Five Question And Five Answers: Offense 2017

Five Question And Five Answers: Offense 2017

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2017 at 10:31 AM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety. Special Teams.

1. Are we still in love with Harbaugh's offense? It was a bit inert last year.

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[Bryan Fuller]

The last couple years this post has led off with a high-level look at the things Jim Harbaugh has done to keep his dinosaur-lookin-ass offense on the cutting edge. These have mostly focused on Harbaugh's little run tweaks that keep the opposition unbalanced: traps, offset draws, gap plays with zone principles, various ways to clobber people on the edge, and formations, formations, and more formations.

In UFR I try to have a reasonably low-level listing of all the plays Michigan runs. A typical game could have 15, 18, or even 20 runs different enough for me to name them separate things—and I'm sure there are subtleties I'm missing. Harbaugh's offense is a world away from any I've charted before. Everyone tweaks; everyone presents a moving target. (Except Late Carr-era Mike Debord.) The sheer blizzard of stuff Harbaugh throws out, with the offense adding new stuff almost weekly, is fun and effective.

But it wasn't the flashy tweaks and run schemes Harbaugh's resurrecting from the Fritz Crisler days that really stood out a year ago. It was Michigan's prep. When Athlon pinged Big Ten  coaches for anonymous takes on their compatriots, the Harbaugh mania stood out:

"The team is starting to reflect Jim — you could see it more last year."

"They want to outwork you. That was the whole satellite camp thing last offseason. He wanted to send a message to the SEC and other schools that he will outwork you to make up for any advantage you might have over Michigan."

"They’re scouting opponents better than anyone in our league. They’re at Alabama’s level of prep and analysis, and as they’ve started to fit talent you’re seeing the effects. It’s hard to surprise them."

This was clearest in the Michigan State game. As mentioned in the section on Mason Cole, Michigan comprehensively defeated the double A gap twist blitz that had annihilated Michigan for going on a decade. They didn't just defuse it, they ripped it:

The biggest tactical takeaway wasn't the existence of something but rather its absence: MSU's double A gap twist blitz. You may remember that blitz from Spittle Flecked Rich Rod Rant and Spittle Flecked Al Borges Rant way back when, because Michigan ate it over and over and over again for TFLs and stuffs and sacks. No longer. They still run it. It's not working.

Michigan's opening first down was a double A blitz that got Bullough through, but to do so he had to go so fast that he overran the play:

Michigan got the other guy; Cole probably biffs on Bullough but he doesn't compound the mistake by turning upfield. It's his block that makes the room for the Smith cutback, and then it's Godzilla versus the fishing village time. ...

This was even happening when Speight was your shotgun quarterback. Smith's six yard TD late in the second quarter was another double A blitz that Michigan had the answer for:

By this point it seemed clear that shotgun snaps got double A blitzed a lot, so Michigan might even have gone with the gun here specifically because they wanted the gut of the D to be linebackers instead of DTs. McDowell rips outside and finds air. ...

The trademark MSU defensive playcall was comprehensively beaten. Finally. All of these plays feature the extreme aggression of the MSU linebackers being used against them, something that Michigan hasn't been able to do in forever. Can't block 'em? Run right by 'em.

Michigan won't let that stuff happen to them for a decade straight anymore. So they've got that going for them.

Harbaugh continues to morph his offense, adapting it to the players at hand. Sometimes this backfires when his players can't imbibe the firehose he puts in front of them—see the departed OL. There's a reason that Harbaugh's offense developed so quickly and cromulently at Stanford, where his only asset early was a bunch of nerd brains. This year Michigan's OL makes most of the shift to the Harbaugh generation. The exceptions are Cole, an OL nerd brain if there ever was one, and Kugler, the son of an OL coach in his fifth year.

This might be the year Michigan can really start making some hay by out-smarting the opposition. To date they've given some of that back with blizzards of missed assignments. Now they've got a shot at really paying off on that diversity. So, yes. Harbauffense for real.

