no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
The Monday press conference distilled into relevant items.
- Ortmann has a dislocated elbow and will be out a few weeks. Maybe he returns for Wisconsin. Bryant Nowicki and Perry Dorrestein are competing to replace him. Omameh also got a mention.
- Shaw, Mathews, and Brown will play.
- Brown was in a white shirt—instead of a light-contact green one—for the first time yesterday.
- Terrance Robinson has his knee brace off and is a couple of weeks from seeing the field.
"That's an 'or' because it is 'or.' Both of those guys are still in the mix. If one guy would emerge and play to the point where it's just him, that would be good. But our concern is whoever is taking the snaps, can we execute the system."
Feagin is working at quarterback and slot receiver, “helping Michigan out at the receiver position.” This should sound the death knell for his prospects at the position: David Cone is the third QB, not Feagin. I expect a move by the end of the year.
“I saw them making steps, and I told them. Sometimes whereas it was two, maybe three guys not quite right, a lot of times it was just one guy. We're really not effective, especially in our system, unless all five are getting it done. There is a lot of precision to it.”
- Koger still hasn’t played but they do plan to get him in at some point. No mention of Roundtree, who IIRC did not play Saturday.
- There were a couple of questions about Brown, one neutral, the other “dude… like doesn’t this guy need to get better?” Rodriguez responded “Why do we want to make this negative? Stevie has played some but for a veteran guy, he doesn't have a whole lot of experience.”
- Warren is still the top guy returning punts but they’re “almost ready to have a rotation” between Warren, Odoms, and Cissoko.
- Panter and Evans are still “in the mix” at linebacker but Rodriguez “kind of liked the way they lined up this weekend.”
Oh, it’s on, Notre Dame. It’s on.
The line. After the Utah game there were reports that the line for the Notre Dame game was as high as ND –8.5, but in the aftermath of Michigan’s DOMINATION last week there’s been a seismic shift. Diarist Jamiemac has the lowdown:
At Carib Sports--the only place where I am registered that I could find where you could bet tonight on Saturday's game--UM is -1. Lets think about this line:
Summer line: ND -3.5
Adjusted line after Week 1: ND -8.5
Actual line of Game Week: UM -1
I have not seen such a turnaround before. Surprisingly (or not so when you really think about it), most of those summer lines stay true to form.....its scary how accurate those are to the actual line months in advance.....anyway, yeah, you'll see a 1 or 2 point swing over the course of the season, but this line movement is unreal. A five point swing after the first week of games. Then, a 9.5 point swing in the other direction after the 2008 ND team unveiled itself.
Covers.com has one Michigan –2.5 and holding, a whole host of pick-ems, and a couple sites that opened with Michigan about a three-point favorite and have now moved to ND –1. The over-under is not available, for obvious reasons.
I’m with the bookies on this one: nothing short of Notre Dame starting a hippogriff at linebacker would surprise me. Notre Dame by twenty? Michigan by 38? A zero-zero tie finally broken in the sixth overtime after seven Notre Dame holding penalties and a Jimmah Clausen sack result in a safety? All equally plausible.
Well, no, I have a hard time envisioning Michigan putting up 38 points on Cal Poly. That is less plausible.
The reason for the jump was obvious to everyone who didn’t run from the room screaming during the San Diego State-Notre Dame game.Notre Dame was about a millimeter away from going down 20-7, and that would have been 20-0 if not for some incredible clock malfeasance by Chuck Long at the end of the first half.
San Diego State’s relative performances against a I-AA team and Notre Dame give cause for hope:
|Opp||Yards Gained||YPA||YPC||Yards Allowed||YPA||YPC|
|Cal Poly SLO||306||10.5||3.6||284||6.2||4.0|
It’s worth noting that SDSU had a week to-week offensive inversion, throwing 59 times and running 15 times against ND; the week before they ran 41 times and threw 15.
