The Joe Flacco Question

The Joe Flacco Question

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

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

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[Bryan Fuller]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BALDERDASH [Eric Upchurch]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIGHLIGHTS

parkinggod:

AWARDS

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[Fuller]

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Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

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

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

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

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

KFaTAotW Standings.

10: Wilton Speight (#1 UCF, #1 Illinois, #3 MSU, #1 Maryland)
9: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado, #2 Rutgers, #2 MSU)
5: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU, three-way T1 Rutgers), Amara Darboh(#1 MSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW, #2 Maryland), Taco Charlton (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers, #3 Maryland).
2.5: Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU, #2 Illinois).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU, same vs Rutgers),
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU),  Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU),  Devin Asiasi(#3 Rutgers), Ben Braden (#3 Illinois).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

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

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

Honorable mention:

WGIBTUs Past.

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

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

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

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

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
Rutgers: you can't call back the Mona Lisa of punt returns, man.
Illinois: They scored a what now? On Michigan? A touchdown?
Michigan State: a terrifying first drive momentarily makes you think you're in the mirror universe.
Maryland: Edge defense is a confirmed issue.

[After THE JUMP: Happy Maryland fans.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs MSU

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs MSU

Submitted by Brian on November 3rd, 2016 at 3:42 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: Man, that fourth quarter was irritating. Like wearing pants. Also, Dan Gilbert just gave MSU 15 million dollars so you clearly can't get a loan from him even before we consider his major role in the financial crisis. Instead of feeding him more money with which to write in comic sans, try a local guy.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

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

FORMATION NOTES: Not much. This was "goal line H" for MSU and made several increasingly less effective appearances. Michigan had one wacky 3-man-line snap on the first drive and then threw that away permanently, so the rest of the game was more or less this:

goal line

Of note: against these big formations M swapped their corners and safeties to get a couple bigger guys on the line.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 74 snaps for the defense, with the starting secondary and Gedeon getting all of them. McCray missed just two snaps; Peppers missed six with various minor issues. Furbush got those six.

DL rotation was severely reduced, with Charlton getting all but ten snaps—Winovich got 14, and I think all of those after the first drive were in pass rush packages. Wormley and Glasgow were close behind at 59 and 57; Godin and Hurst did split their snaps about down the middle. Gary got 21 snaps; Mone got 3 before limping off.

Metellus and Watson got various dime snaps.

[After THE JUMP: not great bookending pretty great.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on October 26th, 2016 at 3:15 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: I was struck when we were hanging out at the Bo Store that it was very cool that some of our main sponsors were very much like us: small businesses in the Michigan community run by guys who are just dudes, you know? I like to think that UGP and Homesure are the MGoBlogs of their respective fields: small, detailed, involved, pantsless.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

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

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan ran a ton of their dime package, almost half their snaps. Included were a bunch of exotics, like this thing where the line slides way one direction and McCray ends up a standup end:

3-3 line slide

3-3 line slide, I said, because I guess?

Meanwhile this was 3-3 standup DT:

split line standup DT

Illinois ran at McCray and picked up 17 yards.

Meanwhile I titled this "ugh what is this" and don't remember if I called it anything in particular. Brown's defense quickly outstrips the reader's tolerance for formation detail.

ugh what is this

Bleah! I mean, hooray! But also bleah.

SUBTITUTION NOTES: The frequency of three-man lines and general dearth of snaps (just 42 on defense)  led to some absurdly low snap totals for the DL. Charlton led the way with 30; Glasgow, Wormley, Hurst, and Gary were around 20; Godin, Winovich, and Mone were around 13.

Gedeon and Peppers played every snap; McCray missed a few with an injury and was replaced by Devin Bush. Stribling, Peppers, Hill, and Thomas did not come off the field; Lewis was lifted at the very end. Extra DB snaps were scattered between Lavert Hill, Kinnel, Metellus, and Watson. Kinnel probably would have gotten 20 snaps if he didn't go out injured just before the half.

[After THE JUMP: if this is short it's not my fault.]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Rutgers

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Rutgers

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2016 at 2:26 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: Rutgers's total yardage is like Matt's rates: absurdly low! Their general organization is like Matt's competition: disorganized beyond belief! Your pants after watching the Peppers punt return are like your pants when applying for a mortgage with Matt: optional but discouraged!

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

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

FORMATION NOTES: Rutgers was all gun and mostly three-wide. Michigan responded with two different approaches. One was their conventional 4-2-5. Here Thomas and Peppers are over the slot receivers with out of the picture as the free safety.

