|WHAT||Michigan vs UConn|
September 21st, 2013
|THE LINE||M -18|
|WEATHER||mid-60s, 0% chance of rain|
"paul pasqualoni young". Yup. That's real. If you don't believe me you're spending an awful lot of time disbelieving things it would be patently silly for anyone to make up.
Run Offense vs UConn
UConn. The very name sends trembles down your spine. After Randy Edsall ascended to Heaven on a pillar of righteousness, the Huskies hired legendary Michigan-killer Paul Pasqualoni, and since they have written their name in blood and glory across the night sky.
In their opening game the Towson Somethings struggled to acquired 201 yards on the ground on 50 carries, a 4.0 average. Starting tailback Terrance West ground out 156 yards on 36 carries as the Huskies bayed and called around him, mocking, ever mocking. The Conn Army's second game was ever more dominating: Maryland acquired a pathetic 231 yards on 40 carries; the Terrapins feared exposing just one tailback to the ruthless fangs and split their carries between CJ Brown (QB, 1991-2013, 16 carries for 122 yards) and Brandon Ross (RB, 1992-2013, 18 carries for 95 yards).
I have to break from the faux terror here because UConn's defense was in fact shockingly good a year ago. Do you remember that they held Teddy Bridgewater to 10 points in regulation and 20 overall in a triple-overtime win over Louisville last year? You probably do not, because who remembers things about random Big East games featuring 5-7 UConn? Bridgewater took 53 attempts to acquire 331 yards but threw two interceptions and got sacked five times. The Louisville ground game acquired 57 yards, quarterbacks excluded. For the year, UConn was seventh nationally in rush defense, second only to Alabama in yards per rush ceded.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, Trevardo Williams and Sio Moore* are off to the NFL, as are corners Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. All of those guys were off the board by the early fourth round. Losing four mid-round NFL draft picks in one go is a body blow for a team with UConn's talent level, and they're currently reeling. Maryland bombed them for 500 yards and FCS Towson almost cracked 400.
Without much penetration or experience on the outside save for Yawid Smallwood, the lone returner from last year's all-NFL linebacking corps (Smallwood is projected as a third round pick like his buddies), Michigan should have opportunities similar to the ones they did against Akron as soon as they figured out what the Zips were doing with their bear fronts. UConn will stem into some three-four looks, but Michigan's seen that already. This has to be a step forward for the line and Toussaint or it's time to stop pushing the panic button and resign ourselves to another zombie apocalypse of TFLs.
Ace thought the interior of the line was solid against the Terps, so this will provide a human-sized challenge for the offensive line after two weeks of baby seals and one featuring two top-end NFL prospects. Move some guys, get some holes, see Toussaint follow them, and spark an ember of hope.
*[Sio is a nickname for… wait for it… "Snorsio." Wow.]
Key Matchup: Fitzgerald Toussaint versus Poor Damn Toussaint Syndrome. Follow your fullback, man. What's the worst that could happen?
Other than that.
Please come out from under the table.
[Hit THE JUMP for lots of caps letters in the cheap thrills section.]
Try as he might, Dave Brandon couldn't get the Huskies to acknowledge their football team is utterly irrelevant except for its proximity to New York.
How this works again:
- I put up a winnable prize that consists of a desirable good.
You guess the final scores of this weekend's designated game (football or hoops, depending on the season), and put it in the comments like so:
[Michigan Score]-[Opponent Score]. First person to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, we contact you. If not, go to (5)
- The desirable good arrives at the address you give us.
- Non-winners can acquire the same desirable good by trading currency for it.
Last Week's Game:
You, Khan vs. any hope that events which occur follow the events that preceded them, with the hopeful exception of any event from last Saturday.
And the Prize:
Sorry, Brian, but we couldn't get the rights to, while for the other the photographer was only too happy to oblige.
If you can read this you don’t need glasses:
One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). If nobody gets the score, this week's prize carries over to the following week's unless we beat Akron 28-24 when they had the ball at the Michigan 1 with time left in which case I am burning the prize. Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game (since I won't have time to pull them on gamedays). Those caught changing their scores after the game has started will be disqualified for life. MGoEmployees and Moderators--anyone else with moderator privileges--are exempt from winning because you could change your timestamp. If you choose the score that Brian published in the official preview and it actually ends up the final score, well, that would be pretty amazing because Brian picks scores like 29-11 all the time. We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is just a regional rivalry. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus. This is not the algorithm. This is close.
Oh man, not again. Last week in this space, Akron's offense was represented by a tire fire, their defense a dumpster fire. Assumptions were made about the past having some bearing on the future, the Zips were dismissed as cannon fodder, and ... well, you saw how that turned out.
