Best and Worst: Rutgers

Submitted by bronxblue on October 30th, 2017 at 2:04 AM

Best, I Hope: The Peters Principle

I assume most people have heard of the Peter Principle, a theory that most commonly is applied to management, which states a person's advancement with an employer is based more on their current job qualifications than those required for the job they are being placed in. In other words, you don't stop moving up until you show you can't do the job you have, resulting in you "rising" to the level of your incompetence. Both the US and UK iterations of The Office have this as their underlying principle, embodied by Michael Scott/David Brent and their various follies as middle-managers. So on it's surface, this principle (along with it's spiritual brother principle Murphy's Law) dwells on the negative, the times when square pegs meet round holes, and everyone looks like a fool.

But the Peter Principle is, at its core, far more benign. It's not about finding failures as much as seeing how far something can go, about applying what works to new and demanding problems until the solution stops working, and only then trying something new, gaining knowledge of your limitations in the process. As a society, we lionize this process of trial-and-error, of using what you know and then growing and responding when that stops working. Whole industries are based on this approach. And in sports, particularly football, you see it most prominently when announcers say a team is "imposing it's will" on its opponent, running plays it knows will work and the opponent being unable to do anything to stop it. And as fans, when you see that happen, you are usually overtaken with awe/dread (depending on what side of the equation you're rooting for), but also surprise it didn't happen earlier, that they wasted plays/quarters/games doing something inferior. And in hindsight, the fact the team clung to something that wasn't working almost always seems a bit foolish, a waste of finite resources that now seems even more egregious compared to what is working now.

The thing about hindsight, though, is that it's lazy; it only shows up when it's too late for it to matter. People have been arguing for weeks that Brandon Peters should have replaced John O'Korn at QB, and after every ineffective, demoralizing, and emotionally-draining performance, this decision to stick with O'Korn seemed less and less logical. It wasn't that John O'Korn had played particularly well in any of those contests, but if the guy who couldn't be out this guy wasn't particularly good, what are the chances the guy who couldn't beat out him would be any better? And this wasn't an indictment of Peters's abilities as a football player, only the reality that a RS freshman might struggle behind a porous offensive line and (until recently) supported by an ineffective rushing attack, leaving him the crosshairs of a world of hurt with minimal payoff.

But after 4 offensive drives that featured two fumbles, a pick by O'Korn in which he significantly underthrew Gentry, and 13(!) yards on 3/6(!!) passing, any lingering notion that maybe, sorta it worked with O'Korn at QB was eradicated, and the Brandon Peters era commenced.

When a change at QB happens, you hear people talk about how a team's complexion and "attitude" changes with it, how when it goes well, the offense gets a new life and starts executing at a level previously unseen. Personally, I don't buy that as being a real phenomenon, since it presupposes that players give up on the starter and cover their diaries with odes to the boy on the bench. It applies a mens rea to what usually is just an atomic process; either the ball is there or it isn't, a pass gets completed or it doesn't. Petty grievances aside, most players just want the spot on the field to perform well, to keep this human Rube Goldberg machine moving along, and they'll do whatever it takes to make that happen regardless of the number on the jersey.

But when that spot on the field isn't performing, for whatever reason, and you replace it with a person who does, Brandon Peters's game against Rutgers is what you hope happens. Peters was both efficient (71% completion rate) and effective (8.9 ypa, 1 TD). He was a perfect 4/4 passing on third down, converting 3 and the other one leading to a missed Nordin FG. He played within himself, supplementing the dominant running game with easy passes to open receivers and, in what is sadly a notable achievement in the art of quarterbacking this year at Michigan, going through his progressions and finding the right receiver a couple of times. Basically, he didn't screw anything up. And yes, he got a little lucky his "I'm going to stare at the receiver the whole way near the goal line and then rocket the ball like Henry Rowengartner" was batted down instead of picked off, and against non-Rutgers defensive lines he probably won't be able to outrun tacklers until his receivers can break open to consistently, and his throws were consistently a bit behind his receivers, most notably the ball to Evans for the TD that could just have easily been batted down or even intercepted, but like we said when Speight was scuttling and O'Korn looked awesome against Purdue, the other guy couldn't even do this much, so stop complaining!

Now, if you can sense a "but" coming, then you read my column when O'Korn came in against Purdue and somehow overlooked my terrible Korn-based pun in the title. I'll get into it a bit more below, but we've seen this story play out before, and no matter how awesome your new square peg is, there are some round-ass holes here that you aren't going to fill in a year, holes left by poor recruiting, poorer player development, and poorest (?) bad luck. Brandon Peters looks like a upgrade over John O'Korn and Wilton Speight; the fact he's the third option, and the coaches were pretty reticent to bring him out until literally they had no other option, is as telling as however good he looked against Rutgers. So I want to hope that the coaches looked at what did and didn't work with Speight and O'Korn, recognize that this offense is only going to survive with a focus on running the ball and opportunistic passing that doesn't ask the QB to do more than make 2-3 reads, and continue that with Peters. He is now the present and future for this team at QB, and my hope is that the competence he showed at the position on Saturday translates going forward. Because while a conference title and a 10-win season are longshots this year, having some clarity about the guy who will be leading the charge the next couple of years is priceless.

