in town for free camps
I… here. This is for you. Is there a thing that makes these things? If there is a thing that makes these things, this is slightly crazy. If there isn't I don't know what you can even say. Other than FTW. It came from the message boards.
This is where we are this week.
Thank God for Adidas. I know Michigan would never go for something like this…
…or do I? I mean, we are currently enduring hyper-loud blasts of Bob Seger and AC/DC on a regular basis. There is some possibility Special K, Michigan Marketing Droid, thinks "wicked sweet" when he sees things like this "tribute"…
…to Ohio State's championship team on their very special 55th anniversary. I think you're supposed to get her a wicker lawnchair. 54 is a tea set made from the bones of your enemies. Adidas may have put stupid piping* on the away jerseys and convinced a lot of players to wear weird stripey undershirts, but it's not Nike and their band of evil scientists.
Yes, yes, I know. There's a "get off my lawn" tag for a reason.
*(Nameplates on the back cover up the piping if the name is of any length—Smith works, Forcier does not—and look stupider than even regular stupid piping, which also looks stupid.)
I don't know the answer to this complicated question, let's ask someone else who doesn't know and be kind of a jerk about it yay. This is just another stock answer to a dumb press conference question that's sort of adversarial and makes the questioner feel fuzzy about asking truth to power, but it's more irksome than most because of MCalibur's extensive offseason research project on the matter:
Rodriguez disputed the notion that his spread-option offense puts quarterbacks more in harm’s way than other systems.
“I think when you’re a younger guy and you’re 180 pounds and you hadn’t had a chance to get a couple years in the weight room and a couple years of maturity and growth, I think you’re more likely to get banged around,” Rodriguez said. “But other quarterbacks when we were in the system played entire years without missing a snap. So I don’t think it’s the system.”
The MCalibur study has five years of numbers behind it now and has a clear outcome: quarterbacks who run the ball more often actually miss less time than quarterbacks that are exclusively passers. (They are slightly more likely to get injured, but tend to lose fewer games when they are.) You could ask the coach about something or you could do it yourself—in this case you could just look it up. Who cares what Rich Rodriguez—who might have a stake in this—thinks about this? You might as well ask Bobby Bowden if he thinks he is awesome.
While I'm on the kick. Michael Rothstein put out an article at AA.com disputing the notion that Michigan is a particularly young team:
On this week’s depth chart for Purdue (noon, Big Ten Network), Michigan will start eight players on offense who have been in college for three years or more, including redshirt years.
On defense, eight starters fall into the same classification.
So to point to the roster and say 60 freshmen and sophomores are on it, including walk-ons, as a youth excuse a false truth.
This has been picked apart on the message board already, but to echo: just because the starters have "experience" doesn't mean they are good options. To cite another extensive research project by a diarist here, Michigan has endured four years of terrible retention on defense, giving them few or no options beyond players who do not appear very good at football. Not every high-rated recruit works out, and not every "experienced" player—and Kevin Leach counts in this metric as an experienced player—is good when you have recruited Penn State-sized classes and experienced sub-Alabama level retention.
Arbitrarily drawing a line at redshirt sophomores and arguing that Michigan is plenty experienced enough to win without providing any context is not a good way to argue when there's an extensive study that shows Michigan has fewer, and much younger, options than its primary competitors. Youth does not exist in a vacuum. Michigan is vastly younger and thinner than its rivals, and that's a valid reason they are not very good at football.
This is why UFR exists. It's rip on people for not being engineers day, apparently. BTN analyst Chris Martin never says anything useful as a color guy so it's unsurprising he's dead wrong about Michigan's problems on defense this year:
Big Ten Network analyst Chris Martin, who’ll broadcast his third Michigan game Saturday against Purdue, said the secondary has played like “part of the hospital burn unit,” and its problems are compounded by issues up front.
Michigan ranks ninth in the Big Ten with 16 sacks and has one of the smallest defensive lines in the league.
“I think their inability to get pressure up front has kind of caused them to pressure a little bit, no pun intended,” Martin said. “Now it’s like they’re working so hard to get to the quarterback and get sacks, they’re getting gashed on run plays."
"Inability to get pressure" is something you'd say if you looked up those sack numbers and had no other context in which to judge Michigan. Other than the Notre Dame game, Michigan has gotten to the quarterback plenty, they just haven't ever covered anyone long enough for Graham to get his due.
That article cites the following people in a discussion of Michigan's defense: Martin, Lee Corso, Shawn King, Ray Bentley, and Matt Millen. Other than King that's a short list of people I wouldn't trust to count to five.
This unnamed "evaluator" is interesting, however:
According to one talent evaluator, defensive end Brandon Graham is Michigan’s only high-level NFL defensive prospect. Warren projects as a "later"-round draft pick, and Mike Martin is “a good college player” who “might have a chance at the next level,” the evaluator said.
Here's hoping Warren is indeed a "later" round pick and decides to help his stock by coming back, because Michigan needs him badly next year.
Run chart. The run chart from the Illinois game is up; I think it's a little less harsh on Brown than it should be and packs it in after the rage-inducing goal line stand. A reader emailed me a good point: if Minor wasn't available on the goal line, wouldn't a package of Moundros and Grady gotten the job done? What is with the marginalization of Moundros this year anyway?
Apologies for a moment of meta and self promotion, but we are the champions.. This is apparently the best college football blog in the universe according to Sports Media Challenge, a consulting/marketing firm that operates in the digital space and other such droidwords. It's a narrower field than it should be, though, with the exclusion of a subset of blogs that tend to be good ones:
We do not include blogs that are subscription based or backed by traditional media outlets. This is especially true of blogs that do not have full editorial control over their content.
That's the only reason Doctor Saturday isn't anywhere on the list, right? I get that they're trying to distinguish between blogs run by newspaper folk that are mostly extensions of beatwriting and fan-driven media, but DocSat is firmly One of Us.
A couple of notes on the list:
- The Big Ten lands five of the top ten slots, the SEC two, the ACC and Big 12 one each. Two general blogs (EDSBS and the Wizard of Odds) show; if you want to file EDSBS as a Florida blog I think you're wrong but whateva you do what you want.
- SBNation has either six or seven of the blogs on the list, depending on how you classify EDSBS. Hall gets his funding from SBN but has not converted over to the software monolith. This place, the Wiz, and Eleven Warriors are the only indies.
Etc.: We are on the spot this week, and how. Michigan has a huge hockey series against #1 Miami of Ohio this weekend; I would have said more but the only non-exhibition game I've seen this year was the Thursday night Niagara game so I don't have any smart opinions. Having this series so early is frustrating.
