So. That happened. If you are feeling like David after Dentist, you are not alone.
And you can't have one without the other…
Let's not blow it against Purdue!
As always, the Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post is your friend.
Just fffuuuu it.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Illinois|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 6th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan –3(?!?!?)|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
Clear, around 40
Run Offense vs Illinois
Illinois appears to have a for-real defense this year after bringing in Vic Koenning, an established collegiate defensive coordinator with a recent history of success at Clemson and Kansas State. The three years before his hire, Koenning's Ds were 9th, 18th, and 39th in total defense, with that last stop a one-off year at Kansas State where he took the Wildcat D up from 117th. Ahem.
Illinois has been shutting down guys on the strength of a good defensive line (one that features MGoSouldongmate Corey Liuget) and the emergence of Martez Wilson (right) into something resembling the uber-hyped recruit he was. Wilson's by far Illinois's leading tackler with 68; he's second to Liuget in TFLs and sacks. Against the Big Ten:
That is pretty impressive, with the MSU game standing out as intimidating. The saving grace for Michigan are the numbers against Purdue and OSU, both teams that feature running quarterbacks. (Purdue actually featured two—they started off with fingerless Rob Henry until it was obvious he couldn't throw, then brought in Sean Robinson, using Henry as a tailback in their version of the inverted veer. It was freaky.) Pryor broke off a 66-yard run en route to 121 yards on just eight carries, but blew up his quad in the third quarter and did little but hand off when he returned, or Ohio State may have gotten some distance from the Illini. Unfortunately, Purdue's respectable YPC was on the back of a single 57-yard run from Al-Terek McBurse; the Purdue quarterbacks combined for 31 yards. Dan Dierking did average 5 YPC on 10 carries, FWIW.
Neither OSU, which tends to regard the spread option as a backup plan and had a Navarre-level statue for most of the second half, or an injury-decimated Purdue team is a particularly good comparison for Michigan. Neither are the rushing games of MSU and PSU (pro style) or Indiana (both injury ravaged and pistol-based). So we don't know much about this specific matchup.
Illinois has proven throughout the year that they'll be tough sledding, though, with Liuget a constant threat to penetrate and Wilson capable of running down Denard wherever he ends up. Getting a good release on him and chopping him to the ground will be important.
Key Matchup: Denard's Reads versus His Desire To Not Be Shattered. I'm pretty sure at this point that Michigan's read option plays are really just handoffs that attempt to get the opponent to respect the idea of a pull. Denard's already running so much that he invariably hands off even when it seems like he's got the edge like whoah. In a critical, critical (yes, another) game I'd like to see him take advantage of those opportunities.
Pass Offense vs Illinois
Michigan had an off week against Penn State, with Denard making a number of poor throws and/or poor decisions. When the receivers had an opportunity to rectify some of those mistakes they did not take them, and Robinson had his worst completion percentage of the year by a healthy margin. Penn State got no pressure, at least, and Denard's one-man play action continued to be very effective.
Meanwhile, Illinois is 25th in pass efficiency defense. They intercepted Ben Chappell three times, held him to just over 50% completions, and generally blew him up. Kirk Cousins was just over 50% himself but put up a good YPA thanks to some deep balls to BJ Cunningham; Illinois destroyed Robert Bolden. They got a pass against OSU since the wind and Pryor's injury limited the Buckeyes to 18 attempts, two of which were from the backup. They've got a good track record.
They've done this despite losing Terry Hawthorne to a stress fracture and Supo Sanni to something or other. Illinois moved a cornerback to safety and dropped two new starters in at corner, one of them a converted tailback. The difference between Justin Green and the guys Michigan is rolling out is one of experience—he's a sophomore—and talent, as he was a top 100 recruit who made a strange switch from Ohio State to Illinois. Still, he's a position switch starter and the team isn't suffering from it. A dollar to that position coach. Hawthorne's working his way back to health, which means that Illinois has three more competent cornerbacks than Michigan and now this is just getting depressive.
Anyway: Michigan should have success in the same vein they did against Penn State, where the threat of the run opens up passing plays that eat up big chunks of yards but third and long is almost futile. Michigan's success here will be dependent on Denard's accuracy and the situation Michigan finds themselves in.
Key Matchup: Denard and His Receivers MAKE PLAYS. Illinois, having seen Michigan's jagged passing success, will probably play it cool, giving Denard some opportunities to hit guys and those guys opportunities to bring balls in.
