to play football, not to play trumpet
Jeff Holzhausen first walked through Forest Hill cemetery over twenty years ago. He wanted to honor two Michigan legends during The Week before The Game, and he decided the best way to do so was to visit their graves. Holzhausen led his first tour group on that same walk a few years later, and he’s been doing so ever since. I went on the grave walk last year, and afterwards I wrote a piece that was (thankfully) never published. The thesis was basically that Michigan fans had too tight a grip on the past and how that grip would need to slacken if the football program was ever going to become healthy again. It took one year, one speech, and one chance encounter with Jim Harbaugh to show me that I entirely missed the point of the grave walk.
“We want the Big Ten championship and we're gonna win it as a team. They can throw out all those great backs, and great quarterbacks, and great defensive players, throughout the country and in this conference, but there's gonna be one team that's gonna play solely as a team.”
The University of Michigan is brutal. You will come in idealistic and looking down innumerable paths as realistic options and at some point you will be a confused shell of that self, drained and defenseless and lost, wondering not only what your next move is in the bigger sense but what you’re going to do just to get to the next break. Michigan is more than those who have downed a pot of coffee because how else are you supposed to prep for that orgo exam and an econ exam and finish this stupid worksheet for Spanish? That’s a college experience, but it’s not unique; you can find that at almost any campus across the country. At Michigan, there comes a point where you will look around and feel like everyone is better than you; Michigan’s seeping into your soul in that moment as much as it ever will.
“No man is more important than the team. No coach is more important than the team. The team, the team, the team, and if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my team?”
No one associated with Michigan takes the “Leaders and Best” line lightly. The power in that comes from a bunch of high strung, neurotic, obsessively achieving individuals working toward common goals. The goals aren’t the same; the endgame for a research team investigating the genetic causes of a certain mental health issue is different than it is for the football team, but the overarching theme is the same: use your collective talents to achieve something great.
“Because you can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here. You will never play for a team again.”
Michigan has a fortunate history of having the right person show up at the right time, a new captain to right the course of a ship just slightly off course. At the same time, Michigan has had leaders in place that have had an ability to spot a fine-drawn mistake in course; Yost was hired after the dissatisfaction born of four losses and a tie in the twenty games played in 1899 and 1900.
The expectations for on-field performance have been high for over a century; expectations for traditional football powers will always have death-and-taxes status. Somewhere along the way, though, a new component of those expectations was wrought. It’s not enough to win at Michigan. It has to be done with integrity, honesty, and through a ceaseless pursuit of perfection.
[After THE JUMP: Schembechler, Yost, Ufer, and an unexpected guest]
|WHAT||Ohio State at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||Noon PM Eastern
November 28st, 2015
|THE LINE||Ohio State -1|
|WEATHER||mostly cloudy, around 40, 0% chance of rain|
They came for our families. They came for our principles. They saw our hapless generals and ordered a scorched-earth campaign. I ate tires for six months, and then I pined for the good old days when I had tires to eat. Then I pined for the good old days when I could remember the thing that was supposed to be bad that I ate.
I'm tired of it, and you're tired of it, and Jim Harbaugh just crested the ridge with the Rohirrim. Let's get it.
Run Offense vs Ohio State
Joey Bosa has made an effort to look like every Ohio State fan averaged together
It was bizarre to watch the much-maligned Michigan State offensive line get a grip on their opposition last week and drive the Buckeyes backwards. By the second half of that game OSU was getting blown off the ball on the regular.
In some ways that is reminiscent of Michigan's performance against Indiana—with the OSU offense unable to stay on the field and MSU sustaining 10+ play drives, the talented but thin Buckeye line ran out of gas. Can Michigan replicate that performance?I don't know. This is an improvement from my previous impressions.
