No. 2 Alabama (12-1 overall, 8-1 SEC)
Last game: Beat Georgia 32-28 in the SEC Championship after Georgia futzed a last-second goal line play.
As frightening as: Rome, ca. 450 A.D. Currently idling between sacks. Fear level = 9 but waning.
Superlative: Best cry after a win.
If Michigan could play them now: The humanity would overwhelm.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not scheduled them.
Bowl game: Will play No. 1 Notre Dame in a battle of which team Michigan fans want to cheer for less.
Prediction: It’s Notre Dame.
Air Force (6-6 overall, 5-3 MWC)
Last game: Blown out by Fresno State 48-15. It’s like people know how to defend the triple option. Crazy.
As frightening as: Kryptonite. Ostensibly harmless, inert substance that glows green around Michigan players and makes them appear slow and weak. Fear level = 5.
Superlative: Most infuriating to root against due to nameplates bearing noble ideals.
If Michigan could play them now: Nobody needs that twice in one season.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Scheduled them later, as in not right after Alabama.
Bowl game: Will play Rice in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
Prediction: The ratings will be higher overseas.
UMass (1-11, 1-7 MAC)
Last game: Lost to Central Michigan 42-41.
Mike Cox!: 17 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD.
As frightening as: A flap of a butterfly’s wings. Every once in a while it might trigger a tiny vortex that blows a nearby butterfly off course. In this case that other butterfly would be 1-11 Akron. Fear level = 0.
Superlative: Most likely to appear in highlight reels of other teams.
If Michigan could play them now: It would be a nice glamour photo shoot for Michigan’s tailbacks complete with dramatic lighting, airbrushing, and green space.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not scheduled them. This game didn’t do anything for Michigan other than show us that Denard can throw a pick-six to even the worst defenses.
Bowl game: There should be an anti-playoff to determine the worst team in Division I.
No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0 overall)
Last game: Failed to lose to USC, 22-13.
As frightening as: MRSA. Fear level = 8.
Superlative: Most referees on payroll.
If Michigan could play them now: Michigan would probably find another way to lose again, which is fine. This year, as they say, is Not Ours.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Run the ball more, which sounds crazy now, but back then people had luxuries like ulnar nerves and tibias. This kind of thing worked.
Bowl game: Notre Dame is 60 minutes away from Returning to Glory. Agasp.
Prediction: Either way Ohio State won't end up No. 1 in the AP.
Purdue (6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G)
Last game: Won rivalry game against Indiana 56-35, fired coach.
Arithmetic: WALRUS minus STACHE equals MANATEE.
If Michigan could play them now: It would be a semifinal match for the title of “B1G Team with most season-altering injuries.” In the other bracket of this hypothetical tournament is Iowa, which has a bye because of its self-explanatory No. 1 seed.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Savored this win more.
Bowl game: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State.
Prediction: Oklahoma State is 7-5. All five of its losses have been to teams that were ranked at one point or another during the season; Purdue lost to Minnesota. In conference play, Oklahoma State beat TCU, No. 24 Iowa State, West Virginia, and No. 23 Texas Tech by multiple scores; in conference play, Purdue beat Indiana by multiple scores.
This should go real well.
Illinois (2-10 overall, 0-8 B1G)
Last game: Could not overcome five-score deficit; lost to Northwestern.
As frightening as: Someone else’s septic leak. Schadenfreude level = 4. It’s been a few years since they last beat Michigan, so it’s difficult to relish their misery.
Superlative: Most likely to develop oropharyngeal malignancy.
If Michigan could play them now: Be careful what you wish for, or Jim Delany might put them in Michigan’s division so Michigan can play them year after year after year until Fresno State joins the B1G and they have to redo the thing again. Playing Illinois every year doesn’t seem so bad, though. I just wish they could go back to being interesting rather than sad.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Not injured Denard’s arm, since the arm issue would turn out to be kind of disastrous two games later. This is foreshadowing, for those of you who suffered from alcohol-induced retrograde amnesia after the OSU game and are now trying to piece the events of the season back together.
