"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
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I don’t have an artsy intro this week because I spent a bunch of extra time making some charts, so instead I’ll refer you to BiSB’s intro to Opponent Watch, which is excellent.
The Mathlete’s Four Factors:
Again, a quick reminder of what the factors mean:
Field Position = Expected team points based on starting field position. This accounts for all elements of field position: turnovers, special teams, drive penetration etc.
Conversion rate = [1st Downs gained]/[1st Down plays (including first play of drive)]. A three and out is 0/1. A one play touchdown is 1/1. Two first downs and then a stop is 2/3, etc.
Bonus Yards = [Yards gained beyond the first down line]/[Total plays from scrimmage]
This is an adjustment to how I have previously calculated, to account for the plays a team runs.
Red Zone: Points per red zone trip (TD’s counted as 7 regardless of PAT)
|Field Pos.||Conv. Rate (%)||Bonus YPP||Red Zone|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||84 (12)||54 (6)||43 (6)||30 (5)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||91 (14)||30 (4)||31 (3)||27 (4)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||59 (10)||54 (3)||39 (3)||20 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||41 (4)||39 (1)||25 (2)||21 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||36 (4)||61 (5)||36 (3)||31 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||45 (6)||51 (3)||44 (6)||3 (1)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||46 (6)||35 (2)||43 (5)||4 (1)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||46 (6)||11 (1)||33 (3)||13 (2)|
|Field Pos.||Conv. Rate||Bonus YPP||Red Zone|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||35 (4)||38 (6)||9 (3)||100 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||29 (5)||17 (4)||4 (1)||110 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||32 (4)||7 (2)||1 (1)||115 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||21 (4)||6 (1)||1 (1)||115 (12)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||20 (3)||6 (1)||1 (1)||124 (13)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||17 (3)||7 (2)||6 (2)||42 (6)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||22 (4)||6 (1)||5 (2)||13 (2)|
|Rank (B1G Rk)||27 (5)||13 (4)||2 (2)||10 (2)|
[Hit THE JUMP for 100% more charts]
*all numbers above are cumulative, not individual game data
There’s nothing in this week’s results that stand out to me as being really unexpected. Indiana’s average starting field position was the 33.5 yard line, so it’s no surprise that Mathlete’s defensive Field Position number has gone up again this week; they were able to move the ball well and had a shorter field to do so than Michigan’s typically been ceding this year. Defensive Conversion Rate took a huge jump for a single week, though that’s not a huge surprise; Indiana picked up 32 first downs. (What is surprising is that 20 of them were via the run.) Michigan held their own offensively, registering 28 first downs (20 via passing) and seeing a bump up, albeit a bit smaller than what they gave up defensively, in Conversion Rate.
Michigan edged Indiana in the battle of Bonus YPP, with their national defensive ranking actually going up three spots despite an aggregate increase of 0.03 yards per play. Compare that to Michigan’s offense, which jumped 10 spots in the national rankings thanks to an aggregate 0.11 yards per play increase. The explosive plays were finally there for Michigan; if there’s one image I’ll remember from this game, it’s two Indiana defenders taking each other out at midfield while Chesson saunters toward the left sideline and into the endzone.
Advanced Box Score
Indiana’s been tempo-ing people for a few years, so it’s not much of a surprise to see they ran 96 plays to Michigan’s 78. Michigan managed to win the yards-per-play battle, though, averaging 7.15 to Indiana’s 5.28.
Michigan was also able to stay on track more often than Indiana; their Success Rate was 45% while Indiana’s was 40%. Average starting field position was within a yard (Michigan’s average start was the 34.6, Indiana the 33.5), which heightened the importance of Success Rate and YPP. Scoring opportunities (keep in mind that in this box score these are counted as trips inside the opponent’s 40) were 10-7 in favor of Michigan, with M averaging 4.8 points per opportunity to Indiana’s 4.71.
Bill Connelly posted an expanded box score, so we’re able to parse things out a little more than we usually can for a single game. I made graphs of the three factors I thought were most interesting, but I highly recommend the whole post; there’s a win probability graph at the top that’s definitely worth your time.
Connelly’s advanced stats glossary is also worth your time and something I should probably be linking every week, as is the adv stats glossary at Football Outsiders. Connelly developed a system for assigning point values to every yard line; another way to think of it is how many points you can expect to score from having the ball at a certain place on the field. You can then assign a point value when the ball is moved based on those aforementioned points values that are tied to field position. Basically, football’s a weird game where there’s little to no certainty, but if we look at things in the aggregate it’s possible to estimate how many points should have been scored based on ball movement.
Michigan’s offense had a better day overall per EqPts, as they were expected to score 56.9 points to Indiana’s 48.9. Going back to the “football is just weird” trope, Indiana’s very good passing offense put up only 18.7 EqPts while their ground game posted 30.2 on Michigan’s previously stellar run D. Likewise, Michigan’s meh passing attack went nuts, registering 43.5 EqPts.
Success Rate, the stay-on-track stat, looks at how often a team got 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down. As with EqPts, Michigan had the overall edge despite Indiana’s run game success. Michigan’s passing game was better than it’s been all year (with the possible exception of Rutgers, but I don’t have similar data for that game); you can see how far above the national average it was against Indiana.
It had to be, though, as Michigan’s success on standard downs was below both Indiana’s and the national average. Passing downs are considered 2nd-and-8+, 3rd-and-5+, and 4th-and-5+, and Michigan successfully gained necessary yardage on those downs an insane 60.9% of the time; the national average is 30.5%. That’s not a very sustainable way to have success on offense, but it makes for some fun gifs.
IsoPPP is Connelly’s explosiveness stat; it looks at how successful you were when you were moving the ball successfully i.e. when you’re staying in favorable down and distance situations as measured by Success Rate.
Generally speaking, this was a more explosive game than average. This is also where anomalies come out; we’ve established that Indiana had a good day running the ball and Michigan had a good day passing it and that Indiana was more successful on standard downs and Michigan on passing downs, yet Indiana was more explosive on passing downs and Michigan more explosive on standard downs. Basically, Indiana’s successful passing-down plays went for more yards than Michigan’s, but Michigan picked up the necessary yardage to move the chains more often on passing downs. It’s the inverse for standard downs.
Everything got a little bit worse for Michigan’s defense after playing Indiana. They dropped two spots in Explosiveness to 67th; their Success Rate against went from 29.9%, which was third overall, to 32.1%, which is seventh; points per trip inside the 40 rose from 3.24 to 3.70 and tumbled six spots to 11th; average starting field position dropped seven spots to 18th overall in going from the 26.2 to 26.8 yard line. The defense is now third overall in S&P+.
The silver lining came on offense, where Michigan’s Explosiveness again took a huge leap, jumping 20 spots to 28th overall after a 24 spot jump after the Rutgers game. Their Efficiency is basically the same, having dropped one spot to 39th. Finishing Drives (measured as points per trip inside the 40) increased as well, though just barely; they moved from 46th to 44th.
FEI really liked Michigan’s performance, showing gains in every category. The ones that stand out to me are in explosive drives, where Michigan went from 82nd to 46th, and methodical drives, where they went from 102nd to 82nd. The offense is also gaining more available yardage, going from 49.8% (36th overall) a week ago to 51.8% (32nd) after Indiana.
Opponent’s Run Game: Well, this got ugly in a hurry. Michigan’s rushing S&P+ dropped from third to 15th. Rushing Success Rate dropped from third to fifth, with the actual SR going from 27.3% to 31.7%. Michigan was ranked fifth in Opportunity Rate, which measures how often the O-line produces at least five yards for the rusher, but is now ranked seventh; they were allowing the O-line to do so on 28.3% of carries a week ago, and that’s now up to 30.9% thanks to a veteran (and very good) Indiana offensive line.
Michigan’s Run Game: Not a great day. Overall rushing S&P+ fell 17 spots to 53rd, while Success Rate fell 13 spots to 56th. They did somehow get a little more explosive, going from 77th to 69th in IsoPPP.
Opponent’s Pass Game: Overall passing S&P+ held serve at 13th, which is no small feat against an Indiana pass game that was one of the top 20 passing attacks in the nation. Passing IsoPPP did drop 11 spots to 36th, but that number has fluctuated a lot recently and I don’t put as much stock in worrying about that as I would if the overall value was falling.
Michigan’s Pass Game: Michigan’s faced two shaky secondaries in a row and laid waste to both. Before the Rutgers game they were 72nd in IsoPPP; they jumped 10 spots this week to 28th. Their overall passing S&P+ is now 29th; one of the many reasons I’m going to start putting these things into a table that allows me to track weekly progress is that I’m positive the graph for this would show huge leaps, and who doesn’t like graph that’s trending in the right direction.
Looking Forward, Looking Back:
|Opponent||Off. S&P+||Def. S&P+||Overall S&P+|
|@ Utah||47 (-5)||23 (-4)||31 (-7)|
|Oregon State||108 (+1)||110 (-10)||112 (-6)|
|UNLV||90 (+10)||109 (-11)||98 (+1)|
|BYU||37 (-5)||34 (+10)||38 (-5)|
|@Maryland||103 (-7)||34 (+6)||75 (-3)|
|Northwestern||109 (-2)||8 (-2)||58 (-11)|
|Michigan State||32 (-4)||35 (+10)||27 (+2)|
|@ Minnesota||63 (+26)||29 (-3)||41 (+17)|
|Rutgers||99 (-11)||114 (+3)||107 (-2)|
|@ Indiana||19 (+2)||104 (+6)||69 (-2)|
|@ Penn State||66 (-4)||13 (+3)||32 (-1)|
|Ohio State||16 (+1)||7 (+2)||3 (+1)|
|Michigan||42 (+1)||3 (-2)||5 (-2)|
|Opponent||Off. FEI||Def. FEI||Overall FEI (includes Special Teams FEI)|
|@ Utah||58 (-11)||9 (+1)||12 (-1)|
|Oregon State||107 (+2)||94 (-10)||111 (+2)|
|UNLV||83 (+4)||117 (-9)||100 (-3)|
|BYU||34 (-2)||60 (-7)||40 (-6)|
|@Maryland||98 (-14)||56 (+15)||81 (nc)|
|Northwestern||103 (-15)||10 (-1)||46 (-10)|
|Michigan State||19 (-6)||31 (+11)||8 (-1)|
|@ Minnesota||70 (+23)||40 (-14)||73 (+3)|
|Rutgers||76 (-9)||109 (+5)||105 (+2)|
|@ Indiana||25 (+4)||106 (-7)||64 (-4)|
|@ Penn State||75 (+2)||14 (-1)||48 (-3)|
|Ohio State||31 (-3)||11 (+1)||6 (+2)|
|Michigan||39 (+2)||7 (-2)||10 (+2)|
What about Saturday?
Alum96 has a nice look at where Penn State ranks in the stats the NCAA keeps. What’s your takeaway, alum96?
PSU is bad at offense
What about defense?
As noted earlier PSU has a very good D - the one area to exploit is in the red zone which just so happens to be an area UM O excels.
Looking through their advanced stats profile, a couple of things stand out to me. They’re eighth in Explosiveness but 113th in Efficiency. When they’re successful they’re successful in a big way, but they aren’t successful very often. Perhaps that has something to do with an adjusted sack rate that’s 121st overall (124th on std downs, 106th on passing downs).
Their defense is certainly good. They’re 13th in S&P+ with a passing defense that’s fourth overall. Their run D is a step down (though still very good) at 37th; that might have something to do with a 112th-ranked rushing IsoPPP, which may stem from a defensive line that’s first overall in havoc rate. (Havoc rate is TFLs, passes defended, and fumbles forced/total plays.) Their D-line might occasionally vacate a run lane, but when they don’t your offense is in trouble.