Podcast is a bit late and this week… well, it was right after the game and no one was feeling up for it and I can confidently say this is the worst podcast that has ever been recorded. There is some humor value in how much it sounds like we want to die.
As per usual, we talk to Jamiemac of Just Cover.
Links of use:
Your weekly dose of who's in and out for the weekend's game.
For the Purdue Game (Saturday, Nov. 7)
David Molk (knee)
Martavious Odoms (knee)
Questionable (50 percent chance of playing)
Greg Banks (foot)
Probable (75 percent chance of playing)
Zac Johnson (shoulder)
In addition, head coach Rich Rodriguez announced the game captains for the game at Purdue: linebacker Stevie Brown, defensive end Tim North, left tackle Mark Ortmann and slot receiver Ricky Reyes.
We already knew about Molk, as he's done for the year. At his press conference yesterday, Rodriguez seemed moderately optimistic about Odoms's chances of playing. Losing the team's best slot player is a downer.
As the captains go, I wondered earlier today if Ortmann would be named a game captain to spite the people who said he should be suspended. Not sure if that's the motivation, but the senior is indeed a captain.
Personnel notes: Odoms did not play and was replaced by Roundtree. Patrick Omameh got a series late in the first half, probably because Dorrestein was injured. It sounds like Dorrestein might miss the Purdue game, with Patrick Omameh his likely replacement at RG. Robinson did not play until the game was over.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M30||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Long handoff||Mathews||5|
|Illinois walks a safety down. Corner is playing off Mathews a bit so Michigan takes the quick pass for a few yards. (CA, 3, screen)|
|First missed play of the day; we cut to Brown with the ball and an indecipherable blocking scheme; think Michigan pulled out something new and it didn't quite work.|
|M38||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Koger||9|
|Good timing from Forcier, with the ball getting thrown before Koger fully turns around, which allows him to pick up a few YAC. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone veer keeper||Forcier||4|
|Okay, so the veer: here the line blocks one way—they downblock—and the running back comes across the line going the other way, with the frontside DE ending up unblocked. Here Forcier should definitely give it off as the DE came inside (ZR -1), but he does juke the DE in question and turns no gain into three yards. Forcier could have had a couple more but he's clearly been told to get down before he gets hit.|
|O49||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||10|
|Illinois crashing the DE and using an OLB on a scrape. Schilling and Ortmann are trying to scoop block the backside DT and can't get it done because the DT is serious about flowing down the line but Schilling(+1) adjusts well, deciding to seal the guy instead of attempting to pass him off and head to the second level. Since Illinois has slanted hard to the playside and neither Moosman or Huyge has managed to seal his guy, Brown's only option is to hit it up in the small crease the Schilling block provides. Good read there and he hits the crease, bouncing off Schilling and running through a diving ankle tackle attempt by the backside DT, hitting it up into a vacant second level. This could be a touchdown but Brown bizarrely cuts right instead of left and finds Illini.|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Brown||4|
|Moundros in. This is a gap-blocked play with Huyge pulling around in an attempt to attack the gap between Koger and Ortmann. Schilling(-1) does not seal his guy, who closes off the intended hole and forces Brown away from the blocks of Huyge and Moundros. Moosman(+1) got a really effective down-block on the backside DT, though, and this gives Brown a cutback behind Schilling. Unblocked LB meets Brown two yards downfield; he picks up two more.|
|O35||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||6|
|Huyge gets a good stretch block on the backside DT, who was lined up in such a way that made this relatively easy as Illinois appeared slightly misaligned at the snap. Schilling loses control of his guy but it's not quite quick enough for that DT—Josh Brent, he's pretty good—to close down the gap. Brown squirts through it and meets a linebacker that Moosman(-1) had a free run at and could not block. He tackles just short of the first.|
|O29||3||In||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Base 4-3||Run||Power O||Brown||2|
|Pretty easy, as Illinois' line is slanting away from the play. Moundros(+1) gets a good kickout block on the OLB on the line and Schilling gets a block downfield, clearing the way for a first down.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||QB power O||Forcier||4|
|Another power run play, this with Forcier as the primary ballcarrier. DE they're running right at slants himself out of the play; Huyge pulls around with the MLB in his sights; MLB attacks the LOS well and is in a difficult spot for Huyge, cutting off the outside hole and then getting inside of Huyge when he tries to block the MLB. Forcier does well to read the play and cut upfield and looks like he's got a big crease; MLB makes an ankle tackle to hold it down. (RPS +1, Huyge -1) Excellent play by 38 here. Our linebackers never do this.|
|O23||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||8|
|This is called, as Forcier makes only a token fake to Brown before pulling it out for the bubble. This isn't a true bubble, either, as Roundtree takes a couple steps outside and then sets up; he's not running as the ball comes to him. He makes a good, decisive move outside and picks up first down yardage; good block from Koger. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O15||1||10||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Brown||-1|
|Huyge(-1) is blown back into the backfield by the playside DE, which erases the hole. Brown has no options and gets tackled for a loss.|
|O16||2||11||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||Waggle hitch||Mathews||14|
|Schilling pulls around and does a good job blocking on the edge; Forcier pulls up and zings one to Mathews just as he breaks open in front of the DB. On replay, throw is a bit inside, but this close to the sideline that might be okay. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Zone stretch||Brown||2|
|Dorrestein(+1) gets off the ball and knocks the playside DE back by himself, opening up the corner and providing a lane for an easy Brown touchdown. Huyge(+1) and Moundros(+1) also erased guys, providing a walk-in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 3 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||8|
|Vincent Smith the other back. Michigan running away from the line shift, and Illinois is slanting away from the play, meaning Moosman hardly has to try to block the playside DT. Schilling(+1) makes a good adjustment to get the slanting DE, Smith(+1) pops the blitzing OLB, and Ortmann seals the MLB. Brown can't cut upfield of Stonum's block because of the flowing WLB and cuts outside where a diving ankle tackle sees him fall.. Pursuit would have limited this to a couple more without the fall.|
|M29||2||2||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Brown||4|
|Similar to the previous third and short conversion, with the backside DT getting himself easily sealed by Schilling(+1) but no frontside crease; Brown cuts back, where the frontside DT peels and tackles, but not before the first down.|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Long handoff||Mathews||15|
|This is interesting: it's new. It's basically the zone-read-to-bubble play except instead of throwing the bubble it's just a long handoff to Mathews, who is the lone receiver away from the playside. With the CB there cheating down it's open and Mathews(+1) cuts it up for good yardage, making the most out of the room he was given. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Forcier||2|
