I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
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Charted: CA, WTF
In retrospect, this probably wasn't the best game to watch to scout Nebraska considering Northwestern's litany of injuries—by early in the fourth quarter, they were down to their fourth-string running back in a tie game—and their spread-and-shred style. However, I wanted to get a look at Nebraska in their own beaten-up state: Taylor Martinez sat out, as did both starting guards (Spencer Long, their best OL, and Jake Cotton), starting tight end (Jake Long [NTJL]), and two of their top four wide receivers (Jameel Turner and Kenny Bell, the latter of whom started but exited early). I mean... this is a battered unit:
When redshirt freshman receiverhauled in the tipped Hail Mary pass on the game's final play, Nebraska had five players on the field who'd started the season on offense.
Those were running back, wide receiver Quincy Enunwa and offensive linemen Jeremiah Sirles, Andrew Rodriguez, and Cole Pensick.
Two walk-ons, quarterbackand wide receiver Sam Burtch, were in on the final play. A third, wide receiver Brandon Reilly, was playing earlier in the series.
Given that Martinez is out for Saturday, as are both guards, and Bell, Turner, and Long are all questionable to play, this game gives us the best gauge of how the Huskers will look offensively. Before I get to that, the short recap of the game: Nebraska moved the ball well, outgaining Northwestern 472-376, but the game came down to a hail mary thanks to four interceptions thrown by Husker quarterbacks—the offense only put up three touchdowns, as a pick six accounted for their only second-half score that wasn't a complete prayer. Poor damn Northwestern.
Ameer Abdullah is Nebraska's top offensive weapon, arguably regardless of injuries.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Hybrid. Nebraska mostly operates from the shotgun or pistol; they'll switch it up and go I-form, primarily to get the running game going.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A combination. Nebraska runs plenty of zone read; they'll also use pulling linemen and POWER concepts from any formation.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Nebraska varied their tempo a fair amount in this game. They can't go full-blown Indiana Light Speed while starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback; they'll still work in plenty of no-huddle, even if they often take their time once they rush to the line.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. has been the starter in place of Martinez despite struggling greatly in the passing game; this is largely because he's fast and nimble, allowing the Huskers to focus on their option attack. Ron Kellogg III has seen time in every game since Martinez went down, as well; he moves around decently in the pocket but isn't the same downfield running threat—when he's out there, Nebraska doesn't really utilize the option. Armstrong gets a solid 7; Kellogg gets a 4.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
ACCIDENTALLY APROPOS ERROR NOTES: Since the NCAA decided to replace their stat pages with much worse stat pages I've been using ESPN's items—still worse than the thing the NCAA just replaced but better. Their drive pages have been consistently erroneous all year, but my irritation just evaporated thanks to this magically accurate error in re: Michigan's drive immediately following Taylor's interception:
CORRECT, intern or robot or whoever. Correct. Except that drive started at the MSU 41, but we forgive all transgressions for spiritual correctness. The best kind of correctness.
FORMATION NOTES: So I just called MSU's stuff 4-3 over but I should point out that everyone is within ten yards of the LOS on damn near every snap. This is M's opener.
This was completely typical. For the most part, MSU did not try to match corners, they just ran their D. They would occasionally move guys down and whatnot, but mostly this was like watching magic. MSU has acquired a variety of guys big time programs didn't want and plays them more aggressively than the most athletic defense in the country, whoever that might be, and apparently no one can do anything about it. It is boggling.
MSU did on occasion flip to man press on the corners; this is designated with "press."
While it was the same personnel, when MSU shaded a guy outside the hash I called this a nickel. As always, with opponent formations I'm not trying to describe personnel.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner until last three plays, Toussaint almost the whole way save one, maybe two snaps on which Derrick Green didn't seem any better at pass blocking.
Line was Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield with some limited exceptions featuing Kalis entering as a sixth OL. Paskorz got some snaps at TE; Butt got most of the inline snaps. When Funchess was inline it is noted below; he was inline for every play on Michigan's final drive but mostly split out. No Dileo; WRs were Gallon, Chesson, and a little bit of Jackson.
[After THE JUMP: otters, so many otters]
I believe this photo was taken before the game (Upchurch)
Let’s try this again after accidentally deleting the original version.
1 The Six Factors
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
Gave up a few points in field position, that could be worse…
Actually did better getting early conversions than MSU, that’s encouraging…
Lost the bonus yards, that’s a bit troubling…
Oh wow, that average third down distance is awful…
And that adjusted 3rd down conversion is after adjusting for the 12.7 average…
At this point the red zone doesn’t even matter.
