well that's just, like, your opinion, man
you, go away
Given the general distaste we Michigan fans have had with the way in which SEC coaches like Les Miles and others oversign and then cut in order to make scholarship numbers work, how can we not be similarly enraged when it looks like we are now engaging in a similar practice? Is the answer HARBAUGH?
Michigan is not yet at the point where they have to tell a freshman who's been on campus for weeks to GTFO. Should they reach that point, or one anywhere near it, then I'll be grousing as well.
They aren't near it. To date they have lost some commits before Signing Day. If those are Michigan's choice that is a recruiting misdemeanor compared to the felony of getting a guy's LOI and putting yourself in a position where someone's gotta go, deserved or not. And in some cases they are not Michigan's choice—reports after Vic Viramontes decommitted were that Michigan was blindsided and disappointed. (The MGoSlack chat was certainly mournful.)
I do think Michigan put themselves in a bad spot by offering a few guys before it was clear whether they had the academics and/or talent to play at Michigan. In the former case, those guys should know the score without anyone having to walk their way through it—if you're not taking officials you have to know you're a long way away.
In the latter case, once that disappointing senior film comes in you can either try to make it work even if you don't believe the player is Michigan-caliber anymore or you can consciously uncouple. I can see how moving on before Signing Day instead of two years into a career nowhere near the field could be better for everyone. Michigan told Matt Falcon they didn't think he could play but had a medical scholarship. That sucked for Falcon but better to find out before you've spent eligibility. The error has been made either way.
Meanwhile, Michigan has limited control of the narrative that gets put out there because they cannot say anything about ongoing recruitments. Reports that Michigan isn't contacting certain players much are probably frustrating to the staff because the reason for that is that they've already told people the deal, as they did with Falcon, but "Michigan commit" looks good on a resume when you're looking for another spot to land. Recruiting sites waited months for Dele Harding to say something about his recruitment and finally just took him off commit lists. That doesn't mean Harding didn't know his status. If you read between the lines you know who isn't likely to be in the class. If you know, they know.
Meanwhile I know that they have told certain players not to commit whereupon those players commit anyway; Michigan shrugs its shoulders at crootin' and keeps going. Carr used to go out of his way to make things clear when such things happened to him (LB [something] Justice and some OL out of Tennessee who I can't remember spring to mind); Harbaugh seems to (accurately) regard the whole edifice as a farce and plays his part with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
We'll see what happens on and after Signing Day. I don't think we'll see any more untoward than playing time transfers and guys not being offered fifth years.
[After the JUMP: where to put guys, where to spend scholarships, and the best hockey forwards of the past 15 years.]
Let's add another position to Peppers's bio?
Is it absurd to think Jabrill could fill in at LB next year? He's listed about 30 pounds lighter than Bolden, yes, but he's faster, tackles better, and recognizes plays faster. Is the idea just a total non-starter because of the snaps he's expected to take on offense?
Just curious as to your thoughts.
In a sense he already is filling in at linebacker. Michigan ran more nickel snaps last year than they ever had before largely because Peppers gave them that luxury. Part of his triple threat is defending the run. So: kind of.
But if you're asking about moving Peppers into the box as one of two inside linebackers, that is indeed absurd. Peppers is good at all things that physics allows him to be good at. This does not include getting off blocks from 300 pound offensive linemen. Then add the increased wear and tear because of those blocks—when he ends up in coverage he does not get hit unless MSU is running their Obvious Offensive Pass Interference play—and you're wearing Peppers down in a role he's a dubious fit for.
If Peppers has X snaps in him I'm sure we can agree that whatever is left over after his duties as a nickelback are complete should be dedicated to getting the ball in his hands.
Yes they have, no he's not.
Has anyone asked Harbaugh if Glasgow will return for the bowl game? Any other injured players that we'll get back?
Harbaugh all but ruled Glasgow out of the bowl game. He said Rudock had not thrown since the OSU game but should be no problem to return, and there isn't really anyone else that's hurt. Ojemudia, I guess, but we already know he's laid up for the season.
