I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
by Nick RoUMel
Michigan is facing a Northwestern team that come mid-November, has yet to win a Big Ten game. And Northwestern is favored.
This is how far we have fallen.
Remember Spinal Tap, the fictional band that was once hugely popular, but then became so irrelevant that they were billed below a puppet show?
Michigan is Spinal Tap. (And Michigan State is Puppet Show, but that’s another story.)
Bo is spinning in his grave. In fact, everyone who has died since Bo is spinning in his grave. Lou Reed, for example, is spinning in his grave. Even he thinks he can do a better job on the offensive line:
“Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play!”
We are nothing more than a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team. How did that happen? How did Puppet Show achieve supremacy in our state rivalry, with a freshman quarterback and a bunch of scrappy 3-star players?
Can you imagine what Michigan’s record would be with the same coaches and Michigan State’s roster?
Back in the day when I played recreational softball, we had a saying to help our team rally to victory. “Gotta want it.”
Give the Sparties credit – they come to play.
But when have you last seen Michigan WANT IT? The Wolverines go to work, punch the clock, and grouse about the copy machine. “The copier repair guy, he didn’t execute today. … But we’ll make those copies tomorrow, right? And maybe collate them if we have time? … So, wanna hit happy hour? No? OK, See ya tomorrow.”
Gotta want it, Blue. Show me you do. Call me a fair weather fan if you want, but I watch sports for fun and enjoyment. I want to have fun again. Let’s renew our vows. Let’s get high. Let’s play that game where you dress up like a detective and I wear the Spider-Man Underoos … oh, wait. Wrong game. But I can still fantasize:
MICHIGAN 24, NORTHWESTERN 23
By Heiko Yang
Losing is a familiar feeling. I started following Michigan football during the Rich Rod era, so dropping every game in November used to be an expectation, not a disappointing surprise.
What’s unfamiliar about all this is how little hope there seems to be that anything is going to get better any time soon. Until this season, there always seemed to be a fix for every mistake. Can’t throw the ball to convert on third down? Use Denard’s legs. Linebackers getting clubbed to death by offensive linemen? Teach the defensive line how to absorb blocks. Don’t have a viable backup quarterback? Convert Devin Gardner back to QB.
Every time Michigan lost, you could count on seeing adjustments the next game, and those adjustments would work. Last week was the first time under Brady Hoke where those adjustments either didn’t work or weren’t there at all. Unsurprisingly, it was the first time Michigan lost in back-to-back weeks since 2010.
What’s so disappointing about all this is the coaching staff no longer seems to be an all-knowing entity that’s limited only by the execution errors of its players. Until now I likened the football program to a brilliant scientist trying to run a lab full of inexperienced graduate students: the experiments are well designed, and when something fails, it’s usually because someone forgot to add a reagent or contaminated a solution. Technique and fundamentals, that sort of thing. These days I have to wonder whether there’s something inherently wrong with the scientist. He’s so fixated on his favorite hypothesis that he’s forcing his students to repeat the same failed experiments over and over until the lab gets driven into the ground.
As of this morning we have a sample size of two games telling us that the Michigan football program is more likely the latter scenario. By this evening that number will become three. Wait and see for yourself: Michigan’s coaches have suggested all week that Michigan’s offensive game plan will be no different than it was against Michigan State or Nebraska. You’ll know this to be true when Michigan lines up in an ace set on second and long and runs play action or comes out in I form with Derrick Green as the tailback on first down.
Will it work? Can it work? Should it work? “Theoretically,” will be next Tuesday’s Word of the Day.
Michigan 17, Northwestern 24.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Northwestern|
|WHEN||3:30 PM Eastern
November 16th, 2013
|THE LINE||Northwestern -3|
|WEATHER||mid 50s, cloudy, rainy
20 mph winds
why am I going to this
Two teams will play a football game.
