Side note: banner not intended to endorse any political POV. It's just supposed to be funny.
There is no better summary of this game and the typical reaction of the disinterested observer than this:
Go Blue and stuff.
Run Offense vs. SSONIINI
Notre Dame has battled valiantly against the pounding rushing games of Georgia Tech and Penn State but a lack of depth and talent has told late:
rushing average against, by quarter 1Q
3.74 yards per carry
Those numbers are not great even in the first half; in the second half they are deplorable. Notre Dame bloggers have chalked this up to an excessively bleah offense stranding their warrior-poets on the field too long and project this will not happen against a Michigan defense that's much kinder, to say the least, than either Georgia Tech or Penn State. I don't know if that's true, though:
|ND Plays||Opp Plays|
Neither of these is a huge discrepancy, and 68 defensive plays is not out of the ordinary. Notre Dame's offense has been so awful that many of the scores against the defense have been on short fields...
41% of all points scored against ND so far this season have occurred on drives of 36 yards or less.
...which holds down both yards ceded and plays dealt with. While ND's scoring defense (93rd) is an artifact of its tougher than average start and the crappy offense, there's no reason to believe that even if said offense does improve there will be any corresponding bump from the defense, currently ranked 100th against the run and yielding 4.82 yards per carry. The evidence shows that they tire; they should against Michigan.
Meanwhile, the lone bright spot in the first two Michigan games has been the run offense. Mike Hart rolled up 188 yards at 8.2 YPC against Appalachian State and 127 at 5.1 YPC against Oregon. While neither defense is exactly Penn State, neither is Notre Dame. Continued success is probable.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus his own damn body. He's limped off and missed portions of Michigan's first two games; Michigan's running game drops off dramatically when he's not in the game: Primary backup Brandon Minor is only averaging 3.8 YPC.
Pass Offense vs. SSONIINI
Ryan Mallett's debut was less than scintillating --6-17, 49 yards, and one interception -- but he was victimized by a few drops and some horrendous babying that asked him to throw a lot of hopeless bombs on third and forever. He was obviously a step down from even a Henne in full on Hennebriation mode and will remain so this week; better numbers are a definite.
How much better is in question. Carr called out Manningham's effort this week and praised Adrian Arrington; Mallett is going to need some help from wide receivers that were unprepared to catch the rockets he was slinging out there. You'd hope that a week of nothing but Mallett zingers would help matters; there will still be a drop here or there and Mallett goes all Jacob Silj on people.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's beleagured secondary has put up good numbers so far. Taylor Bennett was 11 for 23 for 121 yards; Anthony Morelli was 12 for 22 for 131 yards and one pick six into excellent coverage. Never change, Anthony. The mere idea of "excellent coverage" as applies to the Notre Dame secondary is mindblowing and worth examining. In this instance it was provided by sophomore cornerback Darrin Walls, not the cast of Manningham torchees that still hovers in the general vicinity of receivers without actually bothering to cover them. He's grabbed a starting spot and may be headed towards competence or better. The rest of it, though, is the same cast of characters: Boxer Tom Zbikowski, who is a boxer and the most overrated safety in America when he is not boxing or being boxed or participating in a boxing fight, Terrail Lambert and Ambrose Wooden, etc. New safety David Bruton has already made a couple hideous mental gaffes.
So... yeah, they've done pretty well so far but is this not a Zach Mills at PSU situation wherein opposing teams with good defenses can pack away anything remotely dangerous in the knowledge that 14 points will be good enough? A common MGoBlog heuristic is to severely doubt seniors who sucked as juniors without extenuating circumstances and to furthermore doubt all non-freshmen stuck behind the suck: this applies to every member of the Notre Dame secondary save Walls, and Michigan has at least two guys you have to cover, possibly more.
It's impossible to offer anything solid here with a freshman quarterback and conflicting indicators from the opposition... a few big plays for and against are probable.
Key Matchup: Mallett versus Corwin Brown. It will help our efforts greatly if Mallett does not throw the pick or two that seem inevitable; the coverages Brown calls will attempt to bait him into them.
Run Defense vs. SSONIINI
If we are preparing for Cripple Fight 2007, these are the most malformed limbs. Notre Dame's total rushing through two games: -8 yards. Michigan's rank in rushing defense: 109th. Something has to hold. Probably.
Which is it? If there's one position group that Michigan fans might be holding out a little bit of hope for, it's the defensive line. While they were spread and shred the last two weeks the guys up front are relatively veteran folks with little starting experience and considerable guru acclimation. Projected strongside defensive end Brandon Graham has missed most of the first two weeks with an ankle injury but was healthy enough to provide a little bit of pass rush -- virtually Michigan's only -- against Dennis Dixon last week and will hopefully find his way on the field full time, allowing Shawn Crable to resume his outside linebacker role. The rest of the line has been disappointing against spread option attacks, but Notre Dame's offensive line has been somewhere beyond disappointing. Somewhere *way* beyond it. Like in the realm of Michigan as a team. (Zing!)
