“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
|WHAT||Michigan vs Illinois|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM EST
October 13th, 2012
|THE LINE||M -25|
|TELEVISION||ESPN/ABC reverse mirror (I KNOW)
|WEATHER||around 50, light rain all day w storms at gametime|
Bring your ponchos out. Image via Dubsism.
HEY GUYS I'M KIND OF TERRIBLY SICK AND IF THIS IS LATE AND MAYBE LESS EFFORTFUL THAN NORMAL JUST BLAME EVERYTHING EXCEPT ME.
Run Offense vs Illinois
Do not get used to this statement about the Illini football team: hey, this isn't half bad. Every other Illini stat of relevance languishes 80th or below; Illinois is 38th in rush defense despite acquiring almost no sacks. The problems only happen against bad BCS rushing offenses:
PSU is currently 80th, Wisconsin 90th in rush offense. Arizona State is okay at 55th. The week before the Illinois-Wisconsin game, the Badgers got Montee Ball 93 yards… on 31 carries. You can probably chalk the relative statistical success here up to schedule effects that will evaporate as the season goes along.
Spence's star has started to fade without departed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Akeem Spence*/DL/Illinois: Spence recorded 9 tackles during the loss to Penn State, but the statistics don't tell the whole story. The junior tackle was manhandled most of the game and pushed off the line of scrimmage or controlled in man-on-man blocking. Spence did not turn in a terrible performance, but did not look like the first-round prospect most believe him to be.
My memories of Spence are mostly David Molk reaching him like a boss.
Okay, okay, but Wisconsin had about half of those yards in the fourth quarter when things got out of hand, and Michigan has not been pushing guys around. Everyone's concerned about Fitz Toussaint's production, or lack thereof, and despite the numbers above this just doesn't seem like a slam dunk, especially if Michigan is going to put the passing game in the barn again.
That said, fits and starts are the order of the day, with starts being long long runs when Illinois busts something and the fits coming when one of their players shoves someone other than Lewan into the backfield. It'll be an ugh-ugh-WOO kind of thing.
Key Matchup: Mealer/Omameh/Barnum versus Spence and Other Guy. Would like to see some movement here, some inside zone doubles that actually come off, some Toussaint yards. Our operative theory so far is that it's hard to deal with Short and ND's 3-4s in Michigan's non-Denard Run Game; movement Saturday is necessary to continue that narrative.
[Hit THE JUMP for Champaign
|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
West Lafayette, IN
4 pm Eastern, October
|THE LINE||M -3|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, around 50, no chance of rain|
Note the 4 PM start time. A little strange, that one.
Run Offense vs Purdue
remember this guy?
Michigan is going to test out the new Lloydmanbearpigball offense they rolled out in the second half against Notre Dame in harsh conditions… maybe. Despite having Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston last year, Michigan exploded for 339(!) rushing yards on 53 carries. Fitz Toussaint's 59-yard back-breaker was the highlight but even outside that, Toussaint had 111 yards on 19 carries. In the UFR I marveled at how terrible Purdue's defensive ends and how slow their linebackers were, cautioning anyone from giddiness:
You say long-term. Isn't this a post-bye week ability to insert more of the actual offense effective immediately?
Maybe, but I have my doubts about how well it will work against teams stouter than Purdue. I know the Boilers coped vaguely well with Illinois and Penn State. I just have no idea how they managed that. Purdue's run defense suuuuuuuuuuuucks.
They have two main issues: the defensive end who is not senior Gerald Gooden and their outside linebackers. Gooden was all right holding the edge, so Michigan ran away from him most of the day. This is because Purdue's other DE is terrible whether it's the starter or the backup. That guy got sealed all day:
That is Michigan's first play from scrimmage. Koger seals the playside DE and that's about it. When that guy isn't stringing the play to the sideline or taking out another blocker your pitch is 75% of the way to success. On this play the MLB taking a dumb angle upfield of the Koger block is the rest of it.
