"I love it that Ivy League coaches are coming to our camp and Big Ten coaches are coming to our camp. South Florida is coming. We've got about 70 schools that are coming to our camp."
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|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, October 29th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -14|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN2|
|WEATHER||mid-40s, clouds moving in, 30% chance of rain|
Remember Aliens? This is like that except with Purdue coaches.
Reminder! Hit up the Draftstreet freeroll this weekend.
Run Offense vs. Purdue
DT Kawaan Short
This looks like something of a strength for the Boilers. By raw yardage they're hovering around mediocrity but they're only giving up 3.7 YPC despite not having many sacks. Break out the actual opponents (and Minnesota), though, and things look quite a bit murkier:
They got blown up by ND, did well against Minnesota, okay against PSU, and not so good against Illinois. That not so good was obscured by sacks and possibly understandable as Purdue bled out a win after jumping up 21-0 early.
DT Kawaan Short will be a handful. By far Purdue's best defender, Short already has 9.5 TFLs, six of those things other than sacks. He's a penetrator in the Mike Martin mold, but stockier and harder to move when you get a lock on him. LBs Joe Holland and Dwayne Beckford are Purdue's leading tacklers—neither does much in the way of playmaking but at least they don't have a safety leading the tackle charts. That safety is third, which is okay. By all appearances this is solidly middle-of-the-road run D.
Ace noted a couple of little guys on the perimeter, particularly a 235-pound guy they're running out at DE, so the way to beat these guys may be to test the edge. That goes double if they're in man coverage, something Ace also noted—receivers can run off the outside help and force those linebackers to flow hard if they're going to cut down stuff that gets outside.
In this year's offense that means the speed option and jet sweeps possibly featuring Denard, along with pin-and-pull zone. The problem with the latter is that Michigan can't make it work, so they're left with a few gimmicky plays and no consistent threats. You'd think that Borges would notice the line blocking pretty well when asked to outside zone on those speed options sooner or later, but POWER is to be used. They use POWER. Not WELL.
Michigan gets Ricky Barnum back from an ankle issue this week. What that does to the interior line is as of yet undecided. His replacement, Michael Schofield, has been playing well. The right guard, Patrick Omameh, has been struggling extensively. They may flip Schofield to the other side and see what that does, or they might throw Mark Huyge inside after he was exposed in pass protection against Michigan State.
Either way, Michigan needs to see their run game bounce back to the levels it was performing at before Michigan State. That should mean 20 carries for Denard, and hopefully he can break one long—something that's been missing from this offense.
Key Matchup: Interior line vs Short. A weakness-type substance goes up against Purdue's best player. If they can deal with him their options get large and the YPC too. But they probably can't.
Pass Offense vs. Purdue
Ricardo Allen right, returning a very bad INT last year
Oh, this again. Denard has had two weeks off since the Mike Valenti Experience in the trash tornado, two weeks to heal any lingering "boo-boos" and maybe step into a throw or two. This weekend the wind should be manageable. The opponent may not be so pliable.
Massive strength of schedule disclaimers apply, but the Boilers are 27th in pass efficiency D. Those massive strength of schedule disclaimers: McGloin, Scheelhaase, Gray, mid-major goobers. Tommy Rees pilots one of the few functional passing attacks Purdue has seen; he went 24 of 40 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. That's still not particularly good (6.3 YPA) but with the Irish racking up nearly 300 on the ground Rees was not required to go deep.
Because of the competition, it's tough to tell how much quality they really have. They're not a tire fire. That is established. Past that it's tough to take anything out of 40% passing performances from MarQueis Gray and Matt McGloin (on the Midwest trash tornado day). I think they're at least decent. Scheelhaase is okay and was bottled up to an extent that demanded the entry of ludicrously-named Illinois freshman/Bond girl Riley O'Toole. The Purdue secondary is not Michigan's last year or Northwestern's this year. They have people.
