"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Happy Saturday everyone! And thank you for such kind words last week. We have a picture perfect day in store for us at the Big House! High pressure to the northeast of Lake Huron will bring light easterly winds and keep us dry with lots of sunshine. A short and sweet forecast - because the weather's just that good. Let's Go Blue!
Not too bad of a start to the day! We will have some cloud cover from the overnight, which has helped us stay a little warmer - so we'll start the early morning hours in the mid 50s. The main issue will be patchy fog. Some of us have seen it every morning this week, and game day won't be any different. Just give yourself a couple extra minutes on the road. It will burn off with the sunshine, and we'll have winds out of the east around 8-10mph (leaves blow about) throughout the morning.
Beautiful start to the game today! 70 degrees, a mix of sun and clouds, and an east wind around 10mph. Can't ask for much better than this! Even though we're into September, UV levels can still hit moderate, so if you're sensitive to the sun you may want to put on a little sunscreen.
A gorgeous afternoon is in store for Ann Arbor! Low 70s by halftime, and with seeing some sun, you'll probably want a cold drink right about now! Winds remain out of the east, but they do pick up a little bit to a steady 15mph (leaves, twigs blow around).
Right around 75 degrees throughout the afternoon and into the evening. We'll have partly cloudy skies and east winds at 15mph until around dinner time - then we start to have those temps dip into the 60s. If you're out late-night, we're down to 60 degrees at 10pm, with ESE winds lightening to 10mph. We do start to see a little more cloud cover heading into the overnight. By last call, winds will have shifted to come out of the SE at 10mph. This, along with mostly cloudy skies, helps to keep the temperature hovering right near 60 - not too bad! C'mon blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!
Hello Chaos, My Dear Friend
Even though September football is typically little more than an amuse bouche for most teams – save for the Gigantic Huge Critical Games between well-regarded opponents from different conferences – we were given a memorable night of football last Saturday, a stark departure from the mostly inconsequential games of the season’s first two weeks.
Week Three gave us a little clarity. The most important result was Ole Miss’s improbable road upset of mighty Alabama – after two weeks of feasting on cupcakes, the Rebels rode that sugar high to a big win, and threw Bama’s national title hopes into early peril. That the Tide somehow gave away five turnovers, conceded one of the most ludicrous touchdown passes you’ll ever see, and still had the ball with a chance to win probably speaks well to how good the Tide are – but they still lost and Ole Miss is now the presumed favorite in the SEC West.
Along with Alabama, who was projected by many to make the playoff, USC suffered a home loss early in conference play to disabuse the notion that everything is going fine under Steve Sarkisian. Stanford put up 41 points on the Trojans after looking completely inept on offense in Week One against Northwestern. Is USC just terrible? Did Stanford tell us that they’re secretly good? Is Northwestern a burgeoning powerhouse? We still don’t know much of anything other than that USC likely didn’t deserve their lofty preseason ranking and that Stanford could make the Pac-12 North very interesting.
Elsewhere: Iowa hit a 57-yard field goal to beat Pitt, Texas missed a PAT that would have capped a 21-point fourth quarter comeback (and lost to Cal by one), Texas Tech took the fight to Arkansas and talked some shit afterwards, Toledo beat another Power Five team (Iowa State), Colorado beat Colorado State in overtime because of a blocked field goal attempt, and BYU’s magic ran out as they lost to UCLA by one point. All of those games happened in one TV window. College football is ridiculous.
[After the jump, more on the CFB world]
Four Plays – Brigham Young @ Michigan 2015
This series examines the probable individual matchups Michigan expects to face against particular opponents on one of Michigan’s key running plays and one of its key passing plays, as well as defensively against a couple of the opponent’s key plays (assuming first-sting personnel in a base defensive alignment).
I’ve been meaning to say, those “Fee Fi Foe Films” pieces Ace puts together before each game are a major solid for a guy just trying to get a diary out every now and then. Saves me from having to surf through multiple enemy blogs just to try and figure out stuff like which wide receiver lines up in the slot or which linebacker is which. The objective analysis is also much more useful than the typical product from the hagiographers at most other teams’ sites. So, much appreciated.
And with that, Michigan completes the second leg of its Utah-centric 2015 nonconference schedule on Saturday when 11th-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall brings his BYU Cougars to Stadium & Main. The injury bug has already stung the BYU program hard in the early season; not only is star QB Taysom Hill is out for the season with a broken foot, but injuries will also keep BYU starters Steven Richards (TE), Garratt Juergens (S), Colby Jorgenson (LB), and Travis Tuiloma (NT) on the sidelines for Saturday’s game as well. Despite the injuries, BYU has probably been the nation’s most fun team to watch—and not only because so many of their players have cool names. BYU has won two games (@Nebraska and Boise State) on Hail Mary passes, and lost a third game in a prime-time thriller against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. With good talent on both rosters and plenty of high-variance athletes in the mix, the excitement could well continue into this weekend. Now, let’s look at some matchups.
