I did not make this headline up
It's week four, Penn State's rolling into town, and the only thing anything I sure of is that everyone is terrified of Michigan. Penn State fans: terrified of Michigan. Michigan fans: terrified of Michigan. What's the general tenor of the fanbase? Is this The Year?
Absolutely scared beyond belief. Over the last eight meetings, Michigan has usually been the better team. Four of the games have been blowouts, and the other four have been closer in varying degrees. Penn State fans seem confident that we're the better team, but there's a prevailing, creeping sense of dread. Everybody knows that something bad is about to happen. Even if Penn State gets a big lead, nobody will believe the game is in hand until it's absolutely over. Perhaps not even until an hour after it's over.
I guess we should attempt to assess the chances of that. Given Notre Dame's performance this year, is it fair to say virtually no conclusions can be drawn from Penn State's first three games? Is there anything you feel you know about the team now that was a question going into the season?
Am I allowed to suggest that perhaps Florida International and Buffalo aren't *that* bad? No?
You are fully encouraged to suggest FIU and Buffalo have been your stiffest tests to date.
Honestly, isn't Buffalo the team giving points if they're matched up with Notre Dame on a neutral field?
I can't imagine that. Buffalo has been favored once in its history, and that against Temple, another Nittany Lion foe. (Information courtesy SMQB ongoing Buffalo Line Watch.) But you never know...
Actually, I think Buffalo will win a handful of games once they hit the MAC. FIU will win a few, as well.
I think it's relatively safe to suggest that the Penn State defense is still very good, despite the competition they faced in the first three games. Of course, they haven't faced the pure athleticism of guys like Manningham, Arrington, and Hart yet, either. A few successful deep passes are by no means out of the question for Michigan on Saturday, especially given the way the Wolverine offensive line tends to pick up our blitz packages....
As far as what we've learned about Penn State so far, it seems that Austin Scott isn't going to have the lightning in a bottle season we saw from Larry Johnson in 2002. He broke practically every single-season rushing record during his senior year of high school but sat behind Tony Hunt at Penn State for a variety of reasons -- lazy attitude, not being particularly dedicated to training, and Tony Hunt being one of the more underrated PSU players in recent memory.
I'm still very suspicious of our offensive line, which struggled to open up large holes in the first halves of each game before wearing down opponents in the second halves.
That dovetails nicely with my immense suspicion about Michigan defensive line, which was gashed time and again against Appalachian State and Oregon by simple shotgun zone read plays. The big difference against Notre Dame was the Irish' complete failure to get out on Michigan linebackers. Can PSU's line do better at this?
Well, we could end up having a full-fledged pillow fight in the trenches, then. Penn State has two new tackles and injuries at RG with John Shaw (knee) and Lou Eliades (concussion). Our running game features a lot of slow developing plays, and I don't think our offensive linemen are good enough to hold their blocks for three seconds instead of two. All of this comes with the questionable caveat that the coaches allegedly employed a very scaled-down offense in order to save some tricks for the conference schedule. Presumably, these are equally slow variations of our slow developing running plays. It's not like Anthony Morelli is going to be running the read option on Saturday.
I have absolutely no way of proving this, but it seems like 95% dive and counter plays so far. Apparently, RB pitches are too 1970's for Joe Paterno.
Are Shaw and Eliades out?
Paterno says that Shaw is unlikely to play very much. Eliades is available. While they were out, PSU used career backup Mike Lucian and true freshman Stephan Wisniewski, who both played well enough given their experience.
This is fairly encouraging; Michigan got Brandon Graham back from an ankle injury last week and he put up 3.5 of Michigan's eight sacks. Shawn Crable also got to slide back to linebacker against a non-spread attack. I am leaning towards declaring this an area of Michigan advantage.
In case this is something you care about.
Of course I care! I'd also agree, but it'll be close. I think the fact that Penn State runs a traditional style offense helps more than anything.
True. Other than some end arounds and a reverse or two, not much in the way of misdirection, right? They're like Michigan: eff you, try to stop this, oops you did let's punt.
Pretty much. Plus, I think there's a legitimate question of how diverse the offense actually should get. Considering our defense, why get too risky with plays that we're not that familiar with? Paterno has been accused of constantly trying to win games 10-7, but sometimes it's not the worst strategy in the world. He pretty much invented TresselBall.
Back when the Tyrannosaur dominated the game but fumbled lots. It's the tiny hands.
[side note: you just know that if Michigan football had been around in the Cretaceous that this guy would have been the quarterback and the would have lost to teams full of velociraptors running the goddamned spread. And they would punt from inside the opponent's 40. I should just not have started comparing the Michigan program to dinosaurs. This could go on for hours.
I think I will call him Navarrasaurus Rex.]
Terrible 40 time, the T-Rex. Narrow shoulders.
Right, about the defense: everyone knows about Connor, Lee, King, et al. How is the front four doing? They're pretty young, but highly rated, IIRC. Michigan's run game has been a constant masher against overmatched opponents so far. Projection?
Surprisingly good. They're extremely fast, and make up for their lack of experience with a ton of depth. That's not to say that Mike Hart won't get his yards. He will. It's the average p
er carry that ultimately concerns me. In addition, I can't recall a Penn State team blitzing so much. Our linebackers already have six sacks, which is a lot considering our usual scheme.
The Michigan offensive line has been the one unit that has really lived up to its billing (well, that and Hart)... you aren't concerned about the young guys getting pushed around?
I can only assume that Jake Long will eliminate just about everything on his side of the line. Honestly, I am just hoping for the defensive line to hold their own and not give up huge running plays because the linebackers are tied up with offensive guards and other blockers. I think the depth will help in that regard.
I fully recognize this borders on wishful thinking.
I think aggression will be key. Will Penn State hang back even if Ryan Mallett's in the game? It would be stupid but Penn State's coaching... uh...
The defensive coaches trust their secondary, as they should. I think that's why Penn State has blitzed so much this season -- the secondary is excellent and the defensive line could use a little help at times. Still, it comes back to the competition we've faced so far. Who really knows how good the defensive line is? It's FIU, Buffalo, and St. Charlie's School For The Helpless. I'm worried that Penn State will be initially shocked by the difference in athleticism, and I am scared to death of a situation where Anthony Morelli is forced to lead a comeback. I don't know that he can't do it, but it scares me. This week, everything scares me.
Right, about Morelli: I noticed some seriously crappy numbers against Notre Dame. And then it was 3-3 at half versus Buffalo. What's the deal? Is he improved? Can he be an asset?
Ahh, the eternal question -- can Morelli be trusted to be anything more than a game manager.
His receivers have dropped a number of passes, but they also bailed him out of some bad throws last week when he went 20 for 28 and threw 4 TD's. He's never going to be Dan Marino, but the reality is that he hasn't thrown as many interceptions as his reputation suggests (eight last year, one this year -- 9 in 15 games). The key word has always been "potential" with Morelli, but the fact is, he's started 15 games at Penn State's quarterback and has only shown occasional flickers of *getting it*. He doesn't feel backside pressure particularly well. He doesn't scan the field the way a fourth-year quarterback should. Still, he's firmly in between his potential coming out of high school and his reputation as a drooling rocket-armed freak.
Is he improved? Probably. Can he be an asset? Yes, most of the time.
Also, that interception returned for a touchdown against Notre Dame was a pure physical mistake. It was a good enough read -- Derrick Williams had single coverage, albeit against ND's best defender (who was not a boxer, though I'm sure you've heard about that guy once or twice). Morelli threw that ball off his back foot for absolutely no reason and it ended up being 15 yards short of where it should have been.
