Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
By Heiko Yang
Let’s review the last four times Michigan played Northwestern:
2011 – Michigan 42, Northwestern 24. Michigan struggles to run the ball against an aggressive Northwestern front seven and falls behind early to Chicago’s Heisman Candidate but compensates by hurling bombs to Rich-Rod smurfs. The effectiveness of this offense enrages the football gods, who sentence Michigan to downfield impotence in future seasons. Devin Gardner fills in admirably after an ominous arm injury sidelines Denard Robinson in the second half and scores on a designed waggle run to the right pylon.
2012 – Northwestern 31, Michigan 38 (OT). Michigan trades blows with Kain Colter and unstoppable throw-god Trevor Siemian, but Gardner’s second game as full-time starter after Denard’s right ulnar nerve finally betrays him sees Gardner throw a critical interception deep in the fourth quarter. Down three points with less than a minute left to play, the Michigan defense forces a punt on 4th and 19 at midfield, which Jeremy Gallon returns 34 yards for a rare Michigan special teams coaching victory. This sets up Roy Roundtree’s circus catch and a Brandan Gibbons field goal for overtime. Northwestern proceeds to act like it’s never seen the Gardner waggle, Greg Mattison deploys Jedi mind tricks, ball game.
2013 – Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 (3OT). The saddest competitive game of football ever played (until next year) that will be remembered forever for the 3-second-drill field goal for a 9-9 tie that Michigan pulls off at the end of regulation without being penalized, shockingly. Other things happen that are of note: Pat Fitzgerald has a sad after a punt goes for seven yards. Michigan nets positive rushing yards for the first time in three games. Northwestern decides to field 11 guys all named “Courage”; Courage completes 66% of his passes for 159 yards and an INT before getting sacked on the final play of triple overtime, at which point Fitzgerald has another sad.
2014 – Michigan 10, Northwestern 9. #M00N.
If anyone had a claim to most cursed Michigan opponent, it would be Northwestern. That is some bad juju. Losing to the 2011 Michigan? Fine. Chalk it up to poor timing to play Michigan while Brady Hoke hadn’t yet run out of golden poop. Losing to 2012 Michigan? That’s like having managed to strike down the Balrog but then getting snared by its whip as it’s falling into the depths: horrible luck, although you probably shouldn’t have let your guard down. Losing to 2013 Michigan is like coming down with strep throat on a snow day, and losing to 2014 Michigan is like not finishing your antibiotics and oops now you have rheumatic fever.
You could say that the recent series has been a constant refrain of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” where Michigan is Annie Oakley and Northwestern is Frank Butler. No matter what the Wildcats do, the Wolverines find a way to trump it. 2015 is no different. Northwestern’s “top-ranked” defense is bested by Michigan’s defense in advanced stats and eye test. The Wildcats boast one shutout; the Wolverines have two. Michigan’s plodding and inconsistent offense seems ever so more robust than whatever Northwestern has. Pat Fitzgerald is a master tactician with a fiery sideline presence? I would like you to meet Jim Harbaugh.
The streak will continue, and without the boneheaded coaching decisions that have made the last four contests closer than they should have been, today’s result will at least be less painful to Northwestern fans. This won’t be another Michigan game that got away; this will be the one they never had in the first place.
Northwestern 3, Michigan 28
By Nick RouMel
It was 1978. My friend Bruce and I had graduated from UM and had the same plan: travel the country. We loaded my ’73 Pontiac Catalina and decided our first overnight stop would be Evanston.
There was supposed to be a youth hostel somewhere on campus. We came upon a group of co-eds. There was something odd about them, but we couldn’t place it. We asked directions of one. She looked at us and said nothing. We asked another – silence.
Eventually we found our destination and a party, some knock-off of Otis Day and the Knights. Learning we were from Michigan, there was some awkward football conversation. The Wolverines were headed to their third straight Rose Bowl; the Wildcats were destined to do even worse than their previous two 1-10 seasons, finishing 1978 without a win. Football was, to them, a joke. Maybe that’s why the silence – except on the dance floor.
It was 1995. Punt Classic and I had scored passes to the press box for a tilt against Miami of Ohio. It was our first trip to this Valhalla, featuring free doughnuts for us real journalists. It was also former walk-on Brian Griese’s first ever start, replacing an injured Scott Dreisbach who had led Michigan to a 4-0 start. Griese engineered a lopsided victory, which was only significant because that same Miami of Ohio team had beaten our next opponent, Northwestern, earlier in the season. We figured Northwestern would be a tuneup.
