11 field goals?
"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
|WHAT||Michigan vs Iowa|
|WHERE||Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA|
|WHEN||Noon Eastern, November 5th 2011|
|THE LINE||Michigan -4|
|TELEVISION||National on ESPN|
|WEATHER||mid-40s at kickoff rising to almost 60; sunny, windy|
this team averaged 4.8 YPC.
Now that this site has a post dedicated to opponent scouting that I don't write it's always interesting to see whether my impressions from the opponent's game are the same as Ace's. This week they were in one critical respect: wow, Iowa has problems at DT.
Minnesota's late surge was a bunch of downhill runs from the pistol aimed at one Steve Bigach, who is a walk-on, national merit scholar, and Academic All Big Ten. He played like it. He's actually the second-string walk-on; Thomas "Not That Nard Dog" Nardo is the preferred starter but he was out with injury. He's touch and go this week in the same way Kovacs is. This is the difference between Michigan starting Heininger (not ideal but you can get away with it) and Brink (time to be nervous).
The rest of the Iowa front seven has not been great. Iowa is languishing at 69th in rush defense. Results against teams other than Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe:
That's remarkably consistent. Any opponent other than Iowa State averages just under five yards a carry despite not being that good at running the ball. The last couple weeks mobile quarterbacks Tre Roberson and MarQueis Gray have combined for 156 yards at 5.9 a pop. Mac Morehouse just describe the Hawkeyes as "awful" against mobile QBs.
no reason. via Midnight Maize
Michigan is good at running the ball when they bother to do it. After Finding Themselves against Purdue Michigan moved from a horrible 12th to a fantastic 8th nationally. They're actually beating last year's 5.5 YPC at about 5.8, albeit with most of the toughest defenses on the schedule yet to come.
Last week it was finally the Fitzgerald Toussaint show. Toussaint was the first Michigan tailback to get 20 carries in a game since Eastern Michigan in 2009; he turned those into 170 yards and won the starting job in the process. Denard Robinson enjoyed a relatively light workload thanks to that, and everyone hopes that will continue.
As to what Michigan does… at this point your guess is as good as Norm Parker's. Michigan bludgeoned the outside of the Purdue defense, brought out a power-based variant of the inverted veer (or "dash"), and is liable to do something completely different next week. Hell, if Iowa's interior line is as iffy as it looks they could line up in the I and run power. They might even succeed at it.
The only sure thing is that Michigan will do a bunch of different stuff and it will average around 5 yards a carry, if not more.
Key Matchup: Iowa LBs versus Toussaint/Robinson. The Iowa guys don't find the ball that well and could be optioned off to spectacular effect—or just run by. A big play or two could be in the offing.
If the run defense is a problem this is a… very large problem. That's the ticket. You have seen the Steele Jantz comparison from Fire Jerry Kill, but here is the Steele Jantz comparison:
The issues in Iowa's pass defense are not limited to funny but trigger-happy Gopher fans, either. Local beatwriter Mark Morehouse picked up on the same post I did before last week's Hawkeye Armageddon event:
FireJerry, who put some work into the post, computed that Iowa’s opposing FBS quarterbacks have pass-efficiency ratings that are 27 points higher against the Hawkeyes than against the rest of their competition.
But the site draws the same conclusion you (at least you should) and I do about the Gophers’ chances of springing an upset at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday:
If only Iowa’s offense was as bad as their defense then we might be on to something.
It’s still the Minnesota defense that allows 308.7 rushing yards per game in Big Ten play.
Herf nerf hurf hurf.
So. The Iowa secondary is atrocious, 91st(!) in pass efficiency defense despite having maybe one decent QB on the schedule I mean, seriously people:
I've spent the year fretting about the level of competition facing Michigan's defense; Iowa has faced worse (No ND, no MSU even in a trash tornado) and is in the same ballpark as the GERGfence's pass efficiency D.
This is inexplicable.If you were asking people to name the best starting cornerback combo in the Big Ten before the season started, I'm guessing most people would have gone right to Iowa's Prater/Hyde combo. I would have, certainly. Even if Prater has been a disappointment that's probably not it.
