I did not make this headline up
|WHAT||Michigan vs Ohio State|
|WHERE||Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 27th 2010|
|THE LINE||OSU -17|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
Mostly sunny, mid 30s
0% chance of rain
Image at right via reader Brian Walline.
Run Offense vs. Ohio State
You know, from skimming the Ohio State blogs in my reader I'd picked up a narrative of safety injuries and a somewhat disappointing performance from the defensive line that led me to believe the OSU defense was something less than its usual self. Then I go and check the stats as I do and they're third in rushing and total defense. They are fifth in pass defense. This is nationally, not in conference. So… not so much.
As anyone who's followed the Gordon Gee-Boise/TCU spat knows, a weak schedule has something to do with that. OSU has not played the Big Ten's #1, #4, or #5 offense and is the #2 offense.. They've had almost the kindest league schedule possible to date. However, in their matchup against #3 Wisconsin the Badgers only managed 330-some yards of offense; Iowa was held under 300. Do not be taken in by complaints about Orhian Johnson or fretting about freshman Christian Bryant—this is a smokescreen.
The sack-excluded numbers in the league (minus Indiana, which didn't seem even slightly relevant) reflect this:
College teams average 4.9 yards an attempt when you take out sacks; Ohio State has been somewhere between good and ridiculous through the Big Ten. This is not a huge surprise given the overall numbers.
Michigan's rushing offense is almost as shiny in the national stats at tenth. They have four triple option teams ahead of them—on a YPC basis they're fourth nationally. The last couple weeks opponents have really truly dared Denard Robinson to throw by putting a linebacker over the slot receiver and moving their safeties up into the box (Purdue) or just outside of it (Wisconsin). Rain and a crappy half for Robinson (plus a worse one for the defense) allowed both opponents to get away with their hyper-aggressive defenses. In the second half Robinson started hitting receivers who found themselves in single coverage deep and Michigan ripped off touchdowns on four of five drives, with the fifth headed inside the Wisconsin twenty before a Roundtree drop led to the inevitable batted-ball-to-INT combo.
There are risks involved with going so aggressive, especially when your safeties are indeed injury-plagued and young, and it doesn't seem like Tressel's style to go damn-the-torpedoes. It doesn't look like he'll have to, anyway, with those numbers above. I predicted Wisconsin would back off and Michigan's run game would bounce back. The former definitely didn't happen and the latter may have looked like it did but that relies heavily on a couple of meaningless draws at the end of the first half. This week, Ohio State probably will back off and it will be something like a fair fight on the ground.
Given OSU's results to date expecting something magnificent is foolhardy. The most relevant game above is probably the Illinois game, in which heavy wind and Nathan Scheelhaase's youth—that was his first Big Ten start—gave the Buckeyes an idea of what was coming before the snap. Michigan does have a better rushing offense than the Illini—they're about eight tenths of a yard to the good—and should provide more threat through the air than Scheelhaase, so you can/should expect something more effective than 4.1 YPC. Hitting 4.5-4.8 seems realistic. They'll need more than that to win, though.
Key Matchup: Denard versus Last Safety To Daylight. Okay, I'll take the bait: if safety is a weakness for the Buckeyes, Michigan might be able to spring a long touchdown on the ground, which would be nice.
Pass Offense vs. Ohio State
If Orhian Johnson is three times worse than Ohio State fans say he is we've got it in the bag.
Denard Robinson's sustained bout of inaccuracy lasted until halftime of the Wisconsin game, after which he was ruthlessly effective. He hit several downfield passes, picked apart the Wisconsin zone, and landed himself almost 10 YPA by the time the day was over. That's not enough to dismiss the previous three or four games, in which Robinson slew scoring drives by the hundreds* with passes behind or above but rarely in front of open receivers. It is encouraging. Robinson is in the top 20 in passing efficiency in an offense that throws about 40% of the time. While his legs are a big chunk of that, they are, you know, his legs. He gets opportunities others don't because of them.
Michigan's got some complications, however. Martavious Odoms is done for the year and both other starting wideouts appeared on this week's injury report. It sounds like Darryl Stonum will be good to go, but the perpetually questionable Junior Hemingway is questionable again. Je'Ron Stokes and Jeremy Jackson may get more time than Michigan coaches are comfortable with. Roy Roundtree exists, though, and Michigan can shift its production around without affecting their efficiency too much—usually the choice is not between covering the outside guy and covering Roundtree, but dealing with Robinson and covering Roundtree.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State fans still manage to sound disappointed in the #7 pass efficiency defense in the country. They are pretty weak at getting to the QB—hardly better than Michigan—and they do have safety issues and they don't have a shutdown corner like they usually do. They've also missed two of the league's best QBs in Kirk Cousins and Dan Persa. Like the rush defense, they haven't played a big chunk of the Big Ten's good passing offenses. They played 1 and 2, but haven't gotten to 3-6 yet. Performance against 1 and 2:
This just in: Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien. Anyway, that's a bad performance in a game Wisconsin hardly threw in and a pretty good one against Iowa. Everything else is brutal strangulation of doe-eyed innocents and the Jacory Harris Interception Spectacular. There aren't many good comparables for Michigan.
Assuming Tressel plays it low-variance, Michigan won't have a ton of opportunities to hit it deep but this will open up the underneath stuff, especially Roundtree's hitch routes, or more likely a variation on them that Ohio State hasn't scouted to death. We've seen QB Lead Oh Noes disappear over the past few weeks; maybe that can be used to exploit Ohio State's youthful safeties. The last time they ran it they had Martell Webb streaking open for what would have been a touchdown if Martell Webb wasn't pretty slow and the ball wasn't chucked directly at an Illinois safety.
*(This may be a slight exaggeration.)
Key Matchup: Robinson's Accuracy versus That Stuff Whatever That Was. No one has been able to consistently defend the run and pass against Denard, so they've chosen the run and have been right more often than not. Michigan needs two halves like the second against Wisconsin—occasional error, mostly deadly—to have a shot.
