Bowl Bits

Submitted by Brian on December 8th, 2010 at 1:29 PM

Scout yourself. BitP collects various Mississippi State torrents if you're interested in taking a look at an unfamiliar opponent:

Folks are already combing through these.

See what I'm talking about. I'm in the midst of the Georgia game; BWS has been focusing on how MSU defended screens against Auburn—like maniacs:


BWS says this is "structurally unsound," and while it may be many teams had issues dealing with the seeming unsoundness of the defense. Tearing off the edge to blow up screens is also a feature of the Georgia game: they blitz off the edge and if they read bubble the blitzer comes off to attempt to bat the ball down. So far one bubble was two yards behind the WR and should have been a loss but for some fancy footwork by the WR and a missed tackle by the safety; the other was batted down by a blitzer.

My impressions from the first half of the Georgia game should be read in your Teddy KGB internal monologue*: very aggressive. Mississippi State blitzed the pants off Aaron Murray throughout the game except in one instance where Murray checked and the Bulldogs cleverly checked into a three-man rush that Murray burned for a big gain. I was wondering if they might be less maniacal against a spread team, but it appears not:

Offensively, Chris Relf is more Newton than Robinson, a big dude with good size and speed but lacking the explosive quicks of Robinson. His accuracy is sufficient at best.

*(Don't bother denying that you have one.)

Burninating the countryside. If you are thinking to yourself "self, it seems like shooting safeties at bubble screens because you send six guys most plays is something Michigan seems prepared to deal with," that was my thought too. You should also have read that in your outrageous Teddy KGB internal monologue.

BWS broke down another play in which the H-back screen morphs into a deep hitch as those maniacal DBs get burned when they try to rip past blocks that aren't blocks at all. If you get caught peeking in the backfield against Michigan you can get doom pretty quick:

Michigan's main trouble this year has been with the Big Ten's traditional sit-back-and-have-tea cover two 4-3s that bleed down the field and then watch Michigan implode via Lewan penalty, kicker misfortune, drop, or turnover. They are explosive but inconsistent; Mississippi State seems like a team that's going to play it high variance and Michigan will have the opportunity to make a suite of big plays. This could go either way—this is the nature of high variance.

Misdirection will be huge, as it looks like MSU is vulnerable to the QB Draw Oh Noes and fake-bubble-to-slant stuff that have been consistent yardage generators this year. Mississippi State just sells out against the run, so a run-pass distribution closer to even may be called for.

The frustrating bit. There are so many players starting for Mississippi State that I've heard of because Michigan recruited them. They are the reason the "Mississippi is a black hole nothing escapes" tag exists: Fletcher Cox, Chad Bumphis, Pernell McPhee—all of these people were part of Michigan's ill-fated Jay Hopson experiment, wherein they recruited everyone viable in Mississippi and they all told Michigan they were afraid of planes and/or electricity. McPhee was actually a JUCO from Pahokee but whatever: Mississippi is a black hole. Nothing escapes.

Lines. Some early lines are up, with Ohio State favored by about a field goal in the Sugar Bowl and TCU(!) by three in the Rose. This makes no of the sense. Michigan is a six point underdog to Mississippi State.

The stupid. New Year's Day creep has reached its apex this year. Behold the Big Ten schedule:

Jan. 1 12:00 pm Dallas Football Classic
Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Dallas, TX ESPNU
Jan. 1 1:00 pm Outback Bowl
Penn State vs. Florida
Tampa, FL ABC
Jan. 1 1:00 pm Capital One Bowl
Michigan State vs. Alabama
Orlando, FL ESPN
Jan. 1 1:30 pm Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Michigan vs. Mississippi State
Jacksonville, FL ESPN2

That is four Big Ten games on at the same time, three of them matchups against the SEC. I used to enjoy flipping on random Purdue bowl games on January 28th to root for the conference; now I've got two opportunities to do this. Literally half the conference is playing on or after NYD, erasing three opportunities for me to watch bowls I care about. Boo. Also, this obscures the red line between success and failure that a NYD bowl used to symbolize.



