SPONSOR NOTES: We're going to Iowa thanks to Matt, and he's going to be tailgating prior to the game. If you're going, hit him up and stop by. We'll be around for a few hours before the game, traffic and weather willing.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
FORMATION NOTES: Maryland switched between fronts a bunch, seemingly because they were trying to find anything that could possibly work. A 3-4 was their base set through the middle of the game; late and early they were mostly four-man fronts.
None of this went well. Here is an obligatory picture.
Michigan didn't do anything wacky with formations aside from some pistol stuff that is pretty standard at various places around college football.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 59 snaps for the line before they were pulled on the final drive. Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson for the third straight week; Kugler got two RG snaps after the Kalis personal foul. Butt and Darboh were close to omnipresent with 47 and 44 snaps; Chesson got 33.
De'Veon Smith usage surged to two-thirds of Michigan's snaps, with Ty Isaac limited to four. Evans and Higdon had 13 and 11. Peppers got four. Hill and Poggi continued to split FB snaps about down the middle. Asiasi, Bunting, and Wheatley all got around 20 snaps; Crawford, McDoom, and Harris got around 10.
...the Wolverines ran away to a comfortable win. ...Michigan looked really good and gets out of a rivalry game with a two-possession road win that was probably better than the final score indicates.
The only people who care about the particular game theory state that resulted in Saturday's fourth quarter are the perpetually unhappy wing of Michigan fans and desperate Michigan State fans. I regret it mostly because I have to spend time in this column talking about a comeback so cosmetic Joe Tiller would be proud of it.
So I shake my fist at that interception. Michigan's up 27-10, they've ground up a few minutes of the third quarter on their opening drive of the second half, and the floodgates are poised to open. Michigan tries a throwback that is not there; Speight throws his worst pass in a month; Michigan gives up negative yards on seven goal-to-go plays. Then they're on their own four and go get a field goal. Suddenly it is the fourth quarter.
At this juncture Michigan found itself in a position where only a colossal disaster could let Michigan State back into the game. If they just drained clock and made MSU do the same as it tried to score they would win. The game wasn't out of hand to the point where Michigan could run their triple-reverse flea-flicker as a middle finger; it was out of hand sufficiently that putting away the scoring offense made sense. After Michigan went up 20, their final three drives were a Lloydball spectacular:
run run pass punt
pass to fullback in the flat, run, pass, run run run punt
run run run punt
Unlike many applications of Lloydball under its namesake, this made total sense. Michigan's fourth quarter went as badly as possible without a catastrophic mistake and their win percentage never dropped under 92 or 98%, depending on which system you're checking.
The other side was fervently attempting to save face. Their first drive of the fourth quarter 1) featured their running quarterback running, 2) drained the playclock down to ten seconds when the game clock was running, and 3) ended in a field goal attempt.
Michigan State's only goal was to make it look good. Michigan's goal was to win. These two goals combined with some galactically incompetent officiating to get Michigan State very technically within one score, and then Mark Dantonio's attempt to run up the score in a loss backfired spectacularly.
You will reap what you sow.
In the aftermath, Michigan State is resorting to making stuff up. Mark Dantonio explained his decision to go for a fourth-quarter field goal down twenty by saying he wanted to make it a two possession game. He's not dumb enough to believe that or he'd be Tim Beckman, so he's just making his making-it-look-good look good. Meanwhile his quarterback got hit so hard he thinks he plays for Michigan now:
In looking at positives, Tyler O'Connor said a Michigan DL told him, “You guys might not have won the game, but you guys kicked our ass.”
When manballers had to manball their manballiest in this game, Michigan dominated. Fourth and short was a turnover on downs. Back to back goal line stands on the same drive weren't even difficult. Those snaps collectively gained negative yardage.
And what is it about Jim Harbaugh's track record that makes you think this is going to change any time soon? Your best bet is for the Michigan fanbase to collectively become Jed York. Good luck with that.
But, yeah, you've got that punt. Congratulations. Maybe this year you can name the meaningless touchdown with a second left to make it look vaguely competitive. I've got a suggestion: "The Future."
#1 Amara Darboh caught virtually everything that came his way, including a bomb down the sideline on which he was interfered on without a call. He speared a ball Speight sailed for a first down early in the third quarter and generally had his way with anyone MSU sent in his direction.
#2 Jabrill Peppers played virtually every position; he had a rushing touchdown, opened up holes for his teammates as MSU overreacted to him incessantly, and had two TFLs, a sack, and two fourth-down stops on defense. He is totally overrated.
#3 Wilton Speight continued his Rudock trajectory. The interception on the wheel route was real bad and he made some easy things look a bit harder than they should have been by holding on to the ball too long, but he offset those issues with a 10 YPA day.
Honorable mention: Taco Charlton was unblockable until they started tackling him; Khalid Hill had some thumpers; Jake Butt had a couple of nice catches in the #buttzone; Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis.
