[Ed. A- So my wife and I had a baby a week ago and since then I think of sleep like I used to think of vacations, like, “Oh, that would be nice to do someday.” Last night I caffeinated just in time for the baby to actually fall asleep, so I had a chance to transcribe this. Huge thanks to Orion Sang for passing along the audio.]
How’s your group look?
“Our group looks good. The guys that are out there are working their tails off and pleased with the progress.”
So you’re not going to come here and do what you did last camp?
[laughs] “We’re just gonna talk about the guys that are out there practicing, getting better, how about that? That fair enough to say?
“Yeah, but Ambry Thomas, B. Watson, David Long, then you got a young guy in Myles Sims who still should be in high school, he’s our here working his tail off getting better, so it’s been promising. Then Hunter Reynolds, a walk-on, really getting better, so it’s been good for ‘em.”
You mentioned Ambry Thomas. What’s the biggest difference in him from year one to year two?
“He is very comfortable now. We were just talking about it over there about maturity level. You know, last year we were so young and now all the sudden these guys have had some playing experience and it has helped them, and so that’s last year and now you’re walking into a new year and just much more confident. And things are slower for them, and he’s been really improved. [Inaudible] with the ones quite a bit, so he’s been showing up a bunch.”
If he’s been working with the ones does that mean maybe that Vert moves into the inside? Are you guys messing around with those combinations there?
“Well, yeah, you know, Vert hasn’t practiced, so he’s losing valuable time, unfortunately for him. But it allows Brandon Watson to continue to get better, Ambry THomas to get better, David Long to get better, and as I mentioned Hunter and Myles. So, it’s great for those guys. They’re just growing by leaps and bounds.”
Why hasn’t Hill practiced?
“He’s got an issue with his hips or his groin. Trying to figure that out.”
[After THE JUMP: who’s rising, who’s out, and where guys might end up]
Shea Patterson and friends watch. It's happening? I mean. Can't throw a rock without hitting someone who says SOURCES are telling him that Shea Patterson is a lock for Michigan and possibly as soon as this weekend. Sam Webb's put in a crystal ball, which he hastens to say is not a Gut Feeling, and here's the Blade's Michigan beat writer:
Sources: Michigan is the front-runner to land Shea Patterson, and the Ole Miss QB expects to be eligible to play immediately.
He had 49 catches for 543 yards and was on pace to best that as a sophomore when he dislocated his elbow before the Texas A&M game.
That is likely it despite some overheated reports that up to seven Ole Miss players are interested in Michigan. Taking the three guys above already stretches Michigan's scholarships pretty thin. Anyone who doesn't play tackle is in tough for playing time, and per Rashan Gary's mom Greg Little isn't interested. Gary and Little became friends over the course of their recruitment so that's as good a source as any.
The other guys mentioned haven't set visits and it's unclear that Michigan would be interested in them.
Why wasn't it Cracker Barrel though? For some reason, Harbaugh flying down to see guys he might have on his football team caused the internet to blow up. Harbaugh claps back at Mark Dantonio? Go crazy, guys. Harbaugh does a thing literally all football coaches do dozens of times a year with high school players? Maybe let that one slide.
What do you say, internet?
Actually, it's very cool and good that Ole Miss got in trouble for loaner cars but a multi-millionaire can fly a private jet into Oxford to recruit players away from the team. Very cool. Very good. https://t.co/YS4mD9r79b
Personally, I'd take the CBs who whooped up on Simmie Cobbs over the one who got whooped until he got a safety bracket, but Michigan's guys were probably hurt by a lack of volume.
Add in Rashan Gary to the five returning guys in the above tweets and you've got quite a platform to build on.
Missed tackles: nah. Josh Liskiewitz, one of PFF's Big Ten evaluators, was grilled by Iowa fans because Josey Jewell was omitted from the team above. This spawned an interesting twitter thread in which Liskiewitz defended himself with various stats he'd compiled. The most interesting from a Michigan fan's perspective:
[he == Jewell, FWIW]
This is true to an extent, but among #B1G LBs he ranked 38th in tackling efficiency, which takes into account misses per attempt. By comparison, #Boilermakers LB Ja'Whuan Bentley had more total tackles than Jewell and half the MTs. Devin Bush missed just 3 total.
Jewell had an 86 grade—which would have made him first team All-SEC or All-Pac12, but finished 9th(!) in the Big Ten. We assume that Tegray Scales, Jason Cabinda, and Ryan Connelly are three of the five guys in front of Jewell, FWIW.
