"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
I am subdued. I am lethargy, personified. I died the death of 1000 cuts in the form of 71 carries, all of which went for exactly 4.1 yards, except I survived. Arkansas didn’t. Wisconsin didn’t. That’s worth remembering. I’m not sure what more I can add to Ace’s game recap. This game was one giant serving of déjà vu. Replace Air Force with Indiana and a ball control running game with a ball control passing game and we’ve been here before.
Burst of Impetus
- Air Force didn’t turn the ball over, but they only went 2 for 5 on fourth down. They missed a field goal, and were stopped on a fake field goal. That’s six points. That’s the margin of victory. Ugh.
- Denard threw an interception that once again deflected off a receiver’s hands. AF turned that into 7 points.
- The key sequence of the game to me was the start of the third quarter. Denard ran for a TD to put us up 21-10. We followed that up with a nice kickoff and a derpity return from AF. They were starting at their own 11. If we hold them there, get the ball back and score, game almost over, right? Instead, they ran for 20 and picked up another 10 on a defensive holding call (discussed below). All of a sudden, they’re at midfield. They eventually punched it in after moving 88 yards in 14 plays and we’ve got a ballgame on our hands.
- That’s not a misprint. That’s this blogger’s way of saying our defense does not have an identity. Last year’s unit was an aggressive, attacking, sometimes reckless, blitzing group, that was lead by trash cans full of dirt Martin, Van Bergen, and Heininger. Additionally, we had Kovacs eliminating the long gains from the Gerg years, and Thomas Gordon creating turnovers, again and again. Kovacs and Gordon are still around, but the turnovers have disappeared. Regression to the mean sucks.
- What do we have this year? Some experienced, but limited seniors, and some talented, but inexperienced freshman. In addition to tackles, the defensive stats are: FF FR-Yd Intc BrUp Blkd Sack/Yds QH. Look down those columns. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This is what you see. “ . . . .“ Lots and lots of dots. There were two pass breakups by Jake Ryan in the last three defensive plays of the game, and one by Frank Clark. That’s it. That’s to be expected somewhat since Air Force mostly ran the ball, but even the TFLs were limited. We had 7 TFLs for a grand, stinking total of 9 yards. Where is the aggressive, attacking unit of 2011? Yeah, I know Martin and Van Bergen are no longer around, but where are the run blitzes from the safeties and corners? Why weren’t we attacking the edge instead of letting Air Force continually get to the boundary?
- Seven of the 22 players in the defensive stats are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. I get the feeling Mattison is trying to develop some depth for the conference schedule. Compare this to Air Force, who only had 12 players register a defensive stat. Time of possession is meaningless, but total plays matter. It looks like Air Force was able to play their first string defense for the entire game.
- Wow, wasn’t Denard’s first TD run exciting (and reminiscent of the 2010 IU game?) Oh, who am I kidding, my power went out for the first quarter and I missed it. It reminded me of last year’s home opener where I missed the fourth quarter, because they didn’t play it. For next year’s home opener, I will be occupying a bunker in an undisclosed location.
- Denard has 200/200 vision. 200+ yards running and passing. As someone commented after the game, he had 101% of our total offense, because the -11 yards he accrued for the end of game kneel downs go as “TEAM” yards.
- The home plate umpire in the Tiger-Angel game took a foul ball off the face mask and had to leave the game. That’s a suitable reminder that the men who officiate our games have a difficult job, so I’ll make the annual disclaimer that I don’t really think the refs are zonkeys.
- The thing that stood out to me was that Air Force got 4 first downs from penalties. We were having enough trouble stopping them, giving them four more first downs with penalties is inexcusable. Two of our defensive penalties were holding calls on Will Campbell. Since that is such a rarely called penalty, I watched those plays several times in slow-motion. On both, the center engages with Campbell, and the guard comes over to double team. This causes Campbell to get pancaked. As he’s falling, he grabs the center’s shoulder pad with one hand, to break his fall. On the first one, the guard hits him low and this should have been called an offensive penalty for a chop block. While both were technically holding, they were no different than almost any other play, and both Air Force runs went to the sideline. Campbell’s holds were half a field away from the action and had zero impact on the play.
