"Coach Mattison told me what the Ravens were about, what he thought," Beyer said. "He definitely encouraged me. I hold his opinion in high regard."
Commenting OUTRAGE(!) plus email on this whole Herbstreit-smack thing has been going on for a couple days. So let's address it and get it out of the way. What we're talking about:
"(Receiver Steve) Breaston can go back to whatever he's doing these days, if they could ever find a way to actually apply him in the offense. He's worthless in my mind, outside of returning a few punts. I'll say that, and he'll end up winning the game for them on Nov. 18. But he hasn't done anything since his freshman year."
The "worthless" has gotten a lot of play. I am guilty myself, putting it in the headline of my post on the matter @ The Fanhouse. It makes good distorted, headline-grabbing copy, but distorted is the key word. In context, Herbstreit's statement is clearly about Breaston's value as a football player and one that many Michigan fans have expressed themselves. It's not out of bounds or over the top or requiring censure or whatever. It's clearly exaggerated (Rose Bowl, last year's Iowa and Penn State games) and wrong, but it doesn't cross the line. If he had said "useless" this never would have spilled outside the realm of inadvisable bulletin-board material. It's poor wording and nothing else.
(Side note: what, exactly, is the way to apply a willow-thin wide receiver who's not much for catching the ball? As a third WR -- which is what he'll be once Mario returns -- he's not bad, though.)
A reader sends along a snippet from Herbstreit's chat this afternoon on this topic:
Rick (New York): When you call Steve Breaston "worthless", and promise to meet Eddie George at his restaurant for the OSU "victory party" over U-M, don't you lose your credibility as a national journalist? I bet you don't even have the guts to answer this question.
Kirk Herbstreit: (3:27 PM ET ) First of all, I did not call Steve Breaston worthless. I called his production in the Michigan offense worthless since his freshman year. That was probably said more out of frustration for Steve and wishing that he were more of a factor because of his ability to make big plays. I really regret that the newspaper painted me into a corner, making it look as if I called Steve worthless, which I never did. And I would never call any player worthless. But the facts are the facts and he has not been involved in this offense consistently since his freshman year.
Kirk Herbstreit: (3:27 PM ET ) The other thing that really ticked me off about that article was the headline that said that I feel that the Michigan defense will fail against Ohio State. I NEVER said Michigan's defense would "fail". I simply said they would not be able to dominate the Ohio State offense the way they've enjoyed dominating everybody they've played up to this point. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I'm an objective analyst, and anybody who's listened to me analyze Michigan over the last 11 years on ESPN, if they were being honest with themselves, would have to say I've always been fair to Michigan. If there's any regret that I have, it would be in using the word "worthless" to describe Breaston's productivity in the Michigan offense. That was not a term that I would ever use about a player and the person who he is. And it was clearly misconstrued, misrepresented and mean-spirited by the paper. I will continue to be objective and I will continue to enjoy seeing Michigan play well. As far as Eddie George's party, for me and my travels, I don't get a chance to see former players very often and I took Eddie's comments about a get-together as just that, win or lose that a bunch of former players were all going to get together. I hope all of the Michigan fans understand that this was clearly an attempt to paint me into a corner, as being anti-Michigan, which is the furthest thing from the truth. I've talked with Bill Martin, the Athletic Director and I have a call into coach Carr. And I'm looking forward to seeing Michigan win their next two games and I literally can't sleep because of my excitement about the Maize and Blue and Scarlet and Gray meeting to decide which of the two teams will play for the national title.
He's right, though the only thing the News did to paint him into a corner is provide a provocative headline. The rest of the article was just Herbstreit quotes provided with context. Other than that, he's right.
So can we focus on something else, like the fairly high probability something nasty will happen to me if I go to the game? And that anyone with a spare ticket or two should email me immediately?
Wonk: Back. The indispensable Big Ten Wonk has returned. He starts off his third season by talking... football?
Last year Notre Dame achieved something truly striking. They combined within one team one of the best offenses in the nation (perhaps only Texas was better) with one of the worst defenses in [a major conference]. ... In other words, not even an offense as good as Notre Dame's could overcome a defense as bad as Notre Dame's.
Oh. It turns out that the Irish basketball team has more in common with its football team than a lot of incredibly ugly white guys. Alphabetically-sensitive preseason walkthroughs have begun; will notify you when Michigan arrives.
It's a major award. Lamarr Woodley is a strong second in this week's MaxwellPundit balloting, well behind first-place Troy Smith but within striking distance of the Robot Assassin. Should Michigan defeat Ohio State and should Woodley turn in an impressive performance, he just may win the least prestigious individual award in college football (No offense, Rakes), which once again proves that blogz rool.
Yes, they are crazy. A letter in a recent edition of the Ann Arbor News:
Michigan Stadium plans a little too Nazi Germany
So at last we see the drawings for the new Michigan Stadium. Pretty imperial, and uncomfortably like something in 1930s Nuremberg (www.thirdreichruins.com/nuernberg3.htm). I had thought that Albert Speer died in 1981, but perhaps not. And all those the luxury boxes: for the "FÃ¼hrers and best?''
David G. Winter, Ann Arbor
For comparison, here's Hitler Stadium (no, not the one in Columbus):
Aaaand here's a the proposed expansion of Michigan Stadium:
Unless Mr. Winter thinks the arch is a sinister Nazi invention, he's crazy. Even if the arch was a sinister Nazi invention, he's still crazy. Anyway, I'd like to thank Mr. Winter for invoking Godwin's Law. I declare the anti-box forces defeated. It's V-Luudite Day.
