Peppers at 10, which seems low.
2006 ohio state
|M20||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|Third wideout is actually Butler, who comes in motion to the playside. He kind of whiffs on the linebacker but with the help of Ecker, turns him out. Gholston, lined up over Long(-1), gets free, forcing Hart back inside of him and into the remaining linebackers.|
|Smith owned. Henne lays it right in stride to Manningham, allowing him to rack up a big gain after the catch. (DO, 3, protection 1/1)|
|First indication that the field might be an issue, as Washington slips trying to break on this. Wouldn't have done much other than hold the gain down a yard or two, but still an indication. Ohio State's doing this flyaway thing I've seen them do quite a bit where they line up in press cover, then start bailing at the snap. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Ton of time for Henne. Henne looks deep, then comes down to Butler for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|I'm not sure what to call this. It's not our typical zone stretch but it's not really a draw either. Oluigbo leads weakside as Michigan OL start pass drop, then engage. The OSU defensive line has started shifted right, over the tight end, and is walled off fairly easily. Obi kicks out a blitzing corner. Laurinaitis and Kerr get sucked up and blocked â€“ Kerr tries a diving tackle that Hart bursts through â€“ and Hart's into the secondary for a good gain.|
|O24||2||1||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||23||Manningham||Post (2)|
|Press-bail again, where the cornerback immediately turns his hips and starts flying downfield, reading the quarterback. Michigan is ready for this, running a post against cover 1 (seven in the box versus this formation that features Ecker spread wide to the top of the formation). Manningham gets inside Smith easily and throws a perfect dart. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Yeesh. Nearly a hold on Butler as he grabs a cornerback's arm, and then he falls to the ground. Obi gets the other corner hooked and Hart has the corner easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 12 min 1st Q. I didn't realize the Dave Matthews Band had kicked in for this game. Anyway... uh... yeah. That was machine-like.|
|Manningham slips... he was open and the ball was there despite pressure. Ball was there. (CA, 0, protection Â½)|
|Michigan has the outside sealed â€“ Laurinaitis swept up by the guard and then Obi â€“ but Arrington can't maintain his block on Jenkins. He comes free and shuts Hart down for a moderate gain. Riley(-1) driven backwards, delaying Hart's progress around the edge and giving Jenkins time to come up.|
|Second read nails Breaston between the numbers. Excellent coverage. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Penalty||-5||Mitchell||False Start|
|OMG DEREK JETER|
|Ugh. Manningham is ten yards past Jenkins and heading for an easy touchdown but Henne overthrows him. Manningham throws his arms up in despair. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Another second read. This one is a bit in front of Butler but still reeled in for a good gain. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Plenty of time. Ecker is jammed at the line and held. Henne appears to have Breaston short quickly but he never comes to him. Eventually he tosses it away, trying to avoid pressure. Musberger getting intolerable. (TA, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 1st Q.|
|Henne has a moment before Lawrence Wilson drives Ecker(-1) into the pocket, forcing a panicked scramble. He has to realize what's happening and do something like dump the ball off to Hart, who looked like he had some room to make positive yards. Instead we get the same thing we've seen a lot this year where Henne takes his eyes off his receivers and gets sacked. (PR, --, protection 1/2, Ecker -1)|
|Well executed. Good blocks by Arrington(+1) and Butler(+1). (CA, 3)|
|M23||3||1||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone right|
|Oh, how I despise this playcall. I've been bitching about this all year, no? Third and one, we bring in three wideouts and run a stretch play without a lead blocker. They stuff the box, sell out on the zone play, and stuff it. Musberger credits Laurinaitis when all he did was chase down the play after everyone else did the hard work.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 14 min 2nd Q. Dear Animal, Your Kid Is Overrated.|
|M27||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|With two receivers to one side, OSU shows eight in the box then backs out of it just before the snap. OSU gets far enough upfield to cut off the outside and with the still aggressive safety on the backside the linebackers are free to flow to the ball, outnumber the Michigan blockers.|
|Actually an intentional grounding call but it goes down as a sack. Henne has time and the ability to make a throw here but hesitates and starts r unning around, at which point he's dead. Strange thing is that he started running into pressure instead of moving up into the pocket. I have no idea if his man was covered or whatever, but this is brutal play. Step up in the pocket, throw it away... do something other than take a 17 yard sack. Goddammit. Now I see why the hesitation: Henne's receiver (the second read) ate turf trying to cut. He was open, so Henne didn't come off of him, and when he went down the blitz had gone from picked up to not picked up. Filed as a BR for poor pocket awareness but with an asterisk. (BR, --, protection 1/2)|
|Open underneath deep coverage and picks up half of it. I don't have a huge problem with the call. It's 14 yards of field position and getting it on third and twenty seven is not likely. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M25||4||12||Punt||Penalty||15||--||Whackin' the Center|
|Yeah, you can't do that. Ever wonder why long snappers are always the third guy downfield on punt coverage? Because you can't hit 'em until they get their head up, by which point hittin' em is useless.|
|M40||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone left|
|Against the strength of the formation. There's a bit of a problem with the exchange, but it doesn't affect the play. No one gets a block on the second level or much push. Riley(-1) is so late he tries to go out and block the corner to that side because the linebacker's already yards inside of him. Hart cuts back. There's a lot of space but two unblocked linebackers.|
|No blitz and hardly any penetration from the DL. Weird looking screen. The third "wideout" is actually Ecker screen side, which might be a tipoff. Pitcock reads it and tracks down Hart; Hart jukes past him easily (Kraus slips to the turf trying to turn and block him) but the delay holds down the gain. (CA, 3)|
|Henne checks down as Manningham is covered and hits Breaston on a cross. He's tackled immediately by Freeman. Nice play. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Smith bails out, giving Manningham a ton of room. There might be a miscommunication on this as the throw is a yard or two further downfield than Manningham expects. Still catchable but only marginally accurate given the error. Not sure who to blame. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)|
|Woo. Life. Laurinaitis is plowed by Oluigbo and out of the play, then Hart puts a move on the safety to break past the line of scrimmage. He puts a second move on Jenkins, bursts past him, and is tripped by by a diving corner.|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|Extra guy in the box; they're in cover one with a seven man front. No likey run here. The front side is jammed up â€“ we can't crease them so far â€“ and when Hart tries to cut to the backside Gholston is there. Butler was confused, initially blowing past him in an attempt to get out on a linebacker, then turning and trying a half-hearted grab a second later. Gholston would have been vastly out of position on the waggle if Henne kept the ball.|
