Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
For what reminder I can provide: Lloyd deserves some sort of recognition; I hope the students can provide something. Go Blue.
Just two links, so go read them. It's required by law.
Great players' legacies should be based on their entire body of work, but even if I've never spent any time in the Upper Midwest, I know enough about the gleeful antagonism between Ohio State and Michigan to know that's not exactly how it works. Saturday is the last chance the kids who started together with such promise four years ago, and have largely lived up it, have to go out alongside Lloyd Carr without the oft-referenced albatross of being the "Michigan Men" who never beat Ohio State, never won a bowl game, never won the Big Ten outright (the 2004 title was a tiebreaker situation over co-champ Iowa) and ultimately never capitalized on tthe full possibilities.
Tomorrow, it is over for them all, it is over for this era, this dynasty, however plagued by the ability to let us down it might have been. The dynasty that won our hearts and little else, it is over for them.
Oh, and... two sources indicate that the Scouts, Inc., report on Hart is excessively pessimistic: Hart will definitely start, as will Henne. It'll be up to their respective joints to hold up, but they're playing.
At around 3:00 on November 18th, 2006, I sat in the student section of Ohio Stadium and barely succeeded in not dissolving into a heap of tears worthy of Tammy Faye Baker as various bands and people paid tribute to Bo Schembechler. At that moment, the game that was about to unfold was quite literally the most important thing that ever had or ever would happen in my life. Michigan had to win.
Or what? Or I don't know what.
Five hours later I stood outside a Columbus 7-11 as the city, red-lit and ominous, exploded in hedonistic joy for their demon-coach and his demon-team. I waited for a man named Skeeter who would never come and silently decided that the true essence of adulthood was the realization that horrible things just happen and keep happening and they are unfair and there is no redemption at the end of things, ever, just more horrible things to have happen to you and the people you care about. And that "realization" is the right word there, not acceptance, because the things that are horrible are just unacceptable but they are real and you have to deal with them anyway.
I was a little melodramatic, maybe.
Or at least, that's what I thought. In September when I watched Chad Henne loft a prayer to Mario Manningham from the exit of section 44 -- I, wishing to flee the disaster scene as fast as possible, had bolted from my seat as soon as Appalachian State drew within chip-shot field goal range, content to watch the final throes from up above -- only for Shawn Crable to violate a basic principle of football 101 ("don't let that asshole block the field goal"), I revised my previous theory to something simpler: God is bored, and we are the ants under the magnifying glass.
Going into this year I had simple desires. I wanted to beat Ohio State, I wanted to win a BCS bowl, and I wanted Lloyd Carr to sail off into the sunset a respected, though probably not exactly revered, old jedi, Obi-Wan-style. And I wanted to see Mike Hart run. Shockingly, all these things remain on the table for Michigan if they can beat Ohio State, which -- as detailed earlier today -- the old brain thinks is pretty damn unlikely. And to fail one last time when everything is on the line... well... just fuck, man.
So I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I don't think any of us is going to get what we want. Maybe that's just detachment and preparing myself for defeat so it's easier when it actually comes but I don't think so. Because it's not easy to consider Mike Hart walking off that field a final time, head down, as Ohio State players clench roses in their teeth. It's not easy to envision Henne and Hart and Long and Manningham resigned to a dusky corner of Michigan history revisited only by force when economics professors go "WOOO 0-4 Mike Hart" in your face when they present their stupid studies about the AP poll at academic conference "WOOO 6-1 Jim Tressel".
But then there's Hart. Yesterday a Syracuse-area radio host called me for some quotes on Hart yesterday, and I obliged, objecting to the idea of "swagger" and describing Hart's career-in-microcosm eight-yarder against Penn State in 2005. A final question brought me short, though, something about the feelings of Michigan fans as Hart takes the field for the final time in Michigan Stadium. I don't recall the exact phrasing.
I stopped, and when I continued after a moment the words were halting, wavering, on the edge of collapse. What they were didn't matter. I can't encapsulate four years of glory and pain in three sentences. But a catch in the throat after an innocuous question can.
I am done thinking. Michigan is listless in the last days of a dying empire, but Mike Hart will run out of the tunnel and I will believe until I can't or I don't have to anymore. Go Blue.
Run Offense vs. Ohio State
Mike Hart's high ankle sprain has lingered since halftime of the Purdue game; Hart's only appearance since consisted of 15 carries against Michigan State. Those carries gained 115 yards, though two carries and one fluke fumble recovery comprised most of that amongst twelve carries of bupkis. Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown did well in extended action against Illinois and, for what little it's worth, Minnesota but have struggled badly the last two weeks against previously substandard run defenses.
Hart's health remains a question. I have no idea where Scouts, Inc., is hearing this, but they say things($) that make me want to find my security blanket and set it on fire:
The statuses of Michigan RB Mike Hart and QB Chad Henne are uncertain. From what we are hearing, Henne is likely to play but Hart's outlook is far less optomistic. [sic!]
Normally anything claiming someone's injury outlook is not "optomistic" could be dismissed, but this is the WWL and all. I have heard nothing either way.
I don't buy it, though. Hart can't be any more injured than he was against Michigan State and he was gimpy but okay to play about half of that game; in Hart's final Ohio State game he'll have to shatter his tibia to come out. He'll start; there is the chance he re-aggravates the injury and is forced to come out.
Meanwhile, the Ohio State run defense enters the game much like the did a year ago: statistically terrifying (4th nationally) but probably softer than the numbers indicate. As Tom Orr mentioned yesterday, Rodney Kinlaw had an excellent, if foreshortened, day against Ohio State. Illinois just got done torching the Buckeyes, though that might not be particularly relevant given Michigan's lack of a zone read. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Michigan State were shut down almost entirely.
Which will it be? It's hard to tell. Michigan's run game has proven predictable and incapable of taking advantage of weak or undersized defensive tackles. Without a consistently effective counter or a play action option other than waggle, which goes for a first down three or four times a game but has shown no big play potential in two years as Michigan's primary counterpunch, opposing defenders have been free to sell out on the zone stretch. Heavy slanting plus dodgy play from the interior line, especially whoever the rotating right guard is, has put Michigan into long yardage situations with frequency.
If past Ohio State games are any indication, this should change. Michigan always brings out a bag of plays that play off the tendencies Michigan has established in the 11 previous games. The result is usually a surprisingly effective offense. Even without Hart this is unlikely to be as bad as the past couple games; part of the reason Michigan is so infuriating during the season is because they believe Ohio State can't see the world's most obvious "gotcha!" coming; the gotcha is unlikely to work but the sheer diversity of the offense at full speed will improve matters.
Ohio State fans claim their defensive tackles have been a liability and Laurinaitis is not the baby-eating viking Musberger makes him out to be; I tend to believe them. If Hart plays Michigan should move the ball in a fashion similar to what they did last year. Yes, Michigan's interior line is softer, but so is the interior of the Ohio State defense; lining Vernon Gholston up against Steve Schilling also means lining a freshman up against Jake Long.
The projection here:
- Michigan shows more creativity in its rushing attack, slicing open excessively aggressive OSU defenses several times.
- Hart plays and does well; his backups spot him periodically.
- Michigan averages around 4 or 4.5 YPC.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus His Traitorous Ankle. I should have an actual matchup for the Ohio State game, but nothing will impact Michigan's run game more than the status of Hart's gimpy wheel.
Pass Offense vs. Ohio State
This preview assumes that Chad Henne will play; if he does not please substitute "HEAD FOR THE HILLS! ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE!" for the text in this space.
That clear, we can proceed. Much like last year, Ohio State enters the game with some terrifying pass defense numbers: sixth in efficiency, second in yardage, and fifth in sacks. Meanwhile, Michigan limps into The Game with completely pedestrian numbers, 65th in yardage and 60th in efficiency terms. Statwise, this is a blowout.
However, mitigating factors abound, most notably the frequent use of freshman Ryan Mallett when Henne has been injured. Mallet's completing a Juice-esque 43% of his passes and has seven touchdowns to five interceptions, enough to seriously harsh any team's passer efficiency. Henne has been much better, completing 61% and averaging a respectable 7.3 yards per attempt. If he is healthy and well-protected he'll be by far the best quarterback Ohio State has opposed this year. Those are big ifs, though.
Is he healthy? Yes, no, sorta, maybe. Henne injured his shoulder against Illinois, returning late to lead Michigan past the Illini, then missed the Minnesota game. When he returned against Michigan State he was wildly variable, starting off okay and settling into a deep funk Brady Leaf couldn't rival before slinging Michigan to a remarkable comeback victory. S'okay? Not so much. Against Wisconsin he threw five passes, two of them wildly errant, then headed to the bench. That's a definite red flag.
Michigan fans should hope the widely-circulating internet rumor that Henne's arm was numbed by a botched cortisone shot -- no doubt administered by the same guy who's coaching the kick coverage unit -- is true, as it would provide an explanation for his performance/absence other than "has family of squirrels comfortably living in separated shoulder socket". For what it's worth, I've heard said item from multiple sources and think it's true. So whatever happened against the Badgers is not representative of his health; our baseline should be Michigan State plus two weeks to heal. Unfortunately, even on Henne's last couple robot drives in that game his outs were looping and his other balls were tossed, not rifled. It's reasonable to assume he will be closer to 80% than 100% and will miss some throws he might make under normal circumstances.