Run Defense vs Illinois
Last week's bold prediction was stupid indeed—encouraged by a not-awful performance against Iowa and anticipating that Penn State's offensive line would be a far less serious challenge, I suggested Michigan would hold Penn State under four yards a carry. Close! Except not close: PSU averaged 4.7 as Michigan switched from a four-man front to a debacle of a 3-3-5. Like the 2008 Purdue game, rumors are flying that Michigan is scrapping their bye week spectacular for something else, and with Craig Roh seemingly ready to put his lost year behind him and get his hand on the ground that will be more of a conventional 4-3 look, I'm guessing.
If the Iowa game is any evidence, that could be not awful against a conventional rushing attack even minus Mike Martin. Unfortunately for Michigan, their array of freshmen, position converts, freshman position converts, and LSD-tripping ferrets is going up against a shotgun triple option attack. Michigan doesn't even know where they're supposed to be on an inside zone. Illinois has used the option, a healthy dose of zone reads of all varieties, and some Nathan Scheelhaase scrambling to do this against relevant opponents:
Unfortunately, the "relevant" bit of the Big Ten numbers is definitely more Indiana-Purdue-PSU than OSU-MSU.
As mentioned in the scouting post from the bye week, expect to see a lot of this:
Illinois runs a lot of triple option. Against Purdue they were content to run basic zone reads since the backside DE was crashing down all day, but Michigan's guys should be experienced at dealing with that. The triple option not so much. With Martin on the injury list he figures to be limited, leaving Mouton, Demens, Spur Of The Week, and Kovacs to play the proverbial assignment football and tackle in space. Kovacs seems suited for this, and Demens may be—still too early to tell—but I'm worried about Mouton and the other guy, whoever it is. Also I'm worried about…
Key matchup: Freshman cornerbacks and safeties [Ed-M: and ferrets] tackling on the edge on the option. The option puts a lot of pressure on your safeties to come up and fill ably, which apparently means we're going to have the privilege of watching Ray Vinopal try to tackle guys fifty pounds heavier than him.
Pass Defense vs Illinois
Two weeks ago I would have said this will be a sidelight on third and long and Scheelhaase will do well not to turn it over, but then Michigan played Penn State and Scheelhaase averaged 9.7 YPA with 4 TDs against Purdue. His long was again a pass to his tailback and no receiver brought in anything longer than 17 yards, but even if Illinois's passing game is an all-dink affair Scheelhaase is getting comfortable with it. He was 16 of 20 against Purdue, 13 of 21 against Indiana, and 15 of 19 against Penn State, all in grindingly effective games for the Illinois offense. His only bad day in the past moth was against Michigan State. That was a very bad day (3 INTs), but we can't expect something like that to recur, especially against this secondary.
I'm not sure Courtney Avery could have been worse than JT Floyd against Penn State but "secondary just as good as it was against Penn State" is a recipe for disaster. Moving the safeties around worked about as well as it did last year, and the year before. James Rogers was out for most of the PSU game in favor of Talbott so we may see our long-held dream finally come to fruition: a secondary made up of nothing but true freshmen without a fourth star to any of their names.
Key matchup: Demens and Mouton getting their zone responsibilities right. I mentioned this in passing but to reiterate: I now think it was Demens screwing up against Iowa since in the PSU game the guy lined up over the slot receiver carried him all the way several times, leaving the linebackers to deal with problems underneath. Illinois gets a large chunk of their passing yards after the catch, so dealing with mesh and whatnot will be important against a passing attack that looks short almost without exception.
For the first time in a while it looks like the opponent's return game is about as bad as Michigan's. The Illini are 118th(!) in punt return average at just over two yards a pop and have had a Michigan 2008-level epidemic of muffed punts. Two of those gave Penn State its (sigh) only points outside of an eighty-yard touchdown strike. Kick returns aren't much better at 89th.
Illinois has the usual massive advantage at kicker (15 of 17 on the year). Their punting has also been outstanding; they're sixth nationally.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
- Martin's ankle prevents him from doing anything useful.
- Michigan doesn't look like they know what they're doing against the option.
- The secondary.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- We get some sort of bizarre Minnesota-2008-like turnaround as the coaches finally realize they should be doing something basic with all these noobs.
- Denard's hitting his passes more accurately and Illinois can't deal.
