Early on in the fourth quarter, the game out of hand, Michigan Stadium’s ops people decided to go for the kill. Zombie Nation blasted from the speakers. The fans played along, mocking Penn State with its own chant.
The penultimate post of our annual Draft the Big Ten/all-conference four-deep series that had no draft. This episode it has no Brian either, since he's in season preview mode.
Those CBs up in Ann Arbor are something else pic.twitter.com/PfYzEbUnT9
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 26, 2018
BiSB: But... uh...Yeah, we're done here.
Seth: By the way I did the Northwestern scouting and I do not think we need to worry about a Gaz from the Nobody Watches it Division.
Ace: Here’s another featuring the now-fourth cornerback.
The returning B1G leaders in YAC allowed pic.twitter.com/Xflske57CB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 25, 2018
Seth: There are no hoodies left at Wisconsin.
BiSB: The existence of Ojemudia (NTO) on that list does not give me great comfort.
Seth: Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson is in the NFL. Manny Rugamba transferred.
Ace: Did not expect him to the the first guy named after M’s guys.
BiSB: Do we even need to discuss Long and Hill? As in, is there a debate with them as #1 and #2 in some order?
Seth: I mean, is there anything but GOOD AT CORNERBACK that is in those numbers?
Ace: Arguably the best pair of corners in the country, Hill looks marginally better at the moment at playing the ball, both almost never get cleanly beat, uh… Thomas/Watson would probably be a top-three B1G corner pairing? Is that crazy to say?
Seth: Um, top four.
BiSB: Long has a certain Nick Lidstrom thing where he is just always in the right spot.
You wanted ball. You do not get ball. [Patrick Barron]
Ace: STILL. I like how you invoked The Perfect Human.
Seth: Brian isn't here because he's in preview week mode but he would want us to mention Hill should play nickel.
Ace: I suspect we’ll see him slide inside a decent amount, especially against spread-y teams with a good slot.
Seth: GIPHY is picking for Brian.
/giphy what do we do about slot fades
Ace: Giphy had no idea how to handle that.
BiSB: Looks like Giphy likes Rutgers' nickel package?
slackbot: I think you mean Rutger
[After THE JUMP: slackbot thinks that a lot.]
Talk about David’s [Long] play. He’s really seemed to pick it up.
“Yeah, David, from week to week, really from day to day, is just getting better. Really he’s working at his craft. It means something to him. It’s really good to see. I’m really happy for him.”
Any update on Lavert [Hill] or is that just a wait-and-see kind of thing?
“I think that’s a wait-and-see kind of thing. Know he’s in the protocol right now, so we’ll wait and see.”
What does that mean, ‘the protocol’?
“That means that he has to see a doctor every day, and certain symptoms have to go away or if they stay then certain things happen.”
How are you preparing to go without him if he can’t go?
“Oh, we’re fine. We’ll be fine. I have all the confidence in B-Wat and certainly David. Those guys are true starters anyway, and then Ben St. Juste behind them and Ambry [Thomas], he’s been playing, so we’re good. Then Jaylen Kelly-Powell, he’s been kind of working the nickel corner mode too, so we’ve got enough. We’re in good shape.”
Speaking of Jaylen, we saw him against Maryland actually on the defense and not just on special teams. What has he shown you?
“Well, he’s shown that he can cover. He’s pretty—he’s like a little magnet. He’s able to get in the slot and cover very well, and that’s why we had confidence to put him in there. He’s been doing well. Really well. What’s great about Jaylen is he can do a lot of different things. He’s a freshman; we’ve asked him to play safety, we’ve asked him to play corner, and now nickel. So those are—it’s not an easy thing to do and he’s done it and he’s done it well.”
[After THE JUMP: Kelly-Powell’s long-term fit, Ben St. Juste’s progress, when they need a decision on Hill, and intercepting the China concept]
11/11/2017 – Michigan 35, Maryland 10 – 8-2, 5-2 Big Ten
something happened somewhere [Paul Sherman]
Details from Michigan's most recent football game are impossible to remember. I have literally just rewatched the game and written much about the specifics of what occurred below, but if you asked me right now what happened in the 2017 Maryland game I would start with "uh..." and maybe get to "I think we blocked a punt" before screaming "oh god what is that?!" and running away. My memory of last year's game against Maryland is vague annoyance at tunnel screens; the year before that Ty Isaac fumbled a couple times and there was a cool screen to Jake Butt. All other knowledge requires a lookup.
