|WHAT||Michigan vs Nebraska|
8:00 PM EST
October 27th, 2012
|THE LINE||Nebraska -2|
|WEATHER||cloudy, dry, around 40|
Is that corn in your pocket or… oh, I see. It's corn.
Run Offense vs Nebraska
COME TO NEBRASHHHHKA STATTE
Last week Michigan kept its head above water against an excellent run defense on the strength of two big gains. One of them came when MSU's crappy defensive tackle got creased on a run blitz. The other was a quarterback draw late when Michigan State backed off, uncharacteristically, and paid for it. With those two runs, Michigan crested 5 YPC against a top ten—maybe top five—defense. Without them, they barely exceeded 3 YPC.
Is that good? Bad? Ah hell I don't know. Denard is Denard and will rip off big gains if you keep feeding him the ball, and Toussaint's big run is the kind of thing that happens to super aggressive defenses when they get creased (and a walk-on WR gets his block on). In the end, 5 YPC is fair. Nard gonna Nard.
The good news is that Nebraska's defense is emphatically not Michigan State's.
Except when it is sometimes I guess? Nebraska blew it badly on one 80-yard Venric Mark touchdown. Other than that, Northwestern muddled along at about the same rate Wisconsin did. In half of Nebraska's games against BCS competition, they're Michigan State. In half, they're roadkill.
If there's a pattern you can draw from four games, it's spread 'n' shreds leaving tread marks all over the Cornhusker D. UCLA QB Brett Hundley is a run threat (9 carries for 66 yards) and opened Jonathan Franklin up for a 216-yard blitz. Braxton Miller almost cracked 200 himself and opened it up for Carlos Hyde to hit 140. Though not included in the table above, even winless Southern Miss saw quarterback Anthony Alford hit 84 yards on 15 carries… before getting pulled because he was also 1 of 5 for six yards. The Eagles hit 4.6 YPC on the day.
In a bizarre move, Northwestern all but abandoned the Kain Colter running game in favor of having Trevor Sieman throw 35 times, so they fit more in the Wisconsin mold than UCLA/OSU:
Nebraska made it very clear that they'd sit back in man free all game, and the Wildcats tried to beat them over the top time and again even though the Husker corners were locking down the Northwestern wideouts and quarterback Trevor Siemian lacked accuracy on his deep ball. The Wildcats threw 37 times and ran 38 times despite (1) playing against an awful run defense, and (2) holding a lead for most of the game.
WTFitz. Nebraska did hold Colter down on his few carries, FWIW.
Will Nebraska be able to do the same to Denard? Well… I'm doubtful. Ace saw Nebraska blitz twice in the first half and lay back in a bend-but-don't-break shell, likely because the shell-shocked Huskers were going back to basics after the OSU debacle. Nebraska's safeties, like Michigan State's, are active hitters in the run game, though, so if they're lining up nine yards off the LOS and coming down hard in an effort to replicate MSU's gameplan, trouble may ensue.
Emphasis on "may"—MSU's aggressiveness was effective instead of disastrous because Denicos Allen and Max Bullough are fast as hell and the MSU safeties are pretty good, as well. Nebraska only avoided a couple of long Denard Robinson touchdowns last year because Lavonte David played the same role as the MSU linebackers did last week: guy who makes shoestring tackle just as you're standing up to yell "GOOOOOOOOO." Lavonte David's not around anymore, and the Nebraska LB corps misses his athleticism. They're not bad—except when they are of course—but if a gap gets vacated or the sideline is tested they are less likely to be able to mitigate that damage with a super fast tackling machine. Stafford is a boom or bust SS, too, and could at any time wander off in the wrong direction as Denard screams upfield.
Key Matchup: Denard's ankles versus opponent's outstretched arms. There are going to be two or three moments in the game where Denard is setting sail for the endzone. Where you at, Will Compton? Are you Lavonte David walking through that door?
