chance of bowl: 13.6%
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As some of you know, I’m joining MGoBlog to provide various types of basketball coverage, now that we’re a #basketballschool and all that. A brief introduction: I’m an Honors LSA Senior majoring in English (hopefully with a creative writing sub-concentration), I grew up making weekly pilgrimages from the Grand Rapids area to Ann Arbor on Fall Saturdays with my parents—both of whom graduated from the B School before Ross slapped his name on it—and younger brother—an Honors LSA sophomore (who is also named Brian Cook). I am not related to the proprietor of this site, as far as he and I know. We were a football family, but I fell in love with Michigan Hoops in 2009-2010 with Manny, Peedi, Coach B, and the gang. I’ve learned to love the NBA recently as well, but regret that I missed the glory years of my Detroit Pistons. I’m a Lions masochist, I complain about the Tigers’ managing and bullpen all summer, and I recently committed to Everton as my new EPL team (because Tim Howard’s a national hero). It’s a little up in the air as of right now, but Ace and I will sort out who covers what during hoops season. As for non-sports things: I’m a proud native Michigander and spend my summers living on Barlow Lake—Heaven on Earth, as far as I’m considered—I run as quickly as Terrance Taylor and am addicted to Bruegger’s on North U (these things may be related), and if anybody wants to hire me to a full-time job after school, PLEASE DO. If you see me on campus, say hi. I’ll be the tall, skinny-fat guy with curly black hair and light blue headphones.
Follow me on Twitter ( @alexcook616 )
(Freshmen and incoming transfers are not included. They’re very difficult to accurately contextualize with returning players and they’ll be covered next week.)
* * *
For the Big Ten Player Comparisons, I created an algorithm that spits out the most similar statistical profiles for a given player’s. There are 20 unweighted categories—most of which are advanced metrics—but shooting and rebounding are well-accounted for. The database consists of 750 players from the 2008-2014 seasons. This post is already absurdly long, so I’ll have to explain it further at some other time. This system will probably be used pretty extensively.
Considering that the Hoosiers had Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh—the latter was drafted in the lottery of a deep draft—their struggles were perplexing. A stable of uninspiring role players did little to augment the talents of their two stars and their offense was often stagnant and extremely turnover prone. Indiana didn’t shoot the ball well from the field, but the inability to hold onto the ball was crippling—IU finished 330th nationally in turnover rate, easily the last in the Big Ten. Ferrell can be best categorized as a scoring point guard: he’s ball-dominant and often probes the defense with his quickness rather than driving right to the rim, he’s one of the better shooters in the league (40% on a ridiculous 220 attempts, mostly from above the break), and he gets to the free throw line and shoots better than 80% from the stripe over his career. There were a few games that Yogi took over with his scoring ability: 30 points (on just 15 FGA) at Illinois, 27 (including 7 made threes) against Michigan and at Purdue, and 25 and 24 in two games against Wisconsin. With Indiana’s turnover issues and Ferrell’s role as its offensive catalyst, his turnover rate—18.0%—wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t exactly anomalous amongst analogous point guards.
Yogi didn’t have the ball-security of a Jordan Taylor or Drew Neitzel, but it wasn’t bad. Turning the ball over was a collective effort: the entire rotation (aside from Ferrell) had turnover rates of at least 20%. Adding five-star combo guard James Blackmon, Jr. should help out immensely in regard to that issue and it should enable Ferrell to play off-the-ball and distribute a little more this season. Ferrell will likely be the best point guard in the Big Ten and there’s a chance that he could lead the league in scoring.
[After THE JUMP: Caris checks in, others.]
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This willowy combo guard is preparing to slide into the lineage of LaVall Jordan-coached Michigan playmakers; Darius Morris begot Trey Burke, who begot Nik Stauskas, who is now begetting Caris LeVert. All of those guys were slightly different: Morris had extraordinary vision and playmaking flair, Burke was the consummate modern point guard, controlling and dominating the game in every way, Stauskas was the best shooter (but not just a shooter) and the bounciest. LeVert ascended to major minutes last season in the wake of Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s departures and effectively replaced Hardaway’s production in his first season of significant playing time.
LeVert was probably slightly better because of his passing ability. Their shooting splits differed—Tim (48 / 37 / 69) was much better at the rim but Caris (46 / 41 / 77) got to the free throw line and converted there—but the end result was quite similar. Since Hardaway, who became a viable NBA rotation player, posted that type of season in his third year of major minutes (while LeVert played that well in his first season as a starter), it’s an exciting comparison. In addition, LeVert is extremely young for his class (he just turned 20), so NBA draftniks assume that he has more improvement in store. His combination of length and handle are terrifying for opposing defenders: his shot is extremely quick and hard to contest and he’s slippery enough to get to the rim. Added weight should help LeVert’s ability to absorb contact near the basket and he could see a mammoth usage rate depending on the development of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin. Between his yet-untapped defensive potential, his positional versatility (he could theoretically play one-through three in the NBA at some point), and his shooting ability, Caris probably has the highest ceiling of any Big Ten prospect.
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Terran Petteway was the star of Nebrasketball’s emergence; the unheralded transfer from Texas Tech exploded onto the national scene, led the Big Ten in scoring, and was a first-team All-Conference selection. The Huskers struggled offensively even with Petteway’s prolific scoring ability, finishing ninth in conference efficiency margin. Petteway scored in a variety of ways—most effectively on drives to the basket, where he finished at 60% (per hoop-math) and often drew fouls—but his numbers are inflated because of an astronomically high usage rate; only two Big Ten players had a higher Shot % in the last seven years (DeShaun Thomas and Jon Leuer, Petteway is tied for third with Talor Battle and Deshawn Sims). Petteway had a much lower offensive rating than those four. It’s frustrating to see Nebraska possessions routinely devolve into ball-stopping isolations and Petteway’s often tasked with creating late in the shot clock with low-percentage pull-up jumpers from outside the paint. He shot 32.7% from three on about 4.6 attempts per game, which isn’t ideal. Here’s a blind resume comparison to contextualize Petteway’s statistical profile.
“A” is obviously Petteway—he’s less efficient than the other two, but does take a significantly larger portion of his team’s shots while on the floor. Other than that, the players are fairly similar for the most part, although Petteway’s ability to draw fouls and shoot free throws does stand out. “B” is Penn State’s D.J. Newbill and “C” is Illinois’s Rayvonte Rice. There is value in shot-creation in Petteway’s case: which other Husker can manufacture offense out of a staid offense by himself? Efficiency decreases linearly with usage and Nebraska simply needs Petteway to have a permanent green light and act as their permanent safety valve. Ultimately though, his team winning enhances his reputation and distances him from Newbill, Rice, and the like. More efficient play from Petteway—and an almost necessarily lower usage rate—could help provide Nebrasketball with some staying power.
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Michigan State lost two players to the NBA—Adreian Payne and Gary Harris—and have a ton of questions regarding playmaking responsibilities, possession allocation, and face the prospect of giving several largely unproven players greater roles on offense. Swiss Army knife wing Denzel Valentine should shoulder the primary burden of being the nominal go-to guy, though Branden Dawson will likely see a big uptick in usage as well. Stylistically, Dawson is a D-1 tight end playing IM Basketball: he’s extremely athletic, runs the floor well, can defend most positions, and rebounds with ferocity. He wasn’t very refined as a junior (though he does have an ugly-yet-sort-of-effective post-up game on the low block), but he’s simply able to impact the game with his huge frame and top-notch agility. With Kenny Kaminski’s dismissal, Dawson will probably spend most of his time at the four, which is probably his best college position; at 6’6, he’s a little short, but has the muscle and the tenaciousness to play much bigger than his height. He can’t really put the ball on the floor or shoot from outside, which might negatively impact Michigan State’s spacing. His block and steal rates—the best statistical indicators of athleticism—were quite excellent.
(Yes, that was from two seasons ago. Dawson was close at 3.7% / 2.7% last season).
Damian Johnson! After Minnesota, he bounced around the D-League and now plays in Australia. Anyways, this rough metric does a decent job of measuring defensive activity and Dawson is in the company of some excellent defensive players. Dawson’s similarity scores indicate that he’s a fairly unique player, but the appearance of Mitch McGary (as a pretty interesting statistical comparison for Dawson) and Jordan Morgan—thrice—is quite interesting: Dawson was more efficient than all of those UM seasons (except for Jordan Morgan’s unbelievable senior year) and it’s not really surprising that he should share a statistical profile with centers because of his efficient two-point shooting and rebounding on both ends. Dawson’s NCAA Tournament hints at his elusive potential: 10 and 8 against Delaware, 26 and 9 against Harvard, 24 and 10 against top-seeded Virginia, and just 5 and 8 in the season finale against UConn. Dawson may struggle with a heavier workload, but he does have a sizable cushion from which he can fall efficiency-wise (and still be considered efficient) and he will be effective on the glass and on defense regardless.
