I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
This is an interesting trend for the Big 10 teams the game after playing Indiana:
Oct 2 @ Indiana- W 42-35
Oct 9 vs. MSU- L 17-34 (Michigan was a 3 point favorite)
Oct 9 vs. Indiana- W 38-10
Oct 16 @ Wisconsin- L 18-31 (OSU was a 4 point favorite)
Oct 23 vs. Indiana- W 44-13
Oct 30 vs. Purdue- W 44-10
Oct 30 @ Indiana- W 20-17
Nov 6 @ Penn State- L 21-35
Nov 6 @ Indiana- W 18-13
Nov 13 @ Northwestern- L 17-21 (Iowa was a 10.5 point favorite)
Nov 13 vs Indiana- W 83-20
Nov 20 @ Michigan- TBD..
OVERALL: Big 10 teams are 1-4 in the game after they play Indiana, with 3 outright losses by favorites in Vegas. You could also say that Big Ten teams are 0-4 in this game against teams that aren't Purdue. This might not mean anything but let's hope it does and it continues.
Question; can a game that unfolds almost exactly the way you thought it would unfold be considered "weird?"
Chappell looked like a great pocket passer. Willis did his damage in limited oportunities. Denard was Denard (except when he wasn't).
But here's the weird thing. That game made me feel a whole lot better about the years to come, but it also made me feel a whole lot worse about the rest of this season. That is to say that I've come back down from the ND high of WOOOOOO dENARD!!!! WHOOOOHHHOOOO! Back down to 7-5 or 8-4 reasonable expectations. (Yes it is entirely possible we go 2-5 from here on out, and I'm steeling myself against that scenario. Still hoping for 12-0 of course!)
I know the mathlete just put up some good predictions that has us at 9 or so wins. Unfortunately our defense has a couple of things that just aren't going to be fixable for this season. Those two things are named 'inexperience' and 'James Rodgers'. It's never nice to get on a kid's case and call him out by name, but...yeah.
HOWEVAH! In the near ironic board meltdown following the close win, I had to take a stand against some of the negativity and offer up some silver lining for the maligned defense. After breaking down the tape, I'm even more convinced that Robinson knows what he's doing, and that we've got brighter days ahead next season and beyond.
We are soooo close to having a good defense. I mean it is litterally just a matter of inches, a few fractions of a second. A defense needs to be consistent to force punts and end drives. We actually managed quite a few of these in the second half. The 2nd half drives read Punt, TD, TO on downs, TO on downs, Punt, TD, Game. That's not that bad.
Right now we're getting a mediocre play, a good play, and then a breakdown that extends a drive or gives up a TD. If we could just get to mediocre, mediocre, mediocre, good, we'd be stopping teams left and right. But like a chain, we're only as good as our weakest link, and right now we've got lots of young babby links out there that need to get battle hardened.
The good thing is that it looks like some of them have very high ceilings. Talbott, for one, looked half decent in man coverage. Floyd is impressive, even though he still makes lots of mistakes. At least he's making them at full speed. To be as good as he is, as young as he is, is a very good sign. (Of course if JT is reading this, just know that you're no Chuck Woodson, sorry can't let you get a big head)
No it wasn't perfect, no it wasn't good, no it wasn't even satisfactory in any way other than that we got the W. But if you're looking for positive signs, there are plenty to be had. Against 90-some odd plays, the defense only really had 3-4 really bad schematic clusterf*CKs. And it's only fair, (and in fact constructive) to point these out.
Constructive criticism is specifically pointing out mistakes in particular situations. It's not being a chicken little crying for someone to be fired and whining "WHY DID WE ONLY RUSH THR3333??!" If you want to be like that, please do us all a favor and take it somewhere else *cough*mlive*cough*.
When I look at this defense, I'm reminded of watching our offense from 2 years ago. You can see how the scheme is supposed to work. But we've just got too many mental errors or people that can't quite get to where they need to be fast enough. As they get more reps and things become reflexive, this defense will get better. (A few stud bluechips at DB and LB would help a lot too).
So Let's do this.
The 2nd play from scrimmage!
The line gets good movement (as they should against the Hoosiers)
There's an unblocked safety.
But Denard makes him miss.
AND! He gets downfield blocks that send him on his way.
Every week he provides more evidence that he's the real deal. Have you ever seen a cooler customer on the final drive? It's 2nd and 2 with :47 seconds to go.
