jonvalk. he knows it's not at home now.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one. Something like… Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
The “bye week” has become a regular part of the college football season for some time now. But taking a weekend off from following the Wolverines each fall can be discombobulating. Watching West Virginia and Baylor play “basketball on grass” last week was big fun, though I suspect even some of the players didn't know they were actually participating in a football game. But it was far better than that snoozefest held in East Lansing. I thought this was an opportunity to ‘scout’ Michigan’s rivals, but I soon realized my malice toward both these schools meant blowing this game off was the way to go.
How about those Detroit Tigers! The Wolverines' break gave me a chance to pay attention to the playoff race. I find division title celebrations hilarious. Every other pro sport eschews celebrating before the championship series, but not baseball. These boys just love to party! Players are wearing goggles before they get off the field! I guess you can’t blame them. Surviving 160+ games just to make the playoffs—you’d be ready to bust a move too. Why baseball insists on playing its most important games in October is a mystery. End the season in August for goodness sake! The ‘fall classic’ just isn’t cool—it’s frigging cold!
The worst part of the bye week is the uncertainty of what the next game will bring. While players are probably grateful for a chance to rest and heal, we fans are left to wonder. Will the defense continue to improve? Can Michigan establish a running game? Why won’t offensive coordinator Al Borgess stop trying to make Denard into something he’s not, namely a pocket passer? And does anyone else find the hands off approach of Brady Hoke’s in game coaching to be disconcerting? Cheer leading and slapping a butt or two is ok, but could you join a strategy huddle every once and a while?
As far as this afternoon’s game goes, I’ve got a feeling the state of Indiana is not going to be good to the Wolverines this year. Michigan doesn’t seem to be playing to what their strength is – putting Denard in a position to improvise when he needs to. Prove to me that this knot in my stomach is due to some bad clams and not a season going awry.
Michigan 27 Purdue 30
By Nick RouMel
Counterpunt lives an exciting and dangerous life. Just last night, driving down a rural road in the rain, I turned off my headlights to see how long I could stand driving that way. This lasted for thrilling seconds.
It reminded me of a scene from my favorite movie of all time, “Annie Hall.” The always-scary Christopher Walken plays Diane Keaton’s (Annie’s) brother, Duane. At one point he confesses the following to Woody Allen’s character, Alvy:
“I tell you this as an artist, I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.”
Alvy replies, “Right. Well, I have to—I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth.”
A couple of scenes later, circumstances require that Duane drives Alvy to the airport. At night, of course. The camera cuts from the oncoming headlights, to Duane’s serenely anticipatory expression, to Alvy’s terrified face. The moment is delicious.
The beauty about scenes like this is the tension, between the safe thing should happen, and the scary thing that might happen. Like, oh, say, Michigan in 1996, the year before its national championship season, cruising along ranked 9th in the country, playing at unranked Purdue… and losing, 9-3. And a virtual repeat in 2000, sitting at #6, going to unranked Purdue… and this time, losing 32-31 (I was there. Drew Brees led the improbable comeback against Drew Henson.)
The point here is that we believe Michigan should win, but our pesky memories keep bringing up the ghosts of upsets past. Ghosts that scare Punt, for example, into bailing on our beloved Wolverines.
Fear not, Punt. We will manage to dodge the headlights. (This time.)
MICHIGAN 28, PURDUE 13
ND replacements open up.
Hi Brian, I don't know if you've caught up with this yet but the ACC is going to an 8 game conference schedule in football from the present 9 games. This will create immediate schedule openings for ACC teams. The article below from the Atlanta paper discusses the impact on GA Tech and of ND coming into the ACC. Tech and Notre Dame will be permanent partners for home and home series in basketball. I wouldn't want UM to play GA Tech in football, with their Air Force/Navy type offense but there are a ton of other possibilities for us now within the ACC.
This puts Florida State and Clemson more on the table—and I should mention that FSU did have an Oklahoma series in addition to their annual Florida series recently, so they are not entirely averse to a second quality opponent. FSU will have to make sure they don't get Notre Dame in one of those years before anything firms up, but there are five years Michigan is looking for a sexy opponent. At least two of those years FSU will have an opening.
I'd bank on at least one ACC entering the picture in the 2016-2020 window, since two-thirds of a game every year has just opened up.
