MGoBlog Ballot - Week 8
|2||Boise St. Broncos||--|
|6||Michigan St. Spartans||3|
|7||TCU Horned Frogs||-3|
|9||Alabama Crimson Tide||2|
|12||Ohio St. Buckeyes||-9|
|13||Oklahoma St. Cowboys||1|
|18||South Carolina Gamecocks||-2|
|19||Florida St. Seminoles||--|
|21||West Virginia Mountaineers||2|
|22||Mississippi St. Bulldogs||--|
|Dropouts: Nevada Wolf Pack, Air Force Falcons, N.C. State Wolfpack, Michigan Wolverines|
SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »
Just a couple notes:
- I think I was undervaluing Auburn last week, which helps explain their jump over Oklahoma.
- I hesitate to move LSU any higher because they've looked so shaky, but they have the best group of good wins in the country, if you ask me.
- Oregon State kills TCU a little bit. Boise escapes unscathed in that exchange because they have a bit more quality to their resume. That probably won't hold up much longer though.
- I like the order of the Big Ten teams, not so sure on where in the poll each of them sits. Iowa could also be closer to Wisconsin/Ohio State, but I hesitate to move them ahead of a couple undefeated squads.
- Toward the end of the poll, I had a semi-scramble to find viable teams. Any and all suggestions are welcome there.
The resume chart can be found here. Questions, suggestions, etc. are welcomed in the comments so I can put together a solid final ballot for Wednesday.
Pic note for Buckeye fans: I see your non sequitur and raise it to allegory.
Are all my troubles here to stay?
Paul McCartney woke up one morning with 90 percent of Yesterday playing in his head. He sat down at a piano, worked out the chords and the melody, and before lunch had created one of the seminal musical achievements of his generation. Then he started tinkering with it. And tinkering. And tinkering.
As told in Yesterday's revisitation by the Beatles on Ukulele project:
Just about everyone around Paul became sick and tired of Yesterday before it was finished. While he was finessing it on the set of “Hard Days Night”, director Richard Lester got so bored of McCartney’s endless fussing that he lost his temper and told Paul to “finish the bloody thing or I’ll have the piano removed from the set.”
It's been 1,035 days since Rich Rodriguez joined the Michigan football program. It's been considerably longer since that morning in 1989 or 1990 when he awoke with an epiphany:
"If they have to defend the QB, I can run from the spread,"
... scribbled some lines on a play sheet, and by lunch had created his generation's seminal football achievement. Then he tinkered.
Like Lester, the Michigan faithful are getting antsy for a finished product. We've seen the spread 'n shred run by Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. We've gotten used to it, so much so that imperfections, e.g. sophomore quarterbacks throwing interceptions while being chased by Adrian Clayborn, stand out. But this thing is happening. It just tagged the 4th best defense in the nation for 522 yards.
I'm sure every section has their "Unacceptable" person. Section 37's is a shrill lady who yells "You're pissing me off!" whenever something pisses her off. Things that pissed her off yesterday:
- Taylor Lewan false starts.
- Not converting on 3rd and 16 in the redzone, then missing the field goal
- Steve Schilling false starts while standing next to Taylor Lewan
- Iowa converting on 3rd and 16 from about the same spot on a give-up-and-kick HB draw
- Iowa converting on 3rd and long
- Denard throwing up an interceptable duck
- Forcier throwing up an interceptable duck
- Missing field goals (in general)
- Vincent Smith fumbling
- Kickoffs going out of bounds at the 3 yard line (this she blamed on RR for not teaching his kickers the rules)
- Lots of other stuff that was Rich Rod's fault.
Later in the evening I found myself on a grimy, uncomfortable couch in the backyard of my sister's boyfriend's place in Commerce, filled with far more rum & apple cider than the human digestive system was ever designed for, and trapped between my sister's friend and Misopogal, while they attempted to fill the space I was clearly occupying with natter about earrings and piercings.
So I sent out drunk texts: about Kenny Demens's apparent middle linebacker competence, and 522 yards, and making coaches prepare for both Forcier and Denard, and improbability drives. (Side note: sending the same drunktext to multiple friends is not advised, unless you are prepared to have six text conversations at once about the same topic.)
