and... i like them? I think I like them.
1. Its only the third week of the season and we've already seen some highly ranked favorites drop out of national championship contention. Preseason favorite Cal dropped to #21 after a loss and a pair of underwhelming victories. Who's your pick as the next NC contender to take a fall?
Florida. Schedule is a death march: a one-loss Florida team that wins the SEC should be in the MNC game over an undefeated VT or WVU.
2. By that same token there are several schools hanging around without a loss that all of a sudden look like surprise contenders. There are also a few one loss teams with a legit shot at getting back into it. Looking at the rankings who's the team no one's talking about with the best shot at crashing the party?
No one's talking about now? Or at the beginning of the season? I had Louisville ranked above WVU at season's start and while the Mountaneers are getting mountains of hype Louisville has just as much of a shot at dodgy undefeated-ness come season's end.
Other than the Big East duo, the obvious answer is Virginia Tech. The ACC has quickly descended into a mass of garbage and VaTech's annual bear of a defense and special teams touchdown per game could be enough to skate through the regular season undefeated. But we've thought that about VaTech since... well, forever.
3. Every team has their quicksand away game. You know. That place you should win but somehow find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory or at least scare the &*%^ out of you every year. Did you know that over the last 21 years Kentucky wasn't won once in Knoxville? Where is your team's yearly sandtrap?
Ask me last week, and the answer is Notre Dame. Ask me this week: still Notre Dame. I done seen too many improbable things under the watchful eye of Michigan Defensive Touchdown Jesus to let one BEAT DOWN completely erase my fear of that baleful place.
4. Now that you've looked into the darkest place in your football soul, free Escalades aside, turn and look into your crystal ball. Conference play is either just starting or a single game in. Based on what you've seen so far, give the order of finish in your conference, and if you've got a Conference Championship game tell us who the winner will be. Independents must predict the remainder of their schedule. The results your predictions will be held against you at the end of the season.
ON TRACK FOR THE BIGGEST GAME EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER
1. Michigan (WOO HOMER!)
2. Ohio State
STILL IN MY TOP TEN DESPITE AVAILABLE EVIDENCE
CREAMY SOFT MIDDLE OF CONFERENCE
4. Michigan State
6. Penn State
YOU LOST WHAT TO WHO?
5. In keeping with the spirit of Maize n Brew, name your beverage of choice on game days and why. It need not be alcoholic, as there are some of us who choose not to imbibe on game day. Further, it need not be limited to a single brand/type/category. If you enjoy drinking PBR and Kraft Turkey Gravy at the same time (which I have personally witnessed), please, elaborate. Finally, if you should feel so inclined, and this is not a requirement, add an anecdote involving said beverage choice.
I don't drink on gamedays. At least, not before the game. Whenever I've watched a sporting event in the throes of intoxciation the memories afterward are hazy and dulled, and I'm willing to take the chance of something awful happening (like, say, 2005) in exchange for a clear and lucid remembrance of anything Mario Manningham does.
BONUS SMQB question: What gridiron memory sears you so deeply, down to your appropriately-colored veins, that a simple acknowledgement, a "sorry" from the proper source - even if it didn't change the outcome - would lift a burden and cleanse a scarred corner of the soul? What injustice do you still carry, and want officially recognized?
I would like to see the timekeeper who gave Michigan State a second it did not have in 2001 shot.
This week we have two, count 'em, two excellent Badger bloggers who have consented to detail the various ways in which Michigan is going to flog Wisconsin this weekend: Bruce Ciskie (a fellow Fanhouse traveller) and Badger Tracker from the Badger Sports Blog.
So... Wisconsin was tied with San Diego State until late in the third quarter last week. Meanwhile, by that time Michigan had already BEATEN DOWN Notre Dame with authorita. As a result, we have a 14 point spread and 80% of the people on Badgermaniac predicting a loss. Does that seem excessively pessimistic to you?
But yes, that is excessively pessimistic. This time last week, Michigan fans were sweating over having to face #2 Notre Dame in South Bend with the Irish coming off a complete demolition of Penn State, and everyone kept mentioning that the last time Michigan won its road opener was when Lloyd Carr was still on his MNC honeymoon. Then, BEAT DOWN.
We're in a similar position. Strong-looking opponent absolutely creams allegedly-strong-but-actually-weak opponent, a long streak of futility looms large (UM hadn't won in South Bend since 1994, UW hasn't won at the Big House since ... wait for it ... 1994), and a supposedly-middling Big Ten team has to go on the road to take on a hyped favorite.
So, that parallel should give Badger fans hope.
Bruce: I don't pay much attention to blogs and message boards. If I had done that, I would have thought that Jim Herrmann was a terrible defensive coordinator.
Wait. Bad example.
I think that I expect Badger fans to be excessively pessimistic heading into this game. They are a weak 3-0, and Michigan just killed Brady Quinn. That's a lot to swallow. I think 14 points is a bit high, because I don't honestly believe that Wisconsin can lose by that much unless they completely go into the tank. But I think it would be crazynuts to predict a Wisconsin victory with a straight face.
Wisconsin replaced everyone on offense save Stocco and the two tackles. Who do you think has adequately stepped into the void so far this season? Who is a major downgrade?
