fair point that
LSU 35, Florida 28
Before the season, eight SEC teams were ranked in each major poll – now approximately halfway through the season, there’s only one undefeated team left: Les Miles’s LSU Tigers, who have leaned on Leonard Fournette, a strong offense line, and a characteristically stout defense. After a tightly-contested win over Florida – a classic Miles game that was won on a fake field goal in the fourth quarter – the Tigers look every bit the part of a playoff contender: they face Alabama in three weeks on the road in a game that will likely play an enormous role in determining the SEC West.*
Considering the context, Florida acquitted themselves well. With Treon Harris at the helm in place of suspended starting quarterback Will Grier, the Gators were forced to turn to a quarterback who’d proven to be erratic and ineffective in the past, but Harris played a solid game – especially for a visiting QB in Death Valley – throwing for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Even though Florida was completely unable to establish a running game (31 carries for 55 yards), the Gators put 28 points on the board, though half of them came on an LSU fumble on a punt return deep in Tigers territory and an electric punt return touchdown from freshman Antonio Callaway that tied the game late in the third quarter.
The most appealing game-within-the-game in this high-level matchup was Leonard Fournette and the LSU offensive line against their toughest test in a very solid Florida run defense: Fournette still notched 5.8 yards per carry on 31 attempts, though his longest carry of the day was just 25 yards. The big plays, surprisingly, were provided by a heretofore unproven passing game – a 52-yard flea-flicker to Malachi Dupre set up an early Fournette touchdown and Brandon Harris connected with Dupre again for a 50-yard touchdown in the waning seconds of the first half. Harris still hasn’t thrown an interception this season, allowing LSU even more comfort in their preferred style. The blueprint hasn’t changed for Les Miles: the Tigers want to control the game on the ground as much as possible.
Ultimately, it was a mostly even game – had LSU elected to actually kick the field goal, they likely still would have won – but Fournette again showed why he’s the most impressive player in college football, very possibly its best. Florida, which would have pushed itself squarely into the playoff discussion with a win, still remains in the driver’s seat in the SEC East – they can lock up the division with a win over Georgia this weekend.
*Also at the forefront in the SEC West hunt is Ole Miss. The Rebels may have seen their playoff hopes slip away for good with a loss to Memphis this past weekend, but they still only have one loss in SEC play (to Florida), a tiebreaker over Alabama, and a home game against LSU later this season. Things aren’t looking great in Oxford right now, but they’re in it as much as anyone at this point.
[More footbaw after the jump]
In light of the five FBS coaching changes that have already occurred, I thought I would take this opportunity to go over the attractiveness of each job, a primary candidate for each job, and two secondary candidates for each job. (Disclaimer: The candidates are merely my opinion, not anything official whatsoever, and I limited the coaching candidates to the college ranks). I also took the liberty of predicting which other FBS jobs could be open by the end of 2015. In order to compile this diary, I took some information from coachingsearch.com. Chris Vannini there does an excellent job of posting coaching updates from across all levels of football. If you Twitter, follow @coachingsearch.
Legend for attractiveness of each job:
Hot - One of the top 10-12 jobs in college football, a destination job, high pressure to win
Solid - Still a place you can win at, viewed as destination by at least some, still moderate/high pressure to win
Decent - Middle of the road, not bad, but nothing to get excited about. Could move on if Solid or Hot job opens up.
Fair - Uphill battle. High/mid Group of 5/low Power 5 type job. Ambitious coaches will usually leave this type of job if they can.
Airport - Won't be here for long either way. Win somewhat and you're off in 2-3 seasons, lose big and you're off in 2-3 seasons.
Illinois: Attraction - Decent Job. Illinois on the face has the look of a Solid job, but the fact is there is merely a light recruiting base in the state and the surrounding area; there is not enough competitive talent in the state. The head man will have to raid states like Ohio to round out the roster. There is also little tradition at Illinois. Guys have shown that you can achieve BCS/New Year's 6 success at Illinois as recently as the early 00s and that one run under Zook, so there is hope. For what it's worth it is the first choice in the state, and it's in the unspectacular B1G West.
Primary Candidate: Dino Babers, Bowling Green Head Coach. Babers has history coaching in the state, and took over a bad Eastern Illinois team and turned them into FCS Playoff participants just two seasons later. His offense is modeled after Baylor's Art Briles and has torched many FBS defenses already. This is a hire that would inject some excitment in a primarily stale and tired fan base in addition to just being a smart hire overall. Babers would be 55 at the start of the 2016 season.
Secondary candidate 1: Justin Fuente, Memphis Head Coach
Secondary candidate 2: Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky Head Coach
Maryland: Attraction - Decent Job. Maryland is a similar type job to Illinois, with a slightly better recruiting base in the DC metro area. An ambitious/smart head coach would dive into the Norfolk/VA Beach area, as well. Maryland has also made a BCS/NY6 appearance fairly recently, so there is also hope here; however, the athletic department at Maryland is cash-strapped after numerous mishaps, hence their betrayal of forever home ACC for the moneybags of the Big Ten. Little tradition at Maryland. The new guy will also be competing with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State on a yearly, and Michigan State will be a force as long as Dantonio is there.
Primary Candidate: Justin Fuente, Memphis Head Coach. Fuente took over a dumpster fire at Memphis and has turned it into an SEC-whippin' machine. He would have to do the same at Maryland, but there's potential to do at Maryland what he's done at Memphis. Fuente will be only 40 at the start of the 2016 season.