Run Defense vs. Ohio State
Ohio State doesn't quite have the Badger ground game, with emphasis on "quite". Wisconsin is 12th, Ohio State 17th, with OSU trailing the Badgers by a quarter yard per carry. The main guy is Boom Herron, a compact, powerful runner without a ton of shimmy. He makes a lot of yards by sliding through tackles thanks to his low center of gravity and tree trunk legs. He's not likely to break anything long. He's what Kevin Grady was supposed to be.
Backup Brandon Saine has found himself marginalized as the season goes along. He's a lot like Michael Shaw, combining blazing speed with a lack of tackle-breaking power and a nasty tendency to avoid the intended hole. He's come on as a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot and will probably get a half-dozen carries.
And then there's Pryor, infrequently utilized but wildly effective when deployed. If you take out OSU's sacks he's averaging 8.2(!) YPC on 87(!) attempts this year, numbers that boggle the mind when combined. 87 carries takes the YPC outside the realm of fluke, so… how does a guy averaging 8 yards a carry only get 87 attempts? Tressel, yo. I get the argument you'd like to spare your QB hits against teams with little chance of winning, but Ohio State desperation catchup mode is the spread option. This is frustrating to both Michigan and Ohio State fans.
The script last year against Michigan was similar: OSU came out and ran their I-form "Dave" package with little success most of the day; when Michigan scored to draw within a touchdown out came the spread option. Pryor ran right down the field, touchdown, flood of Michigan interceptions, ballgame. Michigan doesn't have Brandon Graham anymore so the regular package should be more successful than it was last year, hampering Michigan's ability to get the three and outs that kept them in that game.
Key Matchup: Michigan Tacklers versus Herron's Thighs. With Mouton and Demens around it's likely that FBs will be taken on near the LOS and Michigan will have opportunities to get the Buckeyes in long-yardage situations in which Pryor's had some difficulty. One of the many, many problems against Wisconsin was Michigan tacklers not tackling, or giving up two or three yards after contact. That seems like it might be more fixable than Greg Robinson's beaver brain or the incredible youth of everyone.
Pass Defense vs. Ohio State
Terrelle Pryor hasn't exactly developed into the world-beating Vince Young (except better!) imitator he was supposed to be out of high school. Against the good defenses on OSU's schedule he does stuff like this:
The other somewhat average pass D on the schedule was Penn State; Pryor threw just 13 times, completing eight.
Unfortunately for Michigan, "good" is nowhere in the conversation when it comes to Michigan's pass defense. They're looking up at "putrid" and hanging out with "fairly good reason to go insane." I think they peed on my couch and tried to sop it up with a handful of crushed Cheetos. I do not mean this as a metaphor.
They're currently idling at 92nd in pass efficiency defense. Pryor's performance against Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota, the—sigh—closer comparisons for Michigan's crew of befuddled freshman and slow guys:
Good Lord. Pryor meets a level of defense at which he is suddenly mediocre or worse; below that he is a ruthless bomb-thrower. Adding it all up gives you a quarterback who's 14th in passer efficiency this year and still hasn't had a good game against a real defense.
Pryor's main targets are his outside receivers. Both have around 50 catches, with Dane Sanzenbacher averaging considerably more YPC and has nine touchdowns to Posey's five. The tailbacks and TE Jake Stoneburner are secondary targets, and then there are guys scattered down the roster with the occasional catches. The line's pretty mediocre at pass blocking, giving up almost two sacks a game (59th) despite being 85th nationally in pass attempts.
Even Pryor and the OSU passing game is something of a paper tiger, that fact obviously has no relevance against the Michigan secondary. Scott Tolzein's passes never hit the ground last weekend; Wisconsin went away from the passing game because the run game allowed them to. Amongst the many things the Michigan pass defense cannot do are pressure the quarterback (1.5 sacks per game, 94th), cover receivers (yeesh), tackle, and provide anything more than a slight hindrance to quarterbacks more competent than a rain-soaked Sean Robinson.
Key Matchup: HAHAHAHAHA
OSU's been good with the ball in its returners' hands, solidly above average in punt returns and very good at kick returns. They've been worse than bad in coverage, giving up 12.7 yards a punt return and yielding a touchdown against Miami. Two kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns, too.
The usual story at kicker: OSU's Devin Barclay is 16 of 19, Michigan's blah blah blah. This week I can point out their proficiency at onside kicks, though.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
- OSU aligns in the spread, the formation in which Terrelle Pryor is actually quite effective.
- OSU aligns in the I.
- Robinson inaccuracy allows yet more creepin' on the run game.
(Site note: Jebus. One of the "worry ifs" from last week was "Scott Tolzien completes every pass he throws.")
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Orhian Johnson turns out to be a true freshman two star.
- Denard goes back to his UConn form.
- Ohio State's years-long defiance of karmic comeuppance goes supernova.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Terrelle Pryor Eats Baby Seals And I Can See The Club For Miles, +1 for Despite Everything This Is The Top D In The League By All Measures, +1 for Ours Is Not Very Close HA HA HA, +1 for Turnover Margin: 5 vs 101, +1 for They Are A Much Better Football Team)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +5 for The Game)
Loss will cause me to... continue repeating "I expected 7-5" until the bowl game.
Win will cause me to... dissolve.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
There's no reason for optimism, as not even the Epic Pryor Meltdown scenario seems to result in a win a week after Wisconsin didn't throw in the second half.
Tressel won't even have to risk it, as he should be able to grind it out on the ground with success and watch his excellent defense bottle Denard up sufficiently to stake the Buckeyes to a two-score lead they'll maintain most of he day. They'll take the Maserati out of the garage and run the inverted veer when/if Michigan brings it within a score, immediately going down the field to push the margin back out. The defense will be toyed with.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Pryor throws fewer than 20 times.
- Two Michigan drives die on the vine around the OSU 35.
- The bitter hollowness of defeat has a piquant familiarity, almost like an old friend.
- Ohio State, 35-20.
Though many fans may not have realized it, the recent basketball games against Gardner-Webb and Bowling Green were technically part of their Feast Week tournament, The Legends Classic. "Tournament" is something of a misnomer: the hosts were guaranteed to move on. All four managed to make it through the regional rounds unscathed anyway.
