Fee Fi Foe Film: Cincinnati Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Cincinnati Defense

Submitted by Seth on September 8th, 2017 at 10:45 AM

Previously: Cincinnati Offense

No YOU begged to write the Cincy FFFF just so you could watch abominable football and call it work.

I did not slow this down that’s just how fast they move.

The team Cincinnati played last week is literally the worst football team you can play. Austin Peay is on a historic losing streak that was last interrupted when Doug Nussmeier was Michigan’s offensive coordinator, and bad news for Toys R Us meant some negative publicity over their line of Breaking Bad action figures. That streak (Peay’s) continues, but only because Cincinnati went 4-1 in turnover luck when the Bearcats’ offense could only muster 248 yards.

Getting a read on the defense is a bit harder, because Peay’s quarterbacks are the kind of passers you make stand in the driveway so you’re not always chasing the ball into the neighbor’s garden. They still might miss the barn:

I’ve analyzed the Peay tape and while some of the things in it are indeed disturbing, there is nothing here that constitutes a threat to national security. That makes extrapolating applicable things from Peay’s offense to Michigan’s rather difficult. Also difficult: not cackling. I promise to do my best on the former.

Personnel: My diagram [click to embiggen]:


I tried not to be too harsh with the cyan circles because it’s all relative, even if this whole scout was literally relative to the worst team in the kindest definition of Division I football. On any other FFFF the strong safety and the HSP would have circles too; they get a reprieve for playing opposite whatever the opposite of shields are.

Given Peay’s passing I have to punt on the corners but one note: David Pierce was a surprise starter last week over incumbent senior Grant Coleman, who’d been starting since he Wally Pipp’d the job from… [everyone put on your Rich Rod defensive recruit radiation jackets]… Adrian Witty in 2014. Pierce was a safety last year and deep into fall camp. Coleman was a walk-on. Again, Peay had no way to test this, but heuristically last-minute position switches are ill omens.

[After THE JUMP: I was probably too harsh on a kid who’s doing something way more amazing than I ever will]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Cincinnati Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Cincinnati Offense

Submitted by Seth on September 6th, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Austin Peay did not win a game in 2016. They did not win a game in 2015 either. Nor did they win a game in 2013. In fact in their last 47 tries their lone victory was October 18, 2014, versus Murray State. Remember when Michigan planted a railroad spike in East Lansing, then Brady Hoke apologized? That is more recent than Austin Peay winning a football game. The closest they’ve come since: last Saturday at Cincinnati.

Michigan’s next opponent was outgained 313 (Detroit!) to 248 (Cranbrook!), and needed a big fourth quarter touchdown drive and two end-of-half turnovers near their goal line to kick off the Luke Fickell era with a victory over literally the worst team in the most charitable definition of Division I. The same Governors (FYI: Austin Peay are the Governors), who gave up an average of 46 points vs FCS schools last year were able to hold the Cincinnati attack to 3.3 YPC, 5.4 YPA, and 3/11 on first downs.

Yeah, football results are not always transitive. But this might be:

if this is accurate there are only five unblocked defenders around

I find beauty in atrocious football. It’s yet to be seen if we can find much of use. Welcome back to foe film.

Personnel. My diagram [click to embiggen]:


Oreo offense: hard cookie outside with a soft, gooey center.

There wasn’t that much I could glean from watching them play Peay. The offensive line returned one starter and the new kids got zero push against Peay’s DL. The right tackle, a JUCO transfer, is large but really stiff and a complete turnstile against the pass rush. The center got overpowered on the regular but seemed to know what he was doing. Both guards had trouble in all departments, getting little to no push, blowing zone combos, and occasionally providing entertainment of the “'I’m glad it’s not our guys” variety. For example try to guess who the pulling guard, #64, will block on this play.


If you went with “unblocked guy right in front of him,” you lose. The other LB near the tight end? Wrong. That cornerback? Nope. “Nobody?” You’re giving him too much credit.


Fortunately it’s not an illegal block in the back if it’s your own tight end so this was just a tackle for no gain.

[After THE JUMP this is some bad football right here]

Unverified Voracity Spoofs Emails

Unverified Voracity Spoofs Emails

Submitted by Brian on March 2nd, 2017 at 12:37 PM

We could do this in the middle of Texas or at home. It's not hard to figure out how neutral site games are viable when home and homes sometimes aren't:

Ticket prices for the Bama game were similar. Throw in a corporate sponsorship and voila: both teams can get close to home game money. We're in a weird place when schools find it necessary to outsource these kind of things. If I was AD I'd ask season ticket holders how much of a surcharge they'd be okay with to get a game like Florida at the Big House. I'm guessing it would cover a lot of the costs of a real game relative to a bodybag game, if not all of them. Michigan doesn't need to cut in a middleman*.

