Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
The usual: should get ramped up about a half-hour before gametime. Read the Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post for more detail on what's going on here if you're new. Start time: 11:30.
|WHAT||#19 Michigan vs Indiana|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, September 26th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Michigan -21|
|TELEVISION||Nationwide on ESPN2|
|WEATHER||Mid 60s w/ slight chance of rain|
Run Offense vs. Indiana
Indiana's defense is currently 15th nationally, albeit after a steady diet of dink-and-dunk MAC teams and one I-AA opponent that's not even the most prominent directional school in its state. (Western Kentucky won a I-AA national title a few years ago and is I-A's newest member. You may remember them from such mascots as "oh my god is that a walking zit.")
The numbers to date, sacks omitted:
*(Western also had two "team" rushes for –22 yards. Those were either kneel-downs or horrible snaps over the punters head that result in a safety (just guessing) and are also omitted.)
Despite the raw numbers, that probably doesn't bode well against an offense that just blew up for 380 yards against Eastern Michigan and had 5.5 YPC against Notre Dame the week before. Indiana beat writer Chris Korman on the defensive line:
Indiana has five defensive tackles that play but none of them played a snap at the position before the season. One is a true freshman, three are redshirt freshmen and another here moved over from the offensive line. Their linebackers are average at best, (Tyler) Replogle is a pretty good rush linebacker but otherwise they have guys who run themselves out of position, aren’t exactly as big as you’d want a Big Ten linebacker to be so it’s just not there. Like you said, they get gashed a lot and they haven’t played a real good running team. Akron just had no running attack and that’s where that game got away from them. But Michigan and those big backs, you just wonder how Indiana is going to stop them. They haven’t stopped someone who wanted to run the ball since I’ve been here, three years. They’ve never put it down and stopped a team.
So maybe it's more relevant that Indiana was 91st in rushing defense last year. They were 35th after three weeks against—hey!—Western Kentucky, Murray State, and about-to-be-rampant-through-the-MAC Ball State. How did that work out? In their never-ending quest to wear Javon Ringer's legs down to tiny nubs, Michigan State went for 236 yards on 52 carries. So… yeah. For the 15th-ranked rushing defense they are not exactly intimidating.
Michigan, meanwhile, is now the #3 rushing offense in the country after that aforementioned yardage explosion against Eastern. That probably won't last and Michigan would do well to come vaguely near those numbers even against a defense as apparently young and undermanned as Indiana's.
Complicating matters is the broken bone in center David Molk's foot, which will see him miss the next 4-6 weeks. Michigan will slide RG David Moosman to center, RT Mark Huyge to guard, and insert Perry Dorrestein at RT. Last week Moosman's absence saw John Ferrara enter the lineup at RG, so maybe there was some discontent with Ferrara's play? Either that or Michigan's noticed that Huyge isn't great in pass protection but is a thumping run blocker and is experimenting with an arrangement that minimizes his weaknesses and maximizes his strengths. Dorrestein was functional as an injury replacement a year ago. There will be some hiccups here as two guys move to new positions and another draws into the lineup. Moosman might get replaced, too, as he missed last week with a shoulder issue that Michigan won't want to chance aggravating.
All that said, Michigan should expect to put up the 5.5 they did against Notre Dame at the very least on a day that figures to be a bewildering array of handoffs they've already shown.
Key Matchup: Probably David Moosman versus Being David Molk. I've long been a proponent of the leetle center's skills and fit in the offense. This week is the first of 4-6 without his services; if Molk can provide a reasonable facsimile it will be encouraging for the future.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana
Is there going to be one? Will there have to be one? Eh… maybe. This section of the game contains the most favorable matchup for the Hoosiers, as they have a pair of veteran defensive ends somewhere between competent and All Big Ten. Back to Korman—here he's responding to the question "how does Indiana win"?
Oh, uh, it would have to be, really have to be, the two defensive ends are really the key. If they can get some consistent pressure, shake up Michigan’s offense, get to the young quarterbacks and certainly Michigan is going to be smart enough to try and run the ball a lot but if Indiana can get a few stops and then force a 3rd-and-long and you go back and get to the quarterback and that makes it a lot easier.
