Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
[Editor's Note: Mad Men spoilers below. Abort now if you care even a little bit. UPDATE: you'll be safe if you skip the blockquote.]
9/21/2009 – Michigan 45, Eastern Michigan 17 – 3-0
I'd never heard 100,000 people moan before. I've heard gasps and anger and worry and fretting and relief. I've heard an involuntary yelp of hope after Drew Stanton went down in the game that would be Braylonfest. I've heard way more than my share of discontent grumbling. I know all the tiny permutations of discontent grumbling, actually. I could write a PhD thesis on discontent stadium grumbles.
I had not heard a unified, angst-ridden moan until Saturday when Tate Forcier got blasted as he threw the ball away and rolled around on the Michigan Stadium turf like he'd just been stabbed. I sort of felt like I'd been stabbed, too, and I went "uhhhnnn." So did everyone else as we simultaneously contemplated the Sheridans of yesteryear. But before we could open up the flak jacket and find the secret, Forcier popped up and Rodriguez stuck him in to hand off a few times, thus saving everyone an extra hour or two of painful contemplation. The most interesting thing to happen in the Eastern Michigan game expired without impact.
It's quite a comedown to go from the Notre Dame game to this game in just about every way. Emotional involvement and excitement are obvious to anyone who saw the two teams listed as opponents. Hidden to folk who just saw the final score, but not the halftime one, was a reminder that the program remains, yes, under construction and that we should all be enjoying the competence instead of spinning out hopes for New Year's Day.
The main problem: Eastern Michigan ran the ball decently, and it wasn't on one long run on which Michigan can blame a random safety. EMU's long for the day was a 24-yarder by the quarterback and the dual-headed tailback pounded out 113 yards on 32 carries. That's 3.5 a pop and would have been totally acceptable if Michigan had flipped their first and second halves. (In the second half, Eastern put up 98 yards and no points on seven drives.) They didn't. Michigan gave up an 11-play, 79 yard touchdown drive and a 6-play, 36 yard touchdown drive, and did it mostly by running right at the side of the line not containing Mike Martin and Brandon Graham. For the day, Michigan was slightly better than Army and evidently terrible Northwestern defensively, which bodes unwell for the sky-high hopes you know you're secretly harboring. Search your heart. You know it to be true.
The evidence was clear enough on a selected few defensive snaps in the second half. With Mike Williams nursing a slight ankle injury on the sideline and Brandon Graham taking a breather, Michigan's purported first-team defense had three walk-ons playing. I can't remember a single non-fullback walk-on other than Nick Sheridan in recent Michigan history who saw playing time as extensive as three separate players have already gotten this year, and everyone remembers how Sheridan's experiment went. If Michigan is going to win games in the Big Ten, they're going to have to score a lot of points. They'll probably do this, but at the end of the year the stats are going to look more like one of those good-ish Northwestern teams from the late 90s, all shiny offensive stats and horrible defensive ones and entertaining games that give you no impression the team in question can hang with college football's elite.
And all of this is fine, of course. If Michigan's offense follows through on its first three weeks and the defense holds it together well enough to suggest competence in 2010, Michigan fans will and should be delighted. I'm not exactly breaking new ground by suggesting this team is not at the talent level you'd normally expect a Michigan team to be at, and I'm probably not surprising anyone by cautioning for patience. But I feel it has to be said after Orson Swindle and I had a conversation like this:
(11:23:10 PM) Orson: I cannot emphasize how improved by a random act of violent gore an episode of Mad Men was.. Paul being splattered with blood should happen every episode
(11:24:58 PM) Orson: "I live in Montclair." /SPLATTERED WITH BLOOD
(11:25:28 PM) Orson: "I went to Princeton." /SPLATTERED WITH BLOOD
(11:25:53 PM) Brian I prefer Harry, actually. "I cheated on my wife and actually regret it." /SPLATTERED WITH BLOOD. I also loved how the English guys immediately treated him as a horse that had to be put down.
(11:26:52 PM) Orson: "Oh no, he's done." "Quite right. No foot. Dead to us."
(11:27:04 PM) Brian "never play golf again"!!!
