I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
About last week:
It’s not your fault. Well, actually it might be partly your fault
Iowa (6-4, 3-3 B1G)
Last Game: BYE
Recap: BYE means they didn’t play football. So there isn’t much to recap. Instead, we can talk about Iowa basketball. The Hawkeyes are #25 in the Coaches Poll, and the first team out of the AP Poll. They haven’t exactly played a brutal schedule (UNC-Wilmington, Nebraska-Omaha, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Abiline Christian), but they are 4-0. Aaron White is scoring 15.3 ppg on 71% shooting and grabbing 7.8 rpg, and Roy Devyn-Marble is averaging 15 per game with a 4/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Oh crap, it’s still football season, isn’t it?
/deep, resigned sigh
It’s hard to know what to make of Iowa based on a meta-review of their season. They have some solid performances, and a couple of clunkers. They played Ohio State even through three quarters, but struggled to put away Missouri State. They played one solid half against Sparty, and one ugly half against Sparty. They turned in a decent but ultimately doomed performance against Wisconsin (think MInnesota’s game against Michigan; low variance, but opponent’s rock > their rock). They beat Minnesota soundly, but went to overtime with Northwestern in the midst of Pat Fitzgerald’s neverending tumble into pouting insanity. All in all, their record is probably a fair representation of who they are: 6-4, 3-3 in conference. Solid team, hardly a world-beater. They are #39 in FEI, just behind Michigan’s #35.
Everything about this team is generic but pretty okay; Jake Rudock is completing almost exactly 60% of his passes for just under 7 YPA. They average a solid but unspectacular 4.5 YPC. They have scored 125 points in conference play and have surrendered 119 points. They are average. The problem, of course, is that right now Michigan is trying to find average, and no one really knows where they are in that search at any given moment.
The good news is that Iowa doesn’t do any of the stuff that should really scare Michigan’s defense. They tempo a little bit, but they don’t TEMPO tempo, ya know (shut up, Hypothetical Straw Man Iowa Fan… going no-huddle and snapping the ball with 6 seconds on the play clock doesn’t count as “tempo”). They don’t spread the field very much; they’re lining up more spread out these days, but the offense remains largely the same as in the past. They rely on running between the tackles and setting up screens and draws. They ain’t Indiana. The BAD news is that Iowa’s run defense remains good enough that Michigan will probably be staring at 2nd and 9-to-12 all day. This is going to be so much fun to watch. Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.
This team is as frightening as: A giant noodle wearing an alternate jersey.
Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Those Iowa Tight Ends. We all know the history of the blitheringly open seam routes of recent Iowa games, and I worry about Joe Bolden’s pass drops and his ability to carry Jake Duzey or C.J.
Fiedorewitz Fadorawicz Fodoravitz the older guy down the seam.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that we will have to watch THIS unwatchable game for nearly as long as we had to watch LAST week’s unwatchable game.
When they play Michigan: Proper eye protection is a must.
Next game: vs. Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: Like it matters]
About last week:
I know I don’t normally opine on such things. I know I’m usually the snark guy. I just want to speak my piece, and I’ll return to character.
There is a legal concept called res ipsa loquitur, which is Latin for "the thing itself speaks." The idea is that usually when you sue someone, you have to explain what the person did wrong. But there are some times when the thing that happens is so obviously wrong that the blame speaks for itself. If you take your car in for an oil change, and while it's there the car gets pregnant, you don't have to know WHAT the mechanic did wrong to know that he screwed something up.
I've got a dozen specific complaints about the game plan, personnel use, and play calling from Saturday, but I don't need them. Rushing for negative yardage against this defense speaks for itself. This was probably the worst statistical game from the running back position in the history of Michigan football, and came against a team that EVERY OTHER TEAM has found a way to bludgeon on the ground. Does it matter any more whether the problem is one of scheme, specific playcalling, predictability, player prep, or the general bloodymindedness of the universe? Anyone who takes the players available, along with the information available, and produces *THAT* has failed in some fundamental aspect of his job. The details are of secondary concern. Can ANYONE come up with a theory by which the team that entered fall camp could end up where it is without massive, widespread failures by the individuals responsible for crafting an offense? I’m really asking.
Okay, I’m done. On with the snark.
Line of Scrimmage (3-1259, 2-688 B1G)
Last game: Defeated Michigan by 21 yards.
Recap: Two weeks ago, the Line of Scrimmage put up its first B1G conference win. One week later, it scored its first ever home victory. As a result, this week it is riding its first ever winning streak. It’s a good time to be that thin blue line.