A brief Branden Dawson vs. Sam Dekker interlude
Dekker was the hardest omission from the first-team and while 4 / 5 of the spots fall in line with the rough consensus, Dekker is noticeably absent. To the tempo-free!
A few observations:
- The disparity in minutes played is quite significant, although Dawson’s number was deflated by his injury last season. Those numbers should be pretty similar this year.
- It can easily be posited as a “better usage and worse efficiency” vs. “better efficiency and worse usage” argument: Dawson’s more efficient, shoots at higher percentages, and notably doesn’t have a low 3-point percentage with a fair amount of attempts like Dekker does. Dekker takes a larger share of the possessions for his team though.
- Dawson is significantly better on the glass and puts up better defensive statistics. It’s hard to quantify defensive performance (especially compared with how easy it is to quantify offensive performance), but both players pass the “eye test” as good defenders as lanky fours.
- Both were once five-stars out of high school, for whatever that’s worth.
Dekker is considered to be a tantalizing NBA prospect, a long and versatile three that can play some four at the next level. Barring a surprise, Dawson probably won’t stick in the league for significant time. Still, Dekker’s shooting from deep last year is a big concern and until he demonstrates that it’s better, he’ll continue to be less efficient than Dawson. It’s fair to give Dawson an edge on defense and there’s a decided difference on the glass. If Dekker has a breakout season (which is slightly more probable than Dawson becoming a much better player), he’d make the list at the end of the year, but between Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson, and Nigel Hayes, there might not be enough possessions for one.
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Frank Kaminsky is the consensus pre-season Big Ten Player of the Year, for good reason. He’s the best player on the overwhelming favorite to win the conference; he has legitimate NBA potential; he had a breakout NCAA Tournament, including an evisceration of Arizona, who had the nation’s best defense. Few college players—especially big men—can compare with Kaminsky’s all-around offensive skill: he shoots a respectable percentage from three, can score from the midrange, faces up or posts up on defenders from the block extended, and his length and precocious footwork make him an excellent finisher in traffic. He can rebound decently enough, he takes up a ton of possessions (he’s easily the Big Ten’s best returning combination of efficiency and usage), and he defends well enough to get by. Wisconsin’s offense was excellent last season and returns many of the same pieces, but it will be interesting to see how well he plays for extended time alongside both Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll drop off much, if at all: even though Nik Stauskas was a very deserving B1G POTY last season, Kaminsky put up a very impressive year.
Adding together the z-scores of usage and efficiency doesn’t make for a definitive player ranking system by any means (for example, it doesn’t consider how much a player is on the floor, which was the biggest difference between Kaminsky and Stauskas last season), but it does help tease out some of the most impactful players in the league in recent history. Evan Turner, Trey Burke, and Jordan Taylor stand out in front of the pack, which seems intuitively correct. The biggest question for Kaminsky this year will be how many minutes he can play this season; Nigel Hayes was a surprisingly effective freshman and formed a formidable center platoon with Kaminsky, but now he may slide to the four so they both see more playing time. Kaminsky and Hayes can both stretch the floor, so having two big guys may not create much of a spacing issue. Kaminsky decided to spurn the NBA and come back to school for his senior year and it would be a mild surprise if he didn’t finish the season as the best player in the conference.
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Andre Hollins (Minnesota)
30.5 mpg, 13.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.8 tpg, 41 / 35 / 84 shooting, 109.8 ORtg, 24.2 % Poss
Between Hollins and Deandre Mathieu (who might have been the toughest omission from the top fifteen), Minnesota has an extremely fun backcourt. Mathieu, a speedy, diminutive true point guard who transferred in from a JUCO last year, enables Hollins to play off the ball. It’s difficult to classify Hollins: he’s nominally a combo guard and even though his assist rate isn’t too bad, he’s probably just an undersized two, though he can certainly operate as a score-first point guard. He’s quick, can get his shot off from all over the floor, and has the ability to score in bunches (as evidenced by a career-high of 41 points against his hometown Memphis Tigers as a sophomore). The most efficient part of his game is his surprisingly great free throw rate—he attempts 5 per game—and his excellent free throw percentage (84%). Before going down with an ankle injury against Wisconsin, he averaged almost 16 points per game in nine contests against high major opponents. That ankle injury nagged him for the whole year and limited his effectiveness, but when healthy, he could be the boost that Minnesota needs to get back into the NCAA Tournament.
D.J. Newbill (Penn State)
34.4 mpg, 17.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 2.1 tpg, 51 / 33 / 75 shooting, 108.3 ORtg, 26.9 %Poss
Penn State gets the somewhat dubious distinction of placing the most “best player on a bad team” guy in the Big Ten on the All-Conference squad; Newbill is pretty solid (as evidenced by his numbers in the comparison with Terran Petteway), but he does get inflated numbers by virtue of being a very high-usage guy on a team that doesn’t have many other scoring options. Now that Tim Frazier’s gone, he might trend into Terran Petteway usage territory, which would be pretty interesting. Penn State’s been stuck in a series of extremely-high usage guards lately.
Newbill did drastically increase his efficiency in his second year in the program after transferring back from Southern Miss to be nearer to home. He’s very effective at the rim for a guard, can shoot adequately enough from the midrange, and, like Petteway, is best off when he doesn’t shoot threes. At 6’4, he has good size for the position and he’s skilled enough to create with the ball in his hands. Penn State will go as he goes (which can work, as he scored an average of 24 points in the Nittany Lions’ two game sweep of Ohio State last season).
Aaron White (Iowa)
28.1 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.8 tpg, 63 / 26 / 81 shooting, 122.7 ORtg, 20.1 %Poss
Aaron White is an incredibly effective player in a specific role. Iowa has size, so he’s often put on the floor as a wing, he can’t shoot from three-point range and he knows that, he’s effective on the glass, and he’s solid defensively unless he’s chasing smaller guards around. He’s incredibly effective at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the hoop. Between his length and quickness in transition, excellent finishing, wise shot selection, and ability to cash in on a multitude of free throw attempts, Aaron White is extremely efficient—his true shooting percentage was the best in the Big Ten and the 15th-best in the country last season at 66%. A two-point field goal percentage of 63% and a free throw percentage of 81% is extremely rare.
Of all the Big Ten players over the last seven seasons, only two others had a two-point field goal percentage of better than 60% and a free throw percentage of better than 80%: Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser (as a freshman) and Purdue’s Ryne Smith. The percentage of shots taken on the floor was much higher for White (17.9) than 12.3, posted by Smith, and 11.4, posted by Gasser. Aaron White might be the most statistically anomalous player in the league. He’s really good at one thing and definitely passable at nearly everything else—except for three-point shooting—but defenses might key on him after the departure of Roy Devyn Marble. Regardless, he’s one of the most interesting players in the conference to watch, because there actually might not be a player in the country better than Aaron White at driving into the paint and getting points.
Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)
29.8 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 tpg, 55 / 33 / 69 shooting, 114.7 ORtg, 22.3 %Poss
It’s really hard to peg Dekker. He’s a stretch-four—one that might have to slide up to the three—who isn’t a great creator and doesn’t shoot well from outside, but finishes extremely well at the rim and makes phenomenal cuts in the half-court. From the similarity score system, his second-most statistically analogous player was Glenn Robinson III.
Dekker was significantly better than Robinson on the defensive glass, but that was pretty much the only major statistical difference between the two. Dekker got to the line more (FT Rate of 38.3 vs. Robinson’s 30.8) but shot worse from there (69% vs. 76%). Their usage rates and advanced shooting metrics are pretty much identical. Individual defense is difficult to quantify, but it’s a stretch to assume that Dekker was much better than Robinson on that end of the floor. It’s hard to buy into Dekker as a major contributor and legitimate Big Ten Player of the Year candidate right now, because he’d need a big jump to move from “great second or excellent third option” to legitimate stardom. He’s still an appealing NBA prospect, but a huge leap doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards when he’s surrounded by established talent—Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson—and a more likely breakout candidate: Nigel Hayes.