BONUS INSIDERY THING: This is not on the same level as the Alabama game prediction, which I was certain of, but I've heard from a decent source that Arkansas may be a team that pops up on the schedule in the near future. Jeff Long is a Michigan guy—thus the basketball series we've just completed—and only has TCU in 2016 as a quality opponent in the time frame Michigan will be looking for partners.
Arkansas is not on the level of a Notre Dame but as part of a schedule in which Michigan has two real opponents they're a good choice.
MUSTACHE TRICKS (UNCLASSIFIED)
Do you think that Danny Hope is being vague on the status of Marve and Bolden just to keep Michigan off-balanced in game preparation? I doubt that we will see either player, but having to game plan for both a predominately pocket passer and a more mobile quarterback eats up a lot of practice time and film time. If Bolden and Marve were to be in the game, that back field if both healthy would be an athletic one which could give our defense issues.
Did I answer this question just because it came with a subject of "Mustache tricks (UNCLASSIFIED)"? That's classified.
I wouldn't put anything past coaches in their never-ending quests to gamesmanship themselves an extra yard or two, but I'm not sure about your policework there. TerBush is the athletic QB, Marve the more effective passer. Bolden is either available or not. Purdue's offense isn't going to shift that drastically based on the QB—routes will be the same, they're still going to be operating from the shotgun, etc.
In general, football coaches' manic attempts to get every edge possible are ridiculous. That stuff going down in Los Angeles is doing more damage to either LA program than the miniscule advantage provided by pretty much but not quite knowing the injury situation going into the game. It's especially grating when the same guys are like "scheme is overrated." You know what's overrated? Insane North Korea secrecy.
Can we go fast?
I'm a huge spread guy and I noticed that not once under Hoke has Michigan pushed tempo on offense unless late in halves or games. Can you explain this?
There's a cost to that. Tempoing a defense requires everyone to be on the same page, restricts the package of plays you can use, and requires you to move to a different system of play-signaling.
I think it's a cost worth paying. One of the big takeaways from the Mott open practices is how often guys are not doing anything. That would drive me crazy as a coach, and does drive Chip Kelly crazy, so he set about cramming as much stuff in as possible during practice and then thinking about it after. The results have been pretty good.
Michigan doesn't, at least not right now. I get it. They've got a lot of stuff they're trying to cram into Denard and the OL without putting that extra weight on his shoulders. They haven't taken Tempo 301's prereqs.
Pretty much, buddy.
Do you or do you not support sending Denard on a safety blitz when Ohio State has a 3rd and 9 on the Michigan 40 with 3 minutes to play in a tie game-seems like a near guarantee that he would missile himself into Braxton Miller's spine, forcing a fumble which could then be returned by laquon treadwell who is visiting and has run on to the field in uncontrollable excitement.
If this happens I will donate my entire income for the 2013 fiscal year to Vincent Smith's estate.
I'd rather have Denard throw a poisoned flan at the guy, but I guess your plan could work too.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Purdue|
West Lafayette, IN
4 pm Eastern, October
|THE LINE||M -3|
|WEATHER||partly cloudy, around 50, no chance of rain|
Note the 4 PM start time. A little strange, that one.
Run Offense vs Purdue
remember this guy?
Michigan is going to test out the new Lloydmanbearpigball offense they rolled out in the second half against Notre Dame in harsh conditions… maybe. Despite having Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston last year, Michigan exploded for 339(!) rushing yards on 53 carries. Fitz Toussaint's 59-yard back-breaker was the highlight but even outside that, Toussaint had 111 yards on 19 carries. In the UFR I marveled at how terrible Purdue's defensive ends and how slow their linebackers were, cautioning anyone from giddiness:
You say long-term. Isn't this a post-bye week ability to insert more of the actual offense effective immediately?
Maybe, but I have my doubts about how well it will work against teams stouter than Purdue. I know the Boilers coped vaguely well with Illinois and Penn State. I just have no idea how they managed that. Purdue's run defense suuuuuuuuuuuucks.
They have two main issues: the defensive end who is not senior Gerald Gooden and their outside linebackers. Gooden was all right holding the edge, so Michigan ran away from him most of the day. This is because Purdue's other DE is terrible whether it's the starter or the backup. That guy got sealed all day:
That is Michigan's first play from scrimmage. Koger seals the playside DE and that's about it. When that guy isn't stringing the play to the sideline or taking out another blocker your pitch is 75% of the way to success. On this play the MLB taking a dumb angle upfield of the Koger block is the rest of it.
