Opponent Watch: Week 9

Opponent Watch: Week 9

Submitted by Heiko on November 1st, 2012 at 6:46 PM

About Last Saturday:

Funny bone 9, Serious bone 23.

Upchurch

Denard suffered an ulnar nerve compression. [UPDATE: Mgoreader drbogue suggests that it is more likely classified as a traumatic neuropraxia of the ulnar nerve, and I think that's accurate. The following explanations still apply because tomato tomato. 90% of you just tuned out anyway.]

Whence the ulnar nerve? Brace yourself for the fancy artwork below. Please direct your attention to the stringy yellow thing.

As you can see, the ulnar nerve innervates the interosseous muscles that are primarily responsible for grip. It also innervates the skin covering the pinky and half of the ring finger. When the ulnar nerve gets injured, the symptoms therefore manifest as loss of strength and coordination while gripping and a tingly burning sensation in the pinky and ring finger.

How long does such an injury typically take to heal? The internet suggests anything from "immediately" to "weeks" depending on severity, i.e. I don't really know. UPDATE: I just found a journal article that says that if there is "compression of a sufficient magnitude to sever axons," recovery will require several weeks during which even normal physical stress on the nerve should be avoided. Yikes. Let's hope it's not that.

Why is it sometimes called a funny bone injury? Usually the ulnar nerve is compressed at the elbow. It gets banged into the humerus. Now if you look closely at the humerus ...

You can see that it is indeed a funny bone.

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Opponent Watch: Week 8

Opponent Watch: Week 8

Submitted by Heiko on October 25th, 2012 at 7:17 PM

About Last Weekend:

Michigan State 10, Michigan 12

Apologies -- Spartyfreude is a little blurry. In any case, what are these people looking at? Oh I know. Anything but the scoreboard.

"You're good looking, and I'm good looking. We should be good looking together."

What TheOnlyColors and MaizeNBrew should do if they haven't done so already.

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The Road Ahead:

Nebraska (5-2 overall, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28 (W)

Recap: When a team plays Northwestern, no deficit is too great to overcome. This is a fundamental law of football. With his team down 12 points in the fourth quarter, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (27/39, 342 yards, 3 TD) led the Huskers offense on two 80-yard touchdown drives to eke out a win. The Wildcats had an opportunity near the end to regain the lead but, as they are wont to do, they missed a long field goal.

For Michigan, this wasn’t the ideal outcome. While Northwestern had a nice streak going and remains one of the B1G’s two bowl-eligible teams, it would have been preferable to contend at home with a hypothetical one-conference-loss Northwestern team for the division rather than go to Lincoln to play a critical tie-breaker (sort of) game against a one-conference-loss Nebraska. If Michigan loses this weekend it no longer controls its own destiny. But you knew that.

So let’s focus on why the Huskers were down 12 to the Wildcats in the first place. For one, they didn’t have much rhythm on offense until Martinez went pass-happy against Northwestern’s defense, which plays a 4-3-Gibson scheme. The run game never broke anything big with the longest run being 15 yards. Martinez and RB Ameer Abdullah both got nearly 20 carries a piece and averaged 4.5 ypc, though the Wildcats have a decent run defense, so that’s not a total surprise.

Defensively they did a good job against most aspects of Northwestern’s attack – they kept Trevor Siemian (15/35, 116 yards, 2 TD) to 3.3 ypa and almost limited the Wildcats otherwise effective run game to less than three yards per carry … had it not been for one spectacular bust that allowed an 80-yard TD run by Venric Mark (16 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD) from a triple-option handoff up the middle. That the Blackshirts linebackers busted an assignment is an understatement.

As a final note, Nebraska turned the ball over three times over the course of the game. They fumbled twice (the one at the end was maybe meaningless) on offense and had one epic puntmuffin, which led immediately to a Northwestern touchdown.

Huskers fans prefer to downplay these mistakes, particularly the ones on special teams, when projecting how their team will do against upcoming opponents. Against Michigan, though, they won't be able to afford to play sloppy no matter how many yards they end up racking up on offense.

This team is as frightening as: The Detroit Tigers. Brilliant when in a groove but somewhat subject to horrifying derailment. Fear level = 6 +/-2.

Michigan should worry about: Limiting mistakes on the road at night. I think Brady Hoke and Al Borges have that down at the infuriating expense of offensive play calls that adjust intelligently to defensive scheme. This means that Michigan is just going to have to wait for the opponent to make mistakes on defense. I’m actually kind of okay with that in this case, because …

Michigan can sleep soundly about: I do not believe in Nebraska’s defense. Their most impressive performance to date has been against nobody. Serious. They’ve failed to hold any of their BCS opponents under 27 points. Maybe they did well against Wisconsin by holding Montee Ball to 90 yards rushing on 32 carries, but that was when the Badgers were going through an offensive crisis that resulted in the defenestration of their offensive line coach.