[After THE JUMP: Pep effect, and running a dang stretch]

Neck Sharpies: Goldilocks and the Three Reach Blocks

Neck Sharpies: Goldilocks and the Three Reach Blocks

Submitted by Seth on August 26th, 2016 at 10:30 AM

Once upon a time, there was a little girl with hair wings the color of goldish yellow, kind of like corn, or maize, or maybe the 14th most populous city in Texas if that makes sense. (She also had a phase where she dyed it neon. A lot of people bitched about what color this was, actually).

Anyway, one day she went for a walk in the forest. Pretty soon, she came upon the house where lived three bears. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.

Earlier this week I went over what a reach block is. There's actually a play where they're trying to reach block all three relevant linemen. It's called a zone stretch, also known as outside zone. And no, it doesn't actually rely on everyone getting reached; in fact all sorts of things are expected to go wrong, with guys getting help and offensive players coached to react to defensive reactions.

Those links cover what the offense does, but how should the defense play it? Indiana ran a lot of zone stretch against Michigan in 2015 and on one in particular I thought we got a nice example of the actions and reactions that go into these plays.


Zone blocking asks the OL to get the best block they can based on what the defense does, and as you might have guessed a reach block is the best block you can pull off. On a stretch play the OL will ID the defender they need to get playside of by how the D aligns, and the way they play the block is determined by how the guy getting block reacts. The RB then picks whatever hole materializes.

There are three different reach attempts going on here:


  1. The LT (Jason Spriggs) will reach/cut Godin (top)
  2. The LG (Jacob Bailey) will try to reach Willie Henry (middle) with a minor assist from the C (Jake Reed) as he releases.
  3. The RG (Dan Feeney) and RT will try to scoop Chris Wormley.

A scoop is a combination block where the OL lined up outside blocks the defensive player until the guy doing the reaching can get in position. Once they've got another guy around, the outside man releases to block someone else. Teams that run a lot of zone will get good at combo-ing with each other, and it's rare that any reach block is purely the work of one man. Even in our last example Braden lent Mason Cole an arm.

[After THE JUMP, too soft, too hard, and just right]

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs PSU

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs PSU

Submitted by Brian on November 26th, 2015 at 11:38 AM

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Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Thanksgiving? I'm trying not to accidentally have a war on Christmas here. Whichever Thanksgiving greeting you feel is appropriate appears in this space along with a reminder that Matt's good at making mortgages happen and a solid all-around dude, so if you're in the market you could do a lot worse.

Matt's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Standard stuff from Michigan to the point where I forgot to take a screenshot. Here is a picture of Hackenberg getting swarmed instead.


[Eric Upchurch]

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Charlton moved to buck/WDE. With him there it's WDE. RJS backed him up an got a healthy number of snaps. Hurst, Henry, and Wormley got the vast bulk of the remaining DL snaps. Strobel got in for a few. Godin had a little bit more playing time than Strobel but maybe a dozen snaps total.

Gedeon rotated in for both Morgan and Bolden periodically. Bolden seemed to get more rest than Morgan. Gedeon might have been in there a quarter of the time. Ross played a reasonable amount as a SAM in 4-3 sets.

Secondary was as per usual now, with Hill the dime back behind Thomas. Stribling got scattered snaps. In the 4-3 Peppers and Lewis were the corners.

[After THE JUMP: diatribe! Three plays that went poorly! And then good stuff!]

Neck Sharpies: Getting Stretched

Neck Sharpies: Getting Stretched

Submitted by Seth on November 24th, 2015 at 3:00 PM

via Ace

After getting stretched time and again by Indiana, one of Penn State's first plays sprung excellent freshman RB Saquon Barkley for a 56-yard gain. Terror struck. Michigan then proceeded to hold the Nits (shout-out to RoUMel) backs to just 17 yards on 15 carries. What happened on that one run? Did it happen again? Did we learn to stop this all of a sudden, or maybe Franklin shelved it the rest of the game because it wasn't sporting? Let's find out.

What were they doing?


he can cut into any gap

And to zoom in on the important part:


Zone stretch or outside zone is a basic part of any zone running offense. Teams that use it most effectively are those with nimble offensive linemen. Where inside things are about blowing the defense back to make holes, stretch plays try to flank the defense.

