UTL vs. Bama and where we really are

Submitted by PurpleStuff on September 2nd, 2012 at 11:28 AM

As typically happens after a big loss, many people now think Michigan is a poor, talent deficient football team that will struggle mightily all year.  But when you go inside the Bama "domination" you see a familiar story that just had a different ending because the casting director replaced Glass Joe with Clubber Lang.

Last night we trailed Alabama by 20 points entering the 4th quarter.  Against eventual 8-5 team Notre Dame last year, in a game played at home before a wild crowd, we trailed by 17 entering the 4th quarter.  Bama killed us on the ground for 5.5 ypc.  ND posted 6 ypc.  Returning national champion AJ McCarron completed 52% of his passes for 199 yards, with 51 of those yards coming on a play where the DB slipped and fell.  No-longer-starter Tommy Rees burned last year's D to the tune of 69% completions, 315 yards, and 3 TD.  On the whole, ND churned out 28 first downs and 513 yards at 7.1 per play.  Bama posted 6.8 per play for 20 first downs and 431 yards.  In both games Fitz didn't play.  Against Bama his replacements picked up a meager 48 yards on the ground.  Against ND they picked up just 10.

So let's keep things in perspective.  Bama didn't help us out by fumbling twice without being touched by a defender (Bama turned it over one time at the end of the half to ND's 5) and the Denard magic never got going thanks to an overturned 4th down conversion.  We didn't play our best and Bama didn't make any mistakes to help us out.  But the fact is we looked a lot better against a far superior opponent.  If we play up to our ability the rest of the year things look really good.



September 2nd, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

Michigan hasn't played a non-conference national power in several years.  The fact that we scheduled one in 2012 and don't have another one in the foreseeable future is not a big deal to me.  Michigan had big games in the early '90s against powerhouse Notre Dame and Florida State teams, and things still turned out fine shortly thereafter.

This could be a big deal, I guess, but it could also just be another bump in the road.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:39 AM ^

I agree that it was just a big ugly bump in the road.  I am worried with the schedule that there may be a few more bumps down the road, but I still think we have a good team.  We got beat last night and that happens.  How do people think Nebraska fans felt after their game agaisnt Michigan last year.  


The players won't give up, Hoke won't let them.  Lets hope Countess, Lewan and Moore are fine and move on to Air Force.  


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:34 AM ^

Agree. It's a long season as well; I'll hold judgement about overall progress until about halfway through the season. We certainly did not play well, and we got soundly beat. But I hardly think we took a major step backward.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

We should fire Borges and hire a coordinator that will send Denard out running every single play, to be the one taking all the helmet to helmet hits from some of the biggest, fastest, most NFL ready defensemen in all of college football. That would have never lead to a season crushing disaster. Nope.

Also, for the record, if you watched Bama's D you'd know that they always had enough men in the box to take Denard's running lanes away anyways. So he would have been putting Denard in a bad situation, for quite possibly no gain at all.


September 2nd, 2012 at 1:08 PM ^

Alabama against the run last year against BCS teams:

  • Penn State: 107/30, 1 TD
  • Arkansas 17/19
  • Florida 15/29 (this is not a typo)
  • Vanderbilt 41/19
  • Mississippi 28/31, 1 TD
  • Tennessee 92/32
  • LSU 148/41
  • Mississippi St. 12/29
  • Auburn 78/35
  • LSU 39/27

Michigan's 69/29 doesn't look all that bad next to that, especially without the starting RB. I'm not sure why anyone thinks running the quarterback every down is a winning strategy against the best run defense in the country when it's stacking the box.


September 2nd, 2012 at 2:35 PM ^

Did someone forget to turn on their sarcasm detector this morning? >.>

I honestly believe that Borges had a perfect plan for this game, that would have worked if the receivers had executed better. Running Smith wasn't the best idea ever, but I'm pretty sure the gameplan was originally created for Toussaint to be the main runner.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:42 AM ^

is that, no matter how ugly it was, it only counts as one loss. by the time the b1g schedule starts, we'll be 2-2 at worst and possibly 3-1. that's ok by me.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:45 AM ^

The whole S-E-C bit gets annoying, especially when it's applied to teams like Arkansas or South Carolina, but the fact of the matter is that Nick Saban is a great coach, who's built up a powerhouse program. They're the best team we're going to play this year, and it's not even close. I said it last night and I'll say it again, when you look at the Top 25, outside of USC, LSU, and maybe Oklahoma, there's not one team I don't think we can't beat. Sure WVU and Oregon scare me, but not the overpowering beatdown that Bama scares me. A 10-win season and Big Ten Championship is still very much in play


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:17 PM ^

Their offense is led by one of the most choke-tastic QB's in the nation. Landry Jones is kinda like Joey Harrington, all the tools to be great, but no mental fortitude whatsoever. They lost Ryan Broyles in the draft, and none of their running backs really scare anyone. They are good, but not scary.

Defensively, their linebackers have become a weakness. If you watch them, their linebackers bite on a lot of playfakes. Against a guy like Toussaint, that would cost them a few times. If Gallon can get positioned for quick slants against a linebacker while the corner is occupied with someone else, we'd be able to move the ball effectively.

Long story short, I would have preferred we opened against OU this year. I like our chances against them.


September 2nd, 2012 at 2:34 PM ^

We can say that Saban is a great recruiter and perhaps a great technique guy.  But I would not call him a great coach.   He depends on superior talent to win.   When he was in the NFL where all things are equal he did not do very well.  The great coaches are all at the next level.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:44 AM ^

I don't think this makes us terrible or anything. Probably 95-98% of FBS teams would've met the same fate against Bama including many top 10 teams. I have a hard time not seeing a similar result if South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida State, etc played Bama.

