|WHAT||Florida vs Michigan|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern
January 1st, 201
|THE LINE||Michigan -4|
|WEATHER||mostly cloudy, 80-ish
slight chance of rain
I already used the "Good Ash, Bad Ash" clip for the Northwestern game this year but I mean yeah pretty much that again. Both teams have first-year coaches who spackled together an offense from the grim remains left by his predecessor. Both teams have fierce defenses. Both teams are entering the game after spending the last couple weeks twitching and repeating "not in the face" after not at all competitive games against rivals.
Florida's offense is slightly more dysfunctional after the weird mid-season PED suspension of their starting QB, but at no point has their defense been emasculated in the way Michigan's was against Ohio State. So… yeah. The books have installed Michigan a 4 point favorite despite this being a virtual road game, and that feels about right.
Run Offense vs Florida
Bullard brings the pain
Prepare for a rough ride. Anyone who's been on the internet over the past few weeks has run across a dubiously-sourced photo of Jabrill Peppers and the brace on his hand. It sounds like he will play, but the guess here is that he won't see time on offense with that injury. Also Derrick Green is not on the trip and has probably played his last snap as a Wolverine.
That leaves Smith and… uh… company I guess… against these guys:
All-American candidate DT Jonathan Bullard … boasts the top run-stopping grade in the nation at +36.5 while improving his pass rushing this year to the tune of six sacks, six hits, and 12 hurries on 253 rushes. His instincts and ability to read and defeat blocks have made him a force, and a very consistent one at that, as he’s yet to grade lower than +2.1 in any game this season. Complementing Bullard has been a deep rotation of defensive linemen, with six other players grading positively while playing at least 192 snaps, led by true sophomore DT Caleb Brantley and his team-high +10.6 pass rushing grade.
At the linebacker level, Antonio Morrison receives the hype, but it’s Jarrad Davis who has turned heads this season as his +11.6 mark leads the way for the Gators. He leads the team with 34 stops, including 12 in the passing game, good for 12th in the nation among linebackers.
That was posted before the FSU and Alabama games, and even those went poorly for the team as a whole the defense came out of that shiny. Bullard was named a PFF All-American. S&P+ has Florida the #5 rush defense in the nation.
Meanwhile Michigan is near-perfectly mediocre at 61st. While Florida will be missing a piece or two they've held up very well minus those guys down the stretch—it was only sheer repetition that saw Alabama crack 200 yards on the ground. It took Alabama 58 carries to get there; Florida gave up 4.0 YPC. Michigan fans are familiar with late fades from overworked defenses; even with that fade the Gators held up.
If there is a major weakness it's the strongside linebacker, who Florida State targeted on a number of successful Dalvin Cook runs. Ace detailed those earlier today in his FFFF.
It is very difficult to see Michigan getting much, if any production out of this unit. Michigan's offensive line plateaued at meh; Smith is the opposite of a home-run hitter; production against similarly-ranked defenses has been grim. Michigan has tried to minimize the importance of running backs for a bit now with Peppers and WR screens. Insofar as that is possible, expect a repeat. Florida does play their corners off a significant portion of the time, so various WR screens may be available.
One wild card to watch for: Ty Isaac. Reports from before the OSU game held that he was getting the bulk of the first team reps, and then he did not play at all in the game itself. Another month of preparation and the presumed absence of Peppers should see Isaac cash in on some of that practice hype for playing time. He's still likely to eat dirt given the context he'll be in, but keep an eye out.
KEY MATCHUP: NOT IN THE FACE.
[Hit THE JUMP for LESS DEPRESSING UNITS]
Previously: Florida Offense
In this game, UF's best offense was, in fact, their defense.
There's good reason everyone expects the Citrus Bowl to be a defensive slugfest: Florida's defense is every bit as good as their offense is bad, and if you read Tuesday's post you know that's high praise indeed. They held Florida State to 303 yards of total offense on 5.2 yards per play despite getting no help from the other side of the ball; much of that damage came late as Heisman-caliber back Dalvin Cook finally wore down an overworked defensive front.
Michigan does not have a Heisman-caliber back, to say the least. The going won't be easy.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
There are stars at every level, including a secondary that is arguably the best in the country.
Base Set? 4-3 under. The Gators bring in nickel Brian Poole on passing downs, usually lifting SLB Jeremi Powell, though they'll occasionally go to a three-man line instead.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
So today I complete the series on Don Brown's defense. After two the gist of that defense is plainly gotten: he runs the same defense Michigan does. I was really hoping to find BC doing something schematic to bottle up Clemson's spread offense; instead it seems their successes came from just fundamentally executing things that Michigan didn't against Ohio State from the same Cover 1 that we both ran.
