved out of position far too much for a player with his size and skill, failed to rebound effectively, and often disappeared for long stretches at a time, especially when matched up against high-quality opposition.
Grim satisfaction? Sure. Would I rather be wrong in this case? Sure.

 

Unverified Voracity: Putting It To Bed Edition

Basketball coming up this afternoon. For now, Big Ten Wonk has a recap par excellence for you.

Joey would undoubtedly refer to this as "peep game" but my flaccid indie band tendencies prevent me from knowing what in the sam hell this means. In any case, even though you undoubtedly do not care about the Edmonton Oilers in the slightest, I must point out "Covered In Oil," undoubtedly the finest blog anywhere. I mean:
Man, if you had told me a month ago that Ty Conklin would be between the pipes for the Oilers first shutout of the season, I would have called you a filthy little liar and slapped you right in the mouth. Then, I probably would have felt bad for overreacting and bought you a caramel Drumstick or something, guilt-ridden but resting assured that my point had nonetheless been made. That point being Ty Conklin is bad.
Huzzah, etc. One of the best things about this whole "college football blog community" thing that magically happened is that I know various southerners--probably based in Atlanta and wondering if they should drink whiskey or Drano after the Sugar Bowl--peruse this space on a regular basis and regard any and all hockey posts with puzzlement and bemusement. Yes, kids, when water gets cold it turns into something hard and slippery.

Er. Anyway, you may now continue your dirt-track racing careers.

Introspection and bitching from around the web. Alamo Farce fallout was truly radioactive. Commisseration occurs from various places on the ref screwjob. Paul Westerdawg:
Worst officiating ever. At least when Al Ford and his crew killed the Dawgs in 1999 vs. Tech, they didn't have instant replay as a resource.
Evil Buckeye Tom:
Yeah... Michigan got f***ed pretty thoroughly. Having to burn two timeouts for replays ended up costing them big time, and the circus that was the final play was just a fitting end to an all-around ass-raping by the semi-trained monkeys from the Sun Belt.
TMQ Hissownself:
Every coach knows that if players do run onto the field during a play, the penalty is harsh. Nebraska's entire team ran onto the field during the game-deciding play -- yet not a single yellow flag. That's spectacular officiating ineptitude. Maybe the Sun Belt Conference zebras working this game were anxious to head to the locker room and didn't care about doing their jobs properly. Whatever the explanation, "Sun Belt Conference officials" will now be synonymous with incompetence, while "Alamo Bowl" will now be synonymous with botched game supervision.
Back at the Michigan ranch, Johnny freaks everyone out by quoting "Hurt," but makes it clear in his lead that killing yourself... eh... could possibly be avoided...
Please, open the garage door before you start the car, untie yourself from the train tracks, spit the mouthful of bleach into the sink, drain the bath before you toss in any appliances, and fire that .38 into the sky, for another voice of delirium commands your attention, and like you it has absolutely no idea what has just happened. So gather round, pop the last of your 12 dollar New Year’s Eve champagne, because calamity of this caliber loves company.
...but only because then there won't be anyone to bitch to. I sort of expected Joey to ignore this advice and post a recording of his grisly demise at the hands of a shotgun blast, but he lives(!) and posts something aptly titled "Make It Stop." Indeed. Stop, don't git it git it. Etc.

Vijay, more mature than the rest of us combined into Bitchy Whiny Blogger Voltron, has emerged from a private cocoon of sorrow with a State of the Program Address which I'll respond to later; it deserves fuller consideration since it'll be the topic du jour for the duration of the offseason.

I did this. Before when I ran across dumb internet things and created derived dumb Internet things with them, they died quietly. Now they liiiiive... on the blog!

Alamo Aftermath, y'all. Caution: it sucks.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

 

Hockey Catchup

As expected, the walkon-laden Wolverines got waxed by CC in the GLI. They did manage to squeak by Michigan Tech with a third-period rally to finish third, again. The good news is that the split did not heavily impact Michigan's PWR ranking, which remains a surprising third. How is this the case?

