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). It's right next to the train tracks on Hoover. The band goes right by it on their way to the stadium, which is cool, it supports charity, there's pizza and barbecue and beer, and the GameDay crew might stop by. Say hi.
FORMATION NOTES: Most notable development was the near-elimination of 3-3-5 snaps: just six, all of them on passing downs. Maryland ran a bunch of stuff from under center to facilitate their jet sweep game, and brought out a lot of pistol diamond formations when Piggy was in.
Nothing worked until real late.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: With Gary absent and Dwumfour exiting in the first half, the DT rotation was mostly Kemp, Mone, and Marshall. Jeter and Myers came in late. At DE, Winovich was his usual omnipresent self until the final two drives. Paye got the bulk of the Gary snaps with about 10 from Hutchinson and 10 more during the backups portion of the game.
At LB, Bush and Hudson nearly omnipresent. Gil and Ross back to splitting about 50/50, with the usual ten or so snaps from Uche and Furbush. Secondary the usual.
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.
obvious thing preceded and followed by eons of nothing [Eric Upchurch]
9/15/2018 – Michigan 45, SMU 20 – 2-1
The sequence that really, truly broke me was in the middle of the second quarter. For some reason, Sonny Dykes thought that if his team was prepared it could stop a Michigan fullback dive. So he called timeout. Then he saw Michigan had cannily lined up in the exact same way they had before the timeout. Sensing a trap, he called timeout again. This became the dreaded Full Media Timeout.
In the stands, I baked. Because Michigan has made no attempt to improve connectivity in the stadium I held up my phone as it told me it could not retrieve tweets. The clock ticked down.
Michigan took the field again and lined up in the exact same way, but Dykes could not respond—he'd used all his timeouts. Ben Mason scored from the one-inch line, extra point... Full Media Timeout.
I baked further. It sucked. It was hot and boring and also hot and also boring.
Because I was so bored I started counting commercial breaks, finally giving up when the number hit a staggering eight in the first 22 minutes of game clock. There are eight commercial breaks in the entirety of a 40-minute basketball game, plus some timeout-induced ones. And that frequently feels excessive; a couple of years ago the problem seemed so severe the NCAA even stripped coaches of one of their precious timeouts. Football is now throwing up timeouts at almost twice the rate of basketball, a sport where the clock only runs if something is actually happening.
This is close to intolerable when it's nice outside. When it is not, and when there is a steady stream of baffling penalties from the part-time refs from a podunk league, and replays to fix some of the baffling issues the part-time refs are creating, and many more stoppages for injuries—one of which takes a long time and then gets a Full Media Timeout appended to the end of it—you wonder why you're doing this instead of sitting at home with air conditioning and connectivity. Several years ago I probably would have yammered about the students leaving early. Now I just envy anyone with the common sense to bail when they are so clearly being told to bail.
Falling attendance is a nationwide problem often blamed on The Youngs for being addicted to their phones, but the folks behind us show up maybe twice a year and sell their other tickets for whatever they can get. There's a noticeable variance in section density between the many garbage games (hi, division-mates Rutgers and Maryland) on the schedule and the actually worthwhile ones, and there are no students where I'm at. When the Wall Street Journal FOIAed actual ticket scans they found that 21%(!) of Michigan's announced attendance was fictional, tickets that sold but did not scan. This is actually pretty good in the wider context of college football, which says somethin' about somethin'.
It says that college football used to be a great bargain. Tickets were relatively inexpensive, games were fun and not largely spent watching people have conferences. Great fanbases sprung up around the teams starting in the 1960s, when Don Canham was packing bands into the stadium so it would be sort of full, and lasted more or less through 2000 without being seriously impinged upon. Ticket prices were absurdly stable. Television was more of a boon than a hindrance because its proliferation allowed you to watch more road games; breaks were relatively rare and tolerable.
Then things got monetized. Ticket prices approximately tripled in 13 years and have kept going up since. The commercial breaks have proliferated madly. Unsatisfied with their massive uplift in revenue, the athletic department has continued to nickel and dime the fanbase even after the departure of Dave Brandon. And for what? For who? For the benefit of ever more absurdly over-compensated coaches, staffers, and especially executives. Every commercial break is Jim Delany—the man who ruined the conference—giving me the middle finger while he dumps another gold brick on the Big Ten's grave.
Delany and his fellow parasites have latched onto the great oilbeds men like Canham laid down and are sucking them dry without regard to what happens after they're done. They don't care. They'll be dead. Michigan will still be playing Rutgers.
