12/29/2018 – Michigan 15, Florida 41 – 10-3, 7-1 Big Ten
I probably shouldn't have started the season with a dissertation on the Black Pit of Negative Expectations, because now what? I'm sure I've repeated myself in this space quite a bit, but I feel like I'm completely out of reactions to games that aren't so much deflating as imploding. I've talked about the Black Pit, mattresses, message boards, and Hell over little more than a calendar year. When I start writing something usually there's a kernel of something I've been thinking about to expand upon. Not so much right now.
This is mostly because I stopped thinking about Michigan's bowl game during the game. Like many people, some of them in pads and a helmet. Everyone knew that Michigan's season ended with the debacle in Columbus. This add-on exhibition was less an opportunity to accomplish something than an unwelcome reminder of college football's existence.
[After the JUMP: humorous name for one's billy berries]
I got a pile of email, so this is really long and still leaves out a number of missives. Apologies if yours wasn't selected.
A fairly comprehensive coaching-firing email.
I got a lot, obviously. This one touches all of the bases.
I'm currently operating under the following two assumptions:
1) Brady Hoke is done unless Michigan at least wins at least the Big Ten East with wins over both rivals on the road, which currently seems about as likely as two nuclear missiles turning into a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias and one of them telling our coaching staff how to coach offensive football before they plummet to earth.
I don't think it is that cut and dried yet. If Michigan goes 7-1 in the Big Ten with a loss to MSU and ends up 9-3 and going to the Citrus Bowl or something, that is a weird way to get to what people expected before the season. I think any 8-4 record is a hard sell that might induce a decision that we all hate and 7-5 is 100% dumped. (This is not what I'd do; unless he runs the table before the OSU game I would give him the Earl Bruce pre-Game firm handshake. This is what I'm guessing the athletic director would do.)
But yeah, going 7-1 in the Big Ten seems about as likely as the bowl of petunias thing. I am thinking "oh no, not again," tho—we solved it! The bowl of petunias is a Michigan fan.
2) That Dave Brandon will make a comically inept hire of either a warmed over retread with a tenuous connection to the past (Cam Cameron!), a mediocre young coordinator with a tenuous connection to the past (Scott Loeffler!), or a flashy idiot who must be great in interviews even though he's a moron coaching a football team (Lane Kiffin!)
Given that, how long would it take to set up and execute a reasonable search committee for a new athletic director? And is there any chance at all the university leadership acts decisively to remove the fundamental problem? It seems like the answer to those questions are too long and no at the moment.
The timing is bad. Schlissel just got in and has no frame of reference, so is he going to make a serious move? Does he even care about it, or is it something that's 11d on the agenda at a random meeting? And is he going to do it now-now-now, like he'd probably have to?
The answers to these questions are probably no. I think we're stuck with Brandon. If Michigan did make a move now there are a number of obvious candidates: Jeff Long is Arkansas's AD, Brad Bates is Boston College's, Warde Manuel is UConn's.
Long hired Bobby Petrino when Petrino bugged out on the Falcons, and then replaced him with Bret Bielema. Both are impressive hires from a football perspective and odious from a "you want me to root for THIS guy?" perspective. Manuel hired Turner Gill at Buffalo, was handed interim basketball coach Kevin Ollie (who then hired himself by winning a lot), and executed a logical search when UConn replaced Paul Pasqualoni, first trying to grab Pat Narduzzi and then going with Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco.
And while we're contemplating the fundamental horror of being Notre Dame, is Hoke Davie, Willingham, or Weis? Seems to me he recruits like Weis and coaches like Willingham, which is somehow worse than either of those guys. Or at least more frustrating.
Davie. His recruiting is better than Willingham and he's not a deliberately offensive, off-putting goon. Davie was an amiable man who couldn't organize a footbaw team.
Of course the real problem is that there really doesn't seem to be an upwardly mobile candidate at the right level to actually go after. I mean obviously you'd take a shot at Sumlin, but no way A&M doesn't match that offer. Which sort of leaves you hoping the Ravens' front office semi-criminal dickishness makes John Harbaugh quit and then you hope you can outbid like 15 NFL teams who would immediately jump at the shot to hire him. Not a great situations. Only name I can maybe come up with at a realistic level is Craig Bohl, who is unfortunately 56 and in the first year of his new job at Wyoming. That juggernaut he built on North Dakota State is impressive though.
Basically I think we're doomed. Are we doomed?
It looks fairly doomy, but we were all laughing about Ohio State's coaching search when they settled on the previously-obscure Jim Tressel. There are guys out there. You mention Bohl, who I have also wikipedia-stalked to my disappointment. Michigan may as well take a run at Sumlin types, but realistically any SEC school is going to match the money, and if you're crushing it in the SEC what is the motivation to move?
There is a name out there that I think might work: Dan Mullen. He made a previously awful team competitive in the brutal SEC. Nobody's been able to win much of anything at Mississippi State in 20 years—Jackie Sherrill had one ten-win season in 1999 and was otherwise bouncing between 8 and 3 wins. The Bulldogs have gone from winning a quarter of their SEC games under Sylvester Croom to winning 42%, and they've gone to four straight bowls for the first time ever. That's a James Franklin-like resume.
Mullen grew up in Pennsylvania, so he'll have some useful recruiting contact, he's 42—good long term upside if he works out—and he was Urban Meyer's OC for Florida's run of dominance there. He just beat LSU on the road. If Mississippi State goes 9-3 or better this year he'll be a very attractive candidate.
The problem is that Florida is going to be looking as well and I have bad feels about competing with them given our current situation and Florida's proximity to bounteous talent.
[After THE JUMP: more stuff like this, and an Ondre Pipkins Q.]
About three hours later, I realized I was on the same damn road, passing the same damn Indiana towns with ominous overtones in their names.
I was feeling the same damn way. I wanted the miles to evaporate faster than they were, to put all that behind me, to have a stiff drink at home. Mostly I just wanted to sit on a couch and exhale until everything had left my body and I flopped over on my side, inert, until the smell of bacon revived me in a day or a week or a year.
I kept trying to do this exhalation thing, and it was not working. I spent most of the game fearing the immaculately-coifed Kentucky fan in front of me would turn around and ask me to stop breathing so hard on her neck, whereupon I'd have to explain to her husband that yes I may be making your wife's neck uncomfortably moist but you see I am trying to expel my soul which really no that's not what I'm saying oh I see I've just been punched.
