alternate headline: man does job
10/2/2010 – Michigan 42, Indiana 35 – 5-0, 1-0
When you want to watch ESPNU in Sedona, Arizona, you go to this place called "Sticks and Steaks." To get there you drive past a massive tourist art complex with a faux-native name, a sign exhorting you take advantage of Angel Lightfoot's magic healing crystal expertise, and an enormous, profligate fountain in the middle of the damn desert. Whatever Sedona's purpose was when someone said "screw it" and set up camp in 1902 is gone, replaced by a talent for taking money that was jammed into old ladies' bank accounts and circulating it through the economy again.
Inside this place you'll find TVs, horse betting, and a motley collection of people who would rather be home for three and a half hours on Saturday. In front of me there were a couple peeved Texas fans watching their team get punked by Oklahoma. Behind me there was a Wisconsin guy who asked if I was wearing my lucky Michigan tie. (I wasn't: I'd neglected to bring one and had to drive back to the next town over and stop at their outlet strip mall to get one.) A couple of old women who didn't care about football ate there; as they left one of them said they'd gone to Indiana and was surprised the game was even that close.
I think it was an attempt to comfort me, as I'd spent the hour they were there pulling my hair back over my skull and swearing under my breath. Sometimes not so under my breath, too. I said something about how IU's quarterback was outlandishly good and hoped it was true.
I do not have to tell you this but I will anyway: that game was bizarre.
In the aftermath it stands as a tribute to how useless time of possession is. Michigan's put-upon defense actually got better in the second half of their 98-play version of Ishtar, and it turns out that a touchdown scored in three plays is worth just as much as a touchdown scored in 14. We have sufficient evidence now to declare this finding statistically significant. So that's nice.
In progress it felt like dying from a thousand paper cuts only to be brought back with the crashing thunder of paddles, conscious and fully aware you were about to do it all over again. The opponent holding the ball for 42 minutes might not mean much statistically, but it does make most of the game an agonizing slog.
As a result, records were set across the Michigan fanbase for "most muted response to a 70-yard touchdown." Such a thing wouldn't have been possible even four years ago. I remember thinking to myself "that's 25% of the points we need to win" after the first drive of the '06 Ohio State game, and I was delighted through a whole commercial break. I grew up with angry cold Midwestern football where touchdowns were hard-earned things only somewhat less rare than goals in soccer. Each one was a major step towards your goal, and punting a guy down inside their ten was tantamount to getting the ball back on the fifty.
Now a touchdown is just holding serve. When Denard fumbled the snap on the one I thought "this is going to be a 99-yard touchdown drive," and then it was a 99-yard touchdown drive. It's disorienting, and as Indiana is driving down the field again you can't even figure out who to scream at because no one's in the same zip code as the receiver, and you hate everything about everything because this is MICHIGAN we don't do things like this.
On the other hand, "this is MICHIGAN" also applies to an offense that could end up loaded with NFL talent and still come nowhere near this one. Michigan still has Denard and its blitzkrieg of an offensive line and a bunch of wide-receivers who draw straws to determine who gets this week's monster day. One day when the defense is capable of covering guys here and there, Michigan will club people. At the moment it's about having the ball last.
I got somewhat demonstrative during all of this, which is why the Wisconsin guy asked me about my tie and the Indiana woman offered a ham-fisted attempt at comfort. People found me entertaining as I alternated between brief flashes of happiness and long stretches of sports Tourette's, I guess. I probably would have too.
As I was leaving this other guy who I hadn't even noticed added his bit, jovially saying "Hey, you survived." I had. They had, unlike Texas or Wisconsin or Indiana. The Texas folk hadn't even made it past halftime. The fiancée, still able to engage in small talk beyond grunts and squeaks, asked who he was rooting for. He said "USC, but they don't play yet." When they did, they lost to Washington for the second straight year. There are worse things than getting bombed for 480 yards by Ben Chappell even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
Stop it. I've defended the three man rush but good lord you have got to be kidding me. I defended the 3-3-5 but that's when I thought it would be used to create a wide variety of four-and-five man fronts with unpredictable blitzing. Michigan probably rushed more than three guys 10% of the time in the second half, and when they did that it was four. I can't support having Craig Roh and using him in zone coverage on every snap.
What's worse was the inane substitution pattern. Every Indiana run in the second half was a wasted down, and probably would have been a wasted down even if you replaced Banks with Roh and brought in a cornerback. One of this defense's few assets is the pass rushing ability of the outside linebackers, but Michigan is going out of its way to avoid using it.
Stop it, but the clock. I would have thrown a shoe at the TV if Michigan had botched time management at the end of the half like Indiana did. How do you get inside the 20 on that drive with a minute or so on the clock and end up with four seconds on third and goal? Indiana let the clock run from 13 seconds to 9 after a first and goal play before calling timeout, which meant they'd just blown an opportunity to run a fourth down. They got the TD anyway, but that was a sequence worthy of Les Miles.
Speaking of decisions like going for it on third there…
How Denard Robinson is like multi-way callers in a limit hold-em game. There is a phenomenon in limit hold-em called "schooling" where a bunch of weak players who call a lot of hands they should ditch accidentally make their play close to right, frustrating more experienced players with a strong hand they'd like to get heads up with.
I think about this every time an opposing coach defies his inner Lovie Smith and goes for it on a fourth-and-Romer down against Michigan or eschews a half-ending field goal attempt in an effort to score the seven it's obvious they'll need to keep up with Denard. Michigan has now faced 15 fourth down attempts on the season, which is double the next-highest total in the Big Ten and triple the average*. They've converted nine of these, turning a bunch of drives that would have been punts or field goal attempts against a less terrifying offense into touchdowns.
The difference is that the coaches' decisions are statistically correct, not just less wrong. Which is not so good for Michigan. Bill Lynch did manage to punt from the Michigan 42 on fourth and short, which just goes to show that it is the nature of all coaches to play it safe. I'm hoping as we get into the stodgy section of the schedule we'll see more insane decisions to punt when Michigan scrapes together a stop. Someone can tell Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz and Joe Paterno that they should go for it, but what are the chances they listen? Maybe 40%?
*(FWIW, I disagree with the author's assertion that the reason Michigan's opponents are exceeding their yardage season averages when they play M is because Michigan is the "red-letter" game on the schedule. It's just because Michigan's defense sucks.)
Same thing on our side of the ball. Michigan should have gone for it on fourth and one in the second half; instead they sent Forcier out to pooch it. I'm fine with the pooch punting in general, as it's impossible to return or even catch one. Michigan netted 39 yards on Forcier's attempt, which would be good for 23rd nationally as a season-long average.
But punting in that situation? No thanks. When your offense is tearing through the opposition like M's offense was that Mathlete chart about correct decisions swings way towards going for it there.
Part of the problem may be the apparent lack of faith in Michigan's bigger backs. Cox didn't appear at all and Hopkins was just used as a blocker; when Vincent Smith is your best TB option (blocking or running) short yardage is less of a certainty. I'm still not a fan of Smith this year despite the long run against IU. He didn't have to do anything except run through a gaping void and run through an attempt to tackle him from behind. He's reliable, but having him at tailback is like having Greg Mathews on punt returns.
It could not be clearer that Michigan doesn't need much time to score.
But what the Wolverines do need is the ability to keep their defense off the field. This defense is young, and it's still learning, and without the Michigan offense, its flaws would be that much more evident.
The Daily's Joe Stapleton also offered something along those lines.
Anyone who's read this blog for longer than a couple weeks knows the general outline of what's to come but whatever here goes: a touchdown is worth seven points no matter how long it takes to score, and having an offense that rips down the field in three or four plays against Indiana is not a bad thing. Against better defenses those opportunities will be much rarer. And what is Denard supposed to do, anyway? Kneel down at the 20?
It's the defense's job to get off the field. The offense is a thing to score points with. Was it good that Roy Roundtree got caught at the three? Not so much. If Michigan wants to bring TOP closer to even they'll have to get much better or blitz like madmen, but since that's a stupid goal to have they should only do the latter if it also makes it more likely they'll get stops.
Slight mitigation. One effect of Michigan's rapid-fire touchdown drives was to inflate Indiana's opportunities. Both teams had twelve bonafide drives in the game. That's 50% more than the opener against UConn; Michigan would have expected to give up 23 points if they'd faced eight IU drives. Which is still terrible, but maybe slightly less so than it seemed.
