Kickoffs: There was one bad kick and nine missed tackles, but kicking it short and to the right was on purpose to avoid Raheem Mostert.
Denard's wrist is fine.
Gallon's job as punt returner is not in danger.
Hoke did not consider putting in Rawls earlier for Toussaint.
“Thanks for coming. Very pleased with the win. It’s great to win, obviously. I thought we set a tone early defensively and great to win on the road is what I should say because you look at this league on the road, it’s a tough place to play. I thought we set the tone with the three-and-out on the defense, and offensively, 17-play drive, almost nine minutes, really was what we needed to do. We play really good defense watching our offense out there on the field. That’s a good deal. I think we practiced well for the week. We prepared well. Liked how our guys came to work every day, and we need to continue to do that. We know we’re in a championship game every Saturday, so our mentality and attitude needs to reflect that by our actions in practice. We had a good day yesterday, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Recap: Purdue’s defense gave up 534 yards and 41 points to a middling C-USA team, but this was okay because Purdue had a 42-14 lead going into halftime and ended up with four takeaways on the day due to the fast and loose nature of Marshall’s offense. The Boilermakers were never really in danger of losing, but for argument’s sake let’s go with the storyline that QB Caleb Terbush’s brilliant performance (27/37, 294 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT) saved the day. Who needs Robert Marve when you have Drew Brees under center. Yeah.
(As Ace noted in his FFFF yesterday, most of these were screen passes, so really, credit goes to the skill guys).
Purdue didn’t do much on the ground, where they averaged a little under 3 ypc. Most of their offense was generated by screens and quick passes. If lingering concern still exists about Michigan’s defensive front, it shouldn’t matter much against Purdue. Most of the action will go outside.
Defensively the Boilermakers got papercutted to death. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato (45/68, 439 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT) … well you can just read his stats to see how that went. Unfortunately Michigan has eschewed the dink-and-dunk offense for a Big Boy NFL vertical passing game, so it’s unlikely that Denard will have as much production through the air compared with Cato. But for the amount of hype Purdue CB Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen have generated over the offseason, that kind of a ho-hum day (although they each did record a pick-six) seems reasonable to believe that there is room to get guys open against them. Again, different offenses, different game plan, but there is room for optimism.
This team is as frightening as: Notre Dame lite. Fear level = 5.
Michigan should worry about: This is the team Michigan will likely need to beat twice in order to reach the Rose Bowl.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: If Michigan can beat them on the road, they can beat them on a neutral site, eh?
When they play Michigan: The same sorts of matchups and opportunities exist against Purdue that existed against Notre Dame: a stout defensive front with key weaknesses behind them and a mediocre offense led by solid but uninspiring quarterback play. Michigan should succeed with a more conservative game plan on offense that emphasizes the ground game (just don’t run at Kawann Short) and easy reads for Denard. Michigan’s defense should take care of the rest.
Recap: Another Michigan fan on twitter suggested that watching this game was like watching two douchebags trying to get with your sister at Rick’s. If that’s the case, congratulations to Notre Dame for the equivalent of having more than three dollars to pay for her drinks.
Anyway, Football. Right. The Irish beat Michigan State by a healthy margin. After scoring twice in the first half to get to a 14-3 lead, Sparty never came close to breaking the chokehold despite holding the Notre Dame offense to a pair of field goals in the second half. The Irish front seven was just as impressive as Michigan State’s. Their defensive line ran through Sparty’s offensive line on nearly every play, which made life miserable for MSU QB Andrew Maxwell (23/45, 187 yards) in passing situations. They limited RB Le’Veon Bell’s (19 carries, 77 yards) effectiveness such that Michigan State had to abandon using him in the second half. More importantly, the pass rush allowed the inexperienced secondary to make a few plays on Sparty’s equally inexperienced receivers.
The linebackers impressed as well, and Manti Te’o (12 tackles, 2 PBU) was Manti Te’O, despite dealing with the tragedy of losing both his girlfriend and grandmother just days earlier. There are lots of Notre Dame players who are very easy to root against. Te'o is not one of them.
Offensively Notre Dame was underwhelming but relatively error-free. The game plan was to rely on the defense to win the game, so offensive playcalling focused on the ground game save for a couple spectacular big plays that ultimately resulted in points. The conservative approach resulted in some ugly stats like 1 of 14 on third down conversions, but it won the game, so I won’t criticize. I’d be surprised if the Irish deviate from that plan against Michigan since offensive errors cost them the last two games in the series.
