(Diarist Note: I edited the title. just trying to be a smartass)
Just some thoughts while watching the best team in Ohio destroy Rutgers in their season opener.
Brian covered a lot of ground in The Downgrade about the weekend that was for our Big 10 brethern. I will try to avoid being overly repetitive, but let me add a few more words to the discussion.
Th Big 10 spent the offseason seeing their reputation get skinned alive. Opening weekend only added more blood to the feeding frenzy. The public turned more anti-Big 10 with the early 2009 returns. For proof, lets go to the big betting board. Odds tilted in the favor of Big 10 foes for key upcoming games after the less than impressive debuts Saturday. Lets talk about them on a team-by-team basis.
They say home field advantage is worth three points in the spread, but aparently sleep walking your way through a game and nearly losing to a service academy at the buzzer is worth a few more.
The Buckeyes spent all summer as unshakeable 3.5-point underdogs in their showdown next week with USC. (Real quickly something to keep in mind: Books release Game of the Year Odds in the summer. They stay up all year, but always get pulled from the board sometime before the weekend action kicks in. They get re-released after the weekend games conclude) This morning? Ohio State is now +7, a 3.5 point swing from Friday's line. Even more compelling on what kind of action the experts in the desert expect to see on the game is the fact that Las Vegas Sports Consultants, who release recommended lines, leaned to USC -4.5 just yesterday. Oddsmakers took one look at that, promptly said NOT GOOD ENOUGH and raised the action to a full touchdown in hopes of luring in some Buckeye money, that's not already invested in trailer park safety upgrades.
My take? Keep in mind that I dont see myself betting this game. I wasnt going to be taking OSU +3.5 and I remain unenticed at +7. Besides, I have people on the payroll in charge of slugging me if I ever bet against the Trojans when they're playing a Big 10 team. They are big, mean and goony looking. I am not ready to test them yet.
That said, I do discount some of the lethargy we saw in the Shoe. Keep in mind, they were playing a team that has been to six bowl games in a row. That qualification alone should tell you that Navy brings more game to the table than the stereotypes built up in the public mind. I dont think the Buckeyes played with the right level of urgency coming out of the gates, perhaps a symptom of them coming out of the tunnel together with Navy in solidarity. Tressel didnt have their settings on 'Babby Eating' at the start and it showed as Navy was able to establish their offense. Once Navy does that, you're in trouble, no matter who you are.
Of course, Ohio State did allow a meticulous 99-yard TD drive, were dominated on third downs on both sides of the ball and made the Naval QB, in his second ever start, look like a good passer. He may be a good passer, but the performance eased a lot of fears out there that a Trojan QB making his first ever start could be overmatched on setting alone.
The Hawkeyes own dismal performance against Northern Iowa was also worth a field goal in their own grudge match this coming Saturday. The Hawks travel to Ames to play Iowa State and initially were given the nod as 10-point favorites. The Cyclones have proven a Waterloo of sorts for Iowa backers, not only covering the spot in 10 of the last 11 games, but also winning seven of them outright, including 4-1 SUATS in games at Ames. On series history alone, despite how bad Iowa State appears to be, catching double digits looked mighty mighty tempting. Iowa laying chalk to Iowa State is Dutch for "Its a trap!" Little known fact.
The Hawkeyes were a mess on offense Saturday. They are supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Injuries and suspension forced them to play a brand new interior and the line could not control the point of attack against one the better FCS teams in the land. After playing depth chart games all summer long with their only legit deep threat Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa went more than two full quarters without him even stepping on the field. The Paki O'Meara experience as lead ball carrier went nowhere, giving way to Adam Robinson, a redshirt freshmen who is so obscure he didnt even have a Phil Steele number coming out of high school. And while Ricky Stanzi did get the passing game going, he was in midseason form with his patened 'No Stanzi' moments gift wrapping an early UNI score giving Hawk fans flashbacks to last year's Pitt game. Or was it Northwestern? Maybe MSU? You get the picture.
Kirk Calloway comes off suspension and will be back on the line and they could get injured starter Juilian Vandevelde back as well. Perhaps the DJK thing was a one game thing because they could get away with it against UNI. Ferentz has a history of unearthing sleeper running backs in these injury situations and Robinson's emergence might signal that continuation. Maybe Stanzi stops doing random and unexpected Anthony Morelli impersonations.
