"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
If you hung around last night's McGuffie-centered liveblog/chat you probably came across the following hot rumors:
- Hart won't play.
- Juice Williams won't play.
- Arrelious Benn has a separated shoulder.
The latter is not a rumor, it's just true. He injured it before Iowa, reinjured it against Iowa, and continued to play with the injury. As for the former two, well... Bodog isn't accepting bets for the game any more, and other books have moved the line from Michigan -3 to anywhere from -1 to +1. That lends the rumors some credence beyond your standard internets panic.
I expect Hart will travel and dress; I would not be surprised if he was limited, or tried to go but found he could not a la a couple of 2005 games. I would also not be surprised if he was fine. Nothing surprises me!
Update: It moves. Covers.com's line history for Michigan-Illinois:
|10/15/07 3:12:05 PM||3/-110|
|10/15/07 4:22:05 PM||2.5/-110|
|10/17/07 2:17:07 PM||2.5/-110|
|10/18/07 5:07:06 PM||2/-110|
|10/18/07 5:57:08 PM||0/-110|
|10/17/07 1:50:46 AM||3/-115|
|10/17/07 10:35:47 AM||3/-120|
|10/18/07 3:00:48 PM||3/-120|
|10/18/07 6:00:48 PM||0/-110|
|10/18/07 6:40:51 PM||0/-110|
|10/19/07 12:45:48 AM||0/-105|
|10/17/07 1:50:46 AM||3/-115|
|10/17/07 10:35:47 AM||3/-120|
|10/18/07 3:00:48 PM||3/-120|
|10/18/07 6:00:48 PM||0/-110|
|10/18/07 6:40:51 PM||0/-110|
|10/19/07 12:45:48 AM||0/-105|
|10/17/07 1:49:57 AM||3/-115|
|10/17/07 10:24:57 AM||3/-120|
|10/18/07 2:55:02 PM||3/-120|
|10/18/07 5:55:01 PM||0/-110|
|10/18/07 6:19:58 PM||0/-110|
Something happened yesterday afternoon that caused a three-point dip in the line. At most places it's rebounded to Michigan -1, but unless there's another explanation these tables strongly point to Hart's absence.
I think he's out or limited.
Update Update: Email and comments suggest that immensely powerful and all-knowing wiseguy "Dr. Bob" is responsible for the line shift:
I wanted to let you know about that something that happend yesterday to shift the line. The line moved 3 pts not because of injuries, but because of a Vegas handicapper named Dr. Bob (who, incidentally, was on ESPN a couple of days ago). He has BOATLOADS of big-money clients, and he releases his plays on Thursday. Sportsbooks were immediately flooded with money on Illinois and had to drop the line down to a pick'em so as to get more Michigan money. So, while the guys you mentioned could be out, that's not the reason for this line movement. So, I wouldn't count on any of those injuries quite yet.
So... I don't know. If you can stand the vertigo, here's the ESPN segment. Take it FWIW.
First, Alan Weymouth on the last game and the upcoming one:
People saying this was our most complete game of the season are spot on. I also have to say, DeBord called a pretty darn good game on Saturday. Run game showed a few new wrinkles...not many, but enough to keep Purdue off balance. The thought the passing game was very, very sharp and the staff adjusted quite well here.
Run Offense vs. Illinois
Mike Hart's availability is in question, and even though Carlos Brown showed some speed and the ability to not fumble every other carry last week, losing Hart would be a hammer blow to the team. There is no replacement for him, whether it's in terms of leadership, ball security, tough yards after contact, or thumping blitz pickups against potential All-American linebackers.
Illinois, of course, features J Leman and some other guys as part of a decently stiff run defense currently 27th in the country. A closer look shows they crushed Missouri and gave up slightly more than 4 YPC to the tailbacks of Penn State, Wisconsin, and Iowa. No long runs distorted those stats; neither did quarterback sacks factor in. This is a better than average, but not great, run defense.
One thing to look for: in this morning's VEQ Iowa blogger Oops Pow Surprise indicated that the Illinois defensive tackles were two-gap sorts of guys keyed on occupying blockers and allowing J Leman and company to flow to the ball unimpeded. That won't work against Michigan's stretch plays, as on them the very idea of a double is forgone for a sure attempt at the second level. Illinois will have to adapt its strategy to cope. These are untested waters and there's a chance the Illini DTs find themselves lumberingly ineffective, paving the way for an unexpectedly robust Michigan ground attack.
If Brown plays, Michigan figures to go to a pass-first offense with Brown as a secondary option (at least... you'd imagine, right?); I would look for a lot of draws to get Brown in space and a lot of plays with a lead fullback to help cut down on his occasionally questionable vision. One more item to look for given Brown's sojourn as corner this spring and his iffy blocking against Purdue: the deployment of someone else in obvious passing downs. It might be Moundros. It might be Hart -- even if he can't cut he can pick up linebackers.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God. In comparison, little else matters. We'll also throw in a bonus key matchup: Illinois DTs versus Their Ability To Penetrate. Michigan has struggled with quick (relatively) little bastards thus far.
Pass Offense vs. Illinois
Illinois is blitz-mad and seriously iffy elsewhere. Colin chips in observations from the Iowa game:
Jake Christiansen was clearly not that good, but shredded the Illinois pass defense any time his offensive line figured out their blocking schemes, which they are clearly not good at doing. They blitz all the time, presumably because they figure 6 and 7-man zones aren't going to do much better. Behind these blitzes they play soft zone, I'd guess cover 3. They do blitz with some ingenuity and they do have the athletes to get to the quarterback, but they can't usually get pressure with the front four without some kind of snafu up front.
