Thursday, December 6, 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

blogpoll - week 14

Caveats / explanations…I’m approaching this from the attitude of “this team would beat this team, this weekend, at a neutral site.”  That may not agree with brian’s m.o., but I’m not official anyway.  right now, today, West Virginia is the scariest team out there, and I think they’d beat anyone you could name.  Same with Missouri – their resume at this point is very impressive.  As to putting Georgia above Ohio State – OSU is a terrific team, but they just don’t scare me.  Georgia does, on some level.


Wish I could put Michigan at 25th, but no.


1.  West Virginia

2.  Missouri

3.  Georgia

4.  Ohio State

5.  Usc

6.  Oklahoma

7.  Lsu

8.  Kansas

9.  Va Tech

10.  Illinois

11.  Florida

12.  Boston College

13.  Tennessee

14.  Clemson

15.  Hawaii

16.  Arizona State

17.  Wisconsin

18.  Auburn

19.  Virginia

20.  Cincinnati

21.  Texas Tech

22.  Texas

23.  Byu

24.  Arkansas

25.  Oregon

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sound and Music

Listening to NPR Science Friday this morning, and there was an interview with Oliver Sacks on his new book, “Musicophilia.”

I’ve heard many interviews with him, and I’ve always, always, always been fascinated.  He has an innate ability to take the most arcane, specialized subject – in this case, music’s effect on the brain – and discuss it in relatable ways.  I immediately put the cd version of his book on hold at the library, and I can’t wait to get it.

Then I was listening to Radio Lab, a program that I absolutely LOVE.  They’ll take some subject – sleep, or the placebo effect, or space – and riff on it in unusual, unexpected ways.  This one was a sort of ‘making of’ episode, recorded at an Apple Store (mmm!  Apple Store!), where they talked about some of the ways they work.  And this line absolutely jumped out of the headphones:

“Sound is like touch…from a distance.”

Interesting that both of these subjects / discussions dance around the concept of “Sound Therapy,” which (half-sentence explanation alert!) is the idea of using sound and music to treat various forms of mental illness.  It’s something Camilla and I have talked about briefly as a path for Whitaker…

Really strange and surprising – suddenly it’s been tapping at the edges of my consciousness.  Sorta like AA did.  Weird.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blogpoll, Week 12.

The usual “not an official part of the blog poll” rejoinders apply.


  1. Oregon – I’m convinced.  I had discounted the win over Michigan, since I thought my guys quit…oh, around about the middle of the third quarter.  And I still think they did – but as the Ducks keep winning and winning, and not by flukes or emotion, I become more and more converted.  This is just a REALLY good team, about one brain freeze away from being undefeated.  I hate them, starting with the Nike influence and going all the way down through the uniforms and the loudmouthed coach and the billion-dollar locker room, but man, are they good.
  2. Oklahoma – I have to say that I have some reservations about this team, but they just keep killing people.  The reservations come from the Colorado loss – they were up 17 in the third quarter, so it has that flukey look about it, but the final stats say a lot more.  Colorado dominated that game in all facets, and national champions don’t usually get drilled like that, scoreboard and late-game heroics notwithstanding.  Still, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State figure to be wins before the Big 12 title game against Kansas / Missouri, and I like their chances that day.  And by the way – here’s yet another reason the superconferences suck – balanced schedules are dead.  Oklahoma hasn’t played Nebraska or Kansas and instead might have to beat Missouri again to get in the title game.  Stupid.
  3. Kansas – still not convinced of this one, either.  Their schedule is right out of the Bill Snyder playbook, for one thing.  And it’s Kansas.
  4. LSU – Should be above Kansas, but…well, their coach is a loony, prone to giving games away as often as he “wins” them.
  5. West Virginia – I’m never completely convinced by the Big East teams (see South Florida), but they just keep beating people, and Pat White is as able as anyone to win a game on his own.  Get them in the title game, and he could pull it off himself.
  6. Missouri – the Illinois win is looking better and better…really not challenged outside of that game and the Oklahoma loss.  At K-State and at Kansas to finish the season.
  7. Georgia – as EDSBS says, the evil Mark Richt is coaching Georgia this season.  Two bad losses, but they’ve pounded good Florida and Auburn teams lately.  Possibly too high.
  8. Arizona State – The escape vs. a lousy Washington State team bugs me, and needed a late td to pull within 19 against Oregon, and haven’t really beaten anyone, either.
  9. Ohio State – I can’t help it.
  10. USC – ditto.


No more comments…

  1. Virginia Tech
  2. Florida
  3. Boston College
  4. Illinois
  5. Texas
  6. Clemson
  7. Virginia
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Cincinnati
  10. Michigan
  11. Kentucky
  12. Tennessee
  13. Boise State
  14. Connecticut
  15. Penn State

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blogpoll, Week 11

  1. Ohio State
  2. Oregon
  3. LSU
  4. Oklahoma
  5. West Virginia
  6. Kansas
  7. Missouri
  8. Arizona State
  9. Georgia
  10. USC
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. Michigan
  13. Boston College
  14. Connecticut
  15. Florida
  16. Texas
  17. Auburn
  18. Alabama
  19. Clemson
  20. Virginia
  21. Kentucky
  22. Hawaii
  23. Cal
  24. Boise State
  25. Florida State


Some impressions of the basketball game vs. Ferris here:


Anything jump out at you?  Yeah, the words “system” and “offense.”  Say all the nice things you want about Amaker – good man, good guy, helped change perception of the program from renegade to clean, etc. – but if you can describe his system in ten words, I’ll give you a ‘maize rage’ t-shirt.  It’s a little ragged, and it probably won’t fit the “talent,” but it’s squeaky clean.  This year might not be the year, but look out - the angel of death is coming, and it’s gonna RAIN threes on you and bug the heck out of you on the wing.