Candidate reasons include a complete lack of corner depth (MGoFootball's interview with Planned Sick Days hopefully mentions the return of a nickel corner that might foretell a nickel package), a complete lack of pass rush (83rd wsg 99th in TFL implying a further lack of penetration), and walk-on safeties of the not-Sash variety (
For Iowa's defense to be so bad against such a motely collection of opponents the answer has to be "all of the above." Nothing is working.
The good news for Iowa is that Michigan's performance here has an opponent-invariant quality. You might shoot a guy wide open but if he's not the one farthest downfield you just might get away with it, because both of Michigan's quarterbacks have Rex Grossman disease*. Robinson has been incredibly frustrating this year and Gardner's best pass was a beautiful touchdown that was just a bit over the line.
That fretted about, against defenses of Iowa's caliber Denard has been acceptable. He was 9 of 14 against Purdue with a YPA well over 12 (26th in pass efficiency D), put up 337 yard on Northwestern, and bombed Minnesota as everyone except Iowa does. Struggles against iffy teams stopped when the nonconference schedule did.
Terrible interceptions did not. You might as well rack one or two up right now. This will slow Michigan's offense down; it doesn't seem like Iowa is going to.
*[The secret weapon in Michigan's turnover margin is that half of Michigan's function as punts.]
Key Matchup: Denard vs Accuracy. Forever and ever this key matchup until Denard's missing at a rate that forces defenses to fear him in the air. Is this possible? Absolutely—a lot of spread QBs have light-on moments. Until it happens it hasn't happened.
This section is unchanged from the last two weeks. Until this part.
"I call them Lithuania and Estonia. Latvia? That's for a special someone."
After weeks and weeks wherein opponents went after Michigan's flimsy edges, this will be a stiff test for the interior of the defense. Marcus Coker is a tank with legs, if you can call the meaty appendages below his torso "legs" instead of "Baltic states." Think Beanie Wells with less breakaway speed and even more cinderblock to his fists. I be like dang about one of his long runs against Minnesota:
There is a 75% chance Hoke kidnaps him after the game and puts him out in Cavanaugh's number at the Tuesday practice availability. I fully support this course of action.
Iowa does the fullbacks and TE and MANBALL thing except their main play is zone—they haven't pulled linemen much since Ferentz arrived and they're not going to start now. The Iowa line is veteran and quality; there's some dodginess in the pass protection but that's another section.
So what's the deal with the rankings? Iowa is square in the middle in rushing yardage, 60th at just under 160 a game. That's after running through the tissue-soft Northwestern-Indiana-Minnesota anti-gauntlet. The numbers:
I'm not sure what to make of that Penn State number since it includes 49 yards from Vandenberg—surely scrambles—and hacks out 39 sack yards. Coker managed 74 yards on 18 carries, 4.1 per. Make of that what you will.
I make this of it: punt. I don't think you can tell much from the last three games. The Penn State number looks a little daunting, Pitt not so much. It's clear from the numbers that the issue with the Iowa run game is not quality so much as quantity. As BHGP put it earlier in the week, Coker's backup has been Marcus Coker. In games that are serious they can't put it all on the run game because the run game will break and then they'll be screwed.
Michigan's run defense is also sort of an enigma. They're obviously a lot better than last year. They also got gashed for big yards by the two teams with serious rushing attacks they played (Notre Dame and MSU), and neither of those teams actually has a serious rushing attack. They just have quality backs. If that's the secret to beating the Michigan defense—outrun and out-thump Michigan's young, iffy linebackers—er… the above run is not so much with the confidence building.
Is Mike Martin the guy who almost singlehandedly crushed the Purdue ground game or the one who got blown out of the middle by MSU's rickety offensive line? Well, it's kind of both:
"Purdue decided to block him one-on-one and zone me? Good luck to the guard that’s gotta block him," Van Bergen said this week. "I’m confident there’s not one guy in the Big Ten who can block Mike Martin one-on-one, run-blocking or pass-blocking. He’s too strong, too quick, got too many tools."
That was odd. If Iowa does the same thing they will be dumb, so they probably won't.
Meanwhile, will Jordan Kovacs be around to provide the security blanket that made Michigan one of the last teams in the country to give up a play longer than 40 yards? Let's find out.
