Indiana Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Indiana Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 16th, 2017 at 9:16 AM

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[Fuller]

[Ed. A- I couldn’t make it to Indiana this past weekend but luckily Ace and David were willing and able. David pulled out the kind of move you’d expect from a wily veteran and got my recorder on the table right in front of the mic, which matters a ton to me and none to you. But hey, here’s a post for you to read with words that were said, then recorded with excellent clarity, and finally transcribed with… hands? Yes, hands and typing and such.]

Can you talk about Karan Higdon today, especially on those big plays?

“Yeah, he was phenomenal. I don’t know how many yards he got after contact but they were tough yards, and had some plays that looked like they were going to be a tackle for loss or a one-yard gain or no gain that he found a way to get four or five out of. More than a few. Lot of yards—I think more than 200 in the game—and cracked the big one for us and didn’t get trapped behind the line thought, I don’t know, if at all, maybe a couple times. But yeah, big boost from Karan Higdon today.”

Defense had been on the field a lot and when they faced goal-to-go from the two and had two negative plays and couldn’t come up much bigger. Talk about how those guys dug down deep were able to dig down deep.

“Yeah, I really thought our whole team did. Put our best people on it, our players and out coaches, and asked them to find a way and knew that we were going to have to dig down deep to do it. The goal-line stand was a great opportunity for us to keep them out of the end zone and win the ball game and responded with the tackle for loss and the incompletion, interception, and the quarterback option run up the middle so it was a great four plays for us.”

Was there a point in the game when you realized that Karan was going to be the guy to carry you through on offense or was that always the plan going in?

“Yeah, I mean, Karan started the game and we leaned on him heavy. I thought Chris [Evans] and Ty [Isaac] both added some good plays there. Nice to see Kareem Walker get a shot and produce; might be more carries for him in the future. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re very humble about this, and we’ll move on to a big road game next week, but this was a big game for our team. And mistakes were made but I think it’s something we can really grow from.”

[After THE JUMP: “We were grinding some meat out there today” is a way better phrase than “It was tough sledding”]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs MSU

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs MSU

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2017 at 2:53 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. Man, you know who would resign if circumstances demanded it? HomeSure Lending. Except that would never happen because HomeSure Lending is good at its job and not, say, Sunil Gulati. HomeSure Lending` just gets you fast mortgage quotes from the comfort of your own home.

FORMATION NOTES. Michigan did slide more heavily towards a four man front against a manball outfit. Michigan had 27 3-3-5 snaps; they had 35 in a four-man front, almost all of which feature Mone. Those 4-X snaps were split 15/20 between 4-2-5s featuring Hudson and 4-3-4s featuring Furbush.

They also had 3 dime snaps, one in a 3-2-6 and two in a 4-1-6.

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Here is a picture.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Formation notes prove spoiler: Michigan had about 35 Mone snaps, give or take a substitution. Michigan chose to put out two of Mone, Hudson, and Furbush depending on the situation and Don Brown's whim. Mone got about 60% of the snaps; Hudson and Furbush 70%.

The rest of the defense was almost entirely static. Winovich, Hurst, Bush, McCray, Metellus, and Kinnel did not leave the field. Gary got almost all the snaps with just a few for Kemp. The cornerbacks rotated through their top three of Hill, Long, and Watson.

The defense had zero margin for error in this game and they deployed like that was the case.

[After THE JUMP: the inverse Fielding Yost: a point per drive.]

Oh God What If Boston College Follows You Around Like You Just Broke Up With It And It Wants To Be Friends

Oh God What If Boston College Follows You Around Like You Just Broke Up With It And It Wants To Be Friends

Submitted by Brian on October 9th, 2017 at 11:49 AM

10/7/2017 – Michigan 10, Michigan State 14 – 4-1, 1-1 Big Ten

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a metaphor for somethin' [Bryan Fuller]

Don Brown is in one of those Progressive commercials where everything gradually turns white, except in his case everything is gradually turning back into Boston College. Someone walks by with a bunch of hockey sticks. Bill Simmons is on the television again. He swears he overhears a conversation about pahking the cah. Maroon filters into his peripheral vision.