Shooting Blue provides some encouraging numbers:
- Andrew Robinson, Syracuse - 17/26, 208 yards, 8 yards/attempt
- Kellen Lewis, Indiana - 26/51, 263 yards, 5.2 yards/attempt
- Anthony Morelli, Penn State - 21/38, 298 yards, 7.8 yards/attempt
- Tyler Donovan, Wisconsin - 27/49, 392 yards, 8 yards/attempt
- Jake Christensen, Iowa - 17/25, 182 yards, 7.3 yards/attempt
Yes, 4/5 games averaging 7.3+ YPA is an indication of some seriou
s suck in your secondary, especially when quarterbacks from Penn State, Syracuse, and Iowa are featured. Chad Henne is way better than all these guys. The Michigan receivers are way better than everyone on those teams save James Hardy. Illinois' top corner is Vontae Davis, a freshman All-American a year ago but still just a sophomore; past Davis they've gotten little contribution
from an array of lightly recruited players.
Henne, meanwhile, has rebounded from an atrocious opening game and a half to pick apart secondaries in three consecutive games. He was nearly perfect against Purdue and is finally rounding into the form Michigan fans expected/hoped for going into the year. Obviously this is not a stable equilibrium yet -- there is always the chance for inexplicable regression given Henne's career to date -- but if there's an aberration in the last two years of Henne's career, stretching back to just before the 2005 Ohio State game, it's the poor play, not the good play.
Add in Mario Manningham's return to deep form, the emergence of Adrian Arrington as an all-around threat who can leap out of the stadium, and Greg Mathews establishing himself Avant 2.0, and there is a clear opportunity here to put up huge numbers here.
Key Matchup: Boren, Brown, and Butler versus Various Blitzers. Pick up the blitzes and there is no way -- no way -- Illinois covers Manningham, Arrington, and Mathews.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
Oh, the terrible danger. Illinois is basically the Appalachian State offense with an NFL-caliber running back and a faster, bigger quarterback. The Illini are eighth nationally in rushing offense, deploy the spread option to devastating effect, and are playing Michigan. Woe is very much a possibility.
Meanwhile, Michigan has recovered from its opening debacles to become a respectable defense, though the only spread option attack they've faced since was Northwestern's and the Wildcats racked up 300-some first half yards and sprung a 50-yard touchdown run from a slow backup running back.
The hope here is that the Appalachian State game was an anomaly borne of incredible arrogance on the part of the Michigan coaches -- the odd hopes we have -- and that Illinois won't be able to threaten the devastating passing game Oregon used to shred Michigan by air and land. Oh, and that the reinforcements on the defense will help it suck considerably less.
Expect a ton of zone from Michigan. It won't matter much if Michigan tips off its coverages like that because the Illinois receivers aside from Benn suck and so do the quarterbacks. If Illinois wishes to throw on first down, Michigan will welcome it.
Zone allows the cornerbacks to look into the backfield and react to the option. Iowa deployed its traditional 4-3 despite going up against 3 or 4 wide receivers much of the day; Michigan may choose to go with something similar, dropping Crable back to be a linebacker or, more likely, bringing in a full four-man defensive line and deploying Crable as a standup DE. Containment will be key: Crable has blown contain several times the past three weeks by collapsing on zone read fakes, allowing the quarterback to get outside of him. This cannot happen against Illinois.
Key Matchup: Chris Graham, Obi Ezeh, and Shawn Crable against Mental Implosion. As Alan says, option football is assignment football. Michigan has the athletes to keep up on the edges, but they are prone to mental breakdowns that will be deadly against Illinois.
Pass Defense vs. Illinois
Juice Williams is the worst quarterback Michigan will play this year unless his freshman backup Eddie McGee enters the game, in which case it'll be a close runoff between the two. Williams is completing 55% of his passes this year -- up from last year's incredible 39% -- but is averaging just 5.2 YPA and has five interceptions to five touchdowns. Every once in a while they'll run play action and try to hit Arrelious Benn deep, but other than that Illinois mostly passes only when they have to, and that poorly.
Meanwhile, the Michigan secondary has shaped up considerably since the post-apocalyptic Oregon game, with a major assist from Brandon Graham and a newly slavering defensive line. Michigan held down CJ Bacher and the suddenly unstoppable Northwestern offense, forcing a quartet of second-half turnovers, and completely destroyed Curtis Painter and Purdue. Neither of these teams is exactly... uh ... Kentucky (it's a weird year in college football), but then again neither is Illinois.
Michigan will probably sit back in a soft-ish zone much of the day and zone blitz heavily, attempting to confuse whoever's chucking ducks into interceptions and bad reads. Benn will get several shots at long receptions; Michigan will be playing off; the big danger is that the powerful Benn pulls a Braylon on one of the jump balls hurled skyward.
Key Matchup: Morgan Trent versus Arrelious Benn. Historically, Trent has been very difficult to beat deep. If Michigan can rely on him to deal with Benn without a safety bracket, things get much easier up front.
