One of the hardest things to do, in any competitive activity, is to take a look back at the times when you did not prevail, when that awesome pass play just didn't fool their secondary, when the bad guys won, even yet again. Michigan - Ohio State 2008 and 2009 were two of those moments that tested the Wolverine faithful.
In the interest of helping us better understand these losses, I analyzed these games with the following purposes in mind:
--How much of the blame has to go to the coaches, and how much to the players? To recruiting? To luck?
--How can we better prepare ourselves, physically and psychologically, for the next time we play Ohio State?
--What IS OSU's offensive identity? What is the 'rhyme and reason', if you will, to the way they move the football? Conversely, what is Michigan's offensive identity in the RR era?
README: If you, the reader, find factual or analytical errors in my analysis, or if you flat out disagree with some or all of my ideas, please express your disagreement through written comments and not neg-banging. We all have to work together if we are to understand these games and better prepare ourselves for the future. Also, I recommend muting the sound when you watch the clips, for obvious reasons. On to the analysis.
Michigan - OSU 2008: The Culling
Score at Halftime: 14-7 OSU
Score at End: 42-7 OSU
Clip Web Address:
Notes on OSU offense:
--Tressel loves to run Beanie Wells behind the left guard. Whether Wells is running behind the LG as lead blocker or the LG pulls and blocks a LB on the right side of the OL, that seems to be the way that OSU likes to move the ball.
--Incidentally, Wells breaks 40 yards for a TD at 2:00. The commentators remark at 2:05 "...it was the 4th or 5th time they ran the play and it wasn't working...then it worked." Classic Big Ten power football. </sarcasm>
--Pryor can throw the deep ball pretty well, but his short passing game is suspect, to say the least. I'm surprised Tressel didn't have him run more in this game.
Notes on Todd Boeckman, the OSU Quarterback Not Named Terrelle Pryor:
--Boeckman was a 6th year(!) senior in 2008. He started in 2007, throwing for 2,375 yards and 25 touchdowns. At the NC game vs. LSU in January 2008, he threw for 208 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. The Buckeyes lost 38-24.
--Boeckman was the starter in 2008, until the Buckeyes lost to USC 35-3. Then Pryor was the starter for the remainder of the season.
--Boeckman's throwing motion at 8:38 does not impress me.
--Boeckman threw a touchdown pass to Terrelle Pryor vs. Texas in the 2009 Alamo Bowl.
--Boeckman entered the draft and tried to play football at the professional level. He was cut from the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster on September 5, 2009.
Notes on Michigan 2008 FAIL:
--Here are some of the many Michigan chokes in this game:
Cissoko fumbles two kickoffs. KC Lopata misses a field goal. Odoms fumbles a punt. Sheridan has no mobility and none of his receivers are open. McGuffie fumbles a kickoff.
--Michigan's defense WAS a little undersized in this game. Attrition had cut down depth to razor-thin levels and Michigan was starting walk-ons at key positions. (Bear in mind, Michigan was starting walk-ons at safety as far back as 2005; this was hardly a new development.)
--Incidentally, RR's first recruiting class was heavily geared towards the offensive side of the ball, which did not help either.
Rays of Hope for Michigan Fans:
--Minor has a nice run at 3:36, setting up the only Michigan touchdown of the afternoon. This run comes off of a zone-read play which is the core of RR's running game. (See Smart Football or MGoBlog for details.) The OL and the RBs execute the play well a few times in this game. The problem was that there were so many duds at skill positions in 2008, the players were undersized, there was a new head coach installing a new offensive system, and there was a new defensive coordinator, who was fired after the 2008 season. But GERG Robinson made it back for the 2010 season, thank God.
--For all the talk about Michigan's 2008 defense as the worst in school history, the score is only 14-7 against M at the half. If the offense in 2008 were capable of putting any sort of pressure on OSU, the second half of this game would have been very different.
--Michigan's secondary was a lot better in the first half. Apparently the LBs forgot how to plug holes in the DL and/or cover passes. Tackling and blocking technique breaks down in a huge way too.
--Zoltan Meszko is still the Space Emperor.
Michigan - OSU 2009: Hey Look, We Got New Uniforms!
Score at Halftime: 14-10 OSU
Score at End: 21-10 OSU
Clip Web Address:
Notes on the OSU offense:
--OSU seems to use four main routes for Pryor and their running backs: Behind the LG, behind the RG, and bootlegs around Michigan's defensive line.
--Pryor is not a great pocket passer. He has decent running speed, but his real strength is his ability to dodge tackles. Dernard Robinson is much faster than Pryor.
--Without Beanie Wells, the OSU running game is considerably less dangerous.
Notes on the Michigan offense:
--Michigan's quarterbacks are radically faster and much more accurate then their 2008 counterparts.
--Forcier is pretty decent in the pocket. Another year of conditioning to work on his accuracy/range and he'll look like Tom Brady.
--Michigan's offense looks much more like a RR offense: i.e. run-based with lots of screen passes and quick throws to the flat.
--Tate Forcier threw three interceptions and fumbled in the end zone in this game. Without that, Michigan wins this game. There, I said it.
Notes on the Michigan defense:
--There are still a lot of problems with tackling technique.
--Michigan's DBs are considerably improved from their 2008 counterparts: Instead of giving up 20-30 yards when an OSU back breaks free, they now give up 5-15 yards.
--Michigan's starting defensive players put on ~10-20 pounds each in the postseason thanks to strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis. The huge mismatches from 2008 are all but gone. 2010 should be even better for the defense.
--No more deep bombs for Pryor! :)
--Olesnavage misses a field goal at 1:40 and makes a field goal at 2:40.
--Considerably fewer fumbles and muffed punts. Good work, special teams.
--Greg Matthews had a huge day. He also stood tall against Notre Dame earlier that year.
--Vincent Smith makes me happy at 5:30. Dodging two DBs for a touchdown is more like the Michigan I remember.
--Score at halftime: 14-10 OSU. This is better than 2008.
--Score at the end: 21-10 OSU. This is better than 2008.
--Roy Roundtree definitely has potential. He sets up Forcier beautifully at 7:20. All he needs to do is work on his speed and that would have been a touchdown for Michigan.