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
By now we know that Michigan is like that beautiful, smart, accomplished girlfriend who’s also unpredictable. One minute she can be flashing you a wicked smile, while discussing quantum physics with your friends. The next, she might throw up drunkenly at your parents’ house. Or simulate fellatio with your roommate.
What is Michigan State? They were pegged by Mikey Hart a few years back and there is no better description. They are the quintessential little brother with the chip on his shoulder. You want to shoot a few hoops; he goes after you one-on-one, with the same dirty viciousness the NFL hallucinates Ndamukong Suh to possess. Little brother burns with those noogies past. The undy-grundy you gave him in front of his friends. The time you blamed the broken window on him. If you bump him unintentionally, he tries to screw off your head like a bottlecap.
The perfect coach for this team Mark Dantonio. Yes, I made plenty of fun of Nick Satan, but ultimately he was not the right fit. Dantonio, on the other hand, is the Spartans’ soulmate. He coaches with righteous fury far disproportionate to the imagined offense. He’s the kind of guy, if your dog wandered into his yard, would chain him in your basement for three days and starve him before releasing him into the woods. No wait; that was last year. Now he would behead your dog, place the head in your child’s bed, and post a video of himself tossing your dog’s body on a bonfire - with his face blurred out like an amateur porn clip. Then he’d blame it all on your child for not controlling the dog.
In contrast, Brady Hoke usually does not betray much more than a look of mild concern, as if someone at the cookout took the last cheeseburger he secretly coveted. Whereas Dantonio will fire up his team with tales of exaggerated slights and disrespects, Hoke & crew will approach this game with business-like dispatch.
The question for Michigan is not which “girlfriend” shows up against the Spartans; we already know they both will. The question is whether she can tame herself just enough to come home victorious. Sure, we know she’ll fluff Sparty a couple of times just to keep him aroused; but at the end of the game, I predict she’ll be true. And as a happy bonus, she’ll bring along Sparty’s girlfriend to join in on the fun.
Just don’t tell Dantonio where the party is. He’ll torch the place and then sue for mental cruelty.
MICHIGAN 27, MICHIGAN STATE 19
By Heiko Yang
Wow. You really thought that through, huh. Remind me never to piss you off or let you near my dog.
Okay I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I’m scared. No, not about Nick’s sociopathic tendencies. I’m scared about this game because, well, you know … Double A-gap, Trash Tornado, 60 minutes of injuring the quarterback, etc. etc. Whatever it was that happened in Spartan Stadium two years ago left a lot of scars, and I’ve spent most of the week bracing myself for horrible PTSD because unfortunately I’m heading back up to East Lansing today. For three and a half hours this afternoon, I’m going to hang out in a happy place inside my head while I watch Michigan play like crap and lose. It will be great fun.
I hate being such a downer. I’ve actually been pretty optimistic about every game throughout the first half of the season despite all the issues the Wolverines have had since they sold their soul to beat Notre Dame. Today I’m just having a hard time finding anything to be positive about. All I’ve got is a long list of things that are decidedly not in favor of Michigan’s chances for victory. Let’s consider a few of them:
Team who rushes for more yards wins in this game. I hate, hate, hate when this gets mentioned, but I think the p-value on this statistic is too low to dismiss. Putting actual logic aside, let’s entertain this for a moment: Michigan State will probably rush 40 times for a little less than 150 yards. In what scenario could Michigan outgain that number? There’s no way Fitz and Derrick Green are combining for more than 100 against the Spartans defense; 50-70 is much more realistic. At least half of the rushing production will probably have to come from Gardner. Blergh, right? Don’t get me wrong. I think Gardner is perfectly capable of doing that with the right game plan and play calling, but in what universe do you see Michigan’s coaching staff willing to run their dual-threat QB against an elite defense on the road (see 2012 Alabama)?
Rain makes corn, and corn makes whiskey. Rain also makes it really hard to catch the ball, which will make me want to drink whiskey.
