Given extensive work commitments and a second “career” within the 80s synth music revival scene, I had decided to forego the annual diary series this year. But with multiple diary series AWOL, I figured I what the heck.
This year I’ll be reviewing the week’s best and worst performances in the conference, using boxing as a metaphor.
All contests fall into one of four categories:
- KOs, TKOs and Unanimous Decisions (i.e. emphatic wins/upset wins)
- Split Decisions (i.e. wobbly wins)
- Moral Victories (i.e. losses you can take heart in)
- Out Cold (i.e. losses that make pandas sad)
Note: this is a week-by-week thing, not a power ranking type thing. Previous performances only come into play when ranking within these categories. I will, however, comment on the team’s overall performance and outlook in the comments.
[Rankings in parentheses.]
KOs, TKOs and Unanimous Decisions
1. OSU (3) beats Oklahoma (14) 45-24 on the road.
Whether OSU is really that good or Oklahoma is just worse than expected is a matter of debate; as far as I’m concerned, it’s both. Oklahoma certainly has not looked like a playoff contender so far, and that probably contributed to the way this game played out. That said, this young OSU team actually looks better than they did a year ago this time, when the roster was heavy with NFL-bound upperclassmen. They may still drop an egg at some point, but this was a big test and the Buckeyes passed it with ease. A potentially/hopefully momentum-killing bye week beckons, after which Rutgers offers itself up for ritual sacrifice.
2. MSU (12) beats Notre Dame (18) 36-28 on the road.
MSU’s anemic victory over Furman led a lot of people to question whether this Spartan team lived up to the standard set by the last three. But even if this Notre Dame team was overrated going into the game, a road victory over a ranked team is no small feat—especially considering ND’s recent success in the series. Simply put, had MSU played like they did against Furman, they would have lost. Instead, MSU’s offense clicked and the defense got just enough plays out of its experienced linebacking corps to hold off a last ditch comeback attempt. We’ll see whether this was a one-off performance or something more sustainable when they play Wisconsin at Camp Randall.
3. Nebraska (NR) beats Oregon (22) 35-32 at home.
Nebraska has a good roster...by Big 10 West standards. They did last year as well, and probably should have won 8-9 games. Unfortunately, they were really, really unlucky, leaving them with a 5-7 record instead. Things seem to be going better in the fortune department now, as evidenced by this close win over a not-quite-what-they-used-to-be-but-still-ranked (barely) Oregon team. 9-3 seems attainable for the Huskers, who get Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue over the next four games.
4. Michigan (4) beats Colorado (NR) 45-28 at home.
By far the wobbliest of the four convincing victories, and a game in which a better-than-expected Colorado spent two quarters looking like they were primed for the upset. Then Colorado’s QB got hurt and Michigan wreaked its horrible vengeance upon the Buffaloes. Fans can either take refuge in the fact that the team has the skill and heart to recover from early adversity, or worry endlessly about the erratic safety, OL and QB play, all of which seemed to confirm preseason anxieties about those positions. Both are legitimate reactions to a victory that never seemed as emphatic as the final score implies. Next up: a mediocre Penn State team with one very scary running back.
Split Decision Wins
5. Maryland (NR) beats UCF 30-24 on the road.
Not a great win by any stretch of the imagination, but UCF is at least okay and Maryland were playing on the road. So that’s something I guess. Next up: a game.
6. Penn State (NR) beats Temple 34-27 at home.
Penn State decided to memorialize the man who allegedly kept quiet for decades about a serial child molester by eking out a home win against Temple. Can’t we just trade them to the ACC already?
7. Northwestern (NR) beats Duke (NR) 24-13 at home.
Northwestern finally gets a win—over a bad Duke team, sure, but hey—a win is better than another loss, I guess.
10. Wisconsin (9) beats Georgia State (NR) 23-17 at home.
It’s getting hard to remember that Wisconsin beat a top 5 SEC West team just two weeks ago. The Badgers looked downright bad as they barely scraped by winless Georgia State, and the murderers’ row portion of their schedule looms large. Will fans remember the opener if they go 6-6?
9. Rutgers (NR) beats New Mexico (NR) 37-28 at home.
Another week, another bad performance by Rutgers, who may not win another game all year.
