I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Only one change: Washington goes in at #23 and Va Tech disappears from the ballot.
As always, clips courtesy Dangerous Logic.
|Can't decide whether or not Crable shooting into the backfield is a good play or not. If he doesn't, this trap looks like it finds room to the outside. Since he does, one of the pulling blockers has to take him and the not particularly nifty Caulcrick has to cut back through a small hole on the backside. I think it's good (+1 Crable), but Burgess(-1) overruns the play, opening it up for a few yards.|
|Outstanding play by Harris(+2) to read this and track down Kerry Reed well outside the hashmarks.|
|Zone is tight at the first down line. Throw from Stanton is low, marginally catchable, but incomplete. Hall(+1) may have helped force the incompletion. (CA, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Good start. Harris has vaulted into Kiper's top 25 and with good reason. Third down play was verrry close and probably should have been reviewed, though the one angle they gave us was not conclusive.|
|Scott at TB. Burgess(+1) reads, forms up, and moves smartly past a blocker to collar Scott for little gain.|
|O22||2||8||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Out (rollout)|
|I really hate the huge cushion Trent(-1, cover -1) gives Trannon, who is slow as hell. I guess we're in zone here, so it's not necessarily his fault. (CA)|
|That goddamned counter draw. Branch(+2) comes free on the interior by throwing his man off of him and fills the hole himself.|
|Well... this stuff just happens from time to time versus mobile quarterbacks and there's nothing you can do about it. We blitz Burgess and Crable; Stanton steps past them, manages to escape the ankle tackle of Jamison, and scrambles for nine. Filed under "crap happens."|
|MSU in a triple stack. Trannon drops this, but Brandon Harrison(+2) had split the two blockers, drawing them both to him and was going to make a five-yard TFL if the ball was caught. (CA)|
|O43||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||TE Screen|
|Middle TE screen straight out of the Wisconsin playbook is dropped by Holmes. Would have gone for like eight otherwise.|
|Burgess(+1) comes on a delayed blitz that finds a hole and drops Stanton. Coverage was good downfield. (+2 pressure, +1 cover)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 6 min 1st Q. Gave up a couple first downs but still a good drive for the defense. One of the MSU drops actually saved them five yards, and Stanton didn't have enough time to throw on the last play.|
|They line up with 2TEs, under center, and run right at us. We get gashed pretty hard. Caulcrick gets hit about three yards downfield but on an angle, and since he's 262 he can drag people. Branch(-1) flew upfield, opening up the lane.|
|Better job this time by the DTs containing space. They both get some push. Caulcrick finds a crack between them; Adams(+1) comes up and pops him, preventing any YAC.|
|O12||3||2||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|This TFL is Woodley's(+1) doing, as he gets into the backfield and forces a bounceout. We're blitzing so help comes quickly. Jamar Adams(+1) is the first to arrive.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, EO 1st Q. I dunno why State thought run run run punt was a good idea.|
|Run fake suckers everyone in save Woodley... MSU pulls guards and everything. Scott is open in front of Adams (DO, coverage -1, pressure -1)|
|Stanton has all day from a five wide set. Our front four gets no pressure. A WR comes open across the middle eventually but the window isn't very big and you can't expect the D to cover that long. (pressure -2)|
|Blitz from the wide side of the field, they run to the short side. Woodley tries to get out there but without a linebacker to that side he can't close down the outside. Our rock, their paper. Trent(-1) dives at a blocker's knees uselessly.|
|Hall(+1) jumps the route and almost intercepts it. (Coverage +1)|
|Trent(-1) comes up late, then gets run off badly by this freshman Williams, stumbling as he gets his hips turned. Williams, as a result, is wide open. (Coverage -1)|
|M29||1||15||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Out (rollout)|
|Ball's thrown wide of Trannon, which might be a good thing for MSU as Trent was closing on this one. (+1, coverage +1) Holding after the play, no replay available.|
|State sets up a screen to the near side of the field, then hits Reed coming on an against-the-grain cross. Hall(+2) makes an important tackle; we were blitzing and if he misses Reed runs a long, long way.|
|M37||2||23||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Bomb (rollout)|
|Rollouts == irritating. Crable almost gets to Stanton but is hauled to the ground by a falling OL... no call. Trent(-2) is beaten deep; Williams drops a sure touchdown. (DO, coverage -2)|
|M37||3||23||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||21||Deep Out|
|Trannon open way downfield for close to first down yardage but not quite. (Coverage -1)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG, 14-0, 11 min 2nd Q. A disappointing series full of open wide receivers all over the field.|
|O29||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Out (rollout)|
|Crable beats the OT to the outside on the rollout but comes up too hard on Stanton, allowing him to step up in the pocket neatly and find Reed in front of Harrison and Trent (coverage -1)|
|O38||2||1||3-3-5 Stack||Run||5||Zone read|
|Branch stood up at the LOS. Harris has to take on a blocker, delaying his pursuit. He does make the tackle w/ Adams.|
|O43||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||2||WR Screen|
|Slow-developing screen starts with a pitch fake that doesn't sucker Harris(+1) in. He slows the play long enough for Crable(+1) to come from the backside.|
|Stanton too high to Scott, who was bracketed by Englemon and Hall. Stunt from Woodley(+1) got close enough to interfere with Stanton's footwork, helping the throw's inaccuray. (IN, pressure +1, cover +1)|
|Branch(+1) hits Stanton as he throws. Resulting throw is again errant. No sack here but again an example of pressure interfering with a throw. (IN, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-0, EO Half.|
|A blitzing Crable(+1) closes this down before it has a chance.|
|O22||2||11||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Quick circle|