[Several more minutes of Mad Men discussion segues into this]
Orson: BTW, let me congratulate you on having a player sucker punch an ND player in the gut I'm serious. That is nothing but a great sign for your program.
(11:39:46 PM) Brian: It was the chin, actually. And we even got a totally unprecedented "you're going to be Miami" suspension out of it.
(11:40:57 PM) Orson: You are starting to get an idea of the vast power of the dark side.
[This continues for a while until:]
Orson: For once, I enjoy watching Michigan thanks to them. I think you're going to beat the f-- out of Ohio State this year.
You know me: I immediately attempted to convince Orson—who is awesome but prone to wild prognostications based on things the thinks are going to be fun—otherwise. It didn't take. "Whoah," I said, and then overreacted as you can see above.
Right now, Michigan is an Easter egg dropped out of a window during an engineering competition. It's small. It's moving extremely fast. It's brightly colored and looks like it contains a good time. It is heading inexorably for something large and uncompromising, and all it has to protect it is a rickety structure slapped together last night out of Busch Light cans, foam, and an unidentifiable oozing substance someone found next to the refrigerator. It's probably not going to make it, but for the moment it's time to enjoy the wind.
- Wooo complete Michigan wave cycle!
- Man, I do not like the fact that Michigan has scholarship players who aren't true freshmen at DE and LB but chooses to play walk-ons over them. No offense to those guys, but they were walk-ons for a reason. Unless they are spectacularly advanced thinkers at the game, their ceiling is low and Michigan's defense has little upside as the season goes along. Brandon Smith can be excused since he was a safety until fall camp, but how do Kenny Demens and JB Fitzgerald not see the field in front of Leach? That's a bad sign for both their futures. Ditto Adam Patterson, who looks set to go down as one of the all-time pure talent recruiting busts. Even a huge disappointment like Kevin Grady has gotten regular playing time every year.
- I do think I have an idea why Fitzgerald wasnt seeing the field: when he did he did not play well. I'll have to check the tape but IIRC one of Eastern's TDs was on his head. I really, really hope someone emerges from the linebacker morass this year. Right now it's terrifying.
- Losing Molk is bad but it's way less bad than it was last year. Michigan has three or four options to bring into the lineup at RG—sounds like Moosman will slide over to C. Who were Michigan's options last year? Tim McAvoy?
- Man, the backup tailbacks looked good. Remember this run?
Michael Shaw has got to start wearing crazy tight oily jerseys, because he juked that Eastern safety out of his jock and deserved a spectacular touchdown run on this play; he didn't get it because that grab you saw actually held up. Shaw looked like Carlos Brown 2.0 in some ways and the opposite of Carlos Brown in others. The difference: Brown always looks like he's perfectly balanced and then falls over; Shaw always looks like he's about to fall over but stays up.
Meanwhile, Vincent Smith's lone run featured an impressive juke of the backside defensive end and a first down thanks to a heads-up block from Denard Robinson, and Mike Cox got it YGM style on a weaving run on which he displayed his own impressive balance. With Fitzgerald Toussaint, Austin White and Stephen Hopkins on the way, the tailback spot will be just fine next year.
- Meanwhile, how the hell did Carlos Brown end up getting tackled by this?
Great game and all but sometimes the things that cause Carlos Brown to fall over are mystifying.
- Students: it's impolite to start up chants when someone's hurt. "Tate Forcier" was fine, but there was a "Go… Blue" chant at some point when an Eastern guy was down. Poor form.
Word. Stuart Mandel points out something that's been bothering yrs truly:
I've yet to hear a logical explanation for why ESPN has chosen to relentlessly interweave snippets from sappy 15-year-old Dave Matthews songs like Ants Marching into its college football broadcasts. It's true that when I hear that familiar fiddle, I do think of college -- as in, people blasting Under the Table and Dreaming in my freshman dorm hall at 7:30 in the morning -- but not football.
It's hard to think of an act that would be more ill-suited to hype me up for college football than Dave Mathews Band. It is wussy music. Every commercial break should be filled with snippets from Pat Benetar's Heartbreaker:
You're the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy
The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be
INVINCIBLE WINNER! Anything that sounds poorly translated from the Japanese and would conflate Taylor Potts getting his brain scrambled by Sergio Kindle with sex given the context is an invincible winner indeed.