10. Iowa (13) loses to North Dakota (NR) 23-31 at home.
Uninspired and uninspiring performance by the presumptive Big 10 West favorites. Iowa still has plenty of time to recover, but expectations for the season have officially been tempered. Iowa’s next two opponents—Rutgers and Northwestern—offer Kirk Ferentz a great pair of opportunities to right the ship and start earning that $48m extension.
11. Illinois (NR) loses to Western Michigan (NR) 34-10 at home.
Granted, WMU is a good MAC team, but they are still a MAC team, and any game in which you get steamrolled—at home—by a MAC team is a bad, bad game. Illinois is bad and should feel bad.
BYES: Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue
Recently my new BFF It's Harambe took on the thankless task of asking his fellow MgoBloggers to rank the top 25 Michigan athletes of all time. As the list was revealed it was clear to this reader that some of the most notable players who competed during the athletic stone age (pre-internet) had been forgotten about. This weekly diary will take a look at the more notable players from our past to remind everyone of what they did and why they deserve to be honored and remembered.
"He was the best Freshman, the best Sophomore, he was the best Junior, and now he's the best player in the country."
Michigan center John Madden
Like baseball, our storied hockey past was seemingly overlooked by pollsters when selecting the greatest athletes in Michigan history. With many players to choose from I thought it was appropriate to lead with the player who scored arguably the most memorable single goal in Michigan hockey history.
After playing one year in British Columbia Morrison joined the team in 1993. He had also been approached by the Denver Pioneers and the Maine Black Bears to join their school teams, but ultimately chose Michigan. Registering 48 points (20 goals and 28 assists) over 38 games as a freshman, Morrison was named the CCHA Rookie of the Year for the 1993–94 season. He played on a line with fellow freshman Jason Botterill; the two played together throughout their college career. In the 1994 playoffs, he helped the Wolverines to a CCHA championship. Playing in his sophomore year (1994–95), Morrison improved to 76 points (23 goals and 43 assists) over 39 games and received his first of three consecutive CCHA First Team All-Star selections.
With 72 points over 45 games in 1995–96, Morrison received his first of back-to-back CCHA Player of the Year awards. He added 15 points in 7 post-season games to capture his second CCHA championship with the Wolverines. Advancing to the 1996 NCAA Tournament, Michigan advanced to the final against the Colorado College Tigers. Morrison scored the championship-winning goal 3:35 into overtime to win the game 3–2.
Red Berenson, the Michigan coach, teased Morrison afterward, saying, "Brendan, what took you so long?" Bach had been moved to the other side of his goal by a quick pass, Greg Crozier to Bill Muckalt, followed by a pass from Muckalt to Morrison. The puck was rolling by then, and Morrison gave it a poke. The goalie could not get back in time to snuff the little shot that was Morrison's 28th goal of the season. It was the Wolverines' first national title in 32 years. In addition to receiving NCAA Tournament MVP honors, Morrison was named to the NCAA West Regional and NCAA All-Tournament Teams.
Morrison was named team captain in his senior year. He totaled college personal bests that season of 31 goals, 57 assists and 88 points over 43 games, culminating in a Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA's most outstanding player; Morrison had been a finalist for the award the previous two years. The Wolverines repeated as CCHA champions, but lost to the Boston University Terriers in the NCAA semifinal. Morrison completed his four-year college career as the Wolverines' all-time points leader with 284, surpassing Denny Felsner. His points total also ranked seventh all-time among NCAA players.
Let's get to know our upcoming opponent the Penn State Nittany Lions!
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Overall Record: Michigan leads 12-7
- This Saturday will be the 20th meeting between the two schools.
- Michigan and Penn State did not play until the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993.
- This series has been one of streaks. After Michigan took the very first matchup in 1993, the series has gone as follows:
o Penn State wins 3 in a row (1994-1996)
o Michigan wins 9 in a row (1997-2007, did not play in 2003 or 2004)
o Penn State wins 4 in a row (2008-2013, did not play in 2011 or 2012)
o Michigan wins 2 in a row and is a heavy favorite for a 3rd (2014-Present)
- Michigan has the highest all-time winning percentage against Penn State of any Big Ten team at 0.632 (Ohio State is next at 0.567. MSU and Wisconsin both hold all-time winning records against PSU by a razor thin margin of 1 game each (15-14 and 9-8, respectively; however, 8 of the Spartans’ 15 wins came before 1967). PSU has winning records against everyone else in the B1G.
