TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
Red zone threat: check.
Utah is coming off a bye week, so they've only played two games this season: a 56-14 pasting of Idaho State and a 59-27 pasting of Fresno State. I chose to break down the latter pasting, which wasn't even as close as the final score would indicate—I stopped charting when Utah went up 38-7 while the video of that drive cut out due to a stadium power outage; from that point on, the backups took over.
Personnel. Seth's diagram says spread-to-pass because I told him the wrong thing based on the box score showing Utah with six touchdown passes against Fresno. They are, in fact, a spread-to-run outfit with a couple very dangerous receivers. As per usual, click the picture to embiggen.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-run. While Utah's done most of their scoring and yardage damage through the air this season, they use their running attack to set up the pass, and while this is a little skewed by the pair of blowouts they've run the ball 100 times compared to just 59 pass attempts this season.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. While Utah mixes in some gap blocking, including a couple tricky variations on the read option that I'll highlight later, they're mostly focused on running zone read, inside zone, and a little outside zone out of the gun or pistol.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Very much hurry it up. Utah routinely got snaps off with 20+ seconds remaining on the play clock against Fresno State, and the only huddles occurred during timeouts. They're close to Indiana fast.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): With sacks removed, Travis Wilson gained 48 yards on nine carries against Fresno State, and last season he averaged nearly five YPC (without sacks removed) with five rush TDs. While he's not outrageously fast or shifty, he makes good reads in the option game, and his size (6'7", 233) allows him to cover ground quickly and fall forward for decent yards after contact. I'll give him a solid 6 here.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
As rumored last week, Michigan will play a home-and-home series with Texas. The athletic department officially announced the dates a few minutes ago; here are the pertinent details from the release:
The athletic departments at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas have reached an agreement in principle to play the first-ever home-and-home football series between two of college football's most recognizable programs. The two schools rank first (Michigan, 912) and third (Texas, 876) in all-time victories.
The Wolverines will host the Longhorns at Michigan Stadium on Aug. 31, 2024. The return trip by Michigan to Austin will take place on Sept. 4, 2027.
"A match-up of this magnitude doesn't come along all that often, and when it does it's special for both programs and the great fans that support each institution," said Brady Hoke, U-M's J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach. "This also is a special series for all fans of college football, and I anticipate great games just like the first contest played between the two programs."
The only prior matchup between the two programs came in the 2005 Rose Bowl, which you may remember as a remarkably fun game with a far less fun ending. Let us all hope Texas hasn't figured out a way to clone Vince Young by the time 2024 comes around.
Anyway, the upshot: excellent work, Dave Brandon. This is the type of home-and-home series that everyone loves to see, even if both programs are currently mired in a historically anomalous funk. Going to a game in Austin will be checking a box off the sports bucket list, and it's tough to ask for much more when scheduling games a decade in advance.
Extremely important fainting goat update. The conversation did not quite go as asserted yesterday, but it's pretty great anyway:
“He told me the play of the week, the special teams funky deal, was a fake punt – the Fainting Goat,” Mays said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘What’s that?’”
Said Paschall: “Book, you’re going to be the goat.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ What is he saying?” Mays said.
“I was talking to the guy across from me, saying, ‘Wow, there is some thick air down here in Miami,” Mays said.
God bless Arkansas State.
BEAT THE DRUM EVERYBODY. Ineligible man downfield complainin' is welcome wherever I find it. Pete Roussel notes an egregious event in the Alabama-USM game:
yes the penalty is called when the ball is thrown but not caught; still geez
Remember last year when Taylor Lewan engaged a guy about three yards behind the line and drove him so far downfield he got a penalty and everyone clucked at him about how he had to know better? Why would he have to know better? I think he would not have to.
Offenses are brutally effective already without adding blocking linebackers ten yards downfield on pass plays to their docket.