BSB: Obviously PJ Hill has been a pleasant surprise. A lot of people thought that Wisconsin's running game was going to take a year off after Brian Calhoun decided to chase the money [Well, who could pass up the opportunity to be a Detroit Lion? -ed], and this guy steps in and is leading the Big Ten in rushing. And of course that mean's that the new interior lineman have been able to provide sufficient push thus far as well as those returning tackles. Brent Rentmeester, the fullback, has done a great job on short notice after Chris Pressley's season-ending injury.
The wide receivers are extremely raw. I don't want to say they're bad since none of them had experience coming into this year, so let's just say that replacing Jonathon Orr and Brandon Williams would be tough for nearly any team.
Bruce: Adequately: The PJ Hill/Dywon Rowan/Lance Smith triumverate at running back. I'm concerned about these guys as pass-catchers, but I love how each of the three run the football. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of their receiving ability, because I tend to believe that Wisconsin tried to get through these three games without showing much of that facet of the offense.
I'm not sold on the interior of the offensive line yet. Kraig Urbik has been okay at guard, but Marcus Coleman and Andy Kemp have been inconsistent thus far. I wouldn't call them "major downgrades", though.
Instead, I'll save "major downgrade" for the wide receiver position. Paul Hubbard is a helluvan athlete, but he doesn't have Brandon Williams' hands or route-running discipline. For Stocco to have the targets necessary for him to throw for nearly 3,000 yards again, he needs one of the true freshmen (Issac Anderson and Xavier Harris) to step up. Now.
I note that PJ Hill is fat, and that Michigan has had no problem dealing with fat running backs from Wisconsin in the past. Does he have enough bounce to get outside the tackles if the middle is jammed up? Or is he a guy who goes where he goes and if you're in the way you're flat?
BSB: If Hill gets to the outside, it's because Rentmeester has lead-blocked effectively. But this guy's a bruiser. Bret Bielema has said that if he gets even a shoulder on most defenders, they're going to get knocked out of his path.
Also, don't call him fat. Or he might eat you.
Bruce: Hill isn't nearly as fat as Ron Dayne, who is really the only fat Wisconsin running back in recent years unless you count guys like Cecil Martin or Matt Bernstein, who were primarily fullbacks. Hill's feet aren't as quick, but he probably has a bit more straight-line speed than Dayne, and I think his vision is pretty good. What sets Hill apart is how he seems to hunger for the chance to run guys over, rather than making them whiff on tackle attempts. He has had more than a few runs this year where he just lowered his shoulder and gained a few extra yards because of how hard he is to bring down.
Stocco had a terrible start against SDSU. Reasons? Probability he'll repeat that performance? Probability he'll be insanely good?
BSB: I don't know if this was really a reason, but it was freakin' windy in Madison on Saturday. Wind, as you know, causes footballs to move about and receivers to cry. More likely is what Stocco himself blames: his footwork and, maybe even worse, the fact that he was locking in on receivers. As Brady Powlus learned last weekend, this will not work against the Wolverines.
Bruce: On the television broadcast, analyst Randy Wright was surmising that Stocco may have been banged up a bit. There are a couple pieces of evidence that point to this conclusion. In the third quarter, he fumbled on a play where the middle of the SDSU defense parted like, well, the Notre Dame secondary. But instead of taking off, Stocco tried to retreat to buy himself more time. He ran into a charging defensive lineman, who promptly sacked him and forced a fumble. And it was probably in the second quarter that they showed Stocco throwing a pass and immediately flexing his right hand as if it was really bothering him.
That said, I'm not sure if Stocco is hurt, and I don't think it's been brought up at all yet this week. That tells me that if he is hurt, it's probably nothing terribly serious.
Either that, or it's really serious and they're not ready to tell us about it.
Michigan's defensive line is freakin' rad. The interior of the Badger line is mewling babes. Epic destruction on a scale unfit for small children and the elderly? Or frustrating inability to apply freakin' radness to Stocco's ribs?
BSB: That's a real tossup. Stocco was only sacked once against Western Illi
nois, but that number lies; he was running for his life all day against a I-AA opponent. Last week, a significantly better effort from the offensive line kept him on his feet most of the day. Of course, the Badgers haven't faced anything like the human locomotives that the Wolverines are going to bring. Look for them to remember their effort against San Diego State and play well until one breakdown occurs. At that point Michigan will sniff that weakness out and exploit it. And yes, Stocco will be thoroughly crushed at least once. With Woodley, Taylor, and Branch (and after last week, apparently Crable), this is inevitable.
Bruce: I hope the latter. I fear the former, and evidence points toward the former, especially when you consider how poorly Stocco was protected against the Directional Leathernecks.
The defense has been statistically good but Wisconsin fans were disappointed with the results from the first two games. What was the difference against San Diego State?
BSB: As a fanbase, I don't think we found ourselves too worked up about the defensive effort against Bowling Green. They had a mobile quarterback and we can never stop those (sound familiar?). And against Western Illinois, the numbers aren't all that bad; most teams would take three interceptions any day. However, the appalling statistic from that game was that the Leathernecks went 8-for-16 on third down conversions.
That was put to an abrupt end on Saturday when the Aztecs went 2-for-16 on third down and only gained 13 yards rushing and 115 overall. Five sacks and a forced fumble worked in our favor, too.
