Rivalry bleah. I find myself completely unmoved by all the rivalry stuff this week, from OSU trying and failing to remove Ms from their campus to Markley spelling out "FUCK OSU". I don't care that Rivalry Game Is Personal For Player, whether it's Mike Weber or Mike McCray. Rivalry Game is personal for everyone on ever roster. Rivalry Game is personal for me. It is personal for everybody.
Does your rivalry item accelerate the pace of time? No? Not interested. Anyway, here's some stuff that does nothing to accelerate the pace of time.
Four minutes of Bo and Woody.
Ohio State things. JT Barrett had a typical JT Barrett bad weather game against MSU:
It was another classic game in this the “Year of the Running Quarterback” as Barrett posted a 55.9 passing grade but made up for it with a 92.6 effort on the ground. He was clearly affected by the wind, with passes floating all over the place and one throw that was dangerously close to a disastrous turnover, but the Buckeyes relied on him heavily to make good decisions in their run/pass option game and he came through with 122 yards on 20 carries. Even on a day where he finished 10-for-22 for 86 yards, Barrett showed that he can still provide enough value in the run game to keep Ohio State in games.
Under Barrett, OSU's passing game falls apart in crappy weather with a consistency that's undeniable at this point. This weekend's weather... partly cloudy, tiny percent chance of precipitation, 9 MPH winds. Subject to change five days out, but doesn't look like we'll be getting Bad Weather Barrett.
OSU made up for it by running for almost 300 yards against a makeshift MSU defensive line minus Malik McDowell. If Michigan cannot significantly outperform MSU, they will lose. You'd expect they would, but if you're in a believe-it-when-I-see-it state when it comes to Michigan shutting the OSU offense down, I don't blame you.
OSU had extreme issues protecting the passer against Penn State, giving up pressure on almost 50% of their dropbacks. Those issues were mitigated shortly thereafter, but one dollar says those are still lurking. Adjusted sack rates:
- Penn State: 21st
- Northwestern: 79th
- Nebraska: 42nd
- Maryland: 15th
- MSU: 121st
- Michigan: 1st
OSU's offense is 67th at preventing sacks. Their run stats are all terrific save for explosiveness—Barrett and Weber are not big play threats and Samuel doesn't get enough touches to make up for it—and that's what'll come down to. Passing downs should be a major advantage for Michigan... if they exist.
Time for a change? Ross Fulton notes something about the Michigan defense you may have noticed watching Mike McCray try to shut down huge swathes of space:
The Buckeyes’ best matchup is Samuel to the edge and as a receiver against Michigan’s linebackers and safeties. Brown often prefers to put Peppers to the formation strength.
So Meyer and his staff need to use alignment to target the edge away from Peppers – where the Wolverines are left dependent on the less athletic Will linebacker Mike McCray for edge support. And the Buckeyes need to provide Barrett sufficient time for Samuel to work option and out routes from the slot – or routes from the backfield – against man coverage.
I would not put it past Don Brown to make a change here. McCray was exposed in all that space against Lorenzo Harrison and would be again against Samuel; he can get better, but it's not a great matchup. I also wonder if Michigan is going to stick with cover one and a bunch of man coverage—OSU does see many people play man against them for obvious reasons.
Brown's been great so far this year but this is the game he was hired for. Much rides on his ability to stay one step ahead of Urban Meyer.
In one graph. Impossible to defend:
— Warren K. Zola (@WarrenKZola) November 17, 2016
Meanwhile even Power 5 schools raking in piles of cash are seeing a large proportion of their athletes on little to no scholarship money:
All of the colleges Allison was considering provide scholarship assistance up to the NCAA limit in the sports they sponsor. But a closer look at athletic-aid distribution at one of those institutions, North Carolina State University, shows how scarce the dollars are for many athletes.
More than 200 of NC State’s 558 athletes last year had 20 percent or less of their costs covered by athletic aid. Outside of football, basketball, and the four other sports that can [ed: I this is actually "must"] award full athletic scholarships, just 27 Wolfpack athletes were on a full ride.