A.J. Hammons (Purdue)
25.0 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.1 bpg, 2.5 tpg, 53 / (N/a) / 70 shooting, 98.5 ORtg, 24.3 %Poss
Behind Frank Kaminksy, there aren’t a lot of great centers in the Big Ten. Plenty of guys are at least decent—Hammons, Nebraska’s Walter Pitchford, Iowa’s Adam Woodbury, Minnesota’s Elliott Eliason, Northwestern’s Alex Olah, Ohio State’s Amir Williams, Rutgers’s Kadeem Jack—but nobody comes close to Kaminsky. Hammons fits here on the second-team almost be default; he’s always discussed as having NBA potential (though he’s never shown more than intermittent flashes of that), but he’s been woefully inconsistent for Purdue. He gets by with his insane combination of size and coordination and occasionally shows the ability to take over games, but it’s equally likely that he doesn’t get touches, seems disengaged on both ends of the floor, and becomes a turnstile on defense. On the aggregate, he’s a pretty decent—though quite high-variance—player and this could be the year he finally puts it all together and carries Purdue out of the funk that they’ve been in over recent years. Of course, it’s hard to bet on him, especially if he’s burdened with the pressure of being the Boilermakers’ go-to guy.
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Derrick Walton (Michigan)
26.7 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.5 tpg, 45 / 41 / 79 shooting, 112.2 ORtg, 18.2 %Poss
While Caris LeVert projects to be Michigan’s alpha dog this season, sophomore point guard Derrick Walton should really benefit from another year of LaVall Jordan’s tutelage and could have a breakout season. The most encouraging parts of his game last year were his finishing ability at the rim and his three-point shooting (41%). With another year of physical development and experience within Michigan’s offense, Walton should be even better. He’s good with or without the ball in his hands and could very well be the second-best point guard in the conference behind Yogi Ferrell.
Dez Wells (Maryland)
30.6 mpg, 14.9 ppg. 4.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.5 tpg, 52 / 30 / 82 shooting, 109.6 ORtg, 25.0 %Poss
I’ll admit to not having seen tape of Dez Wells. Here are the most approximate statistical profiles to his season last year for Maryland in the ACC.
He’s a chucker (like most of these guys), but Wells had a higher free throw rate than any of the players listed above, except for Indiana’s one-and-done Eric Gordon.
Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)
32.7 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.6 tpg, 50 / 30 / 73 shooting, 107.3 ORtg, 26.6 %Poss
Illinois’s nominal star a year ago, Rayvonte Rice played much better in the weaker non-conference part of the schedule than he did in Big Ten play. Like many of the Illini, he fell in love with the outside shot despite not being an effective outside shooter. Hopefully high-major guard transfers Aaron Cosby and Ahmad Starks—both of whom shot the ball excellently at Seton Hall and Oregon State, respectively—force Rice to stick to the better parts of his game, which involve driving to the basket and getting to the free throw line. He also has tremendous rebounding rates given his size at 6’4.
Shavon Shields (Nebraska)
32.5 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.6 tpg, 47 / 32 / 72 shooting, 105.7 ORtg, 22.5 %Poss
Walter Pitchford (Nebraska)
23.2 mpg, 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 tpg, 54 / 41 / 69 shooting, 121.1 ORtg, 18.3 %Poss
Terran Petteway’s two side kicks were a big reason that Nebraska was able to get over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. Shields plays similarly to Petteway; he’s best on straight line-drives to the rim, scores well around the basket, and can get to the free throw line, but doesn’t shoot well from three-point range. As a freshman, Shields was probably Nebraska’s go-to guy and he really excelled last year as a sophomore after Petteway’s arrival. Pitchford is a nearly-perfect complement to those two, as he’s an uncommon “Stretch-5” who is assisted on nearly every single one of his three-point attempts. Last season, Pitchford was the only Husker who could shoot efficiently from deep (41%) and his floor-spacing enables Petteway and Shields to get to the rim. With Leslee Smith’s ACL tear, he might have to play more this season, which he probably can, because of a fairly low foul rate for a big man.
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JUST MISSED THE CUT
In no particular order
G – Denzel Valentine, MSU; G – Deandre Mathieu, MINN; G – Shannon Scott, OSU; C – Amir Williams, OSU; G – Myles Mack, RUT; C – Kadeem Jack, RUT; F – Zak Irvin, MICH; G – Traevon Jackson, UW; F – Nigel Hayes, UW; C – Alex Olah, NW; G – Kendrick Nunn, ILL.
Big playmakers needed (Upchurch/MGoBlog)
1. The Defense
|Season||Expected Pts||Conversion Rate||Bonus Yards||Red Zone|
|2014 Nat’l Rank||97th||2nd||116th||96th|
Michigan State’s team has transformed its identity somewhat so far in 2014. The defense is still dominant and on a down by down basis, they are actually very elite. Over the last five seasons, only one team has held opposing offenses to less than 55% conversions. That team was 2011 National Champion Alabama who held offenses to an illegal in 49 states 42% first down conversion rate. This year both MSU and Louisville are below 55% half way through the season.
The flip side of the coin is that the offense is pushing the game to a much higher possession game, putting the defense in a position to allow a more points, by virtue of field position alone. The 29+ expected points allowed is pushing close to triple digit territory. This has produces some cosmetic changes to the traditional stats without implicating the defense, necessarily.
As confirmed by Ace in the FFFF, this year’s defensive unit is much more prone to allowing the big play. The last three seasons, the Spartan defense has been well below 2 yards per play allowed beyond the first down marker, all three top 10 results. This year they nearly find themselves on the wrong 10 list, ranking well into the triple digits.
What it means for Michigan
As bad as Michigan has been generating big plays, this is the game to throw the “identity” out the window. If Michigan plays for Time of Possession as a key outcome, they are nowhere near good enough to get past this Michigan State defense. If they can actually attempt to get the ball downfield, they could have a puncher’s chance of putting up more than 6 points on Saturday.
2. The Offense
|Season||Expected Pts||Conversion Rate||Bonus Yards||Red Zone|
|2014 Nat’l Rank||4th||10th||23rd||4th|
The flip side to 29 expected points allowed is the 34+ points expected for the offense. The magnitude may be higher than the traditional Dantonio field position stranglehold game plan, but the advantage is just as strong. Michigan State’s 5.2 point per game net advantage in field position is good for 14th nationally.
While the defense has driven its conversion rate allowed down to near record levels, the offense has made the same stride forward. After a pedestrian 62% conversion rate last season, this year’s squad has cracked the Top 10 and improved by over 10 percentage points. I may have been wrong about the Spartan offense this year. Thanks in large part to Tony Lippett, MSU has also been able to stretch the field. Tony Lippett has been worth over 7 points per game himself and is 6th overall among pass catchers in 2014.
What it means for Michigan
Not a lot of weaknesses on the surprisingly potent Spartan offense. Michigan’s defense has shown occasional signs of strength and will need its best performance of the season to keep the offense in the game. A couple of turnovers wouldn’t hurt either. If Jourdan Lewis and company can keep Lippett in check, there is a chance Michigan can slow down the Spartans.
3. Special Teams
Value added on the season (National Rank/B1G Rank)
Punt Team: +1.1 pts (59th/7th)
Punt Return: –3.0 (108/12)
Kickoff Return: +0.5 (54/8)
Kickoff: +6.1 (13/2)
FG/PAT: –1.6 (86/11)
Total: +3 (55/7)
Michigan State hasn’t displayed particular strength or weakness across their special teams. If the Spartans are able to open up a big play in the punt return game, it will be in area that MSU hasn’t found success to date.
4. The Fourth Quarter
Michigan State’s in-game win odds by game
One opportunity for Michigan could be Michigan State’s lack of competitive fourth quarter situations on the season. In their six wins, the Spartans have had less than 90% win odds for about 30 seconds late against Nebraska before picking off Tommy Armstrong Jr.
The same went for their loss against Oregon, when they quickly dropped into the low teens early in the fourth before seeing their odds slip away midway through the quarter. Whether something as abstract as “4th quarter experience” is a real thing that matters or not is a up for debate, but
5. Dumb Punt of the Week
Dumb punting a Michigan football may be the same thing. Michigan takes a bye and so does dumb punting. The best entry I could find for the week was Middle Tennessee punting on 4th and 3 at the UAB 36 in the fourth quarter. The Blue Raiders were up by 5 at the time, but a punt into the end zone isn’t valuable enough to forgo a virtual red zone trip with a successful conversion.
