(sorry, having trouble with the Imgur links, working on it)
In his Ticket Watch post, as a way to secure a lower price, Seth stated "especially if you can successfully hide your Michigan fandom."
I went to the MSU game without a ticket, and, without any worry that I would find one at a reasonable price.
Let's get to know our upcoming opponent the Ohio State Buckeyes!
Click on the player's name to bring up their picture. HINT: Set width to 150 when posting the image
In case you ever wondered how buckeyes were made....
Is it only my I pad and puter? Dang.
I took the snowfall as a good omen for us, and wanted to try and capture it in a wallpaper. This is the first one I came up with this morning. I may create and post more if I have the time today and later this week.
*updated with square/share format*
Sorry in advance if this post and/or links get messed up. Trying to quickly get it up at work.
Go Blue! Beat Ohio!
Meh: Straight to Streaming
I’m not a cord-cutter by any means, but I do subscribe to a number of streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO Go, and (briefly because I wasn’t paying attention) Hulu. And they are all great in their own respects; the original programming plus access to older movies is great. But beyond the Marvel television universe, alternative histories, and reminders why being single in Brooklyn can be insufferable even when you legitimately like the two people involved, the real benefit of all these services have become the bargain bin for those “direct-to-video” sequels you used to find in bins at Meijer. You find out they’ve made 9 Hellraiser movies, 6 Kickboxers, and 14(!) The Land Before Time films. They’re mostly garbage (I like Dave “Batista” Bautista as much as the next guy, but there is only one Tong Po in my life), but they can still be entertaining simply because they are usually carbon-copies of the original movies with some element turned up to 11.
This game felt like one Netflix suggests to you because you watched 10 minutes of a documentary on corn. Last year’s game was an epic contest featuring Jordan Howard putting up the 2nd-most yards rushing ever against the Wolverines, Jake Rudock throwing for 6 TDs and 440 yards, a game-tying catch by Chesson on 4th down with 12 seconds left in the 4th, and a double-overtime thriller that ended with a 4th-down pass breakup on the goalline. It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time, a game where both teams just threw haymakers and Michigan happened to wobble just a bit less. But this year, it just felt like a weak retread, a cash-grab because the schedule demanded it.
Indiana isn’t an offensive juggernaut anymore; they’re a slightly above-average defense (which for Indiana is a miracle) and a janky offense. Michigan was starting John O’Korn because Wilton Speight was injured, and when most UM fans are trying to convince themselves that “It’s virtually impossible to be as bad as he was at Houston under Harbaugh” and “I’m sure UM can win running the ball”, that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. Plus, there were gale-force winds, freezing temperatures, and I guess a little snow…
It was a close game for the first 3 quarters mostly because nobody could throw the ball with any consistency and both teams just sort of hunkered down and played snowball. I don’t buy the narrative that Jim Harbaugh didn’t “trust” O’Korn to throw the ball if necessary (Harbaugh doesn’t seem like the type to hold inconsistent views on a player), but O’Korn looked extremely uneasy out there early on and the playcalling was clearly designed to establish a running game and only have O’Korn throw on an early down. The fact O’Korn consistently missed open receivers and also had a nasty habit of rolling backwards while under pressure (if you had flashbacks of late Devin Gardner, you aren’t alone) didn’t help. Michigan was able to grind up Indiana behind De’Veon Smith’s 158 yard, 2 TD performance, a fitting senior sendoff for the first (in many, we hope) Harbaugh backs wearing the Maize and Blue. On the other side, Michigan’s defense bottled up Indiana’s rushing attack for most of the game, and most deep Lagow throws were either knocked down or nearly picked off. And oh by the way, Indiana had an average starting position of their own 20 while UM’s was at their own 38, goosed at it were by 2 punt blocks by the Wolverines.
