alternate headline: man does job
The usual: should get ramped up about a half-hour before gametime. Read the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post for more detail on what's going on here if you're new. Start time: 11:30.
|WHAT||#19 Michigan vs Indiana|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, September 26th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Michigan -21|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on ESPN2|
|WEATHER||Mid 60s w/ slight chance of rain|
Run Offense vs. Indiana
Indiana's defense is currently 15th nationally, albeit after a steady diet of dink-and-dunk MAC teams and one I-AA opponent that's not even the most prominent directional school in its state. (Western Kentucky won a I-AA national title a few years ago and is I-A's newest member. You may remember them from such mascots as "oh my god is that a walking zit.")
The numbers to date, sacks omitted:
*(Western also had two "team" rushes for –22 yards. Those were either kneel-downs or horrible snaps over the punters head that result in a safety (just guessing) and are also omitted.)
Despite the raw numbers, that probably doesn't bode well against an offense that just blew up for 380 yards against Eastern Michigan and had 5.5 YPC against Notre Dame the week before. Indiana beat writer Chris Korman on the defensive line:
Indiana has five defensive tackles that play but none of them played a snap at the position before the season. One is a true freshman, three are redshirt freshmen and another here moved over from the offensive line. Their linebackers are average at best, (Tyler) Replogle is a pretty good rush linebacker but otherwise they have guys who run themselves out of position, aren’t exactly as big as you’d want a Big Ten linebacker to be so it’s just not there. Like you said, they get gashed a lot and they haven’t played a real good running team. Akron just had no running attack and that’s where that game got away from them. But Michigan and those big backs, you just wonder how Indiana is going to stop them. They haven’t stopped someone who wanted to run the ball since I’ve been here, three years. They’ve never put it down and stopped a team.
So maybe it's more relevant that Indiana was 91st in rushing defense last year. They were 35th after three weeks against—hey!—Western Kentucky, Murray State, and about-to-be-rampant-through-the-MAC Ball State. How did that work out? In their never-ending quest to wear Javon Ringer's legs down to tiny nubs, Michigan State went for 236 yards on 52 carries. So… yeah. For the 15th-ranked rushing defense they are not exactly intimidating.
Michigan, meanwhile, is now the #3 rushing offense in the country after that aforementioned yardage explosion against Eastern. That probably won't last and Michigan would do well to come vaguely near those numbers even against a defense as apparently young and undermanned as Indiana's.
Complicating matters is the broken bone in center David Molk's foot, which will see him miss the next 4-6 weeks. Michigan will slide RG David Moosman to center, RT Mark Huyge to guard, and insert Perry Dorrestein at RT. Last week Moosman's absence saw John Ferrara enter the lineup at RG, so maybe there was some discontent with Ferrara's play? Either that or Michigan's noticed that Huyge isn't great in pass protection but is a thumping run blocker and is experimenting with an arrangement that minimizes his weaknesses and maximizes his strengths. Dorrestein was functional as an injury replacement a year ago. There will be some hiccups here as two guys move to new positions and another draws into the lineup. Moosman might get replaced, too, as he missed last week with a shoulder issue that Michigan won't want to chance aggravating.
All that said, Michigan should expect to put up the 5.5 they did against Notre Dame at the very least on a day that figures to be a bewildering array of handoffs they've already shown.
Key Matchup: Probably David Moosman versus Being David Molk. I've long been a proponent of the leetle center's skills and fit in the offense. This week is the first of 4-6 without his services; if Molk can provide a reasonable facsimile it will be encouraging for the future.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana
Is there going to be one? Will there have to be one? Eh… maybe. This section of the game contains the most favorable matchup for the Hoosiers, as they have a pair of veteran defensive ends somewhere between competent and All Big Ten. Back to Korman—here he's responding to the question "how does Indiana win"?
Oh, uh, it would have to be, really have to be, the two defensive ends are really the key. If they can get some consistent pressure, shake up Michigan’s offense, get to the young quarterbacks and certainly Michigan is going to be smart enough to try and run the ball a lot but if Indiana can get a few stops and then force a 3rd-and-long and you go back and get to the quarterback and that makes it a lot easier.