We made quite a crew in section 228: me trying to not die and not exist at the same time; the lady who is mercifully tolerant of moist neck; the XXXL Kentucky fan next to me complaining that the refs were treating Stauskas like a pretty pretty princess after every possession; the two Michigan bros a few rows in front of me taking their fashion cues from Macklemore and standing after every basket to make karma-obliterating woofing noises; and the unaffiliated mother with her family on the way to spring break trying to commiserate with me about how the Kentucky fans who made up about 90% of our section were just unreasonably into sports.
It took her a while but I think she finally put me into the unreasonable bin after the teams traded dagger three pointers with a few minutes left and the sun came through the floor of Colts Location Stadium, blasting us all with a heat only she noticed.
The boxing metaphor is inescapable. I have seen many basketball games; this one is the one that defies you to compare it to anything else. And it was specific: this was not the kind of boxing match where a Cuban with ten thousand amateur fights comes out and touches you up for twelve rounds until he's ahead on all the scorecards. This was two dudes with noses that might as well already be broken strolling out and windmilling at each other until one looks like Chernobyl… and he's the guy still standing.
Max Kellerman talks a lot about how great fighters are not like people, because when they get hit witheringly hard they don't want to dig a hole and lay down in it for a while. They instead get mad and start hammering back. This is an easy thing to feel you are capable of when not being hit witheringly hard, and pretty much the entire point of boxing is to strip this feeling from victim after victim. I have no illusions about my response to being hit like that. I will put my head in my hands, check twitter, and be nearly incapable of standing. One day I'm just going to fall over. I've made my peace with it.
Michigan—this Michigan team, this dead Michigan team—is not like that. They dug out of enough ten point holes midway through the season to demonstrate that, surely. Here every time Kentucky would threaten to pull away Stauskas would swoop into the lane or Morgan would collect a rebound and finish against Kentucky's never-ending assembly line of skyscrapers, or Robinson would nail the late momentum-shifting corner three that has become a trademark over the past month.
If Calipari had ran out to midcourt with a shovel and started whacking Morgan with it while screaming "WHY <whack> WON'T <whack> YOU <whack> DIE," this would have made total sense to everyone in attendance. Kentucky was hitting three pointers and taking zero jumpers otherwise. They rebounded 63% of their misses(!). Michigan was there, riddled with bullets but still lurching forward.
As the game went on and the temperature rose, the building knew. There is an odd shift in the dynamics of an arena once it becomes clear to everyone present that they are watching an out-and-out classic. The stakes, already astronomical, ratchet ever-higher as the imperative to not lose this game, to win this game, to have this thing in your heart forever for cold nights and funerals, reaches critical mass. I mean, what if Michigan loses in overtime to Kansas last year? It does not bear thinking about.
So Michigan executes its version of that Syracuse possession with about seven missed shots in four seconds except Jordan Morgan wills the ball in the basket with his goddamned mind, and then it's just one guy taking a bad shot that looks improbably true.
It was probably the guys tweeting that they were watching Cosmos and regretting that they were responsible adults with children instead of super high and watching Cosmos that put me in this frame of mind but on the same damn road I started thinking about how space was unfathomably large, cold, and empty.
We'd just exited what was temporarily the saddest Culver's in America, on the vanguard of a highway of silent maize-clad Michigan fans acknowledging each other with a sigh and a shrug at chain restaurants and rest stops. In the fifteen minutes it had taken to eat, the twilight had turned definitively into night. The sun down, I tried exhaling again. Still nothing.
You know, I was basically okay. I thought about Jordan Morgan and the Kentucky fans all screaming out defensive instructions to their players whenever Stauskas touched the ball and figured out the exact tenor of my sadness. I had been eroded in the presence of the sun, and was glad for it, but now that place was getting smaller and farther all the time.
We were an outbound comet, hoping, waiting for the next opportunity to feel the stellar wind blow.
I'm not actually sure I can or want to do that. Usually those kind of things are reserved for the Cazzie Russell types but these days anyone that good exits before he can… well, I kind of want to say "program icon status" but if I say "Trey Burke" one of twoimages pops into your head so that's not quite right. But they're awesome and gone so fast it feels a little weird putting them in the rafters. (Being a Kentucky fan these days must be the weirdest experience in sports. Entirely new team every year.)
Watching Morgan's up and down career end with a tournament run in which he was one man trying to hold back the hordes… it does make you wonder. Morgan is the embodiment of the program's straight arrow up in the Beilein era, and he is an epic twitter troll with two engineering degrees. Save a Tyler Hansborough/Russ Smith type who is awesome but has one critical flaw in his game that prevents the NBA from swooping in on him, it's hard to think there are going to be many more deserving four-year guys.
Nik Stauskas. If that was the last game, and I'm guessing it was, he went out with a bang. I think swooping layups and rim attack after rim attack against Kentucky may perk up NBA draft executives' ears.
It is kind of crap luck that the guys Beilein turns into killers are so so good that they're two or three and out these days. As Morgan demonstrated, seniors are nice to have. You're up, Caris.
Welp. Michigan was set to win this game despite getting bombed on the boards, just as it had been ordained, but Kentucky, the #249 team in the country from three, went 7/11 behind the arc on looks that were mostly contested. If you find randomness on the street, slug it in the gut and say that's from MGoBlog.
SOFT THREE-DEPENDENT BEILEIN. That's continually the line from MSU fans. Michigan from two against freakin' Kentucky: 20/39. Michigan State versus UConn: 7/17. MSU took 12 more threes than twos. Shirtless AXE bro, heal thyself.
(Two point baskets by players who will probably return to MSU next year: 1, by Dawson.)
The NCAA tournament remains great. Hunter Lochmann probably had a stroke when he realized that absolutely no piped in music would be provided. Wait until they see a February NBA game, he thought, 'I'm Gonna Make You Sweat' is gonna make YOU sweat.
Do you know what they did during TV timeouts? Nothing. They put some trivia up on the scoreboard. There was the occasional announcement. Otherwise the commercial breaks were bands playing music and nothing else. It was amazing.
