|WHAT||Michigan vs Kansas State|
|WHERE||Sun Devil Stadium
|WHEN||10:15 PM Eastern
December 28th, 2013
|THE LINE||Kansas State –5.5|
|WEATHER||Cloudy, 60 dropping to 50, no wind, no rain|
What if they played a bowl game in Arizona that kept moving and changing its name every other year? What if your team was in it? What if it was scheduled to end around 2 AM? I don't know, man. Let's find out.
Run Offense vs Kansas State
Remember Brennan Clay? He is good to have against Kansas State.
With Devin Gardner out, about which more later, this is where Michigan will have to make their hay. The bad news: Michigan's running game. The good news: Kansas State seems like a pretty bad rushing defense. Both of Football Outsiders' advanced stats think they're around 50th overall, which is not good in metrics that try to adjust for schedule strength. The Wildcat rush defense is particularly ugly at around 80th. Neither of these metrics know that NDSU went for 215 yards on 43 carries in the opener, either.
After that, things alternated between bad (177 yards on 40 carries for ULL) to real bad (227 on 47 for Texas) to actually okay (85 on 25 for Oklahoma State, albeit while Okie State was tearing KSU to shreds in the air) to a middling four game stretch before getting annihilated by Oklahoma (301 on 52). They did smother Kansas. Hooray.
Michigan is a rushing offense that could get smothered by anyone, but they have had two decent performances in their last three games and you'd hope that 18 bowl practices would help them figure some things out and get healthy; youth should improve faster than age, and Michigan's featuring almost entirely youth in its rushing core, which features two senior tackles and Fitzgerald Toussaint against, five freshmen (Smith, Green, Butt, Bosch, Kalis) and three sophomores (Glasgow, Kerridge, Williams). The figuring it out thing may be happening, at least to the tune of having something not heart-maulingly awful.
WAIT WHAT MITCH MCGARY WHAT
/rends flesh with hairshirt
Anyway. Kansas State's straight metrics are flattered by the prevalence of spread passing attacks in the Big 12; when they've come up against decent rushing offenses they've been hit hard. Michigan can make a case they've ratcheted themselves up to that level by nearing 200 yards. I have no idea if this is at all in the realm of possibility.
Key Matchup: Seriously, 2013, I hate you.
[Hit THE JUMP for just don't hit the jump]
Evaluating Michigan's bowl opponent.
So there's this guy. We can expect one of these.
Whoops! Game is at 10:15 PM Eastern, not 8:15. So… yeah. If you needed any reminders about what this season was like, playing at 10 PM on December 28th should suffice.
You've come a long way… a moderate way, baby. Remember when KSU kicked the season off with a 24-21 loss to I-AA North Dakota State? Yeah, in retrospect that may not have been that much of a surprise as the Bison are currently undefeated and in the second round of the I-AA playoffs.
K-State, meanwhile, went 5-4 in the Big Twelve, losing to who you'd expect they would (Okie State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas) and beating who you'd expect they would. If you dismissed them after the opener, reconsider. Not only is NDSU rather good, KSU led Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State through three quarters. They were in every game this year save Greg Robinson's magnum opus. Football! Is ridiculous.
Kansas State hasn't really beaten anyone, but this is the Copper Bowl we're talking about. That was always going to be the case. On the whole, their season looks a good bit more impressive than Michigan's.
They gon' run. KSU had 286 passing attempts against 478 rushes, a 63% run rate.
The quarterbacks had multiple heads. Until sophomore Daniel Sams was relegated to the bench in the final two games of the year, he and junior Jake Waters had split time extensively. It took me a while to figure this out because a glance at the passing statistics makes it look like Sams is a garbage-time dude who picked up some attempts in the Oklahoma State game, presumably because of injury.
Nope! Sams is K-State's second leading rusher with almost 800 yards at 5.3 a pop. He's got monks and clouds and whatnot.
He is important.
K-State was on the verge of making him their full-time guy midseason when he rushed for 118 yards in the Oklahoma State game and completed 18 of 21 attempts. The problem: three of those were to Cowboys. That game was the only one in which Sams cracked ten passing attempts, but Bill Snyder has a knack for getting production out of broke-ass QBs. Sams was generally productive on the ground (West Virgnia of all teams was the only one to shut him down). He's between Gardner and Denard as a runner, more elusive in small spaces than Gardner but not goddamned incredible.
But Sams has been relegated, leaving Waters the presumed starter. Despite being the pocket passer (who is from Iowa) of the duo, K-State's by-any-means-necessary offense has seen him run over a hundred times this year, albeit with limited effectiveness. He's averaging under three yards an attempt on 106 carries, and while a good chunk of that is sacks it's impossible to figure out how much from box scores with Sams rotating in so much. His average game this year is about 10 carries for 30 yards. He's a keep-'em-honest guy on the ground.
In the air, dude wants to git it git it. His stats are quite close to Gardner's, but even more variable.
Waters was as INT prone as Gardner, though I'm not sure how many Waters got away with. I know Gardner got away with lots late in the season. Waters was also able to accumulate an even gaudier YPA, and while a 90 yarder against Oklahoma does distort things somewhat hacking that down to 50 doesn't move the needle much.
