Ankles are both good: "I'm at the health that I want to be right now." The week of rest has helped, and no hitting for a couple weeks should also do him some good. He expects to be 100% by bowl time. It's frustrating being injured, because you put in the work to be ready, "you got 12 opportunities a year... you're not able to play those minutes and those plays, it's rough." Getting to full strength is his priority. A lot of guys who were banged up have been getting a lot of treatment in the week off. "There's a very good chance for me to be feeling great for the bowl."
More practices will help the young team improve: "You improve any time you can get some work in. Whenever we get into practice or anything, we always make sure we're ready to work and get better."
Excited to play an SEC team. "It's big for me, it's big for the guys that I came in with that haven't gone to a bowl yet." It's rare for a junior to not have gone to a bowl game yet. Older players are excited to get back there. Michigan has a lot of contenders to win an eating contest, if there is one. Mike doesn't think he'd be one of them.
Mouton and Denard predicted wins at the banquet: "I would say that's just excitement." Everybody is just excited and anxious to practice, and to play in the bowl. "Jonas and Denard, probably just pure excitement. Just wanting to get down there."
Rodriguez job limbo: "That's not something I can control, or anyone on the team can control." The players are just worried about playing, and controlling what they can. "Whatever pans out, we're worried about the game."
Roh's move: "I know he feels a lot more comfortable being on the line." He played DE in high school, and wasn't as comfortable at linebacker. He's able to just play his game at DL instead of over-thinking.
Reaction of team to playing Mississippi State? "We was all pretty happy." Playing in a January 1 bowl game is exciting. "We're all happy with the Gator Bowl."
Playing an SEC team: "You always hear about the SEC speed, and the Big Ten is like slow and big muscle guys and SEC is the fast, athletic guys. In 2008 Michigan did a great job against Florida." Eager to prove that Michigan will be able to beat a good SEC team.
Exciting to play in his first bowl game. "Hopefully we can keep this going, keep the bowl game streak going, and get Michigan back to where it's supposed to be."
Taking the time in between the end of the season to heal up. "You don't want to go too hard." Worried more about sharpening skills than hitting each other. They know the whole playbook, they need to make sure they'll be able to execute well, "getting ready mentally more than physically."
Ankle is "pretty good," but he's still getting treatment. Should be 100% by bowl game. Against OSU "it was pretty tough. They tried to tape it up and do all kind of things." He was going to gut it out for the seniors no matter how much it hurt.
Denard deserved the MVP honor (though Darryl joked that he tried to vote for Troy Woolfolk). "Especially for a sophomore, so he's only going to get better. We're looking for big things from him his junior year, and big things in the bowl game" Denard should still be in the Heisman race.
In the bowl game, "I think you'll see how everybody played in the first few games," because they'll be much healthier. Everybody's rehabbing and should be fresh. "We'll be ready to go."
"No need to beat ourselves up. Might as well save it to beat up Mississippi State."
"Denard. Denard Robinson." for team MVP. Mike Shaw voted for himself as a joke, because he knew Denard was going to win it. "Everybody knew who was going to win it because of all the hard work he put in all season." There's still more room for improvement.
Denard's very humble every day. Always trying to learn something, trying to improve his game and his teammates. Even when he was getting mentioned for the Heisman, he was more worried about working on his game.
"I felt like I played great all year, but at times, lack of focus on the football." He knows he can play better than he showed in the last four games. He's only a sophomore, so he has the offseason to work hard toward a good junior year. "Trying to take off without the ball in my hands. Drops: I had several drops in this last game." Doesn't lack confidence, just needs to practice to fix it. "That's easily corrected. It's just up to me to really maintain that."
The team will work out to stay focused in the layoff. "When we do have practice, I'm sure pretty Coach Rod's gonna have us ready." It's helping people heal up.
It's nice to finally be playing in the postseason. "Watching bowl games? You know that really sucked bad. You really couldn't do nothing about it because of the season we had. Finally getting out there, getting ready to play Mississippi State, come January first, it's gonna be great. It's SEC vs. Big Ten and we're just getting ready to go in there and give it our all."