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The other was a 3-3-5 package; since I consider Peppers a safety those were listed as 3-2-6. Similar packages with Furbush were labeled as a 3-3-5.

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Michigan had this setup, which is close to a stack. They had others where a safety crept down to an OLB spot that were kind of a 3-4; I called those "faux 3-4." They had some 5-1 lineups with two LBs on the end of the LOS and the DL folded inside. This package comes in for much more discussion after the jump.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Obviously there was a massive pile of it. The starting line only got about 20 snaps each, with Hurst getting 26 to lead all DL. Gary, Charlton, Wormley, Winovich, and Glasgow all got around 20. Godin got just 12. Jones, Onwenu, and Kemp also got late snaps. Lawrence Marshall did not play and did not travel.

Starting LBs went the whole way until the starting D got lifted; backups were as expected with Furbush at SAM and Bush and Wroblewski at ILB. Wangler got in very late, as did Mbem-Bosse.

Secondary as per usual. Metellus, Hudson, and Kinnel split snaps at S with Kinnel getting more time since he plays on passing downs with the regular D. David Long got far fewer snaps than Lavert Hill... still affected by that injury?

[After the JUMP: oh man]

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Wisconsin

Upon Further Review 2016: Defense vs Wisconsin

Submitted by Brian on October 6th, 2016 at 3:31 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: Also at the Marlin tailgate I met a guy who had refinanced with Matt and was now hanging out with him pregame, because they're buds. I didn't judge. Maybe I judged a little.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

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

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan spent a lot of time in this formation:

4-3 over press two high

Line is shifted to the TE so that's an over set. Peppers is overhanging the TE. Two deep safeties, press coverage.

They'd also put Peppers inside the end. I called that "4-3 bear".

PERSONNEL NOTES: Wisconsin's manball and constant three and outs caused some shifts in the DL snap distribution. Charlton played every snap—although there were just 53. Wormley and Glasgow were close behind with around 40; Godin and Hurst just about split the other DT spot. Gary (13 snaps), Mone (7), and Winovich(2) rounded out the rotation. Mone's just getting back, obviously; the other two are either freshmen getting their first taste of manball in a game situation or much lighter than alternatives.

The back seven starters never came off the field except for a few dime packages without McCray. Watson(7 snaps) and Kinnel(3) got a little bit of PT on passing downs as extra DBs.

[After THE JUMP: this QB got shook]

One Frame At A Time: Wisconsin

One Frame At A Time: Wisconsin

Submitted by Ace on October 5th, 2016 at 8:58 AM

We have to do this, right?

No matter how many times you look, it's hard to choose. Charles Woodson jumped so high he caught a pass intended for the sideline. Jourdan Lewis long-jumped ~17 feet while backhanding a pass intended for an actual receiver after sticking with him on a dead sprint. Woodson loses minor degree of difficulty points for helping secure the football with his second hand; he regains them and then some by having to toe-tap inside the sideline to complete the catch. Lewis never needs the second hand; he also has the luxury of diving about as far from the sideline as possible. Woodson's came in a rivalry game; Lewis's in a game situation of much greater importance.

Here's the good news: you don't actually have to choose.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the GIFs.]

Wednesday Presser 9-28-16: Greg Mattison

Wednesday Presser 9-28-16: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 28th, 2016 at 6:00 PM

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[Barron/MGoBlog]

What are your thoughts about this week’s game?

“Well, it’s a big game, obviously. It’s the next game. It’s a very well coached, good football team. Got a big offensive line. They take pride in running the football. They’re, like I said, well coached and good running back and quarterback’s done very well, the freshman—redshirt freshman. They’ve got a number of tight ends that are all good football players, so this’ll be a big test.”

MGoQuestion: Wisconsin’s offensive style is fairly different from what you’ve faced the last few weeks. How does that impact your line rotation, if at all?

“Well, we’ll always rotate, you know, because the guys have earned the right to rotate, and we feel like they’re playing to be able to go in there. It always helps if you’re fresh. You always can benefit from what one guy tells you when he comes off, how they’re blocking you. But it is, you’re right, it is different. The fast pace of spread offense and then go from that to this style of offense is totally different.”

Your thoughts on getting Taco back and how he looked?

“It’s great to have him back. I’m very, very proud of him. I’m proud of our training staff. I mean, he worked so hard at getting back. Spent countless hours in the training room and you could see out there it was good to have him back.

“He’s had a good week of practice and he’s a senior now. He’s got things to prove and that’s what he’s working for. I was really proud of how much time and how much effort he did to get himself back. That tells you how important it is.”

How do you look at Rashan Gary as far as his progression over the first four weeks?