A year later they're 23rd in rushing defense and ceded just 97 yards on 29 carries to Notre Dame, the only BCS team they've played to date. Ace took a look at that game instead of FFFFing a nonexistent UMass game and came back impressed with Short:
Purdue exacerbated Notre Dame's interior rushing woes by selling out against the run, forcing Golson to beat them with his arm. Kawaan Short played an All-American-caliber game, holding his ground against double teams and blowing up plays whenever he faced a single blocker. He recorded four tackles and two sacks, both coming when he made a lone Irish interior lineman look silly with a quick move off the line. PROTIP: Do not block Kawaan Short with one person.
After Michigan had a similar outing against ND's rushing offense the viability of the Irish OL is in question… but so is the viability of Michigan's OL. They had a tough time with Nix and Tuitt and will be getting a couple of players of that caliber in their face Saturday.
The question for Purdue is: what about everyone surrounding those stars at DT? Ryan Russell was a huge problem last year as a redshirt freshman; this year he's got 4.5 TFLs and two sacks. Improvement or mirage?
The same goes for Will Lucas, currently Purdue's leading tackler as a true junior. He was the MLB mentioned above. He's entering his second year as a full time starter and should be expected to improve a great deal. When Michigan flees from Short—and they will flee from Short if Mike Kwiatkowski's inflated UFR number from the ND game is any indication—will the ends hold up and the linebackers show up? Not so much last year.
Key Matchup: Kwiatkowski, Funchess, Williams, and the tackles sealing those ends inside. That was deadly for the Boilers last year.
[Hit THE JUMP for tiny corners, standard Purdue offense.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Notre Dame|
Notre Dame Stadium,
South Bend, IN
|WHEN||7:30 pm Eastern, September 22nd 2012|
|THE LINE||ND -5|
|WEATHER||rainy and mid-50s most of the day, but clear by gametime, minimal wind|
Run Offense vs Notre Dame
the thing no one remembers about this is Te'o made this tackle about two yards downfield
This was a slog for Purdue and not particularly effective for Michigan State, though the Spartans may have been better off imitating their Boise State gameplan: LeVeon Bell averaged 4.1 yards on just 19 carries.
You're probably all like "none of those teams have Denard Robinson," and that's true. But Michigan only got 114 yards last year, almost literally all of them from Denard. Vincent Smith, Michael Shaw, and Stephen Hopkins combined on eight carries that gained ten yards with a long of three. Denard managed 113 on 15 carries. This was very early in Borges's wild ride with the spread, though, and his first against a real opponent. The next week Robinson would carry 26 times against EMU, which is either inexplicable or Borges trying to get a handle on something he hadn't been able to against the Irish. Much rests on that handle being acquired by now.
Notre Dame's star is of course Manti Te'o, the inside linebacker from Hawaii who etc etc etc you've watched him meet Denard probably thirty times, you know all about Te'o. He's kind of good, you guys. This year I'm not even sure the ND LBs are freaking out enough to burn them on misdirection—whatever reads they're making have been accurate. The other guys aren't quite to that standard. Chris Fox is pretty vulnerable in space, whether it's tackling a guy or covering one; Carlo Calabrese is good, but not great.
The line is getting nasty. Nose tackle Louis Nix was a stumbling battleship last year; he's slimmed down and is two-gapping opponents effectively. Stephon Tuitt is a 3-4 DE at 300 pounds who has five sacks on the year, about which more later. They'll put LB Prince Shembo down at DE on passing downs and use Kapron Lewis-Moore (a strong candidate for Brooks Bollinger eighth year memorial senior) as a stouter run defender. These guys are all playing effectively, albeit against questionable offensive lines.
ND's 3-4 is predicated on two things: making you double those linemen to move them and getting both inside linebackers to the gap clean. This is happening a lot. The results are above.
Michigan has Denard!
Right, so that. Denard is a problem for anyone on the ground because he gives the offense an extra blocker. Opponents generally combat this by bringing down a safety, which ND will likely do by splitting him over the slot when there's a slot. There is a not-insignificant danger ND will not have to do this. Michigan's interior line has been worrying, and it's hard to see any of Michigan's OL in there being able to prevent Nix from bulling his way into the backfield without help. If Schofield can't hold up against Lewis-Moore or Tuitt, two linebackers will be enough when one of them is Te'o quality.
