Ben, you guys looked like you worked pretty well together, you and Bredeson. Talk about that transition and how hard or easy it was and what you thought of it.
“I wouldn’t say hard or easy. It was different. Obviously I haven’t played tackle in a few years. Bredeson’s done really well as a freshman. He’s doing really well. Smart kid, knows what’s going on in the film room. I was very happy with his effort and very proud of him. We’ll see what happens. It was a fun transition. I always liked being a tackle, but whatever’s best for the team we’ll do that.”
Chris or Jourdan, you guys win 41-8 but you give up a late touchdown and you give up the long running play. How much does that help your coach Don Brown to be able to get in that film room and say, ‘Okay, here are some things we need to clean up’ and not to get too confident after a big win?
CW: “Yeah, I think we played pretty good as a defense as whole against Rutgers and Wisconsin and Penn State, going back a few weeks. We obviously know we’re a good defense, but at the end of the day there’s always things we can get better at, always things we can improve on as a D-line. And linebackers and secondary, obviously, as a whole. So, we’ll watch film today and see what we can do. Obviously want to stop those long runs, the late touchdown, but like I said, there’s things to get better at.”
Jourdan, Coach reemphasized every game’s a championship game, [and said] we prepare like we do for everybody. Especially for an in-state guy, does it take a conscious effort to control emotion when it’s a rivalry like this?
“I’m not really an overemotional guy. I really just love the game of football and always prepare for every single game like it’s my last. So, that’s what all of us do, especially on the defensive end of the ball. Not saying that Michigan State—not trying to slight them or anything, but it’s just another game, really, on the schedule.”
Ben, what’s this rivalry mean to you as an in-state guy?
“I mean, as everyone knows as a kid I was a hockey player, but when I first got to college and hearing about it from Taylor Lewan and Mike Schofield and Elliott Mealer and what the rivalry meant to them, it just kind of set the standard for what the rivalry is. At the same time, we’ve got to focus on this week just like we do every week. It’s just another obstacle we have to get across that’s going to take us to our end goal, and that’s just to win as many games as we can and be the best that we can and play the best of our game. So, I think as a team we’ve done really good at that this season and I’ve been really proud of the guys and how they handle every game.”
[More after THE JUMP]
We were cheering so much when they brought out the train that we missed how cool the play design was that they ran with it. It’s not the most complicated play to break down, but it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had breaking one down.
Other than looking cool, the train formation does actually accomplish something. The defense is trying to figure out who’s got whom, but can’t actually line up and sort out the offense’s look until this weird huddle has broken. It’s hard to catch numbers with all those other dudes in the way. It might not even dawn on the defenders until the snap that all the skill position players are tight ends (or in the case of Hill, a quasi-TE turned fullback). The train doubles as a huddle—Speight walks up the line giving the playcall—but preserves a no-huddle offense’s confusion factor.
If you’re an opponent, you don’t have a lot of time to dissect the various shades of blocky-catchy. And down near the goal line you’re not going to have the luxury of playing cover 2, since any underneath dumpoff is a touchdown. With a weird formation, the simplest thing to do is call a man defense, and everybody line up in their spots.
Then Speight claps his hands to break the huddle, and everybody rushes to his spot.
[After the Jump: Why five tight ends, why mesh, and how the rule that spread teams proved unfair is also unfair for teams that run out lots of TEs and crossing routes]
[Justin K. Aller – Getty]
Over the last couple weeks, I packed up all my stuff and moved across the country; now that I’m settled in, this column’s back. Apologies for the hiatus.
We’ve passed the halfway point of the college football season and the playoff picture looks clear, for now. Of course, that’s liable to change quickly; the biggest result of the past week was a shocking Penn State upset over Ohio State keyed by a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. Right now, it looks like Alabama, the Big Ten winner, Clemson, and Washington have the inside track for a bid to the playoff but there’s still plenty of football left to be played.
On to the weekend that was:
--- Perhaps OHIO STATE’s closer-than-expected win over Wisconsin should have been reason for concern, but they controlled the game against PENN STATE until the fourth quarter: the Nittany Lion offense woke up at the beginning of the period for a quick, 90-yard touchdown drive to pull the Buckeye lead down to 21-14, an OSU fumble set up a Penn State field goal to further cut the deficit, and then the blocked field goal – which came after OSU tried to rush its FG unit out for their kicker’s career-long attempt – provided the winning score with less than five minutes left. The game’s statistical profile suggested a comfortable Buckeye win (for example, OSU outgained PSU 413 to 273), but the Ohio State offense had a difficult time finishing drives and Penn State was somehow able to scrape together enough points to get the victory. By the end of the game, the PSU defensive front was dominating the Ohio State line, preventing JT Barrett from engineering a tying or go-ahead drive in the final moments. OSU still controls their destiny in the Big Ten (and probably in the playoff race), but this loss strongly suggests that this Buckeye team is a ways off of Urban Meyer’s usual standard. Of course, everything comes down to The Game on November 26th.
