to play football, not to play trumpet
Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0
Michigan had never been shut out in the history of the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry. Michigan hadn’t been shut out in any game since Ronald Reagan’s first term. Neither of those things is true right now. In fact, nothing is true but the alcohol.
Football is strange sometimes. Michigan outgained Notre Dame 289-282. If you find comfort in this fact, I applaud your zen-like quality, or the quality of your alcohol. Devin Gardner turned the ball over four times. Matt Wile missed two field goals badly. Devin Funchess may be hurt. Raymon Taylor may be hurt. Jabrill Peppers was too hurt to play. On a day in which the Big Ten looked terrible, Michigan’s performance stands atop the flaming heap as the worst of the day.
This game will cause many questions to be asked. For now, I can provide you with only one answer.
PUNT – Notre Dame 9/6/14
by Nick RouMel
I made it out of town for this week’s game. All around me are the reminders of the rich history of Notre Dame: travels down Notre Dame Street, and the majestic Basilica:
Yet the populace here seems unconcerned with tomorrow’s game. In fact, the only reference I’ve seen to football is an out-of-the-way sports bar last night that featured the Seahawks-Packers game. No, not this one:
In fact, the only reference to football in this town is the occasional obscure sign of the local squad, the Montreal Alouettes, the only team named after an herbed cheese spread:
Yes, sports fans, I am in Canada. The Notre Dame Basilica to which I refer is here in Montreal. It features no “Touchdown Jesus,” “First Down Moses,” or the only head coach in Notre Dame history who never lost a game, George “Resume Padder” O’Leary. (I mean seriously, why would you lie about whether you played football at the University of New Hampshire, a team whose motto is “Win or Die?)
Right now it’s looking like the only pregame pep rally available is at a Montreal Jazz Club, where I either made 8:30 PM reservations on the all-French web site, or sold my wife into slavery. I guess I’ll find out when we get there.
Tomorrow, I’ll look for a sports bar in Toronto to watch the Wolverines take on the Irish. I have to admit I was impressed by the opener. Our men were prepared and played well. Last year the most miserable performances were against the teams we had a right to take lightly, and those close victories for me stung even worse than the losses. It was nice to see us get out of the gate on such a high note.
Can the Wolverines sustain momentum, for a team it embarrassed last year under the lights at Michigan Stadium? You know the Irish want to end the rivalry on a high note, and maintain its slim lead in all-time-percentage over the Maize and Blue. But I have a feeling we’ll be feasting on poulet. Nothing will be left but the bones.
Pawk pawk PAWK!!!
MICHIGAN 28, NOTRE DAME 14
By Heiko Yang
Unlike Mr. RouMel, I am decidely not on vacation. However, I am also not in Canada, so I think we’ll call it a draw.
A couple years ago I did drive out with the MGoCrew to South Bend to watch the Michigan play Notre Dame, which ended up being the third worst decision I’ve ever made involving sporting events. This was the 13-6 game during which Michigan’s offense chose to donate generously to Manti Te'o's Heisman campaign rather than score points. The offense was the worst it had ever been under Al Borges, even by 2013 standards – which seems impossible. Yet somehow the defense kept hope alive all game.
But then on the final drive, Denard chucked a fade to Gardner, who was a receiver at the time (because who needs a viable backup quarterback?). The pass caused him to run out of bounds and collide with the corner of a metal platform about 10 feet from where I was standing.
Hope was dead. For a scary minute, I thought Gardner was dead, too.
Over the past few years I’ve learned to hate whenever Michigan has to play a road game. Horrible things happen during road games. Dudes get punched, ACLs get torn, and ulnar nerves get palsied. I don’t think any of the top five candidates for “Most Traumatic Moments of Brady Hoke’s Tenure” have occurred in the Big House, which is perfectly fine. Home is still a safe place, as it ought to be.
Michigan also just flat-out plays poorly on the road. Most of the blame fell on Al Borges and his frequently terrible game plans for road games, because for whatever reason he had a penchant for outsmarting himself in that situation. But the players didn’t help things much either, what with drops and blown assignments.
Now Borges is gone (may he retire in peace). The players are still here though, and they still have to execute the whatever the new game plan might be and stay focused at a rival stadium. This isn’t Northwestern or Illinois or Purdue; this is Notre Dame, where Sunday mass starts on Saturday night and the field is curved* to mock the idea that the earth is round.
