Thursday Morning Brews: Ohio State Hypotheticals

November 26, 2015 by  
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Let's Go On A Journey

On one hand, watching Ohio State's season implode was wonderful. All the quarterbacks in the world weren't enough to hide the absence of one good offensive coordinator (seriously, great coaches are so much more important than great players), while a coach as revered as Urban Meyer somehow couldn't diagnose his team's problems before fans were shouting them at the TV ("use your great players better, fergodsakes!!").

But on the other hand, Tim Beck and Ohio State robbed us of a rare opportunity to see so much talent unleashed on college competition. The explosive plays. The mature, hard-working players. Watching defenders try to guard Braxton Miller on a jet sweep while he throws it to a wide-open man downfield (which still hasn't happened yet, by the way). Such a blown opportunity of a veteran roster of play-makers. Such a waste.

So, to give you just a little taste of what Ohio State's offense might have looked like if things had gone a little differently, I decided to do some tinkering in the garage. Nothing grandiose - just tinkering. For one, let's assume that J.T. Barrett was the starting quarterback for most of the season, except for that rain-soaked affair with Michigan State. And then, let's assume that Zeke Elliott was leaned on more, especially late in the year against Minnesota, Michigan State, and Michigan. A couple other repairs - getting the ball more consistently to Braxton Miller & Co., especially deep shots down the field. Miller hasn't been sufficiently established in this offense in any meaningful way, Michael Thomas is the team's best all-around receiver, and Jalin Marshall offers a lot of toughness and speed.

At its best, Ohio State would challenge defenses between the tackles, horizontally, and deep, which made simple plays so much more deadly. With an efficient approach, an offense can stay on the field for extended periods while flirting constantly with the big play.

With the above, you can see Percy Harvin flex into a running back role and then follow a lead blocker into the secondary. Great play design, add explosiveness, leave for ten seconds, and you have your own touchdown. Braxton Miller has done his share of running between the tackles - but always as a Wildcat quarterback. Creativity like this has been absent.

So, what might have happened if this offense hadn't suddenly gone flat? The following is a journey of imagination, a series of assumptions based on hypotheticals, and a trip through a very, very different Ohio State season.


J.T. Barrett: 11 starts, 7.60 yards per play, 64.0%, 2631 pass, 508 rush

Last year, J.T. Barrett averaged 7.77 yards a play. This year, his rushing average has ticked up slightly, while his passing numbers have dropped off precipitously. The fact is, Ohio State isn't completing nearly as many deep passes as it was before. However, since Barrett looks about the same as he was last year, and assuming this offense is able to get a couple deep threats established, let's tab J.T. Barrett's 2015 production at a pretty similar level to last year: 7.60, much higher than its current mark of 6.41.

Let's also say that Barrett gets 75% of the quarterback's snaps, and that 2015's version of this offense is a little more pass-heavy than last year's 37.2%. The benefit to ~75% is that you can establish Barrett's strengths - efficiency, accuracy - as the base of the offense while regularly challenging defenses to prepare for Cardale and Braxton.

Zeke Elliott: 300 carries, 1890 rush, 35 catches, 300 receiving

Feed the beast. Elliott's per-carry numbers have dropped from 6.9 in 2014 to 6.3, but we'll keep that figure since more carries can sometimes mean more stuffs. Also, an offense determined to use three running quarterbacks will usually be getting eight in the box.

On the other hand, how do you not use Elliott in the pass game? Until recently, he hadn't dropped a pass all year. His catch rate for the last two years is above 91%. Leak this guy in the flat, please. Give it to Cardale with Braxton on one side, Elliott on the other, then leak them both. Just get him the ball.

Cardale Jones: 4 starts, 7.10 yards per play, 62.5%, 1050 pass, 249 rush

One benefit of the number of quarterbacks is the ability to protect each from wear and tear, while still operating a run-QB offense. Meyer loves running his quarterback up the middle, and Cardale is darn good at it. So with his 25% of the quarterback's snaps, go with some runs up the middle, jet sweeps to Braxton, hand-offs to Zeke, and more deep routes with Braxton and Michael Thomas. Throw in some four-receiver route trees for good luck. Hand off to Zeke for more good luck.

With Jones, I'll assume a bump from this year's 6.89 yards a play and last year's 7.05. After all, Cardale has gotten better and more accurate from last year to this, even if it's not always apparent.

Braxton Miller: 900 receiving, 15.0 yards a catch, 506 rush, 150 pass

I'll defer to LGHL's description:

Miller is the de facto Wildcat and change of pace quarterback for the offense. They typically use this formation after a big play, after the defense is gassed and cannot substitute. They use tempo to hurry to the line and basically allow Miller to do what he does best, improvise. Yes, there is usually a designed play, it is not backyard football, but Miller tends to bounce the run outside and makes the play on his own.

When Miller is lined up at quarterback, a zone read or some sort of fake pitch/handoff to Elliott is involved. It may be called a zone read on the field, but I do not think Miller has actually executed a proper zone read this season. He keeps the ball. Every time.

Long, long ago, I had feared the combination of Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller on the field at the same time. With a zone read, pairing J.T. Barrett at quarterback with Miller as the pitch option offers the most tantalizing prospects for big plays - Barrett has more experience making decisions in the zone read, and defenses would either overcompensate on Braxton or be frozen towards the middle while Miller found a crease on the edge.