Maybe the Huskers have an okay secondary and a couple playmakers in the front seven, but that does not an Al Borges Denard Fusion Cuisine-busting defense make.

When they play Michigan: Michigan will try to win on the ground; Nebraska will try to win through the air. The Huskers have at least four viable receiving options in their receivers and tight ends, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the secondary to stick to their assignments, particularly if Raymon Taylor isn’t 100%. Plus, Michigan is overdue for giving up a big WTF play or two on defense. On the bright side, if the Huskers can’t do it, no one left on the schedule save Ohio State will be able to.

Next game: vs. No. 22 Michigan.

Opponent Watch: Week 7

Opponent Watch: Week 7

Submitted by Heiko on October 18th, 2012 at 6:09 PM

About Last Weekend:

Illinois 0, Michigan 45

Poetry.

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Michigan State (4-3 overall, 1-2 B1G)

Last game: Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 2OT (L)

Recap: That this game went into double overtime should have been an NCAA violation. If not the NCAA, then at least the FCC, because gratuitous ugliness is just as indecent as sex and four-letter words.

Ace has the breakdown in his weekly FFFF. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a visual summary:

Sometimes humor is controversial. Thankfully, dinosaurs are not.

The highlight of the game was the botched call at the end of the first half where half the team is running off the field, then running back on, then the offensive line shuffles (because that’s helpful), and then a guy who isn’t even the quarterback attempts to spike the ball as time expires. 

The best part of the sequence is that Iowa’s defense is all like, LOL, and celebrates like they’re not down 10-3 with 20 yards of total offense or anything.

Your Quarterback Throws Like Denard*: Andrew Maxwell -- 12/31, 179 yards, 5.8 ypa, 1 INT.

BONUS Your Quarterback Throws Worse Than The Quarterback Who Throws Like Denard: James Vandenberg -- 19/36, 134 yards, 3.7 ypa, 1 INT.

This team is as frightening as: A large rock.

Fear level = 5.

Michigan should worry about: Right now, with Michigan State’s playcalling as imaginative as a law school textbook and with how well Michigan is playing on defense, it’s hard to see the Spartans moving the ball much at all. Although Le’Veon Bell will probably convert a couple short third downs here and there and Maxwell will maybe complete a bomb or two to Keith Mumphery or Aaron Burbridge, the maddening 80-yard, 13-play drives probably won’t happen.

BUT.

The Wolverines defense has been so good despite not having super duper talent is partially due to their preparation. Like any smart coordinator, Greg Mattison coaches to tendencies. The problem with rivalry games is teams often break tendency (see 2011 Ohio State), especially if what they’ve been doing previously hasn’t been working (see 2011 Ohio State).

I wouldn’t be shocked if Michigan State comes out pretending to be Northwestern. If they're smart about it, they should.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Northwestern scored 21 points against Minnesota by pretending to be Michigan State.

When they play Michigan: If I were Michigan State, this is what I would do (on offense, because defensively they’ll be just fine):

  1. Stop sucking.
  2. Use a lot of four-wide, one-back sets and throw screens and quick passes. Pass on first down when Michigan is keying on the run. If anything, this mitigates Michigan State’s offensive line problems. “But Michigan defended the dink and dunk offense so well against Purdue!” That’s because Purdue never had a run game to threaten the middle of the defense. The Spartans, on the other hand, have …
  3. Le’Veon Bell. Get him going with counters and halfback draws. Illinois early success running against Michigan appeared to result from their offensive line screwing with the Wolverines’ keys. One of their biggest gainers on the ground was a halfback draw when the offensive line showed pass and fooled the linebackers into dropping into coverage. 
  4. Throw deep to Burbridge when he’s one-on-one with Raymon Taylor. I fear this will be a frustrating matchup for Michigan.
  5. Quarterback draw with Andrew Maxwell. It would be the most epic trolling of all time.

Next game: @ No. 24 Big Brother

*There was an MSU College Gameday sign a couple weeks ago that read: “Braxton Throws Like Denard.” This was supposed to be some sort of insult.

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Opponent Watch: Week 6

Opponent Watch: Week 6

Submitted by Heiko on October 11th, 2012 at 4:06 PM

About Last Saturday:

Michigan 44, Purdue 13

Mike DiNovo / US PRESSWIRE

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The Road Ahead:

Illinois (2-4 overall, 0-2 B1G)

Last game: Illinois 14, Wisconsin 31 (L)

Recap: Illinois scored first at Camp Randall on a Nathan Scheelhaase keeper, which was so exciting that they forgot to do anything on offense again until the fourth quarter, when they were trailing 24-7.

