Here we are 7 games in and going into a bye week before our showdown with MSU, lets talk about the best and worst of the first half of the season. Although 6-1 is nothing to scoff at, many would agree that the season to this point has been a disappointment.
For discussion sake,
1) Who has lived up to your offseason expectations?
2) Who has disappointed based on offseason expectations?
Individual players, coaches, offensive units, defensive units, special teams are all fair game here. Please back up your argument!
EDIT: Include who has exceeded your offseason expectations as well
I rewatched the game last night and noticed several times guys on defense trying to yell something to a teammate and the teammate was noticeably having a hard time hearing because of the crowd noise. I know Michigan Stadium isn't known for being the loudest place to play, but even so, I was wondering would it be better if we collectively kept quiet while the defense was trying to align.
Hurry up teams don't really rely on voice communication and since they're almost always in shotgun, there isn't really a snap count to hear so crowd noise doesn't really hurt them. In fact, most of the really rushed plays were probably called prior to the play before, so there's really no communication at all.
I realize this would be hard to do in practice since it goes against long standing tradition and habits, but could it be helpful?
In a past diary last week, I examined the advanced statistics published by Football Outsiders in their context within the B1G. The new statistics have been released for all games through October 19th, et voilà (click to embiggen):
Some tentative conclusions based on these statistics:
- Michigan's offense and defense are slightly better than they were last week, according to the advanced statistics. This has to do with a lot of things -- these statistics take into account strength of schedule, so things like a Notre Dame victory presumably affect how our offense and defense are judged. Presumably then, the awesomeness of Indiana's offense (best in the B1G!) doesn't adversely affect our defense despite the fact that they hung 47 on us. Likewise our record offensive performance isn't so impressive to the advanced statistics, because Indiana's defense is awful.
- Michigan and Wisconsin are the most balanced teams in the B1G, with good offenses and defenses. But there are many teams with a lot of variance between the two sides of the ball: Michigan State has a great defense and a below-average offense (duh), Indiana has a wonderful offense and a pitiful defense (duh), and Ohio State's offense is very good while its defense is barely above-average.
- Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern are all pretty mediocre according to the advanced stats. This makes me feel better about this November.
- Michigan State and Ohio State are both excellent but have weaknesses (their offense and defense, respectively). According to the advanced stats, we are moderately better overall than Michigan State and Ohio State is much better overall.
- Purdue is very, very bad.
EDIT: I've also added a chart with all the B1G teams plus M's opponents in 2013:
Last week I posted a rather critical Diary highlighting some of the mistakes of the offensive line.
It’s only fair that, this week, I show some of the things that they did right. Indiana defense caveats apply, and they need to be much more consistent, but they did showed flashes of competency that was sorely missing last week.
Play 1: First play of Michigan’s 2nd drive after going 3 and out to start.
Last week, I highlighted some issues with lineman executing combination blocks. This play features a textbook combo block by one guy and another guy reacting on the fly to something he doesn’t expect before the snap.
Pic1: Michigan lines up in shotgun with one tight end (Funchess) next to Lewan.
Pic2: On the snap, Lewan and Burzinyski double one DT and Magnuson and Glasgow double the other. Schofield handles the DE lined up over him, while Funchess goes out in a route, leaving his DE unblocked and to be optioned off.
Pic3: Glasgow executes his combo perfectly, pushing the defender directly in front of Magnuson and then going out to find the OLB. Lewan and Burzinyski’s guy is a little more trouble as he’s slanting playside. This prevents Burzinyski from getting his release, but he adjusts and tries to keep the guy from getting penetration. Gardner reads the unblocked DE containing the edge so he gives to Fitz.
Pic4: The slanting DT is starting to constrict the hole but Burzinyski (you can just see his helmet peeking out between Lewan and the DT) has fought hard to get playside and seal it. Fitz, for his part, does a nice job getting skinny and squeezing through. The MLB that Burzinyski or Lewan was supposed to pick up has scraped to fill behind the slanting DT and taken himself out of the play (this is where Indiana caveat applies, btw)..
Pic5: Glasgow has a little trouble holding his block but gets one last shove as Fitz gets through before the optioned DE can get his ankles. With nothing but green until the first down line, this goes for 9. 2nd and 1 sure is better than 2nd and 13.
Play 2: Michigan’s 3rd drive, 4th and 1 at the goal line
I also harped on individuals getting beaten 1 v 1, guys not targeting the right defender, and lead blockers not blocking second level defenders cleanly. This play is one where all of these errors were eliminated and everyone does their job, allowing the play to work (almost) just as you would draw it up.
