that is nice bonus change
|WHAT||Michigan at Indiana|
|WHERE||Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, October 2nd 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan –10.5|
high 60s, partly cloudy
0% chance of rain
It's tough to get a read on IU because their first three opponents are somewhere between horrible and horrible:
- Towson is a 1-3 I-AA team with a single 5OT win over Coastal Carolina. They just lost to an Ivy League team by two touchdowns.
- Western Kentucky is 0-16 in its second year in I-A and lost 63-28 to Kentucky.
- Akron is 0-4 after losing to 2-2 I-AA school Gardner-Webb and 47-10 to Kentucky.
I watched a torrent of the WKU game to get educated. Their opponents are not only winless against I-A competition, they're 1-3 against I-AA. The bye week may have been their toughest test. All stats except crappy ones should be taken with a grain of salt. Speaking of crappy stats…
Run Offense vs Indiana
(truth and justice @ right via MZone.)
Despite the competition level, Indiana is 92nd in rushing defense. This is suck on a truly epic level:
Akron managed 55 yards against Syracuse, Towson 87 against Columbia. Sacks make that better but I can't be bothered to figure out exactly how much given the incredible weakness of IU opponents and IU's incredible weakness against them. Once the crappiness reaches a second derivative I'm done parsing sacks.
The upshot: Indiana could be on track for a historically bad run defense. They are giving up 5.2 YPC according to the sacks-included NCAA numbers—106th nationally—against those guys. It's so bad that the local beat writer offers up a… C-:
RUSH DEFENSE: After watching the Towson quarterback run wild, then a good back from Western Kentucky have a good first quarter against the Hoosiers, and then Akron gain 160 yards rushing, there’s only one question that keeps coming to my mind: How is the team going to stop Michigan or Ohio State or Wisconsin or (fill in your Big Ten team here). Missing Tyler Replogle had to hurt Saturday but this is a unit that needs to improve in a hurry. I think the Hoosiers have some good players up front but someone needs to start tackling better. GRADE: C-
What would Indiana have to do to get an F from Terry Hutchens? By the looks of it, picking tailbacks up on a palanquin and escorting them into the endzone would warrant a D, maybe a D+ if they looked unhappy about it.
Michigan will shred them mercilessly. After 466 yards against Bowling Green at 8.3 YPC Michigan is now second nationally in rushing offense behind only Air Force. They are second to Nebraska in YPC. There is zero chance Indiana can even slow down Michigan's ground game unless penalties intervene; a day much like that Michigan had against BGSU, where passing was an optional sidelight and it took a turnover or a comedy of errors to prevent a touchdown drive, beckons.
The only things that can stop the donkeytrain are crappy execution by Michigan and the return of linebacker Tyler Replogle, one of Indiana's best defensive players, from injury. The former is always a possibility since football is weird; the latter will help IU but probably not enough. When this is the best Indiana folk can muster…
Also, I would note that Robinson has thrown 80 passes and has run the ball 79 times this season, and so far he’s thrown one interception and has not lost a fumble. Of course, that means he’s really good, but even for a really good player, those numbers are unsustainable. Perhaps his luck will take a turn for the worse against IU. I realize that hope is not a strategy, but given Robinson’s ability and IU’s defense, it’s all I’ve got.
…a firebombing is on the horizon. The Mathlete says so, too.
It is worth noting that both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Michael Shaw are doubtful for Saturday. Toussaint has not been a factor so far and his absence won't have much impact, but Shaw has been the better half of Michigan's two-headed tailback and losing him forces Michigan to rely on a seemingly damaged Vincent Smith or a couple guys who haven't seen much playing time yet.
I have an unconfirmed report that Mike Cox is going to start Saturday, though in this offense that just means he'll get half the carries for the tailbacks and a quarter of the overall carries. He has flashed an impressive size-speed combo and great balance in limited time, but he also completely biffed an assignment when he ran out to block when he was supposed to take a handoff off tackle (note: the UFR mistakenly attributed this to Shaw), which completely lives up to his scouting report.
Key matchup: Tailbacks versus ball security. Ball not on turf == touchdown. Shaw out == increased possibility of ball on turf.
Pass Offense vs Indiana
So the good news is that the Hoosiers are 20th in pass defense and 43rd in efficiency. Woo! However, they did this against teams ranked 114th, 95th, and 56th in I-AA in passing efficiency. Michigan is 11th in that category. Given the horror show their run defense is, Michigan is all but guaranteed to have the luxury of passing when it wants and sucking linebackers out of position when they duly freak out about Denard or whoever else is gashing them. Michigan will pass to keep 'em honest and to stick the dagger in.
Indiana returns one starter from last year's secondary in corner Donnell Jones. Mitchell Evans, who you may remember as a receiver and part-time wildcat QB from a year ago, is the starting strong safety—he's a position switch starter, and a desperate one. On the line they lost their excellent defensive ends and replace them with short (like six-foot short) guys who haven't done much in their careers to date. Their defensive tackles are happy just to stay in the vicinity of the line of scrimmage. They're playing Denard Robinson, who will murderize you if you get out of a rush lane. He'll have as much time as he wants to throw.
This section is short. We have little information on Indiana since the QBs they've gone against have been horrible and Michigan is going to run lots and lots. But the stats here are deceiving, as Michigan's highly efficient passing attack goes against a team that's way worse on paper than their stats to date suggest. They haven't been tested by anything approximating Denard and the Michigan receivers are likely to steadily bleed yardage with one to three explosive plays mixed in when play action burns them.
Key matchup: Denard versus Tendency to Chuck Seams on a Line. Here, too, it will be a matter of executing cleanly and taking the many opportunities the Indiana defense offers.
Run Defense vs Indiana
This looks like it sucks when it comes to raw yardage, too, but part of that is atrophy. While IU is 96th in overall yardage, here they're 72nd—almost average—in YPC. That's still completely horrible given their schedule, which features the 86th, 92nd, 102nd (in I-AA) best rushing defenses in the country despite playing run-averse Indiana.
