Mike Lantry, 1972
Since going to the 4-2-5 set the defense looks like they're playing with a chip on their shoulder (which they should be).
The 4 DL seem to be paying dividends by getting more pressure on the QB which resulted in the 3 INT's in the past 2 games while giving up less than 100 yards rushing in each game.
The defense will have 6 days to devote a way to stopping Wells but can they do it? Everyone reading this blog knows that Wells is getting the ball at least 25 to 30 times, Shafer knows it, RR knows it and so does the defense but can they contain Wells enough to make Pryor throw the ball? That's 6 days worth of film, technique, blitz packages, stunt packages and practices dedicated to stopping 1 person. With all of that preparation and knowing what OSU is going to do, can they stop Wells from running directly through the middle of the defense?
If they contain Wells and Pryor has to throw the ball I like UM's chances of staying close into the 4th quarter. Pryor has 10 TD passes, 3 INT, and 6 rushing TD in 11 games this year. If you eliminate his padded stats in the Troy and Northwestern games his stats are 3 TD passes, 2 INT and 6 rushing TD in 9 games. I would much rather make Pryor throw the ball to win rather than seeing Wells put up 200+ yards (again).
The offense may have Freshmen at a majority of the positions but there aren't any excuses for the defense. I want to see Feagin throw the ball at least 1 time and I don't care if it's incomplete but you can't let someone stack 9 in the box against you. I want to see a steady dose of Minor, Brown, Shaw and only use Sheridan when absolutely necessary. Let Mesko pin them deep and dear God keep Odoms away from the punts.
After setting records this year for all the wrong reasons I have to believe there is a nasty rage building up in that defense and hopefully we see it this weekend. I also have faith in the running game that they will find a way to get it done against OSU. Keep handing the ball off to Minor, Brown, and Shaw and UM could make sure OSU is playing in Florida rather than Pasadena.
In a season full of disappointment, and a comedy of injuries and errors, one thing has stuck out to me: Michigan's offense has disappeared for long stretches in almost every game. This lack of scoring has absolutely killed Michigan and in many ways explains, or at least illustrates, their inability to win games they were in a position to win. The offense has rarely played well for more than a half and has played particularly bad in the third quarter.
Here is the breakdown:
Utah: no points in 2nd or 3rd quarter
Miami (OH): no points in 2nd or 3rd quarter
Notre Dame: no points 3rd or 4th quarter
Wisconsin: no points 1st or 2nd,
Illinois: no points in 2nd or 3rd quarter
Toledo: no points in 3rd or 4th quarter
Penn State: no points in 3rd or 4th quarter
Michigan State: no points in 4th quarter
Purdue: scored in every quarter
Minnesota: scored in every quarter
Northwester: no points in 3rd or 4th quarter
So in 8 games this year Michigan has gone two or more quarters without scoring a point! How can you expect to win ball games if you take half the game off on offense from a scoring perspective?
Here are the points but quarter:
1st: 92, 2nd: 51, 3rd: 34, 4th: 65
Clearly this team struggles mightily in the third quarter. Almost half of the yearly output (14 pts.) was in one game (Purdue). In only 4 of 11 games this season have they scored at all in the third quarter.
Here are some options for why this is happening:
- Coaching: opposing coaches are figuring out Michigan's schemes and coming up with ways to stop them while Michigan is unable to adapt.
- Talent: Michigan simply doesn't have the talent to compete and this talent is winning out in the later half of the game.
- Inexperience: in pressure situations young players make more mistakes and thus we lose important scoring opportunities.
This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but these seem like the main culprits. And it also seems clear to me that in reality it is a mix of all three.
I think the lack of talent and experience has led to both inconsitent play and to a limited play book. As opposing teams figure out what we are doing and shut it down, the coaches are not able to enlarge the play book or get more creative because the players are not able to handle it. Critical mistkaes and turnovers have also plauged Michigan this year and this has taken away key scoring oppertunities as well.
I am not a Xs and Os guy, and I didn't take the time to chart every drive, but have ing watched the game it was clear that the offense has simply been unable to move the ball for long stretches of time. The scoring numbers reflect this and it has meant the difference between being competitive and getting blown out and between narrow loses and wins.
It Michigan is to have a prayer of winning on Saturday they will need to find a way to be consistent and not take a couple of quarters off. It the above pattern holds it will get ugly.
