Six Friends, Five Years, One Last Chance: How Patrick Kugler Became Michigan’s Man in the Middle

Six Friends, Five Years, One Last Chance: How Patrick Kugler Became Michigan’s Man in the Middle

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 17th, 2017 at 2:07 PM

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[Upchurch]

We’re standing in the shadows to the side of the sun-soaked center of Schembechler Hall. Henry Poggi’s eyes drift over my shoulder and narrow in an unnerving manner if you are the object of attention of a 257-pound man with a penchant for Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirts. “Look at him,” Poggi says. “He’s so sassy. That sassy walk.” I look back to see Patrick Kugler turn down a hallway to his left, his shorts swaying, his beard straining to reach a sleeveless block-M hoodie that he’s thrown on over a t-shirt.

I ask Poggi about Kugler’s beard, specifically whether it’s some kind of follicular revenge plot to get back at Jake Butt, Ben Gedeon, and Poggi for, respectively, the Snidely Whiplash, Wolverine-plus-a-mustache, and Undertaker looks they famously deployed for their 2016 team photos. “Pat thought he looked good in his picture and he thinks his beard looks good even though he looks disgusting,” Poggi says. “Pat was making fun of us about it.”

It’s the kind of barb you’d expect from someone’s brother. “I love his beard, personally,” Robert Kugler, Patrick’s older brother says. “I used to rip on him because I can grow a decent beard, my dad grows a good beard, and his has just been disgusting. This is the first time it’s been thick enough that he can grow it out. I know he’s pretty proud of it.” Okay, maybe Poggi’s comment is more like something you’d expect a friend and housemate who’s almost as close as a brother to say.

At the very least, he’s uniquely qualified to talk about the beard’s progression. Kugler and Poggi started living together their freshman year in West Quad. They’re now on their fifth year of living together and their third year in a house on Vaughn Street that, like the Michigan program in April 2017, lost quite a few guys to the NFL.

The Vaughn Street house is nothing spectacular; it’s a typical college-town house on a typical college-town street. Its importance, though, is difficult to overstate. From running up the On Demand bill with bad movie rentals to silently sitting in the living room, from watching too much American Ninja Warrior to making life-altering decisions, the house saw it all and was the catalyst to a bond between seven guys—Patrick Kugler, Chris Fox, Henry Poggi, Jake Butt, Ben Gedeon, Shane Morris, and Chris Petzold—who came to college from all over the country and left closer than most families.

Before their group could form each of the seven had to decide Michigan was the right place for them. The seeds of that decision were planted more than a decade ago for Kugler. Unlike most recruiting stories this one doesn’t start with a letter or a call or a DM but a golf course, a tailgate, and an extra ticket.

[After THE JUMP: “I wanted to be a four-year starter, wanted to be All-Big Ten, wanted to be an All-American, and just as time went on I just wanted to prove to everyone that I did belong here at the University of Michigan, that I wasn’t a dud or someone who they wasted a scholarship on.”]

Spring Practice Presser 4-13-17: Jay Harbaugh

Spring Practice Presser 4-13-17: Jay Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on April 14th, 2017 at 10:18 AM

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[Barron]

Karan [Higdon] mentioned you had him watch a lot of NFL tape. Were there any teams you spent time with this offseason or any coaches you worked under?

“I’m close with the Baltimore Ravens’ running backs coach Thomas Hammock but no coach in particular, no team in particular. More so plays, finding NFL examples of plays that we run and just looking through different scenarios, different things that our guys could end up seeing. Just trying to get a lot of experience, mental reps, in terms of watching the pros.”

What’s been the biggest adjustment for you in terms of going with another position?

“That’s a tough question. I mean, it’s all different so I don’t know if there’s a ‘biggest’ adjustment, but new guys and everything but they’ve been great to work with. They’re all working really hard and it’s a really, really good group. Nothing stands out as being any bigger adjustment than anything else.”

How much do you lean on what you saw out of these guys last year or did you come in [with a] clean slate?

