Talk about the play last game of the corners. Those guys just seemed to be right on.
“Yeah, they’re playing well. They’re working hard in practice preparing themselves week in and week out and they just gotta continue, and it’s paying off in the games. So, we’ll keep on that same path and just try to keep building it.”
Lewis interception ranks where in the pick offs that you’ve seen?
“It’s insane. I mean, I haven’t seen anything like that from a defensive player. Seen a few guys offensively do it, but nothing like that defensively. That was a hell of a play.”
Besides that, the way that he’s closing in the run game and getting to the ball, just talk about how good he’s been.
“Yeah, he’s a complete player on the defensive side of the ball. The kid’s very competitive, very feisty, he’s very good at man-to-man coverage, very good at zone coverage when asked to drop, and he knows how to get off blocks and he knows how to make tackles. I mean, he can do it all. He’s a pretty good player.”
You’ve coached Jourdan now for a year and a half. How many times can you recall during a game where he made a technical mistake?
“Well, we all make mistakes and he has made a few. Even last week, him and Channing made a few technical mistakes that we’re trying to clear up and we will clear up. They’re few and far between with him. And the thing is, when he does it, he knows it and he gets pretty upset about it. He tries to figure it out real quick.”
Obviously not having Jeremy [Clark] you guys are kind of on thin ice with just two guys, even as good as they are. With the other two [freshmen], are they ready?
“I feel so bad for Jeremy. Really practiced so hard and played so well in the games he was in, and everybody’s talking about him and hoping the best for him. Brandon Watson had a hell of a camp. Really since spring. Played well in the spring, played well all through camp, and he’s going in, filling in just fine. Lavert Hill: extremely talented young man. He’s just got to grow and mature. He’s young. David Long, same way. His injury held him up a little bit, but now we’re starting to see some things out of him. It’s very unfortunate we lost Jeremy—you never want to lose a guy like that—but those guys, those three guys I think in time and if in need can fill in and play.”
[After THE JUMP: discussing soil conditions in the garden]
Based on what was readily available online, I had the choice of two Rutgers games to break down: their opening-week blowout loss to Washington or last week's blowout loss to Ohio State. I chose the more recent game for this breakdown because RU lost the centerpiece of their offense, Janarion Grant, the week prior, and I wanted to see how they'd function without him. Spoiler alert: not well.
Not well at all. Rutgers punted on every drive that didn't end a half; they didn't even finish a drive in OSU territory. The yakety flea flicker you see above is what happened on the lone occasion they crossed midfield.
They're gonna die.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Glasgow and Taco got shields now that we've tweaked the criteria, and Stribling got his star after last week's performance. On the other side... well, at least they've got a bunch of returning starters? Unfortunately, four of them stand out for the wrong reasons, and TE Nick Arcidiacono easily could've been a fifth—PFF has him grading out at a -7.9 and pretty much equally bad in all phases through four games. This doesn't bode well against a roving band of humanoid ninja stars.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Chris Ash is trying to turn Rutgers into Jersey Ohio State; OC Drew Mehringer is a Tom Herman disciple. This is very much a spread after being more of a hybrid under Kyle Flood.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Rutgers doesn't have the horses up front to run OSU's power read stuff with much success at all. They'll mix some of that in, but for now they're mostly an inside zone team.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle. Rutgers is 67th in adjusted pace. They go no-huddle but aren't fast enough to truly tempo defenses.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Was talking with Matt at the Marlin tailgate on Saturday when he broached the idea of buying one of those tailgate trailers with TVs and whatnot for next year. I am strongly encouraging this idea in the sponsor notes of the game column because then I can watch more of the noon games. Do it for your country, Matt.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets and possibly a trailer, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Just a couple of oddities other than the train. This was "Ace 3-wide offset." As you can see, the back is... offset.
And Michigan lined up in that formation with Chesson at TE again. Here he is running down the middle of the field.
These formations get appended with "WR hide."
PERSONNEL NOTES: OL and QB as you would expect, with Bushell-Beatty replacing Newsome when he got hurt. Michigan went much more WR-heavy in this game, with around 60 snaps for both Chesson and Darboh out of 77 possible. Perry, Crawford, and McDoom combined for another 38; with Butt near-omnipresent that meant Michigan was without a fullback for about half the snaps.