In this week’s roundtable, we all agreed Hoke hadn’t shown anything to indicate he could save his job. The “Win the Time of Possession” game plan will lose this game barring a massive turnover disparity. An aggressive game plan maximizing Michigan’s two best weapons (Funchess deep and Gardner’s legs) might have a chance. This Michigan State team is better at more things than they have been the last several seasons, but there is also a potential crack in the armor if Michigan isn’t too stubborn to exploit it.
Michigan State 28 Michigan 17
|WHAT||Michigan vs Michigan State|
East Lansing MI
October 25th, 2014
|THE LINE||MSU -17|
|WEATHER||60, sunny, 15 mph winds|
I have to change this now. Since the Big Ten season started this section has been a slightly modified assertion that Team X is probably not real good with issues up the wazoo, a resume that does not intimidate, and a reasonably tractable Vegas line.
None of these things are true in re: Michigan State. They are probably real good, they have no wazoo-rated issues, the worst thing on their resume is beating Purdue by two touchdowns, and Vegas is like lol head for the hills.
PROBABLY IN: Shane Morris is likely available.
MAYBE: Erik Magnuson's rumored high ankle sprain should be healed by now, right? I mean, unless it's one of those high ankle sprains that never do.
Jabrill Peppers is prominently listed on the depth chart but chatter has him potentially out for the season; we'll see if the internet or the program is more truthy. Bet here is internet.
PROBABLY OUT: Delano Hill, Derrick Green, Desmond Morgan.
Run Offense vs Michigan State
Taiwan Jones is going to be making a lot of tackles.
This is not the all-destroying unit of a year ago but it's still plenty good enough to shut Michigan's arthritic run game down. MSU is currently 28th in YPC allowed; notably, they crushed Nebraska to the tune of 47 yards on 37 carries.
Things have gone less swimmingly at other times—mostly times when someone pops into the secondary and there is flailing around him. Shane Wynn broke a 75-yard reverse last weekend; Tevin Coleman added a 65-yard romp; Purdue had rushes of 52 and 36 yards. That has scuffed up last year's national-best rush D.
The problem for Michigan is what happens on carries that don't go 30 yards. Michigan State is in a tie for 116th with 4 rushes of more than 50 yards allowed; they're eighth with 21 rushes for more than ten yards. The secondary biffs at a high rate on a low number of plays that break long. When they don't go a long way they don't go anywhere unless you're Tevin Coleman. This is an obvious problem for a Michigan rush offense with three runs of 30 yards on the year, all of which came against early-season tomato cans.
You cannot run the ball consistently against Michigan State and Michigan has no explosive capability.
The best bet for something that looks respectable is misdirection and frippery, which Michigan has gone to on occasion this year with Norfleet and Funchess; otherwise it's going to look a lot like the Penn State game, in which Michigan was rarely caught behind the line but struggled to scratch out more than a couple yards at a time.
Key Matchup: Braden/Cole/Williams/Butt versus the MSU perimeter. The State DTs are not great and Michigan's interior line is likely to get push here and there; it may not matter if Michigan can win blocks against the LBs and DEs.
[Hit THE JUMP for a THEMATIC VIDEO of QWOP]
Pass Offense vs Michigan State
Ed Davis had 2.5 sacks last year and leads MSU with 6 this year.
Devin Gardner's ribs have trembled at the coming of this day. Devin Gardner is a warrior, but his ribs would really just like to have some tea and read The Economist. Alas, it is not to be.
Michigan State remains the same maniacally aggressive, rib-annihilating defense they were a year ago. They're currently fifth in the country with 26 sacks, and as is traditional a linebacker is plundering his way into the backfield—Ed Davis leads the team with six. The ends have 8.5 between them and then there's a smattering of contributors coming from all angles at all times. Blitz? Yes please. Blitz? Don't mind if I do. Blitz against Michigan? ALL THE BLITZES.
MSU has not backed this up quite as well as they did a year ago, though. The departures of Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard have downgraded the MSU secondary from impossible to merely improbable. This was most obvious in the Oregon game, when the Ducks downloaded the Michigan State defense midway through the third quarter and shattered their quarters concept with a series of bombs towards vertical-moving slot receivers.
MSU recovered from this to post good days against Nebraska and Purdue before throttling third-string true freshman Zander Diamont against Indiana; a quality team with the ability to threaten vertically down the slot can attack MSU effectively.
Michigan isn't that. They may in fact be able to threaten vertically down the slot with Norfleet and Funchess, but it's doubtful Michigan can protect consistently enough to force MSU to react and they have not put together anything resembling a scheme likely to pop guys open as safeties overplay thing X. Oregon got to be Oregon because they have an offense that ruthlessly exposes and exploits weak points. Michigan not so much.
Protection is going to be an issue. Michigan's tackles have… coped so far. They haven't been put under nearly as much pressure as they will be on Saturday. Meanwhile, non-Funchess receivers have not shown much ability to get open and Norfleet remains an occasionally-used toy. Jake Butt could be a major weapon against a smaller safety if Michigan can get him open—the pop pass can break huge against MSU if you can protect long enough to get guys past the safety-moving-into-robber level.
I just don't think that's at all possible. Michigan will hit some stuff; Gardner will be harassed into turnovers, etc etc etc.
Key matchup: Devin Gardner versus Disintegration. The concept, not the Cure album.
Run Defense vs Michigan State
This is not last year's Michigan State offense. Correction: it may be the Michigan State offense from the very tail end of last year; it's not the one Michigan went up against midseason. Strength of opposition and all that yes yes but you would weep giant frothy tears if you looked at Michigan's rushing output halfway through the season and saw this:
|@ 6 Oregon||36||123||3.42||1|
On the year MSU is averaging 5.5 yards a carry.
The thing with MSU this year is the stunning amount of experience they're carrying. In a two-back set nine of their starters are in their fourth or fifth years (third year players Jack Conklin and Josiah Price are the exceptions); their starting skill guys are all fifth year seniors. Everyone who plays save a few backup skill guys took a redshirt, and MSU fills the few holes they find with judiciously applied JUCOs.
The result is an organized, disciplined unit that gets the most out of talent recruiting services have described as "meh." Meh no more:
They've given up just four sacks all year; their 79 yards lost on TFLs is the fifth-fewest in the country. These guys don't blow assignments and don't get overpowered at the point of attack.
Starting center Jack Allen missed the Indiana game with an ankle injury but is projected to return. Dantonio said he could have gone against the Hoosiers if necessary, so don't expect gamesmanship here.
State is deep, if not thrilling, at tailback. Fifth year senior Jeremy Langford is the workhorse back capable of finding the hole and falling forward through it productively; fifth year senior Nick Hill is the quick third-down back alternative; sophomore Delton Williams is an athletic, physical heir apparent somewhat reminiscent of Jehu Caulcrick. Langford's projected as a mid-round selection in the upcoming NFL draft for reasons that used to sound very Michigan and now sound very Michigan State:
Runs low to the ground with excellent pad level and energetic feet to get the most out of every touch. Langford is a workhorse type with a hard-nosed, no-nonsense style of running the ball, getting stronger as the game progresses. Has a little shake-and-bake to him to extend runs, keeping his legs pumping through contact.
Langford really shines in areas where most young backs struggle like pass protection, reliability in the screen game and also the ability to get stronger and better as the game goes on.
If State does start rolling over Michigan's defense it'll be a lot like last year, when a tiring defense gave up the ghost once the game was out of reach.
Note that State has gone to a heavy dose of gun this year. Ace's FFFF charted the evolution from the Purdue game:
Cook is mobile enough to keep 'em honest on the zone read and Michigan State is using that to help matriculate down the field.
Now, State has not played a rush defense in the same stratosphere as Michigan's. M is fifth nationally in YPC allowed, and the next best State opponent is Nebraska in the 40s. They deal with the same strength of schedule issues State does but let's just assume from now on that yes the Big Ten is awful and etc. etc. etc.
This will be an enormous test for no-long-referred-to-as-walk-on Ryan Glasgow, who's anchored the Michigan rush defense with remarkably consistent production at nose tackle; the rest of the line has gotten a lot of space-constricting push. The linebackers have been dodgier but still seem to be B or B+ players, especially if James Ross's recent OL-flattening surge continues.
One issue for Michigan: with Ondre Pipkins seemingly out of the picture things get thin fast if MSU can stay on the field long enough to get a lot of rotation going on the Michigan DL. True freshman Bryan Mone has gotten flung off the LOS as much as you would expect a true freshman to, and he will not cope well with the veteran Spartan OL.
Key Matchup: Glasgow and Henry versus the interior MSU OL. It starts up front with a leg-churner like Langford.