Will he get protected? Freshman defensive tackle Cameron Heyward should just take passing plays off against Jake Long, and the Buckeye defensive tackles are a shining weak point in an otherwise stout defense. No Buckeye defensive lineman other than Heyward has more than one measly sack...
...except that #*$@ing Gholston guy. Who has freaking ten. And will be playing against Steve Schilling. And may occasionally get slid over to Carson Butler on a blitz pickup. Which might happen frequently since OSU's starting linebackers have 11.5 sacks between them; various members of the secondary from Donald Washington to Anderson Russell also sport sacks here and there. Given 1) Michigan's severe difficulty with a bunch of stunting blitzes from UW and 2) Schilling's (and Butler's) consistent trouble with any above-average defensive end... Henne is likely to get hit frequently and sacked three or four times.
Meanwhile, Ohio State's secondary boast a likely first-round pick in Malcolm Jenkins, then three sophomores and a freshman nickelback. In this year of incompetent Big Ten quarterbacking, they have not been tested thoroughly, and with the pass rush Ohio State has they can reasonably lay back, prevent big plays, and wait for third and long.
- Henne und
er siege much of the day; protection metric will be fortunate to clock in at 80%.
- Arrington gets open consistently; Manningham burns the occasionally jam-happy Jenkins once or twice.
- Who knows if Henne takes the opportunity? I lean towards no.
Key Matchup: Schilling versus Gholston. I've been on this all week.
Run Defense vs. Ohio State
I'm looking for a way this won't be ugly and can't find one. Chris Wells is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and mostly skipped one of Ohio State's cupcake games, that against Kent State. A violent, pounding runner, -- think Tony Hunt on steroids* -- Wells would normally be a good matchup for Michigan, which has historically beaten between the tackles runners into submission. But anyone who's observed a game from The Horror onward knows this is not the sort of interior run defense normally associated with Michigan football.
Sugarplum dreams that Michigan's problems were strictly spread/zone-read based dissolved in the second half against Michigan State and all of the Wisconsin game; in retrospect those hopes were more fanciful than they seemed. Michigan's problem, outside of Shawn Crable occasionally crashing down and losing contain, was rarely an inability to close down an outside run or find an option guy. Usually it was just the fact that anyone running up the gut wasn't tackled until he'd picked up three to eight yards.
The reasons for this are multitude: Brandon Graham is unsound against the run so far this year; the backups on the defensive line are not ready to play yet; Will Johnson is just okay. But the main flashing reason is simple: the Michigan linebackers suck. Senior Chris Graham is average at best, incapable of filling a hole when he has to take on a blocker and rarely able to get his stubby arms disengaged to tackle. Add in a mental mistake or three a game and one hideously blown coverage you probably shouldn't have asked him to attempt in the first place and there you go. Meanwhile, freshman Obi Ezeh took over for Johnny Thompson midseason and has looked like a freshman: hesitant. He may have potential but at the moment he is distinctly below average.
Terrance Taylor has been a consistently excellent performer in the middle and Jamar Adams has come up to fill capably several times, but the numbers don't lie. Wells is not likely to be tackled near the line of scrimmage frequently, and Ohio State should put together a number of grinding drives.
- Wells runs 40 times for 200 yards.
Key Matchup: Will Johnson versus Barton, Cordle, etc. Taylor will do his thing, I believe. If Johnson can have a great day -- like, an excellent day, a miraculous day, the best day of his career -- Wells can get off kilter in the backfield and even our linebackers can converge. Johnson's shown the potential to do this; consistency has been lacking.
*(Not literally. Okay, probably not literally.)
Pass Defense vs. Ohio State
OSU will look upon its pass offense as a way to keep excessive heat off Wells, convert third and longs, and pop a big play or two; Todd Boeckman is unlikely to exceed 25 throws unless something seriously weird happens.
We can split those throws into two categories. The first category: oh God, play action. Boeckman's shown both a flair for the deep ball and an inadvisable tendency to display said flair into double coverage. Given Michigan will be virtually forced to sell out on Beanie Wells, Boeckman will have an opportunity or two to hook up with someone named Brian (or, I guess, Ray) for a long touchdown. Morgan Trent's gotten beaten deep a few times this year; Donovan Warren remains but a freshman; Jamar Adams will probably be within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Michigan's defensive line has gotten a ton of pressure on quarterbacks when allowed to pin back the ol' ears and go get 'em, but when forced to maintain run responsibilities they've allowed Tyler Donovan and Brian Hoyer scads of time.
Ohio State will have a number of opportunities to stick a dagger in Michigan on first and ten. The fate of those opportunities will have a major bearing on the game's outcome. (Uh... duh. Sorry.)
On the other side of things we have the obvious passing down, which figures to be a regretfully infrequent visitor tomorrow. The flip side of Michigan's struggles to get to the quarterback when the threat of the run is present has been a relentless feast upon anyone Michigan knows will be throwing the ball.
This should be an advantage for Michigan. Once the Michigan secondary booted Stevie Brown to the bench and Johnny Sears from the team, the haze lifted from their eyes and they started playing quite well. Boeckman is a first year starter, the Michigan secondary has been between good and excellent since the post-apocalyptic Oregon game, and Ohio State doesn't have the horses at TE or WR to force Chris Graham into the really awkward situations he faced last year against Ohio State and last week against Travis Beckum. It's never good to get in obvious throwing downs; here it will be much worse than normal.
- One bomb to Robiskie.
- Few sacks or even actual pressure as Michigan struggles to control Wells.
- Boeckman makes a couple major mistakes.
Key Matchup: Shawn Crable versus Alex Boone. If anyone on Michigan's team has southern speed, it's Crable.
Something has to hold in this titanic kick return battle! Ohio State is 119th in returns! Michigan is 95th in opponent kick return average! This will be like watching Notre Dame play itself! The glory!
In other departments, it's more of the same for Ohio State: excellent kicker (Ryan Pretorious is 17/21), outstanding punting and punt coverage (14th in net average), and a white guy who can jet on punt returns (Brian Hartline has a 90-yard touchdown this year). The punt returning is actually mediocre overall, for the record. Ohio State should be solid.
Michigan, OTOH, has awful kick returns (109th), bad punt returns (73rd), mediocre punting (Zoltan has dropped off the face of the earth the past two weeks; Michigan sits at 56th nationally), and the aforementioned terrible kick coverage. But, hey, Kicking Competency Lopata is perfect on a bunch of shortish field goals. So not everything about Michigan special teams points to a coaching staff in disarray. Just all of it except the kicker.
Key Matchup: Zoltan versus Dude, Like, What Happened? Ohio State figures to win special teams solidly unless Zoltan returns to his excellent early-season form.
- Hart looks gimpy. Obvs.
- Michigan doesn't have a lot of clever stuff hidden for this game.
- The run defense looks like it has the last 1.5 games.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Henne's arm looks limber and ready to go.
- The Ohio State defensive tackles look pretty useless.
- Boeckman looks implod-y.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for
Our Weaknesses Play Into Their Stregths, +1 for Our Stars Are Not 100%, +1 for They're Just Better Coached, +1 for Even Zoltan's Folding, +1 for Unfortunately, I Have A Long Term Memory).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Duh)
Loss will cause me to... write "yes, but" Carr era obit.
Win will cause me to... write "yes" Carr era obit.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Ohio State certainly doesn't appear to be rebuilding, and Michigan certainly doesn't appear to be reaching anything approximating an apex. This is not the script I signed up for at the beginning of the year.
Anyone who read the VEQ knows the things I think this game will turn on: Wells versus a mediocre-at-best run defense and Schilling and Butler versus Gholston and extensive Ohio State blitzing. These look to be huge advantages for Ohio State, and Michigan does not have an equivalent. Maybe if Henne is healthy, or at least healthy-ish, he and the talented Michigan receivers can exploit a youthful OSU secondary that hasn't faced many tests this year. Maybe Hart can drive Michigan to victory on a busted ankle. Maybe. But I don't think so.
Football is weird and we are obviously not as crappy relative to OSU as the stats suggest -- Henne, Hart, etc -- but Michigan's weaknesses line up against OSU's strengths in a terribly unfortunate way.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- I've already provided plenty of predictions specific enough to look dumb later.
- So leave me be.
- Ohio State, 27-20.
Gameday is... just north of the stadium in the dirt parking lot, says the Daily. Please be nice. Also, the pep rally today -- previously scheduled for 3PM -- now starts at 6:30.
And that's a 180 for everyone. Jim Carty, whose "hey, Les Miles!" blog post some months ago spurred the increasingly regrettable "Les Miles Isn't A Candidate For Anything" post, now claims Miles won't be the coach if Carr retires in the immediate aftermath of the OSU game:
Will Miles be the next coach here if Carr steps down?