I was in transit yesterday so no VOAV; apologies. Here's the Michigan defense highlight reel:
Something slightly longer from WH:
In non-video items: a serendipitous sideline photo gallery. Michigan's ridiculous "on pace for" numbers. Mike DeSimone has resumed his incredibly useful photo collecting. Wow, Les Miles. Wow Denard from the Indy Star:
There are certain moments that reveal a potential Heisman Trophy winner's essence, and that came on that final five-play, 73-yard game-winning drive that sealed the 42-35 victory.
"Shoelace'' has got my Heisman vote, and it would take an act of God to make me change my mind.
ESPN's Heisman watch says it's "Robinson and everyone else":
Now it's just getting ridiculous. I mean, at some point shouldn't we stop being amazed? We've seen it for five weeks now. Shouldn't we be used to it? I'm talking, of course, about Michigan QB Denard Robinson, and the answer is no. We haven't seen this type of college football playmaker since … Barry Sanders?
Postgame GERG-RR stills from MVictors are… not so happy. Ace asks if we're jaded already. I'll talk about this more in a bit but despite the stuff about the three-man rush above, complaints like those of BWS…
The real story is that Greg Robinson's defensive schemes do not work. No longer is this a question of defensive talent or improper personnel. No, sadly, this is far more systematic: Greg Robinson's schemes Do Not Work.
I've been advocating a man coverage package for the last three weeks. Robinson has shown it sparingly. Not that I'm more qualified to run this defense, but Robinson's inability--or maybe stubbornness--to show new looks is far and away the most disappointing aspect of this season. Play after play (and now game after game), teams are running quick slants and seven-yard hitch routes and absolutely shredding Michigan's defense. And it's not that the defense looks athletically overmatched. They look unprepared and poorly coached.
…are kind of ridiculous. James Rogers cannot change direction. Jordan Kovacs cannot cover people man to man. There are massive personnel deficiencies that need covering up.
Rolling into the sixth week already Michigan's recruiting has started to pick up steam. This week's and next week's games will both be big for visitors. We could (should?) see a few commitments along the way. Here's an update on a few prospects with a look at the visitors this weekend scheduled so far.
6'5", 320 lbs.
Ray has been on Michigan's radar for awhile now, and it had seemed as though Wisconsin was the school to beat. Michigan is still looking to add a few offensive linemen to this class and Ball is one of those targets.
I would say that Michigan and Wisconsin are tied at the top right now. Once I go up to both schools I will know who is where on my leader board. I'm visiting Wisconsin on October 16th, and I haven't set it up yet but I think the Illinois game will be the best for my official to Michigan.
Ray said that his decision will come down to who has more to offer and who comes out with a bang on his visit. Wisconsin's visit could vault them ahead of Michigan, but if he takes his visit to Wisconsin and doesn't commit then M should have a good shot. Ball may be competing with Chris Bryant for the final offensive line slot in the class.
6'4", 215 lbs.
Michigan is also looking for a few linebackers in this class, and Sean Duggan is a target. Duggan has somewhat pushed his recruitment to the back burner to focus on school and his team. He has started to set up his official visits though.
I'm going to Boston College on the weekend of the Clemson game, and Michigan either the first or second week of December. Depending on if I'm still playing or not, I'll go up to Duke and Virginia after my season.
Wisconsin was removed from his final list because they're full at his position. So Michigan is in the top four and will get a visit. I think they have some ground to make up on Boston College but it definitely helps that Wisconsin is no longer in the picture. You can tell by Duggan's list that he's a serious about academics.
5'8", 190 lbs.
Demetrius is making his final decision on Friday of this week. He'll be notifying the coaches of each school if he'll be playing for them next season. This is hard for me because I can't really share a lot of info this close to a decision.
I know that's not what any of you want to hear, but I don't want to ruin anything for Demetrius. I've been saying this for awhile now, and it's not speculation, Auburn is not as big of a threat as people are saying. I have a call scheduled with the family today, so I'll share what they allow me to, but don't expect a lot before the decision. I don't really like giving hints about where he's going, but I will let you know of any negatives to watch out for.
I will create a separate list in the diaries for this, but here are the visitors (that I have confirmed so far) coming in for the game this weekend. You'll notice that Kris Frost is not on this list. He's not sure if he's going to make it or not. He wants his parents there, and they're not sure if they can make the trip.:
- Devondrick Nealy (5'10", 175 lbs., Running Back/Slot) Jefferson County/Florida - Nealy said when he received his Michigan offer that it was "One of the biggest scholarships yet," and that he was very excited. Michigan is recruiting him more for a slot receiver and he has a top four of Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan, and Minnesota (yeah, Minnesota). He doesn't plan on making his decision until the end of the year.
- Marquise Williams (6'3", 218 lbs, Quarterback) Mallard Creek/North Carolina - Williams is a North Carolina commit and friend of Michigan target Kris Frost. I spoke with Williams about the NCAA allegations and how it effects North Carolina and he didn't seem too thrilled about what was happening. This is an odd situation because Michigan currently has QB Kevin Sousa committed.
- Kellen Jones - Michigan commit.
- Jack Miller - Michigan commit.
- Jake Fisher - Michigan commit.
- Kishon Wilcher - Cass Tech athlete and son of Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher. He does not have an offer from Michigan, and thinks they want him to walk on. He's not sure if he would be willing to do that because he doesn't want his parents to have to pay for college. He does have a Toledo offer.
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2012 Cass Tech linebacker.
- Terry Richardson - 2012 Cass Tech DB.
- Brian Blackburn - 2012 Crockett quarterback.
I moved to a full resume ballot this week, so some of the deltas may seem a little bit off. The full chart of resumes can be found here, listed from most to least impressive victories.
There are a few things I'm not certain of (there is a case to be made for Michigan State above Florida, for example, and as usual, there could be a number of other teams at the end of the poll).
I'm open for suggestions, corrections, etc., so comment and I'll try to respond and/or include your contributions.
Hello, I'm Misopogon. You may remember me from such entries as "The Decimated Defense," "Tate's a Quarterback, Yo!," and "Can I Get a Hero Up in Here?" It is my intention, Diary, to each week give you the latest and greatest in user-generated content from MGoBlog's Diaries section.
Tim used to do this feature, but with his permission, and because I'm the guy editing them anyway, I am taking over. This will again be a regular feature, probably on the weekends. They will also be shorter – this one's an extended edition to fill in everything that's happened since the last Dear Diary.
So - ahem - Dear Diary,
Sorry I Haven't Written Since July.
Allow me to catch you up on all of the history that's happened in the interim:
Back in late July, mankind was entering the 2010 season with a sense of wonder as his technology went from the Stone Age (when man could only throw rock), to the Bronze Age, then the Iron Age, The Steel Age, and finally that fateful day that MCalibur announced we had entered a true Dilithium Age.
In these kind days, the world was writ in poetry, and Rich Rod was building a new civilization (Blazefire). But whenever we seemed about to return from our long Odyssey (Mustaches4Michigan), some Angry Michigan [Position]-Hating deity or another would strike man down again (via – who else? - Shredder):
Aye, Rome fell, but thanks to MGauxBleu, it will not be forgotten.
(way more after the jump)
|WHAT||Michigan at Indiana|
|WHERE||Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN|
|WHEN||3:30 Eastern, October 2nd 2010|
|THE LINE||Michigan –10.5|
high 60s, partly cloudy
0% chance of rain
It's tough to get a read on IU because their first three opponents are somewhere between horrible and horrible:
- Towson is a 1-3 I-AA team with a single 5OT win over Coastal Carolina. They just lost to an Ivy League team by two touchdowns.
- Western Kentucky is 0-16 in its second year in I-A and lost 63-28 to Kentucky.
- Akron is 0-4 after losing to 2-2 I-AA school Gardner-Webb and 47-10 to Kentucky.
I watched a torrent of the WKU game to get educated. Their opponents are not only winless against I-A competition, they're 1-3 against I-AA. The bye week may have been their toughest test. All stats except crappy ones should be taken with a grain of salt. Speaking of crappy stats…
Run Offense vs Indiana
(truth and justice @ right via MZone.)
Despite the competition level, Indiana is 92nd in rushing defense. This is suck on a truly epic level:
Akron managed 55 yards against Syracuse, Towson 87 against Columbia. Sacks make that better but I can't be bothered to figure out exactly how much given the incredible weakness of IU opponents and IU's incredible weakness against them. Once the crappiness reaches a second derivative I'm done parsing sacks.
