Mike Lantry, 1972
My mind is melting into a pool of adrenaline and incoherence it is unlikley to emerge from until the game is safely behind us. One final exhortation before the speech centers in my brain shut down:
Win, you bastards. Win. Win for Michigan. Win for America. Win for that little boy in the hospital. Win for me. Don't lose. Win.
Run Offense vs. Notre Dame
All this has been discussed before, but to recap...
Evidence, scanty as it is, suggests this is a major advantage for Michigan. PSU's pitiful performance on the ground against Akron was followed by Tony "Definition Of Average" Hunt going for 6.2 yards per carry against ND. Georgia Tech was moderately successful on the ground as well, though their shotgun zone reads and QB draws bear little resemblance to anything Michigan will run Saturday.
Notre Dame's linebackers are fast but undersized and inexperienced. Travis Thomas was the backup running back (and apparently still is) until spring; now he is their starting weakside linebacker. And ND fans are talking him up as a conquering hero... well, we'll find out tomorrow. One thing the zone does is provide copious opportunity for linebackers to overrun the play. Fast, undersized linebackers just get further out of position when Mike Hart cuts all the way to the backside or Henne runs out on the waggle.
Notre Dame fans have talked up their penetrating defensive linemen but the stats put the lie to them. There are two TFLs amongst all of Notre Dame's defensive linemen, one of them a sack from Victor Abiamiri. Last year, Abiamiri had 7 TFLs on running plays, Landri 5, and the entire rest of the DL 2. Sometimes the stats lie, but in my observations of ND's first two games the only man liable to shed a block was Abiamiri. Notre Dame stopped the run when they overwhelmed the point of attack with numbers and infrequently otherwise.
Meanwhile, Michigan ran, ran, and then ran some more against Vanderbilt and Central Michigan, pounding lesser foes into submission with a steady diet of Bronco-style zone running. Questions at center and right guard have been answered ably by Mark Bihl and Alex Mitchell, and though converted guard Rueben Riley has been extremely iffy in the first two games he has a history of being an able run blocker. Mike Hart is healthy and has been impressive; Kevin Grady is much improved; Obi Oluigbo has proved a capable fullback. The results have been inspiring against teams that are not your typical tomato-can run defenses, if the early returns from Vandy's game against Alabama and CMU's statistics from 2004 are to be believed.
Michigan spent the entire offseason installing this package for this game. If it works, Michigan wins. If it doesn't, they lose.
Key Matchup: DeBord versus Minter. Properly timed blitzes have disrupted Michigan's zone in the first two games. If you sell out you will stop it. If DeBord is too predictable with his playcalling Michigan will be overwhelmed with numbers at the line and forced into too many second-and-longs to sustain drives.
Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame
Michigan's pass protection issues have been part missed assignments and part Rueben Riley versus McBain (CMU defensive end Dan Bazuin, who is really for realz). The good news: missed assignments are fixable. The bad news: Victor Abiamiri is McBain's extremely tan brother. Last year he had 15 TFL and 8 sacks -- Woodley numbers -- and he just wrecked Penn State's right tackle in ways that should not be seen by small children and the elderly. Is Riley better than that right tackle, who was starting his second game ever? Probably at least a little. But probably not enough to neutralize the one real playmaker in ND's front seven. Michigan will have to help him with TE chips or straight doubles and keep running backs shaded to his side when Michigan tries five- or seven-step drops.
That figures to be relatively rarely, but if Michigan pounds the ball sufficiently to force a Notre Dame safety into the box they'll have opportunities to make big plays in the passing game -- if Henne is given time to go deep. One thing to note: if eight in the box is coupled with corners playing soft, preparing for a three-deep zone, the simple "long handoff" WR screen will be extremely effective. Notre Dame corners are not good at tackling in space. They had problems containing Calvin Johnson on a number of simple WR screens and while he is a dominating man-beast of a wide receiver, he's not exactly Steve Breaston when it comes to ankle-breaking cuts.
The big fear is that Notre Dame sells out against the run, brings their corners reasonably close to the line of scrimmage, and dares Michigan to throw deep. We have no idea whether they can or not. Only Manningham seems like a reasonable option on the long ball, and the right side of the line has pass protection issues that are real and not fantastic. Plus, no one must be told of Henne's inconsistencies.
Key Matchup: Riley (and friends) versus Abiamiri. Here's a bold, stupid-pundit-style pronouncement for you: if Riley stones Abiamiri Michigan waltzes away with this game. If what I expect will happen happens, this is a dogfight all the way.
Run Defense Vs Notre Dame
Michigan's defense has been improbably perfect so far this year, having yielded a total of 58 rushing yards across two games. Football statistics often lie, though, and this is a case in which they have been naughty indeed. A bevy of sacks, one of which turned into a fumble stampede 40 yards into the Central Michigan backfield, have artificially depressed those numbers. The prospects for a repeat of those astounding numbers are low. Opponents have managed a good run here and there but these have usually been quarterback draws or scrambles. Running backs have found the sledding not merely tough but entirely impassable save for one Goddamned Counter Draw by Central Michigan that found Prescott Burgess out of position.
How is this, when Michigan featured a historically weak rush defense in 2005? Terrance Taylor appears set to adequately replace the production of Gabe Watson -- who was often in the doghouse and when out of the doghouse was often on the sidelines, asking for oxygen and pie -- as a penetrating bull-moose of a nose tackle. Meanwhile, the gap between Alan Branch and Pat Massey stretches from here to Alpha Centauri. Add in returning starters everywhere else and a new linebackers coach who chooses not to confuse the hell out of his charges and things are looking up.
Branch and Taylor have made the few conventional running attempts they faced this year futile and project to do so against Notre Dame as well. Perhaps a team dedicated to pounding running drives could wear out the relatively thin DTs -- only one backup, Will Johnson, has figured into the gameplan before garbage time -- but with Notre Dame likely to feature spread formations with frequency, Michigan will put out a 3-3-5 with regularity to reduce their exposure.
Key Matchup: Shawn Crable and Prescott Burgess versus Walker bounce-outs. There figure to be quite a few. Crable and Burgess have to be in the proper positions to contain them. Outside linebackers are rarely blocked when plays intended to go inside suddenly pop outside, so it's all a matter of running down the slow-ish Walker. Crable is a bullet and should do fine, but Burgess struggled a year ago and has already made a major mental error overcommiting this year. He could get victimized.
Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame
The choice is clear: sit back and be diced, blitz and have a chance. That is, unless the front four gets consistent pass rush all by its lonesome but while we're ordering up fanciful pipe dreams I'll take a million dollars, a tipsy and lonesome Elizabeth Hurley, and a banana split. Not necessarily in that order.
Fortunately, Michigan seems inclined and able to blitz. They've done so with frequency this year: three members of the secondary have sacks and Shawn Crable crosses the line of scrimmage more often than not. Frequent blitzing and the all-around impressiveness of the defensive ends have netted Michigan defensive ends seven sacks, giving them a total of ten in just two games. Just Vandy and Central, of course, but certainly an indicator that Michigan has de
cided to pin their ears back and come after quarterbacks. That total is nearly half of last year's 24 after only one sixth of the season. Brady Quinn will not have Penn State Backfield Tea Party on Saturday.
That will leave Michigan open to two separate and distinct modes of attack: screens to Darius Walker and bombs to presumably single-covered, towering wide receivers against whoever isn't Leon Hall. Quinn will no doubt mix in a fair number of intermediate passes, but the bet here is the Irish offense will be closer to Georgia Tech than Penn State. 10, 11, 12 play drives are highly unlikely. 14 points? Probably not. Notre Dame missed two shortish field goals versus Georgia Tech and one would assume some of the glitches that plagued them on the road in their opener will be resolved for their third game of the season at home. Even an aggressive, excellent Michigan defense is going to give up a number of long plays: perfectly thrown seam routes, bombs versus overmatched corners, and times when Michigan blitzes into a screen or calls a soft zone in fear of one. Notre Dame will take big chunks of yardage a number of times and score on those drives.
