Best and Worst: MSU

Submitted by bronxblue on October 22nd, 2018 at 1:22 AM

Writing these after wins is a lot of fun!

Best: A History Lesson

For this week in "why I didn't watch the game in real-time", I was given tickets to see the Broadway hit musical Hamilton, and by chance the show was during the bulk of the MSU game. For those of you who don't know about the musical, it's basically the life story of Alexander Hamilton and his relationship with Aaron Burr, portrayed as a tortured, cantankerous genius and an empty suit, respectively. I don't know how historically accurate it is, though it did hold true to a clever ad campaign. But it was still thoroughly entertaining, in no small part because I got to see what Thomas Jefferson would look like in a bad-ass purple ensemble free-style rapping.


The biggest takeway I got from the story was that Hamilton was seemingly always destined for greatness due to sheer ability and force of will, but made just enough missteps to "keep it interesting." It's not a perfect analogy, but it felt a bit like watching Michigan football for the past, oh, 2 decades. Every success doesn't feel as fulfilling as it should because you know there should have been more, or been easier. Yes, the Hoke and Rich Rod years featured a ton of self-inflicted wounds, but even under Carr Michigan would trot out these world-beaters and then stub their toes on the way ot greatness. It got demoralizing after a while, and you started to wonder if this was the new normal.

But these past couple of weeks may be the turning point, when potential is realized and ghosts are put to rest. Michigan has beaten two of the better teams in this conference over the past decade by a combined score of 59-20. They've outgained them 839-377. Combined, those two teams threw for 115 yards at 29% completion percentage; Rutgers somehow went 2/17 last weekend and still aren't close to that level of futility. They had a couple of turnovers in this game during the nasty weather part but were otherwise ruthlessly efficient. They played like a team that, suddenly, controls it's destiny to making the college playoffs, and the road ahead just got a ton clearer as both PSU and OSU continue to struggle. It's not a given by any means that Michigan is going to coast into Indy, but after the bye they'll welcome a scuttling PSU team and then it's a couple tune-ups before heading to Columbus to face an OSU team that can't stop anyone or run the ball with any consistency. Michigan is playing like a team that isn't going to waste their shot at greatness, and that's great to see.

In this game, MSU tried all the tricks that previously had worked. They tried to mean-mug before the game, take shots during, and make excuses afterwards. None of it mattered, of course, because Michigan was the better team and played like it. This probably isn't a vintage MSU team, but I'm not sure those years are ever going to come back for them. It's no coincidence that MSU ascended when Michigan (and to a lesser extent PSU) fell off a bit. From 2007 to 2015, MSU was 75-31; since then, they're a much more pedestrian 29-17. Over that same frames, PSU went 69-33 and then 34-13, while Michigan was 55-46 and then 35-12. MSU's success never occurred in a vacuum, and as the traditional powers have risen they've suffered. Hell, even last year's 10-3 season was a bit of a mirage, a bunch of close wins coupled with crazy turnover luck in their marquee games. The fact they beat PSU last week is more a testament to how bad Franklin was at his job as anything MSU did; this week showed that if there's a gulf between the two programs, it's not what was written about to start the year. And while I don't expect MSU to just crumble away, since Harbaugh has arrived Michigan has been, what, 2-3 plays away from being 4-0 against the Spartans? If not for a 1-in-a-million punt he'd be 3-1 without question. And while recruiting isn't everything, it's a lot, and Michigan is seemingly back to where they were before last year's blip, while MSU is chugging along a step below. Michigan should have won this game by more, which is pretty telling in a 14-point win on the road. Again, a lot can change in a year, but the trajectory of these teams feels light-years different than it was a season ago, and Michigan's feels far more sustainable than I think a lot of fans expected.

Worst: Class Action

So Graham Couch, a flaming bag of hot takes in search of doorstep to sit on, was at it again after this game. This time, he took deep, pearl-clutching offense to Chase Winovich using the (admittedly EXTREMELY played out) little brother comment about MSU, talking about ownership of a rivalry, act like you've been there, and all the holier-than-thou bullshit that only applies AFTER a grown man comments on some shit-talking between college athletes.