On Wednesday at three fifteen PM there is going to be a knock on the door. Steve Addazio is going to walk in and sit down. Brown will summon all his willpower not to jam the nearest pen through his own eyesocket, to claw the power of sight from his face and evaporate from the world of men.

Jay Harbaugh, seated, will wonder if the slight twitch under Brown's eye means anything or if it's just something that happens to men of a certain age. He will not say something about "guys being dudes," and will never know how close he—how close all of us—came to Total Mustache Annihilation. He will tell Brown about Terrace House, a Japanese version of the Real World where everyone is very nice and considerate of each other's feelings.

Thus disabused of the Addazio specter, Brown will resume destroying all that opposes him until the inevitable knife in the back. He tries not to think of Sisyphus, and fails.

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

Michigan's main problem on offense is that they are bad at it. This is not a good problem. "Our right tackle sucks" is something you might be able to address. "Almost everyone is not good at football right now" leads to situations like Saturday. I brought up the Law Of Large Percentages Multiplied A Lot, which is something I just made up right now, in a brief twitter conversation with a reporter who wanted people to know one weird thing about Oklahoma football:

That is a weird thing, but it's not as weird as it sounds. If OU was a 10 point favorite in eight games they'd get through unscathed just 12% of the time*. If they were a 14 point favorite they get up to 27%. You have to get up to 17.5—a 93.7% shot at victory!—before Hypothetical OU even hits 50%. The Law Of Large Percentages Multiplied A Lot is that even big ones fall off faster than you'd think.

Michigan's offense has 6-7-8 guys who have to execute on any particular play for it to be a success, and... let's just say many of them are not three-score favorites to do so on any particular play. They are an example of The Law Of Large Percentages And Some Quite Small Ones Multiplied A Lot. The results can be seen in the box score, or the haunted look on the face of a man who replaced ten starters and still has the #3 defense in the country.

And so today the Must brigade is out. "Must" is the worst word in sportswriting for a lot of reasons. Foremost among them is that whatever follows "must" is something so blindingly obvious Marcelo Balboa is probably talking about a replay of it as we speak. He must catch that ball. He must YES WE KNOW I HAVE EYES, AT LEAST FOR NOW, I'M CONSIDERING A CHANGE IN THAT DEPARTMENT, THANK YOU.

I spent most of the weekend trying and failing to get this column done because I couldn't wade into any commentary on the game that wasn't furious and over the top, and immediately made me want to go do something else. Weird shit happens in college football, especially when you're playing your backup QB, and there's a brief second-half monsoon, and on top of that you turn the ball over five times. Various dirt stupid people are now flogging a "Harbaugh is 1-4 versus rivals" thing as if that encapsulates the whole of his tenure, or even his career. Yeah, Michigan had the dumb thing happen on the punt and lost by a literal inch in Columbus last year. If you're ascribing that to something other than chance I cannot help you.

Whatever Harbaugh MUST do he's probably already doing. He has a track record, and he'll either follow that up with more of the same or not. We're oddly locked in: few coaches trying to establish themselves at a new school come with the pedigree that Harbaugh does, so he'll get a ton of time and a bunch of rope and we'll see where it goes. It'll probably go really well once they aren't carrying the baggage of someone else's screwups on top of their base rate.

But I mean, go ahead and yell about how unacceptable everything is, I guess. We are dying to hear about your feelings.

*[This is based on this site's conversion of point spreads to winners.]

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blanket [Fuller]

Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

-2535ac8789d1b499[1]you're the man now, dog

#1 Mo Hurst. Hurst got to play a lot of three tech this week and went from making good plays that someone else scoops up the glory on to wrecking the interior of the opposition offense himself. The fourth down stop stands out, because Hurst may have induced the fumble from a nervous center; Hurst whooped him anyway and the play was doomed either way.

