[Kevin Jairaj – USA Today]
Week Three gave us a slate of appealing games, especially at the top: the #1, #2, and #3 teams in the rankings (Alabama, Florida State, and Ohi7o State) traveled to ranked foes (Ole Miss, Louisville, and Oklahoma, respectively). Unfortunately, only one of those games lived up to the billing, as Ole Miss ran out to a huge lead against Alabama – only to blow it in what was eventually a 48-43 shootout. The other two weren’t competitive: Ohio State manhandled Oklahoma, 45-24, in a long-hyped matchup; Louisville absolutely destroyed Florida State – Lamar Jackson tallied five touchdowns and coasted to a 63-20 win that might slightly understand the level of blowout that this was.
As we settle into conference play, there are already some pretty valuable data points that might shape the rest of the season – Week One was a much ballyhooed schedule of games, but Week Three shaped the narrative of the upcoming season perhaps just as well.
--- The narrative after the OHIO STATE – Oklahoma game seems to be that the Buckeyes – despite their youth and / or inexperience – were the la crème de la crème of high school croots (which is undeniably true) and Oklahoma’s were inferior (also true). That’s reductive though: sure the difference in sheer “talent” was apparent early on, was felt most acutely in the trenches, and held up throughout the game. Still, the explanations for the Buckeyes’ routine win over an erstwhile playoff team also boils down to two other things: JT Barrett was far better than OU QB Baker Mayfield (and threw four touchdowns to burgeoning star WR Noah Brown), and Urban Meyer gives OSU a huge advantage over Bob Stoops and Oklahoma. Because the Sooners now sit at 1-2 following losses that weren’t close, there’s a natural reaction to dismiss them – but credit should go to Houston and Ohio State for so easily winning two of the marquee national non-conference fixtures of the season. After three games, we can pretty much tell that the combination of Meyer, Barrett, and the level of raw talent on the roster will overcome most concerns and the Buckeyes will be a playoff frontrunner until at least the last two games against MSU and UM.
[more on the week that was after the JUMP]
A look at the Turnley/Harbaugh book. In the NYT:
Keith Washington [David Turnley]
Mr. Turnley said he was granted unprecedented access to the team: He went into locker rooms, he was present at workouts, practices, drills, and he attended every game, including on the road, all so he could capture images unlike those expected of sports and football photography.
“I’m not standing on the sideline,” said Mr. Turnley, who did not use long lenses. “I’m literally in the scrimmages. I’ve been known to be in the huddles and to lay prone in the middle of a play, because I want you to understand and feel what that’s like to be in the midst of that struggle.”
During practice, I imagine? I don't remember a photographer laying down under Graham Glasgow last year. I think I would have picked up on that.
Injuries both ways. Harbaugh said he was "very hopeful" Jourdan Lewis would return this weekend. He did dress against Colorado, so he must have been available in some capacity if there was an emergency. Taco Charlton seems to be dropping hints that he's good to go this weekend as well:
Ya'll ready... pic.twitter.com/JQAtdIUrVi
— Taco Charlton (@TheSupremeTaco) September 19, 2016
Mone is expected to be out this week with a possible return either next week or the week after. Per Sam Webb, Drake Johnson is exploring the possibility of a sixth year, which necessarily implies we won't see him in 2015. Three weeks in that's a relatively clean bill of health.
Unfortunately for Penn State but encouragingly for people who can add two and two together about Joe Paterno and the kind of people who would honor him, the Nittany Lions cannot say the same thing. Starting linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda missed the Temple game. Nyeem Wartman-White left the game with an apparent knee injury and was spotted in a large brace afterwards. PSU just announced he's done for the year, for the second consecutive year.
WR Saeed Blacknall, CB Grant Haley, and DE Evan Schwan also missed the Temple game; as per usual there's no timetable for any of these guys to return. The only guy certainly out is Wartman-White; I wouldn't be surprised if PSU only gets one or two guys back.
Saquon Barkley also left for a period of time, but… uh…
…he looks fine.
This seems to bode unwell for the opposition. Baumgardner on a couple of stats that stick out:
Worst third down vs. Best third down
Penn State's the worst third down team in the Big Ten -- again. After converting just 27 percent of their third downs in 2015, the Nittany Lions have converted -- wait for it -- 27 percent of their third downs so far in 2016. Penn State wants to play with tempo, but it has trouble staying on the field -- as the Nittany Lions are averaging just 4.4 plays per possession. And that's not because they're hitting big plays, as each possession is netting an average of about 26 yards per drive.
