Mailbag: Defending Power Teams?

Robert asked:

My MSU friend contends that UM’s defense will suffer against traditional big ten offenses because it only practices against the spread. Any thoughts which will address this/shut him up?

Well, first off, I have complete confidence that this staff will be more prepared for each opponent than any of the Michigan teams of the most recent years (say, 2005-2007) were. While the recent Michigan teams were unprepared to (or incapable of) defending a mobile quarterback, a good portion of this was preparation (see: App State 2007). Everything I have seen so far on the Michigan staff implies that Rodriguez’s crew will never be caught by surprise.

While Michigan’s first-team offense will indeed practice the spread offense more regularly than a standard double-wide set, the scout offenses will do what they’re designed for: getting the first team defense ready for the next opponent. Especially in the first couple of years, when Michigan still has some somewhat-highly-ranked pro-style offense recruits on the roster, their scout team will be able to give good preparation.

The main reason you see teams with spread offenses incapable of defending the pro-style sets of top teams is because teams less capable of recruiting top talent (many of which reside in conferences together) use offensive schemes that help them maximize their talent. They are also less able to recruit top-notch defensive players, who are smaller and quicker, but can be pushed off the ball with a power run game. Michigan shouldn’t suddenly have trouble recruiting top defensive talent, just because they changed offensive schemes.

Teams that play in a league that isn’t as prestigious are going to face other teams that employ similar styles. In the Big East, for example, West Virginia faced more dynamic offenses, and ran a 3-3 scheme designed to stop them (this isn’t strictly the case, as Pitt, for example, runs a fairly basic pro-style offense). Michigan, on the other hand, still intends to run primarily a 4-3 scheme. The 4-3 has been a staple in the NFL and college, and has always been capable of stopping the power run game if employed correctly.

Against Michigan State in particular, the talent difference between State’s offense and Michigan’s defense should do something to help Michigan stop the Spartans. While MSU has blockers and a couple decent backs, their quarterback position is… subpar… and they lost a couple of their top receivers in Devin Thomas and Kellen Davis. Unless Bryan Hoyer proves he can move the ball through the air, the Wolverines should be able to lead the box against State. In future years, if the talent level equalizes somewhat (as of now, it doesn’t necessarily seem like this will be the case, though MSU does have a few good 2009 offensive recruits), then perhaps the Spartans can try to pound it out against Michigan.

Of course, I don’t intend to guarantee a victory against Michigan State in 2008. Rather, a pounding run game will not blast through the Wolverine defense like your friend asserts. If the Michigan offense is in the swing of things by October 25th, I like the chances of a victory for the men in Blue.

Posted under Mail Bag

Drew Sharp Sucks

(I know, I know, it’s already painfully clear).

Everyone’s favorite Michigan alum-cum-hackjob Detroit sportswriter, Drew Sharp, is at it again. On January 12, Sharp wrote a column entitled “Michigan coach must beat Ohio State to nation’s No. 1 recruit Terrelle Pryor.” A mere 15 days later, with nothing having changed in the recruiting world of either Michigan or Ohio State, he comes up with this gem: “Michigan landing super recruit Terrelle Pryor would be an overrated victory.”

“OK,” you may say to yourself, “maybe the titles are not accurate representation of the content of the articles.” You would be wrong. From the first article:

[Rodriguez] must keep Pryor away from Jim Tressel.

He must do whatever it takes.

From the second?

There will be unbridled exhilaration within Michigan Message Board Nation should Rich Rodriguez secure premier quarterbacking prospect Terrelle Pryor on Feb. 6. Pryor likely will start from Day 1, but it’s unrealistic to expect anything but a struggle as he adapts to the college game while the Wolverines collectively adapt to a new offensive philosophy.

Certainly sounds like a situation in which Michigan must do “whatever it takes.” Sharp goes on to admit that landing Pryor would be a victory of sorts, but the clear message is that Pryor is not imperative to Michigan’s recruiting efforts.

Having come to expect this kind of crap from Sharp, I guess it’s no surprise that he would write something so dumb.

Posted under Misc.