I actually feel slightly better about our chances in the B1G after this weekend because I think several parts of our game showed some hope and the B1G as a whole looked awful


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 AM ^

Deep balls.  If we can hit for two in a game against Alabama, and have a couple more that were right there, we'll put up a lot of points this year.  Borges rightly didn't want to get Denard killed, but we'll have a much stronger ground game against our remaning opponents.

Pass protection was also quite good.  And against every other OL we face, I think our run defense will do much better.  If we have Countess back, that TD against Avery probably doesn't happen.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

I thought those were about the same as they were last year -- about a 33% chance it ends in a pick, a catch, or an incomplete.  It also honestly kind of concerns me that Gardner seemed to be Denard's #1 target.  If a converted QB is your top WR target, that doesn't seem to speak too well of your other WRs.  I think Gardner has a lot of promise, but to me this game raised a lot more concerns about the rest of the WRs.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:57 PM ^

The difference is that our guys got behind the DBs in this game.  Turned them around or just flat beat them deep.  That's different than Hemingway jump balls last year, and it's even more impressive against that Alabama defense.

Your concern about our other WR's if valid.  But it doesn't really matter.  Gardner looks like a good WR, and thank heaven he is. He and Gallon and Roundtree should be fine, even above average for the league, in B1G play this year.  Doesn't matter if DG was a former QB or 5* WR recruit.


September 2nd, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

All I heard leading up to the game was that Alabama's secondary had the least experience out of all their defensive units. Yet, it seemed like they manhandled our WRs. Our biggest reception came from a bomb that resulted from Dee Milliner slipping... otherwise that guy looked like one of the best cover corners I've ever seen.

I'm hopeful that the whole "weak secondary" rumor was a lie, and athletic freaks were actually just covering our receivers. I'll remain skeptical until I see our receivers perform against some B1G secondaries though.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

I'd have a hard time calling that pretty good.  Most of Alabama's drive ended in a score or scoring attempt, and they were all of the quick strick, not much resistance variety.  Outside of that first 3 and out, the only time Michigan offered much defensive resistance was near the end of the game when Saban had taken his foot off the gas a bit.  And I can't think of one defensive player that I could say they had a good game.  They all got manhandled.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:35 PM ^

Our DL was repeatedly blown completely off the ball on running plays so that a freshman RB had clear sailing 6 yds beyond the LOS without getting touched. Then he ran around, over, and through multiple would-be tacklers on numerous occasions. Demens played poorly, Kovacs simply got run over several times even though he was in position to make a tackle, and the hardest hit we delivered to an Alabama player was not courtesy of our defense, but by our freaking QB, who got the worst of the exchange anyhow.

Other than that, sure, our D was fine.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

I thought Denard's passing looked pretty good occaisionally when he had time to set his feet. Will Campbell existed and made a few plays against Bama's O-line of 1st rounders which gives me hope he'll be average or better in B1G play. Gallon and Gardner both looked pretty good. Plus, we didn't have Fitz and we didn't run Denard at all so I have hope the offense will still have life.

Obviously we still got destroyed for the other 99% of the game but given we were playing Bama, I think those little things may go in our favor when we're in B1G play 


September 2nd, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

Alabama's O-line opened up holes so big against the D-line that it allowed a true freshman to go 5-6 yards without getting touched. The kid ran for over 100 yards on 11 carries, I didn't really see a "glass half-full" scenerio.

Maybe, except that BWC wasn't completely invisible, but I think Saban had taken his foot off the pedal by that point.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:44 AM ^

Everything the OP says is true. We blew a lot of opportunities last night. Unlike ND, Bama didn't give the ball back to us and their defense was significantly better. The recipe for a blowout was there all along, but we really didn't help ourselves out and neither did Alabama. That is the best team we will face this year. Best offense, best defense, best depth, best coaching, best period. We had our chances to keep it closer, and those will equal chances to win against everyone else.


September 2nd, 2012 at 11:46 AM ^

We certainly belonged in the game. The schemes were in place, we simply missed throws and missed reads. We needed to play well, the way Alabama played well. But Denard missing early dug a hole we couldn't dig our way out of. In order top hang with them, we had to play good football.

More frustrating than anything... we simply didn't.

Now we will see from here.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

Bama is really good but we also made it easy for them.  We had makeable plays to keep our offense on the field early that we repeatedly failed to execute.  Bama put together one TD drive while the game was in doubt, then they took advantage of a DB who slipped for a free TD, picked off a pass for a short field (thanks to a receiver falling down), and then got a pick six.  I also imagine the psyche of the team going against that o-line is different when the score is 14-7 than when it is 31-0 in the first half.

It isn't hard to imagine a scenario where we play slightly better in the passing game and one or two unfortunate plays don't go against us.  We played poorly and bad things happened and Bama is way too good to beat when that happens, but this wasn't an Oregon '07 scenario by any stretch to me.  Just a game against a really good team that got out of hand before we had our feet wet.


September 2nd, 2012 at 12:45 PM ^

I think saying Alabama made it hard for us is a whole lot more accuarate than saying we made it easy for them.  The reason for the passing game not working well in the beginning is because of Alabama, not because of Michigan.  A lot of Denard's throws in the early going were good throws, but the Alabama DBs (especially Millner) made better plays.  On the pick, that receiver didn't "fall down" he got manhandled and shoved to the ground.  That's not an "oops, I tripped" mistake, that's being completely owned by the opposing team.