- Pryor's success running presages success.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for What The Hell Was That?, +1 for If James Rogers Really Got Beat Out By Talbott Last Week The Secondary Is Literally Three True Freshmen and Kovacs, +1 for And Then We're Throwing a Freshman Spur Out There Against The Option, +1 for Assuming That Martin Is Not Useful Until He Is Again, –1 for Denard, –1 for Denard Plus Bonus Ninja Tricks, +1 for FFFFFFUUUUUU.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for God, A Win, Any Win, +1 for Rich Rodriguez Job Reclamation Project, +1 for Denard Career Flight Path Maintenance, +1 for Seriously That A Win, Any Win Bit, +1 for A Brief Respite From The Enduring Misery Of Life Is Needed In These Dark Times, Oh Lord, I Beseech Thee, Hear My Call And Respond To Your Good And Faithful Servant, Or At Least, You Know, Your Middling And Somewhat Forgetful Guy Who Resents The Idea Of Servitude, Oh Lord, Lord.)
Loss will cause me to... drink.
Win will cause me to... open one eye and look around in case the falling building didn't actually hit me.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
WTF, Vegas? Michigan being favored here seems insane after last week on both ends. I foresee Illinois's offense tearing through Michigan's like it's almost not there on both air and ground, with some rough spots from Scheelhaase ending a drive here and there and Michigan's return to a somewhat sane defense making the going slightly tougher this week. The Illini won't score on 7 of 9 drives. More like 5 of 9.
Michigan's offense, meanwhile, will have the same promising-but-not-quite-there style they've had since the Big Ten sledding got tough, exploding for a couple of long touchdowns and putting together a number of long drives that get Michigan into the high twenties but sputter out in missed fourth downs, missed field goals, and penalties.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan goes back to a 4-3 under look and it seems like an improvement.
- Mike Martin does not play effectively.
- Courtney Avery has a less bad day than JT Floyd did against Penn State.
- Illinois, 37-30.
Newsbits of importance from Tom. Dark I'm-not-saying-I'm-just-saying rumors about Craig Roh and Demetrius Hart have been flying around the internets this week. Tom clarifies. On Craig Roh:
My source told me that Craig has been concerned with his position switch to linebacker, and believes he is much more effective as a defensive end.
Craig actually vocalized his concern about his position to the coaches after the Penn State game, and my source says that he has been playing much more on the defensive line during practice this week.
Roh's apparently been handed to Bruce Tall and will no longer be mostly a linebacker. This is both good and another instance of players coaching themselves. Meanwhile, Demetrius Hart decommit rumors are false:
There was a slight mix up with Demetrius' enrollment with Michigan, but it has been cleared up. That was the issue, it wasn't that anyone was recruiting him harder, or anything along those lines. Everything has been straightened out, and his mom says Demetrius will be at Michigan in January.
Insert the usual CYA boilerplate about how anything can happen, but you can focus your panic elsewhere.
Crowded. JT Floyd is officially out for the year with "freak" ligament damage in his ankle. Hooray.
The Never Forget banner guy has updated it, and if any further members of the secondary wish to make themselves unavailable they'd advised to do it quickly because we're running out of room:
New additions are Michael Williams (concussions), JT Floyd (ligament damage), Jared Van Slyke (leg injury), and Vlad Emilien (transfer). Available locations are limited to that patch of maize underneath the crying wolverine. Given the state of the secondary this is getting considerably more RR-fault-ridden as the year goes along. Justin Turner and Vlad Emilien's transfers are big deals with the free safety depth chart reading "Ray Vinopal" and the corner depth chart reading "Random Three Star Freshman Projects and James Rogers."
At least the Floyd injury has been a productive one for the legions of Michigan photoshoppers:
So we've got that going for us. Courtney Avery will draw into the lineup for Floyd.
Okay, a final final final word or two. It's unfortunate that Anchorman references are vastly overused because sometimes there's nothing you can say except…
…I'm not even mad, I'm impressed. That is amazing. I'm sitting on this pile of ninja corpses, covered in blood. As the sun rises over a scene of indescribable gore I laugh, because what else is there to do?
Probably not in the special section about how naughty Michigan's been:
the committee wrote that "though serious," the overage was "far less extensive than originally reported and that no student-athletes were substantially harmed."
Though this was obvious as soon as the smoke cleared last August because the piece was so shoddily written, it is now official. Hurrah for pyrrhic victories.
Watch this. The House Rock Built's "Stuffing The Passer" series is the best thing going in the CFB blogosphere right now:
If "Shit My Dad Says" is being made into a sitcom, Stuffing The Passer can't be far behind.