I took in the Western Kentucky game and while the Hoosier pass offense was genuinely impressive, that's another section. The run game was not so good. Some of WKU's defensive tackles were tiny, yo, and Indiana's OL still had trouble moving them. IU ended up with 108 yards on 30 carries, with most of those coming on jet sweeps or outside runs on which WKU inexplicably passed on even the vague idea of containment. Primary tailback Darius Willis, who you may remember from last year's emasculating faster-than-our-secondary 85-yarder, managed 30 yards on 13 carries. He's done better in the other two games, probably thanks in no part to the offensive line. The team hasn't really: IU had 102 yards on 25 carries, sacks and kneeldowns excluded, against an Akron team that was gashed for 290 by Kentucky and 202 by Syracuse.
The Mathlete calls this a "pillow fight" and that's fair after Michigan was gashed for almost 100 yards by two separate UMass tailbacks, but I expect this area to be closer to the Bowling Green outcome than that since Jonas Mouton's played well in three of four games, Obi Ezeh has done decently in two and much better than he did against UMass in all, and frankly I'm willing to bet that a transfer-enriched UMass backfield and line is at least Indiana's equivalent. Willis should average about 3 YPC except on the one run that someone busts an assignment on; hopefully that goes for 20 yards instead of 85.
Key matchup: Michigan's heavy package versus short yardage. I'm not sure a third and two is a running down for Indiana after what's gone down so far this season, but they'll probably regard it as one. Each third and short is an opportunity to boot IU off the field and let the offense hold serve.
Pass Defense vs Indiana
This is where it breaks down for Michigan. Western Kentucky busted coverages periodically and never really challenged Indiana receivers even when they had the right assignments, and Chappell had all day to throw. But caveats aside, Chappell was 32 of 42 for 366 yards and three touchdowns and a large number of these passes were accurate downfield zingers. Even if WKU made it easy, Indiana can really execute their passing game and they have far more talent than UMass and their QB's 22 of 29 day did. I love Michigan's receivers and I'd think about trading for Indiana's straight up. Seriously. I wouldn't do it because of the insane rootability factor Roundtree, Stonum, and Odoms have, but I'd think about it. And Michigan has trouble against teams that can execute and stuff.
The one uncertainty in an Indiana offense that returns a bunch of starters is the offensive line, which is down a second-round pick and could not get any push at all in their first three games. They've kept Chappell clean so far, but they'll be facing an enormous step up in quality when facing Mike Martin, Craig Roh, and Jonas Mouton. Michigan hasn't put up many sacks thanks to an awful lot of three man rushes and some missed opportunities; they're kind of better than Akron's dudes, I'm guessing.
A positive for the Michigan defense: Chappell does not roll out much, something that's been a struggle for M. He was lethal when provided time to throw (which was almost always) against WKU; Michigan needs to get him rolling and uncomfortable. I expect them to alternate between three- and six-man pressures like they have most of the year, with a focus on getting IU into any third down possible and banking on their erratic run game to see the punter (or field goal kicker hit the field). Second and ten is a guaranteed eight-man zone.
One thing to watch for here is how often Michigan goes to the nickel and dime packages it deployed on passing downs last week. The bet here is we see Courtney Avery as much or more than the Thomas Gordon/Carvin Johnson spur combo, which has been solid against the run but indifferent in coverage. Terrence Talbott will appear on third and long, as well, and Michigan will test those tackles with the "rush" line.
Key matchup: Eight man zone drops versus big chunk plays. Michigan's gameplan to date has featured a ton of three-man rushes paired with eight man zones, so they'll probably do it again this weekend. The key there is to get to the QB with some regularity and cover the deep seams and corners, forcing checkdowns and putting IU in a lot of third downs that they aren't particularly likely to convert on the ground.
This is slightly less guh than last week, though not because of anything the kickers did. When not watching they were kicking extra points and leaving kickoffs as short as they usually do; Will Hagerup didn't get to punt even once.
The improvement came in the punt return game, where a new formation featuring three returners spread across the field saw Michigan field all but one punt and get decent returns on three or four. If Indiana uses a spread package (and Blue Seoul says they do) Michigan will keep that going, which has the potential to improve Michigan's average net by ten or more yards.
Hagerup should pull out of his Frankly Mr. Shankly phase sooner or later, hopefully sooner. His net on punts that he actually gets off isn't as bad as it seems without looking. If Michigan loses yards versus Indiana in the punt game it won't be many unless Hagerup drops another one. That's unlikely.
Indiana, on the other hand, has strong return units. They're second nationally on kick returns, something that combines with Michigan's tendency to drop line drives at the ten in a nasty way. A mitigating factor: if you think the guys on Towson, WKU, and Akron's offense and defense are not I-A caliber athletes, the special teams are another level of wobbly weeble. IU's kicker was iffy last year, going 14/25. He missed the first couple games, allowing a freshman to take over and hit two of three.
With offenses going up and down the field the most important bits here should be kickoff returns and field goal kickers; both are advantage IU.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
This one's on the verge of no cat because it's a double digit spread, but when you've got this picture…
…and these offenses are going up against these defenses we'll bend the rules.
- A confused Michael Cox runs the wrong way and fumbles explosively.
- The field goal kicker makes multiple appearances.
- Denard ends up in another crumbled heap, temporary or not.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan's three-man rush is tearing through the Indiana line.
- Indiana's run defense turns out to really be that inept, which it probably will.