Blue-Gray Sky was not particularly impressed:
While Duke and Stanford's 2007 defenses were hardly worldbeaters, they were probably better than the San Diego State defense that gave up over 200 yards rushing to a 1-AA team. Yet, with largely the same personnel, Notre Dame's rushing offense was significantly less effective against SDSU than it had been against Duke and Stanford. In the final two games of 2007, the Irish running backs averaged 5.7 yard per carry against Duke and 5.1 against Stanford. Against SDSU, the Irish backs averaged a meager 3.4 yards per carry. Perhaps even more telling than the statistics was the play-calling. On each of their first three drives, the Irish offense faced a third-and-short situation (3rd and 2, 3rd and 3, then 3rd and 2 again). Each time, the call was a pass. It's hard to reconcile that play-calling with a commitment to "pounding" the ball.
Welcome to the club. Actually, I think you should be welcoming us to the club.
The bothersome thing. Okay, I watched the San Diego State game. During this game, a performance in which Notre Dame nearly lost to one of the worst teams in Division I-A, I was repeatedly wistful because Notre Dame’s quarterback completed passes downfield. What sort of pass? Any sort of pass. I miss John Navarre 2001. I miss John Navarre 2000. I miss Ryan Mallett.
Rodriguez's latest press conference has revealed that Angry Michigan Offensive-Line-Hating God has seen fit to dislocate Mark Ortmann's elbow. He's out for about three weeks. Cue the skull-heavy, foreboding painting:
Mmmm, undead beef jerky. Also: now what?
Bryant Nowicki isn’t Belgium’s famous painter but he is Michigan’s soon-to-be famous planet-sized walk-on starter at left tackle. When he came off the bench to replace Ortmann I deeply regretted the demise of the free programs that were so essential for figuring out which obscure player just made a special teams gaffe or, like, is our freakin’ left tackle. Then I saw Nowicki talking to David Molk and it was weird that one of our OL made another of our OL look like Martavious Odoms. Then I deeply regretted Michigan’s offensive line recruiting over the past five years. Then Nowicki played pretty decently.
So what’s the deal?
Nowicki was a recruit who drew interest from a bunch of schools early because he was 6’9” and football-sized but didn’t pick up a D-I offer. Some local I-AA and D-II schools did offer, but Nowicki picked a preferred walk-on spot at Michigan over toiling at SVSU or wherever.
This is his third year against Michigan, during which time he’s lost around 40 pounds and learned not to squint in photographs:
He saw action in two blowouts—Notre Dame and Minnesota—last year. ESPN, surprisingly, scouted him. Upshot:
He can be a dominant blocker in a restricted area. He has dropped weight between his junior and senior year, and is more effective dealing with moving targets. He is able to more consistently get a piece, but will still struggle in space. As a pass protector he struggles to reset his feet and has difficulty handling speed, but can mirror rushers in a short area. Nowicki is interesting because of his size, but he may not move well enough to play guard and may struggle with speed rushers at the tackle position.
He’s dropped 40 pounds, so maybe the movement has improved? I’ll attend to him closely in UFR. Chances he’s good are low, but he wasn’t an obvious sieve in the way Courtney Morgan was. That may be an effect of opponent and relative competence of the gentlemen around him.
9/6/2008 – Michigan 16, Miami (Not That Miami) 6 – 1-1
Could you maybe throw it at the receivers? No? Well, I tried.
Michigan fans have had a lot of ominous signs presented to them in the first two weeks of the season. There is a walk-on at quarterback. When Mark Ortmann was injured last week, a walk-on replaced him at left tackle. At one point during last week’s game the skill players went like this: sophomore, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman. Steve Brown is reminding folks of the sucky version of Ryan Mundy. There has been much to fret over.
But nothing has struck fear in me like what occurred late in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s ten-point win over a MAC team: the students burst into a chorus of “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”
On the one hand, get it in while you can, kids. On the other: you have got to be kidding me. Why stop there? Let’s rush the damn field.
Game two was a virtual replay of game one minus some opponent competence, and does little to reassure that Michigan isn’t going to struggle its way towards a rinky-dink bowl that won’t actually be in Shreveport but might as well be.
Outside of two Actual Touchdown Drives, the offense was more of the same minus even one downfield completion. The defense was pretty good but Miami’s receivers did them a whole host of favors; it does not look as dominant as it needs to be given the Yakety Sax on the other side of the ball.