Key Matchup: Shawn Crable versus Whoever Tries to Block Him. Michigan coaches have been talking up his pass-rushing ability since the spring and have used him as a blitzer and defensive end on passing downs, but the guys with the sacks are Rondell Biggs and Lamarr Woodley. Crable's been effective when deployed but Notre Dame is a step up. He must get to Quinn.
Michigan's kickoff coverage has been bad, but Notre Dame doesn't have anyone to return them, really, though slot receiver David Grimes returns from injury and if healthy may pose a problem. Punting seems even; Michigan should have an edge in the return game with Breaston... if he ever gets a chance to return a punt.
Field goal kickers: Rivas has a track record of being all-right-but-frustrating, ND newbie Carl Gioia is 2/4 with all four attempts coming from within 42 yards. Slight advantage Michigan.
Key Matchup: Field goal kickers versus their own idiocy. Gioia is unproven; Rivas has a history of missing field goals at exactly the wrong time. This game will be close. If a kicker botches something, it'll be critical.
Anyone else think Notre Dame's redzone offense might be kind of suspect in relation to Michigan's? One thing a punishing ground game is nice for is first and goal from the eight. No? Just sayin'.
Also: kittens. We're just about fed up with the performance of kittens after last year. They get one more chance, then it's seppuku time:
That's right: MGoBlog kills this kitten if Notre Dame wins.
- First-down runs get stuffed with regularity.
- We don't get a pass rush.
- We fumble four times, there's a phantom touchdown, a deflected pass caught for a touchdown, and God himself comes down to play tailback.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- They bring eight in the box and it doesn't matter.
- Brady Quinn gets happy feet.
- Henne turns in an OSU-esque performance.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for 2004, +1 for 2002, +1 for Road Opener, +1 for Rueben Versus Abiamiri, +1 for What Is This Program Cursed Or Something?).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Are The Last Best Hope To Prevent Weis Media Bukkake, +1 for Nothing Good Has Happened Since This Blog Started (No Offense, Mario); +1 for You Remember 7-5, Right?; +1 for I'd Like To Open With A Road Win Once Before I Die; +1 for Did I Mention The Media Bukkake?)
Loss will cause me to... drink heavily, cry myself to sleep, and wake up chained to a bed in Bangkok.
Win will cause me to... drink heavily, drive to South Bend, and personally give the finger to every resident.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Michigan runs a lot. They pass some. They move the ball consistently but only punch a few drives in because of breakdowns from Henne, drops from the wide receivers, or penalties. Notre Dame, on the other hand, has difficulty moving the ball consistently but hits a number of big plays. It all adds up to a close game late in the fourth quarter. Rivas from 35.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Woodley is neutralized.
- Hart goes for 150.
- 27-24, Michigan.
House Rock Built has a podcast featuring me(!) wonderful me(!) on his weekly Friday Night Lites. Thrill to the following:
- A discussion of when I put on pants!
- Two moments of extremely uncomfortable dead air!
- Shameful, shameful failure to accurately peg the apex of America's space program!
Also featured is the MZone's Yost. I don't know if he talks about pants yet, his interview just started.
Update: There's porn, though, that arises from a discussion of Ralph Friedgen. Dude.
|Hart ends up cutting this almost all the way back, slicing past Alex Mitchell(+1), who's driving CMU supahstar Dan Bazuin downfield on the first play of the game. Hart(-1) fumbles, Manningham recovers.|
|Something I've noticed: Henne does have the proverbial "command of the offense". On this play and several others he saves Michigan from confusion or penalty by correcting presnap alignments. Here he reminds Breaston to get up to the LOS after a TE goes in motion. The play? Easy as pie stop route to Manningham with the Central corners playing in East Herrmannistan. (CA) Would prefer he not stare down Manningham, though.|
|Dan Bazuin is from McBain, Michigan. It all seems so obvious in retrospect. This play is joined in progress and is thus hard to understand. Jake Long appears to miss a block on a filling linebacker, but as the play was going away from his side of the line I don't think you can blame him too much.|
|O39||2||7||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||10||Breaston||WR screen|
|We motion Breaston over to a stationary pair of Arrington and Manningham. I tell my cousin "screen" as the motion comes. I am so right. May have been a bit hasty on declaring the WR screen dead last week. This time Arrington(+1) gets a nice block to spring Breaston. Manningham(-1) is angry with himself after the play; he attempted to cut the corner and whiffed, preventing this from going a bit farther. (CA)|
|Bring in Oluigbo and fake an ISO. Henne starts looking deep but is rudely interrupted by Bazuin, who went around Riley(-2) like he wasn't there. Henne scrambles away from pressure nicely and hurls it in the general direction of Hart. (TA)|
|Play probably wasn't going anywhere anyway but it's notable that Riley(-1) got beat to the inside, and his man makes the tackle on a play run to the left side of the line. Oluigbo(+1) with another pounding block.|
|O26||3||7||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||Inc||Arrington?||Med. Out?|
|Bazuin again. This time he feints going outside, gets Riley(-1) moving that way, and swims back inside. Hart's staying in to help but Bazuin's right in the passing lane. Henne throws, he jumps and bats the pass. (BA)|
|Hart's again tasked with doubling Bazuin. McBain does essentially the same thing he did the play before, but the throw goes to the other side. Henne rifles it in a small spot in the zone for the first. (DO)|
|Er. Ecker lines up on the left side of the line, then motions to the right. We zone to the left side of the line. So either Kraus has to somehow seal the defensive end by himself or Long has to momentarily scoop w/ Kraus and then get out on the outside linebacker. Neither of these things happen... the DE is upfield immediately, forcing Long to pivot and get a glancing block on him. The OLB is thus free. Hart does some dancing for a couple yards. Weird play design? An attempt to catch them off guard? I dunno. I think this is Long(-1) but don't quote me on it.|
|Again we run away from the strength of the formation â€“ 2 TE on the right side. It looks like this particular zone play is actually designed for a cutback behind the RG, but Ecker(-1) can't block guess who and he's forced to run behind his OL... which works out pretty well as the left side has blown CMU yards off the ball. (Long, Kraus +1)|
|Good lord. We motion Ecker to the side we run to this time but he's window dressing. Long and Kraus KILL the CMU d-line with an assist from Bihl. (+1 for everyone!)|
|O5||1||G||Offset I-2 TE||Run||5||Hart||Zone|
|Touchdown. Couldn't ask for a better exemplar of Mike Hart's(+2) zone goodness than this play, in which Bazuin ends up penetrating into the backfield. Past Long(!, -1). A potential TFL goes bye when Hart zips upfield. Outstanding work on the backside by Riley and Mitchell.(+1 each)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q. Riley's inability to block Bazuin almost terminates this drive but everyone else on the O was picture-perfect.|
|Riley(-1) is blown into the backfield, forcing Hart to cut back into the heart of the defense. I really, really hope this Bazuin guy is a top five pick in the NFL draft.|
|Good protection this time, as Central stunts Bazuin into a Mitchell-Bihl double team. (WTF?) This might provide some evidence for the crowd who declare Henne coached into timidity, as he has plenty of time but just dumps it down to Hart for a meh gain. (CA and I really wish I could see what was going on downfield.)|
|This is closer to a third and two and an instance similar to that at the end of the Vandy game where we were merrily zoning away against a defense that was going to come hell-bent against us on a fairly obvious run down. Here, as there, our running is ineffective. A downside of the zone game? I thin k I'd prefer bringing Obi in and dropping the hammer. Anyway, the play: motion Ecker to the left side, zone there, safety on that side blitzes, Ecker's(-1) block is fey, and the timing is busted.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 5 min 1st, I put all the analysis in the third down play. Drat! So, uh... this Dunkin Donuts commercial with the "beard of bees"... that has to be They Might Be Giants, right? (TMBG +1)|
|Breaston comes in motion to the left (and short) side of the field; Michigan zones that way. His block (-1) is mediocre but enough to delay the safety such that Hart makes the corner. If he does a bit better Hart gets ten.|