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU) 7: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU) 5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW). 3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU). 2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois). 2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers). 1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW), Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois). 0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Michigan State's attempt to run it up in a loss backfires spectacularly, giving Jabrill Peppers a chance to demonstrate his 100 M speed.
Thanks for the meaningless points and Heisman boost.
Honorable mention: Khalid Hill thunders Montae Nicholson into the ground; Charlton nails O'Connor and forces an interception at the end of the half; Speight spins away from a sack and nails Darboh downfield; Darboh spears a third-down conversion one-handed; Darboh fights through hella interference to grab a bomb down the sideline.
Michigan State rolling right down the field for a 75-yard TD on their opening drive made me feel rather bad, as if I had just been dropped in a wormhole and came out the other side in the Brady Hoke era.
Honorable mention: Wilton Speight shuts the door on a blowout with that INT, various horrendous calls in the fourth quarter, Stribling getting beat for MSU's first make-it-look-good TD.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again. UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy. Colorado: Speight blindsided. PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury. UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured. Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man. Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown? Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
[After THE JUMP: Nobody has ever attended Michigan. Strange but true.]
SPONSOR NOTES: Was talking with Matt at the Marlin tailgate on Saturday when he broached the idea of buying one of those tailgate trailers with TVs and whatnot for next year. I am strongly encouraging this idea in the sponsor notes of the game column because then I can watch more of the noon games. Do it for your country, Matt.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets and possibly a trailer, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
FORMATION NOTES: Just a couple of oddities other than the train. This was "Ace 3-wide offset." As you can see, the back is... offset.
And Michigan lined up in that formation with Chesson at TE again. Here he is running down the middle of the field.
These formations get appended with "WR hide."
PERSONNEL NOTES: OL and QB as you would expect, with Bushell-Beatty replacing Newsome when he got hurt. Michigan went much more WR-heavy in this game, with around 60 snaps for both Chesson and Darboh out of 77 possible. Perry, Crawford, and McDoom combined for another 38; with Butt near-omnipresent that meant Michigan was without a fullback for about half the snaps.
Smith got about 50% of the RB snaps with Evans and Isaac splitting the rest; Peppers got five snaps, four as a wildcat QB and one as a slot. Asiasi got 23 snaps as the #2 TE with Bunting injured; Wheatley and Michael Jocz(!) got 3 and 2 snaps, respectively.
No matter how many times you look, it's hard to choose. Charles Woodson jumped so high he caught a pass intended for the sideline. Jourdan Lewis long-jumped ~17 feet while backhanding a pass intended for an actual receiver after sticking with him on a dead sprint. Woodson loses minor degree of difficulty points for helping secure the football with his second hand; he regains them and then some by having to toe-tap inside the sideline to complete the catch. Lewis never needs the second hand; he also has the luxury of diving about as far from the sideline as possible. Woodson's came in a rivalry game; Lewis's in a game situation of much greater importance.
Here's the good news: you don't actually have to choose.
SPONSOR NOTES: Oh man Sauce Castillo, you're in for it. You already turned El Assico(!) into a blowout. I'm supposed to talk about mortgages. Right: low rates right now, and Matt will take these rates and turn them into a home if you qualify for things such as loans.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
FORMATION NOTES: UCF was a 3-4 front with a couple of adjustments. This is their base front; Michigan is in "ace diamond TE," with Asiasi at one of the FB spots.
On passing downs UCF would go to a nickel with two DL on the field and standup ends:
And they'd frequently line up their three DL right next to each other and shifted to the run strength of the formation:
Called this "pinched 3-4."
PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan cut down on the rotation severely despite having a huge lead. With the exception of left guard, the starting OL got almost every snap. Non-LG starters (Newsome, Cole, Kalis, Magnuson) got all 81 snaps. Braden and Bredeson platooned at LG with Bredeson(49 snaps) getting the plurality of time. Bushell-Beatty and Onwenu came in very late in a 7 OL package.
At WR, Chesson and Darboh got most of the run in a game featuring a lot of heavy packages. Grant Perry got just 15 snaps. Butt was near omnipresent; Bunting was the next-most utilized blocky/catchy guy. Poggi and Hill are still splitting things down the middle.
Smith got about half the work at RB(37 snaps), with Evans, Isaac, and Higdon splitting the rest about down the middle.
This play didn't crack the top five this week. I still want to talk about it, though. Not that you need to be told this, but watch Jabrill Peppers, who starts the play lined up on the block M.
The rest of the defense is caught flat-footed on this play. The D-line is slanting away from the running back. The force defender is nowhere to be found. The playside corner is caught in man coverage and has his back to the play. Peppers's first two steps are towards deep center, then he has to alter his path to avoid running into Delano Hill.
With a speedy running back around the edge unimpeded, this play looks destined for a first down. Peppers not only reads the play and covers a ton of ground to get to the back before the sticks, he cuts down the angle and finishes the play by literally throwing the RB out of bounds.
