to play football, not to play trumpet
As I'm going over the film here something is resonating that I read from Ace's VEQ last week.
I cannot tell you how many times in the last three years I've watched an opposing offense go for 50, 60, 70 yards on their first drive, kick a field goal, score a touchdown, flip field position, whatever, and then absolutely get downloaded by this defense. It happened just this last weekend at Illinois. Sometimes it takes more than one drive, some days it takes a half of football or so. But I, for example, watched Purdue experience some early success throwing little 12-15 yard out patterns beneath MSU's retreating zone cornerback on two third downs in quick succession to keep drives alive, and then the third time Purdue tried it, not only was the corner right there in man coverage, but there too was safety Isaiah Lewis flashing in front of the receiver and nearly collecting a pick-six. Stuff like that is a joy to watch.
That was the story of this game, as well. Michigan found snatches of success early, whereupon MSU adjusted and that was all she wrote. A play that finds success has been followed by a nothing play that MSU crushes with a creepy consistency so far. Without the context of MSU's stats this year it feels like Pat Narduzzi is the luckiest guy in the world for a while, and then it's like he's Doyle Brunson.
In one instance, it seems like it took MSU one play to assimilate something Michigan was doing. M debuted a run play that is basically power from the playside guard gussied up to look like inverted veer. The first instance of this sort of worked. The second did not. The yards were basically the same, but that's because Toussaint managed to evade a TFL on the second.
It's Michigan's first drive; they've hit a couple passes to Gallon to open up with 46 yards on their first two plays. They come out in a 2TE set featuring Paskorz and Butt with Funchess in the slot. Unusually for MSU, they flip a corner over Funchess. Both safeties are hanging out where they usually do: rolled up tight.
Butt will release. Lewan will block down on the playside end; Bosch will pull around. Since the end doesn't get an initial block and Michigan makes its mesh point look like an inverted veer, he reads that and hangs outside, creating a wide crease for Toussaint to explore.
The design basically works. Lewan turns his guy inside and the veer appearance means Bosch isn't seriously challenged by the DE, who is trying to maintain outside contain.
Meanwhile, Butt and Glasgow release immediately into the playside LBs. This gives Magnuson an impossible task on the other DL, but I think they figure that guy's not going to make a play on this play and that a significant percentage of the time he will get hung up on the other DL getting smoked. Either that or it's just another assignment screwup; in UFR I thought Bullough was more dangerous than the DT and passed on a minus.
By the time Toussaint gets the handoff there's a nice gap that is unfortunately being rapidly filled by that DT, but there's so much space that he can run away from it. Meanwhile, Funchess has come down and blocks… uh… Butt, kind of. He eventually does shove the corner on him back but that looks bizarre to me; seems like he should be carrying to the safety. In any case, gap is extant.
This is looking rather promising.
But MSU holds the damage down, as Calhoun comes off the Bosch block easily and spins Toussaint around, allowing the safety to come down and tackle after a modest gain.
Three yards is a win, I guess?
Items Of Interest
It's new, and shiny, and created a hole. Hoorah. This play uses Lewan's strength to bash open a hole and while it doesn't actually option a guy off it uses the threat of a veer to make Bosch's job considerably easier.
I still don't understand M centers shooting to the second level immediately despite guys basically over them. It happens with such consistency that it might actually be the plan, but it drives me nuts every time it happens. Here Michigan issues Magnuson a blocking assignment that is flatly impossible and sends Glasgow out immediately; meanwhile on the back side of the play Schofield and Paskorz do combo the end, getting him sealed away. You can see the cost in the linebacker blocks: Glasgow gets into Bullough and gets him moving hard, providing a nice cutback lane… that the back cannot take because there's a DL flowing down the line. Meanwhile Allen gets playside of Schofield and is filling that hole.
