|WHAT||Hawaii at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
September 3rd, 2016
|THE LINE||Michigan -41|
PBP: Mike Patrick
Analyst: Ed Cunningham
|WEATHER||sunny, low to mid 70s, 0% chance of rain|
Hi, it's Ace, continuing the annual tradition of writing the first game preview because Brian's worn down his fingers into bloody nubs. As is tradition, you'll call me "Brian" in the comments. Then I will dip my arms into the butterscotch pudding, as is tradition. What a glorious day for our country, and indeed the world.
For Michigan, this is the season opener. Hawaii, on the other hand, already took a 51-31 loss to Cal last Friday. Have I mentioned that game was in Sydney, Australia? Their coach, Nick Rolovich, has taken to tweeting about having a #MagellanMindset because of the brutal travel schedule. The time change alone—kickoff is at 6 AM Hawaii time—is enough to have Michigan players literally praying for their opponent:
"I couldn't go from Pacific Time to Eastern Time like that, not in a week and then expect to play to my best ability," Lewis said. "I mean, we went to Utah (last year) and it was pretty hard. I'm praying for those guys, honestly."
Oh, and Hawaii finished 118th in S&P+ last year. The spread is 41 points for good reason.
Run Offense vs Hawaii
Cal didn't have much of a need to run the ball against Hawaii because they were averaging 8.2 yards per attempt through the air. When they did run, however, they were quite successful. Hawaii lost their best run defender in the offseason when they booted Kennedy Tulimasealii, one of the best DTs in the group of five, and they only finished 82nd in S&P+ against the run last year with that guy. Without that guy...
watch the linebackers
...they did not fare well. In a very exciting development this year, we're partnering with Pro Football Focus, which is providing us with their full grades on Michigan's upcoming opponents to use for FFFF and the previews. Of the 13 players in the front seven who played against Cal, two—two!—finished with a positive grade against the run, and both were barely above zero. There are some grades in there I feel bad even mentioning: DE David Manoa (-3.1 vs. run) and ILB Jahlani Tavai (-2.5) had really rough outings. NT Korey Rasmussen looked passable, but he's a 295-pound nose tackle who'll face off against Mason Cole.
The defensive backs didn't fare much better; the nickel completely biffs his run fit here, then the safety takes a bad angle to tack on extra yardage:
Cal averaged 6.4 yards per non-sack carry. They were a good, not great, rushing team last year. If Jim Harbaugh so desired, Michigan could probably get away with not throwing the ball at all in this game. As you'll see in the next section, they'll probably be inclined to do so anyway.
KEY MATCHUP: STARTING LEFT TACKLE vs. VERY MOVABLE OBJECTS. If Bredeson or Newsome struggles to get movement on the edge against this team, it'll be a major red flag. I don't expect this to be an issue.
[Hit THE JUMP]
|WHERE||Homesure Lending Arena
March 25th, 2016
|THE LINE||Michigan –1.5|
Yes, I found a college hockey line.
Notre Dame is 19-10-7 on the year, 15-5-2 in Hockey East. They enter the tournament on quite a skid, having lost five of their last six games. Those games were against Providence, BU, and Northeastern—all participants in this year's tourney—so at least their losses have been against good teams and not, say, Ohio State, but that's not the ideal way to enter win-or-go-home time.
ND's offense curled up and died during this period. Just one of their last six games has featured more than two goals, that a 6-4 loss to Northeastern that knocked them out of the HE tournament. Their single win was a 1-0 shutout of BU.
ND has the statistical profile of a team that is responsible but less than overwhelming. Leading scorer Anders Bjork has 11-22-33—less than a PPG. Leading goal scorer Thomas DiPauli has 13. They're deep, though, with six double-digit scorers. They're slightly getting outshot on the year. They haven't given up a shorthanded goal this year; they've only scored one.
This is a team short on high-end talent but one that goes three lines deep in reasonably prolific dudes.
Notre Dame split against Minnesota, BU, and Penn State this season. Michigan was 3-2 against the Gophers, split against BU, and nuked Penn State into orbit.
DiPauli has 13 goals on the year
Despite recent struggles the Irish have still scored a healthy number of goals this season, albeit often against the lower reaches of Hockey East. Those lower reaches were not much different than the Big Ten's: Maine and UMass are below even MSU in RPI; UConn is just above the Spartans; Merrimack, Vermont and UNH barely edge out Wisconsin.
ND has bombed the aforementioned schools and nonconference opponent WMU, who is in the same RPI range and faced ND three times this year. In those 15 games ND scored 67 goals, 4.5 per outing. In their other 21 they managed just 46, 2.1 per. That is a stark difference. ND really struggles to score against good teams.
