SPONSOR NOTE: Reminder that Matt is hanging out at the Charity Tailgate at 327 East Hoover (if you were at the preseason MGoEvents this year and last it's the same place). Food trucks, beer, TVs, and a large bus you can honk the horn on. This is not a metaphor. It is a literal true thing. You'll be able to find it at Northwestern if you get lucky.
FORMATION NOTES: Nebraska was all gun and almost all single back, single TE. There were scattered snaps with another blocky/catchy type on the field. The only thing of note were frequent snaps with a covered slot receiver:
Uh. The idea is that the two outside guys are on the LOS and the #3 WR is not. This was a bad example but I forgot to grab a screenshot of it and the only clip is the failed RPO. Michigan did this on offense some as well. I've never been a fan since you're telling the defense a bunch of stuff about what you're doing and hoping they aren't prepared for your thing. This hijink has been around long enough that you should have a plan.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: A super quick hook for many defenders. Kemp, Mone, Gary, and Winovich all sat for the entire second half; Gary did come off a little sooner than the rest of the D but Winovich only got a few more snaps than he did—could just be a rotation thing. Second team line remained as you'd expect (Paye-Marshall-Dwumfour-Hutchinson); Rueben Jones, Donovan Jeter, and walk-on Carl Myers also got a fair number of snaps late.
LB level lasted much longer on the field for obscure reasons. Hudson's was less obscure, I guess. Bush and Ross played deeper into the game than any other non-Hudson starters. Ross is starting to assert himself as the starting WLB, with about a 2:1 snap ratio vs Gil. Furbush is still ahead of Uche, who got maybe a half-dozen snaps, and when Bush finally went out it was Jordan Anthony who replaced him.
DBs the usual. Hawkins, Kelly-Powell, Hughes, and Ambry Thomas all got significant backup snaps; absence of Myles Sims (and all other DBs) means redshirt is coming.
9/22/2018 – Michigan 56, Nebraska 10 – 3-1, 1-0 Big Ten
In the aftermath of an implausible beatdown there is always a race to identify the most emblematic stat of the day. I have participated. I have scoured the box score. I have consulted with the learned elders. This one takes the cake. Prepare thyself. Ensconce. All right: Adrian Martinez had 22 passing yards with a long of 32.
Those 32 yards came when a hunted Martinez hurled a 500 ball skyward that one of his receivers was accidentally in position to come back to. Michigan was one arm punt away from a statistic that would implode the fundamental nature of football. Alas.
At least they won? And Martinez finished with negative total yards?
The strangest thing about a game like this is how the goalposts move in the middle of the first quarter. If Nebraska had been moderately feisty and the defensive tackles had been a major factor in a 3.0 YPC day from the Cornhusker ground game, we'd be talking about how they passed a major test against a couple of senior guards who Big Ten coaches thought were pretty good. Instead Michigan held Nebraska's top three backs to ten yards total.
Nebraska now proves nothing. It might prove something later, if the tough-luck Nebraska that outgained Colorado by 150 yards but conspired to lose thanks to Laviska Shenault making absurd plays re-emerges. If Michigan also continues looking like a juggernaut instead of the sad mess that took on Notre Dame, this game will be retroactively upgraded from "accidentally played another MAC team" to the turning point when the Warinner hit and the corner got turned.
For now this was the sort of game where your sack celebration is ripping out and eating your own heart, because nothing else is going to be a challenge.
Precisely calibrating exactly how much to take from an unexpected hamblasting of a Big Ten team is far more pleasant than many things you can do after a football game. But we have been here before. With the exception of last year Harbaugh's Michigan teams have paved lower-tier teams flat. This is good! This tends to fling you up very far in predictive ranking systems. Michigan is now 5th in S&P+, like they seemingly always are, and S&P+ is designed to tell you who will win football games in the future. Paving people flat is a characteristic of very good football teams that win many games and leave you with a rich satisfied feeling that we are assured is something football fans can feel after the conclusion of a season.
But because of Certain Events and Certain Circumstances Leading To Third-String Quarterbacks all that feels hollow even if you're gripping onto the random, bloody-minded universe theory with everything you've got. We've been taught that paving folks doesn't correlate with winning the games that might cause the most annoying people in the universe to shut up for at least three seconds. That's not rational, but it sure as hell is sports.
The goalposts are going to keep moving until someone, probably Devin Bush, tackles them and glues them to the floor. Michigan has one more friendly double-digit spread next week against Northwestern, and then we get to play the games that will determine your state of mind, and, perhaps most importantly, the tenor of the takes we will have to endure for eight months of barren, dumb offseason.
Have fun storming the castle! Or paving it! Please pave it.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Devin Bush. Bush's main accomplishment was getting up to nine tackles on a day where Michigan's constant rotation and Nebraska's inability to stay on the field spread defensive stats incredibly thin. Michigan's next highest tackler had four; 12 different guys had TFLs. Bush had 2.5 of his own, a sack, and got sideline to sideline to blow up Nebraska's perimeter run game. He is reaching the Mo Hurst level where he is so consistently excellent it's hard to find new talking points about him.
