Mike Lantry, 1972
Run Offense vs. Central
Michigan's grinding success running versus Vanderbilt (243 yards) may not be particularly meaningful but it is encouraging for a team that was totally awful a year ago. The new zone scheme has been discussed endlessly here, there, and everywhere. You know about it; I won't belabor it. Mike Hart had a consistent but relatively boring day, acquiring 146 yards on 31 carries. He missed a few cuts he should have made -- the hopeful theory is he was held out of most of fall practice to prevent injury and needs some time to adjust (this also may explain the thirty-one carries -- but also missed a few tackles that should have felled him. Backups Brandon Minor and Kevin Grady had one exciting, long ramble and a few less memorable carries. The offensive line crushed Vandy off the ball all day.
But, again, just Vandy. Oddly, Central Michigan's front seven represents a step up in the level of competition. The front seven from the MAC's top run defense in '05 returns nearly intact. The headliner is defensive end Dan Bazuin but several other players stepped forward and had good games against BC, most notably Bazuin's bookend Mike Ogle (first name found via entertaining "ogle central michigan" Google search), pictured felling Matt Ryan at left. Boston College's running game was squashed to the point that BC blogger Eagle In Atlanta has thrown in the towel on the running game this year:
The offensive line was the most troubling part of the game. First the good. The pass protection was pretty good and they worked well out of the no huddle and out of the shotgun. The problems -- where to begin? First Sheridan and Poles couldn't block anyone when pulling. Sheridan was either getting blown up our running without purpose. (Get in front of someone!) Their struggles left AC and LV out to dry. Marten looked slow and weak at Left Tackle.
This is understandable despondency from someone who's just watched his upper-level ACC team squeak out a touchdown victory over a MAC team, but given the stats and accolades carried by the Central front seven a good part of BC's struggles were forced by the Chips. I don't expect us to run like we did against Vanderbilt; if we do that means something.
Key Matchup: Everyone versus everyone? With this zone game it's more a matter of guiding players places they don't want to go. It's hard to pin responsibility on one player. We could point out Tyler Ecker, who was erratic against Vandy.
Pass Offense vs. Central
If we block their rushers we'll torch them. The Central secondary was the team's glaring weak point last year and given Matt Ryan's monster game in the opener it appears to be ready to glare again. Receivers will be open all day; Henne has to find them and throw it to them. The offensive line has to pick up blitzes and stunts. There's little analysis to be had here.
Key Matchup: Rueben Riley and Alex Mitchell versus Bazuin and whoever. The vast majority of the pressure issues against Vandy were due to miscommunication on the right side of the line.
Run Defense Vs Central
This would be a terrfiying prospect under Jim Herrmann: a spread offense featuring a quarterback who can run. We'd be mentally preparing excuses for Monday morning, expecting this redshirt freshman to torch us for 80 yards or whatever, and trying to pass it off as not meaningful.
While it's too early to start building a golden idol of Ron English, things do appear to be looking up. Michigan just got done burninating that exact same sort of attack with a combination of aggression and intelligence not seen in these parts in a very long time. Central's shotgun spread attack will no doubt see a defense similar to that run by Michigan against Vandy. For much of the game that was a 3-3-5 with Shawn Crable playing a sort of LB/DE hybrid and Lamarr Woodley featuring as a penetrating defensive tackle at times. It worked. Outside of a few successful quarterback draws, Michigan bottled the Vandy running game with few problems, racking up 11 TFLs. It might be a stretch to expect a similar performance this time around, but something along those lines but less outright dominant is certainly a possibility. Michigan will bring the heat again.
Key Matchup: Shawn Crable versus Lingering Demons. He was outstanding against Vanderbilt, an entirely new player. Everyone would like to see him do it again before declaring him healed by the power of Michigan's faith healer.
Pass Defense vs. Central
Central's passing game is the usual spread melange of screens, screens, screens, and shots downfield when the defense has crept to within six inches of the line of scrimmage. LeFevour was 22 of 37 against Boston College but was not often pressured; when he was there were running lanes available for him to take.