And it wasn’t even fun in the way NC State vs. Notre Dame was, with drenching rain making every pass, tackle, kick, or even snap an adventure. This was just an unnecessary sequel to a classic, where the stakes were high and the game was close because of ineptitude and terrible conditions, not necessarily a well-played game. Still, it’s a game UM survived, and sets up another epic matchup against OSU next weekend. Let’s hope that next chapter in the franchise plays out a bit better than the last dozen.
Best: Lean On
After last week, for some inexplicable reason, there was concern that Michigan’s defense was faltering, that they were “exposed” because Akrum Wadley broke tackles and was basically Iowa’s offense in their upset win. No matters how many times you pointed out Iowa gained 230 yards total, their lowest output of the year (which is impressive considering PSU, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and NDSU all held them under 300 total yards), or that they averaged 3.4 yards per play, or that they completed 3 passes for 14 yards to everyone not named Wadley, or dozens of other examples of the defense’s steely performance, they’d say the team is collapsing. They’d point to Minnesota and Indiana last year, and say this and MSU scoring a bunch of meaningless points were canaries in the coal mine.
In some ways, it’s a natural reaction. It’s a very real issue that guys like Wadley and Scott have looked solid running the ball against a unit that at one point held 5 straight teams under 80 yards rushing. Tackling from the linebackers and secondary haven’t been uniformly bad like they were in years past (as anyone who lived through the GERG years can attest), but it’s definitely been a weakness some teams have exploited. And OSU looms as the greatest mountain to scale, full of ogres, poisonous snakes, and mobile QBs throwing to slot receivers.
But this ain’t 2015. UM’s defense has been dominant from game 1, and even the couple of cracks they’ve shown simply drop the defense from “one of the best ever” to “probably the best this year”. There seems to be this misnomer that “dominant” means, for lack of a better word, ungameplan-able. I mean, it may be news to some, but teams will do whatever they can to exploit your weaknesses, to force you to play left-handed, and simply call plays that put the ball in their playmakers’ hands in advantageous positions. Defenses will adjust, and UM has done an admirable job countering some of these changes, but when a game is close and the other team has its full playbook available to them, they are able to pry at these weak points. It’s why last week’s game was so weird; Iowa wasn’t overly successful running the ball on a per-play basis, but when you can do it about 50 times you’ll roll a 7 or 11 at least a couple of times.
In this game, Indiana had 255 total yards of offense on 66 plays for a paltry 3.9 yards per play, which are both their lowest outputs for the season. In fact, only OSU and UM have held IU under 300 yards, and that’s coming off a bit of an upswing for the Hoosiers, as they dropped 344 passing yards on PSU last weekend. And as is a custom with most UM opponents, IU got their yards on a handful of drives and not much else. Indiana had scoring drives of 75 (TD) and 68 (FG) yards. The other 10 drives (including 6 3- and 4-and out), they picked up 127 yards. This isn’t a vintage IU offense and the weather was butt, but that’s still an impressive performance against an offense that came into the game as one of the more explosive in the nation. Plus, IU’s biggest failing, their inability to finish scoring drives with points, wound up being pretty good; they got into the Michigan 40 yard line twice and scored 10 points.
For the game, UM recorded 12 TFLs for 47(!) yards, including 3 sacks for 28 (!!). And that TFL number probably underestimates how little breathing room IU had on the ground near the line; IU had 14 runs for 3 yards or less. Michigan had 8 pass breakups, which is incredible since Lagow only threw the ball 29 times and completed 14 of them. So in other words, if it wasn’t a catch Stribling, Hill, or Lewis were right in the receiver’s pocket. And the two biggest throws of the day were a 31-yard completion to Timian that was only open because Hill tripped, and the 37-yarder to Westbrook that was reviewed because the ball was moving a bit and Stribling was contesting it the whole way.
