Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
What? Oh, come on. You really want me to do this? I was going to leave it at "Northwestern sucks," but that tempts fate and makes me feel guilty after a week of crappy blogging. So an abbreviated preview but a preview.
Fair warning: next week's preview is going to be "Ball State sucks." And that's all. I'll spend the time assembling a recruiting update.
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
I expect a return to the early days of the season, where we plow mercilessly into stacked fronts against teams that can't handle it. Though the Northwestern rush defense is statistically only slightly worse than average, they were ripped for 249 yards by PJ Hill and 137 by Tony Hunt in the only two games they faced actual Big Ten rushing attacks. (Michigan State sort of had to abandon the run after that whole 38-3 thing.) I don't expect Michigan to replicate Hill's 7.1 YPC, but anything less than 4.5 would be a disappointment, especially since the Wildcats' leading tackler, Nick Roach, is out for the year.
This is essentially a MAC level defense and Michigan will probably treat them with the contempt they reserve for apparently inferior foes, running blindly into stacked fronts. It'll work, it'll be boring, and it'll be frustrating.
Key Matchup: Minor and Grady versus Competence. No doubt they'll get some early carries; hopefully they prove capable enough to give Hart a nice long breather.
Pass Offense vs. Northwestern
Manningham, Massey, and Ecker are all out. Adrian Arrington's legal situation makes his status for this game questionable. Rueben Riley may or may not play after suffering some sort of leg injury towards the end of the first half versus Iowa. Even when healthy and playing competition we think is dangerous to us we run lots. To date we've run about 2/3rds of the time.
So... yeah. This is probably going to end up one of those days where Henne throws something like 18 times and completes 14 of them. Without anything resembling a deep threat (if Arrington is out), he'll probably end up with 150 yards or so. Not that the Northwestern defense is much good -- 84th in pass efficiency D, 104th in yardage terms -- but we're not likely to throw unless we have to.
Key Matchup: Breaston versus His Traitorous Hands. Mostly dormant these last few weeks but even I, a staunch defender of the man, don't think a game with him as the #1 receiver appeals much.
Run Defense vs. Northwestern
This is the one thing the Wildcats are good at, 31st in the country. Tyrell Sutton is having a rougher time of it this year without Brett Basanez to take some heat off of him, but the Wildcats are managing against the weaker defenses on their schedule.
With the #1 ranked rushing defense in the country, Michigan does not qualify as "weaker" than anyone, however, and the results from Northwestern's games against two similar opponents, Penn State and Wisconsin, do not project well for NW. Strangely, Sutton only got eight carries in each game, totalling 58 yards between them. The quarterback ran (or fled quite a bit); backup Terrell Jordan also got some carries. The totals: 56 carries for 203 yards, or 3.6 per, or slightly more than the season averages yielded by the two. If Northwestern turns in a similar performance they'll probably beat the 1.5 YPC Michigan is ceding.
So they've got that going for them.
Key Matchup: Michigan perimeter defenders versus a relatively mobile quarterback. We reached this point in 2004 with a rushing defense almost as good as this one only to see it fall apart QB draw by QB draw. It's doubtful such a thing will repeat, but still possible.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
I actually taped the Northwestern-Penn State game to review it. What can I say? I have a disease. The lingering impression from that game was the Northwestern quarterback -- whoever it was -- running for his life constantly. The offensive line was a sieve against a defense that hasn't shown much in the way of consistent pass rush versus the pulse-bearing. With 12 sacks and three broken quarterbacks left in its wake the past two weeks, the Michigan defense does not look like a good matchup. In other news: man bites dog and you can't breathe in space.
Though the Northwestern offense managed to find something resembling a passing game for the first time all year against Michigan State, let's review: Michigan State. Michigan. Okay. There's a reason Northwestern is 107th in passing efficiency.
Key Matchup: CJ Bacher versus complete annhilation.
...will be irrelevant.
Key Matchup: As above.
Okay... I break many rules by posting this but I must anyway:
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Everyone remains healthy.
- Prescott Burgess is not tackled at midfield and arrested by the Ohio National Guard for stealing baseball cards when he was nine.
- We show up.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You Lost To Michigan State, -1 for And Did I Mention You Led That Game 38-3, -1 for You Lost To UNH And This Isn't Hockey, -1 for Seriously, They're I-AA, -1 for SERIOUSLY.).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... look for the portal back into my home universe.
Win will cause me to... yawn.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: We win by lots.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually.
- Ohio State loses to Minnesota by 80 points.
- 30-6, Michigan.
WR Toney Clemons has committed to Michigan. Hooray and stuff. Informative update coming.
Informative Update: So... yeah, there's this YouTube compliation video with grainy-field level footage of Clemons doing stuff. Sometimes it's running a route or waiting for a punt or, like, sitting down, but he's definitely doing stuff. One warning: if you're Mormon, at work, or just irritated by choruses that consist of "#*$& bitches, make money" repeated a dozen time you might want to mute your computer. Anyway:
There's remarkable consensus on Clemons for a total lack of consensus. Scout has him the #8 WR in the country, Rivals #20, and ESPN #37, but all say the same thing about him: he's peanut butter cookie dough, raw but so good.
