A win over Ohio, a BCS game win and a couple of killer recruiting classes have quickly escalated expectations of the Brady Hoke era. It’s time to put those expectations on ice. Not forever. But for another year or two it's safer to look at last season as the exception not the expectation.
The defense has been better than expected and I think this Greg Mattison thing is going to work out. They even have a fancy #7 ranking in total defense and a #13 scoring defense rank that’s not aided by fluck this time.
The offense has been a disappointment as Denard and Borges still seem further apart than ever, the offensive line has struggled and Toussaint hasn’t shown much when he does have a rare look at space.
I mentioned this in my season preview, but based on recruiting profiles and experience, this is the least talented Michigan team over the last 10 years [ed-S: I'm guessing attrition isn't taken into account?]. The Rodriguez recruiting bubble has arrived.
The other issue I was surprised to find this week is that Michigan is third nationally in a stat I call Garbage Points. For all of my analytics I exclude second half plays where the game is beyond two touchdowns, the approximate range at which teams deviate from their game plan and possibly individual effort in order to close out a less-competitive game. Garbage value has a pretty high correlation to team success because if you are good when it's close and in the first half you are having more drives in garbage time and probably having more success then, as well. Alabama and Kansas State are 1st and 2nd, Ohio cracks the top 10, but Michigan is the top team with a loss at #3 with a +57 EV during garage time. Lead extensions against UMass, Illinois and Minnesota all contributed to a Michigan spread that is one of the highest in the country. I have Michigan as the #28 in the country based on non-garbage time so a big spread between the two would likely indicate that Michigan has more of an issue with their official NCAA rankings being off due to extra time against over-matched teams.
Next year will be a first year starter at the most important position, which could be the newly popular Devin Gardner or five star Shane Morris. I’ll have more on this in the offseason but let’s just hope Gardner is able to win the job because the data on true freshman starting quarterbacks is emphatically troubling, even when they are elite recruits.
The defense should still continue on at a solid level, at this point the question with Mattison’s defenses is are they going to be good or great. A strong floor has been established.
Overall though, the talent/experience level isn’t going to be improved in 2013, in fact they may be worse. The upper classes will be Rodriguez’s final as well as the transition class. The elite classes will still be young enough that their contributions will likely be limited by playing time or play quality. By 2014, the team should be on par with the Carr-recruited, Rodriguez-coached teams in terms of talent and in 2015 back to the elite level of the late model Carr teams.
Michigan Talent/Experience Level By Season
Talent isn’t everything but it is certainly significant. At this point, the ability to overcome talent deficits seems more likely on defense than offense for Michigan, although the national trend is for talent to be more highly correlated to defensive success than offensive.
The other point of reference is that we aren’t talking about 2008-style drops, and especially in the current state of the Big TENNNNN! it could even mean conference championships. But don’t expect Michigan to make vast strides towards national elite until at least 2014.
Things keep coming back to eight wins. Northwestern is about 70%, Iowa 80% and Ohio 25% for the games remaining.
This week is probably Michigan’s last opening for the B1G Title game. If the Huskers survive a
trip to Happy Valley visit from Penn St it’s hard to see them losing to Iowa or Minnesota.
Another little chart I put together shows who controlled their own destiny to the B1G title game by week.
Leaders division on top, Legends on bottom.
Dumb Punt of the Week
Not a lot of suspense for this one. Mark Dantonio was staring in the face victory and chose what any man with a strong jaw does. Hands the ability to win to the other team for 19 yards. It was fourth and 2 at the Nebraska 39. 1:27 on the clock and Nebraska out of timeouts. Hand it off to the best running back in the conference, watch him get 2 yards, and that ices it. The WPA Calculator says that getting stopped gives Nebraska a 29% chance to win. A punt and touchback give Nebraska an 18% shot. Fourth and twos are successful 63% of the time, but even at 40% the return is positive. Even if you believe you can down them at the 1, going forward is at least neutral. Plus, Bell had just run five straight times in obvious running situations, gaining at least 2 yards on four of his five carries.
This week’s Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week goes to the refs in the Michigan St-Nebraska game for making Sparty punt the ball away.
