SPONSOR NOTE: Hey folks. In addition to providing mortgages, Matt also tailgates. You can hang out and support a good cause by going to the Charity Tailgate at 327 East Hoover (if you were at the preseason MGoEvents this year and last it's the same place). Go around back to the MGoBus and say hi.
FORMATION NOTES: Increased emphasis on four-man fronts, with about 2/3rds of all snaps featuring four DL. That's up from about 50/50 in the opener, and with almost half of Michigan's 3-3-5 snaps on passing downs standard downs were heavily 4-2-5. WMU spent almost the whole day in a three-wide shotgun featuring The Biggest Boy at H-back. He featured on this play that I still find hilarious almost a week later:
Odell Miller is listed at 270 on the roster and that is a lie, a lie, a lie. Harbaugh had to admire WMU running out a nose tackle as an offensive skill position player.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: With Marshall out, Carlo Kemp got the start and did well. Rest of the DL rotation was similar to the first game, with Bryan Mone getting even more snaps because of the Solomon injury and the reduction in 3-3-5 snaps. Paye and Hutchinson semi-frequently spotted Gary and Winovich, with Rueben Jones getting a little time late. Donovan Jeter got some late snaps as well. Dwumfour rotated in semi-frequently but was a clear backup to Kemp and not in a platoon.
LB level was Hudson and Bush for every snap and a rotation of Gil and Ross at WLB, with a slight Ross bias. Jordan Glasgow and Jordan Anthony were the late replacements for Hudson and Bush. The usual CB rotation between the three guys, with Watson being more prominent than the other two—a change. Kinnel omnipresent; Metellus got pulled for Hawkins after his personal foul and somewhat frequently after that.
Ah so it's this bit again. The bit where some people pick up on a factoid and yell about it a lot and other people yell at them about it. The bit where everyone's mad and trying to take it out on someone.
I mean, I get it. Any properly scientific assessment of which football program it is the least fun to be a fan of will find a way to exclude Kansas for not actually being a football program and stick Michigan at the top. Nobody got into this to fight about the level of doomed we are every 3-4 years, never beat anyone of consequence, etc.
But I don't want to do it again. I've done this three times before, once per coaching era this blog has seen the end of, and I've done all the stuff already: preaching patience, gallows humor, being legitimately angry, calling for various heads, writing about mattresses. I don't really feel like doing it all over again. I don't care to evaluate the precise moment at which a person should be fired, or to point out that people are being ridiculous for wanting a person to be fired, or to create big lists of the next person to get fired. Neither do I want to sagely counsel the fanbase from the Tower Of Reasonability. This is not content it feels worthwhile to produce.
If you're mad, fine. If you're mad at the people who are mad, fine. I'm not going to argue with you.
Let's talk about the
BLACK PIT of NEGATIVE EXPECTATIONS
The BPONE is a state of mind in which no part of a football game is enjoyable because it is merely a prelude to some pratfall made more embarrassing and or painful by whatever minimal, temporary successes are experienced prior to the pratfall. Thus a kick return touchdown—that rarest butterfly, one the game is steadily trying to erase—during which your author's only reaction was internal and, I quote, "whoop-de-damn-do."
Going down 14-0 more or less immediately by blowing coverages on third down, getting beat over the top by battleship WRs, and having a shoulda-been interception ripped away by a 5'10" guy immediately puts you in the pit. The general shape of the offense provides a steady stream of pit reinforcement, to the point where my Twitter timeline's reaction to Michigan providing a vague sense of hope at the end of the game was "I hate myself for having this hope." This feeling of cynical dread was vindicated by the sack/strip that had to have been coming and did indeed come.
The more time one spends in the BPONE, the more permeable its membrane. Last year large swathes of the Michigan fanbase descended into it after Michigan had an extra point blocked. At the time Michigan led 20-14. Scoring the rest of the way was 17-0 Ohio State. When entering the BPONE is clearly a good choice, future opportunities to mitigate emotional harm by being miserable in the present are more likely to be taken.
The flaw in BPONE operations is of course the impossibility of mining any enjoyment out of your experience. BPONE sufferers assume a football game is a negative emotional event and spread those negative emotions out more broadly. Only if the team should actually come back and win will any regret be felt, and pffffffffft. I'm in the pit, baby! I know for a stone cold fact that a punt snap will somehow lodge itself in the facemask of the punter. I feel it in my bones that the one time we jump a route in this game the ensuing interception will bang off the defensive back's hands and lodge itself in the facemask of the opposition 50 yards downfield.
Tweeting from the BPONE is inadvisable and very, very difficult to avoid.
Sickens me that you went to u of m and you got the nerve to throw a tweet up like this. When they turn it around which they will. Don’t be the one trying to say you knew they would from the jump. IDGAF what you did a Michigan, these guys don’t deserve that neither does the team! pic.twitter.com/UNgWwHiLRf
Checking your mentions will significantly deepen the pit and is likely to lead to BPONE-influenced tweeting, which is inadvisable. In fact, communicating in any form from the BPONE is inadvisable.