The Miles Situation

By now you’ve heard and read everything about what happened over the weekend with Les Miles. He’s not coming to Michigan and before I close the book on him and open it up to other candidates, I just want to say one thing:

Les Miles was the wrong coach for this job.

First off after the SEC title game on Saturday, Miles was of course asked about Michigan and he professed his love for the school and its football program. However, he made a remark at the end of his press conference along the lines of they will eventually beat Ohio State.

If I’m Mike Hart, I take more offense to that comment than he did to the comments Jim Harbaugh made in the preseason. This was a poke at Lloyd Carr, who as has also been reported does not have a great relationship with Miles. Hart has always been the first one to defend Carr and rightfully so. I’m a little surprised that this hasn’t been blown up a little bigger. Michigan probably was holding out hope that it could still get Miles and wanted to keep quiet. Either way, what’s done is done and we move on.

Michigan next coach should be…Brady Hoke. I know that you all think this is crazy, but tell me this. Where did Urban Meyer coach before coming to Gainesville? What about Jim Tressel? Michigan needs a guy who is ambitious and wants to prove that he belongs on the national stage. It makes no sense to go after a guy like Gary Pinkel or Kirk Ferentz. While both have had some success, they’ve been inconsistent and struggled to win with similar resources that Michigan has. Brady Hoke has never had the resources that Michigan would offer. This year Ball State went 5-2 in the MAC and lost to Nebraska by one in Lincoln. We all remember the game they gave Michigan last year. He was also an assistant under Lloyd Carr for eight years before going to Ball State.

Michigan has to take a risk with its next football coach. No matter who its going to be it will be a risk because we are so used to the consistency of the program since Bo got here and there is no legitimate candidate who can assure Michigan football will maintain that level of consistency. Why not offer a guy a chance to win on the biggest stage? Ferentz and Pinkell have already proven they cannot do this consistently, so they would be an even bigger risk.

Posted under Coaching



Posted under Hockey

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My WOLV Top Ten

This ballot is my personal opinion. Tim will probably post the final Top Ten tomorrow.

It really seems that are about 4-5 top ten teams, so after Oregon it’s fairly arbitrary. I looked at the schedules, and I can’t decide whether it’s more important to win over cream-puffs or play well against good teams. Take Kentucky for instance. Despite the SoCar loss looking worse after their loss, it was still a largely fluky game against a team that, at that point, was playing like a top ten team. Florida also came out and played Kentucky tough the week after a brutal 3OT game (Woodson’s back still has to be sore from the shot he took for the last TD). On the other hand, Boston College is undefeated, but decidedly pedestrian.

Oh well. Without further adieu:

  1. OSU
  2. LSU
  3. Oregon
  4. BC
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Arizona State
  7. Mizzou
  8. USF
  9. WVU
  10. Michigan

Some explanations may be in order. Top 5-6 I feel are fairly defensible. Mizzou’s only loss was to Oklahoma and that was a fairly competitive game. And while their schedule besides OU is a bit light, they have looked impressive against the teams they have played, including getting Nebraska’s AD fired.

I didn’t like USF as a top 5 team. I thought their signiture win against WVU was fluky (mainly due to the Pat White injury), but I can respect them in the bottom half of the top ten. They have a solid defense (whose kryptonite appears to be Ray Rice) and a play-making QB. I still can’t decide who I think will come out of the Big East.

Finally, I’m pretty sure having Michigan that high is blatant homerism (luckily I’m not eligible for the CK award), but I’ll be damned if Michigan has looked like a top ten team of late. All five wins have been by double digits, and many games were more dominant than the scores appeared. Penn State, while close on the score board was the Wolverines clearly dominating. Offense has been explosive, and the defense has been absolutely lights out in the second half. Themes of this paragraph will be expanded on in a post later.

As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am.

Posted under BlogPoll

TV Alert

Cy-Fair vs. Cypress Falls tonight at 8pm EDT on ESPN2. As Brian put it, Sam McGuffie gets more national coverage than the University of Michigan. I’m going to try to watch at least halftime through the beginning of garbage time and give my impressions.

Posted under Misc.

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My WOLV Top 10

I thought last week was the hardest was going to be the hardest top-ten list I was going gto make, but then everything I thought I knew went to hell. The one constant I still had was made variable with LSU losing to Kentucky.

