Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Stuff I pulled from the OSU-Texas game that may be of interest.
Ginn? Might Want To Tackle Him
OSU's first big play is a simple crossing route to
Breaston Ginn that's badly misplayed by the Texas secondary. Watch #38 overrun the play, opening up the corner and many, many YAC. This hasn't happened once against the Michigan secondary yet; I don't think it's a major concern, especially given what we know about the Texas secondary now (even with Tarrell Brown they kind of suck). More sucky play against Ginn coming up.
A Pittman run up the gut where Frank Okam looked like Pat Massey when doubled by the interior line of Ohio State. Okam's no joke -- a first rounder after the year to most mock-drafters -- and we've seen something similar happen to Terrance Taylor from time to time. If Ohio State decides to put in a big package from time to time they might rip off a run or two like this.
Grinding Drive... No Points
Texas got the ball back and proceeded to gash the Buckeye run defense. These three consecutive plays all went for first downs:
- Off tackle opens up and Laurinaitis gets way too aggressive, essentially blocking himself by running into a pulling OT, who just goes down to chop him.
- Ohio State lines up shifted right, away from the strength of the formation. Texas runs a speed option to the strong side. Is it me or does Laurinaitis look lumbering on this particular play? He flows down the line slowly and gets chopped, forcing the corner to come up on the QB and thus leaving the pitchman wide open.
- Option to the other side of the field sees the corners way off the line, totally unable to support the linebacker (Grant?) who takes the quarterback.
Ohio State would eventually figure out the option and get good support from Antonio Smith. They would later stunt themselves into trouble, though. They lined up Gholston as a standup DT -- shades of Crable -- then stunted into a counter play. Laurinaitis reads it late; Grant gets pancaked by the pulling guard and it's into the secondary again.
This drive would end with a fumble on the two yard ine.
OSU Goes Up 7-0
Michigan's seen a lot of rollouts this year. Once it became clear that standing in the pocket was a good way to get your spleen bruised, opponents have headed outside with frequency. This has worked. Unfortunately, one of Troy Smith's biggest strengths is his accuracy on the run. Two critical plays on Ohio State's touchdown drive were darts as Smith rolled out. This one is particularly alarming:
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Smith finished the drive with a touchdown strike on a similar play.
Texas Returns To The Ground
Two problems on this long Texas run:
- playside DE crashes inside, giving up contain.
- Laurinaitis doesn't recognize the trouble this causes and just waits to be blocked yards downfield. Compare this to Michigan linebackers, who have been diagnosing and attacking at the LOS all year.
Texas would run the same play again soon after, but this time the DE keeps contain and Laurinaitis heads outside quickly. Result: minimal gain.
I worry about this: third and short, we call a cute run play, and Quinn Pitcock takes two guys into the backfield with him, creating a major loss.
Four yards on a zone stretch for Texas.
You Did What With How Many Seconds Left?
Tied 7-7 with about two minutes left in the half, OSU gets the ball back and marches downfield. They're heavily aided by a stupid bust on second and long; Troy Smith throws a dart of a seam route that's nigh un-defendable. OSU moves the ball into field goal range with the clock ticking down.
Then... this. First of all: Aaron Ross is not as good as he thinks he is. Second of all, when there are something like twenty seconds left in the half and your opponent is already in field goal range, why do this?
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That's right: one-on-one press coverage with nothing even approximating safety help. On Ted Ginn. Ross misses his jam, gets two steps behind instantly, then starts looking back like Troy Smith can possibly underthrow Ginn enough for him to get a fingernail on the ball. This is easier than beating Terrell Lambert. The replay shows it in excruciating detail. We should not do this.
Halftime: 14-7, OSU
At this point Texas has fumbled at the two and turned a likely OSU field goal into a touchdown with an idiotic playcall before the half. OSU has missed a chippie field goal. Play has been even.