I'm still not sure how to take these last two games, Diary. Right about the same time in 1990, when the now-ratty couch was probably some respectable couple's living room, MTV was voting Paul's opus the greatest pop song in history, and Rich Rodriguez was scribbling the first zone-read play, Michigan under Year One of Moeller had also just lost two home games to Michigan State and Iowa in quick succession, falling to 3-3 (1-2). That team ultimately won out and finished No. 7 in the AP poll. It also had Tripp Welborne.
Do I long for yesterday? I remember when, not too long ago, we were Iowa, sitting the safeties back, betting on Woodley et al. to force the offense into mistakes, getting a two-score lead, then shifting to a zone-left neutral while "that spread team" created a far-too-interesting 4th quarter. Then we won (except when we didn't).
But I woke this morning with as much hope as hangover. Sure this looks like last year (I just made Brian's naughty list): the comeback over Notre Dame, the slaying of MACrifices, the defensive-exposing Big Ten opener against Indiana, and losing to MSU and Iowa after three quarters of getting dominated followed by a just-short comeback, right down to the excuse of the Heisman candidate QB's bum shoulder.
The difference: when Denard gets hurt, there's Tate behind him. We didn't put up 522 yards against the No. 4 defense in the country because we have Denard, nor because we have Tate, but because we have both of them. The genius of the Beatles wasn't in John Lennon or Paul McCartney, but in Lennon & McCartney.
So I don't want yesterday. I want collaboration. Start each game with Denard, and after a few series, assess. If he's gashing them for big yards so that the opponent has to bring their safeties into the box to open up the "freakout" plays, Robinson stays in. If, like with Iowa and MSU, they're generally keeping Denard to 3- to 5-yard runs without sacrificing coverage, in comes Tate, our "improbability drive," who will either score spectacularly or flame out spectacularly -- hey, if we're losing, changing the game dynamic is a good thing. If, by luck/Forcier-Moxie, we even it back up, back goes Denard and long QB-Iso drives that may or may not flame out around the opponent's 25 -- like Lloyd ball except it gets 5.5 yards per carry and doesn't turn the ball over.
This is only if Denard's passing struggles against good defenses continues. If he regains his accuracy from the Notre Dame game, then on with the Dread Show.
Some things can't improve. Jordan Kovacs isn't going to get fast enough to pick off that Rick-Six, nor is James Rogers ever going to be able to recover from a stop-and-go in time to cover the back of the end zone.
But Gordon will probably learn how to tackle, and I wasn't imagining that MLB competence. Our defense, while missing its best player, was making 2 out of 3 plays, which is a big improvement from the 1 in 3 earlier this year. Next year the sophomore offense will be a junior offense, and the freshman defense will be a sophomore defense. Take away a third of the mistakes in Yesterday and we make big.
Like you, I'm impatient to witness the final cut of Rich Rod's supposed masterpiece at the end of Help! But I wasn't impatient when I was sitting on that couch. I was messed up and thinking crazy thoughts like "How can a coach plan for both Tate and Denard?" -- and a collaboration that might produce the football equivalent of Rubber Soul and Revolver before these two guys graduate....and how that stuff was way cooler than Yesterday. This isn't the end of the line; this is a 4-loss team, like the ones that pissed Section 37 Lady off in 1996, except the four losses will be because of youth and talent deficiency instead of complacency. This is a young, mistake-prone team who can't kick field goals, but whose best days are still ahead of them.
Those are just my thoughts this week. Here's some much more reasonable ones...
After yesterday's game, bronxblue went ahead and provided a little perspective, telling his story in the only way such a tale could be told: Bruce Willis Movie Posters.
User mi93 created a diary called -- stop me if you've heard this before -- "Dear Diary," where things like the following are said:
What matters is this – this is your team, to encourage, to cheer, and to support. These are young men who appear to be representing the university with far greater class than some of us. And this team deserves our passion for them to succeed, without our inflated expectations for what we think they should be.
