Peppers at 10, which seems low.
Let's add another position to Peppers's bio?
Is it absurd to think Jabrill could fill in at LB next year? He's listed about 30 pounds lighter than Bolden, yes, but he's faster, tackles better, and recognizes plays faster. Is the idea just a total non-starter because of the snaps he's expected to take on offense?
Just curious as to your thoughts.
In a sense he already is filling in at linebacker. Michigan ran more nickel snaps last year than they ever had before largely because Peppers gave them that luxury. Part of his triple threat is defending the run. So: kind of.
But if you're asking about moving Peppers into the box as one of two inside linebackers, that is indeed absurd. Peppers is good at all things that physics allows him to be good at. This does not include getting off blocks from 300 pound offensive linemen. Then add the increased wear and tear because of those blocks—when he ends up in coverage he does not get hit unless MSU is running their Obvious Offensive Pass Interference play—and you're wearing Peppers down in a role he's a dubious fit for.
If Peppers has X snaps in him I'm sure we can agree that whatever is left over after his duties as a nickelback are complete should be dedicated to getting the ball in his hands.
Yes they have, no he's not.
Has anyone asked Harbaugh if Glasgow will return for the bowl game? Any other injured players that we'll get back?
Harbaugh all but ruled Glasgow out of the bowl game. He said Rudock had not thrown since the OSU game but should be no problem to return, and there isn't really anyone else that's hurt. Ojemudia, I guess, but we already know he's laid up for the season.
There was chatter that Bryan Mone might return. Harabaugh reinforced that with some comments in pre-OSU press conferences, but I've heard that was never anywhere near coming to fruition. And at this point is the redshirt worth burning for a slightly increased chance of beating Florida? No. It was dubious for OSU and not even plausible for a non-BCS bowl game. Brian Cole is also on track for a medical redshirt and playing safety in any case, where Michigan isn't pressed for depth.
Actually, the opposite effect.
With Bronco Mendenhall taking the Head coaching job at Virginia, does this mean Taysom Hill is a lock to come to Michigan next year?
I'd say that departure makes him less likely to end up at Michigan. Hill was transferring, that is a given. It might have been Michigan; it might not. But he was going somewhere (or retiring).
Now UVA might look like an enticing landing spot. Virginia has Matt Johns returning for his senior year, Johns threw 17 interceptions and rushed for 86 yards in 2014 and is far from a lock. Hill knows Harbaugh relatively well, but he really knows Mendenhall.
Where Hill ends up probably won't be known until after spring practice, when scholarships open up and coaches have a grip on what they've got at the QB spot. Michigan wasn't actually that interested in Jake Rudock until about halfway through spring, when their thinking suddenly changed. If Hill ends up at Michigan it is something of a referendum on John O'Korn. If Michigan passes it's also a referendum, a much better one for our purposes.
I always answer emails that accidentally call me "brain"
I think we can all agree that Durkin was in a tough spot heading into the OSU game. It's not too hard to imagine a world in which Michigan had Glasgow, Mone, and even a functioning Ondre Pipkins at NT on Saturday. Instead, Durkin had Hurst, Charlton, Wormley, Henry, Strobel, Pallante, and maybe an injured Godin to fill out the entire line.
An mgoposter made the compelling argument that playing Hurst, Charlton, Wormley, and Henry for nearly all of the game - with a few reps possibly going to Strobel, Pallante, and the injured Godin - was untenable. The main four were inevitably going to be worn down, the argument goes, or Strobel, Pallante, and Godin were going play significant snaps but be a very poor match for OSU's line. The 3-3-5 put the LBs into positions they weren't accustomed to, but you can at least argue that was better than having linemen who were too tired to be effective.
In light of the fact that the 3-3-5 made some sense (or maybe you disagree), can we say that the failure to use run blitzes and the failure to incorporate the safeties more into stopping the run were the staff's biggest failings against OSU? Relying on Ross, Morgan, and Bolden to do things they aren't comfortable with rather than relying on exhausted or third-string linemen is one thing, but failing to load the box (with whatever combination of players) is another. The latter seems far more questionable given that OSU was a far better running team this season than they were a passing team.
While I agree that Michigan was in a tough spot with depth no matter what they did, my complaint about the 3-3-5 is only about 30% "it didn't work" and 70% "it was a very bad attempt to respond."
If you notice something about the PSU, MSU, and OSU defenses it's that they're all basically the same: pattern-matching cover 4, mostly, with two high safeties. PSU plays them actually high; MSU plays them at eight yards. This allows you to apply a relevant defender to the playside. Michigan kept playing a very deep high safety through the entire game.