And It Begins
This is what I'm talking about when I say that turnovers are more a function of the offense than the defense. Let the Laurinaitis legend begin: he can catch balls thrown directly at him! Musberger and Herbstreit are creaming themselves over a guy who's largely at fault for Texas' ability to pick up 10 yards every other carry. This leads to an OSU field goal and the beginning of the end; it's also the first time the entire game McCoy has thrown between the hashmarks.
Alex Boone did okay but was flagged for an obvious hold and then allowed this Woodley-esque sack. Note Smith standing in the pocket despite having what looks like plenty of room. He's had it beaten into his head to keep looking downfield, sometimes to his detriment. Overall, it's obviously the better option for the OSU offense -- mentally play the Penn State touchdown in your head now -- but it occasionally will result in him getting blindsided when he could have taken off.
OSU's drive does end in a field goal; after this sack they run on third and long to set it up. 17-7 now.
Texas Back to the Ground
Larry Grant on the field is not going to be a good thing for Ohio State, methinks. I wouldn't expect him to play, largely because of stuff like this. It's a counter that he gets utterly lost on. (When I grabbed the highlight I thought it was a more relevant linebacker -- Freeman. Oh well.)
Texas easily converts a third and short on a familiar-looking stretch play.
Vernon Gholston doesn't get a sack here but he does display his impressive ability to teleport around tackles. Riley will have his hands full. Note that this is the second Colt McCoy pass longer than ten yards; the first was intercepted by Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis in space. Sets up too far inside, IMO and cedes the corner. Not sure why the RB threw in the unnecessary second juke that probably cost him three or four yards.
This is Colt McCoy's only downfield completion of the night.
Another successful run. Both linebackers are very passive.
OSU closes the door.
This one is titled "AaronRossSucksBasically.WMV" and is fairly self explanatory. It's second and nine with 12 minutes left, you're down two scores, and you're playing Ted Ginn in the parking lot. There is a happy medium between lining up an inch from his nose and in Tajikistan. Have you seen anything like this against the Michigan secondary? Infrequently.
I think this play summarizes what's good about Antonio Pittman: he diagnoses holes and decisively bursts through them. He's not much for breaking tackles or juking guys but he's smart about blocking and fast.
And that's all, folks.
I can think of no better way to summarize Texas' confidence in Colt McCoy than to show you their final relevant play from scrimmage. Down 24-7 with around eight minutes left, Texas faced third and sixteen. They ran an option, then punted. The man who's like second or whatever in passer efficiency was not the man Ohio State played.
What We Learned
- Troy Smith is really accurate on the run.
- Boone a little tetchy his first game.
- Issues containing runs to the outside.
- Aaron Ross sucks, basically.
- This game should not be used as evidence of Ohio State's rad pass defense. Mack Brown was clearly terrified of Colt McCoy and perhaps with good reason given that hideous interception.
- Don't line up two inches from Ted Ginn's nose with no safety help.
Time mocks me. Only Eric Cartman knows how I feel.
Note: if you see last week's poll it's a cache thing, I think. Refresh should cure it.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Blood on the dance floor! And we have people bailing from Ohio State in the face of the upcoming Football Armageddon. If I find that any Michigan voters have tempted fate the beatin' stick is coming out. Checking... checking... nope. Our dissenters are a distinguished group:
Sports Frog IS tempting fate despite their Central Michigan affiliation, as our voter from over there is also a Michigan fan. If we lose... ooooh!
Note the extremely tight race for spots 3, 4, and 5, then the dropoff to Rutgers and a second drop to ND.
Risers: Well, damn near everyone. Rutgers is the big winner, shooting all the way up to sixth, past Notre Dame but behind Arkansas. USC also rockets up mostly by virtue of others losing, though they did hop Florida after their narrow escape versus South Carolina. Farther down the big winners were Wisconsin (up four) and Wake (up five after killing Jeff Bowden).
Fallers: Louisville drops six, and if you'd ever like evidence of BlogPoll superiority there is this: we managed to keep a one-loss Louisville team in front of a one-loss West Virginia team it beat comfortably a mere two weeks ago.