Not if Carr announces any time soon. Jilting LSU in the midst of a potentially championship season would go against everything Miles' mentor Bo Schembechler stood for, and it would be impossible for Miles and Michigan to both hold out for nearly eight weeks as the Tigers chased the title.
Carr knows that, so you can consider the date of his official announcement a bit of a referendum on whether or not he wants Miles to have a shot at the job.
Dan Wetzel has this meme, along with his standard "why would anyone leave LSU?" stuff, too.
There is only one thing to say to this: What?
The only reason to hire a coach NOW NOW NOW is to keep Michigan's recruiting class together. Recruiting is important, but the difference between hiring someone three or four weeks after the OSU game -- probably about as fast as the process can go -- and eight is like, what, two kids? Three?
If you have a clear #1 coaching candidate (and unless Tedford says yes(!) to Michigan, Miles appears head and shoulders above all other available coaches) a couple of recruits is a piddling price to pay. Besides, if Michigan sits and twiddles its thumbs even after New Year's Day they've functionally named a coach already.
File this under "way ahead of ourselves": Varsity Blue creates a potential Miles-Carr frankenstaff.
Creamed. Basketball got plowed by Georgetown last night, which should put an end to everyone's vague hopes Beilein was a miracle worker. Stadium & Main attended some alumni thing in which Beilein hopped on the bar and started talking:
We had the entire first floor of Clyde's packed with Michigan fans, and Coach Beilein actually got up on one of the bar area tables to talk to us. I don't remember every word, but he mentioned something like "If you could see our practices, they look like middle school practices." Talked about fundamentals, asked that we be patient with the team, said that the team will grow throughout the year, etc.
Unfortunately, the team proved his middle-school prediction right (or at least, so it seems -- due to the wonder of ESPN 360 I didn't see the game). Still, when the Seattle Times surveys 82 D-I coaches and asks...
Which college coach is the best at formulating strategy?
...it's nice to see the list reads like so:
John Beilein, Michigan: 9
Bob Knight, Texas Tech: 8
Tom Izzo, Michigan State: 6
Rick Majerus, Saint Louis: 6
Billy Donovan, Florida: 5
It'll take time -- scholarship seniors are Ron Coleman and Ron Coleman, juniors Jerrett Smith and Jevohn Shepard -- but WVU under Beilein is the bottom.
In case you fear. Is Charlie Weis getting canned at the end of the year? Well, if Peter King was right in January, survey says "not unless Regis wants him gone":
Let's put all of the Charlie Weis-to-the-NFL possibilities to bed, shall we? [Uh.... check! -ed] I've got the real number it would take to buy him out of his contract, which has nine years left to run at Notre Dame. That figure plus the fact that he doesn't want to leave should take him out of the NFL pool for the foreseeable future.
The rock-solid, no-exceptions buyout number for Weis from Notre Dame: $21 million.
He goes nowhere.
It's VEQ time; you may remember Tom Orr from last year's edition. Tom is the Executive Producer of ThePalestra.com, a college sports, music and entertainment network that recently partnered with Fox News, and was the guy who wrote "Michigan Monday" for the OZone before the current guy who writes "Michigan Monday" for the OZone wrote "Michigan Monday" for the OZone. OZone.
So this is quite a comedown from both last year and, for OSU fans, last week. Not exactly the Game of the Century this time, but still for a shot at the Rose Bowl. I assume that most Ohio State fans are perfectly content with this state of affairs in what looked to be a "rebuilding" season?
For the most part, yes. I don't know how representative I am of the fanbase on the whole, but I don't think there was ever a time that I expected (like "this is GOING to happen") this team to run the table. I thought the five tough-ish games in a row, starting with MSU, would trip them up somewhere. There have also been signs of looming trouble for significant chunks of the season if you knew where to look. You've got elements of the fanbase that aren't ever going to be happy with anything less than an unbeaten season, but given where most people thought this team would be back in August, a shot at an outright Big Ten title and berth in the Rose Bowl is pretty good right now.
What are those signs of looming trouble? I'm looking at OSU's season stats and I see exactly one area of true concern: kick returns. Before the Illinois game, OSU hadn't played a close game except a fluke fest against Michigan State in which OSU dominated statistically before giving away two defensive touchdowns. From 1000 feet there doesn't look to be much to worry about.
It's sort of similar to last year when the stats said "this is an awesome defense!" but it really had some cracks. Watching the Penn State game, there were several times that Rodney Kinlaw -- who's not going to be confused with Herschel Walker anytime soon -- was able to rip off big runs. That's on a team where it never really seemed that the Buckeyes were that concerned with the opponent's passing game.
PSU didn't do anything too crazy, they just lined up, got blockers on the linemen and then got hats on the linebackers as well. It was a gameplan that Mike DeBord would have pulled out for a so-so opponent. Just pulling guards and running the old Power O or close relatives of it. Against a somewhat one-dimensional team, a great defense turns that into a 20 carries, 27 yards kind of night. Kinlaw finished with 14 carries for 81 yards and that was with him effectively taken out of the game in the second half because of a big deficit.
So what was the difference between that game and Illinois versus the Michigan State and Wisconsin games, in which Ohio State shut down two very good run offenses?
Illinois is kind of a different animal, since they run that spread option game. There have been a lot of theories bandied about regarding that game-- the fact that they went with three down linemen was one of them, the no-huddle look keeping OSU from rotating its defensive linemen out was another.
Personally, I saw a little bit too much hesitation out of some guys. The play that really sticks out in my mind was about a 3rd-and-3 on that final, soul-crushing drive where Williams kept it on that choice option. Marcus Freeman was out there unblocked but kind of just held his ground. He kept contain, but by the time he got Williams to the ground, he had fallen forward for a first down. It's odd to complain about guys playing assignment-sound football, but it just seemed like they weren't "turning it loose" like they could have. But unless Michigan has recruited a mobile quarterback in the last 15 years that I'm not aware of, that probably won't play too much of a role in this week's game.
More relevant is Penn State ability to get to the linebackers with blockers and effectively neutralize guys like Laurinaitis. That has always been the knock on him -- if he's unblocked, he's great, but he sometimes has trouble shedding blocks. The middle of the OSU defensive line is not great. There are great ends, but the guys in the middle are young and a little undersized.
Penn State was able to exploit that, pulling a guard around to chip the D-linemen on occasion and also to pick up the 'backers. The Penn State offensive line isn't a bunch of world-beaters, but they're solid.
I can see Michigan trying that same strategy. If you see Michigan offensive linemen three yards downfield, picking up linebackers on running plays, that would be a bad sign for OSU fans.
My concern with the Michigan running game is it seems built to fail at this. Your undersized DTs will be allowed to slant to the ball, not driven back, in Michigan's zone game and Laurinaitis might not get blocked all that consistently with Michigan really struggling to find a right guard. Maybe Michigan will go away from the stretch -- they always seem to have a good gameplan for OSU -- but the run game as constituted seems ill-suited to exploit that potential weakness. Of course, Hart did have a very successful day last year. So I don't know.
Moving on: how is the secondary past Jenkins, who I assume will be matched up with Manningham all day? Adrian Arrington has been performing at a very high level so far; how are the second and third corners? The safeties?
Donald Washington has been pretty good all year on the other corner. He's a sophomore and while I think he's a ways from being a "shutdown" corner, he's not someone who's had fans cursing his name. Chimdi Chekwa has been something of a revelation as the nickelback. He's a redshirt freshman who came in with virtually no acclaim (I think he might have been a two-star or something like that) who has been a very consistent player this year. He won Big Ten defensive player of the week against Purdue.
The safeties were one of the bigger concerns with this team coming into the season. Both Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman are sophomores, and having two underclassmen back there can be a recipe for the types of plays that lead smartass bloggers to name unflattering statistics after guys. [Who, me? -ed] Both have been pleasant surprises this year. Russell was off to a nice start in 2006 before he hurt his knee. His recovery was one of the big question marks this summer, but he's been good. Coleman, too. Frankly, if either one of them boxed at all, they're the kind of guys you would hear about incessantly. They're not infallible,
but before last weekend's unpleasantness, the longest run the defense had allowed all year was a 28-yarder. I'll give you 10 guesses and you won't figure out who it was.
He had a 20-yarder, but nope.
Close in the "likeliness" category, but no. Would you believe Anthony Morelli? It was a busted play, to say the least.
I don't believe you. I'm sticking with Tiller.
Right, I don't want to talk about this but it appears we have to: the pass rush. Fifth in sacks. Vernon Gholston. Etc. His matchup against (presumably) Steve Schilling gives all observant Michigan fans the heebie jeebies. How ugly will this be?
The pass rush has been good-- 10 sacks against a pretty good Wisconsin line. Much of that comes from outstanding defensive ends. Gholston is the one who gets a lot of pub and he's a great pass rusher, but having guys like Cameron Heyward (Ironhead's son), Alex Barrow and Robert Rose out there has helped keep those guys fresh. They've brought pressure quite a bit this year, as Jim Heacock is prone to do, so guys like Laurinaitis and Larry Grant have five sacks and Anderson Russell has three. For whatever questions there are about the middle of the D-line, the ends have been superb.
