Michigan and Miami of Ohio
Well that was rather uninspiring. All I can say is that it was a much needed win and not much else. It was also a welcome change in terms of stomach acid production over last week. That may also have something to do with my staying dead sober for the entire game. Our level of play did produce some new thoughts on the team though.
Looking Back - Some thoughts looking back on the game after sleeping on it:
Did our offense turn a corner? Bullets:
- Sam McGuffie sure did. Getting him outside during the last scoring drive really showed the extra gear he has to gain the corner. I am really getting excited about this kid. He was tough after contact and protected the ball as if Mike Hart was coaching him how.
- Sheridan seemed to "get it" on that last scoring drive as well. He was decisive and getting the ball to the target much quicker, which gave the defense less time to react. He needs to try falling forward on scrambles/keepers and use his 6' frame to gain that extra yard or two instead of trying to juke linebackers.
- Threet is still a big step up above Sheridan at QB. His running was more productive IMO because he took what was available without trying fancy moves to get more. Much better arm than Sheridan (Mr. Noodle) as well.
- We need Mathews back badly. Odoms was good, but seems to be little more than a checkdown option/screen guy. That is important in its own right but a sure handed receiver with some savvy in getting open downfield would really help Threet shine I think.
- This was a better game plan I think. RR obviously is a great coach, but this gameplan demonstrated to me that he is up to the challenges this young team will present. Great first drive with plays designed to score first and take that edge. Much more conservative to help ensure the win (needed so badly as it was). That last scoring drive was genius I thought, sweeping McGuffie outside after pounding inside most of the game really worked.
- I think it was a good idea to switch in Sheridan as much as possible. RR might reap the rewards from this if Threet goes down to injury (or meltdown).
I wasn't very impressed by the defense this week. Giving up only 6 points was great, but they seemed always on the edge of breaking. Bullets:
- Our coverage is not nearly as good as advertised. I seemed obvious to me that a Brian Johnson level QB would have caused a lot of damage in this game as he did in the last. Stevie Brown...
- ...is bad. He seems to just make poor decisions in coverage. I have no specific examples but his name came up on a lot of plays that made our defense look bad I thought.
- Trent and Warren are not the lockdown corners I was really expecting to carry this defense. This may change and honestly really needs to.
- Gut runs are killing us. With all the emphasis Shafer seems to put on sacks and pass rush, I wonder if it is affecting our ability to effectively stuff the run.
- Mouton looked really good to me. He really stuck a few guys and seemed generally in good position. Dunno if he was in for Evans or Panter?
- D-line was solid again IMO.
Hats Off Awards:
- McGuffie! - Dude finally got to show off his jets and looked strong as well. Really bulled through some would-be tacklers for extra yardage several times. Can't say enough about how impressed I was both in his progression from the first game and RR's ability to create plays getting the McGuffinator in the open. Hats Off!!!
- RR - I can't really say what exactly felt different, but this team was more sure of itself. I think he has big things up his sleeve for ND. Hats Off!!! on your first win Coach.
- MiaOH QB - Can't remember his name, but then he might not either. Still, he tried to get up which is more than we can say for Morelli. Hats Off!!! brother, cause the doctor needs to take a look.
- MiaOH coach - I really respect how well this guy prepared his team to play this game. I thought their offense made our D look silly and just bad at times. MiaOH will win several MAC games to be sure. Hats Off!!! for staying with us.
- UMTailgate - I made these: http://umtailgate.com/2008/09/04/make-your-own-damn-ribs, and they were delicioius. Hats Off!!!
With everyone seemingly calling a ND win next Saturday I have to say NSFMF. ND looked certainly less than intimidating in their narrow win over SDSU. I would say that their offense is better than ours at this point, but their defense is much worse. This should lead to a fairly even contest I think as far as players are concerned. I really expect RR to coach circles around Fatty Weis though. I think Threet will play much more of the game unless we jump out to a huge lead. I further predict that huge leads won't happen for either team as the offenses struggle to score points.
I was pleased with how close the MiaOH game turned out to what I was predicting http://mgoblog.com/content/preview-miami-not-miami#comments (comment #7) and would like to make another stab at it for this week. I am seeing a win where Michigan special teams will make the difference and KC Lopata provides the winning margin. Very close score... I'd say Michigan 20, ND and the Fat Man - 17.
Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan offense showed us Michigan fans a new offensive wrinkle against Miami (OH) this week. The use of the "I" formation comes as a surprise from a coach who runs a vast majority of his plays out of the shotgun spread. But in the transition from Lloyd Carr's run-oriented offense to the spread, Michigan's personnel suggests that some more tradition offensive sets might be advantageous.
The advantage of the "I" formation comes in several ways.
1. The "I" formation is an unbalanced set that forces the defense to choose strength. The quarterback lines up under center, the fullback lines up directly behind the QB, and the tailback lines up behind the fullback. Most defenses will call strength toward the tight end; if there is no tight end, they will call strength to the two-receiver side. If your standard 4-3 defense shifts to the strong side, an offense can gain a numbers advantage to the weak side by sending the fullback and tailback to that side.
2. The "I" formation provides a lead blocker in the running game. Unlike most plays in the spread offense, an I-back can follow his lead blocker on wham plays. On a wham (aka "iso") the offensive linemen turn their men away from the hole and the fullback leads through the hole on a linebacker. If the linebacker attacks the block head on, the I-back can cut in either direction. If the linebacker attacks with one shoulder, which he should, the running back should be able to read the block and cut in the other direction.
3. The "I" formation gets a running back closer to the line. This can be helpful on quick-hitting running plays, like traps or dives. Since there's no lead blocker for the fullback and since he's usually not a nifty runner, it's best to use these quick hitters when you know the defense isn't paying attention to the fullback.
4. The "I" formation allows the running back to run downhill and use cutback lanes. Running "downhill" means that the back is running toward the defenders and not away from them. Sweep plays allow the defense to chase the ball carrier, which can work against slow defense, but not often against fast ones. Whams, traps, counters, dives, etc. get the running back headed upfield and put pressure on the defensive players to stay disciplined, fill cutback lanes, and break down to tackle the ballcarrier.
5. The "I" formation also gives the offense a chance to run play action passes and keep one or two backs in the backfield to help with pass protection.
Michigan's offense used the "I" formation well in the game against Miami. With Mark Moundros lined up at fullback and Sam McGuffie behind him, the team ran an iso (which McGuffie broke outside for a big gain) and a couple toss sweeps to the outside (which McGuffie also broke outside for decent gains). On top of that, Threet handed off to Mark Moundros on a fullback dive that gained seven yards.
Without the ideal quarterback for the spread option, Rodriguez will need to adjust the offense to his personnel. The use of the "I" formation is a step in that direction. Michigan has a plethora of tight ends, a good blocking fullback, and starting linemen that were recruited to play in a pro-style run offense. As the linemen become more athletic and the quarterbacks get better at running the read option, the use of the I formation may be used less and less in future years. In the meantime, it will be beneficial to use this set. But as far as I recall, Michigan ran exclusively in the "I" formation. In future weeks Michigan will need to run plays other than whams and toss sweeps out of the "I." Otherwise, upcoming opponents will be able to key on the run.