to play football, not to play trumpet
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]
it's supposed to be creepy and self serious and gross
An annual tradition also coming to an end this week: I talk with Puppet Wrangler In Chief Brian Stouffer about the Notre Dame game as ridiculously as possible. Part One is at House Rock Built and features a TOO SOON joke plus icky Canadian emo breakup rock. This is part two.
I am bolded; Stouffer is not. This is just for readability, and not meant to imply any jinx-inducing superiority.
Let's talk Irish running game. Brian Kelly going to bother with it at all? He seems to hate it.
I think even Brian Kelly can find a little love in his cold black heart for our run game this year. The OL is looking pretty dominant, and now we've got three guys that we can swap out at RB, so there's going to be a lot of fresh legs and hard running. If we can force more defensive resources to respect the run game, that's all the more space opened up for the happy-go-bomby portion of the program.
How's your front seven? Up to the task?
Michigan has some whizbang on its DL this year with Frank Clark and a horde of defensive tackles. Everyone has high hopes that ogre/man Willie Henry will get technique religion this year and starting hurling dudes around; Ondre Pipkins looked good in limited time in his first game back from an ACL tear.
The linebackers were iffy as M replaced last years starters at ILB with a SAM linebacker and Joe Bolden, one of the backups, and then we're pretty sure Desmond Morgan is out... which is bad because he was Michigan's best LB Saturday and last year. In a game where they figure to spread 'em out it will be important for Michigan to win that battle at the line. This is kind of the opposite of Michigan OL versus ND front seven.
Wow... that sounds like confidence. Confident Brian Cook frightens and confuses me. Your secondary is supposed to be awesome and experienced too, yes? Are you guys the 85 Bears? You have to tell me if you are. Otherwise it's entrapment.
The secondary! They return everyone except a middling safety and have about six corners plus a solid FS; the other SS spot is a bit of an issue that may cost Michigan. I like Jeremy Clark long term, but he made a couple of silly errors to set up both App State touchdowns.
And all that stuff about how defense X is going to be aggressive is actually true: Michigan is mostly a man press team now, throwing in enough zone to prevent you from running all the pick routes but generally in your face and against easy yards. It's kind of unprecedented. Of course, this is all hypothetical until they play a real team. I am optimistic, not even cautiously so. Michigan fans have been pointing at this year as a breakout one for the defense since Mattison arrived, basically, and now it's time to put up or shut up.
But not the 85 Bears, because we do not have a dance.
the NFL is so spectacularly copyright litigious that the actual Super Bowl shuffle is not on the tubes
How do you expect Notre Dame's WRs to deal with a lot of in-yo-face coverage? That Robinson guy is rather tall. I wonder who is father is.
None other than William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
THAT DON'T MAKE NO SENSE PAWWWWWL
And now you know... the rest of the story.
Okay, now that we've referenced both Paul Harvey and Paul Finebaum (#truedetectiveseason2), I'll um answer your question. What was it? Oh, receivers. Yes. Karl Malone or whoever's kid is big, but I haven't really seen him play like a big man and fight for the ball. The other receivers are undersized, and while they were fun to watch hauling in bombs in the open field, I'm not sure if they're going to excel at fighting in tight spaces.
I think Michigan might use more safeties than Rice's "NOOOOOPE." That was so bizarre. You're RICE! You can't stick with those guys. RICE: "WE LIKE MATH BUT HATE LOGIC" Me: "That's not logical." RICE: "HAHAHAHA!"
Everyone hates rice.
Do you still have Butt? I read somewhere you hurt your Butt. Sorry about your Butt. Do you have a replacement Butt?
We broke our Butt but our Butt is just abutt ready to butt in on this game. Everyone's been told Butt will not butt in but Butt himself thinks Butt is ready to get his butt in there and put someone else on their butt. But, we don't know about Butt until he either suits up or does not suit up. Butt.
And no we don't have a replacement Butt our other tight ends are offensive linemen who aren't good at blocking.
In a year full of terrible Butt news, this is the worst Butt news yet.
I am not entirely sure what the Other Brian means by this but I assume he's referring to this woman recently convicted for a LETHAL BUTT INJECTION. She was convicted of "depraved heart murder"… and wire fraud. Personally I would have let the wire fraud go.
We may have digressed somewhat here.
But... Oh, right. Yes.
Ask me something non-posterior-related. Quickly.
Who draws the Funchess matchup? HE'S LARGE AND IN CHARGE!
Gawd he's still around? He's so big. Are we allowed to swat at him with a tennis racket?
Adidas Tennis Orc Ladies: tried briefly in the 1980s and quickly discontinued
I think so. He doesn't react to non-metals.
Arggh. Welp, We don't have anyone who can actually match up with him, so I think the idea is to "contain" him -- that is to say, let him catch infinity red zone touchdowns but hope he doesn't suddenly discover he can run a 3.9 40.
Although there are weird magicks in this series. 300 pound tight ends routinely bust 99 yard runs.
That seems pessimistic. I thought you guys were deep in the secondary even without Russell?
Deep, but not "hey look at all the 6'5" defensive backs we have lying around" deep.
Well... I think that about covers it unless there are extreme special teams outliers.
Michigan does have a punter who may blast it 70 yards or shank it 25. So... yeah.
And they use old-style punting, so if he does blast it 70 there might be some fireworks.
Yeah, no. Special teams should be mercifully boring this year. Hopefully. I s'pose it's onward to prediction time.
pictured: mercifully boring special teams
Considering we nailed the prediction PERFECTLY last year, we've set a pretty high bar for ourselves.
Yeah. I dunno, I kind of think the front sevens and OLs are a wash, and then I like Michigan's passing game more with Russell and Collinsworth out. There is the road factor. For whatever reason, Michigan's been worse than you might expect on the road. And then there is the WTF factor. The game feels closer to a pick 'em to me than Vegas thinks.
Plus all bets are off for THE END OF FOOTBALL
Yes. If a ball doesn't deflect off four guys to someone's great profit or loss what's the point of anything?
I suggest we make the prediction the same way we did last year. One word at a time until one of us, both of us, or EVERYONE is dead.
All right. I think we should do two. Last year you got stuck with a lot of articles.
Two it is. I have won the coin toss and elect to defer.
In the gruesome finale of the epic battle between cultures steeped in
butts and cloying arrogance, two men wearing only each others' flayed scalps battled viciously until all that was and all that will ever be deflected off an unsuspecting postal worker.
As our universe imploded, the postal worker thought, "Not again."
This terrifyingly apropos picture about the end of the world coming when death loses 45-10 to Alabama is in fact the first GIS hit for "Postal Apocalypse." Death ain't played nobody, Pawwwl!
It has been nice knowing you. I hope your football team evaporates in a steam that smells like Werther's Originals Saturday and then you re-hire Charlie Weis.
And I just hope everyone has a good time out there and makes some good memories.
THAT IS JUST SO NOTRE DAME
A sincere thanks to Brian for bugging me to do this every year. I will miss it.