- Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black have been splitting snaps situationally. QWash could get more snaps against Iowa because of Iowa's offensive style.
- Hoke is disappointed that Taylor Lewan wasn't an Outland Trophy finalist.
- Justice Hayes's future is at slot receiver, but he'll do some spot duty as a third-down back.
- The Borges transcript will be up tomorrow morning because I am forever delinquent.
“Really good practice yesterday. The energy level, the execution of things was really good on both sides of the ball. I’m real proud of what the kicking game did last week. We need to do the same thing this week, only we want to see if we can get a little more out of the return game. Some of that was predicated by wind and everything else, but we though the kicking game was something that we wanted to improve. The young guys on that team have continued to improve. That’s helped us a lot in a lot of situations, but we’ve had a good week so far.”
Greg Davis totally-not-a-photoshop via BHGP, obviously
Due to the nature of available video, the lack of teams that are remotely comparable to Michigan either in style or skill, and the strange ways of the universe, I once again am here to do an opponent breakdown using a game involving Northwestern. Yes, Northwestern lost. Yes, it happened in overtime. It's not your fault, Northwestern fans. It's not your fault.
Anyway, Iowa drove for a touchdown on their first drive, scored just three points in the rest of regulation, missed a potential game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter, threw an interception with a chance to get into field goal range at the very end of regulation, and then scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on their first possession of overtime. This is a team that leans on its stellar defense to carry most of the load while their offense attempts to bash its way downfield; that said, this isn't last year's Iowa offense, which is a good thing for Iowa.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. Iowa utilizes a ton of two-TE sets, runs most of their offense from under center, and goes into the shotgun almost exclusively for obvious passing downs.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Iowa ran almost entirely zone blocking concepts in this game, with the exception of a couple I-form power plays that weren't effective beyond getting two or three yards. Their linemen are very well suited to zone blocking, as you'll see below.
Hurry it up or grind it out? I don't mean to alarm you, but Iowa has gone to a no-huddle offense. I repeat: IOWA HAS GONE TO A NO-HUDDLE OFFENSE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Yes, that is the Hawkeye offense full-blown tempo-ing Northwestern for a critical fourth-down conversion despite the umpire inexplicably standing on top of the ball and allowing the Wildcats to get set. This was the key sequence in a drive featuring Iowa playing at a pace resembling Penn State's up-tempo stuff until they hit the red zone, when they got more deliberate and scored a touchdown. They maintained the no-huddle throughout the game, though the pace slowed as the game wore on, in part because Iowa held a lead for much of the game.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Jake Rudock is by no means a burner; he's nimble enough to escape the pocket and do some damage with his legs (like in the video above), however, and Iowa even ran a couple zone reads with him. I'll give him a 6; he's rushed for 220 yards on 40 carries (5.6 ypc) with five touchdowns once sacks are removed.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
SITE NOTE: due to this taking longer than I wanted it to and triple OT, UFR will be in the evening today.
Devin Gardner threw many passes that hit Northwestern defenders on Saturday, a good number of them I CAN'T BELIEVE HE DROPPED THAT interceptions. There were moments when I was going over the game where it seemed like it wasn't really all that bad because of thing X or thing Y, and then moments where it was very, very bad. So I thought I'd pull this out of a larger UFR discussion and try to evaluate just what happened on the various passes on which Gardner's throws hit Northwestern players.
Normally I wouldn't put batted passes in here, but there were a few incidents where batted passes were the only thing separating Northwestern from yet another pass that hit them in the hands and was inexplicably dropped, so they are also added.
Category #1: Understandable Items
#1: Gardner gets a heavy rush due to a bad blitz pickup, escapes it, and tries to throw late to a covered Devin Funchess; ball gets batted down at the line.
That's probably a PBU at worst, and he's under heavy duress.
#2: Michigan botches a freeze play when Northwestern jumps but does not cross the line. Gardner thinks he's got a free play and tries a back shoulder fade to Gallon that could be farther outside; it's a nice play by a DB who seems totally bailed out to come back to the ball and a poor one by Gallon not to break this off sooner once he perceives the DB is way over the top. The DB actually reads this obvious back shoulder opportunity before he does; he should be breaking back so that he gets to the ball before the DB.
#3: Third down rollout on the next play sees no one open. Gardner tries to fit it in to Dileo anyway, and leaves it a little inside of where it should be. Gardner's about to be hammered and goes for it.
This wasn't really close to an INT and you might as well try for the first down.
Category #2: Death-Defying Really Bad Ideas
#1: The first incident of this variety happens three minutes into the second quarter. Gardner drops back, pump-fakes a slant to Funchess, and then throws it.
He does get pressure from another crappy slide protection on which Lewan ignores a DE, and unless Gallon is open deeper to the outside the best case scenario here is a sack if he does not throw the ball. That was the move.
#2: Gardner bobbles a snap on third and three and comes up firing a wheel route that NW jumps and is thinking pick six on; they blitzed and left Jake Butt screamingly wide open.
The snap bobble takes Gardner's eyes off the defense and contributes here. Still: turrible.
#3: Michigan fortunate to have a slant batted down at the line as Northwestern undercuts whatever Gardner is looking at, in fact with two guys in Butt's case.
Gardner had Gallon as an option on the other side of the field.
[After the JUMP: another category, and evaluation.]
Peter Frampton:Michigan's offense::Let's stop this analogy right now.
It's nearing Thanksgiving; which means it's time to make pie! Who likes pie? Everyone likes pie! Unless it's a "why our offense sucks so much" pie. Alas, you have all been sampling lots of "Why our offense sucks so much" pie these last few weeks, and we've identified most of the ingredients in this suck pie. What we haven't done yet is say how much any one ingredient is contributing relative to any other. This seems important.
