Nice write-up. Also, Martin was a 4 star.
Hey all. Over at my blog, I have ended my flirtation with soccer, and I am finally getting back into some college football writing. That, combined with point spreads already being released for certain games of the year, mean we are inching closer to the season. We're basically seven weeks away and within the 50-day window of the first football being kicked off in anger. I'm excited. So should you. So get pumped, people!
Anyway, one of the recurring features over at the JCB will be sneak peaks at the various non league games the Big 10 will be playing this year. I take a look at three of those games in a post over there today. Included in that is this very limited sneak peak at our opener against what surely will be a feisty UConn squad. This is hardly a comprehensive preview of the game. More will be said on this game by yours truly on both blogs, not to mention by many other people, in the upcoming weeks. But I do think I've highlighted one of the better positional matchups we're going to see in this contest. I thought folks over here would like to read that portion and maybe get some discussion going on this and other matchups within the UConn game. So, I present that portion of my post as a Diary over here. And, why not? It's a cheap 10 MGoPoints and a way to pimp to my blog.
UCONN at Michigan, 3:30, 9/4. Line, Michigan -3 (Spread courtesy of the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas
Interested in what kind of game the Michigan defensive front has without the menacing presence of Brandon Graham? Well game-freaking-on in the opener against UConn when Michigan faces what will be one of the biggest offensive lines on its schedule. Things sometimes didn't go well when Michigan faced beefier fronts in 2009. And, when we last saw the Wolverines they were being more than generous on defense yielding yards and paths in running lanes like it was their major. In their last five games a year ago--all losses--the Wolverines allowed 230 yards rushing per game and 5 yards per carry. Whether it was a more traditional approach like Penn State or Wisconsin, or something more modern in the zone read genre from Illinois or Ohio State, the Wolverines had so many issues stopping the run down the stretch that Michigan really had no chance defensively in November. Even early in the season, Notre Dame's Armando Allen had one of his best games of the year against the Maize and Blue and against the large Indiana frontline, Darius Willis happened.
The chore will be sizeable against UConn. The Huskies return four starters from last year's line. Across the board, the line checks in at 315 pounds a person. Not only are they experienced and large, but they've proven an effective blocking front two years running. In 2008, they paved the way for 2,000 yard rusher Donald Brown despite an horrific passing game allowing defenses to stack the box all day. Last year, with new featured running backs, two Huskies churned out 1,000 yard seasons behind this line. One of them, Jordan Toddman, returns. In 300 career carries, he's averaged 5.6 yards a carry. He has 17 of the Huskies 57 rushing touchdowns over the last two years. Center Moe Petrus and Guard Zach Hurd are already multi-year starters up front for Randy Edsall's teams. Both earned first-team, All Big East honors a year ago. Hurd will combine with Tackle Mike Ryan, a starter a year ago, to form one of the largest right sides of an offensive line that Michigan will play all year. Folks, this is a legit rushing attack and Michigan's 3-3-5 look will be tested right out of the gate to stand its ground and keep UConn from taking over the football game the way every team did a year ago during Michigan's horrific losing streak to close 2009. The Huskies wont line up in the traditional, pro-style, power-I. They will spread the field with 3-4 wides often and allow their big lineman one on one matches to free up running space. They have no problem throwing rock all day despite coming out in fancier formations.
For the star power crowd, this ought to be a mismatch up front. In the guru approval game, there is no question Michigan has more raw talent on its first line of defense than UConn has on its offensive line. The Huskies starting offensive line is manned by four 2-star and a 3-star recruits, although with 66 combined starts the Huskies experience on the O-line makes those recruiting rankings somewhat outdated and irrelevent. Michigan, meanwhile, will counter with Mike Martin and William Campbell in the tackle spots, a 4-star and 5-star recruit respectively per Rivals, Ryan Van Bergen, a 4-star, at DE and Craig Roh, a 4-star playing OLB, but who will see plenty of time, in a variety of formations as a de facto fourth D linemen.
