LIST OF WWE PERSONNEL?!?
|WHAT||Michigan at Duke|
|WHERE||Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, North Carolina|
|WHEN||9:15 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Duke –2 (KenPom)|
Right: A book that's every bit as good, if not better, than its cover art.
OBLIGATORY DICKIE V IN CAMERON WARNING
Dick Vitale is calling a game at Duke. You have been forewarned.
Yes, another section before we get to The Them, because Michigan is dealing with a potential absence of great significance: as of yesterday, John Beilein still wasn't sure if Nik Stauskas (ankle) will play tonight—it all depends on how he looked in practice yesterday, and there hasn't been word about that as of this writing. If Michigan is missing their go-to scorer at Cameron, odds of a victory are pretty slim. If you know of an ancient dance—preferably involving liberal use of three-goggles—that can cure sprained ankles, now is the time to perform it.
While it might not be fun for tonight, Michigan fans should be quite happy that 6'8" freshman forward Jabari Parker (right, via) chose Duke over Michigan State, as the five-star is already living up to prodigious levels of hype. Parker leads the Blue Devils with averages of 23 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 57% from two and an even 50% from three; he also has a team-high 14 blocks and is second on the squad with 10 steals in eight games. His matchup with Glenn Robinson III is going to get more attention than any other in this game, and for good reason; only Arizona has been able to slow Parker this year—he needed 21 shots to net 19 points and pulled in just three rebounds—and they're one of two teams to beat the Blue Devils this season.
Fellow 6'8" forward Rodney Hood, a sophomore transfer from Mississippi State, is the other Blue Devil to average 20 points per game; while he doesn't rebound or block shots on Parker's level, his shooting stats are actually better (63% from two, 59% from three) and he gets to the line with the same high frequency (6.1 fouls drawn/40 minutes, identical to Parker). Duke should feature plenty of three-guard lineups with these two up front; when they do, it'll be a huge test for Michigan's bigs and their ability to defend the perimeter.
When Duke starts the game, at least, they'll have 6'8" senior Josh Hairston on the floor—he's started the last two games at the five after 6'9" sophomore Amile Jefferson started the first six. I'm assuming Hairston is out there for his defense, as he's a very low-usage player offensively and he rebounds at a low rate for a big man; he's also extremely foul-prone. Jefferson, meanwhile, is the team's second-best rebounder after Parker and finishes well around the basket—he's 19/27 from the field—but his offensive game has been marred by free-throw woes (8/24), an issue compounded by the fact that he draws a ton of fouls. The two combine to play around 28 minutes per game, and this is definitely the weak spot in the Duke rotation.
Point guard Quinn Cook is having a breakout season so far, averaging 13.4 points and six assists per game with improved shooting numbers (56% from two, 38% from three) and a lowered turnover rate. He commands nearly all of Duke's minutes at the point—he's already played 36+ minutes four times this season. 6'2" senior Tyler Thornton and 6'4" sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon platoon at shooting guard. Thornton starts and is the team's perimeter defensive specialist—his 11 steals nearly match his 15 field goal attempts, though he's a capable outside shooter. Sulaimon is mired in a sophomore slump after starting for the Blue Devils as a consensus five-star freshman, connecting on 39% of his twos and 31% of his threes; last year he was at 46% and 37%, respectively, with higher usage numbers, so at some point one would expect he'll get back into the groove and see more time.
The other Blue Devil worth noting is 6'5" shooting specialist Andre Dawkins, who plays around 12 minutes per game and has connected on 12 of his 27 three-point attempts this season.
Both teams carry two losses into this game; Duke's, however, look much better on paper than Michigan's, as both came in neutral-site games against top-ten teams: #8 Kansas (by nine points) and #7 Arizona (six). Their only other game against a top-100 KenPom team was a ten-point win over #55 Alabama in the NIT Preseason Tipoff. Their five other victories were relatively comfortable home triumphs over middling-to-bad teams with the notable exception of a one-point escape against #158 Vermont in which the Catamounts shot a remarkable 31/41 from inside the arc.
