I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
(note the apparent W: UFR O, Th: UFR D, F: Preview schedule has been re-arranged due to technical difficulties (forgetting to record the State game). Arrangements have been made and UFR will show up on Friday. Now: preview, though I feel naked trying to do this without having watched the tape. This is how Matt Hayes feels every day, I guess.)
Run Offense vs. Minnesota
Mike Hart! Yowza!
Or maybe not so really? Not that Hart isn't the sweetness, but Michigan's persistent inability to create holes on first down or pound out third and short is disconcerting. Hart had two long runs and singlehandedly ground out an impressive regulation-closing drive but was otherwise responsible for a lot of second and eight. Michigan State's tendency to pile players in the box and aggressively fill holes limited the average Hart run of the day but also allowed him to break a career-long 45 yard run and a new career-long 64 yard run when the Spartans let him through the first line of defense.
Those two long runs appear to be the difference between Hart and his backups--the little man has the vision and cutting to burn a defense dead set on aggressively shutting off the planned avenue of attack--and that combined with the re-emergence of a competent (and maybe even good!) Chad Henne makes the offense hum to the tune of nearly 500 yards.
The hum should continue. Good Henne and the return of the man with a plan (canal, Panama) should mean that the offense continues the trend of not sucking it started against the Spartans. The opponent on Saturday has yielded over six yards a carry to its two Big Ten opponents (newly spread-option happy Purdue and Penn State), neither of whom feature a back as good as Hart. As a result Minnesota is 85th in the country against the run despite playing Tulsa, Colorado State, and Florida Atlantic. They are ripe for the picking.
However, it's time to deal with the harsh truth: our offensive line can't run block consistently. Hart will make a lot of yards on his own, but too often he'll be turning zero into three instead of three into eight. Expect the running game to disappoint relative to Minnesota's previous impression of roadkill.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus The Hamstring of Woe. Yes, he is just that damn good, as they say, and if he remains healthy he should have another good day that would be better if he only had some blocking.
Pass Offense vs. Minnesota
Chad Henne stopped channeling the spirit of Hellen Keller for a game, though the Spartan defensive backs undoubtedly had something to do with the light that suddenly flooded the young man's eyes. The good news is that Minnesota, fresh off giving up 44 points to a Penn State team that regards such a number as a decent season total, takes a decidedly Spartan approach to pass defense: it prefers not to have one. Though their numbers to date are quite good (27th efficiency), they haven't played a team that has a quarterback half as good as the version of Henne we saw against MSU.
I have discovered the secret to not sucking at football!
Whether or not Henne's improved performance was due to the magical powers of Mike Hart redirecting his throws, a mechanical adjustment to his throwing motion, or having Terry Malone on the sideline saying things like "throw it at the guy! The guy with the open and the running and the hands, ng-hey," 25 for 36, 258 yards, and three touchdowns is pretty good. Yes, the coverage was virtually nonexistent all day long, but that was also the case against Wisconsin and Henne did not take advantage. Michigan State was a step forward.
Henne should take another against a Gopher secondary that was looking creaky to start the year and is now absent both starting strong safetyBrandon Owens--plowed by Michael Robinson against Penn State--and his backup. A true freshman will likely replace Owens. That sound you hear is likely the licking of chops. Michigan will continue to run the "long handoff" play where Henne steps back and immediately fires a ball out to whichever receiver happens to have a ten-yard cushion on a particular play, since I doubt any of the Gopher defensive backs are relishing the prospect of pressing Mario Manningham, but given the struggles the run game has undergone Henne's continued accuracy on the underneath routes Michigan will be running with frequency on third and five is critical. The opportunity for another 60-70% completion day will be there. Execution must occur.
Key Matchup: Chad Henne versus His Evil Twin II: Return To Splash Mountain. Michigan has played five games so far and in each game they have had receivers open time and again. Minnesota does not have the defensive backfield or pass rush ability to prevent this from happening again. Henne's accuracy returned to him against Michigan State. It has to settle in and get comfortable against Minnesota.