For several years I've been publishing an HTTV-like thing with the Penn State bloggers. Last year I did a VEQ with PSU blogging capo emeritus Mike Pettigano, and we had BSD managing editor Cari Greene on MGoRadio this week. The third editor of our book is Jared Slanina (@Jared_BSD), whom I saved for this.
1. Your offense is listed as "Pro-Style." Since that hasn't had any meaning for 10 years, what is it really? Under center or shotgun? Passing spread? Dink and dunk and screen? Play-action? Grab bag? A million plays or a few good ones?
I would say "grab bag" is the best description. For most of the season they over-relied on screens and short outs, which isn't really a great fit for Hackenberg and allowed defenses to load up the box and wreak havoc on our struggling offensive line. The offense started rolling during a short stretch once the staff realized the effectiveness of the vertical passing game with a pocket passer with a strong arm and a group of tall and speedy receivers.
However, against Northwestern they reverted back to the conservative style where they basically just ran Barkley and threw short passes to him, and hoped he could beat the Wildcats all by himself. Once again, the offense struggled to find much a rhythm. Using history as a guide, Penn State might again run a conservative offense that plays right into Michigan's strengths. It's almost as if the whole gameplan against a team with a stout defense is hope against hope that Barkley produces a couple big scoring plays and the defense holds the opponent to single digits.
Obviously, it hasn't been terribly effective against the likes of Ohio State, Northwestern and Temple, and certainly won't put the team in a good position to pull off upsets against Michigan or Michigan State in the final two weeks of the regular season.
2. So, how's the OL cleanup going? Are you still starting a recycling bin or has he been passed by a flesh and blood person yet?
No no your blocks are THAT way! [Eric Upchurch]
Let's start with the good news: Penn State now has an experienced offensive line filled with actual human beings! Gone are the days where they relied on stop signs and scarecrows to slow down the pass rush. While the OL has gained valuable experience, they still are the weakest link on the team. It's still a young group, but the lack of progress since the start of 2014 is disturbing. They are not quite the dumpster fire they were a season ago where they allowed the most sacks in the history of the Big Ten, but they have a long way to go before being a serious contender in the East. My feeling is that the Wolverines banged up DL will still be able to dominate Penn State's OL, allowing Michigan to control the game from start to finish.
[After THE JUMP: Dae'sean Hamilton is gonna die]
3. I recall there was some dodgy clock management. Has Franklin hired a 14-year-old who does nothing but play Madden to fix that or is it a recurring issue?
At the end of the 2014 season, I put together "BSD Awards" post that gave a variety of accolades for the year. The "Most Bizarre Moment" went to the closing moments of the Michigan game. As you likely recall, Penn State didn't bother calling timeouts toward the end to give them time for a final drive. When they finally used their first timeout, it was after 20-plus seconds ran off the clock after the play. It was almost like the staff were under the impression there was eight minutes left in the game and then had an "OH SHIT!" moment when they looked up at the scoreboard.
Suffice to say, not much has changed in this regard. Penn State has regularly refused to call timeouts at ends of games when the opponent is clearly in scoring range. Franklin took plenty of heat after the lack of timeouts allowed Northwestern to take the lead with a few seconds remaining, rather than allowing the offense 1-2 minutes to work with at the end of the game.
4. Jordan Lucas was wearing Nyeem Wartman-White's number. Now he's injured too. Is there a curse? If so, who's going to wear it next?
|Screen merchant Dae'sean Hamilton will be matched against Michigan's #5, in case wearing that number for Penn State isn't a curse. [Bryan Fuller]|
Well, DaeSean Hamilton wears number five as well, so apparently the curse is confined to the defensive side of the ball.
5. How is PSU adjusting without Lucas? Is it a big drop-off to Malik Golden? Is Allen going to take on Jordan's role or is he locked in as the deep guy?
Lucas is an outstanding all-around player, and has always done well in coverage, even against some of the Big Ten's best receivers, and is a vicious hitter with an excellent nose for the ball. However, I'm not expecting a huge drop-off for two reasons: for one, Franklin is very tight-lipped with injury news and I suspect Lucas hasn't been playing near 100 percent for the majority of the season. Secondly, backups Malik Golden and Troy Apke have each done very well in relief duty throughout the year. Golden doesn't jump off the screen, but does well in coverage and is very active and always close to the action. Because of the experience of Golden and Apke, I expect Allen to stay put and Golden to slide into Lucas' role.
6. How's Bell? How is he used?
Brandon Bell is my favorite player on the current team. He's an athletic and punishing linebacker with infectious enthusiasm. He has an obvious love for the game that makes him a joy to watch. Bell flies all over the field, and between his size, style of play and donning the honorary number 11 jersey, looks an awful lot like Lavar Arrington. He excels in blitzing situations and often comes off the edge at the last second. He is definitely someone who can wreak some havoc on Saturday by creating a timely turnover, either by forcing a fumble with a timely hit to Rudock, or forcing him into a poor decision with his arm.
7. Where do you find Carl Nassibs?
Carl Nassib is one of the best stories in college football this season. He entered Penn State as an undersized walk-on and gradually worked his way up the depth chart. As a junior he saw sporadic action and finished with seven tackles on the season. Although the coaches and players spoke very highly of him throughout the summer, most fans assumed he would be usurped as a start by one of the more highly-recruited underclassmen a few weeks into the season. His first career start, on any level, was in week one against Temple. Now he leads the nation in sacks and is on the shortlist for several major awards, including the Lombardi and Nagurski trophies. He's another player who can make things mighty difficult for Rudock on Saturday
8. Okay—don't laugh—but say, just hypothetically, if a Michigan running back was to actually find and decide to run through a hole in the defensive line, how are Cabinda and Reeder at tracking, getting off blocks, tackling?
Cabinda and Reeder are future stars as Linebacker U., but do have their moments when their youth is quite obvious. Both have played tremendous in their first year as starters, but do find themselves out of position from time to time. Penn State's run defense isn't quite as good as last season, when they were ranked number one in the nation for a majority of the season, but is still quite good, especially between the tackles. They have failed to guard the perimeter at times, so Michigan's best bet is to stretch it outside rather than pounding Smith up the middle for the majority of the game.
9. Which of these expected matchups terrifies you the most: Haley vs. Chesson, Darboh vs Williams, Jordan Lucas's replacement v. Butt, or Marcus Allen vs tackling Peppers in space?
I'll take Butt versus a 5'9 corner for 500, Alex. [Bryan Fuller]
All of them scare me in a way because the talent on Michigan's side. Darboh and Butt know how to get open and have excellent hands, and Chesson has really taken it to a new level the past few weeks. On the other hand, while the members of Penn State's secondary might not jump off the screen, they form the number two pass defense in the nation. Each know how to do their job and commit very few mental mistakes. The one thing that will have me holding my breath is any time Peppers has the ball in his hands. I don't care if Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson in their primes are covering him, Peppers is a very special player who can create major yardage any time he gets his hands on the ball.
10. Flip that: which matchup (Godwin/Lewis, Hamilton/Clark, TEs vs safeties, or Barkley vs our LBs) should Michigan be most worried about?
Godwin has been exceptional all season, but I have a feeling Jourdan Lewis will be glued to him all afternoon. If Lewis focuses solely on Godwin, expect DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis to do some damage. Hamilton does an excellent job of finding soft spots in the defense and catches everything thrown his way. Lewis does not get nearly as many looks as he should, but every time he gets the chance, good things happen. He's a very physical receiver who you can lob the ball to and let him outmaneuver the opposing DB for a big gain.
14. WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE FAT KICKER?!?!? Also how are your special teams? Also also WHAT WERE YOU THINKING--BRING BACK THE FAT KICKER
Is this the end of the Legend of Big Toe?
The special teams units have been pretty atrocious at times. The kick coverage has played well against some very good returners, but have also allowed two kickoff return touchdowns, including one against Northwestern that likely cost them a victory. Punting has been disastrous all season. Penn State has gone back-and-forth between two punters once again this season, and both have often greatly hurt Penn State in the field position battle. The return units have been much better than last season, including several big returns and near touchdowns.
The Joey Julius era might be over, especially with the top placekicker prospect coming to Happy Valley next season. [Ed: um…] Julius has a big leg, but struggled with consistency. Against Illinois, he had two early extra points blocked because of low kicks, and then had a kickoff sail out of bounds near the 20. Freshman Tyler Davis replaced him for the remainder of the game, and hasn't looked back.
15. What's up with the tight ends? Did you have like three really good ones? Who's this Wilkerson guy and why is he ahead of Carter, Breneman and Gesicki?
The tight end position has been a disappointment this season, to say the least. Breneman was expected to emerge as a major contributor, but injuries have sidetracked his career at Penn State. He's only made a couple brief appearances all season. Wilkerson is a utility player who lines up at tight end, fullback and H-back. He is more of a lead blocker and only has two receptions on the season (both coming against Army when Hackenberg actually had time to check down to him).
Gesicki possesses off-the-charts athletic ability but has been more of a liability on the field, having many passes bounce of his hands and committing some costly penalties. He has the tools to create mismatches and get open, but unfortunately can't do much once the ball is thrown his way. Carter is a bit of an enigma. he's battled injuries for most of his career, and doesn't see the field as often as he should. Neither Carter or Gesicki are effective blockers, leaving Penn State without a complete tight end on the roster.
Previously: Penn State Defense
not full-blown Ghost Gardner, but definitely erratic [Fuller]
Penn State's offense looked somewhat more functional against Northwestern than they did against, say, Temple, when Christian Hackenberg looked destined to finish the season in a full-body cast. Thanks in large part to the emergence of slippery freshman running back Saquon Barkley, the PSU offense is now at least semi-functional.
It's hard to say it's much better than that, though. Here's how they did against Northwestern:
- Seven three-and-outs
- One four-and-out
- Two five-and-outs
- 8-play, 30-yard drive; interception
- 8-play, 39-yard drive; punt
- 9-play, 79-yard TD drive
- 5-play, 70-yard TD drive that should've been a three-and-out; 30 yards came from a roughing the punter and a late hit on Hackenberg after a scramble
- 5-play, 71-yard TD drive
That's two real scoring drives, another on which half the credit goes to Northwestern doing dumb things, and a lot of ugly.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
The good news for PSU is they brought back a lot of players. You know the bad news if you watched them play last year.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style to a fault. Penn State's offense was most successful when they spread Northwestern out and ran the ball; they'd do this once in a while and then go right back to doomed under-center runs with an extra OL lining up at H-back. James Franklin is a great recruiter, but there's plenty of reason—and mounting evidence—to believe he's not much of a tactician.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Penn State mostly ran inside zone, split zone, and the occasional power. Brian asked me to check if they ran any zone stretches since Michigan struggled so badly with them against Indiana; they ran none.
Hurry it up or grind it out? In very welcome news after last weekend, Penn State is dead last in the country in adjusted pace. They're brutally slow. This should prevent them from exploiting Ryan Glasgow's absence nearly as much as Indiana did; the Hoosiers not only wore out the starting DTs, they also prevented Michigan from subbing when the backups were caught on the field for extended time. PSU's offense isn't built to do that.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Hackenberg has decent feet when he's not taking far too long to get the ball out; he can avoid sacks by stepping up (when the pocket hasn't totally collapsed, at least) and he even had a nice seven-yard scramble that drew the late hit flag. He's still not much of a running threat. He gets a 4.
Dangerman: The aforementioned Barkley is averaging 6.6 YPC this season, and while he mostly struggled to find room against Northwestern, he consistently turned terrible situations into less-terrible ones by making free hitters miss, and late in the game he popped a few big plays.