BEAT THE DRUM PART 2. Yes, we are going to beat this dead horse until it sends seven guys downfield on the snap. "Shield" punting, which we've called "spread" around here because I'm sure you can figure it out*, has taken over college football. Michigan is an exception, and apparently so is Texas. They ate a 45-yard punt return before UCLA's winning drive after lining up like so:
This is actually a little more spread-ish than Michigan, but eight Longhorns are behind the LOS when the ball is kicked.
Like Michigan, the bad way stats are kept somewhat conceals the issue here. Not only does Texas give up a lot of yards per return, they give up a lot of returns, period:
UT’s 10.3-yard-per-punt-return average allowed isn’t miserable — although it ranks 88th out of 128 FBS teams — but the Longhorns are allowing a greater number of punt return chances under Vaughn, and as the UCLA punt shows, a reason could be because his players are late getting downfield. The nine punt returns against UT this year is tied for fourth-most nationally while the Longhorns’ 93 total punt return yards allowed puts them tied for 115th.
Strong used a spread punt at Louisville to good effect; no idea why he's not doing the same thing at Texas.
*[Bizarrely, coaches keep telling me that it is Michigan's NFL-style punt game that they know as "spread." I reject that lingo and all its works. You don't get to call it that. That makes no sense. Unlike coaches who don't want to use seven gunners, I insist on making sense.]
Also in Texas but better? Four minutes left is a weird amount of time to have in a game. If you're leading and on offense, you need a first down at all costs. If you're leading and on defense you want to prevent the other team from scoring, but if they're going to score you want them to do it quickly, not after 3:58 has left the clock. The paramount thing is to get (or keep) the ball.
So a lot of offenses will grunt their way to a third and seven and then take their shot. Strong elected for a different path:
When Texas got the ball at 4:17 with a four point lead and chose to go "tempo", the ensuing three and out and minimal clock burn was widely panned on the web and in the traditional media. Of course, it didn't matter. UCLA scored in about nine seconds on a punt return followed by a good play call against tendency.
Texas had just scored to go ahead with the aid of a hurry-up no huddle; a UCLA player misaligned on a 30-yard run. They continued that with the lead and 4:17 left, and that's… odd. But if you think that's the best way to get a first down, that's at least defensible. Of course, when you lose five yards on a run up the gut you're not going to be bleeding much of anything.
Upshot: coaches don't place enough emphasis on having the ball last when they're in a one-possession game. They're willing to bleed down the field for an opposition four-minute drill instead of being aggressive, and they place minimally useful timeout-sapping over a greater chance of getting a first down.
A stupid reason but okay. We're now talking about revoking the NFL's non-profit status because of "Redskins"?
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status because of its refusal to address the name of the Washington Redskins.
While I also find the name distasteful, why don't we revoke the NFL's non-profit status because it in no way fits the definition of a nonprofit enterprise? The idea that the NFL can skate on millions of dollars in taxes because [no reason given] is equally offensive. Possibly more so, because one situation is a private enterprise being offensive and the other is the government being idiotic.
I mean, if there's one class of industries you can tax the living hell out of without seeing them move their labor force, it's pro sports.
It's profile o-clock. Jeremy Clark:
"Of course everyone wants to play, but (last year) I was still learning the process and there were guys in front of me who knew the calls and everything, so you can't get mad if you don't know what you're supposed to be doing out there," Clark said. "This year, I feel like I'm learning it well."
“The thing you realize quickly about Bryan is the genuine concern he shows for everyone he comes in contact with,” said Benson, Mone's prep coach at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. "And it's genuine. He truly cares about everyone around him. I don't know if I've met a kid with a bigger heart.
"He's one of a kind. Truly one of a kind."
"My brother has always been my motivation, because growing up he couldn’t really feed himself or do all types of stuff, so I had to grow up soon enough to help out my mom and my sister,” said Mone, who had another older brother who died from leukemia.
Mone began caring for his brother in earnest in sixth grade, but didn’t feel comfortable with all his responsibilities until a few years later.
“I started getting used to it in junior high,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to take care of him.”