A year later they're 23rd in rushing defense and ceded just 97 yards on 29 carries to Notre Dame, the only BCS team they've played to date. Ace took a look at that game instead of FFFFing a nonexistent UMass game and came back impressed with Short:
Purdue exacerbated Notre Dame's interior rushing woes by selling out against the run, forcing Golson to beat them with his arm. Kawaan Short played an All-American-caliber game, holding his ground against double teams and blowing up plays whenever he faced a single blocker. He recorded four tackles and two sacks, both coming when he made a lone Irish interior lineman look silly with a quick move off the line. PROTIP: Do not block Kawaan Short with one person.
After Michigan had a similar outing against ND's rushing offense the viability of the Irish OL is in question… but so is the viability of Michigan's OL. They had a tough time with Nix and Tuitt and will be getting a couple of players of that caliber in their face Saturday.
The question for Purdue is: what about everyone surrounding those stars at DT? Ryan Russell was a huge problem last year as a redshirt freshman; this year he's got 4.5 TFLs and two sacks. Improvement or mirage?
The same goes for Will Lucas, currently Purdue's leading tackler as a true junior. He was the MLB mentioned above. He's entering his second year as a full time starter and should be expected to improve a great deal. When Michigan flees from Short—and they will flee from Short if Mike Kwiatkowski's inflated UFR number from the ND game is any indication—will the ends hold up and the linebackers show up? Not so much last year.
Key Matchup: Kwiatkowski, Funchess, Williams, and the tackles sealing those ends inside. That was deadly for the Boilers last year.
[Hit THE JUMP for tiny corners, standard Purdue offense.]
It was the bye week, and in the diaries of MGoBlog this means a Saturday dedicated to our 5-star spouses. For those not yet initiated into the sublime pleasures of matrimony, 707oxford has some advice:
As the games come to a close, start drinking (if you haven't already, which of course you have). Libation of choice should be something that makes you happy, or better yet occasionally leads to adventure and/or trouble. The night is young - go out, stay out, and don’t come back until the next morning after a sunrise breakfast at some greasy diner before sleeping through the NFL games and easing into next week.
On the boards, the peeps all shared their plans in Erik_in_Dayton's thread, while jamiemac crusaded against the practice. My solution: marry a gal who likes adventures and going to SEC games, is always down for a Coney (LAFAYETTE!) at 3 a.m., and will explain to her best friend that a 3:30 game means I have to miss the rehearsal dinner "because he has to work." Best wife ever? Well let's check the box score, where badminton-hating ST3's wife…has made him play badminton, which he now doesn't hate so much anymore (srsly that's what the diary is about).
Bronxblue decided to use the time to take stock of the year so far. I would love it—LOVE IT—if after covering a 45-point spread against a hapless MACrifice Jake Ryan stood on the 50, chucked his helmet in the direction of David Brandon, and did the Maximus:
Apparently new M coach Erik Bakich was more productive with his free time, increasing baseball's total 2013 recruits to a dozen. Raoul knows how to embed podcats, and has the skinny on two skinny middle infielders and a guy named Drew Lugbauer who's 6'3-190, which please oh please let this be a sign of paunch because fat college catchers make the best catchers.
Fox sat out the first series on defense, when he came back he looked like a new man. On offense he was got a free release to the second level and got his first pancake block on a LB leading to a big run. He got his second pancake when he pulled and absolutely leveled the DE, leading to another big run.
The report is up and down, and more focused on his defense at DT/NT in a mixed front system that seemed to be using him as a stay-at-home plugger. Like Lewan and Jake Long, the latter of whom he has drawn a comparison to, Fox came to OL late, so a trail of donkeys is not quite in the expectations yet.
[THE_KNOWLEDGE loses both his predictive and his plenary powers, and perfunctory prognostications for Purdue after THE JUMP]
The Road Ahead:
Last game: Marshall 41, Purdue 51 (W)
Recap: Purdue’s defense gave up 534 yards and 41 points to a middling C-USA team, but this was okay because Purdue had a 42-14 lead going into halftime and ended up with four takeaways on the day due to the fast and loose nature of Marshall’s offense. The Boilermakers were never really in danger of losing, but for argument’s sake let’s go with the storyline that QB Caleb Terbush’s brilliant performance (27/37, 294 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT) saved the day. Who needs Robert Marve when you have Drew Brees under center. Yeah.