Some of it was the fact that SDSU was starting their backup quarterback, which doesn't bode well for a third-tier team coming into Camp Randall. But the main reason was vastly improved, tight coverage in the secondary combined with maniacal blitzing. This won't be as effective against a guy who lives and breathes short, quick passes like Chad Henne, but it sure worked against San Diego State.
Bruce: Tackling. The Badgers had allowed their first two opponents to convert exactly half of the third downs they faced that were five yards or longer. Most of
those conversions came on either running plays or short passes where the receiver gained yards after the catch to get the first down. Those things didn't happen against San Diego State. As a result, the defense had a much easier time getting off the field.
I hear a lot about Jack [I FORGET HIS VERY AFRICAN LAST NAME]. Shutdown
corner, next Starks, all that. Excessively enthusiastic hype? Or a presage to an two-time All Big Ten career?
BSB: Oh, he's the real deal alright. It'll be interesting to see what the Michigan coaching staff thinks about him, since he'll probably be covering Mario Manningham. I don't think he's at the point yet where a team hesitates to throw in his direction. It'll be all the more interesting since Ron Lee, his old coach, is now in charge of the defensive backs at Michigan. This is the first game of the 2006 season in which the secondary as a whole will be tested, and who better to show us what their strengths and (especially) weaknesses are than the guy who put the unit together last year?
The other dude on defense not to look past (and in my opinion, he's a bigger deal than Ikegwuonu) is weakside linebacker and special teams player extraordinaire Jonathan Casillas, who already has a 3.5 TFLs and a forced fumble this season. He'll be in the backfield causing havoc for at least part of the afternoon.
Bruce: You mean Ikegwuonu? I still have to look at his name on the depth chart to get it right. He has the size, speed, and smarts to be great, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got slightly abused on Saturday. He still needs work on his technique, and it's hard to imagine that he'll be consistently matched up one-on-one with either Manningham or Breaston. At this
point, I'll call it "excessively enthusiastic hype", but I reserve the right to change my mind in November.
What's the injury situation like on the DL? With Ostrowski out is there an adequate replacement? Is Jamal Cooper going to be healthy enough to be effective?
BSB: Yeah, replacing the injured with the injured is never a great situation. I'm no physiologist, but I think you have to let the guy who actually HAS some cartilage in his knee get the start, even if his shoulder is a little off. And by a little off, I mean bad enough to keep him in street clothes not a week before. I'm going to go ahead and say that UM plays far too ferociously for Jamal Cooper to leave the game in one piece.
Bruce: Ostrowski is out, but Jason Chapman and Nick Hayden are a nice one-two punch. Mike Newkirk is undersized, but he makes a decent third tackle. Jamal Cooper is fine. I think he sat the SDSU game as more of a precaution. Matthew Shaughnessy really had a nice game against SDSU, and I really like Kurt Ware, especially if he doesn't play every down (he doesn't look like a guy who can handle that chore).
Aaand predictions. Efficacy of Wisconsin run game?
BSB: Fair at the beginning, but once they see the passing game in action, Hill will have nowhere to go. I think he rushes for at least one first-half TD though.
Bruce: The Badgers will average four yards per carry or more in this game (not counting sacks - ooh disclaimer!). Not great, but not at Miami/Florida State levels, either.
BSB: Horrible. A WR corps that has a total of one receiving touchdown against Bowling Green, Western Illinois, and San Diego State will not add to that total against Michigan. If Brady Quinn gets picked off three times, I shudder to think of what might happen to Stocco.
Bruce: Stocco will be much better than he was against SDSU, but unless the Badgers are playing from behind all day, I can't see him throwing for 200 yards.
Do you stop Mike Hart okay?
BSB: Better than anyone has yet. He goes for under a hundred. UW has 8 guys in the box all day and Michigan's ground attack is most effective on draw plays on downs when the coordinators of most teams would be calling for passes.
Bruce: Mike Hart will hit a couple 20-plussers, and we won't stop him okay. He will have 22-140, or something reasonably similar.
And how about that Manningham guy?
BSB: He frightens me.
Bruce: Manningham won't hit for 100 yards because they won't need him to.
BSB: Ugh. Michigan 30, Wisconsin 20, if and only if UW commits zero turnovers. One of the Badgers' TDs is scored by special teams or defense.
Either that or Wisconsin 47, Michigan 21.
Bruce: 23-10, Michigan. The Badgers will harass Henne just enough to keep the Wolverines from amassing huge numbers of points.
[Many thanks to both fine bloggers.]
