Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
Play 18, +13.4%, Robinson to Roundtree for 46 on 3rd and 8
Play 73, +6.6%, Robinson scores from the 14 on 3rd and 1
Play 52, +6.3% Robinson to Hemingway for 26 on 3rd and 6
Play 46, –11.1%, Martinez to Kinnie for a 54 yard TD
Play 59, –7.6%, Brett Maher hits a 51 yard FG
Plays 54/55, –7.1%, Terrence Moore intercepts Denard (-5.1%) and returns it to the Michigan 34 (-2.0%)
It’s nice to see Denard re-claim the top 3 with both running and passing, all on big third down plays. Also good, when the second most negative play of the day was one that (at that point) was one you had no control over.
Nebraska Game Scores
Rushing: +1, not spectacular but effective
Passing: +9, second only to Northwestern, a very efficient performance
Rush defense: +2, didn’t allow Nebraska to do enough to set up the pass
Pass defense: +3, since ND, no games worse than -2
Special Team: +1, positive for the 4th straight game, even without counting the fumbles
Denard: +14 overall, +11 passing and +2 rushing, only Northwestern and ND were higher at +15
Toussaint: –3, final TD considered garbage time, would have pushed him to par
Martinez -4, +0 pass, -4 rush, his worst game of the year and first negative in the Big 10
Burkhead: +0 on his fewest carries of the year
Heisman and Award Tracking
My top 3 Heisman/QB:
1. RG3, Baylor: +3.39 WPA (2nd), +13 PAN (1st)
2. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: +3.24 (3rd), +13 (2nd)
3. Kellen Moore, Boise St.: +1.77 (24th), +11 (4th)
Denard Robinson: +2.50 (7th), +5 (28th)
Robert Griffin’s big game against Oklahoma propelled him into the number 1 spot over Russell Wilson. Case Keenum is right in the mix, as well, but Kellen Moore gets the third spot thanks to the games against Georgia and TCU. Andrew Luck remains absent based on his good but not great resume.
1. LaMichael James, Oregon: +.69 (9th), +3 (3rd)
2. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St: +.39 (24th), +3 (5th)
3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin: +.67 (10th), +3 (7th)
Trent Richardson, Aabama: +.29 (34th), +2 (11th)
Fitz Toussaint: +.22 (40th), +1 (41st)
As you can see from the magnitude of the RB numbers versus the QB numbers, I just can’t justify putting an RB on my Heisman ballot.
1. Kendall Wright, Baylor: +1.94 (4th), +9 (2nd)
2. Gerell Robinson, Arizona St: +2.47 (1st), +8 (7th)
3. Sammy Watkins, Clemson: +1.40 (12th), +8 (4th)
Sammy Watkins has slumped as the season as progressed and Gerell Robinson has come on strong of late. Justin Blackmon’s season has still been strong but nowhere near the dominance he had last year. Former Michigan opponents Jordan White and Jeremy Ebert where near contenders.
1. Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma
2. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
3. Devon Still, Penn St
1. AJ Johnson, Tennessee
2. Danny Trevathan, Kentucky
3. Johnathan Brown, Illinois
1. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
2. Antonio Allen, South Carolina
3. DeQuan Menzie, Alabama
Defensive players are rated based on how many negative EV plays they make and the magnitude of those plays. They are then divided by the number of non-garbage time plays the entire defense has faced so teams that force a lot of three and outs aren’t punished.
Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Some tough calls this week. Notre Dame and BC both punted from inside the 45 with less than 5 yards to go in the second half, twice! Even though that game was an ug-fest both coaches get awarded dumb punt of the week.
Normally, I would have given the award to Mack Brown at Texas for punting from the 45 on 4th and 5 down 7 in the fourth quarter to Kansas St, but when your defense only gives up 120 yards for the game there is a defensible case for it.
The Game Preview
My son just turned three and he is starting to watch a little bit of football now. He always wears his jersey and says “Go Michigan” and asks every morning if today is a football day. I started getting nervous a couple weeks ago when watching other games he started telling me “I like the red team” for any team with red uniforms. This could not stand. So I started telling him that the red team was bad and he like Michigan. Yesterday I gave him a test and asked him if he liked Michigan or the red team, he yelled “Michigan!” and then told me, unprompted, that the red team is sad. I hope he is right, they deserve to be very, very sad.
PAN, National Rank (leader), B1G Rank (leader)
Michigan: +4, 10th (Georgia Tech), 2nd (Wisconsin)
vs Ohio D: +1, 38th, 6th
Michigan: +2, 41st (Boise St), 5th (Wisconsin)
vs Ohio D: +4, 15th, 3rd
Michigan: +2, 25th (Alabama), 4th (Illinois)
vs Ohio O: +1, 34th, 4th
Michigan: +2, 36th (Oklahoma St), 6th (Penn St)
vs Ohio O: –4, 109th, 12th
Michigan: +0, 74th (Florida St), 8th (Purdue)
Ohio: +2, 23rd, 3rd
A one-dimensional offense against Greg Mattison, yes please. Limit the turnovers and don’t allow any big special teams plays and I think the streak is over. Michigan 28-20
(Compare to yesterday's)
We're talking about these seniors. Yesterday was the Class of '08 plus Grady, players who either committed to Rodriguez or at least had time to break their commitments to Michigan after the coaching change. The level of commitment to the program by those guys may have been unparalleled in Michigan history but for some of their fellow seniors from the Class of 2007. This is Part II. It's running long still and I have family in town so the last four guys will have to be a Part III. Anyway, 2007…
This class committed to 'Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan' while the Wolverines were riding the best defense in the country to 3 points shy of playing for the National Championship. Their careers began by watching, redshirted, as The Horror obliterated every shred of mysticism the program had, yet they stuck by Michigan. They stuck by Michigan when their coaches and systems were replaced, stuck by Michigan when outsiders trashed the program and some insiders were actively trying to sabotage it. They stuck by coaches they hadn't chosen, right up until those coaches were shown the door. Then they met with their teammates, told their story, and made sure that when another staff came through the door, everyone would stick by Michigan.