*[Except maybe in this particular case. This game is happening because of the ND cancellation that left Brandon scrambling. This is probably the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. I'll leave it to the reader to decide how much of the situation Michigan found itself in was Brandon.]

Color me unconcerned. Crain's engages some concern-trolling about Michigan's debt load:

The University of Michigan athletic department sits atop $240 million in debt at a time when several major college athletics programs are grappling with enormous and potentially crippling debt loads.

Michigan is not. They make 160 million annually, so their debt load is manageable. Someone making 80k with a 120k mortgage is in fine shape, and unlike a mortgage Michigan's debt load largely exists because Bill Martin built the boxes to increase revenues. A mortgage does not throw off income.

The article itself admits this by way of the bond market:

Unlike some of its cash-strapped peers, Michigan has a packed Big House on fall Saturdays, deep-pocket donors, an elite credit rating, and it expects its share of TV money to keep increasing — a mix the university expects to give it the financial maneuverability to readily pay what it owes and to keep borrowing to build or refurbish its facilities.

This seems to defeat the purpose of this article, which goes on to discuss the slow decline of ESPN and fracturing of the cable unit—none of which has slowed the explosive revenue growth Michigan and the Big Ten has not only seen recently but locked in for the next six years. It also invokes Cal as a potential disaster situation. Cal was 22 million dollars in the red last year and has almost twice Michigan's debt. The situations are not at all similar.

Dave Brandon was a lot of things, but he wasn't Tom Goss.

Interesting twitter exchange. PFF likes Channing Stribling's coverage a lot. His run D, not so much.

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Stribling noticed this and tweeted about it, leading to a brief, interesting conversation between Stribling and James Ross:

I'm with PFF after some boggling missed tackles but he can fix that, and his coverage was just as good as Lewis's.

This won't be a surprise to Chat Sports aficionados. James Yoder, "CEO" of Chat Sports, tried to buy the Cauldron, another website, for about two million dollars. This naturally resulted in a fraudulent term sheet, a ton of finger-pointing, and ham-handed cover-up attempts. Yoder comes off as completely unhinged in the story:

Yoder says that Jamie O’Grady is a “master of creating fake emails.”

As a demonstration, Yoder sent me, at my work email address, a fake email that made it look like I had emailed Yoder asking for help finding clean urine. Yoder stressed that he faked an email from me strictly to show me what O’Grady does.

c1ad015de7f656fb4debcc1c1c4f0db6 (1)

After I privately forwarded the email to my editors, Yoder emailed me again asking why his email had been opened multiple times; he had tracked the email. “We track every email we send,” he says. “We use an email tracking service.”

This is because he is totally unhinged. "Spoofing and phishing tactic mastered by the other party." Cumong, man. Even OJ Simpson didn't go around giving stabbing demos.

The article briefly mentions the aspect of Chat Sports most infamous around here, but doesn't quite get it right:

In its early days, Chat Sports posted original content from many different writers—some of those bylines, like Rick Steele or Tipp Smith, have Twitter accounts that have tweeted only one time. Were they fake? Yoder says yes. “Absolutely we had fake writers,” he says. “That’s because we’re a scrappy company. What do you have when you start a company? You have zero traffic, you have zero name brand… So we had a writer program for college-aged kids… and sometimes they had information about things that they didn’t really feel comfortable writing in their own names. Some people think that’s such a terrible thing—‘journalistic integrity!’—that’s called growth hacking.”

The problem with the fake writers was not that they were operating under pseudonyms but that the stories they "reported" were made up. Chat Sports has the same business plan that Macedonian teenagers did during the election: say anything at all shocking or controversial that dullards on the internet propagate because they can't tell the difference between Chat Sports and something with a smidgen of credibility. Buzzfeed has an article about a similar company that spews out near-identical posts for political dullards on both left and right. The parallels go all the way down to the obvious stock photos used for author bios. 

The only truly surprising thing in the story is that Yoder was able to find a dupe despite coming off like Borat The Investor. Remember Borat? NOT! Good times.

Anyway, don't post Chat Sports stories here.

Austin Davis: good? Michigan's center situation this year is bogglingly shallow, which naturally makes one wonder how good Austin Davis can possibly be if he's redshirting. Beilein says he's all right, though:

"He's really good, that's all I'm going to tell you," Beilein said today. "I wish, I knew what I know now." ...

"In the middle of January, it all started slowing down," Beilein said. "Guys just throw him the ball and he puts it in. There's no drama, there's no Kardashians. The ball is in. The ball goes in."

I'm not sure how to react to that. If Davis was in fact very good and was doing that well in January, keeping the redshirt on him is an odd decision. OTOH, he might not play even if he is very good. The only thing Beilein hates more than playing a freshman point guard is playing a freshman post. Not even Mitch McGary got much run until really late in the year. (Jordan Morgan took a redshirt before emerging into a starter.) Wagner barely got off the bench last year despite Michigan's center situation being Mark Donnal and a guy with literal narcolepsy.