|We only rush three, but the ends both come around the edge for quick pass rush. Woodley(+1) was going to sack Stanton if he didn't throw immediately. Stanton throws about three yards downfield to Terry Love, who can't make a tough catch, as Hall(+1) strips the ball out on contact. (pressure +1, cover +1)|
|O22||3||11||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||40||Fly (rollout)|
|Scott gets way behind Adams(-2); Stanton hits him on the rollout. Shame, as Crable was running him down from the backside. (Cover -2)|
|M38||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||Zone read|
|Woodley(+1) forces the play back outside. Unblocked Burgess(+1) fills with authorita.|
|A ton of time, as it seems three separate Michigan defenders be being held. Stanton eventually finds Love at the sticks. YAC potential on this throw but it's low and forces Love off his feet. (CA, pressure -2)|
|Jerramy Scott at quarterback and they run the Tim Tebow play. Branch(+1) crushes his man into the backfield, allowing Taylor(+1) and Burgess(+1) to converge on Scott for no gain.|
|Shame because we had this option stuffed.|
|Taylor(-1) offsides on the snap. Irrelevant as we blitz and don't get there in time. Burgess was about a nanosecond away from clocking Stanton, though. Reed runs a deep out versus Harrison in man coverage for the first. (Coverage -1)|
|Branch(+1) almost shuts this down immediately, but can't quite do it. Burgess(-1) gets caught inside and is plowed by the TE. Big hole results.|
|Woodley(+2) gets out to the corner like a shot, hitting Scott five yards in the backfield. He misses the tackle, but the play's fouled up and the cleanup holds him behind the line of scrimmage.|
|Holy max-pro, Batman! There's no pressure on this play because there are two, count'em, two receivers on routes and eight guys blocking. Stanton notices that the receivers are double covered, then scrambles for the first down. So irritating.|
|Hole opens up on the backside temporarily. Closed down quickly by Adams(+1) and Harris.|
|Brandon Logan slices into the backfield but can do little to slow Caulcrick. He submarines Adams and burrows to approximately the six inch line. Aaaaand MSU takes a timeout . Good coachin'!|
|Caulcrick manages to get through Woodley's tackle short of the line.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-7, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|Not sure if he's throwing this away or not... probably, as Hall(+1, cover +1) was in tight on Scott and this pass is rifled way into the crowd. (TA)|
|O32||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Middle screen|
|This thing's persistent effectiveness against us is irritating. We're not blitzing or anything. Tim Jamsion is given a free pass into the backfield but treats Caulcrick as a blocker, not a receiver, and avoids him in an attempt to get to the quarterback. Harris(-1) has a blocker on him by the time the pass is off. Doesn't this require better recognition from the linebackers? As soon as those linemen start downfield you know it's a screen, as only passes behind the LOS are legal.|
|O41||3||1||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||15||PA TE Flat|
|MSU lines up under center and fakes to Caulcrick. TE Holmes starts blocking Crable as the play starts, convincing Adams(-1), in man coverage, that it's a run play. He bites inside, leaving Holmes wide open when he releases from Crable. Crable does eventually track him down. (CA)|
|M44||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||7||Middle screen|
|This one to Holmes. Harris comes in from the side and makes a solid tackle. Can't blame anyone in particular on this one, but good lord... can we fix this?|
|M37||2||3||3-3-5 Stack||Run||0||Speed option|
|Stanton fakes a pitch he should have made and cuts up smack into Burgess(+1), who shucked a blocker impressively to make the tackle.|
|A terrible spot gives MSU a first down they didn't actually get. Harris(+1) brought Caulcrick down short of the marker.|
|Corner blitz from Harrison; resulting throw is way short. (IN, pressure +1)|
|M34||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Slant and go|
|Weird playcall trying to get Hall(+1) to bite on a slant and go versus the ponderous Trannon. Throw is wildly off because Harrison(+1), blitzing again, hits Stanton as he throws. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|M34||3||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Out (rollout)|
|Receiver is open, but the ball is short-hopped and incomplete. Guy was wide open with Trent coming way late. (cover -1)|
|M34||4||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Int||Bomb (rollout) (2)|
|Um... okay, Jamar. Nice interception, but you cost us like 30 yards of field positon. Feel my wrath: -1. (Coverage +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 31-7, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Barringer's(-2) missed tackle turns this from 4 into 40. (Cover -1)|
|Our zone needs to be tighter on the 12 yard line. This could be held to about three with better coverage. Trannon injures himself badly on this play. (Cover -1)|
|Motion to an empty backfield = obvious QB draw. I hate this. Why does it work?|
|Caulcrick stoned. Good job by Harris(+1).|
|M1||2||G||Goal line||Run||-2||Off Tackle|
|Burgess(+1) blitzes in and sticks Caulcrick in the backfield. Burgess' tackling has been outstanding today.|
|M3||3||G||3-3-5 Stack||Run||2||Zone read keeper|
|Aw, come on now, you knew that was coming. Load up on the line and blitz into this. And why even review this play? It's not even close.|
|Another Harrison blitz ends with a sack as Stanton pulls the ball down because of coverage. (cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown (missed 2PT), 31-13, 7 min 4th Q.|
|I'm only charting this play for the next play.|
|Hall(+3) makes a badass, diving interception. (Cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 31-13, 4 min 4th Q. Charting ceases.|
Run defense was extremely strong all day, but the secondary was in its second straight week of unpleasantly open wide receivers. Granted, this was yet another game in which Michigan jumped out to a huge lead and started cruising home by the time the fourth quarter started, but at this point the defense doesn't seem quite as dominating as we thought it would be after the Notre Dame and Wisconsin games.