I'm not sure how much that will matter since Michigan's passing game has been in Man vs. Himself mode for much of the year. From Denard back-footing interceptions against Northwestern to Vincent Smith running a hitch instead of a slant on the fatal MSU pick six, simply executing the basics has been Michigan's main issue. That and throwing to the blitheringly wide open guys. For whatever reason, both of Michigan's quarterbacks go into Rex Grosssman "eff it, I'm going deep" mode far too much, often with disastrous results. I keep writing key matchups that don't mention the opponent because opponents haven't been the main problem.
Ace saw Purdue go man all day against Notre Dame, something that seems to invite trouble against a quarterback as athletic as Robinson. If he can break the pocket against a Purdue line that's a little wobbly on the edges there could be some grass for him; if they spy that should open up other things.
It doesn't seem like Denard is going to be under a lot of pressure. Purdue likes to keep its safeties deep and is 93rd in sacks. They might change their gameplan given the massive pressure Michigan allowed against MSU—if so I'll have a little fit if Michigan doesn't have some tools to deal with that.
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
This section is unchanged from two weeks ago. Until this part.
Run Defense vs. Purdue
Signs of life against Penn State and Purdue are only that—signs. The Boiler offense remains a creaky thing still trying to lock down a starting quarterback and tailback. The Illinois game saw Purdue rip off two long touchdown drives to open the day. They were gifted a short field on a bobbled punt, converted, and then went into a shell:
The Boilers played a very different game after the break, when they must have enjoyed the Joe Tiller staple of halftime meals -- pasta, turkey and warm milk. Purdue had three whole first downs in the entire second half, two of which came on one drive. Drive is a generous term, really, as the Boilers never got inside the Illinois 40 in the second half.
Purdue barely cracked 300 yards. The previous week they put up a respectable 344 on Penn State's upper-echelon defense but threw three picks. Both their touchdown drives started on the opponent side of the field after a long kickoff return and an interception.
They're still finding their stride. It looks like Caleb TerBush has won the starting quarterback job from Robert Marve, who had only five attempts against Penn State and did not play last week. He's more of a run threat than the statuesque Marve, but less of one than Rob Henry during his brief windows of functionality between ACL surgeries. TerBush has 200 or so yards on the ground this year if you disregard sacks. Purdue uses a lot of inverted veer and other zone read type plays; TerBush will be used to keep the defense honest and not much more.
The backfield is a heated battle between Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers with Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert also chipping in carries. (My guess for the most common thing Bolden says: "No, thank you, I would not like to convert to Islam." Number two: "I am sorry to hear about your horrific knee injury.") Bolden has an edge in carries but this is a platoon situation.
Purdue has been forced away from its traditional short passing game by quarterback incompetence and injury. They now deploy a full-on spread 'n' shred with a heavy emphasis on the inverted veer. It looks like a combo of Rodriguez and Malzahn run by the kind of athletes who end up at Purdue—eh—and works at the level you'd expect. Bolden's averaging 4.8 YPC, Shavers 5, TerBush somewhere around that. They've been decent:
Some of those Illinois struggles can be chalked up to Purdue being the sort of team that gets up 21 and tries to strangle the game as safely as possible because of their QB situation. 166 yards in a competitive game against Penn State is impressive. The Lions have a top-20 rush defense.
Key Matchup: Hawthorne, Ryan and Demens making correct, quick decisions on option/zone read plays. They'll get optioned a bit—Ace noted Purdue running some of the short pass/run combo plays Michigan tried against MSU—but they have to be better at their assignments than they've been in the recent past. Purdue's offense is built to exploit indecisive or excessively aggressive players. Balance.
Pass Defense vs. Purdue
Left: I shouldn't have spent last night reading all that Nietzsche
Right: Siller is now a WR, but just to terrify you
TerBush has taken the reigns. Against Illinois he was okay, but only okay. TerBush is King of the Dinks, averaging 11.2 yards per completion in Big Ten play. That is not many yards per completion. His YPA (again Big Ten) is a below-average 6.7. Ace:
TerBush hits his receiver on a slant for the first down, and this appears to be the route he's most comfortable throwing—he throws almost exclusively underneath, with a lot of slants and inside hitches, and rarely chucks the ball beyond ten yards.
