chance of bowl: 13.6%
Previously: Minnesota Offense
We're finally heading into conference play, which means this hopefully will be the last film breakdown of a body-bag game, in this case Minnesota's 24-7 steamrolling of San Jose State.
I'm not quite ready to deploy the "I have the sinking feeling this is totally useless" tag, which I waited until last year's Northwestern game to unleash for 2013, but it's getting close.
A pump-fake interception on a botched WR screen!
San Jose State managed 254 yards of offense in 11 possessions on 5.6 yards per pass and 2.1 per rush. They turned it over five times, on three fumbles and two ghastly interceptions. I'm going to attempt to keep this from being a total waste of time by going over the basics of Cover 4, which Minnesota ran a lot of in this game, to the great confusion of SJSU's quarterback.
Personnel: Seth has accounted for the uncertainty at quarterback by turning this into a GIF—click to embiggen and see who we expect will start on Saturday:
Fine, fine, we went with Morris, because that seems to be the gut feeling of those closest to the program today, as well as the common sense choice given Brady Hoke's presser comments (why keep the uncertainty if there isn't going to be a change?). Anyway, I'm sure this won't dominate the comments of a post that otherwise has nothing to do with M's quarterback situation.
Base Set? Against SJSU's multiple attack—which actually resembles Michigan quite a bit in terms of formations utilized—Minnesota had a dedicated nickel set against three wide, which is depicted in Seth's chart, and went to a 4-3 over against two receivers:
Their corners stayed to a dedicated side of the field except when SJSU went with a trips formation; that's the strongside LB between the hashes and a CB hanging out on the boundary next to the DE.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
FORMATION NOTES: A lot of this kind of stuff.
Probably 50/50 between this and gun with more gun coming late as Michigan tried to make it look like they were trying to come back without actually doing so.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Everything as per usual, with the exception of Morris's late insertion and maybe a little more playing time for Jake Butt.
AGAIN APOLOGIES: Audio on the clips is messed up this week.
[After THE JUMP: a portal to another universe where Michigan doesn't suck (I DID IT FOR THE CLIIIIIIIIIICKS)]
BACKUP QB: CERTIFIED GOPHER TOUGH
We're finally heading into conference play, which means this hopefully will be the last film breakdown of a body-bag game, in this case Minnesota's 24-7 steamrolling of San Jose State. With starting QB Mitch Leidner sidelined due to a sprained knee and turf toe, injuries that could very well hold him out of this weekend's game, the Gophers turned to backup Chris Streveler to run the offense—and simply run, as he toted the rock 18 times to just seven pass attempts, of which he completed... one.
I'm not quite ready to deploy the "I have the sinking feeling this is totally useless" tag, which I waited until last year's Northwestern game to unleash for 2013, but it's getting close. The good news: Minnesota's run-heavy-to-the-point-that-run-heavy-doesn't-capture-it offense should play right into the strength of Michigan's defense, especially if Streveler is called upon once again to start.
Personnel. As you'll see in the formation chart, Minnesota almost exclusively ran their offense out of a one-back shotgun set with two tight ends. They still bring the beef—this is the list of their starters from their first four games, from Minnesota's game notes:
Yes, that features one WR who's started all four games, a FB/WR/TE spot, a TE/WR spot, and a dedicated TE spot. Spectacularly Gopher.
Anyway, here's the diagram from Seth, which now features Frank Clark and Jake Ryan getting their proper due as stars [click to embiggen]:
Minnesota's offense lacks experience, and it's even more glaring if you remove Maxxxxxx Williams (questionable, calf, didn't practice
[Ed-Ace: I wrote this up yesterday and there's been an update since. Williams practiced yesterday in a limited capacity, while Leidner has taken "about half" of the reps over the last two days, and Jerry Kill is "cautiously optimistic" he'll be able to play. Kill said he feels better about both players' chances to play compared to how he felt earlier in the week, for what it's worth.]
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style. Even with the mostly shotgun look, well... see the section above.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. The vast majority of Minnesota's plays in this game were either inside zone or zone read. They mixed in some power, usually when running from under center or the pistol, and a couple outside zones, but they really could've won this game while running their two base plays.
