Another game, another batch of data lost to garbage time. That’s certainly not a complaint, but it does explain why there wasn’t a ton of movement in the advanced stats. Michigan hit Bill Connelly’s criteria for garbage time with 46 seconds left in the first half, as Karan Higdon’s two-yard touchdown run put Michigan up 28. From there, the lead never shrunk to the point where there was any real threat of exiting garbage time.
The traditional stats paint a picture that matches what we observed: Michigan dominated in almost every area. You can run down the stat sheet and blindly point and likely find a stat Michigan handily won. First downs? Michigan more than doubled Penn State, 25 to 12. Rushing first downs? Michigan had a 14-3 edge. Yards per play? Michigan fell just short of doubling up Penn State with 6.1 to their 3.5. Rushing yards? Michigan’s 326-70 advantage was one of their biggest statistical wins of the day. That stat obviously needs to be contextualized a bit; Michigan still blew Penn State away when looking at average yards per rush, of which Michigan averaged 6.7 to Penn State’s 2.5. That Penn State stayed fairly balanced (28 rushes and 27 passes) and walked away with the aforementioned average yards per rush and 4.5 yards per pass is quite the accomplishment for the defense.
The stats in the preceding paragraph got me thinking about Michigan’s rush defense, and after looking through the numbers it deserves the spotlight this week. The traditional stats help set the table: Michigan has allowed 64 and 70 rushing yards over the last two games. Looking at things a little closer, Michigan has held opponents back in a variety of ways and situations; Bill Connelly’s advanced stats profile reflects that, and some of the non-Bill Connelly total win predictions and win-out percentages seem to have taken notice as well.
[After THE JUMP: Five Factors, counting the ways Michigan’s rush defense has been exceptional, and looking ahead to Wisconsin]
- Player reevaluations: Speight as poor man’s Ben Roethlisberger? Higdon runs behind his pads. Ed congratulates Harbaugh on his correct 4th down decision-making. Hard to take a lot seriously because they were facing No Linebackers U.
- Jim Harbaugh as Frank Caliendo: Not only is Harbaugh’s heart in the right place, he can also do an excellent Darth Vader.
- MSU-Wisconsin things: Short game. Was a 10-6 game but for the turnovers. O’Connor is not good. Wisconsin’s kicker being out forced them to use correct game theory. Hornibrook found the weak spot in State’s defense, which is Demetrius Cox, and played that all day.
- Badger Offense: The offense lacks speed and playmakers. Hornibrook doesn’t have a good arm but he’s got better vision than Bart Houston. Clement doesn’t look like himself at all. Same might be said for the Wisconsin running game.
- Badger Defense: Best defense Michigan has played by far. They have a 340-pound nose, all of the linebackers are stars. Blitz out of the 3-4 very effectively. Michigan can win this game with special teams and defense.
- One more loss for ol’ Notre Dame: their defense is putrid, corners to blame! Could not run, can’t stop the pass—there’s trouble when Kizer will leave for the draft. South Bend could have a 5-7 year. Firing Van Gorder won’t change that gear. This stuff’s all just par for course for the losers of Notre Dame!
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
Previously: Wisconsin Offense
we've got a Watt situation here
As I discussed yesterday, Wisconsin's offensive output in their blowout of MSU could be a mirage. The defense, on the other hand—well, here's the drive chart up to the point UW took a 30-6 lead:
Even when facing the 77th-ranked offense by S&P+, that is dominance—and while Wisconsin could cede more yardage on State's garbage-time drives, they picked off two more passes and didn't allow any points.
Wisconsin's linebackers will be one of the best position groups Michigan faces all year, and the defense as a whole looks very good. This is a huge test, especially for the offensive line and Wilton Speight.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
[EDIT: This has been updated to reflect the status of Vince Biegel, UW's star OLB who's been ruled out indefinitely with a foot injury. The guess here is UW slides starting ILB Jack Cichy outside and starts ILB Leon Jacobs, who looked the best of the backup linebackers against MSU. ILB Ryan Connelly and OLB Zack Baun are also candidates to step into the starting lineup; UW rotates a fair amount at ILB anyway.]
Yes, those are shields on both outside linebackers; we've changed the criteria slightly since NFL draft stuff isn't really relevant to these posts, which will please Ryan Glasgow fans—and who isn't one?—when we update these next week.
If anything, we were a little conservative handing out stars this week. TJ Edwards was one of the better ILBs in the Big Ten last year, but he looked just a hair behind the other three in on-field impact; there's a strong argument to be made that all four UW LBs deserve stars. I was also impressed with Sojourn Shelton, but had to mostly punt on the secondary since Idiot BTN Director was back in full force:
What's happening downfield? Hell if I know.
Base Set? 3-4. When going to nickel, UW will lift the nose tackle as most 3-4 teams do.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
SPONSOR NOTES: I feel I should start talking about the other clothing items that are completely optional when you get a mortgage from Matt. Bowler hats, because who wears those anymore? T-shirts expounding bands you're embarrassed you ever liked—I bet Seth's got some Barenaked Ladies shirts he doesn't wear around the house that he can get a loan while not wearing.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Not too much other than some extra empty stuff. This was "quad tight bunch." In my world a bunch is three guys and I'll tell you if it's not.