Right now, Miller is averaging 14.1 yards a catch, a number that three Ohio State receivers beat last year. That number could use some more punch; there are few athletes as dangerous in space, and few contenders who need a deep threat as badly as Ohio State. Assuming better per-play production (15.0 seems reasonable) with more targets (why has he been targeted about three times a game??), you get some decently impressive numbers.

Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall: 1120 receiving and 705 receiving

To this point, I've avoided talking about how long this imaginary Ohio State season would last. The 2014 team played in 15 games and broke a program record for total plays. With the defense that's continued to flourish and a rare amount of talent, I've taken the liberty of assuming this kind of offense would drive Ohio State to another 15-game season - because it would. But instead of national champions, this 2015 team has been reminiscent of John Cooper's Buckeyes. All the talent you need, but somehow disappointing.

Passing Leaders Rushing Leaders Receiving Leaders
J.T. Barrett, 2631 yards Ezekiel Elliott, 1890 yards Michael Thomas, 1120 yards
Cardale Jones, 1050 yards J.T. Barrett, 508 yards Braxton Miller, 900 yards

Hitting the Links Is Imaginary

Why Has Jim Harbaugh Not Recruited Ohio?

In the long run, having success in California, Texas, and Florida will pay bigger dividends. Michigan needs to 'expand the pool,' so to speak.

Different Styles For Harbaugh & Urban Meyer

This is a look at the personas and personalities of each man and how they translate to recruiting. A great piece by ESPN.

Joey Bosa Working Through Frustration, Struggles

While somewhat on the subject, credit to Adolphus Washington and Tyquan Lewis for making pretty great seasons in 2015. They haven't gotten a lot of love, but this line is a good group of guys.

OSU-MSU Film: More Cardale, Please?

The MSU game, with the coaches obviously worried about weather conditions, were a good opportunity to give it to your fullback quarterback and play-action a few times to Braxton Miller, who I'm sure has some good double-moves to try to trip up DBs. But alas, the Buckeyes did not.

Les Miles' Problem: He's Not Saban

Well-managed programs are hard to find. LSU is certainly making life hard for itself with its direction and execution.

Smack Talk: Goldy & Bucky

If you visit their Twitter pages, they're still going at it. Great stuff.

Coaches' Reactions To Scott Shafer's Firing

Syracuse head coach, and former Michigan Man, Scott Shafer got fired this week. Other ACC coaches offer their thoughts. This is relevant to Michigan because, if D.J. Durkin does get a head-coaching position, Michigan will be in the market for a D.C. and Shafer will be near the top of the list.

Iowa Is Simply Immune To Pressure | C.J. Beathard Interview

It's a good way to be. This team has blended the even keel of Ferentz and the youth and hope and passion of the players into a winning combination.

Corey Clement Talks Health, Likely Return

I've said it before, but Clement is an easy guy to root for. Everything I've seen of him suggests he'll be very successful.

Inside NU: Three Things About Illinois

This game will get lost in the shuffle, but it's an underrated Big Ten rivalry. This game will be taking place in Soldier Field, home of the Bears.

Regarding Bill Cubit: this Illinois team has shown some nice things this season, and UI finished about exactly where I expected them to under Tim Beckman. I don't think Cubit is a great coach, but this staff has settled into a nice groove with Cubit's offensive contributions and Tim Banks and Mike Phair doing some good work on the defensive side.

If Illinois does opt to scrap the staff and start fresh - which certainly seems to be what the fans want - they need to invest in filling out the staff with good assistant coaches, from the coordinators on down. Those hires will be almost as important as the head man in determining where the team goes from here.

Jordan Canzeri Touchdown

Perfectly blocked. Athletic runner. Way too easy.

Greg Kittle Touchdown

Iowa's gotten steady play out of the linemen and tight ends, positions they're famous for. But they've finally got some stars at running back (AIRBHG, where are you??!), a play-making quarterback, and great corners to complement them. I remember feeling frustrated at Ferentz for getting his team to work so hard carving out holes in the line of scrimmage and then running Mark Weisman through them for 3 yards. Now, finally, this team is reaping the benefits of its own hard work, and the results are obvious.

Chris Godwin Catch

Put this on the end-of-year highlight reel. (In fact, that's exactly what I'll be doing.) Godwin's catch may have come against Michigan, but it's impossible not to admire the throw, the run after catch, and the heart.

Brandon Ross Touchdown

Last year, it was easy to point to the Big Ten's talent at running back. (While you were having a conversation about it, Melvin Gordon was probably running past you to score against Nebraska.) This year, the overall talent isn't worse, but carries have been split up a lot more into committees. Maryland's Brandon Ross (with 790 yards heading into the final week of his season) won't catch a lot of eyes on the stat sheet, but he's been a great part of the Big Ten run game regardless.

A Long Bomb For Nate Sudfeld

Meanwhile, it's exciting to see the wide receiver talent growing in the league.

Shannon Brooks With The Icer

Minnesota-Illinois was a one-point game with two minutes left, but Minnesota didn't have to worry about keep-away. Brooks, it's worth noting, was a mid-three-star recruit according to Rivals. He has 636 yards and 6.4 yards per carry on the year. Not bad for a true freshman.