When Michigan has the ball…
1. Crack Toss Sweep
As I though Brian’s offensive UFR rather strongly alluded, last week’s game against UNLV provided an uncommonly exquisite demonstration of constraint theory. Michigan wanted to run Power O, and UNLV knew it—so UNLV loaded up the front with 8, 9 sometimes even 10 defenders. Constraint theory holds that when an opponent cheats to stop your base play by alignment, then you punish them by running a play designed to exploit the resulting weakness. In this case, packing defenders into the box left UNLV vulnerable on the edges (and deep, though I’m not going there right now). So Michigan capitalized on this weakness by attacking those edges with smoke screens to the WRs, a picture-perfect end around, and a number toss sweeps. Granted, after scoring enough points Michigan went back to banging their heads against 9-man walls—but hey, let’s talk about those toss sweeps.
The origin of the toss sweep is generally traced back to the Wing-T offenses of the 1940s and the so-called “buck sweep”—a play on which both guards would pull outside the playside tackle and lead block for the wingback, who would circle behind the formation to receive the ball. Vince Lombardi’s famous "power sweep" was essentially the same play from a two-back formation. Both were great plays in their times, but by relying on pulling linemen to block the edge defenders from the inside-out, the plays were slow-developing and vulnerable to fast-flowing defenses.
Contemporary offenses have added one final modern wrinkle to counter the slow-developing nature of these toss sweeps: the crack block. By aligning two blockers to the outside and having them crack-back to seal the playside linebacker and defensive end, the sweep hits much more quickly and gives the pulling linemen favorable blocking matchups—usually against defensive backs. And while the outside blockers—usually tight ends and wide receivers—are usually much smaller than the opponents they are tasked with blocking, this size disadvantage is compensated for by “leverage”—that is, favorable angles for the offensive players to make those blocks.
By hitting quickly and attacking outside the formation, the crack toss sweep is a good complement to an offense based around Power O—as teams that load the box to shut down inside runs make themselves vulnerable to being sealed inside and powerless to defense the edge. Isaac’s 76-yard crack toss run came against a loaded 9-man box—and went for a touchdown even though one of the outside blockers targeted the wrong player (a safety, rather than the SLB) and barely delayed him.
SE Amara Darboh: Crack block OLB Fred Warner
UTE Henry Poggi: Motion to the slot, crack block DE Graham Rowley
LT Mason Cole: Pull outside the crack blocks, advance downfield and block first inside defender (“KAT” safety Eric Takenaka )
LG Ben Braden: Downblock NT Logan Taele OR Travis Tuiloma
C Graham Glasgow: Pull outside crack blocks, advance downfield and block first unoccupied defender (ILB Harvey Langi)
RG Kyle Kalis: Advance to second level, block FS Kai Nacua
RT Erik Magnuson: “Cut off” block on DE Bronson Kaufusi
TE Jake Butt: Advance to second level, block WLB Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
FB Sione Houma: Kick out block on CB Micah Hannemann
RB Ty Isaac: Catch pitch from QB, aim for point three yards outside the end-man-on-line-of-scrimmage (or “EMLOS”), but watch for cutback lines inside; by third step, decide which gap to attack and bring outside shoulder to square to LOS.
After a rough start to the season in Salt Lake City, the Michigan offensive line has shown improvement the past two weeks (albeit against greatly inferior competition) and show signs of gelling together as a unit. BYU will either be missing its best defensive lineman or will have an injured version of him. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think M has a good day running the ball.
2. TE Mesh
BYU is mostly a zone team, but admittedly I haven’t yet got a handle on Michigan’s go-to plays against zone coverage. Utah and UNLV ran mostly man coverage. Oregon State ran a lot of zone, but on most of the passing plays in that game the camera did not show enough of the downfield action to make an intelligent determination as to what the route combinations were. But Michigan did run this TE mesh play three times against Oregon State.
The mesh concept pairs shallow crossing routes at one of the busiest areas on the field. If you force defenders to navigate high-traffic areas, then usually at least one of them will be slowed up trying to avoid a teammate, a different receiver, or even an official—leaving the guy that defender is supposed to be covering to run open. Michigan’s TE mesh play features two in-line tight ends crossing, then adds a third crossing route—a dig from the outside WR—over the top. In the linked clip above the WR’s dig route delayed the linebacker responsible for Y-TE Ian Bunting; this left Bunting wide open, creating an easy throw for a big gain.
