[Happy Thanksgiving! We know that three hours ago we said we hoped one article was enough to chew on, but what fits the spirit of the day more than a second serving? Here’s one more to tide you over until tomorrow.]
Thoughts on this defensive football team you’re about to play?
“Very good defensive football team. Up front, very talented, use their hands very well, great initial quickness. Linebackers can run sideline to sideline. Very gifted at the corner spot. Think they play very good man coverage. The safeties—Mr. Hooker is a very good football player. Very, very talented football team. Very talented defense.”
Seemed like Indiana was having some success getting a little bit of pressure on John [O’Korn] in the last game. What was the factor that was causing that?
“Indiana does a nice job. Indiana going into that game was a big-time pressure team. They had a lot of different looks of what they did. Fundamentally, some of it was in terms of just us moving our feet, keeping our head out of there, covering guys up, IDing things. We’ve got to do a better job with that, and I’ve got to do a better job coaching it.”
How did John progress, in your mind, from the start of that game to the end?
“I think he did an outstanding job. Made a play when there was a play to be made. He managed the game very well. He took the timeouts when he needed to. He established that drive with 9:42 left in the fourth quarter. We took it down, made them use their last time out, gave the ball back with I believe :50 on the clock. John did an outstanding job.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the inevitable Speight questions]
Dymonte Thomas the last couple games has made some big plays for you. Talk about what he’s given you on the field?
“He’s always given solid play, and lately big hits, momentum-changing plays. He’s a very good player. Always has been consistently good.”
You’re going to a place where they really don’t know what to make of you down there. Some people say you’re crazy like a fox, some people say you’re just crazy, but they all say you’re progressive. Could you describe who you are to Ohioans?
“Not crazy. Wouldn’t describe myself as that.”
Anything beyond that?
“No. I mean, I don’t know that my personality really, how relevant that will be to the ballgame this week. Probably irrelevant.”
Is there anything unique about competing against Urban Meyer, whether it’s on the field or recruiting or anywhere else you come up against each other?
“Unique in that it’s at the highest level.”
“In terms of competition on the field or recruiting, everything’s at the highest level. Competition’s at the highest level.”
Can you update us on Wilton Speight’s condition, and do you expect him to play?
“No, I do not have an update today. Hasn’t been evaluated today.”
[After THE JUMP: Harbaugh waxes poetic about Peppers, lists all the cities he lived in as a kid, and explains why love for his children and football can’t be accurately expressed with a pie chart]
11/19/2016 – Michigan 20, Indiana 10 – 10-1, 7-1 Big Ten
When Midwestern Football Weather looms, there is only one priority for the experienced fan: please, not sleet. The heavens can aim at my head with golf-ball-sized hail as long as the precipitation is of the form that can be dodged or shaken off. The icy needle stuff that penetrates anything short of a spaceship hull is decidedly not preferred.
That's what we got in 2008, figuratively and literally. The infamous Fandom Endurance III game against Northwestern that sent Michigan to 3-7, guaranteeing no bowl bid for the first time in 40-some years, was played in a driving sleet that is bar-none the worst weather I've ever experienced at a game. I imagine the only competition available is that Purdue game from the 90s that ended 5-0; I was not present.
At halftime of 2008 Northwestern the sleet sent me to the concourse in the hope the pretzel machines could restore some feeling to my hands. They could not. And yet:
This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.
That column is staggeringly old now, especially for Michigan fans who aged in dog years during the RichRod era and in you-chose-the-wrong-grail years during the Hoke/Brandon double-barrel fiasco. By the stuttering end of Hoke's tenure I was referencing that column only to repudiate it, my goodwill stripped to the bone and pecked at by Brandon in case there was any seat-cushion related morsel he could take from me and give to himself.
I don't know what's going to happen Saturday. John O'Korn didn't look like a quarterback who could win against OHIO STATE, but Ohio State didn't look like the all-caps version of themselves in a one-point win over Michigan State, or a four-point win over Northwestern, or a loss to Penn State. I don't know if John O'Korn is even going to play.