The rest of the carnage: Tennessee down seven, Auburn down eight, Texas down eight, Cal down a whopping ten.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: This is the point where I crow about killing Auburn last week. Okay. Now we're done before anyone can remind me Auburn was my preseason #1.
- Does Darren McFadden have to cure cancer before My Opinion On Sports (#11) and Tomahawk Nation (#9) give Arkansas its due? Well, too bad: Darren McFadden never cries.
- Falcon Nation has Auburn sixth. ???
- Central Michigan's votes come from two MAC voters and four Big Ten voters (including me). Woo regional bias!
- Maize 'n' Brew has Louisville TEN slots below West Virginia. TEN. My Opinion On Sports has West Virginia #5, Rutgers #9, and Louisville #12. Argh!
- Deep South Sports has the flimsy resume of the Wisconsin Badgers #24... and the flimsy resume of the Boise State Broncos #9. WTF?
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is (are?) Men of the Scarlet and Grey, who have Boise State #4. Uh... okay!
Mr. Numb Existence is Iowa State blogger Cross Cyed. Hire Jim Harbaugh. He's sweet.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award BC blogger Eagle In Atlanta takes it this week for ranking BC #15 while the poll slots them 19th. Given the mess after, oh... #8, this could very well be massively reasonable.
Straight Bangin' Award basically doesn't exist this week. The A&M and Michigan bloggers are off by minute amounts and Dan Shanoff wins with a whopping 0.38 deviation. No one still left in the poll hates their team irrationally. (Or, as we saw with Georgia bloggers early in the year, very, very rationally.)
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive is also Eagle in Atlanta -- fun ballot this week, I guess. Reasons:
- Dropping former #9 Cal entirely. Mistake? Omission? Ditto for #15 Tennessee, gonzo after losing heavily to Arkansas.
- Hammering Boise State -- down nine -- for their highwire escape from SJSU.
- Wisconsin up nine for no discernible reason.
- Rutgers up to #3. Wake up to #6 (ACC POWAH!)
Mr. Stubborn is Falcon Nation, and no kidding. I guess I can see an argument for only moving Texas down a couple slots because their loss to Kansas State was a fluke-riddled, crazy game played largely without the services of Colt McCoy, but Auburn down only two to #6 after losing heavily and dismally to previously toothless Georgia? Auburn's leading receiver was Tra Battle, who does not play for Auburn.
(Via Suds & Soliloquies.)
You know... this is also something close to what it's like: From the Onion.
One last note on a rematch: I am not in favor of it unless there are no other viable options. Viable options include undefeated Rutgers, a one loss USC, or a one loss SEC Champion. Viable options do not include Notre Dame. It would be impossible to stomach either a rematch versus a team we hammered at home or, worse, watching them play for the national championship over us. Here ends all discussion of it until The Game is over.
Johnny! Woo! Look...
And so they find themselves with everything to play for and nothing to lose, on borrowed time, with house money, in God's hands â€“ rugged riders on a trite voyage so familiar to us all: hopes gone long ago, souls worn to dust through a half-decade of ridicule and scattered in Autumn's afternoon gusts by the collective, jaded, sigh of a loyalist nation, only so it could all to be captured after everyone swore it couldn't be.
...just read the damn thing. Seriously.
The yards/pass is interesting, though. Michigan's passing attack has largely been characterized by stubborn running to force a favorable defensive alignment and then throwing over the top. A power running & big play passing attack. Yet in the air we average a full yard/attempt less than Ohio State.
Against the common "feature backs" listed, Ohio State gave up 369 yards on 81 carries (4.6 yards/carry). Michigan gave up 198 yards on 70 carries (2.8 yards/carry).