Meanwhile, Michigan's defensive is No. 1 nationally on third down. The Wolverines have allowed opponents to convert just 10.5 percent of their third down attempts (4 of 38). Opponents are facing an average of 3rd and 9 against Michigan so far this season, which is rather difficult time and time again.
PSU's OL is just as much of a mess as it was last year, so expect a lot of players in the opposition backfield.
Idiot, diagnose thyself. If you're not aware of David Jones, think Central Pennsylvania's Drew Sharp. He wrote some standard-issue newspaper yammer about Harbaugh. It boils down do "this is just, like, my opinion, man," but holy crap this is some noteworthy lack of self-awareness:
The Wolverines will not win the Big Ten title while Harbaugh is coaching at Michigan. I don't even think they'll win the division.
How can I be so sure? I can't. In a world where being noticed is trumped only by the blatant seeking of full-on notoriety, you can never count out a guy who does it as well as Sharkface.
Jones is a professional troll, and yet. Also that sentence is a disaster barely worthy of a college freshman cramming a ten-page paper the night before.
Jones's theory is that Harbaugh will make MSU and OSU work harder to defeat Michigan. Seriously. The man manages to cash checks, so you have to respect the hustle. Or lack thereof, in this case.
Scary space emperor moment. Zoltan Mesko on a thing that happened to him at the Senior Bowl:
“It was a windy day, raining, a tough day to control the football and I was having a bad day; ended up falling flat on my face literally and figuratively,” he recalled. “Javier Arenas, from Alabama, was the returner and I shanked the ball a little bit inside, a 35-yard punt into the wind, and he catches it on the run and takes off to my left.
“I have him to the sideline, but one of my teammates is in pursuit as well and pushes me in the back. As Arenas steps out of bounds, my arms go out by my side, and from five feet up my head hits the turf hard. I drag my helmet into the rubber for about 3-4 yards. I looked like a rag doll.”
Mesko said he blacked out for “about two seconds” and couldn’t feel temperature the rest of the game. He never reported the concussion, in part because he didn’t want it to affect his NFL chances, despite experiencing headaches that night and the next morning.
Momentarily blacking out and then returning to a world without temperature must have been terrifying, and Mesko kept his issue a secret because of the prevailing culture at the time. Reminder: Zoltan Mesko is a punter, who mainly enters a football field to do something opponents are prohibited by rule from hitting during. And yet.
Mesko, now retired, has a startup that's trying to mitigate head impacts:
What Mesko and Rizzo came up with is an impact reduction device they call the EXO1 (it is patent pending). Their project now has a team of six Harvard MBA, medical and law students working on it in the form of a company called Impact Labs.
Good luck to him.
Hockey recruits ranked. ISS offers up a top 30 of incoming college hockey players. Michigan lands four on the list: #6 Luke Martin(D), #19 Nick Pastujov(F), #25 Jack LaFontaine(G), and #29 Will Lockwood(F). That's good, and the best haul in the Big Ten, but rather pales next to BU's ridiculous class featuring three of the top four and two more further down the list.
John Heisman was not to be trifled with. Spencer Hall found this item that explains that Cumberland College score:
An honorary Harbaugh.
Here is an interesting technique bit from the official site. I'm as baffled by this as you are reading that bolded sentence. Nonetheless, Mike Zordich and some of his charges describe "slide" technique as opposed to traditional back-pedaling:
"It's a little bit easier in the slide technique," said Stribling. "You open up, and since you are going back into coverage at an angle, your (belt) buckle is to the ball, and so you see the whole play develop. It's a great technique, and if you go back to a back pedal, that's easier. But we don't back pedal any more.
"The advantages are that if somebody runs a go route, you're already opened up to the quarterback. If somebody breaks down for a curl, you're already open."
Adjustments to receiver routes can be made quicker if the technique is done right.
"You have to make sure your feet are right," said Stribling. "You have to make sure you are low to the ground and not too high."