What’s also notable about the linked clip, however, is that Michigan caught Oregon State in man underneath coverage. Running crossing routes against zone coverage isn’t usually such a good idea. But hey, Ace does say that BYU goes to man as a changeup sometimes, so that’s good enough for me.
XWR Amara Darboh: Motion toward formation, reset; run dig route at 8-yard depth, force defenders in your path to re-route (covered by CB Micah Hannemann)
U-TE Henry Poggi: run crossing route at 4-6 yard depth, (covered by ILB Manoa Pikula) cross under Y-TE
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. LB Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
LG Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. DE Graham Rowey
C Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. NT Logan Taele or MLB Harvey Langi
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass protect vs. NT Logan Taele OR Travis Tuiloma
RT Erik Magnuson: Pass protect vs. DE Bronson Kaufusi
Y-TE Jake Butt: run crossing route at 4-6 yard depth (covered by OLB Fred Warner), cross over U-TE
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run comeback route at 10-yard depth (covered by CB Michael Davis)
TB Deveon Smith: Pass protection
QB Jake Rudock: Use pre-snap motion to confirm man coverage underneath; receive shotgun snap, read left-to-right on Y-TE (crossing route) to X-WR (dig) to to Z-WR (comeback).
Jake Butt has already made good on his high pre-season expectations and Michigan’s wide receivers and other tight ends have been probably the most pleasant surprise in the early going. They face a BYU secondary that made Tommy Armstrong look like an effective pocket quarterback. But Rudock comes off a game in which he was consistently late and almost comically in accurate. If he’s back to being at least somewhat accurate, then we can give an edge to Michigan in this facet of the game. But for now, I have to call this a push.
When BYU has the ball…
1. Counter Draw
Those of you who weren't around for the John L. Smith era at Michigan State might not have such abhorrent recollections of the Counter Draw. But yeah, BYU runs it—which is kind of odd, considering it’s a play for devil-worshippers and highway bandits.
The Counter Draw is designed to use a defense’s own aggressiveness against itself. At the snap, the line executes a sprint protection scheme that vaguely resembles inside zone, but it is designed to induce the defensive line to rush upfield. Meanwhile, the QB and tailback sprint to the strong side, which is intended to induce the linebackers to flow hard to the strongside; the tailback then reverses field and receives the handoff to attack the vacated weak side. The play is especially dangerous threatening to a team that does not remained disciplined about staying in its pass rush lanes.
The fundamental technique for defending the corner against outside runs is for the primary force player to “set the edge.” This means fighting to a point two yards wide of the formation and two yards into the backfield, and from there not letting the RB outside of him. In Durkin’s nomenclature, it is the Buck LB who has primary force responsibility on outside runs to the weak side, where this run attacks. Were the Buck LB to read run immediately on this play, its chances of success would be slim. But this play is designed to fool the defensive line into reading pass, so I will describe assignments as though the line was indeed initially deceived.
Buck LB Mario Ojemudia: Pass rush vs. LT Ryker Mathews; stay outside the tackle until he reaches QB depth; when run revealed, defend playside C-gap (outside LT) and force runner back inside
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs.C Tejan Koroma; stay outside center and inside Buck LB; when run revealed, defend playside A-gap
DT Chris Wormley: Pass rush vs. RG Ului Lapuaho; stay outside the center and inside SDE; when run revealed, defend backside B-gap
SDE Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. RT Brad Wilcox; stay outside tackle until reaching QB depth; when run revealed, pursue through backside C-gap
WLB Joe Bolden: Avoid dropping into coverage; defend playside B-gap vs. LG Kyle Johnson
MLB Desmond Morgan: Avoid dropping into coverage; defend backside A-gap
SLB James Ross: Backside pursuit vs. TE Tanner Balderree
BYU does have a pretty good running back, Adam Hine; according to Fox Sports, his nickname is “The Ninja.” Going up against ninjas is not ideal. But BYU’s offensive line is underwhelming, whereas Michigan’s defensive line has been playing particularly well all season. Perhaps most importantly, every member of Michigan’s front seven is an upper-classman, and thus less susceptible to deception plays like Counter Draw—particularly ones BYU has already put on film.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum may not have the experience or the running ability that Taysom Hill brought to the field, but he does have a huge arm. Against UCLA, the Cougars looked to take advantage of Mangum’s deep ball ability by running lots of double moves against UCLA’s secondary. One of the most effective was the post-corner route, such as this one on which Mangum connected with 6’6” slot receiver Mitch Mathews for a TD. It’s a good thing Michigan has a talented and deep secondary, because BYU will line up four-wide and look to exploit mismatches between their huge receivers and opponents’ third and fourth corners (or safeties).