Thanks for playing. First reason OSU will beat Michigan on MOTSAG:
First, The Wolverines' defense has not been spread out all season long. It has not faced a single spread offense. Everyone knows about UM's success against a pounding rushing attack, but there's no way the Michigan defense can stay in the 4-3 and not get eaten alive by the spread. If UM stubbornly sticks with the 4-3, then it'll have linebackers trying to line up man-to-man against the deepest receiving corps in college football. When Sweatervest spreads out Carr's defense, Carr will have to make a choice: Go with the nickel to slow down the OSU pass game, which removes his advantage against the run; or stick with the 4-3 and hope that your backfield can cover OSU man-to-man.
(Emphasis in original.) Uh... what? No, seriously, that's deranged. Michigan has played the spread offenses of Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ball State, and Indiana. In those games they've consistently deployed a nickel package and have crooshed silly bug running backs. If you're scoring at home, over half of Michigan's opponents to date have run a spread. Ladies and gentlemen, Ohio State bloggers!
Blast from the past: A Daily article from the 1950 Snow Bowl. Sweet.
Many many links: Wojo (ESPN Wojo) on Ufer. The M Zone and Maize 'n' Brew on the growing crisis in Columbus. The Hoover Street Rag all went to Indiana and stuff. SMQB gets deep. Some MSNBC guy way smarter than HatGuy says Carr's legacy isn't on the line... but I hope we win anyway. Maisel on Henne. The Apologists' Den on game keys. USA Today on Woodley. Northwestern Scout guy says "I dunno". Joey rounds up Buckeye Youtube and asks "what is wrong with you people?" J. Brady McCullough -- Daily sports editor back in the day when I was a student -- tells us why he hates Ohio State. The AJC on Michigan preparation for the game; some good quotes on the difference between Ann Arbor and Pandemonium. Godzilla-Mothra undercard for the game is in doubt. At least Michigan and Ohio State have a common enemy: Nickelback. The Hoover Street Rag does some recappin'.
Buckeye Concerns: I didn't think Troy Smith's thumb thing was a big deal watching the Northwestern game. Some Buckeye fans are concerened, though. Awash in a sea of bad sports-talk-radio impersonation, Men of the Scarlet and Gray worry(-ies?) thusly:
Troy Smith's thumb. (I don't care what the "official" line is about his throwing hand being fine. Troy hasn't been able to throw the deep ball for three weeks now, the same number of weeks he's had his thumb and wrist taped. He's underthrowing every deep ball, forcing Ginn to slow down to get under it, effectively removing the weapon that torched OSU's opponents for the first half of the season.)
I dunno, Smith's throw to Ginn at the end of the first half versus Northwestern look AOK to me.
Meanwhile, The 614 notes that the Buckeye depth chart still lists Alex Boone behind Tim Schafer and, oddly, has Kirk Barton listed as "OR" with his backup. Probable relevance? Slight, though the 614 speculated Boone might be magically healed "after the first couple series." I doubt he misses any time, personally, if he's actually healthy. Also of note: with the Buckeyes going up against a lot of spread attacks lately, weakside linebackers John Kerr (disappointing senior) and Ross Homan (true freshman) haven't seen much time. Potential mismatch there?
Midwestern Bias noted something not many did in OSU's clobberation of the Wildcats:
Despite the turnovers, I was terrified by the way the defense was shredded in the first half. Not getting to the QB, falling for screens constantly, and generally poor tackling were all-too-prevalent in the first 30 minutes. Keith over at BC gained a little optimism by the defense holding NW to about 60 yards after intermission, but I'm still nonplussed to say the least: all season long, when competent opposing offenses have presented the threat of both the run and the pass, this defense has been brutal. What has saved them has been the proclivity of the Buckeye offense to jump out to sizable leads early in almost every game, as teams have had to abandon the run and commit to the pass. And as mediocre as the D has looked early in games against the run (and occasionally against the pass), they've throttled teams once they got to the point where they knew passes were coming and could pin their ears back and go apeshit rushing the QB, without having to worry about rushing plays. Will we jump out to a 2+ score lead early against Michigan? Doubtful. The Wolverines will play the entire game with all offensive options a plausible possibility on every single play, and I'm worried about our defense's ability to stop them.
