Biggest risk of not reaching The Game undefeated? Can be opponent or team issue
Seth: My answers are low-score entropy, and the general bloodimindedness of the Big Ten universe. When Stribling fell down those who don't remember Bo-era losses must've thought "well that's what happens when you let a worse team off the hook." Those of us who do thought "Oh no, not again."
Randomness is the enemy of all favorites. When you're an offensive juggernaut with an okay defense, you worry about an injury to your dervish quarterback, conditions that take away something the defense couldn't, and staying on pace. When you're a defensive juggernaut with an okay offense, you worry about the one play.
We were given a treatment for the latter against Wisconsin. When facing a real defense, Michigan's just-okay offense will get bogged down. Michigan can mitigate the inability to kick a 40-yarder with better 4th down strategy, but this feeds the chaos engine.
Iowa brought back most of a great defense and could put it back together at night in Kinnick. Dantonio State will always play its best against Michigan. Indiana is probably better than either of those two and would be utterly terrifying if their chaos seed was just that rather than a curse. And out there on the Big Ten seas lurk the John O'Neill officiating crew, sworn enemies oddsmakers, favorites and ever calling holding unless it didn't happen, and capable of shifting an expected score by 28 points on the regular. When the deck is stacked in your favor, chaos is the enemy
[After THE JUMP: Respekt is earned.]
We have to do this, right?
No matter how many times you look, it's hard to choose. Charles Woodson jumped so high he caught a pass intended for the sideline. Jourdan Lewis long-jumped ~17 feet while backhanding a pass intended for an actual receiver after sticking with him on a dead sprint. Woodson loses minor degree of difficulty points for helping secure the football with his second hand; he regains them and then some by having to toe-tap inside the sideline to complete the catch. Lewis never needs the second hand; he also has the luxury of diving about as far from the sideline as possible. Woodson's came in a rivalry game; Lewis's in a game situation of much greater importance.
Here's the good news: you don't actually have to choose.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the GIFs.]
Ed-Ace: Recruitnik extraordinaire, regular podcast guest, and noted darts enthusiast Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247, aka The Artist Formerly Known As Aquaman, is back with his weekly recruiting mailbag. If you aren't subscribed to 247 and want to read more from Steve and the gang, they're running a buy one month, get two months free promotion.
OwenGoBlue asks: Where can Michigan capitalize with so many traditional powers having terrible seasons/job speculations?
There are a handful of schools that fit the bill here.
The biggest thing to consider is not only where a coaching change may take place, but who is truly available to replace those open spots. For instance, there's only one Tom Herman available right now, and it's hard to see any other names out there that would TRULY move the recruiting needle right off the bat. Guys like Larry Fedora may end up being great coaches elsewhere, but it's not a name I think recruits are going to immediately.
LSU is an obvious one here, and I think we've discussed them already, with five-star offensive lineman Austin Deculus and Top100 safety Grant Delpit as big-timers that could end up taking officials to Michigan.
Another one is USC. Clay Helton hasn't been fired, and who knows if he will, but the Trojans aren't an attractive option right now for kids who don't want to invest their future in a staff that may not make it through a four-year time period. They're a program that is always going to get some guys, but there is enough talent in the Pac-12 footprint to where Michigan can possibly snag a guy who is either committed there or was considered a heavy lean throughout. They may actually be the situation Michigan can capitalize on most with 2017 and 2018 prospects.
Notre Dame is another one that comes to mind. Michigan hosted one of their commitments over the weekend in 2018 four-star running back Markese Stepp. Like USC, their schedule is tough, and while Brian Kelly's job doesn't appear to be in jeopardy yet, it could be if they continue to struggle. They will still do well on the recruiting trail because of their academic prestige, but Michigan is one of the few schools that can offer something close along with a tangibly bright future under their current coaching staff.
