There is no shortage of legitimate value in sports fandom. There are probably ways in which these values could be plucked and rescued from the oceans of wasted time and otherwise productive energy upon which they bob. Oh how my life would improve! But when you’re a hopeless junkie with no will power it doesn’t matter anyway, so lets get on with it.
I thank the 2008 edition of M football since they have funneled 50% of this sort of sloth back into my general fund. The offense will have a ton of crappy plays, and few good ones, inexplicably lashed together into a couple long drives resulting in between 10 - 20 points. The ball will go onto the ground and affect the outcome based on which side picks it up more often than not.
To what degree will the defense keep M in the ball game and make those points count?
MSU wants to run first with a great back and solid run blocking offensive line. UM was gashed, horribly horribly gashed, by PSU. They also got gashed up pretty good by Ill. Toledo only rushed for 70, but they made little effort at est any type of running attack, frequently going shotgun no-back and rushing 22 times in 72 plays. Is there any reason Moo-U won’t line up and try to run down hill all day long?
Two, maybe three reasons. You can’t discount the threat of Ill’s and PSU’s running Qbs in their success running the football. Dufrene and esp Royster had success on what I would consider "strait up" running plays, or those which incorporated little to no option threat. But the mere distraction of having Juice or Clark in the backfield IMO disrupted UM’s entire run defense to the point where they were a factor on every single run play, save those out of a non-QB sneak I-formation.
Wiskey was last team to run downhill at UM*, to the tune of 158 yards. A good solid total but merely o.k. for them. If Lloyd’s goal out of the pro set offense was to get 200 on the ground and 200 in the air, you know Wisconsin is in trouble in any game where they notch 158.
But I digest. Point is, will MSU’s coaches discount M’s shit job against the Ill and PSU running attacks, give points to their solid performance against a traditional running attack in Wiskey, and consider dialing up more passes? Before answering my own hypothetical question which I've now posed twice, lets factor in the Toledo game and M’s performance against the pass.
M got lucky on various deep passes from Utah and Miami. The well ran dry [pun(?) intended? I’ve been contemplating the meaning of the word. Let’s go with it] pun intended, prior to the ND monsoon where the max-protect-throw-deep blue print was hatched to neutralize M’s greatest defensive strength (pass rush) and exploit its greatest weakness (executing deep coverage responsibility). Then Toledo and a man named Moore, a man who knows how to celebrate, road into town and took it the other way. Empty backfields and a bevy of receivers to flood M zones, or take extended handoffs in the face of 8-10 yard cushions. To summarize, M’s pass D has shown itself to be vulnerable deep and short.
MSUs rush offense was just stoned by OSU. MSU faced a lot of athletes on defense capable of winning one-on-one physical battles, and things didn’t turn out well. I’m not putting Ms defensive personal on par with OSUs, but based on the evidence you’d have to rank the D’s weakness thusly: 1) defending spread-option rushing attacks 2) vulnerable to deep balls or committing PI on same 3) Lbs who don’t defend their short zones and Cbs who leave big cushions to the outside 4) defending pro style rushing attacks. Is MSU fine with tempting fate by going strength on strength, or will we see a game plan which consciously looks to exploit these holes in the pass D at the expense of Ringer’s carries? [thrid time, its like I'm trying to talk myself into talking them into it]
Taking this all into account my guess for MSU’s offensive game plan is that they will run a lot, they will not stop even if stopped, and they won’t be afraid to run heavily on first and second down regardless of initial success. Reasons:
a) Wiskey is the biggest disappointment in college football. It will be super easy for MSU’s coaches to discount M’s performance against them, esp with fresh visions of Royster going hog wild last weekend.
b) MSUs personal isn’t conducive to exploiting the pass D they way Toledo did. It should go without saying that their QB and targets are on par with those of Toledo, but Hoyer is only completing 49.5% of his passes. Yet, somehow, his QB rating is 117.1 with a 6-4 td to int ratio. Without having watched a ton of sparty this year, those numbers and his 7.3 yards/attempt tell me he’s getting the ball down field well and I would guess play action has a lot to do with it. M’s backers are prob going to suck up on every snap, play action or no, and I see no reason why UM would pick this game to start playing aggressive man coverage to the outside to take away long handoffs and hitches. MSU would be wise to incorp a lot of easy pitch-and-catch outside and dump-offs behind the backers, but I don’t see that happening since its not a "stength".
c) MSU had 4 crucial TO against osu. Even though 3 were fumbles, putting in the air always carries more risk and there is no good reason for sparty to incorporate more risk into their plan.
d) Dantonio, god bless him, is pure football caveman. The paths to offensive success are execution, winning physical battles, and limiting big mistakes. He warms to the opportunity for emotion and bravado to overtake clear thinking, and something would have to go terribly wrong to shake him out of the chance to win this one in any fashion other than IMPOSING THEIR WILL.