|O49||2||9||I-Form Twins||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|This is kind of weird. Looks like OSU is caught in a nickel here. They have one safety way back in the middle of the field and one shaded over Arrington and Manningham. The third corner backs off the LOS before the snap in that weakside zone technique you see a lot. We run at him. We finally crease the line, giving Hart a lane. Someone dives at his feet, he hurdles forward and falls for seven yards.|
|I bet an OSU fan a dollar about Herbstreit's opinion on this. Jenkins jams Manningham about eight yards downfield as Henne lofts a ball up for him. Flag comes down as the ball was in the air. Bet is a push, as Herbstreit offers no opinion either way. (Not charted, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Poor Alex Mitchell is asked to block two defensive linemen as we bust a blitz pickup. Henne's snowed under, no chance. (PR, --, protection 0/3, Riley-3) It's Riley who decides to take a late blitzing corner instead of blocking Gholston.|
|Combo route with Manningham gets Arrington millions of yards open â€“ this will happen again in the second half but Henne will miss him â€“ and leads to a touchdown. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-21, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Massey slips trying to set up and block Smith; freed of Ecker, Smith makes the tackle. (CA, 3)|
|Laurinaitis does a great job of fending off Oluigbo â€“ first time I've ever seen him do that â€“ and manages a tackle attempt near the LOS. Hart runs through it. The other linebacker, Kerr, was engaged on the second level nicely by Bihl(+1) and can't do anything but chase Hart down from behind.|
|This is Adam Kraus' hole. He gets an outstanding, driving block on Kerr. Long kicks out Gholston; Bihl chops and removes Pitcock, who was firing forward at the snap. Oluigbo takes out Mitchell, opening up a hole for Hart.|
|No presnap formation; we join the play just as Hart gets the ball. Don't know if we caught them off guard or what but they have their linebackers shifted towards the open side of the field, away from where we're running. Patterson gets in to the backfield but can't get out to Hart before he shoots up into the hole. Bihl(+1) scoops Pitcock out of the way, and gets out on Laurinaitis. Hart reads everything beautifully and cuts his way through the ho le, past Bihl, and into the secondary.|
|Obi motions out to be a second TE on the right side. Great job by Butler(+1) to seal the DE, then impede Laurinaitis enough to give Hart the corner easily.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-28, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|O25||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||5||Hart||Zone left|
|Nominally eight in the box â€“ Jenkins on the weakside covering a short zone â€“ but we run away from two blitzers who shoot upfield and take themselves out of the play. As a result, the backside is wide open. Hart sees it... cuts... slips. His hand hits the turf and he stumbles. Out of position linebacker (55?) recovers. He makes that cut cleanly and he has one safety between him and the endzone and a sure first down.|
|O20||2||5||I-Form Twins||Run||-2||Hart||Zone right|
|Playside block for Bihl on Patterson that he does not make. A replay of various runs all season where a DT drives one of our interior linemen into Hart in the backfield. Hart breaks the tackle but by that time he's swarmed.|
|Gholston and Pitcock stunt; Gholston blows up Kraus(-1) and gets pressure on Henne, who ends up throwing the ball away in the general direction of Manningham. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Kraus -2) No Gholston likely means he throws to Breaston free on a crossing route after coming off Manningham.|
|Drive Notes: FG, 24-28, 8 min 3rd Q. The obvious issues with the field are actually affecting our offense more than our defense. Hart was one move away from the endzone on first down here.|
|Batted down at the line. (BA, 0)|
|Quick snap. Long(+1) gets great push on Richardson, allowing Hart the corner. Obi takes out the nearest linebacker and Hart goes up the sideline until the defense converges.|
|Ohio State blitzes; we pick it up. Mario comes across the formation and is trailed by a defender, revealing man coverage. With time, Henne finds Arrington, who's beaten Smith to the inside by a couple yards. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Quick snap. Long(-1) is hesitant (slip?), allowing Gholston to burst into him and shove him back. He then definitely slips. With the DE to the playside free, there's not much Hart can do except cut up into bodies.|
|Beautiful pocket. Henne drops back and fires it to Arrington running in between levels in the zone; right on the money. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O33||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||0||Hart||Zone left|
|Smith brought off of Arrington in the slot to blitz; does so right into the play. Arrington comes in motion before the snap and manages to wall off Smith without blocking him in the back. Hart jumps outside of him. Timing disrupted, the safety already creeping towards the line of scrimmage, Hart has the outside cut off and has to head upfield.|
|Don't know what Long's doing. The DE slants inside and gets there, driving towards Henne. Henne has to get rid of it and throws to an open Butler but can't step into the throw with the pressure and sails it. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Long -2)|
|Stunt. Patterson splits the gap between Riley(-1) and Mitchell(-1). Henne, under tremendous pressure, has to toss it away. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Mitchell, Riley -1)|
|We've seen this play all year, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's a checkdown to Breaston on the crossing route a few yards short of the sticks. Breaston cuts and slips to the turf. Does he make it otherwise? Maybe. We've seen him do it before. He had Jenkins to contend with... 50/50.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 24-35, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|Ugh. The aforementioned overthrow on the wheel route. Arrington was open by about ten yards and all Henne had to do was lay it in there for a 20 or 30 yard gain. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|OSU blitzes right into this. Obi gets a piece of Laurinaitis and allows Hart a crease to split the two linebackers; Hart then owns Brandon Mitchell for another four yards.|
|Jenkins step for step with Manningham but has given him way too much room inside. There's a window here for a completion... unfortunately, Long passes Gholston off to Kraus, who hasn't slid his protection. Result: Henne hit as he throws, underthrown ball, and a punt. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Kraus -2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Ohio State strings this out nicely. Obi decides to head outside and Hart follows him. Ecker is battling Gholston to a stalemate when Wilson shoots past Long(-1) and grabs Hart from behind.|
|Play is made by Arrington's killer block on Washington. Breaston's speed got him outside the defensive end. I don't see how this replay is indisputable, by the way.|
|By all rights should be stopped at the one by an unblocked Mitchell with Kerr impacting him a moment later. Hart plows in anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-35, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Henne stands in bravely as Patterson goes right past a confused Mitchell/Bihl combo and hits an open Manningham for about six yards with a lot of YAC potential. It's dropped. (CA, 2, protection 0/2, Mitchell -1, Bihl -1)|
|Open and he's immediately into the second level with the linebackers dropping way downfield.|