More Details On Caleb Rowe's Concussion

A "concussion spotter" in the press box is as helpful as a turkey in the Arctic. Seriously, who came up with that idea? How much do they get paid?

Man Perishes In Mirror Lake Jump, Ending Tradition

This is a very, very sad development. There's already been an ongoing debate over continuing the Mirror Lake Jump, which a lot of people enjoy but has also caused some injuries (no deaths) before Tuesday night.

Some good alternatives: staging the jump earlier in the year, or trying smaller-scale water-related feats of strength at different places. It's a shame this had to end, though.

UConn 74, Michigan 60: Benched in the Bahamas

November 25, 2015 by  
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It all fell apart for Michigan once John Beilein benched Caris LeVert with two fouls in the final eight minutes of the first half of Michigan's 74-60 loss to No. 18 UConn.

In the final eight minutes of the first half, Caris LeVert sat on the bench with two fouls.

In the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan made one field goal -- a dunk.

In the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan was outscored by 15 points.

In the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan lost the basketball game.

The Wolverines (2-2) were walloped by No. 18 UConn (4-0), 74-60, in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday night. For the second straight game, Caris LeVert was the only Wolverine that showed up offensively, pouring in 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while his teammates struggled to find their stroke, making only 11-of-44 shots.

At the start, Michigan seemed to have put the Xavier loss behind them as the Wolverines leaped out to a quick lead. Aubrey Dawkins received a pass from Derrick Walton and dropped in a three, UConn goaltended Zak Irvin's layup in transition, and, after Michigan corralled back-to-back offensive rebounds, LeVert found himself open on the perimeter and buried a triple. Michigan owned a 9-3 edge and looked ready to earn a signature win.

However, Michigan's offense began to sputter. UConn anchors one of the stingiest two-point defenses in the nation thanks to the presence of seven-foot center Amida Brimah in the middle. As Michigan ran ball screen after ball screen, the Wolverines were unable to find clean lanes into which they could penetrate or open looks inside. As a result, Michigan set up shop on the perimeter, shooting 10 of its first 15 shots from behind the three-point line. However, no matter how open Michigan may have been from downtown, their shots would not drop. Nonetheless, UConn was having some of its own offensive struggles, so Michigan clung to a 15-14 lead as the under-8 timeout approached.

But, with 8:04 left, LeVert was caught reaching in on a UConn drive and whistled for his second foul. As John Beilein has done time and time again when one of his players picks up two fouls in the first half, he put LeVert on the bench and left him there for the remainder of the first frame. With no LeVert on the floor and no other Wolverine generating any offense, Michigan fell apart. There was no offensive flow, and points were at a premium. At one point, Michigan had a lineup that didn't include LeVert, Walton, or Irvin. Unsurprisingly, Michigan couldn't make buckets. And UConn capitalized on LeVert's absence, outscoring the Wolverines, 22-7, in the final 8:04 to grab a 36-22 lead.

At that point, the game essentially was over. UConn built its lead to 19 in the second half before LeVert attempted to single-handedly bring the Wolverines back. He made an array of shots to cut UConn's lead to 11 points before Duncan Robinson knocked down a three to make it 61-53 UConn with 3:19 left. However, the Huskies' Daniel Hamilton finished a layup to extend UConn's lead back to 10 and answered a LeVert layup with a three to make it 66-55 with 1:11 left. And UConn made its free throws to finish it off.

There are two main questions that are staring Michigan in the face after this second straight disappointing loss. The first is if Beilein ever will learn that he can't afford to auto-bench his best players anymore. In this game, LeVert was the only player doing anything offensively for Michigan -- Irvin and Robinson combined for seven points on 2-of-18 shooting (1-of-12 3FG). When nothing else is working, Beilein has to be willing to risk LeVert's third foul in the first half, especially when LeVert is unlikely to foul out. However, Beilein kept him on the bench what would be the critical stretch of the game. When LeVert was on the floor, Michigan outscored UConn by three points. Every other Wolverine finished with a negative plus-minus margin. That's how important LeVert is.

Oh, and LeVert finished the game with two fouls.

The second question is if Michigan will find a consistent second scorer. LeVert has scored a total of 50 points in Michigan's two losses to Xavier and UConn, yet Michigan has lost those games by a combined 30 points. LeVert can't be blamed for being too selfish at times because he has received no help from his teammates when Michigan has faced an opponent with a pulse. If Walton, LeVert, Dawkins, or Robinson can't contribute on the scoreboard on a consistent basis, Michigan will be in for a long season.

Michigan faces Charlotte on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET on AXS TV.

The Michigan Man Podcast Episode 284: Joined by Guest Dr. Billy Taylor

November 25, 2015 by  
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The former Michigan back joins this edition of the show.

In this special edition of the Michigan Man Podcast, Dr. Billy Taylor joins the program.

Preview: Michigan vs. UConn

November 25, 2015 by  
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Michigan basketball looks to bounce back from a tough loss to Xavier by kicking off the Battle 4 Atlantis with a needed win vs. No. 18 UConn.