Michigan, of course, swarmed the poor Vandy quarterback. They totaled six sacks and a further number of bone-rattling hits; Nickson hardly had time to throw all day. I would expect more of the same While Vandy's line was a mis-mash of experienced talent and question marks, Central has more experience (four of five starters) but no one who featured on an All-SEC team last year. Tackle Joe Staley has been invited to the postseason Hula Bowl and features on a few preseason All-MAC teams, but will have his hands full all day. The rest of the line seems like a typical MAC line: all right in its way but not prepared for 330 pound guys who can move like Branch.
Key Matchup: Woodley, Biggs, and Jamison versus Great Expectations.
Nothing of note.
Worry (for Notre Dame) if...
- Riley and Mitchell continue the hilarious clown antics into a second week.
- The defensive line suddenly reverts to being mortal.
- Henne doesn't clean up his mechanics after a few instances of pressure.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- It turns out that all those problems on the line really were eminently fixable miscommunication errors.
- Charles Stewart or Morgan Trent has a big, I-can-cover-McKnight game.
- Henne turns in an OSU-esque performance.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 2 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -5 for We've Never Lost To A MAC Team And Now Is Not The Time To Start, +2 for But Wait Central Seems Okay, +1 for I've Got A LeFevour And He's Better than Nickson; +1 for Bazuin EAT Riley, -1 for Kelly is *!ing Crazy, -1 for And Condoleeza Rice Can't Cover Manningham).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for It's A Team In Our State Named After A Portion Of Said State.)
Loss will cause me to... Good lord. Wake up and say "it was all a horrible dream," read the paper, find out that it's not, and then flee into the hills assuming the apocalypse is nigh.
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: victory but an uncomfortable one. I expect the run game to be less consistently grinding and pass protection to kill a few promsing drives. I also figure Central will have a few more opportunities to score than Vanderbilt did after 350 yards against a consistently good BC defense despite making some stupid moves that cost them opportunities to add to that total. Michigan wins but does not cover.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Jamison debuts and gets a sack.
- Morgan Trent emerges as the star
ter opposite Hall.
- 27-14; panic spreads like wildfire.
|Central Michigan||H||2||+1||I have a LeFevour and the only prescription is the most obvious reference available.|
|Notre Dame||A||7||-1||The combination of Quinn's struggles under pressure and Michigan's Florida State impression vs. VU make the game seem more manageable.|
|Wisconsin||H||4||--||I don't fear fat Wisconsin tailbacks.|
|Minnesota||A||3||+1||Neither fat Minnesota tailbacks, though fat is better than nonexistent|
|Michigan State||H||5||-2||Took Vandals to several national championships in NCAA 2005. Just FYI.|
|Penn State||A||7||-1||How many yards rushing was that? Against who again? Zippy the Pinhead?|
|Northwestern||H||3||--||Ugly game against Miami.|
Okay, what with all the jumpin' and the jivin' and the hippin' and the hoppin' over the past couple days there has been a massive backlog of things I want to link to. Quickly, then.
If you hate the new clock rules, and everyone except Bruce Ciskie does, head over to conveniently-named We Hate The New Clock Rules and sign yourself a petition. Will it do any good? Eh, probably not. Can't hurt, though.
MaxwellPundit Week 1 results are out. Am I really one of but two people voting for Calvin Johnson? Say what?
Michigan-Vandy Blogo-roundup: I got killed by commenters for linking to this guy before, but I do like his photoshop work:
Anyone who ceased checking RBUAS during its summer doldrums hiatus, be advised Johnny is back and kicking with a really frightening post featuring quotes about a mysterious man:
After seeing how successful Michigan was playing with such abandon, it makes you wonder why fans haven't seen that sort of aggression in the past.
"That's how I was raised to play defense," (____) said. "Playing hard, playing together and playing aggressively. That was Michigan defense."
Law professors are Internet nuts, too. Paul Campos has an entertaining column in the Rocky Mountain News on his conversion from civilian to one of those Internet people. I won't spoil the punchline by excerpting.
