Michigan took both games in the midweek, beating Toledo by a score of 8-4 and Bowling Green State by a score of 8-5. I'm not going to get into either game too much as the midweek games are pretty meaningless from a long term perspective, but there were a few notable players and storylines worth recapping.
Eric Katzman was brilliant in relief of Matt Miller on Tuesday. Katzman went 5 innings, allowing just one hit and two walks to earn the win. It was great to see him get a solid long relief appearance and hopefully this builds his confidence when it comes to the weekend relief corps. He was mixing up pitches really well, and had some stretches of "effective wildness" that kept hitters off balance and rolling over pitches.
On offense, Ryan LaMarre kept his offensive tear rolling, knocking a 2-run homer in the first inning, his first long ball since returning from the injury. But not everyone enjoyed the LaMarre homer. Chris Berset, still feeling the "sting" of losing his 3-hole spot last weekend, came up on the next pitch to hit a solo home run of his own, the first back-to-back homers Michigan has had since February 2009.
John Lorenz also added on in the early innings to remind some of us that he's just as capable of producing in the 8-hole. Biondi also went 3/4.
This game was a bit more bothersome from an offensive perspective. For the most part, Michigan was kept off base for the first 5 innings. Biondi and Toth combined to produce a run in the first inning, and then the offense went into hibernation mode as Apthorpe chewed through our lineup.
Upon Apthorpe's exit, things picked up. Anthony Toth picked up his first career homer, and LaMarre and Berset both followed that up with hits. After a Crank hit by pitch, the Falcons made their only error of the game on a would be double play ball to end the inning. Instead, it opened the flood gates to a 5 run Michigan inning.
Things weren't all sunshine and happy following the inning. On Berset's double, LaMarre went 1st to 3rd and came up holding his hamstring, stretching it out thoroughly during a pitching conference at the mound. LaMarre would stay in and score on a Dufek sac fly, but he left the game as a precautionary move to start the next inning. He's expected to be fine for the Illinois series.
On the mound, Matt Gerbe made a good start, making it through 4 innings and giving up just one run. He gave up a lot of baserunners, but he managed to escape time and again. That changed in the 5th inning. After loading the bases, with only one out, Gerbe threw a wild pitch through Crank's legs. That plated the first Falcon run of the inning. The next batter would line one right back to Gerbe who made a great snag to catch the ball for an out, but when Gerbe went to throw out the runner at third for not tagging up, the ball was thrown away. Two more runners would score and Gerbe would be pulled.
Kolby Wood came in and did alright in earning the win, but the team did have to use Burgoon again for 2 innings. Tyler was lights out as usual, but I have to wonder what his availability is this weekend. I imagine he won't be in Friday unless it's a dire necessity.
Bonus update from The Daily's game wrap:
“I want to thank Tyler Burgoon for my inspiration for my first home run,” Toth said. “He inspired me by telling me I am never going to get one. He tells me that every single day, whether we have a game or not, so I’m glad I got that monkey off my back.”
Illinois questioning [ed: and awesome excel graph!] after the jump:
Who’s Who in College Football—or Which OOC Team is Most Like a Big 10 Team:
I’m interested by similarities between teams in different parts of the country. Some teams just should be good. Some teams just should suck. This goes beyond who is the current coach and the team’s record over the past five years, but extends into areas that include demographics, recruit density, tradition, and conference affiliation. Schools with everything going in their favor should be strong, even if they aren’t historically, and those who don’t shouldn’t be as good over the long run. For example, Boise State just shouldn’t be as good as Texas—even if Boise State decided to pour the same amount of money into football as Texas. They simply don’t have the necessary recruiting base, tradition, or exposure to draw the recruits required to compete with Texas—despite Boise’s relatively strong program. With the long dark offseason upon us, I’m thinking of some comparative projects to occupy my college football obsession over the next eight months.
With that in mind, I’ve identified a team to match with each team in the Big 10 from elsewhere in the country. This isn’t about who had the best and worst records this year or even in the last five. It’s about looking at the whole picture and determining who is most similar to schools in the Big 10. I’ll save Michigan for last, and I’m interested to see what everyone’s thoughts are. This isn’t meant to be a definitive list or an insult to any school, rather something to foster discussion and force me to learn more about the greater college football landscape.