Maybe it all suddenly gets worked out this week with the despised Cyclones on the slate. At double digits, this looked attractive. Even though some of the icing have been wiped off, I still might take a bite of the cake at +7. The history is strong in the series. Iowa has struggled to put points on the board against ISU in the past, and it didnt look last week that they're any better equipped to do so this go around.
Talk about laying an egg. Everyone was on Illinois. And everyone lost. When the Golden Nugget released its Games of the Year odds back in June, the Illini were just -2.5 in this game. By game time, the line was nearly a full touchdown. I cant shake the thought the Book came out way ahead on this one.
Somehow all those talented defensive players flocking to Champagne and Juice Williams at QB have done nothing but get worse since arriving on campus. Welcome to the Ron Zook Experience. You could probably still buy real cheap tickets from Florida fans if you want a seat on the ride.
We wont see the Illini back on the betting board until September 26th when they travel to Columbus. They play FCS team Illinois State this week and have a bye in the 19th. We have not seen the impact of the Illini's performance will have on the odds as future games have yet to be released since this weeks games arent officially over. But, they were +9.5 at OSU, +2.5 at home vs PSU and -7 at home vs UM. Those lines are being reconsidered, I am sure.
The Illini are a compelling team for me to follow. They topped Phil Steele's list of most improved team and could figure prominently in my theory of following those teams when they're catching points. After watching them play Missouri, I am expecting them to be an underdog now more often in their games. I cant wait. I need a drink.
Michigan was the most impressive Big 10 team on the day. Wait a sec, did I say that right? Let me try again. Michigan was the most impressive Big 10 team on the day. Really, its supposed to read that? Ok, thats why I trust my writers, I'll go with it. I'll start over.
Michigan was the most impressive Big 10 team on the day.
Like a lot of the Michigan fanbase, everybody on the outside is also trying to manage possible new expectations for Wolverines. Oddsmakers and the betting public, however, have not been impressed yet. At least as it pertains to the Notre Dame game.
If you recall, the summer line for this game opened at ND -2.5. Bettors wasted no time in pumping Irish money into the coffers and the line quickly raised to 3, then 3.5, where it rested for the rest of the summer. Now? It's at ND -4. It actually opened earlier today at -4.5, so maybe oddsmakers pushed it a little too far. We'll see.
Michigan was placed as an underdog in all 6 Games of the Year that oddsmakers released. Based on the intial reactions with the ND line, its hard to imagine a whole lot of movement on those lines. I am still intrigued to see what they look like after Saturday's debut. And, if Michigan adds a win against Notre Dame, it's safe to say that Michigan will probably reverse roles in at least a couple of those contests.
There were a couple other games for this coming Saturday that have seen major line shifts on account on opening week. Real quickly, UGA fell from an 11.5-point favorite to just 7 points against South Carolina last week. Somebody advised weeks ago to get in on the Gamecocks at that first number. TCU was going to be 5.5 -point road chalk at Virginia this week, but after the Cavs were dominated by William/Mary (Sorry, OC. Sorry, MaizeandBlueWahoo), the Horned Frogs are walling into Charlottesville as double digit chalk at -11.
As an alum living in Tampa, I'm curious to hear mgonation's account of its experience at The New Big House (TNBH) from Saturday.
I understand that construction is not yet completed, but figure that most of us will probably never take in a game from a luxury box anyway. Accordingly, now is a good time to compare experiences from years past, which are still fresh in our heads, to those at TNBH.
Of course, all experiences from TNBH are welcomed/encouraged, but a few questions on which I'd be interested to hear feedback are as follows:
- How was the flow of fans around the exterior of the stadium with the new towers in place?
- Is it any easier/harder to get into your gate?
- Is it any easier to get to/through concession lines?
- Is it any quicker to get through the bathroom lines?
- Aesthetically, how do the towers look in person from inside and outside of the stadium?
- Do the towers make the stadium look more imposing, or do they look at all too big and/or out of place?
- And most importantly, was there a noticable difference in volume inside the stadium? It sounded pretty loud on TV, but of course the fans had more to cheer about at this game than most games from last year. If you were positioned at or near field level, I am particularly interested to hear your feedback.