|O38||2||5||Ace 3-Wide||Run||6||Hart||Off tackle|
|Good lord part six or whatever: Riley(-1) again blown into the backfield by Bazuin; Hart's path is fortunately not disrupted. Everyone on the outside gets good seal blocks except Arrington(-1), allowing Hart to reach the corner. (Ecker +1 for the block.)|
|O32||1||10||Offset I slot||Pass||Inc||Breaston||Stop|
|Henne(-1) makes this a much tougher catch than it has to be, throwing it really hard and about a yard inside. Still hits him in the hands and could be caught. (very nominally CA)|
|Grady(+1) does well to power through a a tackler and stumble forward for a good chunk of yards. Could have been stopped for two yards.|
|Again with the zone-short-yardage I mentioned earlier and a similar, disappointing result. Mitchell(-1) got driven back a bit.|
|O23||4||1||Offset I 2TE||Penalty||5||--||Offsides|
|Extremely fortunate for us, as the man offsides was not on the playside as was thus completely irrelevant. Otherwise we turn the ball over on downs. Don't like running to the weak side of this formation when they've overloaded said side. Henne(-1) has to get us out of that.|
|Right up the gut for a touchdown. Presnap Henne corrects Oluigbo's position â€“ he had moved to an offset. Postsnap, Oluigbo(+1) crushes a blocker, allowing Hart a hole between the last linebacker and the endzone. A blitz from the outside linebackers anticipating another zone opens up all the space. Our rock to their scissors.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 1 min 1st. I'd rather have Oluigbo in there on these short yardage plays.|
|They're playing way, way off Manningham. He stops after five yards, catches the pass, and has plenty of room for more. (CA)|
|Grady(+1) cuts back and is momentarily caught in an ankle tackle by Bazuin, but breaks it and plows ahead for a nice gain.|
|O11||2||1||Offset I 2TE||Run||3||Grady||Iso|
|Awful camera angle. Grady(-1) cuts this to the backside, too, and unnecessarily. He risks a TFL here when the hole ahead was clearly sufficient to pick up the first down. Another good stick from Oluigbo(+1), though it was moot.|
|Dagnabit. I like my heroes and goats clear. On this play the POA is clogged by a ton of CMU players. There would be a wide open cutback lane between Kraus and someone if Kraus(-1) hadn't been ripped to the ground by the DT and free to close on Minor. Touchdown if Kraus makes the block and Minor makes the cut.|
|Bihl takes a little too long on his double-team at the line. When Grady cuts up the MLB is still unengaged, making a cutback unpalatable, so heads to the right of Bihl for a few yards. Made a couple after contact.|
|Long(+1) ends up burying his man five yards into the endzone. A nice, solid cut by Grady(+1) splits two converging defenders. Touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, 12 min 2nd Q. Grind grind grind grind.|
|Lots of time. Henne gets to his second or third read, which is Hart, lined up at WR, on a six yard stop. Hart(-1) drops the ball. (CA)|
|Massive cutback lane as Central gets caught stemming into another defense right at the snap, one with only three DL. Since Riley is getting blown back again Hart cuts it up for a first down. CMU safety Curtis Cutts tatoos Hart.|
|Massey wiiiide open on the waggle. Excellent throw on the run. (DO, Henne +1)|
|Thompson at fullback. He decides to flail at a player already on the ground(-1), thus allowing a couple linebackers to fill.|
|O35||2||8||I-Form Twins||Pass||16||Breaston||PA deep cross|
|Breaston wide open after play action on the sideline about 12 yards downfield. Manningham's go route has run off the player originally in that zone. Henne puts it right on the money. (DO, Henne +1)|
|The play where Curtis Cutts comes up and goes Batman (POW!) on Minor. Great job by Bihl and Kraus to open up the cavern he runs through. (+1 for both)|
|Goofball in seat near me says "he's running tentative because of that hit," which draws muttered snark from me. It's hard to run anywhere when a defensive end is entirely unblocked. I'm pretty sure this is on Long(-2).|
|Man. Kids, Dan Bazuin is for real. On this play he starts out on the left, then has a delayed stunt inside Long. Kraus is trying to deal with the stunter and Bihl(-1) whiffs, forcing Henne to scramble and eventually take a sack. Can't blame Henne here: Michigan went max-pro, keeping 2 TEs in to block. The routes weren't ready by the time Bazuin was on him. (PR)|
|Drive Notes: Field Goal, 24-7, 6 min 2nd Q. A couple of breakdowns on the left side of the line terminate this drive.|
|Oluigbo(-1) does not do the job here. I hate this playcall: there are nine men in the box. Nine.|
|Ditto. Nine guys in the box. Arrington single covered out to the right with his man eight yards off him. Stupidly conservative.|
|M7||3||6||Ace 3-Wide||Penalty||-4||Butler||False start|
|Butler(-1). His second of the day.|
|Well, clearly you don't want to hover in the pocket all day when you're in your own endzone, but Henne should be able to find someone. There's an out just offscreen that looks open. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-7, 2 min 2nd Q. Hate this drive for its predictability and clear indication that the idea of a "scoring offense" is alive and well. Tactically it's saying "we don't want you to get a cheap touchdown before the half," which I dislike mucho because the best way to prevent a cheap touchdown before the half is to get a first down here and kill their drive dead before they even start it.|
|M49||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||26||Breaston||Slip screen|
|Nice block from Arrington(+1), Breaston(+2) does his "I'm Steve Breaston" thing. (CA)|
|Very nice job by Bihl(+1) to seal off the DT. Mitchell and Riley(+1 each) create a gaping hole between themselves and Bihl. Hart(+1) makes another five or eight with a nice cutback once he gets through the hole.|
|O10||1||10||Ace 3-Wide Bunch||Run||5||Hart||Draw|
|Excellent blocking by the line. Hart is tackled by his shoes and falls forward.|
|Cuts up between Long(+1) and Kraus(+1). Just pushing them back, glacier-style.|
|Oluigbo(+1) pounds the outside linebacker, freeing Hart to waltz in to the outside. Michigan motioned a tight end to the left and ran right.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-10 10 min 3rd Q.|
|Cut is right up the gut.|
|Tight ends are open by five yards when we run this. Throw is right on the money (DO, Henne +1); Butler cartwheels to the turf after the catch.|
|Time to throw. Henne(-1) checks down to Massey, who's covered, and throws it well wide anyway. This could be evidence for those who think Henne has been coached into timidity. (IN)|
|There's a massive hole here but Grady makes a terrible decision, running back into the defense.(-1) Kudos to Kraus(+1) and Bihl(+1) for the blocking.|
|Kraus(-1) gets lost on a stunt, allowing his man to come in unblocked on Henne. He had just enough time to get it away but missed Manningham. (IN, though perhaps harsh.)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 7 min 3rd Q|
|A promising hole off tackle is closed just enough when Carson Butler(-1) can't hold his position and bumps into Grady as he passes. Grady(+1) digs for extra yards after contact for a decent gain anyway.|
|Works to perfection this time: Long(+1) shoves his man over enough for Kraus to seal then gets to the second level. Massey kicks out a linebacker, and Minor finds the gap behind Long for the first down. Minor finishes this run by delivering the pop this time.|
|Carson Butler(+1) dismembers the linebacker to the play side on this snap. Arrington(+1) dominates the cornerback; Minor gets the corner with ease. He finishes the run with powah!|
|Butler can't handle Bazuin on this play. There's nothing to the outside so Minor cuts it up into a bunch of bodies to get what he can.|
|Riley(-1) killed by Bazuin again. Jackson is out of options and, much like the last play, a Michigan running play ends in a mass of flailing limbs. Oh, and a fumble.|
|Time to throw ends abruptly when Bazuin stunts past Mitchell(-1) and into Henne's chest. Henne does manage to get a pass off to Butler for a few yards. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Field Goal, 34-10, 1 min 3rd Q|
|POA jammed up so Hart cuts back. Dodges an arm tackle. Dodges another arm tackle, and now he's got the whole right side of the field, which he starts running up. NO NO NO NO CHAD IT'S 34-10 DOOOON'T. (+2 for Hart.)|
|Time, checkdown, timidity. (CA)|
|CMU blitzes into it... the guy up the middle is blowed up by Oluigbo, but too much traffic in the middle.|
|Flag is picked up. The contact was indeed before the ball was thrown, but this still seems like it should be a penalty. No justice no peace. Not charted since Manningham's fall makes it impossible to judge the throw.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-10, 12 min 4th Q. Garbage time ensues, though the first team gets another drive.|
Dude, there's like numbers and stuff.