“Yeah, none. None at all. It’s a clean slate. I mean, I knew what those guys were because you see them play and everything, but it’s a new season and a relatively new offense in terms of all the things that we’ll do. So, it’s kind of a fresh start for everybody.”

You came in having never coached this position before. Did you play running back at all?

“No. I’m sure you could guess that just by looking at me. I carried the ball a few times growing up. I scored on one, just for what it’s worth.”

[After THE JUMP: development in RB protections, the evolving offense, and what to watch in the spring game]

Unverified Voracity Is A Pretty Bear Indeed

Unverified Voracity Is A Pretty Bear Indeed

Submitted by Brian on December 8th, 2016 at 2:51 PM

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WOOP [Eric Upchurch]

Exit Shane Morris. Per Tom Van Haaren, Shane Morris will pursue a graduate transfer. CMU is the most likely destination.

Morris never lived up to the titanic hype that his arm strength generated when he was a high school junior. First, a bout of mono his senior year put him behind the development curve; second, Al Borges finished the job. An inexplicable start against Minnesota in 2014 resulted in a probable mild concussion, setting off a firestorm of controversy Dave Brandon's incompetence stoked until it resulted in both his and Brady Hoke's firing.

Morris will, but shouldn't be, remembered mostly for that. He was a Michigan kid through and through, to the point where he played slot receiver in the spring and was happily a lead blocker on sweeps. It didn't work out at M; here's hoping he goes Thomas Rawls at CMU.

We were already banking on Morris's departure in our recruiting calculations, so that won't affect the size of the class.

PFF's All Big Ten team. Michigan folks:

  • Offense: Amara Darboh ("highest-graded run blocker among Big Ten receivers ... 2.65 yards per route run average ranks second in the conference"), Khalid Hill, Erik Magnuson (2nd), Mason Cole (2nd).
  • Defense: Taco Charlton ("absolutely dominant force in Big Ten play"), Ryan Glasgow("posted four sacks and 14 total pressures to go with nine total defensive stops" in final four games), Maurice Hurst(2nd), Mike McCray("24 total pressures on just 77 reps"), Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling (2nd), Jabrill Peppers (as a slot corner), Delano Hill(2nd).

Peppers was obviously the punt returner; Jordan Glasgow was their All Big Ten special-teamer. Entertainingly, OSU punter Cameron Johnston was the ABT punter and was graded out at –13.8 before the Michigan game. PFF hates specialists, like any red-blooded American.

You'll notice a few omissions: Mackey winner Jake Butt, Chris Wormley, and Ben Gedeon. Wormley scored around +31(!), basically level with Charlton and Hurst and a hair behind Glasgow. He got left out because of Jake Replogle's existence and some guy named Steven Richardson from Minnesota. Butt got a bunch of pass blocking minuses(?!) and didn't have the same kind of receiving impact he did a year ago. (If we're being honest, he should have won the Mackey last year; getting it this year is a bit of a lifetime achievement award.) Gedeon was +12, so he was on the verge. There were a ton of good linebackers in the league. 

So you're saying there's a chance. Jabrill Peppers made an appearance on the Dan Patrick show ("THAT'S RIDICULOUS," exclaim Ohio State fans, "MALIK HOOKER SHOULD HAVE MADE AN APPEARANCE ON THE DAN PATRICK SHOW"), and on that show he denied that he'd made an NFL decision:

During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Patrick asked Peppers -- who is eligible for the NFL Draft this year -- why he would stay at Michigan?

His answer?

"To get a degree, to try to finish some unfinished things here, to keep getting better at my craft," Peppers said. "I don't know, man. I've got a tough decision to make."

I... no. I am not taking this seriously, but I appreciate Peppers making it sound like a hard choice. FWIW, Peppers also said he'd vote for Deshaun Watson for Heisman.

This is probably fine. Buried at the end of an Ole Miss press release about Hugh Freeze dumping his offensive coordinator:

No word about the "assistant athletic director for football operations," John Miller, who directed Tunsil to talk to Farrar about getting some more money.

I throw many shades at uniformz so only fair to acknowledge the flipside. These are gorgeous.

