Best and Worst: Indiana

Submitted by bronxblue on October 15th, 2017 at 11:32 PM

Worst: Pick one

Nobody should have expected this game to be a fun watch. Michigan might be riding a 22-game win streak over the Hoosiers (spanning 30 years), but other than a 34-10 win in 2014 none of them have been all that comfortable since the Carr era. Michigan would put up 67 on the Hoosiers in 2013...but never led by more than 14 points until the very end of the game. RR's games featured late-game interceptions and TDs, the platonic ideal for Rich Rod games. And since Jim Harbaugh arrived, the two teams have gone to OT twice and the other game was a 10-point win that featured a terrible performance by...(check my notes)...John O'Korn. Oh wonderful. This is just what happens when these two teams play, I guess, and the hope is that when IU breaks through it doesn't submarine a meaningful season.

Now, I'm going to spend some time later on talking about the very real positives you can and should take away from this game; Michigan successfully ran (6.2 ypc) against a good IU run defense, they blocked well on passing downs (0 sacks given up), they didn't turn the ball over while picking off IU twice, and save for about 2 drives the defense held up despite facing 15 real IU possessions. But at not point should this lead you to believe this was a "good" performance by Michigan, especially on offense. This was categorically not that, and I'm not sure I possess the grasp of the English language necessary to convey how...not good this team looked for large swaths of this game when they had the ball in their hands and a whole sideline pointing where they should go.

IU got as many first downs by penalty (3) as rushing the ball, and that was part of a 16-penalty (!), 141 yard (!!) day of crime and punishment. That's almost 1 and a half football fields of penalties! That's about 4.25 blue whales in length, for those of you who have recently read flip-page books to a 3-year-old about animals in the ocean. And Indiana turned down multiple penalties, meaning they left even more blue whales off the field! And the sad thing was that most of those penalties were earned; I don't understand what is pass interference anymore, but Michigan was guilty of it a couple of times that were semi-legit. Yes, Mo Hurst was hit with a roughing the passer call because he tackled the QB literally as he was throwing the ball, and apparently a center can be called for holding because he used his body to block a defender, but for the most part Michigan kept IU drives alive or stymied their own through self-inflicted wounds. And yes, I will 100% point out that the refs missed at least one block in the back on the big IU return, also a pick play on their last TD that was blatant enough that Brock Huard noticed it in between huffs of paint or whatever he was doing for most of this game. But all the same, you can't give up nearly 5 blue whales of free yards and be focused too much on a couple of missed calls.

But much like last week, where Michigan turned over the ball 5 times, this ungodly number of penalties would have just been an interesting footnote in an otherwise ugly-but-comfortable victory had the play at QB been within earshot of competent. These are college kids and are doing their best; I am not trying to impugn their character or abilities. But if you missed this game for whatever reason, (a) thank your friend's new wife for scheduling a wedding on a fall Saturday, and (b) just imagine watching this for almost 5(!) hours(!!) whenever Michigan looked to matriculate the ball in the air.

Just that for 4 quarters. Somehow, an offense that threw 3 picks and 5.6 yards per pass in a monsoon turned in a demonstrably worse performance on what seemed like a perfectly fine day in Bloomington. 2.9 ypa, 50% completion percentage, 58 yards passing, and despite multiple times facing 3rd down and effectively the game, Michigan seemingly didn't even consider throwing the ball. It was atrocious, probably the worst performance this side of Russell Bellomy, and at least there you had the unexpectedness of being called into action to explain a bit of it away. This is basically week 3 of Michigan's offense under John O'Korn, and the outlier performance is starting to look super-obvious. I'll get into it later, but while I think giving the ball to Peters is a bad idea for a number of reasons, if you lack confidence in your QB to throw the ball when you need to, then you have to replace him. Otherwise, you might as well just put another RB in the game and see if you can Wildcat or whatever the hell to 6-6.

And for what felt like the umpteenth time this year, O'Korn got very little help from the receivers. Yes, there were throws behind some receivers or into coverage, but there were also routine drops and the ever-present inability of anyone on this team to pull anything out of a hat. I'm not even looking for a rabbit; a gerbil with alopecia would suffice. I swear, the next time anyone catches even a semi-underthrown ball the crowd is going to erupt like they just saw Marquise Walker vs. Iowa. Yes, there were easy passes missed in this game, notably (and stop me if you've heard this one before) Gentry being screamingly wide open on the contested ball to Crawford, and that falls on the QB to make. But good lord, there were probably 3 or 4 just straight drops in this game that had to be made, from Perry letting a ball hit his hands while extended, or Schoenle just dropping a ball on a little flair, to one or two others in what felt like a lifetime of bad plays. And if you have a struggling QB, somebody needs to find a way to get open quickly and catch the ball when it gets there, because expecting this passing attack to both get the ball there AND then survive a 50/50 chance of it actually getting caught is a mountain too high to climb.

And yet...had the flag-happy refs called even one block in the back on that punt return, Michigan probably wins this game by 10 or more. Much like MSU, Michigan gave a game IU team every out they could, every mistake and misstep that lets an underdog pull out the win, and still Michigan won. And like your average horror film monster, we're learning what can and can't kill Michigan. Apparently a program-record number of penalties on the road will make it close; 5 TOS and a torrential rainstorm was just enough to keep them down. PSU is going to be on another plane of opponent to anyone Michigan has seen thus far, and if they play like they have the past couple of weeks James Franklin is going to be extra smug in his press conference about how little it meant avenging a 39-point loss last year.

