Dear Diary Gets Back Up

Dear Diary Gets Back Up

Submitted by Seth on June 1st, 2012 at 7:19 AM

DD6-1

I'm back. To all three of you who missed the weekly user content post thank you for your patience as we got HTTV shipped, and then I unplugged and spent five days in the Canadian wilderness. There were loons, a bear, a moose and a bazillion bitemes, then I spent the ride home with a Space Coyote. This diarist of the week issued Part the Third of his awesome series on DG's spring game performance. A sample:

Play 13 - 4:50

Slants with a play action fake to get the LBs to clear out from the underneath zones. Very simple play…

The backside is actually more open on this play, but DG can’t know that because he is accurately going through his progression, which reads that the first man is open (which he is for a TD, good read).  On the field side, the slot is more or less intended to clear out that underneath zone from the nickel back/ LBs/ safety by running an initial slant.  He doesn’t run a great route but it isn’t too important. The outside WR then runs behind that to a news vacated area, which is also wide open.

These seem to be developing a theme: defense has the 3rd read wide open and gets pressure but the play never goes to the open guy because something short with a small window but higher in the progression order opens up first. I wonder if this is an effect of the defense knowing the offense, or an effect of Gardner's progression being slow, or as the OP seems to suggest, just one of those things. Coyote goes easy on Devin for doing what he's coached to do but I wonder if a senior with a lot of game experience will be more apt to go off the page and punish the defense for catching tendencies. It's may be irrelevant since our senior QB is a sophomore in West Coast passing schemes, but as Space Coyote notes a sophomore Henne once threw to the 2nd read on a very similar play to cap a last-play comeback win against Penn State.

Oy Boy! Last time saveferris penned a roll back the clock I asked for more, and we received. This time the quantum accelerator put us in the pads of Bill Taylor, c. 1971, when Michigan conquered space and Ohio State but couldn't defeat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As could only happen here, there's an argument in the comments between a historian armed with knowledge of the weather that week and a member of the band who was on the field that day about the grass conditions in Pasadena. Upon further review:

Looks pretty dry guys. How the hell did you remember that? My mom was a junior at Michigan that year and swears she can't remember anything except studying and getting good grades (and how cheap coffee was at Blimpy's). Also trying to imagine MMB choosing a selection with such strong political overtones today.

A second leap was made by Blazefire to 2007 so he could warn us to not get too confident over last year's leap, but Henne/Hart injuries didn't make the defense give up 36 points to an I-AA team man.

In other postseasons that Michigan can get screwed in/out of, Stephenrjking and oakapple are playoff wranglin'. The former is a worth-reading discussion on poll bias and how any system that leaves the least up to human pollsters is probably the best for determining a champion. The latter also discusses qualification models like polls, a selection committee, and autobids, and makes a good point about this being a very different animal from basketball's selection committee, which has never seen a champion from the lower 50% of seeds.

Getting crowded down there. Our resident UMgradMSUdad says Nebraska recruiting is starting to shift from Texas (17 players in Pelini's first two seasons, 7 in the last two full classes) to Ohio with the move to the B1G. Since it's mostly 3-stars they're going after, long-term this annieprobably affects Michigan State, which under Dantonio took a lot of the guys Ohio State passed on and fought Nebraska the most in this study, more than Michigan, which is competing more directly with the in-state juggernaut. It helps them that Pelini's from Cardinal-Mooney (Ray Vinopal) in Youngstown, which in my study last year came out very Penn State-ish. This was bound to happen to some degree by letting them in. Nebraska is a traditional powerhouse from a state that doesn't produce a lot of talent, so they're going to pull more from their conference footprint than contribute to it. If the net result is it hastens the Spartans' inevitable return to Spartiocrity I'm okay with it, but the Cornhuskers have traditionally built from the Big XII's footprint; if these players are more and more coming from the Midwest it's going to thin the ranks of the Big Ten. File under obvious.

Etc. The Blockhams is tackling the dog. Soon the dog will be killed by the baby tackler's perfect Kovacsian form and replaced with a shaggy dog named Brian who is working on his blog all the time (MAKE THIS HAPPEN!). Space wallpaper (of Space!).

Best of the Board

FAMOUS PEOPLE SIGHTED, INDUCED TO SAY STUFF

We had a few people attend the myriad traveling events football players and coaches do during offseason and come back reporting on the proceedings.

  • Hoke at Agonis. Correspondent hart20 recorded Hoke's comments to a group of people in Dayton, Ohio, mostly on things from in and around Dayton, Ohio, that people from Dayton, Ohio, care about, like Ball State, Kaleb Ringer, and Roy Roundtree, but also the Gentleman's agreement (something about golf) and conference realignment.
  • Woodson at Sunda. Reporting not-live from Chicago, we go to samsoccer7 and coverage of Charles Woodson's new wine. This was originally published on the boards on May 18 but I re-set the clock so it can get its time as a deserved diary. Some good stuff in there, my favorite being why he didn't do the Heisman after the punt return v. Ohio State. Sorry grapenuts, nothing about the wine.
  • Steve Everitt at Golf Tournament. Brady Hoke's Pet Viking (glad I contributed at least one MGoMeme around here) in an MGoShirt: Ja!
    WHENCE THE DUAL-THREATS OF YESTERYEAR?