And if that's the Omega to this stupidity, the Alpha was the insanity around the pre-game line walking in which a whole lot of MSU coaches, fans, and media types employed the Simpson's "If you get hit, it's your fault" defense for what was correctly noted is a "bush league" move by Mark Dantonio.


Honestly, nobody is really "classy" when it comes to sports; like "hustle" and "desire", it's all subjective BS that compensates for substance in whatever argument you're trying to make. But when you've not got much of substance to say, you fall back on these cliches because it'll elicit some partisan response. MSU walked across that field late, with Dantonio originally in front and well aware that a couple of Michigan players were stretching at the time. He probably knew, and undoubtedly was hoping for, some type of altercation to occur, because that's what colors rivalries that are otherwise largely based on proximity and familiarity - dumb, petty slights concocted by both sides to lay claim to the moral high ground atop a floating trash island. It's Mike Hart calling MSU an obnoxious younger brother, it's Dantonio calling him short, it's all the spikes in the ground, yanking of helmets, Glenn Winston and Jon Reschke, and everything else that surrounds what has been an 8-3 run by MSU in this series.

I personally find Mark Dantonio obnoxious and petty; any millionaire who takes it personally when college athletes make fun of each other is not going to be someone I'm paticularly fond of. MSU fans would say something reasonably analogous about Jim Harbaugh, and they wouldn't be completely off-base. But there are assholes on both sides, and let's remember that the vast majority of Michigan and Michigan State fans, alumni, and employees are good, honest people who are equally as "classy" as anyone else you'll meet in your travels. Yes, Larry Nassar happened at MSU with seemingly, um, limited contrition by certain key players, but while I'd argue there is some causal connection between the various transgressions across the MSU athletic department and the "indifference" toward accountability in the administration, those players on the field and their fans had nothing to do with it, and that would be true if the jerseys were flipped. And this isn't me sitting on a high horse; I will cop to inappropriately making the analogy like a whole lotta other people, and it was wrong.

But Michigan won this game because they were significantly better than MSU at football, and that's it. It's not karma, it's not righteous justice, it's nothing more than college coaches and athletes from Ann Arbor being better than their East Lansing counterparts, and while your mileage may vary on the antics that anteceded and proceeded it, trying to divine some morality from them is a foolish errand.

Best: Smart Numbers, Dumb Numbers, All the Numbers

One of the great debates in analyzing sports is the relative, well, relevance of certain statistics. Baseball is now basically math played between first and third base. Basketball has gone through numerous revolutions since it was invented as a less violent alternative to football, with the most recent one being the ascendance of the 3-pointer from "break in case of emergency" to "make the whole plane out of the black box". In football, the most recent inflection point occurred with a move away from running the ball the majority of the team to a more pass-heavy attack. And while some people you sorta knew wouldn't agree disagreed, it's generally accepted that "you gotta run the ball to win" has been replaced by "you have to be able to move the ball to win". And while in college you can have more diversity of viable offenses than, say, in the NFL, even run-happy outfits like Wisconsin and Iowa can and will air it out when necessary.

Of course, sports have always been based on numbers; it's the whole reason you play - to accumulate a different number than your opponent that makes the distinction meaningful. How we perceived games have been shaped by numbers for years, as the language around them has become flecked with terms like "S&P" and "VORP", "efficiency" and "probabilistic models". And what used to be cutting-edge statistics - yards per carry, time of possession - have been usurped by ever more illustrative and transformative metrics, and those shall likely be passed by the rise if bio-informatics and other, ever-more-precise tools.

But at it's core, what all these numbers are trying to do is figure out who played better, how they did it, and what it means going forward. To bring some method to the randomness of sport, or to paraphrase Bill Connelly to make some sense of a bunch of college kids trying to hold onto a pointy ball. And in this game, regardless of what number you looked at, Michigan deserved to win.