Yeah, but Jay can't make Anthony throw the pass. Jay Paterno and Anthony Morelli present such chicken/egg dilemmas.
|O43||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-1||--||Zone left|
|Or an attempted zone left, anyway: Mallett fumbles the snap. Note that we don't even have a fullback on this play and we still manage to employ the shuffle, motioning in a wide receiver just so everyone is completely damn sure where we intend to run the ball.|
|Hart motions out of the backfield and no one bothers to cover him. I mean, this is amazing: it's second and 11, we've just motioned our tailback out of the backfield, and they have eight guys in the box with no one within twelve yards of Hart at the snap. Hart runs a little stop route, catches the ball, and jukes his way for another four or five. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O34||3||1||I-Form Tight||Run||9||Hart||Inside zone|
|Two keys on this play: 1) Pat "Hur hur hur" Kuntz gets blown off the ball by Boren and Mitchell. 2) Kraus brushes by the other DE, delaying him long enough for Long to chop him to the ground. Kraus is only slightly delayed in his quest for a second level block and gets it easily. Hart gashes forward.|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone right|
|Interior of the line has done a great job, but Massey(-1) loses contact with Ryan to the inside, allowing him to close an tackle. Schilling also let Brown discard him to help.|
|Again motioning Hart out of the backfield. Zbikowski goes with him this time. Mallett has Arrington on a slant but throws well behind him. (IN, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Batted at the line. I can't be sure who he was going for, but I think it was Manningham on a crossing route that he was dead on. He had a shot at a first down if he came off the first guy. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(39), 3-0, 11 min 1st Q. Notre Dame is getting blown off the ball from snap one here. Drive stalls because Mallett is playing like a freshman.|
|O21||1||10||I-Form Weak||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|We motion Arrington across the formation; he ends up as a second tight end. This run goes to the strong side, away from the fullback. Trevor Laws does a great job on Kraus(-1) here, driving him back and getting him offbalance so he can disconnect as Hart passes. Kuntz also does a good job avoiding Mitchell's cut block; they meet at Hart. Two good plays from ND DL and M still gains three. Why? Second level blocks eliminate the linebackers; no actual penetration from the first level defenders.|
|O18||2||7||Ace 3-wide||Run||6||Hart||Zone left|
|Not sure exactly who is where on this play, but Notre Dame is lined up in a 4-2 nickel here with only six guys in the box(!). Have they watched Michigan play in the last ten years? Laws again proves tough for Kraus to handle but it doesn't matter because he's sort of run himself out of postion here and the other DT has been sealed by the backside guard, Mitchell. By the time Hart meets Boren, et al, he's five yards downfield and it's time for third and short. Bizarre playcall for ND.|
|O12||3||1||I-Form Big||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|Griese advises "poise and confidence." FB shuffle to the left; we are still 100% for runs to the side of a fullback shuffle on the year. This causes two defenders to start crashing playside before the ball is even snapped. The penetration that killed Michgian a year ago is not there, though â€“ nice cut but Mitchell (+1) and Hart manages to crash forward for the first.|
|What was this? I don't know. I think it's a busted attempt at another zone play (the receivers are not running routes, they're blocking), this one to the right, but Mallett screws up the handoff. He manages to get somewhat near the LOS.|
|Obvious interference; Mallett laid this right where it needed to be for Arrington to haul it in, but late. (CA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|Long stands his guy up, as does Kraus, but there's no hole here until Moundros(+1) plows his way forward, creasing the line. Hart follows him into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-0, 7 min 1st Q. Same zone blocking on short yardage this year, but Moundros has usually been in the backfield this year. Results have improved considerably... albeit against sketchy competition.|
|M22||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||5||Hart||Zone left|
|ND in its 3-4 here despite the three-wide; Michigan running into an extra guy. Kuntz is blown off the ball by Boren... er. Wait. They've swapped spots, haven't they? Kraus(+1). Boren crushes a guy downfield; Hart goes for five.|
|M27||2||5||Ace 3-wide||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|ND now in a 4-2 with a safety rolled up. There's a crease between Massey and Long ,but that's filled by the rolled-up safety; Laws has pushed Boren back a yard or two. Mitchell also gets driven back into the Boren-Laws mess; Hart has nowhere to go. He manages to do his Hart thing for two.|
|M29||3||3||I-Form Big||Run||5||Hart||Zone left|
|3-4 again with a safety rolled up and another corner in sort of a half-zone to the side with not WR. Kuntz is crushed off the ball by a double team; Schilling takes care of Brown on the backside and Hart can fly up in the hole for the first before the weakside linebacker can close him down.|
|3-4 with extra safety in the box. Boren-Long zone double on Laws doesn't go so well as Laws manages to spin free of it after ceding a yard or two. Moundros does a very poor job trying to cut the charging WLB and Hart is forced to run up into a bunch of bodies. Note again that despite some good play from ND they're getting blown back 3 yards and can't get a TFL to save their lives.|
|Don't like this call, or maybe I just don't
like the read. All four ND linebackers take a step or two forward at the snap; Massey should be wide open in the seam. Meanwhile the ND corners are bailing out like mad. It seems this is a defense that is designed to stop either a run play or a bomb; we oblige. Mallett throws it OOB. (IN, 0, protection 3/3)
|Dropped. Griese starts claiming it was too hard, but I don't know... catch the damn ball. We've seen Manningham do this before. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Probably not going for a first anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 1 min 1st Q. Griese also says that Mallett had a window on the bomb, FWIW, so maybe my criticism isn't totally warranted.|
|O38||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|So weird: ND in a 4-2 with no safety help. Laws now lined up over Mitchell after previously being tasked with battling Long; he avoids Mitchell's cut block(-1 Mitchell) and Schilling fails to get a second-level block; Hart is shut down. Poor play from the OL on this one.|
|Manningham shoved to the ground with the ball in the air; interference; not charted.|
|I mean... this is insane: ND in a 3-3-5 here. They actually get a pass call from Michigan on first down (one of like two all day, IIRC). Mallett rolls out on the waggle and fires an inadvisable bullet to Manningham at like the two. This might be a stupid throw... it is close to being eerily similar to the Henne pick in the App St game. But we are a results-based charting service around these parts. (DO, 2, protection 1/1)|
|O3||1||G||I-Form Big||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|Stymied inside; I actually think Hart should be cutting this up the backside for six. Instead he runs up the backs of his OL for a moment, then darts outside of Zbikowski â€“ how I'll miss you, you boxing, no-tackling bastard, you â€“ for the TD.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-0, 14 min 1st Q. Game over. Hey, they lasted more than a quarter. Barely. Uh... could we count to 11 on special teams, maybe?|
|O48||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||9||Hart||Outside zone left|
|Just Mike Hart being awesome. ND sends a corner blitz right into this zone play; Hart is dead to rights for a five-yard loss... except he's Mike Hart and spins away from Wooden. Meanwhile, Long(+1) has sealed #90 beatifully... this was a tough block to make â€“ and the second-level guys wash out the linebackers. I think this play is subtly different than many Michigan zone plays and is designed to go outside.|
|O39||2||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||14||Hart||Zone right|
|Notre Dame with six in the box. I guess this is a really predictable bomb-it down, but yeesh. ND blitzes the corner again but this time Michigan runs away from it, to the weakside. Boren(+2) crushes his guy (which is Laws!) down the line and to the ground, leaving Hart a massive backside gap that the defensive end can't fill. This is really poor play by Massey(-1) on this block... we are running to the weakside so we can actually get a blocker on the DE this time, but Massey gets discarded. Great blocking by Boren/Long/Kraus makes that irrelevant; Hart pops into the secondary for a big gainer.|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-1||Hart||Zone left|
|Weird look here with four down linemen and Zbikowski standing up between a DT and a DE. MLB blitzes and a safety charges up right at the snap â€“ wish we were using the finger thing here to tip these. The blitzing LB gets picked up but Michigan, as a result, can't get anyone on Zbikowski. This defense is specifically designed to stop zone left. Hart sees the mess and tries to cut to the backside, but slips. Probably wouldn't have mattered with an unblocked linebacker filling.|
|The double throw. Mallett slips and the ball is overthrown anyway. What is Schilling thinking here? No one blocks Brown and this probably wouldn't have been successful anyway. (Not charted.)|
|ND sends six; Mallett hangs in and lays it in to Mathews on a crossing route that is wide open. Manningham drove off one defender, and the ND linebacker in the middle zone inexplicably started moving up towards Hart... screen wary? I would like to note that Mallett did not throw this a billion MPH, instead laying it in gently. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-0, 11 min 2nd Q.|
|M22||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||12||Hart||Zone left|
|FB shuffle, ND in a straight 3-4. Why? Think this is also designed to get outside. Moundros heads out immmediately and clocks Long's guy, who's set up outside pretty well; he starts spinning back and trips up the ND linebacker. Hart's outside. He then cuts back behind a wall of blockers five or six yards downfield before Trevor Laws tracks him down. A DT. 12 yards downfield. Yay, ol.|
