This year in review, Hopes for next year.

Submitted by joeyb on November 18th, 2008 at 1:38 AM

Warning: Long post

So, one thing that a lot of us have noticed is that Michigan has had a tendency to give up big plays this season. Our defense has been pretty good until the 3rd and really long situations in which they implode or when they miss key tackles.

I wanted to go back and quantify what I have seen this season, so I started out by looking at the number of yards for the touchdowns scored this year against us. I found the following numbers for the season so far (if they are off, it is because I counted them in notepad)

18 rushes for

16 passes for

18 fgs (I didn't bother with yardage because it doesn't help prove my point)

What I found disheartening was that half of passing TDs against us are for 20+ yards and just under 1/3 are from the opponents' territory. While that isn't exactly where we would like it to be, that alone won't cause problems in our season.

So, I spent a couple hours on ESPN looking at the play by play to determine how many of those scoring drives contained 20+ yard plays or where they started in Michigan territory to set up the TDs and FGs. I am going to count assisted points as points in which they got a 20+ yard play or started in Michigan territory due to a fumble/int on the scoring drive. I am doing this based off of turnovers and long plays because those have been our weekness this year. Long returns, safeties, punt blocks, etc are not counted because I am assuming that they are more random than due to problems in our systems.

55 yard pass on 3rd and 19 to set up a 8 yard run
21 yard pass on 2nd and 16 to set up a field goal
39 yard pass on 3rd and 7 to set up a field goal
Int to start at MICH 37 to set up a 19 yard pass
Assisted: 19
Unassisted: 6

25 yard pass on 3rd and 5 to set up a field goal
39 yard pass on 3rd and 7 to set up a field goal
Assisted: 6
Unassisted: 0

Fumble at Michigan 11 to set up a 2 yard run
Fumble at Michigan 14 to set up a 10 yard pass
48 yard pass on 1st and 10
60 yard pass on 2nd and 8 to set up a 1 yard run
Fumble returned for TD
Assisted: 35
Unassisted: 0

46 yard rush on 3rd and 1 to set up a 5 yard run
20 yard pass on 2nd and 17 and
29 yard pass on 1st and 15 to set up a 22 yard pass
Fumble at Michigan 27 to set up a field goal
Fumble at Michigan 27 to set up a field goal
Assisted: 19
Unassisted: 6

46 yard pass on 3rd and 1 to set up a 6 yard run
57 yard pass
77 yard pass
21 yard pass on 2nd and 12 to set up a 2 yard run
50 yard rush on 3rd and 2 to set up a 1 yard run
Fumble at MICH 16 to set up a 2 yard run
Assisted: 42
Unassisted: 3

23 yard pass on 3rd and 13 to set up a field goal
Interception a MICH 40 to set up a field goal
Interception for TD
Assisted: 13
Unassisted: 0

PSU (Safety, blocked punt points not counted as assisted)
44 yard run
25 yard pass on 2nd and 7 and
21 yard rush on 1st and 10 to set up a 1 yard run
Fumble at MICH 19 to set up a 1 yard run
80 yard pass
Assisted: 21
Unassisted: 25

23 yard pass on 3rd and 16 to set up a 61 yard pass
64 yard rush on 1st and 10
44 yard pass on 3rd and 12 to set up a 4 yard pass
Interception at MICH 40 to set up a 7 yard pass
Assisted: 28
Unassisted: 7

Purdue (3-3-5 game, points from fake punt not counted)
23 yard pass on 1st and 10 to set up a 2 yard run
35 yard pass on 1st and 15 to set up a 7 yard pass
20 yard pass on 1st and 10 to set up a 28 yard pass
Assisted: 20
Unassisted: 28

26 yard rush on 3rd and 6 to set up a field goal
Assisted: 3
Unassisted: 3

21 yard rush
20 yard pass on 1st and 10 to set up a 17 yard pass
53 yard pass
Assisted: 21
Unassisted: 0

As you can see for yourself, only 3 teams managed to score touchdowns on us on drives that did not start in our own territory due to turnovers or long plays due to breakdowns in our defense. So far this season, only 78 points on such drives have been scored on us which is about 7 points per game.

I am not saying that those teams would not be able to score on us, but I am saying we handed over almost all of the points this season. If our defense were somewhat competent this season and we assume that teams only score half of the assisted points due to us holding them to field goals or them scoring half of the TDs (you can think about it however you want to), then the scores look something like this:

Utah 23-15 W
Miami (NTM) 16-3 W
ND 17-17 W (because we played better than them)
Wisconsin 27-15 W
Illinois 24-20 L
Toledo 10-6 W
PSU 35-17 L
MSU 21-21 L (because they played better than us)
Purdue 41-38 W
Minnesota 29-3 W
NW 14-10 W

I know this isn't the most scientific piece of evidence, but all of a sudden, those close losses become close wins, and those beat downs become close(r) losses. We would be 8-3(5-3), which is where I think a lot of us expected us to be at the end of the season.

Next season, with our offense having a full year of maturity and our OLine gelling a lot more than this year, I expect our turnover margin to be much closer to 0 and hopefully in our favor.

I am also hoping to see Graham, Martin, Campbell, Van Bergen, Ezeh, Mouton, Warren, Cissoko, Stevie Brown, Brandon Smith, and Woolfolk in a 4-2-5 so that we can hopefully try to minimize the long yardage plays.

*Speculation from here on out*
Looking to the schedule next year, I hope to see wins against Western and two other "cupcakes", a win against another blowhard ND team at home, a win against Indiana, and a win against MSU without Ringer to start the season. Considering the way this season has gone I may be entirely wrong, but I would bet that we make it to 6-0 next season. Possibly 5-1.

