at least it's not just us?
Michigan is 2-0, ranked in both polls, and off to a much needed great start to the season. However, as Michigan fans, we are all proceeding with caution due to the events of last year. Everyone knows the story, 4-0 start and then a 1-7 finish. Why should we think this year is any different? There are a lot of similarities between this year and last. Why not take a look at some:
Michigan is off to a 2-0 start, including a heart pounding, come from behind win on the last drive of the game against Notre Dame.
Michigan has a chance to get to 4-0(like last year) and then 5-0. They would go into the Michigan State game unbeaten and ranked, similar to last year.
Like last year Michigan has a Quarterback emerging as a star in the college football world after 2 weeks. Last year was Tate Forcier, this year it is Denard Robinson.
So why should we think this year is any different? It looks like we are following almost the same story line as last year. I will tell you why 2010 is nothing like 2009.
The book is still out on whether or not UConn is a good team. However, they are from a BCS conference, and coming off a bowl win. There is no way you can compare a win against Western Michigan or Eastern Michigan (which Michigan had in 2009) to a win against UConn. The win against UConn is just a better win, and Michigan smacked them around pretty good.
This year the Notre Dame game was on the road. Everyone knows home field advantage is big in college football. Michigan did not win one road game last year, not one. That includes teams like Illinois. So to get a road win against Notre Dame is a huge step in the right direction.
Tate Forcier had a good start to last season, and had a lot of great reviews and hype. However, he never did anything like Denard Robinson has done this year. Not any record breaking performances, he was good, but what Denard has done in week 1 and week 2 is absolutely special, and something I have never seen before.
The offense is just better than last year. The offensive line is stronger, more experienced and everyone is more experienced in the system now. When you watch this offense, you see a team that is clicking, and running the offense the way you want it to be run.
Denard is exactly the kind of QB Rich Rodriguez needs to run this system. As good as Tate Forcier was at the start of last season, he does not have the same skill sets as Denard does to run this offense.
Both quarterbacks (Tate and Denard) are now sophomores. They have a year of experience in the system now and will obviously be improved from last year. This should mean less of the turnovers(none in the first two games) that plauged Michigan last year. Where that also helps is if Denard were to get injured, we are stronger at back up than last year. When Tate got hurt last year we had an inexperienced Denard to back him up. Obviously as we watched, it was not a very good situation. Now if Denard gets injured, you have a sophomore QB who started 12 games last year, and a Freshmen who enrolled early ready to go behind him. The QB situation is WAY better than last year, even if Denard were to get injured.
Looking at the upcoming schedule. Last year after the 4-0 start Michigan played MSU and Iowa on the road. Lost one in overtime, and the other by 2 points. This year both teams travel to Ann Arbor. That is not to say this means Michigan will win for sure, but I like Michigans chances at home against these teams better than on the road. After that, Michigan plays Penn State, who last year was an 11-2 team, with a lot of depth and experience. This year they are a young team trying to find their way and the book is still out on them. I like Michigans chances against the 2010 Penn State team better than the 2009 Penn State team. Also this year, Michigan will get Wisconsin at home instead of on the road. The only thing I do not like is seeing OSU in the shoe, instead of the Big House.
Nobody will deny that so far, 2010 looks similar to 2009. However, it is a new year, and a new set of circumstances. We should all take a breath and realize that similar does not mean the same.
I have too many thoughts on my mind after enjoying the thrilling win at ND, I decided to try to plot them down in one diary entry.
It is so enjoyable for me to watch Michigan play this season because of many things but none more important than our offense and the predictability of our defense. This team really reminds me of the 2000-2001 team under Lloyd Carr and quarterbacked by Drew Henson and starring A-Train. That team had a great high powered offense and a very generous defense, it got so bad that we gave around 50 some points to NorthWestern, but in return scored 50 some points against them (no need to bring back memories of unnecessary fumbles and the nightmares after that game). That team though was not supposed to be bad on defense but it was (it had flashes of brilliance with 2 shutouts and 2 near shutouts against bad offenses), this team on the other hand is actually expected to be miserable on defense, but is actually more than half decent up to this point.