|FB shuffle, still 100%. Safety flies up to make it eight in the box and flies into the backfield, where Moundros submarines him, but not before he prevents Hart from breaking this outside. This prevents him from picking up an absolute convoy of blockers and forces him into a morass. We tipped this and it cost us.|
|FB == Butler. We tip this as a pass. Arrington comes in motion across the formation with DB in tow, so it's man. The route is a pick with Manningham on a slant opening up a quick out for Arrington; executed five. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M45||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||11||Hart||Zone right|
|ND in a nickel set; slot CB blitzes; we run away from it. Boren(+1) drives Laws off the ball again; the hole here is between Mitchell and Schilling. Hart picks his way past a prone, grasping Laws and gets out to the second level, where Long(+1) is obliterating an Irish LB. Hart's eventually taken down by a recovering LB, but after the sticks.|
|O44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|ND again in a straight nickel. Though Zbikowski is moving up at the snap, he's too far out to be of much use. Why is ND doing this? We've thrown once on first down? Is Corwin Brown a mole? Anyway: this time Boren(-1) can't get off his zone block to deal with the linebacker fast enough; he dives at Hart's feet in the backfield. No tackle. He then stops on a dime and cuts upfield for 3 yards he shouldn't.|
|O41||2||7||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Minor||Zone right|
|ND in a nickel with press coverage. Think Minor has a major gainer here if he takes it between Schilling (I haven't been giving him pluses, but he's consistently been caving his DE in all day) and Mitchell. He reads the zone block wrong... C Kraus has taken the DE and Mitchell is heading out to the second level, go outside... and allows the DT to disengage and tackle.|
|It looks like a confident throw, at least. Definitely a second read, too. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-0, 5 min 2nd Q. This is an obvious go-for-it situation according to Romer. I hate this punt. It is slightly defensible up 24 and opposing this ND offense, but still... no.|
|M44||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||11||Hart||Zone left|
|Straight nickel. Corwin Brown is a mole. Weakside DE might have a chance to shut this down but he hesitates on a potential waggle fake and cannot recover in time; Hart is romping behind him as Long and Boren(+1) take Brown and ride him five yards downfield. He ends up pancaked past the 50. All Hart had to do is run up behind the duo.|
|O45||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||9||Hart||Zone left|
|WR shuffle and we run in the direction of it. Designed to go outside, then, as it brings in the CB so Mathews can block him and Hart can pop it. Line seals the ND DL way inside, but Mathews(-1) puts up a block worth of the ND OL and Hart has to deal with the corner in the backfield. One stiffarm later he's rumblign down the sideline for 9.|
|Very predictable playcall and Manningham is bracketed by the safety. ND has eight in the box and the safety runs over to double Manningham at the snap, ignoring Arrington. Maybe... throw it to Arrington? Just sayin'. Ball is thankfully overthrown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2). Nice blitz pickup from Minor.|
|O36||3||1||I-Form Big||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|FB shuffle and the blocking on this is poo. We are fortunate a couple people get cut to the ground and Hart can do his Hart thing, cutting behind Boren driven backwards, for the first.|
|We're looking at an iso shot of Jake Long as this play snaps. So angry! By the time we get to the play thre is a gaping hole up the middle with two guys looking for second level blocks and only one linebacker to deal with. Minor reads this and high steps for close to ten.|
|O23||2||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|3-4, so they've got an extra guy. Kraus blows Kuntz off the ball and Schilling stones Brown; there is a massive backside hole.|
|Yipes. The near pick-six. It looks like this route could be open but Mallett stares it down and, if it's open, throws it late. (BR, 0, protection 2/2).|
|O20||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||9||Hart||Zone left|
|ND in a 3-3-5. They can't be serious. They are, evidently, Michigan runs it down their throat. Laws has the temerity to actually try an upfield pass rush, so Long just runs him out of the play. Kuntz (say it with me) blown off the ball; three second level blockers don't even have to pause before crushing linebackers, and Hart is unfettered until the weakside DE tracks him down at the 11.|
|O11||3||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Stupid camera angle means I can't tell what happens on this play.|
|O10||1||G||Shotgun 3-Wide||Run||5||Hart||Zone left|
|Major hole as the weakside DT's first step is upfield. He eliminates himself behind Mitchell and there's a big crease up the gut. Hart is chopped down at the five.|
|Laid in. Ver' nice. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-0, EOH.|
|M30||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|FB shuffle to the playside against a 3-4 with a corner blitz coming. Boren(-1) whiffs on Kuntz; corner forces Hart back into him.|
|M31||2||9||Ace 3-wide||Run||-3||Hart||Zone left|
|Straight nickel. Playside DT â€“ Laws -- does not get blocked much as Boren(-1) ignores him for a second level block after a brief brush that's not enough for Kraus to get him sealed. Zone blowup just like the one in my book(!). Massey(-1) also got driven back unpleasantly.|
|Thrown too high. (IN, 1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-0, 13 min 3rd Q. First three-and-out of the game. Boren, who has been outstanding so far, beat a couple times.|
|M21||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||11||Hart||Zone left|
|ND with six in the box down 31 with 9 minutes to go in the third quarter against a team with a true freshman quarterback who has thrown two first down p
asses. Corwin Brown is a mole. And there's just no way they stop crap on this play. Huge split between the backside DE and DT is exploited as the DT runs down the line a bit and gets blocked a few yards backwards. Hart has a veritable field to frolic in. Then he burrows for another three yards carrying five defenders. Mike Hart is awesome.
|M32||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||7||Hart||Zone right|
|Blitz slices in to the backfield but it comes to the backside of the play. On the frontside another huge gap between Schilling and the Kraus/Mitchell zone block. Sai block controls the DE then pops out on the LB... textbook.|
|3-4 with a blitzing safety... and an FB shuffle. Safety cuts off Minor's attempt to go outside and he can only burrow back to the LOS.|
|3-4, safety in the box. Mallett checks his first read, comes down to Massey, and the flicks out a little flare to Hart for the first down. Don't know if the other options were real options or if this play was designed to come down to Hart from the beginning; still nicely executed. More touch shown, too. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|FB shuffle. This one is alittle slow developing and the backside LB is totally unfettered to Hart. He is wrapped up three yards downfield... breaks through two guys and rumbles for a first down.|
|O45||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||12||Hart||Zone right|
|Notre Dame is blitzing two linebackers and bringing both safeties up in this nickel look, but the safeties are still yards from the LOS when the ball is snapped. This sort of half measure isn't working and hasn't been all game. Bruton attacks up the outside, allowing Hart to cut back behind Mitchell. Kraus has cut the DT to the ground and Hart is into the secondary once again. He puts a little move on Zbikowski and sprints to the outside for yet more yards.|
|O33||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||3||Minor||Zone left|
|Well blocked except for Massey; his man overpowers him and closes down on Minor.|
|O30||2||7||Ace 3-wide||Run||11||Minor||Zone counter|
|The TE pull we debuted in the Oregon game returns; Massey cuts the backside DE and Minor has a massive hole that Zbikowski tries to fill... Minor pwns him with a sweet spin move.|
|O19||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Wide camera angle makes this hard to parse. Looks like the ND line getting blown back en masse|
|O15||2||6||Ace 3-wide||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|Way more blitzers than blockers here, no chance for this to be anything. Should be a three yard loss, but Hart is awesome.|
|O13||3||4||Shotgun 3-Wide||Pass||13||Manningham||Stop and go|
|Manningham fakes a stop route and Mallett gives a pump; corner bites. Manningham's wide open at the back of the endzone; laid in. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-0, 4 min 3rd Q. With no points and the rest of the game garbage carries with partial lines, charting stops here.|
A final item: Mallett fumbled one more snap, and there is video of Minor's truck job on a Notre Dame safety.
And a desultory cheer went up from the beleaguered masses.
Does this game actually tell us anything?
Maybe a few things. The biggest takeaway for me was the excellent performance of Justin Boren, who spent much of the day making Trevor Laws eat his own poop. Though the Notre Dame defense is almost totally devoid of good players, Laws was a thorn last year, is by far ND's best player in their front seven, and has three years on young Mr. Boren. Despite this he spent most of the day face down five yards downfield. ABC's constant fawning closeups of Jake Long running untouched to the second level and obliterating some poor linebacker were amusing since they all showed Boren doing the heavy lifting. That dominance, plus Schilling's quiet effectiveness, are very encouraging signs for the offensive line going forward.
The rest of the line continued it fine performance. There was the occasional missed block or inability to hold the POA, but this is the third consecutive game Michigan's ground game has been punishing. This has all been against overmatched opponents, sure, but there's an inkling in there that most opponents will be overmatched. Penn State will tell the tale.
Also, Brandon Minor missed an obvious read on one of the carries I charted above; I think the running back job is going to be wide open next year. Minor runs really upright and seems perpetually on the verge of getting his clock cleaned; he also clearly lacks Hart's ability to pick through traffic. The spin move on Zbikowski was sweet, though.