Alcohol will not improve anything but will be consumed in quantity anyway.
At some point repeated defeats will create an OMINPRESENT BLACK PIT of NEGATIVE EXPECTATIONS. OBPONE is a severe condition with consequences such as writer's block, writer's block, and writer's block. The only cure for OBPONE is a new season, but yo-yo-ing in and out of OBPONE makes individual occurrences of BPONE more severe.
Escaping this cycle of cynicism and recrimination requires John Beilein, who is not available for football purposes.
Michigan returns two All Big Ten performers who were true sophomores a year ago and has a third guy who they're so hyped about that they're inventing a position for him, more or less. Weakside linebacker? Eh... it'll be fine.
VIPER: I HEAR THE VOICES IN MY HEAD THEY TELL ME TO TACKLE PEOPLE IN THE BACKFIELD ESPECIALLY IF THEY'RE GOPHEEEEEEEERS
HOPE YOU DIDN'T NEED THAT STERNUM [Bryan Fuller]
Look, man: it's a credibility issue. Recent events related to folks named McDoom and Norfleet may have dented the air of impregnable correctness and certainty this site lives up to on a daily, nay, hourly basis. So this is not a tooting of one's own horn. It is merely... a reminder of the trust you willingly and thankfully put into this site:
Yeah, Jabrill Peppers is gone. I'm not sweating it. I'm wearing a KHALEKE HUDSON [recruiting profile] fez, waving a Khaleke Hudson flag, and writing a PhD dissertation about Khaleke Hudson's senior highlight reel. Anyone who's read this site for a hot second knows its staff comprises the biggest Hudson fan group outside of his immediate family, and if he takes off like Michigan hopes he will they're going to have to really up their game at Christmas.
You probably shouldn't listen to us when the topic is an offensive skill player who should have gone to Oregon. But.. eh? Eh? Eh? Pretty good right?
Hudson stepped into Peppers's shoes with barely a hiccup. He was a lethal blitzer, sure tackler,—just three misses on the season—punishing hitter, and ... uh... largely untested cover guy. While his headline numbers were propped up by a desperate/dumb gameplan from Minnesota that led to an all-time program single-game TFL record, his play over the course of the season was as elite as the shiny TFL and sack numbers imply.
He missed zero tackles in run D, making 45. His pressure rate of nearly 30% is top ten nationally amongst returning back seven players. His 21 run stops leads returning Big Ten safeties. And he graded out better than Peppers, per PFF. This site had a difficult time deciding whether Hudson or Devin Bush was dreamier for much of the year.
Don't let the Minnesota game cloud your memory. Hudson wasn't just a free runner. He was capable of jetting past blockers who couldn't match his get-off...
#7 OLB to top of line
...and able to redirect inside OL worried about said get-off:
#7 OLB to top of line
And anyone who remembers Brandon Harrison can appreciate Hudson's ability to close under control when he is in fact given a free run:
And tackling? This guy's got more tackles than Michigan's entire roster /weeps in corner
[After THE JUMP: my bad on the tackles joke you guys]
Last call for XMas tales. PEOPLE OF EARTH: FAILURE IS IMMINENT. No, this isn't about Dave Brandon. This is about YOU. If you order TODAY a copy of Hail To Old Blue will get to its proper location by Christmas.
Or you can pick up a copy at Underground Printing, Literati, or Nicola's. All of them are fine establishments containing our book. Literati also has unauthorized copies of Crag Ross's books. (To be clear: they are unauthorized by Literati, because Craig just signs them and drops them off.)
The inscrutable crocodile. As the kind of person who sits in his bunker and plots various ways to destroy my mortal enemy Instagram whilst almost entirely ignoring the NFL, this insane thing has eluded my attention for far longer than anything that could cause this picture to exist should:
Tom Brady's slow descent into madness is now manifesting itself as a series of bizarre webcomics that involve centaur, jockey, and Captain Planet versions of Brady himself, some sort of pudgy leprechaun who is about to touch his nipples, Walker Space Ranger, a crocodile dressed like Captain Picard during a holodeck episode, several anime animals engaging in some sort of... activity, and—most bizarrely—Gronk in a lab coat pouring what I can only assume is trademarked, patented GronkJuice(tm) onto a chicken wing.
That paragraph was one sentence.
Anyway. This clearly needs a crack investigative team breaking down the ins, outs, what-have-yous, and thoughtcrimes being committed. Charlotte Wilder was born for this job.
Speaking of lasers, the plans inside the Dolphins’ briefcase appear to be for some sort of giant, inter-galactic laser.
Oh my god, do you think that because I’ve been imagining that the social media room underneath a TB12 workout facility looks like a lair, they drew a lair?
Sorry, I know this isn’t about me.
Is that guy wearing a lab coat by the picture of Ben Steeler Gronk?
Yes, because in the comic after the Houston win, Gronk showed up wearing that same lab coat. He’s also wearing glasses and says, “the computer data is telling me...”