Best: A Land-Based Offensive

But all was not lost offensively. For the second week in a row, the running game looked like a weapon against a competent defensive outfit. Last week's output wasn't particularly inspiring on paper (102 yards, 2.6 ypc), but factor out sacks and you are looking at a semi-decent day (3.5 ypc) and the emergence of Karan Higdon as the feature back (5.4 ypc). This week, Higdon asserted himself with 25 carries for a career-high 200 yards and 3 TDs, including the game winner in OT where he just bounced off a broken play and sprinted to the corner on the first play from scrimmage. Much has been made about Michigan incorporating more power/ISO elements to the running game, and that type of play calling really seems to benefit Higdon. He's not the fastest or biggest back on the roster, but he is great at squaring his shoulders and running through first contact, which was what made DeVeon Smith so valuable the past couple of years. Plus, one of Higdon's biggest weaknesses, his sometimes-spotty vision for finding the holes and cutbacks in the running game, are mitigated somewhat by this "run to the hole" mentality.

And what was also encouraging was that Higdon didn't pick up most of his yards on 1 or 2 runs. While he averaged 8 ypc, his median run was 4 yards, which is pretty impressive since the last couple of drives Michigan was content to just run him into the line for a couple of yards to burn the clock; throw out that last clock-killing drive as well as the meaningless one at the end of the first half and we're about 5 ypc. That wasn't a Saquon Barkley vs. NW situation where he averaged 4.7 ypc because of a 53-yard TD run and not much else; despite the world knowing Michigan couldn't throw the ball, Higdon was able to consistently get positive yardage behind an improving offensive line.

Of course, I'm not naive enough to believe anything that happened this week will translate to future opponents; for all I know, Higdon could fumble twice against PSU and we'd be back to Chris Evans and, I don't know, Kareem Walker getting the majority of carries. But it does seem like the offensive line has turned a bit of a corner here the last couple of weeks. The running game is still not particularly dynamic, but it's finally something I can sorta rely on being there more times than not. I don't know the formation breakdowns, but my guess is the minimization of zone blocking and at least a plurality of power/ISO blocking schemes we saw the first two years under Harbaugh are a large reason why we've seen some success on the ground as well as the drop in TFLs (5 this week, only 2 non-sacks TFLs last week) compared to a season average of around 8. It's not night-and-day different, but it feels like progress nonetheless. And if this team has any hope of winning against PSU, OSU, or Wisconsin, they have to be able to do something consistently on offense, even if it means playing dinosaur football at times.

Best: Air Defense

Another day, another strong defensive performance by the secondary. Yes, they haven't faced a particularly good passing attack yet (MSU's is statistically the best, though I'd probably say Purdue's is better overall), but other than PSU there really isn't one on the schedule unless you are buying that J.T. Barrett has suddenly figured out how to throw consistently against pass defenses (my lack of heavy sarcasm font should not dissuade you from deducing I am a doubter). Yes, IU was able to throw a bit toward the end of the game, where they found some success throwing the ball to Timian and Cobbs. Still, IU completed only 49% of their passes on the day for 4.6 ypa, and at no point did they look remotely comfortable throwing the ball to their receivers even though that was about the only offense they could rely on (2.8 yards per carry on 29 runs in the game). Lavert Hill was flagged for PI on his first interception, a call that was probably correct (he was definitely in contact the whole time), though (a) he was also running the receiver's route for him, and (b) the ball was thrown a bit behind, which is why Hill picked it off. I'll take PIs in those instances all day because of how disruptive it was for the IU offense to rarely find guys open. On the other side of the field, I thought David Long had another great game. He drew Cobbs a decent amount of the time late in the game and kept with him the whole way, getting a pass breakup and generally styme the best receiver Michigan has seen thus far. He also picked up a nice TFL on a cornerback blitz, a new wrinkle to the defense that I assume they'll employ more as the season progresses. Watson also should come in for praise; despite the refs best attempts to consider Cobbs both pushed out of bounds AND reestablishing presence in the field when he caught a moonshot out of bounds, he did a good job keeping in contact with receivers and rarely gave up much. Most of the yards the receivers picked up on the day were the result of quick slants that were immediately down, or breakdowns on scrambles when Michigan couldn't get to Ramsey and he was able to run around a bit. Oh, and a couple of rather egregious pick plays that I guess we're just never going to be seen called anymore. The TD catch was particularly aggravating because the receiver just ran into (I believe) Watson and pushed him into Hill, but there a couple others where guys would spring open and you'd see a defensive back trying to shuck off a Hoosier with a death grip on their jersey.

Penn State will be a different beast, at least compared to teams like MSU and IU. They don't have a dominant receiver like, say, an Allen Robinson, but guys like Hamilton, Gesicki, and Johnson are all competent pass catchers who can win a 50/50 ball in the right circumstance. Barkley is probably a better pass catching threat than a running threat in this game, as PSU's offensive line is still pretty terrible, so it will behoove the likes of Kinnel and Metellus, along with the corners, to be able to tackle when he gets the ball in space. There will be missed tackles and assignments, and you aren't going to shut down teams forever throwing the ball; we saw it in this game a bit what happens when a team has over a dozen cracks at your corners. But I think we've gotten to the point in the season where the defensive backfield can be considered a strength of one of the best defenses in the country.