Ohio State = Texas
To me, this is the
easiest comparison to make. Ohio and
Texas are two of the most populous states in the Union, with Ohio at number 7
and Texas at number 2. Each state has a
very large public university system, with Ohio State and Texas clearly standing
out as the flagship schools for both states (I know Miami, not that Miami, is a
solid school—but tOSU is vastly improved academically and is clearly Ohio’s
flagship school). Texas does produce
significantly more talent as a state than Ohio, but I think the top recruits
available per school are relatively similar because Texas supports so many more
BCS teams (4, 5 with TCU to 2 for Ohio).
There were 13 Rivals 100 recruits in Texas to four in Ohio last year.
The football teams are obviously similar today and over time. Ohio State is number 5 all-time in winning percentage and Texas is number 3. Both teams have been elite over time and there is no reason to think that either school will falter soon. The programs are also considered to be among the most valuable, according to Forbes, with Texas ranked number 1 and OSU at number 8. You could even drill down further with the comparison. They have had iconic coaches, Hayes and Royal, iconic players, Griffin and Young, along with numerous titles and conference dominance. Ohio State may be coming out of a long period of struggling against elite competition, just like Texas when Big Game Bob Stoops was in his prime. Finally, each team has a historically elite level rival from a smaller state that poaches many of its best players from Texas/Ohio—Oklahoma and Michigan.
Ohio State and Texas
are elite football schools from football crazy states that should, based on
demographics, own their conferences and regions.
Other schools considered: Florida, USC
Penn State = Florida
Forget the obvious comparison between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. Seriously, forget it. Despite each of those coaches building their program completely in their image and serving as the single most recognizable person affiliated with either school, the comparison still sticks when the coaches are ignored or marginalized in the analysis.
Pennsylvania is the 6th
most populous state while Florida is 4th. Florida is obviously one of the great
recruiting hotbeds for football talent, with 7 Rivals 100 recruits last
year. However, Pennsylvania holds its
own with 3. Neither school is the
strongest academic school in the state.
Pennsylvania has several top schools, such as Penn and Carnegie Mellon,
while Florida and Miami are both easily stronger academically than FSU.
Beyond the coaches, both teams are historically similar. Both were long-time independents, and joined the Big Ten and ACC soon after Arkansas agreed to join the SEC in 1990—signaling the death knell for the Southwest Conference and putting the writing on the wall for independents everywhere. By 1990, both programs were very strong, and were expected to dominate their conference upon entry. This definitely happened in FSU’s case, but not so much for Penn State.
As I previously stated,
I believe that FSU and Penn State are very similar without the coaches. When the coaches are incorporated, they
become extremely similar. I won’t bore
anyone with the details, but they are both great, all-time win list, etc and
the schools are both bracing for life after the program icon—with FSU having
Other schools considered:
Michigan State = Auburn
This was a tough
comparison in many ways. MSU is its own
special character, and finding it a partner wasn’t easy. Obviously, you can’t define MSU without
incorporating Michigan. MSU, perhaps
more than any team in the Big Ten is defined by its rival. While there were periods where MSU was
unquestionably better than Michigan, over time it isn’t even close. There are several schools that are
historically similar in addition to Auburn, such as Texas A&M and UCLA, but
I chose Auburn because of Michigan’s and Alabama’s (state not school)
Alabama is a much less populous state than Michigan, at number 23 to Michigan’s 8. However, it is surrounded by (and is) very fertile recruiting territory and is surrounded by some very populous states, such as Florida and Georgia. This enables Alabama to house two big time programs despite its relatively small size. While both schools have had periods of great success, Auburn for much of this decade and MSU in the 1960s, both have generally been overshadowed by their in-state rival.
Both schools are
considered to be relatively strong academically, but not at the level of their
in-state big brother—although the University of Alabama appears to fluctuate
quite a bit in the rankings I looked at.