Four factors, with obvious sample size caveats applying (national ranks in parentheses):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||59.5 (6)||15.2 (38)||28.7 (256)||48.3 (72)|
|Defense||48.3 (140)||18.0 (201)||31.8 (170)||43.0 (206)|
Duke's offense currently ranks fourth in the country in adjusted efficiency; they do everything well except rebound their misses, and misses haven't come too often—as a team, they shoot 57% from two and 43% from three, which is obviously excellent.
Defensively, however, they've experienced a significant dropoff from last season, when Mason Plumlee patrolled the paint. While the Blue Devils are very good at preventing three-point attempts (24.2 3PA/FGA, #17 nationally), which opponents are making at just a 27% clip, they've allowed 50.7% shooting inside the arc, just 207th in the country; their shot-blocking (7.5% of opponent attempts) ranks even worse.
Feed the beast. Given Duke's lack of a true interior presence with size remotely comparable to Mitch McGary, this is a game for Michigan to look to run their offense from the inside out, especially if they have as much trouble as other teams in getting good looks from the outside. McGary should factor in as both a shooting and passing threat in the post while also getting plenty of chances to for putbacks—Duke isn't great at preventing offensive rebounds.
Work for good looks. In games against high-tempo teams—and Duke fits that bill—Michigan's perimeter players have been prone to taking contested shots early in the clock. Simply put, the Wolverines can't afford to waste possessions against a team that's going to put up plenty of points. If Michigan gets impatient, Duke could run away with this one. With Duke's issues defending the paint this season, Stauskas, LeVert, Robinson, et al need to aggressively attack the basket instead of settling for perimeter looks unless they're quite open.
Get a body on Parker. Parker has been quite active on the offensive glass in Duke's wins; in their two losses, however, he's combined for just one offensive rebound. He's going to get his points, even if he's not shooting well—his 19-point output against Arizona was his lowest of the season. If Michigan is allowing him second-chance opportunities, they're going to have a tough time keeping up.
THE QUICK VICIOUS ELECTRONIC QUESTIONING
I answered a handful of questions about the game over at Duke Basketball Report, and DBR's JD King was kind enough to return the favor:
Has there been a common thread in Duke's two losses? Looking at the box scores, it seems like cold shooting doomed them against Arizona while rebounding and interior defense were the problem against Kansas. Is that a fair assessment, and is there anything those teams did that you think Michigan can replicate?
Not exactly but close. In both games size hurt Duke. Right now Duke's depth is sort of undeveloped. And Amile Jefferson, of whom much is expected, isn't playing very well. Neither is Rasheed Sulaimon. Duke will be a lot better when they come around.
According to KenPom, the offense has been just as good as it was last year, while the defense has taken a plunge into the mediocre. Is that your sense from watching this team, and what's been the biggest issue defensively?
It's a very young team. It's a gifted group offensively, especially Parker and Hood, but defensive principles take longer to learn. Help defense has been erratic as has communication.
The exception to the defensive issues appears to be on the perimeter—Duke isn't allowing many three-point attempts, and when they do opponents aren't hitting them (27%). This has been a hallmark of Coach K teams going back many years. What makes the Blue Devils so good at defending against the outside shot, and what does Michigan have to do to counter this?
Duke really emphasizes three point D. Michigan, under Beilein, is really good at making Duke commit to either the three or the drive and then taking what's open. It's not much fun to play against.
In your opinion, what's the matchup that you think most favors Duke over Michigan, and vice versa?
Parker and Hood are a load. Cook can be brilliant. I'm honestly not familiar enough with Michigan this year to comment there.
How do you see this game playing out?