Whatever happened to all the 2009 (Class of 2010) Elite 11 QBs? Leaders And Best tracked them down and found way more washouts and transfers than projected starters. Devin Gardner is second only to Tennessee's Tyler Bray in guys on this list you'd want to have at this point.

FIFTH IN HEAPING PILES OF SCRATCH

This year's athletic department budgets as reported on their Title IX forms. I think the "subsidies" in there relate mostly to major stadium improvements. Anyway Michigan raked in over $122 million in revenue and spent about $112 million. Alms for the band indeed.

NON-POLL QUESTIONS

Join the following discussion points. My two cents added here as examples, and because I can get away with it!

  • What the hell is Devin Gardner's number now?
    Seriously, is it 12 or was that just a very mean joke to play on someone who has to pay per page edits to a printed preview book? I've heard Funchess is 19 too. People with information, please inform
  • What would you do if you were Brian for a day?
    Bring back negging so I could neg-bang everybody who complains about the lack of neg-banging.
  • Which Big Ten team are you really glad you're not a fan of today?
    MSU – Too good to not care, always knowing you weren't good
  • What was your most memorable Big House experience like?
    Imagine if you could wrap all that is Desmond Howard and being 11 years old into one afternoon.
  • (It's too late but…) Think of funny names for the sponsor levels
    Come for the humor. Leave for the lack of relevance to your life.
  • Six funny press conferences
    I approved this guy's concept for a daily board post even though the first was very Bleacher Report-y, figuring he had the drive to keep improving. Then it ended after two I guess. The first, eh, forget about it. The second: Tune in, if only for the chance to remember John L. Smith's pouty face. Every time I watch that I see my little brother, age 8, staring straight ahead, explaining how he's pressing the right buttons but the Nintendo's screwing it all up!

FINAL SOFTBALL UPDATE

sfb-splash-2-051212

The season ended against Alabama in the NCAA Super Regional (i.e. Round 2). But this is a game where pitchers dominate and we had two dominant freshmen. Memories: Everybody dancing to Amanda Chidester's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" coming-to-bat song, Caitlin Blanchard getting hit by a pitch to beat Louisville in the regional, going perfect on the season against OSU/ND/MSU, including a weekend shutout over Michigan State, and this:

Player ERA W-L CG IP BB/K OP-Avg | AVG HR OBP SLG OPS
Haylie Wagner 1.53 32-7 28 252 52/159 0.207 | 0.132 6 0.457 0.553 1.010
Sara Driesenga 2.53 9-10 7 124.1 45/63 0.253 | 0.340 4 0.305 0.303 0.608

YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN

(warning: may cause you to become trapped in amaranthine contemplation of Les Miles. HT: Orson)

590027577_medium[3]

Big Ten Basketball Landscape: The Doomed

Big Ten Basketball Landscape: The Doomed

Submitted by Brian on April 4th, 2012 at 2:48 PM

CORRECTION: In the earlier post on the contenders I overlooked Wisconsin's George Marshall, who redshirted last year. He's a point guard. Given the redshirt it seems unlikely he gets thrust into the starting lineup, but he's another option for the Badgers there. In any case, Big Ten Geeks pointed out that the last time Wisconsin didn't have a point guard they won thirty games. Point guard: optional at Wisconsin.

Brandon%20Paul%20hoist[1]Illinois

Out: Bruce Weber, C Meyers Leonard, PG Sam Maniscalco, maybe SG Brandon Paul

In: PG Michael Orris (3*)

Status: On January 19th, A 15-3 Illinois team coming off that game against Ohio State where Brandon Paul turned into Michael Jordan visited Penn State, then 1-5 in the Big Ten. Illinois lost.

They'd win only twice more. Meyers Leonard would collapse into tears on the bench, Illinois bombed itself out of the tournament, and Weber would be fired because obviously. After whiffing on at least Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Illinois settled on Wolverine-slayer John Groce as their coach. It seems no one is happy about this except Big Ten opponents other than Michigan.

Leonard just declared for the draft and Illinois's recruiting class consists of one three-star point guard and a preferred walk-on. Things are going to get worse for Illinois before they get better. Well… maybe not worse. But the prospects for an instant turnaround are not good when the rest of the league is reloading with NBA players and you've lost one of your two players at that level without bringing in a decent replacement.

That said, until further notice Brandon Paul does still play for the Illini. And DJ Richardson can shoot a little bit. And Tyler Griffey had a good game against Michigan and… no, it's not likely anyone can piece that into a team that makes the tournament.

Question that needs resolving: Was it really all Bruce Weber's fault?

If you look at this roster it's filled with guys who should have better stats than they do. Paul shot 44% from 2 and 33% from three because he got Dion Harris'd playing with a 7'1" lottery pick. At some point that has to be on the guy in the suit jumping up and down like a lunatic.

According to Kenpom, Groce did better on offense with his Ohio squad. Illinois's best bet is that Bruce Weber was a Greg Robinson-style anchor on the offense and that an unfettered Paul shows Izzo that it was a good idea to fire him.