Power 5 autonomy has not seen these gaps close. The money just keeps rolling in, and going somewhere. Not to the people who earn it, or even the people who are potentially incurring piles of debt to be athletes.
Basketball WTFs. One of these events is weirder than the other:
- Northwestern hammers Texas 77-58 in a neutral site game. Barking Carnival runs down the good, bad, and ugly, with "everybody driving the ball," "everybody shooting free throws," and "everybody passing the ball" in the latter category.
- Illinois loses to Winthrop at home. Winthrop is one of those good-but-not-that good low major teams you should be scheduling to prop up your RPI, but you have to, you know, win those games to prop up your RPI.
Which is weirder? It's got to be Northwestern. Illinois has not been good under John Groce, who is Big Ten basketball's Darrell Hazell. Groce was hired after a brief MAC tenure ended well—you probably remember. He was hired on the strength of three games.
One of the reasons Big Ten basketball is rather good is that there's a much deeper pool of head coaches to poach. Indiana plucked Tom Crean after seven years at Marquette including five tourney appearances; Michigan grabbed John Beilein after five years at West Virginia. Maryland got Mark Turgeon after he took Texas A&M to the tourney four straight years. Thad Matta was at Xavier, coming off three consecutive Kenpom top-25 teams.
There are various head coaches who moved up from MAC-like leagues. Fran McCaffrey had three straight tourney bids at Siena, with his final two teams ranking #67 and #59 in Kenpom and has more or less worked out at Iowa. The rest are guys at Minnesota, Penn State, etc. Illinois should be hiring like Michigan and OSU, not Minnesota and Penn State.
Speaking of Illinois, here's a crazy Illinois stat. Via Illiniboard:
I’ve mentioned this stat 131 times but one more won’t hurt: in those eight years, in the Power Five conferences, every single school has had at least a Sweet 16 appearance in basketball or an eight-win football season (with a solid bowl game) except for two: Illinois and Wake Forest. Colorado WAS part of that group, but Colorado just won their ninth game on Saturday and is headed to a great bowl – perhaps even a New Years Six bowl. And, as someone reminded me on Twitter, if Wake beats Boston College this weekend (and they probably will), they’re a bowl win away from eight football wins.
I didn't think I was getting into what I ended up getting into when I started this here blog but the all-time I've Made A Terrible Mistake By Starting This Blog champion is Robert at Illiniboard. Keep him in your thoughts the next time you consider rooting against Illinois for Gary Moeller or something.
Administrative leave is not a good sign. Barney Farrar, the gentleman mentioned in Laremy Tunsil's text, is placed in the plane of Limbo:
OXFORD - Ole Miss has placed assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations, Barney Farrar, on administrative leave, according to a report from Rebelgrove.com.
The website reported Farrar did not accompany the football team to Texas A&M last weekend and that he's not expected to travel with the Rebels to Vanderbilt this weekend.
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork declined to comment on the situation, as did a university spokesman. Attempts by The Clarion-Ledger to reach Farrar were unsuccessful.
Something less than good is coming down the pipe for Ole Miss.
Etc.: Nebraska and Minnesota seek to throw the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy down the memory hole. Michigan was the only Big Ten school to flat-out say no to Friday games. Remembering Bo. The program from his memorial service, including the Lloyd Carr speech. (Guess who's on the first page!) Rivalry Game Personal for Mark Donnal. Rivalry Game Personal for DJ Wilson. 2K classic keys. Ten Year War 2? Peppers profiled. Fake tickets are bad.
[David Zalubowski – AP]
A week after chaos reigned in college football, this was a return to normalcy. Most conference races remained unchanged and there were relatively few upsets. I was actually able to watch the biggest result of the week in person: Houston emerged from a funk to absolutely crush Louisville – a team that may have had a path to the playoff – on Thursday night, harassing Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson all game en route to a comfortable 36-10 win over the Cardinals. It was a great atmosphere and even though Tom Herman might not be in H-Town for long, DT Ed Oliver will be: he was utterly dominant against Louisville – and he’s just a freshman.
