"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Trackbacks and comments about the action this weekend go here. How about that Army-ISU game?
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
Michigan will probably run early and hope to have enough success to turn that "early" into "early and often." The statistics imply that this is suicidal, but they're extremely flattering to a UW front seven that will be getting its stiffest test of the year in this game. Wisconsin's yielding under 40 yards a game, but that's due in large part to Omar Jacobs being busy throwing for 458 yards and Temple being Temple. To their credit, the Badgers did shut down a UNC team that had a middling ground game in the ACC last year. Michigan's ground game has methodically crushed its MAC opponents--think Star Wars trash compactor scene--but was only okay against Notre Dame. Michigan gained over 4 YPC but that was greatly aided by a 30 yard reverse.
Injury woes have beset both teams. Michigan is down its best running back, tight end, and tackle; Wisconsin has lost a starting defensive tackle and its best defensive end, Jamal Cooper. This appears to be advantage Michigan, as the Wolverines have capable replacments in Max Martin, Kevin Grady, Tyler Ecker, and (hopefully) Mike Kolodziej while the Badgers are scrambling on the defensive line. A 225-pound true freshman steps into the starting lineup with Cooper out and the coaches may actually play OT Joe Thomas at DE if the need arises.
Expect to see Max Martin start; the uncertainty and youth at defensive end combined with budding star Nick Hayden at DT means that outside appears to be the place to go and the high-stepping, slashing Martin is the back to go there. Kevin Grady and Jerome Jackson will rotate in, sooner rather than later if the sweeps and stretch plays aren't working against the Badger D.
Key Matchup: TE Tyler Ecker and FB Brian Thompson versus Badger OLBs Dontez Sanders and Andy Crooks. If Ecker and Thompson can seal the somewhat undersized Badger linebackers they should have the edge when they want it, but neither has proven themselves to be a Dudley-level blocker.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
If things had gone to plan against Notre Dame, this would be a glaring mismatch and evil cackling would substitute for serious analysis in this section. Wisconsin was absolutely torched by Jacobs for those 458 yards and 5 touchdowns and didn't do much better against North Carolina, ceding 281 yards and escaping a 300 or 350 yard day only because of several untimely drops by the Tarheel receivers. Cooper's loss is a big blow here as well as he was clearly the team's best pass rusher at this point in the season. Wisconsin starts a true freshman opposite senior Brett Bell, has lost the quietly spectacular safety play of Jim Leonhard, and has no surefire pass-rusher without Erasmus James and Cooper. They're vulnerable.
However--and unfortunately for small children in my immediate vicinity--the Notre Dame game did not go as planned. Chad Henne was pressured repeatedly by Irish blitzers. Late in the first half he got rattled and early in the second he threw the game in to the waiting hands of Tom Zibikowski as Michigan went down to dismal defeat. Presumptive deep threat Steve Breaston is the functional equivalent of Featherstone from Unnecessary Roughness at this point. Ruben Riley has definitively proven that as a tackle, he makes a fantastic guard.
So I won't say something as potentially stupid as "the real question here is how brutally Henne dissects the Notre Dame secondary," but I will tentatively assert that Michigan should be able to throw effectively against the Badgers as long as Henne keeps his cool and his line keeps his jersey relatively clean. Someone needs to step up opposite Avant this week--whoever the second WR is will be opposing a true freshman who's been annihilated so far this year. There's no time like the present.
Key Matchup: Mike Kolodziej versus Mysterious Tingly Illness. Michigan needs Kolodziej to return and keep the pressure off of Henne, who performs worlds better when he has faith in his pass blocking. Riley had trouble against Eastern Michigan. Whoever gets thrown out there in place of Cooper is probably at least that guy's equal.
Run Defense Vs Wisconsin
Falcon defense feels like a kitten!
Brian Calhoun's early season romp through the dandelion fields of Bowling Green and Temple is meaningless--those two teams may have the worst run defenses in I-A--but his performance against North Carolina is another matter entirely. 171 yards against any half-decent BCS team in your first game against a real defense is something to take note of, and take note we the watchers of the Big Ten have. Calhoun repeatedly darted through holes that didn't seem to be there, hitting the Tarheel secondary with authorita. In general he looks like a slightly bigger version of Anthony Davis with one major difference: he has a tendency to wear helmets and pads instead of street clothes when the game rolls around. He's good.