There was chatter that Bryan Mone might return. Harabaugh reinforced that with some comments in pre-OSU press conferences, but I've heard that was never anywhere near coming to fruition. And at this point is the redshirt worth burning for a slightly increased chance of beating Florida? No. It was dubious for OSU and not even plausible for a non-BCS bowl game. Brian Cole is also on track for a medical redshirt and playing safety in any case, where Michigan isn't pressed for depth.
Actually, the opposite effect.
With Bronco Mendenhall taking the Head coaching job at Virginia, does this mean Taysom Hill is a lock to come to Michigan next year?
I'd say that departure makes him less likely to end up at Michigan. Hill was transferring, that is a given. It might have been Michigan; it might not. But he was going somewhere (or retiring).
Now UVA might look like an enticing landing spot. Virginia has Matt Johns returning for his senior year, Johns threw 17 interceptions and rushed for 86 yards in 2014 and is far from a lock. Hill knows Harbaugh relatively well, but he really knows Mendenhall.
Where Hill ends up probably won't be known until after spring practice, when scholarships open up and coaches have a grip on what they've got at the QB spot. Michigan wasn't actually that interested in Jake Rudock until about halfway through spring, when their thinking suddenly changed. If Hill ends up at Michigan it is something of a referendum on John O'Korn. If Michigan passes it's also a referendum, a much better one for our purposes.
I always answer emails that accidentally call me "brain"
I think we can all agree that Durkin was in a tough spot heading into the OSU game. It's not too hard to imagine a world in which Michigan had Glasgow, Mone, and even a functioning Ondre Pipkins at NT on Saturday. Instead, Durkin had Hurst, Charlton, Wormley, Henry, Strobel, Pallante, and maybe an injured Godin to fill out the entire line.
An mgoposter made the compelling argument that playing Hurst, Charlton, Wormley, and Henry for nearly all of the game - with a few reps possibly going to Strobel, Pallante, and the injured Godin - was untenable. The main four were inevitably going to be worn down, the argument goes, or Strobel, Pallante, and Godin were going play significant snaps but be a very poor match for OSU's line. The 3-3-5 put the LBs into positions they weren't accustomed to, but you can at least argue that was better than having linemen who were too tired to be effective.
In light of the fact that the 3-3-5 made some sense (or maybe you disagree), can we say that the failure to use run blitzes and the failure to incorporate the safeties more into stopping the run were the staff's biggest failings against OSU? Relying on Ross, Morgan, and Bolden to do things they aren't comfortable with rather than relying on exhausted or third-string linemen is one thing, but failing to load the box (with whatever combination of players) is another. The latter seems far more questionable given that OSU was a far better running team this season than they were a passing team.
While I agree that Michigan was in a tough spot with depth no matter what they did, my complaint about the 3-3-5 is only about 30% "it didn't work" and 70% "it was a very bad attempt to respond."
If you notice something about the PSU, MSU, and OSU defenses it's that they're all basically the same: pattern-matching cover 4, mostly, with two high safeties. PSU plays them actually high; MSU plays them at eight yards. This allows you to apply a relevant defender to the playside. Michigan kept playing a very deep high safety through the entire game.
To some extent that's fine in the first half. You got a couple stops, you're going up against an OSU offense that has been clunky much of the year, you are caught off guard by some new (old) things that they are doing. I'm not ticked off about the early pooch punt because I thought the same thing everyone else did: that Michigan and OSU were about to get locked into a defensive struggle.
Once OSU crunches you in the face on the touchdown drive that made it 14-3 late you need to have something in your back pocket to transition to once it becomes obvious that your base package cannot hold up. Durkin simply did not. If the 3-3-5 was his response it was a total failure. It was so bad they couldn't run it.
There is a reason quarters is a very popular defense around the country right now, and it is Ohio State's offense. Leaving one high against it is asking for trouble, and trouble was received. If you want to save DL snaps you can do that by getting super-aggressive.
I'm okay losing this game because Barrett hits a bunch of passes like he did against Clark and Lewis. That's something I'm willing to let OSU try in lieu of grinding Michigan for 350 rushing yards. To watch Durkin sit on the sideline with his 20-yard-deep safety as Michigan got ground up for the second time in three games was a major confidence shaker. That he left is… fine by me.
This kind of thing is why I don't want an NFL DC coming in here, by the way. I want a guy who came up from the bottom and has had to fight spread offenses for decades. Tossing some dude out there who hasn't had to scheme against a QB run since 1985 gives me the heebie-jeebies.
