there would have to be some to wash away
fee fi foe film
Previously: Utah Offense
The above is representative of Fresno State's level of offensive competence, which I guess is as nice a way as I can muster to say they had none. Given the Bulldogs are the best team Utah has faced in two games this year, it's safe to say the Utes' excellent raw defensive numbers must be accompanied with a massive grain of salt. To wit: Utah ranks in the top ten in all but one category (in which they rank 18th) for the components that make up their defensive S&P+ ranking, but when Football Outsiders accounts for schedule their overall defense S&P+ ranking ends up at #52.
We are all Jon Snow this week. Time to share all the nothing I know...
Personnel: As you'll see, Utah rolls out a lot of different defensive fronts, but their standard is usually a three-man front with DE/OLB Nate Orchard lined up as a standup rush end [click to embiggen]:
Utah's secondary is less experienced than even this graphic indicates. A rundown:
- Top corner Eric Rowe, a senior, spent his entire career to this point at free safety. In the spring, he split time between safety and corner, and at one point was listed as the starter at both positions.
- The other starting corner, Dominique Hatfield, played wideout last year and was slated to be the starting Z receiver this spring.
- Nickel Justin Thomas, a former four-star recruit, is a 23-year old sophomore. He didn't play his senior year of high school because he was too old, according to league rules. His profile doesn't list an explanation for how this happened. He started four games last year, making him the grizzled veteran among the non-safeties in the starting secondary.
- The fourth corner, Davion Orphey, started eight games last season, and yet he's behind all of the above players. This is probably related to Utah ranking 86th in opponent passer efficiency in 2013.
- Free safety Tevin Carter was a four-star Cal commit as a wide receiver in the 2010 class. He didn't stick there, stopping over at two different JuCos. He didn't play football last year and missed this spring with an injury before entering fall camp as the backup. He's now the starter.
- Strong safety Brian Blechen has 35 career starts to his name, but split his time between safety and linebacker, then missed all of 2013 due to injury.
The Utes also lost six of their top nine linebackers from last year, including their two most productive pass-rushers, and three of their top five defensive tackles from 2013, when they were already replacing first-round pick Star Lotulelei and their other starting tackle.
So, yeah, the personnel matchup suggests Michigan should have a significant advantage here, especially since the Utes are also quite undersized up front.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown, which mostly consists of Fresno State being hilariously bad at football.]
Red zone threat: check.
Utah is coming off a bye week, so they've only played two games this season: a 56-14 pasting of Idaho State and a 59-27 pasting of Fresno State. I chose to break down the latter pasting, which wasn't even as close as the final score would indicate—I stopped charting when Utah went up 38-7 while the video of that drive cut out due to a stadium power outage; from that point on, the backups took over.
Personnel. Seth's diagram says spread-to-pass because I told him the wrong thing based on the box score showing Utah with six touchdown passes against Fresno. They are, in fact, a spread-to-run outfit with a couple very dangerous receivers. As per usual, click the picture to embiggen.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-run. While Utah's done most of their scoring and yardage damage through the air this season, they use their running attack to set up the pass, and while this is a little skewed by the pair of blowouts they've run the ball 100 times compared to just 59 pass attempts this season.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. While Utah mixes in some gap blocking, including a couple tricky variations on the read option that I'll highlight later, they're mostly focused on running zone read, inside zone, and a little outside zone out of the gun or pistol.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Very much hurry it up. Utah routinely got snaps off with 20+ seconds remaining on the play clock against Fresno State, and the only huddles occurred during timeouts. They're close to Indiana fast.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): With sacks removed, Travis Wilson gained 48 yards on nine carries against Fresno State, and last season he averaged nearly five YPC (without sacks removed) with five rush TDs. While he's not outrageously fast or shifty, he makes good reads in the option game, and his size (6'7", 233) allows him to cover ground quickly and fall forward for decent yards after contact. I'll give him a solid 6 here.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
this hat is rather uncomfortable
I won't pretend that I pored over extensive video of Miami (NTM), a team that hasn't won a football game since October of 2012 and last week lost to Eastern Kentucky, which as a result vaulted into the final spot of the Coaches Poll... for the FCS. I sat through a decent chunk of Miami's opening-week loss to Marshall before Brian told me to stop for my own good; by this point, I'd already heard the ESPN3 announcer talk up Marshall's chances of making the CoFoPoff, so the damage was already done.