Hurry it up or grind it out? This is Minnesota. They're in no hurry here.
The Gophers did go up-tempo to great effect on one first-half drive, covering 59 yards in eight plays while taking just 2:41 off the clock—and increasing the tempo as they went down the field—but the drive ultimately failed when running back David Cobb fumbled a first-and-goal carry into the end zone for a touchback. Other than that lone drive, Minnesota took their sweet time.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
[What this is: We yoinked Joe Pichey from MMMGoBluBBQ to share his tailgating recipes and Stubb's offered to sponsor it. This is one of those things where we really liked their BBQ sauce, and it turned out their CEO really likes this blog, and we like Joe's recipes, and we all end up with sticky fingers.]
I love a great rib. It doesn't matter if it's pork, lamb, elk, beef or an albino sasquatch rib, I love em all. There is something extra special about eating meat off a stick or bone. Let's face it, it's just more fun. The beef short rib is no different. This meaty "goodness" has it all. It's juicy, it's packed full of flavor and it won't break the bank. What else could you ask for? It's also perfect for game-day due to its shorter cook time. (4-5 hours)
[After the jump: how to achieve your badge of honor]
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 "41-30" or "35-31 Michigan", or "28-24 Go Blue", or "38-34 Gardner FTW!" or "38-0" 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 we push it to next week or let it go.
- Brian voices displeasure at the puns in the headlines.
Why we do it:
Hey look: we sell t-shirts. Also sometimes there's free stuff to give away.
About Last Week:
Nobody won. Even Utah fans went home wet long after they were supposed to be drinking with the knowledge they were outgained by a team intent on shooting themselves in the face.
This Week's Game:
And on the Line:
Reference is to when much ado was being made over Gardner not learning to ID blocking assignments (Borges had the RBs and OL doing it). Six Zero went ahead and made a shirt out of it. It is good advice for anyone facing blitzes in their faces, be the pressure real, imagined, or metaphorical.
Fine print: 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. Nine people read this last time and thus was MGoBlog broken forever. The algorithm must've been something before electricity. The algorithm is a Cindarella story out of nowhere. And I say "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." The algorithm killed Gardner.This is not the algorithm. It tells people it is anyway.
News bullets and other items:
They have a plan for what they want to do at quarterback, and it won’t be revealed until the game.
Same goes for any other personnel changes.
“We ready? Alright. The team- we had a great practice yesterday. Came out and had a good day of work. It’s exciting to move forward, as you all would expect. We get to start the Big Ten season. The Brown Jug is a very big deal to us and keeping the Brown Jug here. We’ve talked about it as a team. We read the history of the Brown Jug and it’s something that has another part, not just being a Big Ten game but being a game that’s the oldest trophy game in Division I college football, so we’re excited about that. Obviously getting to conference play is exciting and we have to have another great day today, another great day on Thursday and Friday in our preparation and we will do that.”
Brady, any further developments on the quarterback situation?
“Well, you know, we’ll wait until game time with it. We’ve got an idea of what we want to do but for what’s best for us and the program and what we’re trying to get done, and that’d be the same at any other position.”
Coach, is Brad Berlin capable of being keeper of that little Brown Jug?
“Yeah, Brad does a great job and obviously some of you don’t know [but] Brad is our new equipment manager and he has big shoes to fit himself into [since] we’ve had Jon Falk for 40 years, but Brad on Sunday came up and said, ‘Okay, what do we do with the Jug’ so I had to educate him a little bit but he’s done a great job.”
What have you told the kids about the history of the Jug?
“Well, the inception of it and the games that have been those games that have been very exciting and down to the end. I think one of the messages is you don’t want them to come over and take the Jug off the sidelines. We want to keep it stored away here.”
[After THE JUMP: all the quarterback talk that’s fit to (electronically) print]
FORMATION NOTES: Not much of note. M was in a 4-3 over most of the day with few deviations. Miami did do some of that late-model RR/Baylor stuff by putting their WRs way far away from everything. I called this Shotgun 4-wide far. (This looks like pistol but the QB is 5 yards deep and the RB will pick a side/position presnap.)
