|WHAT||Michigan vs Ohio State|
November 29th, 2014
|THE LINE||OSU –20.5|
|WEATHER||mid 40s, slight chance of rain, 10 mph wind|
Uh, Ohio State is going to win the division and probably the league. They have put hurtings on everyone they've faced after the VT game except Penn State, when JT Barrett was overwhelmed by a legit-elite D, and Indiana, when they got all of the bad luck they might have deployed against M out of their system. And then they put up four straight touchdowns to run away with that game anyway.
Run Offense vs Ohio State
it would be nice if Tevin Coleman walked through that door
After much of a season charitably described as "rough," this facet of Michigan's offense has edged towards extant recently. P5 opponents, with reasonable performances highlighted:
|@ Notre Dame||35||100||2.86||0|
|@ 10 Michigan St.||26||61||2.35||1|
Fake punt last week removed
Unfortunately this looks a lot like Michigan finding bad competition more frequently than serious improvement. The four highlighted games are against the #14, 11, 9, and 5 rush defenses in the league, and Northwestern—the only above-average unit there—is being propped up by games against Purdue and their ilk. Michigan's 4.2 YPC was better only than Penn State, Purdue, and oddly Minnesota amongst Wildcat B10+ND opponents.
Michigan's recent performances may or may not be real improvement.
It does feel like the offensive line has been getting more cohesive over the last few games. Michigan bashed in the Maryland front in a way M fans haven't seen since David Molk was scowling in the middle of the line; a large part of the Drake Johnson hype is because his carries have been behind the improving line (and against bad defenses).
OSU comes in with a weird statistical profile. Ignore the opener against Navy (63 carries for 370) yards and you've still got wildly varying performances. Penn State got 16 yards total; MSU and Minnesota both ground out around five yards a carry. Last week Tevin Coleman had a 200-yard game featuring two enormously long touchdowns and 3.4 YPC otherwise.
This makes sense if your model of the OSU defense is a ton of talent that's rather confused. The OSU DL has lived up to the hype, for the most part, this year; the back seven has been rotating through linebackers trying to find either 1) a veteran who can play or 2) a freshman who knows what he's doing. They have not been very successful at either.
Junior Josh Perry is the closest thing to a stalwart at LB. He's the Buckeyes' leading tackler; #2 and #3 are the starting safeties—this is generally not a good sign. Two of the next three linebackers on the list are freshmen, with Darron Lee outpacing the highly touted Raekwon McMillan so far; the other is perpetual OSU fan whipping boy Curtis Grant. OSU fans are pretty much right about this; Grant has not had anywhere near the impact he was supposed to out of high school and has continued to play by default. The LB corps is middling at best. They make a lot of TFLs; they fail to show up in the right place too often.
The same cannot be said for the defensive line, which features four guys with at least 6 TFL. Joey Bosa leads the way with 18(!), 11.5(!) of which are sacks. NT Michael Bennett is on his way to a high position in the next NFL draft; Adolphus Washington is now a DT after beating Taylor Lewan as a freshman for one of the only sacks Lewan gave up at Michigan; Steve Miller has been an able plugger with the absence of the suspended Noah Spence. Occasionally they'll get out of a lane; this is going to be a much stiffer test for M than they've had recently.
Meanwhile, OSU safeties have been trying to emulate MSU's with dubious success; they've backed off of late. OSU is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to long scrimmage plays of all varieties; their cover 4 has evolved into a less aggressive version over the season.
Key Matchup: The interior line versus Bennett and Washington. M will have to run away from or chip-double Bosa much of the day; the interior line will not have such luxuries. They might be up for it… but probably not.
[Hit THE JUMP for bad news everybody.]
Pass Offense vs Ohio State
prepare for this
The primary reason Brady Hoke's going to be getting lovely parting gifts in the immediate aftermath of this game is the stark regressions his quarterbacks have endured—or in the case of Bellomy and Morris, the stark lack of improvement his QBs have displayed. Hoke QBs have been miserable at Michigan, is what I'm saying.
Devin Gardner has been the most miserable of late. Incredibly, Gardner has thrown for under five yards an attempt in three of his last four games. he's at 6.6 on the year with 8 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He has not been helped by an exponentially increasing chance that his receivers drop or actively bat away his passes; he's still just so so horrible. Gardner's a great dude and representative of the program. He's just a broken QB.
So. Here is some bad news. Michigan's flaccid-and-retreating passing game goes up against a defense that's racked up 32 sacks this year. That's barely behind MSU and Wisconsin for most in the league, and we saw how things went against MSU. As is often the case, this one number does not do justice to the havoc OSU is wreaking on the opposition with their pass rush.
OSU leads the league in interceptions and is barely behind PSU in yards per attempt allowed. They have been outstanding since Gunner Kiel ripped them for 10 yards an attempt in late September; the only Big Ten outfit to crack 7 YPA against them was a desperate MSU. A lot of OSU's outings this year look like Devin Gardner passing lines: 48% completions, 5 yards an attempt, that sort of thing.
Yeah, almost all of these have come against clownshow Big Ten QBs: Reilly O'Toole, Zander Diamont, Mitch Leidner, etc. Please see the paragraphs above about Devin Gardners recent statlines.
Never say never, but with Devin Funchess checked out and Gardner hovering on the edge of "no mas," there is vanishingly little hope for a positive outcome here. Every dropback pits Bosa against a freshman or an even wobblier sophomore and tempts fate; most of them should be shruggie bombs down the sideline in case Funchess reels one in for 40 yards, but evidently will not be since Michigan won't even test-drive that tactic against Will Likely.
