things go poorly
...by which I mean GT-ND tape review. Not exactly a full Armageddon-style UFR, but I did go back and re-watch the Georgia Tech game with a critical eye to see what was there to be seen. As follows.
Brady Quinn was ass. Is this good news or bad news? I have no idea. The prevailing theory re: only 14 points was that Quinn was under seige and rattled. I buy the rattled part. He was indecisive, inaccurate, and all-around bleah. He displayed signs of hennebriation on many simple, chain-moving throws that were winged yards wide of the receiver. After the game Notre Dame fans were forced to wax poetic about his incredible determination on quarterback draws and scrambles and stuff.
But it wasn't really Georgia Tech's doing. For the most part Quinn had time to find receivers even when GT blitzed. There were very few instances of unblocked players bearing down on him, though when they did it was ugly: intentional grounding on a screen followed by a near-safety on another screen on one series. For the most part Quinn killed ND's first half drives with inaccuracy or indecision all by himself.
He was a bit better in the second half and even in the first there were a couple impressive throws mixed in, including a critical third down throw made with a GT player's helmet in his chest, but if Chad Henne turned in a performance like that Michigan fans would start calling for Carlos Brown.
I'm not overjoyed by this revelation: I think I'd rather have a clear distinction between GT's attacking defense destroying ND and Penn State's passive one being destroyed. Quinn committing largely unforced errors is something Michigan has no control over, and those errors can be attributed to first game jitters, especially on the road and double especially in this era of impossibly high expectations for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame got its points in a distinctly Lloydball fashion. The resemblance between the Notre Dame offense in this game and Michigan's 2005 abomination was eerie at times. They weren't that effective running the ball, the quarterback was incapable of converting a third and four, and the wide receiver screen was the most effective weapon available. Notre Dame did have better pass protection and two guys who you can just hurl jump balls to, FSU style.
And! And! When Notre Dame found itself in a hole following penalties in the red zone they basically went to a series of give-up plays -- Walker draws and screens -- that worked because Robot Jesus commanded them to. Then when they had the lead they decided to Lloyd it up some more, pounding the ball into the line. (Incidentally, this worked much better than relying on temporarily-unreliable Quinn.)
I don't think anything ND's defense did is particularly relevant. Tiny, ethnic, mobile Reggie Ball is the platonic opposite of a Michigan quarterback. They can't cover Calvin Johnson: we don't have any 6'5" pirate-ninja receivers. They got lost sometimes defending GT's all-finesse running game: finesse running game? Pa-fooey, we spit on finesse. Now finesse all gooey. What are you going to do about it? That's right, run another quarterback draw.
Some things I did notice:
- Zbikowski and Ndkuwe -- no doubt the only starting safety combo in the history of football to feature the letters N, D, B, and Z in the first two letters of their collective last names -- are big hitters but sometimes don't wrap up. There's a potential there for a missed tackle and Mike Hart trying desperately to stay away from pursuing secondary members.
- The corners had much trouble containing the few WR screens GT threw. I've come around on the WR screen -- most of the problems we had the first week were caused by poor throws or missed blocks and not defensive preparation -- and expect to see it deployed effectively.
- There was very little penetration from ND on running plays. It resembled Michigan's hold'em up and let the linebackers flow thing. Interesting thing you might want to look for: is Michigan getting the seal on these guys and getting to the second level quickly enough to plow the undersized linebackers?
- ND's performance was greatly aided by stupid GT playcalling on second and short. Three or four times during the game GT found themselves in second and one and instead of doing something reasonably safe and reward laden (like, say, hurling one skyward to Calvin Johnson), they did stuff like run speed options that lost four yards. They killed many of their drives by screwing up second and one.
- Chan Gailey: go for it on fourth and one from the ND forty! What, do you think your mighty offense of offensive might is ever going to get there again?
Conclusions from this in the preview Friday. For now, chat amongst yourselves.
Note: please keep it civil. Last year the run-up and aftermath of the ND game was extremely ugly in the comments section; this year I'm going to torch things to prevent an unmoderated Rivals-free-board-style free-for-all. Yes, I love oppressing Irish speech. It's what gets me up in the morning.