Northwestern

UMBB_Northestern_AP5_display[1]

Minnesota: still history's greatest monsters

Out: PF John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovic, C Davide Curletti

In: C Alex Olah (3*), SG Sanjay Lumpkin(3*), SF Kale Abrahmson(3*), Nikola Cerina (TCU transfer)

The Wildcats graduate the leading scorer in program history plus the other two guys taller than 6'5" who played; they bring in a leafy, bitter vegetable and some other dudes with outlandish names. If you're worried that the post at Northwestern will not feature a guy who sounds like a Soviet apparatchik, don't be: the likely starter at center next year is TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, a Serbian who went to "Nikola Telsa SS" high school.

The Wildcats still have some quality pieces, most prominently rising senior Drew Crawford and rising sophomore Dave Sobolewski. Crawford would start on the wing for just about any Big Ten team. He's a 41% three point shooter who's also efficient inside the line and provides decent ancillary stats. Sobolewski had an impressive freshman year and will take on big chunks of the scoring load left by Shurna. A fully healthy JerShon Cobb will help defensively.

But if this outfit plus John Shurna couldn't give away Northwestern's tourney virginity it's hard to see them on the bubble without him. The defense will remain substandard and it's going to be impossible to replace Shurna's efficiency (44% from three! A top 25 TO rate despite launching over 30% of Northwestern's shots! 92% of NU's minutes!). Minnesota: you bastards.

Question that needs resolving: God, it's me, Margaret. Why do you feel the need to troll Northwestern basketball so hard? Are you an Iowa fan? If so, why do you keep exploding all their tailbacks' ACLs?

Penn State

john-malkovich-malkovich[1]

Penn State basketball.

Out: SF Cammeron Woodyard, C Billy Oliver, SG Matt Glover, PG Trey Lewis, another Carefrontation subject or two who didn't play meaningful minutes.

In: PF Brandon Taylor (3*), SG Akosa Maduegbunam (3*), SG DJ Newbill (USM transfer).

Status: Penn State basketball is what would happen if Tim Frazier went through the tunnel in Being Tim Frazier: Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier Tim Frazier.

Next year they will also be this, but maybe a little more so after Pat Chambers rubbed sophomore Matt Glover and freshman Trey Lewis the wrong way. Both of those guys have exited the program, leaving even less behind Frazier than Penn State had this year when he played 93% of their minutes and used a third of PSU possessions. Frazier almost literally can't do more.

So… who will? PSU fans are banking on DJ Newbill picking up some of the slack. Newbill transferred from Southern Mississippi after his freshman year and is eligible in the fall. He was an efficient scorer at the CUSA level (54% from two, lots of free throws, no range) but a low usage guy who still managed to commit a bunch of turnovers. He's not going to be a program-changer.

In the frontcourt Penn State got a solid freshman year from Ross Travis and some decent minutes from other underclassmen. Frazier and the departing Woodyard were the only upperclassmen to play major roles, so Penn State should expect to improve quite a bit. They can do so and still be miles away from the tourney after finishing 12-20 last year.

Question that needs resolving: Can anyone else score?

Tim Frazier can only do so much, and at the rate he's doing it now Penn State is all but doomed to EFGs in the 300s. Actually, "can anyone else do anything?" might be a better question. Not only is Frazier far and away Penn State's best scorer but his assist rate of 45.3 was second nationally. Penn State has taken the concept of relying on one really good six-foot guy as far as it will go: not far. Newbill doesn't seem like the answer.

 

Nebraska

Out: Everyone, including Doc Sadler.

In: Some JUCOs and stuff plus new coach Tim Miles.

Status: Nebraska was 4-14 in the Big Ten last year and graduated four starters. Everyone behind the starters was a junior and is not likely to improve much. Their recruiting class consists of low-rated JUCOs and a 5'8" PG.

Question that needs resolving: None. Nebraska will be the worst team in the league.

The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

The Novelty Of A Dull Road Blowout

Submitted by Brian on February 9th, 2012 at 12:16 PM

2/8/2012 – Michigan 64, Nebraska 46 – 18-7, 8-4 Big Ten

429-WJo4E.AuSt.55[1]Michigan_Nebraska_Basketball.sff-b86f0cbb-bee8-440d-a559-e028a7003bd6[1]

First half, second half

I cannot pretend that last night's game inspired soaring emotions in me. It was (eventually) a routine blowout of a very bad basketball team and the most interesting bit was the three minutes at the beginning of the second half when Michigan pushed the lead out to an insurmountable margin.

While it's nice to be irritated about a seven-point halftime lead and despondent at what the late flurry did to Michigan's Kenpom rankings, let's just hit the bullets/analysis section posthaste.

Posthaste bullets

Always Hardaway first. Hardaway was 0/7 in the first half with five of those from three; in the second half he was 3/4 with the miss also from three and added three assists. He's still not rebounding much, though a single-game sample there is not reliable. Bad shots were significantly reduced. Most of his missed threes were good looks, and if there was a frustrating long two there was only one.

