About last week:
No one played football. John Beilein ate subs. Crazy. (H/T Bagelz McDerman)
Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 B1G)
Last game: Michigan State 42, Purdue 3 (W)
Recap: This game did not start off well for State. Sparty’s offense continued its offensive funk from the Purdue game into this one, moving the ball only 63 yards on Illinois’ not-quite-Indiana-bad-but-still-pretty-damn-bad defense through the first quarter and a half, and Illinois faced a 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line to take a 10-7 lead. Two stuffed and a 99 yard touchdown drive, which was capped by… this… on 3rd and 25…
… and this one was basically over. Sparty proceeded to rip off four consecutive touchdown drives to open the second half to put this one in the ‘laugher’ column.
So, we have 8 games of data on Michigan State’s offense. And I contend that we still don’t have a clue what the hell they are. I can’t mentally combine all of the data we have into a single coherent theory. With Michigan’s maddeningly inconsistent offense, we can at least point to a few obvious causal factors directly correlated with their struggles. I feel like the “keys to victory graphic” will say, “MICHIGAN: minimize turnovers, avoid negative plays on early downs,” and “MICHIGAN STATE: use Good Connor Cook, don’t use Bad Connor Cook.” Michigan State’s offensive line has been surprisingly consistent these last few games, especially in the interior (grumble grumble), and they have been opening some decent creases and some large cutback lanes for Jeremy Langford and Delton Williams. But the key to the MSU O vs. Michigan D remains Connor Cook vs. himself, an there’s no predicting which Connor Cook will show up.
Defensively, I now believe there is enough on tape from State’s last few opponents such that a skilled tactician could plausibly develop an effective way to attack Narduzzi’s murder-death-kill machine. It’s like getting a single extra letter on the final round of Wheel of Fortune. You’ve gotta sound it out, but it’s there. Notre Dame had success going over top of the MSU corners to the outside. Purdue had some success throwing underneath those corners when they had slightly softer zones. Illinois and Iowa had some success down the seams. I have no earthly clue how to beat this defense, but the pieces are there for some mad genius. I know this “OMG BORGESSSSS” thing is getting old, but this really will be a gigantic test of his ability to put together a game-plan.
One thing that WON’T work against this defense? The zone stretch. So I cannot be accused of second-guessing anyone, I’m putting my marker down here: Michigan won’t average better than a yard a carry on stretches in this game.
I also have to give a quick note on Illinois. Before the season started, we all assumed Illinois would be the worst team in the Big Ten. But a couple of early season signs of life led people to opine, “gee, maybe they aren’t so bad,” and we turned our attention to BoilerQuest. But while Purdue may have the worst numbers, Illinois remains the worst team in the Big Ten. They make 2009-10 Michigan look like paragons of fortitude and resilience. A couple of small things went wrong, and the team seemed to declare with one loud, resolute voice, “welp.” This team is a collapse waiting for a trigger, and they’re not very patient.
This team is as frightening as: In honor of Halloween, we’re going with scary movies as out theme. For Sparty, that movie is 28 Days Later. You know they’re going to attack head on at high speed, and if you make one mistake you’re doomed. Also… East Lansing on game day == post-apocalyptic London, but without the dry wit. Fear level = 8
Michigan should worry about: Mike Sadler. Michigan State WILL fake a punt in this game. It WILL work. There is nothing you can do about that. Just try to keep it to a minimal gain beyond the sticks.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan State runs the exact kind of offense that Michigan should be able to stop, both in terms of scheme and quality. They remain not good, and they’re predicated on staying ahead of the sticks by running the football in a traditional manner, with an occasional jet sweep mixed in for texture.
When they play Michigan: Michigan should just camp 7 guys in a straight line along the first down line on 3rd down and medium. A crossing pattern is coming. Consider yourselves warned.
Next game: /checks schedule… It says here “vs. Michigan”
[AFTER THE JUMP: Things you won’t care about until next week]
Word of the day?
“Huh? Uh, let me think about that one.”
MGoPetulant: “Fake bubble.”
“… Okay. Questions.”
Will you keep the same five offensive linemen that you ended the game with?