It would be ungracious to not mention some of their classmates who stayed until their health or eligibility ran out: Renaldo Sagesse, a bonhomme Quebecois and one-time 20-year-old freshman. Secret weapon Martell Webb, a blocking tight end whose great contributions to the 2010 offense went largely unremarked. Michael Williams, maligned in these parts as only bad underclassman free safeties can be, who had to choose between the best years of his football career or having a functional brain the rest of his life. And James Rogers, a positional vagabond who finally went wherever he was very needed indeed. And some of the walk-ons like John McColgan, Jered van Slyke, Zac Johnson, Tony Anderson, and Tom Pomarico who've had to earn their roster spots (and some, scholarships) from three different coaching staffs. What follows is the story of eight more guys like that, again in reverse order of length of commitment.
Will Heininger had a story written about him once in the Daily by the inimitable Joe Stapleton. Will was the kid in Michigan gear who became the teenager who knew more about the team than the lifer sitting next to him, who gave up a likely career in baseball to walk on to the team of his dreams. As a redshirt sophomore Heininger beat out scholarship upperclassmen like Sagesse, Greg Banks and Adam Patterson to be the first guy rotated in when Brandon Graham needed a breather. With Graham in the NFL a 2010 starter role was in his grasp, but then Heininger tore his ACL at the end of Spring Practice. He missed the first 10 games of the season, but fought his way back on the field, albeit not yet fully back to form, for Wisconsin, Ohio State and the Gator Bowl.
Finally this year he earned the starting job as a utility D-lineman, over guys like Jibreel Black and Will Campbell. While doing all of this Heininger has been named Academic All-Big Ten every year since '08, and has been nominated for his third Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award.
My Papi, my grandpa, I like to have his initials or his name somewhere on me. My tape, or something like that, during the game to see him always …He’s from Columbus, but he’s a Michigan Man. He’s the biggest influence on my life and he passed just this past spring. He’s a great man and he’s part of the reason I’m here. He’s always out there watching over me."
Brandon Herron was a project*, a Texas (same school as TWoolf) kid built like a safety who played defensive end and projected as a linebacker. He had good athleticism but was consistently listed as something less than 200 which your mind rounds up to 200. He was raaaaaaww.
Raw freshman often don't pan out even if they're recruited by a competent coach for their specific skillset, and that coach then spends five years drilling a single system into the player's brain. Herron didn't have that; he was an afterthought classmate-of-a-recruit body in a "NEED LINEBACKERS LIKE WHOA" class, given first to Steve Szabo (the guy who spoke for Carr's assistants in Bacon's book, now EMU's LB coach), then to Jay Hopson, then to GERG. Other than an ankle injury for a chunk of 2010 his career was a lot of "contributed on special teams."
Herron kept plugging along, even when his name hardly popped up in the carousel of "Which weakside linebacker impressed Mattison today?" of this spring and fall camps. Then on Opening Day 2011 versus WMU he was suddenly the starter and proceeded to score two defensive touchdowns (one a 94-yarder that still stands as the most significant swing play of the year). Those won him a handful of national defensive player of the week awards (UFR of that game revealed his play was really just so-so). Then he got hurt, and fell back behind Hawthorne and the freshmen and his career was cooked.
When Kovacs sacked the quarterback and he forced the fumble, we saw something in the offense so we made a check, which led me to come off the edge so it opened up a hole for him to get through. [The WMU OT] he kind of brushed me off, he didn't really pick me up, so I just kind of went around, then [breaks into huge smile] heard the hit, saw the hit, and saw the ball on the ground, and just went out there, and next thing you know I'm running towards the end zone.
*BONUS: The 'Hello:' article for Herron has their coach saying "I really believe he's a safety" about Woolfolk, and Brian saying 'not gonna happen.' Oh hindsight.
When Coaching Change the First happened, the offensive line was already one year into transitioning from MANBALL blocking to zone. The tackles were senior All Everything Jake Long, Mt. Alex Mitchell, and a collection of eh man-blocking dudes. Redshirting was one of just two offensive linemen (and sole tackle) recruited in 2007, and to be honest the 6'6, 280, two-star obscure guy whose next-best offer was Ball State was more someone's backup plan than a system diamond they'd uncovered. So came Mark Huyge. Brian wrote him off as "Unlikely to ever play extensively."
Huyge sat buried on the depth chart for a few years grumbling about having to puke for Barwis instead of down pizzas for Gittleson, took some padded LSA classes with some of the other dissatisfied guys from the Lloyd era, then watched as successive RR jackrabbits displaced him and finally transferred to Someplace Division II College Tech. That's about how it went, right Mark?
Well, he could have done that. What Huyge did do was embrace the new staff, lifted his way up the depth chart against established returning starters, and by 2009 was Schofielding his way into whatever guard or tackle spot was available. Every time a guy like Omameh in '09, Lewan in '10, or Schofield in '11 emerged to finally displace him, Huyge would manage to either fend that guy off, or pop up to displace the next weakest starter on the line. He's never been spectacular, never threw a safety into Manti Te'o or killed a donkey, but he's been in there, so much now that when he's not there next year I'll be sorely missing him.
Had Michigan got any of the OTs they were after in '07, Huyge would probably have committed to Brady Hoke, then seen Hoke take off for SD State. So when the old staff entered and the new one came, Huyge 'grabbed the helm' as a senior leader and oft team spokesman. He was one of the seniors who organized the "don't anybody bail on your teammates" meetings that held the players together in the darkest days of last winter.
Oh and somewhere in there Huyge also managed to take a thousand bus trips up to North Campus; he'll walk in December with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, then marry his fiancee. That must have been what the second star from Scout was for.
“It’s going to be a big one next week. We’ll enjoy this one for a little bit, but the whole emphasis starting back in January when these guys got here was this game coming up. We’ll be really looking forward to them, and we’ll be ready.”
Tomorrow (sorry it's taking so long): Hemingway, Molk, Watson, Woolfolk, RVB.
Programming note: Tomorrow will be somewhat lighter than usual but the Game waits for no man, so expect a UFR, an interview with Laquon Treadwell, and probably a UV type thing, along with Midweek Metrics. The timing of these things may be all wacky because of family obligations but UFR should be up relatively early. Recruitin' hits Friday.