Best: The Good Kid

You always hear that teachers spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with the "troublemakers", the disruptive kids in a classroom. The quieter kids, the ones who just do their work without a fuss, are given a pat on the back and a silent "thank you" as the teacher navigates the room. You want to praise them and you do, but the reality is that the squeaky wheel gets the most attention, and if this analogy hasn't been made clear yet, the offense is the biggest fucking squeaky wheel on this team. By comparison, the defense is a wheel covered in the contents of a 55-gallon tub of lube rolling on a floor covered with Teflon. Also, it's the quiet kid who does her job really well without much fanfare, while the offense is destroying the school bus. Yes, this whole paragraph exists for the sole purpose of linking to an article about a tub of sexual lubricant. Deal with it.

On the day, Indiana was held to 278 yards of total offense, 3.9 ypp and 13 first downs, all season lows for the Hoosiers. This isn't CHAOS team like in years past, but when you face 72 plays over 15 drives and hold the opposition to well under 300 yards while picking them off twice, you're doing something well. Michigan forced 7 3-and-outs as well as a 2-and-turnover, and racked up 2 sacks and 7 TFLs to boot. Even when they buckled a bit at the end, it wasn't particularly egregious; the late TD was due mostly to IU getting a great return on a punt (again, ignoring multiple blocks in the back), and leaving a college kicker with a 46-yard FG to tie the game is a reasonable strategy. On the last play in OT, which brought back memories of way more games than I'd like, Michigan's defense was able to overwhelm IU's line and chase Ramsey into throwing the pick to Kinnel, and at the end you saw Winovich just passed out on the field next to Ramsey, exhausted but elated. I sadly know the feeling.

This remains a 3-game season, with road contests against PSU and Wisconsin and a home date with OSU being the only offenses I could see having much success against Michigan. PSU I touched on above, and I've seen enough of PSU's run blocking to know that they'll be overwhelmed by Michigan's line more times than not. Wisconsin is probably the best offensive line they'll see all year, and Jonathan Taylor is another in an annoying line of really good Wisconsin running backs that will find some success against Michigan. And then OSU is, well, OSU, and that spinning death ball is going to be a handful. But unlike Brian, I am not certain that PSU will murder this unit, even if the offense will almost assuredly let them down.

Worst, Maybe Ever: Throwing the Ball

You know the stats. You watched the game (unless you attended the aforementioned fall wedding). Brian will break it down with Ace on the podcast, then in the game recap, then the UFR, then the burning questions, then on WTKA, then probably before the PSU game in the preview. There have been and will probably be another handful of threads about what to do about the play calling, about how bad O'Korn has looked under center, everything. If you want to hear people talk about shitty QB play...hell, after this weekend you could find it a lot of places, and ONE of those places is here.

I only have two things to add to the discussion. One, this shouldn't surprise anyone. I honestly hate being right here because it means I correctly deduced that a college student who is trying his best wouldn't be particularly good at QB, and that a bunch of (mostly) faceless assholes on the internet would take him to task for it. But there's a reason John O'Korn left Houston after losing his job, why he never was able to surpass Wilton Speight, and why in 3 games we've seen him start he's had an average stat line of 46% completion percentage for 105 yards, 1.5 ypa (!), and a pick. It feels mean even writing that, and before you rush to the comments to say "but what about the weather?", his two best performances were arguably those two snow- and water-slogged events. As Brain mentioned on (I believe) WTKA, this John O'Korn is a better version of the one who got benched in Houston, but that doesn't mean he is objectively good enough to be the starting QB on a team like Michigan. He looked great against Purdue because his first read was usually open and Purdue, honestly, didn't have the defensive players or the preparation to really limit what Michigan wanted to do vertically. Both MSU and IU have, and you see the results. And its hard not to look at the play calling in that 4th quarter, when the only pass he was asked to throw was a short tunnel screen to DPJ despite a number of third-down situations, and believe that if there was any way Wilton Speight could play, he'd be out there. Because I will say this with 100% confidence: this team is undefeated with a healthy Speight under center. It wouldn't have been remotely pretty, but I don't think he loses to MSU or IU, and in retrospect, Purdue's defense was going to give up big plays regardless of the guy under center; O'Korn's elusiveness on that first drive accelerated it, but those plays were going to be there and Speight would have made enough of them.

Second, and perhaps more pressing, is what should the coaches do going forward. There is obviously no reason to throw Peters out there against PSU, but I can see the argument that if you are going to lose, might as well see if the new guy can handle the heat. I mean, it's a terrible idea because, as we've seen with O'Korn compared to Speight, the coaches are pretty accurate at ranking the QBs on the roster based on readiness. If Peters can't usurp this John O'Korn, it's hard to believe he's a QB who plays better on Saturday than he does the rest of the week. You know what you're getting with O'Korn, and while that's not particularly pleasant, it's medicine you can swallow. It gives the offense some continuity going into a hostile environment, and if nothing else, O'Korn should at least know the playbook and get the guys into position. Switching to Peters would be throwing the offense it's third signal caller in about a month, and would jeopardize any growth and cohesion that may exist for this unit. Plus, and I can't stress this enough, if/when you find a need to move back to O'Korn, you'll probably find a husk of a player who now won't even have confidence in himself or (I assume) from his teammates. I know we're getting into feelingsball territory, but "put in the guy who is demonstrably worse than the guy ahead of him" isn't a winning strategy, and Peters will be better served not getting his brains bashed in based on the sole expectation that he can't be worse than the starter (hint: He 100% can be).