- A Michigan safety manages to not lose a fumble on his interception.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 2 (Baseline 5; –1 for Denard!, –1 for Indiana's Run Defense!, –1 for The Combination Of The Two!, +3 for Chappell!, Michigan D!, Combination All Reverse Like!, –1 for Michigan Is Not The Lollipop Guild Of IU's Schedule To Date, –1 for I'm Giving Denard Another One, If You Don't Like It Try To Stop It Oh That's Right You Can't, –1 for Michigan's Passing Offense Is The Hidden Extra Mismatch.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is The Last Really Long Winning Streak To Our Name, +1 for If We're Not Thumperating A Team With This Run Defense The Boding Is Not So Good, +1 Rabble Rabble Just Like Last Year Rabble, +1 for It's Indiana, +1 for Constant Rodriguez Job Rescue Program)
Loss will cause me to... make more use of an open bar at a wedding than anyone short of Andre The Giant ever has.
Win will cause me to... make moderate use of open bar at wedding.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Chappell was good against Michigan last year, returns all his receivers, and has complete control of the offense. Indiana did lose their NFL-worthy left tackle but returns most of an offensive line that was good in pass protection last year. They're going to move the ball. However, their run game has been poor against a ridiculously soft schedule and when it comes down to the redzone IU is going to have to make some tight throws or hope to catch Michigan off guard—that offensive line couldn't crease Western Kentucky, they're not doing much with Martin and Van Bergen unless they're caught pass-rushing. This points to a lot of frustrating drives, a lot of red zone opportunities, some touchdowns, and a number of field goal attempts. Holding them under thirty would be good, and should be possible if Michigan successfully bends down the field.
On the other side of the ball… come on. Indiana lost every talented player not named Replogle from last year's already-terrible defense and is near triple digits in run defense despite playing what might literally be the worst possible schedule available. No one on this defense is ready for Denard and Michigan's ass-kicking offensive line. The difference in skill and speed from Akron to Michigan will leave Indiana in a state of shock for most of the first half. A Michigan drive that doesn't end in the endzone is 80% likely to come up short because of failed execution by M and penalties, and it's a lot harder to fail to execute on the ground than in the air.
Red zone efficiency will be the difference, and Michigan leads the nation in that category against a much tougher schedule than #48 Indiana. Michigan can stiffen inside the 20; Indiana can only watch Michigan grind it into the endzone. If Michigan loses they will have suffered a torrent of penalties and a turnover margin of at least –2.
Finally, five opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard goes over 200 yards rushing again.
- Mike Cox gets more carries than any other tailback; RAGING COX threatens to overwhelm all memes ever for juvenility.
- Hagerup punts twice.
- Michigan is again positive in turnover margin.
- Michigan, 44-27.
Editor's note: not that you should ever boo anything to do with a body-bag team—seriously save that stuff for actual rivals—but UMass's band director just died. So don't boo them.
|WHAT||Michigan vs UMass|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, September 18th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan by 27.5 (thx: jamiemac)|
|WEATHER||low 70s, scattered showers,
wind 10 MPH
Run Offense vs. UMass
After two games against solid BCS AQ teams, Michigan is averaging 287 yards per game at 5.6 yards a pop, good for seventh nationally. Everyone ahead of them has clubbed at least one total patsy, most of them two. Michigan's ground game is sort of good. You can read that as "Denard Robinson is sort of good" if you want.
Meanwhile, UMass is 10th in rushing defense in their division after playing two good I-AA foes. Meaningful? Eh… probably not. Holy Cross's first game was a 38-7 win against Howard in which they racked up 91 yards on 21 carries; William and Mary went for 157 on 47 carries against UMass. While they did well against those opponents there's a big difference between 4 YPC I-AA running games and the mystery that is Denard Robinson.
Michigan's had limited production from the tailbacks, though they haven't been given many opportunities. UMass will be an opportunity for Mike Cox, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Stephen Hopkins to get some carries and hopefully get some production that might see Michigan's non-Robinson run game pose more of a threat in the Big Ten season.
Key Matchup: Robinson running away from people. Yeah, it'll happen.
Pass Offense vs. UMass
UMass has decent numbers here, too, 33rd in efficiency and 48th in yardage after two games. They've only got one sack, though, and don't figure to get any against Robinson unless they've got a death wish and blitz a lot.
Michigan will probably use the passing game as a sidelight. While they were almost 50-50 run/pass against Notre Dame much of that was the necessity of the last drive and Notre Dame's extreme overcommitment to the run. Against UConn Michigan was happy to grind the ball into the line time and again; they'll probably do the same here. Look for the same kind of stuff we've seen so far: hitches, seams, flare routes, some screens. New packages are not going to be deployed against a I-AA team.
Key Matchup: Denard versus air under the ball.
Run Defense vs. UMass
So here are some highlights and stuff:
Most of Notre Dame's yards were a result of Armando Allen turning the nothing Michigan's defensive line gave him into something by being way better this year than he was last year. That or Ryan Van Bergen crashing down when Notre Dame ran the midline zone read. The linebackers look better, Mike Martin is headed for beast status if he's not already there, and the spur and bandit have played well. Cam Gordon's weakness in the air has not been coupled with weakness on the ground: there have been no incidents where a filling safety took a bad angle and gave up a touchdown.
UMass, meanwhile, has a considerable amount of beef on their line for a I-AA team. Each starter is over 300 pounds, which has helped them grind out 223 yards per game in their first two. UMass's offensive stats against Holy Cross are eerily similar to Michigan's against Notre Dame: the QB threw 38 times (instead of 40), completed 25(24) for 293 yards(244); the team ran 53 times for 232 yards (41 for 288). And despite putting well over 500 yards up they only came away with 37 points.
UMass does not have a feature back but split the carries between Jonathan Hernandez, a senior who had 577 yards last year, and John Griffin, a senior seeing his first action this year. (He probably transferred from somewhere.)
Key Matchup: Mike Martin vs UMass interior line. Kill crush destroy!
Pass Defense vs. UMass
Richie Havens was pick-happy a year ago, throwing 15 to only 9 touchdowns, but has been much more efficient in 2010, completing 65% of his passes for 8.3 YPA, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. The competition will step up (at least slightly) this weekend. Anthony Nelson, presumably another transfer, has been the favorite target so far with 13 catches. Six more targets have at least three catches: UMass spreads it around.