Mmmm... peanut butter cookie dough.
Anyway, witness the remarkable consensus! Scout:
Clemons is fantastic in the air, showing great leaping ability, body control, aggressiveness, athletic ability and concentration. He'll attack the ball at the highest point and make an acrobatic catch with the defensive back draped all over him.
... but they list "route-running skills" as an area for improvement. (Also, Scout purports that this quote came from Clemons in re: his Michigan official visit: "It was bananas!" Did we take him to a speakeasy? Or just warp him into Pleasantville?)
He is explosive for his size and can get over the top of defensive backs in a hurry. He has very good hands and long arms. Can extend to snag balls thrown outside of his frame and shows outstanding body control on contested balls and jump ball match-ups. ... Huge red-zone threat because of height and strength. ... There is no questioning his tools, measurables and athleticism, but he is raw.
ESPN ends up rating him a 78, which doesn't match the "WR #37" ranking, since their 150 ends at players ranked 79, making a 78 a four-star equivalent. Weird.
Recently I asked a dozen high school and college coaches who they thought was the best prospect between Jon Ditto, Nick Sukay, and Toney Clemons. Six coaches thought Ditto was the best prospect while six thought Sukay was.
...As for Clemons, while none of the coaches considered him the best of the three, he did get a good amount of second place votes and was considered to be the receiver with the biggest potential. "If he ever puts it together, he could be tough," said one coach, "but he is the most raw of the three. You would be taking him on potential because he won't make the sudden impact that Ditto and Sukay would make".
(Odd, since Sukay and Ditto are not college WRs. Sukay is a safety, Ditto a TE. The high school coaches probably answered a different question than they were asked.)
Gateway HS coach (
the home of Steve Breaston, I believe the home of Justin King, that foolish man) Terry Smith:
"Clemons was the best of the bunch [at the Pitt Scout Combine]; when a defensive back gives you a cushion, the good ones you can always tell will eat that up, and he does," said Gateway football coach Terry Smith, who worked with wide receivers at the combine. "He is just a great athlete, he's not a polished receiver, but his natural ability is off the charts."
Clemons was named MVP of that combine, and after it it was widely presumed that the guy was a five-star lock when guru rankings came out. Obviously, that didn't happen.
In keeping with our upside-themed discussion, NFL Draft Showcase -- run by a guy who's somewhere between "random" and "guru", Allen Trieu, projects him as the #1 wide receiver prospect for the... uh... 2010 NFL draft:
Surprised? [That you rate HS seniors? Yes. -ed] Clemons may be a top 100 player in most books, but rarely is he rated in the top 5-10 at the position nationally. After watching him on tape, I'm blown away by his ability to go up and get the ball. He has a big frame (6'3, 190) and great athleticism. He was also a track (hurdles) champion, so you know he has the physical tools. He hasn't put up huge stats, but he has all the skills to blossom into a big time college receiver and he projects well to the NFL as well. This could be a player some of the national powers regret sleeping on.
So there you go. Raw. Described as a "track phenom," named an Army All-American, a combine MVP, has friends with horrendous taste in highlight compilation music. Sounds good.
There is a catch, though: what was the deal with his offers? Michigan beat out Pitt, WVU, Colorado, and MSU -- though mostly Pitt -- for his commitment. No offense to those schools, but that's not exactly USC, OSU, and Texas. Michigan was the only top-tier school to offer, which has to raise questions. Anyone as supposedly electric as Clemons should have at least token offers from the big schools, especially after that combine performance. I guess we'll see.
This is all very odd to me. How raw can a wide receiver be? Your job is to go out, run routes, and catch the damn ball. I can see how there might be an adjustment period if you were switching positions, as Steve Breaston did, but Clemons has played WR his entire high school career. Any inconsistencies in his technique or route-running will get worked through in his freshman year, especially given Michigan's apparently never-ending assembly line of terrifying wideouts. Either Clemons is not the remarkable athlete everyone says he is or a bunch of schools just made a major mistake.
Highlights from Dangerous Logic, per usual.