Prior to the injury, Peters was 37 of 64 for 486 yards passing in five games, including three starts. He's thrown a team-high four touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Sweet fancy Moses.
In other bowl injury news, Tarik Black is back in practice and could play in the bowl game. Harbaugh says he's "leaning towards not doing it," and, I mean... don't. Michigan's in a good spot in the bowl game without him and a potential fifth year is far more valuable than whatever marginal bonus chance at a bowl win he provides.
Good luck, whoever you are. South Carolina has axed their offensive coordinator. Er, their co-offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. The other guy, Bryan McClendon, is at least temporarily the only cook in the Gamecock kitchen. He is 33 years old and facing down Don Brown with one of the worst offenses in the country. Good luck with that, sir.
"My reaction is that there should be more than four teams in the playoffs," Harbaugh told reporters. "Again, I want to reiterate: 8 teams, 12 teams, 16 teams. Sixteen would be ideal in the playoffs."
For one, a team that reached the finals is playing 17 games. For two, the urgency of the regular season is obliterated if last year's Michigan team finishes their season they way they did and still gets in.
Add one fan. ESPN's Sarah Spain has been on a journey across college football to find a team to root for, and she stopped by the MGoTailgate before the OSU game last week:
Saturday morning I headed out to meet one of my hosts for the day, Gordie Fall (named in honor of Gordie Howe), at the famous MGoBus. The tailgate featured craft beer from Wolverine State Brewing Company, loads of breakfast food and, of course, the maize and blue MGoBus owned by Matt and Sara Demorest. While I was there, I learned more about life on campus and the UM scene with Brian Cook and Seth Fisher, of popular Michigan sports site MGoBlog.com. I also met former Wolverines running back Vincent Smith (you may remember him from this), who's now running community gardens in Flint, Michigan, and his hometown of Pahokee, Florida, to increase access to healthy foods, reduce juvenile crime and use gardening-based intervention to curtail violence. Very cool.
Adam was also there! Adam doesn't talk much. Thanks to everyone else's contributions but certainly not ours, Michigan was the pick. Welcome, Sarah. Prepare to be called a Walmart Wolverine despite going to Cornell.
THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: If you’re looking for someone who can talk about Michigan football with the type of optimism befitting someone with a smart long-term outlook, talk to Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management.
Our deal is Nick is the guy I go to for financial strategies, and he gets to ask us Michigan questions on your behalf. Anytime it’s a Nick question, we’ll let you know. Anytime you’ve got a financial question, let Nick know. And when you’re ready to figure out how you’re going to plan your retirement and pay for your kids’ college when you just got done paying for your own, don’t wait to do something about that.
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Can you do All-Big Ten teams but, like, not in a Draftageddon format?
Surprise! He's on it. [Patrick Barron]
Unanimous selections in bold.
JT Barrett, OSU
Alex Hornibrook, UW
Saquon Barkley, PSU
Jonathan Taylor, UW
JK Dobbins, OSU
Austin Ramesh (FB), UW*
DJ Moore, MD
Simmie Cobbs, IU
Troy Fumagalli, UW
Stanley Morgan (WR), NE
Akrum Wadley (RB), IA
Mike Gesicki (TE), PSU
Tyler Johnson (WR), MN
Nick Gates, NE
Jamarco Jones, OSU
Mason Cole, UM
Beau Benzschawel, UW
Sean Welsh, IA
Billy Price, OSU
*Brian: it is a crime and a disaster to have two starting running backs
“First I’d like to, if I could, just send out our prayers and thoughts and sympathies to Terry Glenn’s family. Just heard of the unfortunate passing of Terry Glenn and wish to let his family know and all of the Ohio State community and friends and teammates of Terry and his family that they’re in our thoughts.”
Brandon’s status today?
“He’ll be coming in shortly. Was seen yesterday and we’ll see where he’s at today.”
Is he in concussion protocol?
If Brandon can’t go, what’s Wilton’s status going to be?
“Wilton practiced last week and was not cleared for contact last week. He’ll be evaluated by the doctors again this week to see if he would be cleared for contact.”
If John O’Korn is your guy, can you talk about where he is relative to his first oppoprtunities earlier in the season and how he’s progressed?
“Yeah, John has remained diligent every single week. Preparation and the game plan and always sitting on a spring ready to play.”
