The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
2011 eastern michigan
A man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridikuhlis.
Ace: Brian and I did a segment on this week's podcast in which we each listed our top five most ridiculous games of the Hoke era. Not only were our bottom three picks entirely different, but between Twitter and the comments at least a dozen games that didn't make the cut were suggested as meriting inclusion, and... it was really hard to argue with a lot of them.
So let's try this again. List and explain your top five, perhaps mention a few dishonorable mentions, and feel free to explain your methodology—I'm intentionally leaving "ridiculous" open to interpretation.
BiSB: I just drew up a quick list of candidates. There are 16 games on that list. I HATE ALL THE THINGS.
Ace: Now remember that the very first game Hoke coached featured two Brandon Herron touchdowns and was called due to a biblical storm before the third quarter ended...
Even the wins, man. Even the wins.
[After the jump: we discuss 60% of the games under Hoke]
Two fortnights ago I put it upon myself to review each of Michigan’s 2011 foes and their respective seasons. I reached Eastern Michigan and was administering the finishing touches on the post when suddenly the editor window closed without saving. Alas. Being of frail mental constitution, I was inconsolably disheartened. Days lengthened into weeks ere I dared to reassemble my thoughts, but the attempts were in vain. I could not write for the numbers and records dulled my eyes and numbed my mind. What evil times we live in that a blogger finds himself lacking the motivation to blog! Desperate and without recourse I sought council of Brian the Wise. I begged of him guidance for whether I should resume the ill-fated task that I set out to do so long ago. He spoke to me thus, and his word fell upon me like a spark upon a bed of straw damp with snake oil.
So here it is.
vs. Ball State / via Michigan Exposures
- Howard, 41-9 (W)
- Alabama State, 14-7 (W)
- @ Michigan, 3-31 (L)
- @ Penn State, 6-34 (L)
- Akron, 31-23 (W)
- @ Toledo, 16-54 (L)
- @ Central Michigan, 35-28 (W)
- Western Michigan, 14-10 (W)
- Ball State, 31-33 (L)
- Buffalo, 30-17 (W)
- @ Kent State, 22-28 (L)
- @ Northern Illinois, 12-18
Record: 6-6 overall, 4-4 MAC
Standings/Rankings: Tied 5th MAC-West
|Rushing:||218.3 ypg, 14th||140.5 ypg, 50th|
|Passing:||126.7 ypg, 117th||209.8, 42nd|
|Total:||345.0 ypg, 93rd||350.3 ypg, 34th|
|Scoring:||21.3 ppg, 103rd||24.3 ppg, 50th|
|T/O Margin:||-5, 91st|
Recap: In his third year as head coach of Eastern Michigan, Ron English led the program to their first non-losing season in about two decades or so.* They played most of their opponents close, getting blown out only by BCS schools and Toledo, which ended up one of the best teams in the MAC. If you have any ties or allegiances to Eagles football, you’d be saying something like, “Ron English has the program headed in the right direction,” while your buddy twirls his mustache and says, “Yes. Quite.” This of course presumes that there are at least two Eastern Michigan fans out there, which is a dangerous assumption.
Eastern Michigan benefitted from a significantly improved defense and a Mike Hart-inspired ground game that averaged 4.6 ypc, which is in the upper quartile of FBS rankings.** They were also second in the country in kick return coverage, so their special teams were pretty competent, too.
Michigan won’t play them again for at least another couple of years so I have nothing to say about what this means for their future.
* Wikipedia doesn’t go earlier than that.
** From what we saw when they played Michigan, they were more of an option/outside running team rather than HARTball, so saying that it was Mike Hart-inspired may not be entirely true.
Best win: Western Michigan. This was their only win over an opponent with a winning record. The Broncos also finished higher in the MAC standings so this was somewhat of an upset.
Worst loss: Ball State. Lost on a last-second field goal.
At the time, we thought they were as frightening as: A canker sore. Fear level = 1.
But now we know they are as frightening as: A hot slice of pizza. If you burn the roof of your mouth it's your own fault. 2.
What this win meant for Michigan: Michigan got the blowout as expected, but the manner in which it was achieved was pretty unsatisfying, if not downright unsettling. Eastern Michigan’s run game was the first to expose the Wolverines defense’s problems with perimeter defense and at the linebacker position. The Eagles found free yards all day by running to the edges, and they were stopped only at the goal line when there wasn’t much of an edge to run to.
The perimeter defense would get fixed gradually throughout the course of the season and would become less and less of an issue. The linebacking unit would see a little more rotation before reaching a level of moderate competency.
