You’re excused if you had to rub your eyes and check the scoreboard to see if it really happened. Joe Kerridge is no stranger to big plays, but having them come on offense instead of special teams is novel. That’s not a condemnation of his talent, but rather a reminder that before this season these things just did not happen. Harbaugh called it heartwarming to see a fullback so productive; I call it fun. This offense may not be in the upper echelon yet, but it hasn’t taken that to befuddle opponents weekly. Northwestern stacked the box; the deep safety was eight yards off the line of scrimmage, and Kerridge busted through the line and ran past the edge defender- to the inside, no less!- before that guy even thought about the possibility of a fullback roaring past him.
The annular path of the day necessarily led back to more fun, with the game ending on the “defense” chant Brian already touched on. He talked about the pin-pricks on your scalp and the willful repression of suddenly building tears; you could feel that chant in your bones. It was the first time I’ve felt a true sense of unity with 110,000+ people in I don’t even know how long. Up in the press box we’re supposed to be isolated from that; the goal is to create a working environment, and while the free wi-fi and lack of line for the bathroom is great, the sacrifice is being able to get a good feel for the stadium environment. Not so at that moment. The chant clawed its way up the massive glass panels and poured in through the few open windows, the little rectangular ports of entry for external emotion. It enveloped us quickly and quietly, and in that moment I knew that even if things go south at some point this year we’ll have an emotional anchor to fall back on, our first real “remember when…” moment of the Harbaugh era.
Right now, though, there are no indicators that things are going to head south. Bill Connelly’s statistical profile projects Michigan as the winner of every remaining game. The offense, to borrow a favorite term of Jim Harbaugh’s, is ascending. The defense is ranked first nationally in S&P+. Some of the stats from both last week and cumulatively are, frankly, drool worthy. Statistics, like the press box, are designed to fuel orderly and controlled analysis. At least, that’s how they work in theory. Last Saturday was a different story.
[After THE JUMP: I’m running out of ways to hedge on this defense]
Upon Further Review still has a sponsor. I'm late today so I'm just going to tell you that Matt's a good guy and did my loan and Seth's loan and everything was easy and professional. We are associating our name with his and that is something we are very comfortable with.
FORMATION NOTES: There was… nothing weird? Apparently not. Michigan did run different formations than they had much of the year, with a lot more ace sets and early-down gun. M was split about evenly between I-form of some type, ace, and shotgun.
Here is an offset I for some reason.
This has been your federally mandated pre-jump picture.
Oh, FWIW: this was NW's defense the whole day. 4-3 under for the most part with two rolled-up cover 4 safeties. The linebacker type guy to the bottom of the screen is actually a corner; NW has shifted the LBs to the field and are running an over on this snap.
PERSONNEL NOTES: OL and QB per usual the whole way. Kerridge returned at FB, getting most of the time in front of Houma. RB was a profusion of different guys. Smith early, then Higdon, Green, and a little bit of Isaac and Johnson. Those guys missed time for different reasons.
WR rotation was about as per usual except with more three-wide formations we saw significant amounts of Grant Perry for the first time since the opener. At this point it's clear the rotation this year is Darboh, Chesson, Ways, Harris, Canteen, and Perry. Canteen missed this game for an undisclosed reasons. (If Michigan is going six deep with three freshmen and no seniors, the writing is on the wall for guys not currently playing.)
[After THE JUMP: I drop bows on 'em? Ohhhhhhh probably short for elbows. Now I understand rapism.]
“How ‘bout those Cubs, huh? Is there a real Cub fan in here? I wore No. 14 growin’ up. I mean, Ernie Banks is the greatest player ever! How ‘bout those Cubs! What do you think? What’s up? What can I help you with?”
Talk about Ryan Glasgow as a pass rusher and how he’s stepped up into that role this year.
“Well, I think all the guys up front have tried very hard to use their technique to do what fits them, you know? A lot of people when they talk about pass rush, they see all the fancy type things the NFL uses and all these different type of moves. Well, some people aren’t built for that, and what these guys have embraced is moving the pocket [and] doing what’s best for them and what’s best for the defense.