Anyways, I digress. On to the week that was:
--- In one of the most unexpectedly consequential games of the season, COLORADO responded to a 24-21 third quarter deficit against WASHINGTON STATE to score 17 straight points and emerge with a big home win to help keep their Pac-12 South hopes alive. Buffaloes QB Sefo Liufau briefly exited the game with an injury but returned and turned in an excellent performance with 345 passing yards as well as 108 yards on the ground – and three rushing touchdowns; Phillip Lindsay lost a fumble in the first half but wound up with 144 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Washington State QB Luke Falk threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns himself, but completed less than half his passes and turned it over on each of the last two Cougar possessions of the game. It was an impressive win for Colorado, especially after the defense stiffened in the fourth quarter after having conceded plenty of yardage and 28 points earlier in the game. They’re now a game ahead of USC in the division with a matchup against Utah next week; they don’t hold the tiebreaker against the Trojans after having lost to USC back in early October. Washington State still controls its destiny in the North with the winner-take-all Apple Cup against Washington next week.
[Much more after the JUMP]
I saw Chris Wormley on the list of players available to the media Monday and knew that I wanted to talk to him. I didn’t know exactly which play I’d talk to him about; it’s a heck of a luxury to have blind faith in a player’s weekly wrecking of a tight end. Sure enough, I found multiple examples of Wormley taking on a poor, unfortunate tight end after going through the tape. I picked this one because it allowed the opportunity to discuss proper technique when taking on a tight end as well as what a DE sees when he’s flowing down the line of scrimmage to make a tackle.
What did you see in their alignment as you were getting set?
“We knew all along that play set-up. We watched film on it. The tight end was off the line and I knew I was either going to get a reach block from the tackle or cut-off from the tight end. I got a cut-off from the tight end, and usually when a tight end’s on me usually it’s not a good thing for the opposite team. I saw the play and then being the guy that needs to make a play, I made the play.”
Were they tipping run/pass with the back’s alignment?
“You know, they were actually really good at the play-action pass, thinking it’s a run and then trying to get off and pass rush, so I think they did a good job at that. When it’s third down you kind of know it’s a pass, so we’ll be ready for it.”
You said the tight end was trying to cut you off. Technique-wise, what’s the proper technique when a tight end’s trying to do that in terms of your first step, where you want to put your hands, etc.?
“Especially for us, we’re reading the tackle and then depending on what he does your eyes shift to either the tight end or you get your hands on the tackle. My eyes shifted to the tight end, I got my hands on him, and there’s an escape drill that we do every day that comes in handy when you need to get off a block and then make a play.”
As you get your hands on him, are you able to see the mesh point in the backfield to see that the back’s getting the handoff or is the tight end too far in front of you?
“I think it all depends on the certain type of play, but for that play specifically you get your hands on the tight end, you extend, you escape, and then you try to find the ball. If the guy’s still on you it’s kind of hard to make a tackle, so you’ve got to get the defender off you first and then go make the play.”
When you dove into that gap it looked like you might have had it prediagnosed. Was that the case were you thought you knew where it was going to go, or was it more instinctual?
“Yeah. All through the week last week we repped that play. We repped the two different plays that it could have been. Just being a college football player for four years now you can kind of read a tackle and his stance, a tight end and his stance, and see what they’re doing. It’s a play I had to make and I made it.”
When you’re almost airborne like that and trying and make a tackle, what’s the most important thing technique-wise? Is it hand placement?
“I think getting a good base and a good shoulder on the guy. Wrapping is pretty key, especially now with people just trying to throw a shoulder in there or down at the legs. You’ve got to wrap up is the most important thing.”
It has come to this. [UPDATED at 5:22 pm]
The biggest Game in a decade is priced like the biggest game in a decade. And tickets have finally started to actually move after the same crappy high seats have been sitting online all season. The singles in the $260 range got snapped up before I made it home from the Indiana game and are now trading around $300, with the bulk available in the $340 range.