Michigan has played a ridiculous schedule to date. Michigan has a Teams Under Consideration (abbreviated TUC and defined as anyone with an RPI of > .500) record of 6-6-1, which is fairly good. Of note is the sheer quanitity of TUC games, though: fully 13 of Michigan's 19 games to date. That coupled with the CCHA's much stronger performance (more on that later) out of conference has buoyed the Michigan RPI to third in the country--and the PWR is really just an RPI adjustment scheme.

The good news for Michgian is that the CCHA continued it's strong nonconference play during the holiday tournament season. Ferris State was credited with a tie by NCAA rule after losing a shootout to BC in the Denver Cup, then beat DU in the consolation game to take home a 1-0-1 record against two teams that would have laughed Ferris off the ice last year. UAF swept UAA. UNO won against Alabama-Huntsville and Yale. Previously inept BG went 3-1 against a nonconference selection of eastern teams, including a win over PWR #4 St. Lawrence. Northern and Western both ate it versus Wisconsin, but just about everyone is doing so thus far. With nonconference play just about over, the CCHA appears to be the premiere conference in the country to computers who can't actually see WCHA teams play.

To say this is a surprise is an understatement. The CCHA has gone from the ECAC + Michigan to a conference with 5 teams--Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska-Omaha, and Lake State--in the top 14 of the PWR (14 is generally the cutoff since the CHA and Atlantic Hockey teams get autobids) and the first two teams out--Ferris State and Alaska-Fairbanks. No fewer than nine CCHA teams are TUCs. That probably won't last when conference play arrives--expect at least one and probably two teams to drop from the TUC ranks--but in any case, Michigan is almost certainly going to end the season with the nation's toughest schedule. That will buy the Wolverines a significant amount of leeway when the tournament is seeded.

Meanwhile, Jack Johnson is public enemy #1 in Canada after cheap-shotting Canadian Steven Downie after a late game EN goal gave Canada a 3-2 win in the group stage of the WJC. After exchanging slashes, Johnson gave Downie an elbow which was either vicious or glancing, depending on how you feel about A) the USA and B) the University of Michigan, and got booted. I didn't see the play in question and thus can't comment, but both Jack and Andrew Cogliano did. Jack:
"I saw the way Downie had played all game and I knew he was a player who played with an edge," Johnson said. "We exchanged slashes, I saw him skating toward me and I was trying to be prepared. I didn't want to put a guy out of the tournament, but I didn't want him to pull anything on me."

Johnson said he didn't connect with the full force of his elbow/forearm, and Kyle said video supports that. "It wasn't like his head snapped back," Johnson said.
Cogliano:
Canadian centre Andrew Cogliano, who is Johnson's teammate on the University of Michigan team, had a different view.

"I don't think he should have done what he did and I think he should have been punished," Cogliano said of the third overall pick of the Carolina Hurricanes last summer.

"He's a top defenceman and he's going to be an NHL player some day, but I think sometimes he has to control his emotions. But that's him and that's what kind of person he is."
The incident prompted a flood of bitching from Canada, which is amusing given that the guy on the receiving end of the glancing/vicious elbow crosschecked a teammate in the face after he refused to be hazed and some guy named "Bertuzzi" is going to be playing for Canada in the Olympics, but expecting a Canadian to be rational about hockey is like expecting ninjas to not flip out and kill stuff. Second chances for all! Unless they're American!

Johnson was not suspended and assisted on Phil Kessel's opening goal against the Czechs in the USA's 2-1 victory yesterday. Tonight the US takes on Russia in a semifinal at 11 PM; if you have Comcast it should be somewhere on your (free) Center Ice package. Canada plays Finland in the other semi; a Canada-USA rematch for the gold would be straight dope, especially given the whole Downie debacle.