|Washington jams Breaston and he's yards away from the ball as the pass is thrown. Uh...BR, I guess. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-35, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Underneath the coverage for a few; need yards in bigger chunks here. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Double clutch as Henne comes off Manningham and hits Arrington. It's a little low â€“ there was an opportunity to get a few more yards and then OOB if accurate. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Comes down to Hart as his first read or two is covered. Jenkins makes a nice ankle tackle to hold the gain down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Beautiful throw well downfield in between four guys in the zone. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Throwing under the coverage. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Holding on Riley and a call that has to be made. Henne puts this in a tiny window in the zone right on Arrington's hands. Arrington is blown up by Laurinaitis but holds on. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Riley -2) Shame. GOOD LORD. ABC does its standard "look at the guy who screwed up shot" and catches Alex Mitchell popping Riley's shoulder back into place.|
|Good for 8 to 10 if Ecker makes a simple catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|This is just terrible from the right side of the OL. I can't get that mad at Riley â€“ shoulder â€“ but when the DE swims inside and no one's coming at Mitchell, he has to get out and help Riley. He ends up blocking no one, getting Henne sacked. (PR, protection 0/2, -1 Riley, Mitchell)|
|M44||4||16||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc + 15||Manningham||Bomb|
|Weird. Herbstreit immediately bursts into a spiel about how that's obvious interference and I'm like 'no it isn't.' This ball is well underthrown â€“ Mario had burned O'Neal crispy â€“ allowing the S to get back into the play. He doesn't look, the ball hits him in the back or arm or something, and Manningham's progress is never impeded. This is the same kind of crappy call we've been getting on our DBs all year, and it's still crappy when it happens in our favor. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Underneath again; a second read as Arrington was running the wheel again. Defender on that side dropped back to cover it and Henne's second progression was the cross. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Not well thrown â€“ Massey has to dive to the ground and scoop the ball off the turf as he gets into the second level â€“ but I think Freeman's threatened bump caused Massey to get to the designated spot a little late. Great catch. (CA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Though incomplete this is an excellent decision and throw from Henne. Arrington is bracketed and with 2:30 left in the game and no timeouts Michigan can't really afford little checkdowns anymore. So he fires it high and to the outside where only Arrington can get it. It would have been a miracle if he pulled it in but it was still the best option. Filed as TA. (TA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|OSU blitzes; we pick it up but only momentarily. Henne starts moving up in the pocket and I'm like "aaah no more useless Henne scramblor", then finds Ecker wide open at the six; he takes it in for the touchdown. (CA, 3, protection Â½)|
|Just a little stop in front of the zone. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2PT), EOG|
So... the field?
It clearly harmed Michigan on a few critical plays: stumbling receivers on various passes, a Hart run that was held down to five that should have been a big gain, a fourth down conversion attempt that ended with Breaston skidding to the ground yards short of the sticks. Overall, far more Michigan players ended up face down on the turf than Ohio State players, and though I gave the turf theory little credence in the immediate aftermath of the game I have to say that on replay there's about 8-10 instances where a Michigan player's inability to plant is relevant and maybe 1-2 similar plays for OSU.
How could this be true? Theories:
- Michigan has guys who rely on sharp cuts more often. Manningham's a double move guy. Breaston's entire football usefulness is built around his ability to change direction faster than anyone else. Hart is a low-to-the-ground, compact back in a running game that demands wild changes of direction fairly regularly. Meanwhile, Pittman and Wells are more north-south guys and Ginn just runs straight past people.
- OSU's used to playing on crappy turf, having dealt with this issue all year (OSU's resodded twice). Maybe they know what they can and can't do when you're on the football equivalent of ice levels in Super Mario Brothers.
Now let's not get all PSU here. Unless this is a brilliant conspiracy launched as soon as word of a zone rushing game reached OSU coaches' ears that sacrificed an entire year of reasonable field conditions and was immediately followed by the installation of fieldturf, the conditions were more fortuitous than a dark plot. But it's clear that the conditions harmed Michigan more than they did Ohio State.
This will no doubt lead to an assertion that "both teams played on the same field," but if Michigan installed a field that randomly shot white-clad players in the kneecap you would agree that this is not a situation that impacts both teams equally, yes?
The difference between the two quarterbacks comes in the final column. Smith hardly ever had things filed "PR" because even when get got "PR-ed" he usually got off a short hitch to Gonzalez or Hall or Ginn or whoever because we couldn't cover long enough for unblocked blitzers to be useful. Henne, on the other hand, got swamped by linemen:
Protection: 34/55. Kraus -4, Ecker -1, Riley -7, Long -2, Mitchell -3, Bihl -1, assorted miscellaneous.
Some of that was just the scheme: Michigan's routes need time to develop. Primary reads on each play are long gainers and our little checkdown routes are slow-developing crosses. Henne spent vastly more time with the ball in his hand than Smith did. Some of that was just bad play. some of that was no doubt Henne-caused, as there were a few more instances of run-around-uselessly theater (though, like Navarre, Henne has started to indicate that he's getting better at this late in his junior season: see the Ecker touchdown).
(Question for peanut gallery: I'm thinking about adding a "marginal" category. It would live in-between "CA" and "IN" and exist for throws that are, well, marginal, like a slant that's completed but forces the wide receiver off his feet to catch it, removing the possibility of YAC. Yes/no? I'm bothered by the huge range of throws in the "CA" category.)
A good day from the receivers, who got a ton more work in this game than any previous. Only one drop of a 3.
Well, if you had told me we would score 39 points I would have kissed the man. And even in the aftermath he revealed himself to be anything but a run-first curmudgeon when Michigan isn't being mind-bogglingly arrogant. DeBord used the pass to set up the run and this worked. We marched down the field mostly through the air on the first drive, and from that point on Hart picked up a number of huge gains on draw plays. He established Henne and Manningham as threats early and forced Ohio State to defend everything. I have few quibbles with anything DeBord did.
I do have some questions:
- We didn't run play-action once. How bizarre is that? Henne's throwing the ball all over creation and there's not so much as the token draw fake we throw out there nearly constantly. No waggle, either, even though Vernon Gholston displayed a predilection for being wildly irresponsible about it.
- I swear to God if I see another zone stretch in three-wide on third and short I am going to short-circuit. How many drives this year died at the hands of that call? I'm going to revisit this in the offseason, youbetcha.
- The screen and Hart dumpoff nearly vanished from the playbook this year. That's understandable because the passing game spent much of the year in mothballs and why screen when they expect you to run every first and second down, but I still miss it.