“And sometimes to be a good pass rusher you have to be selfish, where you don’t really care about rush lanes and things and you kind of just say, ‘Man, I’ve got to get to the quarterback cuz getting to a sack is everything.’ But there aren’t many sacks, so the big thing is you’ve got to stay in your rush lanes and try to get to the quarterback or put stress on the quarterback another way, and I think our kids have all tried to embrace that philosophy.”
These kids developed right along, but are even you surprised at three straight shutouts?
“I don’t look at shutouts. I think what you look at is you try to play the best defense you can and do what you’re supposed to do and everybody be on the same page, and then good things will happen. Sometimes shutouts go hand in hand with special teams, hand in hand with offense and it’s not always just the defense that gets that shutout, it’s the team. There’s been some great things done special teams-wise and offense-wise that’s allowed us to play defense and play what we have to do.
“We just go out every game trying to play as hard as we can with great effort, try to eliminate big plays, and try to make sure that we play with great effort and I think that’s what our kids are trying to do.”
Connor Cook’s been pressured but he’s only been sacked four times. Is he getting rid of the ball quickly? What’s the key to getting to him?
“Yeah, he’s a very good quarterback. He gets rid of the ball quick. He sees who the receiver should be by the coverage very well, and I think that’s a lot of him as a quarterback getting rid of the football.”
[After THE JUMP: Breaking down Glasgow’s sack, talking stunts, and Jake Arrieta: defensive end?]
New logo. That's very exciting. Got a house on it and maybe some larger buildings behind it, may be on the periphery of a nice town like Ann Arbor where you can buy ramen at 11 PM if that becomes necessary, albeit while wearing pants. You could live in one of those if you had a mortgage.
FORMATION NOTES: This is Joe Bolden as the deepest guy and dropping 15-20 yards back before the snap.
"5-0 nickel LB-S"
M ran this a half-dozen times, usually against empty formations. The presumed goal was to get a DB in man coverage instead of a LB. Northwestern could not depend on enough time in the pocket to test Joe Bolden or Ben Gedeon as centerfielders.
Early Michigan ran fronts that were essentially regular even nickel fronts that had the buck off the line in a two point stance:
"Nickel even off"
That adds more flexibility in coverage, I guess? M shelved it after the first couple drives.
And they often showed a front with five guys on the line:
Most of the time this featured the two guys on the end stunting inside the guys further inside.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Standard rotations at DL. I thought I saw a bit less Godin this week but they have six guys, all of whom play a lot. IIRC, Jenkins-Stone got every snap at buck until the last two drives when Michigan mixed in guys like Watson and Pallante. Lawrence Marshall got in then.
Ben Gedeon got a meaningful drive in the first half. Not sure if that's just trying to work him in or actual Bolden displeasure. Morgan did not come off the field. Ross got maybe a dozen snaps before his ejection; Allen Gant replaced him for a snap or two after.
Secondary lacked Stribling and was the usual Clark/Peppers/Lewis/Hill/Wilson combo, adding Thomas in dime packages.
This show continues to be presented by UGP & Moe's, and Brian & co. talk about why we have this relationship in the last segment. Shopping with them helps this blog and supports good guys who are serious about supporting this community.
Extra thanks on this one to the providers of the food, Busch's Fresh Food Market, who will also cater your tailgates by the way. And the providers of the beer, North Peak Brewing Company, Michigan grads who gave us a selection of their seasonal beers. My first one was a Blitzen, a seasonal "Festivus Ale." This was also my second and third, so I have no idea what the Hooligan (hoppy pumpkin ale), or the Furry (black IPA) or the Burly (Belgian style) was like.
We beat the spread.
Testing Peppers on the edge ruled "not good."
Gimmicky Top Five List: Guys You Wish Had Played for Harbaugh
Early 2000s Ann Arbor ska band After School Special is the bumper music.
D.J. Durkin to Dolphins, Colts, Raiders, South Carolina.
I don't say this too often, but props, BTN. This time-lapse shot already looked great; then the director slowed it down for Jehu Chesson's kickoff return touchdown and the ensuing reaction. I could watch this all day.
Then again, Jim Harbaugh and his poor hat lurk after the jump, so...
