2017 Power 5 Preview: 1-4

2017 Power 5 Preview: 1-4

Submitted by Alex Cook on September 1st, 2017 at 1:08 PM

For 2017, instead of previewing conferences division-by-division, I decided to preview the 64 Power Five teams individually, so I ranked them and counted down from the bottom.

I created a ranking system based heavily off of Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings: half of the ranking comes from the S&P rankings from the past five seasons among Power Five teams (1/3 of that number is 2016’s ranking; 1/3 is the average from 2014-2016, 1/3 is the average from 2012-2016); half comes from two component parts of his 2017 S&P+ projections, weighed evenly – recruiting impact and returning production – and ranked 1 through 64. There is no subjectivity involved in these rankings and they skew towards emphasizing where the teams were according the 2016 S&P+. I think it serves as a decent way to sequence these previews.

Previously: #64 Purdue, #63 Rutgers, #62 Kansas, #61 Illinois, #60 Boston College, #59 Virginia, #58 Vanderbilt, #57 Syracuse. #56 Maryland, #55 Arizona, #54 Wake Forest, #53 Duke, #52 Iowa State, #51 Texas Tech, #50 Missouri, #49 Oregon State. #48 Arizona State, #47 Cal, #46 Indiana, #45 Kentucky, #44 West Virginia, #43 South Carolina, #42 Washington State, #41 Northwestern. #40 Minnesota, #39 Iowa, #38 Colorado, #37 Kansas State, #36 Utah, #35 Georgia Tech, #34 Nebraska, #33 Michigan State. #32 North Carolina, #31 NC State, #30 UCLA, #29 Mississippi State, #28 Oregon, #27 Arkansas, #26 Pittsburgh, #25 Baylor. #24 Oklahoma State, #23 Virginia Tech, #22 Georgia, #21 TCU, #20 Texas, #19 Tennessee. #18 Ole Miss, #17 Texas A&M, #16 Miami, #15 Wisconsin, #14 Louisville, #13 Washington. #12 Penn State, #11 Florida, #10 Stanford, #9 Auburn. #8 Michigan, #7 USC, #6 Oklahoma, #5 LSU.

(I didn’t include Notre Dame)

[hit the JUMP for the previews]

MGoRadio 3.0: Ol’ Fuzzy Caster

MGoRadio 3.0: Ol’ Fuzzy Caster

1 hours and 10 minutes

20170831_191534

MGoRadio is recorded before a live audience: Fridays before home games at The Bo Store, and Thursdays nights at various locations before away games. This one was before a drinking audience at a cool tailgate space on 327 East Hoover because Matt from HomeSure Lending was throwing us a Football Eve party.

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The Sponsors

We can do this because people support us. You should support them too so they’ll want to do it again next year! The show is presented by UGP & Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we probably would have real jobs.

Our other sponsors are also key to all of this: Homesure Lending, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Michigan Law Grad, Peak Wealth Management, and Lantana Hummus

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The Preview: Wrap

starts at 1:00

Replace Braden and Kalis with Onwenu and Kugler and you’re not losing much; Mags to Ulizio/whomever is a downgrade. The sophomores are better sophomores than we’ve seen in a long time.

The State of Florida

starts at 21:58

Try really hard not to say “Sharkfuckers” a hundred times. Really wanted Zaire to win that job—starting a redshirt freshman is not optimal.

Gimmicky Top Five New Prospectin’ Names

starts at 41:24

Matt Demorest joins us and scores Brian and Ace as they come with new prospecting nicknames for new players we are going to enjoy. J’Marick Woods is now Ol’ J’Marick Woods.

Ranking the Opponents

starts at 52:11

Maryland and Minnesota are going to come in the top half, aren’t they?

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MUSIC:

  • “Warships”—Oblivion
  • “Gold Rush”—Ol’ unknown pianist
  • “Every Empty Town”—Dear Noble Reader, which was the band of reader @WolverSwede and friends
  • “Across 110th Street”

THE USUAL LINKS

The Enemy, Ranked: Defensive Backs

The Enemy, Ranked: Defensive Backs

Submitted by Ace on August 30th, 2017 at 10:31 AM

Previously: QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide Receivers & Tight EndsOffensive LineDefensive Line, Linebackers


Denzel Ward takes over as OSU's top corner. [Patrick Barron]

I'm sorry, but I couldn't bring myself to rank Indiana first.

