TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
2012 ohio state
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
It’s been about 24 hours and I’ve finally feeling somewhat normal. There’s nothing like getting the holiday season off to a glorious start: a mid-week bar night, followed by gorging on turkey and then falling into tryptophan induced lethargy. Good thing I had no interest in taking advantage of any “Black Friday” deals. Venturing out to a retail establishment the day after Thanksgiving is much like attending a football game in Columbus: jostling thru red clad crowds, resisting the urge to respond to some unkind words and fending off the occasional elbow. Been there, done that, no need to ever do it again.
I managed to get myself together in time to watch the Nebraska – Iowa game. I knew Michigan would get no help from the Hawkeyes after the first half. My friend CR3 chided me for being negative, but I knew Iowa’s goose was cooked once they squandered three Nebraska turnover opportunities. It’s a damn shame—the Cornhuskers were ready to be shucked! I couldn’t believe how conservative Iowa’s play calling was. The coaching staff should be ashamed of letting their seniors go out with a whimper. It’s hard to believe Michigan was once courting Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz to take over in Ann Arbor. We dodged a bullet there.
Winning the Legends division and playing for the conference title is now out of the question. Coach Hoke has emphasized the fact that the Wolverines were playing for the conference championship. So what’s Michigan’s motivation now? Spoiling the Buckeyes undefeated season? Sending the Columbus crowd home choking on their buckeyes? Ending the season with a signature win in the Horseshoe? Sticking a pin in Urban Meyer’s swelled head?
Obviously, all of the aforementioned are reason enough to want to beat Ohio. The question is can it be done? Frankly, I’m having some doubts. Certain television prognosticators have made it clear they feel Michigan’s only chance is with Devin Gardner at quarterback. I agree. Even with a fully healed Denard Robinson, Gardner is the Wolverines the best bet at completing the downfield passes they’ll need to stretch the Buckeye defense. Having both of them in the backfield at the same time is crucial. Alternating won’t work. But can Robinson be as effective taking the hits he’ll get playing running back? I’m not so sure.
I’d love nothing more than to watch Coach Meyer’s postgame interview after getting beat by the Wolverines (Remember the one after Michigan beat Florida a few years back? Urban looked like he’d just crapped his pants!). The Buckeyes certainly don’t deserve any props for winning while serving penalties for cheating. But Braxton Miller is having a Heisman worthy season and I think he’ll be the difference. Not to worry Michigan fans – there’s always next year.
Michigan 27 – Ohio 31
By Nick RoUMel
Do not feel betrayed by Punt’s pessimistic prognostication. I have a shocking confession. I have actually rooted for Ohio State to beat Michigan.
This distant memory seems as anathema to me today as some other “I can’t believe I really did that” moments when I was young and stupid (today, I’m older and stupid. Maturity is still my Valhalla.) But it is true that I have not always been a Michigan fan – even after receiving my diploma from the U of M.
A little history is in order here. I grew up in Pittsburgh and came to UM just as two unbelievable football planets were aligning: the Pittsburgh Steelers were suddenly winning Super Bowls, and the University of Pittsburgh was a national title contender. While I was attending UM in the 70’s, every Monday, my father faithfully sent me the newspaper clippings of Pitt and the Steelers’ weekend games, and my football heart remained in Pittsburgh, even as Bo and Woody clashed in the Ten Years War. Every year I sold my UM season tickets—probably getting close to $10 for the OSU contest alone—spending it on pinball and pizza.
In 1976, with Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett, #1 Pitt went undefeated and played Georgia in the Sugar Bowl for the national title, and #3 Michigan battled #2 USC in the Rose Bowl. As I cheered for Pitt, my friends rooted for Georgia. To pay them back, I decided to root against Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Pitt won 27-3 and the Wolverines lost a heartbreaker 14-6. This pair of results made me glad.