One prospect I would point to right now regarding where wins/certainty may be paying off is Aledo (TX) four-star tackle Chuck Filiaga. I labeled him as Michigan's most intriguing visitor heading into last weekend because most of the schools he was really high on (Oklahoma, Oregon, USC) are struggling mightily to begin the season. While the coaching situations there haven't heated up to a Texas/LSU level yet, they could, and Michigan has stability, NFL production and wins to stand behind under Harbaugh right now.
This is one of the bigger reasons why some of what goes on in the off-season recruiting-wise is mostly noise-based. You're going to see schools like Washington, Louisville and Nebraska potentially capitalize on strong 2016 seasons under staffs that have only been in place for a couple seasons. That's because they're winning, and their coaching staffs can recruit without looking over their shoulder. Michigan is in the same situation, and could be able to capitalize more than anybody.
[Hit THE JUMP for Steve on how Harbaugh's offense draws in recruits, his guess at the WR class, and more.]
Jake Butt, Wilton Speight, and Matt Godin
Matt, about Glasgow: he just keeps seeming to elevate his play and you’ve seemed to play well as well. How much do you guys feed off each other there?
“Oh, we feed off each other big time. I’m pretty sure Ryan’s grade percentage has gone up every week, too, so he just keeps getting better and better. Yeah, we feed off each other. We love just working on stopping the run and our technique.”
Matt, Ryan mentioned on Saturday looking to both sides and seeing a bunch of veteran guys who’d been around four or five years. Saturday was a game where the defensive line really did a good job setting the tone. Just talk about that. You’re one of the guys, been around for five years, as far as the depth goes and controlling a physical game like that.
“We definitely knew it was going to be physical watching them on film, but we love that. I mean, 22-personnel, 23-personnel, that’s what we work on all offseason with these guys, too. [/nods toward Speight and Butt] We were ready for it. It was good to have Mone back, too, so we have everyone back now and healthy and ready to go, so it was great.”
Through your five years here, is this the strongest the D-line has been?
“I think so, yes.”
Jake, obviously the team likes to play at home. What is fun about the challenge of going on the road to win a football game?
“It’s always fun to go into somebody’s house and right there you’re kind of backed up against the wall, a lot of adversity because you’re going against their home crowd. They’re hyped up, lots of energy, but nothing’s better than silencing fifty, sixty, seventy thousand people, hearing that stadium quiet after you’re making big plays or you have the opportunity to win a game like that.”
[More after THE JUMP]
— Purdue Sports Turf (@PUSportsTurf) October 4, 2016
A little on the nose there, God. Let's check in with goings-on in West Lafayette:
Purdue Football is Literally Being Sucked Into The Earth
It is either a busted pipe or a hellmouth opening to end our misery
It is strongly implied that Hammer and Rails would prefer the latter.
What is your favorite color?. It's coming up: a visit to Cable Subscribers Stadium.
ANN ARBOR – Facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh kept his offense on the field.
He also provided an assist by waving his arms to quiet the Michigan Stadium crowd, and they obliged, just before Khalid Hill plunged into the end zone to cap the Wolverines' opening drive in a 49-10 win over Penn State two weeks ago.
Crowd control is just one benefit of playing at home, which the No. 4 Wolverines (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) won't have for the first time this season when they travel to Rutgers (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) for Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff.
A valiant attempt to inject some interesting into a game with a four-touchdown spread, but that stadium will be half Michigan fans. Michigan won't get its first real road test until the Michigan State game, and, uh... I am not going to put some #disrespekt on it just yet. Suffice it to say that that doesn't seem like quite as high of a mountain five weeks into the season.
The gently rising foothills that will take us to The Game. S&P+ likes us. S&P+ does not like Michigan State and Iowa, and hoo boy did Bill Connelly hear a lot about that latter this offseason. With both those teams underperforming even the modest expectations placed on them by fancystats, Michigan's journey to Football Armageddon II looks downright likely. Absurdly so, in fact.
Michigan is a better than two-touchdown favorite and 87%+ to win all of those games except the trip to Iowa City. OSU has a near-identical closing stretch, with the part of potential spoiler played by Wisconsin.
MSU? Well, if those numbers hold they'll be striving for something all season.
