@AceAnbender can we have a special "A Look Back" GIF History section this week of different times Pat Fitzgerald has gotten ostentatiously and annoyingly pumped up in Michigan games he then lost in extremely sad-trombone fashion
As we've covered this week, Pat Fitzgerald has everything going for him to be difficult to dislike—local kid returns to alma mater in time of turmoil, runs a program that's historically bad, is funny and charming in press conferences when he's not saying batshit stuff about RPOs and communism, etc.—and yet, when you see him on the opposing sideline, it becomes pretty easy to find the guy obnoxious.
The feeling can be acute when Northwestern is unexpectedly winning and Fitzgerald goes full-blown cheerleader. Which is fine. It's fine. I'm not mad. This didn't bother me at all after one of the more miserable opening quarters in recent memory.
Definitely not mad, he said, while squeezing the remote until the battery case snaps.
Anyway, we never have to stay mad at Fitz for long, because his teams always find a way to gack it away to Michigan, usually in exceedingly comical/painful fashion.
[After THE JUMP, one man's emotional rollercoaster.]
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Games you remember watching in mortifying fear?
Ace: Before anyone protests, I suggested this because I have Cosmic Comeuppance For The Murderwolf Post, The Ulcer.
Seth: I wouldn't have suggested it because this game didn't for me. Even down 17-0 I figured Michigan would score the next 24 points.
Brian: I can no longer just assume those things. I also feel that ulcer games have to be wins? Is that crazy
Seth: There were a few minutes there when I wouldn't let Demorest's kid talk to me. That was it. The Michigan fans in that stadium were LOUD.
Ace: Yeah, I’ll be honest, I was pretty calm for this one.
Brian: Like the JT Was Short game wasn't an ulcer it was a crippling state of listlessness for months.
Ace: And yeah, ulcer games should be wins. The Horror is a disaster, Akron is an ulcer. Speaking of which, that game.
Seth: The Akron game was on Rosh Hashanah, and the second my brother and I left the stadium everything went alright. Sorry about doing that to everyone but we fixed it.
Brian: Well then how about most Northwestern games
Ace: Man this is gonna be a Lloyd-y list.
The Mathlete: The Halloween Minnesota game
Brian: You're supposed to win, Pat Fitzgerald's head keeps getting bigger, you're not even sure you want credit for the W afterwards. Mathlete, that is a superior choice. The Minnesota game featured Mitch Leidner getting extraordinarily lucky about five times and came down to a goal line stand after Minnesota frittered away two downs from the one.
David: Minnesota 2004 is another one for me. I kept thinking "We can't lose to Minnesota." But then we did...the next year.
Seth: UConn was an ulcer.
Ace: Thank you Desmond Morgan for keeping the damage limited to that. I’m not sure some of these Hoke-era wins count because they didn’t feel very inevitable, though. Like, at all.
Brian: I feel like there are two different categories here. One are games where you are dominating statistically but the scoreboard disagrees, and then there are games where the team is playing like inexplicable ass.
A man in my position cannot afford to be made to look ridikuhlis.
Ace: Brian and I did a segment on this week's podcast in which we each listed our top five most ridiculous games of the Hoke era. Not only were our bottom three picks entirely different, but between Twitter and the comments at least a dozen games that didn't make the cut were suggested as meriting inclusion, and... it was really hard to argue with a lot of them.
So let's try this again. List and explain your top five, perhaps mention a few dishonorable mentions, and feel free to explain your methodology—I'm intentionally leaving "ridiculous" open to interpretation.
BiSB: I just drew up a quick list of candidates. There are 16 games on that list. I HATE ALL THE THINGS.
Ace: Now remember that the very first game Hoke coached featured two Brandon Herron touchdowns and was called due to a biblical storm before the third quarter ended...
Even the wins, man. Even the wins.