Secondary candidate 1: Dino Babers, Bowling Green Head Coach
Secondary candidate 2: Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky Head Coach
South Carolina: Attraction - Fair Job. This is an uphill battle. Let's go over some national-championship winning coaches that have, for the most part, failed at South Carolina. Paul Dietzel (LSU), Lou Holtz (Notre Dame), and Steve Spurrier (Florida). Spurrier won the SEC East a grand total of once at South Carolina. Holtz never did. The state of South Carolina does not really have enough competitive talent for two FBS programs, let alone one, and over the past 15-20 years most of the best talent that is in the state is going to Clemson. Clemson has more of a winning history and tradition, albeit a shorter history. The Gamecocks are the second on the block in a weak recruiting state, make no mistake.
Primary Candidate: Tom Herman, Houston Head Coach. Herman would be a great hire for South Carolina. The only question would be is if he would be willing to take on another challenge at South Carolina or really look to build up the Houston program (maybe toward even a Big XII invite?). Regardless, in my opinion this is the guy South Carolina should target. Ohio State clearly misses Herman on the offensive side of the ball and Herman has developed a reputation for being a ravenous recruiter and is doing that at Houston. The South Carolina job requires a sleepless recruiting effort. Make it happen, Cocky. Herman would only be 41 at the start of the 2016 season.
Secondary candidate 1: Justin Fuente, Memphis Head Coach
Secondary candidate 2: Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina Head Coach
Southern Cal: Attraction - Hot Job. Location, winning tradition, self-sustaining, private institution, can recruit via bus or bicycle in the southern California region. Don't feel I need to add much else.
Primary Candidate: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach. Predicting the next head coach for a program like Southern Cal is pretty fun. You can make a case for almost any semi-successful head coach in the country, as a program like Southern Cal can get anyone they want. Jimbo Fisher has already done all he can do at Florida State, and with perhaps the most lackadaisical undefeated regular season in history in 2014 followed up by a face plant against Oregon in the semi-final and a similar start in 2015, Fisher may be ready for a new challenge. Fisher has the rock star appeal that would fit in well at Southern Cal and, for better or worse, Fisher's FSU has been in the news almost constantly since he's been there. The man can recruit, motivate, and win on game day, which is what Southern Cal needs most right now. In addition, and this would be just as much a change for personal reasons, Fisher just this summer went through a divorce, after his wife allegedly had an affair with one of his ex-players. So Southern Cal would theoretically allow him to get away and get a new start. Fisher would be 50 at the start of the 2016 season.
Secondary candidate 1: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach
Secondary candidate 2: James Franklin, Penn State Head Coach
North Texas: Attraction - Airport. This change went under the radar, and rightfully so. North Texas canned former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney after UNT lost 66-7 to homecoming opponent Portland State. Most will remember Mean Joe Greene as a famous alumnus of North Texas. North Texas has gone through many problems in its history, notably being "demoted" to 1-AA in the late 70s by the NCAA. However, through major donor support, the program re-entered 1-A in 1995 (wikipedia). For what it's worth, UNT is in the state of Texas (obviously) and the institution just opened up a brand new on-campus Apogee Stadium, and has seemingly shown willingness to invest in the program and facilities. However, the next head man here will likely have to come from the FCS ranks and view it as a step up. AD Rick Villarreal stated that he would like the next hire to be "offensive minded" (coachingsearch.com).
Primary Candidate: Matt Viator, McNeese State Head Coach (74-32 in 9+ seasons, 4 FCS Playoff berths, age 52) (wikipedia)
Secondary candidate 1: KC Keeler, Sam Houston State Head Coach (189-81-1 overall record, 3 FCS Championships with Delaware, 5 Division III Championships with Rowan, age 56) (wikipedia)
Secondary candidate 2: Greg Schiano, available (still only 49, but at this point has to take what he can get)
*Likely* Open Jobs:
Central Florida (O'Leary iffy on pretty much everything right now)
Texas-San Antonio (although coachingsearch.com says no)
I'll wait until after the 2015 season is over to see how these shake out. I may do a second follow-up post after the season with more commentary on the open jobs.
After the ClusterPunt debacle with MSU on Saturday, I continue to be in a state of suspended disbelief regarding UM's ranking at #2 as per the S&P+ composite numbers. What's also interesting to note, beside the smattering of teams with 2 and 3 losses in the top 25, is that the upper echelon which U-M shares with Clemson, is separated by about 2.5 points from the next level shared by Alabama & Baylor. The total separation across the top 10 is about one TD, and 2 TD's across the top 25.
Along those lines, Bill Connelly has once again updated the Adv. Stats Profile for Michigan, which of course features a win probability for each of the remaining games. So given that, here's an updated look at the Total Wins Probability distribution:
Mr. Obvious: "WTF! Where's the bell-shaped curve?"
Mr. Smarty-pants: "Dude, it's a Poisson Binomial random process. Take a stats class."
Bill Connelly's model continues to be stoked on that high-octane MaizenBrew Cool-Aid. I'd suspected that UM's statistical profile is some sort of outlier and some regression toward the mean might be anticipated after future games - especially after a loss that saw the defense gouged by Connor Cook, but trying to noodle thing through, the defense allowed only 21 points to MSU's top 40 offense, which is still much better than average, and that gets effectively averaged with the other 6 games. That said, it would seem that U-M's defense is well-established at the so-called "elite" level, and it will take significant and protracted poor performance to revert from that. Same principal would also apply to the offense, I think. Pretty well established at the top 50-ish range.
Oh, and here are the individual game numbers that went into it:
Win Opponent Probability ---------------+------------ at Minnesota 87% Rutgers 98% at Indiana 88% at Penn State 76% Ohio State 71%
The likelihood of beating OSU has declined from 82% last week to 71% now. Sound familiar? OSU once again is taking half a season to remember how to play football while practicing with tomato cans, but will probably have things in order by the time Sparty comes to town, which is good for U-M, because U-M needs OSU to be undefeated when they roll into Ann Arbor.