BCB Channing Stribling: Press coverage vs. WR Mitch Mathews
Nickel CB Jabrill Peppers: Press coverage vs. WR Mitchell Juergens
WDE Mario Ojemudia: Pass rush vs. LT Ryker Mathews
3T Chris Wormley: Pass rush vs. RG Ului Lapuaho
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass Rush vs. C Tejan Koroma
SDE Willie Henry: Pass Rush vs. RT Brad Wilcox
LB Desmond Morgan: Man coverage on RB Adam Hine
Dime CB Jeremy Clark: Press coverage vs. WR Nick Kurtz
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Press coverage vs. WR Devon Blackmon
FS Jerrod Wilson: Play deep half to weak side
SS Delano Hill: Play deep half to strong side
On paper, this is a pretty epic strength vs. strength matchup—possibly the best one I’ve looked at in a Four Plays diary. BYU’s receivers are extremely tall, but if any team has defensive backs who can hang with tall receivers it’s Michigan—with several corners over 6’. Granted, Michigan was still looking for a second trusty corner just a couple weeks ago and even the vaunted Jabrill Peppers saw his inexperience exposed a bit against Utah—but BYU is starting a rookie QB coming off a four-year Mormon mission, and he’s understandably shown some rough spots of his own. Michigan’s shown some better-than-expected pass rush this season, but BYU has a senior-laden offensive line and pass pro is their jam.
We seem to spend a lot of time griping about sorry football around here, both in the Big Ten and in the Big House specifically. So hopefully everyone will appreciate this weekend’s matchup of the BYU passing attack against the Michigan pass defense—two genuinely good units (even if on flawed overall teams).
* * * *
I should add that I thought about doing the Hail Mary for BYU’s passing play—but the memories of Rocket-Jet Right are still too damn painful. If you’re interested, though, check out this post from Matt Bowen of National Football Post for a nice diagram and a good explanation of each player’s role in defending against Hail Mary passes. I will say, Bowen covers the “rush three and knock the ball down” approach, though I personally tend to agree with the school of thought that says you should rush four and never let the QB even get the pass off. I could be wrong, but I suppose that’s what silently shuffling miserably out of a stadium with 100,000 other stunned comrades will do to one’s perspective. Let’s win this one by 9+ points on Saturday, huh Blue? I’m getting old, and the doctor says these Hail Marys aren’t good for my heart.
To fill the void left by user Lanyard Program, another has taken the torch and created a mini-program for all of us to enjoy.
The full details can be found in this thread, but all credit for this mini-program goes to MGoCustom. We are both fairly new to creating content on the blog and they were not sure how to create a diary, so here we are.
This iteration has the classic information you are used to having: depth chart, roster and current year schedule. Additionally, you will see current YTD stats and a list of coaches.
Get it here.
Mod edit: Originally authored by cdycus, go pos him somewhere. JGB.
Last year, I did (mostly) weekly stats reviews of the conference, but creating a dozen or so PNG files, uploading them to Photobucket then posting all of them in some order that made sense in the diary started to get cumbersome, so we’re going to do this a bit more corporate this year and run with a quick little scorecard (or three actually) built from the summary stats of the conference.
It also made sense to me to do this every three games as a “health check”, if you will, and of course after the first three, most Big Ten teams have had one or two tomato cans at least so this iteration probably will not be the most telling. The results so far are interesting all the same, however.
So, here’s passing, rushing and scoring offense and defense – you will note that in the parentheses, you can see how each is expressed.
Some items of note here:
- “Indiana Syndrome”; ostensibly prolific offense and a defense that is just north of non-existent
- Purdue is the only team that is, on average, giving up more points than it gets
- Purdue would also be a fun game if we played them, looking at their rushing defense
- Penn State probably would get more passing yard if Hackenburg were standing
- Minnesota gets close to 350 yards per game on offense, and yet…
- Michigan State’s passing defense average so far remembers Oregon well
How is Michigan doing though? Well, you can see clearly that the strength of this team is turning out to be the defense, but that’s what we expected anyway. What is nice also is seeing 185 yards of rushing offense on average per game so far (three games, sample size, grumble grumble). It has been a while, and even if it continues to work, albeit at a slower pace in conference play, we should do well enough.
Here are some special teams numbers:
One thing to note here is that kick coverage is affected by touchbacks, so this is average net shown here. Michigan is close to 40 yards here, which is pretty good despite being in “yellow” here. Much of that, as you can see, is due to some compression in those numbers. Kick returns average 26 yards for Michigan, and if you scan over to the punting numbers, the return game might stand some improvement, but overall there is some marked improvement in this part of the game too.
Also, 11 people on the field all the time. Weird, right?
