"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
[Ed-S: No liveblog today; have an open thread]
expect PLANES today apparently
By Nick RouMel
This weekend is already a success! I sold my tickets for $30 each, a significant improvement over the $20 I obtained for my Miami ducats. This does not include the cut taken by my friendly neighborhood protection racket.
Truth is, I cannot bear to be present during the Utah game. I fear a terrible result. I base this on several important factors.
One is Utah’s all time record vs. the Wolverines. It is just as good as that of several other formidable opponents, such as Alabama, Appalachian State, Auburn, Florida State, and Iowa Pre-Flight. The last time Utah played Michigan, they beat us in the Big House 25-23 en route to an undefeated 2008 season.
Reason number two is the disrespect afforded us by today’s opponent. Heed this from the Salt Lake City Tribune, contrasting the 2008 contest to this year’s game: “Back then, beating Michigan was a sign. It indicated the Utes … were ready for prime time. By contrast, this Michigan team might not be among Utah’s top five toughest.”
“Back then?” Ouch. Has it been that long since anyone considered Michigan a signature win?
Reason three is Brady Hoke’s all-time record against Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. It’s 0-2, both losses coming when Hoke coached San Diego State. This is conclusive evidence that Whittingham is in Hoke’s head, just as surely as that box of Little Debbies sits on Hoke’s desk.
Reason four is that the official attendance will be less than 100,000. In fact the stadium will be so empty that the best Carl Grapentine will be able to muster is “the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in Washtenaw County today.” For the most part, I expect the fans who do attend to spectate with marked indifference.
And reason five, for my fear that Michigan will not prevail over Utah, is that I cannot overcome my overwhelming lack of confidence to predict a victory for this team - at least at this point in the 2014 season.
Sports fans, this may be a Punt-Counterpunt first – two picks for a home loss. Definitely not a milestone worth celebrating. Please accept the following with my apologies:
UTAH 24, MICHIGAN 21
By Heiko Yang
This is less Punt-Counterpunt than it is Delay of Game-Punt from the 37. What better to follow up disappointment than with more disappointment?
I agree with Mr. RouMel’s reasons for why Michigan is going to lose today, but I believe he’s thinking and feeling too hard. I prefer much simpler explanations.
1. Utah wears red. Over the last two seasons, Michigan’s record against teams wearing red is 3-6. That’s not good. It’s 4-6 if you include CMU last year because you think maroon is the same as red, in which case you probably also think corn is a vegetable.
2. I don’t know what the capital of Utah is. Does anyone? It’s probably obscure like “Cheyenne” or something. Wait, the internet says it’s Salt Lake City. That’s stupid, and I don’t believe. That’s like saying Detroit is the capital of Michigan, or New York City is the capital of New York, because having your biggest city be your capital is completely un-American. Stop being so un-American, Utah. Here in America we play with 11 players – not 12! -- and our wide receivers are not allowed to sprint toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, so don’t even think about it.
3. The entire Utah team went to see Maze Runner last night.
Michigan’s running backs feel like they’re in Maze Runner every other play.
4. There’s a guy on their team whose last name is Amaama, pronounced “ah-mah-ah-mah.” That reminds me pleasantly of that muppets song called “mahna mahna.” Please, Special K. Please play the muppets during the game. If you don’t, Michigan Stadium will be awash in my radiant disappointment while I will cheer loudly for Amaama if he plays, which he probably won’t, because he’s a freshman OL, and only at Michigan do we play freshman OL.
5. Today is September 20. The last time Michigan had a football game on September 20 was in 2003 when they played Oregon. And lost.
Utah 35, Michigan 21
[Editor's note: yes I know someone is supposed to predict a win against a middling Pac-12 team. Depression! Ennui!]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Utah Utes Of Utah (We're From Utah!)|
Ann Arbor MI
September 20th, 2014
|THE LINE||M –4|
|TICKETS||From 23 bucks for a real game? Wow.|
|WEATHER||Muggy, high 70s
70% chance of rain
We know very little about what Utah might be like this year; they opened the season against I-AA Idaho State (what's up Matt Gutierrez) and a hilariously incompetent version of Fresno State. Remember how Nebraska was in a dogfight with McNeese State? Yeah, they just blew the pants off of Fresno. The Bulldogs have three games under their belt and have given up over 50 points in each, and neither Nebraska nor USC has exactly covered themselves in glory in their other games.
So: I dunno man.
Run Offense vs Utah
Utah's DL is a bit wee
Utah may be tractable here. While hilariously incompetent Fresno State couldn't go anywhere, Idaho State moved the ball on the ground efficiently. Their top two backs combined for 34 carries and nearly 200 yards; they averaged 5.7 yards a pop. (It was ISU's horrendous passing game that prevented them from doing much: 4 yards an attempt.)
