the season has truly begun now
This week Michigan plays Iowa, which means I just got done charting every snap of an offense coached by Greg Davis. I'm pretty sure this is grounds for a hostile working environment lawsuit, but thankfully I'm not particularly litigious. Since I couldn't bear to watch last week's Iowa-Purdue pillowfight, I took a look at the Hawkeyes's matchup against... Indiana.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. The Hawkeyes spent the entire game in a one-back formation—because using two backs is clearly begging for an AIRBHG strike—with 35 snaps from under center and 16 in the gun, most of the latter coming on third down situations.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Iowa mostly utilizes zone blocking. As in, somebody should tell Greg Davis there are run plays besides the zone stretch. Just a thought.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Grind it out. Greg Davis needs plenty of time to contemplate his next playcall (okay, okay, it's a zone stretch—you got me).
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): James Vandenberg rarely takes off except in instances of extreme panic; with sacks removed, he's got 126 rushing yards on 31 carries this year. I'll give him a 3.
Dangerman: In this offense? An oxymoron.
Okay, if I have to choose someone, it's senior wideout Keenan Davis, whom the BTN announcer described as Iowa's "big-play threat"—he has 46 receptions for 560 yards (12.2 ypc) and one touchdown. He averaged over 14 yards per catch across from Marvin McNutt last year, but in case you haven't been following the Hawkeyes this season, the offense has taken a bit of a turn.
Zook Factor: This category could easily be named after Kirk Ferentz (except, strangely, when he plays Michigan). In this game, down three points with 4:52 left, he punted on 4th-and-inches from his own 28-yard line; this isn't that egregious for Ferentz, but Advanced NFL Stats has the break-even point for that situation (actually, 4th-and-1, so this is generous) at a 0.56 success rate, and 4th-and-1 situations are conveted at a 0.76 success rate. He actually had his offense out on the field until a review of the spot, which stood, before sending out the punt team.
Iowa got the ball back with 18 seconds left and couldn't produce a miracle drive.
Ferentz will probably grow a pair against Michigan, because this is what he does, and it probably won't matter.
HenneChart: The advantage, for a given definition of the word, of Davis's dink-and-dunk offense is that your downfield success rate doesn't look terrible thanks to a series of throws three yards "downfield":
This was also Vandenberg's best game of the Big Ten season by a wide margin—his 7.3 yards per attempt was a full yard over his next-best conference effort and well above his average of 5.5(!) in six B1G contests. While the structure of the offense usually allows Vandenberg to avoid crippling mistakes, he threw a bad interception into the end zone when he expected Indiana's cornerback to pass the receiver off to the safety, and instead the corner dropped right into the throw. You'll also see later that Vandenberg missed a golden opportunity for a long touchdown pass.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
- If Denard were a rapper his stage name would be Day2Day.
- Hoke says decision on Denard's status for Saturday will be made based on health, not sentiment.
- Mario Ojemudia is "coming along," which probably means he won't be ready for Saturday.
- Will Campbell "probably played his best football game" against Northwestern.
- Hoke did think about going for a touchdown instead of a field goal at the end of regulation but decided not to.
Whether Denard could play situationally even if he were unable to throw the ball is something Hoke may consider.(What does that even mean. Aye aye aye.) Take two: Hoke will talk to Denard about playing situationally or as a runner if he remains unable to throw the ball on Saturday. Maybe.
How are you doing?
“Better than the alternative.”
“Really proud of our football team. I’m proud of how they stuck together. I think I mentioned, I may not have -- they really stuck together the whole game. They believed in each other, believed in what we were trying to get accomplished. I thought there were some really smart decisions made by players and by some of the guys on the staff when the two returners at the end of the game on the punt, because of the way they tried to punt the ball, Gallon was able to get some real positive yardage and set up being able to get the ball to whatever yard line it was to try for the field goal to tie it. If you have one returner back and that ball bounces, you lose field position and those things. Kids executed it well.
“This week’s a special week. Number one, our seniors. Last time they get to play in the greatest stadium in this country. Get to wear that blue jersey here at home and so it’s really special for us as coaches and for those underclassmen who go out and play well. Iowa, as you know, they’re a very good football team. They’ve lost the last two games I think by a total of six points. Run the football well. I think they’ve had some nicked up people when you look at it earlier in the year, but I think they’re really coming together. James Vandenberg, I think, is a very good quarterback. We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we have a lot to do.”
Brian Cook (email@example.com)
to Ace, Heiko, Seth
Subject: Re: the draft in which whoever drafts denard wins
I've been enraged by the weird six-round BTN draft that makes no sense and want to do it for our site as a sort of All Big Ten preseason preview gimmick post.