Duke is really tough at home but Michigan's offense is brilliant and has given Duke trouble since Beilein got there. Plus the 1-3-1 zone gives Duke fits and Duke has not handled the zone well this year at all.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Duke by 2
In a game at Cameron, just about everything needs to go right for a victory, and the questionable status of Stauskas is quite worrying—even if he plays, it's pretty clear he won't be 100%, and that alone will be difficult to overcome. Michigan can take advantage of Duke's interior defensive issues; they'll need to shoot well from the outside, however, to stay competitive, and Duke's perimeter defense is excellent. The wild card is the aforementioned 1-3-1; if Michigan can deploy it successfully without allowing too many open looks from the outside, they've got a chance to not only slow down Duke's offense, but also get out in transition, where they've been far more effective than in the halfcourt so far this year.
What is this? Folks who cover the USMNT drop lists like this projecting the 23 guys who end up on the next World Cup team. I have appropriated it. Regarding the number of tickets: 22 starters on offense and defense + 2 kickers + nickelback + FLEX TE + fullback.
THIS IS THE POST-SEASON LOOKING FORWARD UPDATE. New team equals wholesale changes.
PACK YOUR BAGS
1. QB Devin Gardner, Sr.* [Last time: 7]
Has an offseason to heal after maniacal up and down first full year as a starter contained plenty of brilliant plays and plenty of awful ones. Upside vast; variance vast; someone get this man a flak jacket.
2. SAM Jake Ryan, Sr.* [Last time: NR due to ACL]
Was not quite the same sower of destruction after midseason return from ACL tear, but kept adding Jake Ryan-ness as year went along. Should go out with quite a bang as a chaos merchant and TFL provider. Gordon's departure leaves him without much of a backup. Has a porsche. DOES NOT HAVE A PORSCHE, OSU FANS.
3. WR Devin Funchess, Jr. [Last time: 5]
Blocking improved not one iota but when the man is 6'5" and jumping over cornerbacks and running past safeties it doesn't matter. Neared 750 yards, most of it after WR switch. Going to absorb a ton of Gallon's targets. This is a very good thing. Still wish he was wearing 19. No longer chasing Jim Mandich's record because cumong man. Do not put weight on this man.
4. CB Blake Countess, Jr* [Last time: 17]
Returned from ACL tear with spate of terrific interceptions; largely avoided despite Taylor playing pretty well on the other side. Slot tasking in nickel packages may go away with Peppers arriving and Thomas maturing; either way he's on the field for every snap he's healthy for.
5. ILB Desmond Morgan, Sr. [Last time: 14]
Michigan's QB on defense and most reliable tackler. Thumper somewhat lacking in athleticism but UConn interception begs to differ with you, last year's book on Desmond Morgan. Brings the wood when he tackles. Maybe not quite Chris Borland. Bolden, Gedeon will spot.
Did not have the breakout season predicted as the defensive tackles had trouble keeping him clean. Still clearly outperformed his competitors and the promise of a Pipkins/Henry DT pairing next year would be the kind of outfit that could result in a huge year for Ross.
Grady Brooks grumbles gave way at midseason as he rounded into a pretty good player. OSU stoned him; still well short of elite. That's probably not happening but his progression is encouraging; if continued he's a fringe all-conference sort. Wait, he's already second team ABT?
UNLESS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS
Clearly Michigan's best option at safety with Gordon and Avery gone. Choosing to believe that all of the late safety shuffling was because he was privately injured, and then publicly when he played on special teams against OSU with a huge cast on his arm. Has upside; needs to be secondary QB.
9. SDE Brennen Beyer, Sr. [Last time: NR]
Beyer was playing too well to send to the bench when Ryan came back, and with Clark's rapid progression midseason the move for Beyer was to SDE, where he was kind of effective and kind of really small. M will try to get him up to 285, a la Craig Roh, and get Roh's B+ senior performance out of him.
10. FLEX Jake Butt, So. [Last time: NR]
Passed blocking-only AJ Williams in utility midway through last year en route to 17 catches. Bulked up significantly from spring to fall; if that continues should be an effective dual threat tight end the likes of which Michigan lost once Kevin Koger graduated. Will get playing time split out in shotgun sets. Twitter isn't over his name yet.
