Many of you might have seen reports about the team-only meeting that was called earlier this week.
Now, per ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, we have an idea of what Brandon Graham told the team:
"It was just, ‘Lay it out on the line. This is our last go-round,'" Graham said. "'This is our way out. You’ll have to wait 300-and-something days until this game. Right now, leave a mark on [Ohio State] for a whole year until that next game because we beat them.’
I don't know about you guys, but there's something really heartening about the energy that must have been going through that room. Let's see 'em shock the world on Saturday.
With all the talk about The Game during The Week, and how Michigan was going to pull off an upset, I began wondering exactly what OSU has done this year to win 9 games thus far. Many people, including myself, have been so accustomed to OSU's dominance of the Big Ten the last few years that we just accept the idea that they win and play Tressel-Ball to wear teams down.
However, there are a few things to note about this OSU squad that caused me to pay closer attention. Many people (especially Buckeye fans) look at Pryor as the reason for wins and loses, and rest on the idea that his turnovers are the reason for victory, and especially for defeat. However, the Ohio State defense, in my opinion, is the reason for the wins this season, and even for the loses. First, let's see how OSU stacks up defensively against the rest of the Big Ten:
1st/Scoring Defense (13.0)
1st/Total Defense (273.4)
1st/Opp. 3rd Down Conversion % (30.1)
2nd/Pass Efficiency Defense (98.6)
2nd/Rushing Defense (80.6)
2nd/Opponent First Downs (113)
4th/Pass Defense (192.9)
...and now against the entire NCAA:
4th/Rushing Defense (83.73)
6th/Scoring Defense (12.36)
5th/Total Defense (258.27)
8th/Pass Efficiency Defense (97.19)
16th/Pass Defense (174.55)
These are pretty damn intimidating numbers, and they can make any QB, no matter how immature and rattled, seem like a proven winner. Now, many people will say "Well, Pryor threw 2 INTs and lost 2 fumbles against Purdue and that's why they lost." Although Pryor's mistakes cannot be diminished in their impact on momentum and opportunities for Purdue to score, the defensive stats can be more telling:
Total Yards 361
Against Purdue, the defense was stagnant, and had trouble with the Joey Elliot-Keith Smith Connection. They were still effective against the run, but allowed more than double of their average yeards allowed in the air for the season.
So what does this mean? Personally, I see this as a positive for us. Obviously OSU has strengths against the run, but if you can pass on them, then you can beat them. Michigan boasts pretty impressive offensive stats in the Big Ten:
1st/Scoring Offense (31.2)
2nd/Rushing Offense (195.8)
...and Forcier Ranks 4th in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (132.85).
Now, our list of offensive achievements may not be as impressive as OSU's list of defensive achievements, but out stats show that we can put points on the board and run the rock.
What's that? I just said that Purdue won by passing the ball? Yea, I know, and I'm getting to that. Regardless of the outcome last Saturday, I was impressed with Tate's performance. Not compared to Notre Dame, but definitely compared to his previous 6 games (I excluded Delaware State since, well, Baby Seal U, and he didn't play much):
Previous 6 Games (Avg.)
56.7 % completion
The yardage looks very similar, but the completion percentage and the TDs are noteworthy. Keep in mind, Tate only played 3 plays from scrimmage in the 4th quarter.
To me, it says that Tate was more focused against Wiscy. Perhaps he did something different that week in practice, or in the film room. Or maybe he's just maturing more as a football player. He said himself that he was seeing the field a lot better after the Illinois game, and that was two weeks prior to the Wisconsin game. By now, I believe he knows how to prepare properly for an opponent, and his vision on the field has improved. The thing that still worries me with him is that he still makes those freshmen mistakes, like tucking-and-running too early and not keeping the ball close to his body (leading to more fumbles).
Therefore, Tate must continue this improvement between weeks, not between seasons. I believe he can do this, and I've heard some of his comments this week, and he sounds like he gets it. He's fired up, and he wants to win this games for his seniors. He made mention that he would spend as much time studying film as needed to get a win against OSU. Tate will be the catalyst. He was when we were winning. Without him to spark the offense, it flounders, and that leaves our defense to win games, whcih just isn't going to happen.