The 1995 Northwestern team was somewhat improved, however. Gary Barnett was in his 4th year as coach, and though he was coming off three seasons in which he’d not won more than three games, he opened ’95 beating Notre Dame on the road. They blew a big lead against Miami the next week, but won their next two games handily, and came into Ann Arbor with a little swagger, led by the triumvirate of QB Steve Schnur, tailback Darnell Autry, and a sparkling linebacker named Pat Fitzgerald.
Counterpunt was worried. I saw a once in a lifetime, Brigadoon-type season.
I wrote about a shocking upset. I wrote about the press box atmosphere, and concluded my article, “I see the press corps eating their doughnuts in stunned silence, unable to believe the final score: Northwestern 19-Michigan 16.” I was off by three points, as Griese had a horrid, turnover-filled day that could not overcome Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s 205 yards (on his way to a Michigan record 1818 yards in a season). Northwestern went on to the Rose Bowl; Michigan lost three more, ending the season losing in the Alamo Bowl to Texas A&M.
I worry that Jake Rudock will have one of those Brian Griese lines: 14-34-96-0-2, and a fumble. If he does, our defense will not overcome that.
Back to those silent co-eds. We learned at the party that it was a sorority rush ritual; they were not allowed to speak to anyone, much less two skinny, frizzy-haired lost souls from Ann Arbor.
Silence all around, except in Evanston.
NORTHWESTERN 14, MICHIGAN 13
Weekend Visitors: Three Uncommitted '16s To Take Officials
While next weekend's Michigan State game will be a bigger recruiting event for Michigan, there are a few notable visitors coming in for tomorrow's game. Allen Trieu has a free overview of the three uncommitted official visitors set to be at the game tomorrow; those prospects:
- Three-star NJ WDE Quayshon Alexander, a Nebraska commit. While Michigan is sitting pretty for four-star CO WDE Carlo Kemp, they're still making a strong push for guys who could project to the BUCK spot, and Alexander fits the bill.
- Three-star FL TE Jacob Mathis has been near the top of M's board at tight end for a while. Florida appears to be the main competition. One advantage for the Wolverines: former M kicker Garrett Rivas is Mathis' high school coach.
- Three-star TX WDE Levi Onwuzurike hasn't let on much about his recruitment, but he could be another option at BUCK.
Several current commits will take their officials this weekend, including a crew from New Jersey—Brad Hawkins, Ron Johnson, and Ahmir Mitchell—who'll likely work on recruiting Alexander.
This late-breaking news also seems worth mentioning:
— Marc Givler (@MarcGivlerBG) October 9, 2015
Walker had significant interest in Michigan before the Hoke era drew to a close; he committed to Ohio State in January, when Jim Harbaugh was desperately cobbling together a full 2015 class. Walker visiting Ann Arbor is a sign there's still legitimate interest. Steve Wiltfong reports it will be an official visit ($).
This even-later-breaking news, reported by Wiltfong, will also be of interest:
247Sports has learned that Top247 linebacker Devin Bush Jr. will visit Michigan this weekend for the Northwestern game.
It's an unofficial visit.
That is especially intriguing since Bush is paying his way for a visit from Florida, leaving open the opportunity to visit again on an official visit. Michigan looks to be in very good shape with one of their top remaining targets on the board.
According to 247's Steve Lorenz, several 2017 in-state targets will also be in attendance: TE Carter Dunaway (commit), OT JaRaymond Hall, WR/CB KJ Hamler, WDE Corey Malone-Hatcher, OLB Josh Ross, and RB/CB Allen Stritzinger. Hall's 2018 teammate Marquan McCall, a talented offensive lineman, will also be on campus, as will a pair of promising 2019 quarterbacks in Southfield's Sam Johnson and Belleville's Dwan Mathis.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|WHAT||Northwestern at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
October 10th, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan –7.5|
|WEATHER||sunny, chilly AM, mid 60s gametime, 0% chance of rain|
Picture at right posted in a spirit of genuine love and admiration for Bo Cisek.