Now, you are probably thinking "does Michigan qualify as good in this department?" and I'm like… uh.
Maybe? The Ohio State series is a blip in what is otherwise a long stretch of games against decent to good teams that did not make me want to boil myself alive after the opposition hit double digits in odd man rushes. Since a 4-4 tie against Wisconsin, Michigan has played
- that series against OSU, guh
- a 5-2 win over Ferris State, which is in the tourney at RPI #30 thanks to a WCHA tourney win
- six games against Penn State and Minnesota, bubble teams, in which they gave up an average of 2 goals per game. PSU and Minnesota are 6th and 13th in scoring nationally.
I'm not saying they've turned the corner. I'm not saying they haven't, especially since some of those goals came in sloppy third periods with Michigan up a zillion.
Bjork spearheads ND's defense from center
Notre Dame is the #14 D in goals allowed, and while this is almost identical to where they stand in goals scored it's a much more consistent strength. Until that 6-4 loss to Northeastern in their most recent outing ND hadn't given up five since October (against PSU). They almost never scored shutouts and almost never gave up more than three goals (just five times all season and twice since November). ND can make it rough sledding against anyone.
Often that rough sledding means giving up 3 goals against tourney-level competition. Goals allowed this season against top 20 RPI opponents: 6, 3, 0, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2, 1, 3, 4, 2, 2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 5, 4. You get the idea. They're not impregnable, or even particularly good at shutting down good teams.
Bjork, an Andrew Copp type, is by far ND's best forward defensively—consider that he is +27 with just 33 points and that the next-best F on the team is +15—and ND will seek to match him against the CCM line. Michigan has last change, which could be a factor.
Goalie Cal Petersen, drafted in the fifth round by the Sabres, is a major strength with a .928 save percentage.
Surprise: Notre Dame will want to stay out of the box. Michigan's rampant power play is #1 nationally at 32%, having scored on an amazing 17 of 29 opportunities over their last six games. Notre Dame's penalty kill is 20th at 84%—decent but nothing spectacular. They have just one short handed goal to their name this year.
Michigan will also want to stay out of the box, because their penalty kill is 45th and ND has a solid PP unit of its own, 10th nationally. The two teams are about even in penalty minutes.
A FEELING OTHER THAN TERROR?
I think this is a reasonably good matchup, though. RPI and KRACH both agree that this is a 7-vs-12 game. Those metrics don't take goal margin into account; ND has made a lot of hay against a slate of HE opponents that are more or less equivalent to Wisconsin and MSU. So has Michigan, of course, but the gap between performances against good teams is not nearly as large. Also Michigan is outscoring the opposition by 1.9 goals per game; ND is at .8. Michigan just bombed teams slightly worse than the ones ND lost to repeatedly. ND's defense doesn't look capable of shutting CCM down; they haven't shut down many good teams this year. Michigan is and should be favored.
Unfortunately for Michigan, their bell curve is so wide that being favored might not mean a whole bunch. Jeff Jackson is a very good coach and Michigan can struggle when the opposition has a high-energy forecheck going, as OSU did in that series.
If the defensive improvement over the past month holds, Michigan should get a couple of ridiculous goals from CCM and ND will struggle to get past two or three. These days I call two goals a "Michigan shutout" since that's enough to win. If Jackson gets in Michigan's grill with his coaching chops something like OSU could go down, albeit tighter since ND is not much of an offensive team against reasonable opposition.
I think it's a W, but hockey plinko.
|WHAT||Florida vs Michigan|
|WHEN||1 PM Eastern
January 1st, 201
|THE LINE||Michigan -4|
|WEATHER||mostly cloudy, 80-ish
slight chance of rain
I already used the "Good Ash, Bad Ash" clip for the Northwestern game this year but I mean yeah pretty much that again. Both teams have first-year coaches who spackled together an offense from the grim remains left by his predecessor. Both teams have fierce defenses. Both teams are entering the game after spending the last couple weeks twitching and repeating "not in the face" after not at all competitive games against rivals.
Florida's offense is slightly more dysfunctional after the weird mid-season PED suspension of their starting QB, but at no point has their defense been emasculated in the way Michigan's was against Ohio State. So… yeah. The books have installed Michigan a 4 point favorite despite this being a virtual road game, and that feels about right.
Run Offense vs Florida
Bullard brings the pain
Prepare for a rough ride. Anyone who's been on the internet over the past few weeks has run across a dubiously-sourced photo of Jabrill Peppers and the brace on his hand. It sounds like he will play, but the guess here is that he won't see time on offense with that injury. Also Derrick Green is not on the trip and has probably played his last snap as a Wolverine.