[After the jump: we discuss 60% of the games under Hoke]
The best reason I've been able to come up with for how this Michigan team could put up that kind of yardage against Ohio State is that Ohio State's defensive players are—man, how do I say this without being a total jackass homer rival?—more prone to mental errors than your average Big Ten starters.
I hereby dedicate this post In memory of the too-short MGoCareer of Heiko "Bubble Screen" Yang. Who needs doctor money anyway?
Another way to say it: the best and most representative player on that unit is Ryan Shazier, who is basically Jonas Mouton with five years of good coaching. Another way to say it: they're exactly as dumb as they are talented, and that's why a group of 5-stars are just an average defense. I am a total jackass homer rival.
The second-best reason, and the best you can say without coming off like a TJHR, is that which Borges himself apparently gave in the pre-game interview with Musberger: "We emptied the drawer." In other words, they finally ran all of those counters to the things they'd been doing all year.
There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to wonder why it took this long to throw paper, especially when that gamble came up just short (and the last play was a rock that OSU allegedly* RPS'ed) of paying off. For the moment, let's look at one of the "third" things they brought out for this game and what that did for the offense.
* Ohio State's players threw out one of those heartbreaking quotes about being uber-prepared for what was coming, but the play also had Gallon about to break open.
It's hard to argue Funchess isn't an "ideal" slot ninja, isn't it? [Upchurch]
The Bubble Package
Yards per attempt; attempts in parentheses:
Michigan does the bubble differently than Rich Rod—he made it an automatic check against the slot defender getting too close to his running game—but both work under the same principle: keep your grubby SAM's hands away from my interior running game!
The Borges Bubble game debuted against Michigan State as a bubble screen(!) that got a remarkable-for-that-day eight yards, followed by a fake bubble (out of the shotgun) to inside zone that got unfortunately blown up by a double-a gap blitz. It really came out in the Northwestern game: ten plays for 5.4 YPP. Of those, three were the bubble screen, four were a fake to an inside zone, and three to an iso. Once it was on film, Iowa adapted but Michigan ran the same (basically) two things they had against the Wildcats. The result was 2.4 YPP on seven tries: 2 bubbles and 5 inside zones.
They run it out of different formations, usually with two tight ends opposite the bubble twins (20/27 plays I have charted were from the Ace twins twin TE or I-form twins). They do run other stuff from these formations but twins (two receivers to one side) with Gallon on the line and Funchess in the slot is a good sign the bubble game is in play.
It's a good fit for this team since it: A) de-emphasizes interior blocking by holding the SAM outside and letting his OL play 5-on-5; B) Utilizes the surprising multi-threats of Gallon (as a blocker) and Funchess (as a slot receiver), and C) Lets them get Derrick Green running downhill.
I don't have Iowa video but I can show you how they adapted. The first time Michigan ran it they threatened blitz with the SAM:
Then had that guy back out and attack Funchess. The idea was to lure Michigan into a screen if this was a check, and then blow it all to hell. Like I said, it's on tape. Fortunately Michigan doesn't run checks; they called run:
Iowa got to play their base defense against that basic zone run, and the result was 5-ish yards. That is rock on rock: it's blockers versus the blocked until safeties arrive, however the SAM was kept away from the running game by the threat of Funchess. The thing is, up to then Michigan only had a rock and a scissors, so Iowa could spend all day in this defense, ceding 3-5 yards when Michigan ran it, and blowing up the bubble constraint.
Here's what this looked like when OSU defended it:
Same playcall as Iowa except since they knew it wasn't a check they didn't bother with fake SAM ("Star" in Buckeye terminology) blitz—just lined him up against Funchess. A screen is dead.
But watch Joey Bosa (#97 on the bottom of OSU's line) get way too upfield and try to knock down the screen pass that isn't coming, thus taking himself completely out of the play. He's matched against Lewan instead of Butt, though, so Michigan was probably going to get something out of that block anyway; you still don't want to make it so easy.