Explanations for the stats used in this post can be found here. I leaned towards being generous with returning starters in this category because in today's football the nickel is a starter in all but name.

1. Ohio State

Returning Starters Passing S&P+ (Rank) Passing Success Rate (Rank) Passing IsoPPP (Rank) DB Havoc Rate (Rank) PD to INC
2 125.2 (8) 36.8% (24) 1.40 (30) 7.2% (35) 34.6% (50)

This year, like last year, will test Ohio State's ability to reload in the secondary. They passed that test with flying colors last year, hardly missing a beat despite losing Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, and Tyvis Powell. Now they must replace three first-round draft picks: corners Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and safety Malik Hooker.

The talent is there for another reload. Denzel Ward, who played close to starter-level snaps as the third corner, allowed only a 55.4 passer rating when targeted; he's yet another NFL prospect. Damon Arnette, who saw action as a redshirt freshman last year, is competing for the other corner spot with JuCo transfer Kendall Sheffield, a former five-star Alabama signee; both will play quite a bit. There's probably going to be a drop in quality from two first-rounders, but it still may not be much.

Safety is a bit more uncertain. Senior Damon Webb was the weak link among last year's starters, and unlike Arnette he couldn't blame youth for his subpar play. The other spot is still a tossup between sophomore Jordan Fuller and senior Erick Smith, who both played fewer than 100 snaps last year. The development on the back end will determine if this continues to be an elite pass defense or merely a good one. They'll be helped mightily either way by what should be a fearsome pass rush.

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

The Enemy, Ranked: Linebackers

The Enemy, Ranked: Linebackers

Submitted by Ace on August 29th, 2017 at 10:39 AM

Previously: QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide Receivers & Tight EndsOffensive Line, Defensive Line


Chris Worley moves from spacebacker to MIKE this year. [Eric Upchurch]

[If you haven't seen Seth's post from this morning, please check it out for both a great explainer on the power spread evolution and links to several ways you can help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.]

I hate to say it but I'm starting to get the sense Ohio State could be pretty good.

You've read half a gazillion words this week and have several gazillion to go, so let's get right to it. Explanations for the stats used in this post can be found here.

1. Ohio State

Returning Starters Rushing S&P+ (Rank) Rushing Success Rate (Rank) Rushing IsoPPP (Rank) LB Havoc Rate (Rank)
2 120.2 (15) 35.3% (9) 1.08 (66) 4.4% (54)

This Buckeye unit is led by outside linebacker Jerome Baker, a great player in space who grades out well in every phase. He boasts the second-highest grade of any returning linebacker in the country, per Pro Football Focus. He's an All-American candidate with a shot at the first round of the NFL Draft if he improves at shedding blocks.

OSU loses star middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan. They've chosen an unusual way to replace him, shifting spacebacker Chris Worley—who was basically a LB/S hybrid last year—to the middle. While Worley was excellent in his role last year, that won't be an easy transition. Even if that doesn't work out, though, OSU should be fine. Senior Dante Booker moves into the starting lineup after missing 2016 to injury, and five-star freshman MIKE Baron Browning may be too talented to keep off the field—he's already taken McMillan's old #5 jersey.

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

The Enemy, Ranked: Defensive Line

The Enemy, Ranked: Defensive Line

Submitted by Ace on August 28th, 2017 at 9:45 AM

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers & Tight Ends, Offensive Line


OSU brings back their whole dang D-line. [Bryan Fuller]

Before Brian's previewpalooza begins this afternoon, let's get one more opponent position preview out of the way. Just like yesterday, Ohio State has the best group in the trenches; this time on defense, and this time there aren't any weak points to attack.

Details on the statistics used in this post can be found here; I've added Havoc Rate (the percentage of plays in which a defense or defensive unit recorded a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, or defensed a pass (intercepted or broken up) for the defenses.

