(Guess what? I published a book this offseason. It's about baseball. The Cubs. The White Sox. And that one time they played each other in the World Series. Check it out. It's only available via Amazon Kindle right now, but a print on demand option is coming soon)
What a great Saturday of college football this weekend. For the first time in history, the top-3 ranked teams in the AP Poll go on the road to play a fellow top-20 team on the same day. Will it be Shakeup Saturday? Or Separation Saturday? I'm guessing a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
The B1G is right in the middle of it. Ohio State at Oklahoma is one of those three top-3 games, along with Florida St-Louisville and Alabama-Ole Miss. But also Michigan State and Notre Dame renew hostilities after a two season cease fire. Both teams are ranked, eyeing playoff runs and always seem to play tight, crazy games. Toss in unranked Nebraska favored and hosting mighty Oregon and there are three bigtime showdowns in the league this weekend. And the undercards all offer something interesting to watch, even if it's ineptitude. Looking at you, Northwestern. Ten of the league's 11 games this weekend involve games between FBS schools. The only game with an FCS squad is actually intriguing with that level's 5-time champ and regular giant killer North Dakota State going to Iowa. What's better is three things I dislike watching about the conference, Minnesota, Purdue, and the Indiana Defense, all don't play. It should be fun. Let's breeze through the schedule before this week's picks.
FOR DEGENERATES ONLY
[The rest of the lines, after THE JUMP]
It’s been awhile since we last did one of these best of the user-generated content articles so there will be a bit of catchup. I’ll use this opportunity to introduce you to some of my favorite regular features that the MGoReadership has been producing.
EXTRA FRONT PAGE CONTENT
Stock Watch: This is really front page content we forgot to bump in the craziness of preseason. It’s Mathlete’s 2016 preseason “this team is going to win +/- Y games” guesses based on his every-play metrics.
Best and Worst: If I ever remembered to bump it on Sundays, bronxblue’s postgame assessment of Michigan fans’ current zeitgeist would be regular front page content. You don’t need to understand professional wrestling references, but it helps.
B1G Expectations: Ecky Ptang needs to create his own tag for this relatively new series that tracks the conference-wide total win probabilities and upcoming schedules. It’s great for knowing who’s got what opponents next and backing up thoughts like “Penn State is a 7-win team,” and the graphs make it a quick read. Here’s week 1. Here’s last week. At right is a nice looking mountain.
KNOW YOUR HISTORY
Throwback Thursday: ReadYourGuard was a linebacker who played with Harbaugh, and a lot of other interesting guys. This offseason he told the stories of a bunch of them. These are not media interviews—they’re real stories of guys who played for Michigan that they’re only sharing with another former player. Any random click here will be more rewarding than reading the rest of Dear Diary: Todd Plate. Clay Miller. Tim Williams. Mike Dames. David Key. Mike Reinhold. Brent White. Ken Higgins.
Forgotten Blue: MGrowOld recently started this 25-episode miniseries on old Michigan greats, even if a Hall of Fame shortstop who was nearly as good as Alan Trammell over relatively the same era hardly qualifies as “Forgotten”.
This Month in MGoBlog History: Maize.Blue Wagner is running 10 years back, which was still in the blogspot days. Now that we’re into the 2006 season it’s fun again; this week was all about the time Brady Quinn’s Heisman campaign became a Bennie Hill video.
Lanyard Program: Both the name of the series and the author, LP makes a quick printout program that’s handy to have at the games. I keep getting requests for him to put our FFFF diagrams on there each week.
Weather: MGoweather is our meteorologist. Posts go up Friday evenings before gameday so there’s no excuse for reading them when you’re already half way to Ann Arbor on Saturday like I always do.
Best of the Board
WHO IS FREDDY P SOFT?
Man explains his invisible enemy pic.twitter.com/9cGihZCQri
— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) September 15, 2016
Now you know. The man apparently has a history.
ALL THE DAILY! I will give you a link to a thread that goes to a link to the complete archives of the Michigan Daily, but ONLY if you promise me that you won’t look up anything I wrote because my editors sometimes sucked and changed the entire meaning of my stuff (also: I sucked).
We are promised?
Okay here you go.
NOT GOLD. Our sponsor just bought the house across from the stadium on Main Street and since it’s last minute they asked our help to sell spaces there. I forgot to mention that besides the tailgate they also just sell plain old parking spots there too.
|WHAT||Colorado at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
September 17th, 2016
|THE LINE||Michigan –19.5|
20-30% chance of rain during game
Colorado's not good. They haven't been to a bowl game since 2007 and last year's 4-9 campaign was actually an improvement over 2-10 the year before. Like Michigan, they played Hawaii in their 2015 season opener. Unlike Michigan, they lost. The Buffaloes have been lost in the wilderness, head-butting each other, for going on 20 years now.
In this context a rousing blowout of in-state rival Colorado State does mean something. They squeezed by a 7-6 CSU team last year and spent big chunks of the last decade actually losing to them, so roaring out to a 30-point first-half lead and coasting the rest of the way is a notable improvement no matter how off this year's Rams are. How much improvement is an open question, but they could be a 6-6, 7-5 type outfit headed to Shreveport or wherever.
Vegas expects them to be Michigan's stiffest test to date, with a line more than two touchdowns closer than the UCF game. This shouldn't be close, but it should be a football game.
Run Offense vs Colorado
Tupou is large, man
Questions abound for Michigan after a performance against UCF which was disappointing even considering the Citronauts' box-stacking. A poor performance from the rotating left guard and indifferent ones from a couple others left Michigan fans fretting after a 37-point win, as they are wont to do.
