"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Not sure how much you have kept up since not playing these guys for 2 years. Thought I would provide some background. I also added a section at the end for those who will be going to the game and staying in Iowa City. Be forewarned that it is homecoming so everything will be busy (yes, we are the homecoming patsy).
Don’t read into Iowa playing down with UNI and Ark St, this is a look ahead team that struggles somewhat with passing spread teams. UNI was before Iowa State who has made Ferentz look average to poor (mostly due to McCarney, possibly even kept them from the NC game in 2002) and Ark St is obviously before us. If there is a shred of hope, remember that we snapped a 22 game home winning streak during our last trip as an underdog and that Iowa is not as tough as the favorite in big games. You could worry about the PSU result, but Ferentz owns JoePa to nearly the extent that Lloyd did and I would take that game with a grain of salt. Not predicting a win here, but you can grasp at a few straws.
While some in Iowa have compared Stanzi to Brady (I almost fainted when I wrote this), I do see a good game manager who throws well on the run. Typical pro set routes, with a particular emphasis on going over the middle to RBs or TEs (really like the TE) with an occasional crossing route from the slot. This is a lousy match up for us. They seem to use RBs and TEs more than most teams in the passing game which is typically set up with the play action. However, Ricky also throws the Stanziball, typically 1-2 a game where you have no idea what he was doing so you get 3 TDs with 2 INTs for most of his games this year. The hope is that we get lucky with a few of those as they seem to come at random times. He seems to be a slow starter so grab an extra beer if he starts hot.
The Oline is big, as usual, no real news there. The return of Bulaga is not good for us as he is being projected as a first round pick and has had one game to work out his timing. Calloway is a very good compliment tackle with a strong interior anchored by Eubanks. I simply dislike the match up with our Dline unless we gamble like crazy. The TEs are much better with Moeaki playing due to his athleticism, but Reisner is pretty solid as well. We will be hating it if we can’t cover these guys coming off the line of scrimmage (I don’t have much confidence that we can due to our LB play, would like to be pleasantly surprised).
The WRs are decent, Johnson-Koulianos started the season on track to break a few all-time Iowa records and is the best receiving threat IMO. However, Marvin McNutt does not have a ton of catches yet, but scares the hell out of me since he is a converted QB that stands 6’4” and creates match up issues for our CBs. I really doubt we lose by getting hit deep with these guys with more of a death by converting on 2nd or 3rd and 10s, but watch me end up eating my words on the long ball.
RBs took a hit losing Hampton at the beginning of the year, but got a surprise with Robinson (smaller bowling ball) and Wegher (smaller slasher). Wegher seems to be more elusive with a fast start who would actually be pretty good on our team. Both guys can get lost behind the line and then pop out. Robinson may be the better receiver out of the backfield who will not go down with an arm tackle once he gets some steam. Neither guy has played before this year with Wegher being a true freshman. Look out if they give Brinson a try as he is a big power back, as he actually may be the most talented back they have. Fortunately, he has also been slow to pick up the offense which has limited his PT.
News flash- it will be a 4-3 or just look at the year before or the year before…. Norm Parker does not make substitutions for the most part with the exceptions of a few down and distance situations. I don’t know how, but he rolls the same guys regardless of the offensive style. However, they play very good assignment football and tackle well. Many Iowa fans agree that this is a reason for their success since it minimizes thinking by not relying on exotic schemes which helps the players play faster. On the flip side there is always concern when a spread offense comes to town since there is an assumption that the base defensive alignment will get exposed at some point. The unnatural ability of Chad Greenway to cover slot guys has made a permanent mark on Norm so he continues to roll the same way.
On the Dline, Clayborn and Binns on the ends will create headaches and rush the outside hard to funnel things to the middle. Clayborn is more athletic and simply a big, bad dude. The DTs are decent and big (one is aptly named Klug), but not spectacular. There is has not been the big drop off from losing last year’s starting DT tandem. The Dline likes to run twists to create confusion.
Angerer leads the LB group and is a tackling machine along with Edds who is also pretty solid. You may remember the recruitment of Jeremiha Hunter who we chased at one point, but did not go to the good guys. There are more athletic LB units, but this group seems to be constantly around the ball and I would hope we can spread them out to minimize their effectiveness. With all of them in the 230-245lb range they would not have the S. Brown type of speed, but seem to work through that for the most part.