(As Ace noted in his FFFF yesterday, most of these were screen passes, so really, credit goes to the skill guys).
Purdue didn’t do much on the ground, where they averaged a little under 3 ypc. Most of their offense was generated by screens and quick passes. If lingering concern still exists about Michigan’s defensive front, it shouldn’t matter much against Purdue. Most of the action will go outside.
Defensively the Boilermakers got papercutted to death. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato (45/68, 439 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT) … well you can just read his stats to see how that went. Unfortunately Michigan has eschewed the dink-and-dunk offense for a Big Boy NFL vertical passing game, so it’s unlikely that Denard will have as much production through the air compared with Cato. But for the amount of hype Purdue CB Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen have generated over the offseason, that kind of a ho-hum day (although they each did record a pick-six) seems reasonable to believe that there is room to get guys open against them. Again, different offenses, different game plan, but there is room for optimism.
This team is as frightening as: Notre Dame lite. Fear level = 5.
Michigan should worry about: This is the team Michigan will likely need to beat twice in order to reach the Rose Bowl.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: If Michigan can beat them on the road, they can beat them on a neutral site, eh?
When they play Michigan: The same sorts of matchups and opportunities exist against Purdue that existed against Notre Dame: a stout defensive front with key weaknesses behind them and a mediocre offense led by solid but uninspiring quarterback play. Michigan should succeed with a more conservative game plan on offense that emphasizes the ground game (just don’t run at Kawann Short) and easy reads for Denard. Michigan’s defense should take care of the rest.
Next game: vs. Snake Oil Emporium.
If you managed to watch any football with Michigan off last weekend, you probably saw a lot of offense. Unless, you were gritting your teeth and hoping for the Buckeyes to
beat not lose to Michigan St. West Virginia and Baylor set a dramatic tone for the day with 133 points and 1507 yards between the two. The game nearly had two 600 yard passers and featured six different receivers go over 100 yards. Pretty much the kind of day you expect Andrew Maxwell to put up if his receivers had actual hands instead of giant clubs.
But the undercard also had some big days. Miami hit a last second deep ball to avoid overtime against NC st and win 44-37. As has been well documented here, Georgia out-gunned the Bray 51-44. All in all teams in matchups between FBS teams averaged 423 yards per game, the most in the last ten years, and possibly of all time. The week narrowly edged out the bowl season of 2005 which averaged a fraction of a yard less per team per game.
In fact, 2012 has set a blistering pace for offensive output. Week 5 is ahead of week 3 and week 2 as the top three offensive outputs in terms of yardages of all time. 2012 is only five weeks old and already has the three best offensive weeks of the last decade. Even week 1, a traditionally low offensive output week, cracks the top 20 regular season weeks and is easily the best opening week of offensive in my database.
No matter what Nick Saban thinks about the pace, the trends hold up on a per play basis.
Yards/Play Through the First Five Weeks of a Season
After a gradual increase from 2003-2010, offensive output made a big jump in 2010 and appears to be on the verge of another jump in 2012. Beyond the video game type games like West Virginia/Baylor, this change in output fundamentally alters a lot of the nature of football. As has been discussed here many times, the fourth down calculus and even the onside kick decision process has to be accounted for. And as we’ve seen in the Alabama/LSU era, it puts a strange premium on defense. If no one else but you can play quality defense, it can be a major advantage.
[You want more maths, you JUMP for the maths]
Touchdown Billy Taylor. A trailer for Dan Chace's upcoming Billy Taylor documentary:
More Yost pictures. From new M hockey blog Yost Section 25:
The first Sunday matinee game is going to be a trip.
Game: stepped up. OSU just announced a series with TCU starting in 2018, which is somewhat notable since they've already got Cincinnati on the docket. If TCU is notable, this is jaw-dropping:
"We will play two more BCS games that year," [OSU AD Gene] Smith told Yahoo! Sports via email Wednesday, using the parlance for a quality top six-conference opponent.
Even if those are Colorado-style one-off guarantee games, dang. OSU may be done with the Little Sisters of the Poor:
"That year  is a snapshot of future years," Smith said. "As we move forward, from 2018 and out, our goal is BCS only. We are looking at top ranked teams, 1-50 teams."
