Two ways we can go.
Ace: I feel obligated to ask a question about The Game despite barely even having the will to watch the dang thing at this point. So... what miracle (or series of miracles) needs to transpire for Michigan to win? Is there a weakness on the Buckeyes that you can see Michigan exploiting in an alternate universe where Michigan exploits weaknesses?
Seth: The Buckeyes are good, but they're not perfect. The backfield and DL are legit, but the LBs and DBs and WRs are still guys who live on their athleticism more so than technique, and the OL is still just as young as ours. Urban covers up the youth well, but it shows at times.
|Urban's message to Barrett: don't try to be perfect. [11w]|
J.T. Barrett isn't Braxton Miller, for better and worse. Barrett isn't going to glide past your containment the way Miller always could; on the other hand he's way more accurate on deep balls, giving Ohio State a lethal third dimension. Teams that have had defensive success against the Buckeyes have been crashing the ends on Elliott to force Barrett to run, trusting their athletes can chop him down in space. Penn State and Virginia Tech both kept his run/pass ratio relatively even, and mixed up coverages like crazy to try to temp Barrett into turnovers. The strategy is vulnerable deep, but sometimes you can get lucky (Indiana), or weather can interfere (Minnesota), or your defensive line can generate enough organic pressure (Penn State) to deny Barrett the chance.
Michigan's DL has the chops to keep the OSU run game in hand without selling out on it. The coverage has been good except when tempo'ed, which Meyer would be all to happy to use but for his young offense.
The thing about Meyer's OSU is it's not going to surprise you. He covers his players' weaknesses by having them repeatedly do the things they're good at, in a system that makes sense and takes advantage of whatever it's given. Brady Hoke, on the other hand, tends to spend big chunks of games making his players do things they're bad at, and almost never takes strategic advantages when they're presented. There is an advantage in punching yourself in the face all season, because OSU has scant film on what happens when a Brady Hoke team actually uses its talents.
In some whacky scenario, Michigan throws a bunch of Cover 3 and robber things it's been saving up all year, and Barrett shorts his deep balls enough for Ray Taylor to have a GAME, and Gardner comes out like his old self, and Nussmeier finally debuts a fully integrated offense that's allowed to go deep, and Funchess decides the draft stock opportunity this provides is enough to GAF, and Norfleet runs one back, and there's no flags, and then Denard suddenly reveals he has another year of eligibility, and Jim Harbaugh flies down from his moon base on Apollo 17, and every kid Ohio State has visiting commits to him, and together they all make ice cream non-fattening, bring peace to the Middle East, and beat Ohio State 34-27.
[Jump for even more implausible scenarios.]
Bruce Feldman is reporting that interim AD Jim Hackett is close to dropping the interim title:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 26, 2014
Not saying Hackett decision with #Michigan to remain as AD is a done deal but word is that's the direction things seem to be heading
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 26, 2014
That's along the lines of what we'd been hearing from Sam and others—that Hackett is going to be around for X number of months where X > amount of time it'll take to fire and hire a new coach.
The chances that the best available athletic director is a retired CEO who hasn't worked in an AD ever are about 1%, but This Is Michigan. They don't care what the sensible thing seems to be. That's fine as long as you are good at doing things. Michigan hasn't been, and given the way the chips have fallen if Hackett doesn't lock down Jim Harbaugh the fanbase is going to have a fit.
But he's not Dave Brandon.
Jarrod Wilson, Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer
Before you were at Michigan, your favorite Michigan v. Ohio State game. Maybe something that you watched growing up?
JM: “I was never a particular fan of either team, but when you grow up in the state of Ohio or Michigan the last weekend of November the game is always kind of a big deal, so I always watched them. I don’t necessarily remember a specific one more than another. Maybe when they were #1 and #2 one year down in Ohio or whatever, maybe that one. But you always know about it. You always watch it, and it means a hell of a lot.”
Jack, we just had your offensive coordinator out here who was talking about the challenges you guys have gone through adapting to a new system here. I know it hasn’t been maybe the year you’d hope for, but how do you feel you’ve done trying to learn what he’s been teaching and what kind of struggles have happened along the way?
