Coaches' timeouts are worse. Basketball teams should get one, full stop.
Right: instead of a throat I have a pain and coughing factory. Blogging today will be light; UFR is Wed/Thurs again (sorry). In lieu of intelligent commentary in this space I present it from elsewhere.
Arrington's troubles are not over. More @ The Fanhouse.
FO's "Too Deep Zone" has a look at the increasing prevalence of two tight end sets in the NFL. Interesting reading since Michigan uses a lot of these sets, though TEs are getting mighty scarce these days.
Side note: with Bass and Manningham's knees messed up and Arrington's legal issues, to say nothing of the TE injuries, it's time to acknowledge that Angry Michigan Safety Hating God has morphed into Angry Michigan Receiver Hating God.
Tate joins the chorus. Unless everyone who's played us is just puffing us up, we have the best defense in the Big Ten... and it isn't close:
Q: How tough was their defense out there today?
TATE: They were pretty tough. With out a question, the best defense we have played all year. With how physical they are, their size, their speed, we haven't seen anything like that. That's for them. For us, I thought we did an unbelievable job going against them. It probably could have been a lot worse. They made it hard on us on a lot of things, with routes and things like that because their DB's are pretty quick. I think they scouted us pretty well. They were at the right depth and everything like that like they are supposed to be. A lot of credit goes to them, I mean they played really well and our defense played extremely well. You couldn't ask for more than that. They made it hard on us moving the ball. We had our chances also, we just missed them.
The MZone highlights the back of a recent Reader's Digest -- something that I admit I don't read religiously:
I love that the foremost Buckeye fan might have graduated from middle school and definitely has some Skoal in his pocket. Maybe he's the guy who left a comment claiming that "Troy alluded two defenders."
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to crawl into a hole and try to keep my lungs inside my body.
Remember: no looky at last week's ballot. Now that I see the finished product I have my reservations. Hell, I had reservations about the ballot as submitted.
- I've reconsidered a couple ACC teams. Clemson obliterated a Georgia Tech team that is actually kind of good. Sure, they were aided heavily by Reggie Ball's essential Reggie-Ball-ness, but CJ Spiller is fast. They kind of fluked their way into the Wake win but that still ended up a ten-point victory over a decent team. The BC loss was by literally the thinnest of margins -- one point -- and was pretty fluky overall, with a KO return for a touchdown and a missed extra point providing the difference. Clemson outgained BC by over 150 yards. They move up quite a bit. I hear SMQB's plea on BC, as well. Though the win over Clemson was, as discussed, fluky, but so was the NC State loss. The four wins over other actual teams -- Central Michigan, undefeated in the MAC, TCU-beating BYU, FSU, and Va Tech -- warrant a ranking in the solid teens. Up they go.
- I think I was unfair to Louisville, but the teams in front of them are beginning to roll up actual resumes and Louisville has no one of stature on theirs -- and how I love being able to say that about a schedule that contains Miami.
- Of course, neither does West Virginia and I haven't punished them nearly as badly, though they do slip behind Clemson. This is probably unjustified.
- I have a feeling that Pitt's run defense is just atrocious. Anyone who remembers Darius Walker blowing up for a billion yards in last year's opener could tell you that. Walker's a nice back but when he's streaking past your secondary, you have problems. Earlier this year, Pitt was cut to ribbons by Michigan State. Now it's Rutgers turn to shred the Panther run defense. What I'm saying: Rutgers probably not that good against a team that can stop the run.
Hate this week's ballot and expect the revision to have major changes. Fire away.
10/21/2006 - Michigan 20-6 Iowa - 8-0 (4-0)
These pictures of battered and confused quarterbacks groggily pondering what their names are and how this whole "standing up" business is supposed to go are coming fast and furious these days. The latest features a Hawkeye in the crosshairs and has a pleasing religious aspect:
Sorry, Steve Tate, but praying to Mecca isn't going to help you. Allah is busy telling CJ Spiller to go to Clemson (good call, Allah) and pulling Charlie Weis' ass out of the fire. You, like all the others, are at the mercy of large, impossibly fast men with evil intent.
Five sacks and some hilarious anger when a fourth-quarter quarterback scramble doubles your opponent's rushing yards, Michigan has hurdled its last reasonable obstacle in the runup to Football Armageddon. After Notre Dame there was still a five-game minefield of potential upsets. Each week we remained steadfastly fixated on the upcoming opponent, refusing to believe we would ever reach this point seemingly decades in the future, but it's here: an opportunity to rest the wounded, tune up, and come out flat a couple weeks in a row.
Oh, there will be "flat," I promise you that. Next week against Northwestern there will be a comedy of errors large and small that panic everyone. I feel it even now: as soon as Mike Hart cut upfield to make it 20-6, the nervous tension that had slowly worked its way into my spine disappeared and I sat, pondering the road to this point and the end on November 18th. There were a bunch of disturbing things in this game; we'll talk about those later. All I can think right now is: win, you bastards. Win.
Bothersome things about the offense:
- Henne's internal clock went off several times. That's fine. If your first couple reads aren't open it's time to start wondering about pressure. But instead of coming down to a checkdown, which is usually Hart, Henne starts scrambling ineffectively. Against PSU he found a couple receivers, but against Iowa there was a lot of getting tracked down by linebackers or DL when another moment or two scanning the field could have yielded a completion.
- Alex Mitchell was not so good. At all.
- The struggles in the first half with the run game were against seven guys in the box. We loaded one side of the line and zoned out there; every time we did Iowa slanted heavily towards the strong side.
- I hope Good Zoltan shows up against OSU. Against PSU, he was terrible. Against Iowa, great. Go figure.
- Why is no one talking about the ridiculously bad spot? No, not that ridiculously bad spot, the one on Michigan's second drive where Steve Breaston caught the ball right at the sticks and was marked two yards shy.
- No review on the second and goal Arrington incompletion? Personally, I think he was in on third down but it was close enough that whichever way it was called on the field was going to stand.