|M33||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Well blocked. Kraus gets to the second level and drives his man. There's a crease between Bihl, who gets a nice backside block, and the frontside of the line that Hart moves up into. He picks the wrong side of Bihl and turns what could have been eight into four, though.|
|We'll have to see if this holds up, but my theory on the run game is that Iowa slanted and jumped the hell out of all our zone plays, overpursuing like mad. At halftime, the coaches told Hart to cut everything way back, and voila: room. On this snap, Iowa is slanting left at the snap and thus gets penetration from virtually everyone. The backside's way open but Hart's not used to making this cut so soon. Iowa is jumping this play: a bad call from DeBord.|
|No reason for Henne to leave the pocket here, as it's held up beautifully. He starts scrambling but there's no way he's going to get the first. He had time to sit and find someone (Hart releasing into a checkdown that would have been open versus this man coverage) and pick up the first. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0,11 min 1st Q. First of a number of instances where Henne has time and decides to scramble out without being pressured. Second-down play was telegraphed.|
|Oluigbo in the game functioning as an H-back. He motions to the short side of the field, overloading it. Mitchell(-1) can't even bother the DT â€“ another one of these playside blocks â€“ forcing a Hart cutback into nothing.|
|This spot is a travesty. Breaston either has the first down or is inches away from it, but is bashed out of bounds by the defensive back. The ref on the sideline spots it where he goes out of bounds. (CA, 3) I'm livid about this spot. It's inexplicable. Why no review?|
|M37||3||2||Ace 3TE||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|Again with the slanting towards the strength of the formation. Kraus(-1) is blown into the backfield and is the main offender on the OL, but Mitchell(-1) didn't do much either.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Open for a shortish gain. Arrington does well to make a quick turn and pick up a bunch of YAC. (CA, 3)|
|Plenty of time; Arrington comes open on a crossing route. Makes 7 or 8 after the catch. (CA, 3)|
|O36||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||-7||Hart||Zone left|
|Hold on Carson Butler(-1), and a deserved one. He tackled his dude, allowing Hart the corner. If he had just let go after getting the block, he probably would have given him the corner anyway.|
|Klikenborg is right there to make the tackle and remove any YAC possibilities. If Arrington keeps running instead of coming to a stop he might get the corner on the slow-ish linebacker. (CA, 3)|
|Plenty of time. Receivers that are visible are covered. Henne eventually does his rollout-into-defenders thing and throws the ball away. (TA)|
|Stupid penalty on the Iowa defender as he drives through Arrington well before the ball gets there, drawing an obvious flag. Don't mind the throw short of the sticks here because at this spot on the field nine or ten yards either gives you a field goal attempt or a makeable fourth down. (CA, N/A)|
|Missed blitz pickup. The corner comes on a blitz as Hart goes out on a pattern. Riley slides over to pick him up, but Mitchell continues double-teaming the DT with Bihl, leaving Mattison virtually unblocked. (PR)|
|O45||2||24||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||13||Butler||TE Cross|
|Good protection this time. Henne finds Butler and hits him in stride at a point where he has a chance to get some YAC. (CA, 3)|
|Henne again has plenty of time, then freaks out with the unnecessary running thing. He runs himself into a sack. Plenty of time and third and 11 from the 32: either throw it away or bomb it into coverage. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|M43||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||17||Butler||TE Out|
|Well timed and thrown where Butler has room to turn upfield for a nice gain after the catch. Butler shows some agility tip-toeing down the sidelines. (CA, 3)|
|Somewhat in keeping with my theory: we line up in a balanced formation, not tipping what side the play will go to. We go right, away from Long, et al, and there's no penetration into the backfield this time. Hart finds a hole on the backside, gets five yards downfield, and then grinds for an impossible further three.|
|Jake Long comes down the line, managing to interfere with the penetrating DT enough for Hart to bounce outside between TEs and Riley.|
|Corner opposite Arrington blitzes right past him into the backfield, screwing up the play's timing.|
|O29||2||11||Ace 4-Wide||Pass||8||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Butler split out as a wideout to the top of the screen with another player. Breaston motions to the their side and takes the slip screen. Iowa forces it inside but there's no one in position to stop it â€“ no man coverage. (CA, 3)|
|Receivers bunched tightly just off right tackle, Butler lines up to the left. Mark Bihl(-2) is owned by Mattison. Henne manages to get a duck off to Mathews, who scoops the ball up and gets the first down. Ugly but effective from Henne. (CA, 2)|
|O16||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Butler||TE Cross|
|A little behind Butler but still catchable... and if caught, Butler walks in to the endzone. (CA, 2)|
|O16||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||12||Butler||TE Cross|
|Exact same play, this time against man coverage instead of zone. Butler has a step on Humpel but not quite enough to get past him and into the endzone. (CA, 3)|
|Disappointing, since the left side of the ball really blew Iowa off the ball. Probably because two guys are blocking three and the third guy, a linebacker, is unblocked. Probably a Kraus or Bihl screwup.|
|Goddammit, this is a touchdown. He does bobble it but then he catches it and gets his toe in-bounds. No review? WTF. (CA, 2)|
|This one's really close and would have stood as called on the field no matter how it was originally called. (CA, 2)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 3-0, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|No room. Iowa is lined up in a 5-2, covering the wide-side tight end. We run there and get no push. Bihl(-1) goes backwards; Hart runs up into no hole.|
