In 1997, back when 7-point leads were comfortable and safeties were meant for hitting people while corners did the covering* undefeated and no-brainer No. 1 Michigan went to the Rose Bowl. That was pretty cool. We faced Washington State and Ryan Leaf back when he was Ryan Leaf and not Ryan Leaf, Woodson made that interception to
stop the comeback keep Michigan in striking distance (wow I forgot that context), and woo forever.
Meanwhile the conferences that weren't the Big Ten and Pac Ten were into their third year of a "bowl coalition" to match up the best two teams possible. Undefeated kick-ball-in-OT-vs-Mizzou Nebraska went to that and beat the tar out of Tennessee. The AP declared the next day's Daily cover something to hang on your wall forever, the coaches gave Osborne his send-off gift, and it didn't matter that there was a co- because starting next year there would be the perfect championship system to determine an unquestionable champion…for 1997.
* This wasn't at all true unless you literally had Charles Woodson in your backfield. Dude should win an award for that or something.
Getting' Jiggy With It isn't working. This has been the BCS's problem since its inception. In 1998 it was the perfect system to pit the last big conference undefeateds against each other, but then it left out an undefeated minor conference team and arbitrarily selected one of several similar 1-loss teams to face unquestioned numero uno Tennessee. Every year there was at least some complaint they patched with an overreaction on the next one. Team A beat Team B beat Team C who got in? Overrate head-to-head and dump half the computers. Too influenced by pollsters? Let's get more computers. Teams running up the score? Dump the margin of victory. AP and Coaches No. 1 USC left out of a three-horse race? Overrate the polls. Undefeated SEC team left out of a three-horse race? Overrate schedule strength. Boise State keeps going undefeated by playing Wyoming 12 times? Autobid the little guys. Two Big Ten teams about to rematch? Oh the pollsters can jig the system. Wait the pollsters are jigging the system? Kick 'em out and get our own pollsters. Two SEC teams about to rematch? Dammit.
This is what a process looks like when it has no forethought. I could say the same about many playoff proposals. Every year there's a perfect system that would be perfect for that year if we had that system. What we should be asking for is a system that would be good enough every year.
Good enough is good enough. Math says if you found the best team in a 120-team league after 12-13 games of unbalanced schedules, you just got lucky. What we're shooting for here is something where only the homeriest homer of Domer will be claiming their team got duked. The last team in should have an ironclad case, were they to emerge victorious, to be the No. 1 overall team, but the first team out should not have a very good case to be given that chance.
Autobids are bad (for this). This includes conference champions, sorry. The championship games help clear things up by giving contenders an extra bellwether. However a two-division format means 8-4 teams can beat 12-0 teams they lost to the first time. The Big Longhorns Conference still technically exists. So does the Big East. Bowl tie-ins for conference champions are great and should stay but nothing should be automatic about a playoff.
The right process is some kind of playoff. I'd be fine if it just went back to bowl games and polls to determine the National Champion, but the game has gone national and there's money to be made.
The question is how many teams should be in it. The current system has two teams. The Plus-One proposal discussed by the conferences last year is basically four with some measure of flexibility. Brian wants six, which is the fewest that will accommodate undefeated mid-majors most years. Hinton proposed 10, which reasonably fits most of the good 2-loss teams.
What I'd like to do here is UFR the BCS years past and see which of these playoff systems, the BCS, a Plus-One, Brian's, or Doc Saturday's, would have been best.
1998: Slightly similar to this year, with one undisputed team on top, then lots of 1-loss teams to pick from. Four-teamer is #1 Tennessee (12-0), #2 FSU, #3 Kansas St, and #4 Ohio State. Six teamer includes #5 UCLA and #10 Tulane. Ten teams nets #6 Texas A&M with 2 losses, #7 Arizona with 1 loss, #8 Florida with 2 losses, and #9 Wisconsin with 1 loss (the Big Ten Champ). Ideally: Brian.
1999: The first obvious matchup of two undefeated BCS teams, #1 Florida State, and #2 Virginia Tech. Clear #3 Nebraska stands apart from a ton of 2-loss teams like Tennessee, Bama, Michigan, Wisconsin and MSU. 1-loss KSU is in there too. 10 teams works if you take Marshall over 3-loss Florida or Penn State. Ideally: BCS
2000: #1 Oklahoma, #2 Florida State, who lost to #3 Miami, who lost to #4 Washington. #5 V-Tech, and #6 Oregon State also had 1 loss each. After that is a lot of 2-loss BCS teams. The BCS system generated all sorts of controversy for teams 2-4 being mostly indiscernible, and lo more overreactive rules were written into the BCS codec. Ideally: Brian.
2001: Another year where 1 is clear but the rest ain't. #1 Miami, then #2 Nebraska, #3 Colorado with 2 losses but who just beat Nebraska, #4 Oregon with Joey Harrington. Getting to six includes 2-loss SEC teams #5 Florida and #6 Tennessee. You're leaving out 1-loss Illinois and 2-loss Texas here but 2-loss Tennessee was a shoe-in for the national championship game until falling in the SEC championship. An expanded field of 10 also draws in Stanford and Maryland. Ideally: Plus-One.
2002: #1 Miami, #2 Ohio State, HUGE GAP, #3 Georgia, #4 USC, #5 Iowa, #6 Washington State. This is the year you want to just skip to an N.C. game because the top two are undefeated and everyone else has 1 or 2 losses against easier schedules. A 10-team playoff includes Oklahoma, Kansas State, Notre Dame, and either Texas or Michigan. Could you really build a strong argument that the 2002 team is a national title contender? Ideally: BCS
2003: A top tier of three 1-loss teams: #1 Oklahoma, #2 LSU, #3 USC, then and easy cutoff between #4 Michigan and #5 Ohio State, #7 Florida State. Again you're picking between 2-loss teams for the 6th spot. Here I drew in FSU over Texas for winning their conference (not an auto-bid but it can count). Whichever team that is would have to play in Ann Arbor under the Brian plan to avoid having a repeat of M-OSU in the same place a week after The Game. The next four teams would include Texas, Tennessee, Miami (YTM), and either K-State or 1-loss Miami (NTM). This is a great case for a 4-team playoff, a decent case study for a 6-teamer, and shows how a 10-teamer is getting down to 1-loss MAC teams. Ideally: Brian.
2004: Again a clear top tier: #1 USC, #2 Oklahoma, #3 Auburn. A fourth is #5 Cal or #4 Texas, a sixth undefeated #6 Utah. Undefeated #9 Boise State is out there too. Expanding to 10 includes 2-loss Georgia, Virginia Tech, and 1-loss (not Big East yet) Louisville. Ideally: Brian.
2005: #1 USC, #2 Texas, BIG GAP, #3 Penn State, #4 Ohio State, #5 Oregon, #6 Notre Dame or maybe #11 WVU? Like '02 this is a "just play the NC" year. Twice in four years is enough to write a fix into the system for this sort of thing (more on this below). A 10-teamer includes Georgia, Miami (YTM), Auburn, and either VT, WVa., or LSU, or ??? – there are fully 10 two-loss BCS teams. Ideally: BCS.
2006: A one and many situation again. #1 Ohio State, then pick one from #3 Michigan (no need for shenanigans), #2 Florida, #5 USC, #4 LSU, #8 Boise State. I slotted in undefeated Boise over 1-loss Louisville and Wisconsin, and also moved USC over LSU for winning their conference. Going to 10 includes them plus probably Auburn and Oklahoma; after that is Brady Quinn's 10-2 Notre Dame who don't belong near an NC game except in ND fans' minds. Ideally: Brian.
2007: Sixer would have #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, #3 Virginia Tech, #4 Oklahoma, #5 Georgia, and #10 Hawai'i. This might as well be 2011 with another pretty sure-fire #1 and some confusion after that. This would be a hard call between a BCS game (LSU's a strong #2 while the other 1-loss team is #8 Kansas) and a 6-teamer. Going to 10 includes Mizzou, USC, Kansas, and West Virginia, who are indiscernible from Georgia and VT but cuts off before 10-2 Arizona State. Ideally: Doc Sat.