Bowl game: Ha. (By the way, what is with people typing “ha” over text or gchat? I normally have a two-“ha” minimum when I laugh electronically, unless I’m feeling derisive. Is being stingy with the “ha’s” a Michigan thing? I only ever notice this when communicating with people from Michigan.)
Michigan State (6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G)
Last game: Beat Minnesota 26-10, avoided a losing record.
As frightening as: A rock.
Fear level = 5.
Superlative: Most likely to throw up on self en route to Disney World, ruining the trip for everyone.
If Michigan could play them now: Maybe Michigan could have some fake audibles. Like, okay, you don’t want to play chess with Narduzzi, but wouldn’t it be fun to pretend like you are? “Alert alert alert!” = base play. “Blue 42! Blue 42!” = base play. “We’re going to throw it to Dileo!” = We’re going to throw it to Dileo.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Anticipated the most obvious fake punt situation ever, which has only become more obvious in hindsight.
Bowl game: B-dubs vs. TCU. Should be fun to watch actually.
No. 16 Nebraska (10-3 overall, 7-2 B1G)
Last game: Lost 70-31 to Alabamasconsin.
As frightening as: A teenager who finally gets his license after failing twice. Fear level = 7, to others and self.
If Michigan could play them now: Oh if only.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: I hate them so much.
Bowl game: It’s more loathing than hate. It’s how you would feel about someone who you let copy your homework and then gets both of you in trouble.
Prediction: Nebraska plays Georgia. Good luck!
Minnesota (6-6 overall, 2-6 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Michigan State 26-10.
As frightening as: Anything that can be described as “scrappy.” Fear level = 3.
Superlative: Best tire fire mitigation effort.
If Michigan could play them now: Same story, different day.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Prepared Devin Gardner to play quarterback a week earlier. This is purely a hindsight thing, though.
Bowl game: Ritual gopher slaughter at Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas vs. Texas Tech.
Prediction: The gods will be pleased.
All the better to play Monopoly with.
No. 20 Northwestern (9-3 overall, 5-3 B1G)
Last game: Managed to hold onto a five-score lead, beat Illinois 50-14.
As frightening as: Receiving an email with the subject line “Remove Me From This List!” Fear level = 7.
Superlative: Worst utilization of Kyle Prater.
If Michigan could play them now: I liked the screw-with-their-reads plan Mattison used late against Northwestern and Ohio State. Mattison knows how to play chess.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Michigan had a good game plan. Northwestern put up a good fight. Not much to change.
Bowl game: Gator Bowl vs. Mississippi State.
Prediction: No idea actually. This will be a good match, oddly.
Iowa (4-8, 2-6 B1G)
Last game: Lost to Nebraska 13-7. What a tease.
As frightening as: Nomads indigenous to the Great Plains who believe most bright colors to be evil and think the best cure for a gangrenous running back situation is to sacrifice linemen to a deity named AIRBHG. Recently discovered fire and a vertical passing game, no idea how to use either. Fear level = 3.
Superlative: Most unexpectedly overrated. People thought I was being harsh when I predicted Iowa to go 6-6.
If Michigan could play them now: It would just be sad.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Saved some of the game plan for Ohio State. This was the annual “We wasted the good surprise on you” game.
Bowl game: Iowa is a proud people who do not believe in bowl games.
Ohio State (12-0 overall, 8-0 B1G)
Last game: 1,000 newborns in the state of Ohio were named “Urban.”
As frightening as: VRSA. Fear level = 9.
Superlative: Worst thing ever.
If Michigan could play them now: By the end of the game, Braxton Miller will have sustained his tenth concussion (but still play anyway). Michigan will employ Denard and Devin in the same formation but hand it off to Vincent Smith anyway, because Ohio State would never expect it.
In hindsight, Michigan should have: Scored some points in the second half.
Bowl game: Gator Bowl vs. Florida, last year.
Men wearing hats. And bandanas.
LS&A magazine collects Bentley photos of old-timey Michigan games to the present-day to examine what people wore to the things. This is from 1936; I think I recognize the guy in the glasses in the front row.
Don't look at the Ark, dude.