Key Matchup: Heininger and Martin—mostly Martin—against the interior Iowa OL. The best way to stop Coker is to slow him in the backfield and tackle him before he can get up a head of steam. Martin's variable performance and the lingering possibility that Heininger just gets blown up are this matchup's largest X-factors.
Problems also loom here. Michigan's list of quarterbacks conquered isn't much more imposing than Iowa's. Purdue and Minnesota are bad (and Gray didn't even play); Cousins is iffy and was playing in the trash tornado; Ryan Lindley is currently 75th in passer efficiency. Tommy Rees went for 315 yards, Dan Persa 331. Michigan's main asset has been that lack of big plays conceded: Rees needed 39 attempts for his yards, Persa 44. That keeps Michigan's YPA in a reasonable range. It does make you wonder what happens if someone like Tommy Rees minus the three mindblowing turnovers comes along.
|13||Jarrett Lee, LSU||63.2||1250||8.1||13||1||157.4|
|14||E.J. Manuel, Florida St.||66.0||1776||9.0||13||8||155.4|
|15||James Vandenberg, Iowa||62.2||1918||8.5||17||4||155.2|
|16||Tajh Boyd, Clemson||61.3||2674||8.4||25||5||154.8|
|17||Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St.||71.3||2710||7.9||22||7||154.3|
|18||Matt Barkley, Southern California||67.3||2290||7.6||22||5||151.5|
[Ed: thanks for nothing, official NCAA stats site and your decision to freak me out by spelling it "Vanderberg."]
Looks like it's time to find out. Vandenberg's performance does come with some schedule strength caveats similar to those you can apply to Coker. The secondaries of Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota are liable to make even Ohio State's quarterback situation look good. Vandenberg struggled against Penn State (50% completions, YPA under 5, two INT) and hasn't really played anyone else with a good pass D. Iowa St and Pitt are decent, I guess. The three already-mentioned dwarves are tire fires. Saturday's game looks like a proving ground for both units.
Iowa has a couple weapons before a steep dropoff. Marvin McNutt is a notch below Michael Floyd but only a notch; Keenan Davis is a quality second banana. Things do get a little thin after the top two: freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley* is the third most prominent target. While he's looking like a keeper he remains a dread freshman. Coker gets his share of dumpoffs and then it's bupkis. They'll hit some tight ends for short gains from time to time, but there's no Clark/Moeaki this year.
The offensive line could be an issue. Watching first-round-hype-recipient Reilly Reiff get blasted back into Vandenberg so badly that a Minnesota DE sacked him with his but is an eye-opening experience. Iowa's below average in sacks allowed (73rd) and the Iowa internets believe Vandenberg freaks out at blitzes. This could be a game in which the Mattison blitz packages play a major factor.
Michigan's pass defense is the most wonderfully mediocre thing that's ever existed. Never in the realm of simulated conflict have so many been so happy for something so middling. Michigan's 41st in pass efficiency D. This statement has sent a half-dozen readers into rapturous seizures. Their man strength is not being completely awful. They get behind opponents but rake the ball out. They usually tackle on the catch. Every once in a while a ball will get batted to them. The safeties haven't let anything behind them all year. This is a tiny unicorn being shepherded into adulthood by an entire community.
The main issue will be the health of Jordan Kovacs. Kovacs missed last week's game against Purdue with some sort of knee injury; he has reportedly been practicing and Brady Hoke says he will go. These things will be believed when seen.
Extra bonus weird factor: there's going to be some wind. Not MSU-level wind, but potentially meaningful.
Key Matchup: Floyd and Countess vs their counterparts. I'm expecting the first deep balls since MSU (sort of), these run by quality receivers in an environment more conducive to completions. Each ball that Vandenberg hangs up there will be a huge swing opportunity for Iowa. May the corners get in chests all game long.
*[Iowa has replaced their Inexplicably Great White Wide Receiver with the Elaborately Named Great Wide Receiver of late. Call it a push.]
Iowa's kicker was amongst the most reliable in the league before he missed a chip-shot and a 30-some yarder in the Minnesota loss. He's still 12 of 16 on the year and was 14 of 17 last year. The misses against Minnesota are a fluke.
