vicious electronic questioning
Gentleman, scholar, walrus.
With the Michigan State game just a few days away, you should all be familiar with the excellent blog The Only Colors—if you're frequenting, say, the RCMB instead of reading their content, you're not doing yourself any favors. I asked TOC's Heck Dorland (posts feed/Twitter) to do a scheme-centric Q&A and he went above and beyond with his responses; what follows is a remarkably in-depth look at how State operates on both sides of the ball and what it means for this weekend.
With the notable exception of the Purdue game, it appears that the offense has moved from complete incompetence to something resembling average. Have there been any significant schematic changes or is the improvement more a product of finding the right personnel?
I'd love to say that this happened:
*Dave Warner blows the dust and cobwebs off an old scroll and unfurls it*
“Uh, does anyone in here read... um...”
“That's Hurrian,” says a voice.
*everyone turns to look at Jim Bollman*
“What? I've been an 'Offensive Coordinator' who's not allowed to call plays for like, a decade now. What do you think I'm doing up there, calling my own plays and then comparing them one-by-one to Dave's plays, slowly nourishing a grudge with every play that I out-coordinate him? Hell no, I've spent the last two weeks polishing up the rough edges in my Aramaic. Anyways, it says something about six verts and a deadly curse...”
But that story would be an lie, as six verts is highly illegal. What mostly happened is the latter guess, MSU's guys either got better or got replaced by better guys behind them as this season has wore on.
A corner/go combo route; on this one, the go was obviously open.
If I had to identify a specific X's and O's change, I'd say most significant is how MSU has evolved to deal with man to man and one high safety/eight man box looks that tormented them in weeks one and two. This year MSU's passing game has been noticeably more willing to run various 'combo routes' (curl/corner, corner/post, corner/go etc.) against man-to-man than previous coordinators Roushar and Treadwell. Particularly effective vs these one high/man-to-man looks have been corner/go where MSU causes the CB to vacate on the go route and hit usually a tight end on the corner route towards the vacated space 15-20 down the sideline and corner/post where the outside receiver and slot receiver will mesh with the goal of freeing up the post over the middle, again, about 20-25 yards down-field. If you look at MSU's highlight reels since the YSU game, most of the big passing plays are coming against 8 man fronts, which was not true against WMU and USF.
[For the rest of the Q&A, hit THE JUMP. You should really, really read this.]
Back in the day, Brian Stouffer—yes, one of the puppet geniuses—and I had an annual GChat conversation that invariably took bizarre turns towards luchadores and sea mammals that incidentally discussed the looming game of the century of the week. I'm happy to report that we have resurrected this tradition, possibly made it even weirder.
Well, I guess we should start with the looming subplot everyone's been talking about all week: Jameis Winston.
Let's just talk the whole time about him.
I think we should also talk about how Mack Brown did not recruit him. I certainly hope Michigan's coaches check with each and every QB prospect they recruit about this.
"Son, does Mack Brown have any idea who you are?"
"We would like to offer you a scholarship, son."
"I have never played football."
I think I am literally the only human being alive who both did not get a scholarship offer from Mack Brown and did not become a megasuccessful quarterback.
Johnny Unitas, Vince Young, Barry Sanders, and John Flansburgh are amongst the many incredibly successful quarterbacks Mack Brown ignored.
I was in fact offered two scholarships to play quarterback at Texas.
That makes sense, since I saw you separate your shoulder throwing a ping pong ball at a tailgate a few years ago.
Right. Anyway. This is going to be over soon. How are you feeling about this?
This game or this chat?
I don't think we've got enough content for the chat yet.
I dunno, Courier New, 14 point, 2 inch margins. Let's turn it in and hit happy hour.
We can watch my DVD of the classic 1973 ND-Michigan game. Mark May said it was the best of the whole series.
The internet doesn't have margins. We'll have to soldier on, even if I want to fire up the 1968 classic in which Kirk Gibson hits a walk-off home run to send the game to a shootout.
Rob Ufert's call of Kork Gorbson's game-tying walk-off digeridomer was perhaps the best Michigan Manment of all time. Of all time!
Man I love imaginary games. Although I think we can all agree that the best one was the Christmas Day Notre Dame-USC game that the security guard at Nakatomi Plaza was watching.
All of our games are about to be imaginary. We'll have to hop on Google Chat in 2015 and say "I killed your quarterback" / "nuh-uh, he's got a force field" / "my defense has a force field disruptor" / "Well, my defense oversigns"—RECORD SCRATTTTTCH
"Well I'll be, your downfield throwing field-adjusted VORP is higher than ours. I concede you have the superior side. And nobody had to get hurt in the process!"
But hey isn't it better that we work out our differences with words instead of violence and tackling?
I think you know the answer to that is "hell no."