But I did find something pretty cool on the next drive: Clemson trying to mess with that, and how it responded. The first play's a good example:
Play 1: Jet Motion Triple Option vs. Cover 1—After a three-and-out and an interception that led to BC taking a 7-0 lead, Clemson is ready to bring out the fancy stuff. This looks fancy:
That's a lot of lines in the backfield—and a formation trick that Michigan saw against Ohio State several times—so let me unpack it.
[After we hit THE JUMP]
It's the last game of the year and time for the ultimate "Harbaugh Vitamin". Most stores have their leftover holiday prime rib roasts on sale and we should take advantage. Let's go out in style and make something our guests will talk about until kickoff next season. Who doesn't like a smokey prime rib served with a little horseradish?
Bone-In Prime Rib Roast (1 bone for 2 people)
Kosher Salt and pepper
Stubbs Moppin' Sauce
[After THE JUMP: salt and pepper]
Mark Donnal is taking over this game. He's set a new career-high in points: https://t.co/ksZh94arXe
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) December 30, 2015
WHAT IS MARK DONNAL?
— Chris Gaerig (@cgaerig) December 30, 2015
There are few words to describe Mark Donnal right now.
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) December 30, 2015
"You need to take that, Donnal" ~ a thing I said in real life.
— Bryan Mac (@Bry_Mac) December 30, 2015
...so. If you missed this game, you may have a hard time believing this recap, so I want to preface this by saying I triple-checked for typos and splashed cold water on my face: Mark Donnal led Michigan to a road conference win by scoring 26 points on 11/15 FG with nine rebounds (six offense), three blocks, and two steals.
While Illinois is not a good team up front, Donnal looked like a player transformed. He ran the high screen beautifully, finished strong at the hoop, stepped out to drill a triple, pulled down rebounds with authority, protected the rim, and did it all with more confidence than he's ever shown in a Michigan uniform. Perhaps it's an anomaly. Perhaps it's a turning point. For today, if nothing else, it was a whole lot of fun to watch.
In a more expected development, Caris LeVert also had one of his more impressive games, beating Illini defenders off the dribble all afternoon on his way to 22 points (9/16 FG) and ten assists, several of them to Donnal at the rim.
No other Wolverine made more than three shots from the field; Derrick Walton scored nine, Duncan Robinson and Zak Irvin had eight apiece. Michigan pulled away in the second half by riding the LeVert/Donnal two-man game until Illinois showed they could stop it; the Illini never did. After a hot start to the game from beyond the arc the Illini couldn't keep pace, and Zak Irvin did yeoman's work on the defensive end guarding Malcolm Hill, who needed 13 shot equivalents to score 11 points, seven below his season average.
In a most unpredictable fashion, Michigan opened Big Ten play with a road win. Penn State comes to town on Saturday, giving Donnal a golden opportunity to show today wasn't a fluke. If it was, the reality check may come next Thursday, when the team travels to Purdue to face Isaac Haas and AJ Hammons.
Until the time comes, though, I'll work on finding words to describe... that.
Happy anniversary. Today is one year out from Harbaugh.
A year ago today, Jim Harbaugh was officially introduced as Michigan's head football coach. pic.twitter.com/G8vhtCZ1lw
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) December 30, 2015
Max Harbaugh. To commemorate the event, Harbaugh had a radio appearance on Stoney and Bill. He completed that radio appearance and then CALLED BACK IN to advocate having Wrestlemania at Michigan Stadium, where he could referee a match between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan:
“Why not the Big House?” he said. “Why not? 140,000 – I bet we could get in there for Wrestlemania. They’re trying to break the attendance record at Jerry Jones’ stadium in Dallas. (There’s) a great Canadian presence in wrestling. Why not Michigan and the Big House?”
When a producer on the show suggested that Harbaugh participate as a referee in a Flair vs Hulk Hogan matchup, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate.
“I’m in,” he said.
The chances of that match are not great since Flair and Hogan are a combined billion years old and Hogan was dropped by WWE after tapes of him being racist-uncle-level racist were released as part of a lawsuit he's embroiled in. With Gawker, because of course.
But other than that, yeah, sure. Unfortunately it's too late for Michigan Stadium to get it this year, since last year it was in the 49ers' stadium and that symmetry would have been perfect. Screw you, Jed York! (Actually, thank you, Jed York. Thank you so much for all that you have done for Michigan athletics.)
Either way, AJ Williams is in.