Worst: Pumping the Brakes...Again

I'm going to crib a lot of my earlier comments when it came to O'Korn's great performance against Purdue and how, well, everybody should maybe take a step back before proclaiming it a repeatable performance. Against Purdue I noted:

And let it be noted that Purdue had, by far, the worst defense Michigan has played this year. Coming into the game, they had a defensive efficiency of 60th; Florida was 42nd, Cincy 29th, and Air Force at 21, and in the case of Florida, that number is a bit depressed because they had only played 2 teams (Michigan and Tennessee). Last year, Purdue's defense was ranked well into the 100's in both fancy stats and raw defensive numbers. It is not a good defense, even if they are more aggressive and (I'm assuming) getting coached up by whatever screaming ball of blood vessels and sunburn that was tromping along that sideline...This is a long-winded way of saying that some of Michigan's improvements offensively are opponent-dependent.

Well, Rutgers and Purdue are ranked 33rd and 34th, respectively, in defensive S&P ratings at the time I wrote this diary. Both are inexplicably decent at stopping the pass despite having sack rates in the 100s, and both are middling in terms of creating turnovers. But, and this is so weird to say when talking about either of these clubs, they are both competent enough against the pass that you can't totally discount both O'Korn's and Peters's performances against them out of hand. Given the context, both of them played very well against defenses that weren't the 2016 vintage we all expected. At the same time, I'd argue that neither opponent probably spent much time preparing for either guy at QB, and at least Minnesota has a frisky enough defense that Peters will be tested by a unit capable of game planning for him. Still, this is slightly more encouraging than I expected.

But this is the part that still scratches away at the back of my brain:

O'Korn still made some ill-advised decisions...Yes, Speight makes terrible decisions as well at times, but the line between a "gunslinger" and "reckless" is fine and unforgiving. The fact it worked out today makes no promises of similar results in the future; Speight looked like a world-beater at times last year and is now, to a vocal minority, a candidate to get a firm handshake at the end of the year or shot behind the barn, depending on your level of vitriol...But to me, barring additional information, this performance is exactly what you hope for out of your backup, but expecting it week-in/week-out, especially as teams have a chance to gameplan for a change at QB, seems optimistic.

Peters is probably a better all-around QB than O'Korn, and at least anecdotally one consistent theme throughout his recruitment and his time at Michigan has been a calmness, a consistency in his approach that you didn't hear as often about O'Korn. Peters absolutely can "explode spectacularly" on certain plays when he tries to do too much, but even in this game you saw a guy who tried to make the best throws available, not the best throws possible. It's probably cliche, but Peters took what was available, and if it meant balls toward the sidelines down and away, so be it. Other than one deep ball to DPJ he didn't try to really stretch the field vertically, and other than the aforementioned throw near the goal line he seemed to throw away from traffic whenever possible.

Still, this is a RS freshman who couldn't beat out Speight (understandable) and O'Korn (understandable if a bit less believable now), and even if he's the best version of a RS freshman he is still the third-best option the coaches felt they had this year; he's the "in case of emergency, break glass" option in 2017, and that means something significant and shouldn't be brushed aside with "he just needed a chance" or "maybe the coaches were wrong". Because (a) we heard the same types of things about O'Korn, and (b) it introduces a conundrum about the coaches. It either means these coaches were wrong about either 1 or both QBs before Peters, which brings into question their ability to accurately analyze QB play, OR it means they are right about the quality of QBs on the roster and Peters was sufficiently worse than both Speight and O'Korn that he was only given a chance at QB after their hands were pushed by some terrible games. Now, that doesn't mean Peters is doomed to weeks of terrible performances; a player can be slotted behind others for reasons well beyond talent, and it is certainly believable that after the loss to Penn State effectively eliminated Michigan from the conference race, the argument that "you can't ask a freshman to lead a championship contender" disappeared and with it, the last major hurdle to keeping Peters off the field.

Still, barring a change of events that would defy most rational analysis, Brandon Peters is not going to complete 70% of his passes and lead an offense on 5 straight scoring drives (I'm crediting Peters for getting Michigan into very makeable FG range for Nordin). That's totally fine, and if he's reasonably as efficient as he was in this game this team can beat anyone left on the schedule. But I just want to set expectations that the dude who replaced the dude who only replaced the other dude when that dude got hurt might have some (totally understandable) rocky outings in his future.