On the other hand: the linebackers have been awful and the gashing consistent. Armando Allen is a fast little bugger, if one who has been consistently doomed by eight guys in the box and the turnstile in front of him. Notre Dame will not have negative rushing yards this day, and there is always the possibility of effectiveness when Chris Graham is on the field. (Jonas Mouton's potential return could help matters, but he's just a freshman.)
Pass Defense vs. SSONIINI
Everyone's praising Jimmah's poise... for some reason. Hell if I know why. There's a whole post on this: he didn't throw downfield against Penn State until the game was well out of reach and the backups were in; every completion was a swing or a screen or a long handoff save the occasional five-yard-out. He was sacked six times, led Notre Dame to no points, and only reached 144 yards passing with some garbage time YAC. Poised he may be. Good he is not.
So it's fortunate for him that he's going up against a Michigan secondary that has given up four long touchdowns in two weeks largely because it decides not to cover guys or enjoys falling down once they catch the ball. Notre Dame has promised to open up the playbook and they probably will: attempting to flail its way to first downs with ND's promised Nasty Power Ground game is not likely to work, so their best chance to score will be eating up big chunks of yards against Michigan's befuddled cornerbacks and safeties.
Again, I cannot tell you what happens here. Notre Dame has no good receivers. David Grimes and George West are s
light and slightly athletic; Robby Parris is sort of a Samardzija type, and Duval Kamara is an enormous freshman. None has established anything. Clausen enters his second career start with about four passes downfield to his name. The Michigan secondary seems equally crappy. One thing I do figure: the ND offensive line once again proves to be an achilles heel, severely limiting ND's chances of hitting a long play.
Key Matchup: Tim Jamison and Shawn Crable versus Various Offensive Linemen. Jimmah has proven he can hit guys running open by five yards in high school; Michigan secondary will provide these targets; pressure will make or break the ND passing game.
If Notre Dame punter Geoff Price was a thunder god from beyond time, he could battle Zoltan the Inconceivable to a near-standstill. He is but a man, so this is not possible, but you can still expect many booming 50-yarders followed by limp returns.
Punt returner Tom "You May Not Know This, But I Have Boxed From Time To Time" Zbikowski's inability to wrap up and tackle doesn't affect his returns; therefore he is good at them. He's capable of breaking one off if Zoltan decides, in his mighty wisdom, to let off one of the line drives that he occasionally fires.
Kicker Brandon Walker has two short field goals to his name; little is known about his proficiency.
Key Matchup: Zoltan/punt cover versus Zbikowski who is a boxer. Michigan cannot give up cheap points if their defense in intent on being cheap points incarnate.
- The coaching staff clearly has no faith in Mallett's ability to read defenses.
- Demetrius Jones wanders in to take a spread option snap. (Note: WOTS is that Jones is no longer with the team and may be looking to transfer, so this may not be a possibility.)
- Hart limps off the field.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Clausen's poise is limited to passes within five yards of the LOS.
- Michigan dominance on the lines is established early.
- We finally get a couple accurate deep balls.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Suck, -2 for They Appear To Suck Worse, +1 for We Could Just Pack It In).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -2 for This Season Is Basically Over Already, +1 for But It Would Be Nice To Shift The National Ire Onto SSONIINI, +1 for Mike Hart Deserves Better, +1 for Charlie Weis Deserves Worse, +1 for You Realize I Have To Watch These Things Over And Over Again, Right?)
Loss will cause me to... increase pace of "Profiles in Heroism" series.
Win will cause me to... create "Jimmah Clausen for Heisman" YouTube highlight reel.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There are portions of Michigan's team that are not resolutely awful: the run game. The receivers. The offensive line. And maybe the defensive line could squeeze its way into competence when it faces off against the Irish turnstiles.
Meanwhile, no part of Notre Dame's team has really looked good except maybe the secondary if you believe the Irish have finally taught Tom Zbikowski to cover and tackle and those corners to not flail horribly. I think the easier explanation is this: Morelli and Bennett suck and their teams knew that they could just pound ND and its swing-mad offense into oblivion. This is a version of the gameplan against Penn State at any point in the Zach Mills era. They suck on a level Michigan probably does not.
So... yeah, this is a game Michigan should win. A freshman quarterback, a defense that looks epically awful, and Angry Michigan Safety Hating God could conspire to throw this one to Notre Dame, but it would require two or three disastrous plays for that to happen. Chances of that: 30%. Outside of disaster, though, Michigan's advantage on both sides of the LOS should be the deciding factor.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart beats Notre Dame to death with their own limbs. Also goes for 165 and two touchdowns.
- Mallett throws two picks; so does Jimmah.
- 24-17, Michigan.