#2 Lavert Hill. Hill's three PBUs were all excellent plays, and he was in the hip pocket of whoever his assignment was for the duration. MSU had... one open receiver? Maybe two? Lewerke averaged 4.3 YPA. Hill played the largest part in that.

#3 Brad Robbins. Averaged 43 yards a punt in often-difficult conditions and mindblasted the MSU returner on the muff; gave up just ten total return yards on seven attempts.

Honorable mention: Most of the rest of the defense. And... Grant Perry, I guess?

KFaTAotW Standings.

8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue)
5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue) 
3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU)   
2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Lavert Hill (#2 MSU)
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).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

MSU's punt returner dorfs on a bomb by Robbins, muffing it back to the two and setting up a short field that Michigan would use to get their touchdown.

Honorable mention: The first drive was pretty all right until the back-to-back fades.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

Eddie McDoom drops a pass that would have taken Michigan down to the 25 with 13 seconds left.

Honorable mention: Pick a turnover but especially the first two, as they were key in Michigan's deficit by the time the rain arrived. Lewerke scrapes out a late first down because he lands on Michigan players. Michigan gets a touchdown wiped off the board on a Higdon holding call. Most offensive plays.

[After THE JUMP: what would you say you do here]

Monday Presser 10-2-17: Players

Monday Presser 10-2-17: Players

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on October 3rd, 2017 at 8:01 AM

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[Barron]

Khalid Hill

When did the team find out that John’s going to be starting this week?

“I mean, kind of just the way he performed last game and just waiting for Wilt to get back healthy. John performed at a level where that gives you confidence when your quarterback comes and performs, especially a second-string guy, the way he did. It gives you confidence. John’s going to hopefully do the same thing this week. I know he’s preparing to have the best game of his life.”

Does anything change with him under center, not going into specifics?

“No, not really. I think they both bring great stuff to the table. They’re similar quarterbacks. I think you can expect the same or expect better. I think he’s going to do just fine.”

As one of the team’s leaders, what do you tell the younger kids that have only played in this game once or never before?

“Just don’t get caught up in the bull. It’s a rivalry game so there’s a lot of trash talking gonna happen. A lot of stuff after the play’s gonna happen—I’m sure it will—but we’ve got to be mature and understand that, okay, somebody’s sitting on you, let it happen. Let them get the penalty, not you, so that’s one thing we kind of emphasize as leaders is if something happens and you don’t like it, coach Harbaugh always says you grab ‘em and just grab ‘em. Keep it there.”

[After THE JUMP: Lavert Hill, Mike McCray, and Mo Hurst]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on September 29th, 2017 at 2:37 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. If you're a Power 5 university that still doesn't have air conditioning in a visitor's locker room in 2017, there's probably a reason. Maybe you're paying a buyout for a guy you hired after one good year in the MAC, that sort of thing. Maybe you've made some poor choices in your athletic department and do not have ready cash to repair the embarrassing thing about yourself. Maybe you need a loan. Well, HomeSure Lending can get you that loan.

Probably. I mean... it's not like you're a part of the Michigan fanbase. No promises. But you'll find out fast if you have sufficient credit to build a marginally acceptable locker room. That HomeSure Lending can promise.

FORMATION NOTES. 15 4-DL snaps versus 39 3-DL snaps; Michigan had a few passing down snaps where Furbush was a DE and they lined up in a four-man line, so call it 1/3rd four-man lines and 2/3rds 3-3 stuff with a heavy stack emphasis. Michigan had three dime snaps with all three CBs on the field, which is a slightly meaningful indicator about the trust they've got in their top three.

They had some more of their weird line slide snaps.

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This was about the only thing of note in the formations. Purdue had a bunch of bog-standard spread stuff. Michigan did what they'd done in their previous games. The end.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. A little bit more rotation on the interior DL, with Solomon, Kemp and Dwumfour getting several snaps. Winovich was omnipresent until very late. LBs were Furbush, McCray, and Bush the whole way except for one drive Wroblewski got in the first half.