Michigan will face Syracuse tonight at 7:30 in one semifinal. Georgia Tech and UTEP square off on the other side of the bracket at 5:30. The consolation and championship games are tomorrow at 5:30 and 7:30, respectively. All games will air on HDNet.
Four games into the season, it's too early to tell how good Syracuse really is (which is the case for pretty much every team in the nation). Ken Pomeroy ranks them #10 in the nation, but close calls against Detroit and William & Mary may be a sign that they're vulnerable. Despite possessing the tournament's the most talented roster on paper with players like Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine, the Orange aren't unbeatable.
Blowouts over Northern Iowa and Canisius (which you may recognize as one of John Beilein's former schools) won't help Michigan much, but maybe the Detroit and/or William & Mary games can give them a blueprint for how to take down Jim Boeheim's men.
Detroit led Syracuse at the half, and was in the game until the Orange pulled away at the very end. It doesn't seem the Titans did anything particularly well except prevent 'Cuse from shooting well - they finished with a 41.67 eFG% (which was better than the 40.18 eFG% the Titans put up on their own end). Forcing bad shots out of Syracuse was a great gameplan for UDM. The Orange made just 54% of their free throws - so it's also possible that they just aren't a team that's good at shooting the basketball.
The William & Mary game may seem to indicate this is true. A bigger, stronger, faster, and presumably more talented Orange squad shot 40.83% from the field in a three-point win. They were just 12/52 from behind the arc in those two games.
John Beilein has never beaten a Boeheim-led Syracuse squad. However, if Michigan can implement a quality defensive gameplan (make the Orange shoot from outside by defending well in the paint), and hit their open shots, they have a chance to spring the upset. A cautionary note: this is the first game away from Crisler Arena for the vast majority of the Wolverines' roster.
Ex-USC Coach Tim Floyd heads the Miners, and forward Julyan Stone and guard Randy Culpepper have been his go-to guys early in the season. UTEP already has an embarrassing loss on their hands this year, losing to Pacific in the season opener.
UTEP has been middle-of-the-pack so far in most stats, slightly above-average in most. The exception is rebounding percentage on both ends of the court, where they've struggled. The area in which they excel the most? Getting to the free throw line. If Michigan ends up facing them, they'll need to be careful not to get into foul trouble.
Like UTEP, Georgia Tech has an embarrassing loss on their early season resume, getting blown out by Kennesaw State(!) 80-63. Their roster was decimated by losing their best two players, Ganin Lawal and Derrick Favors, to the NBA, but Kennesaw State?
The Yellowjackets struggle to put the ball in the basket, with just a 42.5 eFG% so far this year despite not facing a team in KenPom's top 200. Where they've had more success is on the other end of the court, where they excel at stealing the ball and blocking opponents' shots (despite the losses of Lawal and Favors, two exceptional shot-blockers last season).
Georgia Tech is likely to be Michigan's opponent in the consolation game, and the Wolverines' best chance to salvage a win in Atlantic City.
Michigan will play Syracuse tight for a lot of the game, with each team going on runs here and there, but the Orange mostly maintaining a lead. However, the athleticism of Syracuse will be too much for the Wolverines to handle, as frustrating fastbreaks will give 'Cuse too many easy points, and Michigan's young shooters aren't able to keep pace to win the game.
In the other semi, I get the feeling UTEP will have a fairly comfortable win over a Georgia Tech squad that seems to have a lot of flaws. The Miners might not be able to get to the free throw line as much as they're used to because of GT's shot-blocking prowess, but they'll finish the game at the line.
In the finals, I think an upset may be brewing. Syracuse has won despite a bunch of struggles at times, and I think they'll get a more exhausting game from Michigan than UTEP will from Georgia Tech. In the consolation game, I think the Wolverines will be able to take down GT.
OUT (0% PLAY)
Odoms, Martavious Foot
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)
Hemingway, Junior Head
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Nobody new on the "out" list, just the guys who have been expected to miss the entire season for a while now.
Among the rest, Junior Hemingway is a shocker, as I don't recall any serious injury against Wisconsin and Rich Rodriguez didn't say anything about him this week. It's encouraging to see the rest on the "probable" list, as most of those guys had serious-looking injuries against the Badgers (and Mike Martin's injuries have been recurring). Craig Roh and Darryl Stonum have said they wouldn't be missing this game for anything, so it's no surprise that they're likely to play.
It's also encouraging to see Taylor Lewan's name isn't on the list, as he didn't play last week, and has apparently been given a clean bill of health.
Formation notes: Nothing fancy from Michigan. Wisconsin mostly went with the linebacker-over-slot stuff ND and others have run all year. Most of the game they paired this with safeties 6-8 yards off the LOS like so:
Occasionally they would shift into a cover-zero 4-4 look but mostly it was this. On Michigan's final charted drive they went with the slot LB look with their safeties at real safety depth, whereupon Michigan passed all over them.