This week's opponent is UConn, which lost to Towson at home by 15 points in their first game, outgained by over 100 yards by an FCS opponent. After an oddly-timed bye week, the Huskies hosted Maryland last Saturday; once again, they lost the yardage battle by over 100 yards, and only a meaningless 75-yard TD pass with 22 seconds to play kept the score semi-respectable at 32-21. It could've been much, much worse:
- Maryland went for it on fourth-and-short twice in first quarter. Instead of spreading the field and either running to the outside or hitting a quick pass—both of which worked very well all game—they tried to attack the strength of UConn's defense and were stuffed on interior runs, failing both conversion attempts.
- The Terps drove all the way from their 17 down to UConn's 22 in the first quarter, only for an open screen pass to bounce off the hands of their running back and get intercepted by UConn's Taylor Mack. Maryland's three previous plays had gone for 26, 21, and 14 yards.
- By the end of the third quarter, Maryland would lose two fumbles by their running backs, one of which came after an easy ten-yard gain. The second led directly to a UConn field goal that would bring the Huskies within seven points.
When not shooting themselves in the foot, Maryland completely controlled the game, averaging 5.2 yards per rush and 9.9 yards per pass attempt. Take out the irrelevant late touchdown pass and UConn averaged 2.7 YPC (with five sacks removed!) and 6.1 YPA.
I promise to mock the Huskies as little as possible, however, after what went down last week. That said, I can only work with what I'm given, and for the second straight week what I'm given is, by all appearances, a really bad football team that lost to a I-AA squad.
Quarterback Chandler Whitmer (via The UConn Blog)
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread, mostly. UConn operated either from the gun or an ace set; no fullback got a snap that I saw (I charted until Maryland took a 19-point lead midway through the fourth quarter). They had one snap from what Madden/NCAA deem the "pro" set—the QB under center with two backs split behind him.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. UConn ran a lot of inside zone and showed some zone read looks; none of this was very effective.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
The narrative so far:
- Week 1 - Michigan plays an easy breezy beautiful home opener against Central Michigan. We find out whether Shane Morris will lose his redshirt. Prediction: he does.
- Week 2 - Notre Dame comes to town, chaos ensues under the lights, we awake Sunday morning in a stranger's backyard and discover that we are missing a shoe.
- Week 3 - Fitz Toussaint and Derrick Green each rush for 100+ yards.
Since this is part 2 of a home-and-home, I think we should go back a few years to get the proper context.
Michigan and UConn agreed to play a short series with each other in 2009. At the time the matchup was intriguing because of three things: Rich Rod’s ties to the Big East (and undefeated record against Randy Edsall), UConn’s apparent emergence in being okay at football (8-5 in 2008), and the basketball team’s own series with the Huskies. In addition to the fact that the 2010 game would be a home opener in a freshly renovated Big House, the anticipation for part 1 of the home-and-home was significant because none of us really thought the Wolverines, still smarting from a 5-7 season, would do all that well.
That was until Brock Mealer, Denard, and 60 minutes of domination happened. You can relive the best moments here:
The pure awesomeness on display (and the awesomeness the following week) is the sort of thing that makes you think Michigan would play in the Rose Bowl, Denard would win the Heisman, and Rich Rod would be our coach forever and ever.
By the time we realized none of those things would come true, UConn and 2013 seemed a million years away. When your fandom devolves into stalking Dave Brandon while listening to songs by the Smiths on repeat, you’re not in a place to properly consider other people, or the future.
Did you know that the Huskies actually went on to win the Big East that year?
They did (or at least a share of it) and had a better resume than anyone else in that conference, so they got the auto-bid to the Fiesta Bowl, where they were summarily executed by No. 9 Oklahoma. Edsall bolted for Maryland pretty much the next day, and he has since been spending a lot of time there designing uniformz and losing. See you next year I guess.
So UConn hired Paul Pasqualoni, a former Syracuse head coach who lost his edge in the early ‘00s, left Syracuse, and floated around the NFL for a couple years. After taking over the Huskies, he's led them to back-to-back 5-7 seasons. Rebuilding, yes, but the outlook does not appear to be bright.
Had Edsall stayed in Storrs, the rematch with Michigan would have been a lot more intriguing, and the game would probably be a lot more competitive. Now it's just kind of sad.
Okay, the real recap part. Let’s keep this brief: last season the Huskies were an unpredictable outfit that beat Maryland, Louisville, and Pittsburg, but lost to nearly everyone else, including Western Michigan. Defensively they were okay, limiting opponents to under 20 ppg. Offensively they were horrible, scoring 17.8 ppg. If the Big East were the Big Ten, UConn would be Michigan State.
Being horrible on offense is what usually happens when you break in a new quarterback. Whether he’s sufficiently broken in or just broken, he’s likely to be the guy Michigan will see on Sept. 21.