Pass Defense vs Michigan State
Also not last year's Michigan State: this bit of Michigan State. Connor Cook's completion percentage has jumped three points, his YPA has gone from 7.3 to 9.3, and he's going to blow through his 22 TDs from last year sometime in the next month—he's already got 16. ESPN's QB rating stat is duly impressed, shooting from 69 a year ago to 84. That places him 6th nationally, hanging out with guys like Dak Prescott, Blake Sims, Jameis Winston and—sigh—JT Barrett.
While Cook is still offering up the occasional "what are you doing" throw, those are greatly reduced in his second year at the helm; excellent pass protection and a steadily improving wide receiver corps have seen MSU's offense go from rickety to impressive.
The star of that improving WR corps is Tony Lippett. Lippett is not a burner and still isn't getting much separation, but he's making it work Junior Hemingway style. Ace:
Lippett isn't outrageously big or eye-poppingly athletic, but his ability to run good routes and make plays on the ball separates him from your average receiver. Here's a nice example of the latter:
Zero separation, but Lippett and Cook are on the same page, and Lippett makes easy work of this jump ball before picking up ample yards after the catch, another thing he does quite well.
He's averaging just over 20 yards a catch on 39 opportunities so far this year and has brought in one over 20 yards in every game so far. He's cracked 30 in five games, usually by skying over defensive backs and using his excellent body control to make contested catches. And sometimes he does pop open deep, albeit with the aid of play action that gets corners involved.
The rest of the WR corps is okay, with Macgarrett Kings your slot threat du jour and MSU featuring a pile of big-ish interchangeable guys with around ten catches. Price, the TE, is actually the second-biggest yards per catch threat—watch out for him on play action.
Michigan's pass defense actually seems to match up well with the opposition here. MSU is short on the athletic speedsters who have given the cornerbacks fits so far and they've been good about walling off go routes. Lippett might not have much room to make the kind of catches he does above.
Coverage breaks down, though, and it's doubtful that Michigan gets sufficient pressure to truly shut down the MSU passing game. They tore Christian Hackenberg to bits last week; this is an entirely different level of opposition and oh God it just occurred to me that Hackenberg has to play MSU later this year. #pray4hack
This will be a bit of a grind for MSU but they'll break through if given sufficient opportunities.
Key Matchup: Kings/Price versus Probably Countess and Clark. Michigan's weak point has been the nickel back and safeties pushed into man coverage, especially when Michigan's obvious man alignment gives opponents the ability to check into rub routes and such.
Previously-reliable kicker Michael Geiger's had a bit of a wobble the last few weeks, going 3/6 after starting his career almost perfect. He even missed one under 40, which had not happened in his career to date. I wouldn't expect that to last but he's not as automatic as you would have assumed preseason.
Punter Mike Sadler has just been okay. He's averaging just over 40 yards an attempt; MSU has allowed returns on a hefty third of his punts and given up a PR touchdown. There might be some room for Norfleet to get upfield here.
Spartan return services are not threatening. RJ Shelton is trundling out to the 25 when he gets a kick return opportunity; Macgarrett Kings is averaging about seven yards a pop on punts. As per usual Michigan's combo of line drives from Hagerup and old-timey punt formations could offer Kings a highway to 20 yard returns—rewatching the Minnesota game was infuriating in this department.
Key Matchup: YOU PUT ELEVEN GUYS ON THE FIELD AT LEAST MOST OF THE TIME
if there was ever a time for grumpycat
You are entering this game with anything resembling hope. I mean, yeah, Michigan has a 10% chance according to historical spread W/L stuff but what about either of these programs would indicate to you that Vegas was off—in a good way?
You have too many nachos
While watching the game you are sucked into a hellish alternate dimension
Cackle with knowing glee if..
Alternate dimension actually seems better than previous dimension
Alternate dimension has nachos
Um, like six Michigan State turnovers?
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Boy They Seem Good, +1 for Michigan Has Gotten Outcoached In This Game For Six Straight Years, +1 for We Ain't Got No Big Plays And That's Doom Against MSU, +1 for Maybe We'll Get Positive Rushing Yards… Maybe, +1 for Vegas Says LOL)
Desperate need to win level: 6 (Baseline 5; +1 for MSU Is Bad And Should Feel Bad, +1 for It Would Be Pretty Hilarious, +1 for Here Is One Knife To Your Playoff Chances, –1 for Oh Right We're Rooting To Prevent MSU From Winning A National Title Instead Of Actually Doing Anything Ourselves, –1 for Apparently We Need Yet Further Clarity About Things That May Not In Fact Be Already Decided But Really Should Be)
Loss will cause me to... resume F5-ing every message board that has ever had a post about Michigan football for news about regime change.
Win will cause me to... yodel in surprise.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan averages two yards a carry, which is actually incredible improvement relative to last year.
- Defense keeps Michigan in it for a while, something bad happens on offense or special teams, two score lead, Michigan folds their tent.
- Michigan State, 30-10
The running game is going forward again; just another 490 miles to Berlin.
Not with you in charge, sir, no. So we continue to continue to pretend our problems will ever end. Alum96 showed that Power 5 coaches don't tend to last very long, and Yeoman wrote that just 3/43 guys who had a losing season in their first five at a school lost their job for it. The thing: it depends what your historic expectations are. A guy who did a research project on this stuff sent me his paper and is trying to get the data from his old school; we'll address this again.
Wish lists. Ron Utah and Eye of the Tiger both posted what they're looking for in coaching candidates. Both are pretty much in favor of guys who run modern offenses, which is everybody but Shaw at this point.
More candidates. Bud Foster and Georgia DC Jeremy Pruitt were Ron's latest profiles. I don't think either would come anyway. Foster at least has had commensurate offers for five years and never jumped on them.
A more interesting one: Padog got into Doc Holliday (of Marshall) in case a WVU guy wants another shot at mentioning Don Nehlan's Bo connection at his intro (and position himself as the Bo to Urban's Woody). This one's a bit of a reach; his head coaching experience is Marshall, which was 7-6 the year before he arrived and went 5-7, 7-6, 5-7, 10-4 since. He's currently 7-0 and hasn't scored less than 42 points in a game, but his most impressive victory in all of that time was last week at FIU. I plugged him into my matrix and came up with a 42: more attractive than Hoke but more of a gamble than Bo was.
Best of the Board
WE'RE STILL BETTER AT CLEVER
Brian covered the painting of the Diag's block 'M':
If you're wondering where was that one frat (Theta Xi) whose couch vigil usually prevents this sort of thing, they asked a university admin to go out Tuesday and were told to wait until Thursday. Please boo the next person you see on campus wearing a corduroy jacket (if it's not the admin it's probably a hipster who will appreciate the whimsy of your non-sequitur).
As to catching these slightly academically inferior criminals [a fake account representing] the UGLI apparently can identify the perpetrators in court:
We should've seen the vandalization of the Diag M coming. Last night some State students came in and asked our librarians how to spell 'MSU'
— Shapiro Undergrad (@UMichUGLI) October 22, 2014
Police are stationed outside all MSU bluebook exams, and questioning anyone who fails.
I've heard they got the rock too, which: whatevers. I painted the rock 8 or 10 times in college (the building behind it was my fraternity's historic building and our crests are still on the gates), and every time we went to do so, it was various stages of still wet from the last paint job; half the time it was painted over again before the weekend was out.
[Jump: the pink discussion]
YEAH WE'RE PROBABLY NOT AVOIDING THE 'LITTLE SISTER!' CHANT THIS WEEK
Stipulated: we are all against cancer, and most of us have been affected by it. Also stipulated: charitable organizations that try to do things that help more people survive cancer are good. Within that framework, we disagree on things like which charity is the best, and whether certain forms of promotion are worthwhile.
We also disagree whether it's necessary to have this stuff all over football…
…or if maybe the "let's look like we care" factor is stronger than the "let's actually do some good factor," with an uncomfortably sizeable "let's make money by selling the gear" factor.
Because Michigan had to wear all-blue UNIFORMZ the week other schools were doing that annual wearing pink for breast cancer awareness thing, Michigan will be donning the rosy accents this Saturday. I guess everyone figured the denizens of Spartan Stadium could be mature about it.
That thread has a debate on the merits The Susan G. Komen Foundation it supports. I tried to get some good information from various internet places because there's been some backlash in the sports world.