Barkley combines strength and balance with an excellent jump-cut, which makes it tough to corral him in the backfield unless multiple linemen break free (which happens a decent amount). He's really tough to bring down in open space. All it takes from him is a subtle cut, like the one he puts on Anthony Walker for a touchdown out of the wildcat, and he's off, because you have to hit him square to take him down:
Barkley had two touchdowns, both out of the wildcat, and the second was even more impressive (I'd already cut too many videos by that point). He's was also PSU's primary target for screens in this game, and he's effective when he gets any blocking help—which, again, isn't always the case. Michigan's key against him will be to prevent any jump-count bounces to the outside; Northwestern coped pretty well when they kept him between the tackles outside of a late 3rd-and-long draw when they had only six in the box and gave up a 26-yard gain, which was much more of an RPS issue than anything else.
Chris Godwin is Hackenberg's top target by some distance. He doesn't necessarily wow you in any one area, but he combines decent size with good hands and precise route-running to consistently produce yardage, especially in the intermediate region.
Zook Factor: I mean, you remember the timeout before intentional safety, right? James Franklin is terrible at game theory stuff, which came into play more on the defensive side in this game when he inexplicably failed to use his available timeouts when it was clear Northwestern was content to run the clock down for a game-winning field goal. Franklin realized this too late; PSU waited until there were 22 seconds left to use a timeout at all, Northwestern booted the field goal with nine seconds left, and PSU had all of one play to try to try for a miracle.
HenneChart: Hackenberg can still make those throws that make NFL scouts drool, but far too often he makes terrible decisions, and only a part of that can be blamed on the offensive line. I'll give him this—he knows how to stuff a HenneChart:
|Northwestern||2||18 (7)||3||4 (1)||6x||3||3||4||1||48%|
Sometimes he'll zip a throw into a tight window:
Sometimes he'll stare down a receiver for ages and throw it at him anyway:
He'll also sail a few throws and turf the occasional screen. The bad outweighed the good in this one, but Hackenberg is difficult to predict. He does seem to try for the big play too often, even when the situation dictates he should take the safe throw. Dae'Sean Hamilton is wide open on an in route for a first down pickup here on third-and-seven:
You can see Hackenberg isn't throwing to him, though. This is where he's throwing:
WR Saeed Blacknail ended up having to play defense there. Penn State punted.
Penn State mostly lined up under center on their early downs, and they often make their intentions pretty clear. Several of those ace and heavy formation runs (I threw wildcat in with heavy, YMMV) featured backup lineman Derek Dowrey as a jumbo H-back:
They ran some variation of the above several times. They shelved the below after one stuffed iso:
Gun usually meant pass.
As you can see, PSU kept it pretty balanced on first down, but they were almost always behind schedule, which led to the significant run/pass split on third downs—since two of those runs were of the give-up-and-punt variety, they had one third down on which they could reasonably expect to pound the rock and pick it up.
Further discussion has to start with the much-maligned offensive line. While they did give Hackenberg a clean pocket much more often than they were managing that early in the season, he still came under fire quite a bit, and Northwestern was content to sit back and rush four the whole game. Left tackle Paris Palmer was a turnstile, personally responsible for enough pressures that I lost count. Palmer and right guard Brian Gaia both get beat for what should've been a drive-ending sack here:
The end running right around Palmer was a common sight, as was Gaia messing up his assignment. I realize TE Mike Gesicki (#88) got rocked back here, but this is still a bad reaction to running into traffic while pulling:
You might be lulled into feeling sorry for Barkley at times. He has to work very hard to produce yardage while waiting for those occasional runs on which PSU either blocks well or throws rock to the defenses scissors. Between blown pickups, getting knocked into the backfield, and false starts, I had negative notes down for every one of PSU's starting linemen. Palmer and Gaia stood out as especially bad; nobody stood out as particularly good.
Tight end Brent Wilkerson was one of their more consistent blockers, which is one of the reasons he's starting over the much-hyped Gesicki. The other reason: Gesicki had two bad drops in this one, and that's not a new issue—he's caught 12 of his 29 targets this year. H-back Kyle Carter wasn't a factor in this game, but he sees the field on passing downs. Neither he nor Gesicki are good blockers. Wilkerson is a pure blocking TE; he's been targeted twice all season. Production from the TEs is nowhere near preseason expectations, even accounting for the absence of Adam Breneman, the former five-star whose injury issues have kept him out of all but one game the last two years.
Godwin stood out among the receivers as the guy who could get separation downfield; Hamilton and Geno Lewis were hardly targeted, and with Hackenberg looking downfield and failing to find an open receiver on multiple occasions it seemed like they were having trouble getting open. They did combine for one of the unlikeliest touchdowns I've seen all year:
That was so close to disaster, and then Lewis somehow uncorks one of the best passes I've seen all year. The play was a fitting capper to the drive kept alive by two Northwestern personal fouls.
Barkley has assumed the workhorse role; backup Akeel Lynch didn't get a single carry, seeing sparing snaps on passing downs.
Michigan has a good shot at shutting this offense down. I don't think PSU's line can handle Michigan's pass rush, even with Glasgow absent, and they're not going to tempo the backups to death like Indiana did unless they completely change their offensive identity—unlikely, even with a week off to prepare. I found the playcalling to be unimaginative and predictable outside of this well-designed fake screen:
Michigan can key on stopping Barkley, which is all about staying in your lane; he can break contain with one hard jump-cut, so Royce Jenkins-Stone needs to hold the edge and the linebackers/safeties must be disciplined when coming down to tackle. Unless Hackenberg rids himself of a lot of bad habits this week, forcing Barkley to work for his yardage should be enough to get Michigan the win; this offense is too inconsistent to put up many points on the Wolverines unless something out of the ordinary happens.
Hey man you never know when something that looks good is going to suddenly disintegrate into a pile of sawdust or like the Fed is going to say "rates are now a billion percent" so get a mortgage with Matt. I may be overreacting to the content of this post. It's probably going to be fine if you don't refinance or whatever. But it could also not be fine and you could get stuck on the field for ninety mortgages or something.
FORMATION NOTES: When I say "nickel under" I do mean a 4-3 under with nickel personnel.
Bolden is standing up on the LOS as the SAM with Hill filling in as a second ILB. Wilson is off the screen as a very deep S as per usual.
M occasionally tucked a linebacker inside one of their DEs, which is a "bear" front:
Nickel buck denotes the buck LB right behind the nose. This was rare.
Ross got in as a buck and stood up and I'm just pretending he's a DE, okay? That's what I'm pretending.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan spent almost the entire game in a nickel aside from some goal line sets and a few dime packages. With Glasgow out, Hurst started. Strobel was his backup at first. He got two or three stretches of playing time and did poorly. Late Michigan started playing Henry at nose a lot. There was palpable frustration with Hurst on stretch plays. Godin also returned, though he had a very bad day.
Bolden/Morgan at LB except for two drives with Gedeon replacing Bolden and one with Gedeon replacing Morgan.
The secondary saw Thomas start over Hill again. When Thomas was hurt in the first quarter Hill got the bulk of the game. Clark and Stribling are still splitting time but it is increasingly clear that Clark has won the job.
[After THE JUMP: seriously, Kevin Wilson, I hate you]
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Pistol trips||Nickel even press||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Henry||5|
|Henry(-2) slashed to the ground by a cut block and out of the play; big gap even though Hurst and Wormley(+0.5) do an okay job to cut off the frontside. Hurst does need to fight back when he sees where the play is going. Morgan(+1) and Bolden both get quick releasing blockers with good angles; Morgan does a good job to avoid a cut, stay upright, and make a tackle(+1) in a tough situation. Bolden(+0.5) also got off a block to help tackle.|
|O30||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||30 nickel slide||Pass||4||Hitch||Lewis||2|
|This looks like a screen on which the WR blocking doesn't get the call and runs a route downfield. Miscommunication between Lewis and Peppers sees Peppers let the guy go downfield for what could be a huge bust TD, but the ball is already well on its way when the WR breaks deep. Lewis(+0.5) cleans up the not-screen. Not minusing Peppers because when the WR breaks the ball is gone; confusion there might be understandable. RPS +1.|
|O32||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even press||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Bolden||5|
|Jet action with a handoff the other way. C and playside G pull around as tackle blocks down on Henry. I think M plans on blitzing Bolden(-2) on this play with Morgan covering behind. Bolden's blitz is not timed well even with the jet snap count tip and he ends up eating a pulling blocker. He catches a block at the LOS and ends up four yards downfield; he does not funnel to Morgan or disconnect. Morgan tries to shoot the gap on the interior and almost makes the play but can't grab Howard's ankles; RJS(-0.5) got kicked too far upfield and provides a gap too large for Morgan to shut down; Thomas has little chance to hold up to an OL but does at least maintain force. RPS -1.|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||30 nickel slide||Pass||4||Rollout out||Wilson||8|
|M shows an obvious zone look; Sudfeld gets no pressure (-2) on a sprint out that brings him closer to the guy he's targeting. Clark and Peppers take two of the three WRs; Wilson(+1) actually does a good job to drive on the out, but he has to respect the possibility it'll go deep so he can't do much more than tackle immediately. RPS -1.|
|O43||2||2||Pistol 3-wide||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Hurst||5|
|Henry(-1) blasted off the line by a double that deposits him well downfield. Hurst(+1) gets a single block and just about closes the gap, getting in a tackle attempt in the backfield. RJS(+0.5) also peels back but with no linebacker support Howard can grind forward for the first down. Linebackers had little chance because Henry got blown out and Morgan takes a chop block the referees(-2) miss.|
|O48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA comeback||Clark||Inc|
|Plenty of time(pressure -2) after the PA; second or third read for Sudfeld; Clark(+2, cover +2) in WR's grill, getting a PBU.|
|O48||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel buck||Pass||4||Screen||Thomas||2|
|Only one OL releases; believe the RG busts here, but possible they're trying to sell the DL that it's not a screen. Thomas(+1, tackling +1) is rolled up to the LOS, in zone, and reads the play to make a nice tackle in space.|
|50||3||8||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Morgan||6|
|Henry(-2) just stands up on the outside and gets kicked out; with RJS out there this is definitely not his gap. Bolden fires out hard to fill a gap further outside on a blitz; Hurst(-1) fired upfield as well. Hurst never reads or gets back to this gap. Morgan (+2) is all alone in a bunch of space with a blocker; he chucks Feeney past him and makes a tough tackle in space with help from a pursuing RJS(+0.5).|
|M44||4||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under one||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Hurst||-1|
|Bolden at SAM with Wilson filling in at LB; man press across the board. This finally looks like the M line with Hurst(+2) firing the LG yards in the backfield and forcing a cutback. Wormley(+1) slanted past a T and Bolden gets a free run at the back; he gets nailed. Henry(+1) also fired his guy back; there's nothing here anywhere. RPS +1; free Bolden hit on the back as M ran a successful scrape exchange.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-0, 12 min 3rd Q. All this took 2:32.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Bolden||10|
|Quick slant; after the PA the LBs are dropping into short zones. Bolden(-1, tackling -1) has an opportunity to hold this to six; misses a tackle. WR squeezes out a first down.|
|O35||1||10||Pistol 4-wide||3-2-6 dime||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Strobel||16|
|M shows a five man box with Charlton, Strobel, and Godin. Oookay. Indiana runs at it. Strobel(-2) runs upfield and gets reached by a guard after lining head up on the center. That's a crease, and with Charlton forcing it back that's two blockers for Morgan(-1). He takes a hit from one in a desperate situation and can't recover his balance in time to get a tackle in. I can't blame him too much but he did get run by to the outside. Not that it would have mattered since Bolden(-2) runs upfield of a block, getting shoved upfield past the LOS and has zero impact on the play. RPS -3; wtf did they think was going to happen?|
|M49||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Strobel||4|
|Strobel and Godin(-1) driven off the ball by extended doubles, with Godin's lasting longer. Strobel(+0.5) gets sealed out for a second but does come through to initiate a tackle as he hadn't given a ton of ground and the back hit his blocker. Ross(+0.5) did a good job to help constrict space as well, as a buck.|
|M45||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA rollout||Bolden||3|
|Nobody on the edge(pressure -2) but the coverage(+2) holds up and Sudfeld eventually trundles across the LOS. Bolden is there after a few; Sudfeld slides.|
|M42||3||3||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Strobel||6|