|M40||2||9||Five Wide||Pass||3||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Again they motion him to two WRs towards the top of the field and throw the slip screen. IMO: a ridiculously stupid call. Iowa's bringing guys up to stop the run whenever you threaten it, so the best way to run a slip screen is to empty the backfield? Where's the play action in this game? (CA, 3)|
|Godfrey is in nice coverage, but Henne puts this right on Breaston's fingertips, outside of the defender's reach. (DO, 3)|
|O47||1||10||I-Form||Pass||Inc / -10||Breaston||Bomb|
|Holding on Mitchell(-1)... really obvious call. Deep ball is to a covered Breaston and is winged long. Maybe TA, but filed as IN. (IN, 0)|
|Safety comes up just before the snap and convinces Hart to cut it back inside instead of heading out to open space... if he's a few yards back at the snap Hart pops this outside. Irritating that they can do this in first and twenty.|
|Okay: we have been running some play action, but they're always draw fakes on drop-back passes, like this play. We haven't run a draw all game. Anyway: this is what Henne needs to do instead of taking off on those ineffective scrambles of his. Everyone's covered downfield, so dump it down to Hart and let him run with the ball. (CA, 3)|
|Arrington open; Henne throws it wide. Griese claims that Arrington got out of his break late, but if it's a yard further inside he catches it. (IN, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Couldn't we get this on the last drive? (CA, 3)|
|M34||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||N/A||Hail Mary|
|Incomplete; not charted.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 3-0, EOH.|
|I have no idea what happens because ABC does the field-level endzone thing again. Thanks, stupid director!|
|Easy throw and catch. (CA, 3)|
|Henne doing a better job with his reads and his time here, coming down to his third receiver, which is Hart on a swing pass. (CA, 3)|
|Safety fills a decent hole. You can see that the Iowa defense is reading these plays really quickly and attacking at the LOS instead of waiting in the backfield.|
|Hopefully he's just young and not going to keep doing this.|
|Mathews coming across the zone; ducks underneath a potential tackler and manages to get the first down. (CA, 3)|
|Riley comes back in the game and immediately lets Mattison go right around him and knock the ball loose. He recovers the resulting fumble. (PR)|
|Only a three-man rush. We've got a three-step drop; the pass is batted. (BA, 0)|
|Perhaps one of the reasons this ball was overthrowns was Butler being held for a good ten yards. I mean... seriously. Anyway... Henne drew the safety to the ball by staring it down, so this is a (BR), but there really should be a flag on this play. (BR, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 3-0, 11 min 3rd Q.|
|Holding penalty on Arrington(-1) negates a 16-yard run. Brian Thompson kicks out a linebacker lined up on the LOS, providing a crease between himself and Long. Obi flows into the hole first, forcing the safety to try to go under him; this doesn't work. Holding call downfield is lame but technically accurate.|
|Deflected by Klinkenborg, who's dropped deep. (BR, 0)|
|We finally run this thing after having faked it four or five times. With only six guys in the box it works fairly well, but instead of a crease right up the middle a la Penn State, Hart' forced outside where a safety can disengage and eventually tackle.|
|Hey, he caught one. (CA, 3)|
|Massive cutback all the way outside the backside DE leaves him and Arrington two-on two with a safety and a corner; I don't know if this is miscommunication or what, but Hart takes a few yards instead of maybe getting more.|
|O20||2||6||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone right|
|No one gets blocked. Neither DT. Butler can't hold his on the edge. Boren can't hold off Klinkenborg. Etc.|
|Pitch and catch w/ draw fake. Draw fakes seem designed to hold the LB inside so they can't get out in the passing lanes, but this is man anyway. (CA, 3)|
|O9||1||G||I-Form Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone left|
|Touchdown. One of the few times in the game where we run away from the strength of the formation. No penetration this time â€“ maybe because we go to the side they don't expect us to. With Iowa slanted towards the TE side everyone has to attack the frontside; the linebacker and DE on the backside are both useless, waiting for the play to come to them. Boren and Mitchell have one guy to block. Boren does an excellent job and Hart powers through the safety for the last three.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-3, 6 min 3rd Q.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||10||Hart||Zone right|
|I think this play is actually designed to get to the backside. We run away from the the strenght of the formation but Oluigbo immediately heads to the backside to seal a linebacker. Hart breaks a tackle four yards downfield and powers for the last two or three.|
|M41||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone right|
|Confirms my suspicions about the last play, as the fullback heads right this time. Hart manages to squirt through a tiny crease, breaking a DL's tackle.|
|Another play away from the strongside, another cutback. Good job by Butler(+1) to kick the DE out and open up a big hole.|
|O43||1||10||I-Form Twins||Pass||4||Breaston||Slip screen|
|These have been well defended by Iowa all day. (CA, 3)|
|Easy throw and catch with Iowa playing off. (CA, 3)|
|O29||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Play is extremely well blocked; think Hart needs to recognize this and get upfield faster. He's indecisive, changing his mind about whether he's going inside or outside of Long, allowing a couple Iowa defenders to disengage.|
|O25||2||6||I-Form Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone right|
|Will Paul in at FB. He manages to kick out a charging safety. Hart's forced to cut up inside of him where there are a lot of bodies.|
|Well... Boren has one of these playside blocks... and it's a really playside block. All game Iowa's been lining up with defensive linemen directly over the three interior linemen and two guys split out wide: Boren's asked to block the guy lined up over Bihl. This he does not do. Hart cutback ends up with but a yard.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 13-6, 13 min 4th Q.|
