This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
During our bye week/wife week, Ohio is playing against Michigan State. These are our two most important opponents and rivals. I still feel numb after the tire fire in South Bend, and haven't posted in days. What can you say?
However, life goes on, so here are three simple questions:
- Who do you want to win: Ohio or Michigan State?
- Who do you think will actually win: Ohio or Michigan State?
- Who winning benefits Michigan the most: Ohio or MSU?
It is harder for me to answer these questions than usual. I have a certain malaise such that I really don't care right now. More than that, there are many and varied reasons I dislike both of them, and don't care for either to win. The bye week is good for me personally, because I don't want to watch any college football this weekend.
The answer to the questions is the same for me: I want Ohio to win, think they will win, and if they win, it benefits Michigan because Michigan State has a loss against them, affecting who wins our division. I don't think Maxwell will perform any better against Ohio's defense than he did against ND, and I think Braxton Miller may just be good enough to score against Michigan State's defense. I do believe the matchup between Michigan State's defense and Ohio's offense (especially Braxton) is the key to the game.
I'm not about to suggest that Borges should, or could, install a 2QB Zone Read package, but given our situation with Robinson/Gardner it certainly peaked my interest to see this piece from Chris Brown at Smart Football. Not a lot I can add beyond linking and embedding the video, but it's a cool wrinkle and I figured some readers may be interested if they haven't seen it.
I put together a chart of Michigan's scheduled opponents in order of their week 4 Sagarin Ranking. I listed the current rankings by opponent, the predictive ranking by opponent, the strength of schedule by opponent, and where Michigan plays/played that opponent.
|Current - U-M Opponents||Predictive||SOS||STADIUM|
|1 Alabama||102.04 1||65.81( 78)||N|
|8 Notre Dame||88.40 10||73.97( 15)||A|
|21 Ohio State||82.24 22||62.65( 108)||A|
|22 Nebraska||83.88 19||60.61( 125)||A|
|25 Michigan State||78.60 30||70.17( 36)||H|
|28 Purdue||79.74 25||61.63( 117)||A|
|37 Michigan||77.13 35||76.39( 8)||-|
|40 Northwestern||75.70 41||64.07( 93)||H|
|60 Minnesota||71.96 61||61.27( 118)||A|
|62 Iowa||70.79 64||65.89( 75)||H|
|67 Illinois||69.56 68||66.98( 61)||H|
|79 Air Force||68.36 74||59.03( 136)||H|
|193 Massachusetts||42.10 195||68.24( 50)||H|
Things of note -
- Michigan has the most difficult schedule of all their opponents thus far (duh).
The 4 most difficult games for Michigan this year are on the road (or at a neutral location).
In fact, in order of difficulty with the current rankings, the away games are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th highest ranked opponents.
- The average rank of these opponents is 20 (!)
The order of difficulty with the current rankings, the home games are the 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th highest ranked opponents.
- The average rank of these opponents is 78 (!)
- I realize that it was said over and over how tough this year's schedule would be, the numbers help quantify that for me just how right everyone was.
- In fact, in order of difficulty with the current rankings, the away games are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th highest ranked opponents.
- Out of Ohio State, Nebraska, and Michigan State, only Michigan State has a strength of schedule under 100 (36 to be exact). I'm still holding my verdict on how good Nebraska and Ohio State really are.
- With Purdue's strength of schedule, I'm not sold on them yet either.
Just as food for thought, here is the B1G Conference as a whole.
|Current - B1G Conference||Predictive|
|21 Ohio State||82.24 22|
|22 Nebraska||83.88 19|
|25 Michigan State||78.60 30|
|28 Purdue||79.74 25|
|31 Wisconsin||77.37 32|
|37 Michigan||77.13 35|
|40 Northwestern||75.70 41|
|45 Penn State||75.78 40|
|60 Minnesota||71.96 61|
|62 Iowa||70.79 64|
|67 Illinois||69.56 68|
|99 Indiana||62.95 97|
I also realize that it is fairly early for rankings with the small sample size available, just found some of the data interesting enough to post.