December 8th, 2010 at 1:43 PM ^

random Purdue bowl games on January 28th

Purdue in the Super Bowl?

I feel like we'll see less of MSU selling out to stop bubble screens the way they have before. We've only posted one or two games where we utilized them that heavily. I would imagine more back-side blitzes for distruption of the zone read than the bubble.


December 8th, 2010 at 1:55 PM ^

who knows how Brian remembers it? It was easier back in the day when it was "January 1" or "Not January". The order in which the bowls were played had some vague correlation with their matchups; now it's more like "ooh ooh I call dibs on the 16th", by which I mean the 16th of January, which is when a bowl (not the BCS title game) will be played within two years at the rate things are going. [insert snarky comment about BCS vs. playoffs here]

OK, there was one Sun Bowl appearance, I guess. um ... or three. I just remember the last one. The Alamo Bowls were more fun because the matchup was against a Big 12 team whose motto was "so unfair we got robbed". The Sun Bowl was always against another team saying "bowl game woo!"

At least the Gator Bowl has New Year's experience. (1946? wow.)


December 8th, 2010 at 2:14 PM ^

I hope Denard learns how to scramble on called pass plays before the bowl game.

With MSU blitzing a ton, there will be opportunities for big plays through the air.

BUT if you watch Newton, when he was able to avoid the first blitzer that got through, there was lots of room to run.

Denard could make some big plays if he takes off once his first two reads arent open.

I'm sure he'll make some big plays regardless.

MI Expat NY

December 8th, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

In addition, I would like to see a few QB draws called.  I don't believe we used them enough this season and MSU is just begging for them with their defense.  MSU seems to come up quickly on run plays, I'm not sure the outside QB power runs will be all that effective.  Although, the occasional "play-action" pass off those QB runs should slow down the safeties and line backers.


December 8th, 2010 at 2:28 PM ^

At least in early going (all I had time to watch), it looked like the Bulldogs were focused on stopping the run up the middle and anything wide, to the perimeter, run or pass.  However, they looked vulnerable in-between (on the edge).  To me, that equals maybe getting nuked by Denard running QB isos and/or zone reads off-tackle?  Likely they will play us differently after looking at what we like to do, so it's tough to project.  But fun to try!


December 8th, 2010 at 2:21 PM ^

Gator Bowl obviously likes us in our traditional blue home jerseys, which I prefer, too.  But IMHO, Denard just LOOKS faster in the white aways.  Maybe it's because you can see the dreads better and that makes him look more like Sonic.  Maybe it's because of the long runs vs Notre Dame and Indiana.  Whatever.


December 8th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

They pretty well shut down both run-oriented spreads they saw (Auburn and Florida).  I know Michigan's offense isn't exactly the same thing, but theres enough there to make me worry.  I'm a little surprised to see so much general optimism from Brian and most commentators given that Vegas has UM as underdogs and MSU did so well against Auburn.


December 8th, 2010 at 2:41 PM ^

 Here is why people are optimistic.   It doesn't matter the defense if we execute we score if we don't we don't.  The type of defense or quality has mattered very little.   We looked to be in trouble if we played one of the passing spreads from the Big 12 but here we face a 1 dimensional team that will have a harder time exploiting our secondary because of their qb.  MSU is a good team, but it is a good match up for us.

From Football Outsiders looking deeper into the numbers


 Overrated: Mississippi State's rushing offense. From a schedule-adjusted standpoint, little about the SEC was overrated. But the Bulldogs, who finished 16th in rushing yards per game, placed just 71st in rushing S&P+. Like Illinois, the Bulldogs were more persistent than effective, relying on a defense that ranked 11th in defensive F/+ to keep them in games. From a "styles make fights" perspective, their Gator Bowl matchup versus an all-offense Michigan team is fascinating.


December 8th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

I was just getting used to some of the BCS Bowls being played a day or 2 after New Years now we got 7 or 8 bowls being played after Jan 1 and  the champ game is stretched to the 10th now which I hate.    I hate it but I can at least understand the logic money wise.

