Further evidence the season boils down to the o-line and rushing ability

Submitted by MGoStrength on July 11th, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Just saw an interesting article on ESPN Wolverine Nation about the 4 criteria that makes up the average B1G champion.  The criteria are 1) top 40 scoring defense, 2) top 30 rush defense, 3) control the turnover battle and the clock, and 4) rank in the top 30 of rush offense. Basically they are saying the B1G champ all boils down to running the ball and defense. ESPN seems to think Michigan either is on the fence or meets all of those except the last one.  I think most of us are pretty confident that this year's team will be fairly stout on defense, that there are enough skill players on offense, yet we are all concerned that the o-line will be competent enough to get an adaquate running game going.  Do you buy this criteria?






July 11th, 2014 at 9:42 AM ^

I'm buying it. Right? Am I right? Guys???


But seriously, and I mean this with no disrespect to the initial poster, that is more or less common sense. Control the game and win. How does one control the game? See above.

Monocle Smile

July 11th, 2014 at 10:15 AM ^

Stanford seems to just have Oregon's number, which does happen between teams. They try to keep Oregon's offense off the field and they get jacked up on defense for that game, it seems.

This list is rather Big Ten-centric and would probably mean much more in the '90s. Today, defenses that can lock down opponents consistently for entire games are very, very rare. It's not enough to rely purely on a smothering defense and then eke out just enough points to pull out a victory.

I think there's also an intangible at play here. Rushing well and often wears down the opposing defense and is demoralizing over the course of the game.


July 11th, 2014 at 11:38 AM ^

There's more than one way to skin a cat so to speak.  And, I think you're right that things seem to be trending less and less to run the football, own time of possession, and play great defense.  There's more and more spread football which makes it harder and harder to shut down your opponent.  That being said, teams like Bama and Stanford still pretty much do this and are hard to beat.  


Ultimately you can control the clock in a way by scoring a lot.  But, I get the sense that controlling the clock was more about controlling time of possession.  In that way Oregon is acutally fighting aginst it by trying hurry up, whereas other teams are trying to use up the clock to control it and wear out the opponents defense.  You can win either way...simply score more often than your oppenent and do so quickly like Oregon does it.  You don't neccessarily have to win time of possession that way.  But, if you're simply ahead on the scoreboard you can also grind out slow drives, eat up clock, wear down your opponent, and win with your defense.  Both approaches can work.  Teams like Oregon and Texas Tech do the former and teams like Stanford and Bama do the latter.  But, I'm guessing the latter more akin to what the article meant.


July 11th, 2014 at 11:15 AM ^

This is probably the key. Their D line is able to end up with control, get push and cause disruptions. Their LBs are mostly fast enough to chase down Oregons RBs before they get loose. On offense they prove you can beat speed by going right at it. Stanford over the past several years has had the good combination of power and enough athleticism to get the job done.  


July 11th, 2014 at 11:16 AM ^

Oregon's offense is impressive but it's a little less impressive when you realize how many average to bad defenses they pile on points against.

I was able to win a lot of money two years ago when they faced Stanford because up until then they had played a defense with an average rank of around 70 and were crushing them by 50 points a game. Stanford had a top 10 or so defense at the time and the line was something like Stanford +20.

Of course most of the pundits don't pay attention to things like that and go "Ooooo points!"


July 11th, 2014 at 9:48 AM ^

Because its clear that the running game we had last year was keyed on by opposing defenses and we couldn't run effectively.  If we can run, we can keep the ball moving and keep the defense off the field longer, making them more effective when they're out there. 

its like a circle...


July 11th, 2014 at 9:52 AM ^

ESPN research department spent dozens of seconds compiling this earth-shattering data.

Next week: Proof that soccer players are exposed to the sun 100x more than NBA players during games.


July 11th, 2014 at 11:17 AM ^

let's set some guidelines here, are we talking all light from the sun or just visible?  How are we averaging different wavelengths?  By energy?

Are we talking about average soccer match and which matches then?  High school on?  Pro and world cup?  All little kids games?

What geographies?

How are you measuring sunlight that makes it into the stadium?  Are we going to designate some specific frequency to watch for intensity inside the stadium?

I do agree we should stick to 1 sig fig for now.


July 11th, 2014 at 10:10 AM ^

Some of these things are definitely backed with in-game and seasonal data. 