Substitution notes: Lewan missed the game so Michigan went back to its earlier configuration with Huyge at LT. The rest of it was as per usual, except Shaw missed the game with a concussion and Smith got the vast bulk of the time as the number one back.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M1||1||10||I-form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Smith||2|
|Wisconsin LBs aligned to the backside of the play, allowing the backside DE to slant under the block of McColgan. Smith does well just to get a couple yards by picking his way through trash. RPS -1, though perhaps harsh since it's first and ten from the one.|
|M3||2||8||I-form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Roundtree||14|
|…but they could have done this so the RPS stands. Michigan rolls the pocket as the two RBs run at the LOS like they're running another iso, sucking linebackers up. Slot safety heads out on the Hemingway hitch outside, leaving Roundtree wide open for the first down. McColgan(-1) got chucked by a DE and Robinson gets some pressure so he has to throw this awkwardly; the resulting pass is on target but inside and takes Roundtree off his feet. Borderline MA/CA, but with the pressure I think it's the latter. (CA, 2, protection 1/2, McColgan -1, RPS +1)|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Smith||7|
|Eerily similar to the MSU game, where Michigan kept running it right down the throat of an opponent determined to let the backside DE contain on the read. Here he's even standing up with a big blinking sign that says "no scrape here, thanks." Dorrestein(+1) and Omameh(+1) destroy the backside DT, shoving him five yards downfield. This cuts off any LB angles and allows Smith a cutback lane behind the contain DE that he takes for a good chunk. (ZR +1)|
|M24||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Smith||4|
|Same thing, same result, backside DE crashes faster and tackles better. Dorrestein gets a ding for not getting push sufficient to get out of the way of Smith as he tries to run past the DE. (ZR+1)|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||Inc|
|Batted into the air as M slides their protection and leaves Smith one on one with a DE. DE forms up, perceiving this is a quick pass, and leaps to bat it. Smith needs to go at this guy's knees so this doesn't happen. (BA, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2)|
|We miss this play. Hate you director.|
|M29||3||9||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Robinson||6|
|Protection is fine; Robinson can't find anyone open and ends up running for a gain well short of the first down. Reminder: these get put in TA if they are a clear second option instead of an obvious way to pick up the first. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Stonum||Inc|
|So like Purdue, Wisconsin's 4-3 alignment has featured safeties 7-8 yards off the LOS with a bias towards charging forward. Michigan goes after it this time around with a play action inverted veer look. Safety 1 sucks up and is dead, safety 2 sucks up and is dead, Stonum gets inside the cornerback and gets yards of separation on a 15-yard post that's either a diving ankle tackle for 20 yards or a touchdown like the Indiana post... Denard overthrows Stonum by five yards. Sad face. (INX, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +3)|
|M28||2||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inverted veer keeper||Robinson||4|
|Aiiigh. Michigan goes with the Cam Newton, and I think Perry Dorrestein(-1) does not get his assignment right. He's blocking down on the playside DT, which is also what Omameh is doing. This allows the MLB to scrape unmolested. The playside DE is headed upfield to contain the handoff so Robinson pulls (ZR+1). Schilling's pulled around and kicks out the OLB, leaving Robinson one on one with that unblocked MLB in a ton of space. With one safety screaming playside to contain Smith and the other headed around the outside Denard is gone--gone--if he gets through the first level. A diving arm tackle succeeds in getting Denard down. Sadface.|
|M32||3||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||29|
|Safety in the box here for a seven-man front. Daring them to throw, except when M runs the QB draw it rips off a big chunk. Go figure. Schilling(+1) gets the key block at the line that gets a DT upfield and opens it up for Robinson. Omameh(+1) set his guy up well, allowing Smith(+1) to take a run at a linebacker not sure which side of the NT the play will go. Molk(+1) gets a block in space against the last linebacker and Robinson doesn't even have to cut until a safety attacks. He dodges the S(+2) and picks up another 15 before someone can run him down from behind when he cuts past the corner.|
|RUN+:Schilling, Omameh, Smith, Molk, Robinson(2)||RUN-:|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||3|
|Linebackers in the box and soft man on the edges for the first time. Michigan attacks it with the bubble. Robinson's throw is behind Roundtree, forcing him to spin around and robbing him of an opportunity to attack the charging safety. (MA, 3, screen)|
|O36||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Smith||6|
|Same thing, other side of the line, with Huyge(+1) and Schilling(+1) doing the honors by blowing the backside DT yards off the LOS and giving Smith an easy six yards. Schilling peeled off the block to kick a charging MLB impressively, otherwise I'd think about knocking these down to halves. Backside DE again crashes to tackle.|
|O30||3||1||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||1|
|Omameh(-1) gets slanted under by the backside DE, making this a difficult, hairy conversion that Robinson barely makes. Honestly it looks like the spot was a half-yard generous. (RPS -1) Huyge also slanted under so no cutback lane.|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||7|
|Backside DE contain; handoff (ZR+1). Wisconsin's playside DT too quick to get sealed and an attempted scoop on the playside DE gets run through. It's cutback time. Molk's block on the DT has driven him off the LOS. Huyge ran at the backside DT and kind of fell down in his general direction, which does not look like an effective block in any way but does force the guy about four yards downfield and opens the lane up further. Smith reads it, hits it, makes contact with the backside DT five yards downfield and gets tackled for six. Wow. So... um. Half points for Smith, Molk, and Huyge? Sure!|
|RUN+:Smith(0.5), Molk(0.5), Huyge(0.5)||RUN-:|
|O22||2||3||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||5|
|Double by Molk(+0.5) and Omameh(+0.5) drives the playside DT back; he attempts to swim through and Omameh kicks him out of the play. Molk's release is awkward since he's coming from inside the LB, but he pushes the guy past the play and gives Robinson a cutback lane. It's a cutback lane directly into a linebacker but it's good for the first. If M hadn't released oddly because of the swim this could have opened up for more, thus the halves. Smith(+1) got a good pounding block on another LB.|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||Inc|
|In front of Roundtree by a yard; it glances off his fingertips. (IN, 0, screen)|
|O17||2||10||Shotgun empty TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||4|
|Offensive line has enough blockers to get Robinson one on one with a safety but it looks like Schilling(-1) loses his guy to the wrong side and forces a cutback; Omameh(+1) got a one on one block with the backside DT that got him on his butt four yards downfield and Robinson runs off that for a decent gain.|
|O13||3||6||Shotgun empty TE||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout out||Smith||Inc|
|Wisconsin goes with an aggressive look and sends six with man behind it. Smith runs an out past the sticks and is open for the first; Robinson sees it and throws it. This would hit any average-sized WR in the facemask but Smith is 5'6 and it glances off his hands. This is like throwing strikes to Eddie Gaedel. I can't give him an IN here, I don't think. (MA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(30), 14 min 2nd Q. So… Robinson threw four passes on this drive, and all of them were IN or MA.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inverted veer handoff||Smith||2|