Let’s go over the factors:
Wins. A loss to Michigan State would have sent those tumbling, since Ohio State fans control what’s being put on the market. They’re also controlling whom they go to, and like MSU that fanbase puts greater than usual pressure on their people to not sell to outsiders. I think that’s keeping the market artificially high—the scarcity on online sites is not reflective of the number of tickets actually being exchanged, and where a battle of unbeatens might be treated as a once-in-a-generation event the prevailing sense among both fanbases is that 1-loss showdowns will be the norm.
Weekend Activities. Working against this game is Thanksgiving, which plays havoc with season ticket holders and students. The stadium will get filled, but holiday obligations mean more are exchanged. These games haven’t been as competitive since they moved to Thanksgiving Weekend but last year TicketIQ’s guys were telling me it’s not something to overlook. Ultimate effect is I think it puts a hard cap on how high tickets can get by providing too large of a market for weird things to happen.
Weather. With so much on the line I think the weather will be less of a factor, though a sudden shift to the bad will result in something like we saw on Saturday, where there were lots of fans walking the edge of the stadium with one ticket. The price won’t be $20, but if you’re flying single I would take the gamble that there’s one for $200, especially if you can successfully hide your Michigan fandom.
This far out it’s hard to predict:
The Friday chance of rainshowers is coming from
that precipitation over the plains states [correction: the stuff behind it that’s just now approaching British Columbia]:
My meteorologist thinks the weather will mostly go northeast and get dumped on the east coast of Lake Michigan because they’re snow-whores out there. Columbus might get only some light rain on Friday night. I’d bet it’ll be a nice crisp mostly sunny Michigan-Ohio State kind of day, but if it’s still raining in Illinois on Friday that could change.
Final take? I’m guessing on Friday there will be some tickets together for about $40-$50 less than what’s on there now, and $100 will get you a ticket if you catch someone 20 minutes before kickoff and lowball ‘em.
This is also a good game to try other ticket exchanges like local Ohio Craigslist (do tickets by owner) or Buckeye friends who belong to their alumni club or something. Like I said, a lot of the market is hiding from the online market, and with more tickets moving because of the holiday there’s going to be greater chances to explore the extremes of the bell curve.
[After THE JUMP, data on Ohio Stadium for when you’re looking at ticket options, Michigan’s bowl destinations, and how Penn State fans can get their B1G Title tickets]
Dymonte Thomas the last couple games has made some big plays for you. Talk about what he’s given you on the field?
“He’s always given solid play, and lately big hits, momentum-changing plays. He’s a very good player. Always has been consistently good.”
You’re going to a place where they really don’t know what to make of you down there. Some people say you’re crazy like a fox, some people say you’re just crazy, but they all say you’re progressive. Could you describe who you are to Ohioans?
“Not crazy. Wouldn’t describe myself as that.”
Anything beyond that?
“No. I mean, I don’t know that my personality really, how relevant that will be to the ballgame this week. Probably irrelevant.”
Is there anything unique about competing against Urban Meyer, whether it’s on the field or recruiting or anywhere else you come up against each other?
“Unique in that it’s at the highest level.”
“In terms of competition on the field or recruiting, everything’s at the highest level. Competition’s at the highest level.”
Can you update us on Wilton Speight’s condition, and do you expect him to play?
“No, I do not have an update today. Hasn’t been evaluated today.”
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh waxes poetic about Peppers, lists all the cities he lived in as a kid, and explains why love for his children and football can’t be accurately expressed with a pie chart]
11/19/2016 – Michigan 20, Indiana 10 – 10-1, 7-1 Big Ten
When Midwestern Football Weather looms, there is only one priority for the experienced fan: please, not sleet. The heavens can aim at my head with golf-ball-sized hail as long as the precipitation is of the form that can be dodged or shaken off. The icy needle stuff that penetrates anything short of a spaceship hull is decidedly not preferred.
