|WHAT||Michigan at Iowa|
Iowa City, IA
November 12th, 2016
|THE LINE||Michigan –21.5|
|WEATHER||Clear, mid-30s, negligible wind|
This year's Iowa team is not like last year's Iowa 12-2 team... or is it? Last year the Hawkeyes scraped by a wide variety of iffy opponents en route to a blowout loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl that was over halfway through the first quarter. They finished 47th in S&P+.
This year's outfit is 5-4 with a loss to an FCS team; they are coming off a Stanford-style blowout against Penn State. S&P+ ranks them... 49th. Last year's record looks like the outlier placed against the last decade of Kirk Ferentz teams. At least his contract runs out soon.
This isn't a 12-0 team that's run into really bad luck. But neither is this MSU or Illinois. Iowa's not good, but they're not bad. Michigan's last four opponents range from 74th to 110th in S&P+; this will be Michigan's stiffest test since they ran the 9-10-11 gauntlet against Colorado, Wisconsin, and Penn State.
Run Offense vs Iowa
the outlaw Josey Jewell
There's been little consistency in Iowa's week to week performances on the ground. Minnesota and Wisconsin scuffled to around 3.5 YPC; Penn State gashed Iowa for almost 7; Northwestern and North Dakota State were slightly under 5. (Like everyone, they killed Purdue.)
This has not added up to pleasant fancystats; Iowa's 87th on the ground in S&P+, and it starts up front. Iowa's 118th in line yards and 126th in stuff rate. Iowa opponents rarely get TFLed; they rarely get stuffed. The Hawkeyes are better at preventing long runs but only around average in those stats. It's a very conservative run defense that ends up bleeding you down the field.
Iowa has six DL in heavy rotation; PFF thinks all of them are B- players against the run except Nathan Bazata, who gets a B+, and Faith Ekakitie, who gets a C-. MLB Josey Jewell is one of three star players on the defense and grades out as well as his reputation would suggest; he's one of the best linebackers Michigan will face this year. Nominal spacebacker Ben Niemann is another B- guy; Bo Bower is... not.
That would be good enough to be average or good-ish if the secondary didn't have to get involved. It does. It has not gone well. Ace:
With an iffy front seven against the run, safety play becomes paramount, and that's a problem for Iowa. Starters Brandon Snyder and Miles Taylor have combined for 25(!) missed tackles so far this season, per PFF. Neither was in a great situation here with Saquon Barkley hitting the edge at full speed, but Snyder (#37) takes a bad angle and Taylor (#19) does the same farther downfield and wipes out.
Iowa has stats characteristic of terrible safety play: they're fifth in the Big Ten in 10+ yard plays allowed, 8th in 20+ yard plays, and tied with Purdue at 12th in 30+ yard plays. This is a defense that won't get blown to Kingdom come like Maryland did; they'll bleed four or five yards at a time until a safety blows it.
Michigan's rush offense is somewhat hampered by youth and a lineup shuffle but the running backs have been on point much of the year and there are a blizzard of them. This won't be the PSU game because Michigan doesn't have a guy who will punish you as ruthlessly as a Saquon Barkley; it should be another game where Iowa gives up around 5 YPC.
KEY MATCHUP: CHRIS EVANS versus A SAFETY IN SPACE. Evans is Michigan's most explosive runner and the one most likely to leave an Iowa safety grasping air and thinking "oh no, not again."
[Hit THE JUMP for OH MAN THIS LINE against MICHIGAN'S DL is a THING I SAY EVERY WEEK NOW]
New uniforms, new defense, same Beilein. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
You're forgiven for not feeling basketball fever this year. The football team is in the midst of a magical season. The hoops squad has followed an outstanding three-year run with KenPom finishes of 74th and 50th the last two years. Tonight's season-opener is against the #275 team in the country, isn't on television, prefaces a huge road game for the football team, and falls during a week in which basketball hasn't been at the forefront of many people's minds.
Yet there is reason to be very excited about this season. Michigan brings back the core of last year's tournament team, one which overcame the loss of their best player to come within a half (and, yes, a subsequent game against a 14-seed) of making the Sweet Sixteen. While the Big Ten has a number of decent teams, it's unclear if any are capable of dominance.
And, of course, the program has undergone its biggest offseason of change since 2010. That summer, John Beilein overhauled his coaching staff after a 15-17 season. In came Lavall Jordan, the point guard whisperer, and Bacari Alexander, who molded Jordan Morgan into an impact big man. This summer, both Jordan and Alexander moved up to head coaching jobs, and Beilein had an opportunity to mold the staff as he saw fit again.
[Hit THE JUMP for the Billy Donlon overhaul, info on tonight's opener, and Alex Cook's projected Big Ten standings and all-conference teams.]
Whatever you do, #44, it is wrong.
Iowa runs a base Cover 2 defense, and Michigan has been adding lots of Cover 2 to their Cover 1/Cover 3 base. Meanwhile Iowa’s offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, is well known for favoring a simple, West Coast-style passing offense that creates easy reads and, at the very least, open receivers underneath to dump it to.
If you’re a football guy already you can almost certainly tune this one out. If you’re not, this is a really easy thing to see on the field that can make you sound knowledgeable when you point it out to your friends.
This is an offensive passing concept that gives the quarterback two routes that cross above and below a defender’s zone, close enough to stay in view but vertically spaced enough (12-15 yards) that the flat defender can’t cover either by splitting the difference. The quarterback then throws whichever route the high-low’d defender covered.
I say “flat defender” instead of “cornerback” because it’s not always a CB who has that zone.
[After THE JUMP: lots of ways to stretch a man’s zone.]