I miss playing Alaska-Fairbanks, for the 8-0 wins Friday and inexplicable 2-1 losses Saturday, and for the two free games Michigan got whenever they went up there. Also I cannot figure out how to buy this jersey.

Knives out for Butch Jones. 247's Travis Haney has a feature article featuring an absolute ton of people slamming Butch Jones as not up for it:

“You talk about the time and place to say something like that - and that is not what our fans wanted to hear,” one Tennessee administrative source told 247Sports, referring to the “champions of life” comment. “That will never go away. That soundbite will never go away.” ...

“It’s like he doesn’t think he should be there,” [another] source said. “It’s like he doesn’t think he belongs. And that permeates through the program. Everyone feels that.” ...

“The culture is a disaster,” said someone who works in the football building.

There are many more quotes from different people; even the supportive folk on the record are mostly talking about how Jones's accomplishments, such as they are, have not been fully appreciated. Add in Jalen Hurd's highly unusual midseason transfer and it looks grim for the future of the Jones regime. Regardless of the veracity of the claims in the article the number of people saying those things, even anonymously, for publication gives off a strong Rich Rodriguez vibe. He has problems of his own making, and now that he's down in a hole the rest of the program is digging for him.

This is of tangential interest to Michigan fans because of two things: Marcus Ray's bizarre insistence that Jones should have been the man instead of Harbaugh and Jones topping that hot take by hiring Michigan Olympic sports administrator Mike DeBord as his offensive coordinator. The parallels between Tennessee's breakdown of culture and discipline and those of the late Carr era are obvious.

More Butch Jones. Tennessee just got a commit from Trey Smith. Depending on who you listen to Smith is the top OL and possibly the top player in the country. Tennessee's sales pitch?

wut

As Get The Picture points out, their real sales pitch was "we will give your sister money to be executive assistant to the head coach." At least Michigan hires actual football coaches.

Also knives out for someone you may know. Also in bad-idea coordinator hires:

I confess that I thought hiring Brady Hoke might not have been the worst idea in the world—look at his track record with under-recruited Michigan DL. It turned out to be... unhelpful. At least. It's possible that he took over a unit so far away from competence that he was doomed either way; it is extremely unlikely anyone will take that chance. Tell you what, though, whoever hires him as a DL coach is not wrong.

The Counterfactual. The #1 alternate universe of the past ten years in college football: what if RichRod takes the Alabama job? Nick Saban goes... somewhere. Michigan hires... somebody. He probably still fails extensively. John Talty looks back at one of the most fascinating coaching searches in CFB history.

Etc.: Excellent scouting report on Will Lockwood, one of the bright spots on the hockey team. A major reason Willie Taggart got the Oregon job: Jim Harbaugh. Lane Kiffin still the frontrunner for the Houston job. Me, I'd just hire their DC. Assistant salaries skyrocket, they have the money to pay players, etc.

Pre-Orange Bowl Presser: Players, Part 1

Pre-Orange Bowl Presser: Players, Part 1

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on December 6th, 2016 at 9:43 AM

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[Bryan Fuller]

Jake Butt and Mason Cole

Jake, talk about how it’s your last game coming up and what do you know about Florida State and that matchup?

“Yeah, first on Florida State, we’ve gotten the chance—they play a lot of night games down there in the south to stay out of the heat a little bit, so after some of our noon games I got watch them play Clemson and Ole Miss. Just kind of flipped it on, so, I mean, we haven’t studied them yet. That’ll happen here in the upcoming weeks. We do know they’re a very good team and they’re gonna be hungry for that win. With it being the last game, gotta lay it all out there.”

Mason, what are your thoughts on playing the Seminoles? Being a Florida guy, you’ve been familiar with them a long time.

“Yeah, just really excited to play another Florida team. We beat Florida, we beat UCF, and hopefully we beat Florida State. Just exciting to go down to Florida and play a really good team. Excited to play in front of family and friends. It’s gonna be two great programs going against each other.”