Oh, and Mallett. Here's Mallett's cha--
Yes, chart. Here's Mallet's chart:
|Oregon - Henne||1||13||6||3||1||0||3|
|Oregon - Mallett||3||7||2||3||1||1||2|
|ND - Mallett||2||7||4||1||0||2||0|
A fairly typical profile for a freshman called upon to throw only 15 or 17 times. Perhaps I was a little generous with a DO and one of the INs could be a BR -- the double-covered bomb to Manningham that was out of bounds -- if you were so inclined. The numbers look okay, but suboptimal in the ways that first-time starters are. Mallett also succumbed to our weird tendency to have a ton of balls batted when we play Notre Dame.
All things considered, Mallett did very well. Each of the touchdown throws displayed touch. Two were looped over the heads of Notre Dame defenders; the third was a soft crossing route to Mathews that beat a blitz. He stood in the pocket, knew when to get rid of the ball, and came off his primary receiver a couple of times, most impressively on the little Hart flare that picked up a first down. He dealt with no pressure and usually had open receivers; he took advantage of his.
There were problems: an inaccu
rate slant, routes he screwed up the timing on, the near-pick, two fumbled snaps, and a busted handoff. It was not an efficient performance -- anyone seriously doubting whether a healthy-ish Henne should start versus Penn State is advised to stop doubting -- but it was one that hinted at his potential.
Also (not to go all NDNation on you): the kid has an infectious confidence. His joy for the game that was a delight to see when I reviewed the tape. With Hart gone after the year, Michigan will need a focal point and he seems like the kind of kid to take up that mantle.
Other chart. Not much to see here, as you might expect.
Kind of dodgy protection metric?
A perfect 22/22.
What about that punt?
Completely indefensible in a close game. Potentially justifiable up 24 and facing an offense that would need several miracles to reach double digits. If I knew that Michigan would not do the same if it was down four points in the second quarter, I wouldn't even mention it.
Anything else irritate?
We are still 100% run when freshman wideouts are in the game and 100% run in the direction of a shuffle, be it fullback or -- new! -- wide receiver. Also, we broke out our TE-as-FB package for the first time this year. This is always a pass.
Now, it's fair to point out that Michigan ran most of the day and these things might not mean much in the context of a 38-0 whitewashing, but Michigan does this against opponents both competitive and not and gives away many of their plays just by personnel or alignment. Whatever shocking plays we have that play off these tendencies are not worth the constant bleed of expected value we suffer throughout the year.
Mr Cranky actually like anything?
I failed to mention this in the aftermath of the Oregon debacle, but this zone counter thing where one tight end comes across the line to chop down the backside DE, opening up a major cutback lane, has been really effective and plays off our zone game beautifully. We only ran it once against ND but it went for a Minor first down; it also opened up that Butler crossing route on the first play of the Oregon game. It's been a fine addition.
Boren, as mentioned, the rest of the OL, and Hart. Who is awesome.
I kind of hate Mike Massey's run blocking. He was the one guy who didn't seem able to overpower his man; a couple of Hart's less successful runs involved Massey getting pushed back a bit. Other than that, there isn't much to complain about.
Is Corwin Brown a mole?
Very possibly. Michigan's ground game was sometimes opposed by extra guys in the box but not nearly often enough given Michigan's tendencies -- two first down passes were attempted all day -- especially considering their deployment of a true freshman quarterback. Often Michigan would line up in their standard ace three-wide formation and ND would oppose it with a straight nickel! There can be no justification for this, especially when your defensive line ends up on its ass every play. Sometimes the nickel look would have a late-blitzing safety who would come up and try to fill, but this ploy was universally ineffective.
Notre Dame showed nothing unusual to slow down the Michigan rushing attack aside from one creative blitz that got Zbiboxerguy free and forced Hart into one run for no gain. Corwin Brown may be able to recruit against Michigan, but Pete Carroll he's not.
What does it mean for Penn State?
Given the youth of Penn State's defensive line and some injury problems they're having (projected starting DT Abe Koroma is out), I think we should be able to mash them pretty good. Their defensive ends are quick but undersized and will either slash past the blockers assigned to them or end up like Pat Kuntz: face-down after being used as a plow. The defensive tackles are underclassmen, albeit highly rated ones. Their linebackers are awesome, but if the DL can't hold up they'll have to deal with blockers all day and will be awesomely turning 10 yards gains into 6 yard gains instead of 4 into 0. It will help if Penn State does its traditional two- or three-deep coverage all day instead of rolling a guy up to the LOS. If there's one team out there that relies on out-executing your opponent more than Michigan, it's the Ni
The passing game? Depends on the quarterback, obviously, but it will be a sideshow. Last year Michigan passed to set up the run; this year it will have to be the other way. Count me as cautiously optimistic Hart goes for something like 140 on many, many carries. The passing game is still a question mark.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
USC's obliteration of Nebraska is not enough for the Trojans to reclaim the #1 spot from LSU... but it's damn close. The chainsaw-penised gorillas maintain their edge with 31 first place votes to USC's 27. The Trojans do hop past Oklahoma to grab second.
Elsewhere, the big movers are Boston College, up eight after finishing an odd three-game conference swing to open the year, and Alabama, up 11 -- in the poll for the first time this year -- after a narrow victory over the Hogs. Also... uh... Kentucky enters the poll at #17, which is good for them but bad for us since a college football poll without Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, or Michigan but with Rutgers and Kentucky is an obvious sign of the apocalypse.
Our weekly justification of the BlogPoll's existence:
- LSU #1, obvs.
- Blogpollers have paid attention to the shaky starts of Texas and Wisconsin, #9 and #12, respectively, versus #7 and #9, respectively, in the AP.
- Likewise, blogpollers are high on Oregon (#10 vs #13) and BC (#11 versus #14) after their strong starts against actual competition.
- Kentucky (#17 versus #21) and South Florida (#18 versus #23) are beneficiaries of the same principle.
- We still hate VT: #23 versus #17.
- We also hate Hawaii, #19 in the AP and surely destined for a post-season spot in the top ten for no reason whatsoever... blogpollers have them at #24 mostly because the alternatives are things like Nebraska, Arizona State, and Michigan State.
Wack Ballot Watchdog:
- Why does The Hoosier Report keep voting for Miami? Aaaargh!
- BON isn't a huge outlier on OSU, but it is the blog with the lowest opinion of the Bucks: #15. This is behind South Florida, whose big road win over Auburn looks much less impressive than beating Washington at the moment, Missouri, and Clemson. Which is weird, especially because Texas' struggles against dorky opponents apparently don't phase them: UT is #7.
- FWIW, Dump Dorrell is our only voter with Oklahoma at #1.
- Dan Shanoff: Rutgers #5. Rocky Top Talk: Rutgers #25. FIGHT!
- Saurian Sagacity has South Florida #10, up four after their Auburn win got devalued something fierce. But, hey, at least they voted for USC this week.
- Why is Bruins Nation voting for Tennessee? Arrrrrgh!
- EDSBS has UCLA at #22... no Utah, no Air Force. Ack!
- Falcon Nation has Virginia Tech #8. This is the worst vote of the week.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
This week's Mr. Bold. is SMQB again, and it's the resume-ranking thing again, too. Wisconsin, Penn State, and Texas are the last three hangers-on on his ballot. Boston College is #2. Air Force is #16, Kansas #17. Etc. Question: just what has Kansas done against CMU, Toledo, and a I-AA team that's better than beating TCU, in the case of Texas, or Washington State, in the case of Wisconsin? This resume stuff seems just as arbitrary as the non-resume stuff.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award Ramblin' Racket returns to wrest the CK Award away from Bruins Nation after a one-week hiatus. Last year any blogger with the hubris to rank high in this category saw his team immediately struck down... GT #5 deserves some smiting, oh yes.
This weekend: BC 24, GT 10, and it wasn't really even that close. I would also point out that this year's other winner was Bruins Nation, and they're on a week long FIRE DORRELL!!! bender after UCLA got clunked 44-6. By Utah. Which isn't even a state. Do not win this category.
he Straight Bangin' Award is Card Chronicle's after that whole losing to Kentucky thing. UL didn't have far to drop after the Middle Tennessee near-debacle, coming in #22 on CC's last ballot, but now they're gone entirely.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic Depressive goes to Dawg Sports. When you entirely throw out your previous insane ballot in favor of something way more sane after the weekend's results, you tend to win here. [items in italics are the only words changed from last week.]
"We're going to go out here (to practice) in a couple of hours," Carr said on the Big Ten's conference call today. "I wouldn't be surprised if (Henne) took some snaps. We'll have to see what goes on beyond that."
Uh... gamesmanship maybe. Personally I doubt he plays. FWIW
@ Burnt Orange Nation. Feel free to proffer your own responses in the comments.