In the next couple of years, to keep up my spiteful, childish ways, I occasionally rooted against Michigan in games that mattered. Pitt was still a national title contender and I had yet to switch allegiance. But then a funny thing happened.
My father, Bill, was introduced to Bo Schembechler, and pegged to help with recruiting efforts in Western Pennsylvania. Dad’s blood began to run maize and blue. I too began to pay more attention to the football Wolverines. I grew to have great respect for Bo and the program he ran. I became a fan.
I have come full circle. When Michigan’s basketball team played Pitt this week in the pre-season NIT, I rooted ardently for the Wolverines, and against the Panthers. Today there is no other team, anywhere, that I would rather see do well, than my Michigan Wolverines.
As I have come along on this journey, it has also helped to see that Ohio State is truly the embodiment of evil. There are so many reasons. There is their long history of rampant cheating; their complete lack of academic standards; and their rabid, beady-eyed fans that make death threats to players who drop passes. Oh yeah – and their “fan” who once tried to stab me after an Ohio State victory. Yes, I’ve pretty much come around.
This year’s Michigan team is one of my favorites of all time. Brady Hoke is as heartfelt and blue collar as they come, and it’s truly his team, scrappy and competitive without being glamorous. He’s made a motley assortment of players gel together to make one of the tougher defenses in the NCAA, and an offense that is exciting to watch. And of course who can deny pride watching Denard Robinson’s thrilling career trajectory, ending with he and Devin Gardner enthusiastically switching positions, just for the sake of “The Team.”
I root for Michigan. I am bouncing up and down with anticipation, to break Ohio’s undefeated seasons and their dark, sinister hearts. (Not to mention the salacious possibility watching Urban Meyer again crap his pants.)
We can do this today. We will do this. After all, we are the Wolverines. And it is indeed great to be one.
MICHIGAN 17, OHIO 13
Being a sports fan means having very little control over a meaningless thing that can profoundly affect your life. I'm not even sure which year this started, but for 365-ish days after beating Ohio State life is a little better to live, while the same after losing to them makes life a little worse. Until recently I thought I was maybe mistaking the general depressing of age, the Cooper run having coincided with the years between the onset of puberty and the onset of responsibility. Then Courtney Avery picked off Braxton Miller and I felt 20 again.
There are few active metaphors left in entertainment for some old fashioned we're the good guys/they're the bad guys. As your focus shifts from defeating Skeletor to survival, you begin to gain perspective, which is anathema to such absolutes. In this new adult relativity, goodness is a thing you strive for, not something bestowed as a natural and obvious state. You learn too that two things opposed are rarely easy to identify as more good or less evil. We strive for a thing, they strive for a thing, this is all relative. We're for tradition, and culpability, and a really fast guy from Florida who says "WHAAAAATT?!" and will smile for anybody in the world. From all we can see, the thing they seem to be most for is them.
The last time Michigan won in Columbus it was 2000. I was about mid-way through my collegiate career, and John Cooper was nearing the end of his. I sat in the student section and fielded death threats and projectiles while Drew Henson and Marquise Walker and David Terrell played the kind of offense we always imagined they could. The fans around us started looking ready to make good on those threats, and we bolted before the end, a fresh fallen snow covering our escape.
For the first time since, I'll be returning to Ohio Stadium tomorrow. I've been advised to not make my allegiance too obvious, to not respond to the taunting, and to maybe pick up a red hat with a gray O to leave in my Michigan plated car so that I won't return to find the tires slashed and garbage in the gas tank.
There are awful awful Michigan fans out there, and wonderful people who root for Ohio State. But this is sports. It's a big, blatant, color-coded metaphor for the subtle battles we fight, including—especially—good vs. evil. Caveat relativity and caveat scale, but one program defines itself by the good it strives to achieve, and the other program defines good as itself achieving. Tomorrow during the last game of their bowl-banned season, Ohio State will be officially honoring Jim Tressel and the 2002 National Championship Team whose accomplishments might too have been erased but for the statute of limitations. It couldn't be more clear if we were eight.
