Opponent Stock Report (and Self Analysis)

Submitted by alum96 on September 6th, 2015 at 4:54 PM

Preseason predictions are fraught with adventure.... and hard line views after 1 week are similarly difficult.  But egg on face is fun so let's have at it. 

I did season previews on most UM opponents - I skipped UNLV and Rutgers out of boredom, and OSU out of fear.  The rest are below

Earlier previews: 

First - a look back at Utah

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Here was my overall view:

It may seem strange that I fear BYU more than Utah but if this game was in Michigan Stadium and game 5 rather than 1 I'd feel like Michigan should be favored and not by a tiny amount.   Utah does all the small things right.  Utah is well coached.  Utah's kicking game is real good.  Utah is greater than the sum of the parts.  But UM matches up better with this type of offense than  BYU's offense.   A steady QB with a very good RB is the type of offense UM's defense should do "well" (not great but well) against.  As for Utah's defense, I don't expect fireworks from Michigan's run game early so I Rudock needs to carry the offense a bit early in the year.  This is the type of defense that he can do it against.  Baxter's impact will be interesting to see here as Utah has a heck of a kicking game.

First game for both teams.  Both teams should be a lot better later in the year and a lot of open questions for both teams.  Utah is a fun venue to play at, night game, both teams are going to be hyped, probably a messy first half.  Two very good coaches, Utah has our # of late  This is a good coin flip game that should go down to the wire in relatively low scoring fashion.


Generally I am happy with my views.  If we played Utah in game 5, and at home I'd feel like we could run the ball a bit more, and Rudock would not play like Devin Gardner's ghost.   Utah would be better too but I think UM would have more upside because of the new staff from top to bottom and lack of coaching in prior years that Utah players were getting.

Utah was indeed well coached, and did the small things right.  They didnt drop INTs as many teams do.  They play better as a group than the individual parts may show - it's a team full of 3 stars that competes like hell.  

Utah's punting was solid but field goal kicker ("best in the nation") derped.  So I was wrong on half of that but so was the entire nation.

I said a steady QB with a good RB is the type of offense UM's defense should do well against.  I said it would be a good not great performance by the D.  That generally held up.  The upside surprise was Wilson was a better runner than anticipated - the previews said he could run but he didn't show it much last year.  This year he did and he was a focus esp early as a runner.

I said I didn't expect fireworks early from UM's run offense - uhh, yeah that was on.  But it was even worse than I thought.  I said Rudock needed to carry the offense.  He did indeed need to as the run offense was lost at sea.  And until the last minute drive we had a grand total of 10 pts.  Not good.  Opportunities were there (Utah's pass D had holes) - they were not taken advantage of by Rudock.


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Here were my advantages v disadvantages

UM rush off v Utah rush def - Adv: Utah.  Michigan is meh running until proven otherwise.  I don't expect miracles in game 1 - hopefully by game 6-7 that running game is working well.  As for Utah if you have a spread option they can be run on - if you don't, it is difficult.

UM pass off v Utah pass def - Adv: Even.   The wildcard here is Utah pass rush and UM pass protect.  While I expect Utah to be well coached, the loss of both starting corners and 1 of this year's presumed starters SHOULD be an advantage to UM.  Especially if the OL can give Rudock time.   Can UM's OL figure out Utah's stunts?  Will Dimick be able to star without Orchard taking so much attention? 

Utah rush off v UM rush def - Adv: Even.  Strength on strength.  Very good RB vs in theory very good run defense.  How UM's newbie starting ends contain and play the run will be key.

Utah pass off v UM pass def - Adv: UM.   Senior QB who is efficient but not someone who is going to strife you all day with 1 proven possession receiver.  I'd expect a lot of passes to Booker out of the backfield.


I said Michigan has a meh running game until proven otherwise.  Unfortunately it was worse than meh.   I said the pass off would be a wash with Utah's pass D.  Well with 3 INT Utah's D won that battle despite Butt being what he thought he was and Darboh (save for a drop) playing well and looking dangerous.  Secondary receiving was suspect as Chesson was open a bit but didn't do much and Perry running a few bad routes.  But it should not have been that bad, that was a very not 2014 like Rudock who showed up.  8 less throwns and 2 less INTs and it would have been a very Rudock 2014 game.  But when you can't run you have to throw more - an issue that will hurt all year until improved.

