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Megatron—the Decepticon, not the Detroit Lion—is definitely the most interesting robot in the Transformer pantheon. Classic Megatron had the most clearly defined mission—pillage Earth's energy resources to power Cybertron—of any imaginary bad guy leader, but still possessed all the classic bad guy traits: narcissism, obsession with power, mistrust.
That last gave the character a rich irony, since in order to provide his greatest contribution in a fight, Megatron had to transform into a weapon wielded by someone else—usually that was Starscream, Megatron's primary rival for power. Nobody seemed to mind the physics of a transformer equal in size to Optimus Prime—a truck cab—transforming into a handheld blaster.
The thing Carr said when he gave Braylon the number is it's going to make you a target—the defense will always be accounting for #1. But there's no point in having such a powerful bad guy if you don't give him plenty of his own screen time. Somehow, Nussmeier managed to get Funchess open all over the field this week, and I wanted to know how.
Catch 1: Quick WR Screen
How to read these diagrams: Black lines are blocks, blue are routes, red denotes the hot read (as best as I could tell) and dotted lines are pre-snap motion. Click for bigger.
Michigan has just spent an offseason talking about how they're going to be an inside zone team. So Nussmeier chooses the best possible debut: a totally spread "quick screen" to the guy in #1, with an extra block courtesy of putting the U-back, Khalid Hill, in motion. Hill goes flat to kick out whoever appears, Norfleet starts downfield then latches on to the guy over him creating space for Funchess to get the ball and turn downfield.
Why it worked: Like Megatron, Funchess may be big but he's also got the acceleration and wiggle of a much smaller guy, and the screen gets those qualities in space against small defensive backs. Because he's a such a downfield threat the defense has to give him that space at the snap (even MSU did that last year). To stop this the defense needed to react super-fast and/or beat a block.
Such a quick pass also saved the OL from having to make long or difficult blocks, so there was no need to have a perfect protection scheme—the backside routes were both outlets in case the CB on Funchess was jumping the route or something.
How it helps the offense: This play punishes App State's space linebacker (#88 in the videos, denoted as WLB in the diagrams for simplicity's sake) for coming down into the box, something opponents did a ton of to us last year. That guy is responsible for the edge if the offense is running to his side, so forcing him to book it outside on the first play really messes with how that guy can react to things the rest of the day.
Downsides? This is highly coordinated play that had to have taken a lot of practice time to execute. That practice time was only worth it because it directly punishes the defense for playing sound against the rest of the offense.
[The other seven, after the jump]
and thus ended a really stupid debate about jersey number deservedness
I keep trying to put words here but the GIF is just looping endlessly in the editor and I no longer feel words are really necessary.
Gleeful cackling, on the other hand, seems totally appropriate. The rest of the ASU game in GIFs, which I swear isn't entirely devoted to Devin Funchess, is after the jump.
[JUMP, but probably not over two defenders because that's really hard unless, well, you're Devin Funchess.]
8/30/2014 – Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 1-0
NOBODY TOLD US WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO THAT WAY LAST YEAR [Fuller]
I watched a lot of football on Saturday. I did not watch Magnolia because my then-girlfriend and current wife thought that her coping mechanism for sadness, which is apparently suffusing yourself in it until your fingers look like you've been in a pool of despair for hours, was applicable to humans. I mean:
That's what I did seven years ago. I had to turn it off because Magnolia is a movie that is unrelentingly miserable. I did not need additional resources in this department at that time.
I didn't turn anything off on Saturday. I watched twelve hours of football after getting back from Michigan Stadium. The only mention of Michigan's game before insomniac time was one dismissive sentence from Rece Davis, something about how there will not be "another seminal college football moment" this weekend. They didn't even take the opportunity to put gratuitous Funchess on the screen.
The only difference between this game and Michigan's opening-weekend romp over CMU last year: a nation's hope Michigan would blow it again. Once it became clear this would not be the case, a nation forgot the game happened before it had even ended. This was the best possible outcome.
