"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Every year I put together a composite B1G schedule to hang on my office wall. I started the 2016 version this morning. In doing so, I came up wiht a couple interesting notes. Next season begins the 9-game in conference schedule. Each team drops a non-confernece game to play another team out of their B1G Division. This allows Michigan to finally play Wisconsin for the first time since (it seems like) the late '70s.
Speaking of Wisconsin, if they don't get off to a faster start next year they could be in a world of hurt. They open with another SEC big boy then, after a couple cupcakes, play back-to-back games in the State of Michigan, followed by OSU and a trip to Iowa CIty.
Michigan's schedule (again) features the big rivals on the road, but we get PSU and Wiscy at home early.
There aren't many key out of conference games, but the key ones are:
Wisconsin vs LSU at Lambeau, Ohio State @Oklahoma, Penn State @Pitt, and Nebraska vs Oregon
I sure don't want this season to end, but on the other hand, I'm ready for the future to see how good we can be.
Sandwiched in between #16 Florida State and #18 Ole Miss.
EDIT: Can mod delete this? Meant to post to the board.
EDIT 2: Since this is being left up for some bizarre reason, let's get to some actual analysis and compare some resumes.
Humans love to argue. We pay lawyers obscene amounts of money to argue for us because we're not good at arguing. Click bait sites generate "discussion" by posting "controversial" articles or arbitrary rankings of things that are entirely subjective. Last night, the College Football Playoff Committee transformed into Bleacher Report's wet dream. They ranked 25 college football teams in order of, I dunno, bestness or something. Aside from the obvious elephant in the room (pun absolutely intended because nobody from Alabama gets puns and so it doesn't matter), Michigan was ranked for the first time ever (except in Brady Hoke's fever dreams), coming in at #17. But, what does that #17 really mean?
What criteria did the Committee use to rank the teams? Strength of schedule is a factor, apparently. Top 30 wins might be too. Why the Top 30 and not the Top 25? The Committee wants to create controversy, man. Shake up the establishment. Why can't we have a Top 27?
Look at the programs on either side of Michigan. Florida State at #16. Ole Miss at #18. Is there an argument to be made for Michigan to be higher than the 'Noles or lower than the school with a horrible, racist mascot that's a remnant of one of the darkest period in American history.
I think this calls for a chart.
|VS. TOP 25||0-0||1-2||2-2|
|BEST WIN||UH, MIAMI||NORTHWESTERN||BAMA|
Florida State has one loss to a 3-6 Georgia Tech team. Michigan and Ole Miss have two losses a piece. Michigan lost to the committee's #7 team and its #12 team. Ole Miss lost to the committee's #10 team and it's #13 team. Clearly, the committee values losing less games even if your 2 losses are better than the other team's 1 loss.
But, wait, if that's the case then why is 1-loss Alabama and 1-loss ND ranked ahead of undefeated Michigan State? Is it quality of wins? Alabama's best win is #19 Texas A&M. State's best win is, sigh, us. Alabama's 2nd best win is Wisconsin. Their 3rd best win is Georgia or Tennessee. Is that difference between Wisconsin and Georgia vs. Oregon and nobody so great that it warrants Alabama at #4? Or maybe it's SOS. Alabama has the 9th ranked schedule and State is in the low 50s (all SOS #s from Sagarin).
Then, wait, if SOS and quality wins trump the # of losses, then why is Florida State ranked ahead of Michigan and Ole Miss? Michigan and Ole Miss have a better SOS, better top 3 wins, and their 2 losses are way better than Florida State's one loss.
Michigan is ranked #17 and that's nice, but at this point, it's no different than the ranking in the AP or Coaches Poll. The Committee is another arbitrary body that uses a vague methodology or no methodology at all to rank the 25 "best" teams in the country. The only difference is that their poll actually matters.
Here's the Advanced Statistics Schedule Rundown for UM as of the end of Week 9, with the inclusion of Iowa as a 13th game should UM be so fortunate as to wiggle into it. The chances of Iowa making it to Indy in December are far greater than UM's, but as long as UM's chances are greater than zero, I'm showing it. I'll be looking into win expectations and B1G-wide outcomes in a separate diary, but I'll wait until after the Committee posts its rankings to get into that, since the CFPSC has a say in B1G results in certain tie-break scenarios, as I'm sure most of you are aware.