Best: The Best Nearly-300 Yard Drop Ever

Last year, Michigan went to Rutgers and dropped the equivalent of a Yokozuna on them rushing the ball; 605 yards at 8.8 ypc. In this game, Michigan took a massive step back from that performance, recording a mere...334 yards on the ground at 6.5 ypc. in 2016, they had 2 guys rush for over 100 yards and Isaac missed being the third by a single yard; this weekend, Evans didn't even crack 30 yards on the ground, though Khalid Hill did keep up his 1 carry-per-TD pace he showed last year's game with, now, 3 TDs on 3 carries for a total of 3 yards. If you went into this game hoping to see Michigan somehow put up a Patrick-Mahomes-vs-Oklahoma passing-type numbers on the ground, then you were severely disappointed.

Still, despite this bitter disappointment, Michigan had a pretty good day on the ground. Higdon and Isaac were dynamite running the ball, with Higdon having his second 150+ yard rushing game of the season and Isaac looking the part of the every-down back he was to start the year. Evans didn't run the ball much, but was effective when asked, and he also flashed the pass-catching component he brings to the offense with a great catch on an underthrown wheel route for Peters's first TD. That's a play that should have been in the playbook all year, and either it never worked or the coaches didn't feel like dialing it up, but after being on the receiving end of a LB chasing after a super-fast RB out of the backfield, it's nice to be on the right side of the ledger for once.

I know there was some discussion after last week's game that Michigan was bad at zone blocking, but I didn't see anything in the UFR that was all that definitive either way. They picked up one or two longer runs with either a pin-and-pull or Power O, but with so few meaningful carries and PSU not even considering paying lip service to the pass, but with enough One Guy Messing Up I'm not sure how much you can take from that game. This contest will be much more illustrative because Michigan was consistently able to gash Rutgers on a variety of runs, and with so many different backs, that we should get a better sense of which playcalls worked best and with which players. Unless game situations demand otherwise, these next couple of weeks should play out a lot like this game, with Michigan being content to bash their opponents backwards at 6 yards a pop and throw only when necessary or to take advantage of defenses cheating up.

Best: This Team Can Run Block; Ask Again Later About Pass Blocking

The good news is that Rutgers, a team that was one of the worst in the country at TFLs and sacks coming into the game, left largely at the same place; Michigan gave up only 5 TFLs (and really only the O'Korn fumble was more than a yard or two) and 0 sacks. For those of you scoffing at the tiny white flag I'm waving over such an accomplishment, remember that Purdue recorded 4 sacks and 8 TFLs against Michigan despite coming into the game with only 1 sack and 8 TFLs in the previous 3 games.

Michael Onwenu in particular looked great in run blocking; Matt Millen is an atrocious voice to hear for 3+ hours, but one of his view solid observations was how good Onwenu was executing his assignment and sticking with his blocks. He's been the best run blocker on this team for over a month, and I'd be amazed if he didn't grade out at that level again after this game. It's not coincidence that Michigan's current identity as Jerry Kill's Minnesota++ coincided with his his emergence as a road grater, and I don't see that changing much regardless of opponent.

The pass blocking remains a mystery. Yes, some of those sacks last week were on O'Korn not throwing the ball away despite there being reasonable options downfield. At the same time, Rutgers is not a team that is going to get after you, and there were times in this game where Peters was able to escape pressure that probably won't be as easily duplicated against better defensive ends. As I noted earlier, pass blocking remains the biggest hole on the team, and unless Michigan has a Khalil Tate hanging out in the locker room, you can only paper over that limitation so much with the current roster. And watching OSU completely man-handle PSU's line a week after Michigan struggled to do so, I'm not optimistic that we'll see massive improvement against better competition.

Worst: People Being Worried About Points

Rutgers scored on what felt like a near carbon-copy play of Barkley's first TD last game, a direct snap to Grant who cut against Michigan's aggressive slanting for a 65-yard TD. Bad angles were taken, LBers ran themselves out of the play, and there was probably a safety who took a bad angle. And they also scored on one of those drives where Rescigno suddenly couldn't miss (and his receivers pulled off 1-handed grabs under heavy duress), and Gus Edwards Sr. just smashed his way through the chest of Devin Bush for annoyingly-incremental gains all the way to the endzone. Those two drives amounted to virtually all of the yards Rutgers accumulated on the day; two 75-yard TD drives and 10 other drives that totaled 45 yards. Along the way Michigan picked up 5 sacks and 11 TFLs, consistently smothering anything resembling and offensive rhythm by Rutgers and, heck, even got a holding penalty called on the other team's offensive line, something that had happened in about a month.

