Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Michigan 32 Nebraska 29

It was not pretty.  All those people in red, the governor, and you can just imagine the full week of angst.  Whether they are good or bad, Michigan brings primetime coverage and a living, breathing example of the hurdle to climb in order to be recognized.  For those with a sense of entitlement rooted in the past and a different college football world, it is the game of the season.

For Nebraska, Michigan, and even Rutgers, you belong.  You have a good football team.  You are back, if you have to put it that way.

The taunting penalty and a few lucky breaks for Michigan are all part of it.  They go both ways and are always a whinny excuse.  Michigan won.

Areas of strength:  running back, kicking, safety.

Weaknesses:  receivers, cornerback, possibly linebacker.

Middle of the Road with Upside:  defensive line, offensive line, quarterback.

That is the status at the mid-season mark.  Undefeated but some real holes that will not change a lot this year.  It is tempting to revel in the success, but it is possible Michigan will end the season losing three of its last five.  Different this year?  Bowls have generally gone poorly.

MVP:  Hassan Haskins.  I just looked again, what is his draft status?  Wins over Aiden Hutchinson only because there is depth on the d-line.  Also, he is picked only to stress everything he does and how important he is.  Admittedly, the defensive line would not be the saime without Hutchinson.

Best Kicking Combo:  Jake Moody and Brad Robbins.

Rookie of the Half-Year:  David Ojabo.

Worst Injury/Lost Player:  Ronnie Bell.

The biggest disappointment so far this year has been the receiving corps.  It is no surprise in that it did not look good on paper going in and things are worse-off now.  Bell has had shining moments in his career but he has not had a lot of catches and he is not really a go-to guy.  But that is Michigan's offense--runs and boring stuff until the time and formations are right.  If I see this everyone else does too, and this year Bell played as if he is a go-to receiver and punt returner.  (Recently Cornelius Johnson has acted like a #1 receiver but that has not been the case on the field.)  Anyway, this was Bell's year and it did not work out that way.

 Roman Wilson had a breakout game against Wisconsin, and again, the door is open for stars to shine.  Daylen Baldwin is getting a quick education but he still has drops and misreads.  Mike Sainristil:  one great catch, but he is more of a cheerleader.  AJ Henning cannot seem to run a route and Cristian Dixon appears to fall into that category too.  Recruiting (some help is coming; 24/7 is unfriendly to adblockers) at wide receiver is not a strength given Michigan's awful use of the position.  That is it, there is nothing else there.  The tight ends are modest threats too.

Folks have said it is great that Michigan is a top-10 team again and that is wrong because, just like all the other teams and schools, Michigan is not entitled to it.  What is surprising and a treat too is that Jim Harbaugh has finally woken-up, no pun intended.  Something changed or someone got to him.  He is the beneficiary of two excellent running backs, but still.

In marketing they call it positioning, and Michigan has that.  We can finally see Harbaugh's vision, and everyone is onboard with it, of the RPO (run pas option).  It is an improvement over, but still it is completely complementary to, traditional smash-mouth football.  And the big plays come from that.

The defense too is better--not an improvement over the best of the best, but steadier and just fine so far.  More players are doing more and a few in particular are, well, having a season worth coming back for.



Friday, October 8, 2021

Nebraska

I am really looking forward to this game.  See the post below.

Adrian Martinez has improved since this one; he is bigger, stronger, and he throws with more confidence in the pocket.  There is a chance he will thrive and an equal chance he will be intercepted, fumble, or get injured.  I don't think one player can do it all against the Michigan defense.

Still, he reminds me of Deondre Francois and Scott Frost is Jimbo Fisher, who would send him out there if he was still breathing.  There are times when dual-threat quarterbacks do not look so threatening too.

It was an inglorious and humiliating departure from Florida State for Francois, and all he did for them was get battered game after game until he could barely stand.  It reminded me of the injury Jake Butt sustained in the bowl game against FSU,  The situations are, of course, not the same.