+15% Gardner to Dileo for Michigan’s opening score
+9% Kirkwood stopped on 4th and 1 at the Michigan 41
+7% Nelson’s pass falls incomplete, forces Gophers into attempting long field goal at end of first half
-8% Gardner is intercepted at the Michigan 49
-8% Minnesota is on the board first with an 8 yard TD pass
-5% Nelson to Engel is good for 32 yards on third down
Devin Gardner, +14 EV, +30% WPA
Fitzgerald Toussaint, +4 EV (all on final run), +1%
Defense, +12 EV, +20%
Jake Ryan now 17th nationally in defender rankings, 11th in BCS players, 4th in Big Ten
Northwestern has surprisingly turned into a slightly more defensive than offensive player this year. Venric Mark is one of the nation’s most valuable running backs and the biggest threat from the Wildcat’s offense. If Michigan’s defense is up to task, the offense should be able to generate enough for a decent win.
Michigan 24 Northwestern 14
Formation notes: much, much more under-center in this game. FWIW, Minnesota had some packages where they'd put a linebacker in between two DL, as below:
Last year people told me this was a bear front, so that's what I called it. On short yardage Minnesota would do this to both sides of the line, so that's double bear. As always, lingo may not be compatible with your local football lingo-knowing guy and only exists to provide extended conversations with Seth about what the hell I meant when I classified X as Y.
Also here's this guy again:
Substitution notes: Gardner the whole way at QB, Rawls got some playing time, Smith was back, and the line was exactly how it always is. Burzynski got a few goal line plays on that package where they line up Lewan and Schofield next to each other.
The WR rotation was about what you'd expect as well, except there was a lot more Jerald Robinson. He has apparently inherited most of Devin's snaps.
[AFTER THE JUMP: so how was Devin really, and ARGH runs ARGH]
[Note on these posts: Yes, gifs are very bandwith-heavy, which is why we put all but one below the jump. There's not really a way around this that doesn't involve people having to click through to a new page for every gif, which isn't exactly ideal. If your page is lagging severely, try hitting 'escape' on your keyboard (unless you have Chrome, in which case you're SOL), which will stop the animation, then you can right-click and hit 'view image' to open each gif individually.]
We're expanding the MGoGifs beyond recapping each game; starting this week, we'll be taking a look ahead with gifs of great (or at least gif-tacular) moments from past games against Michigan's upcoming opponent. So, today's One Frame At A Time features Northwestern gifs of yore, and there's only one place to begin—Jason Avant's absurd one-handed catch in 2003's 41-10 victory.
First, however, I just want to thank everyone who sent in suggestions on Twitter, and also express my eternal gratitude to WolverineHistorian, whose videos provided the source material for most of these. The man is a treasure. And now, here's Avant:
[When you've finished watching that on a loop for, oh, 20 minutes, hit THE JUMP for the rest of the gifs.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers a potential new 2013 offer, the updated 2013 ESPN300, the latest on Gareon Conley and Laquon Treadwell, and more.
New Offer? Nope. Hilarious Ref Faceplant? Yup.
Scout's Mike Coppage reported yesterday that Michigan recently offered LA ATH Trevell Dixon, a former Nebraska commit who could play wide receiver or defensive back in college, though the recruiting services appear to have him pegged as a safety. Tremendous reports that Dixon—a four-star on Rivals and ESPN, a three-star on Scout and 247—is now considering an official visit to Michigan, but it's also noted that he heard about the offer from Coppage, not the coaches; it's worth waiting for word to come out from a team source before considering this a concrete offer.
And, as I write this, TomVH comes through to report that Dixon does not hold an offer—any time a player hears the news from a reporter as opposed to, you know, the coaches who'd relay that offer, the veracity is very much in question. I've come this far, though, and already titled the post, so here are Dixon's highlights—come for the impressive athleticism (he's the quarterback in these highlights), stay for the ref spectacularly eating dirt at the :50 mark:
[EDIT: Now in gif form, because I'm the worst kind of person:
Nice hustle, though.