Smith got about 50% of the RB snaps with Evans and Isaac splitting the rest; Peppers got five snaps, four as a wildcat QB and one as a slot. Asiasi got 23 snaps as the #2 TE with Bunting injured; Wheatley and Michael Jocz(!) got 3 and 2 snaps, respectively.
[After THE JUMP: come on ride the train.]
Watch the receiver at the bottom of the screen
We’re going to be talking more often in the next few weeks about Run-Pass Option (RPO) plays, also known as packaged plays. Rutgers lives off them, Indiana loves them, Maryland is installing them, and Ohio State has made them a bigger part of their offense this year.
The general concept is easy enough: the offense will isolate a defender who has both run and pass responsibilities. The quarterback reads what that guy decides to do, then either throws the pass if that guy attacks the run, or runs the running play if he stays back.
But they’re not good for all seasons—RPOs take advantage of players with both run and pass responsibilities. If there are none, or at least there are super-clear priorities, it’s hard to find a defender to put in a bind. For example Cover 1—which is still Michigan’s base play—has pretty clear-cut jobs for their man-on-man defenders, the linebackers are given small zones they can defend while hanging in to plug their gaps, and one safety is given free reign to roam the deep middle and clean up any runs that get through. But even Michigan can’t stay in Cover 1 forever (cough cough Durkin), and against option-y, spread-to-run teams you’re almost forced to get your safeties involved in the run game, and then once again you’re susceptible to the offense putting that guy in a run-pass bind.
So let’s see how they work.
Solving Stacked Boxes
While run options are an answer to the problem of how to involve your quarterback in the running game, run-pass options address a different age-old problem for offenses looking to run the ball successfully: defenders in the box.
[After the jump: locking them in the box]
[Ed-Ace: For those wondering when you'll see basketball media day and Michigan team preview content, that's coming next week, when I get a bye week breather from football. Until then, Alex has you covered on hoops preview stuff.]
Peter Jok [David Scrivner – Iowa City Press-Citizen]
It was supposed to be Fran McCaffery’s best team in Iowa City: there were four senior starters – and a junior – and those players collectively had more experience than anyone else in the conference by a decent margin. Iowa had been to the tournament in each of the previous two seasons (as an 11-seed, then as a 7-seed) and the level of continuity in the program suggested that there perhaps would be another leap. It was a long time coming after Fran McCaffery’s slow rebuild out of the disastrous Todd Lickliter era.
After the non-conference portion of the season (in which Iowa had a few losses – but no bad ones – and a good win over Wichita State), the Hawkeyes entered Big Ten play and started off hot, winning 10 of their first 11. That start was fueled by season sweeps of Michigan State and Purdue; Iowa ascended from a preseason projection of #36 nationally from Kenpom and spent an entire month of the season in the top five of the algorithm’s rankings. Stretch-4 Jarrod Uthoff and wingman Peter Jok were a formidable one-two punch; the other three senior starters and a deep frontcourt of young talent complemented them well.
A midweek loss to Indiana on the road in early February was the turning point. It was a crazy game: Indiana raced out to a 15-point lead, Iowa battled back to take the lead in the second half, and then the Hoosiers went supernova and scored 17 points in five minutes, winning somewhat comfortably in the end. From there, things spiraled: the Hawkeyes barely beat a horrible Minnesota team at home and then lost four in a row – highlighted by upset losses at Penn State and Ohio State. They won in Ann Arbor to close the regular season and briefly stopped the bleeding – and then lost their Big Ten Tournament opener to lowly Illinois.
Eventually, they were the same seed as the year before – a seven. It wasn’t the first time a McCaffery Iowa team had imploded down the stretch; they were never in danger of missing the tournament like they were in 2014, but with the amount of veteran leadership on the squad – which had been a part of the implosion before – the finish to the season, one that had been so promising, seemed inexplicable. Iowa defeated 10-seed Temple in the Round of 64 before getting routed by Villanova, the eventual national champions, in the next game.
With the graduation of Uthoff, Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, and Anthony Clemmons, the Hawkeyes will be forced to replace over half of the team’s minutes; luckily for Iowa, Peter Jok stayed for his senior year and should be one of the best players in the Big Ten this year. The young frontcourt players who got some seasoning last year make those spots less of a concern than point guard, where there are no returning players.
[More on the Hawkeyes after the JUMP]
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.