— Aj Williams (@ajthejuicy84) December 30, 2015
And now let us reflect on the previous gentleman. The Washington Post has an article on ballooning costs for athletic department administrators. If that sounds like an article in which Dave Brandon features, you would be correct:
Last December, at a conference on the business of college sports, a panel discussion involving Michigan athletics executive Hunter Lochmann turned to the topic of paying players. Lochmann, according to media reports, expressed skepticism about whether players deserved any of the millions sponsors paid to have their logos seen during Michigan games.
“Those are fleeting, four-year relationships,” he said of the careers of Michigan athletes. “At Michigan, it’s the block ‘M’ that has the affinity and power globally, not [former Michigan quarterback] Denard Robinson.”
The response was interesting coming from Lochmann, a former longtime National Basketball Association marketing executive who himself had just a four-year relationship with college sports at that point. In 2014, Lochmann made $225,000 performing a job — chief marketing officer at Michigan athletics — that didn’t exist before 2010, when then-Michigan athletic director Brandon created the position, luring Lochmann from the New York Knicks.
Lochmann was not the only new face in Michigan athletics. Between 2004 and 2014, records show, the department added 77 new full-time positions, contributing to an administrative payroll surge from $14.7 million to $27.7 million.
That 89% increase considerably outpaces the national average of 69%—this is national trend that Brandon managed to beat out. The returns on those additional staff were nil, as by the end of Brandon's tenure the Big House was three-quarters full and the athletic department had suffered a never-ending series of PR gaffes culminating in the concussion fiasco. The article revisits Lochdogg a bit later:
Michigan’s front office has gotten a bit smaller since last year, however. A few weeks after Lochmann’s controversial comments about Michigan athletes — which sparked backlash from university alums, including some NFL players — the university announced that Lochmann had resigned to “pursue other opportunities.”
In the year since, Michigan athletics has not needed to fill the vacant chief marketing officer job.
Except insofar as Harbaugh fills that role.
Anyway. The article ably details the flood of money going somewhere. That is an increasing army of administrators and higher salaries for extant ones, because, and I quote this quote "We’re no different than any other corporation that wants its business to be successful.”
I can think of one way it is different.
Bobby Bowden and IU athletic director Fred Glass come off well, FWIW.
Florida things. Suspensions and early NFL draft announcements may indicate a Gators program that is not fully checked in at the moment. Four players have already announced they're out the door for the draft after the game. DE Alex McCalister was dismissed from the team a couple weeks ago. Three players, including a starting OT, have been suspended. That starting OT projects to be replaced by a true freshman, which would bring the number of first-year players starting along Florida's lines to four.
That's all good news for a Michigan team that ended the year with a bit of a thud.
Brian Cole mystery, resolved. If you follow the premium sites you've noticed a hard split on the first year of Brian Cole at Michigan. Cole disappeared from the field after a few games thanks to an injury and never returned. Rivals repeatedly asserted that he was deep in the doghouse and unlikely to ever emerge; Scout said he'd moved to safety and was doing well after an early Internal Matter. RJS helps clarify:
"B-Cole's at safety, he's been coming down and bringing a lot of havoc," senior linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone said Monday. "He's been good." …
"Everybody's getting some time to play, we've been doing a lot of scrimmaging with younger guys," Jenkins-Stone said. "Coach Harbaugh's putting people where he feels like they'll be best for the team.
"Coach Harbaugh feels like (Cole) can make that happen, and I'm pretty sure he'll be able to fill a void next year at safety."
0% chance Cole plays in the bowl game since he's got a medical redshirt coming, but good to hear that Michigan's top athlete from the 2015 class is not in the same boat Derrick Green is.
The boat Derrick Green is in. A fast one, going anywhere but Ann Arbor. Ty Isaac will stick around; multiple reports had him taking most of the first team reps before the OSU game.
A less dangerous Indiana. #CHAOSTEAM may be a bit less chaos-y next year thanks to departures. RB Jordan Howard and DT Darius Latham have declared for the draft. IU loses most of their OL and Nate Sudfeld. I find it hard to believe that Zander Diamont is going to replace Sudfeld's production. Kevin Wilson is pretty great at offense but all they have to do is take a half-step back and the chaos turns into something like the LSU-Texas Tech bowl game where it's close for a while and then whoops it's 42-20.
Etc.: Chris Wormley reiterates that he will return next year. At this point I think the only person we're waiting on is Willie Henry. IU guard James Blackmon has a knee injury of undisclosed severity. This is a good vine. Holy crap, Baylor. Three pointers are suddenly easy. Harbaugh Christmas.