2008: This was the season that wasn't played. Henri the Otter of Ennui wins. Okay fine this is a mess of seven 1-loss teams at the top and two undefeated mid-majors, one of which played Michigan and respectable MWC schedule. Sixer ends up with #1 Oklahoma, #2 Florida, #3 Texas, #4 Bama, #6 Utah, and #5 USC. Sorry #9 Boise State. After that there's 1-loss Texas Tech and Penn State and 2-loss Ohio State. If you're okay with leaving out Boise for USC it's Ideally: Brian.
2009: It's not 2004 despite three undefeated BCS teams since the Big East was by now a mid-major. #1 Alabama and #2 Texas in easy, and #3 Cincy and #4 TCU after. Going to six includes #5 Florida and #6 Boise State. Only Florida among the six has a loss. The next four are Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia Tech and Iowa, all with 2 losses so 10 teams would only muddle things that are fine, but this year would work well as BCS, Plus-One, or the Cook Six Plan. Ideally: Brian.
2010: Top two are easy #1 Auburn and #2 Oregon. Top six hauls in #3 TCU, #4 Stanford, #5 Wisconsin, and #6 Ohio State. Again this is tailor-made for six teams (three undefeated, three with one loss). It's tempting to go with the NC format, TCU be screwed, but six is just fine. The 2-loss Sooners and Razorbacks, and 1-loss MSU and Boise would draw into a 10-team field. Ideally: Brian.
2011: Two is a rematch of #1 LSU and #2 Alabama. Four is #3 Oklahoma State, plus either #4 Stanford or #5 Oregon who beat them. And #7 Boise State, now with BCS scheduled teams and TCU. I'm giving Boise the entry in a six-team system over Arkansas so we don't have half the field from one conference. Ten teams would be a bitch (Hinton includes Clemson in there—the BCS standings would have four SEC teams in a 10-team field). Ideally: Brian.
So you're saying the boss's system is better?
Yeah, I…wait I have a bolded subconscious alter-ego too now?
No I'm Ace's bolded alter-ego, filling in.
The coaches like me better. Boom BCS'ed!
He got bored right around the time you started going over every year since 1998.
:( So final score is Brian 9, BCS 3, and 1 each for a Plus One and Doc Saturday's 10-team bowlstravaganza. So six is the best solution, but far from a perfect solution. This makes sense when you look at an average season. For this I can even give you a
..art of how many of each type of contender we've had in 14 Final BCS Standings:
|Team type||Avg. per season|
|Undefeated BCS Teams||1.4|
|One-loss BCS Teams||3.4|
|Two-loss BCS Teams||5.8|
This is a loose argument for a six-team playoff. There's a reasonable chance of having four or five undefeated or 1-loss BCS teams, plus one perfect mid-major, every year. Those mid-majors aren't going away with TCU and Boise joining one of the recently pilfered BCS leagues; you can see Marshall and Tulane popped up before they did. However any given year should expect plenty of 2-loss BCS teams, more than you want to pick from to expand to a field of 10. Six draws an imaginary circle around the top three rows and suggests most years you can get between 5 and 6 comfortably competitive playoff contenders.
But then you still have 5/14 years when that's not ideal in just this little sample. Is that acceptable?
No it isn't. Even if you figure the perfect Plus-One year and the perfect Doctor Saturday year wouldn't bother too many people if we rammed them into a six-team field, what's unacceptable are those three BCS wins. It's better than the BCS's 3/14 but hell some years you just wanna see Ohio State versus Miami (YTM), or Florida State versus Vick, or the Pete Carroll's Hollywood All Stars versus the Vince Young Show. So:
Let's have that!
Let's propose the six-team playoff system I'll call Brian-Plus:
- Six-team field chosen by a select committee/cabal like in basketball
- #3 and #4 hosting #6 and #5 respectively in home field quarterfinals the week after the conference championships (mid-majors who get in will almost certainly fall in that that 5- or 6-seed range to preclude too much blue turf in Round 1)
- Semifinals in Sugar and Orange Bowls on Jan. 1.
- Final a week later in the Rose Bowl.
- All other bowls left alone; bowls can schedule Round 1 losers. Rose Bowl can have its regular game a week earlier with the parade.
…but that seeding committee can also choose to declare a clear national championship game. So basically when they meet they decide a.) Is it two or six this year, and then b.) If it's six who gets in and how are they seeded? On years when there's a clear two-team BCS game we revert to something like the current system, with bowl tie-ins for the regularly scheduled bowl games.
I would also suggest removing one game from the regular season schedule (if only this would solve the FCS problem) so that the conference championships are played over Thanksgiving and Round One of the playoffs be a week after. Maybe that's pushing it.
Bacon Qs! The time has come: the season's over, Three and Out has been digested by the people who bought it at or around launch, and we are set to get more information from Bacon on things that were omitted from the book or were included and might need clarification or explanation.
If you've read it and something stuck with you, let's hear it. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions; Bacon can take it. He sat in a press box with limited power and made it out alive.
Site note. I have been bookmarking things for MGolicious but Delicious is not updating the feed. Now it's down. Not sure what I can do other than switch link providers, but I'll try to poke around and see if I can fix anything.
Boo-boo. It (one of the its, anyway) was REVEALED!
“Turns out you didn’t have a boo-boo,” a reporter asked Robinson on Friday. “You had a staph infection?”
Robinson threw his head back and laughed.
“It was a deal,” Robinson said, repeating another popular ‘Hoke-speak’ phrase.
“I was a little sick — had a staph infection. But I went out there and still played. I did it for my team.”
Heiko got a gross shot of it.
Ow. Now that the season's over how do we feel about the Denard injury == terrible throwing idea? He had that and the elbow abscess, and once past those things he did get a lot better. I'm guessing 40% this stuff, 30% plain bad mechanics (back foot throws), 30% lack of familiarity with what Borges is trying to do.
BONUS: filing "had a deal" into the Hokeopticon.
Desmond Howard being interviewed by a woman who looks like she is playing a part in a 1990s science fiction movie. Just me?
This whole thing makes me think "Demolition Man." I am biased by the high top fade, probably. Via Wolverine Historian.
Goodbye, competent instate opponent. Saturday's game against Oakland was the last Michigan will play by edict of John Beilein:
"No," Beilein said Friday when asked if he had interest in renewing a contract with Oakland. "Not at all." …
"We traditionally want to play our games at Crisler (Arena) as often as possible," Beilein said of non-conference scheduling. "I'm not saying we won't go back to The Palace if it's a type of situation that we really think benefits Michigan 100 percent."
I'm not a fan. If playing Oakland means giving up occasional games against Arkansas Pine Bluff, uh… okay. There's plenty of room on the schedule for a game at the Palace against a real opponent.
Kampe said Oakland is "good enough to beat" Michigan and that's a reason M wants them off the schedule, but they're also good enough to provide an interesting game and an RPI bump relative to a Towson. Michigan should be looking for more opponents like Oakland, not fewer. I'd rather play them outside Crisler than some SWAC team anywhere.
Insert usual disbelief at lack of annual game against ND here.
Early emergence. I'm still trying to get my head around what's going on with the hockey team, and it basically comes down to three things:
- They are short two quality defensemen. Moffie should be a third pairing guy rotating with Clare and Serville should be redshirting. Clare's gotten better of late but his footspeed remains an issue and you can feel the panic when he gets the puck in his own zone.
- There is no top line. The best forward on the roster is…? Depending on the day it's Di Guiseppe, Wohlberg, Brown, or (lately) Guptill. One of those guys may have been the third wheel on a vintage Michigan top line as someone else stirs the drink.
- Special teams are terrible, terrible, terrible. Michigan's PK is last in the CCHA and PP is 8th. This was something of a problem last year; the PP has been a mess for a long time. Watching MSU run the same thing M does reveals that there are options other than "shoot from the point" and "get your shot blocked from the point."
This is not really related to the article I'm linking except that parenthetical above:
…this weekend, it was a different freshman — forward Alex Guptill — who stole the show. Guptill ensured that Di Giuseppe wasn’t missed at all. Over the course of the series, Guptill racked up three points and now leads Michigan in goals scored (nine).
“(Guptill) is doing the little things right,” said senior defenseman Greg Pateryn. “That’s what it comes down to. Less is more in college hockey, and he’s doing the simple things.”
After the first half dozen games or so I pegged Guptill as one of those big forwards the NHL drafts too high who disappoints until catching fire as a senior and leaving in a blaze of glory, but not so much. Guptill has started catching my eye for "little things" like dumping and chasing effectively; he seems faster than most guys his size.
