About Last Saturday:
A 10-point lead late in the third quarter - 31, Is not enough points when you are Northwestern - 38 (OT)
The best wide receiver in the B1G at right; My new favorite Northwestern player at left. (h/t @shane_heck)
The Road Ahead:
Iowa (4-6 overall, 2-4 B1G)
Last game: Purdue 27, Iowa 24 (L)
Recap: You know things are pretty bad when you play the second-worst team in the conference (which is incidentally the second-worst conference in the BCS) and then all of a sudden you’re the second-worst team in the conference.
What is going on, Iowa? What’s the deal? Why do you have only one running play? Why do you refuse to throw a pass farther than five yards past the line of scrimmage? Why does your offensive coordinator still have a job? (Why did you hire him in the first place?) Why does your defense give up 500 yards of offense to an offense run by a guy who doesn’t have an ACL? How do you fail to beat a team when you’re plus 3 in turnover margin and have just two penalties for 16 yards to their 10 for 100?
These are the tough, existential questions I hope will never be asked about Michigan. /knocks on wood.
At this point, it seems like Iowa isn’t even trying. Let’s look at their season to date:
- vs. Northern Illinois, 18-7 (W)
- vs. Iowa State, 6-9 (L)
- vs. Northern Iowa, 27-16 (W)
- vs. Central Michigan, 31-32 (L)
- vs. Minnesota, 31-13 (W)
- @ Michigan State, 19-16 OT (W)
- vs. Penn State, 14-38 (L)
- @ Northwestern, 17-28 (L)
- @ Indiana, 14-21 (L)
- vs. Purdue, 24-27 (L)
That’s a couple of so-so games against randos, a couple of embarrassing close losses to Steele Jantz and Central Michigan, a close win against Michigan State that no one can really figure out, and then a bunch of games where they’ve gotten their asses handed to them, which have been disguised by final scores that belie reality.
Something isn’t working when Minnesota is the only convincing win of the season.
Okay, fine, there have been extenuating circumstances. The offensive line turned into a mess after the Penn State game when two linemen went out with injury, and then there’s AIRBHG, too, who wouldn’t even spare a fullback from his wrath. That shouldn’t be the end of the world, though. The Hawkeyes have a senior quarterback (best B1G pocket passer!), an All-conference caliber tight end, a bunch of fairly competent receivers, and a defense that … well, plays defense. Surely they could have mustered a better showing against Indiana.
Even more concerning: how will this team be any better next year?
After the game, head coach Kirk Ferentz passionately defended his “dog crap” team. A few days later he dropped an F bomb. I’m half tempted to grab some popcorn to see what happens over the next two weeks -- Iowa plays Michigan and Nebraska. This promises to be more entertaining than an MGoBoard flamewar.
And I say “half” tempted only because, on the other hand, I don't want to support Nebraska’s economy. Not for another year, anyway.
/refuses to eat any food that contains corn.
/starves to death.*
This besmacks of: Societal failure.
Michigan should worry about: Not beating up on Iowa too badly. Michigan needs them to be as intact as possible when they play Nebraska next week since they could be Michigan’s last hope to hand Nebraska another loss. Although right now I like Minnesota's chances better.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This has to be the easiest week of film study. Like ever.
When they play Michigan: It's Senior Day.
Also, bring tissues. It's going to get dusty.
Next game: No. 21 Michigan
*Joke stolen from Ace.
On the heals of another dramatic wins, I dug deep to try and quantify the most dire of Michigan situations that turned into wins from the last ten years. Some are big comebacks, a few are last second heroics. The WPA model is perfect in very late game situations, but it isn’t terrible so here are the ten games from ten seasons that Michigan won based on their lowest WPA during the game for any offensive play.
10. 2004 vs Minnesota, 21% chance of winning
Trailing by 4 with 3 minutes left at their own 13 yard line, Chad Henne led an 87 yard drive to take the lead and the defense held for the win.
9. 2011 at Northwestern, 21% chance of winning
Michigan started the second half trailing by 10 and faced an early 3rd and 11 from their own 19 before Denard hit Roundtree for a first down and Michigan went on to score the next 28 points and win comfortably.
