in town for free camps
About Last Saturday:
Happiness - 6, Unhappiness - 13.
Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images
The Road Ahead:
Last game: Bye.
Recap: This was the B1G’s best performance last weekend in which cruelty to animals was not involved.
Next game: vs. Marshall
One of the ongoing debates in the early part of the season is "does Kenny Demens suck." He's not in on this play, but one of the biggest differences I'm seeing in the defense in this game relative to Michigan's first three is linebackers running to the ball unimpeded.
Some of this is Michigan DL—particularly Washington—MAKING PLAYS, which is encouraging. Another part of it is more subtle, something I'm still trying to figure out as we go along here. In certain situations a DL can get washed out and that's fine as long as he's getting washed out by the right guy—the one with an angle on a linebacker.
Anyway, it's second and six on ND's third drive. ND brings in a 3TE set and uses Eifert as an H-back. They'll run a zone to the wide side of the field. This is unusual. ND came out to run at Clark, run at Clark, and run at Clark. He didn't do so well at this, and the results have been a series of five or six yard runs as the rest of the D compensates well for Clark getting pushed out of the way.
Standard D for M. with two TEs on the line it is 5 vs seven on the first level. The playside G is not covered up and will release downfield into Bolden, the MLB. This play is a great example of why you hear that the MLB has to be better taking on blocks than the WLB: because he gets that uncovered guard a lot and the WLB is covered up.
On the snap, it's stretch blocking time.
Okay. The left guard (1) and left tackle are trying to scoop Campbell. The G wants to get a shove on him that will delay him so the tackle, who's the guy with the wavy arm who's actually taken a step back from the line of scrimmage, can get around him and wall him off as the guard takes off for the second level, destination Morgan(2).
A little further inside, Washington has already gone inside the center. Helmet across chest equals reached. He was barely shaded, though, so not a huge surprise, and later we'll wonder if that's really so bad. One OL over is the G releasing straight downfield.
At the bottom of the line, Roh(4) and Ryan are two on three.
Here's a half-second later.
Roh has shot upfield and outside of the tackle, which absorbs Eifert and definitively forces the play back inside. +1.
Before I say anything, on the backside, let's zoom in.
Campbell has given ground. He's getting locked out to the backside. I don't think he cares at all about any of this as long as he does not let that guard get to the second level. He took two holding penalties against the fleet-footed Air Force OL trying to execute this; ND's line isn't quite as nimble and he's probably gotten two weeks of coaching that adds up to "don't let the dang guards into the dang WLB."
Half beat later:
Campbell still riding that OL, and the tackle trying to scoop him has no shot at blocking anyone; Roh finishes cutting off the outside. Washington now fully reached but he's about to…
Come under that guy and pop up in the backfield. This is not optimal but it's better than getting locked away. By now Morgan is gone. Campbell did his job, which was to let Morgan get to the ball free.
I'm still not a huge fan of Bolden's contact here, as he should stand the guy up and force it back. He doesn't, but Morgan's charging the back down anyway:
Watch how Campbell only has eyes for that guard, the whole play. He is not doing anything except riding him.
Things And Stuff
This is what they mean when they talk about the differences between the MLB and the WLB. Bolden has to take a guy on; Morgan gets a free gap to shoot. This doesn't really happen on power plays, on which the WLB will often have to take a pulling guard if it's to his side, but on this zone stuff you can see where the bubble is and the resulting difference in the responsibilities of the linebackers.
Linebacker cleanliness was not happening in the first couple games. Holding calls, cut blocks, etc. The major leap forward Michigan took as a run defense against Notre Dame was an ability for Washington and Campbell to either occupy two blockers or get into the running lane when one on one. It wasn't entirely consistent; it was a lot better.
Here Washington does get blocked but at least he comes through it and would be pursuing usefully if Bolden turns the play back in. I'm not entirely sure he wasn't assigned to that gap by the center and executed just fine, with Morgan the guy who is supposed to get there.
Bolden still dainty. As a true freshman this is to be expected. Improvement here is something to look for as the year goes on. At some point you hope to see the light go on and Bolden start getting into these guys with a little more authority. He needs to set up outside here and does not, BTW.
Morgan looking pretty good. That's a nice flow and tackle on a play that did not come right to him; he bails out Bolden for the failure to push it back. He gets to flow so decisively because there isn't a potential gap he's running by, which again goes back to Washington getting reached probably not being a big deal.