Dang, that was fun to write.


On to football.  I missed almost all of the first three quarters (long story), but mgoblog is dead on – Chad Henne may not be the best quarterback we’ve ever had, but man…he was totally on fumes, playing at about 50% strength, and he just said to the team, “climb on my back guys, or get the hell out of the way.  We’re still going to win this one.”  Name another guy we’ve had like that.  Braylon in the 2004 State game, maybe – but maybe Henne should get a little more credit for that one, too.  Okay, Biakabutuka in the 313-yarder against Ohio State.  Wheatley in the Rose Bowl (scratch that – he sat out the fourth with leg cramps).  Woodson in…uh…the entire 1997 season. 


Anyway.  I knew we were going to miss him on the field (Mallett hasn’t convinced me, yet), but we’re REALLY going to miss his guts.  It’s really a shame he isn’t a captain.  He deserved it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blogpoll, Week 8

Just for fun.


Top Tier – one of these teams will be in the BCS title game:

1.         Ohio State – still on cruise control.  Shut down a good Michigan State offense and got just enough offense on their own.

2.         USC – I had doubts about Booty, but more about Sanchez.  Beating the crap out of Notre Dame is not that impressive, but they move ahead of…

3.         LSU – The most tenuous of the elite three, not for lack of talent but because their coach has balls where his brains should be, and a giveaway wouldn’t be entirely surprising.


Second Tier – and one of these.

4.         Boston College – idle, have been beating lousy teams regularly.  Next up, Virginia Tech, in perhaps their only big game of the season.  I moved them up a spot, but no higher…

5.         Oklahoma – I said last week that the Colorado loss was looking like a fluke.  I can’t say that after the Iowa State escape.

6.         Oregon – I’m still not entirely convinced that they won’t implode.  USC and Arizona State are coming up, so we’ll know soon.

7.         Florida – This is probably nuts, but…Tim Tebow just doesn’t impress me.  He strikes me as Daunte Culpepper without the decision-making skills.  And Urban, for all his offensive rep – what’s the game plan here?  Tebow left, Tebow center, Tebow right, bubble screen, end around to Percy Harvin, bomb to Percy Harvin.  Am I missing anything?


The rest is just wild-assed guesswork...

8.         Arizona State – I have to say, I’m just not getting it.  I mean, yeah, they’re undefeated, which has to count for something, but they’re yet to beat anyone, other than a 4-4 Colorado team (albeit convincingly).  Until they beat someone, I ain’t signin’ that petition.

9.         Virginia Tech

10.        West Virginia

11.        Kentucky

12.        South Florida

13.        Missouri

14.        Kansas – yeah, undefeated, but until they beat someone…have I said that before?

15.        Michigan – homer.

16.        California

17.        Texas

18.        Georgia

19.        Alabama

20.        Auburn

21.        South Carolina

22.        Virginia

23.        Rutgers

24.        UConn

25.        Hawaii




Saturday, October 13, 2007


Again, not an official blogpoll ballot...

Holy crap, another silly day.

Instead of trying to do the usual "who is the best undefeated team" dance, this is more of a "who is the best team" thing.  Had Cal won tonight - would anyone honestly, truly think that they were the best team in the country.  No way.  Herewith:

1.  Ohio State - Yeah, undefeated, so I'm abandoning my rule pretty early.  But they seem to be as good as anyone else, AND they've come out of their early-season funk when they had trouble scoring.  Currently a buzzsaw.
2.  LSU - Still like them a lot, still highly talented.  They're going to be around at the end.
3.  USC - Some leaks, yeah, especially if Booty is out.  But as likely as anyone to get on a huge, huge run.
4.  Oklahoma - The Colorado loss is looking more and more like nothing more than a bad day.

Those are pretty easy, really - after those four, you've got a group of flawed / unproven teams.

5.  Boston College - not QUITE ready to sign that petition, but they've beaten a couple of good teams.  This week's trip to Va Tech will tell a lot.
6.  Oregon - a brain-lock away from being undefeated heading into USC.
7.  Cal - ditto.
8.  South Florida - this would be West Virginia, but...well, the Bulls beat 'em.  I think West Virginia is actually better, and would have a much better chance to beat a good team, but results are results.
9.  West Virginia - see above.
10.  Florida - another really, really good team, but again, results don't lie.  That said, there's only a couple teams that scare me more.  Could be #5, could be #15.  This seems right.
11.  Kentucky - again, a flawed team (starting with their coach), but some serious big wins.  You could beat them by 20, or vice versa.
12.  South Carolina - I don't know.  Yeah, they beat Kentucky and an OK Georgia team, but LSU handled them.  I can't help but think they're doing it with smoke and mirrors, but they've got a coach that can pull that off.  Interesting sched to go, too, with Tennessee, Florida and Clemson remaining.  They could go 3-0 or 0-3.
13.  Virginia Tech - another 'dunno' team.  They're 6-1, but the loss was an absolute pounding at the hands of LSU. could invert the rest of these guys top to bottom and I probably wouldn't argue with you.