Beat Ohio Stats
Not counting, you know, real life, only two things happened in the world in the last seven days: the Big Ten added two more Indianas, and Michigan prepared to play Ohio State. The former was dealt with in the diaries with grief counseling, the latter with statistics, and both were handled in this diary by Gordon that reimagines The Game since Bo if divisions (rather than… sense? tradition? goodness?) had existed all that time. The useful chart at right (click big) is by Coach Schiano and neatly sums up the results. Most of those years Michigan and Ohio State would have re-matched. Sparty would have played in 3 of the last 4.
I want to also recognize ehatch, a tempo-free fan who's been trying to apply some of those Kenpommish ideas to football. Some of the relevant among the results:
By the conventional measures Michigan has the best defense in the Big Ten. However, once we adjust for our slow tempo, we find that the defense drops to 5th. We love our defense how is that possible? I think there are a couple potential explanations: 1) Throw-God Trevor Simien and the elusive Colter -- Northwestern was Michigan’s worst performance of the year. 2) Michigan always seems to have one or 2 bad drives per game regardless of how bad the offense is (Illinois need not apply). MSU, Iowa, Minnesota all had 2 long scoring drives where it was completely out of character for both them and us. And since they are so bad offensively that bad drive is enough to put them above their average. In other words, Michigan has yet to put together a full game defensively.
Emphasis on "has yet to." Like I have yet to see the new Abraham Lincoln movie. Hey defense, what're guys doing tomorrow like noon-ish?
CoachW did a common opponent comparison. He didn't give a winner for each but I will. Give Ohio a slight edge for MSU since that was on the road, give Michigan that back for shutting out Illinois, and it comes down to Nebraska and Purdue. Michigan lost big but that may not be relevant unless Bellomy becomes so again; Ohio State gave up a lot of points but blew the doors on offense and won by lots. Michigan handled Purdue, who took OSU to overtime but that's not relevant since Miller was hurt. I guess edge OSU since they picked the better game to go without the centerpiece of their offense. But the margins are awful close.
Another study by glewe showed OSU's pass defense may be within the established Garder-KILL range. Docwhoblocked got bumped from the board for his study on punts to suggest Michigan ought to have both a deep and short guy. Like Dileo is short to fair catch the bouncers, and Gallon stands deep in case there's a return possibility. Also we're returning too many kickoffs (I figured) but I've been fine trading five yards of field position for that feeling you get when Dennis Norfleet has the ball in space.
LSAClassof2000 took five diaries to put out some charts and tables of the most basic stats. They're pretty straight-up, the kind of numbers you'll see put up on TV (my bias is toward the tempo-free above), but succinct. The QB one is worth a glance if only to see the Gardner effect, and the opening chart of the defense one is useful for quoting stats like "Michigan doesn't get as many sacks but we're averaging 6 TFL a game to OSU's 5.2." You know, if you talk like that. Here's the cliff's notes:*
Table of LSAClassOf2000 Diaries This Week
|Diary||Michigan And Ohio State - 2012||Michigan And Ohio State – Last 10 Yrs||Michigan And Ohio State - Defenses||Michigan's Rushing Game - 2001-Present||Michigan QBs - 2001 To Present|
|What we learned||Both even in rush/pass split, but theirs gets a 100 more yds a game.||Our respective passing offenses have been weirdly joined at the hip from Troy Smith on.||Pretty similar until we get to sacks, where they have John Simon and we don't have John Simon.||
Holy Molk's junior/senior years rushing Batman!
|Good good good good great okay DEATH okay great good good.|
*[This section has been edited from its original. See the comments if you care.]
Buckeye etc. (non-statistical): The k.o.k.Law memories trip continues with '76 and then through the '80s. THE_KNOWLEDGE pontificates. Lanyard program progrifiates. Jonvalk wallpaperates. Blockhams burninates.