When he did go deeper against Illinois many throws were to Tacopants, and yes yes Michigan has that problem that's another section. Here we are talking about Purdue's oft-errant quarterback.
Justin Siller is Purdue's leading wideout with 28 catches. You remember him well, all too well. Purdue will throw him out there in a wildcat look from time to time if only to mess with your head. Prepare for this now. When Siller's at WR he's pretty good, an athlete who accelerates smoothly into space. Underneath running mate OJ Ross—once vaguely on Michigan's recruiting radar—is a slot receiver playing outside frequently due to necessity. Think Gallon. Holding down YAC on these two will be a priority.
With a yards per catch significantly over ten(!), Antavian Edison is the kinda-sorta deep threat. Purdue will also line him up in the backfield. There is also a person named Waynelle Gravesande who will not play much on offense but is named Waynelle Gravesande and you should be notified of these things.
The tailbacks are hardly involved in the passing game. Shavers, Bolden, Hunt, and FB Jared Crank combine for ten catches.
Purdue takes a lot of sacks; they're 80th nationally and would be a bit worse if the NCAA was measuring something reasonably like sack rate—Purdue's 212 attempts are a bit below average.
So… Michigan seems like they should be able to deal as long as they're not put in awkward situations by turnovers and returns. They still haven't given up anything long and when Troy Woolfolk isn't gamely limping in the direction of Keshawn Martin opponent's really haven't had much opportunity thanks to competent(!) safety play and good play from the cornerbacks. Purdue is not good at long stuff and gives up sacks with some frequency. Bend but don't break should work in this situation… as long as Michigan's perimeter holds up.
Key Matchup: Thomas Gordon and cornerbacks against the bubble and other YAC-focused throws. This is the sort of spread team that loves quick-hitting stuff in an effort to get you tackling in space, something Michigan did extremely poorly against Northwestern. Improvement here will force TerBush into situations he's not comfortable with.
If Michigan ends up losing this game chances are many of the infinite fingers of blame shrilly point at this unit. You know about Michigan's struggles to return or cover anything; Brendan Gibbons remains a suspicious customer.
Purdue's special teams are wildly variable. Sometimes they're not getting game-winning field goals blocked against Rice or giving up a kick return touchdown. But their punting is fourth nationally with a net of over 41 yards a kick. The aforementioned Gravesande has been pretty decent returning punts, and Mostert has been strong on kick returns. Kicker Carson Wiggs is decent. He's 9/14 on the year.
So… yeah. This could swing either way but if the game turns into a puntfest that would seem to be advantage Purdue unless Hagerup finds his form in a big way.
Key Matchup: AAAAAH GIBBONS YOU PUT IT THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
This seems appropriate for a game in which the spread is two touchdowns.
Also, this is a real thing from a real military mag.
- Denard's accuracy remains at low ebb.
- Short is too disruptive to get a consistent ground game going.
- Molk head bob snap disaster.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Purdue does play man extensively and pays for it, letting Denard break the pocket repeatedly.
- TerBush is harassed into ridiculous throws.
- Borges used the bye week to put in a bunch of effective plays I'll complain weren't saved for a tougher opponent.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; +1 for Another Argh Bubble Opponent, +1 for Default Plus One Paranoia Until Denard Throws Straight, –1 for They Can Say The Same Thing About Throwing Straight, –1 for I Think We're Better Than Rice, –1 for Not To Mention Middle Tennessee, –1 for Comparative ND Scores, Man, +1 for Looming Possibility Of Borges/Denard Fusion Mishap, –1 for Opponent Basically Cannot Move Ball For 400 Yards.)
Desperate need to win level: 9 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not The Last Two Years, Please, +1 for Deflating Home Loss To Purdue Would Be A Sign Hoke Does Not Get It Just Like RR Did Not, +1 for I Like Nine Wins And I Cannot Lie / You Other Brothers Can't Deny / That When A Bowl Walks In With An Itty Bitty Date And That Citrus In Your Face / You Get Sprung(!), +1 for Danny Hope Must Die For The Sake Of Craig Ross.)