Benn returns kicks for Illinois; the winning margin against Penn State was a kickoff return score. Meanwhile, Michigan's kick coverage has been atrocious and its attempts at mitigating said atrocity have been equally atrocious. With opponents generally starting at the 30 or beyond and a dangerous returner to deal with, expect popups and squibs. Heck, kicking it directly OOB doesn't seem like such a bad deal these days.
Kyle Hudson is averaging under 8 yards per punt return and is no threat to do anything except catch a punt and run into a nearby player.
Illinois punter Anthony Santella sucks; Illinois is 98th nationally in gross yards an 111th in net. Greg Mathews is unlikely to get any return opportunities, as he'll usually be fair-catching 34 yarders. Kicker Jason Reda is a perfect 9 for 9 on the year.
Key Matchup: Kick coverage versus Benn. Or kick coverage versus upbacks.
- Hart's on the sideline, obviously.
- Our defensive tackles are as ineffective as they were in the first two games.
- Mendenhall gives you flashbacks to Jonathan Stewart.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Illinois blitzes don't get there.
- Illinois is consistently in second and long.
- Henne is on.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Ack Spread Option, +1 for Ack Ack Run-Heavy Spread Option, +1 for Oh, God, What About Hart, +1 for And It's A Road Night Game, -1 for They Throw Like Jimmah).
Desperate need to win level: 8 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Win This And We Play OSU For The Rose Bowl, Basically, +1 for Hart Can Win The Heisman If That Happens, +1 for I Am Going And Don't Want To Ruin What Should Be A Nice Weekend)
Loss will cause me to... be not at all surprised that we got shredded by a spread option team.
Win will cause me to... consider going to Wisconsin. But probably not.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Two competing historical
trends with Lloyd Carr teams are at war: 1) Michigan can't stop the option to save its life, especially if that option comes from a spread shotgun, and 2) one dimensional offenses die against Michigan. This is a defiantly one-dimensional spread option attack; I don't know what to do with this.
Michigan seems somewhere between Wisconsin's suddenly nonexistent run defense and Iowa's traditionally responsible, veteran unit and will probably cede yards in chunks but get enough stops to put Illinois in passing downs regularly. I figure Michigan gives up one or two big plays, allows one distressingly impressive touchdown drive, and otherwise gives up a first down here or there, maybe a push into field goal territory, but mostly forces punts. The Illinois passing game is just too awful to have sustained success against a team that is probably not going to get run over like it's Indiana.
On offense... urg. At this point I believe Hart will be considerably limited. I do have enough faith in the common sense of the Michigan coaches to take one look at the last scholarship running back on the roster, the Illinois secondary, and Manningham/Arrington/Mathews/Butler/Henne and decide that without Hart they will put the game on their senior quarterback. They did not do this in the awful first half against Northwestern because they did not have said senior quarterback; they faced a similar situation last year at Penn State -- also a night game -- and came out slinging. I believe they'll do this again, and have much more success against a team with a secondary much flimsier than Penn State 2006 and much more reliant on blitzing to get pressure. I do expect them to try out the stretch a few times early to see if those two-gap tackles can adapt; we are not likely to see a ton of running unless it's effective early.
The quarterback numbers above indicate Michigan will have success doing this. If Michigan picks up the blitzes effectively, they win comfortably.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart does play a bit, mostly on third downs as a blitz pickup guy.
- Henne busts 300 yards and hits a season-high in attempts.
- 31-21, Michigan.
There isn't really an Illinois blog on the radar yet, but hey, Iowa just played them and we don't play Iowa this year so why don't we bring in Oops Pow Surprise from Black Heart, Gold Pants? Okay! Let's do it. O... P... S... go!
a request before we start
I'm not doing this nude.
Actual English with capitals and periods and stuff will make this much easier on me. Also please take your clothes off.
Fuck! Duly noted.
Okay. Prepare for the questioning.
After the Oregon game, Michigan fans looked at Juice Williams, said "fuck, mobile quarterback," and chalked up the Illinois game as a humiliating loss. Things seem different now, largely because a heretofore flailing Iowa team held Illinois to six points. How did the Hawkeyes stop the Illini?
Well, the victory was had in the game plan. Knowing that Juice Williams is a "quarterback" the way Crocs are real shoes--i.e., solely by a measure of classification and location, the Hawkeyes completely and utterly sold out against the option. Aside from glaringly obvious passing downs, there was always, always, always at least one man shadowing Juice, and another playing Mendenhall on the pitch. The results speak for themselves: 35 rushes for 137 yards. Normally, those numbers would be ho-hum for each side of the ball, but remember: Illinois simply cannot pass.
Is the Iowa run defense particularly well-disciplined or good this year? Iowa's offense hs been... uh... I can't even say Penn State-esque anymore. Thanks for nothing, Wisconsin. Suffice it to say, the Iowa offense has been eye-clawingly bad, but the defense could be significantly better than Michigan's occasionally dodgy linebackers. Yesno?
The Iowa defense has vacillated between nonpareil and pedestrian, usually leaning toward the former. Dodgy's a good word for the Michigan linebackers, and they're going to have to put forth their best tackling effort of the season. Rashard Mendenhall is a Man-denhall (sorry) [there can be no forgiveness for this -ed], and for a noodle-armed basket case, the Juice can run a keeper extremely well. The key is shutting the Illini down early and often; they were definitely missing their swagger by the second half last season, and it's a lot easier to defend an option when the quarterback is running it like a frightened rabbit.
