You make very good and reasonable points.
Important Things About South Carolina
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.
COACHES WANT TO BE SPIES
@ Right: Thompson is apparently evangelical.
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.
Off the cuff first impression
10-6 South Carolina.
You may be right, and my memories of that ND game may be distorted by an inaccurate MGoNarrative. And I'm in no rush to revisit that game, to be honest.
But my general sentiment toward Borges remains the same. I don't hate the guy the way a lot of people around here seem to, but I'm far from impressed by him and I think his bad game planning and play calling has cost Michigan some wins over the past couple of years.
Just look at the box score-
I can't even bear to suffer through the box score. I'll just take your all's words for it (how do you like that English!).
Is there anything more emasculating than being proven wrong on the internet?
I can honestly say, no. No there isn't.
I'll settle for play calling that has one of Michigan's all-time most dynamic offensive talents on the field (a) at least 90 percent of the time Michigan has the ball, and (b) on every play if the game is within a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Or is that too much to ask?
If Denard cannot throw, what do you want him to do on the field for 90% of the snaps?
It can't be at RB, because he can't block.
It can't be at WR, because he can't block.
Do we just give him the ball every single time? Or only run plays in which we either give him the ball, or decoy with him?
It is too much to ask that he just be dynamic?
Since you asked, I'd like him to be in a position where (i) the ball ends up in his hands a good percentage of the time, and (ii) the defense is concerned that the ball might end up in his hands the rest of the time. Here's the amazingly creative thing Michigan can do to compensate for Denard's lack of blocking: put another back in the backfield with him who can block. It actually is possible to have Hopkins or Smith in the backfield with Denard at RB -- see Iowa (and even OSU) game film for examples.
And giving him the ball that often solves the predictability problem?
Look - I think we should have called more of the "using him as a decoy" stuff we did against Iowa, and I don't think Borges is blameless. But you can't put him on the field, routinely, at a position that is not QB, and not face the "but he can't block" problem. Again, unless you just always give him the ball.
where Denard running the ball was unpredictable and unexpected. That must've been the same games where our OL and running backs were so effective, but I can't seem to remember those either.
Simply stated, Borges is way overthinking this. It's college football -- put the ball in the hands of your playmaker and watch him make plays.
I can't speak for anyone else, but my beef with Borges has been apparent inability to anticipate and/or identify weaknesses in opposing defenses efficiently with regularity against upper tier defenses. There will undoubtably be instances where a blitz will put Denard's inability to block to the forefront, but if Borges is able to diagnose these instances at a respectable rate there will be successful results, likely for big gains because of the space said blitz would open in addition to the occasional sack. Denard's skillset would in some ways limit the offenses playbook, but I find it difficult to believe that there isn't a way to manage the risks involved and get both players on the field in a way that would lead to a positive net result.
But compensating for Denard's inability to block by putting in another RB who can is putting the offense at a disadvantage. Basically, if you're running a play with Denard on the field in which he doesn't get the ball and is not used as a decoy, you're basically running a play with 10 players.
... Denard and Toussaint is very different from Gardner and Denard. (If I'm SC, I make Gardner keep it and hammer him; he's a good scrambler but if he carries 20 times on designed runs, we'll lose.)
Denard also isn't much of a decoy for the passing game - we can't go max protect with him in the game, and I've seen nothing to indicate that he can run anything but a flare or screen.
The real problem is that there's virtually nothing Borges can call that we can reliably run-block without the threat of Denard's arm *and* legs. If he can't throw by the bowl game, we will have to pass to set up the run, and Denard's just not much use then.
I am wondering what kind of job Borges will do given the amount of time he has to prepare. I fully expect that he will have a great plan in place, but I also expect that he will nave no usable plan B if plan A doesn't go to plan. I think I am going to start calling him "No plan B Borges". Or maybe work on it a bit to make it more creative.
Hard to tell with these SEC teams.
I thought we would get crushed by a #9 3-loss Gators in 2008.
I thought we would beat/be competitive with a #22 4-loss MSU in 2011.
2 Reactions from the SC v Mizzou video:
Holy hell is Missouri bad at tackling, also
holy hell are SCs uni's ugly.
This is going to be a very, very tough game for us. While only Ohio and 'Bama were able to move the ball against us consistently this year, the Gamecock offense has been able to slice-up some pretty good defenses. I don't think we hold them to 10 points.
I think we'll need to score 28 points to win this game, and I don't think our O-line is good enough to get us there. If we can't create two turnovers on defense, we are in big trouble.