Did you guys get together and watch the selection show today? What was the general [feeling]? Were you disappointed? Were you excited? Can you take us through the emotions from this afternoon?

JB: “This was our first weekend off in a while, so I know most guys were home. We didn’t have a watch party or anything. I’d say it’s mixed emotions because you set out goals at the beginning of the year and obviously one of those was to be in the playoff, but we weren’t and really we can’t blame it on anyone but ourselves. We left our fate in the hands of other teams and we understand that. That being said, we’re excited about this game. It’s a big game, great opportunity for us to compete against a really good team. We’re really excited to play in this game.”

MC: “Yeah, same thing. We had an opportunity at the end of the year to be in that playoff, but they put us in a great bowl with a great opportunity to go play a really good team. We’re just excited for that now.”

[After THE JUMP: how Butt will look back on this year a decade from now and which way Cole’s leaning re: turning pro]

Monday Presser 11-21-16: Players

Monday Presser 11-21-16: Players

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 22nd, 2016 at 5:00 PM

osu week players presser

Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Jake Butt, and Chris Wormley

For the Ohio guys especially, is this the biggest game you’ve ever played in your career to date?

CW: “I think so. It’s #2 versus #3. It’s for a Big Ten championship berth. Big game.”

JB: “I second that.”

KK: “Agreed.”
EM: “I’m not from Ohio.”

Pretty well documented the struggles the program’s had against OSU in the past 10 or 12 years. How important is it for you guys to end that and get Michigan [?]?

JB: “It’s not as important to win this game for what’s been going on in the past, what’s been going on the past 11, 12 years. Really, we just need to win this game for what we have in front of us right now, and that’s all we’re focused on is we have an unbelievable opportunity to go on the road and compete against a really good team. Everything’s on the line right now. Our whole entire season’s on the line, so we need to win the game for that reason.”

I have a similar question: to be a great rivalry both teams have to win, and that hasn’t happened. How much do you guys need to win not only for yourselves but knowing Michigan has lost 11 out of 12?

KK: “Again, I don’t think you can focus that much on the past, especially when it’s this type of game coming up. It’ll be a big game. We’re definitely going to put in the work this week to prepare ourselves for it. I can’t wait to go out there and just play with all the guys. It’ll be the last time we play together as a team in a regular season game against Ohio State, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

[Guy identifies himself as being from a Columbus newspaper] The Jim Harbaugh we see, that we just saw about five minutes ago, would you guys know that side? How is that different from the Jim Harbaugh you see?

CW: “Compared to what you guys see?

Yeah.

EM: “Michigan reporters only.”

KK: “Yeah, no comment.”

EM: “I’m sorry, I’m just kidding. I think he’s probably very similar to what you guys see. He’s as real as they come. The media kind of paints a bad picture of him sometimes because of his antics like going after referees and stuff like that, but he’ll fight to the death for his players. He’s a player’s coach in that aspect and he’s somebody that you’d run through a wall for, but he’s pretty similar to what you see. In everyday life, that’s who he is.”

[Hit THE JUMP for a good Jabrill story and a lot on the personalities of great coaches]

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Iowa

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Iowa

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2016 at 12:03 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: You're in big trouble, Sauce Castillo. Not Nik Stauskas. User Sauce Castillo, who we are blaming for this. We also blame Sauce Castillo for a pending FEDERAL INTEREST RATE HIKE that means you should get a mortgage now.

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.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Hey, it's Iowa.

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4-3 over with two high safeties on just about every play. Iowa will insert safeties into the box post-snap like Michigan's done with some frequency this year; they are a cover-two-heavy 4-3 defense like they have always been and will always be.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: The usual at QB and OL. Darboh got almost every snap (55 of 61), with Butt not far behind at 48. Chesson was at 37. Smith got two-thirds of the RB snaps with Chris Evans getting the bulk of the remainder; Higdon(5 snaps) and Isaac(1) saw reduced usage. Hill had an edge in FB snaps with 19 to Poggi's 12.