So 1) hooray for the best possible outcome and 2) don't let that change your opinion about whether this was the dumbest scheduling decision in the history of scheduling decisions. The nation knew this about Michigan before Saturday: lol Appalachian State. This is what they know today: lol Appalachian State. On College Football Final their brief treatment of the game gave more time to 2007 than 2013. We are experiencing the maximum possible upside from this game, which is everyone immediately forgetting about it like Michigan was thumping a MAC opponent.
And thank God for that. Michigan eased out to a 21 point lead, and then it was suddenly 42, and at no point did Appalachian State look anything like a secret powerhouse; at no point did Michigan look so utterly clueless that they might blow their immense physical advantages. At no point did I wish I had a cyanide capsule handy.
The one thing worth noting here is that Michigan does seem prepared to deal with the football reality of 2014. Greg Mattison's defense played in the face of the opposition all game long, featuring nickel and dime packages frequently. They shot a safety into the box on most plays. They've got the personnel they need to deal with the spread. Possibly two at once.
Contrast this to 2007, when Johnny Sears started at cornerback in the Horror, with a patently unprepared Stevie Brown at safety. The linebackers available outside of Shawn Crable were Obi Ezeh, Chris Graham, and John Thompson. Michigan spent the entire day with two safeties twelve yards deep like they were playing Peyton Manning, and were surprised when the numbers didn't work out. Their linebackers were two-down thumpers for whom space is a cold vacuum in which death awaits. They barely had one cornerback, let alone a chorus line of them.
A big chunk of my spread zealotry has been the fact that Michigan has made it look unstoppable from the drop. They validated the entire idea against Northwestern and set their program on fire in the Horror and the Post-Apocalyptic Oregon game that followed. Put a running quarterback in front of them and they will die explosively. It's happened far too often the last 15 years for it to be a coincidence.
My primary worry about Brady Hoke is that he's stuck on a vision of 1990s Michigan in a world that's evolved past that. There was no sign of that Saturday. The defense's radical makeover paired with what was not the cram-the-box cro-magnon ball it certainly could have been against this opponent felt a tiny bit like John Beilein overhauling his program to be a man-defense, ball-screen offense juggernaut.
I'm not looking for a juggernaut this year. This is the punch-the-cow-for-butter year in which any yellow semi-solid will do. I proclaim this semi-solid yellow, and thank God for that.
Now let us immediately forget this game ever happened, like everyone else.
Parkinggod's usual Michigan-centric one:
And if ten minutes isn't enough here are 20:
Also a guy noticed an eerie parallel between Blake Countess's LOS stick and one from Charles Woodson:
Brady Hoke Epic Double Points Of The Week. Yes, points. We're moving this to a hockey-like three stars system.
Michigan racked up 350 first half yards while holding App St to 60 en route to a 35-0 first half lead, so there are many, many candidates. It says here that Devin Funchess gets #1, because good Lord that is an unstoppable freak show.
#2 is Devin Gardner, who was on point with every throw except one, flashed that athletic ability, and stepped up (up!) in the pocket when suffering edge pressure
#3 is split between Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden. Michigan started gashing App St when Kalis replaced Joey Burzynski, with big runs repeatedly coming over the right side of the line.
Honorable mention: Basically the entire defense. There were no particular standouts, though.
Epic Double Point Standings.
3: Devin Funchess (#1, APP)
2: Devin Gardner (#2, APP)
0.5: Kyle Kalis (T3, APP), Ben Braden (T3, APP)
Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week.
For the single individual best moment.
Michigan had gotten a couple of solid 10-20 yard runs from Smith and Green already when Green took the snap on an outside zone and shot downfield untouched by man or beast until 60 yards had elapsed. Runs. We may have them.
Honorable mention: They threw a screen to Norfleet! Any of the variously unstoppable Funchess touchdowns. Hellacious Stiffarm wins by a nose over LOL I'm Tall. Tacosack, hopefully the awesome thumping cousin of Tacopants.
Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.
AppSt: Derrick Green rumbles for 60 yards.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK. That one time Devin Gardner threw way behind a blitheringly open Devin Funchess to prevent him from going 14/14.
Honorable mention: That one drive where the Mountaineers drove the ball on the ground against the second team.
AppSt: Devin Gardner dares to throw an incomplete pass.
[After the JUMP: Funchess! Holes! Teddy KGB!]
Coverage is irrelevant. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]
There was Devin Funchess, galloping through and leaping over the Appalachian State secondary. There were Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, bursting through holes opened up by Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis. There was Devin Gardner, completing all but one pass. There was Dennis Norfleet, catching bubble screens and darting past defenders.
There was offense, making sense at last.
Sure, Michigan's 560 yards on 55 plays came against an Appalachian State team that went 4-8 as an FCS program in 2013, but the coherence and explosiveness of Doug Nussmeier's offense proved undeniable. Funchess more than earned his new #1 jersey, scoring on three of his seven receptions, including a spectacular leaping grab over two defenders in the back of the end zone. Gardner had no difficulty finding open receivers, connecting on 12/13 passes for 173 yards and those three TDs to Funchess before giving way to Shane Morris in the third quarter as the blowout continued unabated.
Green (15 carries, 170 yards, 1 TD) and Smith (8, 115, 2) became the first pair of Michigan running backs to crack the century mark in the same game since Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor accomplished the feat against a hapless Minnesota team in 2007. They found running room. This was to be expected against an undersized, overmatched ASU squad, but this was not to be expected because last year happened. The offensive line held their ground and then some, giving up just one sack and paving the way for 350 yards on 36 carries.
The production excited, but more than that it was the fashion in which Michigan got that production. Screens to Funchess and Norfleet* opened up both the running game and downfield passing. The emphasis on inside zone allowed the line to find their rhythm; after some early stuffed runs, they started opening up big creases, especially when Kalis entered the game at right guard in place of starter Joey Burzynski. Michigan got explosive plays—ten of their first 30 went for ten yards or more—and also showed that they could move the ball methodically; the first scoring drive, capped by a nine-yard touchdown to Funchess, covered 63 yards in nine plays.
De'Veon Smith displayed power and balance on his way to 115 rushing yards. [Fuller]
On the other side of the ball, the defense played up to their lofty expectations, forcing punts on each of ASU's first seven drives, including five three-and-outs. 171 of the Mountaineers' 280 total yards came on two second-half drives with the game well out of reach, as Greg Mattison liberally rotated through defenders. They came through on their promise to be more aggressive, playing lots of tight man coverage and putting ASU QB Kam Bryant under consistent pressure—Michigan's two sacks and four QB hurries don't tell the whole story.
The special teams even managed to chip in a scoring play, as Ben Gedeon caught a punt blocked by Mike McCray and managed to extend the ball just past the pylon to put U-M up 35-0 just prior to halftime.
Only two things came up as real concerns during the game. Jabrill Peppers missed the second half with an ankle injury; Brady Hoke confirmed after the game that his absence was precautionary, and he'll be back on the field next week for Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Jake Ryan looked uncomfortable at times at middle linebacker, getting overaggressive on run defense and allowing a big gain through the air when he didn't get enough depth on a zone drop. If your biggest defensive concern is Jake Ryan, however, your defense is in a very good place.
"We weren't competing against the score, we were competing against our abilities," Hoke said. At the very least, Michigan showed their ability to dominate inferior competition. They certainly drew up the blueprint for how they'd like this team to operate the rest of the year, too. Next week, we'll learn a lot more about just how far they've come.
For now, it's nice to sit back and enjoy a stress-free Saturday.
*Or "Little Fleetwood" as Hoke (accidentally?) called him in the postgame presser.
HEY. If you didn't already, read Seth's thing.
