Welcome friends, to another edition of the Potluck. For our new friends, free from the authoritarian shackles of ESPN's comment section and "The Steve" (who I gather is basically Hermann Goering, if Goering worked for a social media company), the Potluck is where I throw out 4 questions to our staff of writers and they answer them. During our off-season previews, those questions focus on the team of the week (this week, it's Michigan). During the season, the Potlucks are focused on whatever four topics pique my interest that week. Traditionally, the first 3 questions are actually about football, while the last question is normally a bit more fun.
Oh, and did I mention the recipes? Yeah, every question includes a link to a recipe (the first is an appetizer, the second is a potato/rice/side dish, the third is a entree/hot dish, and the fourth is dessert). No one has ever actually made a 4-course meal out of the Potluck recipes, but if you do, I encourage you to send us pictures of your spread (and/or invite us over for dinner). I solemnly swear that the first person that cooks all 4 Potluck recipes for a single meal will get a front page column on any topic of their choosing on OTE.
You may have noticed that we did not have a Potluck for Penn State. That was not due to some arbitrary OTE sanction against the Nittany Lions....it's all my fault. I got busy at work, and by the time I had any spare time to post the PSU Potluck it was Friday, and I didn't want the Potluck to interfere with the Hate. (Particularly since it was written by someone from Pitt.....I mean, they're in the ACC. We pity them.) So, expect to see the PSU Potluck sometime this weekend.
Now, on to the Potluck, where we discuss the merits of Devin Gardner as QB, whether new recruits/players can help the Michigan offense, whether Michigan would have been better off keeping RichRod (while adding Greg Mattison), and match 1980s movie characters with the B1G schools/teams they represent.
Your Heisman front-runner....for the month of September.
1. Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese: Out with September Heisman winner Denard Robinson, in with Devin Gardner. Michigan fans are clearly hoping that Gardner provides a steadier hand and more accurate arm at QB -- certainly, he appears to be a better fit for Al Borges' pro-style offense, as he's a more accurate passer with a stronger arm. But is that really the case? His 59.5% completion rate was somewhat padded by huge games against Minnesota (234 yards on 66.7% passing) and Iowa (314 yards on 78.3% passing); against decent/good/great defenses he wasn't nearly as good (55.2% against Northwestern, 55% against OSU, 50% against South Carolina). Can Gardner be accurate enough at QB? Won't Michigan's offense lose something without the running threat of Denard Robinson to keep opposing defenses honest? How much does the Michigan offense suffer with a (lesser) running threat at QB? And shouldn't Michigan fans temper their excitement this year a bit more on Gardner (particularly given their lack of depth with the injury to Russell Bellomy)?
Graham Filler: Denard's running was a main component of the offense. But the main issue with Denard is that a running game is unpredictable and it wasn't effective against top defenses. In Borges Dream World, he has a consistent passing attack with a power run game, instead of the unpredictable Denard mashup.
Seriously - Because the Notre Dame field was a little wet last year, Denard couldn't make cuts and turned the ball over 47 times. All from a slick surface. A power-run game and consistent passing attack wouldn't be felled so easily.
Brian Gillis: I think people seem to forget that Gardner was playing (and practicing) wide receiver until the Minnesota game. That he played as well as he did with such little preparation spoke extremely well of him. I think that's what impressed/surprised me most, the confidence and poise that he showed. Because in his relief appearances prior to that first start, that often was not the case, as he never really looked comfortable. I think Gardner will be fine. And if his play was Michigan's only worry this year, they'd be fine.
Jesse Collins: Michigan fans tempering expectations? Psh. That would be like Nebraska fans tempering expectations. It's not going to happen, you know? But seriously, why wouldn't you think things could go well? (also, that's three rhetorical questions in the first paragraph, so that's how things are going to go today)
In all actuality, Gardner seems to be a better fit for what Borges wants to do at Michigan. In fact, with the threat of a passing game that isn't "ALL VERTICALS ALL THE TIME!" I think the offense stands the chance to be even more potent. I also think this will help Michigan's oft-stagnant run game from the past couple of years. If they can create a more legitimate balanced attack, this team can go places. If not, well, that sucks. Oh, I'm also on #TeamBellomy. Why he isn't starting is beyond me.
GoAUpher: And to think coming into the Michigan game last year everyone around me was all giddy about Denard being out. And for a little bit things looked great. Then that missed sack turned into that stupid regoddamndiculous 47 yard (or whatever) TD pass and just like that...
...the game was gone.
Oh I'm sorry, there was a question that I haven't answered. Gardner will be better for Michigan than Denard in the end and I won't be happy about it.
Aaron Yorke: Temper their excitement? That's not what college football is about. College football is about getting as hyped up as possible and convincing yourself that your school's 20-year-old quarterback is more powerful than Cam Newton and Tim Tebow combined. Seriously though, I'm not sure last year's five-game sample for Gardner is worth diving into right now. The kid started the season playing wide receiver. Even if you think the Iowa game was a fluke, Gardner is going to get better after spring and fall practices as the first team quarterback. The Michigan offense could suffer in the rushing department, but if Gardner is an accurate thrower, he has the talent to make up for it with his arm. Robinson only completed 53 percent of his passes last season, so there's a lot of room for improvement in that department.