And yet, I saw a number of people call the safeties "trash" and demanding sacrifice to appease their displeasure. I'm sure there will be a couple of plays where Kinnel and/or Metellus took a bad angle or missed a tackle, but I thought both bounced back pretty well after really rough games against PSU. Kinnel had the one-handed catch against him on Rutger's second scoring drive, and either him or Metellus overshot his spot on the Grant run, but not a lot of plays even got to them (4 tackles total), and Kinnel had a nice PBU to boot. I think the farther we get away from that PSU game, the more it will be clear that PSU was (a) an elite offense capable of exploiting even the tiniest sliver of space, and (b) Moorhead called a great game and found ways to put talented-but-young guys into tough spots in a way that most teams can't.

Rutgers is a demonstrably better team than last year, and yet Michigan still dominated them. It remains a young defense figuring itself out a bit, but if the defensive line can replicate what it did in this game (4.5 sacks, 7 TFLs), this team should start looking the part of the dominant defense there were basically before going to Happy Valley.

Best: Playing Himself Into the Draft

Hurst had another game that I hope the scouts paid attention to, because I think Brady Quinn was on to something. On the first play of the game, he just obliterated the poor Rutgers blocker tasked with stopping him and sacked Rescigno into oblivion. He controlled the line throughout the day, gumming up any attempt by Rutgers to mount a rushing attack and laying waste to anyone Rutgers threw at him. He finished second on the team in tackles on the day, and continued to be the anchor the rest of the defense revolved around.

And with Hurst dominating inside, both Gary and Winovich had solid games at the edges. Gary had one sack and probably should have had another; he got around the edge so quickly he couldn't quite square up to the QB. Still, he looked dominant and, and Winovich got back to harassing QBs with 1.5 sacks. Devin Bush also again unleashed, keeping plays from escaping to the edge and getting into the backfield with regularity. I now I've said this a lot already, but these next couple of weeks should be a nice reset for the defense as they get a chance to feast on offenses ill-equipped to handle them.

Berst?: Semi-Competent Officials

There were a total of 6 penalties called in this game for 45 yards. Compared to past weekends (and what we saw by the O'Neill crew in the OSU-PSU game later that night), this would be considered a solid outing. And yet, I thought the officiating was still wildly inconsistent. Michigan's 4th-down conversion by Higdon could best be described as a "charitable" spot; I thought he was short in real time and, even if on review you could argue he got just to the line, the certainty by which the refs initially spotted that ball felt a little premature. As for the fumble recovery on the punt, I honestly though Michigan had lost it. I didn't go back to rewatch the play beyond rewinding it in the moment, but that felt like another lucky break for Michigan as Rutgers had a bunch of guys in the vicinity. But sometimes judgment calls happen in games. What really got me was the number of missed holds by both teams. Yes, Michigan finally got a holding call go their way, but JBB blatantly held a couple of times and Rutgers at one point just started tackling Hurst as soon as the ball was snapped. I'm totally fine if proper penalties are called on Michigan as long as they are consistent; I'm less of a fan of swallowed whistles even if it benefits Michigan. As a referee, your job is to call the game as you see it, and too much or too little application of the rules has the same effect in my eyes; it forces players and teams to play differently and deal with uncertainty in how the game will be officiated.

Quick Hits:

  • Good lord Matt Millen needs to be moved out of the booth. He's this game he mentioned multiple times that a young Patrick Kugler loved to eat, said that both Michigan and Rutgers don't want to be in 3rd-and-15, and for some inexplicable reason started to sing during the broadcast. And I don't know, when your were the GM of the only 0-16 team in NFL history and your Wikipedia page includes a section about "controversies" that includes calling a former player a gay slur and another guy a derogatory term of the Polish, how much are you really bringing to the table that a Big Mouth Billy Bass couldn't?
  • I'll say this here: I think Michigan beats Wisconsin on the road. It's just...Wisconsin hasn't played anyone, and that can 100% hide your weaknesses but also diminish your strengths. And yet, for the second week in a row they were in a close-ish contest with a clearly inferior opponent well into the second half. And their offense is pretty one-dimensional; Hornibrook isn't going to beat anyone in the air, and while they are great running the ball it's the type of straight-ahead style Michigan is better equipped to handle than the types we saw by PSU and will by OSU. The next couple weeks might change that opinion, but right now that feels like a coin-flip game.
  • While I've not been a huge fan of the offensive playcalling this season, I do think the constant changes at QB have limited what the coaches can do. In this game, it wasn't that the team called noticeably different plays once Peters came in, only that their QB did a better job executing them and finding the right safety valves to keep plays going. I've harped on the fact these receivers struggle to get open against good coverage teams, and that's still a big issue. But I also get a sense that sometimes they are open and the passes just aren't being thrown. My hope is that Peters will be more inclined to do so, because there is a passing offense in this team that can do some damage if given time.
  • I am done with announcer and PBP people praising mediocre coaching. In this game it was constant references to Chris Ash having a team that wasn't the worst in the country somehow being on the upswing (maybe they are, but you sorta had to be after the last couple of years). In the PSU game, the Fox announcer kept praising the genius of James Franklin for "saving" a timeout before the half. To me, that was ludicrous. First off, had Franklin really planned on sneaking in a final possession of the half, he wouldn't have let the clock wind down 30 seconds after OSU's first play lost 7 yards. Then, when OSU was punting, he would have tried to actually block the kick and not set up for a non-existent return, in the process not punishing OSU for a bungled snap. And then finally, he would have actually gotten the team ready for that last drive and not, you know, taken a delay of game on the first play, then kneeling to run out of the clock. Sometimes people just do things because they don't think about it and it looks "smart" in the end because of context well beyond their control. But for whatever reason announcers are so starved for something new that they'll create these scenarios out of pure fiction.
  • This is beyond petty I know, but watching both MSU and PSU lose in such soul-destroying fashion was great. MSU has been playing with fire way too often this year, and PSU blowing a lead in part because their offense turtled a bit was fun TV, especially given how much praise Franklin has gotten for game management. Yes it means OSU is in the driver's seat again, but one step at a time.