So, yeah, this post is abbreviated this week, and as a result I've combined the offense and defense; if we're really at the point where poring over every snap of a team that's lost 18 straight games is meaningful, these posts are going to take a dark durn.
Personnel. The diagram returns, thanks to Seth, and now includes a "key backups" section [click to embiggen].
Miami will empty their backfield on a regular basis; reserve receiver Rokeem Williams is second on the team in both receptions (9) and yards (204) by quite some distance.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-pass. This would've been a really nice team to play in week one; head coach Chuck Martin served as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator and QBs coach for the last two years, and he'd prevoiusly been on Brian Kelly's staff at Grand Valley State before taking over as their head coach when Kelly left for Central. The offense Martin runs is stylistically and schematically very similar to Kelly's; it's effectiveness is a work-in-progress.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Previously: Notre Dame Offense
The defense as a whole isn't terrifying, but SWEET JEBUS SHELDON DAY COVERING A WHEEL ROUTE OUT OF THE BACKFIELD CERTAINLY IS.
Ah, so, Brian has already posted the game preview because our schedule got weird this week. It's Notre Dame week, so I guess weird is the norm. Usually these will go up on Thursdays because that makes far more sense.
Anyway, Notre Dame pummelled Rice on the scoreboard, 48-17, and mostly limited the Owl offense outside of a couple big plays, including one that came in garbage time. There do appear to be significant holes in the Irish defense, however, and Michigan is better equipped to take advantage than Rice. On to the breakdown...
Personnel: Seth has made some tweaks to the diagram. He did his best to make it readable on this page, but there's enough packed in there that I suggest you click on the image to embiggen:
Dangermen and top-100 recruits have been properly identified; right now, Notre Dame has more of the latter than the former.
Base Set? 4-3 under. As Brian noted, the Irish stuck with their base personnel for the most part against Rice's spread, with OLB James Onwualu—a converted WR who played safety in the spring—often lined up over the slot. Sometimes they'd have one of their DEs play from a two-point stance. Here are both of those things in one screenshot:
Onwualu is over the slot to the near side.
ND did play some three-man fronts, usually on third-and-long, and also shifted to what Brian dubbed a "30 slide" in the UFR when Rice overloaded one side.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown, including... breakdowns.]
Notre Dame handled last year's Conference USA champs, Rice, with relative ease last Saturday, averaging nine yards per play in a 48-17 win. Everett Golson returned from last season's suspension with a huge performance. What does it mean for this weekend's game? Read on to learn about the ND offense.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-pass. This is Brian Kelly's offense, after all. Thanks to Seth, this section now also covers personnel in a handy diagram. Returning starters are highlighted in their team color, the player's bubble is smaller if he hasn't been on the team for three years, and a player's name is in bold if the returning starter at that position is available—in this case, RB Cam McDaniel is in bold because Amir Carlisle, who split starts with McDaniel and a couple other backs in 2013, has moved to the slot (click to embiggen):
As you can see, the Irish have an experienced line, but their skill position players are relatively green, especially when considering Golson wasn't on the team last year.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Irish ran mostly inside and outside zone, with a little bit of power tossed in to keep the defense off balance. They were at their best running behind the excellent RG/C combo of Christian Lombard and Nick Martin.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Notre Dame plays at a relatively slow pace, especially for a spread; they had an adjusted pace last year of 36.6% compared to the national average, per Bill Connelly. That number is slightly deceiving, as ND usually gets to the line with plenty of time on the play clock, then makes pre-snap adjustments from their formation; they can pick up the pace when it's necessary.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): I'll give Everett Golson a solid eight on this scale. He did a stellar job of feeling and avoiding pressure in the pocket, he knew when to bail out and when to just step up, and he scored three touchdowns in the red zone, two on plays that weren't designed to be QB runs. Here's the designed run, a draw they ran a few times successfully:
Golson finished with 58 yards on 11 carries with sacks removed, and a few of those carries were marginal gains when pressure flushed him out of the pocket. Michigan is going to have to be very disciplined when they rush the passer or Golson will make some big plays on his own.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Isaiah Taylor almost exclusively shoots floaters. Related: he's a 40% shooter.
