...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
This week was essentially a pick-em so we’ll skip the spread and chart it straight up.
I have been making a few tweaks to the math behind the chart to take out some of the noise, especially on possession changes, hopefully it’s becoming a better product.
Michigan jumps out early, is in good position but can’t close it out for the second and third quarters before finally putting it a way in the fourth.
1. +12.5%, Play 3, Toussaint for 65 on the opening drive.
2. +5.2%, Play 5, Robinson punches it in for the opening score.
3. +5.0%, Play 153, JT Floyd picks Scheelhaase (+1.5%) and takes it back 43 yards (+3.5%).
1. –5.8%, Play 65, Michigan stopped on 4th and goal from the 1.
2. –4.9%, Play 33, Robinson’s first fumble with Michigan driving.
3. –2.7%, Play 137, Scheelhaase runs for a 31 yard score to cut the lead to 10.
Other Notes from Illinois
Last year we had a consistent defense and hoped our offense was good enough to win the game for us. This year we have a consistent defense and hope our offense is good enough to win the game for us. The difference is last year the D was so bad that the offense had to hit home runs to pull it out. This year the defense has consistently held serve and the offensive variability has largely dictated our success or failure.
This week the narrative expanded and not only did the defense hold serve, it produced extra value. This is the first game all season that offense had a negative win percent added (-13%) and the team still won the game. Iowa and Michigan St both saw negative scores but the defense couldn’t do enough to overcome.
How you feel about this game is largely dependent on how you view Illinois. If you view them as a Ron Zook coached mid-level BCS conference team you probably are part of the group that was uninspired about the showing on Saturday. You would probably point to stats such as Michigan had the best field position of any BCS conference team in any game so far this season and still only had 31 points (vs an expected 39 based on field position).
If you view Illinois as a Ron Zook coached mid-level BCS conference team with a stout defense and some weapons on offense, you are probably Brian. I have Illinois’ defense ranked #14 nationally at +7 and third in the Big Ten behind Penn St and MSU. Scheelhaase is a ranked as a top 20 BCS conference QB (+5) and AJ Jenkins is a top 10 receiver (+8, catches only) who was limited to +1 on a season-high 19 targets. I am in the second camp here. The offensive performance was far from perfect but the total performance of the team accounting for Illinois’ stout defense probably puts Saturday as the best/most important win of the year to date.
Rushing: –1, good and bad even out versus strong rush defense
Passing: +8, found some big plays and no meaningful interceptions
Rush defense: +1, decent day against a mediocre run game
Pass defense: +7, in JT we trust, apparently
Special Team: +1, a narrow miss on a FG away from best score of the year
Denard: +1 overall, +4 pass -3 rush, no games higher than +3 since Northwestern
Devin: +3, +5 pass –2 rush, best number of the year
Toussaint: +4, 3rd best of the year for a Michigan back (Fitz vs Purdue and VS vs E Mich, +6)
Scheelhaase: +4, +0 pass, +4 rush
Jenkins: +8 but took a season high 19 targets to get there
Third and Done
So I wrote this up on early in the week only to find that its become a topic across Michigan blogdom this week. Hopefully there is something new for you here, if not rest assured knowing that we own third and one.
Michigan hasn’t just been good on third (or fourth) and one, they have been amazing. Michigan has 15 stops in 27 competitive attempts against them this year. That’s a 44% offensive success rate. The national average is 72%. Michigan is literally getting twice as many stops as the average defense would on third or fourth and one.
Michigan is currently 12th over the last 9 seasons on the conversion rate in this situation. Only 1 of the 11 teams ahead of them have faced more than 18 attempts. The only comparison to what Michigan is doing so far this year is Boston College of 2008 who had 16 stops out of 25 attempts against. In fact, if Michigan gets two more stops on third or fourth and 1, they will have the most stops over the last 9 years in that situation. Michigan has ended a full 7 drives more than the average team would on super short yardage situations.
B1G Championship Game
The loss to Iowa effectively ended Michigan’s chances. I have them listed at 0.3% chance of making the inaugural title game but that assumes that Indiana has a chance to win on the road against Michigan St. A Sparty No on Saturday and a Michigan win puts the odds up over 20%. In total, Michigan needs wins over Nebraska and Ohio and Michigan St to lose to both Indiana and Northwestern. The Spartans hold a commanding 91% chance of making the title game, a win by both Michigan teams on Saturday would clinch it. Nebraska stands at about 8% but need to win out and have Michigan St slip to have any real chance. Iowa technically could win some 3 or 4 way tiebreakers but at less than 1 in 2000 odds, things don’t look so bright.
On the other side of the standings both Wisconsin and Penn St control their own destinies. I give Wisconsin an 84% chance of winning the head to head matchup so they have a 67% chance of reaching the title game. Penn St sits at 27% and thanks the Boilermakers upset over Ohio, those two schools both sit at 3% apiece. For Purdue the path is win out, Ohio beat Penn St, Illinois beat Wisconsin, Michigan beat Ohio and Wisconsin beat Penn St. Ohio isn’t dependent on as many game, but the odds are the same. Win out, Penn St lose out, and Wisconsin lose to Illinois.
My Heisman Thoughts
With some new chaos at the top of the polls, Wisconsin has got to be killing themselves for not being able to defend the deep ball late. It’s put them out of the National Championship race and buried Russell Wilson’s Heisman campaign. I think it should still be kicking. I have him leading in WPA (+3.0) ahead of Case Keenum (+2.8) and Brandon Weedon (+2.2) and EV (+13) ahead of Keenum (+12) and RG3 (+11).
Kellen Moore: +1.5/+10
Andrew Luck: +1.7/+6
Trent Richardson: +.3/+4
Denard still holds up well on WPA at +2.07 but his EV is way down at +4 and barely in the top quarter of all QBs.
PAN, National Rank (leader), Big Ten Rank (leader)
Michigan: +4, 12th (Georgia Tech), 2nd (Wisconsin)
vs. Nebraska D: –0, 63rd, 8th
Fitz: +1 (now in top 30 RB’s)
Michigan: +1, 50th (Boise St), 5th (Wisconsin)
vs. Nebraska D: +2, 30th, 6th
Michigan: +2, 21st (Alabama), 4th (Illinois)
vs. Nebraska O: +0, 53rd, 7th
Taylor Martinez: +1
Rex Burkhead: –1 (24th of 28 back that average 100 yards per game)
Michigan: +2, 39th (Oregon), 7th (Penn St)
vs. Nebraksa O: +3, 25th, 4th
Taylor Martinez: +4
Michigan: –0, 79th (Florida St), 9th (Purdue)
Nebraska: +2, 27th, 3rd
Rex Burkhead has the yards and the carries but my per play valuation point to a Nebraska team that pounds the ball on the ground for yards, but puts points on the board through the air courtesy of a throwing motion that makes Tebow look like Tom Brady. These teams are pretty evenly matched. Mobile QBs that are flawed passers who can succeed on the back of the run game and defenses far below historical precedent but not major deficiencies either. Michigan 31-28
Formation notes: They did the usual 4-3 under stuff and went to a nickel package against spread sets. On passing downs the seven-guys-on-the-line okie package was a frequent deployment; on short yardage we saw the return of the Beyer/Ryan 4-4 under.