The Chesney has stopped, though, which means at least one person at ESPN isn't a lizard monster from the fourth dimension whose five senses replace hearing with evil. And thank God for that. Seriously, was that just an opening weekend thing or did ESPN see what they had wrought and repent?
Lines of note. Michigan is –18 against Indiana—vote of confidence. Illinois is –15 against Ohio State, Wisconsin –3 against Michigan State, Notre Dame –7 against Purdue (road game, implies that Michigan should be a 10 point favorite at home given the ND line pending changes in opinion on the two teams and since that's minus Mike Floyd it'll probably be more than ten, though that's obviously a long way off and this entire highly speculative aside is of debatable value), and Penn State a whopping –11 against Iowa, which uh?
This is strange. So Tim Staudt, who writes for the Lansing State Journal, took time out of his column to defend one Rich Rodriguez against the rampant Detroit media. For serious. His target is the recent News story that Friday's UV shrugged at:
Don't football coaches have a right to seek the best mortgage for their homes they can find? The News' argument is that Martin might not fire those coaches if he thinks it's in Michigan's best interests, because maybe they'll end up defaulting on their loans without employment. Another example of why some distrust the media.
That's strange enough. The stranger part: I don't agree with him. The News article was something worth publishing a story on, as it does represent a mild conflict of interest and apparently caught Bill Martin contradicting himself. It did not get splashed across the front page and turn into a national news story. The thing properly frames the importance of its content:
"In the scheme of conflicts of interest, this doesn't seem that major," Lowenstein said.
I guess you could interpret the article's attempt to justify its existence (noting that Martin's ability to make decisions about firing any of the coaches who have loans out could be compromised) negatively, but I didn't and neither should the fanbase at large. If Michigan fans complain about everything we just come off like whiners.
Also the moon landing is fake. Braylon Edwards, meanwhile, on said hunt for witch-type object:
Q. What’s your reaction to the allegations from former Michigan players that Coach Rich Rodriguez required players to work out more than N.C.A.A. rules permit during the off-season?A. I don’t believe that guys are working extra hours. Everybody works hard. For this to happen like this and get out, that’s not the case. I don’t believe it to be the case. I believe that this is an inside plot to get him fired. I went to Michigan. I’ve been to college and everybody works hard.
The only thing left to discover is which message board lunatic Braylon is.
Band stuff. Whenever I write about the band the comments turn into a war zone and people send me emails ranging from "word" to "I have lost all respect for you," and it generally seems not worth it. So I'll refrain from offering further opinions, but I will clarify some old ones and point you to some good work elsewhere.
The clarification: man, I don't know about bands. I don't know if piccolos are loud or quiet or if the band can or should increase the brass. I do know that a lot of different people who do know about bands say that there's no reason the band can't be louder, and I have been around plenty of bands that seem louder than Michigan's. So I don't think it's impossible. It's just about what you want to prioritize.
The other work: Hoover Street Rag pinged both Haithcock and Boerma. There's plenty of news in it, couple with denials that they've decreased emphasis on noise and some indications that the prevalence of piped-in music is beyond what the band was told would occur.
One thing I will note: I hate that "Thunderstruck" plays before the teams runs onto the field. Previously, the crowd chanted "let's go blue" as one of the drummers beat out a slow, menacing beat. I like that better than wishing Michigan Stadium's speaker system didn't suck.
Rodriguez said Monday morning that he wasn't sure if Butler would face further disciplinary action, since the Big East officials working the game did not specify, in writing, the reason for the ejection. Later in the day, though, a Michigan sports information official spoke was told by the Big Ten that Butler was flagged for a flagrant foul, and will not face an automatic suspension. If Butler had been ejected for fighting, he would have been suspended from the first half of the team's next game.
The math here: ejection for fighting = 1/2 of next game. Ejection for flagrant foul = no suspension. Act that should have drawn a flag—not an ejection—but didn't = 1 game.
Look, no one's defending Mouton here. Rodriguez changed his opinion after his initial take:
“It’s not a football act,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not what we’re about. And it hurts the team when you do that, and Jonas understood that. He understood it hurt the team and that you could be penalized.”
