|WHAT||Oregon State at Michigan|
Ann Arbor, MI
September 12th, 2015
|THE LINE||Michigan -15|
|TELEVISION||National on ABC|
|WEATHER||low 60s, partly cloudy
10% chance of rain
Parking note sponsored by Park 'n' Party, which is your fancy same-place-all-the-time tailgate headquarters. They tell me they're now expanding into catering and equipment so they can accommodate all levels of commitment. They also say that if you wait you will not get parking and then you will
wander the earth doomed for all time have to explain this to your spouse.
Meanwhile maybe Oregon State should go with some iconography, because logos don't seem to be going so well.
The Wolverines' half of the Craft Beer Battle against the state of Oregon—winner gets to relocate the brewery of their choice—comes against Oregon State's Beavers. OSU (Not That OSU) got caught up in last offseason's weirdest set of coach swaps when longtime coach Mike Riley was somewhat inexplicably hired at Nebraska; Oregon State responded by pirating a discontent Gary Andersen from Wisconsin, who went and got Paul Chryst from Pitt, and then Pitt may have gotten the best coach involved in any of this by hiring Pat Narduzzi.
Andersen's got his work cut out for him. He inherits two defensive starters and is going with a freshman quarterback on a team that went 2-7 in the Pac 12 last year. Oregon State opened the year with a worryingly competitive win (13-7 deep into the second half) over Weber State, a 2-10 FCS team that doesn't even have its punter anymore.
Run Offense vs Oregon State
Jaswha James is the only returning Beaver starter in the front seven
While concern is clearly warranted, we are advising Michigan fans not to panic about Michigan's rushing performance against the Samoan-laden Utah Utes. If such a thing repeats against the Beavers it's time for the sackcloth and ashes. Oregon State was 87th in the country last year in rush defense and lost virtually the entire thing.
They've moved to a Real Actual 3-4 this year with 260-pound DEs and feature a safety-ish freshman WOLB. From the FFFF:
if you're wondering, the "Peko" at NT is former MSU DL Domata Peko's cousin
Even that white-spackled lineup might oversell Oregon State's returning experience. Jaswha James, one of two guys asserted as a "returning starter," only started 7 games last year. But you roll with what you've got in marketing:
James had 16 tackles last year and two TFLs.
That's a veteran front, which is good and not good for them. They're not freshman for the most part; hooray. Most of these guys couldn't start on a pretty bad defense that had every reason to start looking to the future about halfway through the year; boo. Also they are undersized at about five of the seven spots in the front seven, give or take a 233-pound ILB.
But things change so Oregon State could suddenly be good—Andersen's certainly a good coach. We didn't get much indication either way in the Beavers' opener, but Weber State did scratch out 4.8 YPC on just 15 carries. That's not good but neither is it definitive. OSU's best hope is probably that Peko, a JUCO transfer, is a revelation and he can disrupt Michigan's rather flailing guards.
As for Michigan, game one was confused and dispiriting. I thought just about everyone not named Glasgow was bad. Both guards got deposited yards in the backfield; Mason Cole struggled to block anyone on the sweeps Michigan had set up to break big; De'Veon Smith was all right but found maybe one or two cutback lanes the whole game and missed a couple of cavernous holes. We're going to see just how far a Harbaugh team can come over the course of the season, because they're not starting from a high point.
KEY MATCHUP: Tailbacks versus holes. I expect they'll be there because if I don't expect that I'm resigning myself to another season of painful, painful offensive football. Also, they literally have a 260 pound 3-4 DE named "Failauga."
So: Michigan is still looking for a back who can find gaps in the line that may not always be where they were supposed to be presnap. Drake Johnson may return; if so expect him to get a run out, and possibly lock a job down.
[Hit THE JUMP for A DENARD-ISH OFFENSE.]
Pass Offense vs Oregon State
Larry Scott is not related to Michael Scott.
See above in re: what Oregon State has coming back. The sole returners are James and cornerback Larry Scott. Here is Larry Scott talking about the new defense:
"We'll have a great defense because of the scheme," Scott says of the the Beavers' D. "He brings an intensity. He wants to get after the quarterback, put a lot of pressure on him, not let him sit back there. He just allows us to play. Our defense doesn't have a lot of rules within it -- we have our base coverage, you got your guy and after that it's just 'go fly around and make plays.'
I hope that was enlightening, because any attempt to tell you about what Michigan faces here is bound to be futile. The opener saw Weber State's offense go 0 for 13 on third down conversions and fail to score—the Weber State TD was a pick-six—but not even a Michigan outfit recovering from last year's debacle will be confused with the 26th most popular college nicknamed the "Wildcats."