Chris Graham, if left unblocked, can spear mofos like nobody's business... or overrun them and flail. It will be interesting. I heard that Iowa spent the day in a 4-3, ignoring the idea of a passing game despite facing a spread. Is this true?
To be fair, sir, both teams were ignoring the idea of an Illinois passing game. As for Graham, Crable, etc., they're going to have to make sure they don't, as your example would ably demonstrate, have their athleticism used against them. But at the same time, they can't play timid, either; Illinois' guys are going to make anyone miss from time to time.
But did Iowa spend the day in a 4-3? Yes, and usually spying instead of in the Cover 2 shell that Norm Parker has used as a security blanket for decades. It's radically audacious, and Illinois' response--or more accurately, lack thereof--is about what you would expect from a head coach who brings checkers to a chess tournament.
Also to be fair, it's not clear that Zook can do anything except order his quarterbacks to throw interceptions. Speaking of interceptions: is Illinois backup SomethingSomething McGee any different than Juice?
Before we go any further with this question, I hope to God their backup QB somehow acquires the nickname "Tits." I don't care how.
Working on it. My Iowa preview last year was titled "Show Me Your Tates," so I am a kindred spirit.
What's striking about the Illinois quarterback situation is that for as physically talented as Juice is, there seem to be two undeniable truths:
1) He is at a point in a quarterback's maturation process that would keep him buried on most depth charts;
2) His coach does not seem remotely capable of remedying that fact.
Have you seen any marked improvement in Juice's game as a passer? He's completing all of 55% of his passes these days, which is better than 39% the way that herpes is
better than cancer.
Also, it seems that whenever McGee comes into the game, Zook all but scraps the option and lets the kid start throwing the ball, which he's not too bad at doing. Is it at all healthy for Williams, as a true sophomore, to already see his PT cut in order to give a freshman below him some snaps? Probably not. But that's the Zooker for you.
I would be careful... for one, Zook might hunt you down and crush your trachea. For two, all he has to do at Illinois is go 8-4 most years and he'll get a statue. I am betting on long term success for Zook. Which might be insane, but there it is.
I'm betting--nay, praying--for an Uncle Glen-like level of success from the Zooker. Which, really, would probably earn him a statue.
Anyway, on to the other side of the ball.
Ten points isn't a lot, but remember the eye-clawing thing. Any particular weaknesses in the Illinois defense? The stats seem to imply they have potentially major secondary issues but are stout against the run and tend to roll up a lot of sacks. Have a scouting report?
Keep in mind that I've only watched them against Iowa and Wisconsin, so please, please, consider the context.
Context locked in.
Oh, and a quarter against Missouri.
Context radically reconfigured.
The defense looked surprisingly decent. You're exactly right about their front seven. Their line is decent, but not of the type that Michigan would need to start slowing them down with counters or cutbacks.
Their line's strength isn't in the plays made, but rather a pretty impressive ability to tie up blockers and let the linebackers and secondary make plays.
That's really interesting vis a vis the Michigan run game, which often flat refuses to double linemen, instead allowing sometimes-overmatched center Justin Boren to get driven into the backfield rather than sacrifice the ability to get out on a linebacker.
And yes, the J Leman picture.
Tying up blockers is not something that results in a lot of sacks, which they have. Did you see much of a pass rush from them? How did the hold Iowa to only ten points?
If the line play is as uninspired as Wisconsin's, that will lead to trouble. Even with a long run in the second half, he didn't even sniff 100 yards.
They do get sacks, usually by opening up blitzes from all over the place. And they've got some ends that'll pin their ears back on 3rd and long.
As far as holding Iowa to 10, that's no great feat, of course. That said, they were especially aided by an Iowa turnover on the Illini 10 in the fourth quarter. The defensive effort was nothing remarkable, overall; Iowa accumulated 323 yards (which, adjusted for Michigan, is well over 700) and ran for about 150 of them. They're solid, don't get me wrong. This isn't the Orange Crushed from a few years ago. But there'll be holes in their zone when they start bringing heat on 3rd downs.
Oh, it should also be noted that Iowa did attempt two fourth-down conversions in the first quarter from Illinois territory and missed on both. So the 10 points are misleading next to 21 first downs and 10-17 3rd down conversions.
And the Penn State game was drive after drive into Illinois territory followed by horrible Morelli fumble/interception.
So... a prediction?
It's tough to call. How flexible are Michigan's defensive schemes from week to week?
Or in other words, how likely are they to repeat the mistakes of whatever euphemism you've given Week 1?
Chosen euphemism: "The Horror."
Michigan's defense has improved significantly. DE/DT Brandon Graham returned from injury or suspension to become a terror; Johnny Sears was replaced with Donovan Warren, and Stevie Brown got benched for Brandent Englemon. Each new player is vastly outperforming their counterparts.
The scheme is not likely to change. Michigan will go with a nickel, though there might be significantly more of the 3-3-5 look they brought out against Purdue to let Crable get out on the edge.
Michigan has always had problems with option attacks but has also crushed one-dimensional offenses. It's hard to know what will happen.
I've noticed that, and I'm secretly hoping to see Michigan go 8-0 in the Big Ten, being that it A) would not affect Iowa in the slightest, and B) would probably cause Kirk Herbstreit's head to melt.
I wonder what Kirk thinks about "Penn State, Big Ten champs! Anthony Morelli superfantastic!" now.
You know he's absolutely dreading the highlight package that he has to narrate while saying things like, "Morelli has really come into his own as a leader," and with a straight face.