That combined with Michigan's struggles against similarly darting backs Garrett Wolfe and Darius Walker have led many to regard this game ominously, but I think the run defense is coming around. Walker ripped off a lot of his longer runs in a three wide set which Michigan chose to oppose with six guys in the box--there's small chance of a similar formation drawing a similar reaction given Alvarez's propensity for grunting pig-sooey ball and Stocco's general shakiness. Towards the end of the game when Notre Dame was going to run and Michigan knew it, Walker was stuffed repeatedly. David Harris is a night-and-day improvement from Scott McClintock at middle linebacker and the new starters on the outside are beginning to settle in and play solid assignment football. The run defense is going to be okay.
Calhoun will get some yards, maybe even 100 of them if Alvarez keeps feeding him the ball, but 170 is unlikely and a 200+ yard downfield romp is out of the question, especially with safeties who have shown a tendency to tackle things. Wisconsin will probably 'win' this battle, but it won't be a blowout.
Key Matchup: Gabe Watson vs. Lloyd Carr's doghouse. Watson apparently caught 90% of the flak from the first, awful game against the Huskies and has found himself playing strictly backup minutes in the last two despite the fact that he has a higher rate of making plays than starter Pat Massey and erstwhile starter Will Johnson (replaced by Alan Branch this week)... combined. If Carr continues to short his playing time because Watson is fat and happy instead of slightly less fat and mean, he's cutting off his nose to spite his face, especially given Massey's tendency to crumple at the line of scrimmage at Watson's tendency to drive his blocker three yards backwards.
Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin
I've gone on record suggesting that John Stocco is the crappiest crapperback in all of crappyland, but he's not a total incompetent and can hurt Michigan if they get caught expecting run when Wisconsin passes. Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr, and Owen Daniels are all at least competent and Williams and Daniels may actually be rather good--it's hard to tell in the Badger offense. That said, there's a lot of uncertainty on the offensive line outside of Thomas and Raiola and time the pass will probably be limited if the line performs anything like it did against North Carolina, when Stocco was repeatedly hurried by a probably-not-great UNC defensive line. Given the play of Alan Branch, Lamarr Woodley, and (fingers crossed) Tim Jamison plus a surprisingly competent Wolverine secondary, it is extremely inadvisable for the Badgers to put themselves in obvious passing situations. They will not go well for the home team.
If they're throwing on first and ten, second and five, and third and three, however, they can and will be effect
ive, especially with play action given the fact that Michigan has to respect Calhoun's running. Owen Daniels is probably going to be a bit of a thorn given the Michigan linebackers' inexperience and that Calhoun guy. He'll be open, and if Stocco can hit him a few times Wisconsin will have something going. The threat of the run will be what opens up an effective passing game for Wisconsin. It won't be consistent enough to roll up and down the field but Stocco won't be completing 30% of his passes for 2 yards each.
Key Matchup: SLB Prescott Burgess/MLB David Harris vs. TE Owen Daniels. As mentioned above, Daniels is a threat over the middle on play action.
Each team has a big return against a team that doesn't really count--Brandon Williams against Temple and Steve Breaston against Eastern--and has some moderate threat in the return game plus solid but unspectacular kickers. This is a push.
Key Matchup: Michigan's Historic Special Teams Idiocy vs. My Continued Sanity. The common thread of the road opener loss thing has been OMG DISASTER special teams. If it happens again, expect this blog to abruptly change from something fairly erudite and witty into insane ranting about how football should eliminate special teams altogether and possibly tar and feather anyone who tries to block a kick.
I still don't believe in them, if you must know.
- Kolodziej does not play.
- It looks like another day of light duty for Watson.
- Michigan's contain problems continue to burn them--Calhoun is the kind of guy who can exploit that.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Martin gets the corner a couple of times early.
- Wisconsin can't seem to avoid second and ten.
- Someone not named Avant starts catching some passes.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for road opener, +1 for sort-of-night game, -1 for historic lack of Barryball success v. Michigan, +1 for injuries, -1 for their injuries.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 break this road opener thing, +2 we can't go 2-2, +2 we can't go 2-2 going into East Lansing.)