Designated official site softball-tosser on Jack Miller:
Jack Miller is many things.
He's best known as the starting center and anchor of the offensive line for the University of Michigan football team. But he's also a political science major, and thinks he might someday become a lawyer or run for public office.
He's a music lover -- especially Dave Matthews and jam bands -- and takes aim during deer and duck hunting seasons.
Miller also is the great-nephew of former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who texts him after every game and remains a huge inspiration.
Spence suspended further. Noah Spence's ecstasy suspension was three games, and now it's at least four after he failed a test before Kent State. If Ohio State follows the usual policy here he would be out for the year, as most teams go 1) nothing, 2) one game, 3) quarter of a season, 4) whole season for failed drug tests. Spence has apparently entered rehab.
But you have a legitimate reason! I don't understand why Brady Hoke keeps saying things like "I don't feel like it" and this latest…
Brady Hoke: “You can say something about (injuries) and you’ll be wrong.” Hence his silence on them.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 17, 2014
…when asked about injuries. He has a legit reason. He can just say "I don't want to help Utah prepare for our game by telling them which personnel we'll have available." This is 1) the truth and 2) not insulting to the intelligence of anyone coming across his answer.
It is not good when your contempt for the media gets in the way of obviously better and more honest answers. See: Gibbons, Brendan.
Etc.: Tip times set times set for a number of basketball games. Article on how Michigan sticking by Devin Gardner despite "fans' pleas" for Shane Morris cites no fans pleading for Shane Morris. In fact cites reporter's question about Shane Morris indirectly by including Nussmeier answer to it.
Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer, Derrick Green
Jack, you guys had so much attention on the offensive line coming in to the year. Through three games can you kind of rate how you guys have done and do you think it’s kind of stabilized?
JM: “Yeah, I think we’ve done a pretty good job. There’s been a couple bumps in the road but overall so far I think the group’s done a good job coming together and playing pretty well.”
Why do you think that is? What’s the reason you guys have made this leap?
JM: “I think the work that we put in in the offseason. We worked extremely hard and did extra work for offensive line-type stuff and I think that’s paying off for us.”
This is for Jack as well. I asked Nussmeier what the biggest different is from the start of fall camp to now in terms of improvement and he mentioned communication. How much does that have to, I guess, adjust on a game-by-game basis depending on what you’re seeing or is it a constant thing that you can make the same according to your offense?
JM: “Well, I think that’s why you have three practices a week and you watch a lot of film and those types of things so you’re not surprised come gameday with the types of looks and those types of things that you’ll get. The calls and the communication, while necessary, can be kind of a backup things because everyone should know what’s going on and what to do and those types of things so just the practice and the film work and those types of things really help that become an easier process come gameday.”
Jack, this is also for you. What have you seen from Mason Cole? He was thrusted into a starting position as a freshman, but how have you seen him kind of take on the transition?
JM: “You know, I’ve been very impressed with Mason since he first came in. The poise that he has for an 18-year-old kid playing offensive line is remarkable, and he’s got maybe the best attribute to have as an offensive lineman which is just being consistent play-in and play-out. He knows his job, he’s a smart kid, and he goes out and plays hard and tries to get it done and whether he does a good job or a bad job he’s on to the next play. And like I said, his poise and demeanor is pretty exceptional for such a young kid.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
Michigan's run game started out with a thud, with a series of short gains and even the occasional Dread Pirate TFL rearing its ugly head. As with the Notre Dame game, the problems due to were a mélange of errors from lots of people. And as you might expect against Miami, most of them were mental issues.
People have asserted that Miami was dropping an eighth guy in the box and that guy was blowing up the Michigan run game. That's simplistic; these days spread-oriented offenses are looking at one or zero deep safeties on every play. The eight man box is something you have to deal with as a coach, and anyway when you're playing Miami it shouldn't matter.