The upshot: Indiana could be on track for a historically bad run defense. They are giving up 5.2 YPC according to the sacks-included NCAA numbers—106th nationally—against those guys. It's so bad that the local beat writer offers up a… C-:
RUSH DEFENSE: After watching the Towson quarterback run wild, then a good back from Western Kentucky have a good first quarter against the Hoosiers, and then Akron gain 160 yards rushing, there’s only one question that keeps coming to my mind: How is the team going to stop Michigan or Ohio State or Wisconsin or (fill in your Big Ten team here). Missing Tyler Replogle had to hurt Saturday but this is a unit that needs to improve in a hurry. I think the Hoosiers have some good players up front but someone needs to start tackling better. GRADE: C-
What would Indiana have to do to get an F from Terry Hutchens? By the looks of it, picking tailbacks up on a palanquin and escorting them into the endzone would warrant a D, maybe a D+ if they looked unhappy about it.
Michigan will shred them mercilessly. After 466 yards against Bowling Green at 8.3 YPC Michigan is now second nationally in rushing offense behind only Air Force. They are second to Nebraska in YPC. There is zero chance Indiana can even slow down Michigan's ground game unless penalties intervene; a day much like that Michigan had against BGSU, where passing was an optional sidelight and it took a turnover or a comedy of errors to prevent a touchdown drive, beckons.
The only things that can stop the donkeytrain are crappy execution by Michigan and the return of linebacker Tyler Replogle, one of Indiana's best defensive players, from injury. The former is always a possibility since football is weird; the latter will help IU but probably not enough. When this is the best Indiana folk can muster…
Also, I would note that Robinson has thrown 80 passes and has run the ball 79 times this season, and so far he’s thrown one interception and has not lost a fumble. Of course, that means he’s really good, but even for a really good player, those numbers are unsustainable. Perhaps his luck will take a turn for the worse against IU. I realize that hope is not a strategy, but given Robinson’s ability and IU’s defense, it’s all I’ve got.
…a firebombing is on the horizon. The Mathlete says so, too.
It is worth noting that both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Michael Shaw are doubtful for Saturday. Toussaint has not been a factor so far and his absence won't have much impact, but Shaw has been the better half of Michigan's two-headed tailback and losing him forces Michigan to rely on a seemingly damaged Vincent Smith or a couple guys who haven't seen much playing time yet.
I have an unconfirmed report that Mike Cox is going to start Saturday, though in this offense that just means he'll get half the carries for the tailbacks and a quarter of the overall carries. He has flashed an impressive size-speed combo and great balance in limited time, but he also completely biffed an assignment when he ran out to block when he was supposed to take a handoff off tackle (note: the UFR mistakenly attributed this to Shaw), which completely lives up to his scouting report.
Key matchup: Tailbacks versus ball security. Ball not on turf == touchdown. Shaw out == increased possibility of ball on turf.
Pass Offense vs Indiana
So the good news is that the Hoosiers are 20th in pass defense and 43rd in efficiency. Woo! However, they did this against teams ranked 114th, 95th, and 56th in I-AA in passing efficiency. Michigan is 11th in that category. Given the horror show their run defense is, Michigan is all but guaranteed to have the luxury of passing when it wants and sucking linebackers out of position when they duly freak out about Denard or whoever else is gashing them. Michigan will pass to keep 'em honest and to stick the dagger in.
Indiana returns one starter from last year's secondary in corner Donnell Jones. Mitchell Evans, who you may remember as a receiver and part-time wildcat QB from a year ago, is the starting strong safety—he's a position switch starter, and a desperate one. On the line they lost their excellent defensive ends and replace them with short (like six-foot short) guys who haven't done much in their careers to date. Their defensive tackles are happy just to stay in the vicinity of the line of scrimmage. They're playing Denard Robinson, who will murderize you if you get out of a rush lane. He'll have as much time as he wants to throw.
This section is short. We have little information on Indiana since the QBs they've gone against have been horrible and Michigan is going to run lots and lots. But the stats here are deceiving, as Michigan's highly efficient passing attack goes against a team that's way worse on paper than their stats to date suggest. They haven't been tested by anything approximating Denard and the Michigan receivers are likely to steadily bleed yardage with one to three explosive plays mixed in when play action burns them.
Key matchup: Denard versus Tendency to Chuck Seams on a Line. Here, too, it will be a matter of executing cleanly and taking the many opportunities the Indiana defense offers.
Run Defense vs Indiana
This looks like it sucks when it comes to raw yardage, too, but part of that is atrophy. While IU is 96th in overall yardage, here they're 72nd—almost average—in YPC. That's still completely horrible given their schedule, which features the 86th, 92nd, 102nd (in I-AA) best rushing defenses in the country despite playing run-averse Indiana.
I took in the Western Kentucky game and while the Hoosier pass offense was genuinely impressive, that's another section. The run game was not so good. Some of WKU's defensive tackles were tiny, yo, and Indiana's OL still had trouble moving them. IU ended up with 108 yards on 30 carries, with most of those coming on jet sweeps or outside runs on which WKU inexplicably passed on even the vague idea of containment. Primary tailback Darius Willis, who you may remember from last year's emasculating faster-than-our-secondary 85-yarder, managed 30 yards on 13 carries. He's done better in the other two games, probably thanks in no part to the offensive line. The team hasn't really: IU had 102 yards on 25 carries, sacks and kneeldowns excluded, against an Akron team that was gashed for 290 by Kentucky and 202 by Syracuse.
The Mathlete calls this a "pillow fight" and that's fair after Michigan was gashed for almost 100 yards by two separate UMass tailbacks, but I expect this area to be closer to the Bowling Green outcome than that since Jonas Mouton's played well in three of four games, Obi Ezeh has done decently in two and much better than he did against UMass in all, and frankly I'm willing to bet that a transfer-enriched UMass backfield and line is at least Indiana's equivalent. Willis should average about 3 YPC except on the one run that someone busts an assignment on; hopefully that goes for 20 yards instead of 85.
Key matchup: Michigan's heavy package versus short yardage. I'm not sure a third and two is a running down for Indiana after what's gone down so far this season, but they'll probably regard it as one. Each third and short is an opportunity to boot IU off the field and let the offense hold serve.
Pass Defense vs Indiana
This is where it breaks down for Michigan. Western Kentucky busted coverages periodically and never really challenged Indiana receivers even when they had the right assignments, and Chappell had all day to throw. But caveats aside, Chappell was 32 of 42 for 366 yards and three touchdowns and a large number of these passes were accurate downfield zingers. Even if WKU made it easy, Indiana can really execute their passing game and they have far more talent than UMass and their QB's 22 of 29 day did. I love Michigan's receivers and I'd think about trading for Indiana's straight up. Seriously. I wouldn't do it because of the insane rootability factor Roundtree, Stonum, and Odoms have, but I'd think about it. And Michigan has trouble against teams that can execute and stuff.
The one uncertainty in an Indiana offense that returns a bunch of starters is the offensive line, which is down a second-round pick and could not get any push at all in their first three games. They've kept Chappell clean so far, but they'll be facing an enormous step up in quality when facing Mike Martin, Craig Roh, and Jonas Mouton. Michigan hasn't put up many sacks thanks to an awful lot of three man rushes and some missed opportunities; they're kind of better than Akron's dudes, I'm guessing.
A positive for the Michigan defense: Chappell does not roll out much, something that's been a struggle for M. He was lethal when provided time to throw (which was almost always) against WKU; Michigan needs to get him rolling and uncomfortable. I expect them to alternate between three- and six-man pressures like they have most of the year, with a focus on getting IU into any third down possible and banking on their erratic run game to see the punter (or field goal kicker hit the field). Second and ten is a guaranteed eight-man zone.
One thing to watch for here is how often Michigan goes to the nickel and dime packages it deployed on passing downs last week. The bet here is we see Courtney Avery as much or more than the Thomas Gordon/Carvin Johnson spur combo, which has been solid against the run but indifferent in coverage. Terrence Talbott will appear on third and long, as well, and Michigan will test those tackles with the "rush" line.
Key matchup: Eight man zone drops versus big chunk plays. Michigan's gameplan to date has featured a ton of three-man rushes paired with eight man zones, so they'll probably do it again this weekend. The key there is to get to the QB with some regularity and cover the deep seams and corners, forcing checkdowns and putting IU in a lot of third downs that they aren't particularly likely to convert on the ground.