|This doesn't really work because Illinois is running a scrape. Result: backside DE crashes down on Brown, causing Forcier to pull it (ZR + 1), but the scraping OLB gets out on Forcier and prevents him from picking up any yardage. When Michigan was running this against Iowa and Penn State they were blocking the backside DE and reading the OLB; I guess they thought Illinois would adjust to that. They didn't.|
|50||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Edge pitch||Brown||2|
|Roundtree(-1) fails to get a block on the OLB to that side, so the play gets strung out. There was not really an option for a cut up since this is not a true option play and Forcier did not take the DE away by forcing him to come up.|
|O48||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Throwaway||Brown||Inc|
|Wholesale OL failure as both OTs get run around and Forcier has to step up in the pocket, where Huyge and Schilling have both failed to control the IU stunt/blitz. The pocket collapsing, Forcier steps up, finds more pressure, and just tries to get rid of it to Brown; ball is understandably inaccurate. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O43||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||5|
|Omameh in at right tackle(!). I didn't notice this live but Craig Ross did, and it's true. Dorrestein is apparently having injury issues. Omameh kicks out the DE on the stretch; DE gets upfield enough to take out Smith and force Brown up behind him. Playside DT gets doubled by Moosman and Huyge; that double takes long enough that the release into the second level does not get the MLB, who can tackle Brown. Still a decent gain.|
|O38||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Smith||4|
|Hell of a four yard run as this is epic OL fail. Omameh(-1) gets slanted inside by the DE and he's going to crush the play for a four yard loss but Smith runs through the tackle. Corner comes up to try to finish it off and misses; Smith spins through his tackle attempt past another DL, where he meets a diving linebacker, avoids him, and falls forward. This is basically 8 YAC; great, Hart-like run. Announcers are talking about Halloween costumes.|
|O34||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 split||Run||Power O||Brown||2|
|Koger and Ortmann double the playside DE, driving him off the ball; Moundros(+1) pops the OLB, knocking him backwards and giving brown enough room to pick up the first. It's remarkable how bad Brown is about contact.|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||19 (Pen -0)|
|Only six in the box for Illinois as they are manning up on the outside with a single deep safety. Omameh is blocking the backside end since Michigan assumes a scrape and they're right; MLB eliminates himself as Forcier contain. SLB then freaks out to the playside, giving Brown a huge cutback lane as Huyge(+1) slices the backside DT to the ground. Brown jets into the secondary. He cuts outside a good block from Mathews to make the safety chase and gets down to the 13; Mathews gets a somewhat ticky-tack holding call... but I can see it. Dumb. It comes back and we have a do over, basically.|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Sack||--||-2|
|PA stretch fake with Grady rolling out for some pass pro. Forcier appears to have a hitch for a few but doesn't throw it immediately and then the CB comes up, then definitely has a corner route for lots but doesn't throw that, either, and eventually starts running around, taking a sack. Should have thrown it. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|O34||2||12||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||?||Pass||Tunnel screen||Roundtree||4|
|Late to the play again. This is not actually a bubble, as Roundtree is moving inside at the catch. Probably an attempt to take advantage of people over-reacting to the bubble, but on this play Illinois does a good job of staying responsible and holds it down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O30||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Sack||--||-8 (Pen+15)|
|A couple of blitzers. One of them attempts to spectacularly hurdle Minor and gets owned, but that blitz and the general tendency of the OL to give ground spooks Forcier and he ends up attempting to roll out against DEs way upfield; he rolls himself into a sack. Should have stepped up in the pocket, where the spectacular leap attempt would have given Forcier a lane to escape the pocket and do his Forcier stuff. He gets facemasked on the tackle. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|O15||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Smith||-1|
|Poor read by Smith(-1) as he does not have faith that Moosman can seal the playside DT. Moosman eventually does in the manner of many successful stretches. By that point Smith has abandoned the idea and attempts to hit it up behind Moosman, which ends with Smith getting tackled by the unblocked MLB.|
|O16||2||11||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone veer keeper||Forcier||5|
|Michigan's version of what Illinois does all the time. They must have practiced this all week to prepare for it and threw it in the playbook. Downblock the line, fake the handoff, Forcier(ZR -1) makes the wrong read again when he should give it off, I think, jukes the DE again, and gets a decent gain out of it. Man, this thing can be dangerous if run by a huge fast guy.|
|O11||3||6||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout corner||Mathews||Inc|
|Good playcall gets Illinois in man and should see this open up but the corner here makes a good play and Mathews doesn't sell his route; his in cut does not turn the CB, possibly because it's a rollout, and the guy is close enough to grab Mathews's shoulder as the pass arrives. It's high and as a result Mathews can't extend to bring it in. Pass interference? Technically, yes. The grab came before the pass arrives. Does this ever get called? No. So it's a good play by the DB. (MA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(28), 10-7, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Pass||PA short seam||Hemingway||21|
|New item! Michigan runs a zone read, basically, but Forcier pulls it out and immediately throws to Hemingway, who is open because his guy has set up to play on the corner, allowing Hemingway to lope past unmolested. Forcier hits him for a first down. (CA, 3, protection NA, RPS +1)|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||-7|
|Schilling(-1) fails to pick up on the slanting DT and just runs by him; slanting DT shoots into the backfield. Brown(-1), for his part, should instantly slam it up behind the failed block and hope he doesn't get run down by the backside DE. Even if he does it would be a minimal loss; as it is he tries to stretch it out to the sideline and ends up giving a ton of ground and getting tackled for a big loss. Brown is fast as hell but has little in the way of RB skills.|
|O40||2||17||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Scramble||Forcier||16|
|Forcier does have a pocket this time and steps up into it as a DE comes crashing around the outside of Ortmann. Seeing no one open, because there is no one open, he takes off for good yardage. I won't chart this, because it's a good decision and doesn't deserve a TA. Protection 2/2.|
|O24||3||1||I-Form Big||2||2||1||4-4 split||Run||Power O||Brown||2|
|Another good double on the playside DE blows him back; Moundros(+1) kicks out the OLB, and Schilling pulls around into the SLB. Brown has the first down before he hits anyone, at which point he goes down immediately.|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||5|