- Steve Breaston's Traitorous Hands: Eh... did okay.
- Tom Deinhart's Last Brain Cell: we've got a new media whipping boy.
- Pass Protection: now seems far too general.
- Rueben Riley: ...is clearly the one who needs the harsh wakeup call only seeing your name on the dread board can provide.
- Kick Coverage: Obvs.
- Vodka Drenched Monkey: AKA Cory McCartney, who either typoed his way into the VDM designation or just plain changed his prediction once its overwhelming stupidity became clear. More @ AOL, check the comments for the revision.
- PUNTING (THE CONCEPT): as opposed to the execution of same.
This is probably of faint interest to most, but I may as well give my side of the story in this minor BlogPoll brouhaha, since I'm getting comments claiming I'm a pre-emptively sore loser or something:
San Jose State, whose inclusion on BGS' ballot for last week's blogpoll (long story) got us kicked out of the poll by Brian at Mgoblog, did what most of the top 25 did not do. They beat a school in a BCS conference, the second one they've played in as many weeks. Mgoblog threw out our ballot because he thought we were not taking the poll seriously enough and that we were screaming for attention with our unconventional Week 1 approach in which we rewarded teams that played well in week one, regardless of reputation or previous years' performance. Well, whatever. Mgoblog's preseason #2 (five spots ahead of Ohio State) and current #5 (one spot ahead of Ohio State) Iowa somehow managed to derail Syracuse (1-10 in 2005) in overtime. Mgoblog PRESEASON #2 IOWA scored 10 points in regulation against the Orangemen, who have won 1 of their past 13 games. They're just that daggone good.
Oooooooh... so... irritated. Let's leave aside Drew Tate's abdominal strain and my preseason research to focus on the matter at hand. This is a horrific misrepresentation of what happened. The bottom half of the BGS ballot was filled entirely with week one losers. So they "played well" but lost narrowly, and not necessarily to the cream of D-I. Other strong winners who featured high up in their preseason ballot disappeared entirely.
As a matter of course I review ballots that show up on any of the lists. That's what they're there for: to keep an eye on outlying ballots. Occasionally I'll come across something that's goofy and remove the ballot. For instance, YAYSports submitted a ballot after the deadline for the first week and then didn't update it for week two. His poll -- which still had Cal over Tennessee -- was clearly a preseason one; it got removed.
Also getting the boot last week was that wack ballot from Blue-Gray Sky. To my eternal regret I did not save a copy of it, but remember how SMQB's ballot was declared the BOLDEST(!) in the history of the poll? Well, BGS's ballot was fully two points higher on average deviation than SMQB's ballot, which is a huge margin. It also beat SMQB's ballot in the swing category by more than 100 points. When you have a devation that high it's less a matter of what's wack about your ballot than what isn't, but I remember two outstanding features of the poll that were foremost amongst the many reasons it got killed:
- Ohio State dropping from #1 to unranked after beating NIU 35-12 and being up 28-0 in about ten seconds.
- San Jose State... San Jose State... rocketing from unranked to #12 after a loss to Washington.
When SJSU entered the ballot they were 0-1, having lost to Washington. Washington features nowhere on their ballot and never did, but because they had a "good loss" against a BCS team they were inserted into the poll; UW was not. It was beyond the bounds of reason. My initial reaction was one of regret -- I assumed that the ballot entry form had developed some horrific, obscure bug and that I was going to be forced to kill BGS's ballot because of my own coding failures. I sent an email to that effect. I got this response, reprinted in full, from Jay:
No, believe it or not, I filled it out with some care. I was hoping we'd make one of the titled lists so we could talk about the folly of first-week polls in your comments section. If you notice, the first half of the poll are teams with what we deemed were good opening-week wins, and the second half are mostly teams that had close losses to otherwise "better" opponents. This is not an attempt to sabotage the blogpoll -- we think things will shake out to a more "sensible" ranking once more games are played -- but much like you vaulted Tennessee from unranked to #1, we figured we'd go nuts on the conventional rankings and just focus on teams that we thought played well against good competition.
