Prologue: As I watched the parachute spiral down towards Michigan stadium, I never thought for a moment that it was a metaphor for what was about to happen over the next 3 hours. There have been tens of thousands of words already written and there will be tens of thousands more written. But, this game was decided by just a single word – turnovers.
Synopsis for Turnovers: Well, that was a total fracking debacle! Even elite teams rarely overcome a –3 turnover margin. The likelihood that Michigan can win any game against any team (except the baby seals) with a –3 turnover margin is close to zero (and the –3 TOs does not include the blocked FG). This looks way too familiar. It can not continue. Throw the god damn ball to OUR receivers! Hold on to the god damn ball!
This has now become the one statistic that almost always determines whether M wins or loses. A great hit by Floyd (and recovery by Ezeh) in the UConn game kept the score at 20-10 instead of 20-17. Without the 3 interceptions in the ND game, the result would have likely been different. In the UMass game, Ms 2 TOs lost were offset by 2 TOs gained but the blocked punt by UMass at the end of the game made it too close for comfort. At Indiana, an interception thrown in the end zone was offset by an interception made by Cam Gordon in our end zone. For the MSU game, the three turnovers lost (plus the blocked FG) and no turnovers gained was virtually a death sentence.
Turnovers are NOT primarily due to luck. Turnovers ARE primarily due to poor performance and/or inexperienced players. Look at the 3 ints from Saturday. The first int was a bad throw by DRob who was not any under pressure at all – Roundtree was open and a good throw would have resulted in a TD. The second interception was also a bad throw – Hemingway was open and the throw was behind him. The long pass to Grady, was thrown off DRob's back foot and was another very bad throw. If the pass was thrown to the middle of the field, the safety can't get there.
Turnover margins often increase when the relative experience and skill of the opposing teams are significantly different. Over the next 6 games, M will face 3 teams (Penn State, Illinois, Purdue) with similar (or perhaps less) experience at key positions and 3 teams (Iowa, Wisconsin, osu) with more experience at key positions. How the turnover battle shakes out will have a major impact on how many of those games Michigan can win. If we can maintain a neutral or positive TOM, all of those games are winnable. If not……(last year, M was –13 in TOM for the last 6 conference games).
BTW, blocked punts, blocked field goals, on-side kick recovered by the opposing team, roughing the kicker penalties, etc. are not considered to be "official" turnovers but have the same effect. I will continue to track these also.
Overall, M spiraled down from +4 TOM to just +1 TOM and the national ranking soared from #15 to #53. MSU had just a single fumble (which they recovered) and no interceptions. Turnovers lost are less than the average team but turnovers gained are also less than the average team resulting in basically a –0- TOM for the year. Historically, TOs tend to come in bunches rather than a consistent number from game to game. (BTW, TOM was +1.0 after 6 equivalent games last year [including all 4 OOC games last year and the first 2 Big10 games played last year].)
Synopsis for Special Teams: Mixed reviews for special teams. Hagerup ended up with 47.0 average yards per punt and a net of 44.8 yards per punt. Punting continues to improve each week. One concern is that he has had several short punts that are getting good bounces. Starting field position for the opposition after our kickoff remains at the 29 yard line (slightly better than average). Broekhuizen kicked a 34 yard field goal but had a 42 yard FG blocked.
Details for Turnovers: Here is the Summary by Game. According to the folks at Football Outsiders a first down TO is worth 5 points, second down TO is worth 4.5 points, and a third down TO is worth 4.0 points (regardless of field position!).
The extrapolation is a straight line [Totals] X [13 Total Games / Games Played]. AQ Best and AQ average is over the past 10 years. AQ Best is kind of funky because the team with the "best" in each category is different so the numbers don't add. But, it does provide a point of reference.
Here is the detail of each fumble/interception and a comment providing insight if the turnover (or lack thereof) was significant. Note, blocked punts are not considered a turnover and an interception of an extra point is not considered a turnover (player does not get credit for a interception).
Here is the overall summary by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Details for Special Teams: Here are the Punting and Kickoff statistics. (Touchbacks are included as –20 yards when determining net yards.)