So too this season, which has featured two very memorable losses and a gray sea of immediately forgotten three-score-plus wins over bad teams. Per this site's preferred fancystat, S&P+, Michigan's best win this year is over #38 Purdue*. Indiana is next at #62, and then it's a bunch of teams 80th or worse. Marquee Nonconference Opponent Florida entered the weekend 103rd. Next week they will play Florida State for the Spiritual Apple Cup.
Mentioning Indiana just reminded me that Michigan went to overtime with the Hoosiers, which I had forgotten.
There was a mild hue and cry when Michigan was left out of the first cofopoff rankings of the season, well behind any other two-loss major conference team. But it was mild, because one glance at the schedule is sufficient to confirm the suspicion that Michigan hasn't actually done anything this season.
It's not their fault that Florida was until recently led by a man who had to leave the room when that Left Shark thing was going on. It's not their fault that usually decent-to-good programs like Cincinnati and Air Force have cratered this season. It's not their fault that Jim Delany added Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, or that Minnesota and Purdue are two of their three crossover games. But when your best scalp is "moderately feisty 4-6 team"... I mean, don't be surprised when you aren't invited to the college football prom.
Michigan now has an opportunity to change that, with two top-ten teams to close the regular season. Wisconsin is this year's ultimate Ain't Played Nobody Team; their top S&P+ opponent is... Florida Atlantic, which is admittedly higher than Purdue in those ranking at #24. Their second best win is a virtual tossup between enigmatic Iowa and... yep, Purdue. Ohio State looks invincible some of the time, and some of the time they lose to Iowa by 31.
So it's possible. Michigan is a deeply flawed team currently on their third quarterback and second right tackle. They can't pass protect. They can't make a field goal of late. They can run a bit, and can throttle most opposing offenses. They've had three straight games in which they run out to a big lead and nurse it home with stuff they've already put on film; by this point the tendency-breaking whizbang stuff must be piled box upon box in the fireworks warehouse.
This would be a good time to see what they look like against #15. They've got S&P+s #3 and #1 teams on the docket, and that looks like a tough road to take. Even if you're skeptical of the number people on the computers, Vegas didn't see this weekend's game much differently. They installed Wisconsin as more than a touchdown favorite.
But there's no other choice if Michigan wants this season to be something other than a gray expanse pockmarked with the occasional depressing defeat. Which is fine, to some extent, since virtually the whole team returns next year. The howling of the radio Petes will be annoyingly shrill, though.
*[Numbers don't yet take this weekend's games into account, but when they do the gist will be the same.]
one point for mutumbo finger wag [Sherman]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Josh Metellus. Metellus blocked a punt, had multiple instances of excellent coverage as yet another team tried to exploit Michigan safeties' man coverage, and regularly flashed into the screen to shut down outside runs for minimal gain.
#2 Chris Evans. 109 yards on just 17 touches, and many of those required Evans to dodge a tackle before he could get going. Should have had a bit more but Peters didn't see him on a mesh route that he was wide open on. Find this man in space.
#3 David Long. An interception with an 80 yard return and, with Hill going out, the lion's share of the work as Michigan held DJ Moore well under season averages. Also had another nice PBU.
Honorable mention: Mo Hurst does Mo Hurst things; Devin Bush was the main guy on the failed fake punt and did work on the incessant screens; Tyree Kinnel was forced into a lot of tackles and didn't miss any; Karan Higdon broke a big play from nothing and was generally effective; Zach Gentry had his most productive day as a WR.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
7: Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU, T2 Minnesota).
6: Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers, T3 Minnesota).
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU, #1 Minnesota), David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU, #3 Maryland)
4: Chris Evans(T2 Minnesota, #2 Maryland).
3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)), Josh Metellus (#1 Maryland).
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers),
1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), Ben Bredeson(T3 Minnesota).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Michigan's motion discombobulates the Maryland defense so badly that Michigan gets an easy 30-yard pitch and catch TD that puts them up 21-0 and more or less ends the competitive section of the game.
Brandon Peters hits Zach Gentry for a 33-yard score with 11:21 left in the second quarter. Michigan leads Maryland, 21-0. pic.twitter.com/1aOJZDink3
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) November 11, 2017
Honorable mention: Metellus blocks a punt; Maryland tries a fake punt that goes Poorly; Higdon rips off a huge catch-and-run with a GET ORF ME stiffarm; Evans seals the game with a nifty inside zone run. Other things? I feel that other things did happen in this game.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Quinn Nordin misses a field goal of less than 40 yards, which officially puts us on #collegekickers watch after it went so well early in the season.
Honorable mention: Maryland has a touchdown drive. Michigan's third quarter features a lot of three and outs and not many yards. Peters misses a very open DPJ for a touchdown.