The Ute DL is undersized, rolling out a 5'11", 285 pound nose tackle and 3-4-ish DEs that run 266 and 276; it's unknown how they'll respond to a 2TE offense but their slot corner is 5'8", 178 so just folding him inside is going to be a bad idea. They either went with six guys when Fresno put two guys in the backfield or rolled a safety down.
Against the spreads they've faced so far Utah runs a lot of the 3-man-front-with-standup-DE I've been calling "30 slide" in the UFRs; that standup guy is 255, so when they slide down to a four-man front their SDE and three-tech both weigh less than Frank Clark.
Meanwhile, almost all of these guys are new: only two front-seven starters are back from last year's in-fact-excellent rush D, which finished 17th in the nation at 3.5 yards a pop. (This obscures some roller coaster action: one week after giving up 300 rushing yards to Arizona, Utah held USC's entire team to poor-damn-Toussaint output: 30 yards on 30 carries… in a game they lost by 16!)
Ace noted that even when they were stuffing hilariously incompetent Fresno State those guys weren't holding up too well:
Utah's undersized DTs can get pushed around quite a bit—on a play that stood as a testament to Fresno's inability to do anything right even when doing something right, they pancaked both DTs on an inside run, but failed to account for a single linebacker, managing just two yards even though both tackles were on the dang ground.
The best things these guys have going for them are the legitimately disruptive Nate Orchard (who's from the same high school Sione Houma and Bryan Mone are) and their nose tackle's spectacular name: Viliseni Faounuku.
You never know about mostly new football defenses but the overall picture here is encouraging.
On the winged side of the ball, Michigan is gradually working out the kinks in its zone-heavy scheme. Last week Michigan had a lot of success after some early stumbles and blasted out over six yards a carry. It was against a horrible opponent, but it still represented progress. Michigan's tailbacks hit some of the large holes this time out. Tiny flags were waved in response. Michigan mashed an undersized Miami line off the ball for the most part.
Presented with an opportunity to do something similar against the Utes Michigan is likely to take it. Those kinks will linger—expect Derrick Green to cut to the backside when he's got a promising hole at least once; it actually seems like Michigan can expect success against a Power 5 school.
Key Matchup: Michigan tailbacks versus RUN THERE WHY DON'T YOU RUN THERE. Improved in the last game; there should be similar opportunities in this one.
[Hit THE JUMP for the terrifying tower of tempo.]
Immediately place your mouse here, tap your index finger, and be whisked away to my all-time favorite series of preview diaries: EGD’s Four Plays. He draws up two base offensive plays for Michigan and two base offensive plays of the opponent, shows how each team defends those plays, and then breaks down the individual matchups. A sample:
WDE Frank Clark: Gap-exchange with WLB Joe Bolden; backside pursuit of RB Devontae Booker
NT Ryan Glasgow: Defend backside A-gap against LG Junior Salt
DT Willie Henry: Defend playside B-gap against RG Isaac Asiata, constrict playside A-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: Defend playside D-gap (outside TE) vs. TE Westlee Tonga; backside pursuit if QB keeps, set edge point and force run back inside if QB gives
WLB Joe Bolden: Gap-exchange with WDE Frank Clark; defend backside C-gap vs. LT Jeremiah Poutasi, set edge point and force back inside if QB keeps, backside pursuit if QB gives
Make this part of your preview regimen. In other O’s, Brhino mini-UFR’d the Shane Morris plays (both rollouts so pocket presence information is unavailable).
Coaching searches are like recruiting: five stars wanted. The other big diary this week is resph1’s look at all the coaching searches among Power Five programs since 2007.
|Coaching search lesson 1|
By year four most guys in the study had their programs in better shape than the previous three seasons. Also very few of them were still around:
Only half the coachs on our list of 36 are still at their schools. It gets worse as you go farther back in time. Of the 8 coaches hired for the 2007 season, Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio are the only ones still around. A whopping 5 were fired and another (Harbaugh) left for the NFL.
Even among the 14 “winners” covered above, the story is not much better. 5 guys capitalized on their success and moved on to other positions, and 2 were fired (one scandal, on failed to sustain their initial success), only 7 remain (Snyder, Saban, Briles, Hoke, Kelly, Fisher, Cutcliffe).
I did a somewhat similar study of Big Ten and SEC coaching hires since 1999 in this year’s HTTV, breaking them into categories of “Strong” (like stealing another BCS team’s HC for unholy money), “Average” (like upgrading a proven mid-major coach or BCS/NFL coordinator) or “Cheap” (what Purdue does). Of the SEC’s 30 head coaching hires, 18 were in the “Strong” category, while economy class was reserved for only Vandy, Kentucky, and Arkansas needing a one-year stopgap; only three (Rodriguez, John L. Smith, and Urban) of the Big Ten’s 22 hires rated that, and 13 were on the cheap.