Turnover margin, for example, was something I had some data for - 2005 to this past season - and if you do a little quick summary figuring, a typical 10+ win team (which we'll assume is good enough to potentially make the BTCG) has an average in-game margin of 0.504 and an average total margin of 6.560. Only in rare case (2012 Nebraska or 2005 Ohio St. being two) did a team who lost this battle handily obtain an 10-win season or better. 



July 11th, 2014 at 10:23 AM ^

I'm not confident at all that we will have a stout defense.  I am confident that we won't be bad, and I feel great about our corners.  Best I have felt about that position since 2006.  I also like Jarrod Wilson a lot and I don't think that finding another safety to start alongside him will be a tragedy.  Beyond that, I see either uncertainty or mediocrity everywhere.  The 2013 defense was a disappointment for me and was given too much leeway from the "they got tired because the offense kept putting them back out there" excuse. 


July 11th, 2014 at 10:29 AM ^

but I honestly think that our LBs are outstanding (or at least better than average) and the reason they appeared "average" last year, or the year prior, was the lack of talent on the D-line.  I think they had to overcome a lot, but when you have an effective line the LBs can do the job that position is supposed to do. 

Conversely, the D line during Hoke's first year was outstanding and they overcame a lot and made the rest of the defense look better than they really were.  No doubt they improved a lot, but Martin and Co were so good that they put enough pressure on opposing offenses that it gave a big assist to the LBs and DBs alike. 

But, as they say, we'll see...


July 11th, 2014 at 11:16 AM ^

but if I have one worry, ironically it would be Jake MF Ryan.  I think I'm just allergic to the act of taking a player who is wildly successful at one position and moving him into a new position he's never played-- it just screams "Marlin Jackson to safety" to me.  


July 11th, 2014 at 11:44 AM ^

I think the front 7 should be quite good.  When I see words like outstanding I cringe because it's a bit extreme.  The LBs as a group *should* be the Big 10s best - you have experience with Ryan and Morgan.  Ryan if he is back to 2012 Ryan should be one of the best in the conf even with position switch.  Morgan is not a quick twitch destroyer but is competent.  I see Gedeon pressing him over time based on the flashes I saw last year.  Ross is that age where it should all come together for him as long as he is kept relatively clean.  Bolden is also at that similar age where they now have 2 years of games in their memory banks and 2 years of getting bigger and more physical.  RJS is an unknown but any contribution from him would be nice.  But there are 5 very solid Big 10 LBs and Gedeon is the type who I think could become special - maybe not this year but he made a few Ryan-like plays as a freshman v OSU.

I am not as worried about the DTs as a lot of people - I see a plethora of players who won't be Freshman or RS Freshman who can contribute. Pipkins coming back would help but Henry and Wormley were probably the 2 best "splash" players last year and both are still young and should be stronger - Wormley a year removed from ACL now. Hurst is getting some "hype" talk, and in the 2nd to 3rd string you have 3rd year guys like a Godin and Strobel now - they have not been impact guys but at this age they should be competent backups.  And Glasgow as a 3rd stringer - you could do worse.  Mone a wildcard here.

The DEs I dont expect miracles out of Clark - he is what he is, but he is a senior and should be in the top third of the league DEs.  Beyer should be "solid".  A lot of wildcards in the backups - can Charlton take a step?  Will Mario O have any serious impact? Is Poggi going to contribute?

I actually see a lot more players with potential to flash in the DTs than the DEs right now.  But overall I don't see this group getting slashed in the run game - aside from Mone and Charlton and Poggi everyone is a 3rd year player or older I believe in the DL.

Also understated is having good corners helps the rest of the D so much.  I dont know how much better Taylor or Countess will be but they have a ton of experience and now a bevy of young guys with promise like Lewis and Stribling to push them - and those players are not wide eyed freshman or RS freshman (aside from peppers). 

S remains my largest concern on the defense, could be a serious issue esp if Wilson has any injury at all.  Everyone else is unproven.  Ironically your Marlin Jackson comment is something I wouldn't mind seeing - Raymon Taylor back at S would at least give us some football playing experience at  a position we sorely lack it.


July 11th, 2014 at 1:22 PM ^

I'm not. 

What I'm saying is that I don't see this defense being good enough to hold serve on a day when our offense is playing like shit.  We're not going to shut down anyone good and we're not going to win any games without scoring more than 20 points unless we get lucky ala last year's NW (although the defense did realy play well in that one too). 