I do think Davis is going to be a breath of fresh, rebound-y air next year. He's a burly dude, something Michigan hasn't had since McGary.

I very much want to see a Michigan lineup that goes Teske/Davis-Wagner-Wilson-Matthews-Simpson. That will look like the Monstars with Webster at point guard.

Etc.: Spencer's take on Ole Miss is kinder than mind and good. More croot profiles: Andrew Stueber. Goodbye, eggs. Peppers draft stuff. HSR on Wagner. Get The Picture with more Ole Miss fallout. Jim Harbaugh is not sticking to sports. Lewis draft stuff. Harbaugh thinks Grant Newsome will be back this year.

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers Offense

Submitted by Ace on October 5th, 2016 at 5:09 PM


Based on what was readily available online, I had the choice of two Rutgers games to break down: their opening-week blowout loss to Washington or last week's blowout loss to Ohio State. I chose the more recent game for this breakdown because RU lost the centerpiece of their offense, Janarion Grant, the week prior, and I wanted to see how they'd function without him. Spoiler alert: not well.

Not well at all. Rutgers punted on every drive that didn't end a half; they didn't even finish a drive in OSU territory. The yakety flea flicker you see above is what happened on the lone occasion they crossed midfield.

They're gonna die.

Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Glasgow and Taco got shields now that we've tweaked the criteria, and Stribling got his star after last week's performance. On the other side... well, at least they've got a bunch of returning starters? Unfortunately, four of them stand out for the wrong reasons, and TE Nick Arcidiacono easily could've been a fifth—PFF has him grading out at a -7.9 and pretty much equally bad in all phases through four games. This doesn't bode well against a roving band of humanoid ninja stars.

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Chris Ash is trying to turn Rutgers into Jersey Ohio State; OC Drew Mehringer is a Tom Herman disciple. This is very much a spread after being more of a hybrid under Kyle Flood.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Rutgers doesn't have the horses up front to run OSU's power read stuff with much success at all. They'll mix some of that in, but for now they're mostly an inside zone team.

Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle. Rutgers is 67th in adjusted pace. They go no-huddle but aren't fast enough to truly tempo defenses.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]

Freshman Ineligibility Is Bad And The Big Ten Should Feel Bad

Freshman Ineligibility Is Bad And The Big Ten Should Feel Bad

Submitted by Brian on May 20th, 2015 at 11:36 AM


"let's not have that tourney run" –Big Ten ADs [Fuller]

The Big Ten athletic directors have gathered in Illinois to stroke their chins and issue pronouncements about the state of the games. As per usual some of the things they're saying are from space aliens unfamiliar with English. Northwestern's Jim Phillips exhibits a mild version of the affliction. The reporter's paraphrase is the worst bit:

One-and-done play is symptomatic of the problems that plague college athletics, Phillips said at the Big Ten spring meetings, in that it does not benefit the student-athlete at large.

"Frankly speaking," Phillips said, "shame on us. We've allowed the National Basketball Association to dictate what our rules are, or influence what our rules are at the collegiate level."

Phillips said NBA executives "look at us as the minor leagues."

"Nobody feels great about kids going to school for a semester and then leaving," he said. "That's crazy. It's absurd. So we've got to fix it.

"Why have we accepted that? Why have we just allowed that to happen without any pushback?"

I do have some sympathy for the resentment colleges must feel that the NBA has imposed one-and-done on them. It really is the worst possible system for the NCAA, which draws piles of criticism for the way CBB feels right now despite having done nothing.

But as per usual with the NCAA, the proposals on the table to deal with the problem cling tightly to a blinkered image of reality developed by watching "Newsies" 24 hours a day for the last decade. One-and-done does nothing to anyone who's not a one and done. For those who are, the NCAA has no ability to "benefit" them. They're just cooling their heels for a year because they have to before they are very wealthy. One and done is an entirely cosmetic issue. It is an issue, as it leads to things like Kentucky. I find Kentucky under Calipari annoying.

But the Big Ten's freshman ineligibility proposal is the clumsiest possible way to address the situation. It is nuking an anthill from orbit. As John Gasaway mentions, one-and-dones were a mere 14 kids last year.

Mitch McGary is that culture's king. I digress.

The Big Ten is trying to sell us the idea that students are not prepared to enter college, go to class, and compete for its teams at the same time their APR scores look like this.