The final margin (48 yards) was larger two weeks ago in East Lansing, but last week’s win was far more unlikely and impressive. Saddled with a Nebraska’s defense that was giving up about 200 yards per game on the ground, most expected the imaginary transverse line separating the offense from the defense to be an afterthought. Instead, it stood tall.
The LOS got the goose-egg off its back in 2003, when Oregon held Michigan to -3 yards rushing at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
This team is as frightening as: Don’t let that .002% all-time winning percentage fool you. This is a shortest-distance-between-two-points on the rise. Fear level = 8
Michigan should worry about: The LOS’s winning streak has been keyed by sacks. Without them, Forward Motion would have squeaked by with narrow wins the last two weeks.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: The LOS is an imaginary line, and therefore has no physical ability to affect the world around it.
When they play Michigan: Watch for the LOS to implement a new non-Euclidian approach, permitting it to attack the running game in multiple directions.
Next game: vs. Poor Damn FitzDevin Gardnerssaint
[AFTER THE JUMP: Actual opponents]
About last week:
Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But the light only touches Ann Arbor.
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 B1G)
Last game: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24 (W)
Recap: Had the Michigan game gone just a liiiiiittle differently, this would have been a frustrating result. Nebraska would have been Michigan's biggest remaining hurdle to a
Leaders Victors Legends Bo (NNTB) Division crown, and pulling one out of their ass like this would have been rather disappointing. Instead, the world just sucks and everything is terrible, so what the hell, FAT GUY HAIL MARY.
Nebraska outgained Northwestern 472-326, but turned the ball over four times and found themselves down 3 when the above hilarity happened. They actually faced a 4th and 15 at their own 24 with under a minute left, and Ameer Abdullah took a dump-off and broke about 4 tackles to gain 16 yards.
Despite the victory, Nebraska’s quarterback situation is a bit of a crap shoot. Taylor Martinez has a strained everything, and didn’t play in this one. Excluding the Fat Guy Hail Mary, Tommy Anderson Jr. and Ron Kellogg III combined for 21/41 for 228 yards (5.6 YPA), one touchdown, and four INTs. Armstrong is more mobile (he gained 69 yards on 17 carries), but his arm was rather Acme Rocket-like; among his three turnovers, he threw one of the worst picks you’ll ever see with about two and a half minutes left deep in its own territory with the game tied.
All things considered, the offense was still very productive, but it’s hard to say if the turnovers can be extricated from that productivity given the quarterback situation. Martinez is reportedly out for the Michigan game, though, which is a significant advantage for Michigan; Nebraska is going to have to tip its hand based on which QB is under center. If Armstrong is out there, I think you’ll see Jake Ryan out there on the assumption that Nebraska will be going run-heavy, whereas if Kellogg is out there Michigan will almost certainly be in a nickel.
This team is as frightening as: Oh hell everything is frightening now, even if it isn’t objectively frightening. Fear Level = 6
Michigan should worry about: Ameer Abdullah. He’s is already over 1100 yards on the season (or about negative-23 Michigan/MSU games worth), and is averaging 7.1 yards per tote. He's a home run threat who can also be an effective every-down back. With Martinez out last week, Abdullah got 27 touches, and there’s no reason to believe that number will decrease this week.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Nebraska’s Defensive FEI is 50th in the country… which is actually two spots BETTER than their Offensive FEI. They’ve put up some video game stats, but mostly against terrible defenses. They have played three defenses that are currently ranked in the top 93 in Defensive FEI (#23 UCLA, #30 Northwestern and #46 Minnesota), and have only averaged under 24 points per game in those three matchups. By comparison, they averaged 47 ppg against the #94, #95, #103, and #106 defenses and an FCS opponent. Michigan is statistically the best defense Nebraska will have faced this year.
When they play Michigan: Hurray for home games. Home games are good games. Home games don’t make me throw things.
Next game: @ Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: Poor Damn Northwestern]
About last week:
No one played football. John Beilein ate subs. Crazy. (H/T Bagelz McDerman)
Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 B1G)
MIchigan State dominated this game. Obviously.
Last game: Michigan State 42, Illinois 3 (W)
Recap: This game did not start off well for State. Sparty’s offense continued its offensive funk from the Purdue game into this one, moving the ball only 63 yards on Illinois’ not-quite-Indiana-bad-but-still-pretty-damn-bad defense through the first quarter and a half, and Illinois faced a 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line to take a 10-7 lead. Two stuffed and a 99 yard touchdown drive, which was capped by… this… on 3rd and 25, and this one was basically over. Sparty proceeded to rip off four consecutive touchdown drives to open the second half to put this one in the ‘laugher’ column.