Rules: Inverse snake. Everyone drafts a full team of 11 offensive/defensive players, two kickers, a FB/HB type (assuming 3 WR), and a nickelback. You can move people around within reason (OL, DL, LB) but those moves will be looked upon skeptically by your fellow drafters and viciously attacked when it comes to make a case for your teams. Once the three other players have drafted a position, the last to go must pick the last player at that position within two rounds*.
When we are done we put the thing to a user vote after making our case. Whoever has Denard wins.
*[to prevent QBs going 1st, 2nd, third, and dead last. Example: third tailback off the board is the second pick of the third round. Fourth player does not have to draft a tailback until the fifth round, but must do so.]
I used random.org to set the draft order, which is:
SETH, who will win since he will get Denard
ACE, who does not get Denard
HEIKO, who also does not get Denard
BRIAN, who also does not get Denard
Wait don't I get time to think...?
PICK: Denard Robinson, quarterback, MEEEEESHIGAN
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M)
CURRENT D: [players TBA]
BRIEF EXPLANATION: He can run. He can throw. And you can all eat crow. Not that this requires an explanation but I'll give one anyway: Robinson is a senior quarterback who might also be the Big Ten's best rusher. His passing game has suffered through growing pains of learning various offenses, which is to say the piper's bill has been paid and I get to reap the rewards of a more polished passer who understands many different concepts. The threat of him running opens up everything else, and now he has the experience to exploit everything else. He's a zero academic and personality risk, and the kind of guy you can build everything else upon.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: I'm gonna go giggle for awhile while you guys fight over Rex Burkhead or something.
PICK: Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin
BRIEF EXPLANATION: For starters, Ball tied a record set by Barry Sanders (39 TDs in a season), which doesn't happen every day/year/decade. Everybody knows that Wisconsin is going to line up and hand the ball to, er, Ball, but he still managed to average 6.26 yards per carry last season. He's remarkably consistent: his 109 total yards against South Dakota represented his lowest total in the 2011 season. Also, has not lost a fumble in 617 career touches. If I can't have Denard (*shakes fist in Seth's general direction*), I'll take being able to hand it off to this guy 25 times a game.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Ha, good one.
Current O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU)
Current D: Offense.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Braxton Miller should approach the production of 2010 Denard Robinson. OSU RB Jordan Hall will be iffy the first few games coming off a foot laceration, so Miller is going to have to account for a lot of the ground game because he is the team's other most effective rusher. He's also a quarterback (Dear Jim Bollman:
Surprise!). When he was actually allowed to throw during the most recent spring game, he went 24/31 for 258 yards. That's pretty good for having just a month to learn Urban Meyer's offense. With another fall camp's worth of practice and the luxury of a real defense, staying healthy will be Miller's only obstacle to having a monster season.
Yes I lifted this from 11W.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Shotty Zach Boren.
CURRENT O: Taylor Lewan (LT, M)
CURRENT D: John Simon (DE, OSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: With spread quarterbacks I actually want gone I'll go the Tony Gonzalez route and draft the guy with the most relative value left on the board. That's Lewan, the Big Ten's only elite pass protector this year. He also doubles as a donkey-mauling run blocker. He's deflecting NFL draft speculation before his junior year even happens, and he's an offensive lineman. Whoever I get at QB will have a clean blindside all day. And will suck. But whatever.
With the first pick of the second round, I'll grab John Simon, the muscle-bound OSU SDE who's the 2012 version of Mike Martin in terms of interior-ish defensive linemen who will not stay blocked. 17 TFLs a year ago and seven sacks, and he's poised to increase those numbers to the 20 TFL level as he moves from "LEO"—OSU's label for WDE—to the strongside position that's a better fit for him. He doesn't have NFL size but he does show up to work out at approximately the time I'm going to sleep.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Montee Ball is a product of the Wisconsin offensive line and is liable to have five unknown assailants tackle him for loss on any given play. GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AAAAAAAAHHHHH.
PICK: Taylor Martinez, quarterback, Nebraska.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QRB, Nebraska)
CURRENT D: Just you wait.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Whoa whoa whoa WHOA. Did I just draft two quarterbacks? [Pause for effect] Yes I did. But that's not allowed! Yes it is. You said we could move offensive players around within reason, so I'm drafting Martinez as a running back. So what if he had fewer than 1,000 yards as a rusher last season? He's clearly masteredthe art of the halfback pass. 3,000 yards of total offense? Yes, please.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: BWAHAHAHA bet you didn't see that coming.