The middle linebacker (#14 Curtis Grant) compounded matters by Obi Ezeh-ing his way to the hole, which gave Kerridge enough time to arrive and pop in an advantageous position. Finally, the safety (#3 Corey "City in Pennsylvania" Brown) took a long time to read the play, backing out a few steps before setting up at the 1st down line. He might have been run through if the other safety (#4 C.J. Barnett) hadn't made his way over, got depth with a neat little athletic step, and helped stop it.
So rock on rock nets a big hole and big yards, because Ohio State's defenders are something-something box of rocks. But they're not the only talent-deficient guys on the field. Michigan's OL screwed up rock on the third bubble package play of the game:
That's inside zone. With the Star taken out by the bubble fake, everyone is blocked except the safety coming down (#3 Corey "a Jewish suburb west of Pittsburgh" Brown). And he was set up outside so if Mags and Glasgow can hold their downfield blocks this could bust huge. However Glasgow and Kalis didn't do a very good job on their exchange—or else the DT (#63 Michael Bennett) just did a great job fighting through it—and the Buckeye DT ends the play with a mouthful. Bennett was bent back when Glasgow released so my inclination here is to point at Kalis and call it ten-man football.
In the Iowa play I wish I had video of, that DE threw off Butt, and the middle linebacker, despite drawing Lewan, managed to attack quick enough to cut off escape until everyone else arrived, which didn't take long since Iowa's safeties were playing with their ears back. However Green's momentum vs the size of those guys got an extra two yards. Here his 240 lbs. are irrelevant against a wall like Bennett.
[After the jump: other things you can make your fist into]
This 'Merritt's Mention: How much punning has David Merritt had to put up with? Not enough that he balked at calling his fashion-brand-for-a-cause "Merit." The store donates a fifth of its revenues to college scholarships and educational enrichment programs, and he just opened one in Ann Arbor.
We Start Up Front. In 2009 Michigan started off pretty strong, including an encouraging win over Notre Dame. Maybe the shaky backfield got a little beat up for want of a safety or two but hey: Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Then it got worse. Then it got worser. Then it got awful. And then there were lots of diaries (myself among them) blaming attrition and poor recruiting on the old coaches and all sorts of things that could explain it other than "this is what will get our coaches fired."
So…offensive line diaries.
A Single Unified Theory of Offensive Lineptidute? Provided by Yeoman and bumped early last week, "Short Ride in a Broken-Down Machine" is the definitive study relating Michigan's offensive issues to young starters on the interior OL. As to the small correlation he had a great answer:
At least we're reasonably sure that these problems are temporary. Even if things might get worse next year before they get better, having a pile of Bradens to choose from in 2015-'17 should mean a very good offensive line, unless the coaching is really that terrible.
Given those enormous differences in baseline levels of the various FBS teams it's amazing to me that we could see anything like 5-8% of a performance difference being credited to any one team demographic, especially when the difference is measured using an SOS-adjusted metric like Fremeau.
The rubber really hits the pavement when he thought to compare teams to their historical norm, which is a quite elegant stand-in for expectations (including recruiting). Ultimately he found teams that have significant depth and start freshmen are just fine because the freshmen are just that good, but teams in Michigan's situation typically have very large systemic problems. Because fans tend to overstate, there's a reactionary tendency from the more rational among us to think "it's probably not as bad as it looks." Reality check: it's as bad as if we had Idaho's recruiting problems. Yeoman did throw some hope for next year in the comments:
(1) [OTs Do Matter Theory] The Bust Index for the entire line will improve from 75% to 65%, which would improve oFEI by about .06 and move us (all else being equal which of course it isn't) up about ten spots, or
(2) [OTs Don't Matter Theory] The Bust index for the interior will improve from 69% to 46%, which would improve oFEI by about .175 and move us up about about 20 spots.