I opined Utah's rush off vs UM's rush def was even - I'd call that close to correct.  We contained Booker well but flailed at the mobile QB as has been a UM tradition for 25 years.   I gave UM's pass D an advantage over Utah's pass off - it was probably even.  Wilson was better through the air than I thought esp in the 1st half but they did not strife us and the pass D was sufficient.  Main issue was the linebackers in space more than the secondary players - at least in that game.  Seeing Peppers whipped around by a freshman was troubling - the hope is that improves over time as he cannot just be a run destroyer or "pass to the flat" destroyer.

All in all it was as expected at the 40,000 foot view.  A team UM matched up with well and with their low octane offense a team UM could play close to.  But UM's passing offense made bad turnovers and the run offense was worse than expected.   On the other side of the ball the rush D was it's usual good self while there were some holes in the pass D but nothing that should have led to a loss.  Both teams had issues with field goal kicking - both punters were good.

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Looking ahead, and basing games on WHEN they are played and WHERE this was my general view on degree of difficulty for each opponent coming into the year.   And now my adjusted views (that will be adjusted again!) after week 2.

  Preseason Week 1
3 @PSU @Utah
4 @Utah @Minn
6 @Minn @PSU
7 Northwestern Northwestern
8 @Maryland @Maryland
9 Rutgers Rutgers
10 @Indiana @Indiana
11 Oregon State Oregon State

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Stock Up

  • Minn (+2) - I moved Minn up only partly on their performance but as much about other teams performances ahead of them (and injuries).  I am still not a believer in that offense and Mitch Leidner had a very Mitch Leidnery day but the defensive performance was impressive.  Usually 450 yards given up is not impressive but this is vs TCU.   Did Minn find a running back to replace Cobb in Rodney Smith (16 car, 88 yds) or is this just like Wisconsin where you can plug and play any running back (sigh).  We'll see in the coming weeks.  Minn, much like Utah, matches up well for UM to beat with a run based offense, that will keep it close... but Wilson >> Leidner.   If @Minn does indeed prove to be UM's 4th toughest opponent I expect a good W-L record.
  • Utah (+1) - By default.  Utah looks like what Utah always is.  Solid, tough, well coached, and not explosive on offense.


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Stock Flat

  • OSU - they have yet to play.  I don't care what the result is, with that coaching staff they will be revving on all cyilnders by November.  UM's linebackers - if they don't make large strides - are going to be strifed by the speed of OSU's skill players and UM's offense is going to struggle to score anywhere near the amount of points necessary to make this interesting if the run game is this impotent.  (Come back to us Drake Johnson)
  • MSU - If not for awful special teams that game would have started 27-0.  WMU has some very good skill players at QB, WR, and RB.  The RB was completely nullified - as usual when MSU plays.  The QB was under constant duress from MSU's front 7, and played great respective to that duress.  WMU basically ran Notre Dame's 2013 game plan - bomb away, and forget running.  Also Baylor's 2014 game plan.  There was some damage done in the second half but by then one can assume MSU mentally relaxed and was thinking of Ducks.   MSU's strengths do not align well with UM's.  Rudock might need to throw 70x that game.
  • BYU - If PSU had not been such a joke I'd probably have moved BYU down 1 slot due to the injury to all everything Taysom Hill.  It is huge and it removes the zombie apocalypse that is UM football - a top end mobile QB - from the equation.  BYU was what we thought they were - until the injury.  Scarily explosive on offense, good in rush defense, putrid in pass defense.  This is still a problem game for UM in terms of matchups IF their new QB continues to look decent.  We can't run well and BYU has a good rush defense.  So we need to throw.  Our back 7 is not the fastest and BYU can strife you through the air.  We do get an advantage in rush D vs their rush O, as Hill was their top rusher.   BYU also lost a key nose tackle which (in theory) helps Ben Braden look competent in a few weeks?  BYU plays Boise State and UCLA the next 2 weeks so let's watch how their new QB plays - while he is a "freshman" he was the 3rd overall QB in 2012 and was on a 2 year mission and looked like he had a cannon. 
  • Northwestern - Why you no move up Northwestern after beating Stanford impressively at home?  Hey man have you ever tried to beat Northwestern in that raucous Ryan field??  No seriously - let's see what Stanford is before we get giddy.  Kevin Hogan (remember that guy) looked worse than Jake Rudock with his 4.4 yards per attempt.  Talk about check down football.  Northwestern's rush defense was quite good and combined with Hogan sucking - well there you have it.  Northwestern is breaking in a new QB and he was... well Big 10ish.  50% completion rate and 4.4 yards per attempt.  Sad.  But his first game.  Justin Jackson was what Justin Jackson is - very very good.  But UM has a good rush defense so matches up well with Northwestern.
  • @Maryland, Rutgers, @Indiana, Oregon State - no reason to break these 4 out.  They all played teams you might see in the NCAA basketball tournament as a mid major once every 4-5 years.  Nothing much could be taken from these performances.  The one comment I will make is the top thing I stressed in the Maryland preview was DO NOT KICK TO WILL LIKELY!!!  What did Richmond do?  Kick to him.  Often.  He set a Big 10 record with 233 punt return yards (29.1 ave, with 1 TD).  Dear John Baxter, DO NOT KICK TO WILL LIKELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The other surprise in this game was Caleb Rowe did not win the job at QB; Perry Hill did.  And Hill was not that impressive despite the opponent.