Remember here are the correlations of TOM to WLM at season's end.
There will be no belittling of the Spartans in this post. No silly twists of their name or bringing up academics. Yesterday Michigan St handed us a beating that they should be proud of. It wasn't handed to them by the refs or by luck. They were simply well coached and their game plan was well executed. The Spartans didn't make mistakes and were solid in all phases of the game, and that is why they won.
Michigan was, in most part, what we have been seeing so far this season. That wasn't their worst performance so far (I would still give the UMass game the edge there), and it was far from the best they can play, but nothing really stood out to me as unexpected. Well, perhaps the lack of running room for Denard Robinson could be described as surprising. State had a great game plan for stopping (or slowing at least) our offense, and more importantly they had the personnel to execute it.
This is scary if you, as a fan, had pinned your hopes on what the numbers have been telling us. The problem with much of the statistical analysis you see is that it shows everything in a linear fashion. X team's offense meets Y team's defense at this point on the chart and there you have your expected outcome. College football has too many teams with to large a range of player talent for anything linear to come out of it. Extrapolating the results of this season based on our first 5 opponents is asking for disappointment.
Michigan St's defense is an order of magnitude better than any Michigan has faced this year. They have DBs that can run with our receivers and a front seven that can stand up to our OLine. Their coaches also made great decisions for
stopping slowing Denard Robinson by keeping the ball out of his hands past the line of scrimmage. Michigan ran quite a bit of read option yesterday, and I don't recall a single read leading to Denard Robinson keeping the ball. That is good execution of a solid game plan: Make the other Michigan backs hurt you. Shaw, Smith, and Co. didn't do horribly at all, but the lack of Denard Robinson in space was obvious. When Michigan ran the lead QB draw Michigan St showed that they had practiced well for defending it.
The rest of the game was pretty much what we have seen so far, but that doesn't mean I didn't learn anything from it (especially coupled with the Indiana game):
- Denard Robinson is not an Ice-in-his-veins gunslinger. His throws have great zip and are largely accurate, especially so when the throw is shortish or his target is stationary. Against Indiana (and the rest of the schedule so far) his receivers have been so open that a slightly inaccurate ball wasn't noticeable. Against Michigan St the receivers were covered much better, and the picks in the end zone were the result. Both balls were thrown to where the receiver was, not leading the receiver to where only he would have a chance at the ball. With lesser coverage both are touchdowns. We must remember that Denard Robinson is still a true soph and this game another set of lessons to learn from for him.
- Obi Ezeh is the biggest reason Michigan's defense sucks balls. Watching him jump out of the hole on Michigan St's second long running TD felt like Deja Vu after all of the UFR videos of the last two years. This is not going to change, not that anyone reading here expects it to. Ezeh can make thumping tackles, but is rarely lined up squarely to do so.
- Kovacs is the opposite of Ezeh for this defense, never the reason they suck balls. When Kovacs took down the State tight end in space to sew up a 3-and-out in the 4th Qtr, all I could think was "He could have made that play from MLB." I would love to see him get a shot at playing in the middle. The dude is second on the team in tackles for a reason, he makes the right decisions and that keeps him in the play.
- Talbot (CB) seems to be a positive addition to the defense when he sees the field. Cullen Christian does not, at least at CB. The touchdown on which CC was burned crispy displayed his lack of CB rated hips and recovery speed. I would think that CC has a move to safety (or OLB?) in his future [edit: As many have pointed out in the comments, this is probably premature. With the other freshmen looking decent though, and CC not getting much PT, I still see this move happening eventually.]
- No amount of tweeking this defense is going to make it good, or even average. More time and experience will bring up the level of play for the younger players, and in that the defense will improve. Several of the younger players are actually showing quite a bit of promise. The Gordons, Jabreel Black, and Talbot and Avery at CB have all shown signs that they will be solid contributors with more experience. With some good recruiting to give depth, I think Michigan's defense will rise from the ashes in 2011 and 2012. Mike Martin (plz be OK) coming back next year would help immensely of course.