Progress or just playing Nebraska? We'll call the second half progress if only because the preceding 60 minutes were such poo. The nice thing about that half was the way Hardaway was used in the offense: catching off screens and diving to the basket without having to rely on his handle to beat a defender.

That should be a primary component of the offense going forward. Hardaway finished at the rim on a couple of those and hit Morgan for easy buckets on a couple others; the catch off the screen limits the time opponents have to sag off three point shooters and rake at Hardaway's dribble. Defenses will of course adjust to this, and then Michigan will have to move to something else in the cat and mouse game, but they'll be able to.

As for the shooting, I don't know. On WTKA this morning Craig Ross was advocating hypnosis, Ira was saying he needs to hook up with the hockey team's sports psychologist, and I declared Hardaway needed to commit a spine-shattering charge before being allowed to take a three. Then we decided all three should be implemented.

Beilein's offense is constructed such that Hardaway is going to have to take his share of threes, and as long as they're within the context of the offense that's fine. Eventually, one will go down.

Measuring the difference between Morris and Burke. Theory: Jordan Morgan usage is highly correlated with shot generation in general and especially by the point guard. Morgan's shooting percentage is unnaturally high because the vast bulk of his attempts are GRAAAA thunderdunks generated by the point guard (and Morgan's movement) or Morgan's ability to run the floor.

I was thinking about this during the game because the correlation between Morgan shot attempts and the efficiency of Michigan's offense was glaring. First half: one Morgan shot attempt (missed). Second half: four (all makes). Morgan usage is not only a sign of GRAAAA thunderdunks but an offense that is generating shots off of movement and penetration; it seems like it is correlated with increased eFG% from the rest of the team.

Anyway, Morgan-Morris-Burke survey says:

  • Morgan w/ Darius Morris: 20% of shots @ 63%, 10.7 OREB rate, 19.2 TORate.
  • Morgan w/ Trey Burke: 16.4% of shots @ 65%, 11.9 OREB rate, 25.7 TORate.

[OREB rate and TORate included because it seems like he should get more putbacks this year and that Morris apparently got him touches less likely to end up as turnovers.]

Burke has a ways to go before he's as Morris-level freakish shot-generating machine. He may never get there, which is okay since he's a much better shooter. This section primarily designed to wonder at what a meteor of a college player Morris was, and to shake a fist at his early departure.

Burke, though. Efficient day with 12 points on 7 shots and a 5-2 assist to TO ratio. If he improves as much as Morris did from freshman to sophomore year he will be a twenty-foot tall robot who shoots 130% from three.

Stu Douglass, Zack Novak, the usual. Between them: 5/9 from three, 5/7 from two, 5 assists, five steals, 0 turnovers, three fouls, and a partridge in a pear tree. The senior leadership here is damned tangible.

Anyone still talking crap about Douglass is an inveterate complainer. He has been okay to good on the offensive end of the floor and a great perimeter defender on the other end. Bo Spencer went 4 of 12, 1 of 6 from three.

As for Novak, he's hitting 43% from three and in the top 50 of various Kenpom stats; he's also providing the usual torrent of grit. Quality players who will be missed.

Michigan-at-Nebraska-5-597x420[1]

Patrick Radigan

Vogrich. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Let it ride. Please, please, please let that be a sign that Vogrich can be a useful role player down the stretch. Going six deep is asking for it.

Paging Smotrycz to aisle things that exist. The only things separating Smotrycz from a 13-minute trillion were:

  • A defensive rebound.
  • Two fouls.
  • A turnover.

Not so good, there. Remember when we were complaining about Smotrycz's tendency towards silly fouls because Michigan was crippled without him on the court? Yeah… long time ago. Just as long as "oh God, the hockey tourney streak is dead."

Playing at the five is clearly uncomfortable but Michigan has few other options with Horford sidelined. I actually think they should roll with McLimans a bit more in situations where opposing bigs can't shoot free throws, if only for the defensive rebounding. Smotrycz was ripping them down as a 4 and things have fallen off considerably now that most of his minutes are backing up Morgan.

Even that's not much of a solution. Michigan's just going to have to suck it up and pray that Morgan doesn't get inappropriately handsy in the wrong game. He's been doing a much better job of staying on the floor of late, FWIW. His fouls per 40 is down to 4.0.

This should get a lot better next year with no departures and McGary, Horford, and Bielfeldt all suddenly available for post minutes. It's actually going to be hard to find minutes for everyone next year. And they'll be tall. It's going to be weird.

Trillion watch. Colton Christian picked up a two trillion; Bartelstein and Person were missed FGAs away from the same.

Etc.

UMHoops photo gallery. AnnArbor.com version. Baumgardner article.

Death From Above: At Nebraska

Death From Above: At Nebraska

Submitted by Brian on February 8th, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Ndamukong-Suh-Nebrasketball[1]THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan at Nebraska
WHERE Devaney Sports Center,
Lincoln, NE
WHEN 9 PM Eastern
LINE M –5 (Kenpom)
TV BTN

Nebraska basketball: waiting around for Ndamukong Suh Jr. to rescue your program… in 2042.