Michigan can’t handle defenses that aggressively key on Michigan’s tendencies. The next time Michigan executes a proper constraint against an opponent that over-defends a base play will be the first time. That may be an exaggeration, but I don’t think I’m too far off. And no, I’m not bringing this up because I’m mad about bubble screens.
Looking at Michigan’s offense over the past couple of seasons, it’s pretty evident Michigan doesn’t do much to make defenses pay for cheating, at least not within the framework of a single game. If the opponent figures out how to overplay the inverted veer, for instance, Michigan doesn’t have an answer other than to check into a completely different play, to which there will be something else the opponent can key on – like audibling into the pistol formation, which is something only Indiana’s defense would fail to recognize as a laughably obvious speed option.
Michigan’s preferred strategy is to add wrinkles on a week to week basis, adding new plays that build on what they did the previous week and that are designed to take advantage of how they think new opponents will prepare for what’s on film. Like if Michigan faked the bubble last week, they might actually throw it this week in anticipation that the defense will ignore the slot receiver (fingers crossed (like so hard)). Michigan wants opponents to play “guess what we’ll do next,” but it doesn’t work so well when the opposing defensive coordinator is a good guesser or is at least capable of making the right adjustments early in a game. By all accounts, Pat Narduzzi seems pretty good at both.
Michigan does not win MGoCovered road games. In the Brady Hoke era, the MGoCrew has covered six road games: 2011 MSU, 2012 Alabama, 2012 Notre Dame, 2012 Nebraska, 2012 OSU, 2013 Penn State. None of us know what it’s like to leave an opponent’s press box feeling like anything other than total shit. The long trip back to Ann Arbor with some variation of “wtf” as the only topic of conversation has become a bona fide MGoTradition. The tradeoff, I suppose: Michigan is undefeated at home. Woooo. Everyone feels unshitty about this, yes?
See you all in Evanston in a couple weeks!
Michigan 17, Michigan State 24
"...he has no idea Charles Woodson can jump 15 feet in the air." — actual call, not really hyperbole.
When I posted the above GIF on Twitter today, someone pointed out that the icing on the cake was Dhani Jones (#55) body-slamming the MSU receiver on the sideline. I've watched that play literally hundreds of times since it first happened (gulp) 16 years ago; this is the first time I've ever noticed Dhani's hit. Watching a purportedly-mortal human take flight can be distracting.
[Hit THE JUMP for Braylonfest.gif, Desmond Howard doing Desmond Howard things, Manningham FTW, and more.]
Other stuff here: Ace VEQ!
irrelevant is just a state of mind
|WHAT||Michigan vs Michigan State|
East Lansing, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM Eastern
November 2nd, 2013
|THE LINE||M +6|
|WEATHER||mid 40s, scattered showers, 10 MPH wind|
Michigan State is a version of what they were last year: a boa-constrictor defense paired with mincing foppery on the other side of the ball. According to FEI, both units are marginally worse than they were last year, but the eye test and various other stats suggest that the defense has taken a frightening step forward. They lead the Big Ten in yards per play allowed by almost a full yard over Wisconsin.
The offense seemed to have taken a huge step backwards when MSU could barely get a first down against luminaries like WMU and South Florida early in the year, but of late have put the hammer down on awful defenses Indiana and Illinois (Illinois is last in YPPA in the league and 114th nationally), struggling against Purdue in between. The jury remains out as to whether Michigan State can move the ball against an actual defense. Yes, Michigan has one of those.
Run Offense vs Michigan State
It doesn't look good. This year's top rushing output against the MSU defense was Indiana going for 92 yards on 27 carries. With 64 of those coming on a defensive bust in the first quarter the down-to-down pattern was misery even for the lights-out Hoosier offense.
ND went for 82 yards on 32 carries, if you'd like to compare that to Michigan. While MSU hasn't played anyone who's particularly good at scoring touchdowns other than Indiana, Iowa's 16 carries for 23 yards is a massive outlier for them, as was Illinois's 21 carries for 25 yards. I'm not even bothering to separate sacks here, because… I mean… the numbers speak for themselves. MSU's leading the country in YPC allowed with 2.1, which is the best number anyone's put up since TCU's 2008 outfit allowed 1.7. That is obviously pending a number of opponents better than what they've seen so far. Even so, prepare to be boarded. You know this.