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line starters were the usual. Backups saw some changes, though. The backup ends were still Charlton and Ojemudia; the second 3Tech was Godin—I don't think Wormley even played—and Hurst got in for some snaps that had previously gone to Pipkins. Again, don't think Pipkins played.
Linebacker was all Ross/Bolden/Ryan, and Michigan spent a big hunk of the game in a 4-3 playing zone so Ross got a fair share of time. When Michigan went nickel they slid Countess inside with Peppers and Lewis on the edge, and then Peppers disappeared and they stopped playing nickel. Hollowell didn't get on the field.
Safety was Jeremy Clark the whole way and Hill; then Hill left and Thomas came in.
APOLOGY NOTE: I used a different video file format and my conversion process balked at it, so the audio is messed up on the clips. I just didn't execute. Sorry guys.
[After THE JUMP: this went well.]
— The Michigan Daily (@michigandaily) September 22, 2014
COKEAGGEDDON. Well, it happened, and they quickly ran out of tickets, and the athletic department said that shouldn't have happened like a robot programmed to impersonate a human, and now it's over. The robot bit:
Coke is a great partner of ours and had purchased a limited block of tickets for the Minnesota game for a Coke retail activation aimed at Michigan students.
What I would give for an athletic department that responded to things like this without resorting to the nonsense phrase "retail activation." The program was "pulled immediately" after the Union had already run out, ie, not pulled. There's the silver lining: Michigan tickets are still worth more than two dollars.
As per usual when these things happen, the cover-up is worse than the crime. The pattern: Michigan does something stupid or embarrassing or annoying or all three. People laugh or complain about it. Michigan releases a mendacious statement that blames someone else for the screw up, wonders why everyone is making a big deal about it, and says it was never their intent for stupid/embarrassing/annoying thing to happen. Two months later, repeat the process.
The list is getting long: running out of water after banning outside bottles because terrorists, Allstate field goal nets, enormous macaroni sculpture, seat cushions, sky-writing over Spartan Stadium, telling people they got a discount on their hockey season tickets when really they moved a Michigan State game to Chicago, and Cokeaggeddon. Nobody apologized for "In The Big House," but they damn well should have.
I would prefer an athletic department that knew enough about how thing were going to look to a persnickety fanbase to not have issues like this on the regular. I would even more strongly prefer a department that didn't go "nuh-uh" when people called them on their crap.
Backhanded compliment battle royal. Man are people saying some things about Hoke these days that they mean to be nice but come off not so nice. Mark Dantonio:
Dantonio on turmoil in Ann Arbor: "I don't think there's a bad football coach out there. ...I have a lot of respect for Brady."
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) September 23, 2014
Dantonio followed that up by responding "I have empathy for people" when some reporter asked him if he had empathy for what's going on at Michigan. If our athletic department is going to be a robot can it be a Dantonio-style killer robot at least?
I HAVE EMPATHY FOR PEOPLE
/hail of gunfire
And then Dennis Norfleet was getting his coach's back when this came out and got on the internet the wrong way:
"In life, he's a good coach," Norfleet on Hoke
— Max Cohen (@MaxACohen) September 23, 2014
I know he didn't mean it like that but it's hard not to read it like that, you know?
Shades of the late RR period. Old pissed-off alums are coming out of the woodwork to yell on the talk radio. Former Bo QB Michael Taylor is up:
"Michigan football is not going in the right direction," said Taylor, who played for UM from 1987-89. "The leadership is bad. There are many more issues on and off the field than I care to talk about. It's sad." …
"What we've become is a propaganda football team, telling people how great we are when we're mediocre," he said.
Taylor has had an axe to grind for a while, FWIW. Hard to disagree with the last bit even so.
While Taylor's naplam job was widely reported the News is the only outlet I've seen that noted anything about Jon Jansen's immediately subsequent appearance. Jansen is on some sort of former players' committee, and says this about Taylor's complaint that players are being told to buy tickets if they want anything more than two per season (as in two tickets, total):
"It may not be the answer they're looking for, but we have started the process of getting a policy together for how many tickets you can get, how you get them, sideline passes," Jansen said. "That's the biggest thing — guys want to be able to come back."