Run Offense vs Northwestern
After last weekend it doesn't seem like the opponent matters here. Be they Alabama or an irregular unit of limbs blown off in World War I, eleven entities set in opposition to the Michigan rushing offense will bludgeon it with whatever is handy until it lets out a final wet squeak and collapses in a pile of hypocrisy and charlatanism six inches from its starting point.
But I suppose we have to evaluate. Northwestern's rush defense is middling at best, clubbed for 248 and 286 yards by Ohio State and Wisconsin but able to hold Northwestern in low-scoring games against Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Those opponents all piled up 150-ish yards with Nebraska approaching 200 themselves but they required piles of carries to do it: 49 for Minnesota, 41 for Iowa, 50 for Nebraska. Sack adjusted YPCs start out ugly and then are mostly respectable:
- OSU: 5.3
- Wisconsin: 6.4
- Minnesota: 4.3
- Iowa: 3.5
- Nebraska: 4.8
As of last week, Northwestern was just about dead average in the Big Ten at giving up sack adjusted yards on the ground with 4.7 on the season. They didn't play last week, so that holds. They're just flat middling.
The catch, of course, is that all of the teams they've played so far with the possible exception of Iowa can, you know, run the ball. Forward. Michigan patently cannot.
This is the point at which I say things like enormous outliers, no one's had back-to-back negative rushing games since 2008, things are bound to turn around, it just takes a little bit of elbow grease and derring-do. And I do kind of believe bits of that. At some point Michigan will try to take the ball forward on the ground and do so. Northwestern's not that much better than Indiana statistically and Nebraska was… well, it was a series of unblocked blitzes that Michigan never found an answer to.
At some point the dam has to break, at which point a sickly green trail of algae feeding on the broken dreams of Michigan fans will charge forward for three yards a carry. Is that going to be this game? If they want to do it this year, that would be advisable.
Key Matchup: You versus Your Liver. You hate your liver and want to drown it; your liver feels the same way about you, buddy.
[Hit THE JUMP for IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT]
I don't pretend to know the intricacies of football but during the Nebraska game it seemed that Toussaint, in pass protection, would wait for his blocking assignment to come to him before engaging the player. Seeing as Toussaint is significantly smaller then the LB or lineman he's been assigned to block this usually resulted in Toussaint getting pushed backwards (physics and all). Is this how RBs are typically coached to play pass protection?
I mostly stay away from the how of any particular technique failing; more of a "what" guy since I didn't play the game, etc. But to me Toussaint's blocking issues stem from three problems:
- Michigan's line has to resort to slide protections that often expose him to a pass-rushing DE. This is a bad matchup for anyone.
- He's part of that need to resort to slide protections since his recognition isn't good; when he is tasked with identifying guys to pick up he often catches them. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart would find guys and then get some momentum before making contact.
- He hits guys too high sometimes, which makes it easy for them to shed him and attack. Smith and Hart got low, or in Smith's case existed in a perpetual state of low-ness.
3 is his problem, 2 is part his and part a holistic inability to pick up blitzes, and 1 is not his fault.
What's different about this year?
Regarding the offensive line, I saw some comments that intrigued me that intrigued me the other day and I’m curious your perspective.
Borges indicated that another variable in the mix this year is that it’s “the first year in the scheme we’ve wanted to move to.” Based on your work therefore, do you conclude that:
1) There is a significant difference this year in scheme, protections, and what the offense is asking of the o’line?
2) That experienced lines would be impacted by such a scheme change?
3) That inexperienced players would unimpacted (i.e. just as inexperienced)?
4) That therefore the years experience/games experience would also be negatively impacted from a production standpoint.
So that in conclusion – there’s actually hope bc the ones that are young are young and the ones that are supposed to have experience have less experience than one would otherwise understand to be true.
And – that next year or the year after really will be better!
Keep up the good work.
Unfortunately, I'm not seeing a whole lot of evidence for that rationale.