MSULaxer27: Michigan is back - just ask them. The Wolverines are ready to ascend to their expected and well deserved place atop the college football hierarchy. I mean, they're Michigan. Just because they no longer have the September Heisman trophy winner doesn't mean a thing. This will be the 45th year in a row the Ann Arbor eleven win the National Recruiting Championship. Questions about the potential starting QB? Fuggetabouit! There are fifteen 5 star walk-on QB's that all were All-State just waiting for a shot at the job. Hey!? Remember that much maligned Spartan offense last season? They were the only offense to score a TD in the MSU/UM game last season. Now UM replaces the catalyst for their offense the past four seasons with Devin Gardner. I'm not worried. I'm not sure the top teams in the B1G should be either.
C.E. Bell: I'll side with Aaron on this one. Gardner's sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, and he frankly was pedestrian against teams with a defensive pulse (OSU, South Carolina, and Northwestern). I tend to believe that 60% completion rate in each game is the bare minimum required to be a good QB. Gardner's not there yet, but he's close. He's certainly a better passer (at least in terms of arm strength) than Robinson. But I think Robinson opened up a lot of options due to his running prowess that Gardner doesn't. I'm reserving judgment on Gardner, at least until we get into conference play.
Just thinking about Ohio State, Fitzgerald Toussaint is already choking.....
2. Grilled Corn and Tomato-Sweet Onion Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing and Crumbled Blue Cheese: Let's stick with the Michigan offense for a second, and another question I have: isn't Michigan pinning a lot of its hopes on new guys (the entire interior of the offensive line, freshman running back Derrick Green, new receivers aside from Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess), guys coming back from injury (Fitzgerald Toussaint - who really wasn't all that spectacular in 2012 BEFORE his leg injury, as he never ran for over 92 yards in any one game), and avoiding any injuries (particularly at quarterback)? Is Michigan's recruiting uptick with Brady Hoke enough? Won't young guys struggle in (what's becoming) a tougher B1G, even if they're really talented (as Michigan's newcomers are, according to the recruiting experts)?
Brian Gillis: There's a reason Toussaint struggled last year - the play of the offensive line. They protected the quarterback reasonably well, but never really came close imposing their will in terms of establishing a running game. Rich Rodriguez left a fair amount of talent for Hoke, but it wasn't on the offensive line. Offensive line is a position at which the Wolverines were extremely thin, and it showed last year, as I'd argue that the offensive line was the most disappointing part of the team. While there's hope for improvement with the return of Taylor Lewan and the introduction of three new interior linemen, I don't expect to see significant improvement this year. Offensive line is a position in which it traditionally takes awhile to develop and Michigan will most likely start two redshirt freshmen and a redshirt sophomore. In fact, to a lesser extent, the same could be said of Michigan in general. Yes, Hoke has been recruiting well, but don't expect those guys to be at their best yet. Beginning with the 2014 & 2015 seasons is when you'll see what Michigan will be under Hoke.
Jesse Collins: I believe in getting game experience and all, but we're living in a world where young doesn't necessarily mean bad. These four and five star recruits are only good on paper, but raw athleticism can cover up a lot of mistakes you make. I expect Michigan to need some time to gel, but by the time conference play rolls around, the young kids could have a lot of the kinks ironed out. I am not super familiar with the OL woes of Michigan, but I do know that if you have guys who are being coached correctly and have the size and strength to play, they'll be fine.
GoAUpher: I'm not a believer in new lineman making a consistent positive impact. So If I were a Michigan fan I would not expect to see vast improvements this season. Then again, I thought Denard being out would help Minnesota. Also, I don't watch games so...
Aaron Yorke: I think the running game will struggle, especially if Green isn't as awesome as he's reported to be. The experience on the outside of the line, though, should make up for the greenness off the interior. As for the receiving corps, Gallon led the Wolverines in receiving yards last season and Funchess led the team in receiving touchdowns. I still see plenty of talent coming back, but Gardner has to live up to expectations for this unit to be productive.
"Culver's after the game?" "Fuck yes, Culver's after the game...."
3. Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Blue Cheese and Pecans: Controversial hypothesis: the hiring of Brady Hoke meant less to turning around Michigan than the hiring of Greg Mattison, who has pulled off a miracle in turning the Wolverines from a defensive turnstile (33.8 ppg, 447.9 ypg in 2010!) to one of the best defenses in the country (17.2 ppg, 313.9 ypg in 2011; 18.8 ppg, 311.2 ypg in 2012). Even MORE controversial hypothesis: Brady Hoke's offense has disappointed (34.2 ppg and 423.1 ypg in 2011; 30.0 ppg and 385.4 ypg in 2012), and Michigan might have been better off keeping RichRod to run the offense (34.3 ppg and 500.9 ypg in 2010) but REQUIRING him to hire Mattison to run the defense. Discuss.