Anyway, for the sake of putting a number out there, Illinois is playing in front of their fans, and at night to boot. Just about anything can happen. But I'm tempted to think that this Michigan team can run on Illinois well enough to control the pace of the game. My score prediction, which has a 99.3% chance of being wrong, is 24-19 Michigan.
Excellent. ONE OF US. ONE OF US.
What's the line on the game, anyway?
Michigan by 3. [this has moved to Illinois by one or a pick 'em, actually. -ed]
After these last two seasons, it would only happen if the Michigan athletic department wanted to conduct a sick sociological experiment to see if they could make the Ann Arbor townfolk march on the athletic complex with torches and pitchforks.
Past that, I don't think Ferentz would want to do that to Iowa.
Everyone says that Mary Sue and Captain Kirk are BFFs, but I agree with your assessment.
Isn't another kid of his showing up this fall?
James. And he's reportedly better than Brian was. Now, unless there's an upgrade at offensive line coach, that likely won't matter one whit, but supposedly the kid can play.
Thanks again to OPS of BHGP. And J Leman.
Woo McGuffie! It's dramatic early; up and running with this altcast thing ASAP.
Note: McGuffie is on ESPN2 tonight at 8PM -- hey gets more national coverage than Michigan these days -- and there will be a liveblog here. I'm going to take this Altcaster thing for a spin.
Note 2: I'm getting scattered reports of the site either not loading or actually crashing some browsers; if you're having problems please email me with details. If anyone out there has any ideas as to why this might be happening, please email me as well.
The Game has a network and time:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Big Ten Conference and ESPN have confirmed the time and television network for the annual "Big Game" between the University of Michigan football team and Ohio State on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Michigan Stadium. The annual battle between the Wolverines and Buckeyes will be broadcast by ESPN on ABC starting at noon EST.
Hart. I dunno, ask his mom:
"No one will know until Saturday," Rory Rushlow said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I just left Ann Arbor yesterday, and he says he's fine and if he's even 80 percent healthy he'll play.
"Hopefully, he'll play. But he if doesn't, I'm sure he'll play the next game against Minnesota."
Scoutin' Colin has a couple of posts up focusing on the projected starting linebackers against Illinois. Obi Ezeh:
I saw flashes, but right now he's a guy who's a second or two behind everything.
UFR was far kinder to him at +3, but I would take Colin's word over mine since he's focusing strictly on one player.
(Note Crable aside:
Long aside: Ugh. I just watched the Painter keeper for their first TD and Crable really needs to learn to keep contain. That play should have been stuffed. Totally irrelevant to the task at hand, but that was just bad. Maybe I should do one of these for the whole LB corps?
Aaaand everybody's favorite, Chris Graham. I contest this passage:
Also, I'd like to mention that they do really like Graham in pass coverage, which is the reason why Ezeh is playing in the middle. I'm pretty sure Graham is being used to cut off slants and the like, which we saw remarkably few off the entire game. If Graham were ineffective in his zone coverage, they would have tried far more, I would bet. I think he's part of our suddenly solid pass defense.
I've seen Graham get way lost multiple times this year but get bailed out by pressure or inaccurate throws. Andrew Quarless spent the entire Penn State game waving at Morelli without response. Graham got bailed out against Northwestern a few times. And today Lymon dropped a simple crossing route he had gotten two steps behind on. (Colin believes the latter to be a pick play that Michigan was in man on, FWIW.) Michigan has been aggressive on slants with its corners, especially Trent. Graham has not had a hand in Michigan's improved coverage, IMO.
More tubes. WolverineHistorian keeps cranking them out. OSU 1997:
|Warren is playing off; this is a simple throw and catch. (Cover -1)|
|O45||2||4||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Johnson(+1) makes this play, subtly. They double him momentarily in an attempt to seal him; the guard peels off to go block Graham. But Johnson hasn't been sealed or given any ground and the running back cuts it back inside, where Taylor(+1) has beaten a guy and CGraham can fill, as the guard doesn't have an angle on him.|
|O45||3||4||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||5||Improvisation|
|It appears Michigan is caught off guard, as both Crable and Graham are flat-footed at the snap and end up blitzing from five yards away. Purdue has plenty of time to read and adjust; they pick it up. Crable(+1) literally leaps over the running back who's trying to block him; BGraham(+1) comes around the corner to flush Painter; contain is lost with the linebackers crashing inside and rolls out, finding a guy in front of Trent. Painter's first read covered(+1); pressure -1 for blowing contain and not getting there on a blitz.|
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||-2||Triple option dive|
|Slightly different formation than our usual nickel as Taylor is lined up right over the center's grill. Crable as a standup DE. They motion Bryant into a two-RB look, the run a triple option, handing it off to Dierking. Taylor(+2) busts through the line right into the path of the play, making an unassisted TFL.|
|O48||2||12||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||7||Out|
|Quick rollout from Painter and an out throw in front of a soft Trent. (Cover -1).|
|Dierking motions out; empty look. Coverage(+1) is good; Painter can't find anyone as the pocket collapses around him. Jamison(+1) flushes; BGraham(+1) keeps his head up and reads that Painter's going to take it up the middle, collapsing on him as he nears the LOS. Stick him harder and you get a sack, BG.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q. I kind of wish we weren't playing so soft on these little outs, but given Painter's inaccuracy I can see the strategy. I think we'll see similar stuff against Illinois. Zoltan's MIND BULLETS induce the ball to hit a Purdue player; turnover. Why can't these be returned?|
|O40||1||5||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||3||WR screen|
|This is a traditional screen with a couple jab steps from the WR, who then backs off and tries to pick up some blockers. CGraham(+1) reads this and attacks it, tripping up the ballcarrier. Johnson, tracking back, finishes the play.|