Michigan, meanwhile, did very well against Notre Dame when the free safety wasn't making a painful rookie error. It's not hard to see another one or two (hopefully one) of those happening, and since Michigan seems hell-bent on a bend-don't-break style an array of three-man rushes and outside dinking could see UMass put together a drive or three. With Brandon Herron out with an ankle injury, Michigan won't be able to put Craig Roh on the line. This will provide UMass more time; Greg Banks is not in Roh's class as a pass rusher.
Key Matchup: Cam Gordon versus himself.
Guh. Guh guh guh. Guuuuuuuuuuh. Eye of the tiger!
Anyway: Michigan missed field goals from 39 and 40 yards, replacing Brendan Gibbons with Seth Broekhuizen for the final extra point and forcing me to look up Broekhuizen's last name for the fifth time. Maybe if I write it enough (Broekhuizen!) I'll remember it. Rodriguez declared the kicking job "wide open" during the week.
Meanwhile, uber-punter Will Hagerup got in his first extended action, shanking all manner of punts but still coming out of the ND game with a 34 yard net thanks to some kind rolls and no returns. Hopefully that was just a matter of nerves. The ones that went straight were pretty decent.
Returns were dull. Jeremy Gallon fair caught almost all of them; Darryl Stonum didn't do anything inspiring with the kickoffs.
Despite all this, Michigan might have an advantage. UMass is averaging a breathtakingly low 24 yard net on their punts and their punter's gross is just 34. That guy doubles as their kicker and is 1/1 on the year.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
Kittens are not warranted for double digit spreads or games in which there isn't even a spread. But here's this:
Also here is a pika:
- Anyone gets hurt.
- Denard's passing regresses somehow.
- The secondary gives up more long bombs.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Cox or Fitzgerald looks sweet at tailback.
- Some backup linebackers get in and look okay.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 (Baseline 5; –1 for Denard!, –1 for Against A Team Who's Best Player Transferred From Syracuse!, –1 for And Is Basically An Adolescent Seal, –1 for Also All The Rest Of Our Players Would Start For This Team Without Exception, –1 for And You Can't Put This Offense In A Shell, +1 for Never Forget.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Never Forget, +1 for Hey Let's Just Blow It All To Hell Why Don't We, +1 for Rodriguez Repercussions: Devastating, +1 for This Would Be Worse Than The Sex And The City Movie, Which I Did End Up Half Watching When It Was On HBO And Could Not Turn Off Because I Was Trying To Figure Out If It Was The Worst (Technically, Morally, Ethically) Piece Of Purported Entertainment To Ever Be Produced, Eventually Settling On "Yes," But It Would Be Second If Michigan Somehow Lost To UMass After Everything We've Been Through And The Hope We Were Just Handed, +1 for That Last One Probably Deserves A +2)
Loss will cause me to... Cave. Beard. Rolling around on floor in own feces. No electricity ever. Look like Saddam eventually. Wish for a similarly merciful end.
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard goes for a half, breaking one long touchdown run. Everyone is slightly, secretly disappointed he doesn't do more.
- Yes, Devin off the bench first.
- Cam Gordon does one more thing that is very concerning.
- Michigan, 42-17.
First, and sadly: due to a honeymoon in Paris (not mine), longtime friendly adversary Brian of the House Rock Built was unavailable for a Vicious Electronic Questioning this year. I haven't run across any Notre Dame bloggers who aren't enthusiastically answering their roundtable question about why they hate Michigan with links to the Blue-Gray Sky thing they posted on this blog that mostly talks about people who have been dead for many years, so a replacement just wouldn't be the same. Who goes on a honeymoon during football season anyway?
But I can boil it down to its essence:
I know I feel better. On with shew.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, September 11th 2010|
|THE LINE||Notre Dame -4|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, 40% chance of rain, 10 mph wind|
Run Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan obliterated UConn on the ground, racking up 287 yards on 61 carries. That's 4.7 YPC despite running about 75% of the time and spending the last ten minutes of the game pounding it into a stacked line. Denard Robinson did the bulk of the damage running simple QB lead draws that UConn could not stop even after UConn adjusted to them and Michigan showed no inclination to stop calling rock. The tackles performed above expectations, Steve Schilling seems to have made a senior leap, and David Molk is back. The one sore spot on the line was sophomore guard Patrick Omameh. You probably know this bit already.
How meaningful that is is still a question. UConn returned five of its front seven (both defensive tackles and all three linebackers) but lost a projected starter at DE before the season and may have played Greg Lloyd at MLB despite an injury. Last year they were the #45 rush defense nationally largely thanks to playing a lot of terrible rush defenses. When it came time to play anyone with a mobile quarterback or a tailback, they got shredded. Jury may be leaning one way, but it's still out.
Third stringer Dan Dierking career YPC: 4.0. Versus ND: 6.2, although on just nine carries.
As far as Notre Dame goes, their opening matchup against Purdue is not indicative of much either. The Boilers lost Ralph Bolden before the season and went with a platoon of a dinged, unprepared Al-Terek McBurse and Dan Dierking, which latter the announcers tried to praise by saying he could play fullback too. You may remember Dierking playing against Michigan in the long-long ago when Purdue had a similar rash of injuries, but after a 42-carry freshman season his stats for the last two years combined are 12 carries for 38 yards.
A mélange of those guys, worse-at-running-than-he-thinks quarterback Robert Marve, and assorted who-dats went for 136 yards on 28 carries, Marve's four sacks excluded. That's… kind of ominous for the Irish, as it's a 4.9 YPC against Dierking and the Who-Dats (AKA: Who-dat and the Who-Dats.) Compounding the ominous Tom Hammond head hovering over the ND run defense, Purdue returned just two starters on the offensive line. Two of the new guys are position switch starters somewhere between ominous and klaxon-deploying: the right tackle was a backup defensive tackle last year; the center is a 6'6" converted tackle who had never played the position in his life before being told to practice snapping in June. Despite this, Purdue coaches were positive about him after the game:
"He graded out winning," Nord said of Mondek. "Peters Drey had a very good player head up on him the whole day and he held his own. He did an excellent job for the first time snapping in the game."