This is slightly less guh than last week, though not because of anything the kickers did. When not watching they were kicking extra points and leaving kickoffs as short as they usually do; Will Hagerup didn't get to punt even once.
The improvement came in the punt return game, where a new formation featuring three returners spread across the field saw Michigan field all but one punt and get decent returns on three or four. If Indiana uses a spread package (and Blue Seoul says they do) Michigan will keep that going, which has the potential to improve Michigan's average net by ten or more yards.
Hagerup should pull out of his Frankly Mr. Shankly phase sooner or later, hopefully sooner. His net on punts that he actually gets off isn't as bad as it seems without looking. If Michigan loses yards versus Indiana in the punt game it won't be many unless Hagerup drops another one. That's unlikely.
Indiana, on the other hand, has strong return units. They're second nationally on kick returns, something that combines with Michigan's tendency to drop line drives at the ten in a nasty way. A mitigating factor: if you think the guys on Towson, WKU, and Akron's offense and defense are not I-A caliber athletes, the special teams are another level of wobbly weeble. IU's kicker was iffy last year, going 14/25. He missed the first couple games, allowing a freshman to take over and hit two of three.
With offenses going up and down the field the most important bits here should be kickoff returns and field goal kickers; both are advantage IU.
Key Matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL
This one's on the verge of no cat because it's a double digit spread, but when you've got this picture…
…and these offenses are going up against these defenses we'll bend the rules.
- A confused Michael Cox runs the wrong way and fumbles explosively.
- The field goal kicker makes multiple appearances.
- Denard ends up in another crumbled heap, temporary or not.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Michigan's three-man rush is tearing through the Indiana line.
- Indiana's run defense turns out to really be that inept, which it probably will.
- A Michigan safety manages to not lose a fumble on his interception.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 2 (Baseline 5; –1 for Denard!, –1 for Indiana's Run Defense!, –1 for The Combination Of The Two!, +3 for Chappell!, Michigan D!, Combination All Reverse Like!, –1 for Michigan Is Not The Lollipop Guild Of IU's Schedule To Date, –1 for I'm Giving Denard Another One, If You Don't Like It Try To Stop It Oh That's Right You Can't, –1 for Michigan's Passing Offense Is The Hidden Extra Mismatch.)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is The Last Really Long Winning Streak To Our Name, +1 for If We're Not Thumperating A Team With This Run Defense The Boding Is Not So Good, +1 Rabble Rabble Just Like Last Year Rabble, +1 for It's Indiana, +1 for Constant Rodriguez Job Rescue Program)
Loss will cause me to... make more use of an open bar at a wedding than anyone short of Andre The Giant ever has.
Win will cause me to... make moderate use of open bar at wedding.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Chappell was good against Michigan last year, returns all his receivers, and has complete control of the offense. Indiana did lose their NFL-worthy left tackle but returns most of an offensive line that was good in pass protection last year. They're going to move the ball. However, their run game has been poor against a ridiculously soft schedule and when it comes down to the redzone IU is going to have to make some tight throws or hope to catch Michigan off guard—that offensive line couldn't crease Western Kentucky, they're not doing much with Martin and Van Bergen unless they're caught pass-rushing. This points to a lot of frustrating drives, a lot of red zone opportunities, some touchdowns, and a number of field goal attempts. Holding them under thirty would be good, and should be possible if Michigan successfully bends down the field.
On the other side of the ball… come on. Indiana lost every talented player not named Replogle from last year's already-terrible defense and is near triple digits in run defense despite playing what might literally be the worst possible schedule available. No one on this defense is ready for Denard and Michigan's ass-kicking offensive line. The difference in skill and speed from Akron to Michigan will leave Indiana in a state of shock for most of the first half. A Michigan drive that doesn't end in the endzone is 80% likely to come up short because of failed execution by M and penalties, and it's a lot harder to fail to execute on the ground than in the air.
Red zone efficiency will be the difference, and Michigan leads the nation in that category against a much tougher schedule than #48 Indiana. Michigan can stiffen inside the 20; Indiana can only watch Michigan grind it into the endzone. If Michigan loses they will have suffered a torrent of penalties and a turnover margin of at least –2.
Finally, five opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Denard goes over 200 yards rushing again.
- Mike Cox gets more carries than any other tailback; RAGING COX threatens to overwhelm all memes ever for juvenility.
- Hagerup punts twice.
- Michigan is again positive in turnover margin.
- Michigan, 44-27.
I feel happy!
Every offseason there is someone (often named Gary Danielson) who goes on record proclaiming the doom of the spread offense and a return to the paleolithic days when quarterbacks were pale and made of granite. The best and dumbest remains this from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
This may sound strange when coach Mike Leach's version of the spread has Texas Tech near a national title game, but Michigan's struggles this season while Rodriguez has implemented his system into college football's winningest program might be a sign: The spread, in fact, is dead.
The scheme was designed to give underdogs some hope, when a team could open up the field by recruiting a smaller quarterback with a sharp mind and a quick release, and a handful of speedy receivers. But the offense intended to confound the big boys has now been adopted by the big boys, and that may have started its demise.
But that was two years ago.
This year's evidence centered heavily on…
Texas abandoning the vestigal Vince Young-y bits from its offense after the graduation of Colt McCoy and ascension of monolithic Garrett Gilbert to the helm:
With the exit of Colt McCoy, so goes the shotgun spread for the Texas Longhorns. For the 2010 season, Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis have decided to go under center with starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
Going under center could mean the beginning of the end for the spread, a style that was made popular by powerhouse SEC programs and then picked up by other conferences.
Florida abandoning the Tebow offense in favor of a conventional pocket passer:
Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio tweaked the spread offense to tailor Brantley’s strengths, putting him under center more and eliminating many designed quarterback runs.
The effectiveness of Alabama's traditional battering ram of an offense featuring returning Heisman winner Mark Ingram:
When Alabama prevailed last season, it was with gnarly defense and a vanilla offensive scheme — albeit led by Heisman Trophy-winning back Mark Ingram.
That profile in turn had ripples for Texas, a 37-21 loser to the Crimson Tide in the title game, that perhaps suggest a shift in the broader landscape.
and spread 'n' shred HQ Michigan sucking:
How are these memes working out so far?
Texas fans are livid that Mack Brown's handpicked talent couldn't manage a meaningful touchdown against UCLA:
What is the Texas offensive scheme? My answer- We have a spread that we pass out of 80% of the time, and an under-center formation we run out of 80% of the time. We use the spread 70 – 80% of the time against quality opposition. We call very few running plays for the QB- just a couple of called QB draws per game. We don’t run zone read or lead option, which were core plays for us the last several years. Our offense has an H-back that can block on running plays or be a receiving option on pass plays.
The proposed short term solution is to utilize "more zone reads and option runs" and use whichever quarterback has the best combination of running and throwing ability.
Florida fans were clawing their eyes out after managing just over 200 yards of total offense against Miami (Not That Miami) and just over 300 against Tennessee (Also Pretty Much Not That Tennessee) but found joy in the redzone in the form of one Trey Burton:
The freshman scored six touchdowns in Florida's 48-14 victory over Kentucky, including five rushing as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation. The feat broke Tebow's old record of five touchdowns against South Carolina in 2007. … On Wednesday, UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said Burton's role as a quarterback in the Wildcat package likely will expand as the season progresses. Burton's role might be similar to the role Tebow played as a freshman, when he was a changeup to starter Chris Leak, who led the Gators to the BCS national title in 2006.
Alabama's grinding non-spread attack is sixth in total offense and just took out their most difficult competition to date by doing this with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson:
Ingram took eight handoffs out of the wildcat, nine from the pistol, three from shotgun and four when the quarterback was under center. Richardson only took eight handoffs, with his two biggest gains, 53 and 10, out of shotgun.
For those counting, Mark Ingram took four of 24 snaps from a conventional I-form against a top ten foe on the road.
Finally, no one's laughing at half of Michigan's team now:
Also there is Cam Newton, though Auburn highlight technology has a decidedly Soviet feel to it. FWIW four weeks into the season (almost nothing), three of the top four offenses in the country are dyed-in-the-wool spreads that feature a ton of quarterback runs: Michigan, Oregon, and Nevada.
We now return you to your regular programming, and Gary Danielson to the alternate universe he spends six days a week in.