[After THE JUMP: hero-type substances on the half-shell]
SPONSOR NOTES. Matt's on his way to Penn State as we speak, thinking no doubt about various ways in which US Soccer's surplus can be spent effectively: reducing the cost of A-level coaching licenses, supporting youth clubs that produce USMNT players, building a giant statue of Sunil Gulati being devoured by wolves. Maybe I'm projecting. I'm probably projecting.
Matt's probably thinking about ways to get your mortgage quote even faster, like inventing a time machine or hiring really fast donkeys. Because he gets you quotes fast, like a competent person not in charge of US soccer does.
FORMATION NOTES. Another 60-40 split between the stack package and a four-man line. 31 four man line snaps of which Mone probably got 25, with Dwumfour in on passing downs. 4-3 snaps went down 3 against a spread offense.
Michigan is deploying some dime now, with all three CBs on the field simultaneously. I had them for 11 dime snaps.
Indiana was all spread, never under center. Here is a picture of Indiana:
Other than the usual diet of weird line alignments on passing downs this was basically what you'd expect.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Secondary was the usual: Kinnel and Metellus omnipresent except for a play or two after Kinnel got dinged when Woods came in. Thomas and Glasgow both got a few snaps. CBs rotated through snaps, with a half-dozen or so snaps where all three were on the field.
Bush was omnipresent; McCray nearly so except in the immediate aftermath of a cut block when Gil got a play.
Michigan again rotated between two of Hudson, Furbush, and Mone, with the 3-3-5 set far more common than alternatives. Uche got a few of Hudson/Furbush's snaps in the second quarter. The DL did see some rotation, with Solomon, Kemp, Marshall and Dwumfour all getting scattered snaps. Winovich did not come off the field; Dwumfour was usually in as a fourth DL on passing downs instead of Mone.
[After THE JUMP: bolded alter-ego can't maintain the fiction any longer!]
10/14/2017 – Michigan 27, Indiana 20 (OT) – 5-1, 2-1 Big Ten
I am at stage five. I have passed through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. And here we are: acceptance. Michigan is not very good this year. I accept that they are rebuilding.
Well... wait. Let me rephrase that. 60% of Michigan is righteous. 20% is questionable but encouraging. 20% is a deep, black pit of infinite depth that you fall through for hours at a time. The walls murmur foul, unspeakable red-zone stats. You yell "I DON'T BELIEVE RED ZONE OFFENSE IS MEANINGFULLY DIFFERENT FROM OVERALL OFFENSE"; the walls ignore you. Occasionally a gust of wind buffets you from below, braking your descent. It doesn't really matter, though. Terminal velocity or soon-to-reach terminal velocity are functionally identical when you are dropping forever in an inky expanse of nothing, waiting for the sickening crunch that will never come except when it does about every 365 days.
Woe! Woe! Fire and flame, death and brimstone! Woe. Dolorous woe.
...is what you might have said like 15 years ago when this stuff still had the capacity to hurt you. Now? Nah. Some Indiana fan sent me a picture of scoreboard from The Horror on Saturday and I just snorted. This is no longer a fanbase that considers 7-5 the "Year of Infinite Pain," as this site did way back in the ancient past. Michigan's going to lose some more games this year and end up in Florida on New Year's Day.
That's more or less fine. They return something like 21 starters next year, give or take QB. This depends on whether or not Brandon Peters can humorously conk John O'Korn in the head and sneakily don his jersey at some point in the next few weeks.
You've probably figured it out already but the righteous bits are the run defense, the pass defense, and special teams. The questionable-but-encouraging bit is a ground game that appears to be waking up and putting things together. And the black, infinite, inky pit is the passing offense.
O'Korn's 10-for-20, 58 yard performance was actually worse than last year's Indiana game, when he managed 59 yards on 16 throws. Michigan completed three passes for four yards in the second half—two of them screens—and did not even think about involving O'Korn in their attempts to put away the game. It got so bad that on one of Michigan's few downfield attempts of the fourth quarter that Official Journalists were barely concealing their bewilderment:
Zach Gentry was open. O'Korn threw into double coverage. Gentry tossed his arms up in the air at the end of his route.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) October 14, 2017
Very same, Zach Gentry. A quick glance at the photo that leads this column will confirm how very, very covered Kekoa Crawford was. And yet.
Meanwhile Harbaugh almost lost his mind on the sideline when Michigan pulled out a shovel pass they hadn't put on film, saw it break for a first down and more, and then had it called back because O'Korn didn't get the snap off in time. Harbaugh's clearly toning down his sideline behavior this year after the PF in Columbus and the supposed extra focus on coach behavior; that was a moment where he just about relapsed. But did not!