Also, in that article the Purdue coaches pin the blame for three of Marve's four sacks on Marve for not throwing the ball on time. The Boilers are going to rush for like six yards a game this year.
Last year's game is worth noting since the lines will be similar: Michigan went for 190 yards on 38 caries with a long of 32. Many arrows point towards schwing. The only one pointing away is the presumably increased competence of the ND coaching staff.
Key Matchup: David Molk vs Ian Williams. The first sign Molk was going to be good was two years ago in the driving rain at Notre Dame Stadium when he blasted Williams back time and again, opening holes up for what would be the best game of Sam McGuffie's Michigan career. A year later he was a major factor in Michigan's 5 YPC. If he can do the same thing this year, Michigan's guards will have free releases on the sophomore middle linebackers and Notre Dame will struggle to get Michigan off the field.
Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan fans' reaction to Denard Robinson's throwing in the UConn game was basically this:
And not without reason when you send Tacopants into a mopey sideline pout due to lack of playing time. Stipulated that UConn's secondary must be terrible and that Gary Gray and Darrin Walls will be a major step up. If the ground game is working like it seems it might, however, the excitable Te'o ("yeah, he missed that tackle, but he missed it like a FIVE STAR") and the rest of the Notre Dame linebacking corps will be tested more than the cornerbacks. The only times Michigan went after corners against UConn were on hitches; everything else was safeties and linebackers. That seems like a viable strategy against ND.
The questions for Robinson are the ones detailed in UFR:
It's more about what happens when his receivers are covered. Can he come off a primary read? Can he consistently recognize when guys are covered? Can he process information fast enough to get the passes out on time?
Notre Dame will spend a lot of time working on a counter to the snag that Robinson threw to good effect against UConn, leaving him riskier throws further downfield that require more recognition than "where is the linebacker"; UConn's inability to play anything but zone against Robinson hurt them badly.
As far as ND goes, Marve struggled against the veteran secondary, throwing a pick when Walls sank into the deep route in cover two and Marve chucked it anyway and completing a large number of uselessly short passes. Though he went 31 of 42, all those completions only gained 220 yards, a Threet/Sheridan-esque 5.2 YPC. The longest completion of the day went for 16 yards. Notre Dame also racked up four sacks, though as mentioned the coaching staff put the blame for three of them on Marve; the fourth was blamed on a tailback's blitz pickup. Notre Dame looks to have the same low-mistake secondary they've had for a long time.
Key Matchup: Play action OMG versus ND linebackers. More play action combined with a successful run game and some inexperience at MLB could yield a big day for slots and tight ends.
Run Defense vs. Notre Dame
First, everything ND did on offense against Purdue:
Did you get all that? AAL breaks it down in various ways. The bit relevant to this section:
On 1st and 10, the Irish were 68% run, 32% pass. On all other downs they were 21% run, 79% pass. … Most popular runs: Power (8), Inside Zone (5), Draw (3), Read Zone (3) … Purdue plays a 4-3 and was happy to sit in Cover 2 for almost 50% of all plays. Often a nickel back was in the game replacing the Sam, but serving the same function. The safeties sat at 10-12 pre-snap and weren’t going to let anything over their heads.
Despite the predictability of ND's run distribution, tailbacks Cierre Wood and Armando Allen combined to have an almost Denard-like day with 25 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown. As you can see above, they looked good doing it. (The move to the spread has apparently spelled doom for Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray.) Notre Dame also ran Crist seven times for 20 yards, though he looked bad enough at it that I assume they'll either drop it entirely or keep it as a very occasional effort to keep defenses honest.
Is Purdue's run defense any good? Eh… probably not. They returned 4-5 starters in their front seven but those guys were good for just 94th nationally last year.
Of course, the next question is "is Michigan's run defense any good?" They were 91st (WOO SUCKIT PURDUE) last year and though they return 5-ish of their front seven from last year (counting the spur as a linebacker) the losses were Brandon Graham and Stevie Brown, AKA definitely the best run-defense players on the team last year.
The UConn game does give reason for hope. The Huskies returned four starters and Jordan Todman from a rushing game that was 39th nationally a year ago, but only racked up 138 yards on 30 carries, with 26 of those coming on two carries when Michigan was in a full-on prevent. When Michigan was in their base defense, UConn averaged 3.6 YPC. If Michigan can replicate that they'll be in good shape.
Key Matchup: Mike Martin vs Braxton Cave. Cave was a surprise starter when Dan Wenger suffered a concussion in fall camp, and while he was a decently well-regarded recruit Martin should be coming into his own this year to the point where he tears through Cave like his presence is theoretical. If this happens, Notre Dame's ground game will suffer.
Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame
HAHAHAHA. End preview.
All right, fine: this looked like a pending disaster before the season and looks like a pending disaster after week one, but maybe slightly less of one? Michigan's corners were effective against UConn's short passing game and blameless on their long completions. Cam Gordon made one understandable mistake amongst a reel of good angles, big hits, and mostly responsible play. This is still going to be a horror show; maybe it will be slightly less of one than everyone expects.
On the Notre Dame side of things, Crist proved he wasn't Jimmah, at least not yet, several times. He overthrew several receivers and did not react well when Purdue let the dogs out:
Purdue only blitzed 3 times before the score was 20-3. The Irish handled it at that time (+5, +12, +7). After, Purdue blitzed 8 times netting 2 sacks, 3 incompletions, 1 scramble (for 0 yards), and a safety on a run play. Against the late blitzes, the Irish succeeded once on an Inside Zone run (+18).