That was the Michigan "scoring offense," and it scored. Next year, when our number of reliable cornerbacks dips to zero and quarterback pressure becomes less of a given -- in short, when our defense does not destroy (almost) all comers -- it will have to be deployed all game long, especially with a senior Henne.
How come we never throw over the middle?
What, are you stuck in 2005? This time-tested complaint should be shelved until 2008. Henne is now probing the middle of the fiel d on digs, crosses, seams, and posts with frequency and success. Yes, this is a reminder for the first game of 2007, when we run a really boring offense against a MAC school and everyone freaks out.
What does it mean for Probably LSU?
An interesting note on LSU's pass defense: it has faced no one who even approaches competent save Chris Leak. (We all agree to discard Brandon Cox from that category, right? Right.) Eric Ainge missed UT's game against the Tigers. Jonathan Crompton stepped in, but not very well.
Leak was held in check -- 17/26 with an interception for 155 yards -- but that's partially because Tim Tebow ganked his touchdowns. If we face the Tigers I'll provide a fuller breakdown, but a cursory glance at their opponents reveals a virtual who's who of D-I's worst passing offenses. Wait... make that worst offenses, period.
Anyway: Chad Henne was deployed fully for the first time since the Notre Dame game and turned in an impressive performance. He has total command of his reads and routes. His accuracy is greatly improved. His pocket awareness... needs work but is improving. So aerial fiesta against LSU? Maybe. The issue the game will turn on will be protection. Michigan struggled to keep Henne clean and LSU presents a similar challenge -- 7th nationally in sacks and just generally very LSU-y, which is to say good God they're terrifying.
|O31||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||2||Long handoff|
|Hall(+1) holds this down wonderfully, making the tackle after a stiffarm. (CA, 3 â€“ screen) (Cover +1)|
|Combo route designed to beat zone coverage that OSU knows we're in because we have Burgess lined up over Ginn and Gonzalez. Burgess(-1) bites on play action, then slips on the turf as he tries to react to the pass. Slip was probably irrelevant. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Note: Biggs also slips trying to cut and attack the rollout of Smith. (Cover -1, pressure -1)|
|Play action is a speed option fake. Ginn gets open deep on Hall(-1, cover -1) but Smith overthrows him, probably because Woodley(+1, pressure +1) gets loose and plows him as he throws. (IN, 0, protection Â½)|
|Smith throws underneath the zone to Hartline. Graham(+1) makes a nice tackle. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|OSU goes five wide and motions a guy up into a three WR set at the top of the screen â€“ something we do when we throw our diamond screen. They run patterns out of it against obvious zone coverage, flooding that zone and giving Smith an easy read of one guy. He steps out, Smith throws in. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, cover -1)|
|OSU rolls away from Woodley and into Biggs(+2), who works through a TE block and even a double team to reach out and hurl Smith to the turf. (pressure +1)|
|Woodley(+1) goes right around Schafer, nailing Smith as he throws. It's a screen but they were blocking the DEs. Pass still complete, but David Harris(+2) fights through a block and tackles for no gain. (pressure +1) (CA, 3)|
|Two blitzers, mistimed. A safety is yards from the LOS at the snap, and OSU rolls away from it anyway. Smith finds Hall well past the sticks as Sears(-1) is beaten badly. (cover -1) Where is the deep safety? We double Gonzalez on a shorter post... Smith just finds the open guy. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, pressure -2)|
|We run ourselves out of this play. Stunting? Or just fooled? I think the latter, as we overreact to OSU's first step and get trapped. Biggs(-1) gave up the hole.|
|Ginn in that "Ginnback" thing. They try the slip screen; Ginn drops it. A little in front of him, but come on. (CA, 3)|
|Ugly. All Hall does is run like five yards downfield and stop. He's open by yards... we're rushing three! Harrison(-1) misses a tackle to compound his coverage. (Cover -1)|
|M9||1||G||Base 4-3||Pass||7||FB flat|
|Musberger calls it a "slant." At least when Jackson started slipping he had his essential Keith-Jackson-ness to fall back on. Anyway. Fake end around. Crable in man coverage against the fullback, can't get out there in time. (Crable -1, cover -1)|
|Excellent job by Woodley(+1) to penetrate and get Pittman's legs in the backfield. Harris pops him to finish the play.|
|Hall wide open on a pick play. (cover -1, CA, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 6 min 1st Q. Herbstreit goes on about the confusion on the touchdown play, but that was a simple pick â€“ a legal pick, since the receiver never impacted the defender â€“ that was rock to our man-coverage scissors. OSU spread us out, putting us in obvious zone coverages, and found the open receiver each time. When we went to man on third and sixteen he found the mismatch against Sears. What can you say?|
|OSU lines up in the I and runs. This is a zone play... weird. Pittman decides to cut it back inside as Crable(+1) cuts off the outside. Burgess is unblocked and makes the tackle.|
|Woodley slips trying to explode into his pass rush. Trent(-1, cover -1) is also playing way off, certainly too far to bother this slant. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Pittman manages to plow ahead for a few right up the middle; the pull to the outside doesn't open up any space. Harris fills but has to deal with a guard diving at his feet and so can't move up that quickly.|
|Harrison is cut and Sears takes a couple steps back at first opening up the screen. (CA, 3)|
|Taylor(+1) gets good push; Woodley(+1) is into the backfield too quickly for the pulling guard to block him properly. Pittman up into a mass of unblocked linebackers without a lead blocker.|
|Smith fires to an open Ginn underneath the zone. It's a bit hard and outside and dropped. A catch was only going to get three, anyway, as we actually had this one reasonably well covered. (CA, 2, protection 1/1) (cover +1)|
|Michigan loads up with six rushers against an empty set. Smith is forced to backpedal and toss it away with an unblocked blitzer coming in. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q. Michigan goes three and out and gives OSU the ball back right where they punted it.|
|A designed run for Smith. Fakes the end-around to Ginn then rolls out. No pass option here as his wideouts to that side are blocking. Good contain from Adams(+1); Harris pounds Smith as he cuts back.|
|O48||2||4||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||52||Zone left|
|It all starts out so well. Crable(+1) penetrates into the backfield and blows this play up. Wells spins away from Crable's tackle â€“ unfortunate but at the speed Crable's going not shocking â€“ and cuts up in to the line, managing to squeak behind Branch(-1) as he gets shoved by his blocker. Harris, reading the blocking, has moved to the frontside of the play and gets blocked out. Burgess is containing the cutback. Once Wells manages to cut through the line the linebackers are toast. Adams(-2) takes a terrible angle and Mundy(-2) reacts way late. A great play from Wells, some luck to find the hole after the spin move, and late reacting safeties.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Taylor(+1) pushes into the backfield, forcing Pittman to cutback. He makes an ankle tackle for a small gain.|