This was "ace empty TE hide":
Newsome is in the slot with Butt your nominal left tackle. This is obviously a stunt to get Butt open, and it worked.
PERSONNEL NOTES: The OL battle seems settled, as Braden got every snap with the first team. Early Bredeson playing time probably injury-related. Speight obviously went the whole way.
Despite the profusion of RBs getting carries, Smith still got about 60% of the snaps, with Higdon, Isaac, and Evans splitting the rest about equally. Darboh and Butt were the most frequently deployed receiver types; Chesson got exactly half the 80 snaps before the second string came in. (Remember that he missed a chunk of the game after he got dinged up on Higdon's first run.) Asiasi got 36, as Bunting went out with an injury early. Grant Perry got 25 snaps; Crawford 16, McDoom 8.
[After THE JUMP: cruelty.]
[Ed-Seth: Yes, basketball season is approaching. We'll jump early though]
Jim Harbaugh’s brother-in-law [SBNation]
After Indiana dropped two of three games (all against mediocre competition) in the Maui Invitational and were blown out in the ACC – Big Ten challenge by Duke, there was understandable unease among the Hoosier faithful; things took an even worse turn when their second-leading scorer, James Blackmon, Jr., was lost to a season-ending injury right before conference play. Because Tom Crean’s still at the helm of that particular ship, people started complaining about him again.
[More on the Hoosiers after the JUMP]
[Ed-Seth: We have the great pleasure of employing the services and serving utensils of the original barbecuing bloggerati Joe Pichey of GoBlueBBQ to write recipes for our most delicious sponsor, Stubb's BBQ sauce. It doesn’t come in plastic bottles. It is not ketchup. Nine of ten doctors say “daaaaaamn”.]
Since moving down here to Texas, I have discovered a few things:
- I do not look good in a cowboy hat.
- How much I miss a great game of pond hockey
- The GREATNESS of beef cheeks.
Yes, I said beef cheeks. Trust me, you will fall in love with these the first time you make them. This is my go-to when making barbacoa, which is a basically a form of cooking meat until it’s fall-apart tender. Traditionally meats are cooked slowly over an open fire or in a hole in the ground that has been covered in large leaves. Since I do not have either of these at my standard tailgate. I decided to go with my smoker.
- Beef Cheeks
Stubbs Beef Rub
Tortillas (Corn or Flour)
Beer or Coffee and beef broth
[Hit the JUMP if you dare but remember you are not supposed to eat your monitor.]
About Last Week:
Penn State ran so much stuff that ALMOST worked.
The Road Ahead:
Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 B1G)
Last week: Won at Michigan State, 30-6
Recap: This game wasn’t quite as lopsided as the score would indicate. The two teams finished roughly equal in terms of total yards and yards per play, and neither team could run the ball. Seven of Wisconsin’s points came off a 66-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The big difference in this game was the quarterbacks. Wisconsin got a sufficient level of quarterback play. Michigan State didn’t. That was the ballgame.
That’s not to say that Alex Hornibrook was fantastic. He was okay-to-good. He threw for 195 yards at 7.5 yards per attempt with a pick (albeit on a last-play-of-the-half Hail Mary type object), a lost fumble, and a 1-yard touchdown pass. He has a rather notable lack of arm strength; on the last play of the first half, Wisconsin had the ball on the MSU 37, and Hornibrook didn’t get the ball anywhere near the end zone. He struggled at other times to push the ball downfield with velocity.
That said, he managed the game well, hit the open receivers, put some balls into tight windows, and generally avoided mistakes. He looks much more comfortable than the guy he replaced, Bart Houston. Is it because Hornibrook has a better last name? Maybe. Probably.
This team is as frightening as: Bald Bull. A real opponent, but this ain’t Tyson. Fear Level = 8
Michigan should worry about: Michigan struggled up front with a 3-4 defenses in the UCF and Colorado games.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Wisconsin scored plenty in the Akron game. In their other three games, they have scored six offensive touchdowns. Those drives averaged a start on the opponent’s 47 yard line. It is unlikely they can string long drives together against Michigan’s defense. And Wisconsin ALSO ranks towards the bottom in the country in offensive explosiveness (#114, per Bill C)
When they play Michigan: Michigan wins.
This week: at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., ABC (Michigan -10.5)
[AFTER THE JUMP: The path looks clearer, with one terrifying exception]
Thoughts on how your group’s played so far through four games?
“They’ve played well. They for the most part have done what they’ve been asked to do. More importantly than the games, I think, they’ve shown four weeks of improvement each in their own individual way in terms of what they needed to work on. I think we’re really in position to be playing our best football as a group getting into Big Ten play and then, as you’d like to, in October and November, so I’m excited about that.”
What was the point where you saw Devin Asiasi emerge? He’s obviously right there as one of your top guys so far.
“Uh, last January when I watched his junior high school tape, probably.”
What is it about him, is it that he’s physical?