Run Offense vs Northwestern
Anthony Walker is not to be confused with Antoine
This has been up and down for the Wildcats. They've hampered Stanford and Minnesota (a combined 3.5 YPC after sacks are removed), but both Duke and Ball State gashed the Wildcats for more than five yards a carry, nearing 200 yards each. Duke's output was their best of the year on a per-carry basis; they just rushed for under a yard per carry in a 9-7 win(!) over Boston College. Ball State also just rushed for under a yard per carry against Toledo. They did not win.
So this is very different than Michigan's run D. It's not exactly bad. But it's not amazing. Northwestern is 44th in YPC allowed, and that's after facing the #35, #39, #83, and #109 rush offenses plus an FCS team. That is average performance against an average schedule. (For comparison, Michigan is fifth against #21, #32, #41, #84, and #115. IE: on another level entirely.)
Northwestern has a much more extreme version of the linebacker dichotomy Michigan does. Anthony Walker has been heroic this season, with a typical statline of 18 tackles, 3 TFLs, one baby saved from a burning building, and a PBU. Ace:
MIKE Anthony Walker flew under the radar heading into the season, but it's hard not to notice him now that he's amassed 44 tackles and 8.5 TFLs through five games for one of the most surprisingly strong defenses in the country. While he's a tiny bit undersized at 6'1, 235, he's got great athleticism for an inside linebacker, and his ability to read and react only makes it easier for him to shut down plays in a hurry:
Walker is at his best going sideline to sideline but he can also shed blocks and make plays between the tackles; he's also a solid cover linebacker.
The rest of their linebackers are nowhere near his level; I have seen them make weak tackle attempts in many games, get out of position, etc. After Walker, Northwestern's next two leading tacklers are the starting safeties. Only then do the other starting LBs come. Get Walker blocked and you can get to the secondary.
The Northwestern defensive line is fine. They're solid. They execute their assignments. They have something of a playmaker in Dean Lowry (4.5 TFLs). Ace compared him to Ryan Van Bergen and I think that's on point. I really liked RVB's game, but he's not Joey Bosa or Yannick Ngakoue. I am more optimistic about Michigan's ability to pound out yards against this defense than Ace is; the numbers for the season aren't great, and Minnesota's infinite offensive problems probably inflated the assets of the Northwestern D.
As for Michigan, Steve Lorenz is reporting Michigan should have De'Veon Smith back for this game. I have heard similar; I expect he will be available but maybe not 100% depending on his pain tolerance level.
Smith's projected return is a major boost. Michigan's anger back had his most impressive outing of 2014 in the #M00N game:
One particular third and short conversion was whistled dead despite Smith still inching forward with two different Wildcats hanging off him like 300-pound Christmas ornaments.
This is much the same crew he's going up against; if he can duplicate that performance Michigan has gone a long way towards winning.
That is somewhat likely. While Northwestern's taken a step forward on defense, it hasn't shown up too much in the run game; meanwhile this is basically the same Michigan rushing offense with a much better coaching situation. Consistent production is likely.
KEY MATCHUP: DE'VEON SMITH versus THE FLAILING ARMS OF THOSE WHO PLEAD FOR HIM TO STOP HIS BLOODY REIGN OF TERROR
[Hit THE JUMP for a SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE and a SIGN THAT NORTHWESTERN IS ALWAYS THEMSELVES]
Apologies for the audio quality this week, as we were at Suburban Chevrolet and there was significant ambient noise.
On the roundtable this week:
- Maryland aftermath
- Jake Rudock discussion
- The tailbacks and their health
- Just how dominant this D is
- Haggling over point spreads
- Craig wears a hat!
THE USUAL LINKS
On WTKA last week (before the Maryland game) the roundtablers got into a short discussion comparing Michigan's 2015 defense to, say, the 2006 one. Asgardian walked with it, comparing the M defense to others this year and some other great defenses by simply counting how many times they…
- Held opponent to 7 or fewer points, or
- Held opponents to 8-14 points, or
- Gave up 15 or more
I'm gonna go position by position. Argue any with me:
|Scores||2015 UM||3.23||2006 UM||3.08||1997 UM||3.33|
It's hard to compare eras (Peppers versus Clint Copenhaver!) but the 2006 defense didn't have enough depth at DB for the young spread era and that was its downfall. None of these defenses had any real holes; the 1997 defense didn't even have a spot that was less than really good (B).