I believe in Harbaugh as a QB guru; his record is largely unassailable on that front. But you can only do so much with the tools at your disposal, and his hands were tired the minute a Purdue player sat on Wilton Speight's neck. If the coaches truly believe the season is over and want to see Peters play QB against non-Michigan defenses, then go for it. But unless this has been the longest of long cons, I don't see Harbaugh having some ace up his sleeve. So until such time as a change is made, Michigan needs to run some type of a passing offense that John O'Korn can be semi-successful in, even if that means going against the tendencies of this staff.

Worst, Probably Not Ever But Getting There: Catching the Ball

Coming into this game, this is the charted receptions by the receivers on this team.

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Crawford 1   0/1 1/1     1/4   0/2  7/9 
Black       1   0/1 10/11 
Perry 1 0/1 1/1 3/3   1/3 4/4   12/12
DPJ 0/1 0/2     4 0/1 1/3 3/3 
Schoenle           1/1 1/1 
McDoom 1     1/2   3   3/4
Ways 1     1/1   2      2/2
Wheatley                   1/1  
McKeon 1       4/4           14/14   
Gentry   0/1       0/1   1/1 5/6 
Eubanks           1/1 1/1 
Bunting         1/1           1/1
Hill   0/1 1/1 0/1     0/2   1/1 0/1   
Poggi       0/1               1/2
Evans     1/1    1           2/2  
Isaac                  2/2
Higdon       2/2     1        3/3

Other than Perry, everyone who is capable of catching a pass has produced a single circus catch (out of 8 attempts), 5 tough catches (out of 9), and good percentage of routine catches. And in what is apropos for this team, that 1 circus catch was Crawford's disallowed TD against Florida. At this point, the receivers are what they are, and combined with issues at QB and on the offensive line, you are in for a lot of drive-killing drops and overthrows. But I think people sort of assume all of the passing issues are with the QB, and I don't necessarily see that. I know Brian didn't chart the OSU and FSU games formally, but here's the receiver's chart after the IU game last season.

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Darboh 3 0/1 1/1   18 3/10 4/7 37/40
Chesson 1 1/1 1/1   12 0/2 11/16 19/20
Perry   1/1 1/1   9 2/2 7/7
Peppers           1/2 2/2
Ways                 1/1
McDoom           1/1   3/3
Crawford         1/1   2/3
Harris       2   1/1 1/1
Butt 0/1   5 2/3 3/7 28/30
Bunting         1     2/2
Wheatley       1     1/1
Asiasi     0/1       0/1 2/2
Poggi               5/6
Hill     1/1   1 1/1 2/2 8/8
Smith     4 1/1 3/3 7/7
Isaac       1/1         1/1
Evans       1 0/1   5/5
Higdon         1      
McKeon                 2/2
Hirsch                 1/1

Yes, that's with two NFL receivers and Tight End, but sometimes your QB needs to be bailed out on a tough throw. Michigan hasn't gotten that at all this year. The tough catches aren't made AND a disturbing number of easy catches are also being botched. You can't have it both ways, and so it's why I cringed when Brian suggested they go 5-wide against MSU or people call for the offense to open it up more. To be able to run a high-octane offense, you need to have confidence that the routines plays will work as well. And right now, you might as well just consult a magic 8-ball before calling the play in. In this game DPJ was overthrown a bit on a bomb early on, Crawford couldn't come down with a highly-contested bomb in the 4th, and maybe there was one more deep ball in the mix. And unsurprising, none of them connected. And if the offense was otherwise consistent catching the ball, that would be troubling but acceptable. But McDoom dropped another pass this week, Perry let a ball bounce off his hands, a couple of other guys botched easy throws, and so on a day where O'Korn wasn't sacked and Michigan ran for about 6 yards a pop, they couldn't break 60 yards passing on 20 attempts. This offense doesn't want to nickel-and-dime it's way down the field, but unless the light comes on for a bunch of players that's their only option.

Worst: Happy One-Sided Flag Day

I will stipulate up front that a fair number of these penalties were procedural. There were multiple delays of games, too many men on the field, false starts, stuff like that. You don't pick up 16 penalties because of subjectivity. And Michigan is one of the more penalized teams in the country; even before this weekend they were averaging about 8 penalties a game. I take issue with the PI on Long in OT, the roughing-the-passer on Hurst, and whatever they called with the center on the last punt, but Michigan earned a bunch of their infractions in this game.