- NOTE: OSU has a higher winning percentage against Penn State since they’ve joined the Big Ten. However, Penn State has beaten UM and OSU the same number of times (7) since joining the conference; OSU has played them more frequently (every year) allowing for more wins/a higher percentage. In the four seasons Michigan did not play PSU in Big Ten play, the Wolverines finished with more wins than the Nittany Lions in three of them (2003, 2004, 2011) and the same amount of wins in the 4th (2012). And, in 2012 Michigan finished the season ranked while Penn State did not. Not that you can predict games that didn’t happen, but I’d say Penn State is pretty lucky they got to play Rich Rod all 3 years, but didn’t have to play either of the last two of our Big Ten Championship teams (Penn State was 3-9 and 4-7 in '03 and '04).
Home Field Advantage:
· This has been a series where, at least in the macro sense, home field has meant very little. Michigan has split its 12 wins evenly between Ann Arbor and State College, with a 6-3 mark against PSU in The Big House and a 6-4 record in Beaver Stadium.
· Penn State won the first two games it ever played in Ann Arbor (1994 and 1996). Since then, however, the Nittany Lions have gone 1-6 in the Big House with their only win over the 5-7 2009 team.
· Penn State actually only won 1 of their first 6 games against Michigan in Happy Valley. They then won 3 home games in a row against Hoke/Rich Rod teams, before Harbaugh snapped the Wolverines' State College losing streak last November, in what is his best true road win as a UM head coach to date.
Michigan Coaches Against PSU:
- Gary Moeller: 1-1
- Lloyd Carr: 9-2
- Rich Rodriguez: 0-3
- Brady Hoke: 1-1
- Jim Harbaugh: 1-0
(If Lloyd Carr could post an 82% winning percentage against Joe Paterno, can you even imagine what Jim Harbaugh could do in this series against James Franklin?!?! *cackles with glee*)
Most Noteworthy Michigan Wins:
· 1993- In the first ever meeting between these two Blue Blood programs, #18 Michigan was a significant road underdog against undefeated, #7 Penn State. Michigan started the 1993 season ranked #3; however, the Wolverines were coming fresh off a rivalry loss in East Lansing the week before, and had lost to Notre Dame a month earlier at home. It looked as if the season was heading for a complete unraveling. Penn State fans and Joe Paterno also had a lot of bluster about how they would walk in and own the Big Ten upon joining the conference. Yet, the Wolverines stormed right into a Happy Valley White Out and handed PSU and Joe Paterno their first ever Big Ten loss by a score of 21-13. This game included arguably the most impressive ever 4 down goal line stand by Michigan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ztIRawkvCM (BUILD A F^$&#&% WALL) This game was one of two spectacular highlights that provided some success in an otherwise “meh” 8-4 season. The other of course being a 28-0 shutout of #5 Ohio State (We miss you, John Cooper).
· 1997- Marketed as part of “Judgment Day”, in which several undefeated teams were playing each other in early November, undefeated #4 Michigan headed to State College to face undefeated #2 Penn State. What happened next was a complete and utter throttling. Michigan OBLITERATED #2 Penn State by a score of 34-8, but that score makes it seem closer than it was. Michigan was winning 34-0 into the 4th quarter, and 24-0 at the half; PSU got their lone touchdown and 2 point conversion in 4th quarter garbage time after Michigan had the backups in. The eventual National Champion Wolverines used this game to nationally assert their clout more than any other, and in the process snapped a 3 game losing streak to PSU. This certainly goes down as one of, if not the most, impressive road victory Michigan has posted in modern times. Full game here (you won’t have to watch long to get to the Michigan domination): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SENR2AXKfY4
· 2005-Michigan started the 2005 season ranked #4; however, going into the Penn State game on October 15th we already had 3 one-score losses: 7 points to Notre Dame at home, 3 points to Wisconsin in Madison, and 3 points to Minnesota at home. Thus, Michigan entered the game unranked. Penn State on the other hand was riding high; undefeated and coming off a home win against #6 Ohio State the week before, the #8 Nittany Lions entered Ann Arbor with lots of confidence and poised to break a long, 6 game losing streak. They would leave with heartbreak. A great game was capped off by the legendary Henne to Manningham game winning touchdown as time expired, Michigan won 27-25 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofg5EiHxaX8). Michigan extended its winning streak to 7 straight against Joe Paterno-led Penn State teams and ruined the Nittany Lions' otherwise perfect season (they would finish 11-1, win the Big Ten, and end up ranked #3 at the end of the season).