The secondary saw the now usual rotation of Hill, Long, and Watson through the snaps, in approximately equal shares. Hudson, Metellus, and Kinnel did not come off the field.

[After THE JUMP: throwbacks and doom]

Superhero Origin Story

Superhero Origin Story

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2017 at 1:52 PM

9/23/2017 – Michigan 28, Purdue 10 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten

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POW! WHAP! [Bryan Fuller]

That has never happened before. Never in the 200-year history of the University of Michigan has a person done something so very badly for three hours, and then emerged some time later doing the same thing so well. James Earl Jones never sounded like a pimple-faced teenager. Lawrence Kasdan did not write Happy Gilmore before Empire Strikes Back. Gerald Ford was not also Dick Nixon. HH Holmes did not accidentally build a Mildly Annoying Castle.

When you progress, it is gradually, not all at once. And maybe John O'Korn has done that, away from the glare of the public. Maybe last year's Indiana game was an outlier amongst all of O'Korn's throws since he lost the starting job at Houston. Maybe we are have too little data and are making it big.

Or maybe dude got bit by a radioactive spider. Maybe he spent the offseason creating a powerful electromagnet that works on leather. Maybe he did a bunch of cool ninja stuff in the Himalayas and then brooded in a cave a bunch. Maybe there's about to be a bunch of John O'Korn sequels and reboots and superfriends movies.

Whatever it is, take it and run.

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

Because I am a Michigan fan I can think of players that went the other way, mostly because of Brady Hoke. Blake Countess was asked to go from a zone corner to a man corner, guided by a linebacker who'd never coached DBs. He went from an All Big Ten player to Will Fuller toast. Devin Gardner's thrilling debut as #98 against the Irish was matched only by his performance in the 42-41 barnburner against OSU; in between he was a battered shell of himself.

No one has gone the right way so suddenly and dramatically. Nick Sheridan's blip against Minnesota is probably the closest thing, but that was clearly a blip at the time. O'Korn's eventually-confident performance against Purdue looks much more sustainable.

Gone was the Madden infinite dropback disease, except once when it made sense on the Gentry touchdown. Early, rough attempts to break the pocket seemed like an inability to read what was in front of him until he spectacularly avoided a sack, formed up, and found Grant Perry over the middle:

This was the moment when it was clear Indiana 2.0 was not happening. O'Korn saw he had nothing to the outside and decided on another plan despite the likelihood someone was going to annihilate him from behind. It was a remarkably aware, mature play for a guy we last saw completing twenty-yard passes that were somehow at the line of scrimmage.

O'Korn would execute two other improvisational plays when his protection broke down, and on one scramble he dodged a tackler before plowing over another one for a first down. Michigan twitter cried out in unison on this run, because they were suddenly terrified of losing him.

When executing within the confines of the offense O'Korn was just as good, hitting a couple of deep shots to his tight ends and checking down when that was appropriate. Errors were acceptably few and mostly benign; even the interception was the kind of throw that ends up a tough catch or incomplete 9 of 10 times. The stats are in line with the performance: 18 of 26 for 270 yards, little of it cheap.

If you're not gob-smacked you're not paying attention. I don't know how or why, I only know what. And what I saw Saturday was a new starting quarterback emerging from a lagoon of nuclear slime, or being rebuilt out of old Soviet tanks, or finishing up a montage set to "Take It To The Limit."

Is it a mirage? Possibly. Will our new hero run out of spinach and flag alarmingly? Almost certainly at some point, yes. Is there anything to do but forge ahead and hope the new guy wasn't constructed of baling wire and North Korean electronics? No. So here we go, Mr. O'Korn. It's your show now.