For the OL it starts with the same rules as inside zone: if you're "covered" by a defensive lineman you block that guy, if you're not you release to block a linebacker, and if you're lined up playside of a DL you combo then release. Then you block depending on what those defenders are trying to do: if they shoot inside you seal, if they slant away you shove and make them over-slant—they'll really have no choice but to try to ride you and stay playside. Then the RB picks his hole based on whichever block went the best.

[After the jump: Michigan had a solution, which had a problem.]

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review 2015: Defense vs Indiana

Submitted by Brian on November 19th, 2015 at 2:50 PM

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Hey man you never know when something that looks good is going to suddenly disintegrate into a pile of sawdust or like the Fed is going to say "rates are now a billion percent" so get a mortgage with Matt. I may be overreacting to the content of this post. It's probably going to be fine if you don't refinance or whatever. But it could also not be fine and you could get stuck on the field for ninety mortgages or something.

Matt's got a ticket offer going for a Michigan football or basketball game. If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: When I say "nickel under" I do mean a 4-3 under with nickel personnel.

nickel under zero

Bolden is standing up on the LOS as the SAM with Hill filling in as a second ILB. Wilson is off the screen as a very deep S as per usual.

M occasionally tucked a linebacker inside one of their DEs, which is a "bear" front:

nickel bear

Nickel buck denotes the buck LB right behind the nose. This was rare.

nickel buck

Ross got in as a buck and stood up and I'm just pretending he's a DE, okay?  That's what I'm pretending.

nickel even ross buck

PERSONNEL NOTES: Michigan spent almost the entire game in a nickel aside from some goal line sets and a few dime packages. With Glasgow out, Hurst started. Strobel was his backup at first. He got two or three stretches of playing time and did poorly. Late Michigan started playing Henry at nose a lot. There was palpable frustration with Hurst on stretch plays. Godin also returned, though he had a very bad day.

Bolden/Morgan at LB except for two drives with Gedeon replacing Bolden and one with Gedeon replacing Morgan.

The secondary saw Thomas start over Hill again. When Thomas was hurt in the first quarter Hill got the bulk of the game. Clark and Stribling are still splitting time but it is increasingly clear that Clark has won the job.

[After THE JUMP: seriously, Kevin Wilson, I hate you]

Upon Further Review 2014: Offense vs Miami

Upon Further Review 2014: Offense vs Miami

Submitted by Brian on September 18th, 2014 at 3:38 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Hello tiny TEs. Michigan used a lot of formations where they would bring a wide receiver tight to the line to act as a blocker. Here's Chesson in what I called "pistol biggish," because it's only big-ish.


For its part, Miami ran an under front whenever presented with seven blockers for the opposition, and about 90% of the time brought a safety down late or just lined him up in the box.

Miami 4-4-under 2

This press look was not common.

M ace

Miami would roll that safety down before this snap, FWIW.

Michigan used a lot more under center stuff in this game. Under center stuff was approximately 55% of the offense after being maybe 20% against ND, and there were a lot of tight ends. Only about 40% of Michigan's snaps had 3 WRs, again way down from ND.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line static: Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden. I saw Kalis in for the last drive, and I thought I saw him earlier in the game live but either I missed it in the film review or my mind was playing tricks on me. 61/67 are not easy to distinguish. Burzynski got in at the tail end at left guard.

Gardner QB; RB mostly Green, with less Smith and Hayes relegated to third down duties and some late stuff. Johnson did not appear. Mo Hurst(!) got a goal line FB snap. Showy, but a dollar says Kerridge is more effective. At TE, Butt got a little bit more time but it was still mostly Williams and Hill, with Heitzman again appearing sporadically.

Without Funchess, Darboh and Chesson were the main guys at WR, with Norfleet marginalized with a ton of 2TE sets. Damario Jones got about as much playing time than Canteen, making the first catch of the game.

[After THE JUMP: yards, eventually, and yet more infinite RB discussion.]

Hokepoints Reps Zone Stretch

Hokepoints Reps Zone Stretch

Submitted by Seth on August 12th, 2014 at 10:46 AM



This is a companion piece to last week's refresher on inside zone, Michigan's new base play. Outside Zone, also known as the Zone Stretch, is one of two very common complementary plays to IZ, because the technique for the offense isn't very different, but the way the defense has to defend it is (the other complementary play is Power-O, Michigan's extremely nominal base play the last few years).

