Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

When I previewed Purdue in the summer, I didn’t think they’d be a very good team this year. However, the depths of their fall have been a surprise even to me. With a new coach stepping up next year, are we witnessing the end of the “Purdue-as-midtier-team” era? It certainly seems like it. This game looks like Michigan’s best chance to get another win by the end of the year, and injuries may play a key role in this weekend’s matchup.

Purdue’s offense under Joe Tiller has been characterized as “basketball on grass.” The pass-happy spread attack made Tiller’s career, and he has seen success in West Lafayette, though not so much in recent years. This year, the Purdue offense hasn’t been very good. Throw in the fact that starting quarterback Curtis Painter is not expected to be available and it’s bad new Boilers. By the way, the backup quarterback, Joey Elliott is out too. That leaves OLSM product Justin Siller, who moved back to QB from running back just a couple of weeks ago, to run the offense. Don’t be surprised if there’s tons of Kory Sheets in the gameplan Saturday.

The Boilermakers’ defense hasn’t been performing well, but they have faced a couple of pretty good offenses in Oregon (whom they held to only 32 points in two overtimes) and Central Michigan (whose production has fallen off slightly this year). Notre Dame managed to put up 38 on Purdue without the help of ridiculous field position, though the Irish did get a defensive touchdown. Regardless, the Wolverines are probably the most inept offense Purdue will face. The Boilers’ talent level is low, however, Michigan should be able to put something together, particularly using the MINOR SMASH offense.

Purdue’s offense is held under 250 yards.
Steven Threet doesn’t throw an interception.
Michigan wins 23-10.

Posted under Football

Worst Defense Ever?

John Heuser postulates in the AA News that Michigan’s defense is one of its worst ever. OK, he didn’t exactly use those terms, but he made his argument in such a way that it’s the easiest conclusion to draw from the article, even for Doctor Saturday.

Heuser raises several valid points, but overall, there’s a little margin for error in his analysis. Most egregiously, I think there isn’t nearly enough emphasis on the offense’s role in the entire debacle. The unit seems to be mostly thrown in as an afterthought:

While a strong defense can help a team’s offense by forcing turnovers, stopping third-down plays and preserving field position, an offense can also support the defense. The Wolverines’ attack is doing little to make things easier on Michigan’s defenders. Michigan is the lowest-scoring, most turnover-prone team in the Big Ten.

They aren’t just not making it easier for the Michigan defense, but this Michigan offense is so epically bad that it’s tangibly hurting the defense’s chances for success.

First off, Heuser doesn’t even mention that, regardless of field position, the Michigan offense has scored 16 points this season for the opposing team. The field position hasn’t helped either, as several opponent scoring drives started well into Michigan territory. And although time of possession isn’t really a cause of team success so much as a result, being on the field a lot can really tire out a defense, leading to an inability to stop opposing offenses. Michigan is near the bottom of the NCAA in that metric, with the defense averaging more than 33 minutes of time on the field in each game.

So let’s look at each Michigan game, and see how many points the offense “helped” the defense give up, and how many the defense helped the offense score. A legend for you, since the first time I showed this to Paul he was confused as hell:

  • Defense -3” means that the defense is being blamed for a score when the opposing offense got the ball in field goal range. This is not entirely the fault of the defense, since the opposing team could have theoretically kicked (and presumably made) a field goal on 1st down. If the opposing offense scored a touchdown, it is still a -3 for the defense, since they could have conceivably held the other team to a field goal. The last four points are on them.
  • Defense +3” occurs when the opposing team drives the ball on the Michigan defense but misses a field goal. This is 3 points that the defense should be accountable but didn’t show up in the final score.
  • Defense -7” is when the Michigan offense gets scored on. The defense’s reputation shouldn’t suffer if Notre Dame or Toledo can take a Steven Threet mistake back for 7 points.
  • Defense +3” means that the defense has provided the ball to Michigan’s offense in field goal range. The defense earned 3 of the points scored on the drive. Even if Michigan ends up scoring a touchdown, the offense really only earned 4 of the points since, again, they could conceivably have kicked a field goal on first down.
  • Defense +7” is scored when Johnny Thompson takes an interception all the way back, and the defense scores those 7 points all on its own, without help from the offense.

Red = opponent points and Green = Michigan points. As a quick note, special teams plays do not count for this one way or the other, except in terms of scoring plays and field position. I guess that theoretically means a touchdown with no extra point should count for less against the defense, but whatever. “minus” means that the defense isn’t responsible for those points, even though they are being blamed, and “plus” means they should be held responsible for points, although they aren’t being blamed for them. “Plus” means that the defense is not getting credit for points, even though they should be.