Which, like, okay. It kind of sucks that this season is going to be rough but given the cards Rodriguez was dealt it’s understandable. If this was Carr and the future stretched out like tapioca pudding, I would understand it and perhaps participate. But it’s not.
The discontent from some quarters is as obvious as it is petulant. When Michigan got the ball back after their second touchdown drive, the case for Lloydball could not have been more obvious. Every pass you throw is an invitation to disaster. You’re up two scores with around 6-7 minutes left in the game. Your defense has given up six points. You can’t lose unless you do something disastrously stupid, which happens to be your offense’s speciality.
So you do the obvious, boring thing: run-run-run-punt. And then some guy in the stands turns to me and says “not even one pass?” and I die a little bit inside because this man has no idea about game theory and no patience for a transition and was probably one of those guys posting spleen on the internet you may have run across if you’re a glutton for punishment or it’s kind of your job.
That’s an extreme example of a guy who seemed to seize an opportunity to sarcastically grumble about TINYFMF*, but I see lesser examples criticizing Rodriguez for “not adapting his offense” or “sacrificing this season” and all that, and I just think “what are you supposed to do when not even Tacopants can catch any pass thrown more than ten yards downfield?” There is no offense you can adapt to when your quarterbacks are slow white guys who can’t throw and your offensive line is a patchwork melange of who-dats, freshmen, and walk-ons.
Everyone’s permitted their immediate “#&$*!” when Steven Threet launches a pass into the troposphere or McGuffie is swarmed in the backfield or Steve Brown demonstrates his mastery of non-Euclidean geometry. Outside of that your best course of action is patience, tolerance, and whiskey.
*(This Is Not Your Father’s Michigan Football)
Bullets of crank:
- I just want to note this for the record: you can’t find a Michigan blog out there that has leveled anything resembling criticism of the new regime. Meanwhile, there are plenty of You Shouldn’t Extrapolate But HA HA HA columns in the newspapers. This will be ignored in two years when papers are filled with stories about how Rodriguez is triumphant over the eBays, message blogs, internets, and assorted other insane rabble.
- The students started a wave when Michigan was up four points in the third quarter. This is unacceptable. Waves require at least a two-score lead. We need some senior leadership in the stands, too.
- Also unacceptable: the RAWK MUSIC backing to the highlights shown at the end of the third quarter. What is this, Michigan State? After the band takes the field, the only music in the stadium comes from them. Someone find the guy who made that decision and put him in stocks on the diag.
- WHERE IS MY CRANBERRY JUICE?
- I’ll be the last man on earth to say it: Donovan Warren’s audition for the punt return job should be over. He’s not good at it, he’s too valuable to risk, and he refuses to make a fair catch. Boubacar Cissoko had some promising kickoff returns; let him have a crack.
- Michigan’s problems with underneath coverage continued; the little dreads guy on Miami must have caught 4 or 5 little hitch routes that he managed to turn upfield because a late-arriving linebacker—usually Thompson—did not tackle immediately.
- I’m worried about Troy Woolfolk, who the coaches seem deathly afraid to put on the field. I’m dying for a 4-2-5 nickel package against these spread teams.
- I LOLed at the Miami coach’s clock management. Actually, that’s not true. Despite the fact that it was helping Michigan win I was livid because for some reason clock malfeasance drives me crazy, but: Miami was running, huddling, and watching the clock wind down when they were down two scores with six minutes left, and they didn’t even use all their timeouts on Michigan’s final run-run-run-punt drive. What a maroon.
- Who’s excited for the worst Michigan-Notre Dame game ever?
Since I'm the one who actually has to press "go" on the liveblog, it's currently up and running, but until some WLA members sign on to moderate, no comments will be posted. If there's no text below, don't submit a comment. kthxgoblue.
Run Offense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
This did not go so well against Utah. Michigan running backs collected 34 yards on 15 carries against the Utes, with 21 of those coming on one Brandon Minor dive up the gut. The offensive line was awful, the running backs tentative. Nick Sheridan ripped a ball away from Sam McGuffie, causing a fumble. At some point Greg Frey had an aneurysm.