The Basics

Who: #18 Connecticut Huskies (3-0)

When: Wednesday, November 25th, at 9:30 p.m. ET (AXS TV)

Where: Imperial Arena -- Paradise Island, Bahamas

SpreadVegas: +4.5KenPom: L, 67-68 (45% WP)

The Stage

The week of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament always was the most important of Michigan's non-conference slate, and that's even more of the case now after Michigan suffered an 86-70 home loss to No. 23 Xavier last Friday. The Battle 4 Atlantis is a three-day tournament that begins on Wednesday, ends on Friday, and is stocked with high-major programs. Joining Michigan in the tournament is No. 10 Gonzaga, No. 18 UConn, No. 25 Texas A&M, Washington, Texas, Syracuse, and Charlotte. Here is the bracket:

Battle 4 Atlantis Bracket

The Battle 4 Atlantis is so important for Michigan because it's a chance for Michigan to earn some resume-boosting wins. For Michigan, this season is about showing that last's was an injury-riddled fluke, and that means getting back to the NCAA Tournament. However, while playing quality competition in the Big Ten will help, Michigan must add some respected non-conference wins. However, after the Battle 4 Atlantis, Michigan faces only two more non-Big Ten foes that are in the KenPom Top 250 -- No. 22 SMU and No. 51 NC State -- and they're both on the road. So Michigan's trip to the Bahamas must be a successful one. If it's not, things could start looking really dicey for the Wolverines.

The Opponent

UConn is 3-0 and thumped each of the three opponents that it has faced, beating Maine, New Hampshire, and Furman by an average of 29.3 points. Of course, Maine (No. 312 on KenPom), New Hampshire (No. 147), and Furman (No. 212) are not near the level of competition, for example, Xavier is. Michigan will be UConn's first true test this year.

Offensively, the Huskies have shot the ball very well in their first three games. They have made 61.1 percent of their twos (12th) and 36.7 percent of their threes (106th) for a 58.6 eFG% (18th). I wonder how much of that should be attributed to facing overmatched opponents because UConn hasn't been a top-50 shooting team since 2003. Despite how efficient UConn has been inside the arc, 41.1 percent of its field goals have been outside of it. This indicates UConn has a perimeter-oriented offense that hopes to knock down threes, which, in turn, extends the defense and creates easier looks inside. UConn also seems to be perimeter-oriented based on how well the the Huskies hold onto the basketball. Their turnover rate is 11.7 percent, which is the seventh-best in the country.

However, despite starting a seven-foot center, UConn doesn't have nearly as much of a scoring presence inside as Xavier. The Huskies have grabbed their own miss 33.7 percent of the time (107th) and have shot only 29.2 free throws for every 100 field goals taken (295th). This falls in line with the previous two editions of UConn basketball, which finished no better than 192nd in offensive rebounding or free throw rates. This isn't a team that attacks the rim frequently, which should cause Michigan to sigh in relief.

Defensively, UConn's strength is in the interior thanks to the presence of seven-foot center Amida Brimah. The Huskies possess the nation's best shot-blocking rate, swatting away almost a quarter of their opponent's shots (23.5 pct.). As a result, teams have made only 35.7 percent of their twos against UConn. That's the 12th-best two-point defense in the country. Though opponents haven't shot much better from three (30.9 pct.), they have found open looks on the perimeter against UConn as 45.3 percent of their field goals have been from downtown. However, opponents may be shooting that often from behind the three-point line because they fear challenging Brimah in the paint. Other than that, there is nothing else that stands out about UConn's defense. The Huskies force very few turnovers, and they're only average on the defensive glass and keeping their hands off of their opponent. But good luck trying to score over or around Brimah when he is inside.

The Personnel

UConn's starting point guard is 6-foot-2 graduate student Sterling Gibbs, who played at Texas as a freshman and at Seton Hall the past two seasons. Gibbs was an excellent point guard for the Pirates last year, averaging 16.3 PPG and 3.8 APG. And Gibbs was efficient, too, registering a 115.0 offensive rating despite being Seton Hall's go-to player. This season, Gibbs still is scoring at a high rate. He leads UConn with 15.7 PPG thanks to his 8-of-20 shooting (40.0 pct.) from behind the three-point line. Gibbs also has finished well around the rim through three games this season, but I don't expect that to persist given that he's missed more than half of those looks in each of the past two years. However, Gibbs has not been the distributor he was at Seton Hall. His assist rate has dipped from 26 percent to 12 percent. It seems the Huskies want him to assume more of a scoring role.

The Huskies are relying on 6-foot-7 sophomore wing Daniel Hamilton to be their distributor. Through three games, he has tallied 19 assists and has claim to a top-50 assist rate (38.2 pct.). In addition, Hamilton can be a triple-double threat on any night as he's averaging 8.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Most of Hamilton's rebounds come on the defensive end, where he owns a 26.1 rebounding rate. However, of those three areas, scoring is Hamilton's biggest weakness. He is average at best around the rim and struggles with his mid-range jumper. Hamilton has shown ability to knock down some threes (34.3 3P% last season), but he's made only 2-of-8 triples this season. Nonetheless, Hamilton is versatile.

The guard that will join Gibbs in the backcourt is fellow transfer Rodney Purvis. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior transferred from NC State after his freshman season, during which he scored six points in a 79-72 loss against a Trey Burke-led Michigan squad, to UConn, where he started 24 of 33 games played last season. Purvis came on strong in his final six starts, averaging 17.8 PPG on 58.0 eFG%, and has picked up where he left off last season. In his first three games, he has posted 14.3 PPG while connecting on 63.6 percent of his twos and 47.4 percent of his threes. Additionally, Purvis has been much better at creating offense for others; his assist rate has soared from 10.1 percent to 25.6 percent this year.