Next Week

The Fleck Express arrives to town, and this will be a nice second game for Peters. Minnesota's defense is probably not quite as good as their top-25 ranking denotes, but they are definitely good enough to make Peters work for this yards, and it will be interesting to see how he handles some gameplanning. I still think Michigan wins comfortably, probably following the same formula they did this weekend. I just want to see a reasonably facsimile to this week against a similar opponent, because a little momentum and continuity on offense could really help with this closing stretch of winnable games.


Eye of the Tiger

October 30th, 2017 at 4:02 AM ^

After that bout of O'Korn fever, I'm going to wait to annoint Peters the savior of all that is holy until we see him play (a) a better defense and (b) a defense that has watched film of him. Minnesota fits that bill, more or less. (They are #23 in defensive S&P+, whereas Rutgers is #44). 

That said, it's a struggle because Peters did (a) go through progressions and (b) throw a reasonably accurate ball. Yes, that's a fairly low bar, but with our defense and an emergent running game, as well as steady improvement from the OL, that might be enough for us to upset Wisconsin. Emphasis on "might." If he does well against Minnesota's not-quite-Wisconsin defense, then I'll start to get more legitimately excited about Peters in 2017. 

I also subscribe to the theory that, all other things being equal, you're better off giving reps to the high ceiling "QB of the future" than the guy who's leaving, had one good game, and has since shown no indication he can pull a Rudock 2015. It may put us in a better position to win this year; it will almost certainly put us in a better position to win next year, as it gives him game reps and helps him build rapport with the large number of offensive players who will return next year. 

Which then makes me wonder...why didn't we see Peters earlier? Various theories:

  1. Peters just isn't that good (yet)
  2. Peters hasn't been as good in practice as O'Korn (the Joe Bolden effect)
  3. O'Korn was "good enough" until the second half against PSU
  4. Harbaugh didn't want to signal panic or emotionally shatter a young player by putting him in too early
  5. Harbaugh likes to stick it out with the QB once he's made a decision rather than have a controversy (which can create psychological issues for the QB)
  6. Harbaugh believes in seniority at the position
  7. Harbaugh is stubborn and/or made a mistake
  8. "McCaffrey is better and the REAL QB of the future so Harbaugh didn't want to play Peters now because..." and so forth. 

I'm not sure which one I believe. They are all at least somewhat plausible, though some feel more plausible than others. #8 doesn't feel very plausible at all, but I've seen message board speculation along those lines. I feel like it's more likely some combination of #2, #3 and #4. But I'm just guessing here. 



Eye of the Tiger

October 30th, 2017 at 5:21 AM ^

But it wouldn't be the first time a player was different in actual game situations. So much of being successful at this level is psychological--some players have a psychological edge and others can never quite live up to their potential because they panic or overthink things in a live fire situation, so to speak. 

Goggles Paisano

October 30th, 2017 at 6:21 AM ^

I have an opinion on why Peters had not played.  I base this on nothing concrete, but rather how it has played out over the last few weeks with JOK's subpar performances and the constant theme of Peters "is not ready".  I don't think Harbaugh is the type to give someone an opportunity without earning it.  We saw a fairly competent QB in Peters in the spring game.  From then on, my opinion is that Peters never really seized that opportunity to win the job.  He perhaps did not do the many things on and off the field that it takes to lead a team like Michigan.  Once Speight went down, his attitude may have changed and he may have taken the bulls by the horn so to speak to "earn" the opportunity he was given Saturday.  

We never really knew specifically what "he isn't ready" meant, so I have formed this opinion on it.  Giving someone an opportunity they don't earn seems very anti-Harbaugh as that can create a negative team culture that diminishes the meritocracy that now exists.  