Exhale about those forwards for next year as Michigan picked up a commitment from the USHL's Trevor Lewis. They also picked up an '07 commitment from Lewis's teammate Aaron Palushaj. Michigan College Hockey has an article on the pair (and a teammate heading to Vermont):
Lewis, a native of Murray, Utah, will join the Wolverines for the 2006-07 season. He is currently leading the Buccaneers in goals (19) and points (35). He is also second on the team and in league with a plus/minus rating of +20.

"This was one of the toughest decisions of my life," said Lewis of his decision to go to choose Michigan. "All of the schools that recruited me (Boston College, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio State) have outstanding hockey programs, but my gut feeling was to go to Michigan."
Bob Miller of the Wolverine has scoop on both new commitments, digging out this article from the USHL's website on Lewis...
During the Buc Bowl, when scouts from all over the country came to scout the USHL talent, nearly every scout and coach noticed Lewis' play. Head Coach Regg Simon said that he took about 100 calls about Lewis after the three-day tournament.
... and this snippet from Hockey's Future ...
9. Trevor Lewis, C
Ht: 6’1 Wt: 195 Shoots: Right
Born: January 9, 1987, Murray, Utah
Des Moines Buccaneers

Des Moines has yet another player in the top 10 in center Trevor Lewis. Similar to Nodl in that he had an underwhelming rookie season in the USHL, at least statistically, Lewis has made a major impact in 2005-06 as one of the leading goal scorers in the USHL. After 19 games Lewis has 12 goals 13 assists, tied for fifth in the USHL with Nodl. Lewis has good hands and a hard shot, but a lot of his goals come down to hard work and a willingness to venture into the crease and take a beating from opposing defenseman. This is even true on the penalty kill, where Lewis as a USHL-leading four shorthanded goals.

Lewis is not just a goal scorer though. He’s a crisp passer with good vision and can use his speed to create space. At 6’1 195 pounds, Lewis has decent size, which he uses both offensively and defensively. Like Okposo, Lewis is a staple on the Des Moines penalty kill, a testament to his commitment to a solid two-way game. Lewis also has a physical edge, be it the occasional open-ice hits, finishing his checks along the boards, or even dropping the gloves. Leading by example, Lewis is one of Des Moines’ alternate captain.

Lewis will be joining Okposo and Buccaneer goaltender Brian Foster on Team USA for the Viking Cup. An older ‘87, Lewis was barely eligible for the team, and he may still be a longshot to be drafted in the new seven-round draft. However, an NHL team looking for a player with a good combination of speed, skill, awareness and effort, who has a few years of college hockey to develop, may look to Utah’s best prospect yet.
INCH had a Buc Bowl feature its own self and it contained this brief, tantalizing scout quote:
"This kid's amazing. He's the total package. He competes, he has a nose for the net, he's physical, and he has the ability to finish."
Miller also offered something on Palushaj:
From Paul Shaheen's Research on Ice:

Formerly with Honeybaked, Palushaj has six goals and 21 points in 26 games thus far for the Bucs, who keep playing impressively and presently stand 19-5-4 (OTL).

"He's a deceptively strong player," said one scout ROI ran into while watching this year's Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit. "He may not look like a great skater, but he has a very good shot, can pass, and knows how to find people. He has all kinds of upside."
There's also some more in this thread. So yay and stuff. Michigan is likely done with the '06 class and is waiting on Pat Kane's word to wrap up '07.

 

What Went Right (Other Than Nothing)

Yeah, this one's shorter.

Steve Stripling. This may be in direct conflict with the whole run-defense-bad thing, but I think the defensive line showed much promise. Stripling can't make Massey four inches shorter and thirty pounds heavier or turn Gabe Watson from a teddy bear into a pitbull, but under his tutelage Alan Branch went from freshman role player to breakout star at both DT and DE, Lamarr Woodley improved his TFL and sack numbers despite missing about a quarter of the season, Shawn Crable became useful, and Tim Jamison flashed major potential in his limited time.