In the secondary, Spievey is considered to be one of Ferentz’s best CBs he has had while at Iowa. Sash is a ball hawking safety who is simply around the ball a lot, by instinct or scheme I do not know. Both Greenwood and Prater are decent at safety and CB respectively. I think Greenwood gets the benefit of playing with Sash which gives him opportunities. Overall, a very (not to overuse the word) solid unit that plays together very well. They don’t seem to make many mistakes.
Yes Kinnick is loud and honestly I am not sure why considering the stadium design. I think the people are simply loud as Iowans don’t have professional teams and pour it all into the college. They will be (have been for a while) foaming at the mouth for the chance to see big, bad Michigan brought down. It will be statement game for sure as many (who may not admit it) chafe at being considered part of the “little 8” for so long. Don’t expect a Columbus-type welcome, but be ready for some chest thumping. I have heard my share “can’t wait to play you guys”. To be fair, I do wear Michigan gear to games, sing “hail” and have never been beat up so +1 for reasonable fans.
Don’t waste time in Coralville, go straight to the Pedestrian Mall down by campus. However if you are stuck there, the Wig and Pen has by far the hottest wait staff in town so there are worse things. The 30+ crowd will be at the Airliner and the <30 crowd everywhere else. You have 2 bars next to the ‘liner and will be on the parade route on Friday so expect a mob scene. If you just walk around a few square block radius and you will pretty much find everything else from a bar perspective. Just don’t rely on prompt taxi service if you are meeting people in any of these places. Also, if you are in the Ped Mall really late, treat yourself to a Gyro at one of the food stands. For other food needs
Inexpensive: Oasis- Mediterranean faster food. Get the whole pita sandwich with extra feta (close to campus)
Mid-priced: Bluebird Diner- Everything on the menu is really good. Looks like a diner, but actually has a real cook. The bonus of being there is that it is next to John’s Grocery which has a great assortment of beers and wine for later.
Higher priced: Linn Street Café- Terrific fine dining (by big city standards) with a great wine list. Would need reservations for this one.
Lastly, if you like chocolates and you see the store or them on a menu, get yourself some Bochner Chocolates. He is a UM grad and does some outstanding work. Not the cheapest, but damn good if you have a sweet tooth.
I decided to review the 1st quarter, mainly because I'm going through one of my frequent bouts of insomnia and college football is the only sport I follow closely.
I'm not pretending to be an expert or have all the football jargon down. I defer the finer points to Mr. Cook and others.
The first quarter of the MSU game really seemed to get people upset (understandably, due to the epic 10 minute drive) and while I have no intention of doing a full blown UFR like Mr. Cook I decided to review that part of the game because it seemed that 10 minute drive of MSU's set the tone for the game. I don't think I'll have time to do the whole game and besides, I'm sure others (Brian Cook) will do a better job than this. I'm just throwing this out there for everyone to review or ignore as they please.
So here goes.
We only ran 6 plays on offense in the first quarter. I'll discuss those in some detail before summarizing what I thought MSU did on offense.
Our first play (after the early INT) was going to be one of these, I believe:
However unlike the ND game, MSU's defensive tackles both penetrate, blowing up the play. Fault lies on Huyge and Dorrestein on this one, IMO.
The next play (2nd and 12) was going to be one of these, I believe:
TE rolls out into flat instead of blocking the DE
But instead of making the DE miss, like in the ND game, the DE gets a piece of Tate and the MSU LB is upon him very quickly (scouted this play well?) and finishes off the tackle.
Here the BTN announcer says something I found funny....
"Tate Forcier's intangibles are off the charts." How does one make a chart to measure intangibles? Anyway...
3rd and 15.
This was the "MY GOD CARLOS TURN AROUND" play. MSU blitzes on 3rd and long, Tate throws to what you'd assume is the hot receiver but Carlos Brown is still running. If he turned around and caught the ball, would have probably easily been 5-10 yards, maybe more.
So, ok, FG.
We didn't get the ball back until 10 minutes into the quarter later...