The clock is running, he just picked up 8 yards on a rush. TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK. Get the damn play called! But Denard is completely zen. He even drops his mouth piece after calling the play, scoops it up,
and calmly rushes the ball to midfield.
Receivers are MAKING PLAYS!
Roundtree, Stonum, and Hemingway are all threats with the ball in their hands. The national media is of course focusing on Denard! (WOOO!) But when receivers are catching the ball, making people miss, and then running 70 yards to the house, they deserve some major props.
This is a base zone read bubble pass:
Both defenders on the end get taken in by the fake.
The hoosiers are actually in great position to either blow up this play or stop it for a moderate gain. There's only one blocker for two defenders.
But because the ball is put perfectly in front of Roundtree, he's got upfield momentum and gets past the first man who had beaten his block.
Then he just runs around the unblocked safety to take it to the distance. Even tho' it is only Indiana, this is still awesome.
Hemingway had his best performance that I can remember.
This is a play Brian gave RPS +4 on, I might argue for more. BOTH safeties and both linebackers are selling out to stop the run.
The man covering the slot is concerned with the bubble pass, leaving an empty mid-zone, i.e. no one between Hemingway and the ball.
And then he displays a nice stiff arm to free him on his jog to the endzone.
And I will never get tired of this play.
Denard takes one step towards the line and the defense craps its pants.
It's just wide open. Make that "Oh, WIDE OPEN."
Griese to Tuman or some other TE on a rollout was my favorite play for a long time, but this has replaced it.
When you're facing 4 or 5 WR, a 3-man rush is not a bad idea because it allows you to run combo coverage behind it.
2-Deep, looks like man coverage underneath, but really it's zone. The man on the slot has good position for run support. The near cornerback is in bump 'n run with the tall and dangerous, but not necessarily quick, Belcher.
Everyone is covered. Rodgers even manages to stay close enough to his man to dissuade a throw against the confusing look, and the 3-man rush gets pressure because Martin beats a double team. Plus we've got 4 extra men in coverage that are just waiting for Chappell to misread it as man coverage and try to force a ball in, so they can get an interception.
Chappell cooly throws it away.
How the D is supposed to work.
Everyone hates the "Bend but don't break" philosophy especially when you end up being broken on half the drives. But in some situations, it is the right call.
It's 3rd and 10 near midfield. If you get a stop, they probably have to punt. Both corners are playing soft. Rogers is playing a bit more soft to compensate for his lack of speed (and reflexes, and acceleration...)
This 2-deep coverage is meant to give the impression of man-to-man (and it would have if Rodgers was in the same time zone as his receiver...)
We've got 4 guys along the first down marker, the only man open is the short crossing route, which we gladly give up because we've got two men in position to make the tackle. Result is a punt.
Mike Martin continues his path of destruction
Sometimes it's nice to have a good scheme.
Sometimes it's nice just to have a player who's been around the block and is a man beast that can lift small cars with one hand.
This is a really well-executed screen by Indiana's linemen.
They get 4 (FOUR!) linemen out in front of the play. But something clicks in Martin's head and he diagnoses what's up.
How many nosetackles can run down a running back from behind? WOW. Mike Martin; Killing ragdolls and savin' our bacon. This would have been an easy TD for them.
Going to the Chappell
In retrospect, we gave this guy way too much time to pick us apart, and he delivered. His decision making was excellent, and he was very quick with most of his reads. The interception was both a bad throw and a bad read, but when a guy throws for 480 on you, there's not much to criticize.
Quit Dossing around
I was impressed with how many ways Indiana was trying to get the ball to Doss. They did an excellent job of taking what we were giving, and taking it all day long. But they had a lot of wrinkles prepared.
On the 1st drive they put him in motion to get an unexpected bubble screen.
Floyd rolls back into a deep cover responsibility. The problem is Rodgers who is probably supposed to move up into more of a run support role. Of course, he's so untalented that the coaches are probably not trusting him to play close to the line, so he stays back.
It looks like a run to the right, and our end man is completely sucked in and roh doesn't go with Doss, leaving him wide open for the bubble screen.
With Rodgers playing so far off his receiver we have what looks like a three deep.
This play picked up huge yards as both of their blockers are holding, which wasn't called.
Later when we faced this motion, we made good adjustments to it schematically.
Because of his offensive line, I think he's going to be an underrated back all year long. He reminds me of a slower version of Evan Royster.