Loss will cause me to... find Craig before he does something heinously illegal to Danny Hope's mustache, and then watch him do it.
Win will cause me to... complete the arduous conversion of "Baby Got Back" into a Citrus Bowl ode*.
*[Win will not actually cause me to do this.]
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
While I'm a bit leery of the Boilermakers after their surprisingly competitive October this remains an opponent that lost to Rice, squeaked one out against Middle Tennessee, got blown out by Notre Dame, and allowed Minnesota to score in the first half.
Denard should rebound. He's at home, the defense he's going up against isn't as good, and the wind won't be as much of an issue. I bet Borges has some new stuff that is effective, and that will see Michigan's offense revert to the unit that put up 42 against Northwestern despite a bunch of terrible turnovers. Of which there will be more. Sad face.
On defense, Michigan might give up a cheap one—they're going to eventually—but Purdue has an offense that has to grind down the field. If they don't get short fields they won't put up many quick touchdowns, and when you have an offense like that you eventually get behind the chains and have to give it up.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Massive Denard improvement, which is something of a copout since he could twist his own helmet and improve over last week. But, like 60% completions and looks much better.
- We see more Shaw and Rawls than you might expect.
- Thomas Gordon moves back to the nickel against a team with more outside edge running and they do improve on the bubble screens.
- Michigan, 29-18
The bye week is (mercifully) over, and it's time to break down Purdue so I can set my internal "fear level" gauge to the appropriate level of paranoia. Of course, two weeks ago I was feeling mighty confident about Michigan's ability to match up with MSU, and then, you know, trash tornado, but I'm putting myself out there again in the hopes that this week's breakdown doesn't make me want to tear out what little hair I have left come Saturday. This week, I watched the important, non-blowout parts of the Boilermakers's loss to Notre Dame and victory over Illinois. On to the breakdown...
What happens when Purdue doesn't roll out their quarterback.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread, with the occasional dash of relatively-ineffective I-form (why, no, that doesn't sound familiar at all).
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Pretty much 100% basketball on grass—Purdue runs a ton of zone read, inside zone, and outside zone, and the rest of their running game is based on handing off to speedy wideout Antavian Edison from various spots on the field.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Caleb TerBush has established himself as the starter and went the whole way against Illinois. He's nimble enough that you have to account for him, but not exactly an athletic marvel—I'll give him a 6.
Dangerman: I guess RB Ralph Bolden (#23), though Justin Siller still haunts my dreams despite being a pretty mediocre second wideout and occasional wildcat QB.
OVERVIEW: Notre Dame got out ahead of Purdue early—thanks to a terrible interception by TerBush—and forced the Boilers to pass a lot more than I think they'd prefer, and it showed—TerBush and the now-benched Robert Marve combined for 5.1 YPA on 38 throws. When Purdue was able to get a lead against Illinois, their offensive philosophy altered dramatically, as they were able to run the ball 42 times (despite only averaging 3.0 YPC) while throwing just 25 passes, mostly on rollouts and play-action. The key for Michigan here is simple: Don't allow a mediocre rushing attack to get an early lead, and force TerBush to try to throw the ball downfield to keep Purdue in the game—he's relatively accurate on short passes, but appears uncomfortable with any throw beyond ten yards that isn't going to a wide-open receiver.
The Irish were able to shut Purdue down completely, holding them to just 276 yards on 4.2 yards per play and not allowing a touchdown until the outcome was long decided. The Illini—despite allowing touchdown drives of 91 and 88 yards—held the Boilermakers to 304 yards on 4.5 ypp (Purdue's third, and ultimately winning, touchdown came after the Illini punter muffed a snap at his own 14). This is not an explosive offense, but instead one that hopes to somehow obtain a lead and then grind out the game on the ground, whether or not the rushing attack is actually effective (this is the spread version of "three yards and a cloud of dust").
For the rest of this week's FFFF, hit the jump.