Formation notes: The usual 4-3 under against plays with two guys blocking in the backfield and nickel against one or zero. They had a couple snaps in what looks like a 3-4:
This only came out a couple times and may just be a tweak to get the WDE in a pass drop. They didn't passively two-gap anything.
As for Nebraska, they spent some time in the shotgun above, ran a lot of pistol…
…and on their late touchdown drive they ran some I form pitches and broke out the flexbone:
Gratuitous okie shot:
Top to bottom: Kovacs, Martin, Van Bergen, Morgan, Roh, Demens, Ryan.
Substitution notes: Michigan is all but settled. Secondary is Countess/Floyd/Kovacs/Woolfolk with Avery coming in for nickel plays and Gordon subbing in for Woolfolk from time to time. Kovacs missed the rest of a drive after his immensely fake injury; Gordon came in for that as well.
At linebacker, Demens, Morgan, Ryan 95% of the time with occasional snaps for Brennen Beyer spotting Ryan.
On the line, RVB, Heininger, Martin, Roh most of the time with scattered snaps for Black and Campbell. Brink had a very brief cameo; when they got to the nickel they lift Heininger and put Ryan's hand down.
Last year this section would be discussing the 16 position changes made at midseason.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O40||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Roh||5|
|Roh(-0.5) isn't far enough upfield on this to prevent a keeper from being a good choice so Martinez pulls and heads for the sideline. He's not going Clark here—he does run out on the edge—but he could have done better. Floyd(+0.5) comes up quickly to escort OOB after a modest gain. He didn't have to beat a block because the WR was anticipating the inside zone.|
|O45||2||5||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||-5|
|Ryan(+1) on the edge here. He does a good job of getting width and forming up on the LOS, forcing a pitch that Gordon(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) seem to have contained w/ some help from Countess. We don't find out because the pitch is crappy and fumbled. Demens(-1) got cut to the ground alarmingly.|
|O40||3||10||Pistol trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Comeback||Floyd||Inc|
|M flips Ryan and Martin and then backs Ryan out into a spy zone. Martin is one on one with the LT and gets decent pressure; Martinez throws. Floyd(+2, cover +2) is step for step with the WR and has as good of a chance to catch it as his opponent, but it's not well thrown and hits the ground.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O9||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||11|
|Ryan(-1) is in better position than Roh and is a bit faster on the edge and so almost tracks Martinez down before he can get to the LOS but stumbles a bit. Floyd(-1) has a tough job but ends up sitting a few yards downfield with a WR trying to block him; his move to tackle is late and futile. Could have shot upfield to force it back to Ryan. Martinez is on the sideline and picks up a first down.|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||-3|
|Second TE is an an H-back spot over the strongside tackle. Martin(+3) annihilates the center and eats Burkhead in the backfield; RVB(+1) had beaten a block by sliding inside and was there to help clean up; Demens(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) also slid past blocks to make this a gang tackle in the backfield. RPS +2; Mattison got all the backfields. Worthy of screenshotting at BWS.|
|O17||2||13||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||5||Quick out||Countess||5|
|Mattison sends five, dropping Ryan into a short zone and sending Morgan hash to hash as Demens(+0.5) and Avery(+0.5) come. They time it well and get in on Martinez(pressure +1), forcing a quick throw that Countess(+1, cover +1) is there to tackle on. RPS +1.|
|Roh gets a free run but forms up, afraid of overruning Martinez and opening up a scramble. Not sure how I feel about that. Martin(+0.5) is coming around to hit from behind as Roh decides to close; Martinez still gets the ball off without issue. It's a seam to a TE lined up in the slot that Demens(+2, cover +2) is running step-for-step with. He never gets his head around but when the receiver goes for the ball he gets his arm in the dude's chest and breaks it up. Example of NOBODY CARES coverage tech. RPS +1.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Pin and pull zone||Morgan||8|
|Heininger(+1) and Roh(+1) do a great job of slanting outside their guys and absorbing the two pullers. Burkhead has to cut back, which he can do because Martin(-1) got sliced to the ground a la Campbell, Morgan(-2) overran the play, and Demens(-1) ate a block well downfield. Morgan is running free here and should chop this down at the line even with the two guys who got blocked; instead this is a good gain.|
|O43||2||2||Ace 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||3|
|Martin(+0.5) beats his man to the inside and threatens to tackle for loss. RVB manages to fight through a double and falls at the feet of the RB, causing him to leap; Morgan(+1) takes on a block and comes through it to tackle the leaping Burkhead. He still picks up the first, but good play from Michigan. If RVB can keep his feet this is a minimal gain.|
|O46||1||10||Pistol Diamond||4-4 nickel||Pass||N/A||PA post||Gordon||54|
|M very confused, w/ motion up to and including the snap. Avery in the box functioning as a sort of playside LB. UNL goes with the same sweep fake Blue Seoul picked out in their game against OSU and sucks the linebackers up. Floyd(-3) is beaten and tries to tackle the WR; Thomas Gordon(-3, cover -5) sucks up way, way too much and we've got a Worst Waldo situation on our hands. Gordon and Countess wiping each other out is very yakety sax but ultimately irrelevant; this guy wasn't getting caught. RPS –1… Michigan got beat here but there was a deep safety on the play who biffed. Not really on the coordination.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-7, 1 min 1st Q. Denard screen INT sets up next drive.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Martin||-5|
|Mike Martin(+3), who is the nose tackle—THE NOSE TACKLE—forces a pitch on the speed option. He leaves the backside guard in a crumpled heap as he does so. Demens(+1) is flowing hard from the inside and Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) beats the WR to the outside. Burkhead has no choice but to try to bounce it. Kovacs puts him down.|
|M39||2||15||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Tunnel screen||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) leaps to bat it down. Roh(+1, cover +1) had dropped off and impeded the WR so this was either incomplete or dead anyway. RPS +1.|
|M39||3||15||Shotgun empty||Okie||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Demens||5|