No one left at halftime, muttering about how if they can't hear "Ceiling Can't Hold Us" there's no point to sports. "Why will no one direct me to make noise?" this nonexistent person asks. "Where is my kiss cam? Are you guys even having a sporting contest? GIVE ME MY HAT SHUFFLE."
Anyway, for all the commercialism the NCAA packs into their every waking moment they have really minimized it for the event itself. The tournament is a national treasure for that reason. Michigan should emulate that instead of the ECHL.
Except for PA announcer guy. It started off poorly when he called Caris LeVert "Caress" LeVert and continued for the entire two games; even when not doing that the Colts Location Stadium PA announcer sounded like a terrible parody of a smarmy PA guy instead of a PA guy. Imagine Rob Schneider doing PA guy, and then make him worse at it. Oy.
Stagger. My one problem with the tournament setup is one I'm sure everyone shares: what is up with the game stagger in the Sweet 16? There's no reason MSU and Virginia should be going down to the wire at the same time Kentucky and Louisville are melting down Colts Location Stadium. Also you have large video boards; when game action isn't going on those should be playing other games.
Basketball of the future. Michigan wanted to force Kentucky into two-point jumpers. Nope:
70%! For a below-the-rim center. John Beilein is a genius, man. Also, best offense in 11 years (shhh, don't mention the rule changes).
Dammit. I said I wasn't going to think about McGary what ifs. Impossible not to, though. Imagine Morgan bumping down to the 4 for big chunks of this game with Mitch's crazy defensive rebounding on Dakari Johnson. On the other hand…
Michigan won the Big Ten by three games was a coinflip away from the Final Four without Burke, Hardaway, and McGary. I'd say let that sink in, but it should have been doing so for weeks now and it hasn't and it probably won't. The shots Michigan took should have had them down and out since they don't recruit at a super-elite level, but instead they blew through a conference that had three Elite Eight teams. And even though they're likely to take more NBA hits this offseason, they should enter next year as one of the conference favorites. It boggles the mind.
Nope. When Borges arrived someone asked him about having a QB coach, and he said that he wasn't a fan of the setup they had at SDSU, where Brian Sipe was hired as a dedicated QB coach. That relationship was strained, it seems, and Borges now handles all that himself.
My google-fu has failed me in an effort to find this quote, but a couple years back there was a direct statement from Borges that he prefers to work with the QBs himself, alone.
“I’m sure there were times I was driving Brian nuts, because I was being driven nuts. Coaching quarterbacks is more my M.O.”
What is the argument for Borges?
What is the argument for Borges?
Watching bowl games and I'm jealous of Iowa and their dinosaur coaching staff occasionally running up tempo offense.
Al Borges has either had the game pass him by or hasn't trusted his QBs at michigan one bit. They don't/can't run tempo, don't/can't get out of the huddle in time to gather any info on the defensive alignment pre-snap and don't/can't commit to any spread concepts that put playmakers in space and pressure defenders to make one on one plays in space.
Michigan's offense doesn't take advantage of ANY of the benefits of modern college offenses.
The argument in his favor is that he does tend to have high YPA offenses when he has decent quarterbacks, and in YPA is generally regarded as the stat most predictive of victory. If you've heard the roundtable on WTKA this year you've heard Craig bring this up weekly, at which point I shoot him down because Michigan's running game is just so so bad this year. Then he brings it up the next week because his pet YPA stat was actually pretty accurate, and we repeat the cycle.
Anyway. In year two at SDSU, Ryan Lindley had a 9.1 YPA, which is near-great. In three years at Michigan:
Denard 2011: 8.4
Denard 2012: 7.9
Devin 2012: 9.7(!)
Devin 2013: 8.6
Things at Auburn were great, then increasingly grimmer. Jason Campbell cracked the 10 YPA mark in year one, then Brandon Cox went from 7.6 to 8.1 to 6.6, whereupon Borges got fired in favor of that Franklin spread guy who got fired midseason the next year, leading to Borges's current pathological worldview.
I'm not even sure how much of the Cox degradation I blame on Borges. I saw Cox live and in person in his senior year, and by that time his arm strength had degraded to Russell Bellomy-against-Nebraska levels. Meanwhile Tommy Tuberville's staff was a collection of Just In Charge Of Something For No Reasons that undermined the next guy and got fired as a unit as a result—they were Rodriguez's defensive assistants and Borges was Scott Shafer.
This year's actually-quite-good YPA stat (23rd nationally) is impressive in context. I think you can make a case that with a functional running game, Borges can pilot an effective offense. The program is pretty dinosaur all around, but at least Borges has shown that he is looking for the knockout punch.
I've read and heard a lot about our miserable offensive line and how Coach Borges's hands are somewhat tied with such an incapable unit. But it seems to me that the larger problem is the predictability of his play calling. I don't study tape or rewatch games the way our opponents must, but even I feel like I know exactly when he's going to run the ball and when he isn't. The Nebraska players said as much after they completely shut us down. The only game that I can remember saying to myself "I didn't expect that" with regard to our ground game was against OSU, and in that match-up our O line suddenly looked average/competent against a good Buckeye unit. I feel like Borges is a guy that really believes that as long as everyone "executes", it doesn't matter if the opposing defense has an idea of what's coming. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks again for your hard work.
When one half of your offense is totally incapable of picking up yard one in most games you do tend to get predictable. Defenses figure out the thing that you are trying to do and shut it down because they aren't worried about the other thing. The Kansas State game was a great example of that: once the Wildcats figured out what Michigan was doing and adapted to stop it there wasn't much else Michigan could execute so they had to keep doing the one thing they could do.
This pattern is familiar from 2008, when Rodriguez would insert various tweaks and folds into his rushing offense that would work great for about a half and then die in a heap. Remember the 2008 Penn State game that was 17-14 at halftime and then ended something like 80-17 Penn State? Same thing: unleash something unexpected that really works (in that case it was MINOR RAGE), then have bupkis when opponent adjusts.
Predictability is a hallmark of crappy offenses, but it's more a symptom than a disease.
The Jerry Montgomery effect?