Mr. Obvious: "That means I'll have to pull for OSU. Maybe I'll just take the Missus out for brunch at the Museum that day."
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
- Sanskrit proverb, ~400 B.C.
So just to get a complete picture of how all of these probabilities impact conference standings and prospects for U-M to win a B1G Championship, here you go:
|* head-to-head tie break winner|
Given that U-M is expected to win each of its remaining games, including OSU, and MSU is also expected to lose to OSU and at Nebraska, that would make U-M the B1G East champion. U-M would also be favored to beat Iowa in that neutral site matchup.
edit: corrections included
Well, college hockey in the B1G kicked off for real this weekend. Much like last year, it looks like the B1G is going to struggle with national prominence. First the results:
Saturday, October 10, 2015
- Michigan State 4 @ Lake Superior 1
- Northern Michigan 3 @ Wisconsin 3 OT
- Ohio State 0 @ Bowling Green 2
- Penn State 6 @ Canisius 1
- Vermont 3 @ Minnesota 0
Friday, October 16, 2015
- Mercyhurst 4 @ Michigan 6
- Michigan State 2 @ Denver 4
- Miami 3 @ Ohio State 2
- Notre Dame 7 @ Penn State 4
- Minnesota-Duluth 3 @ Minnesota 1
- Wisconsin 0 @ Boston College 6
Saturday, October 17, 2015
- Michigan State 0 @ Denver 3
- Notre Dame 3 @ Penn State 5
- Ohio State 1 @ Miami 3
- Minnesota 0 @ Minnesota-Duluth 3
- Wisconsin 1 @ Boston University 4
Sunday, October 18, 2015
- Mercyhurst 2 @ Michigan 3
- Two weeks into the season, only Michigan and Penn St have shown signs of life. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio St are all winless, with all three looking like they're going to have issues this year-- Minnesota with replacing goaltending and upper class talent; Wisconsin with avoiding a death spiral of ineffective recruiting & player development, coupled with a HC on the hot seat; Ohio St being Ohio St hockey. Michigan St only has a win against Lake St with two uncompetitive losses to Denver. Hildebrand's looking vulnerable in addition to the usual MSU lack of offensive firepower. All the bad results from Minn, Wiscy, and OSU being OOC losses to NCHC teams will kill us down the road in strength of schedule calculations.
- That being said, Penn St looks good in context. A split with ND is a respectable showing, and considering their trajectory, this could be a leap year for the Nittany Lions. They have scoring (their PP looks legit), but their goaltending may be a liability. I need to watch them more in person.
- Michigan will probably not have a problem scoring goals (again), but uncertain goaltending and a loose defense will be issues (again). I've seen 2 of the 3 games Michigan has played this year so far in person, and here's to hoping Nagelvoort takes the job and runs with it, because Racine did not look good. I will say that encouraging signs are Nieves seems ready to make a big leap, and the passing against Mercyhurst was much improved over what I'd seen in the past two years.
Early season bottom line
- If you asked me to call it now, I'd say this is going to be a 2 team race for the conference title between us and Penn St, and if we get competent goaltending, Michigan could run away with it.
- I'd be suprised if B1G gets two teams in the NCAA tourney, with the exception of Michigan winning the conference by a large margin, and then a Cinderella team wins the conference tourney. If it's a close 2 team race between Michigan and Penn St for the conference, unless both teams only have losses to each other in conference, it's probably a one bid league.
- In a "damn it" realization, I think it's safe to say the NCHC got the better of the CCHA dissolution, probably even long term. Every single one of their teams except for Western Michigan and St Cloud St have established themselves as national level programs now. Maybe NoDak takes a step back if the coaching loss really was that big, but they're still prominent enough they can absorb a couple down years and regain status fairly fast.
- Hate to say this, but the next two weeks are probably make-or-break for Michigan's at-large dreams. Sweep #11 Union, RPI, and Robert Morris from now through Halloween, Michigan can probably split the BU and still be OK. Lose two of the next four, we may need a Boston sweep to keep at-large dreams alive. Such is life when you're in such a sucky conference.
So MSU may have won the game - I use the term "won" loosely in this context - but as the advanced statistical analyses continue to bear out, MSU STILL SUCKS! So, big deal, you think, they still beat us, and all hope is lost for a B1G Title and any prayer for CFBC invitation. Well, as Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend!" So without further adieu, here's this week's Advanced Stats Schedule Rundown:
Interesting things to note:
- So quite unremarkably (but I'll remark anyway) MSU would still by an underdog if the game were to be played again. Except, if it were in East Lansing, then Sparty would be a +0.5 point favorite on the FPI scale. S&P+ still loves the beloved Maize'n'Blue. Thus, MSU still sucks, dumb-ass lucky winners that they may be.
- U-M's position in the rankings improved from #3 to #2, maintaining it's hold on the #1 S&P+ Defense ranking, and sliding from #46 to #50 on Offense.
- OSU is now a 2 point favorite on the FPI scale, but U-M is a 9 point favorite vs. OSU on the S&P+ scale.
- Not readily apparent from the chart ... but Iowa remains the favorite to win out in the West, and will in all likelihood be 12-0 going into the B1G Championship game, so I'm including them as a 13th game, in which U-M would be favored should they be not un-lucky enough to make it there.
The bottom line is that U-M is in good position to win it's games between now and when OSU rolls into town, and even now, U-M is poised to make it a very competitive matchup.