Indiana did pick off Akron four times, but their starting quarterback was out that game and the backup is not Tate Forcier. I don't think Michigan will give Indiana the opportunity to tee off on Forcier. What throws they do make will be heavily screen and rollout based, and since the rollouts all come off the zone read Indiana will be forced to abandon the scrape exchange (which doesn't work all that well, especially when your defensive tackles are all freshmen) or eliminate their defensive ends from quarterback duty.
The Indiana secondary was horrible, horrible, horrible last year, for what it's worth: IU finished 106th in pass efficiency D and 105th in yardage despite those defensive ends getting the Hoosiers up to 26th in sacks. IU's leading receiver from last year was moved into the secondary in an attempt to staunch the bleeding, but that only opens IU up to MGoBlog season preview heuristic #2: if you move someone to another position and then start him, that position group is a disaster zone. So, yeah, disaster zone. When Michigan passes, guys will be open, with chance of long pass increasing because of potential ineptitude.
Key Matchup: Michigan tackles versus the IU defensive ends. If, oh, uh, Indiana's going to be a threat it'll be because they've crushed the precious in the backfield.
Run Defense vs. Indiana
Ah, the frightening bit. Indiana lines up in the pistol and, according to "Behind The Schemes" on the Big Ten Network, has run 44 of 46 rushing plays on which they have a tight end to the tight end side.* That might be a setup for some counters or whatever, but it'll be interesting to see if Michigan responds to this by aligning Mike Martin and Brandon Graham to the strong side of the defense consistently. Last week EMU aligned in a fashion that caused Michigan to expose the Roh/Van Bergen side of the line to an overloaded TE-heavy front, and it was from this that Eastern gained a lot of their rushing yards. Clearly, opponents will be gameplanning ways to attack the lighter side of Michigan's line; watch for potential Michigan ripostes to this.
Indiana's vaunted… okay, not vaunted. Maybe "over-discussed." Indiana's over-discussed pistol formation is supposed to be a pounding up-the-middle sort of run game which features big linemen and runs up the gut from hefty backs—both of Indiana's guys are in the 215 range—but it hasn't exactly excelled so far. After three games against poor competition, Indiana is the #65 rushing attack in the country and is averaging four yards a rush. Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't been much better. They're #56 against the rush and gave up 179 yards to Eastern Michigan last week at 3.7 yards a pop. Notre Dame shredded Michigan for 5.1 yards a carry.
Expecting Michigan to shut down just about any rushing attack seems foolhardy at this point. What you're looking for is something resembling improvement from the linebackers, I think, as the defensive line isn't suddenly going to have another offseason of Barwis under its belt any time soon.
*(Apparently. I didn't know the show existed, so I'm taking that from a message board report.)
Key Matchup: Ryan Van Bergen against Interior Double Teams. RVB has had a tough time holding up against doubles so far; improvement from him would be encouraging going into a couple games against tough-minded Big Ten sorts.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana
Last week Michigan went up against a quarterback who threw around 30 time a game for under 200 yards, averaged under six yards an attempt, and gave off the distinct aura of an inconsistent dink-and-dunk sort without the offensive line or receivers to challenge deep or break short stuff long.
There was an explosion against EKU, but even if I'm down on this defense I'm not ready to pretend a mediocre I-AA team is in any way a useful comparison to Michigan even if Mike Williams's sprained ankle will hold him out this weekend (he's a "game time decision" but was listed as doubtful on this week's injury report), paving the way for yet another game in which a walk-on is on the field for virtually every defensive snap. Hello long sentences.
Anyway: Indiana's main receiving threats are a couple of guys on the outside who are sort of anonymous, not huge, not short, not shifty. They're just guys. Tandon Doss is the leading receiver and I'm only bringing up the receivers' names because the second prime guy is the spectacularly-named Damarlo Belcher. Doss will probably draw Warren, as he's already got 21 receptions on the year and looks to be the prime downfield threat.
Key Matchup: Brandon Graham versus Life Hates Brandon Graham.
Zoltan was back to his usual ways and Olesnavage bounced back from shanking a short one against Notre Dame to hit a FG of moderate distance. Indiana's special teams are okay.
One prime annoyance from last game: Greg Mathews gave away at least 50 yards of field position against Eastern by not fielding catching easy balls.I know we don't want to fumble, but those were bad decisions.
Key Matchup: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.
21-point spreads against Indiana do not get kittens, but here's something else:
- Michigan decides to test their tackles against the IU DEs and comes up short.
- The infirmary list gets any longer.