I made a tool so you can try this with other defenses (be nice and don't sandbox where someone else is working). I got a 2.93 for this year's Northwestern and a 3.38 for 2013 Michigan State.
Now you're playing with….power rankings. Eye of the Tiger has been doing his own weekly ranking of Big Ten teams. He does this the way Brian does the "Fear Level" and "Desperate Need to Win Level" stuff in the previews, IE he starts with a baseline then gives a +2 for a win over a good team, –1 for a loss to a solid team, etc. Northwestern and Iowa are tops right now, though MSU has fallen behind Michigan.
Alum96 has kept up his version of this too, which informs by pointing out how wrong he was about things like Maryland being any good at football. And if you desire simple numbers instead of feels and backchecks, alum also has started posting the S&P+ rankings of M and the States.
[jump for the Most Lions Thing Ever]
Jim Harbaugh talked about the nature of life in his Monday press conference. I’m paraphrasing his paraphrasing, but he referenced a speech from Rocky IV or V about how life hits back and we have to absorb that and keep moving forward. The thing about sports is that they hit and we can’t hit back. We can’t alter events with more resolve or newly-acquired knowledge or literal brawn because we have nothing to do with the outcome. We let these teams get in and they infect our souls, and that irrationally intimate connection creates a baseline nervousness for me.
I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve developed a skepticism over the years that probably borders on overskepticism, but what can you expect from someone who’s been a Lions fan for as long as they can remember and has obsessively tracked the last eight seasons of Michigan football? One of the reasons I initially took an interest in stats is that they provide a tenuous buffer against the emotional blows sports land…to a point. While I anxiously await each week’s S&P and FEI update and we collectively giggle as we sift through line after line of defensive statistics, opposing fanbases can attest that sometimes the impact of the numbers can be just as grisly as the hits we take. Take a look at the picture above. They were again this week.
[Stats after THE JUMP]
Previously: Northwestern Offense
Matthew Harris forms half of arguably the best corner duo in the B1G. [Fuller]
Let's get this out of the way: Minnesota's offense is bad, they should feel bad, and trying to scout an opposing defense based on their performance against the Gophers is difficult because of that. I stopped charting when Minnesota benched Mitch Leidner for a true freshman. I hope you understand.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
This is a defense with standouts on every level; it was tempting to give both of their safeties stars as well, but I didn't see enough of them in coverage, and that wasn't their fault.
Base Set? 4-3 under, though Northwestern will shift to an over depending on the offense's alignment. When Minnesota went three-wide (which was rare), nickel Keith Watkins replaced SAM Drew Smith. Former four-star recruit Ifeadi Odenigbo comes in as a pass-rush specialist for the most part.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor.
Do not worry. The pants thing is still valid. Someone tweeted me worried that he would have to be formally attired after I failed to mention it last time. This is not the case. I was just stretching my creative muscles. Last time that happens EVER, thanks twitter guy.
FORMATION NOTES: Harbaugh unearthed a chestnut from the first half of the 20th century when he debuted a T formation:
After some Wikipedia reading I decided that Pro T == 1 WR, Wide T == 2 WR, and Power T == 0 WR. "Wide T" is not to be confused with "Split T," which means the OL take up crazy wide splits.
There wasn't anything too weird other than that unless you count a three wide shotgun formation as weird. Michigan spread the field much more than they did against BYU. They were still heavy; WRs got more snaps. Sometimes there were even two of them on the field at the same time.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Not much of note. Kerridge and Smith did not play. Isaac, Green, and Johnson seemed to split the RB opportunities down the middle for much of the game, with Isaac exiting permanently after his second fumble. Johnson got more playing time as the game went along.
OL was the usual, FB the usual minus Kerridge. WR was a bit more diverse than the last couple games, with Freddy Canteen and Grant Perry getting a dozen or so snaps each. Michigan spent more of this game in three-wide.
[After THE JUMP: scratching out… actually a lot more than they needed.]
David Underwood was the heir apparent to Chris Perry and this was fine. He was a highly rated recruit out of Texas, and in 2004 it was his turn. Jerome Jackson was his backup, and this was fine; he was the bonus piece from LaMarr Woodley's recruitment and was apparently good at getting the edge. Behind them was Pierre Rembert and this was fine; Pierre had gotten a few snaps as a true freshman in '03 and looked pretty good. And if we needed to dip deeper there was a highly touted true freshman, Max Martin, who maybe ran a bit too upright but was also getting fall chatter about displacing folks.