They are both public institutions and long time members of their
Auburn and MSU are also both interesting because of their contrasting histories during the 1960s. Duffy Daugherty at MSU famously took many black recruits that schools like Auburn and Alabama couldn’t admit, and built a national power in the 1960s.
considered: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, UCLA
Illinois = Virginia
Illinois and Virginia are
two of the schools whose lack of success in football is difficult to
fathom. Both are unquestionably old
money, high quality schools. The states
are relatively populous, with Virginia coming in at number 12 and Illinois at
number 5. Also, I lived in Northern
Virginia for about 18 months, and felt like Washington D.C. was almost a part
of the state. Assuming about half of the
population thinks the same thing, with the other half leaning towards Maryland;
the effective population expands to number 11 in the US. Both are long-time members of their
respective conferences, and have a solid recruiting base. Each has won two conference titles in the
last 25 years.
Given their population,
history, and status as the flagship public school in a populous state, both
schools should be much better at football.
Unfortunately for them, each has failed to keep up with their more
powerful conference members. In
Illinois’ case, Notre Dame has also made life difficult for the football
program. Virginia has always been
overshadowed by their more powerful southern cousins in the SEC.
Other schools considered: California, Arizona
Wisconsin = Colorado
Before I started this research project, I would not have placed these two schools together. I started with the idea that Texas was very similar to Ohio State and how similar MSU was to teams like Auburn and Texas A&M, but I had very little to go on for the rest of the conference. First, Colorado and Wisconsin are similar in population, ranking 22 and 20 respectively. Neither is a hotbed of top recruiting talent, producing one Rival’s 100 recruit each in 2008. Both are good, quality schools in pretty fun college towns.
They are pretty similar football wise, although Wisconsin has had much more success the past 15 years. Wisconsin has six Rose Bowl berths, two since 1998 and has emerged as a solid 3rd or 4th team most years in the Big Ten. Colorado was one of the stronger Big 8 teams right before the Big 12 was created, including a national title in 1990, but has fallen on hard times recently under Gary Barnett and Dan Hawkins.
These schools are examples of schools that shouldn’t be very good. Both are a long way relative to their opposition from the population centers that produce their conference’s best recruits, Texas in the Big 12 and Ohio/Pennsylvania in the Big 10 and they don’t have elite tradition on their side. Wisconsin has built its niche in the Big 10 by being the only Big 10 team that still plays classic Big 10 meat grinder football, and Colorado likely needs to find a similar formula to build its success.
Other schools considered: Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska
Iowa is really
hard. It is the least populous state in
the Big 10 footprint, yet it is a top 30 public school. They have solid football history, including
eleven Big 10 titles. It is difficult to
find a school that matches it demographically, is strong academically, and has
a solid football background. I picked
Arkansas for several reasons, delineated below.
Arkansas is behind Iowa academically by about forty spots according to US News. However, it is still a solid school and has an underrated football history, like Iowa. Arkansas has 13 conference titles to its credit, and both schools claim one national title. Demographically, they are similar. Iowa is the 31st most populous state, while Arkansas is number 33. Each is the smallest state by population in their conference and produces similar top talent. Iowa had one top 100 player last year while Arkansas had two. Both are traditionally behind their more powerful rivals, but have been able to remain competitive.
Minnesota = Syracuse
Did you know both schools didn’t always suck at football? Both schools are northern programs far, far away from the recruiting hotbeds in the South and West. Both recently played in really crappy dome stadiums despite the potentially massive advantage of playing outdoors in a northern stadium. Minnesota moved out of the Humpty Dome last year, but the Carrier Dome still lives.
Minnesota was actually
Michigan’s first real rival, having excellent teams in the 30s, 40s, and 60s,
with the Little Brown Jug going back to 1903.
Both Syracuse and Minnesota were early beneficiaries of integration,
especially Syracuse with Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. Each have solid academic programs in very
Other schools considered: Oregon
Northwestern = Stanford
Obvious, right? The only other good options were Duke and
Vanderbilt, but they’ve shown very little inclination to be serious about
football in the last long time, even though Duke has had success in the distant past.
Other schools considered: Duke, Vanderbilt
Purdue = Maryland
Both schools are solid schools in similarly sized states. Each is easily overshadowed by their more powerful neighbors. Each claims one national title and several conference titles. Both schools have had recent success, but show no signs of breaking through and competing year in and year out for titles.