|So the problem with this play is that Schilling ends up blocking no one on his pull. M leaves the playside DE unblocked, as you do on the veer, and pulls Schilling to the frontside as everyone else blocks down. Dorrestein releases into the MLB. Koger heads outside for the playside safety. This leaves the SLB. Schilling's pull actually has to go around the playside DE--he goes upfield of him, and as a result ends up chasing no one in space as the SLB runs out on Smith. Smith cuts it up, where the DE tackles. It was a correct handoff (ZR+1) with the DE biting inside but the inability of Schilling(-1) to block either guy kills the play. RPS -1.|
|M38||2||8||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||0|
|Opens up but for Omameh(-2) getting smoked by a DT, which closes off the intended hole and forces Robinson to bounce it outside where Valai has ample time to fill for no gain.|
|M38||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Flare screen||Smith||2|
|Smith runs out before the snap; Robinson pumps the throw, oddly. He still gets it out and accurate; Smith heads upfield. Roundtree's lost the guy inside but man there's a reason you don't go inside on this one; if Smith(-2) cuts it out he's got acres of space and the first down. He doesn't and Roundtree's guy collapses on him to tackle short of the sticks. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-10, 6 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|We come to this play with the ball already in the air. Hemingway can't escape from the tackler this time and goes nowhere. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M40||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Slant||Stonum||Inc|
|Open for the first down, zinged in accurately and on time. Stonum drops the ball. Corner came up to hit him but the ball was already coming out when he arrived. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M40||3||7||Shotgun empty||1||0||4||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||Slant||Hemingway||Inc|
|Another well timed throw, though this one is a bit low. Hemingway does bring it in briefly, but the Wisconsin DB is right with him and rakes it out as they go to the ground. Nice play. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-17, 3 min 2nd Q. Wisconsin scores, Gallon fumbles the kickoff, and M gets the ball back with 30 seconds left, running two QB draws and not trying to score. Not charted.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Hemingway||Inc|
|A play action fake with just one receiver in the route; the same play Michigan tried and missed on with Stonum in the first half. This time the Wisconsin safety doesn't bite entirely--just mostly--and sits down in front of the route. Robinson overthrows Hemingway, which is better than throwing it to the safety. However, Robinson had time to let the play develop with good blocking and if he waits another second or two Hemingway clears the safety and he's got a 15 yard throw that's another hopeful ankle tackle or touchdown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2)|
|M29||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Stonum||9|
|Simple hitch against a backed-off corner good for five and then Stonum tacks on a few after the catch by running through the corner's tackle. Refs blow it dead just as Huyge comes up to bang him across the first down line. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M38||3||1||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Inside zone||Smith||3|
|Wisconsin runs a scrape exchange, sending the backside end in and running LBs over the top. Handoff made (ZR+1); Omameh(+1) and Dorrestein(+1) crush the playside DT off the ball and Webb(+1) cuts off the DE, giving Smith a window. He could cut for a big gain but trips coming through the hole.|
|RUN+:Dorrestein, Webb, Omameh||RUN-: Smith|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Robinson||12|
|This seems like an instant response to the scrape Michigan saw on the last play. They come out in trips with a TE to the other side, which drags LBs to the strong side and the slot LB way outside the hashes. Linebackers suck in on the inside zone fake and the DE crashes so Robinson pulls(ZR+1), finding himself in a ton of space. Rolled up safety is supposed to contain but good luck with that, dude. Robinson falls as he cuts past the guy and that's all that keeps this at 12 yards. RPS+1.|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||4|
|Wisconsin DL sliding down the line well and keeping the holes to a minimum. Molk(+1) does eventually get his helmet across, though and Omameh(+1) drives his man back as Michigan stretches the line; Robinson has a seam. Seam is filled by the safety, who beat Roundtree(-1) and can fill as Robinson threatens the second level.|
|RUN+:Molk, Omameh||RUN-: Roundtree|
|O43||2||6||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone dive||Hopkins||4|
|Backside DT finally stands up to the double decently, though he gets pushed back. Schilling comes off on the linebacker coming up the middle and Hopkins cuts behind Huyge into the other MLB, who is unblocked. He falls forward for a few.|
|O40||3||2||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Smith||0|
|We get to the play late so I'm not sure why but the playside DE is left unblocked as Dorrestein moves out on someone or another, which lets that guy tackle two yards in the backfield. Certainly looks like a bust on Dorrestein's(-2) part, especially because this is the exact same play they just ran.|
|O40||4||2||Shotgun 4-wide||1||0||4||Base 4-3||Pass||PA rollout cross||Grady||13|
|This is the same route pattern from Odoms Way Down In The Hole. Playside slot runs an out, playside WR runs a deep hitch behind it, backside slot comes on a crossing route for a third option. Here the CB goes with the hitch and the playside safety jumps the out, opening Grady up on the cross. Robinson reads it and zings it into the open Grady a second before the safety can get there. Pass was a little behind Grady and the catch was tough-ish with the safety coming. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||3|
|Michigan checks, flipping the RB, and Wisconsin checks from a soft-ish base 4-3 to the quasi eight man front they've been running all day. Watt drives through Dorrestein(-1) and forces Robinson to cut behind him, away from the driving double on the playside DT. This robs Omameh of an angle to get a second level block and Robinson runs into a linebacker after a few yards.|
|O24||2||7||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Stop and go||Stonum||24|
|Corner bites on the hitch fake but blocks Stonum's path as he attempts to release and gets himself in with a chance. Handfighting down the sidelines gets Stonum open by exactly one step; Robinson sits and fires a gorgeous looping ball over the corner's head and directly into Stonum's hands. Could not be better thrown. (DO+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-24, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O38||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Stonum||34|
|Play action sucks the safety, who's already seven yards from the LOS, up a step and Stonum's gone. He's got a step or two on the DB; Robinson sees it and sets up to throw. He's getting pressure at his feet because Hopkins(-1) blew his chip on Watt. All he did was knock Huyge upfield and let Watt in. Robinson's throw is a little short, which is fine considering. Stonum then makes the best adjustment of his career by deploying a Manningham-quality move. He slows up, gets his body into the defender, and then releases at the last moment to haul in the over-the shoulder catch just over the outstretched arm of a cornerback he personally prevented from getting the half-yard he needed to break the pass up. Excellent. (CA, 1, protection 1/2, Hopkins -1)|
|O4||1||G||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||4-3 split||Run||Veer keeper||Robinson||4|
|Robinson keeps(ZR+1) as he sees the playside DE crash on Smith. M doubled the playside DE, allowing the S to scrape over the top, though, since this is four yards from the endzone. Robinson jukes him, then shoots inside of the befuddled, spinning DE, breaking his tackle and lunging into the endzone, where Dorrestein, Omameh, and the playside DT await.|
|RUN+:Robinson(2), Omameh, Dorrestein||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-24, 9 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||4|
|There's a linebacker right over the second slot WR who blows him up, forces the play inside, and tackles. Not sure why they're throwing this given UW's alignment. (CA, 3, screen) I guess I can't RPS-1 a four yard gain that Wisconsin had defended perfectly.|