No one's claiming he's somehow ennobled the game. But these sorts of things happen in the game all the time and it's idiotic to single out Mouton for punishment when far more dangerous acts have escaped punishment, especially when the only reason people are talking about it is because a coach outside the conference is running down the professionalism of your officials. It's even more bush league to do it on Friday at 4 PM. Jim Delany's talent for terrible PR is unmatched.
More on injuries. The words that came out of Rodriguez's mouth about the injury situation:
“We’ve got a few guys banged up, but I think most of them should be okay,” said Rodriguez. “[Freshman quarterback]Tate [Forcier] bruised his ribs, got the air knocked out of him. The biggest concern is David Molk. He said his foot was bothering him, and it must have been early in the game … first half, whatever. But now it may be even more serious. We’ll know a little more if he broke it or whatever as we go along. That would be a big loss.”
Moosman is expected back this week, said Rodriguez, and would be the next in line at center if Molk couldn’t go, with redshirt freshman Rocko Khoury behind him.
Good that Moosman will be available; hopefully he can just get a half and some new blood can take the rest. Sounds like another light week for Minor, too.
And a tip of the hat to Rodriguez for throwing Tate out there one more time to handoff, thus reassuring 107,000 some people that they didn't need to find a luxury box to jump off of.
Treat it like Muppets. I tried this last year and got nowhere, but I'm with the Daily's Andy Reid on the "It's Great to Be A Michigan Wolverine" cheer:
My family has had season tickets to Michigan football games since I was two years old, and despite the myriad games I have attended, I’ve only heard that chant a select handful of times. Not coincidentally, all of those games are among the best I’ve ever seen.
Iconic Michigan games that deserve an extra bit of special celebration — 1997 Ohio State, 2004 Michigan State, 2005 Penn State.
And that’s the way it should be.
I was pretty surprised when I heard the chant surface during the post-game celebration after Saturday's 45-17 shellacking of Eastern Michigan. Sure, it’s cool when the Wolverines head over to the student section after each win. But the crowd should sing the fight song, chant “Let’s Go Blue” or something — instead of busting out the big guns for nothing.
Word. That chant first existed in the fan consciousness after the '97 Ohio State game and should be held in reserve for actually stirring events, not four-touchdown wins over MAC teams. Also, get off my lawn.
Etc.: Andy Staples has an article on the steep costs of unofficial visits and how officials should be moved up, which I'd be fine with since Michigan is increasingly recruiting kids from far away. Dior Mathis' mom is quoted. Daily continues what's apparently a series of profiles akin to the massive Pahokee piece. This latest is on Trotwood, Ohio, the home of Roy Roundtree, Mike Shaw, and Brandon Moore. Throw the English-Rodriguez postgame handshake onto the Weis-Miles/Carr-Belotti memorial Pile of Awkward, Probably Misleading Handshake Photos. Michigan State has thrown tickets to the Michigan game(!) open to the public. Right now they require you to buy a ticket to another State game; on Wednesday they'll be totally open.
Southfield point guard Carlton Brundidge has committed to Michigan. He's a junior at the moment, so will come in for 2011 when Darius Morris is a junior. UMHoops has a full rundown on Brundidge for your delectation. A highlight or two:
Brundidge ranks 98th on Rivals, 68th on Scout and 33rd on ESPN. Carlton is one of the top juniors in the state of Michigan as well, ranking as high or higher as Tommie McCune, Patrick Lucas-Perry, Amir Williams, Brandan Kearney, and others. While some like Brandan Kearney may have more potential, it is hard to argue with Brundidge’s production. …
Brundidge is a power guard who thrives taking the ball to the hoop and creating for himself. His three point jump shot is streaky and a bit funky but he can score in bunches. He is a high energy guy who is often mentioned in scouting reports for being active on the glass despite his short height.
As you can see by the above video, Brundidge is a bulldog of a scoring point guard closer to a Rodney Stuckey (YMRMFSPA!) than a traditional distributor. Like Stuckey, Brundidge can get to the rack and finish with the best of them. He puts up points in bunches, most of them on shots he's created for himself. Also (and unfortunately) like Stuckey, his outside shot is a weakness. Brundidge is considerably shorter than Stuckey, but should be fine for college and may have an inch or two of growth left.