OSU's rush defense has been bipolar this season. Minnesota and Illinois collected a total of 55 yards between them, but Big Ten games other than those two haven't gone nearly as well:
- Indiana (mostly) minus Jordan Howard: 55 carries, 176 yards, 3.2 YPC
- Maryland: 42 carries, 253 yards, 6 YPC
- PSU: 40 carries, 195 yards, 4.9 YPC
- Rutgers: 29 carries, 104 yards, 3.6 YPC
- MSU: 51 carries, 203 yards, 4 YPC
Michigan's mediocre rush offense (51st in S&P) doesn't project to blow up, especially since the main back, De'Veon Smith, is the opposite of a burner. Michigan also does not run the quarterback on purpose much, and both Indiana and Maryland's production was heavily dependent on QBs running a long way. MSU also featured a heavy dose of QB run. That's not an option for M.
OSU runs out one of those MSU-ish 4-3 over, quarters defenses with a LB/S hybrid over the slot. With Penn State running more or less the same defense, all three of Michigan's main division competitors are in the same boat. Michigan has not been able to run against this style of defense all year, but there were differences between PSU and MSU, specifically at safety. PSU is much more conservative with their safeties and gives their LBs pass responsibilities; MSU is in your face and lets their LBs go. OSU is much closer to Penn State.
You can do that when you have talent coming out your ears. Joey Bosa, of course, leads the way:
Nor is Bosa just a pass rusher — he’s equally destructive in run defense, and that’s reflected in his +58.2 overall grade, which leads all edge rushers. … Bosa’s season has been so impressive that we felt he should be seen as a Heisman contender, even though we know that the Heisman is rarely awarded to a defensive player.
Adolphus Washington is a high quality DT in the vein of Maurice Hurst—not huge but in your backfield a lot. The other two DL are fine but don't jump off the page; the linebacker corps is very good. Seth has more details in FFFF.
Expect Michigan to try out those wide receiver screens when OSU aligns so they might work; OSU may be able to shut those down anyway if Darron Lee and Vonn Bell are on point. On the interior they may be able to crease the weaker half of the OSU line and maybe Washington if he gets tired, but consistent production is difficult to see.
When it comes to the actual ground game, I don't know. I can see the left side of Michigan's line winning enough battles to put a tailback in a productive position, but barely, and Michigan's tailbacks have not done well with "barely" this year. Ohio State will try to win with their 7 up front before trying anything special, which should give Michigan some opportunities if they can just match OSU's ability.
The X factor is Jabrill Peppers, who's started lining up as a tailback the last couple weeks. Peppers has shown flashes of the kind of ability he demonstrated in high school…
…and may be able to break a couple things that swing this matchup to a draw. Tough sledding awaits either way.
KEY MATCHUP: JABRILL PEPPERS versus THE SPOOOOKY GHOST OF TOM HARMON.
[Hit THE JUMP for Butt vs Bell, rushing offense, 404 passing O not found, and WHAT ARE THOOOOSE kickers]
Behold the only preview of The Game you'll need until Brian posts his actual preview in an hour or so.
If you aren't familiar with Next Media Animation, yes, it's supposed to be that ridiculous.
We are forever indebted for this:
Either way ... GO BLUE!!
Moe Wagner may be the #2 center. [File photo: Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Moe Wagner scored 19 points on 8/9 shooting. The German freshman hit all manner of up-and-under layups, fought through contact for and-ones, and even knocked down his only three-point attempt. His only miss came on, of all things, a botched dunk.
Yes, Michigan had a good night.
Eleven Wolverines tallied points against a hapless Charlotte squad, with Caris Levert, Zak Irvin, and Aubrey Dawkins joining Wagner in double figures. A day after Michigan couldn't find their range against UConn, they sniped 12/23 three-pointers, taking full advantage when the 49ers played a soft 2-3 zone.
By the time Mark Donnal found his way off the bench to score seven points, including a triple to get M to the century mark, Seth Davis was scolding viewers for still watching.
We'll learn much more from Michigan's consolation contest against Texas tomorrow (7 pm, AXS TV) than anything we saw tonight. The hope is Wagner's breakout is for real, Irvin continues to settle in, DJ Wilson's threes keep falling, and the Wolverines can come close to replicating this defensive performance against a team with a pulse.
Michigan (2-2) vs
Paradise Island, Bahamas
|WHEN||9:30 pm ET, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -14 (KenPom)|
PBP: Kenny Rice
Analyst: Seth Davis
Right: Was not aware ecstacy was so popular among gold prospectors.