|M41||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Now an eighth guy in the box. Hart's cutback lane is filled with an unblocked linebacker.|
|Tackled immediately, but open underneath like he has been all day. (CA, 3)|
|No one open at first. Henne starts scrambling out. It looks like it's going to be another one of these plays where he scrambles uselessly and is eventually sacked. But this time he finds Arrington for first down yardage; it's only a great play by the Iowa defender that prevents a completion. (CA, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-6, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Mathews in front of the zone; a checkdown. (CA, 3)|
|Hart cuts behind Oluigbo after finding a hole between Butler and Long. A DT grabs him and Hart starts hauling him forward before Merrick grabs his ankles.|
|O35||3||2||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|Controversial reversed fumble... well, not so controversial as he's obviously down. With Hart lean ing forward and his knee down around the 34 it's probably right-ish but generous. Either way Michigan was in sneak range on fourth down.|
|O33||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone left|
|Jake Long(-1) defeated and pancaked by the defensive end. Looks like he tripped or something. Free DE makes the TFL.|
|Again: easy catch and throw. (CA, 3)|
|O22||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Against strength of formation: cutback. Oluigbo heads straight upfield this time. Anyway: Butler kicks out the DE and everyone flowing down the line opens up a big hole back there. Hart tackes it. An excellent tackle from Fletcher keeps this gain down... if only Obi had cut all the way to the right.|
|O18||2||6||I-Form Twins||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|Obi heads out playside this time, blocking a charging safety. Hart cuts back behind a wall of Obi, Long, and Kraus. Reason there's a big hole? Outstanding playside block from Bihl, crushing his man backwards. Hesitancy to penetrate because of the cutback?|
|Obi playside. Almost a replay of the last play, except Mitchel (now at RT), can't prevent Mattison from flowing down the line and making the tackle at the LOS.|
|O10||2||9||I-Form||Run||10||Hart||Zone right (2, 3)|
|Touchdown. Away from strength of formation, Obi takes a couple steps playside then shoots out to the backside, cutting the last guy with a chance at Hart. A counter zone? We've done this too often for this to be improvisation. Chris of DL instructs me to "give the fullbacks some love." LOVE!|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-6, 4 min 4th Q.|
Charty Charty Chart Chart.
(Now with explanatory legend.)
You'll note a ton of additional throws filed under "CA". This is due in large part to Iowa's effective gameplan against our run game -- more on that later -- which allowed Iowa to keep its safeties ten yards off the LOS. Without Manningham or a favorable presnap situation, Michigan hardly went downfield. As a result, Henne threw a lot of outs and crosses and the like. With few deep throws, the chances of things other than "CA" were minimized. Henne was generally accurate but not inspiring.
One issue: a high number of BRs. Only one was a dangerous throw into coverage -- the interception on the seam route -- but a total of four is high. Henne started the game doing that scramble-into-danger thing when the pocket was holding, essentially sacking himself. That hesitancy has crept into his game in recent weeks; hopefully it's more a function of no Manningham than anything else.
- 0 = totally uncatchable
- 1 = difficult catch worthy of Avant.
- 2 = tough-ish catch.
- 3 = aaaaargh if dropped.
I just want to point out that since I started charting Breaston's dropped all of one "3". I know he had some early dodginess and Michigan's protecting him by not throwing him balls he's unlikely to catch (slants, anyone?) but I think concerns about his hands are overblown.
Mathews had a nice debut -- a functional debut, anyway, unless you want to count blocking -- and looks like he'll be a good #3 the next couple years.
Butler is developing into a weapon. A weapon good for a false start per game, sure, but he's just a freshman.
Hart had 27 yards at halftime and just under 100 after. WTF?
I gots a theory: Iowa, being well coached and familiar with zone running, figured out a way to deal with the Michigan run game: line up three penetrating interior linemen directly over the Michigan guards and centers with the remaining DE and a linebacker split wide, creating a five-man front. The linemen slanted heavily towards the strength of the formation at the snap, cutting off the outside, geting penetration, and bottling Hart up.
After halftime, Michigan frequently lined up in the I and ran against the strength of the formation, only to have Hart cut back to the cavernous -- and overloaded! -- backside. Occasionally, Oluigbo would even bolt out to the backside and crush the last man between Hart and an eight- or ten-yard gain. The best example of this was the last real offensive play of the game, when Oluigbo took a couple steps to the right, then radically changed direction and plowed the last guy with a chance to close down the massive backside/strongside hole. If we hadn't run him at the back of the formation a couple times already, you could assume it was a brilliant improvisation, but I think it was the playcall: a counter zone or something.
The side effect of all the backside/weakside stuff was to mute the quick penetration of the Iowa line since they couldn't be sure which way the play was going based on the formation. Not coincidentally, Hart's best run in the first half came when Michigan lined up in balanced two TE set and Iowa couldn't crash the strongside.
So... consider Riley exonerated and hold off on the Boren coronation.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
We have to be concerned that Iowa managed to bring our run game to a standstill for a half without committing an extra man to the box. Our second-half adjustment got us rolling, but how effective will it be when Ohio State has it on film and can plan for it?
The rest? MOTS, really. Occasional dodginess from the OL, Henne good but still a little prone to unforced errors, Breaston and Arrington still Breaston and Arrington, etc.