- On Air Force’s first TD, they broke out a play from the CFL playbook, as the flanker (A-back?) stepped back, turned around, and had a running start forward as the ball was snapped. The fact that it happened right in front of the line judge only further boggles my mind. How is that call missed?
Passing Game Stuff
- Funchess gets my brother’s stamp of approval. Mine too, but I will not compare him to Antonio Gates to avoid getting negged by Magnus. (My first ever neg was from Magnus for comparing Cam Gordon to Ronnie Lott. You never forget your first time. When I screw up, I really screw up.) Funchess caught four balls for 106 yards and 1 TD. I’m sure you’ve seen the Jerame Tuman comparison by now.
- Gardner looked more like a WR, probably because he wasn’t being defended by Milliner, but also because his routes were more precise and shorter. There was none of that looking over both shoulders stuff from a week ago. He caught 5 balls for 63 yards with a long of 20 and a TD.
- Jeremy Jackson looked like a nice big target to me. Roundtree still doesn’t look 100%. When you can’t get separation from an Air Force DB, something’s wrong.
- Michigan wore traditional jerseys with maize block Ms on their socks. I liked it.
- Air Force apparently only recruits guys named “Freedom” and “Service.” I think all the odd numbered guys had “Service” and all the even numbered guys had “Freedom.” I hope that didn’t give Brandon any ideas. (Leaders/Legends? No, don’t go there, please, no.)
- Royce Jenkins-Stone is our 2ndhexadecimalist of the year, showing up as 5B.
- Jake Ryan wore the #47 Bennie Oosterbaan jersey. My brother requested that I research Oosterbaan and provide some interesting connection between Jake and Bennie. I reminded him I’m not getting paid for this. I do remember J.P. Oosterbaan, but I’m afraid Bennie was before my time.
Announcers’ Derpity Derp
- The announcers were Bob Wischusen and Danny Kanell. Like I said, I missed the 1stquarter due to the power outage, and spent the 2ndquarter talking to my brother, which was weird because he DVR’d the game and was 20 minutes behind me, so I couldn’t tell him how great Funchess was doing.
- After the game, Danny Kanell said something about Michigan fans being anxious about the game “if you just read the boxscore.” As your resident boxscorologist, it is my job to assuage your anxiety. Sorry, I got nothin’ for you this week.
- I got a light blue screen of death with 2+ minutes left in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, they got the game back on in time for us to see Jake Ryan take over. I know we’re supposed to avoid politics on the blog, but I watched major portions of both conventions and I don’t recall hearing one speaker discuss our nation’s most pressing issue – that being technical difficulties disrupting college football games.
I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex
- Did someone forget to tell Fitz Toussaint that his suspension was over? Maybe we didn’t miss him that much against Alabama.
- Total plays: M 56, AF 90. Total first downs: M: 19, AF: 26.
- Look at the 2010 Indiana boxscore, total first downs: M: 15, IU: 35. Ace, things aren't that bad.
- Air Force gained 417 yards. Last week, Alabama got 431 yards of total offense. I said I would be happy if we held the rest of our opponents under this total. I lied.
- Our opponent’s bullets are real bullets. I wish all those guys nice, long careers in peace time.
- Toward the end of last season, I made the audacious claim that “we haz special teams.” Norfleet and Wile are doing well, and Gibbons made a field goal. The net yards per punt was only 31.3 yards. Part of that is a reflection of where we were punting from, but we also lost 20 yards of gross yardage due to a touchback.
- Air Force’s average yards per punt was 53.5 yards, with a net of 53.0. What happened to Gallon’s ~10 yards per return average? It’s still early in the season, but punt coverage and punt returns need some work.