On offense, Michigan will score.  Everyone says the Nebraska offense is good so give them a few too.  The scene in Lincoln will be perfect, and even better that they are two teams not favored to win the conference.  It counts for sure, but it is more about showing sustained improvement, and preparing for a championship game.  If Michigan can do it in Madison, they can do it there.

Some people are predicting Nebraska will win.  A Top 10 team against a 3-3 team that lost to Illinois?  I don't see it.

Michigan 38 Nebraska 24.


Monday, October 4, 2021

Stunning: Michigan 38 Wisconsin 17

Michigan's thrashing of Wisconsin is every bit as impressive as demolishing Northern Illinois.  It was the best Michigan coaching job since Jedd Fisch and Jake Rudock.  Probably good players is more important than good coaching.  Everyone played with a jump in their step.

 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Michigan 20 Rutgers 13

Take Wisconsin and the negative points.

Cade McNamara to Mike Sainristil and Erick All is a fool's game.

Josh Ross alone cannot save the defense. 


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Rutgers and also NIU

 I still hate Jim Harbaugh, but I hated Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan too.

It was written that Michigan pulverized Northern Illinois, and that is correct.  When you show up to play a football game, you cannot look worse.  Western Michigan has the rowing experience (PJ Fleck) and Rocky Lombardi, who looked like an all-American against Michigan, transferred after starting at Michigan State.  They are not Little League programs.

Washington, representing Seattle and the entire Northwest, is no slouch either even though they have problems.  The game was an exercise in statement-making and stubbornness, but it was a thorough victory as well.

Michigan is the #1 rushing team in the country.  It has worked against all three and for everyone else on the schedule it is no secret what the first priority is. The question remains concerning what will happen when another team stops it.  Penn State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin probably will stop the Michigan running game.  Worse, one of the two workhorse running may be injured.  They are both excellent, with Corum in particular standing-out due to his big play success.  Wow, who would have thunk it.  Anyway, Indiana, Maryland, and Michigan State may have something to say about the running attack too.  Nebraska looked solid if not pretty good against Oklahoma.

A key to the untested-but-better-than-expected defense is the line--Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith in particular.  Smith has not looked fat and along with Hinton he has played and the line as a whole has held up.  Hutchinson of course helps and the rest are capable if not promising.

Speaking of which, Mike Morris, learn it early and repeat it often, fans are fickle and some will quickly find something else to do if the losses pile up.  For those who are a little more attached, it is a little more complex.  It has been a long albeit recent history of trying to prove that Michigan football is bigger and stronger and usually it has not worked.  The knock against Harbaugh not winning championships or big games is highly correlated:  the better teams will stop you.

Corum, with 407 yards (8.5 per carry) in three games is, right now, a difference-maker.  The strategy is to do it until they stop you.  Number two option?  Hassan Haskins.  That is the offense and we have no idea what will happen against really good teams on the road.  We do know what will happen when Michigan falls behind because Harbaugh is an interminable hardhead.  When that happens they will keep running into a concrete wall and the whole team will look bad.  

By the time Michigan played Rutgers last year Joe Milton had already fizzled-out.  Cade McNamara too has been errorless this year.  He was the reason Michigan scored 48 points to win in his coming out party last year.  Keep going to him too.  With Michigan at home, Rutgers this year probably will provide more of the same kind of experience.

 Can the rushing game hold up?


Friday, September 10, 2021

Washington - Before and After

Before

This is not an effort to fire Jim Harbaugh.

My prediction is that Washington will win.  Washington's first game was tougher than Michigan's.  Their defense was stout, their offense bad, and they had three interceptions.  Now they have serious wide receiver problems.

Michigan plays Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Northwestern in crossover games.  The Nebraska game stacks up as the must-watch game of the season.  I am confident Michigan will win that one and I want to see it.  The rest of them, including NIU, I don't know.

