This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
It's Ace, filling in for Brian today on the preview. You will skip over this and address your comments to Brian because that's what always happens. If I'm horribly wrong about anything, though, this is totally Brian.
|WHAT||Michigan at Northwestern|
Big House West
November 8th, 2014
|THE LINE||M -1.5|
|TICKETS||Currently 27 bucks|
partly cloudy, 20% chance of rain dropping to 0% after kickoff
low 40s dipping to high 30s, ~15mph winds
Northwestern is a tough team to figure out. They looked pretty bad during the nonconference portion of the schedule, started Big Ten play by blowing out Penn State and knocking off Wisconsin, then lost their last three, culminating in a 48-7 thumping at the hands of Iowa last week. Vegas thinks this is pretty close to a coin-flip; the line opened Northwestern -2 but has been bet all the way to Michigan -1.5. Both of these teams are obviously having a rough go; at least one InsideNU contributor is totally stealing our schtick:
It's almost basketball season... it's almost basketball season...
Michigan 23, Northwestern 10
This seems to be one of those games where fans of each team are by and large expecting the other team to win.
Run Offense vs Northwestern
Chi Chi Ariguzo (#44) is one of the B1G's better weakside LBs. [Fuller]
Until the last two weeks, Northwesterns rush defense had been quite good outside of an understandably rough outing against Wisconsin. Those last two weeks don't look so good, however, as both Nebraska and Iowa rushed for four touchdowns on around 45 carries that averaged ~5 yards. Mark Weisman (Mark Weisman!) was able to turn the corner on several outside runs against the Wildcats last week.
The rush defense's dropoff coincides directly with senior MIKE Collin Ellis missing these last two games due to a concussion suffered against Minnesota, and Ellis isn't expected to play this weekend. His replacement, Anthony Walker, is a redshirt freshman—he looked like one against Iowa. Chi Chi Ariguzo is a quality weakside linebacker, but all it takes is one inside LB getting out of his lane for a solid gain to open up.
The Northwestern defensive line is solid but unspectacular, with only one DL (DE Dean Lowry with 5.5) posting more than three tackles for loss this year. As a team, the Wildcats have just 44 TFLs in eight games—they don't give up many big plays, but they also don't make many.
That could be very good news for Drake Johnson, who should get the chance to build on his breakout performance against Indiana; with his speed, getting to the line of scrimmage clean should be enough for him to crank out 3-4 yards with relative regularity, which is really all M fans can ask for by now. Iowa's repeated success getting to the edge is also encouraging; even after last week, the Hawkeyes are 101st in rushing S&P+, while the Wolverines are a downright average 45th.
One thing to watch: Northwestern likes to get a little aggressive with their strong safety, whether it be four-year starter Ibraheim Campbell—who's missed the last few weeks with a hamstring injury and may or may not be able to play Saturday—or talented but raw redshirt freshmam Godwin Igwebuike.
I'm a little afraid to declare this publicly but I think Michigan might actually be able to run the ball a little bit this weekend.
Key Matchup: Michigan blocking backs and tight ends versus Northwestern's aggressive safeties. If NW is rolling a safety into the box and run-blitzing, the ancillary blockers—as well as the line—has to be able to recognize and pick up their assignments. If they do so, the zone stretch should be there for the taking, and that seems like the play Drake Johnson is most comfortable (and productive) running.
[Hit THE JUMP for the REST of the PREVIEW]
Hello again. How are you? I missed last week due to some minor health stuff and the Dave Brandon stuff. But I have returned with my usual moderate vigor. Did you miss me? I missed you. Let's never be apart again. Except, like, at night. And most of the time during the day.
About Last Week:
A long, long time ago, long before I was my current quasi-respectable self, I used to enjoy my weekends with the occasional adult beverage. And one evening, I found myself in a state of imbibedness in which I had lost most of my reasoning capacity and fine motor function. To give you an idea how far gone I was, I attempted (apparently, according to witnesses, for several minutes) to light a cigar with a flashlight.
And in that state, I recall being deeply amazed by an acquaintance in our group. We’ll call him Dave (because his name was Dave). Dave was an adult who knew how to handle his alcohol, and we didn’t have medical or real safety concerns about him. He was just hammered beyond all reason. He was so drunk that despite the fact that I was in a mental place where I had forgotten how fire worked, I was concerned and amazed about HIS level of intoxication.