That article features some detail on Lewis's injury issues as well:
"He probably worked a little too hard in the summer," said Zordich. "That was probably a little too much torque on his body. Some of the issues he's had in the last couple weeks might have come from that. He had a hell of a camp, but then his back started tightening up and affected his hamstring and quad. He's fighting through these things."
Erik, three QB rotation. There wasn’t any talk of bringing in the fourth on Saturday?
“I think we’re saving that for Big Ten [season].”
You’ve been around a lot, you’ve played a lot of games, you know the guys. What have you noticed relationship-wise with the offensive line and with Wilton?
“The core of this group of offensive linemen were here last year, so it’s just another year of us playing together so you bond over that. Wilton’s been a part of the team for three years, so we’ve all been with him and everything like that so it’s not like we’re just becoming friends now. We’ve been friends and had a relationship for a long time.”
How much has your sense of responsibility escalated?
“Any time you’re a veteran or an older guy on the team you have a bigger responsibility to play big all the time and lead the younger guys. I mean, I think even if you’re Ben Bredeson or you’re me or whatever it is, you still have the same responsibility to play well.”
Mo, your thoughts on how the defense has played through three games, and how hard was it sitting out?
“I think the defense has been doing very well. We’ve put together a lot in a little bit amount of time with Coach Brown. I think there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. There were some mistakes that we made throughout the game that I think are definitely correctable and things that we can avoid going on in the future.”
Talk about the line’s development as a protection group. Is it tough when the quarterback gets hit like Wilton did on Saturday?
“Yeah, you never want to see your quarterback get hit. Our goal going into every week is give up no sacks, so anytime that happens, especially during the game, it’s frustrating, but you’ve kind of got to throw it behind you and move on.”
[After THE JUMP: GOIN’ PIGGIN’]
State’s got a new fools-hurdler. [NBC Sports]
Now that we're entering conference play, let's recalibrate. Which Big Ten teams are significantly better/worse than we thought they'd be?
Ace: I’ll start this by saying it’s college football, and it’s still early: if we were posed this question last week I would’ve said Iowa had surpassed my expectations. One week later...
…they are who we thought they were. I also had serious doubts about Wisconsin entering the season; they beat LSU, which is a feat no matter how much coaching malpractice Cam Cameron is allowed to commit, destroyed Akron, and then, uh, put up a 12th-percentile performance to eke out a victory over a bad Georgia State squad. Now they’re changing QBs. I still have my doubts. In fact, pending more contextualizing info on MSU’s win over Notre Dame, the Big Ten has mostly held to form, at least in relation my preseason expectations.
The exception, I hate to say, is Ohio State; I thought there would be a few more hiccups on both sides of the ball after the exodus of NFL talent. Instead, the Death Star appears fully operational. Other than the interior D-line, which looks a little shaky, every major question has been answered: the run game hasn’t missed a beat with Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel taking over for Zeke Elliott, Noah Brown looks like a legit #1 receiver, JT Barrett has been very good, and a secondary that looked like a potential sore spot in the preseason has been one of their most reliable sources of big plays.
[Hit THE JUMP for WMU, NDSU, and other better ideas than Rutgers]
This week we’re talking about Mo Hurst’s four-quarter sack, which you may remember as the play a running back chose to take on a blitzing Jabrill Peppers and a quarterback ended up SO MAD that he included a towel as his accoutrement du jour.
What did you notice first when you lined up on that play?
“I think just noticing the offensive line. We had a [redacted] call—or no, we had [redacted (figure it out yourself, PSU football interns that report to Franklin)] on that one. It’s designed to let someone open. I think the person that was supposed to be open was Pep, but the running back ended up picking him up, so I had the opportunity to get free and made the most of it. Almost missed it, but glad his towel was in there tight.”
On something like that, was Colorado tipping run/pass or were they pretty good about that during the game?
“I think there were definitely some tips we got and picked up throughout the game, especially with their running backs and their guards. Changes in stance were a big thing for us. Yeah, it was something that we definitely picked up and would communicate during the game.”
On this particular play it was obviously 3rd and 12, so are you pinning your ears back for an all-our pass rush, or, because they use the screen game so much, do you have to wait, watch the guard, and see if he’s going to release?
“I think we were just pinning our ears back, especially at that point in the game. It was pretty certain that they were going to pass on third and long, so yeah, definitely pin our ears back and try to get after them.”