|M47||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||0||4||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Robinson||3|
|Michigan again can't seal the playside DT but does get the advantage on him as they run down the line. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) have two guys moving laterally three yards downfield as Robinson tries to find a hole; Dorrestein(-1) loses his DE to the inside and he tackles from behind. Cost Michigan 2-3 yards there.|
|50||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-4||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||3|
|Linebackers slid heavily to the side of the line with the H-back and Smith, probably in anticipation of a Robinson run. Schilling(+1) delays the backside DT, allowing Huyge to attempt a cut; it's stepped over but does open a cutback. Molk(-1) loses the playside DT and he can tackle from the side as Smith cuts it up. Smith takes a shot from another linebacker and manages to spin for the first down despite having a DT on his back.|
|RUN+:Smith, Schilling||RUN-: Molk|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Stonum||32|
|UW corner is lined up with inside position on Stonum but he still gets to the inside. With one safety at LB depth and the other dropping to the other side of the field Stonum's position allows Robinson to toss a ball up about three yards inside the pair; Stonum again keeps the DB on his back and makes a good catch for big yards. (CA, 2, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|O15||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||4|
|A similar story to previous stretches: Wisconsin DTs don't get sealed but in doing so give up a lot of ground and Smith runs to the sideline, gaining a chunk of yards but nothing explosive with the playside DT coming through Omameh about four yards downfield.|
|O11||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Robinson||11|
|Michigan blocks down and pulls for the first time. Koger(+1) seals Watt. He gets chucked eventually but it's too late. Molk(+2) obliterates the MLB with a devastating cut. Playside LB and S have to contain, with Schilling(+1) kicking out the playside LB, and Robinson can cruise into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-31, 3 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout hitch||Roundtree||16|
|This is now a staple of the offense: Denard rolls, Roundtree is singled up against a safety ten yards off the LOS, and he runs a ten-yard hitch the opponent can't cover without risking a big play as the linebackers are all in run mode. Easy first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS+1)|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun H-back?||1||1||3||?||Run||Inside zone?||Smith||6|
|We're looking at John Clay instead of the play. This may have been a veer, actually.|
|50||2||4||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Smith||5|
|Safeties are now at regular safety depth FWIW. Wisconsin slants hard playside with the backside DT giving ground without engaging, as the Badgers have done most of the game on stretch plays. With the backside DE containing (ZR+1) the hard slant allows Smith a cutback lane. Huyge(+1) engages the DT as he cuts it up.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||PA TE Flat||Webb||9|
|Corner blitz to the playside is awkward, forcing Denard to pump and loft a touch pass over the guy that Webb leaps for and turns up for a good gain as he beats the UW LB to the sideline. Robinson had just this option and getting this pass with enough loft and getting it in a place where Webb isn't immediately tackled for two yards is impressive. (DO, 2, protection N/A, RPS -1)|
|O36||2||1||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Grady||0|
|Pass is too far in front of Grady and he ends up lunging forward to catch it, falling for no gain. (IN, 2, screen)|
|O36||3||1||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB lead draw||Robinson||4|
|With a twist: the running back is Webb. I wonder what's coming? Oh. Watt beats Dorrestein(-1) inside. This happens sometimes but here Dorrestein is driven back, which means Webb can't cut outside and change the angle of his block. He bumps into the pair, sending Watt sprawling. He then bounces off that and does get a block(+1) on the playside LB, which allows Robinson to squeeze out the first.|
|RUN+:Webb, Robinson||RUN-: Dorrestein|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||PA Hitch||Roundtree||Inc|
|Wisconsin sends six and doesn't get there, giving Robinson his choice of open targets. Roundtree's open on that same hitch again; Webb has no one within ten yards of him on a flat route. Robinson picks Roundtree, puts it right in his chest, and sees 'Tree drop it. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|O32||2||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||?||?||Int|
|Robinson drops to pass and throws; Watt bats it and picks it off. (BA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-38, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Rollout scramble||Robinson||2|
|Wisconsin covers both receivers and while Robinson has an opportunity to hit Koger by the time he does he's already decided to run up the sideline. (TA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|M19||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Run||QB down G||Robinson||2|
|Watt destroys Koger(-2), running through his down block and losing him so quickly that Smith can't adjust; Robinson had a lane inside for decent yardage thanks to some cutbacks on the backside.|
|M21||3||6||Shotgun trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Post||Roundtree||28|
|This is a four verticals concept, I think, but run from trips that means Roundtree has to run a post to get to the seam on the far side of the field. UW has just one deep safety and the linebackers get lost, failing to drop back. They've been coached to defend four verts but probably didn't recognize it out of this formation. Roundtree breaks wide open; Robinson hits him with a touch pass that hits him in stride; safety does manage to cut Roundtree's legs out and prevent a TD. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)|
|M49||1||10||Shotugn trips TE||1||1||3||Nickel 4-3||Pass||Rollout sack||?||-4|
|Spielman is spending the entirety of this drive bitching about the defense. Michigan rolls the pocket, with Dorrestein(-1) allowing the playside DT to run upfield outside of him without bothering to deal with it. Michigan's routes are all covered on the roll side except maybe Hemingway at the LOS, but that's going to get like three yards. DT comes in on Robinson as he sets to throw; he pulls it down and dodges the guy but takes a hit and falls as he does so. (TA, N/A, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)|
|M45||2||14||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Robinson||14|
|Molk is going to double one DT and shove him to Schilling; as he does this the DT moves upfield himself in an attempt to get pass rush. This gets Robinson through the line. Downfield, Koger, Grady, and Molk(+1s all) get great downfield blocks. Robinson runs straight upfield to draw the safety and LB on Grady in, then tries to cut outside past them; safety manages to tackle before he can break it outside and threaten TD.|
|RUN+:Molk, Grady, Koger, Omameh||RUN-:|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||21|
|All day as the line gets Robinson a fantastic pocket. Wisconsin goes with zone, and unintentionally high-lows the MLB. The line opened up a big running lane for Robinson so the LB is naturally wary of dropping too deep and allowing him to jet, which means he's six yards off the LOS as Roundtree is running a hitch behind him at 15. Robinson sees the opening and hits it; throw is a bit high but not too bad. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Yakety sax||?||-8|
|Michigan going for a bubble when Smith runs by Robinson and knocks the ball out of his hands.|
|O28||2||18||Shotgun H-back||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Seam||Roundtree||28|
|PA fake eliminates LBs in the middle of the field, leaving Roundtree against what must be zone from the slot LB and a safety. Slot LB chucks but leaves a window; Robinson zings it in as Roundtree gets between levels. That's a first down; Roundtree turns it into six by juking the safety and darting upfield before people can tackle him from behind. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-41, 6 min 4th Q. Forcier enters with Michigan down 20 on the next drive. EOG.|
DID YOU KNOW I AM A RAVING LUNATIC?