State accomplishes these things by crowding the box with linebackers and safeties. They play "quarters" most of the time, which mgouser Colin detailed last year. Though it sounds super-conservative (cover 4 == 4 deep, right?) in fact MSU plays a hyperaggressive defense featuring tons of press coverage and safeties that start ten yards off the line of scrimmage even on downs like second and 16.
Ohio State tried this last year, busted a ton of stuff, gave up big plays, and has retreated into a less aggressive scheme this year. Michigan State is pulling it off, obviously. A lot of that has to do with the guy pictured above, Max Bullough, a senior who is the proverbial QB of the defense. Denicos Allen is a slashing, slightly undersized blitzer next to him; Michigan has had extreme issues trying to deal with him the past two years.
If there's a weak link in the MSU D, it is the defensive tackles. They've shuffled some guys around and are now going with Micajah Reynolds and sixth-year senior Tyler Hoover. At times this year they've been beaten out of the hole and allowed opponents to grind out some runs—South Florida in particular managed this. But with those safeties screwed down and utterly reliable linebackers behind, the payoff is low even if you do get some movement on the interior. And Michigan is doubtful to do so consistently.
For Michigan's part, Fitzgerald Toussaint's averaging 3.7 yards a pop. To pick a guy you saw and were totally unimpressed with, Minnesota's David Cobb is at 5.2. The feature back for Michigan State's supposedly terrible offense, Jeremy Langford, is at 4.7. This is in large part because of 27 for 27, but when five of your seven opponents to date are CMU, Akron, UConn, Minnesota, and Indiana there is plenty of room to obscure that; Michigan has not.
I am only telling you what you already know because your eyes have told you so. Stats are so very unnecessary here, aren't they? Michigan can't run worth a damn. The frantic offensive line shuffling: QED. Whatever assumptions Michigan made about their ability to do things in the run-up to the season have been disproven emphatically, and now they're going up against what the guys who try to smooth out schedule differences say is the best defense in the country.
Michigan's best hope here is for low frequency. I'm on board with unleashing the dragon here; MSU dares you to test them deep and Michigan has a couple of guys who can do that in different ways. That means buckets of max protection from twins sets and play action, which necessarily means sometimes Michigan's going to have to plow into the line.
With AJ Williams suspended Michigan has three options: spread it out and throw first, play Jordan Paskorz in the Williams role, or just say screw it and play six offensive linemen. It says here that the first and third will take equal measure with Paskorz an occasional alternative, and Michigan won't seem to miss the absence. Williams hadn't run a route longer than five yards all year and has not caught a pass; he was essentially a sixth OL anyway.
Key Matchup: Borges versus Coming Up With Something Clever. Michigan's not going to get much straight up; they'll hope to bust a big play to keep the numbers respectable. The aggressive nature of the MSU D can lead big plays for the opponent, and the right counter is the best way to unlock that since it doesn't seem like MSU's going to bust on its own. The "right counter" is nothing you've put on film before.
[Hit THE JUMP for EXPLODES IN ALL DIRECTIONS]
Full name: The Paul Bunyan Governor of Michigan's Wife Was
Going to Throw It Out Otherwise Trophy.
People don't get this rivalry, why the board seems to get obsessed with it, and why it means so much to take home a tacky statue from an off-highway store in West Branch.
Those Michigan fans not from Michigan, or from a part of Michigan that regularly sprays for Spartans, are often suggesting a bigger second rivalry than this one. They'll grant that game's importance goes as far as winning the Bo Division, with the Dantonio-fueled addition of protecting the purity of the game from one if its biggest dicks (see: press conferences devoted entirely to asking Michigan coaches how they plan to defeat inevitably bad officiating).
|Besides, the guy who went 4/4 vs. MSU can talk all he wants.|
That's because this thing is really for the mitten-staters: those who know what it means to be thrown into the back seat of the station wagon, to defend the middle seat arm rest, to decide who can put whose feet where, and fight to ensure the integrity of fart justice for five hours of pure Michigan hell.