1. Ohio State

Returning Starters Adj. Line Yards (Rank) Opportunity Rate (Rank) Power Success Rate (Rank) Stuff Rate (Rank) Adj. Sack Rate (Rank) DL Havoc Rate (Rank)
4 136.2 (4) 31.0% (5) 41.85% (1) 28.1% (1) 92.0 (78) 7.0% (19)

The talent was already quite impressive last year and Ohio State doesn't lose a single contributor. The Buckeyes boast a group of four defensive ends—Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Nick Bosa, and Jalyn Holmes—who would star on just about any team in the country; they'll even play all four at once on obvious passing downs. Lewis was the defensive player of the year in the conference last year; Hubbard is a great run defender who's still developing and Holmes is nearly as good against the run; Bosa looks very much like a Bosa. Incoming five-star freshman Chase Young looks ready to play but he's going to have a very hard time finding snaps.

Perhaps even more worrisome, from an opponent perspective, is that OSU still has plenty of room to improve at getting to the quarterback. Meanwhile, they were beastly against the run. Tackles Dre'Mont Jones and Robert Landers had really impressive debut seasons, and with the return of Tracy Sprinkle from injury Landers isn't even projected to start. They'll get an early-season boost when Michael Hill returns from suspension, too.

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

The Enemy, Ranked: Offensive Line

The Enemy, Ranked: Offensive Line

Submitted by Ace on August 27th, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers & Tight Ends


Isaiah Prince (#59) had a rough starting debut in 2016. [Bryan Fuller]

The opponent position group previews march on with a look at enemy offensive lines, which somehow may be in a worse state than the enemy quarterbacks. As you'll see from the advanced stats, which I've culled from Football Study Hall, no line Michigan faces this season finished in the top half of the country in both pass- and run-blocking—some were good-to-excellent at one or the other, but none were exceptional at both. That dripping sound you hear is the Michigan defensive line drooling uncontrollably.

You can find explanations for the advanced stats used in this post here.

1. Ohio State

Returning Starters Adj. Line Yards (Rank) Opportunity Rate (Rank) Power Success Rate (Rank) Stuff Rate (Rank) Adjusted Sack Rate (Rank)
4 134.6 (1) 48.0% (2) 84.6% (2) 13.4% (6) 94.4 (82)

Ohio State's worst line of the last few years still excelled at creating holes in the run game, especially behind the All-American interior duo of Pat Elflein and Billy Price. Elflein is the only departed starter; Price will slide over to center to take his place, and he'll be a favorite for the Rimington Award. While the interior may not be quite as strong without Elflein, an added year of experience for guard Michael Jordan (NTMJ), who started 13 games as a true freshman in 2016, and new starter Branden Bowen should keep the run-blocking strong.

The issue is pass protection. Ohio State couldn't keep JT Barrett upright last year, an issue that caught up to them in a major way when they faced Clemson in the playoff semis. Left tackle Jamarco Jones is solid, but right tackle Isaiah Prince was a disaster, and he's still in line to start. Bowen played limited snaps last year and didn't look great in pass pro. If Prince and Jordan don't take big steps forward, Barrett will be under fire on a frequent basis again this year.

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

The Enemy, Ranked: Receivers & Tight Ends

The Enemy, Ranked: Receivers & Tight Ends

Submitted by Ace on August 25th, 2017 at 1:45 PM

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs

The return of Simmie Cobbs gives IU a huge boost. [Bryan Fuller]

The opponent position group previews continue with a look at enemy pass-catchers, which includes both wide receivers and tight ends for the purpose of this exercise. This isn't a strong year for proven talent among receivers in the Big Ten; eight of the top ten leaders in receiving yardage from conference play last year have moved on, including NFL talents like Chris Godwin, Curtis Samuel, Amara Darboh, and Austin Carr.

There's a fair amount of young talent, however, and the team that gets one or two first-year starters to break out could vault to the top of this list.

1. Indiana

  TARGETS CATCHES YARDS TD YPC YPT
Simmie Cobbs Jr. (2015) 110 60 1035 4 17.3 9.4
Nick Westbrook 92 54 995 6 18.4 10.8
Luke Timian 30 19 277 1 14.6 9.2
Donovan Hale 22 13 210 1 16.2 9.6
Danny Friend (TE) 13 7 65 2 9.3 5.0
Ian Thomas (TE) 5 3 28 0 9.3 5.6

While the Hoosiers lose two productive, reliable slot-types in Ricky Jones and Mitchell Paige, they boast last year's best big-play threat outside of Godwin in junior Nick Westbrook. They also get a huge boost from the return of Simmie Cobbs Jr., who broke the thousand-yard mark as a sophomore in 2015 before missing all but one snap last year due to a one-game suspension and an ankle injury. Cobbs and Westbrook form the best 1-2 tandem in the league and it may not be particularly close; both are big-bodied outside receivers with big-time playmaking ability. Unfortunately, Cobbs' status for next Thursday's opener against Ohio State is up in the air after an offseason arrest.