A first glance at the sack numbers is not impressive (Michigan finished with only 24) but as noted in the OSU preview, the imposing Buckeye defense got most of its sacks from non-linemen--they blitzed extensively. Michigan was allergic to the blitz, getting only six sacks from linebackers and defensive backs all year. The first year of the "actual defensive line coach" era was a success, and a line like Jamison-Branch-Taylor/Johnson/Slocum-Woodley should get a ton of pass rush without having a big sign that says "RUN HERE" between the DTs.

Freshman wideouts. Mario Manningham and Antonio Bass can play, and play they did with unprecedented frequency for freshmen wide receivers at Michigan, Manningham in particular. The New Math finished the year with six touchdowns, one short of Anthony Carter's Michigan record. Bass played the occasional snap at running back, wide receiver, and quarterback, even completing a wounded duck to Jason Avant against Iowa. Both are faaaaast and are the leading candidates to replace Jason Avant's catches next year.

Ross Ryan. If Ryan has been around for four years already, what was Troy Neinberg doing kicking off? Neinberg's kicks usually landed somewhere between the ten and the five; Ryan's usually ended up five yards deep in the endzone. We all enjoyed Neinberg's science-dork body flying downfield a lookin' to pop someone, sure, but surely Ryan's kickoffs did not drastically improve over the span of a single offseason three years into his collegiate career, so why give up the field position? Who knows?

Ryan's punts, a testament to how overrated gross punting yards are as a statistic, were also a welcome breath of fresh air. They were all about 38 yards long, high, and unreturnable, a welcome change from Adam Finley's 45-yard bullets that were touchdowns in waiting. The difference is stark:


RyanFinley
Gross37.741.8
Return Pct31%56%
Return Avg5.013.1
Blocked01
Net36.234.4
Nat'l Rank3077
Tendency To Launch
Balls Eight Yards Into
Endzone
LowExtreme

(Disclaimer: the Ginn fumbles are a major source of noise in favor of Ryan, but just look at the return percentage, and even before the OSU game Ryan's return average was about half of Finley's.)

They were ugly, dying quails that no one will mistake for NFL production any time this century, but they worked. A salute to Ross Ryan! (You know your team's in trouble when the punter comes in for a salute.)

The interesting case of Shawn Crable. Strange that Pat Massey's deployment as the world's least effective DT would come in the same year when Crable, a guy who's even lankier than Massey, gets deployed as a standup DT on passing downs (and even the occasional run play) to great effect. Several Crable stunts got pressure on the quarterback in fairly short order, he batted down a number of passes, and the one time they tried to run at him he dashed around the lumbering guard assigned to block him and made a tackle for no gain--one more play against the run than Massey had all year. Crable now has a role and a future.

Fourth and short is go time. That aspect of Carr's game coaching skillz did improve vastly, even if it backfired from time to time (like fourth and goal against Wisconsin). Henne even badgered Carr into letting him QB sneak it on fourth and short from his own 40 on a drive that ended with what appeared to be a game-sealing field goal. Let it be said that Carr's football thinking is evolving as time passes, however glacially it may be.

Jason Avant.



Hell, you know. The worst part of the whole Alamo Fiasco was watching Avant go out like that. I hope you won't think ill of me if I say that there aren't any players leaving other than Avant that I will think about next year (unless it's to think "wow, this new guy is much better than X"). It'll be strange not seeing #8 out there.

I probably missed some... any thoughts, commenters?

Monday, January 02, 2006

 

What Went Wrong (Other Than Everything)

Many... most... hell, all Michigan fans have skipped right to the wailing and gnashing of teeth thing in the immediate aftermath of the Merry Alamo Farce and the Season of Infinite Pain, calling for everyone from Carr to Herrmann to Mike Gittleson to the kittens to me(!) to be fired. The indictment against me reasonably stated that Michigan has lost five or more games every year since this blog's inception--food for thought.