OSU will be a stiffer test, but at this point the defensive performance is becoming somewhat opponent-independent. Exactly 1 team thus far has cracked 400 yards of total offense, and that was MSU (401) making it look pretty in their loss. In 2015, UM gave up 461 yards to Minnesota, 527 to Indiana, and 482 to OSU. And it’s not like UM hasn’t faced good offenses; according to S&P, Colorado and PSU are top-40 offenses they beat by a combined 94-31. True, there have been beleaguered offenses on the docket (Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois), but Michigan also beat those teams by a combined 178-11. As the saying goes, you can only beat the teams on your schedule, and UM has just suffocated basically every team they’ve seen.
With the uncertainty at quarterback and it being a road game, expect the defense to be leaned on one more time. And unlike last year, this is a unit playing quite well heading into the game, and will be facing an offense that has had it’s own troubles in recent games. I’m not saying UM will be perfect, but a repeat of last year doesn’t seem likely by the defense.
Best: Senior Smash
In their last home games, it was the seniors that pulled this game out. Wormley, Glasgow, Charlton, and the rest of the front 7 just chewed up Indiana for most of the game. Indiana could barely get a pass off, and when they did Lewis and Stribling were there to knock the ball down or jar it loose. On offense, Smith had a career-high in yards and had two fantastic TD runs that were vintage De’Veon: he’d snake through the line, take some contact, bounce off, and surge toward the endzone. On a day when the passing game wasn’t taken out of the barn too much and was sputtering when it did get a shot (7/16 for 59 yards, 2 sacks, overthrows or drops by Chesson, Darboh and Butt), Smith carried the offense to a win. And while the offensive line wasn’t great (I saw Bredeson consistently getting pushed back/run around by IU’s aggressive front 7), Michigan still had 12 of their 15 first downs result from the run, and for the game UM was able to hold onto the ball almost 10 minutes longer than Indiana.
Best: A Healthy Glasgow
In this game last year, Jordan Howard was nigh unstoppable (35 carries, 238 yards, 2 TDs, 1 reception, 7 yards and a TD), and at least part of it was due to injuries to Mario Ojemudia and, in particular, Ryan Glasgow. It’s common knowledge that the defense took a nosedive last year when both were out, and in particular the run defense cratered without Glasgow at tackle.
What a difference a year makes.. Glasgow has been healthy all season, shooting up NFL draft charts, and absolutely destroyed a number of IU running plays by knifing into the backfield or chasing down backs as they probed the edges of the defense. He led the team with 3 TFLs, 5 solo tackles, and also forced a fumble. Wormley and Charlton were equally disruptive in their own ways (Wormley continuously chased chased down backs all night, and Charlton has basically entered into the “You aren’t stopping me without a hold” phase of his career as a rusher), but a big reason why I don’t expect OSU to have a lot of success running the ball inside next week is because of him.
Worst: A Re-Debut
I get the weather was bad. Indiana tried to throw the ball downfield and passes would just die. Indiana’s punter isn’t very good, but when his kicks weren’t being blocked you could still tell that the wind wreaked havoc on the ball in the air. And it was his first start at QB in basically 2 years, in a completely new offense from the one he ran last time, with said terrible weather conditions. Again, I understand that.
At the same time, this was an inauspicious debut for O’Korn. You can try to bury my in caveats, but 3.7 yards per pass is basically 3 yards worse than Tyler O’Connor’s play against OSU on the same day in largely the same conditions. The gameplan early on was clearly to give O’Korn some confidence, as Michigan called a nice swing pass to Isaac that picked up 21 yards (Chesson being flagged for a legit illegal block pushed UM back), and tried to get O’Korn out on the edge with some designed runs. Unfortunately, IU sniffed those out, and so instead of slowing the game down it seemed like O’Korn’s worst habits began to emerge. On a couple of passes, he’d drop back, feel some pressure, and then pull a Manziel and run backwards before wobbly throwing a ball short. He nearly pulled UM out of FG range on their second FG with that type of play, and floated a dangerous ball on another. Beyond a sack, running around like that increases the odds one of your linemen gets flagged for a hold or some other drive-killer. O’Korn did settle down a bit after his 30-yard run on 3rd-and-eight to set up the go-ahead TD, and on their nearly 9-minute drive to end the game, O’Korn got a first down throwing the ball to Darboh and another on a late hit out of bounds after he broke the pocket.