Run Defense Vs Minnesota
This section was going to be filled with accolades and a deep respect for the monstrous Gopher ground machine, but before that little encomium can proceed someone is going to have to explain 16 carries for 48 yards for one Erstwhile Heisman Candidate Laurence Maroney. Is it possible that the Big Ten has begun to figure out the Gopher ground attack? Maroney ran wild in the first half against the Boilers but was held largely in check in the second half save for a couple runs. He went nowhere against Penn State. Last year outside of a Mundy/Shazor "here's an 80 yard touchdown" gift the Gophers racked up just over 100 yards on 38 carries. The end could be near.
The Gophers run a scheme very similar to that of the Denver Broncos and their plug-whoever-in-and-go approach with light, athletic linemen who are suited to pulling across the formation and plugging linebackers in space. Greg Eslinger, Minnesota's perennial All-American center, is the rare man at his position who can pull effectively and lead the way for his tailback on sweeps. His ability to lead the play often means that defenders are outnumbered at the point of attack and Maroney is free to run. Speed, agility, and disengaging from your blocks are at a premium against the Gophers instead of brute force. The contributions of the defensive tackles are minimized and a premium is put on the ability of defensive ends to penetrate into the backfield and slow the play enough for the linebackers to converge.
Fortunately, Michigan has two defensive ends who plain kick it at this sort of thing in Lamarr Woodley and 330-pound Alan Branch. Woodley's been effective all year in run support and Branch is going to be a star by the end of the year. Both are complete players capable of holding up at the point of attack and potentially pushing it back on a semi-regular basis. If they can win the battle with the very good Gopher OTs, Maroney will have his moments--I wouldn't expect 48 yards--but won't be able to grind out five and eight yards on a consistent enough basis to really light up the Wolverine defense. Michigan returns the core of the defensive line that largely shut the Gophers down last year plus a much-improved Alan Branch. Michigan should be able to keep Maroney contained, which should be enough to win.
Key Matchup: DEs Lamarr Woodley and Alan Branch versus Gopher OTs Joe Ainsile and Tony Brinkhaus. The key to stopping the Gopher run attack is getting penetration on the edges. Woodley and Branch have to stay upright and dangerous.
Pass Defense vs. Minnesota<
Brian Cupito is much the same quarterback he was last year when he was sporadically effective, excellent throwing deep, and tended to toss 2-3 balls a game into sextuple zone coverage. Michigan's secondary has been a pleasant surprise but is certainly not all world. Minnesota's passing game is so intertwined with play action that you may as well just repeat the previous section here. If Maroney is running effectively and the safeties have to creep up into the box, Cupito will have the opportunity to hit his fast and large wide receivers deep. If Maroney is running effectively and the linebackers are forced to bite heavily on play action, tight end Matt Spaeth will be all alone on a sea of green with regularity. If Michigan knows when Minnesota is going to pass they're dead meat. The Gopher passing game is only effective in the context of its running game.
So, expect Cupito to complete a share of 20-yard daggers to unbelievably wide open guys downfield because of the respect that Maroney commands. When Michigan guesses right, though, Cupito will be hard pressed to figure out where he's going with the ball before Woodley and company are upon him.
Key Matchup: QB Brian Cupito versus DC Jim Herrmann. Herrmann's going to have to guess right on play action and use various zones to confuse the confusable Cupito. He'll throw a couple into coverage if Herrmann is doing his job.
Neither team has shown any tendency towards breaking long returns on a regular basis. One item of note is that Rhys Lloyd replacement Jason Gianni seems competent, having hit 7 of 9 field goals in his nascent career.
Key Matchup: Michigan Punt Coverage versus Please Don't Screw This Up.