Things didn't really fall off a cliff until the 80s.
Probably DFW on the left there. Probably.
All the Kwiatkowski features. The AD must have offered people free nachos for articles about senior walk-on TE and MGoFave-Rave Mike Kwiatkowski, because you can't throw a rock this week without dinging one on the head. The Daily version:
It’s fine to recognize how unlikely it is that Kwiatkowski rose from regular student to scholarship starter in a matter of three years — but don’t call him a walk-on.
“I actually despise that label,” Kwiatkowski said. “Because like you said, there’s been a number of (walk-ons) who have played, and just because you weren’t given a scholarship doesn’t mean you aren’t as capable. Obviously there’s some exceptions to that, of people who walk on and don’t end up playing.
“I guess that’s the rule, if anything.”
Er. Senior Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science major Mike Kwiatkowski. MLive also features Kwiatkowski.
If Denard Robinson can't go, Hoke will consider single, symbolic play
That would be something I would think about, but to be honest with you," Hoke said. "The seniors and the guys and the people who are truly Michigan fans, I think they understand the significance he's had."
He was asked about using Robinson in another role Saturday. The injury has caused numbness in his right hand and made it difficult to grip the football.
"Oh, I don't know," Hoke said on 97.1. "The health of him and all those things are what we're concerned about."
At this point I'm not expecting him against Iowa, except in that ceremonial role. If it's two weeks on from the Nebraska game and he's still throwing ducks in warmups, as he was before the Northwestern game, it doesn't seem likely he'll get better before the bowl game, if then. John Niyo:
…chances are, we've seen the last of Robinson as Michigan's starting quarterback. The ulnar nerve injury that has sidelined him since the first half of an Oct. 27 loss at Nebraska takes weeks to heal, if not months, or surgery. And coach Brady Hoke's cat-and-mouse games with the media notwithstanding, that reality — along with Robinson's NFL prospects — figures to leave the senior stuck in this new dual-threat role: as an extra coach and cheerleader on the sideline while Devin Gardner succeeds him under center.
At least Gardner is doing well, the considerable silver lining in pretty much the worst way for Denard to go out.
Halfway to a final verdict thing. The MZone's Season Tickets vs Stubhub feature concludes with resounding victory for the scalper, especially for primo seats which could be had at a 40% markdown on the secondary market. This is the easy year, though: a home schedule featuring Nebraska/ND/Ohio State is not likely to end up with the scalper in the black. How close will a two-year total be? Tune in next year to find out.
I'm guessing it'll be pretty close to break-even overall, but once you take the ND game out of the equation… well, Arkansas probably isn't going to cut it.
One of the greatest times I had after I came back was when we watched Michigan football together in the press box. One day up there I found out how much he truly loved this university. He said, “Hey Mo, come here. I wanna show you something.” The band was already out on the field and the players were coming out of the tunnel, and they’re playing The Victors and all that stuff. Bo said, “Now there—isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life? Look at the fans, look at band and look at this team coming out here. That’s what Michigan is all about.” It was as though he was just painting a portrait that was in his mind of something that he was so proud of.
"One of the greatest times I had after I came back was when we watched Michigan football together in the press box. He said, 'hey, come here' and told me to listen to this generic Nickelback ripoff cheese by a band named Porpville or something. Bo said 'Now there—isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen in your life?' Then Zombie Nation came on, and we wept in each others' arms."
-conversation that did not happen
Iowa: not good. Win percentage chart from the Purdue game showing how Iowa stayed in the game:
It may not be much of a comfort to anyone, but Iowa was actually very fortunate to lose to Purdue on a last-second field goal. Or to put it another way, Iowa was lucky to be in the game at all. If Purdue could have just gotten out of its own way on a couple of occasions, they would have won by two touchdowns or more. Every time it looked like the Boilermakers were going to go ahead decisively, they managed to make an egregious blunder -- a fumble, a penalty, a missed field goal -- that kept Iowa inexplicably and unjustly still in the game. If we look at the win probability chart for the game, we can see exactly where these moments occurred (WP here refers to Iowa's chances of winning):
That's how you lose by a field goal despite getting outgained almost 2 to 1.
