"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
miami (not that miami)
9/6/2008 – Michigan 16, Miami (Not That Miami) 6 – 1-1
Could you maybe throw it at the receivers? No? Well, I tried.
Michigan fans have had a lot of ominous signs presented to them in the first two weeks of the season. There is a walk-on at quarterback. When Mark Ortmann was injured last week, a walk-on replaced him at left tackle. At one point during last week’s game the skill players went like this: sophomore, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman. Steve Brown is reminding folks of the sucky version of Ryan Mundy. There has been much to fret over.
But nothing has struck fear in me like what occurred late in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s ten-point win over a MAC team: the students burst into a chorus of “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”
On the one hand, get it in while you can, kids. On the other: you have got to be kidding me. Why stop there? Let’s rush the damn field.
Game two was a virtual replay of game one minus some opponent competence, and does little to reassure that Michigan isn’t going to struggle its way towards a rinky-dink bowl that won’t actually be in Shreveport but might as well be.
Outside of two Actual Touchdown Drives, the offense was more of the same minus even one downfield completion. The defense was pretty good but Miami’s receivers did them a whole host of favors; it does not look as dominant as it needs to be given the Yakety Sax on the other side of the ball.
Which, like, okay. It kind of sucks that this season is going to be rough but given the cards Rodriguez was dealt it’s understandable. If this was Carr and the future stretched out like tapioca pudding, I would understand it and perhaps participate. But it’s not.
The discontent from some quarters is as obvious as it is petulant. When Michigan got the ball back after their second touchdown drive, the case for Lloydball could not have been more obvious. Every pass you throw is an invitation to disaster. You’re up two scores with around 6-7 minutes left in the game. Your defense has given up six points. You can’t lose unless you do something disastrously stupid, which happens to be your offense’s speciality.
So you do the obvious, boring thing: run-run-run-punt. And then some guy in the stands turns to me and says “not even one pass?” and I die a little bit inside because this man has no idea about game theory and no patience for a transition and was probably one of those guys posting spleen on the internet you may have run across if you’re a glutton for punishment or it’s kind of your job.
That’s an extreme example of a guy who seemed to seize an opportunity to sarcastically grumble about TINYFMF*, but I see lesser examples criticizing Rodriguez for “not adapting his offense” or “sacrificing this season” and all that, and I just think “what are you supposed to do when not even Tacopants can catch any pass thrown more than ten yards downfield?” There is no offense you can adapt to when your quarterbacks are slow white guys who can’t throw and your offensive line is a patchwork melange of who-dats, freshmen, and walk-ons.
Everyone’s permitted their immediate “#&$*!” when Steven Threet launches a pass into the troposphere or McGuffie is swarmed in the backfield or Steve Brown demonstrates his mastery of non-Euclidean geometry. Outside of that your best course of action is patience, tolerance, and whiskey.
*(This Is Not Your Father’s Michigan Football)
Bullets of crank:
- I just want to note this for the record: you can’t find a Michigan blog out there that has leveled anything resembling criticism of the new regime. Meanwhile, there are plenty of You Shouldn’t Extrapolate But HA HA HA columns in the newspapers. This will be ignored in two years when papers are filled with stories about how Rodriguez is triumphant over the eBays, message blogs, internets, and assorted other insane rabble.
- The students started a wave when Michigan was up four points in the third quarter. This is unacceptable. Waves require at least a two-score lead. We need some senior leadership in the stands, too.
- Also unacceptable: the RAWK MUSIC backing to the highlights shown at the end of the third quarter. What is this, Michigan State? After the band takes the field, the only music in the stadium comes from them. Someone find the guy who made that decision and put him in stocks on the diag.
- WHERE IS MY CRANBERRY JUICE?
- I’ll be the last man on earth to say it: Donovan Warren’s audition for the punt return job should be over. He’s not good at it, he’s too valuable to risk, and he refuses to make a fair catch. Boubacar Cissoko had some promising kickoff returns; let him have a crack.
- Michigan’s problems with underneath coverage continued; the little dreads guy on Miami must have caught 4 or 5 little hitch routes that he managed to turn upfield because a late-arriving linebacker—usually Thompson—did not tackle immediately.
- I’m worried about Troy Woolfolk, who the coaches seem deathly afraid to put on the field. I’m dying for a 4-2-5 nickel package against these spread teams.