“He’s getting better every game. He’s getting better. He’s working really hard. And again, I mentioned this once before but one of the key things with Rashan is to have role models like Chris Wormley and Taco. He sees them do it right, and if he doesn’t—not that he doesn’t—but if he doesn’t do it he sees, okay, this is how it’s supposed to be. It’s not having to pull up a highlight tape or something like that to show him. He’s working very hard, and I’m very proud of him also because he knows how important this is for the seniors and the kids ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to help this team.”

[After THE JUMP: Bryan Mone is practicing,Chase Winovich sneaks into the weight room, and Jourdan Lewis is Jourdan Lewis]

Goth James Franklin Eats Some Arby's

Goth James Franklin Eats Some Arby's

Submitted by Brian on September 26th, 2016 at 12:47 PM

9/24/2016 – Michigan 49, Penn State 10 – 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten

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[Bryan Fuller]

Two years ago this game featured Dennis Norfleet dancing, a lot of bad football, and a series of increasingly boggling in-game decisions. Brady Hoke and James Franklin engaged in bad decision tennis, lobbing ever more ludicrous balls over the net and daring the opposition to top it. There was no winner—there is never a winner in bad decision tennis—but Michigan did not lose. They won the game, and the tennis match was called on account of forgetting to breathe sometimes.

Fast forward two years and things are a little different for one of these teams. Jim Harbaugh's taking timeout in case Jabrill Peppers can get a punt return in and asking to review a legitimately dodgy fourth-down spot despite being up a gorillion; James Franklin sees a fourth and goal from the two down 28-0 and decides on a field goal... wait, no, he's taking a timeout because he realizes that is a terrible decision. And now he's sending out...

Still the field goal team.

...

So this is a dumb fake—nope they kicked it.

Now they are down four scores, which is a notable improvement from being down four scores. James Franklin has lobbed this one good and high. This is an Eschaton-worthy parabola.

After they kicked it the camera cut to Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, looking equal parts perplexed and offended on behalf of the game of football:

I had a similar look on my face. This is not good hard friendly competition. This was turtling. Signaled by their coach, Penn State promptly laid down. According to Wilton Speight, Michigan ran the same play eight consecutive times at one point Saturday. While that doesn't seem 100% accurate—there was a sweep in there—the bit in the box score where Penn State lays itself on the altar and hands the squiggly knife to Harbaugh is obvious:

image

Franklin told them to quit and they quit. I'm not surprised. One year ago this column was all about how pleasant it was to watch a Penn State game and not be stupefied by the things occurring in front of my face, and Penn State's held up its end of the bargain in that department over the last few years.

But I am also kind of surprised that James Franklin, who made Vanderbilt decent, would just roll over and die. You'd think that the kind of person who could stare the history of Vandy football in the face and make the Commodores one of the feistiest teams in the country would at least spit in his executioner's eye, for what little that would help him. Not today, and thus Michigan entered to the "win with cruelty" portion of the proceedings.

And, lo, it was cruel. Michigan acquired 13 tackles for loss and six sacks; they ran for over 300 yards with a carousel of running backs. Michigan threw to Eddie McDoom with less than half the fourth quarter to go, because a rep is a rep is a rep. It's not that Michigan was trying to embarrass or humiliate Penn State; it's just that they didn't care if that happened. Lo, it did. Meanwhile across the country in Autzen Stadium, a Colorado quarterback who was 0/7 with –4 rushing yards last week was spearheading a stunning upset by accounting for 500 yards of offense by himself.

Remember spinning around in circles about this defense last week? You should continue doing that, but for the opposite reason. Lost in the piles of viscera that are all that remain of the Penn State offense: PSU was an efficient, prolific offensive team headed into this game, with 39 and 34 points the last two weeks. It was even one seemingly well-suited to mitigate Michigan's advantages, with Trace McSorley throwing a ton of passes close to the line of scrimmage and completing 80% of them.

It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. James Franklin woke up this morning in a Cure shirt and eyeliner, because halfway through a game against Michigan he decided life wasn't worth living anymore. Just, like, whatever, man. Three points, seven points. It all leads to one place: the grave. First, Arby's. Then the grave. 

HIGHIGHTS

Parkinggod:

MGoVideo has some other highlight reels if you don't have time for the above.

AWARDS

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[Fuller]

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Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week

you're the man now, dog

It was this kind of game:

#1 (tie) Chris Wormley, Maurice Hurst, and Taco Charlton nose ahead of everyone else on a defensive line that set the tone early and never let up, racking up six sacks and a trajillion TFLs. Hurst turned in the most impressive individual play of the day when he came from a nose tackle spot all the way around a guard and got in McSorley's business for a sack; Wormley was the most consistent entrant into the backfield, and Charlton's return helped seal the rush lanes that UCF exploited shut. Also he got a sack and a half. Welcome back.