Yes, we're trying out a very experimental +/- similar to that seen weekly for the defense. I forsee some problems:
- OL never get credit for good pass blocking but do get slammed for bad pass blocking.
- It's impossible to see if receivers are running good routes.
- A zone running game sometimes makes it difficult to assign blame or credit.
- Mike Hart got shorted.
But we'll try anyway. I added some +/- to Henne but I don't think that practice will continue since he's been the subject of much finer-grained analysis for a while.
|Long||5||4||1||Still missing a few blocks.|
|Bihl||3||1||2||No longer concerned about center.|
|Riley||2||7||-5||Plain murdered by Bazuin, who didn't even confine his damage to Riley.|
|Butler||1||3||-2||Stop false-starting, kid.|
|Oluigbo||4||1||3||Actually want to see more fullback. Who would have ever predicted that?|
At first glance, this might need significant work. Michigan crushed Central on the ground but the numbers don't really reflect it, though that was due almost entirely to Bazuin playing like Lawrence Taylor. And I have a feeling wide receivers are going to have mostly negative scores for dropping balls. We'll see.
IMO, a good game. There were a couple throws on the CA/IN border; one got dropped in each bin. The bullet to Breaston that was a yard off is the kind of pass that gets caught by Avant. So: a couple wobbly throws, one plain bad one, and then good results. Two tough-ish waggle throws made on the run hit TEs between the numbers. That deep cross to Breaston was perfectly placed and not a difficult catch. The BA wasn't his fault at all.
There wasn't much evidence to go on, but he came through when he was asked to throw. I do have some concerns about his tendency to check down when he has a lot of time, but with the umbrella CMU was putting around the deep receivers it's understandable. He should have some opportunities to go deep against Notre Dame.
If he is in rhythm at all. WTF haven't we thrown more?
I think the usual reasons trotted out (working on the zone game, DeBord and Carr treat the forward pass like apes encountering the Monolith) are probably part of it, but consider this: Michigan has essentially no backup quarterback. David Cone is a true freshman from a veer option team. Jason Forcier is a redshirt freshman who is not at all ready, if rumors are to be believed. So it might make some sense to keep your quarterback protected against teams that have very little chance of winning, especially when your right tackle is more door than wall and double especially when McBain is coming to kill you.
Speaking of McBain, good Lord.
No kidding. The word "unblockable" gets thrown around way too often -- I've heard people describe Woodley's first two games as "unblockable" when a better adjective would be "unblocked" -- but goddamn, that kid is unblockable. It wasn't just Riley, either. He blew past interior linemen on a couple stunts and would have ended Hart's first touchdown for a four-yard loss after shucking none other than Jake Long if not for Hart's unbearable awesomeness of being. I think he might be the best defensive end in the country. I know that I really want him to be the best defensive end in the country.
We'll find out when Abiamiri lines up versus Riley. I'm pulling for you, McBain.
And what does it mean for Notre Dame?
As previously discussed in the PSU tape review, Abiamiri is going to be a major problem. His matchup versus Riley is the key one for the Michigan offense, period. I expect him to get beat a lot. Just how much will determine the fate of the universe. Michigan will chip and offer RB support but when ND blitzes his help will be stripped away, leaving him one on one with the beast. I expect screens-a-plenty.
Michigan's run game is very good. Everyone on the line is capable of drive-blocking well. Oluigbo has established himself as a punishing blocker. Hart, Minor, and Grady are all good backs. Given what I've seen I think Michigan will be able to run on Notre Dame when they have seven in the box. Eight will work sometimes but not frequently enough for Michigan to go into a shell the entire game and come out with a win. Variety will be key.
We don't really know much about Michigan's passing game other than Riley's scary and the tight ends are heavily featured. I expect the TEs to remain heavily featured in an attempt to keep ND's linebackers from crashing the LOS. Waggles and seam routes should feature. Also, WR screens should be effective if the GT game is any indication of the open-field tackling ability possesed by ND's cornerbacks. Breaston and Manningham can make these guys miss. Ndukwe and Zbikowski might dislodge their fillings ten yards downfield, but ten yards is ten yards.
I'm still not sure what to expect except a lot of zone blocking and panicked scrambles from Henne when Riley whiffs. We could grind up and down the field on them, or we could succumb to an avalanche of tiny mistakes like we did last year. I think we score in the 24-27 point range.
|O38||1||10||Nickel||Run||3||Speed triple option|
|The third option is a shovel pass. Harris comes up to force the pitch, which is made to the outside. And hey! Ryan Mundy(+1) makes a good play by getting to the outside shoulder of the WR attempting to block him, forcing the play back inside. Burgess, pursuing, makes the tackle.|
|Michigan stunts both defensive ends; they get stoned. (And thus we definitively prove that CMU's OL is better than FSU's.) In what will become a theme, LeFevour loops a pass out to his intended target, allowing Trent to close and prevent any YAC. Why so far off? (Coverage -1)|
|"Ryan Branch" listed on the starting lineups. Zone read play action; LeFevour hurls the ball to no one in particular because he's getting crushed by Lamarr Woodley(+1).|
|Despite the gain in yardage a nice play by Mundy(+1) again. Another zone-read fake freezes Burgess inside, leaving Mundy alone with a blocker. He drives the blocker onto his heels and then disengages as the WR comes by, making the tackle as best he can. Perilously close to holding on the Central WR.|
|The sort of yicky stuff I hate on third down: four man rush and a zone behind it. Harris is the closest man but I don't think you can hold him responsible here. (Coverage -1)|
|Hall(+1) breaks on the ball and knocks it away. Another slow looper that's a bit too high. Hall probably doesn't make this play if a strong-armed guy fires it in there. (Coverage +1)|
|(That God Damned Counter Draw.) Of course this play gives me hives. Fake the rollout, hand the ball to the RB making a counter move and viola many yards. Who to blame, who to blame? Burgess(-1) got sucked along to the point of no return. Englemon(-1) has a shot at him but stutter steps for some reason (trip? Didn't want to get cut back on?), allowing another 10-15.|
|Notice to opposing coaches: suggest you block that Woodley(+2) guy. Seriously: no stunt or anything, just a couple blitzers, and he's turned free. Bonus points to Harris(+1) for tackling the lone Central player with a chance to recover. Often have I wondered why I don't see that more often.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Burgess gets misdirected a couple times. I'm not sure how much is on him, but it sure looks bad. Also Woodley gets the easiest sack of his career on the first blitz of the drive. Learn this lesson well, O English.|
|Central lines up in good old Ace 3-wide and then runs what looks like a freakin' zone play to the left side of the line. Michigan is all like O RLY? Central is all like YA RLY. Michigan is like NO WAI, largely because Terrance Taylor(+1) plowed his man three yards into the backfield a la Watson. Englemon(+1) comes up on the outside to force the loss.|
|LeFevour's pass is a little outside an glances off the hands of Linson. Hall looks a little dodgy with his angle on this play. If this is caught fairly good chance he misses the tackle and then some people are going to be chasing this dude.|
|O14||3||13||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||0||Bubble screen|
