"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
|WHAT||Michigan v. Purdue|
|WHERE||West Lafayette, IN|
January 23rd, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +11.5*|
|TELEVISION||Big Ten Network|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Since I didn't recap the Wisconsin game in it's own post, a brief overview: It was good and then it sucked. And as much as I don't like to whine about the refs, I thought this game (as with most at the Kohl Center) was officiated... sketchily. Moving on...
Though the tournament has been a hardly-realistic dream since much, much earlier this season, the Wolverines would have been back in the picture had they beaten Wisconsin. They didn't, so each game becomes a must-win to keep the dream alive. Unfortunately, that means they'll have to beat some really good teams. Having Wisconsin on the ropes in the Kohl Center is a good sign they can get it done, but now it's time to finish.
DeShawn Sims was a beast against Wisconsin for 25ish minutes, in no small part because they were missing Jon Leuer. It won't be as easy against a fully-heathy Purdue team, and he's going to need some help to get the job done. Manny Harris was having some success Purdue last year before his questionable ejection, and Michigan's shooters will have to be on their game as well.
Update: HAHA J/K MANNY IS SUSPENDED
The Boilermakers started the season on fire, racing out to a 14-0 start before losing consecutive games to Puronsin, Ohio State, and Northwestern. They stopped the slide on Tuesday against Illinois, and sit at 15-3 on the season.
Purdue is led by a few guys who aren't quite stars on the Evan Turner-Manny Harris level, but are well-known nationally, and a few of them should play in the NBA. 6-4 guard E'Twaun Moore uses the most possessions for Purdue, and leads the team in eFG%. 6-8 forward Robbie Hummel might have the most name recognition on the team, if only because Purdue struggled somewhat last year when he was out with a back injury. He's a good rebounder and shooter, and has Purdue's best offensive rating. 6-10 center JaJuan Johnson rebounds well, swats a lot of shots, and gets to the free throw line more than any other Boilermaker. 6-3 guard Chris Kramer leads the team in getting elbowed in the face, and also in opposing fans wanting to elbow him in the face.
Purdue plays a different defensive style than Wisconsin, though both are known as exceptional defensive teams. Where the Badgers are content to prevent any penetration and clog the inside, Purdue will get out on the perimeter and try to take away passing lanes with their tight man defense.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Purdue: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Purdue Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Pur Def eFG%||187||47||PP|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Pur eFG%||156||111||P|
|Mich TO% v. Pur Def TO%||24||15||-|
|Mich Def TO% v. Pur TO%||57||9||P|
|Mich OReb% v. Pur DReb%||247||120||PP|
|Mich DReb% v. Pur OReb%||238||170||P|
|Mich FTR v. Pur Opp FTR||329||257||P|
|Mich Opp FTR v. Pur FTR||16||135||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. Pur AdjD||84||17||P|
|Mich AdjD v. Pur AdjO||47||23||P|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Going into the game at Wisconsin, I thought MIchigan was a team finally rounding into form (hey, just a little late, guys!), but a team that was finally playing its best ball would have been able to come away with that win if they wanted any hope of making the tournament. So, we're left with the tough truth: Michigan is an NIT-caliber team, and Purdue is a top-5 seed caliber team.
Surprisingly, though, Purdue doesn't have huge advantages in any particular tempo-free category over the Wolverines (although they do have some advantage in nearly everything). This looks like yet another game (as almost all seem to recently) that Michigan should be able to keep close and then hopefully make a bid to steal it. That will be a tough task on the road, especially since Michigan had fewer days to prepare for this game than the Boilermakers did.
KenPom sees an 11-point MIchigan loss, and Vegas likes the Boilers by 11.5. I see this game being a little less close than that, and Purdue ices with free throws in the final couple minutes to emerge with a 16-point victory.
Rounding up the week's best in user-created content.
A little off the wall choice for the diarist of the week. Captain Obvious writes an awesome set of lyrics about the state of Michigan's football team:
It's a punt block when it's already too late
It's a no-punting sign on your Space Emperor's leg
It's like ten thousand Slots when you need is a MIKE
It's meeting the Center of my dreams
And then meeting his shredded up knee
And isn't it ironic... don't you think
A little too ironic... and yeah I really do think...