(Honorable Mention: In 1998 #22 Michigan stomped #9 Penn State 27-0, marking the second slaughter of a top ten PSU team in a row and the first Michigan win against the Nittany Lions in front of our home crowd).
Most Noteworthy Penn State Wins/Michigan Losses:
· 1994: The second game in the series, and first in Ann Arbor, was a top five mid-October matchup (#3 PSU, #5 UM) that lived up to the hype. Penn State stormed out to a 16-0 lead, but a furious Michigan rally led by current RB Coach Tyrone Wheatley gave Michigan a 17-16 lead in the third quarter. PSU and Michigan would trade touchdowns (and a 2 point PSU conversion), making the game tied at 24 well into the 4th quarter. However, it was not meant to be for the good guys, as the Nittany Lions scored a touchdown with just under 3 minutes remaining to take a 31-24 lead that would end up being the final score after Michigan’s final chance drive stalled. Penn State would finish the season undefeated, but be passed up by Nebraska for a national championship. A road victory over #5 Michigan was the best win (only top 10) on the Lions’ resume in one of the best PSU seasons of all time.
· 2013: I think we all remember the nightmare that was this game, so I’ll just touch briefly on it. Signs of trouble were exposed in the Akron and UConn games, but this was the true start of the unraveling of the Brady Hoke era. Michigan came into this game 5-0 and ranked #18, then choked so many easy opportunities to put the game away, and wound up losing in 4 overtimes. We would go on to lose 5 of our next 7 games. On the Penn State side, this remains their best home win of the post-Joe Paterno era (possibly not in terms of actual opponent quality, but Michigan was ranked higher than any one else they’ve beaten at home since JoePa left and it was in thrilling fashion). Three years later, this remains Penn State’s most recent home win against a ranked opponent.
Please feel free to share any memories of games in this series or feelings about the game this weekend!
GO BLUE, BEAT PENN STATE!
Best: Predictably Inevitable
People have asked how I find time to write these (needlessly-long, pedantic) diaries with two small kids at home. Well, the secret is that I rarely watch the full game live; I always DVR it and catch up Saturday night/Sunday morning. Most days I’ll catch part of it during a rare nap time, maybe a quarter while my daughter plays in the living room, but otherwise it’s always after-the-fact viewing.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that every Michigan football games elicits an amount of emotion from me regardless of how I consume it. If it’s live, it’s a slow drip over 4 hours with occasional spikes. If I only see the box score well after the game is done, it’s either a jolt of euphoria or a gut punch in a moment. But when I’m watching the game on a DVR, it’s a different creature entirely. I largely know how the game ended; I’m not remotely diligent enough to try to filter that information out (and oftentimes, I catch the final score as the game ends). I’m not living or dying by every play in real-time, but there’s still a context to them that’s tangible. In this game, I caught UM going down 21-7 as it happened; Liufau looked accurate throwing the ball and CU’s defense was humming along. Needless to say that wasn’t the best feeling on my way to dinner. But when I tuned back in, UM was ahead 38-28 and CU was struggling to get positive yardage with their backup QB. The final score was a comfortable-looking 17-points, and the per-quarter yardage breakdown largely matched up; Colorado had 195 total yards of offense in the first quarter to UM’s 66, while over the next 3 quarters it was 130 to 331 for the Wolverines. The final destination was predictable; the path the teams took to get there less so.
I know early predictions for this game were calling for a blowout, but I never totally bought it. I expected UM to win convincingly, but Colorado is a better team than people give them credit for. Their offense can move the ball quickly (especially when you add in poor tackling), they can get after the QB a bit, and they have a solid secondary. It isn’t a world-beater, but if you told me they’ll finish second in the Pac-12 South I wouldn’t be surprised. And UM still hasn’t shown an ability to lock down mobile QBs and all the bad mojo that comes with them (in this game it was an early parade of slants that were almost always open); an upgraded UCF is what I expected to see, and so 21 points of offense plus an NFL Blitz-type forced fumble for a TD was what we got.