I am not a coach, just an avid fan. If you don't want to read a long winded evaluation of our season by a lamen, please just skip it and don't bother slamming me
I think many people get on here and make extreme statements like "we will win 10 national championships in the next few years" or "Rodriguez is terrible and we would have won 9 or 10 games with Les Miles".
Of course, there are a number of people who try to be reasonable. I will try to make my case for what has been good or bad this year.
I think a 6-6 year would have been a good year. By that I mean, the team would be outperforming reasonable expectations based on all the factors going into the season. Those factors are the same ones Brian laid out for us in the summer. If you have followed college football closely and this blog before the season, you know how hard it would be to get a team as inexperienced as this one and make it a big time winner.
Let's look at our schedule.
Utah-a possible BCS buster with a running senior QB. They should beat us on paper. The only reason they didn't get more press preseason is that they were supposed to lose to us in their first game and that would have killed their BCS hopes. I don't think they are a great team and if we lined the same teams up against them next year, i think we would win. But not this year with only one returning starter on offense. (I don't count Butler)
Miami-we should never lose to a MAC team. Just my opinion but the recruiting difference is so vast. The only time it should maybe happen is when we are having a really down year and its the best MAC team in the conference with a bunch of seniors.
Notre Dame-They are a young team with an overated coach, but they still have a bunch of sophomores with more experience than us who were part of a great recruiting class. We played in South Bend. I thought they should beat us on paper.
Wisconsin-should have killed us on paper. Of course, they ended up being worse than we thought, but still, they have a better team than us this year.
Illinois- they are better than us this year. Juice Williams alone put this game in their favor. (I did however incorrectly pick an upset here in my preseason predictions)
Toledo- see above about MAC teams.
Penn State- We knew they'd have a decent team this year. No way we should beat them on paper.
MSU- On paper we're closer to these guys but its a rivalry we've been winning a lot. We needed a great comback last year. MSU was due and they have a pretty good runner in Ringer. MSU should win this.
Purdue- Sadly, we are close to this team on paper but by now inexperience isn't as much of a factor as the year goes on. I thought we should win this.
Minnesota- I didn't predict the turn around for them, but we should beat them. We just have more talent.
Northwestern- Tough one to predict preseason because they played us tough last year. However, its at home and we have had a season to work out the kinks. I think this is a game we should win.
OSU-Preseason these guys destroy us on paper.
Looking at that, it seemed like, imho, if we played at our players potential:
wins- Miami, Toledo, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern.
Loses-Utah, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, MSU, PSU, OSU
I hoped we'd win in an upset and not get upset ourselves making a "good" season 6-6.
Now the reality.
Early in the year, things went approximately how I expected. Our offense was more inept than I had imagined and the defense not quite as good as I had hoped, but there were moments and our offense looked like it had potential if you squinted just right.
But we beat Miami like we were supposed to and even got our upset against Wisconsin. We had a two point conversion to tie Utah and outplayed Notre Dame in every department except turnovers and points. We went up by 14 over Illinois and all sorts of unrealistic ideas floated through my head. Then Juice sliced us up and we were at 2-2.
Then, Toledo happened. I blame a lot of the game on Threet being out in the second half, but I think our team should have won anyway. I don't blame our coaches as much as the players. The scheme wasn't enough of an issue that I can ignore the lack of playmaking.
MSU- Our D and our offense let us down this game. We scored 21 points but had a lot of three and outs. Either way, MSU was just a better team than us this year, imo.
Purdue- First major complaint against Rodriguez starts here. I think the 3-3-5 was a mistake. As Brian and a lot of other people on this site have stated, we need our best 4 players on the field. Also, putting Harrson or Cissoko at db/linebacker puts another better defender out there instead of Thompson. I think Rodriguez took a chance and was wrong.
Minnesota- good game for us but don't forget we had a really hard time getting in the end zone and Sheridan got lucky on a couple passes.
Northwestern- Really depressing. Also, typical for the season.
Our defense hasn't improved throughout the year the way you would hope. D played well for most of the game but gave up touchdowns on three long passes. They also gave up a lot of short passes in the second half. Our secondary is a huge disappointment and I do blame our coaches for not getting them to play better as the year went on.