It's like rain on Homecoming Day
It's a blown punt when you've already faked
It's the three points that you just couldn't take
Who would've thought ... it figures
Congratulations, Captain Obvious, you are the Diarist of the Week.
michelin looks at similarities between the overall trajectories of the Notre Dame and Michigan football programs.
The promising thing is that, unlike ND, UM has more, not less, starters coming back for the next two years. Clearly, it’s way too early to tell—as Brian has intimated today—but I can't help worrying that we might end up like ND if we keep getting rid of coaches before they can build their program.
I think at this point, there's no (rational) fan calling for Rich Rodriguez to be fired at least until the end of next year, so this overall worry may not be an issue. I still recommend clicking through because lolnd.
On a similar note, Brady2Terrell looks at the 47 coaches who have started their Big Ten coaching careers with 2 consecutive losing seasons:
*5 (10.6%) have won even a single Big Ten title;
*5 (10.6%) have finished their tenure with even a winning record;
*2 (4.3%) have won at least one Big Ten title AND finished with a winning record; and
*0 have won national titles.
The numbers aren't pretty, but there's still hope ahead for Michigan fans. Like he says, it's not that we're screwed, it's that we're in uncharted territory here. A positive comparison would likely require winning one or both of the last two games. Hey, then Rich can be like... Jackie Sherrill?
TAMU was 5-5 going into its final game at Texas, which was playing for the SWC Title. TAMU blew out the Horns in Austin, something like 38-12, sending the Horns to one of those nondefunct bowls. The 6-5 record wasn't good enough for a bowl game in those days (unless you were ND or UM) so TAMU stayed home but the win in Austin took all of the heat off of Sherrill.
TAMU went on to win 3 consecutive SWC titles in 85-86-87 and beat Texas each year. Sherrill had finally "arrived" at a school where Football is king over the other sports.
Let's hear it for positivity!
The week started off with some seriously emo posts following the Purdue loss. Geaux_Blue said:
I guess why I made this diary is simple. For those of us All In, the road is narrow and uphill. The likelihood is 5-7 and the off-season is going to be months of looking at checkbooks and wondering "why did I spend $50 to drink at the bar and watch non-Siller shred us in November." This is difficult and not even close to the experience of overcoming kneeshoulderelbowhead like Forcier or any player is facing. But the fanbase has its own wounds. And they're licked (that's what she said).
A rational take for the fanbase that continues to support Michigan.
Lordfoul sums up what we know coming out of the Purdue game. In condensed form:
- Michigan has the worst defense in the B10.
- The offense continues to improve.
- This confluence of probabilities is not favorable for the current coaching staff. Michigan is known for giving its coaches time and not being hasty in firings. That said this situation may not right itself in time to save Rich Rod and friends even given the extra slack.
- I would put it at at least improbable that we will win either of our last two games this season.
- Danny Hope is an asshole.
I disagree with point #3. Dude, there's no way Rich gets fired after two years, and a (highly likely) bowl game is probably enough progress to save his hide for another year. He may get fired after that, but it wouldn't be because there wasn't enough time, it would be because he was given enough time and failed.
hekdchi looks at what has improved between year 1 and year 2 of the Rodriguez era:
This entry will list the raw numbers of Michigan's 2008 season versus the 2009 season thus far to demonstrate where the team has and has not improved in the Rich Rodriguez era.
Hint: offense good, defense bad. This is probably not terribly surprising to anyone. Of note is that the defense is giving up fewer points than last year, and has improved in a couple other categories (though slightly). Expanding on that idea is clarkiefromcanada, who takes umbrage with the use of the term "regression":
Like all of you I am totally frustrated with how this is working out this year; however, I am sick and tired of the naysayers, trolls and newbie idiots posting the exact same material on "regression".
Amen. Especially since it's totally fair to expect a defense that lost half of its starters will get a little worse. Speaking of losing all those starters, Misopogon gives a handy graphical representation of his stellar "Decimated Defense" series. There are kittens involved. Jokewood also shows that even the sheer numbers, especially of upperclassmen, are a sign that Michigan isn't going to be a great defense:
The rest of the Big Ten averages 50% more upperclassmen on defense. We are dead last in the conference by a wide margin in terms of experienced defensive players. Purdue and Notre Dame - the two teams closest in terms of youth - also have terrible defenses, against which Michigan averaged 35 ppg this year.