We then are at Iowa with a Senior Shonn Greene. With momentum from the 6-0 start, I expect a win here, but it is iffy. 7-0 or 5-2, I bet 7-0

We then have a Bye before hosting PSU. I think we might pull a win here because we are at home, JoePa will probably retire, and Clark will be gone. It could go either way. 8-0 or 5-3, I bet 7-1

Illinois. Juice Williams = Senior, Benn = Sophomore, Dufrene = 5th year senior, @Illinois. Loss. 8-1 or 5-4, I bet 7-2

Purdue at home, they will be rebuilding, revenge. Win. 9-1 or 6-4, I bet 8-2

Wisconsin, @wisconsin, revenge, still no quarterback and only a running game. Could go either way but most likely theirs. 10-1 or 6-5, I bet 8-3

OSU, @home, they graduate almost an entire team. Could go either way, but I bet in our favor. 11-1 or 6-6, I bet 9-3

So, anyway, I think next year we see some real improvement. I hope that they stick with the 4-2-5, and that improvements will limit the long yardage plays that have killed us this year. I also hope that our offense can play 4 quarters like they play in the first quarter of most of their games, but more importantly, I hope that we don't hand them the ball in the redzone. If all or most of these hopes come true then I think RR will have a lot more breathing room by the end of next year.



November 18th, 2008 at 1:53 AM ^

this sounds a little bit like those who were calling us to go anywhere from 9-3 to 12-0 this year. I hate to rain on your parade, but we'll likely be starting a true freshman QB and we'll still have a suspect offensive line that needs an experience and talent upgrade. I expect improvement on both sides of the ball, but we'd need to catch every break possible to get to a 10 win season. If I were offered 8-4 right now, I'd take it and get excited for 2010.

Kinda Blue

November 18th, 2008 at 11:52 AM ^

It's not like I think we'll be very good, but I am less worried about the O Line for next year than I am about the other problems.

The O Line has shown clear improvements and we will have several additions from the redshirts like O'Neil and Omameh. They are all coming back and will have a year of working together and will enter next year much better off than this year.

Unfortunately, while we take a step forward on O Line, we will take a step back on D-Line and will start all over with a QB that is hopefully more talented but is equally inexperienced QB as what we had at the start of this season.

I am one of those who wants to make sure RR gets time to get things going, but I agree that the QB situation he inherited when Mallet left has dug him a hole. By the time he has a Jr. QB he can rely on, it will be year four of his tenure.


November 18th, 2008 at 8:35 AM ^

If I were offered 6-6 I would take it right now. We are losing 5 of our best 6 defensive players (Graham will leave).

Plus, Threet has been hurt, which means that he is losing a lot in development time right now.

Love the optimism, but this team has about 1000 ifs to get any better at all.


November 18th, 2008 at 9:15 AM ^

you are borderline Pollyannish. We will be starting a frosh QB. No way the season starts out smooth. We have major talent deficit issues. There are no game changing stars on this team. No Braylon, Jake or Mr. Woodson. You will see this next week when UM's representation on the All Big Ten Team will be shockingly low. Other than Zoltan, UM may not have a first team ABT player for the first time in memory. Recruiting so far has been meh with no big stars on the horizon. There will be transfers and 4th year guys not coming back for their third year.

O$U will reload just like they did last time when Lauranitis was a frosh sensation. They are loaded. Just having TP behind a very good OL will make them Big 10 favorites in '09. They have the #1 recruiting class.

Nevertheless, your optimism is commendable. Wish I could share it.


November 18th, 2008 at 9:50 AM ^

All good new coaches (and despite some missteps this year, Rodriguez's record confirms that he is a good coach) take an enormous step forward in year two.

This year was worse than we expected when predicted on paper. I expect next years team to be better than we predict.


November 18th, 2008 at 10:24 AM ^

I think you guys are missing the point. The reason that this season went poorly is because we handed points to our opponents. Even with our offense being almost non-existent we played some pretty close games.

The point of showing where all the points came from was to demonstrate that if our defense can minimize breakdowns and we stop turning the ball over, we would have been a 9-3 team (or at least 6-6) this year and we should be next year as well, even with a freshman quarterback.

Our OLine has become leaps and bounds better since the beginning of the year and you can only imagine that it gets better with more practice together and with the redshirts getting merged. Plus, if the incoming freshmen can run and throw bubble screens, they should be able to run the offense about as effectively as Sheridan and Threet have. If they hold onto the ball next year, the talent on the team should be enough to scrape us by to a winning season.

The DLine will take a step back next year, but hopefully they won't be as bad as any of the other D groups next year. Our LBs will be a year more experienced, and our DBs will hopefully look better with Stevie Brown showing some skill lately, and some of the talented freshmen coming in. If the defense can stop letting 20+ yard plays happen, especially on 3rd and 10+, 15+, 20+ then we should have enough to make it to a decent bowl game.

Yes, I am optimistic, but it is not unfounded optimism. Look at the numbers above. Look at the weapons coming in next year. Look at what our schedule should be. Even if our offense plays like they did this year, if we fix those two problems, we should be fine next year.


November 18th, 2008 at 2:58 PM ^

no, i get the part about the points handed to other teams. but, while interesting, that is a very esoteric analysis.

in my mind the fact that we are losing so many players (and all the good ones) is just a far more important point. let us suppose, that as you say steve brown does improve. hey, he might, who knows? but that is only the first of about 8 huge issues we have to address on defense. SB must improve AND the linebackers much be much better AND we will have 4 new DL starters AND a new corner, etc.

improvement this year does not necessarily mean good for next year. sure, the OL is better. that doesnt mean they will turn into good in the offseason, but once again, even assuming they do there are LOTS of other big ifs.

i admire your optimism, i really do, im still just not seeing it.