Iowa is going to be tough, and probably another loss. Their defense is top 5 with the personnel to mimic the game plan Michigan St was very effective with. Their offense is also pretty good, coming in 33rd in total with fairly even passing and running ratings. Michigan can win this game in the same way it could have beaten State, with an offensive performance bordering on perfection. Think yesterday with two TDs in place of end zone Ints and Roundtree hauling in that TD as well, then add another TD drive as well and I think Michigan beats Iowa. This is not very likely.
The rest of the season I am still optimistic about. Penn St shouldn't be able to torch us with their issues on offense, and I think we can score on anyone. Illinois looks to be improving, but I can see our offense winning that one ala the Indiana game. Purdue is simply a must win, and assuming Michigan does not suffer a rash of injuries, I could see our young defensive players improving enough to make the Wisky game a toss-up late in the season. OSU is always a throw stats out the window type game where emotion can win the day.
I realistically see this team winning 7-8 games, with a possibly 9th win in a hypothetical bowl match-up. Despite how I view the rest of the season's games individually, none of the wins is assured, and I wouldn't give any but Purdue more than a 75% chance of winning. Winning the first 5 games will probably end up saving RR's job (and thank god for that), but we should all look at our pre-season expectations and realize that this team is right about where we thought, obviously better than last year but still climbing the mountain.
Of course Denard Robinson can change this outcome by himself. If he can learn quickly from his mistakes in this game, and RR and Co. and come up with some killer counters for him in the run game, Denard Robinson can lead this team to a New Year's Day bowl. The man is special and a true "X-Factor" the likes of which we seldom get to see. So enjoy the ride my fellow Wolverines.
A new commit for Michigan means we're hitting the front page. Action since last rankings:
3-14-09 Michigan gains commitment from Antonio Kinard.
10-4-10 Indiana gains commitment from Cody Latimer.
10-6-10 Wisconsin gains commitment from Denzel Doe.
10-8-10 Michigan gains commitment from Demetrius Hart. Iowa gains commitment from Melvin Spears.
10-9-10 Wisconsin gain commitment from Tyler Marz.
If you see any errors in the individual tables, please let me know. I'm tempted to move Indiana down a bit, but their averages per commit are about even with (or only very slightly behind) the teams nipping at their heels, and they have more commits.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45).
|#1 Ohio State - 17 Commits|
No change for the Buckeyes.
|#2 Notre Dame - 20 Commits|
|George Atkinson III||S||CA||5.8||4||79|
With their higher commit numbers, Notre Dame is actually pretty close to passing Ohio State, though a deflated ranking on Scout (which hasn't rated kickers) keeps them well behind on the average at that site.
|#3 Nebraska - 13 Commits|
No change for Nebraska.
|#4 Michigan State - 16 Commits|
Nothing new for MSU.
|#5 Michigan - 11 Commits|
Yay! Michigan picks up Dee Hart finally. The MSU loss might slow down anything else from happening soon, though. I've also added Antonio Kinard, as U Recruit reports he'll join the team this winter.
|#6 Indiana - 22 Commits|
Rivals is far higher on the Hoosiers' new commit Cody Latimer than are the other two services.
|#7 Iowa - 15 Commits|
|#8 Northwestern - 13 Commits|
No change for Northwestern.
|#9 Minnesota - 15 Commits|
No changes for the LOLphers.
|#10 Wisconsin - 13 Commits|
Two new pickups for the Badgers, though neither is highly-rated.
|#11 Penn State - 4 Commits|
They have to get some commits sooner or later, right?
|#12 Illinois - 16 Commits|
Nothing new. The sites still aren't in agreement over whether Hayden Daniels is committed.
|#13 Purdue - 7 Commits|
No change for Purdue.
Just thought I would throw this out there after Demetrius Hart's commitment. Here are the recruits in Rivals top 250 that are still listing Michigan in their top group.