Can you just talk about Ohio State and what you’ve seen out of them this year?
“Yeah, really, really talented team. Very well coached. Really good players. Right now going through the schemes, the matchups, the preparation for the ballgame on Saturday but really, really strong, physical football team. Fast team. Really good at the skill positions. Tackle well. Play really good up front. They rotate their defensive line. I know they think very highly of them and I can see why. Yeah, can’t say enough good things. Really good team.”
[After THE JUMP: stages of the concussion protocol, another injury update, and Harbaugh’s first memories of The Game]
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.
Touchdown, Michigan! 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
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]
Arizona is ranked for the first time in a minute after four straight Pac-12 wins. Tate watched Arizona's first four games from the sideline. Last year he completed 40% of his 45 passes and rushed for under 5 yards a carry.
A bit further north in that same conference, Stanford barely escaped an awful Oregon State team as QB Keller Chryst averaged 4.3 yards an attempt. Sophomore KJ Costello played the vast majority of previous high-scoring wins over UCLA and Arizona State. Twitter was rife with bitching about Chryst and stupefaction at what it would take for Costello to enter the game as the Cardinal labored towards a win over the 1-7 Beavers. You may remember that Michigan's first choice at QB two years ago was Costello; it was only after he committed to Stanford that Michigan started looking around.
A bit further south in that same conference, Sam Darnold watched USC start 1-2 under Max Browne last year before emerging as a 67%, 3000-yard, 31-9 TD-INT flamethrower and Rose Bowl winner.
A bit closer to home, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke spent most of the 2016 season watching Tyler O'Connor bork it before getting a chance midway through the year. A few years back MSU also spent a brief, wonderful period as the worst offense on the planet under Andrew Maxwell before pulling the trigger on the Connor Cook era. Wisconsin left Alex Hornibrook, the conference's #2 QB by passer rating, on the bench early last year, and then benched him for their final two games.
Nobody knows! Even coaches. Coaches think things. They have the limited amount of data that practice provides, and then there is game data, and all of this information pales in comparison to a giant, looming Fear Of The Unknown. Some decisions make themselves; others have to wait until there's literally no way a second-year player is worse.
There is a moment when even if the backup sometimes seems like a semi-sentient radish in a human suit, he's the man, man. Welcome to that moment.
John O'Korn's struggles after Purdue sent the Michigan internet down a fairly appalling rabbit hole of speculation about Brandon Peters. "Promising young player stuck on bench for bad reasons" is such a trope that everyone knows the name of an otherwise obscure baseball player who Lou Gehrig replaced: Wally Pipp. The hundred-year persistence of this pattern was not good enough.
Nor were a plethora of recent examples at Michigan itself: Mike Hart behind David Underwood. Ben Gedeon behind Joe Bolden. Heck, even this very year Michigan went with Nolan Ulizio despite the fact Juwann Bushell-Beatty is older and apparently better. Sometimes the wrong guy is playing.
None of this mattered. O'Korn was bad so something had to be wrong with his backup.
So the last few weeks you couldn't throw a rock on a Michigan message board without hitting someone either implying or directly stating that Peters was a weird aspie with a fidget spinner and no future, Rain Man in a helmet. It's one thing when this comes from anonymous insider wannabes and entirely another when Rivals's Chris Balas calls a redshirt freshman a "big recruiting mistake" and says he "wouldn't be surprised" if Peters transferred.
Gasoline on the whisper fire, based on nothing. And this the second time Rivals has fueled baseless Peters transfer rumors that had to be debunked. The first time it was by Peters's father. This time Peters did it himself.
It turns out Brandon Peters is at least as plausible a second-year quarterback as anyone else suspected of being a sentient radish. Never in the history of Michigan Stadium has a soft toss in the flat or a fullback checkdown been met with more rapture, because everyone was worried that there was a good reason Peters was behind O'Korn, and that meant doom both now and later. Rutgers guys were annoyed at it, for some reason:
"It seemed like the crowd was kind of obnoxiously cheering," Rutgers redshirt senior Dorian Miller said with a smile. "(Peters) completed a 10-yard ball and the crowd belted out. Football is football, so I'm sure you could apply that to any team and the fans would respond like that. It's not a knock on them."
Just when folks who haven't seen Peters in action started wondering if this guy's arm strength was substandard, Peters stepped up in the pocket and ripped a laser at a receiver just in front of a safety. The ball got in a half second before the safety arrived, and the absurdity of the whisper campaign really settled in.