The sentiment is a good reminder for...uh...mostly people who don't read MGoBlog. As for the name, our lawyers have been in contact with mi93; we want the pants!
|Post Week 6: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||YPG||35-28 Iowa|
|Tempo-Free Offense and Defense Points-Per-Posession: Iowa||bigmc6000||Tempo-free stats||30-21 Iowa|
|Historic Comparison: Penalties in the Michigan vs. Iowa Game||profitgoblue||Recent penalty history||M can handle 4 penalties, not lots|
|Week #6 National Rankings, Fremeau Efficiency Index, and Sagarin Predictor for Iowa||Enjoy Life||Sagarin, Fremeau, etc.||Iowa by 1 to 3 pts.|
|Iowa Preview||The Mathlete||PAN||28-27 M|
|THE KNOWLEDGE CHALLENGE: 5||The_Knowledge||Is from future||M win|
|Our Defense, Their Offense - Ostrich Strategem||mistersuits||Normalized PPG and YPG||38-28 Iowa|
|Prevew: Iowa 2010||Brian||cubist lolcat||34-28 Iowa|
Wowzers - mistersuits totally nailed it (FTR I said 38-28 too -- and for those of you familiar with BHGP regulars, is Bellanca like their version of me, or a contrarian dufflepud chief..uh...like me?), and everyone was so close that the most inaccurate prognosticator was the guy from the future. Nobody said nuffin' about 522 yards and an extended Tate Experience, but when you know the final score of Saturday's game on Friday morning, you gotta leave some surprise for the viewers.
For pinpointing the final score, and because his weekly work deserves some recognition, I'm naming mistersuits your Eric Crouch Memorial Career-Reward for Another Good Season Diarist of the Week (FTR I would have given that one to Randel El).
Michigan at the Midway
After six games, MGoDiarists took the opportunity to assess Michigan's season at its half-way point (not counting bowls...natch).
Let's start with that by shorts, which is actually an Interactive Mid-Season Recap. Offensive MVP, Defensive MVP, Best play, "Clutch-est" play, Best freshman, Unsung hero, Biggest disappointment, and Best moment all have nominations. He updates as he goes.
Regular diary hero The Mathlete put Michigan's first six matches into his PAN and fried up a little season projection:
As he notes in the diary, this is a full game and a half behind where we were after Indiana, largely because MSU was supposed to be close and wasn't, but also because Michigan's remaining opponents improved their competence at the same time. In case "written by The Mathlete" wasn't enough, I reiterate: go read.
Communist Football again updated his Denard records book after MSU, though I'm sure the Iowa numbers have put some dampness on the projections.
Our favorite background artist monuMental is back in business after his legal snafu got sorted out a bit -- you saw his latest on the main page late last week.
The this week in pillowfights column of stubob continued with a short week (and I spiced it up a bit for fun).
Some other M sports got mentions. The first to highlight is the bumped-from-the-boards collection of cagers notes from mgoblue.com junky MGoShoe, which started as a note about there being no midnight basketball this year, and turned into a press conf. recap with all sorts of good stuff, including the news that Evan (gonna try to spell this from memory here) [Smotcrycz]...dammit, it's Smotrycz. S-M-O-T-R-Y-C-Z. I'm gonna get that right eventually. Golden something goes to whoever can come up with the best mnenomic to remember it.
Meanwhile, if you think it's time to start paying attention to the volleyball squad, then 1) you're absolutely correct, since they're awesome this year, and 2) Tom from AA has you covered.
Lourdfoul learned some things about this year's team after the Michigan State game, such as:
Denard Robinson is not an Ice-in-his-veins gunslinger. His throws have great zip and are largely accurate, especially so when the throw is shortish or his target is stationary. Against Indiana (and the rest of the schedule so far) his receivers have been so open that a slightly inaccurate ball wasn't noticeable. Against Michigan St the receivers were covered much better, and the picks in the end zone were the result.
Other Lordfoul lessons: Obi Ezeh is to blame, Kovacs is not, Cullen Christian should be moved to...linebacker?!? I stopped reading there and moved on to fisk in the comments (then didn't fisk). But others did, and the discussion is enlightening with regards to what happened this week.
User schmakj wants to head off any "West Virginians are X" memes among the Michigan fanbase, because: Fielding Yost. I mention it only to let other diarists know what is my absolute maximum tolerance for diary topics. This has some redeeming discussions on the ties between West Virginia and the Michigan football program, which as FYI are enough to keep in on the board. As to whether a state's contribution to Michigan football can redeem it for general douchebaggery, here's the place that gave us Bo, Desmond, and Woodson:
HeismanPose has up his post-Iowa Sunday Morning Stats, (e.g. Michigan is 3rd in total offense, 17th in scoring), which you should memorize every week.