“He’s a guy who plays fast, he’s physical, he’s capable of playing very nasty. He weighs somewhere around 270 pounds and still moves very well, so it’s a rare physical combination. Then he has a good football awareness about him and he learns well. Once I got a sense of the fact that he’d be able to pick things up fast enough to contribute it was kind of a no-brainer that he’d be part of the group.”
Speaking of playing nasty, it seemed like Tyrone [Wheatley Jr.] had that kind of week last week blocking. Is he becoming that kind of a mauler out there at that position?
“Yeah, certainly He’s definitely improving. Every week has been better than the previous, and looking for that to continue.”
Devin said that you had a big role in his recruitment and getting him here. I know for him it was a lot of last minute stuff and getting hot late in his recruitment. Can you touch a little on what it was like to build that relationship with him?
“Shoot, it was just kind of steady. He’s the kind of guy who could have gone wherever he wanted to go and it was just kind of always being there and building that relationship over a long period of time. I think he might have been the first guy I offered when I got the job here last January or February or whatever it was. Always loved him and it was just a long time, and luckily it paid off at the end.”
[After THE JUMP: pick your punt-return poison]
What are your thoughts about this week’s game?
“Well, it’s a big game, obviously. It’s the next game. It’s a very well coached, good football team. Got a big offensive line. They take pride in running the football. They’re, like I said, well coached and good running back and quarterback’s done very well, the freshman—redshirt freshman. They’ve got a number of tight ends that are all good football players, so this’ll be a big test.”
MGoQuestion: Wisconsin’s offensive style is fairly different from what you’ve faced the last few weeks. How does that impact your line rotation, if at all?
“Well, we’ll always rotate, you know, because the guys have earned the right to rotate, and we feel like they’re playing to be able to go in there. It always helps if you’re fresh. You always can benefit from what one guy tells you when he comes off, how they’re blocking you. But it is, you’re right, it is different. The fast pace of spread offense and then go from that to this style of offense is totally different.”
Your thoughts on getting Taco back and how he looked?
“It’s great to have him back. I’m very, very proud of him. I’m proud of our training staff. I mean, he worked so hard at getting back. Spent countless hours in the training room and you could see out there it was good to have him back.
“He’s had a good week of practice and he’s a senior now. He’s got things to prove and that’s what he’s working for. I was really proud of how much time and how much effort he did to get himself back. That tells you how important it is.”
How do you look at Rashan Gary as far as his progression over the first four weeks?
“He’s getting better every game. He’s getting better. He’s working really hard. And again, I mentioned this once before but one of the key things with Rashan is to have role models like Chris Wormley and Taco. He sees them do it right, and if he doesn’t—not that he doesn’t—but if he doesn’t do it he sees, okay, this is how it’s supposed to be. It’s not having to pull up a highlight tape or something like that to show him. He’s working very hard, and I’m very proud of him also because he knows how important this is for the seniors and the kids ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to help this team.”
[After THE JUMP: Bryan Mone is practicing,Chase Winovich sneaks into the weight room, and Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis]
Wisconsin's 30-6 blowout of Michigan State was one of the more surprising results from last weekend despite UW's opening-week win over LSU, which it's safe to say has lost some of its shine. After an uninspiring win over Georgia State—which is not Georgia Southern in name or football ability—the Badgers switched quarterbacks from senior Bart Houston to redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook, and the results were better than expected.
The results also weren't quite as good as the final score would have you believe. Wisconsin's drives in non-garbage time:
- 17-play, 65-yard TD drive requiring two fourth-down conversions
- six-play, 28-yard TD drive set up by an interception
- one-play, five-yard TD "drive" after MSU's punter dropped a high snap
- ten-play, 54-yard drive for a 41-yard FG
- six-play, 31-yard drive ending in a fumble on 2nd-and-ten
- seven-play, 45-yard end-of-half drive ending in a Hornibrook interception with one second left
- ten-play, 57-yard drive ending in a punt
- two three-and-outs
Both fourth-quarter drives, after UW already had a 30-6 lead, were three-and-outs. The defense added another touchdown on a fumble return. Meanwhile, one could argue their best drive of the day averaged 3.8 yards per play. Even taking out the two garbage-time drives, the Badgers only averaged 5.0 yards per play.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Yes, Wisconsin rotates two fullbacks who are both quite good, which would be the most Wisconsin thing if Harbaugh hadn't come along.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Beef. Wisconsin rarely goes into shotgun or fields more than two receivers unless faced with an obvious passing down. And, again, two-fullback rotation.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? MANBALL, as you probably guessed. Paul Chryst is very much a part of the Barry Alvarez coaching tree; before a three-year stint as Pitt's head coach, he was Wisconsin's offensive coordinator from 2005-2011, and he played QB for UW in the late '80s. While Chryst has largely been an inside zone guy, he called a lot of power in this game for reasons I'll get into later.
Hurry it up or grind it out? A surprisingly quick grind? UW huddles between most snaps and don't ever try to tempo the defense, but they're an above-average 45th in adjusted pace. I'm honestly not sure how to explain that. They're a good deal slower than UCF and Colorado, and despite what David Jones would have you believe, much faster to get plays off than Penn State.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]