|This isn't the worst as the crease here is pretty small. It is enough, though, as neither Godin(-0.5) or Strobel(-1) can drive enough against single blocks to get this closed. W/ Bolden blitzing off the back Strobel should be slanting past the G; he kicks him. C releases directly to Morgan; Morgan(+0.5) stands him up and makes a tackle but with no other support the combined power of Howard and the OL bowls him over.|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel over||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Godin||5|
|Godin -1. This allows M to substitute, at least?|
|M29||1||5||Pistol trips TE||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Henry||1|
|Henry(+1) drives the C back enough that he ends up filling the lane the back tries to hit. Charlton(+0.5) comes off the force block to tackle. Wormley(+1) cut off backside lanes despite taking a pretty good hit fro ma guy trying to release.|
|M28||2||4||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||RJS||14|
|Despite getting to the line late, M stuff this up pretty well with Wormley(+1) and Charlton(+1) winning blocks to force the back into a pile of nothing. Redding bails to the backside. RJS(-2) lost contain as he attempted to get to the ball and Morgan(-1) did the same; I think Morgan is held but he ripped to the middle of the field and even if not this is going to break. Bolden(-1) should have been able to end this in the backfield as he is again sent on a blitz unblocked but instead of ripping at the back, he's late to his spot and then hesitates, as he is wont to do. RPS -1, tempoed.|
|M14||1||10||Shotgun trips tight bunch||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Morgan||1|
|RB misses the cut as Wormley(-1) lines up too far away from the C and gets sealed away. RB extends past this; Charlton(-1) gets sealed inside and RB should definitely bounce but he instead cuts it up. Henry(+1) did a good job to drive and extend and Morgan(+1) flowed well, getting past a block to show in the hole and make a tackle. Somewhat fortunate.|
|M13||2||9||Shotgun trips tight bunch||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Lewis||2|
|Wormley(+1) surges into the backfield and forces a puller to deal with him; the second puller is delayed by this. Lewis(+2, tackling +1) executes a Peppers-like move to run around a blocker and get to the feet of the back for a tackle; thanks to the Wormley play Morgan and Peppers were there to clean up without much molestation. Bolden misread this play and fights inside as the entire play flows outside, FWIW.|
|M11||3||7||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Sack||Henry||-11|
|Coverage(+3) is excellent all around with Bolden(+1) getting a wheel pickup out of the backfield. Rush initially stymied but a hard drive from Henry(+1) disrupts the entire pocket and allows RJS(+1, pressure +1) to discard a blocker and surge up the middle. He manages to sack; Sudfeld's clutziness helps out.|
|Drive Notes: FG(40), 7-3, 7 min 1st Q. M goes three and out after this. Thomas gets hurt on the punt and is out for a while.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Godin||4|
|M blitzing off the backside; Godin(-1) does not slant hard and ends up having to hop over a cut block; he gets cut off by a second guy. Cutback lane exists behind the hard slant of Hurst. Ross is unblocked and manages to track the back down. Bolden didn't get a great hit on the OL releasing to him but did get off to tackle along with Ross and Morgan. Morgan(+0.5) got there first and hit the OL harder.|
|O15||2||6||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Hurst||9|
|This should be a stop but Hurst(+1) is flagrantly held by an OL and cannot quite close the gap off. Refs -2. Wormley(+1) did a good job to extend and extend outside against a long double; Wilson comes around the outside as the force and gets a tackle attempt in that Howard runs through. Bolden got cut off but very understandably this time; Morgan(-1, tackling -1) ends up overrunning the play when the Wilson tackle attempt delays the back a hair. Ross(-0.5) grabs Howard and gets dragged 5 yards.|
|O24||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Ross||11|
|Backside looks like a stunt with Godin heading outside and Ross(-2) coming under, but Ross hesitates, doesn't know what to do and ends up sealed out of a play that should really work. Other possibility is that it's on Godin but I don't think so. Hurst(-1) drives straight upfield and gets sealed out, so there's a a crease between him and the force guy; Morgan(+1) runs up and nails the G; back has to hold up and actually runs into the OL as he tries to cut back. Bolden(-1) runs up past an OL and is the next guy. OL comes back to him because he hesitates and gives the OL a chance to recover; he ends up pancaked. RPS –1.|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel buck||Pass||4||Out||N/A||6|
|Sudfeld has all day (pressure -3). Eventually he finds a short out in front of Peppers but given the situation that's pretty good coverage(+1).|
|O41||2||4||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Henry||3|
|Morgan reads the IZ action and tries to shoot a gap; OL comes off on him. This does prevent a long double on Henry; Henry(+0.5), Hurst(+0.5) and Wormley(+0.5) all push guys back and jam it up; Henry tackles but the back manages to fall forward as Feeney eventually bulls the much smaller Morgan over.|
|O44||3||1||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||4||Fade||Lewis||Inc|
|Lewis close-ish but not in super coverage; the back shoulder attempt has a little room. Sudfeld misses. Push. Pressure(-2) again not coming.|
|O44||4||1||Shotgun twins twin TE||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Power C||Bolden||5|
|Bolden sent in to knock the wing TE in and hopefully pick off the lead blocker. He goes high; lead guy gets around after a minimal delay, and then Bolden is held really obviously held as he tries to fight back to the hole. This is one of those hand on the shoulder obviously affecting the play things. Refs -2. Without that maybe he gets the stick. Meanwhile Hill(-1) can and needs to do better here. He's got a pulling G who's been delayed and he has Clark containing. If he forces the back to bounce Clark has a pretty good shot at the stop; instead he neither decisively forces or makes the bounce and there's a gap.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||Nickel even?||Pass||4||Fade||Peppers||Inc|
|Another back shoulder attempt that Indiana cannot pull off. Peppers(+0.5, cover +1) makes this tough, and Henry(+1, pressure +1) gets through the line to force a throw.|
|O49||2||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||Hurst||Inc|
|Hurst(+1) reads this and drops out; OL keeps blocking him but that prevents anyone from getting to Bolden(+0.5), who runs at the WR free; WR drops it.|
|O49||3||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||RB flat||Morgan||8|
|This would be OPI but the throw is behind the LOS; Morgan(+0.5) gets around the down block from the TE but that's still a delay and the back has the corner. He strings it out until Wilson can come up and tackle. RPS -1 despite the nominal third down stop because this was an easy 7 that sets up the subsequent play.|
|M43||4||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||RJS||3|
|Henry(+1) shoots the C back and constricts space; Sudfeld keeps, which is a bit odd. RJS(-2) puts himself in the wrong gap, gets decisively on one side of a block and cannot repair things when he tries to explode upfield of that guy. He ends up making a tackle attempt that Sudfeld runs through. Hill cannot close it down close enough to prevent the first down.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel over||Pass||4||PA comeback||Stribling||17|
|No replay because Indiana; this is a long, long throw from one hash to the field that is 20 yards downfield and Stribling(-2, cover -2) gets beat on. Henry(+0.5) did come around to pressure(+1) Sudfeld.|
|M23||1||10||Pistol trips TE||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Strobel||5|
|Godin(-1) gets blown out by a double. Strobel(-1) blown out by a double. M is blitzing Hill from the backside and M should be slanting to the play but neither guy gets there. Big gaps, Howard just runs up the back of his OL.|
|M18||2||5||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel over||Pass||4||Fade||Godin||INT (Pen +5)|
|Godin(-1) jumps offside and Sudfeld takes his free shot. Lewis(+2, cover +2) picks it off.|
|M13||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Charlton||3|
|Charlton(+1) fires the TE back and the rips inside, forcing the back away from his blocking and Strobel. Wilson scrapes over the top and gets a tackle in that allows the back to fall forward, but he didn't have help.|
|M10||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel over||Pass||4||Rollout flat||Charlton||Inc|
|Bubble fake to one side and then waggle type action to the other; Charlton(+1, pressure +1) bursts upfield as soon as he realizes Sudfeld has the ball still and gets quick pressure. Gedeon is in position on the back before falling down(-1, cover -1) but Sudfeld doesn't have time to realize that has happened and just turfs it.|
|M10||3||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie zero||Penalty||N/A||False start||N/A||-5|
|M15||3||12||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Penalty||N/A||False start||N/A||-5|
|M20||3||17||Shotgun trips||Dime even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||2|
|Give up and FG with Wormley(+1) and Henry(+0.5) shutting down lanes. Gedeon(+0.5) had a hit on an OL that helped thing as well.|
|Drive Notes: FG(35), 7-6, EO1Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Lewis||21|
|Hurst(+1, pressure +1) gets good drive on the C and ends up forcing that OL to hit Sudfeld just about as he throws. Ball still accurate; Lewis(-2, cover -1, tackling -1) gets beat on a slant and then misses a tackle. First bit is a first down, second is another ten.|
|O46||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Gedeon||0|
|Henry(+1) does not get reached. He doesn't do much more than that, but since he doesn't Gedeon(+1) has the opportunity to read and fire to the gap, where he tackles. Hurst(+1) didn't get blocked on the backside; he flows to help fore the back to Gedeon.|
|O46||2||10||Pistol 3-wide H||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Split zone||RJS||-2|
|M slants under; RJS(+1) runs through an OL who discards him to go look for work further outside but there is no one to pick him up as Henry(+0.5) draws a double. Hurst(+2) blows into the LG, eliminating cutback lanes and allowing RJS to get a TFL without much trouble. RPS +1.|
|O44||3||12||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||Drag||Wilson||Inc (Pen +10)|
|M blitzes, with Morgan(+0.5) arcing around unblocked to just about get there. Sudfeld has to throw at a covered TE; Jarrod Wilson(+1, cover +1) gets a PBU that looks absolutely clean on replay (refs -2) that gives Indiana a first down and keeps M's D on the field. Pressure +1.|
|M46||1||10||Pistol 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Power O||Gedeon||15|
|Very weird play, as the LG steps like he's going to pull and then changes his mind. Guess: Gedeon(-1) tipped a blitz, and when he does come the OL is ready to abort the pull and stymie him in the gap. With Henry(+1) surging through a double Morgan and Hill can flow free to the hole, which they do. Howard stops, hops, and then finds a crease as Gedeon(-2) has tried to fight back to the hole and rips to the playside of the guy blocking him. This puts him in the same gap with the other two guys, and when three guys are in the same gap there's a gap that doesn't have someone in it. Howard finds it, which is pretty bad ass on his part, and bursts to the secondary.|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Gedeon||3 (Pen -10)|
|Gedeon(+1) does a nice job to run up and blast an OL before he can release off of Henry. With Hurst(+1) extending and shedding on the frontside Howard has to cut back into Gedeon. Hurst draws a holding call.|
|M41||1||20||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel over||Pass||4||Fade||Clark||35 (Pen -15)|
|The big OPI call. Henry(+1, pressure +1) drives through the G, could draw another hold, and forces a throw. Live I thought this was a terrible call but when you watch it again the WR has zero separation and then pushes off Clark's chest and has the separation he needs to make the catch. I'm surprised they had the balls to throw this flag but It is probably correct. Huard will never stop bitching about this call. Push on the coverage. I see what I did there.|
|O44||1||35||Pistol 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA hitch||Clark||7|
|Zero pressure(-2); Sudfeld checks down to a short throw that Clark and Bolden have. Coverage(+3) good given the situation.|
|M49||2||28||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 dime||Pass||3||Out||Clark||15|
|Ridiculous missed hold on Hurst(+1, pressure +1, refs -2) as he rips right past the center and is all but taken to the ground. Out opens up as Clark(-2, cover -2) gets beat.|
|M34||3||13||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie one||Pass||6||Fade||Clark||Inc|
|Blitz gets through as Wormley(+1, pressure +2) comes under as T disengages for Morgan. Sudfeld throws a tough fade down the sideline that Clark(+1, cover +1) has given almost no room. Great throw, great catch, but out of bounds anyway.|
|Drive Notes: FG(51), 14-9, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Pistol 3-wide H||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Split zone||Charlton||9|
|Charlton(-2) is unblocked at first and ends up taking a hit from the H-back who comes to the backside. If he hits it hard and undercuts the guy Howard has to bounce to Peppers. He gets annihilated. This gets Howard to the LB level, which doesn't go well. Gedeon caught a block but he at least fights to the right side of it and is there to tackle. He does not tackle because Bolden(-1) gets blocked by a guy who fell as he released, fights to the wrong side of the block and Howard cuts behind his blocker to turn a medium length run into a nice one. Stribling(-1) misses a tackle(-1); Hill(+1, tackling +1) comes up and makes a nice ankle tackle to hold down the damage.|
|O34||2||1||Pistol 3-wide||30 nickel slide||Pass||4||PA TE Flat||Gedeon||8|
|Honestly on second and one whatever. Gedeon(-1, cover -1) does get sucked in by the PA long after the TE pulls across his face and adds a number of YAC.|
|O42||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide H||30 nickel slide||Pass||4||PA Fly||Lewis||Inc|
|RJS(+2, pressure +2) dips inside a tackle and gets quick pressure on Sudfeld; he loads and fires a bad idea pass to a guy Lewis has covered. Lewis(+2, cover +2) gets 95% of an INT here but can't quite keep the ball off the turf.|
|O42||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Circle||Hill||7|
|Hill(-0.5) bites on the inside move but dose recover in time to force the WR out just a couple yards after our 5 yard push zone. Bolden tipped a blitz up the gut and got picked up(pressure -1)|