I really don’t know how to set it up. Do I go by the teams I think are better (e.g. USC vs. BC) or straight resume (have USF in the top). What follows will be kind of a mish-mash of the two ideas. There aren’t 10 top 10 teams in the country, so without further ado:

  1. Ohio St.
  2. Louisiana St.
  3. Boston College
  4. South Florida
  5. Oklahoma
  6. South Carolina
  7. Oregon
  8. California
  9. Kentucky
  10. Arizona State

Feel free to tell me what I did wrong, right, etc.

Posted under BlogPoll

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Non-Football Thoughts about PSU Game

Unlike Tim, I was at the game on my student ticket sitting standing in section 29, row 23. I have to say the crowd got pretty loud around me, but there were the requisite douchebag Michigan fans.

What really got me was the kid in front of me on third down did the key play thingy without any keys. He was doing all the bad parts of the key play without the small benefit of the noise made from jingling keys.

I decided to once again pocket some change and buy a water bottle on the way to the game. By the second Penn State drive I was nicely hydrated and had the loudest noisemaker $1.19 can buy. I have to say, if the entire student section did this (a la OSU 2005), it could make a difference. I can even give it a stupid name in order for people like it. Third down is no longer a “key play”, but rather a “game changing play.” Hell, you could probably get a bank to sponsor free water bottles at the gates.

The biggest cheer of the game probably came when Mike Hart limped off the field, and then ran back on after the time out. No matter what Hart does, he energizes the fans. There were fewer than normal people who wanted to throw the ball every single down. People are starting to realize that the best game plan is turning around and giving the ball to Hart.

I got a text message from my buddy (formerlyannonymous) in the third quarter saying “Omg fullback shuffle misdirection” I felt the same way.

Finally, after wins, one of my favorite things to do is read through the open thread on MGoBlog. When you know the story has a happy ending you can smile knowingly at how (justifiably) bi-polar we Michigan fans are. There was one quick back and forth that had me falling out of my chair:

Our space emmporer should start aiming for the corners.
Mike74 | 09.22.07 – 4:30 pm | #

There are no corners in space
KBlow | 09.22.07 – 4:31 pm | #

It could just be because I’m taking a course on the philosophy of space and time, but I prefer to think Michigan fans are just damn witty.

Posted under Analysis

Fun with Removing Context

I feel compelled to write something about the BTN open house, but really nothing too much happened. Bill Martin wasn’t there, but I don’t think that is significant in any way. There were only 5 questions allowed and they were generally stupid or not pertinent.

The one question that really got a rise out the room was a little old lady who walked up to them microphone (which wasn’t working, yet everyone adjusted it to their height) and asked “Do you have a number where I can call Comcast and talk to a real person?” She was immediately surrounded by reporters because she was little, old and full of spunk!

The most entertaining thing to me, mainly because I have a unique (read: bad) sense of humor was a statement Jim Delany made during his speech. He is obviously not a politician since he doesn’t know how easily a quote can be taken out of context. The quote is:

We’re very happy to listen, explain and advocate for an idea that we think is awful…

In real life, he finished it with “important,” so he should have used the adverb instead the adjective .

Anyway, we’ll try to get the media from the open house soon. Just out of curiosity, would you people out in the Internet prefer the full video or an mp3 file of the event? The whole thing is about 45 minutes. Let us know in the comments if you have a preference.

Posted under Misc.

McGuffie Chooses Blue

From my buddy in Houston who I forced to watch the show with the announcemet. His play by play:

A Real Texan: visit fell in love
A Real Texan: coach jackson
A Real Texan: rb staff
A Real Texan: i can come in as freshman and be impact player
A Real Texan: wanna be successful as a unit
A Real Texan: what i do is what i do???
A Real Texan: not tamu b/c:
A Real Texan: wants to experience new things, and to do that, i might as well do it at university of michigan
A Real Texan: and dynamo highlights

I’ll update the recruiting grid, probably make an obligatory YouTube link and try to remember when Michigan has had this good of a recruiting class this early.

Posted under Recruiting