Former walk-on Luke Timian impressed in limited snaps last year and is in line to start in the slot. There may be some dropoff from the Jones/Paige duo but it won't be by much. The major weakness here is at tight end, where Danny Friend underwhelmed as both a receiver and blocker last year; we'll see how important that position is to the IU offense as they transition from Kevin Wilson to Mike DeBord.

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

The Enemy, Ranked: Running Backs

The Enemy, Ranked: Running Backs

Submitted by Ace on August 24th, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Previously: Quarterbacks


No surprise at #1. [Bryan Fuller]

This is the second in a series ranking the position groups of Michigan's 2017 opponents. The quarterbacks post featured two Heisman contenders followed by a chasm of uncertainty; today's running backs post includes a lot more proven talent—and another Heisman contender.

These rankings still skew towards the quality of the starter, but since the running back position obviously requires a lot more rotation than quarterback, depth is a bigger factor than with QB.

1. Penn State

  RUSH YARDS YPC TD REC YARDS YPC TD
Saquon Barkley 272 1496 5.5 18 28 402 14.4 4
Andre Robinson 29 141 4.9 5 2 42 21.0 1
Miles Sanders 25 184 7.4 1 2 24 12.0 1
Mark Allen 29 115 4.0 1 4 24 6.0 1

Saquon Barkley needs no introduction. He's the best back in the country and a potential top-five pick in next year's NFL Draft. He's been remarkably productive despite running behind one of the worst run-blocking offensive lines in the country the last two years; he's also extremely dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield.

PSU would rank first on this list based on Barkley alone, but it doesn't end there. Miles Sanders is a former five-star recruit who's shown huge playmaking ability as a runner and return man. If he tightens up ball security—he lost three fumbles last year on limited touches—then defenses won't be able to slack off at all when Barkley takes a breather. Andre Robinson is another young back who held his own as Barkley's primary backup last year. The combination of depth and talent puts this group up there with any in the country.

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

MGoPodcast 9.0: Preview 2017 Part III: Nemeses and Feelingsies

MGoPodcast 9.0: Preview 2017 Part III: Nemeses and Feelingsies

45 minutes

image

This is Part 3/3. Part 1 was the offense. Part 2 was the defense and special teams. This one is about all the games, and all the feels.

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We Couldn’t Have One Without the Other

This podcast is presented by The Bo Store and UGP. Rishi and Ryan have been here since before Podcast 1.0—shopping with them supports us and supports good dudes.

Our sponsors also make this possible so please support them: They are HomeSure Lending, the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, Ann Arbor Elder Law, Deo Bookkeeping, Michigan Law Grad, Peak Wealth Management, and Lantana Hummus

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The Previews

FLORIDA (starts at 1:00) Leaning on the defense and that’s like ours: talented and really young. We’ll take Michigan’s coaching over McElwain and co. any day of the week, especially Shark Week.

CINCINNATI (starts at 4:40) They lost a lot after their last coach was mailing it in. Ohio State’s punishment for Jim Tressel was probably a good hire but it’s too early for that to bear fruit.

AIR FORCE (starts at 5:50) Quarterback and running back are good. They’re Air Force (thanks Dave Brandon!) so they’ll cut the hell out of our linemen. We like Don Brown in this game better than Michigan’s post-Alabama single-high approach last time.

@PURDUE (starts at 8:00) Best coaching improvement in the country. They have GRIII’s little brother and that’s about it for talent.

MICHIGAN STATE (starts at 9:12) They were an old team with 13 unexpected departures. What’s the same? LJ Scott, some OLBs, some DTs, and 1 or 2 guys named Allen. What’s better? No McDowell.

@INDIANA (starts at 13:25) Why did you release Kevin Wilson if Ohio State was going to scoop him up? Now DeBord is the OC. Tom Allen, the former DC promoted to HC has a Don Brown-ish defense.

@PENN STATE (starts at (16:55) If you like long bombs and “tuddies” you’ll like this team. They’re…overrated? Rex Grossman-ing worked for them. Barkley and McSorley are good and good for college. Cothran & Cothren is a good law firm name.

