Hoke has a milkshake.
Urban has a straw that reaches allllllllll the way across the field.
Urban drinks Hoke's milkshake.
I hope you're all familiar with Ross Fulton of Eleven Warriors, who does an excellent job of breaking down the X's and O's for Ohio State and their opponents week in and week out. Ross was kind enough to answer a few scheme-centric questions about The Game, and he did so in more detail than I could've possibly asked for—his take on Michigan's offense alone is well worth your time.
Michigan's defense was surprisingly successful against OSU last year, give or take some pounding runs by Carlos Hyde and the bomb to Devin Smith. How do you see the Buckeyes attacking Michigan on Saturday, and do you expect to see any new wrinkles in the offense that we didn't see last year?
First, thanks for the opportunity to collaborate with MGoBlog, a site I have long read and enjoyed.
As to your question, Ohio State was able to gain yards against Michigan last season (the Buckeyes had nearly 400) but Michigan did a really nice job holding the Buckeyes to field goals in the red zone.
The new “wrinkles” you will see Saturday are the primary difference between the Ohio State offense of 2012 and 2013. Last season Braxton Miller was inconsistent as a passer and a decision maker on read/packaged games. As a result, the offense would devolve at times to the Miller and Carlos Hyde run show, even when defenses were cheating slot defenders or safeties against the run.
Fast forward to this year. Miller and Hyde are still Urban Meyer and Tom Herman’s primary weapons. But Ohio State is far more effective at constraining the defense with the screen and pass game. This reflects Miller’s development, as well as the improvement in the wide receiver corps, led by Corey Brown.
Meyer and Herman’s preferred method of operating is coming out in the First Quarter and hitting the edge with screens and packaged hitches to Devin Smith (above), and then taking downfield shots off play action. For instance, one play I expect to see Saturday (and one that will probably get under Michigan fans’ craw) is a deep crossing route off inverted veer. It is very difficult for the play side safety to stay home when they see a pulling guard and the possibility of Miller or Hyde running the football. Also look for Ohio State to use Dontre Wilson as a decoy in the flat to open vertical routes.
Then, once they establish a lead Meyer and Herman like to return to the base run game. Assuming the weather cooperates, I would expect some variation of that formula Saturday.
Are there any personnel matchups when OSU is on offense that particularly delight/concern you?
To me, there is one schematic and one personnel matchup that will be interesting to watch. The first is between Meyer and Greg Mattison in the wide side flat. Against spread teams, Mattison generally walks his Sam linebacker out to the field and plays him in the gray area inside the slot receiver.
Meyer and Herman love attacking the wide side field when a team does this. They will do so not only with wide receiver screens, but also the outside run game. For instance, one method they use is to run jet sweep away from the play side blocking. Miller will read that backside linebacker and if he bites down, Miller gives on the jet sweep. The Buckeyes’ slot receiver simply has to seal the linebacker inside and the Buckeyes can get easy yards, either with Hyde or Wilson.
As a result, playing that role is a lot to ask of any defender, but I was very impressed with how Jake Ryan handled it last fall. But this is a chess match I will be watching.
In terms of personnel, I think that Ohio State has an advantage inside against Michigan’s undersized interior. The strongest part of the Buckeyes as a team is their offensive line. Look for Ohio State to run inside zone and power at the 3-technique bubble.
[Hit THE JUMP to read how Ross thinks OSU will attack Michigan defensively, his thoughts on what plagues the Michigan offense, and his prediction for The Game.]
How will Ohio State go about crushing what little is left of Michigan's offensive soul?
Bring in a celebrity guest appearance of Jim Bollman to collaborate with Al Borges on play calling?
In all seriousness, Ohio State’s defense has certainly been inconsistent this fall, though they had their best game last week against Indiana. The Buckeyes’ problems have been against the pass – they have been stout against the run all season.
My guess is that Al Borges goes almost entirely with spread sets, and relies heavily on Devin Gardner in the run game – assuming that his body is still intact.
In response, Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will likely bet that his interior six in the Buckeyes’ 4-2-5 nickel over can stop the run without help. I think Michigan will continue to struggle if they are completely one-dimensional and it could be a long day for the Wolverine offense.