|M48||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||6||Hart||Zone left|
|Double TEs to the short side; run there. Nice job by Butler(+1) to drive back the DE and give Hart the corner.|
|O46||2||4||I-Form Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone right|
|NW spread out on the DL like Iowa was: three tight over the interior line, two wide of the tackles. Kraus(+1) cuts an interior lineman; Bihl pushes his guy away, and Oluigbo reads the hole, pounding the linebacker trying to fill.|
|O37||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||6 + 15||Hart||Zone left|
|Plus personal foul facemask. We run away from the TE, towards the doubled Wrs. Hart again follows Obi, who cuts back behind Long â€“ man not sealed â€“ and into the well-paved interior, kicking out the guy trying to fill on the backside.|
|O16||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||1||Grady||Zone left|
|Boren beaten quickly; his guy gets Grady collared.|
|Unsurprisingly, Northwestern is not surprised. Boren again not so useful, this time in space. Momentary double if followed up with a block of... no one. His man falls to Obi, and the filling safety bottles him up.|
|Arrington with a step on the DT... two steps. Henne lays it in there perfectly. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q. It all started so well...|
|Misread by Hart; outside is wide open if he pops it out there, as a safety is blitzing into the middle of the field at the snap. He cuts up into eight guys for a couple, but the backside DE isn't handled by Mitchell(-1).|
|Henne has Mathews open but throws well behind him... and I'm not so sure this isn't a catch. (IN, 1, 2/2 protection)|
|Hits Breaston in the hands; easy first down if caught. (CA, 3, 2/2 protection)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Can't blame DeBord for this one. Had the first on two consecutive downs but for execution errors. Hell, even first down was more a misread than a bad call.|
|Breaston gives back two or three trying to get more yards. Should have spun outside and picked up five or so more. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M34||2||5||Ace 3-Wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone right|
|Cutback fest. Hart jukes an unblocked DE out of his shorts on the backside, sliding up near a first down.|
|Well, that's depressing. Blitzing linebacker is picked up by FB Will Paul; he grabs Hart as he passes; filling safety brings him down with no YAC.|
|Fitzgerald thinks that it's a terrible spot. Note that when Henne recovers his own fumble, his knees aren't on the ground, Spielman.|
|M39||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Slashes up through a nickel crease(? I wrote this, I know I did... but I have no idea what a "nickel crease" is) but is tripped up by a leg or an arm or something.|
|Adjustment: we've had trouble on the waggle because backside DEs have been coming up and getting immediate pressure on Henne. This time Butler comes in motion to the waggle side of the field, blocking the backside DE and giving Henne time to find a wide receiver downfield. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Kraus gets out on a guy on the second level; Oluigbo kicks out the other linebacker and Hart has a major crease. The key to these plays is often how much the backside guard or tackle can bother a defensive lineman: Boren does a nice job on this play.|
|Ugh. Perimeter linebacker shoots upfield, forcing Oluigbo to block him immediately and shutting off the outside. No big deal on second and one against Northwestern? Not so much. Interior line getting driven back, forcing Hart to cut all the way behind him and into charging help.|
|O37||3||2||I-Form 2TE||Run||-3||Hart||Zone left|
|I suppose you could blame Kraus or Bihl for letting a lineman through, but I think this is just plain old predictability: Northwestern shifts their line left moments before the snap, turning difficult playside blocks into impossible ones. Four Wildcat defenders are into the backfield.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 13 min 2nd Q. Another drive ends with a stretch play into an overloaded front on third and short.|
|Hart ends up cutting between Butler and Long on the backside. A good read by Hart; a NW linebacker's hesitancy attack the backside opens up a lot of room.|
|Bihl(+1) gets the key block here, sealing a guy lined up slightly playside of him and providing the lane Hart darts up through between him and Kraus.|
|O28||2||1||Ace Twins||Run||3||Grady||Zone right|
|Hurray, a short run conversion. This one isn't exactly wonderful blocking, but Grady does find a place to power through arm tackles.|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||-1||Minor||Zone left|
|Seven guys in the box versus three-wide. Real problem, unfortunately, is Boren, who can't even bother the playside DT. Tou gh block to ask him to make. DT cuts off the backside; there's nowhere for Minor to go.|
|Finally an effective screen. Good block by Bihl to prevent a DT from getting out; Mitchell gets a DB on the ground in space. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|O16||3||1||I-Form 2TE||Run||3||Grady||Zone left|
|NW tightens up the line presnap, expecting something inside (why?), we run the stretch again, though we do give Grady a lead blocker this time.|
|Ugly play. Bihl overwhelmed, and his man shoots over his prone body to grab Minor's ankle. He steps through it and stumbles through a small hole.|
|Holding on what's otherwise a good gain, on Bihl(-1). Well... he may have ripped him to the ground, but I don't pretend to have any idea what the Big Ten thinks holding is anymore. Seems this is let go often enough.|
|Draw fake to Hart followed by a screen to him. Kraus does well in space, chopping a guy mercilessly. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|First of the year.|
|Similar route to the one that got Arrington a touchdown. This one is better covered, causing Henne to lob it high, but too high. (IN, 0, protection 2/2).|
|Drive Notes: FG, 10-0, 7 min 2nd Q.|
|M40||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||5||Grady||Zone left|
|Momentary stop, cuts upfield behind the OL vanguard. Boren(+1) got the backside DE chopped to provide the opening.|
|M45||2||5||Ace 3-Wide||Run||8||Grady||Zone right|
|Grady cuts back all the way behind Butler, as everyone gets to the frontside of their blocker, leaving a huge hole open. Nice read.|
|Would have gone for 25... hit Butler right in the hands. A tiny bit behind him, but still eminently catchable. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Nice room; would have gone for the first if Mathews coul have gotten a decent block. Where have these been this year? (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|I don't know WTF Henne's looking at, because he's got Arrington wide open for the first down on a slant. Henne double-clutches, rolls out, and chucks an incompletion wide of Breaston while on the run. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|M20||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||1||Grady||Zone left|
|Defensive end gets inside of Butler, which would seem like a very good thing for Michigan, but Grady inexplicably doesn't take the corner, which is wide, wide open, instead cutting it up into a mess of bodies for little gain.|
|Only three guys in this pattern. Henne steps up, can't find anyone, and takes off. (TA)|
|I think this is tipped by the DE, causing the ball to float into the air and nearly be intercepted. (BA, 0)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Henne out on the waggle. He sees no one with an angle to stop him anywhere downfield and so just runs for a while.|