11. 3TECH Willie Henry, So.*
Enormous, powerful freshman alternated ragdolling OL and getting blown out of holes by them; sometimes combined those things on the same play. If technique takes a major step forward, look out. Heininger Certainty Principle, don't fail me now. May be used at NT if Pipkins is still damaged.
12. K Matt Wile, Sr. [Last Time: 15]
Gibbons graduates, leaving Wile the presumed starter at kicker. Has a bigger leg; does not have a track record of being automatic from within 42 yards give or take a shaky four-game sequence in his senior year. Will also handle kickoffs and at least pooch punting.
For the love of slippery Jesus cannah get this guy a hot tub? I mean playing time. Playing time where he does not get the ball every time he's on the field. Give this man the ball in space. I beg you. Things will HAPPEN, man. Fun-ass things. Also there are no other slot receivers on the roster yet.
FAIRLY SAFE BET
This low not because of what he did but because of one Jabrill Peppers. Could see his job reduced to nickel if Peppers meets the hype. Coming off quality, play-laden junior year; consistency and run support are issues.
15. NT Ondre Pipkins, Jr. [Last time: NR]
This low because his a very large man coming off a midseason ACL injury. Is otherwise the heir apparent at nose. Was making signs of progression before injury; this would be the year he blows up into a mighty thing. Stupid ligaments.
16. C Graham Glasgow, Jr* [Last time: 15]
The only interior lineman to not lose his job at some point during the year is likely to play somewhere. If Kugler is all that as a redshirt freshman, it'll be at guard. If he's not quite ready, as OL tend to be, it'll be at center. Technically a walk-on but probably time to get over that.
17. T Erik Magnuson, So.* [Last time: NR]
First he was preferred to Ben Braden for injury and 6 OL sets; then he was thrust into the lineup at RG; then he was flipped to LG so Michigan could pull someone else off the field. In the heaving mass of chaos of last year's OL that's a strong recommendation. Now please put on 30 pounds.
18. NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, Fr. [Last time: NR]
FR seems like closest thing to Woodson 2.0 imaginable. Unlikely to burst right into starting lineup with quality veterans returning, but demands immediate PT and can be boundary w/ Countess at nickel. Was that something about visits? LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU.
19. TE AJ Williams, Jr. [Last time: 13]
Blocking tight end was unable to block. Slight issue. Technique bad; strength seemingly eh; only high up here because no one on roster duplicates hypothetical skill set save Paskorz. Wanted to noodle as recruit, that's why the picture.
IN A BATTLE
Freshman year mostly miserable due to things out of his control (OL) and in it (his weight). 82 carries is 60 more than De'Veon Smith, his nearest competitor, and while a platoon figures to be in the offing he should be the guy with the plurality of carries.
21. S Jeremy Clark, So.* [Last time: NR]
This is supposed to be Dymonte Thomas, but Clark has an experience edge on Thomas, who has still not actually played a deep safety in HS or college. Clark has, and at 6'4" has some nice upside. Hill may also factor in here. Easily the most uncertain spot on the defense.
Still projecting Darboh to be the #2 receiver despite the year lost to injury as Chesson did not have the kind of impact that would clearly move him past a guy who was slated to start. Still Freetown's finest.
Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman come off redshirts to provide heavy competition in the catchy/runny/blocky areas; Kerridge only does the latter. Still, who likes freshmen? That's nobody. Kerridge will still be the guy called on more often than other options here.
Part of the problem last year; yanked midseason so Michigan could insert Magnuson, a 285-pound tackle; reinserted after Bosch had an ugly game of his own against Northwestern; did participate in good game from line against OSU. Should develop; could easily be replaced.
