at least it's not just us?
This is only from a couple quarters of the Purdue game and what I remember from Illinois. Didn't get a chance to watch that much this week.
- They will run out of a lot of different formations. They run the power I, regular I form with double tights, and some spread formations. They also like a tight bunch formation which allows them to motion Derrick Williams into the back field. Out of the power I, they like to run some inside zone lead which was very effective against Purdue. They also like to run some play-action out of that formation. Out of their spread formations, they will run some zone read option, QB draws, and will throw the ball.
- The offensive line looks pretty good. Purdue had some success slanting on them. They were able to get some penetration on run plays. However, the o-line looks like a good combination of Wisconsin and Illinois. They are as athletic as Illinois, and are looking to bury people like Wisconsin. This area will be a real challenge.
- Darryl Clark is pretty good. He can run and throw, and is tough to bring down. However, he does lose some accuracy when getting pressured and is forced to stay inside the pocket. We really need to get after him and hit him all day.
- Royster is a also very good. He is big and fast and does not usually go down after first contact. We have to be fundamentally sound in our tackling on Royster. This worries me as we have not been a great tackling team all year.
- As for the receivers, they are trying to get the ball to Derrick Williams. If he is lined up as the tailback, he is getting the ball. However, they also like to line him up as the third back in the power I and use him as a lead blocker. From the tight bunch formation, they like to motion him into the back field and fake an end around and run a dive, or hand the ball off to thim. They like to run some three step, and off their play actions, they like to flood one side of the field. Against Illinois, they ran a play action with williams and sent Williams down the sideline for a big play. We have to know where Williams is every play, and if we can, hit him right off the line of scrimmage. He is very difficult to cover one on one. If we can disrupt some of their routes by being physical off the line, and get pressure on Clark, we can slow down their passing game.
- They base out of a 4-3 and run a 4-2 nickel against spread formations. They start out of a two shell, and rarely leave a receiver uncovered. They blitz a fair amount, but not every down. When they do blitz, they like to bring their outside linebacker through C gap and bring down the opposite safety playing man or 3 behind the blitz. In the Purdue game, they ran Cover 4 vs. trips. They may run this coverage against us to help on the run and short passes. This can be beat by running a post by the #1 receiver and getting behind the safety. It could be a big play if we run it and hit it.
- The D-line is pretty good. The DE's like to get upfield. Purdue was able to just ride them out of some of their zone running plays. They DT's do not get driven back easily and stand up well to double teams. This is going to be a very difficult match up for our o-line.
- The linebackers are very good against the run. #43 Josh Hall? finds the ball quickly and tackles well. Purdue was only successful running the ball when they got a lineman on this guy at the second level. We have not been good at doing that this year, so this is not a good matchup for us. However, the linebackers are not great in their zone drops. They bite hard on play action and do not find receivers in their zones well. Purdue was able to move the ball with short option routes where the reciever just sits in between linebackers. They hit these quick for 6-7 yard gains. If Purdue could have put some points on the board, that game could have been interesting. Unfortunately, we have not executed these types of routes very well this year.
- The secondary is also pretty good. They didn't seem to run a lot of man coveage, but were able to stay with Pudue's receivers pretty well when they did. Purdue's tight end was able to run by #7 Scirrato on one play, so a big play down the seam may there. They looked good in coverage, but none of them looked like great tacklers. They came up on some of Pudue's short passes out of control, and one little side step sent the DB running by the guy. Our recievers are going to have to break some tackles and get yards after contact to move the chains.
Purdue was able to keep that game close by holding ball and getting first downs on short routes between linebackers. If they hit on a couple missed field goals, that game is more interesting in the second half. If we can get first downs consistently on offense and hold the ball, then we can keep ourselves in it. Unfortunately, we have not consistently done this all year. Our D-line can match up with their O-line, but can our LB's make plays behind them? Our O-line does not match up well against their D-line and line backers so can we hit some three step passes and break some tackles? If we can do those things, I think we can stay in the game. Hopefully, it doesn't get ugly.
A little sadness hangs over the fourth installment of Big 10 picks. After a great start, back to back sub .500 weeks has put the overall record back to even. So much for playing with house money. But, undaunted, we charge forward with this week's slate, and, unlike the past two weeks, it's a card we have a lot of confidence in.