Really the most unsettling aspect of this game was that Bad Air Denard made his first full debut. He completed fewer than half of his passes (7 of 18) and threw an interception, forcing Borges to run him 26 times. Devin Gardner, who was expected by many to see his first significant playing time of the season, ran one play.
But there were some bright spots! Thomas Gordon made his first heads up play on the double-pass interception, and the year's only successful QB Oh Noes got Dileo in for the deciding touchdown … And that’s about it.
And it totally felt as awesome as: Pooping in a Porta-Potty.
I said I would write a final opponent watch to recap the season. This is not it. I'll have that one next week.
About Last Saturday:
Bad guys - 0, Good guys - a billion
(more after the jump)
(Wait. Which one is Michigan playing again?)
About Last Weekend:
No. 16 Nebraska 17, No. 18 Michigan 45 (W)
"Guess why I smile a lot."
"Uh, 'cause it's worth it."
The Road Ahead:
Ohio State (6-5, 3-4 B1G)
Getty / via the Huffington Post
- Akron, 42-0 (W)
- Toledo, 27-22 (W)
- @ Miami, 24-6 (L)
- Colorado, 37-17 (W)
- Michigan State, 10-7 (L)
- @ No. 14 Nebraska, 34-27 (L)
- @ No. 16 Illinois, 17-7 (W)
- No. 15 Wisconsin, 33-29 (W)
- Indiana, 34-20
- @ Purdue 26-23 OT (LOL)
Last game: No. 21 Penn State 20, Ohio State 14 (L)
Recap: Recap. Have to do a recap. Last recap. Gotta finish by the end of Tuesday. Tuesday's over. Damn. Gotta finish by Wednesday. One-day-late Championship recap. Okay.
... Ohio State fell into a hole early. Penn State RB Stephfon Green took a run up the middle, evaded some tackles, and sprinted 39 yards for a touchdown. 7-0 Nittany Lions.
The ensuing Buckeyes drive stalled because Ohio State C Mike Brewster snapped the ball into his ass while QB Braxton Miller was in shotgun formation. (I think this is when this particular bad snap happened. Bad snaps happened many times throughout this game. I think Brewster ended up blaming it on his gloves.)
Penn State drove and got a field goal, miring the Buckeyes in their third 10-0 deficit in as many weeks.
Ohio State wasn’t dead, though. Not yet. Miller ran the option to good effect and scored on a 24-yard keeper; most of the Buckeyes’ large chunks on the ground came from his option keepers, which is to say he kept the ball every time. He and Denard are both members of the “never pitch” movement.
That’s not anything relevant, but I google imaged “option keeper” and it’s what I got.
Also, WR DeVier Posey returned from suspension. He didn’t make a huge impact (4 catches, 66 yards), but he was pretty much the entire passing offense, and he did do this.
All of this game’s points were scored in the first half before the allure of B1G football got the better of both teams. Penn State scored another touchdown and field goal in the first half but failed to convert on a redzone opportunity in the second half when Ohio State turned the ball over on a fumble.
On that possession, the Buckeyes defense mounted an impressive goal-line stand to keep the Nittany Lions out of the end zone.
The second Buckeye touchdown came in the second quarter when Braxton Miller found TE Jake Stoneburner on a deep crossing route in the end zone. It was an impressive throw. Something tells me that he might eventually be pretty good when he’s given a real offense to work with.
You probably know the rest. Ohio State drove ferociously for a Hail Mary opportunity in the final minutes, but the first fourth-down conversion fell short when a Miller scramble, set back by a false-start penalty, fell short of the first down marker. The second attempt after a quick Penn State three-and-out fell incomplete because Penn State actually knows how to cover receivers. Unlike you, Wisconsin. For shame.
Right now they are as frightening as: Voldemort down to his last Horcrux.
Michigan should worry about: When you look at Miller’s highlight reel, the thing that stands out is that he scrambles effectively to buy time for his receivers to get open. He keeps his eyes downfield, and his instincts are usually good when it comes to finally tucking and running. A lot of his game-winning or almost-game-winning touchdowns came when he danced around in the backfield for some length before finding his target.
To get to him, Michigan’s secondary will need to stay on receivers for a lot longer than they’re used to, and D-line discpline will be essential. If he’s able to break through the containment, Miller will make plays.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards on not that many carries. Their running backs consistently found enormous holes in the Buckeyes defensive line and frequently had to be tracked down from behind by linebackers. It looked like Ohio State’s defensive line was caught in pass rush mode at the wrong times -- the ends were way overcommitted, allowing the backs to run right by them.