[More results from around the country after the JUMP]
So... how did that happen? Ohio State lost to Penn State over the weekend. You may not be aware of this so I will pause for your chortling.
All right. Done? No?
how bout now nvm
Okay. Now we can proceed. While OSU losing to Penn State, a team Michigan beat 49-10, has caused no end of merriment in the Michigan fan base*, there was an awful lot of flukiness in the PSU win. OSU outgained PSU by a wide margin, held them to under 300 yards of offense, and had a 64% win expectancy per S&P+. PSU made up the deficit with two huge special teams plays, the first a blocked punt that set up a field goal to pull them within four, the second a kick-six that turned an potential 7-point OSU lead into the three point deficit they'd lose by.
Normally I'd write those off as flukes not applicable to the Game, but Michigan has already blocked six kicks this year and has Jabrill Peppers sitting back there for any teams who want to get overly concerned about getting the punt off. Advantage: Michigan.
Meanwhile, PFF's evaluation contains some shocking stats about the OSU OL:
...the entire unit struggled in pass protection, surrendering a staggering 34 pressures between them, with RT Isaiah Prince accounting for almost half of those by himself. The spark of Curtis Samuel’s untouched 74-yard touchdown run and Marcus Baugh’s tackle-breaking exploits in the first quarter weren’t repeated in the final 25 minutes of the game.
And it could have been worse for OSU. Star Nittany Lion DE Garrett Sickels sat out the first half. This did not prevent him from racking up 2.5 sacks. A different PFF article has a different pressure number but it's still boggling: 28 pressures on 53 dropbacks. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley are likely to do similar work. PSU's 28th in adjusted sack rate. Michigan is 4th.
A second major issue was an inability to get to Saquon Barkley near the line of scrimmage:
the Penn State offensive line set up Barkley with 41 of his 99 rushing yards before contact, and Barkley didn’t have to break any tackles while coming up just a yard shy of a 100-yard game. The star on the offensive line for the third straight week was RT Brendan Mahon, who dominated the Ohio State front on the ground, combining particularly well on double teams to blow the Buckeyes’ defensive tackles out of the middle of the play and disrupt the linebackers behind them.
Later in that piece PFF will advocate for OSU's backup DTs to play over the starters after PSU and Wisconsin gashed OSU up the gut repeatedly. I will repeat: PSU—THE Penn State University—gashed Ohio State up the gut. Penn State. That one. That team. The one with Paris Palmer in the starting lineup again. They got 8.2 yards per carry between the tackles. (Why on Earth they only gave Barkley 12 carries is completely inexplic—oh right James Franklin.)
OSU's run D looks fine statistically, but that's largely due to 4 TEAM rushes for a total of –43 yards. Those were three kneels from the gun and a yakety snap over the punter's head. Remove those and Penn State rushed for an even 5 yards a carry without a single broken tackle from Barkley.
Michigan looks like they have a significant advantage on both lines. I can't believe I'm saying that but here we are.
*[My favorite thing is OSU fans saying it was a ROAD NIGHT GAME since Vegas is now offering 40 points for home field advantage.]
In other OSU issues. Land Grant Holy Land notes that OSU doesn't get many explosive plays. It's Curtis Samuel and that's it. In a very James Franklin twist, Samuel had two carries for 71 yards against PSU. And as always, I recommend Ross Fulton's OSU breakdown.
Meanwhile in this week's matchup. It doesn't look good for MSU:
How is Michigan State going to move the football?
I'm not sure how else to headline this bullet point. If you look at the numbers -- what Michigan's done on defense and what Michigan State's done on offense -- you get a pretty simple result. Michigan State will have to completely change the way it runs offense, overnight, and Michigan's defense will have to take a massive step backward for the Spartans to move the ball with consistency.
For the year, 22.2 percent of MSU's offensive possession have reached the red zone (No. 117 nationally). Michigan's defense, meanwhile, has allowed offenses to reach the red zone on just 6.7 percent of their possessions. That's No. 1 nationally. Michigan State also ranks near the bottom nationally in number of possessions per game at 12.6 and near the bottom in average field position. MSU is No. 91 nationally in rush yards per game, Michigan's No. 4 nationally in rush defense. If numbers hold, this could be a great day for Michigan's defense and a long one for MSU's offense.