Alright, I'll ask a semi-hopeful question; given OSU's issues giving up big plays in the secondary, how do you think they'll try to deal with the threat of Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess on the outside?
This is the other interesting part of this matchup of weakness vs. weakness if you will. In my opinion Michigan’s two best offensive skill players are outside where Ohio State has had its struggles.
The Buckeyes have actually been fairly good at preventing explosive plays in the pass game. Where they have struggled is getting dinked and dunked to death down the field in the underneath flats.
The Ohio State defense primarily plays cover 3. But the Buckeye weakness is in its second level defenders, with the exception of Ryan Shazier (above). The result has been lots of short completions as guys fail to get proper drop depth and/or trigger on the ball.
But this Buckeye weakness faces a Michigan team who often cannot or will not (probably more of the latter) utilize the short and medium passing game. If I’m Michigan, I put Gardner in the shotgun and throw hitches and slants to Gallon and Funchess until Ohio State stops it, and hope they can break a tackle or two.
By contrast, Ohio State’s pass defense has improved as their young defensive line has developed. As soon as they have the opportunity, Ohio State slides 3-technique Michael Bennett down to nose guard to get their four best defensive linemen, namely Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Joey Bosa, and Noah Spence, on the field together. On third and long, the Buckeyes then move Shazier down as a pass rushing defensive end. I certainly think the match up of the Bennett versus Michigan’s interior offensive line favors Ohio State. and the Buckeyes will likely count on their pass rush being their best pass defense.
As an X's and O's guy, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts about Michigan's offense. In your opinion, what's the biggest issue there, and do you think Al Borges can succeed in Ann Arbor based on what you've seen?
I think this season for Michigan has been a vicious cycle. As a first principle, I think that either pro style or spread offenses can work. But in my opinion the spread offense has taken over college football because its easier to find a 19-year old that can make one or two reads and make plays with his legs than it is to find a drop back quarterback that can stand in the pocket and read through his progressions. The NFL has trouble finding 32 guys that can do that.
Turning to Michigan, you guys have not been able to run the football. Whether Michigan’s inability to run is a scheme or execution thing, I can’t entirely say – it is probably some of both. I think you all have fully dissected the offensive line issues, but I do think the tailbacks have also not helped the problem. If you are going to be an I formation team you have to have someone at tailback that threatens the defense, and Michigan does not have anyone a defense game plans for (obviously Green and Smith are only freshman so they could develop into that).
The NFL response to being unable to run is to throw, throw, and throw some more until a defense unloads the box. The problem is that Borges is unwilling or unable to do so with Gardner, likely because of turnover issues and the offensive line and tailbacks not being able to protect. Borges has thus resorted to a grab-bag offense. He’s trying various things to see what can work, but in doing so it’s compounding the problem because the offense is not coherent and telegraphs plays by formation.
As to whether Borges can ultimately succeed is a tough question. On the one hand, Jim Tressel’s offenses at times had a grab bag aspect and he obviously had a lot of success. On the other hand, Tressel micro-managed the offense as a head coach so he could make sure all aspects of the team worked together.
Borges is obviously not the head coach, but he has a ton of responsibility by virtue of the fact that he controls the offense. As such, if he is not the right guy it is going to continue be a festering issue. If Shane Morris and Green become the type of quarterback and running back that Michigan had in the 1990’s, then I’m sure Borges will be fine. On the other hand, this season has been so much of an offensive mess that part of me thinks Michigan would be better off turning the page with a new offensive coordinator (and offensive line) coach.
Are there certain sets of plays or an overall scheme that you think helps mitigate a major lack of experience on the interior of the offensive line? Obviously, this is pretty relevant to the previous question.
The short answer is no, and that gets to my point about vicious cycle. In Borges’ defense it is hard to hide guys that are in the middle of every play. Nevertheless, I think that Borges has failed by not taking steps to mitigate the issue. Looking at it from Ohio State’s perspective, the guys I am concerned with for Michigan’ offense is Devin Gardner running the football and Gallon and Funchess on the outside.
If I’m Borges and I know that my line cannot block and has trouble with blitzes I am going to employ largely the game plan I think they should use against Ohio State – operate from the shotgun, using a primarily quick passing game to Gallon and Funchess, while running Gardner 15-20 a game. I know that exposes Gardner to hits, but not any worse than he has gotten standing in the pocket.