That leaves Smith and… uh… company I guess… against these guys:
All-American candidate DT Jonathan Bullard … boasts the top run-stopping grade in the nation at +36.5 while improving his pass rushing this year to the tune of six sacks, six hits, and 12 hurries on 253 rushes. His instincts and ability to read and defeat blocks have made him a force, and a very consistent one at that, as he’s yet to grade lower than +2.1 in any game this season. Complementing Bullard has been a deep rotation of defensive linemen, with six other players grading positively while playing at least 192 snaps, led by true sophomore DT Caleb Brantley and his team-high +10.6 pass rushing grade.
At the linebacker level, Antonio Morrison receives the hype, but it’s Jarrad Davis who has turned heads this season as his +11.6 mark leads the way for the Gators. He leads the team with 34 stops, including 12 in the passing game, good for 12th in the nation among linebackers.
That was posted before the FSU and Alabama games, and even those went poorly for the team as a whole the defense came out of that shiny. Bullard was named a PFF All-American. S&P+ has Florida the #5 rush defense in the nation.
Meanwhile Michigan is near-perfectly mediocre at 61st. While Florida will be missing a piece or two they've held up very well minus those guys down the stretch—it was only sheer repetition that saw Alabama crack 200 yards on the ground. It took Alabama 58 carries to get there; Florida gave up 4.0 YPC. Michigan fans are familiar with late fades from overworked defenses; even with that fade the Gators held up.
If there is a major weakness it's the strongside linebacker, who Florida State targeted on a number of successful Dalvin Cook runs. Ace detailed those earlier today in his FFFF.
It is very difficult to see Michigan getting much, if any production out of this unit. Michigan's offensive line plateaued at meh; Smith is the opposite of a home-run hitter; production against similarly-ranked defenses has been grim. Michigan has tried to minimize the importance of running backs for a bit now with Peppers and WR screens. Insofar as that is possible, expect a repeat. Florida does play their corners off a significant portion of the time, so various WR screens may be available.
One wild card to watch for: Ty Isaac. Reports from before the OSU game held that he was getting the bulk of the first team reps, and then he did not play at all in the game itself. Another month of preparation and the presumed absence of Peppers should see Isaac cash in on some of that practice hype for playing time. He's still likely to eat dirt given the context he'll be in, but keep an eye out.
KEY MATCHUP: NOT IN THE FACE.
[Hit THE JUMP for LESS DEPRESSING UNITS]
|WHAT||Ohio State at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||Noon PM Eastern
November 28st, 2015
|THE LINE||Ohio State -1|
|WEATHER||mostly cloudy, around 40, 0% chance of rain|
They came for our families. They came for our principles. They saw our hapless generals and ordered a scorched-earth campaign. I ate tires for six months, and then I pined for the good old days when I had tires to eat. Then I pined for the good old days when I could remember the thing that was supposed to be bad that I ate.
I'm tired of it, and you're tired of it, and Jim Harbaugh just crested the ridge with the Rohirrim. Let's get it.
Run Offense vs Ohio State
Joey Bosa has made an effort to look like every Ohio State fan averaged together
It was bizarre to watch the much-maligned Michigan State offensive line get a grip on their opposition last week and drive the Buckeyes backwards. By the second half of that game OSU was getting blown off the ball on the regular.
In some ways that is reminiscent of Michigan's performance against Indiana—with the OSU offense unable to stay on the field and MSU sustaining 10+ play drives, the talented but thin Buckeye line ran out of gas. Can Michigan replicate that performance?I don't know. This is an improvement from my previous impressions.
OSU's rush defense has been bipolar this season. Minnesota and Illinois collected a total of 55 yards between them, but Big Ten games other than those two haven't gone nearly as well:
- Indiana (mostly) minus Jordan Howard: 55 carries, 176 yards, 3.2 YPC
- Maryland: 42 carries, 253 yards, 6 YPC
- PSU: 40 carries, 195 yards, 4.9 YPC
- Rutgers: 29 carries, 104 yards, 3.6 YPC
- MSU: 51 carries, 203 yards, 4 YPC
Michigan's mediocre rush offense (51st in S&P) doesn't project to blow up, especially since the main back, De'Veon Smith, is the opposite of a burner. Michigan also does not run the quarterback on purpose much, and both Indiana and Maryland's production was heavily dependent on QBs running a long way. MSU also featured a heavy dose of QB run. That's not an option for M.
