"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Northwestern, Michigan's upcoming opponent, had a bye last week, so I went back to the only Northwestern torrent I could find—their week six loss at Penn State—for this week's FFFF. The Wildcats allowed three fourth-quarter touchdowns to blow a 28-17 lead, one gained mostly by fortune and a Venric Mark punt return touchdown—PSU held the final edge in yardage, 443-247.
It's worth noting that Northwestern has been playing two quarterbacks this season; in the PSU game, Trevor Siemian got the majority of the snaps over the more mobile Kain Colter, who spent much of the game in the slot. Last week, however, it was Colter who got the starting nod as Siemian threw just one pass in a win over Iowa; this week's game notes have Colter at the top of the depth chart, and considering Siemian's ineffectiveness I'm going on the presumption that will be the case.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. Very, very spread. Northwestern ran exactly two plays from under center—both came when they were backed up on their own goal line after a Penn State punt pinned them deep. Otherwise, Northwestern ran 48 charted snaps out of the shotgun and six out of the pistol (all of the latter with Kain Colter at QB).
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass—the Wildcats, especially with Colter at QB, lean heavily on the zone read. Honestly, they should've leaned on it more heavily, as you'll see when we get to Siemian's HenneChart.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Northwestern rarely huddles and plays at a very fast pace, going so far as to often line up Siemian at wide receiver when Colter takes snaps at quarterback so they can switch betweens QBs without making subsitutions. Pacing the defense is a huge part of their offense's success.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Colter is one of the better-running QBs in the conference, probably behind only Denard and Taylor Martinez [EDIT: and Braxton Miller], so I'd give him an 8. Siemian, on the other hand, rarely looks to escape the pocket and gets maybe a 4—he did manage to scramble for a 15-yard gain against PSU but it occurred when the proverbial seas parted.
Colter has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and already has 11 rushing touchdowns this season. He's very adept at running the read option—his ability to wait until the last possible nanosecond before pulling earned him a touchdown here as PSU's DE gave up the corner:
Why Northwestern ran Colter five times while allowing Siemien to throw 36 passes in a close contest is entirely beyond my comprehension.
[For the rest of this week's opponent breakdown, hit THE JUMP.]
- Both Denard and Russell Bellomy are day to day. Hoke doesn't want to comment on it, so don't ask or he'll get mad at you.
- All's quiet on the Devin Gardner redshirt front.
- Mario Ojemudia is not 100%, still limited in practice. My guess is he probably won't play Saturday.
- Jeremy Gallon is "good." My guess is he probably will play on Saturday.
- Joey Burzynski and Jack Miller have taken reps with the ones this week. If they do get shuffled into the offensive line rotation, that decision will be made after tomorrow's practice.
From the mixed up files of Dr. Basil E. Heikoyang
“It was a good practice, and I think it’s been like that most of the year. I think we had really good energy. We had good tempo. I think our team -- I know our team understands we’re playing an awfully good team this week. They’re very difficult in some ways to defend from an offensive perspective. Their playmakers on both sides of the ball with Mark and Colter, and Siemian throws the ball awfully well. They have a group of receivers that play the ball well in the air. I think they run after the catch very well. When you look at the big plays they’ve had defensively, they’ve had 20 plus runs. I think they have 12 touchdowns of them. And then throwing the ball, they’ve had a number of those they’ve done a good job with. And then defensively you look at them and, you know, Mike Hankwitz, who played here, the coordinator, does a tremendous job from a defensive perspective. Sound, disciplined, run to the ball, all the things you want to see a defense do. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
“Regarding our two quarterbacks, I’m not going to talk about it as far as what’s going on with Russell and Denard because it’s day to day and in fairness to those kids, I’m not going to give day to day updates. So that’s where that’s at.”
Oh, hello you. You may not realize this, since your school isn't quite as, how do I say this without sounding rude, enlightened as the one in Evanston, but it seems you Michigan fans have been bequest a rather charitable opportunity to acquire certain (clever is too strong a word) droll affects—or "apparel" if you are yet unfamiliar with the more obscure uses of that word—for an act as uncomplicated as publishing a simple educated guess. So as not to parse words: a contest, in which you may win clothing that acclaims your allegiance to a particular company of sporting men, by accurately adumbrating the final numerical representation of the upcoming, barbaric contest of football prowess between your vulgar Wolverines and the Wildcats of the fair, genteel, and eminently more sophisticated Northwestern University.