JM: “I can only speak from an offensive line perspective, and maybe that’s a bright spot for us is we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. In November, which is arguably the most important month, we’re running the ball really well. We’re protecting Devin pretty well, and so I’m pretty proud of how the offensive line’s coming together as a team and we’ve been pretty successful down the stretch, but we haven’t put it all together as an offense or as a team and that’s the ultimate goal, which we’ve failed to accomplish.”
If you could just briefly describe your feelings for Ohio State. Obviously it’s a more elevated rivalry, but what about them makes this special for you?
BB: “Growing up in Michigan this game’s been my favorite game to watch moreso than any other sporting event I’d say just being a big Michigan fan. Playing in it is pretty cool too. It’s just got so much weight in the football game, two programs, two top-of-the-line programs. There’s just so much going into it. So much history and so much tension in the rivalry. It’s awesome. It’s the game you want to play in.”
JM: “I think I’ll say it the most diplomatic way I can: I’m not a big fan of Ohio State. I never have been. Ever since they beat Miami in the 2002 National Championship Game I’ve always disliked them, and I don’t like the Horseshoe and I don’t like Carmen Ohio. That’s kind of how I feel about them.”
JW: “It’s the greatest rivalry in college football. As far as Ohio, being an Ohio kid I kind of grew up watching them but never really was a fan of them. For this game I’m just really excited to play.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap.
After a forgettable first half, Michigan and Villanova put on a show, trading big runs and phenomenal plays in one of the best college basketball games of this young season. Unfortunately, one of them had to lose.
The decisive play was representative. With five seconds left, down by a point, Michigan inbounded the ball from the Villanova baseline. John Beilein drew up a beauty of a play, freeing up Zak Irvin for what looked like an uncontested layup. Out of nowhere, JayVaughn Pinkston contested it, emphatically. The Wolverines were good; the Wildcats a hair better.
What cannot be lost is how encouraging this game became from Michigan's perspective, especially considering the first half and change. From the 7:13 mark of the first half until the 17:21 mark of the second, they didn't score a single point, allowing Villanova to turn a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead. John Beilein rotated through all four centers in the first half to poor results and lots of foul trouble. With 20 points on 30 possession at the break and an ugly start to the second stanza, a young M squad easily could've packed it in; this game would stand as last year's Duke game did, a learning experience via rote blowout.
Instead, they hit Villanova back. Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton made consecutive baskets to make the game tight in a flash, and Spike Albrecht's triple with 11:19 left gave Michigan a lead they would tenuously hold until Dylan Ennis tied it up with a dagger from the corner with 2:36 on the clock.
The teams would trade buckets until Pinkston scored the eventual winning points with a strong—some might say too strong—move down low for a lay-in with 13 ticks left; moments later, his clean block of Irvin all but ended it. Michigan's last hope to tie it up faded ingloriously when Max Bielfeldt threw away a long inbounds attempt, but that shouldn't take away from a tremendously exciting game.
Yes, Michigan let a shot at a signature win slip away. That they were in position to get one in the first place against a much more experienced, and quite talented, Villanova team was a victory in and of itself, however; those bemoaning the loss ... well, "can't see the forest for the trees" comes to mind.
Admit it, that was a hundred times more fun than any football game this season. There will be bumps in the road, but this team is pretty darn good right now, and I can't wait to see what they're going to look like come March.
Michigan (4-0) vs.
Brooklyn, New York
|WHEN||10 pm Eastern, Tuesday|
|LINE||Villanova -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Bob Wischusin
Analyst: Dan Dakich
The Legends Classic championship. More importantly, Michigan could record a signature non-conference win against a strong, experienced team that should be among the nation's best at the end of the season.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. %Min and %Poss figure are from this season now—yes, there will be a fair amount of noise in these numbers for a while. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open.