|Another late blitz. Smith hesitates â€“ we must have covered someone â€“ long enough for the blitzer to get there. Crable(+1) also disengages and is about to sack Smith when he rolls outside of him, steps up, and fires a dart to Robiskie 20 yards downfield. Hall(-1, cover -1) misses the tackle, allowing Robiskie another 20 yards. Trent is the last guy and makes the tackle. Alan Branch slips here trying to get upfield on the Smith rollout. (DO, 3, protection Â½) Harrison wiped out trying to cut and tackle Robiskie, too. (pressure +1)|
|M48||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||10||Off guard|
|Taylor(-1) doubled and blown off the ball. He can't hold his footing or explode out of his stance. There's a big hole and no linebacker around because Burgess(-1) tacks too far inside.|
|OSU rushes up to the line in a big set and alarm bells go off in my head... it's second down, why pull out this quick snap thing for a second down? They playfake. Hall has let Ginn behind him but that's to be expected. What's not expected is Mundy(-2) having bitten ridiculously hard on a nothing conversion attempt, giving Ginn the center of the field wide open and Smith an easy throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) (cover -2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Same zone fake Smith ran off of before the Wells touchdown. He rolls out, finds Gonzalez in a hole in the zone, and hits him, (CA, 3). Both linebackers bit hard on the fake, opening up the hole. (Crable -1, cover -1)|
|Hall playing way off in man. (-1, cover -1) (CA, 3)|
|Ugh. Hall(-1) getting killed. Robiskie gets inside of him on the post and Smith fires it in there. We were in some sort of blitz package that came way too late, leaving the secondary manned up. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) (cover -1, pressure -1)|
|Smith hesitates though it looks like he has Robiskie on a simple hitch. That delay allows Crable(+1) to crush Smith and force an errant throw. (PR, 0, protection 0/2) (pressure +1)|
|Four receivers to one side in this empty look; we have three defenders out there plus a deep safety. All defenders get run off, giving Smith an incredibly easy read and throw to a wide open Gonzalez. (cover -2, CA, 3, protection 1/1) Sears(-1) misses a tackle.|
|Graham(+2) does a great job of reading this, beating a block, and tackling. (CA, 3)|
|God. We aren't covering anyone. They have Gonzalez lined up against Graham... which needs a word stronger than "mismatch" to describe it. This actually appears to be a zone but there's so much space here. Easy. (Cover -2) (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Combo route against the zone. Corner steps towards Gonzalez, Smith goes short. We tackle this time. (Cover -1, CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Graham(-1) is trying to cover Gonzalez. This works about as well as you would think. (Cover -1, CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-28, EOH.|
|A deep one at the sticks that's open. (Cover -1) Smith one-hops it. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Ginn open on the out (cover -1); flat drops it. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Branch(+1) comes free on a stunt, forcing Smith to throw fairly quickly. He throws it low to Ginn, who can't pull it in. Trent was in position to tackle short of the sticks anyway. (CA, 2, protection Â½) (cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-28, 14 min 3rd Q.|
|O17||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||2||Zone right|
|Branch(+1) plows into the backfield, forcing Pittman wide. Burgess(+1) comes up around a blocker to make a tackle near the LOS.|
|Well timed blitz from Mundy(+1) gets one guard trying to block him and Harris(+1). Harris comes free, forcing a throw from Smith that's early and only vaguely accurate. (pressure +1) (CA, 1, protection 0/2)|
|Smith hesitates â€“ first guy is covered â€“ Biggs(+1) gets free, as does Crable, forcing him to scramble out. Smith fires it to Robiskie, who's doubled by Harris(+1) and Adams(+1). The ball deflects up and is intercepted by Branch(!, +1). Poor decision. And we covered not one but two guys. Killer. (Cover +2, pressure +1, BR, 1, protection Â½)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-28, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|Easy pitch and catch in front of Hall(-1, cover -1). (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|They pull a guard around into the hole. With the FB they have blockers for both Harris and Burgess plus a sizable hole between Biggs and Branch(-1), who gets blocked down out of the hole. Pittman's through the hole fast and with Adams rolled up near the LOS, only Mundy(-2) is between Pittman and t he endzone. Yards after Mundy: 45.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-35, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|O28||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||3||Zone read|
|Same shotgun zone stretch play OSU has run or faked a few times before. There's a hole between Woodley and a doubled and blown off the ball Branch(-1), but the hole closes quickly.|
|Taylor(+2) times the snap, shoots into the backfield, makes a six yard TFL, and picks up a holding call. Outstanding.|
|Woodley(+1) slips to the ground, manages to get up, and pressures Smith into a throw short of first down yardage to Nichol. Englemon(+1) is in great coverage, forcing an incompletion. (pressure +1, cover +1, CA, 2, protection Â½)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-35, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|Line creased as Branch(-1) slants inside at the snap right where they run the ball. Harris taken out by the fullback, and I'm about to sarcastically congratulate Ryan Mundy for making a good tackle until Brandent Englemon (31 instead of 21) gets up. Mundy was yanked after the Pittman run.|
|O25||2||5||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-14||Speed option|
|First Smith fumble. Bad time to get a high snap when you're taking off as soon as it's snapped. Branch(+1) hustles for the recovery.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 24-35, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|In front of Hall. (Cover -1)|
|O33||2||3||Base 4-3||Run||4||Off guard|
|Same quick pull of the guard they've been using with frequency. Johnson in at DT; Harris walled off by the FB; Englemon comes up and tackles.|
|O37||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||4||Off guard|
|Mirror image of the last play. Harris and Crable disengage and grab Pittman at the LOS, but their momentum is going laterally as Pittman's goes upfield, so he is able to drag them forward a few steps.|
|Blitzing six against an empty set. Woodley comes free and nails Smith; Ginn runs a simple hitch that Trent(-1) plays too far off of then misses a tackle(another -1), giving Ginn a bunch of extra yards. (CA, 3) (cover -1)|
|M38||1||10||Base 4-3||Pass||6||TE Out|
|Graham(-1) late reacting in his zone; Nichol very open as he goes to the sidelines. (Cover -1)|
|Immediate tackle from Harrison(+1) prevents a conversion. (Cover +1, CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M29||3||1||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-2||Fumble #2|