8. 2005 vs Penn St, 17% chance of winning
Michigan took over at their own 40 trailing Penn St 18-10 with under 12 minutes remaining. A 60 yard TD drive with two point conversion and a subsequent Garrett Rivas 47 yard field goal gave Michigan the lead but it came down to that final second when Henne hit Manningham for 10 yards and the winning points.
7. 2010 vs Illinois, 11% chance of winning
In what would become the epic 67-65 swan song victory for Rich Rodriguez, Michigan trailed by a touchdown with five minutes left and had backup Tate Forcier in for an injured Denard Robinson. Forcier led Michigan to a touchdown with 1:47 left and the defense miraculously held. The defense got a final stop on a two point conversion in the third overtime.
6. 2012 vs Northwestern, 9% chance of winning
The punt return from Jeremy Gallon pushed the odds from 5% to nearly 9% but 53 yards later Gibbons trotted onto the field for a chip shot field goal and Michigan pulled it out for the win.
5. 2007 at Michigan St, 8% chance of winning
After a Spartan touchdown, Michigan took over at their own 21 facing a 10 point deficit with seven and a half minutes to go. A Greg Mathews touchdown would cut the margin to 3 in less than a minute. Michigan would force a punt and have a chance to take the lead from their own 35 with four and half minutes left. On 3rd and 12 Chad Henne hit Mario Manningham for a 31 yard touchdown to provide the final margin.
4. 2008 vs Wisconsin, 6% chance of winning
A lone bright spot in a dismal year. The low point came in third quarter with Michigan trailing 19-0. Kevin Grady would convert a 4th and 1 and Steven Threet would eventually hit Kevin Koger for 26 yards to put Michigan on the board. The odds would go back down to 7% before Brandon Minor ran for a 34 yard score, to cut it to a one possession game and bring Michigan’s odds up to 23%. John Thompson’s 25 yard interception return would give Michigan the lead they would hold the rest of the game.
3. 2011 vs Notre Dame, 5% chance of winning
5% is probably high for this one. This is a situation where the late game situations cause the calculator a bit of trouble. No matter what the actual odds where the situation was highly dire and only a Jeremy Gallon invisibility cloak allowed Michigan to pull this one out.
2. 2003 at Minnesota, 2% chance of winning
Michigan entered the fourth quarter trailing Minnesota 28-7. Before scoring 31 fourth quarter points to pull out the win with Garrett Rivas hitting a 33 yard field goal with 47 seconds left to give Michigan its first lead of the game.
1. 2004 vs Michigan St, 1% chance of winning
Down 17 with 8 minutes left at your own 11 yard line. It’s Braylon Edwards time.
Bonus Overtime Chart
+42%-Gardner to Roundtree for 53 yards
+18%-Gardner to Roundtree for 17 yards in OT
+18%-Demens stonewalls Jones to end the game
+18%-Gardner to Funchess for an 8 yard TD
+11%-Gardner to Toussaint for a 28 yard TD
Interesting that none of the top 3 plays were touchdowns
-24%-Gardner intercepted by Dugar
-16%-Pat Fitzgerald come on down, your quarterback is the next contestant on questionable roughing the passer calls
-12%-Siemian to Fields for 21 yards on 1st and 20
-11%-Siemian to Dickerson right before half
-11%-Siemian to Jones to give Northwestern the lead 31-28
Michigan Rush Offense: +5 EV, +26% WPA
Michigan Pass Offense: +11, +64%
Michigan Rush Defense: –6, –9%
Michigan Pass Defense: –8, –44%
Special Teams: +10%
Devin Gardner: +22, +104%
Fitzgerald Toussaint: +1, +13%
Jeremy Gallon: +5, +10%
Roy Roundtree: +7, +65%
Kain Colter: +3, +22%
Trevor Siemian: +9, +41%
Venric Mark: +1, –1%
Dumb Punt of the Week
I really wanted to give this week’s award to our favorite big guy, Charlie Weis for his second half punt from the Texas Tech 38 while trailing but there was another big guy much more deserving. Terry Bowden and the Akron Zips trailed winless UMass by 8 in the fourth quarter and had a 4th and 6 at the UMass 33 yard line. Now a 4th and 6 is not an easy conversion. BUT YOU ARE AT THE 33 YARD LINE! And trailing by 1.5 possessions, in the fourth quarter. The Zips managed to pin UMass at their own 7, but still ended up losing by 8.
