Warning: Long post
So, one thing that a lot of us have noticed is that Michigan has had a tendency to give up big plays this season. Our defense has been pretty good until the 3rd and really long situations in which they implode or when they miss key tackles.
I wanted to go back and quantify what I have seen this season, so I started out by looking at the number of yards for the touchdowns scored this year against us. I found the following numbers for the season so far (if they are off, it is because I counted them in notepad)
18 rushes for
16 passes for
18 fgs (I didn't bother with yardage because it doesn't help prove my point)
What I found disheartening was that half of passing TDs against us are for 20+ yards and just under 1/3 are from the opponents' territory. While that isn't exactly where we would like it to be, that alone won't cause problems in our season.
So, I spent a couple hours on ESPN looking at the play by play to determine how many of those scoring drives contained 20+ yard plays or where they started in Michigan territory to set up the TDs and FGs. I am going to count assisted points as points in which they got a 20+ yard play or started in Michigan territory due to a fumble/int on the scoring drive. I am doing this based off of turnovers and long plays because those have been our weekness this year. Long returns, safeties, punt blocks, etc are not counted because I am assuming that they are more random than due to problems in our systems.
55 yard pass on 3rd and 19 to set up a 8 yard run
21 yard pass on 2nd and 16 to set up a field goal
39 yard pass on 3rd and 7 to set up a field goal
Int to start at MICH 37 to set up a 19 yard pass
25 yard pass on 3rd and 5 to set up a field goal
39 yard pass on 3rd and 7 to set up a field goal
Fumble at Michigan 11 to set up a 2 yard run
Fumble at Michigan 14 to set up a 10 yard pass
48 yard pass on 1st and 10
60 yard pass on 2nd and 8 to set up a 1 yard run
Fumble returned for TD
46 yard rush on 3rd and 1 to set up a 5 yard run
20 yard pass on 2nd and 17 and
29 yard pass on 1st and 15 to set up a 22 yard pass
Fumble at Michigan 27 to set up a field goal
Fumble at Michigan 27 to set up a field goal
46 yard pass on 3rd and 1 to set up a 6 yard run
57 yard pass
77 yard pass
21 yard pass on 2nd and 12 to set up a 2 yard run
50 yard rush on 3rd and 2 to set up a 1 yard run
Fumble at MICH 16 to set up a 2 yard run
23 yard pass on 3rd and 13 to set up a field goal
Interception a MICH 40 to set up a field goal
Interception for TD
PSU (Safety, blocked punt points not counted as assisted)
44 yard run
25 yard pass on 2nd and 7 and
21 yard rush on 1st and 10 to set up a 1 yard run
Fumble at MICH 19 to set up a 1 yard run
80 yard pass
23 yard pass on 3rd and 16 to set up a 61 yard pass
64 yard rush on 1st and 10
44 yard pass on 3rd and 12 to set up a 4 yard pass
Interception at MICH 40 to set up a 7 yard pass
Purdue (3-3-5 game, points from fake punt not counted)
23 yard pass on 1st and 10 to set up a 2 yard run
35 yard pass on 1st and 15 to set up a 7 yard pass
20 yard pass on 1st and 10 to set up a 28 yard pass
26 yard rush on 3rd and 6 to set up a field goal
21 yard rush
20 yard pass on 1st and 10 to set up a 17 yard pass
53 yard pass
As you can see for yourself, only 3 teams managed to score touchdowns on us on drives that did not start in our own territory due to turnovers or long plays due to breakdowns in our defense. So far this season, only 78 points on such drives have been scored on us which is about 7 points per game.
I am not saying that those teams would not be able to score on us, but I am saying we handed over almost all of the points this season. If our defense were somewhat competent this season and we assume that teams only score half of the assisted points due to us holding them to field goals or them scoring half of the TDs (you can think about it however you want to), then the scores look something like this:
Utah 23-15 W
Miami (NTM) 16-3 W
ND 17-17 W (because we played better than them)
Wisconsin 27-15 W
Illinois 24-20 L
Toledo 10-6 W
PSU 35-17 L
MSU 21-21 L (because they played better than us)
Purdue 41-38 W
Minnesota 29-3 W
NW 14-10 W
I know this isn't the most scientific piece of evidence, but all of a sudden, those close losses become close wins, and those beat downs become close(r) losses. We would be 8-3(5-3), which is where I think a lot of us expected us to be at the end of the season.
Next season, with our offense having a full year of maturity and our OLine gelling a lot more than this year, I expect our turnover margin to be much closer to 0 and hopefully in our favor.
I am also hoping to see Graham, Martin, Campbell, Van Bergen, Ezeh, Mouton, Warren, Cissoko, Stevie Brown, Brandon Smith, and Woolfolk in a 4-2-5 so that we can hopefully try to minimize the long yardage plays.
*Speculation from here on out*
Looking to the schedule next year, I hope to see wins against Western and two other "cupcakes", a win against another blowhard ND team at home, a win against Indiana, and a win against MSU without Ringer to start the season. Considering the way this season has gone I may be entirely wrong, but I would bet that we make it to 6-0 next season. Possibly 5-1.
We then are at Iowa with a Senior Shonn Greene. With momentum from the 6-0 start, I expect a win here, but it is iffy. 7-0 or 5-2, I bet 7-0
We then have a Bye before hosting PSU. I think we might pull a win here because we are at home, JoePa will probably retire, and Clark will be gone. It could go either way. 8-0 or 5-3, I bet 7-1
Illinois. Juice Williams = Senior, Benn = Sophomore, Dufrene = 5th year senior, @Illinois. Loss. 8-1 or 5-4, I bet 7-2
Purdue at home, they will be rebuilding, revenge. Win. 9-1 or 6-4, I bet 8-2
Wisconsin, @wisconsin, revenge, still no quarterback and only a running game. Could go either way but most likely theirs. 10-1 or 6-5, I bet 8-3
OSU, @home, they graduate almost an entire team. Could go either way, but I bet in our favor. 11-1 or 6-6, I bet 9-3
So, anyway, I think next year we see some real improvement. I hope that they stick with the 4-2-5, and that improvements will limit the long yardage plays that have killed us this year. I also hope that our offense can play 4 quarters like they play in the first quarter of most of their games, but more importantly, I hope that we don't hand them the ball in the redzone. If all or most of these hopes come true then I think RR will have a lot more breathing room by the end of next year.
Wolverine fans: as Thanksgiving approaches, let us be sure to take a moment to remember our fellow Michiganders who are not so fortunate this time of year.
Times are clearly tough in parts of the state, and while our 3-8 record may be depressing, we need to take a moment to put it in perspective…particularly in light of the tough times Michigan State graduates face…
Lacking more content to meet the 200 word minimum: I close with these sacred words:
...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu...
And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."
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.