OZ Resources: Smart Football, Roll Bama Roll, FishDuck (Oregon), BTSC (Steelers) Mile High Report (Denver Broncos), how to Mike.

Outside Zone Defined

The difference, as made obvious by the name, is the point of attack. Inside Zone blocks "downhill"; the running back aims for the first line defender past the center, and picks a lane to either side of the guards. In Outside Zone the back is running to a point outside the five linemen. Some coaches say run to the back of your tight end, others say run to the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS); it comes to the same thing.

Here's Alex Gibbs (from the Elway-era Broncos), via Smart Football:

This is another "base" play. If the defense plays sound against it, the success of the play comes down to execution and talent. As with IZ, if the defense gets too aggressive the reaction to that is built into the play.

This isn't a play that attacks multiple sides; it threatens outside and can come back inside if the defense overreacts to that. Since we're coming into this from a fan perspective I won't get into the footwork you can't see, but you'll recognize Outside Zone immediately because the linemen start out by moving sideways.

As you can see, reps, reps, and more reps turn this into a possibly devastating play. The more you run it, the better the team will react to various things defenders do. In the video above Gibbs talks about the guards "making the read for him [the RB]". The big breaks from OZ come when a guard or center sees a defender reacting too aggressively, let that guy run himself out of the play, and then destroy a back-filling defender.

Recognize Alignment

Like inside zone, the offensive linemen have to read the defensive front to decide before the play begins who they're blocking. The "covered" rules still apply: if someone's lined up over you, you're covered; if not you're uncovered:


The general rule of coveredness still applies: if there's a guy lined up over you, you have to block him. But the whole idea of a zone stretch is it slides the line, so if you're uncovered that means you have to reach the next defender to the playside of you, and if you're covered you're looking to 1) get playside of that dude and 2) combo block him with your uncovered buddy, and 3) release and get downfield.

Combo Blocks

Combo blocking is one of the things that takes lots and lots of reps. The essential blocking rule is don't let anybody cross your visor, and block the guy in your zone. Outside Zone's strength against a base defense is it creates double-teams at the point of attack


How It's Defended

Outside Zone pairs well with Inside Zone because a defense used to IZ can get caught inside, but that should be rare with a well-coached defense because the play is quite obvious from the first step by the offensive linemen, and from what's going on in the backfield (the RB isn't coming downhill). As soon as the defense realizes this they have to get on their horses and prevent the offensive linemen from flanking them, but because of the threat of the cutback, the defense also has to maintain gap responsibility.

There's gonna be a huge temptation for the EMLOS, with the play headed right for him, to square up and end the play right there, but the most important thing (unless they've given him extraordinary safety help) for him is to keep the play inside. The offense knows this, and a good tight end who can get that EMLOS skating wide can create a big hole to run through; a bad tight end will let the EMLOS get leverage and hold him inside, squeezing the hole shut.

Keys to Success

Every little thing the offense does has a potential to make or break this play. The faster the RB makes his cut and accelerates through the decided hole, the bigger this can break.

A fleet-footed, quick-thinking, tough sumbitch of an interior lineman can really make this go. David Molk could consistently get playside of a guy lined up shaded strong on him, and could react so well to defenders that he'd often make the RB's job easy, abandoning a defender running himself out of the play to catch a chasing linebacker and create a gaping hole.

Outside Zone is where a great running back can really shine and a just-a-guy can make the play barely more than a side show. Mike Hart, with his great vision for a developing hole, his super-quick and decisive cut, his great acceleration, and his tiny stature in comparison to the mountain of flesh in front of him, was an awesome Outside Zone running back; if only he had stayed healthy the one year he got to run it consistently.

[One sample play and more coming, after the jump]

Upon Further Review: Bama Offense vs Oklahoma, a Hokepoints

Upon Further Review: Bama Offense vs Oklahoma, a Hokepoints

Submitted by Seth on January 15th, 2014 at 12:14 PM


Years ago, Brian posted a UFR of a West Virginia game in order to provide his readers with a feel for how the Rodriguez spread offense worked. Nussmeier's offense at Alabama isn't so different from Michigan's under Borges in 2013, and indications are he plans to be a little more dynamic than he was under Saban. But I wanted to get a feel for the subtle differences, for the kinds of plays he ran with the kind of talent Michigan has been recruiting. And I've been meaning to actually try my had at UFR-ing because I know a guy who learned an awful lot about football that way. So I put Nussmeier's last game under further review, in hopes of maybe separating what's Nuss from what was just the Tide.