Please refer to the week 6 diary for additional external sources & references, as well as how to interpret the color scheme if it's not completely intuitive for you.
This is my weekly feature to look back at summer previews, get egg on my face, look over what Michigan did, and then project the rest of the year as we get more real time data. Last week's taking stock report can be found here.
Prelude: I did season previews on most UM opponents - I skipped UNLV, Indiana and Rutgers out of boredom, and OSU out of fear. The rest are below
Dear readers - the deeper we go into the season the more off my summer views will become as naturally teams will evolve from what we thought they would be and injuries happen.
[Sparty photo would usually go here but screw you Sparty]
So let's see how I did with MSU this summer ... I began the preview with:
[I don't want to talk about it]
And ended with:
[Still don't want to talk about it]
These were my views of the unit matchups this summer:
[No, still not going to talk about it]
At the end of last week's preview...with a lot more data about MSU I wrote this:
It's rivalry week. Dantonio is in a sour mood and scowling. Wait, that's every week. He is feeling disrespect even as his overrated team stays ranked 4th in the coaches poll with a 1st place vote (thanks Narduzzi!). This is a team that is a few plays away from being 3-3 with losses to a bad Oregon, an awful Purdue, and a below average Rutgers. But the gods of football still seem to love MSU.
Despite a S&P+ offense and defense rank almost identical to Nebraska the team is 6-0. They've played 4 of the worst defenses in the land and 2 other meh ones.
That said it's rivalry week and when Bobby Williams is not coaching it still matters. There is still some prime time talent scattered across their lineup and aside from the Central Michigan rivalry this week consumes all of MSU's time. They have one of the 2 best QBs UM will face this year. MSU finally decided to ride him - out of need - last week.
Let's take a look at the trenches. MSU has two NFL calibar lineman in C Jack Allen and LT Jack Conklin. Conklin has been out two weeks but was reportedly practicing all last week but held out vs Rutgers. "Practicing" can mean anything so we'll see - one assumes he plays. Allen was healthy all year until the last drive of the Rutgers game when some DL dude rolled on his ankle from behind. It did not look good. The other tackle Kodi Kieler came back from injury to play vs Rutgers but did not look his normal self either. Certainly not 100%. So those are both your tackles and your All American center in some form of pain. UM has a good DL. A very good DL. This matchup is key. Cook rarely faces pressure so if UM can get pressure without bringing the house constantly ala Rutgers it will be a big advantage. A month ago this looked like a stalemate - MSU's offensive strength against UM's defensive strength. Now it looks advantage UM. I want to see ALL OF THE grass stains on Cook's uniform. And I want to see a untouched Delano Hill arriving on a safety blitz to exchange an early Christmas wish to Connor.
On the other side of the ball this still looks like a MSU advantage in terms of MSU DL v UM OL. Both units look healthy. The one area MSU's DL has been a bit off this year is in rush defense - some blown assignements have led to a few big runs each game. It would be nice if UM could exploit that. The pass protect for UM has to be the best of the year because MSU has a very good pass rush. How Jake reacts to this in terms of making smart decisions is another key.
Looking at other parts of the teams - this is the best passing O UM will be facing until OSU. (yes better than BYU) While Burbridge is not Lippett level he is good. J Lewis - stay on him all game. That's Cook's go to man. How Stribling and Clark do vs the Kings and Sheltons of the world will be important. Josiah Price, MSU's very good TE has been hurt but most expect him back for this week so sad ghost of Bolden's pass coverage skills vs Josiah Price will probably cause some pain. But if we can limit those 12 yard gains to 12 and not 28 it will be nice. I'd prefer Ross covering Price myself but not an option for a half. Paul Lang and Jamal Lyles are other TEs to watch.
LJ Scott is looking like a beast mode running back early in his freshman year but is dinged up a bit. Gun slinger Delton Williams will probably play quite a bit too now that his "disciplinary redshirt" suddenly no longer matters. MSU has not faced a rush D anywhere near this. UM must dominate MSU's rush offense and make the unit 1 dimensional. "We have the technology".
On defense MSU rolls out its normal variety of good linebackers including the 28,737th Bullough. MSU's back 4 is currently LOL mode. Can Rudock take advantage? He must.
Overall MSU's D is not as good as prior versions but the front 7 is still very very good. They are still a havoc defense which makes a lot of big plays. Excellent at creating fumbles and interceptions. But a lot more suspectible to big plays thru the air vs even average offenses (in the past it was only good offenses who could do that to them). They will get pressure, they will cause stress - but they have holes.
Last, special teams folks. Holy advantage batman. The FG kicker is a basket case. They have one of the biggest legged punters in the country who can boom 50 yarders on the regular but they still only net 35 yds on ave in punting because the coverage is a sick joke. Peppers can begin to cement his legend if he can pull a Breaston in this game. Kickoff returns should also be an adventure - pick your poison, Chesson or Pep.
Based on S&P+, MSU is basically Nebraska who will treat this game as their Super Bowl. (FEI seems to like MSU much more than S&P+ thus far however) Obviously MSU is far superior than Nebraska at QB. But they have been relying on playing bad teams, and causing lots of turnovers to cover up other mistakes.
If you don't give MSU those turnovers, you don't have to do special things on offense - just be efficient and let the defense battle it out with MSU's O. Let the special teams win their battles. The team who rushes better and has less turnovers almost always wins these battles. So let's be good at those things and restart the 50+ year inferiority complex. Also, home field advantage - yes it matters when teams are pretty evenly matched and it's a bunch of 18-23 year olds living on emotion. Michigan Stadium should be the loudest it has been in a decade if the home team is doing their thing.