A/S/L: Chandler Whitmer, junior QB. Not much of a runner, not much of a passer. Last season he completed 57.6% of his passes for 2664 yards, 9 TDs, and 16 INTs. This year he’ll have back his leading receiver, junior Geremy Davis (44 rec, 613 yards, 1 TD). Junior Deshon Foxx is another name to be on the lookout for. Reports from their spring game say that he caught a bunch of 70-yard bombs and was the only player to score in a 6-0 affair.
The run game was also pretty disappointing last season. Lyle McCombs, the team’s top running back, will return as a junior and try to make things better. McCombs is a durable but limited guy. He’s small -- listed at 5-8, 169 lbs -- and not all that quick or speedy, which kind of defeats the point of being small. Regardless, he's got good enough vision and takes the bulk of the handoffs, which has earned him the "workhorse" monikor. In fact, he's one of a small collection of FBS players to combine for more than 500 carries over the last two years. Last season he got 243 carries for 860 yards, which comes out to about 3.5 yards a carry. Not bad but not great, considering he broke the 1,000-yard mark as a freshman.
The offense will probably improve. Most of the line is returning, and UConn picked up a new offensive coordinator in T.J. Weist from Cincinnati. Weist had been with the Bearcats since 2010, and his pass-happy offense there led the conference in a bunch of categories. I doubt they’ll find their rhythm by the time Michigan rolls into town, however. Either way it'll be interesting to see what Mattison thinks of Weist's offense.
The narrative here is kind of opposite that of the offense: really good last season but not returning a whole lot of guys. Of UConn’s top 10 tacklers in 2012, more than half of them were seniors.
At least the top tackler is coming back. The name to know here is Yawin Smallwood, a 6-3, 244-lb middle linebacker who was named the Defensive Scout Player of the Week as a redshirting freshman right before the 2010 Michigan game. Smallwood had 120 tackles, 15 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks last year. He’s pretty high up on draft boards, so his production is likely not just a byproduct of “plays in the Big East.”
The Huskies’ defensive line is fairly experienced in the interior, less so on the outside. DT Shamar Stephen was a solid contributor last year with 26 tackles, 2 for loss, and Angelo Pruitt looks like he’ll probably slide inside (he played end last year). For what it’s worth, these guys aren’t small. Stephen is 6-5, 320 lbs, and Pruitt is 6-3, 300. That could be a problem for Jack Miller and whoever the two new guards are. At end, UConn is getting a sixth-year rush end back from injury, and they have another guy on the strongside who is 6-5, 301. Again, not small. At least their athleticism won’t be nearly as terrifying like Notre Dame’s line is, so Lewan and Schofield should be able to handle them without too much trouble.
Things are a little fuzzier in the secondary. From what I can tell it looks like UConn is set at safety, at least. They bring back three guys with varying degrees of experience and a hefty collection of career tackles. The cornerback situation is not good though (when is it ever? I mean, seriously). I think at this point they still have no idea who's going to start, so they're move their most experienced safety, junior Byron Jones (87 tackles, 1 INT), to corner while the other guys figure themselves out. Best 11, I say.
The Huskies’ defense will probably be pretty competent even with six new starters, but they'll be imminently beatable. In 2012 they put five of their guys on the all-conference roster, and when a defense produces multiple honorees that usually means the coaching staff is doing something right. Will they simply reload in 2013, or must they rebuild? I guess we’ll find out!
This team is kind of like: A rock.
Is it too early to bring out the rock? Maybe, but I glanced at Michigan’s B1G schedule and no one else fits the bill.
Vs. Michigan: Michigan’s non-conference slate is awfully reminiscent of the one they played in 2011. If so, UConn is this year’s version of San Diego State, with major differences being only that the game is away and Hoke didn’t coach any of these guys.
The Wolverines shouldn’t have much trouble stopping the Huskies offense. Whitmer, if coached properly, will probably top out around where Ryan Lindley ended up. That kind of development takes a while though. When Michigan visits he’ll probably struggle with Mattison’s nefarious schemes, and once the Wolverines pass rushers break through it’ll be game over. The Heininger Certainty Principle says that Frank Clark and/or Taco Charlton will have a good game.
Offensively Michigan will probably struggle with Smallwood. Hoke and Borges seem to prefer a safe, run-heavy approach on the road, and against that defensive line I can’t see any of the Wolverines interior offensive linemen getting to the second level on a consistent basis. If Michigan’s defense plays well, it won’t matter. Borges can keep running his new toys up the middle until the game ends at 14-6.
UFR coming fiveish. Sorry for the delay.
Bo + DKR + Keith Jackson. Self-recommending, from before the 2005 Rose Bowl:
The Trouba hit. Here it is:
Keep your head up. I guess that's a point of emphasis and stuff, but a few years ago that's just a bad spot to put yourself in.
Michigan takes on State this weekend; Yost Built previews. Rutledge gets the start tonight; Trouba and Serville return to the lineup.