The kitten god Gorgoroth is powerful but, like full frontal nudity in children's television, is best used sparingly so that when he is invoked he/she/it will not complain of a headache and fail to viciously smite the fetid opponents of our
warrior-poets players. He/she/it will not be invoked this week, lest his/her/its power wane.
- We get outnumbered outside and Maroney starts off like he did against Purdue.
- Henne's inaccuracy returns.
- Our offensive line can't push around a Minnesota defense that yielded six kajillion rushing yards to Penn State's unhurculean offense.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Hart exists.
- Minnesota ends up in a lot of third and six-plus early on.
- The Gopher cornerbacks appear as petrified of our receivers as the Spartans were.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 4 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Maroney Is Good, -2 for 6 YPC Yielded(!), +1 for Despite The Independence of These Trials They're Still Due, -1 for Henne's Back, +1 for But Is He?, -1 for Well I Can Tell You That Mike Hart Is Goddamn Back, That's For Sure.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We're Back In This Now, +2 for No Margin Of Error, +1 for The Jug, -1 for Dreams Already Dashed)
Loss will cause me to... shudder at the prospect of playing spoiler to Penn State; start scouting the sixth place Big Twelve and Pac10 teams for a potential WackySponsor.com Bowl match up in beautiful Chernobyl, Russia.
Win will cause me to... open up a table at the nearest gun & knife show to get rid of all this weaponry I probably won't be needing.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: What to do? I pick a Michigan win, they lose. I pick a Michigan loss, they win. This is what I think: this is Woodley, Watson, and Branch's game. Minnesota will attack the outside consistently but Maroney, despite being awesome, isn't the kind of back who can suck our guys inside and break contain like Walker or Calhoun. If we jam up the intended lanes of attack he will go relatively meekly aside from three or four plays when he scares you to death. Cupito will make a number of good throws but also screw up consistently enough so that Michigan doesn't have to worry extensively about him. Minnesota's offense will score from 14 to 24 points.
Offensively Michigan should have their way with the Gophers much like they did last year when they racked up 518 yards but they have to avoid the killer mistakes that end long drives with no points which plagued them in the 2004 game and cost them the Notre Dame and Wisconsin games this year. Michigan should clear 30.
However, I am officially predicting that somehow Minnesota scores an extra 3,000 points, probably via lasers, and wins this in crushing fashion.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Henne is back for real.
- Maroney gets 123 yards.
- 3,017-30, Minnesota.
This one's abbreviated as I haven't found much to link of late.
The second is more dangerous -- the diehard pessimists. The pessimists weasel in close to the players, talk on the call-in shows and post their blogs wherever possible. They harp on the facts as they see them. And they only see bad, as they moan, "You know, this coach should not be here. We don't like him at all. We have not beaten a real football team, and we never will. All these folks that get excited have not been around here very long. We always lose."
I for one, am outraged. You cannot post a "blog." You can post ON a blog, but an individual entry in a blog is not a blog. It is an article or a post. This is akin to calling a slice of bread "a bread" or an article in a magazine "a magazine." It's a sin against the langauge. Curry's not alone in this unfortunate usage--it must be stopped.
What, I was supposed to be outraged about something else?
Coverage map: here.
A kindred spirit! Wonkdown.
Look! I can be nice to media! John Walters has an interesting piece on holding this week in which he proposes the extremely wacky idea of outfitting offensive linemen with gloves that prevent them from grabbing opponents and then gets this response:
"The gloves idea is thrown out there every year," Gaston says. "It just never gets passed."
Sweet fancy Moses! Seriously? One problem that leaps out at me is that there are certain situations (fumbles, mostly) where an offensive lineman has just as much of a right to the ball as anyone else on the field and in said situations the gloves or whatever would be detrimental. A corner case, granted, but one to consider.