Our offense looked terrible. Against NW we had our worst offensive performance since Toledo. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the Threet-Sheridan tango. Maybe it was missing Minor. Whatever it was, the offense took a step back and its too late in the year to completely blame it on inexperience. There is some lack of talent this year compared to years past, but we still have more than NW. Imho, Rodriguez has to share blame for NW.
Our special teams has also been the same all year. Half it is great, the other disaster. We scored on a punt block, but gave them great field position on the Odoms blunder and missed a field goal.
So, how much of this season can we blame on Rodriguez? Not much, but some. I think our players significantly underperformed in a few games. Our defensive and special teams coaching are a bigger issue right now I think. Our season has gone a lot worse than I thought possible. At the beggining of the season, I would not have been surprised with a 4-8 finish, but that really was my absolute bottom.
In the end, beating OSU will be the only thing to redeem this season. Otherwise, it will be a long cold winter waiting for our team to start playing to its potential again, and hopefully, exceeding it.
One of my fears is that Rodriguez failing because the Big Ten is a lot tougher than the Big East and the ACC. Under this theory, the Big Ten is a lot closer to the SEC than people credit us for, and the Big East is a lot farther away.
I have never been all that impressed by Rodriguez's record at WVU because I don't believe the Big East is anywhere near as tough as the Big Ten. (Same argument applies to his experience at Tulane and Clemson/ACC).
I am wondering if the problem is that he hasn't coached enough against talent at the Big Ten level, both on the field and off.
He and his coordinators have frequently appeared out-coached. His key hire, Scott Shafer, has not impressed many people. Giving up a fake punt with 5 minutes left in the game is being out-coached.
The quick skill players he loves have done a lot of good things, but they have also looked overmatched at times against Big Ten size. Their running game has been best with big, strong Brandon Minor, a prototype Big Ten back, not a speedy WVU back.
Did we just give too much credit to the Big East?
*Note: this theory has the advantage of auto-disrespecting all West Virginia loons.
3-8 (1-6 Big East)
L, 10-34 @ Boston College
(final record 8-4, won Music City Bowl)
W, 20-3 Ohio
(final record 1-10)
W, 34-14 Kent State
(final record 6-5)
L, 20-32 @ #25 Maryland
(final record 10-2, lost Orange Bowl)
L, 0-35 #6 Virginia Tech
(final record 8-4, lost Gator Bowl)
L, 24-34 @ Notre Dame
(final record 5-6)
L, 3-45 @ #1 Miami
(final record 12-0, won Rose Bowl)
W, 80-7 Rutgers
(final record 2-9)
L, 13-24 @ #14 Syracuse
(final record 10-3, won Insight Bowl)
L, 14-17 Temple
(final record 4-7)
L, 17-23 Pittsburgh
(final record 7-5, won Tangerine Bowl)
Opponent Combined Record = 73-55 (.570)
Stat (WVU – opponent)
Points PG 21.4 - 24.4
Total YPG 345.7 - 349.9
Rushing YPG 181.1 - 213.2
Passing YPG 164.6 - 136.7
TO Margin (-8) - (+8)
UM 2008 (as of 11-15)
3-8 (2-5 Big Ten)
L, 23-25 Utah
W, 16-6 Miami (Ohio)
L, 17-35 @ Notre Dame
W, 27-25 #9 Wisconsin
L, 20-45 Illinois
L, 10-13 Toledo
L, 17-46 @ #3 Penn State
L, 21-35 Michigan State
L, 42-48 @ Purdue
W, 29-6 @ Minnesota
L, 14-21 Northwestern
Opponent Combined Record = 68-49 (.581)
Stat (UM – opponent)
Points PG 21.5 - 27.7
Total YPG 299.2 - 362.5
Rushing YPG 150.9 - 128.3
Passing YPG 148.3 - 234.2
TO Margin (-9) - (+9)
9-4 (6-1 Big East)
W, 56-7 Tennessee-Chattanooga
(final record 2-10)
L, 17-34 @ #25 Wisconsin
(final record 8-6, won Alamo Bowl)
W, 35-32 @Cincinnati
(final record 7-7, lost New Orleans Bowl)
W, 37-17 East Carolina
(final record 4-8)
L, 17-48 Maryland
(final record 11-3, won Peach Bowl)
W, 40-0 @ Rutgers
(final record 1-11)
W, 34-7 Syracuse
(final record 4-8)
L, 23-40 #1 Miami
(final record 12-1, lost Fiesta Bowl)
W, 46-20 @ Temple
(final record 4-8)
W, 24-14 Boston College
(final record 9-4, won Motor City Bowl)
W, 21-18 @ #13 Virginia Tech
(final record 10-4, won San Francisco Bowl)
W, 24-17 @ #17 Pittsburgh
(final record 9-4, won Insight Bowl)
L, 22-48 vs. Virginia (Continental Tire Bowl)
(final record 9-5, won Continental Tire Bowl)
Opponent Combined Record = 90-79 (0.533)
Stat (WVU – opponent)
Points PG 30.5 - 23.2
Total YPG 418.5 - 335.5
Rushing YPG 283.6 - 121.8
Passing YPG 134.8 - 213.6
TO Margin (+19) - (-19)
So as you can see, WVU's 2001 season, its first under Rich Rod, is pretty similar to our 2008 season. The stats for this season will probably look even worse after the tOSU game (I'm as optimistic as anyone, but we won't win that game), but our strength of schedule will increase once we play the Bucks. So WVU's 2001 stats against a somewhat weaker schedule will pretty much equal our 2008 stats against a somewhat tougher schedule.