Then they did some weird stuff. If this looks a bit like a 3-3-5, yeah, sort of :
That's clearly a pass defense D with the ends lined up outside of the tackles and both the spur/bandit-type dudes on the strong side of the formation, ready to drop into man coverage.
This is another exotic pass defense featuring nose tackle Mike Jones (serious) and DT Craig Roh (also serious):
Illinois ran at this; Jones and Roh actually forced the play behind them into tacklers; pile fell forward for five.
Personnel notes: Secondary was Floyd/Countess/Kovacs the whole way and mostly Woolfolk but Gordon did pop up from time to time; I'm pretty sure Woolfolk left permanently on the Scheelhaase touchdown since he seemed to aggravate one of his many available injuries. Avery was the nickelback; when Floyd cramped up briefly he moved outside onto Jenkins and Gordon came in at nickel.
Demens and Morgan went the whole way at LB; Ryan played most of the game but gave way to Beyer a little.
The line was mostly the usual RVB/Heininger/Martin/Roh setup with cameos from Black, Clark, and Campbell. Brink got some plays at the tail end.
Show? Show. W00t.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O15||1||15||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA scramble||Woolfolk||1|
|Iso fake draws heavy attention but Scheelhaase only has two options in the route and they must both be covered(+2). I find that hard to believe but I'm guessing Woolfolk(+2) jumped the corner route behind Countess and convinced Scheelhaase to scramble. Ryan(-0.5, tackling -1) misses a tackle that would have been a sack, giving up three or four yards.|
|O16||2||14||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|M shows a blitz from Morgan on the outside. Illinois checks, Michigan still runs it. It's picked up. All short routes; Scheelhaase goes to Jenkins on a five yard out that Floyd(+2, cover +2) breaks up. Prelude to ownage.|
|O16||3||14||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +2) dives inside on a stunt that gets the Illinois OL. He gets held a little and ends up falling just short of the QB's feet (I might be done typing Scheelhaase); Martin(+0.5) runs after to contain, forcing a throwaway. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Triple option keeper||Van Bergen||3|
|Kovacs rolls down for an eighth guy. M gets lucky here. RVB(+1) stays on QB throughout the play; Ryan(-2) dives inside the slot receiver and gives up the corner. He's got to have the pitchman here. This should be a pitch for a big gain. Instead QB tries to beat RVB one on one and can't do it. Still a decent gain because M had destroyed the dive, which fine.|
|O17||2||7||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Countess||6|
|Countess(-1, tackling -1) comes up a little hard and to the inside and ends up getting stiffarmed as Jenkins breaks to the outside. He does manage to delay Jenkins long enough for Ryan(+0.5), flowing hard from the inside, to tackle before the sticks.|
|O23||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||-1|
|Beyer/Ryan package. Heininger(+1) drives his OL a couple yards into the backfield. Martin(+2) takes a pop from the center and still does the same to the backside G, putting him on his knees at the LOS and forcing a cutback. This screws up the blocking angles and forces Ford back into Ryan(+1, tackling +1), who came down to the LOS on the snap and took a good angle into the backfield; RVB(+1) beat a block and comes into help prevent any YAC. RPS +1 for the slant forcing the play back into an unblocked player.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun 2back trips||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option dive||Heininger||0|
|Covered slot receiver. Michigan aligns differently than normal with DTs over the guards and Illinois runs a triple option. QB hands off since DE is on him and Countess is hanging on the pitch. Dive goes nowhere thanks to Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) blasting single blocks back; Roh(+0.5) comes in from the side to finish Pollard after he confirms the give was made.|
|O23||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||Inc|
|Roh and Black your DEs. Kovacs rolls down. Straight dropback. Illinois looking for the drag; Roh(+1, pressure +1) beats the tackle to the outside and is held; no call. This along with Black(+0.5) falling at the QB's feet causes some shuffling and a back-foot throw that ends up going wide of Jenkins. Completion likely if accurate but Gordon(+0.5, cover +1) seemed to have this locked down for a not so big gain.|
|O23||3||10||Ace 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||Down G||Van Bergen||5|
|Scheelhaase checks from a shotgun formation to an inside run out of ace. They're trying to run at the middle of the line as Morgan drops out into a zone; Martin(+1) fights inside a pulling guard—mismatch—and RVB(+1) comes off a block when the second guy moves downfield. Those two combine to tackle for a meh gain.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA curl||Woolfolk||7|
|Beyer in. Illinois runs PA. Play develops with no LBs underneath the Jenkins comeback; QB fires it to him. Immediate tackle from Woolfolk(+0.5, tackling +1) and Countess(+0.5). Coverage push, pressure -1.|
|O27||2||3||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||--||False start||--||-5|
|O22||2||8||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||14|
|Kovacs rolls to a slot receiver as M shows one high. Floyd(-1, cover -1) is beat on a ten-yard hitch and can't tackle on the catch. He has to set up and gives up a few more in the name of being safe.|
|O36||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Pass||4||Stop and go||Floyd||Inc|
|RB motions out into the slot. Michigan sends Beyer off the edge, dropping Roh; stoned. (Pressure -2) QB has all day to pump and then chuck deep. He ends up throwing it away because Floyd(+2, cover +2) was over the top of a double move to the point where throwing it was stupid.|
|O36||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||0|
|Ryan(+2) momentarily dives down but recovers impressively to force Scheelhaase outside, outside, outside. Floyd(+1) beats a Jenkins block to slow him, whereupon Ryan tackles from behind.|
|Okie package gets the Illinois OL to bust (pressure +2, RPS +2). Martin(+0.5) gets a free run. Scheelhaase actually gets a pass off and completes it but it's off and takes the WR off his feet. Demens(+1) was there to tackle if necessary.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 9 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O5||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||7|
|Not entirely sure what the problem is here. Both DTs only take single blocks; Martin fights through his to almost kill this in the hole but can't quite. Morgan takes on the FB basically at the LOS and does funnel to the inside but Demens is getting blocked out of the play since the DTs have not absorbed an extra guy between them. I think this is on Heininger(-1) as the playside DT he's not absorbing a double and doesn't even get an arm-tackle attempt. You would like Morgan(-0.5) to get this closer to the LOS and Demens(-0.5) to not get sealed away totally but they both have tough jobs. RB into the secondary, where Kovacs(+3, tackling +2) puts his helmet on the ball and gets Michigan a turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 5 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Scheelhaase clearly late on a lot of these by now but Countess(+2, cover +2) is still there for a quality PBU on a pass that could have been intercepted.|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Drag||Countess||Inc|
|This may be batted but there's no replay so can't be sure. Demens(-1, cover -1) does get way out of position on another WR's route, dragging well into Morgan's zone. Countess(-1, cover -1) appears to make the same error he did against Iowa, and if Jenkins catches this it's a first down and maybe a bunch more. Jenkins has to delay because the umpire gets in the way; incomplete. Lucky.|
|Okie set gets Ryan(+1) and Demens(+1) roaring at the QB with one guy to block them (pressure +3, RPS +3); Van Bergen(+1) comes off a block to help sack when Scheelhaase understandably bugs out. QB overwhelmed by three guys on a four man rush == +3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Morgan||7|
|Good time on a four man rush (pressure -1). QB has time to survey and fire to a TE for about nine; Morgan(+0.5, tackling +1) puts him down immediately. Given situation coverage fine.|
|O28||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||-14|
|O14||3||17||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Down G||Van Bergen||1|
|RVB(+1) shoots inside a downblock and gets enough penetration to force Ford well upfield; Roh is out there on the bounce but gets shoved past the play. Still, that took a long time. Martin flows down the line and forces Ford behind; Avery(+0.5, tackling +1) makes a nice low tackle that takes Ford to the ground immediately. Fumble is ruled but overturned, which costs Michigan seven important seconds. Irritating.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EOH.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA out||Kovacs||12|