A real opponent in the NCAA Tournament means it's time for a special hoops edition of FFFF. In addition to catching most of last night's Arizona State game, I watched film of Texas against a common opponent—Iowa State—to get a better read on their strengths and weaknesses. After seeing how little resistance they provided defensively against the Sun Devils and how poor their offense looked against the Cyclones, I'm pretty optimistic about Michigan's chances.
Texas's first offensive possession sums up Texas's offense.
The Longhorns's statistical profile—terrible shooting, great offensive rebounding—showed up right away against ISU. Texas went 0/5 with four offensive rebounds on their first possession, despite playing five-on-four for most of it after DeAndre Kane got a stinger and stopped playing defense. Their general offensive philosophy also shows up in that video: play from the inside out. When they're not on the run, Texas looks to post up a big on just about every trip.
That big is usually Cameron Ridley, a behemoth who dominated ASU (17 points on 15 shot equivalents, five offensive rebounds) and struggled against ISU (4 points, 0/4 FG, 3 OR). He's a monster on the boards; he doesn't have great touch, however, and relies a lot on drawing contact. Ridley also gets gassed—he's 285 pounds, after all—which keeps him from sustaining a high effort on both ends for long stretches. While his overall turnover numbers are good, I think that's largely due to the number of quick putback chances he gets; Iowa State brought a hard double team on him when he posted up, producing three turnovers:
Backup center Prince Ibeh is another strong offensive rebounder, but he's otherwise not much of a factor on that end. Also crashing the boards with aplomb is starting four Jonathon Holmes, a good post scorer who can also stretch the floor. His matchup against Glenn Robinson III is the most worrisome to me because of his size—6'8" with long arms—and rebounding ability.
Isaiah Taylor gets the highest usage on the team, and he's liable to go off or be an offensive anchor due to his unusual style. Taylor is very quick, able to blow by most guards with ease, but instead of taking pull-up jumpers or layups he almost exclusively shoots right-handed floaters, especially from the right baseline. It took him 26 shot equivalents to score 26 points against Iowa State; he had 11 on 14 against the Sun Devils.
Brian suggested in the preview that the 1-3-1 could be a nice curveball to throw in this game, and I agree. Not only does that defense take advantage of Texas's lack of outside shooting, it puts Derrick Walton on the baseline, where he can cut off Taylor's favorite shot—he'll take it regardless, but that's why he's shooting just 40% from two.
About the shooting thing: they're awful. Texas generates a lot of three-pointers for Javan Felix (33% 3-pt) that are as likely to miss the rim completely as they are to go in—he really tests the integrity of the backboard—and they also take a ton of two-point jumpers. Against Iowa State, they airballed five(!) two-pointers, four in the first half alone. Of course, jump shot chaos is part of what allows them to rebound well; they rebounded three of those, with two leading to immediate putbacks.
While Felix jacks up by far the most threes on the team, the sweetest shooting stroke belongs to stretch four Connor Lammert, a backup who plays over half the team's minutes. He drilled 2/3 triples against ISU; when he's open, he's dangerous, and his misses are far less wild than Felix's.
[Hit THE JUMP to see how Iowa State took advantage of Texas's bigs on defense, and how Michigan can do the same.]