Michigan out-gained MSU 395-94 in total yardage, certainly the largest disparity by either team since Dantonio arrived at MSU and one of the largest in the rivalry's history. Michigan picked up 183 rushing yards against a unit that came into the game allowing under 63, and threw for another 212 yards (at 8.5 ypa), while MSU mustered only 15 yards on 23 carries and another 79 yards on 28 attempts in the air. Michigan held the ball for what must have felt like a millenia to MSU's defense, 41 minutes compared to about 19, and started at their own 31 versus the Spartans at their own 25, on average. UM was 8/18 on 3rd/4th down; MSU was a dismal 0/13. MSU's most successful offensive play was penalty; they got 5 first downs via the flag and only 6 total(!!!) via the pass or run. And despite facing 27 less plays on defense than MSU (79 to 51), Michigan had more sacks (4 to 2) and the same number of TFLs (7) as the Spartans, with more yards (32 to 24) lost for MSU. Hell, just looking at the drive chart tells 95% of the story in this game. About the only areas of the game where MSU did significantly better than Michigan were random (2 fumbles to 1 recovered) or damning with faint praise (MSU had 93 tackles to Michigan's 41, and had about 100 yards of extra punts). By any general metric, UM dominated this game.

But as we've seen, Michigan - Michigan State games don't always play by the rules of mother nature; Michigan State has a way to make good teams play dumb, and when you dig into the analytics a bit deeper you'll see how it all came about. But even here, the smart" numbers show that Michigan State truly, deeply deserved to be run off the field the way they were. Other than turnover luck, Michigan was the better team in every "deeper" facet of the game, culminating in a post-game win probability of 99%. And that's been a trend since Harbaugh arrived at Michigan as it pertains to MSU - Michigan has usually played "better" during the game, only for MSU to muck it up enough to pull a couple of upsets. On the one hand, it's infuriating to see chances for victory blown, but on the other hand these past couple of MSU wins have felt more like the ones I remember growing up. With few exceptions, MSU would win in squeakers, usually due to some memorable incident, while Michigan typically won comfortably. Since Harbaugh has arrived, the average score in this rivalry has been 22-18 UM, with about a 60 yardage gap for the Blue side (340 to 283). So when MSU fans talk about them "owning" this rivalry recently, they can thanks Rich Rod and Hoke for that. And it might be time to inform them that the tides seem to be shifting somewhat permanently back.

Best: Rain, Rain Went Away, MSU Forgot How to Play

Much was made about the weather before the game, and true to form it was your typical "October in Michigan" day where sun and hail were both in the forecast. And as everyone (including the announcers) noted, MSU played much better when the weather was it's worst, as their lone scoring "drive" came about because of a fumble inside the Michigan 10-yard line and then survived a trading of fumbles on the ensuing drive. I half-expected the cameras to cut to every Michigan fan in attendance just to see various permutations of this:


But unlike last year's game, the rain stopped and Michigan got back to smashing MSU to bits. Because unlike in years past, Michigan had an answer to the conditions. I didn't think Patterson had a particularly great day throwing the ball, but he was accurate enough when necessary and, more importantly, ran the read-option quite well. A couple of times he would pull the ball deep into the mesh point, taking advantage of MSU's aggressiveness and, frankly, Karan Higdon's and Ben Mason's ability all day to churn out 3-4 yards a carry against the MSU front 7. And then when he was asked to throw the ball, he was able to hit DPJ deep for the back-breaking TD and Grant Perry and Nico Collins on a couple of key balls that kept drives alive. Compare that to MSU, where Lewerke had the worst performance in decades and, injuries aside, hasn't looked particularly sharp all year (60% passing, 8:7 TD:INT ratio, 7 ypa). MSU hasn't been able to run the ball all year (125th nationally in yards per carry), and even with LJ Scott apparently discovering Uber and thus not getting caught with a driving infraction on his way to the game, MSU struggled to move the ball at all against Michigan. And while Graham Couch (there he is again, with his bag of takes) trying to compare this year's MSU defense to their 2013 unit, MSU never had much of an answer for UM in the air or on the ground, as Michigan had 84 yards on the ground at halftime and, when able to hold onto the ball, were capable of consistently moving up and down the field. MSU's rush defense always felt a bit of a fabrication, forged in the crucible of a half-dozen bad-to-terrible rush offenses and showing cracks whenever they ran into teams capable of providing even token resistance at the point of attack.