Really you think only OSU and 'Bama could move the ball consistently? Air Force ran 90 plays against us and NW was giving us fits as well, from my remembrance of the games.
Hey a 10-6 final has Michigan covering the spread at least
I like that the board is setting up Borges for failure here. Clearly, if he can't score on a top 10 defense while lacking an OL and a RB, he's an idiot!
I think the bigger part of the equation is M never gets beat by a better team. Always some excuse in play. Borges is this years fashionable excuse for M losing.
As I poorly articulated earlier in the thread, I don't hate Borges as much as most people around here, but I'm not a big fan, either.
Just curious, aside from thinking he's the favorite scapegoat around here, what are you opinions of him? Do you think he's a good OC after the past two seasons? Jury is still out with the remnants of Rodriguez's offense on the roster?
I think he's a good OC. The only time I've truly gotten aggravated was with his 2nd, 3rd down & short playcalls in the 2nd half against OSU. If I recall, he called 7 runs on 7 plays. Probably needed to get a little more creative.
Not trying to argue, I'm legitimately curious (MGoBlog gets very echo chamber-y, so counter points are always interesting), what have you seen from Borges that he's a good OC?
One thing I've learned from the Rodriguez years is to not put too much stock into how a team looks against weak opponents. And I'm not sure I've seen anything from Michigan's offense against good opponents the past couple of seasons that's terribly inspiring. (Even in wins: ND in 2011 was a lot of luck and late breakdowns by ND's D, 2011 was a particularly weak year for OSU, VT was a defensive/special teams victory, I'm not sure Michigan really beat any good teams this season other than NW, etc.)
I didn't follow Borges before he moved to UM, and I don't really remember any of the teams that he coached for before SDSU (who were good, from what I remember). I just find it a little disconcerting how much he's bounced around in his career, and I'm not sure how much stock to put into what he's done at UM so far given the personnel he has had.
Hard to blame you. Borges changes (or gets changed) out of coaching positions every couple of years, it seems.
I'm not chitownblue2, obviously, but my stance is similar to yours. I do think the jury is still out on whether or not he can get the job done. I want to see what he can do with a line of maulers, Shane Morris, and Derrick Green in the backfield. My guess is that there won't be nearly as much griping if/when that happens.
If or when he adds 10+ lbs and combines with a bull rush, he will be absolutely unstoppable as a junior.
Now the guy just hurdles, spins and splits tandems on a regular basis. Taylor has a huge challenge.
No one ever called him Tom Clowney on a recruiting trip.
If USCe has a guy partially engaging the LT, this would be Defensive Play of the Year. Instead it's just "Holy shit we have to play that guy!?!?"
I instantly shot a stream of pee into my boxers.
Tebow and Co. was one of Meyer's worst Florida teams. [EDIT: Also, I don't think the Bama game lasted long enough to be called an era, though I guess it felt that way at the time.]
that if Borges runs Vincent Smith on an Iso on 3rd and short that he is a lurker on the MGoBoard and gets his jollies by trolling us.
Didn't we also do that a lot with Rich Rod? Two different staffs have used him that way.
Everything that I've been hearing is he would have been a #1 overall pick if he was eligible for '13 draft, but he's pretty much a lock to get drafted at top 5 in '14 draft. His combination of size/speed/athleticism is second to none and there isn't a DE in the country that have that kind of combination. He lines up all over the field at LDE, RDE, DT and even at LB which tells you how gifted he is. Lewan and OL have a tall task of protecting whoever's at QB whether if it's Denard or Devin.
Is that six points off a halfback pass on a 1st and Goal from the ten yard line, with Gibby missing the PAT or is that from a 99 yard Vincent Smith run on a draw up the middle out of a power I formation?
"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."
That being said, if we do run up the middle, I will break something and somebody, in that order.
Talking to Auburn fans down here has only worsened my confidence in Borges to get it done. They all echo the same thoughts as most in the mgocommunity as way to predictable, stubborn, conservative at times, and just kind of sitting on the egg so to speak. I hope he brings his A game and stays aggressive throughout.
Somewhere, Cornelius Jones weeps.
I think it's "Conelius." No "r."
On Denard's blocking skills: I wonder how much of his ineffectiveness is injury related. Obviously he doesn't have experience of practice and training in blocking, but there is no way to effectively block while trying to protect an arm either.
10-6 seems like far too plausible a score. Shouldn't it be more like 8-4?