Of course, you could do this unscientific study with other Michigan teams as well, and they may have scored more for their offense (2006 comes to mind), but I doubt the offense has ever hurt Michigan’s defensive unit as much as it is this year.

Defense on the field for 35:54
Michigan TD: 26-yard drive after a Utah special teams fumble.
Utah TD: 75-yard drive.
Michigan FG: 50-yard drive after long KR + Utah personal foul.
Utah FG: 66-yard drive.
Utah FG: 47-yard drive.
Utah FG: 58-yard drive.
Utah TD: Drive started in FG range after INT. Defense -3 points.
Utah FG: Four-yard drive started in FG range. Defense -3 points.
Michigan TD: 33-yard drive due to good defense and blocked punt. Defense +3 points.
MIchigan TD: 31-yard drive following Utah fumble. Defense +3 points.

So, in the first game alone, the offense netted Utah 6 points (and the Utes earned the last 4 on their touchdown drive against the Michigan defense), while getting Michigan three points (and Michigan earned the last 7 by scoring touchdowns on each, but failing on a 2-point conversion on the second).

Defense on the field for 35:13
Michigan TD: 77-yard drive. Note: this is Michigan’s first touchdown “drive” of the year.
Michigan FG: 4-yard drive starts on the Miami 35 after a RedHawks fumble. Defense +3 points.
Miami FG: 72-yard drive.
Miami FG: 60-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 87-yard drive.

The Michigan defense is culpable for all 6 Miami points, but also earned 3 points of their own by forcing a fumble.

Notre Dame
Defense on the field for 27:48
Notre Dame TD: 11-yard drive after a special teams fumble. Defense -3 points.
Notre Dame TD: 14-yard drive after a special-teams fumble. Defense -3 points.
Notre Dame TD: 63-yard 1-play drive after Michigan fails on 4th down.
Michigan TD: 75-yard drive.
Michigan FG: 67-yard drive after an interception.
Notre Dame TD: 87-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 60-yard drive after an ND kick goes out of bounds.
Notre Dame TD: 35-yard fumble return. Defense -7 points.

Michigan’s offense is pseudo-competent for one game, but the special teams destroys any chance of victory, and the offense gives up a gift at the end.

Defense on the field for 36:04
Wisconsin FG: missed after a big KO return starts them in FG range.
Wisconsin FG: 23-yard drive starts in FG range. Defense -3 points.
Wisconsin FG: 43-yard drive.
Wisconsin TD: 60-yard drive after a Michigan fumble.
Wisconsin FG: 3-yard drive after a Michigan fumble. Defense -3 points.
Wisconsin FG: 16-yard drive following and interception of Threet.
Michigan TD: 8
0-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 85-yard drive.
Michigan TD: John Thompson interception return. Threet sacked on 2-pt attempt. Defense +6.
Michigan TD: 77-yard drive.
Wisconsin TD: 64-yard drive.

Michigan’s defense was put in bad positions on 3 Wisconsin field goals (one of which the Badgers missed), and scored a touchdown of its own.

Defense on the field for 33:06
Michigan TD: 48-yard drive following big punt return(!) by Greg Mathews(!!).
Illinois FG: 38-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 61-yard drive.
Illinois TD: 67-yard drive.
Illinois TD: 84-yard drive.
Illinois TD: 77-yard drive.
Illinois FG Missed: 48-yard drive. Defense +3 points.
Illinois TD: 48-yard drive following a Michigan fumble. Defense -3 points.
Michigan TD: 73-yard drive.
Illinois TD: 68-yard drive.
Illinois TD: 16-yard drive following a Michigan special teams fumble. Defense -3 points.

The defense was put in two tough spots by the offense, giving up 6 points (3 each on two TDs) that they can’t be held responsible for. However, Illinois bailed them out on 3 more points that they should have been responsible for.

Defense on the field for 33:08
Michigan goalline interception thrown after a 28-yard drive: Defense +3 points.
Toledo TD: Said interception returned for a touchdown. Defense -7 points.
Michigan TD: 55-yard drive.
Michigan FG: 45-yard drive.
Toledo FG: Missed after a 75-yard drive. Defense +3 points.
Toledo FG: 69-yard drive.
Toledo FG: 9-yard drive after Michigan turns the ball over in FG range. Defense -3 points.
Michigan FG: Missed after a 58-yard drive.