|Very similar situation to the seven yard loss, with the playside DT slanting hard; this time Brown makes the hard cut upfield and because Huyge(+1) got a great block on the backside DT he's out of the play. Brown can run up into folk for a decent gain. I think Molk is getting some of these reach blocks and the cutbacks aren't so constant.|
|O17||2||5||I-Form twins||2||1||2||4-4 split||Run||Iso||Brown||0|
|OL sliding over to run an iso off tackle; Huyge(-1) is pwned and blown back into the intended hole. I'd rather see Michigan double the guy and leave Brown with the linebacker; instead they shoot Omameh at the linebacker and leave Huyge to get pwned. Brown heads outside and is lucky to get back to the LOS.|
|Actually very good protection from the tackles, who don't let the DEs tear around the corner this time, but Schilling(-2) is just beat one-on-one by an Illinois DT—no trickery—and the immediate pressure up the middle gives Forcier no choice but to eat a sack. I do think Forcier had a slant for the first but just did not have the confidence to throw it. Still... (PR, 0, protection 0/2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(41), 13-7, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Ace||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Zone stretch||Brown||-2|
|Illinois shifts a LB late and Michigan busts his pickup as Ortmann doubles the playside DE with Schilling. Koger(-1) lets the LB right inside of him without getting a block; that guy tackles for loss.|
|M18||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB draw||Forcier||5|
|I don't know what Forcier's looking at because he's got a crease between Ortmann and Moosman that Brown's heading up into to provide a lead block, but Forcier heads directly upfield instead. On his way through a small crease someone knocks the ball loose; Michigan is fortunate to recover.|
|M23||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Post||Roundtree||77|
|Excellent pocket this time gives Forcier time and room to step up and throw; he rifles a ball 20 yards downfield that hits Roundtree right in stride. A trailing safety is beaten, but a Roundtree stumble gives him a shot at a tackle; he misses it. Roundtree is on the 45 and gone until Hawthorne tracks him down. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O1||1||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Iso||Brown||0|
|Schilling(-1) is blasted back by a single blocker on the backside; the frontside DT double gets him moving backwards and should be enough for Brown to get in but for Schilling falling backwards and giving him no room. Brown falls forward to about the half-yard line; probably could have extended it in.|
|O1||2||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Power O||Brown||0|
|They've got a gaping hole to run a sneak but they don't check to it. Argh. Dorrestein(-1), back in for Omameh, gets blown back and Schilling runs into him, falling right in Brown's path. Resulting unblocked guy tackles Brown just short of the line.|
|O1||3||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Inside zone||Brown||0|
|Brown's fault: the interior line freaking caves the DTs back and if Brown hits it up immediately this is a walk-in touchdown. His vision has always been bad, though, and he waits too long, and his balance has always been bad so he can't run through a tackle here.|
|O1||4||G||I-Form Big||2||2||1||Goal line||Run||Outside zone||Minor||0|
|Again a missed read from the RB as Grady takes an interior LB charging up and the OL has slammed Illinois into the endzone. Minor should still get in, but ends up tackled as his elbow hits.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 13-7, 11 min 3rd Q. After the review, Rodriguez looks like Don Draper on this week's Mad Men.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||2||0||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Smith||0|
|This looks like it's going to go pretty okay as a double on the frontside DT looks like it's working. Playside DE gets upfield so there's a crease; Schilling pops off the double to block the playside LB, at which point the DT they were doubling beats Moosman(-1) and shoots up into Smith at the LOS. My kingdom for a Molk. This play has one of my persistent pet peeves about the stretch: Brown goes outside the playside DE and basically makes himself useless. If you tell him to shoot it up then the players never have to stop doubling the DT here and this is a good gain.|
|M20||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||Brown||7|
|Good gain; great cut block from Roundtree gets a DB to the ground and the Illinois DL sucked up, removing themselves from the play. Dorrestein(-1) manages to whiff on the charging safety, but Brown cuts up behind him, where a DT and the CB the outside WR was blocking converge. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M27||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||QB stretch||Forcier||2|
|Michigan hurries to the line and catches not one but two Illinois players on the field of play as they snap the ball. No call. Ridiculous. Anyway, again Brown just heads outside the tackle and Forcier has to cut it up; a quick-reacting corner blazes past Stonum and Schilling can't block the backside DT, so Forcier gets taken down after just two. If Brown was acting as a lead blocker maybe they get this; I really don't get this blocking scheme on third and short.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-14, 7 min 3rd Q. That is a ridiculous noncall.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Koger||Inc|
|Quick hitch identical to the first one from earlier; Koger drops a ball that hits him in the hands. (CA,3, protection 1/1)|
|M36||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Roundtree||4 (pen -15)|
|Come to the play late as it's being thrown so not much detail; simple pitch and catch for just four. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Moosman gets a dumb, unnecessary chop block call.|
|M21||2||25||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Corner||Stonum||Inc|
|Stonum runs what looks like a slant at first before breaking it out into a deep corner route on which he's got a step and there's a window. Good pocket for Forcier breaks down with a delayed blitz but Forcier can stand in and throw just before he gets hit; the ball is a couple yards long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M21||3||25||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Improv comeback||Stonum||Inc|
|Third and twenty five sees a four-man rush that's picked up well; instead of stepping confidently and firing to someone, Forcier hesitates, bringing his eyes down and then scrambling out. He pulls up to fire deep to Stonum, who's trying to get open, and throws it a bit wide of a covered receiver; ball is deflected away. Trying to make the best of a bad situation and a throw that was okay after finding no one open, so... (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-21, 4 min 3rd Q. Michigan's trying to avoid the hellacious wind and ends up with a line drive rugby punt for little yardage.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||17|
|Michigan again blocking the backside DE so maybe this is supposed to be a cutback sort of thing. Huyge(+1) cuts the backside DT, who leaps over the block and stumbles wildly; scraping MLB runs himself out of the play chasing Forcier and the SLB move out anticipating a stretch; huge cutback lane. Brown cuts behind the out-of-control backside DT and heads right up the middle, grabbing a chunk of yards before the safeties close him down.|
|M37||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||TE seam||Koger||22|