As a Michigan fan, there's a lot to be scared about defensively. The secondary worries me because its been a disaster for two years running, and the hope is an influx of new faces will help steady it this year. Outside of some Shawn Crable plays in Lloyd Carr's last season, the Wolverines havent had good linebacker playing since 2006. We're all worried about the Wolverine's guarding the pass, but dont forget this club was 92nd nationally in stopping the run. That's in the bottom quarter of all teams. Football is a simple game. Stop the run and even a defnese limited in talent can be effective. Michigan has the talent, skill and new found size up front to hold off the good Huskie offensive line. Can the rest of the defense fill the gaps? If it can and is able to slow the UConn rushing attack, then Michigan may walk away with an easier than expected victory in the opener. If we're treated to run after run with safety Cam Gordon or even Jordan Kovacs holding on for dear life as the last line of defense, then's its going to do a long, uncomfortable day for the Maize and Blue.
Nice write-up. Also, Martin was a 4 star.
but Kovacs is no longer the last line of defense. That will be Cam Gordon this year
...that you'll see a lot mostly 1-back sets from UConn against us to try and get the Bandit out of the box; i.e., make us play two deep safeties instead of just one. 2 backs = 8 in box, 1 back = 7 in box. Or we just say, "Go ahead and throw it, you ain't gettin' the run."
Thanks guys. I fixed the mistakes you listed. I always swing and miss a few facts when I do this from the real job in between calls and stuff.
Coach Sharik, I think thats exactly what they'll do. Make no mistake, this is not a power I football team. They've been spreading the field more and more with each passing year with their formations up in Storrs and this year they've brought in a new offensive coach to take it to the proverbial next level. Regardless of formation, they wont hesitate to run Toddman or whomever else 25-30 times a game, however. We'll see if our D is up to the task or if UConn is able to run the football the way teams did to close the season against us a year ago.
from a sweet guy.
I think SOMEBODY has a little crush.
Very well done.
Don't you know though, that UCONN is never even going to get the ball into the RB's hands? Roh is going to come off the edge so fast that he'll get there before the ball has come completely out of the center's hands.
I actually thought UConn might be favored coming off the win in the Bowl Game. I'm guessing the -3 is due to home field advantage.
Jamie where do you see the line moving before they kick it off?
I dont think this line will move any. I think its right there where the Book wants it to get even money on both sides.
The Michigan line that will move a lot from preseason will be the ND one. On at least three occassions in the last 6 years, the ND summer line has radically changed as bets come in and as we see the teams actually play.
Its at +7 now, but I think it will be closer to 3-4 points come gameday. Get that TD now, if you can.
But I'm anxious to see more places release lines. So far its just the GN in Vegas. They dont list lines on-line, so I dont really know if any of those lines have changed. I've been monitoring various forums that track the GN lines and there hasnt been too many shifts anywhere across the country. That will change once onlines release numbers and more public betting occurrs.
We'll revisit this issue once folks like me who arent anywhere near Vegas get a chance at these lines. We'll see what happens to UConn/Mich.
It will be interesting to see what kind of rotation we get on the d-line. Last year was tough with relatively little depth. I hope this isn't a game where Heineger's absence is really noticed. It is nice that we should have a few LB's we can rotate (hopefully) to keep fresh bodies on the field if its hot out.
Thanks, jm. Here's one thing, though. I'm not really sure how terrified I am of UConn's rushing attack, given that they were 39th overall in yards per game and 69th in yards per carry last year (UM was 25th and 39th, respectively).
The big reason for this is that their passing offense wasn't all that great--61st in terms of yards per game and 44th on yards per attempt (better than UM on both counts--81st and 55th, respectively, but still...).
So, part of the reason they ranked relatively high in YPG is that they just ran it a lot--they were 72nd in terms of passing attempts and 24th in terms of rushing attempts, for a run-pass ratio of 1.41 (or, they ran 58.5% of the time). This ranks 33rd in the nation (i.e., they were the 33rd most run-heavy offense), compared to UM's 26th (we ran 60.0% of the time). FYI, and for comparison, Navy, Air Force (ironically) and Georgia Tech all ran over 80% of the time.
So, actually, in terms of potency, UConn has more to fear from us than we have from them, especially since it seems likely that our upside is higher than theirs (given the relative increase in experience of our OL and QB, the dilithium factor, etc.).
Of course, rush defensive prowess is another matter... They were 45th and we were 91st against the rush in terms of YPG, and they were 46th and we were 85th in terms of YPC.
Great stuff, as always, El Jeffe.
I am with you all the way regarding our O vs their D. I respect their LBs and worry about the perimeter of our OL containing them, but otherwise I think Michigan will be humming in this game. The Huskies lost a lot of close games a year ago because they couldnt hold their own when it counted on D. And they have to replace a couple of program all-timers in the secondary. I think they can be exploited and if we dont turnover it over and if Lewan has a good debut at OT, then we wont have a problem.