Other schools considered: Pitt
Indiana = Washington State
Both historically suck,
can you tell I have nothing to say about Indiana? The states are similarly sized, with
Washington at 13 and Indiana at number 16.
Washington produced zero top 100 players last year, while Indiana had
one. Indiana has played in nine bowl
games, while Wazzu has played in 10.
Both have losing records to Michigan (and just about everyone else) and lay claim to
fountains of unintentional comedy—Lee Corso and Ryan Leaf.
Other schools considered: Kansas, Iowa State
Michigan = Oklahoma
I really think this is a great comparison for many reasons. However, I want to get the glaring weakness out of the way first. The University of Oklahoma may be the best school in the state and the best school for many, many country miles, but it is not even close to Michigan. Enough said, right?
I chose Oklahoma for
Michigan over everyone else for the reasons below. However, because this is a Michigan blog, I
want to explain how I eliminated everyone else. Michigan, like every other
team, is defined partly by the demographics and history of its conference. If we accept the Big 2 (tOSU and Michigan)
premise that most years those should be the best teams in the Big Ten based on
historical success, then no one in the PAC 10, Big East, or ACC closely matches
Michigan’s situation. Each has its historical
strong school, but not two or more historical juggernauts. I could place FSU and Virginia Tech here with the ACC, but
I don’t believe they match Michigan and Ohio State’s situation because there isn’t a historical rivalry and neither has the same amount of
history. The SEC has two teams that are
close to Michigan's situation, Tennessee and Alabama.
I discounted Tennessee because their monster rival from a bigger state
(Florida) hasn’t been as good for as long as tOSU and they have only played 39
times to 106 for Michigan-Ohio State and 99 for Texas-OU. Alabama was discounted because they don’t
have a great out of state rivalry that has mattered nationally like Michigan-Ohio
Football-wise, these schools are very similar. Both are very old money. Each claims 42 conference titles and many national titles. Both schools have had some of the best coaches out there, and continue to be relevant today. Despite their astonishing success, neither is a recruiting hotbed. Each school must poach most of its top players from elsewhere in their conference footprint and nationally.
I find the most
intriguing similarity to be the comparison between Oklahoma and the members of the
Big 12 to Michigan and the members of the Big 10. Both schools are either the best or second
best school in just about each meaningful modern statistic in their respective
conference: conference titles, All-Americans, wins, etc. Both schools have a much larger school to the
south that is its traditional rival, Texas and tOSU. Both schools down south hold just about every
advantage over Michigan and Oklahoma.
They are in top recruiting states and should be consistently better
based on demographics. Yet Michigan and
Oklahoma claim more conference titles and national championships than their
bigger rival. Each even has an upstart
little brother in-state that claims to be their most important rival!
Michigan and Oklahoma defy the odds to remain relevant. Assuming most recruits like to stay near home and a similar commitment to football excellence by all D-1 programs, neither would be as strong as they are. However, tradition and commitment to excellence have kept both relevant and powerful.
considered: Alabama, Tennessee
Again, this is meant for fun, and not as a definitive list. There is no perfect comparison, and each school is very different. I’m interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.
My first post, and it comes at the expense of my in-laws who are big Illini fans. I'm passing along the funny. Enjoy.
WOW. This was really bad, worse than I expected even. Even if exclude the 0-4 at the goal line, its still a -1 on the day for a matchup that should have been annihilation. It turns out it was, just in the wrong direction. Michigan's rushing performance on the day was the second worst (before adjusting for competition which won't help them much here) performance of the weekend. This was a full 2 TD swing, one on the goal line and another TD throughout the rest of the game.
Hey look a win! But not as much. The bomb to Roundtree on 3rd and 11 was worth 5.6 points by itself. Beyond that single play, the passing offense was nearly -2, or 4 points below expectation. If big plays are now back in the passing playbook than this is a slight reason for optimism, if it was just a single fluke (in so many ways) play then it signals that things are absolutely not progressing in the passing game.
So let's add this up. Michigan should have been +7 in the combined ground games but in the end they finished -23. A full 30 point swing on the ground. At half time, both Illinois and Michigan were right at +2 in the ground games. A draw was a win for Illinois, but it wasn't yet a disaster. Then the third quarter happened. Michigan went -9 for the quarter while Illinois went +8. This is just on the ground and this is without any turnovers!