|M33||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||3||Grady||Zone right|
|This isn't actually a fumble; the ball comes out after he's down. Play was blocked well save for one guy getting inside of Oluigbo(-1) and tripping Grady as he tried to get through the hole.|
|M36||2||7||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||3||Breaston||WR screen|
|Oluigbo, lined up as an H-back, motions out to join Breaston and Arrington at the top of the formation and I think "screen." So does Northwestern; they close it down. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|Three man rush yields a ton of time. Henne surveys and eventually tries to rifle it into a covered Butler. A linebacker deflects the ball. Henne had two guys short with a shot at the first down. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-3, 7 min 3rd Q.|
|Running versus eight guys in the box. Butler gets a cut, Kraus manages to shove a DT towards the frontside, and Hart hurdles for a decent gain anyway.|
|O31||2||5||I-Form Twins||Run||2||Hart||Zone left|
|Yick. Think Henne has to get us out of this play. They're showing a zone with a linebacker shaded over to Breaston's side and a corner rolled up over the TE on the short side. We run to the wide side of the field; the linebacker, who is huger than Breaston and lined up inside of him, gets position easily. Oluigbo comes along to pop him and does, but a safety is moving up just before the snap to provide the eighth guy in the box, filling the hole unblocked.|
|O29||3||3||I-Form 2TE||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Neither Kraus nor Brian Thompson can do much with their blocks. Thompson's is especially damaging, as he gets blown back, removing any possibility Oluigbo will be useful on this play and forcing Hart up into bodies.|
|O28||4||2||Ace 3-Wide||Run||22||Hart||Zone left|
|NW backs off the run aggressiveness on the wrong down. They've only go six in the box â€“ one liebacker is lined up about a yard from a DB over Breaston, probably preparing for some sort of robber zone to cut off slants. Michigan has a guy for every defender. There's a crease beween Long and Kraus. Hart breaks a diving tackle from Kraus' man, obliterates the linebacker who discarded Bihl and goes for a chunk of yards.|
|O6||1||G||I-Form 2TE||Run||3||Hart||Zone left|
|Hart goes off of Long. Well blocked, but safety comes up as an extra man. Hart plows through him for a few.|
|Touchdown. Zone blocking but this looks designed to go up the middle. One DT is doubled by Bihl and Kraus and sealed. The other's first step is upfield past Boren as if he expects a zone to his side. Crease right up the middle. Oluigbo gets a Dudley-worthy block in the hole, opening up the easy touchdown for Hart.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-3, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|Eight guys in the box. Bihl driven back, Kraus loses control of his man; nowhere for Minor to run.|
|Seven in the box. We run against the strength of the formation, creasing the line between Kraus and Bihl. Minor explodes up through the line.|
|Fumbles the ball after picking up the first down... probably. Just seems to drop the ball.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 17-3, 14 min 4th Q.|
|M20||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||7||Jackson||Zone left|
|I think this is what a playside DT block is supposed to look like. Bihl fires out to the left, disrupting the path of the DT until Boren can pick him up and seal. Bihl then releases downfield. Kraus gets a great block on the second level, opening up a crease that Jackson makes the most of.|
|M27||2||3||Ace Twins||Run||0||Jackson||Zone left|
|Defensive end unblocked and makes a tackle for no gain. Bust.|
|This is going to sound crazy: we should have run a draw here. NW has five(!) guys in the box plus a linebacker shaded inside Arrington. Anyway: three man rush; we choose to leave Mitchell's guy single blocked. WTF? He gets around the corner, forcing Henne to step up and roll out. Looks like another one of Henne's adventures in useless scrambling but at the last moment he finds Breaston wide open on the sidelines and slings it out to him. (DO, 2, protection 1/2, Mitchell )|
|M45||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Pass||11||Breaston||Slip screen|
|What is this throw on first down? Is it legal? Anyway: Arrington(-1) whiffs his block completely, but Breaston(+2) dodges the tackle and turns this into a first down anyway. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|Kraus's man fights inside of him, closing down the hole on the interior. A better read from Jackson takes him outside of Kraus and finds a lot of open space.|
|Mitchell's man spins past him, forcing Henne to bail out of the pocket. He finds Butler for a few yards... good to make anything out of this play. (CA, 3, protection 0/2, Mitchell)|
|Mitchell again pwned. Henne forced to scramble immediately and eventually run out of bounds for a sack. (protection 0/2, Mitchell)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-3, 9 min 4th Q.|
|M37||1||10||Ace 3-Wide||Run||2||Jackson||Zone left|
|Kraus driven back; morass in the middle; passing plays are so much easier to chart.|
|Eaton gets right into Henne's face. (BA, protection 1/2, Butler)|
|Henne's best throw of the day is a post between five Northwestern defenders that finds Mathews. A little behind him but that's a quibble. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Seemingly nowhere to go. Jackson halts, lets a defender overrun his position a little bit, and cuts up into the vacated space. Nice patience.|
|O34||2||5||Ace 3-Wide||Run||6||Jackson||Zone left|
|Nice push from the OL, but cute video package reduces the viewing area so I can't really get a good read on what happened.|
|O28||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||5||Jackson||Zone left|
|Northwestern fading... now guys are getting blown off the ball.|
|Excellent protection. Mathews clearly bumped but the ball was uncatchable. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Bihl beaten, forcing Oluigbo to pick up his man and allowing a delayed blitzer to come free. Henne gets a good pass off anyway, hitting Breaston on the slant... dropped. (CA, 3, protection 1 /2, Bihl)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG (blocked), 17-3, 5 min 4th Q.|
What's with "protection"?
It's an attempt to measure Michigan's pass protection. Most medium or deep throws are graded out of two points. Whenever a play doesn't get 2/2 someone is assigned responsibility for the breakdown. Some hurries, forced scrambles, and batted passes are also filed as breakdowns, but when a quarterback gets into trouble of his own making the OL is exonerated.
Results for NW: 23/30. -5 Mitchell, -1 Butler, -1 Bihl. Mitchell is not a right tac kle, but you probably had an inkling of that already.
Par for the course for Henne. Was victimized by three drops, each of which would have turned a punt into at least a field goal attempt in all probability. He's getting better at finding guys on the run, but I still think he's a little too jumpy in the pocket.
Two painful drops from Breaston and if you reclassify all his screens into some other category that 23/26 gets a lot uglier. He is what he is, though, and I think people are still overreacting.
Those wondering whether or not Arrington was suspended at all: he was targeted all of once. That targeting happened to be an extremely visible touchdown catch, but it's also a major comedown from the past couple weeks when he got double-digit looks.