So here we are. That's three of four O'Korn games with extended playing time where he's been horrible. I have no idea what happened against Purdue, but if you're asking me to project future performance it's more in line with the last two weeks than the outlier. Teams are now preparing for a guy who's only good when he breaks the pocket, and there goes the efficiency of that gambit.
It's bad, man. It's so bad that Michigan spent half of its dropbacks presenting O'Korn with just two guys—or even one—in a downfield pattern. The interception he threw at a dominated Eddie McDoom was third and seven; Michigan had outside receivers run fades. Nobody else was in a pattern. O'Korn somehow still threw the wrong fade, choosing the 5'11" guy being checked by Indiana's best cornerback. Michigan dumbed down their passing offense to an extraordinary extent in this game, and their quarterback still couldn't keep up.
Game over, man. Game over.
It turns out there is a difficulty level too hard on the Jim Harbaugh Quarterback Constructor video game, and it's "Houston transfer who lost his job as a sophomore." Noted, and forgiven. Michigan's desperate scramble for quarterbacks upon Harbaugh's arrival turned up a strike in Jake Rudock, and a... not strike in O'Korn.
Michigan still has their goals in front of them, and maybe O'Korn has another Purdue game in him somewhere. I doubt it, personally, but we'd all written off the Brown Jug in 2008 just in time for Nick Sheridan to put up 200 passing yards in a 29-6 win. You can just barely cobble together a justification for continuing with O'Korn for another week, because a road night game at Penn State is next and we don't want to send our baby lamb to slaughter.
But win or lose against PSU, it's hard to imagine Michigan not taking Brandon Peters out for a test drive against Rutgers. Because Michigan's future is extraordinarily bright if they can find a QB. Even if O'Korn turns it around he's not going to be part of that future. Meanwhile it's hard to imagine production worse than what they've currently got. Here is where people say "it can always be worse": I submit that it cannot. Two point nine yard an attempt and two shoulda-been interceptions, people.
Game over. Insert freshman to continue.
go go go go [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Karan Higdon. Yeah, maybe several defensive players had better individual games in chart-world. All of those guys reinforce each other, though. Higdon's efforts were emphatically not reinforced by Michigan's passing game and he still put up Michigan's first 200 yard RB game since Mike freakin' Hart. He earned all 25 of Michigan's overtime yards, showed legit deep speed on his long touchdown, and ground out countless YAC without much, if anything, in the way of a missed read.
#2(t) Rashan Gary and Mo Hurst. Gary's 2.5 TFLs coulda shoulda been 4.5; he was robbed of a couple more sack by bloody circumstance but for the first time felt like an omnipresent terror. Meanwhile Hurst continued being Hurst, repeatedly whipping guys and getting pressure directly up the middle. The downgrade when both gents were out on the first IU touchdown drive was obvious. Both guys get two points, because I want them to have these points.
#3 Lavert Hill, Brandon Watson, and David Long. Michgian's CB crew all but erased Simmie Cobbs, and Hill turned in a Jourdan Lewis-esque INT. Most completions were to guys they were not in coverage on. Also: I mean, 40 yards for Cobbs. Get it.
Honorable mention: Chase Winovich wasn't far off his DL mates. Devin Bush turned in another very good outing, albeit one without fireworks. Ty Isaac chipped in eight productive carries. The OL was excellent on the ground and gave up zero sacks... narrowly.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana)
3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana)
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana).
1: Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati), Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana), David Long (T3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Michigan busts out a new counter look on a fourth-quarter drive, running it three times on a five-play drive that ended with a 59-yard Higdon touchdown. Don't stop:
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 14, 2017
Honorable mention: Michigan wins the game with a goal-line stand from the two. Higdon bounces outside for an OT touchdown. Higdon bounces outside for a first-half touchdown.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
John O'Korn throws to a double-covered Kekoa Crawford instead of finding the other guy on a two man route. That guy, Zach Gentry, was open for a 40-yard catch and run touchdown. Also he was the only other guy in a route.
Honorable mention: Indiana breaks off a punt return that gets them to overtime; various absurd calls after the mean man yelled at the refs but especially the Cam Cheesman "hold" that was critical for IU's tying FG drive; Michigan picks up a bunch of legitimate penalties, including PFs against Kekoa Crawford and Josh Metellus (unless Drake Harris is on the punt return team).
[After THE JUMP: How can Peters be behind this guy?]