|Kovacs(-1) hesitates on the play action and only belatedly shoots out on his zone; with the outside WR going deep Countess has other responsibilities. Out open, easy pitch and catch (cover -1, pressure -1)|
|O32||1||10||Pistol twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||11|
|Reading RVB; he stays responsible and the handoff is made. Martin(-1) fights to the wrong side of his block and Heininger(-1) gets penetration too far upfield, so Illinois gets a crease without doubling any DL. This means LBs are getting thumped; Morgan(-1) is the guy on the playside gap and he starts moving to the LOS before actually stalling and taking a step back before being engulfed. RB into the secondary. Demens(-0.5) also caught a block.|
|O43||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Down G||Campbell||2|
|QB checks into an ace from the same pistol set they just ran. Campbell(+1) takes the guy downblocking him and ends up driving him into the backfield, forcing Pollard away from blocking; the playside G is pulling around outside but Pollard isn't going out there. Live I thought this was a missed cut; on tape it's clear this would be a ++ move from the back to cut up and then immediately back out. So Morgan(+2, tackling +2) gets credit for powering through his blocker and decleating Pollard.|
|O45||2||8||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||-4|
|Ryan(+2) reads the option action and tears ass for the QB, leveling him just as he pitches. FB makes a mistake, peeling back on Ryan in a hopeless chase, and this opens up Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) to do the thing he does by taking a good angle at speed; Pollard cuts inside and gets TFLed. Martin(+1) had blown through blocking and was there to help if necessary, which is crazy impressive.|
|O41||3||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-12|
|RVB(+2) splits two blockers confused by the okie package; Clark(+1) gets a good drive on a tight end to prevent any lane to move upfield, and Ryan jumps on the QB's back for very large sack. This was a six-man protection on which the QB had zero chance to even look at read one. Pressure +3, RPS +3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 12 min 3rd Q. Riley O'Toole gets the next Illinois drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Pass||6||PA TE Flat||Morgan||7|
|Roh ends up free on the edge and gets some decent pressure; this means a TE has released behind him and O'Toole hits him for a decent gain; Morgan(+0.5) reads it pretty well and escorts the guy OOB to prevent a significant one.|
|O32||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||RB flat||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +2) beats two blockers and roars up the middle of the pocket, forcing a terrible throw Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in a better spot to catch than the RB flaring out.|
|O32||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide tight||Nickel even||Pass||4||Quick out||Floyd||Inc|
|Quick throw does not allow time for pressure; Floyd(+1, cover +1) is there with a play on a well thrown ball (but not a great one); Toole's ball is too far outside and not caught.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||12 (Pen-10)|
|Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) pressure(+1) Scheelhaase, forcing a scramble up into the pocket that picks up some yards but probably would have been a sack but for Martin(+1 again) drawing a holding call. Demens(-1) gave up the outside here and turned this from a few into a hypothetical first down.|
|O15||1||20||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||8|
|Here Martin(-1) gets shoved out his lane without actually getting to the QB; Black(-0.5) gets shoved way upfield, albeit by a double (pressure -1); Scheelhaase can find no one (cover +1) and runs for a good gain. This time Demens is blocked out of the play.|
|O23||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Dime even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Jones||5|
|Mike Jones lined up as the NT. Yeah, I know. Roh the DT. Yeah. Daring Illinois to run; they run. Jones(+1) actually drives the center back(!), forcing a cutback into Roh(+1), who slanted inside and gets a tackle attempt. He's getting blocked and the attempt is run through; it gives Michigan time to rally to the ball and hold the play down. RPS -1? I don't even know. I guess not.|
|Scheelhaase looking for an out Avery(+1, cover +1) has covered well enough to dissuade; Countess the other guy over there on the deeper route. Zone blitz is coming through now to the outside with Demens(+1) beating a block; Ryan(-1, pressure -1) is out of his lane and allows Scheelhaase to run straight upfield. Martin and Morgan are there to catch him after about five but the pile manages to surge forward just over the line. Impressive power by Scheelhaase.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fly||Floyd||Inc|
|Plenty of time (pressure -1); Illinos goes four verts and everyone is covered(+3); Floyd(+1) is step for step with Jenkins and would have a play on the ball if it was accurate. It's not.|
|O35||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Avery||14|
|Plenty of time (pressure -2) without Martin in the game; Avery(+0.5) is actually in pretty good coverage here, forcing a throw high and to the sideline that is executed. Made it tough.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Back shoulder fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Too much time (pressure -1), though the pocket isn't as clean on this outing. Floyd is in press and they test him deep; he is step for step. He can't quite adjust to the back-shoulder fade but this is still a +1, cover +1 because it required a DO and tough catch to complete. This is basically unstoppable if you can execute it. Illinois thinks they do but on replay it turns out they do not—Jenkins juggled it.|
|O49||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||6||Slant||Floyd||Inc (Pen+8)|
|Michigan sends six and is getting there but not in time to prevent a throw here. Floyd(-1, cover -1) picks up a legit PI call for arriving too early but I don't mind this. Much better than arriving late and you don't always get this call on you.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||6||TE out||Morgan||11|
|Late blitz from a very deep Kovacs; Morgan(-1) gets a chuck on a dragging WR but does let him past into open space since this is raw man coverage. Scheelhaase hits the guy and he can turn up for some YAC. Pressure -1, cover -1. Morgan does make a good tackle(+1).|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||0|
|Kovacs rolled up for a seventh guy in the box. Martin(+1) surges through the line and forces it outside. Roh(+0.5) forces it further outside by getting inside and diving at Ford's legs; Kovacs(+0.5) is out there containing. Ford turns it up directly into a scraping, tackling(+1) Demens.|
|M32||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack?||Pass||7||Slant||Avery||Inc|
|This is kind of stack-y but not really with two pass-rush aligned DEs, three guys in man on the WRs, and both overhang safety types to the same side of the field. M sends every damn body. QB is about to eat Kovacs(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5, pressure +2) as he chucks. He's got a WR on a slant in front of Avery(+1, cover +1), who's tackling on the catch and making life difficult. He may rake the ball out. We can only say may because the WR runs into another Illini WR and goes down as if he'd taken a shot from Reggie Nelson.|
|M32||3||10||Shotgun empty||3-2-6 dime||Pass||5||Tunnel screen||Morgan||19|
|Michigan gets RPSed here with five guys blitzing and no one thinking to peel back. Line is Campbell, Demens, and Roh... so... yeah. Morgan(-1, cover -1) doesn't read the WR screen quickly at all and gets easily blocked; Floyd(-1) is getting blocked but shouldn't let the WR outside like he does. Big gain. RPS -2.|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Clark||13|
|Clark(-3) forms up, then decides Ford has the ball after Scheelhaase pulls it. This opens up the corner; DBs are in man and not in any position to help. Woolfolk(-1) may be able to tackle before the endzone but pulls up gimpy and can't make it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-7, EO3Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Comeback||Floyd||Inc|
|Scheelhaase has this open for a first down and just misses it. Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten. Pressure was getting there.|
|O38||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Penalty||--||Offsides||Martin||5|
|O43||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Martin||3|
|Martin(+2) drives his guy so far into the backfield that he impacts the runner three yards behind the LOS; this delay allows Black(+0.5) to flow down and tackle after keeping contain on Scheelhaase. Wish the LBs did a little more here.|