1st and 10 from the 28 - Schilling doesn't quite make his block on the DT and the DT forces Carlos Brown to cut up, into the unblocked DE. 2 yards. Perhaps Moosman should have at least gotten a piece of the DT before releasing downfield, I don't know.
2 and 8. What looks like could have been a bubble screen to either side, Tate throws to Carlos Brown. Unblocked LB and a safety are on top of Carlos quickly, limiting him to 3 yards. Again, scouting?
3rd and 5. Spartans rush only three with what looks to be 2 LB's acting as spies on Tate. Dorrestein can't keep up with his DE, forces Tate to scramble and into one of the waiting spies. He's forced to throw the ball, incomplete.
So that was it for the offense. Dorrestein didn't play well in that quarter. Which isn't saying a lot since it was only 6 plays. But there it is.
And now here's what I found when I revisited Sparty's epic 10 minute drive...
Just about every time MSU tried to run between the tackles, we stuffed it. Our defense did well in these situations.
We seemed to be playing zone a lot, from what I could tell. Most of MSU's completed passes were their guys moving into a hole in the zone.
Our corners were playing very, very soft, even Warren. This allowed MSU to get some big gains by throwing to a quick bubble screen to the slot WR with the outside WR blocking Warren, forcing the hybrid or safety playing up near the line to chase down the slot WR. This worked every time MSU tried it, fortunately at least a couple times it was negated due to penalties.
By the end of the drive, I don't see Williams. Kovacs is already playing and it's clear that when Woolfolk is in he's got one good arm. We're thin at safety and it appears that both starters are banged up. Not good. Related to playing soft zones? Probably.
The scrambles - the first one, we had good pressure on the QB and had Ezeh not stumbled when the MSU TE/H-back runs into him on a crossing route, Ezeh catches the QB for a minimal gain. But no. It seemed like everyone but the d-line and Ezeh was back deep covering (this was on a 2nd and 25) and so the MSU QB had room to run. The TE running the crossing route who hit Ezeh, kept running, and became a lead blocker and bam, 19 yards.
The second scramble was similar to the first. Good pressure, everyone else back covering WR's, QB just takes off. Not sure what else to say.
Also I think there was one play where the Spartans had an illegal formation, don't the tackles have to be covered? By either a TE or WR? Sparty had one play where I thought the LT wasn't covered by anyone, may have had 5 guys in the backfield.
Note to BTN announcers: It's WOOL-FOLK. Not Whirr-fork. Jesus.
So that's pretty much the first quarter. I have a new found respect for the UFRs, this is actually a lot of work, breaking down each play. Props to you Mr. Cook. Now I know why coaches spend long hours doing what they do.
Lastly, I have a strange urge for queso dip. Ro-tel and Velveeta to be specific. It's 1155pm and I've gotta make a run to the grocery store...
The situation: You are down 14 and probably only have 2 possessions left. Obviously, it will take two touchdowns to get back into the game. My question for you is, what combination of 2 point and 1 point conversions should you take to maximize your chance of winning the game?
Let's start off with a few assumptions. According to this rivals article, the average 2pt conversion rate in the NFL is 44%. I'll assume that it's about the same for CFB and that our team's conversion rate will be about the same in whatever specific situation we're in. We'll assume that we can estimate a PA kick as a sure thing. We'll also assume that we have a 50-50 chance of winning in OT.
So working with these assumptions, what is the optimal combination of 1pt/2pt tries?
Kicking 1pt tries only
This one is easy. Assuming we get 2 TDs to come back, taking 1pt each time will give us a 50-50 chance to win
In this situation, we get the first TD and take the 1pt. On the second TD, we 'man up' and go FTW BABY! Our chances of winning are equal to the chance of converting obviously, so 44%.
In this situation, we'll go for 2 after the first TD. If we convert, then we'll kick a 1pt try. If we do not convert, then we'll go for 2 again.
This is a slightly more complicated calculation, but here we go:
1.) 44% of the time we make the first 2pt conversion and go on to win the game.
2.) (.56)*(.56) = 31% of the time we miss both 2pt tries and lose despite making two TDs
3.) (.56)*(.44) = 25% of the time we miss the first but make the second 2pt. This ties the game and we go to overtime.