I went with this year's Sugar Bowl since they faced a defense whose talent level was relatively close to their own. Unfortunately Oklahoma's 30-front defense is closer to Michigan's than any M opponents save Notre Dame, and things you do with a fake plastic tree at quarterback are not the same you do with Devin Gardner, Most Alive Man on the Planet. I've since been downloading some games from his time at Washington and might do one of those next week if this attempt doesn't put me off forever.

Meta note: UFR is really Brian's thing. I am an interloper here.

FORMATION NOTES: Nothing very fancy. Not a lot of fullbacks; when they went to a Pistol H-back formation usually it was just a U-back they motioned into that spot. They do have a hybrid Shotgun-Pistol formation that's Pistol (QB is 5 yards behind L.O.S.) with the RB offset like in the gun. This isn't uncommon:


Oklahoma spent a lot of time in the 3-3-5 nickel above that was sometimes more like a 4-2-4-1, by which I mean the Quick (Deathbacker, stand-up WDE, Thing-Roh-Was-And-Shouldn't-Have-Been) came up to the line, and they nearly always kept one safety deep. When Bama subbed in an extra TE they went to a 3-4 with a safety playing the backside OLB; I called this "3-3-5 Eagle."


…and later started cheating this (not like how Bama does) like hell to the field:


Later on they did this then audibled out of it, moving Striker to the other side of the line; Bama hit them with a 43-yard run down the middle.

Oklahoma also used lots of Okie and things like Okie, which led to this:


From top to bottom on the line of scrimmage that is a WDE/OLB rusher type, a 3-tech, the MLB, a 5-tech, and the box (not Spur) safety, and two more safeties in the LB area. I asked for help and decided to call it 3-3-5 Dime to differentiate it from the nickel look; usually the MLB backed off into coverage anyway.



[after the jump]

Dear Diary is in the Zone

Dear Diary is in the Zone

Submitted by Seth on January 10th, 2014 at 10:51 AM


So we've got ourselves a new offensive coordinator. I guess there's no use hiding that I'm on the more ambivalent end of the spectrum of Michigan fans, but I'm a spread zealot, and I admit another gorram transition is just too painful a prospect right this moment. At the very least it was the kind of PR coup that resets the countdown clock on Hoke's tenure. These days you only get to play the "it was my offensive coordinator's fault" card once per Rose Bowl trip, but this was the right time to do so. I'm probably just a cynic who's been sold a bill of Mariucci over Mornhinwheg to believe in any apparent upgrade. Let's see if the readers can convince me otherwise.

Eye of the TIger tried. He found some quotes by an ex-Bama player on how Inside Zone is repped to insanity, which can be taken as evidence of philosophical thinking, or taken as the zone version of Hoke's "Power" philosophy which admittedly never materialized under Borges anyway.

AP All America Team Football
The thing about Barrett Jones is you don't have to make tough decisions about what your OL can and can't do.

Tiger pointed out that Alabama's riches in offensive lineman size allowed them to depart from the typical suite of complementary plays and players that limits you to. It's supposed to be this:

Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:

The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run.  A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play.  The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.

Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.

Major advantages: You can run an offense with less experienced OL and opens up a bigger growth curve for RBs, who become more effective the more comfortable they get at reading the holes and cutback lanes.

Major disadvantage: It's way harder to run play-action from a zone running look. Reason is nothing gets defenders thinking run like a good running MANBALL (or inverted veer) team pulling a guard. Second reason is the small, cut-rate scatbacks that zone lets you get away with don't typically make very good pass blockers. I probably don't have to tell this to 2013 Michigan fans.

At Alabama they overcame the disadvantage by having massive/quick OL who are naturally difficult obstacles to a pass rusher, and with 5-star running backs who can cut, block, slam, juke, and jet, all for three easy payments of $3,995.95, plus shipping and handler's fee (order now and we'll throw in a free safety). At Michigan, well, actually, we've got just those kinds of guys on campus now. Maybe?

