A lot of top FBS coaches made it there by being experts or even the originators of a concept. Iowa didn’t invent Cover 2, but Ferentz’s teams have run it for so long that his players have instinctualized most of its nuances, and his coaches know the fastest route to teaching it. Rich Rodriguez built the zone read option into the spread ’n shred offense. He can run it against anyone because he knows a million ways to tweak it to deal with whatever defenses try to do to stop it. Same with the pattern-matching variant of cover 3 that Saban and Belichick created for the Browns. Rocky Long is going to run a 3-3-5, or run his 3-3-5 stuff out of different looks. Bud Foster is going to hit you with quarters all day. Tracy Claeys is going to play man.
Michigan’s next opponent is one of those guys. Lovie Smith built a good NFL coaching career by running the Tampa 2 defense, and Illinois is currently experiencing the growing pains of that conversion. Smith’s defensive coordinator is Hardy Nickerson Sr., who imported his eponymous son from Cal to play the crucial middle linebacker role—that is not going well. Last week against Rutgers they blew up the depth chart, sitting longtime starters at all levels for freshmen redshirted and not. When you decide what you want the rest of your life to be, you want the rest of your life to start right away, no matter how long Taylor Barton has started for you (or Brian’s Draftageddon team).
This baby version gives us football laymen an interesting opportunity to see Smith’s scheme in Rodriguez 2008 mode, when the skeleton of the thing is there and untainted by all the things its practitioners will learn to do to make it good. So once you see the concept, it should be uniquely easy this Saturday to pick it up on the field.
[Hit THE JUMP to watch it run so badly you can see exactly why it’s run]
- At least Notre Dame didn’t jazz us this year.
- Michigan State as the Beilein Michigan program: how did they get so bad so fast?How good are they when they inevitably rebound?
- What did we learn about Ohio State? The next pro offense of any consequence they’ll see is Michigan. The trick to Bad J.T. Barrett is make it rain.
- Don Brown’s DBs are much better prepared for Ohio State.
- Biggest concern until Columbus: Indiana.
- Playoff route is beat Ohio State and win conference championship, period.
- Mo Hurst had his best week of practice ever.
- Purdue should run the triple option. You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
Previously: Illinois Offense
A good D-line only does so much when you have this back seven.
Nebraska had eight real drives against Illinois. This is how they went:
- Four touchdowns (13 plays-75 yards, 18-75, 11-59, 2-70)
- Drives of 11-47 and 10-53 ending in field goal attempts (one make, one miss)
- Two plays, 28 yards, hilariously bad Tommy Armstrong interception
- 5-play, 17-yard drive in Illinois territory ending in a lost fumble
The Huskers didn't have much in the way of explosive plays; they still had a scoring opportunity every time they didn't turn the ball over, and those turnovers were Nebraska making bad plays instead of Illinois doing something particularly good.
The Illini do boast a disruptive defensive line, but they can be pushed around, and that back seven is having a rough go.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
The Illini have made a few lineup changes in the weeks since Nebraska. Taylor Barton, who did not look good at free safety in this game, has been yanked in favor of freshman Stanley Green, who hadn't played a defensive snap until the Purdue game two weeks ago. Freshman Kenyon Jackson has replaced Rob Bain at defensive tackle for reasons that elude me. Nickel Chris James has lost his role to normal starting corner Darius Mosely, who slid inside to make room for JuCo transfer Amari Hayes on the outside. The lineup above, to say the least, is not set in stone.
Base Set? Illinois had played more 4-2-5 nickel than anything else, but Nebraska's heavier formations revealed how they'll likely line up against Michigan. The Illini play a 4-3 against those sets, often with a safety rolled into the box:
They play both over and under fronts when in a 4-3. While normally a Tampa 2 team, they played a lot of one-high coverage in these scenarios.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Oh man if I keep talking about this trailer thing it'll be a thing and then I can see some dang games at tailgates. This has always been a downfall of tailgating: not seeing things. By repeatedly bringing it up here I may force Matt to do this thing. Yes. Yes. I have the power!