14.  Kansas - probably premature, as they're yet to beat anyone really good, but they're beating the crap out of people, and the defense is on its second season of being great.  Until they prove otherwise.
15.  Virginia - also still lacking a signature win, but winning games.
16.  Missouri - Lost to Oklahoma, but hung in and played tough.  The Illinois win looks less impressive than it did a few hours ago, and hammered Nebraska a couple weeks ago.  A big time offense and good defense.  Texas Tech looms.
17.  Michigan - yeah, homer pick.  Bite me.
18.  Arizona State - it's still halftime, and they're losing.  Ty Willingham still has plenty of time to gag it.
19.  Auburn - boy, that 9-7 win over Arkansas must have been a real humdinger.  That southern speed, you know.  A loss to South Florida (a loss that looks a lot better than it did at the time) and a close one to much-improved Misssissippi State, or they'd be much more highly regarded.  I wouldn't want them.
20.  Hawaii - I still don't think they're, you know, good.
21.  Cincinnati - a nice defense, an innovative coach, and a mushy Big East - all the ingredients of a superficially impressive record.
22.  Texas Tech - a dynamite offense, as always, but they held a really good Texas A&M offense (that was 24th in the country) to 7 points this week.  I'm willing to see more.
23.  Penn State - one of the worst QBs in the country, but a terrific rush defense.
24.  Alabama - whatever
25.  Michigan State - ditto.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The "All-Michigan-Man" Team.

Since it’s a bye week (ha!), a friend of mine and I decided to name our All-Michigan-Man team, consisting of guys that fit the description of “Michigan Man,” whatever the heck that means.  My first step was to try (and fail) to define what a Michigan Man is.  My list:

  • Since Bo arrived.
  • Guys that maybe weren’t expected to be stars but turned out great – David Harris might be in, Woodson might not.
  • Guys who played stayed for their full eligibility are preferred.  But that’s not a yes / no thing – Woodson left early, but you could hardly blame him.
  • If there’s a picture of the player with a smashed, scratched, gouged helmet, or bloody limbs, that’s a plus.
  • Getting in trouble doesn’t necessarily keep you out, as long as you later distinguish yourself as a good guy (yes, i’m looking at you, Brian Griese)
  • We still want a good team, so we start with the great players and ask if they fit the profile, rather than starting with the premed guys who never saw the field.

Someone like Chuck Winters might actually make it – for as much as I despised him on the field, he was a good guy of some reputation who had come from a truly horrific background and stayed around for four years without getting in trouble.  That’s something to be proud of, I think, whether he COST US THE COLORADO GAME OR NOT! 


Your results may vary.  But without further ado:



A long list of possibilities:

  • Harbaugh is dead to me.  DEAD!
  • Todd Collins was a good player, and carried his teams on some level (the stretch with Jason Carr – yes, that “Carr” - playing for an injured Collins was brutal) but his longterm impact has been minimal.
  • Drew Henson…sigh…what could have been.
  • Tom Brady has had as much impact on the program as anyone simply by being a spectacular pro (nobody every talked about us being a Quarterback U for the NFL until that happened), and seems to always be proud of his pedigree.  But he wasn’t…oh, how should I say this?...he wasn’t all that highly regarded while he was here.  A terrific player, yes, and was clearly the best QB we had while he started, but my memory is that we couldn’t wait to get him out of here and move on to the next guy.
  • Chad Henne could be the guy, too, but he’s yet to truly be “the guy.”  Part of that is who has been around him – Braylon, Mike Hart, even Jason Avant and Stevie Breaston have been the go-to guys.  He just doesn’t have the aura about him.
  • Elvis Grbac.  Nope, even though he WAS the guy for a couple years there.
  • Brian Griese won a national championship and was a standup guy once he got his head screwed on straight.  He learned his lessons and stuck it out, plus he was a walk-on.  That’s gotta count for something, but he’s not quite to the top level.

Which leaves us with…

  • Rick Leach.  Now HERE’S a guy with an aura.  The face of the program while he was here, he’s still talked about with a reverence that few others get.  The game has changed and these days we judge QBs on touchdown passes and yardage, so it’s hard to remember how good he was and how important to the program, but he was the guy.
  • Dennis Franklin.  See Leach, Rick, although he was a notch below him in production and in impact beyond Ann Arbor.  Still, he was “the guy,” as well.

And my total wildcard, Michael Taylor.  Yeah, there’s some “pick an obscure guy” attitude at work here, but…well, he just seems like a good fit to me.  Franklin and Leach probably would have been stars anywhere, but Taylor always seemed to be succeeding on the basis of guts and smarts.  That, to me, is what we’re talking about here.  So he’s my guy.



Mike Hart is clearly in the rotation – a great, great player and a credit to the program.  Small and not a burner, he’s transformed from a jitterbug high school megastar into a tough, get-every-last-inch piledriver who blocks as well as anyone I’ve ever seen, catches passes, leads by example AND by fiery disposition, and demands 110% from every player on the field.  An obvious choice.

And Rob Lytle, if only for this picture:


Also Jamie Morris (see Hart, Mike) and Tshimunga Biakubutuka, for the Ohio State game.  Still get shivers on that one.