|We still have zone blocking even though there's a designated hole with a lead blocker here. Mitchell(+1) and Riley(+1) do a good job on the backside, allowing a cutback lane and a decent gain.|
|Bihl(-2) completely whiffs on his block, forcing Hart to stop a good five yards in the backfield. He manages to inch toward the line of scrimmage, minimizing the damage. (+1 for him, this could have been -4.)|
|ND floods the LOS with players, blitzing two up the middle. There must be some threat of a blitz from the outside, because Hart(-1) sets up to protect outside of Jake Long, allowing an unblocked blitzer up the gut. Henne throws that pass straight to Ndukwe when he should just take the sack. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q. Anyone else panicking at this point? Clear miscommunication here on the blitz pickup, but the person at fault is murky. It could be Henne, as he says something to Hart right before the snap.|
|Henne's pass is tipped at the line but falls to a diving Breaston(+1) anyway. He makes this catch but anything that hits him in the numbers plummets to the turf? (BA)|
|Breaston comes in motion for a fake end-around that freezes no one. Hart(-1) really should have cut this up. He had a hole he could have exploited for near-first-down yardage but he tried to go outside and got swallowed up. Also of note: end around was wiiiiide open.|
|Another unblocked blitzer comes straight up the middle. This time it's Travis Thomas. I'm not sure what exactly goes wrong here... Bihl is blocking the NT, who stunts off to right a bit but towards the quarterback and not in a looping fashion â€“ clearly Bihl is trying to block him so he doesn't get to Henne. This drags him away from the center, allowing Thomas a free lane. Bihl, Long, and Kraus end up blocking two guys. Bihl(-1), I think. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q. Both of our first two drives end with missed blitz pickups. Bihl has a hand in both. Wonder why we never came back to the end-around that was so wide open on this drive?|
|I think this is another missed cut by Hart(-1), but Notre Dame is going nuts overpursuing to the ball and eight guys are in the box at all times.|
|M19||2||11||Five Wide||Pass||11||Breaston||WR Screen|
|Another telegraphed screen but they can't do much about it. Superb block from Manningham(+1) and Breaston(+1) does the sort of thing that makes him great. (CA)|
|Don't see much of this play because of NBC incompetence.|
|M30||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||70||Manningham||QED, Mfer!|
|Single blitzer picked up here. Notre Dame's linebackers are within three yards of the line of scrimmage as Henne completes his drop despite no play action fake(!). That's the focus Mike Hart draws from a defense right there. Good God, Ambrose Wooden is slow. (DO, Manningham +3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 13-7 6 min 1st Q. I thought Charlie Weis told the Notre Dame secondary to get faster in the offseason? XP blocked.|
|Blitz off the corner right into the waggle, but Henne leaps and hits Oluigbo perfectly for a nice gain anyway. Throws this short never get (DO) but this one deserves it.|
|Finally a good gain on a running play. Bihl(+1) and Mitchell(+1) maul their men. Hart(+1) makes a good, decisive cut up into the gap and finishes in Mike-Hart-drags-the-world style.|
|Notre Dame run blitzes into the gaps of the zone play. Hart is swarmed before he can even get a foot upfield. Bihl(-1) also gets shoved back a couple yards, and his man disengages to help tackle.|
|I thought Charlie Weis said no penalties.|
|O4||2||G||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||2||Manningham||Pass Interference|
|Zbikowski manhandles Manningham. Don't actually know about this call. He gets a jam before the ball is in the air, which is legal, then the ball is thrown as Manningham is collapsing to the turf. Michigan saw a similar flag waved off earlier in the year.|
|Hart(+1) leaps into the endzone. Hurrah.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-7, 1 min 1st Q. Notre Dame essentially gave us this one. Second and goal from the eight turns into first and goal from the two with two penalties.|
|Newly chastened, ND only has seven in the box. The result is more room than Hart's had all day to this point. Alex Mitchell(-1) blows by Trevor Laws, hardly disrupting his flow to the play. Riley ends up futilely chasing him but without a momentary double from Mitchell he has no chance to get him blocked. Hart's cutback lane is filled by Laws, otherwise this gets into the secondary for a big gain.|
|The reviewed play on the sideline. This is a difficult catch from Arrington(+2), who had to dive to catch a low ball and manage to stay in bounds at the same time. With a defender in the area and the throw downfield don't want to be too harsh, but this could have been thrown a bit better. Still (CA).|
|Outstanding play all around from Michigan. Everyone on ND is blocked and Hart makes the correct reads to get everyone FUBARed behind their men. Bihl(+2) is especially good with his block; Kraus(+1) also does well. Hart darts up through the gap between them then cuts back... only to be caught from behind by Abiamiri as he slows. This is six points without the outstanding pursuit by Abiamiri.|
|Bihl(-1) gets beat by Landri to the playside, allowing him to disrupt the run in the backfield. Hart(+2) dances through it and manages to get upfield for a nice gain anyway.|
|Bah. Zbikowski is the eighth guy in the box and as he is unblocked he forces Hart to make an unpleasant cut and gain little.|
|You put Manningham(+2) in one-on-one coverage with a crappy cornerback and he dies. Ball could not have been more perfect (DO). Of note: picture perfect blitz-pickup from Hart(+1) allows Henne time and space to throw.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-7, 11 min 2nd Q. One play after running into the stacked line Debord exploits it for six. Is the seemingly wasted first down rope-a-dope? A missed check from Henne? Just a bad playcall? Who cares, we're up 27-7?|