This game has the largest swing of any so far. The defense earned the offense 3 points they didn’t capitalize on, and wasn’t responsible for Toledo’s touchdown or one of their field goals. However, they also should have given up 3 more points, but didn’t thanks to a miss by Toledo’s kicker. If the defense had their way, the score in this game would have been at least 16-6, with Michigan jumping out to an early 13-point lead, which may have caused the Rockets to fold early in the game. Regardless, they had trouble getting the Rockets off the field all game, whether they turned most of those drives into points or not.

Penn State
Defense on the field for 30:19
Michigan TD: 86-yard drive.
Michigan FG: 45-yard drive (defense got the ball to the offense at their own 45).
Penn State TD: 52-yard drive after a good kickoff return.
Michigan TD: 78-yard drive.
Penn State FG: Missed after a 48-yard drive. Defense +3 points.
Penn State TD: 74-yard drive.
Penn State FG: 61-yard drive.
Penn State Safety: Sheridammit. Defense -2 points.
Penn State TD: 50-yard drive after Zoltan’s free kick goes out of bounds.
Penn State FG: 27-yard drive starts in FG range. Defense -3 points.
Penn State TD: 19-yard drive after a Threet fumble. Defense -3 points.
Penn State FG: 56-yard drive.
Penn State TD: 80-yard drive.

So, yeah. Penn State actually had tons of success against the Michigan defense. Only a net of 5 points that the defense shouldn’t be held accountable for, including 3 that Penn State didn’t even get due to a missed FG. On points actually scored, it’s defense -7.

Michigan State
Defense on the field for 35:18
Michigan State TD: 83-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 18-yard drive following a Stevie Brown fumble recovery. Defense +3 points.
Michigan State FG: Missed after a 48-yard drive. Defense +3 points.
Michigan State FG: Missed after drive starts in FG range.
Michigan State TD: 64-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 65-yard drive.
Michigan TD: 66-yard drive.
Michigan State FG: Missed after a 55-yard drive. Defense +3 points.
Michigan State TD: 63-yard drive.
Michigan State TD: 82-yard drive.
Michigan State TD: 40-yard drive after interception. Defense -3 points.

The defense broke even in this game, and also allowed a ton of long drives. Taking quality of opposing offense into account, it might be their worst game of the year.

Add ’em up
The score of Michigan’s games (aggregate) so far this year:
Opponents: 230
Michigan: 151

Taking out all the net changes that the defense accounted for (or adding those that they should be held accountable for), the score would be:
Opponents: 193
Michigan: 130

Without being harmed by offense and special teams, the defense would be giving up a more-respectable (but still not very good) 24.13 points per game.

So the defense has still earned lots of the flak it’s getting. However, with all the time they’re on the field, their delta in points for each team is Michigan +16. That means the defense’s net points scored for Michigan that they weren’t responsible for (on defense) or were responsible for (by scoring themselves) is 16 points, and that’s even using a fairly harsh metric.

Which outcomes would have been affected? Going strictly by points, and disregarding any swings in momentum, only the Toledo game would have had a different outcome, though the Notre Dame game would have been within one touchdown, easy range against the Irish defense. If you take momentum into account, the Utah and Notre Dame games could have easily had a different outcome, and the Penn State game could have been significantly more competitive. Even still, how much happier would Michigan fans be with a 4-4 record, including wins over Utah and Toledo?

Maybe the defense is being judged just a little too harshly for losing games for Michigan. Still, the big play is too available, thanks to sketchy safeties and linebackers. This defense needs to improve if Michigan is going to have any success at all over their last four games.

Posted under Football

2009 Recruiting Update 10-30-08

The Board.

New Information:
MD RB Tavon Austin. Has a top 3 of Michigan, North Carolina, and WVU.
MI DT William Campbell. Sam Webb still thinks Michigan ends up grabbing him (audio). Scouting reports on him and his teammates.
MI RB Teric Jones. Scouting report (same as above).
MI S Thomas Gordon. Scouting report (same as above).
MI WR Cameron Gordon. Sam Webb News fluff.
SC S Devonte Holloman. May make a commitment without getting a chance to visit Michigan. It sounds like Michigan is no longer under consideration, though different sources have said otherwise recently. He’ll stay on the board for now.
FL S Vladimir Emilien. Michigan the team to beat? (audio). He’s deciding November 23rd.
FL CB Jayron Hosley. Doesn’t sound like Michigan is really involved at all. Also, all-access video piece.
MD CB Travis Hawkins. He’s deciding today. Final four of PSU, Maryland, Oregon, and Michigan. Maryland and Oregon are the likely final two there.

TX S Craig Loston. LSU Commit.