To me it seems like you'd want to reverse this: shoot Schofield out immediately and say damn the backside end while getting that DT sealed away. It seems like whenever a M C or G ignores a nose tackle and gives someone else on the line a difficult task it results in doom, but it's happening almost all the time, and this doesn't seem like rocket science. The guy is in alignment X against you, you chip him so your partner can get around.
Michigan isn't doing this with a regularity that makes me think it's intentional, and the results are underwhelming. FMK: goofy assignments or guys who can't execute rule one of zone running.
Tight end blocking again an issue. Butt's block here gets hardly any motion and does allow the LB to slide off, or would if Funchess didn't add himself into the equation. Funchess, meanwhile, brings his corner into the fray and since the general rule of running when you suck at it (and probably even when you don't) is that most blocks are just opportunities to screw up a play, that is a negative.
I know what Funchess is thinking here, because Michigan would run this again against a more typical MSU D:
His job is to go get that slot LB. Here his job is to… run the corner off or something, go bash the safety, but he screws it up, probably because Michigan was prepping him to run it against a gray area LB instead of a press corner.
MSU's alignment throws this off. Compare the screenshot right above with the presnap setup here:
Note the relation of the LB Butt is going for relative to himself. On this play, he's even; on the other play he's a player and a half inside of him. Much easier angle for Butt, more likely there's a gap away from the DE and a nice gain. That's why the linebacker blocks here don't really get Fitz a hole he clearly expects to be outside. (And maybe why Michigan's okay with leaving the DT: they expected a different D.)
The download. The next time Michigan ran this they got the above formation. Aaaaand:
Slot LB rips down, Funchess has no shot, Toussaint does well to bounce around it and gets eaten by a safety after a similar gain. Is this sheer luck? On some level, sure. But the creepy mind-reading tendencies of the MSU defense are so consistent that it seems like something more. Could Narduzzi have executed this inference chain?
- Michigan has a new run play on which Funchess accidentally doubled a LB in a defense we don't run much.
- He's probably supposed to block the slot LB in our usual stuff.
- It's first and ten from the nine, probably a run.
- If it's the new toy, blitz slot LB.
I wouldn't put it past him. Seems hard given the chaos of football but if you're a DC with tons of experience and have a feel for this live, well, you might be quite good at your job.
“Anybody? You guys are always slow on the trigger.”
How hard is it to game plan when your offensive line is so young?
“It’s not hard to game plan. You just need to put the pieces together and hope like heck that under pressure your young players can perform. A couple weeks ago against a lesser defensive opponent, we did a pretty good job. But like you asked me a couple weeks ago, ‘Did you gain any confidence?’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you after this game.’ Well this brings you back down to earth on where you are against teams that you have to play – the margin of error against really good defensive teams is small. We had just too many errors put us in bad situations. And it wasn’t always the younger guys. The middle of our offensive line is young, and things come up sometimes.”
SEE ALSO: MICHIGAN RUSHING OFFENSE
LAST TIME ON BOILERQUEST: I ignored that Illinois went winless last year. Purdue was on pace to be the worst team since 1981, which is moderately impressive.
SINCE LAST TIME ON BOILERQUEST:
- MSU beats Purdue 14-0.
- Sweet merciful bye week.
- OSU beats Purdue 56-0.
- Purdue has not had a redzone snap in this time, or indeed in 39 days.
The worst team in Big Ten history has no wins and no ties; nonconference doesn't matter; 1930 is the cutoff since before that teams played highly variable schedules. Teams from WWII are included. We are going on a straight ranking by scoring ratio, which is:
point scored / (points scored + opponent points scored)
This should help normalize for the fact that football has gotten progressively higher scoring as the years have progressed.
Purdue will be the worst Big Ten team since X if they do Y…
2012: Lose all their games. The last winless Big Ten team was last year's Illinois outfit.
2005: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 25%. This is what Illinois did last year.
1981: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 21%. 2005 Illinois managed 21% and their 1997 team matched that. The 1981 Northwestern Wildcats scored 75 points in nine league games but gave up 425 for a scoring ratio of 15%.