Here are first and third down numbers with differentials. This is more informational, but you get at least a little insight into who is moving the ball better and who is getting stops on a regular basis. Again, against some of the teams the Big Ten has played collectively, it only takes will power and a mean stare to prevent the other team from converting. That will change, as will these numbers, soon enough.
Michigan’s numbers are about what you would expect from watching the games – the offense works in fits and spurts sometimes, hence the “meh” first down numbers. On third downs, you can see the defense clicking rather loudly, if you will.
This is my weekly feature to look back at summer previews, get egg on my face, look over what Michigan did, and then project the rest of the year as we get more real time data. Last week's taking stock report can be found here.
Prelude: I did season previews on most UM opponents - I skipped UNLV and Rutgers out of boredom, and OSU out of fear. The rest are below
Let's begin with a look back at my summer comments about UNLV
Ok there was no summer preview because previewing what would be a lower end FCS team is useless. We'll return to this feature next week when we can look at my summer views on BYU.
So with that, here is what was said last week about UNLV:
Michigan is currently a 34 pt favorite vs UNLV. Even accounting for the dumb money that puts money on brand teams this should be Michigan's easiest game of the year although UNLVs QB - if healthy - will pose more danger than Oregon State's. If Blake Decker can play the whole game UNLV probably can put up some points on Michigan's defense. If he cannot play, this will be ugly. The backup QBs looked Russ Bellomy'ish last week for UNLV vs UCLA. (4/15 for 4 yards, with a pick 6... oh and a fumble). Unless something wacky happens this should be like playing Eastern Michigan.
Michigan being Michigan the line was not covered. But it could have been if Jake Rudock even played an average game as he did last year at Iowa. More on that later. This should have been a 49-7 type of spanking if the offense was at all efficient in the 2nd half. The 7pts at the end of the game we gave up are meaningless but the struggles of the offense raise concerns - from the inablity of our QB to complete basic passes to inability of our line to get 3rd down and 1/2 completed against a bunch of 260 lb guys who would struggle to play in the MAC.
A Look at Michigan
I don't want to go too into the weeds about this game because I think everyone saw the same thing - an ok offense combined with a good defense. The main thing this week gave UM was practice time and more chances to practice plays vs a vastly overmatched opponent. On defense all we learned is when we outclass, outspeed, and outweigh them we are efficient. Something even Hoke's teams generally did - on defense. James Ross played more and the corners made some plays - against the level of competition they will not see again. This week will tell us a lot more.
The offense was troubling and we all know it. The variance on this board is what it means. There is still a large camp of "it's still early and/or playing close to the vest and/or Rudock will be better soon and/or #Harbaugh!". I am not as sanguine. Vernon Adams had 3 weeks to prepare for a defense far better than UNLV and at least looked competent - oh with a broken finger. Jake Rudock has had more time in the system, with 10 healthy fingers, and has looked like a RS FR at times. I did not expect much from Jake Rudock - I found the "Rudock is not different than Connor Cook" threads this summer hilarious. But I did expect a low turnover "West coast offense" type of QB who gets you the 12-16 yard passes consistently while protecting the ball. That has not been Jake Rudock. And it's troubling. I don't care about the ability to bomb a team for 30+ yards. But his complete misses and throws behind players (even on completions, which prevent the receiver from making YAC since they have to contort all over the place to make the catch) is a surprise. This was supposed to be an accurate dude. He has not been - and that's with one of the best QB coaches in the country working with him for 2 months now. I actually said the same thing Ozone said in live chat - right now Jake Rudock is giving UM a lot of the bad of Devin Gardner without any of the upside. The only benefit to Rudock over Devin right now is he doesnt scramble backwards for 15 yard losses on the regular.
Ozone had this stat in case you missed it:
Here is how far downfield his completions went when they were caught by a receiver: 7, 5, 7, 4, 2, -2, -1, 3, 7, 12, -2, 1, -2, and 3 yards. (His incompletions looked like this: 12, 5, 13, 9, 32, 1, 25, 33.)
This is pathetic. And why his completion % is still "respectable".
For further data I mined into NCAAs QB stats. Jake Rudock is currently 46th in the country in completion % (64.8%) - which is average - but it is because he is 90th in the country in yards per attempt (6.4).
For comparison - Kevin Hogan of Stanford - another "West coast" low risk, boring QB in a staid offense has a 63.2% compeltion rate... while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. And there is no excuse for competition - Oregon State and UNLV are horrendous teams and Utah's strength is rush D, not pass D. AND Rudock has enjoyed the type of protection UM QBs have not seen since 2011.
If we had played a competent mid level team ala Iowa or Maryland or similar that would have been a 10-9 type of game and UM at risk of upset. Thankfully it was a complete garbage team.