I see a lot of Michigan fans saying they will give the defensive staff a pass for this season's defensive performance because this is the same staff responsible for vast improvements seen in the first year under Brady Hoke. But, this isn't the same staff. We lost Jerry Montgomery to Oklahoma last offseason. Our d-line was definitely disappointing this year. Could you please comment on whether Montgomery leaving was a bigger blow than anticipated? Also, could you please comment on Roy Manning's performance as the linebacker coach?
Thanks and Go Blue!
How disappointing was it, though?
Our impressions are always colored by the most recent thing to happen and those two things were eviscerations by OSU and Kansas State, but the overall picture is less than awful. Michigan finished 35th in raw YPC without an imposing pass rush and without a whole lot of blitzing or load-the-box safety help. Their YPC allowed (3.81) was identical to last year's number, when Montgomery was around.
On an individual level, by the time the Ohio State game rolled around Ondre Pipkins had torn his ACL and Michigan's first choice nose tackle was 285 pound Jibreel Black, which went about as well as you might expect against what was by far the nation's top rushing offense. That is a huge and obvious personnel issue caused by injury—I continue to assume that something was just not right with Quinton Washington because otherwise his deployment makes no goddamn sense at all—and youth.
On an individual level, Michigan got strong upward ticks from everyone on the line:
Frank Clark went from hype bust of the offseason to a solid, Tim Jamison-as-senior effort.
Willie Henry went from obscure rotation guy to solid starter and potential future star.
Black was considerably better than he was as a junior, though completely overmatched because of his size at certain points.
Brennen Beyer… actually went backwards a bit, okay. But again this was Michigan's first choice SDE against OSU, a 250-pound dude.
The lack of imposing pass rush is an issue that needs to be addressed, yes. I don't think this season was necessarily that disappointing when you look at the roster at the three interior DL spots (SDE counts as one in my book). There is a gap akin to the interior OL on the roster.
Remove injured Pipkins and your non-freshman options at three interior DL spots that really need about six guys to rotate through are Black (285 pounds), Washington (inexplicable lack of PT), Ash (never played meaningful snaps in his life before OSU), and Heitzman (dumped from rotation in favor of 250-pound SAM). All things considered they were doing really well to hold up like they did before the season-ending collapse.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma was 53rd in rushing D, giving up a third of a yard per attempt more than M. I don't think Montgomery was a huge blow.
As for Manning, he's got the outside linebackers, which means SAM and only SAM. Michigan got quality play from first Beyer and then Cam Gordon; Jake Ryan was not as impactful this year but with the injury that's understandable. Tentative thumbs up in year one.
It wasn't too long ago that you were ready to cut someone about something something
EMO QUESTION OF THE WEEK OF THE YEAR
Is there a point for you at which fanhood of Michigan football is so disappointing because of things besides kids trying their best (e.g., Borges/Hoke insanity, almost everything Dave Brandon) that stop...like, really, at least sort of? As we as a fanbase get to consider your experience of being a fan and weigh it against our own, you shared some, I don't know, despondency or something at times this season, usually in appropriate situations. And in a time in my life when I am thinking of getting ready for my marriage, and getting something resembling a career going, and God help me I'll be a father in a few years...this football stuff just seems like a waste of time when everything besides the kids gets me as worked up as [REDACTED TOPIC OF CHOICE] does.
Honestly, larger than the blog, which I could see continuing in a hundred ways, is there a "this far and no further" point in your tolerance of extraneous bullshit for the sake of the joy or whatever it is that's so incredible when the kids on the field do amazing things?
I mean, after the 2009 Illinois game, I locked myself in a dorm and turned off my phone and didn't talk to anyone until late Sunday. As crazy and immature as that was, nothing about the disappointment of a loss has ever made me feel like I should stop following the team. But now I read about BWW Bowls and Jerryworld II and I'm like...whatever, man.
This is a natural consequence of aging and putting things in your life other than football that poop all over themselves when you would rather they not do that. Eventually, this will be you, wishing you weren't pooping all over yourself while watching Michigan poop all over itself in a hologram.
Anyway. It is an annual rite for person X on message board Y to declare that they just don't have the steam in them any more. I get it. To be blunt, I've been struggling with motivation issues since about midseason and understand anyone who flips the TV off and goes bowling*.
But, again, it is a human tendency to project most recent thing as thing that happens forever. It is not so. It was just last April that I was in the Georgia Dome, panicking about a Ke$ha song (probably, anyway; getting to the point where I can't necessarily discern which pop ingénues is which) because it was the thing going on before the national championship game. If they had played The Final Countdown I literally would have grabbed my buddy and gone AHHHH AHHHH AHHHH until he slapped me.
This season has been particularly enervating because of not only the suckiness of the team but its total unwatchability. As I mentioned in the post-bowl column, the 3-9 outfit was a worse team but they came by their awfulness honestly. Not that these folk didn't, but there is a special pain in rushing for negative yards consecutive weeks. It is transmitted direct to your eyeballs.
When this is not the case, you will discover the terror of your attachment again. Probably.
In your specific case, I've tied my career to this and don't have the option, so I don't know man. I tend to think I might get fed up, but I'm still getting hockey tickets and no one really cares if I go to hockey. Maybe I would just complain about feeling like a sucker and continue acting like a sucker.
*[I finally broke down and played Skyrim. Do not do this. Skyrim is the kind of awful that only reveals itself after you've set 60 hours of your life on fire listening to boring conversations and dully hacking things in the face. Their open world is beautiful and soulless, shiny on the outside but hollow in the center. Bethesda's mechanics are hopelessly broken in every single game they make, and while being able to jump across a continent in Morrowind was charmingly broken, Skyrim's mechanics invite you to a dull, iron-dagger-laden trudge through one moronically designed UI after another.
I just played the computer version of Michigan's 2013 football season. I DID IT TO MYSELF. AGAIN.]
Obviously changes need to be made, and probably already have for all I know. I posed this idea to some friends this morning and got intrigued responses but it was ultimately dismissed as unrealistic: Michigan should hire Pat Narduzzi as head coach right now.
He's obviously ready for a move, would clearly help Michigan's defense tremendously (and bring in a new OC who could only be an upgrade), and this would really hurt one of our division rivals who is on the verge of becoming a regular contender. I would say this move would be on par with hiring Bo (who, at the time, was an Ohio State guy, even though he was at Miami). Getting Narduzzi now is no different, except skipping the middle step of him coaching elsewhere first. Has anyone suggested this idea yet, and what do you think from the perspective of is it possible as well as is it a good move?