25. G Kyle Bosch, So. [Last time: NR]
Started a few games as true FR, was good in a couple and bad in a couple. Rep as nasty mauler, of course; needs strength and technique; lost in pass pro, but was freshman. Major leap would be nice. There can only be one highlander.
26. T Ben Braden, So.* [Last time: NR]
Once the presumed starter at LG, Braden fell off the radar in fall camp because he is "just not a guard" and then did not re-emerge even amongst the chaos. Hopefully that is just a fit issue because there's not a whole lot of competition for him other than 6'4" Dawson.
27. P Will Hagerup, Sr.* [Last time: NR]
Has kept his nose clean so far through Stonum suspension and will be given opportunity to reclaim punting job. Was already wildly variable. How will he be after a year off? Best thing going for him is all the stuff on Wile's plate. Occasionally makes faces other than OH GOD BALL WHERE IS BALL OH GOD I'M GOING TO DIE.
PUSHING FROM BEHIND
QB Shane Morris—M should try to redshirt him with Bellomy back and Speight on campus. If Gardner gets hurt he'll have to play; hand garbage time and odd snaps where Gardner has to leave to Bellomy.
QB Russell Bellomy—Will be healthy. Arm strength unlikely to improve significantly.
RB DeVeon Smith—Came on late; should be #2 option in rotation.
RB Drake Johnson—Listed second on depth chart early in season before ACL tear. If he's the best blocker they've got there's a role. Probably their fastest guy, too.
RB Justice Hayes—Cameos as WR out of backfield; move to slot possible.
C Patrick Kugler—sure thing for an OL, which means not that much of a sure thing.
C Jack Miller—may have seen his last snap without injury but remains an option.
G Blake Bars—needs to come a long way to compete.
G Chris Bryant—maybe a healthy year gets him where he needs to go.
G Dan Samuelson—least touted of 2013 OL class still kind of touted.
T David Dawson—will compete at RT with Braden.
T Logan Tuley-Tillman—unlikely to be ready just yet.
T Chris Fox—ditto.
WR Jehu Chesson—likely a de facto third starter at WR. Still needs bulk.
WR DaMario Jones—could push for some PT in slot.
WR Drake Harris—injured as SR but does enroll early and should be healthy in the spring. Brings more upside than last year's recruits.
WR Freddy Canteen—route artisan may be best candidate for Dileo role even as FR.
SDE Keith Heitzman—strictly a plugger; should feature in the rotation.
SDE Tom Strobel—assume he plays SDE this year; buried as a 3T.
DT Maurice Hurst Jr.—Mike Martin-style penetrator should get rotation snaps at NT.
DT Richard Ash—could be in the rotation, maybe?
DT Henry Poggi—RVB-type balance maven also should push into rotation.
DE/DT Chris Wormley—Plenty of PT a year ago; needs more explosion.
WDE Mario Ojemudia—all right as sophomore. Weight seemed to strip some quickness.
WDE Taco Charlton—could blow up; could be meh.
SAM Mike McCray—technically not a SAM yet. Will be by end of spring. Book it.
MLB Joe Bolden—Played a lot, but how well was debatable.
WLB Ben Gedeon—Showed well in some playing time late. Freak athlete.
CB Channing Stribling—will be good if he just stops phasing out.
CB Jourdan Lewis—apologize to the gypsy, son.
CB Ross Douglas—Avery type probably has to cool his heels another year.
S Josh Furman—forced into lineup last year with poor results.
S Delano Hill—rep as a guy with advanced safety skills coming out of Cass, so make of that what you will.
S Dymonte Thomas—burned redshirt to block that one punt; still raw.
Sorry this is late; there was a ton to talk about and this checks in at almost 1:40.
Where did that come from? How can this team be the other team? Points for that throwback screen. Devin Gardner, man. Jeremy Gallon, wizard.
Pounded. Personnel issues. A discussion of whether Mattison is underperforming against the spread in which I think both Ace and myself disagree with ourselves.