|O49||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel under||Pass||4||PA RB flat||Bolden||Inc|
|Bolden(+2, cover +2) all over this and makes a play on the ball, though he treads the line as far as PI goes (refs +1). Ross(+1, pressure +1) read the rollout and blew upfield to force the inadvisable throw.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-9, 4 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Hurst||21|
|Hurst(-3) is lined up directly over the G and gets reached by the C. This is a disaster for any D against a stretch. Both LBs flow hard and get blockers and can't make plays but this is on the DL. Bolden might flow too hard when Wormley is containing and Morgan(-1) should be able to get off the block and force it back but this is just bad news for both of them.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Power O||Hurst||10 (Pen -10)|
|Bolden(+1) runs up and plugs the pulling G at the LOS and cuts off attractive lanes. RB cuts it back and picks up a big gain but it comes back because Henry(+1) draws a holding call on an OL. Hurst(-2) on the backside fought to one side, forgot his job, gave a ton of ground, and was the reason the backside gap was there.|
|50||1||20||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Peppers||21|
|Peppers(-2, cover -2) bites on the bubble fake and opens up a huge gap in a zone for the slant to get the first down.|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Power O||Godin||2|
|Godin(+2) hurls away his blocker, takes a second hit from the pulling G, and still disconnects to tackle in the gap. Henry(+0.5) won a one on one block and helped tackle.|
|M27||2||8||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||5||Rollout corner||Peppers||Inc|
|Pocket good(pressure -2); Believe that Sudfeld just dumps this OOB because everything is covered(+3); Peppers(+1) is on the relevant route very well.|
|M27||3||8||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||6||Hitch||Lewis||15|
|Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) loops through and forces a throw. Lewis(+0.5, cover +1) is literally sitting right on top of a stopped WR but his attempt to swipe the ball out somehow misses. Huge swing play here.|
|M12||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Fade||Lewis||Inc|
|Perfectly placed as Lewis is just not tall enough to deal with the 6'4 guy, but he drops it. Cover push, small window and difficult completion but vulnerability obvious.|
|M12||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Bolden||5|
|A very very dumb penalty. There are three seconds on the clock. Wait like one or two more buddy. Bolden -1.|
|M7||2||5||Shotgun trips||Nickel under||Pass||4||Screen||Hill||7|
|Hill(-2, cover -2) never reads the WR blocking Bolden and this has no shot at being defended as a result.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-16, 1 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||RJS||7|
|RJS(-0.5) crashes down on the back; Bolden(-0.5) doesn't realize it's a pull until well after he should. Sudfeld being Sudfeld this doesn't mean as many yards as it otherwise might, so I get it from both players.|
|O31||2||3||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 dime||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Hurst||5|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Out||Hill||4|
|Little pick play that Hill(+1, cover +1) does a good job to get out on and tackle immediately despite having to work his way through some traffic.|
|O40||2||6||Pistol 4-wide||Dime even||Penalty||N/A||False start||N/A||-5|
|O35||2||11||Shotgun 4-wide||30 dime slide||Pass||4||Fade||Clark||44|
|Pressure(-2) not extant. Clark(-3, cover -3) in good position but when he tries to get his head around he cannot find the ball, which is well short, and the WR cuts under him for the catch.|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Dime over||Pass||4||Hitch||Clark||Inc|
|No pressure(-2); Clark(+0.5, cover +1) in decent coverage but will give up a 6-yard hitch if the WR doesn't drop it. Clark does tackle quick enough to turn the bobble into an incompletion.|
|M21||2||10||Pistol FB twins||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Split zone||Henry||13|
|Henry(-2) gets blown out by a double. Hurst(-1) also gets sealed away but doesn't give as much ground. Morgan runs up to hit one of Hurst's guys and closes the space reasonably well but can't do it himself. Hill(-1) is playing LB on this play as Bolden is at SAM and puts himself in the wrong gap. Clark(-1, tackling -1) misses a tackle; Wilson cleans up.|
|M8||1||G||Pistol FB twins||Nickel bear||Run||N/A||Split zone||Hurst||1|
|Bolden tucked inside of RJS on the LOS. W/ most linemen covered no doubles on the DTs and they win. Hurst(+2) and Henry(+1) both blast their guys into the backfield. Howard should probably try to head outside and looks like he will but then he cuts back when Morgan scrapes around Wormley. DTs eat him, with Hurst shedding to tackle first.|
|M7||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Henry||0|
|Jet fake with a pin and pull behind it. Henry(+3) gets a down block from the tackle and powers through it to the gap to make a tackle for zilch. Tough, very good play.|
|M7||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie zero||Pass||6||Slant||Hill||Inc|
|Blitz up the guy as RJS(+1, pressure +2) gets a free run as M sends six. Hill jams the TE and TE shoves off to get separation but the ball has to be out so fast the ball is on him as soon as he looks and he can only get a hand out. Hill looks beat but did disrupt the timing here, push.|
|Drive Notes: FG(24), 24-26, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O14||1||10||Pistol 3-wide H||Nickel buck||Run||N/A||Split zone||RJS||3|
|M puts RJS over a guard and blitzes him. M puts up a front with no gaps in it as Hurst(+0.5), Wormley(+0.5) and RJS(+0.5) stand up single blocks. Howard manages to bull for a few yards.|
|O17||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Hurst||13|
|Hurst(-2) flies upfield and gets reached, huge gap to try to shut down. Henry(-2) goes straight upfield and is irrelevant so both LBs get completely unfettered OL in massive gaps. Morgan forces it back. Gedeon(-1) gets sealed and never gets off the block, period.|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel buck||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Lewis||10|
|M actually strings this out well. Henry(+1) rips through a down block and occupies a second blocker. Gedeon runs up and hits the other puller. Howard has to bounce it to an unblocked Lewis(-2, tackling -2), who whiffs, turning a short gain into a first down.|
|O40||1||10||Pistol trips TE||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||RJS||0|
|M slants to the play and shoots RJS down the line as the unblocked backside guy. Strobel(+1) doesn't get sealed and stands up the C. Morgan(+1) blasts through a guard; RJS(+0.5) runs down the back of the play and tackles. Other two guys prevent YAC. RPS +1.|
|O40||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||30 nickel slide||Pass||4||Out||Hill||3|
|Another attempted pick play that Hill(+1, cover +1) gets around to make an immediate tackle.|
|Peppers(+1, cover +1) is all over this and makes this a really difficult catch but his swipe misses the ball and the IU guy manages to bring it in.|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Clark||4|
|Big cushion on the outside, long throw, complete, immediate tackle. Pressure -1; Clark(+0.5, cover +1)|
|M43||2||6||Shotgun twins twin TE||Nickel over||Pass||4||Fade||Peppers||Inc|
|Pressure nowhere near(-3); Sudfeld can read a book. He throws a fade that Peppers(+1, cover +1) is in excellent position on; overthrown.|
|M43||3||6||Pistol 3-wide H||Nickel buck||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||RJS||-1|
|Alignment of RJS(+1) makes it hard for IU to deal with him on this play. Wormley(+0.5) forces it back quick as RJS flows from just behind Henry to get outside of the second puller. Back can't cut back because Charlton(+0.5) is flowing downfield. He hesitates and gets tackled. RPS +2.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-26, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Pistol trips TE||30 nickel slide||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Godin||19|
|M again too aggressive upfield. Henry(-2) gets reached and turned around. Morgan(+1) gets enough of a hit on an OL to convince the back to cut back behind a successful reach block; Henry is in no shape to stop it. Godin(-2) meanwhile got cut and delayed sufficiently for a big gap to open up anyway.|
|50||1||10||Pistol trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Henry||4|
|Wormley(-2) turned inside and gone, which never happens when he gets blocked by a TE. Henry(+2) rescues it by getting outside super fast and running up to pick off one of the pullers. This gives Bolden a free run at the tailback with the other puller kicking Lewis out. He gets a bit too vertical; back pushes outside and Lewis has to tackle him. He does; YAC.|
|M46||2||6||Pistol trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Godin||4|
|Leaving two deep safeties now is completely bonkers and I'm on the verge of RPSing it. Godin(-2) cut to the ground by a guy behind him, immediate release to the LB for a G. Henry(+1) does a nice job to win his block and come back off of itto tackle at or near the LOS, with help from RJS. Bolden(-0.5) chopped to the ground and no use.|
|M42||3||2||Pistol 3-wide H||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Godin||4|
|This is just straight up the gut. M doesn't do anything fancy. Henry gets a little penetration. Godin(-0.5) gets driven back a little. There's a small crease between them. Morgan runs up and hits the free releasing C and stands him up, but when Howard hits the pile lurches. Not much he can do. RPS -1; slant, blitz, this is so passive.|
|M38||1||10||Shotgun trips tight bunch||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Split zone||Strobel||4|
|Strobel(-1) blown off the ball and to the ground. Hard to stop a play when that happens. Bolden eats a block and can't get off it. Morgan checks the keep before coming back to it; Wilson comes down to fill. Strobel did grab a leg.|
|M34||2||6||Shotgun trips tight bunch||Nickel over 8||Run||N/A||Split zone keeper||Peppers||4|
|Peppers(-1, tackling -1) has QB responsibility here and is hesitant; he should be able to get to this sooner; his tackle is a shoulder block that allows YAC.,|
|M30||3||2||Shotgun twins twin TE||Nickel under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Godin||6|
|Godin(-1) takes a long double and gets blown off the ball. RJS(-1) puts himself in the wrong gap. Hill(-1, tackling -1) throws a weak shoulder block that is fortunate to get Howard down and offers up extra YAC.|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun twins twin TE||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Pin and pull||Bolden||24|
|Michigan only has three guys in the box to the left of the C, where IU has four blockers. So of course this goes badly. Bolden(-2) gets turned in and eliminated by a wing TE, and that is all. If he takes a more conservative angle and forces it back maybe this goes better. Morgan is blocked in the back(refs -2) and shoved off balance for a guy to shoulder-block him to the ground but that guy had the angle anyway. RPS -3.|
|M3||2PT||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Henry||3|
|Henry(-2) pancaked. No excuse not to load up and come after this instead of sitting passively. RPS -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT), 34-27, 3 min 4th Q. Really disappointing from Durkin here. He didn't call a single run blitz on this drive. Just ate it the whole time. No Hurst on this drive at all.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Charlton||16|
|Charlton(-2) fails to hold the edge and that's all she wrote. Howard reads that so quickly and follows up on it; I am so intensely jealous. Wormley(+1) had driven through and was going to make this a non-gain otherwise. RPS -1; M had a real dilemma given the way they aligned here.|
|M9||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Reverse||RJS||7|
|RJS(-1) gives up the corner somewhat understandably. RPS -2.|
|M2||2||G||Shotgun twins H||Nickel bear||Run||N/A||Split zone||Hurst||0|
|Slant from M. Hurst(+1) gets to the gap. Morgan(+1) manages to slide under a free releasing blocker and put himself in Howard's way to prevent YAC.|
|M2||3||G||Pistol trips tight bunch||Nickel bear over||Run||N/A||Power O||Hill||1|
|Hill(+0.5) ducks behind Wormley for a minute as he crashes in, and then he pops back out after the pulling G runs by. He forces a cutback but cannot even get a hand on Howard. Push, I guess. This sends Howard at Wormley; Wormley(+1) initiates a tackle at two yards and Howard almost carries 300 pounds to the endzone; Henry(-1) unable to help at all, M needed one more tackler|
|M1||4||G||Pistol trips tight bunch||Goal line||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Henry||0|
|M1||4||G||Pistol trips tight bunch||Goal line||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Henry||1|
|Line does a fine job to get penetration all around with the exception of Strobel, who gets stood up and provides the crease, and Henry(-1) who gets put on the ground and prevents the LBs from getting a clean path.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 41-34, EO1OT|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Wormley||17|
|This time it's Wormley(-2) giving up the edge. Exact same problem where the force guy to the trips side has a major problem from the drop. RPS -1.|
|M8||1||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel bear zero||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Wormley||3|
|M forces single blocks by alignment and not much room as a result. Wormley(+1) drives a G back and forces the cutback. Cutback kind of there as Hurst(-0.5) flows too far. Henry(+0.5) gets down the line with an arm tackle and Hill, playing ILB, hits to finish with some help from Morgan.|
|M5||2||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel under zero||Run||N/A||Split zone||Henry||0|
|Henry(+2) dives through the line and puts himself at the back's feet. Cutback required. Peppers(+1) managed to leap over a cut block and get into the legs of the back so no YAC.,|
|M5||3||G||Shotgun 3-wide H||Nickel over||Run||N/A||Zone read keeper||Hill||3|
|RJS(+0.5) is looking back at first, expecting a split zone block. He does manage to bend Sudfeld out enough to give Hill(+1, tackling +1) time to realize it's a run and come up to tackle in the open field.|
|M2||4||G||Shotgun 3-wide||Goal line||Pass||5||Out||Hill||Inc|
|Hill(+2, cover +2) dominates the route, gets in to the WR as he tries to make a catch, and rakes it out.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 48-41, EOG.|
Yeah, Kevin Wilson can go straight to hell.