Life awaits, more to come.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who's Next?

I was golfing with some friends – all Michigan State grads – last night, and talk inevitably turned to the subject of the next coach.


Before taking one step further, some caveats / presumptions.  Lloyd Carr, whatever his faults, has been a credit to the program.  A fine man, a wonderful recruiter, and one who has the complete loyalty of his players.  He has been a placeholder, on some level.  Brought in under inauspicious circumstances, he was quite literally only meant to keep the seat warm for the next guy.  But he did a good enough job as interim coach that he was a logical choice for the permanent job, and the rest, as they say, is history.


13 years later here we are, at the 1/3 point of what is presumed to be his last season at the helm.  It’s been interesting to watch the tide change over the last month – two weeks ago, coming off horrific home losses to Appalachian State and Oregon, it was assumed that Carr would not get to choose his successor.  But big wins over a putrid Notre Dame team and a vastly overrated Penn State team have apparently changed the public tenor.  Now, the assumption is that we’ll be 8-2 going into Madison, with the only nervey game being Purdue.  If that happens, and we win one of the last two, we’ll be 9-3 and playing on New Year’s Day.  Not the terrible season we appeared to be staring at two weeks ago, but not the rousing send-off, either.  In that case, is he gone?  More to the point – does he get to pick the next guy?


As to the first, my guess is yes.  I don’t think he’ll want to start from scratch on offense next season.  The departure of Long, Henne, and Hart (and Manningham, at a guess) will be a fairly large turning point in the program, and would seem to imply the end of one era and the start of another.


As to the second.  I think…not.  The assumption of the fandom is that Lloyd would choose Mike Debord to succeed him.  I don’t know that that’s the case – yeah, he brought him back as Offensive Coordinator, and I think he envisioned Debord taking over after his departure, a la Bo to Moeller.  Moeller had spent his years in the wilderness of Champaign, failed miserably, and was ready to take over in Ann Arbor.  That he succeeded (largely) is more testament to Bo’s legacy than to Moeller’s ability.  Carr undoubtedly believed that Debord’s failure in Mount Pleasant would prepare him to be the next head coach, and I think that remained Carr’s plan going into this season.


But the two bad opening losses this year changed that.  The offense’s ineptitude against Oregon – and more importantly its complete lack of fire – probably crossed Debord off the list forever.  Hiring him at this point would be greeted by near-universal disgust from the fanbase, including the big donors that are paying for stadium renovations.  It would be an admission that the athletic department is, at this point, not only out of ideas and lacking in any innovation but is actually AGAINST innovation.


So.  If we take it as a given that this is the last year of the Lloyd Carr era, and that Bill Martin will go outside the program, what are we looking for?  For my part:

  • A proven recruiter is absolutely critical.  You can get away with being solely an x-and-o’s guy in basketball, but you just can’t in football, at least at the highest level.
  • Someone absolutely, 100%, no-questions-asked, SQUEAKY clean.  Their name and the word “boosters” should never EVER apppear in the same sentence.  Ever.
  • Someone who will never, ever get asked if he’s interested in the Cowboys job.  It should be completely obvious that they’re not going anywhere.  Jobhoppers need not apply.  Say what you will about Tressel (and I do), but there’s no danger of him ever going anywhere else.  Can you say that about…oh, I don’t know…Brian Kelly?  Mark Dantonio?  Cam Cameron?  Nope.
  • Not necessarily an innovator – again, Jim Tressel doesn’t innovate.  He recruits and he wins, over and over.  The innovators don’t have a long shelf life – this hire is for twenty years, not five.
  • And not necessarily a “name” with a “proven track record.”  Some of the best hires are not big names when they get hired – Stoops had a rep as a DC, but he wasn’t exactly a household name.  Pete Carroll’s last chance was at USC.  Heck, most people had zero idea who Tressel was.  Or Bo, for that matter.


So, that’s the starting point.  Stay tuned for more…


Thursday, September 13, 2007


Have any?  No, not really.


I’ve been thinking about the fickle nature of sports fandom and analysis a lot the past couple of days.


It’s a cliché to say that sports fans are a “what have you done for me lately” group.  A cliché that has a grain of truth at its core…and that’s part of what’s happening here, obviously.  Ron English was considered a Weis-esque genius for 11 games last year, and was even given a pass in the Ohio State and USC games – in the Ohio State game, a couple of busted long runs came off as a bit flukey, and that was a an offense with multiple future NFL players and a Heisman Trophy quarterback.  The USC game was (in my opinion) lost by the offense – no, we couldn’t stop them in the second half.  No, we didn’t adjust very well to their changed game plan after halftime.  But the conservatism seemed to be much more damaging on the offensive side of the ball – and postgame analysis mostly focused on that.  Why didn’t we open it up, like USC did?


Well, the bloom is clearly off the rose.  Giving up over 1000 yards and 70 points in two games will do that to you.  The worst part is that the schemes that have shredded us the last two (four) games have been vaguely similar – spread the field and throw it around, run in the gaps.  We can all see that in the stands – can’t he?  Why can’t we adjust our approach?