In the audio above, Sam Webb gives a little treatise on Michigan’s in-state recruiting in 2009. His feelings are essentially the same as mine, in that people are making a big to-do when there is no substance to the “allegations.”
Freep fluff on the senior recruits at the MSU game.

I’ve been wondering for some time if Michigan will get back in on Cameron Gordon, if only to help with his junior teammate, Devin Gardner. It appears as though he’s resigned to ending up at linebacker, though Michigan may be filling up at the position. Who knows how it’ll end up, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Michigan go after him at least a little bit more.

Posted under Football

Zoltan Mesko: Ray Guy Semifinalist

One of the few brights spots for Michigan on the field this year has been the exception play of punter Zoltan Mesko (it really is depressing to have a hand sign for the punter when he is trotting onto the field 6 times a game). Today, his efforts were recognized, as Mesko was announced as a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. Mesko is currently 10th in the nation, averaging 44.64 yards per punt, and if the NCAA released net yards per punt statistics, I’d wager he’d be even higher than that.

Zoltan is also multi-talented, as he took off on a fake punt for 13 yards and a fourth down conversion against Notre Dame, and can do things like this:

Posted under Football

Inside the Play: Michigan State

There may be another ITP coming from this game. Stay tuned later in the week in case there is.

The Situation
It’s Michigan State’s first drive of the game. The drive started on their own 17, and despite a big sack, they were able to convert on a long third down attempt, completing a pass to Mark Dell. After a pair of Javon Ringer runs, they face 3rd and 5 from their own 39 yard line. A stop here, and Michigan sets the tone against Little Brother. If the Spartans convert, however, they might be able to ride the momentum to their first victory against the Wolverines since 2001.

The Personnel and Formation

Michigan State comes out in a 4-wide shotgun. White Blair is in the left slot next to Mark Dell, and a tight end (Charlie Gantt) is lined up in the right slot. Javon Ringer is to Hoyer’s right. Michigan counters this formation with a 4-3. Jonas Mouton is head-up with White, and Johnny Thompson is over the tight end. Stevie Brown and Brandon Harrison are the safeties.

The Play

Michigan appears to be running a cover-2 man scheme on this play. Jonas Mouton is the important party, as he is White’s man. At the snap, Dell doesn’t even go out on a route, and instead occupies Trent with a block of sorts. On the right, the other wideout gets an outside release and runs his defender (Warren) off. The slots are making all the magic on this play. Gantt runs a hook towards the middle of the field, and White runs a slant. This is clearly a one-read play for Hoyer, as he never looks anywhere other than directly at White. White makes the catch, breaks a tackle from Stevie Brown, and races to the endzone.

Why it Worked

Jonas Mouton gets completely burned by his man on this play. He gives up the middle of the field, and is left chasing after White. Compounding the issue, Stevie Brown pretty much whiffs on his tackle, allowing White to get behind the last line of defense. Mouton is culpable for the reception, and Brown is at fault for allowing a first down to turn into a touchdown.

Posted under Football

Blogpoll Final Ballot: Week 9

Rank Team Delta
1 Texas
2 Penn State
3 Alabama
4 Oklahoma 3
5 Oklahoma State 1
6 Southern Cal 2
7 Texas Tech 1
8 Florida 2
9 Georgia 4
10 Utah 1
11 Ohio State 2
12 Missouri 3
13 TCU
14 Boise State 5
15 Brigham Young 6
16 Michigan State 10
17 Minnesota 3
18 Tulsa 8
19 Maryland 5
20 Florida State 3
21 Pittsburgh 2
22 South Florida 10
23 LSU 9
24 California 2
25 Iowa 1

Dropped Out: Ball State (#16), Georgia Tech (#18), Northwestern (#22), Wake Forest (#25).
Changes from draft: PSU and Alabama swapped. Alabama has the best win (over Georiga) between the two of them. However, other than that, they’ve played nearly nobody, and have struggled with a lot of crappy teams.

Oklahoma bumped back into the top 5, after seeing how good their schedule actually has been this year (and they’ve taken care of everyone except Texas).

Georgia moves up a bit, because dropping them as low as I did in the preliminary ballot was something of an accident. However, their inclusion in the top 10 should end this week against Florida, unless the Gators lose and make the downward move.

Michigan State moved up ahead of Minnesota, because Minnesota’s resume has been pretty weak so far, aside from their win over Illinois. Also, I don’t think their current level of success is sustainable.