Elsewhere in coach grumbling. You've probably seen this but Brandon Graham has some depressing quotes that point towards the Those Meddling Kids theory:
I’m surprised they didn’t stick with what Coach Robinson was running,” Graham said of the 3-4 the team deployed in 2009, its first year under Robinson. … “Let Coach Robinson play his defense,” Graham said. “Let him do what he knows. He was thrown off, I would say. I know the 3-3-5 is what he (Rodriguez) has been doing for so long. He’s just got to adjust to the Big Ten.”
Michigan ran a 4-3 under last year but that's beside the point. Those quotes from a guy who was in the program last year indicate that no one who doesn't know a 3-3-5 like the back of his hand is ever going to be comfortable as a defensive coordinator at Michigan as long as the WVU guys are around saying things like "hey it's a bye week, I've got this great idea."
While everyone says "scheme is overrated," Michigan's offense puts the lie to that. It's not necessarily the 3-3-5 itself—this is not a BLANK can't work in the Big Ten argument—but attempting to run an exotic niche defense with a guy who doesn't know it (and evidence suggests is a terrible coach anyway).
I'm pretty sure this is as close as we'll get to an opinion from Angelique Chengelis, if that's actually what it is:
Hope for next year?
Much has been made about Michigan's defense, which is near the bottom of several national categories, including total defense. Illinois was in a similar spot last year, but has made strides under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Scoring defense: 30.2 (96th) in 2009, 16.8 (12th) in 2010
Total defense: 403.3 (91st) in 2009, 301.4 (15th) in 2010
Pass defense: 248.8 (100th) in 2009, 183.9 (19th) in 2010
Rush defense: 154.4 (76th) in 2009, 117.5 (26th) in 2010
That certainly reads like a "hint, hint."
Defensive antidote. Via Wolverine Historian:
Penn State jerkos. As an internet fanbase, Penn State has a remarkable knack for accusing others of pathologies they're displaying literally within the accusation itself. The latest example is a piece at Black Shoe Diaries the author probably thinks is Swiftian satire that takes a sentence from the game recap, some random comment I don't recognize and didn't make about the Terrence Talbott whiffed PBU that turned into 40 yards, a somewhat maudlin paragraph from Maize and Brew supporting Rodriguez, and a random quote from pissed off David Molk. It combines these to show how self-centered Michigan fans are… in a post whining that Michigan fans didn't give Penn State its proper respect.
BSD can talk about self-centered behavior when they do this:
Indiana has a legitimately very good pass offense. They had 41 opportunities to make catches and made 40. Chappell almost never went to the wrong guy and missed on maybe five of his 65 attempts. Their receivers are tall and fast and shifty. One dollar they're the most productive pass offense in the conference at the end of the year.
Michigan State has somehow acquired the without-question best stable of tailbacks in the league; Iowa's Adam Robinson isn't bad but he's not the equivalent of Baker/Bell/Caper, and there's only one of him.
Indiana imploded and Michigan State's run game is pretty mediocre. We tried the credit-the-opponent bit and then all of the opponents turned out to be much worse on offense than Michigan made them look. Doing it now against your gritty moxie ginger neckbeard quarterback would be delusional. Penn State sucks and Michigan is worse. But I said Ogbu is a beast, so your pathetic insecurities can be a tiny bit less pathetic. Let's hold hands.
Now go talk about how arrogant we are as you caress each other's soft places while whispering "what if Michigan never comes back" and we discuss whether we should keep Rich Rodriguez and worry about falling into a Notre Dame-like fallow period. Tim was right to describe BSD as a place utterly incapable of recognizing irony.
Etc.: Craig Roh's eyebrows, and the rest of Craig Roh, are attractive to some guy who ranks him the #13 "hottie" of the year in CFB. Yost Built has ten things to know about Alaska. Amani Toomer is running marathons now.
Note: I'm really going to try to keep this from being an opinion piece, as I'm sure everyone is sick of those "Hey look, it's my opinion and it deserves it's own thread" threads. I'll do my best to to keep from doing this, but I must admit that I'll probably stray from that a little bit.