[After THE JUMP: Devin the destroyer... but where are the bucket hats]

Wednesday Presser 9-13-17: Mike Zordich

Wednesday Presser 9-13-17: Mike Zordich

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 13th, 2017 at 6:05 PM

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[Fuller]

How far has your group come since you told us that you were a little concerned?

“You know what, I gotta give credit where credit is due. They’ve definitely stepped up and been playing… playing okay. Yep.”

Okay but not great?

“It’s the third game of the season. We’ve got a long way to go. They know it, I know it, I think our whole team knows it. Each week we’ve got to just keep getting better, so nobody’s arrived for sure.”

Your rotation hasn’t been very deep. For the most part you’ve been going with three; maybe Ambry [Thomas] is getting a little bit of playing time at corner.

“Exactly.”

Is that part of you just waiting for other guys to show that they can get on the field?

“Same deal, yeah. Competition’s wide open. It’s really been those four: Vert and then Ambry’s been in the mix and then Brandon Watson and David Long. Those are the four that are kind of getting into all of the action now. But, you know, the door’s always open and the competition has been open.”

What unique challenges doe the Air Force offense pose for the secondary?

“Well, for us, certainly all the misdirection on almost a down basis. The offenses that we play, the misdirection isn’t—it’s here and there. Now you have to be ready for it on just about every down, and the fact that they’re gonna run the ball, we think, the majority of the time, so the run game comes into play for our guys big time, too. Those two things are the areas that we’ve got to concentrate on this week.”

[After THE JUMP: Lavert’s UFR grade, where the corners need to improve, and Don Brown’s lessening angst]

One Frame At A Time: Cincinnati

One Frame At A Time: Cincinnati

Submitted by Ace on September 12th, 2017 at 3:00 PM

I JUST CAN'T LOOK / IT'S KILLING MEEEEEEE

AND TAAAAAKING CONNNNNTROOOOOOLLLLLL

JEALOUSY / TURNING SAINTS INTO THE SEA

SWIMMING THROUGH SICK LULLABIES

CHOKING ON YOUR AALLLLIBIS

BUT IT'S JUST THE PRIIIIIIICE I PAY

DESTINY IS CAAAAALLING ME

OPEN UP MY EEEEAAAAAAGER EYESSSSSSSSSS

I'M MR. BRIIIIIIIIIGHTSIDE

[Hit THE JUMP for much more from Mr. Winovich and the rest of the Cincinnati game in GIFs.]

Monday Presser 9-11-17: Jim Harbaugh

Monday Presser 9-11-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 11th, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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[Fuller]

We often hear about service academy offenses. How difficult is it of a challenge to prepare for them?

“Defending option football and conventional football at the same time. That’s what we’ve been studying. Air Force has been very successful. Seven, eight, nine game winning streak. They go back and forth between conventional and option football.”

Your defense is scoring a lot, more than they’re giving up. Is that something that has been emphasized? Is that just guys making plays? How do you account for that?

“It’s a good thing. Very good players and a good scheme and they work very hard at being good on defense.”

Talk about your impressions about Lavert Hill. I know you’ve been happy with him.

“Yeah, been happy with Lavert. He’s asserted himself and played very well. Made the big play for us in the ball game this past week.

“Tyree Kinnel would be another person that I’d spotlight; defensive player of the game; sacks, two I believe; tackles for loss; interception for touchdown; seven tackles total, I believe. Well done. Brandon Watson also had a couple PBUs and played very well. Josh Metellus did good. Up front, I thought Rashan had one of his best games. Devin Bush again, another very good game for him; sack, tackle for loss, PBU. Outstanding game by him. Chase Winovich. Noah Furbush was better. Mo Hurst probably played the best of all of our upfront defensive players.

“So, there was a lot of good. Dodged a couple bullets. As was pointed out, scored two touchdowns on defense, so we’re doing well. We’re good. Attribute that to hard work and good scheme and good players.”

How has Lavert—how have you seen him digest all the information that a young starter has to digest?