Even with those negatives the final numbers were 19 of 26 for 206 yards and a touchdown: efficient but not explosive. His YPA was actually worse than Robinson's, his YPC slightly higher, and this was against a secondary replacing all four starters. IE: probably not a ton better than UConn's. The deep ball was not part of the arsenal. Was Purdue able to bracket Floyd because the guy opposite him this year is Duvall Kamara—all but a tight end—instead of Golden Tate? Is Crist significantly worse at it than Clausen? Was it just one of things? Data not found. Blue Seoul suggests it might be the Crist bit:
Still big, still fast, still got great jumping ability. Unfortunately for him, Crist doesn't seem able to hit him on a fly. Twice they tried a double move, with Crist missing badly. Something's not right with their timing. But he's a huge threat on deep hooks and other sit down routes against a zone.
Even with all that mitigation, your hopes are probably an inch off the floor and that's where they should be. Keeping Floyd off the board on the long ones is all but impossible unless Michigan's pass rush is murderous, and while they were good against UConn they were not murderous.
Key Matchup: Mouton and Roh and to some extent Van Bergen vs ND tackles. ND went empty a ton against Purdue, leaving one-on-one matchups for their offensive linemen. The ND tackles are new and didn't do so hot against Ryan Kerrigan, though that might be understandable. Meanwhile, Roh displayed far greater pass-rush ability against UConn than he did as a freshman in limited time since Michigan rushed three frustratingly often. Van Bergen did not have an impactful game in his first game as a DT, but when Michigan goes to its rush package and Mouton puts his hand down he's a difficult matchup. If Michigan can get to Crist with regularity they win. If not, they probably lose.
Michigan was shaky a week ago. Jeremy Gallon let a punt bounce down to the four, made a ridiculous decision to run up under a 30-yarder and got the muff we all knew was coming. Michigan recovered. Brendan Gibbons missed a 42-yarder, made a 24-yarder, and missed one of four extra points. Kickoff returns were eh, and Michigan elected to frustratingly squib several kicks.
In the aftermath, Rodriguez attributed almost all of that to the wind, gave Gallon a vote of confidence on punt returns, and said Gibbons was good to go this week.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, got a big punt return from Armando Allen—on Purdue's only punt—and saw their field goal kicker go 3/3. On the other hand, their net punting average is just 31.7 yards.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
- Craig Roh and Mike Martin aren't getting to the quarterback on five- and seven-step drops.
- Patrick Omameh looks as shaky as he did against UConn.
- Crist launches anything downfield.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- David Molk puts Ian Williams on skates again.
- The run game's making the linebackers jumpy and vulnerable to the Oh Wide Open we saw against UConn.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for Aigh Secondary!, +1 for Aigh Mike Floyd!, +1 for Aigh The Combination Of The Two!, –1 for Wow Purdue Is Hot Ass, –1 for Dan Dierking YPC: 6.2, –1 for He's White!, +1 for First Road Start For QB, +1 for And The Horrible Things Always Happen At Notre Dame, –1 for …But Usually To The Favorite.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; –1 for Playing With House Money to Some Extent, +1 for But Yeah This Would Be Well On Path Towards Avoiding Doom, +1 for All Internet Notre Dame Fans Are Basically Reprehensible, +1 for Boy The Next Two Weeks Would Be Relaxing With This Under The Belts, –1 for Fairly Understandable Loss If It Happens, +1 for But If It's Doesn't We Might Have Something Here, +1 for Maybe They'll Hire Weis In Three Years If Kelly Does Poorly)
Loss will cause me to... spend three weeks attempting to ignore grumblers until we get more information.
Win will cause me to... definitely not say anything about the Outback Bowl.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Oh, why the hell does this section exist? I don't know. I don't know what will happen, either.
I think Notre Dame can force Michigan into two or three deep coverage and exploit that, I think Obi Ezeh is going to be a key player with Notre Dame running it down his throat a lot from spread formations, I think Michigan's best hope to kill drives is to blitz so those tackles don't have help against Mouton and Roh but that inescapably exposes Kovacs to God knows what. I can see Crist whiffing on some key passes and either fumbling or tossing an interception when he gets pressure. I can also see the Mike Floyd show.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame's performance against a hacked-together bunch of third-string scrubs, converted offensive linemen clearly unsuited for their positions, and a cluelessly arrogant quarterback bodes well for Michigan's ability to run all over them. Once that's established, Robinson's reads get considerably easier and the offense goes right down the field.
I think I'm flipping my position on this after looking more closely at the ND-Purdue game. Total yardage in that game was 350-320, and on review Purdue looks like a team that should be terrible this year, especially if Marve is going to be that guy all year. Is UConn better than Purdue? Almost certainly. Did Michigan disfigure them in terrible ways? Yes. Am I a tiny bit more confident in the reliability of the Michigan offense? Yes. Do I think there's more chance of a turnover when Michigan blitzes Crist than a Notre Dame defense that almost has to sit back? Yes.
So… yeah. I am about to do this. I have no confidence in this prediction.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard only, and he again cracks 100 yards and 5 YPC. Completion percentage comes down to 65%.
- The tailbacks look much better than they did last week, with someone, probably Shaw, breaking a long one due to excessive Denard attention.
- Michigan wins the turnover battle.
- Michigan, 31-27.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Connecticut|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, September 4th 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan -3|
|TELEVISION||ABC/ESPN2 (Coverage Map)|
Run Offense vs. UConn
With a stable of backs six-deep, a strong interior line, and a quarterback who runs on dilithium, the run game should be one of Michigan's strengths this season. UConn's starting defensive linemen range from the tiny (225-lb Trevardo Williams) to the light (255-lb Jesse Joseph) to the good-sized (both defensive tackles are in the 290s). If Michigan's offensive line has made the improvements we think they have, they should be able to push this defensive line all over the field.