Big Ten APR Scores (football; basketball)

Illinois: 957; 957
Indiana: 972; 1,000
Iowa: 969; 971
Michigan: 975; 990
Michigan State: 962; 980
Minnesota: 962; 960
Nebraska: 980; 947
Northwestern: 991; 980
Ohio State: 972; 977
Penn State: 954; 964
Purdue: 961; 985
Wisconsin: 989, 975

So which is it? Do you "continue to shine", as this BTN article claims? Or is it dire enough for the Big Ten to want to impose ineligibility on the 95% of their athletes that are just fine thanks?

Part of the problem is that if the NBA does come to the table looking for a reasonable solution (like NHL style draft-and-follow), they're going to hear the most impossible nonsense coming from the other side. No, you can't go to summer league. No, you can't have an agent. No, you can't even go to pre-draft camps to get a more accurate picture of where you stand. We're gonna have a freshman ineligibly snit fit over 14 guys.

The Big Ten has a problem with one-and-done. Fine. But Jim Delany's proposal is unserious. It is never going to happen. Having a "national discussion" is rhetoric on the level of that Nationwide Your Kid Just Died commercial. You can have that discussion. It is going to be about how much you suck and nothing else.

This is a toddler saying "NO, MINE" to someone who can take the toddler's toys away whenever he wants. If the NBA is going to listen, the NCAA is going to have to come to them with a serious proposal instead of a temper tantrum.

This Week's Obsession: A Snowball's Chance

This Week's Obsession: A Snowball's Chance

Submitted by Seth on November 26th, 2014 at 12:26 PM


Two ways we can go.

Ace: I feel obligated to ask a question about The Game despite barely even having the will to watch the dang thing at this point. So... what miracle (or series of miracles) needs to transpire for Michigan to win? Is there a weakness on the Buckeyes that you can see Michigan exploiting in an alternate universe where Michigan exploits weaknesses?


Seth: The Buckeyes are good, but they're not perfect. The backfield and DL are legit, but the LBs and DBs and WRs are still guys who live on their athleticism more so than technique, and the OL is still just as young as ours. Urban covers up the youth well, but it shows at times.

Urban's message to Barrett: don't try to be perfect. [11w]

J.T. Barrett isn't Braxton Miller, for better and worse. Barrett isn't going to glide past your containment the way Miller always could; on the other hand he's way more accurate on deep balls, giving Ohio State a lethal third dimension. Teams that have had defensive success against the Buckeyes have been crashing the ends on Elliott to force Barrett to run, trusting their athletes can chop him down in space. Penn State and Virginia Tech both kept his run/pass ratio relatively even, and mixed up coverages like crazy to try to temp Barrett into turnovers. The strategy is vulnerable deep, but sometimes you can get lucky (Indiana), or weather can interfere (Minnesota), or your defensive line can generate enough organic pressure (Penn State) to deny Barrett the chance.

Michigan's DL has the chops to keep the OSU run game in hand without selling out on it. The coverage has been good except when tempo'ed, which Meyer would be all to happy to use but for his young offense.

The thing about Meyer's OSU is it's not going to surprise you. He covers his players' weaknesses by having them repeatedly do the things they're good at, in a system that makes sense and takes advantage of whatever it's given. Brady Hoke, on the other hand, tends to spend big chunks of games making his players do things they're bad at, and almost never takes strategic advantages when they're presented. There is an advantage in punching yourself in the face all season, because OSU has scant film on what happens when a Brady Hoke team actually uses its talents.

In some whacky scenario, Michigan throws a bunch of Cover 3 and robber things it's been saving up all year, and Barrett shorts his deep balls enough for Ray Taylor to have a GAME, and Gardner comes out like his old self, and Nussmeier finally debuts a fully integrated offense that's allowed to go deep, and Funchess decides the draft stock opportunity this provides is enough to GAF, and Norfleet runs one back, and there's no flags, and then Denard suddenly reveals he has another year of eligibility, and Jim Harbaugh flies down from his moon base on Apollo 17, and every kid Ohio State has visiting commits to him, and together they all make ice cream non-fattening, bring peace to the Middle East, and beat Ohio State 34-27.

[Jump for even more implausible scenarios.]


Hokepoints: On Packages and the Pop Pass

Hokepoints: On Packages and the Pop Pass

Submitted by Seth on November 25th, 2014 at 10:29 AM

The way we were

Drew Hallett has a series on MNB called "Film Focus" that's a lot like the stuff Space Coyote used to diary here, i.e. screenshots with the play drawn on them. A few weeks ago Drew called for Michigan to add a packaged bubble screen to the zone read running game that briefly resurfaced in the 1st quarter on Saturday. Then he called this a "pop pass" and referred to the QB OH NOES play from 2010.

I started a long reply to make it clear that those are really two different things from two different offensive play groups, though both are predicated on the same spread concept of using the QB to add another player to the running game. Then I made drawings. Then I had video. Then I had a Hokepoints to save for OSU week.