Last, UM has been treated like sh** in this rivalry for half a decade+, and esp the past 24 months. Yes MSU will bring emotion as this is the only game that matters to them, but damnit UM should have emotion filtering out of every orifice with Harbaugh's foot in their collective asses. We've been embarrassed for 2 years in a row - it must end.
I thought with the injuries to Allen, Conklin and Kieler and our DL line showing very well this had turned from a stalemate to advantage UM. It did not. I was reluctantly impressed as hell with what MSU did with various forms of injury on their lines. Jack Allen 2015 is David Molk 2011. Huge loss for MSU. I dont know how injured Conklin was and neither do you but he was out a few weeks and had to be rusty to a degree. He stymied us. No surprise - he stymied Joey Bosa and Randy Gregory last year and we don't have an end of that caliber. But I thought 80% Conklin would give us a chance. Kieler came into the game hurt (looked awful last week vs Rutgers), got hurt again early, and according to some was pulled late - I read on the last drive Henry was going vs a backup tackle and hence the pressure he created. I don't know but this was in bronxblue's diary. If so it shows the dropoff from an not 100% Kieler to their 4th tackle (their 3rd tackle FInley is out for the year with a broken leg). I was a bit discouraged on what I saw here - realizing we are playing a lot of 300 lb guys at ends and RJS is a 2nd game starter but if that is what we could do vs a banged up line with a guard playing center I would not have liked to see what we would have done vs a healthy MSU line. Cook was pressured some but not like he was v Rutgers and that was disappointing. More on this later in the piece. The DL did do great in run defense.
On the other side of the ball I felt their DL had their way with our OL a lot. Coming into the game the question was how far our OL had progressed since the Utah game since that was the only similar DL Michigan has faced. The answer is not much in my mind. Aside from 1 fullback run there were not many holes to be had and it was a typical bang your head into the wall type of game vs MSU's run D. This was supposed to be the year we could break off multiple decent runs as MSU's run D had holes. Not so much. So run blocking was a negative. Pass blocking was ok, not great. I felt Magnuson was eaten up by Calhoun but we'll see the UFR. McDowell was in beast bode. Thomas was the 2nd leading tackler for MSU which is pretty rare for a defensive linemen. Only Heath was not noticable constantly on that line and that is pretty normal for him - he is more of a space eater type.
Cook was Cook - not completing a high % of passes but throwing a lot of darts when it mattered. It was frustrating in the fact there was literally one weapon all game for MSU and that one weapon was enough. * I said we had to make MSU 1 dimensional - we did. And still not a win... damnit.
*well not enough... but based on final score, enough.
The other weapon I feared - Price - seemed to barely play. And MSU could not run. So it was basically Cook and Burbridge for nearly the entire offense. Shelton and Kings had some yards but thankfully Kings dropped 2 that could have hurt us badly.
Special teams? Well as expected UM dominated. Until the last play. But aside from Peppers, O'Neil may have been MVP of this game so not sure how anyone can hate on him. He changed field position constantly, he pinned MSUs offense constantly. On his first punt he had an 80 yards. MSu promptly had a 16 play, 70 yd drive. If Blake had kicked a 50 yard punt that would have been a TD for MSU instead of a failed 4th down attempt. So he made a huge difference all game mostly pro and one con.
One Week Only Feelingsball Section
Like many I have had personal experiences with games like this. Do they happen to UM more often than others? It sure seems like it. I was at the Colorado game as a student and that was the only similar situation I can think in terms of a complete 180 degree change in belief, attitude, emotion, everything. The Chris Webber TO was a moment but not a moment at 0:00. App State had been building all game. Various and sundry other WTF moments had buildups. This and Colorado were instant and final.
I remember walking out of the stadium to this day vs Colorado and never hearing Ann Arbor so quiet. It was like the air had been taken out of the....air. I can only imagine the pain of that this past Saturday for our fans when that emotion was combined with a material amount of Spartan fans in AA that had to be off their rockers with their stupid go green go white chants. That was not something we had to deal with post Colorado. And no decades of hatred built up. This was a dong punch of the highest order based on who did it, and how it happend, and the conditions (Harbaugh was finally going to take out Dantonio!) and the recent history and how UM entered the game on fire, and how MSU stumbled in. #*$()$*#()$&*(*#)$*(# 0.2% chance. MSU is a fucking zombie - ESPN showed they now have 3 of the 5 wins with the lowest end of game probability (with this game being the lowest) in the past decade.
If this happens vs Iowa, Wisconsin, even Penn State it's just a hateful act by the football gods. But MSU? At my age I will be subjected to this every single f**king year from here on out til death in October during the build up to the game. And it's all about me in the end, amiright?! Not to mention the having to deal with the smugness another 364 days among the local populace, and knowing that our seniors only leave UM with 1 win vs MSU in their career, or knowing the Dantonio statue to be built in 2023 in EL will now be 12 feet tall rather than 9 feet tall. (more room to vandalize I guess)
And no I don't want to hear the rationalization - all the things we are rationalizing about could also be rationalized about with a WIN under our belt. @#@*#()*&@#*(@*
A Look at Michigan
This was a bit of a tough game to analyze because the special teams advantage was so damn stark it sort of threw a lot of other stats for a loop. That said I am not so sanguine about our offense as others have been. Was it "good enough" to win? Yes vs a Sparty team with horrendous special teams which gave us so much good field position. But for a team starting TWO DAMN FRESHMAN SAFETIES, missing their star linebacker, and a nobody at the other corner (UM equivalent of Ty Kinnel at safety spot #1, Ty Kinnel at safety spot #2 and Terry Richardson as one of the corners) it was below par.