The Maginot Line in action!
|M45||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||17||PA Stop|
|Zone read fake, Dixon forms up and delivers a strike to a wide open reciever (cover -2). Basically the entire defense bites on this fake, most relevantly Jamar Adams(-1) and Brandon Harrison(-1), who flies up at a guy running a little flat/screen route. This is the kind of thing we should be running from time to time to exploit excessively aggressive corners.|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Zone read fake again into a speed option as the slot guy, who is Oregon's second tailback, motions into the backfield. Jamison(-2), unblocked, crashes down on Stewart, going up the middle, and gives up contain.|
|This is truly outstanding: Johnny Thompson(-1) bites on nothing at all... there's not even any playfake, opening up a spot for an easy slant completion. Michigan blitzed here and didn't get there. (pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M10||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||10||Zone read handoff|
|They're in this no-huddle thing where they line up, fake a snap with Dixon doing the leg lift, and then check for a new call based on the defensive alignment. (I hate this thing, by the way, and wish I could think of some way to outlaw it. Quarterbacks no longer have to check themselves, they just let the coach make all the calls.) Anyway: this time they actually go with the zone read handoff here; Taylor(+1) times the snap and gets a good push into the backfield. Thompson(-1) sort of runs forward, arms extended like he's blind, and getes chopped to the ground uselessly. Then Stewart just makes an awesome play, leaping through a thicket of arms and helmets, landing on his feet, and grinding towards the endzone. Our defense this day was atrocious, but part of that was because Jonathan Stewart is an outstanding player.|
|M1||1||G||Ace 3-Wide||Goal line||Run||0||QB sneak|
|Slipped as he got the snap.|
|M1||2||G||Shotgun 3-Wide||Goal line||Penalty||-5||False start|
|Note: this is a the "1" but is really the one-inch line, thus the M5 on the next play.|
|M5||2||G||Shotgun Tight||Nickel||Pass||Inc||PA Rollout|
|Zone read fake; Dixon keeps and has one guy on a wheel plus the other outside receiver crossing at the back of the endzone. He throws; Donovan Warren is close enough to break it up. (+1, cover +1)|
|M5||3||G||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||-1||WR screen|
|Brandon Harrison(+2) reads this and attacks before he can get blocked, disrupting the play. This is never a good call inside the five, IMO... too many bodies in enclosed space.|
|Drive Notes: FG(23), 0-3, 9 min 1st Q. Is this our best defensive stand of the day? Maybe.|
|Zone read fake. Dixon sets and throws behind his guy, preventing any YAC. Same play as the slant on the previous drive; bad throw and timing turned that into a stop.|
|Dixon has all day to throw (pressure -3). Brandon Harrison(-3) is burnt all crispy by Paysinger. Harrison just gets run right by. WTF? (Cover -2.)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2 pts), 7-11, 4 min 1st Q. We're out of position on the swinging gate and give up a two-pointer. Yay yay yay.|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|I'm not sure how Michigan can defend this better. Jamison has to stay outside to prevent Dixon from pulling the ball out and running. He collapses down and tackles Stewart, but Stewart is like 240 pounds of rapidly moving anger and he falls forward for a lot. I guess Chris Graham could have been more aggressive, but an aggressive Chris Graham is a Chris Graham who's running himself way out of position.|
|No formation here because of TV. As we come back to the play Dixon is firing a twelve-yard stop route. (Pressure -1, cover -1).|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Penalty||-5||False start|
|Graham comes through unblocked on a blitz, Dixon just runs the hell away from him. I don't even think Jamison is blamable here, as he was set up pretty far outside. Once he gets around him, there's acres of space. This is something you just have to live with sometimes when you're playing a quarterback as fast as Dixon.|
|50||2||2||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||6||Zone read handoff|
|Stewart breaks Chris Graham's tackle(-1) that would have stiffed this for no gain, then grinds forward for a first and more.|
|Crable crashes in recklessly as he was not in position when the ball was snapped â€“ most of the defense wasn't actually â€“ and gets hurdled. Michigan is fortunate that this didn't go for a big gain.|
|M42||2||8||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Zone read fake inside to Stewart is coupled with an option play using one of the wide receivers as a potential pitchman. Since Thompson(-1) and Harrison(-1) react to this slowly, there's no need for a pitch.|
|M34||3||In||Ace Big||Nickel||Run||1||QB sneak|
|For the first.|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||-7||Fumbled snap|
|Yay yay yay.|
|Simple stop route ten yards downfield is wide open (cover -1); it's a little behind the receiver but catchable. Dropped anyway.|
|Dunno WTF the Oregon tackle is thinking, but he just decides to not block Jamison. Jamison(-1) overruns the QB ridiculously, letting Dixon outside to scramble for about half the yardage.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(49), 7-11, EO 1st Q. Note that this "stop" has nothing to do with the Michigan defense: a fumbled snap, a dropped pass, and a blown blocking assignment. This is what we're banking on versus Notre Dame.|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||18||Zone read handoff|
|This is Johnson, not Stewart. And this is too easy. Crable(-1) streaks upfield, opening a big lane. Terrance Taylor(-1) gives up that gap at the snap, getting sealed on a textbook easy zone block that allows the guard to come out and pound Chris Graham. The defensive line gave the linebackers no chance.|
|Zone read fake. Trent(+1) breaks on this ball and breaks up the pass(!!!). A nice play. (Cover +1)|