- Last week, I discussed “Sweet Home Alabama.” Earlier this year, I reviewed last season with Iron Maiden songs. This blog celebrates with Muppets and drowns sorrows with Morrissey. So I’m going to try adding this section to the diary. Last week, my Johnny Cash Pandora station played, “Sunshine on my Shoulder,” by John Denver. Growing up, my family had John Denver sings with the Muppets on 8-track tape. We wore that thing out. Denver is in Colorado, Air Force is in Colorado, and the home opener was just around the corner. This line from the song took me back to those home openers I used to enjoy so much with Dad, in Section 11, Row 74, seats 5 and 6: “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” It seemed like every home opener was sunny and warm, and the day ended with half my face sunburned and a victory, because Bo always won those home openers. The next line is, “Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.” What made me cry was the cigar smoke from the guys in Row 73, seats 5 and 6. Sometimes, déjà vu’s not such a bad thing.
Low pressure system and it's accompanying cold front are shifting East of Lake Huron, taking the steady rain with it. On the backside of the low, we'll see breezy conditions and *maybe a spotty shower*-although most will stay dry and if you do get wet, it won't last long. Chilly today with temps below normal, and some decent cloud cover. Grab the sweatshirt, it feels like fall football!
Steady rains ending early on, but don't expect it to warm up a whole lot. Slowly rising into the mid 60s throughout the morning and into lunchtime, and more and more of the sun peeking out-should be mostly sunny towards mid-morning. Tie down those tents-winds are out of the NW at a steady 15-18mph (loose papers blow about), with gusts up into the mid and upper 20s (small trees sway, lighter garbage cans tip over).
Finally hitting that 70 degree mark for 3:30! Some clouds will hang out for the start of the game, but overall should be fair skies. Keeping a chilly NW wind at 17mph, and gusts are still possible up around 25mph.
Don't expect a whole lot to change as we end the first half. Some of the cloud cover will have gone down, and we'll hang on near 70 degrees, but the wind's still blowing! Still steady 17/18mph with gusts up to 25mph. As we head towards the end of the game, the winds will slowly start to go down more.
By game's end, looking at 68 degrees with NW winds at 15mph-gusts up to 22mph (so you'll still see leaves and small twigs blowing around, some decent size branches moving) and partly cloudy skies. Winds will gradually die down-getting rid of the gusts while you're eating dinner, and down to 10mph (leaves and papers blow about) out of the WNW by 9pm. A slight chance of rain lingers throughout the overnight (and your Sunday), but just like during the day most will stay dry, and rain won't last long. If you are headed out to celebrate the win, don't leave your sweatshirt on the barstool at closing time because although westerly winds will be light, temperatures will be down at 54 degrees! Go Blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI, and temporarily for NBC25 in Flint/Saginaw, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
many is the number of people who live in the past. these people still debate and try to decipher the game against Alabama
most people wonder what would have happened if Michigan had retained Rich Rod as the OC. They also believe that with the personnel Michigan currently has, RR's offense would have lit up Alabama this year and Mattison's defense would not have had to work so hard - resulting in a Michigan win
that may be true, but THE KNOWLEDGE does not live in the past
THE KNOWLEDGE lives in the future
as mentioned in the previous post, people should quit worrying and look forward to seeing Michigan go 12-1 the rest of the year
the first part of that starts with wins over Air Force and Mass
THE KNOWLEDGE CHALLENGE makes its 2012 debut on these very pages now in a special manner
in this edition of THE CHALLENGE, you are required to predict the scores of both the AF and Mass games. there will be 3 POTW (Protege Of THE KNOWLEDGE) award winners at the end of the two games:
1. For the AF game
2. For the Mass game
3. For the cobined best predictor
ideally the POTW will predict both scores correctly and hence win the third automatically, but that, of course, will not happen
as usual THE KNOWLEDGE shall now provide pointers to the games to make the score prediction:
- Michigan will win both games as noted above
- Neither game will be close
- Michigan will run and pass at will
- The defense may appear to struggle but will not in reality
as usual, THE KNOWLEDGE shall soar and bask in glory
as will the POTW awardees
info on Air Force was a little tough to find, no actual depth charts and you will notice that some players don't have numbers yet. i just didn't take the time to track that down.
michigan's depth chart is unchanged from last week, although i know there was some talk of some shifting. if anyone thinks there is a major change to be reflected here, let me know and i can do that.