So rather than start another thread questioning the offense, I decided to take a look around our lovely conference:
1: Northwestern/Minnesota - They haven't gone up against great competition, but remain the only two (postseason eligible) teams that are undefeated. Back in August if I told you the October 13th game between the two could feature a 6-0 Northwestern and 5-0 Minnesota, I bet people would slap me silly.
2: Purdue - Again, not so great competition, but since they host Wisconsin at home they should be the favorites for the Leaders division. Let that sink in....Purdue isn't a darkhorse, they're not a longshot, they're the favorites for the Division. Sure it's because the rest of their division imploded, but hey, baby steps.
And that's all the positives for the conference
1: Wisconsin - At worst, they should be 1-3, but in reality they should at least be 2-2. No matter how you slice it, Wisconsin is the leagues Number 1 disappointment. The defending conference champion almost losing to FCS teams, dropping a game against a what will probably be a middle of the pack PAC-12 team, and essentially losing to a WAC team is not how you want to start off your title defense. Couple that with having Montee Ball yet only having the 88th best rushing attack in the country and they're a clear number 1
2: Iowa - Coming in at a close second is the 2-2 Hawkeyes, fresh off a stinging home loss to Central. Going into this year people knew was going to be difficult for the Hawkeyes. They're replacing both coordinators, and were extremely thin at receiver and RB, but they had hopes that with an average defense and a veteran QB, they could make a fight in the division. Plenty of dropped passes later, a few special teams meltdowns, and you've got people questioning whether Iowa will make a bowl or not
3: Illinois/PSU - I don't really know what to say here, at this point we're not talking about teams that are clear disappointments so much as they are performing somewhat below expectations. Illinois has blowout losses to Arizona State and Louisiana Tech (!!!), with a win over WMU and a seal clubbing over Charleston Southern, which is apparently a real school; while Penn State dropped their first two games to Ohio and Virginia, while managing to salvage games over Navy and Temple
4: Nebraska/Michigan - Here we've got teams that could be 4-0 and 3-1 respectively. Both teams could win the conference, but could jsut as easily go 8-4. For Nebraska, the defense should stiffen up if they want some Roses, and for Michigan, well there's about 40 other threads discussing us, go there and talk about it (turnovers)
5: MSU/OSU - They're just below Neb/Mich. Here neither team has lost a game they should have won, but they haven't looked impressive winnning those games. MSU had to give Le'veon Bell 5 million touches in their opener to beat a rebuilding Boise team, and had to do the same gameplan to beat Eastern (!!!!!!!!!). The defense has looked good, but they have also gone up against some pretty bad offenses, Boise got shut out against BYU, and Eastern is Eastern. Notre Dame put up 300 yards on them, but had one big break for a TD, and a bunch of FG's. Right now their best win is over a CMU team. And when you look at OSU, struggles against Central Florida, UAB, and Cal don't bode well for their season. Braxton Miller has been doing it all for the Buckeyes, but as any Michigan fan can tell you, that's not a viable plan for continued success. The passing offense leaves much to be desired and various injuries have knocked their starting RB's out of commision at one point or another. Their defense hasn't been embarrassed, but they can't claim greatness either.
The Meh: Indiana. IU sucks, and a loss to Ball State isn't really surprising, nor are their wins over UMass and Indiana State. Conference play will knock them back down to nothing
Kind of the MS Paint version of This Week in Schadenfreude.
Don't shoot the messenger.
What he does here to John L. Smith tests the boundaries of freedom of speech.
*Warning* graphic drawings
There is a myth that lives on this board that Denard was a better passer in 2010. This post is not meant to excuse Al Borges' playcalling, or bash Rich Rod, or elevate Lloyd Carr's run-run-run-punt strategy. It's just a look at the falsity that Denard was a better passer in 2010.
The unfortunate, painful truth that this diary reveals is that our passing offense is not much better than it was in 2010, when it wasn't very good at all (when it mattered).
Let's throw out the garbage games and focus on Michigan's games against opponents that had respectable defenses in 2010:
- Ohio (3rd in total yds)
- Iowa (16th in total yds)
- Wisconsin (23rd in total yds)
- Michigan State (32nd in total yds)
You might be wondering, "Where is Notre Dame and Penn State on that list?" Well, I'm glad you asked. They were 46th and 48th...behind powerhouses like San Diego State, Hawaii, and ILLINOIS!!! (the team we scored 67 points against). So they sucked. But we still lost to Penn State. Even though they sucked. Because our defense was, well, worser.