1. Handicap your team's chances to win your conference championship. If your team is not the favorite, who is?
Well... it's not the favorite anymore, that's for damn sure. With Michigan's collapse there appears to be no true front-runner in the Big Ten. Penn State has looked good against Buffalo, FIU, and Notre Dame; Wisconsin looked good against Washington State, bad against UNLV, and then nearly got Michiganed versus the Citadel. Michigan did get Michiganed. Purdue's played no one, and Ohio State was up 3-2 at halftime versus Akron. Iowa lost to Iowa State but misses Michigan and OSU. So... yeah. Any of those six teams looks like a realistic bet but until the games actually get underway you may as well throw all these crappy cats in a bag and pick one at random. Hell, Illinois could make a run. I don't have any idea how the conference race will shake out... this looks like a three-way 6-2 co-champs year.
2. Outline the (realistic) best case and worst case scenarios for your team.
Best case: No one on the schedule except Illinois has the sort of spread option run attack that killed Michigan in the first two games and it turns out that's just some sort of weird achilles heel. Zook blows the Illinois game somehow; Michigan turns into a rushing juggernaut that runs over the Big Ten. The defense still blows a game; 9-3 and a BCS berth against a team that will kill us.
Worst case: Well, they aren't losing to Eastern or Minnesota. Probably. You really want me to give a worst case scenario for a team that lost to a I-AA team and then could have given up 80 to Oregon? Uh... in the worst case they're still 38 points better than Notre Dame.
3. We're only three games in to the season, but teams and storylines are starting to take shape. Compare your team to a character or theme from a fable or children's tale.
Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall.
4. Imagine you're the coach of your team. Give three specific changes you'd implement immediately which you think would have the biggest impact on improving the team.
- Wake up and smell the Romer. No more punts from inside the opponent's 40. Ever. Unless it's like 15 yards to go.
- Stop doing the stupid things that are stupid. A fullback shuffle has been a guaranteed zone run to the direction of the shuffle all year. Any freshman wide receiver in the game == auto-run. Play action has been virtually nonexistent even though we run constantly. Many of Michigan's playcalls are predictable based on presnap motion.
- Let Zoltan play cornerback.
5. USC, LSU/Florida, and Oklahoma have established themselves as the frontrunners in the early going. Which other team or teams are you eyeballing as potential BCS party crashers?
With the Big Ten all set to serve up a heaping helping of crap this year, this is an opportunity for the Pac-10 to get two teams in. The winner of Oregon-Cal will probably play in a BCS game. Likewise, Texas, even though it's looked crappy, will probably face little competition outside of Oklahoma and finish 10-2. This will be good enough. And Hawaii will make it in for no reason whatsoever.
RIP, Shakey Jake. First Faz, now Shakey Jake... legendary Ann Arbor figures are dropping like flies. We need some new ones. I command someone to drop out of school, and live on the street playing a guitar that barely exists.
Via Dangerous Logic.
Henne status. He wasn't on the two-deep yesterday, but Carr on Henne during his presser:
Is Chad able to practice and can he be considered a possibility? ... "Chad Henne has got enough experience that he could play without practice. But you know, those are all decisions that we make as we go forward."
So... not practicing but maybe? MSC got a screencap of his brace:
Survey says... I dunno. Probably not if he's not even healthy enough to practice.
Only other bit of hard news from the PC: Hemingway was held out because of a minor injury and will practice this week.
The Five Year Myth. Notre Dame fans are beginning to turn on Charlie Weis:
It is a myth that every coach at Notre Dame has an inalienable right to five years to prove himself. That has never been policy. Fifteen coaches in Notre Dame's storied history have, for various reasons, had tenures of less than five years. That list includes Kuharich, Devore, McKeever and Anderson since Rockne. More recently coaches Davie and Faust were given five years, and those decisions proved to be miserable failures. There was some justification to warrant Faust's extra time given his high school background and Father Ted's personal commitment to him, but giving Davie five years was gross negligence. The five-year plan is not policy and even if it were time has proven it to be a colossal failure that should be learned from and not repeated. Ara himself set the standard by boldly stating upon his arrival that if you can't do it in three years, you can't do it. And without exception this has proven to be true. In the entire history of Notre Dame, no coach who failed at the three year mark, succeeded in five years. There are some who claim that because of parity, restrictions and other issues, that Notre Dame can't win anymore, but they said the exact same things before both Ara and Lou arrived in South Bend and were proved wrong. Tedford, Meyer, Carroll, Stoops, Tressel, Amato, Friedgen, Holtz and others have made immediate impacts on their schools, most with far, far less talent than Notre Dame. When the five-year myth is promulgated by media talking heads and writers, it's important to note that most of those talking heads and scribes are not fans of Notre Dame or speaking in Our Lady's best interest.
Wait... what? That was written about Ty Willingham as part of NDNation's crazy-ass push to get him fired? Well, I never.
By the way: Notre Dame has lost six games by 20+ points since they hired Charlie Weis in 2005. Michigan has lost seven games by 20+ points since they hired Bo Schembechler in 1969.
This might be a little mean. But it's not that mean. I mean, not compared to the pain Johnny Sears inflicted on Michigan fans:
Both dubiously-rated corners Ron English plucked from California in 2004 are now gone, Richards -- his godson -- for the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre and Sears for failing a drug test. If we're going to recruit crappy players can they at least be nice?
(Via Varsity Blue)
More press conference stuff.
The record on Jones. Demetrius Jones is taking issue with Charlie Weis' assertion that Jones did not tell anyone he was not making the Michigan trip:
"When I heard Jimmy was No. 1 all the way through spring and that the only thing keeping him out of the lineup was his surgery, well, that's not what I was led to believe going into the summer," Jones said in a South Bend Tribune story published Monday. "I thought I was getting a chance because coach Weis believed in me. Then I didn't know what to believe anymore."
Now he is upset about the way he is being characterized, along with the events that prompted his departure from South Bend.
"The facts that are out there now are just not true," Jones told the Tribune on Monday, declining to say how or whether he had notified Notre Dame of his decision to leave last week.
"Because people are trying to [assassinate] my character and don't really know what's going on, I think it's best for me not to say anything.
"People don't know the facts. The [Notre Dame] team did know I wasn't coming prior to that bus taking off. They found out before the bus was scheduled to depart, and it wasn't something like, 'Where's Demetrius? Where's Demetrius?' They were notified."
Since a portion of yesterday's "Super Genius" post was based on the way Jones left ND, it's worth mentioning. Someone is lying here. If it's Jones, the post stands as is. If it's Weis, then it's not the Jones transfer but Weis' attempt at character assassination that marks him as an ass. Either way it's the same result.
Illinois' Rivals site thinks this will be helpful($) with their Chicago-area recruiting:
If you are a city kid in Chicago, how can you believe anything the Fighting Irish coaches tell you? Recruiting is all about trust and will a Chicago kid listen to anything Weis, Ianello or defensive coordinator Corwin Brown tells them after what happened to Demetrius Jones? The redshirt freshman from Morgan Park wasn't given much of a chance, saw the writing on the wall and hit the road. ND promised he
wouldn't play receiver, 'is a QB' but when the time came to follow through, all those things rang hollow.
Jones was the 'go to guy'/player host for top prospects like Martez Wilson, Rejus Benn, Robert Hughes and other 'city kids' that the staff wanted to sell on the virtues on ND football, South Bend, Indiana.
The transfer is great news for the Illini because now they will likely have one less 'big school' to compete with for Chicago Public League players. Notre Dame doesn't need the Public League players to win but they didn't handle this situation well at all.
If Michigan scrapes by PSU and starts putting together an actual season while ND circles the drain, it's time to put in some calls to Steven Filer, et al.
Renovate! The House Rock Built's game report is sad because he's a nice guy who couldn't even get a damn slice of pizza in Michigan Stadium; it is also a powerful argument for the upcoming renovations (er... "repairs"):
As I reached the concourse, I was stunned whan I saw the restroom. There wasn't a line for the men's room, per se, but an amorphous blob of antsy dudes tap-dancing with bladder fatigue about 25 deep and 10 broad. I walked to the other end of the stadium and saw an even larger line at the other restroom, so I dubiously returned to the line of something like 250 people and waited patiently to do my duty. I somehow survived the ordeal without making a mess of myself and strolled out of the men's room about 20 minutes after I had left my seat. No worries, since I hadn't missed anything eventful on the field, but still an aggravating hassle. Nevertheless, my spirits were still high and I was resolved to make it to the end without losing my cool. I went back to my section and saw a line of about 20 people waiting to get into the aisle to work their way toward the seats.
A lot of opposing fans level accusations at Michigan Stadium's sucky amenities. They are right; this should change as soon as possible.
Side note: this passage?