What about next year?
My dad and I traditionally watch every game together with my brother and uncle joining us some/most of the time. The defensive game plan on Saturday bugs me more and more with each passing day. Going back to Harbaugh's battles with Oregon at Stanford, is there anything there that might indicate how The Game will go in the future? My dad has insisted on a talent gap, but I'm certain that the combination of injuries and trying to implement a terrible/unfamiliar scheme had to do with UM's down fall on Saturday. With Durkin out the door, do you see Michigan's seemingly increased depth at line next year giving them an advantage? And how long do we have to wait before we can run the ball the way Harbaugh wants?
Thanks ahead of time, love the blog and the work you guys put into it,
Jason from GR
Harbaugh never did get a grip on Oregon's offense while he was at Stanford. In his four years, the Ducks put up 55, 35, 42, and 52. Harbaugh did win the third game of that series, but it wasn't good. It really couldn't have been good until year four, when the Stanford defense caught up to the Luck offense. But even then that Vic Fangio-led D got bombed by the Ducks.
Many teams got bombed by the Ducks that year, except for one: Auburn. Because Auburn lives and dies by the same stuff Oregon does and they cancelled each other out. I say this all the time, but the corollary to the "the spread makes your defense soft" stuff often promulgated by people who can't divide very well is "the spread makes your defense resilient to the spread."
This is obviously not a hard and fast rule, or even a rule at all—see every Big 12 game since 2002. But I do wonder about how prepared Michigan was to face running QBs this year.
Anyway: there is an obvious talent gap that OSU did its best to hide for the duration of the year during their post-Herman malaise. Check the first round of the upcoming NFL draft for ample evidence thereof.
Michigan should be a lot closer to parity next year, as OSU loses big chunks of their team and Michigan brings just about everyone back. I'm not sure the run game will explode, but four returning starters in the same system should equate to progress, especially if they get improved production from the running back spot. Michigan should feel like an elite team if they get good QB play. And given Harbaugh's track record…
As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport.
What's going on with Rudock?
Brian - you made some comments today on the podcast about how Jake Rudock's inability to hit the deep ball has finally bitten us in the collective asses, which I agree. You also mentioned that when you watched him last year, while he wasn't dead-on every time, he was able to hit the deep pass from time to time - something he clearly can't do this year.
My question is this - to me, this does not seem like a 'new coach, new system' type of a problem. Those issues seem to be the ones where he fails to even attempt a throw to a wide open receiver (which he does all the time - but I give him more of a pass for that as the "new system / new coach" issue). But when he throws the deep pass, only inaccurately - that suggests to me an issue with maybe his mechanics or something else that has thrown off his accuracy past 15 yards. Any thoughts why that might be? If anything, I would expect his deep accuracy to improve with a guy like Harbaugh teaching him the fundamentals. Again, I separate this from other issues such as "stares down Butt" or "ignores screamingly open routes every once in awhile."
Yeah, you got me. Some of the Rudock problems are issues that make sense given what we saw from him at Iowa. Not throwing at sort of covered Jake Butt on second and goal from the 18 is a Rudock problem I can understand. That is his reputation. Rudock not finding receivers is a problem I can understand. He's in a new system.
Rudock underthrowing Amara Darboh by about 20 yards is inexplicable. Any quarterback is going to be off on some long throws; to miss as often and as badly as Rudock has is not something that I saw last year. That's not just homerdom. Preseason, PFF put out an article titled "Michigan can win with QB Jake Rudock" that noted he was 12th in downfield (20+ yards in the air) accuracy by their system last year. In the Maryland game, BTN had a similar stat:
The disparity is certainly bigger now.
I don't know if he's hurt or his mechanics are messed up or what, but for whatever reason his ability to hit downfield passes has collapsed. Why? I dunno. Is there something different in what he's doing here?
Since one is in the middle of the field and one on the sideline. Those are throws of about the same length. Am I crazy or does the 2015 video look like a guy who's loading up to get it as far as he can while 2014 sees Rudock make a throw that's comfortably within his range? I dunno.