HOW TO WATCH
The broadcasts of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament are split between ESPN and AXS TV, and while you're surely familar with the former you probably need some help finding the latter. For those in the area, here's a handy guide for A2/Detroit/GR provided by U-M Media Relations:
- AT&T U-verse Ch. 1106
- Charter Ch. 820 (also Ch. 770 in Detroit)
- Comcast Ch. 382
- DirecTV Ch. 340
- DISH Ch. 167
- Wyandotte Cable TV Ch. 179
For the rest of you, AXS TV has a channel finder on their site.
The winner of this game will take on the winner of Texas/Washington (7 pm, AXS) in the 5th/6th-place game on Friday at 7 pm on AXS TV. The loser faces off against the loser of UT/UW on Friday at 9:30 pm on AXS TV. You can see the full tournament bracket here.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||1||Braxton Ogbueze||R-Jr.||6'1, 181||78||19||No|
|Mostly Just A Shooter™ but can dish out the occasional assist.|
|G||3||Jon Davis||Fr.||6'2, 193||66||14||Kinda|
|Freshman got start against Cuse, posted 9-6-4. Still finding his shot.|
|G||2||Andrien White||Fr.||6'3, 184||73||22||No|
|High-volume shooter hitting 43% of twos and 41% of threes.|
|F||22||Bernard Sullivan||R-Sr.||6'8, 225||68||23||Very|
|Decent def. rebounder, blocks the occasional shot, sub-par scorer w/ limited range.|
|C||31||Benas Griciunas||R-So.||7'0. 233||25||28||Very|
|Auburn transfer starts but plays limited minutes. Stuggling except as offensive rebounder.|
|G||0||Ridell Camidge||So.||6'3, 188||49||17||Yes|
|Minutes have waned with each game because he can't find shot: 4/15 3P this year.|
|F||15||Anthony Vanhook||Jr.||6'4, 216||47||19||Yes|
|JuCo All-American is rebounding and passing very well so far this year.|
|C||50||Joseph Uchebo||Sr.||6'10, 261||46||22||Very|
|Pitt transfer. Good rebounder, shot-blocker, and finisher. Gets plurality of mins at C.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Thanksgiving? I'm trying not to accidentally have a war on Christmas here. Whichever Thanksgiving greeting you feel is appropriate appears in this space along with a reminder that Matt's good at making mortgages happen and a solid all-around dude, so if you're in the market you could do a lot worse.
FORMATION NOTES: Standard stuff from Michigan to the point where I forgot to take a screenshot. Here is a picture of Hackenberg getting swarmed instead.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Charlton moved to buck/WDE. With him there it's WDE. RJS backed him up an got a healthy number of snaps. Hurst, Henry, and Wormley got the vast bulk of the remaining DL snaps. Strobel got in for a few. Godin had a little bit more playing time than Strobel but maybe a dozen snaps total.
Gedeon rotated in for both Morgan and Bolden periodically. Bolden seemed to get more rest than Morgan. Gedeon might have been in there a quarter of the time. Ross played a reasonable amount as a SAM in 4-3 sets.
Secondary was as per usual now, with Hill the dime back behind Thomas. Stribling got scattered snaps. In the 4-3 Peppers and Lewis were the corners.
[After THE JUMP: diatribe! Three plays that went poorly! And then good stuff!]
Happy Thanksgiving! It's Ohio State week so we're still putting out the content.
They're 8th to S&P+, 30th against the rush and 3rd against passing. It's a lot like Penn State's defense, if Penn State hadn't been missing Nassib, and everyone on that defense was one star more talented, and they played the system that Michigan State used to create the No Fly Zone, and instead of not-Nassib they had J.J. Watt starting at a rush end position. No not college J.J. Watt, I mean the same guy nobody in the NFL can block.
Joey Bosa is the best college player I have watched since Charles Woodson. And like Woodson, the things he does makes his unit greater than the sum of its…
Personnel. Just look at my diagram:
click makes big.