Borges's comments make no sense. This year started out with Michigan running a bunch of stretch plays, which was a departure from what they'd done the first two years… and a staple of the Rodriguez offense. If that's what he meant, he could have just, you know, kept running the stretch.
Instead Michigan was almost exclusively an inside zone and power team their first two years here, and the differences between running those things from under center versus the shotgun are minimal. There has been a more concerted effort to run plays from under center, but that shift was even more pronounced late last year after Gardner took the helm of the offense.
If anything's changed this year from last year in terms of blocking it's that Denard isn't around to bail it out. Borges trying to use him to cover his ass by claiming he somehow couldn't run the schemes he wanted to be cause the guy running behind them was also the one taking the snap is a weak excuse that throws Denard (of all people!) under the bus.
[After THE JUMP: WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER]
This isn't a stage of grief but it is a stage of life: at some point during the long process of disintegrating into a grotesque version of yourself, you stop asking rhetorically when the kids will visit, stop being horrified at the exponential indignities, stop trying to convince everybody you're still just as capable as ever, and just decide to be tickled to death at anything good. You're past caring what ol' so-and-so thinks, and save your opinion that Alabama is something to be ashamed of, not commit to, for the people at your bridge game.* When the doorbell rings you expect it to be Death; if it's the grandkids, we'll order subs and won't that just be grand!
MGoBlog, you've reached the Appreciation stage. Right now on the board you can see a thread for appreciation of Jabrill Peppers, and appreciation itself, and one for Al Borges, and I even made one for you, dear readers. Where are the rest? Where did they come from? I'll allow you this peek behind the curtain:
Poor Ace. We'll put that one with Treadwell's and Levenberry's. And Armani Reeves and Sam Grant and Josh Garnett and Bri'onte Dunn and Anthony Standifer (the second time) and all of Tim's 2011 opponent previews, and some weirdness Brian puts up every once in awhile. Okay ONE example:
<) )> ooohh
I don't know. But that's your user content this week: people admitting our program feels every year of 134. Next time we have Ohio State over let's wear our ratty sweatpants and make fun of their latest girlfriend. What is she 25? Really.
* [The Big Ten is analogously a bridge game.]
The Diary to Read if You Still Care is the one about how experience seems to matter a lot on the interior of the offensive line but not so much on the exterior. Get ready for Michigan and Purdue to be extreme examples of a gentle trend:
Having two 5th year senior tackles don't seem to matter at all. Having an average of 1 year in the program among the three interior guys is not good, but it's not death either: the second star to the left over Michigan is UCLA. Gandalf the Maize, you are the Diarist of the Week. Also I like your wizard hat.
You probably already saw the incredibly detailed one by Space Coyote where he disagrees with Brian over whether Kerridge should be able to make that one block. I have a unifying theory: the part of the brain that has the ability to release the enzymes with which to formulate excuses is often destroyed in the process of playing or coaching football. Ask a coach sometime about the Alabama game last year; he'll probably tell you that was on execution too.
The Other Diary to Read if You Still Care is by a former D3 fullback who went over three complaints we've had about the offensive coaching:
- Don't know their personnel/strengths
- Stubbornly sticking to an offense their players can't run.
- Tipping calls
The anecdotal approach both addresses where our expectations are too high (they can't run simple stuff AND not be predictable) but mostly confirms the general complaints about stubbornness and misusing the personnel.
Etc. I think Brian linked to the weeklies in previous posts, but if you missed it here's parallels between Michigan and the Soviet Space Program. Dragonchild wants to bring helpful signs for the other team that say "WE'RE RUNNING" or "WE'RE PASSING" that our fans can use to prove just how predictable they're being. Has nobody considered what would happen if Borges just starts calling whatever's on the signs?
IN JUG NEWS
I was right about where they'd put the new jug scores:
There are five lines up here, and room for six under each M—seven if they don't have header rows beneath. So that's maybe 26 years before we have to worry about how to fit more scores on the jug gain. How did we beat them 42-13 this year?