Savor every moment you get to watch this guy—excuse me, this Dude—play football. He is truly a once-in-a-generation athlete.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the UCF game in GIFs.]
It's been a while since Michigan fans set to grumblin' about 37 point wins, but here we are. That one track guy ran a long way and quarterbacks set to scrambling and a bunch of guys jetted into the backfield. These are bad things that a remorseless juggernaut would not allow in its vicinity, and thus it's open season for crabbers.
This is not necessarily a criticism. Your author joined with the Ann Arbor Pincer & Exoskeleton masses at halftime:
Not super happy with the blitz pickups. Even if they're blitzing you gotta pick up the guys coming up the gut.
What can I say? I expected Michigan to pave these dudes and they did not. While UCF did stack the box and blitz its little try-hard buns off, I rather thought that wouldn't matter. I did not expect UCF to rush for an uncomfortably large number of yards themselves.
I don't place anywhere near as much emphasis on these things as Scott Frost—"we outrushed them, we outhit them, and in the futuristic game of run-hit-ball, those are the only factors"—but in the middle of a live football game you're winning by a zillion points the only thing that keeps your interest is taking the data in front of you and projecting it down the road, when Michigan will face teams that can rush for 300 yards and not lose by 37… or at all.
After a rewatch and a little bit of time to reflect, the things that happened were things Michigan can clean up. Blitzers coming free because Michigan didn't get off their blocks fast enough. Defensive ends too gung-ho about getting around the edge because their careers are still in the tadpole stage. A bust here and there probably related to the new defense.
There wasn't anything that set off alarm bells except one bad fill by Dymonte Thomas against a 10.3 100 meter guy who was such a niche player that his 87-yard touchdown was his only carry of the game. (You know you're a specialist when you run 87 yards on your first opportunity and your coaches are like "great job, eat bench.") Per folks who look at these things closely, Michigan did mostly pave them, and declined to do things that would exploit UCF's blitz-happy approach on the ground.
What they did instead is let Wilton Speight go to work. Whatever ground game hiccups have increased the worry factor should be more than offset by Speight looking like a Harbaugh quarterback immediately. Michigan saw stacked boxes and responded by passing over and over again. Up 31-7, Michigan got the ball on its own 13 and threw five straight times to open their drive. After halftime they indicated they were not inclined to take the pedal off the metal by opening up a touchdown drive with back to back completions to Butt for a total of 40 yards.
I have seen some quarterbacks this year. I have seen LSU fans go bonkers because a Purdue transfer went 6/14 for 100 yards against Jacksonville State. I have seen Clayton Thorson rack up seven points against Illinois State. There's a ton of collar-pulling across college football when new quarterbacks step in, no matter their age or hype level. Harbaugh has none of that with Speight. UCF set up to deny the run so Michigan rained it on their heads.
There wasn't an ounce of hesitation, and I was reminded of the quarterback press availability a week or so before the season. Speight sat down and told the assembled reporters that he flat-out expected to start. That was a confident read. It went with his spring performance, and now 50 throws into his starting career we have a bonafide trend. Wilton Speight is a man who knows where he wants to go, and would like us to come with him. Even if we are a crusty, crustaceous people.
#1 Wilton Speight completed 68% of his passes despite three drops on routine balls, cracked 300 yards, was still super accurate on everything under 20 yards and good on longer throws, and dealt with an unfortunate amount of pressure with aplomb.
#2 Ryan Glasgow had a dominant defensive game on the interior, sussed out a dangerous screen for a TFL, and just about ran down a track star on the 87 yarder. His range is completely absurd for a nose tackle.
#3 Jabrill Peppers led Michigan with eight tackles, two of them TFLs, added two hurries on top of that, returned a punt 35 yards, and was not responsible for much of the scramble or screen yardage ceded.
Honorable mention: Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh were locked in and excellent. Erik Magnuson and Grant Newsome shut out the men trying to rush on them.
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF). 2: Jabrill Peppers (T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF); Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF). 1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii). 0.5: Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii), Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
No sir, no Early Season Jake Rudock this year.
Late Season Jake Rudock… ask again later.
Honorable mention: BLOCK ALL THE KICKS; Peppers forces a fumble with authority; Rashan Gary flashes end product on impressive sack; Speight hits Butt on a sweet corner route for a TD in tough circumstances; Michigan inserts Chris Evans at upback so they can't pop it up and UCF panics and kicks it out of bounds; Chase Winovich sack/strip results in a turnover.
Dymonte Thomas gives everyone the heebie-jeebies by failing to tackle a dude for like 20 yards and instead he goes 87. Also worrying about this play: the eerie similarities between it and the late season problems last year's defense had.
Honorable mention: Michigan Stadium has collective hallucination that Jake Butt dropped not one but two passes; various QB scrambles caused by bad contain; Kenny Allen drops the snap on a punt; several run plays are thunked in the the backfield.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again. UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
[After THE JUMP: SPEIGHTDOWN, also bad thing discussion]