|O46||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Black||8|
|Black(-3) does the same thing Clark did on the last play, diving down on the back after the mesh point. Juice Williams ninja ballfake reprise.|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Morgan||2|
|Belly play where the backside DT is getting doubled off the ball. RVB(+0.5) does an okay job holding up; Demens(+0.5) and Morgan(+0.5) react quickly enough to remove creases. Martin(+0.5) flows down the line to tackle after his second blocker releases into Morgan.|
|M44||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Drag||Roh||4|
|DT stunt gets Martin(+0.5) in thanks to RVB(+0.5) threatening to dart past the G. Roh(+1) beats the tackle straight up and Scheelhaase is about to get destroyed(pressure+2) and has to let it go. He's got a quick drag from his TE that Demens(+1, cover +1) is there for an instant tackle on.|
|Kovacs late blitz; he is moving right into Scheelhaase's face as he throws but may get blocked. Pressure push. Floyd(+4, cover +3) is breaking on the ball as the WR cuts his route off and picks the ball off; he is one avoided Scheelhaase tackle from a pick six. Monster play.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 17-7, 10 min 4th Q. M scores and Illinois gets it back with 10 minutes left down three scores, which informs Michigan's defensive style. I'll keep it in mind as I chart Comeback Ishtar.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle scramble||Roh||9|
|Roh(+0.5) cuts off the corner but gets pushed past the play. QB can't find anyone (cover +1) as he rolls up and scrambles; Demens(-0.5) is not reacting very well and ends up running into a guy trying to block Martin as Scheelhaase cuts behind. RVB tackles from behind.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Heininger||12|
|Heininger(+1, pressure +1) beats an OT around the corner(!) and is held; no call. This does flush Scheelhaase up; Ryan tries to disconnect from his guy and is held as well, so Scheelhaase can fire to a Jenkins comeback for the first. Instant tackle. Cover -1. Refs -2.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Morgan||3|
|Morgan is over the slot; w/ Roh tucked inside the TE there basically is no backside DE. Scheelhaase pulls as Morgan(+1) comes down on the run. Morgan jukes the TE coming out on him, sliding past the block and forcing the QB to cut up into Demens(+1, tackling +1), who puts him on the turf in space.|
|O44||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||6|
|Illinois lets 27 seconds run off the clock after the play. RT falls; Roh gets a free run. Martin(+1) and RVB(+1) have again stunted and get in Scheelhaase's face (pressure +2). He has to throw hot. That's to the RB leaking out of the backfield. He catches it; Floyd(+0.5) and Morgan tackle(+1) the guy short of the sticks in bounds.|
|50||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Campbell||0|
|Cambpell(+3) in at the nose. He drives the center back and does not give ground when the FB impacts the block. RB cuts back and he sheds, making impact in the backfield. Heininger(+2) beats a blocker as well and is there to help; Roh(+0.5) is getting his body in the way as well. Dang third and one. Dang Campbell.|
|50||4||1||Goal line||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G||Demens||1|
|Roh gets sent inside by the TE as M's interior line prepares for something in there; Illinois is going outside the tackle. Not a big problem and he does have awareness to spin back outside. Beyer(+0.5) takes on a kickout block in a pretty good place; Morgan(+1) gets the pulling G at the LOS and forces it back inside. Demens(+0.5) scrapes over and makes contact with Ford in the hole but can't get square to him and Ford just manages to fall forward. Even when they make it it's not easy.|
|M49||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||1|
|Happy feet; no immediate pressure for the line but Scheelhaase goes to the RB dumppoff; Floyd(+1, tackling +1, cover +1) is there on the catch to tackle in bounds for a meh gain.|
|M48||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Throwaway||Kovacs||Inc|
|Scheelhaase fires OOB; seems he didn't have an immediately open guy and I think he does not trust his OL to go to the next read. Kovacs(+1, cover +1) over the top as this s again Floyd vs Jenkins. Another cover +1 for good stuff everywhere else.|
|M48||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Martin||12|
|Martin(-1) gets a free run but for the peeling back, who chops him to the ground. This lets Scheelhaase outside the pocket, where he can wait and zip it to Jenkins in a lot of space (cover -1, pressure -2).|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dig||Gordon||Inc|
|Backups on the DL give Scheelhaase a lot of time (pressure -2); he steps into a deep in to his tight end that Gordon(+2, cover +2) breaks on and nails on the catch. I think this is complete but it's ruled to not be so; in any case this is a safety making life as hard as possible for a WR.|
|M36||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Improv comeback||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Okie business gets RVB(+1, pressure/RPS +1) through the line, whereupon he jerks back as if held; no call. Scheelhaase has to scramble and gets the corner; Roh is coming hard and he has to throw. It's back across his body to Jenkins with Floyd coming hard but not quite there to make a play; ball is too far out in front and eventually dropped. Floyd cramps up and has to come off briefly.|
|M36||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Roh||-16|
|Four man rush annihilates, with Roh(+2, pressure +4) roaring around the corner as Clark(+2) does the same and a stunt gets RVB(+1) up the middle; with nowhere to go Scheelhaase tries to back out and is engulfed.|
|O48||4||26||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Clark?||32|
|Scheelhaase has time and steps through the line, which is bad because it makes this into fourth and 16 instead of fourth and 26 (pressure -3). RVB(-2) and Clark(-2) get way outside. Martin does too but he is stunting and supposed to. Would like Mattison to have a guy close to the LOS on a delayed blitz to prevent this; no dice. Scheelhaase steps up and rifles it to Jenkins in front of Kovacs(cover -2); this is really all about letting Scheelhaase through the line and not pressuring him at all.|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE Drag||Demens||5|
|Michigan in man so this is a tough cover with a sort of pick route taking Demens a little off an ideal path. He still gets in position to force this OOB after an okay gain. Cover push, Demens +0.5.|
|M15||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Morgan?||11|
|Scheelhaase keeps and sees Clark has kept contain this time; he screwed up. So he just runs the RB's play. This works so well I think M should put it in the playbook. Michigan defends the RB fantastically but this pulls RVB out of the middle of the field as he tackles his assignment. Morgan(-1) takes on a block and doesn't shed it; he's really the only guy with a shot at holding this down and can't do it. Scheelhaase into the secondary, where Kovacs forces him into a good tackle from Countess(+0.5, tackling +1). RPS -1?|
|M4||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||N/A||3|
|Going backside and with no scrape it is really hard to hold this down without giving up contain on the QB. Clark keeps contain and then comes down, making a good play to tackle as the guy passes the LOS but this can't prevent him from picking up three. I won't RPS this but I kind of want to.|
|M1||2||G||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Martin||1|
|They don't get it. RVB(+1) and Martin(+1) are basically the whole play. Illinois does get a yard, but they needed slightly more than one.|
|M1||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||N/A||1|
|They get it.|
|Drive Notes: Pyrrhic touchdown, 24-14, 3 min 4th Q. Oh, all right, I'll do the last one because it's fun.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-8|
|M stunt gets Martin(+1) and RVB(+2) through (pressure +3) and RVB gets there first. Two guys block air and one tries to block Martin.|
|O12||2||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE out||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets driving pressure that forces Scheelhaase out of the pocket; Scheelhaase has a TE breaking open but has to float it because underneath coverage(+1) is there and overshoots.|
|O12||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Scramble||Martin||1|
|Avery comes from the corner; Martin(+1, pressure +1) shoves a tackle into him and then bursts upfield. Scheelhaase can scramble out because of some dudes falling and stuff, but cannot find anyone open(cover +1); Avery comes back to tackle. Would be a sack but the guy manages to fall over the line.|
|Drive Notes: Punt. 31-14, EOG|
So who do we pick up next?