So, I'm going to give you a list of identified ingredients in this suck pie, and you're going to tell me--pie chart like (i.e. adds up to 100%)--how much each suck factor, in your estimated opinion, has gone into our pie:
Fans demand Michigan Manliness. Thus putting the previous regime on not-firm ground and necessitating another transition and talk of MANBALL for stupid political reasons. Rosenberg/Snyder go here.
- Rich Rod! One OL in 2010 and his own suck pie of defense that necessitated another transition. GERG goes here. Zero RS juniors goes here.
- The Process. Which helped doom the 2011 offensive line class. "Just two OL, both of them fliers, in two classes!" goes here. "None of our tight ends are old enough to buy beer!" goes here. "We're stuck running high school blocking schemes because interior OL are too young!" goes here.
If you believe this is a result of Nebraska's defense having a sudden aneurism of competence (hence all the blood), please answer #10 "Universe" on your cards. [Fuller]
- Hoke demands MANBALL! Only if you think there's an executive order from Hoke that forced Borges to use more "big"--ie TEs and FBs instead of WRs--formations and man-blocking.
- Borges can't cook fusion cuisine. Incoherent playcalling and gameplanning, players constantly put in bad positions and asked to do more than their skills suggest they're good at. RPS minuses go here.
- Dithered on MANBALL transition for Denard. Spent 2011 and 2012 trying to be all things; decision not to sacrifice those years to transition is costing us in 2013. "Older guys can't MANBALL" goes here.
- Dithering in 2013. Personnel switches, gimmick offenses, acts of desperation burned practice time, retarded player development, and contributed to snowballing effect. "Tackle over" goes here.
- Funk/OL and execution. Offensive linemen not doing the things that should reasonably be expected of them given their talent/experience levels. "Schofield is missing slide protections" goes here.
- Ferrigno/Jackson and execution. Backs and tight ends who can't block or run routes (if you think this is just on them being too young, that goes elsewhere; if you think Funchess ought to be able to crack down and Toussaint get under a guy by now it goes here)
- Bloodymindedness of Universe. IE anything else: Spain, Monkey Rodeo, MSU broke Devin, opponents are just that good, etc.
[After the jump, the lede, buried]
"How’s everybody doing today? Come outside and practice outside with us."
“We’re excited about going to this next challenge. This is going to be a definite challenge. We’ve got a chance to watch Iowa a lot throughout the year. They’re very very good offense. They don’t do a lot of things, but what they do, they do really really well. Two good running backs, three good running backs. Their quarterback, nobody ever talks about, but I think he’s 60 percent completion. He can scramble. He’s not afraid to scramble. Their tight ends, I think 87 is the best tight end we’ve played against all year. He’s definitely a Sunday player, so we definitely have a big challenge ahead of us.”
I’m not touching the play call itself. Most of have pretty strong feelings about it. Criticizing a failed play in hindsight is usually a pretty lazy thing to do, but Michigan has a set of plays this year that have a firm history of no success and should never be run in critical situations.
But what about the decision itself to go for the 1st down. In the situation there were two possible choices and two possible outcomes for each.
|Kick the FG||Success/Failure|
|Go for the 1st||Success/Failure|
Each choice has an associated odds of success and each outcome has a resulting win odds.
Kick The FG
The safe, NFL worthy decision would have been to kick the field goal (“Take the points,” because field goals are never missed). In a low scoring game this probably gets you to overtime and there are no guarantees you get another chance or that you can take advantage of it. The downside is that with about 5 minutes to go, you are opening the door to give Northwestern the ball with plenty of time to drive the field and run out the clock.
A successful field goal means kicking off in a tie game with about 5 minutes left. In this situation, the team kicking off wins about 46% of the time. A made field goal would have made Michigan a slight underdog.
In the fourth quarter of close games, college kickers make 94% of field goals from inside the 5 yard line. Those are pretty good odds, but still a 1 in 16 chance that the kick is missed or blocked. A missed kick would have given Northwestern the ball at the 20 and dropped Michigan’s odds of winning to 23%.
Go for the First Down
Picking up positive yardage has been a challenge for Michigan the last month. Had they been able to convert for a first down their win odds would jump up to 70% (74% with a touchdown). Still plenty of time for a Northwestern touchdown, but definitely putting Michigan in the driver’s seat.
The failure to secure the first down left Michigan with a 34% chance at victory. Far from over but a lot of leverage on the play.
The Break Even Point
A field goal attempt would have given Michigan a 45% chance at victory once the small chance of a miss or block is factored in. With 70% odds with a first down and 34% odds if they failed to get the first down, Michigan would need to be able to have at least a 30% chance of success to break even on going for the first down. Michigan has had its troubles on offense but a 30% break even point is a low bar. 3rd or 4th and 1’s from inside the 5 are converted at 57% historically. So even if Michigan was half as likely as an average team to convert it still would have been an even decision with kicking the field goal.
If the numbers seem too high or too low there are a couple of follow up dynamics in play. A failed fourth down would have left Northwestern with the ball and the lead late. Coaching history as taught us that this is a recipe for most coaches to curl up into a ball and try and ground out the clock and if they’re lucky get a first down or two. Because of this often failed mentality, giving the other team back the ball with a lead can be more valuable than giving them back the ball with a tie where there is some pressure to push forward.
I think this was absolutely the correct decision to go for the first down in the situation even if the “execution” was less than ideal.