Tie that running back to the train tracks. Northwestern defensive lineman Sean McEvilly: we need to have a talk.
Sir. You are named Sean McEvilly. You do not pronounce this like you are Scottish adverbial evil, nor do you have a luxuriously nefarious mustache. In fact you look about as evil as a schnauzer.
Also, what is the deal with this?
Good attitude on the practice field.
This should read "conspires to tie pretty debutantes to Venric Mark." At least you are majoring in economics.
I'm sure you feel, like I do, that this is a missed opportunity. Look at Jake Ryan: he grows his hair out and becomes Clay Mathews. To ensure a ticket to the NFL, you need one of these:
Please acquire one posthaste and accept the internet glory that surely awaits.
This isn't Canisius anymore, Toto. Michigan can throw it up, and someone can catch it and rain thunder down. This is… intriguing for John Beilein:
The alley-oop: the most exciting play in basketball.
For the first time in his 35 years of coaching, Beilein now incorporates the alley-oops into his practices.
“I realize it’s a really good play,” he noted Monday, pausing before he finished, “if you have athletes.”
"…I have just discovered that men like Glenn Robinson III exist, and whoah."
Policework objection. BWS takes on the long Mark option discussed in the defensive UFR:
before the ball is even snapped, you can see a huge problem: Michigan is badly outnumbered to the boundary side of the field. From the offensive center toward the boundary, Michigan has only four defenders. Nebraska has four men on the line of scrimmage, Colter, and Mark. There's absolutely no way Michigan can defend this play toward the sideline.
It's tough, sure, but doable. I clipped this exact play a bit later and Michigan executed better. Beyer and Kovacs combined to impact Mark near the LOS; the pile fell forward for four.
Also note Ross's presence. The key is for that defensive end to stay on the LOS and widen out. Beyer at the pitch on the first one versus the second:
Beyer doesn't get as far upfield, is a step or two further outside, and is turned to chase on the pitch, which gets him to the back as Kovacs contains. Michigan's alignment there can get the job done, and if you don't slide to the field they'll have opportunities out there. That's what the spread does—requires you to make plays without the advantage of numbers. Michigan's trying to get that back by using the sideline as their 12th guy.
One of Michigan's main issues against the option in this one was the defensive ends giving themselves up one for one quickly. We saw them get a little better at that as the day went on; they'll have to rep it a lot next week in preparation for Ohio State.
Etc.: Northwestern analyzes its doom, needs bigger screenshots. Classic Ufer nicknames. Super Toe! The only Iranian I know who wears cowboy boots! For best results, play Indiana. Rich Rodriguez on Denard. Orange Bowl contract finalized, ND gets significantly less than everyone else if they participate. Senior salute from M&GB. Holdin' The Rope on Denard.
Formation notes: There apparently wasn't anything that I thought was notable in this department; I have no screenshots. Here's a FINAL/OT shot for no reason:
Oh look here's something. Look, I-Form Big. Lots of it in this game.
This was mostly a passing formation because obviously.
Substitution notes: Nothing of note. This bit always gets thin on offense late in the year because roles are established and substitutions are limited to the obvious ones people already know about.
Oh, right, Devin Gardner played quarterback.
[AFTER THE JUMP: hopefully something more interesting than the stuff above the jump /hardsell'd]
About Last Saturday:
A 10-point lead late in the third quarter - 31, Is not enough points when you are Northwestern - 38 (OT)
The best wide receiver in the B1G at right; My new favorite Northwestern player at left. (h/t @shane_heck)
The Road Ahead:
Iowa (4-6 overall, 2-4 B1G)
Last game: Purdue 27, Iowa 24 (L)
Recap: You know things are pretty bad when you play the second-worst team in the conference (which is incidentally the second-worst conference in the BCS) and then all of a sudden you’re the second-worst team in the conference.
What is going on, Iowa? What’s the deal? Why do you have only one running play? Why do you refuse to throw a pass farther than five yards past the line of scrimmage? Why does your offensive coordinator still have a job? (Why did you hire him in the first place?) Why does your defense give up 500 yards of offense to an offense run by a guy who doesn’t have an ACL? How do you fail to beat a team when you’re plus 3 in turnover margin and have just two penalties for 16 yards to their 10 for 100?