This didn't change my mind, as it seemed an admission that the ballot they entered was not an attempt to rank the teams in order of projected competence but rather one to get on a List of Wacky to make a statement. I'll accept honest ballots no matter how deranged and perhaps even submit some deranged-ness myself, but there is a line and BGS crossed it. It was a cynical attempt to game the poll. I said as much, they responded, and I left it there.
So, moral of the story: if you do crazy things for attention I'll spike your ballot. BGS is welcome to submit ballots in the future, but they'll probably go on hunger strike instead. Dylan from BGS has anger management issues. A just and right God will smite Notre Dame this weekend.
|4||Notre Dame||3||Am pretty sure that Penn State is awful and that without a bevy of marginally forced errors would have been competitive but... yeah. Sigh.|
|6||Florida||6||I dunno. You find a team to put here.|
|7||Iowa||2||Game against Syracuse close because backup quarterback threw 4 interceptions. Tate's return should solve issues.|
|8||Michigan||1||My top ten ended at #7.|
|9||Texas||6||Thanks, Longhorns, for not going all USC on us.|
|15||Tennessee||14||Holy bipolar, batman!|
|16||Virginia Tech||3||Voters getting all riled thinking about VaTech should note their 224 yards against UNC and be wary.|
|17||UCLA||9||Hi! You haven't done anything like almost lose to Troy.|
|18||Florida State||4||You did.|
|19||Miami (Florida)||3||Damned by association.|
|22||Georgia||7||Eh... shutout of South Carolina and displacement of JTIII with mewling babe Stafford evidently has me nonplussed. Remember: no looky week-to-week.|
Games Watched: Michigan-Central, ND-PSU, FSU-Oregon, Minnesota-Cal, Texas-OSU, and bits of EMU-MSU. Oh, and the first couple drives of Ball State-Indiana. Because the only other game on was Penn State 3, Notre Dame 800. Stop looking at me like that: they're both future opponents(!).
- I don't think there's anything wildly controversial this week. I will say that I don't get voters who had VaTech way down low and then shot them up the poll this week.
Rather, I do get it on one level ("aah aah aah I've reached number eight PANIC"), as FSU's victory over the Troy Trojans of Troy (We're From Troy) was as uninspiring as they come and VaTech now looks like something resembling the ACC front-runner, but I don't think they've done anything to warrant massive leaps up the poll.
Run Offense vs. Central
Michigan's grinding success running versus Vanderbilt (243 yards) may not be particularly meaningful but it is encouraging for a team that was totally awful a year ago. The new zone scheme has been discussed endlessly here, there, and everywhere. You know about it; I won't belabor it. Mike Hart had a consistent but relatively boring day, acquiring 146 yards on 31 carries. He missed a few cuts he should have made -- the hopeful theory is he was held out of most of fall practice to prevent injury and needs some time to adjust (this also may explain the thirty-one carries -- but also missed a few tackles that should have felled him. Backups Brandon Minor and Kevin Grady had one exciting, long ramble and a few less memorable carries. The offensive line crushed Vandy off the ball all day.
But, again, just Vandy. Oddly, Central Michigan's front seven represents a step up in the level of competition. The front seven from the MAC's top run defense in '05 returns nearly intact. The headliner is defensive end Dan Bazuin but several other players stepped forward and had good games against BC, most notably Bazuin's bookend Mike Ogle (first name found via entertaining "ogle central michigan" Google search), pictured felling Matt Ryan at left. Boston College's running game was squashed to the point that BC blogger Eagle In Atlanta has thrown in the towel on the running game this year:
The offensive line was the most troubling part of the game. First the good. The pass protection was pretty good and they worked well out of the no huddle and out of the shotgun. The problems -- where to begin? First Sheridan and Poles couldn't block anyone when pulling. Sheridan was either getting blown up our running without purpose. (Get in front of someone!) Their struggles left AC and LV out to dry. Marten looked slow and weak at Left Tackle.
This is understandable despondency from someone who's just watched his upper-level ACC team squeak out a touchdown victory over a MAC team, but given the stats and accolades carried by the Central front seven a good part of BC's struggles were forced by the Chips. I don't expect us to run like we did against Vanderbilt; if we do that means something.
Key Matchup: Everyone versus everyone? With this zone game it's more a matter of guiding players places they don't want to go. It's hard to pin responsibility on one player. We could point out Tyler Ecker, who was erratic against Vandy.