What will it all mean? I personally think Sparty would have nothing to loose and a lot to gain by balancing their run-pass and taking advantage of a lot of wide open short stuff. So far they have 334 rush v. 214 pass, with a grain of salt taking the form of some statistic skewing blow outs and play from ahead wins. But take a look at the Iowa game. There, they ran 34 times for 91 yards (with no sacks) and passed 24 times for 184, eeeking out a 16-13 W at home. Although that one was of the come from ahead variety, they averaged over 14 yds a completion and 7/attempt, vs. 2.7 per rushing. At home you would think sparty may open up the pass a bit where they were having success with it and look for breathing room, but no sir.
This game will be a cock-off won or lost purely by UM’s rush defense against the pro set v. MSU’s ability to get consistent rush yardage on 1st down and mix in some big runs or long passes over the top. Assuming the M offense doesn’t turn it over 10 fucking times. M’s D has all the motivation they could ever want and an opponent that is going to do exactly what they want. The one thing Ms D has shown consistently this year is that no amount of motivation helps them to play any better.
This year theirs is bigger than ours, and the humiliations continue.
*I am banning myself from the phrase "line it up" and run down hill. After some consideration, running down hill "all day long" was spared.
EDIT: I never thought asking people to stay true to their word would draw such criticism. Before you go spewing expletives and passing judgements on me, read all my responses to various vitriolic criticisms.
Clarification: The system of college football recruiting is fundamentally flawed. It encourages, if not forces, young, young men to commit to schools very early, when they may not have had a chance to weigh all their options. However, this does not give these young men a free pass to hand out commitments willy nilly. Reform is due in the system, but the young men must also be careful about their commitments.
I wrote this in a fit of passion and rage. Sorry for any incoherence.
We, as the University of Michigan football fan base, need to stop lauding prospects. Our fawning and drooling over 40 times and Rivals stars is breeding class upon class of divas. We shower them with praise, follow their high school seasons, and imagine them in future lineups, and in the process create kids who think they're better than everyone else.
When you make a commitment, you keep that commitment. You are COMMITTED to that school, COMMITTED to those traditions, COMMITTED to what it stands for.
If you do not BLEED Maize and Blue, do not commit to Michigan. Do not commit to Michigan if you could just as easily go to OSU, MSU, ND, or PSU. I want someone who HATES OSU. I want someone who wants nothing more than to run out of that tunnel and touch the MGOBLUE banner in front of 110,000 screaming, maize and blue clad fans.
I know you're just in high school and you're fickle and a visit to any campus excites you. If your blood isn't MAIZE, take all your visits, weigh all your options, and then commit. I understand you want to secure a spot, but how selfish is it to commit just to save a spot in line, knowing you're likely to back out and go somewhere else? Stop committing as soon as you get your offer if you're not 100% Maize and Blue.
Will Campbell should have never committed. Kevin Newsome should have never committed. Bryce McNeal should have never committed. Anthony Fera should have never committed.
Take your time, weigh your options, and then commit. Michigan will find a place for you. I know there is some truth to the need to lock up a place before a school looks elsewhere, but you as recruits have the ability to change this system. Stop committing as a high school junior if you don't bleed Maize and Blue. Send the message to programs that they must respect your right to weigh your options and make your decision in good time.
To close, if a slow start and some ugly losses sway you, Michigan doesn't want you. This season should excite you to get on the field and play for UM. It should excite you to bring UM back into national title contention. It shouldn't inspire you to jump ship. It should inspire you to restore Michigan's place amongst the elite in college football. It should inspire you to uphold the legacy of Yost, Crisler, Bo, and Lloyd, and to create a new legacy for RichRod. It should inspire you to be the next Desmond Howard, the next Charles Woodson, the next Braylon Edwards, or the next Mike Hart. It should inspire you to engrain yourself into the hallowed tradition of University of Michigan football.
Introducing some original reporting on MGoBlog: Tom VanHaaren is the official Recruiting Intern and will be publishing interviews with various prospects.