Rounding out the offense were scattered snaps for Perry, McDoom, Crawford, Wheatley, Asiasi, Drake Harris, and Juwann Bushell-Beatty.

[After THE JUMP: plane, meet mountain]

Monday Presser 11-14-16: Players

Monday Presser 11-14-16: Players

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 15th, 2016 at 2:04 PM

11-14 players

Jake Butt, Maurice Hurst, and Matt Godin

Talk about how your team still has its destiny in its hands in terms of winning out to get where you want even though you lost.

JB: “Yeah, obviously it’s a tough loss. It’s a game we could have won, so that’s gonna sting a little bit. But we reminded ourselves and each other that what we set out for at the beginning of the season is still right in front of us. We’re going to learn from this loss and become tougher and better because of it. We control our own destiny, so as long as we keep handling business we’re not worried about what anyone else is doing. We’ve just got to handle our own business and the rest will take care of itself.”

Matt, what were some of the problems up front against the run, especially on first down, on Saturday night?

“First of all, give credit to them. They had a great seam going in the run game, but we just weren’t fitting some of the things right in the run game, obviously. We’re gonna have to take a look at it in film today, but we’ll get it fixed.”

Jake, what were some of the things that guys were saying to each other yesterday, a day removed from that? Was there encouragement needed? Was anybody having to say anything, or did you all just realize how you had to move forward?

“Thankfully, we’ve got a veteran team, a lot of older guys that have seen a lot of different things in their career here, and a lot of mature younger guys, too, that can follow some of the older guys’ lead, [and] a great coaching staff that has seen a lot of things, too. It’s a tough game. We were going to face adversity this season. We wish we would have come out on top in that game, but we understand—there’s no panic button. We’re not gonna let one loss turn into two. We’re just going to continue the same mentality of get back to work today and move forward.”

[More after THE JUMP]

One-Play One-on-One: Jake Butt

One-Play One-on-One: Jake Butt

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 15th, 2016 at 10:01 AM

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[Eric Upchurch]

When I was thinking about the plays Jake Butt made on Saturday, the one that immediately came to mind was a third-down conversion on a drag route that he caught with one hand and locked in with two fingers. That shallow route ended up being Michigan’s second-longest pass play of the evening, and as you’ll read below, a lot more went into that than just catching and running. As always, the video is at the bottom of the post and can be slowed down to 0.5x 0.25 speed if you open in Youtube and change the settings in the bottom right corner; I highly advise you watch the play slowed down.

What was the first thing you noticed when you lined up?

“I knew there was a wider guy outside of Ian [Bunting]. I was running a shallow route, Ian had a corner route, so first thing I’m thinking about is my release, whether or not I’m going to be able to get inside that backer or whether I’m going to have to take a longer route.

“Saw that, read I can get inside of him, but I saw I think they had two backers in the box; one of them kind of carried Ian vertically and I saw another linebacker that was eyeing the quarterback, and I knew he’d have to pick up my shallow, so I knew I was either going to have to sit it down or continue running. I saw he was flat-footed and staring at Wilton so I thought I could pass him up.

“I knew we had a post-wheel combination on the other side that was gonna carry those guys out of the way, so if I could just get past him I’d have a little bit of extra space. Did that, Wilton put the ball where only I could get it, and honestly, for a second there he put his hand in front and I couldn’t see the ball. I just kind of trusted where it would be. Caught it and then just tried to get as much as I could after the ball.

“I saw another guy running and I saw Desmond King down the sideline. I wanted to stiff arm him, and in the process of stiff-arming him I got my legs taken out a little bit. Big third-down play for us and big conversion.”

After you catch the ball and you’re turning the corner, as you said, you’ve got a guy trailing you and King in front of you. When you’re looking at King and trying to get upfield, what are you looking at? Are you looking at his hips or his shoulders or his pursuit angle?

“I could see his eyes, the way he stood up initially. Usually when guys stand up that’s so they can get ready to go low and take out your knees. But I had my hand on the one guy stiff-arming him, otherwise I would have tried to lower my shoulder and truck-stick him a little bit. I knew he was taking out my knees, but I just stiff-armed him and got as many yards as I could.”