That's what we got in 2008, figuratively and literally. The infamous Fandom Endurance III game against Northwestern that sent Michigan to 3-7, guaranteeing no bowl bid for the first time in 40-some years, was played in a driving sleet that is bar-none the worst weather I've ever experienced at a game. I imagine the only competition available is that Purdue game from the 90s that ended 5-0; I was not present.
At halftime of 2008 Northwestern the sleet sent me to the concourse in the hope the pretzel machines could restore some feeling to my hands. They could not. And yet:
This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.
That column is staggeringly old now, especially for Michigan fans who aged in dog years during the RichRod era and in you-chose-the-wrong-grail years during the Hoke/Brandon double-barrel fiasco. By the stuttering end of Hoke's tenure I was referencing that column only to repudiate it, my goodwill stripped to the bone and pecked at by Brandon in case there was any seat-cushion related morsel he could take from me and give to himself.
I don't know what's going to happen Saturday. John O'Korn didn't look like a quarterback who could win against OHIO STATE, but Ohio State didn't look like the all-caps version of themselves in a one-point win over Michigan State, or a four-point win over Northwestern, or a loss to Penn State. I don't know if John O'Korn is even going to play.
Having an Ohio State game hanging by a thread because of a quarterback problem is frustratingly familiar turf. Denard Robinson and Chad Henne literally could not throw their senior years; Devin Gardner played most of an OSU game on a broken foot; Drew Henson didn't even bother to play his senior season. It is brutal to have this defense and not know if they're going to have a chance because of yet another backup quarterback throwing a spanner in well-laid plans.
I spent large portions of that game playing Ohio State in my head. I've been doing this since the end of the Wisconsin game, to be honest. I didn't like the results much, but I suppose neither did the sliver of the OSU fanbase capable of complex thought after the Buckeyes got outgained by 3-8 MSU.
I think about ten years ago, and how seismic that felt. It felt like the world would rise or fall based on the result of one goddamn game, and how that was right. And Saturday, and ugh, and can we get this over with.
Then the heavens opened up.
What people with no experience of winter fail to understand is its capacity for sheer beauty. Saturday's transient blizzard turned a football game into a kaleidoscope of lacy geometries. The individual flakes traced whorls across the sky, each brilliantly lit. As they began to stick the stadium brightened, and brightened, until it was glowing. Light bounced from white to white until it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.
I forgot about Speight's shoulder, and the looming nausea machine this weekend, and Twitter, and even the fucking red hat TV timeout guy. What looked dim from the outside was brilliant as mid-day on the interior. It is something I will not forget.
110,000 people felt that same lift. Maybe they weren't thinking quite as far back in the sleety past as I was, but they knew the difference between then, and now. Someone started chanting "BEAT OHIO," and thousands more took it up, as Michigan marched out a victory lit by a sun of a their own devising.
One game to change it all. Saturday.
Full suite from MGoVideo.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 De'Veon Smith had more than half of Michigan's yards and more or less produced all their points. On one particular short yardage run he ran directly over safety Tony Fields, causing him to eject an object that was either his mouthpiece, tooth, or soul. Fields kept coming, and Smith kept turning him into mulch.
#2 Taco Charlton collected 2.5 TFLs and created several more by driving his man deep into the backfield. He has been virtually unstoppable as a pass rusher; this was his best outing against the run. And now his ankle's 100%. Look out, world.
#3 Jourdan Lewis had three pass breakups and only gave up one of the two completions he ceded because it was in a blizzard and he was giving up ten yards on purpose. He had a couple of important PBUs on third down slants that booted Indiana off the field.
Honorable mention: Channing Stribling gave up one completion for 20 yards or so but had his share of PBUs and solid coverage; Ryan Glasgow was an interior terror; the offensive line in general blew up what had been a very good rush defense. Dymonte Thomas had an impressive thunk to prevent a drag route from converting a third down and had one of those PBUs where I have to check to make sure that he's not Lewis.