In a game where black was white and up was down, the pass defense was no exception. The line on Illinois coming was that their passing defense stats were meaningless because no one had to pass against them. That's exactly what happened to Michigan on Saturday. Illinois had very little need to push the ball through the air because they were getting what they wanted on the ground.
The pace and field position lined up just where Michigan wanted it. Michigan had a field position edge of 22 expected points vs Illinois' 20. Michigan had 12 drives for the game which is right at their season average. Everything in this game played out just as predicted but with the role of Illinois played by Michigan and the role of Michigan played by Illinois.
Special teams were a lone bright spot for Michigan on Saturday. Olesnavage had another solid day and the blocked punt could have been a big play.
My Michigan prediction looked very good if you switch the two teams. Unfortunately my bookie wasn't too keen on that idea.
Iowa vs Indiana - The final spreads ended up matched up pretty well, just didn't see all the points and turnovers showing up.
Michigan St vs Minnesota - Didn't have Minnesota to pull this one out, but did have them to cover and the over.
NM St vs Ohio St - The sweatervest kept the foot on the gas a while longer than I though, going two TDs further and enough for the cover.
Penn St vs NW - Kind of like the Iowa/Indiana game. I had the final spread reasonably close but it was a different route than expected to get there.
Purdue vs Wisconsin - Had Wisconsin as a slight cover and obviously they blew the doors off the Boilermakes for a big win.
I thoroughly believe that whichever quarterback learns the read option first and can run it to near perfection first will be the starting quarterback in years to come. It is the basic running play of our offense. I don't care if that player is Tate Forcier, Devin Gardner, or Nick Sheridan; if that quarterback can run the read option so we are getting 4+ yards just about every time, they will be the starter.
I think we all know that neither of our freshmen quarterbacks has been able to make the reads quick enough to run the play yet. Is this because they haven't had enough time to practice it yet? Maybe. However, I think the bigger issue is the ability to execute a fake hand off. A good fake hand off does two things: it forces the DE to make a decision to go after the running back or the quarterback instead of sitting in a comfortable spot to stop either outcome and it gives the quarterback an extra split second to read that DE.
To illustrate this, I have compiled several Picture Pages for different read options from different teams around the country. Several things to keep in mind:
- These are to illustrate why the fake hand off is important...not the read option itself
- Because of this, these are all QB keepers
- These plays are not identical; will, therefore, not have the same results; and are not intended to be directly compared with the results of our play.
- These are to illustrate why the fake hand off is important
Also, all of these images, aside from the Michigan vs. EMU game, were taken from ESPN360 or YouTube videos so they aren't perfect quality, but they still get the point across. I will try to post video for some of these later.
Illinois vs. MichiganIllinois ran the read option perfectly on the first drive against Michigan. The net result was a 27 yard gain.
As you can see they have a RB on either side of Juice Williams, two WRs up top, and a TE outside the LT. It is important to note where that the backfield is lined up around the 12 yard line.
After the play starts, the RB runs behind Juice as he begins the fake hand off to the left RB. The OL blocks right and the TE goes out for a pass leaving Brandon Graham to defend as the unblocked DE. Donovan Warren begins his coverage of the TE, but keeps his eyes on the exchange.
You can see that Juice still has his hands in the RBs gut. They are a full yard ahead of where they started the play at. Brandon Graham is forced to choose which to go for and he picks the running back. Donovan Warren has moved down field in coverage but still is keeping his eyes on the exchange. Jonas Mouton has started to move inside to go after the RB.
Juice pulls the ball and he is already 2 yards up field from where he started the play. Brandon Graham is out of position for the play. Donovan Warren is 10 yards up field from Juice. Mouton is still in position to make a play but...
The LT is able to get a block on Mouton and Juice is to the LOS with lots of field in front of him. Donovan Warren has come back to make the play, but he has to guard against the option.
Donovan Warren correctly plays contain and takes away the option, which springs Juice into the open field, at which point it is a foot race. He is forced out of bounds after going 27 yards on the carry.