|G||15||Ryan Arcidiacono*||Jr.||6'3, 195||75||21||Sort of|
|Disciplined distributor, solid steal rate, gets to FT line, struggling with shot so far.|
|G||31||Dylan Ennis||Jr.||6'2, 192||69||21||No|
|Good outside shooter, skilled passer, productive rebounder for guard.|
|G||4||Darrun Hilliard*||Sr.||6'6, 215||70||23||No|
|41% 3-pt shooter last year just 4/21 this season; can create off dribble.|
|F||22||JayVaughn Pinkston*||Sr.||6'7, 235||60||24||Yes|
|Excellent rebounder, blocks shots, foul magnet, okay—not great—finisher.|
|F||23||Daniel Ochefu*||Jr.||6'11, 245||63||16||Very|
|Great rebounder and rim protector, high-percentage finisher at the rim.|
|G||3||Josh Hart||So.||6'5, 202||64||14||Sort of|
|Not a great shooter but gets to rim frequently, finishes well; decent rebounder.|
|F||2||Kris Jenkins||So.||6'6, 255||46||21||No|
|Bizarre profile; wide-bodied stretch F, decent 3-pt shooter, few 2PA but draws fouls.|
|G||5||Phil Booth||Fr.||6'3, 185||29||14||No|
|Good and bad in limited mins; shooting very well, but turnover and foul troubles.|
Michigan gets another step up in competition against a talented and experienced Villanova squad that returns all but one significant contributor from a 2013-14 team that won 29 games and earned a two-seed in the tourney before bowing out to eventual champion UConn. After a surprisingly close win over Bucknell last week, the Wildcats bounced back by dismantling VCU last night, outscoring them 45-23 in the second half after a tight opening 20 minutes.
Nova is a tough team to handle in large part because of their balance; seven players average over 18 minutes per game, four average double-digit points, and three more average at least seven. They're equally good on each end of the floor, as well, currently ranking seventh in offensive and 15th in defensive efficiency.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Doug, one more game this season. The offense…was it what you expected? Are you disappointed? Can you talk about the progress of the offense and what your expectations were at the beginning of the season and now heading into Ohio State, where you guys are 13th of 14 in total offense?
“Obviously our expectations are a lot higher than where we’re at right now. As I’ve touched on throughout the season you talk about individual improvement [and it] hasn’t necessarily led to total group improvement. Do feel good about the things that we’re progressing in. You talk about the ability to run the football. I believe in the last three we’re averaging like 207 yards a game or something like that rushing in the last three games. Really feel like that line’s starting to gel together. You talk about protection and the fact that we gave up two this week; one was an assignment error and we gave up one true sack on a zero blitz. We got caught by surprise. We’ve got to have a better plan down there as far as getting the ball out of our hands, and then a week ago we didn’t give up any sacks. The week before we had one coverage sack, so you talk about protection [and] I believe we’re substantially better there in the things that we’re doing.
“Talk about individual accomplishments and the development of Amara Darboh. I think [he’s] a guy that you look at what he’s done over the course of the season. A true left tackle, Mason Cole [and] his individual growth. We lose Derrick Green and see DeVeon step up and Drake step and what they’ve been able to [do]. Jake Butt coming off the injury has been limited a little bit in what he can and can’t do, but you go across the board you see a lot of individual accomplishments. Guys that are getting better, groups that are getting better. We still need to bring it all together and get to a complete game. We haven’t had that yet.”
What about point production, because it’s been a couple weeks since Devin’s had a touchdown pass?
“Well, I wouldn’t look at you’ve got to have a touchdown pass to say you’re successful. That, to me, is not defining success. Obviously throwing touchdown passes is a part of the game but if we’re going to run it we’re going to run it. You look at- like you said, we’d like to score more points. We need to score more points.”
What are the toughest venues in which you’ve ever taken a team to run an offense, because most would say Ohio State sees Michigan coming in and that’s going to be one of them?
“Well, obviously to go to the Horseshow to play in this football game is something special. Any time you play on the road and in situations where it’s going to be loud, where you know it’s going to be a hostile environment you’ve got to be prepared very well and you’ve got to be focused in and you’ve got to execute, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. There’s no margin for error.”
After the game Brady Hoke mentioned it was the first time Devin’s been healthy in more than a month. At this point is he still getting healthier, or in what ways can you use him differently now that you can run?
“You get to this point in the season and I don’t know that anybody gets healthier at this point in the season, and that’s one of the hardest things about playing this sport is that when you play at this level and type of conference we have here in the Big Ten and week in and week out have to go out and do it every week against the physical style of play we see it’s challenging mentally. And then like coach said Devin from the standpoint of his physical health had some ailments there, and we’ve gotten him relatively healthy. Obviously I don’t think anybody’s as fresh as they are week 1 of the season.”
[More after THE JUMP]