“We’ll see. It’s going to be competitive, but those five guys did a pretty good job during the game. It’s going to get tougher. And we’re going to have to demonstrate some consistency. But if they can do that, they will be the five offensive linemen. But we’re not eliminating anybody. We still have some talented kids in the wings. We’re trying to keep this thing competitive. Do we want the five guys? Yes, we do. I’ll answer the question before you ask it. But that being said, we got to this point where we’re pretty functional now because we’ve kept it competitive. We don’t like doing it this way. We’d rather just have the same five from the beginning, but it hasn’t worked out that way.”
MGoQuestion: After looking at the film, did you think Kyle Bosch and Erik Magnuson an upgrade at the guard positions?
“I don’t know if they were an upgrade. They were an alternative, and they had a chance to prove what they can do. They didn’t do a bad job. Upgrade is a pretty strong word. I wouldn’t say that.”
[ed: sent after PSU game. Eric Upchurch photo @ right.]
Something that has been gnawing at me for a while is what we have really reached Hoke’s ceiling in terms of coaching? I wonder if only a generational player like Robinson was able to change that the past two years. I don’t doubt Hoke is a terrific person that will be able to recruit due to his personality, I just don’t know that there is depth regarding football strategy as well which is required to be elite. I otherwise just can’t explain such a discombobulated state going into a third year of a coaching staff even with a younger o-line.
I don't agree with that premise. It looks like Hoke is bringing in a large number of NFL talents on both sides of the ball and if those guys do work out, the philosophy of the staff will be in line with what Michigan can do. Hoke is working with a decimated senior/redshirt junior class that provided his team Gardner, Ryan, Black, and zero other starters. The class after that one was constructed during the chaotic final days of the Rodriguez administration and suffered further when Hoke was given only three weeks to add ten guys.
There is no comparison between those two classes—which should be the heart of the team—and what Michigan will begin to have when the 2012 and 2013 classes, which have lost one of their 52 members so far.
This is not the ceiling. Michigan loses Quinton Washington, Courtney Avery, and Thomas Gordon after the year, and no one else from their two deep (if Cam Gordon is now the third-string SAM.) They bring in Jabrill Peppers and probably DaShawn Hand, either or both of whom could be generational players. They can go from a good defense to an elite one. On offense… I don't know, man. I'm on the Art Briles side of the fence…
"We do not try to go to the body to set up the knockout shot," Briles said at a recent coaching clinic. "We try to score on every snap."
…and some of the stuff they've tried to do with personnel ill-suited to do it sets your teeth on edge. Once they have those guys in place, though, things should be smoother, if somewhat old fashioned.
This 8-4 lookin' Gator Bowl outfit is not the ceiling. The minimum reasonable expectation for that is "not able to beat Urban Meyer much."
[After THE JUMP: maybe the D wasn't that bad? (It was.) And linemen running amok.]
On one hand it was freak plays against a freak offense. On the other hand it was a whole LOT of offense. On the other other hand Indiana is actually quite talented. On the other other other regression in pass rush. On the other other other they're consistently there to make plays. On the other other other other they consistently don't make those plays.
- Vishnu Cook. Cannot be exactly defined. Known to be rather impatient with people who screw with his flowers.
- Aci Parashaktibender. The personification of the divine power of creativity, particularly off the dribble.
- Shiva Fisher. The destroyer who comes in both the form of a benevolent copy editor, and the fearsome form of a chartmonger.
- Blue Indra South Bend. God of rain, thunderstorms, and snark, with hair and beard the color of flames.
- Dheikovantari. God of medicine and that one constraint play he's always on about.
- Coach Brhaspati. Guru of the gods.
- Saramathleti. God of knowledge, music, arts, science, and overseer of vast spreadsheets wherein these things are contained.
What is the essence of Michigan's 2013 defense, and how will it hold up against the remaining schedule?
Mathlete: For me, I see just one thing about this defense. They are a good defense. They are not a great defense, they are not a dominant defense, they are not a shut down defense, but definitely a good defense. They've had two awful halves (second half against Akron and second last weekend).
|They are a good defense. They will never be a great defense. They are a Thomas Gordon defense. [Upchurch]|
They've been put in some bad positions by the offense and haven't been able to bail them out a lot. But they haven't put the offense in a bad position yet this season. The only real deficits the offense has faced this year have come after defensive touchdowns or short fields induced by the offense.