Also in statistics, Enjoy Life gives us our weekly update on turnovers and special teams, where in just two short weeks, the 2010 season has gone from from YES! to HELP! and has a Chart? chart that perpetuates the hateful "2010 = 2009" meme:
Last week's came after I posted Dear Diary, but it's here, and basically says that turnovers are going to play a huge role in Michigan's fortunes this year (after one week: uh huh). The upside: if Michigan manages to get in and out of Happy Valley without crapping any beds, and everyones' dongs survive Illinois, we can get off that track. Until this happens, however, I advise an extra pair of sheets and Everlast undergarmentry.
Not THIS dong!
David Molk and Mike Martin were "a little bit banged up during the week," and both came out during the game. Denard's shoulder was bothering him during the week, but he felt better in pregame. He took a shot on it and Tate had to come in. "I would hope. I would think... Molk, Martin, Denard with an open week should be good to go for the next one." Mike Shaw has been a little banged up the past couple weeks. The extra rest should help him.
"Turnovers, it's ridiculous. We were so good earlier in the year at taking care of the ball. We're not good enough to make mistakes and beat anybody." The turnovers and field goals were major wasted opportunities. Penalties also really hurt the team, particularly in the first half.
"Denard Robinson's our starting quarterback. Tate Forcier's a pretty good quarterback too, and so is Devin Gardner." All three quarterbacks get plenty of reps every week. Tate made some good throws and good decisions, some he'd like to have back.
What was said when you had kickoffs go OOB? "Do you really want me to say? Twice? I don't think I should repeat what I was saying to myself." That hadn't happened in practice.
The team should be able to get stops even when they start in bad field position. "When you know they're gonna run it and need to run it, you gotta stop 'em."
Defensive staff will be disappointed with the cutbacks that opened up for Adam Robinson. "That seemed to happen 4-5 times - let him out of there." The crowd was providing enthusiasm for the defense, and they couldn't close.
Lewan penalties - He's a little anxious to get on some good d-linemen. He just needed a few minutes to settle down. "We ran the ball OK, we threw the ball at times ok, but we just didn't finish drives. That's the thing that killed us today."
"A loss is a loss, and you know it's going to hurt. Our team fought to the end. I'm proud of our guys, but we've gotta correct the mistakes we had and bounce back the next week."
"It was just a few missed reads. I think that comes with repetition, working with those guys. I think that will come throughout the weeks."
Junior had the DB beat on the bomb to the 2. "After I saw what Junior did for Denard against Indiana, I trusted him. So I just threw it up there and he went up and got it."
"That's what they do, they try to prepare all three of us." Got a few more reps this week with Denard banged up. Never thought during the week Denard wouldn't be able to go. For the next game "I think he'll be alright. He'll be alright." Coach Rod will make QB decisions. "I don't have any say in that. I'm just going to keep working hard and doing what I have to do."
"I think we need it as a team." The extra week will help correct mistakes and prepare for PSU. "When we get that corrected, we should be good."
It felt good to get on the field, but the loss still hurts. "I'm just happy to be a part of this team. I think this is a special team and I'm happy to be a part of it."
Iowa wasn't expecting to play against Tate. Michigan threw the ball a bit more with him in the game. "I think that's when we started moving the ball a lot." Iowa defense is good enough to adjust.
Tate stays warm on the sidelines each week in case his name gets called. This week, it was.
Will there be another second-half collapse? "It's a different team. Our team, we keep fighting. This isn't last year's team, it's just not."
Tate's been in the rotation in practice all week. When he gets into the game, he does his job.
"I just saw the ball in the air and knew that I just had to get position on him and make a play on it." Used basketball skills to box out.
"We lost to two really good teams the past two weeks." Need to use the bye week to clean up the mistakes they made.
The offense doesn't change when the backup QB comes in. All three QBs can throw as well as run.
The bye week falls at a good time to help the team get better, because the last two games were physical, gives some guys who are beat up a chance to rest. Losses will serve as motivation during the week off. "Coming off a loss, obviously we have a bad taste in our mouth so we're gonna get after it this week." They're hungry after two losses, and this will prevent a spiral. The team will be ready for Happy Valley in two weeks.