UConn's starting power forward is 6-foot-7 Cornell transfer Shonn Miller. Miller is the Huskies' third-leading scorer (12.7 PPG) and does most of his work around the rim. Of the 22 shots that he has taken, only one has been behind the three-point line, and he has converted a whopping 76.2 percent of his twos. Miller is a force on the defensive end, too. In his last two seasons at Cornell, he recorded some of the best defensive rebounding and shot-blocking rates in the nation. He won't quite do that this year (19.2 DR%, 7.0 Blk%), but that's only because he has a defensive monster standing by his side in the paint.

That defensive monster is seven-foot junior center Amida Brimah. Brimah has the nation's second-best block rate (25.3 pct.), which is a title he also had last season (15.0 pct.). Brimah will go after any shot that is in his vicinity, which likely explains why his defensive rebounding rate is more modest (14.2 pct.). On the other end, Brimah isn't as skilled around the rim as Xavier's Jalen Reynolds, but he still finishes almost 80 percent of shots inside five feet. Many of those are the result of offensive rebounds, which he grabs frequently (11.0 OR%). Also, Brimah is willing to attempt the occasional mid-range jumper, and he makes those at a decent enough rate that defenses can't leave him open.

UConn has gone deep into its bench through the first three games, but I wonder if that has been only because the Huskies have played in three straight blowouts. I have a feeling that Kevin Ollie will keep the rotation shorter tonight. The reserves Ollie will go to are 6-foot-3 freshman guard Jalen Adams, 6-foot-6 senior wing Omar Calhoun, and 6-foot-10 junior forward Kentan Facey. As a five-star prospect in the 2015 class, Adams is the player to watch. He is the first Husky of the bench and has averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.0 RPG. He's shooting the ball well, having drained 54.5 percent of his twos and 42.9 percent of his threes. Adams turns it over a bit but compensates with steals.

The Keys

Run the Pick and Roll with the 5: Though Michigan is an excellent three-point shooting team and should find open looks against UConn, it can't rely solely on outside jumpers. The Wolverines will need to find ways to score inside against Amida Brimah, Shonn Miller, and the rest of the Huskies gang. The best way to do this is to run the pick and roll with Michigan's center, whether it be Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson, Moritz Wagner, or Mark Donnal. By doing so, it should draw Brimah away from the rim and create better looks inside. And, if Brimah chooses to remain in the paint rather than defend the screen, Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, etc. will have open threes and mid-range jumpers all game.

Force Turnovers: Michigan was exposed defensively against Xavier inside and out. Michigan's centers couldn't keep the Musketeers away from the rim, and the Wolverines' rotations were painfully slow on the perimeter, particularly when Michigan hedged hard on pick and rolls. It seems unlikely that Michigan will resolve all of these problems in just a few days of practice. Therefore, Michigan will need to rely on steals to get stops. Of course, the problem is that UConn takes care of the basketball more than most teams. This will be a battle of strength versus strength, and the matchup will have a big impact.

Find a Second Scorer: Caris LeVert looked amazing against Xavier, recording 29 points on 8-of-16 (5-of-8 3P) shooting, seven boards, three assists, and two steals. He did it all for Michigan and kept them in the game until the final eight minutes. Everyone else, though, was absent. No other Wolverine scored in double digits, and the rest of the team made only 13-of-36 shots (36.1 pct). As Michigan learned last year, LeVert can't do it alone. He needs help, and Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, and Duncan Robinson need to be that for him. If they're not, Michigan will be in serious trouble.

Clean Up the Defensive Glass: This may be a key in every game this season.

The Prediction

It's easy to be down on the Wolverines after their last performance. They were worked over down low by Xavier, and now they must face an opponent that has a seven-foot center and intimidating interior defense. Further, both Vegas and KenPom believe that UConn is the better team and have the Huskies as the favorite. However, this isn't the same matchup as last Friday. Michigan's biggest weakness is its defense around the rim, and UConn isn't a team that attacks the rim, grabs lots of offensive rebounds, or gets to the free-throw line often. I think Michigan will have some success defensively. But will Michigan be able to score down low, which is a must because it can't rely solely on the three-point ball? I don't think so, and that will be the difference in what's a close game.

UConn 64, Michigan 58

Jim Harbaugh vs. Ohio State: A Bomb and a Guarantee

November 25, 2015 by  
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Harbaugh played in The Game twice and walked off victorious both times. He'll look to do the same as head coach of the Wolverines on Saturday.

Jim Harbaugh spent five years in Ann Arbor under the leadership of Bo Schembechler, but he only played twice against the Buckeyes. A redshirt year, a backup year, and an injury-shortened year - a broken arm suffered against Michigan State - meant that Harbaugh spent three years champing at the bit from the sidelines during The Game. He entered the '85 contest as a redshirt junior poised to swing the rivalry back in Michigan's favor after watching Ohio State win two of the three games since he arrived in '82. And he did just that by winning both games, which kicked off the Wolverines taking 12 of 15 against the Buckeyes from '85 to 2000.