“Yeah, doing well. Seeing him digest information very well. Comes from good stock. You’d love to be Lavert Hill Sr., to have Delano Hill playing professional football and now here you see Lavert in there starting at corner, making plays, helping his team win. Lavert Hill Sr.’s probably boring the heck out of the neighbors with how well his sons are doing.”

[Learn how to avoid emotionally hijacking Jim Harbaugh after THE JUMP]

Michigan 36, Cincinnati 14

Michigan 36, Cincinnati 14

Submitted by Ace on September 9th, 2017 at 4:41 PM


[Bryan Fuller]

Michigan's home opener was supposed to look a lot like last year's Rutgers game. Instead, it more closely resembled last week's Florida game. While that was perfectly fine against a talented UF squad, it was far less so against an overmatched Cincinnati team that barely squeaked by Austin Peay last week.

The game began as expected. Ty Isaac churned out yards with ease, setting up a 43-yard Wilton Speight touchdown bomb to a wide open Kekoa Crawford on the opening drive. The defense held up its end, booting Cincinnati off the field in three plays. While the Wolverines went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, Tyree Kinnel got them back on track, picking off an overthrow from UC's Hayden Moore and diving into the end zone for a 28-yard pick-six.

Then things started going sideways. A short punt by the Bearcats bounced off Nate Johnson's leg, giving Cincinnati a first down on the Michigan 38-yard line. After a penalty kept the drive alive, Mike Boone squeezed his way in from a yard out for the first touchdown scored against the M defense this season. The next Wolverine drive stalled in the red zone, and Quinn Nordin's 28-yard field goal opened one of the uglier quarters Michigan has played under Jim Harbaugh.

Seemingly nothing could go right on offense in the second quarter. Speight fumbled a jet sweep handoff to Crawford to kill a promising drive. Tarik Black ran what, on review, turned out to be an 11-yard route on third-and-12 to end the next one. Speight winged a couple passes high, evoking bad memories of last week's second quarter.

Michigan didn't get a first-half point after Nordin's field goal with 14:03 left. The defense didn't give up any, either, but only after an interminable final drive by Cincinnati resulted in a 51-yard field goal sailing wide right. As the team ran into the tunnel, the fans were audibly displeased with the 17-7 halftime lead.


[Eric Upchurch]

The grumbling continued into the third quarter as Cincinnati took the kickoff and marched 85 yards in ten plays to cut the lead to three points. Michigan's next two drives went nowhere. What had been an annoyingly close game was becoming a potential nightmare.

Thankfully, Michigan woke up. With 3:01 left in the third quarter, Speight hit Grant Perry in stride on a crossing route, and Perry jetted through the Bearcats secondary and dove in for a 33-yard touchdown. Cincinnati could only threaten to score after that. Michigan's offense, meanwhile, piggybacked off some excellent running by Isaac to drive for a short Quinn Nordin field goal midway through the fourth quarter.

Luke Fickell handled the rest. On fourth-and-two from the Cincinnati 33, down two scores with seven minutes remaining, he called for the punt team. One yakety snap later, Michigan had a safety and the ball back, and the potential nightmare was over. The next UC drive ended after one play when Lavert Hill cut off a Moore pass, reversed field, and slipped inside the pylon for M's second defensive touchdown of the afternoon.

By pure box score standards, this game turned out well. Michigan outgained Cincinnati 414-200, dominated the ground game, and kept Moore under constant pressure. Speight, for all the complaining, completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. Isaac seemingly cemented himself as the lead back with a 20-carry, 137-yard performance.

Still, it's difficult to shake the feeling of the middle two quarters, which were indisputably ugly. The offense has some issues to work out, especially in the red zone, where they haven't scored a touchdown since the wrongfully negated Crawford catch to open the Florida game. Next week, Air Force presents another overmatched opponent, but one that's tricky to prepare for because of their unusual schemes on both sides of the ball. If Michigan doesn't bounce back with a more authoratative win, the good feeling from the Florida game won't carry over to Big Ten play.