Mercury Hayes, I feel you, man. That's a diary from a former MSU student who has maintained his Michigan fanhood despite four years and assorted change of East Lansinginity. There was another from ttifiblog (formerly Blue Seoul) that went into some of the stuff that'll get retread this weekend, like Narduzzi's quote, and MSU's fake mascot, and Gholston. Let's not leave out the great sin of shopping at non-campus outlets, because when 80% of a state's fans choose one local school over the other, it must mean rooting for a place you didn't graduate from isn't okay (somebody please inform the Ohioans).
I think this rivalry is done a disservice when glib reporters only focus on that time a 22-year-old made a 50-year-old analogy, and a 50-year-old was a total baby about it. Rivalries aren't just as base as hate; they're analogues for human relationships, with all of the sameness and quirks those have. In this case it's two brothers close enough in age to be competitive, and young enough to not have the maturity to appreciate each other.
The inferiority complex is bred out of inferiority; the smugness is bred out of superiority that most of us had little to do with earning. All shit talk is good and encouraged, so long as you remember nobody really believes any of it. Of course it's immature! Rivalries for athletes are motivation to excel; rivalries for sports fans are about finding an outlet for our primal child.
Weeklies. The FEI chart from dnak now includes past opponents. Suggestion: turn it 45 degrees: teams higher vertically are better, and left-right says whether it's the offense or defense doing the pulling:
MSU is off the charts defensively and just under okay on offense, which puts them with Wisconsin and Ohio State among the conference elite. Michigan's about equal with Notre Dame and a clear 2nd tier in the Big Ten. When you look at this and realize State played Illinois instead of Penn State and Purdue instead of Ohio State you get a better appreciation for how vastly different our route to Indianapolis is than theirs.
Turnover Analysis says MSU puts the lie to the "turnovers are random" assertion: their safe offense and high-pressure defense put them far to the good despite recovering just 17% of their fumbles. Purdue remains an outlier of awfulness. MSU miniprogram should have included criminal records.
Etc. Bentley event the Friday night before Nebraska.
Beards Require No Context Or Reason
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) October 30, 2013
Tim did this because he's still a blogger at heart, obviously.
Consider that George Campbell's treat, accompanied by this nifty trick:
Da'Shawn And The Battle Of Academic Departments
As more details emerge from Da'Shawn Hand's official visit to Alabama, it's clear that (1) the Tide are very much in the running, and (2) Professor Needs A Raise has a Southern counterpart, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"The engineering dean is the man!" Hand exclaimed. "He is that guy! I met with the business professor too and he was good. The academic support is amazing. They have individual tutors and that's good to help you manage your time."
In talking with TomVH, Hand revealed this his decision may in fact come down to his choice of major ($):
Hand says that if he wants to go into sports management it will be Michigan, and if he wants to go into engineering it will be Alabama. Florida offers both, so he will be spending time with professors in both fields on that trip to see if that has any impact on his decision.
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound defensive end says for right now he’s just focused on Florida, though, and will head out to Gainesville on November 9.
One of the Michigan coaches may want to alert him to this.
In other pursuits of 2014 blue-chip prospects, Oregon has become a major player for CA ATH JuJu Smith after he visited Eugene in place of a planned trip to Ole Miss; he told Rivals's Adam Gorney($) that the Ducks are "another top team to beat." Smith already had very positive official visit experiences at Notre Dame and Ohio State, has USC and UCLA under consideration, and has two officials left: Alabama (vs. LSU) and Michigan (vs. OSU). With that much competition, it's tough to peg Michigan as anything but a longshot, even with whatever edge they might get from receiving Smith's final official.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the 2014 running back situation—there seems to be a situation—plus Freddy Canteen makin' moves, evaluations of a couple M commits, and more.]