|O43||2||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|Same motion into the backfield that created the first triple option of the day; this time they go with the handoff. Taylor(-1) slants inside, giving up the same gap he did earlier in the drive. Graham(-1) is blocked to the ground, and there's a major gap.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Same play. Crable(-1) keeps contain but when he dives down to take the tailback he misses the tackle.|
|They hurry to the line and snap it this time, catching Michigan (and the ABC producer) off guard. A short pass is open (cover -1) at the sideline. Michigan misses an opportunity to keep this to a small gain as Donovan Warren(-1) misses a tackle.|
|Jumpin' Jehosephat. This is That God Damned Counter Draw. You know, the one Michigan was burned on time and again during the Year of Infinite Pain. But this time there's no running back. Dixon rolls to the right for a bit, then the two OL on the left side of the line get down and chop their guys as Dixon takes off to the wide open backside. This is a called run. And it works brilliantly. Chris Graham(-2) is supposed to be on the weakside here; when Michigan has corralled this it's because the WLB stayed home.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||14||Statue of Liberty|
|This actually shouldn't work. Adam Patterson has shot past an attempted block by Jeremiah Johnson(+1) and has Stewart dead to rights, but just runs past him. (-2). Graham also takes a terrible angle (-1) and then Stewart just does his thing.|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|John Thompson, unblocked, attacks the hole and tackles. Why is he unblocked? I dunno. Brandon Logan also helpful. Probably good play by the DTs this time.|
|Flushed out of the pocket by Brandon Graham(+1, pressure +1) and an unidentifiable linebacker. Good coverage (+1) on the roll and Adams keeping him in front of him keeps this from any yardage.|
|Dixon can't find anyone (cover +1), and is flushed by Brandon Graham(+1, +1 pressure).|
|M3||4||2||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Stewart right up the middle. Johnson(-1), Taylor(-1); these guys have both been massive disappointments.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-18, 10 min 2nd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Zone read handoff|
|Massive hole inside as Oregon takes advantage of a large split between Crable and Taylor. Thompson(-1) waves aimlessly at the passing Stewart.|
|O28||2||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||23||Zone read handoff|
|Complicated dance here; they pull a guard around to block Crable after the zone fake that holds him outside; this works. Then they pull the tight end around this guard to come up and block Thompson. This works. Stewart flies up to the outside, evading the late tackle attempt of Jamar Adams(-1) and Brandon Harrison(-2) being reckless on the outside.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||4||PA short out|
|Zone read fake to a pass play; Dixon throws high to a relatively covered reciever. Harrison makes an immediate tackle. (Cover +1)|
|M45||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||7||Short out|
|Quick snap â€“ we aren't set â€“ and a rollout to the short side to set up an out at the sticks. Dixon is off, forcing the reciever to retreat; we cannot tackle him anyway and he gets the first. (cover -1)|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|John Ferrara (+2) defeats a block on the inside, closing the hole and making a TFL. I remember when this happened with regularity. Jamar Adams, drawn up, prevents him from hopping outside.|
|M40||2||12||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Is this Ferrara's doing again? He gets shoved back a bit but is enough of a bother such that both men blocking him keep blocking him, allowing Graham and Ezeh to congregate unharried. We'll give him a +1.|
|Before the play, Griese is confused by Michigan not covering the slot guy, thus tipping their obvious zone coverage. He thinks this is dumb. Thank you, Griese. Finally someone points this out on the teevee after years and years of it. Anyway: Michigan's zone covers this just fine(+1). But Chris Graham(-3) runs his ass off attempting to cover someone on a nothing crossing route, opening up vast areas of field for Dixon to run up into. Worst linebacker ever.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||11||Deep stop|
|Oregon's stacked Stewart and Johnson, their two RBs, at the bottom of the formation. Obviously this has some interesting stuff associated with it. This is just a simple stop route that Dixon throws high but well enough in front of Donovan Warren. (Cover -1.)|
|M9||1||5||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||9||Statue of Liberty Fake|
|This is pretty fricking cool, the way they set this up earlier. Jamar Adams(-1) buys this hook, line and sinker, as does Thompson(-1). Hell, every-damn-body bought this, including Ferrara(-1). Easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-25 , 4 min 2nd Q. This drive is the difference between Mike Debord and Chip Kelly, and the decision to hire a guy who's proven he can light up opposing defenses at UNH (UNH!) instead of your buddy is the difference between Carr and Bellotti or Miles.|
|This into a three-deep zone. Disgusting. Jamar Adams(-4) decides not to cover the guy. (pressure -2, cover -4)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-32, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||14||Zone read handoff|
|Right up the middle. Taylor(-1) and Johnson(-1) are single blocked and creased, Graham(-1) meekly accepts a block.|
|Zone read fake; easy open gainer. (Cover -2)|
|Dixon zings this over a guy open for the first down. (Cover -1)|
|O42||3||2||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read handoff|
|We... stop... them? Crable(+1) and Thompson(+1) slice into the backfield for the stop.|
|Drive Notes: Pu... Punt?, 7-32, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Dixon has time but can't find anyone (cover +2). Harrison (+1) flushes Dixon and Taylor(+1) surprisingly tracks him down.|