I know that Borges has tried some of this, but again he has tried to have it both ways so that nothing works. I also know that I would not ask those interior linemen to do something I know they cannot do – which is pass protect for deep drops off play action and/or run the football from under center.
Care to put forth a prediction for Saturday?
I struggle to believe that Ohio State-Michigan, at Michigan, will not be a close game. That being said, I see two teams moving in the opposite direction and I don’t know how Michigan will run the football. I think that Michigan can make it a close game if Miller is inaccurate and/or turns the football over, but ultimately I could see a score of something like Ohio State 34-13.
Hoke has a milkshake.
Urban has a straw that reaches allllllllll the way across the field.
Urban drinks Hoke's milkshake.
Very well done! Did Ross ask you for your input regarding OSU and if so are you willing to share it?
Yes, there will be a corresponding Q&A up at 11W tomorrow; I'll be sure to post a link, as I have another Q&A with 11W's Johnny Ginter that'll go up here tomorrow. (I'm also the guest on 11W's Dubcast, which will be posted at 4:15 today, for those of you who are interested.)
At the risk of insinuating any reference to politics, it's analog to a Conservative tuning in to MSNBC or (vice versa) a Liberal checking in on FOX. The added insight to "opposition" thinking allows one to get a more circumspective viewpont. That and I genuinely respect Ross for his abilty to refrain from gloating (as I'm sure would be impossible for many of the posters on this site if the tables were turned).
So, much like myself, that dude thinks M doesn't stand a chance. Sometimes I hate loving sports so much.
watch us regularly was able to diagnose the obvious issues with our OC. Unfortunately, our OC has not shown a similar recognition of the issues.
I believe Fulton graduated from the University of Michigan. It wouldn't surprise me if he watched Michigan very closely.
He lost all credibility with me when he predicted Michigan would manage 13 points. Has he seen us on offense lately?
Seriously, though, great insight. Kudos to Fulton for not (rightuly) replying with 'HALOL UR GONNA GET JAILSEXED' since I probably would've given the opporunity
Off Miller turnovers.
Ross..Thanks for the analysis and insight. For those here that never check it out, 11W is a really good site on the news and analysis front for the B1G and college football in general. They are actually pretty welcoming to non-troll Michigan fans as there are a decent amount of them that post on the boards there (well, maybe not this week).
Glad you guys do this. I really appreciate it when you, Ace, share your insight on 11W. Keep up the good work and thanks again.
If we can hold it to that, I will be surprised.
I think it's more likely to end up something like 56-10...or worse.
Since he needs style points, Urban isn't gonna take his foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter simply out of mercy.
he doesn't really need the style points much anymore since Baylor bit it. All they need now is for Alabama or FSU to drop one and they're in. That said, I still don't think he's going to take his foot off the pedal...
I thought he had predicted the score at halftime. But in all seriousness, Go Blue, beat someone in a crappy bowl game.
Wow...I feel so much more optimistic about the game now. :(
I do not predict a blowout. But if a blowout occurs, it could only happen as a result of "Jet to Inferno," the hyper-speed no huddle that OSU has employed very sparingly and very effectively this year.
I have seen it in person, down in Columbus. I am terrified that Mattison's constantly switching and flip-flopping defensive formations won't even get set. I hope I am wrong. But just imagine the combination of Michigan's defense v. Indiana, with Michigan's offense v. Nebraska.
Look out, for Jet to Inferno.
Still can't find a way to hide a bad line? Damn. That would really help us.
I gotta ask you; the thing I have been thinking about every week for the last two months; what does Jerry Hanlon say about what is happening with Michigan's offensive line?!?
Good question. Whatever he would do, I'm sure his cheeks would be fiery red while doing it.
What can you do? I'm of the opinion that 99% of freshmen linemen are as useless as tits on a boar. I used to be one. That said, you just do your damnedest to coach them up.
BTW, Hanlon never coached me. He was long gone by the time I was there. But he was always around the building, and he was still a fierce little SOB.
Other than Jerry Hanlon?
