Devin, I'm sorry about Funchess. Everybody liked him. I'm sorry.
Red or Blue. A week after a program-shattering loss turns fandom into an election year, with wins taking the place of electoral votes. This year's ballot has close races in quarterback, head coach, and AD, as well as referendums on blocking style, tempo, and punt formations.
On Saturday night those races appeared decided when everybody departed with eight minutes left of a two-score game against an opponent Michigan was outgaining. They'd seen the jewel of Rich Rodriguez's recruiting wasting an NCAA gift of a senior year in a new offense that still treated him like Tom Brady, so shell-shocked by years of abuse that any peripheral motion triggered desperation.
Then Shane, and the interception came, followed by the rain, and you could count the Hoke supporters by picking out the few hundred dots of blue or yellow between the blob of red. Everybody else looked at the scoreboard, looked at the radar, and recalled Michigan huddling—huddling!!!!—and calculated the obvious move. The 98,000 empty seats were a consensus: Hoke probably has to go, and Dave Brandon absolutely has to go first. The moment was stark, but it couldn't last, because stupid hope and the will to support your team is stronger than your brain's ability to store information it doesn't want.
The fanbase needs to have this conversation, and the diaries did just that. ST3 posted a curtailed Inside the Boxscore wherein his kid's quotes provided the subheads:
"Another huddle? Really?"
* Seriously, my son actually said that. I don't think he reads MGoBlog, and I hadn't said anything about tempo or huddling. So if a 9-year old can watch Utah succeeding with pace, watch Michigan plodding along, and gets exasperated at the huddling, why can't Brady figure this out?
Jhackney got home and thought about spiritual cleansings and what kind of coach doesn't wear a headset:
Dave Brandon is a whiz at marketing and salesmanship and Hoke is a whiz at clapping his hands while keeping his ears the same color tan of his face and running a clean program. There needs to be a coach that is involved in at least one side of the ball. Saban would mutilate your skull with his championship rings if you tried taking his head set away.
Every coach has inherent flaws—Nick Saban is an offensive dinosaur and doesn't care about his players beyond what they can do for him. It's whether the good things overcome those flaws. Hoke makes his program worse by willfully ignoring fundamental developments like the spread offense, tempo, the shield punt, and game theory. He and Mattison make it better by running it clean, recruiting excellent players and people, and building a strong defense. Like with political candidates, everybody's flawed; it's whether their angels or demons will come out ahead.
Best and Worst saw the fruit of Hoke's demonic seeds:
No, what killed my optimism about this team and this staff, about this program as it is currently stumbling through another shitty year, is how absolutely true-to-form it is to the dreams of the men in charge.
[…lights out on the Titanic.gif]
Ron Utah made the obvious comparison: we are experiencing a reverse Rich Rod. I'll add Bill Martin reversed to Dave Brandon and liken it to the classic two-party problem. Martin and Rodriguez alienated the crucial top of the fan pyramid with their Whiggish football ways, an inability to commit to a defensive faith resulting in total bedlam. Brandon went the other way; his Tory pandering alienated the students (SaddestTailgateEver on another little hoarded thing) and entitled alumni (dnak438 on his noodle exchange with Brandon) while Hoke's offense and special teams have repeatedly been derailed by dogma trumping sense.
Given most of the week to calm down, jmdblue wrote that he'd rather give Brady one more term to work things out while the upstarts drown themselves in their own corruptions. Unless someone can convince Colin Powell to run.
Etc. Alum96 reviewed the 2012 recruiting class to see if there was a development issue. If you don't compare against other schools though it means nothing, since most recruits don't play to their star rankings. Average size of each B1G team's offensive line starters. GIF about punting. Regular stats make M look good (see: outgained ND and Utah).
|WHAT||Michigan vs Minnesota|
Ann Arbor MI
September 27th, 2014
|THE LINE||M –13|
|TELEVISION||ABC/ESPN reverse mirror|
|TICKETS||From 18 dollars. Soon they will cost as much as the original jug.|
|WEATHER||mid 70s, clear
0% chance of rain
Image via MVictors
Minnesota is probably not real good. They've got quarterback issues up the wazoo, they lost 30-7 to a middling-at-best Big 12 team, they completed one pass last week. They are, in short, a Big Ten team. So I'm sayin' there's a chance.
Run Offense vs Minnesota
Cameron Botticelli exists
With Shane Morris probably starting, about which more later, Michigan figures to lean heavily on its ground game one week after it blorped out just over three yards a carry against an undersized and probably not very good Utah team. Since Michigan doesn't incorporate the quarterback as a runner you have to account for regularly, that means a lot of stacked boxes without recourse to actually-threatening play action and a lot of meh. Michigan had two runs that weren't meh against Utah: one pin and pull zone and a power play that Derrick Green cut back when a Utah DT went blorp himself. It was ugly.