Etc. Gulo Gulo reviewed betting lines, Ron Utah reviews the last few years of Michigan football and wonders if maybe we just should feel sorry for ourselves, LSA on where Michigan stands in basic stats.
[Ed-Seth: You all know Jamie Mac, he of Just Cover Blog and the MGoPodcast, and expert on sports betting. I was at his tailgate last week for the Miami (NTM) game, and between Draft Kings’ offer to to sponsor it and Jamie’s somewhat impaired state at the moment, I was able to convince this legend to come out of writing retirement.
So here’s how it’s gonna work (for now): we’ll have a weekly spot where we identify a Draft Kings fantasy game (could be NFL, CFB, CBB, etc.) to commune in, followed by Jamie’s discussions on odds of relevance to you.]
THIS WEEK’S GAME: CFB $10K REDSHIRT [$1,000 TO 1ST]
I like Jake Butt [and HSR’s groovy image]
- $10,000 prize pool.
- $2 entry fee. Entry is free with your first deposit.
- $1,000 1st Place prize.
- Starts on Saturday, September, 20 at noon EDT
- Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 9 spots.
- Roster Format: 2 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex
- First time depositors at DraftKings receive a 100% bonus up to $600
THIS WEEK’S CHALK
Everyone has eliminated the Big Ten from playoff contention. I am not here to argue against that, although I am in the firm camp of letting the rest of this month and October play out before putting any serious thought into what the true pecking order should be. But keep hope alive Big Ten fans. You can still bet on some of your teams qualifying for the first ever college football final four. Here are the current odds on Big Ten teams making that postseason field.
|Odds of Michigan in the CoFoPuff this year are running about even with the likelihood that the world will apologize. [Upchurch]|
Ohio State: Yes, +400; No, -600
Michigan State: Yes, +500; No, -800
Wisconsin: Yes, +600; No, -1000
They actually have Michigan listed on this board, but there aren't any odds. Talk about a tease. What does it matter anyway. Michigan isn't making any Final Four this season. Well, at least not in football.....
GAMES OF THE YEAR UPDATED LINES
Everyone who knows me, knows I love to track the lines of the Games Of The Year that are released way back in something called June by various Las Vegas and offshore sportsbooks. Let's take a minute to compare the lines for the remaining Big 10 games that were on that board. We've got three data points: opening lines from June, lines on the day the season started and lines as they stand today. It's time for a chart, with some quick thoughts afterwards.
[After the jump, updated lines and Jamie’s tips on who to draft around the league]
Previously: Utah Offense
The above is representative of Fresno State's level of offensive competence, which I guess is as nice a way as I can muster to say they had none. Given the Bulldogs are the best team Utah has faced in two games this year, it's safe to say the Utes' excellent raw defensive numbers must be accompanied with a massive grain of salt. To wit: Utah ranks in the top ten in all but one category (in which they rank 18th) for the components that make up their defensive S&P+ ranking, but when Football Outsiders accounts for schedule their overall defense S&P+ ranking ends up at #52.
We are all Jon Snow this week. Time to share all the nothing I know...
Personnel: As you'll see, Utah rolls out a lot of different defensive fronts, but their standard is usually a three-man front with DE/OLB Nate Orchard lined up as a standup rush end [click to embiggen]:
Utah's secondary is less experienced than even this graphic indicates. A rundown:
- Top corner Eric Rowe, a senior, spent his entire career to this point at free safety. In the spring, he split time between safety and corner, and at one point was listed as the starter at both positions.
- The other starting corner, Dominique Hatfield, played wideout last year and was slated to be the starting Z receiver this spring.
- Nickel Justin Thomas, a former four-star recruit, is a 23-year old sophomore. He didn't play his senior year of high school because he was too old, according to league rules. His profile doesn't list an explanation for how this happened. He started four games last year, making him the grizzled veteran among the non-safeties in the starting secondary.
- The fourth corner, Davion Orphey, started eight games last season, and yet he's behind all of the above players. This is probably related to Utah ranking 86th in opponent passer efficiency in 2013.
- Free safety Tevin Carter was a four-star Cal commit as a wide receiver in the 2010 class. He didn't stick there, stopping over at two different JuCos. He didn't play football last year and missed this spring with an injury before entering fall camp as the backup. He's now the starter.
- Strong safety Brian Blechen has 35 career starts to his name, but split his time between safety and linebacker, then missed all of 2013 due to injury.
The Utes also lost six of their top nine linebackers from last year, including their two most productive pass-rushers, and three of their top five defensive tackles from 2013, when they were already replacing first-round pick Star Lotulelei and their other starting tackle.
So, yeah, the personnel matchup suggests Michigan should have a significant advantage here, especially since the Utes are also quite undersized up front.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown, which mostly consists of Fresno State being hilariously bad at football.]