But what drove me crazy was that it didn't seem like the same whistle applied to IU. Yes, IU got a questionable PI that wiped out an interception, but it was basically the same type of contact that erased Hill's first pick as well. But Michigan came into this game ranked in the top 10 in terms of sacks per game, and yet for the second straight game nobody on IU's offensive line was called for a hold. This despite IU dropping back to pass 40+ times in this game, and Michigan still possessing a multitude of athletic, angry men. There were at least 2 times in this game when Ramsey was definitely in the tackle box and just threw the ball forward, a receiver in the same general zip code but certainly not with any real chance of being a viable target. The fact it went past the line of scrimmage is immaterial, and yet that seemed to be the sole factor. They also bungled both the Cobbs non-catch and his non-recovery of the onside kick (they at least ruled it initially out of bounds), ultimately getting it right only after length replays. I get the reception might have been iffy because of the contact in real time; there is no way that onside kick recovery looked good in real or slow motion. And the less said about a punt block where a guy throws his hands up as soon as the Michigan player ready to tackle for a loss goes flying forward, the better. And yes, fans of a team are always going to believe calls should have gone their way; I am not wholly objective in my analysis of this game or the officiating. But there were 15 combined penalties called in that first half, yet in the second there were 21 total. Now, maybe the coaches pep talked one of the youngest teams in college football to stop messing up, but Occam's razor leads me to believe the refs figured out they were being a bit too whistle-happy and tamped it down in the second half, which is sort of the antithesis of their job description.

Quick Hits:

  • Half of the top 10 have lost to unranked teams over the past 2 weeks. WSU was run off the field by a Cal team that had lost their last two games by a combined 63 points. OU lost at home as a 30-ish point favorite, then nearly blew a 20 point lead against Texas. Clemson lost to a middling Syracuse team even before their QB got hurt, Auburn somehow let LSU of all teams mount a 20-point comeback, and Washington scored 7 points against an ASU team that gave up 31 points to New Mexico State. Hell, MSU nearly blew a 20-point lead against Minnesota, a team that is 0-3 in conference play and had the 99th-ranked offense coming into the game. My point is that (other than Alabama), there really isn't a dominant team in the national title picture, and every team has their flaws. Michigan's is basically "offense", which is not particularly encouraging, but with a week of hindsight losing a game by 4 with a -5 turnover margin, in a rain storm, with a chance to steal it at the end should be tempered a bit.
  • Again, this is going to feel mean, but a key complaint I've had all year is that Kekoa Crawford's hands are suspect, so of course he was on the "hands" team on that onside kick and of course the ball deflected off his hands and was almost recovered. And if we had just paid attention...
  • I saw a number of people complain about Michigan throwing the ball in that second half after successfully picking up a couple of first downs on the ground. While I agree that you shouldn't deviate from a working system, Michigan's 3rd-down yardage bugaboo popped up again in this game (their average yardage to go for a first was almost 9 yards), and so if you can take advantage of a sagging defense on first down you should take that shot. The problem was O'Korn was by gawd going to throw that to Crawford, and it was nearly picked off. But play action exists to punish teams creeping up, and a better decision there is probably a TD.

    Next Week: PSU

    I know I'm in the minority, but beating PSU is probably the second-biggest "rivalry" win I want to see in a year. Every time I read some article about PSU fans wanting to save the reputation of Joe Pa despite ample evidence he overlooked child rape, or hear some announcer talk about PSU being able to "heal" from, again, the fair punishment handed down for harboring a sexual predator for over a decade, or see Trace McSorley swing his dumb little bat taunt, or James Franklin try not to come across as petty during an interview after beating Pitt, all I want to see is them lose a game like this. I'll cop to it being petty. But I also don't see PSU as a particularly good team. They are #2 because a bunch of teams ahead of them lost, not because they've looked particularly dominant. They're better than Michigan, but the difference isn't nearly as pronounced as you'd expect for a #2/#16 matchup would suggest, and their issues along the offensive line aren't likely to go away. It's going to be an uglier game than people think, and probably lower scoring than PSU would want. This feels like a game where if Michigan can keep PSU within reach, they can pull off the upset. But they'll have to survive PSU's initial assault. The hope I have is just like Michigan looked rusty after the 2-week layoff before MSU, PSU will have some issues getting going and, perhaps, Michigan can capitalize.



October 16th, 2017 at 12:33 AM ^

We can do to PSU what MSU did to M

Have a couple of trick plays to get a TD and lean on running game and defense to frustrate them. Arm punt Mcsorely will award an interception to hill and we can pull a slog upset in that God forsaken school stadium they call happy valley


October 16th, 2017 at 1:24 AM ^

only chance we have is to ...

Win the turn-over battle,...

Win yards rushing,...

Win time of possession...

...then we might have a chance to overcome the O'Korn factor


October 16th, 2017 at 4:00 AM ^

Okorn was not good but he was not nearly as bad as most make him ou to be.  Sure his lack of going through progression is annoying but his completion percentage is really misleading because of the drops every game, which also hurts his yardage stat line. I mean, 1/4 of his passes were dropped and he had another 2 or 3 throw aways. That leave 3 o4 four of the 20 that were on him. The swing pass was bad, his decision to go to crawford was not good because gentry was wide open and if he decides to throw it he needs to throw it farther and to the other hash. However, Crawford's arm was grabbed by Fant and pulled behind his back, which caused him to turn slightly as he was trying to get in position to jump and could really only get one arm up. To me, this was the most blatent PI of the day and it was not called. Then there was the pass to one of the TE that was broken up and gave the LB a chance at a diving difficult INT. The other pass that was not complete that i can remember was the first play of the fourth which had a horrible cameria angle and they did not do the replay of the play, but it looked like the defender got there early and Perry was pretty mad after the play.

