things go poorly
The Michigan team we saw in yesterday’s Penn State game characterizes the entire 2008 Michigan season into 60 minutes. Michigan played like “world-beaters” through the first 17 minutes of the game, sputtered on the ensuing first half drives, and allowed an “oh by-the way” score at the end of the half that lead to the landslide victory for the Nittany Lions by giving up 32 points in the second half and being held scoreless. Even as I sat at half with a 3 point Michigan lead, I was still very anxious and uneasy. I felt that if the slightest thing goes wrong in the second half of the game this could quickly go to H-E-double hockey sticks in a hurry. I didn’t expect that we would win the game. However, with the way that we played in the first half it is just difficult to understand why there is such a disparity between the first quarter’s Michigan offense and that of the rest of the game. This is most definitely due in large part to our inexperienced young players and their inconsistency but it also has to be attributed to teams’ adjusting to our offensive scheme. In the Utah, Illinois, Miami (OH), and Penn State games the offense looked very proficient early and after adjustments were made we were unable to establish anything in the form of offense for the most part. What is the reason for this disparity? Are teams’ adjustments so devastating to whatwe are trying to do that we are completely stifled? In all my years of watching football, I have never seen a team look so efficient like they can beat any team in the country and the next minute look incapable of gaining a yard or tackling anyone.
However, I felt encouraged by the effort that the boys gave in the first half and it seems as though some issues may have been solved this week in practice and progress is being made. In particular, it looks as though Brandon Minor will be seeing more time for the remainder of the season and deservedly so. Sam and Brandon being complements of each other will be a joy to watch in the future.
Remember. We are still Michigan. These are still Michigan men. There has never been a period in Michigan football history in which the saying “Those who stay will be champions,” applies so well. Go Blue.
It's Sunday morning, and I'm well rested after getting home from yesterday's game in almost record time. As I may have alluded to before, I'm a Michigan man in Pennsylvania, and live only about two hours from, well, yesterday.
Yesterday was very strange, in that it was almost like two separate experiences, one a polar opposite of the other. It was like my Saturday was split into two hemispheres of good and evil.
I awoke at was on the road yesterday morning by 9 am, taking in the unmatched beauty of the Pennsylvania countryside in mid-October. I've seen Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and even New York's foliage, but I truly think nothing compares to the fall leaves of the Keystone state, and this week is pretty much prime.
So I get to State College well before noon and it was fantastic. Meeting with friends, all PSU diehards, we first hit the downtown scene before heading out to the tailgate. The air was cold but the sun was bright and warm on your face, and even the UM gear I was wearing didn't seem to ruffle many feathers. And for those that did, a quick 'good luck' was all I gave them back, except for one really rude frat boy who I then got to admit he was 11 years old the last time PSU won against us. That was fun.
So the afternoon's just a great, GREAT gameday experience, and yet I'm still a little frantic because I still don't have a ticket. So we make our way closer to Beaver Stadium and I start waving a finger-- several 'entrepeneurs' find me quickly, and upon eyeing the UM hoody, offer me prices to the tune of $150, $180, etc. Nice. So I borrow a PSU shirt and the prices are immediately down to $100, $110. But still I'm looking for something better. And then, out of nowhere, I see three maize-n-blue clad wise men hanging out on the corner across from the Bryce Jordan Center. Turns out they took a bus trip over from AA and have an extra ticket. Even though I'm still wearing the 'State' shirt, they offer it to me AT FACE!! I immediately rip off the shirt and give the guy a Yuengling Lager-- in fact after the transaction we end up talking UM shop for about 20 minutes. I even brought up MGoBlog. So if any of you three are reading, THANK YOU so much!! You literally made my afternoon.
With that being said, fast forward to gametime, and I make my way to my seat. After fully expecting to find a seat somewhere deep in the middle of the "WhiteOut" surrounded by Nit fans, there I am shoulder to shoulder with fellow Michigan Men. Together we stand and watch pensively as our boys funnel out of the tunnel. Life is good.
The game begins... and we can't ask for a better beginning. Bad snaps for PSU, and a fumble. Threet running, for consistent POSITIVE yardage. Minor's playing like a madman, and Stonum's holding onto the ball. Even the defense seems to be enjoying themselves out there. WHO ARE THESE GUYS???
Before we know what hit us, it's the 2nd quarter and we're up by 10??? And you can feel the fear hanging over the stadium like a big fiery Hindenberg. The "GO! BLUE!' chant from our visiting section seems to be hacking into the surrounding sections like a machete into the jungle. And the boys are MAKING US PROUD. By halftime Penn State surges against us, and squeaks in a score. But at the half, instead of down by 23.5, we're up by 3. My day, at this point, is STELLAR. I remember asking to the new best friend next to me, 'which team is going to show up for the 2nd?' But still, we're very impressed and proud of the team... and my day at this point could never have been better.
So then, what happened?? Well, about ten minutes later, you ALL KNOW what happened.
DEEP DEEP DEEP in enemy territory, just below the crater of white-clad drunken Paternoville students, Nick Sheridan strides onto the field.
And the clock struck midnight, and our carriage turned into a pumpkin. It was night and day, and every single soul in that stadium knew it. 39 unanswered points. By the time 110,000 happy people in Happy Valley started singing "Living on a Prayer," I remember thinking that this was a totally different Saturday than the one that started out from my warm bed.
Long story short-- it was very clear to me that the team has no confidence in Sheridan. The line seemed confused, Odoms doesn't know where the ball is going, Stonum's glue-like hands can't catch a thing, and-- last but not least-- there is NO ROOM for Minor, McGuffie, or anyone to run because there's absolutely NO passing threat.
I'm sure there's more to say-- but from where I was sitting-- Sheridan is like the grim reaper for our team. When he shows up, BAD, bad things are going to happen. But, still, for 30 minutes I saw what our boys are capable of, and it gives me hope. We'll be back.
As long as the #8 becomes firmly connected with a headset. Sorry Nick.
Unfortunately I just had to endure something painful, however, this is a new unrecogonizable pain. My pain comes from hearing fellow "followers", fellow "wolverines", fellow, and I use this lightly, "FANS". I was recently at a NYC UM bar and heard nothing but disdain for the UM program. Nothing but hatred for the hiring of RR. I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of people following UM football right now:
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%.