But again, how they got to 28 was the jarring part of it. For two weeks I had seen Wilton Speight just pinpoint balls all over the field; in this game, he started 2/9 for 16 yards and air-mailed a couple of balls or left them far too short. Even at the half, after UM had come storming back to take the lead 24-21, Speight’s numbers were still pretty pedestrian (9/21, 124 yards, 1 TD). The second half was much better, as Speight went 7/9 for 105 yards, but still it was a game that he finished with barely above a 50% completion percentage and a ypa of 7.6. And at least early on, he struggled to handle the pressure Colorado was bringing and/or the coverage packages they used (he did evade pressure late on the missed FG drive), or at least the playcalling made it difficult to do so.
And the running game never really materialized despite putting up superficially-okay states (~5 ypc after you factored our sacks). It felt like the usual cocktail of problems running the ball, with backs sometimes missing holes while other times being steamrolled by unblocked tacklers. Smith had the one long TD run but was otherwise shut down, as was Isaac and Evans. Hell, Isaac and Speight ran into each other on a play late in the half and I wasn’t all that surprised. To say I’ve become comfortably numb to the reality that UM just isn’t going to be able to run the ball effectively again would probably be an understatement.
And so, UM leaned on its defense and special teams to right the ship early, and for the second week in a row they delivered. UM blocked another punt, this one opening the scoring for the Wolverines. They also forced CU to sorta-shank another punt in the 2nd quarter. The defensive line didn’t allow the Buffs to get anything going on the ground (33 carries, 67 yards, 1.9 ypc), and as a team UM had 4 sacks and another 8 QB hits. Thus, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Liufau wound up having to sit out in the second half with an ankle injury, nor that any semblance of offense went with him.
Watching the game again, the narratives played out perfectly: Colorado came out and rode emotion, execution (good from CU, bad from UM), and some luck to an early lead, but it never felt sustainable. UM slowly clawed back behind it’s defense and some big plays, and in the end imposed their will once again. In the moment, though, I’m sure it didn’t feel quite so clear-cut.
Best: Chill Peppers
On the same day that Lamar Jackson completely undressed FSU to solidify his September Heisman, Jabrill Peppers submitted his own entry for the award. Jim Harbaugh said after the game that Peppers was the best player on the field this day, and it’s hard to look at the numbers and disagree: 24 yards rushing, nearly 200 return yards and a TD, a team-leading 3.5 TFL with his 9 tackles, and the immeasurable fear of God he put into every Buffalo player whenever he touched the ball. Coming into the game he was third in the country for TFLs, and only added to his total here. In a game featuring a fair number of athletic guys on both sides of the ball, Peppers looked like a man apart.
The only concern I have is that the team will come to rely more heavily on his offensive contributions, especially if running the ball continues to be an issue. Peppers is best when he can be deployed strategically on offense, as otherwise you are doing your opponent’s dirty work tiring him out on the defensive side of the ball. Both PSU and Wisconsin will likely continue the running game’s woes, and I worry that Peppers will be leaned on to get some yards on the ground. Hopefully PSU’s recent struggles on defense and Wisconsin’s issues moving the ball will allow UM to give Peppers breathers when he’s not killing screens and QBs, because right now he is playing as complete a job as a defender as we’ve seen around UM in a long time.
Worst: Unnecessarily Interesting Secondary
We all knew coming into the year that the secondary had a lot of experience and talent. But we also knew that the era of boring safeties (both Kouvacs and Wilson) was probably over as well. Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill are great athletes who can make plays on the ball in space, and in Don Brown’s defense they can wreak havoc in both the running and passing games at a moment’s notice. But at the same time, they can absolutely run themselves out of good position or the right coverage, resulting in big plays. In the wash you assume math favors the aggressors and those crunching hits, timely turnovers, and drive-killing deflections are worth the occasional bust. And thus far, that’s largely been true, as UM has as many fumble recoveries (2) as they did all last year, and Hill has a pick-six to his name.
But at the same time, Hill was also the guy who got beat badly on that 70-yard TD throw, and Thomas was largely responsible for UCF’s 87-yard TD run going from a first down to a dash to the endzone. Again, in totality, I think both of them have been solid beyond the breakdowns, but when your position prominently includes the word “Safety”, a flaming truck going down a backwoods road shouldn’t be an image that pops in my head.