To some extent that's fine in the first half. You got a couple stops, you're going up against an OSU offense that has been clunky much of the year, you are caught off guard by some new (old) things that they are doing. I'm not ticked off about the early pooch punt because I thought the same thing everyone else did: that Michigan and OSU were about to get locked into a defensive struggle.
Once OSU crunches you in the face on the touchdown drive that made it 14-3 late you need to have something in your back pocket to transition to once it becomes obvious that your base package cannot hold up. Durkin simply did not. If the 3-3-5 was his response it was a total failure. It was so bad they couldn't run it.
There is a reason quarters is a very popular defense around the country right now, and it is Ohio State's offense. Leaving one high against it is asking for trouble, and trouble was received. If you want to save DL snaps you can do that by getting super-aggressive.
I'm okay losing this game because Barrett hits a bunch of passes like he did against Clark and Lewis. That's something I'm willing to let OSU try in lieu of grinding Michigan for 350 rushing yards. To watch Durkin sit on the sideline with his 20-yard-deep safety as Michigan got ground up for the second time in three games was a major confidence shaker. That he left is… fine by me.
This kind of thing is why I don't want an NFL DC coming in here, by the way. I want a guy who came up from the bottom and has had to fight spread offenses for decades. Tossing some dude out there who hasn't had to scheme against a QB run since 1985 gives me the heebie-jeebies.
What about next year?
My dad and I traditionally watch every game together with my brother and uncle joining us some/most of the time. The defensive game plan on Saturday bugs me more and more with each passing day. Going back to Harbaugh's battles with Oregon at Stanford, is there anything there that might indicate how The Game will go in the future? My dad has insisted on a talent gap, but I'm certain that the combination of injuries and trying to implement a terrible/unfamiliar scheme had to do with UM's down fall on Saturday. With Durkin out the door, do you see Michigan's seemingly increased depth at line next year giving them an advantage? And how long do we have to wait before we can run the ball the way Harbaugh wants?
Thanks ahead of time, love the blog and the work you guys put into it,
Jason from GR
Harbaugh never did get a grip on Oregon's offense while he was at Stanford. In his four years, the Ducks put up 55, 35, 42, and 52. Harbaugh did win the third game of that series, but it wasn't good. It really couldn't have been good until year four, when the Stanford defense caught up to the Luck offense. But even then that Vic Fangio-led D got bombed by the Ducks.
Many teams got bombed by the Ducks that year, except for one: Auburn. Because Auburn lives and dies by the same stuff Oregon does and they cancelled each other out. I say this all the time, but the corollary to the "the spread makes your defense soft" stuff often promulgated by people who can't divide very well is "the spread makes your defense resilient to the spread."
This is obviously not a hard and fast rule, or even a rule at all—see every Big 12 game since 2002. But I do wonder about how prepared Michigan was to face running QBs this year.
Anyway: there is an obvious talent gap that OSU did its best to hide for the duration of the year during their post-Herman malaise. Check the first round of the upcoming NFL draft for ample evidence thereof.
Michigan should be a lot closer to parity next year, as OSU loses big chunks of their team and Michigan brings just about everyone back. I'm not sure the run game will explode, but four returning starters in the same system should equate to progress, especially if they get improved production from the running back spot. Michigan should feel like an elite team if they get good QB play. And given Harbaugh's track record…
11/28/2015 – Michigan 42, Ohio State 13 – 9-3, 6-2 Big Ten
I did not make a list of the things I was hoping to avoid thinking on Saturday, but if I had "This reminds me of Greg Robinson" would have been near the top of the list. It probably doesn't beat out "I hope I can find that limb again" or "so that's what a velociraptor looks like", but it's a close thing.
But there I was, watching 225-pound James Ross line up just behind a nose tackle and thinking about Kenny Demens. Poor damn Kenny Demens.
The last time Michigan installed a 3-3-5 on short notice that didn't look like the way other teams run a 3-3-5 it looked like that. Michigan gave up 41 points on just nine drives to Matt McGloin. I'm sure someone has run this at some point in the history of football and had it work, but I'm still at a loss to explain how that might happen. Whenever it's raised its head at Michigan it's been a debacle.
This was a debacle.
The 3-3-5 wasn't a constant and may have been a misguided attempt to save the DL's legs since they had been whittled down to the starters over the course of the year, but as potential game-changing responses to the Ohio State approach to footballin' go… well, it did change the game.
Michigan did need to have something in their back pocket. I spent big chunks of the preview speculating about what might happen if and when Michigan was forced to abandon the defense it has played for much of the season. Playing man coverage with a deep safety against a team with a heavy QB run game and a superior tailback is only viable if you can win one-on-one battles up front.