Brendan Gibbons added 22 and 37 yard field goals to his collection of uninspiring makes that we'll take all day after last year. He's now 6 of 8 on the year. None of those are from outside 40 and two are glorified extra points. This is still massive improvement.
Iowa has a huge advantage in punting (Michigan is 111th, Iowa 12th net) but Michigan's is based on an extremely small sample size dominated by pooch punts from Michigan State's half of the field. Nobody's returning anything much, though Iowa has a slight advantage on kickoffs.
Key Matchup: Gibbons you put it through the uprights?
Cackle with knowing glee if...
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 (Baseline 5; +1 for Road Disaster Reprise?, +1 for Coker Plus Freshman Linebackers Equals Like Dang, +1 for Where Is The Kovacs Binky?, –1 for GERG-Level Pass D Against Basically A Season-Long McGloin, –1 for Minnesota Comparative Scores For Real, +1 for Vandenberg Is Not TerBush, –1 for Roberson/Gray == Luck Plus Legs, –1 for They Would Take Heininger In A Hot Second.)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not The Last Two Years, Please, Part II, +1 for Division Goals: We Has Them, +1 for I Like NINE WINS, –1 for It's Not Like This Would Be Totally Incomprehensible, +1 for Hell Yes It Would After The Minnesota Game.)
Loss will cause me to... collapse to my knees, rend my garments, and prepare for the literally Red Sea that is the rest of the schedule to cave in. Okay, so some of it is orange. But orange is almost red.
Win will cause me to... tattoo B-R-A-D-Y G-E-T-S-IT across my knuckles.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Man, this creeps me out. In the aftermath of the Minnesota game Michigan is a solid road favorite that the public is piling in on and Vegas is like "fine by us." Heebie jeebies right there.
Still, they did lose to Minnesota and when Graham Watson made the Hawkeyes her upset special on Doctor Saturday one of her arguments was "Iowa outgained Minnesota by 75 yards." That is the worst argument in the history of arguments. Total yardage in Minnesota-Michigan: 580-177. I know football is weird but it ain't that weird. It's hard to comprehend but it does look like this Iowa team is the kind of team that can lose to Minnesota if they get a few bad breaks, which basically makes them Purdue.
But it is on the road and Michigan is capable of throwing six interceptions at any moment against any opponent and confidence is not roaringly high over here. Still… man. Losing to ISU, scraping by Pitt, hardly threatening to score against PSU, losing to Minnesota… these are not events that make me think this is a team that should beat Michigan.
Meanwhile, what happens if Iowa gets a fourth and two at the Michigan 38? Do they send Marcus Coker at Will Heininger? No, they punt. What happens if the inverse happens? Adamantium claws burst from Hoke's forehead and he says "go for it." Given the defenses in this matchup, advantage M.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
11 field goals?
Three touchdowns, three extra points, four field goals. Not the most probable outcome, but doable.
four FG's on the road??? INCONCEIVABLE!!!
Although, it would make me happie.
4 TDs, 2 FGs, 1 missed 2pt conversion in an attempt to make the lead 7.
4 TDs, FG, and another safety?
We've given up 9 TOs to Iowa the last two years and lost by 10 and 2 points, respectively. With that milquetoast defense they have and Borges driving the offense like a 16-year old who just traded in his Sonata for a Ferrari, I'm not too worried.
Your confidence comforts me. You're like a gambling pacifier.
Great, except 16-year olds tend to wrap Ferraris around telephone poles just after they drive them into ditches.
Do we miss Rex in Chicago? nahhhhhhh
LMAO. This pops into my head every time I see Denard chuck it deep off his back foot.
Graham Watson is a girl?
I had no idea. Thanks!
That was one lazy, uninformed post about Iowa/Michigan. Does Hinton ever read the stuff posted by his contributors and just shake his head? I mean, he is the editor...so shouldn't he questioning stupid posts like that?
I've can't shake the bad feeling I have about this game. Homefield is huge (see Ohio vs Wiscy) and they're going to be out for blood after an embarassing loss. . .