Chris Spielman's comments on how Jordan isn't good enough for Michigan: "I heard about it. It's nothing that I haven't heard before. Obviously it motivates me." Every player - especially walkons - motivated by outside comments.
Against OSU, the front 7 played pretty well "eventually I guess their running game just wore us down." They played hard though, and if they can continue that, the defense will be fine going forward.
Never been to a Michigan bowl game, even though he was a fan growing up. Remembers the Capital One bowl a few years back. Jordan was 1 year old last time Michigan was in the Gator Bowl.
His roommate spoiled the surprise yesterday by telling him it was the Gator Bowl. Excited to play an SEC team because they're supposed to be the best conf. All 4 of MSU's losses are to top-16 teams in the SEC.
"The first couple weeks, I think you've really gotta heal up, because it's been a long regular season." After a couple weeks of workouts, they'll start practicing, then preparing for Mississippi State specifically. "We can get back to fundamental football. We don't have to focus on Mississippi State as much right away." Can work on getting back to Michigan football and understanding team goals and individual roles, then worry about the opponent later.
Banged up a bit during football seaosn, because that happens to everyone. "We had a lift this morning, and I feel pretty fresh." Hit his high weight of the season, so a week off can help you heal up.
Ryan Van Bergen
"I voted for Mr. Shoelaces as well. He obviously deserved it, he broke all the records." He was unstoppable until he got injured. "He wasn't able to showcase how really spectacular he can be" at the end of the season.
Junior Hemingway made big plays against Indiana and Illinois, and could have been MVP. Roy Roundtree had a great Illinois game and a couple other fantastic games, but Denard was the guy who got the ball when they needed a play all year, so he's the MVP.
4-man front worked well against Ohio State: "I think that the 4-man front, we completely thwarted them the first half." He would guess that they run some 4-man fronts in the bowl.
Used to watch a lot of hockey, Red Wings v. Avalanche, excited for the Big Chill game. "I'm excited. I've never been in the student section at Michigan before. But I'll be there in the student section at the Big House, watching a hockey game."
Big Ten v. SEC: "I don't know if they're the conference to beat, but they're the conference that I'd definitely want to play against" to get the best test. SEC, Big Ten, maybe a bit of Pac 10 are the best conferences. Regardless of when it's played, those two conferences in a bowl are a big deal.
Nobody needs to worry too much about MSU yet. Focus on self, healing injuries, get in better shape, focus on fundamentals, and then 4 weeks in, you finally start worrying about the gameplan for Mississippi State. "If you focus on the opponent that long, you're just going to overlook self-improvement."
Media circulating talking about RR: "There's always something out there." RVB is in support of Coach Rod. Somebody around the program as long as Van Bergen has has, he's excited to get back to a bowl. "I would like to say that I want to be with Coach Rodriguez for the rest of my career."
"All people see is the stuff that goes on camera, that goes out to the television sets, and you can't understand what goes on at Schembechler Hall." RR is hard-working, and cares about his players "as much as any other coach in college football cares about his players." Wants them to succeed. "He's just a great guy, and when you recognize somebody that has those leadership qualities, that's somebody that you're going to wanna follow, and I think the whole team takes that attitude."
Voted for Denard as team MVP. "When he handed out the ballots, in my head I was saying 'do we even really need to vote?'" Denard getting hit hard every game, tough to keep that up. He persevered and was never out for extended time. "He's been through it, he's felt it, and next year it will be a little more natural to him."
OL MVP award: "It's a huge honor, definitely. To be rewarded for consistent play over three years is an honor." Proud to be a 3-time winner.
Really excited to be in a New Year's Day bowl game. Glad that OSU disappointment isn't his last game. Glad to get back to a bowl game for the seniors and want to start a new streak.
