Fee Fi Foe Film: Iowa Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Iowa Defense

Submitted by Ace on November 10th, 2016 at 6:42 PM

Previously: Iowa Offense

mind the wheel

Remember the Penn State offense that Michigan held to 191 total yards on 3.5 YPP?

That same Penn State offense roasted Iowa for 599 yards on 8.6 YPP. PSU only needed to throw the ball 18 times. They averaged 7.2 yards per carry (one sack removed) and 12.3 yards per pass attempt (one sack added).

While not as outright depressing as the offense, Iowa's defense isn't exactly in a good place right now.

Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Yes, we've removed Mason Cole's star for now; as you've probably gathered from reading this blog, we expected more out of him at center so far this year. He's got a chance to earn it back quickly if he handles Jaleel Johnson, Iowa's dangerous nose tackle.

Base Set? 4-3. Iowa stays in their base package almost exclusively. When opponents go three-wide, OLB Ben Niemann slides over the slot.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: Iowa Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Iowa Offense

Submitted by Ace on November 10th, 2016 at 12:53 PM

Before I spent a moment working on this post, I knew what would be leading it off, because this came across my feed on Saturday.

Is predictability bad? Let's find out. Iowa drives vs. Penn State:

  • Seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to cut deficit to 21-7
  • Four three-and-outs
  • Two four-and-outs
  • Eight-play, 40-yard drive, turnover on downs after failed QB sneak
  • Eight-play, 23-yard drive, terrible CJ Beathard interception
  • Nine-play, 81 yard touchdown drive when score was 41-7

Ah, so.

Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Due to a combination of ineffectiveness and injury, Iowa has started seven different combinations on the offensive line in nine games this season. Cole Croston, who began the season as the starting left tackle, is the primary reason for the near-weekly reshuffling; after struggling for five games at LT, culminating in an embarrassing performance against Northwestern's Ifeadi Odenigbo, he moved to RT, and ever since he's battled an ankle injury that's mostly kept him off the field.

It's unclear what the combination will be this time around. LG Boone Myers initially moved to LT to replace Croston, then started at RT last week after missing a game due to injury. Myers is listed as the starting LT this week; the starting LT from the last two weeks, Ike Boettger, is atop the depth chart at RT. No matter the alignment, the tackles have been mediocre, and Croston or his replacement (at this point, LG Keegan Render) has been a sore spot.

The receiving corps lost their best player, Matt VandeBerg, early in the season, and star tight end George Kittle has been playing at less than 100% since a mid-October leg injury.

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Dinosaur.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? DeBordian devotion to zone. Every Iowa run play I noted was either an inside zone, outside zone, or incredibly obvious jet sweep to a running back lined up in the slot.

Hurry it up or grind it out? Iowa is the third-slowest team in the country by adjusted pace. This comes as a shock, I know.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: 2016 Maryland Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: 2016 Maryland Defense

Submitted by Seth on November 4th, 2016 at 9:16 AM

Previously: Maryland Offense


It’s like we’re in Hell or something.

D.J. Durkin is an excellent defensive coach. Last year, until they ran into Urban Meyer’s historic buzzsaw without any nose tackles, Durkin had Michigan’s run defense playing so well that a non-Rutgers Power Five school offered him a head coaching job. And yet his first defense at Maryland has been horrendous.

Obviously the time continuum has been disrupted, creating a new temporal event sequence resulting in this alternate reality.

English, Doc!

Here, here, let me demonstrate. Let’s say this line represents four yards from the line of scrimmage, and each line break hence is a tenth of a yard per carry, with sacks removed:





         <----Here’s Michigan in 2016 (4.33 YPC)

         <----Here’s Michigan in 2015 (4.45 YPC)

         <----Here’s Maryland in 2015 (4.55 YPC)

         <----Here’s the FBS average (4.65 YPC)


         <----Here’s Michigan’s historically bad 2010 (4.89 YPC)






         <----Here’s Maryland right now (5.45 YPC)

Somewhere in the transition Maryland skewed down into this tangent, creating an alternate Durkin defense. Alternate to you, me, and people who watched more than the Ohio State game last year, but reality for everyone else.