When it went bad on Saturday, it went really bad. Take out the final two drives and my prediction of holding the MSU offense a touchdown below field position is about spot on. Michigan State owned the world when Michigan had the ball. The 12.7 average is the third worst number on the season for any team in any game. It was not good.
2 Individual Performances
QBs: Points Added (opp. adjusted), Win Percent Added (Weekly National Rank)
Devin Gardner: +2, –4% (43)
Connor Cook: +1, +12% (54)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: +0.2, –3% (n/a)
Jeremy Langford: –1.5, +3% (72)
Jeremy Gallon: +4.5, +11% (101)
Bennie Fowler: +7.2, +16% (32)
[Game chart of impending doom followed by doom, follwed by more doom.]
This GIS went much better than expected.
This feature on Wilton Speight has perhaps the least informative headline ever; that's okay, though, because it comes from The Goochland Gazette, and [keels over laughing].
Okay, pull yourself together, post rapturous blockquote:
Standing in a huddle on the sideline with his teammates just before kickoff, he towers over his running backs and offensive line by a good five inches. He gestures confidently, like a conductor fully in charge of an orchestra, wholly in tune with and in charge of his surroundings.
The next thing that strikes your attention is that beautiful spiral. Tight and wind-resistance, he hums the pigskin all over the yard, from sideline-to-sideline, completing every route in the playbook - hitches, curls, posts, outs, you name it — with uniform ease. Comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger are a given, not only because of his 6’6, 230 pound frame, but also due to his surprisingly nimble feet and his innate ability to prolong plays and spin productive downs out of would-be sacks.
CA ATH JuJu Smith was always considered a longshot to end up at Michigan, even though he'd previously scheduled an official visit for the Ohio State game. After very positive visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and new contender Oregon, Smith dropped the Wolverines from his list, citing their less-than-stellar performance:
JuJu Smith said he thinks Michigan is a great school, but not a fit for him. Cancelled his visit said losses caused them to drop on his list
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) November 5, 2013
Before PANIC sets in, please note that this is relatively unusual; yes, of course winning helps recruiting, but normally a team's win/loss record affects the next class more than the current one (in this case, Michigan isn't doing itself any favors for 2015). If you click through to Tom's tweet, you'll note that he responds to someone stating that Da'Shawn Hand may feel the same way with a straightforward "No, I don't think that." Along those same lines...
There is no way that I would change my mind over 1 loss, the future is bright! Go blue 〽
— Drake Harris (@drizzygetbusy01) November 5, 2013
Now, does Michigan's demoralizing loss to State potentially affect 2015 in-state recruits like Mike Weber, Josh Alabi, and Brian Cole? Absolutely. To Michigan kids who've now seen MSU take five of the last six games, the Spartans are now the state's top football program—and the most stable one. That doesn't mean they won't consider U-M—the flip side to this is a recruit sees plenty of opportunity to help bring a traditionally strong program back to the top—but at the same time, it obviously doesn't help.
Hand's Final Visit
Da'Shawn Hand's final official visit comes on Saturday when he watches 4-4 Florida take on Vanderbilt; while the Gators were once considered a potential dark horse, a season even uglier than Michigan's has robbed them of any momentum, especially with coach Will Muschamp squarely on the hot seat (while a team's record doesn't have a huge effect on most recruits, the coach recruiting them potentially not having a job next year usually does). Rivals's Mike Farrell, who's the recruiting reporter in closest regular contact with Hand, says in his latest column that he thinks Michigan holds a slight edge over Alabama ($). It's hard to see Florida jumping into the mix with Hand's announcement coming a week from today.
The M Block's Eric Rutter pens a lengthy, quote-filled feature on 2014 commit Chase Winovich, covering his season, playing both ways this year, his friendship with fellow Pennsylvanian Sterling Jenkins (both plan to visit for the OSU game), and his feelings on Hand and Malik McDowell:
Chase then went on to share his thoughts on how Michigan will close the 2014 class, focusing specifically on defensive line prospects Malik McDowell and DaShawn Hand. "I have a gut feeling that Malik McDowell will go to Michigan. I'm not to sold on [DaShawn] Hand yet, but people seem pretty, pretty, really, really confident that they know their stuff and say he's headed to Michigan. So I'm going to trust them and say, yeah, I hope he's going to Michigan. But like I said, I definitely have that gut feeling on Malik McDowell." This would put the finishing touches on a strong class that ranks among the best in the country for 2014.