Etc.: It's mostly an Oilers blog, but Mudcrutch's Red Wings preview allows me the opportunity to link to him and tell you that if you read hockey blogs you must read his; The Georgia Sports Blog has a hilarious report on UGA's new "family friendly" zones, which are about as populated as the demilitarized zone; Lloyd Carr is Iron Coach Boring.
Brian Seymour is a CMU alum and one of the minds behind the madness at the Sports Frog. We trapped him in a room and grilled him until he cracked; the results are below. Many Bothan spies died for this information.
So Central Michigan's competitive now. That must be weird, huh?
Yeah, the jury's still out of course (a 6-5 season and seven-point loss to a middle-tier ACC team at home does not a mid-major juggernaut make) but things are finally looking up. As a Central fan, the most positive sign is that there is now talent on both sides of the ball.
In some cases, somewhat young and raw talent and certainly not necessarily Big Ten caliber , but mixed with the right offensive and defensive system and some solid coaching, the kind of players who could get you to the cusp of the Top 25, knocking off a mid-level BCS conference opponent every now and then and in the mix for a bowl bid. Basically, all you can realistically aspire to as a fan of a MAC school.
Could you describe the Brian Kelly offense for us?
It resembles in many ways the "classic" spread offense that Michigan fans see several times a year against Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern, but it is much, much more uptempo and frenetic (a term I've seen you use a few times, but which is apt). It would be uncommon to see less than 10 or even 15 seconds on the play clock by the time the ball is snapped on offense. The idea with the speed of the offense is to catch defenses off-guard on occasion and wear down opponents for later in the game.
Speaking of things Michigan fans see a lot of, CMU will run a lot of wide receiver screens and quick outs to its receivers, of course a staple of the spread offense. The running game was more or less forgotten until the fourth quarter of the Boston College game for some reason, but when running the ball, CMU will run a lot of draw and misdirection type plays. Seeing the QB line up under center and/or give a straight handoff is generally only used in short yardage and should be relatively easy to read defensively.
Every now and then you will also see some kind of crazy formation or bizarre play call that you likely haven't seen before. Kelly is not averse to pushing the limits of what constitutes a legal formation.
How would you describe the offensive line? Is it experienced? Good? Likely to be overrun by Woodley and company?
The offensive line is very solid and is somewhat atypical of offensive lines in spread offenses in that they can be physical at times if the situation calls for it (this is probably the last remaining legacy of the Mike DeBord Era at Central).
Still, it works because even the bruisers on the line, namely Joe Staley and Drew Mormino, are so athletic. Staley didn't give up a sack last year and will likely be an early-to-mid round draft pick in the NFL next year and Mormino is in his fourth year as a starter. Four of the five linemen return from last year.
All that said, they're not much of a match for the front seven of Michigan, though they will probably offer more resistance than Vanderbilt's OL did.
Where did Dan Bazuin come from? How did he slip through the cracks to Central Michigan (no offense)?
I wish I knew. I'd leave my day job and become an assistant coach/recruiter for a big-time program. When you're a fan of a mid-major program every so often you're blessed by the jocks missing out on one of the prettiest girls in the school to use a forced and fairly disturbing analogy. I don't even think Bazuin was injured in high school, which allows better-than-average prospects to make their way to the MAC from time to time.
As far as I know, it's part coaching and part luck (OK, mostly luck) that one of the best defensive players in the country ended up in Mount Pleasant.
How do you feel about the rest of your defense? How would you attack it if you were an opposing offensive coordinator?
The rest of the front seven is quite good actually. Some of that is because offenses are often so preoccupied with Bazuin and some of it is because there's more talent than your typical mid-major at those positions. There are four really solid linebackers who rotate in and out of the game, which means the defense is usually pretty fresh in the second half. It is not easy to run on Central, though I think you'll see Michigan have success doing it for the most part because of Michigan's superior athletes. As good as the front seven is, they're usually good for a couple of maddening big running plays a game and I don't expect this week to be any different.
