and... i like them? I think I like them.
This week Michigan plays Iowa, which means I just got done charting every snap of an offense coached by Greg Davis. I'm pretty sure this is grounds for a hostile working environment lawsuit, but thankfully I'm not particularly litigious. Since I couldn't bear to watch last week's Iowa-Purdue pillowfight, I took a look at the Hawkeyes's matchup against... Indiana.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. The Hawkeyes spent the entire game in a one-back formation—because using two backs is clearly begging for an AIRBHG strike—with 35 snaps from under center and 16 in the gun, most of the latter coming on third down situations.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Iowa mostly utilizes zone blocking. As in, somebody should tell Greg Davis there are run plays besides the zone stretch. Just a thought.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Grind it out. Greg Davis needs plenty of time to contemplate his next playcall (okay, okay, it's a zone stretch—you got me).
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): James Vandenberg rarely takes off except in instances of extreme panic; with sacks removed, he's got 126 rushing yards on 31 carries this year. I'll give him a 3.
Dangerman: In this offense? An oxymoron.
Okay, if I have to choose someone, it's senior wideout Keenan Davis, whom the BTN announcer described as Iowa's "big-play threat"—he has 46 receptions for 560 yards (12.2 ypc) and one touchdown. He averaged over 14 yards per catch across from Marvin McNutt last year, but in case you haven't been following the Hawkeyes this season, the offense has taken a bit of a turn.
Zook Factor: This category could easily be named after Kirk Ferentz (except, strangely, when he plays Michigan). In this game, down three points with 4:52 left, he punted on 4th-and-inches from his own 28-yard line; this isn't that egregious for Ferentz, but Advanced NFL Stats has the break-even point for that situation (actually, 4th-and-1, so this is generous) at a 0.56 success rate, and 4th-and-1 situations are conveted at a 0.76 success rate. He actually had his offense out on the field until a review of the spot, which stood, before sending out the punt team.
Iowa got the ball back with 18 seconds left and couldn't produce a miracle drive.
Ferentz will probably grow a pair against Michigan, because this is what he does, and it probably won't matter.
HenneChart: The advantage, for a given definition of the word, of Davis's dink-and-dunk offense is that your downfield success rate doesn't look terrible thanks to a series of throws three yards "downfield":
This was also Vandenberg's best game of the Big Ten season by a wide margin—his 7.3 yards per attempt was a full yard over his next-best conference effort and well above his average of 5.5(!) in six B1G contests. While the structure of the offense usually allows Vandenberg to avoid crippling mistakes, he threw a bad interception into the end zone when he expected Indiana's cornerback to pass the receiver off to the safety, and instead the corner dropped right into the throw. You'll also see later that Vandenberg missed a golden opportunity for a long touchdown pass.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Formation notes: We've already talked about Michigan's 3-3-5 at the end of the game, which was really blue for some reason:
filmed in post-apocalyptic-Denzel-Washington-vehicle-o-vision
The rest of it was as per usual. Michigan goes with an even front against spread packages and flares the LBs out to deal. This results in things like this…
…and is a declaration of immense faith in the DTs. Here's Ryan over the slot again:
Michigan used some super wide splits once, when they were sick of getting edged by the option:
This was a FB dive that looked dangerous before Pipkins spatted the ballcarrier for two yards.
Finally, here's something. What? I'm not sure. THANKS DIRECTOR GUY
I swear these guys who come in and think they're Football Tarantino.
Substitution notes: Secondary as it always is. The front seven saw the same rotation they have in the last couple games, with CGordon/Bolden/Ross backing up Ryan/Demens/Morgan at LB and Heitzman/Black/Pipkins/Clark backing up Roh/Campbell/Washington/Beyer. Heitzman's increased PT continued; Bolden got relatively few snaps. Ross got more, including the last drive, but maybe not as many as I expected he did going in.
[AFTER THE JUMP: getting gashed, responding, Kovacs in your grill]
- Hey hey what can I say, day to day day to day to day day.
“[We had a] good work day yesterday, [good] preparation. [Iowa is] one of the good football teams, especially a team that, capacity-wise, they’re playing well when you look at taking care of the football, turnovers, and the running game from an offensive line standpoint. They’re typical Iowa where they’re going to get on you and they’re going to do a great job in the zone schemes. Defensively they’re going to play very tight up front and let the linebackers flow. You see that. In the kicking game, they’ve got some real weapons in their kickoff return and their kick coverage and in the kickoff that they’ve done a nice job with. For us we had a good practice. Like I said, it was a good work day. Need another good work day today.”