While Dixon doesn't hold an offer at this point, I'd bet that the coaches are taking a look options to replace Gareon Conley—while Leon McQuay III is the ideal candidate, you can't go all in on landing a five-star from Florida.
[Hit THE JUMP for movement in the updated ESPN300, this weekend's slated visitors, the latest on Gareon Conley and Laquon Treadwell, and more.]
Northwestern, Michigan's upcoming opponent, had a bye last week, so I went back to the only Northwestern torrent I could find—their week six loss at Penn State—for this week's FFFF. The Wildcats allowed three fourth-quarter touchdowns to blow a 28-17 lead, one gained mostly by fortune and a Venric Mark punt return touchdown—PSU held the final edge in yardage, 443-247.
It's worth noting that Northwestern has been playing two quarterbacks this season; in the PSU game, Trevor Siemian got the majority of the snaps over the more mobile Kain Colter, who spent much of the game in the slot. Last week, however, it was Colter who got the starting nod as Siemian threw just one pass in a win over Iowa; this week's game notes have Colter at the top of the depth chart, and considering Siemian's ineffectiveness I'm going on the presumption that will be the case.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. Very, very spread. Northwestern ran exactly two plays from under center—both came when they were backed up on their own goal line after a Penn State punt pinned them deep. Otherwise, Northwestern ran 48 charted snaps out of the shotgun and six out of the pistol (all of the latter with Kain Colter at QB).
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass—the Wildcats, especially with Colter at QB, lean heavily on the zone read. Honestly, they should've leaned on it more heavily, as you'll see when we get to Siemian's HenneChart.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Northwestern rarely huddles and plays at a very fast pace, going so far as to often line up Siemian at wide receiver when Colter takes snaps at quarterback so they can switch betweens QBs without making subsitutions. Pacing the defense is a huge part of their offense's success.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Colter is one of the better-running QBs in the conference, probably behind only Denard and Taylor Martinez [EDIT: and Braxton Miller], so I'd give him an 8. Siemian, on the other hand, rarely looks to escape the pocket and gets maybe a 4—he did manage to scramble for a 15-yard gain against PSU but it occurred when the proverbial seas parted.
Colter has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and already has 11 rushing touchdowns this season. He's very adept at running the read option—his ability to wait until the last possible nanosecond before pulling earned him a touchdown here as PSU's DE gave up the corner:
Why Northwestern ran Colter five times while allowing Siemien to throw 36 passes in a close contest is entirely beyond my comprehension.
[For the rest of this week's opponent breakdown, hit THE JUMP.]
- Both Denard and Russell Bellomy are day to day. Hoke doesn't want to comment on it, so don't ask or he'll get mad at you.
- All's quiet on the Devin Gardner redshirt front.
- Mario Ojemudia is not 100%, still limited in practice. My guess is he probably won't play Saturday.
- Jeremy Gallon is "good." My guess is he probably will play on Saturday.
- Joey Burzynski and Jack Miller have taken reps with the ones this week. If they do get shuffled into the offensive line rotation, that decision will be made after tomorrow's practice.
From the mixed up files of Dr. Basil E. Heikoyang
“It was a good practice, and I think it’s been like that most of the year. I think we had really good energy. We had good tempo. I think our team -- I know our team understands we’re playing an awfully good team this week. They’re very difficult in some ways to defend from an offensive perspective. Their playmakers on both sides of the ball with Mark and Colter, and Siemian throws the ball awfully well. They have a group of receivers that play the ball well in the air. I think they run after the catch very well. When you look at the big plays they’ve had defensively, they’ve had 20 plus runs. I think they have 12 touchdowns of them. And then throwing the ball, they’ve had a number of those they’ve done a good job with. And then defensively you look at them and, you know, Mike Hankwitz, who played here, the coordinator, does a tremendous job from a defensive perspective. Sound, disciplined, run to the ball, all the things you want to see a defense do. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
“Regarding our two quarterbacks, I’m not going to talk about it as far as what’s going on with Russell and Denard because it’s day to day and in fairness to those kids, I’m not going to give day to day updates. So that’s where that’s at.”