The picture is clear. K-State wants to run the ball; when they are not forced into long yardage situations they will be 70-30 run. When they are not running the ball, they are trying to score right now. A good chunk of the 30% passes will be attempts to tear Michigan's face off with deep balls.
AND THEN I WAS LIKE "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'M A GUARD NOW" [Fuller]
Paging Frank Clark. Kansas State gives up a lot of sacks. Not as many as Michigan, which… oh God… was 116th in sack percentage allowed. Hi Kentucky! Florida! Rice! We're neighbors. Do you guys have two tackles who will be off the board by the end of the third round of the NFL draft? Probably not!
Anyway, they weren't much better at 90th. A chunk of this is the face-tearing thing. KSU spends a lot of time in the pocket working off play action with routes that take a long time to run. Like Michigan, if Michigan could run at all. The results are highly variable, like everything else about the K-State passing offense.
The other guy getting the many, many running opportunities. Virtually all K-State carries not allotted to one of the quarterbacks went to senior John Hubert, who had nearly 1000 yards on 182 carries, an impressive 5.3 YPC, especially for an offense that runs so much. His year was… variable. He busted Kansas for 220 last weekend; the previous two weeks he had a total of 15 carries for 42 yards against TCU and Oklahoma. He was effective in a midseason stretch; he got 12 carries for 41 yards against Texas and 7 for 30 against Oklahoma State.
Hubert's not overwhelming in his youtube clips, which also double as a quick look at the kind of things K-State does.
The Wildcat offense is misdirection running, misdirection running, misdirection running. Think Auburn or a super-sized high school.
As for Hubert, he's a little dude but he's got some Mike Hart in him.
Kansas State doesn't use him as a receiver much; he's averaging one catch per game.
Dangerman. When Kansas State does pass, most of the time they're looking for Tyler Lockett, who went Jeremy Gallon on Texas (237 yards) and Oklahoma (278). He did not have a similar impact in K-State other two conference losses only because he pulled up lame early in the Oklahoma State game and missed Baylor. He has returned to full health now, and Michigan will get a stiff test.
WRs Curry Sexton and Tramaine Thompson absorb most of the other completions. Thompson is as much of a deep threat as Lockett; as a team Kansas averages a healthy 15 yards a completion.
My name is Mueller. Prepare to die. Kansas State is middling at getting to the quarterback, with a sack percentage (ie, percentage of passing attempts ending in a sack) essentially equivalent to Michigan's. The teams are 70th (M) and 72nd. Unlike Michigan, KSU gets almost half their production from one guy. That is Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on out of Florida power St Thomas Aquinas who went from 14 tackles a year ago to 11.5 sacks this year.
Mueller is obviously a talented guy, but Michigan's tackles are quite good and have shut down just about anyone they've come across. At 6'2", 245, Mueller is strictly a DE/OLB type and could be vulnerable to donkeying by either tackle. In general a kickass DE does not bother me.
Meanwhile, Michigan has a bunch of bowl practices to familiarize themselves with the concept of a blitz pickup.
NAMES. Good gravy.
- Blake Slaughter. Countess's wrestling heel alter ego.
- Ajhane Brager
- Colborn Couchman
- Kip Daily
- Alauna Finau
- Kip Keely
- Charmeachealle Moore. Just stop naming your kid! It's over! You have used up all the letters you can for one name! No! I told you to stop! (Charmeachealle will have two more syllables by gametime.)
- Cre Moore. You can keep going.
- Curry Sexton. that's what she said
- Boston Stiverson
- Trent Tanking
- Kade True. He came from Salina, Kansas, with one mission: to stop Charmeachealle Moore's parents from giving their child a name so long it bankrupts the world economy. Can the power of earnestness overcome really long first names? QUEST FOR TRUETH. Summer 2014.
BONUS: In addition to two "Kips," K-State has two Dylans and a Dillon, a Tanner, four(!) Codys and a Kody, and two Travises.
Defense. K-State looks like a quality outfit, with a YPC allowed under 4 (sacks included) and a defense that's ceded just 6.3 yards per pass with more INTs (16) than TDs (13). But FEI hates 'em, ranking them 50th in a schedule adjusted system that puts them around the 25th percentile as far as BCS schools go. S/P+, which I don't like as much* but is another way to look at the data, puts K-State 53rd. The run defense is the issue, finishing 79th in S/P+.
And when you look at K-State's game by game, it does look pretty grim for them. NDSU blazed them for 215 in the opener; Texas went for 227; Oklahoma 301. In between those games are some better performances on the order of 30+ carries for 120, 130 yards against a bunch of passing-oriented Big 12 offenses. Is it good or bad when Texas Tech runs 27 times for 135 yards against you? Bad.
Who knows if Michigan's going to be able to do anything about this, but they have moved the ball on the ground reasonably well in two of their last three games.
*[I prefer drive-based systems because it feels weird to me that play systems look at 3 play, 90 yard drives differently than 11 play, 90 yard drives.]