You see everybody in proximity to Bosa has a star. Eli Apple plays half his downs on the other side (he's the field corner) and I was close to giving him a star too. Tyvis Powell and Josh Perry have put up stats (in Perry's case backed up by PFF) to warrant one as well. Joey Bosa's backup even has a star.
That's STAR, Monarch.
Are they really that good? See the stats, and more importantly, see…
In a game that’s had a couple big-time special teams plays, how important is John [Baxter] in a game like this? What has he done for the program special teams-wise?
“Yeah, I think obviously every game special teams is a huge part of it. Not just the big momentum plays that anyone can see, but there are a lot of hidden plays in a game that change field position and those sorts of things that are always big.”
Talk about their offense and the challenges it presents.
“They’ve got great athletes at all positions. They’re a cohesive unit. The same starters have really been playing all year long; they’ve been able to stay healthy. There are dangerous guys with the ball in their hand and they do a great job as coaches of getting those guys the ball in their hands and trying to get it to them in space, so it’s a really tough team to prepare for.”
Are you able to use the film against Michigan State or was the weather such a changing factor that you throw that tape out?
“Yeah I mean, we evaluate all the games. Try and get a handle on what they did throughout the season including the Michigan State game, understanding that weather obviously probably affected or played a part in that somehow. It’s just- as most teams do, you sit there and you evaluate the whole season and look at things situationally and what they’re trying to do.”
There were some reports this morning that you interviewed for the Maryland job. Is that a job you’re interested in?
“It’s- this week is so important to our guys. My 100% focus is on this game and our players. That’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure that you’re taking care of your job and the job you have week in and week out because it’s a tough task, especially with this team this week.”
[After THE JUMP: Urban planning]
— Ben Fidelman (@bfidelman) November 26, 2015
Derrick Walton knocked down a three-pointer to cut the UConn lead to 14. For a moment, it looked like Michigan could perhaps claw their way back into a game in which they'd been dominated throughout.
But Caris LeVert's left shoe ripped open like a Ziploc, and his mark, Sam Cassell Jr., left him to contemplate the fickle nature of breathable fabrics while Cassell made an uncontested layup seven seconds later. It was that kind of night.
Michigan's zone defense briefly kept them close early while both teams tried to get their bearings. The Huskies settled in. The Wolverines never did. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton combined to shoot 5/7 from beyond the arc; the rest of the team went 3/22.
The loss sends Michigan to the loser's side of the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket; they'll play Charlotte, defeated today by Syracuse, tomorrow night at 9:30 on AXS TV.
It's late Thanksgiving Eve during the week of The Game. I can't end a post on that note.
Much better. Happy Thanksgiving. There will be more, if probably brief, coverage of the Charlotte game tomorrow.
[Not the usual author alert: Ace is covering Beilein's Bahamas tourney so I get to preview Urban Meyer's football team. That sounded way more fair when I agreed to it.]
Finding a good game to preview Ohio State is like, well, finding a good game this year to judge Ohio State. They didn't play a ranked team until last Saturday, and that was played under a barrage of rain and wind and game planning so awful David's mom was asking why they aren't passing. I also wanted to find a game that Barrett played extensively, which left us with just Hawaii, NIU, Rutgers and Illinois.
So: Illinois, which is 16th in defensive S&P (and has a pro-style QB in Wes Lunt). The Illini brought a lot of stunts and scrape exchange blitzes meant to mess with Ohio State's zone read game. This worked sometimes—Bill Cubit is a much better football coach than the guy he was working for—but as often as not they just couldn't close before the Ezekiel Elliott jetted through. Like so many other Big Ten opponents Ohio State has been #blessed to play between odd-year Spartans, the Fighting Illini were finally ground down by an effective modern spread machine.
Personnel: This chart does not lie:
click to big
That's a lot of star power, but most of it's used as little more than a diversion for good ol' five yards and a cloud of bitchy 5-stars.
As much as I love these guys on Twitter, once you see these atrocities, this utter abomination on the field, you too will be screaming for Tim Beck to be shipped back to the Big Ten West cornfields. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to hate the spread.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]