|O43||2||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Very aggressive; third time already we've spread a linebacker out and brought up a safety to provide something of a 3-4 look. Corners playing very soft behind it. Adams backs off before the snap. We stunt our way past some zone blocking, forcing Sheets â€“ just entered â€“ to cut back into an unblocked Crable; he cuts up and Taylor(+1) disconnects to tackle. They just manage the first.|
|We're looking at a picture of Chimdi Chekwa instead of Purdue's first down, which is the third time we've missed a play in just six minutes of game action. As we come back Ezeh is slicing into the line to tackle Sheets amongst a host of Michigan defenders.|
|O46||2||9||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||-4||Sack|
|BGraham(+2) comes around the corner lightning quick, raking the ball as Painter attempts to throw and forcing a panicked scramble. Crable(+1) tracks down for a sack more rightly BG's.|
|O42||3||13||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep out|
|Crable lined up sort of over a slot receiver; both MLBs threaten blitz; Crable and Harrison come off the corners as the MLBs bail. Painter does get a pass off to a wide open Lymon(cover -2), but it's wide and a difficult catch which is not made. Pressure(+1) from Harrison may have helped painter screw up.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Fortunate... that was catchable.|
|M5||1||G||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||5||Zone read keeper|
|Crable(-2) gives up contain; easy touchdown once he does.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Taylor(+1), alert, pushes off his guy and forces him to change his path. Johnson(+1) has backed off and collapsed down into the hole the running back diverts into.|
|O24||2||8||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||18||Zone read handoff|
|No stunt; Crable lined up as a standup DT, Purdue runs right at him, doubling him. Yeah; that works. A zone block knocks Crable(-1) out and CGraham(-1) gets blocked downfield, diving at the RB's ankles but missing. Similar play to the NW gashers; this is not a run defense. Sheets fumbles at the end of the run... butt meet bench. Jamison(+1), tracking back downfield, caused the fumble.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 10-7, 2 min 1st Q. That 3-3-5 is not tenable except on obvious passing downs.|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||10||Stop|
|Michigan blitzes; good pickup by the RB and an open, short route prevent it from doing anything. I believe this is zone; Trent's been driven of by a deeper route and has to come up late. He misses the tackle(-1), turning this from five to ten yards. Adams bails him out. Pass caught by "Lywyn Selmon"... uh... (Cover -1)|
|O48||2||In||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||2||Long handoff|
|Don't mind playing off here; the rewards of playing tight are little and the risks unpleasant. Warren just barely gets a hand on this guy's leg,
slowing him up and allowing others to converge. He's still a very dodgy tackler, which may be relevant against Illinois.
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||7||Zone read PA|
|Fake handoff and a Painter rollout finds Bryant downfield open in front of Ezeh and Adams. (Cover -1). CGraham shot into the backfield on some sort of delayed blitz, but the coverage couldn't give it time to matter.|
|M43||2||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Quick out|
|If there was ever a throw that proved Curtis Painter was a poor fit for this offense, this is it. He has a small window to fit this short pass in and wings it wide. Harrison made this kinda difficult; no coverage +/-.|
|M43||3||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Blitzing heavy from the outside. BG, at DT, does a pretty good job of cutting off the intended POA and forcing a cutback, where Englemon tackles. Dierking just stretches out and makes it, as the tackle was from the side. CGraham blown out of the play by a guard, FWIW.|
|M39||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-3||Zone right(!!!)|
|This looks like Tecmo Super Bowl when you call the same play as the offense. Why would Purdue ever run this? Previous opponents (ND and PSU) have foolishly tried to shoehorn their offenses into something they were not in order to exploit Michigan's apparent weakness against a shotgun run game; Purdue decides to shoehorn their offense into something Michigan sees every week in practice. Weird. Anyway, Adams(+1) blitzes into this but maintains control; Jamo(+1) slices into the backfield through befuddled zone blockers, and CGraham follows up. Three more Wolverines get there for the dogpile.|
|M42||2||13||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Throwaway|
|BGraham(+1) gets around the corner, forcing Painter to chuck it OOB. (Pressure +2). This guy is a terror.|
|Adams(+1) is a bad position at the snap after faking a blitz and pulling out late; he's quickly outside of Dustin Keller's crossing route and has no chance to make a play on the ball. he realizes this, bails out a little deeper, and focuses on making a tackle, which he does authoritatively.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 13 min 2nd Q. Zoltan's mind bullets force the punt, which lands at the five, to bounce all the way out to the 20.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||4||Triple option dive|
|Bryant agains motions into the backfield and Purdue gives a triple option look while handing off to Dierking. Johnson is doubled for a long time and starts giving ground, but the long double lets Ezeh fill unmolested. A cutback behind the late-peeling OL yields a moderate gain.|
|O26||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Inc||Out|
|They roll the pocket to buy time; BGraham(+1) works free of the OT and gets a little pressure as Painter approaches the sideline; the throw to Lymon is wide. (Pressure +1)|
|O26||3||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Cross|
|Ezeh(+1) blitzes and harries Painter into a quick throw (pressure +1) that's either horribly behind Bryant or horribly in front of Orton.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|O37||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Pen||-5||False Start|
|O32||1||15||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||4||Screen|
|The jab-step screen to Bryant Purdue ran earlier. Englemon(+1) fills immediately, forcing Bryant to delay and allowing the defensive line to recover.|
|O36||2||11||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||9||Zone read PA|
|Goes to Keller, who runs the "fake-block-run-out" route favored by TEs everywhere. CGraham(-1) lets him get open (cover -1); Warren comes up to tackle after a five yard again but whiffs(-1); CGraham whiffs, too, Englemon pushed back and Keller nears first down yardage.|