And it wasn’t just the safeties today. Both Stribling and Clark struggled at times to tackle in space, no more so than when Clark just sorta bounced off Bryce Bobo on his way to a 50-yard slant that flipped the field and gave Colorado a chance to extend their 21-7 lead (luckily CU botched the kick). Watching games this weekend, teams like OSU, MSU, PSU, and even Iowa have receivers who can make UM’s secondary pay, and giving up multiple 50+ yard completions largely due to bad form or poor angles can’t be a common occurrence if UM is going to thrive this year. Some of this is undoubtedly transition pains to a new defensive philosophy, but bad tackling and pursuit angles aren’t usually due to learning new playcalls and, even more, shouldn’t be occurring with some regularity for seniors who have played significant minutes before.
Worst: Second-string Excuses
I saw a couple of people (mostly on the Reddit post-game thread but also stray eggs on Twitter) claim this game would have been different had Sefo Liufau not been injured in the third quarter. Hell, our favorite "newspaper" claimed that he stood "tall" in the pocket while leading his team to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, even though his team was behind at halftime and only took the lead for about a minute before UM jumped ahead for good.
Liufau played well in spurts and with poise under a heavy UM rush, but well before he was knocked out of the game it was clear that UM was adjusting to the slants and screens that CU used to move the ball in that first quarter. The yardage disparity after the first quarter is one thing, but after his aforementioned long completion to Bobo that broke because of poor tackling, he was 5/11 for 23 yards before that 70-yard heave. So beyond two broken plays that totaled 120 yards, Colorado could barely move the ball and their QB was getting hit hard both when he dropped back and when he ran. That's going to take a toll on anyone's body, and so it shouldn't be some huge surprise that he went out with an injury.
Obviously, you can't completely ignore those 2 completions; one flipped the field and led to a FG try and the other was for a score. But UM had already started to impose it's will on the game by that point, and given his career's penchant for turnovers I'm not sure his luck would have continued. I mean, he couldn't even escape the hits on the sidelines.
On the other side of the ball, UM was without Jourdan Lewis, Bryan Mone, and Taco Charlton, all three men who would have made Sefo's day even longer. That's the nature of football, and had UM lost I'm sure a couple people would have pointed to this absences as a cause. But don't let the narrative that Colorado was holding serve with UM settle in too deeply; it was more that Colorado hit some early shots but the inevitable talent and skill difference kicked in. That doesn't mean losing their starting quarterback didn't hurt CU, only that I think him leaving affected the margin of the victory, not who won.
Worst: Offensive First Quarter
Take it away, Jared…
I’m not sure how to read that first quarter. Michigan was able to move the ball on the ground a bit, but it was mostly by giving the ball to Peppers or McDoom on sweeps. Smith had one nice gain, but that was about it. Speight went 2/9 for 16 yards, and most of that was picked up on a nice little catch-and-run by Butt. But that’s it for the offense, and that also included Speight air-balling a couple of throws and getting obliterated by Awuzie on a blitz that led to Colorado’s second TD. He seemed profoundly off, and seemed physically rattled after that sack, with O’Korn taking at least one snap while they worked on Speight’s shoulder.
People will look at the box score and see a long of 45 yards to Darboh and think Speight started airing it out, but that was a really short pass to the flats that Darboh turned into a TD by shaking one defender and fighting off a couple one-arm tackles. For most of the game, Speight struggled to get the ball downfield consistently, leaving a couple short including one that forced Darboh to bat it away lest it get picked off. It seemed like the speed of the pass rush and Colorado’s legitimately-good secondary messed with his reads and timing, and to his credit Speight found ways to move around in the pocket to buy some time and completed 7 of his last 9 throws. Yet, for all of the optimism I had after the first 2 weeks about him at QB, this week’s performance tamps that down a bit. He should obviously remain the starting QB and he could have a great week against PSU to quiet the whispers, but his trajectory toward stardom took a dip this weekend.
As for the rest of the offense, it got better after that first quarter. Chesson didn’t have a catch in this game and seemed to be covered well when they did throw to him, though Speight’s inaccuracy probably played a part in that. And he still did get to the endzone on a nice run to pull UM within 7 in the second quarter. In his stead, both Butt and Darboh had a number of big catches, and in particular Butt looked unguardable again.