Wisconsin at Iowa. Lines, Iowa -3, O/U 41.5. I am jumping back aboard the Iowa bandwagon. Obviously, Michigan is my favorite team, but I have a list of teams close to my heart after that. Included in that group are Indiana (alma mater), Virginia Tech (family ties to the school......sorry OC), Toledo (my hometown, woot!), Navy and Iowa. The latter two are for gambling purposes as both programs have been moneymakers since the start of the decade. In Iowa's case, the love comes with a big caveat: They must be at home. At Kinnick Stadium, the Hawks are on a 35-16 ATS run, a stretch that would have netted you close to two grand had you been wagering $100 on them the whole time. Lately, they have cooled off in this role, going 1-5 in 2006 and only breaking even in their homes games since then. I used to bet Iowa at home every single game, but have long since jumped off that train as the program derailed in recent years. But, I'm climbing back aboard in this match-up with little reservation. Wisconsin is in a tailspin right now and they're not showing any signs of steering out of it. Iowa is better across both lines. They've bottled up star backs this year like Ringer, Sutton and McCoy, so they're more than capable of containing Wisco's strength, the power run. Meanwhile, on offense, Iowa will hammer away with underrated Shon Greeen. Make sure you catch this kid's act tomorrow as he's eclipsed the century mark in every game this year. He'll control the game for Iowa. The Hawks finally have their QB situation worked out with the Stanzi kid. He's been better than Allan Everidge for Wisconsin this year and will outperform him here. Wisco started to struggle scoring once their schedule passed the creampuff stage. Now they're supposed to penetrate a Hawkeye D allowing only 10 points per game? I dont think so. Iowa has the better lines, the better QB, the better D and a bigtime home field edge. You could say I like Iowa a lot.
The Pick: Iowa -3........if this game is close in the fourth quarter, does anyone think the Badgers will have the moxie to pull it out? I dont.
Purdue at Northwestern. Line NW -3, O/U 50. The analysis on this game begins and ends with one simple question? Is Northwestern a bowl team? I say they are. And that,s important because of Purdue's brutal record against bowl teams in recent years. In the time that the current four-year seniors have been on Purdue's roster, the Boilers have next to nothing on their resume. Against teams that eventually played in the bowl game that season, the Boilers are just 4-21 SU, 7-18 ATS since the beginning of 2005. The numbers get worse in league play as Purdue has logged a 1-13 SU, 2-12 ATS mark against Big 10 Bowlers those seasons. No reason to think those numbers wont fall in line in this game. Northwestern will harass the Purdue offense, and the Wildcats should take control on this side of the ball with their pass rush. On offense, expect Tyrell Sutton to have his best game of the year against the poor Boiler D.
The Pick: Northwestern -3.......Wildcats will pull away in the second half and win by double digits.
Ohio State at Michigan St. Lines, OSU -3, O/U, 42.5. I am going to keep betting against the Buckeyes, who are just 1-5 ATS this season. There's something intangible thats missing from this year's club. They're not the world beaters on D we expected and the offense has been stagnant, despite the insertion of phenom freshman QB Tyrelle Pryor. Michigan has scored twice as many offensive touchdowns than Ohio State has the last two weeks. Folks, that is not a good sign. I've said all along this club would get dinged multiple times in league play this season, and I refuse to back off that statement. A resurgent, confident Sparty program will help begin to make that prediction come true tomorrow. I love this physical, playmaking back 7 on MSU's D. They will bait the kid at QB into mistakes and Dantonio's blitzes will take advantage of a suddenly vulnerable and decidedly not vintage OSU offensive line. Pryor will take some bad sacks tomorrow. I'd love to bet the Over as far as rushing yards for both OSU's Beanie Well and MSU's Javon Ringer. These guys will play 'top me if you can' all afternoon. I cant wait to watch these guys run. In the end, I think Hoyer can win this game for MSU. He's a good QB if given time and I love the MSU O-Line to stone the OSU D-Line all day. Hoyer's uniform wont get dirty.
The Pick: MSU +3.........Sparty wins tomorrow, but clearly their annual collapse is seven days away.
Michigan at Penn State. Lines, PSU -24, O/U, 46.5. Over the years, I have developed a few systems. I have the flip-a-coin system, the reliable dartboard system and, every now and then, in order to get out of a rut, I have the let the girlfriend make the pick system. She liked that the BYU coach is named Bronco. Needless to say, this system did not work out the other night. Perhaps it would help if I Boo her, I dont know? Want a couple more systems? Of course you do. How about picking the team with the cooler helmet or betting on an underdog who lost their last game outright as a double digit favorite? Hey, what do you know, Michigan fits both those systems in this game. Road dogs coming off a big time upset loss rebound to cover the spread close to two out of every three times. In the last decade, those teams are 77-44-2 ATS, good for a 62.5% winning percentage. Those numbers are lethal to a bookie.