Terry Bowden is your Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punter of the Week
Iowa is not good. Their offense has had one game with an EV+ above 2 (Minnesota) on the season. Their defense has been decent but their three worst performances have come over the last month. No matter who goes at quarterback for Michigan there should be enough firepower to outscore the Hawkeyes. By policy the pick comes from the season numbers but I would consider this score to be a bare minimum margin for Saturday.
Michigan 24 Iowa 10
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Michigan top remaining 2013 targets, the 2014 Rivals250 Watch List, and more, including finally finding a good reason to post an Archer video.
McQuay: Leaning To Michigan?
Sam Webb caught up with FL S Leon McQuay III and his father in the wake of his official visit to Michigan, and the returns are quite good ($):
"I think that was the most impressive on my end,” McQuay III's father added. “His mom has been on two trips with us, and them having his schedule already pretty much planned out was real big with her. No other schools have done that. That’s something that I noticed too.”
The overall experience proved so positive that the younger McQuay was sorry to see it come to an end.
“I definitely could have stayed a little longer,” he admitted.
Neither father nor son are naming leaders at this point, but a couple factors are working in Michigan's favor. Not only did McQuay get a first-hand look at his preferred major by spending his visit with Jack Kennedy and Joe Reynolds, but he may not be able to make it out to USC before he makes his decision on January 4th—his trip to Los Angeles is set for December 7th, but there's a good chance he'll have to cancel if his team makes the state semifinals, and they've been state finalists each of the last three years.
McQuay still has a trip set to Florida State for later this month and he's been to Vanderbilt several times; at this point, those two schools may in fact be Michigan's biggest competition.
This wouldn't be a recruiting roundup without another bit on IL WR Laquon Treadwell, so here's Mike Farrell from his latest Mind of Mike column ($):
Treadwell is also interesting because he changes schools of interest like he changes underwear. The latest info has Notre Dame and Florida rising and Michigan falling. I still think the Wolverines are a serious player here and part of me thinks Treadwell is playing everyone, but we shall see.
Farrell also says he gets the feeling VA RB Derrick Green wants to play his college ball in the South; the problem is that his current southern favorites, Auburn and Tennessee, likely won't have the same coaching staffs next year. Word came down earlier this week that UT's Derek Dooley is on his way out, and now CBSSports is reporting that Auburn's president is preparing to fire Gene Chizik.
The tumult in the SEC may have a direct effect on more than just Green; MD WR Paul Harris had Michigan among his finalists before choosing Tennessee, but he's keeping a close eye on the Dooley situation, according to Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"If he definitely gets fired then I'm going to think about de-committing," he said. "I have such a good relationship with Coach (Derek Dooley) and that's one of the big reasons I committed there. If he (Derek Dooley) gets fired and Coach (Darin) Hinshaw gets fired then I'm definitely going to think about other schools.
"It would have to be one of my top schools," said Harris. "I've heard from Michigan, Maryland, USC, Miami, Penn State and Ohio State. They've still been talking to me asking if Coach (Derek) Dooley gets fired is there a chance I'd commit to them. I talked to Coach (Tee) Martin from USC a few weeks ago."
Harris plans to enroll early, so the decision would have to be made in the next month; the four-star prospect could be a nice fallback plan should the Wolverines miss out on Treadwell.
[Hit THE JUMP for the 2014 Rivals250 Watch List and more.]
This week Michigan plays Iowa, which means I just got done charting every snap of an offense coached by Greg Davis. I'm pretty sure this is grounds for a hostile working environment lawsuit, but thankfully I'm not particularly litigious. Since I couldn't bear to watch last week's Iowa-Purdue pillowfight, I took a look at the Hawkeyes's matchup against... Indiana.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. The Hawkeyes spent the entire game in a one-back formation—because using two backs is clearly begging for an AIRBHG strike—with 35 snaps from under center and 16 in the gun, most of the latter coming on third down situations.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Iowa mostly utilizes zone blocking. As in, somebody should tell Greg Davis there are run plays besides the zone stretch. Just a thought.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Grind it out. Greg Davis needs plenty of time to contemplate his next playcall (okay, okay, it's a zone stretch—you got me).