Misdirection is called for. Neither of ND's first two Big Ten opponents could use much of that for whatever reason, but Michigan has a big threat wearing 16 and a mad scientist OC who had better damn well have something up his sleeve after two weeks in which the offense was "whatever because it works" and a third in which the offense was "don't get Denard hurt."
Key Matchup: ND ILB versus second level blocks. Must get hat on opponent or Denard goes no places.
[Hit THE JUMP for Hannibal Lecter DE, Brian Kelly cat, and oh God I have to predict something don't I.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs UMass|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:30 pm Eastern, September 15th2012|
|THE LINE||Michigan –45.5|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, partly cloudy, calm|
Run Offense vs UMass
In their first two games, the Minutemen have given up 147 yards on 43 carries to UConn (which subsequently went out and put up 35 yards on NC State) and 331 yards on 53 carries to Indiana (which needs no additional wow experience appended). They are really not good at containing rushing defenses. Indiana State gave up just over half as many yards as UMass did to Indiana.
If this is not a full-on baby seal massacre, I am disappoint, Michigan rush offense. Air Force wasn't good, but UMass seems a large step down from the organized and veteran Falcons. Denard should break one or two long ones, Toussaint will crack 100 yards at a healthy YPC rate, and we'll get our first distorted looks at what Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet look like taking handoffs.
Key Matchup: Michigan cleat traction versus the thick layer of slippery gore laid down by the third quarter. Watch out, Dennis Norfleet! That's probably a broken bone you're cutting on!
[Hit THE JUMP for barely concealed contempt for the opponent.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Air Force|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||3:30 pm Eastern, September 8st 2012|
|THE LINE||Michigan –21.5|
|TELEVISION||ESPN2/ABC reverse mirror (coverage map)|
|WEATHER||windy, mid-60s, slight chance of rain|
[HEY BOO-URNSERS: I know ain't no one gonna tell you what to do, but booing a service academy when they are introduced is a terrible idea. Let's not do that! None of you are reading this blog, probably.]
Run Offense vs Air Force
what up mr kotter, what up
After a comprehensively abysmal outing against Alabama, Michigan gets a slightly better matchup against the Falcons. Subtract 70 pounds from everyone on the Alabama defense and add serious engineering degrees for most: that's Air Force. Thank gawd.
Last week Air Force beat up on I-AA Idaho State. The Fighting Gutierrezeses were 2-9 last year, losing to the various Montana, Utah, and Washington I-AA teams by scores like 54-13. They averaged—wait for it—27 yards rushing doing so. This is not data.
We don't have much in the way of data we can take forward from last year's Falcon outfit since they turned over seven starters, but if we assume they'll be a lot like last year's outfit, Michigan should go buck-wild on what was the #109 rushing defense. The Notre Dame game featured in Ace's FFFF saw the Irish go for 266 yards on 29 carries, including a 78-yard run by Andrew Hendrix(!). Brady Hoke's old outfit and 2011 common opponent San Diego State put up 201 on 35 carries, with Ronnie Hillman going for 172. Undersized and heavily reliant on confusing the opponent with blitzes, Air Force stands little chance of holding up against any reasonably good BCS-level rushing attack.
Michigan should have one of those again. They've got Fitzgerald Toussaint back, and since this is an overmatched opponent Michigan will probably run Denard 30 times. I'm not sure we learned anything about Michigan in the first game for the exact opposite reason we didn't learn anything about Air Force in the first game; extrapolating from past seasons suggests Michigan will run riot.
Key Matchup: Offensive line vs getting push. This should not be a problem, but we're all spooked after last week's total inability to block any-damn-body.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the news. Which is less bad!]
[Note for people who don't read who posts what: Ace posted this. You probably didn't read this either. DAMN YOUUUUU.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Alabama|
|WHERE||Cowboys Stadium, Arlington TX|
|WHEN||8 pm Eastern, September 1st 2012|
|THE LINE||Alabama -13.5|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
|WEATHER||sunny, mid-90s, roof expected to be closed so it doesn't really matter|
[Image via Tower of Bammer]
It's the opening game of the season, so certainly the Wolverines have scheduled a directional Michigan school or similar creampu...