So without further adieu, here's the embiggable chart:
Despite squeaking by Minny last week, U-M's position in the various ranks has held up quite well in the aggregate. The defense is still the best in all the land in S&P+, and #2 in FEI, and surprisingly, the offense actually improved it's rankings in S&P+ and FEI. Making efficient work of a short field still counts for something, but the damned Special Teams keep thwarting any opportunities for working long drives!
Speaking of which, Special Teams are the story of this season, and as Harbaugh mentioned in yesterday's presser, U-M's ST's are the best in the nation (openly acknowledging that the advanced stats are a thing). The cautious optimism associated with the Baxter hire last winter has evolved into a salty swagger. It would be the ultimate troll if say, once the game were well in hand, M punted on first down to Rutgers, and then buried them in the endzone for a safety, just because U-M could conceivably do that at will. Would that be considered impolite or running up the score? Comparing last year to this year, it's a more stunning difference than just night & day. It's more like dark-side-of-the-Moon & sunny-side-of-Mercury. What's more is this hasn't been something that's been slowly progressing. This all started with that first punt against Utah, and Peppers first return. Then there was the Chesson KOR versus NWU ... what a thing of beauty to see those blocks and his route laid out there right in front of my eyes. It's the most remarkable thing of this team, IMHO, even more than the defense, which I admittedly take for granted as being a U-M birthright.
Anyway, getting back to the chart... Overall, U-M declined from #2 to #3 in S&P+, #7 to #10 in FEI, #2 to #4 in F/+, and #15 to #18 in FPI. Whereas U-M has held its own or shown marginal improvement in the unit ratings, what's more important are the relative ratings of U-M's remaining competition, particularly PSU and OSU, who have by-and-large improved by a much greater degree. Although S&P+ still shows U-M as the favorite in all its remaining games, the margins have eroded (last week's chart can be viewed here). FPI shows U-M as a home dog versus OSU. Oh yea FWIW, U-M would still be favored over Iowa in the B1GCG.
Yours in football - Go Blue!
Please refer to the week 6 diary for additional external sources & references, as well as how to interpret the color scheme if it's not completely intuitive for you.
Michigan put together a good drive right after halftime, capped by a nice run by Jabrill Peppers out of what I'm pretty sure I heard the announcers refer to as a "wild wolverine" formation - aka the wildcat.
The play starts fairly normally, with Rudock under center and Peppers in the backfield. However, after pointing at a few members of the Minnesota defense, Rudock motions outsite of the numbers, leaving Peppers in the shotgun with Chesson, Butt and Williams to his left. Minnesota has 4 down lineman (the standing DE ends up in a 3 pt stance before the ball is snapped) and 3 defenders over Michigan's 2 tight ends and 1 receiver bunch.
Or if you prefer:
After the snap Cole and Glasgow pull to the left, while Williams blocks down, Kalis cuts a DT and Magnuson tries to occupy a linebacker. I think Darboh is supposed to get the safety to his side, but he doesn't quite get there. Doesn't end up mattering. Braden gets pushed back a bit and harasses one of the DTs who pursues the play, irrelevantly. The weakside DE is left unblocked, and he'll chase the entire play. Rudock actually occupies a defender as well, respecting a throwback or something, which puts the math in Michigan's favor.
Michigan now has 4 blockers ahead of the ball carrier (Chesson, Butt, Cole and Glasgow), which ideally will account for the 4 unblocked defenders. In the next shot you can see that Williams has guided his new DE buddy almost to the endzone (and might be getting away with something of a hold).
Things don't go quite as they were drawn up. The middle linebacker (labelled #4) comes inside of the DE Williams is manhandling and first Cole and then Glasgow both go for him, Cole more effectively. Butt goes outside and blocks the guy Chesson is working on, but I think he's expecting Peppers to follow him towards the sideline. Instead, Peppers cuts it up and the defenders marked #1 and #2 above are unblocked. He's got some work to do.
The first guy (Minnesota #31) squares up and tries to tackle, but his attempt barely slows Peppers. Next up, the MLB that Cole and Glasgow went after comes in and gets his arms around Peppers (who's now secured the ball with two hands). The DE that Williams has been battling with starts to come off his block and tries to impede Peppers' path. The final unblocked guy (#1 in the diagram above) overruns the play slightly, and tries to swipe at the ball as the pile crosses the plane.