|Crable sighting at DE. Sneed motions to the right where a screen would have gotten set up had Jamar Adams(+1) not read it too fast for the OL to get out on him. Harris(+1) cleans up afterwards.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 4 min 1st Q. First hint of a daily theme: whenever Central attempted to line straight up and run it was a wasted down.|
|Ryan Mundy(-2) plows into Anderson well before the ball gets there. Really obvious call.|
|O32||1||10||Standard 4-3||Run||1||Off tackle|
|Another useless run out of Ace 3-Wide from Central is again disrupted by Taylor(+2). Good backside pursuit by Biggs.|
|O33||2||9||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-3||Zone read handoff|
|Branch(+2) is initially stood up but when released by the guard moving to the second level he shoots into the backfield and punches the ball loose. DTs do not move that fast in nature. Woodley recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, EO 1st Q. Two more useless runs from CMU.|
|O20||1||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||-1 + 15||Zone read handoff|
|Taylor is again well into the backfield â€“ he's playing like an in-shape Watson â€“ but drags Sneed down by his facemask. Er... +2/-1?|
|Hall(-1, coverage -1) is R-U-N-N-O-F-T by Linson, turning his hips the wrong way just as he makes his cut. Open, good throw, rhythm completion. Central rushes this snap so no formation.|
|We blitz, LeFevour panics and rifles it into the crowd. WR was open (-1 coverage) and this will be a completion when we play ND.|
|Four man rush + zone behind it == easy completion to middle of field. I know Michigan has to run this D sometimes but we hates it, precious. (Coverage -1)|
|Two unblocked blitzers off the corner. LeFevour finds an open receiver on the slant but whistles the ball wide. Potential interception for Hall here... don't like his coverage, though.|
|Zone blitz w/ Van Alstyne dropping into coverage is momentarily picked up until Mundy(+1) shoves his blocker down and makes the sack. (Coverage +1)|
|The peril of press coverage: Mundy(-1) misses at the line and ends up chasing the receiver all the way downfield. Englemon(-3), though, is the real culprit, bizarrely vacating the deep center of the field for the corner. He takes a way-too-shallow angle, allowing the receiver behind him, and then it's too late. Awful play.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, 10 min 2nd Q.|
|Pass wildly overthrown.|
|O45||2||10||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||9||Shovel pass|
|Four man rush + zone should be a good play to contain this shovel screen but evidently is not. Don't like David Harris's(-1) angle on this play. Could have stopped him for 3 or so.|
|DL stones 'em. Branch(+2) gets superior penetration, destroying a third-and-short.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 24-7, 4 min 2nd Q. Punt = stupid.|
|A lot of time. Cetoute just falls down.|
|Ball is slightly inside and a touch catch but still makeable. Trent was run off and still a couple yards away from the play when the ball arrives. (Coverage -1).|
|LeFevour gets it there but only just. Coverage(+1) decent.|
|They empty the backfield and everyone's immediately like "oh, QB draw," including English, who blitzes right into it. Burgess(-2), unblocked, overruns the QB and voila first down.|
|To save time.|
|I think this crappy defense has leaked over from the offense, which has gone into save-the-lead-before-the-half mode. We're passive and Lefevour scrambles out into a bunch of confused defenders a la last year.|
|Adams(+1) jumps the route, knocking the ball down in the endzone. (Coverage +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 24-10, EOH.|
|O47||1||10||Nickel||Run||1||Speed triple option|
|Technically this is a pass play since LeFevour takes the shovel option. Woodley(+2) reads, forms up on LeFevour, and waits for the pitch, closing on the shovel guy instantly. Great play.|
|Four man rush + zone behind it == easy completion to middle of field, again. We must be wary of screen or something. Taylor was free on a stunt but we needed to cover for another couple seconds to make it matter. (Coverage -1)|
|I don't know if this is a checkdown or the play as called. I think it's just the playcall, anticipating a blitz. We do not blitz â€“ same Herrmannesque defense as the last down â€“ and Crable(+1) forms up to make the tackle.|
|Sent to the endzone. This is a pump-and-go that Hall(-2) bites on, getting beat badly. Maybe he recovered just enough(+1) to disrupt the receiver's concentration enough to make him drop it. Why is there no safety help on a four man rush? Should have been caught, but was dropped.|
|O34||3||7||3-3-5 Stack||Pass||Inc||Short cross|
|Corner blitz from Hall is unblocked, forcing a panicked dumpoff pass three yards downfield, which is dropped anyway.|
|Intentional grounding on LeFevour. We again send a ton of blitzers. Woodley(+1) is unblocked and so does't get major points but does run down LeFevour from behind, forcing the penalty.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 24-10, 13 min 3rd Q. Defense sucks sucks sucks then we blitz and overrun them. Please learn from this drive. We must Georgia Tech these ND bastards.|
|CMU rolls the pocket... Crable is about to get free from the tackle and apply pressure when he's pretty flagrantly held â€“ no call. LeFevour leaves it too long (coverage +1), then throws it to a tiny window along the sideline. Adams(+1) breaks it up.|
|Wow. They try to set up a screen, which David Harris(+1) reads and disrupts. The wow: an OT blocking Woodley reaches out and grabs Crable by his collar, and yanks him to momentarily slow his pass rush. No call.|
|O21||3||10||3-3-5 Stack||Run||1||QB Draw|
|Woodley(+1) occupies the lane in the middle. Also, we clearly are blitzing into this but there's no change in the play. Probably won't happen @ ND|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 9 min 3rd Q|
|Great coverage (+2) forces LeFevour to sit in the pocket until Biggs(+1) gets loose and sacks him.|
|Can't find anyone again (coverage + 1). Crable(+1) is tackled, drawing a holding flag.|
|Okay. Whatever. Trent's there soon enough on 2nd and 26.|
|We blitz. On 3rd and 21. I am overjoyed. Harris(+1) ends up decking LeFevour just as he throws. The pass is a prayer that falls a couple yards past his intended receiver.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 31-10, 5 min 3rd Q|
|O20||1||10||Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Branch(+2) penetrates and grabs Sneed's legs as he passes, ending this play before it starts.|
|O20||2||10||Nickel||Run||12||Zone read handoff|
|Harris(-1) takes a couple steps back before reading the run, preventing him from filling the hole. Too slow.|
|Sneed bounces outside to avoid our blitz. Morgan Trent(+1) provides excellent run support.|
|Stewart(-1, coverage -1) is playing way off.|
|LeFevour overthrows it badly.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 34-10. 15 min 4th Q|
|Joined in progress. I don't know what happened.|
|O13||2||7||3-3-5 Stack||Penalty||-5||Illegal Sub|
|Max Pollock! Walkon! Touchdown! OMG! Totally fumbled before the line but who cares!|
|Drive Notes: Interception Return Touchdown, 41-10, 12 min 4th Q.|
Charting ceased here, as we've officially entered garbage time.
So that wasn't exactly quite as stirring as the Vanderbilt game.
No, it wasn't, but I think we knew going in that Central had a better offense than Vandy. The 10 points and 4 turnovers the Commodores racked up against Alabama reinforce that.
Still, I was a little disappointed. Crable's monster game in week one got him little playing time in week two and he didn't do a ton with the opportunities he was given. We got burned on the counter draw yet again. There were a few times when we dropped seven into coverage, got nothing from the DL, and watched completions over the middle that seem impossible for Michigan to duplicate. Leon Hall was pretty average. Brandent Englemon made his first critical mistake as a Wolverine.
Any positives, Mr. Grumpy?
Still: 10 meaningful points, seven of them on a pass that probably should have been deflected or intercepted.