- I LOLed at the Miami coach’s clock management. Actually, that’s not true. Despite the fact that it was helping Michigan win I was livid because for some reason clock malfeasance drives me crazy, but: Miami was running, huddling, and watching the clock wind down when they were down two scores with six minutes left, and they didn’t even use all their timeouts on Michigan’s final run-run-run-punt drive. What a maroon.
- Who’s excited for the worst Michigan-Notre Dame game ever?
Run Offense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
This did not go so well against Utah. Michigan running backs collected 34 yards on 15 carries against the Utes, with 21 of those coming on one Brandon Minor dive up the gut. The offensive line was awful, the running backs tentative. Nick Sheridan ripped a ball away from Sam McGuffie, causing a fumble. At some point Greg Frey had an aneurysm.
So hurray for a MAC team that was 76th in rush defense last year, yielding 4.2 YPC. In games against BCS opponents (and Minnesota and Syracuse), M(NTM)U did this:
Miami lost the Cincinnati and Colorado games by vast margins, lost to Minnesota in OT, and beat Syracuse.
We can excuse the Orangemen from consideration if only because putting them anywhere near the same plane as Michigan football is reason for suicide or worse (Carrier Dome season tickets!). Other than that, we have two hideous things and one acceptable performance in a 47-10 loss that probably saw a lot of uninspired dives into the line.
Things got better as the season went along. The Redhawks finished fourth in the MAC in run defense. They also return six of their front seven, though the linebackers are overhyped because they all have a lot of tackles because the defense provided many opportunities to make them.
This continued into their season opener against Vandy. QB Chris Nickson, who you may remember playing Guy At The Bottom Of Huge Pile during the 2006 Vandy-Michigan game, blowed up, with 166 yards on 20 carries. As a whole, Vandy went for 269 yards on 50 rushes, 5.4 a pop. Vandy.
We’re not at the point where anyone can say anything about this Michigan team’s offense with confidence, but if we can’t plow these guys we’re in for a long, long year.
Key Matchup: The interior line versus their interior line. Junior Samoans had Michigan butts in the backfield much of the day; if this continues against Miami, look out.
Pass Offense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
This also did not go well against Utah, though the line’s pass protection seemed okay. Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet combined to complete zero passes for a negative billion yards and threw Nazi Germany interceptions while fumbling Hindenberg times. Michigan scored Satan points.
Or something. Both quarterbacks looked spazzy, though Threet was significantly less so. The receivers caught what balls they could but struggled to get separation from the defensive backs. The line just barely held together. The results: yuck.
At Miami, three starters return to a secondary that was respectable (56th) in pass efficiency D in 2007. Vandy didn’t test this much, throwing only 16 passes. Think of Chris Nickson as Nick Sheridan who can run.
Why bother analyzing this? Sheridan looked awful, Threet slightly less awful. They’re going up against a MAC defense and should execute better; the real test will be to see if anyone can block for the short screens there will be a profusion of. I can’t tell you anything else. Hope for competence, fear reality.
Key Matchup: Dr. Completely Adequate Noodle Arm Quarterback versus Mr. Spaz.
Run Defense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
Michigan’s newly svelte and angry defensive line had a banner day against Utah; now they come up against a Miami team that ground out 3.8 YPC and 96 yards against Vandy. Though Vandy was kind of shockingly good (32nd) against the run last year the Vanderbilt Sports Line was pleasantly surprised they kept it up:
the defense looked stout despite losing the linebacking corps and many of the heavies up front, as Mo Patton highlights in today's Tennessean.
This defense was not that defense that was pretty good against an SEC schedule, this defense is much younger. And just beat South Carolina, but have you seen South Carolina? How bad is NC State? I’m off topic?
Sophomore Thomas Merriweather had 59 yards on just 10 carries against the ‘Dores and appears to be your nominal starter; junior Andre Bratton had a much tougher go of things, with just 13 yards on 7 carries.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor the defensive line and linebackers held Utah to 36 yards rushing… sort of. A barrage of sacks saw Brian Johnson end the day with –66 yards; meanwhile thumping power back Matt Asiata averaged 5.9 a carry on an array of Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws and other carries that went straight up the middle. This could be a worrying sign that Michigan’s faulty interior run defense has not been repaired.
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus expectations.