This is probably why they kept running at Clark. Clark had a rough time and wasn't so much with the taking out two for one blockers and keeping the edge. Roh's not an impact guy but so far he's been a pretty good player despite a lack of stats. He does a lot of the things Van Bergen used to.
no no no no no no no no no
BTW: you can only admire Rodriguez's daughter if you are <18
Let's schedule Arizona!
I read with interest your article on “Who replaces Notre Dame?” and was wondering if Arizona might qualify as a worthy replacement. Seems to me they’d be a step down from Notre Dame but my guess is that RichRod would do just about anything to get Michigan on his schedule. I’m not even sure if we’d want to play him but I suspect that this matchup would generate a lot of interest.
I didn't think a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998 was going to be a hot ticket, even if Rodriguez is there. FWIW, the Wildcats have a game at Nevada in 2015 but nothing else on the docket in the relevant time frame.
I'm opposed to an Arizona series, because the upside is low—you beat a team that hasn't won more than 8 games since 1998—and the downside is high. By 2015, Rodriguez will presumably have some fleet-footed bastards to scare the crap out of you (or he'll be fired, but… probably not). Casteel will still be there and they'll have a weird defense that's kind of like playing Air Force on the other side of the ball. And Rodriguez will start gameplanning for the thing as soon as it's announced. That is a dangerous situation leading to much mirth if it comes off poorly, and you're just a bully if it doesn't.
It is a very Dave Brandon thing to do, though. Not including them was a wishful-thinking-based oversight.
Thanks for putting the thought into the open scheduling date; interesting stuff (as always).
But is the MGoBook putting odds on the open dates turning into additional MAC snacks? And the better question; given the incentives that the current BCS/limited playoff creates, wouldn't it be completely irrational (and, frankly, negligent) to actually schedule a competitive opponent?
Also: I pledge the first $1K to whatever institution (charity, UM, MGoBlog) that would help apply enough influence/pressure to turn this into an Arizona-Michigan home-and-away. Do you think Brandon could ignore a pledged collective $500K to Mott's Children's Hospital by fans if Michigan were to schedule a home and away with Arizona? I think he'd find a way to ignore it, but I would revel in the all the headlines if the story gains traction. And I'd also be interested to see how much fans would be willing to pledge to see these games take place (I realize there is a difference between "pledge" and "pay," but perhaps there are ways around that as well). And we already know RichRod would take the games in a heartbeat ...
Why? Why do you people want this? For revenge? Revenge on a guy Michigan fired after three years? I know Rodriguez was a disaster here but it's not like he was trying to be. Playing Arizona is beating up on the guy we already beat up on for three years… or losing to that guy. Just say no to Arizona.
As far as the 2015-2017 ND games turning into MAC games—snacks is out the window after last weekend—they might be able to get away with it in 2015, when they've got Utah and Oregon State already on the docket. 2015 is an ND/Nebraska home year. In fact, expect that slot to be filled with a one-off guarantee game.
2016 needs a marquee home game. The current home schedule: Colorado, MSU, Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa. Unless the Buffs get it turned around in a major way, that's a repeat of this year's lame schedule minus the Dallas game. The Dallas game may have been a stupid thing to do but it was at least a hook for donors. Michigan needs one of those in 2016 and will have to return a trip in 2017.
As far as the limited playoff structure's incentives, I think the new system will be more inclined to reward quality nonconference schedules. Moving to a committee from polls makes it much easier to come to an agreement about the importance of tough schedules and promote last year's Oregon team over Stanford. Polls would never do that because no one is talking to each other and no common goal is settled upon.
Most years there will be a throng of one-loss teams arguing for one of two or three playoff spots, and those teams will be sorted out by schedule strength.
Let's not schedule Arizona!
Brandon won't schedule Arizona because…
I don't think Brandon would schedule Arizona because the risk / reward isn't there. If Michigan loses or splits with Arizona and Brandon's decision to replace RR with Hoke looks very bad. If Michigan sweeps Arizona, he's somewhat vindicated but given the number of down years Arizona has had, the expectations to win will clearly be on Michigan. Just my two-cents.
P.S. If RR came back to A2 with AZ, I would give him a standing ovation. Three years can change a lot of things, but if the game were played tomorrow, I'd probably be (secretly) rooting for RR to upset my own team. Does that make me a bad fan? Am I the only one who would feel that way? I wonder, though I doubt we'll ever know.
This is the thinking of a rational man. The first bit, anyway. I am not down with defecting to Team Rodriguez. Yeah, we screwed him. He screwed us, too. Let's just move on and not have that awkward conversation at the DMV.