Which brings me to my second point.  The traits that are positives when you’re winning – in Lloyd’s case, steadiness and restraint and confidence – look like weaknesses when you’re losing.  Steadiness becomes stodginess.  Restraint becomes rigidity.  Confidence becomes arrogance.  Those supposed weaknesses seem


If we win two of the last four – Ohio State and Appalachian State, let’s say, for the two most winnable games – I doubt we’re even having this conversation.  One more stop in each game, and Lloyd isn’t reading about Les Miles, and Ron English is still considered an up-and-coming defensive star.  Two missed tackles.  A made block by Crable on a field goal and wrapped arms on Beanie Wells (or whichever borderline illiterate busted us up the middle).  So close.


Which isn’t to say that I think we should be undefeated, or that we should have been national champs, or…whatever.  Just that the sky isn’t falling.  We may win this week, we may not (holy hell, I hope we do, and I hope the ND bus rams into a bridge abutment on the way back to Indiana with the gigantic body of their head coach / gasbag cushioning everyone else from major injury).  But we’ll be back, and we’ll be okay.  There’s too much talent (and yes, good coaching) here for that not to happen.  I still think we’ll be pretty good.


Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24.  Good god, please make it so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blogpoll, Week 3

No, I'm not official...

1. USC
2. LSU
3. Oklahoma
4. Cal
5. Florida
6. West Virginia
7. Penn State
8. Texas
9. Wisconsin
10. Ohio State
11. Louisville
12. Nebraska
13. Oregon
14. Boston College
15. UCLA
16. Rutgers
17. Georgia Tech
18. Tennessee
19. Arkansas
20. Texas A&M
21. Clemson
22. Virginia Tech
23. Hawaii
24. South Carolina
25. Washington

Some notes:
• At this point, I consider USC #1 and LSU #1A. I want Les Miles to fall short, though, so LSU won’t completely freak out to keep him.
• Oregon looked real, real good, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll crumble against a mentally tough team. Their run defense is still problematic, but the offense is impressive. Caveats galore re: opposition to this point.
• Washington has been good, but it’s still Ty Willingham. He could still “lead” them to 6-6 as easily as 10-2.
• I remain skeptical on all the Big East teams…I still have the sneaking suspicion that the Louisville / West Virginia / Rutgers trio is all smoke, mirrors, and happy unicorns. They all remind me of BYU of the mid-80s – good at first glance, but really an unknown quantity. Case in point - West Virginia’s struggles vs. Marshall (on the road, yes, and not for the entire game, but still).
• Wisconsin and Ohio State are probably both too high based on my Big Ten bias. Their next struggle against mediocre competition will knock them down significantly. Until then, though, I’ll base this on my own preseason expectations of goodness.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

You have GOT to be kidding me.

Jesus, but that was ugly. I don't think I've ever seen us look that bad. Seriously. I actually left the room and spent most of the second half putting up my kids' bunk beds. Which helped - a lot. Reminded me that life is good. Really!

I have never been That Guy, the guy that creams Lloyd after every loss, that says that Lloyd has to go, blah blah blah. I hate those guys...they're so unhappy - even when we win. It just ain't me. I'm a positive guy, an optimist. Always.

But...Lord, did we look like shit. We weren't ready to play, even after a week as a laughingstock. Ron English, after a season as the savior du jour, looks 100% completely overwhelmed and unable to adjust. We played better defense in the second half, just as we did last week. So what? Shawn Crable is terrible against the run and unable to keep contain on the pass rush. Terance Taylor is a force but slower than hell. The safeties - my Lord, how did Jamar Adams EVER get on the Thorpe list? Morgan Trent has actually played pretty well. Donovan Warren, too, but he's so raw. I don't think I've heard Tim Jamison's name once this season.

Offensively - Ron Debord appears to have...oh, about eight plays in his playbook. TE waggle, deep out, seam route, zone run, zone run with fullback, WR screen. Am i missing anything? Chad Henne is slow-footed, unaware in the pocket and has been terribly inaccurate. I hope he's not injured, but he hasn't progressed much since his freshman year. Brandon Minor will be good, but he's not ready. Mario still shows bursts of productivity, but he appeared to take long stretches off today. He quit on Mallett's interception - not when he failed to catch it (it happens), but he didn't make any effort to make the tackle. Carson Butler was a nice spark today - what happened after the first quarter?

And Lloyd...look, I love Lloyd, I really do. He's been a credit to the program, and there's not anyone I'd rather have. Not Stoops, Meyer, Carroll, nobody. He's been a perfect fit, he really has.

But it's time. This is a team that has lost at least one game unnecessarily a season for the last decade. A team that has performed under expectations for a long, long time, and I just can't pretend I don't see it anymore. Lloyd Carr is overly conservative, arrogant, and - above all and most importantly - hidebound. He is fundamentally unable to change approach or direction unless as a last resort. He moved away from Jim Herrmann long after it was clear that a change absolutely needed to be made. He will never - EVER - change his offensive approach, despite having had as much offensive talent as anyone over the last decade. His attitude - "this worked before, it will always work" - is the mark of someone who simply isn't interested in innovation. Hell, screw innovation - how about adjustment?

He can't do it, and he won't ever. Love you Lloyd, but it's time to go. This program will never, ever, ever return to true excellence until he's gone and the direction changes.