Brandon Peters is a quarterback in 2017, which means he was scouted to death in high school. And the thing that really leapt out to both Ace and I was that slow build to a ripping throw. Peters has the natural ability to vary his throws so they're catchable when they can be and darts when they have to be. That featured in his recruiting profile:
He varies trajectory and speed based on the situation. My favorite throws in the Brownsburg game above are two high-arc, low speed passes to his tight end that are the exact right throws in those situations. That's the definition of a "catchable ball."
Peters seemed like a savant, especially in the aftermath of Shane Morris's approach to the game. He had no QB guru, like most quarterbacks do these days. He ripped through high school football. This wasn't a guy completing half his passes who might be moldable into a guy down the road. Personality issues didn't prevent Peters from impressing the entire recruiting industry and flying up rankings after a senior year ending at the Army game.
So what are we doing when we search for some personality flaw when a second year player can't get into the game just yet? Why is a mountain of evidence from across college football not enough? And so what if the dude is more engineer than prom king?
Even if Brandon Peters isn't George Clooney—and I'm not saying he is or is not—has anyone actually seen Rain Man? Placed in his element, Rain Man is a baller.
this guy's mustache got an HM [Barron]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Rashan Gary. Gary was rampant, consistently blowing around the corner to sack and/or terrify the quarterback. The Rutgers LT gets some NFL hype; Gary, and Chase Winovich to a slightly less rampant extent, made that guy look like a walk-on.
#2(t) Mason Cole and Mike Onwenu. Cole and Onwenu tentatively seemed like Michigan's most mauling OL on a rewatch, but probably I could have given this to any member of the blocking crew and not been particularly off.
#3 Sean McKeon. McKeon was able to dig out a throw low and behind him to convert a third and long; he was the only guy to pull in multiple passes. He probably would have scored on that fourth down if Peters put it on him. In addition, McKeon's blocking was excellent for a second consecutive week.
Honorable mention: That guy's mustache. Poggi, Hill, Kugler, JBB, and Bredeson all chipped in on a dominating ground game. Isaac and Higdon made the most out of the blocking. Winovich, Hurst, and Bush were all their usual selves.
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), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers). 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU), 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).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Brandon Peters completes a short waggle pass to Ty Wheatley for a first down.
Honorable mention: Peters completes another soft toss to Poggi on his next opportunity. Higdon breaks free for a game-sealing long touchdown. Kareem Walker scores. Various annihilations of the Rutgers quarterback. Various annihilations of the Rutgers front seven.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Michigan misses a run fit against a wildcat formation, ceding a long touchdown that tied the score at 7. At the time it felt like that was the start of a very long day indeed. Also long wildcat touchdowns remind me of the Penn State game.
Honorable mention: O'Korn throws a pick in the direction of Gentry when he's covered by a 5'9" guy; O'Korn fumbles the snap and Michigan eats a 14 yard loss; Rutgers uses the same damn screen play MSU scored on to get down to the two.
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.
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!]
Jim said the Lavert [Hill] pick was not a penalty. What did you see on that play?
“Yeah, I was astonished. I actually asked the official at halftime, I said, ‘What happened? What’d he do?’ He said he tugged on his top shoulder and that’s what made him able to slingshot in front of him. You look at the film and you don’t see that, you just see a kid making a hell of a play, so I was surprised.”
Tyree [Kinnel] said he sees a little Jourdan [Lewis] in him. Do you see that?
“Yeah, you know what, I can see it. I can see what Tyree’s saying, and Lavert is starting to come out of his shell a little bit and you can see his fieriness, his competitiveness more in practice as the year goes, so absolutely.”
Have you been pretty happy with David Long’s progression at the other spot?
“David has progressed well. B-Wat has progressed well. Yes, happy. We still need to progress, absolutely.”
We’re starting to see a little bit of Ambry Thomas in pivotal game moments. What has he been able to do?
“Ambry’s come along. He had to go in there because David got dinged up a little bit or a little dizzy, but Ambry’s coming and so is Benjamin St. Juste. Both those guys are working extremely hard. I would say if they keep up this pace, in a couple weeks I wouldn’t be afraid to put them in more than what they’re seeing now.”
[After THE JUMP: the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau is gonna love this]
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.
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!
somehow not an INT [Fuller]
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:
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?]