OSU runs out one of those MSU-ish 4-3 over, quarters defenses with a LB/S hybrid over the slot. With Penn State running more or less the same defense, all three of Michigan's main division competitors are in the same boat. Michigan has not been able to run against this style of defense all year, but there were differences between PSU and MSU, specifically at safety. PSU is much more conservative with their safeties and gives their LBs pass responsibilities; MSU is in your face and lets their LBs go. OSU is much closer to Penn State.
You can do that when you have talent coming out your ears. Joey Bosa, of course, leads the way:
Nor is Bosa just a pass rusher — he’s equally destructive in run defense, and that’s reflected in his +58.2 overall grade, which leads all edge rushers. … Bosa’s season has been so impressive that we felt he should be seen as a Heisman contender, even though we know that the Heisman is rarely awarded to a defensive player.
Adolphus Washington is a high quality DT in the vein of Maurice Hurst—not huge but in your backfield a lot. The other two DL are fine but don't jump off the page; the linebacker corps is very good. Seth has more details in FFFF.
Expect Michigan to try out those wide receiver screens when OSU aligns so they might work; OSU may be able to shut those down anyway if Darron Lee and Vonn Bell are on point. On the interior they may be able to crease the weaker half of the OSU line and maybe Washington if he gets tired, but consistent production is difficult to see.
When it comes to the actual ground game, I don't know. I can see the left side of Michigan's line winning enough battles to put a tailback in a productive position, but barely, and Michigan's tailbacks have not done well with "barely" this year. Ohio State will try to win with their 7 up front before trying anything special, which should give Michigan some opportunities if they can just match OSU's ability.
The X factor is Jabrill Peppers, who's started lining up as a tailback the last couple weeks. Peppers has shown flashes of the kind of ability he demonstrated in high school…
…and may be able to break a couple things that swing this matchup to a draw. Tough sledding awaits either way.
KEY MATCHUP: JABRILL PEPPERS versus THE SPOOOOKY GHOST OF TOM HARMON.
[Hit THE JUMP for Butt vs Bell, rushing offense, 404 passing O not found, and WHAT ARE THOOOOSE kickers]
|WHAT||Michigan at Penn State|
Happy Valley, PA
|WHEN||Noon PM Eastern
November 21st, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan –3.5|
|PARKING||oh god get your OSU parking now|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, mid 40s, 0% chance of rain|
Penn State and James Franklin looked dead for the foreseeable future after an opening-week loss to Temple in which the Owls picked up ten sacks, one of them on a two-man rush. But Temple turned out be pretty damn good and Penn State turned out to be all right themselves.
The Nittany Lions throw up offensive clunkers on the regular and occasionally get shredded on the ground, but a relentless pass rush and Saquon Barkley generally have the Nittany Lions in position for Franklin to do something bogglingly dumb at the end of the game. Prepare for a good hard fought competition with no complaints about referees from either side!
Run Offense vs Penn State
This looks grim after Michigan did little other than break a couple of De'Veon Smith runs against Indiana. Anthony Zettel (sigh) and Austin Johnson comprise one of the top DT pairings in the country. They did the above to Northwestern whenever singled and crushed inside zone. With Michigan neither overpowering one on one or particularly good at comboing through DTs they project to meet a similar fate.
But other than those two guys Penn State isn't great. Carl Nassib, their elite pass rusher, will pop big lanes open as he goes for the QB. Without Nyeem Wartman-White their LBs are a little small and inexperienced. Their advanced stats all hover around average nationally; the schedule-adjusted ones place PSU just 37th nationally against the run.
After getting blown up a bunch early Northwestern found a rhythm by running power outside the tackles and finished with 6.3 YPC. Meanwhile Illinois got crushed but Maryland ripped off 5 YPC and OSU 6.3; PSU shut down Indiana but that was without both Sudfeld and Howard and should probably be ignored. Ace sees a way forward:
after I initially though Michigan would have to lean heavily on the pass to win this game, Northwestern's growing success with power eventually had me believing the opposite. If they can simply seal off the playside DT—not always that simple, of course—there's usually room on the edge, and the linebackers aren't good at closing space and making tackles in those gaps.
Easier said than done about the DTs but power does generally remove them from doing much more than pursuing, and Penn State is weak on the edge.
Whether Michigan can exploit that is an open question. Michigan's tailbacks miss holes; the linemen outside of Cole and (until the last couple weeks) Glasgow are mostly competent but often inconsistent. It's pretty easy to see Michigan target the wrong defenders and give too much ground and generally eat dirt for big chunks of the game. On the other hand, this might be a situation in which Michigan's diverse collection of misdirection plays puts a linebacker in the wrong gap and finds a guy with glorious hair loping through the secondary.