If you think about it, denard had 500 + yards against Notre Dame accounting for most of the offense but we ended up with 28 points, add to that 3 turnovers created by the defense and a couple of critical stops and voilà, we have a W.
Just to draw some statistical comparisons between this year’s team and that 2000-2001 team:
The 2000-2001 team had the following averages:
Points scored per game = 33.7
Points against per game = 19.08 (note that they had 2 shutouts against IU and MSU and 2 near shutouts against Bowling Green and Rice)
Turnover Margin = +1.08 (Big Ten Leaders)
Passing Efficiency = 155.3 (Big Ten Leader and Michigan Record)
(I looked around and couldn’t find historical data for yards per game on offense and defense online, please help with this)
just to refresh your memory that offense had Drew Henson, A-Train, David Terrel, Jeff Backus and Steve Huchinson. And the defense had a star in Victor Hobson.
This year’s 2010 stats 2 games in:
Yards per game = 502.5 (14th nationally)
Yards against = 439 (101st nationally)
Points scored per game = 29 (62nd nationally)
Points against per game = 17 (39th nationally)
Turnover Margin = + 2
I know that the current season stats are not really representative of much considering they were just 2 games against probably average teams, but they are the only indication we have for the rest of the season. The alarming number is actually the points per game which is low compared to yards per game, that means we’re getting a lot of yards but not scoring. 14th nationally in yards but 62nd nationally in scoring, which is with a positive turnover margin, although missed FG kicks will have to contribute to that statistic. On a positive note though we are 39th nationally in points against for now, a sign of a bend but don’t break defense.
In the past my fear with Michigan was actually the part where Michigan had the ball, I was always scared of fumbles, interceptions, and a 3 and out. I used to feel more comfortable when the defense was on the field. Today, it's a different story, Michigan has a pretty dependable offense that is actually aiming to run up the score and hoping to score on every drive (contrary to most of Lloyd Carr's offenses, 'btw I love Carr') and has a defense that is supposed to give up scores, but in general they hope to do so on long drives rather than short ones so they give their offense some time to rest up and get ready for the next attack. (Just to clarify this point, it's much more comfortable for me to watch this offense play than many of the offenses of the past 10 seasons. Exceptions on offense would be the 2000 team and the 2006 team) I finally feel the feeling that UCLA fans in 1998 had, big offense, no defense! This really plays into the rule that 'the best defense is a good offense'.
As for watching the defense, it's actually kind of fun, 2 games, the same outcome, the defense has proven that they have a bend but don't break quickly mentality. They don't mind giving up 500000 yards a game as long as they don't give up more than 25 to 28 points a game. The offense has to pick up from there and score 30 to 35 points a game (the more the better). For this season at least we can't look at the game as a win if we score anywhere less than 21 points if not more. Which is great for us, the fans, that means the offense's plan is to score on each drive and not really slow down until they are up by 50 late in the fourth quarter, because a young defense can give up so many points in a 10 minute span, it's crazy!!
Only 2 games have passed and we are all optimistic now, and that is ok, I love to be optimistic for Michigan actually. The team actually deserves national respect. If we can pull off big wins in the next 3 games, Michigan could be in a much better position to deal with the Big Ten teams than last season. I hope they do and I hope we win the close ones this season. I love this offense, this coach and even the attitude of the fans this year, it is the best start of a season for me since 1997, because its unexpected. In general, its fun to have a dependable offense and predictable defense, that way there isn’t much frustration for the fans. So this team has a similar offense to the 2000 team, but doesn’t have the expectations on defense that that team had.
All I can say right now to all the fans out there is simply Go Blue and Hail to the Victors. Good luck Maize and Blue, and keep the W's coming.
Denard probably has had as statistically dynamic a two-game start to his starting career as any other QB in college football history, I imagine. Hard to top 885 yards. Especially against two BCS-level opponents.