Key matchup: Bosa versus Gardner's blindside, and also the interior line's ability to prevent a second rusher.
Run Defense vs Ohio State
Elliott is half the show
This is the glamor matchup in this game, such as it is. Michigan's rush defense has been legitimately excellent, on par with Wisconsin's and only behind the vicious Penn State outfit.
The bloom comes off that rose somewhat when you poke around the opponents Michigan's had and find dregs, dregs, dregs. Of the five worst teams in the league, Michigan has only missed Illinois. Michigan State ripped them for an emasculating 219 yards at 4.8 a pop, grinding it straight down Michigan's throat from the second drive of the game. Minnesota did similarly, cracking 200 yards at 4.4 a pop just by being Minnesota. Michigan's primary accomplishment this year is not getting annihilated by Tevin Coleman. This is not to be sniffed at, but then again Kevin Wilson took Coleman out of most of the first half after Coleman fumbled twice.
And then there's the most recent game. Maryland exceeded their season averages by 0.7 YPC thanks in large part to the running of CJ Brown. Brown is only the second QB Michigan has faced all year who is anything resembling a rushing threat. Mitch Leidner is the other. While JT Barrett is not Braxton Miller, neither is he as pedestrian as either Brown or Leidner. Michigan has barely faced a rushing QB, barely faced anything like a modern passing spread, and certainly not faced a rushing attack anywhere near as comprehensive as OSU's.
That rushing attack replaced four OL, Carlos Hyde, and Miller and has taken very little damage. Ezekiel Elliot is at almost six yards a carry, behind only the three Doak finalists in the league. Barrett's at 5.4 a pop and is almost at a thousand yards himself. Freshman Curtis Samuel takes scattered carries at almost 7 yards a pop. As a team OSU is 12th nationally in YPC. They are excellent, schematically difficult to defend and more than competent. The only opponent in OSU's stratosphere that Michigan has faced is MSU, and that was a blowout obscured by the lack of anything truly long.
Expect M to fold like a tent here.
Key Matchup: Glasgow and Henry (if it is in fact those two guys) against the interior OL. This was an enormous blowout last year as Michigan was hewed down by injury and then exposed by repetition. It should be more even this year, but I go back to the MSU game and its distressing outcome. Henry barely played in that game and Glasgow was quickly given the hook, whether it was for performance or injury. Hopefully healthy-ish versions of those two can stem the tide.
Pass Defense vs Ohio State
OSU specializes in grinding your face off until you put all the guys in the box—literally, "all the guys in the box" has been a common gambit against this year's Buckeye offense—and then ripping your face off deep. Despite being a heavily run-biased offense, OSU leads the league in passes of 30, 40, and 50 yards.
JT Barrett is first in the league with 9.1 yards an attempt and has a whopping 33 touchdowns to ten interceptions, yes as a redshirt freshman who was planning on spending this season on the bench. He also leads the league in completion percentage, as OSU is way into WR screens; Barrett is like my idealized basketball shot chart that's all three-pointers and dunks. I find this description of OSU's passing game massively depressing so let's move on.
OSU doesn't really have a #1 receiver. Instead they have a pile of guys with between 40 and 10 catches. Leading yardage WR Devin Smith only has 25 catches. They have gone for 24 yards a pop, including one of those TD MSU is giving up now where the slot WR runs real fast at a safety and oops he's gone. Michael Thomas is the primary possession threat, though he can go deep too, and then OSU spreads the ball out to a pile of slot/RB types. Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and Elliott all have 20 catches on the year, lots of them dinky catch and run stuff that's easy to execute and hard to stop when the rest of the offense is daring you to cheat off of it. Again: ideal shot chart.
Michigan got smashed when they tried to be aggressive early in the year and since they've gone back to a version of the cover three zone that sustained them much of last year, with man and such mixed in as a changeup. Unless they go off script—very much possible in the last days of a dying empire—expect Michigan to choose the thousand papercuts rather than the guillotine.
Key Matchup: Me versus This Analogy Between The Beilein and Meyer Offenses That Makes Me Depressed.
OSU is excellent in all phases of special teams except for kicking, where they've only hit 10 of 16 field goals and have missed a number of chip shots through the year.
Michigan enjoys long walks on the beach, puppies, and shooting itself in the foot on special teams.
Key Matchup: YOU DON'T BLOCK SOME GUY SORT OF IN THE BACK WELL AFTER SUCH A THING COULD EVEN HELP YOUR RETURNER OUT
ALSO YOU PUT ELEVEN GUYS ON THE FIELD
ALSO ALSO YOU PUT THE BALL THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
BASICALLY YOU JUST BECOME TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN YOU ARE
- This game goes like it certainly will
- The 49ers go on a four-game win streak
- There's no press conference featuring Hackett in the near future
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Elijah Shumate or other guy forced into action is ten yards away from where he should be.
- Golson is wearing Frank Clark like a backpack.
- Funchess is unstoppable.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for We're Bad, Real Bad, +1 for They Are Not, +1 for They Beat An MSU Team That Embarrassed Us, +1 for They Do That Tempo Stuff, +1 for Meyer Versus Hoke)
Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +5, The Game )
Loss will cause me to... incessantly hit F5 on my "fire Harbaugh" Google search.
Win will cause me to... troll Ohio State message boards for 24 hours, then incessantly hit F5 on my "fire Harbaugh" Google search.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
NOT IN THE FACE
/is hit in the face
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- I said not in the face
- and then you hit me in the face
- what can men do in the face of such reckless hate
- I SAID NOT IN THE FACE
- okay yes just then I said "in the face"
- but that's not what I me—
- THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT THAT TIME EITHER
- Ohio State, 37-15