All to no avail. Touchdown
[Ed(Seth): Standard bump]
Best: Falling Back
In addition to Saturday’s game being on Halloween, it also fell on the last day of summer daylight savings time, when we set the clocks back an hour. Colloquially, people call that “falling back” an hour, so you get another hour of sleep (well, for those of us without little children who apparently rise and fall based 100% on sunlight and morning cartoons) in exchange for earlier nights.
For so much of this game, it felt like UM was falling back into the old rut that had formed around the program for nearly a decade. For years now, UM has shown an uncanny ability to fall apart as the season progressed, playing down to competition and letting one loss mushroom into more as the leaves and clocks changed. Last year it was letting understandable losses to Utah and Minnesota submarine a game against Rutgers and, later, Maryland. The year before it was blowing a winnable game against Nebraska following a demolition at MSU, which followed extremely close calls to UConn(!) and Akron(!!). I won’t dredge up the RR years, but you can look up those late-season horror shows if you want. And after the gut-punch that was MSU, UM fans probably shouldn’t have been as confident in a smooth bounce back by the Wolverines.
Certainly, Minnesota looked the part of a pushover. The Gophers, down Jerry Kill at the top and a bunch of skill players from last year’s team, had stumbled into the game, losers of 2 of their last 3, including blowout losses at Northwestern (27-0) and to Nebraska (48-25). They couldn’t really run the ball or pass it (take it away, Jim), had a defense that was scuttling a bit after being the bedrock for the team last year, and generally looked like a team that was playing out the string. But it was also a night game, deep in the heart of Jerrysota, and it was being officiated by B1G refs, which meant that absolutely nothing should be expected to go the way it looked on paper.
On UM’s first drive, Jake Rudock threw an ill-advised shovel pass to Peppers that was picked off, giving Minnesota solid field position that they used (with the help of another recurring element of this game, bat-sh!t crazy passing plays by Minnesota, this one a falling-down 31-yard catch by the receiver between three defenders) to score a FG. Even though UM scored TDs on their next two drives, Minnesota just kept hanging around, scoring another FG and began to stymie the UM offense, forcing a punt and a fumble on consecutive drives. And they continued to have amazing luck in the passing game, with Mitch Leidner completing a 52-yard TD that was both behind and inside his receiver in tight coverage, who then made Jarrod Wilson miss and scored. Minny took a lead into halftime thanks to another nutters long reception, a sure interception that Dymonte Thomas instead volleyballed into the air, for a late FG, and UM was struggling to run the ball (45 yards at HT) or really get anything going in the air (after starting off reasonably accurate, Rudock was completing a bit over 50% of his passes for about 6 ypa).
[Hit THE JUMP to see how many straws we can grasp (hint: one)]
This is my weekly feature to look back at summer previews, get egg on my face, look over what Michigan did, and then project the rest of the year as we get more real time data. Last week's taking stock report can be found here.
Prelude: I did season previews on most UM opponents - I skipped UNLV, Indiana and Rutgers out of boredom, and OSU out of fear. The rest are below
Dear readers - the deeper we go into the season the more off my summer views will become as naturally teams will evolve from what we thought they would be and injuries happen.
So let's see how I did with Minnesota this summer (this week will be yada yada free)... I began the preview with:
Minnesota is a program that has turned it around under the Jerry Kill regime but in some corners of the universe the hype machine is a bit too high from this set of eyes; especially considering the offensive production lost to graduation. In Cowherd's terms I'd like to be a short seller of Minnesota Gophers football in 2015 while stuffing them in my 401k as a long term investment 12 months from now once the price cools down. Jerry Kill has very much installed a Jim Tressel / Mark Dantonio (until last year) blueprint of tough defense + running offense + special teams.
Along those lines Vegas has set the Gophers over/under at a sterling 5.5 wins this year. Not exactly the stuff of Big 10 West champions. Of course that is not the end all but let's hold our horses a bit on the ascent of Gophers football - it looks a lot like what people thought of Northwestern 3 years ago. That doesn't mean Minnesota is not a tough out, especially at home, where Michigan (a horrid road team in the Brady Hoke era) must travel.
Minnesota must replace a ton of offensive production, and has some challenges in the front 7 on defense while offering a sterling secondary.
And ended with:
Both teams have issues and both teams have good staffs but on paper UM has more talent - potentially a lot more talent. This game is on Halloween so unlike the version of Michigan for a decade I expect this vintage to improve as the year goes by. And I expect the same from Minnesota - that's what good staffs do.