Got me thinking: how long did it take Terrelle Pryor to reach 885 total yards after becoming OSU's starting QB? And just to cut him some slack for starting as a true frosh in 2008 (in 4th game), am also comparing Denard's start against Pryor's second season start (2009):
2008 (true frosh)
In backup duty in three games to start the 2008 season, Pryor amassed 87 passing yards and 129 rushing yards, for 216 total yards. He started the fourth game of the season, and has been starter ever since. It took him SIX games to amass 885 total yards of offense:
PASS YARDS / RUSH YARDS/ TOTAL YARDS SINCE STARTING
139 / 66 - 205
70 / 97 - 372
144 / 20 - 536
97 / 27 - 660
116 / 72 - 848
226 / 6 - 1,080
Pryor finished 2008 with 1,582 total yards in 9 starts = 176 total yards per start.
2009 (true soph)
Inconsistency again dogs Pryor, but it took him four games to amass 885 yards:
174 / 30 - 204
177 / 36 - 417
262 / 110 - 789
82 / 59 - 930
Pryor finished 2009 with 2,535 total yards in 13 games = 195 total yards per start.
2010 (true junior_
After two games, Pryor has amassed 610 total yards = 305 total yards per start. Likely to reach 885 sometime during third game.
By contrast, Denard is averaging 443 total yards per start. Average likely to plummet the next two weeks, as it's hard to imagine RR playing Denard more than a quarter this Saturday vs UMass, or much more than a half next week vs Bowling Green.
What's all this mean? Two-thirds of four-fifths of eff-all. Extrapolating statistical outliers early in a season and believing the results are possible to achieve is foolhardy business. How many times have we heard, say, in April or May how so-and-so is on pace to hit 100 homers this season or hit .400.... And we all roll our eyes.
Can't hate these comparisons anyway. FWIW.
Very low-action week. Action since last rankings:
9-6-10 Illinois gains commitment from Scott McDowell. Minnesota gains commitment from Russell Haughton-Jones.
There's some debate as to whether 2010 LB Antonio Kinard will be a member of the Wolverines' class of 2011. He's not currently listed on Rivals's commit list, so I'll hold off on including him for now.
|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 - 16 Commits|
Nothing new for Notre Dame.
|#3 Nebraska - 13 Commits|
No change for Nebraska.
|#4 Michigan State - 15 Commits|
No change for Sparty.
|#5 Michigan - 10 Commits|
blah. Hopefully some commits on the way.
|#6 Indiana - 21 Commits|
No change for IU.
|#7 Iowa - 14 Commits|
No change for Hawkeyes.
|#8 Northwestern - 13 Commits|
No change for Northwestern.
|#9 Minnesota - 14 Commits|
Gophers pick up another offensive lineman.
|#10 Wisconsin - 11 Commits|
Nothing new for Wisconsin.
|#11 Penn State - 4 Commits|
Still slim pickings for PSU.
|#12 Illinois - 15 Commits|
Scott McDowell joins the class. Hayden Daniels isn't listed on Rivals as a commit, so I've removed him (though I think that'll be temporary).
|#13 Purdue - 6 Commits|
Randy Gregory goes from 3-star to 2-star on Scout. Taylor Richards goes from unranked to 77 on ESPN.
It's not too early to check team stats at http://www.bigten.org/sports/m-footbl/stats/2010-2011/confldrs.html. Michigan leads the conference in total offense, averaging 502 Yds/G.. Alas, we are dead last in total defense, allowing 439 Yds/G, 47 more Yds/G than Indiana. We achieved the latter distinction with the conference's worst pass defense, allowing 293 Yds/G and the second-worst rushing defense, allowing 146 Yds/G. Only Indiana allowed more rushing Yds/G.
On the bright side, our offensive stats are quite good on some measures--First Downs, Pass Offense, Time of Possession, turnover margin (we're holding onto the damn ball), 4th Down Conversions, and we rock on Red Zone Offense and Rushing Offense. Big surprise. And a pleasant surprise: we rank 5th on Pass Defense Efficiency, 3rd-DN Conversions, and Red Zone Defense. And we're doing great on Sacks Against and very good on 3r-DN Conversions.
Until we are well into the conference part of the season, these stats won't take on a hard edge. At best, after two games across a very wide selection of teams that includes some very tough cookies like Florida and Alabama, and many cupcakes, the week 2 stats might indicate a few tendencies. But regardless of the opponent, I'll be looking to see how how we stack up against Indiana MSU stack up in a couple weeks.
