landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
Some days I feel like a mouse among elephants compared to some of the diaries around here. I mean, WolverineBlue has to get diarist of the week, and I didn't even open his site. Fun fact: ESPN doesn't change the week on the NCAA scoreboard until Tuesday.
On to Week 6, in which the field is down to 5 zero-win teams: UAB, New Mexico, Oregon State, and two from the Sun Belt (motto: It's the Fun Belt!): FAU and Western Kentucky. Seriously, what's with this year? EMU has 3 wins, CSU is leading the MWC, and Rutgers is leading the Big East? Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria! This looks like it's going to be another year for the Big East Championship Hot Potato. Hopefully the last tie-breaker is a mascot sack race. This week I don't make fun of mascots for a change! But first:
I'd like to make a musket-related joke about Virginia's firepower downing the Vandals, but I just can't. Any game that has 16 punts does not get any sort of positive offensive efficiency comments from me. Virginia will get a +1 for the spectacularly named Trey Farquhar. I hereby declare that all kickers should be named Trey. And point guards. And waiters. Extra bonus if his brothers are named Uno and Due.
Elsewhere, Hawaii won the Frequent Flyer Miles bowl 44-26. Louisiana Tech had 3 turnovers and 8 penalties. When asked for a comment, LT's QB said "Hey, did you get to go to Hawaii in college on someone else's dime? I didn't think so."* Speaking of fitting names, ESPN's recap lists a "Tank Hopkins", but unfortunately his real name is Melvin. I hereby also declare that Stephen Hopkins's nickname be Tank as well. Or Ironhead.
*Not a real quote.
This week: Big, Bad In-conference games!
Er, Bad Games In Big Conferences. Arizona (1-4) versus Oregon State(0-4). Seriously, who would have thought Arizona would be 1-4. To be fair, they played Oklahoma State, then started conference play against Stanford and Oregon. Arizona had a chance against USC, but failed to recover an onside kick that could have set up the tying drive. Such is life. You may remember Oregon State from such games as 35-0 against Wisconsin or 27-19 against UCLA. When your QB has passed for 1000 yards on the season and only thrown 2 TDs, that's a good indication that something is wrong.
Closer to home, we've got Minnesota (1-4) vs Purdue (2-2). Since Minnesota doesn't play Indiana this year, this will have to do for Dysfunctional B1G football. We should all be well aware of Minnesota's problems on and off the field (seriously, coach, hope you feel better. You just might want a lower-stress job, like airline pilot or something). Purdue has been schitzo this year, and continued against ND. Marve returned for the second half, and TerBush thew an INT on the first play of the game. In summary: Purdue running - decent. Purdue anything else - average to not good.
One last special recognition to the WAC, for having two games with two one-win teams : Louisiana Tech versus Idaho and UNLV versus Nevada. Bold prediction: Louisiana Tech will lead the NCAA in frequent flyer miles.
Michigan's defense is a strength. Period. Admittedly, Minnesota was awful. And a freshman QB is a deer in the headlights. Having said that, there is no denying the dominance and strength of Michigan's defense. And it isn't done getting better.
- With the score run up, Mattison was able to get lots of backups plenty of playing time and experience, and see what they could do. This builds morale, keeps the starters fresh, and pays big dividends.
- On the DL, we now have seven solid contributors (Martin, VanBergen, Roh, Campbell, Black, Washington, Heininger.) This keeps them fresh, and means less disaster if any one is out. With three and outs, they just stay strong and get stronger.
- In the secondary, we have four solid CB's (Woolfolk, Floyd, Avery, & Countess.) Countess is still making mistakes, but he will be a good one. At safety, Kovacs and Gordon are being freed up to do what they should be doing, and Johnson and Robinson have time to improve. Kovacs continues to do a great job, but doesn't have to bail out everyone else.
- I'd like to see more depth at LB. But so do the coaches, with four 4-star LB recruits already in the fold for next year. This year, Hawthorne, Demens, and Ryan are doing a fine job, with Cam Gordon finally healing up. I'm not as confident in Fitzgerald, Morgan, Beyer, & Herron, but they haven't been exposed . . . yet.
- The whole defense seems to be very opportunistic in causing and recovering fumbles. VanBergen's strip of a RB vs. SDSU was awesome, and seemingly a direct result of coaching. While Avery & Herron were more lucky than good in their scoring TD's, they still seized the opportunity and ran with it.
- Assuming Michigan's defense last year had a failing grade, they have room for huge improvement over the course of this season, up to say, a B+ or A-. If a defense begins the year at B+ or A-, there just isn't as much room (or need, I suppose) to improve.