Greg Mathews is the new Jason Avant until he drops something.
Yeah, how about that Greg Mathews, anyway?
He's leapt ahead of several guys with more experience and has taken advantage of the time provided him, but what are the alternatives? Doug Dutch? Carl Tabb? (No offense, Carl, but something's got to be wrong with you if the coaches are terrified of letting you even run a pattern.) Superstardom probably does not beckon, especially with Manningham and Arrington only sophomores.
However: he looks smooth and sure-handed. We have only a little data on him, but we do know he's not much for outrunning NW's secondary and has caught everything thrown to him save one ball impossibly behind him which he may have grabbed anyway. Jason Avant, perhaps?
Is not a tackle. He did fine for most of the game but was victimized on a few consecutive plays towards the end.
Is kind of struggling. Not a shock -- true freshman and all -- but I'd be much more comfortable with Riley back in the lineup versus Ohio State. Given his valiant (but ill-advised) attempt to come back at the start of the second half versus Iowa, I expect his injury is minor enough to heal in a couple weeks. We'll need him.
Are you going to continue your vicious attacks on Mike Debord?
Well, not so much. Many of Michigan's problems against Northwestern were execution errors: dropped passes, inaccurate balls, missed cuts, and the like. Drive by drive:
- Hart missses a cut on first down. Henne throws it behind Mathews on second down. Breaston drops it on third.
- Second and one turns into fourth and five when two consecutive stretch plays are sniffed out and stoned. (Blame DeBord here for his insistence on using these plays on third and short despite clear evidence that they don't work.)
- FG. Holding and a delay penalty on the last set of downs; a somewhat open third-down pass is overthrown.
- Butler drops a 25-yard seam route; Henne ignores open receivers on third and short.
- Grady misses a cut on first down; ball tipped on third.
Etc, etc, etc. Now a lot of the execution errors that caused punts were due to DeBord's run run run run giving us little room for error and the weather vastly increasing the chances of said error. I think it was just a bad day and all the OMG OSU stuff going on from fans and Herbstreit and such fails to take Michigan's historic lack of respect for teams like Northwestern in to account. Most years it would have caused us to drop a game we shouldn't have, but this year we have that defense so we can get away with it. I don't expect the same stuff against Ohio State.
Right: Ohio State.
We need Manningham back, obviously. He may play this weekend and should definitely be back for Indiana. All reports from medical guru-types say that this type of injury completely heals in a month... he'll be fine. (I notice a consistent theme in OSU slappy predictions: "they need Manningham back or we'll kill them and Manningham is out and may not be totally healthy and so forth and so on." Combines hope that he misses the game with ignorance of reality with an ironclad backdoor in case you're wrong with amazing overconfidence. Add in beer and urine and it encapsulates the OSU fan experience.) Without a quick-strike capability we are unlikely to drive the field against OSU given the lack of explosion in our run game, our inability to consistently convert third and short, and our tendency to drop passes.
|Ball is hopped a good five yards short of his man. (IN)|
|First in a bevy. We blitz Burgess; Harris is sealed by a wide receiver coming down to block him... bad angle for him. Where's Harrison(-1)? I don't know. Harris does well to get as far outside as he can despite dealing with two blockers, but Harrison is really late, giving Sutton the sideline. (CA)|
|Open for about five, but Lane drops it. (CA, cover -1)|
|Bacher's pass bounces harmlessly, as Herbert wasn't looking for the ball. Harris(+1, cover +1) is in outstanding coverage.|
|50||3||5||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||17||Stop and slant?|
|This route probably has a name but I don't know what it is. Herbert runs a hitch, gets Burgess to come up on him, then releases inside, finding a gap in the zone. Bacher gets off a nice pass despite getting killed by Woodley(+1, pressure +1, cover -1).|
|Fakes a screen out to Sutton, then comes back to Herbert on the other side of the field. Low and dropped... would have gone for a lot of yards otherwise. (IN)|
|M33||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-2||Zone read|
|Good god. Woodley(+1) penetrates into the backfield about three yards; Harris(+1) comes up behind him and pounds Sutton. If he didn't make the tackle Crable and Englemon were also right there.|
|Woodley(+3) comes around the outside, swatting the ball out of Bacher's hands. Sack, FF, FR. Niiice. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q.|
|Peterman wide open in front of Adams. Actual time to throw from Bacher (pressure -1, cover -1)|
|Play action with an end around fake. Bacher picks out a small hole in the zone; Herbert tackled immediately. (pressure -1)|
|Taylor(+1) appears to be dropping into a short zone? No way. I guess. He gets a momentary push on the DL, then drops back. He's probably a screen spy on this play. He happens to be right in the throwing lane. (BA cover +1)|
|Sutton squeezes off tackle for the first down but is then popped by Adams(+1), jarring the ball loose. Hall scoops it up.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Hard to tell the play design since Woodley(+2) is chipped by the TE and then into the backfield, shedding the attempted block from the fullback like he is an impudent child. By the time the cavalry arrives Woodley is already bringing the RB down.|
|Dropped. Took too long to set up, anyway, and a slashing Hall(+1) would have crushed this for a loss if caught.|
|Woodley(+1) runs this down, coming from the other side of the field on a stunt, reading the play, and chasing down Sutton. Dang.|
|O25||4||4||Punt Return||Penalty||5||Running into kicker|
|You know, if we aren't ever going to block a punt we could probably forgo this bit.|
|Lane in a small gap in the zone; Harris CROOSHES him after the catch. (cover -1)|
|Wipes out a nice Sutton gain.|
|Play action fake suckers no one. Jeremy Van Alstyne (!, +1) gets a QB hurry, forcing an incompletion. (pressure +1)|
|Bacher forced to come down to a receiver short of the sticks on this rollout; the two deeper guys are covered. Hall(+1) makes a stiff, sure tackle to prevent the first down. (cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 3 min 1st Q. Really two three-and-outs back to back because of the penalty, though one was penalty-aided.|
|O3||1||10||Base 4-3||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|Yeesh. Branch(+1) burrows into the backfield, leaving Sutton to meet unblocked Burgess and Barringer.|
|O2||2||11||Base 4-3||Run||-1||Off tackle|
|Jordan slips trying to make a cut away from a penetra ting Taylor(+1).|
|O1||3||12||Base 4-3||Pass||Inc||FB screen|
|Uh... yeah, that's not going to work. Taylor(+1) is on top of Bacher so fast that he throws off his back foot, wildly inaccurate. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 11 min 2nd Q.|