UConn's front four is built for speed, rather than power, which might make outside running a little tougher, but the Wolverines should be able to generate a good push up front. At the second level, the linebackers are all seniors, and all have pretty good size. However, the man in the middle, Greg Lloyd, is an enigma. He started the fall at defensive end, then was lost for the season with an ACL injury. A couple weeks later, and he's the starting middle linebacker. Might that make him more tentative? On the weakside, Lawrence Wilson is an athletic 226 pounds, which should give him the ability to chase Michigan's quarterbacks around.
Key Matchup: Rich Rodriguez and Calvin Magee v. The Husky Scheme.
From a physical standpoint, Michigan should be able to move the ball on the ground against UConn. Randy Edsall's coaching staff is aware of this, so they'll throw some things at Michigan's offense (such as the scrape exchange, maybe some run blitzing) to offset that advantage. The offensive braintrust must know when these tricks are coming, and how to counter them.
The Huskies were subpar against scrambly types last year, with West Virginia's Jarrett Brown, Cincinnati's Zach Collaros, and South Florida's BJ Daniels having particularly good days with their feet. UConn is going to come up with some new ideas to prevent Michigan from repeating this success.
Pass Offense vs. UConn
UConn's pass defense had a world of trouble last year, particularly once starting corner Jasper Howard was murdered in October. Part of that was the competition (Cincinnati and Notre Dame were very good passing teams last year), but part of the Huskies' #85 ranking in pass efficiency defense was simply not being very good at football.
So, losing a couple starters to the NFL is a good thing, right? No? Robert McClain (7th round, Panthers) and Robert Vaughn (undrafted, Packers) are both out the door, and this secondary was bad WITH two future NFLers roaming it. The returning starters are redshirt sophomores safety Jerome Junior (listed at second-string on UConn's depth chart) and corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Moving on up into starting roles are junior safeties Harris Agbor and Kijuan Dabney, along with redshirt sophomore corner Dwayne Gratz. Both second-string corners are true freshmen.
The one area of pass defense that the Huskies did well in last year was getting after the quarterback. They finished 28th nationally in sacks, and Michigan's projected starting tackles aren't known for their pass-blocking skills. However, leading sacker Lindsey Witten is off to the Pittsburgh Steelers (undrafted), and with him go 11 sacks. Expect a step back in that department from UConn.
Key Matchup: Michigan's Receivers v. Getting Open.
There have been enough reports throughout the offseason that Roy Roundtree and Darryl Stonum in particular, and the receiving corps at large, have improved in catching the ball. We know Roundtree has a knack for getting open, but the rest of the unit has had its share of struggles.
This UConn secondary might be Michigan-level bad (does "true freshmen in the two-deep" sound familiar?), but it's up to the receivers to take advantage of that. If they can get open against a weak UConn back four, there could be plenty of room to run after the catch. That will back up the defense and open running lanes, which is where Michigan is going to do most of its damage in this game.
Run Defense vs. UConn
Now things start getting sketchy. UConn's offense, like Michigan's, should move the ball on Saturday. Randy Edsall's team last year focused on the rush, and they'll probably do the same in 2010. Jordan Todman is a tiny speedy guy, and should see the majority of the carries. Robbie Frey and USC transfer DJ Shoemate (a wide receiver-turned-fullback for the Trojans) should do a bit more of the pounding.
The Husky offensive line is experienced (two redshirt seniors, two redshirt juniors, and a redshirt sophomore) and big (they average over 300 pounds, and the right side, which I assume will be a focus in rushing, features a 325-pounder and a 333-pounder), just as you'd expect from a grind-it-out offense. Michigan's defensive front is bigger than last year, but they still have their work cut out for them.
Without knowing as much as we'd like about Michigan's scheme, we do know that the linebackers, on the whole, have been disappointing so far in their time in Ann Arbor. Obi Ezeh is the heaviest one on the team, but the mental game has never been all there for him, which means he'll probably be replaced by Mark Moundros in the starting lineup. Craig Roh, who will be a blitzing specialist, has added enough size to make him effective against the maulers up front.
Key Matchup: Michigan's Linebackers v. Their Performance To Date.
Outside of Roh (who could be considered a defensive lineman), the linebackers had a seriously disappointing 2009. Jonas Mouton regressed from a strong 2008, and Obi Ezeh didn't show the improvement we've been waiting three years for. Michigan won't win this game if the linebackers can't get their pads on Todman and wrap him up, because he has the speed to do serious damage once he's past them.
Mark Moundros, former walkon and converted fullback though he may be, has been praised all offseason by the likes of Rich Rodriguez, Greg Robinson, and his teammates as someone who 1) plays with a physical edge and 2) understands the game, and is willing to work in the film room on schemes. If he supplants Ezeh, He's less physically talented, but also less likely to make Michigan fans groan with a poor play.
Pass Defense vs. UConn
Rich Rodriguez expects the Huskies to use play-action as a basis for their pass game, as they did last year. With a trio of inexperienced defensive backs patrolling (not including hybrids), that should scare the living daylights out of you, the Michigan fan. There are a couple reasons for optimism, I guess.
- Zach Frazer, the less impressive UConn quarterback last season, has been named the starter. Since then, Cody Endres has been suspended, so he won't be an option if Frazer struggles.
- UConn graduated its top two receivers in Marcus Easley (a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills) and Brad Kanuch.
That's it though, and the deep threat of Easley has been replaced by fellow speedster Kashif Moore. Tight end Ryan Griffin is available to get open over the middle for 30-yard touchdowns on third and 26.
MIchigan's scheme will be to play soft and give up some of the underneath stuff in order to avoid the Huskies going deep. With the roster as thin as it is, that's probably a good idea. GERG will probably also dial up some different pressure packages to take a bit of heat of the defensive backs.
Key Matchup: The Back Seven v. Broken Tackles.