I had this one in the W column securely until Iowa lost to Minnesota. All bets are now off. Before the Minny game I knew who Iowa was, I had a gage on them. Now they are playing for their season and their response cannot be predicted but I fear the worst. In other words, a week ago I knew what this game was. It has now been thrown into the Big Ten chaos theory and I am very uncomfortable.
You had this one as a win, UNTIL you watched them yak one up to the worst team in the BCS?
That's like saying "well, I USED to think she was ugly, but I heard she recently ran face-first into a woodchipper, so now I ask myself whether she might be attractive now."
more or less dangerous the game after they lost to Michigan in heartbreaking fashion? Ask Michigan State.
If you honestly believe that Iowa is a bad football team, you are kidding yourself. Perhaps we should model our game plan after the other team(s) to beat them at home this year. Um, wait a minute. Uh oh.
Forget the Iowa v. Minnesota game. Fluke, that is all. This is going to be one tough game.
And maybe not.
My only point is that I really don't see how that Schadenfreude-tastic data point could alter your analysis in a positive direction.
In other words, your car might be valuable, or it might not... But taking a dump in the back seat won't help.
coming from the perspective that Iowa is a good football team, as I have no evidence from the recent past to conclude otherwise. From that perspective, Iowa is not only a good football team but an angry as hell football team who is now playing the most important game of their season.
Taking from your analogy, Iowa is a valuable car that just had somebody take a dump in its backseat. They can't find the perpetrator, but they will take it out on whoever they see first. Yeeaahh, that is Michigan.
"I am coming from the perspective that Iowa is a good football team, as I have no evidence from the recent past to conclude otherwise. "
manipulating the conversation, but you are doing it so well that I am gaining a new appreciation for you.
But my post being removed as trolling?
How dare I suggest that Iowa may just be a decent team.
There's no place on this blog for respecting opponents. You traitor. Turncoat.
(I suspect you're catching heat because of the way you initially expressed the thought that Iowa may be a decent team.)
He's catching heat because he didn't call them a decent team, he called them a good team.
He's catching heat because he claims that "there is no evidence" that a BCS team ranked in the 70's in total defense that just lost to Minnesota is a bad team.
to return to your predictions about our starting QB -- it's Devin this week, right?
is kind of my thing.
As for the "trolling" thing, that happens. Some people downvote things they disagree with. I think a lot of us have changed the settings so that even downvoted comments appear.
DId you read Brian's preview? There is an abundance of evidence that Iowa simply stinks defensively this year, or at the very least is below-average. Especially against mobile QBs, even if they're LOLGopher mobile QBs. For a team that has relied heavily on D for past success, that's just not good.
I can see what you mean about their offense...but don't forget they have a guy named Ferentz as head coach, who gives Tressel-ball a run for its money. And if you haven't notcied, our D isn't a tire fire this year. Iowa is going to have to score and score often to win...they may exploit our D for stretches, but don't sell short on our D with Mattison making the playcalls.
I surrender. Michigan is a national powerhouse who has racked up countless Big Ten road victories over quality teams the last 4 years. We will cruise into Kinnick and show them who's boss. Minnesota beat these losers!!
That is way more realistic.
"I'll take totally missing the point for $1,000,000, Alex."
You are being asinine, and I mean that as sweetly as possible. There is an excellent selection of data on both teams' current years above. If you would like to present a counterpoint that will be respected and inspire quality debate, you ought to show data ignored in Brian's post and/or how his interpretation of a data point is flawed. Otherwise, your opinion is just, like, your opinion, man, and has no substance. This is not music or art, where you should simply talk about what's in your heart. Your ignorance of this structure is silly.
and check what you thought of the Michigan v. Illinois game in 2009 before it occurred. Statistics such as the ones you sight have limited value. I bet you are the kind that determines who won a game in your mind by the UFR and determine that "we beat ourselves" because "we didn't execute." Games are played on the field, not on graphs and charts. Trust me, this game is more dangerous right now than it was a week ago.
Maybe ask Iowa fans what they thought of Minnesota before the game.
I actually didn't cite any statistics, and I certainly didn't sight anything. I am fully aware of the crazy things that happen on gameday; a very memorable for me came in asking Tom Curtis (all-time U-M leader in INTs) how M pulled off the '69 upset against OSU, and he said that sometimes it's just about who shows up wanting it more.