These are the tough, existential questions I hope will never be asked about Michigan. /knocks on wood.
At this point, it seems like Iowa isn’t even trying. Let’s look at their season to date:
- vs. Northern Illinois, 18-7 (W)
- vs. Iowa State, 6-9 (L)
- vs. Northern Iowa, 27-16 (W)
- vs. Central Michigan, 31-32 (L)
- vs. Minnesota, 31-13 (W)
- @ Michigan State, 19-16 OT (W)
- vs. Penn State, 14-38 (L)
- @ Northwestern, 17-28 (L)
- @ Indiana, 14-21 (L)
- vs. Purdue, 24-27 (L)
That’s a couple of so-so games against randos, a couple of embarrassing close losses to Steele Jantz and Central Michigan, a close win against Michigan State that no one can really figure out, and then a bunch of games where they’ve gotten their asses handed to them, which have been disguised by final scores that belie reality.
Something isn’t working when Minnesota is the only convincing win of the season.
Okay, fine, there have been extenuating circumstances. The offensive line turned into a mess after the Penn State game when two linemen went out with injury, and then there’s AIRBHG, too, who wouldn’t even spare a fullback from his wrath. That shouldn’t be the end of the world, though. The Hawkeyes have a senior quarterback (best B1G pocket passer!), an All-conference caliber tight end, a bunch of fairly competent receivers, and a defense that … well, plays defense. Surely they could have mustered a better showing against Indiana.
Even more concerning: how will this team be any better next year?
After the game, head coach Kirk Ferentz passionately defended his “dog crap” team. A few days later he dropped an F bomb. I’m half tempted to grab some popcorn to see what happens over the next two weeks -- Iowa plays Michigan and Nebraska. This promises to be more entertaining than an MGoBoard flamewar.
And I say “half” tempted only because, on the other hand, I don't want to support Nebraska’s economy. Not for another year, anyway.
/refuses to eat any food that contains corn.
/starves to death.*
This besmacks of: Societal failure.
Michigan should worry about: Not beating up on Iowa too badly. Michigan needs them to be as intact as possible when they play Nebraska next week since they could be Michigan’s last hope to hand Nebraska another loss. Although right now I like Minnesota's chances better.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: This has to be the easiest week of film study. Like ever.
When they play Michigan: It's Senior Day.
Also, bring tissues. It's going to get dusty.
Next game: No. 21 Michigan
*Joke stolen from Ace.
Formation notes: We've already talked about Michigan's 3-3-5 at the end of the game, which was really blue for some reason:
filmed in post-apocalyptic-Denzel-Washington-vehicle-o-vision
The rest of it was as per usual. Michigan goes with an even front against spread packages and flares the LBs out to deal. This results in things like this…
…and is a declaration of immense faith in the DTs. Here's Ryan over the slot again:
Michigan used some super wide splits once, when they were sick of getting edged by the option:
This was a FB dive that looked dangerous before Pipkins spatted the ballcarrier for two yards.
Finally, here's something. What? I'm not sure. THANKS DIRECTOR GUY
I swear these guys who come in and think they're Football Tarantino.
Substitution notes: Secondary as it always is. The front seven saw the same rotation they have in the last couple games, with CGordon/Bolden/Ross backing up Ryan/Demens/Morgan at LB and Heitzman/Black/Pipkins/Clark backing up Roh/Campbell/Washington/Beyer. Heitzman's increased PT continued; Bolden got relatively few snaps. Ross got more, including the last drive, but maybe not as many as I expected he did going in.
[AFTER THE JUMP: getting gashed, responding, Kovacs in your grill]
So. Michigan got a nice play from Will Campbell to turn second and three into third and one despite kind of conceding the first down, then saw Kenny Demens blow upfield as soon as he saw Venric Mark block a blitzing James Ross. He hewed down a Colter scramble in the backfield. Now it's fourth and two, and all the timeouts have been taken.