It's hard to judge Terrance Taylor's performance since Central ran so few plays that he was relevant to, but good Lord whenever the Chips lined up in a fairly conventional formation and ran the ball, Taylor was crushing his guy into the backfield. He wasn't holding the point of attack, he was almost drive-blocking his opponent. Just Central, sure, but exciting. If he can repeat that performance against Notre Dame, Michigan is going to have zero problems dealing with any sort of conventional Notre Dame rushing game. Big if, but he's already done more than Massey did last year. At this point I expect him to have a better year than Gabe Watson did a year ago, as he's in much better shape than Big Gabe.
Ryan Mundy made a couple of nice plays defending the run. Though he was beaten on the Central touchdown, he was in press coverage over a slot receiver and had every right to expect safety help.
Woodley is no joke. Biggs may not be one, either.
Heroes and Goats?
Kind of already did them, but here's the chart to re-iterate:
|Woodley||8||8||Wasn't blocked on either sack.|
|Taylor||5||1||4||Outstanding penetration. Can you really double him when he's sitting next to Branch?|
|Branch||5||5||No, you can't.|
|Crable||2||2||Quiet day with Michigan mostly in the spread. Would have had a bigger impact if a couple obvious holds were called.|
|Burgess||1||3||-2||Out of position on the counter draw.|
|Hall||1||2||-1||Mitigated somewhat by coverage.|
|Adams||3||3||Where he needed to be.|
|Englemon||1||4||-3||We still love ya, Brandent.|
|Mundy||2||3||-1||Maybe a little harsh. Though he did okay.|
|"Coverage"||8||8||0||Not as good as the Vandy game but I think batting .500 in this category is pretty good. We'll see as it develops.|
In sum: another good day for the DL, though it would have been nice if Biggs showed the same pass rush he did against Vandy.
After some time doing this, I've come to the conclusion that the system as deployed favors defensive linemen with pluses and is harsh to the secondary, so keep that in mind. A DL with a score around zero is a bad player; a cornerback around zero is probably a decent one.
Played but not much. Didn't have an impact on the game. With Biggs playing well I don't think we'll see much of him against ND except in passing situations.
And what does it mean fo r Notre Dame?
I would be surprised if Darius Walker gets many yards at all when ND lines up and runs. He'll probably break a couple draws into the secondary and catch a few screens, but I'm pretty sure Notre Dame is going to get stoned when they try to run.
The passing game is another matter. Seeing LeFevour sit back with mucho time tends to give one pause, especially in the harsh light of Penn State's debacle. Hall re-confirmed my opinion of him as an above-average cornerback but not a great one. Also, the safeties gave up a big play and we haven't gotten a play from Stewart or Trent yet.
Notre Dame is going to have to make a lot of West Coast six-to-eight yard throws on first down if they want to move the ball consistently. Walker is not likely to be effective with Michigan in a base defense and when ND finds itself in obvious passing downs Michigan will feature that Crable/Woodley/Branch/Jamison DL-type substance and try to send Brady Quinn's ribs out his back. Grinding scoring drives like we saw versus Penn State (and at the beginning of last year's game) are unlikely to happen often. Maybe once. However, Weis will no doubt catch us in a really wrong defense six or seven times, at which point we'll have to hope they screw it up or one of our defenders makes an outstanding play. The points we give up will depend heavily on how many of these plays -- slants against major blitzes, bombs to Samarjasdikeixa, screens against major blitzes -- we actually give up. I expect at least two, but that idiot at CSTV (I think they're trying to collect the whole set) predicting 45 points for Notre Dame is going to be off by about 20.
Once again, copious thanks to reader Josh Houchin for the video clips.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
Ohio State's win over Texas snaps the poll into agreement: the Buckeyes now dominate the #1 votes. I hope to wake up in a panicked sweat to find out this is all a dream any moment.
Fallers: Texas clearly had to lose ground after losing decisively and did but stayed in the top ten.
Teams that struggled against what appeared to be vastly inferior competion were all punished similarly. Florida State dropped three spots to #12 after their Houdini act versus the mighty Troy Trojans of Troy (We're From Troy). Note that FSU remained static in the AP poll. Iowa's "whoops" moment against Syracuse also cost them three spots; ditto Tennessee's narrow escape versus Air Force.
Finally, Miami lost a lot of ground by association after the FSU-Troy game. I personally dropped the 'Canes a few slots just to keep them behind the plummeting Seminoles and I assume many other voters did likewise.
Risers: OSU didn't really go anywhere but their hold on the top spot went from tenuous to vice-like. Georgia and Michigan rose by default, as someone had to leap past Iowa, FSU, and Tennessee. BC's OT thriller versus Clemson earned them a debut at #20.
Wack Ballot Watchdog: SMQB has gone retro, 2005 style, and features Boise State in the top ten. Bruce Ciskie missed the end of the BC-Clemson game, evidently, ranking the Tigers #12. TrojanWire hates #19 Florida. Cheap Seats has South Carolina #20... what? And Florida State #5 but Miami unranked, down from #11 last week? What? Is San Jose State on this ballot somewhere?
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is (ack) Notre Dame's House Rock Built, probably because he conducted his latest exercise in ballotry like it was a blind taste test:
Initially, I wrote down the top 35 or so teams on index cards, then flipped them over and wrote the results from their games. On my first pass, I ordered the teams strictly by looking at the back of the card, completely ignoring the name on the front.
Flashcards! For the BlogPoll! Everyone else without excessively complex systems for determining their ballots is hereby on notice. Anyway, this went as you might expect:
Suffice to say, my first pass was batshit crazy (e.g., Pitt was at #8), and would have resulted in Brian from mgo driving down to my house and kicking me in the pillbox.
So he made some changes to tone it down a bit. Nonetheless, the results:
- Oregon and Tennessee bullishness: #5 and #6, respectively. UT actually flew up 12 spots despite the Air Force business for reasons unrelated:
You see, this is the week that I officially removed all weighting of preseason rankings from my standings. For the preseason, I was fine letting everybody slide by on hype and power rankings, and even after week one, I didn't really make changes while everybody whipped themselves into shape by beating on patsies.
Note that this week's winner in this category is approximately half as wacky as our winner last week (if you assume a reasonable error minimum is posited by the Numb Existence guy).
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
For a second straight week, The CK Award has proved a heavy weight around the necks of the overrated teams. JournoRock, the winner last week, is an Alabama fan: the Tide escaped with a 13-10 win versus Vanderbilt. Penn State bloggers spent the first couple weeks in the #2 and #4 slots: the Nittany Lions were obliterated by ND. Beware! This category has dark and fey powers.
With that in mind, congratulations to our co-winners. Journorock tempts fate for a second straight week; he's joined by the Badger Sports Report. The CK Award would have to be mighty indeed to strike down the Tide when they play Louisiana-Lafayette, but Wisconsin is hereby on upset alert versus San Diego State. Also, watch MSU get crushed by Pitt.
Straight Bangin' Award should probably be retired and replaced with another award defined as "the voter most pessimistic about his team who isn't Joey from Schembechler Hall." He'll probably have to cede the trophy next week, as mind
s will be made up one way or the other when Michigan plays ND.
Swing is essentially the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
SMQB repeats in the Mr. Manic-Depressive category. Week 2 provided some clear answers on many teams (Ohio State, for instance) that brought SMQB's ballot closer to the average; since it was so far out last week that obviously requires some seismic shifting.
One question, though: was Pitt's 33-15 victory over Cincinatti sluggish enough to drop them entirely?
(Don't get me wrong, I like voters in this category more than voters in this one:)
Mr. Stubborn is Iowa State blogger Cross Cyed. Some of that is an aftereffect of being right -- OSU was already #1, ND #2, Texas relatively low at #5 -- but Penn State is obliterated and they drop one slot? Okay.
God, Penn State's coaching staff is retarded. Remember when they'd waste downs by bringing in Robinson to run an ISQD*? They managed to get away from that habit when Robinson became the starter and said quarterback draws were no longer Incredibly Surprising. Well, they're back. Derrick Williams must have blown a half-dozen snaps running into the Incredibly Surprised line; the one time they tried to run trickeration off of it the play design was totally different than the plays they'd "set up" Notre Dame with and was so Incredibly Surprising that Williams was leveled by Ndkuwe when he tried to throw the ball. Lloyd haters take heart: there are dumber staffs out there.