THIS POST IS NOT FUN, SO HERE IS A SMALL CHILD ENJOYING THE BUBBLE HOCKEY TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS [Bill Rapai]
HEARTBREAKER, LOVE TAKER
Is this the most heartbreaking year in the history of Michigan sports?
Along with other painful experiences, we have lost by one play, one shot or one call the following four things of real consequence:
The Big Ten regular season hoops championship
The hoops national championship
Defeating undefeated Ohio State
Defeating #1 Arizona
And hell, let's just throw in the Tigers losing on a grand slam in the 9th inning to let the ALCS slip away.
I'm not sure I can watch this bowl game. I fully expect it to go to five overtimes, whereupon Gibbons shanks a kick, decapitates Hoke and Borges is made head coach.
Oh man. It is bad when I see this list and immediately think not "wow, that's pretty grim" but "don't forget losing the Outback Bowl on the last play of the game." Oh and also "don't forget losing to Notre Dame in the CCHA championship game to break a 22-year tournament streak in hockey." Oh and "Wisconsin." Jesus. If I was a Lions fan…
But I'm not, so let's self high-five on that one. /self high five
My one quibble with your list is that Michigan was probably two or three plays away from beating Louisville. But with your things and my things we can create an Arbitrary Heartbreak Point Amalgam (AHPA) and compare it to previous years. I'm including hockey because I like hockey and you can eat your own face if you don't.
Outback Bowl outcome. 1 point. It's never too much of a heartbreak to lose the Outback Bowl. The way it went down was very frustrating, as Floyd's suspension came back to bite Michigan at the worst time. Did want Denard and Kovacs to go out with wins.
THAT GODDAMNED WISCONSIN GAME. 6 points. Championship not as obviously on the line (and even if they win that game they would still finish one game adrift of Indiana) but seriously, Wisconsin is the vanguard of the bug people.
Losing Big Ten hoops championship on missed Morgan putback. 15 points. This is a lot of points, because Michigan flat-out blew that game and then had it back in the palm of their hand not once but twice with Burke flying down court and then the putback. Winning that game means Michigan gets a banner from the best year of Big Ten basketball in decades. That one still hurts.
Losing tourney streak in hockey. 4 points. That game was always tilted towards Notre Dame and you just wanted them to get in for the streak's sake, but that streak was pretty great. Frustration factor high. Heartbreak factor not so much.
Outcome of national title game. 8 points. Conflicted. Michigan was on borrowed time after the Kansas game, played great, everything was terrific and fun, and just lost. Probably my favorite loss ever. But… so close.
Penn State outcome. 5 points. I was super mad about this, and the game did feature missed 40 and 33 yard field goals to win plus that game-tying drive. Though it meant little in retrospect, at the time it felt like Michigan had just given up a lot of ground in the division title race. Which lol, of course.
Ohio State outcome. 15 points. 11 of 13 feels bad; would be more points but by that point Michigan had outplayed expectations significantly.
Arizona outcome. 1 point. Probably a seed difference in March.
Professional baseball. 0 points, but I feel for anyone who is a fan of both Michigan and Detroit pro sports teams, as on top of all the crap listed above they've had to deal with Joe Dumars passing on Trey Burke for a guy who was so good at basketball that he led Georgia to a .500 SEC record and first round conference tourney exit, baseball happenings described above, and the continued existence of the Detroit Lions. This year the flavor is hilariously heartbreaking instead of hilariously incompetent.
I don't even know what I would do if I truly cared about those teams and Michigan. "Psychotic break" is a prime contender.
I have 55 points. This is offset by things like Michigan's tourney run and the Northwestern game, but I've built a lot of the offset into points given for the Louisville loss and seriously nobody cares about beating Northwestern as part of their overall happiness level, especially in that game.
I am all but certain that this total cannot be matched, as it requires investiture in all three sports and major things on the line. If anything is going to give it a run, though it's…
This is all based on your opinion of how much Football Armageddon was worth. The worst thing in the last 20 years of Michigan football is without question the Crable helmet-to-helmet call, and while there was still a lot of work to do even if that flag is not thrown, losing that game gets ever more heartbreaking in retrospect as it set the stage for Ohio State's dominion of the series and represents the last moment that Michigan could claim its place amongst the college football firmament. Some things fade as time goes on… next year the Arizona outcome probably wouldn't register in a post like this. Football Armageddon just looms ever larger. How many points is that worth? 40? I don't know, entirely, but it's in that ballpark.
As a bonus, that year's basketball team was 16-3 with a win against MSU on February 1st only to lose 7 of their last 9 games, including a 14(!) point loss to a miserable Purdue outfit that would finish 3-13 in the league and a 2-point home loss on the final day of the regular season against Indiana. Even then Michigan probably makes the tournament except for an opening-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota, which finished 5-11 in the Big Ten.
The hockey team was pretty bad that year and got a three-seed in Denver against North Dakota; North Dakota ran them out of the building. Frustration there, but not heartbreak.
Is that worse? I don't think so. Any other candidates are before my time, but if you want to make a case, uh, go ahead. 2005 was called the Year of Infinite Pain around here, but that was pure naiveté.
Kids! Gandalf the Maize's follow-up on which factors seem to be the most predictive of offensive line play compared the r-squareds of 19 things, from o-line experience as a whole, to their recruiting stars, to the left tackle individually, depth, QB talent, how much the team goes long, etc., and found the ONLY factor with relatively high significance is…
Interior. Offensive. Line. Experience!
Let's get a DotW to the wizard, and tell Funk to put some years on his charges, RIGHT NOW.
Part II by dnak438 on Michigan's offensive regression this week went back and added 2011-12 to the study of YPP versus opponents, tracking it by dividing Michigan's yards per play each game versus the average that team gave up. The results are charts that really show the history of Al Borges's various offensive strategies:
It is a media tradition to hammer at flailing coaches with frowny-face serious questions about how hard everything is on the players and coaches and such because they have to put up with this howling pack of fans. And I try not to get exercised about anything that comes out of that, just like I try to roll my eyes and move on at every article about a triumph in the face of The Critics. Coaches arrive at press conferences at one goal: to get out without saying something notable. When they do say something notable, it is a mistake.
