|WHAT||Michigan vs Iowa|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||12:00 PM Eastern
November 17th, 2012
|THE LINE||Michigan –17|
|WEATHER||Partly cloudy, dry, low to mid 40s|
Why? I don't know. Ask BHGP.
This preview assumes that Denard Robinson will play in a strictly ceremonial role.
Run Offense vs Iowa
This has been a depressing grind since Denard Robinson's injury and will remain so unless Michigan finds itself behind the eight-ball late and resorts to Devin Gardner's legs. That seems like a highly improbable outcome what with Iowa being terrible.
So expect a lot of under-center running from Toussaint and Rawls that doesn't make much headway. Against Northwestern late Michigan did finally get some movement by always doubling guys at the LOS before moving on—I'd expect they go that conservative route so that they're at least getting four yards on an iso and whatnot. Michigan's actually been decent at moving bleah defensive tackles when they do that; the foremost amongst many problems on the ground has been blocking assignment errors.
Those should decrease, but at this point it's foolhardy to expect them to decrease much. At least Borges has responded to the problems on the ground and the week-to-week surge in Devin Gardner's ability by doing a lot more passing.
As for the opponent:
Iowa started off well before getting clubbed by Northwestern, had a virtual run bye against Indiana, and then struggling against Purdue. They're dead average nationally—60th.
Issues against both run and pass caused Iowa to remove linebacker Anthony Hitchens, their top tackler with a whopping 114, and insert freshman Travis Perry last week; Hitchens remains on top of the depth chart. The defensive linemen top out at serviceable; the linebackers are just okay. Michigan should be able to get people blocked, somewhat, if they get their assignments right, and grind out a few yards here and there. At this point it's a sideshow keeping folks honest for the passing game.
Key Matchup: Michigan Interior OL versus Block Somebody. Right? I mean, right. [repeat]
[Hit THE JUMP for the joy of GERG on the other team]
Pass Offense vs Iowa
Iowa is dead average here too: 59th nationally in pass efficiency D, except in the horrible no-throw Big Ten that leaves them tenth in the conference, ahead of only Indiana and Illinois, and that's without playing the top three passing efficiency outfits in the Big Ten—Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Nebraska. Compounding issues is an inability to get to the quarterback. Iowa had 11 sacks in ten games, which is good for 111th nationally. Teams they are ahead of: Air Force, CMU, EMU, NMSU, Kansas, BC. End of list.
Since a two-week span against Minnesota and Michigan State in which opponent quarterbacks threw four picks and averaged 5.9 YPA, Iowa has gotten carved up hardcore:
Colter didn't throw because Iowa was busy giving up 350 rushing yards.
Iowa has a respected top corner in Micah Hyde, who had the wheels to catch Venric Mark from behind a couple of weeks ago. Ferentz tempted fate after:
Iowa safety Micah Hyde impressed coach Kirk Ferentz with his speed and intelligence when he tackled Venric Mark from behind Saturday at Northwestern.
Ferentz said Hyde "readjusted his hands" to avoid an illegal horse collar and "showed another gear" in catching the former Texas track star.
"Maybe we need to put Micah at running back," Ferentz said, before adding Hyde has been too valuable on defense to consider moving him to tailback or receiver.
So maybe the I-Form Big + incredible contempt game plan won't work that well this week; it sounds like there will be holes over the middle, though, and possibly deep as Iowa's erratic safeties—they were both walk-ons until Nico Law replaced Tommy Donatell against Indiana, with results you can see above—are tested by Gardner sitting in the pocket, surveying.
Expect a lot of token play action that leads to Gardner just hanging out; Iowa's default response to mobile quarterbacks has been to sit back and see what happens. The change in defensive coordinators does not seem to have made them any more aggressive, and it's tough to put defensive backs on an island when they are not good and switching around and stuff.
This will also help cut down on Gardner scrambles, IE "most of Michigan's run offense." It'll be about Gardner finding open guys against seven guys in zone coverage.
Key Matchup: Gardner hitting windows and throwing on time. The main problem with Gardner's performances to date has been a certain slowness in recognizing what's going on, which is obviously to be expected from a guy who was a WR and is getting his first extended playing time. Against a team laying back a late throw is a potential interception.
Run Defense vs Iowa
Iowa has imploded in the aftermath of injuries to OL Andrew Donnal, OL Brandon Scherff, and RB/FB Mark Weisman:
Before those three left the lineup, Iowa averaged 4.48 rushing yards a carry and 154.6 yards a game. Since their departure, Iowa has averaged 2.51 ypc and 78.0 a game.