I'm with you -- I assume that OSU will try to get Gholston against Schilling as often as possible. Given that, and your documentation of Carson Butler's attitude toward blocking, I would think you might see Gholston in the backfield on more than one occasion, even if Michigan does keep him in to help. I know Hart's a good pass blocker, but I haven't seen that much of Brown or Minor in that role. Are they going to be useful, or is Michigan going to be forced to keep a fullback in there on most passing plays?
I assume Hart will leave the game only if shot, stabbed, drowned, poisoned, shot again, and guillotined. And then he'll have to aggravate his ankle sprain. (Hey, a guy's gotta sleep at night.)
Minor's been better than Brown in pass pro -- Brown was a HS QB and spent much of spring at CB -- and has been okay.
What's your general feeling for how Michigan will move the ball? Will the run game be effective? Can OSU crush Henne regularly enough to stop the offense? Will the corners win their battles against the Michigan receivers?
Assuming Hart plays-- and I completely agree that he's out there unless his leg falls off-- I think Michigan will be able to run it somewhat effectively. The fact that he's presumably not 100% probably lowers the "worst case scenario" from Biakabutuka to Perry, but that's still something Michigan fans would obviously take.
Not to go all Lee Corso on you, but I would expect a fair amount of screening, draws and long-handoff throws out of Michigan, since I think that they know they won't be able to keep the pass rush off Henne all day. Stopping the Michigan receivers has as much to do with the Michigan QBs as it does the OSU corners. If they decide to honor Tacopants on senior day, it's not going to make a damn bit of difference.
I have no idea what to expect out of Henne. He went ballistic against MSU for a quarter, but has looked positively dreadful at times as well. You know what you'll get out of Mallett -- lots of bad stuff mixed in with the occasional "holy crap, what did he just do?" piece of magic. Jenkins is very good, and should prevent Manningham from absolutely blowing up, but if Henne is throwing those ridiculous deep balls and dropping them in Manningham's lap (as he can on occasion), there's not much you can do to stop it. Arrington's pretty much the same. Neither guy is going to go "Braylon in 2003," I don't think, but a 100-yard day for Manningham and a 75-yard day for Arrington are certainly reasonable.
Mallett is not a real concern. He plays extensively, M loses. Analysis over. As for Henne, it's impossible to tell what to expect. After he returned from his first injury he was very good, then he was okay-awful-great in the MSU game. It's an enormous wildcard. The game hinges on his performance more than anyone else's, IMO.
Okay. Other side of the ball. Boeckman: Bellisari or Krenzel or Hoying or what?
He's a Krenzel-type, with a better arm. He has shown some mobility the last couple weeks-- something that we kept hearing about but never really saw much in a game until recently. For a guy John Navarre's size, he's pretty nimble.
Here comes the caveat: he seems to have these "uh oh!" moments where he channels Bellisari or the Stanley Jackson that you knew and loved so dearly 10 years ago this week. He made some really dumb plays against Michigan State that turned a blowout into a very close game. He seemed a little jittery in the pocket last week as well, at times dancing around when there wasn't any imminent danger.
He also has a little bit of the Rex Grossman "screw it, I'm going deep" mentality that has gotten him in trouble a few times. He will stand back there, stare down a guy, then throw it 50 yards downfield and watch the safety come over the top to pick it off or make a play on it. His pick on the last possession last week was a perfect example. OSU was down 7, he had tons of time and just needed to put a drive together. He had a checkdown guy open and decided to heave it instead, getting picked off.
He's been in the system for a million years (he gray-shirted in 2003, redshirted in 2004 and is now a fifth-year junior) but he's still a first-year starter. He's going to make mistakes, especially if you pressure him. I expect Michigan to have a very aggressive defensive gameplan.
So that leads into the next question: how has the line been in pass pro? Last year, of course, it all ended in tears against FLorida. This year they've been well above average. Blitz pickups been solid? How has the interior been? Michigan has a couple of pretty solid pass rushing DTs in Brandon Graham and Terrance Taylor.
The offensive line has been very good for the most part. I don't think a four-man rush is going to create too much havoc. You know about Boone and Barton-- both tackles are certainly above-average at worst. The middle of the line has definitely been better than Michigan's this year. Jim Cordle, the center, is an interesting story. He's right-handed and broke his right thumb earlier in the year. His solution: he just started snapping left-handed and didn't miss any time. The coaches said they've never seen a guy who could make that switch with such ease. [You are looking LIVE at Jim Cordle's hand!... We know, Tom. -ed ]
Both TEs, especially Jake Ballard have blocked well, and the backs are all okay too. Maurice Wells (if he plays) is actually a much better blocker in pass situations than he tends to get credit for. Michigan is going to have to blitz to get to Boeckman consistently. They will be able to get there if they bring enough guys-- the only question is how much they trust their corners. Really, I don't see them having much of a choice.
Please consider that Michigan has been not bad with the sacks itself this year. And didn't Boone have troubles
against edge-rushers before?
No question, the middle of the Michigan line is strong. Last year, pass pro was a HUGE concern of mine going into the game -- especially blocking Woodley. Boone looked lost in the national championship game, but then again, everyone did. I don't know that Michigan has a Jarvis Moss, though. Brandon Graham is a very good player, and he could present matchup issues, but I still think that OSU will be able to get to Henne more consistently than Michigan gets to Boeckman. I could be wrong.
Sure. So, then... Beanie Wells versus a Michigan run defense that's been consistently soft up the middle. I can't imagine this being anything other than a decided advantage for OSU. This is where you agree with me:
Yup. Chris Wells has been dinged quite a bit this year-- he had some ankle issues earlier and screwed up his thumb more recently. He wore a soft cast to interviews on Monday, but both he and Tressel swore it was a precautionary thing just to keep the swelling down. He is an absolute load-- I'm not sure who to compare him to. Well... other than another top-ranked back with size and speed who had some occasional injury problems during his OSU career earlier this decade. Even that's not quite right.
If he can play the whole game, I think OSU wins, and I think he's the player of the game. The other backs (Mo Wells and Brandon Saine) also aren't 100% this week. Mo Wells left the stadium in a boot after some Illini player rolled up his ankle last weekend and Saine had a mild concussion. Both are supposedly going to be able to go this weekend. Saine is an absolute burner who has developed into a nice little receiving threat out of the backfield. They may try to hit him on a wheel route at some point on Saturday. That could be a matchup problem for Michigan.
Boy, I can't wait to see Chris Graham covering that.
And, drumroll... a prediction?
This is where I warn your readers that I predicted something like 17-13 OSU last year, and that two years ago I thought OSU wasn't going to win a close game-- they came from behind to win by four in the final minute.
Well, we still need something on the record.
I think Hart plays extensively, I think Henne plays extensively. I'm operating under the assumption that neither one will be 100%, but will still be serviceable. If he was 100%, I don't think I could say for sure that Hart wouldn't crack 250 yards. [!!! -ed] I just don't think he will be full-go. He's still good for 90-120 yards, even on a bad ankle.
Henne... again... who knows? Worst-case scenario? He turns into fourth-quarter against MSU Henne and puts on a show. Realistically, I think he's going to have some trouble throwing the deep ball accurately with his shoulder in whatever condition it's in. That enables OSU to pressure the run game more than it otherwise might be able to.
On the other side of the ball, the OSU coaching staff has occasionally strayed from the run game to their detriment this season. I don't think that happens this weekend. Chris Wells goes for 30 carries, 160 yards and a couple scores. Boeckman makes one "what the hell is he doing?" play that puts my remote control in mortal danger, but finishes with about 175 yards and a score. Assuming a healthy Chris Wells and a less-than-healthy Henne and Hart? OSU 27, Michigan 20.
All right, there you go. One final question: any gut fieelings on which juniors go and which stay?
I think Jenkins is probably gone -- he's likely a top-15 pick. Gholston is probably also gone, given the significance the NFL puts on pass-rushing defensive ends. Laurinaitis... I mean, he's not the unstoppable force of nature that Brent Musberger acts like, but he's probably a late first-rounder. Tressel has been pretty consistent with advising guys who project in the first round to go. Alex Boone? I would lean towards him staying, but that's not based on anything in particular. Marcus Freeman almost certainly stays. Brian Robiskie is hard to guess on. He's 6-foot-3, which isn't huge, and he's not a total burner like Ginn was, but he's a solid guy with decent hands who does a lot of the little stuff like running good routes and has a higher-than-normal football IQ because of his dad. I would guess that he's maybe a late first-round guy like Tony Gonzalez was a year ago. He's probably somewhat borderline to go. It may depend on how the season ends.
Thanks to Tom, and I hope you get anthrax!
Irregular new feature: Picture Pages, in which pictures of things are explained for my benefit and yours. I had an example of good stuff happening but my computer crashed and I lost it, unfortunately. Next time.
I really should have gotten one of those endzone shots that shows the line from head on and clearly shows the positioning of each player, but I didn't think of it so this is what you get. Also next time.