Yes, MGoBlog readers with long memories for slightly uncomplimentary things said about Michigan coaches around these parts will remember a long mailbag post doubting John Beilein's recruiting ability. Picking up Brundidge, who's not a guy you would think finds the Beilein offense a huge selling point, goes a long way towards making that opinion look stupid, and I welcome the opportunity for a fuller mea culpa in the event Beilein picks up either Prather or Zeigler and finishes out the '11 class with a highly-rated post. Stupidity, in this case, is preferred.
After a little time to digest it all, here are important notes from the postgame press conference.
- David Molk suffered a potentially serious foot injury, and Rodriguez hopes it's not broken. If he's out, Moosman and Khoury will step in at the center position. Tate's injury was just bruised ribs, and he should be fine. Rodriguez didn't say it was anything serious in the press conference, but I saw Mike Williams wearing a walking boot outside Crisler Arena after the game. Sitting Minor was precautionary, because he's still sore.
- Rodriguez seems pretty angry about the Mouton suspension. The worst part: the team wasn't informed until after practice Thursday, which means they didn't even get to practice with the backups in the game. That's inexcusable by the Big Ten, IME. Rodriguez plans to make sure the Big Ten is equally diligent for the rest of the season in suspending players from every team around the conference. He specifically mentioned something that happened at the end of an early game yesterday when a Purdue lineman went after an NIU player with an elbow.
- The team only had 2 penalties for 20 yards in the game, a major improvement to this point. RR implied that he thought one of them wasn't a great call (I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Cissoko PI), and wasn't happy about it.
- Coach Rodriguez and Brandon Graham both said they don't want Michigan to be a second-half team, but rather a 4-quarter team. However, it's not surprising with their conditioning that they can wear teams out in the second half.
- Kevin Leach and Brandon Graham both said there weren't many schematic changes at halftime, but rather an emphasis on players sticking to their gaps and executing their assignments.
- Craig Roh said he didn't have to think about his interception - he just reacted and came down with the ball.
- When asked if he really likes running into the South endzone, Denard Robinson had the quote of the day: "I think I had one going this way, too." Rodriguez emphasized that Robinson is a passing threat, and Robinson said his picks were mental mistakes, a result of inexperience.
- Carlos Brown said it feels good to be healthy, and noted that he ran for more yards in the first half yesterday than he did for all of last year.
[Editor's note: here's the obvious cheapshot by the Purdue player:
You made this bed, Jim Delany, and now it's time to lie in it.]
Yet another in this site's series "counters to the scrape exchange."
This one doesn't take a whole lot of explanation. Michigan's in its H-back set and Notre Dame in the nickel it used all day. It's first and ten on Michigan's field-goal drive right before halftime:
Michigan's going to run something I called a "QB counter"; it, I believe, is not a read but a called QB run. Just like the dive play we saw yesterday, the TE (in this case Martell Webb) is going to pull across the formation and look for a block. LT Mark Ortmann, the topmost offensive lineman, is going to downblock on the weakside defensive tackle. But you'll do fine on this play if you just watch #80. He's the whole play.
Here we have a moment right before the key part of the play. Forcier has pulled the ball out of Minor's belly and Webb is approaching the point at which he's supposed to block the defensive end.
So Webb reaches the DE and… uh… runs right by him.
Here note two things. One: Ortmann has not done a great job with the DT, who has apparently read the play or was stunting or something and has shot into the backfield. This held the defensive end up. Normally on a scrape he'd be hauling ass after Minor, but since he got delayed he's right there and sees Forcier with the ball. Two: Webb ignored that guy and is heading right for the scraper. Tate has to deal with the DE.
Next, the moment of truth:
One: Forcier has beaten the defensive end despite the screwup/stunt by Notre Dame. This is MAKING PLAYS, and something it's doubtful either Threet or Sheridan could have pulled off. Two: Webb has blocked the scraper. Crushed him.
look at all that space
nooooooooo cut it up cut it up
- This is another scrape counter. This one didn't go very well for whatever reason and it still should have been 8-10 yards because Michigan has blocked the one guy tasked with the quarterback.