IIRC, Taylor's beef with Brandon started when he further restricted tickets for former lettermen. It's not about "getting a policy" together. There is a policy. As per usual it prefers nickel and diming everyone to creating long-term allies.
More bloviation. Get ready for two and a half months of HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH posts that don't have much of anything behind them. PFT takes the lead:
…the speculation has been ongoing regarding the future of 49ers coach (and former Michigan quarterback) Jim Harbaugh for a while. Mired in a contractual impasse that has been tabled until after the season, any college or program now knows that Harbaugh is in play for a jump to a new job come 2015. With the 49ers already mired in a disappointing, stressful year, that jump could be more likely.
This gets everyone hot and bothered while not having a single quote or even a single assertion that a hot source told him something. Throw it on the bloviation pile. And reinforce the floor under that pile. It's about to get stressed.
The cycle is intact. Football team is bad at football. People say football team is bad at football. People say maybe football team would be better at football if this coach who seems to have a lot of bad football teams was no longer the coach. Media incessantly hammers coach and players at every media opportunity about The Critics, leading to people Taking A Stand Against The Critics and articles describing that event. Dennis Norfleet just did so.
If anyone thinks the massive public criticism being hurled at Brady Hoke on a now daily basis doesn't make its way into the ears of Michigan's players from time to time, then Dennis Norfleet has a message for you.
And they're pretty pissed about it.
Okay. I don't expect this conversation to go any other way, because Hoke has his team behind him and they would run through the proverbial wall for him, etc. I just don't see why anyone should care. It's all talk. Weren't we all like "I'm done with talk, show me" this offseason? We have been shown some things. Now there is talk about how bad the team is, and if you are mad at people talking about how bad Michigan football is currently I don't know what to tell you.
This is just not realistic:
"Even if we lose. If we lose, if you're a Michigan fan you're supposed to be with us 100 percent to pick us up. We need our fans just as much as we need a win. So, yes, it hurts. It hurts a lot."
It is impossible to control the emotional impulses of large groups of people, and fans are in this for themselves. They like the players, they want the players to succeed, they generally refrain from harsh personal criticism of the players. They are there to feel something, however, and when the only thing they feel is certainty Michigan is not going to make up yet another double-digit deficit they're going to talk about replacing the coach. Because that is the logical thing to do if your goals for a football team involve having a nice time with it.
That's the fundamental disconnect between fans and players and we can stop talking like any of these people have to have the same motivations. Or not, I suppose, because journalists are in this for themselves.
We're confusing to computers. Michigan has outgained every opponent en route to a 2-2 record with two blowout losses. The play-based ranking systems are having a bit of a conniption fit as a result:
— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) September 22, 2014
Computer rankings after four weeks are never accurate but drive systems do take a lot more data than the final score into account and should be a bit more reliable as a result. It's just that sometimes not taking the final score into account particularly heavily is… unwise. Connelly on that:
On a per-play basis (in a system that counts turnovers simply as non-successes until drive data is factored in after seven weeks), they are good enough to rank 19th in the country, just one spot behind a team that beat them by 31 points and 11 spots ahead of a team that beat them by 16. But in ways similar to 2011 Texas A&M and 2011 Notre Dame, they're figuring out ways to make their failures count double, and it seems they (and their fans) know the failures are coming before they happen.
Seven of the next eight conference games are winnable, and eight are losable. We'll see if Hoke can figure out how to turn promise into reality, or if, like Texas A&M in 2011, it will take a new coach and a new quarterback to translate decent stats into good results.
He notes three teams with similar profiles to Michigan to date: 2011 versions of Notre Dame and Texas A&M and 2012 Michigan State.