Thanks. Go Blue!
Patrick: YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOLTAN!
I was in awe. Hmm, not really. I was just excited that Zoltan and special teams didn’t receive the majority of praise, like last year. It seemed like I wrote a great deal of positive things in 2008 regarding Zoltan in articles, but not enough about the rest of the team. Surprise! It’s a brand new season!
After a long offseason full of drama, speculation, and allegations, the 2009 Michigan Wolverine football team took the field on Saturday with nothing but pure confidence and determination. The team had a great deal to prove to not only the fans, but to the coaches and themselves. The 2008 season had left such a sour taste that I’m sure the team wanted nothing more than to rise to the occasion and put all of the doubt and criticism in the rearview. Well, at least for the moment.
First of all, much praise goes to the defense…
The Wolverines were victorious (31-7) over a surprisingly flat Western Michigan team that I had thought to be a pretty solid bunch. Yes, the Broncos are a MAC team! However, that doesn’t necessarily mean cupcake. They were equipped with a strong offense and an NFL-caliber QB (Hiller) that I was almost certain would give the Wolverines secondary fits.
The majority, including myself, were under the impression that the secondary would be the most vulnerable part of the defense, but I was taken by surprise. Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko played at a high level. Cissoko had an on-the-spot interception and Warren did a nice job shutting down the other side of the field. J.T. Floyd (freshman), along with Troy Woolfolk were burned on the only score of the game.
Greg Robinson’s new 3-4 scheme looked well executed and aggressive. I had not seen a defense so tight and cohesive in quite some time. From the way it looked out on the field, both the coverage and tackling seemed to have improved significantly. The only time the Broncos offense gained momentum was during the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand for the Wolverines.
There were some mistakes made, but for once… no one was really victimized, like the notorious Stevie Brown of last season. Perhaps the hybrid LB/ safety role fits him. I will admit that I did think the LB position was the most talented of the whole defense coming into the season. Jonas Mouton also picked off Hiller and Obi Ezeh wreaked serious havoc by applying pressure and stops up the front.
Brandon Graham and the very young, but talented D-line deserves much respect. Hiller and his OL were out of sync for the most part. They were unable to find any offensive rhythm because the penetration and pressure effectively contained the Broncos on almost every series.
I really hate to say this because the term is severely used in the world of sports hyperbole, but…
MIKE MARTIN = BEAST!
Once I noticed that the battle of the trenches was being dominated by the Wolverines on the defensive side of the ball, the tone was set.
The offense had to follow suit… and they did. The offensive start and its overall production basically gave me amnesia in regards to the 2008 version. It all begins with how much improvement came from the OL and the QB position. The OL was quick on its feet and blocked tremendously. There were also great blocks further down the field that allowed plays to be executed successfully with a consistent attack. It really paid off for this unit to be together for a whole season last year because the difference was clearly evident on every drive.
True freshmen QB’s Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson were just what Rodriguez and the offense needed. Granted, this was their first game and there is still a long season to go with mistakes and bumps along the way, BUT… I’m ecstatic to see positive progression and a very high potential of superb playmaking ability from both.
Forcier appears to have poise, speed, and throwing accuracy. He also seems to have leadership qualities, which is extremely valuable from any freshman. Robinson is what I expected. He is very fast and has the ability to improvise and take off when a play slightly breaks down or goes awry. The only thing he needs to improve on is his passing and decision making… and that will come soon. He’s only been practicing with the team for nearly a month. As I stated before, there will definitely be mistakes made by both players, but the upside gives reason for optimism and future victories.
The Wolverines ran the ball at will. Carlos Brown filled in for the injured Brandon Minor and the QB’s also accounted for a good number of yards. There was a great mixture of classic up-the-middle runs, draw plays, and reverses. Michael Shaw looked impressive on a couple of occasions and maybe his fumblitis has been cured. There was even a brief look at Vincent Smith. I expect for Minor to be a go for Notre Dame, but don’t be surprised if Rodriguez uses the two seniors for the majority of the carries, mainly because of their reliability not to turn the ball over.