So what is our final equity? It is:
.44*1 + .31*0 + .25*(.5) = .57 or 57%
A quick explanation of this equation. We basically multiply the probability of an event by the outcome of the event. So 44% of the time we win (1), 31% of the time we lose (0) and 25% of the time we go to OT with a 50-50 shot (.5).
Now why isn't this done in the real world? Well part of it is that some of our assumptions aren't known. However, mostly it is coaches covering their ass. No one gets criticized for taking the safe route to force OT, only to lose. If you go for 2 twice and don't make it, you'll be torn apart in the press. Not to mention that football coaches don't focus much of their time on equity calculations.
The common belief of kicking 1pt to tie or going FTW! at the end with a 2pt conversion is clearly wrong, even if it is most commonly done.
I wasn't too surprised by the loss. For MSU, the game was their whole season. For us, 'twas really just another game. I don't think the young guys really hate MSU (yet). Sure, they want to beat them, but not the deep-down Dantonio-fueled bitterness that is all the rage in East Lansing these days. As Joe Gibbs once said, when asked whether he could still coach given that the game has changed so much: "Human nature hasn't changed, has it?" Motivation is a huge part in any game, so hard to judge, so telling on the field. And MSU had the motivational edge this time. They won't for a while, so they better enjoy it while they can.
Can you believe Tate? Can you seriously fucking believe this guy? 91 yards to go, in the rain, on a day where not much went right (and a lot went wrong), and sure enough he does it again. I could almost feel the collective sphincters of Sparties everywhere tightening throughout the drive, and the whole time I was just enjoying, actually certain he would get it done. Just give him time, and the ball, and dude steps up. He is almost a religion. Obama should ask him to find Bin Laden, he is that good.
"Hey, I'm Joe Gibbs. And fuck you."
"I am Tate, but I still wear socks and shoes"
Where the hell did the run game go? Lost against better big ten schemes? Or lost without Molk? Something is amiss. I think it has more to do with Molk's absence, and in many ways is telling of how close this team is to mediocrity from a personnel standpoint. A few key injuries and down we will plummet. It is OK, or even expected: this is still a rebuilding project. Let's hope the QB makes it, and some of the key defensive guys. There is a narrow margin between 8-4 and 4-8 (as we found out last year).
"Narrow Margin: Can you believe I liked this movie?"
I really hate Dantonio. Is there a bigger douche bag in the Big Ten? The thing I don't get: do Sparty fans really like this guy? He seems like the most boring, sanctimonious, stuck up, full-of-hubris mother-scratcher* this side of the East Coast. How can anyone like him? Seriously, even his wife can barely tolerate him. I heard on good authority that his wife only has slept with him twice; there was no greater relief than hers when she found out that her pending pregnancies were females. The world could not bear another one in this man's mold.
"Hi, I'm Becky Dantonio, and I would have aborted any sons from this man. I also burnt all my blue clothes, as did my daughters."
So here we are, 4-1. I'd say that's a record to be happy with, but more importantly, a team to be proud of. Gritty, tough, all the cliches you'd like to spout, they are here in spades. Not deep, not too talented, but those are both terms suffixed with "yet". We will get there. Rich Rod is not building a big-ten contender; he is building a national powerhouse. We are going to start rolling some teams, probably quite a few by next year. It will be fun to watch.
More importantly, we're going to start rolling Tressel. There's another guy worthy of your vitriol. I think that's going to start earlier, though - as soon as this year. On one side will be a team with few blemishes, the established powerhouse of the Big Ten. On the other side, a team with a few nicks along the way, maybe 3 losses or more, but with everything to prove. If you think that sounds like 1969, you are right. We are coming for you, Buckeye brethren, and your days at the top of the heap are done**.
"Here we come, you sons of bitches."
* a term from Raising Arizona.
** except for the dung heap that is known as Ohio. You will always be king there.
By no means is this an unacceptable loss. If we take away the emotional aspect of getting beat soundly by our little brother two years in a row, this was almost a given. We were playing a team with decent talent, a potent offense, and a desperate need to win. Our opponent had to have this one, and they played like it. But still...