|Snap just falls out of his hand and rolls backwards.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-35, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Taylor(+1) holds up at the line, sees where the play is going, and submarines Pittman as he gets to the LOS.|
|Think there might be a pass option here but filed as a run anyway. The DE on his side stumbles, opening up a ton of room and he takes off.|
|O28||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||26||Fake WR Screen|
|They fake that Ginn slip screen then turn around and hand off to Pittman going the other way. Harris(-1) starts flying towards Ginn and is gone. Branch manages to read it but can't get out there. Englemon slips to the turf as Pittman cuts past him. We were going to give up eight or so at least but the turf didn't help here.|
|No pull this time. Harris stands up the FB and disengages as Michigan converges â€“ eight in the box here.|
|Same play. No room as Branch(+1) and Taylor(+1) hold up.|
|Hartline on a slant in front of Sears. (CA, 3, cover -1)|
|M33||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||0||Off guard|
|Nothing. Another good job by the DTs. (Taylor +1, Branch +1).|
|Woodley(+1) crushes Smith as he throws, as he's unblocked. Okay. (Pressure +1)|
|M38||3||15||Nickel||Pass||Inc + 15||Goddammit|
|Smith has some time to start, until Branch(+1) bowls through a guy. Smith rolls out, avoids Biggs, and runs to the sideline, throwing up a prayer as he reaches the sideline that Robiskie can't get back to. Then, the flag. More later. (IN, 1, protection 1/2, pressure +1, cover +1)|
|This could not be easier. Trent is hanging back, way out of position, and never breaks on the ball. Terrible. (-2, cover -1)|
|M14||2||1||Base 4-3||Run||1||QB Sneak|
|Ton of time. Ton. Smith sits back, waits for his receiver to cut, and fires to a wide open Robiskie. Trent, summing everything up, slips helplessly to the ground. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, pressure -1, cover -1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-42, 5 min 4th Q.|
God, I don't know. I've always believed that there's not that much you can do when an opposing quarterback is on like that. Several times in the second half we managed to get to him and force errant throws, but I think our much-ballyhooed defensive adjustments were overblown. Second-half drives:
- Smith short-hops an open receiver on first down; Ginn drops a first down out on second; on third we do get a little pressure, forcing a throw that wouldn't get a first down even if completed.
- Three straight good plays: a run stop, pressure, an then actual coverage.
- Two-play touchdown drive.
- Two runs get OSU in 3rd and 11, then Woodley pressure forces a punt.
- The first fumble; unforced on second and five.
- OSU drives down to the Michigan 29, then fumbles on third and one.
- Crable-aided touchdown.
So, yeah, there are a couple good plays interspersed in there but it was usually one of every three snaps. The difference was some OSU errors -- drops, an errant throw, fumbles -- and OSU's decision to go with less consistently effective running plays. There was no adjustment to be made that would suddenly make that four and five wide package anything other than a mismatch.
The really disappointing part was not the pass defense -- that guy's going to win the Heisman and for good reason -- but the two free touchdowns on runs up the middle. The Wells touchdown was dangerous as soon as he slipped through that crack in the line. The backfield spin changed his direction suddenly and oddly, putting linebackers in untenable positions. Branch is a big guy flowing down the line and he couldn't stop his momentum (footing may have been an issue) in time to slow him down. A running back coming straight down the middle of the field with a head of steam and no linebackers is a recipe for disaster, and disaster it was.
Helmet to helmet?
Well, it was helmet-to-helmet. So, yeah, it was a good call as the rule book is constructed.
But it was irritating, right? Not just in the "oh god now we're going to lose" sense, but because it was irrelevant and arbitrary. Shawn Crable's just trying to make a play. He's running full speed, Smith's running full speed, and he's just trying to make a play. If Smith was any other player taking that hit, they don't throw a flag. I can understand the rationale for trying to keep a stationary quarterback protected from headshots, but if he's running willy nilly all over the field a defender's ability to control exactly where and what he's hitting is limited at best.
Is this a nation of men? Should we just outfit quarterbacks with pink jerseys and frilly tutus? The Russkies must be licking their chops.
|Woodley||6||6||Never quite got to Smith but forced a number of errant throws with pressure.|
|Biggs||3||1||2||Had a sack. Woo.|
|Taylor||6||1||5||Lifted a lot. Held up against OSU's late game runs and helped kill a drive with a four-yard TFL.|
|Branch||7||4||3||A lot of good plays; a lot of slanting away from run plays. Hell of an INT, though.|
|Crable||4||1||3||Don't blame him for the penalty, really.|
|C. Graham||3||2||1||Not a cornerback.|
|Burgess||1||2||-1||Tried to go but was eventually lifted.|
|Englemon||1||-||1||Why Mundy instead of him?|
|Trent||0||5||-5||Aaaand the corner position next year is very much in question.|
|"Pressure"||11||6||5||How did this happen? Well, Smith scrambled out on a few instances of pressure, the coverage was so bad that he threw a ton of short routes, and hardly ever held the ball long enough for pressure to come.|
Um. Alan Branch intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, plus did fairly well late in the game when OSU lined up and ran it (as did Taylor). Lamarr Woodley was pressuring Smith all day, albeit often unblocked and never in time for a sack. But when you give up 42 points and over 500 yards of offense there's not a lot of backslapping going on.
I do hate this bit. I wince at the idea that Pat Massey stumbled across this thing and swore a silent vow to choke me to death should he ever run across me (If so, Pat, this is what I look like).
But goddamn, sometimes it just has to be said: Ryan Mundy is a 50 yard touchdown waiting to happen. He was out of position on the Wells touchdown, blazed by Pittman on his long run, and -- most egregiously -- came up hard on what was a second-and-inches fake dive, robbing Leon Hall of safety help he expected and needed. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of safety play, but I don't think I need to when we give up a million long run in 2004 with Mundy the starting FS, one in the first half of 2005's first game that's obviously his fault, none the rest of the year with Mundy out injured, and none in all of 2006 until Mundy is pressed into heavy duty with Barringer out and Englemon inexplicably benched.
Not that the rest of the secondary was any better. Hall and Trent were both victimized repeatedly on any route you care to name. And while we knew that Trent was kind of dodgy on short throws, Hall's inability to so much as slow down whoever he was covering was a killer. Hall does get bonus points for limiting Anthony Gonzalez -- I believe they were matched up most of the second half and Gonzalez was not effective -- but whenever he was thrown at his man was open.
Chris Graham isn't a cornerback. But you knew that.