On this play he's got enough burst to split the partially blocked linebackers.
And he nearly runs through Floyd's arm tackle to go the distance, but looks like Floyd put some stickum on and he gets dragged for a lot of yards before finally bringing Willis down.
Here he is releasing to the flat:
We've got the bunch formation well covered, but the OLB to the bunch side is showing a blitz.
It's a disguised coverage meant to get Roh an interception.
Unfortunately, Kovacs is too far beyond the sticks. Chappell sees this and takes advantage.
We're so close to stopping this drive. But the walkon safety doesn't have the speed, so he's playing too far back, and can't come up quick enough.
But we adjusted to it later.
On this play, Floyd reacts to Willis going into the flat.
T-Gord on the other side has the bubblescreen covered. And since it's zone, Floyd is free to pass his man to the LB.
What blows up this play for a TFL is Floyd's aggressiveness coming up and a nice job by the D-linemen to track down the ball.
Talbott had a pretty quiet day, which is a good thing for a DB. He spent most of his day locked onto Belcher in man to man. This is one of the reasons Doss got so many balls thrown to him.
Here they are at the bottom of the screen.
Belcher is bigger and phsyical, but Talbott is fighting nicely.
The combo slant and outcut was just too finely executed on this play to stop. But if you can force the receiver to make a great diving catch to beat you, that's not something to be too broken up about. It's way better than the automatic 7 yards that was being given up wherever Rodgers lines up.
Wait what? Yeah, this is here just to be nitpicky coaching pursuit of perfection stuff. After Denard tweeked his knee, we had a bunch of bad drives in a row. He missed a wide open Hemingway on a pump-and-go:
Had three overthrows in total.
This should have been 6 pts.
And he needs to throw the damn bubble screen more!
Not every play needs to be a 70 yard TD. (MWAHAHAHA, I love that I can even type that sentence). There's 3 defenders for two blockers, but the OLB is flat-footed. Denard needs to read that and take the 5-yard minimum gain. When you've got WRs like ours that can MAKE PLAYS!! you need to give them the ball and not take unnecessary hits to your bruised knee.
Here's another one, This time it's 2 defenders for 1 blocker. But with the corner that far off, it's an automatic 5 yards. Denard, your mission from now until OSU is to win games and DON'T GET HURT!
FWIW, Tate's only pass of the day was a bad screen flare where he put the ball on the wrong shoulder and that killed his only drive.
Inexperience on D
It's really difficult for young players who are seeing funky formations and plays for the first time.
Indiana has 5WR and puts one in motion all the way to the far sideline. We've got 4 deep, (IN THE REDZONE!!?!?) And there's mass confusion.
Nobody goes with the motion man, and we're so far off the ball, we're inviting a 7 yard hitch on either side.
Both OLB's blitz leaving Avery? to cover three men in space. Lucky for us that Chappell decided to take the easy seven yards. Had he thrown to either short man on the right, this would have been an easy TD for them. You have to say this was a bad scheme on this play.
But Indiana tried to come right back to it.
This time, we're locked into tighter man coverage. Maybe that's only because we're on the goaline, but at least this alignment doesn't look completely insane like the previous one did.
I'm a big advocate for this kind of combo package coverage where you've got some men in zone coverage, but the others 'look' like they're in man. The whole point is to make it difficult on the opposing QB. And only rushing 3 allows us to do that.
And when Mike Martin is busting through the line, it makes you think you can get away with a 3-man rush.
But Chappell is a cool customer and sidesteps the rush just enough to buy some time and find the open man, who gets behind a flat-footed Mouton.
A lesser QB could not have made this play against this D. We've got good coverage all over the field and a man about to run him over. But he still finds the right receiver and delivers a good ball under pressure.
Good call: Mouton is just a step slow to react. Chappell makes a great read and throw under pressure.
Sometimes, we've got guys in position, but they're just not quite aware of the sticks or reacting quick enough to what's in front of them.
On this play, #5 is in position to make the tackle, he's just too far behind the sticks.
So Doss muscles forward for the 1st down. It would have helped if Roh had taken a better angle.
Does the "J" in J.T. stand for Journeyman?
Floyd spent his second week in a row being moved all over the place. I can understand why they're doing this (he's probably our best DB and we need to get our best athletes on the field.) But with all this moving around, you expect him to get confused occassionally.