This team is as frightening as: Windows 7. The previous version was buggy and unintuitive and too complicated with all the bells and whistles -- it sucked. This one looks like it could actually be viable for the long term, but by this point pretty much everyone owns a Mac. Bill Gates was so last century. Regardless, fear level = 8.
Michigan should worry about: An Alabama redux. If Michigan doesn’t hit a bunch of passes early, there will be no room for either Denard or Fitz to run.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: With S Jamoris Slaughter out, Notre Dame’s secondary looks an awful lot like NEVER FORGET. Michigan might actually be able to hit a bunch of passes early.
When they play Michigan: If this were any other game, I wouldn’t bother getting my hopes up for a Michigan win. But it’s Notre Dame, and weird things happen when Michigan plays Notre Dame.
14 - I’m totally over it!, 41 - Haha over *twitch* what?
I do not remember this happening.
The road ahead:
Air Force (1-0)
Michael Ciaglo, Colarado Springs Gazette
Last game: Idaho State 21, Air Force 49 (W)
Recap: Let’s be honest: I didn’t watch this game. Nobody did. Not even Ace. Poor guy, though. Had to go down to Dallas and sit through the worst three hours of Michigan football since the Gator Bowl, and then had to break down film from a Notre Dame game. You know, my heart really goes out to him. He has a Facebook page. 1,000 likes and I’ll donate him half of my liver; 10,000 and I’ll throw in a kidney, too.
So word on the street is that Air Force bulldozed Idaho State for half a kilometer on the ground. This is completely unsurprising. Triple option teams are designed to put up 300 yards rushing on opponents like Alabama despite having far less talent in the traditional sense. 49-21 is therefore what happens when such a team plays someone that has even less talent than they do -- Idaho State is FCS.
News item: Air Force’s center Michael Husar, Jr. (Dad was a tackle for Michigan from ‘85-‘88) went down with an ACL/MCL tear. He was reputedly their best lineman, so look for their offense to be somewhat less impressive against Michigan. Get well soon, Michael.
This team is as frightening as: A fleet of MiG-15’s; Michigan is a squadron of B-52’s. Michigan will be fine as long as they get to their base before the other guys ever get off the ground. I realize that sounds a little strange, and I’m trying really hard not to say “bomb,” but the analogy works because the MiGs are smaller and have less firepower than the B-52’s, and during the Korean War … you know what screw it. Go read a book. Maybe you’ll learn something. Fear level = 3.
Michigan should worry about: Defense vs. triple option stuff. Close your eyes, cross your arms, and yell “LALALALALALA” if Kenny Demens never takes a step toward the line of scrimmage and as a result gets plowed by their backup center every other play.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: All their linemen are undersized because they’re the Air Force and the Air Force doesn’t make cockpits for fatties.
When they play Michigan: I will be sober. I promise.
People of the Earth: this is how you recruit for a fantasy league. Actually this is how if you're a college sports site editor you motivate your hypercompetitive (Michigan grads, remember?) staff to become insane experts on the rest of the conference right before football season begins. For that reason, despite quarterbacks chosen out of position and so so much snark, right now we feel as competent as anyone at putting out one of those All-Such-and-Such list things.
The draft is still going on and some of the picks we've made have yet to be revealed, however we have tagged enough positions at this point to post an official-ish pre-season All Big Ten team. There's a few specialists I'll include but won't reveal who drafted them. I'll also follow up either next week or later on this week with a "what we learned about the Big Ten" post that breaks down all the picks by team. This one's about the best by position.
Site note: We're bringing back jumps again so we can fit more content on the front page for you during the season. You see the "Read more" thing below this? CLICK THATto get to the good stuff.
Purdue Errata. Several MGoUsers, including one (TMill) whom I suspect is Travis Miller of Hammerandrails.com, pointed out last week that Ralph Bolden tore his ACL for the third time during the Indiana game. He's probably not going to be playing much football for the Boilermakers this season.
That pink thing in the middle = why the Boilermakers can't have nice things.
Also, Sean Robinson moved to linebacker, which brings Purdue's QB count down to a whimpy nine.
Standin' arrow straight.
Not that talented. HailtotheOrange.com recently wrote a post to dispel the myth that Ron Zook was a great recruiter who was otherwise a horrible coach. They go through the recruiting rankings during Zook's tenure and find that it started off strong before tapering off after 2008.