Feels like the Capital One bowl was a long time ago, but sometimes it seems like yesterday. Getting to a bowl game as a freshman helped him improve: "I think it was huge. Towards the end of my freshman year, I was struggling a bit." Having time off and able to worked on fundamentals and confidence helped him grow a lot as a young player. They can regroup mentally coming off a couple losses.
There's a long time between games, can't worry about MSU too early. First two practices are just getting back to fundamentals. Worry about the gameplan later, then "you go out there to win the game."
Big Ten and SEC are two of the top conferences. "It'll be fun to see how the two conferences compare" in the bowl matchups.
A few young offensive linemen will be ready to step up once Schilling graduates. Ricky Barnum got in a few plays at tackle against Ohio State "He's more fit at guard." Mealer's been playing a lot. Will Campbell has improved a bunch in the past couple weeks, and the bowl and spring practices might allow him to challenge for the job.
College Cup! Congratulations to the men's soccer team, which upset #2 seed Maryland 3-2 with their second golden goal of the NCAA tournament to advance to their first-ever College Cup. That's amazingly-named freshman Fabio Pereira Villas Boas about to slot home the winner above. He is from Brazil. Of course he his. Michigan survived a 33-18 shot deficit, surging from 1-0 down to 2-1 ahead before conceding a late equalizer and setting up the above moment. I wish I could have seen it.
Television beckons, albeit at odd hours: Michigan takes on Akron at 11 PM Friday*. The other semi is #1 Louisville vs #4 North Carolina and is at 8:30. All the information you could possibly need about watching or attending has been compiled by I Blue Myself.
It will be tough for Michigan. They're the only lower-seeded team to make the final four in a chalky tournament and are taking on the team that destroyed them 7-1 earlier this year. I'm not sure if these guys are still around but last year the US took a youth international team to the Milk Cup and literally every Akron starting defender made the team and I think three of them started. The Zips survived penalty kicks to advance against Cal in a 3-3 game but have lost just once this year and are 20-1-2.
We will deploy a liveblog Friday night to track the game. BONUS: Photos and game story from the Daily.
*(This is the correct day this time. I did not check my email and found out the soccer game was Saturday literally as I sat down at Crisler.)
Jimmy Johnson approves, and if you get this reference you watch too much television at odd hours and have no excuse about not watching the soccer game. Amongst the many events of the weekend was the Attack Of The Futile Contract Extensions at Stanford and—for some reason this keeps getting brought up on Michigan boards—San Diego State. SDSU's Brady Hoke signed a five year extension after turning the Aztecs into an okay Mountain West program. Jim Harbaugh has had the moon and stars put on a plate by the Stanford AD.
These are for show, conveniently timed so that no one can FOIA the contracts and find out the buyout provisions that really establish how much of a commitment is being made both ways. Stanford's a private institution and isn't vulnerable to the FOIA either but still, if Harbaugh sticks around it's not going to be because of anything the Stanford AD can offer but chooses not to. FWIW, the Stanford AD said this:
Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby has made a pre-emptive offer to sweeten Jim Harbaugh's contract before the coach even gets offered other jobs.
"We have a proposal in front of Jim and he's indicated he plans to accept it," Bowlsby said Sunday. "He's got this year and four more on his contract. I expect that he will be our coach in the foreseeable future."
It is Harbaugh or bust for people hoping to replace Rodriguez this offseason—Michigan's playing the other hot coaching name of the offseason in the bowl game, and past Dan Mullen the pickings are slim as long as the guys at mid-major powers are hanging onto their jobs with a death grip.
Speaking of the bit about being at Crisler. Aside from the ten minute stretch where Michigan literally did not score for two commercial breaks and watched Harvard go on a 17-3 run, that was fun. Unfortunately, ten minutes is a quarter of a basketball game. Various small items:
- Michigan spent the entire game in man to man and never offered help to the guy checking Harvard's elbow-happy but extremely effective center, even when that guy was Evan Smotrycz. He blew up. I was a little peeved by the lack of adjustment there. I may have to take back my thing about how Morgan is a really good defender. He got worked multiple times; now I'm guessing that Clemson's big guys aren't very good and Morgan will have a more conventional baptism by fire as a freshman. McLimans did have a sweet block.