Sponsor note. I tailgate, but I do not set up tailgates. They are a large undertaking. If you are daunted by such an undertaking, Tailgater Concierge can take care of all that for you. They'll reserve you a space, set up chairs and tables and silverware, and grab whatever food you desire.
Then they clean it all up afterward so you can be inside the stadium before Grapentine asks the band to take the field. They have spots at Pioneer right across from the stadium for maximal efficiency and real bathrooms. If you've got a corporate event they can take a load off your mind, as well.
They're coming. They're wearing gorilla suits and transformer heads.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this defensive run isn’t the results, but the grading at the heart of it. Of 26 players that Michigan has used on defense this year just two of them have a below-average grade, and none is worse than a -1.8, which is still closer to average than disastrous.
16 of those 26 have strong positive grades and of the players that are left, five of them have played fewer than 20 snaps. In fact, the Wolverines have just one player on defense that has played 100 or more snaps and doesn’t have a significantly positive grade.
They include a number of illustrative graphics as well:
They are happy to leave defenders in man coverage and attack with overload blitzes up front, and that too happens with speed, but watching any time Northwestern tried to gain the edge against this team was an incredible display of hustle by the Wolverines.
Take the play above, which was not in any way held up or delayed. A simple option trying to stretch the defense and the running back ends up facing five separate defenders all converging on him behind the line of scrimmage. That should not happen, and does not happen with most defenses. There wasn’t even a catastrophic breakdown in blocking assignments to create it. The Wolverines just read, diagnose and attack the football like a pack of hungry dogs chasing after a wayward ribeye steak.
There is much more; strongly recommend you read the whole thing.
I particularly like Fremeau's special teams numbers in this department because he takes field position into account for field goals and punts and the like—his stats are going to understand that a 32-yard punt that ends at the 3 is a good thing. Also, SOS isn't a huge factor on special teams.
Shall we review this year versus last year?
Much of Michigan's positive value last year came on a blocked punt that Gedeon returned for a TD against Appalachian State. I'm not actually sure what Michigan did to get solidly above zero midway through the season other than blocking a Northwestern field goal. Best guess is that the punting was good and they didn't give up big returns for that section of the season.
Anyway: things are different now.
Goodbye to The Head Ball Coach. Steve Spurrier was and is a living avatar of college football and why it's so awesome. He ran up the score, he bombed people in press conferences after, he talked like a human. He simultaneously had all and no chill. He was college football's Roger Sterling. In the aftermath of his departure people collect his best lines…
7. On a fire at the Auburn library that destroyed 20 books: “The real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.”
…and even those who hated him admit that he was pretty awesome. Spencer on Spurrier is required reading:
Another coach Spurrier liked to tweak later in his career was Nick Saban, someone Spurrier would point out had taken the Alabama and LSU jobs.
"If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they've always won there at Alabama."
You could take favorable jobs as a bad coach and look okay, or take great jobs as a good coach and look orders of magnitude better than you might actually be.
Spurrier, in contrast, took the Duke, Florida and South Carolina jobs, jobs that were garbage scows before he arrived. He won at all three, in biblical fashion — the Old Testament Bible, where locusts ate your crops, lightning blew up your houses, and your village was flattened by a tidal wave before your rescue boat was swallowed by a whale. He drew the ire of illiterate nanny-take pissmerchants like New York columnist Mike Lupica, who accused Spurrier of running up the score, whatever that means.
Hard to imagine the HBC existing in any other sport. I plan on sleeping well past Gameday but if you want to do me and college football a favor, it would be pretty awesome to see a Hatin' Ass Spurrier sign.
0:29 left, 1st and goal from the Wake Forest 2. 108 seconds after the possession began.
Because the play wasn't communicated to the team, BC huddles and as Chris Berman would say "tick..tick.tick". The Eagles break the huddle and with everyone in the building screaming at them to hurry up snap the ball some 11 seconds after the ball was marked ready for play at the 18 second mark. The game was essentially down to one play.
Result: Rouse runs the ball into the A gap on the right side. The play is blown up and Rouse does not even quite make it back to the original line of scrimmage. The whistle is blown with 12 seconds remaining on the clock.