This one looks like a Jim Harbaugh classic in terms of face time.  Look for a lot of dull runs, timeouts, and commercials.  Heaven forbid Kirk Herbstreit narrates.

Maybe Washington's problems create a primetime win.  Ronnie Bell did appear to make major strides in his career as a football player--after all, he is rather new at it--and he will be sorely missed.  It is just that, in the past, he has disappeared for entire games.  At the same time, he makes spectacular, game-winning plays.  Slowly, he has put together Michigan stats with a high yards per catch average.

Washington has strong linebackers and what I suspect is a upper-division Big Ten defense.  Harbaugh is so happy with the tandem of running backs that he has pledged to add Donovan Edwards to it.  

How bad is Washington's offense?  Pac 12 flair may be the difference in the game.  Michigan's offense comes from an occasional call from space, the booth, or wherever that creates a big play.  I don't see Harbaugh calling it, or winning it.

During and After the Game

I hate Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan's best team under Harbaugh was his first.  Reeling from the decay under Brady Hoke, the team was talented and very eager.  The coach was able to snag Jake Ruddock and he was Michigan's best quarterback since Denard Robinson.

Since then the program has been an enigma.  All the coaches have come and gone except Harbaugh and his son.  We don't see him at basketball games with the eldest Harbaugh anymore.  John is still in Baltimore exerting his influence too.  The biggest question has been, what is wrong with him?

Now, finally, we have a more complete picture.  I'm going to do it my way and middle-of-the-pack is just fine.  The hell with the students, fans, alumni, and the once-proud history:  It is all about me.

Now we know.  No wonder top recruits don't want to play for Michigan.  While not unusual these days, it explains the transfers out.  It reveals and casts a pall on the constant hiring, firing, explanations, and lies.  No one agrees with Jim Harbaugh. 

The only thing that is constant is he is in power and he alone controls the purse-strings.  It is the absolute worst of college sports because it doesn't represent the whole.  I wish he would just leave because that alone will be proof-positive that the University of Michigan and the football team can get along just fine without him.  Just please, make it a finite time block.  Seven, eight, nine years...  It has to end sometime.

It is all about Jim Harbaugh.  And now, because they beat Washington, he will insist he is right.  Maybe he is even a God.  I feel really badly for all those maize-wearing fans scrunching in and paying for it too.  

I can hardly wait to watch the games against Northern Illinois, Rutgers, and Maryland...  What a waste.

When a win isn't a win at all.



Sunday, September 5, 2021

Michigan 47 Western Michigan 14

Who the heck is Alex.Drain?  I checked Mgoblog for a game preview and it is sad.  Given that they don't do any actual reporting like on-site interviews, it takes maybe an hour.

Evidence.

With due respect to Western Michigan, a team with an around .500 or better recent record in the MAC, they are not Penn State, Wisconsin, or anywhere near Ohio State.  The game was typically Harbaugh conservative, with a lot of shuffling, particularly on the defensive line.

Dull sums it up for me.  Cade McNamara leads the charge.  He made a few throws, just to keep them honest, but he was there mostly to hand it off or make passes that are really pitches or laterals.  He is not a runner, or mobile, and he is only a modest drop-back threat.  McCarthy made one play but on the ones before that he looked lost (or someone else there to hand it off), and almost had the ball taken right out of his hand.  Third string?  Ouch.

Hassan Haskins is as expected--tough--and Blake Corum is productive but at this point not endearing to this writer.  Ronnie Bell is or was the leading receiver on a leading receiver-less team.  I do not see who this team is going to go to, or how the ball will get there, when they are behind.  They will be behind.  The offensive line is heavy and experienced--seemingly a strong spot on the team--but they looked average.  The entire attack is not explosive enough.

Brad Robbins should pick it up but this was not his best game.