(Video links coming later.)
|For some reason, the local ABC affiliate decided that it was really important we see the last 12 seconds of Texas-Nebraska and then a frickin' local news commercial instead of the opening kickoff and most of the first play. By the time we get back, Sims is squirting through a small hole up the middle for a decent gain. Taylor(-1) tries to spin free of his defender, ceding ground and opening up the gap Sims exploits.|
|O27||2||3||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Quick hitch|
|Trent playing a good way off, essentially ceding this at the snap. I don't mind it on second and three. (Cover -1)|
|Think Sims made the wrong cut here and it's away from the desginated hole. Taylor(+1) stood his man up and may have pushed him back a bit but not enough to close the hole. When Sims cuts back Woodley(+1) and Taylor converge to make the TFL.|
|Sims again refuses to follow his fullback. Inexplicable, as Taylor's blown off the ball by a double-team and there's more room in the actual hole than his cutback lane. Filled by Burgess(+1), but this should have worked.|
|Harris(+1), blitzing, is the guy who bats it down. (BA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Really odd couple of runs from Sims where he looked to have room in the hole the play was designed to go into but instead decided to cut back into otherwise blocked defenders.|
|O24||1||10||Base 4-3||Pass||5||WR Screen|
|Tackle releases, trying to get a block on the corner. He's a little late, allowing Sears(+1) to come up outside of him and get an ankle tackle.|
|Douglas working Sears, in press coverage. Sears(-1) lets Douglas inside of him too easily despite setting up to the interior. (cover -1)|
|O40||1||10||Base 4-3||Penalty||-5||Illegal Formation|
|The play is a rollout pass that is caught by Douglas for 20 yards despite Harris(+1) coming up like a shot and leveling Tate as he throws. Douglas is wide open. (Pressure +1, cover -2)|
|O35||1||15||Base 4-3||Pass||4||TE Flat|
|Comes down to a checkdown (cover +1), who is tackled immediately by Burgess and Englemon.|
|Wide open in front of Hall(-1, cover -1), but dropped.|
|O39||3||11||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Short post|
|We blitz two guys, though one is delayed. They don't get there in time (pressure -1), and Brodell is open in front of Hall(-1, cover -1) again. Fortunately, the throw is behind him and his attempt at a one-handed grab is not enough. (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Woodley(+1) beats his man badly, forcing Tate to step up in the pocket and take his eyes off his receivers. Harris comes up too hard and is sidestepped; Crable makes a late dive but can't grab him, and Tate escapes from a sack. (pressure +1)|
|Harris(+1) diagnoses and eliminates. That does not work on Dave Harris.|
|Harrison blitzes; is picked up. Tate finds Brodell downfield. The ball is overthrown badly, forcing a leaping grap from Brodell. Trent's right there for the tackle and may have had a play on a better-thrown ball. (CA, cover +1)|
|O38||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||2||Off tackle|
|Woodley(+1) gets his man pushed back, closing off the outside and forcing Sims back up into the middle where many blue shirts wait.|
|Some sort of horrible zone leaves Douglas open by a million yards on an eight-yard hitch. Hall is way, way off the LOS when the ball is thrown. Englemon comes over and makes the tackle. (Cover -2) Englemon(+1) does force a fumble, but it goes out of bounds.|
|Hey: Sims decides to follow the hole. Johnson(-1) is doubled and cedes the hole. Burgess(-1) does not diagnose the play quickly enough and is crushed on the second level.|
|Decent time for Tate, but he whe tries to step up and fire he's hit by Taylor(+1), forcing a wildly overthrown ball. (IN, pressure +1)|
|Read excellently by Trent(+1) who is there at the snap and tackles.|
|M36||3||8||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||10||TE Out|
|Can't complain about the coverage: Burgess(+1) is right there and forces a tough throw and catch from Tate and Chandler, which they make. (Cover +1, pressure -1).|
|Jamison(+2) does an excellent job to pop the pulling OL on this rollout and eventually cause Tate's stumbling sack. Crable did well to also get free and attack the quarterback, but he overran the play and nearly let Tate escape. (Pressure +2)|
|Crable(+3) is in instantly, sacking Tate and causing a fumble and a turnover. Branch(+1) recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-0, 1 min 1st.|
|O9||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||5||Off tackle|
|Young manages to squeeze through a small hole between Taylor and Branch (doubled). Taylor(+1) gets some push and makes an ankle tackle on the slashing Young.|
|O14||2||5||Base 4-3||Run||0||Off tackle|
|Taylor(+2) pushes into the backfield again, making a tackle for no gain with no help from the rest of the defense.|
|Chandler is open for the first down but Tate's throw is high and hard, possib ly because Woodley(+1) hit him just as he threw. (pressure +1).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 11 min 2nd Q.|
|O19||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||1||Off tackle|
|Branch(+1) shoots inside the tackle, flows down the line, and tackles at the LOS.|
|Screen finds a lot of room. Reasons: we blitz one guy and everyone else is in tight man. The one guy assigned to Young can't get through three blockers, and he's into the secondary easily. Our rock, their paper. Note: Taylor is hauling ass downfield in case Taylor cuts back.|
|O38||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||1||Off tackle|
|Branch, Taylor, and Biggs all fire into their linemen, driving them back. Branch(+1) makes an ankle tackle at the LOS.|
|"False start, the entire line."|
|O44||2||14||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-2||Off tackle|