I do expect Minnesota to have a solution at RB by then but will it be anywhere near Cobb's production? I don't know if Minnesota will have a solution in the passing game. Hopefully UM has answers in their running game by then because Rudock could be challenged - this Minnesota team terrorized Rudock last year although their front 7 might not be as good. On the other side of the ball UM's rush defense needs to be about it, not talk about it when facing good rushing offenses.
We all have road game PTSD due to the Brady Hoke era so facing any .500ish or better team on the road is a challenge until we prove otherwise. Both teams have a bye coming into the week with UM coming off a battle with MSU and Minn v Nebraska. This feels like a slog it out M00Nish type game where defenses may dominate. Upside surprise is UM's OL has improved by then and we find a running back or two ready to tear through Minnesota so we don't need to rely so much on the passing game. Also this should be a big game for Butt to exploit Minnesota's aggressive scheme.
Generally I will give myself high marks on my expectations of Minn football this summer. They had a lot of hype going into the season as possible West winners but people were not looking at the personnel losses on offense. Well people not in Vegas at least.
Back in the summer I had hoped the OL would be showing a lot of improvement and we would have found a running back or two ready to tear through Minnesota so we wouldn't need to rely on Rudock. Unfortunately these things are not happening (more on that later). Drake Johnson was solid enough this game but right now the UM running back corps as a whole is so underwhelming. As is the OL.
I also asked of Minnesota would have as solution in their passing game by this point in the year. They didn't. Until Halloween.
These were my views of the unit matchups this summer:
(take these matchups with more of a grain of salt than usual because once you get past the month of September teams grow and evolve - well at least well coached teams.)
UM rush off v Minn rush def - Adv: Wash. UM needs to prove it has a run game and Minn has a decent front 7 even if their top LB is gone. Tons of unknowns and mysteries - we'll know better by late October who has what.
UM pass off v Minn pass def - Adv: Minn. While I like Rudock, the lack of UM WRs is the main issue I see in this matchup. The ability to get separation vs a pair of potential NFL CBs could be a big issue and while Rudock can overcome that to some degree it's difficult to not give Minn the advantage, although lack of pass rush could expose their secondary if UM's OL holds up. It is also worth nothing the Minnesota game was Rudock's worse of 2014 at Iowa (10/19, 89 yards, 1 INT).
Minn rush off v UM rush def - Adv: UM. Last year this was supposed to be strength on strength. It ended up not being so as Minn rushed for over 200 yards with 183 coming from Cobb and a nasty 5.7 ypc average. UM did a good job on Leidner - or if you are a pessimist, Leidner barely had to run as he only had 6 carries which will include sack yards. UM usually did quite well vs average to below average rush offenses in 2014 but struggled against units who specialize in the run. Fast forward a year and UM should still have a solid rush defense but Cobb is gone. Minn should continue to have a good OL but needs to show a back so slight edge to UM here.
Minn pass off v UM pass def - Adv: UM. This was weakness on weakness last year and Leidner was very efficient going 14/22 (63.6%) well above his year average of 51.5%. 7.6 yards per attempt was right in line with season average. Half his completions were to Cobb and Williams - again he needs to find replacements. With Lewis back, Peppers hopefully doing his thing, Wilson with 1 more year of experience and Lyons being decent this should be to UM's advantage especially if a pass rush can be generated.
In matchup 1 I was disappointed in UM yet again especially in the first half. By November (or 1 day away from it) I had expected the OL to be doing better with the Drevno effect - it is pretty much the same unit it has been for a month. It does decent vs overwhelmed 2/3 star players and is pretty meh vs well coached 3 stars and 4 star types. None of our running backs scare anyone and aside from Drake Johnson and maybe Higdon we don't have much speed at all. And Higdon is not ready. I think there were more holes opening in the 2nd half and Drake looked good there but we are nowhere near old UM running games or modern Stanford ones.
I gave the advantage to Minn in the passing defense vs our passing offense and at that point it is almost laughable to think of any game our passing offense would be an advantage.
My greatest dissapointment this game was UM's usually stellar rush defense. It is one thing for Leidner to throw it around like Denard Robinson but without the interceptions but it is quite another for our rush D to be gashed like it was in this game. We didn't play well on the edge nor did the LBs do well in filling gaps from an amateur view. This is the first time all year we stunk in this regard so I am going to chalk it up to anomaly until I see continued evidence teams can run on us.