So, we have 8 games of data on Michigan State’s offense. And I contend that we still don’t have a clue what the hell they are. I can’t mentally combine all of the data we have into a single coherent theory. With Michigan’s maddeningly inconsistent offense, we can at least point to a few obvious causal factors directly correlated with their struggles. I feel like the “keys to victory graphic” will say, “MICHIGAN: minimize turnovers, avoid negative plays on early downs,” and “MICHIGAN STATE: use Good Connor Cook, don’t use Bad Connor Cook.”
Michigan State’s offensive line has been surprisingly consistent these last few games, especially in the interior (grumble grumble), and they have been opening some decent creases and some large cutback lanes for Jeremy Langford and Delton Williams. But the key to the MSU O vs. Michigan D remains Connor Cook vs. himself, an there’s no predicting which Connor Cook will show up.
Defensively, I now believe there is enough on tape from State’s last few opponents such that a skilled tactician could plausibly develop an effective way to attack Narduzzi’s murder-death-kill machine. It’s like getting a single extra letter on the final round of Wheel of Fortune. You’ve gotta sound it out, but it’s there. Notre Dame had success going over top of the MSU corners to the outside. Purdue had some success throwing underneath those corners when they had slightly softer zones. Illinois and Iowa had some success down the seams. I have no earthly clue how to beat this defense, but the pieces are there for some mad genius. I know this “OMG BORGESSSSS” thing is getting old, but this really will be a gigantic test of his ability to put together a game-plan.
One thing that WON’T work against this defense? The zone stretch. So I cannot be accused of second-guessing anyone, I’m putting my marker down here: Michigan won’t average better than a yard a carry on stretches in this game.
I also have to give a quick note on Illinois. Before the season started, we all assumed Illinois would be the worst team in the Big Ten. But a couple of early season signs of life led people to opine, “gee, maybe they aren’t so bad,” and we turned our attention to BoilerQuest. But while Purdue may have the worst numbers, Illinois remains the worst team in the Big Ten. They make 2009-10 Michigan look like paragons of fortitude and resilience. A couple of small things went wrong, and the team seemed to declare with one loud, resolute voice, “welp.” This team is a collapse waiting for a trigger, and they’re not very patient.
This team is as frightening as: In honor of Halloween, we’re going with scary movies as our theme. For Sparty, that movie is 28 Days Later. You know they’re going to attack head on at high speed, and if you make one mistake you’re doomed. Also… East Lansing on game day == post-apocalyptic London, but without the dry wit. Fear level = 8
Michigan should worry about: Mike Sadler. Michigan State WILL fake a punt in this game. It WILL work. There is nothing you can do about that. Just try to keep it to a minimal gain beyond the sticks.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Michigan State runs the exact kind of offense that Michigan should be able to stop, both in terms of scheme and quality. They remain not good, and they’re predicated on staying ahead of the sticks by running the football in a traditional manner, with an occasional jet sweep mixed in for texture.
When they play Michigan: Michigan should just camp 7 guys in a straight line along the first down line on 3rd down and medium. A crossing pattern is coming. Consider yourselves warned.
Next game: /checks schedule… It says here “vs. Michigan”
[AFTER THE JUMP: Things you won’t care about until next week]
About last week:
Indiana (3-3, 1-1 B1G)
Last game: Michigan State 42, Indiana 28 (L)
Recap: Indiana put up 28 points against MSU, which was 11 points more than any other team has scored against Sparty this year. But they also gave up 42 points, which was 14 more points than Sparty has scored against any FBS team this year. Given the nature of Indiana’s season, neither of these should be surprising. IU jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when Tevin Coleman broke a 64-yard touchdown on the first series of the game, but he finished with only 15 yards on 14 carries outside of that. IU kept it close until State scored on the last drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half to take a 14 point lead.
Indiana simply couldn’t stop Michigan State, either in the air or on the ground. Sparty averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 7.6 yards per pass, both of which are, I believe, non-FBS highs for State. Indiana couldn’t defend the run in any way, shape, or form; their defensive ends were just getting destroyed, and their linebackers were leaving cutbacks and counters open all day. If the front side didn’t look like a cavern, the back side looked like a moonscape. And while this is a steadily-improving Michigan State offense, we’re still not talking about the ’85 Bears.