July 11th, 2014 at 10:48 AM ^

I never seen anybody make the "they got tired" excuse except for the 2008 defense. Our defense last year was the only reason any of our games were close, which makes it even more disappointing because had the offense been able to run we would have won 9-10 games. It wasnt a shut down defense by any means but outside of Indiana and OSU they kept the score reasonable and gave us a chance.

But i would agree that if we dont get any pass rush again then we will probably be about the same on defense overall. 


July 11th, 2014 at 4:39 PM ^

Seeing as two of their touchdown drives were 14 and 20 yards, and their final touchdown drive was made of hail marys and unicorn farts, it doesn't seem that terrible to me, especially when the defense scored a touchdown of their own.


July 11th, 2014 at 10:57 AM ^

I think Jarrod Wilson may be the most important single player for the D. CBs are deep and should be good-great. LBs are deep and should be good-great. DL is deep, but it isn't clear how good they can be. Safties are not deep and are likely no better than good. Without Wilson...I shudder.


July 11th, 2014 at 11:48 AM ^

Agree.  There is no like replacement for Wilson on the roster.  Everywhere else you at least have someone with a modicum of experience.  He needs to be bubble wrapped through September.   If Furman had stayed - despite the disaster plays here or there - he would probably be the starting safety across from Wilson at this point.  At least to begin the year until some younger guy got experience.  Or if not starting, Wilson's primary backup if Hill or Thomas won the other S spot.   With a bevy of CBs I would not mind seeing one of them convert to S this year.


July 11th, 2014 at 4:49 PM ^

The defense was just average. Akron, U.Conn, PS, MS and OS for the most part had their way with them. MS and PS had freshmen QB's and they beat us.

I don't understand how one year is going to make that much of a difference.

BTW, this also applies to the OL. We have the same players with the same OL coach and many of us think there will be dramatic improvement? Given they were close to being the worst OL in college football if they improve by 25% that will not be saying much nor will it produce many rushing yards.


July 11th, 2014 at 8:59 PM ^

We could have won ten games last year if our line was only 25% better in pass protection.

As much as I hate to say it, running the ball is not a must. We were a damn good passing team despite horrible protection. If we protect just a bit better, we win a lot.

rob f

July 13th, 2014 at 11:42 AM ^

Here's a quote I found in  BO (by Bo Schembechler & Mitch Album)

Reader71's picture

"I like the run.  What can I say?  My favorite thing in football is probably an eighty-yard drive in which I've shown some dominance up front, opened some big holes, made some beautiful blocks.  And on the final play, from inside the five, we knock it home.  That's football to me.

But that doesn't mean I don't like or appreciate the other parts of the game.   The publishers of this book, at one point, suggested we call it Bo: How I Learned to Relax and Love the Forward Pass.   Ha, ha, ha.

What a stupid idea."


Take down your avatar, you blasphemer, you imposter!  /s


July 11th, 2014 at 10:28 AM ^

Big 10 Champions are statistically good at football.  These ideas are new to me and I wish to subscribe to the ESPN newsletter.  

What I'd really like to see is an anthology of how many times on these boards we heard some variation of "a spread offense can't work in the Big 10."  It seems, shockingly, you can run a spread and still run, play defense, control the clock, limit turnovers, etc.  If you can control the line of scrimmage, you can make any system work.  The OL, the OL, the OL.  

Also, the Team.  I'm excited about it.  I think they're going to exceed expectations, which are appropriately modest, and the OL will be average, which will also exceed expectations.




July 11th, 2014 at 11:11 AM ^

I never thought Bo was any kind of football tactician to speak of in terms of schemes and innovation.  But man, was he brilliant at imprinting the fire and discipline so characteristic of his personality onto the young men he coached.  I once heard an ex-player describe that you hated him as a freshman, accepted him as a sophomore, respected him as a junior, and loved him as a senior.  

I wonder if this is how he was able to bring in high-level recruits yet avoid the "entitlement" problem that sometimes comes with top-shelf talent-- and why our post-Bo history seems to have been so frequently characterized by doing less with more.




July 11th, 2014 at 11:52 AM ^

Do you think you can get away with that today?  I'm not saying you can't, but with the power and popularity that the internet and recruiting services has given recruits, I get the sense that the top kids expect to come in and play.  If you don't show you're willing to play freshman if they are good I kinda doubt the Jabrill Peppers of the world come to your school.  Then again, Saban seems to do it, so idk.