I’m afraid they’re going to play poorly again. The Irish know they need to rattle Gardner. If they’re successful, the rest of the offense will fall apart, and the defense can do only so much before they succumb to fatigue and crappy field position. I guess that means that it all comes down to the offensive line to make sure the most important strand doesn’t unravel.
Is anyone feeling good about this matchup now?
Michigan 16, Notre Dame 21
*I assume this is actually for draining purposes, but it is still really weird to look at.
Previously: Notre Dame Offense
The defense as a whole isn't terrifying, but SWEET JEBUS SHELDON DAY COVERING A WHEEL ROUTE OUT OF THE BACKFIELD CERTAINLY IS.
Ah, so, Brian has already posted the game preview because our schedule got weird this week. It's Notre Dame week, so I guess weird is the norm. Usually these will go up on Thursdays because that makes far more sense.
Anyway, Notre Dame pummelled Rice on the scoreboard, 48-17, and mostly limited the Owl offense outside of a couple big plays, including one that came in garbage time. There do appear to be significant holes in the Irish defense, however, and Michigan is better equipped to take advantage than Rice. On to the breakdown...
Personnel: Seth has made some tweaks to the diagram. He did his best to make it readable on this page, but there's enough packed in there that I suggest you click on the image to embiggen:
Dangermen and top-100 recruits have been properly identified; right now, Notre Dame has more of the latter than the former.
Base Set? 4-3 under. As Brian noted, the Irish stuck with their base personnel for the most part against Rice's spread, with OLB James Onwualu—a converted WR who played safety in the spring—often lined up over the slot. Sometimes they'd have one of their DEs play from a two-point stance. Here are both of those things in one screenshot:
Onwualu is over the slot to the near side.
ND did play some three-man fronts, usually on third-and-long, and also shifted to what Brian dubbed a "30 slide" in the UFR when Rice overloaded one side.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown, including... breakdowns.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Notre Dame Stadium
South Bend, IN
September 6th, 2014
|THE LINE||ND –3.5|
PBP: Not Tom Hammond : (
Analyst: Mike Mayock
|TICKETS||Starting at a whopping $316|
0% chance of rain
Via NDMSPaint, obviously.
right: RIP Chesterton Lep
Well, here it is. Thanks to the shortsightedness of mankind, this is the last Michigan-Notre Dame game for the foreseeable future. It is only appropriate that the winner of this game, then, will lead the all time winning percentage battle. Michigan has the opportunity to send the Irish off having lost 5 of 6, with multiple stabbing-chest-wound finishes. They have the opportunity to send 'em off right, that is.
Note: we are assuming at this point that ND will be without their five suspended players. Those guys are WR Davaris Daniels, CB KeiVarae Russell, LB Luke Moore, DE Ishaq Williams, and S Eliar Hardy.
Run Offense vs Notre Dame
Sheldon Day is in our base
This figures to be the most pillow-fight-y section of the game, with Michigan's noob-laden offensive line taking on an Irish front seven that's Sheldon Day, Jaylon Smith, and five question marks.
Actually, six: in addition to the five non Day/Smith starters, new DC Brian Van Gorder installed a 4-3 after Bob Diaco and his preferred 3-4 left to run UConn. As Brian Stouffer mentioned this morning, this does actually seem a better fit for their personnel—Day excels at getting penetration and DT running mate Jarron Jones is a 6'5, 315 pound guy. That's big, but it's not the right shape to be a 3-4 NT.
Even so, it does make for some uncertainty. Sophomore Isaac Rochell is an awkward fit for 4-3 DE at 6'3", 287; Rice starter Romeo Okwara is about right at 260, but nobody really fits the rangy edge speedster role the 4-3 requires at DE.
Notre Dame did keep a 4-3 on the field against Rice's spread, with converted WR(!) James Onwualu split over the slot and Smith and walk-on Joe Schmidt on the interior. Onwualu looks shockingly thin for someone who purports to be a linebacker, and Schmidt is limited athletically. He is very instinctive in the run game, though, and that's what this section is about.