This is probably the millionth time I've said it already in this diary, but Michigan-Michigan State is a big rivalry, with a lot of bad blood on both sides. People got into a fight a couple of hours before the game started, and then multiple adults protected some grass in the center of the field because they were legitimately concerned that Devin Bush or some other Wolverine would come out and Rick James the logo. So I get that tensions were high. But I don't think I've ever seen 4 sets of off-setting personal foul penalties in a game, nor 8 unsportsmanlike penalties overall, like I did here. Some of them made sense; there were a couple of "guys throw jabs at each other after the play" and the like that are called, especially early on, so that the referees can hopefully quell future, heightened aggression. But at some point, guys were getting called for penalties for apparently flexing (as Bush was), stopping an MSU defender from tearing a guy's leg, and tackling MSU too hard.

That said, my biggest concern (that the refs would bail out Lewerke's terrible throws with PIs) never really materialized, much to the chagrin of MSU fans and with delicious irony to everyone else who had to watch their corners sit on receivers for a decade. In a game with an hour lightning delay, hail, and crazy rain, that was one act of the fates too many for MSU to expect to bail them out.

Best: The Defense

Lots of small points here, so will just list them.

  • Gary being out hasn't mattered much, as guys like Uche and Paye have slid in with minimal disruption to the overall ferocity of the defense. That's a great sign going forward, but if Michigan is going to truly compete for all the postseason possibilities ahead of them they'll need Gary back. Plus, the tackles were able to rotate through with Dwumfour and Solomon joining Kemp and Mone; to see those guys looking spry was a fantastic sign going forward. Though I'll admit that seeing both Uche and Paye slice into the backfield with some consistency opposite Winovich felt "right" in a way that hasn't happened consistently with Gary this year.
  • We take for granted that Devin Bush and Chase Winovich will be two of the best players on the field against whomever lines up on the other side, but in what is likely their last MSU game they both thoroughly dominated their matchups. Winovich had 3 QB hurries and probably a half-dozen more that went unrecorded, while Bush never let MSU's ground game even gasp for air.
  • Brian Lewerke absolutely looked out of sorts this game, and I'll buy he had an injury to his shoulder. Felton Davis was limited and then suffered a terrible ACL tear midway through the game. And MSU came into the game with some injuries at the skill positions. All of this is true. Still, any attempt to use them as an excuse for this historically poor passing performance unfairly ignores just how good the secondary was all day. MSU's receivers were blanketed all day, and with few exceptions they were rarely a threat to break even a moderate gain had the ball been on the mark. Hell, even some of MSU's completions were dubious, in particlar Heyward's one-handed snag that absolutely bounced on the turf as he came down with it. This was dominance at all three levels of the defense, and one that I honestly didn't expect in a game where MSU typically unleashes every trick in their bag.
  • After a 1-week hiatus, the referees apparently realized that holding was an option again, dinging MSU twice for the infraction. There is no rhyme or reason to it, but Michigan was the aggressor all day and it was nice to see them get a couple of calls because of it.
  • I don't know where to put this, but Felton Davis getting hurt is rough for anyone, and I feel terrible how it happened. Rivalries and all that, but I don't want anybody to get hurt in games like this. Hopefully he makes a full recovery and can keep playing in the NFL.

Best: The Offense (Mostly)

Same as above, with for the offense.