I focused the diary where I did because its just a basic preview, not comprehensive, and I think its compelling that our strength on D matches their strength on O. Its a cool battle in the trenches. I do feel that Edsall has proven he can move the chains running the football. He's had young OLs, experienced OLs, replaced two all time leading rushers and played with a brutal passing game. Yet, they've always been able to effective running the ball. That's why I worry. If we cant stop them and are yielding 5-6 yards a lot on first down, or 4-5 yards on third and 2's and 3's, we'll be in trouble here, because they wont change what they're doing if its working in game.
This will be a good game to see just how far the D has come from a stop the run standpoint.
I wonder if Demens eventually emerges in this game?
Like I said in the diary, its only part of what will be a longterm discussion on this game for the next few weeks.
It looks like the unsaid part of this is that if our linebackers come ready to play, we'll shut them down well enough for the offense to run up the score.
I remember GERG saying he looked at a defense from the inside out, i.e. linebackers outward to defensive line (forward outward?) and to the corners and safeties (backward outward?)
My understanding of this statement is that your linebackers are your core, and if they can't stop a specific offensive play, then someone on the outside has to, which is not optimal.
This season, the defense will only turn the corner if LB play significantly improves.
If they only line up with one RB, then I'm not worried about our front 3.5 containing their lanes.
I'm worried that the LB's won't fille the hole created by those contained lanes.
and mostly because they are distracted by recievers they can't cover.
all hail the hybrids!
I am pumped for that first game!
post. All the recent OT, off season posts on mgoblog are fine, but with stuff like this, I can feel us inching back to football (yee haw!) -- cheers for the thougtful, well researched stuff. Some nice contributions in this thread Steve Sharik and El Jeffe and the like, too.
I like UConn as an opener. I've heard and read the "it's a no win situation" argument ( ... if we win, no one will give us credit because it's UConn, and if we lose, it will look awful because it's UConn ...), but I think savvy CFB fans know this is a pretty good team, and they could have contended for the Big East last year had a few things gone their way. I fully expect the Huskies to be in the hunt for the Big East title this year as they get most of their toughest opponents in conference at home (WVU, Cincy, Pitt). A win over Uconn may not look all that sexy in September, but I suspect it will look pretty good by the end of the season, if Michigan plays well and wins.
Certainly a loss to UConn will set in motion some doom and gloom from the fan base, but it doesn't spell disaster necessarily, particuarly if Michigan plays well and just doesn't come out on top. It will take some serious coaching and players' belief in each other to go into South Bend and win the week after a home opener loss, but that's going to be a tough game regardless.
after Game One? My first impulse is to say yes, that it will look like a long season if we flunk this first test.
But considering M has to play ND the following week, this is probably a good hill to have to climb. A tough challenge--yes. But do well and there are high hopes for ND, too. Play poorly, even lose to ND, too, and three winnable games follow.
UConn is the kind of game that a team on the rebound--hoping for a bowl this season and to challenge in the B10 the following season--should relish taking on. Hope the team and coaches see it this way.
The thing about UConn last year is that they went 3-4 in a really really bad conference. Just to give you some reference -- Minnesota went 3-5 in the Big Ten last year, NW went 5-3, and Purdue went 4-4, and nobody has any of those teams ranked or considers them to be really dangerous teams. UConn has their starting QB back, but I look at his stats and they are not pretty at all. I'm giving UConn the edge against us this year, but I think that they will disappoint people after that.
short. It's not the SEC, granted, but "really bad?" It's not that either. Other than Syracuse and Louisville, the 6 other teams in that conference are all competitive. (Morrone is off to a good start at 'Cuse, too. Charlie Strong at L'ville, we'll see ... but we know Louisville is was really good in the not too distant past, so it's not like it can't happen).
As a conference, they're 16-6 in the last four years in bowls (best record of any conference), and have had pretty good OOC records against other BCS leagues in the over that time:
2006: 12-6 against other BCS conference schools (best), 5-0 in bowls (best)
2007: 7-8 / 3-2
2008: 7-7 (3rd Best) / 4-2
2009: 9-9 (2nd Best) / 4-2
Too many people dismiss the league when they suffer a bad loss (Florida blowing out Cincinnati, for example) but it seems the BE gets little credit for good victories: UConn defeating S. Carolina, or Pitt beating NC in Charlotte, WVU beating Georgia in Atlanta.