What even happened?
Lets go to the
chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart chart
did you just say chart 19 straight times
yes yes yes—
I hate you almost as much as Kevin Wilson.
So, 90 snaps, big amplitude, make sure you check the pressure metric:
|Henry||22||13||9||A couple mansome plays in OT.|
|Wormley||10||5||5||Mostly not the guy getting cut past.|
|RJS||8.5||7||1.5||Very much up and down.|
|Charlton||3||5||-2||Couldn't hold up.|
|Hurst||15||11.5||3.5||Up and down, bad on stretches, good otherwise.|
|Strobel||1.5||5||-3.5||Also blow'd up|
|TOTAL||64.5||59||5.5||Remember, zero is bad for DL, ton of snaps mean this is very close to zero, and pressure is a loss this week.|
|Morgan||10.5||4||6.5||Holding off orcs at the gates of Moria|
|Bolden||5||12||-7||is what it is|
|Gedeon||2.5||6||-3.5||Not much help.|
|Lewis||5||4||1||Beat once badly, also missed a tackle. Near INT, called back INT.|
|Peppers||4.5||2||2.5||No separation. Underneath coverage improved.|
|Wilson||2||2||Back to boring.|
|Hill||6.5||5.5||1||Some minuses on uncomfortable quasi LB stuff.|
|Clark||4||6||-2||Long throw on which he got undercut.|
|Thomas||1||1||Slashed down a guy on a screen.|
|TOTAL||23||20.5||2.5||No pressure made life difficult.|
|Pressure||15||24||-9||Not great bob|
|Coverage||29||14||15||A few more cracks than the last couple weeks but Sudfeld is a pro|
|Tackling||5||9||-4||Howard a problem.|
|RPS||6||18||-12||Very frustrated at passivity in second half.|
So. LBs and DTs are discussed below. Before we get to that, the RPS number. Indiana got some stuff on tempo when Michigan couldn't align fast enough. To start each OT they called stretches to a trips side n which the playside end got edged with no help. I was frustrated with Michigan sitting back and taking it on the last drive; the TD was M badly misaligned.
If, on the other hand, you think giving up that TD was a tactical move take that RPS –3 and make it +3. Even so, Michigan had few answers tactically for what IU was doing. Not a great day for Durkin. Steve Sharik has some more details. Michigan is used to winning up front down a man and did not adjust once that was no longer the case.
So… that DL number. It's positive? WTF?
I haven't had to explain myself about the numbers in a bit, so: DL need to be positive to be average. In a normal length game I expect any particular DL to be +4 or so if he's on okay player. This was a very long game so that number might be 6 or 7 or 8. So when you put all the number together and come up with +5.5 that is a bad day. When the pressure metric is –9 that is a very bad day.
I'm considering putting the pressure minuses into the DL totals to provide a better picture in that one number. Do that and M is –19. Feel more accurate?
Well, what happened there? I mean, other than Glasgow.
Michigan's DTs got shredded for the most part. IU alternated outside and inside zone with some pin and pull stuff. Michigan was more or less okay against the latter two and horrendous against zone stretches. They were horrendous against the stretch largely because one of the DTs would get reached or chopped damn near every time.
When that happens, your linebackers are boned. Trust me, I broke down the Molk era: DTs getting reach blocked is doom for your run defense. Way too often in this game guys lined up a gap "behind" a DT ended up blocking them. When that happens the guy releasing to the second level has a terrific angle on a linebacker.
When the DTs don't get reached, the LB has the advantage and can flow free to the relevant gap. There is a crease here that is superficially similar to many of the successful run plays Michigan had, but because Henry is forcing the guard to block him instead of the center, Ben Gedeon is unimpeded and goes and hits Howard at the LOS.
This did not happen very often.
The same instincts that have served Michigan very well against everything except the stretch this year popped up a lot when Indiana tried to go straight ahead. Here Hurst blows his man in the backfield and Michigan crushes the first IU drive:
That happened a lot when Indiana tried to go straight ahead. Indiana only found limited success with other plays until late, when Michigan was dead tired. Those kept Michigan honest; the stretch was their bread and butter.
But that heavy vertical action leads to creases on the stretch:
While Hurst was still explosive and dangerous, Indiana exposed a major weakness in his game. He will spend the next two weeks trying to get a lot better at it, because OSU is going to run a ton of zone stretch after watching this tape. (Penn State? I'm not sure they want to try that given their OL.)
Later in the game everything kind of went to hell, but Michigan's inability to stop the stretch is what put those legs in a state of despair.
But the linebackers were terrible!
I've seen a bunch of this take in the aftermath of the game. I think they were basically what they've been all year in a much more difficult environment. Mike Spath put out an article citing Desmond Morgan for missing seven tackles that I think misses the point entirely. Morgan may have been unable to do more than get an arm on a passing Howard frequently, but when you get free releasing linemen with an angle to block you on damn near every play the quality of your play is more about mitigating the damage than making tackles. Morgan did a lot of that. And sometimes made tackles.
Indiana stopped cutting Morgan pretty quick and instead just blocked him straight up. Morgan frequently was asked to make tough plays against free releasers in a ton of space:
Maybe that's a missed tackle, too. It's a +2 in my book. Betting that that one time Michigan put five in the box with Strobel at NT and IU had two blockers for Morgan is filed as a missed tackle too.
I mean. What are you supposed to do there? You die. You fling yourself at the back in case, but you die. Or, if you're Joe Bolden, you passively run upfield of the block and quit running.
Morgan was very good at running up and plastering guys who released directly to him to force the ball back to other parts of the defense. This is thankless work, especially when one DT gets reached and the other is so irrelevant that two guys run past him—which is some sort of super ultra reach.
This was a heroic rearguard action for him.
Since this section will probably draw accusations of bias in favor of Morgan, who has been a fave-rave around these parts for a long time, let me remind you that he racked up a –12 against Minnesota two games ago. A number of the above plays did see Morgan come in for minuses even though I think they're brutally difficult plays to make, and he made up for it by tirelessly hitting people 60 pounds heavier than him in the face.
Meanwhile Bolden was a disaster. The difference in the two ILB's ability to take on blocks was brought into sharp relief by the faltering DL. Contrast any of the contact Morgan makes in the clips above with this:
Bolden gets and stays blocked way too much.
That probably went on Morgan's missed tackle count and is a great example of how a missed tackle is often a guy almost making a difficult play because someone else didn't do their job. (Note: sometimes I ding guys for going upfield of blocks when they don't make a play; Morgan got a minus half-point here but shooting this gap is the only way this gets to fourth down, so go for it.) If Bolden only missed two tackles to Morgan's seven it's because Bolden wasn't close enough to the play to even attempt a tackle very much.
Here's an example of that. Hurst gets reached. Free release to Morgan. He thumps the OL, forcing the back him to cut behind that dude while still in the backfield. Bolden runs around a block and then doesn't have the courage of his convictions to really shoot the gap, and he gets plowed for his troubles.
There is a version of Bolden that does scream upfield of that block and gets a tackle at the LOS, but we've only seen him in spring games. I think this is the part where I say "it is what it is."
Here his guy actually falls down and Bolden still gets blocked, in part because he fights to the same gap Gedeon does and is unprepared when Howard cuts behind him.
He gets bowled over. Again. By a guy who fell over.
That play is also frustrating because of what it says about Bolden's ability to understand what he should do. Peppers is in the box. Gedeon should fight to this side of the block because Peppers is there behind him. Bolden should expect that exact cutback. Indiana's late fourth quarter touchdown was even worse. Literally the only person outside of Bolden to the boundary is a cornerback, and he just kind of farts his way inside of a blocker:
If that's not a deliberate attempt to let Indiana score it's horrendous. If it is, nevermind.
Can Gedeon save us?
I'd find out, but probably not. Sam Webb reported yesterday that Gedeon was getting a bunch of first team snaps in place of Morgan, which would be insane. I'm hoping/guessing that something was lost in translation there and that it's Bolden. Gedeon is okay. He will hit guys.
Sometimes he makes errors, like he did on a Jordan Howard run we'll discuss in the part about how Jordan Howard is good. But at least he'll hit somebody.
"Gets to fourth down" is not "induces a punt."
No. Kevin Wilson, accursed be his name, went for three early fourth downs, getting two of them. He was not dissuaded after the first one failed. He in fact used the third downs before that with every intention of going on fourth down:
- On third and eight, Indiana runs a zone stretch to set up fourth and two.
- On third and one, Indiana throws a 30-yard pass (at Jourdan Lewis, which is not smart).
- On third and ten, Indiana runs a one-blocker screen to the RB in the flat, again setting up fourth and two.