I'll still be the biggest fan you can find. I'll still wear my stuff, I'll still watch every game, I'll still shout to the heavens when we win. Hell, my new block 'M' license plate came in the mail today, and I can't wait to put it on my car...I don't know where I'm going with this. All I know is that it hurts, and I want it to stop.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Review - "Mindless Eating"

The idea of 'mindless eating' (and, indeed, its subtitle) is simple - why do we eat more than we think? A phrase which can be read two ways - that we eat more than we realize, or that we actually engage in eating more than we engage in thinking. Both of which are true, of course, particularly in my case. And not to put too fine a point on it, but it's true for this entire fat country of ours.

And it's a powerful read, on some level. We talk ourself into eating way, way, WAY more than we realize, in about a thousand different ways. Some of the examples and strategies are surprising and interesting, but after a while, it becomes..."yeah, I get it. I eat too much and don't realize why that's the case or even when I’m doing it." So it starts well but tails off. Put it this way - I was happy that the footnotes were a) substantial and b) in the back of the book.

But, to hit some high points:

  • The 'mindless margin" is a key phrase. It’s that place where we feel fine, and are full, but tell ourselves that we could eat more.
  • We simply don't know the difference between 1900 calories and 2100 calories, and that's the place where weight is gained (or lost, for that matter). 3500 calories is a pound, and it doesn't matter whether those calories are consumed in one day or over a year. 10 calories a day - a stick of gum or three jelly beans - will gain you a pound.
  • On that note, making a change can be easily measured. Give up a Coke - 140 calories - a day, and you lose 14 pounds a year. That works in both directions - walking a mile is 100 calories. It takes a mile and a half to burn off a coke, and it's easier to give that up than walk for 22 minutes.
  • Great strategy - 20 percent less. Dish out 20 percent less - You probably won't miss it. And dish out 20 percent MORE veggies and fruit.
  • Most of us decide how much to eat before we open our mouth...we see it, dish it, and eat until it's gone. I TOTALLY do that. Smaller servings disappoint me when i see them, but i usually find out that they're enough. Last night was a perfect example – I was at Camilla’s house, and she made some pork chops, rice, and cantaloupe. The pork was…oh, I don’t know, four ounces? A little smaller than the palm of my hand, I guess – and it was enough. More than enough, really. I was full and satisfied.
  • The power of three - what THREE 100-calorie changes can i make that would be easiest for me to turn into positive mindfulness? Create a checklist - name them, write them down, and check them off on the days I do them. It’s much like my morning / evening list. Once is a fluke, twice is a tendency, three times is a habit.

Overall, lots of good information if a little scattered in its approach and repetitive. Three stars (out of five).

Next up – “The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake,” by Steve Amick. Ostensibly for a book group discussion this Sunday that I won’t be able to attend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Oy, Gevalt

Okay, there’s not much to say…but I’ll try anyway.  I categorically refuse to say “we lost because xyz,” because this was clearly a team loss.  Everyone (save Mike Hart) did something that helped us lose.  So.  Bullets:

  • First of all, that’s a really good football team.  They played smart, relatively mistake-free football, saw our weaknesses and capitalized on them.
  • And more importantly, they’ve been pointing at this game for eight months.  We, on the other hand, have been pointing at Oregon and Notre Dame for eight months.  I would guess that even this past week was spent preparing for those guys and that App State only got a cursory focus.  You can say that’s the fault of Lloyd Carr, or Mike Debord, and I won’t necessarily disagree any more than to say overlooking them was a completely, 100% natural thing to do – I’m not a player (obviously), but I didn’t think this was necessarily worth worrying about, either.  And if this was a problem of preparation, I guarantee you we prepared for this one the same way that Ohio State prepared for Youngstown State, or that Penn State prepared for whatever cupcake they had. 
  • I guess you could say that it’s an example of Michigan arrogance – we decided if we had to schedule a cupcake, we couldn’t quite go all the way – we still had to schedule a GOOD cupcake.  On second thought, never mind that one…I don’t even know what the hell that means.
  • Henne…oh, Chad.  He still can’t throw on the move, even when it’s a designed rollout.  He really only threw one good deep ball all day.  He had too much gas on the short balls, and he threw into coverage too often.  He did throw some breathtaking midlevel balls – released just before the receiver broke out of his pattern, hit them right in the numbers.  When he’s throwing in rhythm, he’s really, really, REALLY good.
  • And seriously – Mike fucking Massey?  You’ve got the best group of wideouts in the country – why the hell did Mike Massey get thrown to eight times?  Look – I like Mike Massey, I really do, and I thought his brother got way, way too much blame for a placid defense when he was here.  But you’re down and you need to make plays.  Mike Massey isn’t the guy to make them for you.
  • Is there anything Mike Hart can’t do?  I saw a stat – when he was in, we outscored them 26-6.  When he was out, they outscored us 28-6.   I still think Brandon Minor will be a good player – but man, are we going to miss Mike Hart.
  • Ron English looked a lot more genius-ey with Branch / Woodley / Harris / Hall, didn’t he?  Here’s a question – we were getting shredded, just running around aimlessly out there – did we substitute defensively at all?  Donovan Warren played a bit, and I think Ferrara came in even after Taylor came back from his injury, and Ezeh and Thompson alternated a bit, but I think that was it.  Brandon Graham didn’t make a play all day, but Patterson and Banks never got on the field…Patterson is really egregious – we burned his redshirt last season, and he’s not ready to play yet?  W.T.F.?  In any case – you’re defending a team that’s running all over the place – you desperately need fresh legs out there.  Let’s see what these guys can do.
  • I think there were only two freshmen who burned redshirts on special teams – Woolfolk and Vince Hellmuth – both of whom can be expected to get meaningful snaps as the season goes on.  Hellmuth may have played some fullback, but I’m not sure.
  • Placekicking – I know everyone’s going to be freaking out about how we missed two critical field goals and we need a new kicker, but I’m willing to wait and see on that.  I didn’t catch how the first got blocked, but the second was all on Crable.  He blocked outside when he had someone inside, and the one he let through smothered it.
  • Lastly – I was there (Camilla’s son is a trombone in the marching band), and I’m convinced – we have the worst, most fair-weather fans in the world.  If we ever slip to 5-7, 7-5 level, that stadium will be half empty…the constant carping, complaining, screaming about how Lloyd is the worst coach in the world and that we should go undefeated with this talent, and how we should get the baseball team out on the field because they’d probably be better than these guys, blah blah blah…I honestly can’t stand being around most of us.