- Stu! UMHoops points out he's now at 48% on the season from three.
- Vogrich makes me cringe every time he puts the ball on the floor but at least he nailed both of his wide open looks.
- The offense stood in contrast to the post defense, as they struggled mightily through the first half and then found a barrage of backdoor cuts and sweet assists in the second half. It seemed like Beilein knew what Harvard was doing and how to attack it but couldn't get the team to respond until he had 15 minutes to explain it to his young team. Michigan responded with an eFG of 69% in the second half and that could have been better if Michigan hadn't missed about four layups.
- The short/homely referees are always the bad ones. They got into refereeing because the quickest way to get revenge on the universe is to annoy thousands of people packed in one place. It's always the ugly guys.
- The game did not set a record for most missed wide open corner threes, but it sure seemed headed that way after ten minutes.
- I do not miss Manny Harris at all. He was great and all that but watching him play was frustrating. His junior year reminded me of Al Montoya's. Both were supremely talented but checked out mentally because they wanted to play for dollars and made a mistake by returning. Montoya was a mess; Harris got suspended for something or other in practice and never met a lazy three pointer he didn't like en route to another year with impressive numbers as long as you don't look at the eFG%.
This team is probably going to be as good as last year's—let that sink in.
Also, let me express my special frustration at Tommy Amaker, who waited until he left Michigan to become a controversial but effective recruiter (for the Ivy League, anyway) and tactical wizard. Beilein:
“Tommy (Amaker) just took us out of everything,” Beilein said. “We had to put in a lot of specials. I watched the film, painfully, from three years ago when we played them and they had a similar attack defensively. So we had to do some different things.
“Not that all of it worked.”
Rest assured that if Rodriguez does get let go he'll go to Clemson and wreck fools.
UMHoops also has a new post type featuring key plays. Here's one that demonstrates the difference between Morris 2009 and Morris 2010:
As he continues to develop he should start asserting more authority over the offense. With Amaker's tactical wizardry stalling out the offense for big chunks of the first half he should have taken more control.
Icon. Charles Woodson's Big Ten Icons bit:
Continued in part two.
Higher than him on the list are Some Person You've Never Heard Of and various Penn State Players Who Never Played In The Big Ten, but whatever.
It makes sense. The Big Ten announced it is not going to put together a silly 14 or 16 team super conference and is set at 12. Hurray. For one last bout of madness: a theory. The WAC and Mountain West should be one conference with two divisions that uses promotion and relegation in the hopes the top conference can get a BCS bid.
Etc.: You can cease your theories about January first being a magic day that saves the U a million and a half hypothetical Rodriguez buyout dollars. Michigan has to provide "30 days written notice" if they make a move. I'm with MVictors anyway: that's chump change in the scheme of things. Michigan learned the hard way last time that doing the usual legal settlement dance causes local columnists to freak out unless John Beilein is involved.
Actual News, Injuries
Practice schedule: They'll start Friday afternoon, go Saturday morning, and have 4-5 practices in between payers' finals the following week. First 4-5 practices working on "our own things." Need that fundamental work - and it would be good because the teams play similar offensive styles. Start putting in a gameplan end of next week. They'll have 11-12 practices in Ann Arbor, and 4-5 at the bowl site. Practices: benefit to get some fundamental work in. Lots of guys getting first bowl game, exciting for them.
The guys who are out for the year, like Martavious Odoms, Van Slyke, and Mike Jones, probably won't be available for the game, but they might be able to practice. "We're hoping that Van Slyke and Mike Jones will be able to do some things in practice... just to get them back working a bit will be good."