|High and through Sutton's hands. Englemon(+1) in good coverage(+1).|
|Biggs(+1) gets penetration, disrupting the play and stringing it out into the arms of Burgess(+1), et al.|
|Harris(+1) dives between blockers, stripping them from Sutton and allowing a pursuing Englemon(+1) to make the tackle.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Jamison is about six inches from another flyby strip job like the one that ended Northwestern's first possession. He misses, Bacher throws yards wide of his receiver. Miscommunication. Hall nearly picks it off.|
|No idea why they're throwing at Hall. He jumps this, nearly intercepting the ball and knocking it down. (Hall +1, cover +2)|
|Adams comes unblocked through the middle. Bacher throws a jump ball; Morgan Trent(+1) is there, breaking up the pass. (pressure +1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 2 min 2nd Q. Breaston fumbles the punt.|
|The old play where they get someone to fake a block, fall down, and wander out to the other side of the field, wide open. This they do, but Hall(+1) comes up, laying a thumping blow on the receiver. (Hall +1, cover +1). This play doesn't work against zone.|
|M44||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||9 â€“ 10||Screen|
|Adams(-1) misses a tackle, turning zero yards into seven. Too bad: we had this play nailed. Holding call downfield brings it back. On review: holding is horrifically weak and should not have been called.|
|DO YOU SENSE A PATTERN? Branch(+1) is spying on the play; Englemon(+1) comes up and helps blow the play up.|
|M46||3||12||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep post|
|Hall in better position to catch this ball than the receiver; he goes up but gets bumped. The pass skitters through his hands. Still (Hall +1, cover +1).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0 EOH.|
|Northwestern in this double stack formation with one WR lined up directly behind another on each side of the line. We press the first guy on the right side of the line; the other guy runs a slant under him. With the second DB on the play eight yards off the LOS, he's wide open. (Cover -1)|
|Biggs(+1) pushes the OT into the backfield, forcing Sutton to go around him. By the time he does, Burgess(+1) has discarded a WR â€“ who was never going to be anything more than an irritation to him â€“ and cut off the corner.|
|Good throw and catch in front of Harrison(-1, cover -1)|
|No, seriously: not one of those silly end-around reverse things but an honest-to-god double reverse featuring four guys touching the football. Alan Branch(+1) gets out on the corner to hold the gain down.|
|M36||2||6||Base 4-3||Pass||25 + 6||Swing|
|Plus roughing the passer on Taylor(-1). Simple swing pass where Sutton beats Graham(-2) in coverage. (Cover -1)|
|NW tries to get the ball to their fullback again... he has a couple steps on Crable but Bacher hesitates and eventually throws up a duck that is yards short of his man. (IN, pressure -1, cover -1)|
|Jamison(+1) and Johnson(+1) are double-teamed but hold up, leaving both linebackers unblocked. Graham makes the play.|
|Bacher pressured by Branch(+1) up the middle and is forced into a jumping, looped pass to Sutton that gives Michigan plenty of time to react and converge. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG, 10-3, 9 min 3rd Q.|
|Hall(+2) is in zone. He initially makes a move to the shorter or two routes designed to go against the zone, then backs off into the corner route, making the interception. (Cover +2)|
|Drive Notes: Int, 10-3, 6 min 3rd Q.|
|Zone blitz doesn't get there on this three man drop. Hall is there to hold this down to about four but misses a tackle(-1). Jamison has dropped into a short zone and finishes the play.|
|O39||2||4||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||0 â€“ 10||Off tackle|
|Holding drawn by Shawn Crable(+1). Harris(+1) and Branch(+1) converge to hold this to no gain anyway.|
|Peterman sits down in front of Harris in the zone. Fine if this is a no-YAC route, but Harris(-1) doesn't react quickly enough and lets him pick up most of the yardage he needs. (cover -1)|
|Empty backfield; Michigan sends two blitzers, leaving Woodley entirely unblocked. Bacher heaves it to avoid a sack. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-3, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|Likely a screen to the fullback. Otherwise insane: why do teams continue to think that trying to block Woodley with a back is a good idea? Woodley(+1) steps around Sutton and gets a QB hurry, forcing the incompletion. (pressure +1)|
|M24||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-6||Off tackle|
|You know, Crable(+3) has this amazing knack for making plays from the interior of the line in the run game. He's lined up in the standup DT spot right over the center. He engages and goes right around him, getting to the handoff almost before the exchange is made. Outstanding play.|
|Pocket holds for a long, long time, giving Bacher time to take a shot... which is way underthrown and intercepted. Barringer(+1) makes the interception. Only +1 because Lane was open on this one. (IN, pressure -1, cover -1)|
|Drive Notes: Int, 17-3, 13 min 4th Q.|
|O11||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||23||Underthrown Fly|
|One of those balls that's hard to defend because it's hideously underthrown. Trent in good position â€“ better position than Lane â€“ but can't react quickly enough to the unexpectedly short ball. No blame assigned.|
|Overthrown; receiver was bracketed anyway. (+1 Harrison, +1 cover)|
|Hall(+1) jumps the route; I think he gets the PBU. In any case he makes the completion a really difficult one. (cover +1)|
|Momentary hesitation/confusion plus a clever blitz that gets Harris(+1) unblocked == quarterback goo. (pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-3, 8 min 4th Q.|
|Backup DL in. Brandon Graham is momentarily sealed, creating a small crease. He disengages and makes the tackle.|
|Yeah... this is essentially garbage time. Soft stuff, won't penalize the coverage, especially with the backups (mostly) in.|
|Charles Stewart(+1) in excellent coverage deep.|
|O41||2||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||2||Off tackle|
|NW has given up. Nice play by Crable, at DE, to stand up his guy and tackle at the appropriate moment. STOP RUNNING THE BALL. (+1 Crable)|
|Jamison(+1) hits Bacher just as he releases the ball, forcing a popup that heads right for Lane... who's still really, really open. (+1 pressure, -2 cover).|
|M41||1||10||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-6||Speed option|
|That's more like it. Nice job by Woodley(+1) to string the play out; Harrison(+1) to beat a block and get the TFL.|
|Woodley(+2) around the outside. Croosh silly quarterback. (pressure +1)|
|Infuriating 12 yard run on third and 22. Damn you and your rush distortion.|
|Harris(+1) picks off a pass thrown right to him. (cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Int, 17-3, EOG.|
So that was pretty okay.