So it was not good, but it was not nearly as bad as the stat line suggested. Infact, if the drops are caught it extends a few drines and probably give harbaugh more confidence to throw downfield in the fourth.

My biggest complaint from okorn this game was actually the delay of games, particularly the last one. That was a chunk play that had hill funneled to the safety that he could abuse.


October 16th, 2017 at 8:21 AM ^

has been at least as bad as most of the commentary describes. When his first read is consistantly the tightest throwing window available, rather than checking down to the second read, he's either foolishly attempting the throw or bailing on the play completely. After the Purdue performance, the last two games are all the more frustrating.


October 16th, 2017 at 9:49 AM ^

I recognize the optimism and sure, there were instances where it wasn't his fault for a variety of reasons (dropped balls, some contact, etc.).  Still, in his 3 starts John O'Korn has barely cracked 100 yards of offense and completed less than 50% of his passes.  And this continues a trend we saw the last time he played starter minutes at Houston.  I am sadly confident at this point that the innaccurate, scatter-shot gunslinger we've seen thus far at Michigan is the real John O'Korn, and maybe he kills Rutgers and Minnesota, but he seems to be a sub-standard QB against decent competition.


October 16th, 2017 at 12:54 PM ^

I am actually not far off of you with who O'Korn is. I was not really talking about you specifically when I mentioned people being to harsh. I was more talking about the people who are acting like he is the worse in college football. I watch way to much college football, and that is just not the case.

Although, I just really think looking at his completion percentage is not really a good way to judge him because of the drops. If the wr caught even 3 of the four drops on routine catches that gets him to 65% and I don't have the stats, but if you do the same in the msu game his percentage would be the same.

Basically, I agree with you on most things and am not saying he is were he needs to be. In fact, by the third during passing situations my hopes were the coaches call a play with the TE is the first read because that is the only type of pass play I have confidence that it will be completed at a high rate. However, despite his flaws he just has not gotten any help from the wr, which makes his completion percentage look like garbage, when he has actually a good bit more accurate than the 50% would lead you to believe.

Everyone Murders

October 16th, 2017 at 8:01 AM ^

As always, a good read - even after a win that doesn't feel all that great from a fan's perspective.  In addition to what BronxBlue wrote so well, these things popped out to me:

Worst - The Power of Proactive Bitching - Tom Allen was the whiniest beyatch of a head coach I've seen this year, often getting into the faces of the refs and the refs patiently entertaining said bitching.  Sure enough, within a play or two Michigan would get called for something.  I have mixed emotions about "working a ref" but Allen worked the refs like a rented mule.  And what burns is that it seemed to be an effort to good effect.

Best - Feature Back - I recognize that BronxBlue noted that Karan Higdon had established himself as a feature back, but he played lights out.  Without him, I think we lose this game, which ... holy shit, we were ranked #7 just over two weeks ago, and now Indiana is a threat to beat us?  But Higdon was reliable, powerful, and just shifty enough to generate yards after contact that we're just not getting from Isaac and Evans.  "Michigan Monday" last week had a brutal write-up on this topic, and what made it brutal is that it was all true.  That said, it's good to have a go-to guy, and Michigan has one.

Worst - You People - I mean, not all of you people.  Probably not even most of you people.  But the people that were decrying Harbaugh's decision to play Speight over O'Korn should be required to stand up and take a bow.  As BronxBlue correctly noted "as we've seen with O'Korn compared to Speight, the coaches are pretty accurate at ranking the QBs on the roster based on readiness".  I mean, it's a free country and all, so write or say whatever stupid shit you want about how Harbaugh should have played O'Korn over Speight, but maybe we should actually trust the guy who got the 49ers to the Super Bowl in part by developing and evaluating the QB position.

Best - Good Taste Leaving - For all of the frustration of this game, overtime was great fun.  IU seemingly had all the momentum, Tom Allen was hyped like the rabid ferret that is the Purdue DC, and the Hoosiers were about to end 30 years of frustration until they weren't.  Higdon's run was obviously coming, but well-executed.  A TD run right after IU's banner 4th Q, with most of the yards after contact?  Just fantastic.  And when IU had the ball 1st and goal from close in, Michigan stuffed the Hoosiers with ... wait for it ... agression.  It was a win with cruelty from the Hoosiers' perspective, and left me with some optimism that was sorely missing in the second half.


October 16th, 2017 at 8:16 AM ^

kind of suprising that Michigan received the sideline warning in this game, given Allen's antics. Did anybody happen to catch a glimpse of the infraction?


I agree with Bronx about Michigan against PSU. The best defense they've played is probably Indiana, who had better than mild success against the Nittany Lions. Michigan's D should have the ability to keep this game within reach, but nobody should be optimistic about the offense capitlizing on any opportunities. I think we're in store for a close game, but probably a loss. Get well soon, Wilt!


October 16th, 2017 at 9:57 AM ^

I've just come to accept that if Jim Harbaugh does something, it's considered an antic.  But if a coach on a middling team does the same, it's cheered.  Tom Allen was doing what a coach should do in those situations, but I could just have easily seen a ref throw a flag for excessive sideline annoyance or whatever they call it.  

I think I underplayed Higdon's role a bit, admittedly.  He was a stud all day, and I hope this is a turning point.  But we've seen him, Evans, and Isaac all looks great and then fall apart a week later, so I just don't want to get too excited.