Probability of finishing 11-1 or better: 0.0%
Probability of finishing 6-6 or better: 44.7%
This is going to go well. Immovable object, meet a breathy gasp:
Rutgers can't throw the football
And with Janarion Grant out for the year, there aren't many great options to catch it either. The Scarlet Knights have basically had a pitiful passing attack all year. But last week against Ohio State had to be rock bottom. Rutgers was just 3 of 16 for 33 yards. As a team, the Scarlet Knights are completing 47.4 percent of their passes.
I wonder if we'll see this at some point. Per a Harbaugh interview on 97.1 last week, Jabrill Peppers is inventing new ways to football:
"We put a different play in with him yesterday in practice. Then he got it in the meeting and he left, went back to the defensive meeting and came out to practice," Harbaugh said Thursday on 97.1-FM. "He was a running back and his assignment was to block. But he blocked and then he went out for a route. He got his blocking assignment done and then he continued out into a route. We threw it to him, which was not the design, but from now on -- and we've been running this play for 10 years -- (it will be).
"In 10 years, we've never had a back who got his blocking assignment done (on that play) and got into the route at the same time and he did it the first time like that was the way the play should've been run for the last 10 years. That's the kind of stuff he does. It breaks the mold darn near every time he does something."
We'd have to see Peppers actually get a touch to do so, grumble grumble.
An interesting thing on "team opens at X". Last week I told people that Michigan opened at –9 and moved to –10.5. This turns out to not be accurate. These days most people are hitting up Vegas Insider for their odds, and what happens is one obscure online sportsbook getting out in front of the pack:
Lots of people bet online even though it’s super illegal, and that’s probably where Vegas Insider is getting their info, and that’s what Joe Truthteller means by “Vegas.” You are kind of right:
It’s mostly blank spaces on that chart, too. The only major sports book offering anything is on-the-nose-named BetOnline, which rushes to get their lines out before anyone else each Sunday. ...
BetOnline knows they are taking a major risk by offering super early lines, which is why they ramp down the maximum bets until the other (sharper) line originators have a chance to chime in. ...
The main reason I object to referring to the BetOnline number as the opening line, however, is because every single week, the same annoying pattern plays out. BetOnline will release a relatively weak line on many games. A few hours later, the major Vegas originators will weigh in with sharper lines that differ by maybe as many as six points. Twitter people will then talk about how “sharps have pounded the line down to X” or “Vegas has moved the line already.”
A quick shift in the odds is an early line that is superseded by the heavy hitters. Michigan really opened at –10.5 and stuck there, but you could get a small bet in at a dubious online casino at –9. The end.
This week in targeting roulette. Penn State's Curtis Cothran got the boot for a hit almost identical to Branch on Morelli minus about half the force:
I don't see helmet contact, but I can see how the officials did on the Curtis Cothran ejection. It's very close. pic.twitter.com/L2cq9B0hyt
— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) October 2, 2016
That was upheld despite an apparent lack of helmet to helmet contact. Meanwhile Malik McDowell was ejected for making sure his helmet was well out of the quarterback's strike zone:
This is the hit that got Malik McDowell ejected from the game ... Unbelievable.https://t.co/mE0WTGCNyN
— Rob Donaldson (@DraftCharge) October 2, 2016
Sometimes you can't win: Cothran hit with his eyes on the target and got booted. McDowell seemingly went out of his way to keep his head down and got booted.
I've seen some assertions that the McDowell hit was indeed targeting because McDowell lowered his head like that (and hit the guy with his shoulder), but the rule seems to specifically state that targeting requires a hit to the head:
No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent (See Note 2 below) with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below).
It then goes on to clarify what hits to the head are covered by this in note 1, where the crown of helmet thing comes in:
Note 1: "Targeting" means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Some indicators of targeting include but are not limited to:
- Launch—a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area
- A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground
- Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area
- Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet
I guess the fourth bullet point here does not mention the head and neck, therefore any contact with the crown is targeting, and that's why McDowell got booted? If so that's some terrible wording. It should probably be a similar penalty with its own definition, because lumping what McDowell did in with a rule otherwise very specifically about whacking people in the head is bound to cause confusion.