Lots of players beat up, including Denard. From the BGSU game, he hasn't been 100%. Having time off from football will heal him up. "Probably the best he's felt since the first couple games." His fingers are fine, he should be 100% by first practice. JR Hemingway should be fine, Darryl Stonum will be pretty healthy. Guys who were banged up for last few games should be OK, including Mike Martin and Jonas Mouton.
Defensive position changes: Putting Roh back down on the line helped, some of the personnel moves were by necessity with injuries. "Some of the others coming back healthy, we may be able to lock guys in there." Some coaches experiment with position changes during bowl practices, but Michigan may not be in a position to do that with the practice schedule.
Open competition among kickers starting in Friday practice. "We'll address that in recruiting as well," but he's more worried about the guys getting the confidence to perform in a game. Will Hagerup is back, and will make the bowl trip.
Michigan will wear Blue uniforms in the bowl, Mississippi State will wear white (H/T: @MVictors).
On Mississippi State
Rich has had no chance to look at MSU film this year, but he watched them on TV a couple times. He knows Mullen a bit and is familiar with the spread, he knows a couple defensive players from past recruiting. They run some spread principles, so Michigan will practice with some "good-on-good" (offense starters v. defense starters) to get ready.
Knows they did well against Auburn (though he hasn't had a chance to watch that game), and it should be a good football game. The SEC had lots of options for the Gator bowl, and the final selection depended heavily on the outcome of the league championship game.
In the past, lots of coaches came to visit WVU to learn the offense, especially after the Sugar Bowl. Florida (and Mullen) traded ideas with Rich at West Virginia, but both offensive staffs have tweaked their schemes since then. PSU and OSU were among the teams who learned at West Virginia, so Rich was worried he might have shared a bit too much when he came to Michigan (jokingly).
Cowbells: WVU played against Mississippi State a few years back, and is thus familiar with that school's "more cowbell!" tradition. They (RR's WVU) rang cowbells all week in practice. Somebody at WVU called this week to offer up all the cowbells they still have. "Our guys will hear them in practice here the next few weeks."
About Mullen's comments on Denard: "Maybe he forgot about the Auburn game."
The experience of practicing in another big city for a big game helps the payers grow. The added practices help too. Freshmen, redshirt frosh, sophs, who need work should be improved.
Evaluation process/job security: "You have to understand what Dave's position is with all his coaches." He has to worry about doing his job. "There's always obstacles in recruiting," so it could hurt a bit. "We'll maybe have to work hard in January to close with some guys, but we've had to do that before." He's met with Brandon throughout the year to talk about football, etc.
"The progress has been slow, but it has been progress... There's a lot of areas that we can get better quickly, and that's gonna take the next step." Going to a bowl will help with that a bit, because they get practice time, and get to grow together as a team and program.
On reactions to the Groban song: "Everybody's gonna have opinions on things, and that's fine." Emotional state: "Every coach has their own personality. I've probably always been emotional at our senior banquets." Has always felt close to players, and this senior class. "I thought the crowd was really appreciative of our senior class."
Feel in coaching limbo?: "It's a unique situation, and you deal with it the best you can." Recruiting is going well, they'll sign 18-20 guys, and are exicted about the guys who are interested. "We tell them we plan on being here and being their coach, and telling them all the positive things about the school and the football program." Recruits can come watch practices if they're open to public, some local recruits in Florida might swing by. More important for recruiting is getting your name in the paper, and giving Florida-based M players play close to home.
Exciting to become bowl eligible, guys got excited again to be in a Jan 1 bowl, Florida guys were excited to be playing down there. "Staying together for another 2-3 weeks as a football family" will be good. "It's somewhat of a reward of course, you want them to enjoy themselves... you've got to remember that the main thing is to go down there and win the game." More prestige to playing in a New Year's Day bowl, "I think the bowl system is so neat for the programs and for the fans..." likes some aspects of the bowls vs. a playoff.
