#27 Michigan (9-3) vs
#162 Furman (7-5)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -15 (KenPom)|
PBP: Jeff Levering
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
Right: Even by plush-mascot-costume standards, that is not a very intimidiating knight. At the very least, someone should get this guy a shield.
There's not too much to update from Michigan's end after consecutive blowouts of teams ranked in the 300s on KenPom. John Beilein clarified after the Maryland Eastern Shore game that Duncan Robinson started over Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman due to a clerical error, one I assume he'd have pushed harder to correct against a viable opponent. (MAAR checked in within 90 seconds.)
This is Michigan's final non-conference game before a lengthier-than-usual holiday break; after tonight, the Wolverines don't play again until traveling to Iowa on New Year's Day. While Michigan is still a 15-point favorite, Furman is a significant step up in competition from the last two games.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||1||John Davis III||Jr.||5'11, 165||71||16||99||No|
|Shooting 40% from three. Despite size, not a point guard: 27 assists to 18 turnovers.|
|G||12||Devin Sibley||Jr.||6'2, 175||83||26||102||Not At All|
|Efficient scorer with high volume, 49% on twos, 48% on threes.|
|G||35||Daniel Fowler||Jr.||6'4, 195||80||22||122||No|
|Excellent passer—58 assists, 17 turnovers—and effective inside-outside scorer.|
|F||3||Geoff Beans||Jr.||6'7, 210||54||17||105||No|
|Just A Shooter™ is 28/65 on threes, 8/15 on twos. Also: named Geoff Beans.|
|F||21||Kris Acox||Sr.||6'6, 215||68||23||104||Very|
|Shoots 53% from field on all two-point attempts, solid rebounder, not a rim protector.|
|F||32||Matt Rafferty||So.||6'8, 215||42||19||87||Yes|
|Good shot-blocker and rebounder, offense plagued by turnovers this year.|
|G||5||Andrew Brown||So.||6'4, 190||40||15||103||No|
|The rare turnover-prone Just A Shooter™. 17/35 on threes, 12 turnovers.|
|G||23||Jordan Lyons||Fr.||5'11, 170||36||15||107||No|
|Another Just A Shooter™. 11/31 on threes.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Bowl tickets available. From the Alumni Association:
We have a limited number of tickets available in the Michigan Alumni Section. These are lower level tickets in section 110. We are selling them for face value at $245. You do not have to be a member to purchase these tickets, all you need to do is call our Alumni Relations team at 800.847.4764 during normal business hours. Like I said, we have a limited number of tickets available, first-come, first-serve.
If you're still looking.
Florida State also has tickets, but there's a catch: you have to start at safety. Tomahawk Nation reports that starting safety Ermon Lane will miss the bowl game with a foot injury. Derwin James, who missed much of the season, is also confirmed out. This is bad, and the situation in the FSU secondary makes it worse:
FSU will be incredibly inexperienced in the back end of the defense, and it is not known exactly what combination of players FSU will use to sure up the back end against the Wolverines, who feature tight end Jake Butt and a strong running game. Trey Marshall and A.J. Westbrook will receive a lot of playing time, with true freshman Carlos Becker likely to play more snaps unless Lane can somehow play.
Lane was even in PFF's grading; the two guys mentioned at his replacements were moderately negative (-5.1 and –2, respectively). Becker's only gotten 40 snaps this year. The worst bit for FSU is that Lane's absence might force third corner Marcus Lewis to play more. Lewis has the worst coverage grade in the FSU secondary on under half of their snaps.
Preview preview. Speaking of PFF's grading, FSU breaks down into four tiers:
- Three incredible players: RB Dalvin Cook, DE DeMarcus Walker, and DT Derrick Nnadi all carry massive PFF grades and have the stats and NFL hype to back those up.
- A good to very good receiving corps, depending on how much you want to ding their run blocking.
- Several units that are average. Francois is up and down as a passer and got most of his points running; the linebackers are the definition of average; FSU has a couple of good players and a couple of not so good players in the secondary. Aside from the two NFL first round types, the rest of the DL is just okay.
- Rutgers's offensive line. Grades for guys with 350+ snaps this year: +11.2, –14, –5.6, –20.4, –8.4, –4.3, –11.5, –9.2. Your lone acceptable OL is LT Roderick Johnson. Everyone else is a disaster. This is why whenever you turned on an FSU game this year Francois was neck-deep in defenders.
Michigan's most difficult task will be containing Walker, who has 15 sacks this year. If they can do that they should get enough offense to win since the opposition is going to have serious trouble blocking Michigan's DL.
PFF's freshman All-America team is not great for last year's LB scouting. There are a couple of familiar names here:
Linebacker: David Reese, Florida; Shaquille Quarterman, Miami (FL); Caleb Kelly, Oklahoma
Injuries opened the door for Reese to start down the stretch after impressing in a backup role early on. He played well in coverage while missing only six of his 50 tackle attempts. Quarterman paired with Michael Pinckney to form the best true freshman linebacker duo and he led all Power-5 freshmen with 44 stops. Kelly came on strong down the stretch, keeping the ball in front of him in coverage while finishing with a solid 70.6 grade against the run.