Next game: No. 15 That School Up North
(more after the jump)
Finally, a post on Tuesday. November is championship football, and championship football requires championship opponent watching.
(Fear scale: 0 = Bye week; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team Lloyd Carr will announce his retirement a second time; 5 = Illinois any given year; 8 = Best in B1G, which may or may not actually be any good; 9 = National title contender somewhere in the SEC; 10 = Hold me, Ace)
About Last Saturday:
No. 24 Michigan 31, Illinois 14 (W)
The Road Ahead:
No. 19 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2 B1G)
David Swanson / Philadelphia Inquirer
- Chattanooga, 40-7 (W)
- Fresno State, 42-29 (W)
- Washington, 51-38 (W)
- @ Wyoming, 38-14 (W)
- @ No. 7 Wisconsin, 48-17 (L)
- Ohio State, 34-27 (W)
- @ Minnesota, 41-14 (W)
- No. 11 Michigan State, 24-3 (W)
- Northwestern, 28-25 (L)
Last game: Nebraska 17, No. 12 Penn State 14 (W)
Recap: Nebraska shrugged off last week’s upset loss to Northwestern as well as the national scandal that has been monopolizing headlines to win a football game on the road.
Their rush offense steadily churned out a 17-0 lead midway through the third quarter before Penn State finally put together a cohesive touchdown drive. A Rex Burkhead (25 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD) fumble at the beginning of the fourth quarter gave the Nittany Lions a short field, so with the help of some trickery, Penn State was able to find the endzone again to cut the lead to 17-14.
That’s when the Huskers defensive front, led by LB Lavonte David, who had been quiet for most of the game, stiffened. Three times they stuffed Lions running backs for no gain on short yardage. 2nd and 1 turned into 3rd and 1 turned into 4th and 1, which ultimately led to a turnover on downs.
Miraculously, the Penn State defense was able to force a Nebraska four and out to get the ball back with 49 seconds remaining, but Nittany Lions QB Matt McGloin (16/34, 193 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) had trouble finding receivers on the desperation drive, and his last pass under pressure fell incomplete.
Huskers QB Taylor Martinez had a pedestrian day, completing 13 of 26 passes for 143 yards and no TDs or INTs. He was also limited on the ground, carrying the ball 19 times for just 56 yards -- only one of those carries was a sack. He did manage the game well, however, and the offensive play of the game was his last-second option pitch to Rex Burkhead that went for a touchdown.
Right now they are as frightening as: The mounting sense of unknowing you get as you stare down the betting lines this week. 7.
Michigan should worry about: Option offense, which is something Michigan doesn’t really know if it can stop. Northwestern ran it successfully but then outsmarted themselves by abandoning it in the second half. Illlinois used it in limited quantities, and while Michigan stifled the hand-offs, the Scheelhaase keepers were effective and therefore worrisome.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Numerous reports indicate that Nebraska’s offensive line is about as deep as Michigan’s, i.e. drowning is a hazard only for the very young or the very intoxicated. The Wolverines D-line play has been steadily improving since the bye week, so that matchup looks to be favorable.
Additionally, if you’ve ever watched Martinez throw … eesh. Imagine Denard passing, but instead of an arm he has a chicken wing. Expect to see Jordan Kovacs nuzzling the line of scrimmage frequently.
DE Jared Crick has been out with a torn pectoral muscle, so Mark Huyge at least can sleep a little better.
When Michigan plays them: Both teams are going to try to make each other take to the air, at which point it’s anyone’s guess.
Martinez thrives on the kind of passing game that made Denard a 2500+ yard passer last year -- as teams choke up on the run game, receivers find themselves wandering alone in areas of the field large enough to raise a horse. Michigan’s safeties have done a good job of not blowing these sorts of assignments or getting beat deep so far, but again, they haven’t been tested by a true option offense where the whole point is to get safeties to bite on play-action. Worry if the Wolverines can’t stop the Burkhead-Martinez tandem early.
As far as Michigan’s passing game goes, jump balls are probably not such a great idea. Nebraska boasts one of the B1G’s best cover corners in Alfonso Dennard, and the guy playing opposite him is not so bad either. The Wolverines’ passing game does seem to be more sophisticated than the Huskers’ and relies less on establishing the run game, so there’s that.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams combine for six turnovers.
Next game: at No. 18 Michigan
(more after the jump)
Picture Pages on a bye week? Sure. I generally take more snapshots than I can reasonably cram into one week of posting what with all the other whatnot that goes on in this space, so this is a perfect spot for some reheated leftovers.
