so much for that
So another week gone by and another win by the boys in the winged helmets. Hooray for nobody selecting Michigan lower than the Outback! Although now nobody is selecting Michigan in the BCS, either.
The chart shows the MNC and all BCS bowl game projections, followed by the Big Ten bowl game projections.
|Week 11||Rittenberg||Schlabach||Edwards||CBS Sports||CNNSI||BTN||CFN|
|Ok State||Ok State||Oklahoma||Ok State||Oklahoma|
|Fiesta||Nebraska||Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Ok State||Oklahoma||Ok State|
|S Carolina||S Carolina||Georgia||S Carolina||S Carolina||Georgia|
|Gator||Penn St||Penn St||osu||osu||osu||osu||Nebraska|
|Care Care||Iowa||osu||Penn St||Purdue||Penn St||Penn St||Penn St|
|New Era Pinstripe||NW||Iowa||Purdue|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||NW||NW|
|New Mexico Bowl||Iowa|
So yeah, that's a big chart. You can see Michigan bolded throughout. The big changes for U-M are that Dienhart no longer has Michigan in the TicketCity, Rittenberg elevates us from the Insight to the Outback, and Palm drops us from the Fiesta to the Outback. Potential bowl opponents include Georgia, South Carolina, and Arkansas.
Rittenberg is now the only one to have a Big Ten team earn an at-large BCS berth (Nebraska to the Fiesta). Last week, Rittenberg had msu-Rose and Wisco-Sugar, and Palm had Wisco-Rose and Michigan-Fiesta.
Everyone has Wisconsin to the Rose, except Schlabach, who sticks with msu. Speaking of msu, they're predicted in the Rose (1), Cap1 (3), Outback (1), and Insight (2). Michigan, on the other hand, is pretty much a concensus at the Cap1 (2) or Outback (5).
Of note is that several of these guys are predicting 10 Big Ten teams to be bowl eligible: Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, msu, Penn St, osu, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, and Northwestern. There is a clear top half and botom half, but that's just crazy, man. That's why you're seeing random bowl games like New Era Pinstripe, Kraft Fight Hunger, and New Mexico Bowl. Rittenberg can't commit, so he just puts Illinois in "Other".
So with two games left, home contests against Nebraska and Ohio State, we know Michigan will finish the regular season 8-4 at worst and 10-2 at best.
I think most of us would have been happy with being 8-2 after 10 at the beginning of the season, my pre-season prediction was 8-4, so I have to tell myself I can't be very disappointed no matter what happens to finish the season.
There's no doubt, however, that Michigan has been a pretty bi-polar team this season. Impressive wins over some decent teams and a couple of poor performances in our losses leave many fans wondering how good this team really is. I think we'll find out for sure in the next few weeks, but who wants to wait that long? Here's a statistical breakdown of the season so far:
All stats are based on the last 9 games, the game against Western doesn't officially count.
Total Offense: Denard Robinson- 1,611 yds passing, 864yds rushing, 275 total YPG (24th Overall, 1st in B1G)
Passing YPG: Denard Robinson- 99/189, 179ypg, 13 TDS, 13 INTs (71st Overall, 5th in B1G)
Passing Efficiency: Denard Robinson- 132.92 rtng (57th overall, 5th in B1G)
Junior Hemingway- 27rec, 520yds, 19.3ypc, 1 TD (NR)
Jeremy Gallon- 23rec, 391yds, 17.0ypc, 2 TDs (NR)
Roy Roundtree- 14rec, 278yds, 19.9ypc, 2 TDs (NR)
Denard Robinson- 151car, 864yds, 12 TDs, 5.7YPC, 96.0YPG (32nd Overall, 5th in B1G)
Fitzgerald Toussaint- 114car, 673yds, 5 TDs, 5.9YPC, 84.1 YPG (48th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Passing: 200.4ypg, 15TDs, 14INTs (84th Overall, 7th in B1G)
Rushing: 235.9ypg, 22TDs (11th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Total Offense: 436.3ypg, 6.48 yards per play (33rd Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Scoring: 32.3ppg, 38TDs, 8 FGs (37th Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Turnovers lost: 19, 14 INTs (111th), 5 fumbles lost (9th) (T-78th Overall, 11th in B1G)
Red Zone Offense: 44 drives, 27 TDs, 8 FGs, 80% (T-69th Overall, 7th in B1G)
Not exactly the powerhouse that we were last year, but we have the 5th and 6th best rushers in the Big Ten in Denard and Fitzgerald. Denard is obviously not much of a passing quarterback and he gets a lot of flack for it, but with his legs factored in he's still the most productive player in the Big Ten. Toussaint is looking like the running back of the future. Our lack of a passing game means we don't have any receivers that stand out nationally, with none falling in the top 100. Our turnovers have been brutal this season, with our 14 INTs landing us 111th in the country. After a great start to the season in the red zone, we've fallen to an 80% in red zone scoring, putting us in the bottom half of the B1G.