#2 (tie) De'Veon Smith and Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon and Chris Evans were all between good an excellent as they combined for 40 carries for 318 yards, with seemingly nobody getting consecutive carries. Each guy ripped off a 20+ yard run; each guy made big chunks of yards for himself with good vision or broken tackles. Easy sledding but Michigan maximized their opportunities in ways that had not always been the case early this year.

#3 Ben Gedeon was the closest thing to a one on one matchup Michigan had with Saquon Barkley and that went all right. Gedeon tracked PSU RBs in space repeatedly, had a couple of impressive sideline-to-sideline tackles, and got in the backfield for 1.5 TFLs amongst his 11 total tackles. Barkley got his yards mostly on screens and shovels and the like, a couple of them on Gedeon. This was still a win against one of the top backs in the country.

Honorable mention: The right side of the offensive line was the main area Michigan attacked on the ground. Khalid Hill had another solid all-round FB performance. Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis helped shut down the PSU receivers on the rare occasions PSU managed to target them.

KFaTAotW Standings.

5: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF), Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).

Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week

This week's best thing ever.

Taco Charlton and Chris Worley combine to sack Trace McSorley on the third play from scrimmage:

That set up the ensuing Peppers punt return and was an emphatic declaration of the way the game was going to go.

Honorable mention: Karan Higdon rips off an offset draw touchdown; Peppers decoy sends Smith into the secondary, where he goes stomp. Any one of Michigan's 12(!!!) other TFLs. Peppers returns a punt and windmills down to the nine.

WGIBTUs Past.

Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.

imageMARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.

This week's worst thing ever.

Jeremy Clark ends a kickoff return on the ground, writhing, and is almost certainly lost for the year.

Honorable mention: Michigan fails to gain every yard available to them when Jehu Chesson drops a ball on fourth and two.

PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs

Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.

[After THE JUMP: Speight is still on his fourth-down scramble.]

Unverified Voracity Should Be Fine

Unverified Voracity Should Be Fine

Submitted by Brian on September 6th, 2016 at 12:27 PM

As per usual the edition of UV right after preview week is a catchup one with some old stuff I wasn't able to get to for obvious reasons.

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[Upchurch]

The very latest on injuries. Per UMBig11:

Already some good news this morning. Mone (crutches), initial return to the field was looking like week 6. That is moving up to week 5 and possibly sooner. Taco (no cast, no boot, no crutches), maybe sitting one week and at most two.

I got some conflicting information about Mone but I'm not sure what the latest is. Either way it sounds like he should be good to go for the home stretch. Everyone else except Noah Furbush has a short-term ding that is a week tops.

Also, Denard Robinson Cook dropped the spout of a French press full of tea on my now very blue toe. I am day to day. 

Speight profiled. Dan Murphy talks to Wilton Speight's high school coach and somewhat infamous QB guru Steve Clarkson; Clarkson reveals that Speight was on the verge of exiting:

“There was a time when he was contemplating leaving,” Clarkson said. “He had a conversation with Coach Harbaugh and Coach just said, ‘Hell, why are you thinking of leaving? You didn’t even get a chance to compete all spring. That essentially gave him confidence that he just needed to show what he can do. Since that conversation Wilton has taken that to heart and he sort of ran with it.”

There was a period in there where I was expecting that news any moment; good for both him and Michigan that it never came.

Manuel gameday. Max Bultman follows Michigan's AD around on game day. With permission. Probably. Anyway:

Manuel is a large, swaggering man, and he’s very easy to recognize. Fans holler to Manuel and frequently ask for pictures. Usually, he hollers back, sometimes in kind, others with a “Go Blue!” He poses for a lot of photos.

At the intersection of Main and West Stadium, Manuel greets a police officer. He does this many times on game day, and it stands out. He even asks one about his wife and kids. Later, Manuel explains that he got to know the force through the late Vada Murray, a police officer and Manuel’s best friend. He doesn’t have much spare time today, but he still stops when he can, nearly always with a charismatic greeting.

That’s the nature of his Saturday: so little time, so many hands to shake and so many people to catch up with.

Manuel is described as a personable man.