Looking at WVU's 2002 season is very encouraging. The offensive stats improve markedly from the 2001 season, and one thing that really stands out is the drastic change in turnover margin from 01 to 02. Also, Rasheed Marshall, WVU's first dual-threat QB under Rich Rod, took over the reins starting with the 02 season. Brad Lewis, a holdover from the Nehlen era at WVU, was the starting QB during the 01 season. So Rich Rod's 02 success wasn't due to a returning experienced QB, which is exactly the same situation we'll find ourselves in next year with (most likely) either Forcier or Beaver starting. WVU's running game went from average in 01 to explosive in 02, ranking as the second-best attack in the nation.
The situations in Morgantown in 2001 and Ann Arbor in 2008 were undoubtedly different in some ways, but many parallels can be drawn between the two seasons. Hopefully many parallels will be drawn between the 2002 and 2009 seasons, because I think every U of M fan would be happy with a 9-4 season next year.
IN RICH ROD WE TRUST
"You show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser" - Alan Johnson, Peep Show
While I know Michigan is really terrible at the footballs this year, there is a shift going on, at least in my mind, and I think several of you have noticed it too. This is not about schemes, or coaches, or Ws and Ls. It's about how we view each game; how we view each loss; how we view each win.
The fear element is gone. Remember that tinge in the back of your head before the App State game? Before OSU '04? That nagging feeling in the back of your head that, every game Michigan played, we should win, not we could win; that we somehow were 'owed' the game and, since "We're Michigan" it's somehow 'crushing' when we lose. Our fears were paralyzing. I think that's one of the reasons there was so much apathy from fans.
When we won, we weren't soaked in joy. We were soaked in relief.
Yes, we now have moved away from the FEAR side of the Life Line, and the only remaining direction to go is toward LOVE.
Now, this doesn't mean I think it doesn't suck to lose, and I think it would be a very bad thing if we continue to post up 3-9 seasons. However being as catastrophically bad as we are this year has had a few interesting effects. Other than about a week of a few MSU students/alums being MSU students/alums, no one is really 'excited' they beat us, broke losing streaks against us, etc.
When PSU beat us, Happy Valley was completely dead. No one even cared. When MSU beat us, I got exactly zero text messages from State fans. I generally get about 7 from them when we lose to them in basketball, and most of said friends care about football just as much or more than they do about basketball.
Now the fear element is in their corner. Could you imagine being a BCS Bowl hopeful team and then lose to a 3-8 team? Football is a strange sport, and crazy things like that happen *cough* USC *cough*.
Next week, I get to watch us play tOSU with no real fear. I am pretty damn sure we will lose to the Buckeyes in epic fashion, sealing a 3-9 season and a 5th straight OSU loss. If a big play or two keeps the game close, I get to hope we win, not fear we lose. It's liberating, and it's exciting, especially with the roulette wheel of a team we have in almost every aspect of the game.
Bring on next Saturday, and bring on next season. I, for one, am excited about it all. Who knows? The underdog spirit in football is one of the most powerful of any sport. Buck the Fuckeyes!