RUTGERS (starts at 21:47) The Friday night before this game we’re going to have a charity event at that same place on Hoover where the top donors get to pick which highly accurate former Michigan team they want to play on NCAA 2014 in our 2nd ever Bo Bowl. Ace is the defending champion so he gets to play his 2006s again. Details when we’ve got it all put together. Saturday is Homecoming and Michigan will win.

MINNESOTA (starts at 21:48) They lost their great secondary, got some running backs, really no quarterbacks. Probably not yet very good, but Fleck will recruit his way into competition. Is Fleck good or just a good recruiter who Corey Davis’d the MAC?

@MARYLAND (starts at 24:03) Walt Bell schemed them into a great running game despite 3/5 bad OL, and almost no passing downfield. Great QB names. Some good players though: Carter, Opara, Aniebonam, and those running backs.

@WISCONSIN (starts at 27:14) Losing Cichy is big for them except they seem to produce middle linebackers out of nowhere. The offense isn’t that scary. Going to Madison is.

THE GAME (starts at 30:05) Brian tries to speak French. They’ve got some holes on their offensive line. The guys disagree on Mike Weber. They got Kevin Wilson, their wideouts will be better. “Zone Six!” Their defense…HEY LOOK CLEMSON

The Feels

starts at 38:11

Getting OSU at home is big. Hope the OL holds up just well enough to beat Florida and don’t get hurt against Air Force and it’s not a bad year. Penn State and Wisconsin on the road are the only circles until those guys. Michigan could be an Outback-ish team, or a team like PSU last year that gets to the playoff by upsetting OSU then gets exposed.

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MUSIC:

  • “O’ Be Joyful”—Shovels & Rope
  • “Across 110th Street”

THE USUAL LINKS

The Enemy, Ranked: Quarterbacks

The Enemy, Ranked: Quarterbacks

Submitted by Ace on August 23rd, 2017 at 2:30 PM


Sigh. [Bryan Fuller]

In some ways, Michigan's 2017 schedule is daunting. They open the season with a tough test against Florida, travel to Penn State and Wisconsin, and face one of the decade's two best programs to cap the regular season. In other ways, it looks quite navigable: Michigan should be favored in at least a couple of the aforementioned games, they get Ohio State at home, and they'll be heavy favorites against the rest of the schedule.

This post is the first in a series ranking the position groups of M's 2017 opponents. It's also the most illustrative of the dichotomy between the top teams in the Big Ten East and everyone else on the schedule. Michigan plays a couple of potential Heisman contenders at quarterback; they also go against a series of teams whose QB situations are either unsettled or downright bad. To wit: I briefly considered Air Force for the #3 spot on this list.

While these rankings skew heavily towards the ability of the starting quarterback, I also took depth and backup quality into account. The first two teams on this list will come as no surprise.

1. Ohio State

  COMP/ATT COMP% YARDS YPA TD INT RUSH YARDS YPC TD
JT Barrett 233/379 61.5 2555 6.7 24 7 205 845 4.1 9
Joe Burrow 11/14 78.6 226 8.1 2 0 12 58 4.8 1

At this point, JT Barrett is one of the most-known commodities in college football. While he hasn't developed into a pinpoint passer, especially on deep throws, he's an ideal fit for Urban Meyer's power spread because of his frustratingly effective running and smart decision-making. He threw 14 touchdowns against only four picks in Big Ten games last year, and while he posted a mediocre 6.5 yards per attempt, he did so while throwing to one of OSU's least dangerous receiving corps in a while. If a couple WRs emerge, Barrett could be right back in the Heisman mix.

This group took a hit this week when expected backup Joe Burrow broke his hand, which will keep him out indefinitely. Reserves Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell have a ton of talent but no game experience, and this isn't exactly the most comforting quote:

“Dwayne, better known as Ross in the quarterback room, my man Ross, I would say with him he’s a little risky,” said starter J.T. Barrett. “He has a little bit of mentality like Cardale. His arm can take him places but then also too it can get him in some tight spots as well, but when he’s set up to throw the ball and he’s in rhythm he has a big arm.”

I almost moved OSU behind PSU when this news broke. In the end, I stuck with the Buckeyes because of Barrett's experience, the expected improvement in the receiving corps, and the addition of former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to the coaching staff.

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