- The fumble call encapsulated everything right and wrong with replay: they got a critical call correct, but it took an army of incompetent monkeys and ten minutes to do it.
- Five sacks against a slippery quarterback like Tate is reassuring going into the OSU game, especially with Jamison and Crable -- our two fastest pass rushers -- stepping up big time. We are doing a better job of getting out on rollouts, too. One major advantage we have that OSU's opponents to date haven't is a second player coming when the quarterback avoids the first.
- Butler still makes a ton of mental mistakes but has the look of a future star.
- Internet rumors were generally right: Arrington did have a legal issue, though it wasn't one that got him suspended. Massey was out. The Hart one was never credible, IMO.
Look: I know with the BCS standings coming out and so forth and suchlike that it's the time of year cranky people who don't know an algorithm from their ass (Attention Dennis Dodd: an "algorithm" is the one you don't write your columns with) to go "blah blah blah computers blah blah hate blah blah Injustice In One Particular Poll blah blah prune juice blah where's my adult diaper." It is traditional column fodder for the lazy, an opportunity to get some easy whacks in on a much-loathed institution. It's like a Miami brawl that comes only once a year.
But I know computers. I whisper in their ear and get them to whinny out poll results every week. I feed them sugar cubes and they make graphs for me. I have a vague idea of the difficulty in measuring teams when given all the nuances my pretty little head can handle and can't imagine trying to sort things out if all I was given was a set of wins and losses. And I say this to you, crabby BCS-bashers of the world: the seemingly nonsensical arrangements of numbers that purport to be polls from Sagarin or Massey or Colley and his matrix are not the fault of computers. Computers are good people.
Who is at fault then? As any good Bloom County fan knows: this is... THE MEDIA'S FAULT!
And so it is. Back in the old days when the BCS formula was a hilariously overwrought thing that included two human polls, computer polls, strength of schedule, quality victories, a loss column, and everything short of an "artistic merit" score for the uniforms*, the computers were allowed to take margin of victory into account. This caused no end of bitching. Coaches whose teams ended up on the wrong side of late touchdowns complained that opponents would run up the score despite the fact that computer margin of victory was capped at 21. Sensing a good opportunity to rattle off 600 research-free words, columnists everywhere leapt on the bandwagon. Think of the children. Kill MOV. Nonsensically, this was done, and the yearly columns pointing out the various OUTRAGES perpetrated by the computers got a little more ammunition as the rankings got a little less reasonable.
This is, of course, completely mad. The BCS found itself faced with a problem: the computers could not distinguish meaningful scores from cosmetic points scored after the game was decided. The powers that be decided that the solution to this problem was to take information away from the computers instead of providing enough information to judge which scores had an effect on the game. Now we have the half-measure of relying on crippled computer rankings that aren't allowed to take even the simplest facts about a game into account. This is bound to lead to ludicrous results. Could you rank the top 25 if you had no idea that Clemson waxed Georgia Tech and ND scraped by? Or that Tennessee stomped Cal? I can't make sense of my weekly BlogPoll ballot and I know not only the final scores of all the game but how accurately they reflect the flow of the game. If I were given only a sheet of wins and losses, my ballots would be as inane as Sagarin, et al.
I must reluctantly agree with the general opinion of computer rankings as a communist plot designed to undermine college football. As they stand they are useless and should be excised. But put the blame in the right place: with the people who decided to give computers the bare minimum amount of information. There is another way. Feed them as much information as they can handle. Let them take into account scoring margin, the time at which the scores occurred, and how they came about. Give them reams of historical data and let them judge what attributes a winning team has and let them project the past into the future without having to resort to the logo on the helmet.
Then when they rank six different I-AA teams over Miami you can take them seriously and bet on Duke to cover. And lo, it will be good.
*(though the secret inclusion of such might help explain that whole Nebraska-over-Oregon thing.)
Well... this has been a rumor festival the past few days. I have no inside information on this whatsoever, but will provide my best guess as to what's going on:
- Hart is dinged but it's not serious. If possible they'll reduce his workload tomorrow.
Adrian Arrington is probably suspended.
- There's a tiny chance Massey might be dinged, too, but I'm pretty sure that's just a wrong reading of a particular tea-leaf.
Again I would like to emphasize with big pointy teeth that this is just me reading tea leaves on the various Michigan message boards, and not an assertion that I have solid information. This voracity is unverified with gusto. As such, I don't want to speculate on the details... and unless you've got solid information it would be best if commenters followed the same policy.
Anyway: open thread, let's go blue, etc.
Update: FWIW, Arrington is supposed to have practiced today. I dunno. I withdraw speculation but don't want to say anything definitive either way.
Update II: Iowa's Albert Young should start, but Mitch King is questionable and Kenny Iwebema is out.
So... yeah: I received a tip from a friend that while taping the Big Ten Ticket program that airs on Channel 7, Bo Schembechler had some sort of a medical scare. There was a stretcher involved, though whether he left under his own power or not wasn't clear. According to a tiny AP article it doesn't sound too serious:
"He had some problems at the set, and he's going to the doctor now," Michigan spokesman Bruce Madej said. "But before he went to the doctor, he did his show."
Just FYI. If he did his show it's unlikely to be serious.
Run Offense vs. Iowa
Iowa's been vulnerable to bounceouts and misdirection for most of the year. Antonio Pittman made a living bouncing outside of the tackles in their game versus Ohio State; the Iowa linebackers just weren't able to -- say it with me -- keep contain. That'll be less of an issue against a Michigan run game that has exactly zero misdirection, but when you give up 158 yards to Indiana the problems go deeper than outside contain. To wit:
- The replacements for Hodge and Greenway have come nowhere near to living up to their predecessors. This is not surprising, surely. But the dropoff in athleticism from last year to this year has been drastic.