Predictorama. Blogs say things!
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care predicts Michigan 31-17 in unnecessarily tiny font. Fouad agrees, as does The Big House Blog.
- The MZone goes with 31-24, Michigan.
- TTB says 38-20, Michigan.
- Maize and Go Blue says 28-17, Michigan.
- Northwestern's Scout guy says 31-23, Michigan.
- BWS goes with 20-17, M.
- Maize and Brew says 20-18, which is like a score I would predict.
- Maize and Blue Nation goes with 32-13.
- Tremendous goes 30-23.
- Three of four SOP folk predict a Michigan win with one holdout who always picks Northwestern to win and one guy talking soccer.
Talkin' Wildcats. I do the Q&A thing at Lake The Posts…
LTP: Finish this sentence. Northwestern wins on Saturday if they prevent __________ from ___________
MGB: Michigan’s linebackers from flowing to the ball. Given the pass offense NW has–Nebraska is NU this year, remember–if Northwestern is going to put up enough points to win it’ll have to be on the ground, and Michigan’s linebackers are flowing clean thanks to a bunch of Mattison slants. Get to them and you’ve got a chance.
…and Sippin' On Purple:
Northwestern is "ranked". Michigan "isn't." Should they be? Do you like the fact that you played two still-undefeated teams in non-con play?
Mgo: No. No Big Ten teams should be ranked, and in fact anyone who votes for a Big Ten team should be put under house arrest. Indiana may go to the Big Ten championship game. QED.
I like playing ND. Check that: love playing ND. I hate those guys. I love going to Notre Dame Stadium, and am immensely depressed the series is coming to an end so ND can play Stanford for some reason. And Purdue! Come on man. They're good this year, but that series is a bedrock of my Michigan fandom.
Playing Alabama in Dallas sounded like a good idea when it was scheduled. By the time the game rolled around it was clear that it was not.
Denard in the NFL. Rotoworld takes an interesting look at the kind of things Denard might be able to do in the NFL:
When I watch Robinson run (and the way Michigan uses him), I can't help but think his best role would be to start out as a returner and as a situational running back. He's listed at just 6'0/197 pounds, but has a thickly built lower body. The Michigan offense has taught him to make the same types of reads NFL runningbacks are taught. He's totaled over 200 carries the last two seasons, and he was the entire foundation of their run game in 2010 - totaling 256 attempts for 1702 yards (6.6 YPC) and 14 touchdowns. He has a tendency to get upright, but he's a tough and patient inside runner who reads and sets his blocks up well, hits cutback lanes with authority, and has the speed to do damage in space. …
Highlighted in green, the playside linebacker moves Michigan's tight end into the backfield. The strong safety has filled hard off the edge, and the two inside linebackers are scraping hard playside. Instead of allowing the defense to string the play out, Robinson takes advantage of Alabama's pursuit, planting his outside foot, re-directing, and hitting the crease swiftly.
Denard gets skinny through the trash in the cutback lane. He leans and squares his shoulders through the tackle, which allows him to pick up an additional three yards.
Much more at the link.
More Ferns. Tom Rinaldi is just warming up for this guy:
They're not moving it. Dave Brandon will not let the whole playing at Rentschler Field thing die:
"We continue to have discussions with UConn to see if there isn't a better plan," Brandon told a small group of reporters Friday shortly after speaking at the Michigan Sport Business Conference at the Ross School of Business. "Anything's possible.
"It's totally in their control. We're trying to provide them with as much persuasion as we can, in the form of financial benefits for them to move that game to a bigger stadium."
This is not happening. The Connecticut legislature put a bunch of money into that stadium and it is now losing more money than projected; they will freak out if the Michigan game, a guaranteed sellout, is moved.
Michigan is paying BYU and Colorado 1.3 million to come out, BTW. The gap between that and 900k, 1 million dollar snackycakes is incredibly small.
Wait what? I missed this when it happened, but apparently the Orange Bowl is now going to be a potential destination for Big Ten teams that miss out on the Rose:
The Orange Bowl matchup in the new playoff era has been finalized multiple sources told CBSSports.com on Wednesday.
The ACC champion will play the highest-ranked team among Notre Dame and available teams from the SEC and Big Ten beginning after the 2014 season.
This is a problem for the Pac-12 and Big 12, who want access to more than one big bowl but the problem…
"TV doesn't want it," said one official intimately involved in the process.
Etc.: Jeopardy does CFB names. Lloyd Brady profiled by ESPN. "Deal with it Jesus" is amazing. Stubhub wins over season tickets this game; by end of year it will be a better deal, I imagine. A report from an alternate universe. Slippery Rock preview. Delany talks big about Big Ten scheduling, but which he means Ohio State scheduling. And MSU, I guess. Dump these divisions already.