"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
I don’t have an artsy intro this week because I spent a bunch of extra time making some charts, so instead I’ll refer you to BiSB’s intro to Opponent Watch, which is excellent.
The Mathlete’s Four Factors:
Again, a quick reminder of what the factors mean:
Field Position = Expected team points based on starting field position. This accounts for all elements of field position: turnovers, special teams, drive penetration etc.
Conversion rate = [1st Downs gained]/[1st Down plays (including first play of drive)]. A three and out is 0/1. A one play touchdown is 1/1. Two first downs and then a stop is 2/3, etc.
Bonus Yards = [Yards gained beyond the first down line]/[Total plays from scrimmage]
This is an adjustment to how I have previously calculated, to account for the plays a team runs.
Red Zone: Points per red zone trip (TD’s counted as 7 regardless of PAT)
|Field Pos.||Conv. Rate (%)||Bonus YPP||Red Zone|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||84 (12)||54 (6)||43 (6)||30 (5)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||91 (14)||30 (4)||31 (3)||27 (4)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||59 (10)||54 (3)||39 (3)||20 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||41 (4)||39 (1)||25 (2)||21 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||36 (4)||61 (5)||36 (3)||31 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||45 (6)||51 (3)||44 (6)||3 (1)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||46 (6)||35 (2)||43 (5)||4 (1)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||46 (6)||11 (1)||33 (3)||13 (2)|
|Field Pos.||Conv. Rate||Bonus YPP||Red Zone|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||35 (4)||38 (6)||9 (3)||100 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||29 (5)||17 (4)||4 (1)||110 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||32 (4)||7 (2)||1 (1)||115 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||21 (4)||6 (1)||1 (1)||115 (12)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||20 (3)||6 (1)||1 (1)||124 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||17 (3)||7 (2)||6 (2)||42 (6)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||22 (4)||6 (1)||5 (2)||13 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||27 (5)||13 (4)||2 (2)||10 (2)|
[Hit THE JUMP for 100% more charts]
For several years I've been publishing an HTTV-like thing with the Penn State bloggers. Last year I did a VEQ with PSU blogging capo emeritus Mike Pettigano, and we had BSD managing editor Cari Greene on MGoRadio this week. The third editor of our book is Jared Slanina (@Jared_BSD), whom I saved for this.
1. Your offense is listed as "Pro-Style." Since that hasn't had any meaning for 10 years, what is it really? Under center or shotgun? Passing spread? Dink and dunk and screen? Play-action? Grab bag? A million plays or a few good ones?
I would say "grab bag" is the best description. For most of the season they over-relied on screens and short outs, which isn't really a great fit for Hackenberg and allowed defenses to load up the box and wreak havoc on our struggling offensive line. The offense started rolling during a short stretch once the staff realized the effectiveness of the vertical passing game with a pocket passer with a strong arm and a group of tall and speedy receivers.
However, against Northwestern they reverted back to the conservative style where they basically just ran Barkley and threw short passes to him, and hoped he could beat the Wildcats all by himself. Once again, the offense struggled to find much a rhythm. Using history as a guide, Penn State might again run a conservative offense that plays right into Michigan's strengths. It's almost as if the whole gameplan against a team with a stout defense is hope against hope that Barkley produces a couple big scoring plays and the defense holds the opponent to single digits.
Obviously, it hasn't been terribly effective against the likes of Ohio State, Northwestern and Temple, and certainly won't put the team in a good position to pull off upsets against Michigan or Michigan State in the final two weeks of the regular season.
2. So, how's the OL cleanup going? Are you still starting a recycling bin or has he been passed by a flesh and blood person yet?
No no your blocks are THAT way! [Eric Upchurch]
Let's start with the good news: Penn State now has an experienced offensive line filled with actual human beings! Gone are the days where they relied on stop signs and scarecrows to slow down the pass rush. While the OL has gained valuable experience, they still are the weakest link on the team. It's still a young group, but the lack of progress since the start of 2014 is disturbing. They are not quite the dumpster fire they were a season ago where they allowed the most sacks in the history of the Big Ten, but they have a long way to go before being a serious contender in the East. My feeling is that the Wolverines banged up DL will still be able to dominate Penn State's OL, allowing Michigan to control the game from start to finish.
[After THE JUMP: Dae'sean Hamilton is gonna die]
Previously: Penn State Defense
not full-blown Ghost Gardner, but definitely erratic [Fuller]
Penn State's offense looked somewhat more functional against Northwestern than they did against, say, Temple, when Christian Hackenberg looked destined to finish the season in a full-body cast. Thanks in large part to the emergence of slippery freshman running back Saquon Barkley, the PSU offense is now at least semi-functional.