UConn was 3-4 in conference last year, yes, but they lost close games on the road to three Top 25 teams. Michigan gets credit for playing Iowa tough on the road, I suppose, but UConn doesn't get any for taking Pitt to the wire in Pittsburgh, WVU in Morgantown, and Cincy in Cincinnati?
Plus UConn had to deal with the Jasper Howard killing last year.
Last, no one considers Minny, NWU or Purdue to be contenders because other than Northwestern, those teams didn't have the year UConn had last year and they don't have the nearly number of returning starters that UConn has coming back. I don't get the comparison.
Actually, Purdue, Minnesota, and Northwestern sort of did have the year that UConn had last year. They had comparable records in tougher conferences. UConn beat ND, lost to UNC out of conference, and their other OOC games were a complete joke. Then, they beat absolutely terrible teams like Syracuse and Louisville in conference. Big deal. There are probably eight teams in the Big Ten last year that could have won at least 3 Big East games. UConn is about on par with Northwestern and Minnesota, and if they were in the BIg Ten in 2010 they would win maybe 4 Big Ten games. 5 tops.
WVU beating Georgia? Ancient history. The Big East was really bad last year. It was easily the worst BCS confernce and it was probably worse than the MWC. Their bowl record is badly inflated by the fact that all of their teams travel like shit, so they play in downgraded bowl games against lower ranked teams from other conferences. CIncy rolled through the conference and then got used by Florida like Michigan used Delaware State. So UConn played Cincy tough? Yippee. So did Illinois. Going 3-4 in a shitty conference isn't an accomplishment.
I'm not buying Minnesota's 6-7 record or Purdue's 5-7 record is comparable to an 8-5 UConn. B10 is stronger, yes, but not sure if it's a 2-3 game swing stronger.
Also, I'm also not buying that UConn's OOC schedule beyond NC and Dame was a "complete joke." They played at Baylor before Robert Griffin went down, and played at Ohio which went 9-5. Rhode Island obviously was a cupcake, but 3 of the 5 OOC were on the road. At worst, their OOC schedule was mediocre. I would argue it was decent relative to a host of other examples from 2009, several in the B10.
You questioned the validity of the UConn talk relative to examples NWU, Minny and Purdue. It's a fair question, but one I think that's explained by things that those three B10 teams can't claim—three close road loses to Top 25 teams, a bowl win over a pretty solid SEC team, 16 returning starters (compared to 11 for Minny and Purdue, and 13 for NWU), a returning staring QB (only Minny can claim that of the 3 B10 teams), etc. I don't think anyone's claiming UConn's Top 15 material, but they should be a solid team. And so should NWU, you're right. (Had NWU beat Auburn, they may getting a little more talk). But the other two will be surprises if they're solid.
If you want to throw bowl records and OOC records against other BCS conference schools out as "so what's," then how do you propose to compare BCS conferences, because proclaiming it was easily the worst BCS conference isn't very convincing. Give me something better than Florida beat the shit out of Cincinnati, because Florida's done that to many a team.
Their bowl record is badly inflated by the fact that all of their teams travel like shit, so they play in downgraded bowl games against lower ranked teams from other conferences.
Like UConn v. S. Carolina? Like Pitt v. North Carolina? Like WVU v. Florida St? Rutgers v. UCF. Okay, other than the last one, those seem like pretty equitable match ups, particularly if the BE teams are as crappy as you claim.
I hear you even if no one else does. Only one team in the Big East passed for more than 2700 yards last year, Cincy. There were 4 schools in the Big 10 last year that were nationally recognized, Iowa, Wisconsin, OSU and PSU. That's a tougher 4 game stretch there than in any other conference except the SEC. Throw in a Purdue team that beat Mich and OSU, MSU that had another typically average season but can beat anyone on any given day. And if you catch Michigan in the sunshine we'll score 32 (and give up 31).