It's probably too much to ask for regular third and two, but a chunk play or three wouldn't go amiss.
KEY MATCHUP: PULLING MICHIGAN GUARDS against GETTING HUNG UP WHEN DUDES SLANT INSIDE oh and also MICHIGAN RUNNING BACKS for pants sake PLEASE FOLLOW SAID GUARDS
[Hit THE JUMP for MOUNT HACKENBERG IS SET TO BLOW]
|WHAT||Michigan at Indiana|
|WHEN||3:30 PM Eastern
November 14th, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan –13|
|PARKING||Get yer OSU parking now|
|WEATHER||sunny, mid 50s
0% chance of rain
Professor Chaos via Patrick Barron.
Parking note sponsored by Park 'n' Party, which is your fancy same-place-all-the-time tailgate headquarters. They tell me they're now expanding into catering and equipment so they can accommodate all levels of commitment. They also say that if you wait you will not get parking and then you will
wander the earth doomed for all time have to explain this to your spouse. Seriously, they sold out for MSU and OSU is on the way.
Indiana hasn't won a whole lot of Big Ten games but they've given big chunks of the league heart attacks. They were within 30 yards of beating Ohio State, they stuck close to Michigan State for about 55 minutes, they were down 21-20 against Iowa deep into the second half.
They have also lost to Rutgers. Like this.
In addition they own a one-point win over Southern Illinois and a three-point win over Western Kentucky. #CHAOSTEAM is real. #CHAOSTEAM is here.
Run Offense vs Indiana
TJ Simmons is one man against the world
Indiana's defense isn't good at anything; it's worse at defending rushes than passes. In Big Ten games:
- OSU ran for 272 yards on 34 rushes, 8 YPC
- PSU ran for 154 yards on 32 rushes, 4.8 YPC
- Rutgers ran for 210 yards on 40 rushes, 5.3 YPC
- Iowa ran for 234 yards on 44 rushes, 5.3 YPC.
Only MSU, the #12 rushing offense in the league, was even vaguely slowed. Michigan is not in OSU's class but they're right about where Rutgers and Penn State are. S&P+ has Indiana 91st nationally; they have a bad situation where they get mauled off the ball on short yardage (104th nationally) and also give up a ton of big plays (95th).
Problems start with the big guys, who aren't big enough and tend to vacate lanes:
The defensive line is the source of a lot of Indiana's defensive woes. To make up for being a little undersized and mostly unable to beat blocks straight up, they slant often, and Iowa used this against them over and over:
That's the entire defensive line and both inside linebackers stuck on the wrong side of the field a mere moment after the handoff. Akrum Wadley—yet another opposing running back I now covet—had ten free yards, then got an extra bunch with a slick juke on a safety just outside the screen.
Darius Latham is an exception at a full 300 pounds; he has a swell recruiting pedigree but has had some issues staying on the field, missing the opener with a suspension and the OSU and PSU games with injury. He's been on the field for the last few games but has struggled to have much impact since guys can just run where he ain't.
Indiana's guys get very aggressive in an attempt to make up for problems like those above and could be susceptible to the trap plays Michigan has largely put in their back pocket since it was clear opposing teams were spending significant amounts of time prepping for them.
The linebackers are actually pretty good when TJ Simmons, who's the kind of knifing presence Michigan fans hoped James Ross would develop into, is present. He missed the second half of the Iowa game after a (correct) targeting call; he will be back for the full 60 against Michigan since his ejection happened at the tail end of the first half.
And then the safeties:
The safeties, as you'd expect from Indiana's number of big plays allowed, were awful. [Chase] Dutra is aggressive and takes terrible angles to the ball, which is not a good combination. Crawford is slightly more reliable from what I can tell but that may just be because Dutra plays more in the box.
The eye test agrees with the stats: Indiana gets blown off the ball a lot, has some linebackers valiantly trying to mitigate issues, and after them it's a crapshoot.
As far as Michigan's half of this goes, they've scuffled along for the most part. They should be able to beat up the Indiana front; too often this year they've had one or two guys (ballcarriers included) commit play-breaking errors. The overall results are okay—36th in S&P+—but a lack of big play ability, especially from the tailbacks, has held succesfull plays down. Michigan doesn't get stuffed much; they frequently thunk out three yards. It's a work in progress.
Michigan should have success but if they don't hit a big one—and they're not good at that—the numbers will be a bit underwhelming.
KEY MATCHUP: INDIANA LINEBACKERS versus SECOND LEVEL BLOCKS. If the LBs get handled Michigan is going to be sailing.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of Indiana, which is basically what you expect from Indiana every year now]