We have Woodson. Now we need to go back to medieval Europe or ancient Greece to pick up babes and/or Socrates.
Wouldn't it be better to go get other people who can play football?
Do we need any?
I don't know. I just don't know what to do with myself when there's a three play series on which:
- Morgan decleats the RB in such a way as to get Craig James hootin'.
- Ryan decleats the QB on a speed option in such a way as to get the stadium going "ohhhhhhhh I hope he's not dead."
- Later on that same play Kovacs makes a textbook tackle in space.
- Ryan Van Bergen roars up the middle of the pocket and jumps on Scheelhaase's back like he expects to round up cattle on the sideline.
It almost can't be real. By the time the punter hit the field I was afraid I would wake up to someone rubbing a beaver in my face.
No… no… NONONONO… It was all a dream… no… no… I want to go back
So we're totally getting ahead of ourselves, right?
We have to be. I mean, last week's performance was exactly acceptable and we were happy with this. We are not the '86 Bears. We must not get hopes up. Illinois couldn't score on Purdue until there were 10 minutes left.
Hopes are totally up.
I can neither confirm nor deny that statement. I can only point you towards the most insane, ridiculous, beaver-pelt-laden congregation of numbers I may have purveyed in the history of doing this. I present
|Van Bergen||14.5||2||12.5||To be fair, two points in garbage time. HAHAHAHA|
|Roh||9||-||9||Oh… oh wow.|
|Heininger||5||2||3||Didn't get in on the sack explosion largely because he's lifted in the nickel.|
|Clark||3||3||0||Zone read WTF was kind of magnificent. More later.|
|Black||1||3.5||-2.5||Other guy to WTF a zone read.|
|Campbell||4||-||4||Time to get excited about him again until next week.|
|TOTAL||55.5||13.5||42||That is nuts.|
|Morgan||5.5||4.5||1||Step forward from last week; still freshman.|
|Demens||7.5||3.5||4||Second consecutive solid game. Pretty good in coverage.|
|Ryan||6.5||3.5||3||Showed the guys above how to do it on the zone read.|
|Jones||1||-||1||Charts as a DT. HAHAAHAH|
|TOTAL||21||12.5||8.5||I'll take it from two freshmen and a junior.|
|Floyd||14.5||3||11.5||You think the DL is nuts, Floyd thinks. I'll show you nuts.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Good day. Quality option as a third guy.|
|Woolfolk||2.5||1||1.5||Floyd made him not entirely necessary. May still be hurt.|
|Kovacs||7||1||6||Forced fumble, good tackling, is Kovacs.|
|T. Gordon||2.5||-||2.5||Thumping hit forced technical incompletion.|
|Countess||3||2||1||Also had a jumped Jenkins PBU.|
|Pressure||31||18||13||Stunts and okie annihilated OL.|
|Tackling||13||2||87%||I can't even remember a broken tackle.|
So… yeah. There is something seriously wrong with the Illinois offense. There has to be, because you can't do the above without the offense helping you out quite a bit. I think Scheelhaase is perpetually late on his throws, and that they're tipping their passes, and that their offensive line is a total sieve. All that makes their offense really, really bad.
Even so… good gravy. Michigan had two DL at Brandon Graham levels of performance and a third not far off. I can't remember any cornerback ever hitting double digits before, and I can't remember a near 75% coverage day. I'm usually happy when coverage is a push. On Saturday, this is what they did to four verts:
There's a dude behind the one slot guy that you think might be open. He is not open. No one is open.
That is easily the best performance since 2006.
Word. Guy may not be the fastest player in the world but has he been beaten deep once this year? Not really. Michael Floyd got a 30-yard fade on him but even on that play he was there making life difficult and I +1ed him. He's had problems in run support… okay. He just spent a day breaking up a ton of short stuff, never getting threatened deep…
…and putting the cherry on top:
Even when Jenkins did get something on him it was often tough:
That guy is right on the sideline, which contributes to the overturn when he juggles it. If that's what Floyd's giving up, okay. I'll take that and a PI on which you broke for the ball too early.
These posts have started off cautious, moved towards "I know you won't believe this but…," and are now at a crossroads. People: JT Floyd is a legitimately good Big Ten corner. If he maintains this level of performance the last two weeks he should get consideration for All Big Ten.
TONY GIBSON MINUS ALL OF THE POINTS
Minus all of the points.
Are we at Alan MFin' Branch levels on third and one yet or what?
Not quite, but sort of yes. Alan MFin' Branch levels:
You can see 6'6", 330 of angry New Mexican hauling the tail end of that graph down like a black hole in spacetime. That's Alan Branch. 33 percent! On third and one! Six of eighteen! SIX OF EIGHTEEN!
Seth did the legwork for this year on Tuesday and came up with 44%, which isn't quite Michigan 2006. It is, however, insanely good. What's more, when he chopped out the MAC opponents from this year the numbers were six of… nineteen.
If you look at a third and one as an opportunity to boot the opponent off the field Michigan is literally doubling an average success rate and doing better than that against the meat of the schedule. The entire front seven shares in this accomplishment, as does Mattison, but IME the main guy in this success is Mike Martin.
The guy is the center of most of these plays. He gets doubled and he still gets penetration; the tailback cuts back and meets unblocked dudes.
I mean… we're talking about comparing this defense to 2006—the very best part of the 2006 defense—and saying "not quite as good except against real competition." My jaw has made it halfway to the Orb of Zot. Big Ten Wonk has authorized use of the word "stunned." THIS IS SURPRISING.
Remember last year when sometimes we'd line up with a three man line on third and one? And not even blitz anyone? HAHAHAHA
Aren't you a little harsh on those zone reads that got outside?
No. I mean, seriously:
This is cool. We've got this.
That's a nothing play—maybe a loss—turned into a touchdown because Clark's not looking at the ball, which is literally right in front of his face. This is how it is done:
Run at the guy with the ball.