It does remain almost impregnable on the ground, though, and by this point in the season it's clearly not a fluke.
|Woodley||6||6||Very hard to get the edge against in the run game, but pass rush has been lacking.|
|Biggs||-||-||-||He and Jamison were close to invisible.|
|Taylor||1||1||0||Didn't play a ton. Of note that that MSU found the going very tough when in short yardage.|
|Branch||5||1||4||Second straight good but not great performance.|
|Crable||3||-||3||Mostly deployed as a standup DE.|
|C. Graham||-||-||Played sparingly.|
|Burgess||6||2||4||Excellent day against the run. Coming into his own and playing quite well.|
|Hall||9||-||9||Had one interception and almost two; didn't let anyone behind him; made a couple key tackles in situations where Michigan had been outschemed.|
|Barringer||-||2||-2||Missed tackle led to MSU's second touchdown.|
|Mundy||-||-||-||Didn't really cover anyone.|
|Trent||1||5||-4||DNP due to broken hand suffered against Wisconsin. Expected to play versus MSU.|
|"Pressure"||8||5||3||Two sacks; rolling pocket utilized extensively to neutralize the Michigan front.|
|"Coverage"||11||13||-2||About right, I feel. Guys came open but not so much so that Michigan State could drive the field.|
Burgess had what is probably his best game at Michigan. No flashy interceptions he did little to cause (the "Laurinitas") but a lot of block-shedding and fierce tackling that severely limited MSU's YAC all day. Lamarr Woodley was quiet in the passing game but killed a couple Spartan drives with outstanding plays against the run.
Leon Hall is good.
Both MSU touchdowns were the result of safety errors. Jamar Adams let Jerramy Scott get way behind him on third and eleven for a forty-yard gain that turned a potential punt and State's death by blunt object into a touchdown drive that gave the Spartans a flicker of home. Willis Barringer got behind a crossing route and missed a tackle, turning a five-yard cross into 39 yards.
Morgan Trent, unfortunately, was either Charles Stewart in another uniform or just plain off because of his hand injury. He was beaten for completions a few times and was fortunate not to give up a forty-yard touchdown pass when he let Michigan State freshman TJ Williams behind him in the first half. It was his worst game of the year.
Is the lack of pressure from the front four concerning at all?
(Note that "front four" in this case often encapsulates Shawn Crable.) Somewhat. Both sacks came from blitzers and when Michigan sent four there were a couple instances where Stanton had the proverbial all day to survey and throw. Often, though, he was mere moments away from being crushed into goo when he let a pass go and the push up front prevented him from stepping into a number of throws, forcing inaccurate passes. When Stanton stayed in the pocket, the results were all right.
What Michigan does have to do is find some way to neutralize the rollouts Michigan State employed with great success. Anthony Morelli isn't much for mobility, but both Iowa and Ohio State have quarterbacks who can get out of the pocket and throw on the run. It was mildly depressing to see wide open Spartans when Stanton left the pocket. The disadvantage of the rollout is that it restricts your available routes to a thin slice of the field mostly outside the hashmarks. Usually an unsuccessful attempt to move the pocket ends with the quarterback hurling a hopeful pass to a tiny window right before he steps out of bounds, but that didn't happen. Instead, there were a lot of open 15-yard outs and the one 40-yarder that Adams gave up. File under "todo."
We're halfway through the year. What are the weaknesses in this D?
Corner depth. Clearly, Charles Stewart is a longshot to contribute in a positive way this year. That leaves the nickelback as either a safety or mighty-mite Brandon Harrison. The safeties are exploitable in man coverage -- witness Adams on Saturday or the CMU touchdown both Englemon and Mundy misplayed -- while Harrison is an iffy tackler and a guy who still seems uncomfortable with his role.
Also, the safeties have been far less reliable so far this year, but that's more a function of restoring normalcy after Herrmann's fraidy-cat 2005.
What are the strengths?
The run defense may be slightly overrated by the numbers, but it's not by much. Running attacks both conventional and un- have met their doom at the hands of Branch, Woodley, et al. Even Minnesota's occasional gashers were more due to misalignment than any particular failings on the part of the players themselves.
One often hears "may be one of the best in the country" and such, so much that it hardly has meaning, but if you can find a front seven in the country better than Michigan's I'd be surprised.
Who has underperformed expectations?
Tim Jamison hasn't been the terrifying beast off the edge Michigan fans were told he would be. An early injury slowed his progress, but he's healthy now and not making much impact splitting time with Rondell Biggs.