- #5 De'Anthony Thomas- 5 star, 5'9", 160 lbs., Athlete/Defensive Back
- #9 Curtis Grant- 5 star, 6'3", 222 lbs, Linebacker
- #10 Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix- 5 star, 6'2", 190 lbs, Safety
- #11 Karlos Williams- 5 star, 6'2", 210 lbs, Safety
- #18 Ray Drew- 4 star, 6'5", 243 lbs, Defensive end
- #33 Kris Frost- 4 star, 6'3", 210 lbs, Wide Receiver/Linebacker
- #43 Sammy Watkins- 4 star, 6'1", 180 lbs, Wide Receiver
- #53 Timmy Jernigan- 4 star, 6'2", 275 lbs, Defensive tackle
- #65 Anthony Zettel - 4 star, 6'4", 245 lbs, Defensive End
- #87 Wayne Lyons- 4 star, 6'0", 190 lbs, Safety
- #118 Charles Jackson- 4 star, 5'11", 180 lbs, Defensive back
- #148 Deion Barnes- 4 star, 6'5", 225 lbs, Defensive end
- #157 Avery Walls - 4 star, 5'11", 184 lbs, Safety
- #185 Mickey Johnson- 4 star, 6'1", 310 lbs, Defensive tackle
- #193 Chris Bryant- 4 star, 6'5", 330 lbs, Offensive line
- #214 Austin Traylor- 4 star, 6'4", 210 lbs, Defensive end
- #216 Sheldon Royster- 4 star, 6'0", 185 lbs, Defensive back
With the commitments of Demetrius Hart (#37) and Brennen Beyer (#191) Michigan already has two prospects in the top 250. So on that list who do we have the most realistic shot at?
The prospects that Michigan has a very high chance with off that list are:
- #33 Kris Frost - listed in his top two with Auburn.
- #65 Anthony Zettel - Waiting until the end of the season to decide.
- #157 Avery Walls - Will be announcing within the month, visiting Cal this weekend.
- #193 Chris Bryant - Should be deciding relatively soon. Down to Michigan, Stanford, and Arizona.
The prospects that I think Michigan still has a good shot with are:
- #18 Ray Drew - I'm including him on this list because I think he has genuine interest in Michigan. His mom doesn't want him to leave home though so it may be tough.
- #43 Sammy Watkins - We're in great shape with his teammate Dallas Crawford. The more I hear, the more it sounds like Sammy might really be considering Michigan.
- #87 Wayne Lyons - I'll have a full update in the Weekly Update on Monday, but Michigan is back in his top list.
- #148 Deion Barnes - Penn State may lead, but he'll be visiting after his season so anything can happen.
Finally, off this list here are the prospects that we either need to wait and see with, or we may not have a great shot with:
- #5 De'Anthony Thomas - He told me he will visit if Michigan offers, but I'm not sure if there's enough to make him decommit from USC.
- #9 Curtis Grant - I think he ends up at Alabama or Florida. He insists that he will try to visit Michigan.
- #10 Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix - Recently told the Orlando Sentinel that he's 100% committed to Alabama, but they also reported that Demetrius Hart was an Alabama lean. If he takes his visit to Michigan for the Wisconsin game there's a chance.
- #11 Karlos Williams - Currently committed to Florida State told me that he will be taking an official visit after his season is over. Michigan needs to continue winning to impress him.
- #53 Timmy Jernigan - Timmy always mentions Michigan in his top group, but I just haven't seen enough to take him seriously.
- #118 Charles Jackson - I've heard that he may be favoring Nebraska right now. He told me he wants to visit Michigan. We'll have to wait to see if that actually happens.
- #185 Mickey Johnson - Mickey has a new leader every week. Michigan is listed in his top group with Tennessee, Nebraska, UCLA, and LSU. His group and list changes so much I don't know what to believe.
- #214 Austin Traylor - Told me recently that Michigan is in his top ten and that he would like to visit. Until he narrows his list down further we won't know how high his interest level actually is.
- #216 Sheldon Royster - New Jersey safety has been quiet with his recruitment, but has always had Michigan on his list. Until he visits I'm not including him on the high chance list.