MSU's gotta hope that some long bombs get completed and LJ Scott can conjure something up himself.
Bill Connelly gets to talk about his numbers too. We've been doing it all year, and he joins the "holy crap, Michigan's defense in S&P+" brigade:
Def. S&P+ is presented in an adjusted points-per-game figure and is created from an opponent-adjusted mix of efficiency, explosiveness, finishing drives, turnover factors, and field position factors. Here are its top five defenses in the country:
5. Wisconsin (12.4 Adj. PPG)
4. Alabama (11.9)
3. Florida (11.3)
2. Clemson (11.0)
1. Michigan (0.8)
Yes, these numbers are adjusted for garbage time, so Jim Harbaugh’s general ruthlessnessisn’t giving the Wolverines an added statistical advantage.
Yes, these numbers are adjusted for opponent, though while Michigan’s schedule was supposedto be awful, it really hasn’t been; among Wolverine victims, Wisconsin is 10th in overall S&P+, Penn State is 16th, and Colorado is 17th.
Jim Harbaugh is crazy part infinity. SBN notes that Harbaugh does things without knowing what the score is. Deadspin gets into Harbaugh's inability to let that fourth-quarter spot go, and I make note of the latter mostly to highlight a couple of comments. One:
When Tomsula wouldn’t let anything go, you called him a hoarder and impounded his car.
He was my daughter’s micro-soccer coach when she and his kid were 4 years old. He couldn’t have been nicer, more mellow, or better liked by the kids. He adapts to every situation to be great at whatever it is.
I almost don't want to believe the latter.
Baumgardner pokes the bear. Cumong man:
No disrespect, Michigan State, but Michigan's focused on bigger things for 2016
That's probably worth a field goal, that headline.
Harbaugh is worth it. Financially, things are going swimmingly:
U-M's overall revenue in spectator admissions increased to $45.1 million during the 2016 fiscal year, compared to $41.9 million in 2015. The $3.2 million increase was primarily due to an increase in football ticket demand, according to the financial analysis, which was approved by the U-M Board of Regents on Thursday, Oct. 20.
In comparison, spectator admissions decreased $8.3 million in 2015 due to a decrease in football, men's basketball and ice hockey admissions.
Overall, the athletic department saw an increase of $7.8 million to its net position for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, which is up from 2015's $1 million overall increase.
He literally pays for himself, and that's before various other application/donation things get factored in.
RIP Drew Sharp, troll. People should memorialize the dead as they knew them. Much of the Detroit media has done so in the case of Drew Sharp, who passed away at 56 this Friday. Those who knew him say he was a great and funny guy whose button-pushing writing shouldn't define the man, and I won't dispute that.
However, much of the memorializing has bothered me because it skips straight over the lasting fact of Drew Sharp's career: he was an unrepentant troll. There is a certain genre of newspaper columnist or radio talking head that is relentlessly negative because that's the only thing he can do that gets a reaction, and Sharp was Detroit's version. (There's one in every city.) He didn't have readers. He had marks.
His cynicism was breathtaking, and this was never more clear than in the immediate aftermath of Michigan signing Demar Dorsey. Sharp correctly diagnosed that circus as desperation on the part of Rich Rodriguez, but for the wrong reason. Dorsey was nowhere close to qualifying and never came close, spending his career at various vagabond stops en route to a brief Arena League career. It's a sad story about kids who come up rough and can't make it out.
Or, if you're Drew Sharp, it's an opportunity to bash a teenager who ended up in trouble:
MATT SHEPARD: "He was timed with a 4.4—"
SHARP: "Avoiding police."
SHEPARD: "That happened when he was 16 and he was acquitted.
SHARP: "I wonder if that was because he was a high profile recruit. Hmm. I wonder. … OJ got acquitted. Being acquitted doesn't mean you're innocent."
That's the only thing he ever did that made me legitimately angry; the rest of it was eye-rolling at his transparent attempts to troll people. I only knew his writing, so I knew him as a man with contempt for everything and an utter lack of empathy.
Meanwhile his writing level and banter was barely above every message board's worst poster. Deadspin got its hands on a couple of his Brandon-esque emails some years back, and since those come through without the benefit of seven layers of editing they're the clearest picture of his talent as a writer.
Does the little baby need a pacifier?
Yeah, Detroit needs writers that makes excuses for the city and simply tell the idiots in this town just want to hear.
They've been doing that for 30 years in this town and that's a big reason why Detroit is swirling down the toilet.
Oh, I'm sorry...that's not a "happy feel good story" is it?
He had none. Drew Sharp's death is a loss to those who knew him. His career is his career, though, and shouldn't be viewed through sepia-tinged glasses. It says something that most of the newspaper obits start with "if you look past the thing he did every day for the last 30 years, he was a great guy." Mmmhmm.