The Pick: Michigan +24.........I am still in shock over this line. Not because it isn't warranted, but because I am a little scared about a world where the Wolverines are so routinely more than a 3-TD dog. Michigan could lose 41-17 and still push against the Vegas Line. I'm speechless. Thankfully, the liquor cabinet is stocked for the game. I will need the medication.
Indiana at Illinois. Line, Illinois -15, O/U 55. Illinois should have won last week against Minnesota, but the Illini self destructed and gifted the Gophers 14 points, They wont be as giving tonight. The Hoosiers are on their way back to the basement of the league. I dont see them picking up a league win this season and they're overmatched in this one. Nothing is going right for the IU offense and they wont suddenly find their groove on the road against an Illini stop unit that, while vulnerable at times, remains a big play D. Indiana has no chance at stop the Juice, Benn and DuFrense show. This will be a blowout.
The Pick: Illinois -15.......I see the Illini rolling in this one by more than 20 points. But I hate playing heavy favorites, so this is my least confident pick. Take the disclaimer for whatever its worth.
Right now, just taking those five picks. We'll see how I feel in the morning and I might add a total or two or even a few games away from the Big 10. I should make a quick noe about the Iowa and Northwestern lines. Both spreads have since climbed to -4. I am buying a little extra juice to get -3 in both contests. A little insurance, we'll see if it comes into play. Neither moneyline is too expensive, so if you'd rather pay more juice than deal with the spread, I would not say you're being unwise.
Switching too a little different format. Going to take go along the lines of Brian does in his main preview but rather than use measly yards, I am going to use my adjusted expected value system. Explanation Here.
My line: Penn State is +25 on the year, Michigan is -4. Not a good combination.
Run Offense vs PSU
Rush numbers don't swing as wide as passing numbers.
Penn State averages +3 for the year, which is good for 25th in the country. Here's the game by game breakdown.
Rush - Game+
Sacks are included in the pass stats, and garbage time is excluded.
Pass Offense vs PSU
Penn State averages +5 for the year, which is good for 26th in the country. Because so many of there games have been blowouts and garbage time is excluded here, their play count is the lowest in the country for a BCS conference school. On a per play basis, the Nittany Lions rank 14th in the country. Here's the game by game breakdown.
Pass - Game+
Overall its the 22nd rated defense vs the 113th rated offense.
Run Defense vs PSU
Penn State is at +5 for the year, an impressive 5th in the country.
Rush - Game+
Pass Defense vs PSU
Penn State is at their usual +5 for the year, 18th in the country. Their lack of close games comes into play again here, their per play score is good for 9th. Not a negative performance on the season from the PSU passing game:
Pass - Game+
Overall its the 35th rated defense vs the 6th rated offense.
Battle of strength on strength when Michigan punts, battle of weakness on weakness when PSU punts. Kickoffs look like a wash.
Michigan punts, PSU returns: Michigan average of 43.1 yards net. PSU average of 34.9 yards net.
PSU punts, Michigan returns: PSU average of 35.3 yards net. Michigan average of 39.3 yards net.
Michigan kicks off, PSU returns: PSU average start at 29, Michigan average opp start at 29.
PSU kicks off, Michigan returns: Michigan average start at 29, PSU average opp start at 27.
PSU placekicking is #9 in the country, yielding about an extra point/game.
Not a lot of measurements for intangibles, but PSU's gains on field position have been strong, #20 in the country, worth a FG a game, while Michigan sits at #92, costing them a a couple points a game.
Both teams have been solid in the penalty department with Michigan holding a slight lead.
PSU has scored 91% of possible points in the red zone and allowed 80%.
Michigan has scored 76% of possible points while allowing 68%.
Michigan Now Just an Average Program
By DREW SHARP • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • October 18, 2012
When Michigan and Michigan State face off this Saturday in Ann Arbor, it will be a meeting of two programs going in opposite directions.
While Mark Dantonio has established consistency and attitude in leading the Spartans to a 4-1 start, the sheen on Rich Rodriguez's back-to-back Big Ten championships and 2011 National Championship appearance has obviously worn off.
The sounding bell for Michigan's trip back to mediocrity was last week's debacle at Indiana, which dropped the Wolverines to 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten this year.
That the legendary Wolverine program could fall to the perennial bottom-dweller of the Big Ten is anathema in Ann Arbor.