And that compares not at all to what they did on the defensive side of the ball. Their gameplan against ND -- basically "if we drop all eleven guys into coverage it'll take them a really long time to score" -- tripped some sort of Herrmann-fuse in my brain. When I came to I was on the floor of Dunkin Donuts covered in coffee and what I really hope was frosting. Thanks for nothing, Penn State! Undeterred by Quinn freakin' torching them in the first quarter, they persisted in this until the touchdowns fell like rain. Penn State, thy name is Corky.
And then the grand bull-moose of horrific error: that insane option. Someone's been playing too much NCAA 2004. Just because everyone from John Navarre on up makes a dandy option QB in the game does not mean that Anthony Morelli will do anything except explode when you have him do it in real life.
I no longer fear this game much. Penn State's defensive ends have court orders to stay 50 yards from the quarterback at all times. Their blitzes are telegraphed, mistimed, and pitifully slow. Evidently they're terrified of their secondary, since their gameplan was hell-bent on preventing anyone finding themselves in single coverage, like, ever. Morelli has a nice arm and a tendency to throw into double coverage. Tony Hunt is the very definition of pedestrian.
*(Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw.)
Quinn was better. Two throws on seam routes to TE John Carlson stand out. They were real and they were fantastic. Never really saw the OMG NFL buzz on Quinn, but those throws give some indication of what his proponents see. They had to be placed in a two-foot window twenty yards downfield and were. Pure "wow" throws. Also, when Penn State's feeble attempts to get pressure failed (basically every time Quinn dropped back -- dude had Navarre-ian time to sit back and evaluate the field) he sliced and diced like Ginsu.
...but not exactly great. Those eight-man coverages in the redzone prompted two throws from him that should have been picked off. One was a horribly thrown ball that would have been a touchdown if accurate; a safety stepped in front of the other. There were also a couple overthrows on somewhat difficult passes.
Notre Dame cornerbacks haven't exactly repaired that Fiesta Bowl thing. Penn State had a couple opportunities to bomb it deep but could not. Once Derrick Williams dropped it; another time Morelli underthrew a ball that would have been a Ginn-Fiesta-style touchdown if accurate. I have a sneaking feeling that you can just run by these guys no problem toot sweet bingo, especially if Notre Dame brings an eighth guy into the box to staunch the bloodflow in the run game. Can Michigan block long enough to make it matter? Can the wide receivers actually get under and catch the hypothetical bomb? Eh... seems doubtful.
The linebackers can be had. We've had some problems getting guys blocked and keeping 'em blocked in the first couple games, but from what I saw against Penn State once these guys get engaged they're done. Their SAM linebacker has been iffy and both middle and weakside guys are undersized. That's mitigated somewhat by Zbikowski and Ndukwe, both outstanding in run support, but I can foresee a lot of 5 to 8 yard runs against ND.
Some Irish fans are theorizing that their mildly undersized line is good for dealing with the zone game, but that depends entirely on how committed they are to stopping the run. Seven in the box or even eight in the wrong position == death. That gives the Michigan line the freedom to shove undersized guys into sealed positions with their momentary doubles ("scoop" blocks in the parlance of our times), then get out to the linebackers and turn them into green goo. Lanes a-plenty. If, on the other hand, they guess correctly and force adjustments that remove the scoop possibility, Michigan will be trying to deal with one on one blocking while moving laterally across the line of scrimmage against theoretically penetrating linemen: bad news. Hart can probably turn some projected losses into decent gains, but Michigan won't be able to sustain drives on zone alone.
Victor Abiamiri is going to be a problem. He's good and he's lining up against Riley. I was hoping House Rock Built was engaging in a bit of homer fantasy when he described Abiamiri as a monster in our little tete-a-tete, but I regret to inform you that he isn't. Whatever sap is playing right tackle for PSU got izzowned** by Abiamiri all day... and it would have been worse had the refs decided to call two or three really obvious holds on him. Given Riley's ugly performance against Bazuin I think you're going to see an awful lot of chipping and support given to ol' Rueben. That'll harsh our routes a bit and potentially tip our plays: TE over Long == run, TE over Riley == pass.
**(Like "owned," only to such an extent that you can mention Michigan vs. Michigan State basketball as a potential comparison and be taken seriously.)
- I understand why teams are swarming Samarjajeixkia but not McKnight. McKnight's had several opportunities to make tough catches in ND's first couple games and come through rarely. Whenever you put the ball within five yards of Samarjaexxxxo, he catches it. I hate him.
- If we get aggressive we resign ourselves to two or three forty-yard completions downfield. It's just going to happen. We blitz, it gets picked up, and Quinn hurls it towards one of the aforementioned receivers, both of whom have major height advantages on any cornerback you care to name.
- I'm fine with this. I prefer this in lieu of what happened to PSU.
- Darius Walker is a poor man's Mike Hart. The similarities are downright eerie.
- PSU probably did us a major favor by playing stupidity guinea pig. The stark contrast between GT's approach, PSU approach, and their respective results should be obvious to all. We're coming after Quinn.
- If the other defensive end is as much of a problem area as HRB implied, Long should have a field day against him in the run game. He's been driving guys into the secondary so far this year.
- A large portion of the game's outcome rests on exactly when we have paper to their screen scissors and vice-versa. I often think that football is essentially a very violent poker game; this game will live up to that theory more than most. This worries me, as I don't think there's a person on the planet who would bet on Carr in a heads-up hold'em duel.
Quickly, quickly, must return to ND curse machine.
1. Troy Smith, OSU
I don't want to talk about it.
2. Calvin Johnson, GT
Still 240 pounds of righteous anger.
3. Dan Bazuin, Central Michigan
Sorry, Garrett, but my MAC vote goes to this guy from now on. Rueben Riley is somewhat supect as a RT, but he did hold Tamba Hali relatively quiet a year ago. Not Bazuin. He was driving into the backfield on every play, for what little good it did there rest of CMU's defense. A terror. The only thing that stopped Michigan's offense all day. Also: he's from McBain, Michigan, so you know he's bad.
4. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan
As SMQB notes, he's on pace for 30 TFL and 24 sacks. Uh... probably not going to get there. But a disruptive force.
5. Jeff Samarajdajziakkiaia, Notre Dame
I don't want to talk about this, either. Yes, yes, slow start but that's because everyone is covering him. Almost literally.
Programming Note: UFR this week is Wednesday/Thursday.
This week's subject is House Rock Built impresario Fightinamish, also named Brian. This will be relevant later. We sat down for an IM-chat thing; the transcript is below. Note that all capital letters from HRB were forcibly inserted by me, so I may have missed a few. Accursed non-shift-using leprechaun!
House Rock Built: Personally, I feel like I'm a different person the week before the Michigan game than I am the other 51 weeks of the year. I'm short-tempered, angry, and on the edge of my seat. There's something weird about this rivalry that brings something out in me that no other game does. what exactly goes through your mind in the week leading up to this game, both in general and specifically this year?
MGoBlog: Er... I kind of got in a lot of trouble with Notre Dame fans answering a similar question last year in a fashion I thought was respectful but not obsequious. Evidently BGS readers disagreed. Anyway, what I tried to express was the pure hell this rivalry has been for Michigan fans over the past, oh, 13 or so years. Notre Dame has been terrible for the vast bulk of this time but we've managed to piss away what in retrospect has been a huge talent advantage by doing tons of dumb, dumb stuff. Getting to hear all about ND's latest return to glory in the following weeks is constant salt in the wound.
I dread this game. For so long there's been no upside and plenty of painful folly. At least this year ND is going to destroy all comers Da Bears style so the humiliation level after a loss is much lower and the reward for a win much higher. And given our previous performance, Michigan seems about as likely to win.