Recognize this?


It’s the formation we used all last year with a “buck linebacker” who’s not a linebacker hanging off the edge. I know, because there isn’t a free safety in sight. I found it in the Maryland-MSU game! Along with this…

[After the JUMP: we go back to October 22, 2016, and BTN2Go’s awful streams, to find out how to get good at PFF while being literally one spot from dead last in rushing S&P]

Fee Fi Foe Film: 2016 Maryland Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: 2016 Maryland Offense

Submitted by Seth on November 3rd, 2016 at 11:04 AM


We’ve got to go back….to the last movie

As usual at this time of year Ace is called away to preview bouncy hoopy ball, so I get to watch film. Finding film, now that was hard. Penn State and Minnesota handled them, Purdue tells you zero, and the Indiana game went vintage #CHAOSTEAM. So we’re going back to the same game we covered last week.

Granted, this runs the risk of running into our former selves, for which I foresee two possibilities: 1) Coming face to face with football this awful again will put you into shock and you’d simply pass out. Or 2) The encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that's a worse case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to schools that belong in the ACC.

Personnel. My diagram [click to embiggen]:


Hurst is back in for Godin and the rest of Michigan is unchanged.

As for the Terps, the receivers are all slot types, and the tallest may be the slottiest—Teldrick Morgan, the grad transfer from New Mexico State, was most often the jet guy. Maryland will move them all around, and run a ton of WR screens.

There’s a big contrast between the left side of the offensive line, which has two Academic All-Big Ten former walk-ons in consideration for play-related conference awards, and the right side, which has a 5-star true freshman and an even more lost 5-star true sophomore. The latter, Damian Prince, may be more of a problem than numbers show. The true freshman, Terrance Davis, actually did alright. The guy he replaced, Shelton, still comes in once in awhile when Davis needs instruction.

PFF’s grading of these guys made sense on the left and none on the right: Michaels Minter and Dunn are +13.5 and +11.6 respectively, almost all of that in the run game. Those scores held up on film. Dunn, the LT, is kind of a senior version of Mason Cole last year: great in space, and solid at pass pro up to—but not including—elite pass rushers. Minter is agile and built low—kind of reminds me of OSU’s Billy Price. On the right, Prince and Davis have positive pass block ratings(?!?) and negative run grades. I believe that’s mostly because Maryland’s offense does whatever they can to hide these guys. The PFF scores reflect an OL that’s rarely asked to do more than delay a pass rush for longer than it takes to set up a bubble screen.

That helps explain why that tight end, Hayward, graded out as a disaster to PFF. Derrick Hayward is an Ebron special: can’t catch, isn’t built to block, athletic enough to be drafted in the 1st round by the Detroit Lions. He rarely gets to go out in a pass pattern in long situations because the 6’3 right tackle always needs help. On non-passing downs they’ll flex him out as a 4th receiver, or bring him off the line as an H-back for various Harbaugh-style blocks—he’s good at ID’ing but doesn’t stand up to a hit and has a tendency to hold. McDowell had a field day against these guys.

[Hit THE JUMP for a poor man’s Ohio State]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Michigan State Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Michigan State Defense

Submitted by Ace on October 27th, 2016 at 6:12 PM

Previously: Michigan State Offense

not ideal.

I switched around the games a bit for scouting MSU's defense. For recency, I went back over the Maryland game last night. (I recommend doing this.) For an opponent that more closely resembles Michigan, I went back to the Wisconsin game. State had a number of changes to the two-deep between those two games, including moving their best player. I have more notes than are probably necessary, so let's dig right in.

Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Changes on the Michigan side: Henry Poggi at fullback with Khalid Hill dinged up (Hill may very well still play) and Jehu Chesson loses his shield—the production and draft hype both aren't there right now, but that could change.