- The defensive line, banged up and undersized, has not compensated. No Roth or Babineaux has stepped forth. Iwebema and King have been pretty good but mostly against weak competition. With King injury-hampered, the rest of the line has been a bunch of Masseys.
Though Mike Hart managed to crack 100 yards, Michigan struggled versus the excellent Penn State front seven. If your defensive tackles can penetrate past the sometimes-shaky interior of the line and your linebackers can get off blocks and flow to the ball, you can catch Mike Hart in the backfield more often than not. He'll escape and get three yards anyway, but you'll slow down the Michigan ground game. Iowa has none of these things and though they'll play tough, I expect Hart to have a significantly easier day than he did versus Penn State and glide past 100 yards easily if he gets enough carries to do so.
Key Matchup: Hart versus Klikenborg, Humpel, et al. There should be lanes available and linebackers either out of position or overpursuing. Sharp, correct cuts should yield big chunks of yards.
Pass Offense vs. Iowa
Mario Manningham will sit out this game, but as Mark Hasty says:
It wouldn't matter if Michigan put Mario Batali at wideout. It wouldn't matter if they put Mario Lanza at wideout. It wouldn't matter if they put Bo Schembechler in a Mario The Plumber costume at wideout, as long as all of these well-known Marios ran about five yards and hooked in. They would always be open, and there wouldn't be a white jersey between them and the first-down marker.
So... yeah. My preseason trepidation about the Hawkeye cornerbacks, one of whom is from Nebraska if you know what I mean, has been just about the only thing I got right about the 2006 Hawkeyes. Anyone's who's seen Indiana's winning touchdown from last week no doubt wondered something like "shouldn't there be a guy within ten yards of their best receiver?"
Well, wonderers, the answer to your question is "yes." But that's what happens when Iowa corners try to do something other than panic and run backwards after the snap. The cushion they cede is required to prevent bombs from being dropped on their heads. With their safeties banged up and sack leader Mitch King unlikely to play, Iowa is not in a position to do much else other than lay back and hope to tackle.
Like last week, this should provide opportunities for Steve Breaston to turn moderate gains into big ones. The dodgy athleticism of the Iowa linebackers should get Carson Butler open downfield. Adrian Arrington, coming into his own, should be the recipient of a Michigan touchdown or two. Uh... advantage Wolverines.
Key Matchup: I could say Riley vs. Iwebema and that would be vaguely right. But the line's been doing a bangup job in protection and the deeper truth is that Iowa's defense isn't in a position to stop Michigan's passing offense unless it stops itself. We do that: Henne throws errantly or Breaston drops one or Riley remembers he's a revolving door. So: Michigan versus Unforced Errors. Sorry, Hawkeyes.
Run Defense vs. Iowa
Albert Young says he'll play but no one thinks he's 100%. Expect a heavy does of tiny scatback Damien Sims, who's not a bad runner in his own right and is a different sort of back than Michigan has faced to date. Our pounding run defense has shut down PJ Hill, Tony Hunt, and Jehuu Caulcrick but has yet to really face the Calhoun or Ringer type of back that gashed us so badly a year ago. There is the potential for some of those irritating bounce-out runs if Crable and Burgess are not responsible.
One thing that is unlikely to repeat: Young's slashing performance from a year ago where he found the oft-cavernous gaps in the Michigan defensive line and ruthlessly exploited them to the point that Chris Graham was lifted in favor of Johnny Thompson in the second half. That relied heavily upon single-blocking Pat Massey and whoever wasn't Lamarr Woodley (who only played two snaps in that game, remember) and crushing our hesitant linebackers. There's no one on this line you can single-block in the run game and expect consistent success against. Young, if healthy, might rip off a couple nice 8-10 yard runs, but by in large it's going to be MOTS from the run defense.
Key Matchup: Crable and Burgess vs. Sims. An interesting test of our linebackers' responsibility and a preview of what we might expect versus Ohio State.
Pass Defense vs. Iowa
Drew Tate's senior year is not going as planned. Devoid of playmakers at wide receiver and struggling through a series of injuries, he's been more bad than good. Por ejemplo: the first interception he threw against Ohio State was a very un-Dude moment. Tate waited way too long, allowing the Buckeye safety to make an easy break on the ball and Kirk Herbstreit to launch into a veritable instructional seminar on how not to throw down the middle. That's Drew Tate? He's but 44th in passing efficiency despite playing but one team with a defensive heartbeat (Ohio State), and from what I've seen he's just not the methodical surgeon who dissected Michigan's candyfloss zone last year. Like Stanton, he seems to have regressed because of injury and depressed talent elsewhere on his offense.
Things in the wide receiver corps were grim at the start of the year, then senior Calvin Davis blew out his ACL and Detroit freshman Dominique Douglas suffered a sprain. Iowa's reduced to Herb Grigsby and redshirt freshman Troy Stross, a far cry from the Hinkel-Solomon combination that drove the Iowa offense last year. And have I mentioned that left tackle Dace Richardson, a hyped recruit but still only a sophomore, is dinged and questionable for this week's game?
Meanwhile, the Michigan defensive line has just finished knocking out two Penn State quarterbacks after sacking them seven times. That performance is unlikely to be repeated against the mobile Tate and what should be an Iowa game plan heavily reliant on rollouts and three-step drops to protect Tate's battered ribs but the mere threat of it combined with the questionable-at-best Iowa wideouts will combine to make the deep ball all but impossible for the Hawkeyes. With Michigan free to encroach upon the line of scrimmage, long drives will be hard to come by.
Key Matchup: Dace Richardson or his frightened replacement versus Woodley. If Woodley's going to win the Heisman he needs a couple sacks.
Iowa has one of the country's premiere kickers in Kyle Schlicter -- though he inexplicably went 0 for 2 in Iowa's 3-point loss to Indiana (ouch) -- but the punt game has been atrocious. Iowa is 88th in the country, averaging only a 34 net, largely because Andy Fenstermaker is only getting 35 yards per kick. Don't expect much out of Breaston in this game.