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): James Vandenberg rarely takes off except in instances of extreme panic; with sacks removed, he's got 126 rushing yards on 31 carries this year. I'll give him a 3.
Dangerman: In this offense? An oxymoron.
Okay, if I have to choose someone, it's senior wideout Keenan Davis, whom the BTN announcer described as Iowa's "big-play threat"—he has 46 receptions for 560 yards (12.2 ypc) and one touchdown. He averaged over 14 yards per catch across from Marvin McNutt last year, but in case you haven't been following the Hawkeyes this season, the offense has taken a bit of a turn.
Zook Factor: This category could easily be named after Kirk Ferentz (except, strangely, when he plays Michigan). In this game, down three points with 4:52 left, he punted on 4th-and-inches from his own 28-yard line; this isn't that egregious for Ferentz, but Advanced NFL Stats has the break-even point for that situation (actually, 4th-and-1, so this is generous) at a 0.56 success rate, and 4th-and-1 situations are conveted at a 0.76 success rate. He actually had his offense out on the field until a review of the spot, which stood, before sending out the punt team.
Iowa got the ball back with 18 seconds left and couldn't produce a miracle drive.
Ferentz will probably grow a pair against Michigan, because this is what he does, and it probably won't matter.
HenneChart: The advantage, for a given definition of the word, of Davis's dink-and-dunk offense is that your downfield success rate doesn't look terrible thanks to a series of throws three yards "downfield":
This was also Vandenberg's best game of the Big Ten season by a wide margin—his 7.3 yards per attempt was a full yard over his next-best conference effort and well above his average of 5.5(!) in six B1G contests. While the structure of the offense usually allows Vandenberg to avoid crippling mistakes, he threw a bad interception into the end zone when he expected Indiana's cornerback to pass the receiver off to the safety, and instead the corner dropped right into the throw. You'll also see later that Vandenberg missed a golden opportunity for a long touchdown pass.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Formation notes: We've already talked about Michigan's 3-3-5 at the end of the game, which was really blue for some reason:
filmed in post-apocalyptic-Denzel-Washington-vehicle-o-vision
The rest of it was as per usual. Michigan goes with an even front against spread packages and flares the LBs out to deal. This results in things like this…
…and is a declaration of immense faith in the DTs. Here's Ryan over the slot again:
Michigan used some super wide splits once, when they were sick of getting edged by the option:
This was a FB dive that looked dangerous before Pipkins spatted the ballcarrier for two yards.
Finally, here's something. What? I'm not sure. THANKS DIRECTOR GUY
I swear these guys who come in and think they're Football Tarantino.
Substitution notes: Secondary as it always is. The front seven saw the same rotation they have in the last couple games, with CGordon/Bolden/Ross backing up Ryan/Demens/Morgan at LB and Heitzman/Black/Pipkins/Clark backing up Roh/Campbell/Washington/Beyer. Heitzman's increased PT continued; Bolden got relatively few snaps. Ross got more, including the last drive, but maybe not as many as I expected he did going in.
[AFTER THE JUMP: getting gashed, responding, Kovacs in your grill]
- Hey hey what can I say, day to day day to day to day day.
“[We had a] good work day yesterday, [good] preparation. [Iowa is] one of the good football teams, especially a team that, capacity-wise, they’re playing well when you look at taking care of the football, turnovers, and the running game from an offensive line standpoint. They’re typical Iowa where they’re going to get on you and they’re going to do a great job in the zone schemes. Defensively they’re going to play very tight up front and let the linebackers flow. You see that. In the kicking game, they’ve got some real weapons in their kickoff return and their kick coverage and in the kickoff that they’ve done a nice job with. For us we had a good practice. Like I said, it was a good work day. Need another good work day today.”