All in all, not as impressive as many of us were hoping for, but plenty of glimmers of hope, the most productive player in the Big Ten, and a solid ground game make it a pretty decent season so far.
Offensive Grade: B
Passes Defended: JT Floyd- 6 PBU's, 2 INTs, .89 passes defended per game (T-78th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Forced Fumbles: Thomas Gordon- 2FF (T-68th Overall, 4th in B1G)
Thomas Gordon- 4FR (T-2nd Overall, 1st in B1G)
Jake Ryan- 2 FR (T-31st Overall, T-4th in B1G)
Passing Defense: 191.3ypg, 6.47ypa, 9 TDs, 6 INTs (22nd Overall, 6th in B1G)
Rushing Defense: 130.9ypg, 4.01ypc, 9 TDs (41st Overall, 5th in B1G)
Total Defense: 322.2ypg, 5.18yds per play, 19TDs (17th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Scoring Defense: 19TDs, 4 FGs, 16.1ppg (7th Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Turnovers Forced: 20, 6 INTs (T-94th), 14 FR (T-5th) (T-28th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Sacks: 19 sacks, 2.11 per game (44th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Red Zone Defense: 27 drives, 16 TDs, 2 FGs, 67% (1st Overall, 1st in B1G)
First of all, we have the best red zone defense in the country!? I would not have guessed that. Second of all, the Big Ten is a defensive juggernaut of a conference. When we're 22nd in the country in passing defense and that's only good for 6th in the Big Ten, that's pretty ridiculous. But seeing that we're 17th nationally in total defense and that five other Big Ten teams are still ahead of us (MSU, Wisky, PSU, Illinois and OSU) is just obscene. There's not even a major statistic that our defense is outside the top 50 in (we're also 39th in 3rd down defense and 20th in 4th down defense). I think if you told me our defense would be this good a year ago I would have slapped you. We're lacking in interceptions but dominating in fumble recoveries. I love Greg Mattison and I love this defense.
Defensive Grade: A-
Punting: Will Hagerup- 21 punts, 49 long, 35.8avg (NR)
Kicking: Brendan Gibbons- 8/11, 38 long, 37/37 XP (55th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Punt Returns: Jeremy Gallon- 14ret, 11.43ypr (18th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Punt Returns: 16ret, 160yds, 10.0avg (39th Overall, 4th in B1G)
Punt Return D: 16ret, 142yds, 8.88ypr (78th Overall, 10th in B1G)
Net Punting: 33 punts, 37.73avg, 16ret, 8.8ypr, 32.82 net avg (112th Overall, 12th in B1G)
Kickoff Returns: 20ret, 388yds, 19.4ypr (102nd Overall, 10th in B1G)
Kickoff Return D: 37ret, 708yds, 19.1ypr (23rd Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Turnover Margin: 20 gained, 19 lost, +1 (51st Overall, 7th in B1G)
Penalties: 40 penalties, 39.22yds per game (T-12th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Not really sure what to make of this. Pretty disheartening to see that we're one of the worst net punting teams in the nation, one of the worst kick return teams in the nation, and one of the worst punt return defense teams in the nation. It is, however, encouraging to see Gallon in the top 20 punt returners in the country, and our penalties are under control. Gibbons is Gibbons, and 8/11 is pretty good compared to last year. Still, I feel like Special Teams aren't a priority on this team.
Special Teams Grade: C+
So our offense has been a little underwhelming, our defense has been an extremely pleasant surprise, and our special teams have been business as usual, sadly. But that's just what the numbers say. What do you say?