Over the course of the season there are three key factors that drive the success or failure of a football team:
On a game by game basis you can throw in variance/strategy/luck. It’s pretty tough for a high variance strategy to pay out over the long term but for a particular game playing high variance could be the right decision. Teams like Boise State have found success mostly on execution. Oregon and other non-traditional powers have used offensive systems to drive success. The ones who have done it with talent are easy to spot because that’s where the big-time programs all start.
It would have been unrealistic for Michigan to expect Saturday to be a victory on execution over a Nick Saban coached team. Al Borges was apparently comfortable not pushing any system/variance strategies with his choice of play calling (unless you consider the deep balls his way of playing high variance). That left the major gap between Michigan and Alabama to come down to talent. Michigan and Alabama both have storied histories and bright futures for their football teams, but their current rosters are at very different points.
Here is a look at how Michigan’s roster stacks up to the Big Ten and its non-conference opponents. Methodology here
|Penn St||2,267||Air Force||126|
Michigan certainly has an enviable roster for most of the country, but attrition and recruiting gaps have left the upper-classes of the roster well below the nation’s elite programs. In fact, the gap between Michigan and Alabama is essentially the same as between Michigan and Minnesota. With Michigan not willing (system/variance) or able (execution) to push the other levers, the talent lever came through in full force.
The good news is that there isn’t a team left on the schedule that can do that to Michigan on talent alone. Holding serve on talent puts Michigan at 9-3 and Legends division champs and potentially favored in the B1G Title Game. The talent gap can give and it can take away. Obviously talent is never a guarantee (ask Texas) but with good coaching, Michigan’s talent should put them in a position to be a competitive or win every game remaining on the schedule. The defense seems positioned to possibly pick up some advantage from coaching, and until the full tenants of the passing attack are in place, the offense will likely be middle of the course to slightly above, depending on how the Denard is deployed.
Barring major attrition issues, Michigan will start to move up the talent list over the next several years. I project them to reach current Ohio/ND range in time for the 2014 and potentially hitting the upper echelons when the current freshman enter their senior season. Until that happens, Michigan will either need to be content to see results like they did on Saturday or find different ways to gain advantages over the next two seasons.
Game scores (1st half only)
Denard Robinson: 18 plays, -1.2 EV (points added), -8% WPA (win pct added)
Thomas Rawls: 4 plays, -0.3, -1%
Vincent Smith: 9 plays, -2.0, -1.5%
AJ McCarron: 16 plays, +6.7, +12%
Eddie Lacy: 8 plays, +3.4, +4%
TJ Yeldon: 5 plays, +4.4, +7%
Air Force isn’t charted from its week 1 win against an FCS team, but it plenty efficient, scoring TD’s on 4 of 6 first half drives, with one killed by a 15 yard penalty. The defense pitched a first half shutout but did allow 3 of 5 drives into Falcon territory. My preseason rankings installed Michigan as a nearly three touchdown favorite and I have no reason to think expectations have changed substantially.
Michigan 31 Air Force 10, 98% chance of victory
Ok, so it's another week and another opponent. That means more wallpaper. I will be on vacation during UMass week, so I did the wallpaper early. Honestly, I couldn't get into the Air Force wallpaper as whole-heartedly as I'd have liked, so I apologize for the drop-off in quality on that one. It's still not THAT BAD, but not on the level I've been producing. Sorry.
The UMass wallpaper, on the other hand, I really like it. There may be people out there who have never seen an ad for the new Assassin's Creed or know that it takes place in the Revolutionary War (loose tie to Minutemen). So there you have it, that's your background on my theft/conversion of AC's main character into Denard. Anyway, I'm starting to ramble. I hope you enjoy the wallpapers and get some use from them in the weeks to come.
As always, thanks for your support and I welcome constructive criticism and/or new ideas you'd like to see.