1985: A Bomb

#6 Michigan 27, #12 Ohio State 17

Harbaugh's Stats: 16/19 for 230 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 6 carries for 14 yards

Source of gif found here, courtesy of SterlingIncorp

Both teams entered The Game in '85 with a couple of conference blemishes: Michigan lost to the then-ranked #1 Iowa Hawkeyes, who won the Big Ten that year, in Week 6 and tied a mediocre Illinois squad two weeks later; Ohio State fell to Illinois in Week 4 and traveled to Ann Arbor following a 12-7 upset to a bad Wisconsin team.

The Buckeyes won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Wolverines senior Pat Moons booted the pigskin for Michigan, his first career kickoff after Bo suspended both Mike Gillette and Rick Sutkiewicz for disciplinary reasons. Ohio State probably hoped to score points early against a Michigan defense that had surrendered just three touchdowns on the year and no more than 15 points in a game. However, Michigan back Ivan Hicks snagged a floater thrown by OSU quarterback Jim Karsatos, and the Wolverines took over inside Ohio State's 40-yard line. Moons would end up kicking a 34-yard field goal to give Michigan an early 3-0 lead thanks to some great plays by Harbaugh, such as this pass to Ohio-native John Kolesar:

Source of this gif and all below found here, courtesy of WolverineHistorian

The kick accounted for all the scoring in the first quarter, and the Buckeyes stormed back with a 48-yard field goal to start the second. They added a 2-yard touchdown run by back Keith Byars following a forced fumble by linebacker Chris Spielman to go up 10-3. Harbaugh responded on the next drive by airing a 40-yard pass to tight end Eric Kattus, setting up the Wolverines at Ohio State's 16-yard line. He later escaped a sack to setup a third-and-short inside the 10:

On the next play, Harbaugh bobbled the snap before finding running back Gerald White for a 4-yard touchdown pass, evening the score at 10.

The score remained tied at halftime, but the third quarter was all Wolverines. Moons regained the lead for Michigan with a 38-yard field early in the third quarter, and Harbaugh extended it to 20-10 with this 5-yard pass to an uncovered Kattus in the back of the endzone:

The Buckeyes made things interesting by scoring first in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard jump ball pass to wideout Cris Carter on 4th-and-15. With a narrow lead, Harbaugh responded on the next drive with arguably the biggest play of his career: a 77-yard touchdown bomb to Kolesar:

Ohio State blitzed, Harbaugh stood in the pocket, took a hit, and burned them deep. Following the win, Bo noted that the play "took the starch out of their sails." The 77-yard dagger put the game out of reach, and Michigan's defense shut the door by forcing a pair of Buckeyes fumbles to close the game. Moons missed a field goal along the way, but it didn't matter. The Wolverines ran out the clock, not by taking a knee, but by driving down the field. The last play of the game was a pitch:

Harbaugh played lights out in his first showdown with the Buckeyes, especially when it mattered most: on nine third downs, he completed eight passes, all for scores or first downs. The 77-yard pass to Kolesar ranked as the second-longest pass in team history at the time (it's currently tied for sixth) and he broke Michigan's season records for passing touchdowns (18) and passing yards (1,913) on the day (neither is still in the top ten all-time).

After the game, Bo praised Harbaugh: "He's gonna be a great quarterback, and he was great today."

Game notes gathered from MGoBlue stats archiveMVictorsNew York TimesGainesville SunThe Plain Dealer

1986: A Guarantee

#6 Michigan 26, #7 Ohio State 24

Harbaugh's Stats: 19/29 for 261 yards, 2 interceptions, and 6 carries for 5 yards

Source of this gif and all below found here, courtesy of WolverineHistorian

Heading into this iteration of The Game, Michigan looked to bounce back from an upset at the hands of Minnesota a week prior - erasing any hopes of a national championship - and Ohio State aimed to extend their nine-game winning streak after losing in back-to-back games to start the season. A Buckeyes win would give them the Big Ten championship outright, while a Wolverines victory split the title and would send Michigan to the Rose Bowl. By now, most of you are familiar with what Harbaugh said five days before The Game:

I think we're smart enough to know that there's too much at stake right now. Everything's still out there for us. We can still win the Big Ten championship, we can go to the Rose Bowl, and we will. I guarantee you we'll beat Ohio State and be in Pasadena.

If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you take some time and read this history of Harbaugh and his guarantee over at ESPN. It has too many awesome quotes from former players and coaches and staff members for me to do it any justice by trying to copy some here. However, one sticks out, and it comes from Urban Meyer, who was a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes from 1986-87:

I'll never forget what Schembechler said about Harbaugh's guarantee. He said that Harbaugh only said what the rest of us wanted to say, but he had the guts to say it. That told me how much Schembechler respected the guy.

As for the game, Ohio State fans welcomed Jim with "Harbaugh sucks!" chants, and the team backed them up by racing out the a 14-3 lead in the first half. Cris Carter grabbed a 4-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, and after a Michigan field goal by Mike Gillette, running back Vince Workman spring 46 yards for Ohio State's second touchdown in as many possessions. Following the quick scores by the Buckeyes, Harbaugh looked to get Michigan back into the game. He aired a pass deep to freshman wideout Greg McMurtry, but he dropped it at the goal line:

Two plays later, Harbaugh tossed a pass behind his intended receiver, and the Buckeyes snagged it. Ohio State did nothing with it, and Gillette added another field goal to bring the score to 14-6. The Wolverines continued to keep the Buckeyes at bay on offense in the second quarter and took over possession with 3:46 remaining in the half. Harbaugh helped lead Michigan down to Ohio State's 8-yard line before throwing his second interception of the day with 45 seconds remaining in the half.