#2 Rashan Gary. Just a half of play from him but it was a monster half. He's got his own section below. Felt terrifying in the way we were hoping he would before the season.
#3 Karan Higdon. The holes were there for him. He took advantage. His power was welcome after some YAC struggles last week, and if he hits the open field he'll outrun a lot of angles. Also he was the only offensive player to, like, feature.
Honorable mention: Will Hart is gonna get on the board if Michigan ever punts six times in a game. DPJ had a punt return TD. The tackles didn't give up a pressure? Is that true? I think it might be. The 10 guys with TFLs not mentioned.
Khaleke Hudson is ejected on a dubious targeting call and will miss the first half against Northwestern.
Honorable mention: Injury worries for Gary, who was holding his shoulder, and Kwity Paye. Harbaugh passes on a potential program-record field goal. Four commercial breaks in the first eight minutes of gametime.
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 & The Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we would have office jobs and STILL be depressed about losing by a touchdown at Notre Dame.
Game was out of hand too quickly to see downfield throws—what with PI turned off and all, 5.5 YPA isn't a concern. Higdon TD they inserted Mason on the back side of the line, playside LB followed him. Mason as the Mooseback inside the 10: yum. Hidgon looked more tackle-breaky, better fit for M's offense. McCaffrey looks to have seized #2—arm strength eh, run speed McCaffreyian. Michigan may have something in Ronnie Bell. Ambry Thomas Pepcat package? Tru Wilson setting up blocks. Pass pro better?: Michigan chipping especially on JBB's side. Vastardis is the 3rd center.
starts at 27:36
Targeting on Khaleke Hudson was complete and total garbage from the WORST officiating crew in the Power 5. He's tackling the quarterback with his face in the QB's chest. That's what you want! Glasgow had some busts and some plays. Bush got an ooooh hit from the crowd. Rashan Gary read the message boards this week. Josh "Martellus" good all-around game. Deeply unfair PI calls: hate PI on terribly thrown balls when the DB is in a better position than the receiver.
3. Special Teams/General Thoughts
starts at 54:23
David doesn't believe in "getting on the board." Brian isn't properly impressed enough at DPJ's return. David isn't properly impressed by Oliver Martin's athleticism. Nobody was expecting Will Hart's Heisman campaign. Nebraska uses the return fair catch rule correctly and the Michigan fans booed them.
4. Around the Big Ten with Jamie Mac Without Jamie Mac
starts at 1:14:56
Jamie couldn't make it. How does the Purdue defense hold [annoyingly good former M commit RB] to under 100 yards? The Gio Rescigno Era resumes, Buffalo more than covers the spread. #FloatTheBoat. Weird Penn State was willing to play on a Friday night, but it's on the road vs Illinois and gives them an extra day before OSU. Pass to open up the run against MSU and throw inside: Whop had a big day, IU did not. Wisconsin survives Kinnick at Night, Iowa couldn't field a punt.
On a day that featured the actualization of the Platonic ideal of a Harbaugh-led offense, a legitimate argument can be made for the defense being the most impressive unit on the field. In other words, Scott Frost, so used to disputed titles, couldn't even find one phase of the game to hang his hat on. Michigan outrushed, outpassed, and, yes, outhit Nebraska en route to their most complete game of the young season.
New features this week: Week 2 on our live beta of the totally revamped liveblog. Bobby added back the pin button. Reminder you have to verify by email—that was a rather crucial feature last week when things got hairy.
How to use: You can + and - comments by clicking either button then clicking the comment you want to moderate. You start with 100% health and Level 1--if you get +'d you can gain levels and post more quickly.
So the liveblog doesn't become a deluge, the frequency you can post is limited by the blue bar—your "mana"—that gradually recharges. You spend mana every time you comment, the mana cost at that moment depending on your level and how fast and furious the comments are flying.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
This game is all about history. But not in the way you’re being sold on it.
Like a high schooler doing an oral report on a book after only reading the back cover, every talking head is going to lean into the same narrative for this game. DID YOU KNOW Scott Frost once quarterbacked Nebraska? And now he now coaches Nebraska. AND AT THE VERY SAME TIME, Jim Harbaugh once quarterbacked Michigan, and now HE now coaches at HIS alma mater. Get it? BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Scott Frost quarterbacked Nebraska in 1997, when his Nebraska team claimed a share of the national title with Michigan. And Michigan fans are displeased about that. Boy, look at all these interweaving plot points!
And that was fine when Michigan was playing Frost’s UCF team (before UCF won a national championship that is approximately as legitimate as Nebraska’s 1997 claim). I mean, what other narratives were they going to use? The two teams had never played. There were no other plot points.