On the flip side, a lot was expected from Hyman and he hasn't produced, languishing with 7 points. Only Glendening and Lynch have fewer points among forwards* with a regular shift. Both Hyman and Guptill are a bit older than usual Michigan freshmen (they both took post-draft years in junior) and it's a little concerning that Hyman isn't doing much of note yet.
*[IE, two thirds of Michigan's nominal top line to start the season. This is what I am saying.]
Pittsnogle redux (or I guess Jamie Smalligan but that's no fun). 2013 basketball commit Mark Donnal's latest boxscore: 36 points on 13/15 shooting with 8/11 from the line. UMHoops has video of this outburst featuring multiple three pointers, baby hooks in the lane, and a fadeaway jumper from the elbow, all against a pretty decent high school center with midmajor offers. Dude is a 6'9" post. Watching the video makes it apparent why Beilein offered Donnal as fast as he possibly could.
He doesn't look particularly athletic and doesn't seem to have the attributes needed to be a 4, so it's three-shooting center time again. Hopefully Donnal ends up reminding me of that one center from the SNES version of NCAA basketball who shot 50% from three because some programmer looked at a Colorado center going one for two (or thereabouts) on the season and decided he was awesome.
Etc.: Dave Brandon complains about OSU's recruitin' waiver. Didn't Michigan get the same thing when RR was hired? I don't recall any sanctions coming down as RR recruited dudes between his hiring and the Citrus Bowl.
via The Shredder
- South Florida, 23-20 (L)
- @ Michigan, 35-31 (L)
- No. 15 Michigan State, 31-13 (W)
- @ Pittsburgh, 15-12 (W)
- @ Purdue, 38-10 (W)
- Air Force, 59-33 (W)
- USC, 31-17 (L)
- Navy, 56-14 (W)
- @ Wake Forest, 24-17 (W)
- Maryland, 45-21 (W)
- Boston College, 16-14 (W)
- @ No. 6 Stanford, 28-14 (L)
Rankings/Standings: Unranked; borderline Top 25 team receiving a couple votes in each poll.
|Scoring:||30.5 ppg, 44th||20.9 ppg, 28th|
|Total:||424.1 ypg, 34th||348.8 ypg, 34th|
|Rush:||166.0 ypg, 51st||147.1 ypg, 58th|
|Pass:||258.1 ypg, 33rd||201.7 ypg, 34th|
|T/O margin:||-13 (+13, -26), 115th|
Season recap [wsg ed-S taking a metaphor way further]: Year two of the Brian Kelly regime was rough sailing. It wasn’t that they lost four games; it was that they lost four games in creative and terrible ways.
The Irish entered the season ranked 16th in the nation only to drop their first two games in television-shattering fashion. This mass destruction of TV sets explains why nobody now remembers their 31-13 thrashing of Michigan State. Those old CRTs had to go anyway though, and this meant the few Notre Dame fans who hadn't checked themselves into some sort of facility for the psychologically damaged and turnover-prone got to watch Tommy Rees and co. beat up some mediocre teams (and a couple more turnover meltdowns to rivals USC and Stanford) in crystal high-def.
There were some close, ugly wins here and there, but the story of the 2011 Irish was dominance split and bookended by wanton TV carnage.
Notre Dame’s biggest problem was with turnovers, and if you really want to point fingers (you do) you’d be epic-Hoke-double-pointing at the Irish quarterbacks. QB Tommy Rees and backup Dayne Crist combined for 19 TDs and 13 INTs plus a handful of fumbles that put Kelly on the fast track to vascular dementia. But then yea in the last half of the last game there came in sophomore Andrew Hendrix to lead an almost-comeback v. Stanford and rekindle hope for the future. Hope might have been 11-24 for 192 yards, 1TD and 1 INT but it does come in a golden dome.
That 20/14 TD/INT ratio is not so good if you’re a passing spread offense. To compare, Tony Pike and Zach Collaros combined for 39 TDs and just 8 INTs during Kelly’s last year at Cincinnati.
Coaching clearly contributed. Despite being equipped with two explosive running backs and a powerful offensive line, Kelly relied too much on his turnover-prone quarterbacks to make plays.
Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
This led to him turning purple when they did something stupid, which was often.
The playcalling cost them the game against USC and contributed to a couple other losses. Against the Trojans, RB Cierre Wood and RB Jonas Gray combined for 43 yards on a paltry 9 carries. It’s only fitting that the game-breaking play was a fumbled snap as Crist dropped back to pass on third-and-goal from the one.
via The Chicago Tribune
That said, the Irish were approximately two plays away from a 10-2 season and a possible BCS bowl.
They looked like a BCS bowl-contending team on paper. The Notre Dame offense came well stocked with skill players who should have been able to make up for the signalcallers’ weaknesses given the right coaching and game planning. The defense was filled with talent too, and despite some horrific breakdowns here and there they shoulda woulda have posted better stats had the offense not been coughing up the ball every other series. Their front seven demolished Michigan State’s run game, and we all remember what they did to Michigan’s offense for most of Under The Lights.
The defensive unit as a whole also held Matt Barkley and Andrew luck to mediocre performances, and it was the defense that allowed the Irish to survive the ugly games against Pittsburgh and Boston College to prevent the team from going 6-6.
In sum, the Irish had enough talent on both sides of the ball to stack up to the best teams in the country, but turnovers and embarrassing collapses during big games condemned them to a disappointing season.
Best win: No. 15 Michigan State
Worst loss: All of them.
When Michigan played them, we thought they were as frightening as: A seven year old with an M80 because they were as prone to hurting themselves as they were to hurting other people. Fear level = 6.
But now we know they are as frightening as: A 13 year old with an M80 -- about the same as before but now with a recently discovered, poorly developed taste in fashion. 6.
What this win meant for Michigan: Every flaw born of the coaching transition got exposed in this game: ineffectiveness from the I-formation, no intermediate passing game, Denard’s interception-fest, NFL blitzes without NFL-calibre players, and the clear lack of a number one running back despite the promise shown a week earlier. All the warts were well lit and on full display, yet somehow Michigan still managed to win.
That’s not to say the Wolverines didn’t do anything right and don’t deserve credit for the win as much as Notre Dame deserves credit for the loss. The game did also provide the first glimpses of the defense’s third-and-short domination, the emergence of Jeremy Gallon as a reliable weapon as a return man and receiver, the rise of the “jump-ball” offense (a.k.a. say what you want about Denard’s passing, but all your defensive backs are belong to Michigan’s receivers), the inaugural supereffective throwback screen, and abundant reaffirmation that Denard still has It.
Over the course of the season the Wolverines would work out most of the bad things while retaining most of the good things. Sounds simplistic, but if that isn’t QED for the superior level of coaching at Michigan, I don’t know what is.
The biggest disappointment about the win over the Irish is the Irish. Notre Dame losing their first and last games meant that the Wolverines beat a tough team that was ranked neither at the time nor at the end of the season. It doesn’t really matter now because Michigan made a BCS bowl anyway, but having the second-best beaten opponent be more competitive down the stretch wouldn’t have hurt.
And it totally felt as awesome as: Watching this video over and over and over.
“But he’s a poor thrower!”
Bowl game: Champs Sports Bowl vs. Florida State, Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. EST
Previously: Introducing Shaq Wiggins
Tyrone (GA) Sandy Creek CB Shaq Wiggins is a member of both the ESPNU 150 Watch List and the Early 247 for the class of 2013. He has been high on Michigan throughout the early stages of the recruiting process after an outstanding performance at last summer's Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Southfield put him on the radar of several Midwest schools. Wiggins holds offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Tennesee, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Ball State, Ohio, and Toledo, and he was in Michigan Stadium a couple weeks ago to take in the Ohio State game. I caught up with Shaq over the weekend to get the latest on his status:
ACE: How's everything going in terms of your recruitment? How many offers are you sitting on right now?
SHAQ: Still sitting on eight. A couple schools came to see me, and for the most part they want me to come to their junior days and stuff like that. I'm going to sit down and pick out some of the schools that I'm going to consider and go to their junior days.
ACE: Are there any schools that are standing out for you right now?
SHAQ: I would probably say Tennessee right now.