Michigan Arrogance

October 30th, 2017 at 7:24 AM ^

I think it's a few things: 1) like Umbig11 has said, Peter's hasn't had the right attitude re: competing and feeling down in the dumps about being #3. Checking out a bit since the fall. In short, he just wasn't ready to be the starter in Aug and has done nothing since to chance that opinion in practice 2) naturally, this means his effort getting to know the D, scouting, and knowing the playbook hasne't been there (I think we saw evidence of that on the missed RB handoff). But that doesn't necessarily explain the sticking with JOK thru IU, PSU and RU in the 1st QTR. IMO, that leads me to 3) Harbaugh's philiosophy is to generally pick a guy and stick with him - b/c:

a) it shows his decisions aren't whims

b) it shows the players they they will get a real shot to show what thye have, not jsut a few mistakes and they are out - it shows trust and gives the player opportunity to grow. How does Peters feel now? I'll tell you: confident that he'll get his fair opportunity - he KNOWS he won't get pulled after one bad pick, has a bad series or even a bad game or two. He know JH has his back and will give him a fair shot to learn and grow from mistakes. He's not afraid of making them in game for fear he gets his only shot pulled out from under him.

c) this is especically important at QB b/c if you pull JOK in the middle of MSU or IU and Peters doesn't handle it well, who do you turn to? the 4th stringer Malzone? McCraffery LOL? do you go back to JOK who was just pulled? That's not exactly a way to instill confidence or trust in players.


I say this whole QB situation was masterful coaching of the higest level from a guy who knows what it takes to succeed at this level and beyond. He was given a shit sandwich and turned it into chicken soup. Maybe it's not the 5* chili we all were hoping for, but those expectations for this year went out the window with the injuries/youth of the offense.



October 30th, 2017 at 9:07 AM ^

Taking in the whole of comments about the QB's since Spring, it makes sense to me why Peters didn't get in until now.  Given suggestions that he wasn't being a leader, was too soft of voice, I could see him being placed at #3.  And both insiders and the coach himself have confirmed those traits in Peters from earlier in the year.

Moving forward, as the #3 QB, he isn't gonig to get enough snaps in practice to get the playbook down, to get any rythym, or feel, with the offense, or to get any timing with the WRs.  I can see where he simply wasn't ready when Speight got hurt.  From there, it probably took a couple of weeks to get up to speed.  And Harbaugh confirmed that in the post-game presser - saying they felt it was only a couple of weeks ago that he was ready.

A couple of weeks ago was IU - a game to close to bring in a shiny new freshman (RS, or not).  Then what - you bring him in against PSU?  Nope...  Rutgers was the logical place to insert the kid.  JOK's poor play forced the hand a little, but this is the game where BP was going to get his test drive because circumstances brought it here.

He played well, and we hope for better.  The schedule sets up nicely for him - UMinn at home; UMD on the road before the UW game.  Then OSU.  Couldn't ask for a better schedule to bring him along before any big, 'important' games.

You Only Live Twice

October 30th, 2017 at 1:35 PM ^

with the usual caveat - I don't know anything.

It's tempting to look at the whole progression as 'either or" instead of, well, a progression.

Brandon may well have been ready to play by PSU but no way would the coaching staff make that kind of mistake.  O'Korn earned the right to start against Rutgers, and when things were not going well... it was showtime.  No one on the team from O'Korn onwards would think the QB was not given his opportunity.  Harbaugh is a master of keeping the locker room faith and upholding principles of fairness as well as meritocracy.  I am really kind of blown away how well he finessed the timing and progression.  Great game to build confidence and cohesion and it was beautiful to witness.


October 30th, 2017 at 12:43 PM ^

My guess is #2 and a bit of #5 are the two biggest factors.  Switching out QBs is a massive shock to your offense; while you may be used to switching out linemen, WRs, RBs, etc., one of the few constants is at QB.  That's why I think you see coaches stick with sub-optimal QBs more times than not, because for the rest of the offense getting into a rhythm, knowing if/where the ball will be coming to them, getting the audibles right and reading the defense, all of that takes familiarity and that permeates the entire unit.  So I'm sure Harbaugh looked at O'Korn and figured "he's not better than Peters, but the cost of moving to Peters is going to be high, and we already paid that with Speight to O'Korn".  The fact this next stretch is quite winnable probably pushed Harbaugh to make another change, but I'm sure he's not crazy about it.

Other Andrew

October 30th, 2017 at 4:13 AM ^

Yeah, that was very bad. I was thinking "Who is this guy? He sounds like Matt Millen but older and somehow dumber." Time waits for no man... He would maybe be OK if he would just tone it down a bit. He sounds like he's trying too hard to be the show, but doesn't have the talent.