Key Matchup: Michigan kickoff return coverage versus screwing up. It was bad at the start, good for a while, then started the PSU game with a return past midfield. Bad coverage! Bad!
Double digit spread at home == no kitten.
- Trey Str
oss turns out to be the next Inexplicably Great White Iowa Receiver.
- Tate looks like his old self.
- All the injury stuff was a smokescreen.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Hart zips through their defense like he's totally healthy.
- Breaston catches and runs and stuff.
- We get more pit bull from the DL.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 4 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You Lost To Indiana?, -1 for Half Your Team Is Screaming "It's Just A Flesh Wound", -1 for Cornerback From Nebraska, +1 for Tate Could Be Good And Stuff, +1 for It Would Be Just Like God To Make Us Lose This Game).
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... concoct elaborate scenarios that land us in the championship game anyway after season-ending win @ OSU. Also: cry.
Win will cause me to... start month long, desperate search for reasonably-priced OSU tickets.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: This is really weird for me. Normally I figure any Michigan win over Kirk Ferentz will be a close, tough game (or a weird fluky thing with five Iowa turnovers or two Michigan blocked punts), but I can't really get my proper level of worry up when our opponent has only looked good against Purdue and just lost to Indiana. I have other reasons, too: their injury list looks like Michigan's from last year. They're down two wide receivers for this game and may be missing their best DL. Albert Young, Drew Tate, and Marcus Paschal are all banged up. Maybe at full strength with Good Tate at the helm this is a dangerous team... but they aren't and so they aren't.
We should run them over and hit a few deep balls a la every game that wasn't PSU. I still think Tate can hurt us with his mobility and ability to turn broken plays into big gains -- that "moxie" stuff -- but without the wide receivers or a healthy Young they aren't going to score all that much.
I hate doing this because I have a lot of respect for the Iowa program, but this game isn't going to be close.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually.
- Hart does turn out to have some sort of minor ding and we see a lot of Grady and Minor.
- 31-13, Michigan.
Someone get this man a medal. SI's Mark Beech on the Michigan defensive line:
Morelli was beset from every side: from the front by brobdingnagian defensive tackle Alan Branch, who collapsed the pocket on almost every pass play; and from the sides and rear by defensive ends LaMarr Woodley and Rondell Biggs, who had two sacks apiece.
Outstanding deployment of "brobdingnagian," Mr. Beech, though I find it more appropriate to describe giant tight ends in the Spaeth/Chandler mold who have their enormous size emphasized when they traipse through bewildered lilliputian secondaries, often dragging as many as six defenders into the endzone.
For the record:The initial sketches of Michigan Stadium's renovations kick ass except for the goofy Ms, but those are no big deal:
I love the resemblance to the IM building and Yost. I love the brick exterior that replaces the current cheap metal look. Thumbs up.
Pickin' On The Big Ten is something I should link weekly but sometimes overlook. Not this week, especially with Mark Hasty an avowed (though close to disavowed after last week) Hawkeye fan. I think he's overreacting a bit:
the only real question is, "Should I clean the basement during this game, or flip over to PBS to watch that white guy with the afro who paints 'happy little trees'?"
His projected final score of Michigan 34, Iowa 0 is... uh... well, they did lose to Indiana so his feelings are understandable. But not within the bounds of reason.
Pics plz. I mean, really, what is the point of an article on the Crable/Burgess mohwawks without a picture?
I was going to steal this, but Dave beat me to it: if you remove all of Michigan's sack yardage and let everyone else keep theirs, we're still fourth in the country in rushing defense. Goddamn.
Michigan-OSU @ 3:30. The rumor that ABC might move the Michigan-OSU game to 8 PM has been dispelled by an assistant commissioner of the Big Ten.
I guess I could get behind that. Puff on Arrington has this finishing quote from his mom:
Now that he's on the field, Arrington has something to prove in his No. 16 jersey.
"His goal this year was to prove himself in that number," Norma Arrington said. "He wants people to say, `I don't remember that much about the quarterback (John Navarre) who wore it. We remember that Arrington guy.'
"That's his goal."
I could go for having the entire 2001 Ohio State game ruthlessly excised from my memory like a blue-haired Kate Winslet, but, but unless he can erase the memory of the world's least likely 58-yard touchdown reception/buffalo stampede Adrian is going to end up short of that goal.
Etc.: Stadium & Main has your MSM linkfest for Iowa; PSU is phasing out "Zombie Nation" not because it's an abomination against college football but rather because they're going to break Beaver Stadium (Via Black Shoe Diaries); Student manager disses Bo accidentally.
So... yeah. The mailbag: an cop-out piece that combines astounding arrogance ("listen to me answer your questions, peon!") with laziness (since mailers write half of it for you). But these people sent me emails and I was going to respond to them and then I wrote like a lot of words so I may as well do it here.
On with the show:
I know this is probably out there, and even more so it's probably not something you want to talk about, and I have no idea if it's postworthy, but any thoughts on what juniors are back and which are gone?
What sparked me to ask this is your comment about ALAN BRANCH (all caps MFers ;)).
The early theory seems to be that Henne, Hart, and Long are all back next year (which would be amazing). The only other junior I really see leaving would be Branch. Do you buy all those guys are back? And if they are...
By my math that means we return 9 starters on offense (Gone: Bihl, Riley, Ecker) and 7 on defense (Woodley, Hall, Biggs, Harris, *Burgess). Granted those 5 on defense are biggies, their replacements (Jamison, Trent/Harrison, Germany/B. Graham, Thompson?, C. Graham) aren't too shabby and you assume everyone gets better.
I know this season isn't over yet, but let's assume worst case scenario is we lose to OSU and then lose a BCS bowl, we have to be a top 5 team going into next season?
Nick, I'm not exactly sure I agree with your policework there. (Ya? Ya.) It appears that you think this is Canadian football and 12 players go at a time. Despite the best efforts of Alain Kashama, it isn't.
