MSU Notches First Major Result
Win over Oregon is the next step for Michigan State
Michigan State 31, Oregon 28.
Even though Michigan State has gone 24-3 in the past two seasons with two major bowl wins (Rose in ‘13, Cotton in ‘14), the Spartans have been absent from the national title discussion for the most part – in both 2013 and 2014, they lost games in September. In the era of the playoff, last season’s loss to Oregon didn’t preclude MSU from national contention, but the loss to Ohio State effectively ended the title hopes for the 2014 team; in 2013, starting the season unranked might have been the biggest demerit for State – their loss to Notre Dame made it impossible to finish in the top two.
This wonderful home-and-home between Oregon and Michigan State may wind up providing definitive results for teams central to the playoff discussion in December: Oregon tripped up against Arizona at home last season but won the conference easily; Michigan State has a far more formidable roadblock than any faced by UO last year – a road contest against Ohio State. Ultimately, that game will be the game for State, but they’re one for two in relevant results: aside from road games at Michigan and Nebraska, Michigan State’s ferocious lines will give the team a large margin for error in most games. As for that Ohio State game (scheduled for November 21st), it’s hard to avoid envisioning the stakes if both teams are still undefeated at that point – maybe the biggest regular season game of the season anywhere.
[After the jump, much more on the CFB world, including a preview of tomorrow’s games]
|WHAT||UNLV at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
September 19th, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan -34|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, AM rain ceasing around gametime, 15 mph winds|
The Rebels, or at least UNLV beat writers, are entering this game with a modest goals:
Depth will be an issue all year and that makes getting out of this third game healthy arguably more important than the scoreboard. …
The good news is Decker’s injury isn’t as severe as expected. The better news will be if that’s still true Saturday afternoon.
All right then. Michigan's disappointed as huge favorites before, but UNLV enters this game battered and expecting little.
The recipe for a nerve-wracking game or colossal upset starts with a quarterback who can play out of his mind and a run defense that can prevent Michigan from rolling over them. UNLV's starting QB is questionable and their run defense is hilariously undersized. A Hoke rushing offense could probably barf this up; it would be a surprise if Harbaugh's could even in week three of his career as Michigan's head coach.
Run Offense vs UNLV
FAKA ME?! FAKAUHO!
UNLV has not had a promising start in this department. Northern Illinois rushed for 185 yards at 4.4 a pop; UCLA went for 273 at 5.8. It doesn't take much digging to figure out why this might not be going that well:
UNLV's defensive line features one returning starter, two 230 pound guys—one of whom plays a lot of DT(!) at 6'6"(!!)—and a dude whose last name sounds like Joe Pesci yelling at you. Only the latter has the requisite size (and RBF) for the major level of competition. Baldwin hops around a lot and they'll often show a 3-3-5 look, but that still leaves you with a 230 pound guy on a 3-man front. Ain't no way around it: they're tiny. They will spend the entire game trying to slant, stunt, and confuse their way into the backfield, because if Michigan latches on to them they're going for the proverbial "ride."
Meanwhile we have no idea who UNLV's third linebacker might be since they never left nickel against the Bruins, instead preferring 165-pound freshman Darius Mouton (who I don't think is related to Jonas, FWIW) even on short yardage.
This adds up to not very good. Ace:
So... this is basically Oregon State but even smaller and less talented. UCLA ran for 5.8 yards per carry on a bunch of stuff that looked like this:
The defensive line got no push, the linebackers were unathletic and often caught up in the wash, and the play usually got to the secondary before initial contact was made. UCLA was able to do this while spreading out UNLV; Michigan should have even more success loading up and going right at them—they don't look like they can hold up against a big, run-heavy team.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the run defense?
UNLV has responded to personnel deficiencies by dialing up a ton of blitzes. These leave their secondary somewhat exposed, but that would seem to be the recipe against Michigan as well. M has not displayed much deep ball ability yet, and for the Rebs it's get busy blitzin' or get busy dyin'.
Michigan's half of this is very promising for a certain level of competition. UNLV fits neatly in this box. UNLV may huddle in a corner of this box hoping nobody picks it out. Alas, poor UNLV: De'Veon Smith is coming for your life force.
Michigan will want to build on a mauling game against Oregon State by correctly identifying all the games UNLV wants to play and blasting them into the stratosphere. This won't be much of a physical test; it promises to be an interesting mental one.
KEY MATCHUP: The Front X versus Targeting Correctly. M did a great job in the last game. This one provides an opportunity to build.
[Hit THE JUMP for VARIOUS ADDITIONAL SMALL PERSONS, AT LEAST IN THE CONTEXT OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL.]