I am going to spend time this week looking at the offense as a whole rather than just individual parts as I usually do because there is some telling data in there.
Michigan had 230 yards of offense. At home. Purdue - a complete garbage program - had 301 yards vs MSU. In East Lansing.
Rutgers had 349 yds vs MSU. Taking out Leonte Carroo and Rutgers still had 215 yards vs MSU. Or only 15 less than UM at full strength.
Not good. Not good at all.
Was 230 yards technically enough to win? Yes. But it would have papered over a mediocre performance. And a more competent offensive performance would have led to that last drive for MSU meaning nothing as well as the last play. I blame the offense not Blake O'Neil for the eventual outcome.
Rudock is Rudock - not going to beat a dead horse. Rudock was ok in a vacuum. 15/25 for 168 yds, 6.7 ypa. No turnovers. But this was not a vacuum. This was a horrific secondary that had TWO DAMN FRESHMAN SAFETIES and a LOL corner in Colquhoun across from the solid Demetrious Cox. Carroo made Colquhoun his personal b**** last week. This was a secondary ripe for the picking. But our QB could only do his normal 8 yard patterns and hope for YAC. He missed Chesson yet again for a play that changes this entire game. That was a missed TD. Outside of the deep ball (which we now assume miss) there were very few intermediate throws that you attempt against TWO DAMN FRESHMAN SAFETIES AND A LOL CORNER.
Where was Jake Butt? I saw 1 drive we went to him twice and Reschke played tight defense and denied the pass. But that was all we were going to try? I got ripped for saying Reschke is Bolden level last week but apparently we were so fearful of him we could not try throwing to our All Big 10 TE more than 3x this game. How does an offense built on TEs do so little with them all game? 3 completions to TE in a Harbaugh offense? Give that one to Dantonio and staff - they took away our bread and butter. We couldn't run, we couldn't pass to our TEs - so what does that leave the UM 2015 offense vs a real defense?
We had 12 drives not incl the last one and 6 were 3 and outs (50%). Two others were 4 or 5 plays that led to field goals only due to amazing field position (Spartan 48 and Spartan 28 yard line respectively). The 4 play drive was all of 8 yards. So 8 of our 12 drives (75%) did nearly nothing in TOP, yards, production but we generated 6 pts out of it thanks to Peppers giving great field position. Did I mention this was against a defense with TWO FRESHMAN SAFETIES AND A LOL CORNER AND MISSING ITS BEST LB? I was told MSU's D took a big step back this year on the blogosphere. Hmph.
There were 2 material drives on offense, one a 8 play 72 yarder that we badly needed immediately after MSU's 16 play drive. That was great. Then a 10 play, 62 yarder that led to a field goal. Sufficient. But that was it in terms of moving the ball > 40 yds on a "deficient MSU defense". The other TD drive was again on a short drive that started on MSU's 38 yard line.
The offense was given amazing field position all game and mostly derped it away. 2 serious drives (>40 yds) in 60 minutes of football.
On the plus side Kenny Allen is a boss. As is Jabrill Peppers.
Speaking of Pep, he was the only guy who looked gamebreaking in any fashion on offense. Which says a lot about our offense. What the hell was Hoke doing with his offensive recruiting all these years. And speaking to this staff where was the creativity? You save that cool double fake pass for BYU but have nothing ready for MSU other than "we are going to run the same damn plays but with Peppers in them." Again, if we had won no one would say these things but there was such a conservatism out there it boggled. Don't you practice 6-8 plays from August that are run for no one but MSU and OSU? I didn't see them. The 1st half BYU game plan was more dynamic IMO.
Offensive nexis is QB and OL. We've talked enough about QB to know what he is. That OL though - I expected better. Not a lot better but better. Both teams stymied the others run game - not unexpected. Pass protect I did not like our production. Maybe I should not have been surprised - Football outsiders shows UM's OL as 86th ranked in the country. That is a big drop from 2014 and surprised me; I only noticed because someone had written it in a post game message.
We ran 61 plays in total. 7 resulted in TFL (11%), 3 resulted in sacks (5%). Our 29 non Rudock non O'Neil rushes led to 87 yds, or 3 per. Again.... Rutgers and Purdue did better. (both had a bigger run than Houma's to be fair to boost their average). Take out #Houmatime run and it was 2.1 per attempt. Bad.
Again play calling. I didn't get it in the run game. Multiple runs of Deveon Smith to the short side of the field WIDE?? That dude is not a lateral runner vs slow defenses forget MSU's. Then you take our entire team and their entire team to the short side of the field to boot? Boggling. Sorry - Drevno and Harbaugh are not above questioning the next 10 years or however long they stay and this I question. Houma's run was down the gut and while you usually don't get much in the run game with our personnel we were not going to beat MSU to the edges in the run game.
Forgetting the stats the eye test just showed Calhoun and McDowell - and to a degree Thomas impacting the line of scrimmage repeatedly. There are not more excuses with this OL due to age, experience, or coaching. They have it all in spades and needed to be better. And yes MSU's DL is very good but our OL has to be better vs teams with 4 stars on them vs the bevy of 3 stars from the Northwesterns and Minnesotas.
Switching over to the defense it was solid. Didn't get nearly the same 3 and out production MSU did but MSU has a better QB which changes everything. Good enough to win with a better offense. *
MSU had 5 drives of >40 yds and 1 of those was the drive with the FB play so lets's call it 4 sustained drives out of 12 (I didnt count their end of half drive deep in their zone as a drive, as it was drive #13). MSU had 2 other drives that had quite a few plays (6 plays and 9 plays) but didn't get more than 30 yards. I thought MSU would get 20-24 pts and that is basically where they were before DOOM happened.