[AFTER THE JUMP: things cease being strange. lol jk]
An old tradition around here was to team up with a blog that covered the team we're about to play, ask each other some burning questions about what they see in themselves, and wait for the respective message boards to blow up about how tinted that guy's glasses must be. This week I meant to bring it back by interviewing ND's puppet quarterback depth chart, however when we got there we learned they had all been poisoned by Blazing Sea Nuggets. So, second choice: we now bring it back with founder of the very large blog/message board for ND fans (the ones who aren't psychopaths, or at least the good kind), Frank Vitovich of UHND. Part 1, where I answer his queries, is here.
Let's peel this right away, (CUCK-CUH-CAW!): Where does Michigan stand in the pantheon of Notre Dame rivalries and how do the fans feel about [CUH-CHEE-CHAW!] pulling out of the series? Was this really necessitated by the [COO-COO-CA-CHAH!] ACC or was that an excuse? [A COODLE DOODLE DOO]
That depends on who you ask. Some Notre Dame fans will down play the rivalry because of all of the gaps in the series and some of the early history and controversy. I am not one of those fans. I am going to miss the series because of the genuine dislike fanbases of the two schools have for each other.
|If we're not rivals then why is your band
clearly worshipping our former punter /
space emperor? [Upchurch]
I am not saying that as a bad thing either. Quite the contrary. Part of what has made Michigan and Notre Dame games so much fun over the years is the fact that each teams fans really don't care much for the other institution. That might actually be putting it mildly.
Yes, it is true that Notre Dame has played schools like Michigan State and Purdue more times, but those games rarely, if ever bring with them the hype, excitement, and intensity of a Notre Dame - Michigan game.
USC still have to be considered Notre Dame's top rival given the deep history of that series just as Ohio State would be considered Michigan's top rivals, but after the Trojans, it's hard for me to thing of a rivalry I've enjoyed watching more over the years. Part of that could be because I grew up in the 80's and haven't lived through the large gaps that a lot of older Notre Dame fans have, but all I know is that the Michigan game is one of the games I circle every year and there isn't a single opponent I have seen Notre Dame play more times in Notre Dame Stadium than Michigan.
I do see the rivalry coming to an end because of Notre Dame's new ACC commitments and not simply wanting to get out of the series. Hopefully something gets worked out and the two are back on each others schedules in the near future.
[Rest after the jump]
SH: That hasn't been the sense I've gotten, but this is squishy and unquantifiable.
BC: The inevitable 16-team end game isn't even a conference anymore. You get one game against the other division. One!
SH: Yup. Current lineup in the SEC still has two, but yes. In a 16 team format you get one, unless we're talking about adding more games. We are inevitably talking about adding more games.
BC: At least there's that. If there's anything good that comes out of all of this it's the reduction of bodybag games like last weekend's SEC schedule. But what does one game do? It means you play the teams in the other division once every four years, ie less often than ACC teams will play Notre Dame. I stop caring about those teams when I don't play them. Instead of having a rich history with Iowa I have a vague relationship with them.
I think we should insert "Someone I Used to Know" here.
SH: Framed against a pic of Adam Jacobi.
Rest of it at the link. I'm apoplectic and this was before I'd found out what the divisions were going to be!
What's the deal with your quarterback rotation? Who is Michigan going to see more of?
The deal with it is that Northwestern decided to get experimental when there was sort of no need to. Basically Northwestern started the year with Kain Colter at quarterback, which was working, then decided to bring in Trevor Siemian for some drives. Siemian, you see supposedly has a better arm while Colter's the better runner, which gave teams different looks, plus allowed Colter to split out to wide receiver. This eventually translated into Colter coming in for drives with lots of run plays or short passes and Siemian running drives with lots of pass plays. This eventually translated into defenses realizing what was going on and stopping it, because duh.
However, I think that idea is over: Siemian only threw one pass in the team's last game against Iowa. I think Colter's the guy going forward - he's not an awful passer, and really has the moves to make guys miss on scrambles and options. I just wish he'd been playing all-time QB all year long, because I think NU would have won one of the games we lost. Against Iowa, Colter was finally given the green light to throw a deep ball, and lo, it was like a 60 yard touchdown.
[ed: if you're reading this, Roger, do not make an attempt to decipher the picture at right. that way lies madness]
Northwestern had a really highly touted wide out corps coming into the year - the best in the conference, according to them! - with a lot of tall, quick guys with a lot of upside. It hasn't really panned out yet, but I think two years down the line that statement could be true, but right now it isn't there. That said, part of it is the balls aren't getting to them because of the QB's and another is that Northwestern's running game is so effective the pass just serves to spread the field.