New coaches...  Why is that, doesn't the head coach know what is going on?  Mike Macdonald had to have a look and the defensive line was a turnstyle.  Two players I didn't notice were Speight and Welschof.  Hutchinson is of course excellent.  Mazi Smith looks fat and slow.  It is great to see them have a chance to play and see what they can do, but...  I don't think any of them will stop the three previously-mentioned Big Ten teams nor some others.

As for the rest of the defense, Gray looked a little more composed and filled-out; Green had one go right over his head into a receiver's hands.  There was shuffling among the linebackers too.  They are unspectacular if not unimpressive.

Michigan had the familiar game of wasted offensive plays running straight into nothing.  (There was one end around, until garbage time.)  It is not going to work against better teams.  Variety and space means one end around (duplicated again later).  It is a new offense and boy wonder Josh Gattis just hasn't had an opportunity to implement it!

I don't recall seeing young, up and coming, reason to be optimistic about the future players.  Edwards and McCarthy played.

Blake Corum does not come off as the most likeable guy; after some nice plays, team members were not the priority.  There was a lot of me-congratulating on both sides.  Yes, David Ojabo (starting at nose tackle), running up to a tackled opponent 30 yards away to yell in his face is taunting.  Sad to see Ronnie Bell, a complementary offensive player injured.  I did not enjoy learning McCarthy already transferred once, to IMG football academy.  Sky, the receiver for Western Michigan, looked as surprised and forlorn as Ronnie Bell when he was injured.  Your football career may be over; it could be the best thing that ever happened to you.  From now on you get NIL.

Football Season Begins

Jim Harbaugh>Finebaum.

Never finished.  I was anxious to see the team.


Thursday, August 12, 2021

#3 (Football)

The 2021 season will start in 3 weeks.  The schedule is OK, this year, for an also-ran.

It is rare:  Michigan is not in the top 25.  They are just like Indiana (of old) or Purdue or Northwestern and the other middling Big Ten teams.  Maybe they will have a really good season of 8-4, including easy, home, out of conference games.

You cannot blame the players.  The ones who have stuck around are the only reason the team capable at all.  They're young, they are getting an education, and they habituated into believing they are career professional athletes.

The only news is fluff or and the same coming from assistants.  

The recruiting trail is cold.

Anything is possible, but I just don't see how Jess Speight, Julies Welschoff, Mazi Smith, or even Chris Hinton rising above average.  Behind them, save for "linebacker" Aidan Hutchinson, is even more suspect, and behind them is the same porous secondary as last year.

Gawd, I am sick of hearing a bunch of new assistants are going to save the day.

Jim Harbaugh is non-existent.  Remember the storyline, is this his last year?


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

#2

Distraction, distraction, distraction.

Does Stephen A. Smith really make $12 million?  Anyone who calls it a career or, worse yet, devotes their life to it is going to run out of things to say.  And a blowhard like that never has anything to say.

So let's get to it:  recruiting, recruiting, recruiting.  Used to be that news about the 5-stars was exciting but now we are relegated to who is wearing what gloves.  The star from Grosse Pointe South has remained solid and is becoming a leader, so that is good news.

Recruiting has been excellent the last few years under Harbaugh--generally hanging around the Top 10, a star or two, and a solid group of 4-stars.  I usually count top three hundred recruits and serious and NFL potential, and if they stick around a program like Michigan for four or more years in most cases they are pretty good.  Some, and if you look back they (e.g., Peppers, DPJ) are usually promising recruits if not top fifty.

Attrition has been average.  It is older than a cliche:  usually they are buried on the depth chart.

It is anyone's guess why it hasn't worked out better.  We are getting to the point where even undrafted free agent will be unattainable.

The other day I happened to see that Mike Sainristil and JJ McCarthy were ranked around 25th as most important players going into the season.  Sainristil has a total of 15 receptions in two years and has probably dropped the same number.  McCarthy has never played and no one has even seen him practice.

Brandon Brown, that pundit of Michigan forecasting who somehow arranged a gig with Sports Illustrated announced recently that Michigan is 'not supposed to be very good' this year.  