Since the defensive improvement has been far and away better than anything any of us could have expected, I thought it would be interesting to see the extent of the improvement in historical terms. I collected data on scoring defense and yardage defense from Rivals as far back as 2003 to the present. Here are the results (click on the graphs to embiggen):
And, to compare the two data sets, I've superimposed them by representing each as a percentage of the worst historical performance (i.e., 2010):
The result is striking. Thus far, Hoke, Mattison and the rest of the defensive staff have turned this squad into one of the best 3 defensive teams in the past 9 years.
UPDATE: MGoBlog user Mat suggested that I look at our defense's yards allowed per play. I did some googling and found stats dating back to 2003 foryards per play. The following graph is based on statistics that only take into account performances against other FBS teams:
Which confirms Mat's impression (and ours) that while this defense is excellent we are not yet elite. That's not surprising given that it's year 1 of yet another defensive system and that we are starting two freshmen.
This weekend, I took a trip to Happy Valley. Yes, your read that right. Why, you ask? This had been planned for months as a good time to visit a friend in grad school there on a Michigan away game week, that conveniently matched up two good teams that should've been talking about a rematch from their last contest and the possible budding of a new rivalry. My ticket was purchased, my friend expected me, so I went. I'll delve a little into the awkwardness of everything but mostly wanted to give an in person preview of what Michigan can expect when Nebraska comes to Ann Arbor in a few days.
The tailgating to start the day was more than slightly subdued. Sure, they still had beer, brats and music, but it did not feel like a matchup between two ranked teams vying for a possible path to the inaugural B1G Championship game. Appropriately so given the awful tragedies that had taken place. How much was out of respect for the kids and how much was the fact that they missed JoePa is up for debate, but I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and lean towards the former. Those of you that watched the game on TV likely saw the pregame honoring of the victims, which was done quite well. When the teams met at midfield to pray, you could faintly hear the man speaking at the 50 from 20 rows up around the 5 yard line. It was that silent. Small groups of people tried to start chants but were appropriately shushed. The crowd eventually got impatient and started a slow clap, which was not really disprespectful but did somewhat dampen an otherwise nice moment. As the game started, there was cheering from the student section, but it all felt quite hollow, as it should have. Late in the game it got as loud as I assume Beaver Stadium normally gets, but only for a brief period of time. Overall, the weirdest and most awkward game I've been to by a longshot. Downright eery. Anyways, on to football things.
Taylor Martinez - boy oh boy is it tough to watch him throw. But you already knew that. What perhaps you didn't know is that every throw he makes is a frozen rope about 6 feet off the ground. And this is not a good thing for him. It appears that his chicken wing delivery doesn't afford him the ability to put any touch on his throws. If I were the coaching staff, I would put a tremendous amount of emphasis on the D line getting their hands up. Having not watched a ton of their offense this year, I was suprised to see how often they went to the air early. It appears that their game plan was to try to relax Penn State's stout defense, then run the ball late. They stuck with the passing game despite its ineffectiveness for quite a long time.
Rex Burkhead - Quick as hell and incredibly frustrating to try to stop. They frequently will line up in the I and have Burkhead and Martinez switch places. Burkhead is such an effective runner and Martinez such a terrible passer that it sometimes feels like they should do this permanently. He's a decisive runner with solid vision and decent power who always seems to fall forward. They've got a power runner whose name escapes me that they used in goal line. He's effective.
The punter - Yea, the punter. He's the third player I'm talking about. The punter. He's that good. He's like the space emperor. He can coffin corner better than anyone I've seen in a long time and he'll bomb it as well. Someone nearby asked what the name for the punter of the year award in college football was and suggested it be renamed after the Nebraska punter.
Nebraska's corners - they're good. It's hard to tell how much of Penn State's ineffectiveness passing was due to McGloin - or, as he's known, "The Scranton Slinger", and how much was due to the corners, but I felt like receivers were consistently well-covered. Penn State doesn't have world beaters, but Moye is a solid receiver and I often watched him get locked down. Obviously everyone knows about Alphonso Dennard, and he was as advertised. The rest of the secondary was also great, though.