Michigan comes out in… this. I guess. Whatever this is. Weird is what it is.
Please note that Northwestern has also brought their share of weird to the party. They're in a two back set with all three WRs to the field, which means one of those slots is covered up. Michigan is seven on eight in the box, with a safety—Gordon—hanging out deep. If Northwestern can get guys blocked they should have a guy running free. As we'll see, they don't.
This has been mentioned before, but Michigan came out in this weird formation on fourth and two in an attempt to bait Northwestern into a handoff up the middle, which they successfully did.
As a bonus, the bait here is compounded by Northwestern confusion. It does not matter what Colter does here. They're dead.
Part The First: Black Surge
Jibreel Black is shaded playside of the center above and immediately shoots upfield of said center.
This is easy for him. Just go straight upfield. It does two things:
- Invites Colter to hand off. That looks dangerous to him because if he's forced to pitch early by a Black surge then Roh is likely to contain the back.
- Forces the dive back to the backside of the play, where there are two Northwestern OL and three Michigan defenders.
In the wider view you can see three Northwestern OL releasing, with the fourth dealing with Clark.
Part The Second: Handoff Away From Strength
That looks un-promising. But here's what they'll do:
The option provides blocking strength to the front side of the play because you're letting the end go to option him; on the backside you're blocking him. Here Northwestern burns that strength as two confused guys go after Ross. A third has to cut Ryan, and there's no one for three separate Michigan defenders.
At the mesh point Colter is looking at Roh on the edge and Black surging through, which seemingly puts acres of space between the NT and backside DE. There are acres, in fact.
Part The Third: Free Train With Purchase Of Handoff
ACRES OF PAIN WOO
Everyone run around and do things! Be happy! And then play the dog groomers song and kill everyone's buzz. But those first 5 seconds were rad.
Things And Stuff
This was dead in every way. If Colter decides to keep he is probably going to get pushed wide by Black, maybe even have a pitched forced by him a la Mike Martin last year. If he does not…
…it's Mike Trumpy in space against Jordan Kovacs with Roh pursuing from the inside-out. We've seen how that story ends, against this team even.
That was forth and inches, this is fourth and two. I'll take my chances there.
This play seems specifically designed to defeat the option. The Black surge is going to do one of two things. One option is what it did. The other is for the playside G to block Black, likely with help from the center, and leave one guy for Ross. If those guys can combo Black a keep meets the same fate you see in the frame on the last bullet. If those guys can combo Black and the C manages a release to the second level, then you are possibly in business as you hypothetically have enough guys to block the LBs.
I don't see how that happens though given what Black does here. No one is coming off that guy fast enough to be useful. The only option that gets yards is a check.
Nothing else? Just a check? The only other way in which this might eke out the first down is by letting the backside end go, too, and having that tackle hit Demens. This may or may not work and exposes the back to Clark coming down the line; at least if he's hit by Clark it's from behind. Really, though, there's nothing.
Demens! This isn't the hardest play in the world for a linebacker but even so you can't do it any better. There's no drama after this:
No spinning out or grinding forward or sliding off. The guy just goes down, backwards, game over. That's one of them form tackles.
Cat and mouse. This play followed a series of timeouts. Michigan showed the formation they ran before the first one:
Northwestern called TO, and came out with their covered slot formation. Michigan again showed the 3-3-5 alignment…
…until everyone in the front seven yelled at Ryan to get on the LOS…
Roh had to do a ton of pointing and talking to get this to happen
…and then Michigan called timeout before a false start. As a bonus, unless the slot receiver moved after the camera took him out of the picture, Northwestern only had six on the line of scrimmage and would have been hit with an illegal formation.
So they went to it, got a TO, showed it, got rid of it, called a TO, and then ran it. The dance of doom.
A gimmick defense for gimmick times. Yeah this could get gashed by stuff other than what Northwestern ran; Michigan knew their comfort zone and had a plan to blow it up. They had plenty of problems in this game, and I think Mattison is going to have to make some adjustments to slow the Wildcats down in future years, but at the end it was Michigan who got the last stab in after a knock-down, drag-out fight.