Trailing 14-6, the Wolverines took control of the game in the second half thanks to back Jamie Morris. According to Morris:

One of our coaches saw something from the press box, and he told Bo at halftime that we could run right at them. I'll never forget Bo slapping the blackboard and saying, 'We're going to run it right down their throats!' He looked at me and said, 'Your little ass better get going!' I wanted to smile, but I could only say, 'Yes, sir.'

Morris tallied 210 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, with both scores opening the second half for Michigan. On his first touchdown, he juked an Ohio State defender out of his shoes after receiving a pitch from Harbaugh on an option:

Then, following a field goal by the Buckeyes, he busted a 52-yard run to put the Wolverines in Ohio State territory before finishing the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run:

Michigan failed a two-point conversion afterwards, due to some pass interference from the Buckeyes:

Which led to Bo freaking out, a familiar site these days:

With their first lead of the day at 19-17, the Wolverines continued to move the ball on offense early in the fourth quarter, driving 85 yards on 8 plays. A 7-yard run by Thomas Wilcher capped the drive with a score for Michigan. Now up 26-17, the Wolverines seemed in control of the game, especially after an interception minutes later setup a field goal. However, the 47-yard attempt by Gillette was blocked and gave the Buckeyes new life. Karsatos found Carter for a 17-yard touchdown less than two minutes later, and just like that, Ohio State trailed 26-24 with 9:42 remaining. Michigan attempted to run out the clock on the ground, but Wilcher coughed up the football with a little over three minutes remaining. The Buckeyes proceeded to drive into Wolverines territory, aided by a facemask penalty that caused Bo to lose it again:

Ohio State stalled at Michigan's 28-yard line and faced a 4th-and-2 with 1:06 remaining. Earle Bruce decided to attempt the kick rather than go for it, giving kicker Matt Frantz another chance at a 40+ yard field goal (he missed a 43-yarder in the second quarter). With the game on the line, Frantz's kick had enough distance but tailed off to the left:

In the aforementioned ESPN article, Frantz comments on preparing for the kick:

I trotted out on the field, set my tee on the ground and looked at my holder, Scott Powell. Then I heard the referee blow his whistle for a timeout. It was a TV timeout, which meant it was an extended timeout. I looked around and saw a hundred thousand people and realized they were focused on me.

Just before the timeout was over, I looked over and saw Bo Schembechler about three-quarters of the way out on the field. He was screaming, "Frantz, you little s---, you're going to miss this kick!" He was going nuts, and his coaches were trying to hold him back. People ask me all the time if icing the kicker works. I tell them, "Well, in my case it did." It was a perfect snap and a perfect hold, but I hooked it a couple of feet left. There's no explanation and no excuse.

The victory proved Harbaugh's guarantee true, cementing his place in Wolverines football lore, as well as making Bo the winningest coach in Michigan football history, surpassing Fielding Yost with 166 wins:

Game notes gathered from MGoBlue stats archiveESPNGainesville SunThe Plain Dealer

Wolverines in the NFL: Funchess settling in

November 25, 2015 by  
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Funchess earned his first career start this week, and it looks like he's finally turned the corner, hauling in four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown. Also, Brady finds a way to win, Hall is good...then bad, and Shoelace receives some more carries.


Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

Week 11 stats: 20/39 for 277 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception

The Pats-Bills game on Monday night was Ugly with a capital "U" as both offenses struggled to do anything and blunders by the refs became a major part of the game. Brady recorded his worst start of the season but probably would have another touchdown if not for an inadvertent whistle from the refs. The Bills pressured Brady more than any other team this season, but when they didn't, he torched them. He led a six-play, 62-yard touchdown drive in 33 seconds in the final minute of the first half. Those quick points proved critical later, especially considering the aforementioned screwup by the refs. Offensive line issues could eventually doom the Patriots, but for now, Brady and Co. are getting the job done as they are still undefeated at 10-0.

Running Back

Denard Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Week 11 stats: 7 carries for 27 yards

While starter T.J. Yeldon received most of the workload last Thursday night, Shoelace played backup and matched his season-high in carries with seven as well as setting a season-high in yardage. Hopefully this leads to more action for Denard as the NFL season comes down the stretch.

Wide Receiver

Jason Avant (Kansas City Chiefs)

Week 11 stats: 2 receptions for 26 yards on 2 targets

A solid performance for Avant after two consecutive stat-less weeks. He also made a key block on this big run:

Devin Funchess (Carolina Panthers)

Week 11 stats: 4 receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown on 8 targets

The Panthers remain undefeated, and Funchess is starting to come into his own. He's had a positive PFF grade for three straight weeks, he earned his first career start this week, and he's making "some great plays" after struggling early this year. From Cat Scratch Reader:

Devin Funchess caught a lot of hell until a few weeks ago, and a lot of it was deserved. He didn't get separation, he dropped passes and for a while even staunch proponents got a little scared. These last three weeks, and especially on Sunday he showed his maturation. Being forced to play in Corey Brown's stead, Funchess caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, he led the entire team in receiving. Cam made sure to get him involved early and it paid dividends late.