Why are you so edgy? I would think ND fans would welcome their next defeat of hilarious 3-L Lloyd at the hands of Robot Genius?
House Rock Built: I think it's something unique to this specific rivalry. There are two things that really characterize the Notre Dame-Michigan series. One is a bitter hatred between the fanbases and the other is a guarantee that the game will be settled under cruel and arbitrary circumstances. A wobbly 50 yard field goal, a blocked kick, a fumble on the goal line. no matter what the circumstances are leading into the game, it always seems like you can throw records and talent levels out the window when it comes to this game.
MGoBlog: Except that one year. Don't take that away from me.
House Rock Built: Right. I drank that one away. Aggressively.
Anyway, the Irish have come out on top with this recently (except for 03, thanks for reminding me) despite being outmatched on the field and between the headphones. It's a little unsettling being on the other end of the hype and expectations, especially seeing how badly it went for Michigan. I can't even remember the last time Notre Dame was favored in this game
MGoBlog: I can't either, which probably means it was 2002 or something embarassing.
House Rock Built: Ha. where's my trusty stat boy?
MGoBlog: Probably waxing his eyebrows. Pretty boy. So you're no doubt expecting something in the 40-17 range, right?
House Rock Built: Most definitely not. I've always erred on the side of excessive worrying, and the last eight years of coaching has really helped that develop into an obsession. I think Michigan is a lot different than Penn State, and sportswriters who are predicting a repeat performance of last week are experiencing clouded judgement from robot-genius love.
I have a surprising amount of confidence, but knowing how ugly and sloppy this game typically is, i get the feeling it will be close all the way to the end.
So it sounds like you're pretty gloomy. Are you just downgrading your expectations to avoid pain or are you actually that down about your chances this weekend?
MGoBlog: I'm not all that down, actually. I will probably predict narrow victory at the end of the week because I think the game is very even and I may as well predict what makes me happy. There are a lot of unknown variables. So let's get down to brass tacks or orange julius or whatever the kids call it these days.
CMU defensive end Dan Bazuin owned M RT Rueben Riley last game. Just crushed him. He's the big flaming weakness on offense. Have anyone capable of exploiting that?
House Rock Built: Let's see, right tackle, so he'll probably take most snaps against our strongside end, Victor Abiamiri. Short answer: yeah. Abiamiri is a monster who is very capable of terrorizing an offensive backfield. the reason he hasn't become a household name is because he is always, always double-teamed and is the main point of focus for opposing offensive lines, which most teams have been able to get away with in the absence of another dominating force on the Irish d-line.
I'm guessing Michigan will take the same approach and make sure there is as much meat as possible between him and the precious football, especially with such a shaky situation at RT.
MGoBlog: Probably see a lot of chipping and TE doubles. Bazuin isn't chopped liver by the way -- he made my MaxwellPundit ballot this week -- but are you getting any penetration from other players on the line? I didn't see much against Georgia Tech.
House Rock Built: That has been a struggle. Derek Landri is an undersized tackle who thrives on quickness, but really can't bowl anyone over or plow through a lineman. Trevor Laws is a bit bigger, but seems to be more of a run stuffer and Chad-Henne-sidearm-pass-deflector extraordinaire. coming into this season, i was hoping that this unit would turn into a pass-rushing nightmare, but it hasn't really panned out yet. the best pressure we've gotten is bringing our speedy linebackers on blitzes.
MGoBlog: And the other end?
House Rock Built: It's a rotation right now between Ronald Talley and Chris Frome. Talley spent most of the Fiesta Bowl being thrown to the turf. Frome is coming off knee surgery and seems to have lost a step from last year. On passing downs, Weis is using freshman Morrice Richardson as a pass-rushing specialist and actually had some success. Hopefully between the three of them we can find a pass-rusher who can cause some havoc from the blind side, which should hopefully take some attention off of Abiamiri. Time will tell on that one.
Update: Check Part II over @ House Rock Built.
...by which I mean GT-ND tape review. Not exactly a full Armageddon-style UFR, but I did go back and re-watch the Georgia Tech game with a critical eye to see what was there to be seen. As follows.
Brady Quinn was ass. Is this good news or bad news? I have no idea. The prevailing theory re: only 14 points was that Quinn was under seige and rattled. I buy the rattled part. He was indecisive, inaccurate, and all-around bleah. He displayed signs of hennebriation on many simple, chain-moving throws that were winged yards wide of the receiver. After the game Notre Dame fans were forced to wax poetic about his incredible determination on quarterback draws and scrambles and stuff.
But it wasn't really Georgia Tech's doing. For the most part Quinn had time to find receivers even when GT blitzed. There were very few instances of unblocked players bearing down on him, though when they did it was ugly: intentional grounding on a screen followed by a near-safety on another screen on one series. For the most part Quinn killed ND's first half drives with inaccuracy or indecision all by himself.
He was a bit better in the second half and even in the first there were a couple impressive throws mixed in, including a critical third down throw made with a GT player's helmet in his chest, but if Chad Henne turned in a performance like that Michigan fans would start calling for Carlos Brown.
I'm not overjoyed by this revelation: I think I'd rather have a clear distinction between GT's attacking defense destroying ND and Penn State's passive one being destroyed. Quinn committing largely unforced errors is something Michigan has no control over, and those errors can be attributed to first game jitters, especially on the road and double especially in this era of impossibly high expectations for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame got its points in a distinctly Lloydball fashion. The resemblance between the Notre Dame offense in this game and Michigan's 2005 abomination was eerie at times. They weren't that effective running the ball, the quarterback was incapable of converting a third and four, and the wide receiver screen was the most effective weapon available. Notre Dame did have better pass protection and two guys who you can just hurl jump balls to, FSU style.
And! And! When Notre Dame found itself in a hole following penalties in the red zone they basically went to a series of give-up plays -- Walker draws and screens -- that worked because Robot Jesus commanded them to. Then when they had the lead they decided to Lloyd it up some more, pounding the ball into the line. (Incidentally, this worked much better than relying on temporarily-unreliable Quinn.)
I don't think anything ND's defense did is particularly relevant. Tiny, ethnic, mobile Reggie Ball is the platonic opposite of a Michigan quarterback. They can't cover Calvin Johnson: we don't have any 6'5" pirate-ninja receivers. They got lost sometimes defending GT's all-finesse running game: finesse running game? Pa-fooey, we spit on finesse. Now finesse all gooey. What are you going to do about it? That's right, run another quarterback draw.
Some things I did notice:
- Zbikowski and Ndkuwe -- no doubt the only starting safety combo in the history of football to feature the letters N, D, B, and Z in the first two letters of their collective last names -- are big hitters but sometimes don't wrap up. There's a potential there for a missed tackle and Mike Hart trying desperately to stay away from pursuing secondary members.
- The corners had much trouble containing the few WR screens GT threw. I've come around on the WR screen -- most of the problems we had the first week were caused by poor throws or missed blocks and not defensive preparation -- and expect to see it deployed effectively.
- There was very little penetration from ND on running plays. It resembled Michigan's hold'em up and let the linebackers flow thing. Interesting thing you might want to look for: is Michigan getting the seal on these guys and getting to the second level quickly enough to plow the undersized linebackers?
- ND's performance was greatly aided by stupid GT playcalling on second and short. Three or four times during the game GT found themselves in second and one and instead of doing something reasonably safe and reward laden (like, say, hurling one skyward to Calvin Johnson), they did stuff like run speed options that lost four yards. They killed many of their drives by screwing up second and one.
- Chan Gailey: go for it on fourth and one from the ND forty! What, do you think your mighty offense of offensive might is ever going to get there again?
Conclusions from this in the preview Friday. For now, chat amongst yourselves.
Note: please keep it civil. Last year the run-up and aftermath of the ND game was extremely ugly in the comments section; this year I'm going to torch things to prevent an unmoderated Rivals-free-board-style free-for-all. Yes, I love oppressing Irish speech. It's what gets me up in the morning.