I did not make this headline up
Dear Ann Arbor News,
You have a job to fill. Sports columnist. The problem with your last one (Jim Carty): not enough of a homer. You could go the traditional, boring route: hire some other dude with the "right" credentials. And watch us all hate him.
Or you could hire Brian Cook. Brian, as you may know, happens to run the best damn Michigan blog in the land. He would make an excellent hire, and would make a splash (the mixing of new and old media, and all that).
So, a choice. Hire some lame dude/dudette. Or hire Brian (if he's willing). Don't miss the opportunity!
These words are here in order to meet the 200-word diary minimum that Brian so ruthlessly enforces. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Especially these words: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0.
I think gsimmons has covered many of the problems of the defense in the comments section, so I'm just going to write about a few things I saw out of the offense.
- I saw more man blocking on the O-line this game that what I noticed the last few weeks. The counters with Moundrous coming across the line of scrimmage produced a couple big gains. The line looked much better in the man scheme than the zone. They were getting a decent push and getting to the second level. The timing on the zone scheme just doesn't look quite right yet. We may see more man blocking as the year progresses if the zone scheme continues to struggle.
- Although they struggled more in the zone scheme, it was not always to the play side. There were a few plays where I thought Threet should have kept the ball. The DE had his shoulders completely turned, and Threet still handed the ball off. The DE was then able to run down the play from the back side for minimal gain. The corners were also pretty agressive on the running plays. I thought the zone read where Threet has the wideout as a third option may have worked well in the game.
- One of the ways Illinois was defending the zone read was to immediately bring the backside linebacker to tackle the QB. So you have an unblocked DE to take the RB, and an unblocked linebacker to take the QB. In this case, the QB should immediately throw the bubble screen. Against Illinois, Michigan already had an advantage by alignment with a safety 10 - 15 yards off the ball. With a linebacker going after the QB, there is no inside out flow to the play. If its a good throw, its probably a 6-7 yard gain every time.
- I thought we would see more bubble screens, but its probably better we did not. The blocking by our wide recievers was probably the worst I've seen all year. The basic idea behind stalk blocking as a wideout is to sell vertical until the DB stops his back pedal. If if he starts to come up under control, you stay in front of him, hit him, get your hands on the breast plate of his shoulder pads, keep your feet moving and drive him back. If he comes up hard, cut him and keep him on the ground. The wideouts looked very tentative in their blocks, and you have to be aggressive but under control when blocking as a wideout. If Matthews gets a block on the play that Minor fumbled, it probably goes for a big gain.
- The play in the first half where Threet threw it to the middle of the field was probably a mistake by Odoms. Miller was running with him down the middle on his release, and thats a good mismatch for us. Threet thought he was going to keep running, but he broke off over the middle. Either he just ran the wrong play, or he thought Miller was going to stay over top of him. Either way, I think Odoms was wrong on that play.
- I think we will see more shake up on the left side of the line. Ortmann is a step slow at guard, and I thought Dorrestein was consistently standing up off the snap instead of driving out of his stance low. He was blown backwards several times as a result. This is a fundamental thing that should be fixed this week in practice.
Overall, the offense did some good things, but they also did a lot of bad things. If we hit on the long passes to Savoy and Odoms at the end of the first half, maybe that changes the game. I don't want to beat a dead horse with things that have already been discussed, but I thought I'd point out a few things that I haven't seen in the comments section.
Nothing too earth shattering about the numbers from the Illinois game, most of the results would be right in line with expectations after watching the game.
Overall, Illinois had a game score of +21. The breakdown was: +22 offense, -5 defense, 0 field position, +2 kicking game, +2 penalties.
Michigan had a game score of-22. -2 offense, -16 defense, 0 field position, -1 kicking, -2 penalties. Odoms did produce one of the top 10 receiving performances for the week with a +10 adjusted game score.
The offense/defense numbers vary slightly between the two teams because they are normalized based on the expected performance of the opposing unit.
Michigan was the 9th worst performance of the week while Illinois was the 15th best.
The projected score based on field position was Michigan's closest of the season: Illinois 30, Michigan 29
For my overall team rankings and the top performances from the week, you can go to my blog.