I suspected, surely.
I THINK THE MICHIGAN OFFENSE IS SECRETLY NOT GOOD BECAUSE THE TEAM HAS FALLEN BEHIND IN GAMES AND COULD NOT CATCH UP IN THE SECOND HALF.
Second half and first half points count the same and while I could see some sort of argument that Wisconsin had lightened up on the pressure because they were ahead by so much, they didn't do that. They remained very aggresive until the last drive I charted above, whereupon they backed the safeties off to safety depth… and Roundtree immediately caught three balls for 28, 21, and 28 yards. There's one play in the whole game you can chalk up to Wisconsin having a big lead: a QB draw that worked on Michigan's final TD drive.
BUT THEY DID NOT SCORE ONE MILLION POINTS.
This is true. There are a couple obvious reasons for this. One: Wisconsin grind time and the Gallon fumble limited Michigan to nine drives above. Remember being super excited about everything after the UConn game? That was a 30-point performance on eight real drives with a missed extra point. This was a 28-point performance on nine real drives with a missed 30 yard field goal. The other is in the--
|2009, All Of It||1||7||6(2)||3(1)||4||4||-||-||?||-||44%|
Well, maybe not obvious from this chart. But it's in there. Robinson had a bounce back day, completing 64% and averaging almost 10 YPA, but in the first half he racked up almost all of the MA and INs you see above, three of them on screens that may have been open but never had the opportunity to develop. Early his inability to hit Stonum deep allowed Wisconsin to continue pressuring the run game. In the second half he turned those inaccurate passes into complete bombs to Stonum and touchdowns resulted.
The other bit is hidden in this chart with the receivers:
A couple of key drops added to the passing game issues in the first half. Consecutive accurate slants hit the ground on one of Michigan's three and outs, one a pure drop by Stonum, the other raked out by the guy on covering Hemingway.
On the other hand, this was probably the best game of Stonum's career. This is some Manningham-level stuff right here:
That ball is short and Stonum knows it so he slows up, uses his body to shield the defender so he can't break it up, then extends to make a great over the shoulder catch. He also did this:
He's got too long of a track record to dismiss his previous struggles, but hey, I'll take it.
PROTECTION METRIC: 31/37, Dorrestein –2, Smith –2, Hopkins –1, McColgan –1.
RPS: 10-4 = +6.
A sparse run chart, as Michigan only had about 28 charted:
|Huyge||2.5||0||2.5||Run game seemed to tilt the other way.|
|Molk||7||1||6||No reaches but some good blocks otherwise.|
|Omameh||10.5||3||7.5||Surprisingly the focus of the run game. Executed a lot of grinding double teams.|
|Koger||2||2||0||Also the usual.|
|TOTAL||33.5||23||20.5||Solid blocking day.|
|Robinson||6||-||6||Perfect ZR day, even got a keeper.|
|Smith||3||3.5||-0.5||Missed a cut on a third down conversion, just ok otherwise.|
|Toussaint||-||-||-||Like three snaps.|
|Hopkins||-||-||-||Did not score.|
|TOTAL||9||3.5||5.5||Not getting much more than the blockers give them.|
Michigan averaged 5.2 YPC minus sacks, which is on par with the best performances on the ground against Wisconsin this year but does add in the two first half scrambles that were not charted. Without those that gets knocked down to okay, not great. The tradeoff for the Badgers was giving up 10 YPA in the air.
Stonum, second half Denard.
First half Denard.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
Michigan should be able to move the ball but we've seen enough breakdowns over the course of the season to know this offense is not quite at the point where they can expect to run up and down the field against a very good defense. Drops, penalties, inaccurate throws, etc, all conspire to end drives. OSU's had some injury issues, especially at safety, and I'm expecting they'll put up points. Not enough to keep up, obviously.
Three games into the season, we're starting to get an idea of what this Michigan team will be like. Though competition hasn't been great the first three games have given fans a feel for the rotation and the strengths/weaknesses of individual players.
When John Beilein raved about his improvement in the summer, I was skeptical. With his shooting form, which hasn't seemed to change much from the awkward release we saw last year, it's tough to be confident unless the ball's going in the hoop.
I was wrong. Morris is a completely different player. His quickness is still there, but he's much more confident running the offense and distributing the ball (25 assists to 7 turnovers this year). He's currently shooting 69.2 eFG%, and has drilled both threes he's attempted.