|Demens(+1, tackling +1) and Martin(+1) combine to tackle here; Demens was dropping into a convenient short zone and Martin peeled back from pure pass rush.|
|Drive Notes: FG(52), 10-10, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O18||1||10||Pistol offset||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Kovacs||16|
|FB and TE in this pistol set. Kovacs rolls down late and Nebraska does what I've always wanted M to do: FB comes down like he's going to attempt to kick out the DE. Black forms up to take the hit, expecting that he will have to get the backside gap on a handoff while Kovacs takes the QB. FB then jukes outside and gets a great block in space on Kovacs, opening up the edge. Martinez gets the edge and a big gain until Floyd vaguely forces him OOB. RPS -2; opposite of a Zook RPS. I do need to minus Kovacs(-1) for getting thoroughly owned on the block. Picture paged.|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Countess||23|
|Roh does a mediocre job of stringing this out but it's not too bad. Morgan flows out hard and while he gets chopped he drew the attention of a blocker and this allows Gordon a free run at the ballcarrier. Unfortunately Countess(-3) executes the cardinal sin, losing leverage and letting the guy outside. There is a bit of a hold here; it shouldn't have to come to that. That turns the play from a decent 4-6 yard gain, assuming a Gordon tackle, into a big play.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Down G||Beyer||0 (Pen -10)|
|Unbalanced. Total OL ownage by the DL. Beyer(+2) gets into his blocker in a good position, causing the pulling G to run into his block. RVB(+1) comes under his blocker and takes out the fullback. Martin(+1) destroys the C and flows. Burkhead has to bounce; an unblocked Demens(+1) scrapes and flows to tackle for nothing. Beyer's guy picks up a holding call to compound matters.|
|O47||1||20||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Ryan||-7|
|Ryan(+2) sets up on the edge well; Martinez makes a mistake by pulling. Even so he seems shocked by Ryan's upfield acceleration. Ryan tackles five yards in the backfield... Martinez escapes. He's still doomed. Martin(+0.5), Gordon(+0.5), and Avery(+0.5) are the effective pursuit. The missed tackle actually costs Nebraska two yards. (No minuses for missed tackle attempts that effectively end plays.)|
|O40||2||27||Pistol 2TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Ryan||2|
|Martinez with good time; he goes to two reads and finds nothing (cover +2, pressure- 1). At this point he bugs out; Ryan(+1) comes off a block to tackle just as he passes the LOS.|
|O42||3||25||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Scramble||Martin||6|
|First read not there; not really enough time to get the necessary depth by the time Roh(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) flush Martinez. He scrambles, which like whatever. Demens(+1, tackling +1) does a good job to cut his gain down in space. (Cover +1, Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 3 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE out||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +2) through the line instantly, forcing a quick throw. He's got a TE in front of Demens for a modest gain; dropped. Coverage push. Decent coverage on a short route.|
|This is a pass but Martinez bugs out immediately, scared of the pressure. Kovacs comes up to shove him out after a modest gain. RPS +1 for Martinez happy feet.|
|This is the same blitz that Kovacs annihilated Alex Carder on in the first game of the year but Ryan(-1) screws it up by not ducking inside a la Kovacs. This gives Martinez a couple seconds when he should rightly be taking a helmet to his chest. Coverage(+2) is good, at which point the unblocked dude is relevant even if he took a crappy path(pressure +1) and Martinez bugs out into the arms of RVB(+1). RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 1 min 2nd Q. This first half is the long touchdown, one good RPS play, a freshman screwup, and jack else.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-4 base||Run||N/A||IVSO||Gordon||9|
|IVSO = inverted veer speed option. Nebraska runs the veer; Martinez keeps and Burkhead gets in a pitch relationship. Martinez heads to the line where Demens(+1) takes on a lead blocker and is reaching out to tackle along with Martin(+1) who did his usual jet through the line. Morgan(-0.5) reads it late and Gordon(-1) sucks in when he needs to have the pitchman. This is a Cool Play and therefore that is a little less harsh than I would otherwise be; Michigan does have this on film so it shouldn't be a total mystery. Beyer(-1) also could have helped out on the pitchman instead of sucking in. RPS -1.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer give||Demens||16|
|Campbell in for Martin. Nebraska runs the veer at a two WR side and there is no contain, so give. RVB is optioned off. Now four blockers on three M defenders. Ryan(+0.5) does a good job of getting the edge, pushing his man back and forcing the play inside the hashes. Demens(-2) is cut to the ground way too easily; Abdullah is breaking past the secondary and threatening a big gainer one on one with Floyd when Kovacs manages to ankle tackle him. RPS -2; Nebraska attacked the perimeter here and by optioning RVB got a big numbers advantage.|
|O45||1||10||Pistol offset||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone read belly||Morgan||4|
|Inside zone blocking with the FB headed to the back. Morgan(+1) makes a good read this time and cuts backside to tackle; Gordon was creeping down and is also there. Burkhead gets a couple YAC.|
|O49||2||6||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer keeper||Martin||0|
|Two playside DL are slanting outside so Martinez keeps. This looks pretty dangerous as Demens is left backside and gets swallowed on the second level but Heininger(+1) gets sufficient penetration to narrow the lane here and Martin(+2) beats the center and flows down the line to nail Martinez at the LOS. Morgan(+0.5) had gotten outside his blocker and may have been some help; he got held but it wasn't relevant at that point.|
|O49||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||1|
|Nebraska had it big time as M has three guys to one side and just one to the left of the center. That's three free blockers against air. Martinez inexplicably runs to the side where RVB and Martin are to get tackled. Let off. Martin(+0.5), RVB(+0.5), I guess. RPS -1. Hypothetical Nebraska UFR just gave Martinez -3.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-10, 8 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer keeper||Van Bergen||1|