Rationalizing Rutgersyland. History was made this week when Delany became the first commissioner to voluntarily add teams that weaken the average strength of his conference (oakapple). Course nobody around here
believes wants to admit that these guys are so utterly out of touch and/or incompetent as to grab a couple of debtors for the Weak-ass Woody Division, flip Illinois to the Bo, and spend the next 14 years trying to convince New Yorkers to care. Gameboy says it's about TV markets, and shows us the numbers he thinks the Big Ten was looking at. Turtleboy talked about the scheduling situations that large conferences create.
This last got me thinking about another reason Maryland and Rutgers might become a net benefit to the conference: they can be trusted to lose. If you figure they pretty much have to go to 9 conference games now, a few extra Indiana's on the road could go a long way toward making the top of the conference look more Top Ten-ish and playoff-viable (see: SEC this year and how the top half has capitalized on beating up the wretched bottom half).
[Jump, then Weeklies, then lots of Ohio and expansion carping on the boards]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Ohio State|
12:00 PM Eastern
November 24th, 2012
|THE LINE||OSU –3.5|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, dry, mid-30s|
This preview assumes that Denard Robinson will play a similar role to the one he did against Iowa, still minus about all of the throwing.
Run Offense vs OSU
wall of fame sports describes Hankins as a "road grater"
Yerg. After weeks and weeks of struggles against mediocre or worse Big Ten defensive lines, Michigan is staring down the barrel at John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, and company. Ace:
The front four is very, very good. Behemoth DT Johnathan Hankins demands two blockers on the interior; while he's mostly a space-eater, he'll make a few plays that show off frightening quickness, which is why he'll be a top ten NFL draft pick. Garrett Goebel is solid, not spectacular, at the other tackle spot—while he doesn't make a lot of plays, he holds the point of attack well. Nathan Williams is also in that mold—not a huge playmaker, but not a weak point. That allows Simon to do what he does, and Michigan would be wise to avoid him as much as possible.
Abandon all hope all ye who try to run between the tackles.
Ohio State has rebounded from some rough early outings to shut down the Big Ten's assortment of feeble offenses. In the league all comers have been crushed save Nebraska and Wisconsin. The Huskers got one huge play and an assortment of moderately-sized ones en route to 253 yards on 41 carries, 6.2 a pop. Taylor Martinez threw three interceptions and Nebraska still put up 38 points and around 450 yards. Wisconsin had a similar outing minus the huge play, grinding out 242 yards on 52 carries. This was almost all Montee Ball, who neared 200 himself and needed 39 carries to do so.
Michigan is caught between those teams' offenses, except when they try to run the ball from under center they get bags of despair instead of yards. This sucks, as Etienne Sabino's return has seen him move to SLB when OSU is in their base package with converted fullback Zach Boren—like, converted a few games ago—the starting MLB. Wisconsin profited from that weak spot, as Ace noted; it's doubtful Michigan can manage it.
So what does that leave? The inverted veer game from the shotgun and a satellite of plays around it, plus Denard jet sweep type action, Fritz-type action, and maybe just giving him the dang ball on conventional running plays because why not. Michigan showed a diverse array of stuff last week; this has no doubt sent the Ohio State coaching staff into a tizzy preparing for it; Michigan knows this and is preparing counters; Ohio State knows this and is preparing for counters they haven't yet seen but can probably guess at since there's little new under the sun in football.
They can get stuff here. Ryan Shazier is much better this year but still retains some of those Ohio State Defense Alcohol symptoms: he is the cause of, and solution to, all problems.
Using Denard as a jet/veer/option/whatever threat is imperative. He can't be in the game without Michigan faking a handoff to him and using him as a potential dumpoff threat to keep the heat off. So Michigan must run that stuff on the ground as well. I'm guessing Michigan debuts a Devin/Denard/FB-type backfield in this game and uses Denard as the veer back and just, like, you know, the guy who takes handoffs. Running back.