I assumed we'd stymie them in the run game and we mostly did. LJ Scott was mostly contained. Holmes did most of the damage but even his damage was not serious. Take out Cook's negative yards and MSU had 81 yds on 29 carries or 2.7 per. Their biggest run was 11 yards so that was not boosted by 1 big run in anyway. You can win with that run defense.
Pass rush disappointed me considering the patchwork state of the MSU OL. UM's OL was ranked 86th by Football outsiders but MSU's was ranked 88th. So more was needed.
Henry went off late but outside of his 2 sacks on the last drive it was 7 TFL and 1 sack for UM's D - again solid but the eye test for pressure consistently did not show up to me. And MSU had 72 plays to UM's 61. So 11 more opportunities to get a sack or TFL for our D. It wasn't a bad performance by the DL in any fashion - I just thought we'd get more pressure. And I disagreed with the philosophy again of mostly playing prevent. Rutgers blitzed Cook non stop (with 6 or 7) for 3 quarters and made him pay mostly. They went to prevent defense in the 3rd quarter and Cook picked them apart and MSU scored 14 pts. We decided to mostly follow the 3rd quarter Rutgers strategy. Didn't agree with that. Didn't need to send 6-7 guys in like Rutgers but send an extra safety or LB more often so Cook had to wonder where the extra guy would come from. Almost every time we blitzed it was a success for UM. Again, as with EVERYTHING in this game if we had won no one cares about these things but they were things that may have changed the complexion of the game. Cook is not a high % guy to begin - you take away .5 seconds from him with an extra blitzer to find Burbdridge and some of those drives stall earlier.
Lewis was fine. Burbridge is good and he has a QB who can deliver him the ball. I believe he was targeted 17x (19x?) and had 9 catches so that is about a 50/50 split. Again if we had more pash rush more consistently in this game vs that banged up OL maybe some of those passes are not delivered so well and Lewis has a pick or something to change the game. Kings saved our bacon with 2 key drops.
Special teams were great and took advantage of some horrid units by MSU. Which is why the last play was so frigging ironic.
Speaking of that last play and I won't speak much of it ever again, after I watched on replay for the Nth time it simply would never happen again if replayed 1000 times. The angle O'Neil was when hit, where the ball bounced (exactly into a MSU players hand), the fact the ball did not pop up in the air allowing UM guys to recover backwards, the fact it did not hit the ground and do strange bounces that footballs are famous for, the fact it didnt squirt out shorter (near O'Neil) or farther (nearer to the sideline). I mean if this was a movie they'd send it back to script writing to make it more believable. #@*()*@)(#*@)*#@()#*
Special Ref section
I'm not usually a guy to pile on refs but this was one of the worst ref jobs I've seen. Mostly towards UM but even some of the calls towards MSU were bad too. It stains the Big 10 if that is their best crew. Even more boggling were some of these calls stood (or were reversed) after yet another pair of eyes in the review booth had time to look at them.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY (DOD!) RANKINGS
Basing games on WHEN they are played and WHERE this was my general view on degree of difficulty for each opponent coming into the year and adjusted weekly, Again this is not how good the team is in a vacuum but how they match up vs UM.
|Week 7||Week 6||Week 5||Week 4|
|11||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State|
|Week 2||Week 1||Preseason|
|11||Oregon State||Oregon State||Oregon State|
- BYU (+1) - BYU was down 17-3 early and then 24-17 late, but scored 21 unanswered late in the game to win vs a mediocre Cincinnati. This is not so much about BYU as it is about Northwestern being a fraud. Mangum had a decent game. BYU pass D is still sort of LOL-y but they are a decent fringe top 25-35 team when all is said and done due to that offense and a decent rush D.
- PSU (+1) - I think this remains a trouble game for UM despite PSU's issues and I think UM fanbase will go into this game overconfident of a win. Matchup problems abound for our offense vs their defense - and this has the potential to be a #M00P game. On paper it looked like OSU blew out PSU but that game was 21-10 entering the 4th and Urban had to change his offense to get real production vs PSU's very good D. OSU changed from a relatively conventional offense with Cardale to a pure spread option late in the game with JT. Must be nice to be able to change your entire offense on the fly like that. A defense can only prepare for so much. JT Barrett went off 102 yds on 11 carries, much of it late (and 4/4 passing). UM does not run a spread rush offense and UM does not have a playmaker at QB. We also don't have Elliott at running back. This is going to be tough for UM's O. Quality of compeition caveats apply but PSUs D was not suddenly good overnight - they were excellent last year too and returned most of the same players. Post OSU, PSU still had the #10 passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and the #45 rushing defense. Those are better stats than MSU had. They are opportunistic and wont be playing a bunch of nobodies in the secondary. They have recovered 8 fumbles, good for #4 in the country. They have some demons on the DL in Zettel, Johnson, and Nassib. I worry about our OL greatly in this game. Also Saquon Barkley returned from injury and the freshman is cementing himself as the real deal. He rushed for 194 yds on 26 carries vs a decent rush D. So apparently high ranked running backs can make immediate impact and be everything their rankings imply. Just not at UM post Hart. Thisprojects to a slugfest under the lights. Thankfully Hack is no Cook. He was pretty crappy yet again (7/13 for 120 yds). No idea how you only have him throw 13x in a game you were behind most of the game - that's called distrust. He did get sacked a lot as OSU has a good DL too.