That okie package was lethal, wasn't it?
Check BWS for a breakdown of the different blitzes run from it. Chris identified six, seemingly all of which ended with Scheelhaase running for his life or losing it. Por ejemplo:
Now that Michigan is keeping a deep safety on these things and not offering free touchdowns—Mattison learned that lesson in one try—they are increasingly difficult to deal with as new players and stunts get added to them. It's almost like Scot Shafer was on to something.
This is the week we get excited about Campbell again, isn't it?
Yeah. Check that Morgan decleater and see who forces the cutback into death: Campbell. On a late third and one that Michigan stuffed it was Campbell, not Martin, who blew the play up:
Get push, take on a fullback, shed and tackle… that's a good play right there. Illinois OL caveats apply; we'll probably be back to fretting next week.
What went wrong on the fourth down play?
The main problem was the fact that it turned into fourth and 18, not fourth and 26, when the line split like the Red Sea and allowed Scheelhaase to run up in the pocket:
With another ten yards to close the distance Kovacs probably gets there. I'd like to see a delayed blitzer in there to prevent that from happening.
Have any random notes for Borges he will roll his eyes at?
This botched decision by Scheelhaase worked out well:
Man, I think we should do that. We should run a fake inside zone that Robinson ostentatiously keeps on with the intent of pausing and then running up in the same hole the tailback is hitting. The ol' fake inside the fake.
Everybody. Especially Martin, Van Bergen, and Floyd.
WTF, get out of here with your goats.
What does it mean for Nebraska and the future?
I think we're in for a bit of a letdown; Nebraska's wacky option system does a lot of stuff that Michigan has not seen before—last week they turned the inverted veer into a speed option and I was like "oh that is so cool"—that attacks Michigan's still-youthful edges. I can see Nebraska effectively attacking the outside and making the Martin/Heininger/RVB axis a smaller factor than it's been the past couple games. Also that just can't happen again. My heart has already burst out of its little box; if Michigan holds Nebraska to 30 yards rushing it will emerge from my chest.
That said, it's suddenly hard to envision Nebraska having much success in the air even if Taylor Martinez is on a relative tear. They'll probably pick some stuff up on play action and the like, but Nebraska's had a hard time moving the ball against… quality defenses… like Michigan has. /faints
Anyway: 270 yards against MSU and victory only because they did to the MSU offense what Michigan did to that of Illinois, 331 against Penn State, 335 against Wisconsin. They did put up some points and yards in the frenetic final quarter against OSU; other than that it has been tough sledding.
As for the future… man. Woolfolk and Gordon seem like a push, so if Michigan can find some defensive linemen they are set for next year. Come on, Campbell.
No one photo can do justice to Taylor Martinez's shot-put delivery, but this comes close.
Nebraska, much like pretty much every other Big Ten contender, is a very tough team to get a handle on. Yes, they crushed Michigan State, but just one week later you could find them losing to Northwestern at home—if you're looking for me to make sense of how that level of bipolarity occurs, you've come to the wrong place. I can, however, try to make sense of their schemes, and this week I was able to find a video program that actually worked on my Mac (hooray!), so there is ample video this time around.
Since I wanted to watch a game in which Nebraska faced a mobile quarterback (or two, in this case) and exhibited both their strengths and weaknesses as a team, I chose to focus in on the Northwestern game, which the Huskers lost 28-25. Breakdown? Like John L. Smith at a post-game presser...
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Very much a hybrid. On Nebraska's first possession of the game, their first four plays came out of the ace (QB under center), a shotgun two-back look, the pistol, and then the I-form. They'll show a lot of different looks, though mostly sticking with two tight ends no matter the formation, and they'll run out of any and all of them.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Again, there's a mix here. The Huskers run their fair share of zone read, but they'll also mix in isos from the one-back and I-form as well as your now-familiar power. BasketMANBALL? MANsketball? Something more clever? You decide.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Most of you are probably familiar with Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez, who has amassed 768 yards and nine touchdowns on 153 carries (5.0 ypc) this season. He's the closest thing the rest of the Big Ten has to Denard, and since I gave Nathan Scheelhaase a 7 last week, I've got to give Martinez a 9. He doesn't have the shiftiness of Denard, but his straight-ahead speed and ability to get the edge are very impressive.
Dangerman: RB Rex Burkhead (#22) is third in the conference in rushing yards per game, averaging 107.2 on 5.1 yards per carry. He's a compact runner at 5'11", 210 pounds, but he has surprising speed and is at his best when he's able to go north-south—he's not particularly shifty, but his power/speed combination is tough to handle. He's also a decent receiver out of the backfield, and he's really the only running back Nebraska uses with any regularity—the rest of the tailbacks on the depth chart are freshmen, and none has more than 25 carries.
Zook Factor: This is new, and is all about stupid coaching decisions that fly in the face of game theory. I was going to put this in last week, but, well, Michigan was playing against Ron Zook himself, so it seemed superfluous. Enter Bo Pelini, who against Northwestern punted on 4th and 1 from the 50 and 4th and 2 for the Northwestern 45, then decided to not use any of his three timeouts as the Wildcats methodically drove for seven minutes and scored a touchdown to go up by ten with 1:38 to play. I mean, wow. Just wow.
OVERVIEW: Nebraska is very much a run-first, run-second, pray-you-already-got-the-first-so-you-can-keep-running type of team. Martinez and Burkhead are very tough to stop, but Martinez just is not very good at passing—he has a hideous sidearm/shot-put delivery, and is very Denard-esque in his ability to hit short passes but only connect on deep balls when his receiver is the lone man occupying his zip code.
The Huskers love the speed option, and we'll probably see it out of several different formations on several different occasions on Saturday—they'll even run it on third-and-medium, and if the defense keys too much on the pass it will work. Against Penn State last week, Nebraska even had Burkhead line up at quarterback in the I-form—with Martinez as the I-back—and have him run the speed option, a wrinkle which terrifies me.
Other than the constant switching of formations, Nebraska runs a pretty simple offense. They're going to run the option, pound the ball up the middle with Burkhead, and then try to get Martinez to the edge, like so:
Most of Nebraska's passes either come off of play-action or are quick, one-read throws for Martinez—almost all of his completions (and he was 28-for-37 against Northwestern's terrible defense, so there's a large sample size here) came on short hitches along with a few slants and quick outs. If Nebraska is going to throw downfield, it will either be off a run fake or a hitch-and-go after lulling the corners to sleep with all the short stuff.
They also play up-tempo, though not quite as fast as, say, Northwestern. They do get to the line quickly and make it tough for the defense to make any substitutions, especially since the Huskers usually keep the same personnel on the field, but I didn't notice any plays where the Wildcat defense wasn't able to get set before the snap.
By the way, for a great breakdown of Nebraska's offense from a man who knows far more about football than I ever will, check out Greg Mattison's opening remarks from this week's coordinator presser, which should be must-read material for you at this point anyway.