- Denard continues to struggle throwing the ball.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- David Moosman looks like an adequate replacement for Molk.
- We get a new punt returner.
- There is not massive regression on all fronts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for Probably Don't Even Have To Throw To Win, –1 for And For That Statement The Ghost Of Bo Will Smile Fortune Upon Us, –1 for No, Seriously, Their Defensive Tackles Are All Freshman And Converts, –1 for And Even If We Do Throw We Can Do That Now, –1 for Indiana Doesn't Even Have Their One Scary Guy This Year, +1 for But We Are The Sort Of Team That Starts A Walk-On).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Remember Last Week, Yeah All That Stuff Goes For This Week, +1 for Let's Re-establish That This Is Michigan, Okay, And Does Not Lose To Poor Versions of Indiana, +1 for I Like Being Happy, +1 for Seriously, It's Nice, +1 for Mmmmm Serotonin.)
Loss will cause me to... drive to Mexico at the head of a caravan of escapees, screaming "FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM."
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Remember what happened last week? Yeah, that. I guess the spread is a field goal closer.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Brandon Graham never sacks anyone again.
- Michael Shaw cracks 100 yards.
- People start seriously speculating as to whether a walk-on is a better safety than the Michigan version of Ryan Mundy was.
- Denard completes 50% of his passes again, except this time the ones that get caught get caught by the right guys.
- Michigan, 42-17.
Next year Manny Harris will either be a senior or in the NBA, and we all kind of hope it's the NBA because that will mean he played at a high level and blew up the idea that John Beilein can't develop players for a career at the highest level. Michigan will then have zero Manny Harrises on the roster unless one of two high-profile wing recruits Chooses Wisely. One is local guy Trey Ziegler, the son of CMU's basketball coach, but his decision is a long way off. He'll decide in the spring.
The other is Tennessee's Casey Prather, who plans to make a decision in the next couple weeks. Prather's taken trips to Clemson, Florida, and Michigan. He also lives next door to Vandy and has been on a ton of unofficials there. Those teams represent his final four. In the past week, these things have happened:
- Sam Webb said Michigan was "the team to beat" on WTKA a few days ago. This is not the same as a strong, strong, strong gut feeling but Sam is not a guy who says things like that lightly.
- Webb wrote an article for the Detroit News that briefly touches on 2011 commitment Carlton Brundidge and then goes into serious detail about Prather's recruitment. Money quote amongst a bevy of potential selections:
"(Rating Michigan's recruitment of Prather) on a scale of 1- 10, I would say a 12," said Jackson North Side coach Tony Brown. "I've seen more Michigan coaches at games. Michigan has been there through thick and thin. I can't say that every other school, in my opinion, showed. The head coach, he flew down to Fayette-Ware when we were in the district tournament. I was impressed then because Fayette-Ware is in the middle of nowhere. When I came out of the locker room, I looked up and there was Coach B. He was just displaying that proud M symbol on his sweats."
- Prather decided against a Vanderbilt official visit.
- Clemson cancelled a scheduled in-home visit and did not reschedule.
- John Beilein made his in-home.
- Prather's AAU coach posted this to twitter:
Potentially I could have two guys play in Big Ten Country but are living in SEC Land...Parity at its best, I love it!
And whats funny about that is, both guys are known for putting up good offensive numbers but Big Ten is known for grind'em out games that are won on the defensive end. Not that Hollins and Prather won't guard your butt but they're both so skilled offensively.
None of this is definitive, of course, but the tea leaves suggest that it's either Florida or Michigan. There's been some Florida chatter but look at the News article. It's packed with quotes from coaches and Prather's father. Webb's close to the situation, and the article he wrote up came from the same conversation that caused him to call Michigan the team to beat—with precious little time to beat them—on the radio. And Prather's AAU coach didn't quite say Prather was in the bag… but… yeah… quite. I'm thinking the "Beilein cannot recruit" meme will be lying in tatters soon.
A few weeks ago, I posted on the announcement of The Big Ten Ticket. In that post, I did touch on my general disappointment with the Big Ten Network's general streaming package:
I have had it confirmed from the Network that the Big Ten Ticket will only cover those football and basketball games and nothing else. This means the women's basketball games streamed last year will most likely continue for free. The lack of other Olympic sports coverage is a big disappointment.