As to what this means for the rest of the season – Call me a Pollyanna, but I still think we’ll win the Big Ten.  This was such an oddity, such an outlier…App State ran an extremely unconventional offense, even more so than Oregon and Purdue…teams won’t run on us, and I think our pass rush will be very good.  We won’t face anyone like them for a long, long time.


And as to what this means to Lloyd Carr – again, sometimes I’m ashamed to be a michigan fan.  If this was to be his last season (pointless internet speculation alert!), our “fans” are going to make it a completely miserable experience for him no matter what happens the rest of the way.  Yes, this one falls squarely in the “games we lost but shouldn’t have” category, along with a couple Notre Dames, an Oregon, a bowl game or two, a Northwestern, a couple Ohio States, etc.  But the man has earned a better swan song than this – whether you think this was his fault or not.


Oregon’s up next.  I like our chances.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Season Preview, part 3 - The Defense and Special Teams

Holy crap, it's been a week already! Sheesh, what kind of "blogger" am I? Not much of one, apparently, but then again I already knew that. I shower, I hold a real job, I have children and semi-regular nookie...that puts me in the top 1%. Ha! I kid because I love.

Anyway, the defense.

Defensive Line:

Yes, we lost some fabulous players. Alan Branch did his best Warren Sapp impersonation, tying up two or three linemen per play and disrupting entire offenses. Lamarr Woodley finally fulfilled his promise, rattling / dismembering quarterbacks constantly and giving a soft secondary blessedly little time to have to cover. They will be missed. A LOT.

But this is not a dire situation, at least up front. Terrance Taylor gave every indication that he will be as good as Branch - he's not as tall, but he's SPECTACULARLY strong, quick-footed and uses his hands very well. And come on - he's still over 300 pounds. He's not the Ticonderoga-class tackle in vogue in the NFL, but he's a tremendous talent. Another potential All-American. The other tackle is Will Johnson, who has drawn copious praise from the coaching staff and was on the field for some key plays last season, but has had little in the way of highlights. A solid player, but not a star.

At end, however, Tim Jamison IS a star-in-the-making. When healthy (the big bugaboo), he's big, strong, fast, and has a nice knack for getting to the quarterback. Pencil him in as All-Big Ten. Brandon Graham is presumably in the same mold - very highly regarded coming in, he used his redshirt season (aaargh, redshirt burned, aaargh) in spot duty but showed flashes. He's still raw, but (again) immensely talented - figure flashes of brilliance alternated with out-of-position aaargh-ness early in the season but competence later.

Depth is a serious concern - at tackle, there's Marques Slocum, finally in the fold after solving academic issues...he was as OMG Shirtless as anyone coming in but hasn't played in a while. He's a total wildcard - could be a huge star or a huge bust. There are also a couple of midlevel backups and Renaldo Sagesse, an Alain Kashama type. At end, there's huge recruit Adam Patterson (aaarg, redshirt burned, aaargh) and Greg Banks, who has improved enough to merit the Wolverine's "don't forget about this guy, although we probably will" feature in this season's glossy preview issue. Ryan VanBergen will be very good, but probably not yet.

Bottom line - there's a lot of frontline talent, but a major injury to a starter could be disastrous. Or not - backup talent is very good, but it's generally unproven.


A mixed bag.

Crable is fun to watch, yes, and it's been a pleasure to watch him a) mature and b) prove Lemming wrong (Lemming, you may recall, called Crable vastly overrated, or something to that effect). He's an incredible specimen, capable of making eye-popping plays when he's allowed to freelance. Ah, but there's the rub. When accompanied by David Harris / Alan Branch et al, his run-game responsibilities were limited, and his sheer athleticism helped him make lots of 'wow' plays rushing the passer. Other than that...well, he was good but not great. Perhaps he'll respond to his additional workload this year and become a more complete player. A terrific player, and critical to this season, but he's not capable of putting the defense on his back, a la Woodley / Branch / Hall / Harris.

On the other side, Chris Graham is...well, less solid. He was utterly outmanned when thrust into duty in 2005, and didn't seem to see the field much last season. This is the scariest spot on the field for this team (kicker excluded), and the backups don't offer much hope. Not yet, anyway - Jonas Mouton switched here from safety and may eventually be good, but significant playing / starting time would be more of an indication of Graham's ineptitude than Mouton's good play.