Synopsis: After 5 games, Michigan is currently ranked #9 in scoring offense and #73 in scoring defense. Based on these rankings, M has a 43% chance for a +5 WLM (9-4 or better) season and an 83% chance for a winning season. Offense continues to trend better each week. Defense, uh, not so much. The defense is definitely a significant concern. Only 8 teams in the last 5 years have had +5 WLM with a defense rated worse than #60. The most recent were in 2008 (Texas Tech O#13/D#74 +9 WLM, Oregon O#15/D#78 +7 WLM, Missouri O#6/D#69 +6 WLM, Nebraska O#25/D#80 +5 WLM, Oklahoma State O#17/D#76 +5 WLM). Michigan's current PPG is 25.4 so the defense must hold teams below this number to improve their performance.
I always use scoring stats because yardage stats are inherently flawed. Poor teams will give up fewer passing yards and more rushing yards because opponents will stop passing once they have a late-game lead and will run out the clock instead. For winning teams, the opposite is true. Yardage per game does not take into account the pace of the game and it is obvious M plays at a faster pace than most teams (M is ranked #82 based on yards per play). Being #73 in scoring defense is not good but Ms defense is not as bad as the #102 in total defense indicates. According to the S&P+ rankings at Football Outsiders, Michigan is ranked #62 in total defense.
Based on the FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index), Michigan is predicted to win between 8.6 and 9.4 games (excluding bowl game but adjusted with +1 for M's one FCS opponent).
Based on the FEI, M is favored by 8 points over MSU! Using the Sagarin Predictor, M is favored by 5.6 points (Vegas Odds Opened at 5.0). This is a classic "pick-em" game with the advantage going to U/M based on home field advantage and a slightly more difficult schedule to date. Michigan needs to play well but does not need that "perfect game" to beat Sparty.
Overall this year, M is averaging 3.6 points per possession (PPP) and 49 YPP. The defense is giving up 2.1 PPP and 36 YPP. With an average of 12 possessions per game for each team, this translates into an 18 point advantage for Michigan.
DETAILS: Here are the FEI numbers ( FEI Forecasts and Football Outsiders FEI ). FEI is a weighted and opponent adjusted season efficiency and is expressed as a percentage as compared with an average FBS team.
Note that FEI completely excludes all non-FBS data (the W-L record is only for FBS games, etc.). Therefore, you need to add 1 to the projected numbers for MW and RMW to get the final predicted wins for M this year.
The FEI is a drive based analysis considering each of the nearly 20,000 drives each year in college football. The data is filtered to eliminate garbage time (at the half or end of game) and is adjusted for opponent. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams (win or lose) and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams. I've included the GE basic data so you can see the impact of adjusting for opponent. (See: Football Outsiders Our Basic College Stats )
Here are the Sagarin Ratings.
Sagarin uses two basic ratings: PREDICTOR (in which the score MARGIN is the only thing that matters) and ELO-CHESS (in which winning and losing only matters, the score margin is of no consequence). The overall rating is a synthesis of the two diametrical opposites, ELO-CHESS and PREDICTOR.
Per Sagarin: ELO-CHESS is “very politically correct. However, it is less accurate in its predictions for upcoming games than is PREDICTOR”.
Here is the U/M vs. MSU National Statistical Rankings with the advantage for each category indicated (all categories within 10% are considered a "push").
Here are the week by week National Statistical Rankings for Michigan (cumulative thru the week indicated):
I have included the major rankings for offense and defense but scoring rankings show the best correlation to winning and losing. Scoring rankings are based on PPG. Rushing, Passing, and Total rankings are based on YPG.
Here is the basic data for Michigan (each individual week followed by totals and then average per game). I've included Total Possessions for Offense & Defense along with the calculated data per possession. Number of possessions do not include running out the clock at the half or end of game. Offense Plays and Defense Plays are better indicators than Time of Possession.
Using Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense National Rankings for the past 5 years (FBS AQ teams only), this table shows the percentage of teams that finish the season with a +WLM and a +5 WLM. For example, teams that finished in the Top 40 in both offense and defense had a 100% chance to be +WLM and an 82% chance to be +5 WLM (9-4 or better).
Each year, of the 66 FBS AQ teams, 65% (43 teams) end up with a + WLM and 36% (24 teams) end up with a +5 WLM.