It goes without saying UM needs a better performance out of their QB to win next weekend. I know Barrett had a pretty terrible game himself throwing the ball, but (a) I don’t expect the weather will be nearly as onerous next game, and (b) he’ll be at home. If Speight can’t go, it’ll be on O’Korn to establish some semblance of a passing attack, and against OSU’s aggressive secondary that might end terribly.
I’m certainly not ready to bury him after one game, but a lot of the things Speight brings to the game (accuracy, ability to feel the rush and always look downfield) were definitely missing out there, and it has to improve.
Worst: RPS Without the PS
I wasn’t bothered that UM ran the ball most of the time; this was a game where you played to the weather as much as anything, and if Indiana is going to keep gifting you great field position there’s no reason to give it back with dangerous playcalls. That said, I am done with UM calling running plays to the short side of the field. Last week it was a couple of long-developing runs (including the big Evans TFL on 3rd down), and this week it was Peppers getting the chance to throw the ball as he sprinted toward the sideline. Indiana had sniffed the play out, but Peppers in the open field is always dangerous when you have some real estate, but you give away that freedom when you bring the sideline into the game. I’m not saying you always have to run to the field side of the play, but one plays when it’s reasonable to assume your ballcarrier will need to make a guy or two miss, give him some extra room to work with so that the defense can’t just jumble everyone up.
Also, and this might just be selective recall, but it felt like a number of the passes called for O’Korn required him to throw across the middle of a congested field. That’s likely a result of his issues running the offense and how compact the defense could get, but a number of his throws had chances to be tipped or outright picked off. It’s been a couple of weeks now where the playcalls don’t quite match the strengths on the field, and that has to change before they go to Columbus.
Best: Special Teams We Deserved
He's the kicker Gotham deserves.https://t.co/P8iFdRWClN
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 19, 2016
Kenny Allen made a couple of short FGs early on to keep UM in the game, punted reasonably well, and consistently booted kick-offs out of through the endzone. But immense praise must go to the punt return team, which blocked two IU efforts while Peppers save UM huge yardage by catching wobbly balls in the air and at least getting them down. In a game that early-on felt like one of field position and some luck, getting an extra 10-15 yards per drive were huge.
Worst: Les Miles Strikes Again
I’m glad the guy got to come back to Michigan and take in a game. He was seemingly always on borrowed time these past couple of years at LSU, surviving a coup by boosters out for blood last season after similar, less explicit calls for his removal in years past. And while I agree that he needed to go this year, getting fired in the middle of the season is always rough. So I’m not going to begrudge the guy a return to some friendlier confines.
That said, ESPN had no reason to drag him into a booth during the game and discuss his future job prospects. I mean, ESPN has always had a weird infatuation/hard-on for UM and Les Miles, to the point that Miles had to refute seemingly fabricated reports from ol’ Herby of his imminent arrival in Ann Arbor before playing for the national title. Yes, I get that Miles has an agent and that’s how stunts like this happen, but just call the game. Instead, we get Miles basically saying nothing while UM and IU battle into the 2nd quarter. And you’d think those guys would have learned their lesson with previous UM-related visitors.