Familiar with the Gator Bowl. They do good stuff with fans, Rodriguez has been there within the past 4 years. At WVU, the team stayed out at Sawgrass, this year they'll stay downtown. Terrific venue, exciting for players and fans. "They do as good a job as anybody in the country." Gator Bowl as a player: "That was almost 30 years ago." Played FSU in a night game. Fell into a puddle of mud on kick coverage. Was cold for the rest of the half, because he was only on special teams.
Will look at past gameplans for bowl games. Doesn't want to try to do too much. The Georgia gameplan for the Sugar Bowl was a very simple one, because they didn't want guys to worry about big-game jitters, etc. "We have to make sure we don't try to do too much, in actuality probably do less." All coaches go into the bowl game - or any game whatever it is - thinking "this has gotta be the game." There's always pressure to win though, and they'll do their thing coaching.
Coach's poll ballot: "The two teams clearly had outstanding seasons... TCU is phenomenal, they're every bit as worthy of talking in the same conversation with Auburn and Oregon." Those top two played tougher schedules, so he voted them 1 and 2. RR will vote on conference lines a bit as well. Most coaches think their league is a bit better, even their team a bit. Part of the allure of college football is that there's a lot to talk about with rankings and such.
Denard being Offensive POY but not All-Big Ten: "I don't know if that's happened before. How can you be player of the year, but not good enough to be first team?" May serve as some motivation for Denard going into next year. It was a great year for QBs in the Big Ten.
Roundtree's mindset after drops: "He had a couple, but he had a couple big plays, too." Really proud of his year still, didn't realize how close to 1000 yards he was.
Gator Bowl Chairman Steve Tremel
Pleased with opportunity to officially invite Michigan. "To have a team like the University of Michigan represented there is just fabulous." It's been since 1991 that M has been there, so the Gator Bowl is excited.
MSU (not that MSU) is ranked 20th by the AP, and Michigan is a great program and team, so it makes for an exciting matchup.
"I promise this is not the weather you'll see on New Year's Day."
"Good morning. I would like to formally accept." Heard late afternoon yesterday, and accepted "with great enthusiasm." Gator bowl representatives have been working hard, and he's excited to work through everything with them.
Excited to play a top-20 team on New Year's Day.
Brandon did not take questions from the media.
Y'all ready for this? oonts oonts oonts oonts
So you know this already because I'm slightly late because I thought they'd embargo the news until the "Bowl Selection Specials" about to drop on the teevees, but Michigan is going to play Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. Press release:
Football to Face #21 Mississippi State in 2011 Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The University of Michigan football program will participate in the 40th bowl game in program history, facing No. 21 Mississippi State University in the 2011 Gator Bowl played at EverBank Field on New Year’s Day 2011. The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. EST and will be nationally-televised by ESPN2.
“We are excited about representing the Big Ten Conference in the Gator Bowl,” said Athletic Director Dave Brandon. “Our players, coaches and football support staff have worked hard all season and this is a great reward for them. We have great alumni and fan support in the Sunshine State and I anticipate a large Michigan contingent in Jacksonville.”
This will be the third time that Michigan has played in the Gator Bowl. The Wolverines’ initial appearance came on Dec. 28, 1976, a 17-15 loss to North Carolina. Michigan evened its Gator Bowl mark with a dominating 35-3 victory over Mississippi on Jan. 1, 1991.
The Wolverines (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) will face the Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) for the first time. This will be the 30th time that Michigan faces a SEC school (23-5-1 record all-time), with the Wolverines compiling a 7-3 mark against the conference in bowl games.
This is the first year of a four-year agreement between the Big Ten, SEC and the Gator Bowl. Visit www.gatorbowl.com for more information on the 2011 Gator Bowl.
The Wolverines have compiled a 19-20 record in bowl games and will be looking to even their mark with a victory in the Gator Bowl.
Ticket Information: The U-M Athletic Ticket Office will begin selling tickets to the 2011 Gator Bowl on Monday, Dec. 6, at 8:30 a.m. EST. Tickets range from $60 to $125, and will be assigned based on the Victors Club priority point program. Fans can purchase tickets online at MGoBlue.com/tickets or by calling the ticket office at 866-296-MTIX or 734-764-0247.