  • I was initially a little concerned that Michigan had to call two timeouts in the first quarter because their offens was out of sorts with the playcalls, but both times it was probably better to get everyone set instead of possible wasting a down on a bad play. The first time resulted in a nothing run by Higdon but the second was right before the weather delay and Michigan was able to pick up a first down and stay on schedule. In a game where Michigan was the better, more talented team, I'm fine with them not giving MSU a negative play or a turnover because someone had the call wrong.
  • Similarly, I wasn't as bothered as some when Patterson stayed reasonably conservative with the ball downfield. I know Klatt and others were calling for him to throw some 50/50 balls to Michigan's receivers, but like with Wisconsin I'd rather the offense not give MSU a short field with a bad turnover. And maybe I'm a luddite, but I am pragmatic about how effective it is to throw the ball up for a tall receiver; sometimes it works and it's a great club to have in your bag in a pinch, but guys like Collins and Gentry haven't quite shown that Hemingway-esque high-point ability. Frankly, my bigger issue was that Patterson failed to throw the ball away on a couple of plays moreso than throwing it downfield.
  • As for Patterson, he had an up-and-down game, but it's undeniable that he has a control over this offense such that it doesn't get bogged down like it has for long stretches under Harbaugh. That doesn't mean Michigan's offense is destroying guys every time they step on the field, only that they have averaged about 40 yards per drive this year, which is markedly improved over last year (I don't have the number handy but it was in the 20s, I believe) and a ton more big plays than in 2017. And as I sort of expected, he's comfortable running the ball when necessary and that has added a whole new wrinkle to the rush offense that wasn't there last season.
  • Higdon had another solid game; the fumble with Patterson looked like a combination of bad luck, nasty weather, and Higdon not quite getting his feet set as he came for the ball. It happens. Overall, though, he ran like a lead back should in a game like this, and was instrumental in helping Michigan to grind down MSU's defense in that second half. He had 33 yards on that 13-play, 84-yard TD drive to seal the game, and other than Tru Wilson giving him a breather for one play he was the only guy on the 7-minute drive that followed. Barring something insanely tragic, he's going to eclipse 1,000 yards in a week or two and be the first running back to do so at Michigan since Touissant. That's both depressing and encouraging, but let's focus on the latter.

Next Week: Bye!

I almost feel bad that the bye week came now; PSU tried to give the game away to IU and Michigan is rolling right now. But this will be a good break for Michigan's walk-wounded to get healthier. I don't think I'll have a column next week, but if I do it might simply be some fun stats and stories I've been tracking. Either way, my prediction for PSU is that James Franklin will continue to be the mediocre-at-best gameday coach he's been since he came to Happy Valley. PSU has enough talent to win any game, and are admittedly about a minute away from being undefeated on the year. Still, they rely so heavily on McSorley to carry their offense that he's clearly starting to scuttle a bit, and with an extra week to prepare it's hard not to expect Brown to throw a bunch of wrinkles at him. It'll be a tough game, but this weirdly always felt like the "easiest" of this three-game stretch, and I don't see that changing over next weekend.


Other Andrew

October 22nd, 2018 at 2:52 AM ^

Great work, BronxBlue!


re: stubbing toes - this is part and parcel of college football. Even Nick Saban’s Alabama teams only have one undefeated season.

Along those lines, Michigan left a ton of potential points on the field in these last two games. I am not complaining about that. On one hand, it shows that the ceiling is yet higher. But also if balls had bounced differently, there was the chance for either to have been one of “those” games.

This team is tough as nails and doesn’t turtle. Hopefully they can approach that ceiling in this last third of the season. Regardless, they’re a joy to watch.


October 22nd, 2018 at 2:56 PM ^

True about stubbing toes; going undefeated is always really difficult.  

I agree that Michigan has left some points on the field, but I also tend to believe what would be considered "51+%" balls gets over-inflated at times when people are reacting in the moment.  Like, during the broadcast the announcers kept talking about Patterson missing guys downfield, but then I look and it's usually a guy is zoned in by two guys or is so far downfield that it's not a simple pitch-and-catch.  And in a game where the other team can't do anything on their own, I'd rather not give them easy points.