THE THEM

The only thing keeping Nebraska from the title of "easily the worst team in the Big Ten" is the existence of Penn State. They're .500 on the year and 3-8 in the league. They're not very good. But it's a Big Ten road game so Michigan has to overcome not only the opponent but the heebie jeebies.

Bo Spencer Nebraska v Ohio State xs1Oi7iL9hql[1]Senior guard Bo Spencer is the main guy. He shoots nearly 30% of Nebraska's field goal attempts and has a decent assist rate. Unfortunately for the Huskers, he turns the ball over a ton, shoots a lot of threes at a 31% clip, and hits only 48% from within the arc. His stats have a Dion Harris vibe to them—on a better team he'd be taking a lot fewer shots and making more of them. One thing to avoid: putting Spencer on the line. He's an 88% FT shooter. Michigan isn't giving up many free-throws (second in the league), FWIW.

After Spencer, senior wing Toney McCray is the main man. He's efficient when he gets a shot off and a good defensive rebounder but is also a turnover-prone black hole who doesn't get to the line.

Guard Brandon Richardson is a low-usage version of Spencer, with a good assist rate, terrible TO rate for a guard, and meh shooting. He is hitting nearly 40% from deep, though, and does get to the line from time to time. 6'4" guard Caleb Walker is low usage and high-turnover; when he gets a two off it's a good shot.

Post Brandon Ubel looks like a standard-issue guy who gets a bunch of offensive rebounds but is otherwise not a big part of the offense. Normal starting center Jorge Brian Diaz is out with a foot injury. Diaz is a quality shot blocker; Ubel is not.

The tempo-free theme is turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. No Nebraska player cracks the top 500 least turnover-prone players in the country; everyone who sees playing time has a TO rate of at least 17. Michigan has three starters well under that mark (Hardaway, Novak, and Douglass) and their high-usage freshman PG has a TO rate three points lower than Spencer.

THE RESUME

While Nebraska is not good at basketball they have risen up to disturb tourney-bound teams more than once this year. Their only actual win against a tourney aspirant was by one point against Indiana but they tested Illinois and Wisconsin (on the road, even) and hung in for a surprisingly long time against Michigan State in a game they ended up losing by 13.

Those mitigating factors aside, yeesh. Nebraska had one win against major competition in the nonconference (a double OT win against 6-18 USC) and lost to bad Oregon and Wake Forest teams; their conference wins aside from Indiana are against Penn State and Iowa.

Michigan's visit to Carver-Hawkeye earlier this year is ample evidence that no road game should be taken for granted, but if you were going to do so this would be the one.

THE TEMPO-FREE

Conference four factors:

Factor Offense (Rk) Defense (Rk) Avg
Effective FG%: 46.9 10 52.1 9 49
Turnover %: 23.0 12 19.5 6 20.8
Off. Reb. %: 26.5 11 33.9 10 32.5
FTA/FGA: 31.1 9 35.9 8 36.5

Nebraska does nothing well and the only thing they do sort of okay is force turnovers. This looks like a high-risk, high-reward sort of outfit. They lead the league in steal% at 11.5; they are dead last at defending twos, allowing nearly a 55% conversion rate.

Nebraska hits only 30% of its threes but takes 41% of its shots from long range. They're tall and old, though—Kenpom has them #2 in experience.

THE PROTIPS

For the love of God, Hardaway. Please, please, please let you get what you want this time.

Michigan needs rebounds, defense, and better shot selection from Hardaway. If he's taking a late-clock force, an open three off ball movement, or going to the rim I don't care if it goes in or not. Long twos with 25 seconds on the shot clock have to die, and he has to close out, and he has to get on the defensive boards.

The worst part about Hardaway's slump is how useless he's been at all the things other than scoring that you can do. Fix that, and Michigan can live with the shooting, or lack thereof.

Tim Hardaway Jr Michigan v Indiana oRDx5nyygs3l[1]l4925164[1]

this, do this

Skip the threes. This is a team giving up 55% from inside the arc. They're actually decent at defending threes. Backdoor, screen, etc. Any and all threes should be open looks based off penetration. Go inside.

This goes double with Diaz out. The starting center is rejecting 1.6 percent of available shots. Run at the rim with impunity.

Um. Show up on defense. Looking at the conference numbers and it's just, like… I don't see how this team does anything. They shoot free throws well; in all other categories they are eighth or worse in the league.

Presumably Douglass gets Spencer, which seems like a fine matchup from Michigan's perspective. Novak will draw a guy approximately his size—Nebraska seems to rotate the posts at the five and there are no other players on the roster taller than 6'6" who get minutes. The main concern is again Hardaway, who will get McCray's efficient shooting and vast turnover supply.

Usual Big Ten road game stuff. The heebie jeebies!

THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES

Michigan by five.