Next Week: Something Inconsequential
Michigan goes out of conference to end the season, battling the fightin’ Frank Solich’s of Ohio University. Oh wait, no, UM is going to Columbus for yet another epic battle with the Buckeyes. Part of me knows OSU does this every year, where they take MSU for granted and look vulnerable just to get my hopes up. When full operational, Urban Meyer’s units are swirling balls of death and broken chairs. But this OSU team is definitely weaker than earlier iterations, at least offensively. They rely immensely on J.T. Barrett to keep the ball moving both in the air and on the ground; he’s run the ball 164 times this season for only 4.4 yards per carry. Mike Weber is talented but also a redshirt freshman, and after a blistering start to the year has been nothing more than fine for about a month (he had 111 yards against MSU, but 52 came on a single run). Curtis Samuel is terrifying both as a receiver and a rusher, but after him there’s a whole bunch of meh at receiver (Noah Brown had a career high in catches and 4 TDs against Oklahoma, but otherwise has been held in check most of the year). Their offensive line has struggled at times keeping people off Barrett (they’ve given up 17 sacks on the year), and are going to be facing one of the national leaders in TFLs. This isn’t last year’s offense with Elliott and a slew of seasoned NFL draft picks; it’s a younger unit propped up a bit by Samuel, Weber, and especially Barrett.
As for the OSU defense, it’s chaotic and has stars in the secondary but does seem susceptible to traditional running offenses. Wisconsin blasted them for 236 yards on 46 carries, MSU put up 207 on 35, and both NW and PSU were able to keep the game close by moving the ball on the ground somewhat. If Michigan can keep it close, I think there are drives that can be pounded out between the tackles. And if Speight can go and doesn’t have any lingering issues throwing the ball, I think UM’s receiving corp can give OSU trouble, especially Jake Butt against the Buckeye linebackers. I also assume Peppers will be fully deployed in this game, and he’s due for a big run or catch.
Two weeks ago, I thought UM was the moderate favorite. With O’Korn under center on the road, I’d give the nod to OSU ever so slightly. But this is absolutely a game that UM can win with an okay performance from their QB; I’m not sure OSU can win if Barrett completes 50% of his passes and runs the ball 25 times. I’m not taking the maize-tinged glasses off quite yet, so I’m expecting UM pulls out a nail-biter and moves on to the B1G title game.
The tenor of this game in terms of how we felt about it can be summed up in the following factoid - there was all of one "awesome" used in the game thread last night, and it was used in a manner which was clearly sarcastic. We're normally rather sparse with effusive praise, but when one of the words tracked to indicate that is used sarcastically, you get a great feel for the rest of the analysis.
There was a season-high usage of "fire" too, come to think of it, but much of it not so much directed at coaches. It was used mostly in complaints about Michigan's perceived lack of intensity or urgency in a game they should theoretically win handily (and did win, but maybe not handily). There was a tie for the season-high usage of "suck" too - most of that was directed at O'Korn and strangely towards the one bright spot on offense - De'Veon Smith.
Never let it be said that didn't give a good amount of fucks, of course - there were 263 fucks given in this game, which is actually the third highest total of the season. We also gave exactl 100 shits, which is the fourth highest total for the season. It seems like any way you slice our reaction to this game, it was not one which would make you think we were waiting enthusiastically for The Game.
The advanced metrics tell the story too:
FART Rate - 1.315, which is the fourth highest rate on the season
SHART Rate - 0.500, which is the fourth highest rate on the season
SQUIRT Number - 2.630, which is actually the sixth highest on the season
FAP Rate - 1.992, which was the sixth highest on the season
So, overall reaction to this game is - in season terms - kind of mild. It definitely was not the visceral reaction to the frustration of the Iowa game, but certainly not the comfortable reaction to Rutgers. This game sat sort of in that middle tier of games which can be best described as, "I think we're just happy that we won".
As for the thread size and efficiency, there were 739 tracked instances across 1,888 posts, which turns into an overall efficiency of 2.55 - that is consistent with a stressful win in the new Harbaugh-era version of the efficiency metric. Far and away, the two highlights when it comes to sheer volume and size this year are MSU and Iowa, but we have The Game coming up. One of the things that has held true in this analysis as in The Game, is that unexpected things happen and we see things which make us think "Where the hell was that all year?".
I fully expect some data to be skewed and some records to be broken, especially because this game matters....like, a lot this time.