10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
7: Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa, #2 Indiana).
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa).
4: Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland, #3 Indiana).
3.5: De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU, #1 Indiana).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU),
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
De'Veon Smith stakes Michigan to a lead that felt much larger than three points.
Also, shirtless men.
Honorable mention: O'Korn scrambles for 30 yards; Smith extends the lead to 10.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.
Iowa: The touchdown.
Indiana: Smith woodchips Michigan a lead.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Indiana goes on a Legitimate Drive in the middle of the second quarter and takes the lead at a point where you're wondering if Michigan can actually score a touchdown of their own.
Honorable mention: Various O'Korn things; the back-to-back-to-back ludicrous catches to set up an Indiana FG.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.
Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety.
Indiana: A legitimate drive.
[After THE JUMP: Quarterback fussin'.]
1 hour and 20 minutes
The reason we can put out so much audio content now is it’s paid for. The show is presented by UGP & Moe's and their latest venture, the Bo Store, and frankly would not be happening without them; Rishi and Ryan and their people have been huge MGoBlog supporters from the start.
Our other sponsors are also key in the expanding empire: thanks to Homesure Lending, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, Defensive Drivers Group, and Peak Wealth Management.
starts at 1:00
You can see why early season Speight won the job over O’Korn, who did his Madden first timer impression long after it stopped being funny. How Michigan solved Indiana’s slice and dice linebackers, and shout-out to the receivers for blocking a 1950s game.
starts at 17:00
Indiana stretched and Michigan kept that down with a steady diet of Glasgow penetration and Taco going bonkers. Indiana did Mitch Leidner us a bit, if you can even call that a catch.
Special Teams & Game Theory
starts at 28:20
Oh man this punter. Dantonio goes for a mental message 2-point conversion with Tyler O’Connor. 1950s ball is acceptable when you’re in the 1950 Game.
starts at 39:32
Ace’s Thera-Flu hallucination is apparently being shared by the rest of us who think D.J. Wilson should be the top of a 1-3-1. Michigan’s big(!) team is fouling(!) like an average(!) team and has a solid defense(!). So far this season is its best case scenario.
Talking Big Ten w/ Interrupting Jamie Mac
starts at 1:01:15
It may be worth it to keep the Northern Hemisphere in perpetual precipitationary darkness for the duration of J.T. Barrett’s career. How often did Ohio State use its 8-ypc running back tandem? Did anyone else get Mitch Leidner’d this week? Is Rutgers in the Big Ten some kind of sick joke? I’m not saying this is in the podcast, I’m asking as I write this, like is Delaney gonna turn around and be like “Dude, no, I meant we should get that defensive lineman who’s committed to Oregon ha ha you actually thought…oh no. NoNoNoNoNoNo.”
- “For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti”—Sufjan Stevens
- “Spirit in the Dark”—Aretha Franklin
- “Building steam with a grain of salt”—DJ Shadow
- “Fire's Highway”—Japandriods
- “Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
- Helpful iTunes subscribe link
- General podcast feed link
- Direct download link
- What's with the theme music?
News bullets and other items:
Wilton Speight is “day-to-day”
Asked whether he will practice next week, Harbaugh said, “We’ll see.”
Can you talk about what De’Veon Smith and your offensive line gave you when you really needed it there in the third quarter?
“Yeah, I mean, grinding out first downs, grinding meat. De’Veon, he played with great motivation. And some great play from the offensive line. It felt like old fashioned, slobber-knocker football.
“Tim Drevno made some great calls. The touchdown, the long touchdown by De’Veon was a heck of a call. We’d been running to the strongside. Come back, pull, have the pullers to the weakside, it was just enough. Just enough space, and De’Veon, breaking tackles. The yard runs, the yards after contact, pushing for the first down was critical. I think it’s the most yards of his career. Heck of an effort by De’Veon.”
No disrespect to Indiana, but is it possible your guys were thinking ahead a little to next week. How was the focus, do you think?