Collectively, the safeties have given up more plays than they've made, though Jamar Adams has been excellent in run-support.
Who has overperformed expectations?
Shawn Crable was the guy singled out by the coaching staff as a breakout player, but's Prescott Burgess who has become a reliable partner to David Harris. He still gets caught out of positon occasionally, but freed from Herrmann's mindbending schemes Burgess has been aggressive and effective, one of the main cogs in the Michigan run defense.
Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson have done much more than just occupy blockers; collectively they're better than oft-winded Gabe Watson was last year. Rondell Biggs has been a consistently reliable steady solid rock who is not useless in pass rush.
Also, can I say David Harri s here? Last year he was all those Biggs backhanded compliments in one package. He looked amazing next to the chaos at outside linebacker. This year the outside linebackers are actually good... and he still looks amazing. Whether it's sticking 260-pound PJ Hill and driving him backwards or shooting out to blow up a screen thrown to Kerry Reed, Harris has been all over the field, doing all the things you expect him to and several you don't. Kiper just put him on his draft board at #19, and that doesn't seem entirely ridiculous. (Especially since it's just seniors -- Harris would probably fall into the early second with juniors included.)
And what does it mean for Penn State?
I'd be shocked if Hunt outperforms Hill or Walker or Caulcrick. He's a solid, thumping back quite capable of turning 3 into 7, but get to him at 0 and he'll turn it into 0. He's got to have lanes and momentum to be effective; Michigan has yielded precious few to date. Given the struggles they're having with a nearly all-new offensive line, one that has some injury troubles, it's exceedingly improbable that this is the game Michigan's run defense collapses.
Morelli is a high variance quarterback capable of many, many things from laser-accurate posts to looping, idiotic throws into double coverage. Expect some of both. Penn State pick up chunks of yards when Good Morelli shows up, but without a consistent run game or a quarterback capable of dinking and dunking his way down the field, 10-play drives are not going to happen. Penn State will hope to break big plays with Morelli's arm and by using AJ Wallace and Derrick Williams as home-run threats on perimeter run plays -- how often they hit these big plays will determine how often they score. It says "not often" here.
The lingering impression from the Ohio State game was Morelli running for his life. I think we can do the same -- though two straight weeks without killing QBs has me somewhat concerned -- and clamp down on the Penn State offense something fierce.
The Free Press is first to the punch, reporting on the weekly Big Ten teleconference:
Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham will miss the Penn State game, U-M coach Lloyd Carr said Tuesday.
"Mario had arthroscopic surgery this morning and we got great news as far as the injury," Carr said during Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference. "He'll miss this week but we're very excited about the news we received."
"Very excited" == no or minor MCL tear, IMO, and a definite return for OSU. Russell Levine of Football Outsiders sends along word that Baseball Prospectus injury maven Will Carroll has been queried about the injury and responded thusly:
"Medial meniscus ... should be fairly simple and given a full month, he'll be 100%. The MCL won't be repaired, tho they'll probably visualize it. I'd guess he'll miss two weeks, but if they can spare that third, he'll be better off."
So, probably no Iowa even in the best case scenario and there's no a chance in hell they rush him back for Northwestern. Probably see him for Ball State and Indiana in tuneup performances. As always, Football Outsiders is teh awesome.
Update: Awesome Scout article from the Penn State site was just posted:
Lions Prep for Mario ManninghamBy Mark Brennan
Date: Oct 10, 2006Despite reports that he will miss this week's contest with a right knee injury, Penn State is preparing for the matchup as if Michigan's game-breaking receiver will play. After buring PSU for a game-winning TD last season, the Lions know just how dangerous Manningham is.
This was posted not ten minutes ago. Hurray, ancient and confused Penn State coaching staff! Don't forget about the omnipresent danger posed by Tyrone Wheatley.
Manningham update @ AOL.
Vote Smackdown! The irritating nubbin that is the AP poll's two first-place votes for West Virginia draws fire from The MZone in the form of an open letter to the two outliers. An excellent theory as to why these goofballs vote they way they do is proffered in the comments by "beast in bama" (Andre Smith?):
What these gentlemen have is what I call the "Corky Frost Syndrome." Corky's the guy from Arizona who, back in 1992, voted Alabama #1 all season. When the Tide beat Miami in the Sugar Bowl to claim the MNC that year, old Corky looked like a freakin' genius!
His voting record was made public and he gained slight notoriety nationally (and major celebrity status down here) as the "prophet of college football." He was even grand marshall of the parade they had for the team in Tuscaloosa.
Every year since, the AP has some other crackpot attempting to do the same thing. And no, slight notoriety does not equal fame and fortune; it equates with EGO, something that sports writers have in abundance.
SMQB also has a beef:
So SMQ does not get worked up about polls, because it's mostly run of the mill disagreement. The only real issue he has before the ranking system inevitably robs a team of its official, corporately-designated mythical championship opportunity is the mass movement of number one votes towards Ohio State, and the perception - enforced for several weeks now in various outlets - that OSU is the "clear number one." SMQ has had Ohio State on top since the Buckeyes beat Texas, and, because its impressive wins over UT and Iowa and competent handling of the remaining rabble, will probably keep them there this week. But this year was regarded by nearly everyone as a wide open season on the polls, dominated by no one team, and that should still be the case: Michigan, for one, has been particularly impressive, and should be considered basically an equal of OSU; ditto Florida, which has knocked out otherwise very impressive Tennessee and LSU and Alabama, and also handled the rabble with ease.
