this may be of some local interest
My 7 year-old son is preparing for a bone marrow transplant to treat his Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa at the University of Minnesota next month. I am on the faculty at Mississippi State University.
The community here has done some amazing things for him. This week Gabe has been invited to join the university Army ROTC as an honorary member. He will allowed to fire the cannon to bring the players out to face Alabama tomorrow. Gabe will also be in charge of subsequent firing when the local guys score points.
I recognize that the game in Starkville will be televised at the same time as the game in Bloomington, but I hope some of you are able to flip over to see my 7 year-old wheelchair bound child firing a cannon to mark the demise of the Crimson Tide.
I have been planning a diary entry for some time, but have been unable to get one together. If this is inappropriate for in season, mods, please delete.
We will post videos of the cannon firing at Gabe's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/supergabevalentine/?fref=ts
Go Blue and Hail State!
It has been about a month since I last looked at this data for UM, so now that we are 75% thru the season it's a good place to see where UM is among national leaders (top 30ish) or in the "boo" category (70 or worst). For a comparison to week 5 you can peek here. I'll discuss the changes a bit below as well.
Things UM is Good At
|Red zone Offense||6||94.7%|
|Sacks allowed / game||31||1.44|
|TFL allowed / game||34||5.33|
|3rd down conversion %||2||21.8%|
|Passing yds Allowed||3||159.4|
|Sacks / game||28||2.67|
|Tackles for loss / game||28||7.2|
|Misc / Special Teams|
As Brian has been saying, "it is what it is" on offense. UM was among national leaders in the exact same 3 categories in early October as it is now. That said the Sacks allowed and TFL allowed have fallen from ranks in the teens to low 30s. The one thing UM is great at on offense is taking advantage of red zone opportunities. On the positive front this should be the worst offense in the Harbaugh era.
I will also say the sacks allowed and TFL allowed - while not top 10ish - are huge improvements from the disaster those categories were in 2013 and 2014. When you reduce the # of negative plays it is so much easier to have manageable 2nd and 3rd downs.
The defense continues to impress via NCAA stats (which don't adjust for SOS, etc) as well as advanced stats (which do adjust). In week 5, UM was among national leaders in 7 categories - the same as now. The only change is "passes intercepted" is no longer among the national leaders while "sacks/game" now is. Yes we played a lot of bad offenses this year but being ranked #3 in both passing yds allowed AND rushing yds allowed is pretty damn fun. Most important to winning and losing is scoring defense - we were #2 in week 5 and are #1 in week 10.
Our special teams return games are among the best in the nation - thanks Chesson, Pep, and Lewis. TOP is obviously a Harbaugh thing - you don't need it to win but it sure helps the defense. And with Jake reducing our hectic passes intercepted pace in the first third of the season, our total turnovers lost is now a solid 34th.
Things UM is Not so Good At
|Passing yds per comp||83||11.7|
|Misc / Special Teams|
|Kickoff return defense||76||21.9|
|Punt return defense||95||10.5|
|Turnover Margin / game||88||-0.33|
As mentioned above - "it is what it is" on offense. Passing offense is an issue for UM when not playing 3 freshman DBs from rutgers. A better passing attack probably has UM 8-0 but on the flip side no Jake probably means even scarier things so we accept it and move on. The one major improvement is the passes intercepted where UM ranked among the nation's worst in week 5. That is the one category where Jake's 2015 and Gardner's 2014 seasons dovetail; otherwise their stats YTD are very similar.
IMO the only disappointment in the Durkin defense is the ability to create fumbles - esp since that was a Florida trademark. It is amazing that thru 9 games we've created 1. On the flip side you can say it's awesome how the defense is doing without the ability to create fumbles but it would sure help if we could add to that total in these last 3 games.
Ok I will slap self on hand - after berating the Big 10 for having bad special teams in the prior post today I was a bit shocked to see UM's data in kickoff and punt returns defense. Fire Borges!!! The kickoff return defense took a hit last week obviously and 76th is not turrible...just very mediocre. But the punt return defense stat sort of was a cold splash to the face. Scratching my head on that one. Neither of those were issues in week 5 but we do seem to be giving up more yardage the past few games in special teams. Turnovers gained is also an issue mostly due to the inability to recover fumbles but even the passes intercepted ranks 61st with only 8 INTs by the defense. Turnover/margin per game being negative is not usually a hallmark of winning teams.
Again first world problems for a team that was having difficult fielding 11 men on a football field last year.
After the Minnesota near debacle I appreciate the Scarlet Knights for playing almost exactly as the numbers would show them to. They were decent in the few places they were supposed to be, and "rutgery" in the places they were supposed to be. After playing 2 teams back to back with few strengths and many weaknesses we face Indiana who has quite a few more strengths....but still racks up a lot of weaknesses.
Things Indiana is Good At
|Passing yds per comp||23||13.76|
|Passes Had Intecepted||27||6|
|Red zone Offense||12||91.7%|
|Sacks allowed / game||20||1.2|
|TFL allowed / game||26||5.1|
|Misc / Special Teams|
|Turnover Margin / game||24||0.56|
As one would expect almost all of Indiana's strengths lay on offense. The only thing the D does well is recover fumbles but UM usually does a good job not giving those up. Indiana also doesn't turn the ball over much which is a credit to them considering how much yardage they generate. Creating fumbles has been a massive issue for UM D as it is now among the worst in the nation in that category.