Hefollowed up with a Kalis-centric study that tracks every (non-juco) 5-star offensive lineman since 2003 and what contributions that player made in Year X. Findings are the good ones mostly started by Year 2, but that there's no cause to worry until they're not starting in Year 3. Actually the biggest thing to worry about is how few actually make good on their promise, not that Kalis hasn't yet. Diarist of the Month, this guy.
Third Down and Guh. The guy in the running with Yeoman is reshp1, who had a great OL diary two weeks ago, and this week decided to get into all those failed 3rd downs. It's UFR-long, so if you promise to read it (okay if you promise to skim through it) I'll share the money table here. Promise. PROMISE! You know what, fine, I'll put it after the jump, so you still have to click on something you lazy straw man of a dear diary reader.
TUBE NOTES: These are not tubes, but it's pretty much tubes.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan defended spread stuff exactly like Northwestern did, leaving in a 4-3 and sliding their linebackers to the slot receiver. Since Northwestern was in a spread all the time, this was what they did all the time.
Cam Gordon over the first slot receiver, Morgan in the gray area over #3, Ross in the box.
When Northwestern went with two WRs to one side instead of three two LBs were in the box.
Michigan only went to 4-3 stuff when Northwestern went into goal line business.
Michigan kept two deep safeties most of the day, which was a change from Nebraska.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Secondary was Countess and Taylor at corner with Stribling the third guy when Michigan went to the nickel, which was a lot less frequent. Gordon and Avery got most of the snaps at safety, with Wilson rotating in on occasion and Furman getting one drive, IIRC. He did not chart.
Linebacker the usual. Morgan/Ross/Bolden rotation at ILB, Ryan and Cam Gordon at SAM.
On the line, Beyer and Wormley rotated at SDE, Ojemudia and Clark at WDE. Black, Washington, and Henry got almost all of the DT snaps, with Black again mostly at NT. Glasgow got a few snaps, and Charlton got DT snaps in the nickel package.
[After THE JUMP: infinite clips of Mike Trumpy running for two yards.]
The Borgias. Has anyone watched this show? Is it any good?
How much of the better running game was getting Derrick some snaps, and how much of it was coming up front?
“I think it was both. We gave them a chance to go. We had several plays we pushed the line of scrimmage really well. That’s been most of our issues, is we’ve just had trouble getting our backs started, but in this game there are very few times we got the ball and got clobbered. We came off of combination blocks. Some really fundamentally good-looking football plays almost through the whole game. Our issue this game was third down conversions. If we could have gotten third down conversions, we would have had a hell of a game. But that’s part of the game. It kept us from scoring more points.”
It’s not your fault. Well, actually it might be partly your fault
Iowa (6-4, 3-3 B1G)
Last Game: BYE
Recap: BYE means they didn’t play football. So there isn’t much to recap. Instead, we can talk about Iowa basketball. The Hawkeyes are #25 in the Coaches Poll, and the first team out of the AP Poll. They haven’t exactly played a brutal schedule (UNC-Wilmington, Nebraska-Omaha, Maryland-Eastern Shore, and Abiline Christian), but they are 4-0. Aaron White is scoring 15.3 ppg on 71% shooting and grabbing 7.8 rpg, and Roy Devyn-Marble is averaging 15 per game with a 4/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Oh crap, it’s still football season, isn’t it?
/deep, resigned sigh
It’s hard to know what to make of Iowa based on a meta-review of their season. They have some solid performances, and a couple of clunkers. They played Ohio State even through three quarters, but struggled to put away Missouri State. They played one solid half against Sparty, and one ugly half against Sparty. They turned in a decent but ultimately doomed performance against Wisconsin (think MInnesota’s game against Michigan; low variance, but opponent’s rock > their rock). They beat Minnesota soundly, but went to overtime with Northwestern in the midst of Pat Fitzgerald’s neverending tumble into pouting insanity. All in all, their record is probably a fair representation of who they are: 6-4, 3-3 in conference. Solid team, hardly a world-beater. They are #39 in FEI, just behind Michigan’s #35.