Connelly and Brian Fremeau combine their ratings for something called F+ that is considerably more skeptical but still insufficiently so from the human observer's viewpoint. F+ has Michigan 32nd. Connelly used that to metric to project the Big Ten race and came up with this amazing possibility:
|Record||West Winner||East Winner|
There is a one in four chance that your Big Ten West winner is .500 in the conference. I think we can all agree that this annus miserabilis will be totally worth it if that happens.
As far as Michigan goes, he ran a bunch of simulations with his numbers and came out with an approximately 60% chance Michigan goes 4-4 in the league and 20% chances they go 5-3 or 6-2. Again, early season computer numbers so take lightly—suffice it to say computers are not feeling real good about Hoke's job prospects.
The wounded. Minnesota's Mitch Leidner still questionable for Saturday, "all indications" that Michigan will get the Gopher backup who completed one pass against SJSU. Maxxxxxxxx Williams is also doubtful with something or other. Against that Michigan puts up Jarrod Wilson and Raymon Taylor, who dressed but did not play against Utah, Delano Hill, who left before halftime with a boo boo, and an obviously still gimpy Devin Funchess. Funchess FWIW:
"I got a little dinged up, I had to make sure everything was OK, and I just had to fight through it," Funchess said Tuesday. "I knew it was painful (that day), and it'll (probably) be painful the rest of the season.
"You're never going to go through a season and stay 100 percent (the whole way) ... I'm healthy enough to play."
Sort of. His effort on blocks is not so good.
Blake Countess, Jake Ryan, Jehu Chesson
Blake, earlier this season I remember talking to you about the secondary being a strength. Are you guys still confident that the talent’s there? I mean, you guys have given up some big plays now and then. Are you still as confident in the secondary as you were four or five weeks ago?
BC: “Oh, no doubt about it. We’re a group that’s growing just like the rest of the team and we definitely have the talent to do it. It’s just about getting better every week and proving it, but absolutely. My confidence in my secondary has not wavered at all.”
Coach Hoke has been taking a lot of heat, obviously. What do you guys talk about in the locker room? Do you guys rally around him a little bit at this point?
JR: “Yeah, I mean, we’re just trying to stick together as a team. You know, we can’t let last week affect us. We’ve got to hold our heads up and move on. It’s Big Ten season.”
[Ed. Totally inaudible, sorry]
JR: “You can’t listen to that. You know, you can’t be affected by that. You just have to block it out and, you know, these people don’t know what we’ve done behind the scenes. They don’t know what we’ve done in Schembechler Hall, but we’re just going to keep taking those necessary steps forward that we need to take to improve every single day.”
Does it tick you off, though? When you read the tweets or…
JR: “You can’t- I don’t go on the message boards and read all that stuff. You can’t do that. That’s just people’s opinions.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Alex Malzone (#12) to Grant Perry (foreground) is arguably the top passing combination in the state. [Ace Anbender/MGoBlog]
Dave and I once again found ourselves at Wayne State last weekend, this time for a Catholic League rivalry tilt between Birmingham Brother Rice and Warren De La Salle. After a slow start against an aggressive Pilots defense, Brother Rice pulled out a dramatic 28-21 victory after a 31-yard pass from Michigan commit Alex Malzone to Michael Roney set up the game-winning one-yard TD run by Bobby Dixon III in the waning minutes. The win kept the defending state champion Warriors undefeated this season (5-0).
Brother Rice ran just 15 offensive plays in the first half, as De La Salle's defense put Malzone under heavy fire and their offense ate up nearly a quarter's worth of time. The Warriors finally put it together offensively on their last drive of the first half, which Malzone capped off with the first of his three touchdown passes on the evening, an absolute dart to slot receiver John Garry on a six-yard slant that he fit into a small window.
From that point forward, Malzone took over, spearheading three second-half scoring drives with plenty of help from his top target, senior receiver Grant Perry. Malzone finished 14-of-20 for 203 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, with Perry catching seven of those passes for 103 yards. Michigan preferred walk-on commit Jack Dunaway led the Brother Rice defensive effort with seven tackles (by my unofficial count) with three TFLs.
[Hit THE JUMP for exclusive video highlights and scouting on Malzone, Dunaway, Perry, and a trio of De La Salle standouts.]