|Interior of the line completely mauls the Irish D. Two pancakes from Mitchell(+2) and Kraus(+2)... Bihl(+1) gets out on a linebacker. Obi plows Thomas(+1). Hart just takes the open space before Zbikowski runs him down. Seven in the box == run run run.|
|M30||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Lead Draw|
|Not sure what exactly is going on here. Hart decides to go between Riley, who's being pushed back a bit, and Mitchell, but Obi goes outside of Riley, leaving Travis Thomas unblocked in the hole. If Obi gets a good block on the undersized Thomas this goes for like eight; if Hart cuts outside he might get the same. But wires are crossed. No idea who to assign credit and blame to. (-1 for Riley, I think.)|
|Henne overthrows a screen. Hayden thinks this is going for a while if it's accurate, but Mitchell Thomas was on Hart's heels and had a chance to grab his ankles. Otherwise, yes: mucho yards. (IN)|
|Dropped by Arrington(-1), and good coverage by Wooden makes it unlikely that he gets the first down even if he makes the catch. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 27-7, 8 min 2nd Q. What... no touchdown? Are you sure?|
|This one's a mess I can't make sense of. I think Mitchell's(-1) cut block on the backside was not good enough, and the ND DL on the playside get good penetration, forcing a cutback up into morass.|
|M41||2||10||I-Form 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||PA Deep Cross|
|Excellent play by #30 to get a hand on the ball, deflecting it so that Breaston can't make the catch. Henne stood in there and got hit as Abiamiri spun right by Riley(-1). This is a really accurate throw in the middle of the field with a man in his face. DO to me.|
|Thrown five yards short of the marker, but Breaston's(+1) first step gets him by the DB and past the sticks. He's going to drop a slant in the second half, but keep in mind this play when he does. (CA)|
|ND flooding the LOS again, with linebackers lined up right next to their defensive ends, waiting for the zone play. It comes, and there's no way for Bihl to block Landri, who flows down the line and makes the tackle. Zbikowski would have stopped it after about six if no Landri.|
|Oluigbo(+1) pounds Mitchell Thomas as ND stunts themselves into big trouble here. Hart(+1) breaks through two arm tackles for a big gain.|
|Eight in the box and it's jammed at the POA. Grady(-1) has two options: 1) cutback all the way and try to outrun Thomas, or 2) take Zbikowski head on. He delays on one then cuts right into the heart of the line instead for little yardge.|
|A small crease is enough. Grady(+1) runs through about four arm tackles, finsihing the run with about four extra YAC.|
|Both safeties are moving forward right at the snap; linebackers are equally aggressive and there are no gaps for the draw.|
|Mitchell(-1) moves to the second level but doesn't really block anyone. He ends up chasing Mitchell Thomas right to Hart at the LOS.|
|Hey, uh, maybe you should cover t hat guy(+2). (DO) Outstanding protection again.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-7 2nd Q. Is it garbage time yet?|
|Breaston(+1) manages to barrel his way for three extra yards after contact. He's not supposed to be able to do that. (CA)|
|M25||2||4||I-Form Twins||Run||6||Hart||Off tackle|
|We're lined up heavy to the short side of the field -- 2 WR and the FB offset there -- and run off Jake Long. They slant inside, leaving Long to block a linebacker. Oluigbo gets a block on Zbikowski but Hart(-1) doesn't cut behind it, instead getting tackled. Another missed cut, IMO.|
|I don't know WTF Ecker(-2) is thinking. He doesn't even bother to block Abiamiri, and that's a problem when you're running to his side. Also, the refs missed an incidental face mask on Abiamiri.|
|ND threatens blitz on the right side of the line, causing Michigan to slide its protection so much that Long blocks down on the DT, leaving Frome unblocked. Hart tries to pick him up. This is a major bust in the protection, IMO, as one of the threatened blitzers goes in motion mirroring Breaston â€“ clearly in man coverage â€“ and any threatened blitz would clearly be coming up the middle. Why leave Hart to block a DE? End result: Henne forced to throw off his back foot incomplete to a fullback who was covered anyway (PR)|
|Give up and punt. Eh, up 20 this doesn't bother me so much.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-14, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|This is pass interference: Wooden impacts Mathews before he has a chance to get to the ball. If Wooden decided to attempt an interception he might have had a touchdown. (BR)|
|Goes right after Darrin Walls (ha! That's what you get, fool), as he comes in to replace Wooden. Ndukwe hits Breaston(+1) about four yards out of bounds. (CA)|
|M36||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||-1||Breaston||WR Screen|
|ND linebackers are flowing towards Breaston right at the snap. Mitchell Thomas forces a WR to block him, leaving Richardson unblocked. Clearly we tipped a play here. (CA)|
|No push at all from the left side of the line and the backside is filled by Abiamiri. Nowhere for Hart to go. (Long, Kraus -1)|
|This is an ugly breakdown: Jake Long(-2) gets beat one-on-one by a DT, Landri, and Hart's(-1) attempt to chop him fails entirely. Henne scrambles up into the pocket and takes the sack. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-14, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|No push, two guys in the hole. Oluigbo's block(-1) is kind of weak. These wad plays are impossible to evaluate.|
|Ball is really well thrown where only Arrington can get it. Fades are often difficult catches, but Arrington(-1) has to come down with this one. (CA)|
|O4||3||G||I-Form 2TE||Run||1||Hart||Off tackle|
|Bihl has a seemingly impossible assignment: try to block Landri when he's sitting play-side of you. He doesn't and so Hart doesn't have anywhere to go despite a nice job by the right side of the line.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 37-14, 6 min 3rd Q. Pushing the margin from 20 to 23 is almost ending the game at this point, so I don't mind the third down call, but I would like to have seen another fade maybe. Those are really safe.|