Elsewhere

UMHoops preview. Same from Holdin' The Rope. Tuesday Truths from Vitale-famous John Gasaway show the relative depths into which Michigan's schedule will plumb:

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Ohio St.          8-2   66.7    1.11    0.84    +0.27
2.  Michigan St.      7-3   62.3    1.10    0.93    +0.17
3.  Wisconsin         7-4   57.7    1.02    0.96    +0.06
4.  Michigan          7-4   59.4    1.04    1.01    +0.03
5.  Indiana           6-6   65.6    1.10    1.09    +0.01
6.  Minnesota         5-6   64.2    1.02    1.02     0.00
7.  Illinois          5-5   62.6    0.98    0.99    -0.01
8.  Purdue            5-5   63.7    1.03    1.08    -0.05
9.  Iowa              5-6   67.3    1.03    1.10    -0.07
10. Northwestern      4-6   61.4    1.04    1.12    -0.08
11. Penn St.          2-9   63.0    0.94    1.09    -0.15
12. Nebraska          3-8   62.6    0.92    1.08    -0.16

AVG.                        63.0    1.03

Michigan plays #1 at home and then has games against 7 (two of them), 8, 10, 11, and 12. The games against the bottom three are on the road, but if you were going to split up the home/road games to maximize likely wins that's the way you'd want it.

UMHoops breaks down MSU's improved ball screen D against M and Michigan's inability to defend MSU cross screens.

Opponent Watch: Week 9

Opponent Watch: Week 9

Submitted by Heiko on November 3rd, 2011 at 9:47 AM

About Last Saturday:

Purdue 14, Michigan 36

Caption contest. Go.

The Road Ahead:

Iowa (5-3, 2-2 B1G)

Last game: Iowa 21, Minnesota 22 (L)

Recap: The only thing worse than questing for title of “Worst Big Ten Team EVER” is losing to that team, which Iowa did on Saturday. Flags in Iowa City flew at half mast to honor the death of Gopherquest -- and themselves, in the eyes of Brian Cook.

briantweetiowadead

Two deaths and a funeral indeed.

Let’s take a look at the autopsy report: Thanks to a couple missed field goals, the game was close through the third quarter until Iowa scored to go ahead 21-10 early in the fourth, seemingly poised to finally wrest it out of Minnesota’s reach.

After a Hawkeyes fumble and Gophers field goal, however, Minnesota converted a fourth and one from their own 42 and scored a touchdown a couple plays later.

The Gophers onside kicked, catching Iowa by surprise. Minnesota recovered and miraculously scored again on a fourth-down conversion at the Iowa three.

Flailing, the Hawkeyes went four-and-out and were then helpless to stop the Gophers from running out the clock.

Remarkably, Iowa RB Marcus Coker carried the ball 32 times for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns in an outstanding effort no Iowa fan will ever remember. Imagine if Pheidippides had made it all the way to Athens only to collapse before delivering his message. Instead of inspiring an entire culture of running a couple millenia later, now he’s just a clammy dead guy.

Right now they are as frightening as: A watered down version of 2007 Michigan immediately post-Horror -- not as good, therefore not as embarrassed. Still hiding under a blanky though. 5.

Michigan should worry about: The first real manball team on the schedule not playing in a trash tornado. Also the last.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Iowa had the rhabdomyolysis problem in the offseason, which seems to have scared the CARA out of the strength staff. (Do you see what I did there?)

As a result, Iowa’s defense looks like it’s been playing Wii Fit in lieu of real conditioning. They made Iowa State QB Steele Jantz look like Andrew Luck, allowed Penn State to go Look-Ma-No-QB, and couldn’t stop Marqueis Gray when it mattered -- incidentally, all of these things happened in the fourth quarter.

When Michigan plays them: 2011 Iowa is undefeated at home. 2011 Michigan is undefeated in November. Immovable object meet unstoppable force? Hah.

For realsies now: Iowa’s best win was against Pitt. This was the game where Vandenberg led the epic comeback against a Tony Gibson coached secondary, earning him the Vandenhenneberg moniker. The joke is getting stale, but if you were still wondering, that along with BGHP’s gushing comparison at the beginning of the season is where it comes from. Their next best win was against Northwestern, and you know all about Northwestern’s secondary. And then if you keep looking you fall off a cliff right before the Indianas and Lousiana-Monroes of the world, where concerns about the secondary are, well … secondary.

Sorry, I had to do that.

The Wolverines secondary is much better these days, having survived Alex Carder, Michael Floyd, Dan Persa, and B.J. Cunningham (electing to fall prey to Keshawn Martin instead). Teams succeeded against VandenMcHenneNutt by preventing deep routes. Michigan’s inside-and-in-front philosophy should be able to do at least that.

And then there’s the issue of the Hawkeyes defense. Their major breakdowns tend to happen late in the game due to the aforementioned stamina problems. Aside from targeting specific weakness (see Ace’s FFFF), offensive playcalling that spreads and stretches the field laterally to wear down Iowa defenders would be a smart approach, especially early in the game.

(more after the jump)

Opponent Watch: Week 8

Opponent Watch: Week 8

Submitted by Heiko on October 27th, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Sometimes I post on Wednesday, sometimes I post on Thursday. Ideally I should post on Tuesday, but ideally Michigan should be undefeated.

Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace.

The Road Ahead:

Purdue (4-3, 2-1 B1G)

Last game: No. 23 Illinois 14, Purdue 21 (W)

Recap: If you want something more than handwaving, see Ace’s FFFF.