Well, the Big Ten Network saw that complaint and understood my disappointment. Come to find out, the BTN has been working to address that problem for the last few months. Last week, they announced the new and improved domestic streaming package.
The Big Ten Network will double its commitment to several Olympic sports this season by streaming at least 200 live events on BigTenNetwork.com. The network has made a significant financial investment to provide fans with a high-quality streaming experience comparable to watching a game in high definition.
The network invited me to discuss their new streaming venture with Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman. Since I'm pretty excited about this venture and the coverage it opens up, I was glad to accept their offer. So here's my overview of the new streaming video service. [Remainder! After the jump!]
You probably already covered this but:
It is suggested that Rich Rod can do more with less and our current lack of high star recruits is related to the 3-9 record so as Rich Rod began to put winning seasons together at West Va did his recruiting classes increase in its ranking? Does/will a Rich Rod program attract a highly ranked recruit or does his program with its level of intensity scare them away (ie Justin Boren = Seantrel Henderson)?
When Rodriguez was hired I touched on this in Rodriguez's Profile In Heroism:
That 2008 class would finish #23 as well, so there was a noticeable uptick in WVU's recruiting rankings towards the tail end of Rodriguez's career there. (The 2006 class was very small, and recruiting rankings are always biased towards large classes; that dip is an anomaly.) Bill Stewart and Doc Holliday (mostly Holiday) have continued that trend. How much of that is courtesy WVU's increased national profile and how much is on the supposed recruiting aces on WVU's new staff no one will ever know.
Meanwhile at Michigan, Rodriguez added nine recruits to Carr's final class and all of them except one or two, IIRC, had four stars on one of the two major sites. His second class finished #6 nationally after Rivals accounted for losses to academics and baseball and whatnot (cough cough Ole Miss). Rodriguez, clearly, likes high profile mofos about as much as any other coach around, and when positioned at a school like Michigan can do a pretty good job of acquiring said high profile mofos. The reputed intensity of the program might be a turnoff to some but to others, like Craig Roh, it's a selling point.
Long term I expect Rodriguez will recruit on about the same level as Carr did. This class isn't going to be a great one because of 3-9, not any desire or deficiency on Rodriguez's part.
More on that:
Given our early season success, it is apparent that this season has more upside than most of us had anticipated – both in terms of wins and the corresponding (generally) positive media attention generated. In your opinion (e-pinion?), if we were to theoretically get to 9-10 wins (including a bowl game), will the fact that we took so many commits early have limited the upside of our recruiting class? It seems like a lot more guys who weren’t giving us a look prior to the season are now at least considering it, and we may or may not have room for everyone we would have liked to have taken.
Conversely, is it possible that OSU has limited the upside of their class by taking too few players prior to the season now that they are in a state of semi-turmoil? (Maybe I’m overestimating internet grumbling here, but the current pub can’t be doing great things with recruits.)
Apologies for the over-use of parentheses, and thanks in advance for any thoughts!
Phillip Zinda ‘05
Well… yes, theoretically. But probably not really. I've followed recruiting a long time and it's almost an iron law that an implosion-type season will be followed by a relatively weak recruiting class.
Holding out in the hopes of turning your fortunes around doesn't help that much. With the accelerated recruiting timetable, kids you like but aren't great would go off the board and then you'd be hoping 1) your turnaround would happen like whoah and 2) there would be enough open-minded folk out there to fill up your class. Not likely in the current environment. I do expect that Michigan's turnaround will provide a small bump, but these days the relationships you build happen when players are juniors or younger, at summer camps early and summer visits and fall unofficials as juniors.
1) I am a little worried about the defense and time of possession in the spread offense. Do defenses on spread teams get more worn down (more plays, etc)? Are there examples of excellent defenses on spread teams from the past? I can't think of any off the top of my head.
2) Has anyone attempted to empirically test the changes in noise level on the field after the lux boxes went up? I would imagine somebody has measured decibels in the past (although I wonder if decibels is the best measure of the impact of crown noise on an opposing team.
Thanks for all your hard work on this.
1) Do you count Florida or Oklahoma or Texas as spread teams? Last year Florida's defense was better than its offense. Oklahoma's warp-speed attack wasn't as successful but there are some false assumptions built into total yardage numbers. Oklahoma and their opponents averaged almost 13 possessions a game last year, 20% more than Texas did. Adjust for that reality and viola:
Oklahoma’s offense is now rated a more reasonable shade under 11% better than Texas’ offense. And whereas Texas’ defensive advantage was nearly 27% it is now just over 8% in the new analysis.