It may be a while before the numbers are worked out, too.
Steve Sharik's awesome X-and-O post was frontpaged; you're probably familiar with it.
Familiarize yourselves with the veer, fools.
Etc.: Wolverine in Exile runs down the BCS rankings. 909Dewey talks about expectations for Rich Rodriguez coming in, how they've shifted, and how he's living up to them. stubob previews the ugly games of the week. The Mathlete looks at the Purdue game by the numbers. I recommend you stop reading before you get to pass defense. The man... the myth... THE_KNOWLEDGE predicts coaching changes.
We've got a guest this time! Woo! It's Adam Hoge from Bucky's Fifth Quarter, the SBNation Wisconsin blog—and only extant one, it appears. Unfortunately, logistical issues—read "sleep schedule of a 70-year-old"—prevented regular guest Jamiemac from making an appearance this week. We persevere.
This week's edition is far less suicidal. Also, for the record: I was not drunk for last week's podcast, but I can understand how one might think I was.
Links of use:
Warning: post rated PG-13 for f-bomb drop.
11/6/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 3 – 4-3, 2-1 CCHA
11/7/2009 – Michigan 36, Purdue 38 - 5-5, 1-4 Big Ten
11/7/2009 – Michigan 1, Miami 5 – 4-4, 2-2 CCHA
In the aftermath of The Horror, my coping strategy was to shut off the blog—which was then still on Blogger and subject to the chaos of Haloscan's free-for-all—to avoid any emo suicides and watch The Big Lebowski. (Kittens would show up Monday.) Yes, I am one of those annoying people who thinks The Big Lebowski is the pinnacle achievement of western civilization. I haven't gone to a bowling alley dressed up like Saddam Hussein or the police chief of Malibu, at least.
I didn't do this for any reason related to football. I just like the movie. It makes me laugh to beat the band. I'd never thought there was any sort of overarching philosophy in the movie worth starting a religion over. I was in a mood to reflect on the underpinnings of my life, though.
As the movie unfolded I belatedly realized—or maybe it just seemed way more relevant given my mental state—that the Dude is a spectator throughout. At no point in the movie does the Dude actually take an action without being badgered into it by Walter.* Even the cabbie who likes the Eagles ends up taking a decisive action at the expense of our hero. By the end of the thing, Lebowski's rug is gone, apartment destroyed, car burned to a crisp, and friend dead because an inexplicable series of events he had almost nothing to do with.
My girlfriend says that the reason there is not an academic paper about the Dude's shocking lack of "agency," as the smart kids say, is that it is "too obvious to be interesting." So, too, are the parallels to Michigan fandom**.
I didn't intentionally configure my hair to match the Dude but it does and goddamn if big, incompetent misery factory Walter isn't a good stand-in for Michigan athletics at the moment:
(Sorry about the Turkish(?) subtitles. Woo inadvisable copyright claims.)
"Everything's such fucking travesty with you" was my weekend.
I'm worn out after the last two weeks of football and the fiasco at Yost this weekend; when Miami scored to make it 4-1 with maybe 15 minutes left in the third period I reached a breaking point and just left. Other scenes from earlier this week: some guy tells me not to swear so much in front of his kids at the Friday Miami game, I get in a verbal fight with some guy who wants Rodriguez fired and is complaining about Tate Forcier, cousin of mine gets in separate verbal fight after the game when a different guy is yelling "you suck" at Forcier as he runs off the field, and an adorable child in the row behind me at the Saturday Miami game screams "Mich-i-GAN" the whole game—which was cute the first 50 times.
I've got no real analysis of either team other than they're both worse than I thought. I'm burning out after two years of almost unrelenting misery, and looking forward to football season being over for the third straight year. I mean, when Michigan was down to Purdue in the second half, some fan ten or twenty rows behind me kept shouting "they've got no heart" over and over again as the guy in the row in front of me called for Rodriguez's firing. Having a conversation about Michigan football right now is trying to remember that episode of GI Joe where Destro finds a secret ninja manual in a volcano*** that allows him to kill people with precisely-applied touches: if you can just remember where the red dots are you can spare everyone a lot of pain.