I hate losing to State. It is humbling in a way that is just too personal. So much smack has been spoken, just within the family, and over so many years... I will be hearing about this one for a while. There is nothing to say back this time. Michigan was thoroughly outplayed and had no right to even be in this game. The Spartoons managed to drive 130 yards for their first touchdown. State was killing themselves in true Sparty-NO! fashion, taking killer penalties, gifting Michigan the ball with regularity, and it almost cost them. Never underestimate the power of the Forcier.
- The fake punt. What the hell was that? I gather that the decision was made by Zoltan. There has been no worse conscious decision made in recent Michigan Football history. Yes, there was a lot of game left to be played, and yes, we held them to a field goal which they probably would have managed after a punt from there anyways. That was still a move that should never be allowed to happen. That is why I don't blame Zoltan for that. I understand giving him the read on punts and taking what openings he sees, and bad reads will happen. At the same time there should be set-in-stone limits to this, like when we are punting from our own 17. On fourth and inches. I put this squarely on the coaches.
- I don't know whether to defend GERG or throw him under the bus. It is even more obvious that he is dealing with a completely inept secondary. The way I see it he has two options to deal with this: 1) Drop everyone, Safeties, CBs, and LBs, back into coverage and rush only the line or 2) Blitz like crazy. It seemed to me that getting shredded by Cousins led to GERG trying 1 for most of the game and Cousins killed us with his feet. 1 is the path of no contain. Our defense had Sparty bottled up (or Sparty was killing themselves with penalties) for 3rd and 7, 3rd and 8, 2nd and 25(!), 3rd and 8 again and we would drop into almost a prevent defense only to get burned by Cousins. Only late in the game did we start to go to 2 and it made a big difference in our effectiveness.
- We can all be excited that this Michigan team has no quit in it. No two score lead is never safe against us and that is going to be exciting for the rest of the season because we are certainly going to face many more 4th quarter deficits with this crew on defense.
- Two more streaks of note went down in this one IIRC. The long streak of no 2 years in a row to Sparty, and I believe this was our first overtime loss. They both felt strange, ya know? Oh, well - Wipe the slate clean and all that...
- Congratulations to Michigan St for getting pumped up for the game and handing our asses to us. They played very well and deserved the win.
- Tate Forcier - Wow. Can this kid get any more exciting? It seems like it would get boring always bringing him up for accolades but he is just amazing. Stay healthy young man. You could yet be the best we have ever seen in a Michigan uniform. Super Clutch.
- Kovacs - I am officially behind this guy 100%. No, he is not a great option at safety. He has an amazing ability to time blitzes, shed blocks and make tackles though. I almost could see him as a linebacker if he could put on some muscle. Just an amazing performance for a walk on.
- Zoltan - Sorry to say it but Zoltan was not good in this game. Many short punts and of course the bad read. I still love the guy though.
- Woolfolk - This guy may be fast, but he can't tackle at all it seems. Kovacs is not a good safety, but he is better than Troy.
This game illustrates further that we should be happy with 7 wins and a bowl game this year. Iowa isn't unwinnable, but it isn't likely that we take one at night in Kinnick IME. I think we will probably be at 5-3 after Penn St and looking for 2 wins the rest of the way. Those wins look like Illinois and Purdon't (nice choke job boilers), with Wisky a possibility as well. I hope we don't have anything riding on The Game as with nothing to lose, I think we win that one.
Have a safe week everyone. Go Blue! Beat those Hawkeyes!
1. It is hard to convey how close the game wasn't. I take my hat off to Dantonio and Co. for their game plan. State absolutely dominated this game. Their 130 yard drive was an impressive display of consistency notwithstanding their efforts to self-destruct. Other than a relatively ineffective running game (I'm excluding QB scrambles), MSU played extremely well on both sides of the ball. The only thing I would pretty furious about if I was a State fan was Dantonio's decision to sub in Nichols at different points in otherwise successful drives. He was far less effective than Cousins. I have seen reporting on ESPN that Cousins was banged up, and that may explain the 4th quarter, but there were several moments in the first half where Nichols came in and absolutely killed an otherwise solid drive.