Etc.: Early NHL draft rankings include four Michigan players and commits. The Supreme Court will not hear the O'Bannon case, leaving both sides disappointed. The NCAA has been declared in violation of anti-trust laws but the 9th Circuit decision leaves everyone in limbo. Trevor Siemian! Still happening! Trying to find OSU weaknesses. Indiana's win over MSU was not a fluke. Minnesota focused on taking out the most dangerous part of PSU's team. Basketball media day takeaways.
In a weekend that featured three games between teams ranked in the AP Top 10, college football did not disappoint. Sure, Washington obliterated Stanford on Friday night, (and yeah, Michigan and Wisconsin played a 1950s football game, which was probably not that enjoyable to non-Michigan fans) but there still was a lot to like. Louisville vs. Clemson was an instant classic and there were several games with insane finishes – UNC’s booming field goal to win at the buzzer in Tallahassee; Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs’s Hail Mary capped a ridiculous last minute in a win over Georgia; Indiana won the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time in forever when the Hoosiers upset Michigan State in overtime.
The playoff picture was clarified a little bit this week. Clemson’s now in the driver’s seat to grab a bid out of the ACC, and Louisville – even in a loss – helped sow the seeds of a compelling case to be the first non-conference champ to steal a playoff bid. Washington aced its first test with flying colors and, as the clear Pac-12 frontrunner, looks to be solidly in the picture. Michigan won what could very well be the second-toughest game on its schedule; of course, the winner of the Michigan – Ohio State seems very well-positioned to make it in.
--- CLEMSON and LOUISVILLE turned in what might wind up being the best game of the season. The quarterback battle between Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson – who could easily be argued as the two best quarterbacks in all of college football – was as good as advertised: Watson accounted for 396 yards and threw for five touchdowns, Jackson had 457 yards of total offense and had three touchdowns, one through the air and two on the ground. It was a sloppy game as the two teams combined for eight turnovers, and Watson was responsible for four of them. After a scoreless first quarter, Watson caught fire in the second quarter and Clemson entered halftime up 28-10. Louisville then scored 26 unanswered points to take a lead, but two touchdowns from the Tigers got them the 42-36 win. The game ended as a pass from Jackson to WR James Quick short of the sticks wound up with Quick going out of bounds short of the yard to gain deep in the red zone. Louisville acquitted themselves well in defeat and Jackson should still be considered the Heisman frontrunner (for how little that really matters), but Clemson has assuaged any concerns from a slow start and look to be a decent bet to win the ACC at this point.
[more on the week that was after the JUMP]
If you watch the video at the bottom of the post, you’ll see very quickly that third-down plays had not gone all that well for Michigan to this point in the game. Now, facing another third-and-long in the middle of the fourth quarter, Michigan was faced with another convert-or-punt situation should they choose to pass. Michigan went five wide and spread Wisconsin’s defense just thin enough for Speight to both have time to throw and to get the matchup he was looking for to his left. I started describing to Wilton the purpose of these posts, and as soon as I mentioned which play I wanted to talk about he was ready:
“That was probably the biggest play of the game, bigger than that touchdown throw, because that set that up. We hadn’t been as successful as we’d like to on third downs, but motioned out the running back and bumped the linebackers out a little bit, and I knew I was going to my left. Didn’t know if I was going to the inside or outside slant, but their linebacker dropped underneath the inside slant and I just ripped the ball to Darboh and he plucked it with his fingertips and dove with it for the first down. That was big time.”
What do you remember about their alignment before the snap?
“Yeah, I knew to not judge anything until our running back, De’Veon, motioned out. As soon as he motioned out, I kind of saw them bump and adjust exactly how we wanted to, so that’s right when I knew I was going to work the boundary. My eyes kind of lit up and I ripped it in there.”