|Martinez keeps when he should give; there is no contain up the field and Abdullah will be running at blocked guys on the edge. As a result, RVB(+0.5) gets inside and forces Martinez away from his blocking, as he alters the pulling G's path. This makes him useless and gives Demens(+0.5) a free run. Martin(+1) has beaten a block and also enters the picture; Ryan(+1) blew the slot receiver up with an explosive burst and there are four guys converging on Martinez at the LOS.|
|O27||2||9||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Martinez is a little late here and the ball gets out as the WR is turning. He's got a crap arm so the ball floats, allowing Floyd(+2, cover +2) to jump it. It's two yards short of the WR or this is a pick six. Floyd tries to dig it out; he cannot. Normally I would give a jump like this three but this was easy pickings.|
|O27||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie||Pass||4||Skinny post||Avery||Inc|
|Martinez has time but happy feet also; he starts scrambling up in the pocket despite decent blocking. RVB comes off a blocker to force a throw, which is to a post route Avery(+2, cover +2) has dropped right into. He's in the WR's chest as the ball arrives; WR awkwardly backs off and bats the ball skyward; it falls incomplete. RPS +1; no routes open.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 4 min 3rd Q. Bad punt and good return sets the next drive up deep in M territory.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA seam||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Time(pressure -1); Martinez throws too early to a guy who Woolfolk(+2, cover +2) has blanketed; Woolfolk bats it down.|
|M31||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-4 base||Pass||4||PA improv||Martin||12|
|Play action inverted veer catches M slanting away from the play and is either a brilliant call based on inside knowledge or damn lucky. Either way, Campbell(+1) and Martin(+1) slant through the OL and force Martinez to scramble. As he nears the sideline he chucks a ball you're certain is doomed that a WR plucks out of the air on the sideline. Well played? I guess. If they're going to do this, fine. Pressure +1.|
|M19||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Morgan||7|
|Roh(+1) doesn't get sealed; he flows out onto the edge with his blocker and drives him back, picking off the fullback. Kovacs(+0.5) is the outside guy and he maintains leverage inside the numbers, forcing Burkhead into a narrow crevice without a lead blocker. Morgan(-2) has no job but to flow to this (on a pitch) and has help behind him; he slows, actually briefly stops, and by the time he resumes his path outside he's too late to crush Burkhead at the LOS like he should. Floyd(-0.5) comes up and makes a dodgy ankle tackle that gives Burkhead a few extra yards.|
|M12||2||3||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Kovacs||2|
|Beyer/Ryan package. Looks like the exact same play but it develops differently; RB just runs into the back of blockers this time instead of trying to get to the edge. Beyer(-0.5) is cut to the ground on the edge; he does contain. Morgan(-1) is again late in case there's a cutback when the entire defense is behind him, which gives Nebraska some yards despite the lack of a FB again; Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) thunders down into the hole and crunches Burkhead after two yards, setting up third and short.|
|M10||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Down G pitch||Kovacs||2|
|Seems to want to go inside since the FB does, taking out Morgan. Burkhead doesn't like that pile at the LOS and bounces outside since Beyer(-1) gives up the edge. He gets in the backfield but he does not maintain outside leverage. Bounce available and taken; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) again shoots down to the LOS at great speed to tackle, but he can't prevent the first.|
|M8||1||G||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Outside toss||Beyer||5|
|One of the flexbacks goes in the looping motion flexbacks do and takes an outside toss pitch. Gordon(+0.5) keeps the edge well; Beyer(-1) is chopped to the ground by a WR. Demens(-1) took a block and got blown into the endzone; this would near the goal line but for the pursuit of Martin(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5).|
|M3||2||G||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inverted veer triple pitch||--||3|
|Tip of the hat. RPS -1. Picture paged at BWS, because someone had to do it.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-17, 1 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Demens||7|
|In front of Demens(-0.5, cover -1); WR falls down or would have a YAC opportunity.|
|O32||2||3||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Morgan||-1|
|Mild zone blitz sees Roh drop off and Morgan(+2, pressure +2) sent. Morgan does not get a free run; he gets the RB blocking him. He deftly steps around and threatens to sack, forcing Martinez up into the pocket, where Ryan(+1) peels off a block and steps up to sack.|
|O33||3||4||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Demens||-1|
|Zone blitz is picked up; Martinez has happy feet again and scrambles into Demens(+1) and Ryan(+2), the latter of whom rakes the ball out for Michigan to fall on.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 38-17, 7 min 4th Q. Michigan scores on the next play and it's garbage time. Charting stops. The starting D does get the next drive but Taylor Martinez forced to throw is bloodsport, not useful.|
So… this happened two weeks in a row. Something approximating total domination.
It did. It's almost as if one-dimensional teams who can't throw and only have one receiver, if that, are totally screwed against this defense.
Does this remind you of anyone?
Was it as dominating as it seemed?
Almost. When Nebraska picked up yards I found myself not irritated with players or frustrated with the defense's playcalling but, well, like this.
I was annoyed because WTF was that? About half of the negative RPS points in this game I'm not even mad about. When that wasn't happening Michigan was strangling them.
The one issue that may have made things look a little better than they were were Taylor Martinez errors—give or keep, run into Martin and Van Bergen or away. Nebraska had some openings they failed to take advantage of. But not many.
So are we legit? Legitimately legit?
I still have a slight fear of what happens in the event Michigan goes up against a truly good offense. I don't see any of them on the schedule save Notre Dame, against whom Michigan struggled. Iowa is okay, MSU is okay, Nebraska is okay.
But dang, man, put them up against anything short of excellent and you're dead meat. Some of the issues from earlier in the season may be an effect of not having Mike Martin performing at an insane level.
Insane level you say?
