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|WHAT||#25 Michigan vs Eastern Michigan|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, September 19th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Michigan -24|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN|
|WEATHER||Chilly (52) early but game is
64 (noon) to 68 (3 pm) and sunny
Run Offense vs. Eastern
Last week I declared that the rushing offense had to score a "crushing victory" against Notre Dame for Michigan to win Saturday and at any and all points in the future. The results were favorable:
Suck out two sacks for nine yards and Michigan's totals are 199 yards on 36 carries, or 5.5 YPC. With the sacks Michigan's total falls to 5 YPC, a number that would have been good for 18th nationally last year. Notre Dame's run D was #45 last year and returned virtually all of their key pieces. So that's fairly crushing even if the 31-yard Forcier touchdown was more improvisational genius than crushing victory.
The issues with the run game are the same ones Michigan had after week one: not enough Brandon Minor, too much Tate Forcier—and especially too much Tate Forcier trying to beat cornerbacks—and a lingering suspicion the offensive line might not get a ton better from where they were at the end of last year.
None of that should matter much against this:
Though that's a respectable performance against Northwestern, Eastern had the #103 rushing defense in the country last year and is super unlikely to replicate that performance tomorrow. The main dangers are quick, undersized defensive linemen shooting gaps and Michigan's replacement right guard playing poorly. In all other ways Michigan should just out-athlete them, especially when Denard Robinson is in the game.
Key Matchup: Probably John Ferrara versus Severe Dropoff. It would be nice to see Moosman's replacement play well. Also can we add Tate Forcier versus the Misconception He Can Get The Corner Against College Defensive Backs?
Pass Offense vs. Eastern
The other way mostly relies on excellent pickups from the backs—Carlos Brown had a couple crushing pickups last week and Brandon Minor is a fine blocker in his own right—and the idea that Forcier is, yes, Drew Tate, a guy extremely comfortable moving around and finding people downfield when the play breaks down. It's dangerous to blitz Pat White and it might be dangerous to blitz Forcier, albeit in a totally different way. If he evades the wave of defenders and breaks out to one side, we've already seen he can direct traffic to good effect.
Tate Forcier has now established himself as a prodigy, and even the big colossal error he turned in was actually a big colossal error on the part of Greg Mathews. At this point it's reasonable to assume he will perform beyond his years.
Eastern, for its part, got shredded last year. They were 116th in pass efficiency D and 100th in sacks; the only thing that kept opponents from running up huge yardage totals was pity. And then there's the whole Johnny Sears thing. Johnny Sears's two main excursions as a Michigan defensive back saw him get torched by Ball State and the perpetrators of Horror; merely interpreting this person as a useful member of your secondary is cause for serious concern. Forcier is going to have a lot of time and a lot of open receivers; so will Denard Robinson.
It's worth pointing out that Mike Kafka had a crappy game against Eastern, completing 14 of 24 for only 158 yards and an interception. I'm betting that says more about Kafka than Eastern.
Key Matchup: Denard Robinson versus Lack of Touch and Accuracy.
(BONUS: stormtrooper photoshopper notes laconically that he is "working on the actual costume for the illinois game." This moment demands I steal from Simmons: yep, these are my readers.)
Run Defense vs. Eastern
Michigan had severe issues against Notre Dame and their peanut-eating offensive line. (What did that even mean, anyway? "They can eat peanuts off our guys' heads." Are they elephants? Is it a reference to the "anybody want a peanut" line from the Princess Bride? I'm going with the latter because I want to.) Eastern… well… I'm betting there are a few gut-churning runs where a linebacker gets hooked or just runs in the wrong direction and the line creases and Eastern shoots a guy into the secondary. Their current totals are backwards from you might expect:
Erm. This preview could also be titled "why Lake The Posts should buy whiskey in quantity this fall." In fact… let me go change that. Okay.
Do you go with the horrendous Army numbers or the downright respectable day against a run defense that was decent last year? Probably somewhere in-between. The Northwestern numbers were no fluke and the Army numbers weren't quite that terrible: Andy Schmitt was sacked seven times for –53 yards; primary back Dwayne Priest averaged 4.4 YPC. Priest gashed Northwestern all day, averaging 7.5 with a long of just 35. He should have an okay day with a YPC we're a little uncomfortable with.
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus The Solo Tackle. Two non-assists last week. He's got to improve or we're in trouble.
Pass Defense vs. Eastern
This is a spot where it could get dodgy. Eastern returns a senior quarterback in Andy Schmitt who… well, actually no. Schmitt in the first two games:
That is a ton of dinky completions akin to what we saw from Tim Hiller, except no one think Schmitt is an NFL prospect, and did I mention seven sacks against Army? Eastern's got one okay wideout and then little, has no offensive line to speak of, and has a quarterback averaging under 6 yards per attempt. EMU will complete its share of dinky hitches and slants and screens of all variety, most of which will be followed by immediate tackles if they are accurate and hauled in. Schmitt will be running for his life most of the day.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus huge error.
Darryl Stonum won a job as a kick returner against Notre Dame, but Martavious Odoms was pretty uninspiring and Cissoko's shoulder injury leaves the second spot in question. Carlos Brown maybe? Michigan will continue sending Greg Mathews out to fair-catch everything, and you are okay with that.
The kickers had an uneven game last Saturday, with Zoltan shanking one and not getting the booming death punts we all know and love; Jason Olesnavage hit a moderately long one but pushed a chip shot wide. Michigan will be looking for both to bounce back.
Key Matchup: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.
24-point spreads against MAC teams do not get kittens, but here's something else:
Yes, that's House and Wilson.
- Cissoko starts getting lost against MAC receivers.
- Fumble fumble fumble fumble fumble death.
- EMU safeties go for killshots like ND's.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Ron English doesn't display a wildly increased ability to stop a spread offense.
- Tate Forcier.
- There is not massive regression on all fronts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for We Are A Team To Reckon With Now, –1 for With Prodigy QB, –1 for And They Are Probably A Terrible MAC Team, –1 for and Rich Rodriguez Doesn't Mess Around With These Folk, –1, for And Michigan Has Some Motivation, I Think, +1 for But Yeah That Defense Looked A Little Wonky).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for We Must Quash The Insurrection, +1 for Oh And If We Lose You Know All That Good Press Will Evaporate, +1 for Refuse To Lose To Johnny Sears, +1 for Oh Lord I Shudder To Even Think, +1 for This Is Just Not Happening.)
Loss will cause me to... appreciate the irony of life. Also buy a gun.
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Justin Turner and Will Campbell get extensive looks.
- Robinson throws almost as much as Forcier.
- Minor has a day similar to his outing against ND (15-ish carries, 100-ish yards).
- Brandon Graham finally gets a sack.
- Michigan, 48-10.