I'll address the question I've gotten in a thousand different forms the past couple weeks—"when can we fire this guy?"—in a separate post. It's been that kind of era.
*(The movie opens with a couple guys peeing on his rug because someone else's wife owes money to Jackie Treehorn. The Big Lebowski directs him to make a ransom drop. Walter screws up the drop despite the Dude screaming at Walter not to screw it up. Walter leads the Bay of Pigs invasion of Larry Sellers's home. Jackie Treehorn invites him to his beach party, so he goes. Maude directs him to show up at her place and directs him to sleep with her—"love me". When the nihilists confront the dude for his three dollars, Walter re-enacts Hill 368 as Lebowski attempts to throw money at Amie Mann's boyfriend.
About the only action Lebowski takes in the movie is telling Brandt that he can have a rug.)
**(Freudian slip: spelled that "fandoom.")
***(This may not be the right character, or even the right cartoon.)
- I wonder if the gameplan on offense was specifically designed to piss Joe Tiller off. Probably not. But dang Roundtree is going hold onto his spot in the lineup when Odoms gets back. He is a Purdue wideout in all ways: physically limited but precise, fearless over the middle, and a guy the quarterback clearly trusts.
- Mouton got pulled for JB Fitzgerald after his (-3, cover –3) on Purdue's first drive but re-entered in the second half; Leach got yanked for Obi Ezeh late, too. So much for the hope that either of the two backups could prove clearly superior to the guys who started the season.
- Carlos Brown had one carry. Injured? Or doghouse after Illinois? Not that I mind: Minor is clearly superior when healthy.
- Omameh played RG the whole game and Dorrestein never came in. If guys like Brown and Dorrestein aren't even on the injury report, why bother having one? Not even "probable"?
- Related: it was really frustrating how many times it seemed that Purdue's offensive line had gotten blown back and Bolden would pop through a hole after taking a circuitous route around a mess. I bet there are some major minuses for the LB corps on the UFR.
- That damn rollout play was shades of the Toledo game. Surely there's an adjustment that can be made there, isn't there?
- Warren doesn't seem good enough to go to the NFL this year anymore. He was mostly a spectator as Purdue complete a ton of routes in front of him.
- With Banks out, Sagesse slid over to act as RVB's backup and Campbell got 20-30 snaps as Martin's backup. He seemed to do a little better.
- I would have gone for it on fourth and ten, too. Michigan had one, maybe two more possessions and needed eight points. Kicking a field goal there only helps you if you get the ball back and score a touchdown, events that seemed unlikely given the defense's performance to that point. It think it's a close decision because it was long yardage and a field goal is a defensible option, but I would have gone for it. That's a real gray area.
- I did have a problem with how much time Michigan took on their final touchdown drive. Scenarios there in the event of a touchdown:
You get two: If you hurried up, Purdue has three or so minutes on the block. If you didn't, Purdue has two. Either way they have an opportunity to drive for the win; the minute there doesn't make a big difference.
You don't get two: If you don't hurry, you've got one timeout and two minutes left and have to try an onside kick and get the ball back with 30 seconds when that fails. If you do, you can kick it deep and hypothetically get the ball back with 1:30 needing only a field goal.
Michigan should have been in jet tempo on the final series, and should have thought about throwing for the touchdown instead of running for it.
- Michigan breaks out the triple option—though I bet the dive is not a read yet—for the first time all year and gets a negative play and a crippling fumble out of it. Two initial thoughts: how is that fair when we haven't run that in the history of Rich Rodriguez, and if Purdue can defend it why the hell can't we?
- The Higgs boson theory from the Purdue preview might be publishable after Michigan lost to Purdue because the kicker missed an extra point in the same game he hit a 51-yard field goal.
Danny Hope introduced Rich Rodriguez to Zack Reckman, the Purdue lineman who got suspended in the wake of the Jonas Mouton Suspension fiasco, in a pissy drama that promises to make future Purdue games more interesting. MVictors has the relevant audio clip from the post-game press conference where Rodriguez complains about the incident.
Obligatory "take" I will bring strong: short of slapping yourself, press conferences don't matter. People use them to support/hate a coach they already support or hate because of on-field events. Nothing from Rodriguez's press conferences has ever made me think he was more likely to succeed or fail at Michigan. It is just talking, and that's a skill that a lot of coaches don't have.