Interesting things people do on offense are so far from topical right now at Michigan, but between interesting offense and Michigan's offense, which do you really want to read about this moment? Exactly.

Spread offense has been around several decades now, and has therefore had time to branch out and expand. A truly great offense will be great at all aspects: zone read running, WR screens, option routes, pre-snap reads, and packaged post-snap reads. But you don't really get that much time in college football to practice them all, so spread offenses become specialized.

Zone Read and Bubble

Drew showed that the bubble screen could be incorporated as a packaged play with the zone read, and yes teams do this. In fact it's so common now that last adapter in the world Al Borges deployed a packaged run-bubble last year.

The zone read/bubble was the base of Rodriguez's offense at West Virginia, and the genesis of the Rodriguezian slot smurf who could best take advantage of that space, but there's a key difference between RR's West Virginia offense and the "packaged play": when that bubble read is made. At WVU it was a pre-snap read, based on the position of that nickel/SAM/Spur/HSP guy. If he tiptoed into the box: bubble. If he stayed spread out like a good boy Rodriguez could continue running his zone read game.

Packaging makes that read after the snap:


The problem is you now have two reads, i.e. a triple option. Asking a QB to read more than one thing on a play takes a big commitment to that offense, and a quarterback who can/will put the time into it. Denard was an amazing player, but Michigan didn't get very far running the zone read offense with him because for reasons of time (he didn't get to redshirt and was a sophomore when he became a starter) and the level of commitment he could put into film, etc., when dude was constantly rehabbing injuries and trying to be a student.

Keep in mind defenses have seen the zone read for two decades now. They run scrape exchanges, and CB blitzes at it, and deploy dudes like MSU's Marcus Rush (the best I've ever seen at this) who can shut down an entire option game by delaying, delaying, delaying that first read until the rest of the defense arrives to bottle it up. By that point the field corner and safety have beaten those outside blocks, and the harassed QB throwing the bubble is an invitation to a pick six, a slotback blown up in the backfield, or even a backwards pass fumble. The defense has some other schematic things it can throw against it to take advantage of a QB who's too green at reading the package, but the point is they're already trained to blow this up in more ways than walking the HSP down.

[Jump for more fun things that Michigan doesn't do for religious reasons].



Submitted by Brian on November 24th, 2014 at 12:24 PM

11/22/2014 – Michigan 16, Maryland 23 – 5-6, 3-4 Big Ten


[Eric Upchurch]

A version of this game happened in 2008, when a Michigan team headed for 3-9 had a dismal, rainy home finale against a bad team. That was Northwestern; Michigan blocked a punt for a touchdown but lost anyway. I spent halftime attempting to warm my hands on a pretzel heater.

It was tolerable because of its novelty. That team provided an opportunity for Michigan fans to demonstrate the vast depths they would go to in order to support their team. It wasn't fun, exactly, but it felt like a transitory period, a cost gladly borne for the promise of ass-kicking modern football to come. Merit badges were awarded to the hardy souls who stuck it out.

I don't have to tell you how that worked out.

I know I've referenced that game many times before as we've struggled to deal with Michigan's broken offense over the past couple years, but the similarities to the Maryland game are striking enough to bring it up again. While the weather wasn't nearly as bad, the slate-gray sky was highly familiar. So too the mutual Keystone Kops antics, what with receivers deciding it was that year EA's NCAA Football series decided that the way to balance their broken game was to have WRs drop half the passes they got their hands on.

So you naturally think about that game before and compare your mental state then and mental state now. The only thing I've got at the moment is relief I don't have to do that again. Humorous exclamations about how "we do this for fun!" are so 2008.


Michigan had built up piles of fan goodwill over their 40 year bowl streak; after Schembechler's arrival there were years Michigan wasn't great, but none in which they were actively bad unless their starting quarterback's leg broke. They started tapping that in earnest in 2007, and now it's all gone. I didn't want to go to the Maryland game even a little, but I did. I have a personal streak at stake here. And they fired Dave Brandon.

But there was no silver lining. The depths of my fandom have been tested; there's a bottom there. I'm fed up with ticket prices and the cookie-cutter inanity imposed on a Michigan Stadium experience that used to be unique.


CAKE [Bryan Fuller]

There are bits and scraps of it left. I got bizarrely misty when they did the Blues Brothers cake, because it was a thing that was ours and still existed as what it had been since my youth. I was at Yost for the final game of whatever hockey season it was when the "Can't Turn You Loose" dancing extended from the most humorously overweight guy in the section to everybody. It was a thing that some people decided to do and they keep doing it.

Then that student section sat near-silent for the rest of the game because every space that wasn't filled with actual football was crammed with noise. It was especially jarring since the most interesting football on in the noon window was Manchester United-Arsenal, full of everything but Pitbull being piped in at deafening levels.