|ND brings both safeties up into the box. There's no way you can run on that. Blocking is fine, there's just too many guys.|
|Hart(+2) somehow finds a tiny lane to slide through, then drives Zbikowski for another three yards downfield.|
|M41||3||2||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||26||Manningham||Deep Out|
|No play action? By the snap there are 10 Irish players within four yards of the LOS. Only one blitzes, that to the side we motion Breaston to in order to disrupt the presumed zone blocking. The rest sit to react to the play... which is a simple pass to Manningham(+1) in one-on-one coverage. Only a genius would disrespect his opponent so. (CA)|
|Landri beats Kraus(-1) and Ecker's beaten by Thomas(-1), forcing awkward cuts before Grady would like to move. Michigan is "out-Weis-ing" the Irish.|
|ND blitzes but it's picked up fabulously this time. Good coverage on reads one and two but the zone, seeing Henne's eyes, slides to the right side of the field, leaving Arrington open for a nice again despite Henne's throw being a bit of a slow looper thrown of his back foot as the pressure finally comes. (CA.) Nice YAC from Arrington(+1).|
|O15||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||0||Grady||Lead Draw|
|Landri beats Kraus(-1), forcing Oluigbo to attempt a block on him. Stripped of his lead blocker and with the lane in front of him clogged, Grady makes what he can.|
|O15||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Zone PA|
|Weis has his team so well prepared for this game â€“ he is a genius, you know â€“ that the entire team freaks out and zooms towards the line on this play, leaving not only Breaston but Manningham wid e open in the endzone. Chad overthrows it. (IN)|
|O15||3||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Delayed Slant?|
|Henne is again coming to a second or third read here, and it's Breaston on some sort of short, slant-type route that still has him moving well after a normal slant would have been deemed useless. Pass hits him in the hands and is dropped. (Breaston -1, DO, as it led Breaston to a point where he would tear past the defender for a first down and possibly a TD.)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 40-14, EO 3rd Q. Look at this drive. It's beautiful playcalling in which DeBord destroys Minter. Third and two? Everyone comes into the box but does not rush: easy pitch and catch. Second and nine? Eons of time with no pass rush and an open receiver. Second and ten? Fake the zone and get two guys wide open in the endzone.|
|M23||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||20||Hart||Off tackle|
|Why Mike Hart(+1) is awesome: he bounces this outside, getting a nice chop block from Breaston(+1) and a great downfield block from Arrington(+1). Ecker also seals Thomas well. Hart finds himself rumbling down the sideline when Ndukwe comes up to tackle: Hart collapses to the ground, pointedly getting his knee down, and comes up making the "wind the clock" signal. I LOVE YOU.|
|Great blocking, but nine guys in the box.|
|Big cutback lane to the backside of the play that Hart(+1) finds smartly. ND DL starting to flag.|
|I mean, there's just no way. Literally every Irish player is within three yards of the LOS. Six guys cross the line at the snap with three linebackers waiting to hit any creases, and we run a stretch play. Guaranteed to be snowed under. I don't mind running here, but bring in Oluigbo and ram it down their throats.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 4th Q. The third or fourth time this year we get stoned in short yardage by trying to do something cute.|
|Nine in the box again. There's no real reason this play should work for any yardage, but Hart(+1) finds a tiny crease and manages to fall forward for another couple.|
|They're stuffing the box and we don't care.|
|No room at the POA. Hart tries to cut outside but Zbikowski is standing there. Hart's magic feet take him back to the LOS. A useless one yard play but fun to watch anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 40-21, 6 min 4th Q.|
|Bihl||6||3||3||Generous. More later. Thought he was an issue and don't know how this happened.|
|Ecker||3||-3||Not a very good blocker.|
|Arrington||4||2||2||Getting involved in the passing game now.|
Still don't like this and wouldn't hang my hat on it. Going to split the OL stuff in to pass/run.
Manningham and Henne, obviously. Manningham's getting all the accolades but his three touchdowns were all inch-perfect throws by Henne and tough ones. (Maybe the first one wasn't so tough, but Henne laid it right in Manningham's chest anyway.) Here's the Hennechart:
Something not captured by the chart is the hugeosity of three of the DOs and one of the BRs. The magnitude of those throws isn't accurately captured. Anyway: yow. Five passes in the negative categories, 16 in the positive ones. Last year Henne's numbers were propped up with a copious number of screens of all varieties, but remove the five he threw in this game (4 CA, 1 IN) and you still get 12-4, a 75% "good" rate. Last year he often hovered around 50%. You could see this coming if you looked closely: Henne was victimized by a spate of drops and more pressure, so his first couple of games had ugly numbers but when he actually threw the ball he was accurate. (Commenters have pointed out that Henne robbed his recievers of YAC opportunities by delaying his throw against CMU and thus I was a little eager to bestow "DO" status. True. Those throws were between the numbers, though, so the accuracy bit stands.)
Also, notice who has a leetle "2" in the minus column versus Victor Abi amiri? Riley.
Bihl had a bad day versus Landri even accounting for the times he had no chance on the snap. Ecker didn't catch anything and had a series of mental errors in the run game.
Should be be concerned with the run game? We averaged 2.9 YPC while GT and PSU both broke five.