On that topic, once you move De’Veon out, you see a safety comes down to cover Grant Perry, you’ve got Cichy split out wide, do your reads change based on those matchups, or do you have a very rigid progression you’re working through?
“Well, presnap when De’Veon went out there I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to my left. I’m going to work these two guys.’ Then it was just the progression. I start with the inside slant, and if that gets taken away I go to my outside slant. Darboh ran an incredible route, got spacing off of the corner, and made a play.”
As far as breaking down a defense, as soon as you see they’ve set, do you have a way you do that every time? Has Coach Harbaugh taught you to work through a certain way, like first read safeties, then linebackers, etc.?
“Yeah, yeah. Harbaugh and Fisch teach me that it’s a three to five second max of decision-making of what’s the front, where are the linebackers, what’s the secondary doing, are the corners over, is it one high, is it two high, are the linebackers cheating up, does it look like they’re blitzing, where’s the shade, stuff like that. So there’s a lot that goes through on a presnap, and it helps, though, when you know what’s going on.”
What do you remember seeing immediately after the snap? Was it the off coverage on Darboh?
“Yeah, off coverage on Darboh. I immediately saw someone sink underneath the inside slant, but I knew that window was going to be open on the outside slant. Yeah, it was a good play.”
It looked like a perfectly placed ball. On a five-yard slant like that, walk me through where a perfectly placed ball would be in terms of what the receiver wants and what you want.
“A little bit out in front, depending on where the corner or the defender is. If he’s right on his back, you like to put it right in his gut, right on his numbers. It’s a chest throw so the corner or the defender can’t get around it. He had a little bit of space so I wanted to lead him, and he likes catching things with his hands, so just let him do that.”
News bullets and other items:
Grant Newsome is done for the year. Harbaugh wasn’t sure whether it was a career-threatening injury; it’s too early to tell.
Bushell-Beatty at LT is probably happening, but Harbaugh said Cole and Braden could move there.
If Cole moves back to LT, Kugler will be the center.
Karan Higdon’s lack of carries was not due to injury
Quinn Nordin’s been healing and might be a part of the kicking competition this week; it’s too early to tell as they haven’t practiced yet this week
Seemed like Kyle [Kalis] really brought some intensity Saturday. Can you talk about how he played?
“Yeah, Kyle always brings intensity. Kyle Kalis?”
“Yeah, always. Practice, games, weight room, meetings.”
Was that one of the better games you’ve seen him play this year?
“Yeah. I thought he played extremely well. He’s been doing that consistently good his entire career here at Michigan. Strong. He’s strong. Kalis Strong.”
How important is it to win games differently? You’ve won with offense, you’ve won with special teams, Saturday you win defensively. How important is that in the coaches’ room?
“I don’t know exactly how much or how important. There’s an importance to winning, importance in being successful, winning on gameday. To your specific question, how important, I don’t have the answer to that.”
Did you get specific news on Grant Newsome and whether he’s going to be done for the year or not?
“Yeah. Yeah, he had a serious knee injury and he’ll be out for the year. It’ll be a tough couple weeks for him. It’s a reminder of just how tough the game of football is, just how serious injuries can be in the game of football.
“What I do know is, as far as character, human being character, football character, nobody’s ever come through here, this football team or this university, that I know of with more of it than Grant Newsome. Leon and Kim Newsome, they should write a book on raising kids. Grant is the finest, and just praying for him right now. It’s not a good feeling today at all. But just being with him at the hospital, everybody’s he’s come in contact with, nurses and doctors, it’s ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ It’s amazing. He is an amazing, amazing young man.
“And he’s strong as they come, and I know that all things are possible with Grant Newsome. But keep him in your prayers, as he is in ours. It’s going to be—got some things to work through right now, but he’s handling it like a champ. I know he’s got pain, but he’s…watching him up there, he’s as tough as a two-dollar steak. It’s unbelievable.”
[Hit THE JUMP like Wisconsin’s linebackers hit their run-throughs]
A Wall Worth Building
Michigan hosted a huge group of official visitors for the win over Wisconsin, and coming out of the weekend it sounds like they've made some serious progress recruiting for the offensive line.