The last matchup was the only reason this game was close. Leidner was throwing arm punts up in Denard fashion and our DBs simply could not finish plays. Balls went thru arms and fingers and then Leidner was so confident by the 4th quarter he put on his Connor Cook pants and made some NFL throws on the last drive. It was a boggling night.
At the end of last week's preview...with a lot more data about Minn I wrote this:
Pain. But depending on how early we get a big lead and shut down the offense, maybe less pain than some assume. But pain.
Wrong! The only pain that was felt was in our hearts and blood pressures.
A Look at Michigan
As said above this was a weird game and had so many Brady Hoke stains on it, it made me sad. And peeved. And if MN had gained 1/2 extra yard furious. When Wilton first came in the game and looked like Russ Bellomy for 2 drives, and our defense was getting gashed in the 2nd half by the 92nd ranked offense I was saying to myself - this would have been Michigan if Brady Hoke had remained. Incompetent on offense and "good not great and bumbling at key times" on defense. Minus the good special teams.
I was fuming about Brady and his stupid ass comments about what he would do if in the same position as Harbaugh v MSU. YOU'D NEVER BE CLOSE TO THAT POSITION BRADY! I was looking at this team getting punked by Minnesota and it looked like Michigan 2014. I was laughing at the concept of UM being with 30 of an unhealthy MSU with Hoke at the helm with his 10 guys on special teams, another year of Funk mishandling our OL, another year of a D that didn't look like the 2015 D but looked like this thing Saturday night where you let a crap offense move on them at will for long periods of time, Jake Rudock playing at Wyoming and Shane Morris leading us up and down the field... well on the field, and the same meh running backs and wide receivers. You serious Brady? We'd be in dog fights with Oregon State and UNLV with you this year. After a confidence sapping blowout @ Utah. Your only decisions would be whether to go for the FG to tie Oregon State or go for the win in regulation. Which you'd have to call a timeout to decide because you didn't wear a head set. Just STFU and go away for 5 years and then come back to warm applause after we forget most of the bad you did.
There now that I got that off my chest - that game sucked. It reminded me way too much of Michigan 2014 in all phases but special teams. Which remains this team's saving grace. #Baxter This was the second game in a row UM benefited from short fields, and had a major yardage disadvantage. It is playing with fire but the offense is mostly impotent. Peppers is the only guy who can create for himself and uhh... he is a defensive player. In many ways it was sad we had to rely on him THAT much vs a mediocre Minnesota squad. With an above average QB, MN would have been packed away nicely by beginning of 3rd quarter.
And no I am not buying the "Win one for the gipper" crap. We were up 14-3 and the air was taken out of that stadium. What happened was we let a meh team stick around and confidence changes everything at this - or any - level. See Wilton Speight - looked like scared deer on first 2 drives; then hits a short pass and turned into tall big Joe Montana (that's a cool QB from the 80s for you young fellas). That is what happened to Minnesota - not Jerry Kill love. Michigan was up 14-6 and then the drive that turned the game was a 3 play 76 yard TD drive that included a 23 yard run and a 52 yard miracle pass. And with that the goblins were out and it was a "here we go again" feeling and "one of those nights" which I unfortunately began typing every 7 minutes or so in real time beginning in the 2nd quarter of the liveblog.
That offense tho...
After 220 yards vs MSU's D and its LOL secondary but very good front 7, UM could only muster 296 yds vs the inverse of MSU's defense - a meh front 7 with a very good secondary. So pick your poison right now - we are not particularly good at anything on offense nor exploiting a hole on anyone's defense if it's not named Peppers. It's very troubling because it puts a lot of stress on the defense. The inverse of those late Rich Rod teams which put stress on offense to score every drive due to the defense, and very similar to those late Hoke teams.
UM lost the TOP battle by 2 minutes - not a hugely important stat for me but when you rely on defense and special teams and lack explosive offense it does matter for those specific type of teams. We again lost the turnvoer battle by 2. (1 was sort of moot as it was on 4th down but still) The inability to create turnovers by the defense, especially fumble recoveries (I believe we have 1 all year) is an issue.
