On one hand it was freak plays against a freak offense. On the other hand it was a whole LOT of offense. On the other other hand Indiana is actually quite talented. On the other other other regression in pass rush. On the other other other they're consistently there to make plays. On the other other other other they consistently don't make those plays.
- Vishnu Cook. Cannot be exactly defined. Known to be rather impatient with people who screw with his flowers.
- Aci Parashaktibender. The personification of the divine power of creativity, particularly off the dribble.
- Shiva Fisher. The destroyer who comes in both the form of a benevolent copy editor, and the fearsome form of a chartmonger.
- Blue Indra South Bend. God of rain, thunderstorms, and snark, with hair and beard the color of flames.
- Dheikovantari. God of medicine and that one constraint play he's always on about.
- Coach Brhaspati. Guru of the gods.
- Saramathleti. God of knowledge, music, arts, science, and overseer of vast spreadsheets wherein these things are contained.
What is the essence of Michigan's 2013 defense, and how will it hold up against the remaining schedule?
Mathlete: For me, I see just one thing about this defense. They are a good defense. They are not a great defense, they are not a dominant defense, they are not a shut down defense, but definitely a good defense. They've had two awful halves (second half against Akron and second last weekend).
|They are a good defense. They will never be a great defense. They are a Thomas Gordon defense. [Upchurch]
They've been put in some bad positions by the offense and haven't been able to bail them out a lot. But they haven't put the offense in a bad position yet this season. The only real deficits the offense has faced this year have come after defensive touchdowns or short fields induced by the offense.
I think Mattison has found the perfect positioning for the talent and the offense that Michigan has. Lacking real play makers he has put together a defense that has limited big plays against non-Indiana teams, forced teams to drive the field, convert third downs and go 10 plays without making a drive ending mistake. Most teams can't do that very times in a game. Nebraska, a healthy Northwestern and Ohio State probably can. Michigan State hasn't proven it can against an FBS team that isn't Indiana. Iowa may be able to, but probably not to a major degree. This works because this defense shouldn't be needed to win games. They aren't quite talented/experienced enough to do that without incurring major risk. Michigan's offense should be dynamic enough that a good defense forcing teams to beat them should get them to 9 wins, easily.
That's where the trouble came against Penn State, the offense didn't push the pedal enough and the defense wasn't quite good enough to push against the stacked deck. I am convinced that an offense that is aggressive, even with a few extra turnovers is the perfect compliment to this defense. We will struggle against the remaining opponents if that aggressiveness goes away because turnovers will still happen (that's football) but the defense is just not equipped yet to be the game-changing unit.
[Brian's complete lack of surprise, after the Jump]
Brian: I'm not surprised that Michigan got bombed by Indiana. Those cats can play, even if you try to account for their pace and SOS. They are currently second in FEI, which is a drive-oriented ranking system that brings the division the ludicrous speed IU offense requires if you're going to compare it to earthbound folk. Their style requires you to have guys who can win one-on-one matchups in space--Countess yes, Morgan yes, other guys less so--and puts an insane amount of mental pressure on your defense, a pressure Michigan was unprepared for.
|Still excited [Fuller]
I'm winding my way through the UFR--one game down, game #2 on the way--and Indiana beat Michigan with a combination of talent and mental errors caused by their tempo. One example amongst many that does not involve Raymon Taylor: on the IU drive starting at the 5 after the Toussaint fumble it's third and five. Mattison dials up a 3-3-5 style blitz that sees Ross and Thomas Gordon on the backside of the line, eating OL who had no one else to deal with. The tradeoff for that: Morgan and Clark are tearing off the corner unblocked. Morgan goes for the QB. Clark... goes for the QB. RB walks in. IU had just flung itself at the line after an incompletion and went at light speed. Mattison had a call on to stop it but Michigan blew it in their head. This happened all the time in ways both obvious and not. Once is a thing, twice is a frustration. As many times as it happened against Indiana versus how much it's happened in Michigan's other games? That's shock.
It sucks, but This Is Michigan, too: piss on the spread every chance you get and get trashed by it on the regular. At least they entered the year with a plan and run a straight-up nickel instead of some of the... interesting choices previous Michigan teams have gone with, like leaving three clunky linebackers on the field at all times. Mattison is adapting, acquiring hybrid space players who will enter the lineup any day now. It's just not there yet, and I don't think anyone thought it would be. Next year's IU game will be a test: did they learn their lesson?
As far as the rest of the season, Iowa and MSU are in Michigan's wheelhouse and should be good performances. Northwestern has historically given Mattison some trouble but they're so battered it's tough to project. Ditto Nebraska, which may or may not be playing Ron Kellogg III. Ohio State... someone else talk about that.
Ace: Great, now I'm stuck talking about Ohio State.
|Maybe with fewer nightmares. [Fuller]
Okay, now I'm ready. I've seen enough of the Buckeye offense this year to be justifiably terrified about that game. I wouldn't be surprised if it looks a lot like last year's game, just with more points. Michigan's athleticism on the edge allowed them to keep Braxton Miller's impact on the ground to a relative minimum (57 yards on 20 carries); in doing so, however, they let mooseback Carlos Hyde rip them up the gut to the tune of 146 yards on 26 carries. Hyde looks even more formidable this year, so the interior of the defense must be stout even as OSU goes up-tempo to mess with Michigan's substitutions—this is when the absence of Ondre Pipkins as a reliable (and large) backup for Quinton Washington is going to hurt.
Then there's the problem with the cornerbacks getting beat over the top on a regular basis. If you understandably erased last year's OSU game from your memory, a refresher: a 52-yard bomb to Devin Smith set up the first Buckeye score, and Mattison's attempts to make sure that didn't happen again opened up the Buckeye running game—as well as a lot of intermediate routes for Philly Brown, who finished with 8 catches for 95 yards. All of the aforementioned players are back for OSU this year, and their gameplan should be pretty similar: attack deep early, force Michigan to play a soft shell, then bring out the battering ram. I'm not particularly optimistic that the Wolverines will be able to outscore this.
Seth: So I'm wondering what the Indiana game looks like if you imagine Raymon Taylor intercepts 50% of balls put in his chest, and 0% of them caroom off him to receivers downfield. Now imagine it if Stribling can actually make the plays that he is in perfect position on against Cody Latimer. Or Allen Robinson. Are there any left on the schedule? Corey Brown will be a different kind of challenge—a la Devier Posey—but there's no more Allen Robinsons or Cody Latimers or Kofi Hugheses.
What there are on the schedule are run games, and those are things that this defense has been pretty darn good against. Ross has very quietly stayed close to on-track; I think some of the aggressiveness we liked earlier is partially due to an exploitable tendency to diagnose runs before getting into a passing lane. The pass rush will come from Graham and will matter if the other guys can just get some push. Quinton Washington will be on the field more often.
I think the defense is the same unit that looked solid but near its peak potential for most of the Penn State game, and the only thing to happen since then in regulation is five quarters of long bombs. Until the OSU game the things I'm most worried about defensively is they're probably not going to call MSU's rampant holding in East Lansing.