Via UM Media Relations:
OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike Leg
Shaw, Michael Knee
Toussaint, Fitzgerald Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared Clavicle
Williams, Mike Head
Woolfolk, Troy Ankle
QUESTIONABLE (50% PLAY)
Ferrara, John Hand
PROBABLE (75% PLAY)
Herron, Brandon Ankle
Johnson, Carvin Knee
Robinson, Denard Knee
As for the gentlemen who are out, we already know Jones, Van Slyke, and Woolfolk are out for the whole year, and Mike Williams may have serious enough concussion issues to be at the end of his football career. Shaw being ruled completely out for the game is a huge setback, and though we don't have tons of information on Toussaint, the coaches certainly would have liked to have him available.
Ferrara is updated to questionable after spending the past few weeks inactive, which is good for him, but he's still down on the depth chart and unlikely to play.
As for the "Probable" contingent, Rodriguez (and OC Calvin Magee) have been saying all week that Shoelace hasn't missed practice all week, and is 100% outside of a bit of soreness. If Herron and/or Johnson can indeed play, that's a boost for the defense, giving Greg Robinson the flexibility with Craig Roh that he really likes.
[Ed.: Bump. As the OP notes, this data is still very shaky four games in, but the amount of improvement in the offense is so great it can hardly be a mirage.]
In my post the other day, Why should 2010 not be another 2009?, I looked at what our offense has accomplished in 2010 relative to what it had accomplished at this point in the season in 2009. It had two meaningful results:
1) This years' offense draws its potency from highly reproduceable, base set offensive plays, unlike the high variance scrambles and special teams play of 2009.
2) This year's offense is putting up far superior numbers to what they did a year ago (up 28%!!) against as-good or slightly-better competition (77th strength-of-schedule in 2010 vs 114th in 2009).
The Conclusion From the Former:
Our offense will come back to earth from meteoric numbers in out-of-conference play, BUT we have statistically significant evidence to believe that our offense will be far more reliable than last year due to depth, experience, and dilithium.
Our defense cannot stop any team that is executing, whether it's UMass or that-team-down-south. In other words, our wins and losses are going to be determined by how good an offense we face each week, and how well they execute.
Examples: UConn played bad (dropped passes, poor throws) and we stopped them. On the flip side UMass played well (good schemes, good execution) and they had their way with us.
Each and every Big10 offense we play is going to put up at least or slightly better numbers than their normalized offensive output.
So let's find out how bad it's going to be against us with a--
Chart of Infinite Defensive Gloom (after 4 weeks)
|2009 Rank||2009 Opponent||Expected N-PPG||Expected N-YPG||Actual PPG||Actual YPG|
Normalized Offensive Output - The important thing we're doing here is not looking at the raw PPG and YPG of these teams because it does not account for how good of competition they have played. Four weeks in, the SoS data is far from reliable, but it is at least forming.
Our opponent with the strongest SoS serves as the baseline (Notre Dame with 3 Big10 teams and Stanford). In other words, these numbers estimate what all of these teams' offenses would have generated if they had all played Notre Dame's schedule thus far (Purdue, Michigan, MSU, and Stanford).
Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings. (BGSU and UMass are going to have way-inflated numbers at this time, but I included them on the chart anyway as a reminder this is not a perfect analysis and as an interesting couple of data points to track as the season progresses.)
N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.
N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).
I am only tracking our 12 opponents because the only thing that matters is the twelve games Michigan plays and I don't want to get depressed that we are playing Wisconsin and Iowa instead of NW and Minnesota.
This chart pans out as expected. That-team-down-south is the clearcut leader. (Michigan is actually second in N-PPG with 36.3 but FIRST in N-YPG with a staggering 494.5).
We see a clearly defined pecking order in the Big10 that matches very closely the general consensus: clear-cut leaders in OSU-Wisconsin, a muddled middle of Iowa-MSU-Indiana, and a struggling bottom of offenses PSU-Illinois-Purdue.
The exceptions are Indiana, which is trending higher up the rankings due to its offense, and Penn St, which was generally considered a top-4 team in the Big10 going into the season (but is clearly not the case with their offense).
UMass and BGSU will continue to fall down this chart as their SoS gets watered down with conference and 1-AA play.
Conclusions Based on Not Enough Data
NSFMF! Teams always seem to play their lights out when they play Michigan. Michigan's defense has a way of making teams look better than they are. Notre Dame for instance had their highest offensive output of the year against Michigan, operating at 125% of their average YPG.
If we take the MOST pessimistic view and give our opponents 125% of their offensive AND scoring outputs against us and only give ourselves 80% (assumption our offense slows down entering league play) of our average going into the Big10, Michigan ends the season 7-5 with wins over PSU, Illinois, and Purdue.
If instead we give ourselves just our average offensive production going into this weekend - our Big10 expected record jumps to 6-2... 10-2 overall!! - with losses coming from Wisconsin and that-team-down-south.
Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between 6-2 and 3-5. Would you take that outcome at the start of the season? In a heartbeat? I know I would.
It is going to be tremendous to watch this Michigan team storm into the Big10 season knowing that our offense only needs to hold serve and our defense can surrender season-best performances from every single opponent and we still have a fighting chance in all of those games! And lest we forget... DILITIHIUM!
For now, I think we can look at this and add one more reason to the growing pile of why 2010 is NOT 2009! Get excited! Indiana here we come!
Prediction for Indiana:
Michigan's ground game operates at MINIMUM of 100% our normalized average and puts up above-average PPG, but since we only score touchdowns we go to the next closest number after 36! Indiana plays their lights out and operates at 125% of their normalized efficiency, mostly through the air.
Formation notes: A couple new formations. One was a 3-2-6 dime package on which Banks and Ezeh were pulled for Avery and Talbott:
Roh moves down to DE and Leach was usually in for Gordon for whatever reason. Sometimes this was a 4-1-6 with Mouton at DE, sometimes a 3-2-6 with Mouton a linebacker. Floyd would drop back to play safety when they went to this. The other was a nickel package where Avery would replace Gordon. This aligned just like Michigan's usual defense.
Substitution notes: plentiful. The usual rotation on the DL. Cullen Christian got a couple drives in place of Rogers (he struggled). Leach played a lot in place of Gordon; Fitzgerald and Demens saw some time at linebacker but less than I expected and neither did much of anything.