If Michigan can’t run the ball against Indiana… oh dammit I can’t even find a humorous way to finish that sentence because Michigan probably can’t run the ball against Indiana because even Indiana’s defense can stop the run when they put 13 guys in the box.
IU’s bowl quest is probably still on track, because they still have Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, and (sigh) Michigan on their schedule. Three more wins until the Pizza Pizza Bow… wait, there is not Pizza Pizza Bowl anymore? WHY CAN’T WE HAVE ANY NICE THINGS ANYMORE?
This team is as frightening as: An octopus. Noted for its intelligence and resourcefulness. Can open jars, pick works cup winners, and occasionally knock off some bigger prey, but for the most part they will just hang around looking unassuming and not standing out too much in any respect. Fear level = 4
Michigan should worry about: Kevin Wilson has an office. That office has a television. That television is attached to a video-playing device of some sort. As a result of this freak confluence of factors, that tackle-over thing won’t work, even against Indiana.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Hey, a home game. Sometimes those don’t start with Michigan doodling randomly for 40 minutes before looking at the clock and realizing “oh shit this exam is over in 20 minutes and if I hand it in like this I’ll fail.”
I SAID “SOMETIMES,” okay?
Seriously, this is the kind of game where if the defense plays well, the offense can MANBALL stumble its way to 30 points. Indiana isn’t a bad team, but they are an abysmal defensive team.
When they play Michigan: I still think Michigan wins this game. IU’s defense is terrible, their offensive line is banged up. One important matchup to watch will be Tevin Coleman coming out of the backfield. I don’t think Desmond Morgan can run with him, so it’ll be up to Mattison to figure something out or risk getting wheel routed like whoa.
Next game: @ Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: I get a little less snarky. No, that’s a lie. I can’t back that up.]
About Last Week:
Minus the golf. We get no respect, I tells ya. No respect at all…
Penn State (3-2, 0-1 B1G)
We’re not worthy… We’re not worthy… (Patriot-News)
Last game: Indiana 44, Penn State 24 (L)
Recap: Penn State came into this game 16-0 all-time against Indiana, and midway through the 3rd quarter they held a 14-13 lead. Then the wheels fell off. Indiana went on a 28-3 spurt, including three touchdowns in a span of 3:40 in the beginning of the 4thquarter. That, as they say, was that.
Penn State had a chance to grab control of this game early, and failed to capitalize. In their first first five drives they turned it over on downs at the Indiana 26, botched a snap on a 30 yard field goal for a loss of 31(!) yards, and had two other drives reach Indiana territory before stalling. For the game, Penn State racked up the yardage (which is unsurprising against Indiana), but couldn’t take advantage of generally good field position and sustain much of anything to the end zone when the game was still in doubt.
Hackenberg (30/55, 340, 3, 0) spread the yardage evenly between Allen Robinson (173 yards) and Not Allen Robinson (167 yards), which is pretty consistent with the rest of the season. Robinson currently has over 44% of PSU’s receiving yardage. The guy is legitimately frightening. Penn State isn’t doing anything fancy to isolate him. His two scores were on a quick slant in which he was immediately forced back outside and a hitch-and-go with a safety directly over top of him. Because he’s been lining up outside, my guess is that Countess draws Robinson with bracket help to the extent possible. I don’t know if it’ll help. For what it’s worth, Robinson did land on his back hard last week, but Penn State has indicated that he will be good to go for Saturday.
This team is as frightening as: MacGyver. He’s resourceful but under-resourced. It’s impressive that he’s able to be so productive in spite of his disadvantages. The remaining question is whether he can diffuse the bomb and take out the seven armed guards using nothing but his Allen Robinson. Fear level = 6
Michigan should worry about: The obvious answer is Allen Robinson. It is also the correct answer. But because that’s boring, I’ll say Zach Zwinak. This game will probably come down to Penn State’s passing game, but that passing game might depend on whether PSU can establish a plausible threat on the ground. If they can get ZZ Carrot Top going up the middle for 6 yards a pop early, it might loosen things up for Hackenberg and keep the DL from pinning its ears back.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Non-RR Michigan teams are 5-1 all-time in Happy Valley. We aren’t THAT far removed from the days in which We Own Penn State was a thing.
When they play Michigan: Penn State has lost both games they have played against teams carrying a pulse. Michigan has a pulse. Ergo, Michigan will certainly win. SCIENCE.
Next game: vs. #16/18 Michigan
[AFTER THE JUMP: More teams and things]