He's either setting up fourth and short or taking a shot when he's already in a short yardage situation. The latter two fourth down attempts succeeded on a 17-play field goal drive that was a major catalyst for the exhaustion that would set in late. I wonder how different this game feels if Wilson's nerve leaves him.
Wilson's style of offense also managed to lock Godin and Strobel on the field for long stretches of play. On Indiana's second drive that DT pairing was getting torn up but could not exit the field on third and three; IU converted.
All of these things rely on your ability to get yards, but once the avalanche starts Indiana is terrific at keeping it going. It's impossible to quantify just how much dead legs hurt Michigan, but 19 straight runs at the end of the game suggests "a lot". By the second half guys were erratic. Henry has not been blown out like this much, if at all, so far this year:
Is that the Indiana OL or Henry screwing up or the relentless march of time? Probably some of all three. A few plays later Henry would obliterate a down block, but maybe they have to marshal their energy.
Speaking of Strobel and Godin… uh…
Well, it's not like I expected anything different. Strobel was a backup right guard last week and has always been alarmingly undersized for defensive tackle. Throwing him out there is like throwing Nick Sheridan out there. It is not going to go well. It is not worth getting upset about because it couldn't have gone well.
Godin's performance was a disappointment after he put in good work for large portions of the year. I'm not surprised he got blown off the ball a lot since that has been a weakness for him. I do wonder what he was thinking quite a lot. Michigan started slanting a bunch but he either didn't get the memo or wasn't all there:
That blitz from the backside means that Godin absolutely should not be getting cut off at the pass like that.
Hopefully this is an after-effect of his injury and he'll get better as time passes.
Yeah, the refs did miss a few glaringly obvious ones. I'm talking "hand on the outside of the shoulder pads clearly preventing a relevant defender from making the play" kind of stuff. On the other hand they gave Jourdan Lewis a break on that KO fumble. So… yeah. The incompetence balanced out, which is about all you can hope for these days.
I am painfully jealous of Jordan Howard.
You and me both, buddy. Howard is legit. He has De'Veon Smith's ability to drag guys. I mean:
Meanwhile he is much faster and was excellent at finding the creases wherever they happened to be.
This run in particular was Howard rescuing a zero yard play. Michigan tips a blitz and runs it, which absorbs the lead blocker. Henry takes a double well, leaving two guys unblocked at the POA. Howard waits:
Gedeon should not be there. Gedeon's job is to fill the gap he blitzes to. Gedeon got hammered for this play.
But so many backs, including all of Michigan's backs, run directly at the unblocked guys. Howard slows up in case something pops up and then finds it when it does. That is terrific. That's what people nattering about "patience"—including yours truly—mean. If you gear down for a step or two sometimes a door appears.
Why yes, this means Indiana has had consecutive tailbacks better than any Michigan back since at least Mike Hart and probably Tim Biakabutuka. I'm going to go rock in the corner now.
And I guess there was passing and stuff?
Yeah. The constant zone running nerfed Michigan's pass rush. It's tough to stunt against stretch plays because very frequently the guy running to the playside will get cut off and then the looping gentleman runs himself out of the play, creating a huge gap for free. (Check Godin and Ross on the backside of this play for an example.)
So when Sudfeld dropped to pass he had all day:
Michigan does not have natural pass rushers and has managed to cover up for that most of the year since they're really good at pushing the pocket and that makes stunts very effective. Remove that and that weakness we projected preseason comes roaring back to life. (This is actually a nice reminder that the staff has done a great job covering for a deficiency most of the year.)
Here too is a place where Wilson's tendency to use fourth down helped him: even on mid-length passing downs like third and seven Michigan was hesitant to stunt, because a run that could induce a fourth down try was a possibility.
Coverage was mostly good, but the lack of pass rush allowed Sudfeld to survey and find holes. The redzone was an exception, as Michigan went into attack mode with good success.
When Michigan had nothing left to lose they rose to the occasion, forcing a series of field goal attempts.
Clark got most of the playing time at the other corner spot, getting lost on a punt downfield once and otherwise playing just fine. He had a nice PBU and I do think the offensive pass interference call was legitimate after looking at it a few times. Clark is in the WR's hip pocket until he takes a pushoff in the chest that prevents him from a SHORYUKEN. Later on the same drive he'd give no window on the same route:
The undercut was bad, but understandable. For all the GET YOUR HEAD AROUND yellers, this is the cost of that occasionally:
WR looks so Clark looks, and in that split second the WR sees the ball is underthrown and adjusts before Clark can. Accurate ball is probably a PBU or INT; Clark loses the plot thanks to the (probably not deliberately) underthrown ball.
Lewis did somehow manage to not PBU this critical third and eight:
That was (probably) a field goal attempt if Lewis bats the ball away and instead turned into a touchdown. That's just one of those things.
Hill didn't come in as positively as someone who was a Known Friend and Trusted Ally should.
Hill was very important on the final two plays, but it wasn't all roses. The screen touchdown at the end of the first half saw him fail to read that his guy was blocking and replace Bolden:
There were some missed tackles and a couple of bad plays on which Hill was pressed into LB duty that was unfamiliar to him. I think a slant play on which it looked like Hill was beat is actually okay-ish, though. M sent the house and got a guy right up the gut. Hill chucks the TE to break up the route timing and that's just enough:
Hill forces the TE to focus on him just long enough so that the ball is on top of him when he does get his head around.
And this is a great play. WR doesn't really sell a route here but Hill dominates the route and gets his PBU.
Harbaugh thought that's where they were going to go, I thought that's where they were going to go, Sudfeld thought it, Wilson thought it, and he won it.
And while we're talking about the projected safeties for next year, Dymonte Thomas got knocked out early and didn't figure in much. (He returned late and is fine.) He did make one nice open field tackle on a screen.
Henry dug deep and had some big plays late. Morgan was putting out fires in a fire factory. Hill made big plays late.
Maybe not so heroic?
The backup DTs were overwhelmed. Bolden was nowhere to be found. Hurst was too up and down for a player of his quality.
What does it mean for Penn State and the future?
TEXAS SWEAR LADY ABOUT GLASGOW. Remove Joey Bosa from OSU. That is the relative impact. Michigan has to figure some things out. They cannot go with Strobel there. It's not happening. Henry played a bunch of nose late and was up for all the snaps. I think they have to lean on him heavily. Hurst will start; Henry is now the backup NT and hope that Godin is still on the recovery trail and can play a bunch of DE snaps.
Morgan is a tough hombre and if you complain about him you are bad and should feel bad. I feel very strongly about this, thus all the clips. He is doing all that he can. He is not a superhero LB, but he is a rock.
Bolden is bad. Nevermind that stuff about how he was okay. He is bad, and the DL covered it up. Very, very frustrating player.
Hill bounced back. I don't really blame him for a number of the minuses since he was drafted to play LB against Jordan Howard. Thomas also showed a flash of talent.
I don't think this will hurt us too much against PSU… they are a very slow tempo team with a bad offensive line that Hurst can probably dominate and then get off the field against.
…but our chances of beating OSU probably halved. Oh look it's a team perfectly suited to take advantage of the weakness that was just ruthlessly exposed.
well, yeah, he would be nice to have right now [Fuller]
The Big Ten boasts some elite defensive lines, and this week's opponent, Penn State, has a group that's up there with any of them. The fearsome line combined with defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's aggressive blitz schemes has produced the best pass rush in the country, and that was on full display two weeks ago against Northwestern, when they came away with six sacks (PSU was on a bye last week).
Despite being down their starting quarterback for most of the game, however, Northwestern managed to expose some flaws in the PSU defense, and they're flaws Michigan has the potential to exploit.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Penn State lost safety Jordan Lucas to an undiscosed injury early in the Northwestern game; all-conference-quality LB Nyeem Wartman-White has been out all season, which has really hurt PSU's LB play.
Base Set? 4-3 multiple. PSU should be in an under front for much of the game against Michigan's heavier sets; they'll also spend plenty of snaps in an over front and will often shade SLB Brandon Bell over the slot receiver in three-wide sets.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Man or zone coverage? PSU runs a lot of Cover 2. They weren't great at it in this game. When the pass rush wasn't hitting home—which, admittedly, was a rare occasion—there were serious holes in coverage. The most common soft spot was up the seam, which Northwestern from a few different spots. Here's TE Garrett Dickerson getting a big chunk after splitting into the slot
The very next play, Dickerson lined up as an in-line TE, ran right up the seam again, and dropped a pass that was quite open:
Later, Northwestern put the game's first points on the board when WR Christian Jones did the same thing from the slot:
Jake Butt and AJ Williams could both make a significant impact, especially since PSU also struggled to defend the other Cover 2 soft spot—the sideline between the safety in a deep half and the corner playing the flat. Unfortunately for Northwestern, starting QB Clayton Thorson got hurt late in the first quarter, and backup Zack Oliver was erratic. He missed this throw by a good five yards:
There were a couple others like that. Pressure played a factor, but the Wildcats left yards on the field, and even Sad Ghost Rudock is generally more accurate than Oliver.
Pressure: GERG or Greg? Shoop is as blitz-happy as any defensive coordinator Michigan has faced this year. He prefers zone blitzes, usually involving Bell:
Shoop varies the coverage and pressure enough that PSU can generate a lot of heat without devoting too many rushers. Here's a third-and-five with three down linemen; Shoop has Carl Nassib, PSU's best pass-rusher, drop into coverage, as does the other DE, and Northwestern still can't pick up the four defenders coming after Oliver:
That doesn't mean Shoop won't bring a heavy rush; on a late third-and-long with PSU clinging to a one-point lead, a zero blitz (seven rushers, man coverage behind it) forced a quick incompletion and a punt. Michigan's linemen and any RBs/FBs/TEs providing blocking help are going to need to be on top of their game when it comes to identifing and picking up the rush.
Dangerman: There are degrees of dangermen; in Penn State's case, NT Austin Johnson and DT Anthony Zettel are top-tier dangermen. Each is great on their own; in concert they're terrifying. The line of scrimmage isn't really where the ball is placed, it's where they decide to set it.
Northwestern's early attempts at inside zone failed miserably because blocking those guys one-on-one, even after a chip, is begging for a TFL.
Zettel's tree-tacklin' strength is quite applicable to the football field. Scroll back up the page and watch what he does to his blocker on the sack by Bell. Yeah. A (legal) combo hit by him and Carl Nassib knocked Thornson out of the game, as well.
Johnson had even more of an impact. He had eight solo tackles in this game, stuffing the rare inside runs—Northwestern quickly learned not to try those—and going sideline-to-sideline to make plays. This is a 330-pound nose tackle:
He's Supersized Ryan Glasgow. That wasn't the only tackle Johnson made well outside the hashes. Both tackles also contribute heavily to the pass rush. It's difficult to overstate their importance to this defense; their ability to blow up and finish plays on their own covers up some serious deficiencies, especially in the linebacker play.
Carl Nassib, who's come out of nowhere for a possible All-American season, didn't have a great outing in this game, but still looked dangerous. He has a tendency to get too far upfield against the run, which Northwestern exploited by running power right at him. Nassib is really explosive, however, and if he can't get the QB himself he can usually force a step-up into pressure. When Northwestern tried a half-roll away from Nassib and blocked him with only a tight end, this happened:
Oliver fumbled, and while Northwestern recovered, that was a third-down play that killed an important drive.
Finally, Brandon Bell looked good as a blitzer; he does a nice job of shooting the available gap.