From 29 seconds with a stopped clock for a first down, BC gets one play off. That reminds me of you know who. At worst BC should have been able to spike the clock and then take two shots on pass plays before a do-or-die fourth down (or, knowing Addazio, a chip shot field goal).
Just brutal. Everyone needs a Madden 14 Year Old Assistant.
On joking about problems that turn out to be serious. I am frequently bothered by the rush to condemn people on twitter with egg avatars who have terrible opinions. (Exception: "Denard Robinson is not a QB" eggs during his tenure at Michigan. You people can go straight to hell.)
When something like CC Sabathia entering rehab transpires there is inevitably a flood of righteous tweets that seem directed at Mike Lupica columns from 1980 that do not in fact exist. These are designed to acquire twitter status, which is the worst status to have. I do not give twitter points to people for not having awful opinions, or pointing out that other people should not have awful opinions. You get none of my points. You are wasting everyone's time.
This just came up in college football when Steve Sarkisian's alcohol issues went from an odd but isolated incident to a scary pattern, and I think Ryan Nanni hit exactly the right tone in response:
I think we make these jokes because we see these as isolated ncidents of failure, like laughing at a friend who busts his ass on an icy sidewalk or has a soda explode when he opens it. Steve Sarkisian getting drunk at a booster dinner is funny, in isolation, because it's wildly unexpected. Placed in the larger context of what appears to be fairly serious alcohol problem? Now I just feel like an asshole for that throwaway tweet, laughing and pointing at someone who's grappling with a disease that sent over a million American adults (and another 73,000 adolescents) to treatment in 2013.
This isn't me putting on my Joke Police badge; one of the fundamental aspects of EDSBS is that we write what we think is funny, even if other people don't, and that's fine. Declarations that something is or is not humorous are as tiring as they are useless. It's like claiming shrimp is poison because you have a shellfish allergy. You can still think Steve Sarkisian coaching the Arizona State game under the influence is really funny, and I'll disagree with you.
Back when the Brendan Gibbons thing was going down there were a number of commenters who yelled at me because I didn't make the prescribed statements about how rape is awful. I don't do that because it's obvious and I don't need to polish my wand in public. If you demand someone else do it it's probably because you're not as great of a dude as you want to make everyone think you are.
Injuries. Injuries will be a major story for the game. Michigan has a banged-up running back corps, with De'Veon Smith missing the Maryland game and both Smith and Johnson limited against the Wildcats. Joe Kerridge missed the two games before Northwestern but seems fine now. Channing Stribling has missed the last two games but should be ready to go against the Spartans:
"It was longer than a one week (injury)," coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. "He was very, very close this past weekend. He could've played, but we thought it was more prudent to not play him.
"I do (expect he'll play Saturday)."
Michigan is also down Bryan Mone and Mario Ojemudia for the year. They will also be without James Ross for the first half—and in MSU Michigan finally plays a team they want to run a bunch of 4-3 against.
MSU has a slightly longer list of the wounded, most importantly on the offensive line. Backup LT Dennis Finley is done for the year. Jack Conklin hasn't played in two weeks; he was available in an "emergency" against Rutgers but it's kind of hard to imagine what that emergency could have been that didn't see him on the field late. That's because Kody Kieler tried to give it a go but had to leave, and very late center Jack Allen took a nasty hit from the side that knocked him out of the game.
Anywhere from zero to three of those guys will be available; I'm guessing that both tackles suit up and at least try to play. Allen is a much murkier proposition. Some dubious twitter rumors held that he was done for the year but in that case you'd probably have confirmation from the program, and from students on campus who spot the guy in a cast or something. I wouldn't lend those much credence.
Changing some minds.Inside NU's podcast covers the Michigan game this week, and they kick it off by talking about how the atmosphere inside the stadium greatly exceeded its reputation:
There's a lot of interest to M fans until about the 25 minute mark, when they turn the page to Iowa.
Surprise. The only difference between Laremy Tunsil and the other guys Ole Miss has pirated away from bigger programs is that Tunsil had a stepfather sell him out. He has been reinstated after it was revealed had acquired a raft of illicit benefits:
Ole Miss is lucky to get Laremy Tunsil back at all.