At QB there is nothing more to say that has not been said. Iowa Jake is seemingly gone which is boggling when you have a QB savant coaching you. Somewhere Kirk Ferentz is laughing his ass off - deservedly for all the shit he took this offseason. Some of the decision making was just plain bad such as that stupid shuffle pass - a 3rd year starter does not do that and that has nothing to do with "new system" "doesn't know the WRs" blah f**** blah. All excuses at this point. You don't make those decisions unless you are a RS freshman. It was a typical Rudock at UM game - a high completion % because almost everything was high % short yardage; a weak ass ypa of 6.7 and an INT. Secretly I desire to see Wilton in for at least a quarter next week just to see what he can do with confidence and equal snaps in practice with Jake. (yes I know it won't happen if Jake is healthy but let a guy dream) I don't expect miracles but a viable downfield throwing threat would at least make defenses have to resort to a defense system that is more advanced then 10th grade. He showed more "decision making" ability on the scoring drive than I've seen in Jake all year. I don't know - I'd just like to give him a quarter or a half and Rutgers at home is the only game we can see what he has as this offense needs to churn out pts vs OSU and Indiana.... and the PSU game is a massive variable.
Pass distribution was 9 to WRs, 5 to TEs and 2 to RB/FB. That is actually a very atypical distribution for the year. What was strange was after going into the locker room and getting their ass kicked (I presume) we came out with a very nice 2nd half drive that included - you know - multiple passes to WRs. Then decided to go away from it most of the rest of the time Rudock stayed in the game. I don't know anymore.
Speight came in and looked like Russ Bellomy for 2 drives, making us all wonder how P5 teams like Baylor ND FSU have multiple guys who can come in and throw for 250 ... err 150... err over 50 yards, and we do not. I was again boggled by the play selection for Speight - a nice screen or an easy pass to Butt to get his confidence up would have been nice. Instead they did other things until the 3rd drive. When he did get some confidence he looked like a Div 1 QB. A miracle indeed.
Outside of Drake Johnson the running backs sucked. We had the 1 end around a game we have come to expect from Chesson for 22 yards, and then Peppers did Peppers things 4 times. Drake had 10 carries for 55 yards and finally showed off some of that explosion in the 2nd half when he had some nice sized holes... AND FOLLOWED THEM. Smith had 2 weeks to heal up and looked a shell of himself with 9 carries for 15 yards. Green looked like Green. Which as I say every week is not a compliment. Isaac is in Bolivia. So non Johnson/Chesson rush game came to 23 carries for 50 yds. So 2.1 a carry - yes that includes sacks but you get the point. It was putrid. I said earlier in the year when we were gashing bad defenses for 1 big run a game and that was elevaing our "average per carry" the running game still had issue and those huge runs (Chesson in 1 game, Isaac in another) were masking said issues. Well those are being unmasked. I was hoping for more progress in run blocking from OL but it seems halting. That said there are holes a times - holes often not found. An unhealthy Smith plus Green being Green and Isaac stapled to the bench means Peppers + Johnson is just about all you have. And PSU and OSU's DLs are far far FAR superior to Minnesota's. A few FB runs as usual but no magic this game.
Without the threat of Peppers and some help from Johnson it really was a sad offense altogether. It is easily defensible when Jake is in. Honestly it might at this point be worse than 2014's version which at least had Funchess on it. Jake is not playing any better than Gardner.
The offense is now 98th in the country via NCAA stats which measures offenses by yards per game. That is bad. Advanced stats look at it more kindly but FEI downgraded it big time last week and I expect another drop this week. S&P+ still thinks its near 50 in the country - which is why I take FEI over S&P+.
Defensively, this was 2014 Michigan. All that was missing was a TD drive to end the 1st half - thankfully MN's interim coach and/or OC channeled DeBord often in this game and settled for FGs rather than going for the kill. Ironically the coach did the inverse on the final decision of the game.
But back to our defense - it was not good this game. Now to be fair it had some rough luck with some of those "arm punt" completions but part of that was DBs not making plays when they could have. As mentioned above I was more concerned with the rush defense as MN ran 35x for 144 yds and that includes a penalty for our few sacks so 4.1 inclusive of negative yardage from sacks. Rodney Smith was particularly bothersome with 12 carries for 74 yards (6.2 per). In my estimation Jordan Howard of Indiana, Saquon Barkley of PSU, and Elliott of OSU are all better backs than Rodney Smith so this has to be cleaned up or we are in trouble. We have to make some of these offenses on the horizon 1 dimensional.
The pass game was weird. Leidner looked like Denard Robinson on a good night - throwing up arm punts that landed constantly. While the completion % wasn't high that is how Denard Robinson type QBs work - they gash you with big plays on lower % throws. Leidner had passes of:
- 17 yds
...and not much of that was yards after catch. Jake Rudock must look at those #s and think it's a different sport Leidner was playing.