Denard Robinson is the most spectacularly explosive quarterback in college football today; I think few would disagree with that. Dilithium, Shoelace, Judge Dreads, Sonic, or whatever you want to call him-- the kid has got moves. Given the impressive results of the season so far (875 yds. of offense in TWO games!), critics seem to have only one refrain left to fall back on--
Yeah, you have a great QB, but with 28 carries a game he'll never survive through the Big Ten portion of the schedule. [side note: the Wall Street Journal wrote a textbook article summing up this objection today]
The point of this diary isn't necessarily to refute this argument, though it's relevant to the main question at hand, which is this: Is our offense incomplete without a home-run-hit running back?
ON THE QUESTION OF CARRIES:
Last year we had a 4-headed rushing attack (Minor, Brown, Smith, Shaw), of whom only two rushers returned, Shaw and Smith. Although they split carries, it is worth noting that in the entirety of the 2009 season, neither Shaw (42 attempts) nor Smith (48 attempts) had as many carries as Denard has had in two GAMES, a total of 57.
While Denard is not the first incredible dual-threat quarterback in recent years to rack up yards on the ground and through the air, his carries are pretty far out there. Vince Young and Pat White both never averaged more than 16.5 carries a season while playing for Texas or WVU, respectively. Tim Tebow did manage to net an impressive 18 carries a game during his senior season, often in battering-ram, short-yardage plays, but even then, a pretty far cry from 28.5. Again, this isn't to say "ZOMG INJURIES" but more so to note that even the most successful dual-threat quarterbacks of the past decade have had far more balanced offenses that relied on fewer QB rushes than Michigan has thus far.
These numbers should come with the caveat that Denard will be getting far fewer touches against UMass, Indiana, and Bowling Green. Furthermore, with regard to risk for injury, he is being tackled mostly be second-level defenders, as opposed to getting gang-tackled by linemen, as is more often the case with dedicated running backs. That being said, as before, this is not a question of risk of injury (though that is relevant), but rather:
Why Are We Not Relying More On Running Backs?
Well, the answer isn't too difficult to see at the moment. Thus far this season, the numbers are underwhelming for both Shaw and Smith:
In the Notre Dame game, our non-Denard rushing attack was a paltry 30 yards. On the season, both RBs are averaging 3 yards per carry for about 10 attempts a game. These are underwhelming numbers.
Yet that's pretty surprising that for an offense as capable as Michigan's of producing jaw-dropping 87-yard rushing touchdowns on any given play when Denard touches the ball. And it is also puzzing that behind a very competent senior-laden O-Line, the longest play for scrimmage for a running back thus far this season is 15 yards.
I submit to you that this doesn't mean that we should rely on Denard more, but rather, that Rodriguez needs to dial up more run plays to establish a rhythm and determine where our RB attack is going to come from this year, because right now, that's pretty unclear.
Obviously these numbers can be expected to go up, and yes it is only 2 games, but at the moment, the Michigan offensive identity is basically all Denard Robinson, all the time. If he can't get the ball into Roundtree's hands or seems stymied on the ground at some point in a close game, what are our other options? Is it balanced to put that much weight on one player's shoulders? How successful have we been in establishing a rhyhthm running the ball with our RBs, or even discovering reliable homerun-threat running plays? Even Pat White could hand off to Steve Slaton every once in awhile when the pressure was on:
If past history is any precedent, a balanced offense and healthy QB play necessitate fewer carries by Denard and higher-level RB play. People keep saying "Rodriguez has finally found his Pat White-style quarterback," but they forget that effective Rodriguez offenses also had unbelievable stud running backs like Steve Slaton and Noel Devine lining up in the backfield, too. Amazing as our offense is, I really don't think we're that close to the ceiling, yet.
As we are only seeing the beginning of the Denard Robinson era, hopefully the current offensive balance is just a part of the growing pains and we'll be able to keep terrified opposing D-Coordinators up at night fearing runs, throws, or QB keeps equally.