1961: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 15%. 1961 Illinois never reached double digits or came within two touchdowns of an opponent (23-9 versus Purdue was their closest game) and had a scoring ratio of 12.3%.
1960: Lose, scoring ratio below 12.3%. 1960 Indiana managed just 11.8.
1957: Lose, scoring ratio below 11.5%. 1957 Indiana.
1944: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.9%. Iowa 1944 set a low bar, and then they lost to Iowa Pre-Flight, though Iowa Pre-Flight was 10-1 that year.
Pretty Much Ever: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.7%. Harry Kipke's 1934 Wolverines managed this.
Boilerquest Status Report
Purdue is currently on pace to be the worst Big Ten team since…
Not scoring against MSU and OSU while piling up tons of points ceded drives Purdue's current scoring ratio under ten percent to 9.9%. Iowa and Penn State are up next, and then the tough part: can Illinois and Indiana shut the Boiler offense down? Survey says… probably not. But maybe!
BONUS ILLINIQUEST CHECK IN: Don't get your hopes up. Illinois scores way too much to be a factor here, and almost won a game against PSU last week. Their scoring ratio is a relatively healthy 33%.
Watch Michigan lose to Michigan State on Saturday was frustrating and somewhat difficult to put into perspective. We want to believe that the coaches are capable of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their players so the players can successfully execute. We also have to have the right players. It seems that we are still not where we want to be in terms of talent, coaching and understanding. How far away are we before we have the right combination?
Let's just get to the big question first. Michigan is still staring at the crater where their senior class is supposed to be, and reeling from Rich Rodriguez's inept offensive line recruiting. The 2011 class is also not spectacular, as it was a few in-state true believers, Blake Countess, and guys with little recruiting profile thanks to Rodriguez's sinking profile and Michigan giving Hoke three weeks to pile ten guys in. The talent on this team is mostly underclass.
That will not be the case on next year's defense. A projected starting lineup:
- DL: Clark (Sr), Beyer (Sr), Pipkins (Jr), Henry (Rs So)
- LB: Morgan (Sr), Ross (Jr), Ryan(Sr)
- DB: Countess (Rs Jr), Taylor (Sr), Wilson (Jr), J. Clark (Rs So)
This defense is an okay unit still beset by personnel issues. Snaps at NT not given to Quinton Washington against MSU went to… Jibreel Black. Yup. 250-pound Brennen Beyer is now the starting SDE. Before that the existence of Black was the only thing separating the situation the SDE and 3TECH positions from the one Michigan is dealing with at guard: one sophomore with a middling recruiting profile (Bryant on OL, Heitzman on DL) and a pile of freshman who are still freshman no matter how touted. I expect Michigan's defense to take a significant step forward from good but not great to maybe great next year.
The situation on offense is much more frightening. Michigan hasn't been able to move snap one away from Fitzgerald Toussaint, which is an indictment of Michigan's recruiting or development or both there. Michigan hasn't had a QB who wasn't massively turnover prone since Borges arrived, and there are zero seniors on next year's OL. Does a starting line of Magnuson-Bosch-Glasgow-Kalis-Braden featuring four sophomores and a junior who is a former walk-on entice? No.
Michigan's probably a 9-3 team next year and then you're putting all your eggs in Shane Morris's basket at QB the year after. So… not for a while.
[After the JUMP: oh good the "when can we fire this guy" tag is back. Yost: not really Yost.]
Seeing Denard grimace and swear is akin to seeing Santa remove his fake beard and take a long pull from a flask. Something's gone horribly wrong and perhaps it's time you stopped believing in certain things—like the possibility of a Big Ten title or the existence of Santa Claus.
[After THE JUMP: More cursing! More sadness! But also basketball!]