[Hit THE JUMP for WHAT THEY CAN SCORE THAT AIN'T RAIGHT]
Given the weak home schedule this year, I planned on creating a new feature on the site to detail my exploits in obtaining seats for every home game (by methods available to the hoi polloi) without ever paying a forced donation. Rule was I had to get two people into each game and sitting next to each other. Then I didn't bother for awhile because it would've been a lot of dividing by zero. To wit:
Air Force: I couldn't attend so I sent a correspondent, who then accepted a free ticket from somebody.
UMass: Offered one guy near the northeast entrance $10 each for his tickets and another guy interjected with two free ones.
Illinois: Family friend offered me a pair of his earlier in the week, then the day of the game both my designated game buddy (Misopogal) and the couple who owned the tickets decided it wasn't worth sitting in a rainstorm for this edition of Illinois, so I rolled solo with 4 tickets. I traded one to a student for his student ticket and 5 bucks 'cause the kid needed to get his buddy in, and sold the other two extras for $10 each outside the Stadium-Main entrance. I think I gave the student ticket away. Total: –$25.00
MSU: Bought two Row 11s from our new affiliate on Friday for $129 each plus $14 to have them FedEx'ed overnight (cheapest seat on Stubhub was $20 higher at the time even before their fees). Corner, but our endzone got most of the action.
Remaining home games are Iowa and Northwestern, and I'm at net $111. Guys, I think this is working.
DON'T MISS THESE:
The Thing About Purdue. In other useful though tardy things, the blogger formerly known as Blue Seoul (now ttifiblog) brought back the formerly weekly Game Wrap With Pics post for Purdue. Don't remember what that looks like? Like this:
…but bigger and legible and there's lots of them. Brian front-paged but those who went to see discovered some bad html. Now fixed; dig in. And welcome back, Diarist of the Week.
Denard Watch. As he climbs toward the big career marks, let's look back on some of the milestones already passed along this trail of hobbled safeties, heaving linebackers, flying shoes, sanctified endzones, flappitty laces, askew helmets, smile-curved mouthguards, and soaring dreads. Courtesy of jeepinben.
Kugler and some guys we're looking at. Everyone's looking for the next 2013 recruit with consensus 4 stars to start moving up boards, and Patrick Kugler's one of those dues. A couple of helpful readers got a scouting report on his recent game, plus those of three prospects.
[JUMP: Weeklies, Best of the Board, Waving things in front of Brian]
About Last Weekend:
Michigan State 10, Michigan 12
Apologies -- Spartyfreude is a little blurry. In any case, what are these people looking at? Oh I know. Anything but the scoreboard.
"You're good looking, and I'm good looking. We should be good looking together."
What TheOnlyColors and MaizeNBrew should do if they haven't done so already.
The Road Ahead:
Nebraska (5-2 overall, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28 (W)
Recap: When a team plays Northwestern, no deficit is too great to overcome. This is a fundamental law of football. With his team down 12 points in the fourth quarter, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (27/39, 342 yards, 3 TD) led the Huskers offense on two 80-yard touchdown drives to eke out a win. The Wildcats had an opportunity near the end to regain the lead but, as they are wont to do, they missed a long field goal.
For Michigan, this wasn’t the ideal outcome. While Northwestern had a nice streak going and remains one of the B1G’s two bowl-eligible teams, it would have been preferable to contend at home with a hypothetical one-conference-loss Northwestern team for the division rather than go to Lincoln to play a critical tie-breaker (sort of) game against a one-conference-loss Nebraska. If Michigan loses this weekend it no longer controls its own destiny. But you knew that.
So let’s focus on why the Huskers were down 12 to the Wildcats in the first place. For one, they didn’t have much rhythm on offense until Martinez went pass-happy against Northwestern’s defense, which plays a 4-3-Gibson scheme. The run game never broke anything big with the longest run being 15 yards. Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah both got nearly 20 carries a piece and averaged 4.5 ypc, though the Wildcats have a decent run defense, so that’s not a total surprise.