If there’s anything else you want explained, let me know. Some of the movements are due to the results on the field this past weekend, and some of them are because I did a much stricter job ranking on resume (i.e. Oklahoma moving up). If you have any specific gripes, let me know in the comments and I’ll take them into account in next weeks ballot.

Posted under Football

MSU Postmortem, Purdue Week

Going into the Michigan State game, I was not confident Michigan would win, but certainly that they could win. As it turns out, the defense laid a complete egg, and it’s back to the drawing board again. A few random observations from the weekend that was:

  • The stadium atmosphere, though it was better than some games, left a whole lot to be desired. Most disturbingly, a rival’s fans got a stadium-wide cheer going in the waning moments of a victory in our stadium.
  • The offense still can’t put together four full quarters, but with the defense Michigan has, there really isn’t much of an excuse to lose a game in which we score 21 points.
  • The recruiting weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but it sounds as though most of the recruits in attendance really liked Michigan – with the notable exception of DeWayne Peace. Is a decommitment looming?
  • Maybe I’ve just never considered them because I’m friends with a bunch of MSU fans, and those that I typically run across are cordial enough, but MSU fans are really a special brand of pathetic.

And looking forward to Purdue:

  • The Boilermakers are probably the coldest team in the conference at this point, with Wisconsin and Indiana finally cracking through this past weekend. The next closest “competitor?” Probably Michigan. Sadly, this weekend’s game is likely a battle to avoid finishing at the bottom of the conference, along with Indiana.
  • QB Curtis Painter is expected to miss the game this weekend. Top backup Joey Elliott is out for the remainder of the season. That means OLSM product Justin Siller will likely start for the Boilers.
  • If you ask me, Purdue is the closest thing offensively Michigan will play to Toledo (except maybe Minnesota). This might bode ill for the Michigan defense, since it’s a personnel upgrade at nearly every position (except maybe replacing a 5th-year senior QB for a redshirt freshman).
  • I don’t forsee having a podcast this week.
  • Michigan really needs this game. If they can get a bit of momentum going, they could probably pull off a game or two against Minnesota and Northwestern, as well.

Posted under Football

Blake McLimans Commits to Michigan

Basketball prospect Blake McLimans, from Worcester Academy in Worcester, MA, has committed to the Michigan Wolverines. McLimans is a 6-10 big man (a huge need for Michigan) in the class of 2009. McLimans was a weekend visitor for the UM football game against Michigan State, where he decided that he would pick the Wolverines over Providence.

With McLimans’s commitment the 2009 class is now full, and John Beilein and Co. will focus on the 2010 class. For more on McLimans, head to UMHoops.com.

Posted under Football

Comments Off on Blake McLimans Commits to Michigan

Tags: , , ,

2010 Recruiting Update 10-27-08

The Board.

Moved to Committed:

IL OL Andrew Schofield. ’09 Commit Michael’s lil bro.

New Information:
TX QB Darveon Trahan. Out for the year with injury.
OH QB/Ath Courtney Avery. He’s not projected as a college QB, but he can really chuck the ball.
OH WR Tyrone Williams. Offered by Ohio State.
FL WR Commit Ricardo Miller. Despite the loss, his MySpace confirms he is more committed than ever.

FL RB Jakhari Gore. He’s “A ‘Cane at Heart.” At this point, a Miami commitment appears to be little more than a formality.
MD CB Louis Young. Stanford commit.

Yeah, so I was expecting this update to be a lot more substantive, particularly in the “commits” section. Of course, the loss Saturday didn’t help, but I was thinking Marvin Robinson (at least) was all but verbally committed to Michigan. We’ll see how the recruitment for several of the top kids in attendance ends up playing out.

Posted under Football

Blogpoll Preliminary Ballot: Week 9

Rank Team Delta
1 Texas
2 Alabama 1
3 Penn State 1
4 Southern Cal 4
5 Oklahoma State 1
6 Florida 4
7 Texas Tech 1
8 Oklahoma 1
9 Utah 2
10 Ohio State 1
11 Georgia 6
12 Boise State 7
13 TCU
14 Missouri 1
15 Brigham Young 6
16 Kansas 10
17 Minnesota 3
18 Tulsa 8
19 Michigan State 7
20 Maryland 4
21 Florida State 4
22 South Florida 10
23 Pittsburgh
24 LSU 10
25 Iowa 1

Dropped Out: Ball State (#16), Georgia Tech (#18), Northwestern (#22), Wake Forest (#25).

As is becoming disturbingly common, I kinda hastily threw this together (though this week, I did have the time to actually watch some games). Help me make it nice and shiny before Wednesday.

Posted under Football