However, I think before heads roll (at least in the Kids in the Hall "I am crushing you" sense) we should review the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that brought us to this low point in our collective sporting lives. Herein and forthwith, the 2005 Enemies List.

An unprecedented, mind-flaying bouquet of injuries. Michigan got about 1.5 fully healthy games between Jake Long and Mike Hart, two guys who were running neck-and-neck with Lamarr Woodley for the title of best player on the team in the preseason. Long's backup, Mike Kolodziej, woke up tingly and unable to move one day, forcing natural guard Rueben Riley out to right tackle, where he attempted to ward off edge rushers with two broken thumbs. Leo Henige, already limping around on knees from hell, broke his leg. Adam Kraus missed the last few games with another knee issue. Tight end Tim Massaquoi broke his hand and then missed most of the last two games of the year with... yet another knee issue.

And that's just the offensive line. Steve Breaston wasn't right early in the season, missing the MSU game. On defense, exactly one defensive end (Pierre Woods) avoided missing a chunk of the season. A cheap chop block knocked Rondell Biggs out for a number of weeks. Tim Jamison had a sprained shoulder that lingered several games into the year. Lamarr Woodley's mysterious arm issue caused him to miss two games and sit out critical portions of the OSU game. Jeremy Van Alstyne missed the first half of the season. In the secondary, Ryan Mundy went out for the year with a nerve injury. Both Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon missed large portions of the season simultaneously. WLB Chris Graham contracted a case of Rueben Riley's broken thumbs. Morgan Trent missed the Alamo Bowl.

Uh, yeah, I think that had something to do with it.

Stupid coaching decisions. The Minnesota game was lost when Jim Herrmann called a stupid defense that left inconsistent linebacker Prescott Burgess lined up as a defensive end opposite mammoth Minnesota TE Matt Spaeth. Burgess lost contain and an irrelevant blitz from Jamar Adams from the other side of the field drew Brandon Harrison to the center of the field, leaving no one between Gary Russel and Michigan's demise.

Time and again this year Michigan found itself leading narrowly heading into the final minutes of the game with the ball in hand, changed its playcalling in an attempt to grind out the clock with a terrible running game, and punted with an opportunity to strangle the game. Six times this year Michigan failed to close out a game it was leading in the fourth--often by two scores. Overtime against Iowa and a miraculous last second against PSU meant that Michigan managed to pull out two of those blown leads (and you can't really blame the coaching decisions for the result of the Alamo Farce) , but... six times! I think that's fair evidence that Michigan's "sit back and let 'em screw up" strategy is totally out of place in today's offense-oriented college football world, especially when teams must score or die and use fourth down to do so. The days of dominant Michigan defense are over; Carr has not adapted his strategy.

Henne failing to live up to expectations. More balls whizzed two yards in front of open receivers than I care to remember. His mindblowing interception to Tom Zbikowski was a nail in Michigan's early season coffin; his inability to hit Jason Avant on a corner route plagued Michigan all year; his haircut did remain hilarious. At times he played well, often right before or after doing something Stooge-worthy, but he was nowhere near the All Big Ten performer many expected him to be. It's no exaggeration to say that he was the main reason Michigan lost to Wisconsin.

(DISCLAIMER: Obviously Henne has a world of potential and is only a sophomore. If he ends up throwing straight and reading coverages better, look out and stuff.)

Totally useless guard play. Henne's performance came with a ready-built excuse. Maybe if I was paying as much attention last year as I did this year I would have regarded the loss of David Baas much more ominously. Without Baas, fifth year seniors Leo Henige and Matt Lentz were exposed as intimidating-looking revolving doors. The Notre Dame game featured a bevy of blitzes up the middle that turned Henne into a jittery incompletion machine. Fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin was stuffed when Henige was shoved backwards into a pulling Lentz, leaving Kevin Grady tasked with plowing through two guys at the point of attack. Ohio State... well, our longest run of the day was 8 yards from Alijah Bradley on a "who is that guy" play.