As for the act itself: bush league, but I like bush league. It makes things spicy.
MVictors also reproduces an interesting statement from the officials who did the game about what went down on the crazy Carlos Brown lateral review:
What was the interpretation on the fourth down review with the forward lateral? What was it that the replay official saw?
TODD GEERLINGS: “The replay official saw that the ball, when it left his hand to the point where it touched the receiver’s hand, was clearly forward from the 13 to the 12 yard line. That’s why we had an illegal forward pass from the spot of that pass.”
Who called for the review?
GEERLINGS: “The booth called for the review and I announced that on the field prior to. The coaches on the field were trying to but Purdue did not have a challenge left so they couldn’t have. They were trying to but just as I got the buzz on the pager, I just turned to Purdue and said ‘We got it’ but I think people thought they had challenged it. They were trying to, but they did not.”
This is great. I haven't seen it on tape yet but given the lack of bitching it's probably the right call, and having some clear explanations for what happened in the heat of a critical moment is a much better way to go about defusing potential controversy's than the SEC ham-handed—nay—Delany-esque handling of its ongoing and never-ending refereeing fiascoes.
There's a press conference torrent, too.
As per usual, the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post exists and you should check it out if you are a n00b.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, November 6th, 2009|
|THE LINE||Michigan -6|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN|
|WEATHER||Sunny, dry, mid-50s|
So, a bird dropped a baguette on the Large Hadron Collider, causing it to overheat. This is the thousandth thing that has gone wrong with the LHC in the past six months. A couple weeks ago some scientists suggested that the LHC could never be activated because the creation of a Higgs Boson—the thing the LHC strives to create—would not only destroy the universe but retroactively destroy the universe. Therefore the LHC's problems were an inevitable consequence of having a universe and that the universe would prevent the LHC from ever operating in order to protect itself. In effect, they argued that the Higgs boson was preventing itself from ever generating itself from the future. They were serious about this.
Theory: you can create the Higgs boson by combining three things: Rich Rodriguez, a Michigan windbreaker, and a bowl game.
Run Offense vs. Purdue
The issues that cropped up when David Molk got injured are likely to compound this weekend. Perry Dorrestein, who drew into the lineup when Molk went out, wasn't listed on the injury report this week but missed some time against Illinois with a back injury, and midweek his availability was in question:
“(His back problem) has been ongoing,” Rodriguez said. “He's been fighting it every week, and it flared up a little with him in last week's ballgame. He's been battling that the last couple weeks, really."
Patrick Omameh would replace Dorrestein if he can't go. Mark Huyge would kick out to tackle and Omameh would play RG. Omameh did okay in his first shot at playing time but is a redshirt freshman and a backup for a reason. That would probably ding the running game farther.
The Illinois stats are pretty ugly and the goal line stand that will live in infamy is the item that lingers in everyone's mind, but the running game has played a fair number of stiff defenses this year and done well; the Illinois game is an outlier. A scary, terrible outlier against a team that had been horrible against the run, but an outlier. Well, mostly an outlier: Michigan State also shut down Michigan's ground game. The running game was effective against Penn State and Iowa, however, and gets Brandon Minor back from his overwhelming ennui. Mike Shaw, who missed the Illinois game with a knee sprain, also returns.
Purdue, meanwhile, is a bad rush defense. They're 88th nationally and just finished having their head caved in by John Clay and a zillion other Badgers—Wisconsin ran for 266 yards on 53 carries. The week before, Mikel Leshoure ripped off a 65-yard run and Illinois picked up 180 yards on 37 carries. The week before that, Purdue totally annihilated Ohio State. Yeah, that doesn't make any sense. But over the course of the season Purdue has proven itself pretty terrible.
Obvious riposte: so had Illinois. The Illinois game shouldn't be weighted too heavily—losing Minor meant Brown was forced into a lot of sub-optimal situations and Michigan lost its most effective runner by far—but it must be weighted. Michigan now has three good rushing performances in the Big Ten (Indiana, Penn State, Iowa) but no great ones—the long stuff has disappeared since the Indiana game. They also have two bad ones.