Charity Navigator is a good starting point, and they give Komen an 82 on a 100 scale (B-). The knock on them is the % of money spent on fundraising has skyrocketed. The knock on the street is that they bully other organizations, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get the pink thing all to themselves. The other knock is they got embroiled in partisan politics when they temporarily cut their funding to Planned Parenthood. In general they're more about early diagnosis (offering free exams, etc.) than scientific research to cure it, at least in comparison to the other major breast cancer charities. If you're motivated to use your replaceable income to fight breast cancer, I recommend Breastcancer.org and UM's Comprehensive Cancer Center over Komen.
Here's what I'd like to see Michigan (and the local pro teams) do: offer a handful of well-screened charities from their main site with a few basics for comparison, and have level goals for overall fundraising tied to amount of pink the team wears that week. Hit the top level and your team wears normal uniforms, fall just short it's the accessories, fall way short and the jerseys and pants and helmets fall in order. The team offers to pay the sum of the shortfall.
Sometimes board threads say one thing and the story says another. Here's what I gathered from various posts this week:
- Saban is trying to send transfer vibes to Jourdan Lewis.
- Michigan's expected recruiting class of 15 still expects to come in around 15.
- Various people want to know if that "find another team" email WD posted awhile back actually came from Brandon.
- Mullen may be the Les Miles of Florida's impending coaching search.
- Irish tears over totally correct calls because they aren't made 100% of the time are yummy. Always. Always. Always.
THE STARFISH OF BADLY TITLED THREADS
Once in awhile a board newb will post a thread uninformatively headed "Harbaugh" or "Sausage" or "Thing" because they just want to start a discussion, and this gets moderated because that's not how the board works. So the mods killed a "Peppers" one, and it spawned "Sports." Which spawned "Title." Which got locked to put an end to this crap. Which spawned "SIAP: Title."
This is why you shouldn't venture onto the internet after dark.
(SIAP = sorry if already posted)
ETC. People admitting they were wrong to be optimistic thread.
Your Moment of Zen:
Rule #1, there's always the improbable:
About Last Week:
There was no football last week.
Unfortunately, that is not the case this week.
F*** you, calendar. F*** you.
The Road Ahead:
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 B1G)
Last game: Won at Indiana, 56-17
Recap: Indiana led this game 17-14 in the second quarter. Which felt like this moment in just about all respects:
Fight scene notwithstanding, this one was largely the comedy it was supposed to be. True freshman Zander Diamont completed 5 of 15 passes for 11 yards. Of his five completions, two went for positive yardage (through three quarters, he was actually throwing for negative yardage). Overall, he put up -1 yards of total offense. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. But he survived, so, yay?
As has been happening with shocking frequency this year, MSU did give up a couple of really big plays. Tevin Coleman rumbled for 65 yards on a simple read option because (a) Ed Davis completely overran the play, and (b) RJ Williamson got distracted by a pretty butterfly and just kinda ran the wrong direction. Then Shane Wynn took a reverse 75 yards for a touchdown which should have been a 10 yard gain, but Kurtis Drummond and Ed Davis took terrible angles, and then it REALLY should have been a 25 yard gain if the 5’7”, 167 pound Shane Wynn didn’t bust through the combined masses of Trae Waynes, Ed Davis, and Montae Nicholson.
5’7”, 167 vs. 18’6”, 633 pounds. F*** YOU, physics. Inelastic collisions all up in this motha.
This team is as frightening as: The absolute and complete lack of uncertainty associated with this game. It's as if I can actually see the blue troops in one long bloody moment. As if it were already done. Already a memory. An odd, set, stony quality to it. As if tomorrow has already happened. And there's nothing you can do about it. Fear Level = 0. Resignation Level = 11
Michigan should worry about: Yes.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: No.
When they play Michigan:
Eighty yards, Eighty yards,
Eighty yards onward,
All in the valley of Sparty
Rode the Ninety Eight.
"Forward, the Maize and Blue!
"Charge for Paul Bunyan!" he said:
Into the valley of Sparty
Rode the Ninety Eight.
"Forward, the Maize and Blue!"
Was there a fan dismay'd?
Not tho' the Devin knew
Hoke had blunder'd:
His not to make reply,
His not to reason why,
His but to manball and die:
Into the valley of Sparty
Rode the Ninety Eight.
Calhoun to right of him,
Rush to left of him,
Davis in front of him
Pressure'd and blitz'd;
Storm'd at with SAM and MIKE,
Boldly he dropped back at the “Hike”,
Into the 4-3 Over fell,
Into the mouth of Hell,
Rode the Ninety Eight.
Scramble’d all his waggles bare,
Pulling guards they turn'd in air,
Inverted Veers he did run there,
Reading the D-End, while
All the fans wonder'd:
Seven step drops as told by Hoke,
Right thro' the line they broke;
Devin reel'd from the blind side stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then he again huddled up
Did the Ninety Eight.
Calhoun to right of him,
Rush to left of him,
Davis in front of him
Pressure'd and blitz'd;
Storm'd at with MIKE and WILL,
Tho there were so many in his grill,
He who kept lining up until
The clock so mercifully Sparty killed
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of him,
Left of Ninety Eight.
When can his glory fade?
O the wild plays he made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the way he played,
Honour Those Who Stayed,
Noble Ninety Eight.
Next game: vs. Michigan (MSU -17), 3:30 Saturday, ABC
[AFTER THE JUMP: Less Tennyson. Same ennui]
Indiana (3-4, 0-3 B1G)
Tevin Coleman. Tevin Coleman. (Doug McSchooler/Indy Star)
Last game: Lost to Michigan State, 56-17
Recap: As suggested here last week, Tevin Coleman = good, and (Indiana – Tevin Coleman) = not good. Coleman rushed for 132 yards on 15 carries. Even excluding his 65 yarder (which you really shouldn’t do, because, like , those yards count), he finished at 4.8 yards per carry.
I’m not a football coach, but I’d like to float something. Your star running back is averaging over 8 yards per touch. He gets 17 touches. Your quarterback is averaging LESS THAN ZERO yards per rushing attempt/pass attempt. He gets 25 rushes/passing attempts. This seems like a poor allocation of resources.
Defensively, Indiana hasn’t held a conference opponent under 35 points in the last 10 games. In that span, they have surrendered fewer than 470 yards only once. They haven’t won a road conference game since October of 2012. And, again, they are starting (essentially) a 5th string true freshman quarterback who has yet to finish a game with positive net yardage. Michigan SHOULD beat this team.
This team is as frightening as: the knowledge that all of the previous paragraph is true, and still feeling the need to add the word “should,” and wondering if the word “should” contained sufficient wiggle room. Fear Level = 2
Michigan should worry about: Tevin Coleman.
Tevin Coleman. Tevin. Coleman. Tevin Coleman. Tevin Coleman. Tevin Coleman. Tevin Coleman. Coleman Tevin. Tevin Coleman. Tevin Coleman. Kevin Toleman. Tevin Coleman. Tevin Coleman. Clevin Toeman. Tevin Coleman. TevinColemanTevinColemanTevinColeman. Tevin Coleman.
You know how sometimes when you see a word enough times it stops looking like a word? “Tevin” is starting to seem pretty suspect right about now.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: There is a good chance that the Indiana will be an easier game than the Michigan State game.
When they play Michigan: Damn this would be a GREAT game to be able to play single press-man coverage on the outside and jam the box with as many human beings as possible.
Next game: Bye
Northwestern (4-3, 2-2 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Nebraska, 38-17
Recap: On the bright side, they didn’t lose on a Fat Guy Hail Mary this year.
Northwestern turned a 17-14 halftime lead into a 38-17 getting-throttled. The Wildcats ran only 26 plays on six 2nd half drives. Their longest drive after the break was 15 yards. They didn’t cross midfield in the second half. Trevor Siemian threw for 25 yards at 2.3 yards per attempt in the second half. They surrendered 24 points on five second half drives (not including the kneel-down drive). They… you know what, let’s just stipulate that the second half was a clown show and move on with life.
Justin Jackson continues to be effective, but Northwestern may or may not realize that. In the first 40 minutes, Jackson had 19 carries for 111 yards (5.8 ypc), and was quite good. He keyed both touchdown drives and scored both touchdowns. But once Northwestern went down 21-17 midway through the third quarter, they OMG FREAKED OUT and stopped running the ball. Jackson only got three carries from that point on, and only one in the fourth quarter.
Some teams feel like throwing the ball is the only way to get “back in the game,” even when they are putting up more yards per carry than they are yards per passing attempt. And of course, as we know, some teams feel like you have to continue to bash the ball into the line because it’s your “identity.” In summary, some teams are incontrovertibly stupid.