Artfully phrased. PFF looks at "How Michigan State can reload its defense," which is in fact a sneaky way to deliver a pile of bad news. Topics:

  • Malik McDowell is real good.
  • None of the other five returning DL had a positive pass rush grade; Demetrius Cooper's Big Ten season consisted of just eight pressures.
  • Linebackers Riley Bullough and Jon Reschke missed a ton of tackles, with Bullough –12.7 on the ground.
  • The three starters back in the secondary, well: "In 2015, the above trio combined to give up eight touchdowns compared to 11 total passes defended, and each of the three gave up completion rates of at least 62 percent. To put this in perspective, the top player returning in the secondaries of Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Northwestern all defended at least seven passes on their own and gave up completion percentages of under 51 percent last year."

Jury's still out on improvements after MSU's struggle against a 4-7 FCS team, but improvements will have to be had if MSU's D is going to keep pace with recent performance.

Also in this department is an interesting if slightly overlong breakdown of Tyler O'Connor's performance in the MSU opener from an MSU fan:

A reader summarizes this guy's take if you don't have time to wade through that:

1) The first and biggest observation is that not once all game did O'Connor look to his 2nd read in the passing game. And I don't mean that he didn't throw to him. On literally every pass in the 2 videos (which I'm pretty sure was every throw O'Connor had), O'Connor did not turn his head away from his first target. …

2) This is probably a result of the first issue, but O'Connor held onto the ball way too long. I will say that I think the video creator was being a little too harsh on O'Connor at times, especially on some of the play action passes as it looked like O'Connor got the ball out as soon his feet were set.

First game jitters maybe, but that'll be something to look for against Notre Dame to see if there's improvement.

One-upping Brady Hoke. Never talk to me or my son again about how Les Miles would have been a good choice.

The Hat is very entertaining but his offense has always been a trundling wreck.

It's aggressive, but…. It's not this aggressive:

"I'd say, like, 90 percent," Stribling said.

Yes, he estimated that Michigan blitzed on 90 percent of its defensive play calls against the woebegone Rainbow Warriors.

But then Stribling kept thinking, and, man, maybe it was actually more than that.

"I don't think any play was not a blitz, besides a cover-2," he said. "And we blitzed out of that, too."

Michigan rushed four about half the time in the first half per my charting. There was some run blitzing, but it's not that maniacal. It's only fairly maniacal.

The freshman-only locker room is an odd Harbaugh thing. Another tweak like split squad practices:

Starting in camp, and lasting throughout the duration of the season, Harbaugh has his first-year players surround themselves with their peers. For a variety of reasons.

A year ago, it worked for both Newsome and Perry. In 2016, that number has taken a lift.

"It really allows you to bond as a class. You can really focus on getting better and improving your skills without having to worry about being in the older locker room and trying to compare yourself to those guys," Newsome, now a sophomore starter at left tackle, said Monday. "It really allows you to just focus on becoming a class."

There will never be tangible evidence this is good or bad. It is an interesting team morale thing.

Wisconsin has our attention. But the one downer from the weekend was an injury to starting LB Chris Orr that will knock him out for the year. That happened very early and didn't seem to have much negative impact on a very good LB corps:

Aside from a couple of miscues in which the defense allowed RB Leonard Fournette to break contain, the linebackers did a fine job of containing the Heisman candidate. OLB T.J. Watt led the way with a team-high five stops, but OLB Vince Biegel was right behind him with four. They held Fournette to only 2.7 yards after contact per rush, and that happened only three times all of last season.

I'm a little more skeptical about PFF's take on UW corner Derrick Tindal, who did indeed break up a number of (late, inaccurate) passes in the vicinity of Malachi Dupre. He looked overmatched and fortunate to me; we'll see if his performance carries over.

Etc.: How the world changed around Nebraska. Ed Davis still waiting. Phil Brabbs doing thangs. Tennessee blogs worry how much they should worry about Mike DeBord, and this was before the Appalachian State game. If you would like to know all that there is to know about Illinois football, Illini Board is the place. Xavier Simpson profiled.

Maize and Blue Nation has game recap bullets. Congrats to the Hoover Street Rag on ten years.

WTKA Roundtable 9/1/2016: The Taco Hour

WTKA Roundtable 9/1/2016: The Taco Hour

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[Eric Upchurch]

Things discussed this week:

  • Rolovich tells a joke media doesn't get.
  • Cal-Hawaii: War of the meatball defenses.
  • Taco Charlton has been Michigan's best DL via Sam. Nobody mentions this might have something to do with who's blocking.
  • Speightmas: Playing within the offense is more important.
  • Safety report: Khaleke Hudson is more memorable than your roommate
  • Linebackers will be iffy to start; how much do they come along?

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.

Segment 2 is here. Segment 3 is here.

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