So, after shenanigans—there are always shenanigans—Michigan lands in the Gruesome Running Back Leg Injury Bowl against South Carolina. Appropriately, the game will be played in a pirate ship.
A new opponent requires knowledge. Here is the knowledge about South Carolina.
Haunting various dreams for the next month
like Will Gholston, except good at football, so not like Will Gholston
Hey look it's Jadeveon Clowney, a 6'6", 260-pound defensive end with the kind of size/speed combo that has made him so patently unfair in college from day one that the only comparison you can make is with Adrian Peterson, who doesn't even play on the same side of the ball. Clowney's coming off a 4.5 sack performance against Clemson, leads the nation with 13 of those, and has hit 21.5 TFLs. Nobody approaches him and says "lol you name clowney."
Clowney's parents should have kept changing his name to something more outlandishly mockable with every inch he grew, just to see if anyone would bite on "I have a butt on my face Clowney." No one would have.
Unsurprisingly, over a sack per game by that guy is a good head start on lots of sacks in general—South Carolina is fifth nationally with 3.3 a game. Nobody else leaps off the page but that's actually a testament to South Carolina's pass-rush depth. The next three guys on the sack list have 5, 4.5, and 3 sacks. This isn't that impressive… until you look them up and find out they're all defensive ends. Which means that from two-ish positions on the field—I bet at least one of those guys plays DT on passing downs—South Carolina has 13 and 12.5 sacks. Put another way, Michigan's entire team has 6.5 fewer sacks than South Carolina's DEs*.
So at least NFL scouts are happy with the matchup of Lewan and Schofield versus those guys.
*[Not entirely fair since Michigan faced 294 passes to South Carolina's 342, but… yeah still pretty much fair.]
Haunting various dreams last month
That would be the aforementioned gruesome leg injury to Marcus Lattimore, whose knee ligaments had a suicide pact gruesomely consummated in the Tennessee game.
The downgrade in the run game was severe and immediately apparent. Backup Kenny Miles came in to grind out 34 yards on 10 carries—2.5 YPC worse than Lattimore's efforts—against the Vols. The next week against Arkansas Miles and Mike Davis combined to average 3.3 YPC. After a breather against Wofford, the pair split carries against Clemson for 3.1 YPC.
Lattimore had not been astounding before the injury, FWIW. He had a couple of Toussaint-like lines against LSU (13 carries for 35 yards) and Florida (3(!) for 13), and only cracked 100 yards against Vandy, Kentucky, and Georgia. Issues with South Carolina's run game seem systemic.
This will sound familiar: South Carolina announced that backup quarterback Dylan Thompson would start against Clemson one hour before the game last weekend, rendering headlines like…
Connor Shaw Is the Key to the South Carolina-Clemson Game
…teeth-gnashingly frustrating for blog folk. Shaw had been fighting foot/ankle injuries that sapped his mobility for much of the year and should reclaim the starting job with a month to heal up.
Thompson did put up 310 yards passing, 3 TDs, and an interception while also picking up 73 yards on the ground (of which he gave back 35 on sacks), so if Connor Shaw struggles early you know the OBC is just itching to swap quarterbacks.
Shaw has not given much indication that he will as long as he's healthy. Michigan's defense is good but it's not at the level of LSU and Florida, and those are about the only defenses to give South Carolina much trouble this year. Oh, and Vandy. Right.
I learned it from YOU, dad
If you have not watched Carolina play this year it may surprise you to know that the Gamecocks have moved to what is pretty much a full-on spread offense with QB running and whatnot. Shaw and Thompson have 118 non-sack rushing attempts between them, many of them on old-timey zone read pulls when defenses sell out on Lattimore or Guy Who Isn't Lattimore.
No, this has not prevented them from finishing 12th in total defense, 15th in rushing D, and 13th in scoring defense. Yes, it is a crazy old world when Steve Spurrier is piloting a spread offense and winning with defense.
Further upping the sense Michigan is playing a weird alternate universe version of itself: Ace Sanders is a Gamecock Jeremy Gallon, except way better on punt returns. He's a slot dude, like all South Carolina receivers, and is a frequent target on screens. About which more later.
South Carolina practices are races to the quarterback
So I'm pretty sure the Gamecock offensive line is a shambles. There's the Lattimore numbers, which are depressing against superior defenses and grindingly okay against the Vandys of the world, where he'd pick up like 4.8 YPC because he gets one or three after contact every time. Without him the Gamecocks are a team that rushes for 4.1 YPC against Wofford.
Now add in the OL yielding 2.9 sacks a game on a relatively modest 329 attempts and this is not a good offensive line. It is a very bad offensive line, which helps explain why…
The Gamecock passing game is a betrayal of everything Steve Spurrier has ever believed in
Gamecock WRs: shorter than cornerbacks. Which cornerbacks? All cornerbacks.
Here's every attempt from the USCe-Missouri game:
Purdue. Before Lattimore's injury he was Carolina's leading receiver with 26 catches for 173 yards; Miles has 16 more catches. The top three receivers are all 5'9". That clip reel has about three passes past ten yards and given the YAC machines these guys are that is a season-long trend. The leading receiver, Bruce Ellington, is averaging about 15 yards a catch.