I don't know what he was pitching to kids when his team was in the gutter the first few seasons, but the 2006 class ranked 30th in the nation and 4th in the Big Ten.
2006, 2007, and 2008 were similar, and those were the years that gave them four-/five-star players like Martez Wilson, Arrelious Benn, Corey Liuget, and Graham Pocic (older brother of super 2013 LSU LT commit Ethan), not to mention some under-the-radar types like Whitney Mercilus and Mikel Leshoure.
2009 gave the them a bunch of guys who ended up transferring. Illinois spent 2010 at a three-star resort, which caused them to them dip below Tim Beckman's Toledo in recruiting class rankings (70th and 68th, respectively).
Conclusion? Whatever positive effects of the Beckman hire on the coaching and decision-making side of things may be mitigated by an impending "empty cupboard" syndrome.
But still pretty talented for now. ALionEye.com lays out the NFL draft stock of last year's defensive starters. Five returning players have strong draft potential.
Completely unrelated. ALionEye's list of top-five QB recruits in recent memory from Illinois includes one Jeff Hecklinski (emphasis theirs -- Aaron Bailey is their most recent QB commit):
In the last 30 years, I think the order of “top-5 Illini QB recruits” goes like this:
1. Jeff George
2. Juice Williams
3. Aaron Bailey
4. Nathan Scheelhaase
5. Jeff Hecklinski
Yes, our Jeff Hecklinski!
He ended up choosing Western Illinois State over the Illini, and there he became the second QB in school history to throw for more than 5,000 yards.
The actual preview part
Illinois's 2011 campaign began with so much promise. At one point the Illini were bowl eligible and 6-0 along with conference champ Wisconsin and Sugar Bowl champ Michigan. Ron Zook, who job had been under intense scrutiny for some time, was saved.
But then Illinois's offense stopped scoring, and the team stopped winning. They remained bowl eligible but fell to 6-6 and ended the regular season in disgrace after getting curbstomped 27-7 by a 3-9 Minnesota team. Zook fired; Beckman hired.
Beckman wasn't received by a whole lot of enthusiasm. Other names mentioned during the coaching search included Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones; Beckman was not the sexiest of the bunch.
HailtotheOrange called him the "MAC coach du jour," which he was. Personally I don't think there's anything wrong with hiring former MAC coaches.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW sonofabitch headset's not working again.
Beckman's 2011 Toledo team was one bad read away from upsetting Ohio State in the Horseshoe and ended the season tied at the top of the MAC-West standings.
Much like how the feelings of uncertainty following Brady Hoke's hire at Michigan subsided to cautious optimism, at least the blogosophere seems to have gradually warmed up to Beckman. He's off to a good start in recruiting, garnerning 10 recruits thus far including the aforementioned third-best Illinois QB recruit over the last 30 years. While recruiting success doesn't always translate to on-the-field success (see Zook, Ron (and yes, I will continue to stick to the idea that Ron Zook recruited well)), his track record indicates that he can coach.
Also, having 13 returning starters in 2012 including RS junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase certainly won't hurt his chances. Their B1G schedule sort of sucks, though.
Sept 1, Western Michigan
Sept 8, @ Arizona State
Sept 15, Charleston Southern (this is a school?)
Sept 22, Louisiana Tech
Sept 29, Penn State
Oct 6, @ Wisconsin
Oct 13, @ Michigan
Oct 20, BYE
Oct 27, Indiana
Nov 3, @ Ohio State
Nov 10, Minnesota
Nov 17, Purdue
Nov 24, @ Northwestern
With seven home games, it's not the worst schedule ever, but visiting Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State on the road within a month can't be that fun.
Illinois looks to have one loss from the non-conference schedule and about three from its B1G road games. It has a shot at beating either Penn State or Purdue at home but probably not both. Minnesota is an enigma. Indiana will be a great midseason morale boost.
Illinois's schedule is as favorable as: A sunny day to a ginger.
X's and O's / Jimmies and Joes
Illinois ran a manbearspread during the Zook era with a mobile quarterback handing off to thumping tailbacks. Passing wasn't a huge emphasis, but when they had the talent, the Illini liked to go vertical.
Beckman probably won't change things up much on offense. He ran the spread at Toledo because that's what all the Davids do. I don't think he'll shy away from some of the manball things that he'll be able to do now that he's coaching somewhat of a Goliath.
At quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase (63.2 pct, 2110 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT) returns for his third year as starting QB. He's fairly mobile (624 yards, 3.3 ypc sacks included) and has an accurate arm. Not that I know a whole lot about quarterbacking, but my criticism of him has always been his inability to use his dual-threat abilities to his advantage. In all the games I watched of him last year, he was either obviously passing or obviously running. Unlike Denard or Braxton Miller, he wasn't very good at threatening one while doing the other.
Reilly O'Toole (59.7 pct, 270 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT) will be Scheelhaase's backup. While his numbers aren't impressive since he had only spot duty for most of the season, O'Toole proved himself a worthy second string at the end of the season when Scheelhaase struggled.
The Illini lose starters Jason Ford and Troy Pollard at running back, but I don't think Illinois fans were particularly happy with either of the two last season. In their stead Donovonn Young (451 yards, 5.2 ypc) will carry the mantle. At 6-1, 215 lbs, he fits the mold of his more productive predecessors.
Like at nearly every other B1G school, things get hazy at receiver. ALionEye is really high on sophomore Darius Millines (218 yards, 11.5 ypc, 1 TD) who sat out most of last season due to injury. Beyond him there's just a bunch of guys you'd give smack on the "possession" label if you were being polite. None of them really impressed during the spring game.
Offensive line is the real question for the Illini, though. A dysfunctional offensive line in 2011 was primarily to blame for their six-game losing streak, and they're not getting much help in 2012 with a couple departures and the returners unsure about their ideal position.
So there you have it. Terrifying offense? Hardly. By not being coached by Zook, however, they have the potential to be average.
This offense is as frightening as: A small rock. Fear level = 3. (1 = Threetsheridammit; 10 = Oregon/USC/Wisconsin Frankenoffense)
Chargin' from the gate.
Illinois has one thing going for it. It's called Chicago.
I'm being facetious again.
Also, defense. Against teams not made out of tiny track stars coated in butter, Illinois's defense has been pretty terrifying for the past couple years after a rennaissance under defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. It has been one of the best in the country in statistical categories like sacks and TFLs thanks to a ferocious defensive line that had first-round NFL draft picks with sweet names like Corey Liuget and Whitney Mercilus.
Unfortunately for the Illini Koenning is gone. Beckman offered him to stay, but he declined and instead left to become co-defensive coordinator at UNC, a position vacated oddly enough by new Ohio State DC Everitt Withers.
But that's neither here nor there. In comes new DC Tim Banks. While Banks doesn't have the greatest pedigree (2010-2011 Cincinnati was his most prominent stop), I am going to judge him only by whether he takes Koenning's system and ... leaves it the hell alone.
Also by whether this defense is any good in two years after all the current stars leave.
Michael Buchanan, on left
Defensive line will be anchored by DE Michael Buchanan (62 tackles, 8 sacks), who impressed during the spring game, and DT Akeem Spence (69 tackles, 2 sacks). It will be very good, and both are likely to be drafted at some point in the near future.
As an aside, ALionEye wants defensive line to be Illinois's thing:
I’ve always wanted us to have a thing. Wisconsin has a thing. Penn State has a thing. We need a thing.
But you already have a thing.
What is Michigan's thing, by the way? Oh right. The Team.
At linebacker Jonathan Brown (108 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 INT) will quarterback the defense from his station in the middle. Last year he and his fellow backers were a superaggressive unit, which probably explains why a middle linebacker has 8 sacks and 1 (knee to the nut-) sack. This made them prone to misdirection.
Maybe not so much on that second play, but nearly every other big Fitz gainer happened because of linebacker confusion or overpursuit.
Unless the Illini linebackers are getting coached differently this season, Borges would do well to use the same game plan with lots of spread and read option concepts.
Finally, the secondary returns both cornerbacks -- Terry Hawthorneand Justin Green -- despite losing all-purpose secondary player Tavon Wilson to the NFL. These guys were fourth in the nation pass defense last year, so even a modest dropoff in production would still make them very good.
This defense is as frightening as: A large rock. Fear level = 8. (1 = GERG 2010; 10 = Greg Mattison 2010)
Carryin' the weight.
K Derek Dimke (8/9) graduated. He missed once all season (42 yarder @ Penn State to tie the game), but it was the 42 yarder at Penn State to tie the game.
Otherwise Illinois was really bad on special teams last year. They had no return game, and they punted exclusively at inopportune times.