Indiana did pick off Akron four times, but their starting quarterback was out that game and the backup is not Tate Forcier. I don't think Michigan will give Indiana the opportunity to tee off on Forcier. What throws they do make will be heavily screen and rollout based, and since the rollouts all come off the zone read Indiana will be forced to abandon the scrape exchange (which doesn't work all that well, especially when your defensive tackles are all freshmen) or eliminate their defensive ends from quarterback duty.
The Indiana secondary was horrible, horrible, horrible last year, for what it's worth: IU finished 106th in pass efficiency D and 105th in yardage despite those defensive ends getting the Hoosiers up to 26th in sacks. IU's leading receiver from last year was moved into the secondary in an attempt to staunch the bleeding, but that only opens IU up to MGoBlog season preview heuristic #2: if you move someone to another position and then start him, that position group is a disaster zone. So, yeah, disaster zone. When Michigan passes, guys will be open, with chance of long pass increasing because of potential ineptitude.
Key Matchup: Michigan tackles versus the IU defensive ends. If, oh, uh, Indiana's going to be a threat it'll be because they've crushed the precious in the backfield.
Run Defense vs. Indiana
Ah, the frightening bit. Indiana lines up in the pistol and, according to "Behind The Schemes" on the Big Ten Network, has run 44 of 46 rushing plays on which they have a tight end to the tight end side.* That might be a setup for some counters or whatever, but it'll be interesting to see if Michigan responds to this by aligning Mike Martin and Brandon Graham to the strong side of the defense consistently. Last week EMU aligned in a fashion that caused Michigan to expose the Roh/Van Bergen side of the line to an overloaded TE-heavy front, and it was from this that Eastern gained a lot of their rushing yards. Clearly, opponents will be gameplanning ways to attack the lighter side of Michigan's line; watch for potential Michigan ripostes to this.
Indiana's vaunted… okay, not vaunted. Maybe "over-discussed." Indiana's over-discussed pistol formation is supposed to be a pounding up-the-middle sort of run game which features big linemen and runs up the gut from hefty backs—both of Indiana's guys are in the 215 range—but it hasn't exactly excelled so far. After three games against poor competition, Indiana is the #65 rushing attack in the country and is averaging four yards a rush. Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't been much better. They're #56 against the rush and gave up 179 yards to Eastern Michigan last week at 3.7 yards a pop. Notre Dame shredded Michigan for 5.1 yards a carry.
Expecting Michigan to shut down just about any rushing attack seems foolhardy at this point. What you're looking for is something resembling improvement from the linebackers, I think, as the defensive line isn't suddenly going to have another offseason of Barwis under its belt any time soon.
*(Apparently. I didn't know the show existed, so I'm taking that from a message board report.)
Key Matchup: Ryan Van Bergen against Interior Double Teams. RVB has had a tough time holding up against doubles so far; improvement from him would be encouraging going into a couple games against tough-minded Big Ten sorts.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana
Last week Michigan went up against a quarterback who threw around 30 time a game for under 200 yards, averaged under six yards an attempt, and gave off the distinct aura of an inconsistent dink-and-dunk sort without the offensive line or receivers to challenge deep or break short stuff long.
There was an explosion against EKU, but even if I'm down on this defense I'm not ready to pretend a mediocre I-AA team is in any way a useful comparison to Michigan even if Mike Williams's sprained ankle will hold him out this weekend (he's a "game time decision" but was listed as doubtful on this week's injury report), paving the way for yet another game in which a walk-on is on the field for virtually every defensive snap. Hello long sentences.
Anyway: Indiana's main receiving threats are a couple of guys on the outside who are sort of anonymous, not huge, not short, not shifty. They're just guys. Tandon Doss is the leading receiver and I'm only bringing up the receivers' names because the second prime guy is the spectacularly-named Damarlo Belcher. Doss will probably draw Warren, as he's already got 21 receptions on the year and looks to be the prime downfield threat.
Key Matchup: Brandon Graham versus Life Hates Brandon Graham.
Zoltan was back to his usual ways and Olesnavage bounced back from shanking a short one against Notre Dame to hit a FG of moderate distance. Indiana's special teams are okay.
One prime annoyance from last game: Greg Mathews gave away at least 50 yards of field position against Eastern by not fielding catching easy balls.I know we don't want to fumble, but those were bad decisions.