Here's a thing I never thought I'd say: Gene Smith, I am impressed. If OSU puts together a full slate of BCS opponents in 2018, that will be their first time since 1995 (4-8 BC, 7-4-1 Washington, and 2-9 Pitt) and second time since 1990.
Michigan's last all-power-conference lineup was in 1997, and Dave Brandon has a lot of work to do to keep up with the Joneses what with the Notre Dame series ending*.
*[ : ( ]
Playoff: a motivator. Wetzel points out a key motivator behind the sort of scheduling seen above:
In 1988, before the creation of the Bowl Alliance, the precursor to the BCS, there were 15 non-conference games where both teams were ranked in the AP preseason top 20. This year there were just two featuring AP preseason top 20 teams: Alabama-Michigan and Clemson-South Carolina.
While one of the BCS's oft-repeated talking points was that it protected the regular season, it was, in fact, destroying the non-conference portion.
Now it's back to the future as athletic directors across the country place their faith in a selection committee that will rationally analyze a body of work, not just blindly follow records.
For example, Oregon was ranked fifth in the final BCS standings last season, one spot behind Stanford. The Ducks had two losses, but one was to then top-ranked LSU on a neutral field. Stanford had just one loss, but it was to Oregon, by 23 points at home. The Ducks also won the Pac-12 title.
The BCS didn't care. It claimed Stanford was better. An informed selection committee would never make that decision and thus penalize Oregon for playing a challenging non-conference schedule. Conversely, a weak non-conference schedule might cost you on selection day.
Even Wisconsin says it will seek out "at least" two major opponents in the non-conference schedule. Man, the BCS sucked. Not only did it pick the wrong team about half the time, it also created the worst scheduling practices since things like Iowa Pre-Flight stopped existing.
Money is another factor, of course. With ticket prices rising along with guarantee requirements the money has started coming in on the side of actual games.
Trouba: the devil on skates. Three tweets from the immediate aftermath of Jacob Trouba's first practice at Michigan:
Couldn't sleep last night, kept having nightmares @jacobtrouba was going to put me out for the year in practice today
— Alex Guptill (@alexguptill) October 4, 2012
— Adam Janecyk (@ajanny30) October 4, 2012
— Aj Treais (@ajtrea23) October 4, 2012
I think we are going to like Mr. Trouba.
Goalie: ack. In less sunny news, Red Berenson revealed that projected starting goalie Jared Rutledge had retina surgery recently and may not be available early in the season. Meanwhile, top backup Steve Racine is also coming back from injury:
Racine underwent an offseason surgery that limited his physical activity, Berenson said.
“He’s just starting to get close to 100 percent, but he looks pretty good,” Berenson said.
Racine is 21 after a long junior career and will be a nice guy to have on the roster—not every 5'6" walkon is going to be the statistically-best goalie in Michigan history.
Ain't got no headset. Hoke on WXYT:
"It is overrated," Hoke said Thursday on an interview with the Stoney and Bill Show on WXYT 97.1-FM. "You ever watch guys on head sets and they don't say a word? This gives me an opportunity to coach kids during a game.
"The game is a mental game, it's a game of motivation and enthusiasm and teaching. Not wearing a headset, I get to teach on the sideline and be a part of it."
As for the question of whether or not he knows what play offensive coordinator Al Borges is sending in, Hoke says he doesn't need a headset to hear that.
"I do know what the calls are, because there's a guy standing right behind me who tells me every call that's going in," Hoke said.
People keep bombing the Vincent Smith call, but when two linemen don't pull that's not really on the playcall.
Also Hoke likes "Smoke on the Water," surprising no one. I would watch a sitcom based around the misadventures of 20-year-old Brady Hoke in Muncie. I would break that thing down.
Oh for the love of God. Two sentences from two PR things I received today:
Heart of Dallas, a newly minted nonprofit, exists to inspire Dallas millennials to become the next generation of influencers and philanthropists by leveraging a consistent calendar of sports and entertainment events. Proceeds from Heart of Dallasactivities will be used to invest in collective impact strategies that make Dallas a better place.
make it stop
Flagstar had an interest in co-branding with our digital properties and we’re excited to have them partner on our website and student loyalty program. We look forward to having Flagstar as a partner in our top-rated digital space on the collegiate level.
if you roll your eyes too hard do you evaporate into a mist of condescension
AAAAAAAAH!!! Do you need to bore someone to death? LITERALLY TO DEATH? DO YOU NEED SOMEONE SO BORED THEY MELT?!?!?! THIS IS WHAT YOU NEEEEEED.