(Seems a little negative... "brutal"? I would classify Texas as competent, even with McCoy in his second start, and seven (admittedly turnover-aided) points isn't bad.) I bring it up because I've watched OSU for a good portion of the year and if I say that I think their defense seems remarkably vulnerable for one of the nation's leaders in, well, everything I'm a big fat homer. But that guy's got a picture of Boban Savovic on his blog! Concerns are real!
Along those lines: Treasured commenter Colin drops science:
So you know how Football Outsiders had that article where they talked about run yardage distribution? I decided to go back (via Yahoo Sports) play by play and create a similar running total for three games for Mike Hart (ND, Wisc, PSU) and three games for the OSU defense (Tex, PSU, NW). I picked games based on perceieved competence of the run defenses faced. I probably should have thrown in Garret Wolfe too, but that would have probably made the Buckeye defense look worse.
To the numbers:
HART (80 documented carries)
min.yds 10.00% -15
0-4 yds 55.00% 82
5-9 yds 22.50% 112
10+ 12.50% 155
As expected, he rarely loses yards, but also doesn't break that many long gains. Notre Dame was by far his statistically most deviant game, with an actual five yard loss to his credit. Wisconsin was his most consistent, but least fruitful in terms of long games with PSU somewhere in the middle. I'm not overly surprised. ND's linebacker play wasn't that great and led to good gains, but their DL play that day was superb. Wiscy had little penetration, but cleaned up solidly. PSU had the best combo, but a weak DE which we exploited eventually. So how does OSU look?
tOSU (69 documented carries)
min.yds 8.70% -12
0-4 yds 50.72% 87
5-9 yds 23.19% 104
10+ 17.39% 191
I took off the last NW drive because it was clearly garbage time...it would have made OSU's third stringers look bad anyway. Whatevs.
So, it would appear that OSU likely has a fairly poor run defense against competent backs. Hunt, Young, Charles and Sutton are varyingly talented, but certainly at least solid and capable backs with at least decent run blocking at their disposal. The lack of negative plays to me suggests a lack of DL penetration against the run (which may well be part of the scheme) and, considering the additional numbers, a lack of discipline and tackling ability in the linebackers.
I think there's a little cherry-picking going on here (Why NW instead of Minnesota, who got shut down?), but that's a fairly large sample of Michigan's rushes against competent run defenses and Ohio State's attempts to defense competent rush offenses; it suggests that Hart can expect a slightly more proficient day than he had against ND/UW/PSU. Against those teams he rushed for 327 yards on 80 carries -- 4.1 YPC.
I think there's substantial evidence Michigan will be able to run.
Really unverified, but Cross Cyed thinks Jim Harbaugh will be the next coach at Iowa State. I scouted around the ISU Rivals and Scout sites, found a ton of message board posts I can't read discussing Harbaugh, and the ISU Rivals sites' equivalent of Inside The Fort featured a front-page picture of the man himself. At the very least he's a serious candidate and may be the front-runner.
This would be outstanding for Michigan. If Harbaugh succeeds at ISU he'll rocket towards the top of appealing head coach candidates when Carr retires.
Many highlights of the past:
You can't spell "College Football iyknh" without "Nick Lachey":
Uh-oh. Antonio Bass had another major surgery ten days ago and may miss next season as well. The probability he ever plays again is dropping rapidly. Makes you wonder if Greg Mathews' redshirt-burn and the wide receiver fiesta that is t he 2007 recruiting class were decision made with Bass' status in mind.
Etc.: Pictures of the proposed renovation from inside the stadium I still like it, but I wish they would give the stadium a bit of a buffer and add in some extra rows. Since the seats are going to widen, everyone's going to get moved around, and while I have no problem moving back a row or three if I'm suddenly shifted down ten yards there will be blood. Maisel on Bo; I heart Bo. Forde on potential rematch. EDSBS files a special report on the chaos and anarchy reigning in Columbus.