I’ve been stoked about WR Junior Hemingway for a couple of years now and he finally had his breakout game. Despite being low on the depth chart in 2007 and being injured in 2008, I still had hope that this guy would soon become the deep threat amongst the receiving corp. Greg Matthews did a solid job as a reliable possession receiver and… PLEASE! Give me some more Kelvin Grady! I liked the guy on the hardwood and it appears that he has serious skills on the field as well.
Oh yeah, DERP!
TE Kevin Koger might be a flatout star if he keeps making videogame catches like this one…
I don’t know if he’s a “f**kin soldier“, but he’s apparently a great threat to opposing defenses.
Overall, it was a highly anticipated game and a much needed win for Rodriguez, especially after a week of negativity stemming from the Detroit Free Press article. The resilient coach and his men went out there and made a huge statement for the fans of the maize and blue. Things couldn’t have started out much better, well… except for a couple of sure scoring drives that were halted by silly mistakes and questionable decisions. All seems right in Ann Arbor.
Let’s not start sucking each others d**ks quite yet. It’s just the first game of the season and a tough road lies ahead. They looked damn good, though… and much improved from last season.
Hail to the Victors!
We've seen QB completion percentages rise and rise. Thirty years ago, 45% might have won you the heisman, now it means you're third string. The point is, that just catching balls is not really enough if you're catching all of them behind the line of scrimmage. It's pretty amazing if you pull down a one handed stab ala Koger, but in the modern offense, we need better measuring sticks.
So I'm going to track my new stat categories for this season and beyond, and maybe some smart reporter (is that an oxymoron?) or someone else will pick up on how useful these stats are.
After only one game, they won't be very telling. But as the weeks go by, we'll be able to see which WR are performing relatively better from week to week. We also need some historical context. I said I would go back and review tapes from previous years, but I haven't had the time YET. I still plan on doing it, but it might not happen till after the season. Feel free to do this on your own if you've got lots of time on your hands.
Anyway let's get to it. First up is the raw data, the notes I made while watching the video. Then I'll give the stats, and finally I'll toss in some comments about the week for good measure.
Passing Down Notes:
- 5 yards to hemingway no yac on 1st down
Swing to odoms behind the line gain of 7 but penalty odoms in motion early
2nd 11 pass to carlos for 5 plus 8 yac
2nd and 10 on 28 yardline TD to Hemmingway 17 plus 11 yac
2nd and 12 incomplete to grady on a screen
3rd and 12 incomplete to webb
2nd and 5 4 yards to grady plus 4 yac
1st and 10 incomplete to Hemmingway didn’t look
- 2nd and 5 koger 4 plus 1 yac
2nd and goal from the 8, TD koger redzone
1st and 10 incomplete to matthews broke off route or wrong route
2nd and 10 (robinson) to savoy behind the line for -1 plus 12 yac
2nd and 15 (tate) to shaw for 6 on a comeback, no ruled incomplete
(matthews shaken up)
3rd and 9 screen hemingway for -2 plus 17 yac
1st and 10 incomplete to stonum broke off deep route
3rd and 7 TD hemingway same route as stonum, 36 plus 8 yac
- 2nd and 7 odoms -4 plus 9 yac
1st and 10 hemmingway 8 plus 4 yac limps off the field
2nd and 4 mathews for 0 plus 9 yac
2nd and 3 incomplete to savoy, pressure1st and 20 incomplete to matthews, broke off route Mathews looks really frustrated
- 3rd and 16 INTerception,
mathews was jogging on the goal line, DB undercut Sheridan is chewing out savoy who was wide
1st and 10 grady for -3 plus 9 yac
3rd and 2 incomplete to grady
- 3rd and 15 nearly intercepted
incomplete to matthews
2nd and 9 scramble should have passed
1st and 10 KOGER great 1 handed catch for 20
3rd and goal from the 10 redzone busted play incomplete flag
4th and goal from the 10 redzone incomplete to cox
As always, small sample sizes screw around with efficiency stats. But as the numbers accumulate, these will be more telling. So please have patience.
1st Stat Category: Yards per thrown at
This stat is better than yards per catch because it includes a penalty for players who drop the ball or loaf it on a play and don't get open. Yes they are penalized for having a bad QB but that would affect all the numbers across the board.