Charting note: I've changed up the points distribution to be more generous to CBs who make a play. Usually a zero-yard run will be +2 or +3 to the defense. When a CB breaks up a pass that's a zero yard play I've been giving a +1 to; I'm bumping that to at least +2 unless it's clear the offense is more responsible for the incompletion than the D.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Pass||NA||PA out||T. Gordon||Inc|
|Michigan sucks up on fake and Pankratz has two receivers running wide open (cover -2) as Mouton(-1) doesn't get anything resembling a zone drop. Could this be man to man? I don't know; Rogers is looking at the QB but hops up on the curl, leaving T. Gordon chasing a WR on an out that he lined up inside of. His guy is open but he really had no chance to cover this. I'm not sure which guys to individually minus since the coverage doesn't make sense to me. (RPS -1.) Oh, right: Pankratz chucks it wide.|
|O28||2||10||Shotgun heavy something||Base 4-4||Run||?||Dive||Martin||1|
|BGSU deploys two H-backs directly in front of their tailback and goes right up the middle. Martin(+1) engages his blocker and then discards him behind, popping up in the hole the H-backs are hitting. He does this despite being lined up outside of the C. He takes out a second blocker. T. Gordon(+0.5) is rolled up to the line and is now free; he forms up to tackle with help from Kovacs(+0.5), who was free on a backside blitz and leaps on the RB's back after making sure the handoff was actually made.|
|O29||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||3||Dumpoff||Van Bergen||4|
|DL: Roh, Martin, RVB. LB: Mouton, Leach. Normal DBs plus Avery and Talbott. This is kind of rushing two since Martin just sits at the LOS after taking two blockers. Screen coverage? M covers the first read(+1) and then RVB(+0.5) gets upfield and harasses the QB into moving. Martin starts charging the QB down as he rolls, forcing a dumpoff as downfield options are covered(+1).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 11 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide bunch||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Hitch||Mouton||3|
|Martin(+0.5) plowing through blocks to force a throw here; Kovacs(+0.5) covered the flat route, so the QB throws a hitch that Mouton(+0.5) was in position on, tacking immediately (cover +1)|
|O33||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||3||Flanker screen||T. Gordon||6|
|Major overload with a TE covered up and a WR in motion so everyone is to the right side of the field. They throw a screen out there. T. Gordon(-1) and Rogers(-1) are both cut to the ground but good flow from Mouton(+0.5) and Ezeh(+0.5) runs the play down before the WR can test Cam.|
|O39||3||1||Wildcat||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||QB lead draw||Banks||4|
|Think the RB takes a bizarre cut here since it looks like the play design has the first easily. Banks(-1) was blown way out of the hole and Mouton(-0.5) took a weird angle right into Kovacs, giving BGSU a lot of space and blockers for everyone left over. So of course the RB cuts back behind everything, getting tackled by unblocked guys on the backside including Banks, who got really, really blocked. M fortunate to not give up more here.|
|O43||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 stack||Pass||5||Sack||Mouton||-10|
|WRs to the paired side are stacked, and Rogers(-1) starts covering the same guy Gordon is(cover -1), so this post should be open. Qb decides not to throw it, though, and rolls right into a very blocked Mouton(+1.5), who to his credit does get off that block, close the space quickly, and tackle for a sack. Maybe Cam had this covered but I couldn't see it; I really doubt it. Think M got lucky with the n00b QB here.|
|O33||2||20||Shotgun 2TE||Nickel 4-3||Pass||4||Slant||Avery||Inc|
|Avery in for T. Gordon. TE motions well outside to be a flanker. Avery(+2) is in man on a receiver and looks like he's biting outside as the WR takes a step out then slants; Avery recovers to get a hand in and break the pass up (cover +2).|
|O33||3||20||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||3||Throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|No one open(cover +1) as M drops everyone deep; Roh(+1, pressure +1) comes around the corner and his held, drawing a flag. QB scrambles out and chucks it away.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Ace twins||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||Inside zone||Martin||1 (pen -10)|
|Demens in for Ezeh on this drive. Martin(+1) again through the line before anyone can think of blocking him; Banks(-1) single blocked and easily sealed on the edge. Martin makes that irrelevant; Mouton(+1) gets into the lead-blocking TE at the line and erases any creases, forcing a bounce outside that Floyd(+1) has covered; he's held, giving the RB the corner, except for Kovacs(+1) roaring downhill and tackling at the LOS.|
|O25||1||20||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Out||Mouton||Inc|
|No pressure(-1) but no one open (cover +1) and the BG QB airmails a checkdown (cover +1) that wasn't going anywhere.|
|O25||2||20||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|No pressure(-1) again; this time a 10-yard hitch is blanketed by Floyd(+2, cover +2) and broken up.|
|O25||3||20||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||3||Dumpoff||?||15|
|Again little pressure but Roh(+0.5) does come through quickly enough on a three man rush to prevent a minus; this forces a dumpoff(cover +1) in front of the coverage that Talbott and Mouton run down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 3 min 1st Q. On the next drive lots of backups. Patterson, Black, and Sagesse are the DL for most of this drive, with Demens and Leach playing LB and Christian coming in for Rogers.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||Base 4-3||Run||?||Inside zone||Kovacs||2|
|Three guys block Patterson so Kovacs(+1) can come in and thump the ballcarrier (tackling +1) without anyone bothering him.|
|O38||2||8||I-form big||3-3-5 stack||Run||?||Counter||Patterson||4|
|It's hard to tell how the linebackers actually did on this play because Patterson(-1) is ejected from the center of the defense like he's Kovacs and Sagesse(-1) doesn't read the pull. He goes down to cut the lead blocker and create a pile but starts moving upfield and gets pancaked. So Mouton and Demens have blockers all over them and can't possibly shut down all the space. Both get blocked and Mouton gets pancaked, though, so -1 for Mouton; Roh fought through blockers to slow the tailback a little bit but it's an authoritative fill from Cam Gordon(+1.5, tackling +1) that holds this down when it could have been ugly.|
|O42||3||4||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Out||Kovacs||5|
|WR motions from trips side to create a 2x2 formation with two guys stacked, and then runs a pretty blatant pick on both M defenders, opening up an out. Kovacs(+0.5) is still right there to tackle, but just beyond the sticks. Blitz did not get there(pressure -1).|
|O47||1||10||Ace twins||Base 4-3||Run||PA draw||Sagesse||7|
|Screen fake to draw. DL slanting, getting Patterson(+1) in and disrupting anything up the middle. Problem on the backside is Sagesse(-2) getting way too far down the line and opening up a cutback lane. Mouton reacts and attempts to tackle but gets hit by a G peeling off Sagesse and has his tackle run through. I will -0.5 him but this is tough (tackling -1). Demens runs the guy down.|
|Starting DL back. BG goes play action and finds a wide open receiver on a corner route because Christian(-2, cover -2) completely whiffed a chuck and got beat by yards. QB throws it long. Decent pressure and coverage everywhere else; coverage from Christian might force a sack.|
|M46||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 Dime||Pass||6||Slant||Kovacs||20|
|This one is on Kovacs, who is in man on the second stacked receiver and gets smoked(-2, cover -2) to the inside so badly he can't even make a tackle on the catch. Mouton(+1) was flying over a cut block from an RB on the blitz(pressure +1) and hit the QB; an instant more coverage and this is end of drive. RPS -2 for getting Kovacs in single coverage for 20 yards.|
|M26||1||10||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Martin||2|
|Christian exits for Rogers. Martin(+1) absorbs a double team without giving any ground, allowing Mouton(+1) to attack unmolested and tackle.|
|M24||2||8||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||Rollout hitch||?||6|
|Ezeh back. Roh running out on the edge but the little hitch here is wide open; not sure why but it just looks like this is a hole in a cover three. (cover -1). BWS disagrees.|
|M18||3||2||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Post||Fitzgerald||17|
|Ezeh gets sucked up to a little drag route which is understandable, but Fitzgerald(-1) doesn't get any depth on his drop despite not having anyone in front of him and C. Gordon(-1) reacts late and there's a monster hole in the zone that's easy to hit for first and goal. (Cover –2.)|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||Van Bergen||-2|
|Campbell(+1) drives his man backward, gets lower than him, and falls in the backfield. Van Bergen(+2) does the same, stalling the RB and allowing Demens to run downhill at him for the stop.|
|M3||2||G||Wildcat||3-3-5 stack||Penalty||False start||?||-5|
|M8||2||G||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Scramble||Van Bergen||7|
|House sent and gets there (pressure +2), with Leach(+1) immediately in the QB's feet after getting cut, forcing a scramble from a not-mobile QB that RVB(-2) badly overruns, turning a sack into a scramble down to the goal line.|
|M1||3||G||I-form big||Goal line||Penalty||Offside||Martin||0.5|
|M1||3||G||Wildcat trips||Goal line||Run||QB draw||Banks||0|
|QB motions out, no one covers him, it's a wildcat formation. Banks(+1) shoots past blockers into the center of the defense, eating blockers and creating a pile; Ezeh(+1) cleans up.|
|M1||4||G||Wildcat trips||Goal line||Run||QB draw||Campbell||1|
|Just a wad of bodies I can't make much out of; Campbell was right there but the guy managed to slam it up into his OL and fall forward into a massive pile of bodies that no one has a good view of. The refs eventually signal TD, but it's not like they have any idea.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O29||1||10||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||Tunnel screen||C. Gordon||71|