Just a shooter. Ex-just a shooter? Zak Irvin's trying to shake the reputation that he has a campsite outside the three point line he only leaves when he needs water:
Zak Irvin smirked at the old saying. He heard it before. So did Nik Stauskas, his predecessor on the wing in Michigan’s offense.
Just a shooter.
The title was stamped on Stauskas at this time last year. As a freshman in 2012-13, the 6-foot-6 guard attempted 58.3 percent of his field-goals from 3-point distance.
Now here’s Irvin. If Stauskas was just a shooter as a freshman, what does that make him? Also a 6-foot-6 guard, Irvin launched a freewheeling 74.5 percent of his shots from behind the arc as a freshman.
The thing is: Stauskas was way less of a shooter than Irvin was, to the point where UMHoops was pointing out that he was even more efficient than Trey Burke in pick and roll situations. Whenever anyone asked me who would step up as the alpha in Burke's absence I immediately said "Stauskas" in a tone of voice that was probably insulting to the person asking the question.
Just-a-shooter-related stats indicate that Irvin is starting well back from Stauskas was when it comes to initiating offense.
|STAUSKAS (FR)||IRVIN (FR)|
Also… I mean…
Irvin made a total of 11 2-point field goals in 18 Big Ten games as a freshman. His 21 free-throw attempts were three less than Mitch McGary, who played in only eight games. His 13 assists were only one more than McGary produced.
I am now sad about Mitch again, but that's pretty stark.
Michigan doesn't need Irvin to be Stauskas, what with Walton and LeVert still around. They would like him to be a third creator—hell, if Irvin gets to Stauskas's freshman shot generation numbers that would be terrific.
One thing we do know: even if Irvin does become Not Just A Shooter (drink), we will not hear that he is Not Just A Shooter (drink), because he's not a pale guy from Canada.
FINALLY. It is policy around here to ignore preseason watch lists for major awards because the last time I looked at one I was on there. But we will make a solitary exception for the one organization that seems to have watched Devin Funchess play last year:
On Tuesday, Funchess landed on the 2014 Biletnikoff Award watch list, which goes annually to the most outstanding receiver in college football.
Yes, I know this is just because watch lists place anything vaguely hominid on their lists. I'm still taking it and running.
So there's this. They changed the trophy, likely because of intellectual property issues or something like that. Now it looks like this:
The one piece of the BCS worth keeping (the crystal football) is replaced by a wagon-wheel coffee table
…leg? I think he left out "leg." But yeah.
A major blow to SMU. Megarecruit Emmanuel Mudiay was set to make a visit to Crisler for his one and only year of college basketball; instead he's taking whatever money he can get this year:
"I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA," Mudiay said in a statement relayed by his brother, Stephane, to SI. "But I was tired of seeing my mom struggle. And after sitting down with coach [Larry] Brown and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom was to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities."
That's likely bunk, since Mudiay can just get cash on the side and the school he graduated from was co-founded by Deion Sanders and has had a number of graduate-types get shot down by the NCAA. Either way, that SMU game looks significantly less intimidating.
SMU's still going to be a challenge. They went 27-10 last year and lost to Minnesota in the NIT final; they lost only an inefficient third wheel and a low-usage OREB guy from last year's team.
That would be bizarre, but fun? Chatter about NCAA hockey expansion pops up only every once in a while these days, and when it does it's usually followed by an athletic director making grumbly noises about the general impossibility of such. So go ahead and guess which AD actually wants to make it happen. No, no, no, and no. Arizona State!
Count Arizona State Vice President of Athletics Ray Anderson among the growing number of people who like to see the Sun Devil hockey team compete at the highest level.
"I personally would love to see hockey as a varsity sport at Arizona State," he said. "We have to make a commitment to figure that out."
Penn State's departure from the club hockey ranks apparently made ASU the big dog on the block, whereupon they turned in a 38-2 season, and ASU has a relatively small department for a school of its size and revenue level.