Etc.: Nebraska regent reacts to players' kneeling protest badly. Nobody on the NTDP is a first round lock this year but two Michigan commits are candidates. Hockey also picked up a commit from D Mike Vukojevic, a potential first round OHL draft pick. Brendan Quinn on Xavier Simpson. Kill 'em with kindness. Also your DL.
If you asked me back in August where Ben Braden would play if he wasn’t at left guard, I probably would have told you tight end because, I mean, trains and things. I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have mentioned left tackle, yet that’s where Braden started on Saturday. He did a nice job in his first game on the outside, and after rewatching the game his smoothness working to the second level stood out. I found a play in one of the highlight videos where Braden flings a DE upfield before taking off and getting into a guy long enough for De’Veon Smith to get at least 10 extra yards, and I figured I’d ask him about it.
It’s hard to tell exactly from the camera angle, but it looked like he got his arm into you and then you were able to use that to push him past you. Is that what happened, and do you want him to make contact so that you can throw him upfield a little bit more?
“On that one I’m just trying to reach and get to him. It’s kind of whoever makes contact first but yeah, once you’re locked up with a guy you kind of feel how he’s moving and move off that. That goes for second level and the D-line as well.”
So there’s not one thing you want him to do so much as just feel the momentum and use it against them?
“Yeah. I mean, it depends on how the play’s designed, but yeah.”
What were you guys doing in the game that made that draw so successful?
“Practiced it a lot during the week. Tried to focus on little things. Like, talk with coach and say ‘What do I need to do to make this as fast as possible?’ It’s something we’ve had in our pocket for a while. Just working and trying to be the best I could during the week on it so when I got to the game it was natural.”
Conversely, what was their line doing that made it effective?
“They were a penetrating defense. We knew they were going to rush up the field and just kind of tried to play off that and use that to our advantage when we can, but you know, just try to prepare for it as best as possible.”
With them using the Tampa-2 as their base, when you released to the second level were you expecting that linebacker to be there, or when you were releasing were you just looking for a white jersey and somebody to hit?
“Well, that one I was kind of expecting him to kind of be in that general area, but it depends on our backfield and what we’re doing,”
What’s the most difficult aspect of blocking on the second level?
“Usually guys are quicker. You know, just trying to keep your feet moving up to the second level and staying on your block and moving your feet through your block once you make contact. A lot of guys like to kind of think about—they’re kind of thinking about it on the way up there and they’ll get there and once they make contact they’ll stop their feet. So, just trying to keep the little things moving once you get up there and practicing that and getting repetition at it so that way you can naturally do it.”
This is outside the scope of one play, but what’s the biggest difference between tackle and guard? Is it footwork or hand placement?
“Footwork’s a little different. Obviously things are on the edge. The speed is definitely different. Guys are defeinitely quick on the inside, but as far as general overall speed, you just see a lot more things that are going on [outside] as opposed to inside, where you’re working with the center or you’re working with a tackle. As a tackle you’re kind of more on an island.”
News bullets and other items:
- Chris Evans was concussed, and it’s too early in the week to tell his status for the game
- Not sure whether Braden at LT and Bredeson at LG will be the starting left side Saturday as Bushell-Beatty is very much in the competition
- You’re doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t read the whole thing for the discussion of where the refs spotted the ball after a play that left Michigan two yards short of the sticks on third down up 41-8; Harbaugh challenged, and the subsequent call was the worst he said he’s ever seen.
After watching the film, how’d that left side of the line hold up with the two Bens?
“Good. Real good. Yeah. Both played two of their best games. Yeah, good in protection, good in the run game, made the right calls.”
Is that something you think you’ll stick with this week probably?
“Yeah, we’ll see. Juwann Bushell-Beatty also is a huge factor.”
Talk about what Wormley gives you both as a leader and as a player. I think it was Chase Winovich who referred to him as ‘papa.’
“Really consummate…consummate…great football character, great human character. Really good leadership skills. Strong and makes well thought-out decisions. He’s equally as good on the football field. Just always been a rock-solid guy you like being around and somebody that you try to emulate his qualities. He’s a thinker and makes good decisions.”
Reading some of the players’ postgame comments from Saturday, they talked about last year how you kind of let the finish of the game sink in a little bit, but since then you guys have gone 11-1 over two seasons. Is that something where that kind of has fueled them since, or this week is it really going to come out in an aggressive form?
“This is a big game for us. Championship type of ballgame. Our preparations will need to be at their best. I don’t know much more to say about it than that. That says it all.”
[We need a rules expert after THE JUMP]