Purdue blogs say they're extremely susceptible to up-the-middle pounding…
As boilerdowd noted to me, UM is not a rough and tough team. They're a little more finesse. And if they play that way, Purdue can own 'em. However, if they punch Purdue in the mouth early, like Northern Illinois and Wisconsin did, Purdue may run away whimpering like my dog when I get mad.
…and say that Michigan is not a team to pound you, which is weird but on the radio Monday I argued with a guy who thought the problem with Rich Rodriguez was that he didn't run the ball enough and that running "side to side" gets people hurt. People think things and retroactively come up with reasons for them.
If Minor's back and healthy and Omameh can slot in this should be an effective, if uninspiring, day on the ground, with Minor getting 100 yards on 20 or so carries and other people chipping in to get Michigan near 200.
Key Matchup: Brandon Minor versus His Overpowering Ennui. His ankle has been sprained since the 2007 Purdue game.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
Purdue's got a good pass efficiency defense, which I do not understand as a thing that is possible but there it is: 25th nationally. Their pass defense is 34th. Some of that has to do with the run defense. Scott Tolzien attempted all of 13 passes last week, and Adam Weber's preposterous stat line from a 35-point output was 5 of 9 for 74 yards and two interceptions. Um.
On the other hand, Jimmy Clausen had what was probably his worst game of the year against Purdue:
There was some severe turf toe involved there, but Clausen would need one foot and half a hand to shred Michigan's secondary.
Purdue's also 25th in sacks, and Michigan's shuffling the offensive line again or playing a guy who was hurt and pretty poor against Illinois. This does not seem like a good matchup after Tate Forcier's last month of football and the problems the right side of the line's had in pass protection. Bonus negative: Martavious Odoms is definitely out for the second straight week. While Roy Roundtree had a nice day against Illinois, he lacks the quicks Odoms has on bubble screens and whatnot.
Forcier did have a nice day against Illinois but remains plagued with freshman inconsistencies and happy feet; this will be a secondary option given Purdue's apparent lack of run defense.
Key Matchup: This
UPDATE: …um, this nefangled offensive line pass protecting again.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
Purdue's Robert Bolden started the year off hot but as the competition has gotten better the Purdue run game has fallen off:
These numbers correspond well to the quality of the opponent rush defense, and are uniformly terrible except for the Illinois bludgeoning. Purdue's early cupcake indicators have given way to the reality that the rushing game can't move the ball at all against quality teams.
Michigan, all you are well aware, is not a quality team. They languish 85th in rushing defense after taking a hammering from Illinois last week; the week before that Penn State racked up a bit over four yards per carry. Michigan's main issues have been terrible linebacker and safety play that causes good work from the defensive line to go to waste, and Robert Bolden is a fast bugger if you screw up like that.
On the plus side, Michigan did do good-to-excellent jobs on the two rushing-deficient Big Ten teams they went up against before the last two debacles. Purdue is evidently a rushing-deficient Big Ten team. Illinois played straight into their weaknesses, too: confusion, inability to maintain their assignments, safeties who have religious proscriptions against containing Juice Williams. Purdue's got a pocket passer and an run game that isn't nearly as good at getting really fast guys in open space one-on-one with guys who might well be chasing someone who doesn't have the ball. The numbers should come down, with an error here and there springing Bolden for a long run or two between a lot of 0-2 yard runs.
Key Matchup: Mouton and Leach versus cutbacks. Obi Ezeh lost his job because he attacks wrong holes all the time and Mouton only has his because Michigan doesn't have many other options. The numbers suggest there will be a lot of fouled running plays that either get crushed or break long.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
This is where you go "urgh we die" except that Purdue has been crazily inconsistent all year here and it may be a game where Boilermaker receivers drop a thousand passes, as they did against Wisconsin, and Joey Elliott calls them out after the game, as he did after a game earlier this year.
I mean… Jesus:
That makes Denard Robinson look like Tom Brady. But then there's the Ohio State game, in which Elliott was 31 of 50 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception against the #8 pass efficiency defense in the country.