Michigan has won those all year, but when Ryan Glasgow got knocked out of the lineup, Indiana exposed the remaining guys with tempo and a bunch of stretch plays, but they were still individually dominant against inside zone. Ohio State runs a lot of inside zone. Michigan got ripped on it.
Since OSU uses their quarterback as a runner extensively, Michigan spent most of he day with one fewer guy in the box than Ohio State had blockers. Often they lined up with one DL between Ohio State's tackles. After a reasonable start they got gashed towards the end of the first half, just in time for adjustments.
There were no adjustments. Michigan got its face caved in. When Michigan put three DL out there they got locked on the field; when OSU faced a third and short they went tempo and ran inside zone. Michigan had no response for this OSU tactic that dates back to the dawn of the Urban Meyer era.
The overall narrative of this season is still a highly encouraging one, but here Michigan has a choice: wake up like OSU did after their own debacle a week ago, or keep showing up in the most important game of the year completely incapable of holding the opposition under 300 yards a game.
DJ Durkin is indeed a promising defensive coordinator but the failure to respond when Indiana was ripping Michigan late and during this entire game should have us pumping our brakes on just how good he is. This is a punch in the mouth. We'll have to wait a year before a response, if Durkin hasn't already left town for a head job elsewhere.
But hey, we're disappointed about 9-3 that isn't 10-2 because of a galactically unlikely outcome at the end of the Michigan State game. Since 99% of Michigan fans predicted 8-4 or worse, that's something. Turning Jake Rudock into a killer quarterback is something. Three consecutive shutouts are something, and Michigan goes into the offseason with a lot of anger to fuel improvement.
Forward, and never look back at this one.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Jehu Chesson had 111 receiving yards and Michigan's touchdown on a series of catches ranging routine to excellent. Darboh struggled to get separation; Chesson was generally open. That's a great sign for his ability to shake anybody and hopefully presages a big-time senior year.
#2 Jake Rudock completed his incredible in-season turnaround with an 8.2 YPA day against one of the best pass defenses in the country, and that was without a whole lot of help after the catch. Rudock placed a bunch of throws just in front of the safeties, didn't throw anything approximating an interception, and dealt with a lot of pressure heroically. Just a stunning reversal, and a tribute to Harbaugh's QB coaching ability.
#3 Jake Butt caught five passes and further separated himself from the Big Ten tight end pack; he has still dropped just one vaguely reasonable pass all year. You might notice that all of these things are related to Michigan's passing battery, because that was the only good bit from the game.
Honorable mention: the refs for not calling holding a half-dozen times against whoever was trying to block Bosa. Peppers, I suppose.
10: Jake Rudock (#3 Northwestern, #1 Rutgers, #1 Indiana, #3 Penn State, #2 OSU)
9: Jourdan Lewis (#1 UNLV, #1 Northwestern, #1 MSU), Jabrill Peppers(#2 BYU, #2 Northwestern, #2 MSU, #1 Minnesota)
8: Chris Wormley(#2 Utah, #1 Oregon State, #3 Rutgers, #2 Penn State)
6: Jake Butt(#1 Utah, #2 Rutgers, #3 OSU)
5: Jehu Chesson(#2 Indiana, #1 OSU)
4: Maurice Hurst (#2 Maryland, #2 Minnesota),
3: De'Veon Smith(#2 Oregon State, #3 BYU), Ryan Glasgow (#1 BYU), Desmond Morgan (#1 Maryland), Amara Darboh(#1 PSU)
2: Ty Isaac(#2 UNLV), Willie Henry(#3 Utah, #3 MSU), 1: AJ Williams (#3 Oregon State), Channing Stribling(#3 UNLV), Blake O'Neill(#3 Maryland), Drake Johnson(#3 Minnesota), Delano Hill(#3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Jehu Chesson scored a touchdown, so that was cool.
Honorable mention: Michigan was pretty competitive for 30 minutes.
Utah: Crazy #buttdown.
Oregon State: #tacopunts.
UNLV: Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown.
BYU: De'Veon Smith's illicit teleporter run.
Maryland: Jehu Chesson jet sweeps past you.
Northwestern: Chesson opening KO TD.
MSU: the bit where they won until they didn't.
Minnesota: form a f-ing wall.
Rutgers: Peppers as Denard.
Indiana: Delano Hill seals it with a PBU.
PSU: Jourdan Lewis breaks their back on a kickoff.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
The second half.
Honorable mention: The first half.
Utah: circle route pick six.
Oregon State: Rudock fumbles after blitz bust.