Defensively they did a good job against most aspects of Northwestern’s attack – they kept Trevor Siemian (15/35, 116 yards, 2 TD) to 3.3 ypa and almost limited the Wildcats otherwise effective run game to less than three yards per carry … had it not been for one spectacular bust that allowed an 80-yard TD run by Venric Mark (16 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD) from a triple-option handoff up the middle. That the Blackshirts linebackers busted an assignment is an understatement.
As a final note, Nebraska turned the ball over three times over the course of the game. They fumbled twice (the one at the end was maybe meaningless) on offense and had one epic puntmuffin, which led immediately to a Northwestern touchdown.
Huskers fans prefer to downplay these mistakes, particularly the ones on special teams, when projecting how their team will do against upcoming opponents. Against Michigan, though, they won't be able to afford to play sloppy no matter how many yards they end up racking up on offense.
This team is as frightening as: The Detroit Tigers. Brilliant when in a groove but somewhat subject to horrifying derailment. Fear level = 6 +/-2.
Michigan should worry about: Limiting mistakes on the road at night. I think Brady Hoke and Al Borges have that down at the infuriating expense of offensive play calls that adjust intelligently to defensive scheme. This means that Michigan is just going to have to wait for the opponent to make mistakes on defense. I’m actually kind of okay with that in this case, because …
Michigan can sleep soundly about: I do not believe in Nebraska’s defense. Their most impressive performance to date has been against nobody. Serious. They’ve failed to hold any of their BCS opponents under 27 points. Maybe they did well against Wisconsin by holding Montee Ball to 90 yards rushing on 32 carries, but that was when the Badgers were going through an offensive crisis that resulted in the defenestration of their offensive line coach.
Maybe the Huskers have an okay secondary and a couple playmakers in the front seven, but that does not an Al Borges Denard Fusion Cuisine-busting defense make.
When they play Michigan: Michigan will try to win on the ground; Nebraska will try to win through the air. The Huskers have at least four viable receiving options in their receivers and tight ends, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the secondary to stick to their assignments, particularly if Raymon Taylor isn’t 100%. Plus, Michigan is overdue for giving up a big WTF play or two on defense. On the bright side, if the Huskers can’t do it, no one left on the schedule save Ohio State will be able to.
Next game: vs. No. 22 Michigan.
Formation notes: MSU's defense is very simple, with few substitutions or wacky formations. They spent most of the game in a 4-3 even with linebackers shaded to the slot. Like so:
Shotgun 2TE twins for M
They would go into an okie package with two deep safeties on passing downs:
Shotgun 3-wide for M
When Michigan split their WRs this was the preferred look:
Also shotgun 3-wide
MSU screwed their corners down into press man and walked their safeties up to about nine yards deep, ready to roar downhill at any run action. You won't get any bubble complaints from me in this game—it wasn't there.
This is "Ace Triple Stack" as a reminder:
Yes, throwback screen obvs.
Substitution notes: Few surprises here. Line all starters; TE rotation about as it has been. No RBs other than Toussaint and Smith made appearances; Gardner was not announced as a starter and got a lot fewer snaps than he has previously. Speculation is he's carrying some sort of injury. Joe Reynolds got his first snaps in a heated situation—all were runs. More about that later.
[……IS BEHIND THE JUMP! There are lot of embeds this week and I've gotten some complaints that UFRs bog people's browsers down—hmmm wonder why—so taking most of the junk off the front page should help in that regard.]
Let’s head straight to a revamped chart. Now fixed to time, as opposed to play, to give a better feel for the flow of the game.
What jumped out at me right away was how this game was played between 25% and 75% virtually the whole way. In fact, the first play run with either team have a 75% or greater win likelihood was Denard’s completion to The Threat. I combed through my database and Saturday’s game was the longest a game had stayed within that range in the last ten years. No other game had gone 59.5 minutes with neither team being closer to winning than being even. Of course as soon as Michigan’s odds dipped on Toussaint’s ill-advised reception, the offense comes through with a huge completion to set up a 65% chance of hitting the game winning field goal.