Yes, after some initial shakiness Michigan was a three-and-out machine. If you count the drive with the running into the kicker penalty as two separate three-and-outs, then Northwestern's drives had this many plays: 8, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 8, 1, 3, 3, 4. One eight-play drive ended with a Woodley sack/strip/recover, the other a field goal. The rest of the day featured two first downs. Northwestern's hideous rushing totals were not due to a ton of sacks but rather a complete inability to even get back to the line of scrimmage when they ran the ball. It was a dominant performance.
Northwestern's a bad team but they were much worse earlier in the season when they were trying to pretend Brewer and Kafka were quarterbacks instead of getting Bacher in there after a fall camp injury. They actually have a passing game with him around, so this game might mean a tiny bit. Not much but a tiny bit.
|Taylor||3||2||1||Both minuses were stupid penalties, one offsides and one roughing the passer. Becoming a bad habit.|
|Crable||5||-||5||Relatively quiet in the pass game. Created a 6-yard TFL by himself, though.|
|C. Graham||-||2||-2||Was beaten on the Sutton swing that led to NW's only points.|
|Hall||8||1||7||Northwestern kept going after him, oddly, and paid the price.|
|Stewart||1||-||1||So he's faster than Ross Lane.|
|Englemon||3||-||3||Nice day against screens.|
|"Pressure"||11||4||7||Ton of short drops and screens kept these numbers down.|
Any worries about OSU pop up in this game?
Not really. Michigan got a whole lot of work on that screen thing and did well save for the first one, which went for 18 yards. The defensive line was as dominant as you might expect against Northwestern's OL. The running? Eh... not so much. The complete bludgeoning of the NW run game is heartening, since a capable outside runner deployed from the spread was the last Pokemon waiting to be collected before the Ohio State game. Obviously the OSU offensive line is vastly superior to Northwestern's, but we've faced good tackles and bad, good guards and bad, inside pounders and shifty outside guys and pounded them all into paste. Ohio State's probably the best running offense we'll see this year (Wisconsin could potentially be better), but I have no worries about the defense shutting down the ground game. Troy Smith running around willy-nilly is another matter.
Anything else of note?
Not really. It was Northwestern; we crushed them; next.
Uh... has three wins over teams who collectively have three wins. They'll go splat.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
We have a #1: Ohio State. We have a #2: Michigan. We then have a virtual dead heat for the next four spots, with West Virginia, Florida, Auburn, and Texas all within 0.2 PPB of each other.
Our lone Michigan holdout is Black Shoe Diaries, a PSU blog.
Fallers: The loss USC had been flirting with all year finally came and the bottom fell out on their ranking; Clemson got pantsed by previously inept Virginia Tech and took a nine-spot fall. Nebraska was ejected entirely after losing to Oklahoma State.
Risers: Florida's inexplicable five-spot jump is... well, fairly inexplicable. They passed one team that lost, Southern Cal, and then leapt Louisville, Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas. The latter three all had struggles versus inferior teams and were in serious danger of losing to the unranked and unloved, but was Florida's seven-point cocktail win much more impressive? Georgia remains a decidedly meh team. In any case: they shoot upwards, but may not hold onto that spot for long with the tight spacing in that area of the poll.
The rest is pretty rote one or two spot jumps due to the fall of Clemson or USC or whatever. Notable: Boston College continues to climb, leaping Rutgers and LSU.
Wack Ballot Watchdog:
- I'm not sure which is weirder: the guys with Arkansas way up in their top tens (two #3 votes, two #4s, three #5s, and a #6) or Corey Long from Tomahawk Nation dumping them in at #21.
- Pitch Right hates #17 Cal and loves #10 Boise State.
- Our Central Michigan voter has the Chips #25. Hey, they're undefeated in the MAC and stuff.
- West Virginia's vote pattern is just bizarre. A big chunk of voters have them #3 behind the two Big Ten giants, but they have between two and four votes in every bin from #2 down to #12 with the exception of #3 (lots) and #6 (none).
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is Tomahawk Nation, an FSU blog. Since its proprietor is no doubt cranky already and liable to hunt me down if pushed too hard, I'll just quickly mention that Rutgers at #8 seems... generous, and placing Louisville #5 and WVU #12 doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Not that I'm much better, having virtually reversed that nonsensical duo in my poll. The Big East: what to do?
Mr. Numb Existence is Nebraska blog Double Extra Point for the second time in a few weeks. As per usual, the thrills and chills of this award are minimal.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award has finally been wrested away from Badger bloggers and is the possession of The House Rock Built, a Notre Dame blog. Booooooo. Notre Dame features at #6 on his ballot: give a man the chance to rank Notre Dame in front of USC and he'll take it.
Straight Bangin' Award goes to EDSBS, still leery about the Florida offense-like substance. It's more a function of everyone else freaking out and elevating the Gators than anything else, though. Last week EDSBS was slightly pessimistic; this week they're very despite bumping the Gators past USC.
Swing is the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Mr. Manic-Depressive is manic indeed, as Rambling Racket moved everyone except OSU, Michigan, and (oddly) #24 Oregon. West Virginia up seven! Florida up eight! Rutgers up eight! USC down ten to #17! Clemson down 14! Did different people file these ballots? I am confused.
Mr. Stubborn strong> is the Catholic Packer Fan, who is shockingly also a ND supporter. He moves a few people a few places, but is content to leave USC around #7 and punish Clemson relatively lightly.