|O20||2||22||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Jamar Adams(+1) comes up to fill this near the LOS. Just fine given the down and distance.|
|Incomplete and dropped; not going for the first anyway. Cover +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-32, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep cross|
|Faked end around gets a wide reciever wide open (cover -2). Ball is a little behind and dropped.|
|M37||2||10||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read handoff|
|Ferrara(-1) blown off the ball, opening up a hole behind him.|
|M30||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||8||TE out|
|Thompson(-1) gets shoved by the TE as he runs his out and coverts the first down. (Cover -1)|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 5-wide||Nickel||Pass||2||Jailbreak screen|
|Dixon overthrows this badly. Brandent Englemon(+1) reads it and comes up to snuff it out.|
|M20||2||8||Shotgun Tight||Nickel||Run||9||Power iso|
|A tackle and TE pull around to obliterate linebackers; Ferrara(-1) blown off the ball along with Gallimore(-1) (BRETT GALLIMORE!)|
|M11||1||10||Shotgun two-back||Nickel||Run||1||Triple option|
|Dixon keeps this. Thompson(+1) does well to beat a block and eliminate a pitchman. Crable(+1) stays responsible and corrals Dixon.|
|M10||2||9||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||8||Triple option|
|Gut handoff to Johnson this time. This is embarassing. Crable(-1) misses a tackle, as do Englemon and Trent. Trent's fortunate to force a fumble and fall on it.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-32, 6 min 3rd Q. Yay?|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Johnny Sears(-3). Awful coverage. He's in a deep zone and decides to ignore the guy he's lined up over. Aaaaand defensive charting stops here. (Cover -4)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-39, 2 min 3rd Q.|
You got me. The most damning thing to me: two of Oregon's long touchdowns were thrown into wussy three-deep coverage designed to prevent any long completions. On both, one of the guys in the three deep just decided not to cover a guy running a fly route right in their zone. Result: doom. By now we kind of expect that from Johnny "-3" Sears, but the other culprit was three-year starter and senior Jamar Adams.
Oh, but there's plenty of damning to go around. Chris Graham remains an easy starter on the Todd Howard All Stars*, always running hither and thither without any care as to where he should actually go. He doesn't defeat blocks or read plays or do basically anything well. Jonas Mouton's been held out the first couple weeks with an ankle injury; hopefully he will replace Graham as soon as he's healthy. Both interior defensive linemen have been disappointments. Neither has provided anything in the way of game-altering plays or even running lanes clogged. John Ferrara had the most positive impact of any DT, and no offense to him but that bodes unwell.
*(A team of the worst players in the Carr era who started regularly. Coming soon.)
I guess. You aren't going to like it.
|Jamison||-||4||-4||Hopefully will be more of a menace against non-spread runners.|
|Johnson||-||2||-2||Did little; not the worst offender, but last year we were getting production from this spot.|
|Taylor||3||5||-2||Looks much worse as the main guy.|
|Ferrara||3||3||0||Actually made a few plays; may be promising.|
|Crable||2||3||-1||Not a defensive end.|
|B. Graham||2||-||2||Has played little in the first two weeks; if healed looks like he will be a help.|
|Trent||1||-||1||Our best defensive player? That would say it all.|
|Harrison||3||6||-6||One! One long touchdown... ah ah ah|
|Sears||-||3||-3||Two! Two long touchdowns... ah ah ah|
|Adams||1||7||-6||Three! Three long touchdowns... ah ah ah|
|Englemon||1||0||1||Oh, Brandent. Always with the 1-0-1 line. How blameless you are.|
|"Coverage"||9||28||-19||It's a three deep zone! You can't give up long touchdowns in a three deep zone! What's the point of anything? Why don't I just die?|
Uh... pay no attention to the text next to "coverage." So... violence has been done unto everyone via numbers, and that was only about 2/3rds of that abortion.
Is there any hope at all?
Maybe if Jonas Mouton and Brandon Graham come back from injury and are effective players we will get a boost; also it'll be quite a bit easier going up against Jimmah and Notre Dame's offensive line, which appears to suck at a level even beyond that of Michigan's defense. But, long term: no. The linebacker play is atrocious and will remain so. At this point you may as well throw in Ezeh and Mouton in the hopes that they can learn. The secondary is atrocious and will remain so. Any time we want to go to a nickel we have to put two of the following players on the field:
- a true freshman
- a midget who can't even run fast
- Johnny Sears.
A hypothetical dime package would see all three on the field. Plus, our safeties are Michigan safeties. Finally, the DL has been a huge disappointment. Crable is a useless defensive end; Jamison has had no impact; the DTs have been pushed around time and again.
Things will get better, but bad is as good as it gets this year.
Come on, there must be some bright spots here or there.
Maybe Morgan Trent is a lot better? And John Ferrara made a couple plays as a redshirt freshman, so that's good. But that's it.
What does it mean for Notre Dame?
This is it for the defense. Notre Dame's offense has three points in two games -- the ten they put up against PSU were off an interception return and a punt return that led to a field goal. If they are to be anything other than Indiana in winged helmets, they have to do the proverbial "step up" and club Jimmah and company to the ground.
Can they do this? Uh... well. I expect things will be a lot better against that OL and a true freshman quarterback who's not that much of a run threat. But I also expect busted coverages, sporadic runs, and one or two hair-pulling moments.
Oh, who am I kidding? Four to six.
One more time. This appears to be the last opportunity to reuse this baby from a year ago, so here goes:
Oh, defense that didn't suck at all times, we miss you.