Prater's a really weird story - he's obviously got the physical skills that made him the top wide receiver in the country in high school, but something just isn't right. I think he's a step slower than people think, and Northwestern's offense tends not to center around getting one receiver the ball every time it's in the air anyway. He did have a one-on-one downfield a few weeks ago and had his guy beaten, but the pass from Siemian was way underthrown.
Are you disappointed in the offense? It seems to alternate between thumping bad teams and surviving on a surfeit of fortune against good ones and Minnesota.
The dilly-dallying between Colter running and Siemian passing was really stupid and dumb and I hated it. It was cool for exactly one week that Kain Colter would split out wide and make some catches. Then teams keyed onto it and it stopped being fun, because unsuccessful gimmicks are still unsuccessful. The offense is still the highlight of Northwestern, and its excessively enjoyable to watch Colter run the option with Venric Mark, but the playcalling has lacked imagination at times.
Is the Northwestern secondary as reliably Northwestern-y as usual? I notice you've given up a ton of passing yards but the efficiency number (48th) is less depressing than normal.
A lot of the poop happened when Northwestern gave up 470 yards to Syracuse Week 1. It was everywhere, but mainly on Demetrius Dugar's side of the field. The poop, that is.
Northwestern has looked okay against the pass since, but lockdown freshman Nick VanHoose is hurt. Without him, problems? I don't know.
One of these mammals is Fitzgerald Toussaint. One is Henri, the Otter of Ennui. BUT WHICH ONE
How are the Wildcats against the run? Do you have guys who can run at tailbacks while completely unblocked and tackle? That's really all they have to do. I don't even think you have to answer this question.
After literally decades where this was not true, Northwestern seems to have a passable run defense. David Nwabuisi is a competent tackler at middle linebacker, as are Damian Proby and Chi Chi Ariguzo at the outside spots. There were some problems against Penn State - understandable, you know, like the old saying goes, Zwinek and Zordich and pray for umm... zirconia? Zagreb? - but for the most part, this is a rare Northwestern unit that likes wrapping up tackles when they're meant to be wrapped up.
Knicks 2011-2012 : Linsanity :: Knicks 2012-2013 : ???
The Knicks resign John Shurna after cutting him at the end of training camp. I mean, he wouldn't play ever, but I'd probably be just as excited about seeing him at the end of the bench every time I watched games as I was during the height of the Lin thing.
What is wrong with this damn conference? You guys are smart. Figure this out.
I ran this past some guys in the Northwestern science department, which is not an actual department. We took the Big Ten standings for the past 15 years and organized them using the Hernstrom-Cafferty Coefficient, which is something I just made up. By putting on goggles, taking some blue liquid in one graduated cylinder and pouring it into a yellow liquid contained in a beaker, as well as nodding and taking notes when the liquids changed colors, we determined that there is, in fact, a statistically significant dip in the Prager-Pellini Quotient of the 2012 Big Ten conference, which is another thing I just made up. After looking at the results, we can safely hypothesize that the main problem with the Big Ten is, beyond a preponderance of a doubt, caused by something we've coined the Cook Microprontomial Factor, which is a fancy science term for all of your dicks. The problem with the Big Ten is your dicks. Your scrawny, unceasingly pathetic dicks.
[ed: : ( ]
In other news, I have a degree from Northwestern University, but I'll be damned if you ever ask me what my GPA was. I got my transcript mailed to me in about July and I threw that nonsense in the bottom of my sock drawer before even I could read it.
Do you sometimes wish that Northwestern's journalism school didn't exist?
Yes. If Northwestern's journalism school doesn't exist, I don't apply to Northwestern. I don't apply to Northwestern, I apply some place where the sports teams don't finish up every game by scooping your non-vital organs out with a melon baller and eating them in front of your eyes, then scooping your eyes out with the same melon baller without washing it, likely getting lots of gross gastric juices inside of your brain cavity. If Northwestern did not have a journalism school, I wouldn't have to follow Northwestern sports, and therefore I'd be able to go on job interviews and talk to girls without people asking me about why I have a friggin melon-baller shaped gouge mark in my chest, dripping entrails.
[ED: I was just hoping for a Darren Rovell zinger.]
I hit up Hustle Belt's Matt Sussman to enquire about the OHIO Bobcats. Matt's a BGSU man himself but has taken in scads of MAC basketball this year. Hit his site Hustle Belt or follow him on twitter. Curling tweets!
Matt was also good enough to clarify the origin of Ohio being OHIO: "if you gander at ohio.edu you'll see the all caps damn near everywhere. Just doing what they want, to the extreme." The Mountain Dew of schools. Still, they annihilated GT.
It's a terrible strain on OHIO football fans to get mentally prepared for, say, Kent State then suddenly hear in the news that they might be playing Michigan, spend $50 on a one-game ticket, watch film on Denard then finally realize what Brady Hoke is doing. All this money adds up especially when compounded with student loans and translates directly into 4.6 points per basketball contest.