Also there's this:

And here I am a quarter way through UFRing an Alabama game. Anyone got Washington tapes?

P.S. I purposely stayed vague on the Song of Ice and Fire references; you're not off the hook from a season recap.

Etc. A CoFoPoff refresher, Hockey poll update (Michigan is 8th), more on Mary Sue Coleman's heir (I vote Ken Whisenhunt for all openings).

[After the jump: the board goes Borges for Nuss]

Picture Pages: The Dumbest Play In The History Of Football

Picture Pages: The Dumbest Play In The History Of Football

Submitted by Brian on October 15th, 2013 at 1:44 PM

I don't think I'm exaggerating. It's second and eight after one of Michigan's most successful RB runs of the night. Michigan trails 21-10 with six minutes left in the second quarter. They put some dudes on the field and move them around. When we come back from Matt Millen saying something about something, this process has already started.


Houma and Chesson are switching spots. What this is supposed to do to the defense remains unknown, because it did not happen. Now… there's something odd about this play. Since we don't ever see the outside WR, I don't remember if that's Funchess or Williams or whoever, but Michigan puts him off the screen to the field. Also…


They have no left tackle. They have put their left tackle at super right tackle.

I think this is a run.


Penn State thinks this is a run. They have eight guys in the box against six blockers.


ESPN's camera man thinks this is a run, zooming almost to the box before they even snap the ball.

It's a run. Specifically, it is a zone stretch to the boundary. Because this is the only run it could possibly be, Penn State is prepared for this. Kalis gets driven back. Bryant and Glasgow don't scoop the backside tackle (not that it really matters since there is an unblocked guy in the cutback lane and another unblocked guy checking Gardner).


This looks familiar.


Kalis finally finishes losing his guy, who pushes Toussaint to the edge of the field, where a ninth Penn State defender—a safety lined up over a formation that cannot have a tight end emerge from it to threaten downfield—comes up to tackle for loss…


…if Kalis's guy doesn't do it first.


Third and ten.



Items of Interest

This is the stupidest play in the history of plays. You can't pass because you don't have a right tackle and refuse to throw perimeter screens no matter how blitheringly open they are…


all of these occurred in the first 20 minutes of the game

…and Penn State knows this, so they put eight in the box against six blockers and have a safety overhanging who knows 100% that he has no immediate pass threat to deal with.

I mean, you can see the entire PSU D on the field here:


There is a wide receiver outside of Gallon. Only the dumbest playcall in history could allow a D to align like this and be successful.

You really confused them, though. Having Chesson and Houma switch places is the cherry on top here. Yeah, you fooled 'em up real good right there. Now Penn State's eight in the box against 5 OL and a WR is eight in the box against 5 OL and a FB. Green fields ahead, boys.

They're setting them up for something! If you don't have an automatic check to whatever your clever business is when you see two DBs on 3 WRs, you fail.

Line didn't do well, but whatever. Kalis gets blown up here, but since Michigan just told Penn State the play they were running it's not really the focus.

The bigger picture. This was insane and far from isolated. Michigan kept running tackle over stuff against a defense that was stuffing it even after Taylor Lewan went out. They asked AJ Williams to play left tackle, and because of Borges's increasingly legendary stubbornness they allowed Penn State to align in formations that doomed their crammed-together paleolithic run game without either testing PSU's young and not very quick corners or taking the buckets of free yards these alignments provided.

The bubble screen stuff took on a life of its own over the course of the last year, and it's come up again—a screenshot of Michigan's first snap of the first overtime screaming for a bubble has made the rounds of every message board. To reiterate, the bubble is a constraint: it prevents the defense from lining up in certain ways and thus simplifies your life as an offense since defenses can't pack the box as much without getting free yards on their face. Borges's allergy to getting the ball to guys in a ton of space went from annoying to crippling in this game.

How can anyone have faith in a guy who looks at this when he needs a field goal to win…


…and doesn't throw a bubble because it's not what Vince Lombardi would do? It boggles the mind. A lot of things lost this game for Michigan. Al Borges is high up on that list.