I dunno man. This would certainly be more tolerable if Michigan had won some more games over the past ten years. But probably not that much more. There's nothing I can do, really, but I'll tell you one thing: I'm never buying any fucking Rotel again. Until there's a cap on the number of ad breaks, every single college football TV advertiser can die in a fire for all I care. I've had it.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1(t) Donovan Peoples-Jones and Zach Gentry. Gentry had a drop but also rescued a ball that would have been an IN if thrown at anyone else. Four catches for 95 yards from a nominal tight end is a thing and if anything Patterson didn't take full advantage of his height to make his other catches indefensible. DPJ scored three touchdowns, completely imploding that stat. Two were relatively simple, sure. The fade was not. DPJ and Gentry get two points each because they're made up and don't matter.
#2 Josh Metellus. INT and weaving TD return were the difference between a relatively comfortable second half and a full on terror-dome. PI on him was iffy; he had another PBU and seven tackles; did get hit a bit on those slants but Kinnel was SMU's preferred target.
#3 Chase Winovich. Ten tackles, three for loss. Had a really impressive track-back on a third and long screen that looked set up for the first down. Also knocked down another screen on third down earlier in the game. Now the subject of a hilarious meme.
Honorable mention: Will Hart added two more 50-yard punts to his collection. Bryan Mone and Carlo Kemp made SMU runs up the middle, which were oddly frequent, entirely futile. Devin Bush exists and is still Devin Bush. Tru Wilson had some more lethal blitz pickups.
So as someone who’s had ties to both schools, why do you think this should be an annual game again, and do you still have a lake house by Brian Kelly?
“It is a — it’s a great game because it’s two really, really outstanding universities. You know, both schools have great academics, both schools do it the right way, and I think in the history of football, those are two of the very, very top schools and they should always play each other.
“And do I have a lake house? No, he’s got a really, really big one I think. No, mine isn’t like that, it’s not by him.”
Defensive line’s obviously been an elite unit the past 3-4 years, how much kinda internal discussion, in terms of how much control they have to take Saturday, do you feel like the D-line is gonna set the tone?
“I think anytime — anytime you expect to have a very, very good defense, you gotta have a very good defensive line. I mean, for the history of Michigan football, I mean, you think of the Glen Steele’s and go back. I mean, the Will Carr’s. You go on and on and on, back then, and now the last few years here with the Taco (Charlton’s) and the (Chris Wormley’s) and the (Ryan) Glasgow’s and all those guys. You have to have a very, very good defensive line in today’s football to have a good defense. And this group understands that, they’ve played a lot of football. And whenever you’ve played a lot of football, the bar gets higher and higher every year.
"They all have very, very high goals. And, this is the first game entertaining those goals. That’s all it is. That’s what happens. When you play the first game, when you work as hard as this group has worked in the summer, when you had the experience that they had last year, this is the next step. Well, now it is. It’s here. Let’s see what you have.”
How have you seen (Mike) Dwumfour kinda take to being in that sort of starter position? He hasn’t started yet, but that leadership role, I guess, as far as being the front guy there.
“Well, the thing that I think we have on our defensive line is like two years ago. I talked about that all the time. We may have eight starters. We may have eight starters, and we may have the ability with our defensive line this year, to be able to tag themselves out. In other words, some places you have to say to a person, that guy looks tired now, we better put this guy in. Well, when you have a group of young men that have earned the right to play, I like to be able to say to them, ‘You rotate yourselves. You look and watch that guy and if it’s gonna be four plays or three plays or how many we decide, you’re rotating on your own throughout the game.’
"And so I look at this defensive line as having the possibility of having seven starters possibly. And then you go from there. And that’s how important it is. And when you have that, then when you're out on that field, there is no time to take a play off. There is no time to not go at 100 percent. Because if you’re gonna be out there playing and your buddy wants to be playing, and he’s earned the right to play, then don’t you dare go out there and not go hard. Now, when you can’t go anymore, because you’re tired, come on out and your buddy will come in for you, and he’ll play the way he’s supposed to play. And that’s what we had two years ago and I think we’re working towards that again this year.”
So are we wrong to think that’s Dwumfour’s job or is — is Lawrence Marshall possibly in that?
“All the guys. You’ve got a whole group of guys in there now. You’ve got a whole group of people in that group. I look at, there’s five guys possibly that are starters for those first inside two positions. And the other thing we’ve done with the inside two positions, they’re equal. Like, when you talk about a three-technique and you talk about a nose, they’re really equal positions. One just plays on one side and one plays on the other. So, you can have the possibility of five guys that are being able to play those two positions.”
Who are those five guys?
“Well the five guys would be, as you mentioned before, you’ve got Bryan Mone, and you’ve got Lawrence Marshall, and you’ve got Dwumfour. You’ve got Aubrey Solomon and you’ve got Carlo Kemp. You’ve got five guys that I believe, starting in the spring last year and right now through this camp have really earned the right, when you say, ‘Ok, we trust you. We think when you go in there, you will play the type of defense that we expect you to play.’ ”
[Hit THE JUMP for details on depth, impressions of the O-line, a look at ND, and more.]