They played 3 ranked teams...and lost to all of them. I know you shouldn't take an opponent for granted but let's not overhype this team too much. Would people be saying UCONN was that good if they were playing OSU?
smile at the rising sun of deeper football analysis to come. Feels like spring. This is the only place people understand what I'm talking about. My poor fiance' can only take so much (though she's a champ who bought me Blue and Maize ticket packages this year)
I wasn't aware the O-Line loomed so large for UCONN, literally or figuratively. But the stars: I'd buy that a group of 3 stars can be as good as they come, but dropping to 2 stars is an order of magnitude. 2 star guys rarely pan out as dominant players, even less so en masse. This tells me they may have a blocking scheme or other variable that's enabled their success. But in terms of personnel, our defensive front is very talented and most won't be outworked. They should be better
Just to add some more background, here is the projected OL, per Steele's magazine, and their Rivals recruiting rankings and class. It might not be a blocking system, but just an overall football program system. Bring in a bunch of kids, maybe a lot of them are poorly ranked, but redshirt them and let grow for a couple years into a good college linemen. Grobe at Wake does the same thing. So to does NW and Iowa, although the later with higher rated recruits.
Anyway, here's some more info on who these linemen are for the Huskies:
LT: Bennet, 3-star in 2008 from Virginia. This is the only projected started who didnt start last year. Actually, he's barely played and has been injured a lot. Who knows if he will really be the starter, but its what the depth charts are saying now.
LG: Kuracea, 3-star in 2008, a homestate kid (come on UConn State!!!) from Ansonia, CT. He came on last year, played in almost every game and made 5 starts
C: Petrus, 2-star in 2007. He played HS ball in Quebec. He started at LG in 2008 and was a freshmen all american, after redshirting that first year. Last year, he was the center. he won first team all big east honors and has another season after this season.
RG: Hurd, 2-star in 2006 another home grown kid from CT. After redshirting, he's played in every game since. First team All Big East a year ago.
RT: Ryan, 2-star in 2007, from Marion Central in Pennsylvania. Emerged as a starter last year.
Mathieu Olivier is a 5th year senior, 2-star from the 2006 class, who has both played and started in the past. He's first off the bench at guard. Not sure what their top options are at the other spots.
So, again, I had a factual error. It's not four 2-stars and a 3-star. It's three 2's and a pair of 3's. But still, thats a lot of production from average recruits, per se. On the other hand, if you're a good coach with a good system, you can win with that in the Big East. Under normal circumstances, a game with Michigan would be a step up. Hopefully it can show itself in this matchup, but we might as well forget about the Petrus and Hurd kids being 2-stars anymore, They're legit CFB lineman with draft prospects.
One was a 3 star who won the Rimington award. The other two had no Rankings at all. Huh?
Defensively UConn is a team you can throw against.
The Huskies finished far worse than Michigan* did last year in total pass defense, surrendering 3,067 yards, allowing 17 TDs, and letting any and all opposing quarterbacks look like Tom Brady (64% completion percentage on average). Unfortunately for UConn, there's not much promise for the secondary this fall either. Their talented DL and LBs made the them look much better than the 88th national ranking they ultimately received last year.
Calvin Magee might want to bookmark an entire chapter of passing plays with downfield posts and flies to Hemingway and Stonum, because I highly doubt UConn will have an answer for them. Of course, the added bonus of a downfield passing game is that it would prevent the firebreathing dragons along UConn's DL and LBs from pinning their ears back.
I do think UConn has a good rushing defense but check out the stat of mobile quarterbacks they faced last year like Zac Collaros, Jarrett Brown and BJ Daniels. UConn had a tough time controlling them.
(*- I realize that this is probably a deceptive statement, since opponents had so much fun running on Michigan last year, they didn't really have to pass the ball very much to get first downs and score.)
Sometimes I think Denard Robinson is just a little bit faster than BJ Daniels, who had 3 rushing touchdowns and 75 yards rushing against UConn in the freaking snow.
Nice footage of UConn's great offensive line in that one.
Only goes to show with a good coach and system you can get the max out of 2 and 3 star talent.
My initial thoughts is this game is going to be close and may parallel the 2008 UT game. Though, hopefully our offense will be much more explosive!!!! But being the first game expect a lot of mistakes. I hope UM can pull it out but a close loss will not be the end of the season. Though, if we do lose, I could see us being down for the ND game and possibly starting the season at 0-2. This year I think we'll see the defense improve and the offense should come around for the start of the b10 season. If we win, may be we can get out to another fast start but finish much stronger than last season.
If UM offense is really clicking against a sub-par defense, then I could see a rather easy UM win!
I just started a dynasty on NCAA 2011 and I think my game against UConn was representative of how the game will actually go:
-Kicked off to start the game
-Held UConn to a 3 and out
-Hemingway immediately fumbled the first punt of the season
-Held UConn to a field goal
-Started slow but ultimately cruised to a 52-17 victory