C. Brown 13
Stonum, Webb, Cox, Shaw, 0
2nd Stat Category: TD's per Redzone thrown at
This is a stat built for the big men, the goto guys who can get in the endzone. Amazingly, we only attempted 3 redzone passes all day. 1 was a TD to koger, 1 was a busted play, and 1 was the final offensive play from coner
3rd Stat Category: Conversion Efficiency (receiving yards minus (half the yards to go)) multiplied by the down number per thrown at
This is the most complicated stat. This one tells how good a receiver is at continuing a drive. Possesion receivers score high on this metric. Guys that only run fly routes and catch the ball one out of 5 times get killed by this measure.
C. Brown 15
Grady (19) -0.75
(Hmmm.... no one likes negative numbers so I might tweek the formula and make it 1/4 of the yards to go. what do you guys think?)
4th Stat Category: Snag and Go (Total receiving yards/(yards BEFORE the catch)) multiplied by (receptions per thrown at)
I just realized the possibility of having an infinite score here if you have all your catches at the line of scrimmage. The point here was to measure YAC in a meaningful way for guys who catch the ball short, but then have to turn and make something out of it. So I'm going to rethink this category and come up with something better to make the negatives and infinities make sense.
For right now I'll just calculate YAC per thrown at
C. Brown 8
Grady (19) 3.25
Cox, Shaw, Webb 0.0
So what's it all mean? Well obviously Hemingway had an awesome day. Not only did he get the big catches for touchdowns, but his other touches went for conversions, and he even showed a lot of YAC ability. Koger was also excellent, although he has almost no YAC which is what you expect from a larger player, but has a shiny 1.00 for Redzone TD's efficiency.
Most of the other players didn't get enough looks for their numbers to be meaningful. But there was one notable exception. Mathews had a pretty rough day. He only gained positive yardage on two plays and often looked as if he wasn't fully engaged in the play. He did an excellent job on punt returns by simply HOLDING ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL. But he had the demeanor of a guy who is very frustrated. He didn't look happy or excited on the sidelines. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it. On the two catches he made, he got good YAC and converted, but the number of incompletes in his direction brought that stat into negative territory. This is somewhat disappointing as he's our most experienced WR and seemed to have a talent for crossing patterns and deep in's or deep outs. I hope things get turned around for him quickly.
- Will someone tell Mike Patrick to use the term "SOLD OUT" crowd. Not "sell-out" crowd. I feel like he's insulting the stadium.
- That Cheesney song fr(*&)(*^& sucks! I like a lot of different kinds of music, but if it weren't for the mute button I'd probably have to shoot myself before the end of the season.
- After Tate threw the long TD, it looked like Sheridan was unhappy, and explaining something to him, and Tate was like "wut?"
- Boise should be ranked above BYU. BYU beat a team on the road, but minus their best player. Boise absolutely stomped oregon. But they kept bogging down in the redzone
- USC will kill tOSU
- Watching Floyd and Woolfolk bite on the play action was pretty sickening on an otherwise awesome day
- TP is not a smart fellow. If we had him last year we might have gotten 6 or 7 wins and made a bowl but I kind of feel like we dodged a bullet and I'm quite happy with the 2 Frosh we got and Devin Gardner coming in.
- Nice to see the crowd in support of RR
- The Big 10 went 10-1 and is well on its way to having 8 bowl eligible teams but ohio state is still making the conference look bad.
- Florida didn't beat the spread. Wow, that Urban Meyer is a terrible coach. (joking)
- USC's barkley stealing the spotlight from forcier reminds me of adrian peterson doing the same to mike hart.
- The next game is the biggest game of the season! (so far) ND looks like a decent team this year. If we win we could be looking at 8+ wins. If we lose, we're going to struggle to get 6. I hope we win by a small enough amount that Weis doesn't get fired.
- Actually I take that back. I hope we win by 38-0 AGAIN.
Last year there was excitement about the new regime, but this year there was more: we were coming off the 3-9 season, there were revelations of possible NCAA violations, and of course the game itself and how it would play out as we were starting a freshman on a still very young team. Despite the negativity surrounding the program the past week, the feel of the crowd was positive, together; a force to drive and motivate the team in solidarity. In '08 the feel was more of positive expectation of seeing what we were accustomed to seeing, a victory. Despite the newness of the program's direction, we're 'Michigan' and we will overcome any newness; we were there to see the team win as they always had.