OSU has made a name for itself int the Big Ten defensively, but they aren't invincible. Joey Elliot isn't a great QB. He's a very good QB (and we made him look like a Heisman finalist), but not great. If Tate can stay calm and find his targets without getting jittery more than 60% of the time, we'll have a shot at winning (defense aside*). Roundtree has solidified himself as a viable option, and Vincent Smith, if he starts, has shown Mike Hart glimpses of elusiveness. If Smith can eek out a few yards here and there to keep the passing game honest, then Tate can do that voodoo that he do, and pick apart and frustrate the Buckeye secondary.
*I know I completely disregarded our defense on this one, but IMO, OSU wins games by their defense, not offense, so I focused on the match-up of our O vs. their D.
So, I was thinking about the game this Saturday and I was wondering to myself what would I sacrifice if i could guarantee a Michigan victory this weekend.
I decided that money wouldn't be part of my considerations because losing money isn't equivalent to the rage, humiliation, pain, spiritual agony that I'm trying to trade with my pagan football gods - they don't accept cash.
I decided on several things that I would choose to do if it would mystically ensure victory:
- break my leg
- piss my grandmother's (or any of my relatives) grave
- total my car
- get punched in the face
- get banned from my favorite bar
- get stabbed (just a little)
- get arrested
So, here's hoping for a great Friday night! When I get bailed out early Saturday evening, I hope to hear reports of a shocking victory in Ann Arbor.
So, tell me loyal MGoReaders, what would you give to have Michigan win?
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Tate told the Detroit News that "I am going to get (my teammates) to a bowl game. If it means spending 10 hours in film this week, then I am going to do it. But we are going to get them to a bowl game."
Can't find any mention of it on Detroit News, but assuming this is something Tate actually said was it:
(a) A gutsy QB trying to take responsibility for his team and fire them up
(b) a freshman making the very stupid mistake of giving OSU bulletin board material.
I'm inclined to say it's about 90% (a) and 10% (b)
...what can we learn from the OSU/Purdue game that could help us against the Bucs? I didn't see the game, or even highlights, but Purdue certainly seems to have had their number. Or did it simply come down to turnovers and a bad Pryor performance?
I don't mean to be overlooking this Sat., but I somehow think our best chance at bowl eligibility may be against OSU at home.
Any thoughts or analysis?
This is a message the players should get. My first reaction to UM’s predicament was to give up on the team this year. When you are expected to lose both of the next 2 games by significant margins, it’s easy to get discouraged. But then I wondered, what’s the chance that UM could still get to a bowl game this year and end up with a decent record. Given turnovers, missed extra points, injuries, illnesses, unexplained fluctuations in motivation, etc.—how likely is it that UM could steal one of the games Just think: Purdue beat OSU. Navy beat ND. NW beat Iowa…Washington(?state) beat USC….I could go on. The point is that there’s a lot that can happen that is not predictable with certainty even if one team is a big favorite. So what’s the chance that UM might finally catch a break after an otherwise heartbreaking season?
I first calculated the predicted point spreads based on UM OSU AND WI’s Sagarin Predictor ratings to get an idea about the possible point spreads in our next 2 games, as calculated below (the sagarin ratings are actually used by vegas to help set the betting lines, and the rating method chosen actually predicts the outcome of games).
I took a random game on the net that had posted both a 12-14 pt spread and odds roughly comparable to spreads I calculated for UM vs WI (-11 ) and OSU (-15).
I found that UM has a 31% chance of getting to a bowl game and the second most likely final record is 7-6.
Conclusion: A nearly 1/3 chance of a bowl is not a reason for hopelessness…in fact, it’s a far better chance than was the team's early season goal of winning the B10.
So, now is not a time for the team to get discouraged..but rather to redouble their efforts… One of their important goals is still in sight.