We spit on your piddling $26 million. Ohio State's latest contract from Nike:
Athletic footwear and apparel manufacturer Nike and Ohio State have signed a new $26 million contract that will keep the Buckeyes' sports teams in uniforms with a swoosh for the next seven years.
Dude, that's not very much compared to Michigan's mondo Adidas deal: at $3.7 million per year, Ohio State is getting but half of what Michigan is. The article does mention bonuses for the final placement of the football and basketball teams, but probably not nearly enough to close the gap. So we've got that going for us.
Oh, if only I believed in this sort of "OMG statistics!" Kevin from We Are Penn State:
In 1980 Michigan lost their first two non-con games, then won the last eight to capture the Big Ten title before beating Washington in the Rose Bowl.
In 1988 Michigan lost their first two games, then closed out the season with an 8-0-1 run to win the Big Ten before beating Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.
In 1998 Michigan lost their first two games, then won nine of their next ten to win a share of the Big Ten Championship. They capped the season by defeating Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl.
In 2007 Michigan lost their first two games...
FWIW. Personally, if Michigan wins the Big Ten this year I'll... uh. Watch the BCS bowl on TV.
Enormous relief. Quintin Patilla is a free man:
Prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge against Quintin Patilla, 19, at a pretrial hearing before 15th District Judge Ann Mattson.
He is also, evidently, a really terrible linebacker given that he was so hopeless compare to our current players that he got shifted to a position, fullback, where he's third string.
Do NOT click here. I warned you.
Oh, this ain't good. When the head football coach of your University is getting mentioned in this context...
*** Bush as Lloyd Carr? Heading into his 9:00 pm ET address tonight, President Bush has seen his Iraq numbers improve in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. But such improvement is akin to Michigan beating Notre Dame this weekend in college football: It's a win, but it won't change the fans' minds that the season is lost, and they want to fire the man in charge, no matter what. Just 30% approve of Bush's handling on Iraq, which is up eight points since July. In addition, 37% think victory there is still possible, up five points. Per NBC/WSJ pollsters Peter Hart (D) and Neil Newhouse (R), the improvement comes primarily from Republicans, which might be enough to keep his party's lawmakers behind him. However, American public opinion -- like Michigan fans this year -- has already moved on.
...I mean, ouch. Yeah. In this metaphor Jeff Tedford = Barack Obama; Mike Debord = Hillary Clinton, by the way.
Show your support. There is a sort of rally thing getting organized for the Notre Dame game tomorrow; the M Zone digs up the details:
Michigan Men... "A call to Arms"
This Saturday approx 1:45pm, we want every former player to meet just outside the tunnel (at Michigan stadium), to support (and remind!) our team on why they wear that winged helmet! We want to show our unity for the Wolverines, when they step off the bus.
For further details, please call Ron Simpkins @ (313)-[xxx-xxxx]
Might be interesting to take in if you want to wander by the tunnel around 1:45 PM.
Say it ain't so, Brandent. This might have solidified my vague skepticism about the potential of any new Michigan safety if I had known it in the runup to the season:
Whatever happened behind the scenes, Englemon's spot on the team was up in the air heading into the season.
"I can't really speak on it," Englemon said.
The Covington, K.Y., native was coming off a season in which he made five starts, played in every game and collected 29 tackles.
Throw in the departure of starting free safety Willis Barringer, and Englemon appeared to be right in the mix for a starting spot his last year on campus.
But something came up.
"We both had a choice," Carr said. "There were some things I expected of him, and he proved to me that he was serious in what he said he wanted to do, and I'm glad he came back."
This was completely under the radar in the preseason and would have been a major reason to cock an eyebrow at the Stevie Brown praise, because without Englemon who are the alternatives? Charles Stewart and true freshmen. One of MGoBlog's primary heuristics is to seriously question any and all effusive praise when the player in question is the only option: see Johnny Sears. Could this dodgy Englemon situation have cost him his starting job and, by extension, Michigan the Appalachian State game?
Miles Miles Miles Miles Miles. Every day someone asks Les Miles about the Michigan job and every day he says he ain't sayin' anything, which is a majorly positive indicator that he's interested in the job. Coaches flat lie about their interest all the time and then bolt to other jobs; to not even bother with that formality speaks volumes. To wit:
"Don't ask it, I've got nothing to say," Miles said "I am so happy right where I'm at. I need to work harder with this team. That's my focus and it will not change."
And all those Michigan fans kicking your name around?
"I have not really given much thought to the fan base in Ann Arbor and it's not something I reflect on in any way."
Also of evidence: his special bonus buyout for the Michigan job and Jacob Hester's statement:
"That would be the only place he would go, but I don't know if he would want to leave this," LSU tailback Jacob Hester said over the weekend.
I am warming a bit to the idea not necessarily because I think any of the concerns I expressed earlier are invalid but because I think I overlooked a major Miles positive: whatever his failings are are greatly mitigated by his willingness to locate and acquire the best assistants without regard to anything except their effectiveness: Jimbo Fisher and Bo Pelini are amongst the best-paid and best-regarded coordinators in the country, and when Fisher bolted to Florida State for a king's ransom he brought in Gary Crowton, late of BYU and Oregon. This is miles (ha!) from Michigan's current situation.