Everything about this team is generic but pretty okay; Jake Rudock is completing almost exactly 60% of his passes for just under 7 YPA. They average a solid but unspectacular 4.5 YPC. They have scored 125 points in conference play and have surrendered 119 points. They are average. The problem, of course, is that right now Michigan is trying to find average, and no one really knows where they are in that search at any given moment.
The good news is that Iowa doesn’t do any of the stuff that should really scare Michigan’s defense. They tempo a little bit, but they don’t TEMPO tempo, ya know (shut up, Hypothetical Straw Man Iowa Fan… going no-huddle and snapping the ball with 6 seconds on the play clock doesn’t count as “tempo”). They don’t spread the field very much; they’re lining up more spread out these days, but the offense remains largely the same as in the past. They rely on running between the tackles and setting up screens and draws. They ain’t Indiana. The BAD news is that Iowa’s run defense remains good enough that Michigan will probably be staring at 2nd and 9-to-12 all day. This is going to be so much fun to watch. Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.
This team is as frightening as: A giant noodle wearing an alternate jersey.
Fear Level = 7
Michigan should worry about: Those Iowa Tight Ends. We all know the history of the blitheringly open seam routes of recent Iowa games, and I worry about Joe Bolden’s pass drops and his ability to carry Jake Duzey or C.J. FiedorewitzFadorawiczFodoravitz the older guy down the seam.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that we will have to watch THIS unwatchable game for nearly as long as we had to watch LAST week’s unwatchable game.
When they play Michigan: Proper eye protection is a must.
FORMATION NOTES: Northwestern stuck to a 4-3 virtually the entire game, with pretty predictable rules as to how they would line up.
When Michigan aligned its strength to the short side of the field and had twins, NW would slide the LBs and play an even front. They would slide the LBs to the twins and shift their line to the strength of the formation when M aligned with their strength to the field.
When Michigan presented Ace, they would play a 4-3 under.
The primary exception to this was the redzone, where Northwestern played their safeties as extra LBs.
Five yards off the LOS and coming on the snap is why those two Derrick Green carries from around the ten ended up losing yards. The first one was actually blocked quite well.
Note that the way NW aligned consistently invited the bubble fake run game, as their corners played off and the slot LB had to respect the bubble. With a safety over the top those two guys removed three players from the box and left Michigan with seven on seven blocking opportunities without having to use the threat of Gardner's legs. It will still work if teams play Michigan like this; if they don't Michigan will have to find something else.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB, WR, and the OL were all as you would expect. Dileo seemed to return full strength in this one and this meant Jackson was removed. Paskorz got some early PT but it was Williams most of the way as inline blocky guy. The line remained Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield save for some goal line plays on which Kalis game in at RG and weird stuff happened otherwise, like wing TE Taylor Lewan.
Running back was of course an overhaul, with Derrick Green getting the bulk of the work, De'Veon Smith becoming a 30% second, and Justice Hayes acting as a third down back sometimes. Joe Kerridge also got a few snaps as a running back in the shotgun on passes.
[After THE JUMP: wherein we seem relatively happy with nine points in regulation.]
Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black have been splitting snaps situationally. QWash could get more snaps against Iowa because of Iowa's offensive style.
Hoke is disappointed that Taylor Lewan wasn't an Outland Trophy finalist.
Justice Hayes's future is at slot receiver, but he'll do some spot duty as a third-down back.
The Borges transcript will be up tomorrow morning because I am forever delinquent.
“Really good practice yesterday. The energy level, the execution of things was really good on both sides of the ball. I’m real proud of what the kicking game did last week. We need to do the same thing this week, only we want to see if we can get a little more out of the return game. Some of that was predicated by wind and everything else, but we though the kicking game was something that we wanted to improve. The young guys on that team have continued to improve. That’s helped us a lot in a lot of situations, but we’ve had a good week so far.”