Big ass fight, decisions, and a section from 57 to 1:03 in which we (read: I) discuss meta blog stuff that I am irritated by. You will note that the tone of voice is more exasperation than "meltdown." Norfleet is fun.
TALKING BIG TEN WITH JAMIEMAC
The Big Ten game of the week: the Iron Bowl. Fire Bo Pelini and Tim Beckman (and hire Pat Narduzzi please). Talking about OSU versus Auburn: do you take the team that hasn't really beaten anyone worth beating or the one that had to pull multiple games out of its butt and left one in there? This is why the BCS is stupid.
"Across 110th Street."
"Raised By Wolves," Voxtrot
"She Was A Hotel Detective," They Might Be Giants. (This is not a good song, but it is funny to envision a giant John Flansburgh interrupting weddings, funerals, football games, and county fairs by singing this at incredible volume.)
"Maladjusted," Morrissey (Oblig.)
"I'm Going To Town," Robert Earl Keen
The usual links:
Oh, Right ... That
There hasn't been a recruiting roundup since Jabrill Peppers tweeted his intention to take official visits after the season, catching not only Michigan fans off-guard, but also his fellow commits and even his own coach, Paramus Catholic's Chris Partridge—notably, the man who sets up all of Peppers' visits. After the tweet set fire to this corner of the internet, Peppers released a statement through Partrige:
I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college. With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS
Peppers reiterated that he's not decommiting and just wants to use any potential visits as a "security blanket," to Scout (via Sam Webb's latest column in the Detroit News).
Michigan has already begun efforts to assuage Peppers' fears, certainly with an eye on keeping him from taking any visits, which would put Brady Hoke in quite the bind as he balances the massive need to keep Peppers in the fold with the possibility of angering other commits—and displaying what could easily be interpreted as hypocricy by Michigan targets and their coaches—by not enforcing his no-visit policy. Dave Brandon's statement in support of Hoke specifically mentioned Michigan's national recruiting "from New Jersey to California, from Michigan to Florida." I don't believe New Jersey is in there by accident; in fact, the whole statement seems to be as much a response to the Peppers situation as it is to any fan discontent.
There are a few things working in Michigan's favor. Peppers and his Paramus Catholic squad play in the state championship game this weekend; the following weekend he's set to take his official visit to Michigan. Peppers didn't talk to Hoke when he made his statement last week—Hoke had a few other things to worry about—but he'll definitely find out where things stand when he's in Ann Arbor; if the coaches (and Brandon) can convince him that the program is on stable ground, it's entirely possible that this whole thing blows over without him ever setting foot on another school's campus.
Even if Peppers still wants to explore other schools after his Michigan official, the timing is tough; an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period goes into effect after next week's visit, so he wouldn't be able to visit any school until mid-January, just a couple weeks before Signing Day.
For his part, Peppers certainly seemed committed to Michigan during The Game on Saturday, tweeting out his support multiple times during the game and indicating afterward that he'd be taking part in it next season, and not as a Buckeye. While the fact that Peppers even needs reassurance that Hoke will still be at Michigan next year isn't a good sign regarding his recruitment or the program, I don't think there's a lot to worry about here unless Peppers actually goes on other visits—for now, only his trip to Ann Arbor is set to go.
[After THE JUMP, Michigan drops the 'grey shirt' distinction for Brady Pallante, visit reactions from The Game, and a roundup of the latest on Michigan's commits who are still alive in the playoffs.]
According to Brady Hoke, the coaching staff will return intact next year:
"I anticipate (this) staff (to be back)," Hoke said after attending a UAW/Ford Child Identity Program event at Ford Field.
Asked again, if he does not anticipate any staff changes for the 2014 season, Hoke responded with the following: "Correct."
And so will Devin Gardner, guy who sent me that one email about how he could transfer and not sit out a year.
"He'll be back," he said.