I QUIT ENGLISH. EFF THIS LANGUAGE. I'M OUT. HOLA AT YOUR BOY.
Etc.: Ed O'Bannon lawsuit forces ESPN to release a ton of contracts. Go Ed O'Bannon lawsuit. GLI would move back indoors if the Winter Classic is lost to the NHL lockout. Game preview from Hammer and Rails. Guys don't have names like Adolph "Germany" Schulz anymore.
Today's recruiting roundup features the latest on Derrick Green, Laquon Treadwell's potential fifth star, the new 2014 Scout 300 rankings, and more.
Momentum Changing For Green?
Tremendous caught up with VA RB Derrick Green, newly-minted Scout five-star and one of the top three targets remaining on Michigan's 2013 board, for a thorough rundown of his recruitment. Six schools—Michigan, Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Oregon, and Virginia Tech—are currently in the running for his services, though the general sense is that the Wolverines, Tigers, and Vols stand out from the pack at large. Green says he could make a decision at any time between now and signing day:
Decision: "It could be NSD; it could be tomorrow. It's going to be a feeling thing for me. Whenever it feels right, I'll make my decision then. I'm not really putting pressure on myself to decide at a certain date, so I'm just going with the flow".
As for where that flow will take Green, much remains uncertain. If he's swayed at all by success in the 2012 season and coach job security, however, Michigan could have a distinct edge provided they don't fall flat in the Big Ten, something also pointed out over at Tremendous. Auburn, thought to have the edge after multiple visits from Green, currently sits at 1-3, with their only victory on the year coming against Louisiana-Monroe; Gene Chizik has one of the hottest seats in the country and his job prospects don't look bright considering the tough SEC slate ahead. Tennessee's in better shape with a 3-2 record, but they're 0-2 in the SEC and face ranked teams in each of the next three weeks, with a home contest against Alabama sandwiched between trips to Mississippi State and South Carolina.
While a sub-par season from Auburn or Tennessee may not be enough to dissuade Green from making an SEC commitment—he doesn't mention team success as a prominent factor in his decision—the very first thing he mentions is his relationship with each team's respective coaching staffs; obviously, if the Tigers or Vols clean house that likely takes them out of the running. While that could open the door for Ole Miss or Oregon to jump to the forefront, it would also likely thrust Michigan into the driver's seat.
There's a long way to go, of course, and this is largely conjecture; the outside forces surrounding Green's recruitment, however, could easily favor Michigan so long as they take care of business in conference play.
[Hit THE JUMP for details on the 2014 Scout 300 and much more.]
It's a bye week, so let's take a look at a game that may tell us something about the two most important games on the schedule. This is a little like evaluating a spring game—is OSU's defensive line rampant or is MSU's offensive line mewling?—but there are Things that can be Learned.
To the knowledgemobile!
Michigan State Offense vs Ohio State Defense
Andrew Maxwell is a lot better than his stats give him credit for. In this one he had 269 yards and a touchdown on 42 attempts, which is a mediocre-to-poor 6.4 YPA. But it's not his fault. Every negative thing you've heard about the MSU wide receiver corps is true, and then some. They drop balls. They can't get separation. They drop some more balls. They're not particularly big targets. Etc.
Maxwell himself is a dart-thrower who handles pressure well. He laid in three twenty-yard corner routes perfectly, and what did he get from them?
Bupkis. At no point did anyone have an inch of separation.That happened twice in the first half and when Maxwell managed to thread the tiniest of needles in the second half, Fowler was separated from the ball. Fowler has now been displaced by Aaron Burbridge because obviously.
Burbridge must be running routes so wrong they're backwards in practice. DeAnthony Arnett, too.
Anyway, Maxwell had time and was deadly accurate in this game. Good play from the OSU secondary and awful awful awful WR play held his numbers down, as they have every game this year. With a few more games under his belt, Maxwell will not be a huge step down from Kirk Cousins when the time comes.
Is Jonathan Hankins immense or is MSU's offensive line a shambles? Both, probably. Here's Hankins destroying the surest thing on the Michigan State line, senior multi-year starter Chris MacDonald:
Hankins destroying the right tackle:
OSU flips Hankins between three DL spots (everything but WDE); in this game they played him exclusively at three-tech, where he owned. A very large part of MSU's anemic rushing output (LeVeon Bell had 45 yards on 17 carries) was Hankins demanding doubles all day, or blowing up plays when he was not doubled.