|The big bad thing from the day. I'm not actually that mad because this is kind of a freak thing. T. Gordon takes a good angle to the ballcarrier only to see the guy bang into one of his own OL and sort of get tossed upfield, which Gordon was not expecting; he ends up whiffing an attempted ankle tackle. I will give him a -1 here, but only 1 (tackling -1 as well). So now he's on a totally different vector than would otherwise be possible and there' no contain because Rogers is held and can't get outside and force it back into Cam Gordon. Cam gets a -2 for fighting to the ball too much when he had the other Gordon, Kovacs, Ezeh, and a billion other guys; he should never have been that eager to close down the space he tried to. So that's it. -3. The other -3 you can tack on the refs who missed the Rogers hold. I mean, the WR grabs the back of Rogers's jersey and pulls him four or five yards infield.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-14, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Screen||Mouton||0|
|Very slow developing. M only rushes three but Mouton is the only player in the area with Ezeh and the safeties very slow to read the play. Mouton(+2) evades a blocker and tackles the RB just as he catches the ball for nothing. Timing seemed off for BG so this is only +2 because part of the screwup is on the QB.|
|O20||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel 4-3||Pass||5||Out||Floyd||4|
|Avery in. M sends five and doesn't quite get there but does force a throw; this out is open just in front of Floyd(+0.5). He's there to tackle, which is good enough on a four-yard pass on second and ten.|
|O24||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||3-2-6 dime||Pass||4||Sack||Van Bergen||-7|
|The four man line with Mouton down. Martin and RVB stunt, with Martin(+1.5) driving the center back and threatening to sack as RVB(+1.5) comes around in the lane he's moving into to tackle(+1) for a big loss (pressure +2). Martin also draws a holding call.|
|Drive Notes: Safety (on terrible snap), 23-14, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Ezeh||-2|
|This is completely obliterated by everyone, with about four M players in the backfield. Ezeh(+2) saw a gap and attacked it, blasting a pulling guard two yards in the backfield and slowing the RB, at which point he's dead meat. Banks(+1) was just behind cutting off any lanes to the back and Leach(+1) beat a tight end, almost getting held; those two combine to finish the TFL.|
|O8||2||8||Shotgun empty||Nickel 4-3||Pass||3||Tunnel screen||Kovacs||24|
|Guh, Ezeh(-1) gives it right back by dropping out of a threatened blitz into a short zone and then running well upfield and out of the play when he reads screen. There is room as a result. Floyd(+0.5) does a good job of forcing a cutback inside, but Kovacs(-2) doesn't have faith his CB will do this and ends up overrunning the play in an embarrassing fashion. (Tackling –2.)|
|O32||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Waggle deep out||Mouton||Int|
|Mouton(+3) bites on the play action a bit but then gets a great, great drop, going from two steps towards the LOS to 12 yards deep before the route can develop. By the time the QB throws it's right to him. +0.5 to Martin for getting in on the QB and possibly forcing a bad throw. (Cover +2.)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 37-14, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||TGDCD||Mouton||16|
|Ezeh starts charging upfield to contain what looks like a rollout and Mouton(-1) sucks out of position to the frontside of the play; Martin(-1) is also handled and gives up a gap to the outside when Mouton may have had a chance if it was forced inside. This always works, I want us to run it so bad.|
|O47||1||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Run||Quick pitch||Black?||8|
|Floyd(+0.5) cuts off the outside well and Banks(+0.5) reads the play quickly enough to seemingly close down the hole; Geter pauses, then stumbles, then cuts back across the field—and I'm not sure who to blame. Roh(-1) definitely eased up when he thought the play was going away from him and I think Black(-1) took an angle too far downfield instead of a proper cutback pursuit one. But I'm really just guessing here. Gordon and Christian converge after a nice gain.|
|M45||2||2||Shotgun twins 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||4||Rollout scramble||?||5|
|Excellent coverage(+2) from Christian and Gordon(+1 each) forces the QB to pull it down; Black(-2) again gets out of his lane fruitlessly, giving the QB an alley when he was about to be sacked. He scrambles for the first.|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||5||Sack||Banks||-5|
|A quick look to one side is a feint and QB comes to the bottom of the screen where Mouton(+1, cover +1) has the first read covered, which gives the rush time to get home; Banks(+1) fights through a blocker and reaches out to grab the QB as the pocket collapses and Leach(+1) blitzed from the outside, coming around to finish the tackle.|
|M45||2||15||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||5||Waggle deep out||Christian||12|
|Roh(+1) quick out to the edge, cutting the QB off and forcing a throw that's short and lofted (pressure +1), but Christian(-1, cover -1) is easily beaten in man coverage and should give up the first down. The BG player drops the ball, boots it skyward, and sees one of his teammates come down with it.|
|M32||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||4-1-6 dime||Pass||6||Slant||Floyd||11|
|Blitz picked up (pressure -2) and Floyd(-1, cover -1) gets beaten on a slant for the first.|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||NA||Flanker screen||Leach||20|
|Michigan is misaligned with no one shifted to the trips side. Given earlier formations this is on Leach(-1), who compounds his error by getting cut(-1) to the ground; Cam Gordon(-0.5) has to take on a blocker and attempt to make a diving tackle off of it and can't, allowing the WR to get down to the one. (RPS –2.)|
|M1||1||G||I-form big||Goal line||Run||Iso||Campbell||0|
|Campbell(+1) runs over his guy, essentially pancaking the OL(!) and ending up two yards in the backfield, forcing a cutback since Martin(+0.5) and Banks(+0.5) clogged the middle; Mouton(+0.5) fills unblocked and tackles with help.|
|M1||2||G||I-form big||Goal line||Pass||NA||Fade||Floyd||Inc|
|Overthrown; Floyd doing okay enough I guess.|
|M1||3||G||I-form big||Goal line||Pass||NA|
|RVB(+1) is lurking on the edge of the line and shoots out on the QB when he sees the roll, forcing a quick pass that ends up being inaccurate. It would have had to be just right with C. Gordon(+0.5) sitting there in proximity to the target. (Pressure +1, RPS +1)|
|M1||4||G||Wildcat twin TE||Goal line||Run||Power off tackle||?-||1|
|Michigan totally stuffs this, with RVB(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) driving blockers backwards and Mouton(-1) giving the thump that ends his forward momentum but not wrapping up. RB bounces backwards, rolls out, cuts inside of a block, and scores. C'est la vie.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 44-21, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 stack||Pass||NA||Rollout out||T. Gordon||5|
|Starters still out there; weird. M not fooled by the PA and has good coverage on both these receivers from T. Gordon(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, cover +1), who converge to tackle the receiver immediately.|
|O40||2||5||Shotgun trips TE||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Mouton||4|
|Mouton(+1) hops in the hole before any one can peel off on him, which is good because he ends up cutting off the hole and drawing two blockers as Ezeh(-1) was dropping into coverage without so much as reading a key. RB cuts back where Kovacs(+0.5) fills quickly, causing the RB to delay and allowing Banks(+0.5) to come off a blocker and help tackle.|
|O44||3||1||Ace twins||Base 4-3||Run||Power off tackle||Ezeh||-2|
|QB stumbles and this throws off the RB but this was dead anyway with T. Gordon(+1) setting up his blocker with the right shoulder and Ezeh(+1) clubbing the pulling guard in the hole, leaving nowhere to go; Banks(+1) takes the opportunity from the stumble and the jammed up front to tackle(+1) in the backfield.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 51-21, 12 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||4||TE out||Moundros||6|
|Scroobs finally come in with the score 58-21. At this point I'm just looking for individual performances and will discontinue metrics. Here pressure is poor but coverage is right there to tackle on the catch, with Moundros(+0.5) there. Campbell is not exactly Martin when it comes to pass rush. He just kind of sits at the line.|
|O33||2||4||Shotgun 2TE twins||Base 4-3||Pass||6||Batted||Campbell||Inc|
|Rush is picked up as BG leaves a couple extra guys in to block. Campbell(+1) gets a hand up to bat the ball down.|
|O33||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||6||Out||Avery||Inc|
|Moundros(+1) does bash the tailback and get to the QB but Avery(-1) has been beaten in coverage and this should be a first down. Pass is too far upfield and bobbled, allowing Avery time to close and break it up. This bobble was super-slow-mo extended, which is why no plus.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 58-21, 6 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Demens||0|
|I'd love it if Demens did something awesome here but no one even thinks about coming out to block him so it's pretty easy for him to step up and tackle. +1 for the hell of it, and +0.5 for Black, who came around a tackle and helped.|
|O31||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||3||Out||Anderson||6|
|Good coverage, quick tackle.|
|O37||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Pass||Out||Moundros||13|
|Moundros is actually in pretty good coverage here for an out ten yards downfield but the throw is low and to the outside where he can't do anything about it. Campbell did beat a blocker and then sort of lumber in at the QB.|
|50||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel 4-3||Run||Inside zone||Campbell||7|
|Campbell(-1) sealed as two guys release downfield into Demens, so he can't do anything about it; Marvin Robinson comes up to make a good open field tackle.|
|M43||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 stack||Run||Inside zone||Robinson||5|
|Moundros(+1) shoots upfield into a blocker as he tries to disengage from Campbell and delays the RB, allowing Robinson to come up and tackle, but the RB pops off and manages to drag Robinson forward past the sticks.|
|M38||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||3-3-5 stack||Pass||PA post||Vinopal||Int|
|Play action leaves seven blockers against three rushers so the QB has all day; he fires a post that Vinopal(+3) steps in front of and intercepts, immediately sending everyone back to videos of Michigan safeties of the last 20 years to find out the last time that happened. Vinopal fumbles, of course, but whatever.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 65-21, EOG. There is one more play but I can't believe I stuck around this long.|
I'm so confused. Was that good or not?