Who the hell knows?  They're doing it in reverse.  New coaches and a hoard of new players.  All these returning players but none stand out.  The 4-stars didn't work, let's try 3-stars...  Wow, that new coach from Kentucky can really recruit.  It takes "potential" to a new level and meaning.

As I look at the roster there are three players with experience and who stand out.  They are Aiden Hutchinson, Hassan Haskins, and Daxton Hill.

Oh, something else I read recently is that Jim Harbaugh is on the hot seat.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Harbaugh 2021 #1

Note:  The author does not intend to suggest that Jim Harbaugh is #1.

I have written this before and I will probably write it again:  sports are a distraction from the real world.  I think that is why I have a problem with bloggers with a compunction to perform a web search and write things even they don't want to read.  Same goes for people who call themselves writers too.  Write something if you have something to write.

Victors Weekend or Weekendpalooza or some such thing happened to kick off the post-Covid football year.  Snoozefest is an understatement.  Having a relative in the Detroit area--the definition of a hot prospect--is scraping the bottom.

Who knows--I'll take a stab--knows what the current team holds, but the future doesn't look rosy either.  Perhaps I'll get into it in future editions--Harbaugh took a paycut and a lot is riding on this year.  He says he will show it and I don't like what I see.

I feel compelled to recognize that coaching changes have been such a disaster in the past at Michigan, and many other places too, that it is unlikely Harbaugh is going anywhere.  That will make for a long season.  The point is, fans or just followers expecting more than a .500 Big Ten team better get used to it.  He is moderately capable, runs a clean program, and the alternatives are about the same.

By position group, the current team does not look promising.  While there are reports of barracks full of returning players, the offseason was a minus if not an embarrassment.  There is the guy who transferred in only to transfer out and the 350-pound career transfer student.  Overall, the talent in vs. the talent out from all sources is a loss.

The problem with Harbaugh?  It is undefined or undiagnosed.  The annual downturn in play on the field is exceed only by the coaching turnstyle.  One of the came and then left immediately, or never showed-up in the first place, I can't even remember.  I do know that there is a defensive coordinator with no experience ever in the role or as a college coach.  The offensive coordinator--he is not a household name where I live--has shown nothing; the dink and drop attack, otherwise known as athletes in space, is a myth.  

Harbaugh, the leader survives, with a grin on his face.


Monday, May 3, 2021

the team

 

DeVante Jones didn't have the quote machine working properly during his second recruiting, but he is an outstanding pick-up.  I don't see him going pro--a year or two with a step up in competition, exposure, and coaching will be very good for him.  He looks like a high character, grad transfer person.  The highlights are impressive; shooting, ball-handling, and passing.

The film clips for Jones look a lot like the high school clips of the incoming freshman.  There is a lot of standing around watching guys score.  You can't always predict...  And it always takes time.

It is hard to see how Juwan Howard can hold it together:  six highly-recruited freshman, a Covid returnee, and a transfer.  It is a new way of doing things, and at the same time it is a return to the rumors, rankings, and optimism surrounding a championship-caliber team. 

That means roster speculation.  For instance, Zeb Jackson has a lot of potential and as his game grows he will have opportunities behind Brooks and Jones.  But what happens to Frankie Collins?

Caleb Houstan looks awesome as a scoring forward.  Brandon Johns will have a chance to expand his game as the 4.  And Hunter Dickinson is back.

Freshman shouldn't be counted on to start or lead.  It is a perfect setting for them to do it as it comes...  

But how long will anyone stay on the roster?  You cannot predict it.  Instead they are just problems and opportunities.  Simply reload.

Franz Wagner?  Saying nothing is a classy move.  Classes end soon.  Rumor is he is a conscientious student.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Devante Jones

https://247sports.cohttps://247sports.com/Article/Basketball-recruiting-Texas-Michigan-Memphis-Baylor-Devante-Jones-164444647/m/Article/Basketball-recruiting-Texas-Michigan-Memphis-Baylor-Devante-Jones-164444647/

Not what I want to see.  Some day I'll pick apart the statements.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Basketball Roster 2/2

For posterity.