Hart's absence hurt the run game, certainly, but even when we had him it was clear that he was working with scraps. Anything that would prompt this assessment after the MSU game...
More concerning is the run blocking, which was awful. Yes, awful. It was possibly the worst run blocking coupled with a 200 yard day from the accused team's running back in the history of NCAA football.
...has to be deeply broken, right? The surprising performance against PSU stands as an aberration in a season of massive disappointment.

Run defense charitably described as "nonexistent." Last year the run defense was, despite appearances, very good if you replace Mundy and Shazor with non-ciphers. Running against Michigan was a generally futile exercise in 2004 aside from an 80 yard touchdown run per game. This year, not so much. Not so any. If you remove games against hapless IU and EMU and combine the three-headed MSU backfield into one person, Michigan allowed eight of ten tailbacks it opposed to exceed 100 yards. Only Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton and OSU's Antonio Pittman failed to beat that milestone, and in Sutton's case it was more due to a lack of trying: Northwestern totalled only 17 rushing attempts the entire game. (Yes, Northwestern got 110 yards on those carries.)

What happened?
  • Gabe Watson underperformed. We has still good, but he wasn't an All American.
  • ...and thus he couldn't make up for Pat Massey. If only Massey played as purty as he talked. He's 6'8", and there's a reason you've never heard of a 6'8" DT before: every play someone gets under this hypothetical giant's pads and drives him five yards backwards. Massey's only contribution this year was pursuing on screens.
  • Chris Graham was a nonfactor. The official winner of the 2005 Grady Brooks Memorial "Practice Field Superstar Award," Graham took bad angles, couldn't shed blocks, and totally disappeared from the UFR reviews after the NIU game except for brief cameos generally accompanied by something like "AAAARGH CONTAIN CONTAIN WHY GOD WHY GOD."
  • Prescott Burgess was the Henne of the defense last year, alternating good plays that get NFL scouts clinking glasses of baby blood together with moments even his momma can't condone. His inconsistency combined with Graham's poor play to make bounceouts a guaranteed 15 yards.
  • Grant Mason couldn't replace Marlin Jackson's run support, though to be fair it's hard to support the run when you're lined up ten yards off the line and moving backwards at the snap. The hidden damage of Michigan's Cowardly Lion act in the secondary this year was in all those outside runs that the linebackers actually strung out properly but went for seven or eight yards anyway because the corner was late.
This is the magic formula for suck.

Mind-bendingly awful refereeing. No one likes it when the referees come in for a bitchslapping, but it must be said. The Alamo Bowl was a total screwjob, and the lack of review on the first-down sneak against Notre Dame before the fumble was costly. Michigan did receive a slight edge from the blind mice against Iowa (as discussed here), but the ludicrous calls almost evened out in that one and the resulting edge (two bad PI calls) did not result in Michigan points. In total, Michigan was totally robbed of one game and was badly hurt in another, to say nothing of the "fumble" against Michigan State.

(Penn State fans should reserve their bitching for JoePa, who got two extra seconds put on the clock with three minutes left in the game just like Lloyd.)

So what does it all mean?

Just like every other fanbase in the world, Michigan fans (at least those who bother to post on message boards) have fractured into two equally insane groups. The RCMB would call them "Demand Excellencers" and "Sunshine Blowers"; EDSBS broke them down into the St. Fandrew and Master Shake genres.. The Master Shakes declare that Michigan was OMG 3 plays from 4-7 and no bowl this year; the terribly-scarce St. Fandrews (hi deanwerner!) declare that Michigan was OMG 3 plays from 10-2 this year. Well... yeah, that's what happens when you play 7 games that are decided with under a minute left to play. Unless you are a gigantic lucksack like the 2002 Buckeyes, you lose half and win half. If you were to take this Michigan team and have them play this season over and over again against the same teams, what would their final record be? Probably around 7-5. This was a crappy, frustrating football team that deserved most of what it got.