That exists separately from the snaps Michigan must hand over to actual running backs on downs where Gardner is operating from pro-style sets. Since the dawn of Gardner, Thomas Rawls has 27 carries; these have gone for an average of 2.4 yards an attempt. A lot of those have been short yardage, yes, but one of the reasons a lot of those have been short yardage has been Rawls's general inability to power out the yards a guy like him is supposed to. The difference in YAC between Rawls and Iowa pounder Mark Weisman was eye-opening; several times since Gardner entered the lineup Michigan has been reduced to third- and fourth-down Gardner run/pass rollouts.
A Rawls carry that gains more than two yards will be a pleasant surprise. Michigan's other options are Vincent Smith, who has 11 carries for 23 yards in Big Ten play, and redshirt freshman Justice Hayes, who has three carries for –2 yards in all games not against UMass and Illinois. This is where millions of voices cry out for Dennis Norfleet and are suddenly silenced, but if you're going to put your miniature true freshman on the field that's pretty much putting Denard out there—he's not blocking anyone, so you might as well just go with Denard.
So, Al, what can you do with Fritz and friends?
Key Matchup: Borges vs seeming mismatch up the middle. No one's going to blame the guy if the run game can't make any headway given the relative NFL prospects of the offensive and defensive lines here, especially without Toussaint. If Borges can get some big plays out of this Devin/Denard combo by winning rock-paper-scissors matchups and confusing the opponent that'll be a bonus.
[HIT THE JUMP FOR erm]
Go Blue. Beat Ohio.
- Desmond Morgan should be back.
“Happy Thanksgiving, number one. I know some of you have turkeys in your ovens so I’ll be brief today. I thought we had a good practice yesterday. I thought our intensity was what it should be when you play Ohio. The way our guys went to work was very industrious. It was a physical day like Tuesdays and Wednesdays are, and I thought our guys did a nice job.”
Will Desmond Morgan play Saturday?
Is there a different buzz about this week as you’d expect?
“Yeah. Always is. I think is the 109th time we’ve faced each other. I think that rivalry and just the excitement that follows with it and the passion that people have, I think it spills over.”
The players have talked about driving into the stadium and seeing the fans make … gestures. What’s that like?
“I think when you go to any of those great institutions that have great passion and passionate fans -- I can remember being at Oregon State and going into the Civil War and going down to Eugene. That rivalry, obviously when we go to East Lansing, I think you get the same thing. When you go to Notre Dame. But I think they’re just passionate about their team. They don’t like you, and that’s okay. They’re not supposed to.”
Will you do a walk-through on the field?
“Yeah, we’re going to Friday. We go back and forth a little bit. Most of the time we practice here and go late, but we’re going to do some things in the stadium.”
Do you talk about Nebraska-Iowa on Friday?
“No, not really. I think I mentioned it once. We can control only one thing. That’s the important thing, and that’s going to play our hearts out for our seniors and our hearts out for Michigan on Saturday afternoon at 12:01.”
MGoQuestion: What do you make of Ohio State’s success on special teams this season?
“I think they’ve got good athletes, and that’s where it starts. It always starts there, and I think they’ve done a nice job putting them in the right places to execute and to be successful.”
MGoMootFollowup: Are there ways to counteract their effectiveness?
“Play harder. Play better. Play with better technique.”
How has Denard’s week of practice been?
“Good. It’s been great.”
Who are you starting at quarterback?
“It’s day to day.”
“He’s doing great.”
Is he available to play?
Is Jack still the backup?
“Jack’s on the travel team with us, yeah.”
Does it change your preparation having a holiday?
“Not really, you know. We’ll change because we’ll practice tomorrow morning, and then at one we’ll have over 500 family members and team having Thanksgiving together. It’s pretty neat.”
What was that like last year?
“Awesome. It’s neat. It’s neat to see all the families.”
How’s Thomas Rawls?