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Stock Down

  • PSU (-3) - Coming into the year all PSU's OL had to do was make a UM 2013 to 2014 leap from putrid to meh.  That was not achieved in week 1.  PSU is the opposite of UM's current line - they can run block decently but can't pass block at all.  Hackenberg thus played awful as he looked like David Carr circa Houston Texans.  Shockingly bad - Andre Ware with the Detroit Lions bad.  While the Owls have a very good defense for a non P5 this was still a joke.  And the normally stout PSU defense looked like they threw in the towel in frustratin in the closing quarter.   The only saving grace for PSU is the next 5 games on their schedule which is full of tomato cans.  If they had a few real teams on there this season could have been over by week 4.  Again, we cannot read too much into week 1 and with the baby seals approaching on the schedule PSU's offense should improve but it's going to be really difficult to tell what PSU is until late October when they play a team sort of in their range like Maryland.



My fear for UM in 2015 is explosive offenses.   While the defense should be solid it still looks like a defense better equipped to deal with run based offenses than dynamic QBs, especially with our LB core.  Coming into the year the only teams I thought would have those offeses are OSU, MSU, and BYU.  PSU was a maybe IF the OL advanced.  That looks less likely after week 1.  And BYU just got a little less scary even if the new QB is good - he is still a drop back guy which is easier to prepare for then Hurricane Hill. Indiana is a friggin wildcard from week to week in terms of offense but their HS defense negates that fear factor a degree. 

All other offenses don't have much potential to blow the doors off anyone so UM can play the slug it out style it will be stuck with in 2015 and not worry about a team going ahead of them by 2+ TDs which might be a death knell unless we find a run game at some point.   Maryland was the one team I actually expected their QB to potentially be dangerous and cause UM problems but he didn't even win the job in week 1 but might win it back in week 2.  The rest of these QBs look incredibly meager.


Next Week

My view is Oregon State is the worst or 2nd worst Pac 12 team and is being served on a silver platter to UM.   They are going through an offensive transition that mimicks UM 2008 - going from pro style to spread concepts without spread players.  Their hastily put together class has a freshman QB dual threat they are going to throw out to UM.  It should be similar to what happened when Indiana tried that last year.  And Indiana and Oregon State's defenses probably won't be too dissimilar.   Oregon State stood head to head with a 2-10 FCS level team in week 1 thru the 3rd quarter before pulling ahead.  If UM does not show a competent offense in this one I'd be worried about a lot more M00N games the rest of the year.  I expect our defense to maul the Beavers and hold them to mid teens.



snarling wolverine

September 6th, 2015 at 5:40 PM ^

I think you've got to consider Northwestern's stock up.  They played a top 25 team and won solidly.  Hogan's not super-talented, but he is a three-year starter and NW's defense made him look terrible.  Meanwhile they ran the ball better than most teams against Stanford.

Now, Northwestern may falter later on - they are playing a freshman QB, so they'll probably take some lumps - but for the time being I'd have to say their stock is up.



September 6th, 2015 at 7:19 PM ^

Who do you move them ahead of on the list and why.

Are they more dangerous specifically to UM then the teams you put behind them?  Their defense looked solid, they have a good rb, and their QB is a newbie.   Where can you hurt UM?  Through the air.   So I still think PSU poses more danger unless we see Hack have 4 games in a row like yesterday's and he is completely PTSD. 

The NW game is in AA.  The PSU game is not.   And I think BYU also poses more danger to UM's weaknesses than NW as well.   We wont need to score 30 to beat NW I believe - we might to beat BYU.