|Bubble fake with Koger faking a block on the LB lined up over him, then releasing beyond him; Forcier hits him as he clears the second level but before the safeties get up on him. Poor block from Huyge(-1) gets a guy in Forcier's face and forces him to get rid of it when he had two receivers breaking deep against one safety and could have waited for a home run if a guy wasn't in his grill. Good play anyway; throw is a bit high but Koger brings it in. (CA, 2, protection 1/2, Huyge -1)|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||17|
|Excellent blocking by the interior line with Schilling getting a seal on the backside DT easily. He's out of the equation. Moosman and Huyge double and blow back the playside DT, with Huyge releasing onto the MLB; he gets outside and threatens to hold it down but the blocks by Moosman(+1) and Schilling have provided a major crease; the backside DE is getting blocked so he's out of the picture, too, and the scraping backer has run himself out of the play for Forcier. Brown's got space and this is what he's good at: darting into the secondary. Again the safeties close him down.|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Forcier||2 (Pen +5)|
|Backside DE unblocked this time and stays home but Forcier pulls it out(ZR –1). He's one on one with the DE and jukes him pretty well... and then fumbles for no reason whatsoever. The ball is juggled and he brings it back in; the distraction may have prevented him from fully juking this guy. Result is two yards; Michigan finally gets the “hey you have 12 guys on the field” call as Illinois is egregiously late getting off.|
|O19||1||5||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||9|
|Backside DT slices into the backfield past Schilling and Ortmann and threatens to make a play but he needs Brown to get delayed and that doesn't happen. Brown runs past, then cuts up. Schilling's gotten out on the MLB and a double from Moosman(+1) and Huyge(+1) has stoned that guy; Brown slices through a crease between Schilling and Moosman before getting taken down by a safety.|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 2TE||1||2||2||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Brown||-6|
|Three fold: Huyge(-1) gets absolutely blasted back into the backfield by the playside DT and Moosman, attempting to get the same double he did on the previous play, ends up running at no one, with a linebacker coming behind him. This is not a good situation. Brown should just cut up behind Huyge and take his 0 yards, but instead he tries to get outside—preposterous—and ends up giving up a ton of yards. Freshman mistake.|
|O16||2||G||I-Form twins||2||1||2||Base 4-3||Pass||Waggle throwaway||--||Inc|
|No idea why this is so open; Illinois should have someone cruising in to crush Forcier on the rollout. It's second and goal from the sixteen. It is open, though. Forcier doesn't like his deep options and should throw to Moundros in the flat for a few yards but doesn't and ends up getting to the sideline and throwing it away. Borderline BR, but (TA, 0, protection 1/1)|
|O16||3||G||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Sack||--||-4|
|Dorrestein(-2) gets completely destroyed by the DE, run around like the other guy is Brandon Graham. Huyge(-1) is bowled over, too, so Forcier has no lane to scramble up in. He gets the ball banged loose and Illinois recovers. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, Dorrestein -2, Huyge -1)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 13-28, 14 min 4th Q. Michigan fit all that in like two minutes of game time BTW. Jet tempo is fast.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Stop and go||Mathews||Inc|
|Great stop and go route from Mathews coupled with a pump fake from Forcier gets Mathews open deep for what could be a long completion. Mathews looks inside for the ball the whole way, adjusting only when it's clearly farther outside than he thought it was going to be, at which point it's too late. Mathews had plenty of time to adjust and just did not. The throw as not great but it wasn't that bad, either; this is more evidence that the receivers aren't adjusting to balls well. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M20||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Deep post||Hemingway||66|
|Great protection allows Forcier to step up in the pocket and nail Hemingway as he smokes an Illinois safety, getting two and half steps on his guy. Hemingway has to break stride a tiny bit, allowing the safety to catch up, but the end result is still a huge gain. These last two plays invite the question: why are these the first deep balls of the day? (DO, 3, protection 3/3)|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Roundtree||4|
|Roundtree has a bunch of space and manages to cut inside the crashing safety for a few yards. Timing seemed a little off on this; also if this was Odoms maybe he makes the guy miss totally? (CA, 3, screen)|
|O10||2||6||Shotgun trips||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Hitch||Hemingway||Inc|
|Hemingway has this for near first-down yardage when a DB comes up to hit him, jarring the ball loose. DB made it tough but you'd still like to see him make the catch here. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|O10||3||G||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Flare screen||Brown||Inc|
|This is too far in front of Brown but it's possible this is on Brown for not running the route right or adjusting to the pass as it came. Still: (IN, 2, screen)|
|O10||4||G||Shotgun 4-wide||1||1||3||Base 4-3||Pass||Slant||Stonum||Inc|
|Forcier finds a window to zing this in to Stonum. It'll be a tough-ish catch with the safety breaking to possibly make a play on the ball, but it is there; Forcier wings it high and wide. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 13-31, 8 min 4th Q. Charting stops as this game is over. Forcier fumbles on the next play after a blocked punt.|
So I'm still having this ichor problem.
Man… man. This is going to sound insane, but if Michigan just stops turning the ball over they'll have a pretty good offense.
If my eyes weren't empty sockets dripping with a viscous black goo, I would have perfect eyesight.
Hush, tentacled alter-ego cornerback.
Ain't sayin' it. In fact, here's a chart—
NO I MADE A LOL
(Hennechart legend; MA is "marginal", screen results are in parens.)
|Notre Dame||5||20 (6)||2||4||3||3||-||4|
|Eastern Michigan||1||8 (2)||1||1 (1)||1||4 (1)||-||-|
|Indiana||3||13 (3)||1 (1)||2||5||3||-||2|
|Michigan State||5||19 (3)||2||4||3||3||-||5|
|Delaware State||-||2 (1)||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Penn State||3||9 (3)||-||4 (2)||4||2||1||1|
|Eastern Michigan||-||1||1 (1)||2 (1)||-||-||-||-|
Robinson DNP until garbage time late.
Forcier had a decent game. He was not asked to do a whole lot until late. Illinois was apparently vulnerable to screens, so we saw an uptick in little short throws that were effective until the last one. The downfield success rate is good, not great: 9 / 15 = 60%. And the BRs weren't killer interceptions but just poor reads or poor decisions where to scramble, which is progress. I might need another category for "aigh."
The fumbling issue remains a problem, though: Forcier was irresponsible with the ball and coughed it up twice, once on a QB draw he made a poor read on. Michigan lost one, causing everyone to turn the TV off. Hopefully this is a major point of emphasis in the offseason; Forcier can't be as careless with the ball going forward or the offense is never going to get off the ground.
Receiver chart is interesting mostly for its distribution:
[Receiver chart explanation: throws are rated on how difficult they are to catch. A 3 is a totally routine ball that would induce groans if dropped. 2 is moderately difficult; you'd like to see players catch 50-70% of these. 1 is a circus catch on which the QB is bailed out by a great play from a WR or, more usually, not bailed out. 0 is totally uncatchable and mostly exists to chart how often a player is targeted.]