For the boorish:
- Wednesdays I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
- You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
About Last Week:
Finally someone got it. Fitzmel will be receiving a package of many goods.
This Week's Game:
The Vainglorious Wildcats of Pretensiousestern, versus the High and Mighty Michigan Wolverines
And the Prize:
The lunar chapter of the University of Michigan Alumni Association may have had worse turnout than Ryan Field for its events over the last 30 years. Nevertheless this shirt remains available only in maize and blue, unless the purple people have lately made a similar accomplishment?
Note: If you win the shirt and prefer another shirt, that's cool; pick an MGoShirt.
Fine Print Stuff in the Usual Print: One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). If nobody gets the score, this week's prize carries over to the following week's. Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game (since I won't have time to pull them on gamedays). MGoEmployees and Moderators--anyone else with moderator privileges--are exempt from winning because you could change your timestamp. If you choose the score that Brian published in the official preview and it actually ends up the final score, well, that would be pretty amazing because Brian picks scores like 29-11 all the time.
[PROGRAMMING NOTE: Due to a three-pronged failure in various systems I lost the first half of UFR and had to re-do it. I tried, but couldn't get it done for today. 2x UFR tomorrow.]
Minnesota's offense struggled to move the ball most of Saturday. When they did move it was often because Michigan was in a difficult position against spread principles. For example: on Minnesota's first snap, Michigan slid their linebackers way to the field against a trips formation and gave up five yards when the tailback cut all the way behind the defensive line.
I'm not sure if this is actually a problem Michigan should fix or if they're taking away certain things that would otherwise be open and will just open up another hole in the dam. In certain cases, anyway. I caught a second-quarter run—at twelve yards, Minnesota's long run of the day—on which Michigan's alignment had them in trouble from the start. Since the Big Ten Network was running an uncommonly large number of useful replays, we can take a look at it from the end zone.
From the dead center of the field Minnesota comes out in a pistol formation with two backs flanking the quarterback. Minnesota has two WRs not shown. When Blue Seoul was pumping out With Pics on the regular he would often point out presnap alignment issues, and Michigan has one here.
This is a balanced formation right smack in the middle of the field, but note that the linebackers are shifted to the left—Demens is left of the center; Morgan is inside the tackle to the right while Ryan is well outside. The line is also shifted left: Washington is inside the guard, Campbell outside. As a result you can draw a line with five Minnesota players to one side and three Michigan defenders:
Minnesota will run at this, running the back on the left across the QB and pulling a guard to keep that two-man advantage as the center uses his angle to take care of Campbell.
Before the mesh point a few things are clear: the three backside defenders are basically nonentities. Demens has a shot, maybe, but he's getting a free release from a tackle with an excellent angle and is in tough. The two backs are available to take on Clark and Morgan.
At the mesh point and just after, two things. First, Clark:
Clark dives inside the pack trying to get him, which could be a valid move. The second frame there has a pulling guard; if Clark hits him that's two blockers on one guy. Because Michigan was badly aligned that still won't matter, though. Minnesota will run this later at Keith Heitzman; Heitzman will do the same thing and peg the QB, so this was what Mattison wanted… sort of. I'll explain below what he actually wanted, probably.
He eats a block, but I'm not even mad when he eats a guy before it's even clear who has the ball. Even if he reads the play on the snap this guy probably gets him since he's got a great angle; if the tackle doesn't the pulling guard literally has no one to block so Demens will again feel the wrath of two different OL on the same play. If Demens is at fault it's for presnap stuff involving this alignment that gets him in trouble.
By the time the back breaks outside, it doesn't really matter what Morgan does, the play is getting yards, whether it's inside or out.