Key Matchup: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL.
21-point spreads against Indiana do not get kittens, but here's something else:
- Michigan decides to test their tackles against the IU DEs and comes up short.
- The infirmary list gets any longer.
- Denard continues to struggle throwing the ball.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- David Moosman looks like an adequate replacement for Molk.
- We get a new punt returner.
- There is not massive regression on all fronts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for Probably Don't Even Have To Throw To Win, –1 for And For That Statement The Ghost Of Bo Will Smile Fortune Upon Us, –1 for No, Seriously, Their Defensive Tackles Are All Freshman And Converts, –1 for And Even If We Do Throw We Can Do That Now, –1 for Indiana Doesn't Even Have Their One Scary Guy This Year, +1 for But We Are The Sort Of Team That Starts A Walk-On).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Remember Last Week, Yeah All That Stuff Goes For This Week, +1 for Let's Re-establish That This Is Michigan, Okay, And Does Not Lose To Poor Versions of Indiana, +1 for I Like Being Happy, +1 for Seriously, It's Nice, +1 for Mmmmm Serotonin.)
Loss will cause me to... drive to Mexico at the head of a caravan of escapees, screaming "FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM."
Win will cause me to... shrug.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Remember what happened last week? Yeah, that. I guess the spread is a field goal closer.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Brandon Graham never sacks anyone again.
- Michael Shaw cracks 100 yards.
- People start seriously speculating as to whether a walk-on is a better safety than the Michigan version of Ryan Mundy was.
- Denard completes 50% of his passes again, except this time the ones that get caught get caught by the right guys.
- Michigan, 42-17.
Podcast 1.5 drops NOW!
Er. Right: Tim and I talk Eastern Michigan for a bit, and then we welcome in John from The Crimson Quarry to talk about the upcoming game, Indiana's basketball prospects, and the proper amount of woe that should be suffered by programs that get the NCAA evil eye. This one's long-ish. Enjoy.
David Molk had surgery this morning on his broken foot, and will be out 4-6 weeks. David Moosman will be back this week, and replace Molk at center. Rocko Khoury and Tim McAvoy will be healthy now as well. In other injury news, Tate's going to be fine, he just bruised a rib, which prevented him from moving around quite as well in the Eastern game. A rib shot is a good way to teach a quarterback that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker.
Mike Williams and Brandon Minor are both day-to-day. Minor is a guy who will play through a lot of pain, so the coaches have to be careful with how much they let him practice.
Offensive Line. Mark Huyge and Patrick Omameh can both play interior and exterior positions on the offensive line. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield have both been running with the 2s recently, and might be able to earn a little bit of playing time. There are a few more freshmen that haven't played yet, but probably will before the season is over. Justin Turner is among them. According to Donovan Warren, "He just needs to be a little more comfortable, and have the coaches trust him." Mike Jones and Brandin Hawthorne, who are backups at the SAM linebacker position, will probably see a bit more time as well.
Walk-ons. The walk-on program is important to Michigan Football as a whole, and it's going well so far. Kevin Leach, Jordan Kovacs, Jon Conover and fullback John McColgan are examples of its success. Rodriguez isn't going to publicly announce which walkons have received scholarships, because that's a downer for some of the guys who may have been close but didn't quite get one.
TOP. One of Rodriguez's big defensive goals is to force the opposition into at least 6 three-and-outs per game. That helps in time of possession, and getting them some rest. He doesn't worry about time of possession that much, because it isn't a meaningful stat - especially if you have a quick-strike offense. [Editor's note: woooooooo!] The defense hasn't been able to get a ton of pressure on quarterbacks yet, because opposition has gone to max-protect set and a quick-hit passing game.
Indiana. Indiana is a surprisingly experienced team defensively. They have two of the best defensive ends in the conference, which could cause some trouble. As far as the conference at large, Rodriguez doesn't know how his team stacks up, because they haven't played anyone from the league yet. He's worried about taking care of Indiana for now. As Ryan Van Bergen said, the 3-0 start means nothing towards winning the conference.
Troy Woolfolk gave Carlos Brown a little bit of grief for only having the 3rd-longest run in Michigan history. Brown: "He was like, 'look, my dad's got number 1." I was like 'We've got 9 more games to go.'"