As for the running backs, like I said earlier, this might just be it. I’ll let PFF and Brian grade out the linemen, but it sure seemed like there were holes to be hit at times and Smith and co. failed to get to them. And yes, running the ball can oftentimes be very feast-or-famine, with outcomes sometimes independent of what play was called and if it was executed properly. Smith’s big run against BYU, as has been noted a couple times around here, probably shouldn’t have happened; Smith ran the wrong way, had to fight off the same guy trying to tackle him twice, and it still resulted in a long TD. His long run this game was more conventional, but again sometimes you just get lucky and that can turn a meh day into a good one. But at the same time, this is week 3 and outside of Chris Evans against Hawaii there hasn’t been a particularly memorable performance by any of the backs. Smith did have a couple of nice blitz pickups that helped give Speight some time, so definitely shouldn’t be minimized. But I am profoundly worried how one-dimensional this team will look against PSU and Wisconsin these next two weeks if UM struggled to get yardage against CU and UCF.
Best: Defensive Line
This should probably be a weekly segment, but kudos to the defensive line again for dominating an opposition. Colorado couldn’t do anything running the ball and their QBs were getting demolished even when they got passes off. Gary had 4 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs, and led the team in QB hits. Even with a short rotation, guys like Winovich and Hurst kept getting through the line, and they rarely ceded ground to CU’s offense. I fully expect them to continue this against PSU and Wisconsin, as both teams have issues offensively (PSU’s line and Wisconsin’s QB).
Best: This is Apparently a Thing
So yeah, another week, another couple of great special teams plays. UM blocked 1 punt decisively, leading to Grant Perry’s opening TD, returned a punt for a TD, and even with a missed FG by Kenny Allen decisively won that phase of the game. In terms of field position, UM started each drive on their own 37, while CU was at their own 28. That’s basically a free first down every drive, and lot of that was due to UM having 213 yards in returns (including 50+ returns on both punts and kickoffs) on the day to Colorado’s 159. I’m sure this string of decisive special teams performance won’t last, but the ghost of John Baxter (as well as the coach’s seeming willingness to game planning for this part of the game) has definitely paid off these past couple of weeks, and I hope it continues into the conference season.
Meh: Other Games Played This Weekend
I wound up catching a lot of other future opponents this weekend due to the late-night starts for MSU-ND and OSU-OU, plus having Temple-PSU on in the background. Here are some brief takes:
- PSU is much better offensively from the QB spot, but overall the offense still seems sort of janky. This isn’t last year’s Temple team, and their defense isn’t close to the one that beat up Hackenberg to the tune of 10 sacks. And yet, PSU’s offensive line had trouble holding up for the run game, with Bakrley having one 55-yard TD run but not much else. As a team, the Nittany Lions only rushed for 3 yards per carry, and they haven’t played anything close to UM’s defensive talent. As for their defense, they held Temple to 38 yards rushing but also gave up nearly 300 yards passing and 74% completion percentage to a QB who entered the game with a 3:4 TD/INT ratio and a sub-.50% completion percentage. Oh, and they also decided to honor Joe Pa’s 50-anniversary of his first game, because they are the worst-run college sports team in America and their fans are insane. There is not a score high enough that I’d ask UM to take the foot off the gas if they had the chance.
- Watching ND and now Texas, I think what we’re learning is that neither of those teams were all that good to start the year. Notre Dame’s defense is terrible and doesn’t look to be getting any better. Their offense is fine but doesn’t blow your doors off, and despite MSU’s garbage corners they rarely went after them vertically. As for MSU, they won another game littered with dumb luck and a near-collapse. MSU got a lucky punt bounce off an ND player’s leg, at least one drop by an ND receiver with nobody around, and so many holds that it was almost comical. O’Connor didn’t look all that comfortable throwing the ball, with his TD pass to Corley being underthrown and bouncing out of ND’s arms. To their credit they did stymie ND’s rushing attack, but their secondary is terrible (witness an ND receiver beating 3 of them for a end-of-half Hail Mary and just missing it), and their offensive line never got much push. I still see them as a 3- or 4-loss team, but at this point expecting sanity with the Spartans is probably too much.