Graham Filler: Gang Tackling and proper positioning. RichRod defenses were always out of position and in one on one scenarios. Mattison defenses are swarming, swarming masses of humanity toward ballcarriers.
Brian Gillis: I'm not sure if it meant less than Hoke's hiring, but I know this: When the Hoke hire began to get sorted out, my initial feeling was that hiring of Mattison was as important as that of Hoke. Of course, I thought the same thing when Lane Kiffin announced he was bringing his old man with him to USC, but it looks like I was off the mark with that one. I'm glad Mattison was the one that panned out, and I'm not sure any Wolverine fan will dispute Mattison's impact on the program. Likewise, I'm not sure many will refute the notion that Michigan's offense has been a disappointment. In fact, other than the South Carolina game, I would make the argument that the offense was responsible for all of Michigan's losses over the past two years. Yes, we've been told ad nauseam that offensive coordinator Al Borges is a pro style guy, but we were also told he could adapt to someone like Robinson. He couldn't. Now it's time to see how he does with a quarterback more to his liking. If there is one question about Michigan (other than if its highly touted recruits will pan out), it's whether Borges will be able to bring a consistent offense to the Wolverines. But no, Michigan wouldn't be better off with Rodriguez at the helm. Anybody remember that Ole Miss bowl game?
Aaron Yorke: I'm thinking that a contributing factor to the effectiveness of Rich Rodriguez's offenses was the ineffectiveness of his defenses. When a team allows a lot of points, it has to push the envelope and score a lot of points, which leads to the accumulation of lots and lots of yards. Teams that are good on both offense and defense go up 35-0 in the first half and don't seen much offensive production at all in the second half because the scrubs are in. I'm not saying that Rodriguez's success on offense was a complete fluke; I'm just saying that yards and points averages can be very misleading.
GoAUpher: I can tell you right now that OSU fans think RichRod should have been kept around. But that's mostly so their band could troll Michigan with Josh Groban songs during The Game. Tears of unfathomable sadness are pretty delicious after all.
MSULaxer27: Haven't we learned anything from Tresselball or the LSU/Bama slug fests over the past three seasons? Defense wins championships. Mattison's hire was substantially more important than Hoke's. Michigan's resurgence has been build off the defense.
And your first comment isn't controversial. It's just fact. There is a reason Minnesota fans didn't want Hoke to get hired after Tim Brewster got fired. It's because his track record suggested it wouldn't turn out well. A big part of that is the fact that Hoke wouldn't have been able to hire a guy like Mattison to join him at Minnesota. Getting him to come to Michigan is going to be a huge part of any continued success.
Really, Michigan? This guy is the anchor to your defense? Anthony Michael Hall slept with his girlfriend....
4. Blue Velvet Cake: Michigan's injured (but possibly returning in October) linebacker Jake Ryan shares a name with the love interest in the 1980s John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles. Somehow, this seems appropriate to me; the character seems like the type of guy who would be a Michigan linebacker, insofar as he's entitled, rich, both smart and dumb at the same time, and is powerless against red (OSU/Molly Ringwald). So for this week's dessert, come up with other iconic 1980s movie characters, and what B1G universities/teams they'd most likely attend/fit into.
Graham Filler: Val Kilmer as Iceman in Top Gun...translates to Ohio State. Probably loves doing kegstands and saying the word "brah." Works out all the time. When he's feeling insecure, his go-to is trashtalk and insults. Hates another guy, but secretly loves him (remember their hug on the ship after Maverick crushes all those MIGs)...Sort of like how OSU hates Michigan but needs them to be good.
Jesse Collins: I just turned six before the 80s ended. So yeah... Sure I've seen the classic 80s movies, but I'm not really in a position to make these connections. Can I just try to connect early 90s cartoons instead? How about Northwestern as Scrooge McDuck or something easy like that. Or is that Delany?
Aaron Yorke: Jesse, according to IMDB, Duck Tales ran from 1987-1990, so you are spot on. I'm going to go with the entire Breakfast Club as Penn State because both are stuck in "detention" but will come out of it as a better group/team of people.
GoAUpher: Bloodsport, mostly because it's a cheesy but awesome 80's flick. I was tempted to compare it to the B1G because Urban Myer kind of looks like Frank Dux.
But then I realized that was the wrong character comparison. Urban Myer is actually Chong Li.
You know he's exactly the kind of guy who would throw powder into Hoke's eyes to make him fight blind. And unless Urban was wearing Eau de Cake, I don't see him winning a fight while blinded.
MSULaxer27: Is this even a question? OSU. This guy.
Hell. They had Ogre in real life when Katzenmoyer played for the Buckeyes in the late 1990's.
Northwestern is Ferris Bueller. Both for location and the fact that you don't quite get why he/they are so successful yet there they are at the end with the hot girl (a bowl game) - having escaped trouble unscathed.