The visitor most expected to eventually end up in the class was four-star IMG OC Cesar Ruiz. That impression didn't change a bit after the visit. Ruiz told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that getting to spend time with a few recruits he's befriended during the process—Jedrick Wills, Alex Leatherwood, and Baron Browning—as well as the crew of fellow New Jersey natives on the team put Michigan in a different league from his other recent official visit:
"That made the visit ten times better for me," he said. "That’s what really separated it from my North Carolina visit last week. Jonah Melton is a really cool dude but I didn’t know him previously. Since I knew all of these dudes at Michigan previously we just decided to go have fun. We really enjoyed our time."
Florida and Oklahoma are the two official visits left on his itinerary. He made it sound like the Wolverines will be hard to catch:
"Michigan is in a good spot," he said with a chuckle. "We are going to leave it at that but yes, Michigan is in a good spot right now."
While Ruiz's warm reception to M's recruiting pitch didn't come as a surprise, the reaction five-star FL OT Alex Leatherwood, an Alabama commit, gave to TomVH was an eye-opener:
Leatherwood is still committed to Alabama but is exploring his options. His time spent in Ann Arbor seemed to have a big impact on his recruitment.
"Phenomenal, unreal atmosphere," Leatherwood said. "Changed [my recruitment] big time. My dad loves it here."
Leatherwood had similar comments to Scout's SEC-country analyst, Chad Simmons:
"To be honest, Michigan is making me think about my commitment to Alabama. My dad even likes them a lot. We're gonna do some very deep thinking on this.
"I can't really explain the feeling I have at Michigan -- I just like it a lot."
Sam Webb mentioned Leatherwood's father had been skeptical about the program entering the trip and ended up wearing Michigan gear on the visit; the repeated mentions that he enjoyed his time there could be as meaningful as the impression made on his son.
247's Steve Wiltfong got a quick visit reaction from four-star TX OT Chuck Filiaga:
"It was a great visit," Filiaga told 247Sports. "From the game, the crowd, the coaches, the players, they all make it something special! Michigan truly does have a great set up for its program."
Finally, four-star KY OT Jedrick Wills hasn't gone on the record about his visit yet, but a look at his Twitter page indicates it went quite well, too.
Michigan in in the driver's seat for Ruiz and may have moved to the top of the list for Filiaga, as well. Leatherwood and Wills are probably longer shots—especially Wills, who's expected to end up at Alabama—but it's clear the Wolverines made a strong impression on both of them.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
10/1/2016 – Michigan 14, Wisconsin 7 – 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten
I was scared once.
Let's dispense with the I ain't scurrred talk: football is terrifying and brings you to your knees and you can either admit this to yourself or embark on a life of chest-puffing Brandon stuff. Michigan hadn't won a game against a top ten team in 12 tries. When they're tied deep into the second half after spurning a pile of opportunities to make it a contest that's only kinda-sorta competitive you're goddamn right the idea they'd lose a game to a team that might as well have started drives on third and eight was bowel-shaking.
Anyway. Channing Stribling fell over and Alex Hornibrook heaved the ball at his receiver. It seemed long from the get go and turned out to be long, but you never know. As that mortar arched back towards earth my annoyance momentarily morphed into terror, because this was the kind of game where 7-7 is a war and 14-7 is a surrender. That ball clanged harmlessly to the turf. Wilton Speight's deep shot to Amara Darboh did not.
Hornibrook negotiated terms shortly thereafter, and hello it is October and it's hard to see a loss on Michigan's schedule until what's looking a lot like Football Armageddon II. Bill Connelly's fancystats have Michigan a two-touchdown favorite in every game before The Game, and it's not hard to see Vegas issuing double-digit spreads until then. This is the elite team it is supposed to be, even if someone needs to hit the field goal kickers with a frying pan until they remember to put it through the uprights.