[laughs] “I’ll tell you what, to win this game, it feels like one of the best wins I’ve ever been involved with because it was a playoff game, and it was beating a tough Indiana team. We have a lot of respect for them. They’re a heck of a football team. And the elements, too. That was…you know, feel good about our football team.”
Can you reflect on the run that O’Korn h.ad to set up De’Veon’s first touchdown, and how would you assess his play overall?
“Yeah, that was huge. We were struggling making third-down conversions and there was not just one but two defenders pressuring John, and [he] stepped out of it with good ball security. Got the first down and was being threatened there at the sticks and didn’t dive, didn’t slide. Kick through, kicked through an arm tackle and kept right on running, so that was a big play. That was a signature play for a quarterback in a big game, so I feel really good. Amara [Darboh] was also outstanding to extend our last drive. He did a lot of good things.”
[After THE JUMP: special teams, smashing the narrative, and waxing philosophical about Michigan Stadium]
De'Veon Smith's diving touchdown put Michigan up for good. [Eric Upchurch]
For 40 minutes, Senior Day at Michigan Stadium couldn't have gone much worse. The offense had nothing going with John O'Korn, who looked hesitant and flustered in Wilton Speight's stead. Indiana led 10-6 and looked poised to upset Michigan for the first time since 1987.
O'Korn had thrown for all of 46 yards when he dropped back on third-and-eight from the Michigan 36 with five minutes left in the third quarter. Indiana got instant pressure and O'Korn broke the pocket, jetting down the sideline for 30 yards, Michigan's longest play from scrimmage to that point.
"The opportunity presented itself. I thought I was going to score," O'Korn said, cracking a smile. "Then I got tackled from behind."
De'Veon Smith would not be denied in such fashion. He broke through the line, fended off a tackler, and scraped the ball along the top of the pylon for a spectacular 34-yard diving touchdown.
Following a short Indiana punt against the wind two drives later, Smith burst untouched into the secondary, and tiptoed down the sideline past a dominating block from Kekoa Crawford for a 39-yard score.
"Grinding out first downs. Grinding meat. De'Veon," said Jim Harbaugh, succinctly describing Smith. "It felt like old-fashioned, slobber-knocker football."
Smith accounted for over half of Michigan's total yardage with a career-high 158 yards on 23 carries. As Michigan Stadium turned into a Winter Wonderland in the fourth quarter, his punishing runs salted the game away on a 15-play, 51-yard drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock and left Indiana with no shot at a comeback.
Michigan Stadium as snow globe. [Bryan Fuller]
While Michigan's offense scuffled early, the defense and special teams kept the Wolverines close enough for the eventual comeback. The defensive front, led by seniors Taco Charlton and Ryan Glasgow, ran rampant in the Hoosier backfield; those two accounted for 5.5 of Michigan's 12 tackles for loss. Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray both had excellent games, and the secondary shut down the passing game, holding the Hoosiers to 6.4 yards per attempt.
While Jabrill Peppers couldn't get much going in his few snaps on offense, he made his presence felt in the other two phases. He repeatedly gave Michigan great field position by fielding IU's line-drive punts, and a pad-popping stop on Richard Lagow in the backfield for one of his two TFLs helped hold the Hoosiers to a field goal on what would be their only scoring drive of the second half.
Special teams played a big part in this victory beyond Peppers's returns. Kenny Allen used the elements to his advantage, pinning Indiana inside their 20-yard line on four of his six punts, and he calmly connected on both of his field-goal attempts. When Peppers wasn't fielding punts, Michigan was blocking them; Michael Jocz and Khaleke Hudson got their hands on a punt apiece to help swing the momentum in Michigan's favor.
That proved enough for Michigan to avoid an upset. A much larger test looms next week in Columbus, of course, with the stakes about as high as they could be. It's yet to be seen if Michigan will have their starting quarterback on the field for the program's most important game since 2006.
"We'll see," Harbaugh said regarding Speight's status this week. "He's day-to-day."