Goggles Paisano

October 22nd, 2018 at 6:03 AM ^

I really hope all the national media have done their research on the pre-game dust up before taking to the mics this morning to bash Michigan and Bush.  I heard it yesterday from Luginbill and Barret Sellee, who obviously did not do their research.  That was disappointing.  

Nationally, Dantonio is not received as the smug prick that he is.  He is also considered a "great" coach even though his record since Harbaugh arrived is no so great bob.  Both nationally disappointing.  RR was the best thing to ever happen to MSU and those days are simply over.  They will go back to being a good program but will never achieve the success they had over the last decade.  

Thanks bb for a great monday morning read.   


October 22nd, 2018 at 3:14 PM ^

The local media used to pound the table telling people Dantonio was a disciplinarian, and it drove me insane.  He legit picked up Winston from county lockup to play against Michigan, then when the guy beat up someone else booted him from the team.  He's always been happy to look the other way, and this whole bullshit with the walk is yet another example of it.  It already looks like the national media is trying to make this a whataboutism argument, and my only hope is that if Harbaugh keeps pointing out how wrong Dantonio is it'll stick.

M Vader

October 22nd, 2018 at 8:13 AM ^

Regarding their rushing defense, I think its great they we about tripled the number of rush yards they usually give up.  Remember, it would have been 193 yards if we didn't victory formation twice to end the game.


October 22nd, 2018 at 8:56 AM ^

Michigan has an outstanding defense and I think Lewerke's injury, which you downplayed, made them look even better.  In previous years, I might have been concerned that the defense would become overconfident, but i don't think Don Brown will allow that to happen.  On offense, I hope Harbaugh develops his 'Inner Brohm" and gets a lot more aggressive and creative with his play calling.  Either way, a win over OSU would make this a really sweet season and maybe become a pivotal turning point in UofM's trajectory.   


October 22nd, 2018 at 3:46 PM ^

Absolutely would love to see the offense be a bit more creative; they might need to against PSU just because that's an offense that can move the ball.

As for Lewerke, he absolutely looked less than 100% in this game.  But it always feels very convenient after a bad loss to claim that he was injured last week (on his final drive he was 5/8 for 78 yards and generally looked fine throwing the ball), and so I question the efficacy.

Everyone Murders

October 22nd, 2018 at 9:22 AM ^

Fantastic write-up as usual.  I was able to go to the game, and observed a few other things:

  • Best - Fans Writ Large - Fans on both sides were relatively civil, with only a limited amount of bushwa given how hard a loss this was for a side that held us even for a quarter, and believed that a win was in their destiny after beating Penn State.  I was in a heavily-MSU area, and apart from one or two douches (including a guy next door to me who went from "confront the Michigan fan" douche to "now I'm the Michigan guy's best bud, and will explain the rivalry to him repeatedly while the game transpires" douche), the crowd was just fine.  And if I'm celebrating a touchdown and an MSU fan says "8-2" to me, that's fair game.  I expect to hear "7-3" next year, "6-4" the following year, and then "Michigan sucks" moving forward.  MSU earned those bragging rights, and should enjoy them while they last.  (Spoiler alert - they won't last long.)
  • Worst - Fans Writ Small - When one of our linemen went down late in the fourth quarter, I heard State fans cheering the injury and questioning the player's motives.  That was next-level stupid in addition to being classless (Michigan had no advantage to derive from stopping the clock for an injury).  Like BB, I felt bad for Davis and for their center when they got injured - it's a shame not all adults get this.
  • Best - Weather - The weather was not balmy, but nowhere near as bad as it looked on TV (other than during the mandatory pause).  The early part of the game was a tease of near-perfect autumn weather, and then we ran through rain, sleet, etc.  But Michigan came out of the pause with fire in their eyes, and took charge of a game where MSU seemed to be getting increasingly confident.  And Harbaugh/Pep did not turtle into Lloyd Carr off-tackle [left][right] plays - at least not often - against a good run defense.  They honed their game plan to the weather almost perfectly, making their appointed rounds notwithstanding rain, sleet, snow, etc.
  • Best - OSU and MSU Prospects - I was able to get to a TV to catch most of OSU v Purdue, and that was fun for obvious reasons.  It will be interesting next week, because I think that MSU stacks up well against the Boilermakers, who struck me as a slashing run team without a lot more.  So I would not be surprised to see MSU win next week, which would be funny because MSU still is not very good at the footballs.  And OSU looked really vulnerable to a lot of things that Michigan's offense does well.    