In re: why Brandon won't do it, that's the same argument that everyone makes against the Horror II and that's still on the schedule. He does not think like other people. He likes to do things that get attention, no matter what sort of attention that is.
Let's fix our things!
Is Brandon going to take this opportunity to fix the odd-years-good-season-ticket, even-years-bad-season-ticket issues? Perhaps, making it a point to schedule our new games so that they are not away in years we go to Braska and Hell-hole?
Side note: it is amazing how screwed Michigan got in the conference alignment breakdown. Not in OSU's division—which means I'm rooting for the bastards this weekend because it's in my self interest. The four other teams in the division who aren't Minnesota have crossover games with Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, and Purdue. Michigan gets Ohio State. And Brandon couldn't even wheedle out a tiny concession like splitting the Nebraska and OSU games. Hell, when Wisconsin comes on the schedule again Michigan gets all of them on the road in 2016.
The Big Ten division split literally could not have been any worse for Michigan.
They really should flip MSU and Michigan into the other division and hand Illinois and Wisconsin back. That's got better competitive equity now, especially from an intra-division standpoint. It preserves all the relevant rivalries without requiring awkward crossover games and provides a lovely parallelogram of hate between Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. And you can call them "East" and "West".
Gardner slant suck.
This will just turn into more "you love Denard and cannot be trusted", but FWIW:
I don't know if this means much but I played WR at a small college so I have some background when I say that the slant-interception was on Gardner. My HS or college coaches would have chewed my ass for days had I come out of a break that slow.
The key to the slant is your third or fifth vertical step is a hard jab with the outside foot and a sharp turn at less than 45 degrees to the inside. You get low over your toe on the break and accelerate across the middle. The DB is
going to be closing hard and when you round your cut or get out slow they beat you to the ball. I watched that in real time and thought right away it was on Gardner and the replay only confirmed that. He comes out of his break standing straight up and his first two steps are not full speed. Little guys run slants well because they are quicker out of breaks, big guys are better targets because they can block out a crashing DB. Gardner was slow out of the break and he was standing straight up so the jab step wasn't as convincing. That throw was on the money if Gardner runs a good route.
Now, the DB was in great position so that may mean Denard should have gone elsewhere but if Gardner runs a great route the worst that happens is a PBU.
Just my two cents,
Denard throwing it directly at the CB actually lends this credence (also, like, this guy knows what he's talking about) since the DB is expecting the slant to go where he is so he can tackle; Gardner is not there and CB is like "look what I found."
This does not change my depression level because it just moves some of the incompetence to another guy who is critical to the success of the whole thing.
I was wondering how effective you think it is to call for a fair catch when the ball is inside the 10. Shouldn't the returner gamble on the fact that it might bump into the end zone. Is there any real advantage to getting it at the eight instead of say the two?
The conventional wisdom seems to be shifting a bit on punt returns. Previously it was heels at the ten and no steps back. Now punts at the seven or eight often get fair-caught. Until someone charts the percentage of punts that end up in the endzone after landing at the five, six, seven, etc., we won't have a yes or no answer to this, but I think catching punts a couple yards inside the ten is the right move. The value of field position is close to linear for most of the field but plunges once we start talking about the one or two yard line:
The reason for this is obvious: most coaches will trade a down for a yard or two instead of risking the safety. I had the Mathlete take a look at whether this was correct strategy a while back, but unfortunately can't find that post. IIRC, he said that was the right move given the costs of a safety and how frequently you'll suffer one if you just run your usual offense.
By catching the ball at the seven or eight you're giving up the shot at a free first down, essentially, but you're also removing that awkward situation where you're burning a down and still trying to get out from your own goal line. It's the safe play, and probably the right one.
Internet, you are called out.
Amidst all the whining about football refereeing these days, people are STILL complaining about Mike Lantry's kick in 1974.
You would think after almost 40 years of controversy that you or one of your nerdy engineering friends could use modern technology and run a computer simulation to end the dispute once and for all.
This is much more important than the Kennedy assassination.
West Bloomfield, MI
Well? I mean, he's right. Computer engineers, assemble!
Notre Dame has a very good defensive line, possibly great. If they still had Aaron Lynch holy pants man. They don't, but Tuitt is a 300 pound pass rusher, Nix is hard to move, and their Kapron Lewis-Moore/Prince Shembo combo at the other DE is a quality option. They've been making a lot of plays so far, and some of them against Lewan, who has a bunch of NFL hype and has shut down virtually every DE he's ever gone up against, including guys like Adrian Clayborn.