Winovich is apparently taking his recruiting guru cues from Sam Webb.
If you've got a 247 subscription, Clint Brewster looks at five candidates to be Michigan's next 2015 commit ($).
247 released their Crystal Ball rankings; I'm currently ranked #40 (out of 194, so... I'll take it!) for 2014 and, thanks to Michigan's early efforts, am all the way up at #16 for the class of 2015.
About last week:
Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But the light only touches Ann Arbor.
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24 (W)
Recap: Had the Michigan game gone just a liiiiiittle differently, this would have been a frustrating result. Nebraska would have been Michigan's biggest remaining hurdle to a
Leaders Victors Legends Bo (NNTB) Division crown, and pulling one out of their ass like this would have been rather disappointing. Instead, the world just sucks and everything is terrible, so what the hell, FAT GUY HAIL MARY.
Nebraska outgained Northwestern 472-326, but turned the ball over four times and found themselves down 3 when the above hilarity happened. They actually faced a 4th and 15 at their own 24 with under a minute left, and Ameer Abdullah took a dump-off and broke about 4 tackles to gain 16 yards.
Despite the victory, Nebraska’s quarterback situation is a bit of a crap shoot. Taylor Martinez has a strained everything, and didn’t play in this one. Excluding the Fat Guy Hail Mary, Tommy Anderson Jr. and Ron Kellogg III combined for 21/41 for 228 yards (5.6 YPA), one touchdown, and four INTs. Armstrong is more mobile (he gained 69 yards on 17 carries), but his arm was rather Acme Rocket-like; among his three turnovers, he threw one of the worst picks you’ll ever see with about two and a half minutes left deep in its own territory with the game tied.
All things considered, the offense was still very productive, but it’s hard to say if the turnovers can be extricated from that productivity given the quarterback situation. Martinez is reportedly out for the Michigan game, though, which is a significant advantage for Michigan; Nebraska is going to have to tip its hand based on which QB is under center. If Armstrong is out there, I think you’ll see Jake Ryan out there on the assumption that Nebraska will be going run-heavy, whereas if Kellogg is out there Michigan will almost certainly be in a nickel.
This team is as frightening as: Oh hell everything is frightening now, even if it isn’t objectively frightening. Fear Level = 6
Michigan should worry about: Ameer Abdullah. He’s is already over 1100 yards on the season (or about negative-23 Michigan/MSU games worth), and is averaging 7.1 yards per tote. He's a home run threat who can also be an effective every-down back. With Martinez out last week, Abdullah got 27 touches, and there’s no reason to believe that number will decrease this week.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Nebraska’s Defensive FEI is 50th in the country… which is actually two spots BETTER than their Offensive FEI. They’ve put up some video game stats, but mostly against terrible defenses. They have played three defenses that are currently ranked in the top 93 in Defensive FEI (#23 UCLA, #30 Northwestern and #46 Minnesota), and have only averaged under 24 points per game in those three matchups. By comparison, they averaged 47 ppg against the #94, #95, #103, and #106 defenses and an FCS opponent. Michigan is statistically the best defense Nebraska will have faced this year.
When they play Michigan: Hurray for home games. Home games are good games. Home games don’t make me throw things.
Next game: @ Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: Poor Damn Northwestern]
- Drew Dileo and Keith Heitzman will be back Saturday. Brennen Beyer will start at SDE.
- AJ Williams will "be in the lineup."
- De'Veon Smith's demotion was to send a message. Still has a chance to earn his way back into the depth chart.
“Had a good practice yesterday. We expect it with the way this group has been. Most Tuesdays have been very good. It was good. The energy was good. The enthusiasm for the game of football was good. And in terms of preparation we got a lot done.”
Devin’s status physically? Has his leadership been tested?
“Oh I think all the leadership is always tested when you have adversity. He did a great job yesterday. Sore? Yeah. But every guy in the game of football across America who’s playing is going to be sore. He went out and attacked the day.”
Were there any lessons for him from last week?
“I think there’s always lessons. For him, maybe there’s some fundamental lessons when you look at technique that he can take home and learn from. I think leadership-wise I think there’s always those things we can build on ... I would think he keeps growing as a quarterback. That’s part of it. Being in those pressurized situations, made some awfully good throws. Obviously the Nascar series at the end of the game, late, showed a lot. He got them up even though he got him – he kept moving.”