Oh my god... there is so much more. I'm just going to dump this installment out and continue gathering.
Excerpt time. There is only one sport in the world with a dogged devotion to the regular season comparable to that of college football: the other football. Fever Pitch is Nick Hornby's peerless book about fandom and the other football. This is as close a comparison I can find to what will transpire Saturday: 5/26/1989.
In all the time I have been watching football, twenty-three seasons, only seven teams have won the First Division Championship: Leeds United, Everton, Arsenal, Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and, a staggering eleven times, Liverpool. Five different teams came top in my first five years, so it seemed to me then that the League was something that came your way every once in a while, even though you might have to wait for it; but as the seventies came and went, and then the eighties, it began to dawn on me that Arsenal might never win the League again in my lifetime. That isn't as melodramatic as it sounds. Wolves fans celebrating their third championship in six years in 1959 could hardly have anticipated that their team would spend much of the next thirty years in the Second and Third Divisions; Manchester City supporters in their mid-forties when the Blues last won the League in 1968 are in their early seventies now.
Like all fans, the overwhelming majority of the games I have seen have been League games. And as most of the time Arsenal have had no real interest in the First Division title after Christmas, nor ever really come close to going down, I would estimate that around half of these games are meaningless, at least in the way that sportswriters talk about meaningless games. There are no chewed nails and chewed knuckles and screwed-up faces; your ear doesn't become sort from being pressed up hard against a radio, trying to hear how Liverpool are getting on; you are not, in truth, thrown into agonies of despair or eye-popping fits of ecstasy by the result. Any meanings such games throw up are the ones that you, rather than the First Division table, bring to them.
And after maybe ten years of this, the Championship becomes something you either believe in your you don't, like God. You concede that it's possible, of course, and you try to respect the views of those who have managed to remain credulous. Between approximately 1975 and 1989 I didn't believe. I hoped, at the beginning of each season; and a couple of times -- the middle of the 86/87 season, for example, when we were top for eight or nine weeks -- I was almost lured out of my agnostic's cave. But in my heart of hearts I knew that it would never happen, just as I knew that they were not, as I used to think when I was young, going to find a cure for death before I got old.
In 1989, eighteen years after the last time Arsenal had won the League, I reluctantly and foolishly allowed myself to believe it was indeed possible that Arsenal could win the Championship. They were top of the First Division between January and May; on the last full weekend of the Hillsborough-elongated season they were five points clear of Liverpool with three games left to play. Liverpool had a game in hand, but the accepted wisdom was that Hillsborough and its attendant strains would make it impossible for them to keep winning, and two of Arsenal's three game were at home to weaker teams. The other was against Liverpool, away, a game that would conclude the First Division series.
No sooner had I become a born-again member of the Church of the Latterday Championship Believers, however, than Arsenal ground to a catastrophic halt. They lost, dismally, at home to Derby; and in the final game at Highbury, against Wimbledon, they twice threw away the lead to draw 2-2 against a team they had destroyed 5-1 on the opening day of the season. It was after the Derby game that I raged into an argument with my partner about a cup of tea, but after the Wimbledon game I had no rage left, just a numbing disappointment. For the first time I understood the women in soap operas who have been crushed by love affairs before, and can't allow themselves to fall for somebody again: I had never before seen all that as a matter of choice, but now I too had left myself nakedly exposed when I could have remained hard and cynical. I wouldn't allow it to happen again, never, ever, and I had been a fool, I knew that now, just as I knew it would take me years to recover from the terrible disappointment of getting so close and failing.
It wasn't quite all over. Liverpool had two games left, against West Ham and against us, both at Anfield. Because the two teams were so close, the mathematics of it all were peculiarly complicated: whatever score Liverpool beat West Ham by, Arsenal had to halve. If Liverpool won 2-0, we would have to win 1-0, and so on. In the event Liverpool won 5-1, which meant that we needed a two-goal victory; "YOU HAVEN'T GOT A PRAYER, ARSENAL", was the back-page headline of the Daily Mirror.