October 22nd, 2018 at 9:33 AM ^

Great Job and a great read. We did have a couple of lucky bounces going our way, both on throws. I know it is a cliche if I say we need to make our own luck and we did. The OL has done so much better and I wanted to see how they handle this game as MSU is very aggressive up front. We still were able to run up the gut. For me, the biggest takeaway that this rivalry has swung the other way is the line. We have done that well, if not for some bad luck, since Harbaugh has arrived. This year, with the way our tackles were at the beginning of the year, I was worried about this game. This OL has truly arrived and looking forward to future years of mashing people with more talent coming up. MSU can scheme, sell their souls for bad weather, find a great WR, senior laden team etc. If Michigan can continue to develop and deploy tanks, like M teams of the past or like Wisconsin, none of those would matter. M will continue to dominate in the trenches and it will be hard for MSU to match that with years to come. GO Blue!


October 22nd, 2018 at 4:25 PM ^

I agree about the improved line play.  That's been a big difference, along with MSU's drop in the quality of their defensive backfield.  When MSU was humming, they had multiple All Big 10 guys on their front line and in their defensive backfield, and now they barely can field 5 guys.

Eye of the Tiger

October 22nd, 2018 at 9:35 AM ^

Overall, lots to be happy about--especially (a) defensive dominance and (b) running for 183 on a team allowing 63 going into the game. 

My one complaint has to do with, what else, offensive play calling. Throwing short horizontal passes on first and second down worked early, both in terms of gaining yards and keeping MSU from keying in on run plays. But then we almost completely went away from it. I don't get it. Bubble screens, waggles, hitches, slants, quick outs, etc. I think if we'd executed just 5-6 more of these on non-obvious passing downs, the score would have been considerably more lopsided. 

Eye of the Tiger

October 22nd, 2018 at 9:35 AM ^

Overall, lots to be happy about--especially (a) defensive dominance and (b) running for 183 on a team allowing 63 going into the game. 

My one complaint has to do with, what else, offensive play calling. Throwing short horizontal passes on first and second down worked early, both in terms of gaining yards and keeping MSU from keying in on run plays. But then we almost completely went away from it. I don't get it. Bubble screens, waggles, hitches, slants, quick outs, etc. I think if we'd executed just 5-6 more of these on non-obvious passing downs, the score would have been considerably more lopsided. 


October 22nd, 2018 at 9:52 AM ^

Bronx, you and I share the over-arching dread about refs ruining our playoff chances. What do you think about my hypothesis that OSU losing to Purdue is even bigger than it looks because it definitely puts us in a much better path to the playoffs and it will be in B1G's best interest for UM to win in THE GAME (and hopefully will not assign a bunch of Ohio homers to ref the game). I am almost hopeful that we may get a fair shake. What do you think?


October 22nd, 2018 at 4:29 PM ^

I don't know if the refs will care all that much about UM getting to the playoffs, but refs are human and so if they keep seeing a team get beat the same way, they'll be biased to believe it should continue to happen.  In other words, if OSU can't defend anyone and can't run the ball, that'll leave them more and more open to pressure on passing downs and they'll struggle; maybe Michigan will get a hold or two out of the deal because of it. 