Pass Defense vs. Miami (Not That Miami)
Last week Michigan went up against a fifth-year senior with a history of excellent production when he managed to stay on the field. This week they’ve got junior Daniel Raudabaugh, who completed 55% of his passes last year, averaged 6.4 YPA against a MAC schedule, and threw 12 interceptions to twelve touchdowns. Against Vanderbilt he was 19 of 41 and threw three picks, though his coach thinks a couple of them were not his fault. Last year Miami was 102nd in passing efficiency.
That figures to go up this year. Last year every significant pass receiver graduated, as did the quarterback; this year all return. The top two guys are mighty mites, MAC versions of Deon Butler. They go by “Dustin Woods” and “Eugene Harris”. There is also a man named Fitz Bobo.
The Michigan secondary, on the other hand, was pretty excellent last week except for a huge Steve Brown screwup and the persistent inability of Michigan’s linebackers to cover anyone. The linebackers are getting switched around, but more comforting is the idea that going over the middle is kind of a dangerous proposition when you’re Daniel Raudabaugh and not a fifth-year senior.
The defensive line was all over Brian Johnson, sacking him six times and drawing four penalties based on their extreme pressure (two holding flags, two intentional groundins). Miami’s replacing a couple starters from a line that was 74th in sacks allowed last year; this should be a major advantage for Michigan.
Miami might break one big play when someone (Brown, Evans, Thompson) screws up in coverage, but it will probably be heavy on YAC. Leaving Raudabaugh in the pocket for extended periods of time will be unwise.
Key Matchup: Michigan linebackers against short annoying routes. Michigan needs to clamp down on the short passing game; covering the first receiver is likely to lead to major lost yards for Miami, as we saw in the second half of the Utah game.
Michigan’s special teams were an unexpected boon in the last game, blocking their first punt since Marquise Walker was on the team,—seriously—hitting a 50-yard field goal, getting a good kick return from Brandon Harrison, and just generally looking like a net benefit for the team.
The two downers were a shanked Zoltan quasi-half rugby punt and Donovan Warren’s punt return death wish—stick that hand in the air, son—but overall the Rodriguez era’s special teams debut was an excellent one.
Miami has an erratic kicker with some leg; he was only 50% on field goals from 30-39 last year. Their punter is excellent; their returns uninspiring.
Key Matchup: Don’t see one. Neither team is likely to get much of a punt return game going, and the kickers are the kickers. Maybe Miami Kicker Guy versus Makeable Field Goal.
In the past, this space used pictures of kittens to mock the idea that South Carolina’s 0-6-2 record since 1984 on the road against teams with mascots on the endangered species list had any relevance on the future. But it’s a new era, and Michigan’s coach is just about the complete opposite sort of coach. So what’s the opposite of a cat?
Garfield Minus Garfield is the opposite of a cat. It is the essence of anti-cat.
- The quarterbacks look equally spazzy.
- There’s no push from the offensive line.
- Michigan gets chunked up the middle again.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Miami’s quarterback looks like he has angry winged growths coming out of his armpits.
- That underneath coverage thing gets figured out.
- The game ends with Michigan ahead.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Wow We Suck, –1 for Wow They Lost To Vandy Handily, –1 for …And Any Half-Decent BCS Team Blew Them Out Last Year, +1 for Are We A Half-Decent BCS Team?, +1 for Spaz One or Spaz Two Starts At Quarterback, –1 for We’re Like A Two-Touchdown Favorite, Thanks Vegas! ).
Desperate need to win level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for If This Is Not A Solid Victory, Look Out, –1 for Does It Really Matter, +1 for Yes, There’s A Bowl Streak, +1 for And They’re In The MAC)
Loss will cause me to... not read other Big Ten blogs for a week.
Win will cause me to... WOO MOTOR CITY BOWL HERE WE COME.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Michigan should win if only because they will physically overmatch Miami on defense in spectacular fashion. Okay, the Redhawks weren’t badly outgained by Vandy and Vandy just beat South Carolina, but… seriously, folks. I really doubt Miami will have an opportunity to make the plays Brian Johnson did.
Offensively, it will be ugly again but there should be some short fields and the team should be more functional if only because their performance last week was about as bad is it could feasibly be. If the OL can battle the DL to a stalemate and let Michigan’s skill guys take over, there will be a drive or three of actual length. Don’t expect fireworks; don’t expect last week.
Probably. I do take heart in the massive line (M –15) put out by Vegas.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Threet starts and plays most of the game; Sheridan sees a couple series here and there.
- Tim Jamison gets two sacks.
- Michigan’s run game is at least passable.
- Michigan, 24-13.