The two tight ends are frequently featured. Justice Cunningham is the large guy you see catching a half-dozen dumpoffs in the clip reel above; South Carolina will also go to Rory Anderson in the redzone—five of his 13 catches are touchdowns.
It works well enough, though: Spurrier's dink and dunk is 21st in passer efficiency. They spread the ball around, get lots of yards after the catch, and have kept the interceptions that plagued Stephen Garcia down.
Men who might tackle Denard Robinson
If Michigan can get to the second level, the guy most likely to be making the stop is fifth-year senior Shaq Wilson, who's a 5'11, 226-pound WLB sort who leads South Carolina in tackles. #2 is safety DJ Swearinger, which may or may not betray a tendency to get blocked on a second level that the defensive line covers up frequently.
This is probably not thecase. South Carolina is 15th nationally despite facing an absolute ton of rushing attempts. On a YPC basis they are better than OSU by 0.4 yards and better than MSU by 0.2 yards. They are essentially equivalent to Notre Dame, who Michigan did actually run on some—with Denard Robinson playing QB.
The over-under on Thomas Rawls YPC is set at one.
Well what about the air?
More plausible. Michigan's pass efficiency D slots in just behind South Carolina and I think we know Michigan can be had. The Bray went nuts against them with 368 yards on 43 attempts, 4 TDs, and one INT. On the other hand, Aaron Murray had 109 yards on 31 attempts and an INT, Tajh Boyd 183 on 24 attempts and a 1-2 TD-INT ratio.
As someone who saw the Bray live in a game where Jarvis Jones was made to not exist, I think that game does indicate that if you can protect your quarterback the secondary will yield open guys and chunks of yards. Every time you drop back, though, you're playing with fire, as that clip above demonstrates. Sooner or later I have a butt on my face is going to get you.
If Michigan can move the ball against this defense it's going to be great news for Mike Schofield as Michigan's left tackle next year, because Lewan will take the money and run after sending his stock skyward. Also everyone will all be like WHERE WAS THAT AGAINST OHIO STATE because I tell you what running up the middle on third and short is going to have the same result.
So do we cheer for Lewan to crush the pass rush of Clownley and give us a better chance to win, or hope the Lewan doesn't show as well and possibly stays for next year and we have a better line? I'm so confused right now.
In 41 bowl games, UM has been kept out of the end zone just once, in the 1-1-70 Rose Bowl which they lost to USC 10-3. Bo's heart attack and Glenn Doughty's knee injury obviously were major factors in our performance.
In back to back years UM lost the Orange to Oklahoma and Rose to USC by scores of 14-6. Did they miss the extra points or go for 2 in those games? I was just a little kid so don't remember those games very well.
You cant really say they arent that good based on a 2-2 record against teams with a "pulse". How is that defined? I mean, look at our record. We were 1-4 against teams with a record above a 6-6 record. (Alabama, ND, Nebraska, Northwestern, OSU). Adding in the 6-6 teams (MSU, Airforce, and Purdue), we're still only at 4-4.
Disclaimer, I'm doing this off memory, I might have missed a team
I can't think of another coach or coordinator anywhere that has a greater disparity than Good Al vs. Bad Al. Good Al can put up 40 points against a solid Ohio defense with a variety of looks that keep the defense off-balance. Bad Al can run up the middle with a 160 lb RB on 3rd-and-short, or keep Denard under center all game to blow a matchup with a weak Iowa team.
I think it is very weird that even though Michigan is about a TD underdog, you appear to assume they will win unless the OC screws it up. This unrealistic view of yours may explain some of your unhappiness.
Michigan is +4.5, and I don't assume Michigan will win, I'm saying if they are going to win, or have a chance, as any fan of a team would hope, then Al Borges needs to call a game a lot more like the first half against OSU than the second half. I've stuck by Borges and had hope for the future because he's been calling an offense that's not his, but as far as I'm concerned, the second half against OSU is indefensible. I'm not saying if he just shows up and calls a decent game, Michigan wins, but I think if he calls a good game, which he has shown the ability to do, Michigan could definitely win.
On playing Michigan instead of rumored Northwestern... Northwestern is a heck of a team. They are 9-3. They lost heartbreakers to Penn State and Nebraska. They easily could have been going to the Rose Bowl. If you beat or you get beat by Northwestern, you don't achieve as much as playing Michigan with their stature, tradition and reputation. It's something special. This is the first time I've had the chance to compete against them. Their former coach Bo Schembechler, I'm a great follower and have great respect for him as one of the best coaches of all time. Some of his sayings I'll still use today. I have tremendous admiration for Michigan, Michigan football and the players that have played there.
What did Northwestern ever do to him?
And Shaq Wilson sounds like he's coached by Hoke. Or Lou Holtz.
Down in Florida, there will be great weather, a great atmosphere at the Outback Bowl and we're playing a great team in Michigan. We saw them a lot on TV. They're going against great competition every week. We know we've got our hands full.
On Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson... He's a Heisman candidate. He's a great player. I like the way he plays the game. He's fast and we have to do a good job of containing him.
Great competition every week? OK, we've played some highly ranked teams...but you said you WATCHED the Big TEENNNNN. Well played Shaq, well played.
this game comes down to two things: will borges call the game like he did against iowa, or will he call it like he did the second half at ohio? if its the latter, we've already lost. if the former, i'd say the game is a push. secondly, lewan's ability to protect gardner from clowney. both of these guys are top 15, maybe top 10 draft picks right now. fortunately for UMich, though, i don't think SC has faced QB's as athletic and fast as gardner/robinson all year.
Attention campers. Lunch is cancelled due to lack of hustle. Deal with it.
Thanks for the informative post. BUT did you have to get a special permit to write "Here is the knowledge"? Or should rookie posters like myself already know that there is a difference between "the knowledge" and "THE KNOWLEDGE"?
I don't understand why so many people hate low-scoring games. If it's a total slopfest with tons of turnovers, OK, that's one thing. But if it's a game with two strong defenses holding their own, I enjoy it. I thought the MSU game was the most exciting of the season from start to finish. The importance of every score seemed amplified that day.
It depends. If it's an SEC/PAC game that's low-scoring because of good defense, then it's an exciting game. If it's a Big Ten game that's low-scoring because of good defense, then it's a slow boring outdated game.
If there's an SEC/PAC game that's high scoring because of good offense, then it's an exciting game. If it's a Big Ten game that's high scoring becaue of good offense, then it's just an example of how defenses in the Big Ten suck and are outdated
If you're doing nothing, how do you know when you're finished?
I am fine with low-scoring games if I'm not having to constantly refrain from throwing things at the TV when the offense has the all. That is not fun. That, and also I'm having a hard time looking past 2012 ND game to remember one as low scoring as 10-6 that was not marred by turnovers.
I think realistically that Borges can be blamed for 1.5 losses (in as much as one person can be blamed for a football team losing a game).
Alabama was clearly the better team. Borges shares no special blame for that loss.
The air raid experiment against ND made sense going in, given ND's weak and injured secondary paired with a strong front seven. But the adjustment to a run-first offense and the abandonment of that adjustment is on Borges. I give him a 0.5 credit for that loss because Denard's complete lack of ball security in that game is on Denard, but Borges probably should have not been dialing up nearly as many pass plays as he did.
The Nebraska game is on Hoke. The kind of decision to play Bellomy in the event of a Denard injury is exactly the kind of high-level team management that is the direct responsibility of the head coach. (Also, Nebraska is a good team; there is absolutely no guarantee that Michigan wins, even if Denard doesn't get injured or Gardner takes over at QB.)
The OSU loss is directly at the feet of the guy who went into a nonfunctional shell after a successful first half. The D were stout against OSU's O, but Michigan's O couldn't muster 6 points in the 2nd half after 21 points in the 1st. That's a function of an easily stopped, very predictable, vanilla offense that hasn't been able to run the plays that were being called for two straight seasons, as well as deciding to essentially bench the player responsible for nearly all offensive success the team has had for three years.
I don't agree with a lot of Brian's opinions when it comes to Michigan's offense. I'm not the Denard apologist Brian tends to be, nor am I quite the Debbie Downer he is regarding Gardner's performance. But Borges absolutely shares the blame for Michigan's offensive struggles over the past couple of seasons. I'm just hoping that things sort themselves out as Hoke's recruits start playing, but I'm not sold on Borges-as-offensive-genius by a long stretch.
The run-first offense was working, but Borges abandoned it to go back to his original game plan that wasn't working, is what I meant.
I understand why Borges wanted to throw going into the game, given ND's strengths (strong front seven that's good against the run) and weaknesses (injured racked secondary that's soft against the pass). But then that plan wasn't working so they tried running for like a quarter, and were having success. But then the run-first plan was abandoned and they reverted back to Borges' original game plan of throwing.
Basically, Borges initial strategy (throw) didn't work so he tried something different (run) that worked, but he reverted back to his original, non-functioning game plan (throw). Even when he was having success doing something different, he still reverted back to his original plan.
EDIT: Just re-read my original comment. I meant that the adjustment to a run-first offense was a good move, but that Borges' mistake was then moving away from the run to throw again. Sorry, the initial play-calling adjustment to run the ball was good. The adjustment back to passing was not.
I think you probably need to review the game again.
Michigan came out with a run pass balance that trended pass maybe a little pass heavy. They were probably "taking what ND gave them." Then Denard threw INTs on several consecutive pass attempts to end the half. The second half was dominated by the run, until Michigans final possession when the clock was a factor and they were down two scores. The clock was clearly against them at that point since they didn't get the ball back at all.
I think you need to re-watch the ND game. ND never stopped M in the second half. Denard fumbled the ball away once around the 10. On M's other two drives Denard drove them down the field but they had to settle for FG's.
After ND went up 13-3 with under 7 minutes to go in game, Borges threw the ball more, but it was effective, and time was of the essence