I don't need to lay out the stats from the ohio game. They trounced us, and Denard got pulled in favor of Forcier at the end of the game. We couldn't move the ball at all, and scored only 7 points.
Let's move on to Iowa...
Their defense was ranked 16th in 2010, and yet we were able to score 28 points. This is actually the best comparable for this weekend's Notre Dame game, since ND is ranked 17th in total defense right now. Yes, we lost the game by a score of 28-38, and those four TDs sure do look good...but only because you either don't remember what happened or judge a book (or score) by it's cover (or...score). Here are some relevant stats:
- Denard 13/18, 98 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Forcier 17/26, 239, 1 TD, 2 INT
But here's the most important stat: We only scored 7 points when Denard was on the field. Denard get could get yards (108 on 18 carries) but not points. Iowa was stacking the box, and all the offense could muster was a TD on a drive when Denard threw three passes: one was incomplete, one was for a 6 yd. loss, and the last was a screen to Smith for an 8 yd. TD. Denard got hurt in the 3rd quarter and in came Forcier.
It was Forcier that brought the team back in that game, and Forcier that sealed our fate with his INTs. It's worth noting that completing passes underneath when you're behind by 21 points is MUCH easier. In fact, that leads to lots of confusion about the effectiveness of Denard's passing and the 2010 offense in general: we got loads of "soft" yards because we were hopelessly behind and our opponents played softer coverages and lighter fronts.
Wisconsin has a similar storyline, except that Denard played much more that game. We scored exactly ZERO points in the first half (although we did miss a 30 yd. field goal). With a 24 point lead, Wisconsin converted to prevent defense, and allowed us back in the game. Denard stayed in this time, and racked up a nice, meaningless statline: 16/25 for 239 yds, 2 TDs, and, of course, 1 INT. The important part: Denard was 4/9 for 22 yds passing in the first half. When Wisconsin was playing their base defense, Denard couldn't pass. Only the gooey butter cake version of Wiscy's D allowed DR some meaningless passing yardage. Further proof of this came in the fourth quarter, when we had come back to make it a 21-31 game. Denard couldn't move the ball anymore.
The final example is, perhaps, the most damning. Michigan State had a good-but-not-great defense in 2010. Their success was largely a result of their schedule and some good defensive coaching. They lost badly to Iowa (and 'Bama), snuck by a pretty lousy ND team in overtime, and narrowly edged out a VERY average Penn State team. Their only quality win was against Wisconsin, and that game was played in East Lansing. Despite their easy schedule, the Spartan defense was still only ranked 32nd in total yds. Michigan actually had the lead twice in this game, up 3-0 in the first quarter and 10-7 in the second. Denard was 6/8 for 51 yds in the first quarter, but threw an INT in the endzone. In the second quarter, Denard shined again. He was 4/6 for 81 yds and a TD. At the half, Michigan was down 10-17.
The second half was a very, very different story. Denard was 7/15 for 82yds and 2 INTs. The same guy we saw against ND. Only against a defense that wasn't nearly as good. And we were at home. The 4th quarter TD was only scored after MSU had rung-up a 21 point lead.
So here's the bottom line: Denard has never been a good passer, or even an average passer. And against good defenses, we won't win until he's able to throw the ball somewhat effectively. Maybe that's why Borges keeps making him throw, especially before the B1G season starts.
So what's the difference between now and 2010? The defense. Because our Greg defense is not our GERG defense, we are in every game, and teams don't stop stacking the box against Denard. They don't stop blitzing. They don't play soft coverage. So Denard never gets to ring-up his stats, and looks even worse.
I certainly won't excuse Borges' playcalling on Saturday--it needed to be better. But the fact is that our only quality wins have come when Denard has been able to make plays in the passing game (or Hemingway was able to bail out Denard) and I expect it stay that way. If Denard can't pass, we're screwed, and 4 or 5 losses is our best case scenario.