ACE: You had the chance to come up and visit Ann Arbor for the Ohio State game. What were your impressions of Michigan coming out of that?
SHAQ: Well, right off the bat, I mean the crowd—114,000 fans—that was pretty amazing, I never saw that before. I know Ohio State and Michigan are good rivals. They executed well against Ohio State, the play was great, the environment was great—it just makes you think more and more about being a Michigan Wolverine.
ACE: Did you get the chance to talk to the coaches while you were up on your visit? What have they had to say about your recruitment?
SHAQ: I talked to Coach Montgomery most of the time, and I talked to Coach Mallory for a little bit. They were telling me to keep focusing—this was while the season was going on—keep focusing on my style of play and just playing hard for my team and they would come to see me in the next two weeks when they come and recruit the South.
ACE: What's the status of your Michigan offer? Depending on where you look, it says you may have one or you may not.
SHAQ: Yeah, I don't know why—someone talked to me the other day [and said that] on ESPN the check was off my Michigan offer or something like that. I know I have a Michigan offer, so I don't know what the rumors are or anything like that, but I can't worry about that.
ACE: Did visiting Michigan change how you look at the school and how they fit in with the teams you're looking at right now?
SHAQ: Yeah, it definitely gives a little spark in my eye. Just looking at the freshman, Blake Countess, playing early, and the depth chart looks pretty good. So, I mean, Michigan I would say is a priority.
ACE: Looking at your season, you guys went through the regular season undefeated and got into the third round of the playoffs. How'd you feel about your team's performance this year and your performance individually?
SHAQ: My team's performance, I thought it was as good as it could get. In the last game we didn't play as well as we should have, but as a team throughout the whole season, the season was great. We played an undefeated regular season and won the regional championship, so some of the goals we set we accomplished them, and obviously the goal we set to win the state championship didn't go as planned. All we can do is come in harder next year. My season individually, you know, I never thought I would have nine interceptions in one season. I guess from all the hard work in the summertime, that's what I got.
ACE: Nine picks is obviously a very impressive number. How'd you feel you improved over the season, and what are you still working on for the next level?
SHAQ: I try and get better at every aspect of the game, especially at cornerback, I try to work at everything. But the most important thing that I want to work on is my size, a lot of people talk about my size—not that I really take offense to that, it's true, I have to get bigger, stronger for the next level in order to contribute to my team. I would probably say that's one of the main focuses of my game. Once I get a little stronger and bigger I think my game will be kind of complete and good and I'm just hoping to get better.
ACE: Now that your season is over, what are you looking at in terms of possible junior days and summer visits?
SHAQ: Yeah—hopefully Michigan again. I know I'm taking a trip to Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and maybe one more school.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline about when you'd like to wrap up your recruitment?
SHAQ: I'm hoping summertime of 2012, going into my senior season, but I'm not trying to rush anything. I would like to get my recruitment over with by summer so I can just focus straight on my season.
Quality looks. Photos via Dustin Johnson and UMHoops.
(Stats via Kenpom($).)
With a 90-80 win against Oakland on Saturday, Michigan has completed the competitive section of their nonconference schedule with the exception of their annual inexplicable nonconference opponent stashed in the heart of the Big Ten schedule. This year's: @ Arkansas on January 21st. Why does Michigan do it? I have no idea. It's a persistent mystery.
Anyway, we won't learn much of anything about the team we don't already know as they take on Arkansas Pine Bluff, Alabama A&M, and Bradley. The former two are ranked 300+ by Kenpom; Bradley is 209 and has a loss to Wofford on their resume. We have 95% of the data we'll have by the time Penn State rolls into down on the 29th. So what have we learned?
The Big Ten is insane. Michigan checks in at #39 in the Kenpom ratings, which is good enough for a projected conference record of… 8-10. Glurp. That's because there are five teams in the league currently ranked in the top 15: #1 Wisconsin, #3 OSU, #12 Michigan State, #13 Indiana, and #14 Purdue. Michigan is currently leading a second tier from 39 to 52 with Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Nebraska's by itself in the 70s; Penn State and Iowa are horrible.
The Big Ten has a monster lead on the #2 Big Twelve for the title of best tempo-free conference in the country. It is a brutal league. Without a hugely disappointing tourney, it will be a runaway winner in the KenPom rankings for the second straight year.
Michigan is not in the top tier because of their defense. Their offense is 21st nationally (about which more later); their defense is 80th. The league has four defenses allowing less than 90 points per 100 possessions*; Wisconsin and OSU are 1-2 nationally at 81 and 83.5. Michigan's giving up 95, which is good for ninth. They beat out only Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State.
That's a disappointing backslide for a team that you'd expect to be better on D. Darius Morris was the only loss and Michigan went from one of the youngest teams in the country to middle of the pack, but Michigan was 34th last year. Small sample size caveats apply; IIRC last year at this time Michigan's defense was just as shaky and they pulled it together in the Big Ten.
*[adjusted for schedule strength]
They are #1 in the country at something. Go ahead, guess. You'll never get it. No, none of those things: Michigan is #1 nationally in making two pointers. I should have told you to sit down. I cannot be held responsible for people falling over at this news.
Now that you've recovered, it makes some sense, doesn't it? I mean, Jordan Morgan missed a bunny against Oakland and Greg Kelser joked about how that will cripple his 77% shooting, and you were like "whoah." There is one guy on the team with enough minutes to register in the stats who's shooting under 55% percent, that Jon Horford at a horrendous awful terrible 53%. Michigan's four highest-volume two point shooters are at 76% (Morgan), 58% (Smotrycz), 56% (Hardaway) and 55% (Burke).
This is partially an effect of the schedule. The defenses they've gone up against have not generally been high quality. It was somewhat ugly against Virginia, possessor of the one elite defense they've faced so far. Michigan went 12 of 28 from two and only stayed in the game with blistering three point shooting—they actually shot better from 3 in that game than 2, 46%-42%.
That's an abnormally good defense, sure, but half of Michigan's Big Ten games are going to be against Virginia-quality Ds. This is a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust conference. That second half against Duke, when they tore up ALL OF THE PLUMLEES, is encouraging. They're #1 for some reason, it's not all schedule.
The rest of their offensive stats are basically in line with expectations. They shoot a ton of threes (20th), are only decent at making them (86th), rarely turn the ball over, rarely grab offensive rebounds, and rarely get to the line. POT, now and forever.
That's not a revelation. That's just how Beilein plays the game. We should be looking at these items in relation to last year. The four factors:
- SHOOTING. Massively improved thanks to the aforementioned two-point fiesta. Third nationally.
- TURNOVERS. Poor relative to last year. There is no easy finger to point: everyone's TO rates are up. Burke does have an alarmingly high 22.6; raise your hand if "freshman PG's most obvious flaw is an excessive quantity of turnovers" surprises you. Right, that's Josh Pastner and no one else.
- OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING. Less putrescent than usual! Last year they were the Maryland-Baltimore County of offensive rebounding. This year they're Marist. This gives you no context at all. They're up three percent, good for a significant leap.
- FREE THROW RATE. Also less putrescent than usual; they've gone from the Towson of free throw rate to… well, not good but also not terrible.
Smotrycz needs to stay on the floor. Smotrycz has improved massively in just about any category you care to name save one: fouls per 40 minutes. He's at 5.9 this year and was at 6.4 before staying out of foul trouble against Oakland. Minutes that do not go to Smotrycz go to Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich, statistically inferior players in almost literally all possible ways. And those stats don't even account for the defensive problems Michigan has when Smotrycz is on the bench. Michigan will get significantly better if Smotrycz can get his minutes percentage from the 50s into the 70-75 range.
The same assertion goes for Morgan but at least he has a positional analogue on the roster. Michigan's backup 4 is 6'4" Zack Novak.
Defensive issues. The main one: too many quality three-point looks from opponents. They have not been burned by it yet but Oakland missed an array of wincingly wide-open three pointers, as did Virginia. Duke… did not miss, nor did they shoot a lot of quality threes. But the overall point is this: Michigan is facing almost as many threes as they jack themselves. If they're still near 300th in threes faced at the end of the season opponents will have made it rain and Michigan will be staring at a disappointing tourney seed.