Warren. All three defensive cordinators so far in Donovan Warren's career have been excellent coaches, who are very similar and passionate about the game. They have their differences, but all are good. Warren briefly talked to Coach English on the field after the game on Saturday.
Donovan doesn't notice if an opposing team is trying to avoid him. He just goes out there and plays his assignment, and gets to the ball. He likes that the offense can score, but wishes they'd do it a little slower so he could rest. The team's conditioning has helped him be ready to get right back out there, however.
As far as halftime defensive adjustments go, both Donovan Warren and Ryan Van Bergen pointed out that opponents have given some looks in the first half of games that they hadn't yet shown on film. The coaches are able to make the necessary changes at halftime to slow the opposition down.
Grady (Small). Kelvin Grady talked a long time about the transition from basketball to football, and the decision-making process that resulted in ending up on the football team. He worked in a factory at Amway over the summer, and had a lot of time to think about what he was planning to do. His dad provided him guidance, "He's the father that I want to be someday."
Grady said it would be a great experience to play in an NCAA tournament and a bowl game (knock on wood) within a year of each other.
This is actually Dylan's show, but we've gotten some requests for basketball liveblog/chat action so he's graciously agreed to let MGoBlog co-host. Gametime is 6:30; action here and there starts 15 minutes prior.
Background: Dylan's Indiana preview, the Hoosier Report's Michigan preview. Inside The Hall also has a competing liveblog if you want to see them get incensed about the exact opposite calls we get incensed about.
Indiana is a fine football team worthy of our respect.
Run Offense vs. Indiana
Running the ball was the one thing Michigan fans could not complain about after the Ball State near-fiasco, as a trio of Michigan backs racked up over 300 yards. Michigan finally got its backs loose into the secondary, getting 20+ touchdown runs from Jerome Jackson, Mike Hart, and Brandon Minor. Meanwhile, Indiana features the nation's 100th-ranked rush defense. They give up 4.6 yards per carry; they're also missing a starting linebacker. This has the potential to be just about as ugly (for the opponent) as the Ball State game was, especially if Indiana safeties react to Manningham like Ball State's did: freaking out and running backwards at the snap.
If Indiana adopts a similar posture -- and given their massive troubles in the secondary, it seems likely -- Michigan will grind away against an undersized front seven ill-equipped to deal with... well, anything really. Michigan will likely run on 80-90% of their first downs again and I'll mutter something under my breath about expectation and deception and ugly statistics as Michigan rumbles towards another win. Pay me no mind, I'm just like that.
Key Matchup: Interior offensive line versus penetration. We're going to be predictable, and the line is going to have to deal with a lot of small guys slanting playside. Blocking them is going to be tough.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana
...is likely to be voluntarily MIA despite the tantalizing numbers put up by opposing pass offenses. Indiana is 116th in pass efficiency defense and is coming off a week where they allowed Brian Cupito(!) to throw for 378 yards on just 33 attempts. Along the way he picked up four touchdowns, too, as Indiana gave up 63 points to a Minnesota offense that's a mere shadow of last year's. The Hoosiers are also 108th in sacks, averaging just over one per game. The invitation is wide open: throw throw throw throw. We probably won't, much.
What we will do is work Manningham back into the swing of things. He saw 8-10 snaps last week, running nothing but fly routes that cause the aforementioned safety freakouts. He was targeted once while double covered. It was overthrown. This week he'll see most of the meaningful offensive snaps, according to Carr, and will no doubt be targeted frequently to get his timing back and shake off any potential rust. With the wretched Indiana secondary awaiting him, he won't have to deal with tight coverage and should have a big day.
Also potentially returning are tight ends Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey. Massey's only been gone a couple weeks but Ecker left after the first play of the Minnesota game; Michigan will endeavor to get those guys a few touches as well. Carson Butler will rotate in as well.
Key Matchup: Everyone versus Traitorous Hands. Everyone except the seldom-targeted Greg Mathews has dropped at least one ball so far this year. Henne's been accurate; too often his receivers have let him down.