You have to see this—
Note that a paucity of plays charted—only 40—means you should multiply numbers by about 1.5 to get an average day's work. I am going to work on something that fixes this variability for next year.
|Van Bergen||5.5||-||5.5||The usual production adjusted for time on field.|
|Martin||18||1||17||No foolies. I mean, the guy forced a pitch on a speed option.|
|Roh||3.5||0.5||3||Didn't get much action his way and is frequent dropper in blitz packages.|
|Heininger||2.5||-||2.5||Has established himself an asset.|
|Clark||-||-||-||Garbage time only.|
|Black||-||-||-||Don't blame him for the Martinez run.|
|Campbell||1||-||1||Also crushed face.|
|Morgan||4.5||5.5||-1||Still a bit slow reading plays.|
|Demens||9.5||5.5||4||Three straight +4s. Surprisingly good in coverage for MLB.|
|Ryan||8.5||2||6.5||First real impact game.|
|Beyer||2||3.5||-1.5||Nebraska went after him in the 4-4 package and got rewarded.|
|TOTAL||24.5||16.5||8||Improvement here is palpable from beginning of year.|
|Floyd||4.5||4.5||0||Two route jumps, one big error.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Excellent coverage on a post.|
|Woolfolk||2||-||2||Joined PBU party.|
|Kovacs||6||1||5||Some excellent tackling.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||4||-2.5||As guilty, potentially moreso, as Floyd on the long TD.|
|Countess||1||3||-2||Lost leverage on big run.|
|Van Slyke||-||-||-||Garbage time.|
|TOTAL||18||12.5||5.5||Check the coverage.|
|Pressure||9||2||7||Doesn't even count lets kill Martinez time|
|Tackling||5||-||100%||I can't even remember a broken tackle.|
|RPS||9||8||1||Ain't even mad.|
So you're probably like "LOL WUT MIKE MARTIN" and yeah. I cannot emphasize enough that he forced a pitch on a speed option. I don't… I…
…I mean… how does that even happen? Just look at the crumpled heap the backside G is in.
I should have checked whether the above statement is the literal truth or not. Martin's day is in the UFR hall of fame.
Jake Ryan candle count?
Getting up there. If 16 is the maximum number of candles Jake Ryan can have I'd say he's gone from a 4 or 5 early in the year to 10 around now. He's already made about as much improvement as he will over the rest of his career. This does not mean he's going to top out at not awesome. When Taylor Martinez pulled on first and 20 late in the first half Ryan had sucked in a bit and you could make a case he made the right read, especially with a WR forming up for a pitch relationship outside.
Then Ryan leapt on his face.
That is great technique combined with great athleticism. He even cleverly misses the tackle to induce Martinez to give up another two yards. ("All in the game," he tells Martinez afterwards.)
Ryan with another couple candles is All Big Ten.
Did we all get too excited about Floyd last week?
Maybe a little but I'm not that down on the guy when he jumps two different routes in the same game, one of which would have been a pick six if Martinez throws it well, even if he did get sucked up on play action and help give up the long one.
Yeah, help. IME, Thomas Gordon is as much or more at fault since he is in a deep centerfield role and biffs hard.
That is not cover zero. Watch Countess on the other side of the field give up inside position on the post; he expects deep help and has none because Gordon's gone. If Gordon does not bite harrrrrrrrd on the play action this is much more difficult and possibly not a touchdown even if complete. Floyd blew it; Gordon blew it harder.
Anyway, Floyd isn't perfect. One big mistake in 11 games makes him good, though.
[SIDE NOTE: apparently Worst Waldo has not entered the vernacular here yet. An explanation: a Worst Waldo play is one like the above on which the receiver is the worst Waldo ever because he's the only one in the frame (or at least would be if the throw was any good). Some receivers, like Manningham, can generate these on their own. Usually it's the effect of a bust or a secondary overreacting to play action.]
What of Morgan?
Morgan is about where Ryan was halfway through the season. This makes sense because he's had about half the playing time and was reportedly laid up with a nagging injury of some variety. As a result he's still missing some plays available. When Nebraska started their pitch series on their final touchdown drive Michigan had the first one thumped but for #44:
While he's clearly getting better, linebacker hesitancy remains an issue with the D that may bite them if they ever face a team that can throw again.
By the way, the back to back pitches here are a great way to contrast the fill skills of Floyd (above) and Kovacs:
Floyd is bad, Kovacs elite.
What's the point of those wacky pass defense formations that have Martin as a quasi-linebacker?
I was wondering this myself, and then the answer came to me when Nebraska decided they would
get Martinez killed try to make the score look nicer. When he is a delayed blitzer many teams will treat him like a linebacker, which means deploying the running back to block him. Here's how well that works:
This is also a reason Michigan's okie package flares him outside the tackle, I'm guessing.
Martin. The secondary as a whole except for that one play—take out the cover –5 on that one and the day is 17 to 1 positive, which is nuts. Ryan, RVB… take your pick, really.
Floyd, sort of, and Thomas Gordon. Basically for that one play.
What does it mean for the Game?
Michigan's tackling in space will get a test against Miller, who's liable to say "eff it" and do whatever he wants as soon as his first option is not there. What's more, Michigan's defensive line is going to see their level of competition take a big step forward.
I know OSU fans just grunted derisively at this statement, but it's true. When not snapping it into his ass, Mike Brewster is an NFL prospect at center worlds better than the fools Martin has been pwning the last three weeks. Ohio State has shown it can move guys off the ball with frustrating regularity and we may see our Will Heininger renaissance disappear into some frustrating Dave playcalls. Michigan's linebackers have been iffy at getting off blocks and will continue to be iffy this weekend.
In the air? If Posey doesn't blow up they aren't moving the ball except in erratic chunks that won't make drives. Michigan's blitz packages seem like a perfect fit here; if Miller gets spooked and scrambles there are usually seven guys in coverage. Michigan can go with a delayed blitz/spy package without making too many compromises downfield.
OSU's not going to get crushed like the last two opponents. It is not possible. They are going to have a hard time moving down the field without hitting big plays, of which there will be a couple. Miller's a scary dude like that and Posey may provide some deep passing OSU has not had to date.
After the biff by Gordon on the deep pass I'm not sure I'm totally comfortable with him in that role. Woolfolk may be less prone to breaking down and I expect to see him most of the day. Kovacs will be roving around the box for 60 minutes.
News bullets and other important things:
- Brennen Beyer is the only major injury the team is dealing with. He hurt his leg.
- Barnum is practicing, will get consideration to start.
From file, just to spice things up. Still can't believe this game happened.
“This is a great week to follow college football. Obviously with this game, I thought we had a very good practice yesterday. Hopefully we can follow that up today with our preparation. Our seniors have done a tremendous job with really the focus and the things that we need to do as a team and being the leaders out there, so it’s been good so far this week, and we just have a lot of work ahead of us.”
You say the focus was up. Has the focus gone to another level this week?