So. Michigan got a nice play from Will Campbell to turn second and three into third and one despite kind of conceding the first down, then saw Kenny Demens blow upfield as soon as he saw Venric Mark block a blitzing James Ross. He hewed down a Colter scramble in the backfield. Now it's fourth and two, and all the timeouts have been taken.
Michigan comes out in… this. I guess. Whatever this is. Weird is what it is.
Please note that Northwestern has also brought their share of weird to the party. They're in a two back set with all three WRs to the field, which means one of those slots is covered up. Michigan is seven on eight in the box, with a safety—Gordon—hanging out deep. If Northwestern can get guys blocked they should have a guy running free. As we'll see, they don't.
This has been mentioned before, but Michigan came out in this weird formation on fourth and two in an attempt to bait Northwestern into a handoff up the middle, which they successfully did.
As a bonus, the bait here is compounded by Northwestern confusion. It does not matter what Colter does here. They're dead.
Part The First: Black Surge
Jibreel Black is shaded playside of the center above and immediately shoots upfield of said center.
This is easy for him. Just go straight upfield. It does two things:
- Invites Colter to hand off. That looks dangerous to him because if he's forced to pitch early by a Black surge then Roh is likely to contain the back.
- Forces the dive back to the backside of the play, where there are two Northwestern OL and three Michigan defenders.
In the wider view you can see three Northwestern OL releasing, with the fourth dealing with Clark.
Part The Second: Handoff Away From Strength
That looks un-promising. But here's what they'll do:
The option provides blocking strength to the front side of the play because you're letting the end go to option him; on the backside you're blocking him. Here Northwestern burns that strength as two confused guys go after Ross. A third has to cut Ryan, and there's no one for three separate Michigan defenders.
At the mesh point Colter is looking at Roh on the edge and Black surging through, which seemingly puts acres of space between the NT and backside DE. There are acres, in fact.
Part The Third: Free Train With Purchase Of Handoff
ACRES OF PAIN WOO
Everyone run around and do things! Be happy! And then play the dog groomers song and kill everyone's buzz. But those first 5 seconds were rad.
Things And Stuff
This was dead in every way. If Colter decides to keep he is probably going to get pushed wide by Black, maybe even have a pitched forced by him a la Mike Martin last year. If he does not…
…it's Mike Trumpy in space against Jordan Kovacs with Roh pursuing from the inside-out. We've seen how that story ends, against this team even.
That was forth and inches, this is fourth and two. I'll take my chances there.
This play seems specifically designed to defeat the option. The Black surge is going to do one of two things. One option is what it did. The other is for the playside G to block Black, likely with help from the center, and leave one guy for Ross. If those guys can combo Black a keep meets the same fate you see in the frame on the last bullet. If those guys can combo Black and the C manages a release to the second level, then you are possibly in business as you hypothetically have enough guys to block the LBs.
I don't see how that happens though given what Black does here. No one is coming off that guy fast enough to be useful. The only option that gets yards is a check.
Nothing else? Just a check? The only other way in which this might eke out the first down is by letting the backside end go, too, and having that tackle hit Demens. This may or may not work and exposes the back to Clark coming down the line; at least if he's hit by Clark it's from behind. Really, though, there's nothing.
Demens! This isn't the hardest play in the world for a linebacker but even so you can't do it any better. There's no drama after this:
No spinning out or grinding forward or sliding off. The guy just goes down, backwards, game over. That's one of them form tackles.
Cat and mouse. This play followed a series of timeouts. Michigan showed the formation they ran before the first one:
Northwestern called TO, and came out with their covered slot formation. Michigan again showed the 3-3-5 alignment…
…until everyone in the front seven yelled at Ryan to get on the LOS…
Roh had to do a ton of pointing and talking to get this to happen
…and then Michigan called timeout before a false start. As a bonus, unless the slot receiver moved after the camera took him out of the picture, Northwestern only had six on the line of scrimmage and would have been hit with an illegal formation.
So they went to it, got a TO, showed it, got rid of it, called a TO, and then ran it. The dance of doom.
A gimmick defense for gimmick times. Yeah this could get gashed by stuff other than what Northwestern ran; Michigan knew their comfort zone and had a plan to blow it up. They had plenty of problems in this game, and I think Mattison is going to have to make some adjustments to slow the Wildcats down in future years, but at the end it was Michigan who got the last stab in after a knock-down, drag-out fight.
It's Mott Week on MGO. Or MGoMottWeek. Or Buy Stuff so we can donate to Mott week. Still working on the title.