Michigan takes on defending national champion Alabama, which is ranked second in both preseason polls despite returning just 11 starters. There is good reason for this: Nick Saban has turned Tuscaloosa into an NFL talent factory, one that shows no signs of slowing despite the heavy personnel losses. Michigan's toughest test traditionally comes in the last regular season game; this year, it's the first.
Run Offense vs Alabama
Jesse Williams shifts from end to nose tackle; this should not be a problem
The Crimson Tide defense posted one of the most dominant seasons in collegiate history in 2011, allowing ten yards per game fewer than any other team in the country. A look at their run defense, game-by-game, reveals their numbers could have been even better if not for one obvious outlier:
FCS school Georgia Southern was the only team to crack 3.6 yards per carry against Alabama, and they more than doubled that figure. Flukes are flukes, however, and a triple-option FCS team managing that kind of output against that defense screams irrelevance unless Al Borges breaks out the flexbone tomorrow. The rest of the year, Bama allowed more than three ypc just twice, to Penn State (still boasting Silas Redd) and LSU (first matchup—the second didn't go so well).
This isn't the same Alabama outfit, of course; they lose nose tackle Josh Chapman and a pair of All-American caliber linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. The Tide can replace that talent effectively, sliding 320-pound end Jesse Williams down to the nose and inserting former blue-chip recruits Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard into the lineup at linebacker, but replicating last year's success will be difficult.
Then again, Alabama ceded just 2.4 yards per carry last year en route to crushing the entire universe. Giving up a full yard more per carry would've still placed them inside the top 25 nationally—there may be regression, meaning the extent of their destruction is limited to merely our own galaxy. Williams reportedly bench-pressed 600 pounds(!!!) over the summer—as a JUCO transfer who originally hails from Australia, he's just beginning to reach his potential. Starting ends Damion Square and Ed Stinson each played in all 13 games last year (Square started all 13) and weigh in at over 280 pounds. The Tide carry a reputation for being strong up the middle and that should not change this year.
At linebacker, Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosely combined for 11 TFLs in 2011 and should greatly improve on that output now that they're out from under the shadow of Hightower and Upshaw. Johnson is listed as the co-starter at both MIKE and WILL, while Mosely will stick to the weak side. You may remember DePriest from his recruitment, when the five-star out of Springfield, Ohio, appeared to favor Michigan at one point before choosing to head South. He tallied 25 tackles as a true freshman last year and is a star in the making. Strongside linebacker Hubbard functions more as a defensive lineman in Alabama's 3-4 defense.
On the Michigan side, their performance in this regard may hinge on the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint [UPDATE: forget that]—it takes a dynamic runner to be effective against this defense, and Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith do not fit that bill.
If Toussaint isn't available, Moving the ball on the ground will be a difficult proposition, especially since Alabama can then key on Denard Robinson without having to fear the guy next to him.
As long as there are no injuries along the offensive line, the Wolverines should hold up in the trenches. The pressure will be on Patrick Omameh—who's struggled against bigger, stronger linemen—and new starter Elliott Mealer to not give any ground; if they're getting knocked into the backfield, the efforts of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield will be for naught.
If, as expected, Toussaint is not available, it'll take a monster effort from Denard for Michigan to consistently move the ball. He's capable, of course, especially against a defense facing its first full-speed test of the season. As detailed in FFFF, it usually takes misdirection to find running room against the Tide, so we'll see if Borges gets creative to try and get Denard into space on the edge.
Key Matchup: The interior line vs. Jesse Williams. As I said, Lewan and Schofield could dominate and it won't matter if Omameh, Mealer, and center Ricky Barnum can't keep Williams from getting a push up the middle. If the interior line can fight Williams to a draw there's a chance Denard and the backs can put together a few decent runs, perhaps (please?) by running some inverted veer, which Auburn (and Cam Newton) ran with great success against the Tide in 2010.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the news. Which is mostly bad.]