October 22nd, 2018 at 5:02 PM ^

That is not quite what I meant. I do not think the OSU loss will encourage a ref to call the game any differently. However, I do think that it would encourage B1G office to make sure they assign the most unbiased referees that they can find (especially someone not from Ohio or has ties to the OSU program). Just having unbiased referees for THE GAME probably is worth 4 to 7 points on our side. Let's face it, all Delaney cares about is the Benjamins and if it looks like Michigan is the only hope for the playoffs for B1G, I would think he will do what he can to help us out.


October 22nd, 2018 at 12:57 PM ^

A lot went into both wins the past two weeks, but in my mind the read option has been the single most effective add to this offense since all the way back to the Denard Days.

We have a bonifide Dual Threat QB!  That makes me happy.

901 P

October 22nd, 2018 at 4:08 PM ^

Great write-up! A few not-very-insightful comments from me:

--I had a chance to see Hamilton in Boston recently and enjoyed it. But I don't love your analogy--does this mean that Michigan is going to be offed by a former mentor at some point in the future?

--I was also thinking about Bart and Lisa as the best illustration of what happened before the game. And I have two kids, so I'm familiar with that dynamic.

--Your analysis of the rivalry was great. I can't get too animated about what happened--they were spoiling for a confrontation, and our guys were happy to give it to them. And your larger point is a good one--of course it gets heated, and we have every reason to want to lord it over MSU. But at the end of the day it is a football rivalry, and we probably shouldn't get TOO worked up about it.  I know the game was cathartic, but I've been a little surprised at exactly how exercised many commenters have been thus week.  We're definitely letting the hate flow through us, maybe a bit too much. 

Hope we can keep winning so the write-ups continue to be easy and enjoyable! 


October 23rd, 2018 at 6:02 PM ^

Darth Dantonio couldn't conjure up a victory this week, and a major reason was Patterson's play in both the passing and running game.  So, yes, he wasn't perfect, but, no, he didn't have an up-and-down game.  He had a very good game where he did what he was asked to do: not lose the game through turnovers.  In the passing game, he got lucky on a couple of deflections and should have thrown the ball away once or twice, but he was very good otherwise considering how wet and cold it was.  Good compared to most college QBs and his QB rating stacks up against all the other QBs except for Haskins whose in another world.  He's great, especially for a frosh, but it's also stratospheric because--imagine this--OSU can't run and he has great receivers. 

In the run game, the only mistake I saw him make was on the first drive when he didn't pull the ball from Higdon on the 3rd down.  Harbaugh pointed this out too.  Imagine a run-pass QB this effective in most Michigan offenses of yester years. National championships! 


October 24th, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

One question... how do we decide how far to go back in the series to look at who's doing better? Is it a lopsided 8-3 for MSU? Is it 2-1 for the good guys? Is it 9-8 for the good guys? 4-2 for MSU? Or, all time, 70-36-5 for UM?

Just curious, because it seems we hear a lot about how MSU has dominated UM in the media, among players and especially fans. How do you all handle those "we dominate you" MSU antics?



October 28th, 2018 at 11:03 PM ^

These are good write-ups, but I emphatically disagree that there's no connection between the players and fans at MSU and what's happened on campus.  Many, many of their fans have taken their cues from the campaign by their administration to cover up and dismiss legitimate issues.  Then you see what "zero tolerance" Mork and enabler Izzo have been allowed to paper over and it isn't a "wrong" observation, it's an apt one.  There are times to temper one's bias; when it comes to the filth that is MSU athletics and administration you can't shine a light on their hypocrisy enough.  Is it ironic that they refer to U of M as scum?


November 9th, 2018 at 1:02 PM ^

Love these write-ups, BronxBlue!  Always look forward to your measured takes after the game.  I'm pretty sure I've read every Best and Worst for the past few years and admit to checking the site every few minutes late sunday / early monday until the diary is finally up.  Just created an account so that I could throw this comment up (after many years lurking/reading and not posting).

So with the guilt trip out of the way - did I miss the Best and Worst for PSU or are you just taking a break from diary posting for a while?