Loss will cause me to... er. I'd stay away from the immediate vicinity of any campus belltowers.
Win will cause me to... start panicking about Drew Stanton.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Victory. But not an easy one.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Calhoun gets 80-90 yards.
- Ecker has another 6-7 catches.
|1||10||O20||Pass||22||Not a good start. No pressure on a 4 man rush and the zone has a big hole in it.|
|1||10||O42||Pass||5||Three step drop and fire. Note: everyone on the EMU OL chops. No batted pass.|
|2||5||O47||Pass||Inc||Nice play by Harris(+1), Woodley(+1) gets pressure on a three man rush.|
|3||5||O47||Pass||Inc||Another blitz from Hall, who's lined up as a linebacker. Nice call from Herrmann to pull Burgess into a short zone from a three point stance, which confused Bohnet.|
|Drive Notes: The three man rush rears its ugly head again, but we actually get a play from someone in zone coverage.|
|1||10||O45||Pass||Inc||Again the chop and fire. Bohnet just throws it low.|
|2||10||O45||Run||4||QB draw. Nice play by Woodley(+1) to come back and make the tackle.|
|3||6||O49||Pass||Inc||Another three man rush. The EMU guy dropped it, but Harris(+1) was in good position and very close to making a play.|
|Drive Notes: Largely EMU screwups this time.|
|1||10||O20||Run||0||Burgess(+2) fights off a block and buries the RB. Nice play.|
|2||10||O20||Pass||Inc||Harris(+2) reads the QB, breaks on the ball, and deflects the pass.|
|3||10||O20||Pass||Sack, -10||Branch(+2) is in the backfield instantly, allowing Woodley(+1) to come off his block and make the sack.|
|Drive Notes: Three nice plays. Branch has been our best DT so far this year. He has the power to hold up in the run game and the quickness to get penetration and rush the passer. It's just EMU, but this drive (or lack thereof) is sweet.|
|1||10||O17||Run||3||Burgess(-1) misses a tackle that would have kept it to 0, Harris(+1) reads and sheds to make the tackle at 3.|
|2||7||O20||Pass||5||More of this short yardage stuff. If it was a five or seven step drop Biggs(+1) was going to sack Bohnet, though.|
|3||2||O25||Pass||1||Woodley(+2) stays home on the tricky shovel pass thing that used to kill us. Nice.|
|Drive Notes: OMG lane responsibility. Continued good play. Just... Eastern... not... excited.|
|1||10||O19||Run||0||QB keeper on the offtackle counter option a lot of spread teams run. Burgess(+1) makes the tackle but it's because Engelmon(+1) came up and had good contain.|
|2||10||O19||Pass||Inc||WR was open but Bohnet shortarms it.|
|3||10||O19||Pass||Scramble, 3||Another three man rush. Bohnet just takes off even though there isn't much pressure.|
|Drive Notes: Nice play on first down by Engelmon (OMG CONTAIN) but the other two plays are just EMU screwups.|
|1||10||O20||Run||2||New QB. Is it a rule that when you put your black QB in the first play he has to run is a draw? Football is racist. Engelmon makes the tackle. HUGS ENGELMON.|
|2||8||O22||Pass||Inc||Counter option with a pass attached that's dropped after being thrown too hard. Probably goes for 5 if it's caught.|
|3||8||O22||Pass||Scramble, 5||Graham(+1) comes up and prevents the first down.|
|Drive Notes: Someone describe a difference between this guy and Troy Smith. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?|
|1||10||O16||Pass||0||Screen to the French guy, who surrenders to Burgess and Mason. Ha! I kill me!|
|2||10||O16||Pass||19||Same thing as the first play of the game. Bohnet has time and fires between levels in the zone.|
|1||10||O35||Run||1||Watson(+2) is in and crushes his man into the backfield, disrupts the hole, allows the linebackers to slice up, and then assists on the tackle. Same page!|
|2||9||O36||Pass||33||Fluketasm where Bonhet just heaves up a prayer which is answered. Crable(+1) gets a really nice pass rush but fails to make the sack.|
|1||10||M31||Pass||Inc||Bohnet throws this out of bounds, probably because Jamar Adams(+1) jumped the route and throwing to the receiver would be unwise.|