Alumni Tour: The Alumni Association is taking reservations for the official University of Michigan Bowl tour at 877-513-2320 or http://www.michigansportstours.com. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS TOUR WILL INCLUDE GAME TICKETS. You can also find information about the U-M bowl pep rally featuring the team, marching band and cheerleaders and a pre-game tailgate at www.umalumni.com or by calling 800-847-4764.
Comments from Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez
About playing in the Gator Bowl … “We are excited about the opportunity to play a very good Mississippi State team in the Gator Bowl. They run a first-class operation and our players will really enjoy the experience. I’ve always enjoyed my previous experiences at the Gator Bowl.”
About playing Mississippi State … “Mississippi State is a great team and has been consistently ranked among the top 25 this season. Dan Mullen and his staff have done an outstanding job. It should be a great matchup and we look forward to playing them on New Year’s Day.”
About his past trips to the Gator Bowl … “I have been fortunate to have coached in several Gator Bowls and I also played in it. They do a great job of hosting the teams and making the bowl experience a memorable one for the players. I look forward to seeing many of the Gator Bowl representatives who have become friends over the years.”
So instead of Florida's dysfunctional offense and loads of talent Michigan gets the offensive braintrust behind the Gators' most recent run and… not so much talent. As far as matchups go, I actually watched that 10-7 MSU win over Florida earlier in the year, and in that game the number of passing attempts the Bulldogs put up in the second half was either zero or one. I can't remember exactly. They're 91st in pass offense but decent in efficiency because they have a run-pass breakdown nearing Pat White WVU territory—with 561 runs against just 265 passes, MSU runs 68% of the time.
Starting quarterback Chris Relf had to fend off a challenge from Tyler Russell early in the year; Relf is a dual threat sort, Russell a pocket passer. Relf's MSU's second leading rusher with almost 700 yards. Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins are both over 500 yards as well, with Ballard the clear preference near the goal line with 16 touchdowns. They run an offense similar to Illinois, with a lot of triple option. The rush offense is 16th nationally but only averaging 4.6 YPC—not bad, but not awesome.
An extremely rush-oriented team with a somewhat erratic quarterback is as close to a "good" matchup as Michigan's broken defense will get. So we've got that going for us.
Their defense is good against the run—they're giving up just 3.5 YPC—but not so good against the pass, at least in terms of yardage. They're 89th in yardage but 50th in efficiency.
As far as their season went, they were 8-4 but their best nonconference game was against 5-7 CUSA team Houston and they narrowly escaped from their game against UAB by kicking a couple of fourth quarter field goals to win by five. In the SEC they missed Vandy, South Carolina, and Tennessee but went up against the loaded west. Games against LSU and Alabama did not go well but they were the only team to hold Auburn under a billion points in a 17-14 loss; they also took Arkansas to double overtime.
FEI has them 33rd, with Michigan 47th. S&P, which tends to favor explosive plays, has Michigan 30th and Mississippi State 35th. By the numbers it's an even matchup. More tomorrow.
Though the buzz late last week centered on the commitment status of FL RB Demetrius Hart, it is FL QB Kevin Sousa that withdraws his commitment from the Maize and Blue instead. Sousa has switched his commitment to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Sousa isn't a highly-rated prospect, and would probably have needed a couple years of development before he was ready to play at this level, but that seemed like the perfect fit for Michigan, as Devin Gardner will be just a second-year player next season.
So, if Michigan still intends to bring in a quarterback in the class of 2011, it seems that OH QB Cardale Jones, a product of Cleveland Glenville High School - infamous for its unfriendly stance toward Michigan - is the top prospect on the board, as NC QB Marquise Williams seems set for Virginia Tech. Though there are only three signal-callers on scholarship for next season, I think it's also an option to leave the position unfilled, and pursue top prospects in the 2012 class.