Then there was the 2-star from somewhere in that wasteland Canadians talk about when they cross at Niagara, who became a 3-star because Michigan offered. Little guy, ran up a bazillion yards against the part of New York that's really the Midwest. You know the rest.
Either this or Worst State Ever was the very first MGoShirt. It comes from a time before a time when we realized we can't make such things without the guy's permission. It also comes from a time after a long time of chasing said guy around and trying to get him to be down with it. As various Big Ten detritus can attest this is not easy with said guy. He doesn't really stop, nor does he go down. If you pick him up and put him on his head the legs will just keep spinning until you put him back down, whereupon he will continue running. This happened to future NFL linebackers; now imagine you're a furry fat guy yelling "please Mister; this blog was started because of YOU!"
Well it turns out he does stop for something, and that's to replant hope in the wasteland he turned over back when we thought Underwood/ Jackson/ Rembert/ Martin would take most of the 2004-'07 carries.
Thus returns the original MGoShirt, except with the guy's actual name on it. Proceeds from it will go to the Mike Hart Family Foundation, and the Central New York Football Academy. And the first person who correctly guesses this week's Michigan score will get a free one. You can probably already guess Northwestern's number.
How this works again:
- Readers predict the final score of a designated game by placing a guess in the comments, preferably in the format of [M score][hyphen][Opp score], for example "41-0" or "35-0 Michigan", or "28-0 Go Blue", or "42-0 Harbaugh!" etc.
- The three guys who read this part holler at people who post in a different format
- First person (by timestamp) to post a particular score has it.
- If you got it right, I contact you for an address by your MGoBlog account email, and you give me some time to get that to you.
- If nobody got it right or I don't hear from the winner(s) we push it to next week or let it go.
About Last Time:
28-0 and thanks again to MGoNukeE for picking out the winner, who was slacker, who beat BlueReign to the score by one minute! Since there was no winner the previous week, I feel entitled to have two this time.
This Week's Game:
Homecoming versus the Wildcats. At 3:30 they gon' die.
And on the Line:
One entry per user. First user to choose a set of scores wins, determined by the timestamp of your entry (for my ease I prefer if you don't post it as a reply to another person's score--if you do it won't help or hurt you). Deadline for entries is 24 hours before the start of the game. MGoEmployees and moderators exempt from winning. The algorithm finds the winners as it chooses. The algorithm is self-correcting. The algorithm consistently runs power. The algorithm is banned in Jersey. The algorithm is better than you are ready to admit. They gon' die.
What goes into deciding whether to go punt block or punt return when you’ve got such an explosive return man in Jabrill?
“Uh…same thing that goes into when you throw a fastball or the curve. You know, you’ve got to pressure- the ability to pressure a punter keeps people in protection, sets up the ability to return. The ability to return a punt sets up the ability to pressure, and it’s really not unlike making calls of any kind in the game of football. You do all your work and you crunch all your numbers but you coach the game by feel, and it pretty much is that.”
How pleased are you with that unit? Does that unit still have more to give?
“The punt return unit?”
And punt block.
“I’ll tell ya, I’m really pleased, actually, with the punt return. The amazing thing is we’ve had 51 reps of it in five games now. Somebody needs to go back far and see how many times there’s 51 reps in five games. Obviously it’s because we’re playing amazing defense and what have you, but if you really look at what the unit has done, there’ve been three returnable balls kicked to us out of 51, okay? Obviously we had a round robin with all the Australian rugby punters against each other in the first four games, and everybody found out it’s really hard to return one of those. Three returnable balls, and we’ve- you know, the baseball analogy is we’ve hit the ball hard but unfortunately we’ve knocked it off the wall for doubles and triples. We haven’t had a home run yet.
“I think the thing that goes unsaid is Jabrill’s amazing decision-making back there [and] unselfishness to not risk balls that shouldn’t be touched or should be on the ground, protecting his teammates, those kinds of things. Besides being explosive the punt returner needs to be a great decision-maker and really needs to handle the ball well because one of the things we always say is if you have the ball you have the team, and you need to take care of the team. It’s been effective. I wish we could get more returnable balls, but I’m not in control of that.”
[After THE JUMP: Baxter is the Yogi Berra of this coaching staff]