Is that guy who’s trailing to the right a consideration or are you mainly looking at the guy upfield and trying to make a move on him?

“You kind of have to consider him just because they’re converging on you a little bit. I knew—I thought if King wasn’t there or came a little bit later, I would have shedded that other guy, but in the process of shedding him I had to lower and they kind of did a good little gang tackle there.”

To step back for a second, as you release and you’re getting into the drag, that’s when you know the middle linebacker is going to cover you? Postsnap?

“Yeah. The way their defense plays, someone’s going to have to carry a crossing route there. With him eyeing Wilton, he would feel me running across and I knew I could just reduce my route a little bit so he wouldn’t have an angle to intercept it and then Wilton just kind of put it on the money and I turned it up from there.”

Since this is an interview about one play, what’s the single most memorable play for you in your career here?

“Oh, shoot…let’s hope it hasn’t happened yet.”

One Frame At A Time: Maryland

One Frame At A Time: Maryland

Submitted by Ace on November 7th, 2016 at 3:11 PM

As you may have noticed in today's game column, I'm trying a new format for GIFs: gfycat, which load faster, have much better quality, and allow you to do stuff like speed up or slow down playback if you click through. I hadn't switched over before because uploading and tagging was cumbersome; now the program I use has integrated that entire process. Today's post mostly features the old format as I do a test run with a few gfycats. If all goes well, I'll do the complete switchover next week. Feedback is encouraged.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the Maryland game in GIFs.]

The Joe Flacco Question

The Joe Flacco Question

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2016 at 12:49 PM

11/5/2016 – Michigan 59, Maryland 3 – 9-0, 6-0 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

It actually wasn't any of the deep shots that really caught my attention. It was a slant to Darboh. Play action, linebackers suck up and recover, too late. Wilton Speight fired a rifle shot into Darboh's hands that allowed him to continue without breaking stride. I thought oh no, I have to say this is happening, because that was approximately the sixth eyebrow-cocking throw of the afternoon.

So. This is happening. Here is that column I couldn't write earlier this year. I am writing it now, after three games in which Speight has averaged 12 yards an attempt, after various stats have rejiggered themselves into eye-popping arrangements three-quarters of the way through the college football regular season, after Jim Harbaugh asserted that Jabrill Peppers wasn't the only Michigan player who deserved your Heisman consideration and was met with thoughtful recalibration instead of laughter.

You've seen it with your own eyes on spins out of the pocket and inch-perfect deep balls as Speight continues to refine the high school version of himself into a cross between John Navarre, Ben Roethlisberger, and a production of Swan Lake staffed entirely by bears. At one point Speight scrambled for a touchdown and did some sort of insane flying ballerina move as he crossed the goal line.

wheeeeeee this is fun I didn't know I could move faster than a koala

Your eyes are like "did I just see that" and your spleen is like

I DON'T KNOW!
YOU'RE THE LOOKING PART!
I JUST SIT HERE AND GET NERVOUS SOMEONE'S GOING TO PICKLE ME!

because spleens are like that man. Just venting, like Jim Harbaugh failing to get an extra yard on review after picking up second and thirty-four.

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BALDERDASH [Eric Upchurch]

Since your eyes are clearly not up to the task of confirming or disconfirming what the hell is happening at the most important position in football, here are some numbers. They are rather optimistic given that said eyes spent half the season worrying Speight was going to sink Michigan when crunch time came around:

  • Speight's 8.9 YPA leads the Big Ten by almost a half yard and is 11th nationally.
  • His 15-3 TD/INT ratio is second in the Big Ten to JT Barrett (21-4).
  • His passer rating is now five points clear of Perry Hills for best in the league and is 14th nationally.
  • He's fifth nationally in ESPN's QBR metric, which accounts for rushing yards and SOS.
  • S&P+ now has Michigan's passing attack third(!) in the country.