|O45||3||2||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Excellent job by Johnson(+1) to get some penetration and cut off the hole, forcing a cutback away from the intended POA. Ezeh(+1) shoots past a potential blocker, combining to tackle with Crable and force a punt.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-7, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|O10||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||-1||Zone read handoff|
|Well, I guess this is the upside of Crable occasionally being way irresponsible on these: this time they hand it off and he tracks it down in the backfield from the backside. A grudging +1.|
|Meh, if they want four yards here they can have them. They attempted to block Crable with a RB... this is not a good idea.|
|Painter's throw is not good but would probably have been catchable if Adams(+2) hadn't come up and popped Bryant as the ball arrived. The ball pops up into the air; Harrison flags it down and starts running. Recommendation: watch Jamison clock Bryant right at the beginning of the return. He must be thinking "#&*!, didn't that guy get stoned and enter the NFL draft three years ago?" (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 24-7, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||-4||Sack|
|Uh... they decide not to block Crable(+1). Unwise. He comes in under control and gets a hand on Painter, forcing him up in the pocket. Taylor's(+1) dropped into a spy zone type thing, reads, attacks, and sacks.|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 31-7, EOH.|
|Harrison(-1) in unblocked but overruns the QB; he scrambles outside, finding no one and tossing it OOB. (Pressure +1, cover +1)|
|O25||2||10 d>||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Cross|
|CGraham(-1) gets sucked out of his zone on the middle of the field, leaving this pass to Lymon wide open; Lymon drops it. Another instance where Graham's crappy pass coverage gets bailed out by the opponent failing to execute. (Cover -2) One more second and Crable smashes painter from behind.|
|O25||3||10||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Cross?|
|Harrison(+1) in unblocked again â€“ nice blitz pickups, Purdue â€“ as the RB motions out of the backfield. This time he keeps under control, allowing Painter a moment to fire but way inaccurate; BGraham(+1) also got pressure, beating the LT. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-7, 11 min 3rd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|This portly guy named Halliburton now in the game. CGraham(+1) does a good job to fend off a block and close the hole he picks; his momentum and a shot from a Michigan DL closing from behind push him forward for a moderate gain.|
|O24||2||6||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pen||-5||Delay|
|O19||2||11||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||-9 (pen)||Bomb|
|Ezeh, blitzing, gets around the LT and is tackled. Painter steps up and lofts a bomb to Lymon, who's beaten Trent(-1) and Adams(-1), but drops it. Moot point with the penalty. (Pressure +1, Cover -2)|
|O10||2||20||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||2||WR screen|
|Same jab-step screen, this one to Lymon. CGraham(+1) does an excellent job of getting off the downfield block of Sester, the LT, and tackling with help from a backtracking Jamison.|
|O12||3||18||Shotgun 3-Wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||21||Post|
|Michigan gets cute here, with seven guys at or around the LOS and four guys in an umbrella. Two linebackers threaten blitz, then back out after the snap; their zone drops are necessarily pretty shallow given their starting positions and the middle of the field is wide open for a Bryant post. Adams(-1) beaten. (Cover -2)|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Run||6||Zone read handoff|
|Very AppSt-esque, this play. Crable flies upfield, taking himself out of the play. Will Johnson(-1) does what we've seen a lot of DTs do against us by ducking behind the block in an attempt to get penetration; he doesn't get to the RB in the backfield. Ezeh(+1) jukes out a guard who got to move to the second level immediately;. his tackle attempt is less than great but he still helped hold this down. A slowed Halliburton is buried after a moderate gain.|
|O39||2||4||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||2||Long handoff|
|Warren(+1) reacts to this quickly and just manages to not screw up the tackle. I'm still pretty leery about his tackling ability, and frankly, this play, but we are a results-based charting service. (Cover +1)|
|Orton open for the first; immediate tackle from Warren.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||18||PA TE Flag|
|A zone read fake gets Warren(-1) to bite; Keller's flag is open at the sidelines. (Cover -1). Stevie Brown in the game.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Taylor(+1) bursts through the line; a blitzing CGraham(+1) shoots pasts the center before he can get out on him; Ezeh comes in unblocked. Halliburton manages to get back to the LOS.|
|M37||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||3||Hitch|
|Brown(+1) makes a solid tackle to prevent any YAC after this short completion. (Cover +1)|
|M34||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||2||Scramble|
|BGraham(+1) around the corner and would have a sack if not for a befuddled Purdue tackle who's been blown back into the pocket turning around and picking him off. Painter takes off. Jamo(+1) keeps him from running upfield long enough for Trent to come up and tackle. (Pressure +1)|
|Purdue stacks wide receivers on both sides of the line. A quick hitch to Orton is open in front of Warren (cover -1); Painter throws it into the turf.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 34-7, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|Johnson(+2) busts through the line, beating the guard, and hits Painter as he throws. The ball sails right to Adams(+1). (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 41-7, 14 min 4th Q.|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Nickel||Pass||-4 (pen)||Zone read PA|
|Elliot in the game... and he's a little confused. He keeps it after some play action, looks like he's going to scramble for good yardage, and then throws it to Orton after he crosses the LOS. Crable -1 for giving up contain.|
|O34||2||14||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Slocum(+1) finally in; he sheds a blocker and tackles with the help of a collapsing Patterson.|
|Elliot comes down to a little flare route with no chance for the first. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 48-7, 8 min 4th Q. Garbage time starts now; charting stops.|
We own spread offenses!