Offense Overall: -2
Running game: -6
Sam McGuffie: -1
Stephen Threet: -1
Brandon Minor: 0
M. Odoms: 0
Passing Game: +4
M. Odoms: +10 (9th best performance of the week)
Greg Matthews: +9
Mark Moundros: +2
Michael Shaw: +1
L. Savoy: 0
Sam McGuffie: -1
Penalties (Offense): -2
Defense Overall: +16
Rush defense: +8
Juice Williams: +8
Daniel Dufrene: -1
Pass defense: +8
A. Benn: +8
D. Dufrene: +7
Penalties (Defense): +1
We can bitch about the offensive ineptitude all season - but most of us have prepared ourselves for that. We're also prepared to lose some football games. Heck, we're even coming to realize and prepare for freshman mistakes like bad routes, lack of blocking by skill players, and fumbles. But what I am NOT prepared for is a veteran defense giving up 500 yards and 45 points. They can't blame that on the offense this week. Only the late Odoms fumble was an example of the D being put in a bad spot. Otherwise the offense got them a lead and Zoltan pinned Illinois deep on most occassions. This loss was ALL on the defense.
Let me preface this entry by saying that I don't have a lot of football knowledge when it comes to specific formations, plays, or strategies. There are no doubt plenty of readers who can comment on those details and we'll get some more insight in the UFR. I was at the game and sitting in the fourth row, so my perspective may also be skewed with regard to what was actually happening.
That being said, I was frustrated by what I perceived to be a "prevent" defense being implemented consistently against Illinois in obvious passing downs. My definition of "prevent" is when you rush only three guys and drop 8 into a soft zone. I don't care if those three guys are Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, and Derrick Thomas - when you have 5 offensive lineman blocking three rushers you're going to fail more often than you succeed. Against Illinois there were too many replays where I saw one of their offensive lineman looking around for someone to block and not finding anyone.
The fact is, Juice Williams is not a great passing QB. I'm sure ILL fans will point to his stats against Michigan to argue that point. But the guy completed only 50% of his passes. The fact that 13 completions went for 300+ yards is on the defense. Whenever he was pressured, he fired as inaccurately as Threet does on most occassions. But when he had all day to sit around looking for a receiver, he picked us apart. Like the DL analogy above, I'm convinced that a good pass rush will create an All-Pro corner out of a mediocre one. I don't care if you have Woodson, Law, and Jackson as your DBs - if they have to cover for a long time and the QB has a chance to read the defense, they'll lose most of the time. And that's what you saw on Saturday (in my opinion).
The 3-man rush, which I associate with "prevent" looked to be a failure on Saturday. I was told that Shafer loves to blitz.....but where was it? I know you take a risk when you blitz against a 5-wide formation with a running QB. But was that risk greater than letting Juice F-ing Williams pick you apart from an easy chair inside the pocket? I think we all realize that the defense has to create a turnover or two to compete against tough teams. How do you expect to get a turnover if you're rushing three and sitting in a soft zone?
That's my gripe - the defense blew the game and I thought they failed both in strategy and execution. Even a Henne-Hart-Manningham offense is going to struggle to overcome 45 points and 500 yards of offense. I thought Michigan should/could have scored 31 points - counting the 4 points that Lopata missed and the wide open miss of Odoms running down the middle of the field. Scoring 31 points with this young offense is pretty good....and we would have still lost by two touchdowns thanks to the defense.
This year, like every other year (except for the 2005 season – USC/Texas NC game), there is going to be some BCS craziness happening at the end of the year. There is actually the potential for 3, yes 3, non-BCS schools with a shot at BCS bowl games. The winner of the Utah/BYU is one, Boise State is the second and Tulsa/loser of the Utah/BYU game could be the third dark horse. With the BCS committee only required to take one non-BCS school in a BCS bowl game, there is the potential for 2 very good undefeated schools not getting picked over a 2 loss SEC or Big 12 team or a 1 loss Big Ten team. As a BCS committee member, what would you do? I am going to pose a scenario for you and would like some discussion.
Big 12 Champion – Oklahoma (13-0)
Big 12 Runner-up – Missouri (12-1)
There is potential for those to be switched.
SEC Champion – Alabama (12-1)
SEC Runner-up – Florida (11-2)
Big 10 Champion – Ohio State (11-1)
Big 10 Runner-up – Penn State (11-1)
Big East Champion – Pittsburgh (10-2)
ACC Champion – Virginia Tech (11-2)
Pac 10 Champion – USC (11-1)
Mountain West Champion – BYU (12-0)
Mountain West Runner-up – Utah (11-1)
WAC Champion – Boise State (12-0)
Conference USA Champion – Tulsa (13-0)
MAC Champion - Ball State (13-0)
Going by what I just laid out, here are the BCS Bowls
National Championship – #1/#2
Rose Bowl – Big Ten Champion/Pac 10 Champion
Fiesta Bowl – Big 12 Champion vs. At Large
Orange Bowl – ACC Champion vs. At Large
Sugar Bowl – SEC Champion vs. At Large
(Pittsburgh automatically gets one of the at large bids)
There are only 10 slots for the BCS bowl games and 6 are guaranteed to BCS conference champions, who will fill the other 4 slots? Here are the candidates: Missouri, Florida, Penn State, BYU, Utah, Boise State, Ball State and Tulsa. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Does an undefeated BYU team deserve to play in the National Championship Game? Does a 1 loss Utah team deserve to be in a BCS Bowl, how about a 13-0 Tulsa or Ball State team, or a 2 loss Florida team? Will Missouri be penalized again for losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game?