I kind of think it was, though extreme caution should be read into that given the epic suck of the backup BG QB. I saw a number of missed opportunities that I duly minused; there were probably a half-dozen more I could not see or did not notice. Here's one; watch the two receivers at the top of the screen…
…and also the guy on the drag there. Problems: we haz them.
Even so, BG tailbacks combined for 21 carries and averaged 2.8 YPC on them. Part of that was their inability to slam it into the endzone from the one, but stopping tailbacks for no gain or a loss five times on the goal line is a good thing.
Meanwhile, Spankratz had one screen pass for 71 yards and 27 other attempts on which he netted 5.9 YPA. That screen should have been about 20 yards, IME, as on replay the holding committed against Rogers is both flagrant and the main reason the play broke very long instead of sort of long:
Also the pinball game with the OL was a fortunate thing. Cam Gordon did screw up by fighting inside and not having faith that his teammates would deal, and then was outrun to the endzone, and these things add to the Hill of Cam Gordon Worry founded in the Notre Dame game.
That isn't exactly reassuring.
No, but at least this year our safeties are getting outrun by an actual wide receiver instead of a thumping Indiana tailback. So far. Still, the—
--is decent. Also chart.
|Van Bergen||5.5||2||3.5||Decent impact in little opportunity.|
|Martin||7||1||6||Quick passing offenses reduce DL impact; still did well when called upon.|
|Sagesse||-||3||-3||Seems I was wrong about him.|
|Patterson||1||1||0||Occasionally blasted to moon.|
|Black||0.5||3||-2.5||Got out of rush lanes a couple times.|
|Campbell||3.5||1||2.5||Impact in short yardage.|
|TOTAL||23||13||10||Three step drop city.|
|Ezeh||4.5||2||2.5||STILL VERY HOPELESS I HATE HIM THIS IS NOT AN ANTIJINX|
|Mouton||13||5||8||Sacks, TFLs, INTs.|
|T. Gordon||1.5||2||-0.5||Banks at linebacker, except a freshman.|
|Moundros||1.5||-||1.5||Only played in garbage time.|
|Demens||1||-||1||And that +1 is generous.|
|TOTAL||29||13||16||Much, much better.|
|Floyd||4.5||1||3.5||Been solid except for run support issues vs UMass.|
|Kovacs||4||4||0||Burned in man coverage a couple times.|
|C. Gordon||3||3.5||-0.5||I feel like these numbers do not give him enough credit for not screwing up on run angles.|
|Talbott||-||-||-||Did play, did not register good or bad, which is probably good.|
|Christian||1||3||-2||Seems like the other two are ahead.|
|M. Robinson||-||-||-||Scant time.|
|Ray Vinopal||3||-||3||Go, Spinal Tap Drummer. Go.|
|TOTAL||15.5||13.5||2||Did what they should against a team like BG.|
|Pressure||9||5||4||Revenge of the three man rush.|
|Coverage||18||12||6||Could be an artifact of confused QB.|
|RPS||-||5||-5||One misalignment, no free rushers.|
[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]
Looks about right to me. The line didn't have much impact except when good coverage downfield allowed them to get to the QB or it was time to man up around the goal line. The linebackers made few errors, though part of that is no doubt BG's reluctance to test them in coverage with the backup QB. Mouton had an impact day and didn't do much to criticize, nor did Ezeh. And the secondary made about as many plays as they did errors.
I do chalk this up largely to the competition and expect that we'll be looking at some tattered numbers after Chappell gets done with Michigan's back seven.
Did we learn anything about new players?
Despite contrary indicators from the passing skeleton in the pregame, your #3 corner appears to Courtney Avery, a part of both the nickel and dime packages. Avery had an impressive recovery and PBU early:
We still don't know much about him but that's a good start. He seems obviously ahead of Cullen Christian, who did not have much to the good Saturday. Terrence Talbott was not tested.
Campbell was the other guy who leapt out as potentially useful. Though his strategy in the pass rush is "sit at the line of scrimmage and maybe raise your arms," he was a major reason that Michigan's goal line defense was so stiff, consistently driving his guy in the backfield and falling over. He's never going to be Mike Martin and has a long way to go if he's even going to be Gabe Watson, but for the first time he looked useful.
What about the so fresh, so clean linebackers?
Yeah… I've heard a lot of people talking up Kenny Demens after the game but I didn't see him do anything of note until the last drive when he was able to stroll into the BG backfield and make a tackle since three Falcon OL decided to block the same guy. It's possible I got 25 and 45 mixed up on a couple plays but since whenever Ezeh did something aggressive and successful I said "is that Ezeh?!" and double-checked, I don't think so. Talking up Demens seems to be a case of hoping something is true instead of thinking it.
And the old hands did have a good day. Mouton got an easy pick on a great pass drop after play action for the second time, and at no point did I get frustrated with Ezeh.
Hey, how about a special teams digression?
Yeah, I never ever cover special teams and so haven't systematically quantified how much additional suck there is this year in the unit. There is lots, obviously, but by virtue of not kicking anything but a point after and deploying that three-man punt return formation Michigan had its best week of the season. We heard all about how Drew Dileo was being recruited mostly as a returner, thus justifying yet another slot receiver, and the early… uh… returns are good. This is slick:
That's a punt a lot of guys would fair catch; Dileo WOOPs two gunners and then a third guy before getting taken down. That's a twelve yard return and potentially a 20- or even 30-yard swing in field position compared to a single returner like Gallon watching that thing bounce. Dileo is not that fast but he's got some skills.
Dileo === PR win.
Suck on that, low-rated-white-guy-offer complainers!
Yeah! And we totally weren't those guys. As long as we're on the topic of low rated white guys who the internet wasn't happy to see commit, how about Ray Vinopal?
Enormous disclaimers apply since by that point BG was down to their third-string walk-on but damn if that isn't the best play I've seen a Michigan safety make in a long time. This caused everyone to get way ahead of themselves about moving Gordon to bandit or linebacker in 2011; while I'm still keeping my hopes for an anonymous two-star in check that was about as good a start as you could hope for minus getting clocked and fumbling.
Maybe these guys really do have a knack for unearthing uncut gems.
Jonas Mouton was the most productive Wolverine on the day, notching a sack, an interception, and failing to notch any Mouton brain meltdowns.
No one stands out as a huge problem. The backups on the DL made some crappy plays, but that's to be expected, and some of the freshmen in the secondary had issues. Those guys aren't likely to play unless injury strikes, however. If I had to pick someone it would be Cam Gordon, who was one of three reasons Bowling Green hit the big play. That's weak, though, on a day when you hold the opponent under 300 total yards.
What does it mean for Indiana and beyond?
Not much, I'm afraid. Spankratz (in his first start, no less) is likely to be by far the worst quarterback on the schedule at year's end. Even second stringers or freshmen like Nathan ReallyDutchLastName at Illinois or Robert "Rob" Henry at Purdue will have way more experience when Michigan rolls into town, and there's no comparison between that guy and Indiana's Ben Chappell, who was genuinely impressive against Western Kentucky even when you take the opponent into account.
At least Michigan seems comfortable enough with the freshmen corners that they can throw them out there on passing downs—which will be most of them against IU—and get guys like Banks and Ezeh off the field. Avery showed well and the rest of the secondary kept it safe. I can see Michigan trying to get to Chappell with a four-man rush of Roh, RVB, Martin, and Mouton all day, content to take their chances when IU runs and bleed yardage until Michigan gets a sack or a couple incompletions, and I can see this working somewhat frequently. This year's IU team is far less of a threat on the ground than last year's, which still wasn't much of a threat.
UMass will probably be Michigan's worst defensive performance of the year; if the linebackers just play it safe and Michigan makes Indiana kick some field goals—probable once the field compresses and IU's total inability to run block comes to the fore—Denard and company should get a comfortable distance by game's end.
As far as beyond… not much. Indiana will give us way more information.
As a side note, I'm happy that the staff put in two new packages (the dime and the punt return) this week that are creative ways to address deficiencies. Minus punt fumbles, special teams has been a strength at Michigan under RR; moving towards a rugby-aware punt return system is another way in which Michigan's current coaching staff displays their willingness to adapt on a year-to-year basis. (The most powerful example this year is the near-shelving of the zone stretch in favor of QB lead draws and a lot of inside zone).