So hurray for a MAC team that was 76th in rush defense last year, yielding 4.2 YPC. In games against BCS opponents (and Minnesota and Syracuse), M(NTM)U did this:
Miami lost the Cincinnati and Colorado games by vast margins, lost to Minnesota in OT, and beat Syracuse.
We can excuse the Orangemen from consideration if only because putting them anywhere near the same plane as Michigan football is reason for suicide or worse (Carrier Dome season tickets!). Other than that, we have two hideous things and one acceptable performance in a 47-10 loss that probably saw a lot of uninspired dives into the line.
Things got better as the season went along. The Redhawks finished fourth in the MAC in run defense. They also return six of their front seven, though the linebackers are overhyped because they all have a lot of tackles because the defense provided many opportunities to make them.
This continued into their season opener against Vandy. QB Chris Nickson, who you may remember playing Guy At The Bottom Of Huge Pile during the 2006 Vandy-Michigan game, blowed up, with 166 yards on 20 carries. As a whole, Vandy went for 269 yards on 50 rushes, 5.4 a pop. Vandy.
We’re not at the point where anyone can say anything about this Michigan team’s offense with confidence, but if we can’t plow these guys we’re in for a long, long year.
Key Matchup: The interior line versus their interior line. Junior Samoans had Michigan butts in the backfield much of the day; if this continues against Miami, look out.
Pass Offense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
This also did not go well against Utah, though the line’s pass protection seemed okay. Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet combined to complete zero passes for a negative billion yards and threw Nazi Germany interceptions while fumbling Hindenberg times. Michigan scored Satan points.
Or something. Both quarterbacks looked spazzy, though Threet was significantly less so. The receivers caught what balls they could but struggled to get separation from the defensive backs. The line just barely held together. The results: yuck.
At Miami, three starters return to a secondary that was respectable (56th) in pass efficiency D in 2007. Vandy didn’t test this much, throwing only 16 passes. Think of Chris Nickson as Nick Sheridan who can run.
Why bother analyzing this? Sheridan looked awful, Threet slightly less awful. They’re going up against a MAC defense and should execute better; the real test will be to see if anyone can block for the short screens there will be a profusion of. I can’t tell you anything else. Hope for competence, fear reality.
Key Matchup: Dr. Completely Adequate Noodle Arm Quarterback versus Mr. Spaz.
Run Defense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
Michigan’s newly svelte and angry defensive line had a banner day against Utah; now they come up against a Miami team that ground out 3.8 YPC and 96 yards against Vandy. Though Vandy was kind of shockingly good (32nd) against the run last year the Vanderbilt Sports Line was pleasantly surprised they kept it up:
the defense looked stout despite losing the linebacking corps and many of the heavies up front, as Mo Patton highlights in today's Tennessean.
This defense was not that defense that was pretty good against an SEC schedule, this defense is much younger. And just beat South Carolina, but have you seen South Carolina? How bad is NC State? I’m off topic?
Sophomore Thomas Merriweather had 59 yards on just 10 carries against the ‘Dores and appears to be your nominal starter; junior Andre Bratton had a much tougher go of things, with just 13 yards on 7 carries.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor the defensive line and linebackers held Utah to 36 yards rushing… sort of. A barrage of sacks saw Brian Johnson end the day with –66 yards; meanwhile thumping power back Matt Asiata averaged 5.9 a carry on an array of Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws and other carries that went straight up the middle. This could be a worrying sign that Michigan’s faulty interior run defense has not been repaired.
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus expectations.
Pass Defense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
Last week Michigan went up against a fifth-year senior with a history of excellent production when he managed to stay on the field. This week they’ve got junior Daniel Raudabaugh, who completed 55% of his passes last year, averaged 6.4 YPA against a MAC schedule, and threw 12 interceptions to twelve touchdowns. Against Vanderbilt he was 19 of 41 and threw three picks, though his coach thinks a couple of them were not his fault. Last year Miami was 102nd in passing efficiency.