- OSU is good. OU is probably overrated, but OSU is just a very good offense with an improving defense. They aren’t as talented as last year’s squad, and like much of the Big 12 I think the Sooners have been exposed as bit along the defensive line. But at the same time, this game is going to be a war. On a positive note, Barrett still seems tentative throwing the ball and, despite his 4 TDs to Noah Brown, hasn’t really chewed up anyone in the air. If UM can hold up against the run like they have most of the year, that could make this game interesting. But Urban Meyer is a very good coach and an elite recruiter, and so expecting OSU to have a “down” year isn’t a reality.
- Also, Iowa lost to NDSU because of course they did, and Wisconsin struggled again offensively. Those games look much more tractable than they did a week or two ago.
Next Week: The James Franklin Anxiety Parade Stop
With all due props for beating a mediocre AAC team team at home, James Franklin and PSU have not had a good first couple of weeks. They struggled to get by Kent State, then lost against geographical-neighbor-but-otherwise-irrelevant, and held on against Temple. Again, people say Franklin needs another couple of years due to sanctions, but this still looks like a team with major issues at the top, not just on the depth chart. Plus, it’s a fanbase that just makes everyone else uncomfortable with its lack of perspective, and continues to canvases to paint itself as victims on instead of just shutting up and moving on. But since this game is played on the field and not the court of public opinion, it’ll be closer than in years past because PSU’s offense is now pretty decent. Unfortunately, the defense has taken a step back, and I don’t see how McSorley stands up to the defensive pressure he’ll face. I expect it to be a 10-13 point win, with Penn State staying close but never really challenging.
MOD EDIT - Moving to diaries. Good idea. - LSA
Well, let it never be said about this place that we don't handle adversity creatively because that's something that I would expect from MGoBlog.
The first quarter was brutal, the second quarter had me concerned - anyone else like me who was there may even share that feeling, and yes, those feelings produced certain words. What you'll find surprising perhaps, however, is that despite all that, a decent second half changes your day, your mood, your everything entirely, so it didn't produce quite as many of those words as you might expect.
Indeed, in 1,957 total posts, we found only 175 instances of "fuck", although this is up significant from 148 instances in the UCF game. What we did see is a lot more "shit" in this contest, however - 102 instances of "shit", although those of you who laid into Speight might argue for a higher number, and that is up from only 68 instances in the UCF game. "Suck" saw an uptick too - 25 instances in the UCF game to 42 instances yesterday, and yeah, nearly all of them in the first half and nearly all of them about the defense.
On the upside, because there were a few of these, there was a lot of Peppers. Indeed, we more or less got to see Peppers doing all the things, which made me kind of sad that I never bothered to track the levels of Heisman in open threads, just for kicks, because I heard people saying it around me yesterday. Indeed, from a mere 14 mentions in the UCF, we talked about Peppers 132 times in the Colorado game, as we should have.
Overall for the thread, we ended up with 776 tracked instances for the analysis, not including other words which now get tracked such as "legit" - that saw only 15 uses in the thread and most of them were in regards to the Colorado offense when run be Liufau. Across 1,957 posts, that means an overall efficiency of 2.52, consistent with a stressful win or - in worst case scenarios - a loss. Those two things tend to register the same on here.
So, we're getting enough data to show a few interesting trends. Here is what the Original Six look like right now:
Considering that "fuck" and "shit" are the board staples and most indicative of the state of things more often than not, you can see that those two words do show the ramp-up from the relatively breezy Hawaii game to getting a bit of a scare yesterday. If tradition holds, we get a bit of a reset and then the slow (sometimes lightning quick) increase in usage heading into the Ohio State. How quickly did the "fuck" escalate though? See the "Fuck-Fire" char below:
I initially tied "fuck" to "fire" because we were mired in the Hoke-Borges dynamic, but what we see here is that the two are still relating to one another. Yesterday, there were some calls to fire Don Brown again - possibly a few eanest ones from those with the irrational expectation that we should just blank everybody and anything less is unacceptable.
There's also this, anothe two words that used to closely relate on MGoBlog:
The "Shit-Damn" relationship is somewhat wobbly this time around. Indeed, you can see where we kind of passed up "damn" and went right to "shit", particularly yesterday. Like in many life situation, when one word no longer covers it, we find another one - that's the fucking beauty of language.
So, there's where we're at - some of us are still working off yesterday's stress. The cussing may have subsided, but here we are on record.