Scott has some size but hasn't caught the attention of awards folks or the NFL yet. He is competent but only that. Opposite Scott is JUCO transfer Treston Decoud. He's basically Jeremy Clark: a 6'3" guy most thought was a safety who is being played at corner. Right now that looks like a reason to worry, but if he gets it down, is Richard Sherman 2.0, etc etc etc.
Pass rush is a total question mark. While they were decent a year ago, most everyone is gone. Lavonte Barnett led the team with 4.5 sacks (mostly acquired against Pac-12 teams, not cupcakes) despite only starting four games; he is now a drastically undersized 3-4 end. He is the guy to watch out for on stunts, blitzes, and on passing downs. Peko may also brings some oomph here, but nobody really knows.
On Michigan's side of things, they got off to a shaky start against Utah. True freshman Grant Perry and Jake Rudock try to connect on three separate passes that were intercepted, and Michigan could not make any of their downfield shots count. There were some positives: the wide receivers looked good and Jake Butt is pretty much first team All Big Ten already.
Pass protection didn't seem like a big issue live but after going over the tape it was a slightly subpar performance. Since Utah returned a lot of guys who piled up sacks a year ago, though, it was encouraging overall.
Shake out the cobwebs for Rudock and get the routes down and Michigan should see some success here, especially in the areas between levels in the zone.
Key matchup: Jake Rudock versus The MGoBlog This Quarterback Will Be Good Jinx. 60% of his 2014 interception total in one dang game. Cumong, universe.
Run Defense vs Oregon State
This will be a test for the gentlemen on the edge. Oregon State features a stable of fast little guys that they try to break outside the tackle box in a number of different ways. true freshman Seth Collins, the quarterback, is very much a run first guy:
That action is typical of the Oregon State offense. It is basically an all-Wildcat* all the time spread. This is partially due to the limitations of the guy currently running the show, but it is also partially because that is Gary Andersen's jam. Andersen came to prominence at Utah State by running the same kind of Malzahn-esque running game with a mobile quarterback. (He adapted at Wisconsin because he's a good coach; you will note that the Badgers went jet-sweep crazy the last couple years.) It's hell on your run fits, and I expect Michigan to bust at least a couple times.
However, after Michigan throttled the Utah ground game hearing something like this is encouraging:
That will be quite the challenge for an offensive line that surprisingly sputtered against Weber State, getting flagged for five holding penalties and struggling to open holes for the running backs early on. Baldwin smirked at me when I referred to "a couple" holding penalties and responded with that five is obviously too many, but that he's glad that they were called because they were indeed fouls.
If "at least the refs were correct" is your silver lining after a game against Weber State, Henry/Glasgow/Wormley is a unit that veritably looms. Andersen does have one star on the line, right guard Isaac Seumalo. Other than that things project to get hairy for them.
Storm Barrs-Woods is the main tailback. He was productive in a somewhat limited role a year ago, rushing 121 times at 6.3 yards a pop. From the highlight video above you might get the impression that he's never scored a touchdown from more than two yards out, but wait for it and you'll get some longer stuff. Barrs-Woods is a compact scatback type who's very capable out of the backfield and will no doubt be targeted on a number of screens and dumpoffs as Oregon State attacks the edges. He is shifty but not that shifty, fast but not that fast.
It's tough to compare this year's Oregon State offense—an option spread with a runner—with last year's, which featured NFL-bound senior Sean Mannion. There are a lot of starters back; Seumalo missed last year entirely. So there are reasons for optimism here… but Oregon State was still 93rd in YPC a year ago. This should be a lot of TFLs for Michigan as long as they can keep their heads on straight.
Look for a lot more James Ross in this game as Michigan seeks to shut down a run-oriented spread by adding a linebacker in.
Key Matchup: Ross and Peppers against jet sweeps and option stuff. Oregon State's success is likely to come mostly outside the tackles. Force it back inside or bust it up yourself and you've gone a long way towards a punt.
*[Minus the unbalanced line.]
Pass Defense vs Oregon State
Victor Bolden is Oregon State's top receiver despite having a name perfect for Michigan
If you are looking for data on Michigan's second cornerback you're not likely to find it in this game, either: Collins is a true freshman very much in the Denard mold. Remember Denard as a freshman? Yeah. Ace:
Most of his attempts came on designed rollouts with easy, quick reads underneath. His downfield throws were limited to contested-ball shots down the sideline; he missed a couple and DO'd one for the game's final touchdown. The middle of the field was ignored entirely.