Swayze Howell Sheen

October 30th, 2017 at 6:18 AM ^

"Good lord Matt Millen needs to be moved out of the booth." Agreed 100x. Not sure why so many people seem to like him on this board.

This was tantalizing: "This is beyond petty I know, but watching"

What could it be?

"... MSU lose on an unnecessary prayer to the endzone was delightful."

"...Penn State choke away a game, and likely the Big Ten East title, made me smile."


Goggles Paisano

October 30th, 2017 at 6:28 AM ^

I'm one of those that is not annoyed by Millen.  There just isn't a lot of good color commentary guys out there that are better options.  We can go down the long list of color guys doing games every Saturday and there are a handful that most everyone likes.  Blackledge, Danielson, and Herbie are three of the biggest color guys and all three have plenty of haters.  Us CFB fans are a tough crowd.  



October 30th, 2017 at 9:54 AM ^

He's not bad. Some days he's better than others--I had the volume turned down pretty low on Saturday, though, so I wasn't paying much attention to either of the guys in the broadcast booth.

My tolerance for Millen is more of a reflection of how many shitty color guys there are in broadcasting these days, though. 


October 30th, 2017 at 12:50 PM ^

I really miss Spielman.  I had issues with him, but he usually made cogent remarks that helped to bring the reader into the game.  My issue with Millen is that he could be better and he isn't more times than not.  There was a game a year or two ago where he was just incredibly on point and was pointing out places where the backs took a bad angle or a linebacker flowed to the spot properly.  But in this game, he was just terrible and it was so tiring to listen.


October 30th, 2017 at 7:58 AM ^

Sure, Peters is almost certainly not the savior this year.  Why go on about it?   We all know it.  One game does not a career make.

 But watching  a RS Freshman struggle is different from watching a 5th year senior struggle.  The RS Freshman has a chance to grow for the next three years.

 As far as actual performance, what stood out to me was that Peters tried to throw more balls with touch, that is, less zip.  His throw to Evans on the wheel route was a 6/10, but it was a touch pass.  I don't remember OK or Speight for that matter, attempting many of those throws.  

Go Blue!!


October 30th, 2017 at 8:39 AM ^

The touch stuff is dead on. He had a pass to Schoenle, I think, with the same loft.

My point for harping on not reading too much into a single performance is twofold. One, we've already seen people react to one of these games this season, and it led to unnecessary consternation. The other part is that I see how people react when outsized expectations aren't met, and while you can do relatively limited damage to a 5th year senior, you can do quite a bit more for a RS freshman. Expecting him to play this way again is fine, but I just want to see expectations that he might not met as crisp going forward. And yeah, these are all words and he can just ignore it, but we've also seen that the fans will overreacting both online and in person and how demoralizing that can be.


October 30th, 2017 at 9:20 AM ^

I certainly have no more concrete information than others regarding Harbaugh's decision to stick with O'Korn until it was crystal clear he wasn't getting the job done, but FWIW I think Peters' inexperience was the biggest factor. If he also had a poor attitude about being third string and/or didn't practice well that would have sealed the deal--but wasn't required for him to sit. Yes he's been the program for a year and a half but he has essentially no college game experience. There's no way he was going to play in front two experienced upper classmen unless he was a 5* world beater type talent. So while I do think Harbaugh is stubborn, and loyal, and perhaps more conservative than other coaches wrt who starts at QB, his offense is complex and Peters simply wasn't ready. After the blowout at PSU and the awful 1st qtr on Saturday, however, "it was time." I don't think Peters would have faired much better against MSU (big stage, bad weather) or PSU (big stage/national TV, road game) than O'Korn. But he's clearly our best bet for the rest of this season and perhaps beyond. I just hope he's up for the challenge of learning on the fly.


October 30th, 2017 at 12:52 PM ^

I think it all depends on Wisconsin the week before.  If Peters wins (or at least plays well), I don't think you make a change.  But if he struggles against a similarly-elite defense and Speight looks good enough in practice, I could see a move to Speight or, at the very least, a shorter leash.  Not saying that's the best option long-term, but people throwing dirt on Speight's grave may be a bit premature.


October 30th, 2017 at 9:57 AM ^

What galls me more than anything is that last year Michigan destroyed PSU in Ann Arbor, yet somehow those guys parlayed a home upset of OSU into a magic unicorns farting rainbows B1G Championship. This year Penn State destroys Michigan in Happy Valley, and even with a home upset of Ohio State, Michigan has no chance, practically speaking, of doing the same.
It comes down to that never sufficiently to be damned game against Sparty. I lack the vocabulary to describe how much and how comprehensively I want to see that team beaten up for the next few years. What OSU has done to us since hiring Tressel would be a start.