Again yes a few of those were "lucky" but lucky stuff early turns into confidence late and Leidner late looked like some mid round NFL pick. Gary Nova flashbacks anyone?
UFR will tell us much but to the untrained eye the linebackers were horrible - Ross made a ton of tackles but seemed to be in on some misplays, Bolden was Bolden (like Green not a compliment) and Desmond Morgan had his first big woof of the year. I will excuse Morgan because it's his first of the year but damn. Most of us thought our linebackers would get exposed at some point this year but I doubt anyone thought that point would be "Minnesota".
Clark seemed to have a rough game as did Dymonte Thomas (in special teams too). I am not clear what happened to RJS - did he play early and get benched for an error? Injured? I don't know. Seemed like Ross played a lot of BUCK and not to pleasant results. Maybe UFR will say different. There were holes in quite a few spots outside of Hurst/Glasgow/Wormley and even with those guys it felt like we did not get to the QB much at all for the 2nd straight game unless we brought safety blitzes. Henry was quiet? Also 3rd and 17 on that last drive? Sigh. This felt like the Mattison 2014 defense with a healthy Peppers added to it.
UM did not have as many penalties as it felt like (only 5) but man they all seemed to happen on crucial plays that extended MN drives.
I thought this game would be somewhat tough earlier in the year and in the offseason but as the year progressed and you saw Leidner sucking and a run based offense that was built for UM to dominate it felt like a matchup very much in our favor. But this turned into a very rough game which required good fortune and bad coaching decisions IMO to win.
As an aside I disagreed 100% with MN's decision to not tie the game and go to OT. (and said it live at the time so not Monday morning Qbing) You have a "rookie" QB on our side with a struggling offense, and you have a QB on fire on your side which had just gashed our defense yet again - you are at home, you take the points and ride the momentum.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY (DOD!) RANKINGS
Basing games on WHEN they are played and WHERE this was my general view on degree of difficulty for each opponent coming into the year and adjusted weekly, Again this is not how good the team is in a vacuum but how they match up vs UM.
|Week 9||Week 8||Week 7||Week 6|
|11||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State|
|Week 5||Week 4||Week 2||Week 1|
|11||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State|
- Minn (+1) - Minnesota is a fraud team we had to play on the road. Northwestern was a fraud team we got to play at home. Yes Northwestern smashed Minnesota head to head. IDK man. I am going with Leidner at his best >>> Thorson at his best.
- Northwestern (-1) - Northwestern beat a bad Neb team the prior week. Watching Purdue manhandle Nebraska most of that game showed that was an even less impressive victory than it first appeared. And we played NW at home vs MN on the road. IDK man.
- OSU - OSU partied a lot this week and it cost them. Now they are stuck with uhhh, their NC winning QB (sigh) to start a game as a result. They don't need Barrett to beat Minnesota next week and trust me, the MGoBoard is going to full of "why didn't Leidner look like THAT vs us???!!!" a couple dozen of times next Saturday.
- Utah - Utah played our friends from Oregon State in what looks on paper like a snooze fest. Which is just up Utah's alley. It was 14-6 going into the 4th quarter. Wilson went 14/17 for just under 200 yds - 11.6 average and 1 TD. He ran for an additional 56. If we got that production every week we'd be 7-0. Booker was his normal workhorse with 121 yds and 4.8 ave. In a very Jim Harbaugh at Stanford move Utah ran 12 consecutive times on its opening drive. "You know what we are going to do and you still can't stop it." Utah is a very good but not great team and is having an excellent year.
- MSU - Cook threw for 370 yards during the bye week.
- BYU - Mangum threw for 320 yards during the bye week.
- PSU - Yeah it was only Illinois but this was a dominating performance from front to finish. Illinois actually came into the game with a pretty decently ranked defense in advanced stats and PSU thrashed it to the tune of 39 pts. I have been saying all year what scares me about PSU is Hackenberg is going to be non PTSD a few weekends this year and in any week he is not PSU suddently becomes a big issue. He had an excelelnt game 21/29, 266 yds (9.1 ave), 2 TD, no INT. Barkley had a decent game at RB and Godwin continues to be scary as a WR. This looks a lot like UM's win over NW. PSU's DL also feels like a major mismatch with our OL. With our offense and PSU's manhandling DL this continues to look like a lot of trouble - especially if our D is beginning to get figured out by opponents.