“You know, I think there’s been a lot of consistency, which is what we want to have a on weekly basis. I can’t tell you if it’s up more, but I think they understand how fun this game is.”
Do you feel like they’re focused on the fun and opportunity rather than the pressure and stakes?
“I think the consistency that we’ve had week to week, I think that the intensity of it and doing all those things has been good. I think they’ve been pretty focused on it.”
“This group doesn’t get tight very often.”
(more after the jump)
If you're like me, there was a point late in the first half of the Nebraska game where you went "argh Jibreel Black" because Taylor Martinez burst outside for a big gain. After last week, when Nathan Scheelhaase got a couple of big runs because the backside end was unfamiliar with the concept of the zone read, this was a natural reaction.
A closer view shows Black was duped, but understandably so.
It's first and ten for the Huskers on the first play of their fourth drive; They come out in a pistol formation with an H-back and two WRs. Michigan is in their usual under. They've got a lot of backups in: Black, Campbell, and Beyer are three of the five folk on the line. Black is to the top of the screen.
On the snap Nebraska runs a pistol version of Michigan's staple play (this week, anyway): the belly. On the belly an H-back or FB will shoot into the backside end and the opponent will try to attack the weak spot caused in the backside of the line.
Michigan's LBs are prepared, attacking backside, and Kovacs has walked down to provide an eighth guy in the box.
The eighth guy is usually the solution to bounce issues; here having Kovacs behind him allows Black to shuffle down the line in preparation for this very play.
Except… what if you told your fullback to read the play too?
This is the frame were thing start going wrong. The fullback has convinced Black he needs to squeeze this space down, and now he's juking outside after Black has gotten set to take him on.
Now there are problems. Black has just realized Martinez has the ball. He's inside the tackle box a yard upfield. Meanwhile, the fullback has released outside to get the contain guy.
Because this is Taylor Martinez versus a defensive end the corner will be achieved. Kovacs takes the blocker on, but this is Kovacs kryptonite. Dude runs at your face in space. Block him and he gets put on skates.
Kovacs does not have a real good time here as he ends up giving up leverage eight yards downfield. Floyd is late arriving because he is in man coverage over a guy going deep and has a 54-yard pass in the back of his head.
I don't think the linebackers did a stellar job here—there are a couple of frames where they can reach out and touch each other—but when the ball goes outside the numbers behind a blocker they aren't doing much no matter how well they play.
Martinez jets down the sidelines, where he's barely forced by Floyd.
Nebraska would get outside on the next play for 23 yards before a holding call and Jake Ryan stunning Martinez with his acceleration put Nebraska in a big hole; they would punt on fourth and forever.
Items of interest
This could just be a playcall but I think it's a read. Nebraska's offensive coordinator is a mad scientist tinkerer who pulls out inverted veer triple options and inverted veer to speed options and it's not like Nebraska can possibly be doing anything else in practice other than relentlessly repping the option game. So I think this is not an out and out call but the fullback and the quarterback both reading the DE doing his shuffle down the line and punishing him for it.
So… yeah, this isn't on Black. Black was optioned off by a clever play requiring coordination between multiple readers and would have been wrong no matter what. Kovacs rolling down to the outside should free him to defend the belly, which Black does until it's clear he's in trouble.
If Black goes outside Burkhead's roaring upfield with Kovacs pulled outside. That is much worse news than what actually happened.
Kovacs gets owned. Not to be too hard on him because like some of the other stuff Nebraska pulled out of their bag of tricks this is a situation where you're caught off guard by the play developing in front of you. Martinez pulls, and the thought process goes:
Okay: I have to get infield to cut off cutbacks and then if he tries to bounce I will use KOVACSPOWER to tackle him in the open field.
But then it goes:
What's this? A blocker? My one weakness! Nooooooooooo…
This happened with some frequency last year when Kovacs was rolled up to the line more frequently. Some fullback or OL would latch on and then just donkey him off the field. This is not a huge problem for a safety—it's much more important to be able to run at guys full speed without ever missing a tackle—but I don't think anyone was surprised when this scenario on the edge went poorly.
Confusing the hell out of Michigan was the only way Nebraska moved the ball. Nebraska got Michigan misaligned here and there, caught guys off guard here and there, and burned JT Floyd (and Thomas Gordon) on play action. Other than that they got almost literally nothing. Michigan destroyed them up front.
Yes, I did exhale "finally" when this happened. I have been pining for this play since about two seconds after the UConn game started. It seems evil, unfair. So why didn't Nebraska run it again? I don't know. Maybe they didn't have an opportunity what with the fumbles and Mike Martin destroying stuff before they could get back to it.
Michigan's been running a lot of blocking schemes like this and it never seems like the QB and TE/FB are on the same page. When we do get a shuffle scheme with linebacker contain and Koger moves to the second level to block, Denard biffs it. Other times a slot LB gets sent and Koger goes upfield to block the guy who is containing the handoff.
O let do it. Nevermind. Need to rep it.
Nebraska's offense might ignite at some point in the next couple years. Martinez is a sophomore and has a couple more years to get better at his reads, and you can see pieces here and there of an offense that makes you wrong even in the world of scrape exchanges and whatnot.
I'm not saying it will happen. Their offensive line will have to get a ton better if they're going to get away with Martinez's arm. But if they get the blocking taken care of and maybe find a wide receiver who's not a liability, I can see Nebraska turning into an offense you loathe playing.
Please tackle better than this, thanks. (Photo credit: Eric Francis/Getty Images)
On Saturday, Michigan plays a 6-5 team coming off two straight losses—one to Purdue, of all teams—that can barely complete a forward pass and is already ironing out contract details with their next head coach. In a world where I maintained my knowledge of college football but had entirely ignored the happenings of the past year, I'd guess Michigan was facing bizarro Northwestern, but these are your 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Thank you, Terrelle Pryor.
In a scenario nobody saw coming before Tat-gate, and really not even then, Michigan is the team entering the final week of the regular season with a great shot at a BCS bowl while OSU is content to play the spoiler while hoping for a brighter future. This week's FFFF looks at Ohio State's 20-14 loss to Penn State, a game that had me asleep on my living room couch early in the third quarter. Big Ten football: Taste the excitement!