My biggest cheer came late in the second quarter, where a somewhat promising drive had the Irish's total yardage rapicly closing in on 0. When our yardage hit negative-9 yards, I stood up and cheered wildly, shouting "Single digit negative, baby! Oh, yeah!" The fans around me laughed along and gave me high-fives.
Remember our stirring goal-line stand down 39-7? It was at this moment I high-fived my cousin, turned the Oregon fans behind us and said "OH YEAH! SUCK IT!" to a similar reaction. Oh, how I wish I could not relate to that.)
Etc.: I feel for the guys at Randomly Located Iowa Sports Blog (aka Black Heart Gold Pants); they have taken to posting Morrissey lyrics in the wake of losing to Iowa State. I also wish I could not relate to that bit.
I'm pretty comfortable with the top six. Past that, though... yeesh. I'll just ask questions this week.
Am I flipping out too hard about Oregon and BC? Really the problem here is that there appears to be an absolute dearth of top-ten teams at the moment. If Dennis Dixon can consistently play like he did against Michigan, Oregon's lack of run defense won't matter that much. Also Matt Ryan versus GT and Tenuta == impressive. I don't like sliding OSU up that much after Boeckman had a rough outing, but it's still a road win against what appears to be a fringe-ish top 25 team. Eh.
Uh... WTF about the rest of it? It looks insane but rearranging it just looks equally insane. Is Kentucky really in my top 25? Cincinnati? What teams with crappy losses should I boost up?
Urf. Henne is not on the "two-deep depth chart" for PSU according to Jim Carty. Nor is Johnny Sears, but that was not in real question.
I'ma lay down and bend over... Mr. Casanova has some harsh words for the Irish (NSFW):
Word. Especially about that reality TV show this offseason. Gold, Mr. Casanova. Gold.
It's a workout.
Uh... Ferentz... uh. No. We are still operating under the assumption that Michigan will be looking for a new coach this offseason, so it's worth noting that Kirk Ferentz no longer seems like a thrilling option:
...the Cyclones (1-2) did what they seem to do annually against the Hawkeyes (2-1). Iowa State's seventh win in 10 years over Iowa -- and the first victory for new head coach Gene Chizik -- came after the Cyclones had been handled at home by Kent State and clobbered by Northern Iowa.
Ferentz isn't responsible for one of those losses, but in his nine years with the Hawkeyes he's but 3-6 against Iowa State. I wasn't enthused with the prospect of Ferentz anyway -- I've seen too many Lloyd Carr-like bungled finishes to games -- now he should be out of the conversation totally. As of November he was the second-highest paid coach in the country (I believe Urban Meyer has passed him since); this is no longer commensurate with his results. Also, another kid is going to play under him at Iowa starting next season. Even the Mary Sue Coleman connection shouldn't be enough to make him a serious candidate.
They lie to distract our interest! A couple Cal blogs are discontent with the Bears' recent victory over Louisiana Tech. The Band Is Out On The Field titles his post "The Best Team That Could Be Awful", knocks Tedford's playcalling...
Coach Tedford Could the play-calling get any less inspired. Jahvid Best is in the game - we are running a fake pitch to him and handing off to Will Ta'ufo'ou up the middle (a play Barry eloquently labeled "Give it to fatty.") As far as I recall, we have yet to hit a receiver in stride this season. Apparently, the quick slant was part of Mike Dunbar's playbook.
...and is generally pessimistic about the Bears' chances this season:
The Bears are ranked No. 6. In my opinion, this means they are considered to be the best of the team in the country that might still turn out to be god awful (see Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Oregon, etc.) Right now, I feel like there is a pretty huge drop-off from the top five of USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, and West Virginia and the next teams on that list, who, generally have been unimpressive. The Bears are getting a deserved benefit of the doubt for having dropped Tennessee. But it appears Tennessee is god awful themselves. Basically...The No. 6 ranking means nothing. No one should be worried about getting a BCS bid (or being jobbed out of one...again). There is no reason to worry about respect, or lack thereof. Right now, the Bears need to worry about survival in what is going to be a brutally tough Pac-10. A month from now, they easily could be unranked.
Cal beat LTU 42-12 and outgained them 447 to 273... I call smokescreen. We still covet precious Tedford. In two weeks the Bears face off against Oregon; if Cal wins the drumbeat will intensify. Ted-ford. Ted-ford.
Stop with the seconds. Run Up The Score appears to be one of the most reasonable Penn State fans on the internet (see also: best Notre Dame blocking, circa 2007) but even he falls prey to one particular bugaboo that bugs:
Then, everything simply unraveled. We don't need to rehash all the gory details. Suffice it to say â€” kickoff return, prevent defense, two seconds added to the clock, and the final dagger on the final play of the game â€” the picture you see in today's masthead picture. Don't worry, guys, it'll be gone by tonight or tomorrow morning.
I know I've addressed this before, but here goes again: Penn State fans are not allowed to ever complain about this again. At one point in Penn State's go-ahead drive, they called timeout. During the commercial break, Joe Paterno did his crazy-old-man Joe Paterno thing at a linesman for approximately 45 seconds of spittle about how Joe hadn't seen a travesty like this since the Hottentots invaded in nineteen-dickety-two. At the conclusion of the rant, the referees placed two seconds back on the clock. Shut up, shut up, shut up about Lloyd Carr getting the exact same call minutes later. Zip it. No. Zip it. Zip. It. Zipit.
UNVEIL THE TIME PORTAL.
Uh... anyway, RUTS is way more reasonable about this than every other Penn State fan ever so don't want to heap scorn upon him too much, but that one really gets my goat. The other things mentioned were the Bryant Johnson catch in the OT game, which was an obviously awful call but came right after Penn State was given a controversial third down conversion on a highly questionable completion, and the spots in the 2005 and 2006 game... the latter of which veers dangerously close to tinfoil hat territory.
Foightin' round the world. This Russel Crowe thing?
Michigan might want Crowe to stick around for good luck, but the actor didn't know how long he would stay in Ann Arbor.
"Well, I want to have a couple of beers with Lloyd - however long that takes," he said.
Too strange for words. Also there is this description of Jake Long:
Crowe then took over, comparing rugby to American football, talking about Carr's visit to Australia and joking about the Wolverine he would like on his team, such as Jake Long, a 2.01-metre, 143 kilogram offensive tackle.
"I want Jake!" Crowe said.
That's a lot of kilograms.
Etc.: Mike Hart as avenging angel.
9/17/2007 - Michigan 38-0 Notre Dame - 1-2
"They're going to have to learn about us, OK? Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Let's see how they are going to do. They've had their advantage because I've come into recruiting late. Well, now it's Xs and Os time. Let's see who has the advantage now."
This post isn't really about Michigan, because that game provided no more information about Michigan than the upcoming Eastern Michigan game will. When not blocked, they can sack; when not shed, they can run.
And thus the House of Weis comes crashing down. Notre Dame, in year three of the Weis regime, is 119th -- last -- in rushing, total offense, and scoring offense. The pass offense, Notre Dame's bright spot, is 115th. Notre Dame has been blown out by more than twenty points for the past five games. NDNation begins to turn in on itself, and even Stewart Mandel -- generally the last person to realize anything -- has caught on to the sleight of hand Weis parlayed into a ten year, 40 million dollar contract. Losing to Appalachian State seems like small potatoes in comparison.
Notre Dame partisans will tell you all about this year's senior class, they of the four contributors who are all marginal players at best, and point a finger at Ty Willingham's recruiting. They are not without reason here. Willingham's 2004 class was a dire melange of two-stars and guys overrated late because they decided to go to Notre Dame. It is dragging the program down. But this far? Notre Dame has a number of contributors left over from the 2003 class: four-year starting center John Sullivan, three-year starter Trevor Laws, probable NFL first-rounder John Carlson. All told there are fifteen seniors on the Notre Dame two-deep and all of them will be departing after this year. (I think a couple may be walkons, but there are at least 12 on scholarship.)
Dire numbers, these... or not. Michigan has nine scholarship seniors. Ohio State, terrifyingly, lists all of five seniors on their entire two-deep and will graduate three starters after this year. Three of the five seniors are fullbacks. Clearly, both of these teams are much better than Notre Dame -- as are your local Pop Warner runners-up -- despite not having a massive edge in experience. Youth cannot explain away Notre Dame's start.
What can? There is a compelling case to be made that Charlie Weis sucks at life and, by extension, football. This is the Notre Dame offensive line that has given up 23 sacks:
- C John Sullivan. Redshirt senior. A four-year starter; given four stars and ranked the #3 center in 2003.
- LT Paul Duncan. True junior. Three-star, #26 OT of 2005. Other finalists: UCLA, Oklahoma, LSU.