|Young decides to take this outside and must avoid Biggs(+1), so he bounces a little further out. Harrison is waiting for him there, so he goes a little further out. Trent(+1) defeats a block and shoots into the backfield for a three-yard loss.|
|Burgess crushes tate as he throws the ball. Miraculously, it's accurate by Trent â€“ lined up in press â€“ is stride-for-stride with Douglas, getting a hand on the ball. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|O2||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||3||FB Dive|
|Counter fake from young, then Tate hands it to the fullback. Caught a little off guard, the defense can't get him at the line, but it's a fullback dive.|
|We get to see this play from a field-level endzone camera because the director thinks this is goddamned Amelie instead of a football game. Jamison comes free and makes a tackle at the line but I have no idea what happened on this play.|
|Rollout and throw from Tate; good work from Hall(+1) to come up and tackle before the sticks. (cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, EO 2nd Q.|
|Brodell open in front of Hall(-1) in the zone. (cover -1)|
|M17||2||1||Base 4-3||Run||1||Off tackle?|
|Hard to tell what the design of this play is, as Michigan bashes its way into the backfield (Crable +1). Sims cuts back into the backside pursuit for about a yard.|
|Crable(+1) on the short route forces Tate to hesitate. By that point, Woodley(+1) is on him, forcing a pass out of bounds. (TA, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 3-3, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|Momentarily looks like it'll be a good gain, but Adams(+1) fills nicely to prevent much yardage.|
|Michigan telegraphs its blitz, which is picked up. Tate rolls and finds Grigsby in front of Hall. (Pressure -2)|
|All day for Tate, which allows Douglass to run a flag between Trent and Englemon. Trent in decent coverage but that's way too long to let Tate sit and survey. (Pressure -2)|
|M43||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||5||Off tackle|
|Bad time for Biggs to stunt inside. As soon as he goes, the corner is open. ORTP (Our Rock, Their Paper).|
|Douglas doesn't get the audible and fails to turn around for the ball.|
|Wow: Chandler is wiiiide open. (Cover -2, pressure -1) Tate almost throws this wide, but Chandler makes a good catch. WTF are our linebackers doing here? (-1 Harris, Burgess)|
|M11||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||1||Zone left|
|Branch(+1) and Jamison(+1) convince Young to go back inside; Taylor(+1) sheds a block and dives to make an ankle tackle.|
|Woodley(+1) stunts around, coming free. Branch closes him down from the outside, forcing a great read from Tate to get it to young for a postiive play. (pressure +1)|
|English brings the blitz, getting Woodley in unblocked. Burgess(+1) is in good enough coverage for Tate to throw it wide, hoping he can keep it away from him. (pressure, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 10-6, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Woodley(+3) with the sack and strip. Unfortunately, Iowa recovers.|
|Branch(+1) displays his improbable agility by stepping around the guard, then a RB trying to cut him. That forces Tate to scramble. Crable(+1) comes off his guy and runs him out of bounds, picking up a cheap sack.|
|Woodley(+1) almost picks up another sack; Tate manages to stay upright and gets off a remarkably accurate pass to Dominique Douglas. The ball comes flying out when he hits the ground: incompletion. (Pressure +1, cover -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-6, 11 min 4th Q.|
|I don't really know why teams try this on Trent. He's good in deep coverage, not so good short. He's in good position and may get a deflection on this. Hard to tell with no replay. Anyway: tough throw, tough catch, and a guy right in the receiver's grill. (cover +1)|
|Branch(+1) used as a spy here? He's 330 pounds! Anyway: screen. Branch doesn't try to get a pass rush, just standing his guy up, until the pass is thrown. He disrupts the timing of the play in the backfield, allowing Michigan to converge and tackle.|
|Play that got Ferentz all volcanic because Morgan Trent obviously grabbed Douglas. There seems to be miscommunication here, as Douglas is running an out and the ball is yards away from him. Even if it's PI, it's uncatchable.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-6, 9 min 4th Q.|
|With everyone in man coverage and a blitz coming, if Tate got out of the pocket this was going to be a good gain. He does and it is. Accursed QB scramble which doubles opponent's rushing yards!|
|O41||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||Zone left|
|Uh... okay. WTF? Great job by Burgess(+1) to stand up a blocker, string the play out, and tackle.|
|O41||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||19||TE Cross|
|Woodley(+1) again beating the tackle and bearing down on Tate; despite the pressure Tate gets off a great throw to Chandler. (Pressure +1, cover -1)|
|Out in front of Grigsby. Decent coverage from Michigan. (pressure -1)|
|Chandler again. Too much time. (pressure -1)|
|Crable held; Tate steps up and delivers the ball accurately.|
|Jamison(+2) gets around the defensive end, forcing Tate to scramble. Woodley comes free, cuts off the outside, and sacks him.|
|M21||2||12||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||6||Bubble screen|
|Uh... okay. This is unlikely to get a first down and will thus wind the clock.|
|Tate's pass incomplete to an open receiver. May have been bothered by late pressure from Woodley.|
|Odd play. Tate stumbles going back; Michigan sends the house. Jamison(+1) is coming in but is tackled(!) from behind(!) by an OL... no flag. Anyway, Tate's pass is a looper off his back foot that Englemon steps in front of. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 20-6, 2 min 2nd Q. EOG.|
Wow, this is nice and late. When can we expect the 1998 Iowa UFR?
Shut up! I was almost dead!