The other stuff is the usual: they're mediocre at defending twos, rarely get turnovers, and foul too much. They're kind of short, kind of young, and not that athletic, so none of these things are surprises, but, like, Wisconsin. Michigan can be better defensively—they were better last year—and getting that leap from mediocre to quality will be the difference between a season spent idling near the bubble and waiting for Stauskas/GRIII/McGary and a decent shot at a Sweet 16.
Novak usage. Zack Novak's shooting 64% from two, 44% from three, and has a TO rate under ten. His offensive rating is off the charts… and his usage is in the "limited roles" range. While you can't really run an offense through him, if Michigan could focus a little more on getting him shots it seems like he would reward that effort. That pump-and-step-in jumper he's developed is money.
Some Oakland-specific things? Sure.
Trey Burke! That is all.
Trey Burke! No it's not. How crazy would it be if he was backing Morris and eating up half of the minutes currently being forked over to Douglass and Vogrich? Ah, hell. That crossover-in-a-phone-booth that led to a wide open Hardaway three was fantastic, as were many other things. He just needs to get an increment better here (TO rate) and there (three point shooting) to be a bonafide collegiate superstar.
NBA: you hate 5'11" point guards. Leave him to us for now.
Laval Lucas-Perry. The festival of charges and other ill-advised decisions combined with defensive lapses to paint a picture of why LLP and Beilein had a falling out that led to his transfer. I was going to point out that he would still be welcome on a team with zero bench but I looked him up and he's shooting 26% from three and 48% from two. Michigan's getting that out of Douglas.
He does get to the line a lot, FWIW.
Tim Hardaway, come out and play. In the second half it seems like Michigan tries to run its offense through Hardaway for three or four possessions in a row, which is because he has two shots and two points in the first 20 minutes. He refuses to force the issue, which is why his turnover rate remains abnormally low for a guy with high usage. I'd still like to see Michigan force Hardaway into the game earlier; once he starts shooting regularly other opportunities open up.
Brundidge: there is no Brundidge. They have already burned Brundidge's redshirt unless they're going to Devin Gardner him an injury, so insert usual concern about Eso Akunne getting the backup point minutes, such as they are. Akunne looks about as comfortable at the point as I would and the offense gets extraordinarily ponderous when he's in the game.
He hasn't missed a shot yet, though. Let's give him time at the two. I'm not sure if I'm serious here. Vogrich is one for a billion from three, so Akunne may actually provide more value at the moment.
Formation notes: Since Brennen Beyer's fake injury kept him out of this game, Michigan had to adapt their big package. Behold a 5-3:
From top to bottom that is Black, Heininger, Martin, Van Bergen, and Roh on the line with Ryan, Morgan, Demens, and Kovacs in an umbrella behind them. Countess is pulled; Floyd is the lone corner and Gordon the free safety.
When there were more wideouts on the field this was the usual deployment:
Kovacs is rolled down into the box, reprising his days as a "bandit" in the 3-3-5. Rolling Kovacs into the box like this was referred to as "plus" in the UFR chart; any "plus" formation has a safety within four or five yards of the LOS.
Substitution notes: The usual most places. Very limited substitutions along the line, with Brink, Black, and Campbell getting a few snaps here and there. Mike Jones briefly replaced Demens at MLB during Ohio State's dispiriting 82-second TD drive after M had gone up 37-27; that came after the long Stoneburner catch and run that I thought Ryan was mostly responsible for, but more on that later.
Woolfolk started at safety but gave way to Gordon at times in the first half; the second half it was all Gordon.
A what-the-dickens-was-that-note: we talked about the oddity that was Michigan seeming to play with zero deep safety support the whole game in a Picture Pages earlier in the week. Chris Brown emails to suggest that what Michigan was doing was running Virginia Tech's defense:
Beamer and Foster also relied on a hybrid coverage of their own design: The "robber," run out of the "G" front. This coverage worked so well because it transformed an already run-heavy eight-man front into a nine man front, where they combined their 4-4 set with conventional two-deep principles: Instead of two deep safeties, they used two deep cornerbacks who split the field into halves. The free-safety then was free to play a "robber" technique -- that is, on pass plays, he read the quarterback's eyes and broke on intermediate routes, but on runs, where he truly became valuable, he was an incredible ninth run-stuffer in the box.
Although not the best against the pass, that wasn't the point. It was good enough (especially with dynamos like D'Angelo Hall at cornerback), and the focus was on stuffing the run or hitting the quarterback before he could release the ball.
That is exactly what Michigan ran much of the day, so keep it in mind. A fuller discussion after the play breakdown.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||5|
|Kovacs rolled up for the plus. Posey beats Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) but the throw is late and upfield, turning a first down (or near first down) into a meh gain. Floyd comes up to tackle with help from Ryan, who dropped into coverage on a shorter out route. Martin spun off a block to get some token pressure on Miller, barely avoiding the -1.|
|O25||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||1|
|I'm not sure what exactly this is supposed to be but I think it is an inside zone; the fullback does not head outside like usual here but attacks the strong side of the line, likely in an attempt to break keys for the linebackers. Herron takes the ball to the other side of the line as OSU zones. RVB(+1) slants under the backside G; Martin(+1) chucks his blocker, and Herron has to bounce out into Heininger(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5) who had set up in their gaps and combine to tackle.|
|O26||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||5||Flare||Ryan||5|
|Snag package for OSU to the short side of the field; Ryan is dropping into the snag and Miller goes with the flare to the outside; Ryan does a decent job on it but can't stop it before the sticks. Push. Could have gone either way.|
|O31||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Dig||Morgan||Inc|
|Speed option fake into a pass. Michigan's linebackers are suckered big time (Morgan -1, Demens -1, cover -2) and Miller has a huge lane in which to hit a guy on a dig route. He turfs the ball nowhere near his WR.|
|O31||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Kovacs||15|
|M slanting to the short side with Roh dropping into coverage and Ryan blitzing off the slot. Ryan(-1) gets way too far outside and upfield and RVB(-1) gets way too far inside and upfield, opening up a huge lane. Demens(+0.5) does a good job to pop off a blocker and flow; Kovacs(-2) loses leverage and whiffs at Miller's feet, turning this from around five into a big gain that could be bigger but for that Demens flow allowing Countess(+0.5) to toss a blocker upfield and disconnect to tackle after the first down marker.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over plus||Pass||4||Waggle fly||Countess||54|
|Roh dives inside the fullback on a play action power fake and gives up the corner; that's probably his assignment with Kovacs overhanging. Spill that. Michigan has no one on the edge; Kovacs(pressure –2) and Morgan are there, there's a pulling G in protection, and both guys plus Demens back out into a zone drop. Miller can pull up and fire to an incredibly wide open receiver. Assuming M is playing this VT D, Countess(-4, cover –4) has the deep half and blows it. RPS –2; two on two coverage and a ton of time.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 12 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|No pressure(-2) at all as Martin is doubled and no one else can beat a blocker. Miller steps up into more pressure than there actually is. M in a two deep here and nothing's open deep (cover +2). Miller's inaccurate checkdown costs them a few yards.|
|O23||2||8||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||WR screen||--||Inc|
|Well wide. Looked like five or so.|
|O23||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Okie two deep||Pass||6||Sack||Kovacs||-11|
|Regular okie has seven at the line. This just has six. That's because Kovacs is coming from the safety spot. Everyone else rushes save Morgan, who drops off into a spy zone; OSU goes max pro and Kovacs(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) still gets a free run. He whiffs; RVB(+1) has slanted past an OL to help clean up; he can't tackle either. Kovacs(+0.5) cleans up from behind. Tackling -1? Yeah, I guess.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||Post||Countess||Inc|
|Good lord. Woolfolk moves up on the underneath route, Countess(-3, cover –3) is setting up outside of Posey, and Miller misses an 80 yard touchdown. Countess is still in the frame so avoids a –4 but this isn't good. RPS –1.|
|O20||2||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||8 (Pen -10)|
|With two TEs to one side and Kovacs blitzing weak it seems like Michigan's LBs have to do a better job of getting outside. They don't; Demens(-1) is slashed to the ground and Miller gets the edge for near first down yardage before Woolfolk comes up to shove him out of bounds; Ryan(+1) did a good job of holding that edge until he got held himself, drawing a flag. RPS -1.|
|O10||2||20||Shotgun 2-back||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|O5||2||25||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||-2|
|DTs stunt; RVB(+3) drives through a botched double that is botched because of the stunt and tackles Miller for loss. Given what we know about DT stunts it's possible RVB called this himself.|