UNLV: Rudock matches 2014 INT total in game 3.
BYU: BYU manages to get to triple digit yards in the last minutes of the game.
Maryland: Slog extended by deflected interception at Houma.
Northwestern: KLINSMANN OUT
Minnesota: The bit where the lost it until they didn't.
Rutgers: KO return given up.
Indiana: run run run run run run run run run run run run.
PSU: OSU's WHAT ARE THOOOOOOSE gameplan against MSU.
OSU: the second half
[After THE JUMP: Rudock exponential improvement path, box numbers, sad things.]
One team came prepared.
Ohio State's coaches prepared for Michigan's soft edges with an attack heavy on the power read. The Buckeye defense prepared for every wrinkle the Wolverines could conceive to utilize Jabrill Peppers and stopped them.
Michigan looked unprepared to deal with the Buckeye running game. The scheme was too passive and the adjustments ineffective, especially a move to a 3-man line. The linebackers weren't prepared to tackle Ezekiel Elliott in the gap or track JT Barrett in space. Nobody was prepared to block Joey Bosa.
For the tenth time in eleven years, Ohio State won The Game. The Buckeyes ran at will; Michigan couldn't trust its run game enough to even use it without ample trickery. While Michigan's 9-3 record and obvious team-wide improvement stand as a testament to the remarkable work of Jim Harbaugh, today's game showed just how much ground the program must make up on their chief rival.
Unlike last year, Michigan will get a full slate of bowl practices to work on their issues, and they'll face a quality opponent in a decent bowl game. Much like two years ago, there's a good chance they'll have to play that game with their backup quarterback, as Jake Rudock exited the game with an apparent shoulder or collarbone injury after taking a huge hit from Bosa.
Ohio State looked like a playoff team today. Michigan looked a long way off. That's exactly what we expected heading into the season; it's still hard not to be disappointed after seeing how the last few months have played out.
Behold the only preview of The Game you'll need until Brian posts his actual preview in an hour or so.
If you aren't familiar with Next Media Animation, yes, it's supposed to be that ridiculous.
We are forever indebted for this:
Either way ... GO BLUE!!
Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Thanksgiving? I'm trying not to accidentally have a war on Christmas here. Whichever Thanksgiving greeting you feel is appropriate appears in this space along with a reminder that Matt's good at making mortgages happen and a solid all-around dude, so if you're in the market you could do a lot worse.
FORMATION NOTES: Standard stuff from Michigan to the point where I forgot to take a screenshot. Here is a picture of Hackenberg getting swarmed instead.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Charlton moved to buck/WDE. With him there it's WDE. RJS backed him up an got a healthy number of snaps. Hurst, Henry, and Wormley got the vast bulk of the remaining DL snaps. Strobel got in for a few. Godin had a little bit more playing time than Strobel but maybe a dozen snaps total.
Gedeon rotated in for both Morgan and Bolden periodically. Bolden seemed to get more rest than Morgan. Gedeon might have been in there a quarter of the time. Ross played a reasonable amount as a SAM in 4-3 sets.
Secondary was as per usual now, with Hill the dime back behind Thomas. Stribling got scattered snaps. In the 4-3 Peppers and Lewis were the corners.
[After THE JUMP: diatribe! Three plays that went poorly! And then good stuff!]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things, like Harbaugh, and family, and Harbaugh, and some more family. Also I have a mortgage that was easy to get and has an excellent rate that will save me a ton of money over the life of it. And Harbaugh. And a decidedly pants optional lifestyle. Also Harbaugh.
FORMATION NOTES: Penn State played most of the game in a 4-3. Passing downs saw a nickel. I may have missed a few nickel snaps since 11 and 15 can look similar. This was a pretty typical alignment:
Note the PSU player to the top of the screen is a corner and Brandon Bell, their nickel LB, is over the slot. PSU's defense is superficially like MSU's, but they sit their safeties back a lot more and are generally less aggressive.
Michigan didn't do much out of the ordinary other than line up Peppers at RB, frequently in a shotgun 4-wide setup I dubbed "Baylor" because obviously.
This one was a WR screen since PSU elected not not to put two guys near the stack to the bottom of the screen.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Mostly the usual. Slight variants:
- Kalis got knocked out for a snap, so Dawson was inserted.
- Bunting returned to the field for a few snaps.
- Hill is getting a fair number of snaps behind Poggi and Williams.
- Peppers got a number of pure RB snaps and handoffs that were in no way frippery.
- Ways saw a little PT.
- Hidgon also saw a few snaps.
Still no Green or Isaac.
[After THE JUMP: screens and Rudock and such.]