Run Defense vs. Indiana
Indiana does run quite a bit -- 341 carries -- but their runs don't go anywhere. They're 88th in the country and their leading rusher is quarterback Kellen Lewis with... wait for it... 333 yards. Nominal starter Marcus Thigpen has been banged up in recent weeks but is expected to play. Not expected to play: their starting left tackle. Thees, not so good. Ball State managed the most success anyone's had on the Michigan defense since Amir Pinnix almost cracked 100 by spreading Michigan and finding small gaps in the line. Expect Indiana's "finesse" (read: crappy) offensive line to try the same thing. They'll try to misdirect us by using Lewis as a run threat, get us confused, and get someone to miss an assignment. This will probably happen at least a few times, but there will be TFLs in spades to make up for it and eventually the Hoosiers will find themselves in third and long.
Key Matchup: Harris/Burgess versus Misdirection. If they get out of position we could get gashed.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana
Lewis has emerged as the starter and can be thought of as Troy Smith lite if you're so inclined, but he's not anywhere near the passer Smith is. That's to be expected, as Smith has three years of experience on Lewis. One thing Lewis has that Smith does not is 6'7" James Hardy, the man who singlehandedly threw Iowa's season into the Pit of Despair. Hardy has nine touchdowns, seven of them in just two games: the aforementioned Iowa victory (three) and Indiana's demolition of Michigan State (four). Against Ohio State he was held in check with four catches for forty-five yards. He's a deep threat and a hard man to stop along the sideline.
It will be interesting to see if Michigan matches anyone specific on Hardy and, if so, who. Morgan Trent's been excellent in deep coverage (despite the referees' strange insistence on calling nonexistent pass interference calls) but dodgy at best underneath. Hall has been an all-around standout when targeted, though that's been infrequent. Michigan may use Hardy as a test case for the MGoBlog-supported hypothesis that Trent's speed can neutralize Ted Ginn. Or they may just let him roam free against whoever he'd like to line up against.
Key Matchup: Hardy versus Whoever. He's their best player and only playmaker.
Another interesting test for Football Armageddon, Indiana's return teams are excellent. The Hoosiers rank in the top 25 in both categories. Marcus Thigpen has three KO return touchdowns and ranks fourth in the country in average. Michigan has been suspect at times (specifically, Central Michigan and the opening kick versus Penn State). Tracy Porter, the punt returner, has a touchdown in only seven return attempts. Amazingly, Indiana has only gotten 13 chances to return a punt this year. That's all you need to know about the Hoosier defense, I guess.
Key Matchup: Coverage teams versus Whatever You Do to Be Good At Coverage. I don't pretend to understand the ins and outs of covering kicks, but I would very much like to see two things: good Whatever You Do and some Mesko kicks that do not have 75-yard Ginn Return Touchdown written all over them.
No kittens; 19 point spread.
- Johnny Sears and Charles Stewart appear with the game still in doubt.
- Our receivers continue to drop third-down conversions.
- Mario looks off or gimpy.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- A couple of Henne bombs find their way into Manningham's hands.
- Kellen Lewis is chased by angry defensive linemen.
- We look crisp.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for You're Indiana, +1 for They Were Ball State, -1 for That Is Not A Defense It Is A Point Yielding Machine, -1 for Fresh(man) Meat).
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +5 for Eff It, We Must Go To Columbus Undefeated)
Loss will cause me to... gibber, blubber, and faint.
Win will cause me to... AAAAAAHHHH FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict: Well, we win, though Indiana is a team worthy of our respect and admiration that I would like to make very clear does not suck at all, not even a little bit, except on defense.
Right, that defense: it's not good at all in either phase of the game and will likely cede a number of big plays either on the ground or through the air. I do assume DeBord will go for Manningham deep if it's available since getting him some game reps and a touchdown or two will make everyone breathe easier heading into Football Armageddon. So the playbook should inch open a tiny bit until midway t hrough the third quarter when we have a six point lead and Carr brings in the backups and runs zone left for the rest of the game.
Indiana's offense has the opportunity to hit us for a few big plays, but trying to run Lewis with frequency is going to get him Branched eventually. I expect a lot of sputtering, one or two long completions to Hardy, no ability to line up and run, and etc. etc. etc. Basically the same thing Michigan's done to everyone since day one.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Breaston touchdown. I have to be right about this eventually. (Take four.)
- Henne has fewer than 20 attempts.
- 30-13, Michigan. (Indiana cover! Look at the respect!)