But again you need to find a rationale to move NW aahead of someone else.  The rank is not in a vacuum but how tough it will be for UM to beat them.  It is not about NW v PSU. Or NW vs BYU.   Just like I dont want to overreact to PSU, I dont want to overreact to NW.


September 6th, 2015 at 9:02 PM ^

Stanford looked awful - players through coaches.  Shaw ran the ball twice in the 1st half on 3rd and 15+...not a draw mind you, but a designed run play.  And he punted from the NW 35-40 AND Stanford dropped at least 2 1st-half interceptions.  And Hogan looked a lot like Nick Sheridan in his play.  And Stanford had 9 new starters on defense - making NW look better.

I would guess that Stanford is WAYYYYY overrated at 21 (remember when M would get the courtesy #25 every year back in the day?).  I would take Utah -14 (at minimum) if they were to play in the next 2-3 weeks.  Furthermore, I would wager that Stanford is at best a 7 win team this year.  So NO I will have to see more before I believe NW is better than so-so.


September 6th, 2015 at 7:05 PM ^

Good stuff, thanks.

I'd move @PSU down below NW and maybe below @Turtles.

I'd also flip NW and BYU-TH.

But basically I agree. I'm still sticking with 8-4. Wins against the bottom 5 on that list plus @PSU gets us to 6 wins, then I saw we win 2 of NW, BYU, @Minn, MSU, OSU.


September 6th, 2015 at 7:24 PM ^

I have Maryland as a potential 5 win team this year so I cant put PSU below them.  Happy Valley is a much tougher venue than MD, and PSU's defense is way better.  Just don't kick to Likely!!

Overall - assuming we dont see that Jake rudock again I think this week (if it continues this way) really helped UM as 2 of the 4 most dangerous QBs on the schedule either got hurt or play behind PSU's still dysfunctional line.  So that moves teams who match up better with UM's defense up the ranking which opens up a potential extra win.

I do see UM's offense struggling vs PSU unless they have totally thrown in the towel by that point and quit on Franklin.


September 6th, 2015 at 8:35 PM ^

I hear you. Reasonable.

Totally agree that this week was a net positive for our schedule. Minny and NW look somewhat tougher, but Minny looked difficult anyway, and I'll take a more difficult NW at home in return for a drastically reduced threat in @PSU and BYU (not that I wish injury on Taysom Hill at all, I feel for the guy, I'm just noting that it makes our schedule easier).

Your last clause is what I think is going to happen: PSU is going to quit by then. I suppose since they'll consider us a Big Game they might get back up for that, but I think for the most part they will have quit by then.


September 6th, 2015 at 9:07 PM ^

Yes I dont see them quitting for us.  No one seems to quit for Michigan unfortunately - unless its Bobby Williams Spartans.  Even when we sucked we got up for OSU.  Michigan is their biggest home game this year. 

And I cannot stress enough how easy their schedule is in the next 5 weeks - Temple was their toughest opponent (Temple has a real defense).  They could be the worst 5-1 team out there in 5 weeks even with just modest improveement on off.

Sat, Sep 5 @ Temple L 10 - 27 Final
Sat, Sep 12 vs Buffalo   12:00 PM
Sat, Sep 19 vs Rutgers   8:00 PM
Sat, Sep 26
San Diego State
Sat, Oct 3
Sat, Oct 10
12:00 PM



September 6th, 2015 at 8:29 PM ^

This part I cannot agree with:

"Secondary receiving was suspect as Chesson was open a bit but didn't do much."

You're putting that on Chesson, for not doing much despite being open "a bit"?!? The guy gets 10 yards behind the Utah defense and Rudock does the one thing that won't result in a big play--overthrows him. Then Chesson does it AGAIN (ok, maybe not 10 yards, but still) and Rudock misses him again. Between these egregious misses Chesson catches a zillion bubble screens and shows toughness and quicks to get good yardage out of nearly every one.

Seriously, I don't know what people are expecting of him.


September 6th, 2015 at 9:04 PM ^

I wasnt picking on him per se - there was just little production outside of Butt and Darboh.  Part of that is on rudock - maybe a large part.  Chesson could have had a big play.   He ended up with 3 catches for 22 yds, with a long of 9.  I means thats fine but we didnt get much secondary receiving production which was the crux of that point.  I think Bunting had a catch and Perry a few and Cole had one. 

It was the Darboh and Butt show mostly and Butt is obviously not a wide out.


September 7th, 2015 at 6:59 PM ^

I think it was the first one (I believe it was in the endzone?), but Chesson could have caught that ball if he'd leapt for it or even fully extended himself. 