On this play he gets caught looking at the underneath crossing route when what he needs to be doing is getting depth in his zone to squeeze off the seam route. The cross will be picked up by Mouton, so his false step here was not going to help anyone. And of course Rodgers was in his usual position.
Floyd leaps for the ball, but between his mistake, and the safety playing way too soft, there's a ton of room for Chappell to lob the ball into. If only Floyd could jump as high as the linebackers in NCAA05, it would have been an automatic interception...
C-Gord does lay a nice lick on the TE who does a good job of holding onto the ball. Gordon had lots of good hits, he just needs to not be giving up so much room underneath.
Here's another play where the safety is back way too far against the bunch formation.
I mean, he's not even in the picture. Literally.
We've got 2 out of 4 receivers decently covered.
But Gordon is way too far off to make a play on this deep out.
Roh in space
So the big controversy on defense this week centers around whether Roh is better utilized as a pass rusher or can he be a true OLB? I tend to lean towards the camp that says he should rush more often than drop, but his athleticism makes it tempting to try more things with him.
Here he is in pass coverage:
He takes one false step going wide instead of getting depth.
And that gives Chappell just enough room to hit the slant.
Schematically he's in the right position. But he's just slow to recognize the play. You need lightning-quick reactions on defense and that comes from experience, film study, and repetitions. Like Alvin Mack, you need to know who to kill and where to go against a huge number of plays.
But for anyone who wants to pick on GERG, just look at this later play when Roh gets it right:
Against the bunch formation, Roh gets depthin because Rodgers (who again isn't in the same area code as his receiver) has outside flat responsibilities.
This was one of the few poor decisions Chappell made (the other was the interception). He has the flat for the 1st down, but gets greedy and goes back to the seam route. This time, Roh is in position to make it a more difficult throw.
Chappell has to get it over his tall reach and overthrows the receiver.
On this play Roh is in a more traditional stack look.
But he doesn't see Doss coming in motion.
And because he doesn't go with Doss, it makes for an easy blocking assignment for the bubble screen.
You can tell that it's a mistake by Roh because the DE is already upfield making Roh's instinctive rush redundant.
But later in the game, he sees it and makes the play:
From virtually the same alignment, this time he picks up Doss and slides outside of the DE.
Kovacs (who is by far our smartest player, if I could put his mind and heart into Mouton's body, and then clone them, we'd be just fine on Defense) is not letting the TE get a free release, something I think we should do more of. One of the LBs is going with Willis.
Everyone is in pretty good coverage, except the comeback route is open for a 1 yard gain. I don't mind giving that up.
The Gordons and Talbot look fairly talented and will get better with more PT; they just need to tighten up to the receivers and react a hair quicker, but they look like they'll be solid next year.
Denard's fumbled snap.
He also put it on the ground on another run. This needs to be fixed. When WVU was really clicking, the only time they lost was when they had oodles of turnovers. With our defense we cannot afford to not score on drives.
James "Serta" Rodgers.
I've probably covered this enough already, but just to summarize, he is the weakest link. No, that's not surprising given what's happened to the depth chart at corner.
It's so bad that it's hard to tell who he's covering and whether he's supposed to be in zone or man. He's just kind of over there on one side. By the 2nd half, Indiana was actively targeting him on a large percentage of plays. He's giving up the 7-yard out:
ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
It's like he has no idea what the down and distance are. Either that, or he's just not capable of doing anything about it.
This was a 3rd and very long, and he gives up an easy first down.
At this point he needs to be taken off the field on some plays. With opposing offenses looking for him, maybe his absence will cause them a moment of confusion. There's a great story about how QBs were so focused on finding Lawrence Taylor before the snap that one time when he was on the bench, the QB was so confused he had to take a time out.
Seriously, if Cullen Christian or any converted WR can pull a Talbott and just give the impression of being able to cover someone, it'll be a step up from what we've got now. It certainly can't be any worse.
Clusterf*ck against the unbalanced line.
This was probably the single worst defensive play from a schematic standpoint. Give credit to Indiana for coming up with a good play, but we were completely out of position on this and we played it bad on top of that:
Indiana comes out in an unbalanced line. Unfortunately NO ONE sees it. Or at least no one adjusts to it. Doss goes in motion and Floyd floats back as if that was a short corner with no WR over there.