The Mathews thing. Here it is:
IMO, a one game suspension is warranted.
Yeah, about that... AskMen.com declares Michigan the best collegiate program for players looking to make it to the NHL, then blows any credibility they might have with this:
Forward Brandon Naurato has a sweet lefty scoring stroke and with a little bulk could dominate NHL first lines.
Undrafted third liner Brandon Naurato: poised to dominate the NHL! I mean, you could look at the frickin' roster and pick any of three different first-rounders... or you could go with Naurato. No offense to a guy who developed into an unexpectedly useful player as a sophomore, but if he's the best player on the team we dead.
Gittleson ammo. For the S&C zealots out there:
"Right now, they can't tackle in space," ESPN "College GameDay" analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "For the life of me, I don't understand it. Every February, Michigan recruits really well. But I think their strength and conditioning program has cornered the market on taking five-star guys and somehow finding a way to slow them down. It's mystifying to see it every single time they line up against that type of spread look."
I've always been skeptical of the S&C argument given all the Michigan guys in the NFL and their performances at combines -- generally good -- but there you go. It's not like clearing Gittleson out for someone who's learned something since returning from Vietnam. No... literally:
Michigan's director of conditioning is Mike Gittleson, who's in his 30th season. He was the program's first such coach in 1978, a Vietnam veteran who completed his master's in exercise science on the campus where he works.
Etc.: ESPN announces format switch: now JCSPN. These mockups are always a good time; everyone can stop emailing me about it now.
It returns for a second year: House Rock Built and MGoBlog talk about the game without choking anything to death. Except our hopes. This is part two of our wide-ranging conversation; Part one can be found over at HRB.
So... one guy who's looked impressive so far on the Irish offense (and dare I say, the only guy) is Armando Allen. Yes? No? He's fast... can he run yet?
Love the kid. He runs like a gazelle on crack wearing one of those girdle things that they put on bulls to make them buck like crazy.
This seems... suboptimal.
Your metaphors need work.
It's been a rough season... I alcohol blame.
But in all seriousness, he's something to be excited about. He can run inside and outside, and has actual breakaway speed, which the Irish haven't seen too much of in recent years. I was excited in the Penn State game when the entire first drive revolved around finding ways to get him the ball. Then, the next drive, Travis Thomas came out and ran blindfolded into a gopher hole, and I became saddened and thirsty for the nurturing kiss of grain alcohol.
The little swing on the opener against PSU was pretty impressive. When you get outside Penn State's linebackers, you've accomplished something. I worry he might gash us. I worry that four-year-olds might gash us, but I worry more about Allen.
A legitimate worry... provided Weis has the sense to actually stick with him, which he has inexplicably not done in the first two games
Has he run between the tackles much? Can anyone run between the tackles given Notre Dame's offensive line?
I saw Michael Haywood trying to drive a Ford F-350 between the tackles at the fall practice. I think he averaged like 3.8 yards per carry. So, uh, no.
This reassures, since Appalachian State plowed Michigan. Oh, God. Do they make 400 proof whiskey? Let's talk about the other side of the ball.
So... Corwin Brown. Sellout or sellout?
Nah, kidnap and brainwash victim. Like that girl who played the harp. I think the second he decapitated Keyshawn Johnson in the NFL and developed a taste for Trojan blood, it was inevitable that he'd end up in South Bend.
Ah... that's more palatable. How has the 3-4 gone? I notice a lot of rushing yards ceded.
The defense has been huge this year. The rushing yards are hugely misleading because there have been so many plays run against the defense due to the O's inability to get a first down for large swaths of time. Also, a large majority of the yardage was given up in the 4th quarter against an exhausted D that has been on the field all day.
Fact is, Notre Dame should have lost both of its first to games by Cumberland College-esque scores with the way the offense played and gagged up the ball. The fact that we kept either team under triple digits while giving them the gift of field position and offensive zone turnovers is nothing short of a triumph.
My one beef with the 3-4 is that both GT and PSU showed an ability to get big yards on stretch plays to the right side, where the OLB John Ryan clearly hadn't quite figured out his job of containment from the position. Theoretically, that should be correctible, but it has been a recurring thing.
That seems a poor weakness against Michigan's stretch-mad run game. I also note a BGS post that confirms the exhaustion you saw; is that not a potential item that will recur against Michigan?
If the offense goes two and a half quarters without a first down again, then I can promise you the splits will look exactly like that.
I can promise you that will not happen.
At least Yahoo provided kittens in our time of need.
Sigh. I want to believe you, but we'll have to wait and see. I really feel like if the offense can mount anything vaguely resembling an attack, the defense will be able to make this a game, particularly if they're getting rest time on the sideline and good field position. We were only down by 7 to Penn State late in the 3rd quarter despite having literally no offense (that 10 straight 3 and outs wasn't an exaggeration... check the box score).
I actually watched the game today... the key to me will be whether or not Clausen gets the green light to find receivers downfield and can. People should be open; he might not be able to locate them. Especially if he's on his back. I think the Michigan offense will probably be about as effective as Penn State's. Better running game, probably worse passing with a true freshman at the helm. I think even Michigan can shut down an offense that's playing as safe as Notre Dame did against Penn State.