That was my first thought reading the full list of charges brought by the NCAA against Tunsil, and after letting it digest for a little while it still holds. The list of impermissible benefits Tunsil has received in Oxford is lengthy and more than just the one loaner car which had been previously reported. It was about three of them, over a six-month period without payment. A four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate and one day use of a rental vehicle were also among the impermissible benefits Tunsil has received in Oxford. Tunsil was also apparently less than truthful with the NCAA when first asked about all these things, and the NCAA is a lot like a mother in this regard: lying only makes it worse.
That is just the tip of the iceberg, no doubt. In addition to being the right thing to do, paying people legitimately will help reduce the impact of side benefits like Tunsil's. I think the NCAA needs to give up the ghost here and focus exclusively on making guys get actual educations, but I remain annoyed at programs that are flagrantly breaking every rule they can think of before that happens.
Joe, can you talk about being able to touch the ball, carry the ball and what a thrill that is?
“It’s really- over the years, looking at the fullback position it’s a lot of blocking- a lot of blocking- and so getting to touch the ball every once in a while is an awesome thing for us fullbacks. Sione’s been doing a great job. It’s a different twist in the game now and it’s something we really like to do.”
You guys probably haven’t had a lot of practices yet, but has there been an early message from Jim about how to prepare for this game? You guys have been moving up the rankings, people are talking College Football Playoff- how do you not let that get to your head?
DM: “After the game on Saturday we addressed it being a trophy game and being a big game for us, but as far as that we meet this afternoon in probably about thirty minutes or an hour. We’ll get more down to it then.”
When do you recall the countdown clocks coming down, and what do you think about that?
DM: “I don’t remember exact dates or anything like that. As far as thoughts on it, I think the whole mindset this year’s just been approach the next game, just go out and try to win the next game. So, for us in terms of countdown clocks or to count down to a certain game, it’s just basically been the next Saturday.”
Your thoughts on Jake [Rudock]. The steadiness obviously has been kind of a theme for him. This is a big game. Just your thoughts on having a quarterback who seems pretty level-headed through six weeks.
JK: “Yeah, Jake’s done a great job. He’s a student of the game, for sure. I try to get around him as much as I can. He’ll come up to me in the locker room after practice, he’ll already have watched the practice and come up and give me some pointers or something like that; he’ll critique something, or something like that. He’s shown great strides and it’s great to see a quarterback that loves the game as much as he does.”
so then Simba gets hit on the head- this is where it gets really good- and he says… [Fuller]
Your thoughts on the line play after watching film?
“Thought it was good. Graham Glasgow stood out the most and he was our offensive player of the game. Also to note, Ben Braden continued to be an ascending player. He might have got the silver medal, which was good to see. But for the line, line play’s been the same.”
Talk about Joe Kerridge. He’s obviously a captain, but what he brings you leadership-wise and what he brings you on the field.
“A++ from day one in terms of work ethic, leadership, role model, example. Been really good. Good to see him back out this week. Warms your heart to see a fullback pop a run for…what was it? 36? 34? Heartwarming! So, nice to see the fullback position do that.
“Sione Houma also has been outstanding. Both in the way they’re blocking and the way they’re running the ball. Haven’t had fullbacks like this, talented runners when they have the football in their hands. Been heartwarming to see the fullback dive be successful.”
What made that play successful? Was it the play fake to De’Veon, or whose blocking was most central to making that successful?
“Yeah, everybody. Everybody who doesn’t have the ball is essential. In terms blocking and carrying out fakes, everybody becomes a blocker who’s not carrying the ball.”
A lot of coaches and players in football and other sports talk about consistency and trying to stay consistent with a demeanor and a message. What’s been that most consistent message that you and your staff have brought to this team that has made it successful?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what the most consistent message would be. What we hope for and look for in consistency is being consistently good, as opposed to being consistently average. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
You had said after Maryland that you thought Channing [Stribling] was just a one-week injury and he didn’t play the other day. Is this a longer-term situation with him?
“Yeah, it’s longer than a one-week. He was very, very close this past weekend. He could have played, but thought it was more prudent to not play him.”
Do you expect to play him this weekend?
[After THE JUMP- It’s State week, so you know what that means: quoting Rafiki from The Lion King]