"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
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.
Forget ND. Here comes the first REAL test of Michigan's defense? Why do I say that? Because Indiana is 11th in the nation in passing and 10th in points scored and has a senior QB with 30 career TD passes. Last year they scored 33 points on us while rushing for nearly 200 yards.
Are you scared yet?
Okay, maybe that's because you looked at their scedule and realized that while they were scoring close to 40 points a game, they were doing so against what amounts to the equivalent of Bowling Green's JV team.
No, seriously. They've played three games, against something called "Towson", Western Kentucky, and Akron. I'm not exactly sure, but I think some of those might be division 1 opponents. Let's compare:
Michigan is pretty good from year to year, Michigan State is usually hovering around .500. Western Michigan is a middling MAC team. Kentucky SUCKS, Kentucky State exists? (maybe) So what does that say about Western Kentucky?
Yeah, Michigan played FCS UMass, but at least that SOUNDS like it could be a FBS school. "Towson"?? Is not exactly a two time defending nation champion of the lower level.
How bad are these teams? They're a combined 1-11 with the lone win coming in OT against *drumroll please* COASTAL CAROLINA! Although Akron did almost beat GARDNER WEBB in OT. In the other ten games, Indiana's opponents were outscored by an average of about 40 points (no I didn't actually do the math, but I'm not really that far off).
So while I did manage to dig up some film on them, there's not much we can learn other than formations and base plays (and the fact that IND is wearing some uglyass 1970's uniforms).
Grannie grab your gun.
Hey, remember when ND played Nevada? And Nevada had Gumar from 'Harold and Gumar goto whitecastle' playing QB. They ran this funky type of offense with the RB 5 yards behind the QB who was already in the shotgun. That's called the pistol. It's also what UCLA just used to depants Texas and will probably be the next fad spreading across the college football world, if it isn't already.
The point of this alignment is to get a little bit more downhill momentum for your running back so that he can hit the holes with speed.
You still get the ability to do playaction, but you lose the lateral fakes. To regain the lateral motion, the RB will line up next to the QB in the shotgun like this:
On Running downs, they might put a fullback into the formation. If the QB was under center it would just be an offset I formation. But with the group of them back an extra 5 yards, we have to call it something different. I'm gonna call it the .38 caliber.
Here we have both the FB and the TE to the right, so this is likely to be a run to the right 60-70% of the time. In this case, they ran a zone dive to the left.
When they go spread, they like to use three receivers in a bunch so they can run pick plays.
Here's a running play with the bunch formation.
The middlebackers and the safety are confused and out of position.
The middle backer blitzes to the wrong side, opening up a huge running lane.
So the hoosiers get an easy 50 yard TD with 4 blockers on 2 defenders at the point of attack.
QB Ben Chappell is the same guy that put 30 some points on us last year. 5th year senior? Not a super strong arm, throws with his body. Good size. Not fast. Decent pocket presence. Likes to do 3 step drops for quick routes or playaction boots. Has good timing with his receivers, can hit them on a fly in stride. Doesn't throw well on the run. His strength is in reading the defense and picking the right receiver to go to. I suggest we run more pressure and man coverage with a single high safety this week.
#88 Belcher is their deep threat. Tall kid, not blazing speed, but chews up a lot of yardage with long strides.
TB Darius Willis is their main running threat. He's 6 foot, 220 ish and can run through arm tackles. Has a good head fake. He also had an 85 yard TD against us last year.
TE #83. Tall, soft hands. Less athletic version of rudolph.
O-Line. They look small and meh. This is probably what separates Indiana from most big ten teams. There's just not a lot of talent there.
They run a base 3-4 on 1st and 2nd down, will not substitute against a spread, instead they flex out their OLB to cover the slots. On 3rd down they like to switch to either a nickle, or a cover 1 to put extra DB's on the slot receivers.
Not a lot of speed. Towson's QB had a 40 yard scramble against them on a broken play. So like WOOOOO DENARD! They've given up oodles of yardage against teams that really don't run the ball very well.
Their safety #10 looks like a weaklink. (He may even have been replaced already.) Takes a lot of bad angles. Towson managed several plays over 40 yards against them.
They've given up huge amounts of yards to teams that don't sport very good offensive lines. Here's an example of what might be the reason why.
This is Indiana's short yardage defense. If you're saying, 'but wait a minute that looks just like their base 3-4!" then you've been paying attention. Do the hoosier's have a defensive coordinator? Because this personell package, in this situation is almost criminally stupid.