- Indiana- Indiana had a much needed bye to get healthy. The prospect of a healthy Nate Sudfeld and a healthy Jordan Howard is not a positive one. You beat Indiana by outscoring them, not stopping them. Not sure our offense can take advantage of that crap defense at this point to the level it will need. And it's on the road where we have had some issues (very bad 1st half vs MD, and MN game speaks for itself). If we hold Indiana to 27ish can our offense churn out 30 on the road???
- Maryland - Iowa raced out to a 31-0 lead vs Maryland and then fell asleep. Maryland continues to be bad. Perry Hills reverted to mean - 11/22 for 74 yds and 3 INT. He ran for 104 yds on 19 carries. He is their whole offense. Iowa looked really impressive actually in this one.
- Rutgers - Rutgers had a bye wee...err what? Oh they though they had a bye week and didn't show up? Umm, Rutgers has scored 10 pts on Wisconsin and Ohio combined the past 2 weeks. If UM gives up 17-24 it tells me our D has been feasting on really bad QBs for 4 of the first 5 wins (Mangum the exception) and there is some fraud to our D. Yes Carroo but seriously that is it for Rutgers. Also they have given up nearly 100 pts on defense the past 2 weeks. Hell we might even score ... 30? Chris Laviano had a decent year coming into these last 2 weeks but sucked again this game going 4/14 for 31 yds. And a pick. The offense only gained 165 yards. Carroo was out with injury. The only question here is do we make Laviano look like Leidner/Cook I guess.
- Oregon State - OSU continues to be hot garbage. Seth Collins who was already platooning with another freshman at QB was hurt in practice so Nick Mitchell played the whole way. I mean he was decent in a Jake Rudock type of way in terms of filling up a stat sheet while doing nothing really in real terms - 19/35 for 204 yds (5.8 ave). OSU was projected to be bad coming into the year and they are fulfilling their promise.
- UNLV - UNLV actually gave Boise St a game for 3 quarters as Blake Decker returned for QB for UNLV after a bye week and went 29/50 for 357 yds. Unfortunately he also had 2 picks. Decker is the whole offense.
It's a game of inches as they say. When MN was driving late I was saying we look like we are about to be 5-3 with very worrisome games vs Indiana, PSU, and OSU ahead. If things fell the wrong way we could finish these last 4 games 1-3 and be 6-6 with what would look like yet another collapse post MSU.
But .....just as easily this team could have been 7-1 entering the Rutgers game.
Harbaugh & Co are doing what they can with a limited set of offensive players. The OL is not "Michigan good" and might at this point just be "a bit above average". The QB is challenged and very easy to scheme against. A hobbled Smith can't do much. Drake is showing some 2014 signs of life (stay healthy man!) Teams are focusing on Butt. You get the point. My main concern is not destroyed Peppers - unfortunately it looks like he will be very needed vs Indiana, PSU, and OSU to create any threat.
The defense is going to be very challenged the last 3 weeks of the season, yes even by PSU. Hackenberg still has a ceiling and Sudfeld and Barrett are "close to Cook" category although in different ways.
Special teams remain our ace and saving grace.
Honestly, I'd be content with 2-2 to end this year with the way this offense is performing. 3-1 seems to be stretching it right now with the inability for our offense to match punches with other teams. 1-3 is plausible if the defense doesn't get back to limiting teams to under 20. But it might be asking too much for the defense to hold teams to 13-17 pts every game (save Rutgers). So let's get this win and then try to get 1 or 2 of the last 3.
Rutgers has been imploded by Wisconsin and OSU back to back. Carroo is the entire offense and even if he is back won't be 100%. As I said above, if we give up 20+ to Rutgers I will have to consider the defense a bit fraudulent and feasting on 4 really bad QBs early in the year in (a) Seth Collins, (b) Caleb Rowe, (c) the backup at UNLV after Decker got hurt, and a (d) mediocre Thorson at Northwestern. We cannot make Laviano look like Gary Nova.
Rutgers defense is also putrid giving up nearly a zillion points to OSU and Wisconsin. Now with that said Clement was back for Wisconsin and we sure don't have a Clement and OSU is OSU but damnit I guess Peppers or something. This is by far the easiest game left of the 4 and at home so UM needs to find their form going into the final stretch of 3 games. It will be interesting to see how things shake out at QB - I am sure a healthy Jake will get the start but will he be healthy? And if not, how does Speight look with a full week of 1st team reps and confidence? And can we get back to the defense of pre MSU at least for a week please?