That still wasn't great, as Texas finished 51st in total defense, but how much of that had to do with the Big 12's offensive explosion last year? It's hard to tell.
As far as pace and time of possession and Michigan go: this year, 90-yard touchdowns or kick return touchdowns are going to result in defense fatigue, walk-ons hitting the field, and poor defensive performance. It's not a coincidence that the defense gave up two long touchdown drives immediately after Notre Dame had a long field goal drive and Stonum returned that kick. So, yes, the severe lack of depth this year might make it more sensible to keep things at a leisurely pace. Long term, though, powers should be doing what Oklahoma did last year. More possessions reduces overall variance by increasing the number of trials and makes it unlikely an inferior team can hang with you.
2) Not to my knowledge.
I'm not sure to what extent you've already addressed this, but I am wondering what your thoughts are regarding Devin Gardner next year. From what I've heard/seen Gardner is a phenomenal athlete, and has recently improved his throwing motion to the point where I believe rivals has him the highest rated QB in the country. I really appreciate what Tate has brought to the table this year, but I think he is limited by his physical abilities. I don't think it's reasonable to sit Gardner just because Forcier is doing a good job if Gardner lives up to his potential. Do you see a two quarterback situation in the future? Assuming Forcier continues to play well, and Gardner keeps playing like the #1 QB recruit in the country, what do you foresee happening in the next 3 years at the quarterback position?
Michigan should try its hardest to redshirt Gardner next year. Getting two years of separation between him and the freshmen will be really important down the line. He's not likely to be better than Forcier fresh out of high school, especially if he doesn't enroll early. (Current status of that: maybe, maybe not.) In 2014 you have these choices at quarterback: fifth-year senior Devin Gardner or Anyone Else. I'm going with Gardner.
Assuming Michigan does manage to get a redshirt on the guy, in 2011 and 2012 he'll be available. At that point you probably turn Robinson into a bizarre hybrid of Antwaan Randle-El and Percy Harvin* and Gardner into Tim Tebow circa his freshman year. Forcier plays the Chris Leak role. Implementing a Michigan version of the Gator Heavy gets Gardner playing time, fills a potential hole in Michigan's offense, and promises the occasional awesome jump pass. Also… goal-line sets with both Forcier and Gardner on the field promise to be chaotic fun. Fade to Gardner? Wolverine Heavy? Hell, let's throw Robinson in there too and do a triple-reverse play action jump pass. WOOOOO.
*(Hhhyarrrrr! It has four legs and four arms and can run around the sun!)
After reading the Dinosaur Schematic Advantage and the Smart Football smackdown of Tressel, I've been thinking about what this means for the U-M/OSU rivalry in both the near and long term. I know it's early to already be thinking about this year's game (then again, maybe it's never too early), but do you see this current Michigan team being close enough in talent to OSU to be able to win it based on home-field and schematic advantage? There are obvious concerns with the defense and depth, but maybe Tressel isn't capable of fully exploiting them?
And for the long-term, do you believe that Rich Rod's innovation and tactical mind will be able to make up for the institutional advantages that OSU has (money, better home state, less competition for recruits in-state comes to mind) to give Michigan an edge in 2-3 years when the program has maximized its potential? My best case scenario is a Carr over Cooper or Tressel over Carr -style domination eventually. I would love to hear your (mostly speculative) thoughts.
Mike Forster, Class of '05
The short term in a word: no. Ohio State's good at lining up and out-executing folk they have a talent advantage over and that will be true in spades when their offense is on the field. And their defense is going to be very difficult for Michigan to handle with so many young kids everywhere and without a true deep threat on the roster (unless Stonum gets way better or Hemingway is faster than he seems).
In the long term: that is, indeed, the best case scenario. It's not likely to happen just because of math: both recent streaks have seen their share of flukes where the other team should have won but for life-on-the-margins type stuff. The edges of binomial distributions are uncommon. And those streaks were helped along by poor coaching from the other side of the aisle. Tressel may not be Urban Meyer but he's not Lloyd Carr over the last few years of his term. His decline phase is just beginning if it's beginning at all and at his age (56) he can probably coach another 8-10 years before becoming an anchor.