In the middle, I'm less worried than most - part of that is the presence of Obi Ezeh, a hometown favorite of mine. Ezeh was a dominating player at Grand Rapids Catholic, and only lousy coaching kept him from winning state championships and getting more publicity on the east side of the state. I described him the exact same way as I described David Harris (also a Grand Rapids product) coming out of high school - "that guy is just a Football Player." Perhaps I'm reading too much into the similarities with Harris (who after all was a great, great player but not immediately) - Grand Rapids kid, not a huge recruit, tough, strong, a man among boys in high school - but I don't think so. He's going to be a STAR.

And he's not necessarily the starter - John Thompson is a Detoit version of Harris. A middling recruit, tougher than hell, a huge hitter, not a great pass defender. Thompson is apparently the leader, but expect Ezeh to see the field a lot early. Austin Panter is the third man in the mix, a JUCO stud who got rave reviews early but has not stayed with the frontrunners. Again, if he's playing it will be because of injuries or failures by both Thompson and Ezeh unless he makes a huge leap, and soon.

In sum - put me down for very confident in the middle, confident but guarded at rush linebacker, and terrified at the weakside.


Ah, yes, the secondary. The usual source of pain. The reason we're never comfortable with a 14-point lead. The...Chuck Winters! Todd Howard! aaaack!

First of all, I'm a homer. I'm always (ALWAYS!) optimistic and probably over-confident. But...well, I'm worried about a couple things this year, and the secondary is one of them, but I'm not terrified. Does that make me a pollyanna? Probably.

At the safeties: Jamar Adams is fine, a good but not great player who doesn't kill us. I have no idea how he got on the Thorpe watch list (I guess it must be a down year for DB's), as he's simply not an elite player, but he's not usually out of position, makes plays in pass coverage and is a sure tackler. I don't brag about him as I would about, say, Sean Taylor, but I don't see the back of his jersey in my nightmares, either (Chuck Winters! Aaaack!)

At the other spot, Stevie Brown has apparently won the job over Charles Stewart. I seem to recall Brown being brutal in the Ball State game last season, but he's gotten great props from the coaching staff thus far and should be a HUGE improvement over functional DNP Ryan Mundy, who took his terrible angles, poor tackling, and 'oh my god is he OPEN's to West Virginia (see you, Ryan! good luck!). He was a five-star recruit, ostensibly lightning fast and a big hitter. Stewart is perfectly suited to the dime back role - a converted cornerback with some experience.

At the corners...

Wait...deep breaths...

At the be honest, I'm not as worried as some people are (how many times have I said that here?). But let's be honest here - Morgan Trent struggled at times last year, especially against OSU and USC. I think there are reasons for this. First, and most obviously, he's still learning the position after converting from wide receiver. Secondly, the presence of Leon Hall on the other side necessarily forced teams to go his way. This is something of a specious, chicken / egg argument (I mean come on - USC picked on him because they COULD, not because they had to), but if you were an offensive coordinator, where would you throw? I'm thinking toward Trent and away from Leon Hall. Duh. When teams were serious about it, they hurt us.

But - and this is just a combination of gut feeling and wishful thinking - I think the guy is ready to make the leap. He's big, he's fast, he hits, he's smart, and has a knack for being around the ball. He's never going to make the NFL - he's just too mechanical and lacks any real ability to break on the ball - but I think he'll be much better this season.

At the other corner, Johnny Sears - he of the helpless waving during the Ball State game - will start, but expect to see Donovan Warren starting by midseason. Warren was an uber-recruit, supposedly the most polished corner in the country, and has apparently lived up to the hype in camp. The comparisons to Woodson / Jackson / Hall are obvious, but perhaps overly done - Woodson was an immediate star, yes, but Jackson and Hall were merely serviceable as freshman - they turned out to be great, but they could have just as easily become Marion Body. I overstate...I think Warren is a future All-American, but to expect him to make a huge impact right out of camp is probably expecting too much. Late in the year, perhaps, but maybe not before then. When that happens, Sears may become the perfect nickel. For his part, Sears will probably be okay until Warren takes over - he was also a highly-regarded recruit and another year of experience will probably help a lot. He wasn't ready last season, however.


Zoltan has given every indication that he's the real deal and is the one special team spot with no worries whatsoever. He appears to be fairly consistent and is capable of the occasional 70-yarder.


Yikes. Bryan Wright supposedly has a strong leg, but extra points and field goals might be scary. Who the hell knows?


Lloyd has talked of "dependable" and "consistent" being his greatest desire here, which is a huge comedown from the Steve Breaston years of "explosive" and "exciting." This will probably be the biggest dropoff from 2006 - early talk of Greg Matthews taking over brought back memories of...yes, Chuck Winters (and Charles Woodson - who despite the big return vs. Ohio State was simply not very productive as a returner), but Johnny Sears has apparently won the punt return job and Brandon Minor the kick return job. Both are very fast but unproven - I expect middle-of-the-pack production, which will probably be okay with this offense.


Not as good as 2006, but not as bad as 2005 or 2000, either. There's a lot (a LOT) of talent here, but much of it's young and often unproven. The difference between those seasons and this one will be the presence of Ron English, who in 2006 showed a willingness to release the hounds and not handcuff his players. Expect some mistakes, but also expect some big plays and nearly-constant improvement throughout the season - it would be as surprise if we slipped to the lower half of the Big Ten