Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]
I know Hoke said they spent the bye week on Michigan's "identity," by which we're pretty sure he meant scrapping any semblance of sense again in favor of slamming fullbacks into people and praying for the turnover fairy to stop hating us. But for those people actually interested in how to defeat Michigan State's lauded/loathed defense, it appears to be vulnerable when you spread 'em out and test them deep.
Red: #2 receiver goes vertical. Blue: #2 receiver doesn't go vertical
With that many guys reading, the defense can play "9 in the box," by which they mean the safeties are part of the run fits. Their run D is gap-oriented.
Just an example. They change up who's got what
Note that screens and such are treated as runs.
[After the jump: tripping them up.]
ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE. We are probably embarking on a coaching search in the near future and also probably embarking on an AD search in the near future. When these things happen I get buckets of insider information from provenances both dubious and legit, and at some point they cross the threshold where I think they're useful to relate.
When I do this I want things to be supported by multiple people, or people I've heard from before and were accurate. I've learned over the years that when you get in these situations a lot of people stridently believe things that turn out to be wrong, so keep that in mind; I strive to be precise with my language to give people the right impression of how strongly these opinions are held.
ON JIM HARBAUGH. There are plenty of media reports suggesting that Harbaugh won't be with the 49ers next year; I've heard similar things. I've also heard that people within the 49ers organization think that maybe Harbaugh isn't an NFL guy, long term, and that Harbaugh is also coming to this realization as the guys in his locker room start getting more and more ornery. Michigan is not a far-fetched destination according to them.
ON DAVE BRANDON. I mentioned this on twitter and should clarify. There is the Big Ballers Meeting and then a Meeting With A Lot Of Big Ballers And Some Smaller Ballers And Some People Who Do Nice Stuff For The University. I got a report from the latter, in which Schlissel sat down for a Q&A session that was moderated by Stephen Ross. Nothing said was definitive, but almost all of the side chatter centered on how Brandon wasn't going to make it and Ross didn't seem like he was going to throw a hissy fit if a change was made. Even in this context away from the madding crowd the first issue addressed was the AD; Schlissel reiterated his point about a culture change; there seemed to be big baller chatter about who might be next.
Now: these people are not universally omniscient. There was chatter that things might go down last Tuesday. Obviously they did not. Don't take that as gospel.
ON THE COMBINATION OF HARBAUGH AND BRANDON. Never say never but I've heard from guys who know Harbaugh who say that Jim working for Dave is highly unlikely to happen. I do not have signed affidavits, but… yeah. As chatter goes this drumbeat is intense.
ON HOKE SURVIVING. This is likely to become moot this weekend, but serious people are asserting that he's not dead yet and could get by with a 7-5 record that includes a win over MSU or OSU, or even that 6-6 might be enough.
I don't think this is the case, as the powers that be know that season tickets are on a knife edge now and bringing Hoke back could see significant drops. It's impossible to know anything about Hoke's status given the uncertainty about the top of the department; the information being discussed is going to point strongly to a change no matter who is in charge.
ON AD CANDIDATES. Amongst the obvious Michigan Man candidates I would peg the pecking order as
- Jeff Long (Arkansas)
- Brad Bates (BC)
- Warde Manuel (UConn)
- Joe Parker (Texas Tech's associate AD)
There's a bigger gap between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Michigan may go off the board, of course, but Long in particular seems to have the respect of the AD community—he's the CoFoPoff chair—and made a stunning hire of Bret Bielema after the Petrino situation blew up in his face.
Also worth noting that he handled the PR of that disaster as well as can be expected. Bates and Manuel have not had to face similar crises yet.
ON JABRILL PEPPERS. This is not certain otherwise Michigan would have announced it but I've gotten several seemingly independent sources asserting that Peppers isn't going to play again this year. Michigan just threw him on top of the depth chart at nickel and punt return, so I don't know… I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play this weekend.
ON LLOYD CARR. Lloyd Carr is a civilian. He is neither involved nor wants to be involved in the day-to-day of the athletic department, and if you have a conspiracy theory involving him it is ridiculous and you should just drop it.
What’s it like seeing this rivalry from the other side? Obviously you’ve coached at Michigan State. What’s the view when you had never been a part of it before [at Michigan]?
“Well, it’s one of the classic rivalries in all of college football and I’m very excited to get the opportunity to be a part of it and I know our kids are very, very excited about the opportunity.”
When you were at Michigan State what was it like?
“Any time you play in a game, whether it be an in-state rivalry game or a conference rivalry game and some of them are out-of-conference rivalry games, the important thing is the focus on the game itself and you can get caught up and lost in the things that surround the game. Any time you’re on either side it’s about the players preparing. It’s about preparing them the best you possibly can and giving them the opportunity to be in the right situations to play well.”
Any of those games stick out to you from when you were there?
“I think any time you’re a part of these games they all stick out to you. Obviously probably the one that was played right here [Ed.- he’s referring to Braylonfest] was one that goes down as a great, great football game. Really was.”
They obviously play pretty good defense. Without giving away what you want to do, what are the key things that they do that you have to combat?