I've also wondered thusly: if Michigan had gone 9-3 or 10-2 last season and the dates of the OSU-Texas and Michigan-ND games were reversed, would Michigan be number #1? And would they be regarded as the no-doubt best team in the nation? Ohio State grabbed everyone's attention with the big win over #2 Texas and by the time Michigan -- adrift in the teens because of last year's 7-5 -- finished its BEAT DOWN of, yup, #2 Notre Dame it was too late. My main problem with the polls is what appears to be an appalling lack of thought put into a lot of the ballots. Win, no matter how tightly and against who, and stay in the same spot. Lose and drop a poll-approved amount, often staying in front of the team that just beat you.
Meanwhile: Dan Shanoff laid into AP voters for bias -- though I'm still not sure what's so ridiculous about Michigan at #2 that requires excoriation; Dan Steinberg goes over the ballots with a fine-toothed comb and finds precious little evidence thereof. Smackdown ensues!!!
...or not so much. Reasonable discussion? Don't these guys know they're writing blogs? Appalling.
Etc.: Google News digs deep to find this article on Andrew Ebbett's new AHL career. Sounds like he narrowly missed the NHL.
You say you're Minnesota? Cupito was 25 of 36 for 347 yards; Amir Pinnix had but 26 carries for 76 yards. Welcome to evil mirror universe Minnesota. Why did this happen? Well, Penn State's Steve Alford gave their interior line issues all day, so that was part of it. When the Gophers had successful plays they went for six to eight yards; when they didn't they went for zero to two. It's not that their run game was consistently stoned, but rather that they didn't pick up any of those 15-20 yard gashers that are a Gopher speciality.
The odd thing is that the plays on which Minnesota picked up big chunks of yards versus Michigan were entirely absent versus PSU. The whole pulling off-tackle monstrosity that is the Gopher run game went away. Why? I don't know. Possibly they thought the fast PSU linebackers were a bad matchup. Minnesota got all their chunk plays versus the Penn State secondary.
And about that secondary. Think Michigan's secondary last year: nummy soft zone almost constantly. Minnesota found plenty of space in between levels, hitting Spaeth and Payne on posts and outs and such for big hunks of yards. All are seemingly incapable of tackling and not even Justin King is frequently trusted in man coverage.
It's deep zone deep zone deep zone and has been all year. I don't expect Manningham's absence will alter that, as Penn State's coaching staff is the equivalent of what the most pessimistic Michigan fans think is their cross to bear. Adjustments? What me, worry?
Pass rush remains weak. The outstanding feature of the Notre Dame game was a total lack of pass rush. It was a little better versus Minnesota but not much. Alford had an impressive sack or two; the rest of the line did very little.
Black Shoe Diaries is taking exception to my characterization of Penn State as a bad team. Specifically, he asks us to remember another person when it comes to pass rush:
Brian also suggests Jay Alford is the only one who can get any pressure on the QB. Remember #92. His name is Ed Johnson.
Citing a DT as a major pass rushing threat sums up their situation nicely. PSU actually has 18 sacks, but many of them came against NW, Youngstown State, and Akron. In three games versus actual competiton, they have six. That's not bad on the surface but the sack numbers are hollow, backed with little quarterback pressure outside of the numbers.
Run defense? Fairly good against Minnesota and Notre Dame, or 5.5 per carry to Antonio Pittman? No other games are meaningful. Jay Alford is a really, really good player but Ed Johnson hasn't had much of an impact and the defensive ends have been uninspiring. We'll be running away from Alford most of the day but I expect a few plays where one of our guards follows him to Hart in the backfield. He is a penetrator, though, which may make all those draws we ran last year a good option. He'll take himself out of the play if you give him the opportunity to.
Tony Hunt! I forgot to mention this over the past couple weeks of OSU games, but I was wrong about Antonio Pittman. He's actually pretty good.
Am I going to take back my Tony Hunt bashing? No sir! He racked up a ton of yards versus Minnesota, but I swear to God that a good 60% of them came after dragging Minnesota linebackers. That requires two things: a good head of steam and crappy tackling, small linebackers. To date Michigan has thumped two backs even larger than Hunt, PJ Hill and Jehuu Caulcrick, to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry. Both those teams had inexperienced lines and backs who couldn't really get the corner if their hole was jammed up. The end result was Burgess, Harris, Branch, et al devouring them. I expect more of the same.
Derrick Williams! has 19 catches for 221 yards. Much-maligned Steve Breaston has 23 catches for 222 yards.
Anthony Morelli! is improving... he only threw three balls that should have been interceptions instead of his usual four. No, seriously: he was improved. But you can only be so impressive against Minnesota and their total lack of quarterback pressure or guys in the secondary.
His deep ball is fairly accurate but with a wide array of diminutive wide receivers they don't have a lot of jump ball potential. They've got to get behind the secondary, which is easy versus Minnesota but perhaps a little more difficult against Michigan. Note I didn't say "impossible," as Rhema McKnight got loose against the Michigan secondary and Jamar Adams got burned by Jerramy Scott. Michigan seems to give up one big passing play a game and will probably give up another.