Something is wrong. A problematic injury, possibly one that caused the weird Iowa QB depth chart thing, is a possible explanation. The other explanation is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ref hot take
Having read Seth’s analysis of the officiating (and you really should make him do that weekly) my question is why – why did this happen to us? If you ascribe these “errors” to incompetence, shouldn’t there be an equal number of blown calls going in our favor? Incompetent referees should be just as likely to screw things up for team A as team B and over the course of a 60 minute game shouldn’t it balance relatively out if they are simply incompetent?
The obvious alternative to incompetence is the officials had an agenda and carried it out. Granted, we still should’ve won the game but with so many critical calls being made against Michigan it made the game much closer than it needed to be and allowed the last play to finally tip the scale in MSU’s favor. And if it’s an agenda – why does it exist?
What say you? Incompetence, agenda or something else?
If you flip a coin a million times there are going to be stretches in there where you get a long series of heads or tails. Michigan just ate an game that was virtually all tails. There's no need for a further explanation. Over the past decade or so it's been definitively proven that the replay officials are not good enough at their job, but that's all. The Big Ten tends to use retired referees in the booth, with evidently disastrous results.
If there was any sort of "plan" here Michigan wouldn't have gotten a free touchdown when their receiver barely scraped the pylon a few years back in this very game. Remember that? That call was overturned from the correct call to free TD. Replay officials should no longer be people with rotary phones. Actual officials are probably the best we've got. That sucks; not much to do about it.
[After THE JUMP: HSPs future, Whoville analogy, we should have done this or that]
Mailbag: Stats Love Us, Saban Manball Canary, Substitution Style, Cole Absence, Playcalling Approach
Number 3? For the statistically challenged, what do you think of this methodology?
S&P+ is as good as any other ranking system that drills into play-by-play data to get a clearer picture of a football game than scoring margin alone can give you. Bill Connelly, the guy behind it, also runs Football Study Hall. He does a lot of smart things. S&P+ is a valuable look at who is playing the best.
Unfortunately, it can only go on the data that exists and in early-season college football that's always going to be sparse. Meanwhile some folks will dispute lot of the assumptions S&P+ makes, primarily that turnovers are super random and not major factors in the rankings. It also values all games evenly in ways that humans aren't always big fans of. Utah is significantly below Michigan because:
- the Michigan-Utah game was about even down to down and turned on turnovers
- Utah did not significantly outgain Utah State or Fresno State
- Michigan yardage-murdered everyone other than Utah
S&P+ is not trying to be a descriptive ranking (ie: these teams have had the best season so far) but rather a predictive one (ie: if these teams were to meet who would win). Michigan has performed like an elite team so far according to S&P+, and I can see why it thinks that.
FEI, the other major ranking that takes more than score into account*, is more skeptical than S&P, but I think that's because that still bakes some preseason assumptions into the ranking.
*[AFAIK Sagarin only uses the final score.]
Can we manball it when even Saban flees to spread-type behavior?
It seems that Nick Saban has recently admitted that his current style is a bit outdated, that he needs to adjust to the recent trends in college football. It is pretty obvious that teams like OSU, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, even BGSU are seeing a lot of success by utilizing both up-tempo and featuring quick guys in space.
Can you speak to offensive philosophies such as Alabama and Stanford and how this may or may not be a concern for us going forward? I understand that "smashmouth" football is not mutually exclusive with up-tempo and quick guys in space. But it just seems to me that Harbaugh's style doesn't seem to emphasize either of these current successful trends.
Given how the season has gone so far I actually think Michigan might occasionally run into the opposite problem. They've been absolutely lights out against six consecutive spread offenses. (Not very good spread offenses, sure, but Michigan isn't holding these guys to 20 points and high-fiving afterwards. They are crushing opponents.) Meanwhile the Harbauffense is winning plays against teams that aren't always comfortable putting heavy D packages on the field or filling all the gaps Harbaugh creates.
Saban's move to a more spread and tempo oriented offense is a reaction to the many times his defense has been blown out of the water by those kind of attacks over the past few years. When the Tide get to line up against one of the remaining "pro style" offenses, the results are generally ugly. Ask Georgia.
Michigan might not have that issue. Durkin seems very comfortable devising ways to neutralize spreads. I will have trepidation when and if Michigan does come up against… well, pretty much just Alabama.