"I just saw the quarterback throwing the ball and realized that I had to make the play." On the interception he couldn't snag. "I felt like I could have made it."
Never happy after a loss. "Obviously we're disappointed, but we did show some good things out there. We fought, you know we played hard."
Being on a short field gives you a disadvantage, but the defense has to be ready to make stops no matter where they start.
When they're missing stops on run plays. "Guys just coming downhill hard, and maybe somebody wasn't in the right gap."
Excited to make the plays when they were only down 7, but couldn't get it done.
What did he see from Kenny Demens? "Good things. You know, Kenny's a good ballplayer. He stuck his nose in a few times and made some big plays for us. You know, I think he's got a bright future here."
Ridiculous wallpaper part 7. Via user monuMental and his ridiculous talents:
How could this possibly happen? So when people say things along the lines of "could we really have the worst defensive talent in the Big Ten" and I say "yes," no one believes me. This is usually because one sophomore four star in the starting lineup at a particular position looks like talent and two fifth-year-senior three stars do not. Here's the Iowa two-deep on defense:
There are 22 players. Five of them are underclassmen, only one of those a starter. Nine are seniors, and this is minus a senior starting linebacker who would shove a freshman out the door. Michigan's starting lineup has as many sophomores (Floyd, Kovacs, Roh) and freshmen (Gordon, Gordon) as the entire Iowa two-deep, and where Iowa has seniors backed by seniors or sophomores backed by juniors in many places Michigan has freshmen, freshmen, and more freshmen. This is why it's impossible to tell anything about Greg Robinson yet. You could take an established genius and give him this roster and the results would be, oh, I don't know… somewhat depressing:
|Pass Efficiency Defense||92||139.01|
|Tackles For Loss||66||5.83|
That's not Michigan. It's USC. USC's secondary:
- Senior CB Shareece Wright, a top 50 recruit
- Freshman CB Nickell Robey, a top 250 recruit
- Sophomore S Jawanza Starling, a top 250 recruit
- Sophomore S TJ McDonald, a top 50 recruit
This is a "talented" secondary. It is also awful because it has one upperclassman; they're trying to bolster things by moving freshman and starting WR Robert Woods to nickelback. That sounds familiar except in Michigan's case it's a guy who should be a linebacker moving from wide receiver and being forced to start instead of being Courtney Avery.
Michigan does not have near that amount of recruiting mojo, nor does it have the veteran consistency of Iowa. Yes, if Michigan is not more experienced and less awful next year it's time to focus the firey finger of blame entirely on Rich Rodriguez. Not quite yet, though.
Parachute in. While everyone was looking at that guy in the parachute he was looking at us:
AIM FOR THE YELLOW.
Alabama-rama. Some final thoughts on the Alabama game, but first Dave Brandon:
"I just thought it was a terrific opportunity for our team, our coaches and our fans," Brandon said. "But we got the numbers right, we worked really hard to make sure there was plentiful availability of tickets, because we wanted to get that right for our fans. We hope to think of this as a preseason bowl trip where we can bring lots of people and really make it a special Labor Day weekend."
Booting the Notre Dame game is not an option, so Michigan will go on the road to face Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Alabama (sort of) in the same season. Have fun, senior Denard. Anyway, thoughts:
- I am almost certain the reason introducing a middleman is preferable to a home-and-home are the messed up TV contracts. If Michigan plays a home and home with Alabama they split the extra TV money with the rest of the conference. It sounds like by doing this neutral site thing they are getting the financial windfall all to themselves. If you dislike this trend—and as a guy who would rather travel to Tuscaloosa than Dallas, I do—the only solution is to let teams keep all the profits from their nonconference games to themselves.
- As to why it's in an irrelevant place like Dallas: when ND started its "barnstorming" games it quickly discovered it couldn't play anyone in a relevant location because TV contracts prohibit anyone from playing a neutral site game in their conference's geographical footprint unless that game is going to be on the appropriate network. The result was ND-Washington State in Texas.
- This will be the biggest nonconference game played against anyone other than Notre Dame in…a very long time. Maybe the 1996 Colorado game? Michigan accidentally played a 13-0 Utah team in 2008 but in terms of pregame hype that pales in comparison. Washington was #9, IIRC, so Alabama will outstrip that.