I think Mattison has found the perfect positioning for the talent and the offense that Michigan has. Lacking real play makers he has put together a defense that has limited big plays against non-Indiana teams, forced teams to drive the field, convert third downs and go 10 plays without making a drive ending mistake. Most teams can't do that very times in a game. Nebraska, a healthy Northwestern and Ohio State probably can. Michigan State hasn't proven it can against an FBS team that isn't Indiana. Iowa may be able to, but probably not to a major degree. This works because this defense shouldn't be needed to win games. They aren't quite talented/experienced enough to do that without incurring major risk. Michigan's offense should be dynamic enough that a good defense forcing teams to beat them should get them to 9 wins, easily.
That's where the trouble came against Penn State, the offense didn't push the pedal enough and the defense wasn't quite good enough to push against the stacked deck. I am convinced that an offense that is aggressive, even with a few extra turnovers is the perfect compliment to this defense. We will struggle against the remaining opponents if that aggressiveness goes away because turnovers will still happen (that's football) but the defense is just not equipped yet to be the game-changing unit.
[Brian's complete lack of surprise, after the Jump]
WE'RE SORT OF PLAYING NOTRE DAME GUYS!
That leaked PDF immediately preceding the UCLA series announcement was dead on so far, as Michigan has just announced that three other items from that thing are accurate:
Michigan will host Central Florida at the Big House on Sept. 10, 2016, in what will be the first meeting between the two institutions on the gridiron. The Ball State game, originally slated for Sept. 24, 2016, will be played at a future date yet to be determined. Michigan will play three straight home games to open the 2016 season, bookending the Hawaii (Sept. 3) and Colorado (Sept. 17) games around the match-up with Central Florida. The Wolverines will have an open date before starting the nine-game Big Ten Conference schedule.
In 2017, the Air Force Academy will make its third trip to Ann Arbor for a Sept. 16 game.
4/4, that PDF, so we're waiting on the announcement that Michigan will play Florida on the moon. Nonconference schedules 2016-2018 are now, unconfirmed games in italics:
2016: Hawaii, UCF, Colorado
2017: Florida[?!?!?!], Cincinnati, Air Force
2018: Arkansas, TBA, SMU
Insert usual complaint about neutral site games: it would be much more awesome to play in the Swamp and get a return date TBA than show up in Atlanta for a "neutral site" matchup.
“Obviously we’re not – I’m not – happy with the amount of points given up. The big plays, that’s not our defense. We’ve got some things we’ve got to get corrected. A lot of that is on me. That’s – any time something like that happens, you have to look at yourself, you have to look at the game plan, you have to look at what you had in. I think there are some things we could have done different. But we’ll get it corrected.”
Brady said guys were in position but didn’t execute. How much of it was scheme, and how much of it was execution?
“That’s always the case, but your job as a coordinator is you get guys in the right positions and they make plays. Either we haven’t practiced them enough – obviously that offense, the thing I was proud of and we made a really big deal of not getting our defense all out of whack because of the speed of it, and the speed of it was unbelievable. You had to be there to feel that.
"Throughout the game, if you watched and you saw, our guys were lined up and our guys knew where to be. You see other people play that and they’re running all over trying to get set and it looks like a circus sometimes. One of the touchdowns, the first one, the corner didn’t get the call. That’s what we stressed all week that that’s why they run that offense. To get just one guy to not get the call or to be sure of the call and they take advantage of it. That was one of them. Another one of the big plays, we’re right in position again, and it’s an interception, it’s no question it’s an interception, it turns into a touchdown. That I blame myself for. We have to work harder running to the football. We should have had five more guys around the football. We’ll get that corrected. There’s going to be plays like that that are going to happen. That’s where a Michigan defense runs to the football and stops it for a gain and you have another chance to play.
"For the most part I thought our kids, they hung in there. I think what they did at the end of that game shows that they believed. I mean, you’ve all been around teams before that folded in that kind of situation, but they didn’t. Thank goodness for the offense, which you knew was going to be your advantage against their defense -- our offense did a tremendous job of bailing us out, and that’s what happened.”