2. Paradoxically, I was pretty thrilled with the defense. Obviously, the defense gave up a lot of yards today. But today is the day when I became a true Greg Robinson believer. Our defense is seriously lacking in athletic talent. But it seemed that GERG was using the linebackers to help out in coverage in a way that help band-aid our secondary's woes. In addition, JT Floyd looked not horrible today. There was an obvious cost to the way they deployed the linebackers -- no back up containment when the defensive line broke down in the middle. But at the end of the first half, I looked up at the scoreboard and said "Hat's off to Greg Robinson." He had a great gameplan that worked well. And, as per usual, he made great adjustments in the second half. I thought the defense delivered today in every way it is reasonable to expect.
3. It took us awhile to adjust to our inability to run. State's linebackers did a great job on the run game and were clearly part of a comprehensive scheme to shut down the read option. It was impressive. RichRod adjusted well in my view, and began passing, but we were seriously hampered by drops in the first half. Koger drops a ball -- I think "Hey, he's a tight end and having those guys running full speed down the field is tough." Kelvin Grady, though, is starting to get on my nerves. From where I sit, that guy drops more than he catches. With the substantial improvement of Martavious Odoms, I'd like to see more Number 9 and less Kel. Grady.
4. I am concerned about playcalling. Complaining about play calling is obviously an age-old Michigan meme. I have been listening to people bitch about Bo's playcalling since I was eight years old. However, I feel like our playcalling today had a "let's try this; ok, let's try this" feel to it. I didn't feel like we had a philosophy that was behind our playcalling. I think the best evidence of this is when they stuck Denard Robinson in in the 3rd Quarter with Michigan's ball at the 20. We very much needed to get untracked and drive the ball at that point. We really hadn't all day. I love Denard and see the upside, but he's not the type to engineer a lengthy drive, especially because he's still learning much of the playbook. I had a distinct feel that Rodriguez was grasping at straws and was kind of hoping Denard might do something amazing and bail us out. That's obviously not a ridiculous hope, but MSU's defense is far from overwhelming, and there was real reason to think each time we got the ball that we were about to get untracked. The Denard series was a mistake.
At this point, we have to discuss the fake punt. There was a part of me that was getting concerned enough that I thought about just lining up and going for it. Then my brain said "Yeah, right. Even if it works, you still have 80 yards to go. Cost-benefit doesn't work out." And then I watched in confusion as Zoltan started running and thought "Why are we rugby punting?" And then I thought "Holy God, we just faked a punt on our 15 yard line." I love RichRod. I do. But it is absolutely inexcusable to make this call in a close game. It demonstrated a frustration and lack of discipline on his part that he simply cannot afford to have. I viewed that playcall as an example of a head coach panicking simply because his normally magic touch wasn't working.
In general, for three quarters, I genuinely felt like we had no flow to our play call. Each drive felt like everything had to go right in order for the drive to succeed -- you felt like there was no margin. Dropped ball? Dead drive. Sack? Dead drive. All the while, State was the complete opposite. No matter how bad their third and longs were (and God Almighty did they convert more third and longs than I have ever seen), you sensed that they had a chance to convert. I felt like we lacked that type of resilience.
5. God I love this team. All of the foregoing being said, I saw the heart of a lion out there today. I absolutely LOVE the fact that with RichRod at the controls, this team is literally never out of a game. With limited exceptions over the years, Michigan simply is not a team that does well coming from behind. We have been built as a horse that gets the lead and then holds it. This team is different. These guys are punchers. With four minutes to go, I honestly felt like we had a chance. Obviously, a lot of things came together to make it happen, but I would have NEVER thought we were still in this game under Bo/Mo/Lo.
6. The State of Our Union is Strong. Look at where these two programs are. MSU has three years under Dantonio. From where I sit, they look like a sailboat that is going in circles. I predict they end the season .500 or with a losing record. By contrast, in our second season under RichRod, our record is up, our recruiting is up, and you are really starting to see the possibilities.
It sucks losing to Sparty. I get that. But we absolutely stole two games already this season. We have two walks on playing defense. Our quarterback is a freshman. Our line is only OK at best, and that was before transfers. If we were going to lose today, this was a good way to lose. I am not deterred.