It's 3rd and 1 and they're in a base 3-4.
It's 3rd and 1 in THE REDZONE and they're still in a base 3-4!
It's 3rd and 1 in the redzone against a DOUBLE TIGHT formation and they're in a 3-4?!
It's 3rd and 1 in the redzone against a double tight formation WITH A FULLBACK MEANING THERE ISN'T A SINGLE WR IN THE GAME, and they're still in a base 3-4 with 4 DBs!!!?! (well hey, at least they walked up one of the safeties...)
It's 3rd and 1 in the redzone against a double tight formation with a fullback and there are EIGHT OFFENSIVE LINEMEN AGAINST YOUR 3 DOWN LINEMEN!!!!!!!!! THEY ONLY NEED TO GAIN 1 FREAKING YARD!!!!!!!
It's 3rd and 1 in the redzone against a double tight formation with a fullback AND IT'S AN UNBALANCED LINE TO THE RIGHT!!!!!!OMG HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT?!!?!
It's 3rd and 1 in the redzone against a double tight formation with extra o-linemen, no WR, in an unbalanced formation to the right WITH THE H BACK IN A WING TO THE RIGHT!!!! THE UNBALANCED SIDE!!!! THERE ARE 9 OFFENSIVE PLAYERS FROM THE BALL TO THE RIGH!!!!! AND INDIANA HAS 4 (FOUR!) PLAYERS COVERING 2 (TWO!) ON THE OTHER SIDE!!!?! WTF ARE YOU DOING??!
So you won't be surprised that WKU ran to the right and scored a TD on this play.
They use a spread punt formation.
Had an okay return against Towson and got a 70+ yard return against WKU, so they must at least know their blocking assignments on kickoff returns.
Tandon Doss, who some of you might remeber is a pretty nifty runner, even if he doesn't have a world class top gear.
Should be a high scoring game. And most likely a preview of things to come. If the offense doesn't score more than 45 points, they should hang their heads in shame. The key will be in stopping Chappell. If we can hold them to 30 points, I'll be happy. (not really, but I'll take it.) Their running back is talented enough, but that O-line just doesn't run block very well, and we should have a sizeable advantage there.
I'm gonna say 48-28 good guys.
[Ed.: Bump. As the OP notes, this data is still very shaky four games in, but the amount of improvement in the offense is so great it can hardly be a mirage.]
In my post the other day, Why should 2010 not be another 2009?, I looked at what our offense has accomplished in 2010 relative to what it had accomplished at this point in the season in 2009. It had two meaningful results:
1) This years' offense draws its potency from highly reproduceable, base set offensive plays, unlike the high variance scrambles and special teams play of 2009.
2) This year's offense is putting up far superior numbers to what they did a year ago (up 28%!!) against as-good or slightly-better competition (77th strength-of-schedule in 2010 vs 114th in 2009).
The Conclusion From the Former:
Our offense will come back to earth from meteoric numbers in out-of-conference play, BUT we have statistically significant evidence to believe that our offense will be far more reliable than last year due to depth, experience, and dilithium.
Our defense cannot stop any team that is executing, whether it's UMass or that-team-down-south. In other words, our wins and losses are going to be determined by how good an offense we face each week, and how well they execute.
Examples: UConn played bad (dropped passes, poor throws) and we stopped them. On the flip side UMass played well (good schemes, good execution) and they had their way with us.
Each and every Big10 offense we play is going to put up at least or slightly better numbers than their normalized offensive output.
So let's find out how bad it's going to be against us with a--
Chart of Infinite Defensive Gloom (after 4 weeks)
|2009 Rank||2009 Opponent||Expected N-PPG||Expected N-YPG||Actual PPG||Actual YPG|
Normalized Offensive Output - The important thing we're doing here is not looking at the raw PPG and YPG of these teams because it does not account for how good of competition they have played. Four weeks in, the SoS data is far from reliable, but it is at least forming.
Our opponent with the strongest SoS serves as the baseline (Notre Dame with 3 Big10 teams and Stanford). In other words, these numbers estimate what all of these teams' offenses would have generated if they had all played Notre Dame's schedule thus far (Purdue, Michigan, MSU, and Stanford).
Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings. (BGSU and UMass are going to have way-inflated numbers at this time, but I included them on the chart anyway as a reminder this is not a perfect analysis and as an interesting couple of data points to track as the season progresses.)
N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.
N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).
I am only tracking our 12 opponents because the only thing that matters is the twelve games Michigan plays and I don't want to get depressed that we are playing Wisconsin and Iowa instead of NW and Minnesota.