Can someone please explain the reasoning of having Northwestern play on ESPNU at the same time when 3 more high profile games are being played on the same family of networks?  

Wouldn't it make more sense to put that on against a different network a different sport?


December 8th, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^

Remember that Jan 1st this year is a Saturday.  Butts in the seats, eyes on the screens are easier done on a Saturday than some random Wednesday or when competing against the NFL on Sundays.

Given the current bowl system I think this logjam on the 1st is only likely to occur every couple years when it falls on a Saturday.

Hardware Sushi

December 8th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

Couldn't agree more about the scheduling. After Michigan, the second-tier bowls on my viewing schedule are all Big Ten games. I'd rather watch the Big Ten teams than the Natty Champy most years. Oh, well, I'm thankful for DVR (now if we could get uVerse in our area so I could record more than 2 on each box)...

This year I will painfully watch the NC game because I'm going to be so pissed when the Newton's Heisman is revoked, Auburn goes on extreme (crossing fingers for death penalty) NCAA probation for running a ridiculous booster program that Terry Bowden has been pointing out publicly for years, and has to (God forbid they win) the NC, which they will of course fight because they really don't care about integrity. UGH Auburn ruined the entire NC for me this year.

Crime Reporter

December 8th, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^

If they want to get overly aggressive on bubble screens, we should sell it with a hard fake and then hit the wide open receiver over the middle for a big gain a la UConn and Ohio State (we got called for a penalty but it went for big yards).


December 8th, 2010 at 2:54 PM ^

As I'm sure most have noticed, Auburn got a long TD on a bubble screen.

Oddly, that was their only long play for a TD. What stood out to me when I watched the game was how Auburn managed to get some big plays but did not cash them into TDs. That might explain the low score. So, it is interesting that Brain thinks Michigan has a good chance to do the opposite. It looked to me like MSU did a good job of containing Auburn despite the aggressiveness.


December 8th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

Not sure how you felt about watching the Auburn tape from your comments, but they were  fortunate to only give up 17 pts.   That was exactly like watching Michigan all year.  Auburn was stopped by ill timed penalties, turnovers and a missed fg.   I saw nothing on there that scared me.   Auburn is very tough to stop, so I thought holding them to 17 was going to be very impressive and I'll see.  

Like always this will be on Denard to read the blitz and burn them.  If not they'll stuff us.  It will be as Brian said high variance.   If we can run on their run blitzes early this will be ugly for MSU.... we'll put up 50.


December 8th, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^

The Auburn MSU game worried me a lot. I thought it was very interesting that most people's opinion in that thread were the opposite of mine.

That was just my first impression. I would love to be wrong and look forward to reading different opinions.

MI Expat NY

December 8th, 2010 at 4:39 PM ^

That also wasn't the Auburn of recent weeks.  Auburn followed the MSU win up with what should have been a loss to Clemson, at home, the next week.  Their offense seemed much slower in execution compared to the second half vs. Bama and the SECCG.  

MSU is a difficult team to get a handle on.  Their victories came against teams with a combined 29-50 record against FCS competition (very similar to UM's victims' record of 29-40) but they did play Ark. and Auburn tight at home.  Their most impressive victory is @ Florida, capping a three game losing streak for the Gators.  They squeaked out victories vs. Kentucky and UAB at home.  They are a top 25 team by record and league reputation, but when you break down their resume, it doesn't stand all that favorably to ours.

Sgt. Wolverine

December 8th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

...thanks so much, bowl people, for putting all those bowls on at once.  It looks like I'll be headed up to the local restaurant with tvs all the over the place so I can feel like I'm watching every game, even though I'm really just watching Michigan and glancing at the other tvs to alleviate the stress.  (It doesn't hurt that I like the food there.)


December 8th, 2010 at 7:29 PM ^

Random comment: I'm looking forward to distinguishing between ntMSU and ytMSU for the forseeable future.

Anyways, I'm picking M to win, I think we have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to make plays but it'll be close with all them blitzes.  Go Blue!