There is also some discussion of the MSU game I'll offer my own comments on:
5. Can anyone explain to me why former Michigan QB Tom Brady's fumble against the Oakland Raiders back in 2002 was not a fumble and yet current Michigan QB Chad Henne's fumble against Michigan State on Saturday was? I don't want to hear about the tuck rule, I want to hear common sense. Clearly Brady was less in the act of throwing the ball than Henne was. If we're on the playground, the calls are reversed.
Well, in answer to your query, "no." But the NFL and college games have different rulesets so your rationale here is something of a strawman.
7. Great, great, great information from ABC's Brent Musberger during the Michigan-Michigan State game on Saturday. ... Musberger (and it was likely a researcher or an associate producer who scored this info for him) noted that a Spartan assistant coached with the Wolverines last season, so Lloyd Carr was concerned that Michigan State would steal Michigan's offensive play calls from the sideline. For that reason Michigan had three backup quarterbacks stand side-by-side, each one flashing a play call in to Henne. Two of the calls were decoys. Cut to photo of three Wolverines in baseball caps gesticulating toward Henne. That, and not another Big and Rich music video, is what a true college football fan craves.
Er... point taken on your last sentence and I agree with the spirit of your comment, but it's laden with irony since it's Michigan defensive line coach Steve Stripling who's the turncoat in this rivalry and unless Sargeant Slaughter was replaced by a robot spy Michigan had no reason to worry about signal stealing. Deeper analysis (like Lynn Swann pointing out that Manningham's post route was preceded by Michigan WR coach Erik Campbell screaming at him to decrease his split) is sadly lacking in televised coverage and excites me to no end when I hear it, but thees ees not the example to cite.
OVERTIME: You cannot please everyone, of course, but one way to make sure that you do not, ABC, is to switch away from a fantastic Michigan-Michigan State game after the first overtime because you are obligated to show fans (in my particular case, for example) Minnesota at Penn State in its entirety.
I have a bitch about the other end of the Minnesota/PSU game, which was in the late stages of a 30-point blowout when I got back from the MSU. Across the country, #1 Southern Cal was trailing Arizona State. I, sitting in Michigan, continued to get the mind-numbing garbage time of the Gopher game while something that did not suck was happening elsewhere. Why do you torture me so, ABC?
Also on SI.com: Dr. Z. I have absolutely no way to link this to anything but it's an interesting column on blitzing in the wake of the Michigan State game in which (I believe) we did it very infrequently, tried to contain the Spartan offense as much as we could, and won despite giving up 455 yards. People would be screaming from the rooftops about it had we lost. FTR, I think it was probably the right decision but would have liked to see more blitzes off the slot guy designed to prevent Stanton from rolling out constantly.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
The big story this week is 'Bama's vault into the top ten after doing something radioactive to Florida on Saturday. 'Bama's ascendancy proves that the key to winning college football games is having your bigshot mainstream media alums be nice to bloggers--note that Skip Bayless and his beloved Sooners are both struggling to explain... well, anything. (And blogging phoenix SMQB... Oklahoma? Really?)
We have some consensus at the top, where the three lowest-deviation teams all reside (this is unsurprising due to math), but it's cats in a bag once you get past Team Albuquerque at #3.
Welcome back to Michigan (left the poll last week), Auburn (left after week 1), and Penn State (left sometime after the Nixon Administration). This year's trend appears to be Big Ten whack-a-mole wherein whoever pops their head up and looks like a decent team immediately gets throttled shamefully, so watch out Wisconsin and Penn State.
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.
The deviation makes a lot of sense this week: tops is played no-one-really (unless you count Kansas--iffy) Texas Tech, followed by are-they-for-real Penn State and what-do-I-do-with-these-guys Arizona State.
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 boifromtroy, who has ND at #5 (plausible, but I think what we're finding out is that ND's schedule features a sampler plate of the most overrated teams in the country: Michigan, Pitt, Purdue), Cal at #7, Florida State and Miami down a ways at #15 and #16, and Rutgers at #24... Rutgers? That's not exactly Idaho... but if BFT wants to convince me that he'd bet on the Scarlet Knights versus #25 Penn State I'm listening. One thing: 3-2 Michigan at #18 and 5-0, Michigan-beating Wisconsin at #19 seems specifically designed to send Bruce Ciskie into a cheese-destroying rage.