Pass Offense vs. Central
If we block their rushers we'll torch them. The Central secondary was the team's glaring weak point last year and given Matt Ryan's monster game in the opener it appears to be ready to glare again. Receivers will be open all day; Henne has to find them and throw it to them. The offensive line has to pick up blitzes and stunts. There's little analysis to be had here.
Key Matchup: Rueben Riley and Alex Mitchell versus Bazuin and whoever. The vast majority of the pressure issues against Vandy were due to miscommunication on the right side of the line.
Run Defense Vs Central
This would be a terrfiying prospect under Jim Herrmann: a spread offense featuring a quarterback who can run. We'd be mentally preparing excuses for Monday morning, expecting this redshirt freshman to torch us for 80 yards or whatever, and trying to pass it off as not meaningful.
While it's too early to start building a golden idol of Ron English, things do appear to be looking up. Michigan just got done burninating that exact same sort of attack with a combination of aggression and intelligence not seen in these parts in a very long time. Central's shotgun spread attack will no doubt see a defense similar to that run by Michigan against Vandy. For much of the game that was a 3-3-5 with Shawn Crable playing a sort of LB/DE hybrid and Lamarr Woodley featuring as a penetrating defensive tackle at times. It worked. Outside of a few successful quarterback draws, Michigan bottled the Vandy running game with few problems, racking up 11 TFLs. It might be a stretch to expect a similar performance this time around, but something along those lines but less outright dominant is certainly a possibility. Michigan will bring the heat again.
Key Matchup: Shawn Crable versus Lingering Demons. He was outstanding against Vanderbilt, an entirely new player. Everyone would like to see him do it again before declaring him healed by the power of Michigan's faith healer.
Pass Defense vs. Central
Central's passing game is the usual spread melange of screens, screens, screens, and shots downfield when the defense has crept to within six inches of the line of scrimmage. LeFevour was 22 of 37 against Boston College but was not often pressured; when he was there were running lanes available for him to take.
Michigan, of course, swarmed the poor Vandy quarterback. They totaled six sacks and a further number of bone-rattling hits; Nickson hardly had time to throw all day. I would expect more of the same While Vandy's line was a mis-mash of experienced talent and question marks, Central has more experience (four of five starters) but no one who featured on an All-SEC team last year. Tackle Joe Staley has been invited to the postseason Hula Bowl and features on a few preseason All-MAC teams, but will have his hands full all day. The rest of the line seems like a typical MAC line: all right in its way but not prepared for 330 pound guys who can move like Branch.
Key Matchup: Woodley, Biggs, and Jamison versus Great Expectations.
Nothing of note.
Worry (for Notre Dame) if...
- Riley and Mitchell continue the hilarious clown antics into a second week.
- The defensive line suddenly reverts to being mortal.
- Henne doesn't clean up his mechanics after a few instances of pressure.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- It turns out that all those problems on the line really were eminently fixable miscommunication errors.
- Charles Stewart or Morgan Trent has a big, I-can-cover-McKnight game.
- Henne turns in an OSU-esque performance.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 2 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -5 for We've Never Lost To A MAC Team And Now Is Not The Time To Start, +2 for But Wait Central Seems Okay, +1 for I've Got A LeFevour And He's Better than Nickson; +1 for Bazuin EAT Riley, -1 for Kelly is *!ing Crazy, -1 for And Condoleeza Rice Can't Cover Manningham).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for It's A Team In Our State Named After A Portion Of Said State.)
Loss will cause me to... Good lord. Wake up and say "it was all a horrible dream," read the paper, find out that it's not, and then flee into the hills assuming the apocalypse is nigh.
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: victory but an uncomfortable one. I expect the run game to be less consistently grinding and pass protection to kill a few promsing drives. I also figure Central will have a few more opportunities to score than Vanderbilt did after 350 yards against a consistently good BC defense despite making some stupid moves that cost them opportunities to add to that total. Michigan wins but does not cover.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Jamison debuts and gets a sack.
- Morgan Trent emerges as the star
ter opposite Hall.
- 27-14; panic spreads like wildfire.