|O3||3||27||I-Form||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Roh||Inc (Pen -3)|
|Roh(+2, pressure +2) speed rushes around Mike Adams and is tackled, drawing a holding call that will be a safety. With that guy tackled and only two other rushers Miller has plenty of time; Woolfolk has again come up on a shorter underneath route (on third and twenty seven!) and leaves Countess trailing Posey for a potential big gain; Countess(+2, cover +2) comes over the top to break the pass up. Still very dangerous. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 9-7, 5 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 even plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||4|
|Morgan(-0.5) takes the lead block at the LOS but does not funnel to his partner; Heininger(+0.5) makes a nice play to come off a block and start an ankle tackle near the LOS, robbing Herron of momentum and making it easier for the rest of the D to rally.|
|O33||2||6||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone?||Van Bergen||1|
|This has an attack point outside the tackles but features a lead blocker and looks like inside zone blocking. So... yeah. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) get swallowed up on the second level and again they have Kovacs behind them so I think they're not doing so well; it doesn't look like M is slanting hard. The DL cleans up for them. Ryan(+1) takes on Boren two yards in the backfield; Van Bergen(+1) drives his blocker in to the backfield, forcing a cutback into Martin(+1), who tackles. Good thing, too. Demens was literally ten yards downfield by the time the play was over.|
|O34||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE Out||Morgan||Inc|
|Man, OSU's gameplan is go after Morgan, go after Morgan, go after Morgan. Here he's in eh coverage(-1, cover -1) on their ponderous TE Fragel; ball is high and over the hands of the target.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Ace||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||3|
|Martin and Heininger take doubles; Martin(+2) holds up until his guy releases and then sets up so the RB comes behind him, then disengages to tackle. Heininger(-1) had been blown several yards off the ball and Herron can muscle forward for a few yards. Dangerous without Martin here. Next year's run defense might be shady.|
|O33||2||7||Shotgun empty||Wacky nickel||Pass||4||Hitch||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Martin as quasi LB with Morgan on the LOS. Martin(+1) comes on his unsurprising blitz as Roh drops off; this time he shocks Brewster with his explosive contact and is about to pressure Miller when he throws; RVB(+1, pressure +1) is in the lane and deflects the pass. Open for around first down yardage if not batted.|
|O33||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||24|
|Full on man up okie; Miller checks into a QB draw that goes for a bunch of yards because he's running at Morgan backing out into pass coverage and everyone else is rushing upfield. Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) and Floyd(-0.5) miss tough open field tackle attempts to provide bonus yards. RPS -2.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||7|
|Martin(-1) is doubled and gives ground, eventually dropping to his knees a couple yards downfield. Demens(+0.5) does a decent job on the lead block and does not let it outside. Morgan(-1) seems unaware he has Kovacs helping behind on cutbacks and is hesitant; instead of scraping over to the iso hole he sits behind the Martin mess in case Herron cuts back and can only tackle after he decides on a hole. Heininger(+0.5) was there on the cutback as well.|
|M36||2||3||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||1|
|Morgan(+2) slams Boren at the LOS and gets outside at said LOS; RVB(+1) has slanted under a tackle and forces the play out, where Morgan ends it for little gain.|
|M35||3||2||Diamond screen||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Diamond draws four defenders, leaving six on six in the box with Floyd overhanging. Van Bergen... argh, man, he had this after splitting a couple guys; his penetration into the backfield looks like it will doom the play, and then Miller jukes upfield and Van Bergen(sadface -1) bites on it, falling uselessly upfield as the blocker he beat takes that momentum and amplifies it. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) do a good job to converge on the guy near the LOS; momentum carries them across the line to make. Spielman says this a hold but I don't necessarily agree; Van Bergen never forced the issue by disengaging because of the fake so it's hard to tell.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Morgan||5|
|Morgan(-1) does not take on the FB block at the LOS and gets crushed a yard downfield, giving ground. Martin(+1) fights through a block to get to the hole and force a cutback; Brink(-1) is in for RVB and gets handled by single blocking easily. With Demens(-0.5) also fighting through a block not very effectively there is a cutback; Woolfolk fills with help from Demens.|
|M26||2||5||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Kovacs||-2|
|I was nervous about this live because the line was Campbell/Brink/Black/Heininger and I loved this playcall, one of those Kovacs edge blitzes that gets him in unblocked for a TFL. It also got Heininger(+1) and Black(+1) past blockers into the backfield; with Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) roaring off the edge and tackling that's worth another couple of yards to the D. RPS +2.|
|Plenty of time(pressure -2); Countess(-3, cover -3) gets smoked in man coverage and should give up an easy TD but Miller misses. Picture paged.|
|Drive Notes: FG(45), 16-10, 10 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||4-3 over plus||Pass||6||Scramble||Martin||8|
|DTs stunt and Martin(-2) gets pushed out of the lane he has to be in, so when he and RVB get some pressure after coverage(+1) is there to prevent an immediate throw, Miller can bust out into a lot of grass. Demens(+1, tackling +1) makes a good open field tackle to prevent bigger problems after Michigan rushed six and let the QB through.|
|M23||2||2||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Heininger||4|
|Heininger(-0.5) gets a double and gives some ground, though he fights through decently; Demens(+0.5) took on the iso block near the line and is the key tackler, though he is naturally giving ground as he does so. Morgan(-0.5) again not really relevant because he is hesitant.|
|M19||1||10||Pistol 2TE||46 bear||Run||N/A||Speed option counter||Roh||19|
|Whether this is brilliant improv or a called play Miller is busting backside on the snap and this is no field reversal based on the defense. Roh(-2) makes the cardinal and only mistake on the play by letting the guy outside of him. Out on the sideline on a counter everyone bit on understandably, it's JT Floyd, a blocker, and all of the air. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) could maybe keep this out of the endzone with an open field tackle; he whiffs. Understandable. RPS -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-17, 7 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Countess||9|
|This is doomed from the start with Countess eight yards off and dropping on the snap. RPS -1.|
|O43||2||1||I-Form twins||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||--||4|
|Campbell in; he's handled okay by a single block. Demens is running at the FB; Campbell and his guy get in the way. Both FB and LB are kind of like “what now?” If M's LBs were running hard maybe they stop this for a loss or no gain but that's not a good gamble on second and short. Basically a push.|
|O47||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA dumpoff||Van Bergen||5|
|RVB(+1, pressure +1) slants a little, then beats the G and forces Miller to flush after an iso playfake. Miller breaks the pocket, gets pursuit from a couple of DL, and dumps it to Herron, where the LBs converge.|
|M48||2||5||Shotgun empty||4-3 even||Pass||4||Out||Morgan||Inc|
|Miller has Hall wide open for a first down (cover -1) as Morgan is keying draw on the snap; he misses.|
|M48||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flare||Floyd||5|
|Roh(+2, pressure +2) again beats the LT, shoving him upfield as he tries to contain the speed rush and impacting Miller just as he checks down to his flare route after the first read is covered(+1). Floyd is there and shoves the guy OOB seemingly short of the first; they are awarded it. Hoke challenges, which is smart since it's not like challenges are actually useful in college and that's a big swing. He loses. Oh well.|
|M43||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Pass||5||Corner||Woolfolk||43|
|Pressure is not terrible but Kovacs(-0.5) should probably not get outside of Boren, instead he should hold up and not open up this lane. Miller steps up and finds a receiver breaking past Floyd and Woolfolk just as Roh spins off to deal with him. This is all Woolfolk(-3, cover -3) dying when Posey runs the same route that beat Countess.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 23-24, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||PA sack||Roh||-1|
|Gordon in at FS. Speed option fake and then Miller pivots to the backside of the play. Roh(+1, pressure +1) gets into the tight end on this and then shoots upfield once the TE releases into his route, forcing Miller back inside. Morgan(+2, tackling +1) sees the cut and immediately attacks, which is both smart given the QB and his relatively piddly short zone assignment and effective because he makes an open field tackle. Heininger(+0.5) was pursuing to help as well.|
|O24||2||11||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||3|
|Ryan over the slot and blitzes. Martin(+1) is not doubled and owns Brewster, shoving him back and into the path of the play; Boren runs into that mess, as does Herron. There's nothing there but no one can get through to tackle; eventually Herron pops out the other side and gains a few yards before Morgan and Floyd put him down.|
|O27||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Okie two deep||Run||N/A||QB draw||--||9|