I understand people being optimistic about O'Korn after the Purdue game, but I didn't understand the contingent that argued O'Korn somehow wasn't given an opportunity to show what he could do.  He's been at Michigan for 3 years now; the coaches have seen him in practice forever.  The fact he never beat out Speight highlights his limitations, and we've seen them.  I don't blame him for them, but that's the reality.  


October 16th, 2017 at 10:55 AM ^

I think it's pretty crazy that harbaugh has really never exposed on the refs all year. Every time they show him he is really calm, outside of when his players did something stupid. Yet, a few times this year coach have lost their minds and no one says anything. Then they still push this narrative about antics and ego. It's bazaar.


October 16th, 2017 at 10:03 AM ^

I think the bomb to Crawford should be mentioned under the officiating. Maybe since it was into double coverage it's never going to get called, but I thought the PI was pretty obvious, the DB was grabbing and pulling Crawford's arm behind him for almost the whole time the ball was in the air. If that arm was free I think he had a legit shot at catching the ball (although he really hasn't caught much this season)


October 16th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

I re-watched the game last night from the wd video, and looked at that play several times. I think he sold it very well. The pull turned him slightly in the route and his jump was really awkward looking because at first he could only get one arm up and when he finally ripped the arm free it looked clear he was being hold.
I agree that you can't expect to get much help from the refs when you throw into double coverage. Although, this is the rare time you should in my opinion.


October 16th, 2017 at 1:59 PM ^

I think there needs to be a distinction between a bracketed wr who is blanketed by both wr -- like when speight tried to hit black in the end zone a few weeks ago -- and when there is cushion between both dbs -- in this case the trail guy was around 8 yards or so back. Moreover, this is not a situation where there was contact happened because he throw into tight double coverage causing guys to bump into each other. Plays like that never get called.
However, it needs to be called when the coverage is not as tight and the DB pulls the wr arm back like he did well before the ball got there.
I played started at corner for 3 years in high school and would absolutely do what fant did if I thought I could not get to the ball and the wr was going to because 15 yards in pi is better than 35 or whatever that would have been. However, I would fully expect a pi in doing so.


October 16th, 2017 at 11:01 AM ^

Another thought: Giving Peters his first start in a night game at PSU at the helm of a struggling unit is a bad idea for his long term success.  It would likely damage his confidence and possibly start to breed bad habits.  With respect to Peters, O'Korn is serving in the role of the veteran NFL quarterback who plays so that a rookie doesn't have to be thrown to the wolves just yet.

EDIT: I also dislike PSU for the reasons you mention.  The notion that winning football games brings "healing" in a situation like this is just disgusting.  I've worked with survivors of sexual abuse, and...Jesus, that's a gross sentiment.  I want to see PSU fail more than any other program.  The OSU, MSU, and ND rivalries are just about football.  


October 16th, 2017 at 11:07 AM ^

FYI, Schoenle didn't play. I think that drop you are attributing to him was McCune. It just goes to show how bad our offense is that I can honestly say that our offense misses a walk-on, back-up wide receiver. I'd rather see him out there than Crawford.

He was also doing well on special teams, often being the first one down the field. Perhaps he gets there on the last punt and prevents the long return that sent the game to OT.

You Only Live Twice

October 16th, 2017 at 11:11 AM ^

The coaches say that Peters is not ready, which really should be the end of the conversation. Eventually when the coaches think he's ready, he will start, and fans who were calling for him to start all along will then say "see we told you he was ready."   We CFB fans be crazy.

Frustratingly, because of the drops and PIs you describe, I just wonder if O'Korn isn't thisclose to having significantly better stats.  If Speight needed time to develop the chemistry with the new receivers, O'Korn has had even less experience.  It killed me when Brock said "that was overthrown by 18 inches" - OK but Darboh or Chesson probably would have come down with the ball.  

Still, there was forward progress this week - zero fumbles and offense that, no matter how we pick it apart, scored points.  Running game starting to click as you described.  In a weird way.. a very weird way... Dantonio almost did us a favor.  The team weaknesses could no longer be glossed over.  Teams can sometimes improve more after a loss than after a win.

With you 1000% on Penn St.  


October 16th, 2017 at 2:27 PM ^

My brother is going to be in the category of people saying I told you so. I tell him all the time that he has better physical abilities than any qb on the team, but that does not really matter if you don't have a good grasp of the offense none of that matters.

I think your statement about losses being a better learning experience than a win is particularly true with young teams. Especially, when virtually every bounce went against them and they still had a shot to win. A young team playing bama early and getting destroyed, however... That may not help a young team lol


October 16th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^

I agree that PSU is ranked #2 because largely because teams ahead of them lost and I don't think their overall talent level (aside from Barkley) is at a #2 level, however they are a top 3 team by almost every metric:

S&P: #3
Sagarin: #3
Massey (composite of all computer rankings): #2

Michigan's D will prevent this game from becoming a blowout, but it would be a big surprise to see Michigan win.