Two years ago -- maybe even last year -- this game would have been much more impressive to behold. Tough defensive battle. Field position chess. Making Plays. Manball. But given the way both teams have been riding the strugglebus since September, I don’t think either team left the field being overly excited about anything. 

Wisconsin got back on track in the running game with RBs Montee Ball (19 carries, 116 yards, 6.1 ypc) and James White (6 carries, 42 yards, 7.0 ypc) against a decent Illini rush defense (ranked somewhere between 30th and 40th), but they got most of their yards late in the game when the game was pretty much out of hand. They did nothing before the end of the third quarter.

Badgers QB Joel Stave (16/24, 254 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) proved himself an apt replacement for Danny O’Brien, but the offense did an awful job on third down, converting only two of 10 attempts. Stave threw one bomb in the fourth quarter to WR Jared Abbrederis (7 rec, 117 yards, 1 TD), but was otherwise unremarkable. His other long TD was a screen to White.

So … what about Illinois? Illinois has a running quarterback and a couple scary-ish guys on defense. The rest of the team wears jerseys with nameplates that alternatingly read “Despair” and “Self-pity.”

Personnel note: CB Terry Hawthorne was involved in a nasty collision during the game (he got flagged for the dangerous hit), lost consciousness for several long moments, and had to get carted away in an ambulance. He’s deemed “questionable” for Saturday and needs to clear a bunch of concussion tests and cardio workouts, and then endure practice. Yeah. I don’t think he’s playing.

This team is as frightening as: Once upon a time Illinois was a rock: full of inertia, heavily influenced by gravity, a hazardous roadblock. Then someone stuck a stick of dynamite beneath it and blew it into a pile of rubble. Now all anyone needs to do is roll over it slowly and watch for jagged edges, of which there are few. Fear level = 2.5.

Michigan should worry about: Every once in a while a flailing team coordinates all its movements to put together an improbably coherent and effective performance against a confidently unsuspecting opponent. You can’t have followed Michigan football over the last several years and not experience this feeling on a weekly basis.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: The fact that they were better under Ron Zook, which is kind of like saying chocolate was better with orange juice because now all you have is tobacco juice.

When they play Michigan: Home game Big House wooooooo.

Next game: No. 25 Michigan

Opponent Watch: Week 5

Opponent Watch: Week 5

Submitted by Heiko on October 4th, 2012 at 6:25 PM

The Road Ahead:

Purdue (3-1)

Last game: Marshall 41, Purdue 51 (W)

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.

Next game: vs. Snake Oil Emporium.

Opponent Watch: Week 4

Opponent Watch: Week 4

Submitted by Heiko on September 27th, 2012 at 11:38 AM

About Last Saturday:

Happiness - 6, Unhappiness - 13. 

Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

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The Road Ahead:

Purdue (2-1)

Last game: Bye.

Recap: This was the B1G’s best performance last weekend in which cruelty to animals was not involved.

Next game: vs. Marshall

Opponent Watch: Week 3

Opponent Watch: Week 3

Submitted by Heiko on September 20th, 2012 at 5:17 PM

About Last Saturday:

Baby Seal 13, Club 63

The internet is a strange place.

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The Road Ahead:

No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0)

Last game: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3 (W)

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.

Next game: vs. No. 18 Michigan

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Opponent Watch: Week 2

Opponent Watch: Week 2

Submitted by Heiko on September 13th, 2012 at 7:37 PM

About Last Saturday:

Air Force 25, Michigan 31

Your wings got helmets.

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The Road Ahead:

UMass (0-2)

Last game: Indiana 45, UMass 6 (L)

Recap: A baby seal walks into a club and says, "Ow."

This team is as frightening as: A couple reps with a five-pound dumbbell in the middle of a workout that has so far consisted of bench-pressing an elephant and 60 minutes of CrossFit. Fear level = 1.

Michigan should worry about: Hey guys, I really don’t think we need to worry about this one.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Like for real.

Mike Cox: Is three inches bigger.

When they play Michigan: Key matchup will be me (-7) vs. press box food. “Ermahgerd” over/under is set at 10.5.

Next game: No. 17 Michigan

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Opponent Watch: Week 1

Opponent Watch: Week 1

Submitted by Heiko on September 6th, 2012 at 5:41 PM

(Fear scale: 1 = UMass. 10 = Alabama)

About Last Saturday:

14 - I’m totally over it!, 41 - Haha over *twitch* what?

I do not remember this happening.

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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.

Next game: In the Big House.

Big Ten Draft O' Snark: All Big Ten Team

Big Ten Draft O' Snark: All Big Ten Team

Submitted by Seth on August 22nd, 2012 at 9:14 AM

image

Several weeks ago Brian sent me an e-mail to say we're going to have a fantasy draft of Big Ten players called "The Draft Where Whoever Picks Denard Wins," and that I was on the clock. (Parts II, III, and IV)

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 THAT to get to the good stuff.