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets and possibly a trailer, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Pepcat!
This concludes your formation notes.
PERSONNEL NOTES: A ton of rotation in the second half. Speight got the first half and then Morris and O'Korn alternated the rest of the way. Bushell-Beatty started at LT and was briefly knocked out; Michigan moved Cole to LT and inserted Kugler at C in response. The second string line was Ulizio-Bredeson-Kugler-Ownenu-Dawson, FWIW.
RB snaps split just about equally; ditto FB with Henderson getting a third of the snaps behind Poggi and Hill. Probably the most interesting depth chart item was snaps past the starters at WR. Those went Ways 19, Crawford 14, Harris 12, McDoom 7, Gentry 6.
[After THE JUMP: trinitite.]
[Ed-Seth: We have the great pleasure of employing the services and serving utensils of the original barbecuing bloggerati Joe Pichey of GoBlueBBQ to write recipes for our most delicious sponsor, Stubb's BBQ sauce.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just sauce, because if you haven’t tried the rub yet you’re missing out on some of their best stuff!]
I do love me some shrimp. One of my favorite combinations is shrimp and sausages grilled over direct heat. Toss in a few pineapple chunks and serve on a bed or rice and I am a happy man. But I need more when it comes to tailgating, or couch-gating as I did this week. I needed some smoke and some butter in my life. Who doesn’t need that, right? This quick and easy recipe was very simple and was done in under 45 minutes. My friends loved it and wanted more.
- 2 lbs shrimp – Peeled and deveined with tails on
- 2 sticks butter – Unsalted
- ½ cup Stubbs Beef Marinade
- Stubbs BBQ Spice Rub
- 2 Limes
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- Sausage (Your favorite will do)
- French Baguette
- [After the JUMP: instructions, butter]
About Last Week:
The destruction was on hold for a week.
Soon, Spongebob. Soon.
The Road Ahead:
Illinois (2-4, 1-2 B1G)
Last week: Won at Rutgers, 24-7
Recap: One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Snarky Bloggers is the art of cushioning bad news with what they call the “criticism sandwich.” What you do is you provide some positive feedback, then you level your withering criticism, then you cap it off with some more positive feedback. Unfortunately for Illinois, there isn’t a lot of positive feedback I can provide. There isn’t a brioche bun of good news here. Or even a nice thick piece of silver-lining-marbled rye. The best I can construct is a criticism flatbread sandwich. A criticism chipati, if you will.
The good news: you won your first Big Ten game of the Lovie Smith era.
The bad news: You were outgained by Rutgers. You allowed Rutgers to gain 387 yards, which is a few yards short of ten times the amount they put up the week before. You surrendered 182 passing yards, which is thirty-six times as many as they allowed the previous week, and nearly five times the amount they put up over the last two weeks combined. You allowed Rutgers to drive inside your 25 yard line SEVEN TIMES. You allowed Rutgers to score points, their first since the Hoover Administration. You only forced Rutgers to punt four times. You only put up 17 offensive points against Rutgers. Rutgers was driving midway through fourth quarter down 10 before a pick-six sealed the game.
The good news: ...uh…
Okay, we’ll call it an open-faced criticism chipati.
This team is as frightening as: A team that can grit their way to a win over Rutgers. Fear Level = 2
Michigan should worry about: Global warming is still pretty serious.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Both Wes Lunt (back) and Chayce Crouch (shoulder) are questionable. If they can’t go, redshirt freshman Jeff George Jr. is the third string quarterback. George was a two-star greyshirt who has yet to record a stat in college. Basically, this is like the scene in The Perfect Storm where the weatherman (played by Shooter McGavin) points to the various storms and basically announces, “yeah, shit is about to get real.”
When they play Michigan: And they don’t even have Clooney or Wahlberg
This week: at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., BTN (Michigan -many)
[AFTER THE JUMP: The return of Sparty No is nigh]