|2||10||M31||Pass||Int||Bohnet badly overthrows his man. Trent makes a nice play to come off his man and make the pick.|
|Drive Notes: The closest thing to a drive EMU mounts until the second/third stringers are in, and it's one nice play and one ball that was just heaved in to the sky.|
|1||10||O27||Pass||Inc||Three man rush. Branch actually gets some pressure after a bit but can't make the sack. Bohnet just launches it downfield.|
|2||10||O27||Pass||Inc||Inaccurate pass underneath prevent coverage (it's just before halftime).|
|3||10||O27||Run||3||Sarcastic bastard screams key play, key play into the sideline mic (It is also 38-0 or something now).|
|Drive Notes: Halftime.|
|1||10||O19||Run||3||Biggs(+1) holds the corner and makes the tackle.|
|2||7||O22||Run||5||Draw. Watson(+1) holds his ground on a double team and slows up the RB a little bit, but can't make the tackle, and there's no one to fill the hole.|
|3||2||O27||Pass||3||Mason(+1) reads the short pass in the flat well and prevents any YAC but EMU squeaks the first down out anyway.|
|1||10||O30||Run||-2||Watson(+1) holds the point and when the RB bounces it outside Biggs(+1) disengages and makes the TFL.|
|2||12||O28||Pass||7||Three step drop and a slant with the corners playing off.|
|3||5||O35||Pass||7||Another three man rush/soft zone combination.|
|1||10||O42||Pass||9||Jailbreak screen that Harrison(-1) and Thompson(-1) don't read very well.. I think.|
|2||2||M49||Run||4||Dunno. Again a replay obliterates the live action.|
|1||10||M45||Pass||Inc||Thompson(+1) has good zone coverage and forces the drop.|
|2||10||M45||Pass||11||A lot of time for Bohnet and he hits an outlet on the sideline, and Lloyd is PISSED at someone? Hood(-1) I think for a really weak tackle.|
|1||10||M34||Run||-1||Branch(+1) drives his man in the backfield, fouling the play up, and Woods(+1) shucks his guy at the line and cleans up the mess.|
|2||11||M35||Penalty||-10||Holding drawn by Jamison(+1), who beat the tackle around the end. I think this is his first play.|
|2||21||M45||Pass||1||Little dumpoff pass for a yard. Note: Jamison gets chipped by the RB.|
|3||20||M44||Pass||Inc||Crable's just unblocked and forces Bohnet to throw it away.|
|Drive Notes: Something resembling a drive here with the help of a lot of NIU-ish passive zone. A lot of plusses and few negatives because it's hard to really blame anyone in specific for those things.|
|1||10||O20||Run||-3||Jamison(+2) shoves his man three yards into the backfield and into the RB, Thompson(+1) cleans up.|
|2||13||O23||Pass||Inc||EMU QB#2 floats it way up high and lets Harrison get there and nail the exposed WR.|
|3||13||O23||Pass||Inc||Nowhere near the receiver here.|
|Drive Notes: A tantalizing glimpse into the possibilities of Jamison.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||-2||Screen to some dude but Hood is in press coverage. Uh.|
|1||10||O30||Run||2||Spread counter option but the QB falls down. Probably would have gone for a few. Walton bit hard.|
|2||8||O32||Pass||Sack, -6||Dude, Jamison(+2) you kick ass, and then immediately reach for your shoulder.|
|Drive Notes: Yes, the only reason I watched this thing was for the Jami-sack.|
Same question: does it mean anything?
It means more than the offensive performance, I think. Eastern had a pretty decent offense last year (21st nationally, albeit against the MAC and its matador defenses), had a returning quarterback, and were totally shut down by the Michigan defense. Eastern mounted two drives the entire game, one of which consisted of a good pass and a back-foot prayer. The other didn't even result in a field goal attempt.
The yardage numbers are slightly flattering--that disastrous punt snap ended up a 30-ish yard loss, but the defense held EMU under 200 yards and shut them out--they couldn't have performed any better. It is just Eastern, but it's a start.
Any new faces stand out?