The acoustics are clearly improved from last year. Even in '08 the sound 'signature' was noticeably louder than in year's past, but this year the sound reverberations throughout the stadium were even more impressive, creating an aura or a blanket above the stadium. Our seats were behind the goal posts so it must of been even louder towards the center of the stadium. When the cheerleaders were leading us through the spelling of "Michigan" around the stadium, a split second after the section across from us said their letter, an echo of their yell reached our ears.
Game play, especially on the offensive side of the ball was sharper in '09 than in '08. The men knew where to line up. Last year, there was this 'hurry up, times running out' feel to play as players shuffled in and out and simply were unsure of where to line up. Last Saturday it was like clockwork as player platooned in and out and everyone set up with plenty of time on the game clock to spare. In the second half we were lined up so fast I was unsure how were were going to stand around for 15 to 20 seconds to bleed the clock. Throughout the game, Western's defense was unprepared by the efficiency of our offense, consistently moving around and often not set for the next play before it began.
From the first series, execution in '09 was there; the ball was thrown to a receiver 'in space', allowing him either to adjust to move up field or simply keep on going. Last year Nick and Steven used up precious time getting the ball out to the receivers that resulted in little to no space for them to adjust to the next phase of the play. We easily ran 3 maybe 4 plays last Saturday in the time it took us to run two last year.
On the first series we had a 3rd down play that Tate had to scramble to get the first down, shifting and running past three Bronco defenders to get to the first down marker. Last year, that play wouldn't have made it to the first down and probably would have been a loss of yardage. Several times Tate as well as Denard made great plays with their running ability that last year would have resulted in little, no, or even loss of yardage.
The amount of successful plays ran in '09 were significantly greater than in '08. Last year there was so much sputtering, so much inconsistency and confusion that few 3rd down conversions were made. In the stands we couldn't get past starting to cheer the team on, constantly hoping for a first down. Last Saturday there was instant gratification as Tate moved the team down the field quickly for a TD. it was like an IV shot of adrenaline almost from the first play of the series that built upon itself with each successive play, each play for yardage, each first down, culminating with a score. A flow was established and maintained.
The defense looks so much better prepared in '09 than in '08. With the offense struggling last year, the defense was quickly back on the field. It doesn't matter how conditioned you are, you remain on the field much longer than the offense, you are going to get gassed. Confidence wains, the heat on the field gets more oppressive, there is less continuity. Last year, Coach Scafer was placed in an almost lose lose situation: the defense was on the field entirely too long, often placed in a disadvantageous positions, and often on back on the field almost as soon as they left it. Being a new guy in a year of 'newness', Scafer could not adjust to this environment and failed often. This year Coach Robinson's experience and knowledge has the defense more focus and attuned. Throughout the entire game it acquitted itself well. It was great to see the defense bring pressure while at the same time keeping the receivers well covered, which often times didn't happen last year.
Offensive line play is significantly improved; this year we racked up 242 rushing yards while only gaining 36 last year. There were penalties attributed to the unit but aside from that they blocked well, opened up holes for the RB's, and gave the QB's time to throw.
Turnovers were significantly reduced, 3 last year to 1 last Saturday. In '08 the turnovers were a result of pressing and trying to force things, feelings that were not apparent last Saturday. Ironically, the only turnover coming against Western Michigan this past Saturday was a Sheridan pick on a play were he was trying to press the issue.
Last year's game felt chaotic and pressed; folks left the game confused and concerned about the team. This year, the opener was glorious and people didn't want to leave; with 5 minutes left in a game that was well in hand the stands were still full of people. Last year there was nearly a civil war about to erupt concerning Coach Rodriguez, this year with a couple moments left in the first half the crowd erupted in heartfelt chants of "Rich Rodriquez!!!" that resounded throughout the stadium.
The comparison between the starting games of this year and last reveals dramatic improvements between the two squads. Nuances and procedures of the offense have been learned this year and the squad doesn't struggle to simply line up and run the play, they actually can get to the execution portion of the play and get things accomplished. Defensively, the unit looks stout; although it is arguable that last year's squad had more talented personnel, this year's defense looks to be more effective.
The well documented second year turn around expressed by teams under coach Rodriguez can now be understood more clearly when reflecting upon these two games. It appears the '09 squad is prepared to have similar year two success.