This latest loss may be the worst in Michigan's history. Appalachian State, which has won every NCAA Division I Football Championship since, was a good team that snuck up on them, while Toledo in 2008 could be chalked up to the inevitable attrition of instituting a brand new offense. Indiana, however, was a clear sign that the NCAA has caught up -- and passed by -- Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.
The Hoosiers knew everything the Wolverines were going to do before they did it. They pounced on every football. They showed up intense and ready to play, something that cannot be said for Rodriguez's squad.
Even when the Rich-Rod era was reaching its apex -- before Nick Saban's Crimson Tide proved in Miami that high-tech SEC football is far superior to the cavemen of the Big Ten -- the end of the Spread Option was in sight, as Ohio State limited Michigan's vaunted running game to just 86 yards.
The losses this year are a reflection of a team falling apart. We've heard grumblings from players about disjointed leadership in the locker room. Their motivation has been called to question. The resounding victory over an overrated Notre Dame team is a forgotten memory. This was the real Michigan, failing epically when not showing off for a national audience.
Now, with Superman Sam McGuffie and Tate Forcier playing in the NFL, Michigan has struggled to find offensive life against real defenses. And Rodriguez has taken the heat for this latest embarrassment, with many Michigan faithful ready to move on without him. Following the loss this year to Indiana, the website www.firerichrodriguez.com reported a record number of hits.
Coaches, it seems, have a short shelf life in today's win-now environment.
In that paradigm, MSU's Dantonio, who took over the program way back in 2006, is the exception. Dantonio, who won a national championship at Ohio State in 2002 (something Rich Rodriguez has never accomplished), has stuck around by preferring substance to flash. Under his direction, Michigan State has focused on building its foundations with a power running attack and a tough, in-your-face defense, and with a win in the Big House Saturday, could emerge as the new power in the state.
Michigan State has had a decided edge in the battle for in-state recruiting in recent years, holding a 3-to-1 advantage in Top 20 in-state talent. Dantonio has eschewed the exotic speed demons of Florida that Rodriguez favors, instead choosing to build his team by establishing strong relationships with in-state coaches. The dividends of this long-term investment are now paying off, starting with State's home-grown 'lighting' and 'thunder' tailback duo of Edwin Baker and Austin White. This week, they hauled in yet another highly regarded athlete, gathering a commitment from the Free Press' No. 13 in-state recruit, linebacker Damien Hirst of Birmingham Seaholm.
The recruting differential tells the story: in-state high schoolers are already looking at Michigan State before Michigan even extends an offer.
It starts Saturday. If the Spartans can roll into Ann Arbor and dispatch Rodriguez's flailing Wolverines, it could signal the beginning of the end of Michigan dominance in this state, and a return to the days of Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty, when Spartans dominated the rivalry and competed every year for the national title.
MORE DREW SHARP COLUMNS:
>Red Wings' Season Over Before It Began
>Leyland Should Take Blame for 2nd World Series Disappointment
>Time for Wings to cut ties with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and rebuild
>Young Pistons Looking to get Back to Playoffs
>Lions Should Bench Stanton, Look to Future
MORE ON FREEP.COM
>In Times Like These, Remember We All Love Each Other -- Mitch Albom
>Presidential Candidates Missed Opportunity in Last Debate -- Desiree Washington
>Michael Vick Released from Prison, Lions Deny Interest
>Construction Alert: Every Single Square Inch of Freeway in Southeast Michigan
With all the negativity flowing through the message boards these days, I thought it would be a good time to focus on something positive--Zoltan's mind bullets of awesomeness. This season, we're 2nd in the NCAA in net punting, averaging 43.08 yards per exchange. As I contemplated the omnipotence of our space emporer, I got curious as to how the new rugby punt was influencing our stats, so I did a little digging through the NCAA archives:
2006: 57th in net punting, 39.72 avg yards per punt, 34.92 net yards
2007: 48th in net punting, 41.10 avg yards per punt, 35.87 net yards
2008: 2nd in net punting, 44.98 avg yards per punt, 43.08 net yards
Unsuprisingly, we see an increase in the number of yards Zoltan is kicking the ball as he progresses throughout his career. However, the BIG increase is in the net yards, which means opponents are averaging fewer yards per return. In 2006, oponnents averaged 4.8 yards per return, in 2007, 5.23 yards per return, and in 2008, 1.9 yards per return.