Roundtree tied for the most looks with Mathews, and Stonum is the new Roundtree. Roundtree has passed Grady on the depth chart in what looks like a permanent way because when he is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground. At least, not yet.
Koger also had another bad drop, further sullying his crazy start to the season. He's kind of a tight end version of Braylon, capable of making spectacular catches and dropping routine ones.
And PROTECTION METRIC: 22/27, Schilling –2, Team –2, Huyge –1.
Actually a good day here, though it was against a poor pass rush and Michigan got smoked a couple times. Note the low overall number: Michigan was ground- and screen-heavy.
Why the hell couldn't we get it in from the one?
In four ugly acts:
- Schilling is blown back into the path of an iso play that otherwise would have worked. Even with the pwnage Brown should have an opportunity to extend the ball over the goal line; he does not.
- Michigan attempts to run off tackle where Dorrestein, who's apparently injured and missed the last drive of the first half in favor of Omameh, gets blown off the ball; Schilling runs into him and Brown has no lead blockers.
- Brown waits way too long on a stretch play that sees Illinois's line cave in.
- Minor fails to read the blocking in front of him as Illinois's line again caves in and cuts to the wrong side of Grady's block.
Minor scores on third down and possibly second down if he's in, assuming he is healthy, which is a bad assumption. Actually, at this point I'd rather see Vincent Smith down on the goal line instead of Brown, who is a terrible short-yardage back. Brown's quick and nimble but has no balance or power: you hit him and he's tackled. Sometimes if you wave at his foot he's tackled.
Does this make you want to rage about the coaching?
Yeah. If Minor was healthy enough for fourth down he's healthy enough for first down. I think the coaches thought, as everyone did, that a sustained goal-line stand from Illinois was highly unlikely and didn't think it was a good risk. I can understand that on first and second down. On third, though, it was painful to see a play that Minor would have slammed into the endzone easily end short.
The other major coaching bitch from the game: why didn't Michigan take timeout with a minute left in the half? There was another possession waiting against a terrible defense there if Michigan would have just taken it. I'm willing to live with Rodriguez taking risks like the ones at the end of the first half against Iowa as long as he does it when it's a good idea, too.
My theory as to why Michigan did that, FWIW: they wanted to come after the punt hard but didn't want to give Illinois a chance at a drive afterwards if they got a penalty. That was why they waited to take TO but eventually did at about 30 seconds. Michigan did come after Illinois punts hard all day and blocked one. So it might not have been a terrible decision.
What is wrong with the run game?
Remember that it did pretty well against Penn State so failures against Illinois are not a trend. But issues exist:
- Brown is not an effective short-yardage runner. He's very fast and the risk-reward with him is good on normal downs where a zip into the secondary is a possibility. On short yardage he is bad because his vision and cuts aren't great and he goes down very easily. Without Minor or Shaw, Michigan could either deploy Cox or Smith in those situations; they are freshmen.
- Moosman is not as good as Molk on tough reach blocks. Lot of cutbacks against Illinois because the playside DT did not get sealed. Cutbacks are tougher sledding, usually.
- For whatever reason, Illinois was blowing guys back all day. I don't know if they were timing the snap count or just beastlier or whatever, but there were many instances where the playside DT would shoot into the backfield, which is very bad. Backside DT you can run past; playside DT not so much. This, again, is a Molk issue but it's also a RG/LG issue and a RB issue. Brown compounded problems twice by not cutting his losses and turning zero-ish-yard plays into huge TFLs. This goes back to his lack of vision. Moving Moosman out of the RG spot hurts Michigan there, too.
- Dorrestein is apparently hurt.
Here's a successful run from Brown on which Moosman does not seal his guy and Brown has to hit it up behind Moosman in front of Schilling:
From what I've seen, Molk is more likely to actually get that block on the frontside. He won't do it all the time and the cutback can be effective but then you're relying on the backside block, which is often a tough one.
The other thing on this play: why in the hopping hell does Brown cut right instead of left? This could be a touchdown if cut left, but instead Brown heads into three guys. I mean this…
Forcier, I guess, and Roundtree, I guess. I didn't think anyone on the OL played particularly well, and Brown's drawbacks were evident.
Brown? I know he had a good number of yards but he was one of three players primarily responsible for the goal-line stand, with other demerits going to Schilling and Dorrestein.
What does it mean for Purdue and the rest of the season?
I still think this can be a fairly effective offense when it doesn't turn the ball over willy-nilly. Is that ever going to happen this year? I don't know.
That effectiveness is seriously lessened by Molk's absence. A healthy return for Minor—which is supposed to happen this weekend—would help out; Brown and Minor have their strengths and when Michigan has only one the effectiveness of their game is compromised. Getting Odoms back would help, to. Though Roundtree had a good game, Odoms has proven himself a tough blocker and reliable option more likely to break a screen long, and maybe he won't fumble punts.
I think they'll be able to move the ball against Purdue effectively, with stupid mistakes the difference between a good output and the Illinois game. Wisconsin and Ohio State are a little dodgy with Molk out.
Super mailbag week because the mails, they come in. Side note: I try to be good about answering most of the emails that hit the inbox. This has been untenable over the last week. If you sent something and didn't get a response, try again after the Ohio State game.
At some point expectations of Rodriguez's success at Michigan can't be based solely on his performance at WV and other places. Aren't we getting to the point where we can base expectations of his success at Michigan on his results at Michigan?
Several coaches who were successful at non-power conference schools have been unsuccessful at power conference schools. Dennis Franchione and Dan Hawkins come to mind along with Billy Gillespie and Matt Daugherty in basketball. What have we seen based on what has happened at Michigan that would allow us to place RichRod closer to the Urban Meyer/Mack Brown path than the Franchione/Hawkins path?
Well, I think you're seeing the first serious discontent leak into non-lunatics after the Illinois game. As I said in the game column, that was a game-changer. If Michigan beats Purdue and then goes on to take either of the last two games of the year, the Illinois game melts away and Michigan fans go into the offseason fairly content presuming a decent bowl performance, but the performance of the team to date says this is not a likely outcome.
I don't think we're to the point where Rodriguez's performance at Michigan is the only factor to take into account; when you're thrashing around with freshmen quarterbacks and walk-on safeties in year two, things that happen on the field are not necessarily all your doing.
The only relevant conversation to have here is "at what point is it reasonable to let an under-performing Rich Rodriguez go?" Anyone who says "now" is an idiot. I usually mince words to play nice here but I'm exasperated: if you think Rich Rodriguez should be fired before next season you wear floaties when you go swimming and enjoy Ow My Balls(!).