Having an Ohio State game hanging by a thread because of a quarterback problem is frustratingly familiar turf. Denard Robinson and Chad Henne literally could not throw their senior years; Devin Gardner played most of an OSU game on a broken foot; Drew Henson didn't even bother to play his senior season. It is brutal to have this defense and not know if they're going to have a chance because of yet another backup quarterback throwing a spanner in well-laid plans.
I spent large portions of that game playing Ohio State in my head. I've been doing this since the end of the Wisconsin game, to be honest. I didn't like the results much, but I suppose neither did the sliver of the OSU fanbase capable of complex thought after the Buckeyes got outgained by 3-8 MSU.
I think about ten years ago, and how seismic that felt. It felt like the world would rise or fall based on the result of one goddamn game, and how that was right. And Saturday, and ugh, and can we get this over with.
Then the heavens opened up.
What people with no experience of winter fail to understand is its capacity for sheer beauty. Saturday's transient blizzard turned a football game into a kaleidoscope of lacy geometries. The individual flakes traced whorls across the sky, each brilliantly lit. As they began to stick the stadium brightened, and brightened, until it was glowing. Light bounced from white to white until it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.
I forgot about Speight's shoulder, and the looming nausea machine this weekend, and Twitter, and even the fucking red hat TV timeout guy. What looked dim from the outside was brilliant as mid-day on the interior. It is something I will not forget.
110,000 people felt that same lift. Maybe they weren't thinking quite as far back in the sleety past as I was, but they knew the difference between then, and now. Someone started chanting "BEAT OHIO," and thousands more took it up, as Michigan marched out a victory lit by a sun of a their own devising.
One game to change it all. Saturday.
Full suite from MGoVideo.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 De'Veon Smith had more than half of Michigan's yards and more or less produced all their points. On one particular short yardage run he ran directly over safety Tony Fields, causing him to eject an object that was either his mouthpiece, tooth, or soul. Fields kept coming, and Smith kept turning him into mulch.
#2 Taco Charlton collected 2.5 TFLs and created several more by driving his man deep into the backfield. He has been virtually unstoppable as a pass rusher; this was his best outing against the run. And now his ankle's 100%. Look out, world.
#3 Jourdan Lewis had three pass breakups and only gave up one of the two completions he ceded because it was in a blizzard and he was giving up ten yards on purpose. He had a couple of important PBUs on third down slants that booted Indiana off the field.
Honorable mention: Channing Stribling gave up one completion for 20 yards or so but had his share of PBUs and solid coverage; Ryan Glasgow was an interior terror; the offensive line in general blew up what had been a very good rush defense. Dymonte Thomas had an impressive thunk to prevent a drag route from converting a third down and had one of those PBUs where I have to check to make sure that he's not Lewis.
10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
7: Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland, #2 Iowa, #2 Indiana).
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #1 Iowa).
4: Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland, #3 Indiana).
3.5: De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU, #1 Indiana).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU),
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW)
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois), Channing Stribling (#3 Iowa).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
De'Veon Smith stakes Michigan to a lead that felt much larger than three points.
Also, shirtless men.
Honorable mention: O'Korn scrambles for 30 yards; Smith extends the lead to 10.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.
Iowa: The touchdown.
Indiana: Smith woodchips Michigan a lead.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
Indiana goes on a Legitimate Drive in the middle of the second quarter and takes the lead at a point where you're wondering if Michigan can actually score a touchdown of their own.
Honorable mention: Various O'Korn things; the back-to-back-to-back ludicrous catches to set up an Indiana FG.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.
Iowa: Kalis hands Iowa a safety.
Indiana: A legitimate drive.
[After THE JUMP: Quarterback fussin'.]
SPONSOR NOTES: You're in big trouble, Sauce Castillo. Not Nik Stauskas. User Sauce Castillo, who we are blaming for this. We also blame Sauce Castillo for a pending FEDERAL INTEREST RATE HIKE that means you should get a mortgage now.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: Hey, it's Iowa.