12/1/2013 – Michigan 41, Ohio State 42 – 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten
About a dozen people asked me during and after the game about how they should feel, and all I had and have is a shrug. I don't know, man. I know this is the part of the blog where I come up with The Big Feel (uh… working title) about what happened on Saturday, and I'm as jumbled as anyone else.
How are you supposed to feel after coming up one play short against an undefeated Ohio State team that was favored by three scores? How about when that makes you two of the last 13 against the Great Satan? How are you supposed to feel after watching whatever that was on offense since the Notre Dame game* turn in the second-most yards Ohio State has ceded in 123 years? After watching the mostly valiant defense turn into the Indiana outfit that necessitated the footnote in the previous sentence?
Football's ridiculous. There's that. We can all agree on that after the football gods cooked up the worst possible torture imaginable for Harvey Updyke, who is 100% at fault for the way the Iron Bowl ended. That is the only thing that actually makes sense about football, a 109-yard field goal return to beat the #1 team in the country. Football is ridiculous.
For me this is a giant ball of frustration. Sometimes you come out on the wrong end of a classic and that sucks but it's still pretty much okay because of the context of the game and the fact that you got to experience it. The 2005 Rose Bowl is the best example in Michigan's recent history. This aspired to that status, but was doomed from the start because of one question.
People will say things about rivalries and sure, I believe that after watching Michigan State play Michigan for the past half-decade. There is no amount of rivalry that bridges this gap:
IOWA, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 4.9 yards per play allowed, in a pack just about tied for second in the conference behind MSU.
IOWA VS MICHIGAN: 158 yards ceded at 2.8 per play.
NEBRASKA, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 4.8 yards per play allowed, also in the pack. (Yes. Nebraska's defense was actually kind of good in Big Ten play.)
NEBRASKA VS MICHIGAN: 175 yards ceded at 2.8 per play.
OHIO STATE, 7 BIG TEN GAMES AGAINST NOT MICHIGAN: 5.0 yards per play allowed, third member of pack**.
OHIO STATE VS MICHIGAN: 603 yards ceded at 7.4 per play.
One of these things is not like the others. It's the one that doesn't make you want to listen to Pearl Jam like you're 15 and a girl just laughed at you. If Michigan does anything like what they did in this game against Nebraska, Iowa, and Penn State, they're 10-1 and shaking their fist at Michigan State's defense as the reason this game won't result in a rematch. In that context, a battle of top ten teams that goes down to the wire inside the wire, sure, classic away aw shucks it only hurts when I think about it, it's on. Which BCS bowl are we going to?
After the nine games between Notre Dame and Ohio State, that's a bit fanciful.
When Dave Brandon's not making ludicrous comparisons to Nick Saban and throwing Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, and Martavious Odoms under the bus, he's pointing out that Michigan is just two… three… four plays away from being Super Awesome Team. Anyone with eyes can see that they are three rather improbable ones away from being 4-8. Michigan was a yard away from losing to Akron, needed Desmond Morgan's best Woodson impression to beat UConn, and executed the only successful fire-drill field goal in the history of football to get to overtime against Northwestern. Fate has been kind and cruel in equal parts this year. This is a 7-5 team that finished with a losing record in conference because it deserved to.
That sucks. Putting on the fireworks against Ohio State to end the season is better than taking a steel-toed boot for three hours, but you watch them run play action that curls Jeremy Gallon back to Gardner off of that bubble-iso look and the mind argues with itself about whether it should say "hooray" and wave a little flag or "did you not want to win the Iowa game?" and wave a pitchfork.
You wonder how much earlier this progress could have come if Michigan had settled on a few simple things to start the season instead of trying to run everything that had ever been drawn up on a napkin. Or how much time they set on fire by running that gimmicky tackle over stuff that was dead as soon as it was put on film. How is it that these pieces can be assembled to put up 41 points against ND and OSU and zero (approximately) against the rest of the schedule?
Actually winning the game comes with a big old bucket of redemption. Coming that close and coming up short… well, ask Devin Gardner.