Yesterday I tagged Whoever at WLB as one of the main trouble spots on the defense; last week I criticized the linebackers for a particular Edwin Baker run that popped big despite Michigan seemingly having it covered. I caught some criticism myself for not being harsh enough with Mike Martin on that particular play that I'm still not sure about.
In any case, I pick the individual plays after the game (or season) has developed enough for me to identify a trend, and I grabbed that specifically because of the WTF behavior of the linebackers. Here's a play from earlier in the season that got in my thought processes and may have compelled me to pull that baby out of the bathwater. Metaphors not guaranteed.
It's late against Eastern. The starters are still mostly in; the Eagles have been driving a bit. It's first and ten. They'll run a power play to the strong side of their formation*. Michigan is in their usual under.
*[People have told me this is a "Down G", not a Power O, because the guard blocks down—I see what you did there—and it's actually a frontside tackle pulling, along with the center.]
USUAL UNDER IS USUAL
Ryan to bottom of screen, Frank Clark to top.
The key guy to watch is Hawthorne, who is the topmost of the MLBs.
On the snap everything happens!
By this I mean three things.
- the center pulls
- the frontside tackle pulls
- Michigan slants away from the play
You can see the entire line headed inside away from the playside. Brink, Ryan, Martin: all are oblivious to the idea of containment. This is fine.
wsg Slanty, the football-playing, jean-vested gecko who is inexplicably the first hit in Google images for "line slant football."
Why do it? To get a free hitter. Your slant should make life difficult for anything run to its side. The downblocks are key in the power. They're the easy bit for the offense. If one gets beat your play is going to not work very well. In all likelihood your pullers are going to take defensive linemen in the backfield, leaving linebackers free to run up and smash face.
If the opponent runs away from your slant it should be okay because the linebackers know there's a slant on and can chase playside as soon as the offense gives any indication there is a playside. This gets the backside tackle/guard/whoever—the guy assigned to the WLB—blocking air. The WLB gets to scrape down the line to tackle.
This gets the backside tackle… guard… whoever…
…awww, come on, Hawthorne.
In the wider view you can see huge numbers of players on the backside:
Cutback == doom. Hawthorne has no responsibility but to get down the line to the POA. Note the difference in the disposition of the linebackers. Demens is hauling for the frontside; Hawthorne is in full block-catching mode.
Now, Michigan's D can bottle this up without needing a WLB if Ryan gets a two for one on these pullers. He's the guy currently inside of #68. The other puller is running right by him. He's already given up the bounce because of the slant; if he gets into the other blocker Demens has a free run.
Ryan doesn't. He gets knocked to the inside and pancaked, which erases backside help. The other puller gets out on Demens:
Demens has maintained outside leverage, forcing it back to his help, which is three yards downfield and getting farther away.
First down on a basic power run.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Hesitation is a killer here and it does not seem explicable. Hawthorne does not quite know what he's doing yet, especially earlier in the season. The hesitation gets a little more explicable when you look at the previous play, when one Brandin Hawthorne got burned on a counter:
Even so, with the line slanting in front of him he should know to take off playside at any hint of a pull or any hint of a guy releasing to block him. Slanting should make LB decision processes easy.
This play is one of the archetypical examples of why the WLB is hard to block and can get away with being a slight fast guy… so don't get blocked.
This is especially bad for a player like Hawthorne. Hawthorne looks like Leo Messi out there. He has a hard time getting off blocks and has basically no chance if he's not thundering at whoever is coming out to block him. At least in that situation his momentum can pop the guy back and he can come off to tackle. He's done if he pulls the [REDACTED] Memorial Block Catching Dance.
Ryan missed an opportunity to MAKE PLAYS. The other thing a slant like this can do is take the playside DE/LB and make two guys block him. You see Ryan dive inside the first puller. This means the RB is going to bounce, which means Ryan's basically done. Also done is Ryan's blocker.
Ryan has one way to impact the play left: try to pick off that other puller, leaving Demens unimpeded on the edge. Here he takes the block and appears to try to fight back outside, which ends with him in a heap. This isn't the worst thing in the world but great defenses that swarm these kinds of plays with two guys get both the 2-for-1 and the WLB in the hole.
This is one of the reasons I'm looking owlishly at the WLB whenever something goes wrong. Picture Pages are attempts to thematically summarize trends I see as I'm UFRing, so when I pull a play to illustrate something it is a complaint/credit I've seen quite a bit of. That may mean I focus on the linebackers on a particular play that may or may not be Mike Martin's fault for not shedding his guy and tackling for loss.
Google images can be weird sometimes.