There are no bowl games in Ann Arbor. Neither are there any home games in the Big Ten Championship or National Championship playoffs. That means this Saturday is the last time you get to see the Denards and the Kovacses and the Omamehs and Roundtrees and Vincent Smith play at Michigan Stadium. They grow up so fast. It seems like just yesterday they were committing to the early spreadrod classes, or committing to Carr.
How this works again:
- Wednesdays I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it. BONUS THIS WEEK: We donate to Mott if you do so!
About Last Week:
Greg Mattison appreciates the fact that nobody imagined Northwestern would score 31 points against his unit. Course it did none o' ya any good.
This Week's Game:
The Iowa Huckguys arrive this Saturday in Ann Arbor to challenge the Michigan Wolverines to a battle of execution in honor of the God of I-formations.
And on the Line…
Few are left from the hybrid class, but a good chunk of the seniors this senior day were the last to have committed to Carr (Moore, Mealer, Demens, Floyd kinda, Campbell the first time) while others were among the first couple of classes under Rodriguez (Denard, Vincent Smith, Roundtree, Omameh, Barnum, Roh, Hawthorne, Kovacs, Kiwatkowski). I think 'tis fair to say that none of them got what they thought they were signing up for, with the notable exception of the thing Lloyd always said is the thing they were signing up for: a degree from the University of Michigan.
In his honor, and that of class longest-serving starter Patrick Omameh who's also known for his works there, MGoBlog will be donating part of the proceeds from any MGoShirt purchased this week to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. You can join us by purchasing something from the store, or by giving directly.
Winner gets the Lloyd shirt, and the Space, Bitches! shirt carryover from last week. Stay classy!
BONUS: Guess Thursday's Three Stars
Billy the Movie (Actually "Perseverance: the Story of Dr. Billy Taylor") opens this Friday night at the Michigan Theater, and since one of the winners can't go I get to give his tickets away again. So…if you're gonna be in town on Friday and you wanna go, then guess the THREE STARS (in any order) of tomorrow's hockey game vs. No. 7 Notre Dame (yes, including the Irish ones, as if). If nobody gets all three, we'll start with who got 1 and 2, then 1 and 3, then 2 and 3, then just 1, etc. Don't everybody say Trouba.
If you can read this you don't need glasses:
One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). If nobody gets the score, this week's prize carries over to the following week's. Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game (since I won't have time to pull them on gamedays). MGoEmployees and Moderators--anyone else with moderator privileges--are exempt from winning because you could change your timestamp. If you choose the score that Brian published in the official preview and it actually ends up the final score, well, that would be pretty amazing because Brian picks scores like 29-11 all the time. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus.This is not the algorithm. This is close.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Michigan has now played five games this year. The closest margin of victory: 28 points.
Yes, two of those were exhibition games against Division II teams, and the regular-season competition hasn't been stellar either. Tonight's opponent, Cleveland State, had to replace four starters, and at 94th in KenPom they're by far the toughest test the Wolverines have faced this year.
Michigan wiped the floor with them, though, starting the game on an 8-0 run, finishing the first half on a 23-2 tear, and cruising to a 77-47 victory. A Wolverine team hasn't made basketball look this easy in a long, long time. I remember the LaVell Blanchard-led 2002-03 squad losing the season opener to St. Bonaventure. In Tommy Amaker's last season, Michigan had to climb out of an early hole to beat something called a "Maryland-Baltimore County" by 12. Even last season, the Wolverines won against Saginaw Valley State—a team they beat by 28 last week—by just nine points. I'm pretty sure one of Brian Ellerbe's outfits found a way to lose the intrasquad scrimmage.
Through five games, Michigan is playing basketball on a different level than their opponents—and any Wolverine team in recent memory. Daniel Horton has nothing on Trey Burke, whose first-half hesitation crossover in transition broke ankles in the upper bowl—he finished with 12 points and seven assists without appearing to break a sweat. Manny Harris never rounded into the complete, efficient wing that Tim Hardaway Jr.—once again stuffing the box score with 17 points (7-12 FG, 3-6 3P), six rebounds, and four assists—has become. Nik Stauskas (15 points, 3-4 3P), well, let's just say he wouldn't be out-shot by Gavin Groninger. I can't even think of a suitable player comparison for Glenn Robinson III, who had an off-night (2-7 FG) and still managed to contribute nine points, seven rebounds, and solid defense, including spiking a layup attempt off the glass.
After covering four games in five days, three of them laughable basketball blowouts, I hope you'll forgive the fact that my mind began to wander in the second half. While half-watching Burke effortlessly run the pick-and-roll, or Hardaway skying for a defensive rebound, or perhaps it was Stauskas drilling a three like it was Pop-A-Shot, I thought about Avery Queen.
And I laughed.