That's where we are right now, fighting a losing battle against the spreadsheet people. Jim Hackett may be a nice guy and vast improvement on Brandon, sure. Not much has happened to indicate that he's anything but another spreadsheet person making the columns add up and importing what passes for creativity at other places.

I don't know what's about to happen. I mean, I do: Ohio State is going to punch Michigan's delicates in and Brady Hoke's going to get fired. I don't know what happens after that.

During the last coaching search I used logic and common sense to declare that Michigan would not hire Brady Hoke because he was so transparently unqualified, so I can't do that again. Even if I was so inclined the fact that an interim AD is going to make the most important hire in the department would prevent me. Michigan is determined to do it weird in the ways they shouldn't and do it conventional in all the ways they shouldn't.

But whatever. It's over, and it ended in the way it probably had to: a sodden mess of football about as interesting as a pile of dirty laundry. Hopefully there's something to care about next year.


There is not going to be a UFR. I'll go back and get the relevant parts over the offseason but I am going to have a real Thanksgiving instead of one where I spend the first half of it in a bedroom putting up a post; it was just going to say the same stuff you already know anyway.


This fourth down was on Gardner [Upchurch]

I don't know what I expected dot gif. The same pattern of ludicrous errors part XVIII. Roughing the kicker, a block in the back on a punt return touchdown, dropped passes, penalties, throws nowhere near the target, an inability to deal with tempo or mobile quarterbacks—none of it was surprising. It's not even infuriating anymore. It's just the way it is.

Cripes, Funchess. His lack of GAF has been clear for big chunks of the year—I still go back to that bubble screen that was a likely touchdown if he blocks his guy at all—and it's getting more prominent as we near the end of the year. The dropped passes are epidemic, and they don't even try to use him as a blocker anymore.

It'll be interesting to see if any of this impacts his draft stock. I bet 1) it does and 2) not nearly enough to induce him to return for his senior year. This feels like a situation similar what went down with GRIII, where it might be a good idea for the guy to come back to establish himself an elite talent but the guy is clearly done with college.

The offensive line is kind of okay now. There was a period in the second half where Michigan was blowing the Maryland DTs off the ball on every single play; occasionally Maryland would get Michigan in the backfield with a blitz allowed by the fact that M really didn't want to throw but anything that ended up neutral on the RPS scale was a nice gain for Michigan. Even excluding the fake punt, Michigan went for 5.5 YPC.

That's not unusual for a putrid Maryland D, but Michigan bested MSU, OSU, and pre-Diamont Indiana. They didn't hit Wisconsin numbers or a rampant Syracuse(?), but they looked quite functional. Darrell Funk is going to get run out of town on a rail like the rest of the coaching staff but the improvement this year is real. With literally everybody back next year they could be good-ish.

Mad about carry distribution. I've seen a lot of ANGAR about the carry distribution since Johnson was picking up big chunks. That's one of the few things that I'm not incensed bitchy and eye-rolling about in the aftermath. Hayes picked up 6 YPC on his six carries and while Smith only had 2.8, he was the short yardage/goal-line guy and played much better than Johnson against Northwestern. Overall the run game was highly effective, and only the usual slate of derp and the broken Devin Gardner prevented actual offense from occurring.


this was not tempting apparently [Upchurch]

I will be mad snarky about this. I know Funchess was dropping balls left and right but how on earth do you go an entire game with a 6'5" WR against "5-7" Will Likely and not, like, try to use that fact? Everyone got peeved at one goal line play, and I'm with you. I would like to extend that peevishness past that specific series and apply it to every damn time this inept offense didn't punt the ball to Funchess 40 yards downfield.

When is the last time they tried a plain old bomb down the sideline at Funchess? I know it can't actually be the Notre Dame game but it feels like the Notre Dame game.

Seriously though. How do you rush for 240 yards on 44 carries, plus a 52-yard fake punt, and score 16 points?

Defense. The usual: pretty good against the run, though CJ Brown's QB stuff was highly effective because Michigan still regards that as cheating (or maybe it tends to be effective), highly iffy against the pass especially in the middle of the field, late collapse.

Brown's 6.9 YPA on 24 attempts isn't great, but you have to take the fact that Maryland was down two of its top options at WR and replacement slot Jacquille Veii dropped at least four passes. If Maryland WRs actually caught the ball this could have been significantly uglier.

It's clear that opponents have IDed the slot and TEs running against M LB/S types as a major weakness and targeted it.

The demise. Grimly appropriate that Maryland should get its key play on their go-ahead drive thanks to a fake bubble screen that went over the top. The end came thanks to a concept that's been around since Rodriguez's first year that Michigan could not deal with, nor successfully replicate except once against Miami(NTM). When they tried to imitate successful offenses they did it poorly because they were bad at coaching, and then blamed the concepts.