That pass interference call was so, so weak.
As per WTKA, Carr's weekly press conference, and basically the entire world.
Immediate reaction: sucks, but come on now. PSU is still bad and we should gut them.
Update: By "WTKA" I meant "WDFN," sorry. I now have two reports from people who have spotted Manningham around campus on crutches, and Carr's "I can't say anything, I don't know anything, I'm like those see-no-evil monkeys" response to fervered questioning speaks volumes. I think he's out.
What does this mean for the game? Obviously the chances we nail someone on a long pass route go down, but given the way PSU plays that was unlikely to be in the cards. I watched the Minnesota game and will post on it tomorrow, but long story short Penn State blitzes rarely and what pass rush they get comes almost exclusively from DT Jay Alford. They drop back in a deep zone a lot. The last time we faced a team so intent on hanging back it was CMU. Unless they do something that provides shocking evidence that, yes, Joe Paterno still dimly perceives the outside world, Manningham probably wasn't going to be running a whole lot of fly routes anyway.
Also: Adrian Arrington is not, how you say, chopped liver, and neither is he slow. He was about as hyped a recruit as Mario was, has caught a bomb his ownself, and clearly has some wicked acrobatic catchin' chops. Now we are concerned because we don't have two deep threats? Oh... okay.
10/9/2006 - Michigan 31-13 Michigan State - 6-0, 3-0 Big Ten
It turned out that all you needed to know about this game came on Michigan's first drive of the day, when MSU jumped offsides five times and was flagged for it twice. Befuddled by Chad Henne withdrawing from center to check into another play -- can he do that? -- the Spartans gave Michigan ten important yards on their first touchdown drive of the day. By jumping offsides. Five times.
And so forth and so on:
- A personal foul after an extra point.
- A dropped touchdown pass.
- A total inability to not rough the kicker.
- A fair catch at the four yard line.
- An indecisive kickoff return that ended up at the nine.
- A useless late hit personal foul that extended a Michigan drive and led to another touchdown.
Michigan fans often bitch about the coaching staff's flaws, and I'm no exception, but in the wake of whatever that was it's clear that there are worse fates than running way too much. Ever since college football entered my consciousness, Michigan State has been dangerous because of its stupidity. Sometimes they're a danger to others because they're too stupid to know they should lose. Sometimes they're a danger to themselves because they're too stupid, period. This was the latter.
And thus I must risk blogospheric cred by aping Simmons and quote Teddy KGB from Rounders: "I feel so... unsatisfied." There's no great joy in watching them run around punching themselves in the face, only a small and petty one. Instead of glorying in the dominating victory of our warrior-poets, I found myself trying to come up with the best way to complete this sentence: "Michigan State is as organized as [adjective(s)] [silly noun] [preposition] [noun phrase]." (Candidates:
- a horde of coked-up squirrels looking for nuts to nut
- Dadaist theory as perceived by art history freshmen
- the unfortunate neural pathways in what purports to be the mind of Mike Gottfried
- Brady Quinn's bowels in the fourth quarter of the Michigan game
- the French army.
) Which is nice and all, but, yeah. With the fourth quarter dragging through a series of injuries, TV timeouts, and unnecessary instant replay reviews, I became bored and frustrated with run run run punt.
Bored, and frustrated, and up 31-13, and 6-0. Uh... I'll take it.
Hopefully More Satisfying Bullets:
- Re: Arrington's controversial catch. The NCAA rulebook does state that "any part of the body" landing in bounds makes your catch legal:
c. To catch, intercept or recover a ball, a player who leaves his feet to make a catch, interception or recovery must have the ball firmly in his possession when he first returns to the ground inbounds with any part of his body or is so held that the dead-ball provisions of Rule 4-1-3-p apply (A.R. 2-2-7-I-V and A.R. 7-3-6-IV).
1. If one foot first lands inbounds and the receiver has possession and control of the ball, it is a catch or interception even though a subsequent step or fall takes the receiver out of bounds.
"Any part of his body" is crystal clear, though the phrasing of the second passage is worrisome. This image shows Arrington did punch his hand down before falling out of bounds, so if a hand is good, the catch is good. Still: it should have been reviewed.
This will be the first game all year where running 2/3rds of the time is clearly the wrong decision (assuming we aren't up by three touchdowns again). Will DeBord adjust?
If I had to guess -- and I would like to point out that this is speculation and not something you should take as Gospel, in fact you should probably just stop reading this post right now -- I'd say Manningham has a mildly sprained knee and is questionable for this weekend.
It's a wacky, wacky week. I normally try to avoid any of the super-cool lists, but I'd be shocked if I didn't pull Mr. Manic-Depressive for this baby.
- I hate every team after #15.
- Is Arkansas any good? No. They are not. They only beat Alabama -- a team that was in a fourth quarter battle with Duke -- because the Tide's kicker underwent an epic meltdown. They beat Vandy by two. They're apparently worse than the Pac-10 middleweights (and lightweights, in the case of Arizona) that USC's been struggling with all year.