This team is as frightening as: Memories of last year's Northwestern game. Fear Level = 6
Michigan should worry about: Michigan only has 6 plays of 30+ yards, which is 124th in the country.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Northwestern only has 3 plays of 30+ yards, which is dead last (128th) in the country. They have also had only 20 plays of 20+ yards, which is tied for 120th and ahead of only six teams.
When they play Michigan: A cow-rubbing fest completely devoid of any explosiveness of any kind.
Next game: Bye
Maryland (5-2, 2-1 B1G)
Last game: Beat Iowa, 38-31
Recap: The evidence is in, and CJ Brown is a zombie. He’s a 6th year Senior who has already injured everything possible, so when he took a wicked shot in the back and walked off the field like this...
…you might assume he might finally be dead. And with backup Caleb Rowe out with a torn ACL, Maryland looked, as they say in remote areas of Micronesia, really damn screwed. And yet, like a somewhat inconsistent and inaccurate phoenix, Brown returned to lead Maryland to a seven point win over the Fightin’ Puntasaurs.
Resurrection notwithstanding, Brown has really slowed down (as zombies are wont to do). In his last two games against Ohio State and Iowa, Brown has thrown for under 4.7 yards per attempt with no TDs and 3 INTs. This may be a Gardner-esque race between the schedule and the rate of decay of a human torso that is regularly tenderized.
This team is as frightening as: Snapping turtles. Ill-tempered snapping turtles. Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Stefon Diggs. He leads the conference in receptions with 45, and has scored touchdowns in four of his last five games.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The Maryland run defense. Despite being pretty highly regarded coming into the season, they are 81st in the country in yards per carry allowed (sack-adjusted).
When they play Michigan:Worst. Senior Day. EVER.
Next game: at Wisconsin (MD +11.5), 12:00 Saturday
Ohio State (5-1, 2-0 B1G)
I don’t know either, Joey. But whatever you decide, I agree. Please don’t hurt me. (Brooke Lavalley/Columbus Dispatch)
Last game: Beat Rutgers, 56-17
Recap: That was unpleasant. Ohio State was up 49-7 less than halfway through the 3rd quarter before KINDA calling off the dogs.
Let’s not talk any more about this one for the moment. One vastly superior rival at a time, please.
This team is as frightening as:A team that has put up 50+ points in four straight games. Opponent caveats notwithstanding, that is many points. Fear Level = 9
Michigan should worry about:Did you read the part about the 50+ points?
Michigan can sleep soundly about:They DID lose to Virginia Tech. Who, as it turns out, is terrible (they just got blown out by Miami last night).
When they play Michigan: All good things must come to an end. Fortunately, so must all bad things.
Next game: at Penn State (OSU -13.5), 8:00 Saturday, ABC
Objects in the rearview mirror:
Appalachian State (2-5, 1-2 Sun Belt)
Last game: Won at Troy, 53-14
Recap: That’s about as embarrassing as it gets for the Troy Trojans of Troy (We’re Troy!). Losing at home to App State by that margin. It doesn’t make it any better that App State put up those totals by rushing for 441 yards. But when you can force a fumble, recover the fumble, and STILL give up points on the play… Troy, it ain’t your night.
Next game: Bye
Notre Dame (6-1)
Last game: Lost at Florida State, 31-27
Recap: It is difficult to watch a football game while actively cheering against both teams. Even for those of us nominally rooting for Notre Dame, I felt a little like a resident of Tokyo and being like “uh, yay Godzilla, maybe?”
That said, there was a game this weekend, so let’s just cut right to it: it was a good call.
Rule 7.3.8.b states:
Offensive pass interference by a team A player beyond the neutral zone during a legal forward pass play in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone is contact that interferes with a team b eligible player. It is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents.
Prosise is beyond the neutral zone. This is a legal forward pass play. The ball is thrown beyond the neutral zone. Prosise engages in (and actively maintains) contact that interferes with an FSU defender. He has an obligation to avoid or disengage from the defender, and he very clearly doesn’t do so. That’s interference.
It doesn’t MATTER that the defender initiated contact with a jam. The defender’s contact is legal. It’d be like saying “the left tackle didn’t hold the defensive end because the defensive end bull-rushed HIM.” It doesn’t matter that there’s no earthly way that the defender gets to Robinson in time to break that pass up. And it doesn’t matter that it isn’t called very often. In addition to being technically a violation of the rules, this was a particularly egregious, obvious violation of the rules.
And please, PLEASE don’t give me the “you don’t want the refs to decide the game” crap. That argument literally translates to “the refs should not have accurately interpreted and enforced the rules because of the circumstances.” Refs are a part of the game. RULES are a part of the game. What you don’t want is refs screwing up a call either way. If the ref throws the flag on a 50/50 call, that is no more him “deciding the game” than it is if he swallows the flag. If your argument is “it was the correct call but shouldn’t have been made,” you must now return to your residence, locate and secure your shine box, and return forthwith.
Next game: Bye
Miami (NTM) (1-7, 1-3 MAC)
Last game: Lost at Northern Illinois, 51-41
Recap: Miami’s was not able to come home with its second win since the Hoover Administration*, but they seem to have turned a bit of a corner (or at least angled the nose of the plane slightly away from the mountain). After losing 12 of their previous 15 games by more than 10 points, they have kept their last 5 margins to 10 points or fewer (with, again, a win mixed in for good measure).
* citation needed
Next game: vs. Kent State (M(NTM) -6. Seriously. Cumong, Kent State, get your shit together), 2:30 Saturday, ESPN3
Utah (5-1, 2-1 PAC-12)
Last game: Won at Oregon State, 29-23 (2OT)
Recap: Utah’s Michigan-Redemption-By-Proxy Tour continues, with the Utes knocking off the 4-1 Beavers. Devontae Booker ran for 229 yards on 32 carries with three touchdowns, including two in overtime. That was enough to overcome a combined 9-of-18 for 62 yards from Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson.
Michigan’s performance against Utah’s running game is looking even more impressive in hindsight. Utah has rushed for at least 192 yards and at least 4.4 yards per carry against everyone but Michigan, against whom they put up 81 yards at 2.2 yards per carry. /waives tiny flag
Next game: vs. USC (Utah +1.5), 10:00 Saturday, Fox Sports 1
Minnesota (6-1, 3-0 B1G)
Moooooooooooooo (Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)
Last game: Beat Purdue, 39-38
Recap: Minnesota surrendered 298 yards rushing at 8.51 yards per carry. That is the second time this century Purdue has rushed for more than 8.5 yards per carry. The only other time they did that since Y2K was a thing was against Eastern Michigan two years ago. I remind you that Michigan put up 2.96 yards per carry against them.
David Cobb continues to be a full-on bell cow. He has 189 carries through seven games, and only one other back has more than 135 carries (Ameer Abdullah has 161). He’s had 30+ carries in his last four games.
Next game: at Illinois (MN -6.5), 12:00 Saturday, ESPNU
Rutgers (5-2, 1-2 B1G)
Last game: Lost at Ohio State, 56-17
Recap: Rutgers still sucks. Rutgers still beat Michigan. Transitive property of football is unkind.
Next game: at Nebraska (RU +17), 12:00 Saturday, ESPN2
Penn State (4-2, 1-2 B1G)
Last game: Bye
Recap: No recap. Bye.
Next game: vs. Ohio State (PSU +13.5), 8:00 Saturday, ABC
RS freshman Colin McAtee leads the team wtih 6 goals [Paul Sherman/Michigan Daily]
Columbia 3 – Michigan 0
Michigan travelled to New York to take on Columbia after two home matches and suffered their second loss of the season. Michigan fell behind early and gave up two goals in the first 20 minutes. Rhys Williams scored for the Lions in the 8th minute while Francisco Agrest scored Columbia’s second, beating freshman Evan Louro from 20 yards out.