This is going to be a lot like Utah except maybe without the occasional spread-induced opening in the middle that Travis Wilson exploited. Expect Michigan's cornerbacks to get tested against screens early and often; expect a half-dozen moon shots.
Oregon State's most dangerous receiver is a slot guy, Victor Bolden. Expect him to end up in the backfield a ton on jet sweeps and orbit motion; he's a slippery bugger and a very good player who the Beavers will want to get double-digit touches. Tackling him in space will be a major key for the Michigan D.
Oregon State's other WRs were not particularly involved in the game plan against Weber State. Funchess-esque Jordan Villamin is a threat worth paying attention to, however. Prepare for DUBSTEP HIGHLIGHTS.
also he wears silly hats
At 6'5" Villamin is the kind of downfield jump-ball target that offenses with rudimentary pass offenses can make relatively efficient use of. He's coming off a productive (35 catches, 578 yards) freshman year, which could presage a breakout season… if Sean Mannion was still around. In this offense Villamin will have to content himself with being a big play option that doesn't get many looks.
Despite the size difference I have to assume that Michigan will prioritize putting Jourdan Lewis on Villamin, which should mean he has a dude in his grill most of the day and success or failure will be up to the gypsy's whims. If Michigan does stick with a field/boundary setup it is possible we do actually get a look at Stribling and/or Clark in the kind of matchup they were unearthed as corners to take on.
Key Matchup: Villamin jump balls versus All Comers. If Oregon State's going to hit a big one that's how they'll do it. How the Villamin matchup goes is doubly important because Michigan faces BYU in two weeks. BYU's receivers are 6'5" jump ball hawks to a man.
Y'all can breathe a sigh of relief. This is no longer Oregon State's kicker:
Trevor Romaine left the team after a "peculiar" career, and was last seen stealing everyone's jokes and putting them on instagram. In his stead, sophomore Garrett Owens went 11/13 last year with a long of 46. So they'll be just fine. They will no longer be able to amass millions of followers by stealing someone else's work.
The Beavers also have an Aussie punter, Nick Porebski. He was excellent a year ago at Snow College with a 45.4 yard average. Also Snow College is definitely the setting of a 1980s film with a youthful John Cusak. Anyway, this sets both Highlander-style There Can Only Be One showdown with Blake O'Neill in addition to O'Neill's desire for vicious pointy revenge for last week. Do not miss the punting action in this one.
Michigan's special teams were up and down in the opener. O'Neill punted such that Dymonte Thomas could fair catch it at the two; Jabrill Peppers ripped off a nice kickoff return. On the other hand, Kenny Allen missed a 44 yard field goal. He did hit a 30 yarder and the 44-yarder was close-ish.
Key Matchup: YOU PUT THE BALL THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
- Michigan isn't bashing holes through Oregon State DEs.
- The spread offense continues to befuddle like 15 years later.
- Rudock is still winging balls willy-nilly.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Oregon State is in a passing down.
- Peppers is a jet/screen obliterator again.
- Jake Butt gets loose in a new back four.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 3 (Baseline 5; –1 for HARBAUGH, –1 for Two Starters Back On Defense Is Kind Of A Stretch, –1 for True Freshman QB, +1 for Irrational Spread Fears, –1 for That Jabrill Peppers Will Murder, +1 for Rickety OL No Fun Disaster Times)
Desperate need to win level: 8 (Baseline 5; +1 for This Is Not A House Money Game Like Utah Kind Of Was, +1 for Good Feelings Are Good, –1 for We Can Always Blame Brady Hoke, +1 for I Would Like Some Offense And Touchdowns Please, +1 for HARBAUGH)
Loss will cause me to... Harbaugh?
Win will cause me to... HARBAUGH.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
This should be a comfortable win unless the turnover gremlin is truly taking out a mortgage in Michigan Stadium. OSU (NTOSU) should look a lot like Utah on offense, except minus the senior QB. This is a game perfect for our Hybrid Space Player theory, and Stribling/Clark improved after the first drive last week. Michigan DL should be able to go toe to toe with the Oregon State DL; it's hard to see them moving the ball except for the occasional breakdown.
Meanwhile this is a defense to get healthy against. Michigan should be able to ease out to a two score lead without putting too much on Rudock's plate, and then see the game out.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- We do see David Dawson in the first half. Both he and Braden play in the second.
- Jake Butt catches two down the seam and nears 100 yards.
- Smith still has the most carries but Isaac, Johnson, and Green get their cracks at the job.
- Michigan, 31-15