Patterson? is in the wrong gap. It's up to one of the safeties or Ezeh to see the formation and get the nose tackle to slide over. Instead, we've got 4 guys covering two linemen. Just days after I ripped Indiana for doing the same thing against one of their cupcakes, -- guess what -- we did the same thing:
C-Gordon reacts to Doss's end-around fake, and the O-line takes a hard first step to their right. So now, not only are we not lined up right against the unbalanced, they've put us essentially two men down on that side by their at-the-snap movement.
Mouton and Ezeh get sucked in by the fullback heading to the left, and we've got three guys covering air. Meanwhile, since the center has no one to block, he's free to release onto Ezeh.
Floyd takes himself out of the play by following Doss (which is not a terrible thing if he gets the end-around, but it's entirely unnecessary against this unbalanced look. Roh has got it in his mind that he's pass rushing, and that makes for an easy kickout block. Carvin Johnson (#13) is about to be destroyed by someone who weighs about 150 lbs more than him. And C-Gord is so far out of position that there's nothing he can do. But hey, we've got 4 guys who could stop the end-around...
And so Willis gets to run through a hole you could drive a truck through, and laughed his way to the endzone completely untouched.
Not sure what happened with Taylor on the last TD because the cameras cut away. But it might have had something to do with the awesome DOUBLE pancake block he got after Denard had leapt through the hole.
Denard is still TEH AWESOEM! But he has things he needs to work on.
WR, major props.
GERG is not the problem. (Rodgers is)
And Roh has the capability to get better as a LB in space.
I'm thinking with Wisconsin on their docket for the following Saturday, OSU may look past Indiana a bit. They're a little light in the secondary and if Chappell has a big day, watch out.
A while back an MGoUser put together an analysis of downs and success rates. IIRC, the philosophy was that you needed to gain 50% of the yards needed on the down for it to be successful, except on 3rd down, where you needed to convert. In an article that Brian linked under mgo.licio.us on our defense, the author talks about how successful Indiana was on 1st and 2nd down, and that was the main reason for Indiana's high 3rd down success rate (58%). Just a note, Indiana came into the game converting 41% against basically 3 FCS teams.
My request is that for a little help from the MGoCommunity in answering the question of, "How successful was Indiana moving the ball against us based on the philosophy outlined above?"
If the original author reads this, can you please confirm the philosophy or correct it if it's wrong?
Hey everyone, I'm putting together a drinking game for the game. Here's some ideas I have right now. I ideally want 1-2 events in each category. It has to be short enough to remember without constantly looking at the sheet....
Announcer says "Shoelace"
Michigan gives up a 3rd and long (7yd+)
Michigan goes for it on fourth down
Denard breaks off a 20yd+ run
Our defense gets a 3-and-out
Indiana Basketball is mentioned
Finish your drink!
We see Bill Lynch throw his gum (Then shotgun a beer if it's not a replay)
Denard breaks 300, 400, or 500 total yards
You may have noticed I did not do an Over/Under post last week for the Bowling Green game. Frankly, I didnt know what to do. The week before I got all cute and mocked up some totals for some of Michigan's backups, expecting them to play a bunch against UMASS. Yeah, didnt happen. In fact, I'm convinced I nearly jinxed the Wolverines with my bravado and bold statements towards the second stringers production. Rather than test fate, I skipped last week. But, I'll put something together for fun as a supplement to all the other great previewing going every Friday in advance of Michigan's game. Speaking of great previewing, check out the JCB. We have several new posts up already today, setting you up for all the college football and EPL soccer action this wekeend. I'll have a couple more posts over there later today with picks and everything else in between, so if you need a non-MIchigan sports fix to set your weekend up, please stop over. And, we'll have the Pick-4 categories up shortly as well.
Plugs aside, let's get into this game a little bit. It's always a tough day for me when Michigan and Indiana square off in any sport. For me, I never want to see my alma mater lose a game. I want them to win every time they play. But, if you cut me, I do bleed more Maize and Blue than anything else. I never want Michigan to lose either. I always want them to win. I try to enjoy Michigan-Indiana games for the pure sport of it, as a result. When the chips are down, however, I end up pulling for who needs the game the most. In 2010, the direction of the Michigan football program is on the line. While it would be a tremendous moment for the IU kids should they spring an upset, I feel Michigan is primed for a major breakthrough finally under Rodriguez. They need to keep this train going in the right direction. They have my unconditional support tomorrow down in Bloomington. But, if they lose, dont fault me for hustling down there to enjoy the party. Anyone want to watch my dogs if that happens?