- Indiana (+1) - We are all Hoosiers this coming week. Indiana lost a Big 12ish game 55-52. If you want 2 outfits that don't play defense Indiana and Rutgers would be the 2 that come to mind. Indiana's normal RB did not play but it did not matter - this is Rutgers. Sudfeld went Sudfeld: 32/42 for 464 yds and 4 TDs but 2 INTs. I moved Indiana up because this is a road game and Indiana is going to get points so there is some danger. Also because Minnesota. I expect Michigan to get a lot of points too... as this is Indiana's defense. But who knows, some wacky plays on special teams or turnovers and you could find yourself in a weird situation.
- Northwestern (-2) - Well these first week results for Minn and NW have to be proven to be nothing more than misleading data. Your "top 5" defense just gave up 88 pts to two mediocre offenses Northwestern. No soup for you. We knew their offense was meh but that defense was supposed to keep them in games. Iowa is solid but not this solid - Wisconsin stymied Iowa's offense all day a few weeks back. Beathard didnt even have a big day - some dude named Akrum Wadley (all of 185 lbs) went off for 200+ yds on 26 carries. Justin Jackson was shockingly stymied for a 2nd week in a row (10 carries for 30 yards) and that is the extent of NW's offense. So that was essentially Iowa's "big test" on the remainder of their schedule. See you in Indianapolis Iowa.
- Minn (-1) - Boy that close game vs TCU seems ages ago. Now to be fair Nebraska is not as bad as their record indicated. I think they've lost on last second drives 3x this year and their 4 losses have been by a combined 11 pts. But they are just mediocre. This was 31-14 Neb going into the 4th before Minn unleashed the Leidner. Leidner actually played well for uhh the 3rd time in his career? 26/40 for 300 yds but Nebraska's pass D has a lot to be desired. And asking Mitch to do that 2x in a row would be like asking for a miracle. Neb completely destroyed Minn's rush offense and I am sure Leidner was playing against bend dont break defenses late. We will destroy their run offense too. Not worried.
- OSU - Same thing as every week. Best ceiling in conf, going through a litany of motions until MSU and @UM to close out the year. I'll talked about the OSU v PSU matchup above.
- Utah - After a scare last week, Utah was behind going into the 4th quarter vs Arizona State ... then went off for 20 pts. One of those ASU scores was on special teams so that Utah D continues to do nice things. And the offense has some explosion to it. Travis Wilson had himself a game (26/36. 297, 8.2 ave. 2 TD, 0 INT). Also helping Utah is their close game vs Utah State looks better in retrospect as Utah State dismantled ranked Boise State.
- MSU - Null. Please Indiana take out these fools.
- Maryland - I thought Maryland handled their bye well. No INTs were thrown.
- Rutgers - Laviano is proving to be a decent QB and Carroo is a good player. But before you get all hot and bothered by Rutgers, this was vs Indiana and their HS defense. Also, Indiana was leading 52-27 deep in the 3rd quarter. But then Indiana Indiana'd. Indiana had three turnovers in the 4th. It was a wacky game. I expect Rutgers to get a busted play or two against our secondary with Carroo but that is the extent of the offense against legit defenses. Their D has a playmaker on the DL and then a bunch of non playmakers everywhere else. IDK - maybe they are better than Maryland but again that was a road game and this is a home game - splitting hairs on who is less crappy.
- Oregon State - Washington State has a pathetic D and let OSU score 31 pts. But WSU scored 52 on OSU. Seth Collins was the whole show - he not only was throwing but he ran 23x for 124 yds. Based on his body size he might not make it to the end of the year. And again this was Washington State defense which is Indiana level.
- UNLV - UNLV lost to former 1-5 Fresno State. They continue to suck and without their 1st string QB don't offer much in resistance.
Well all year in this section I wrote "what worries me about 2015 is any team with a viable passing attack and can do explosive plays." So we saw that this weekend and even then it was something we could have overcome. But didn't. This was frustrating.
UM is not a playoff team but maybe could have snuck in off momentum of this win. If you put a playmaking QB on this team, teams have to respect the run a bit, and our ok OL might not have these issues vs more stout DL and our run game could get going more. And I think it could be a legit playoff team even with current issues - every team has some issues. But watching other games and their explosive offensive players, then watching Peppers be able to do it, and then watch every other skill player we have - it makes me wonder what Hoke was doing in offensive skill player recruiting. The "young guys" have also not contributed much at all this year - the Ways, Harris', Canteens (hurt often).
I've noted the run game has been helped by "1 big run" most of the weeks we do this so the stats have been misleading. This was apparent this week. It's not a top notch run offense. And I expect it to be apparent vs PSU. Not so much an issue vs Minn, Indiana, Rutgers. OSU I don't know yet - they will stack the line like everyone else and dare us to go over the top. Which we can't.
9 wins is still plausible but challenges await vs OSU ... and then PSU and Indiana for varied reasons. Minn and Rutgers will get UM bowl eligible and then some.
Still "ahead of schedule" vs where some of us thought 2 months ago but you change your schedule based on what you have. The D is a bit less elite than thought (missing a pass rush threat from the edge ala Calhoun or Bosa or Nassib) but good enough vs 90% of the teams in the country. And certainly most teams in the Big 10. But they simply need more help from the offense when they play serious teams (Utah, OSU, MSU).
I do also want to say when we look back on this offense in 5 years we are going to be shaking our head on what Harbaugh did with the team (I hope we are saying that about a 9-3 team). Its an average OL with ok running backs, and ok wide receivers and an ok QB. Butt is the one non ok player and even he has been marginalized a bit the past month as teams see that and take it away. The sum is greater than the parts - which points to coaching. But the overall talent level lacks and that is shown when playing these better defenses (Utah, MSU).
Then inflict pain on Minnesota which is a poor man's Northwestern with an offense built for UM to destroy.