Obviously Tim Jamison had an impressive debut (sort of... he did play a little bit his first couple of games as a freshman), drawing a holding call on what I believe was his first play of the season and notching a QED, MFer-type sack. Also of note was a running play where he drove his man into the backfield a la Watson. His shoulder's clearly still bothering him so he might not see a ton of playing time the next couple weeks, but it seems likely he'll be a contributor by midseason.
Morgan Trent has solidified the nickel spot and made a nice play on the interception. Not amazing, but efficient. Brandon Harrison also closed nicely on an overthrown ball and laid a lick on an Eagle wideout.
Give me that sweet table loving.
Note: the scale increased this week, and that combined with the dominating performance means the numbers got very high relative to last week. Comparisons between the two are probably not valid. Better to note who didn't make an impact.
|Woodley||5||-||5||Again didn't really show up on the stat sheet much, but didn't play much.|
|Biggs||3||-||3||Coming around on Biggs. He was overmatched at times against ND but has made plays the last two weeks.|
|Watson||3||-||3||Get on the same page, I beg.|
|Crable||1||-||1||Could have had a couple sacks if he would slow down a tiny bit.|
|Jamison||5||-||5||Impressve debut. If he can duplicate it against UW, get excited.|
|Branch||3||-||3||Now a starter. Deserves it.|
|Harris||5||-||5||Reading and reacting in the short zone.|
|Graham||1||1||0||Didn't really do much.|
|Engelmon||1||-||1||Another solid outing.|
|Trent||1||1||0||Has responded when called on so far.|
|Adams||1||1||0||Played a lot as a nickel back over the slot receiver. Looks more like a linebacker than a safety.|
|Hood||-||1||-1||Got chewed out by Carr with his team up 40 or 50--an accomplishment.|
|Harrison||-||1||-1||-1 might be harsh.|
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
Not sure. I'm very happy to see Branch listed as a starter. He's a star in the making. Burgess and Harris are playing well, the safeties are settling in, and the cornerbacks are at least three deep. I think the best DL for Wisconsin probably looks something like Massey-Branch-Watson-Woodley. Massey played DE in the 3-4 last year when the interior run defense was great, Watson may have motivation issues but is still like 600 pounds, and Branch and Woodley are just plain good. I'm optimistic that Calhoun will find the going tough on Saturday.
Ditto. EDSBS proves that it's over-edumacated. If you like football and took way too many English classes in college, this is the best thing ever.
OMG MOVING PICTURES can be found in spades over at IBFC. Vijay's putting 500 extra megs of internet space to the best use possible: spectacular Michigan highlights throughout the ages. Part one. Part two. Sweet.
Reason #2 I don't hate State as much as I used to is the RCMB, which is one of the few fan boards on the internet with a decidedly self-depreciating sense of humor. (Reason #1: last year was payback for 2001. Reason #1A: Ryan Miller is gone.) Check their thread on "things safer than a huge lead in a State football game" for evidence.
Saginaw point guard Tory Jackson, long thought to be signed, sealed, and delivered to Michigan, will attend Notre Dame instead, leaving Michigan without a point guard in this class. Internet rumblings claim that Michigan was the dumper here and Jackson the dumpee, but we've heard that before and the situation Michigan finds itself puts the lie to that claim. In 2006, the sole point guard on the team will be Jerrett Smith, a marginal recruit who's been reported to have problems playing defense, shooting, and passing at various times last year. While he's probably not Avery Queen 2005, it's safe to say that placing all of Michigan's point guard eggs in his basket or that of Dion Harris--who proved that he's not much of a point last year--is a risky "decision," if not an insane one.
Escape from Ann Arbor
But that's okay! The instate crop for '07 is loaded with awesome high major prospects that will fill out Michigan's scholarship allotment with pure asskicking fury. Don't get distressed about a guy who was either already committed or an inch and a half from committing who decides to go to a strange, unmentioned school after strange rumblings and implied cries of "shenanigans" from UM basketball loyalists.