Well, here we are, another State Championship weekend. This rivalry has, to put it mildly, been suboptimal for Wolverine boosters the last two years. Is this game, and season for that matter, going to be a different story? Oddsmakers hint that it might, installing the Wolverines as 4.5-point chalk, but it seems like everyone is picking Michigan State to win or at least cover that seemingly generous spot. Well, almost everybody. And, here's another brave soul. But most folks across the interwebs are picking Sparty to not only cover, but win and possibly move closer to a BCS bid.
Quick aside on the odds for the rest of the season, by the way. Remember how Michigan was a 10-point dog over the summer at Penn State, and how that line plunged to just 3-points after Week 2? Well, now your Michigan Wolverines are a pick 'em in Happy Valley in three weeks. Cheers to the smart souls who grabbed those fat ten points back in August. Most of the other lines have stayed fairly pat in recent weeks, with MIchigan -2 against both Iowa and Wisconsin. The OSU number has dipped to just +12.5, the lowest its been yet. As for Heisman odds, after a brief flirtation with Mark Ingram, the chalk is back in Denard Robinson's corner. At +150, its the smallest payout for a Robinson win at any point in this season. Ingram is +350, Pryor, the preseason favorite, +450 and Kellen Moore +800. Everybody else on the board is 12/1 or higher.
Speaking of odds, the JCB Pick-4 games are up for the week. Jump in and play.
Getting back to this game, I'm sure everyone is an eager beaver to hear what I have to say, especially after that great 4-10 a week ago at the JCB. Big 10 home teams are hot after they're 5-0 sweep a week ago. Four of those teams were underdogs, however, with three losing, but covering the number. I dont know if that really helps us handicap this game at all. I've already made some thoughts clear on this game. I tend to always take the underdog in regular season games pitting 5-0 or better teams against one another. The counter to that, however, I always want to make sure any underdog I pick has the ability to outrush their opponents. With all due respect to the Baker-Bell-Caper combination, I'm not sure that's the case with the Spartans. I annoy everybody every home game in Section 14 when I mention to folks there are no worries about Michigan as long the visiting underdog's rushing numbers are below the Wolverines. It never seems to calm anybody down, but the truth is if you're looking for a quality underdog play look for one who can outrush--not outpass--the favorite. Its why teams like Air Force and Navy make great underdog plays. Michigan's rushing attack is what is driving this line, which most of us bloggers expected to be smaller, to be more than a field goal in favor of MIchigan.
In the end, I just cant buy Michigan's defense as a unit that screams 'trust us, we'll cover as chalk.' Therefore, I am buying this bad boy up to +5 and taking Sparty. Even if I leave the stadium despondent over a loss, I will be a few bucks richer. And if Michigan covers, we'll then thats the best spent money of the day, if you ask me.
Want to argue with me? Tell me I have no soul? Go right ahead. BUT DO IT PERSON. Yes, for all the folks in Ann Arbor tomorrow, you are ALL INVITED, to our tailgate. We'll be at the Fingerlee Lumber Yard, right next to the Business School Tailgate. You cant miss us, we'll be the ones partying in front of a big dark blue RV, our official 2010 tailgate moble. We should be settled in by 10 am. The more the merrier, so stop on by. Dont feel nervous about walking up blind and asking for Jamie Mac; the folks I am with know all about my invisible friend habit.
On to the mock prop board and subtle keys to the game:
Michigan, Yards Per Rush: O/U 6.0
To me, one of the biggest matchups of the season, and, d'uh of this game, is how the Michigan offensive line attacks the MSU defensive front. I talked a little about this in my Big 10 post at the JCB earlier in the week. This has been a mismatch the last couple of seasons. In 2008, MSU was able to jump the snap over and over again and they dominated. A year ago, was every bit as bad even if the Wolverines were able to disguise their snap counts better. Michigan's right side of the line was a turnstile en route to a 28 carry, 28 yard day rushing the football. A main culprit was the 55 yards in lost rushing yards on attempts throughout the game. At first, I was going to throw up an over/under on lost rushing yards, but I changed my mind halfway through this post. That 1.0 yards per carry from a year ago against the Spartans kept bringing me back to that stat. I kept glancing back and forth between last year's box score and this year's stats for Michigan throughout putting this post together, and it just hammered home more so just how much different this year's Michigan's club is than a year ago. I'm more than eager to see how this plays out.