Etc.: Hockey has a critical road test against UNH this weekend. People are still projecting us for New Year's Day. The Daily takes a look at college amateurism and whether it can or should go away. BWS picture pages the Webb TD.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Iowa|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, October 16th 2010|
|THE LINE||Iowa -3|
|TELEVISION||ABC/ESPN reverse mirror (map)|
Sunny, around 60
0% chance of rain
Run Offense vs. Iowa
Michigan's rushing offense failed to find the big play against Michigan State despite being a step from it a half-dozen times; down two or three scores for most of the second half they abandoned the run. The numbers came down from the stratosphere, but they weren't shut down, or close to it. Michigan's performance to date against BCS opponents:
Indiana's terrible and UConn a major disappointment. Michigan did about what Wisconsin did against MSU and obliterated a Notre Dame rush defense that's not great but seems at least decent. They've played the #6, 14, and 25 rushing offenses in the country plus three other BCS teams and are still keeping their head above water in the rankings. They're tied for 56th in YPC, 0.02 behind Penn State. Even if you take out Denard's 87-yarder, Michigan averaged 5.0 YPC against Notre Dame.
So, yes, Michigan is pretty good at running the ball this year. They are about as good at running it as Iowa is at stopping it. The Hawkeyes are currently #2 in rushing D, #4 in total D, and #1 in scoring D. Their results against BCS opponents:
Though the Hawkeyes have been unyielding the only team they've played that can run even a little bit is ISU, the nation's 63rd-best rush offense thanks to a demolition job on Texas Tech. Arizona is 92nd and passed the ball almost 70% of the time in their first two Pac-10 games. And the debacle that is Penn State's offense is 85th; Illinois just held them to 65 yards.
The jury is still out. While their numbers are strong enough to suggest they're better than, say, Michigan's rush defense they could be on par with MSU or Notre Dame. (Arguing against this: even accounting for strength of opposition the Iowa rush defense is 3rd nationally in the Mathlete's PAN metrics.) Last year Iowa was 34th in rush defense and gave up 205 yards to Michigan at 4.7 yards a pop.
This year they return the entire line but lose two of the three linebackers. MLB Jeff Tarpinian was not on the depth chart earlier this week due to a Minor-like assortment of injuries but could give it a go; if he can't his replacement is either a fifth year senior who hasn't played much in his career or a freshman. Meanwhile Michigan has changed quarterbacks (massive upgrade), replaced Minor with a platoon of Shaw and Smith (significant downgrade), and added Taylor Lewan, David Molk, and Patrick Omameh to the offensive line (significant upgrade). You'd think Michigan could at least match last year's performance with an eye towards another YPC.
Schemes will be a major complicating factor. I'll be interested to see what, if anything, Iowa does to adjust to the Denard Robinson show. Last year they sat two safeties back and let Denard run his QB lead draw over and over again on his late touchdown drive. Iowa was protecting a two score lead and had not spent time preparing for the Denard offense, so adjustments and aggression were thin on the ground.
This year Iowa knows what they're getting in Denard, and they've had a bye week to work on defending him. Will they sit back like Michigan State did and hope to stiffen in the redzone, or will they start running scrape exchanges and blitzing? I'm guessing Iowa—which loves playing a simple base D well—will start with the former and move to the latter if it's not working.
Key Matchup: Michigan coaches finding ways to option the ball into Denard's hands. DR's the best running back Michigan has but Iowa will be solid enough to handle or keep down most plays that are conventional QB runs; they can bend but not break well enough to put Michigan behind in the race to 30 points. Big plays are probably going to come from Denard on plays where the guy containing is containing the RB. As a bonus, optioning off one of Iowa's defenders means not having to block someone on that defensive line.
Think Oregon and Illinois: midline and veer.
Pass Offense vs. Iowa
Tyler jimmer-jammin' Sash
Denard's grim day against Michigan State combines with the terrible interception against Iowa last year to dampen expectations. Despite those unfortunate events, however, Robinson is still 12th in passer efficiency. Iowa's defense is better (10th) but here they've had the luxury of taking on the 106th, 110th, and 115th most efficient passing attacks nationally. In their one game against a quarterback capable of doing something other than soiling himself, Nick Foles was 28 of 39 for 303 yards. That's a healthy 7.8 YPC.