Well, word on the street is the playbook is going to be opened up, so at the very least we might get to see the Irish go down swinging for once. I'm glad to hear that, and feel like it's the only way this team is going to get anywhere is by taking the skirt off and slinging the football.
Given Michigan's secondary play last week, there will be opportunities to hit guys downfield... assuming people get blocked. Projected starting SDE Brandon Graham should return from an ankle injury that severely limited him the first two weeks; this will allow Shawn Crable to slide back to the attacking linebacker role he filled adeptly last year instead of being an undersized and ill-proportioned defensive end. The hope at the beginning of the year was for an attacking, sack-happy defense. That hasn't materialized but may against an offense Michigan seems better suited to defend.
One thing I am very concerned about: John Carlson. Michigan's linebackers are useless in space and Carlson is a terrific receiver. Seam routes off play action alarm.
Carlson has been the missing man this year. I'm guessing it's a combination of other teams keying on him (him being th
e only real proven threat on offense) and the dink-and-dunk offensive scheme not spreading the field. At any rate, the Carlson seam was a backbreaker against Penn State last year, and getting him involved in the offense should be one of the primary concerns for Weis coming into this game. I think by throwing the ball downfield more, it'll free up more room in the gooey middle of the field, where Carlson can play mismatches and raise hell.
Also Carlson's had to stay in to block.
All right, so the Michigan fanbase. Is there any sort of excitement for this game, or has it completely spiraled into sarcastic numbness? From the Irish perspective, this game is being viewed with much more aloofness and levity than it typically is because expectations are way down from recent years. What's the skinny in AA?
Sarcastic numbness is job one at Michigan even when things are going relatively well, now it's the only way we interact. We believe in nothing, Lebowski! There is something at stake here, though: if we beat Notre Dame there's at least some hope of refocusing the national derisiveness on the Irish and getting it (partially) off Michigan. Winning wouldn't make anyone particularly happy, per se, but it would be grimly satisfactory.
Women say the same thing about sleeping with me.
How about the Irish? Your 0-2 must suck considerably less than ours. I mean... you have all the freshman stuff, not four-year starters at QB and RB and a top five preseason ranking. Also you didn't lose to a I-AA team. But it seems that a lot of people are seriously questioning Weis, which is something I don't get. This year is the reason that Willingham got fired, really... not even the certified genius of Charlie Weis can deal with that. But it seems the natives are, if not exactly restless, a little peeved. Yes/no?
I don't think there's my native restlessness... or more to the point, I think that all of that is manufactured by the media because it makes for a charming headline. Irish fans are still happy with their robot genius, despite the fact that there are some legitimate grips to raise about the way these first two games were handled. You hit the nail on the head, this year is exactly why Willingham was fired. We knew it was going to be a rough 2007 back in 2004, so the results so far haven't been the type of radical departure from expectations that gets coaches fired. It's a rebuilding year, and everybody knows that. As long as the recruiting classes are staying good and the right kids are getting experience out there, the future and general inertia of the program is in good shape, which is the most important thing.
It's fair to say that people are actually "questioning" Weis in the sense that we're starting to move away from acknowledging him as the all-knowing oracle of football and moving toward a more realistic, post-honeymoon belief that he's a skilled coach capable of making some mistakes and occasionally being out-coached.
This seems... reasonable? You've turned my world on its head.
Yeah, there's a few stray rational neurons in the Notre Dame hivemind. Well, it's getting kind of late. You've probably got to go give Chad Henne a lower leg massage, right? So drop me some knowledge... what's your big prediction?
I would prefer implanting Tom Brady's brain but that will do.
I hesitate to predict anything good coming about for this Michigan team but it does seem to me that Michigan has at least one major advantage here: its offensive line and Mike Hart versus the Notre Dame run defense, which though valiant has been oft-perforated. Everything else looks like it could go either way. So I do tentatively think Michigan will win this, although a touchdown-plus spread seems excessive. Notre Dame wins if they find a downfield passing game that does not result in turnovers; I think this is probably not going to happen enough for them to win.
I had a vision last night while I was tripping on paint thinner. A hush falls over the Big House as a wobbly 59 yard field goal sails through the uprights, winning the game for the Irish. The benches clear, the jubilant Irish rush onto the field, and, lo, Jimmy Clausen finds Scarlett Johansson in the pandemonium, kneels down, and proposes. The two embrace passionately and the camera cuts to a teary-eyed Brent Musberger who solemnly declares, "This is why we love this sport so much," then trails off, not having any words to describe what he has just witnessed.
all-Scarlett-Johnasson-references-are-accompanied-by-picture rule. Because,
seriously, ladies... you would hit that too.
I welcome your 59-yard field goal attempt for the win. We are agreed that this is a satisfactory final play. (Assuming Michigan is ahead by 1 or 2.)
Well, best of luck this weekend. Tell that jowly interim head coach of yours I said "hi".
And tell your interstellar pirate made entirely of lard and self regard to invent something cool, like a first down, for Saturday.
Oh the hate!
Feel it flow through you.
Hate makes you strong!