This poll was conducted at the end of this article, and most of the questions were about Coach Rodriguez. Here is the data (for just over 1,200 responses):
Questions #1-3: Should Rich Rodriguez be retained after the season? (Answers sorted by final records given in each question).
|I'm not sure||11%||19%||24%|
I don't think that this is very surprising; as the record falls, the amount of respondents who replied "yes" fell, and the amount of respondents who replied "no" or "I don't know" rose considerably. The main thing to take from this is that MGoBlog seems to support keeping Rodriguez if Michigan has a winning record.
|Responses from the previous poll:||6%||48%||38%||8%||1%|
So if we can combine our probably optimistic predictions and The Mathlete's realistic predictions, there is less than a 10% chance of having a losing record.
This data agrees with Question #6: Take a guess: will Rich Rodriguez be Michigan's head coach in 2011?
- Yes - 80%
- No - 15%
- I'm not sure - 5%
I agree. I believe that Brandon will stick with Rodriguez, but, as always, this is 100% pure e-pinion.
I think that Question #4: Can Rodriguez succeed at Michigan if he's given two or three years? is a more interesting question however.
- Yes – 72%
- No – 7%
- I’m not sure – 21%
Here's what people responded to the first three questions (Should Rich Rodriguez be retained after the season?), broken down by their choice in question #4.
Yes, Rodriguez can be successful at Michigan if he's given a few more years:
|I'm not sure||5%||19%||29%|
No, Rodriguez cannot be successful at Michigan, even if he's given a few more years:
|I'm not sure||12%||1%||0%|
I'm not sure if Rodriguez can be successful at Michigan if he's given a few more years or not:
|I'm not sure||30%||25%||13%|
What's really intriguing here is that the respondents who stated that Rodriguez can succeed at Michigan do not necessarily think that he should be back for next year. Obviously those who said that they didn't think that he could succeed here pretty much all want him gone, but it is really interesting that those who think that he can succeed in a few years do not necessarily think he should be given that. It seems as if those who aren't sure if Rodriguez can succeed at Michigan or not are waiting for the end of the year: if the team finishes with a winning record, then he should stick around, but if not, he should be let go.
Question #6: Will the 2011 season be more successful with or without Rodriguez? provides another chance for an interesting breakdown.
- With – 87%
- Without – 13%
(It was probably a mistake not to add another "I'm not sure" option, but oh well, my bad)
2011 will be more successful with Rodriguez than without:
|I'm not sure||8%||21%||21%|
2011 will be more successful without Rodriguez than with him:
|I'm not sure||32%||8%||2%|
Again, it's interesting to see that more of the "with" respondents wished to get rid of Rodriguez if Michigan finishes 5-7 than those who wished to keep him. Doubtlessly some of that can contribute to the fact that there would be a pretty painful transition if Michigan hired a coach with a pro-style offense for next year, but still, I thought that there would be more support for Rodriguez for those who think that next year would be better with him than without. Those who do not think that the team will be better with Rodriguez next year unsurprisingly think he should be removed, and rightfully so.
The last two questions deal with the possibility of a coaching change, and we will cross that bridge if or when we get to it. I was just curious to see what the answers would be and...
Question #5: If a coaching change is made, should it be done before or after the bowl game?
- Before – 51%
- After – 37%
- I’m not sure – 12%
Question #8: Would Jim Harbaugh be the best candidate if Rodriguez is fired?
- Yes – 48%
- No – 19%
- I’m not sure – 33%
There isn't really correlation between these two and any other of the questions, so there isn't really much to be gained other than just an answer to my curiosity, I suppose. By the way I don't think that this is a place to start a "'Jim Harbaugh is awesome!' 'No he's not!" flamewar (which are kind of annoying anyways)
So there it is, MGoBlog has spoken, and it has said that we should probably keep Rodriguez if Michigan wins at least one more game and achieves bowl eligibility, but if not, a change might be in order.
University of Michigan Football Injury Report
vs. Illinois, Nov. 4, 2010
OUT (0% PLAY)
Floyd, J.T. Ankle
Jones, Mike Leg
Odoms, Martavious Foot
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)
Dorrestein, Perry Knee
Stokes, Je’Ron Knee
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Martin, Mike Ankle
All the guys in "out" are guys we know are out for the year with the exception of Fitzgerald. Meanwhile, it seems like Huyge is likely to get another start at right tackle on Saturday—which fine he's about as good as Dorrestein—and there is an explanation for Stokes's absence for much of the Penn State game.
Martin… well… reports said he sprained his other ankle, so if that's true he's got a better shot at returning effective than if he was suffering a high ankle sprain. But I'm not confident he'll have an impact. We'll see.