Mr. Numb Existence is Bruins Nation, even though they're one of five voters with Texas #1. The metric doesn't weight top slots heaviest--should it? Input desired.
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 goes to Georgia Tech bloggers Golden Tornado, but I think this more on us than on him. Tech gets nuked by Virginia Tech and the Special Teams Spectacular, has an off week, we all neglect to consider that the Jackets beat Auburn pretty handily earlier in the year, and just shove the Tigers up because we forgot all about week one. As a result, GT's GT ranking of #18 nets it the top spot in this category because the rest of us screwed up.
The Straight Bangin' Award goes to... er, yeah. Straight Bangin', who left Michigan out of his poll after the MSU victory. It's not unreasonable to have a 3-2 team with two MAC wins out of the poll and I had 'em at #24 (and finished #5 in the increasingly tight confines of these categories) so I won't bash him too hard.
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 Bruins Nation again, largely because they weren't 'Bama believers and had to run them way up the line from #20, liked Penn State enough to debut them at #16, and punished MSU heavi
ly for their loss.
Mr. Stubborn is... still broken. Apologies. Blogpoll related work is going into a project that needs to be up and running by November (3... 2... 1... duh!).
Wait! Before you go, there are nefarious plans in the works. The blogpoll is a community, and what's a community unless you can't hand out provincial awards to each other? The night of the Rose Bowl will also be the night another Mythical National Championship gets handed out, but this one will go to one of our foot-blog brethren. Awards will be handed out. However, other than a few obvious categories (Best Blog, Best Contribution To The Lingo, Best Recurring Feature, Best Writer, etc...) there's a big empty spot. Please leave suggestions for various accomplishments we can celebrate at the end of a productive year in our little Interniche.
Comments welcomed, as always.
|1||Southern Cal||Well, they won, though it wasn't easy. ASU's probably the best team they'll face this year.|
|3||Virginia Tech||Triplets to follow.|
|4||Ohio State||DNP. Essentially the same team as Virginia Tech.|
|5||Florida State||Beat sitting duck Syracuse 38-14 and seem to have put together an offense to go with their defense, which is kinda good. Essentially the same team as Ohio State.|
|6||Alabama||SWEET FANCY MOSES. Suggestion for Mike Shula: don't sleep with anyone. ANYONE.|
|7||Miami||That CU win looks better now, as does the FSU loss. USF is apparently no pushover.|
|8||Michigan State||I have a hard time believing anyone will slow this offense down more than Michigan did, which wasn't very much at all.|
|9||Tennessee||Another iffy offensive performance. I cannot make any sense of the SEC.|
|11||Arizona State||What do you do with this team? They've lost to LSU and USC, but have played well in each loss and have one of the country's most explosive offenses. At this point in the year I think they're one of the country's better teams and thus here they go. A third loss will be met with harsh reassessment.|
|12||Notre Dame||Dismantled Purdue in a win much like the Pitt one, in both good and bad ways.|
|13||Florida||What the hell? At this point you just have to say the offense is extremely wonky.|
|14||LSU||Yeah... Les Miles is no longer on my "desirable Carr successor" list.|
|15||Boston College||Functional DNP vs. Ball State.|
|16||Cal||28-0 versus Arizona is their best performance to date, but this team is largely benefiting from the struggles of others.|
|17||Wisconsin||Indiana stats seem pretty sketchy and despite the 3-0 start, the Hoosiers are Not Good. But they're 5-0 and beat Michigan.|
|18||UCLA||Dude. Washington is not good.|
|20||Penn State||Okay, they're 5-0 and they thumped Minnesota, but let's be serious: they have no quarterback. Robinson was 13 for 32. They mostly just ground out a ton of rushing yards against a bad defense.|
|21||Auburn||I believe I was sleeping on Auburn earlier.|
|22||Texas Tech||You still haven't played anyone, unless Kansas is "anyone." (They aren't.)|
|23||Louisville||Fine. You return. Upward mobility will be hard to come by.|
|24||Michigan||If Henne plays like that and Hart plays like that we're back in business.|
|25||Minnesota||The Big Ten: specializing in making Brian look dumb since 2005.|
Dropped Out: Iowa State(#18), Purdue(#19), Texas A&M(#22) (The Aggies have a loss to Clemson, a win against I-AA Texas State in which they gave up 31 points, a stomping of SMU, and an OT win against... Baylor), Virginia(#25)
Games I Saw: Michigan-MSU, Purdue-ND, garbage time in PSU/Minnesota and 'Bama/UF, parts of Arizona-Cal.