Get it? It’s funny because Gronk is not generally seen as a rocket scientist. They were in space then. Now they’re underwater. Or possibly underground.
I think that's a compliment? I don't know. She did a really good job analyzing this nonsense Tom Brady webcomic? Hell, I've covered the last 14 years of Michigan football. I have no room to criticize.
Speaking of NFL things that don't make any sense. This isn't a catch, people! Why are you mad about this?
Any player that hasn't clearly established themselves as a runner has to maintain control through contact through the ground and this dude certainly did not do that. Even the current 65-page version of the catch rule the NFL deploys isn't at fault here. This particular incident was even explained with poetic beauty!
“The receiver, in the end zone, did not survive the ground,” was the explanation on the field by referee Tony Corrente.
Damn, Tony Corrente.
The problem is nobody knows what a damn catch is. Here's a four part catch rule that is as unambiguous as is possible (for the NFL) and solves many many problems:
A receiver has to secure the ball and get both feet down in bounds to start the catch process.
Once he takes a step after both feet come down he is a runner and has caught the ball.
Receivers who do not take a step between possessing the ball and either going to ground or touching out of bounds must maintain possession through contact with the ground.
Maintaining possession means the ball does not touch the ground. If the receiver is now out of bounds and he bobbles the ball, forcing the catch process to start over, it's incomplete.
The end. The above-linked SBN article has a controversial Dez Bryant non-catch that this version of the rule makes crystal clear:
Catch, step, runner, complete. No controversy. Steelers' play above: no step, ball touches ground, incomplete, no controversy.
There will of course be edge cases where the situation at the moment of possession makes it unclear whether a catch is a catch, but those four steps are the clearest and least controversial a catch rule can be. If you wanted to go even farther towards clarity you could let a catch stand if 1) the WR got his feet in bounds and 2) the ball never hit the turf even if there was a bobble after the WR went out. I think that's not a catch but if you said it was then it's pretty simple: did you keep the ball off the ground after establishing a foot (or two) in bounds? Yes? Catch.
Really interesting and effective pressure concept from Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. The Wolverines are in a 3-3 nickel personnel package.
The Rush: The front slides the 3 down linemen to the strong side and has all 3 LB's walked up to the weak side. The Mike is initially in a 3 point stance. The effect is a 4 man version of America's Blitz. The Will wraps around to the fill the role of the inside rusher in the America's blitz concept. Because the defense bluffs the weak side overload the protection doesn't identify the concept as America's blitz and pass it off. The RB is forced into a really difficult block, scanning all the way back across the formation to pick up the Will as he wraps around.
Frequently the "N" was actually Noah Furbush, but that wrap blitz was largely responsible for Bush's blazing start to the season. Teams did adapt, but then Michigan threw other stuff—largely Khaleke Hudson—at the opposition.
To be fair, this is correct about 20% of the time. Whoops, Tampa Bay Times:
Although... that appears to be an ad, which means the Outback Bowl itself doesn't know who's in this year's game. Which is fine. I mean. It's the Outback Bowl. No1curr. Except MSU fans.
"The athletic department there is perceived there as a cluster," Sun Devils athletic director Ray Anderson said. "Their athletic director, now Phil Fulmer, in the athletic director's world is a pariah. It is not a good situation."
Their AD is a cluster? Bruh.
Do I hear a senior season? ESPN's latest draft rankings have Mo Wagner #68 despite his clearly improved rebounding and... possibly improved defense. We've seen guys (GRIII most prominently) leave one year after they put their name in but withdrew, and that's always a possibility. But if Wagner's leaving after the year it's probably not for the lottery.
Some bad grades. Since all we get these day from PFF are glimpses you don't get a lot of negatives unless the situation—cough cough, OL—absolutely demands it. South Carolina's 24/7 site is looking for weaknesses in the Michigan D, though, and they came up with:
Defensive end Carlo Kemp (49.9) - A sophomore who is listed as a backup, Kemp has played 367 snaps on defense. He has graded out at 48.2 against the run and 55.6 in pass rush.
Linebacker Noah Furbush (50.6) - Furbush is also listed as a backup and has played 138 snaps this season. He’s performed much better against the run grading out at 64.6 and has struggled in coverage at 45.9.
Two backups. (I think they might have flipped those snap counts, FWIW. Furbush got way more snaps than Kemp this year.) The conceit of this post is "three at the top and three at the bottom," but...
The “Three at the top” needed to be expanded to five as each player listed graded out as “elite,” a designation given to players who achieve an 85.0 or higher. The “Three near the bottom” was cut to two given that no other player with 75 or more snaps played had a grade below 70.
...ain't nobody else at the bottom. The five elite guys are Hurst, Winovich, Hudson, Bush, and Hill, all of whom are at 87 or better.
Yes, this means that PFF is also grading Michigan's safeties well. Metellus's rough OSU game had a lot of internet people waving Brian Smith goodbye happily because they thought Metellus and Kinnel were bad. They were not. They were good. A B+ unit.
SPONSOR 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.
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.
9/23/2017 – Michigan 28, Purdue 10 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten
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]