The obvious problem: there ain't nobody to play. The nearest NCAA hockey schools are in Colorado. I guess you could slide them into the NCHC. It would still be an expensive proposition. Unlikely unless ASU gets the kind of donation PSU got.
That'll fix it. Michigan proposes fireworks after the Penn State and… uh… Miami (Not That Miami) games. I don't care, really, but it's notable that a bunch of Penn State and Ohio State people on twitter are now seemingly offended on our behalf.
Michigan football is just Dime a Dog night away from being a minor league baseball team.
— Matt d (@PSUMatt2005) July 14, 2014
On the one hand, yeah. On the other hand, YOU'RE PENN STATE (rawwereraaarr rawwrr). YOU ARE THE CHINTZ MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.
But anyway this is where we are: opposing fan bases are getting irritated because we are not Michigan enough.
More fun with stats! CFBStats helpfully grabs every play off the NCAA's box scores and turns lines like "Devin Gardner pass complete to Jeremy Gallon for 14 yards" into downloadable data on receiver targeting. Here's where Gardner's passes went last year by down:
|Receiver||Target(%)||1st Dn||2nd Dn||3rd Dn|
|Total passes||395 (n/a)||142||144||105|
|Jeremy Gallon||137 (35%)||43%||28%||34%|
|Devin Funchess||92 (23%)||25%||18%||28%|
|Drew Dileo||30 (8%)||6%||5%||12%|
|Jake Butt||27 (7%)||3%||13%||4%|
|Jehu Chesson||24 (6%)||4%||8%||6%|
|Jeremy Jackson||10 (3%)||3%||3%||1%|
|Joe Reynolds||7 (2%)||2%||3%||-|
|A.J. Williams||2 (1%)||-||1%||-|
|Fitz Toussaint||20 (5%)||4%||8%||3%|
|Other backs||23 (6%)||6%||6%||6%|
There were four passes on 4th down: two that Funchess converted and two that Dileo didn't. For our purposes I'm going to count them with 3rd downs because they're functionally the same (i.e. not converting is a failure). When every preview this year says defenses will be focused on taking away Funchess, you can see why: most every other target from last year is graduated or not immediately available (Butt). The data also show whether each reception ended up in a 1st down:
|Receiver||1st/2nd Dn||Conv%||3rd/4th Dn||Conv%|
I don't know if the conversion rate for 1st and 2nd down will be that valuable except as a measure of team dink-and-dunk-iness. The numbers for conversion downs show tendency and success. Again, nothing surprising here. Gallon and Funchess remained equal targets, with Dileo the only other likely 3rd down destination.
Was it common for teams to be so focused on a few guys? Well those 3rd down targeting numbers are high. Gallon was the recipient of just over a third of Michigan's 3rd/4th down attempts; that's 7th in the nation at go-to-guyness. The rest:
|Receiver||School||Tm Att||Tgts||Conv %|
|Alex Amidon||Boston College||106||43 (41%)||42%|
|Jordan Matthews||Vanderbilt||104||39 (38%)||38%|
|Shaun Joplin||Bowling Green||114||41 (36%)||49%|
|Willie Snead||Ball State||131||47 (36%)||55%|
|Allen Robinson||Penn State||129||46 (36%)||43%|
|Ryan Grant||Tulane||133||46 (35%)||46%|
|Jeremy Gallon||Michigan||109||36 (33%)||42%|
|Ty Montgomery||Stanford||100||33 (33%)||55%|
|Titus Davis||Central Michigan||98||32 (33%)||56%|
|Quincy Enunwa||Nebraska||112||36 (32%)||33%|
Gallon was as important of a chain-mover for Michigan as A-Rob was to Penn State. What's weird is Michigan's 2nd guy was also really high on the list. Funchess (29% of 3rd/4th down targets, 39% conversion rate) also appears on the national leaderboard, at 19th, right behind Jared Abbrederis.
[After the jump: Michigan was the most obvious team in the country, finding Dileo-like objects, target types.]