Michigan's issues were largely assignment-based, with the occasional bad block thrown in; the tailbacks were better but still had issues. The nice thing is that as the game went along we saw Michigan correct some of those those problems and start moving forward. Mason Cole in particular was evolving right on the field, hampering two plays with errors and then executing in near-identical situations just a few minutes later. One was mostly executing a block; this one was about IDing the guy he needs to address.
Which Guy Needs Help? Not That One.
This is actually the first play of the game. It comes from the 50 after the least interesting successful Dennis Norfleet kick return ever (run to the right until the kicker stops you), and Michigan comes out in an ace set. Miami has a 4-3 under on the field (sort of; their SAM is 190-pound Lo Wood) and will roll a safety down for guy #8.
Michigan's going to run inside zone and things are going to go pretty well all over the field with the exception of Mason Cole and AJ Williams trying to handle the backside DE.
This is your presnap setup:
There's a one-technique NT and a five-tech SDE. The SDE is splitting Cole and Williams down the middle, and the play is going to the top of the screen. It is very hard for backside blockers to do anything with a guy who is 1) lined up playside of him when 2) they get no help. This is about to happen to Williams.
I'm not entirely sure why this guy is free to fly down the line and blow this play up. The other DL are handled by Michigan's OL driving guys lined up a half-step to the playside of them. It seems like he figures that the OLB is going to be there to clean up anything that breaks behind him, so gap integrity is for suckers. (Michigan will get a bunch of waggles off this tendency, as Miami isn't using that OLB to contain hard upfield.)
On the snap Magnuson hops over a half-gap to get the nose; Cole goes to his zone a gap over without touching anyone and then starts helping on Magnuson's block. Williams is going for this DE:
Williams does not get the DE even a little bit, and with Miami DL set up to the outside on the frontside of the play Green is correctly going right up the gut, something that looks promising as Michigan gets movement on the DL.
Williams was put in a tough spot here; even so this feels substandard. Annoying the guy, pushing him so that he's on the correct side of the LOS, maybe cutting him: all of these things are better than escorting him to the RB.
A yard later it's clear that Michigan has cleaned out the DL; one linebacker shot a gap and is going to help tackle here but without the space constriction provided by the Williams block-type substance shooting that gap is a dangerous game to play that is 50/50 to put the tailback one on one with the safety for all the yards.
Green falls forward for two as Magnuson finishes pancaking the NT. Cole ended up not really doing much of anything on the play.
And the slow version:
[After THE JUMP: something that goes better]
Gonzaga (DC) senior Marcus Lewis is the #10 athlete on the 247 Composite, and this week he reaffirmed that Michigan leads Oregon and Miami in his recruitment. Given that news, this seemed like the right week to take a look at the tape of Gonzaga's 31-14 victory over Centreville, a nationally televised battle between the two top-ranked teams in the region, according to the Washington Post.
Lewis, who's being recruited as a cornerback by Michigan, didn't get many opportunities to show his ability in coverage, but he was a major factor in run support before exiting the game in the third quarter due to cramps, an issue that plagued both teams in the second half. In fact, Lewis—who plays both ways for Gonzaga—was originally intended to be the primary receiver on what turned out to be the game-sealing score:
As Reggie Corbin gingerly jogged back onto the field late in Gonzaga’s 31-14 win, he felt the same shooting pain in his legs that had sent Eagles teammate Marcus Lewis to the sideline, resulting in Corbin lining up in the flats instead of at his usual post in the backfield. Drawing back on the intense conditioning he and the Eagles had endured under first-year Coach Randy Trivers, Corbin mustered one more burst of speed, racing to the left before pulling in a pass that he took 48 yards to the end zone.
“All week, we had run that play for Marcus, but he was out with an injury, so the coaches told me to go run,” Corbin said. “At that point I was just numb to the situation and all the pain and focused on winning. I just ran the wheel route, made the catch and pushed down the field.”
Corbin, a three-star running back committed to Illinois, finished with 211 yards of offense and looked outstanding until he, too, succumbed to the heat and humidity.
[Hit THE JUMP for video highlights of Lewis and a quick breakdown of his game.]