MSU has shifted their lineup around quite a bit. Evan Jones, who started the first five games at SDE, is out with an undisclosed injury. To cover for him, Malik McDowell slid out from three-tech to SDE, opening up a spot for Brandon Clemons, who's been surprisingly good for a midseason position-switch starter—he started the first four games at right guard.

CB Darian Hicks was out of the lineup for two games with an injury and returned to his starting spot last week. "STAR" linebacker Jon Reschke has been out since week three with an ankle injury. Riley Bullough is back at the MIKE for at least, like, ten minutes or so.

Base Set? 4-3. MSU utilizes a number of defensive backs in nickel and dime formations. The primary reserve is freshman corner Justin Lane, who usually plays on the outside with Vayante Copeland or another starting DB sliding inside.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: Michigan State Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Michigan State Offense

Submitted by Ace on October 26th, 2016 at 5:22 PM

The audio was screwed up in my copy of the video, so here's this.

In the last couple days, I've gone over film of MSU's offense against Maryland and BYU, and boy, it's been a fun week. I ended up doing full charting of the BYU game, which featured an oddly timed and ill-fated quarterback switch from Tyler O'Connor to Damion Terry, and Hennecharted the Maryland game, which featured a third quarterback, Brian Lewerke.

Yes, State has a quarterback problem. That is far from the only problem.

Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

The starting QB is a guess. It wouldn't be surprising to see O'Connor either start over Lewerke or replace him partway through. We didn't want to use a precious bench spot on a QB because MSU frequently deploys RB Gerald Holmes, TE Jamal Lyles, and FB Prescott Line, and they still rotate a fair amount on the O-line. A knee injury to guard David Beedle, who has the OL's fourth-most snaps despite not starting the last three games (and missing Maryland), has opened up playing time for true freshman Thiyo Lukusa, who got quite a bit of run against Maryland.

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-style, for whatever that means anymore. State tends to go I-form and run-heavy on early downs, then go into the gun for passing downs.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A mix. They run a fair amount of inside zone, and also feature quite a bit of power.

Hurry it up or grind it out? Grind. MSU is 106th in adjusted pace.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: Illinois Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Illinois Defense

Submitted by Ace on October 20th, 2016 at 4:14 PM

Previously: Illinois Offense

A good D-line only does so much when you have this back seven.

Nebraska had eight real drives against Illinois. This is how they went:

  • Four touchdowns (13 plays-75 yards, 18-75, 11-59, 2-70)
  • Drives of 11-47 and 10-53 ending in field goal attempts (one make, one miss)
  • Two plays, 28 yards, hilariously bad Tommy Armstrong interception
  • 5-play, 17-yard drive in Illinois territory ending in a lost fumble

The Huskers didn't have much in the way of explosive plays; they still had a scoring opportunity every time they didn't turn the ball over, and those turnovers were Nebraska making bad plays instead of Illinois doing something particularly good.

The Illini do boast a disruptive defensive line, but they can be pushed around, and that back seven is having a rough go.

Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

The Illini have made a few lineup changes in the weeks since Nebraska. Taylor Barton, who did not look good at free safety in this game, has been yanked in favor of freshman Stanley Green, who hadn't played a defensive snap until the Purdue game two weeks ago. Freshman Kenyon Jackson has replaced Rob Bain at defensive tackle for reasons that elude me. Nickel Chris James has lost his role to normal starting corner Darius Mosely, who slid inside to make room for JuCo transfer Amari Hayes on the outside. The lineup above, to say the least, is not set in stone.

Base Set? Illinois had played more 4-2-5 nickel than anything else, but Nebraska's heavier formations revealed how they'll likely line up against Michigan. The Illini play a 4-3 against those sets, often with a safety rolled into the box:

They play both over and under fronts when in a 4-3. While normally a Tampa 2 team, they played a lot of one-high coverage in these scenarios.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: Illinois Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Illinois Offense

Submitted by Ace on October 19th, 2016 at 4:27 PM

The good.

The internet appears to be looking out for me, as the only Illinois game readily available was their 31-16 loss at Nebraska a few weeks ago. This prevented me from going over more recent games against Purdue and Rutgers. Thank you, internet.