The Junior recruiting class for Michigan is starting to take shape, well before the current class has even wrapped up. As Michigan fans, we've heard of the speed and skill that a Rich Rodriguez built offense can bring. We are starting to see that take shape with recent commitments from Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson. There's a good chance we could see more this coming weekend as well. I caught up with Jeremy Jackson to ask him what he thought about his season, other recruits, and Michigan.
TOM (MGoBlog): How’s your season going so far?
JEREMY (JJ): I'm trying to get to 5-4, that's a big accomplishment at my school.
TOM: What are your goals for this year and next year? Where do you want to be at when you go to UM?
JJ: I want to make the playoffs my senior year. They haven’t talked about speed, but my Dad just told me to keep working hard every day. I ran a 4.58 at camp, and I’d like to get that down to a 4.4 or 4.5. I want to improve my weight, and I can’t really improve my height at all, so I’ll focus on those. I’m assuming they want me to gain weight, they haven’t mentioned it. Rich Rodriguez isn’t influencing me on my speed either; it’s just a goal of mine. My route running and catching ability are my strengths right now, which helps.
TOM: Has it always been a dream to play alongside your dad?
JJ: I never really thought about playing with him coaching me, because he’s never coached my little league teams. It’s weird but it’ll be great.
TOM: Does your dad feel the program is moving in the right direction?
JJ: Oh yeah, he told me to look at this year, but don’t look at this year. He told me not to pay attention to the negative criticism, and don’t worry about any negative media. With this year and next year’s QB and recruiting class, Michigan will be fine. When I get there, they’ll be in good position. I just want to focus on High School.
TOM: If you were Rich Rodriquez right now, what would you tell recruits about the season?
JJ: Michigan is going to have the best facilities in the nation by 2010, Rich Rodriguez ran a great offense at WVU, he’s a winner, and it’s just a down year. And the defense, coach Schaeffer runs a great scheme. We’re going to have a great defense; it’s just a matter of time. Tate Forcier and Beaver are coming, and they’re both really good.
TOM: You have a strong tie with the team, but how do you think losing has affected some other recruits?
JJ: Seeing the season, they see other teams that are successful now; but they can’t look to see the future. They shouldn’t look for the future. It’s hard because a lot of people say things like “your team sucks.” That’s the worst part is when people say bad things about Michigan, other coaches and fans.
TOM: It seems like you’ve developed a friendship with Marvin Robinson and Ricardo Miller, do you guys talk a lot?
JJ: I Talk to Ricardo a lot, not Marvin as much. I talk to him and joke with him a lot. Not always talking about football, which I like.
TOM: Are there any other recruits from your class that you think would be a good fit, or that you really want on your team?
JJ: Christian Lombard, he’s a good lineman, I’ve been talking with him a lot. Dad wants me to talk to Travis Hawkins. I want to work on Dior Mathis and Devin Gardner. Ricardo’s been working on Lo Wood a lot; he’s been getting in his ear.
TOM: Florida seems to be the new addition to the pipeline, is there a buzz in Florida right now? What are the kids from Florida saying about Michigan?
JJ: They want to come. Look at Michigan's commits: Vincent smith, Brandin Hawthorne, Jeremy Gallon. It’s only going to get better. It’s going to spread. Ricardo’s from Orlando, he keeps working on kids. Michigan is going to grow there. Get real relationships with high school coaches. But people are always going to do negative recruiting; coaches are already talking to Ricardo trying to get him from Michigan.
TOM: Is there anything with the new Coaching staff that’s different from the old that stands out to you? Good or Bad?
JJ: Both staffs were nice. I see more energy from all the new coaches. Real fast tempo. The old coaches weren’t bad. The new coaches will be good though, everyone wants to win and they show it. I train with Barwis, he’s taught me how to train and eat. He’s a great coach. Barwis got me faster and stronger. He has speed training, it’s not really doing that much, you just learn how to run. They condition and lift hard, but the speed drills gets you faster, and it’s not too hard, but it works.
TOM: How does Rich Rod see you fitting in? I know you want to play early, has he said that’s a possibility?
JJ: Yea, just come up there and work hard every day. I have an advantage to learn all the plays; I’m going to ask my dad teach me the plays. My dad will help me with all the plays. Commit to the training. It doesn’t seem necessary to enroll early, I already have an advantage. I go home every night, and my dad will get in my ear if I don’t work hard.
TOM: It seems like Tate Forcier has a good chance of being your QB, have you reached out to him at all? What’d you guys talk about?