Help Requested: Please make some goddamn sense of the SEC for me. And what am I supposed to do with the bottom of the poll? Am I crazy for leaving the Spartans way up there? Do I enjoy Dijon mustard far too much? Please inform.
Update: Swapped Auburn and Georgia Tech after GT blogger Nathan pointed out the similar resumes and the head-to-head Jackets win. And papa don't preach, I'm keepin' MSU at #8. OSU-MSU should be an interesting game. Someone's rush offense/defense will be proven for realz.
2007 forward Matt Rust, a member of the USNDTP U-17 team, has committed to Michigan according to Chris Heisenberg. I'm under the impression that Rust is a high-end but not super-duper recruit, closer to a Kevin Porter than an Andrew Cogliano. He's a good pickup and Michigan's first forward in the class.
More later; you can see an overview of Michigan's hockey recruit efforts at The Wolverine.
Update: USHR on Rust's NTDP tryout:
7. Matt Rust, 5-9Â½/172, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Honeybaked Midget Major -- Small, but does some really nice things. Very good early on, then hurt his shoulder and didn't play last game at all. All a moot point because he was offered a spot on team last fall and accepted.
Here's Red Line Report on Rust:
26 AAA Matt Rust LC Honeybaked Major 98 5'10 172
Strong on his skates, excellent 1 on 1 skills, pure finisher, star quality, very good change of pace, competes when he wants to, weak in his own end; can dominate when he wants to; great acceleration; quick stick; creates contact; doesn't always battle; heading to US NTDP, already committed; turns it off and on; when he does compete hard, he's outstanding; plays a physical style despite his lack of size, but can come back to bite him with injuries, as he did at NTDP camp hurting shoulder
and just for kicks here's the same report on '07 commit Tristan Llewellyn:
2 AAA Tristan Llewellyn RD Indiana Ice USHL 3 6'2 188
Perfect size, takes 1 hand off stick too much, looks to hurt guys, heavy shot, strong kid, bad discipline at times, great feet, forces the action in all three zones; has all the tools; playing a lot against high-level older competition; long, powerful stride with quickness and acceleration; ultra aggressive; physical presence; needs to read situations a bit better; Confident with the puck, loves to lug it up ice. Excellent mobility, sees ice well and makes crisp outlets. Hard and accurate shot; plays mean; earning a reputation already as a 15-year old in USHL; verbal commitment to Michigan for 2007
Matt Rust/LC - Honeybaked Major Midget. 5-10/172. 3/23/89. Played aggressively; hits hard despite lack of size. Excellent balance. Threads the needle on tough passes. Competed very well, which is his biggest issue. Did not play on Tuesday due to injured shoulder.
I love me some lingo and Warren St. John's come up with a neologism for Michigan fans everywhere: "Hennebriated."
I'll return the favor: Prothrolled, v: to be struck with vast, undeserved misfortune during a celebration; the act of inflicting undeserved misfortune in same situation. Did you hear what happened to Job? His daughter's wedding was prothrolled by ravenous brain-eating zombies.