Not that the emailer thinks this. But I have talked to people who do.
A follow up to the last mailbag's "Woodley or Graham" question:
I saw in the most recent mailbag that a reader addressed the Graham v. Woodley topic. I'd thought about that about 3 weeks ago and checked out the UFR's. Here they are:
Woodley 2009 - 11 games (bowl game wasn't UFR'ed), +85 (total)
Graham 2009 - through 8 games, +84
Soooo, yeah. Numbers point strongly toward Graham having a better senior season.
Graham picked up a +8 in the last game, too, though it should be pointed out that I've given him +6 for punt blocks. Defense-only contributions have not quite obliterated Woodley as thoroughly. Also, Woodley lived in the era before half-points and may have gotten shorted a few times. Graham doesn't pick up many half-points, though, he mostly eats rocks and breathes fire and picks up +2 or +3. It's splitting hairs between the two defensive ends on the All-Decade team, but IME Graham is #1.
And a follow-up to the Michigan Drinking Song Q:
The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club has recorded all of the Michigan Songs. There is actually a hardcover Michigan Songbook that every incoming Glee Club singer receives. If Andy goes to the Glee Club official site he can contact the glee club to find out which cd has the specific Michigan song he wants, if in fact the song in question is a Michigan song. Hope this helps.
On Tate scrambling:
As the season has gone on, I’ve noticed that Tate hasn’t been scrambling around a lot like he used to. this is probably because the of the coaches, but is it possible that that’s just the kind of quarterback he is? It might mean having to deal with some of those stupid grounding penalties and terrible Favre throws, but that’s what he was doing early in the year, and his stats have been regressing. Just something to keep in mind?
I think this is more about the defenses Tate is going up against than anything else. Early in the year when Tate hadn't done anything of note, teams weren't emphasizing rush lane maintenance more than you normally would. After Notre Dame, every team on the schedule knows the importance of keeping Tate in the pocket and as a result opportunities to get the edge have been rare. Another factor: Molk's loss has hurt the pass protection so badly that Forcier often has a second guy in his face when the first guy comes and just has to run around and die instead of run around and kill.
Forcier's got to diversify his game so that the scrambling is a portion of his game, not the whole. It's too easy to cover half the field and too risky to look at one read and take off. But mostly he's just got to get better protection, and recognize when he's got that protection better.
On whatever that was:
Long time reader, first time emailer. I was at the game this weekend at have two questions for you.
Why does Juice Williams play so well against Michigan and so poorly against the rest of the world? My two thoughts are coaching and terrible linebacker play, and I want to believe it is mainly the terrible linebacker play.
From what I saw, you are correct. Both of the last two years Michigan blew assignments with regularity, and when that happens against Illinois you get Juice running through your secondary. Illinois is the team that punishes you most for those sort of errors because their offense is designed to read a bunch of guys post-snap on every run play. There are a lot of opportunities for unblocked guys to screw up mentally against Illinois, many more so than a typical Iowa offense will provide you.
Why is our red zone offense so bad? It seems as though we could move the ball at will until we got inside the 20, and then we were helpless. Is poor red zone play a common symptom for spread offenses? Is it poor coaching/playcalling? My take is that the main issue might be that our lack of a big play WR makes it tough to call plays in the red zone and makes us more predictable. Thoughts? Have you seen any data on how spread offenses do in the red zone in general? It seems to me that a spread offenses with some great WRs would be scary in the red zone.
Paul Gustafson, Class of '04
That question requires more research than I can do for an in-season mailbag—maybe after the season—but I didn't think the redzone issues were particularly acute until the Illinois game and most of those were turnovers, which Michigan makes all over the field and don't indicate anything more than Michigan turns the ball over a ton, which is a problem but is also another show.
A rough estimate: Olesnavage has attempted six field goals from within 40 yards. For a slightly shady definition of red zone—which is arbitrary anyway—that's six failed attempts at touchdowns. Add in the goal-line stand against Illinois and you've got seven trips in eight games that didn't work out for reasons other than turnovers. Okay, maybe that goal-line stand should count triple, but the point is that Michigan hasn't been failing to punch in an inordinate number of touchdown opportunities except when they've turned the ball over, which has been all the time. I don't think redzone turnovers are much different than other sorts of turnovers.
And for anyone who wants to see a worse, if potentially more entertaining, football game than Saturday's:
Hey Brian,My name is Jordan Klein. I am an avid follower of your blog as well a staff writer for The Michigan Every Three Weekly humor publication. We are having our annual football game against our arch-rivals, The infamous Michigan Daily, this sunday Nov. 8th at Noon at Elbel Field. We thought that since you were a part of the E3W in its infancy we cordially invite you to come witness the Fighting Threes take down those who think they pass as writers at The Daily! Tempers will be flaring and things will get dirty. There promises to be Dong-knocking and Eye-gouging aplenty in what is shaping up to be the most intriguing matchup of the weekend! We are trying to get a decent sized crowd out for the game so we hope you can join in watching a game Michigan can't possibly lose!Sincerely,Jordan Klein and the rest of the E3W Staff
I mention this mostly because I have a beef with the E3W, which ditched the long-running "Daily + 1 Years Of Something Funny" tagline and the dumb joke staff box pictures this year for no apparent reason. You do know that the tagline and staff box pictures got people into the New Yorker, right? And the Onion? That was their entire CV: "One Hundred And Eleven Years Of Capuchin Monkey Herpes Vaccination Riots." Bam. Job.
Tales from the Dorkside: Guernica in Maize
[Editor's note: bumped. At this rate I'm going to be a spectator around these parts soon.]
Herein lies data. For those readers who prefer to skip my right brained musings in a tenacious fit to resist all culture and proceed directly to the left-brained portion of the show proceed to the So, How Goes It? section. Ahem…
The fallout from Michigan’s catastrophic failure against Illinois has left in its wake a fan base wretched in suffering. And anger. And chaos. And despair. A veritable Guernica in Maize. Pablo Picasso’s renowned painting might as well have been painted in the aftermath of last Saturday’s loss. The centerpiece of the painting features Michigan’s Defense (the horse) in the throes of death complete with Juice Williams as javelin gashing it right up the middle, exposing the gaping wound that is Michigan’s defensive barracks.
All of the major players are shown:
- Terrorized souls engulfed in the inferno of buyer’s remorse (far right).
- Horrified and confused onlookers (center right).
- Dismembered soldiers , also known as The Legend of Tate Forcier: Heisman Freshman ;complete with shattered sword (bottom).