Inside The Box Score:

Meh Teams
* How do you lose when you outgain your opponent 398 yards to 312 yards? The answer is simple. Not-so-special teams (and turnovers, and failing on fourth down twice.)
* Maryland's fourth FG attempt is not in the boxscore because Jourdan Lewis roughed the kicker. On the very next play, Jourdan Lewis failed to keep contain and Maryland scooted in for a touchdown.
* Michigan's high point on the day, a 52 yard fake punt, was more than offset by a touch in the back penalty that resulted in Michigan losing 70 yards of field position, oh, and a game-deciding touchdown.

Best And Worst:

Yes, there have been meager signs (mostly on defense, but also with the offensive line) that this program was playing better, especially given the fact that Indiana has since nearly upset PSU and held tough against OSU on the road, while Northwestern upset Notre Dame and then demolished Purdue to, improbably, set up for next week’s intra-state battle with the Illini as a battle of two teams playing for their bowl-game lives.  They weren’t dominating wins, but if you squinted you could see something faintly resembling progress and improvement, and maybe with a new QB and some healthy running backs next year Michigan might be on its way “back”.

But all along, this team kept displaying the same numerous flaws that absolutely, positively shouldn’t be happening 50 games into a coach’s tenure.  The offense remains painfully predictable, to the point that pointing this out is equally reflexive.  The defense, while certainly the stronger unit during Hoke’s tenure, continues to play at a B+ level, seemingly never figuring out how to handle anything approaching tempo or a mobile QB.  Barring a Biakabutuka-esque performance against OSU, Michigan won’t have a running back break 600 yards total on the season, and for the second year in a row won’t have one even sniff 1,000 yards total.  Hell, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman are going to significantly outrush this team as a whole, and that’s after dropping 292 yards rushing on Maryland in this game.  Devin Gardner went from pre-season All Big-10-ish player to a guy who’ll probably not throw for 10 TDs on the season, and one of the best runs of the year was a 52-yard run by a FB on a fake punt.  Timeouts continue to be called or saved without any regard for reality, and the team long ago ran out of feet to shoot with dumb penalties, incorrect number of players on the field, and turnovers.  Oh my gawd the turnovers, King.


Sap's Decals nails Gardner:

DEVIN GARDNER – To me, New 98 is the LaVell Blanchard of the Michigan Football Team. Great kid. Smart kid. Face of the program for the past few years. Much like Blanchard, Gardner has been caught in the middle of a coaching change during his career. Caught in the middle of a program trying to find its way. Caught in the middle of a university trying to figure out what kind of identity they want their football team to have. Much like we do when looking back on the career of Blanchard, I’m sure we will say much the same for Gardner: “Oh, the Gardner years! Tough kid. Never quit. Never gave up. Sad that his record wasn’t better.”

Maize and Blue Nation:

So, things happened yesterday. A few of them good, some of them meh, and most of them bad. For Michigan, it was yet another in a long line of games everyone would just rather forget.

Brady Hoke knows what's coming. You can just tell. Nothing will happen before the Ohio State game, but its over. This is the end for Hoke at Michigan.

You know it's bad when newspaper folk don't edit out your uhs and ums:

A self-inflicted mess, toward the tail end of a self-inflicted disaster of a season that can't end soon enough, with a head coach who has only gotten worse every year he's been in charge.

Another game that made little sense, and more talk afterward that made even less.

"We just didn't, uh, execute at times when we had opportunities, and, uh, at times we did," Hoke said Saturday night. "We had some mistakes in the kicking game that, uh, obviously hurt us as a football team. Some of those were very aggressive mistakes and you appreciate that kind of effort and aggression. At the same point, we've got to be a little smarter.

"If that's the right word for it."

I think Zuniga is a fan of hair metal band Enuff Znuff. Alex Mitropolous-Rundus was in high school band.

Fee Fi Foe Film: Michigan State Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Michigan State Defense

Submitted by Ace on October 23rd, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Previously: Michigan State Offense (NOTE: C Jack Allen will play, according to Mark Dantonio.)

Kurtis Drummond's day in a nutshell: this late throw to the flat turned into a 30-yard gain

I really don't know what to do with this.

Michigan State's defense isn't as good as last year's, that much is certain. On the average play, they're still a very stout group; they're in the top five in opponent first down rate, opponent available yards gained, and 10+ play drives ceded, per Football Outsiders. FO also reveals their major problem: big plays. MSU ranks 97th in percentage of opponent drives that average at least ten yards per play. They finished ninth in that category last year.

It showed against Purdue. The Boilermakers offense either hit the MSU wall and exited with alacrity or busted a couple chunk gains on their way to scores. That ended up working out to the tune of 340 yards on 5.5 yards per play—not spectacular, but not bad, either—and 31 points, with three of the four touchdown drives covering at least 60 yards.