It's all about overcoming Penn State's defensive line. Northwestern struggled early as they tried to run their normal inside zone stuff against a line that's so difficult to move off the ball. They started breaking big plays in the run game—and eventually posted 6.3 YPC on 41 rushes with sacks removed—by running power to counter Shoop's blitzes. Here the Wildcats used a late shift to get H-Back Dan Vitale head-up on a blitzer to spring Justin Jackson for a big gain:
They set up a short touchdown later in the same drive with another power to the short side:
A common thread: Penn State's linebackers are far from the normal Nittany Lion standard. They're hesitant, eat a ton of blocks they can't disengage from, and take some poor angles to the ball. They also struggled getting depth in their zone drops and blew some coverages. Even on their best play—a pick by MIKE Jason Cabinda when Oliver forced a throw up the seam—there was a bust underneath that should've resulted in an easy first down and more:
The pass rush is so overwhelming, though, that beating this Penn State defense requires split-second decisions, often under heavy duress, and it can be tough to pick on—or even notice—the holes in the defense. Johnson and Zettel can both handle a huge snap load, and while their backups aren't nearly as disruptive they're both 300-pounders with plenty of experience. I didn't think Nassib's backup, Evan Schwan, had a great game; he lost contain a couple times and was handled in the run game.
In fact, after I initially though Michigan would have to lean heavily on the pass to win this game, Northwestern's growing success with power eventually had me believing the opposite. If they can simply seal off the playside DT—not always that simple, of course—there's usually room on the edge, and the linebackers aren't good at closing space and making tackles in those gaps.
If Rudock gets time, there should be openings downfield, especially in those soft spots in the Cover 2. Penn State will miss Lucas; safeties Malik Golden and Marcus Allen were a step slow closing on passes in their zones, and both took some questionable angles on long Northwestern runs. I noted Allen took one particularly bad angle on a quick receiver screen that netted a first down, which seems relevant to our interests. (Lucas actually got picked on in coverage before he exited; not sure if he was hurt already.)
The corners weren't tested a ton; they usually had the flats well-covered, though the openings behind them were sometimes the product of them failing to sink back when there wasn't anyone to defend in the flat. Trevor Williams looked superior to Grant Haley, who got picked on late. Neither looked like a star, but with only a handful of throws going at them it wasn't easy to evaluate.
This game will come down to Michigan's ability to deal with PSU's blitzes in both facets. Northwestern's success running power is a promising sign, especially since they were down their starting QB and two starting O-linemen for much of the game; they repeated caught PSU in blitzes and got solid gains out of it; that seems replicable by Michigan as long as Johnson and Zettel aren't overwhelming the interior blockers. Dealing with the pass rush will be more difficult; I'm expecting big plays from both sides, and it might come down to how much big plays from M's tight ends can offset the inevitable drive-killing sack or three.
About Last Week:
I like curling.
I don’t watch it very often. In fact, I pretty much forget it exists for 206-week stretches at a time. But for two weeks during the Winter Olympics, I’m a curling fan. And when America is curling, I’m into it. I’m chastising a guy whose name I didn’t know the week before for a thing that I am only 80% sure was good or bad. This guy has been working without pay for this goal for the better part of his adult life, and guys like me swoop in when the big torchy thing goes poof and start screaming at the TV about BROOMING HARDER DAMMIT.
The wonderful thing about spectator sports is that you can select your level of emotional investment. Athletes don’t have that luxury. For them, emotional investment is a byproduct of the tangible, physical investment. For fans, deciding to go mentally in on a team is a conscious choice. And like any other wager, the more you bet on your team, the more you have to win or lose. Odds are that you, dear MGoReader, know this phenomenon well.
I drove the four and a half hours up to the Michigan-Indiana game on Saturday. I sat by some very nice, rather intoxicated Hoosier fans, and for the first couple of hours we made amusing small talk about Indiana’s #CHAOSTEAM nature. They exhibited the kind of gallows humor you would expect from a team that had been through what Indiana fans had been through this year. They had hope, of course, but it was the kind of guarded Charlie-Brown-kicking-the-football hope. Experience taught them to guard their soul dongs against the inevitable.
By late in the third quarter, they had stopped talking as much. They had started to believe again. Thrice bitten, they had yet found the way to come back for more. And by the time Delano Hill batted that fourth down pass down, they were inconsolable. They stared off into the cold, cruel evening as if searching for the deity who had wronged them again. No one would have blamed them if they had mailed this one in. But like a poker player who had taken multiple bad beats, they went all in one last time only to lose on the final card.
Sports are wonderful and terrible because we allow them to be so.
[After THE JUMP: some fear, mostly loathing]
The Road Ahead:
Penn State (7-3, 4-2 B1G)
Last week: Bye
Recap: No recap. Bye.
This team is as frightening as: Any change in our opinion of the scariness of the Nittany Lions has to be a result of what Michigan did, as Penn State sat quietly at home this weekend. And yet people seem more afraid of Penn State than they were a week ago. But while the performance of the defensive line was not ideal, it’s worth noting a few key differences:
· Indiana’s offensive pace is 13th in the country. Penn State’s is dead last. So while Indiana could keep players on the field for Ishtar-length drives, Penn State struggles to put together coherent drives.
· Indiana’s offensive line is very good. Penn State’s line is, in a technical sense, butt.
· Indiana allows very few negative plays and has a high success rate, leading to Indiana staying on schedule. Penn State allows sacks on 9.7% of standard downs, and despite playing at a slower pace they have 50% more TFLs allowed than Indiana.
Bottom line, they remain who they thought we were.
Fear Level = 4
Michigan should worry about: Michigan hasn’t beaten Penn State by more than a touchdown since 2001, when sophomore John Navarre led them to a 20-0 victory.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This one won’t be a night game, which is where the kooky stuff tends to happen against Penn State.
When they play Michigan: James Franklin will do a stupid thing.
This week: vs. #Michigan, noon, ABC
#3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 B1G)
Last week: Beat Illinois, 28-3
Recap: They played Illinois and throttled Illinois despite not playing that well because Ohio State is very good and Illinois is not very good.
This team is as frightening as: As we mentioned after week one:
We’ll check back with them when they’re 10-0 and playing Michigan State.
Well, they’re 10-0 and playing Michigan State. And it’s hard to say EXACTLY where they are, but it’s safe to say that they are somewhat less than the giant granite monolith we were expecting, but much more than the mid-game Jenga tower we were hoping for. They’re #3 in S&P+, #6 in FEI, and #3 in the CFP standings. They’ve won all but two games by at least two touchdowns... with those two games being NIU and Indiana because college football is freaking weird. They are not invulnerable, but neither is a full-grown grizzly bear hopped up on goofballs. Fear Level = 9
Michigan should worry about: Ohio State’s run defense has seemingly found itself. In the last two weeks against Minnesota and Illinois, two non-Rutgers/Maryland teams, they surrendered 53 yard on 51 carries (or 73 yards on 48 carries with sacks removed). That trend will likely continue this week against Michigan State.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Objective reality does not matter in The Game.
When they play Michigan: You may commence with the nervousness.
This week: vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Objects in the Rearview Mirror
#10 Utah (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12)
Last week: Lost at Arizona, 37-30 (2 OT)
Utah didn’t headline the Pac-12 Playoff Bid Implosion Especial, but they certainly get a pretty prominent billing. Arizona lost starting quarterback and offensive lynchpin Anu Solomon to a concussion-type object early in the 4th quarter, and backup Jerrard Randall only completed one pass in the rest of the quarter and in the two overtimes. However, that one pass was a 25 yard touchdown in the second OT, and Utah failed to convert on the ensuing 4th and 16.
In reality, this doesn’t really affect Michigan very much at this point in the year. Any damage it might cause in terms of Michigan’s resume will be counteracted by the fact that it momentarily removes one of the teams ahead of Michigan in the national pecking order.
This week: vs. UCLA, 3:30 p.m.
Oregon State (2-8, 0-7 Pac-12)
Last week: Lost at Cal, 54-24
This week: vs. Washington, 6:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network
UNLV (3-7, 2-4 MWC)
Last week: Lost at Colorado State, 49-35
This week: vs. San Diego State, 10:30 p.m., CBSSN
Last week: Lost at Missouri, 20-16
Recap: It’s hard to know exactly what to take from this game. Missouri was coming off arguably the most bizarre and disruptive week any football team has experienced in years. On Monday, they were on a sympathy strike in solidarity with the ongoing protests on the Missouri campus that saw the school president and the chancellor resign. Then, on Friday, head coach Gary Pinkel announced that he had been undergoing treatment for lymphoma, and would be resigning. So given all that, no one would have been terribly surprised if the Tigers had been beaten by 40, nor would it have been shocking if they had channeled all of that emotion into a 30 point win. In the end, they charted a middle course and beat BYU in solid but unspectacular fashion.
Likewise, for BYU, this season has the kind of I-don’t-know-how-to-feel-about-this feel that 2012 Michigan football or 2014-15 Michigan basketball elicited: The results were middling, but were arguably encouraging given some key injuries, but also arguably showed some more fundamental problems underlying the program. BYU lost some of their best players at the beginning of the year, including Taysom Hill, but given their schedule, if they finish 8-4, is that a success? The candidates for BYU’s best win are Boise State, Nebraska, and Cincinnati, and two of those required ridiculous late-game luck.
This week: vs. Fresno State, 3:30, ESPN3
Maryland (2-8, 0-6 B1G)
Last week: Lost at Michigan State 24-7
Recap: God Maryland is bad. They were given the cosmic gift of a wounded Connor Cook, and a resulting Michigan State offense that was only able to put up 262 yards and 17 points. And Maryland lost by… 17 points. Was it the five turnovers? Was it the 2.9 yards per carry? I don’t know. I’m not a coroner.
Maryland now has 35 turnovers in 10 games. That’s the most in the country. No other Power 5 team has more than 23 (Louisville). In fact, Maryland has more interceptions (28) than any other P5 team has turnovers.
I mean, we’re in mid-November, and Maryland has two quarterbacks who have each thrown more interceptions than any other team in the Big Ten East. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?
This week: vs. Indiana, noon
Northwestern (8-2, 4-2 B1G)
Last week: Beat Purdue, 21-14
Recap: I will ask the question I asked the week before Michigan played Northwestern, and to which we still do not have an answer: is Northwestern good?
This week: at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m.
#13 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1 B1G)
Last week: Beat Maryland 24-7
Recap: If you took a poll of the Big Ten who’s-who, and ask them to name the player on any Big Ten team whose loss would affect the conference most, I don’t know if anyone other than Connor Cook would garner a single vote. So when Cook went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter against Maryland, that sound you heard was the collective Spartan Nation spiking their Faygo with moonshine. The fact that Cook finished the game 6 of 20 for 77 yards (3.8 YPA) and a pick against that really bad pass defense did nothing to make them put the 2-liter down.
Bottom line, Michigan State was an underdog to Ohio State WITH Cook, but they had a shot. But there is just no way they can beat Ohio State without a close-to-100% Connor Cook. They probably can’t even hang with Ohio State if Cook is hampered in any significant way.
This week: at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Minnesota (4-6, 1-5 B1G)
Last week: Lost at #5 Iowa, 40-35
Recap: Indiana on Ketamine strikes again. For the third straight week, the Gophers hung around with a ranked Big Ten opponent. For the third straight week, they lost. This one wasn’t as close as the core might indicate; Iowa had a 10 point halftime lead, and the Gophers never had a second-half possession with a chance to tie or take the lead.
This week: vs. Minnesota, noon, ESPN NEWS
Rutgers (3-7, 1-6 B1G)
Last week: Lost to Nebraska, 31-14
Recap: Kyle Flood outlasted Tim Beckman. Kyle Flood outlasted Steve Sarkisian. Kyle Flood outlasted Randy Edsall. Kyle Flood outlasted Al Golden. Kyle Flood outlasted Steve Spurrier. Kyle Flood outlasted George O’Leary. Kyle Flood outlasted Dan McCarney. Kyle Flood outlasted Norm Chow. Kyle Flood outlasted Todd Berry. Kyle Flood outlasted Jerry Jill. Kyle Flood outlasted Frank Beamer. Kyle Flood outlasted Gary Pinkel.
Kyle Flood might be the Highlander.
This week: at Army, noon, CBSSN