Pic6: Michigan is in jumbo personnel with Lewan, Schofield, Bosch, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson, Paskorz across the line, and Butt and Houma in the backfield as lead blockers. Indiana responds with all 11 in the box in 5-4-2 (?). Manball baby.
Pic7: At the snap, a lot of things are happening simultaneously. Live, I thought the interior gets blown up, but it actually looks like pretty good blocking upon closer inspection. Glasgow (helmet peeking out behind Schofield's guy) squeezes through playside of the NT to engage a LB/safety while Kalis pancakes the NT. Magnuson cuts the other DT and impedes the DE lined up over him who Paskorz has no chance on (not sure if intentional, but it works). This forces the DE to vault over Magnuson. Meanwhile, Lewan and Schofield have sealed their guys inside and Bosch pulls to go kick out the OLB.
Pic8: Bosch has kicked the OLB upfield and out of the play. The playside MLB is the only guy that has a shot to make the stop and shuffles down to occupy the hole, but Houma is on his way to meet him. On the backside, Butt runs around Paskorz to engage the backside safety, leaving the backside OLB unblocked because he’s too far away to matter (and he’s responsible for contain on any boot action if Gardner keeps).
Pic9: Luckily, the guy hurdling over Magnuson can’t stay on his feet, otherwise he makes a spectacular play in the backfield. You’d maybe like to see our guys in the middle stay on their feet (especially Kalis), but they do take the first level defenders out of the play and make a giant pile for the second level guys, like the backside MLB, to go around/over.
Pic10: Houma does a nice job hitting the playside MLB in the hole and adeptly pivoting his legs around to seal the MLB to the inside. Compare his positioning between this picture and the previous one. David Molk would be proud. Glasgow, and then Schofield each managed to get out and get enough of second MLB to slow him down before a pile of bodies lands on top of them, so that guy can’t get to Fitz until he’s already in the endzone. Ditto goes for Butt’s guy, who was forced to redirect around him. That’s basically everyone with even a remote chance of executing their block doing so in a hugely chaotic situation with lots of moving pieces. Indiana or not, this is encouraging.
Lastly, after the beating he took he took on the board last week, I have to highlight a couple great calls by the big man upstairs (NTBMU).
The throwback screen (almost) always works, so it’s not really surprised that it worked on a undisciplined Indiana defense. However, the timing of calling this play was a stroke of genius. On the previous play, Indiana had just flushed Gardner out of the pocket, chasing him all over the field and ultimately forcing that intentional grounding that was ruled (correctly) a sack after video review.
Pic11: Michigan is in shotgun with Butt as the H back.
Pic12: At the snap, Michigan rolls the pocket left as protection breaks down. Magnuson’s guy gets away with major illegal hands to the face FWIW, which just sells this even more. Butt gets beat by the DE, while Lewan lets his guy, #96, by untouched.
Pic13: At this point the alarm bells should be ringing in #96’s helmet, but he smells blood in the water after missing out on the sack on the previous play and he wants in on the action. He's still coming full bore as half of Michigan's OL is sneaking off behind him.
Pic14: By the time any of the Indiana guys realize what’s up, it’s too late, Devin lofts a nice touch pass over #96 and Fitz is rumbling down field with a convoy of blockers.
A bit later in the game, after Michigan’s new air raid offense has gone into full effect, Borges calls another good one. Michigan had already victimized Indiana on play action and pop passes a few times at this point. Three plays before this one, Gardner lined up in shotgun and hit Jackson after a quick fake handoff. There was another under center PA play two plays to Gallon two plays before
Pic15: This play, Michigan lines up in a similar, shotgun spread formation to the Jackson reception play.
Pic16: The LBs are justifiably hesitant at the snap after getting the ball thrown over their heads so many times already. A quick pump fake by Gardner, and they both take a step back to drop into coverage.
Pic17: As the hand off is made, you can see the guy on the “M” is in full bug out mode, while the other LB is just sitting flat footed as Reynolds is about to engage him.
Pic18: A couple seconds later, Fitz crosses the LOS with both LBs still 5 yards back and blocked. Profit. It's an easy 10 yards before a safety comes in to tackle.
That's a pretty masterful job of seeing how your performance on previous plays, good and bad, is influencing the defense and calling the right play to stay one step ahead.