4-3 over with two high safeties on just about every play. Iowa will insert safeties into the box post-snap like Michigan's done with some frequency this year; they are a cover-two-heavy 4-3 defense like they have always been and will always be.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: The usual at QB and OL. Darboh got almost every snap (55 of 61), with Butt not far behind at 48. Chesson was at 37. Smith got two-thirds of the RB snaps with Chris Evans getting the bulk of the remainder; Higdon(5 snaps) and Isaac(1) saw reduced usage. Hill had an edge in FB snaps with 19 to Poggi's 12.
Rounding out the offense were scattered snaps for Perry, McDoom, Crawford, Wheatley, Asiasi, Drake Harris, and Juwann Bushell-Beatty.
[After THE JUMP: plane, meet mountain]
On Speight. Yesterday we reported he'd be out for the regular season; someone asked Harbaugh if he was out for the season and he said no. Those aren't the same thing, obviously. You should still expect O'Korn for the next two weeks. Beyond that we'll see. There are conflicting reports about the exact nature of the injury. I've gotten some additional reports that it's a shoulder issue, not the collarbone. The upshot is the same.
Whenever we report something that comes into question our policy is to reveal as much as possible so you can judge for yourself, but there's not much I can say here. Best I can figure is that a person close to the situation got some preliminary or garbled information, which is why ESPN and the Free Press were both able to issue confirmations, with the Free Press citing the same injury. I can't say we'd do anything differently given the provenance of the information. These days we sit on anything not impeccably sourced because the downside of an incorrect report is greater than the upside, so of course.
Other dings. 247 reports that both Channing Stribling and Delano Hill should be good to go this weekend. Stribling had some issues getting off the field after his interception and Hill was replaced by Tyree Kinnel just after halftime when Hill went down with what looked like a cramp to me, but must have been at least a bit more serious. Steve Lorenz say Hill might be held out as a precaution.
PFF on Iowa. For one, Wadley is good against many teams, not just Michigan.
Iowa HB Akrum Wadley averaged 4.3 yards AFTER contact per carry -- best of any Big Ten back with 100+ carries. pic.twitter.com/ypKpiob0rW
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 15, 2016
(I assume "averaged" is supposed to be "averages"; former implies they're just talking about the Michigan game but the 100+ carries indicates they're talking about the entire season.) Wadley's utilization remains a mystery. Michigan missed 11 tackles on him; prior to MSU, when the missed tackle explosion began, they had just 19 on the season.
Meanwhile the offensive grades are grim. De'Veon Smith made PFF's top five with a 55.5 grade, which is the kind of thing you see when Michigan's D plays a really bad offense. The other four, all of whom got solidly positive marks in the mid-to-high 70s, are Bredeson, Cole, Magnuson, and Butt—blockers. Michigan's skill guys disappointed.
Defense was more of the same with missed tackles hurting the LB grades. Mo Hurst again graded out excellently; per PFF he's the top interior pass rusher in the country. I'm a bit surprised he hasn't moved into the starting lineup as Godin comes back to performances that are more in line with his junior year.
FWIW, Hurst says he is leaning towards a return next year.
"It'll be just about how (me and my family) feel about it, we'll talk through it, I'll talk with coach (Jim) Harbaugh about it," Hurst said. "I think (I'm leaning toward) wanting to stay for a fifth year and pursue a Master's degree. That's something that (could be a factor).
"The degree and just the chance to come back. I love playing here. It's been everything I've imagined, especially these last two years. The atmosphere on campus. The coaches are great and they've done a great job and I know I've gotten a lot better."
That is obviously a huge deal for Michigan, which would be replacing him in the starting lineup with... Michael Dwumfour? There's a reason Michigan looks set to take 8 DL in this recruiting class.
The outlier. S&P+'s been updated and it shows just how out of nowhere Michigan's offensive performance was on Saturday. S&P+ tracks "percentile performances" on both sides of the ball. Michigan's worst outing this year against Wisconsin was at 70%; they had just one other performance under 80, that a 78% against MSU.