Indiana is Dave. Michigan is currently black-out drunk, but they can still recognize someone who is even drunker. Pull yourself together, Dave.
The Road Ahead:
Northwestern (3-5, 2-3 B1G)
Last game: Lost at Iowa 48-7
Recap: Saturday’s action should have served as a blunt rejoinder to the argument that a 6-6 season should save Brady Hoke’s job. The pile of derp Michigan would have to scale is so meager, it barely qualifies as a hill. It’s a “knoll” at best. Maybe, MAYBE it could be a mound if you squint hard enough. Michigan had a path to six wins that did not include a single win over a top-50 team. If the current rankings hold, Michigan will have had eight games against teams ranked 48th or worse in FEI, including SIX at home.
Nowhere is this the awfulness of Michigan’s schedule more apparent than four hours west in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern, once touted as a potentially tricky opponent, has crumbled into a heap. Since beating Wisconsin (which, can we talk about THAT for a second?), they have lost increasingly lopsided games to Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. Iowa jumped out to a 24-0 first quarter lead, which by my calculations should never ever ever ever ever ever happen ever ever. Iowa gets like two possessions per quarter. Giving up 24 points defies all everything.
This latest porcupine massage of a performance saw Trevor Siemian and backup Zack Oliver combine for 75 passing yards (at 3.1 yards per attempt) and -45 yards rushing. That means on 30 passing plays or QB runs, Northwestern put up 30 yards.
I suppose I should mention at this point that Northwestern is favored by most of the advanced statistics folks to beat Michigan.
This team is as frightening as: A team that has, through 8 games, had three offensive plays of 30 yards or more. And is somehow still a coin flip against Michigan. Fear Level = 5
Michigan should worry about: Michigan has not won a road game since defeating the University of Chicago 2-1 in 1913. They are not favored to win another road game until their matchup with the University of Mars, tentatively scheduled as a second half of a home-planet-and-home-planet in the year 2136.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Trevor Siemian’s YPA numbers have fallen in every game since the start of conference play, from 7.0 to 6.3 to 5.4 to 4.4 to 3.8. Meanwhile, Northwestern’s points per game allowed has Increased in every game, from 6 to 14 to 24 to 38 to 48. So, according to the ironclad rule that all trend continue forever, Siemian will throw for 3.1 YPA and Northwestern will give up 58 points. Science.
When they play Michigan: Michigan will defy science and not score 58 points.
Next game: vs. Michigan (NW +2), 3:30 Saturday, ESPN2
[AFTER THE JUMP: Awwww, Y U NO slap hands?]
"There's a starman waiting in the sky. He'd like to come and meet us,
but he thinks he'd blow our minds."
November is the period when "pretty sure he won't be at San Fran" (neither Harbaugh could make the playoffs this year) can mean "he's gotta come!" So, dear diarists, let's dedicate a post to the starman waiting in the sky. This week resident coaching search guy in the diaries alum96 decided to look into Jim's meteoric rise. He included a table in there of split passing/rushing stats for offense and defense. I've taken this opportunity to recreate those as S&P+ ranks (total yardage ranks in parens) because there's a discrepancy in the passing:
|Season||Coach||Record||Rush O||Pass O||Rush D||Pass D|
|2006 Stanford||Singletary||1-11||105th (115)||107th (95)||94th (117)||47th (60)|
|2007 Stanford||Harbaugh||4-8||37th (102)||88th (70)||86th (77)||84th (84)|
|2008 Stanford||Harbaugh||5-7||6th (19)||15th (103)||104th (77)||99th (83)|
|2009 Stanford||Harbaugh||8-5||12th (11)||7th (70)||89th (55)||104th (98)|
|2010 Stanford||Harbaugh||12-1||30th (17)||2nd (29)||24th (19)||30th (16)|
|2011 Stanford||Shaw||11-2||18th (18)||10th (22)||32nd (3)||14th (73)|
|2014 Michigan||Hoke||4-5||45th (67)||70th (105)||6th (25)||44th (36)|
Major disagreements between S&P and the standard stats: the passing game in 2008 and 2009 (bolded) was extremely efficient, just not used very often. Thus total yardage looked awful, but in terms of what happened when they passed, it was very good even before you could explain it away as Andrew Luck. This is a common theme for Harbaugh reclamation projects; the former quarterback is the master of the pick-your-spots passing game. This is also a lesson in tempo—Stanford would plod along, depressing total yardage.