Those games have been against Northwestern, Indiana, and Purdue. Damon Bullock is coming off two performances in which he gained 3.3 YPC against Indiana and 1.9(!) on 23 carries(!!!) against Purdue. Purdue is the #85 rushing D in the country; Indiana is 118th.
They face a statistically mediocre Michigan outfit, but that mediocrity is a false narrative based on the Alabama game and playing an option team. Until last week only fatigue late in the Nebraska game saw anyone creep much above 100 yards per game; the most similar rushing game Michigan has faced this year—Michigan State—saw LeVeon Bell grind out 2.6 yards a carry.
Iowa is in a downward spiral and can't threaten Michigan's somewhat soft edges or run the option or, evidently, block the candycane defenses of Indiana and Purdue. This should be no contest.
Key Matchup: Not, like, running away from the ballcarrier versus like, running away from the ballcarrier.
Pass Defense vs Iowa
Prevail and Ride predicting Iowa 2012 in February
GERG 2.0, you works are of a splendorous maleficence. Lo, the smoke and brimstone guttering from the ashes of the Iowa passing game are greatly joyous to all, except Iowa fans and anyone stuck in a full body cast inadvertently watching an Iowa game without access to a remote. Here is a play you ran multiple times against MSU on third and nine on which only one receiver, a tight end, even tries to get past the first down marker:
You are a brilliant sleeper agent.
Iowa returned a quarterback who had thrown 25 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. A quarterback who had 3022 passing yards and averaged 7.5 yards an attempt. They also got back their #2, #3, and #4 receivers. Their passing efficiency has gone from 46th to 113th. They are last in the Big Ten! Worse than Scheelhaase! Worse than TerBush! Worse than Andrew Maxwell! Worse than everybody! EVERYBODY.
Recent James Vandenberg YPAs: 5.3 against Purdue, 7.3 against Indiana, 5.6 against Northwestern, 5.3 against Penn State. This is a horrible passing offense.
Of course, last week Michigan faced a horrible passing offense and got hit with Unstoppable Throw-God Trevor Siemian, so these things vary. Keenan Davis does have the deep speed to scare Michigan over the top and may hit a deep shot or two. Even in that case, Vandenberg will still be around five yards an attempt and 50% completions and probably throw a terrible interception against a pass efficiency D that's hovering just outside the top 20 even after the Throw-Goddening.
This is going nowhere.
Key Matchup: JT Floyd versus inevitable attempt to burn him deep x3.
Iowa has a good kicker—FEI has the Hawkeyes #32 in kick efficiency—but is terrible at punting, returning punts, and okay at kick returns that probably won't be relevant.
Michigan has excellent kicking, poor punt coverage, and has issues fielding punts.
Key Matchup: COVER THE GLABDANGED PUNTS
Spread > 17 == no kittens. Here is this from ArbitraryUserName
- Iowa moves the ball at all.
- Michigan's offense looks a lot worse when their one WR goes up against a good corner.
- No one is getting blocked still.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Denard is back, but he won't be.
- Devin Gardner continues his ALPACA OUT OF NOWHERE ACT.
- Nebraska loses?
Fear/Paranoia Level: 2 (Baseline 5; –1 GERG Is On Their Team, –1 for 1.9 YPC Against Purdue, –1 for 5.3 YPA Against Purdue, –1 for Should Have Been Blown Out By Purdue, +1 for I Guess They Also Beat Minnesota Handily And MSU Narrowly, –1 for That Was Before Their Run Game Died, +1 for A Decent Defense May Just Throttle This Offense)
Desperate need to win level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for If It's Big Then We Can Get Ceremonial Denard Snaps, +1 for I Need That At Least, –1 for It's Not Like Nebraska Is Losing To Iowa Or Minnesota So This Decide Citrus Bowl Or Other Florida Bowl Against SEC Team, Which Who Cares, –1 for Seriously Who Cares, +1 for Gardner Is Going To Work Out Narrative Continuation, +1 for Shred Of Confidence For The Game )
Loss will cause me to... campaign for Greg Davis to replace Borges!
Win will cause me to... M-I-N-N-E-S-oh what's the point. Also, blubber about how Denard goes out.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Bullock averages under 2.5 YPC.
- This is an incredibly boring game in which Iowa crosses midfield twice.
- Gardner continues his accurate throwing, Michigan decides to throw it at Dileo some more, it works, etc.
- Michigan, 24.5-0