“Great. He’s done a nice job.”
Does he seem ready to shoulder this responsibility? Would Vincent Smith also be in the mix to get some more carries?
“Yeah. Those two. And I don’t know if Thomas has a choice.”
How has he handled that pressure?
“Seems fine. Pretty confident. Most guys who have ability at this level, they’re pretty confident in their abilities.”
Anything you can take from Ohio State’s film from last year?
“Not really. Not from a defensive standpoint besides from the elusiveness that their quarterback has. I think Carlos Hyde, and I don’t even know if he -- played a couple plays, maybe. I don’t think he played much. I know the other guy who’s a back, can’t remember his name right now --”
“Boom. Herron was back. But you try and look at the guys that are all a year older, the ones who have played. The offense is obviously a different scheme, but last year’s film really is irrelevant.”
MGoQuestion: James Ross had a good game last Saturday, but a couple times when he tried tackling a bigger back like Mark Weisman he got carried downfield. Is that a concern against someone like Carlos Hyde?
“No. You always tackle really well when you have more than one guy tackling.”
Will Desmond start at that spot?
“We’ll see. Right now they’re competing.”
How many friends and families will you have Saturday?
“I don’t know. Over 500.”
How often do you get to spend with players’ families?
“Not often during the season. Once in a while on a Sunday, once in a while early Friday morning, but not very often.”
Are you going to have over 500 family and friends at the game?
“Who me? Personally? Oh.”
Yeah. I was going to say. You’re more popular than I thought.
“No. No idea. I’m not in the ticket business. Mrs. Hoke handles all those things. She’ll tell me sometime Thursday night over pizza who’s coming.”
You expect to have some people?
“Yeah. We’ll be represented.”
Keep better contain than this, plz
In Columbus, Michigan faces their toughest test since the season opener against Alabama. An undefeated Ohio State squad awaits—can Michigan spoil their hopes for the
Big Ten title BCS championship AP national title? After watching the Buckeyes struggle to put up points on Wisconsin, ultimately winning 21-14 in overtime, I think they've got a good shot. Let's go to the breakdown:
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread, of course. Urban Meyer's run-heavy offense operates pretty much exclusively from the shotgun.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? OSU's rush offense is mostly zone-predicated though they'll throw in some gap blocking wrinkles, including one I'll cover in the play breakdown.
Hurry it up or grind it out? The Buckeyes rarely huddle, though they don't quite run Oregon pace either; you'll see the offense get to the line and then look over to the sideline for a playcall, much like Michigan did under Rich Rodriguez.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): I probably don't need to tell you about Braxton Miller, who leads the Buckeyes with 1214 rushing yards on 207 carries and is second to Carlos Hyde (15) with 13 rushing TDs. While he doesn't have the straight-ahead speed of Denard or Taylor Martinez, he's got more power than either of those two and shows impressive vision. He gets a 9, with a bullet.
Dangerman: Yeah, it's Miller. The offense is based around the threat of his legs, especially on the edge, which opens up room both for the running backs on the interior and the downfield passing game.
Zook Factor: Urban Meyer didn't make any egregiously bad decisions in this game, so I'll note that Bret Bielema punted from the Ohio State 30-yard line(!!!) in the first half instead of kicking a 47-yard field goal or throwing on 4th-and-12. The punt, of course, went for a touchback, netting a whopping ten yards.
HenneChart: I'm making the tweak that Brian is strongly considering for next season and counting scrambles as a positive when calculating Downfield Success Rate; with Braxton Miller, it's certainly appropriate. Even with that adjustment, Miller did not have a great performance against Wisconsin:
A quick sanity check against Miller's final numbers: 10/18, 97 yards. With a couple throws by Miller that easily could've been intercepted, that sounds about right. Most of his throws came either off play-action or on designed rollouts, and most of the routes were of the short or intermediate variety. There were a couple attempted deep shots—again, off play-action—but nothing that connected.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]