There are a few things that leap off the page when you hit up OHIO's Kenpom sheet:
1) Turnovers forced. The Bobcats are second nationally. DJ Cooper has an Aaron Craft-like steal percentage. Can he give Trey Burke as much trouble as Craft, or is he more of a high-risk, high-reward type of guy? Do they use weird zones or is this just a man to man D that gets into passing lanes really well?
Coop (the kids call him Coop) is kind of a risk-taker and they'll go between zone and man. Really I think the entire team is so solid defensively that they can allow Cooper (sportswriters call him Cooper) to really frustrate his man.
2) Three-point defense. Pomeroy has dedicated a series of posts this fall to the idea that three point D is basically luck and that the real number to look at is the number of threes conceded. The Bobcats are great at the former (19th nationally, 30%) and not good at the latter (36% of opponent shots are from three, 261st). Not to denigrate the MAC, but is this a league with a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks?
Well, four of the five first team All-MACers were power forwards, so ... maybe kinda. (The fifth was DJ Cooper, FWIW.) Couple theories on this: the one you mentioned, or that their interior defense is better than advertised so all they have left is to shoot the three. I can think of one "chucker" in the MAC and he plays for Buffalo, a team they beat three times despite having two outstanding forwards and a better seed in the MAC Tournament.
3) Speaking of a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks, if you click the conference toggle for the Bobcats Kenpom tells you they're dead last at shooting threes (barely over 30%) and take a ton (38%). These guys are just going to shoot over guys without even trying to find an open shot a lot, right?
Is this another question about DJ Cooper? Because yes. I think the ghost of Tommy Freeman does inhabit the occasional Bobcat from time to time. The only one who usually makes them is Clark Kellogg's son Nick, and if CBS wants to run that storyline into the ground they'll find a way. And yes, they are prone to going three-happy, and risk-taking in general on offense. Oh, that can sometimes have hilarious results.
As far as individual matchups go, it looks like OHIO is actually bigger than Michigan. M rotates Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan at the five and will have both on the floor for a few minutes per game; it looks like Ohio has a 6'8" two-headed center and an actual power forward named Ivo Baltic. How much of a post force is he? Can Zack Novak reasonably match up against him?
Anytime I see Baltic play, he has some nice quick moves whether it's to the basket or to separate for a 10- to 15-footer. He's a reliable 4 but I wouldn't call him one of the tops in the MAC ... just one of the many sound interior players along with Reggie Keely and Jon Smith.
DJ Cooper (right) has a monster assist rate, draws a ton of fouls, shoots well from the line... and is pretty horrible at all other shots. Poor man's Lewis Jackson: fair comparison? What does he have to do to make Michigan worry?
The team is nothing without him but he can't be everything. When he stays as a true point guard he's at his best. He can score 20 points as long as he lets Baltic and Keely and Kellogg and Offutt also score 10 or 15 points. If those other guys are getting into position and he can pass to them regularly, then he's going to put Michigan in a world of hurt.
While he can sometimes get the big shot, he's not particularly known for it. Dangle that carrot in his face that the game depends on his very next shot with 12 minutes to go and that may be the key to his undoing.
Is there anything in what Ohio does that seems likely to give an undersized, outside-shooting-dependent, shallow Big Ten team issues?
You gave away the answer already! Three-point defense. Take Northern Iowa for example. Big-time reliant on the 3-point shooting, not a lot of inside size. OHIO's guards contested lots of threes, rebounded well, and they put UNI away by several points on the road. It was a big win at the time that looks progressively worse with age, but that's basically the blueprint. Strong guard defense, get everybody involved on offense.
Two years ago OHIO took down three-seeded Georgetown by 14, with Cooper featuring. Anything other than a coaching talking point to be taken from that? Repeatable due to scheme and talent?
Keely got some points, Baltic had a cameo appearance, but other than Cooper's great game and John Groce being present and clapping and stomping I'm not putting much stock into that anomaly. Let's remember that OHIO was a NINE seed in the MAC tournament that year. They were about as inconsistently hot that year as a Hot Pocket. It's been two years since the Georgetown upset and I still can't figure out how it happened other than to say it was just the best two-week stretch of Armon Bassett's life and maybe he was bitten by a radioactive basketball.
On an upset alert scale ranging from "Captain Renault is shocked that Kansas underperformed its seed" to "Sixteen seed takes down one," how would you rate this 4-13 matchup?
Sir Lancelot, played by D.J. Cooper, single-handedly storming the castle where a wedding is being held, but never gaining ground. Like many other 4-13s: can happen, might happen, probably won't happen, not willing to wager money it won't happen.
MAC rivals have started calling the Bobcats "Ohio State," right?
That's not really fair to a team that will actually travel to a MAC school for a game.