Anyway: Do I buy all those guys are back? Probably.
- Long recently stated he plans to return. There was a "I might have to re-evaluate it" qualifier attached, but he sounds pretty sure.
- Henne is a true junior and quarterbacks rarely make a jump after just three years of college. Rex Grossman and Michael Vick are the only two who jump to mind. With Brady Quinn mysteriously nailed to the top of draft boards -- my prediction is he's Rick Mirer, except less successful -- this year and no dominant junior out there, it makes sense to stay. He has a shot at going really, really high next year if he continues to improve, but if he came out after this year I don't know if his track record would warrant a high slot, especially because he only throws about 25 times a game.
- While everyone loves Hart to death, he does not seem like the sort of back the NFL gets excited about. He does lack speed. Message board insiders have dropped vague rumors that he might be thinking about an early departure, but it's still doubtful.
- Branch apparently has a grandmother who would tan his hide if he didn't get a degree. Grandma may be swayed by millions and millions of dollars, though. He certainly could go, but is reportedly leaning towards returning.
Life being what it is and millions of dollars being millions of dollars, I wouldn't be surprised to see either Long or Branch depart, but at this point I think they're both significantly better than 50% to return.
One name left out: Shawn Crable. At first blush he seems like an unlikely candidate, but he does have NFL athleticism in spades and two kids. He may end up like Shantee Orr, forced into the draft a year early by his financial situation. That's the purest of speculation, but he's an early-entry possibility. Also vaguely possible but highly improbable: Jamar Adams.
Are we a top five team next season? If you're asking "will we be ranked in the top five next season," your answer is yes. I'd say we're the odds-on favorite for #1 unless USC goes on a late-season rampage. Everyone else towards the top of the rankings features a senior quarterback who will graduate; we'll have a four-year starter, a senior Mike Hart, and two stars at WR in Manningham and Arrington. People love shiny skill position players and will end their analysis there.
If you're asking "will we be as good next year..." well, maybe. Linebacker gets real thin next year. Graham will be on the weakside and Johnny Thompson is the heir apparent at MLB, but other than Brandon Logan no one else has seen time. If Graham is still meh or Thompson doesn't pan out we won't have many other options. We'll have to find a Jamison bookend and corner is looking sketchy. A Branch return, though, would mean the same defensive tackles who are killing fools this year, and would be the foundation of a defense that's probably at least good. The offense should school fools, but Carr seems to coach like he's got a great D and mediocre O every year. His coaching decisions will be farther from optimal next year.
But I've been wondering about this since the Penn State game, and everybody (well, everyone I read/listen to at least) seems to be talking about the great Michigan defense this year.This seems ok when you look down at the various stats with which they defend themselves: Michigan "owns" the running game (on offense, too); they have held opponents to very low run-yardage numbers; and have an impressive frequency of sacks, many of which have decommissioned opposing quarterbacks; etc. These observations seem to be fueling the talk that Michigan may have the best defense in the country right now....However.... When I look at the one stat that matters, that little thing called the "final score," I see that they have given up about two touchdowns a game. Not too bad, but when I also examine that same stat on the Ohio State side, I see that only Iowa and Northern Illinois have scored more than 7 points against them.I'm beginning to feel that Nov. 18 is going to be more about man vs. machine than anything else. I mean, it was a major news story when someone first ran a 4.00 mile, but I've been putting those records to shame in my car since I turned 16, yet without fanfare.Is it just that Ohio State is so boring that nobody in the media really cares? Does everyone just expect them to win by 24.6 points every week? Or have I just been listening to the pro-UM reporters/bloggers too much?Or! Are we Michigan fans just a convict on death row being injected with serum, awaiting our deaths, but are too drugged up to care?...no, wait, that's the Miami fans!Anyway, just some thoughts.Dennis
The difference between the Michigan and Ohio State scoring defenses can be explained away if you're so inclined. Michigan's played better offenses and against more experienced quarterbacks. Instead of Colt McCoy in his first start against real competition, we got Brady Quinn in his millionth. Wisconsin, after some initial shakiness, has been housing fools. They don't play Wisconsin. Also, most of the difference is in garbage time. Michigan gave up 14 real points to ND (seven of those on a four-yard drive), 10 to UW, 7 to Minnesota, and 7 to MSU. When they've called the dogs off and put in the second-team soft zone, teams have racked up a bunch of yards and meaningless points. When Michigan says "no," though... you get little and like it.
Still, there's something in there. Michigan's more dominant on a play-by-play basis than Ohio State. Facing a better collection of offenses, Michigan is 7th in total yardage ceded; Ohio State is 26th. What OSU has avoided that Michigan has not is the big play. While it's more difficult to drive the field versus Michigan, we've given up a longish touchdown in most games. You could probably spin that advantage OSU or advantage Michigan as you wish. One thing of interest: Drew Stanton says Michigan's D is better.
As for the rest: your e
mail is confusing and asks many questions that are only barely intelligible. You appear to be asking if OSU is this dominant machine we'll be euthanized by on November 18th. Answer: no. But there will be plenty of time to talk about that game after Iowa.