Reese decommitted after Michigan told him they didn't have an early enroll spot for him and Caleb Kelly seemed way more interested in Michigan than Michigan was in him. Hopefully this was a DJ Durkin problem; he was both the DC and the LBs coach a year ago. Also in (slightly) painful inclusions, albeit for a different reason: Isaac Nauta and his 27 catches for 353 yards. He probably made the right decision because he wasn't going to get that at Michigan, but he'd be nice to have on the roster.
No Michigan players made it and that seems right. Rashan Gary played well but didn't play much on Michigan's ultra-loaded DL, and Ben Bredeson was middling at best.
Michigan should still be pretty good next year. Get The Picture points out a story about the stunning youth of most of this year's playoff participants:
Alabama entered the season with the SEC’s least experienced roster. Ohio State did the same in the Big Ten. Ditto for Clemson: bottom of the ACC. But it was actually much starker than that. Phil Steele, the king of preseason mags, uses a five-part formula to determine experience, and he ranked the Tide roster 116th out of 128 FBS teams. Clemson was ranked 101st. Ohio State was dead last at 128th.
So if you’re scoring at home — and recruits are — then three of this year’s best four teams were also among its youngest, somehow surviving one of the most unpredictable regular seasons in recent memory. The holdout is Washington.
These days if you're recruiting at a very high level you can get away with inserting a bunch of untested sophomores and juniors, because the top end is much more ready to go than they were in the past. Michigan will insert almost entirely touted recruits into their starting lineup, and most of them should have one or two apprentice years to their name.
Nothing is more annoying about DCFC than this. Detroit is a name frequently proposed for MLS expansion because it makes a ton of sense. It's an excellent sports town and it's smack dab in the middle of the Toronto-Chicago-Columbus triangle. But Detroit City is vehemently opposed:
...for this team and its passionate supporters, being included would have also presented another conundrum: DCFC’s identity is homegrown and supporters say it would disintegrate under MLS’ sanitized fan control policies.
For them, the only way to keep growing soccer in Detroit, the only way they saw the sport as having a real future here, was to keep it community and supporter-focused. The Detroit sports landscape, Wright said, was too treacherous for any team to turn their back on that model.
That is absurdly self-important and aloof. Many MLS environments are excellent and homegrown because the league was able to establish a détente with existing fans. The league has done a terrific job of crossing over from Family Fun to actually fun environments in Toronto, Seattle, and Portland.
The same can happen in Detroit, because the DCFC hardcore are not 1) particularly numerous and 2) the only soccer fans in the city. If DCFC wants to finish out of the playoff slots in the NPSL because MLS would frown on them saying "fuck" 300 times in a 90 minute match, that's their prerogative. It should have no impact on MLS's decision to come to Detroit or not. There's no reason the two teams can't coexist since they serve different markets. One will draw the interest of soccer fans; the other will draw the interest of people who like to act tough and watch colored smoke instead of soccer.
Etc.: Iowa didn't shake hands with North Dakota after a basketball game, and it's a very big deal. Zach Hyman finds his spot in the NHL: next to Auston Matthews. Analyst Jimmie Dougherty gets a position coaching job under Willie Taggart. Could Arizona have a better Michigan recruiting class than MSU? Probably not! But it's close!
Speight, Peppers, and Charlton make PFF's list of best single game performances in the Big Ten. Charlton's against MSU should have been even more astounding but for "multiple holding violations that he caused but went uncalled."
Obviously we saw a big leap in the running game last year against Florida. Is there something where having more time as an offensive line really helps you fix mistakes or figure out some stuff?
“Yeah, I think late in the season you forget those fundamentals you focus on so much in camp. You’re focused more on gameplan and stuff, so this is a good time to get back to fundamentals, get back to working on double teams, working on pass protection. Just get back to fundamentals and really clean those up. I think that’s what made last year go so well and hopefully this year, too.”
For you going forward, do you want to stay at center or are you entertaining other moves?
“Yeah, I’d like to stay at center but whatever has to happen has to happen.”
Have you guys not had those conversations yet?
“No, no, not yet. Just right now it’s all Florida State stuff, so just focused on that.”
Have you made any progress on your NFL decision? Talked to anyone or had any extra evaluation?
“No, not yet. Just trying to gather all the information out there. Just gather as much information to make a good decision with Coach Harbaugh and the coaching staff and everyone. Just the more information you have, the better.”
If someone said a round attached to your name, where would you want to be to make the decision that you’re going to go?
“I don’t know if there is an exact round. Like I said, just talking with Coach Harbaugh and Coach Drevno and hearing their opinions and just trying to gather as much information as possible so I can make an informed decision.”
Are you on pace to graduate this spring?
“No, no, no. I graduate next December.”
[After THE JUMP: Kenny Allen, Mike McCray, and Matt Godin]
[Bryon Houlgrave/The Register]
The question (posed by Brian):
Leonard Fournette sitting out the bowl game was one thing, since he might be injured. A hale and hearty Christian McCaffrey getting out of Dodge before the Sun Bowl seems like another. How do we feel about this?