1. Troy Smith, OSU.
Like SMQB I find myself somewhat underwhelmed by Smith. It would be nice if the Ohio State defense would deign to give up 20 or 30 points with some consistency so we could witness Smith in something other than garbage time. His numbers remain impressive but somewhat underwhelming. He's been efficient, which is nice, but outside of a dancing, impossible touchdown throw against Penn State, Smith's Heisman campaign has been -- say it with me -- "workmanlike." Smith's top qualification is as the most senior and recognizable Buckeye, an avatar of dominance more than a proprietor thereof.
2. Lamarr Woodley, Michigan.
Two more sacks, an additional tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Woodley's doing the avatar thing for the Michigan defense, yes, but he's got 11 sacks and is nigh guaranteed to shatter the Michigan single-season sack record. And let me assure you that his numbers are not hollow. I chart his contributions on a weekly basis. For each sack there are two hurries; for each TFL there are two tackles deposited in the backfield and two running plays strung out.
3. Reggie Nelson, Florida.
The image at right is a lie. Reggie Nelson does not smile. He only shows you his teeth so you can get a preview of the last thing your jugular is ever going to feel. I am resigned to the fact that I am a sucker for dreadlocked, trash-talking safeties who play 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and are clearly direct descendants of the Mongol Horde. Nelson's motto is "If it moves, hit it. If it's still moving, talk about its mom." He's got four interceptions, has caused a couple more, and has blown up countless other plays. Florida's cornerbacks are questionable but they have the fifth best passing efficiency defense in the country. Nelson, more than any other Gator, is responsible.
4. Marshawn Lynch, Cal
With the decline and fall of the Peterson empire, Lynch is very probably the best back in the country. Sure, sure, Steve Slaton and all that, but even though the Pac-10 is not exactly defense central it's certainly much better than clown colleges who have opposed WVU to date.
5. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
I dunno. I hate that Reggie Ball ignored him for the entire Clemson game. I wish he was on a team with a functional, non-Lollipop Guild quarterback and a reasonable offensive gameplan. He's still a force of nature and a guaranteed top five NFL draft pick. If a bionic receiver enters your life and there's no one around to throw him the ball, does he deserve a MaxwellPundit vote?
Yes, this one's really boring since Michigan is completely done on this side of the ball outside of the offensive line.
Since Last Update: Status quo.
Needs: Major. Only Jason Forcier and David Cone, two middling recruits, will be around when Henne leaves.
Commitments: Human catapult Ryan Mallett, who you must have heard about already.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. Michigan targeted Mallet for years; he fits perfectly into the offense; he was the coaches' first choice.
Since Last Update: Commitments from three-stars Marquis Maze and Avery Horn. Dropped by virtually everyone else.
Needs: With two recruits and two in the last class, Michigan is done.
Commitments: Maze's story is remarkably similar to that of Mike Hart: he is a tiny man playing for a tiny school and getting little in the way of attention. He gets around 15 touches a game and usually racks up something like 150 yards runnning around the same bewildered, tiny white guys who featured in Hart's high school highlight clips. Maze is smaller and quicker than Hart, more a dart than an inexplicable bull. A good comparison: minute but electric Brandon James, the lilliputian man you may have seen returning kicks for Florida this year. It's unlikely he's ever the feature back but should see a lot of time as a returner and trick play factory.
Avery Horn is another middling recruit, offered by much of the Pac-10 but not USC or Cal. Smallish (5'10") but fast and reported to have a bruising running style, Horn could be the next Jerome Jackson. There are worse things.
Prospects: Californian Curtis Shaw still lists Michigan but any further commitments are doubtful.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None, though neither recruit seems on a track to stardom. I adore the idea of Marquis Maze in all his tiny, touchdown-creating wonder.
Since Last Update: Status Quo.
Needs: Would be nice to get a good one. Redshirt freshman Andre Criswell was a last second recruit who never played fullback before arriving at Michigan, and there's little else on the roster.
Commitments: For what it's worth, Vince Helmuth was offered on junior day, is busy running over Michigan high schools, and is ranked the #1 fullback in the country by most who bother to rank 'em. So we've got that going for us.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. Though fullback isn't the most critical position on the field, it's a nice little bonus to have an excellent one locked up.
Since Last Update: Taurian Washington committed to OSU; Michigan picked up Junior Hemingway and Toney Clemons.
Needs: Well... I didn't think they were huge since Michigan will have three wideouts with sophomore eligibility next year (Laterryal Savoy, Antonio Bass, and Greg Mathews) but evidently the coaches disagreed. Depending on how you define various players, Michigan could have as many as six WR commitments. Realistically that number is three, but still...
Commitments: James Rogers, Junior Hemingway, and Toney Clemons. (Marquis Maze is filed under RB, Martell Webb under TE, and Zion Babb at DB.) Rogers may be a sleeper, but Michigan has a good track record with kids they unearth at summer camp and his offer when Michigan had three or four high-profile targets leaning towards them bodes well. He's virtually guaranteed to redshirt -- he plays RB for his high school team -- but has the athletic ability to contribute. Hemingway and Clemons are reportedly near clones of each other: loping downfield threats with great leaping ability, body control, and hands. Clemons is also supposed to be raw; Hemingway more polished. Depending on who you listen to, they're incredibly great or just good. Time will tell.
Prospects: Marques Simas dropped us or we got full or whatever. In any case, he's no longer interested and we don't have the scholarship to offer him anyway.
Projection: We're done.
Panic: None. An excellent haul, especially since "polish" tends to be overrated for WRs, IMO, and no one in this class is going to be pressed into serious duty until they've been on campus for a couple years.
Since Last Update: Status quo.
Needs: Somewhere between moderate and major, depending on the suitability of the recently-moved Chris McLaurin and the academic status of Quintin Woods.
Commitments: Steve Watson from Colorado and Martell Webb from Michigan. Webb, like Carson Butler, plays WR for his high school team but at 6'5" and 210 pounds is probably going to end up a receiving tight end in college, but only after a redshirt year. Watson, the son of a former Broncos wide receiver and current assistant coach also named Steve Watson, is 240 and already a tight end for his team. He'll be more ready to play than Webb but according to the guru sites has a significantly lower ceiling.
Panic: None. Webb has a ton of potential and Watson is a nice backup plan or bookend. With Butler just a freshman they'll have time to develop.
Since Last Update: Lee Ziemba decided to stay in the south. Steve Wisnewski dropped us because we were too similar to Penn State -- except that losing three out of four years thing.