In a nutshell, Purdue managed two real drives in the first half while stymieing Illinois’ offense for a good 50 minutes before the Illini finally came to. As Ace indicates, the Boilermakers didn’t so much win this game as Illinois lost it: Purdue is a not very good team that happened to play well. The Illini were a better team that made enough mistakes to beat themselves. Sometimes you can bring a knife to a gunfight and prevail because the guys with the guns shoot at each other first. That’s not the best analogy but you get the point.

Right now they are as frightening as: After losing to Rice and narrowly escaping Middle Tennessee State at the beginning of the season, Purdue has improved enough to play Penn State close and beat a ranked Illinois team. What does this mean?

It means that the Big Ten isn’t very good. Fear level = 4.

Michigan should worry about: Underestimating Purdue’s defense. While not stellar as a unit, they’re fairly opportunistic, led by a secondary that is competent to good. CB Ricardo Allen, the guy who intercepted Denard last year and hurdled him for a 94-yard touchdown, is still on the team. He’s a sophomore, so we’ll be seeing him for a while.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Saturday’s weather forecast says 52 degrees and partly cloudy with 0 percent chance of trash. Roy Roundtree's Donald Duck voice.

When Michigan plays them: Is Michigan good enough to not beat itself? Most signs point to yes. This game may not be pretty--you should avert your eyes every time a Purdue running back makes for the sideline or when Denard throws a duck into coverage--but a barring a complete collapse on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines should at least be able to grind out a win.

Next game: at No. 17 Snake Oil Emporium

Opponent Watch: Week 7

Opponent Watch: Week 7

Submitted by Heiko on October 19th, 2011 at 10:06 AM

(Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, Ace, the last Anbender.)

About Last Saturday:

Michigan 14, Michigan State 28

That feels about right.

The Road Ahead:

Purdue (3-3, 1-1 B1G)

Last game: Purdue 18, Penn State 23 (L)

Recap: Try figuring out how many football scores it takes to get to 18. What is that, six field goals? Two touchdowns and two safeties? Now try to make 23.

Yeah, it was that kind of a game. Purdue was also inexplicably a couple missed kicks short of being tied with Penn State.

Not sure which team was still living in last week, but both were coming off statement wins -- the Nittany Lions’ of the “Kirk Ferentz owns us only most of the time” variety, and the Boilermakers’ of the “If the Big Ten were the solar system we would be Venus, which is still a lot better than that Kuiper belt object named Minnesota, formerly known as Pluto” variety.

Purdue’s running back duo carried the ball 13 times each with surprising effectiveness. Ralph Bolden averaged 7.5 ypc, thanks largely to a 39-yarder, and Akeem Shavers averaged 4.2 ypc. Against Penn State, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, although Ace’s FFFF next week will probably have something to say about the schematic advantage inherent in their offense. (Hint: they run the spread.)

The Boilermakers QBs, on the other hand, were unremarkable. Caleb TerBush completed 12 of 25 passes for 162 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. QB Robert Marve attempted just five passes, one of which was an interception. Bench.

About Purdue’s defense -- that the Nittany Lions couldn’t seem to score points against them is more a testament to how derpy Penn State’s quarterback situation is rather than to how stout the Boilermakers are on that side of the ball. For the record, Purdue has the 30th ranked scoring defense in the country, which reflects some degree of competency, but that’s a ranking that’s about as tenable as Michigan’s No. 10 spot in that category.

Right now they are as frightening as: Michigan’s ability to defend an inconsistent spread. 4.

Michigan should worry about: Teaching the linebackers how to defend the perimeter -- you know, keep contain and stop outside runs, short passes, and bubble screens. Things that no one else ever seems to have a problem doing for some reason.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Purdue doesn’t run the spread very well. How they managed to put together four scoring drives against a Penn State defense that held Iowa to three points is beyond me, but again, Ace’s FFFF should shed some light onto that.

When Michigan plays them: Fueled by an irascible disdain for the sale of snake oil, Purdue has outperformed in this game for the past several years. If you’ll recall, there was that last minute hook-and-ladder incident in 2008. Then in 2009 they came from behind to win by capitalizing on a missed Michigan PAT and surprise onside kick. Last year, despite being in the middle of the great torn ACL epidemic, the Boilermakers played Michigan so closely that as I tracked the game from an iPhone, I got mad at ESPN Mobile for doing a crappy job updating the scores.

So yeah, the Not-2008-or-2009-or-2010-ness of this year’s Michigan team could use a decisive win here.

Next game: No. 23 Illinois

Next, the Jump. Michigan should worry about: broken internet connections. Sleep soundly about: more room on the front page.

Opponent Watch: Week 6

Opponent Watch: Week 6

Submitted by Heiko on October 12th, 2011 at 11:43 AM

About Last Saturday:

Michigan 42, Northwestern 24

I wasn't there. Wah wah.

The Road Ahead:

Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 B1G)

Last Game: Bye

Recap: They didn’t play, but I’m going to write mean things about them anyway.

Right now they are as frightening as: Jerel Worthy’s tattoo.