A little bit. Since we were so far ahead for so long, we ran into a lot of stacked lines -- we turned the "scoring offense" off -- and that naturally resulted in a lot of second and nine. These weren't your everyday run defenses where they walk a safety up, either. After the first quarter Notre Dame was selling out against the run 75% of the time. Look at our second field goal drive in the third quarter: the first three times we drop back to pass receivers are hilariously wide open because Notre Dame has about three guys who aren't laser-focused on Mike Hart.
What was disturbing: Derek Landri had a very good day against us. He was in the backfield an awful lot, usually with either Kraus or Bihl futilely chasing him. Some of that was blocking screwups where whoever was assigned to single block him was dead before the snap -- likely a consequence of having to shift blocking assignments because of the sell-out thing -- but he plain beat our interior linemen quite a few times, something I didn't see in either the GT or PSU games. I went from totally sold on Mark Bihl at center to uncertain as a result.
Also: Tyler Ecker blocking someone seems like a 50-50 proposition at best, and Mike Hart missed a number of cuts that hurt drives. I don't think he actually had a very good game. Not that this lessens my platonic man-crush on him at all. Wind that clock!
What is the deal with sucking in short yardage?
I dunno. That stretch play for Grady on third and one was stupid. You knew that ND, desperate for the ball and running out of time, was going to stack the line and blitz off the edge. In that circumstance running a stretch is punting time, especially when we've gotten stuffed doing similar things on third and short versus Vandy and Central.
Running is clearly the preferred option up a billion points, but bring in Oluigbo and jam it down their throat. Remember: Weis was totally unprepared for Michigan running up the middle.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
Nick Hayden and the rest of the Wisconsin front seven will be a stiff test for the run game, but with Manningham firmly established as a threat and a closer game no doubt in the offing they won't be able to jam the line with the freedom ND did. What often wasn't a fair fight against ND simply due to numbers will be comparatively wide open versus Wisconsin. I expect another grinding day from Hart, but not an explosive 200-yard outing.
The passing game has another day against a secondary with pretty good safeties but a lot of questions at cornerback. (Not that ND has questions anymore. They have an answer: you suck.) Jamal Cooper and Matt Shaugnessy are both good DEs that have the potential to give Riley trouble, and against San Diego State they unleashed an array of blitzes that got their linebackers four sacks. The kind of protection breakdowns that plagued Michigan early against ND will end more drives if not repaired this weekend.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Ha ha: AP pollers suxor.
Fallers: Notre Dame, obviously, after getting BEAT DOWN by Michigan. They fell significantly, though the BlogPoll didn't punish them as severely as the AP or Coaches poll, leaving them #13.
Florida State was the most bludgeoned team, dropping fully ten slots to #22. I'm amazed they're still in the poll at all. Miami was crushed by Louisville, making that win seem significantly less quality, and then FSU should have been crushed by Clemson. The only thing keeping FSU remotely close was running back blocked kicks. Without those the final score is probably 31-11. And yet they remain. Bad poll!
Tennessee only fell one spot after losing to Florida -- last week their unimpressive win over Air Force caused them to drop three. Nebraska's uninspiring loss to USC saw them drop six spots.
Risers: Clemson went from out of the poll to #19 after their thoroughly dominating victory over FSU, even if such domination wasn't reflected on the scoreboard. Oklahoma actually moved up a spot after their controversial loss to Oregon -- Oregon jumped two. TCU finds themself at 15, which I'm not a huge fan of, since they've not done much more than the teams around them and have definitely done less than, say, Tennessee.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: Why does Fresno blogger MDG's otherwise sane ballot feature Colorado at #16? Why is anyone voting for Florida State? I mean: look at all these ballots. Three people have them anywhere from #12 to #13. That goes quadruple for the seven people still hanging on to 1-2 Miami.
Meanwhile, Frank McGrath, uh: Notre Dame #8, Michigan #12? Should I point you to this again?
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 JournoRock. Let us count the ways:
- UGA #2 (and Auburn #1. Sothern Speed, baby!)
- TCU #6. WTF?
- FSU at (gack) #12.
- 'Bama #13.
- Florida at #14.
- Miami ranked.
Mr. Numb Existence is the Georgia Sports Blog. As per usual there's nothing interesting about this category. But we'll point you to some hilarious trash talk from Colorado featured on their site.
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 continues its strange power over overrated teams, lulling Wisconsin into the danger zone: their game versus San Diego State was tied at zero until midway through the third quarter. So you might expect Michigan State to get an unholy whooping at the hands of Notre Dame, as The Enlightened Spartan has them freakin' ninth, a spot ahead of Michigan. Also, Badger Sports be warned: this is one week when having zero points midway through the third will be a ticket to lossville, population Florida State and Miami.
Straight Bangin' Award does not go to Schembechler Hall, who was forced to raise Michigan 12 spots to #7 and thus plummet to fourth in the balloting. Our new winner is UGA blog Hey Jenny Slater, who is appropriately wary of a true freshman quarterback in the SEC, no matter how shirtless he is.
Swing is essentially 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 The House Rock Built, who can be excused for the depressive bit after Michigan's BEAT DOWN of Notre Dame. A lot of movement on his board: both Big East teams shoot up after impressive performances. Iowa leaps twelve spots after beating ISU. ASU up, UT and ND down lots. I am curious, though, about what Texas did against Rice that merited an eight-slot drop.