|Fully eight in the box with the ninth rolled up tight. Still, this might have worked. Mitchell(+1) gets Alford cut nicely on the backside â€“ all those guys in the box make a cutback unwise, though. The real problem is Long being stood up at the POA, driven back a yard or so, and then having his man disengage to make the tackle at the LOS.|
|Crowd rattling? (Massey -1)|
|Probably the difference between PSU and other defenses: Sean Lee, a sophomore linebacker, reads this very quickly, getting out on Butler and preventing much in the way of YAC. Nice, accurate throw by Henne under some pressure. (CA, 3)|
|Henne's second or third read and a well-covered one at that. Accurate, well timed ball gets a first down. (Nominal DO, 3)|
|Batted at the line. Intended for Arrington on a short out; Michigan had flooded the zone with Hart and the two TEs to suck the defense in... looked like if complete this was eight to ten. Reason the ball is batted is a corner blitz right into the throwing lane. Nothing you can do about it on a three-step drop like this. Henne's choices were to chance the BA or take a sack. (BA, 0 â€“ Arrington)|
|M40||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Penalty||-5||Butler||False start|
|Argh. Ecker, where art thou? (-1)|
|I heart Hart. Dan Connor reads this and comes up to fill at the LOS. This should go for 0, but Hart jukes him out of his jock and gains 8. (CA, 3)|
|M43||3||7||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||2||Butler||Short out|
|I think we missed a pick here as Connor is not impeded by the wideout's route at all. As a result, Butler is tackled immediately. (CA, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 1st Q.|
|FB shuffle to the weak side from Oluigbo; Penn State is shifted to that side. At the snap, five Lions come forward, three of them getting penetration. Hart bounces outside where Poz is waiting; he cuts up past him, turning a two-yard loss into a no gain.|
|M19||2||10||I-Form Twins||Pass||Inc||Butler||Shallow cross|
|Henne's hit on the arm as he throws; ball ends up hitting an offensive lineman. Butler was open on the cross, as Breaston and Arrington had run off the coverage underneath. (BA) ...whoah. The replay shows that this is definitely a fumble. Henne's arm is coming back when it's knocked out of his hand. The resulting forward motion of his arm sort of shot-puts the ball forward, but it's well out of his hand before the arm comes forward. Oluigbo, who let the pressure in, recovered it, so not a huge deal in the long term but still a missed call.|
|No one open initially and pressure comes from the outside. Henne steps up in the pocket and decides to take off... probably had time to survey the field and try to find another open receiver but it's hard to blame him. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 4 min 1st Q. Williams fumbles the ensuing punt and Michigan gets the ball back.|
|Jay Alford â€“ who we're running away from â€“ dominates Bihl(-1), driving him all the way back to Hart and tripping him near the LOS. If Alford doesn't make this play Poz is closing to attempt a tackle but chances are Hart gets four or more if he successfully jukes him. Don't quite understand why Arrington doesn't come in and seal the LB, leaving Hart to deal with a flimsy corner instead of Poz.|
|O47||2||9||Ace 3-Wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|Long again has trouble dealing with his man. The outside is open here but for the penetration ceded by him. Hart decides to cut it up and burrows for three or so... he might have been able to get the corner anyway, but probably not.|
|From our seats in Beaver Stadium we saw this come wide open; so did Henne. We then saw Henne miss Arrington by a couple yards. Bleah! (IN, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 3 min 1st Q. Penn State isn't loading the box or anything, they're just making excellent plays in the run game.|
|M25||1||10||I-Form||Pass||15||Breaston||Deep cross (2)|
|Epic time; Henne stands in the pocket and fires downfield to Breaston, open between three zone defenders. Breaston makes a tough catch downfield, as the ball is behind him a bit. (CA, 2)|
|...I guess, as it's hard to tell. Ed Johnson is completely unblocked. Hart cuts past him to prevent a five-yard loss and dances through three more guys, two of them getting blocked, before getting closed down by the rest of the PSU defense.|
|M41||2||9||Ace 3-Wide||Penalty||-5||Mathews(?)||Inelig. Man|
|Six yard out to Mathews (CA, 3) is erased because he lined up on the LOS and was thus covered up by Breaston.|
|M36||2||14||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||15||Arrington||PA Slant (2)|
|Token fake to Hart; this slant is not a bang-bang three step drop but rather a delayed one that allows the middle of the zone to get cleared out. Henne finds Arrington wide open for seven to ten yards; Arrington feints his way up the field for the first down, picking up a block from Mathews on the way. (CA, 3)|
|O49||1||10||I-Form Twins||Pass||11||Breaston||Slip Screen (2)|
|Well done by Breaston. Arrington blocks the inside guy; Breaston bolts past the outside guy. Momentarily searching for balance after getting his legs tangled with the flailing arms of the defender, he can't put a move on the safety and score. (CA, 3)|
|Excellent coverage from King â€“ we were screaming for PI on him for disrupting Breaston's route. Breaston lays out but the pass is just off his fingertips. (CA, 1)|
|Henne has Breaston open farther downfield for what looks to be a probable first down. He takes the short TE route; Butler catches it, breaks a tackle, and creates good YAC. (CA, 3)|
|O31||3||3||Ace 3TE||Run||6||Hart||Zone left (2)|
|Michigan overloads the line with three-count-em-three tight ends, two on the left side. They run there and there's finally a crease, this between Kraus and Long. Key seal block from Massey.|
|Hart motions out of the backfield like he did on the long reception versus Minnesota. Penn State sends six; they're momentarily picked up. Breaston's slant and go doesn't fool King, in superb coverage. With the oncoming rush and the coverage, I think Henne's just getting rid of this ball. (TA)|
|Breaston wide open on an out that he would easily turn up for a first down; Henne overthrows him. (IN, 0)|
|O25||3||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||25||Arrington||Post (2, 3, 4)|
|Duuude. Penn State drops eight; Henne lures the safety towards the middle of the field by looking right, then comes back and fires a dart into Arrington's hands. (DO, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 11 min 2nd Q. Seriously badass throw completes the drive.|
|Well... this play works but no thanks to the guys trying to block the PSU DTts, who both end up four yards in the backfield. Hart his running to their left anyway, cuts back behind the line as there are no DTs left... maybe that's why you don't get four yards in the backfield against the zone. Some Shaw â€“ Tim or Jim â€“ is unblocked on the backside and makes the tackle after seven yards.|
|PSU sends a run blitz right before the snap. It's well blocked in the middle but with the extra players attacking there's nowhere to run.|
|O42||3||2||Ace 3TE||Run||6||Hart||Zone left|
|Essentially the same play we ran for the other third and short conversion, overloading the left and then going there. Thompson and Butler both stick their assignments, as does Kraus on the second level. Hart has an easy time of picking his hole and getting the first down.|
|O36||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||27||Arrington||Post (2)|
|A virtual replay of the touchdown down to the yardage gained. (DO, 3)|
|O9||1||G||Ace 3TE||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|I guess it's not surprising that there are nine guys in the ol' box when we're on the nine. Play is well blocked, but neither Poz nor Connor will stay engaged. They both come off their blocks and the combination â€“ a Poz missed tackle forcing Hart into a diving Connor â€“ keeps this gain at three yards.|