It’s big. It’s ugly. It’s under the skin. It’s going to be there forever. On the other hand, a closer look reveals something misguided about the sense of superiority it portrays. It ends up being actually kind of funny, and years later, whenever the Big Ten becomes a superconference and lets Missouri into the club, it’ll finally make sense.

Oh yeah, about their football team: Objectively, they’re probably around a 6. Personally, they got up to somewhere near an 8 when I watched Michigan’s first half vs. Northwestern and dropped down to a 4 when I watched the second half.

Michigan should worry about: Denard vs. interceptions. The ineffectiveness of the ground game against Northwestern was a bad sign because against Michigan State it’s going to be worse. Denard is going to have to throw it, and I’m going to end up really sick from stress-eating all the press box food. I hope there are meatballs.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Brady Hoke, on Michigan State’s offensive line:

Well, they’re big, which is the normal case.

Ha. Lol.

To their credit, Michigan State does have solid-to-stellar players at QB, RB, and WR, but having a talented 7-on-7 squad doesn’t mean much when the other team puts 11 guys on the field.

When Michigan plays them: This is going to be one of those games where the score will be 14-10 after the first quarter and 14-10 at the end of the third quarter. It’s going to be terrible. Halfway into the second quarter I’m going to start annoying the person sitting next to me with compulsive commentary, especially if Ace isn’t going to East Lansing. He just told me he’s not going. Okay well that sucks. Apologies in advance to whoever ends up sitting next to me.

Michigan wins if they can get to Cousins early and often, especially if they can accomplish that with just a four-man rush.

Next game: No. 11 Missouri Raccoons.

(more after the jump.)

Opponent Watch: Week 5

Opponent Watch: Week 5

Submitted by Heiko on October 6th, 2011 at 1:46 PM

A few things: 1) I’m not going to change the X’s until Michigan loses. 2) Opponent Watch is moving to Tuesday next week. This is more for me than it is for you. 3) I’ve added a section devoted to tracking past opponents. 4) Michigan is not going to lose.

.

Yes.

.

Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, TomVH Ace.

About Last Saturday:

Minnesota 0, Michigan 58

Jug security.

The Road Ahead:

Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 B1G)

Last game: Northwestern 35, No. 24 Illinois 38 (L)

Recap: Northwestern QB Dan Persa (10/14, 4 TDs) finally returned to action last Saturday against Illinois. It’s hard to tell whether he was suffering lingering effects of his Achilles tendon injury leading up to the game, but Persa had five real carries -- mostly on zone-read keepers -- before he exited the game in the fourth quarter with pain in said Achilles tendon.

Despite having Persa’s arm back for the first time since Iowa last year, Northwestern insisted on sticking with the run. For two and half quarters this strategy was surprisingly effective. Persa’s four TD passes to bring the Wildcats ahead 28-10 were set up by a ground game that churned out nearly 5 ypc for two and a half quarters, which, if you’re not a spoiled Michigan fan, is really quite good. RB Mike Trumpy was the centerpiece of the ground game, gaining 63 yards on 12 carries, which, again, if you’re not a spoiled Michigan fan, is quite good. Unfortunately, he also had to leave the game with a leg injury, and reports are saying he’s lost for the season.

For about 40 minutes, Northwestern’s offense sparkled and shined. Then both Persa and Trumpy got knocked out of the game. By that point they were up by three scores in the third quarter, so it was hard to see how they might blow it.

Their secondary answered the challenge. The Wildcats left Illini receivers open all day and had no answer for WR A.J. Jenkins, who took advantage of some hapless defensive backs to haul in two long touchdowns, bringing his team to within a score. Jenkins’ 28-yard reception during the final minute also helped set up the winning Illinois touchdown.

Here’s Ace’s take for more detail.

Right now they are as frightening as: With a gimpy starting quarterback, an injured starting running back, and a defense that sometimes chooses not to cover people, they strike me as Purdue 2.0. Fear level = 4.

Michigan should worry about: Mental errors on the road. Also, Persa’s arm. There’s a good chance at least one of these things will happen, but both will have to happen simultaneously for a significant amount of time for Northwestern to pull out the win.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: There were a lot of questions during the press conferences about how Michigan will deal with Persa’s dual-threat capabilities, but in reality the threat of him running is far scarier to the his Achilles tendon than for an opposing defense.

When Michigan plays them: If Northwestern wants to be stubborn with their play calling, they will again try to establish the run with a lot of of zone reads. Michigan will be able to cheat and key in on the running backs because it would be stupid for Persa to run more than a handful of times. This will last about a quarter before the Wildcats realize that maybe getting 3 ypc isn’t a winning strategy, at which point they’ll likely air it out against a Wolverines secondary, which, thankfully, finally knows how to cover receivers. The Michigan defense will probably make some mistakes -- they’ll give up a couple bombs or a long run here and there -- and the running backs will have less room to wiggle than in previous weeks, but it’s hard to see this game being more worrisome than a Western Michigan/San Diego State redux, albeit against some bigger dudes and on the road-ish.

Next game: No. 12 Michigan

(more after the jump)