But not all of it. Said outrageous fortune descended heavily upon Lloyd Carr this year, playing up every weakness of his (a tendency to reward hardworking, useless players, terrible late game management skillz, a charming inability to phony his way through press conferences after getting jacked by referees) and minimizing the positives. The plagues of injuries and simian referees were at least a standard deviation above the norm.

I don't see how the coaches can be blamed for the offense's implosion. Chad Henne's lack of progress was crippling in early losses against Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. That combined with the injuries wracking the running game to grind the OMG Michigan Scoring Machine to a halt. We were left with a team incapable of running or passing due in large part to the players Michigan were forced to put on the field. In response Terry Malone went WR-screen mad, which kept Michigan afloat until late in the year when teams had scouted the screens and our general inability to do anything else. There's much complaining about the lack of creativity displayed by Terry Malone, et al, but what exactly are you supposed to do when your guards can't block, your two best players are out, and every clever route you pop someone open on sees Henne wing it yards wide of the helplessly open receiver? I still like Malone. I like the obvious change in Lloyd's fourth-and-short strategy. I like the adjustments that attempted to take advantage of our leetle fast guys at WR without putting undue stress on Henne's erratic accuracy. I don't see a way that Michigan's offense could have been anything other than crappy given the execution of the players in all phases of the game. You have to be able to do something right to set up the other phase of the game--Michigan could consistently do neither, thus the bupkis.

The defense, on the other hand... I think my judgment may be excessively biased by my anger at the killer play against Minnesota. That one incident and its cosmic stupidity color every thought that crosses my synapses about the defense. How could you put yourself in that position? Minnesota is trying to kill the clock, has some redshirt freshman that Glen Mason is clearly terrified of, and is in third and eleven... let's blitz a safety! Let's make the entire defense on the strong side of the formation Prescott Burgess and Grant Mason! Look at all the exclamation points!!! I'm pissed!!!

Seriously, I am. I think that play is representative of two major failings in the Michigan coaching staff. They don't understand math, and they expect players to play like they should, not like they do. In two bullets:
  • Math: dude. Seriously. Punting on fourth and four against Penn State when a first down kills the game. Continually playing soft on end of game drives. And deciding that you were going to leave one area of the field extremely vulnerable to a big play when it's the only way you can lose in regulation. All these fly in the face of simple probability... the punt most obviously. What are the chances of making a fourth and four? Well, third and four is about 45%. You make it, you win. Thus unless your punt almost halves your opponent's chance to score, it's the wrong move. But the coaches think "our defense should hold them" and then when they don't they get to sit at press conferences, pissed off and confused that anyone would even ask about the strategy they employed.
  • Playing like you "should": The infamous summary for this attitude is "the expectation is for the position," which is nice to say and dumbtarded in practice. You can expect Prescott Burgess to perform well when you line him up at defensive end opposing two separate giant, angry, runblocky Minnesota hulksters all you want, but that doesn't mean an inconsistent linebacker who is allergic to the idea of containment is actually going to perform well. Said another way, "the expectation is for the position" is "we put players in a position to fail because gameplanning is hard and stuff." Michigan's attitude that we will out-athlete you without any of that thinkin' stuff is getting anachronistic right quick. The offense does seem to adjust when faced with personnel deficiencies, but the defense defies them to matter... until they do. The flip side of this is a refusal to take advantage of a player's abilities if they don't fit into the scheme of the defense. (A side note: the unique, creative, and effective deployment of a strange player like Shawn Crable is the exact antithesis of this attitude, so "the expectation is for the position" has exceptions, especially when you're a 6'6" lighting bolt with chicken legs and there isn't a position for you to be expected at.)
It's been pointed out here and elsewhere that Michigan hasn't ceded less than 28 points in a bowl game since magical 1997, and I wonder if that has something to do with Michigan's bullheadedness lending itself to being scouted into the ground when teams are given ample time to prepare.