If the blended average of the first 3 weeks of Jake Rudock continues to show up UM right now looks like a 7 win team despite an above average defense. Defenses will crowd our line and be more than happy to allow Rudock to try to throw over the top. And if he is successful 1-2x a game they will continue to crowd the line because the chances of him doing it repeatedly are small and the risk of turnover high. So it's going to be a long season on offense IMO - the main hope is Rudock at least improves in the 8 to 14 yard area of his passing. He couldn't have degraded that badly from last year in that regard.
As for the run game it was ok. A very overwhelmed opponent yielded 254 yds on 39 carries (6.5 per) but excluding the 1 huge run it was 178 yards on 38 carries - 4.7 per carry. That's not good enough vs this type of competition. Guys like Nick Chubb of GA are averaging 8+ per carry in conference play. Yes that's a superstar but it's just context. Penn State has a highly rated freshman recruit (Barkley) who in games 2 and 3 of his career last week v Buffalo put up 115 yds on 12 carries (9.6 per) and vs Rutgers 195 yds in 21 carries (9.4 per). Behind a shit OL and with defenses stacking the box because Hackenberg is shell shocked. The run game is just not good enough consistently considering the opponents. So the excuses we lay on this ground game are not good excuses when peers with the same issues are able to do more.
I am troubled by what I am seeing.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY RANKINGS
Basing games on WHEN they are played and WHERE this was my general view on degree of difficulty for each opponent coming into the year. Again this is not how good the team is in a vacuum but how they match up vs UM.
|Week 3||Week 2||Week 1||Preseason|
|11||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State|
- Northwestern (+1) - I am reluctantly moving Northwestern up 1 spot. My DOD rankings are based on how I think UM matches up with other teams. So I moved Northwestern up past PSU - even as I believe the PSU game will be more difficult for UM. I actually think these 2 teams are very similar - but we have 1 game at home and 1 on the road. Both PSU and NW feature stingy defenses, with mediocre QB play and good running back play. We play NW at home and PSU on the road. So with all other factors equal PSU is the more difficult game IMO still - especially since I expect Hackenberg to go off (even with PTSD) at least 2-3x this year whereas NW is playing a freshman at QB whose ceiling I find limited. A freshman who went 9/23 for 70 yards last week. That said I am going to respectfully push up NW a slot for their strength of schedule - their Stanford win looks better after Stanford beat USC and going on the road to play a solid if not spectacular Duke squad is a feather in their cap. PSU has not played that level of competition. I watched some of that NW game after the UM game and it looks like another M00N game is headed our way. NW got a special teams touchdown early in the 2nd half; otherwise that's a 12-10 game with 2 bad offenses. NW's offense is basically Justin Jackson - without a true passing threat I think UM can nullify him to a large degree. And most likely Northwestern's defense will do the exact same thing to UM. So in summary - M00N 2.0.
- Maryland (+1) - I moved Maryland down last week because their coach refused to play Caleb Rowe @ QB. Well after the disaster of last week Perry Hills was demoted from 1st string to 3rd string and Rowe went out and won a game vs a mediocre USF squad. I still think Maryland is a bad football team but Rowe at least gives them hope. He has a big arm and takes big risks so he is INT prone. But his yards per attempt was 9.0 in this game which aligns exactly with his average of 2014 in limited duty (54 throws). So he can test UM's secondary and linebackers in space unlike most Big 10 QBs. But UM should get a turnover or two off him. Maryland still struggles to run and USF smartly only gave Will Early 2 punts to return. I'd like to see that # be 0 when we play them. I still think Maryland is headed for about 5 wins this year. But as long as Caleb Rowe is playing (he is injury prone) it's good enough to move them back up to where I had them in the DOD rankings earlier.
- Indiana (+1) - Indiana has played no one. But they score on folks. Sudfeld will get some yards on the UM defense and somehow Indiana has just reloaded at RB yet again - a frigging frustration after watching all these 4/5 stars at UM struggle. Unlike earlier opponents for Indiana, Western Kentucky is actually a half decent team among non P5s, and has a pretty damn good QB. So they scored on Indiana as every team will (gulp - even us?) Sudfeld had a great game going 20/27 for 355 yds with a staggering 13.1 per attempt. Jordan Howard continues to masquerade very well for Tevin Coleman with 31 carries for 203 yds (6.5 ave) I've moved Indiana up because it is a road game, and the offense is beginning to click. The question coming into the year was if they could find a running back to replace the guy they just sent to the NFL - they have. Coleman is average 6.5 yards per carry thru 3 games - yes that will drop when Indiana plays real defenses but it's less of a question today than it was 3 weeks ago. So Indiana will score some points - and Indiana will give up a lot of points. But if Rudock has a wtf game this one now has upset risk.