I think it would be a fascinating talk. Just think of the history embodied in that guy. An original Schembechler hire. The guy at the core of Michigan's success -- the offensive line. And remarkably, as of when I last saw him, a guy who had only lost about a half-step from the "fierce little SOB" (no way to improve on that description) who was in the middle of Michigan's greatest run of coaching success in our lifetimes.
And yes, Jerry Hanlon has stayed every bit as close to the program as has Gary Moeller over the years. I have no idea what sort of insider he might really be. But what a Q and A it could be with that man.
He made some good points the board should heed, most importantly:
"The NFL response to being unable to run is to throw, throw, and throw some more until a defense unloads the box. The problem is that Borges is unwilling or unable to do so with Gardner, likely because of turnover issues and the offensive line and tailbacks not being able to protect. Borges has thus resorted to a grab-bag offense."
During the Redskins game the commentators dissected the Redskin's offense; they noted how RGIII was given ONE RECIEVER to look at and to throw to. In other words, there were no read progressions. Tirico said something along the lines of "It looks like an offensive game plan for a Saturday!" Now, is this because the offensive co-ordinator(s) Kyle/Mike Shanahan, winner of Super Bowls, have suddenly forgotten everything they know?? Or, much more likely, is it because RGIII has a limited skill set and can't make read progressions? Like Michigan, the Redskin's offensive hands are tied; they are one dimensional because of their quarterback, and opposing teams know it. NFL defenses are too big/strong/fast to let one man beat them with his legs; look around the league. That is precisely the situation we have here: big/strong/fast defenses are not going to let a Denard or Devin beat them with their legs. Al Borges' hands are tied.
If Morris lives up to the billing, things WILL turn. Probably not next year, but the year after. So, for now, be a real fan, keep your f*cking tickets, get into the stadium and scream for a miracle. Better things will come with a quarterback change. For now, get behind the team.
I am Gandalf the White.
so we shall pass?
Um Gardner can throw the ball if given the opportunity. Borges chooses, for some reason, not to throw three or four wide out there and let it ride. Make the defense spread themselves out. This will make it so the O Line does not have to block as many people. It will also make it so that our best offensive players, the receivers, get the ball more. I think Devin is a good quarterback but the pressure has taken its toll. Just not sure why Borges keeps going to max protect and bringing the offense closer together which emphasizes, what I think we can all agree on, the weakest part of the team: O Line blocking and fullback, tight end, and running back blocking. Anyway, it should be interesting shortly after the game. I really hope we learn something on Sunday and if changes are made we get the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball that can complement the defensive coaching staff.
Paradoxically, you're wrong. Spreading teams out would help us in running the ball, but it would do nothing to alleviate the pass protection issues.
Most teams go into a nickel against 3-4 wide packages, and nickel blitz packages are generally more exotic than base packages. Our slide protections are a direct response to double A-gap blitzes that killed us against State. Now, we are left with slides, which put our RB on DEs. But the double a gappers are still hitting home to some degree. Now add corner blitzes away from our slide in which the RB has to pick who to block. Not good.
That's the fundamental problem: what might help our running game might doom our passing game and vice versa. And, the line could doom it all, and they tie our hands from being more creative.
I think he's saying that putting 4 wide would allow faster developing plays---e.g. three-step drops or quick shotgun passes. That gives the threat of up top while allowing for short crosses, flats, and hitches.
That way, we could deemphasize the o-line. Just a casual observer's opinion.
Do you think that 11W should let me do a weekly Q&A over there? Because I do, in case you hadn't noticed, and it's actually pretty popular—us homers, when we acknowledge our allegiances, can still be quite objective. I mean, Ross' prediction gives Michigan more of a chance than most Wolverine fans do at this point.
Also, you can always skip over a post that a lot of other people clearly enjoy. This comment is pretty unnecessary and, considering Ross has a full-time job that isn't blogging and did this simply as a favor, quite ungrateful given the quality of the analysis.
[EDIT: I tried as long as I could. This thread no longer makes sense because a certain poster refused to stop posting about a post he didn't even want to read. This was not a reply to Gandalf, but a post that should no longer appear here.]