But man you still shouldn't get hewed to the ground like this and give up the edge:
It was faintly possible that Washington, who beat a down block, gets in some sort of tackle attempt, and you also wouldn't be forcing Kovacs to get on his horse outside like he does. Note that Raymon Taylor is also on his knees after eating a cut block:
Kovacs has to take an awkward angle around that block and misses the tackle as a result. He does get the guy off balance; Taylor recovers.
Things And Stuff
I don't really have a big theme here. Often these posts are attempts to explain a general trend—like Michigan not blocking anyone against Nebraska—with some concrete examples. This is just a thing that happened and probably doesn't mean much of anything. These things pop up from time to time; the defense is still really good.
If there is a theme it's that these things tend to get fixed, as we'll see in the next bullet.
Clark is less good at defending the run than other folk/Mattison adjusts fast. There are two main differences between this and a –1 yard run later in the game off this same play. One is Heitzman. Watch the defensive end to the bottom of the screen:
That may be a different playcall that causes Beyer to move down on the tackle and prevent him from releasing. It is more useful than what Clark does above. While that's not a two for one the guy taking Demens is now the pulling guard, who takes a lot longer to get out on him. That allows Demens to get outside of him; a gap further inside James Ross is also playside of that tackle when he finally releases.
The other difference is of course JMFR, who demonstrates what the coaches are talking about when they call him an "unorthodox" player by taking a cut block hard and still managing to fling his off-balance body at the RB for a TFL.
Even if that does not happen Michigan has this covered as this chain…
- Beyer holds up T
- Demens beats pulling G to outside
- Back bounces it outside
- Gordon runs past RB with no angle now
…has an unblocked guy waiting to clean up if'n Ryan isn't a wizard or something.
These things tend to get fixed. Note that Michigan's alignment above is even instead of slid to one side or the other.
I am sorry to remind you of our shared, dark past, but remember the GERG defenses when Michigan would frequently get annihilated by the same thing over and over again? In the Oh God Justin Siller game (to be fair, a GERG defense only in spirit, not in letter) it was ten yard outs over and over. In the 2010 Wisconsin game I think the Badgers ran power 28 straight times in the second half, and I am not even sure that's a joke. One of the most frustrating aspects of Michigan's terrible terrible defenses pre-Mattison were the times when the same thing just kept working.
Here Michigan gets burned for a first down. The next two snaps they see out of this formation are runs that go for zero and –1 yards. That's why there's not a theme, because the things that seem to be dodgy with this defense are pure talent issues. Michigan doesn't have an elite pass-rusher or a lot of speed in the secondary. This leads to lots of attempted deep bombs that have not come off yet, mostly.
Minnesota backs and receivers can really cut block. Seriously, our guys could learn something from the Gophers in that department. Michigan CBs and LBs hit the ground a lot in this game, even if sometimes they got up like an unkillable zombie and made the tackle anyway.
Washington: pretty good. He couldn't do anything about the 12 yarder above; he did get off a block and pursue in case he could.
Ricardo Miller's facebook page:
I know there was a fake Devin Gardner page out there but this one has 1200 friends and several pictures of Miller taken from cellphones and the like. Looks legit to me.
Miller bounced to and from tight end after arriving early, never finding playing time. With walk-ons seeing snaps ahead of him the writing was on the wall—time to move on. As a redshirt sophomore his departure does open up a scholarship slot in the next class. That brings Michigan to 23 plus any guys who don't get a fifth year; they currently have 22 plus maybe longsnapper Scott Sypniewski. Gareon Conley is wavering, of course.
Also: yeah, Miller's getting a degree in three years. Good luck to him.
“There’s Heiko. What’s up? … Where’s your glasses?”
I left them in Minnesota.
“They’re cerebral. That’s why Heiko wears his.”
“That’s why I wear mine. Put glasses on and makes you look smarter. I’m just a dumb guy with glasses. What’s up? I’m sure you guys don’t have any questions, so.”
Did you vote today?
“Of course I voted! That’s a ridiculous question. I won’t go into it, but I am very politically minded, okay.”
When did you know Denard wasn’t going to play?
“Kind of right up until we played, because we kind of nursed him along all week just to see how he’s doing, so we’re going to give him a chance to take it all the way to game time. He deserved that. The team deserved that.”