And yet they crush Auburn by three scores despite featuring a true freshman quarterback who threw all of ten passes. So what to do? Well, given Auburn's performance to date -- struggles with South Carolina and Buffalo(!), and a good but close and debateable win over an LSU team that was just pantsed by Incredibly Surprising Tim Tebow -- you crush Auburn's face in in your poll. AU's offense has been reliably awful.
- So, yeah... Arkansas is no good but I rank them #16? Well... who else? Can you pick a team below them better? If so, for God's sake tell me.
- Also: who says LSU is any good? Wins over ULL, Arizona, Tulane, and Mississippi State. Losses to Auburn and Florida. They crush the weak and lose to the strong. I dunno.
- Wild, wild swings of opinion on Tennessee and California. UT's run defense crushed Cal but fritzed out against Air Force and now UGA, so they're a bit wonky, but they hammered Cal and Georgia and lost by one to Florida. Yeah, I'd bet on them versus anyone below them. As for Cal, how heavily do you take that UT game into account? With Longshore flipping a switch to go from "Ayoob" to "Booya," is this even the same team? Not so much. They murdified an Oregon team that, yes, was fortunate to win versus OK, but obliterated a defense that just held Texas to 200 yards. Would I bet on them versus USC? Damn skippy.
- My raging contempt for Louisville and WVU continues unabated.
- Iowa! Up ten! Purdue's no good but they finally laid the smack down on someone. It's more like I've soured on the SEC en masse and they were the biggest beneficiary.
- Texas... oy. The Longhorns and Sooners are mirror images of each other. Both clearly have epic talent at the offensive skill positions and a quarterback they trust not at all. Defensively, both have talked a good game to date but had little to show for it until last week. I hate games like this year's Red River Rivalry that give me the impression that the teams are nearly identical but end up with lopsided scores due to a bad luck explosion on one sideline. I think Texas should be lower but refuse to drop them behind Louisville and WVU; I think OU should be higher but refuse to raise them higher than a bunch (more) one-loss teams. Maybe? I'm strongly considering jumping OU past the knot of SEC teams I hate.
Games Seen: Michigan-Michigan State, Penn State-Minnesota, Auburn-Arkansas, Texas-OU, Georgia-Tennessee, bits of Missouri-TT, bits of Nebraska-ISU.
OMG Beat Puke State LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.
Run Offense vs. Michigan State
The last three years a Michigan tailback has broken 200 yards against the Spartans. That streak will probably end this year with Kevin Grady and Brandon Minor stealing carries from Hart, but the run game should improve from a year ago. I don't know if you remember, but other than Hart's two long jaunts through the Spartan secondary and Michigan's grinding drive at the end of the game, the run blocking last year was atrocious. This year Michigan has had its issues but is obviously and vastly improved. Having a fully healthy Mike Hart helps, as do guards who, you know, block and stuff. Rueben Riley's problems on the backside and a tendency to hurl Hart into eight- and nine-man fronts have been minor irritants, but Michigan is 20th in rush offense. There isn't that much to complain about.
State's rush defense is superficially all right -- 41st -- but Michigan State has only played one game in which the opponent was A) not a cupcake and B) not desperately playing catchup for most of the second half, that against Illinois. Opposition running backs totaled 24 carries in games versus Pitt and Notre Dame, averaging over 4.3 YPC. Illinois (I repeat: ILLINOIS) then shredded MSU for 252 yards on 44 carries, many of them Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draws from true freshman Juice Williams. They're bad. Mike Hart is good, and if there's any team in the country without the discipline to maintain good lanes versus a zone running game, it's Michigan State.
Key Matchup: Adam Kraus/Mark Bihl/Alex Mitchell versus Clifton Ryan. Ryan's a senior and probably Michigan State's best defensive player. Michigan's running game versus Notre Dame was severely hampered by penetration from Derek Landri. Ryan has the potential to have the same impact.
Pass Offense vs. Michigan State
If Henne plays like he's been playing and State plays like they've been playing, this will be a Stalinesque massacre. State's cornerbacks have spent most of the year cowering ten yards off the line of scrimmage. This worked fine against Idaho, Illinois, and other teams featuring passing attacks more anemic than most but got them lit up for 400 yards and five irritating, irrational-Heisman-campaign-propping touchdowns versus Notre Dame, most on hilarious blown coverages or tackles. It would have been more if Brady Quinn hadn't spent the first half flinging open outs to Tacopants.
There is the matter of the Pitt game, during which Michigan State rolled out to a 38-10 lead on the nation's #1 pass efficiency offense. Before two meaningless garbage time drives, Tyler Palko had 151 yards, two interceptions, and six defensed passes. So what was that, exactly? My money is on an aberration. I've watched every MSU game this year save Idaho and Eastern: these cornerbacks are about as good as they were last year. Which is to say they are not good in any way whatsoever. Michigan's main fear is that whatever qualities the Spartan defensive backs have are somehow contagious and their frequent panicked attempts to tackle Michigan wide receivers will result in some sort of suck infection. Did I mention that Michigan State has seven sacks, 92nd in the nation and last in the Big Ten?
On the other side of the ball, Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington are both players capable of getting open deep versus the Spartan secondary and Henne has been the man to get it to them.
Key Matchup: Uh... Chad Henne versus Consistency? Dollars to donuts MSU lays back and plays two-deep much of the game, hoping to bend its way down the field. Henne's going to have to convert a lot of third downs to get Michigan in the endzone.