Michigan comes into the game with a different, more talented and athletic offensvie line that they Spartans have had to deal with in this matchup the last couple of years. Center David Molk is healthy after missing this game a year ago. Patrick Omameh and Taylor Lewan have been inserted in the starting unit since the match in East Lansing. Both are upgrades over the incumbents on the field a year ago. Lewan has been an outstanding edition since coming into the starting lineup two weeks ago. He already has become the third most productive blocker of this unit in half the field time. This entire offensive line can get second level blocks on linebackers, a skill the blocking front has lacked for several years now. As for State, its a relief that guys like Orien Wilson and Trevor Anderson are no longer Spartans. Anderson wasnt effectively blocked at any point the last two Paul Bunyan games. They're still strong up from with Jerel Worthy at tackle and the front should be bolstered with the return of Cam Neely and Kevin Pickleman (the latter had a big TFL a year ago in this game) to the lineup.
Let's be clear. A 1.0 ypc is not happening this year. Michigan probably wont hit their current season average of 7.1 ypc, but thats a lot more likely to happen that a reprise from a year ago. In fact, I think this number will be no worse than closer to 7.1 than 1.0. But that's not saying much really. If Michigan hits its season average of 4.5 from a year ago, they wont have enough to win this game, despite the much better effort at running the ball. But, if they get to 6.0, which I think is achievable, then Michigan gets the W. I have to set this number high because most Michigan fans will take the Over, but dont kid yourself. I'm trying to lure in some MSU in here. So, come on LVS, Spartan Dan, CPT Hoolie and Doctor Worm! Where you at? Place your bets. We accept change, but not bus tokens.
Jerel Worthy, Greg Jones, Johnny Adams, total combined Tackles, Sacks, TFLs, TOs and PBU: O/U 25.5 (Diarist Note: Oops Forget to put, uh, you know, a number on this one. All who took the Over on zero, your bets are invalidated, lulz)
I'm throwing this headache of a prop on the board because it gives me a chance to rap about one of my favorite topics that I pretend to be a faux expert in. Worthy, Jones and Adams are the most important players on defense tomorrow for the Spartans. They might be their three best defensive players. They certainly are their best lineman, linebacker and defensive back. Everyone is waiting to see just what happens when Greg Jones meets Denard Robinson. Jones and Adams have been impact players since Day One. Worthy redshirted but has been a starter at tackle since the dat he was eligible after that. If MSU achieves their dream of a BCS bowl that some folks are projecting, two of these guys will end up as All Big 10. Maybe even all three. And, they're all from Ohio. Ah yes, there it is. It always comes back to recruiting in the o-h-i-o for me, doesnt it? Here's the deal. I could give a sack of Alpo about this alleged recruiting battle in the state of Michigan. It does not exist. Its the true Wag The Dog comparison in this rivalry. The real worry for me are the inroads in Ohio that Dantonio (and, well the rest of the league) has made in Ohio to make themselves stronger. Watch these three stuff the defensive stat sheet and maybe even swing the game in the Spartans favor tomorrow. And remember that these kids arrived at Michigan State, as did recruits on campuses throughout the league, during the tail end of an era where Michigan was one of the worst teams in the Big 10 at recruiting, retaining and developing talent from the most rich state in the conference's footprint. There are factories all over the state that produce fantastic collegiate defensive players. Rodriguez has turned that around on a pure number basis for Michigan, even if its lacked a blue chip flair. But those classes are still babes. Positive impact on the field, at least on the defensive end, is still in the future, although true freshmen Jibreel Black, Courtney Avery and Terrance Talbot are bucking to make plays now. For now, though, most of Michigan's Big 10 brethern will have more Ohio influence on the defensive side of the ball. Throwing the Buckeyes out of the equation obviously, no team brings that influence on D more than the Spartans. And that, not their 'pipeline' at places like Renaissance, is one of the primary reasons they have elevated their program.