They go up against a Minnesota defense that we have little data on. They crushed SJSU last week; SJSU employs GERG and can be safely discounted as a relevant data point. The week before TCU ripped them for 6.3 yards a carry but on only 27 attempts; Middle Tennessee had a respectable 4.4 yards a pop on 43.
FWIW, last year the Gophers were highly variable leaning towards bad, allowing 4.5 yards a carry overall. Six of their Big Ten opponents went over 180 yards while averaging at least 4.4 yards a carry; the exceptions were Northwestern and of course Michigan. Remember how we were all mildly intrigued by tackle over? Yeah, that was 3.2 YPC, the worst performance against the Gophers last year by any Power 5 school. Only Northwestern was within a yard.
So that's depressing.
This year Michigan seems better, at least most of the time. Minnesota has a reasonable case they will be as well, with three of their defensive linemen returning along with their best linebacker. It did not show against their one competent opponent, and Ace looked at a game where they were playing a team that employs GERG. Yes, on the other side of the ball. It does not matter. So who knows?
Key Matchup: Michigan OL versus slants and stunts from Minnesota. Michigan had a hard time IDing them against Utah and Minnesota brings a similarly smallish but mobile front that will attempt to mess up Michigan's gaps.
[Hit THE JUMP for they fart, and sludge / sludge, and fart / fart fart fart, sludge sludge sludge / the Sludgey And Farty Show!]
About Last Week:
Melanie Maxwell/Ann Arbor News
I went back.
I don’t know why I went back. The pluie de grâce had so mercifully released us all from any sense of obligation. Despite being the most literal example possible, there would be no talk of “fair-weather fans” after this one. Long after the weather suggested we leave, and even longer after our souls begged us to leave, Carl Grapentine demanded that we leave. Eventually I emerged from the rain at the Blue Tractor. I partook of food and drink with friends. We spoke about it as the most dispiriting game we had ever attended, which is a high (and ever-rising) bar to clear. We listed the things we would rather do than watch any more of that game. We spoke of our kids and our jobs and our lives. We had moved on.
And then we went back.
From even before we slogged up the Stadium stairs until the moment I write this, I have been trying to figure out why. No sane person would do this. I have a home with dry clothes and warm blankets. I have a television that displays other, better football games. I have two dogs that love attention and never turn the ball over. I have a loving wife and a fun little toddler and a brand new baby girl. Game traffic had cleared. The game was over in all but the most technical sense. There was nothing preventing us from escaping to a more comfortable place, both physically and mentally.
But we went back.
Maybe we went back because we thought, deep in some deranged recesses of our waterlogged brains, that Michigan could actually win that football game, or at least that something would happen that we would have been glad to have seen. Maybe it was to support the players. Maybe it was to collect the ultimate Fandom Endurance badge: the kind of ultimate trump card that can be played when speaking of the trials and tribulations of Michigan Mandom. Maybe I am secretly a football hipster (see: the fact that I write about the Big Ten every week). Maybe it was sheer morbid curiosity; surely as Rome burned, some Romans remained on the seven hills overlooking the city and observed in awe the awesome downfall. Maybe I went back because I really, truly love the Big House, and the actuarial tables tell me there are only 400 or 450 home games left before I am no more.
But I think I went back because I wanted there to have been a reason. I went back because I couldn't stand the prospect that I could watch a football at Michigan Stadium and walk away feeling like there hadn't been a reason. But sitting here a week later, I can't tell you why I was there.
We keep coming back. But the reasons are becoming harder to find.
The Road Ahead:
Minnesota (3-1, 0-0 B1G)
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 24-7
Recap: 1 for 8. Seven yards. Zero touchdowns. One interception. Against a GERG defense. And a 17-point win.
As you can tell, from the lede, Minnesota completely abandoned any hint of a running game. Chris Streveler is many things, but he is unlikely that he will wrest the “Unstoppable Throw-God” title from Trevor Siemian any time soon.
Minnesota only passed for the total distance of a pretty makeable putt, but they rushed for 380 yards on 58 carries. David Cobb rushed for 207 yards, and Streveler tacked on 161 yards at 8.9 yards per carry. They mixed in all of the usual dual-threat running game stuff, including traditional zone read, inverted veer, belly, and QB lead/iso.
In theory, they are a really favorable matchup for Michigan. Who wants odds.
This team is as frightening as: A very, very poor man’s 1990’s Nebraska. Fear Level = 0*
Michigan should worry about: Maxxxxxx Williams. He’s averaging 18.3 yards per catch, and has two of Minnesota’s three receiving touchdowns. Michigan’s safeties haven’t been fantastic, and we still haven’t seen all that much from Michigan’s linebackers in coverage, so Maxxxxxx could be a problem.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Maxxxxxx only gets the ball through the air. Which… yeah.