The match was delayed due to lightning in the second half. Immediately following the break, Williams scored his second of the day to put the match away. Michigan, despite 11 corner kicks and four shots on target, were unable to get onto the score sheet for the second time this season.
|Michigan Soccer 2014 Schedule|
|Aug 29||Home||FIU (L, 0-1)|
|Aug 31||Home||SMU (W, 3-0)|
|Sep 6||@||Columbia (L, 3- 0)|
|Sep 12||Home||Maryland (T, 1-1)|
|Sep 16||Home||Bowling Green (L, 0-1)|
|Sep 21||@||Northwe stern (T, 0-0)|
|Sep 28||Home||Penn State (L, 0-1)|
|Oct 1||Home||Western Mich (L,0-1 OT)|
|Oct 4||@||Wisconsin (W, 2-1 OT)|
|Oct 7||Home||Notre Dame (W, 3-2)|
|Oct 11||@||Rutgers (W, 3-0)|
|Oct 14||@||Akron (L, 3-0)|
|Oct 21||Home||Detroit (T, 0-0)|
|Oct 26||Home||Indi ana (12p)|
|Oct 29||Home||Oakland (7:30p)|
|Nov 2||@||Michigan State (1p)|
|Nov 5||Home||Ohio State (7:30p)|
|Big Ten Tourney||Nov 8, 9, 14, 16|
|NCAA Tourney||Nov 20, 23, 29, Dec 5|
|College Cup||Dec 12, 14|
Michigan 1 - #12 Maryland 1
Michigan’s biggest match of the young season featured visiting #12 Maryland in their first ever B1G match at the Michigan Soccer Complex. Adam Grinwis made his return to goal after Louro started at Columbia.
Michigan started off the match well and were able to control much of the possession and chances early on. William Mellors-Blair was especially active on the left side and was Michigan’s best offensive player for much of the match.
The match was goalless going into the second half but Michigan immediately put pressure again but Maryland’s defenders were able to clear the ball off the line after a Zach Steffen save. Michigan’s go ahead goal came from a Rylee Woods free kick wherein James Murphy was able to head the ball into the back of the net past Steffen to put Michigan ahead. Maryland ramped up pressure in the final fifteen minutes and Michigan was forced into simply clearing the ball down the field and absorbing the attack.
Michigan nearly added a second goal with three minutes left on the clock when Ahinga Selemani was stopped by Steffen on a breakaway chance after a swift counterattack by Michigan. It proved to be a big moment for what was ahead.
A failed clearance on the right side of the Michigan defense allowed Alex Crognale to find David Kabelik, who calmly slotted it past Grinwis with just 22 seconds remaining to force overtime.
The two ten minute overtime were mostly uneventful with Grinwis making one save for Michigan on a 20 yard effort from Mael Corboz.
Murphy was Michigan’s best player for most of the match and deserved Man of the Match even without his headed goal. Michigan’s back four played well other than the breakdown right at the end, which allowed Maryland level the match. Yamannn Sahlool came off the bench for Michigan and played well holding up the ball and allowing Michigan’s wingers and midfielders to run in behind him.
Michigan was the better team for most of the match and had to be disappointed by not beating Maryland. A draw against Maryland (who has since fallen out of the Top 25) is still a good result.
[After the jump things get better I swear!]
Bowling Green 1 –Michigan 0
Michigan hosted Bowling Green on Tuesday night in non-conference action, falling 1-0. Michigan outshot Bowling Green 20-10 but were again unable to find the back of the net.
A 17th minute goal from Bowling Green’s Pat Flynn on a swift counter-attack proved to be the difference in the match. Bowling Green absorbed the Michigan attack with a counter-attacking style and was happy to play long balls over the top of Michigan’s defense to create chances.
Michigan’s inability to score goals plagued them again in this match. Michigan managed 20 shots on goal but only forced five saves from Falcon keeper Nick Landsberger. Freshman goalie Evan Louro also stopped five shots for Michigan, as coach Chaka Daley continues to use two keepers early this season.
Michigan falls to 1-3-1 on the season and 0-0-1 in B1G play while Bowling Green improved to 5-1-0 on the year.
Northwestern 0 – Michigan 0
Michigan travelled to Evanston to take on Northwestern on Sunday, September 21st but were forced to settle for a scoreless draw.
Michigan’s defense certainly did their job and did not allow a shot on goal. Michigan managed five shots on net but were unable to convert and find a winner. Adam Grinwis started in net and recorded his 13th
Penn St 1 – Michigan 0
Michigan hosted #7 Penn State but were unable to get on the scoreboard once again. A Connor Maloney goal in the 57th minute proved to be the difference in the match.
Michigan again outshot their oppoenents (14-13, and 10-6 in the second half) but were unable to find the back of the net. Adam Grinwis started and played 79 minutes before giving way to Freshman goalkeeper Evan Louro.
Marcos Ugarte returned from a leg injury to play 21 minutes as a substitute.
Western Michigan 1 – Michigan 0 (OT)
Western Michigan scored a Golden Goal in the 97th minute to defeat Michigan 1-0 at the Michigan Soccer Complex. The Wolverines were held scoreless for the fourth straight match.
Bronco forward Connor Ferguson scored the match winner seven minutes into Overtime and Michigan dropped their second consecutive match, moving them to 1-5-2 on the season. Evan Louro started in goal for Michigan and made four saves.
Michigan 2 – Wisconsin 1 (OT)
Michigan bounced back after a rough stretch to win their first B1G match of the season on a Golden Goal from Sophomore Rylee Woods in the 99th minute.
Michigan fell behind in the 80th minute when Wisconsin substitute Jacob Brindle scored but Michigan midfielder James Murphy immediately struck back three minutes later to level the match.
Michigan moved to 2-5-1 and 1-1-2 in B1G play and the win marked the first road win for the Wolverines this season. Wisconsin falls to 1-7-1 and 0-3- in B1G Ten play after making the NCAA Tournament last season.
Michigan 3 - #7 Notre Dame 2
Michigan returned home to face defending National Champion Notre Dame and a hat trick from winger Colin McAtee was enough to down the Irish.
Evan Louro started in net for Michigan as Head Coach Chaka Daley continues to shuffle the goalkeepers. McAtee beat Notre Dame keeper Patrick Wall on a header in the 21st minute to give Michigan a 1-0 lead and was assisted by Tyler Anderson. Just 45 seconds later, he banged home an 18 yard shot off a Tyler Arnone ball into the middle of the field.
Notre Dame crawled back into the match in the second half with goals from Jeffrey Farina (64th minute) and Patrick Hodan (68th minute) and the match looked to be headed to overtime.
However, an 83rd minute corner kick allowed McAtee to net his third goal in the match and fifth on the season to seal the win for Michigan and upset the #7 ranked Irish.
Michigan improved to 3-5-2 on the season and picked up their second consecutive win.
Michigan 3 – Rutgers 0
Junior Transfer William Mellors-Blair has looked dangerous all season long but showed his scoring ability with two goals to down Rutgers on a Saturday night in New Jersey. Additionally, he assisted the other goal, a strike by Colin McAtee. All three Michigan goals were scored in the first half and the defense closed down and held Rutgers to only two shots on goal. Adam Grinwis recorded a clean sheet for Michigan in net.
Akron 3 – Michigan 0
Michigan’s winning streak was ended by Akron on a rainy October night in Ohio. Akron got on the board early and never looked back. Stuart Holhusen beat Evan Louro just six minutes into the match and then Adam Najem converted a penalty 15 minutes into the match.
Michigan only managed two shots on goal and Akron added a third goal with 1:38 left on the clock.
Michigan 0 – Detroit 0
Michigan was held goalless for the second straight game as Detroit’s defense frustrated Michigan all night long. Michigan doubled Detroit’s shots on goal 8-4 but were unable to beat Nathan Steinwascher and were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw after 110 minutes. Evan Louro recorded the shutout for Michigan in net.
Michigan is 4-6-3 overall and 2-1-2 in B1G play.
Midfielder Marcos Ugarte injured his knee in the Maryland match and did not return. He made his return as a sub against Penn St.
Chaka Daley continues to juggle Freshman Evan Louro and Redshirt Senior Adam Grinwis in goal.
Michigan’s student section was full for the Maryland match and even included a (NOT permitted) smoke bomb after Michigan scored.
I spoke with Tab Ramos (Coach of the US U-20 National Team) and asked him about Evan Louro, who was invited to their camp earlier this month in Argentina but declined due to classes starting.
“Evan is a goalkeeper who we like a lot…” Ramos said of the true Freshman Louro.
Senior Captain Tyler Arnone has been named a Finalist for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible, a student must have notable achievements in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition. The 10 finalists were narrowed down from a pool of 30 by a media committee. Fans can vote here for Arnone. Fan votes will constitute 1/3 of the total outcome. Arnone currently leads with 25.7% of the vote.
Home vs #8 Indiana
Sunday, October 26th at 12pm
Indiana is coming off a 1-0 win over #1 Notre Dame on October 22. They are 9-2-3 overall and 2-2-1 in B1G play.
B1G Standings as of 10/22