So Michigan was up against it against the Irish. They compounded those troubles with a spate of seemingly bizarre play calls that made it even harder for Michigan to execute since they often left key players unblocked, with the results you saw.
Here's a two yard run in the second quarter. It's first and ten on the first play of Michigan's first drive after the Smith interception. ND comes out showing a four-man front with one-high coverage, but will shift into their standard 3-4. Zeke Motta, currently 16 yards off the LOS, will approach the LOS for an eighth run defender against eight players in the box.
Post-shift, this is about standard for ND. Note that the secondary is showing extremely soft man coverage on the receivers, which is par for the course when you are in cover zero with three converted offensive players. Or at least, I'd imagine it's par for the course if anyone else ever did this.
Now, you may be thinking "AAAAAH DAMN AAAH BUBBLE." I am too. The defense is allowed to align like this because Michigan won't take a shot at that gooey soft edge. Constraint plays constrain what a defense can do, simplifying life for QBs. Here we've got a play, and it's a run despite the D showing a cover zero look.
On the snap it's revealed to be an inside zone play…
…but Lewan does something unusual by flaring out to go block Shembo as Denard reads Lewis-Moore. Meanwhile, look at Toussaint's upfield angle of attack:
This was supposed to be a midline type read. When ND showed a four-man front, Nix was shaded outside of Mealer. He would hit the frontside A-gap, allowing Barnum to release into the second level. Instead he's head up on the center and fights back, forcing Barnum to try and deal with him.
What Michigan thought it was doing
Meanwhile, Lewan's flare out on Shembo was supposed to be useful. Instead he's blocking a contain guy on a run up the middle. Lewis-Moore is not tearing up in a gap like a one-gap DL would but coming upfield under control.
So instead of a quick hit that got Michigan past the DT they get this:
Which is two yards thanks to an unblocked LB in the middle of where your belly is supposed to go.
This Looks Familiar
Denard's second interception is a terrible throw helped along by a totally unblocked Te'o as Barnum tries to help on Nix.
Terrible throw and all that but also not a shining example of coordinator mastery. This is a position to fail in, when you can't step into your throw because you'll get hit if you do so.
Things and Stuff
RB angle gives you the intended hole. Look at how vertical Toussaint is going. This is designed to go backside.
Checks: none. Once ND shifts to the three-man front, this play is in trouble, and once Motta slides down you're up against zero safeties. This would be a nice time to check. To what? Well, you are maybe probably getting some yards if Lewan changes his assignment and releases directly into that LB, or, you know…
…that OLB has eyes only for the backfield, so you've got one guy within twelve yards of the slot receiver. Who isn't a slot receiver, sure.
Since this was the first play of the drive I assume there was time to do this after the shift; nothing comes. This might be on Denard, or there just might not be a check for this. Rodriguez took that check burden onto himself with those plays where Michigan would call for a snap and then everyone would look to the sideline.
Constraints: none. A little later Michigan will block a QB sweep well but Motta will show in the hole as an unblocked eighth guy. Denard will abort and get three. ND again went cover zero with pudding soft outside coverage:
They're sitting out there waiting to give you their money! It's not the stupid little bubble itself that helps—though the yards from 2-8 averaging about 6 aren't bad—but the things that the defense can't do because they can't align with their secondary in Bolivia and bring down a run defender that erases your numerical advantage.
This alignment cannot be allowed to exist without a quick easy throw that invalidates it. Have we mentioned that both corners are converted offensive players? And one is a freshman?
Oy OL. Note that Nix not only drew a double but ripped through it to the backside hole, and that Tuitt has gotten inside of Schofield with ease. It may have been possible to get some yards here by getting Nix sealed and hitting a gap further to the playside, but none of that happens. I haven't gotten to the bit where Michigan just grinds on them yet, but so far there have been a lot of plays like this where Michigan OL get nowhere with their guys.
Why are we running a play that seems designed to go at a 4-3? ND will go to it but they are a 3-4 at heart and when they show a four man line it's usually short yardage or a passing down. I would expect an incoherent play like this to fire off when ND is giving Michigan a 4-3 curveball instead of the 3-4, especially after Michigan spent two weeks preparing exclusively for this defense. That Lewan flare-out is deadly to this play because Barnum has to help on a NT who is not shaded—and is rarely shaded. Meanwhile that guy on the edge is not a threat to Toussaint. RPS –1.
News bullets and other important items:
- Devin is "fine" (as reported from teleconference) and unlikely to be limited in practice.