"You know, people are fickle," Hoke said. "That's just the way it is. That's the world we live in."
This is of course horseshit. It's horseshit on the level of "we need to run a pro-style offense so we can stop Big Ten offense," i.e., the greatest and grandest horseshit in all the world. Hercules is required to shovel this. The big reveal from the last 20 years of media development is that fans are the only people left who aren't fickle. They can't stop watching, and what's more they can't stop watching live with all those lovely commercials interspersed. Fans submit themselves until they have commercials memorized. Until they are legendary.
In all other areas of television consumption I go out of my way to avoid commercials, going so far as to not watch recent seasons of shows I like until they arrive on Netflix. It will be four years before I see the Patton Oswalt filibuster in context. This is why every time a rights deal expires, networks treat the newly single package of games like it's the last cabbage patch doll on Black Friday.
Meanwhile, the people in charge have decided to test the edges of that fandom with an explosion in ticket prices. Paul Campos:
Here’s the price of a regular admission (not student) University of Michigan football ticket over time.
(All figures are in 2012 dollars, rounded to the nearest dollar. I couldn’t find 1970 and 1980 so I substituted the nearest available year).
This year a seat on the 15 yard line is 129 dollars with the PSL, almost three times as much as it was in 2000 and almost four times as much as it was in 1990, in constant 2012 dollars.
Ryan Field was half Michigan fans, for some reason [Bryan Fuller]
In Michigan's specific case, they have beaten Ohio State once in the last nine years and are two-touchdown home underdogs. They are getting gouged on ticket prices in an unprecedented fashion. The athletic department has made it absolutely clear that it has no loyalty to them with "dynamic pricing" that only goes one way. Up.
There is a breaking point for even the most zealous fan. I'm the guy with the blog that's his career and I'm at mine. The only reason I am going on Saturday is because I would feel shame at not going. Absent the weird moral imperatives of fandom, I would be doing anything else. Like bowling, which I hate.
Everybody in blue in that stadium—and it will still be a majority, probably—is paying for the privilege of having their heart punched. Unlike you, they are not getting three million dollars to watch Michigan shuffle around like a syphilitic pig who thinks everything's a truffle. Collectively they are in fact giving you those three million dollars. Collectively they built the stadium you play in and the opulent locker rooms you dress in.
So take your "fickle" and shove it. Angry, sure. Impatient, sure. Because we are locked into this thing we do every week that we pretty much hate. We do so out of a sense of loyalty that the program goddamn well doesn't reciprocate with its 500 dollar waiting lists and worst access level in the country—the team that is going to stuff you in a locker on Saturday has open practices in front of the entire student section—and scheduling goddamned Appalachian State because the athletic director thinks it's cute. Any reasonable person would look at the recent history of Michigan football and go do anything else. We're here because we're locked in.
You? You've got a buyout.
It is not the fans' fault that this program is awful to be a fan of. It's not Rich Rodriguez's fault. Anyone who sells their ticket for whatever they can get—currently 60 bucks and dropping from 80 yesterday—is only making a logical decision to not get punched in the soul dong on Saturday.
I'll hate them all the same, but half out of envy this time. They are no longer mindless wallets. They don't give a crap if Brady Hoke calls them fickle, and don't write articles on the internet about it. They are logical people.
The reason Michigan Stadium is going to be half-red on Saturday isn't because of "the world we live in" except insofar as it contains a Michigan football team that people at Abu Ghraib wouldn't show prisoners.
I'm not posting that photo to complain. It's symbolic: it didn't work out, but it was still awesome. (Dustin Johnston/UMHoops)
I'm not going to have too much to say today since at the time I'm writing this it's 5AM and at least ten hours tomorrow are slated for the road. I could have ensconced myself in my hotel room and pounded some things out but instead I did two things I'm glad I did.
One was wait around the team hotel until the guys got back and participated in the applause they got. We made the mistake of thinking things were over and only caught the tail end of John Beilein participating in a chorus of The Victors. I just looked at this guy, this chemistry teacher who'd overthrown his defense and offense and coaching staff—his whole self—and made it work without losing his essential Beilein-ness, and internally crumpled.
What can you say or think about him? I can't get a grip on it yet. I do know I was profoundly grateful this guy I would make a slight underdog against a shitzu in a hardness competition was Michigan's head basketball coach. I only wish I could have clapped hard enough to make any one of the players seem less miserable.
The second thing was hang around the roof of our hotel's parking structure drinking until about the time I started writing this. I was surprised to find out it was so late; infinitely more surprised to realize I hadn't even thought about the reflex action of checking my phone for hours. This weekend has provided a link to friends scattered about the US and drawn me closer to them—always an issue with me.
It sucks they lost, of course, but mainly I just think about how goddamn awesome the last three weeks were. Michigan took down VCU, Kansas, Florida, and Syracuse and played one of the all-time classic finals. It didn't work out; I could talk to you about rebounding and refereeing but I mean seriously that's beside the point. So beside the point. Tomorrow or the day after I will take those items on. At the moment, I'm all about whichever side of the brain is all about verbs and unicorns.
This team was awesome and the worst thing about all of this is now it's over, and that was going to happen anyway. We just talked, on the roof, about my world-spanning naiveté when I was a freshman in '97 and thought I should wait for a senior-year Rose Bowl. I 'm old enough now to have few illusions about how common a thing like this is. Boeheim's been to four Final Fours in 37 years. Massive all-encompassing basketball power Louisville last won in 1986. A thing like this does not come along often, and six points short pales in comparison to four people cementing themselves to each other on a cool Atlanta morning.
So I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and have concluded that Michigan's biggest tactical error on Saturday night was not leaving Jerryworld ten minutes into the first quarter and wandering around Dallas until they'd had enough random encounters to go up several levels. Once Michigan had unlocked special abilities like Mystic Separation and acquired the Arm Of Elway, they could have returned to the field and resumed playing on a more even basis.
While this would take about three years and pose several logistical difficulties, there can be no debate this would have been a preferable to the solution Michigan's dunderheaded coaches decided on, viz., not running away at top speed apologizing profusely. By not fleeing to practice their skills on, like, bats and stuff, they ended up losing the game.