Your Moment of Zen:
Sedate me fast 'cause I don't want to think about this. /beats Alabama
Contrary to popular perception recruiting is not over. The Michigan coaches have offered 2014 prospects RB Vic Enwere and DE Jhonny Williams.
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 6'1"/215 lbs.
Location: Fort Bend Austin High School – Missouri City, TX
Offers: Committed to California, Arkansas State, Colorado, Duke, Houston, Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas State, LA Lafayette, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Texas, Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, Texas State, Tulsa, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest
Enwere is a big back with a pretty large, but not powerhouse-studded, offer list. He does hold an offer from the Spartans and they seem to do pretty well at uncovering lowly-rated, highly productive running backs.
Enwere is currently committed to Cal but it’s a soft commitment at best. He spoke with the Michigan coaches on Thursday about how he’d fit in to the offensive scheme and also about setting up a possible visit in the near future. Enwere told me that receiving an offer from Michigan was a big deal and that he was honored. In talking to him it was pretty clear that the Michigan offer has thrown a wrench into his thought process. I asked him what the Michigan offer meant to his commitment to Cal and he said, “I’m really not sure. I am definitely considering Michigan now that they are a real option.” As a Texas kid, committed to Cal he cited Michigan’s storied history as the first thing that attracted him to the Maize and Blue. He also said that a flip from Cal to Michigan is possible, but he just has to really evaluate all of his options now that the Wolverines are in the picture.
Position: Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6'6"/230 lbs.
Location: Berrien Springs High School – Berrien Springs, MI
Offers: Committed to Missouri, Ball State, Bowling Green, Notre Dame, San Diego State, Toledo
The Michigan coaches wasted no time extending an offer to Williams once Da’Shawn Hand committed to Alabama. Williams is an in-state product with some non-power conference offers plus Notre Dame and the program he’s currently committed to, Missouri. On film Williams is quite impressive but Berrien Springs doesn’t exactly play top competition. Regardless of who he plays against though, you can see his athleticism and his size is impressive as well.
Williams wasn’t shy about being excited to hear from Michigan for the first time just recently when we first spoke. After receiving his offer, Jhonny texted me last night with a very respectful message as he sorts through his options.
I’m not ready to comment on the recent events. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I gather them. I need time. Thank you.
He didn’t hide the fact that he’s juggling some thoughts now that Michigan has offered and I expect the Wolverines to get some consideration. Missouri has done very well this season and should continue to improve with some promising young talent on the roster, but Jhonny’s latest offer must carry some weight to stir up his mind that way. He’s been committed to Mizzou since late September so it will be interesting to see what he says in the coming weeks.
Previously: Northwestern Offense
WLB Chi Chi Ariguzo is asked to make a lot of plays in space, and make plays he does.
I'll be perfectly honest—I couldn't bring myself to get through this whole game for the second time, for a few reasons:
- BTN's refusal to show the defensive backfield during plays or provide anything but a pore-o-vision replay made this endeavor unnecessarily difficult/fruitless.
- Nebraska's offense and Michigan's offense function very differently in that one has a running game and the other just pretends to.
- Related to (2), just about every weakness I noticed in Northwestern's defense is something that Michigan has shown zero ability to exploit.
- Did I do a bunch of research and write a lot of words over the last 24 hours for a post that will never see the light of day? Yes.
Fun times ahead. Here goes nothin'.
Base Set? 4-3 over. When Nebraska spread the field, Northwestern usually lifted their strongside linebacker for backup safety Jimmy Hall, who'd play over the slot, often shaded a bit to the inside to help against the run.
Man or zone coverage? Mostly zone. Northwestern runs a lot of Cover 3 and some Cover 2; in this game, they utilzied a ton of soft zone coverage in order to help mask the fact that—after starting corner Nick VanHoose exited the game with an injury—they were playing two freshmen on the corners. Man coverage was mostly reserved for the red zone, which was also their strategy against Ohio State.
Yes, Nebraska took advantage of this.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]