I didn't think Chaundee Brown would come back.  I don't a thing about his classwork and I probably couldn't find out much if I tried, but he doesn't seem like a masters degree kind of guy right now.  He is correct in that he has had enough amateur basketball training.  At Michigan he showed that he is outstanding at learning and fulfilling a role--a defensive stopper, energetic 6th man, and 3-point shooter.  He is a talented basketball player, although not a superstar shot creator, assist man, or speedster; he is motivated and concentrates.  Brown would have been an asset for Michigan next year, but it is time to move on.

Ditto Mike Smith--I didn't think he'd be back--but for only slightly different reasons.  He already has a degree from Columbia and about half of a masters from Michigan; he has been very capable as a student, the door is always open for more, and it is enough for now.  He wants to be a pro basketball player for a few years and he knows he will be a life of short contracts and hanging-on.  No one is going to change that ambition.  Like Brown, he has achieved or come close to maximizing the college game along with an element of diversity.  At Michigan he was an excellent point guard and steadying influence.

According to the news, Austin Davis was glad and seemingly surprised to be offered a 5th year.  He represented Michigan well--always prepared and trying.  He got absolutely everything he could out of an amateur basketball career.  Particularly without Colin Castleton, Michigan had to have a back-up center, he was a known person, and it was a smart decision by Howard.  Michigan will need to replace him; out with the old and in with the new is the way it works.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Basketball Roster, Part 1

Sports is a diversion and I am in the mood for a little of that.  I just got done searching for a picture of the Brooklyn Center police chief that was probably on Daily Mail.  If so, it is bound to be there again today and also every day for the next week.  The picture was one from a day or two ago where he looked sleep-deprived and really worried.


 

I solved the glow plug situation on the big Mercedes with another and better mobile mechanic.  It is nice to have options.  More to the point personally, it is great to be healthy and nice to have money in the bank, a booming stock market, and a government handing out more.

Back to the task at hand.  Everyone is scrambling with the free year.  It is more on top of more in terms of the ubiquitous portal and the self-expression involved in every 18, 20, or 23 year-old getting what they want.  Don't attend any no cellphones allowed parties or "meetings" because there are going to be rumors and scandals up the ying-yang; you may want to record them.

There will be expansion and profiteering too, as that defunct, sarcastic and funny, anti-communist Michigan sports blog would have described it.  Opportunities will come to life or be shot down.  Most likely, the rich will get richer.

Aside from late-night jitters against UCLA, Michigan played with such aplomb during the one tournament that counts that they will get attention if he calls.  In the much, much bigger picture Juwan is a hot coach and a ticket to the NBA is what they all want.  Michigan football, by comparison, is in danger of flat-out losing it, but in basketball, Ann Arbor is on the map.  Howard, if successful, is attempting to carve out a niche in NBA/college coaching that has never really been done before.  That may be a stretch and or wishful thinking, but compared to Spokane or Lawrence...

(Sorry, Patrick Ewing and Georgetown looked awful.  Look at John Beilein and his coaching search...  Can you see him at a small college just enjoying coaching?  I can't.  Being in Ann Arbor and on BTN is apparently just fine.  BTW, he wanted the NBA too.)

A look back says that Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown were lucky transfer hits.  A lot of the names Michigan didn't get looked ordinary.  

Currently, Juwan Howard's family outweighs roster sense but last year there was room.  Once the toothpaste--scholarship--is out of the tube it is hard to put back in.  Again, a wrath of recruiting no-shows caused it and both the planning and the solutions looked awful.  Adrien Nunez is number two.  I have never seen an upperclass player so incapable of playing in a real game ever.  He did not do it the whole season.

OK, this isn't about counting.  It is about having choices.