What does it mean?
Well, I was wrong about the Ball State game being irrelevant: Johnny Sears was indeed forced onto the field with frequency and that didn't go so well. If we do get LSU we will be facing a highly efficient pass offense, but is it more Notre Dame or Ohio State? I haven't seen enough of them to know, but only three wide receivers have more than six catches this year (though Jacob Hester has only 91 rushing attempts in LSU's running-back-by-demographic-trend and 34 receptions... third down back or RB/WR?), meaning that it's unlikely we see the four and five receiver sets that murdered us versus OSU. At they very least, if they do they'll be shoehorning them in and throwing to guys who haven't seen much of the ball.
But LSU is a statistical nightmare: 6th in pass efficiency, top ten in every defensive category aside from rushing, where they're 15th. Badass up and down.
Guest post from Jon Chait here on the field conditions, which I overlooked in the game recap. They were pretty awful in person, where you could see the downfield coverage try not to fall over. I neither endorse or un-endorse Jon's viewpoint.
It's astonishing to me that all the commentary about the Michigan-Ohio State game has missed what seems clearly to be the dominant factor of the game: the shoddy field conditions, which crippled both defenses.
Before anybody accuses me of simple Michigan homer-ism, let me concede a couple points:
1. Ohio State made its best effort to create a playable field
2. Ohio State outplayed Michigan and won fairly
3. There are plenty of good reasons to avoid a rematch in the title game - for one, it's impossible to know with any precision which two teams are best, so providing an interesting match-up ought to be an important consideration, and rematches are generally less interesting.
Nonetheless, the most popular argument against a rematch is that Michigan "had its chance." That argument loses much of its force if you consider just how badly the field distorted the game November 18.
For those who don't know, Ohio State had had to completely re-sod its field twice this year, including once in November. The latest re-sodding obviously did not take root, which should not be a surprise for the Midwest in November, and the result was a loose carpet of grass that provided very little traction. It was a lot like running on a rug that sits on a hardwood floor. You can run straight pretty well, but if you try to change direction quickly you're likely to fall.
Why did this hurt the defense? Because offensive players know when they're going to cut, and they can get their bodies under control before planting. Defensive players, who have to react instantaneously, can't keep up. The result was a farce. Neither team could cover anybody. Neither defensive line could get any penetration against the run, or generate any pass rush. (If neither lineman can move quickly, the result is a stalemate, which benefits the offense.)
Most sports reporters and fans missed the full extent of this distortion for a simple reason; it produced lots of scoring, and most sports fans think high scoring means a great game. But the results make it pretty clear that the scoring was grotesquely inflated by the field. These were pretty universally regarded as the two best defenses in college football. Yet Ohio State scored more points against Michigan than it did against all but three opponents. Michigan scored more offensive points against Ohio State than it did against anybody. Mike Hart averaged more per carry against OSU than he did against all but two opponents. And so on. That wasn't a football game, it was a video game.
There were some ways in which offensive players were hurt. Chad Henne overthrew a sure touchdown pass to Mario Manningham because Manningham couldn't get out of his break at normal speed. It's probably no coincidence that the shifty Anthony Gonzalez, OSU's leading receiver, had less yardage than straight-line speed demon Ted Ginn.
Did the field benefit Ohio State vis a vis Michigan? I think it probably did, though you could argue the point. The Buckeyes had more experience playing on a shoddy field (and Michigan's 11 point second half margin would suggest that getting used to the field helped.) Turning the game into a shootout probably suited OSU's style more comfortably than Michigan's.
But the point is not which team benefited over the other. The point is that the game itself was massively distorted by the field conditions. For a comparison, in 1950 Michigan and Ohio State played a famous game in a blizzard, and Michigan won 9-3, with a blocked punt for a touchdown, despite not gaining a first down. As Ohio State's alumni magazine recalled, "The snow, wind, and insecure footing made the game a mockery - an imitation of football only by a stretch of the imagination."
Now, the terrible Ohio State field last Saturday did not distort the game as much as the 1950 blizzard did, but it distorted it quite a bit. The fact was simply obscured because it was the defenses rather than the offenses that primarily suffered. Michigan certainly deserved to win the Snow Bowl in 1950, but you can't say the game proved a lot about its superiority to Ohio State.
The same is true, to a lesser but still very significant degree, of last weekend's Turf Bowl. If Michigan and Ohio State were to play on a decent field, the game would like nothing like the one that took place on November 18. Ohio State would have an even chance - perhaps a slightly better than even chance - of winning. But there would not be anything like 81 points or 900 yards of offense. It would be, in other words, a far more fair contest of which team is better.
- Only thing I saw was Michigan-OSU so please... any help is appreciated.
- Carnage at the bottom. I think I might still be underrating BC based on their resume, which is full of dangerous teams that have been mostly defeated. Everyone down there has issues -- losing to NC State is an issue -- but few have the wide array of scalps BC does.
- Evidently I can't decide whether I hate Nebraska or not.
Again, help please. I'm off to the Bo memorial. Will post about it whenever I get back.
11/20/2006 - Michigan 39-42 Ohio State - 11-1, 7-1
I have a friend who will not watch Michigan games with me despite my repeated urging, and not for the usual, proper reasons like "you swear like a sailor on meth" or "I'm pretty sure one of these days you are going to flip out and snap someone's neck." No, this friend can't watch the game with me because he doesn't watch games with anyone. A combination of nerves and rage and a powerful desire for others to not see his temporary descent into madness is what he says. Or words to that effect. I have tried to explain to him that if he were to have his pick of any of the six billion people on the planet he could not find a person better suited to understand and commiserate with than me and therefore we should watch games together. This has worked precisely zero times.
Not that I can blame him. Many are the times I have sat amongst people gathered to "watch" a game -- invariably there is a girl talking about nail polish on her cell phone, a guy more interested in getting WOOOOO WASTED than the violent emotional rollercoaster currently rolling through the stomachs of his brighter compatriots -- and desperately wanted to be anywhere else. Two years ago I watched Michigan lose to Ohio State accompanied by the strains of someone's deeply annoying girlfriend moaning "We can't lose to Ohio State" because some friend of hers would mock her. Meanwhile, little pieces of my soul are flaking off and burning up like meteors reaching Earth's atmosphere. Naturally, I told her to shut the fuck up (sorry mom, but those words were deployed) sometime in the third quarter and then got to feel like an asshole on top of the whole flaky meteor soul thing. She did shut up. So I've got that going for me.