|Pass batted at the line; Breaston was probably going to get nailed the instant he caught it anyway. (BA)|
|O6||3||G||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Massey||Um.. fade?|
|Pass through Massey's hands; definitely caught by Ecker, who's a couple inches taller and has shown better hands. (CA, 2)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 10-0, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|M20||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|Seven in the box versus this three-wide set. Mitchell gets Alford cut â€“ we seem to be doing this better of late â€“ giving Hart a lane up the middle. Connor, unblocked, meets Hart a yard after the LOS; Hart does his thing for three more yards.|
|Alford not cut this time but overruns the play. Hart cuts up behind him. Butler ignores the DE, who flies upfield before changing direction, trying to bear down on Hart. Hart powers through his arm tackle and is into the second level, where Butler and Mitchell have picked up blocks. Hart could be stopped for about four but Riley plows into him from the back, causing him to fall forward.|
|Long lined up at guard.|
|Only six guys on the line. Probably Butler's fault.|
|Butler had two steps on the nearest defender and could have sailed for big yardage, but Henne's way high. (IN, 0)|
|M26||2||15||Ace 3-Wide||Run||15||Hart||Draw (2)|
|Actually have them thinking pass, probably the first time a defense has done that all year. Six in the box and the DL goes for a pass rush. By the time Hart's to the line one LB is engaged and Riley's getting out on the other. Result: gaping hole.|
|Play disrupted by penetration from Ed Johnson. We go to the short side of the field so there's no chance to get the corner once Hart's immediate path is blown up. Kraus(-1) the one victimized.|
|Pursued on the waggle, Henne lofts a weak ball out towards Breaston that lands at his feet. (IN, 1) Play would have gone for very little because of the weak throw anyway.|
|Well... a good job by Henne to roll away when he couldn't find anyone open downfield and find Butler open at the sticks, but overthrown. (IN, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-3, 11 min 3rd Q. Don't want to be too harsh on Henne, but he sailed a ball that could have been a really big play and overthrew Butler to snuff this drive out.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Lead Draw|
|Not a good play from the OL. Bihl(-1) is beaten by Johnson, forcing a too-soon cut from Hart. The delay allows the rest of the DL, only slightly blocked, to coverge.|
|M30||2||11||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||5||Arrington||PA Cross|
|Draw is faked. I think Butler's seam is supposed to draw Connor back but this it does not do. He closes, preventing any YAC. (CA, 3)|
|Alford goes between Riley(-1) and Mitchell, getting quick pressure that he shouldn't with two guys to block him. The resutling pass from Henne is a little bit in front of Arrington. His diving attempt at the catch comes up short. (CA, 1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt,10-3, 6 min 3rd Q.|
|Kraus(-1) badly beaten by Ed Johnson, forcing Henne to scramble... surprised this wasn't a sack, actually. Good awareness to turn this into anything positive. (PR)|
|Nice hole here â€“ we've got 'em creased again â€“ but for Johnson coming loose and closing Hart down after he gains a small chunk of yards. Kraus(-1) couldn't keep him sealed.|
|Pass could be thrown a lot better. As it is, Arrington has to dive down and grab it. (Marginally CA, 1)|
|Giant roar of disappointment from the Michigan section after this play, as he had Butler streaking open 25 yards downfield. (BA) Can we keep Jay Alford out of the passing lanes?|
|O45||2||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||24||Breaston||Stop (2)|
|A late blitz from Poz catches Hart off guard. Henne starts to move, then finds Breaston, flicking it out to him. You know who this reminds me of? John Navarre. In a good way. King isn't close enough to Breaston to make an immediate tackle, and that's bad news versus Stevie B. (CA, 3)|
|O21||1||10||Ace||Run||20||Hart||Zone right (2)|
|So awesome is Mike Hart. Awful that this isn't a touchdown. Anyway: Butler blocks out the DE and Johnson hideously overruns towards the frontside, leaving a cavernous hole behind. Hart cuts back, breaks the tackle from Scirroto, and drags the corner seven yards to the one.|
|O1||1||G||Ace 3TE||Run||1||Hart||Zone right (2)|
|Thompson(+1) comes in motion to the short side as the third TE. He blows back the corner, letting Hart walk in.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-3, End of 3rd Q.|
|Eight in the box. Hart's cutback lane filled by the eighth guy, forcing a cut upfield into Poz for a few.|
|It looks like Hart has a big hole for a moment, but Johnson comes free from Kraus(-1) and Breaston(-1) whiffs his block, turning what looked like a wide open lane into nothing. Hart makes what he can.|
|Simple slant to Breaston at the sticks turns into a big chunk of yards when King whiffs the tackle, setting Breaston free in the open field. (CA, 3)|
|Victimizing King again. Wide open and Breaston makes a good cut upfield for as many yards as possible. (CA, 3)|
|We fake a slip screen that we totally should have ran for a ton of yards. Instead, a draw to Hart again snuffed out by Johnson as Kraus can't get him pushed or sealed.|
|Going to the well one too many times, as the linebacker is jumping this route, ignoring the TE's seam. There's still a window for a short completion but Henne wings it wide, forcing Breaston to break up a potential interception. (IN, 1)|
|Not sure what Henne's looking at, because he has Breaston wide open for the first down â€“ DB is turned completely the wrong way â€“ but refuses to throw, instead scrambling out and getting tackled for a loss. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-3, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Outside is sealed well this time. Long holds his man off and Butler gets out on Poz. Breaston(-1) tries to chop Connor but fails miserably. Hart still has enough momentum and room to go for five.|
|Kraus driven back by Johnson, and Butler can't handle the DE. Grady cuts it up, meeting an unblocked Lee at the LOS.|
|Breaston is the first read in the flat. Play is designed as a bit of a pick, but Arrington's route doesn't come close enough to Breaston's defender to interfere with his man coverage. Henne comes off to Butler, decides he's covered, and scrambles. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-3, 4 min 4th Q.|
|M20||1||10||I-Form 2TE||Run||-1||Hart||Zone left|
|Butler(-1) can't handle Shaw, who penetrates, bangs into Oluigbo, and then tackles. Extremely disappointing, as a Butler block yields a big chunk of yards.|
|M19||2||11||Ace||Run||23||Hart||Zone left (2)|
|Crease between Bihl and Long with the second level completely blocked. One problem: Riley hasn't obstructed Alford at all. It's another one of those play-side blocks that are really difficult. He bears down on Hart and impacts him... but just because Riley hasn't done anything yet doesn't mean he can't grab Alford's arm, preventing him from wrapping and springing Hart for a huge gain.|
|Connor blitzes, bringing the second level to Long; Long, standing stock still, meets Connor and shoves him back four yards. There's a crease as a result despite nearly every Lion starting the play in the box.|
|Penn State sends the house. A linebacker drives Mitchell back; a single-blocked Alford does the same to Bihl. Poz, unblocked, meets the play in the backfield.|
|Right on the money, dropped. (CA, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-10, 2 min 4th Q.|
After reviewing the tape, what do you think about Henne's performance?