Let's not do this again until my find-on-page searches for "Michigan" don't have to progress past MSU and several directionals to get to ours.
Hokespeech Generator. A guy named MeanJoe07 has apparently found something on the internet where you input the text of Brady's press conferences, add a few nouns (like balsamic vinegar) and a name (like Rhonda Jones) and get back something that makes sense only to people used to digesting soylent blue. The diary is too weird to be of much interest, but the same guy has been responding to comments all over the site with his tool, with quite disconcerting results.
Etc. Basketball back wallpaper. Michigan is probably not going to a bowl game. Best and Worst. Inside the box score. Wolverines in the NFL, and NBA/NHL/etc., when are we getting the former quarterback who coaches an NFL team?
Best of the Board
PUT IT ON THE MAP
A startup that makes realtime maps for local festivals and such is letting us use their software to give the MGoCommunity a more functional method of sharing their spots with each other on gameday. Events around campus, best watering holes, open tailgates for MGoReaders, where the band warms up, etc. all go on the crowd-sourced map. If you want to organize a meet-n-greet or game-watching party in your town, go ahead and add it to the map (it'll be off camera for those in Evanston).
[Jump for some stuff I believed in as a kid]
Previously: Northwestern Offense
This didn't result in a touchdown, making it different from every other clip in this post.
Michigan probably isn't going to take advantage of this because of reasons you're all very well-versed in—namely, Michigan isn't good at offense—but Northwestern gave up 38 first-half points to Iowa so I really have no choice here but to point out the the Wildcats may not be very good. I realize this will only add to the sadness, and for that.
Personnel: Diagram goes here—click to embiggen:
It's unclear if strong safety Ibraheim Campbell will be able to play, let alone at 100%, on Saturday. He was supposed to return to the starting lineup from a hamstring injury against Iowa, but was a late scratch when his leg didn't cooperate; Campbell says the "chances are pretty high" that he'll play—as a senior captain, he's certainly going to do eveything he can to get back on the field.
Also, Northwestern has an honest-to-god punter controversy after sophomore Chris Grandone was replaced by redshirt freshman Hunter Niswander after struggling against the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats are 120th nationally in net punting; there could be an opportunity or two for a big play there.
Base Set? 4-3. The Wildcats ran an over front last year, but against Iowa they played a lot of under.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
This was Northwestern's second completion beyond the sticks. It wasn't their day.
Northwestern took on Iowa and their top-25 FEI defense last weekend. Let's see how that went:
Holy hell, Northwestern. Turns out that Kain Colter guy was pretty valuable.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
I originally had center Brandon Vitabile as a dangerman, but removed that tag after watching the film—it wasn't a good day for the interior line.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. Northwestern took every non-goal line snap out of the gun in the first half, which was as much as I was willing or able to watch for this one.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Wildcats actually mixed in a couple power runs out of the gun, but for the most part they were running inside zone and zone stretch, the latter of which was marginally more successful.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Northwestern varied their tempo a bit, mostly staying at a relatively pedestrian pace. They can go no-huddle if they want, but it doesn't seem like that's a huge emphasis right now.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
A note. UFR tomorrow. Life things.
Open practice. Basketball had one, and it was fun. The most interesting segment was an "overtime" period in which a mostly first-team unit took on a mostly second-team unit, which one of our users got on the tubes:
Impressions on the new blood:
- DJ Wilson has the potential to greatly improve Michigan's defense. Maybe not this year, especially since they're running him out at the five some, but down the road. He's tall, has long arms, is bouncy, and has the lateral agility to check anyone approximately his size. He was about the only defender who was at all effective in a transition drill where the guy on D faces a 2 on 1. He's going to block a bunch of shots. Wilson played a significant amount of five with the next guy limited.
- Ricky Doyle was participating, but only in short bursts, skipping all the running (he did pushups instead) and mostly watching. He seems limited by some sort of injury. Michigan's going to need him by the time they go to Brooklyn—he's much bigger than Donnal and Donnal struggled to finish at the rim to the point where he was sent on a run up the steps. We might retroactively appreciate Jordan Morgan's finishing this year.
- MAAR is probably your third point guard if Michigan needs to dig that deep because of foul trouble or injury. He was able to penetrate to the lane several times, but like LeVert as a freshman he usually didn't have a great idea what to do after that happened.