Needs: Three to five players just like every year.
Commitments: Center Dave Molk, slightly undersized but ranked highly by Scout despite that. Rivals is less sunny.
Prospects: John Elliot, a highly touted tackle from New York, has us on a list of seven teams that will be cut to four shortly. Matt Romine, equally touted but from Oklahoma, is deciding between Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma, but we're probably third in that group.
On the interior, the only name who's been mentioned as a visitor is Arizona's Jaivorio Burkes... who didn't actually visit. He needs a test score of some description -- I'm pretty sure he just needs a score, no matter what it is -- before he can take official visits. He'll come in at some point later.
Projection: I doubt we get Romine. Elliot's made some rumblings about staying closer to home. Burkes I don't know much about. Confidence level is low.
Panic: Major. Molk is nice but has size limitations that may cap his ceiling, though he would seem a good fit for the zone game if it sticks around that long. We have no commitments other than him and only a 50/50 shot of landing even one of Elliot/Rom
ine/Burkes. Yes, offensive line is a hard position to project, but there's a difference between low-rated guys Michigan picks out of the crowd early and the situation they find themselves in now with few players interested and fewer still likely to commit. Michigan's in damage control mode.
B+, down from A- earlier in the year. That A- assumed someone would come along on the offensive line; no one has. Still, Michigan filled the most important position in football with an OMG shirtless recruit well suited for their offense. They picked up a bevy of potential vertical threats to go with Mallett, an interesting jack of all trades who looks to be Breaston's heir apparent, and the closest thing to a blue-chip fullback you can have.
Still: one offensive line commitment and no others appear to be on the way. This... is not so good.
Further DVR issues mean a UFR delay; apologies. Tomorrow.
- RULE 3-2-5E: I was silently thankful for the rule changes during the Northwestern game; they may have prevented my feet from freezing solid and falling off.
- BRIAN HOYER: Making room for another.
- MARIO'S TRAITOROUS KNEE: Is getting less traitorous by the day. He's praticing and may return this weekend.
- TRAITOROUS WR LIMBS: In general: Mario's leg, Breaston's arms, Bass's leg, and if you'd like to throw in Ecker's leg, Massey's arm, and Arrington's head (not technically a "limb," though) go right ahead.
- RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN: It's dull, it hurts our offense, and it could break Mike Hart if we do it too much before OSU.
- OCTOBER: I'm fairly sure that the weather has been uniformly overcast and miserable for something like three weeks now.
- Uh... LSU's persistent reluctance to beat anybody at all keeps dropping them down. They're probably better than that, but who knows?
- Everything else is fairly rote, I guess. I'm surprised everything is basically what I thought last week updated with a few events, like Clemson getting crooshed and USC finally dropping the game they've threatened to all year.
- Didn't see much except the 3:30-7 window -- home football and (ugh) hockey.
10/28/2006 - Michigan 17-3 Northwestern - 9-0, 6-0
You would think a poncho is something you can't screw up. Take some flexible plastic, punch one to three holes in it, and enjoy a waterproof exterior when the 35-degree rain comes down. Is it possible to get a poncho wrong?
Unfortunately, I can testify that it is. Unearthed from ancient reserves, I donned something that can be described as a poncho but could be more accurately be titled "grounds for murder." Made of a thick, stiff plastic, the thing projected out from my shoulders at a ninety-degree angle for a few inches. Its sides were left entirely open, one half-inch-long nub of ratty velcro the only concession to the idea of closure. When the wind blew -- which was constantly -- the Grounds for Murder flapped wildly, protecting my grumpy person in no way whatsoever. I sat on the poncho. People in front of me stood; I stood. I sat again. Wind kicked up and Grounds for Murder flapped again. I watched dropped passes and fumbles and an offense seemingly unearthed from the 1920s. I sat in the dreary rain. I coughed and ejected mucus, leftover goo from my midweek near-death experience. I was cranky. No doubt the following has been colored by that -- fair warning.
Even though I wrote something along the lines of "this is going to be boring and frustrating and we'll run all day" the day before, I was still surprised and dismayed. Michigan fans have split into two warring groups, one running around declaring Mike DeBord to be the devil, the other dismissing the game as a meaningless blip. Personally? I'm torn.
Mike DeBord does have some pointy-horn qualities about him. The kind of contemptuous gameplan assembled today is one reason we generally lose to some team we shouldn't. Michigan's bizarre strategy when coming up against obviously inferior teams is to run as much as possible, reducing the number of possessions in a game, giving away much of our advantage on offense by being remarkably predictable, and getting ourselves locked in close games. While the strategy reduces the chances of disaster but increases the chances said disaster will be fatal instead of annoying. It's dumb.
And don't give me guff about hiding the playbook for Ohio State. The Rosetta Stone to our offense is not a first-down slant. Throwing one will not cause the scales to fall from Tressel's eyes. Also not something to provide guff-like substance about: Mike DeBord's record as offensive coordinator, now something like 41-5 (I cannot be bothered to look it up, since it's a crap stat). DeBord's been OC here for four years and has had the good fortune to coach opposite two of the finest defenses in Michigan history. He's a pitcher who gets 8 runs a game from his offense: his win-loss record is virtually meaningless. If he didn't have a gaudy record it would be conclusive proof that he is inept.
So all these things are true. One of the crosses Michigan fans must bear is the nasty, dull, too close for comfort win over clearly inferior competition. It's our version of the Spartan collapse. But Michigan does not play like this against opponents it respects. I would like to have my cake and eat it, too: I don't like DeBord but it won't matter against Ohio State, a team that even he has to take seriously. Michigan's gameplans are only expectation-scorning things against the Northwesterns of the world.
Also: no Riley, Manningham, Ecker, or Massey. Arrington with reduced playing time. Hart dinged up and Super Fumble Brothers replacing him. Miserable, miserable weather. Excuses a-plenty are available if you wish to use them. But, really: Michigan's playcalling put it in a situation much like last year where they were forced to make several third-down conversions per drive. With the weather, the missing personnel, and the execution errors, the offense on homecoming was indeed a blast from the past: 2005.
The defense of a more distant, more powerful vintage, and we'll ride it as far as it takes us.