If it's Purdue's, yes. I wish I had stuck to my guns in the preview; after saying we would hold down the Boilers in last week's defensive UFR I backed off and predicted 27 points. As it turned out that was close to right, but only by the letter of the law, not the spirit.
How did we do so badly against our first two opponents and then crush Purdue?
Purdue can't run well even normally; in this game they were missing starting RB Jaycen Taylor, benched Korey Sheets for fumbling all the time, brought him in for about two carries, one of which he fumbled, and benched him again. The leftovers were true freshman Dan Dierking (he's white! Think Sam McGuffie without the hurdling, yards, and touchdowns) and some bowling-ball type named Halliburton. Michigan has always played
boa constrictor against one-dimensional offenses, and this was one.
But there are obvious improvements: Taylor and Johnson were much more effective in this game than they were against Appalachian State; this is unlikely to be an effect of playing against weaker competition, no offense to the Apps. Brandon Graham has returned from injury/suspension to become the best player on the defense. Englemon is good, Sears is gone, and the coverage is improving. They are getting better; this is not a mirage.
Does Shawn Crable have to give up contain on the zone read twice a game? I mean, is it in a contract or something? My theory is this: Jim Tressel kidnapped him and wouldn't let him go unless he promised to never, ever make sure if the quarterback has the ball before motoring after the running back.
Uh. My theory is that Michigan defensive ends might be coached to do this. Adam Patterson did it on the last drive I charted, too. That seems crazy, and Crable has kept contain a couple times, but it would seem to be the easiest thing in the world to get down: "if you are unblocked on the backside of a shotgun running play, check to see if the QB has the ball before freaking out and collapsing." And yet. The only two touchdowns the Michigan first string have given up in the past two weeks have come off of QB keepers that Crable freaked out about and lost contain on.
Suggestion for Illinois: STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT.
I mean, look at the--
|Johnson||5||1||4||Got a nice interior pass rush, forcing a pick.|
|Taylor||7||1||6||Much more effective against a spread run game than earlier in the year.|
|B. Graham||8||-||8||Didn't actually pick up a sack but caused a lot of incompletions and generally owned Purdue tackles all day. Gooooood.|
|Crable||4||4||0||More crashing down, giving up contain... twice today. Cannot do that against Illinois.|
|Ezeh||3||-||3||Much better day than against EMU; made a couple plays and didn't blow anything in particular.|
|C. Graham||4||3||1||Hey! It's positive! I'll take it. Blew up a couple screens. Still not so hot in zone drops.|
|Trent||-||2||-2||Got beat deep by Lymon, though it didn't matter in the end.|
|Adams||4||2||2||Our safeties seem okay of late. Knock on wood.|
|Brown||1||-||1||Had some extensive troubles in garbage time, IIRC.|
|"Pressure"||11||1||10||Combined with the run numbers an indication that Michigan dominated what was supposed to be a pretty good offensive line.|
|"Coverage"||6||14||-8||Strategy was probably to lay back and watch Purdue eff it up; it worked.|
Crable is the only guy in the front seven -- though we play a base nickel these days we rotate four guys on the DL -- to have a non-positive score and the only DL to have a non wildly positive score, mostly because he lost three points on this contain stuff. Go figure.
The rest of it: the defensive line crushed a fairly veteran and supposedly pretty good Purdue OL; the linebackers were a positive, too. And while the secondary took a step back from the past couple weeks that may have been a tactical decision. Aside from the Lymon bomb, a Keller flag and that disappointing third and eighteen conversion, anything Purdue wanted was in the Jimmah Clausen wheelhouse: four yards downfield. Given Painter's inaccuracy and the lack of a Purdue run game, Michigan could play off, cut off the big play, and wait for the Boilers to screw up or a defensive lineman to tear Painter's head off. This is the kind of team bend-but-don't-break works on: a crappy one.
Purdue's left tackle is still looking for Brandon Graham. The rest of the DL, save Crable, also goes here. They were unstoppable.
No one was outright bad today; even Chris Graham hopped above 0.
What does it mean for Illinois?
To reiterate the above: for the love of God, Crable/whoever, maintain contain on the quarterback.
Past that, Iowa shut Illinois down by sitting in their base 4-3, playing zone, and getting excellent contributions from the cornerbacks against the option. Result: 6 points for the Illini. We seem married to this nickel against the spread and will probably not mimic that style of play exactly but I would expect something similar: bend, don't break, get Illinois in long yardage situations, and get them off the field. I would rather keep two safeties deep and play the corners tight with an eye on defending the option than bring up another guy in the box and play soft.