On and off and on and off
Brian or Ace-
Do you know, or, if not, could you ask someone, why Dan Liesman (I think that is who it is, at least according to my Mini-Program; it is #54) comes out a few yards onto the field between plays almost every time when we are on defense. It is as if he is not sure whether he is going in or not, but since he NEVER goes in, it is obviously for some other reason. Is there some rule about substitutions that this relates to, are we trying to confuse the opposition, or does he just like to pretend he might be going in? There has to be a reason, and I would think most MGoBloggers would love to hear it. Thanks
We've seen Ross and Gant also do this. It's just a substitution strategy. After the play Michigan sends guys who may or may not be in the defensive package, depending on what the offense does, to about the numbers. (Any farther could get you an illegal substitution penalty.)
If opponents send in two or more blocky-catchy types, the linebacker will stay in and a DB will be removed. Since every team Michigan has played almost never uses two or more blocky-catchy types the LB heads back to the sideline almost all the time.
Liesman specifically is interesting because Michigan usually has Ross available; I haven't noticed if sometimes he is poking his head on the field when Michigan's already in a 4-3. That would imply Michigan has a heavy package in case someone tries to manball them.
Someone was confused.
I wanted you to know how much I appreciate and enjoy your broadcasts of Notre Dame football. Your kind deference to Our Lady's University is a beautiful expression of the christian love that infuses your broadcast persona. Thank you so much! You are a good man.
May God bless you and yours.
I did flip over to the Notre Dame-UMass game when it was interesting for a minute and heard Hammond's dulcet tones. He's missed.
I assume that guy who made the Tom Hammond tie is in Congress by now.
[After THE JUMP: early drives allowed, Harbaugh's playcalling system, a search for superclusters.]
Adding to the list of Adidas wrongs. What really irks me is that the only word appearing on the front of the current Michigan football uniform is Adidas. Unlike most schools, U-M jerseys were famously clean of any identifying words- the signature maize & blue color scheme was all that was needed. The simplistic Nike swoosh, though an identifying trademark, is far less noticeable.
Hoarding disease is a problem with a lot of uniforms these days. In an effort to brand brand brand everything they've cluttered the front of the jerseys with a series of logos: Adidas's clunky stripes, the Big Ten logo, legends patches, bowl patches, a block M or three. There is too much stuff on these uniforms:
They're probably dropping the Legends patches and replacing the Adidas Triangle Of Tiny Text with the swoosh will help; they can ease back on the block Ms.
The Big Ten logo is going to remain a grating presence until the end of time. Because you need to be reminded who is in the Big Ten these days. And that Michigan—surprise!—is in it. But some guy gave a presentation where he muttered something about brand equity, so we're stuck with it. The best they could do is something like they did at Crisler:
Michigan technically complies with the league mandate to have the Big Ten logo on the floor… very technically. If Michigan could get away with a blue-on-blue Big Ten logo that would improve things. I bet some clever person in the league office has already put in a regulation against it, unfortunately.
Maybe a step too far.
Am I crazy for thinking that this is the best look for the away uniform?? Obviously the jersey will be Nike but I love the simple all white jersey and blue numbers. There is enough maize on the helmet and the pants. Maybe put the Block M or number each shoulder pad. I just think simple is better and this jersey is sharp.
I like simple. That might be a bit too simple even for me. It gives off too much of a generic vibe. Is that a Michigan jersey or a random high school from 1950? I do not know.
The above does avoid the clutter mentioned above. It even avoids the many, many iterations of maize trim that have never really come off:
I am so done with maize piping, and maize outlines on the numbers, and maize maize maize on a white road jersey. But the above suggestion needs something to distinguish it. The correct number of design elements isn't a jiggityzillion but it's not zero unless you're Penn State.
Maybe the stripes from the Sugar Bowl jersey:
That everyone liked those is indicative of how low our expectations are these days. I thought they were fine and they have the chest clutter—this partially self-inflicted with a superfluous block M—and weird thin numbers that kind of make it look like everyone is wearing a kids' size. But they weren't a collaboration between a six year old with a glitter gun and the first guy cut on every season of Project Runway so we liked 'em.
[After the JUMP: Bo Xs and Os, and moar Nike.]