Total Kickoff and Punt Return Yards: Keshawn Martin -35 yards over Michigans Return Specialists
Keshean Martin's total yards was a Pick-4 contest in Week 3. He skied over the 126-yard total with a fun all-around a game against the Irish. We'll go a different direction here and just focus on the return game with MSU and UM's going head to head. Martin is probably the Big 10's best return man. And he handles both the punt and kickoff return duties. He could dominate this game like no other opposing return man to enter Michigan Stadium since......I cant say it, so I wont. Look, this will be a shootout. Michigan's defense wont have any chance to succeed with bend, but dont break if Martin is setting them up in great field position. I also cant think of too many times Michigan has won giving up a kickoff return for a TD. And dont even get me started if this guy pops off a game changing punt return like he did a week ago against the Badgers. Oh sure, that means the O might get the ball back fast, but that also means we are PUNTING!! Didnt we decide to go full steam Romer ahead? Come on Rich, we worked this out in an email exchange this week. Do it. Dont just punt to this guy; dont punt at all.
Anyway, in this corner is the assortment of talented, but struggling as of yet to produce Maize and Blue specialists. Daryl Stonum was one of the best KOR guys a year ago, breaking program records for yards. He has not had an impact this year on this part of the game. He dominated three games a year ago on this skill alone, let alone the isolated times he set Michigan up in other contests. Hard to fathom, but the Wolverines are likely mere 3-game winners in 2009 without Stonum's special teams production. Through five games this year, he's pretty much on pace for the same number of returns, but he has yet to break off a return of more than 30 yards and is pace for nearly a 300-percent drop off in yardage. Maybe the added receiving burden is wearing him out on this front. I dont know. A big part of me does not mind the tradeoff since Stonum is on pace to shatter his career cumulative stats in this one single season. However, if Michigan intends on stealing enough Big 10 games to actually play in the month of January, it's probably going to need Stonum (or really somebody else, on any of the special teams units) to make a play in this department. Michigan's wideout crew seems to be rotating big games. Maybe tomorrow is Stonum's turn and his return game is part of that equation.
I almost had to make the Spartan Keshawn Martin a heavy favorite in this one. His production, like silence, speaks volumes. Stonum will have the chances to make a play and keep up. But, the Michigan punt return team probably doesnt, that is even if they make it on the field. Other than a Drew Dileo quick grab as the up man and ensuing scoot for 15 yards, nothing has been happening here. Michigan fans are still in 'please football vahalla, dont make us fumble' every time the punt is in the air to really worry too much here. There is so much win in the other's team punt right now, that I'm high fiving everyone in Section 14 after every secured fair catch. Hemingway actually had nice numbers in the chances he had a year ago, now that's he's healthy I wonder if the coaches would put him back out there if some of the quirky fielding issues and decisions continue out of Gallon?
Taylor Lewan, total penalty yards: O/U 12.5
I am just going to let this one sit out there and not comment too much. But you cant help but wonder if the refs are going to be vigilant and judge this kid extra harsh after the closing sequences the week before. And I'm not refering primarily to what happened in the end zone. It's more about what looked like an obvious hold at the start of that game winning drive that went uncalled. One week's fortune and refs' blind eye could be the next week's unfair ticky-tack foul victim. I think its a lead pipe lock that Lewan will get a holding call in this one. So, basically this number comes down to whether or not you'll think he'll be a multiple
Will the cute Sparty girl who sat next to us at the 2008 game that I bought a hot chocolate for return and pay me back in kind? Yes/No
A deal is a deal, girl. You were cold, for some reason were sitting by yourself because you could not get a ticket near your friends and I bought you a hot chocolate during a third quarter television timeout because you were shivering. You were a good sport all day, even telling our whole section 'that's why we are Sparty' as Brett Swenson started shanking field goals like it was his job. Dont blow the memory by not coming through on the promise to buy me a hot chocolate at the next game in Ann Arbor. You know where the seats are. You're probably done with college by this point, so if your shift at the Vu finishes in time and you can make the game, stop on over. Its supposed to be pretty warm, and the concessions might not even have cocoa, so just bring us some pops. Dont worrying about paying for the souvenir cups. No need to waste all your tip money