It's first and ten early in the second quarter of the Wisconsin game. Michigan lines Brandon Minor up behind Mallett and runs a zone stretch. Here's the presnap alignment:
The key thing to note on this play is Alex Mitchell, who is the right guard, and defensive tackle #54 Mike Newkirk. At 265 pounds Newkirk is small for a defensive tackle, pressed into service when Jason Chapman was lost for the year. Alex Mitchell is fricking huge, probably around 350 pounds after falling off the conditioning wagon early this year. It's difficult to tell from this angle, but Newkirk is lined up between Mitchell and center Adam Kraus; this is generally called a one technique. (Technique primer.) Also, Wisconsin has seven guys in the box against six blockers.
The ball snaps; Michigan runs a zone stretch to the left side of the line:
Over the past couple years I've come to understand that "zone" blocking can mean damn near anything. Here, our zone blocking is much like zone coverage: everyone fires off to the left, looking for someone to block. When you have someone lined up to the playside of you and you are attempting to block them, you are performing a "reach block," which is a terribly difficult thing to do. (Bryant McKinnie is proud of his; OL jargon explained.)
Adam Kraus has no one to his left and immediately heads out to the second level. Mitchell, as you can see, is trying to reach block Newkirk, who lined up a step inside of him at the snap. He looks lumbering and hasn't "gotten his helmet across" the defender's chest. Newkirk has beaten him.
Reach block? FAIL.
Minor cuts past Newkirk...
This is a schematic disadvantage Weis-ian in its apparent nonsensicality. Which is so not a word. We have a lumbering 350 pound right guard with conditioning and mobility issues. We are asking him to use his conditioning and mobility to get around a smaller, quicker player. It is FAIL, and thus goes our run game against a team completely incapable of slowing any non-Iowa rush attack it's faced this year.
Update: A lot of commenters suggest this is a designed cutback; personally I still don't see it given the LB shift, but I suggest you read the comments for an alternate take.
So this post from the Sports Economist pops up in my feed reader linking to a paper just put out by Ohio State's econ department by one Trevon D. Logan, Assistant Professor of Economics. And hey, it's titled...
WHOA, NELLIE! EMPIRICAL TESTS OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
...and in my world this may as well be...
...so naturally the old interest gets piqued. It turns out that Logan tests three old saws of conventional wisdom about poll rankings, those being:
- it's better to lose early than lose late,
- teams are rewarded for beating strong opponents, and
- "style points" count.
Titillatingly, he finds all three bits of conventional wisdom to be unsupported:
Contrary to conventional wisdom, I find that (1) it is better to lose later in the season than earlier, (2) AP voters do not pay attention to the strength of a defeated opponent, and (3) the benefit of winning by a large margin is negligible.
Wow! It's time to check this paper out.
[Checking] [Jeopardy Music] [Etc.]
Oh, Lord, people from Ohio State are... well, they're not good at doing things. First we must establish what people mean by these old saws. Logan does a fine job of this:
The conventional wisdom of college football dictates that teams who lose early in the season stand a better chance of being highly ranked at the end of the season than teams who lose later. The logic is that teams who lose early have a greater opportunity to climb up in the polls after a loss, and also a greater chance of leapfrogging teams that lose at later points in time. Also, since ranking in the polls reflects recent performance, it is better to avoid losses late in the season. Similarly, the wisdom holds that voters view late losses unfavorably as they are a signal of low team quality.
End of the season. End of the season. End of the season. So how does Logan test this? He gets a database of various AP rankings over approximately the last twenty-five years. The alarming bit: he proudly notes "this is the first study that looks at weekly data for a large number of teams."
Wait... weekly data? When we're testing the theory that losing early is better for your end of season rankings, which come out, you know, once a year?
I test for the conventional wisdom by looking at the relationship between game characteristics and changes in AP point-totals. Since teams play one game only between rankings, this strategy will capture the relationship between game characteristics and AP point changes. In particular, I test the conventional wisdom outlined above with
(2) E(P(t) âˆ’ P(t-1)) = Î“Î²
where I regress the change in AP points from week t-1 to t on the characteristics of the game played between t-1 and t.
Let's say Michigan loses to Appalachian State in week one. To determine how badly this impacts your ranking in January, this paper checks to see what your ranking is in week two.
Ohio State, ladies and gentlemen!
|M sends five and does not get there (pressure -1); Crable picked up. Stocco [Yes, I called him "Stocco" here and had to mentally correct myself several other times. Wisconsin quarterbacks all look alike. -ed] throws behind a well-covered Hubbard. (Cover +1, Englemon +1)|
|O34||2||10||Ace Twins||Nickel||Run||3||Off tackle|
|ABC is in a really wide view here as they introduce the offense and I can't pick out anything specific. Taylor(+1) with a tackle two yards downfield.|
|BG stunts around both a DT and a DE as CGraham blitzes into the spot he vacated. They pick up the CGraham blitz but not the looping stunt; said stunt takes so long to loop around that Donovan has just enough time to get off a throw to a decently covered Hubbard. BG pounds him just after the ball is released. No, on replay Warren(-1) gave up position right away and was beaten easily. (Cover -1)|
|M41||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||TE Seam|
|Actually goes to the non-Beckum UW TE as Michigan sends seven(!) guys. BG gets cut but gets up; Ezeh(+1) in unblocked on a well-timed delayed blitz; both get there just as Donovan throws. The resulting throw is long and uncatchable. (pressure +1)|
|M41||2||10||Ace||Base 5-2||Run||1||Zone right|
|Taylor(+1) holds up against a double team and Crable(+1) takes a momentary double without getting sealed; Crable's push and disconnect slows the RB long enough for help to close from the backside.|
|Michigan again blitzing heavily; both linebackers come. Ezeh gets in unblocked due to a UW miscommunication, hitting Donovan as he releases the ball. Adams(+1) reads Beckum's crossing route and comes up to tackle immediately. (Cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q. A couple of impressive plays on the part of Donovan already. I think this might be the hidden story of the game: Donovan playing his ass off.|
|O18||1||10||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||-9 (pen)||Counter Trap|
|Adams comes up very hard right in the intended gap between the FB, who's crushed Crable(-1) inside, and the pulling guard. This forces Brown outside and should give Michgian time to react; Ezeh(-1) is late. Good reaction from Trent(+1) holds the play down. Hubbard, who came down to block Adams, picks up a holding call.|
|O9||1||19||Ace 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||25||Improvisation|
|Base personnel; Crable lined up in zone over the slot receiver. BGraham(+1) gets quick pressure from a four man rush but in doing so gives up contain as he's fought inside of the OT. I have a hard time blaming BG here, as the alternative is to sit around not getting pressure, something we've seen a lot of against mobile QBs. Donovan rolls out, finding Hubbard open for a big gainer and a first down. (Cover -1.) Another excellent play from Donovan.|
|Wooo for getting CGraham in coverage against a WR. The outside WR runs a fly, driving Trent off and creating a huge pocket for Hubbard to find another 20-yarder; Donovan overthrows it. (Cover -2, pressure -1). Adams blitzed and was through, but was forced to his knees and could not get to the QB.|
|The pocket starts collapsing from all sides as Donovan finds Beckum open on a stop route. He can't step into the throw and sails it. Um... pressure +1.|
|O34||3||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Slant|
|Trent(+2) jumps a slant, breaking up the play and nearly intercepting the ball. (Cover +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|O45||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Pass||0 (penx2)||Interception|
|Donovan gives Henne's INT back as Crable shoots into the backfield and forces a horrible throw; Adams picks it off. (Cover +1, pressure +1). A stupid, legit roughing the passer call follows. Crable(-3). A late hit on UW evens out the yardage.|
|Are you kidding me? Michigan is in a 4-4 with two safeties as UW comes out in a big formation, then splits Beckum out. The man covering Beckum: Tim Jamison. It's irrelevant, as Trent(-1) has given Hubbard a huge cushion, which UW exploits for an out; Trent can't make an immediate tackle and Hubbard drags him for another five yards. (Cover -2)|
|M41||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||5 + 15||Option|
|Crable levels Donovan, picking up a completely garbage PF; meanwhile the pitch is out and the FB makes a nice cut block on a charging Adams; linebackers are nowhere to be seen. Adams had a really tough assignment here and I'm not sure what he could have done other than this.|
|M19||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||7||Iso cutback|
|Englemon at the LOS for another guy in the box. Stunt gets Jamison(+1) right in the intended POA, forcing a cutback. On the backside Taylor has gotten a little penetration but not much. BGraham(-1) left unblocked, is owned by the fullback, creasing the backside and getting Smith into the secondary. Ezeh(-1) again late and cannot tackle at the hole.|
|M12||2||3||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||2||Iso|
|UW unbalances its line, tipping run with a covered up TE. Also no Beckum. Ezeh(+1) blitzes from the corner and gets stood up by the FB, but disengages as the RB passes and makes a diving tackle.|
|M10||3||1||I-Form Big||Base 4-3||Pass||10||Waggle throwback|
|We do have extra guys in the box on these last two plays, evening up the blocking. UW goes with the waggle, shooting Beckum out to the backside of the formation. CGraham(-1) loses him and whoever the safety is is just gone. Appears to be Englemon(-1). (Cover -2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 4 min 1st Q.|
|O25||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||5||Iso|
|Both DTs single blocked and pretty much controlled; Taylor avoids a minus by flowing down t
he line and tackling. Johnson(-1) however, was pancaked and blown out of the play.