In Colorado they meet last year's #96 rushing D per S&P+, but one that should improve after losing just one contributor in their front seven and getting back monster nose tackle Josh Tupou. Tupou, who pushes 330 and is the space-eater a 3-4 defense needs, returns after missing 2015 because of an off-field incident. He was honorable mention All Pac-12 in 2014 and should provide a stiffer test than anyone Michigan's interior line has yet faced.
Colorado is also entering their second year under DC Jim Leavitt, who you may remember seeming like a reasonably good idea* during Michigan's DC search. Leavitt put together quality defenses as USF's head coach a decade ago and CU should be past the inevitable hiccups that come with a coordinator change what with just about everyone returning.
Upside may be limited; most of the returners are juniors moving into their senior year and there isn't a touted gentleman amongst them, either by recruiting rankings or NFL prospects. This is a situation where improvement comes from the next generation pushing through.
Early returns are not good. CSU had 186 yards on 33 carries, 5.6 a pop, and many plays featured cavernous holes. Ace:
Colorado's safeties had to get involved quite a bit, and they were good enough to prevent chunk gains from turning into home runs, but they were involved more than they should've been. That's because Colorado's front seven had a tough time getting off blocks unless a CSU blocker comically fell over.
They dominated Idaho State for what little that's worth.
If there's a danger in the CU front seven it's at linebacker. Junior Derek McCartney (yes that McCartney) had 11.5 TFLs a year ago and five sacks as a sophomore; Ace and PFF liked WOLB Jimmie Gilbert's ability to get to the QB. He doesn't seem to do much else—he had six sacks last year and one other TFL plus just 25 tackles overall—but should be a test for Michigan's tackles.
The DEs and ILBs are weak points Michigan will go after. We'll see if Colorado plays as aggressively as UCF or decides they've got something to lose if they let Wilton Speight get going. Leavitt does have a reputation as a guy who wants to get after you.
*[On the field. Maybe not so much off it.]
KEY MATCHUP: MICHIGAN'S LEFT GUARD versus WHATEVER THAT WAS LAST WEEK. Huge sinkhole was a major factor in the lack of production. Must get that fixed for Saturday and beyond.
[Hit THE JUMP for a LEGITIMATE ALL-AMERICAN… and SOME OTHER GUYS]
Welcome to the first 2016 edition of Moving the Stati-Sticks, our weekly deep-dive into the advanced stats that have become increasingly popular in college football and the weekly in-season post that you most likely forgot existed. I’m hoping to change that this season. Instead of a bunch of tables or numbers in text, I’ll be creating graphs (and they’re mostly intelligible!) for items of note. This won’t be an exhaustive look at every single line item in the advanced stat profiles that are out there, but rather items of interest spun out of last week’s game, followed by a quick look ahead to Saturday’s opponent.
We’ll start with a thousand-foot view of Michigan, and the view’s pretty nice, actually. ESPN’s FPI predicts Michigan’s record will be 10.8-1.7 with an 11.9% chance they win out and a 39.9% chance they win the conference. Bill Connelly’s advanced stats profile at Football Study Hall, from which most of the rest of this post is derived, gives Michigan a 9% chance to win out and 35.2% chance to finish 11-1 or better. Brian Fremeau’s FEI doesn’t have opponent-adjusted stats available yet, but Michigan’s first in the country in unadjusted game efficiency. They’ve also played teams that FEI ranks as either below average (ranked 71-90) or awful (ranked lower than 116), but, uh, wooo we’re number one. More detailed stats are obscured by a lot of garbage time, but on a macro level available projections are very favorable to Michigan.
[After THE JUMP: the run game, quantified]
- The most depressing 37-point win ever
- Offensive line play: left guard is a problem, new center causing issues in blitz assignments? That’s probably on TEs and OTs.
- Speight is hitting chests, Chessons.
- Winovich and Gary: overpursuit puppies.
- The 87-yarder was mostly Dymonte Thomas misjudging literally a track athlete.
- Colorado: much better than we though pre-season. Like maybe a 6-7 team.
- Jim Harbaugh did not eat boogers. But he may have bit his thumb at Scott Frost.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
SPONSOR NOTES: So we fixed the link, as someone informed us that the page had been password protected for seemingly no reason. That is no longer the case. You can go over to Matt's site and be lovingly led through the process of financing a home purchase now. Alacrity, that's the ticket.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Okay. I added a column. "D Pack" is short for defensive package and lists the personnel. 4-2-5 is Michigan's standard with two ILBs and Peppers on the field. Peppers counts as part of the 5 because he can play CB and S, which he did in this game. 3-2-6 lifts a DL for (currently) a safety. There was one 4-0-7 with Peppers at LB and six other DBs on the field.
I'm still sifting through what I want to do with the other columns. I'm probably going to split Front into Front and Coverage, but given how complicated coverages are these days and my lack of ability to see downfield sometimes that'll be noisy data.
Anyway. Most of the stuff wasn't crazy. I called this 4-3 SAM slide, as it's a 4-3 even with Peppers on the end of the line:
This was a more standard 4-3.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Almost zero rotation in this game. Starting defense when the whole way, with all 68 snaps given to the starting DBs. Kinnel and Watson got 10 and 7 snaps in various dime packages; Lavert Hill got in for that 4-0-7 play.
Peppers, Gedeon, and McCray all missed one snap. The DL rotated six guys close to evenly. By snap counts: Winovich(55), Glasgow(47), Godin(40), Wormley(36), Gary(33), Hurst(33). Marshall got 13 and was the only other DL to play.
[After THE JUMP: calm with bursts of WTF]