PLAY BREAKDOWN: The run offense is pretty straight-forward—they're going to run a lot, so Michigan has to be ready up front, especially on the edge—so here are a couple plays to show how Nebraska tries to move the ball through the air. On the first play, Martinez reads blitz before the snap, and when he does this he'll almost always check to a quick pass, in this instance a slant:
Receiver derp aside, that worked quite well, though expect Mattison to dial up a bunch of zone blitzes in the hope that Martinez tries a quick pass right into a dropping lineman. Nearly all of Martinez's throws are to his first read, often forcing passes into small windows, though if his main receiver is obviously covered he'll usually bail from the pocket and try to scramble or buy time for a receiver to run free. He usually just ends up scrambling, in that case, because he's not particularly accurate on the run and can usually pick up something with his legs.
Here's an example of Nebraska taking advantage of the defense overplaying the run, as Martinez hits a play-action slant out of what would appear to be a run-heavy formation. There are only three real routes on the play—one a slow-developing wheel route out of the backfield—so obviously the Huskers are expecting the defense to bite hard on the fake and open up in the secondary, which works out here:
Michigan is going to have their hands full keying on the run game, and the safeties and linebackers especially will have to make sure they stay disciplined—Nebraska's first touchdown came on a post route, and they hit a couple seams and some deeper hitches off of play-action. The middle of the field is going to be tested, while the outside corners will mostly have to deal with short hitches that test their ability to come up and make a play on the ball or a sound tackle.
- Nebraska's offensive line did a solid job of neutralizing Northwestern's pass rush, giving up just one sack, but Martinez sometimes runs himself into trouble when he tries to step up in the pocket. He'll also bring himself under unnecessary fire by scrambling to the edge when the pocket is still intact. Michigan should be able to generate a much more consistent rush than the Wildcats, and the key here will be in keeping contain—having a couple of faster-than-average DEs in Craig Roh and Jake Ryan should be helpful in this regard.
- There isn't much I can say about the Husker receivers—they're pretty unspectacular, and while Martinez's delivery makes for some tough-to-catch passes, they also dropped a few that should've been brought in. Freshman Kenny Bell is Martinez's favorite target, and he has just 23 receptions for 307 yards this year. Tight ends Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton are actually the most dangerous receivers on the roster as they work the seams on play-action.
- Nebraska did show another interesting look against Northwestern, a heavy I-form that was very overshifted to the strong side. They tried to trick the Wildcats by running a speed option to the (very) weak side, but it was completely stuffed. Not sure we'll see that again, but it's worth keeping an eye out.
For the breakdown of Nebraska's defense, hit the jump.
News bullets and other important things:
- Barnum is "available," but Hoke won't say whether he'll actually play.
- Woolfolk did everything in practice fine.
- As did Denard.
Opening remarks: “It was another good Tuesday for us when you look at practice and preparation on both sides of ball. In the kicking game we really worked on the coverage game. In kickoff returns [Nebraska has] been very successful. They’ve got [Ameer] Abdullah, [who has], I think, 31 yards a return, so that’s field position, and that’s something we have to do a great job of covering -- kicking the ball and the coverage itself. In the punt game they’re averaging nine yards a return. It’s still pretty significant. We’ve got to do a great job of executing the hidden yardage you get from your special teams. We’ve got to do a great job as a team. If you’re punting the football, snapping the football, protecting whatever you may be doing, we’ve got to be very good this week.”
Will you be practicing at the stadium more these two weeks? “Well the kickers will. We don’t go up there at all as a team until game day. It’s a special day for us, and game day is important being in that stadium, but we were fortunate enough to have pretty good facilities obviously and get a lot of work done.”
Does Nebraska’s run game change how you prepare your secondary? “You know, not really. It obviously, when you’re a back end position, the discipline of your eyes and the alignment of your feet are such an important part of playing back there because you are the support at times. You are the last line of defense. You are a lot of different things, and for us, I think we’ve worked every week as far as the run game part of it, which we do a lot on Tuesday. More the passing game on Wednesday. Really work on crack schemes that they’ll run, which they do run -- they’re pretty daggone good at it -- and those kinds of things, just the reaction of where your eyes are, and your eyes will tell your feet where to go.”
(might as well jump. (JUMP!))
Complaining about the lack of bubble screens in Michigan's offense has become a hobby-horse here. Some people find this weird. I admit that a focus on one particular play, no matter what it is, is often missing the forest for a tree, and my focus on a play that picks up eight yards if run well is a little maniacal. But I see a lot of things not work and think 1) the bubble is open and 2) that might have worked if the bubble wasn't open.
While the bubble seems like an option you can take or leave, it's actually a key way to make every player on the offense an effective blocker every play. When Magee goes to his cutups in those videos about the spread 'n' shred philosophy, the guy asking most of the questions* wants to see bubbles first.
*[who I think is Harvard's coach since he talks about playing Columbia and a pizza place on "Comm Ave" that Google reveals is in Boston.]
The bubble is a constraint that opens up other things and forces the defense into positions it would rather not take. Michigan saw this first hand, as a series of first half bubbles forced Jake Ryan into the slot against Northwestern. Even that wasn't enough to hold down the single bubble the Wildcats ran in the second half before fumbles and interceptions and Michigan scoring on every drive terminated Northwestern's ability to use them.
It's not just a play. It's part of a coherent whole. Spreading the field stresses the defense only if you make the D cover everyone horizontally. Smart Football explained a long Oregon touchdown in the recent Stanford game and I was struck by the difference between the way Stanford defends this play…
…and the way Illinois defended a similarly unbalanced formation from Michigan:
That is a similar setup with one extra guy in the backfield. The highlighted defender to the top of the screen is the equivalent of #3 at the top of the Stanford defense (not the guy on the line)… unless the highlighted guy at the bottom—the corner—is. Someone on this defense is not respecting the threat of Junior Hemingway.
Michigan will run the play I've been calling "inverted veer", which is probably not the best terminology since various people say people call it "dash" and since it features a guy pulling to the frontside of the play it's not really a "veer"—if you care about these things. It's too late for me since I've got a tag, but you can still save yourself.
Anyway, on the snap, before the mesh point, it is clear that both highlighted defenders are going to get involved in the run defense.
Where is the equivalent guy in the Stanford play?
His feet are the ones bugging out for the bubble at the top of the screen. This effectively blocks a defender without having to engage that receiver's potentially crap blocking skills.
Junior Hemingway's existence, in contrast, is pointlessly lonely:
There isn't anyone within five yards of him by the time the mesh point passes. Even before the mesh it's clear the bubble is going to be open, if it was being run.
Anyway, at the mesh point the containing DE is containing so Denard pulls.
This options off a DE; the slot guy is being taken by Hopkins; the playside LB will get kicked by the pulling Omameh. There is no one for the corner, and this has turned into a run up the middle.
This is pretty much dead at this point. Michigan's got some problems on the line, too: you can see that the Lewan/Schofield combo block hasn't even sealed the playside DT, let alone the WLB… but that's just another reason the play isn't going to work since Denard is tackled in the backfield by that backside CB:
Pile of bodies, no gain, third down.
Items of Interest
This isn't to say I think Borges did a bad job in this game. I did get a little frustrated by the forays into the I that were spectacularly unsuccessful—before the Toussaint runs in garbage time Michigan had run seven times out of the I for –1 yards—and the lack of responses to the increasingly aggressive Illinois defense. HOWEVA, in context the move was to go conservative and get out of Dodge; before that was the move he tore up a good defense and was thwarted largely by things out of his control.