Worse, they ended up continuing the game, thus forcing a great many people to watch it. At no point did Al Borges deploy the EMP weapon he must have spent the offseason perfecting in lieu of figuring out what Denard Robinson is good at. So the broadcast continued unabated, except apparently in DC where DirecTV was on the fritz. (Wolverines in our nation's capitol: keep yourselves quarantined. You may be all that's left of us once the PTSD kicks in. You must continue to tell others of our sacrifice.)
As mentioned, a better strategy would have been to exit at top speed while splicing K-Pop videos into the feed.
One of 67,200,113 things that would have been preferable to watching football on Saturday night
But hey, I'm just a guy on the internet. Maybe I haven't thought this through. There are multiple strategies for successfully executing a game like Saturday's.
INVENT A TIME MACHINE. The classic. Go back to the point at which this game was agreed upon and describe to the decision-makers what the consequences will be. Unfortunately, in this case the only part of "nationally televised debacle on par with Chernobyl" that will be heard is "nationally televised," and nothing will change.
DRINK! Not working.
DRINK MORE! Nerft veruking erngerghf.
AFTER IT'S OVER, TELL PEOPLE YOU SUCK AND WILL PUT MORE SUGAR IN YOUR SAUCE. I'm not sure what the analog of putting more sugar in your sauce is but it's probably putting more MAN in your BALL down BY THE RIVER. This move was successfully executed by the guy who replaced the guy who only hears "nationally televised" at his old job and may be replicated here once the guy who only hears "nationally televised" has been safely quarantined in a relatively meaningless BS government job like governor.
Sorry, world, that you think we suck. We're going to try not to suck any more, and look, here's some guy who works for us. Very middle America, this guy. Puts garlic on the uniforms. How cool is that?
GO LIMP. Jesse Williams may believe you are rotten and wander off in search of salmon.
GIVE THE BALL TO A 5'8" SLOW GUY OVER AND OVER. Scratch this one.
The weird thing about doing this and being this age is that you feel stuck. I did not know I was doing this when I started doing it and have felt grateful for my continued obsession it as various other people ranging from 30-50 have reported back on their waning interest in Michigan football, previously their alpha and omega. There's nothing sadder than the thing you used to think is amazing.
What I felt on Saturday was an intense jealousy of Orson/Spencer, who had a child a couple years back and is having another one. We're getting there, but not quite yet due to PhD things. It would have been nice to have a child to look at halfway through the second quarter and know with 100% certainty that what I was looking at was just a game that did not really matter.
I know this, or at least knew it. (I do not know this and never knew it even a tiny bit.) Now that the career is the game it is hard to figure out what's a reasonable response from a human, what's my response, and what's my response augmented by the fact that I've doubled down on fandom. All of it seems out whack, and never more so than on Saturday when a guy I've met a half-dozen times now, mostly at NYC Alumni Club events, was there. He's one of those magical guys who somehow makes a career out of writing stuff for Spin and the NYT Magazine and magazines that start "New York" and may or may not have additional bits in their name. He's been pitching an article about me at these organizations. He was taking notes.
At halftime I bellowed "THAT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT RUNNING DENAAAAARD" at the television. I knew that this was probably not wise with a man taking notes in the room, but only after I did it. There it was anyway. I'd already spent the entire first quarter telling myself not to say anything on twitter until the die had truly been cast.
So, I feel stuck, you know? I'm 33 now, the age when Jim McManus had his Age of Miracles and went to the World Series of Poker to write about it for Harper's, married and not disjointed and blessed by the cosmos. It's a hell of a football game to watch that makes you wish this stuff didn't have such a hold on you, but the first time I looked at the clock and boggled at how much time was left was in the first quarter.
It'll pass, I'm sure. It's just a hell of a football game to do that do you, to leave you blank and unthinking until you laugh in a way that frightens even you.
Bullets we need for this post so you can't use them, find others
The takeaway. DENNIS NORFLEET WOOOOOOOOOOO. He looked fast! And returned some kicks a moderate distance! And got lit up by Dee Hart! And Fred Jackson doesn't think he can play!
Some other stuff that's not about Norfleet for some stupid reason follows.
Obligatory uniform opinion. Highlighter yellow emphatically not getting fixed, so the shoulder things combine with the pants to give off a blinding aura. If that was the goal—maybe Alabama won't even be able to look at us!—okay. I'm guessing it's not. Meanwhile, Alabama just wears their uniforms because they're Alabama. Their brand seems to be surviving.
Blown out. I debated just posting the Hoke presser and saying "Hoke's voice is all you need to know about this game."
Obligatory Borges stuff. Guh. The best thing you can say is that once you're down 31-0 you might as well get out of there without getting anyone hurt. When the opponents are saying stuff like this…
“I thought with the running back being out, I thought (Robinson) would’ve got more touches, because he’s a playmaker, he’s a good athlete, good player,” said Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson. “And I don’t know, it was a shock.”
…you totally outsmarted them. And yourself. Mostly yourself. Any hopes you may be harboring that this will all work itself out and Denard's legs will be the primary engine of the offense are looking pretty sickly at the moment. At least we've been here before, and Borges has retreated to plot anew. Usually he comes back with "hey, this guy can run."
The only rationale I can think of that makes any sense is that Borges believed flat-out that Michigan could not run at all and wanted an offense predicated on that. I don't know how much I buy that given Alabama replacing a number of starters and football coaches' general self-belief, but the numbers are clear. From Bill Connolly:
In 2011, Michigan ran the ball 74 percent of the time on standard downs (national average: 60 percent), 40 percent on passing downs (national average: 33 percent). Despite pro-style intentions, the Wolverines catered to Denard Robinson's strengths for the most part and kept things run-heavy, especially when Toussaint caught fire late in the year.
Against Alabama on Saturday, though, the gameplan was quite different. In the first quarter, Michigan ran just five times on 11 standard downs (45 percent) and just once in six passing downs (17 percent). These are Air Raid percentages.
If Robinson has 30 carries against Air Force I'll again descend into the Walter White laugh. (Spoilers, obviously.)
Would have been nice to see what Robinson could have become in an offense that catered to—or even bothered to use—his primary skill. (Everything else would have been terrible, of course.)