It's hard to say it's much better than that, though. Here's how they did against Northwestern:
- Seven three-and-outs
- One four-and-out
- Two five-and-outs
- 8-play, 30-yard drive; interception
- 8-play, 39-yard drive; punt
- 9-play, 79-yard TD drive
- 5-play, 70-yard TD drive that should've been a three-and-out; 30 yards came from a roughing the punter and a late hit on Hackenberg after a scramble
- 5-play, 71-yard TD drive
That's two real scoring drives, another on which half the credit goes to Northwestern doing dumb things, and a lot of ugly.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
The good news for PSU is they brought back a lot of players. You know the bad news if you watched them play last year.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style to a fault. Penn State's offense was most successful when they spread Northwestern out and ran the ball; they'd do this once in a while and then go right back to doomed under-center runs with an extra OL lining up at H-back. James Franklin is a great recruiter, but there's plenty of reason—and mounting evidence—to believe he's not much of a tactician.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Penn State mostly ran inside zone, split zone, and the occasional power. Brian asked me to check if they ran any zone stretches since Michigan struggled so badly with them against Indiana; they ran none.
Hurry it up or grind it out? In very welcome news after last weekend, Penn State is dead last in the country in adjusted pace. They're brutally slow. This should prevent them from exploiting Ryan Glasgow's absence nearly as much as Indiana did; the Hoosiers not only wore out the starting DTs, they also prevented Michigan from subbing when the backups were caught on the field for extended time. PSU's offense isn't built to do that.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Hey man you never know when something that looks good is going to suddenly disintegrate into a pile of sawdust or like the Fed is going to say "rates are now a billion percent" so get a mortgage with Matt. I may be overreacting to the content of this post. It's probably going to be fine if you don't refinance or whatever. But it could also not be fine and you could get stuck on the field for ninety mortgages or something.
FORMATION NOTES: When I say "nickel under" I do mean a 4-3 under with nickel personnel.
Bolden is standing up on the LOS as the SAM with Hill filling in as a second ILB. Wilson is off the screen as a very deep S as per usual.
M occasionally tucked a linebacker inside one of their DEs, which is a "bear" front:
Nickel buck denotes the buck LB right behind the nose. This was rare.
Ross got in as a buck and stood up and I'm just pretending he's a DE, okay? That's what I'm pretending.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan spent almost the entire game in a nickel aside from some goal line sets and a few dime packages. With Glasgow out, Hurst started. Strobel was his backup at first. He got two or three stretches of playing time and did poorly. Late Michigan started playing Henry at nose a lot. There was palpable frustration with Hurst on stretch plays. Godin also returned, though he had a very bad day.
Bolden/Morgan at LB except for two drives with Gedeon replacing Bolden and one with Gedeon replacing Morgan.
The secondary saw Thomas start over Hill again. When Thomas was hurt in the first quarter Hill got the bulk of the game. Clark and Stribling are still splitting time but it is increasingly clear that Clark has won the job.
[After THE JUMP: seriously, Kevin Wilson, I hate you]
well, yeah, he would be nice to have right now [Fuller]
The Big Ten boasts some elite defensive lines, and this week's opponent, Penn State, has a group that's up there with any of them. The fearsome line combined with defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's aggressive blitz schemes has produced the best pass rush in the country, and that was on full display two weeks ago against Northwestern, when they came away with six sacks (PSU was on a bye last week).
Despite being down their starting quarterback for most of the game, however, Northwestern managed to expose some flaws in the PSU defense, and they're flaws Michigan has the potential to exploit.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Penn State lost safety Jordan Lucas to an undiscosed injury early in the Northwestern game; all-conference-quality LB Nyeem Wartman-White has been out all season, which has really hurt PSU's LB play.
Base Set? 4-3 multiple. PSU should be in an under front for much of the game against Michigan's heavier sets; they'll also spend plenty of snaps in an over front and will often shade SLB Brandon Bell over the slot receiver in three-wide sets.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
About Last Week:
I like curling.
I don’t watch it very often. In fact, I pretty much forget it exists for 206-week stretches at a time. But for two weeks during the Winter Olympics, I’m a curling fan. And when America is curling, I’m into it. I’m chastising a guy whose name I didn’t know the week before for a thing that I am only 80% sure was good or bad. This guy has been working without pay for this goal for the better part of his adult life, and guys like me swoop in when the big torchy thing goes poof and start screaming at the TV about BROOMING HARDER DAMMIT.
The wonderful thing about spectator sports is that you can select your level of emotional investment. Athletes don’t have that luxury. For them, emotional investment is a byproduct of the tangible, physical investment. For fans, deciding to go mentally in on a team is a conscious choice. And like any other wager, the more you bet on your team, the more you have to win or lose. Odds are that you, dear MGoReader, know this phenomenon well.
I drove the four and a half hours up to the Michigan-Indiana game on Saturday. I sat by some very nice, rather intoxicated Hoosier fans, and for the first couple of hours we made amusing small talk about Indiana’s #CHAOSTEAM nature. They exhibited the kind of gallows humor you would expect from a team that had been through what Indiana fans had been through this year. They had hope, of course, but it was the kind of guarded Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football hope. Experience taught them to guard their soul dongs against the inevitable.
By late in the third quarter, they had stopped talking as much. They had started to believe again. Thrice bitten, they had yet found the way to come back for more. And by the time Delano Hill batted that fourth down pass down, they were inconsolable. They stared off into the cold, cruel evening as if searching for the deity who had wronged them again. No one would have blamed them if they had mailed this one in. But like a poker player who had taken multiple bad beats, they went all in one last time only to lose on the final card.
Sports are wonderful and terrible because we allow them to be so.
[After THE JUMP: some fear, mostly loathing]