Yes, Michigan could lose by a bazillion points tomorrow. You are essentially discounting the entire point of speculating on future results, including trying to use the admittedly limited predictive tools we have.
You do not know football any better than plenty of people around this blog, and you are being an ass about this. If you have an opinion based on something other than your emotional read into Iowa's football team, or if said read comes from being at every practice and in the locker room this week, then share it. Otherwise, don't dismiss well-founded assertions.
on the cite v. sight, very important in the overall scheme. And you really should not call be people "asses" when just discussing football.
to sight your rifle for deer season, but usually folks are citing statistics. /s
Seriously, I would agree with the premise that one should never take an opponent too lightly (we've had a few years of doing that and getting burned). But an unexpected loss is not always unexpected; it can also be a sign that the two teams' trajectories are headed in opposite directions or are just different shades of bad on the day that they meet. I'm expecting Iowa to put up a good fight, but it seems going into the game that Michigan has, overall, the advantage, even away from home. And, at least from what we've heard from the coaches, they are certainly not taking the game lightly, or telling the players to take it lightly, which, frankly speaking, is what matters.
I never said we couldn't lose this game. I never said it was going to be a blowout. But there's enough evidence to conclude a 60-75% liklihood fo winning at Iowa.
Let's put it this way...I'm about as nervous for this game as I was for Northwestern. And we beat NW by 18 points. But they were beating us by 10 at half.
So...with road games, there IS reason to worry (especially after the home team had a bad loss), but not to the level that I would say M is more likely to lose than win tomorrow.
EDIT: I'd add that, after The Horror, Michigan laid an egg against Oregon with their potent spread attack. There's an argument to be made that Iowa could bounce back and respond with a strong game (like ND did against MSU), but there's an equal argument that they continue to wilt the following week or are just a bad team. We just don't know, man. So, to say Iowa is more likely to win because they LOST to Minnesota is like saying Michigan was more likely to beat Oregon because they lost in The Horror. Does. Not. Compute.
I just threw up in my mouth a bit.
ijohnb's central point, viz. that psychology matters, and not only that but it often matters so much that it can make adamantium razor claws look like, well, adamantium razor claws going up against Galactus who gulps your world in one swallow, is valid.
The question from there is, what is Iowa's psyche going to do after the loss against Minnesota? No doubt, their mental state following the Miniloss could make them a much tougher opponent or a much flimsier opponent tomorrow. At the very least, it adds a complication for prognosticators as compared to the expected result of Iowa dominating Mini. It may add a slight complication for the M coaches, too, if they want to try to exploit over-angry or uber-subdued Iowa. Though I doubt they will change their mindset on playcalling much or at all, I do think they will spend an extra couple of minutes this week telling the Wolverines "Hey, don't take this game for granted just because your opponents lost to a team that you beat by 6.022*10^23." Those minutes have an opportunity cost, however small.
Personally, I agree that the loss makes Iowa more dangerous this week. They're just as talented this week as two weeks ago, but now they're angry. They're not deflated, like a team with (arguably) legit national title hopes is after a loss (cf. post-Horror and Wiscy-OSU games sited above).
But we'll see tomorrow. Football is weird.
I am glad that somebody understands what I am saying (or what I am trying to say but apparently failing miserably). Go Blue.
I got you too. Iowa is undefeated at home, winless on the road and going to be playing with a chip on their talon.
Avogadro's number is tremendously sensational.
will hurt the value of your car was seen as "insightful" by someone.
"Was Wisconsin more or less dangerous the game after they lost to Michigan State in heartbreaking fashion? Ask Ohio State."
Meaning these things can go either way.... Mad only lasts so long. Sucky kinda sticks with you.
Also, their team is the healthiest it has been all year, I dont like the idea of Lewan hobbled. We don't get many breaks with these guys in terms of injuries.
I'm waiting for the photoshop.
If it's an animated gif, so much the better.
Hey, if you're ready, I think its high time that you change your signature line to whatever you like. You wore that scarlett letter like a badge of courage (see what I did there?).
I didn't realize that was a joke. I thought maybe he was just showing us he's not ashamed of what he likes.