There are multiple issues with this play and I'm not suggesting the bubble is a panacea. I am saying it is going to work for tons of yards here, but it's not the only reason this play gets thumped.
The threat of the bubble effectively options off another defender. This means more space for people who are good in space, one more opportunity to blow something for the defense, and mitigates the following.
Receivers' blocking eh… not so good. On the play where Denard fumbled he actually had a good setup for the pull: the backside DE has shuffled down the line and Koger went around him to the edge.
Unfortunately, Junior Hemingway's consistently crap blocking reared its head on this play and the slot LB—who is actually covering the WR on this play—created problems.
Denard has to cut back. If Michigan's running a bubble this guy is either outside of the hash or Denard's throwing it to Hemingway or the Illinois defense is getting super aggressive and opening itself up to a Worst Waldo play. Since he's just a wide receiver who can't block Denard loses an opportunity to burst into a ton of space.
Lack of bubbles = lack of big plays (that aren't chuck and hope)? If you're looking for a culprit when it comes to the lack of long plays that are very open, the lack of the humble bubble screen is a candidate. When you spread the field and make the defense defend all eleven players on every play, a single breakdown means big yards. If you're covering every WR man to man and trying to leave two deep safeties, this is the result:
Michigan has put a lot less stress on safeties this year because they run a bunch of plays from a formation in which opponent safeties think "if they run it will be for half a yard" and when they're in the shotgun they aren't really in the spread, if you catch my drift. By not attacking the outside consistently Michigan lets opponents defend them with two deep.
In the inverted veer above the guy on Hemingway starts 13 yards off the LOS, which means the free safety can come down on the run without worrying about an Oh Noes.
Also bubbles work, yo. I mean, sure, opponents freaked out about them in the RR era since they were a foundational component of the offense but when they were run they worked, and when opponents run them against Michigan (or State vs Iowa) they pick up chunks. When you can get a chunk on first down you have a low-pressure environment to probe with your run game.
This is clearly a philosophical thing that is permanent. I'll drop it now, and this is not a criticism of Al Borges's overall philosophy—we have no idea what that's going to be like. It's clear, however, that the vast bulk of teams who use the quarterback as a runner believe the bubble is an integral part of the effectiveness of the offense. Michigan doesn't, and unless Borges can explain that in a way better than "don't ask me about it" its absence will rankle.
[Ed: argh, having some editing issues. Bump.]
"Play hard and play with great effort"
Immediately after the game, I was struggling to come up with a thru-line for what had just happened. But then Brian posted "Defensive Annhilation Muppets" and then the video of Mattison getting emotional surfaced. And for a moment I thought, 'you guys are over-reacting. Illinois does not have a good offense'. I like when coaches just give coachspeak. But then I thought about the last three years and yeah, it makes sense. The difference in emotion between Chip Kelly's comments and Mattison's are where you're starting from.
A couple of years from now, a win like this will only be notable for constructive criticism. There were a lot of bad plays that need to be corrected. But given the circumstances of where we were last year and what we were expected to be this year and the fact that we're 8-2 with a decent chance of picking up at least one more win and a very small chance of getting to 11 wins, emotional celebration is more than appropriate.
What a difference a week makes!
Al Borges didn't have a great game against Iowa, and I pointed that out. He had a much better gameplan this week. I don't know if he or anyone close to him reads blogs or not, but he responded to several very specific criticisms leveled here last week.
Holding the backside DE
I mentioned something about a lack of reverses.
Thanks Al! Odoms is coming from his slot position to take an end around fake. Not only did it hold the backside OLB and prevent the DE from crashing down on Denard, it also froze the MLB just enough for Fitz to run right by him.
But that wasn't the only trick up Al's sleeve. He pulled out another wrinkle from the Richrod days.
One of the problems with protecting Denard and limiting his carries is that the DE that you're optioning on the zone read doesn't have to respect the keep and is free to chase the TB. But here we see Koger coming from his H-back wing to block #9.
The O-line is getting good lateral movement and both Denard and Koger are eliminating defenders from the pursuit.
One caveat is that their safeties were pretty bad (someone mentioned they had backups in the game). #5 has badly misread this play, and he's too slow to catch Fitz anyway. Meanwhile, if you wonder how a guy can get over 100 yards in the first quarter, you can bet he's breaking tackles. This arm tackle didn't even slow him down.
This arm tackle slowed him down,
but it didn't stop him.
So Fitz had about 45 yards of YAC from the first arm tackle and then about another 15 yards of super YAC downfield.
The offense as a whole had a much better day (despite some derpiness in the 2nd and 3rd quarters). The O-line was doing a great job with the zone blocking in the first quarter and opened up some nice running lanes.
Here we've got Hopkins blocking the DE from his FB position instead of Koger, but the result is about the same. Gallon cracks down on his man and Omameh does a good job scraping off the double team and getting to the linebacker.
Huyge takes his man where he wants to go and it opens up a nice line.
On this next play, there's only 5 in the box because the OLB's are out on the slot receivers.
Molk does an excellent job of tracking down his man and we've got a hat on a hat.
The Zen of zone blocking is you just get on your man and take him away from the play using his own impetus. Of course you need a guy like Fitz back there who is patient enough and has good vision to see the hole developing.
Even though the OLB crashes down for contain, he's nowhere near Fitz and Denard has read him properly. If this were the pros Fitz would be owing five really large guys a nice dinner for this play.
The Numbers Game
We had some issues in the red zone last week. Part of that is due to Iowa's talent on the D-line and part of it is having Denard sitting in the pocket or handing off or otherwise not putting pressure on the defense to account for him.
If this were a normal pitch play or off-tackle dive, it would've been completely stuffed because they've got more defenders than we've got blockers on the playside. But when Denard keeps it, we've got an even matchup and Denard just has to pick his way through and find a hole.
But what really makes this play work is that Omameh gets a great cut block, upending his man. Now we've got 6 blockers against their 5 defenders and Denard with no one to track him down.
Omameh's block freed up Molk to get on the pursuing linebacker and the result is an easy touchdown for shoelace.
So what happened in the 2nd Quarter? Well let's compare to a play where we don't have a numbers advantage.
They've got 9 defenders in the box with both safeties playing up. If Denard has the freedom to audible (or we had gotten to the line with more than 8 seconds so that the coaches could call a check play #misshightempo), then he should be throwing a fade or "z out" to Roundtree at the bottom of the screen. We've got 9 in the box, but because we're in I form, the defense doesn't have to account for the QB (as his first 5 steps are backwards).
The play is a lead draw. The line shows pass blocking and then the center or whoever is free is supposed to head upfield after a couple beats. But this call means that Illinois has a lot of unblocked defenders. It doesn't help that Molk misreads the defense and doesn't scrape off to one of the linebackers. This means that Hopkins has three unblocked people he has to choose from. If Denard had been running, then both Hopkins and Fitz would have hit the MLBs so Denard would just have to juke the safety to get in the endzone.
Instead, Hopkins gets one LB and the other stuffs Fitz for a loss with both safeties racing up to make sure he doesn't fall forward.
[ed: follow the jump.]