This chart pans out as expected. That-team-down-south is the clearcut leader. (Michigan is actually second in N-PPG with 36.3 but FIRST in N-YPG with a staggering 494.5).
We see a clearly defined pecking order in the Big10 that matches very closely the general consensus: clear-cut leaders in OSU-Wisconsin, a muddled middle of Iowa-MSU-Indiana, and a struggling bottom of offenses PSU-Illinois-Purdue.
The exceptions are Indiana, which is trending higher up the rankings due to its offense, and Penn St, which was generally considered a top-4 team in the Big10 going into the season (but is clearly not the case with their offense).
UMass and BGSU will continue to fall down this chart as their SoS gets watered down with conference and 1-AA play.
Conclusions Based on Not Enough Data
NSFMF! Teams always seem to play their lights out when they play Michigan. Michigan's defense has a way of making teams look better than they are. Notre Dame for instance had their highest offensive output of the year against Michigan, operating at 125% of their average YPG.
If we take the MOST pessimistic view and give our opponents 125% of their offensive AND scoring outputs against us and only give ourselves 80% (assumption our offense slows down entering league play) of our average going into the Big10, Michigan ends the season 7-5 with wins over PSU, Illinois, and Purdue.
If instead we give ourselves just our average offensive production going into this weekend - our Big10 expected record jumps to 6-2... 10-2 overall!! - with losses coming from Wisconsin and that-team-down-south.
Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between 6-2 and 3-5. Would you take that outcome at the start of the season? In a heartbeat? I know I would.
It is going to be tremendous to watch this Michigan team storm into the Big10 season knowing that our offense only needs to hold serve and our defense can surrender season-best performances from every single opponent and we still have a fighting chance in all of those games! And lest we forget... DILITIHIUM!
For now, I think we can look at this and add one more reason to the growing pile of why 2010 is NOT 2009! Get excited! Indiana here we come!
Prediction for Indiana:
Michigan's ground game operates at MINIMUM of 100% our normalized average and puts up above-average PPG, but since we only score touchdowns we go to the next closest number after 36! Indiana plays their lights out and operates at 125% of their normalized efficiency, mostly through the air.
Is anyone going to to Bloomington, Indiana for the game on friday or saturday? I have 2 tickets to the game that I can not return. I am looking for a ride from Ann Arbor to Bloomington and back and can split gas or whatever. If you, or anyone you know, is going to the game, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!!!
Thanks a million!
Email me at: sawenet at gmail dot com
Reaching out to experienced football minds here.
The knock against blitzing, it would seem to me, is that it is a high risk, high reward tactic.
Yet, in situations where these things hold true...
- You have a great offense
- You have a marginal defense
- You have an inexperienced secondary
- You want to maximize your possessions given that you are 6th in the country in points per possession (thank you Rash)
- You want to prevent the opponent from limiting your possessions with a measured, ball-control offense
- The opponent has a great offense
- The opponent has a marginal or weak defense
...is not the downside to an aggressive, disruptive blitzing campaign relatively negligible?
- You would increase the number of possessions for your offense against a bad defense, probably yielding a higher PPP than average,
- You would decrease the need for your secondary to be better than it is, and
- You would prevent one of the few things that would give us all gray hair on Saturday: enduring long, glacial drives by Chappell that have us into the second quarter with perhaps a single TD on the board (a la UMass in the first half).
It seems Indiana and Michigan State fit the above profile perfectly.
So, expert panel, please describe the downside of this strategy against such teams. (Note: I am assuming a rational blitzing scheme, not jailbreak insanity every play.)
There is debate about what the word "Hoosier" actually means, but about this there is no debate: Indiana is known for being good at basketball and tragically bad at football. This week's schedule wallpaper explores the idea that after all these years, the University of Indiana is still just trying to figure out football. I love the idea of an Indiana shooting guard about to be trucked by a Michigan running back.
The image below is a preview only. You can get this week's widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
This wallpaper was created using parts of 9 different images: a closeup of a red cushion, a scrapbook that was stretched to fill the screen, a vintage photo frame, a Life image of the 1955 Michigan vs. Army football game, an Army football helmet cut out of a different photo from the same game, a basketball player from an unidentified school, an old photo with water spots and other features to give the base photo a distressed appearance and two scans of watercolor brush strokes that were sampled and repeated to form the Michigan and Indiana logos. I made color and contrast adjustments to just about every element to accomplish the final look.