It looked like you feigned outside before going inside with the swim move to get over [the guard]. Is that something from watching film that you know you’re going to do before the snap, or is it a sort of muscle memory kicking in when the ball’s snapped?
“That’s part of the defense that we were running. Pep’s blitzing B gap so I take on the guard. That’s what I tried to do and it came free.”
On that play, you’re lined up at 3-tech. On the same series, one play before you’re at nose. Are you able to study each guy’s tendencies that you’re going to line up across from or is that just too time consuming and you rely on technique at some point?
“Being a nose and a tackle, which is where I played throughout the game—I played both—you study the center and both guards a lot. Not really the tackles; I’m not going against them. Yeah, we definitely study the interior guys.”
What’s more difficult to get: a sack where you have to grab a guy and rip him down by the towel or a 5-star Uber review?
“Probably the Uber review. There’s a little less in your control. I mean, there would be times where I thought I gave a great ride and I didn’t quite get the results I wanted and I was pretty frustrated. There’s times you want to call them and just be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? Why didn’t you give me 5 stars? What did I do wrong?’ But some people are just not in a good mood that day. That can change how your ratings.”
Are you able to still do that during the season or is that on hold for now?
“That’s on hold for now. Maybe it’ll come back in the winter or in the summer, but definitely was a fun experience over the summer.”
You mentioned what the call was earlier. Is that something that Don Brown brought or is that something that’s been here and you’ve worked with Coach Mattison on [in the past]?
“There’s a lot of calls that we have. I think—we’ve had a lot of blitzes since we’ve been here. A lot of them—I mean, there’s only so many ways you can blitz a team, so a lot of them is stuff that we’ve already done before. Maybe a slight variation to things, but definitely something that we’ve worked on before, especially going through three defensive coordinators. I think we’ve probably seen every blitz that could possibly be called in a 3-4 and a 4-3, so that’s big for us.”
News bullets and other items:
There’s a chance Jourdan Lewis, Taco Charlton, and Bryan Mone play this week. As Harbaugh said, they might “graduate from the training room back onto the field.”
Peppers is unlike anyone Harbaugh’s ever coached. He’s played 11 positions at Michigan, and Harbaugh said there are more that he could play well.
Speight’s elbow was injured on the strip-sack early in the game, which was a result of a missed assignment. This raised Speight a rung in the team’s esteem because he walked it off and, as Harbaugh put it, “…this isn’t track, this is football and playing that quarterback position, that’s part of the game.”
Harbaugh’s wife’s doctor described the punt block that was returned for a TD as a slippery watermelon. The ultrasound went well, by the way.
Harbaugh loves his defense so much that sometimes he watches them play even when he feels like he should be preparing for the next drive
I wanted to talk to you first about Michael Jocz and what he’s bringing to special teams—I know he had a block in the last game—and also what he does in the classroom.
“He had his first catch last week. It was great to see. And he had a blocked punt this week that resulted in a touchdown—great to see. He’s consistently been our, second year in a row, smartest player on the team in terms of grade point average. He’s already graduated in mechanical engineering and he’s on track to do his master’s in one year instead of the normal two, so he’s cutting that in half. He’s really been figuring things out, as you’d expect from a mechanical engineer. Great teammate. Really happy for his on-field success now, as well.”
And then also Erik Magnuson, if you could assess his play through three games and also the spirit he brings to you team.
“Yeah, Mags is good in both of those regards. Has long brought a lot to our team. He’s probably been our most consistent, best pass protector so far. Likeable guy. Everybody likes Mags. He’s a good leader and a good guy. A genuine, down to earth, good person.”
Two turnovers through the nonconference, only 10 penalties—can you assess the job you feel like your team has done in those areas?
“Those two areas have been good. We’re getting…turnover margin has got to be on the plus side. Don’t know exactly what it is, but we’re on the plus there. I feel like we’re playing—we had a few penalties. More this past week than we have had, so I think we’re playing good, legit penalty-free for the most part football.
[Next person with the microphone thinks it’s their turn to ask, but alas, there’s more. Harbaugh’s taken this pause to reflect and wants to share his thoughts.]
“See, I don’t just give one word answers. That would have been a perfect time to just say, ‘We’ve been good in those two areas.’ I tried to elaborate. I hope to get some credit for that.”
[After THE JUMP: many multi-word answers]