Yeah, yeah, Robinson had reads and could have kept the ball blah blah. Planning to get Robinson carries when Alabama's defense decides not to put a guy on him on the read option is not a winning strategy.
Gardner WR stuff. Gardner probably took more snaps at WR than anyone else and looked like a 6'4" version of Darryl Stonum from 2008. He consistently looked over the wrong shoulder on deep stuff and his routes were crap. But he scored a touchdown and could have had a couple more long gainers if he wasn't going up against yet another Alabama cornerback from hell. Gardner didn't get an opportunity to catch that opening slant thanks to that Milliner kid and had a few more potential long completions broken up by the Alabama secondary. Milliner raked one out; a few others never got there.
Roundtree. The first interception was debatably interference as Milliner shoved Roundtree to the ground on his route. Penalty or not, that sequence should make Roundtree's shortcomings as an outside receiver clear. He is not big enough, strong enough, or athletic enough to compete with standout corners. His assets are about as wasted as Denard's, though at least in Roundtree's case it's clear he's on the outside because of a lack of other options.
The ground game. Hard to get a grasp on anything, obviously. Michigan was overwhelmed; Toussaint would not have done much better. Aside from one Vincent Smith run that Alabama lost contain on, Michigan got jack on the ground. I can ask questions all day: why was Rawls going east-west? Why was misdirection hardly attempted? Did Michigan come into the game with more than one running play?
It doesn't really matter.
Bubble screens. They existed, and they got eight yards each, and they were Michigan's best plays that weren't chucking it deep. Gallon looked very good on both; there's no reason not to keep going to it when the defense is giving it to you.
In case of Lewan emergency. Move Schofield to left tackle (where he was pwned on his first play), Omameh to right tackle, and bring in Burzynski at right guard. In case of Lewan emergency, we are dead dead dead dead dead dead.
Defense. Ask again later. I stopped paying close enough attention to tell you anything interesting after the first quarter.
The Countess injury is of course a major blow; with Talbott out the door earlier their CB depth has gone from excellent to shaky before game two. Webb says($) expect Raymon Taylor to pick up the slack. The line was always going to get pounded. Somewhat disconcerting to see a lot of James Ross out there unless Michigan had also just packed it in and was screwing around with getting some experience.
Freshmen. Maize and Blue News has a comprehensive recap. Other than Ross (and NORFLEET) the most prominent freshman contributor was Jarrod Wilson, who stepped in as the free safety in the nickel package as Michigan moved Thomas Gordon down to nickel. Pipkins looked like he got some push on a few plays, too.
We did not see much from Chesson and Darboh, but if Roundtree keeps playing like he is that won't last.
Your winner for dumbest burned redshirt: Royce Jenkins-Stone.
Well, at least this isn't particularly unusual. Various recent Alabama scores:
2011 Citrus Bowl: Alabama 49, MSU 7
2011 Arkansas: 38-14
2011 Florida: 38-10
2011 Tennessee: 37-6
2011 Auburn: 42-14
National title game: 21-0 over LSU, LSU never crosses midfield.
Other than Georgia Southern, no team has put up more than 14 points on Michigan since Cam Newton's Auburn outfit.
Morgan had 8 tackles, but they were all assisted tackles, which epitomizes the game. In all of the one-on-one matchups, we lost. Bama was just more “-er” than us, bigger, stronger, faster, tougher. I avoided watching Bama last season because I hate that “ESS EEE SEE” crap, but there’s no denying how good they are.
I turned off the TV after Bellamy's first career pass attempt/interception and made my way quietly upstairs to bed. The rest of the family (wife, 5yo son, 1yo daughter) had long since decided that a good night's sleep was a better option than watching Michigan get smeared across the turf in Texas. I didn't feel any bitter emotions really, mostly concern for the collective knees of Taylor Lewan, Blake Countess, and Brandon Moore. I guess the Rich Rod years knocked all of the conceited sense of entitlement out of me for real.
Hinton is gloriously reborn and his article is mostly about Alabama, because obviously. The bit on Denard:
That said, Denard Robinson did not look like a quarterback on the verge of turning the corner as a passer. On one level, it's hard to judge a guy who's being consistently hit and hurried by a defense as relentless as Alabama's, which seems to have an answer for everything on almost every play. But Robinson was well below the Mendoza line tonight in terms of completion percentage (11 of 26), and his two interceptions in the first half were about as ugly – and as costly – as they come.
The first he simply put up for grabs, recklessly lobbing a jump ball in the direction of a receiver who had already been shoved off of his feet and out of bounds by Tide corner Dee Milliner, who found himself all alone to gather in the pick; Eddie Lacy scored three plays, extending 'Bama's lead to 21-0. On the second, Robinson stepped up in the pocket and drilled the ball directly into the chest of linebacker C.J. Mosley, who jogged in for an icing score that pushed the lead to 31-0. In both cases, Robinson had no idea what he was seeing when he put the ball in the air, and seemed more interested in getting rid of it under pressure for the sake of getting rid of, whatever the cost on the other end. Michigan fans have seen that before; all indications tonight are that they'll be seeing it again.
In the second quarter, with Michigan trailing 24-0 and backed up inside their 10-yard line, Kirk Herbstreit was talking about Michigan's non-existant running game. The camera panned up to Al Borges in the coordinator's booth. After relaying the upcoming 3rd down play, Borges shook his head in disbelief and rubbed his face. It was the unmistakeable look of someone who had run out of answers, like working your way through a maze and finding only brick walls.
Al Borges deserves some blame, but not much. Michigan wasn't going to be able to run the ball in this game. I predicted that Michigan would rush for fewer than 100 yards; the final tally was 69, despite having one of the most electrifying players in the country at quarterback. Yes, Denard Robinson probably could have run the ball more, especially before he got dinged up. Would it have made much of a difference? Probably not. Where Robinson really could have made a difference was in the passing game. He had lots of open receivers early in the game, but he's just as erratic as ever in the passing game. He kept throwing deep (inaccurately), and completed just 11/26 passes. The offensive line did a decent job of pass blocking, but if Michigan has to rely on Robinson to win the game with his arm, they're going to struggle.
Erratic, maybe, but I saw a lot of accurate-enough passes that would have been complete if not for Dee Milliner and other members of the Alabama secondary.