- PSU (-1) - As mentioned above my gut says not to move PSU down but I am respecting the NW SOS vs PSU's SOS. For the 2nd straight week PSU did not give up a sack. Darryl Funk is perplexed how that can be. For the 3rd straight week the PSU OL has created a lot of opportunities for running backs. Potential freshman star and high level recruit Saquon Barkley has taken advantage as he pounded his home state Rutgers into submission. When Barkley was not running for 200 yards, Akeel Lynch did the work with 10 carries for 120 yards (12.0 per). That's a nice 1-2 punch. PSU seems able to run now although the competition is still low in general. Hackenberg - despite not getting sacked is playing like Andre Ware in his Detroit Lions days - he is hearing footsteps that are not there and throwing a lot of beautiful balls that one hop to WRs. I give that guy credit for staying loyal but he has cost himself tens of millions based on the glimpses he showed as a freshman. It is sort of sad to see. PSU's D continues to improve as I expected as I think they have one of the best DCs - if not the best - in the conference. Rutgers was held to 300 yards and only 43 on the ground net of sack yardage. Rutgers' QB Laviano was sacked 5 times and intercepted twice. I'd love to see a UM defense do this. In terms of matchup PSU's strength on offense is UM's strength (rushing) - this feels like a Hackenberg v Rudock battle and at this point I think both are wholy mediocre. I guess whichever is less mediocre that given night will help his team win.
- Rutgers (-2) - I moved Rutgers UP 1 spot last week despite losing to Washington State and losing their best player to suspension. It had nothing to do with Rutgers and everything to do with how bad Maryland without Caleb Rowe was acting. But now they keep suspending a few players a week, along with their head coach and look like a total shitshow. The game is at home. They were just destroyed by a meh PSU squad. If they are not destroyed by UM it will be disappointing. I've not only moved them down 1 spot but 2 as Indiana on the road with a legit offense now poses more threat in my mind than Rutgers due to the ability of Indiana scoring more points.
- OSU - Northern Illinois is a pretty good non P5 program and I thought this might be closer at least thru a half as OSU sleepwalks through the next 2 months of the season waiting for MSU/UM at the end of the year. But I never expected such a close game. IMO Urban should be going with JT Barrett - get him starter reps - and say thanks to Cardale for last year and move forward. On the positive side OSU's D was stellar only giving up 190 yds to a good offense. But as we all know TOs kill a team and OSU QBs had 3 as they channeled UM the past 7 years. I am sure Urban is actually tickled by this result as it gives him a lot to yell at the team during practices the next few weeks and get them focused. OSU hosts Western next week so it will be interesting to see the how OSU's D handles a pretty good trio of QB/WR/RB the Broncos bring in. OSU's offense should have a field day vs that Western defense however.
- MSU - Ho hum - "MSU is overrated because they didnt squash a mediocre team". Yawn. Unfortunately MSU is at that stage in the program where a lot of weeks are just boring and it's going through the motions of beating teams far below their talent level. The complaints about how MSU is winning sounds a lot like what MSU fans were saying about Beilein teams pre 2014-2015 season "yeah they are winning but it's not by impressive margins!" Ho hum. MSU has basically 3 byes in CMU, Purdue and Rutgers before the Michigan game. Cook finally looked good in this game (4 TD, 0 INT, 10.7 ypa) and Burbridge finally seems to be coming into his own to take over Lippet's role as the #1 WR. Neither of those would be good developments for UM. The run game on the other hand was bad. As for the defense, playing Air Force is difficult as they chop block you to hell and run all sort of weird plays you don't see any other week of the schedule. I continue to see this as a terrible matchup for UM as our defensive strength is neutralized by their offense strength (DL v OL) and I fear how our OL will handle their front 7. Esp with no real threat of over the top throws - it will feel a lot like the Denard and Devin offenses except with even less threat of a QB run. Sigh. Oh and their punter is pretty damn great already as a freshman with a 44.3 ave this game - so that neutralizes ours.
- Minn - I considered moving Minn down after their M00K game with Kent State but I still see them sort of the same as Utah. A boring low explosion offense married to a good defense. I didn't watch this game but via the box score it looked boring as hell - Kent State averaged 2.5 ypa on rushing and Minnesota 2.4. Mitch Leidner did Mitch Leidner things - which led to 2 INTs opposite 1 TD. Minn has another MAC patsie next week before Northwestern in 2 weeks. It does sound like Minnesota has some injuries to the OL which is hurting so this might help UM. But it is pointing to a M00M game.