|O30||2||5||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||6||Off tackle|
|Taylor(-1) can't take on a double, crumpling on contact and allowing the second guy to get out on Ezeh. CGraham(-1) runs up into the hole, meeting the FB and getting plowed backwards. Result: first down.|
|O36||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||34||Flag|
|Beckum is the third "wideout." He's a matchup problem, that guy. Crable lines up over him in zone; they run the flag again, it's wide open again, and this time Donovan makes the throw. Getting bludgeoned by this route. (Cover -2). Crable is basically a DE now and he's trying to cover the best receiver on UW. Wait... is this man? I think it might be man. Oh god. I can't tell.|
|Crable(-1) blitzing into this play action; he comes up too far inside and gives up contain. Donovan scrambles for good yardage.|
|M19||1||10||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||3||Off tackle|
|Same power off tackle they've run much of the day; this time Crable(+1) blitzes and stands up the fullback in the backfield, forcing Smith to bounce it outside. Ezeh(-1) gets caught up way to the inside, turning a potential TFL into a three yard gain.|
|Crable knifes through the line but can't keep his feet; the extra moment or two allows Donovan to hit the other UW TE, who's slipped out of the backfield to provide a late option. CGraham(+1) tackles immediately. (Cover +1)|
|M11||3||2||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||1||Off tackle|
|Johnson(+2) drives into the backfield, picking off the pulling guard with his man's butt and creating a huge mess at the POA. Brown attempts to cut back behind it but falls and the drive ends.|
|Drive Notes: FG(27), 0-10, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|O41||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||3||Iso|
|Johnson(+1) again drives his guy backwards, fouling the hole and causing a cutback. Taylor(+1) has also driven his man back a bit and disengages to tackle; Adams(-1) had an opportunity to stick this for a small loss or no gain but whiffed.|
|O44||2||7||Ace||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||Middle screen|
|The middle screen that's killed us the past couple years against Wisconsin re-emerges; we have apparently figured it out. ("Killed us" in last year's game == got a couple first downs.) Ezeh(+2) reads this and is there as the ball shows, breaking it up. (Cover +1)|
|As soon as Ezeh(-2) gets chopped and flies wildly past the QB, we're dead meat. CGraham has shot into the line and Jamison has stunted around him, leaving acres of space as Michigan mans up. Donovan can run for days. (Pressure -2)|
|Yeah, you know those effective runs from the Oregon game that we shelved? This is that. Other UW TE comes in motion and sets up over the guard, looking like he's going to help on a frontside run. The play starts and the blocking looks like a zone stretch; the TE comes to the backside and cuts Crable. A slow-reacting CGraham(-1) doesn't scrape(!) correctly, allowing an OL to get out on him. Bam, Smith into the secondary.|
|M29||2||1||I-Form||Base 5-2||Pass||24||TE Post|
|No pressure(-2) on Donovan at all. He has a huge pocket and can step up unfettered; this he does, finding Beckum just in front of Warren, who is draped on him and ready to rake as the ball arrives. A perfectly placed ball prevents him from making a play.|
|M5||1||G||I-Form Big||Base 4-4||Run||4||Off tackle|
|Crable does a good job crashing down on this but Ezeh(-1), even though he's seen this play like a half-dozen times already, just waits to get blocked by an OL. He gets off it and since Crable's crashing delays the RB he has a chance to make a play near the LOS, but he whiffs on the tackle. Also -1 to BGraham, blown way off the ball.|
|Waggle bootleg to give Donovan a run-pass option. He might have the TE open but decides not to chance throwing over Crable and heads for the corner. BGraham can't quite get there in time.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown,0-17, 7 min 2nd Q. Impressive drive from UW here.|
|O35||1||10||I-Form||Base 5-2||Run||1||Inside zone|
|No pull from the guard and the FB shoots off to cut the unblocked backside DE: this is a zone play. Taylor(+1) absorbs a double team and flows down the line to tackle after the G gets a tardy release; BG and Johnson also do well to cut off any room.|
|Both TEs in two point stances. Delayed blitz from CGraham doesn't get there, Taylor bullrushes a guy back into Donovan, which might cause him to shorten up his stride and sail it a bit. No plus but no minus on pressure. Donovan tries a bomb to Beckum that's well covered by Warren(+1, cover +1)|
|One of the many plays that make me scream profanity during the game. BG gets a break here as Brown, trying to pick up a blitzing CGraham, picks off the guy blocking him; he gets in for what looks like a drive-killing sack but Donovan spins free and miraculously manages to keep his balance, split through the mess of OL and DL and roll out. He signals Hubbard downfield and hits him for a 30-some yard completion. I find it hard to blame anyone in particular on this except maybe BG. I mean, what is Harrison supposed to do here after six seconds covering a guy a foot taller than him? I dunno. BG(-1) for missing the tackle. Pressure(-2) for losing contain.|
|M37||1||10||Ace Twins||Nickel||Run||5||Zone right|
|Slocum in; he takes a momentary double, then stands up the OL and closes what looks ike the intended crease. Johnson's(-1) single blocked and handled, creating a crease between the two DTs. Ezeh(-1), unblocked, does not react. CGraham was trying to deal with a huge Wisconsin OL and managed to not give ground.|
|Slightly different blocking scheme here as Crable's blocked on the first level whereas before he has been let free for the FB to handle. Maybe this is designed to go outside? Think so. Crable(+1) beats his guy and eventually draws attention f
rom three badgers; Ezeh(-1) overruns to the frontside and CGraham(-1) is obliterated by an OL; a cutback lane opens and Smith takes it.
|M26||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||12||Iso|
|Johnson(-1) crushed out of the hole and way to the outside, creating a cavernous gap CGraham can't hope to fill. Taylor(-1) also blown back by a double. He gets blocked by the FB; Ezeh(-1) is caught inside waiting for a cutback that never comes and can't close him down to the outside. Englemon(-1) whiffed on a tackle downfield.|
|M14||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-3||Run||-10 (pen)||Pitch sweep|
|UW shifts before the snap, pulling TEs to create huge overload to one side. Jamison drops off the line and lines up as a WLB. They run a pitch play which gets down to the two, but largely because Crable(+2) had shot into the backfield and was held to prevent a major TFL.|
|Adams blitzes and doesn't quite get there; the two linebackers, delayed, do, forcing a throw from Donovan. (Pressure +1) It's way overthrown and just as well for UW as Warren(+1, cover +1) has Beckum blanketed.|
|Taylor(+1) reads the draw, fighting inside to close down the desired gap between the DTs; CGraham also does a good job of coming up. As Brown cuts it outside Taylor fights back to the other side of the OL and dives to make a tackle at the LOS.|
|Five guys blitz but no one gets there; Donovan has a nice pocket. (Pressure -1) He finds Hubbard open enough (cover -1), but misses.|
|Drive Notes: FG(39), 7-20, EOH.|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Run||8||Off tackle|
|Sort of on the formation. Beckum not quite on the line in a two point stance. One WR lined up just to the outside and back of him; TE offset behind him. Wisconsin then flips the formation, moving the TEs to the other side of the field, then bringing in the other WR as the RB goes from offset to directly behind the QB: they've moved from an obvious pass formation into a run formation that overloads the other side of the field. Crable switches sides, then starts motioning for a timeout that the refs don't give him. Jamison and Johnson get split but Johnson's absorbed a double team so there's no one to block Ezeh(-2), who sits back , fails to attack the hole, and lets Hill â€“ in the game for a couple carries â€“ burst by him.|
|O28||2||2||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||2||Inside zone|
|Odd alignment by the D with Jamison in a two point stance; he passively accepts a Beckum block. Weird, but looks like his assignment. Johnson slants into the backfield but is taking Donovan on a rollout fake; Crable shoots into the backfield from the other side as Michigan brings a run blitz; the FB takes him out but Hill's path is altered. Taylor(+1), doubled, holds up and makes a diving tackle as Hill passes. Still a first down.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||2||Draw|
|Adams brought as a blitzer. He's taken out by the fullback; Taylor's gotten some penetration but allows the RB to slip behind his block. Ezeh(+1), unblocked, makes a tackle after a small gain.|
|Harrison sent on a blitz; Wisconsin has a wall of blockers out there and Donovan has tons of time. (Pressure -2). Can't find anyone (cover +1), starts rolling out towards Harrison then flips around and starts running for it. Crable can't track him down... Donovan's a fast dude.|
|O39||3||1||I-Form Big||Base 5-3||Run||2||Iso|
|Pure straight ahead power from a FB as UW puts out a huge set in the backfield. Good job by Johnson to penetrate but he can't get there in time; Slocum in but not able to make a play.|
|O41||1||10||I-Form||Base 5-2||Pass||-10 (pen)||TE Out|
|No pressure(-2) at all; excellent pocket and Donovan has plenty of time to step up and fire. The TE runs an out in front of Warren in zone coverage; Warren is close enough to take a diving stab at the ball and attempt to rake it out but it's just beyond his reach and a completion. Carimi gets called for holding; BG(+1) drew it but it was unnecessary.|
|O31||1||20||Ace 3-wide||Base 5-2||Run||10||End-around|
|Same flip UW executed on the first play of the drive. Ezeh(-2) gives up contain immediately; Adams(-1) comes up hard but too hart, allowing Jefferson to beat him to the corner.|
|O41||2||10||Ace 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||19||Hitch|
|Blitz from Michigan; Ezeh(+1) plows right into the center and starts driving him back, forcing Donvan to throw; he finds Hubbard on a comeback route in front of Warren(-2, cover -2), who compounds the meh coverage by whiffing on a tackle and yielding significant YAC. (Pressure +1)|
|M40||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||7||Waggle scramble|
|Waggle action from UW; they use a pulled TE to block the backside DE and give Donovan some time. Coverage(+1) is good and Donovan decides to scramble. Ferrara(-1) overruns the play and Johnson(-1) was pancaked, so there's no one to clean up as he cuts back and scrambles.|
|M33||2||3||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||-2||End-around|
|End-around to Beckum(!); this time Crable(+2) is shooting in from the strongside unblocked. He's past the FB â€“ who seems to let him go â€“ and the RB, almost too far upfield to make a difference on the play but he grabs Beckum's leg and eventually hauls him down for a loss.|
|Again with the long-looping stunt of Graham around the DT and DE; it is about to get to Donovan but it's too late as he finds Jefferson wide open on a comeback route in front of Englemon. (-1, Cover -1, pressure -1)|
|M20||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-3||Run||4||Iso|
|Mouton in the game as an extra LB. Taylor(+1) drives into the backfield towards the hole, closing it just as the FB passes. Smith has to cut it back; the linebackers have all run themselves to the frontside of the play and gotten blocked, so it takes Englemon coming up to make this tackle. I should hand out a -1 somewhere... Mouton.|
|M16||2||6||I-Form Big||Base 5-3||Pass||8||Stop|
|Mouton out, Jamison in in Crable's usual place over the TE; he drops into coverage. Crable playing as a WLB. Beckum motions out to be a seco
nd receiver and runs a simple stop route in front of Trent(cover -1).