The Illini managed intermittent success on the ground against the Huskers in a game that was close until midway through the fourth quarter. Their lack of a downfield passing game doomed them; that has been their biggest issue on offense with Wes Lunt at quarterback.

Of course, we're not sure who Illinois will play at QB on Saturday. Lunt exited the Purdue game and missed last week's Rutgers game with a back injury. He's back at practice; replacement Chayse Crouch would provide more a dual-threat, spread-option look if Lunt is benched or can't go.

Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Another week, another pair of stars added to the Michigan defense; this time around, Ben Gedeon and Delano Hill add theirs. Only Dymonte Thomas and Mike McCray to go, and to be honest, neither is too far off.

The Illinois lineup can only be a guess. Lunt is questionable, three different tailbacks have started, and the offensive line has had five different starting combinations in six games—though they've at least kept this look for two straight weeks.

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Hybrid. Illinois spent a lot of early downs in a three-WR I-form, a lot of passing downs in the gun, and they mixed in their fair share of Ace and pistol looks. It's hard to pin down an offensive identity for them.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Mostly zone blocking in this game, with a couple interesting wrinkles, one of which will be covered later.

Hurry it up or grind it out? A slow grind. Illinois is 124th in adjusted pace. They don't huddle that often; they do stand around forever staring at the sideline.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers Defense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers Defense

Submitted by Ace on October 6th, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Previously: Rutgers Offense

in coverage: RU's top-graded player in their back seven.

After looking at the more recent OSU game for the offense post, I switched to Washington for the defense because OSU's and Michigan's offenses are so dissimilar.

It probably didn't matter. Does anything matter?

via The Mathlete. bottom left is good, top right is bad.

Nothing matters.

Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Rutgers's second-best defensive lineman, DE Quanzell Lambert, was lost for the season in the Iowa game, and SLB Greg Jones suffered a scary injury after a helmet-to-helmet collision against OSU—he's out and may be done playing football. Their season-opening starter at free safety, Saquon Hampton, went down in the Washington game; his replacement, Kiy Hester, got dinged up last week and is questionable for Saturday. Hampton is reportedly ready to return to the lineup this week, so we've penciled him in as the starter.

Base Set? 4-3. Since Rutgers is a heavy quarters team—Chris Ash was OSU's defensive coordinator before coming to RU this year—they don't bring on a nickel as often as many teams; their safeties are responsible for the slot receivers if they go deep, and they'll shade the SLB over the slot to cover underneath stuff.

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

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers Offense

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers Offense

Submitted by Ace on October 5th, 2016 at 5:09 PM


Based on what was readily available online, I had the choice of two Rutgers games to break down: their opening-week blowout loss to Washington or last week's blowout loss to Ohio State. I chose the more recent game for this breakdown because RU lost the centerpiece of their offense, Janarion Grant, the week prior, and I wanted to see how they'd function without him. Spoiler alert: not well.

Not well at all. Rutgers punted on every drive that didn't end a half; they didn't even finish a drive in OSU territory. The yakety flea flicker you see above is what happened on the lone occasion they crossed midfield.

They're gonna die.

Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:

Glasgow and Taco got shields now that we've tweaked the criteria, and Stribling got his star after last week's performance. On the other side... well, at least they've got a bunch of returning starters? Unfortunately, four of them stand out for the wrong reasons, and TE Nick Arcidiacono easily could've been a fifth—PFF has him grading out at a -7.9 and pretty much equally bad in all phases through four games. This doesn't bode well against a roving band of humanoid ninja stars.

Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Chris Ash is trying to turn Rutgers into Jersey Ohio State; OC Drew Mehringer is a Tom Herman disciple. This is very much a spread after being more of a hybrid under Kyle Flood.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Rutgers doesn't have the horses up front to run OSU's power read stuff with much success at all. They'll mix some of that in, but for now they're mostly an inside zone team.

Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle. Rutgers is 67th in adjusted pace. They go no-huddle but aren't fast enough to truly tempo defenses.

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