Are you sure you didn't spend the day crying about Jemele Freakin' Hill getting 400k from ESPN?
Okay, one comment: she was obviously below-par when she wrote for the State News. A collegiate newspaper. At Michigan State. And now?
|Woodley||10||10||Two sacks that could have been five had Tate been even a little hesitant. Was beating the Iowa tackle all day.|
|Taylor||6||1||5||Has a tendency to get thrust backwards if doubled, but just plain good.|
|Branch||6||6||Forced one of our sacks even though he didn't get one for himself.|
|Jamison||6||6||Good day for him. Has more speed than Biggs and flashes surprising power at times. Wonder if he'll be used against Troy Smith rollouts... he made an excellent play that led to a Crable sack against Tate.|
|Crable||6||-||6||Three sacks though only one was properly his.|
|Sears||1||1||0||Has replaced Trent for one series each of the last two games.|
|Trent||2||-||2||Tested deep twice.|
|"Pressure"||11||9||2||Possibly harsh. Tate's experience was the difference between five sacks and ten.|
Pressure and coverage seem harsh to me when Iowa managed all of six points, but there they are.
How was this performance compared to the Penn State one?
Depends on who you're talking about. The defensive line probably played better. Michigan benefited from a lot of PSU blocking busts; the hesitancy of all three PSU quarterbacks also helped out. The Iowa offensive line, even minus Dace Richardson, is a far superior unit and Tate, for all his struggles, is veteran QB who makes quick, intelligent decisions. More than a few times he managed to get off an accurate pass in a situation when most other quarterbacks would have been sacked. Also: no busts from the line. Michigan just beat people to get to the QB.
The secondary, however, isn't quite living up to expectations. I wonder if the oft-times soft coverage is a response to the dominance of the pass rush and run defense: the assumption is that the only way to drive the field on Michigan is to hit a bomb of some sort and if you stay in front of the WRs ev entually the opponent will find itself in third and long and be forced to punt or try a field goal. (Note that this is a MUCH better assumption than it was last year when the run defense was sketchy and the pass rush was okay at best.) I believe that it's rare for the secondary to make a play unless the quarterback gives them an opportunity to. The way passing games are designed, a senior quarterback capable of looking off a zone and firing it accurately is going to move the ball down the field if not pressured. I guess we'll see.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
We're working on pressuring those rollouts that worked so effectively for Michigan State. Against Iowa, it was intermittently effective but also got Tate lit up or sacked a couple times. The free first down it represented went away. With Bacher and Kellen Lewis mobile guys behind dodgy OLs, we'll get plenty of practice doing that before OSU.
That same level of production from the DL against a better offensive line is encouraging, as was the wholesale shutdown of the Iowa running game. Faster backs weren't particularly useful against the Michigan front seven; the Tate scramble in garbage time doubled their rushing yards.
I still think Trent on Ginn and Hall on Gonzalez are decent matchups for us. Trent's deep coverage hasn't been impeccable but he hasn't let anyone behind him even when lined up with relatively small cushions, and that includes Derrick Williams, who may not be the world's best receiver but is pretty damn fast. Harrison (or Sears) on Robiskie or Hall... not so much.
What does it mean for Northwestern?
CJ Bacher should put on an extra helmet.
Right: yesterday was a bad day. I felt like the guy from Flowers for Algernon when he realized that at one time he was like smart and stuff but no longer. Today I'm still kind of bleah but I am recognizably human. Double-barreled UFR coming ASAP. Expect the D in an hour or two.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Fallers: Oregon and Georgia Tech are your main fallers after getting waxed this weekend.
Risers: I'm not sure exactly what caused Boston College to shoot upwards into the mid-teens. Could SMQB's impassioned case for the Eagles have had a widespread effect on the voting? (Although apparently not that impassioned: SMQB then predicted an FSU victory over BC). Surely it wasn't the Eagles' confirmation that yes, Florida State is a long way from its glory days.
Clemson managed to hop past Cal and Notre Dame on the strength of their 31-7 throat-crushing of Georgia Tech. I wonder if Charlie Weis will bitch out blogpoll voters now.
Rutgers and Wisconsin continue to crawl up the poll, as well.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: Wack ballots are given a pass this week due to illness.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is Dawg Sports. Unusual ballot features: Clemson #4, Wisconsin #6, Arkansas #7, Boston College #10. South Carolina? #23? Okay. Note that the ballots are falling in line as more and more of the season passes.
Mr. Numb Existence goes to the Sports Frog. Congratulations and stuff; your ballot is as per usual difficult to talk about.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award remains in the hands of Badger Sports for placing the Badgers #11. Too bad Wisconsin doesn't play anyone with a pulse, like, ever. Otherwise the dark power of this award could be brought to bear once more.
Straight Bangin' Award is Boi From Troy's for a second week. He bumped USC to #8, passing a plummetting Oregon and static WVU, but is still pessimistic about the Trojan's chances to remain undefeated.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive is also Dawg Sports. Kyle's ballot is either the work of deep reconsideration or general jumpiness, moving just about everyone around some.
Mr. Stubborn is Conquest Chronicles; top nine unchanged and only gradual movement afterwards.