Relevancy? Slight. Foles is a pocket bomber. Denard is a magic elf reliant on breathtakingly wide open receivers and a healthy dose of screenage for his numbers. There is some slight relevancy, though. The Mathlete has the Iowa pass defense at 0, average nationally.
FWIW, last year Forcier and the receivers imploded in this game; this was probably his shoulder injury's apex.
Here the interesting bit is how much pressure Iowa gets on Denard. Their vaunted defensive line has not racked up a ton of sacks—they're middle of the pack—and Michigan opponents have been cautious with their rush except in obvious passing situations. Iowa figures to rush four most of the day as they play zone and contain; straight dropback passes will be rare and depend heavily on freshman Taylor Lewan and journeyman Perry Dorrestein facing down a challenge an order of magnitude greater than any they've faced before. A dollar says that Robinson finds himself under seige from the Iowa DL when Michigan is off schedule and cannot mount a credible threat to run.
When Michigan is on schedule things will be in Michigan's favor because of the run threat. Still, Iowa will be far less vulnerable to Michigan's mega play action game than opponents to date. They have a two-deep system, they have veteran safeties made of grit and mandibles, they have film of the stuff Michigan's done for huge touchdowns. If they can avoid bringing down a safety to combat the run, Denard's numbers will be efficient but not amazing.
Key Matchup: Denard's deep accuracy versus Whatever That Was. If Michigan's going to win they're going to have to take advantage of an open receiver downfield or three. His close-range accuracy is probably going to be fine; the past couple weeks he's missed a lot of guys deep.
Run Defense vs. Iowa
Hopes that the run defense was significantly better than the pass defense went out the window during a dispiriting day against Michigan State. After holding up well in the first quarter a series of zone stretches broke it either very big or sort of big throughout the rest of the game, leaving Michigan with truly ugly numbers:
Michigan's hung on against their other three BCS opponents but I'd be remiss if I failed to mention two different UMass backs nearing 100 yards; Michigan's defense is terrible in all phases.
So it's time for changes. Michigan coaches have promised to take the enigmatic Kenny Demens out of mothballs in the hope that he can be less of a spectator than Obi Ezeh. Only the enigmatic Kenny Demens can tell you whether or not he will be, and he only speaks an ancient Sanskrit dialect.
As far as Iowa goes, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God is two tendons away from being as wroth as Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God, which is wroth indeed. Jewel Hampton tore his ACL for the second consecutive year and Brandon Wegher went on a vision quest, leaving Adam Robinson the only scholarship non-freshman available. You probably remember Robinson from last year's game; he was the guy who played more in the second half and had 70 yards on ten carries. Yay!
Iowa's two games against Arizona and Penn State had outcomes between mediocre and terrible. Iowa tailbacks had 36 yards on 17 carries against Arizona; Robinson managed 95 on 28 carries against Penn State. They did obliterate Iowa State but Michigan's rush defense is 55th, not 102nd. Penn State is sort of a good comparison here. They're 51st after giving up buckets of yards to Illinois and Alabama; the Illinois game found the Nittany Lions injury-wracked.
Michigan will probably be worse than PSU was, but if it's not by much—say 120 yards on 4 YPC instead of 3.4—that will be a win for the beleaguered defense and should result in a number of real live stops. Robinson is significantly smaller than the MSU guys and won't be able to drag piles as far or stay up when Cam Gordon delivers the shoulder block from hell. He's still pretty good, though, and will do damage.
Key Matchup: Kenny Demens versus Whatever The Hell It Is That's Been Keeping Him On The Bench. I'm rooting for disgust at Michigan's talent identification so hard this weekend.
Pass Defense vs. Iowa
All right, fine, more of this "detail" you're always clamoring for: Stanzi is back. He is the Stanzi of last year minus the free seven points handed out to each team before the start of the contest (the pick six against Arizona wasn't his fault). He is full of America, and he is third in passer efficiency. Given a tough situation down many, many points on the road he led Iowa most of the way back against a good pass defense and finished 18 of 33 for 278 yards. Michigan does not have a good pass defense.