Run Defense vs. Michigan State
Michigan's task is made much easier by the injuries to Javon Ringer and Drew Stanton. Ringer, of course, is out. Stanton either has bruised ribs, something seriously wrong with his non-throwing hand, or both. Either way, his rushing attempts figure to be limited, as every hit could potentially knock him from the game. The carries will fall mostly to 260-pound bowling ball Jehuu Caulcrick and redshirt freshman AJ Jimmerson, neither of whom is particularly elusive.
That plays into Michigan's hands. Shawn Crable and Prescott Burgess are still susceptible to getting caught by misdirection -- or at least I fear they are -- but Taylor, Johnson, Branch, and Harris are a hell of an interior run defense. With the injury turmoil on the inside of the Spartan line, it's highly doubtful they finds anything resembling consistent success up the middle. And Caulcrick on a bounceout... versus Burgess and Crable? Uh, not so much.
The Michigan State offense is constructed such that one error by a defensive player results in a big chunk of yards, and we can still expect periodic errors from Michigan players. Expect a performance similar to but slightly better than the Minnesota game: a few plays where they take big chunks out of a flat-footed or misaligned defense interspersed with a lot of Alan Branch looking mean after a TFL.
Key Matchup: Crable and Burgess versus Spartan options. Even though Stanton is banged up Michigan State will still try to use him in the ground game, though he may be more decoy than actual threat. I still fear our outside linebackers are prone to slow or erroneous reads and we could get gashed on misdirection or option plays.
Pass Defense vs. Michigan State
Stanton's had a rough time of it lately, but I still fear his wrath. I know damn well he's a better quarterback than Brady Quinn and his mobility and accuracy will give the Michigan secondary problems. The Spartan receivers are a pedestrian bunch, though Kerry Reed is slowly sneaking towards being pretty damn good. Matt Trannon is still very big but almost incapable of getting separation in man coverage. Jerramy Scott is meh. Terry Love is decent but not explosive.
Stanton's rollouts will help mitigate what should be a fierce Michigan pass rush, but Michigan will use the 3-3-5 they've deployed extensively against the spread attacks of Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. In that set, Shawn Crable features as a freelancing bullet capable of coming from anywhere. He'll probably start or stunt wide quite a bit, hoping that he can slice through ponderously mobile offensive linemen and track down the quarterback before his receivers come open.
Key Matchup: Michigan safeties versus complex routes and trickeration. They've been burned deep a couple times this year on play action and trick plays, both specialties of MSU. There's the potential for a long touchdown play or two here unless they play perfectly, especially with Jamar Adams questionable.
One area in which Michigan State has indisputably improved is field goal kicking. Last year the Spartans found out something Michigan fans already knew: having someone named "Goss" associated with your football team can only lead to bad things. This year freshman Bret Swenson has proven himself something other than totally incompetent. So they've got that going for them. Punter Brandon Fields remains Michigan State writ small, alternating booming punts worthy of Zoltan with shanks and line drives.
Michigan has a decided advantage in the return game, as they have Steve Breaston. The Spartans are making do with the uninspiring Terry Love returning punts and Demond Williams returning kicks. Neither is much of a threat.
Key Matchup: Brandon Fields versus His Unpredictability. The Badgers regularly outkicked their coverage and were harshly punished by Steve Breaston. Minnesota sent him a series of Ross Ryan specials and escaped his wrath. Fie
lds can boom 'em, but might be better off forgoing 50-yarders.
Rivalry rivalry blah blah blah recordbooks blah blah throw 'em out blah blah records too blah. RABBLERABBLERABBLE.
- Michigan State plays over its head, as usual.
- Henne has an off day.
- Stanton plays like he can, not like he has.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Their offensive line is perforated like cheese of Swiss.
- Uh, like, Hart and stuff.
- They get behind a couple scores and decide to pack it in.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for HA HA, Illinois; -1 for You Seem To Be On The Verge Of An Utter Collapse; +1 for Stanton Is Pissed; +1 for This Is Their
Rose Motor City Bowl; +1 for They Do Have An Offense Capable Of Wondrous Deeds).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... slap myself.
Win will cause me to... anyone got spare PSU tickets?
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Without the Spartan injuries I'd be in full freakout mode, as a high powered Spartan offense and a couple mistakes here or there could easily result in a Michigan State victory. Assuming Stanton's running is curtailed, the Michigan State rushing game is going be largely ineffective. There will be instances here and there where someone misses a tackle or makes the wrong read and Michigan gives up a chunk of yards, but consistent, drive-sustaining five and eight yard carries will be rare. State's passing game will be far more difficult to shut down -- I expect a number of frustrating third-and-long conversions -- but English has implemented and used that 3-3-5 with this game (and OSU) specifically in mind. Crable is the right guy to help with those rollouts. Michigan will give up yards and probably a touchdown or two, but will adequately contain MSU.
Michigan's offense should shred the MSU defense. I expect the Spartans to lay back and hope for execution errors that prevent Michigan from driving the length of the field. Michigan will oblige some, but State can't defend the run or the pass and Michigan can do both. Offense should be Minnesota redux.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Hart: 159.
- Breaston rips off a huge return.
- 34-17, Michigan.