- LG Mike Turkovich. True junior. Three-star, #30 OT of 2005. Other finalists: Wisconsin, BC, LSU.
- RT Sam Young. True sophomore. Five-star all-everything recruit; returning starter.
- RG Dan Wenger. Redshirt freshman. Four-star Rivals 250 member; #3 center of 2006.
Syracuse is second-to-last with 18 sacks allowed; no one else in the country has allowed more than 13. Not even Temple. Is this the picture of a line pretty obviously the worst in the country? Consider that Michigan is currently rocking a true sophomore and a redshirt freshman itself. Sam Young has the recruiting rankings than Schilling does and a year of starting experience; last year Schilling sat on the sidelines with mono, then injured his shoulder in the spring. Dan Wenger was rated slightly lower than Justin Boren and redshirted himself. Taken together these guys are a wash. John Sullivan is a four-year starter and redshirt senior who was a four-star his recruiting year: this is equivalent to Jake Long in terms of rating and experience. (Perhaps this is not quite fair, but we did give a wash to the kids on the line when Young has started for a season and neither Michigan player has.) Where Michigan has an advantage is in junior Alex Mitchell and senior Adam Kraus, who have one and two years experience on true juniors Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich, respectively, plus a star edge in recruiting rankings. This is not an enormous gap. Michigan's line should be better than Notre Dame's, but not 295 rushing yards better.
Meanwhile, erstwhile starting quarterback Demetrius Jones -- lauded as a great guy and one of the keys to Notre Dame's impressive 2008 recruiting class -- got benched and immediately bolted for Northern Illinois... or didn't, instead enrolling at NIU on September 4th but continuing to practice with the Irish until it was time to board the bus for Ann Arbor, at which point he moved out of the dorm without telling anyone. It's hard to think of a more vindictive way to leave a football team that doesn't involve kneecapping the starting quarterback on the way out.
In a vacuum, this could be considered the petulant act of a 19-year-old kid angry at losing his spot. But last year starting defensive end Ronald Talley left Notre Dame for I-AA Delaware for no apparent reason. And running back Darius Walker bolted for the NFL draft... at least in theory. He was passed over and everyone got in their mocking, but he looks like a genius now. This was a non-screwup of a kid leaving early for NFL prospects everyone knew were dim. (Zach Frazer's transfer was a clear "you're never playing here, kid" sort of thing that happens to most programs, but it's also faulty roster management that leaves ND with two scholarship quarterbacks.)
Anyone who's read this blog for more than a nanosecond knows what the upcoming explanation is going to be: Weis is a colossal asshole. Heck, anyone who's read one of his many ridiculously arrogant press conference quotes (the grand mother of them begins this post) or saw the embarassing 60 Minutes puff piece -- wherein Weis came off as a bully and a jackass -- when Notre Dame was returning to glory for the umpteenth time knows this. The only wonder is that the media spent the better part of 2.5 years pumping him up as Weis E. Coyote, Certified Super Genius, largely because Weis spent every available moment telling the media that he and his ACME catalog of incredibly sophisticated devices were worth a foolproof touchdown every game. Somehow I doubt even Tyrone Willingham would have Notre Dame scoring -7 points per game.
Erickson driving a golf cart into a volcano, I can have this.
The result of all these fantastic toys? Literally nothing. No touchdowns. No rushing yards. No hope. This implosion has to be laid at Weis' feet. Jeff Carroll of the South Bend Tribune brings forth an excellent point:
Weis sabotaged this season when he installed that gimmick offense for the opener. What that did, beyond chasing unloved Demetrius Jones to DeKalb, Ill., was rob valuable learning time from new starters who should have been absorbing the fundamentals of running Notre Dame's real offense.
He essentially flushed preseason practices down the drain, never to be recovered. Since then, the inexperienced offense has been scrambling to get up to speed, and it may never, at least not this season. But, again, that's a symptom, not the underlying problem. The main malady is that Weis thinks that because he can process complex schemes, his players can do the same in 20 hours a week.
Weis either half-assed a spread offense and wasted some of his preseason prep time or really went for it, wasted all of his player's time, and junked it 30 minutes into the season. Either way it's a huge miscalculation borne of hubris, the one thing Weis has more of than lipids.*
Thus an odd situation to find oneself in: I kind of wish Notre Dame was better. Obliterating Notre Dame for the second consecutive year was a pick-me up, but it can only be so meaningful when Notre Dame is intent on snapping it to Tacopants and generally soiling itself whenever Michigan
- does something clever like run left, or
- does something clever like rush the passer.
As it is, a 38-0 whitewashing of Notre Dame means almost nothing in the somewhat grander (ie: Big Ten) scheme of things. Michigan will play no worse team this year. Eastern Michigan is likely to rack up positive rushing yards. Minnesota will probably manage the shotgun snap just fine. Both are strong possibilities to score; even if they do not they will probably have more than one meaningful snap on Michigan's side of the field. If Notre Dame did not suck so very badly, our prospects for Penn State would be cheerier. But they are not and so 38-0 is just a pleasant nothing of a game, enjoyable in and of itself but no solace in the face of teams that will do more than swing purses at onrushing players.
So there is always this, even when you've just lost to Appalachian State: Notre Dame sucks and has sucked for 14 years. This offseason we will search the country high and low for a proven collegiate winner; Notre Dame is saddled with a maladjusted hunchback who they have given a ten-year contract for losing to USC.
*(it's a fat joke, sure, but it's a science-y fat joke.)
- But oh boy do I still have some problems with our coaching staff. Unless Henne is for-sure playing this week, Michigan's decision to spend the entire second half grinding away on the ground was ludicrous. We have a true freshman quarterback who may or may not be starting against Justin King and Penn State next week; we should have been throwing on every down as soon as the game hit 38-0. It might have drawn fire for being "classless," but this isn't Chad Henne out there. Every rep the kid can get against actual competition helps.
- I really hope Carlos Brown's problem is cast-related, but I don't know... visions of Max Martin dance in my head, minus all the bad-apple stuff.
- Johnny Sears gone, drugs, bye.
- What is the deal with James Rogers and Renaldo Sagesse getting playing time? And Zion Babb? Have we learned nothing from Prescott Burgess?
- On first glance the linebackers were vastly improved, especially Thompson, but I think much of that was never having to deal with blockers.
- I think we might be able to grind Penn State pretty good; last year we had a decently effective ground game and now they have a very young defensive line. Stats are good so far, but against FIU, Notre Dame, and Buffalo. (Note that even before this year, Penn State looked to have a horrible nonconference schedule with those three teams and Temple. The three non-ND teams were ranked #117, #118, and #119 among D-I football programs by ESPN; with the Irish collapse Penn State may have the worst nonconference schedule of all time.)
- Mallett: meh performance, but I love his enthusiasm:
- There is a season to have if Penn State is defeated. That's the nice bit of being in a conference.
- No shirking from BGS' Dylan, who steps up to the plate and takes it like a man with... uh... two sentences:
You are what your record says you are, and right now you're an 0-3 football team, and that's not good enough.
Not by a damn sight.
Good game, mister. Glass houses.
ND column coming noon-ish or one-ish.
Update 9/3... er 9/17: Linked to articles on PA WR/RB/KR Cameron Saddler, PA HB commit Christian Wilson, DC DT Reggie Ellis, PA WR Jonathan Baldwin, MN WR Mike Floyd, OH TE commit Kevin Koger. Also one that mentions both Saddler and Hale, and this on NJ S Brandon Smith.
Potentially dubious: There is also Bill Kurelic speculation on PA DE Shayne Hale and an article on the top 25 players in Pennsylvania. Hey: the top 50(!) players in Pennsylvania... M/Pitt lead for Baldwin suggested. Recruiting Planet says JB Fitzgerald is committing to M this weekend. Moved NJ LB JB Fitzgerald to committed.
More articles: PA LB Shayne Hale, LA CB Robby Green, PA WR Vaughn Carraway. Removed PA DT Reggie Ellis(dropped us), TX WR Jeff Fuller (Ok). More articles: PA TE Mark Wedderburn, TX S Keanon Cooper, NJ S Brandon Smith, TN CB JT Floyd, MI CB Boubacar Cissoko (and others), PA HB Christian Wilson, PA LB JB Fitzgerald. Also a general article on recruits not getting spooked.
Editorial Opinion: Sorry for the hiatus; recruiting coverage will be sparser during the season what with all the Actual Events going on but I'll endeavor to make this at least a biweekly thing.