Offensively I included "rushing offense" in Indiana's strengths even though they don't rank top 30ish because the excellent Jordan Howard missed quite a few games either completely or a shell of himself. He seems to be back to full form as of last week and is a guy I wish we had gotten in the transfer market - he is a beast.
Indiana has a quick strike deep ball offense - one thing Iowa did an excellent job last week was keeping everything in front of them; some games Sudfeld has a 10-11 yards per attempt; he was down near 5 last week which is Nick Sheridan range. Indiana is deadly in the red zone. Last - whether due to the quick strike nature of their offense, tired defenses, or just a QB with a quick release Indiana does not get sacked a lot. Nor do they give up a lot of TFL so expectations should be in check in term of getting to the QB or creating negative plays. It is not that easy against Indiana.
Things Indiana is Not so Good At
|3rd down conversion %||81||38.2%|
|3rd down conversion %||110||45.2%|
|Passing yds Allowed||126||330|
|Red zone defense||75||84.4%|
|Misc / Special Teams|
|Fewest Penalty Yds/Game||85||59.6|
|Kickoff return defense||75||21.7|
Indiana is not good at many things. Starting at the bottom one thing I have noticed doing this for various opponents the past 5-6 weeks is that Big 10 special teams is just bad. Not mediocre but bad.... almost all our opponents save NW really have sucked at special teams. This leads to a huge advantage to UM. The ave starting spot for UM's 6 TD drives last week was our own 49 yd line i.e. 51 yds to score. Indiana continues this trend with horrid kickoff returns, bad kickoff return defense (hello Lewis), and a bad net punting game. Expect more good field position for UM this week. They are also often penalized and no surprise lose the TOP game (by design).
Offensively, Indiana is surprisingly bad at 3rd down conversions. Sudfeld's completion % is 60% which is good considering how many deep balls he throws but the backups that played when he was out hurt Indiana's data point there so you can ignore it.
Defensively, Indiana is not good. Among the nation's worst in total defense (yds given up per game) and scoring defense. The rushing defense is not terrible but mediocre while the passing defense is putrid. Hopefully Jake can take his talents from last week on the road. They are also abysmal on getting teams off the field on 3rd down.
To this point, the eye test tells me that Michigan may just be one of the four best college football teams in the country this season. Unfortunately, a certain punt didn't go quite as planned and it may result in this team being on the outside looking in even if this season closes in spectacular fashion. We need some help, and alas, this weekend looks like one where some damage could be done at or near the top of the rankings. In case you have not mapped things out this Saturday, all games below could have a significant on our slim, but real, chances at the BIG championship and College Football Playoff this year:
Florida at South Carolina (ESPN-Noon) - After running it up on the Commodores last week to the tune of 9-6, the Gators take to the road for the Used to Involve Spurrier Bowl. The Cocks come home after narrow losses at Tennessee and A&M, and could give the Gators a game. I think there is some real potential here.
Maryland at Michigan State (Pam Ward-Noon) - There will literally be hundreds in attendance to watch this one go down. State should get back to things comfortably here, but Maryland has not been that bad the last couple of weeks and MSU has reason to look ahead.
OSU at Illinois (ABC - Noon) - lol
Wake Forest at Notre Dame (Fighting Irish Television Network - 3:30) - This could get ugly. ND looking to quiet the masses of non-believers, Wake being Wake. Look for Kelly to run this one up.
Michigan at Indiana (ABC-3:30) - Hope our secondary gets some rest tonight. I like Michigan here but Indiana is due to close one of these deals out. Lets see ALL the Peppers.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State (ESPN - 3:30) - Iowa State did beat Texas, sooooo, nevermind, nothing to see here.
Arkansas at LSU (ESPN - 7:00) - Arkansas has some talent and this, at least used to be, a "throw the records out" type of affair but LSU is solid. Not a lot of potential here but worth a watch.
Oregon at Stanford (Gus Johnson Network - 7:30) - I'm going to watching this game. Oregon has cleaned some things up and I think could put up a fight here. This one in particular could be big for Michigan as I see Stanford as a major potential roadblock to our slim playoff hopes.
Oklahoma at Baylor (ABC-8:00) - I think this may be "can't lose" for us. TCU dropped below us with one loss last week to a ranked team and I think we move ahead of the loser of this game regardless of who it is, assuming of course we take care of business.
Utah at Arizona (FS1 -After I pass out) - Yes, those pesky Utes are still in the picture. Arizona is still dangerous, and, at home, a loss for the Utes would be big for us as well.
Now that is some good watching. May want to push back the first beer until AT LEAST 7:30 AM to ensure you can see some of the late action. Could be a big weekend.
Virginia Tech Hokies (4-5)
Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (3-6)
7:30 pm Ann Arbor Time on ESPN
Bobby Dodd Stadium at Histori Grant Field, Atlanta, Georgia
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (4-4)
South Alabama Jaguards (4-4)
7:30 pm Ann Arbor Time on ESPU
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Buffalo Bills (4-4)
New York Jets (5-3)
8:25 pm Ann Arbor Time on NFLN
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