- Assuming your guy with the quarterback isn't going to get blocked can be dangerous for the defense. The scrape read presumes that your guy tasked with the QB isn't going to get lit up by a tight end, and it's hard to see any way to read what's going on to help out. The only player who can be of assistance is the backside DE, and that pulling tight end can do so many different things—block the scraper, block you and spring Brandon Minor up the middle, head out into the flat, pass block—that you're really picking your poison.
- I don't think it matters what side the guy gets blocked on… usually. Here Webb gets outside of the scraper and that's key because of the defensive end's presence, but if that guy's not there it makes no difference because Tate will be jetting up into massive space on either side of the block.
- Rodriguez's offseason planning was hugely focused on the TE. This was something we talked about in UFR, but it's worth repeating. There was a lot of hype about Michigan's tight ends and that hype has been more than met. A TE is on the field 90% of the time and has been a huge key in Michigan's ground game. Rodriguez has adapted to the scrape exchange and his counter is the tight end. At this point I'm actually a little concerned Michigan doesn't have a tight end in the recruiting class.
- Tate needs to realize he's no longer way more athletic than everyone on the field. He's done this three or four time in his first two games. It worked against Western, but not so much here.
This ended up being three yards, but it should have been ten, and holy God what if Denard Robinson was out there in that kind of space?
UPDATE: forgot the youtube-o-vision:
Or: How Lake The Posts Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Whiskey
|WHAT||#25 Michigan vs Eastern Michigan|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, September 19th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Michigan -24|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on BTN|
|WEATHER||Chilly (52) early but game is
64 (noon) to 68 (3 pm) and sunny
Run Offense vs. Eastern
Last week I declared that the rushing offense had to score a "crushing victory" against Notre Dame for Michigan to win Saturday and at any and all points in the future. The results were favorable:
Suck out two sacks for nine yards and Michigan's totals are 199 yards on 36 carries, or 5.5 YPC. With the sacks Michigan's total falls to 5 YPC, a number that would have been good for 18th nationally last year. Notre Dame's run D was #45 last year and returned virtually all of their key pieces. So that's fairly crushing even if the 31-yard Forcier touchdown was more improvisational genius than crushing victory.
The issues with the run game are the same ones Michigan had after week one: not enough Brandon Minor, too much Tate Forcier—and especially too much Tate Forcier trying to beat cornerbacks—and a lingering suspicion the offensive line might not get a ton better from where they were at the end of last year.
None of that should matter much against this:
Though that's a respectable performance against Northwestern, Eastern had the #103 rushing defense in the country last year and is super unlikely to replicate that performance tomorrow. The main dangers are quick, undersized defensive linemen shooting gaps and Michigan's replacement right guard playing poorly. In all other ways Michigan should just out-athlete them, especially when Denard Robinson is in the game.
Key Matchup: Probably John Ferrara versus Severe Dropoff. It would be nice to see Moosman's replacement play well. Also can we add Tate Forcier versus the Misconception He Can Get The Corner Against College Defensive Backs?
Pass Offense vs. Eastern
The other way mostly relies on excellent pickups from the backs—Carlos Brown had a couple crushing pickups last week and Brandon Minor is a fine blocker in his own right—and the idea that Forcier is, yes, Drew Tate, a guy extremely comfortable moving around and finding people downfield when the play breaks down. It's dangerous to blitz Pat White and it might be dangerous to blitz Forcier, albeit in a totally different way. If he evades the wave of defenders and breaks out to one side, we've already seen he can direct traffic to good effect.
Tate Forcier has now established himself as a prodigy, and even the big colossal error he turned in was actually a big colossal error on the part of Greg Mathews. At this point it's reasonable to assume he will perform beyond his years.
Eastern, for its part, got shredded last year. They were 116th in pass efficiency D and 100th in sacks; the only thing that kept opponents from running up huge yardage totals was pity. And then there's the whole Johnny Sears thing. Johnny Sears's two main excursions as a Michigan defensive back saw him get torched by Ball State and the perpetrators of Horror; merely interpreting this person as a useful member of your secondary is cause for serious concern. Forcier is going to have a lot of time and a lot of open receivers; so will Denard Robinson.