Instead of navigating through a minefield of well-meaning invitations, I went. I claimed an endzone seat for three weeks rent, entered the stadium... and stopped dead. Student section. Beating heart thereof. I wanted to be alone and, uh, yeah: alone. There wasn't another Michigan fan in view. Fortuitously, I was at the very back of the first section of seating and had a railing at my back. This was helpful when everyone was jumping up and down screaming things after touchdowns, which was a lot. Myself, I was quiet both because I wanted to not die and because I was completely terrified the whole game. After the first touchdown, my hands started vibrating uncontrollably. I mean... this is bad, right? When you are at a football game and it causes you to lose the ability to make your body do what you want it to, you are probably doing something very wrong with your brain chemicals.
By the end -- after every brief glimmer of hope had been stomped out by something horrific and unbelievable -- I didn't really feel anything. I collapsed to my seat after the Crable personal foul and then watched the remainder of the game in a haze. Three hours earlier the outcome of the game was the most important thing in the history of ever; maybe it still was but I had run out of chemicals. I berated some guy who definitely has a pickup truck and watches wrestling without a sense of ironic detachment for taunting two middle-aged Michigan fans walking back to their car, but felt oddly like if he had needled me instead I wouldn't have cared.
This blog has warped itself into something of a -- yuck -- personal diary of a sports fan almost against my will. I've tried to chronicle the emotions of a Michigan fan in this space, but I'm clean out. Anyone who needs to tell me some bad news, ("Brian, we've never met but this is definitely your baby") this is your opportunity. Lo, I am spent.
- Right, so, spent. I'll post a few things the next couple days, but they won't have anything to do with the Ohio State game. Thursday and Friday I'm off for Thanksgiving. I'll sort through the smoking wreckage with UFR around the middle of next week. If you picked the blog up during football season, I do post year-round. I'll pay attention to the hockey team -- suddenly playing with its head removed from any and all orifices! -- and basketball. Recruiting coverage, which was the area that suffered most from my duties at AOL, will pick up.
- Bo memorial at one tomorrow. I'm going if anyone wants to say hi.
Rematch? Uh... what? Going to the game and losing imposed a sort of involuntary media blackout so I must have missed the leap of logic from "Michigan got housed" to "Michigan deserves a rematch." Yeah, yeah, three point final margin but let's not fool ourselves: Michigan was +3 in turnover margin â€“ and two of those were gifts â€“ and still only got within ten points of OSU before scoring a 90% cosmetic touchdown aided with a miraculous, potentially horrendous bailout pass interference penalty. (Please note Secret Axiom Of Football #27: "If it ends with an unrecovered onside kick, it wasn't that close.") I see that Michigan is still somehow #2 in the BCS. Now... I know a lot of poll madness is attributable to people not watching games, but you watched this one, right? This is madness.
With Rutgers going up in flames, other options are getting thin on the ground: USC, Arkansas, Florida, and (ugh) Notre Dame are the only remaining possibilities. USC obviously gets in at 11-1. It would be an outrage if they didn't. But Herbstreit, etc, keep advancing the theory that Michigan is better qualified than a one-loss SEC champion. This is not true. Though neither Florida nor Arkansas is without resume flaws â€“ and I don't believe for a second that the SEC is appreciably better than any other conference this year (hi Ole Miss! Vandy seems mighty competitive this year, no?) -- at 12-1 either would have scalps on a par with Notre Dame (whoever they beat in the SECCG) and Wisconsin (uh... pick one), plus at least two or three wins in the dangerous-but-not-really category, of which Michigan has one (Penn State). While Michigan's loss is probably better, the resumes of Michigan and a hypothetical one-loss SEC Champion are near equals, except for the not-incidental fact that Michigan's already proven it doesn't really belong on the same field as OSU.
- Bowl opponent is probably going to be... um... uninspiring. Unless USC drops one of its last two games, it's going to the MNC game. The SEC champion is locked into the Sugar Bowl. The Big 12 champion is locked into the Fiesta. Michigan is looking at a motley crew of at-large candidates: a two-loss LSU, Arkansas, or Florida, the Big East champion, Notre Dame (ha!), or Oklahoma.
It was a schizophrenic day. OSU's really carpet bombing its fans with this sportsmanship initiative and it's sort of working. The net effect was to make the decent OSU fans â€“ always a sizable majority â€“ really, really nice. The assholes are still assholes, though, and there are a lot of them. I do think 2002 was the nadir, and the administration had decided enough was enough. Then the Texas game was the final straw; no longer could Buckeye fans dismiss the complaining as a Michigan persecution complex. Not that the occasional whiny Buck fan with an unattractive wife wouldn't make unconvincing noises about equal problems in Ann Arbor in the same breath as describing High Street paved with beer cans.
It also helped that this time I was wearing a black coat that was not immediately identifiable as Michigan-affiliated from the rear. Wandering into Columbus ticketless and intent on getting a single made me really cautious. Not cautious enough to, like, ask if the ticket I was buying was smack-dab in the middle of the student section, which it was. When I came out of the tunnel I turned to walk up the steps and stopped dead. "Oh shit," I said, "I'm a dead man." Not so. But since only the occasional burst of exhortation escaped -- "go, go, go" on Manningham's first slant, "shit" when he was caught did not meet with the approval of one poxy OSU fan directly in front of me -- I didn't get much guff. Generally if you're not a dick peo ple aren't dicks to you.
- I WAS RIGHT! We could run on them.
- Maybe I should have come up with some other theories. Like "Troy Smith is actually a goat." Then, like, we would have won. Because goats can't throw.
- I don't know, man. Don't ask me. I think this: our inability to pull a blue-chip corner since Marlin Jackson â€“ Leon Hall being a good recruit who panned out but not totally OMG Shirtless â€“ killed us. Hall's obviously good. Everyone else got worked. Add Justin King and Jai Eugene to this team and is the outcome different? Anyone who really doesn't think recruiting matters can look at the front seven: five top 100 recruits in the starters and two overachieving three-stars versus the secondary: two borderline top-100 and a bunch of middling recruits. (And there is of course a difference between a two or three star like Braylon and a two or three star like Barringer. The term "sleeper" is now applied to anyone three stars or below when properly it should be restricted to guys who get overlooked because they're not on the field or at the wrong position or whatever.)
- That said... uh... what are you supposed to do about that? Smith looked like a future wide receiver for about a year and a half, then turned into what the NFL wants Vick to be. I dunno. I don't want to think about it for a week.
Starts now. I'd try to ask people to play nice but... yeah... right.