Seth: First let's take as a given that "hale and hearty" for a football player is relative.
Brian: I mean sure. I just kind of... I don't want to be Old Man Newspaper here but I find myself bothered by this despite being pretty woke about player compensation issues.
Ace: I’m totally fine with it. While McCaffrey may not be hurt, he’s carried a hell of a workload. 290 offensive touches this year, 385 last year, plus returns, and his teammates—at least publicly—are in full support.
This isn’t even the Rose Bowl like last year. It’s the Sun Bowl. If his teammates are cool with him missing a glorified exhibition to get ready to actually get paid for his work, I’m not one to argue.
Brian: Is there a line above which you would be bothered? Where is that line?
Ace: If there are stakes.
Brian: Okay, so Sun Bowl can GTFO. Citrus?
Ace: Honestly, I can understand a player of McCaffrey’s caliber skipping any non-playoff appearance.
Brian: Dude! So Stanford's in the Rose again and you're totally fine with him dropping his pants on An American Institution?
Ace: I don’t blame the kid for that. I blame him not getting paid. The incentives are all kinds of messed up. That’s not McCaffrey’s fault. Plus, the Rose Bowl will still have the parade and the bands at halftime and that gorgeous stadium. It’ll be fine.
Seth: There's also a place where you can be disappointed at the guy without treating him like he is violating the Constitution. One of the first things I noticed was the level of vitriol and who it was coming from. When you find yourself on the same side as the guy talking about the "me first" generation you wonder if you're on the right side.
Ace: I’ll admit part of my stance is predicted on always being on the other side of the people screaming “DAMN MILLENNIALS."
Brian: I do kind of like that it puts the NCAA's total lack of leverage on display.
But... I mean... if Peppers peaced out before the Orange Bowl you wouldn't be disappointed?
Ace: I’d be disappointed, sure, but I still wouldn’t get upset at Peppers about it.
Seth: Things like Wilton Speight and Devin Gardner playing against Ohio State, or Robot Chad Henne vs MSU, are extraordinary because that is a stupid decision they're making on our behalf. If that is the norm then why appreciate it? Gardner sitting out the Copper Bowl was a no-brainer, because it’s the Copper Bowl. Playing in The Game meant something, even at the end of a breakdown season, because it’s The Game.
Brian: I still like to think that there's a romantic THE TEAM THE TEAM THE TEAM heart to this. Ed Reed!
I think it would be shitty to your teammates.
[Hit THE JUMP for shattered dreams of kinds]
A massively important piece for the 2017 Wolverines will stick around:
Maurice Hurst: "I've decided I'm going to come back for my 5th year." pic.twitter.com/LCMdbLLx1e
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) December 21, 2016
Hurst was a rotation piece this year who did not start but played in crunch time next to Matt Godin; in about half of Michigan's snaps he had massive production in both UFR and PFF metrics. With the entire starting line off to the NFL draft, Hurst will start and get the lion's share of playing time as a three-tech next to Bryan Mone. They'll be flanked by Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich; that line project to be about as good as this one.
Depth remains an issue, which is why Hurst's return was so mission-critical.
As 2016 winds down, the Big Ten will be getting ready for conference play. Despite the league being off its usual standard, it should still be a compelling conference race – Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin probably are the teams with a shot at the conference title, but there’s a bloated middle that could produce a surprise contender and should give us plenty of competitive games for the rest of the winter. Since this post was getting long, I split it in two and will be covering the other half of the conference later this week.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
After experiencing year-over-year declines in win totals throughout his Illinois career, John Groce might have entered the season with the least job security of any coach in the Big Ten, despite a strong recruiting class that will be arriving in Champaign next season (featuring 5* big man Jeremiah Tilmon). The Illini returned several players from injury and still have senior swingman Malcolm Hill – probably the most underrated player in the conference. Hill has had a good year, averaging 18 points per game; he’s still drawing fouls at a high rate and leads Illinois in shot attempts by a healthy margin, but he’s been less of a distributor with 6th-year senior PG Tracy Abrams back on the court. After two seasons on the sidelines, Abrams has been a revelation for the Illini: his eFG% leapt from 37.7 to 65.6, the 5th-highest mark in the league.
Outside of an unfortunate home loss to Winthrop in overtime – a game the Illini led by ten with three minutes left in regulation, and a game in which 5’7 reserve Keon Johnson scored 38 points on just 23 shot equivalents for the Eagles – there have been few surprises in non-conference play. Illinois did lose to West Virginia (by 32) and Florida State in Brooklyn, though those are both good teams. They notched wins against NC St., VCU, and BYU, but it’s not likely that any of those teams will represent a particularly quality win come March. Winthrop wasn’t a terrible loss, and Illinois could theoretically play their way into the tournament with a strong showing in conference play – which would be a surprise. They’re the most experienced team in the Big Ten per Kenpom, and it seems like they’ve reached their ceiling.
[Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, MSU, and Minnesota after the JUMP]