|M8||1||G||I-Form Big||Base 5-3||Run||5||Naked bootleg|
|Hey, wow, haven't seen this in a while. Run all the way here with no one in a route. Crable(-1) gets cut to the ground, opening up the backside; Warren makes an adequate tackle to prevent a TD.|
|Hill in, and we send out the big boys: NT Taylor, DT Slocum, DT Kates. Our DEs are usually DT Johnson and sometimes DT Graham. They run at Slocum(-1), who's stood up by one blocker. Taylor(+1) has burst into the backfield and delayed the progress of a couple pulled guys, forcing a Hill cutback and an eventual tackle just short of the goalline.|
|Full credit to CGraham(+2), who launches himself forward, plowing into the FB, stoning him, and driving back as Hill arrives, eventually sticking him short of the endzone. Taylor(+1) also helps make this play, eventually driving the center back and preventing Hill's added momentum from driving the pile forward. At the time I just thought "oh, god, put me out of my misery" but if things go a bit differently in the fourth quarter this could have been a deciding play.|
|Drive Notes: FG(18), 7-23, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|O23||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 6-2||Run||3||Iso|
|Johnson(+1) slants past his blocker into the desired path of this play, forcing a cutback. Patterson disengages to tackle as the RB passes him near the LOS, but can't prevent him from falling forward.|
|No pressure(-1) from a four-man front; Hubbard wide open in front of Trent(-1, cover -1).|
|O36||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 6-2||Run||7||Off tackle|
|Greg Banks(-1) is doubled, immediately crumbling and getting pancaked. Crable(-1) stoned by the FB as a guard and Beckum pull around from the strongside of the formation. Taylor's again fought to get himself into the hole â€“ I can't believe what a monster game he's having given the results on the field â€“ but Johnson(-1) is easily handled by his guy and can't do likewise; there's a major gap between them.|
|O43||2||3||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||3||Iso|
|Jamison(-1) is stunting around the DT and right into this hole; he should at least take out the FB and allow a linebacker to close unblocked; instead he shoots upfield uselessly. Ezeh(+1) and Taylor do a good job of closing the hole, but the momentum of the back bowls them over and he sqeezes out near the first down.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||5||Inside zone|
|Michigan slants hard to the left, which means Taylor takes himself out of the play and Ferrara(-1) is slanting into a double team that crushes him. Ezeh, blitzing up the middle, comes up hard but the back can slant away from him because of the large gap. Adams makes an arm tackle as he passes.|
|M49||2||5||I-Form Big||Base 4-3||Run||4||Delay|
|Highlight of this one provided because I'm not sure exactly what to term it and not precisely sure what everyone's responsibilities are. Anyone who can chip in, please do. We're laying back and blitzing hard at the snap; Ezeh(+1) meets the C and stands him up, making this hole smallish â€“ think Brown should cut back here into big space as Ferrara's run himself way out of the play and into trouble, but he does not â€“ but Adams(-1) does not fill it, instead moving outside to follow the fullback, which appears to be Crable's responsibility. Result is that the RB can slip up this crease for four as Ezeh and Slocum disengage to tackle.|
|M45||3||1||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||0||Iso|
|Johnson(+1) slants hard inside as Jamison(+1) loops around behind him on what's not really a stunt but a sellout to stop the hypothetical iso. Both guys get there, stuffing this at the LOS and forcing a punt.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-23, 14 min 4th Q.|
|Taylor(+1) gets interior pass rush and nails Donovan as he releases the ball(pressure +1); it's a bit of a duck. Warren(+1, cover +1) is there to rake the ball out as it arrives. Stevie Brown in the game.|
|O30||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Base 5-2||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|Same formation UW ends up in after the flip, but they just line up in it this time. M shows man press. And end-around draws two players two it, potentially opening up a running lane. Crable(+1) blitzes from over the WR and is not blocked; BG(+1) slashes past his blocker and into the backfield; the pair tackle for loss.|
|O29||3||11||Ace 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Middle screen|
|Adams is creeping forth at the snap â€“ a spy, maybe? -- but not blitzing, so he's in perfect position to read this screen and break it up(+1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-23, 12 min 4th Q.|
|O24||1||10||I-Form Twins||Base 5-2||Run||2||Draw|
|Johnson(+1) does a good job holding up against a double team; Ezeh sort of comically plows into the back of one of his teammates and falls as the running back approaches the LOS, which forces a spin and eventually a fall due to the traffic the immobile Johnson has created.|
|Crable(+1) shoots past a blocker but is flat-out tackled, opening up a huge gap for the RB to exploit. No call. Ezeh(-1) got blocked right out of the play and ther was no second-level help.|
|BGraham(+1) fights outside of his blocker and gets into the hole the FB is running up into. He gets blocked out of the play but he's successfully stripped the RB of his crease and his lead blocker. Johnson(-1) gets blown back by a double, forcing Ezeh to go around the guy still blocking Johnson and whiff an arm tackle; he gets pushed a couple yards downfield and turns this from 0 into 3.|
|O41||2||7||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Run||0||Inside zone|
|Actually more of a 6
-2 as CGraham comes to the LOS and Adams moves up to be a second linebacker. Crable gets upfield and Jamison is doubled, creating a large crease between the two; Adams(+2) comes up and fills with authority, tackling for no gain.
|O41||3||7||Ace||Base 6-2||Pass||Inc||TE Out|
|Michigan crowding the line, threatening major blitz. They come with seven guys and have Brown come up to play spy, leaving three downfield recievers in man coverage. No one nears Donovan (pressure -2). He finds Beckum; Adams(+2, cover +2) is all over him, diving to break the pass up near the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-23, 9 min 4th Q.|
|O26||1||10||Ace Twins||Base 5-2||Pass||29||PA Flag|
|Adams comes up as an eighth man in the box; Wisconsin runs a play-action fake and sets up as Michigan shows man free. Warren(-1) gets beaten on a flag route by Hubbard; Donovan hits him on it. Nice pocket this time (pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M45||1||10||I-Form||Base 5-2||Pass||Inc||PA Out|
|Ezeh sent on a blitz that the UW FB screws up real bad, moving out to block Crable, who's already dealing with an OT, and allowing Ezeh a free shot on Donovan. The resulting, hurried throw is well wide. (Pressure +1) Donovan bangs his finger on Ezeh's helmet; Allen Everidge comes in. Question: why was Donovan, who had clearly hurt his finger, allowed to sit on his butt in the middle of the field? I've seen neck injuries that took less time. Obvious gamesmanship by Bielema; it's up to the refs to get Meathead under control.|
|M45||2||10||I-Form||Base 6-2||Run||2||Off tackle|
|Michigan stacks the line and comes; Jamison stunts into the gap that's attacked but is blown out of there by an OL. Johnson(+1) has driven into the backfield and disengages to tackle at the LOS.|
|M43||3||8||Ace||Base 5-2||Pen||-5||False start|
|BG(+1) nearly gets past the OG and is very close to being held. He doesn't get to Everidge, but does convince him to scramble out into an onrushing Jamison(+1). Everidge just gets rid of it. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-23, 6 min 4th Q.|
|M33||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||1||Inside zone|
|Adams comes up for an eighth guy in the box; both Johnson(+1) and Taylor(+1) stand up to double teams, Johnson splitting his and leaving an OL in the hole looking for someone to block. As the RB reaches the hole he bangs into the OL and Taylor reaches over to tackle and finish the play.|
|M32||2||9||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||19||Iso|
|Taylor(-1) gets effectively scooped; there's a crease between the two DTs as Johnson gets some penetration that might be voluntary on the OL's part. CGraham(-1) comes up to fill and gets pwned by the FB. Brown(-1) misses a tackle, turning this into 10 additional yards for UW.|
|M13||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 5-2||Run||7||Off tackle|
|BG(-2) obliterated by the OT, falling flat on his ass immediately. Ezeh(-1) and CGraham(-1) get blocked out of the resulting hole; another big gainer.|
|M6||2||3||I-Form Big||Base 5-3||Run||6||Off tackle|
|Same play; this time Brown cuts it to the backside. Jamison(-1) ran himself out of the play; Johnson(-1) blown back by a double team, and woop touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-30, 3 min 4th Q. Charting stops here, as the rest of the game is academic.|
That was horrible.