Biggest swing plays
Michigan would have been looking at about 70% win odds, but the 26 yards and a new set of downs on Sparty’s fake punt brought Michigan St back to square at 50%.
Andrew Maxwell had a third down and four on Michigan’s side of the field when he threw the ball straight to Jordan Kovacs. Prior to the snap Michigan was at its current low for the game around 39% but the pick and return quickly pushed them to about 53%. The number would have been about 5% higher if part of the return hadn’t been called back.
Michigan was down 1 with the ball at their own 25 with about 5 minutes left. Denard found some room and went 44 yards for Michigan’s longest play of the day. That jumped the game from 44% to 67% in Michigan’s favor.
With less than a minute to go Denard couldn’t find anyone open downfield so he chose to dump it off to Fitzgerald Toussaint a yard behind the line of scrimmage. The ball was low and Toussaint instinctively went down to catch it, which he unfortunately did. The loss of a down, yardage and time pushed the win percent down from 32% to 15%, the first time all game either side crossed the 75% mark.
Michigan would bounce right back and Denard’s strike to The Threat would reverse that 15% in no time. With only a field goal attempt left, the offense handed the game to Gibbons with a kick an average kicker would make 65% of the time.
And of course he did. +35% to Gibbons and all the brunette girls.
[Hit THE JUMP for an updated season projection, Dumb Punt of the Week, Nebraska prediction, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on—you guessed it—Laquon Treadwell and Derrick Green, more coach quotes on Denzel Ward, 2014 updates, and more.
ALL HOPE IS LOST wait what oh my condolences
Mike Farrell's latest Mind of Mike article contains a couple very relevant bits to Michigan, so long as you can get past the opening where he seemingly takes credit for Da'Shawn Hand being 2014's #1 overall recruit:
Around last April, I tweeted that Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand was my hands-down choice for the No. 1 player in the country for the class of 2014. Since then, numerous recruiting sites have tabbed Hand as their No. 1 guy, while our first 2014 five-stars will be released next month.
I'd like to go ahead and take credit for Glenn Robinson III being very good at basketball because I'm the only one who's said that, right? Right. You owe me one, GRIII. Anyway, the word from Farrell is good on Derrick Green...
Green has listed the Ducks as one of his finalists and liked his trip to the state when he was at The Opening, but Oregon has always been a long shot in my opinion, even for an official visit.
It's unclear if Oregon will back off as part of getting [five-star RB Thomas] Tyner back in the fold or not, but it shouldn't matter -- Green isn't going there. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again -- Green appears to be the perfect fit as a Big Ten running back and with his other two favorites, Auburn and Tennessee, having coaches on very hot seats, Michigan has to be the final destination, right? It makes sense, but as we know, sometimes recruiting makes no sense.
...and Laquon Treadwell, who as it turns out had a very valid reason for not taking his official visit last weekend:
The only thing more impressive that wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell's ability on the field (and he has been playing like a five-star this season) is his consistency when it comes to not taking visits. Treadwell has now set up visits with Missouri, Ole Miss, Michigan and Oklahoma this month alone and won't make any of them.
The passing of his uncle this past weekend kept him from a big visit weekend in Ann Arbor, but I still think the Wolverines are his future home until he actually takes one of the two trips he wants to take to OU and Oklahoma State.
Hey, that sounds like good news! [EDIT: The recruiting angle, obviously, not the uncle part. Condolences to the Treadwell family for their loss.] Let's take this as further evidence to wait until the facts are in before jumping to wild conclusions after every bit of recruiting news, please.
Illinois recruiting guru Edgy Tim has more on Treadwell's future plans in the Chicago Tribune:
He most likely will make all five of his allotted official visits (Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss) after his high school season ends.
Treadwell's recruitment is far from over, obviously. He's running out of time to find a school that can make the same impression that Michigan has over six visits (plus a presumed official), however, and I'd be surprised if Michigan State is a serious contender.
[Hit THE JUMP for the world's largest high school offensive line, a 2014 recruit naming Michigan as his favorite, and more.]