/shakes fist at Rich Rodriguez and Archie Collins
As for the MSU OL, it's getting kind of shambling. Maxwell had time to throw in the second half when MSU abandoned the ground game and turned into Oklahoma State lite, but OSU's edge rush guys aren't great. WDE Nathan Williams is Frank Clark but more responsible, and it's basically down to Garrett Goebel and John Simon to get to the QB since it's not in Hankins' job description to do so. In this game Simon was quiet.
Point shambles. With nine minutes left in the game, MSU faced a fourth and one. They've got Le'Veon Bell. They passed. I thought this was defensible.
Le'Veon Bell is still terrifying. OSU bottled him up by forcing him to do things in the backfield, which robs him of his momentum and takes away the YAC that turns three yard runs into five. MSU does lack an alternative this year. Nick Hill is just a guy, and Larry Caper has been almost totally marginalized. Without Baker the Spartans don't have the option of attacking the edges as much as they did last year—welcome news for Michigan.
Ohio State's secondary is athletic and dumb. Keith Mumphery rumblestumbled for a 29 yard touchdown when…
- Orhian Johnson dragged way out of position on a run fake to the opposite side of the field he couldn't do anything about anyway.
- Orhian Johnson missed a tackle.
- Christian Bryant tried the old Cato June shoulder-block, which Mumphery bounced off of.
- Travis Howard tried to strip the ball instead of tackling.
- Etienne Sabino tried to strip the ball instead of tackling.
- ALL OF THE STRIPPING
- NONE OF THE TACKLING
It's something to behold:
Try to imagine Kovacs doing what Christian Bryant does here if you want your head to explode due to logic error.
On the other hand, MSU corner routes were obliterated by Johnson getting over and the corner being underneath, as mentioned above under the Maxwell bit.
OSU's corners got flagged a lot in this game. They're aggressive and will gamble on the flag instead of playing passively and hoping things go right for them. If refereeing is home-field biased this is not so good for M.
Here's what happens when pattern matching goes awry. Pattern matching is nouveau zone coverage in which the guy you're in man-to-man on is determined after the snap. It's what Alabama uses, what a lot of the NFL uses… it's the in thing. Now offensive coordinators are trying to beat it, and here's the first instance I've seen* of a route clearly predicated on the idea the opponent is pattern matching.
MSU WR Bennie Fowler will run an out and up, which happens all the time on the outside. It's not something that common in the slot, at least in my experience. Johnson is checking him because if the #2 WR goes vertical, that's his guy. Once he breaks to the out he thinks "not my problem" and starts looking for a post or crossing route from the other side of the field. As soon as Johnson looks away, the WR does go vertical (this is clear only on the replay):
Big third down conversion because MSU messed with Johnson's key. RPS +2.
*[I'm sure this has been going on for a few years now; this is just the first one that was like "ohhhhh I get it."]
MSU has a screen I remember and hate. They're running it a little differently, but if you remember Michigan's matchups with Wisconsin about a decade ago you probably remember their middle TE screen that invariably picked up 15 yards. MSU is running a variation of that with Bell where instead of looping the ball over someone the QB just zips it to the RB quickly before the DE can collapse back inside. I want to call it a "zip screen" or something because the main advantage it has is being super quick relative to other screens. Por ejemplo:
That's the screen that you thought "ohhhh lucky" on in the Boise game when a DE almost intercepted it, BTW.
OSU will leave big holes in their zone occasionally. MSU's sporadic success in their passing game came largely when big gaping holes sprung in OSU's zone coverage, like here:
Also, Dion Sims is a horse of a tight end. That's a full ten yards after contact.
Here a simple snag package gets Mumphery open for a big gain:
That's a very large hole off a corner blitz; wonder if someone (Shazier most likely) busted there.
Where is the pressure? Despite MSU abandoning the run almost entirely in the second half, OSU was unable to generate much pressure.Williams will run at you fast if you don't get a block on him but he's not an elite pass rusher by any stretch of the imagination. He's just a guy.
More worrying for Ohio State (and Michigan) was Simon's almost total lack of impact. I've seen him beast up in a couple games this year, but not against MSU. I swear, if MSU can cobble together an OL that can fend off Michigan again this year I'm going to have a fit. Another fit. Fitty fit fit.