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Hybrid. Ohio State mainly uses the I-form, especially on early downs, but will also throw in a fair amount of the pistol as well as the shotgun, though they often keep fullback Zach Boren in the game and have two backs flanking Braxton Miller in the gun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Ohio State runs all the time—Miller's two highest number of pass attempts (18 and 17) have come during comeback efforts in the last two weeks, and otherwise his season-high is 13 back against Colorado—which may have you thinking MANBALL, but they're zone blockers. You'll see the occasional pulling guard and some QB power, but mostly they let Miller and Herron pick a hole and go.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Miller has turned in three 100+ yard efforts in the last four weeks (sacks excluded), and has really become the most dangerous rushing threat on the OSU offense. He's clearly still a freshman and will make some bad reads, but he has deceptively good speed, solid power, and great change-of-direction skills. His freewheeling style born of inexperience, while sometimes detrimental, also makes him largely unpredictable and can be an advantage, as you'll see later. I have no choice but to give him a 9.
Dangerman: WR Devier Posey (#9). After multiple run-ins with NCAA law, Posey finally made his season debut last week, and he managed to catch four passes for 66 yards from Braxton Miller, which is wildly impressive. He can do this...
...which, like, wow. Posey's four-catch-per-game average places him well above any other member of the Buckeyes—tight end Jake Stoneburner leads the team with 13 catches in 11 games—and there's an outside chance he becomes the team's leading receiver in just two games. It's safe to say Posey's presence entirely changes the outlook of Ohio State's offense.
Zook Factor: The worst thing Luke Fickell did against Penn State was call for a punt on 4th-and-13 from Penn State's 35, which of course went for a touchback and netted all of 15 yards. That isn't a good decision, but again, Ohio State can barely complete a forward pass. I still would've called for a QB draw just to see if Miller could break something open there. So, yeah, good news—Fickell's definitely got some Zook in him.
OVERVIEW: Man, I want to sound all smart and write a detailed breakdown of Jim Bollman's complex and imaginative offense, but it's just not possible. They run a lot, mostly with zone blocking. Miller and Herron are both good-to-great with the ball in their hands, and backup RB Carlos Hyde is a big back who's good for picking up around five yards per carry (Jordan Hall gets nearly as many touches as Hyde, but I don't know why, as he's stuck at an even 4 ypc this season).
As BlueSeoul pointed out, they like to run from unbalanced sets—whether it be from the I-form (like in BlueSeoul's picture pages) or the pistol—forcing the defense to make on-the-fly adjustments and stay extremely disciplined because of the threat of Miller. Despite Ohio State's impressive rushing numbers, the offensive line appears to be mediocre—they're kinda big and slow for zone blocking, and you'll see some blatant whiffs, especially if the defense brings pressure.
The Buckeyes pass only when absolutely necessary—or when their first-down run gets stuffed and they think it's surprising to pass on 2nd-and-11—and will usually do so out of the gun, though on occasion they'll try a play-action pass from the I-form. Those are usually a terrible idea, as between OSU's plodding offensive tackles and Miller's inexperience, they give up 3.27 sacks per game, good for 116th in the country—Miller usually tries to escape pressure by stepping up in the pocket, and he has a habit of stepping right into defensive tackles and linebackers.
PLAY BREAKDOWN: Here's two plays for the price of one (I'm so generous!). As BlueSeoul pointed out, Braxton Miller will often just improvise and go wherever he wants instead of sticking to the design of the play. Sometimes this fails miserably, but other times it works like the first play in this clip, in which he sees a lurking Devon Still on a speed option and makes a sharp cut up the middle instead of trying to keep the play outside—it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is for Michigan to maintain gap discipline, as Miller is liable to end up just about anywhere. On the second play, Miller once again finds a seam up the middle, then makes a great cut to the outside and cruises to the pylon for a touchdown:
This is, well, scary. There's only so much you can do to prepare for a quarterback like this, because Miller won't always do what is intended on a given play, making it really difficult for the defense to stuff a play even when making the proper read. He'll reverse field, go through the wrong gap, wait around in the backfield until he finds a crease—there's just no guessing where he is going to go. The best way to defend this is through dominant defensive line play, and luckily Michigan has had that in spades recently—it's going to take a big day from the entire line, as well as the linebackers, to keep Miller from amassing 100 yards.
- Miller is progressing a bit as a passer, and the return of Posey really helps, but he's still just not very accurate. That said, however, he does a surprisingly good job of not turning the ball over—on 109 attempts this season, he has just three interceptions, and only one since October 1st—and he very much prefers to scramble instead of force a throw into coverage.
- When the Buckeyes get into the red zone, pay close attention to Stoneburner, who becomes Miller's favorite target near the goal line. He came up with a nice seven-yard touchdown catch on an out route, and seven of his 13 catches this season have gone for touchdowns despite him averaging just 12 yards per catch. If Miller is looking to go deep, he'll obviously target Posey, but also 6'3" freshman Devin Smith, who averages 22 ypc on his 11 receptions this season. He was a complete non-factor against Penn State, however, and we'll just have to see how much playing time he gets now that Posey is back in the picture.
- The Buckeyes busted out the wildcat with Carlos Hyde a couple times, and it really makes zero sense for them to do so. Hyde is a big back with less speed and big-play ability than Miller, and he's even less of a threat to throw, so why bother to put him out there when defenses are already loading up against the run? Wait, what am I saying? Run the wildcat all game, Bollman. That Miller guy totally sucks.
- As evidenced by the atrocious sack numbers, Mattison's blitzes should hit home with regularity. Both Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts looked very susceptible to speed rushes off the edge, and also will inexplicably blow assignments—this sounds like the perfect storm for an Okie zone blitz bonanza. If Michigan finishes the game with fewer than three sacks, I'll be very surprised.
- Center Mike Brewster, a preseason All-American candidate, had a lot of trouble with his shotgun snaps, including one comical third down where he snapped the ball into his own ass while Miller was in the gun. Not sure how much this will play a factor, but it certainly made me laugh.
After the jump, I take a look at Ohio State's defense. Jump!