- Marvin Robinson did not make the trip due to an injury, but he should be back.
- Hoke really dislikes injury reports because it helps gamblers. Shame on you, Jamie.
“Are you ready?”
“You’re the only one who answers.”
I’m ready, coach.
“All right. Good. Um, you know, we’re obviously moving forward. I think we’ll move forward pretty well as a team. The kids, I thought they played hard and all that. We talked about that the other night. We’ve got to execute a little better on a lot of things. You know, there’s enough in there. We had some missed assignments that we can’t have on both sides of the ball for us to be as effective as we want. I thought up front both sides of the ball, we played better. I think there’s more in there that we’ll get out of them. We went back to basics and the fundamentals which we always do in a bye week because the times you lose a little bit of your individual technique work as the season progresses because you do so much together. That being said, I liked the attitude of our football team. We start the Big Ten season, and the expectation is always to win the Big Ten championship. I like how our kids -- where they’re at mentally.”
OR A TEAM THAT IS FROM ALABAMA OR BORING
Michigan now has a rather large Interesting Nonconference Game-shaped hole after Notre Dame decided it was really important to play Stanford for some reason and backed out of the Michigan series. Who fills that hole?
Well… probably someone not that interesting. A list of interesting teams follows, ordered by availability. I'm assuming that Michigan wants to go on the road in odd years and be at home in even years, that dates can be moved, and that they'll be looking for a home and home.
Virginia Tech (full schedule including OSU in 2015)
Texas (full schedule w/ ND, Cal)
Oklahoma (full, @ Tenn, ND, OSU in 2016)
Miami (not that they'd be any good anyway)
Stanford (playing ND for some reason)
Florida (full, annual FSU game)
West Virginia (full)
Arizona State (full, LSU and ND on the docket)
Cal. Open dates but already has a home and home with Texas and 9 game conference schedule. Would want a home game in 2015, so that's a positive.
USC. Already lined up with ND and A&M, plus a Texas series the couple years after that. Adding Michigan would be a bit much even for them.
Washington State. Probably does not want to bite off more tough games after putting Wisconsin and Boise State on the docket in the near future.
Tennessee. Already lined up with Oklahoma and a Nebraska series during the time in question.
Kansas State. I'll believe they schedule Michigan when I see it.
LSU. Award since Les Miles and their slate in 2016 is full. They have Arizona State both those years and NC State in 2017. Some chance it could work out but doubtful.
South Carolina. Full in 2015 and has an annual game with Clemson.
Clemson. Has annual game against South Carolina and will be playing a nine game conference schedule in 2015. They've got room, but I doubt they'll go for it. OTOH, they have played Georgia and Auburn in addition to the Gamecocks.
Georgia Tech. See Clemson, replace "South Carolina" with "Georgia," add in "Michigan just got reminded it's a bad idea to schedule an option team."
Florida State. See Clemson, replace "South Carolina" with "Florida," remove bit about how they have played a second interesting team in the past.
Oregon. At Michigan State in 2015, but has nothing for 2016 and just a game at Wyoming in 2017. If a double dip of Michigan in 2015 doesn't work you could still see something working for 2016 and 2017.
Washington. Full in 2015 but could probably cancel Sacramento State or something. Nothing but a Montana game the next couple years.
Alabama. Preferably on an aircraft carrier on the moon. Nothing 2015, just State in 2016 and 2017. May not want to keep beating up on Michigan teams.
Arkansas. Just TCU in 2015 and 2016.
Auburn. Nothing scheduled except Idaho.
Missouri. Nothing but Memphis and Wyoming.
Oklahoma State. Would have to cancel a game in 2015, but those are against Central Arkansas, UT-San Antonio, and at(!) Central Michigan, so I think they'd have little difficulty doing so. They're showing games at UTSA, CMU, and South Alabama the next few years as part of 2-for-1 deals… so this may be a KState/Wisconsin kind of thing where they refuse to schedule anyone credible in the nonconference.
NC State. I know this is the opposite of thrilling, but they've got openings.
Georgia. Annual game against Georgia Tech hurts things but they don't have another real nonconference opponent lined up in 2015 or 2016.
TCU. Normally I'd look at a team playing nine conference games with a real opponent lined up (Arkansas) and say no way but TCU may want to go for it to establish their bonafides, that sort of thing. They would want a home game in 2015, too.
This Guy's Vote
Georgia, as per usual. Oregon would be exciting as well, unless we just get obliterated again. Which we might.