|Exact same thing as earlier okie, with guys flaring on the edge and no one in the middle once Morgan drops into a zone and gets blocked. Kovacs comes up on the snap but from the wrong side; Gordon(+1, tackling +1) actually makes a really nice open field tackle to almost kick them off the field but can't quite manage it. RPS -1.|
|O36||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Pass||5||Waggle corner||Gordon||22|
|Gordon(-2, cover -2) beaten as he's poking his nose in the backfield; Miller has all kinds of time on the edge (pressure -2) and floats it in. RPS -1.|
|M42||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under plus||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||-4|
|A bit slower developing as this is going at the tackle; Van Bergen(+2) dominates his guy, drives into the backfield, and takes out the FB two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+2) drives Stoneburner back three yards and when Herron bounces he runs into the TE. Slowed, he stops and reverses field. Van Bergen robs this of its danger by getting upfield and forcing it back again, then he comes back to tackle.|
|M46||2||14||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||7|
|Posey decides to abort mission for some reason. Not sure why, looks well set up. Maybe RVB coming back? Anyway, it's a good decision as Morgan is out there getting doubled and Floyd has to keep leverage; Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) comes up hard to tackle as soon as feasible but still a good gain. RPS -1.|
|M39||3||7||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Van Bergen||3|
|No okie and this is better defended. M stunts; RVB(+1) comes through into the rushing lane and forces Miller away from lead blocks. Martin(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) are in the area to hold this down to a moderate gain.|
|Drive Notes: lolpunt, 30-24, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan moves it 40 yards and then the Hagerup thing happens.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M32||1||10||I-Form big||5-3 eagle||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Roh||4|
|Without Beyer, Michigan's big package is a five man line with Black and Roh the ends with the usual suspects on the interior; Countess is lifted. This is counter action with the play going away from TE motion and an offset fullback. The DL eats this up, with Heininger(+1) and RVB(+1) coming through blocks into the hole; Martin(+1) has beaten a block as well but won't be relevant because Herron can bounce. Roh(-1) is in good position but not prepared to handle the bounce; Demens(-1) ate a block and ends up eight yards off the LOS [Ed-S: Not holding?]; Kovacs fills adequately but misses a tackle(-1). This does maintain leverage and slow Herron so that Martin can get him from behind, so no minus.|
|M28||2||6||I-Form twins||4-3 over||Pass||5||Scramble||Morgan||23|
|Play action. Michigan sends five with Floyd(-1) coming off the corner. He comes in hot and gets shoved way upfield by Boren; Roh is slanting inside of Adams; this opens up a big running lane (pressure -2). Morgan(-2, tackling -1) is in open space and lets Miller outside, turning a first down or so into a big gainer; Floyd does make some amends by tracking Miller down from behind. Without that this is a touchdown.|
|M5||1||G||Pistol Big||5-3 eagle||Run||N/A||Speed option||Heininger||2|
|They go away from the strength of the formation; Heininger(+1) drives playside of his blocker and forces a Miller cutback. Martin(+0.5) is the next guy; he's taking a double at the LOS and Miller has to go behind again. RVB(+0.5) gets an arm on Miller as he cuts behind the Martin double and all the way back here there's no blocking and a lot of Michigan players; gang tackle.|
|M3||2||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||Ryan||1|
|Boren's motion brings Ryan(+1) to the line and on the snap he is unaccounted for by the OL; he drives right at the FB and gets him two yards in the backfield with outside leverage, forcing the play inside. With the DL sufficiently occupying the OL there is one guy blocking downfield, that on Floyd, and Demens(+0.5), Gordon, and Morgan combine to tackle after a modest gain. RVB(+0.5) made the hole small.|
|M2||3||G||Goal line||Goal line||Pass||N/A||Waggle sack||Black||-2|
|No sale! How many times do you see this become easy. Lots of times. Here Kovacs(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) flow out onto the receiving options and Miller decides to pull down. Gordon(+0.5) is out on the edge containing, forcing a cutback into Demens(+0.5) and Black(+1), who was unblocked on the edge and supposed to run himself out of the play or get chopped; he kept his feet and flowed from behind, making first contact and removing the chance of some Braxton Miller bull turning this into a TD. RPS +2. Michigan had this murdered dead, with five guys in the area by the time Miller got tackled.|
|Drive Notes: FG(21), 30-27, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|Panic at the disco here as OSU flips their TE and Michigan tries to flip their formation instead of just shifting to the under. Roh and Ryan are late getting to their destinations. Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) beats Adams easily and is about to nail Miller from behind when he finds a wide open guy(cover -2) 15 yards downfield. Ball is behind the WR and not brought in.|
|Miller drops with a token but not serious PA fake; Michigan rushes four and gets nowhere near. Ryan(-2, cover -2) vacates his zone to run up on a dumpoff route by the RB and opens up a pocket outside of Demens, who has the initial route covered. If OSU is throwing checkdowns at this point in the game, fine. Gordon has bugged out for the deep routes and there is no support after Stoneburner clears the second level resulting in a big gain. Pressure -2; Demens had this covered at first and then OSU was able to adjust because no one got to Miller. RPS –1.|
|M44||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Screen||Jones||16|
|Jones in for Demens at MLB, maybe he screwed up on the last play. M stunts and all DL are out of commission; a bigger problem is Jones(-1, cover -1) never ever reading this and getting killed by a WR cracking down; Avery gets picked off and there's no one until Gordon. RPS -1.|
|M28||1||10||Pistol 2TE||4-3 under plus||Pass||4||PA TE Drag||Morgan||20 + 4 pen|
|Gordon in the box with Kovacs deep. Morgan(-2, cover -2) sees the TE dragging across the formation and gets a shove but not early enough or well enough and that guy breaks past him into open space. Morgan doesn't bug out for the sideline after the shove and this opens up the corner; Morgan simply lacks the athleticism to catch up with a TE. He and Kovacs eventually get him OOB after a big gain. RPS -1. Kovacs(-1) gets a late hit call that is deserved.|
|M4||1||G||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Floyd||4|
|RVB(+0.5) stands up his blocker around the LOS; Demens(+0.5) bangs the FB at the line, forcing it outside; Floyd(-2, tackling -1) is unblocked and attacking; he whiffs and lets Herron into the endzone on a play that should have gained a yard or two at most.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 37-34, 7 min 4th Q. Immensely disappointing here. M drives for a TD, gets awarded a FG, and OSU takes over down six with 1:59 on the clock.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Demens||Inc|
|Good time (pressure -1) on a four man rush; Miller throws a wobbler on a deep post Demens(+1, cover +1) is running right with. Very narrow window of opportunity here that Miller cannot hit. Still no safety over the top here... worrisome.|
|O20||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Okie||Run||N/A||QB draw||Morgan||4|
|Miller checks and Morgan backs out before the snap. Instead of rushing the edges like M has before, Demens, Ryan, and Martin come inside; Morgan(+1) comes up to take on the center's block and sheds playside to help tackle with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5). RPS +1; Michigan baited OSU into blowing this down and running the clock; OSU burns their last TO. This will become relevant.|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1); Floyd(-3, cover -3) gets smoked on a double move and beat deep. Miller misses and everybody in the stadium dies from fright.|
|Four man rush gets RVB(+0.5, pressure +1) through on a slant; he's still getting blocked but he's threatening, so Miller pulls the ball down and starts moving. Lanes have opened up; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) seems like he's in a spy zone as he flies up to deal with what looks like it will be a scramble as soon as Miller busts outside the pocket. He misses, letting Miller outside. Floyd(+0.5) comes up and almost boots OSU off the field with a tackle at the sticks; Miller reaches the ball across the line as he leaps in the air.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-2|
|Morgan(+1, pressure +2, RPS +1) sent late as Roh drops off. OSU blows their pickup with the entire interior line trying to deal with a Martin/RVB stunt; Miller rolls away from the pressure and looks like he wants to fire deep but decides against it. Morgan is now coming from behind and Miller tries to come back to the other side of the LOS; RVB(+1, tackling +1) does a great job of anticipating that cutback and shooting up in the tatters of the pocket to sack.|
|Ryan(+0.5, pressure +1) is coming in unblocked until a guard manages to pop outside and block him; Miller can't count on this happening and decides to go to his hot read, which is a little drag that Morgan(+0.5) is there to tackle immediately on.|
|O39||3||6||Ace trips||Nickel even||LOL||N/A||Spike||N/A||Inc|
|O39||4||6||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Avery||INT|
|Decent time; RVB is coming around the outside and Roh threatens to sack if Miller tries to step up. He throws about a ten yard hitch to a seemingly open guy that Avery(+3, cover +2) tips and then makes a diving interception on.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 40-34, EOG.|
What happened to all my beautiful defenses?