With that half-assed explanation of loyalty out of the way, let's move on to the Over/Under games I have cooked up for the Big 10 opener tomorrow.
Ted Bolser, total receiving yards: O/U 49.5
I know what you're thinking. Who? He's Indiana's Tight End and a redshirt freshmen. Get to know him because there's a good chance he's going to stick a couple daggers into the Michigan defense. We all know Michigan's struggles keeping tabs on the tight ends, especially in big moments, over the last few seasons. Bolser is third in catches and yards for the one of the nation's more prolific passing attacks, so you know he's part of the gameplan and that the Hoosier brain trust think they call his number and get a productive play. Bolser was the 52nd ranked played in the state of Ohio in 2009, playing high school ball at Indian Hill, a surburban Cincinnati school, probably more known athletically as a quasi baseball power.
In this case, they appear to have a grown a Big 10 offensive weapon. At 14.2 yards per catch, Bolser is giving the Hoosiers some kick with his catches. He has four touchdowns already. His other catches include momentum swinging grabs on key drives that helped swing two games. He would have done the same thing in a third game had the Hoosiers not botched their chance later in the drive. Dont be surprised if he impacts the game early. Three of his touchdowns have come in the first quarter, twice tallying Indiana's first score of the game. We've seen Jonas Mouton make some plays this year in coverage, including a pair of picks. Can he thwart a Hoosier attempt or two at getting the ball to this kid? There are plenty of other better name wideouts to set an Over/Under to for the Hoosiers. Demarlo Belcher is one of the best in the league. Tandon Doss is starting to hit a stride after battling a groing earlier in the year. Terrance Turner is flat blowing up in his senior year. I just think those guys are going to get their stats one way or another tomorrow. As long as one doesnt go bonkers, Michigan will be fine. Going to Bosler has been a strategic trump card for the Hoosiers this year, but if Michigan can block this a couple times it will probably force enough punts and field goal attempts to allow the offense to put some breathing room between the two teams. This Over/Under will go a long in determining what kind of game the Michigan defense will end up having.
Ben Chappell Total TD Passes: O/U 2.5
This is a great game to play for Over addicts. Michgian fans should ready themselves now and expect the Hoosiers to hit some big plays in the passing game. But, it doesnt really matter what kind of game evolves it can easily involve the Hoosier QB throwing a hat trick on the board. If Indiana goes step for step with Michigan, push them into the fourth quarter or even spring the upset, it almost certainly has to come from the senior signal caller's arm. But even if Michigan blows out Indiana, easily covering the pointspread, its still likely we'll see a lot of Chappell. They're going to throw, throw, throw and do so with Chappell almost to the end even if they're out of it by the second half. Would a 48-31 final for Michigan, but with Chappell tossing 3-4 TDs really be an outlandish outcome? Actually it sounds about right half the time I think about.
How good has Chappell been this year? He's top ranked in the nation in value added for all QBs, per the inimitable Mathlete's number crunching. But three TD games are not easy to come by, regardless of how strong the offense is or how weak the pass defense looks. It might truthfully be a sucker bet for Over addicts. He didnt throw a TD against the Wolverines a year ago. Chappell has only gone over the 2.5 total four times in his career. Last year against Illinois and Wisconsin and this year in the last two games against Western Kentucky and Akron. The Hoosiers are 3-1 SU, 4-0 ATS in those game, so look out kittens if he does, I suppose. It's a tricky number because he's almost a lock to get two TDs, three TDs is not easy to get, but Michigan's D might be the perfect tonic to power up your numbers. Hopefully, the IU brain trust hasnt noticed the Wolverines struggles defending the roll out.
Mike Cox O/U rushing yards: O/U 60 yards
Michigan's tailback rotation in this game will be intriguing. Starter Michael Shaw, who has been an underrated value for the Wolverines through four games, is out as is Fitzgerald Toussaint, who excited folks last week with a breakout run. Michigan's five man rotation for tailback carries has yet to really materialize with Shaw and Vincent Smith carrying most of the load, but with injuries hampering the position tomorrow and only three healthy bodies available, I would be stunned if Michael Cox and freshmen Stephen Hopkins werent a more regular part of the gameplan. I dont know if Hopkins isnt more of a role player in short yardage spots, plus he fumbled a week ago, so I am hedging that Cox will be more of a factor and making him the focus of this Over/Under game. Besides, I am trying to lure some Magnus and Touch The Banner money into the pot. Like Magnus, I too am a big fan of Michael Cox. But I am reluctant to annoint him because frankly we've only seen him in garbage duty against the likes of Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Delaware State. If he gets a bunch of carries tomorrow, they will represent the first touches the redshirt Sophomore will get with not only the game still in doubt, but against any Big 10 foe.