Shallman just tweeted a picture of himself apparently about to undergo surgery:
— Wyatt Shallman (@WyattShallman) September 18, 2015
I don't know how many times I have exited Michigan Stadium. I've never counted. I know that I've crossed the threshold with my hands defiantly pushed into my hoodie's front pocket in silent protest at the insanity of trading a quarter of Michigan football for less traffic. I've left the Big House with those same hands expressively communicating an important point about The Fellowship of the Ring to a fraternity brother. I've left with them running through my rain-soaked hair, left with them clutching my temples for fear my skull might come apart at the seams, and left with them pumping "It's Great to Be a Michigan Wolverine!" into the night. I have at different times in my life, walked out of that edifice gripping a smart phone, a new set of cupware, my father's farm-calloused hand, and a degree. But not once when I came to that threshold, did I ever need those hands for expressing "Farewell."
Last November Jamie Mac did, because he thought he was going to die:
As halftime approached, we had had enough. The weather was cold. The football was miserable. Most of the rest of our crew was at a bar. It was time to join them. I was fine with that until we were actually about to leave the stadium grounds. While my friends hustled out to flag a cab on Stadium Boulevard, I froze, not wanting to pass through the exit gates the way Archie Moonlight Graham didn't want to cross over the first baseline in the movie Field Of Dreams. Moonlight knew he would not be able to play ball on the Field of Dreams anymore once he crossed over that baseline. And I was afraid that once I left Michigan Stadium, I would never return.
The author of Just Cover Blog, regular contributor to this site and the podcast, and nicest Michigan fan you'll ever meet, had what happened to Michigan happen to his body. If you passed his tailgate at the end of Fingerle or had a beer with him at Football Eve, you already know that things turned out pretty Harbaugh for him too. But as I crossed beneath a brick arch for the uncountable time, I found my hand was on my cheek, using the center finger to plug a tear duct, because after reading that diary all I could think about while walking out of the Big House was what a wonderful thing it is that Jamie still gets to.
[Deep breath, then jump for the rest of the best in reader-contributed content in the other tone]
About Last Week:
The Road Ahead:
UNLV (0-2, 0-0 MWC)
Last week: Lost to #13 UCLA, 37-3
Recap: UNLV has… well, let’s be polite and say that they have some issues. Their starting quarterback, Blake Decker, pulled a hamstring or a groin early in this one. His replacement, Kurt Palandech, went 4 for 15 for 4 yards and an INT. No, that is not a typo. 4 yards on 15 attempts. Overall, the Yes We Are The Rebels Deal With Its were outgained better than 2-to-1 (526 to 237). Their only scoring drive was a four play, zero yard march after they intercepted UCLA’s backup at the UCLA 14 at the veeeeeeery end of the 4th quarter.
This team is as frightening as: A cow being lowered into the velociraptor cage. Fear Level = 1.5
Michigan should worry about: You see… uh…
Michigan can sleep soundly about: UNLV has lost 8 in a row, and are currently ranked #117 in FEI and #123 in S&P+. They are bad at football.
When they play Michigan:
This week: @ Michigan, noon, BTN
[After the jump: a guide for when to punt]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor.
Let me further emphasize the fact that pants are entirely optional when you go with HomeSure Lending. I mean, it's not like Matt has anything against pants. You want to go with pants, you go ahead. If you want to go with a mumu or board shorts or whatever, also fine. He can't see you. Also, excellent rates. He may have wanted me to emphasize that instead of the pants.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan went heavier in this game. I did not this week but in the future I am going to start specifying H-backs like Butt in this shot:
While TEs lined up next to other TEs are often H-backs in the offense I'm going to reserve the H designation for either the above or instances where there is a tight end near the LOS but tucked inside the edges of the line.
Michigan also had an under-center version of the diamond formations that Oklahoma State and other spread teams started implementing a year or two ago:
Generally the diamond had a tailback with a tight end and the fullback in front of him. In fall camp there was the occasional rumble of these formations featuring all tailbacks. Not yet; that would be something they hold for a tenser outing, I think.
I had no idea what to call this goal line formation with the FB and RB next to each other.
And if I call something "tight bunch" this is generally what I mean:
That's a TE, FB, and WR in the bunch. Harbaugh loves throwing out buckets of formations with 2 RB, 1 TE personnel. In the Utah game this was very frequently a pitch sweep; Michigan broke that tendency in this game by running off-tackle- ish at the bunch.
FWIW, I am designating Houma and Kerridge as FBs and listing all other blocky catchy types as TEs.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was the same as it was against Utah: Cole/Braden/Glasgow/Kalis/Magnuson. Braden got dinged and left for a play or two; David Dawson entered in his place. That's not a huge surprise but there were a couple rumbles that Blake Bars might be the first guy in the game. That may be the case if a tackle goes out; it's apparently not the case at guard.
QB Rudock; RB was Smith almost the whole way until the fourth quarter, when Isaac and Green got the stress-free time. Isaac did spot Smith at various times in the first three quarters.
WR was the same rotation between Darboh, Chesson, and Harris on the outside. Perry got less time but I think that was more an effect of playing a lot of tight ends than anything else. Moe Ways got scattered snaps as well.
At tight end, every available one played except Khalid Hill. No idea what's going on with him. Fullback was mostly Kerridge until late when Houma came in to impress us all with his running and hair; Kerridge reportedly had a stinger.
[After THE JUMP: we can has manballs?]