- Aubrey Dawkins is inexplicable. The guy is 6'6" and can jump out of the gym. The fact he had to prep and then only had a Dayton offer before Michigan swooped in is hard to believe; a guy with his athletic package should have mid-majors and lesser power conference schools leaping to offer him even if he's never seen a basketball in his life. He's going to be a lot like GRIII, I think.
- Kam Chatman is smooth and skilled. Hard to get any serious impression of shooting ability in this brief window but he looked highly capable there—and that was supposedly his weak spot. Beilein will get you to shoot.
I forgot Duncan Robinson existed so I assumed the guy wearing 22 was a walk-on and didn't pay much attention to him; Hatch participated in some drills early but that was all.
One issue: the audio was severely distorted and made it impossible to hear anything. Hopefully they fix that if/when they do this next year.
Other open practice takes. Kyle Bogenschutz:
Most impressive? Michigan sophomore wing Zak Irvin. Irvin was just doing what Irvin does, knocking down threes from all over the perimeter and at an extremely high percentage. Of the opportunities Irvin had in live settings he didn’t miss many. Early of course and just practice but if Irvin is given some more looks like he had last year he will have a chance to lead the team in scoring despite LeVert being the most complete player on the team.
He also references Wilson's defensive upside.
Offensively, Chatman looks game-ready. The 6-foot-7 freshman is confident with the ball not shy about getting his shot off. Known as a smooth and methodical player, he had a little more bounce than anticipated. The questions for Chatman remain on the defensive end of the floor. Those will be answered with time.
A defense. What kind of argument to you have to make to get me to defend Dave Brandon? This kind:
Applying ESPN Grade To Michigan's Situation: Last Friday, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigned under pressure from boosters and alums unhappy with the football team's decline from the Top 25 and with stadium renovations intended to provide luxury to the 1 percent. Added to the bill of attainder should be that Michigan looks bad on graduation rates. The football graduation rate under Brandon averaged 69 percent, which would be acceptable at some lesser schools but is embarrassing at an elite institution like the University of Michigan.
He later cites Northwestern's 97% grad rate so I know what numbers he is using: the NCAA's graduation success rate metric. The NCAA's GSR site has numbers up to the 2007 cohort, who gradated in May of 2011 if they took four years. That's barely a year after Brandon's arrival and is in no way representative of anything he did academically. Michigan's APR has hit Northwestern levels the last few years as they dig out from the Carr/Rodriguez botched transition, and the GSR will follow… in like five years.
Congrats, Gregg Easterbrook. You have found a bad way to argue for Dave Brandon's dismissal. They said it couldn't be done, but you did it.
Coming up empty. The Daily has an article on Michigan's document retention policy, or lack thereof:
Despite the fact that Michigan state law requires public bodies to “protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction,” according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, there is no University policy currently in place to ensure that employees retain communications in accordance with state-level regulations.
State law stipulates that public records be kept and disposed of in accordance with a formal schedule, which requires that correspondence be retained for two years after the date of its creation before it can be destroyed.
University officials, however, claim that on-campus regulations are separate and exempt from state law.
“It’s our policy that it’s up to individual users to determine their own document retention,” Fitzgerald said. “The University doesn’t have a set schedule.”
Daily FOIAs for Brandon emails between March 13th and 14th of this year and between July 24th and 26th of 2014 came up with "no responsive records"; the Daily was looking for correspondence on the Gibbons matter. I can add that I filed an FOIA for the specific date of the Have A Happy Life email and, like one of our users, it came back non-responsive as well.
Hilariously, the University is arguing that it is "not a formal part of state government" to justify this behavior… after repeatedly arguing in court that they are. In yet further evidence that the Michigan FOIA department is out of step with standard practice:
When the Daily submitted requests for e-mail archives of various other Big Ten athletic directors in mid-2014, representatives from MSU, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Nebraska, Purdue University and the University of Illinois responded with offers to provide the records. The University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University and Ohio State University did not respond immediately.
A lack of transparency is always in service to the people entrenched at the top of the institution and not the institution itself.
Boo, John Clayton, boo. Clayton on Olbermann:
In brief: Clayton asserts that Harbaugh's going to be somewhere else next year but it is likely to be an NFL team, not Michigan.
Etc.: The Big Ten is bad at hockey. Except for Minnesota. Hockey commit Kyle Connor is kind of a big deal, and explicit that he is going to honor his commitment. Derrick Walton is set to make a leap. Tom Crean wrecked his program. Smart Football has a glossary.