It's worth pointing out that Mike Kafka had a crappy game against Eastern, completing 14 of 24 for only 158 yards and an interception. I'm betting that says more about Kafka than Eastern.
Key Matchup: Denard Robinson versus Lack of Touch and Accuracy.
(BONUS: stormtrooper photoshopper notes laconically that he is "working on the actual costume for the illinois game." This moment demands I steal from Simmons: yep, these are my readers.)
Run Defense vs. Eastern
Michigan had severe issues against Notre Dame and their peanut-eating offensive line. (What did that even mean, anyway? "They can eat peanuts off our guys' heads." Are they elephants? Is it a reference to the "anybody want a peanut" line from the Princess Bride? I'm going with the latter because I want to.) Eastern… well… I'm betting there are a few gut-churning runs where a linebacker gets hooked or just runs in the wrong direction and the line creases and Eastern shoots a guy into the secondary. Their current totals are backwards from you might expect:
Erm. This preview could also be titled "why Lake The Posts should buy whiskey in quantity this fall." In fact… let me go change that. Okay.
Do you go with the horrendous Army numbers or the downright respectable day against a run defense that was decent last year? Probably somewhere in-between. The Northwestern numbers were no fluke and the Army numbers weren't quite that terrible: Andy Schmitt was sacked seven times for –53 yards; primary back Dwayne Priest averaged 4.4 YPC. Priest gashed Northwestern all day, averaging 7.5 with a long of just 35. He should have an okay day with a YPC we're a little uncomfortable with.
Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus The Solo Tackle. Two non-assists last week. He's got to improve or we're in trouble.
Pass Defense vs. Eastern
This is a spot where it could get dodgy. Eastern returns a senior quarterback in Andy Schmitt who… well, actually no. Schmitt in the first two games:
That is a ton of dinky completions akin to what we saw from Tim Hiller, except no one think Schmitt is an NFL prospect, and did I mention seven sacks against Army? Eastern's got one okay wideout and then little, has no offensive line to speak of, and has a quarterback averaging under 6 yards per attempt. EMU will complete its share of dinky hitches and slants and screens of all variety, most of which will be followed by immediate tackles if they are accurate and hauled in. Schmitt will be running for his life most of the day.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus huge error.
Darryl Stonum won a job as a kick returner against Notre Dame, but Martavious Odoms was pretty uninspiring and Cissoko's shoulder injury leaves the second spot in question. Carlos Brown maybe? Michigan will continue sending Greg Mathews out to fair-catch everything, and you are okay with that.
The kickers had an uneven game last Saturday, with Zoltan shanking one and not getting the booming death punts we all know and love; Jason Olesnavage hit a moderately long one but pushed a chip shot wide. Michigan will be looking for both to bounce back.
Key Matchup: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.
24-point spreads against MAC teams do not get kittens, but here's something else:
Yes, that's House and Wilson.
- Cissoko starts getting lost against MAC receivers.
- Fumble fumble fumble fumble fumble death.
- EMU safeties go for killshots like ND's.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Ron English doesn't display a wildly increased ability to stop a spread offense.
- Tate Forcier.
- There is not massive regression on all fronts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for We Are A Team To Reckon With Now, –1 for With Prodigy QB, –1 for And They Are Probably A Terrible MAC Team, –1 for and Rich Rodriguez Doesn't Mess Around With These Folk, –1, for And Michigan Has Some Motivation, I Think, +1 for But Yeah That Defense Looked A Little Wonky).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for We Must Quash The Insurrection, +1 for Oh And If We Lose You Know All That Good Press Will Evaporate, +1 for Refuse To Lose To Johnny Sears, +1 for Oh Lord I Shudder To Even Think, +1 for This Is Just Not Happening.)
Loss will cause me to... appreciate the irony of life. Also buy a gun.
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Justin Turner and Will Campbell get extensive looks.
- Robinson throws almost as much as Forcier.
- Minor has a day similar to his outing against ND (15-ish carries, 100-ish yards).
- Brandon Graham finally gets a sack.
- Michigan, 48-10.