Against Iowa: 11%. That game alone saw Michigan's offense drop from 8th to 25th in Bill's rankings. Again I would like to shake my fist and ask why does anything happen if it's not going to be predictive.
Occam's Razor. Folks who cover OSU are in a never-ending search for red meat for the ravenous masses. See anything Bill Kurelic's ever written. Cleveland.com gets in on the act with an in-depth look at how Pioneer LB Antjuan Simmons ended up committing to OSU. Which of these approaches seems more like Harbaugh?
There are only two things that can explain Michigan's approach: Either Harbaugh never prioritized Simmons on his recruiting board or the Wolverines completely blew it with how they recruited the 6-foot-1, 215-pound prospect.
Maybe Simmons will be great at OSU but there's no story here other than sometimes people disagree on a recruit.
A nasty lawsuit in a surprising locale. A former basketball player at a Power 5 school has filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging various attempts to boot him off his scholarship. That school is... Northwestern?
The suit describes a variety of measures the program and athletic department used to free up Vassar’s scholarship, which was eventually transferred from athletic grant-in-aid to an academic scholarship. The University, the complaint alleges, went so far as to offer Vassar a cash payment in March of 2016 so he would “go away.”
The suit also alleges that Northwestern placed the three-star recruit in an “internship” so he could retain his athletic scholarship. The program, called the “Wildcat Internship Program” involved him working in a janitorial capacity. It also claims that Northwestern tried to falsify Vassar’s timesheets during the internship “in an effort to create grounds for revoking [Vassar’s] guaranteed athletic scholarship.”
The suit also attacks the NCAA and its transfer rules and is part of a larger lawsuit put forth by Hagens Berman against the NCAA in 2012.
I did not expect Northwestern basketball to be accused of cutthroat behavior this day.
The larger lawsuit is an attempt to bash down various NCAA transfer restrictions in a class action and goes hard in the paint on Bo Ryan:
123. To call Ryan a hypocrite would be an insult to hypocrisy.
(Because he blocked Jared Uthoff's transfer to Iowa after moving up to Wisconsin despite a contract with UWM.)
Etc.: settings –> options –> mute "tuddy". This article on responding to motion is very technical but may be of interest to actual coaches and football nerds. Inside the FEI rankings. Tom Brady and Brandon Graham make PFF's midseason All-Pro team.
News bullets and other items:
Harbaugh saved timeouts because he planned to use them after second and third down and get the ball back with about 35 second to play; Iowa converted the third down.
There were 10 guys on to block the field goal because they started with 12 guys and there was a miscommunication in the huddle about who was supposed to come off the field.
Any more on Wilton Speight?
“We’re gonna know more--It’s gonna depend just on how he feels.”
And can you talk about Jeremy Clark? Has he had the surgery, and have you guys started the petition at all with him for the sixth year?
“Yeah, he’s doing good. Surgery was successful and it’s a process. Where he is in the process is gathering the information, making a case. Soon.”
With Wilton, when do you think you’ll have to know to make a decision on him and is it a game-time decision at this point?
“Could be. As I said, when we’ll know is based on what the doctors say and how Wilton’s feeling, what he’s able to do during the week in terms of practice, etc.”
And it’s his shoulder?
“As I said, we’ll make that determination with the doctors and with Wilton.”
Do you at least know if there’s anything structural or is it just a soreness thing? Have you been able to determine that yet on Wilton?
“Um…as always, per our principle we don’t like to speak specifics.”
If need be, John O’Korn, have you seen enough of him in practice to be confident in him?
“Yes, yeah. Yes. John, Shane [Morris]. I especially would anticipate today, the next couple days at least, that they’ll get the majority of the reps. It’ll be good practice for them, but they’ve both had extensive practice time through the course of the year and yes, we are confident they will do a good job.”
[After THE JUMP: running-into-the-kicker calls, the program’s momentum when Harbaugh arrived, and praise for Indiana’s defense is definitely a thing now]