This is because of the defense. Many expectations were piled upon it this offseason, and all have thus far been redeemed. You've seen it with your personal sensory organs. I have as well. I have seen other defenses, many of them, and the sense of serene calm when Michigan punts has only been matched by 1997 and 2006 in my experience. Michigan passes the eye test. They pass the scouting test. PFF has seven different Michigan DL with 100 snaps charted and a grade of 75 or above, which is bonkers.
And they pass the computer test. As of today Michigan is the #1 defense in S&P+ by a furlong and a half:
The gap between them and #2 Florida is bigger than the gap between Florida and #10 Washington. They are first or second in any capacity you'd like to name, and complaints about schedule strength start to ring hollow when Colorado is lighting up everyone they come across with a backup quarterback who netted –4 yards against Michigan and Wisconsin ends up with half the yards they did against LSU or MSU.
Michigan's supposed weakness on defense isn't one, and everything else is coming in at or above expectations. People used to say things like "punting is winning" and mean them as something other than shots at Kirk Ferentz. That's because football used to look a lot like Saturday's game: trench warfare punctuated with one or two seismic moments. I have an old feeling, and a good feeling, about this football team.
With Iowa playing competitive games against Rutgers and Indiana going toe-to-toe with Michigan State, thoughts inevitably turn to the roadblock at the end of the season. The team has to take things one game at a time. I don't. I can take them six or twenty at a time. I can know the names of a couple of large men in the 2019 class at Belleville, because it's never too early to think about 2023.
So. This defense and the great roadblock. One of those previous defenses had a fatal flaw. One did not. The 2006 defense had one and a half excellent cornerbacks and no nickel package. Leon Hall would go on to a long NFL career. Morgan Trent had a cup of coffee in the league. Michigan went up against an OSU spread offense with Chris Graham as their spacebacker. This was part poor roster construction and part horrendous gameplanning; Michigan was put to the sword by Troy Smith.
You'd think that's in the past now, but just last year a good, if depleted, Michigan defense entered the OSU game with a plan to do the exact same thing they'd done the rest of the year and got ripped for 300 yards on the ground, yet again. The failures linger and give you pause when you project down the road, especially since this does not seem like a rebuilding year for the Great Satan. Worry, worry, worry.
Still, Jabrill Peppers is not Chris Graham. Michigan just crushed a manball team without taking their 210 pound linebacker-type substance off the field. They are not running a defense that tells you which guy is not going to play the run presnap. They have survived the first five games with a just couple of injury scares on the defensive line. I am thinking Michigan might be able to punt a lot and win, even down in Columbus.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Ryan Glasgow forced Channing Stribling's second interception by hitting Hornibrook as he threw and spent the rest of the day tossing UW's poor center to the ground, whether it was run or pass. He didn't rack up many counting stats because of the nature of the Badger offense but he's in line for a big-ass UFR grade.
#2 Kyle Kalis was a pile-mover in a game that needed to move many piles. Michigan's run game was decidedly right-handed in this one, and Kalis didn't have the protection issues Magnuson did. The repeated zone reads with Peppers were an impressive demonstration of Michigan's ability to shoot a very good defense off the ball.
#3 Jourdan Lewis was only targeted twice. One was incomplete. One has been photoshopped into a nouveau Jumpman logo. In addition to those two incidents, Lewis had two excellent plays in run defense that shut down Wisconsin attempts to get to the edge.
Honorable mention: uh, everyone on defense. Amara Darboh was the main target on Michigan's second touchdown drive.
5: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado), Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Speight bombs one over the top to Darboh for the winning points.
Honorable mention: The Lewis interception.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
For the second consecutive week this is a key piece being knocked out, probably for the season. Grant Newsome took a cut from a defensive back that resulted in a knee injury "as serious as a knee injury can be" and Michigan has to find out what they've got behind him now.
Honorable mention: Wisconsin scores an actual touchdown; any of three different makeable field goals go awry; Speight gets picked off; Michigan takes 34 consecutive penalties on special teams.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
[After THE JUMP: one bushel of beets please]