SPONSOR NOTES: A gentleman named Matt passes this along:
Just picked up the UFR and saw your note about non-astroturfed comments.
I'd like to add another - I just bought a house using Homesure as our lender (because of a bad experience with our previous lender and the adds on the blog, of course). Matt and his crew (Amy and Gina) were supremely professional, knowledgeable and effective.
Without exaggeration: every other real-estate professional related to the sale of our old house and the purchase of our new house dropped the ball somewhere (losing documents, failing to transcribe information, etc...) - and Matt & Co. were there to bail them out at each turn. This iteration of house buying was shockingly easy, and it was due in great part to Matt's expertise, acumen, and responsiveness.
'Thank you' to you and your fellow bloggists for turning my wife and I on to his company.
This guy said bloggists so you know he's a real person.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Maryland was mostly a rote spread team; they did spend a big chunk of the day in this Rich-Rod-esque super wide formation. There are two WRs barely on-screen to the bottom, and you can see the two guys lined up outside the numbers.
This was an effort to clear the box and limit the things Michigan could do; it was reasonably successful.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 60 snaps before Maryland's final uncharted drive, and as per usual the starting secondary—including Peppers—got all 60. Gedeon missed one snap.
After that there was a lot of rotation. Mike McCray only got 36 snaps due to a minor injury and some iffy play; Devin Bush got 28 in his stead. Michigan eased off first team DL snaps: Charlton, Glasgow, Wormley, Hurst, Mone, and Godin all got between a third and a half of available snaps; Winovich was your DL leader with 40 and Rashan Gary was close behind with 36.
One item of note in the secondary: Lavert Hill got 17 snaps, more than Watson(14) and that competition appears to be on. Kinnel, Metellus, and Hudson all got around ten snaps, with Kinnel the guy getting PT during non-garbage time, insofar as that existed in this game.
[After THE JUMP: edge edge edge edge edge edge.]
[ed-Seth: Thanks again to Matt Gase, Michigan grad and CEO of Eat Well Embrace Life, for being a most excellent sponsor of Joe Pichey’s most excellent recipes. How I’d rank them: 1) Sriracha Carrot, 2) Yellow Lentil, 3) Edamame, 4) Black Bean, 5) Three-Peppers (no relation), 6) Wasabi Edamame, 7) White Bean, 8) Red lentil, 9) Beet, 10) Any other hummus. I don’t like beets. My wife keeps buying it because her list is almost my list in reverse.]
Over the last few years, I’ve developed a strong taste for lamb. At first, I wasn’t a big fan. I’m not sure whether it was the texture or the strong flavor, but it took awhile to grow on me. Now, I try and work it into my tailgates whenever possible. The one thing I notice is how it’s either gone within 5 minutes or barely touched. It’s one of those “All or nothing” meats. I rarely fin d someone that is SO-SO on lamb. They either love it and can’t get enough or they turn and run. I hope this recipe helps change some minds on lamb and you can sneak it in on your next tailgate. Typically, I grill my lamb to a rare or medium rare, but wanted to try something new. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so fingers crossed. I cooked this one like a pork butt and pulled it for lamb nachos, street lamb tacos and shredded lamb sliders.
- Boneless Leg of Lamb (4 - 5 lbs)
- Pita bread or Pita Chips
- Eat Well Embrace Life Hummus (Sriracha Carrot Hummus)
- Kalamata Olives
- Feta Cheese
- Pico De Gallo
- Slider Buns
Lamb Au Jus :
- 2 cups Beef Broth
- 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
- 2 TBS Hot Sauce
- 2 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
[Hit THE JUMP for salt and garlic and meat]
Things actually went pretty well for Maryland. They piled up 367 yards at a 5.6 yards-per-play clip. Their average start was on their own 25.1-yard line, which is a couple of yards behind opponents’ average starting spot against Michigan, but their success rate was a very respectable 35%. Maryland had four players who had 30+-yard receptions on the day, including one that went for 47 yards. They even picked up 19 first downs, a surprising 12 of which came via the pass.
All of that didn’t lead to much in the way of points, of course. Maryland finished with three points on three scoring opportunities; their doinked field goal and tunnel screen that got tackled at the one-yard line as time ran out in the first half could both have been converted and it still wouldn’t have mattered considering the way Michigan’s offense was operating on Saturday.
Michigan averaged 10 yards per play. They had 10 drives and posted 10 scoring opportunities. They averaged 5.9 points per scoring opportunity. Their success rate was 65%, they picked up 31 first downs (including a 14-14 split passing and rushing), and they finished +2 in turnover margin. They were, in effect, unstoppable.
Maryland had a pretty good game relative to what opponents usually do against Michigan’s defense; it once again came mostly via a couple big busts and didn’t make a big impact on the defense’s overall stats. The story of Michigan’s season to this point isn’t how dominant the defense has been, but how far the offense has come. Last season the defense was statistically great enough to prop up (until that one game) the middling offense.
This year, Michigan’s defense has spent most of the season atop the S&P+ rankings and in the top 10 of defensive FEI (they’re currently ranked sixth). The offense’s success rate and explosiveness (IsoPPP) have steadily climbed, their average starting field position has been the best in the nation for a while, and the offense as a whole is now ranked eighth per S&P+. According to FEI, the offense is the best in the nation; they were ranked third before Maryland, and they climbed multiple spots after they game in every category offensive FEI tracks. This is not 1997 and it is not 2015. Michigan finally has an offense that should worry opposing coaches in its own right. They happen to couple it with the best defense in the country. It’s going to be an interesting two months.
[After THE JUMP: more on Maryland, Connelly’s Five Factors, combing through FEI, and looking at Iowa’s stren—looking at Iowa]