“I threw an interception to lose the game,” Gardner said, his voice low and barely audible. “There’s not much else I can say.”
This is a person who just completed 70% of his passes for 450 yards and in the press conference after he's like me on the benches after the game, keeping my head down and trying not to hear the Ohio State fans around me. Hurting. In his case, both physically and mentally. All I've got on the former part is a sore wrist from bowling, but man did I feel that other bit at the same time he did.
This is a moral victory. It stops a large chunk of the bleeding, likely solidifies the recruiting class, and gives Hoke more stable footing going forward. And he's going to be here. It is much better than getting your head stomped.
But the thing about moral victories is that they aren't, you know, victories.
*[Indiana just gave up nearly 500 yards passing to Danny Etling. Indiana is rookie mode, and is set aside.]
**[Wisconsin at 4.8 without a Michigan game is the fourth member; Michigan is next in a tier by itself at 5.4, but then again it didn't get to play its offense; FWIW, Penn State's defense was meh at 5.7 and Michigan got 4.7 per play.]
Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. At one point late in the game, Gardner scrambled out of the pocket, found himself alone with a defensive back, and faked a throw to absolutely no one. This got him a first down and what looked like a sprained ankle. He managed to limp back to the huddle, whereupon I felt Michigan should just run the ball because their QB needed some time to not be dead. They threw it; Gallon was wide open on a corner route; Gardner missed it badly. Because he was dead.
When not dead, he turned in a superlative performance despite being pretty much dead. Devin Gardner is tough. Yes.
Honorable mention: Gallon and Funchess are pretty good you guys. The offensive line had a pretty good day not just by their standards but by the standards of average-ish D-I teams everywhere.
Epic Double Point Standings.
2.0: Jeremy Gallon (ND, Indiana), Devin Gardner(ND, OSU)
1.0: Desmond Morgan(UConn), Devin Funchess(Minnesota), Frank Clark(PSU), Matt Wile (Nebraska), James Ross (Northwestern)
0.5: Cam Gordon (CMU), Brennen Beyer (CMU)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. In a game that was more about holding serve than field position, Michigan somehow stripping Carlos Hyde as he GRRAAAHHHHed his way towards another first down was even more important than a turnover usually is. That got Michigan back on level terms after being down a break, as it were, and provided the frenetic finish.
Honorable mention: Gallon screen goes for 84, announces that Michigan is not going to roll over dead. De'Veon Smith rumbles for 38 yards, looking like he did as a high schooler what with dudes bouncing off of him and such. That thing with Gardner pump-faking at air. Fight!
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
8/31/2013: Dymonte Thomas introduces himself by blocking a punt.
9/7/2013: Jeremy Gallon spins through four Notre Dame defenders for a 61-yard touchdown.
9/14/2013: Michigan does not lose to Akron. Thanks, Thomas Gordon.
9/21/2013: Desmond Morgan's leaping one-handed spear INT saves Michigan's bacon against UConn.
10/5/2013: Fitzgerald Toussaint runs for ten yards, gets touchdown rather easily.
10/12/2013: Devin Funchess shoots up the middle of the field to catch a 40 yard touchdown, staking Michigan to a ten-point lead they wouldn't relinquish. (Right?)
10/19/2013: Thomas Gordon picks off an Indiana pass to end the Hoosiers' last drive that could have taken the lead.
11/2/2013: Clock expires.
11/9/2013: Nebraska muffs a punt through no action of Michigan's.
11/16/2013: Michigan executes a clock-running last-second field goal to get the game to OT.
11/23/2013: 404 file not found
NEW! MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. At the fine suggestion of a reader, this goes to the worst, most ANGAR-inducing thing in the game. Because double birds will live forever.
Your inaugural Epic Double Bird: Devin Gardner's "fumble" that was reviewed and confirmed after about three seconds when he looks clearly, obviously down.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Throw it up at the tall guy, FIGHT, defensive implosion, further double-birding at the replay official.]