Er... wasn't that supposed to be this year? Wasn't this year supposed to be the Sims/Jackson/Herzog/Lighty/Morris uberclass that vaulted us into the lofty realms of the NCAA tournament? Well, Sims is aboard, Morris is the Ray Jackson of the class, Lighty's going to OSU, Jackson's going to ND, and Herzog is still very much up in the air and if you made me guess right now I would say he's probably Not Coming Here. So now the drumbeat starts about Alex Legion, Kelvin Grady, Durrell Summers, Chris Wright, Josh Southern, and Kalin Lucas, the '07 guys who will light up scoreboards next year, be OMG Michigan LOCKZ(!), and go somewhere else.
Let's be serious: no matter the devious machinations behind the scenes here, Amaker screwed up again. The near-exclusive focus on Jackson in this class, like the focus on Crawford and Hairston in 2003, leaves Michigan grasping at kids in next year's class that may or may not come. "Not" is a 3-2 favorite. Maybe by this point we would be wise to the fact that basketball recruiting is a shady and infuriating business full of dubious advisors who mainly seem to advise players to avoid Ann Arbor and plan accordingly. (That is, if you buy this shady business at all, which I don't: Jackson is heading to ND, not Florida or Missouri. Unless Holtz has decided to channel his inner Bobby Knight, the ND program is about as rogue as a bunny rabbit.) I don't pretend to know the inner workings of basketball recruiting, but this is the second time in three years Michigan has been left in the lurch by assuming someone was in the bag when he was not.
All you have to do is watch a single disjointed offensive possession that involves 30 seconds of passing it around the perimeter and one off-balance, contested three-pointer to realize that Amaker was brought here to recruit. Unfortunately, the wages of his recruiting appear to consist largely of sleepers who are role-players at best (Smith, Coleman, Brown, Petway), soft guys from Boston, and guys that not even Amaker could screw up (Abram, D. Sims). The future bodes unwell. I do have it on good authority that Michigan is in on some kickass sixth graders, though.
Hurray we're different. Sort of. Struggling Joe has been tracking the BlogPoll in relation to the AP poll for the last few weeks. This week we've managed to put different teams in 19 of the 25 spots, but in general the differences are just transpositions. The biggest disagreements are about Cal (AP 13, BP 16), Arizona State (AP 18, BP 15), and UCLA (AP 25, BP 22). These similarities will probably only increase as the season shakes itself out and things get more and more obvious.
Strange that 45-50 bloggers with obviously different voting philosophies--Eagle In Atlanta pounds teams for every loss (not to pick on EIA--it's not wrong, just different) where I've moved teams like NC State and Arizona State up after tough losses against excellent competition--and ballots that range from staid to flapjack nuts would produce a result so similar to the AP poll... unless you assume that they're just flying blind, too, which I do.
Readers and bloggers are hereby invited to ponder and respond to the following queries:
Is being different even desirable?
I assume so, since a poll that's exactly the same as the existing polls isn't very interesting to anyone.
Is achieving difference via "wacky" ideas a terrible idea?
I had an idea that you could pick a team or two and your ranking of that team would be counted double or triple. So you pick a team you feel very strongly about that seems under/overrated to you and your opinion there carries more weight. This could be another poll auxilary at first maybe become more official at a later date if everyone likes it.
Is being different even feasible?
To some extent the results towards the beginning of the year are total speculation and thus not really subject to callouts--I said that the Enlightened Spartan's ballot preseason was terrible and look how that turned out. Results towards the end of the year are largely dictated by results. So, early in the year our ability to analytically do something different is limited and late in the year our ability to move teams around without looking ridiculous is likewise limited.
Should we agree on a set of guidelines for all voters?
Right now we're definitely voting at cross purposes; what's reflected in the poll is not only a difference of opinion but a difference of methodology. I have to believe that if people were voting strictly based on how good a team appears to be Arizona State would be much higher after losing to LSU on a couple of very fluky special teams touchdowns. If people were voting strictly on results, Michigan would be behind ND. But because people voting with 100% of A or 100% of B or 50/50 or whatever combination you desire and strictly on a whim in some cases, we get the poll as it is, which looks an awful lot like the AP poll and has the exact same incoherencies.
So, then, what should those be?
And, finally: How can we communicate better?
I don't get the feeling that we're really absorbing information from other pollers and adjusting our polls accordingly, which is, like, the primary goal here. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.