That figures to go up this year. Last year every significant pass receiver graduated, as did the quarterback; this year all return. The top two guys are mighty mites, MAC versions of Deon Butler. They go by “Dustin Woods” and “Eugene Harris”. There is also a man named Fitz Bobo.
The Michigan secondary, on the other hand, was pretty excellent last week except for a huge Steve Brown screwup and the persistent inability of Michigan’s linebackers to cover anyone. The linebackers are getting switched around, but more comforting is the idea that going over the middle is kind of a dangerous proposition when you’re Daniel Raudabaugh and not a fifth-year senior.
The defensive line was all over Brian Johnson, sacking him six times and drawing four penalties based on their extreme pressure (two holding flags, two intentional groundins). Miami’s replacing a couple starters from a line that was 74th in sacks allowed last year; this should be a major advantage for Michigan.
Miami might break one big play when someone (Brown, Evans, Thompson) screws up in coverage, but it will probably be heavy on YAC. Leaving Raudabaugh in the pocket for extended periods of time will be unwise.
Key Matchup: Michigan linebackers against short annoying routes. Michigan needs to clamp down on the short passing game; covering the first receiver is likely to lead to major lost yards for Miami, as we saw in the second half of the Utah game.
Michigan’s special teams were an unexpected boon in the last game, blocking their first punt since Marquise Walker was on the team,—seriously—hitting a 50-yard field goal, getting a good kick return from Brandon Harrison, and just generally looking like a net benefit for the team.
The two downers were a shanked Zoltan quasi-half rugby punt and Donovan Warren’s punt return death wish—stick that hand in the air, son—but overall the Rodriguez era’s special teams debut was an excellent one.
Miami has an erratic kicker with some leg; he was only 50% on field goals from 30-39 last year. Their punter is excellent; their returns uninspiring.
Key Matchup: Don’t see one. Neither team is likely to get much of a punt return game going, and the kickers are the kickers. Maybe Miami Kicker Guy versus Makeable Field Goal.
In the past, this space used pictures of kittens to mock the idea that South Carolina’s 0-6-2 record since 1984 on the road against teams with mascots on the endangered species list had any relevance on the future. But it’s a new era, and Michigan’s coach is just about the complete opposite sort of coach. So what’s the opposite of a cat?
Garfield Minus Garfield is the opposite of a cat. It is the essence of anti-cat.
- The quarterbacks look equally spazzy.
- There’s no push from the offensive line.
- Michigan gets chunked up the middle again.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Miami’s quarterback looks like he has angry winged growths coming out of his armpits.
- That underneath coverage thing gets figured out.
- The game ends with Michigan ahead.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Wow We Suck, –1 for Wow They Lost To Vandy Handily, –1 for …And Any Half-Decent BCS Team Blew Them Out Last Year, +1 for Are We A Half-Decent BCS Team?, +1 for Spaz One or Spaz Two Starts At Quarterback, –1 for We’re Like A Two-Touchdown Favorite, Thanks Vegas! ).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for If This Is Not A Solid Victory, Look Out, –1 for Does It Really Matter, +1 for Yes, There’s A Bowl Streak, +1 for And They’re In The MAC)
Loss will cause me to... not read other Big Ten blogs for a week.
Win will cause me to... WOO MOTOR CITY BOWL HERE WE COME.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Michigan should win if only because they will physically overmatch Miami on defense in spectacular fashion. Okay, the Redhawks weren’t badly outgained by Vandy and Vandy just beat South Carolina, but… seriously, folks. I really doubt Miami will have an opportunity to make the plays Brian Johnson did.
Offensively, it will be ugly again but there should be some short fields and the team should be more functional if only because their performance last week was about as bad is it could feasibly be. If the OL can battle the DL to a stalemate and let Michigan’s skill guys take over, there will be a drive or three of actual length. Don’t expect fireworks; don’t expect last week.
Probably. I do take heart in the massive line (M –15) put out by Vegas.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Threet starts and plays most of the game; Sheridan sees a couple series here and there.
- Tim Jamison gets two sacks.
- Michigan’s run game is at least passable.
- Michigan, 24-13.