Anyway, question #1 on everyone's mind: will this thus-far strong recruiting class decommit en masse to play for Appalachian State? A brief overview of the flight risks follows.
|As Solid As Verbal Commitments Get|
|The Free Press got in touch with the four instate commitments. Boubacar Cissoko:
"I still love Michigan. I still want to go there."
The other three guys:
Cissoko, Rocko Khoury, Dann O'Neill, and Mike Martin are all 95% to end up at Michigan no matter what.
Darryl Stonum also fits in this category; he recently reaffirmed his commitment after his official visit. One of the primary motivations for his commit was and is the presence of former teammates Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron at Michigan; this will not change.
|No Reason For Serious Worry|
|Tight ends Kevin Koger and Brandon Moore were also contacted by the Free Press and said they were not considering other schools or even visits; they slot in this category only because there was no specific mention of what would happen in the event of a coaching search.
Christian Wilson said he's not wavering... yet:
Wilson said he is solid with his commitment to Michigan, but added, "If their coaching staff goes, I'll have to see what's going on."
Given the extremely positive comments from Wilson's mother on SackCarr's message board before his commitment, I think Wilson is a good bet to stick even in the event of a coaching switch; obviously he is less solid than the instaters.
OH OL Elliot Mealer grew up a big Ohio State fan but never received an offer. If he were to get one he would be a major flight risk, but the usually reliable insiders at Buckeye Planet think that is not likely:
I know for a fact the staff is not and never was very interested in Mealer. If they had been they would have asked him to hold off on a decision to see where some other chips fell. The staff made no such effort and were content to let him accept the offer UM made without pushing. If they missed on every OL target on their board Mealer would still not get an offer because he was never on the staff's board.
That post was in June, but it seems believable. If Mealer was really that big an OSU fan the logical thing would be to drag his recruitment out (like, say, Thaddeus Gibson did); OSU probably cut him loose. That might not say great things about OSU's opinion of his talent but it also means Michigan is likely to hold on to him: sometimes going to Michigan is sort of a screw-you-OSU thing.
|No one on the list looks like a grade-A flight risk but a few players haven't said anything and don't have any magical ties to Michigan that would make them stay in the aftermath of a coaching change. New Jersey linebackers Marcus Witherspoon and JB Fitzgerald are in this category. Greg Schiano is following Fitzgerald around in a freakin' helicopter, which makes me uncomfortable. (At least it does not have hot chicks in it, like Don Johnson's helicopters. Presumably.) One thing that might help out here is the potential commitment of Brandon Smith, a fellow New Jersey-type person -- more on that potential later -- who has gotten tight with Fitzgerald. Smith has long maintained that he was a Michigan fan since childhood and would be one of those magical ties guys if he commits.
Sadly, Sam McGuffie may be the commit in greatest danger of fleeing. He is from Houston, has some reasons to stay local, and
IL QB John Wienke stuck to his commit in the face of Steven Threet's transfer but has not been pinged on this stuff; he might have options at Illinois or elsewhere. CT RB Mike Cox and IN OL Kurt Wermers haven't been in touch with anyone of late.
So... even if Michigan struggles through 2007 and Carr retires, it appears that most of the recruits are likely to stick. Ironically, all the speculation about Carr's retirement, now going strong into its third year, may help Michigan should the rumors finally come to fruition:
But considering the bad start and the speculation surrounding the future of U-M coach Lloyd Carr, you would think that recruits might start to shop around.
However, Carr's situation has been the subject of hearsay for some time. It is highly likely that Carr will not be around when the Class of 2008 is finishing up at U-M, so recruits' eyes are wide-open.
"A lot of those kids have been hearing for sometime that his tenure is near the end," said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for Scout.com and publisher of SuperPrep magazine.
Wallace, who has been following recruiting for more than 20 years, says that fact is one reason why the two losses won't hurt Michigan.
"Kids tend to think the coaches are going to stay because it's easier for them," Wallace said. "In Carr's case, they are going in expecting a transition.
"They are choosing Michigan because of the other things the school offers."
A few may depart; the remainder would be a decent class at the very least. Losing McGuffie would suck, though.
Not so sunny is Michigan's situation with a few recruits. The always frank and funny PA WR/KR Cameron Saddler is expressing some reservations about Michigan given the potential turmoil:
"I pushed all of my official visits back, just because some of these situations are iffy," Saddler said. "Like Virginia. People aren't too happy down there. And you know people aren't too happy in Ann Arbor with Michigan. Plus, we want to make a championship run with our team, so I want to put all this recruiting stuff on the back burner."
Saddler said Michigan's 0-2 start definitely got him thinking.
"I don't know if I want to go to a school with a new coach," Saddler said.
"What if that new coach doesn't want a 5-foot-6 player like me. Wait. Let me correct that. I should've said a 5-9 player like me."
Saddler was visiting with five star DE Shayne Hale; Hale's visit also got canceled because he hasn't taken the SAT yet, which is, for some reason, a requirement if you're going to go on an official. We'll have to see how their recruitment plays out; as of now the longer it goes for the pair -- oft rumored as a package -- the better for Michigan. It sounds like they'll wait until their season is over, at which point all this turmoil will get resolved. So there's that at least.
TX S Keanon Cooper is also a little shaken:
"I'm still debating whether or not I want to go into a situation where a team is rebuilding.
That's the thing about Michigan right now," he said. "They are 0-2 and are really struggling on both offense and defense. It looks like they might be heading towards a rebuilding time. I want to see if they can bounce back. They are a program that is capable of finishing fast once they start clicking."
I think "rebuilding" is probably a bit harsh, especially since Cooper is comparing Michigan to freakin' Minnesota in this quote, but whatever. Cooper says Wisconsin leads over a set of chasers including Michigan.
Also, NJ S Brandon Smith is name dropped by Mike Farrell as a potential commit on his official visit for the Penn State game:
New Brunswick, N.J. athlete Brandon Smith, a top-100 recruit, could also commit on the weekend of Sept. 21. Smith and recent Michigan commitment J.B. Fitzgerald have become friends and have talked about playing in Ann Arbor together. They are scheduled to take their official visits the same weekend, so Fitzgerald may help recruit his friend while they are on campus. Fitzgerald is a linebacker from Princeton Junction (N.J.) West Windsor Plainsboro South.
Farrell is not the most reliable person in the world when it comes to these things, and there is this extensive interview with Smith and his mother from a local newspaper that contradicts him:
Q: When will you make your decision?
A: I've been nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-Star game in Texas, which is on national TV in January. If I'm chosen, I would like to do it there, like A.D. did. If not, I'll announce it on Feb. 6, which is the official commitment day.
It sounds like Rutgers is a real threat:
Q for Cheryl: Where would you like to see your son go?
A: My heart says Rutgers, but then I think sometimes it may be good for him to get away. From a recruiting standpoint, I love Rutgers, coach (Greg) Schiano and coach (Joe) Susan, the recruiting coordinator. I've been the most impressed with them.
...but optimism maybe?
Q: What schools do you plan to visit?
A: The only official visit I have set up is Michigan on Sept. 21. I don't know after that. One thing about Michigan, I love the cold weather. I think it gives me an advantage because I'll go 100 percent in the cold.
Take it for what you will; I've backed Smith off from blue to green.
Further bleah: LA CB Robby Green article without a Michigan mention.
Neutral items. Vaughn Carraway still maintains Michigan as leader and is close to setting up an official:
"I'm really close to setting up a visit with Michigan," Vaughn Carraway said. "I already talked with the coaches about it and it's going to be soon." Carraway, ranked the No. 48 wide receiver in the country by Scout.com, says the Wolverines still lead slightly.
I kind of get the feeling Carraway's offer is valid only in the event a couple other players commit elsewhere.
TN CB JT Floyd was planning an official last weekend; he did not make it up because of weather, though.
Kenny Demens from the above-linked Cissoko article:
"It wasn't so good that they lost," said Demens, a four-year starter. "What I saw was an opportunity (to play). That's a plus for me. I talked with (linebackers) coach Steve Szabo for about an hour afterward and he told me, 'We need you. We need guys like you.'
"Sure, I've received some negative talk. I've received some messages saying Michigan is terrible. But for me, I should be concerned with a program that needs me, where I can be a benefit."
On Monday, Demens added another scholarship offer to his list -- Oregon.
He found that ironic.
"First they come here and beat Michigan," he said. "Then they want to come here and take one of their recruits away."
Demens said he won't commit until after the season. He intends to visit U-M, MSU, Nebraska and West Virginia.
The upshot: the recruits who have already committed to Michigan are likely to remain committed, but the early-season turmoil
and the widespread speculation about a coaching change at the end of the season are hurting our chances with various uncommitted recruits. There does appear to be a real net effect; it looks small enough to be mostly harmless.