I would propose an alternate course of action, sir
But, believe it or not, Michigan and Nebraska are in the same conference, and have been for over seven years. You may ask yourself, “wait, why?” And this would be a valid question, but one for another day. All you need to know is that Michigan and Nebraska have played four times since 2005. And the results are not encouraging.
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 & The Bo Store, and if it wasn’t for Rishi and Ryan we’d be all be very sad ex-SBNation employees with “real” jobs.
Takeaways on offense: Shea is a super accurate QB. Run game is still good. Passing game as a whole is a marked improvement. This is a very short segment.
2. The Sklars, Part I: We Grill Them on Comedy
starts at 10:07
We talk about the history of their comedic routine and then share a handful of amusing stories abut sports and life. Also: will Michigan ever rush the Big House field ever again? Brian doesn't to talk about sports but the Sklars only want to talk about sports.
3. The Sklars, Part II: They Grill Brian on Football
starts at 44:15
Our esteemed guests stayed for more! Brian and the Sklars debate potential movie ideas, how comedy has changed over the years, and why they love reading MGoBlog. Grant Newsome is a future President, Rashan Gary is a team leader. Mark Dantonio’s heart attacks are disrespected.
4. Nebraska Preview
starts at 1:12:25
Nebraska’s QB Adrian Martinez may play, but if he does, he’s pretty good at running. The Huskers rely a lot on Zone Read. Small tweaks to basic concepts. Passing comes out of those sets. Pretty good WR corps and another good slot dude. Michigan needs to keep contain if Martinez plays. Nebraska’s defense is bad. Retooling the scheme and personnel in year 1 under Frost and Erik Chinander. Michigan needs help from the TE’s to have success on the ground against big defensive linemen. Patterson needs to be ready to feast.
If you or a friend made some good tunes and don't have a label out scrubbing for them we'd be happy to feature you.
low 60s, partly cloudy
0% chance of rain
I know Nebraska's 0-2 and in a year zero as Scott Frost takes over for a guy who had Nebraska in such a state that the first time anyone on the team touched a weight two guys got rhabdo, but 18 points? If I'd been sipping tea when I read that was the line it would have been spit take city, baby. Apparently I'm alone in this. The line hasn't budged since its release.
And okay yeah Nebraska hasn't been killing it but the Troy loss came without their starting quarterback—Michigan fans do not need to be told how devastating that loss can be—against a team that beat LSU last year and the Cornhuskers outgained Colorado by 150 yards. They ran for 329 yards! What part of that says "easy three score win" to you, Las Vegas?
I mean, Michigan should probably win this game but it's not the 90%+ shot the line says. I feel like I am taking the crazy pills. Unless Adrian Martinez is out. Then, yeah, 18 points. Survey says:
"He's further along," Frost said. "Again, it isn't just 'Is he ready to go?' It's 'Is he ready to go mentally and physically to the point that he can protect himself in the game and make sure he stays healthy?'
"He's really close. We gotta make a final decision."
The film: Last year Nebraska's defense was kind of a mess. S&P+ had them ranked 110th (out of 130 teams), 116th in rushing, 102nd in passing. Some of that was a rejection of Bob Diaco's switch to a 3-4. Most of it was a rejection of Diaco himself.
A thing about college football however is it's not that hard, with an injection of competence, to get a group of 4- and 3-stars from the 100s to the 50s. You all remember Hoke and Mattison doing that with Michigan's defense in 2011. You see what skills you have on hand, choose a system you know how to teach that uses those skills, and make this an identity. Voila: something approximating competence.
Through two games it appears Frost's fellow UCF import Erik Chinander has built just this sort of jalopy. They're not a GREAT defense, but they might be good? Two games against questionable competition (Colorado might be bad, Troy is a good Sun Belt team) and high-tempo throw off the counting stats but they're giving up 4.2 YPC rushing, and 4.9 YPA passing (counting sacks with the latter).
Their strength is at safety, where some experienced starters returned from injury and are joined by a former UCF star, and a seven-man deep defensive line. Whether both units are a B+ or A+ is hard to tell—they do have three guys starting over the one bona fide GOOD player they had last year, and given his job was taken by last year's late breakout player that might not even be a Godin/Give-the-2nd-Unit-a-Hurst kind of way. Colorado made this doubly difficult on me by notblockingtheguysIwastrying to assess:
You may note all of those links show the same two offensive players. One of those guys is a grayshirt redshirt freshman, but the other is a third-year starter and former freshman All-American. Are Colorado's center and left guard two of the worst collegiate players I've ever watched on film, or was Nebraska's line so dominant they just made it look that way?
Nebraska's defense so we are using black shirts instead of stars. Like Michigan's opponent last week Nebraska's defense was still in find-out-who-can-play mode and was thus rotating a lot of players, especially up front. Also note the "Key Player" from my HTTV preview is now on the bench. My entire section on the front seven needs to be rewritten.
Base Set: 3-4, and considering they mostly kept the same personnel on the field against a modern spread offense all day that's unlikely to change now.