Attacking the defense is easy -- throw, throw and throw. The further downfield the better. That was what Boston College did to good effect and I don't think Michigan will be any different. The only thing that is likely to get Michigan into any trouble moving the ball through the air would be Chad Henne completely misfiring downfield, but he should generally have enough time in the pocket where those throws will be few and far between. The defensive backfield is a source of continual frustration and it doesn't look like they're any better this year.
What's the *!ing craziest thing Kelly's ever done?
If you saw the Boston College game, you saw it. He's always been good for a couple "WTF?" moments in most games where he trots out some bizarre formation or gambles on fourth and two from midfield with a 7-point lead and 45 seconds left instead of punting. Still, that game-ending interception and going for it on fourth and eight from the Central 28 is pretty much beyond the pale, even for Kelly. It is exciting though, especially following Mike DeBord, who was about as exciting as vanilla pudding.
[I would have gone with "unflavored gelatin," myself. -ed]
Any thing else Michigan fans should know?
Based on what I've seen of Central in the last couple of years and what I saw of Vanderbilt the two or three times I've seen them the last couple of years, Central Michigan would probably beat Vanderbilt six or seven times out of 10 on a neutral field. What does that mean for Michigan fans? Eh, not much. But just like last week, don't be surprised if the Michigan offense and/or defense seems to struggle at times, even if the outcome of the game is probably never in doubt.
I don't know how useful of a warm-up Central will be for Notre Dame, but it should help Michigan considerably when it plays Michigan State and Northwestern.
Central's special teams are better than they've been in recent years, but a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown by Michigan would not surprise me. In fact, I'd probably bet on it. The coverage teams are sub-par, even if the kicking game is adequate by MAC standards.
Aaand some predictions:
Who wins, what's the score, etc?
Michigan, of course. Central would need everything (calls, bounces, Henne throwing 15 passes to Tacopants, Ron English morphing into Jim Herrmann, you name it) to break in its favor to be in a position to win. And even then might not be able to pull it out. I'll be optimistic and say Michigan wins, 38-17. That many points against what looks to be a very, very solid Michigan defense would be a not unacceptable result for Central fans.
How does Central's O do against the Michigan D?
I think Kelly is a good enough play caller and the talent decent enough that Central should be able to take advantage of Michigan's newfound aggressiveness from time to time. I don't necessary see any big scoring plays, but a typical Central touchdown drive is five or six plays for 65 yards in aro
und a minute and half. I think they might get two of those. Still, the QB (regardless of who plays) is raw and the OL will probably be quite mangled by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. I honestly just hope no one gets hurt since Central plays arguably its biggest MAC game of the season next week against Akron.
How does Central's D do against the Michigan O?
Mike Hart will rush for around 120, probably only on 16-19 carries. The Michigan rushing game will be effective, but not devastatingly so. Bazuin will make two or three plays that make you wonder if he was even being watched, much less blocked.
Henne should be able to do whatever he wants in the passing game though. The size of the beating Central takes in the final score will be directly indicative of his effectiveness. If he completes 70-75 percent of his passes, it'll probably be ugly (five touchdowns). If he struggles at times, it might only be two or three touchdowns. If he completely poops his pants for some reason that I can't imagine, Michigan might only win by 10 or so.
Does Brian Kelly bite anything's head off?
You know what -- the guy's batshit crazy calling a game, no question about it -- but he comes off as almost somnambulate in most press conferences and interviews in discussing his rationale for certain decisions. The BC game was pretty typical. Being asked at halftime more or less if he was on crack to go for it on 4th & 8 deep in his own territory, he actually sounded almost convincing that it was the right decision. I am in awe at his insanity and will defend the guy to the death. For now.
[Count MGoBlog on the Kelly bandwagon, too. -ed]
- GRIZZLY BEARS: after what happened in Neyland, bears are clearly no threat to anyone.
- FULMER CUP DOUCHEBAGS: Their 15 minutes are up. More pressing matters, er, press.
- STEVE BREASTON'S TRAITOROUS LEGS seem fine.
- STEVE BREASTON'S TRAITOROUS HANDS: Er... yeah.
- RULE 3-2-5-e: you steal football from us. I hate you.
- PASS PROTECTION: Abiamiri versus Riley? Erk.