When they play Michigan: WHO WILL START FOR EITHER TEAM? THE INTRIGUE IS SO EXCITING.
Next game: @ Michigan (Minn +12, which, wow?)), 3:30 Saturday, (ABC/ESPN2)
*Fear is for the living.
[AFTER THE JUMP: We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.]
Previously: Minnesota Offense
We're finally heading into conference play, which means this hopefully will be the last film breakdown of a body-bag game, in this case Minnesota's 24-7 steamrolling of San Jose State.
I'm not quite ready to deploy the "I have the sinking feeling this is totally useless" tag, which I waited until last year's Northwestern game to unleash for 2013, but it's getting close.
A pump-fake interception on a botched WR screen!
San Jose State managed 254 yards of offense in 11 possessions on 5.6 yards per pass and 2.1 per rush. They turned it over five times, on three fumbles and two ghastly interceptions. I'm going to attempt to keep this from being a total waste of time by going over the basics of Cover 4, which Minnesota ran a lot of in this game, to the great confusion of SJSU's quarterback.
Personnel: Seth has accounted for the uncertainty at quarterback by turning this into a GIF—click to embiggen and see who we expect will start on Saturday:
Fine, fine, we went with Morris, because that seems to be the gut feeling of those closest to the program today, as well as the common sense choice given Brady Hoke's presser comments (why keep the uncertainty if there isn't going to be a change?). Anyway, I'm sure this won't dominate the comments of a post that otherwise has nothing to do with M's quarterback situation.
Base Set? Against SJSU's multiple attack—which actually resembles Michigan quite a bit in terms of formations utilized—Minnesota had a dedicated nickel set against three wide, which is depicted in Seth's chart, and went to a 4-3 over against two receivers:
Their corners stayed to a dedicated side of the field except when SJSU went with a trips formation; that's the strongside LB between the hashes and a CB hanging out on the boundary next to the DE.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
FORMATION NOTES: A lot of this kind of stuff.
Probably 50/50 between this and gun with more gun coming late as Michigan tried to make it look like they were trying to come back without actually doing so.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Everything as per usual, with the exception of Morris's late insertion and maybe a little more playing time for Jake Butt.
AGAIN APOLOGIES: Audio on the clips is messed up this week.
[After THE JUMP: a portal to another universe where Michigan doesn't suck (I DID IT FOR THE CLIIIIIIIIIICKS)]
BACKUP QB: CERTIFIED GOPHER TOUGH
We're finally heading into conference play, which means this hopefully will be the last film breakdown of a body-bag game, in this case Minnesota's 24-7 steamrolling of San Jose State. With starting QB Mitch Leidner sidelined due to a sprained knee and turf toe, injuries that could very well hold him out of this weekend's game, the Gophers turned to backup Chris Streveler to run the offense—and simply run, as he toted the rock 18 times to just seven pass attempts, of which he completed... one.
I'm not quite ready to deploy the "I have the sinking feeling this is totally useless" tag, which I waited until last year's Northwestern game to unleash for 2013, but it's getting close. The good news: Minnesota's run-heavy-to-the-point-that-run-heavy-doesn't-capture-it offense should play right into the strength of Michigan's defense, especially if Streveler is called upon once again to start.
Personnel. As you'll see in the formation chart, Minnesota almost exclusively ran their offense out of a one-back shotgun set with two tight ends. They still bring the beef—this is the list of their starters from their first four games, from Minnesota's game notes:
Yes, that features one WR who's started all four games, a FB/WR/TE spot, a TE/WR spot, and a dedicated TE spot. Spectacularly Gopher.
Anyway, here's the diagram from Seth, which now features Frank Clark and Jake Ryan getting their proper due as stars [click to embiggen]:
Minnesota's offense lacks experience, and it's even more glaring if you remove Maxxxxxx Williams (questionable, calf, didn't practice
[Ed-Ace: I wrote this up yesterday and there's been an update since. Williams practiced yesterday in a limited capacity, while Leidner has taken "about half" of the reps over the last two days, and Jerry Kill is "cautiously optimistic" he'll be able to play. Kill said he feels better about both players' chances to play compared to how he felt earlier in the week, for what it's worth.]
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. Even with the mostly shotgun look, well... see the section above.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. The vast majority of Minnesota's plays in this game were either inside zone or zone read. They mixed in some power, usually when running from under center or the pistol, and a couple outside zones, but they really could've won this game while running their two base plays.
Hurry it up or grind it out? This is Minnesota. They're in no hurry here.
The Gophers did go up-tempo to great effect on one first-half drive, covering 59 yards in eight plays while taking just 2:41 off the clock—and increasing the tempo as they went down the field—but the drive ultimately failed when running back David Cobb fumbled a first-and-goal carry into the end zone for a touchback. Other than that lone drive, Minnesota took their sweet time.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]