And now we have to talk about Day. Day is a problem. If you pull the guy over him he will be in your base. If you leave him for a trap blocker he will be in your base. If you try to block him straight up there is a decent chance he will be in your base. And while Rice handled him pretty well in pass protection, last year he whipped Kyle Kalis and was in Michigan's base on play after play. Oh and here he is kind of successfully covering a wheel route, via Ace:
Rice scraped out a bleah 3.5 yards a carry with a long of 19, that from their quarterback, though. Normally I would say that Michigan should be able to improve on that production. Now is not that time. It does seem that runs should generally go forward unless Day is getting involved, and if Michigan can start grinding on the Irish they could experience a positive feedback loop: ND's backups are mostly freshmen, and they looked pretty shaky when they got in.
As for Michigan, this is a chance to be competent against a defense that gives you that chance. Get Day blocked and no one else is a dynamic player. Smith is good but I haven't seen him become the ninja panther everyone expects just yet. That's no surprise: linebacking is hard. Even guys who end up terrific struggle early, and it's still early for him.
Against App State Michigan was an inside zone offense that mixed in OZ and power and generally executed their assignments against a team that could not fit a run play to save its life. Their tailbacks looked better, but still average-ish in a world where they have to make cuts and stuff before they get 60 yards; I'm not expecting great things. Mediocre ones would be nice.
Key Matchup: Interior line, all of 'em, against Sheldon Day, especially on stunts. ND loves to take advantage of Day's quickness by looping him around the guys next to him. A young OL needs to ID and deal with these because if they don't, Day will be in their base.
[Hit THE JUMP for secondary holes, no pass rush, an actual running game, and the Golson factor.]
Morris's cannon, by me.
Before getting into last week's game, Best and Worst this week spent about 1,000 words on exorcising demons, spinning a tale of Michigan's decline with the rise of offense based on athletes in space. Once the 2014 ASU game was in hand, it occurred to me that this is where Michigan ought to have been 7 years ago. By 2007 the college football world had witnessed the spread's effectiveness in all its forms, and had time to adjust their schemes, recruit for it, and develop those recruits. The prep sites already identified dual-threat and pro-style quarterbacks separately, and the nationally #1 2008 recruit was absolutely the former.
One part of The Horror story is that Opening Day of 2007 was Michigan's first after switching to zone blocking. [Correction: I have been going around remembering this wrong for years. M went zone in 2006.] Our metrics for evaluating that weren't as good back then, but from memory the blocking that day was about on par with last Saturday's—a work in progress with some obvious successes—except the unit was 20% more senior Jake Long. The biggest difference in the two game plans is once 2007 App State began cheating to stop zone left, DeBord never punished them for it by taking the easy WR screen-type yards. On Saturday, Nussmeier absolutely did, and while that certainly wasn't 2007 Appalachian State out there, it wasn't so hard to imagine if it had been.
Which brings me to the above gif, a sort of preview of things to come in 2015. It was indeed a rollout from a two-TE formation that required a quarterback to make a play that required amazing awareness, footwork and arm strength, but not running speed. It seems the armistice between spread zealots and the MANBALLers will be this: the 2007 offense except with sensible constraints, the 2007 defense except with five times as many functional LBs and DBs, and the 2007 outcomes except we won't lose to teams with a major talent disadvantage. So long as it's successful there will be peace, and so long as the players do amazing things they will be gif'd. Both sides of the fanbase have decided we'd rather eat some lemons that go through bad ideas and bad fits any more.
This is COrrEct. From Inside the Box Score:
I Attended the Beth MOOOwins school of jOUrnalism this sUmmer. According to Beth, the key to doing play-by-play is to randomly Over-anunciate your vOwels. That's the key to doing a Beth MOwins imitAYtion. Just blAst the occAsional vOwel at mAx vOlume. Especially the O's, she loves her O's.
I tend to imagine ESPN has some kid sitting behind Mowins in the booth and the kid is kicking her chair and rocking it back and forth as she talks. In answer to what does Joey Galloway bring to the game: something that's far more annoying than Beth Mowins.
Preach!. Sharik showed that Alabama, whose special teams players might be All-Conference starters already at other schools,
was 112th in net punting because they dinosaur. Purdue, who recruits so terribly that Urban Meyer complained it was hurting the conference, was 2nd. [UPDATE: apparently we read that wrong. HT to johnthesavage.]
[After the jump: videos of MGoBlog posters eating lemons]