Mr. Stubborn has a bit of a glitch in it. Tennessee newbie Corn From A Jar submitted his first ballot when the insert point was still week three, then made a minor modification to his ballot aft
er the issue was corrected. So pay no attention to that "4". But do pay attention to the man who created the phrase "We Must Protect This Cheese."
Our real victor is Pitch Right, who didn't move much stuff around unless he was trying to be CRAZY. Notre Dame rises three? Oregon plummets, Oklahoma rockets? Uh... I can understand the sentiment behind the latter but it's gonna get real metaphysical around here if attending to that win-loss column is optional
courtesy reader JJ
More of my voice: Brief segment on Sports Bloggers Live where I talk about the
Ryder Cup Michigan's heinous beatdown of Notre Dame.
One last dump of post-ND links before we turn our gaze cheeseward. EDSBS has kind words for Carr in the aftermath of his yoke-lifting BEATDOWN:
Watching Lloyd Carr following his team outclassing Notre Dame was outright moving. A podium; a man looking fresh from a shower, dressed in slightly rumpled clothes, standing in front of flashbulbs, cameras, and the collected eyes of a few hundred people and looking completely and pleasantly dumbfounded at the performance of his team. Carr earned great soul points for his genuine awe at Michigan's game and his player's maxing out their potential in the span of two quarters. It began at the half, when Carr seemed near speechless at his team's piston-blowing execution of the gameplan, and continued through post-game when Carr gave his players and coaches total credit for the masterpiece without a counterfeit sentiment for false note. Carr had the look of a man whose head had been down so long at the yoke he couldn't understand just what he'd plowed through to get there. To see that, a 62 year old stunned by the effort and commitment of a crew of 18-22 year olds on his behalf, had to warm even the most grizzled and Lloyd Carrish of hearts.
I wanted to cut bits of it so you could RTWT over there but what to slash? Would be a sin. So I must tease you thus: hilarious Manningham bit and reference to fictional "March of the Victors" song.
From the scene:
The O-Zone's Michigan Monday has been given a bit of pause:
I can sit here and tell you that they've been impressive where they've wanted to be impressive this season, and you can go ahead and choose to believe that the schedule has had more to do with Michigan's success than Michigan.
I would disagree.
ND "vlog" -- someone really has to do something about that word -- The Extra Point has a couple interesting breakdowns of various plays from the game in depressed-Domer fashion. Only one sarcastic swipe at Big Ten refs, even. (Via IBFC. Make sure you check the surprisingly hilarious fake news article captured for posterity, too.)
Personal accounts from Sam @ Blue Cats and Red Sox, Dave @ Tikilounge (complete with Sandwich of Victory), and Tyler Brubaker (featuring MGoBlog shirts in action). Braves & Birds has assorted thoughts as well.
Manningham and Woodley feature at numbers 4 and 5 in the latest MaxwellPundit balloting; Sports Illustrated picked a weird time to publish this baby about how the Dome is golden again and blah blah blah.
Badger Badger Badger: And now, finally, we turn our eyes to Wisconsin. The Journal-Sentinel theorizes that Michigan will pound it between the tackles; the Capital Times of Madison has an article on former Badger and current Wolverine secondary coach Ron Lee.
Etc.: Ohio Stadium's field is looking a lot like Michigan's before the field turf got installed. That's not good. TechCrunch has a fascinating article about a site that collects predictions from random people, finds a subset of them who are significantly more accurate than the populace at large, then offers to sell bettors their collected wisdom.
Sorry for the horrible lateness and thus inability to do the comment-revision thing. I was a little busy creating tributes to Brady Quinn early this week.
Games Seen: Michigan's BEATDOWN of ND, UF-UT, Pitt-MSU (DVR), USC-Nebraska (DVR), Iowa State-Iowa, Ohio State-Cincinnati, WVU-Maryland, bits of BYU-BC, and Auburn-LSU.
- Solid about who the top five are but not so sure of what order they should be in. If I was going by best victory only, UM and OSU would be 1-2, but I'm trying to guess who the best teams are so they aren't.
- Actually not all that sold on USC since Nebraska's game plan against them was ridiculous: line up with three tight ends and run the ball. It was uberLloyd and insane, especially given that last year Nebraska's line was terrible and so was the run game. USC defense must have been laughing the whole game. The only reasonable explanation was that Callahan bet on Nebraska covering the spread and was trying to keep NU's loss to a manageable amount. I'll never hideously overrate a Bill Callahan team again. Frickin' idiot. [/Napoleon Dynamite]
- Yeah: I think Pitt's defense is terrible but the only thing that stopped MSU all game was a series of penalties early. They deserve a spot.
- Funny: apparently Oregon and Oklahoma were 13-14 a week ago; without looking I put them 13-14 this week and switched Oregon above Oklahoma. OU got jobbed hard, but I'm not ready to enter the twilight zone and put the Ducks below the Sooners.
- Apparently I hate Georgia less this week.
- Tennessee moves up three after losing? I guess. A one-point loss to #5 leapt UT over ND, who got BEAT DOWN, and the UO-OU couplet of controversy. I'm fine with it.
- Voting for Rutgers but leaving off Miami and Florida State is awesome.