If you allow an opposing offense to complete short passes, you'd damn sure better keep the gains to a minimum. Yards After Ezeh And Williams were huge last year, and with reports of iffy tackling in the fall scrimmage, that can't happen if Michigan is to win this contest.
Sophomore Dave Teggart returns to kick the ball, though he was iffy last year. He'll probably continue improving, so don't expect field goals to give the Huskies any trouble.
Punter Desi Cullen is out the door, leaving an unknown. With him, UConn was 24th in net punting last year, which is bound to take a step back. Michigan's punt return teams, of course have been nothing to fear. Tony Gibson has been newly-appointed the Special Teams Coordinator in the offseason, and having a single coach focused on the special teams game (at least in part) might improve that.
On the other side of the ball, UConn's return game has been outstanding the past couple years. Three different Huskies returned kicks for touchdowns last year, and all of them are back this season. They'll look for a new punt returner with the departure of Robert McClain, but I suspect they'll have some decent options there. Kickoffs into the endzone and punts with a lot of hangtime will be key.
Key Matchup: HOLD ONTO THE DAMN BALL.
Come on, could it have been anything else?
The Wolverines re-open the Big House, Brock Mealer leads them out of the tunnel, and they're looking to (finally) break through under Rich Rodriguez. But those intangibles seem a little... tangible.
- UConn can generate more than one big play on the ground or through the air.
- The offensive tackles get Michigan's quarterbacks killed.
- Special teams seem... special.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan ends up with a positive turnover margin.
- Patrick Omameh and Steve Schilling are blocking downfield for a ballcarrier with a lot of daylight.
- The young corners look anything better than competent.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 ([Ed: Baseline 5, +1 for Aigh Woolfolk, +1 for Aigh Everyone Else In The Secondary, +1 for Srsly, -1 for Leadership Doesn't Shred Secondaries, -1 for UConn Loves to Grind, -1 for And They Can't Defend Athletic Spread Quarterbacks And We Have A Cheetah Strapped To A Jet Engine And Dropped Of A Plane.)
Desperate need to win level: 11 (Baseline 5; +1 for Season Opener, +1 for Brock, +1 for Stadium Opener, +1 for Let's Keep The Wolves At Bay For Like 30 Seconds, +1 for Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want This Time, +1 for If The Stadium Sets An Attendance Record We'll Set The DNTW Record)
Loss will cause me to... Start worrying (for real this time) about Rodriguez's job security.
Win will cause me to... Immediately shift my terror complex from UConn to Notre Dame.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
This game looks to have the makings of an offensive shootout unless GERG Robinson is a miracle worker. Both defenses are expected to be subpar,
WesternUConn's offense is probably good, and Michigan's offense is an unknown decent trending towards good. One team will probably put up decent numbers in order to win. (Yes, this is almost verbatim from last year's Western Preview).
The question then, is which offense can better take advantage of the opposition's defensive weaknesses. Both offenses should be solid all around, but better in the running game, and both secondaries are weaknesses. I'll take Michigan's front 6-7 over UConn's front 7 though, partially because the UConn D-Ends are nowhere near big enough to hold up at the point of attack, whereas Michigan's are 285 pounds a pop. The Wolverines should also be more confusing in their pressure schemes.
The turnover battle will be where this game turns. The Wolverines have been awful the past two years, finishing in the bottom 20 each season. If they can at least break even this game, It's hard for me to see something other than a win. If they come out in the positive (and don't give it back in special teams), it could be a very good day indeed in Ann Arbor.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan plays all three quarterbacks if the game isn't in doubt in the fourth quarter. Denard Robinson will lead the team in rushing...
- ...but two other Wolverines score rushing touchdowns.
- The defense successfully executes the "bend quite a bit" tactic, giving up more than 200 yards through the air.
- Michigan, 38-30.
This Saturday the #1 ranked Michigan Lacrosse team will take on their instate rival at 7PM at East Grand Rapids High School as part of the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic. Tickets are $6, and gates open at 5:30. Defending Division 2 state champions East Grand Rapids will take on Division 1 reigning champs Birmingham Brother Rice at 1PM as part of the festivities. For more, check out the EGR lacrosse page.
Michigan has an 19-1 record all-time against Michigan State. For the past four seasons, the Wolverines and Spartans have closed the regular season with the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic, with the venue alternating between Grand Rapids and Birmingham each year.
In the 2006 regular season, #1 Michigan defeated #22 Michigan State 14-8 at Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids. The Spartans would get their revenge in the CCLA tournament, however, coming away with an 11-10 win in which they were dominated in every aspect except the final score.
The 2007 season would bring a sweep of Michigan State, with a 14-6 victory at Birmingham Seaholm High School in the regular season and a 10-3 domination in the championship game of the CCLA tournament at Kings High School in Mason, Ohio. In that game, now-senior faceoff specialist David Reinhard won 5-of-6 draws, and Anthony Hrusovsky notched two goals and an assist. [Ed: full preview after the jump.]
[Editor's note: due to a super screw up on my part, I neglected to post this until after Michigan's first game, a 12-8 win over Ball State.]
I'm trying out a new game set for tournaments. I think I'll try and use something similar for weekend series (previous version). I'm open for suggestions on how to present the information consistently. For now, game set comes before a jump if on the front page, and details come afterward.
|Matt Miller (0-2, 4.80 ERA)||vs||Brothers (0-0, 8.64 ERA)|
|Notes: 16-1 All Time Record, Last win(s) in 2009, both ends of a 7 inning double header. Also beat them at Coastal Carolina in 2008|
|Burgoon or Brosnahan||vs||Ross (0-0, 5.19 ERA)|
|Notes: 0-0, first meeting|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||Birmingham 2-0, 1.23 ERA)|
|Notes: 2-1, Split a pair in a similar tournament in 2008, W 4-1 and L 11-9. This is Coastal's home field. Audio is Coastal's.|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||TB|
|Notes: That split from 2008 was on this field both games. Audio is Coastal's.|
Long preview after the jump.