That latter measure filters out garbage time and attempts to adjust for schedule strength. For that to be an improvement on the raw numbers is rather something. A major reason is that they've played S&P+'s #3 (Wisconsin), #8 (Colorado), and #15 (Penn State) defenses. They got lucky with Penn State's linebacker issues, but Michigan kept Garrett Sickels in check just fine during that game and he was rampant against OSU.

Speight was again mostly clean in this game but hardly noticed pressure except to spin out of it and make something productive of it, whether it was a bomb to Chesson or a seven-yard scramble that is probably still ongoing or finding the guy who blew the protection for a first down. His receivers certainly help. But this was a game where he lost a fifty-yard completion to an offensive pass interference call and still posted ludicrous numbers.

-------------------------------------------

Is Wilton Speight elite? I don't know, man. This is a considerable improvement from "lol no" before the bye week and is trending in a spectacular direction. His last 72 attempts are elite, and with every game he moves towards a simple "yes." This is the second straight year a Michigan quarterback has muddled around for half a year before an exponential explosion in competence.

In addition to all the other ways Jim Harbaugh is a difference maker as a head coach he has this. There is no better quarterback coach in football. Every one of his charges exceeds expectations.  Often when he or they move on the player in question never recaptures his form. Is Wilton Speight elite? Ask again later. Is Jim Harbaugh elite? Cumong man, that's not even worth asking.

This team no longer feels like an elite defense with an offense scraping by, a la 1997. With Speight dropping bombs on all comers, it feels like... I have no idea. No Michigan team in my experience has spent an entire season bombing everyone they come across. Michigan has three top fifteen wins and the only reason any of those was within three scores was Kenny Allen having a miserable day against Wisconsin. You'd have to go back to the 70s to find a Michigan team that can end almost every game it plays in the first half.

Bo never managed to complete his task, because his quarterbacks were never state of the art. Jim Harbaugh emphatically does not have this problem. Ohio State? Bring 'em on.

HIGHLIGHTS

parkinggod:

AWARDS

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[Fuller]

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Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

#1 Wilton Speight had the greatest first half in the history of Michigan football quarterbacking, per statistics and Jim Harbaugh. He finished with an absurd 15 yards an attempt and is now the Big Ten's clear leader in passer rating and YPA; he also ran(!) for a touchdown that he finished with weird ballerina flair(!!!).

#2 Jourdan Lewis never gets on these lists anymore because for the most part nobody is trifling with him. A hat tip to Maryland for multiple shots down the sideline resulting in 3 PBUs, zero completions, and one uncalled OPI.

#3 Taco Charlton almost literally does not show up in the box score. He got a half sack and no other tackles. Do not let this color your opinion of his game: dude was on fire, repeatedly hammering into the backfield when Maryland ran inside and getting pressure on just about every dropback only for his friends to clean up most of it.

Honorable mention: Jehu Chesson had a breakout game with 112 yards; Jake Butt is now Michigan's all-time leader in receiving yards from a tight end; Deveon Smith managed 6 YPC with a long of 14, which is super hard to do; Maurice Hurst was a constantly disruptive presence; Ben Gedeon had three TFLs and did an excellent job on the edge.

KFaTAotW Standings.

10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 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), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland), Taco Charlton (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland).
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),
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU),  Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU),  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.

The throwback bomb from Peppers to Speight to Chesson was entirely unnecessary, entirely awesome, and caused a purported journalist to descend into a hissy fit.

Also a great throw on a route that's not as open as it could have been on a trick play.

Honorable mention:

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
Rutgers: Peppers presses "on".
Illinois: TRAIN 2.0.
MSU: lol, two points.
Maryland: very complicated bomb.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

Either Channing Stribling whiffing on a reverse he'd put himself in great position on or Mike McCray getting juked and edged by Lorenzo Harrison, because both of those incidents confirmed issues from the Michigan State game and indicated a weakness in this defense.

Honorable mention: Maryland breaks the shutout with a field goal; Speight turfs a bubble screen to Peppers that would probably have scored; Michigan gets stuffed on fourth and short; that one time they almost punted.

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.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.

[After THE JUMP: Happy Maryland fans.]