Mostly Devier Posey, and Mattison failing to account for Devier Posey because he'd played one game, and Jim Bollman going all Citrus 2008. Let's go back to the defense Michigan was running.
That is a run defense with two corners handling vertical routes from outside receivers, and if you've got D'Angelo Hall and the horde of quality VT corners plus a ton of pressure you can get away with it. Michigan did not get a VT level of pressure, whether because of OSU's OL or their fear of letting Braxton Miller's legs take over, and neither Floyd nor Countess had any prayer of covering Posey without help.
In the Picture Pages there were a couple plays in which Countess was beaten to the inside and not punished. The near 80 yard touchdown, for instance:
On the next play Countess recovered to get a PBU on the third and forever that would eventually be a Michigan safety. On their next drive, OSU would go three and out when Miller missed an open TE on third and medium. The drive after that they found themselves in third and medium again. Countess isn't going to get beaten to the inside again. He's done with that. He's learned. He's…
That same route burned Michigan just before the end of the half:
And then there was this WTF moment on the last drive:
That's all three starters in the secondary getting pwned by Posey. I'm giving whoever drafts him in the second round an A+ for their day.
Mattison's defense was a good idea for the version of the OSU offense we saw most of the year, the one in which Miller has 12, 15, 18 attempts, not 25. He was caught off guard by OSU going to the air and his secondary suffered some confusion—the first TD was just a bust. More than that, they were just incapable of covering Posey one on one. Four times Miller had Posey wide open for touchdowns: the two above, the mindboggling Floyd bite on the last drive, and the actual touchdown. Miller hit him once.
But he had to put Kovacs in the box to contain the OSU running game.
I get the idea but in practice it was pointless. Kovacs had three tackles and an assist:
- Sack after blitzing from safety depth
- TFL after weakside edge blitz
- Downfield fill from safety depth
- Not sure if this was his assist, another safety fill
I get going into the game with a plan but they stuck with it way too long; going to a two-deep shell and forcing OSU to execute underneath would have been far less harrowing. Miller's accuracy is just as goofy underneath. Michigan dared OSU to beat them over the top and OSU was like "okay."
I mean, look at the—
DON'T LOOK AT THE CHART
Look at the chart.
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.
|Roh||5.5||3||2.5||Got safety; let Miller outside on speed option counter.|
|Black||2||-||2||Part of big third down stop.|
|TOTAL||41||10.5||30.5||Caveat: pressure was –1 and DL didn't get much of it.|
|Morgan||7.5||10.5||-3||Worrisome lack of athleticism evident on a couple plays.|
|Demens||5.5||4||1.5||Ate some blocks.|
|Ryan||5.5||3||2.5||Was not a major factor.|
|TOTAL||18.5||18.5||0||Going to be hard to maintain D without increased production from these folks.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Game ending INT only time he was thrown at.|
|Woolfolk||-||3||-3||One long TD on him.|
|Kovacs||5.5||4||1.5||Should probably be filed as LB.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||3||-1.5||Didn't give up anything huge.|
|Countess||2.5||10||-7.5||Could not deal with deep stuff by himself.|
|TOTAL||13.5||26.5||-13||Thanks for being inaccurate, Miller.|
|Pressure||13||14||-1||Erratic, usually based on blitzes.|
|Coverage||11||30||-19||Not so much.|
|Tackling||6||7||46%||Miller is tough.|
I generally give out –3 for wide open dudes who are wide open and only exceed that for massive busts like the first TD, so that –13 understates the carnage. Mattison got burned up in this game, possibly because OSU flipped their personality.
A note on what might seem like some abnormally high defensive line numbers: they did create a safety and basically crush any conventional rushing attempts.
On 15 rushing attempts of the inside zone, iso, and power variety OSU averaged 2.3 YPC. QB draws on which Mattison got RPSed in the okie and Miller scrambles that the DL is only partially responsible for account for 71 of Miller's 115 rushing yards; outside of that Miller averaged 4 YPC. So… yeah, the DL was hugely responsible for the stops Michigan did get. They were a little disappointing as far as getting pressure goes; they were nails against the run.
That's another reason the gameplan was disappointing. Given the way M's DL was beating up the OSU OL they could have gotten away with a safer defense. This was Mattison's version of the Borges MSU gameplan: way, way too aggressive. Bad now, encouraging from a program standpoint since it'll work a hell of a lot better when the defensive backfield is full of bluechips or dudes who beat out bluechips instead of freshmen and sleepers.
But we love Mattison!
Yes, yes. This was money:
It happens to everybody. You go into a game with a plan that falls apart upon contact with the enemy. Given what we'd seen from OSU earlier in the year the plan had sense to it, but M couldn't handle wildcard Posey, busted a couple times, and were caught off guard by the OSU gameplan. It happens. Michigan still got through, and it is worth pointing out that it wasn't quite that bad for the D. They picked up a safety and ten points were given up on drives that started around the Michigan 30. You should charge the D with about 26 points given up since they did get that safety and two field goals were likely after OSU got that starting field position.
Good? No, still no. Better? Yes.
What's this about being worried about next year's defense?
With the linebackers barely treading water most of the year it's a bit scary what might happen if the downgrade on the DL is severe. It was watching this play that gave me the heebie-jeebies:
If three different DL players (two and a half if we're talking about Ryan, I guess) don't execute well there isn't a linebacker in the picture once Herron makes it to the second level. That may just be the way the defense is supposed to go; if so you are heavily dependent on having players as good and active as Martin and Van Bergen. I wouldn't be surprised to see both current MLB starters see their positions come under threat.
The LBs were good at taking on iso blocks in this game but Morgan in particular struggles to scrape to the hole when there's any possibility of a cutback. That's better than being too aggressive but B- work at best.
If the defensive line is good next year, well, then we can just expect them to kick ass until Hoke or Mattison is out. Here's hoping.
Hey, have an unsung hero?
Yeah: Matt Wile. Remember Michigan's terrible kickoff coverage from earlier in the year? It was bad! I didn't like it.
That coverage has improved, but what's even better is the relative paucity of kick return attempts. Four of eight Ohio State drives that started on kickoffs saw Wile get a touchback. When Brian Fremeau debuted a special teams FEI Michigan was languishing around 80th; now they're up to 59th. Kickoffs (20th) are their best phase of special teams. A major reason for that is Wile started putting a bunch of them in the endzone. Thumbs up.
Ryan Van Bergen had a monster day, the best of his career. A fitting sendoff. Martin was also very good, and the two "also starring" members of the DL turned in big plays here and there. That DL laughs at all the Buckeye chatter about how no one on Michigan's team would start for OSU. Hell, the OL does too.
If you pool the two teams' lines and pick starters at their positions OSU gets two: John Simon at WDE and JB Shugarts at RT. I'm not taking a single other Buckeye OL/DL over their Michigan counterparts after watching that game. Will Heininger is flat-out better than Garrett Goebel. Just look at the RB YPC.
Mattison, the secondary.
What does it mean for the bowl game and the future?
Well, Michigan should probably take it easy with the hyper-aggressive-no-help coverage back there if Virginia Tech has a high quality wideout. I haven't watched any film yet to see whether Jarrett Boykin is that guy.
Anyway, the secondary was exposed. Countess is young and Floyd isn't ready to go up against a truly elite guy like Posey by himself; Woolfolk just never regained any form after his parade of injuries. Michigan needs reinforcements down the line.
The key matchup against the VT offense will be the Michigan DL working on that VT OL. If they can duplicate their success against OSU, David Wilson can be a scary dude and still creak out 3 YPC. That should mean a return to form.