“Well, I think when you look at them they’re an outstanding defensive football team. They do a really good job of stopping the run and they get guys and they commit to the box and they do a really good job of tackling. They tackle well. You don’t see a lot of missed tackles. And then when you do have a play you see their ability to make an adjustment and take that play away, so I think that the biggest thing about the game is we have to understand the plan very well. We have to understand how they’re going to line up in the different blitzes and things that they’re going to try and approach us with, and then we have to execute.”
In the past Michigan has had a problem with Michigan State bringing linebackers through the A gap. I wonder if there’s a standard way of dealing with that or is that a pre-snap read the quarterback has to make or-
“Well, when you look at their base defense that’s one of their base blitzes that they run against everybody that they play against. One of the things it does [is] it creates obviously pressure on the interior of your line and pressure within the quarterback’s line of vision. A lot of people that run that- I don’t know their exact philosophy but it’s to create problems and pressure in the quarterback’s lap so he doesn’t feel like he has a real pocket to step up into so obviously it’s a blitz that’s part of their base package and something that we’ll prepare for.”
[After THE JUMP: Why were the MSU coaches covered in glass after the ‘04 game and some strategy talk]
News bullets and other items:
Devin Gardner fully participated in practice last night and should be ready to start against MSU
It sounds like Jabrill Peppers may have been a part of that practice
Hoke really likes Michigan State’s offensive balance [Ed.- they’re ~ 40/60 pass/rush]
Hoke’s recipe for road success: “Don’t turn the ball over. Get turnovers.”
Hoke thinks bye weeks are good for healing injuries and not good when coaches tinker with systems too much. He prefers getting back to a team’s identity after self-scouting. He again says the identity they want is as a team that runs the ball.
He likes how they’ve prepared and how hard they’ve worked
They had a good practice
“Number one, thanks for coming. This is an exciting week. The bye week I think was good for us. I think it's a benefit. Get some guys healthy. There's bumps and bruises. We've been at it since August and we are pretty competitive and pretty physical with what we do, so four weeks of camp and seven straight weeks, I think it came at the right time. You're able to rest some guys and I think that's a big part of it, and at the same time you're able to get some guys who are right on the line that you might depending on how you get beat up or bumped along you may have some other guys that have to get in there and represent.
This is a great rivalry and a great rivalry in a lot of ways. Obviously we have three great rivalries – two great rivalries, but the passion on both sides of either green and white or maize and blue, I think that passion you see, you hear, and you feel. We are playing the defending Big Ten champs who deserve that and have played very good football during the year on both sides of the ball. Going out to Eugene is their only loss and that's a difficult place to play. You’re three times zones different and you're also playing in a pretty hostile stadium that can get pretty loud.
I think offensively, I think Michigan State [is] very balanced. I would think knowing Mark [Dantonio] he would feel very good offensively what they're doing from that balance standpoint. I think Connor Cook continues to impress and improve. You look at Langford and how he's improved and Nick Hill I think has emerged too back there in the backfield. Lippett I think has played like the best receiver in this conference I think when you see the big plays in big games that he's made.
Turnover margin; we’re [on] two opposite spectrums. They’re +11, I think we’re -13 and turnover margin in pro football, college football, high school football, Peewee football, whatever football there is out there is a big part of who wins and who loses and we've obviously got to do a better job of creating. The last two weeks we've done a better job of taking care of the football but that's got to continue.
As far as the bye, we got out Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Had a practice last night which was a Tuesday practice for us and was very good, very physical. It was good to get out there again. Like the timing because that's one thing you always worry about and I thought our timing was sharp. I thought the execution on both sides of the ball was pretty good. We got a long way to go though, so… that's the longest I've ever given you an opening statement. I just hadn't seen you in a long time.”
Is there a downside to a bye week? You hear a lot of talk about upside but I wonder if there’s downside.
“You know, I think they're probably have been. I can try to go back and think over the years as an assistant and then as a head coach. We had a bye one year at Ball State [where] we were playing really good and then we didn't play so good the next time out. One thing that we've always tried to do is the speed that you play with, the efficiency with the sharpness, the quickness and if you can get that… The other part is the communication that your team needs to have. That's the only way I know how to judge it. I was very pleased with what we did last night because we were in full pads and we compete against each other all the time. Obviously you’ve got some things you're working on [for] your opponent but it was more about us competing against each other.”
[After THE JUMP: rivalries, edge, attitude, underdogs, gamblers]
FORMATION NOTES: Another very gun-heavy outing for Michigan, with nothing particularly unusual about the way they lined up. Penn State spent most of the game in a straight 4-3 of various varieties. Late they went to an eagle front for a couple plays:
Note that Miller has guys to both sides of him. That erases any chance Michigan can double on the interior and exposed Miller to a DT he could not deal with physically. Michigan responded to this with a pin and pull that worked on the next play.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: No Magnuson still, so line still Cole/Glasgow/Miller/Kalis/Braden. Jake Butt seems to be getting as much time as he would have without the knee injury by now; Williams still hanging on to quite a bit of PT in Hill's absence.
At RB it was all Hayes/Smith with Green sidelined; WRs were as per usual with a little bit of Canteen.
[After THE JUMP: struggling forward.]