CURRENT O: James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Montee Ball (RB, UW)
CURRENT D: [Functional equivalent of 2009-10 GERG outfits]
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I planned on going defense with my second pick, but after Heiko's one-man run on quarterbacks I wasn't willing to risk getting stuck with, like, Caleb TerBush. So, the pick is Vandenberg, the B1G's winner by default in the "best pocket passer" category. Aside from Denard, Vandenberg is the conference's returning leader in total offense and passing efficiency, and he also takes care of the football, throwing just seven interceptions in 404 attempts last year. With Ball in the backfield to take care of all the running, that's all I need from a quarterback.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Heiko's next pick will be Matt McGloin, cornerback, Penn State.
Holy hell guys, way to leave me dudes I never planned on getting, thus forcing me to re-think my entire draft strategy for all of three minutes before doing what I meant to do anyway.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M)
CURRENT D: Kawann Short (DT, PU), Johnathan Hankins (DT, OSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Running backs and running quarterbacks are flying off the board and I'm leaving the last Big Ten Heisman hopeful in order to make sure none of this so-called "rushing" goes down the middle of my defense. What I've won are the two most likely guys in the conference after John Simon to go in the NFL's first round to be my three-tech and nose tackle, respectively.
Kawaan Short is a Ndamukong Suh-like hell-raiser in the interior who sometimes lines up at end and is only limited by having to suck up doubles all the time. To that end I have given him Johnathan Hankins (damn Archie Collins to a special ring of hell), a true nose tackle who forced Ohio State's opponents to run outside all season. My defensive line is already up to 120 tackles, 27 TFLs, and 8.5 sacks (2011 stats), and I haven't even drafted the ends yet!!!
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Hey boss, I want you to know that I had nothing to do with this conspiracy to make you choose Nathan Scheelhaase as your 4th round pick (you made the rule!). Meanwhile Heiko has selected a QB controversy between two guys I wouldn't want, and Ace seems to be building something that has 4 tight ends.
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Well, I had planned on taking a defensive tackle here, but Seth appears determined to recreate Michigan's 2010 offense of Denard left, Denard right, Denard up the middle. Instead, I'll happily settle for Borland, who amassed 143 tackles—19 of them for a loss—from the middle linebacker position in 2011. If my team ends up being comprised mostly of Wisconsin players, I like my chances at winning this thing, if there is indeed any way of winning besides "draft Denard, win" (I'm guessing not).
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Seriously, Heiko, I hear Nathan Scheelhaase is a beast at defensive end.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QRB, UNL), Kyle Prater(WR, NU)
CURRENT D: yawn.
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I'm at lab, so I don't have a whole lot of time to carefully mull over a decision, but I do know one thing: the B1G doesn't have receivers this season. While Prater is a completely unproven commodity, he is likely to immediately become the most dominant receiver in the conference. Given Northwestern's pass-happy spread (perhaps a little less pass-happy with the departure of Dan Persa), Prater's immediate debut at the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, and his 5-star ranking (which, according to the Mathlete, matters for receivers), what's not to like? Sometimes you have to invest in potential, and this penny stock is about to go Apple on all y'all.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: Wisconsin's run defense was crap last year. Also, more than half of Borland's 143 tackles were assisted. They call him a "throwback" because pudgy 5'11 linebackers were last effective circa the Reagan administration. But I hear he's a beast at fullback, which is what you drafted him to be, right?
CURRENT O: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, Ill), Taylor Lewan (LT, M)
CURRENT D: DE John Simon (DE, OSU), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Ace, what is going on, man? You could have had your QB on the way back since I'm the only one without one and not forced me to take... ugh... Nathan Scheelhaase in round 4/5. We could have merrily played chicken for round after round. Anyway: I am not that broken up about taking Scheelhaase since he's got good legs and completed 62% of his passes last year and is a third-year starter and... aw, damn my rules DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL.
Obligatory QB out of the way, I'm taking the actual best pass rusher on Michigan State's defense, LB/missile Denicos Allen. Unlike Borland, my 5'11" LB is fast as hell and has the eyepopping stats to prove it: 11 sacks, 18.5 TFLs, multiple frustrating forays directly past the center of the Michigan offensive line. This guy is Larry Foote again, and he was just a sophomore last year.
OPTIONAL SNARK ABOUT PICKS MADE EARLIER: I have no snark because I'm shaking my ragefist at Heiko for taking Kyle Prater, who was going to be my secret weapon six rounds from now. And Ace, for forcing me to take Scheelhaase this early, and Seth for getting Denard. I am a defeated man. GAMES ARE WON IN THE TRENCHES AND AT WLB AAAAAAAAAH.
To be continued whenever Heiko figures out where he's going to put Rob Henry, Kain Colter, and Devin Gardner, Brian stops screaming "NO THROW IT FORWARD" at Scheelhaase, Ace gets the slightest grasp on game theory, and Seth decides his entire team will be fat guys from Ice Hockey.