It looms as a big day, a turning point perhaps, for the young man's college career. I'm totally pulling for him. Not just because I feel he has the goods, but more because anybody who would commit to Michigan during the first week of September in 2007, amid all the crap being flung at the program in the wake of the Appalachain State and Oregon disasters and then stay through all that has happened the last two seasons since the coaching change, deserves a full round of hoarse throat cheering when he gets in the game. The Karmic side in me feels good things are coming this kid's way for sticking it out. Expect Michigan to use Vincent Smith more early on as his experience, quality blocking and nose for the end zone (he does have six scores in Michigan's last six games) will be needed to steady the game for Michigan in the first conference road game of the season. But Cox will be meshed into the mix at some point tomorrow. I'm thinking something in the ballpark of 10 carries, which would be well over 100 yards if he adheres to the YPC he's achieved in his limited time so far. But, this is a step up in play and he'll be going against starters for the first time in his career. I dont know if you can expect big numbers. But man, if does.....here's hoping Magnus lets me on the bandwagon.
Darius Willis + Michigan's leading tailback rusher, total rushing yards: O/U 160 yards.
First, a reminder. And, give me a break, folks. This is the single greatest play my alma mater has ever pulled off at Michigan Stadium. Plus, the sweet voice of Don Fisher reminds me of March basketball in the early 1990s. Cant beat that:
I dont like doing two running back games out of sheer variety sake. But this one is too goofy to pass up. It comes courtesy of fellow MGoUser and Diarist mistersuits who suggested it in his tremendous blog yesterday dissecting the team's expected production in Bloomington tomorrow. And, it has the added value of including another Michigan running back in the event the Cox game is a non-starter, and I misjudged how much playing time he'll receive. The battle between the teams' rushing offenses might be an underrated key to this game. On the Hoosier side of the equation is Darius Willis. We all remember him a year ago for streaking down the sideline on a 85-yard scoring gallop that nearly won the game for Indiana in the Big House. Outside of that run, he was pretty bottled up by the Wolverines with just 67 yards on 15 carries. I dont know how good Willis really is, though. I think he's got a nice game, but he had three big time runs a year ago, one apiece against Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern. I hate to maniupluate numbers, but if you take those runs out of the equation, he only averaged 3.23 yards per carry in 2009. He's been effective this year against Towson and Akron, but couldnt get anything going against Western Kentucky. I'd like to think Michigan can perform better than those teams, but you never know when the same spot syndrome will kick in. He housed Michigan a year ago, no reason to think he cant do it again. But defending the run so far has been the good part of the Michigan defense this year. Will that hold up in Big 10 play?
Roy Roundree, total receiving yards: O/U 85.5
There's a couple of ways to look at Roy Roundtree's projected season over the next two months. You can take his 20 catches so far this season and say he's on pace for 60 receptions, which is great. However his yardage output has not been as big as last year's on a per catch basis as he's down three whole yards per catch. Or, you can go back to last year, when he emerged during the final four games and point out that in Michigan's last 8 games played he has 50 catches for just over 600 yards, a pace that extrapolated over a 12-game season would equal a 75-catch, 907-yard season with a 12.1 yard per catch average. That would be a great season for a Michigan wide receiver in any era of the program's history. Either way, its hard not to get excited about a full season out of Roundtree. The question with Roy is can he find the consistency he had to close last season and stay in that groove the rest of the year. He's alternated games in 2010 where he hasnt dented the stat sheet with star performances. He got knocked out of the opener against UConn and wasnt involved much during the Umass contest. He was clutch against Notre Dame and had 100-yards a week ago--his third 100-yard game in his last eight--against Bowling Green. Can he put forth his best back-to-back game of the season tomorrow against Indiana? Or is this offense just too varied and deep and other options take precedence? Personally, I think he has a big game. But, then again maybe he's a decoy and Stonum blows up. Or Odoms. Who knows? That's why they call it gambling.