The stats are markedly improved, but the eyeball test is the true sign of how much he's improved. He looks like a true leader, making great decisions with the ball. Morris has achieved the maximum reasonable improvement you can expect over the course of one offseason. If he can keep it up when the competition gets tougher - not guaranteed - he'll be the team's MVP.
Beilein on Morris: "Right now 'my assists' and 'my defense' are measuring how well I'm playing as opposed to how many points I have."
Morris: "I put a lot of work in this summer, and I didn't have the results that I wanted right away. It was a process, and I really feel comfortable now going into the season."
Novak: "He's really embracing his role. I mean, he's making great plays, but a lot of times, he's just making easy plays."
With Darius's emergence at the point guard, and Zack Novak moving into the backcourt, Stu's likely to see his playing time decrease. He's only averaged 19 minutes per game through the first three. He's been getting most of those minutes as Morris's backup, with a few at the 2 for Novak.
Douglass will be a bit better as a backup than he was as a starter last year, as he won't feel the pressure to force things. Against better competition, the team might need him more to give other guys a rest or fill in when foul trouble strikes. His shot selection has been reasonable so far, which is an area of huge improvement for him.
Beilein: "Zack has been a born leader since the day he walked on the court. I see Stu taking on the role much more, and he seems really comfortable with it."
Zack has shifted from the power forward position to a much more natural guard spot. Not having to defend against players half a foot taller than him has really helped his game. He's still making the gritty plays for which he's become a fan legend (the count for games in which he's been bloodied currently stands at one).
Beilein: "The things he does, I think the younger kids are saying, 'man!' And now we've got to get them to be able to do that."
Vogrich came in last year with a lot of physical development to do, and while he's further along at this point, he still has a ways to go. He's still very soft defensively.
In order to continue getting time on the court, he's going to have to hit his shots. He's been a streaky so far this year. He also has a weird knack for being in the right place at the right time to pull down rebounds, particularly on the defensive end of the court. We'll see if that lasts.
Despite his NBA pedigree, Hardaway wasn't a recruit that the scouts were drooling over. Three games into his freshman campaign, he's started to change their minds.
As we knew coming out of high school, he has a pure shooting stroke and can hit from anywhere on the floor. However, his athleticism and overall scoring ability - he can drive and finish, pull up and create his own shot, shoot off the screen, etc. - have been a revelation.
He's still rail-thin, and though he'll never be a big guy, he'll put on weight over the next couple years. He's also been prone to committing early fouls so far, which has limited his playing time. He's the team's best scorer, so that will hamper the offense if it continues.
Novak: "We just know he's a really great player and a special kid. It's just fun to watch him, and fun to play with him."
Hardaway: "I came in this season to do whatever it takes to get the win."
Where the scouts may have missed in evaluating Hardaway, they were spot-on for Christian. He's an athletic, slightly undersized power forward with a limited offensive game at this point. He's great on defense, and a good rebounder. In future seasons, he'll develop a mid-range game. This year most of his points will come on easy finishes underneath and putbacks.
Beilein: "He's willing to do whatever it takes to get on that court, and hustle is one of them."
Smotrycz has the refined offensive skill that Christian lacks at the 4 spot. After starting the year shakily, he's been shooting very well in the past couple games, and making the right decision to pass up the shot at times. He's got good size, which gives him most of his defensive ability. He doesn't show off much athleticism on that side of the ball - though there are flashes on offense.
Smotrycz: "I'm just trying to do all the little things. Play well on the defensive end, clean up the boards, and the offense comes."
Beilein: "He can shoot, and when you can really space the floor, that's what opens things up for Darius."
McLimans has struggled early in the year, missing easy finishes on offense and giving up too many shots on defense. Though he's the best shot-blocker on the team, he too often plays like he's afraid of being called for a foul. He's being platooned with Colton Christian, the stronger defender of the power forwards.
On offense, he's not a traditional post player, but has been stretching defenses out to the 3-point line. He needs to assert himself down low a bit more, as physical defense can really throw him off his game.
Though he's played by far the least out of the post players, Horford has shown some potential. He's athletic, and loves to get out on the break offensively. As we thought coming into the year, his lack of weight is going to be a hindrance.
I'm curious as to whether Beilein will try to phase Jon out of the rotation sometime soon, and maybe angle for a redshirt. Both the head coach and Bacari Alexander, who is in charge of the post players, rave about Horford's desire to learn. His long-term upside is great (as it should be with a pedigree like his), but that's not enough to get him double-digit minutes yet.
Beilein: "He's one of the most eager young men that I've ever worked with to improve his game."
Along with Morris and Hardaway, Jordan Morgan has been the third pleasant surprise on the team. Though he's only about 6-9, he's a true post player with moves down low. He can finish garbage and run the floor on the fast break.
He's a good-not-great rebounder and a good, strong defender, though he's not going to block a lot of shots. In the Bowling Green game, he was able to more than hold his own against a taller player in Cameron Black. Though Black isn't as skilled or experienced as some of the guys Jordan will see this year, at least facing a bigger guy hasn't been an issue yet.
Beilein: "When he's in there and he's really active, he can make a difference. Bacari's done a wonderful job with Jordan... Bacari Alexander has been a great influence on him, and he's really worked hard on all the other things we do."
Morgan: "The more I work with coach Alexander, on being physical and just finishing in the paint, the more fluid I feel."
The degree of difficulty is about to go up dramatically with Syracuse and either UTEP or Georgia Tech coming up this weekend. I'll preview all three teams Friday. Now I'll say all have been vulnerable at times this season, including losses to far inferior opponents for both the Miners and Yellow Jackets.
The Wolverines are expecting to emerge from the Legends Classic with a 1-1 record at best, and we'll know a lot more about the team coming out of the weekend. If they can pull an upset, expectations for the season may shift slightly to the good.
After the tough weekend, it's a roadtrip to Clemson for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, then a few slightly less rigorous non-conference games before Big Ten play.
Top photo courtesy UMHoops, all others from file by Paul Nelson for MGoBlog.