I'm a huge fan of the rugby punt, because it does 2 things:
- It allows you to show a potential fake on every punt, and take it if it's there, as we did in the ND game
- Because the return team must defend the potential fake on every play, they can't sell out on the block or protect the return as much
I believe our large net punting increase is the cause of both our new style and Zoltan's mind bullets. Even the increase in raw kicking distance could be the result of more punts that roll because the returner can't make a play thanks to the increased time for the gunners to get downfield.
Of course, this is much too tiny of a sample size to make any real conclusions. If there was a listing of teams that have used the rugby punt over the past few years we could do some real analysis to assess its effectiveness. One caveat of the above numbers is that we don't do the roll-out rugby punt on every punt, so maybe the improvement is due simply to Zoltan Himself. Thoughts?
Our season is going down the crapper and you can't even bitch about the coaches because its their first season, their players are too young - not overly talented - don't fit the system, and they have an impeccable track record of success at the highest levels with other institutions.
All that's left is to watch the games, stew in the humiliations, and attempt to parse legitmate and usable critisisms from the blah blah blah for use in hunting scattered bread crumbs on the trail to "Michigan will be back."
Of all the big knocks on this staff out there at the moment, the one that seems to have a shred of legitimacy is the "at least we should see some improvement" refrain. Problem is, offensively at least, I don’t know where you could look in this toxic dump and recognize improvement if existed. There are so many breakdowns play after play, you wonder if its even possible to evaluate the coaches. But there a few areas I think require some explanation.
For example, has anyone figured out Brian's consistent critique of the coach’s use of that formation where Matthews is covered up and therefore ineligible, which is always a running play?
I haven’t heard anyone complain about this yet, but why do we continue using Minor/Grady in the backfield or as the h-back with McGuff/Shaw? The foundation of a run game is obviously blocking people. Moundros is our best run blocker. Isn’t it elementary that the coaches get him more involved in this capacity? I’m not talking about new plays or schemes, just put him on the field over Minor/Grady.
This came to me when re-watching the Toledo game and seeing those two really whiff on some blocks. 19 times out of 20, hell maybe more than that, they aren’t the player touching the ball when they are in with the super back. The decoy effect is non-existent. Minor has actually thrown some decent blocks this year, but to me it doesn’t make sense to take the best blocker on the team out in these situations and get nothing in return. I understand that the big back needs some touches to keep defenses honest and that Minor/Grady are likely to do more with those touches, but they take so much off the table from a blocking perspective that the offense would be better served living with the results of giving those touches to Moundros so he can play more.
If Minor and Grady are going to continue playing along side McGuff/Shaw, then can Moundros take snaps away from the TE? There are no words to describe our TE blocking. I saw Butler get in for a single snap against Toledo and whiff so bad on the man standing directly in front of him, I am now legitimately scared that Butler is being controlled by gangsters. And sitting him for the season is only going to piss those guys off. RR needs to throw him off the team and start his own investigation ASAP so that we can self report and hope for the best. If we wait for them to drop the dime on Butler after the fact our NCAA punishment will be much worse.
I have noticed RR keeping the TE in more to help with the run blocking, which is a logical move. There’s nothing in the spread rule book which says you can’t have 6 guys run blocking at the line of scrimmage (I don’t think). The two most glaring problems I see with UM’s run blocking is that Molk can’t hold at the point of attack in the middle without a double, and the tackles can’t hold the point against ends on plays outside. Its maddening to see a guard or tackle shoot past an unblocked DL into the second level, and to watch that unblocked guy make the tackle. But the reason that unblocked guy is making the tackle ½ the time is because our playside blocker(s) are getting owned causing hesitation/improvisation by an RB who can’t break a tackle in the backfield unless his name is Minor, but then you deal with the 25% chance of a fumble. Adding a TE to the line is going to bring another dude into the box, but it allows you to double more at the point. I’d rather see our backs getting hit at the LOS by a nosey saftey on busted plays than 4 yards in the backfield. But again, its not even worth it if you use anyone on our roster with a TE next to their name. So why not use Moundros in that capacity when he’s not lining up as the big back? In all seriousness, I think we could also do worse than using Ferarra as a tackle eligible.
These are a couple of things which have been aggravating me, along with our LB zone drops (what ever happened to using Chambers as an LB? Does Thompson need to be on the field against a Toledo team which has not only abandoned the run, but is going empty backfield?).
I know I said I wouldn't do it, but file these suggestions under know-nothing fan bitching about coaching I suppose. Incidently, if anyone out there can tell me specifically why these are stupid observations it would make me feel a lot better.