UM Griff

October 30th, 2017 at 10:00 AM ^

It was great to watch MSU and PSU go down in the fashion that they did. Both teams have been coasting on a bit of a lucky streak, and were exposed by better competitors.

Like everyone else, I am happy to see BP play so well for us. I am cautiously optimistic that we can win our next three games.


October 30th, 2017 at 10:14 AM ^

"When a change at QB happens, you hear people talk about how a team's complexion and "attitude" changes with it, how when it goes well, the offense gets a new life and starts executing at a level previously unseen. Personally, I don't buy that as being a real phenomenon, since it presupposes that players give up on the starter and cover their diaries with odes to the boy on the bench."


There's a good explanation for this: mean reversion. Teams don't change quarterbacks when their quarterback is playing well. They change them when the quarterback is playing poorly. Now obviously, the poor play isn't usually completely random. It's not like JOK was playing well for weeks, had a couple bad series, and then was yanked for Peters. But at the same time, it's not like JOK has been routinely dropping snaps. And his first drive suffered a subsitution penalty that probably wasn't his fault either. In other words, there were some fairly random reasons for the offense's early struggles, things that were unlikely to continue going forward.

It's highly likely that the offense would have improved even if JOK had stayed in the game. Improved to the level that it did with Peters? Probably not. But my guess is that most of the "new energy" and "attitude" junk that you hear about on TV when a new QB enters the game has to do with two factors: the crowd gettting excited that the most popular player on the team is getting his shot FINALLY and simple mean reversion, the realization of improvements that would have largely occurred by chance had no change been made.


October 30th, 2017 at 12:56 PM ^

I largely agree.  Peters did seem willing to make the simple throws O'Korn wasn't, and some of that probably does come from a different confidence level.  But it's similar to O'Korn coming in against Purdue for Speight; I think Speight turns in a good performance the longer that game goes on as well, since Purdue's defense looked noticeably worse once their offense coudn't stay on the field.

You Only Live Twice

October 30th, 2017 at 1:48 PM ^

Can never go wrong with a Monday morning Office clip!

Also, I'm always interested in reading your Ref assessments, as I don't trust my own objectivity.  

It seemed overall, they didn't call, about the same number of holds on both sides.  And I might not be piecing this together correctly - after a blatant hold or two on Rashan Gary, Rutgers did it a lot less after being called for it.



October 30th, 2017 at 3:24 PM ^

The one thing I haven't seen with all the talk of Peters vs. O'Korn is that it's a lot more reasonable if Peters is bad to still be playing him, because he's an investment in the future. JOK is a fifth-year senior. Every snap with him in both practice and game time is lost going into next season; that's not true for Peters, who'll be back on campus barring something going spectacularly wrong. I don't expect Brandon Peters to turn into senior Tom Brady for the rest of the season, but I do expect him to be at least marginally better than Steven Threet level, which Peters was only occasionally (and not since Purdue). Additionally, when he makes a mistake, you hope he learns from it and grows, alongside the rest of this very young team.


In other words, if Peters gets worse, that's OK. We know he's not going to be a world-beater, yet. We hope that he can learn and grow from it and that next year, we're going to be better for it. John O'Korn wasn't ever going to make us better last year, and the point at which it was clear that this season wasn't likely to amount to silverware, replacing him with a guy who's got as good a chance to start next year as anyone made all the sense in the world.


October 30th, 2017 at 5:04 PM ^

On the pass to Evans, it seemed as if Peters knew that all he had to do was throw it far enough that the LB could not defend it in order to get a TD.  In a situation like that, trying to make a perfect pass can lead to an overthrow, something we have seen too many times in the last couple of years.  It was nice to see a pass that was far enough to eliminate the LB's ability to defend it but short enough to be certain that Evans would have a chance to catch it!


October 30th, 2017 at 5:34 PM ^

I agree 100%.

Based off of what we've seen this year:

2017 Speight probably overthrows Evans, as the ball sails to the back pylon or just straight OOB.

2017 JOK probably doesn't even make that throw, and instead bails out of the pocket in hopes of Evans coming back to the QB to get open.

Peters was confident, threw a catachable ball, and Evans made a great play. If either of Speight/JOK would've given DPJ a chance on any of the deep balls this year... 


November 1st, 2017 at 7:33 AM ^

It's easy to take for granted the many high-quality pieces that we see here, and I just wanted to say how much I enjoy (and look forward to) reading Best and Worst.

Possibly the best of them all, IMO.



November 3rd, 2017 at 11:33 AM ^

Also think Peters is just very different then Harbaugh.  Harbaugh has always been a confident extrovert... and he is now dealing with potentially a vastly different personality behind center then he has before.  Not sure how much this would affect Harb's decision making but may be something to consider.

My favorite Peters quality is his calmness.  He really seems so even keeled - and that bodes well for our seemingly endless struggles in road environments.