October 16th, 2017 at 2:37 PM ^

I think if this young Offense can really turn the corner in the passing game Michigan will win and control the game throughout.
PSU oline has given up pressure alot still, and mcsorley play goes into the crapper when he gets pressure. I feel like he will be under duress all game again vs Michigan.
So, to me the key is the passing game because if there is any threat of the pass their def can't stack the box as much and I think we will wear them down.
That's a big if, though. I keep waiting for the "lights to go on" for the pass catchers causing the to concentrate more and at least stop with the routine drops, but it was not happened. But they are young, so I'm hopeful it comes together this year. Preferably this week.
I think you either need to get O'Korn out of the pocket on boot/waggle action, or have the TE as his main read more often because they are a mismatch and ate more consistent at this point.
That said, any outcome beside psu blowing the doors off, would not surprise me.


October 16th, 2017 at 12:00 PM ^


1. Karan. Hopefully the staff recognizes now that we need a feature back for continuity purposes.(Not to mention his our best RB) This isn't the NFL. We don't need backs to play every other series or only in speciality plays.

2. Coaching staff for going back to GAP run plays more often. These are kids. Put them in sceanrios that they do well with. Their confidence will go up.

3. OL...trending up. Still ways to go, but a marked improvement.

4. Despite the atoricious QB play and lack of a passing offense, this might have been the first game in which the offense begins to find an identity. And its in the run game with Karan Higdon. Only things that scares me is teams will really load the box and force JOK to make

I still think this offense is close to clicking to make them at least respectable. With our defense, if we can just muster 200 yards passing and keep opposing D's honest, we have a shot.


1. Penalties. Shocking from a Harbaugh team.

2. QB play.


Blue Durham

October 16th, 2017 at 12:00 PM ^

Regarding the QB situation, I completely agree:

1. Replacing O'Korn can indeed be much worse than O'Korn himself.

2. Peters is Michigan's future. If he isn't ready, I don't see any upside in putting him in. Why risk the team's future, particularly with this OL and protection problems. Michigan does not need another broken QB.

3. All experience isn't good; there is bad experience (see Gardner) that can wreck a QB mentally.

I see little upside putting Peters in over O'Korn, but a lot of potential downside.


October 16th, 2017 at 12:33 PM ^

This is now a one game season. If Michigan beats PSU (not likely, but possible), the East remains in play. If Michigan loses, then the East is no longer a possibility and it's probably time to turn to Peters against Rutgers although this depends on how well O'Korn plays. If he plays well, then I think you stick with O'Korn. If he plays poorly, then you go with Peters.

Having Peters make his first career start against a very good defense at night in Happy Valley is not a recipe for success.


October 16th, 2017 at 4:56 PM ^

Due to PSU OL issues and our front 7, one would expect a lot of dump offs to Barkely in order to get him on the edge one on one with a LB or CB. 

I'm optimistic that Coach Brown will devise a scheme that allows plently of pressure on McSorley, yet keeps Barkely in check when he gets to the edge. 


October 16th, 2017 at 5:45 PM ^

I love your analysis, for so many reasons.

  1. Who should play QB. It drives me absolutely crazy how Michigan fans criticized JH and Speight endlessly. First it was benc h Speight. Now it is "bench O'Korn." There was a reason O'Korn transferred, and a reason JH didn't play him. Speight was better. I strongly believe it would be disaster to put someone in ahead of O'Korn, as bad as O'Korn is. Why? Because O'Korn is better than Peters and McCaffrey, and you might destroy the Freshmen if they started now. It might work if you had a veteran OL and WR corps. We don't have that luxury.
  2. WR play. I keep on thinking back to when Darboh and Chesson were Freshmen. They didn't do very good. I thought to myself, thinking back to those days, there is no way our freshmen receivers this year are going to produce at the level everyone is predicting. And then Tariq Black got badly hurt. He was the one solid option on the field. Sigh. I put so much blame on the wide receivers not getting open. And that is partly because they're still learning.
  3. Hating PSU. It is amazing to see Harvey Weinstein receive his just and due punishment, and still see PSU fans giving JoePa a pass, instead of owning up to the awful things done by his staff. I want PSU to be destroyed, even more than I hate our natural rivals, OSU and MSU.
  4. OL turning the corner. This I'm not as sure of, but you may be right. They certainly are doing better with Ulizio not starting. Maybe JBB has had the light go on? They may be creating running lanes. I still think their pass protection isn't there, but maybe it improves?

To be honest, because of the OL, and secondarily, because of the QB, I have always felt that it wouldn't be until 2019 that Michigan really would be back. Yes, 2019, not 2018. I just think it takes forever to build a competent OL. I think 2018 we improve, and then by 2019, we are firing on all cylinders.

Last thing:  you mentioned that other than Alabama, virtually every other team is in the 2nd tier. I agree. Even moreso with Michigan. I am completely and utterly glad that Michigan will not be in the national championship narrative this year. Because we would be slaughtered. I don't know what the rest of the regular season holds. I'd love to see Michigan win out, although this seems impossible. However, I definitely wouldn't want to see Michigan face Alabama. Not yet.

At this point, I want to see every position group improve, every day, through the rest of the season. Play to win every game. (Duh.) Recruit, recruit, recruit. Get better next season, and better yet the season after. At that point, we could see Michigan playing like Alabama and OSU every single year. I am just hoping that everyone holds the course as we go through a lot of rough terrain to get to that point.


October 17th, 2017 at 12:46 AM ^

That 1.5 ypa number for O’Korn can’t be right. If he’s averaging 105 yards, he’d need 70 attempts per game to get 1.5 ypa. Maybe he has 70 total attempts (4.5 ypa?).