- Grieving mother clutching the lifeless corpse of her child (read.: hope; far left).
Even the Eye of Mordor (read: FreeP) is represented (top). Not to mention that weird looking bull thing with fire coming out of it’s butt (left). I guess that’s Brian?
Anyway, Such a scene makes the reasonable observer wonder—what is up the suck? Misopogon has thoroughly sifted through the immediately obvious symptoms of poor defensive play and walk-on starters to provide tremendous insight into the plight of the defense. He has emphatically demonstrated the task Rich Rodriguez and his man Greg Robinson have in front of them if they are to their save their jobs and save Ann Arbor from burning: fix the defense. Accomplishing this will not be easy and it will test Rodriguez’s mettle as a head coach. And it will take time.
So how goes it?
I think reasonable people would agree that it’s not yet time to render a final verdict…at least as far as the defense is concerned. So let’s focus on what is reasonable to evaluate Rodriguez on at this point in time: offensive production. He’s had ample time to demonstrate core competencies in his area of expertise. He’s recruited his guys, has a reasonable amount of talent depth (inexperienced or not), and has had a reasonable amount of time to install his system.
The prototype I’m using as the model of what the performance of what a good offense should be will be the unit RR replaced, 2007 Michigan. That team had the requisite talent and experience at every single position: an offensive line that featured two three time lettermen (Jake Long- RS Sr. and Adam Kraus-RS Sr.), a three time letterman at QB (Chad Henne, Sr), a three time letterman at RB (Mike Hart, Sr), and three 2-time letterman at WR (Mario Manningham, Jr; Adrian Arrington, Sr; Greg Mathews, So). That’s as good a squad that a coach can ask for.
While the schemes employed by that offense are drastically different from what is currently being used at Michigan, the differences are irrelevant. Either is suitable for executing the mission: move the ball down the field and score points.
For the sake of thoroughness, I’ll stack them up against 2006 Michigan as well. Largely the same cast of characters but with fewer injuries. Reasonable or not, this level of production is what all Michigan fans desire or expect.
To evaluate the units I’m turning to very basic and universal categories.
Plays per Drive
This is a tempo-neutral possession metric. Evaluating Rich Rodriguez’s offense by time of possession is misleading since his philosophy is explicitly unconcerned with that metric. However, all offensive schemes seek to run as many plays as they can until they score. So, this metric also allows us to evaluate execution at a base level as well. Plays-per-drive allows us to compare different schemes to each other.
The calculation of average and standard deviation for this metric omits the highest (yellow) and lowest (red) game averages since yards per drive are highly correlated with the strength of the opposing defense. The presumption here is that one good or bad game is a fluke. Games against markedly inferior competition (blue) have been omitted regardless of game outcome. Ahem.
What we see here is that Michigan 2009 has in fact improved over 2008 in this particular metric both in average plays per drive as well as in the standard deviation of this metric. However, 2009 lags 2006 and 2007 a little in regards to average but matches the 2006 campaign in terms of consistency. The average part is not very surprising.
The benchmarks have significant advantages over 2009 in terms of personnel and experience. However, the consistency part is a bit of a surprise. This year’s team, freshmen QBs, botched snaps, and miscellaneous turnovers included is as consistent as the 2006 unit and more consistent than the 2007 unit. Anyone who has had to improve a process knows that you get rid of deviation first, and then you shift the mean. In this case, there is the good fortune of the mean shifting on its own via player maturity.
Yards per PlayThis is a category of raw production. This is more in line with offensive strategic objectives such as controlling field position, getting into scoring position, and so on. Again, the high, low, and inapplicable data points have been omitted from the calculations of average and standard deviation.
Through the games played so far, the 2009 offense has improved significantly over the 2008 team and matches the production of the 2007 team. It is also the most consistent offense captured.
Points per Drive
The bottom line. Is the offense pulling its weight in the “outscore your opponent” equation? Again, the high, low, and inapplicable data points have been omitted from the calculations of average and standard deviation.
Once again, through the games played so far, the 2009 offense has improved significantly over the 2008 team, which was consistently bad, and beats the production of the 2007 team in terms of drive average and consistency. 2009 lags 2006 in terms of average but again, 2006 is a stout benchmark.
The TakeawayDespite its glaring and soul dong punching deficiencies, the 2009 offense stacks up surprisingly well to arguably the best offensive unit Michigan has seen in approximately two decades, probably more like four, and maybe even six. DECADES(!). And significant low hanging fruit remains (turnovers).
Regardless, after games like last Saturday’s we are right to break out the compasses and maps and graphing calculators to reevaluate just where the heck are we, exactly?
Here's where we are:
- Tate Forcier is a FRESHMAN who has played in EIGHT games.
- The rest of the offense are de facto true sophomores who have only shown signs of effectiveness in about 14 games.
- The defense does not have the breadth or depth of personnel necessary to meet the Michigan standard.
Recognizing that we have a major vulnerability in defensive personnel is in no way a slight against the Lloyd Carr stewardship. It is simple root cause diagnosis. And, maybe RichRod can tweak a thing or two or three, here and there and over there. But, to suggest that the team has made no progress is simple ignorance at best and dubious ignorance at worst.
There is a big difference between excusing and explaining…that difference is responsibility. RichRod is responsible for his record, but its only fair to give him more time to hold him accountable as well. Forging the program into a consistent winner requires Rodriguez to demonstrate the full gamut of the requisite core competencies needed to be a successful chief executive in an elite college football program: excellent recruiting, excellent motivating, and excellent personnel evaluation(coaches and players), and excellent focus. If he succeeds, he will have vindicated Bill Martin decision and earned the respect of many. If he wins it all, he will be the next Bo Schembechler.
Godspeed, RichRod. Godspeed.
[Editorial take: I don't think things are quite as sunny as the numbers suggest; in the comments it's noted that adjustments were not made for outliers like turnovers and special teams items. Michigan's gotten great production out of Olesnavage and Stonum this year. Also, Michigan has yet to face the #65, #21, and #6 defenses so far this year and will likely see their to-date respectable metrics continue to dip below the okay production of the 2006 and 2007 teams. The 2006 team was pretty good but only 38th in total offense and 26th in scoring. It may have been arguably the best collection of talent at Michigan, but it wasn't exactly set free to roam the plains, its majestic rippling muscles trampling over mascots that dare oppose it. Michigan is approaching the mediocre numbers put up by Mike DeBord.
Even considering that the progress made from year one to year two is obvious.]