Thanks for all the work you guys do for the blog. I don't know how sometimes you haven't snapped. Yesterday someone was bashing Brandon for relaying comments from Peppers. You guys have a lot more patience than i could or would ever be. I bet you and Brandon will be bowling with Brian and Lance on Saturday. See you there!
along with some good natured jabs instead of the mindless Rivals boards (both sides). Good job Ace and Ross.
You really need to relax and enjoy the insight from others that this blog brings to its viewers. I certainly don't agree with everyones opinions but I do enjoy reading how foolish some people really are.
Like Ace said, you don't have to read these posts if they bother you, let alone comment incessantly about them or debate their right to be here. Get over it, or keep it to yourself. Most of us are homers, but still would like to hear reasoned arguments about our team, and our main rivals team from an outside perspective.
If you're going to be so intentionally dense, I'd recommend not doing it to somebody with admin powers. Like I said before, there was no need to leave that comment—how hard is it to just not read a post and move on with your life? It literally takes doing nothing. This shouldn't be difficult.
This one's a freebie, since if I blocked/Bolivian'd everyone who's been a buffoon this week, we'd start running out of active posters; I understand that people are generally pissed off right now. Next time, though, I might not feel so forgiving.
It's hard to seperate sports fandom from, you know, being a person. Is this third grade?
Although I, for one, do NOT welcome our new Buckeye overlords, I do appreciate Mr. Fulton's rational and knowledgeable breakdown from the other side. Thank you both. Cheers!
On second thought, that didn't work so good either, did it.
These are facts. Michigan defense assuming they are healthy will keep Michigan in the game IF the offense has a modicum of success. If the offense is completely shut down (I don't think that will be the case) then all bets are off and OSU will proceed with the slaughter because the defense cannot spend all the time on the field against OSU offense.
The line of 14 1/2 is pretty accurate. That said, OSU has Urban Meyer coaching them and we have Brady Hoke. Not something I want to think about.
They have Fickel and we have Mattison. Not all is lost.
educated and understandable, i am not sure i would hate them so so much.
the worst part was about two programs headed in opposite directions. that stung.
We are not that far apart. If you listen to the coaches if we only executed better we would be challenging them for the Big Ten championship next week rather than being home practicing for some mid level Big 12 team.
But we PRACTICE so WELL!!!
Borges' and Funk's last game in Maize and Blue will be Saturday unless they can somehow pull a big ass rabbit out of a hat against Ohio. I find it hard to believe Ohio will be held to 34 points since our offense could easily go 3 and out on at least half of their drives. My only real question is whether we can score more than 10 points.
Here's hoping for that 4 and 5 wide set with quick passes that many of us have pounding the table about for weeks now. Here's hoping that we get more than 2 seconds of pass protection (not pass poortection), and here's hoping that the receivers actually catch the ball.
Here's hoping that Borges doesn't continue to run into a nine man front.
Go Blue and shock the world this weekend!
You might be disappointed. They'll probably coach the bowl game as well. And that's assuming they will not coach at Michigan next year.
Also, we got that short passing game against State. Didn't work. Lets hope it does Saturday.
"The NFL response to being unable to run is to throw, throw, and throw some more until a defense unloads the box. The problem is that Borges is unwilling or unable to do so with Gardner, likely because of turnover issues and the offensive line and tailbacks not being able to protect. Borges has thus resorted to a grab-bag offense. He’s trying various things to see what can work, but in doing so it’s compounding the problem because the offense is not coherent and telegraphs plays by formation." I don't know much, but the guest commentor sure knows more than Borges does!
and play for the last shot........it's the ONLY way it won't be a blow-out. Also, did you hear that the Ford Car Dealership in Ann Arbor changed its name to "B-Team Ford"?
The only real question now... is will Urban go for two if / when O$U is up something like 45-13? Watch out, folks.
I'd love to see it, but I doubt he does.
( Woody Hayes, if you remember that guy )
As much as I love that story, it's urban legend. Woody never said it, and the two point attempt actually sprang from a miscommunication, not anything intentional.
Do you have a source for this? Not that I highly doubt it, but it seems etched in the programs' history. Also, I thought he was quoted post-game, which seems like a press conference context.
because Ohio State did this once early in the pre-conference schedule, I assume to get in game practice at it, against either FAMU or Buffalo. They did convert. I wouldn't be surprised to see him do it again.