Which is it? Against Michigan, the probably the latter. Purdue still loves the short dink-and-dunk offense that Tiller deployed so effectively in the early part of his term and Elliott has been moderately efficient running it, racking up a zillion attempts that aren't as accurate as you'd think—58% completion rate—but are as dinky: 6.7 YPA. Boiled Sports on the dinky:
One of the biggest problems that I have with the Elliott-led offense this season is their lack of a vertical passing game. Granted, the simple fact that Purdue's receivers aren't really burners plays into the equation, but, both Valentin and Carlos have gotten behind the defense on numerous occasions this season only to be missed.
Elliott's also had an issue with interceptions, with 11 against 14 touchdowns.
Michigan's got a couple of decent cornerbacks and then hellish confusion all over the field; Purdue is a team that can exploit Michigan's inability to cover anyone with a linebacker or safety with any of their equally mediocre wide receivers—four guys already have over twenty catches. They'll be open, they'll drop some balls to kill drives, they'll be less likely to hit a big play than teams with more explosion at the position, they'll probably still get a couple because Michigan's starting two walk-ons and they're clearly better options than some other guys who are starting.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus enormous long touchdowns. Purdue looks like it will stab itself in the foot often enough if forced to march down the field for Michigan to give up a non-huge amount of points. They also appear to be a team that doesn't have a ton of big-play ability in the passing game unless Michigan gives them the opportunity, which they probably will. Just tackling guys as they grab the ball will be a win.
Hey, Jason Olesnavage and Zoltan Mesko are pretty good. Purdue's guys are not. The Boilers are 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff returns, and dead average at punt returns. Slight advantage Michigan, I'd say, except that Michigan returners have muffed two punts in the last three games against real competition and let a lot of other punts drop to the turf.
Key Matchup: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL
- Anyone from Purdue shoots into the backfield like Corey Liuget did.
- Purdue decides to catch stuff.
- Minor limps off again.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Purdue leaves the sanity at home.
- Forcier can get time in the pocket.
- Suddenly it's next year.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for We're Favored By Almost A Touchdown, +1 for Why Are We Favored?, –1 for Purdue Hasn't Won Since 1963 At Michigan Stadium, +1 for The Last Year And Half Has See A Lot Of "Since Impossibly Long Time Ago" Records Fall, +1 for they Spread And Throw At Our Weakness, +1 for And What The Hell Was That Last Week, –1 for Purdue Is Thinking The Same Thing).
Desperate need to win level: 9 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Bowl Game, Any Bowl Game, +1 for And Really If They Don't Win This Game It's Hard For Them To Not Go 5-7, +1 for And I Am Tired Of Talking People Off Ledges, +1 for Why I Am I Talking People Off The Ledge When I Want Them To Jump?)
Loss will cause me to... well, there's damn well going to be an otter picture, that's for sure.
Win will cause me to... start perusing arcane bowl rules in the hope that Michigan doesn't get dragged into the Alamo or something where someone will rain fury on them.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Does anyone get this line? I know the records are divergent but Purdue is outgaining opponents by 10 yards a game and hasn't played any I-AA opponents. Their nonconference schedule was two MAC schools, Oregon, and Notre Dame. Take away the Baby Seal U game and Michigan is getting outgained by 40 yards a game. I guess they've managed to be competitive until the last couple weeks, but despite Purdue's record I think they've proven themselves a better team over the course of the season. They could-have-should have beaten both Notre Dame and Oregon, they did beat Ohio State, and… well, they did lose to an eh MAC team. And just got crushed, but by Wisconsin, not Illinois.
Purdue's managed to get themselves crushed by making a crap-ton of stupid mistakes. They're turnover margin buddies with Michigan—M is 109, Purdue is 108. They've had punts blocked for touchdowns. They fumbled away the Oregon game. Etc etc etc. They're sort of a version of Michigan that's not quite as bad, despite the records.
I don't want to be over-reacting Straight Bangin' Award winner guy here, but I made a mistake before the Penn State game of not taking Michigan's yardage margins seriously and predicted a win despite Michigan getting seriously outgained in four previous attempts at BCS competition. That streak is now at six if you count Illinois as part of the BCS, which we have to and no one else does.
I mean, sure, Michigan can win if they stop making huge mistakes all the time, but why would that happen now? After the Iowa game you could say "oh, that's just an outlier"; now it's just life.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- 60+ yard Bolden touchdown.
- Shaw gets about as much time as Brown.
- Michigan is –1 in TO margin.
- Purdue, 30-28.