Let's bring in the helpful chart for reference:
(Now with explanatory legend.)
Obviously, Henne threw a lot more in this game than he has in any other this year, and he did it in a difficult environment against a good defense. It's reasonable to expect the numbers to be a little uglier. And that they are, with a full 15 attempts in the negative categories compared to but 19 in the positive ones. You may remember that at his nadir last year, Henne hovered just below the 50% mark, but that was after we stripped out batted passes and pressure. With four deflected balls -- none of which were truly Henne's fault -- and one Alford-induced scramble removed, Henne's ratio is 19:10. That's not bad at all.
Still, I wish that his accuracy was better. He had Arrington open a few times and either missed him entirely or forced him into a tough catch. He missed an open Butler a few times and winged a sure first down over Breaston's head. He turns two of those inaccurate passes into completions and I'm raving... but his accuracy left a little to be desired.
On the other hand: do you know who he reminds me of right at this minute? John Navarre midway through his junior year. That's when Navarre started doing things like moving up in the pocket to buy himself time and make the correct audibles and look safeties off before firing critical third-down lasers. And that's when you, the fan, sat back and thought "is this really John Navarre? Really really?" The Arrington touchdown and the scrambling Breaston completion are things he would not have done a year ago. He's gone from stari ng down receivers to teleporting safeties with his eyes. He's making second and third reads with regularity. He's getting there, and fast. The best evidence of this: the one timeout Michigan took on offense was because DeBord never got the call in, and Henne spent the entire game calling two plays and checking at the line in front of 110,000 people who hate him. He's come a long way.
And the receivers sans Manningham?
- 0 = totally uncatchable
- 1 = difficult catch worthy of Avant.
- 2 = tough-ish catch.
- 3 = aaaaargh if dropped.
Both Breaston and Arrington came through with big nights. Breaston's drop at the end prevented Michigan from running out the clock, but other than that he was very good. Michigan did something they hadn't managed to do so far this year: get him the ball moving at a good rate of speed upfield. The results were two plays that he turned moderate gains into 25-yard chunks. With Michigan's ever-increasing confidence in Henne's ability to probe the middle of the field (Arrington has been a post machine), I expect to see more of these routes as we go along. If Breaston can hang on to them consistently that'll be a useful weapon going forward.
Also of note: Butler was targeted a whopping seven times. He had the misfortune to be the primary victim of inaccurate or batted Henne passes, but twice he was wiiiiide open behind the Penn State linebackers.
Can you believe Hart ended up with over 100 yards?
No, not really. Penn State got gashed -- 15 on a draw, 20 on that ridiculous "I'm Mike Hart" run, 24 on Michigan's final drive -- and gave up just under half of Hart's yards on three carries. It seemed like Hart was dancing past defensive tackles in the backfield all night and setting up an inordinate number of 2nd and 9 or 2nd and 10. And then: 112 yards at the end of the night. Go figure.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
We have to be worried about Johnson and Alford's play against the interior of our line. Johnson was just killing Kraus whenever we tried to run at him. Alford was less consistently disruptive but turned in a few plays of his own. Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson are neck-and-neck with Branch & Taylor and the PSU duo for honors as the top DT pairing in the conference (and probably the nation); if they disrupt the interior of the line as much as Johnson and Alford did our offense may sputter.
One thing I am confident of: the OSU linebackers aren't up to the standards of Connor, Poz, and the surprisingly heady Sean Lee. Neither of the former would stay blocked, often disrupting run plays that looked sure to go for big yards. From what I've seen from OSU and from what the stats suggest, the new linebacking corps is vulnerable. I also doubt OSU has a corner the caliber of Justin King (when the ball is in the air -- guy tackles like Grant Mason), though it's hard to tell when the only threatening wideout I've seen them oppose has been saddled with an utterly green Colt McCoy.
More on OSU later, of course.
With Mitch King out, the safeties dinged, and really slow guys everywhere, Iowa seems ripe for the picking. They've got a guy from Nebraska -- if you know what I mean -- playing cornerback. James Hardy toasted that guy so frequently that he's getting checked for skin cancer. Whenever Antonio Pittman decided to bounce outside, there wasn't a Hawkeye within five yards of him. They'll play tough and hardnosed, but unlike past years there isn't a single player on the defense who seems like a good bet for the NFL. Michigan will move the ball.