- Utah - Utah beat a pretty crappy Fresno State team who was coming off a... uhh... 52 pt loss to Ole Miss. It was looking like a typical low variance Utah game at the end of the 3rd with Utah leading 24-3. Then both teams exploded for 21 in the 4th. Kendall Thompson did ok in his backup QB duty, and Devontae Booker continued his workhorse ways with 31 carries for 156 yds. I believe this week is going to be the high point of Utah football in 2015 as it goes to Oregon, hosts Cal and ASU, before visiting USC.
- BYU - BYU's 75% of the way through a difficult 4 game start to the year. Preview of matchup below but in terms of the game vs UCLA, Josh Rosen finally looked human and had a typical freshman game while the excellent Paul Perkins (1600ish yds in 2014) strafed (not strifed!) BYU's rush D. There is a lot of talk on these boards about beating BYU's D on the ground. No that's wrong - you beat them through the air - Boise passed for 300 on them and Tommy Armstrong looked like a Heisman candidate thru 3 quarters against them. Their rush D is generally good when not playing absolute bad asses running behind a very good OL. The worry here for UM fans was BYU might have found a running game with Adam Hine and his 149 yds on 23 carries. Up to this week BYU's offense had been 1 dimensional so this is an issue. QB Magnum was solid if not efficient - he is the anti Rudock. He loves to throw bombs - connecting on a few each game. Anyhow BYU went into the Rose Bowl and gave a top 10 team all it could handle.
As I say every week my fear for UM in 2015 is explosive offenses and/or competent QBs as our defense looks like it will be prone to issues in space and our offense is not built for track meets. But now I have to add the Jake Rudock is not even mediocre fear on top of that. All summer I read countless comments LOLing at Iowa's handling of Rudock due to their conservatism whereas I posted quite a few posts this summer as devil's advocate saying maybe Iowa knows what they had in Rudock and is purposely conservative with him. Right now that devil's advocate view seems to be winning out - unfortunately. Again Michigan doesn't need a great Jake Rudock for 10 of their 12 games. They need a guy who protects the f***** ball and can complete 13 yard passes to TEs and WRs on the regular. That guy has barely shown up this year. Yes we need another guy altogether to test the OSU and MSU defenses but that's a different story. The type of Rudock we saw last week means teams like Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, PSU are all threats to UM. Iowa 2014 Jake Rudock limits those teams as threats.
Not only is Rudock an issue but UM's inability to run for large parts of last game vs a horrid defense has me worried vs better defenses ala PSU, NW, Minn. You have a QB who can't throw past 10 yards and a running game that struggles with above average defenses. So what's left? On the plus side the opponents in those games are QBs like Leidner, Clayton Thorston, and
SackYipenberg. Thankfully UM plays in the Big 10 where Rudock is incredibly typical of the shitty QB play seen in most of the conf. I expect M00N, M00M, M00P, etc.
I was in the 7-8 win camp to begin the year, trending to 8 after last week but now trending back to 7. We're done with the 2 worst teams on the schedule and the 4thish best. That leaves 9 games - 2 where we are underdogs, and 3 we should be decent favorites. Follow the chalk and that takes us to 5-3. Leaving 4 toss up games - BYU, Minn, NW, PSU. Split those and you get to 7-5. A BYU win would be huge to stack odds to 8 wins.
BYU has big play capability thru the air. Magnum is not super efficient - but has a huge arm. BYU's WRs are very tall - but so are Clark/Stribling. The run offense is TBD - was the UCLA breakout a case of UCLA not having a good run D or a case of BYU finding a new weapon? I am leaning towards BYU finding answers at RB because UNLV put up good yardage on UCLA on the ground but once Decker went out at QB (hurt) UNLV basically only ran. And Virginia was held to under 100 yards by UCLA on 34 carries. That said the run game is not where I expect the defense to be hurt - it's through the air. This will be one of 4 aerial attacks of any measure we should face this year (unless Hack comes back from the dead).
On the other side of the ball you beat BYU thru the air, not on the ground. Paul Perkins is probably one of the best players in the country no one talks about. If he played in the SEC he'd be right behind Chubb and Fournette as a top 3-4 RB in the conf and talked about a lot. So BYU giving up 200+ yds to him is more a case of Perkins being good along with a stout OL than BYU sucking. BYU had a top 25ish rush D in 2014 and did well vs both Nebraska (37 carries, 126 yds) and Boise (31 carries, 64 yds). They generally suck in pass D - atrocious in 2014 and this year began with giving up 319 yds to Tommy Armstrong and 300 to Finley of Boise. Rosen sucked but that's a true freshman QB doing what true freshman phenoms do a few times a year as a freshman. So we need Rudock to be a horse in this one as BYU will get points. Going to be a tough game - real tough.