So, there's a ray of hope. But I also saw Purdue run multiple packaged plays with solid success, including a touchdown on a pop pass to a motioning slot receiver, and the light dims just a bit. Quite a bit. A great deal of bit, really. But hey, it's hope.

Personnel: Seth's diagram is now updated to properly reflect the amount of recruiting talent Michigan's offense is largely squandering. Click to embiggen and view Seth's pessimism regarding how M's coaches may decide to utilize their available personnel coming off a bye week in which MANBALLING may have been emphasized:

MSU keeps their base personnel on the field just about every down, with corner Trae Waynes and linebacker Ed Davis aligning to the boundary across from "STAR" (hybrid LB/S) David Harris and CB Darian Hicks on the field (wide) side. RJ Williamson and (sigh) true freshman Montae Nicholson have each earned starting nods; they're still battling for the strong safety job and both should see snaps on Saturday.

To address a typo, Kurtis Drummond is 6'1, 202 lbs., and not a three-tech masquerading as a free safety.

Base Set? The 4-3 alignment you see above. Either Harris or a safety—or both—will be shaded over the slot; an example:

Also note the depth of the safeties; in MSU's aggressive Cover 4 scheme, they tend to play relatively close to the line.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]

Big Ten Draftageddon: The Final Snarkdown

Big Ten Draftageddon: The Final Snarkdown

Submitted by Seth on August 19th, 2014 at 4:30 PM

What is Draftageddon: In place of a trite and useless preseason "best players in the Big Ten" series, we drafted teams out of the the same pool and got into detail about our picks and what makes them worth picking. If such an exercise isn't your bag, I implore you to skip this one; a roundtable-y informative thing will follow later.

Previously: opening round, stupid round, hair round, corners round, a lineman from Rutgers round, Hack round, Peppers round, a member of the Illini secondary is drafted round, terp round, guards round, backups round, dramatic round, punting round.

Now we defend our teams, and make fun of each other's. Then you vote for a winner.


01 BLF_2946


*Miller (and a couple hits to Seth's Wildcats) happened too late for more supplemental picks

Brian: On offense, I attempted to fuse Wisconsin's core rushing offense into a spread. IE: I tried to replicate last year's Ohio State team. Miller and Gordon are the backfield, with Ferguson in the Wilson/Harvin role and Stephon Diggs being just terrifying on the outside. The OL: Wisconsin. Hooray. Base defense is your standard 4-3. I guess I'm in an over since I've got two similar defensive ends and no obvious on-the-line SAM. 

Strengths: every second down is second and two. Every third down is a first down because we picked up eight yards on second and two. The defensive line is highly stout, with upside in spades; the corners are excellent. 

Brian got out of a Michael Rose pick and drafted every Michigan linebacker but the really good one.

Weaknesses: Pass protection. I don't have a left tackle. As we saw with Denard, though, having an incredible athlete at QB tends to turn pass rush off by itself. This was by design after I picked Miller and any true difference-maker tackles were gone by the next pick. 

Also my safeties are both Northwestern safeties. And I guess I don't have a punter, but who cares.

Snarked by BiSB: Brian’s theory is pretty basic: find a unit that performed well, and draft The. Whole. Damn. Thing. Wisconsin runs the ball well? Take their running game. Michigan’s linebacker corps looks pretty okay? GOTTA GRAB ‘EM ALL (except for the best piece, of course, which I got). Northwestern’s secondary is outstanding on 3rd and 20? Say no more, give me them safeties.

The problem, of course, is that he’s left with a hodgepodge of assorted whatnot that doesn’t work together. Offensively, I don’t know what the hell Brian is. He took a spread option quarterback and outfitted him with a manball offensive line and running back. His receiving corp is a coming-off-an-injury Stefon Diggs, made-fewer-than-two-catches-per-game Jeff Heuerman, and… Tony Lippett? And of course there’s the whole two-vastly-different-quarterbacks thing he’s got going on with Hackenberg. After a year of lamenting an offensive system that lacked internal cohesion, you’re going to THIS? For shame, sir. For shame. You don’t DESERVE Kyle Prater.

On defense, Brian has a solid-ish defensive line, and absolutely nothing behind it in the middle of the field. His linebackers are Michigan’s current linebackers if you replaced Jake Ryan with Michael Rose Joe Bolden. Does this sound like a good idea? No. No it does not. It does not sound like a good idea. But don’t worry, because Ibraheim Campbell and Traveon Henry are there to kinda keep the lid on. And again, you have your press-happy stud corner playing alongside a pair of bend-but-don’t-break safeties.

[Immediately after the jump, an image that will probably appear in all future Google searches for Ace Anbender, but just in case: Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender, Ace Anbender]