I had more to say, but my memory escapes me on a few of my mental game notes. Overall, Nebraska definitely seems beatable. They execute the triple option damn well, and can eventually burn you with it, but their offense feels like a middle of the road B1G one, and I think the statistics bear that out. Their defense is meh, but the secondary does worry me. An ability to lock down several receivers with man coverage could pose problems. This will definitely be a game where I'd like to see a lot of 4 wide with zone running. Getting into an Ace formation and the like and running play action pass probably won't fly as they'll be able to both confidently load the box and shut down whoever is on the outside.
After a one-week hiatus, the Big Ten Recruiting Rankings are back. There's even a new Michigan commit, so I might actually front-page this sucker for the first time this season. The past couple weeks saw a fair amount of movement among teams at the top of the rankings, while the bottom half remained static. Action since last rankings:
10-30-11: Ohio State picks up Michael Thomas.
10-31-11: David Perkins decommits from Notre Dame.
11-3-11: Michigan State picks up Ezra Robinson.
11-5-11: Wisconsin picks up Reggie Love.
11-8-11: Michigan picks up Drake Johnson.
11-11-11: Joey O'Connor decommits from Penn State.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so Isaac Fruechte and James Gillum (Minnesota), Darius Stroud and Jacarri Alexander (Indiana), Steffon Martin, Devin Smith, and Greg Latta (Purdue), and Zaire Anderson (Nebraska) are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
Common sense tells us that facing a team coming off of a bye week should be a disadvantage. Give a good coach 2 weeks to prepare for a game and they will have their team refreshed and focused, ready to take advantage of what their next opponent gives them. Mark Dantonio had the Spartans ready to exploit Michigan's flaws and that preparedness (plus a bit of dirty play) allowed Michigan State to dominate us. Brady Hoke used Michigan's bye week to effectively put the loss to Little Brother in the rearview and had the Wolverines ready to put Purdue away in style. When Miles faced Saban after each had a bye week the result was one of the most epic battles I have ever seen. This is what good coaching can do with a bye week advantage.
Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known. It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks. Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010. Their record following these bye weeks? 0-6:
2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24
2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36
2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23
2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!) 31-14
That is epic fail. Ron Zook should be fired.
It was a very satisfying win for Michigan however. Yes, the lack of redzone efficiency kept the game interesting for far too long. This just magnified how much better this defense is than anything we could have reasonably expected. The zone blitzing destroyed Illinois. The run defense was smothering. Even the prevent defense worked almost to perfection, with Illinois needing almost 7 minutes to score when they were down 3 scores with 10 minutes to go. They kept plays in front of them, tackled in-bounds, and strangled the game. Giving up the 4th-26 was painful, but by that point it was forgivable. Greg Mattison has done better than anyone could have expected.
Live for Today…
Several players/coaches should take particular pride in their accomplishments yesterday:
- Greg Mattison - Seriously, can we get this guy a raise? I know he already makes a lot of dough, but he has earned it and then some. This defense makes such incredible leaps forward with each game... just remarkable.
- Fitz Toussaint - Got his swagger back right out of the gate. Get this guy a tear-away jersey and he would have had 250 yards. It makes so much more seem possible when a top running back steps forward.
- Devin Gardner - Looked much less lost out there. Clutch TD throw on 3rd and long really put the game away. Still needs work, but perhaps the future is looking up for DG.
- JT Floyd - Beautiful anticipation on the interception that kept Illinois from making a comeback. Played well against Jenkins, really taking away the Illini's best weapon for most of the game.
- Jeremy Gallon - Great job on punt returns. Really helped Michigan flip the field position in their favor.
Also of note: Martavious Odoms nice TD grab, Denard Robinson 2 TD runs, RVB 2.5 sacks, Desmond Morgan blowing up fools, Mike Martin is Mike Martin
Hope for Tomorrow
Michigan comes back home to wrap up the season sitting at 8-2. The rest is gravy. Every Michigan fan should be pretty happy with how the team is progressing. I have not felt this confident about the future since 2006 at least. Nebraska will be a tough test in a week, but I think Michigan will be competitive in that contest. Ohio just lost to Purdue and is a team that Michigan should beat. It is the biggest rivalry in all of sport though, so anything can happen. Regardless of how the last two games go though, this team has made this fan happy and excited about seasons to come. It is great to be a Michigan Wolverine.
Go Blue and stay safe!