JJ: I talked with him and his brother Jason, I talk to Jason more. He’s excited. I talked to Tate about his brother and how I know him. I really like Jason, but my Dad said Tate is going to be good. My dad compared his arm to Chad Henne. He’s not going to sit around and run, he’s gonna pass more.
TOM: It seems like your class might have a chip on their shoulder coming in, or something to prove. What do you hope to prove or accomplish at Michigan?
JJ: I haven’t gotten that far. I know the juniors that are committed now; they all love Michigan and want to play there. The ‘08 class wasn’t Rich Rod’s recruits. 09 has gotten a little better, and ’10 is going to be killer.
TOM: Let me hear your pitch of why another player should choose Michigan?
JJ: Michigan traditionally has won the most games in college football, over 110,000 people are at every game, you’re always on national TV, there’s a great chance to play in NFL, the best coaches, best strength class, best facilities in ’10, the best education, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to go here.
Sometimes its better to be lucky than good. If my line could be this accurate every game, I should move into Vegas. I posted PSU at +25 and Michigan at -4 for the season, matching the 29 point spread PSU finished with.
Based purely on starting field position, PSU held an expected 32 to 24 advantage for the game. On to the details and, as always, explanation here.
Run offense vs PSU
The numbers reflect more of the first half, than the second. Michigan finished up with a +10 rating for the game. Unadjusted, it was a +6, boosted by coming against a solid run defense. Of the +10, the first quarter came in as a +8, with the rest of the game being generally average. Brandon Minor finished the game at +7, Threet scored a +3, mostly on the strength of his 14 yard run on 3rd and 3.
Pass offense vs PSU
Michigan finished the game -10, which would have been a -12 unadjusted. Again the second half was a disaster, with only 1 play warranting a positive value before garbage time. The QBs posted matching -5's for the game passing.
Run defense vs PSU
Evan Royster had himself a game. A solid +11, second only to Lesean McCoy of Pitt for BCS conference running backs last week. Overall, the Nittany Lions scored a +8, which was pulled down by the early turnover. Based on PSU's past performance on the ground, the Wolverine rush defense managed to pull off a very unsatisfying +1 for the day.
Pass defense vs PSU
PSU yielded a solid but not spectacular +5 for the game, with the Michigan pass defense scoring a +4, the late screen TD was not included in the totals, coming during garbage time.
Here are the final game ratings for each side:
So I just wanted to do a diary entry because I've been in a wall war on facebook for a while with this fan who says things like this:
expect in the pre-season? Rich had plenty of time to decide if this is
what he wanted to inherit . . . He knew what he was getting into . . .
I highly doubt he showed up on Day 1 and said, "Hmm, we've got no
talent . . . I guess Michigan will be a shitty team this year" . . . No
one was expecting a perfect season here . . . What we did expect was
more than just the hype we were getting (which I realize now was JUST
HYPE) . . .
If he didn't think he could do something with the team he had he should not have accepted the job . . ."
Jim Tressel (7-5 OSU)
Pete Carrol (6-6 USC)
Les Miles (4-7 Okie State)
Joe Paterno (5-5 PSU)
Bobby Bowden (5-6 FSU)
Bear Bryant (1-9 Texas A&M, 5-4-1 Alabama)
Woody Hayes (4-3-2 OSU)
And this is the worst one of them all... Who has been a HUGE critic of RR? Lou Holtz.. and his first year records:
0-11!!!!!! South Carolina
I'm an alum ('82' Engineering) living near Lancaster PA, and traveled to State College for the game Saturday. After the witnessing the predictable 2nd half debacle, we met back at the car for some post game tailgating. I was surprised to learn from my PSU loving friends that the Michigan bench players were taunting the PSU fans during the surprising first surge. If anyone else witnessed this, I would like to hear from you. I would hope the players would have had the sense to avoid smack talking given the season it has been, in all its glory, and UM coaches would put a stop to behavior not becoming a Michigan player.
In any event, Saturday was a great time, even in defeat (although the 35 degree temp in the morning was a little chiller than expected). State College is a great place to go for a game, especially the tailgating atmosphere, and the PSU fans are friendly hosts. They even didn't get too pissed when I donned my "Who's Your Daddy" yellow T-shirt, with the scores of the last 9 games posted proudly on the back. I am not sure I would dare to display a shirt like that in Columbus for fear of being flogged by the classy OSU fans.