Had the option not been in this play and all other things being held equal, Donovan Warren would most likely have tackled Juice after a gain of about 5 yards, which is what you hope for every time this play is run.
Michigan vs. EMUI looked through a couple of drives for Michigan in the Illinois game and I couldn't find a traditional read option play. I am convinced at this point in the season that the coaches have removed this responsibility from the QBs and will look to install it again next year. I did see a fake hand off, but the line moved with the quarterback keeper instead of the hand off, which tells me that this is not what I am looking for.
So to get a good example, I went back to the last game that I downloaded: the EMU game.
This is our traditional 4-wide read option. Tate is lined up at the 48.5 yard line.
Tate pivots on his right foot and fakes the hand off. The ball never even makes it to the gut of the RB; he essentially just taps the ball to the side of the RB and then keeps. The DE is going for the RB right off the bat (so maybe this isn't the perfect example, but just wait).
The OLB sees Tate keep the ball and breaks to the outside. This doesn't allow our RT to seal him to the inside, which would allow Forcier to break free.
Instead what happens is Tate has to cut back to the inside. If he is able to get by this block, he is open for a first down, but the OLB gets a shoestring tackle and Tate goes down for a small gain.
Now that we have seen the good and bad of what I am referring to, let's take a look at some more examples of good fake hand offs from teams around the country.
WVU vs. USF
Notice that Brown, WVU's new QB, is lined up around the 29 with 4-wide Trips right.
Before the snap, a WR goes in motion for the end around. You can hardly tell, but the ball is in mid-air at this point.
Brown's right foot makes it up to the 27 yard line before he pulls the ball. The DE bites on the fake and rushes in for the RB. The LBs are starting to come in to stop the dive as well. The safety is starting to come in for run support, but he is far enough out that the fake actually puts him in better position to make the play. Meanwhile, the end around and fake are forming into a nice option as well.
Brown makes it to the LOS and the safety has a nice contain on him. He pulls up and begins the pitch to the WR.
The WR has a block down field and all of the other players are now out of position to tackle him. The blocked CB ends up forcing him inside and tackling him to save the TD, only after he gets a first down though.
Had Brown not had the second option to pitch the ball, he most likely would have headed for the sideline and been out after 4-8 yards.
Same game, other team:
BJ Daniels is at the 37 yard line. It is hard to tell but the ball has just reached his hands.
You can see that BJ Daniels is two yards ahead of where he took the snap from before he pulls the ball. The WVU LBs bite on the fake even though they see this every day in practice.
BJ Daniels gets into open space with no one left to defend him other than the safety 8 yards up field. Chalk this one up as another big gain.
Oregon vs. CalThis will be the last one. I tried to find some footage of Tim Tebow's fake, but I couldn't find any and I am sure all of you have seen enough of him anyway.
Here, Masoli is lined up around the 14 yard line with the RB about a yard behind him on his left, trips right, and the TE lined up outside the LT.
Masoli pulls the ball about a yard and a half ahead of where he took the snap from. The DE is waiting for the play to develop.
Masoli gets outside of the DE and is tackled by the safety for a 4-5 yard gain.
This is what the average play should look like when the Defense reads the play properly and is in position. The other plays are what happen when one person on defense makes a mistake. The one thing that all of the plays from other teams have in common is a great fake hand off. The QB needs to sell the DE to get him to bite on the play and/or give himself enough time to make the correct read.
Like I said, I think the Michigan QB who is able to do this the best will be our starter. From what I have seen so far, Tate is on his way to being able to make these reads, but he lacks the ability to sell the fake. If he can do this, I think he will continue to be our starter. However, if Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner can learn this before him, I don't know if a Big10 defense will be able to continuously stop this especially with their speed and play-making abilities.
Simple statement: no matter how bad you feel and how much you now dislike RRod, you should probably not turn on the team right now. We need just one more win for a bowl game, and we can't afford to go bowl-less two straight years. It would be best if (even if you don't like RRod or are sick of our poor performances the last few weeks) you still supported the team.
It doesn't help to have fan heat bearing down on you along with the pressure of being on the edge of bowl eligibility. Nobody wants to see this team implode two weeks before The Game, so just support them now. After the season's over, THEN start complaining, but wait until the season's done first so that we can salvage what's left!