So there was a new Bacon book this year. We need to review this book. I'm going to do this with the expectation that you have either read it already or are going to. You should. It is a Bacon book. You are reading MGoBlog; either you are a person who appreciates Bacon or else a visiting Sparty looking for more trolling fodder, in which case help yourself to the board where I promise you there's plenty. Or better yet, read some Bacon—you're in the Big Ten; this concerns you too. And he says the Red Cedar is nice.
This is not a negative review, even though I have a tendency to focus on the "needs work" aspects—I'm the guy who walked out of The Return of the King after five years of unmitigated Peter Jackson man-crushing and complained that there were too many endings. So apologies to John U., who's higher in my esteem than Mr. Jackson and just about everyone whose quotes aren't emblazoned on a wall somewhere, for the plurality of minuses below.
More Bacon. Ever since Bo's Lasting Lessons, the chance to devour a new Bacon book has been somewhat of an event around these parts. As a Michigan fan it would be tough to follow the unparalleled access and insight into the Rich Rod program accomplished with Three and Out, specifically because that unvarnished snapshot was so starkly antithetical to Dave Brandon's meticulous staging of his Michigan show: You knew at the time that no true journalist would be allowed to see behind the bunting again, so it should only come as a mild disappointment that there is little about the Michigan program in this book that you didn't already know.
Fourth and Long: the Fight for the Soul of College Football is four unequal looks at four 2012 Big Ten programs, or four and a half if you count a mini-treatment that Michigan State and Mark Hollis receive as host of an Ohio State road game. In order of detail:
- Penn State from the point of view of its players, former players, coaches, and equipment managers as they find themselves taking the brunt of the Penn State Awful Thing, and the NCAA's and PSU brass's callow responses to it.
- Michigan from Bacon's own point of view of its fans, as those fans interact with Brandon's corporate-itude.
- Ohio State from the P.O.V. of Urban Meyer as he goes from win to win trying to get Zach Boren to like him, and
- Northwestern as the paragon of virtue.
Bacon set out, as is evident from the title and made clear throughout the book, to examine these four schools from different points of view (players, AD, head coach, and president, respectively), and use the findings to determine if any of the Big Ten's current models for college football are sustainable for college football in general. In it he consistently finds players and fans who "get it" while the people in control seek new and better ways to milk it.
But he could only use what he got from each school. With Ohio State the access was mostly restricted to Urban on game days. He brushes against tatgate but doesn't get into the cars or any other "everybody knows, nobody can prove" things—you have to appreciate that Bacon will never accuse somebody without proof (especially considering he's an avowed Michigan fan talking about Ohio State) but it's really hard to talk about college sports and the competitive problems therein without admitting there are relative bad guys. The Gee quote—"I hope he doesn't fire me!"—is in there in reference to the bloated role of college football head coach in America. The closest he comes to pointing out OSU's exceptionalism in this regard is when addressing the carrying off of Tressel after last year's Game:
"The Buckeyes do not run a renegade program, but they once again demonstrated they don't seem to care if their actions make others think they do."
This isn't a complaint; Bacon handled a sticky situation about as well as he could. With Northwestern he got some key interviews, particularly with Pat Fitzgerald, but no warts (this could be because they don't have any).
With Michigan Bacon was outside looking in, so he used some of the Bacon-usual suspects—Carty, the dueling barbershops, the public comments of James Duderstadt and Don Canham, Brian Cook of MGoBlog, etc. There's also an inside look at the Mud Bowl, and most interestingly, a candid interview with Michigan's band director about Send-the-Band-to-Dallas-gate. I was more intrigued by the comments made by Bill Martin on the corporatization of NCAA football, which I'll come back to. The whole Notre Dame saga is covered. Except for the band's comments most of this is old news to you.
The result is a book that's 52% about Penn State trying to survive 2012, with a bunch of stuff thrown in about some other schools and corporations to underscore a point made clear without leaving Happy Valley.
[After the jump: it's just, like, my opinion man.]