Pretty much. Wisconsin had 12 drives and scored on six of them. Two of UW's field goals were chip shots; Michigan was fortunate to hold in the redzone. Early on, I was just "oh, okay, Donovan is making some great throws." Late, though... ugly.
It is worth mentioning, though: Donovan did play a great game and Travis Beckum is an impossible matchup.
It seems to me that some of the blame on the UM defense is related to the offense's lack of production. When the offense is constantly going three and out the defense gets tired and tends to reach to make big plays. This leads it open to both missed tackles and big plays. It seems when the offense is able to move the ball the defense can stiffen up and hold the other team in key situations. But when the offense is ice cold the D seems to give up more ground.
Is this fair? Or are they unrelated?
[Actual question from actual reader. -ed]
I think there's some blame to be assigned to things that aren't the defense, but it's not due to fatigue. Look above: after a couple stops Michigan gives up five consecutive scoring drives of significant length, both in terms of yardage and plays, one of which is right after halftime. If we were seeing an exhaustion effect it wouldn't start in the first quarter and end midway through the third. And if there is an exhaustion effect, it's just as much on the D for being unable to get on the field as the O for being unable to get off it. Maybe if Michigan started off with a series of three-and-outs and put together a noble front before crumbling, I could see it. But not here.
The item that might mitigate the D's performance: Zoltan's suddenly crappy punting -- the past two weeks he's regressed badly -- and Michigan's consistent inability to stop any kickoff return before it reaches the 35. Look at UW's drive starts early: 34, 18 (bad pooch punt), 45, 25 (bad punt), 41, 35. That's losing the field position battle.
Chart. This one's a doozy.
|Jamison||3||2||1||No pass rush at all. What happened to this guy?|
|Johnson||8||7||1||Caved several times; several other times made nice plays. Confusing day.|
|Taylor||11||3||8||I thought he was great, but grant you that you might be skeptical. Nine tackles is a hell of a number for a DT, though.|
|Crable||9||7||2||Stupid PF was a huge turning point.|
|Banks||-||1||-1||A hidden source of damage: sparsely used backups, collectively -4.|
|Ezeh||8||15||-7||Not ready for prime-time, IMO.|
|C. Graham||3||6||-3||Is who he is.|
|Trent||3||2||1||Gave up a couple outs, otherwise not tested much.|
|Warren||3||4||-1||Relatively tough day.|
|Adams||6||3||3||Should he be playing LB?|
|"Pressure"||10||18||-8||This should color your views of the DL significantly.|
|"Coverage"||15||17||-2||Okay, not great; flag routes killed them.|
A huge positive score for Taylor and a huge negative score for Ezeh jump out. Taylor I'm pretty confident on after checking the box score and seeing the aforementioned nine tackles. That's outstanding for a DT, especially since AFAIK every one of them was at or near the LOS. He was a standout.
Ezeh... well. Is UFR presdisposed to hate linebackers? I don't think so. I went back to a few games last year and found no negative scores except a 1-2-(-1) put up by a wounded Burgess in the OSU game. Is it reasonable that he's playing really poorly? Yes, he's a redshirt freshman in a run defense that's consistently gotten gashed up the middle; Michigan was so worried about their linebackers they brought in their first JUCO in ten years. So the ugly number above is legit, IMO. Ezeh is the Ryan Mallett of the defense, forced on the fiwaeld a year (or two) early.
Arrrgh Crable aaaargh.
Yes, pretty much with the personal fouls and the containment issues and all that jazz, but do note he was positive for the game despite taking a -3 on the first PF (the second, being complete bullcrap, did not draw UFR-scorn). He remains a net positive on the defense and will be important against Ohio State. If he can make Boone look as silly as Florida's southern-speed laced DL did, we might have a chance.
I would also like to point out that Meathead has a basic lack of football knowledge if he thinks Crable would get ejected for two personal fouls.
Taylor and Jamar Adams.
Ezeh, Crable, and everyone assigned to rush the passer.
What does it mean for Ohio State?
If Michigan's performance against Michigan State was a "please ask again later" in re: Michigan's run defense versus a pounding, between-the-tackles ground game, the Wisconsin game was "outlook not so good." Beanie Wells is way better than anyone Michigan's faced the past two weeks and the Ohio State offensive line is likely to be at least the equal of MSU and UW. Unless we have some magic schematic mushroom in our pocket, expect Wells to go nuts.
The passing game will be more even, IMO, and will require Ohio State to play off the run -- note that this is not "set up" the run; a first-snap play action bomb would terrify me -- to neutralize a Michigan DL that's highly effective at getting to the quarterback when there is no threat of a handoff but could not get to Hoyer or Donovan on play action or even just your average run-pass down. If Boeckman makes a mistake here or there or a blitz gets in or one of our DBs makes a play or two... but it'll take a fluke event or three to keep Ohio State from moving the ball effectively.
Yes, despite the Illinois game. Illinois has J Leman. He is a real American hero. Do we have real American heroes? Not on defense. Not at linebacker.
The Yankee infidels are dying by the thousands.
LSU's athletic director on Les Miles:
"From what he's expressed to me recently, Les is very happy at LSU and not interested in Michigan," O'Keefe said Tuesday. "He's extremely pleased with his contract and with the support from the university he has received."
Les Miles to Mike Tirico:
"I'm not paying attention to what-ifs," Miles said, before letting maize and blue color his words. "Coach Carr's a great coach, and he should stay as long as he's able, and I'll root for that team, not only this Saturday, but every Saturday that I'm alive. I give little or no thought to any other opportunity."
Les Miles on Jim Rome today:
Rome: Have you or your reps had any discussions with Michigan about possibly replacing Lloyd Carr.
Miles: Absolutely not. I am completely and 100% focused on the task at hand. We play Ole' Miss this weekend. The opportunities in front of my football team are great and I'm not turning an eye in any other direction than the preparation for this football team.
Rome: Les, would you say unequivocably then that LSU is where you are going to be next year.
Miles: You know I love this place. This is a place that I enjoy fully. And again, I'm turning no attention towards any other opportunities and just focused on the job at hand.
They are dying on the walls by the thousands!
Ok, not insane. A few weeks back there was a minor internet OUTRAGE at the comments of Associate Deputy Assistant Athletic Director Guy Michael Stevenson, who came off as a hopelessly out-of-date fuddy-duddy when quoted saying stuff about how being loud at football games is unethical.
But not so fast, my friend! The Michigan Review talked with Stevenson and got a clarification:
"If you believe that sport is governed by rules that are supposed to be neutral with respect to giving teams any advantage, then making too much noise in a stadium is unethical," said Stevenson. It would be unethical because of the influence fan behavior could directly have on the outcome of the game, by changing field position or extending possession times by leading to first downs. Stevenson emphasized that he was asked to discuss fan ethics, and referred to NCAA rules as guidelines for ethical behavior.
But those rules are no longer enforced by officials, and since fans no longer have to worry about incurring penalties against their own team for their rowdiness, fans should be involved and passionate, Stevenson said.
(Via Varsity Blue.)
The Review also did an interview with me over the phone a month or so ago; I do wish they'd edited out some of the vagaries of speech that make me sound dim, but what can you do? No, not issue a fatwa. Bad reader. Bad, unforgiving, very confused reader.
How to see. Tomorrow's basketball game against Georgetown will be the first time a Beilein team faces actual opposition. It's on ESPN360, which is not a channel but is rather an internet service. Do you get it? Probably not. I'll take "Reasons The Big Ten Network Exists" for $1000, Alex. You can check to see if you are amongst the blessed few here.
Question: is it possible one of the blessed few could capture the game and post a torrent?
Timmy B. He runs. He runs. He runs.
Update: Review interview link broken; now fixed.