This is complete insanity and the BCS needs to take note and make some significant changes to its current system. With the current scenario posed, most likely all of these teams will be ranked in the top 14, but 4 are going to get the shaft and my fear is that all 4 of those teams will be non-BCS teams. I think the worst case scenario for the BCS committee would be for Oklahoma, Penn State and BYU to go undefeated with Alabama going 12-1. At that point who do you choose? With the word parity being used almost every week, the BCS needs to get with the times and see that a 2 team championship game just isn’t going to cut it anymore. I know that I am beating a dead horse with this issue, but I think now, more than ever, the shit is going to hit the fan.
On a side note, I would like to see some comments about who you would put in the BCS bowls based on the posed scenario. This is what I got:
National Championship – Oklahoma/BYU
Rose Bowl – Ohio State/USC
Fiesta Bowl – Missouri vs. Boise State
Orange Bowl – Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh
Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Penn State
My apologies to Ball State, Tulsa, Utah and Florida although I think that any of these teams deserves a bid over Pittsburgh and Ball State, Tulsa and Utah deserve one over Virginia Tech. More reasons why the BCS Sucks!
I was going to post this as a comment on another thread, but it got long enough that I decide to separate it into its own entry.
I've heard quite a bit of criticism about our playcalling against Illinois, and I think some of it is warranted - on the surface. But I think there's something that most people aren't thinking about.
As Michigan fans, we are used to competing for Big 10 titles on an annual basis. It has been a long, long time since our team was in analysis mode. What I mean by that is that this year, it's not about competing for the conference. That's a nice goal, sure, but the true aim of the coaching staff should be implementing the system that they believe will make us the most successful, and with as many freshmen as we have, that's going to take A LOT of teaching.
But back to the playcalling topic ...
Are the coaches being stubborn and running a lot of plays that probably aren't going to be successful? Sure, I don't think most of us will argue that.
But I think RR has made it more than clear that no matter how ugly it is, he's throwing us full-bore into the spread offense. He's not going to half-ass it this year and run a tiny section of the playbook, or a simplified version, in an attempt to go 8-4 instead of 6-6. We're going balls to the wall - he's finding out who can do what, what works and what doesn't, and he's not going to ignore the possibility of doing something just because it doesn't seem to fit our personnel.
I think RR knows that realistically, Threet isn't going to be successful as an option QB. So why are we seeing option pitches from him to McGuffie (two of which have resulted in fumbles)? Simple: He's finding out if Threet can prove him wrong. You might as well see if a player can do something before you dismiss it out of hand. He's already proven more effective as a runner than any of would have expected, and if RR believes that those plays are going to help the offense reach its maximum effectiveness (and obviously he does), he MUST find out if Threet can run it. Why is Shaw in as a lead blocker? Why is Moundros flaring out into the flat as a receiver? These are things that these guys have never been asked to do, at least not at the college level. Putting them in that situation isn't likely to result in anything positive - not right now, anyway. But what's the worst that can happen on that option play? We fumble, the other team recovers, and maybe it costs us a touchdown. The flipside? What if Threet shocks us all and runs the option beautifully? We've suddenly added an entirely new dimension to the offense, not just for the rest of this season, but possibly for the next four years. Again, as a coach, you find out if those guys can make those plays, because if they CAN ... well, then you're starting to figure out how to make your offense the best it can be.
If there's one thing that RR's track record demonstrates, it's that his transitions are ugly but ultimately successful. Go back and look at his first year at each school. Then look at the years right after.
Glenville College: 1-7-1 the first year, 5-5 the next, national title the fourth year. As OC at Tulane: 7-4 the first year, 12-0 the second. As OC at Clemson: 6-6 the first year, 9-3 the second. At West Virginia: 3-8 the first year, 9-4 the second, Sugar Bowl in his fourth year. There will be adjustments, but the coaches have to figure out what they have - and what those guy can do - and that takes TIME.
I'm not saying that I won't question anything we're doing strategy-wise. Like I said, there are clearly some things that have raised eyebrows, mine included. But you have to realize that each playcall, each substitution, etc., is not done in a vacuum where the only thing that matters is end result of that play, or winning that game - which is what most of us have become accustomed to. RR is thinking long-term, and there are going to be some very ugly situations and questionable (on the surface) decisions that are done with a lot more in mind than the average fan realizes.