Its really unfortunate that Devin Funchess is not around this year. I think Harbaugh could get the best out of him in a way Hoke could not. 


September 6th, 2015 at 10:04 PM ^

I probably would have put Penn State around #8 or #9 before the season. I didn't watch their game but getting pwned by Temple tends to support that. So, that's the one team I think you are overrating.


September 7th, 2015 at 6:12 AM ^

I had Stanford going 5-7 going into the season. They still have probable losses to USC, Oregon, UCLA, ND, and Cal as well as tossups with Arizona and ASU. They could also drop a game among UW, WSU, OrSU, and CU. bottom line, NW's win over a ranked Stanford won't look like much by the end of the season.


September 7th, 2015 at 3:25 PM ^

I think Cal simply ran out of gas after a close loss to USC last year going into the Stanford game. I also think Cal has incrementally improved enough relative to the rest of the North division to reach the end of the season with a little more gas in the tank while Stanford has lost enough that they come into the home stretch in worse shape than last year. Cal's weakness is it's defense, but I don't think Stanford has the playmakers to exploit that weakness this year.


September 7th, 2015 at 3:25 PM ^

I think Cal simply ran out of gas after a close loss to USC last year going into the Stanford game. I also think Cal has incrementally improved enough relative to the rest of the North division to reach the end of the season with a little more gas in the tank while Stanford has lost enough that they come into the home stretch in worse shape than last year. Cal's weakness is it's defense, but I don't think Stanford has the playmakers to exploit that weakness this year.


September 7th, 2015 at 6:05 PM ^

Because Cal has a really good QB, Jared Goff, who is a potential 1st round pick. Meanwhile, Kevin Hogan is considered to be undraftable. I heard Green Bay threw away Ty Montgomery's tape because Hogan was so bad that they couldn't evaluate him properly. I suspect the Panthers did the same with Funchess

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September 7th, 2015 at 10:40 AM ^

Great read. Thank you. Looking forward to your next one. I like the ranking and your justifications in the comments sections for NW. I watched that game again and I have to agree with you. They need to show more as Stanford did not look good. However, I would not be surprised if you would be putting @PSU at the 10th spot in a few weeks. I don't think high of James Franklin and I will be very surprised if he can fix that OL. I didn't think they can get worse than last year and I just saw how in Week 1.

Explosive offenses - MSU does have a good OL and how much improvement our DL have by that game would be the key to deciding their explosive offense. I have reservations about Cook's able to carry them, if their Run is shut down. Cook is good, but I think he needs a decent running game. This is one team that can have an explosive offense with a non-running QB. The bad news is that I don't see any team that can challenge their OL until M. So, we wouldn't know if we would be able to stuff their runs. Time will tell.


September 9th, 2015 at 12:31 PM ^

Surprised you havent said anything about OSU (NTOSU) Freshman QB Seth Collins. Weber State caveats notwithstanding, he seems to be just the sort of explosive athlete that gives UM defenses the most trouble.


September 10th, 2015 at 1:57 AM ^

I've written elsewhere on the site I expect him to get 3-4 big runs during the game due to athletic ability and  then to look like a freshman in his 2nd game the rest of the game.  He will have less time and space vs UM then a lowly FCS team and the D will make some errors but  to me its one of the bottom 10 least talented P5 teams.  It is basically Indiana without the explosiveness aside from QB scrambling.


September 9th, 2015 at 12:39 PM ^

(a)  Lost MLB Nyeem Wartman to injury --- he is out for the season.  I had high hopes for him in 2015, in terms of replacing MLB Mike Hull, who was very good in 2014.  I don't think this is a fatal blow for the PSU defense, but it is a pretty tough loss.  The replacement on Saturday, Gary Wooten, did not look particularly good.

(b)  In the Temple/PSU game, one team made so many tackles-for-loss (TFL) that they led the entirety of D-1 football in that statistic.  It was NOT who you may think --- it was not the team that made 10 sacks.  Penn State had 15 TFLs and even with a bit of question mark at LB, this DL is very very good and running the ball will not vs. them will not be easy.


September 10th, 2015 at 2:02 AM ^

Every time someone says they struggled with rutgers or whomever, you have to remember they were a bad ref call away from upsetting OSU.  This is their one big home game (UM has not consistently won on the road in a decade) and the D is still stout.  It looked like they sort of threw in the towel in the 4th Q however.

That could be a M00P game as both offenses struggle to do much.  13-10ish.