The closest comparable to Stanzi on the schedule is the guy Michigan just played: Kirk Cousins. Cousins isn't a superhero but he's a veteran guy with good accuracy and a good deep ball. Michigan may be less susceptible to play action since the Iowa ground game doesn't figure to be as potent and the freshmen corners won't be given one-on-one coverage deep with James Rogers back, but when Stanzi drops back to pass bad things will happen. He was robotic against Penn State early, when Iowa ran out to the two touchdown lead they nursed through the second half.
Michigan's best hope here is getting to Stanzi. Iowa's last-ditch bid to re-tie the Arizona game ended with four straight sacks (one was erased by penalty) and Iowa's average in that department despite passing only 40% of the time. A scenario where Martin, Roh, and Van Bergen make regular trips to the Stanzi Rib Motel is possible.
If that is not the scenario that transpires, Stanzi's going over 300 yards and we'll all start gnawing whatever is handy. Table. Blanket. Whiskey bottle. Misplaced baby.
Key Matchup: Cam Gordon versus big long touchdowns. He must bounce back or we dead.
Michigan is still not good. One positive: Will Hagerup is moving away from his freshman jitters and Michigan has achieved mediocrity in net punting despite getting one blocked. Kick and punt returns are still poor; kickoffs are still poor; field goal kicking is a wasteland.
Iowa has a significant advantage in returns, but their special teams were the primary reason they lost to Arizona. They had a punt blocked and allowed a kickoff return TD. Their punter is great but thanks to that block they're well below average in net punting; their kicker is a freshman who is 2/3 on the year.
When there are punts Iowa has a slight advantage because their return situation has been better and their punter more consistent; kickoffs are probably another small Iowa advantage since Michigan can't get them deep; field goals bleeeergghgh.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
- Shaw is not healthy and getting the majority of the carries.
- Taylor Lewan's quick start is brought to a crashing halt by Clayborn and Co.
- Um… defense stuff.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Kenny Demens is some kind of crazy gamer who hates practice.
- Iowa does not adapt to the spread.
- Crazy new package is crazy new and good and they've got something for the second half.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Hey This Is Basically Michigan State Again, –1 for But That Game Coulda Shoulda Woulda Been Competitive Without Denard's Very Bad Day, +1 for Denard's Very Bad Day, –1 for Vague Unsupportable Feeling That Iowa's Defense Is Quaintly Outdated Re: Spread, +1 for Stanzibombs Away, +1 for Arizona Won By Doing Crazy Special Teams Things And Our Only Equivalent Is Missing A Field Goal Spectacularly)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for Must Kill 2009 == 2010 Meme Please, +1 for Would Put Rodriguez Well En Route To Sticking Around To Kill People With Denard The Next Two Years, –1 for Would Be A Totally Understandable Loss, +1 for But Man Don't We Need A Crazy Upset, +1 for Bowl Eligible, Baby)
Loss will cause me to... spend two weeks putting everyone who says "2009 == 2010" on my naughty list.
Win will cause me to... buy tickets to every bowl game with a Big Ten tie-in.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
IME, the game hinges on how effectively Michigan can run the ball against an intimidating-looking defense that's a paper tiger on… uh… paper. Iowa State and Arizona both threw the ball most of the time; Penn State is incompetent. They haven't faced a running spread team this year; last year a significantly weakened Michigan team put up 200 rushing yards. It is possible that Michigan comes out with a bunch of new stuff and gashes Iowa by optioning off that DL and getting to a questionable situation at middle linebacker. Iowa could just be an okay rush defense and Michigan could be the hot ninja stuff we've all been watching.
I don't think that's the case. Though the Hawkeyes will give up yards and points they won't give up enough to combat what should be another frustrating day defensively, where the defense looks competent for stretches here and there in between crippling big plays. Stanzi and company against this secondary is going to be trouble.
Michigan's best bet on D is for the run defense to be considerably better against Robinson than it was against Michigan State and for Iowa's coaches to run or die trying. Then maybe the Iowa offensive line will be porous and the receivers have an off day.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Michigan win, but I'm not expecting it. Special teams are the final dagger. Michigan will probably have to be +1 in TO margin to win.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hopkins: six carries.
- Kenny Demens is way more aggressive than Ezeh, resulting in a couple plays where Adam Robinson is stuffed and at least one 20-yard gain directly attributable to him. Ezeh still gets most of the playing time.
- Robinson's accuracy bounces back significantly.
- Iowa, 34-28.