Special teams is still a work in process, and yet:
- 3 field goals, 7 extra points, one game. That's more points than Vincent Smith scored! Gibbons is heading in the right direction. At the very least, this isn't a liability.
- No fumbled punts or kickoffs this year. And Gallon is going to break some big returns. I would bet on this.
- With Hagerup back, there will be competition at punter, and this will only get better.
- Kickoff coverage is still subpar, but I have to believe after last week, this will be a major point of emphasis in practice. Punt coverage isn't quite as bad, but also a place where there is room for improvement.
The point is, our defense is keeping us in games, and giving the offense the opportunity to shine. I can't quantify it, but I have to believe that there was a heavy psychological weight on the offense last year, knowing that if they didn't score, they were going to lose. (exhibit A: Illinois game.) As we play teams with a staunch defense (MSU, Nebraska, even Ohio,) the offense can play with a different mindset. They can do all they can to gain yards and score, but the game isn't lost if they DON'T score. Really, both defense and offense have the other's back. This balance strengthens both.
I'm going to the game this Saturday, and honestly, I hope Persa plays, and plays well. I still think the defense will shut Northwestern down, but I think our D needs the challenge more than another tomato can, as they prepare for MSU. I want to see what our secondary can do against a real passing threat. And I am salivating about our DL going against Michigan State's OL. Cousins better have on a flak jacket.
At this point, I have lost all reason. I believe, looking at our schedule, that we will go 12 - 0, lose to Wisconsin, and win a decent bowl game (having a month to prepare!) for a final record of 13 - 1. The most challenging games remaining are Nebraska and Illinois, and I still think we win both. I could never have predicted this at the beginning of the season.
Jordan Jefferson's first comments since fight night in Baton Rouge:
"I can't imagine anybody in the country going through more than I did. But, I'm now wiser and more aware. God puts people in certain situations. I don't regret anything."
I'm not even gonna comment on the stupidity of this statement. Maybe Les should've kept him away from the media a little longer. With some of the other statements in the interview, they better be careful about the good team chemistry they have going right now. Lee is managing the game nicely enough for them to win games, and I can't imagine coming close to giving Jefferson a look right now.
Michigan Monday is up at "The O-Zone" and is a nice read. Link: http://www.theozone.net/football/2011/MSU/postgame/michiganmonday.html
A few quotes:
I never should have watched this game. It made offense look remarkably easier than it truly must be. I have been led to believe that offense is a hope and wish at best, but Michigan made it look like a reality.
Last week I mentioned that we would soon start to see some triple option from Robinson, and we started to see the buds sprouting on that process. With split backs, Robinson ran a zone read look and would hand the ball off, but he always had the second tailback running behind him to be his pitch man. That will soon become a triple option.
I have been very impressed with the way Al Borges has brought this offense along. It's not stagnant. It's not stale. and it's clearly not finished. There is advancement going on. The players are learning new stuff every week--and they're able to execute it.
There are so many things that they can do from this formation (edit: 2 QB,) but don't be surprised if we never see it again. This was done so that every defense from here on out would have to waste practice time to prepare for.
Some people want to assume that this is the same old Michigan defense it has always been. The Wolverines started out 5-0 last year as well, after all. But I don't see it that way. I still fully believe this defense can be pillaged, but who on the schedule is going to do it?
For those of you who have purchased tickets to away games in the past, have you noticed whether prices tend to hold steady the week of the game? I'm trying to find a group of 4-8 tickets for the Northwestern game, but haven't had much luck finding anything under around 90 bucks--surprisingly expensive for a game at Ryan Field. Anyone have a good sense of whether it's best to hold off for a price drop the few days before the game?
We all love the in-depth analysis provided by Brian's UFR posts on MGoBlog. But sometimes the voluminous stream of information can be daunting.
I have created a web application to make viewing of UFR data easier and more powerful. You can step through the game analysis play by play or search and filter using a wide range of criteria. For any play, you are just one click away from viewing the corresponding video clip. I am now happy to make this app available to the MGoBlog community.
Disclaimer: This is a user-generated project and not an official feature of MGoBlog. I am offering this on a trial basis. While I intend to continue to support and update the program throughout the season, I can offer no firm promises or guarantees.
I have created a simple web site from which you can launch the viewer for your game of choice. There is more information at the web site. It can be found here:
In the future, UFR data should be viewable in the utility within 15 minutes of the UFR being posted on the main page of MGoBlog.