Defensive Line

Alan Branch (New England Patriots)

Week 11 stats: None

Branch failed to record any stats this week even though his usage shot up to 49% - due to the run-heavy Bills - when the Pats were on defense. However, Buffalo struggled to 94 yards rushing on 30 carries, so it seems Branch's presence made a difference even if it didn't show up in the box score.

Mike Martin (Tennessee Titans)

Week 11 stats: None

Martin did not play this week. This is the fourth week in a row Martin failed to see any game action.


Brandon Graham (Philadelphia Eagles)

Week 11 stats: 2 solo tackles

This was an ugly week for the entire Eagles organization, including Graham, as the Bucs blew them out 45-17. When all that stands out in the game recap is an offside penalty Graham committed, you know this is a game to be forgotten.

David Harris (New York Jets)

Week 11 stats: 5 solo tackles, 3 assists, 1 pass defended, 1 QB hit

Standard fare for Harris this week as the Jets dropped their second consecutive game. Overall, the Jets defense looked bad against a normally lackluster Houston Texans offense.

Jake Ryan (Green Bay Packers)

Week 11 stats: None

After what looked like a breakout performance for Ryan two week's ago that would earn him more playing time, he's been on the field for just one defensive snap in the past two games. Baffling. If there's any Packers fans reading this, I'd be curious to know if there's a solid reason why.

LaMarr Woodley (Arizona Cardinals)

Week 11 stats: None

Woodley had a quiet game in the box score this week on one-third of Arizona's defensive snaps. He continues to play a small role in their defense.


Leon Hall (Cincinnati Bengals)

Week 11 stats: 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, 1 pass defended, 1 interception

It was a tale of two halves for Hall this week. On the opening drive, he intercepted Carson Palmer - the 25th pick of his career - to swing momentum in Cincy's favor. However, he was "torched" by Larry Fitzgerald on Arizona's final drive, surrendering two catches for 38 yards that setup a Cardinals game-winning field goal. With Darqueze Dennard lost for the rest of the season, Hall will be leaned upon more as the Bengals try to bounce back from consecutive losses following eight straight wins.

Jordan Kovacs (Miami Dolphins)

Week 11 stats: None

Kovacs played on 15 (71%) special teams snaps and failed to record any stats.

Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders)

Week 11 stats: 6 solo tackles

Woodson should have had an interception this week against the Detroit Lions as Matthew Stafford overthrew a pass by him. However, Woodson didn't make the play and had a quiet performance overall.


Devin Funchess

First career start, second career touchdown, and the Panthers leading receiver


David Harris

Nobody else stood out much


Cam Newton to Devin Funchess

Check out this gem:


Michael Schofield vs. the Bears Defensive Line

The Broncos rushing attack came alive on Sunday, headlined by running back Ronnie Hillman going for 102 yards. However, the pass protection left much to be desired, with QB Brock Osweiler enduring constant pressure and five sacks throughout the game. Schofield struggled for a majority of the game, missing blocks and failing to pick up on the blitz multiple times.

WINNER: Bears Defensive Line

Charles Woodson vs. the Lions Receivers

Woodson had a rare quiet game on Sunday during his return to the Mitten State, only recording six total tackles. On the other side of the ball, Lions receivers went for 282 total yards during the 18-13 win. However, Woodson was extremely close to recording his ninth career interception against the Lions late in the game when QB Matthew Stafford overthrew a wide-open Eric Ebron. We'll consider this matchup a "draw" just because it appeared that Woodson was everywhere on the field during this game.


Tom Brady vs. the Bills Secondary

The Bills defense had their way with Tom Brady on Monday night. He was sacked once and was hit several times throughout the course of the game, while only completing half of his passes. While the Patriots did come away with a win against Buffalo, Brady worked hard for every completed pass. We will give this matchup win to the Bills defense as a whole, due in large part to the constant pressure that Brady endured during the game.

WINNER: Bills Defense


Tom Brady vs. the Broncos Defense

While the Broncos offense has been getting the majority of the attention in Denver following Peyton Manning's worse start of his NFL career, the Denver defense has quietly been putting together a spectacular season. They are currently ranked first in the league in points allowed per game (18.3) and yards allowed per game (284). However, they will perhaps have their toughest test of the season thus far when Tom Terrific and the Patriots come to town. Expect a defensive battle in this game, and with the decimated offensive line for the Julian Edelman-less Patriots, Brady may come out of the gate struggling. It's the classic case of an unstoppable force clashing with an immovable object, and it's going to be a good one.

ADVANTAGE: Broncos Defense

Devin Funchess vs. the Cowboys Secondary

Funchess once again proved to Cam Newton and the Panthers that he is a legitimate offensive threat, catching another touchdown on Sunday and leading the team in reception yards. In Week 12, he will be matched up against a Cowboys defense that is ranked 16th overall. While the defense has been steadily improving week to week, they have struggled with forcing turnovers. They are currently 30th in the league in turnover differential, only having six takeaways. Look for Funchess to continue to steadily improve week to week and see his playing time gradually increase as a result.

ADVANTAGE: Devin Funchess

David Harris vs. the Dolphins Offensive Line

Harris posted yet another solid game in Week 11 against the Texans. To date in 2015, he has recorded 2.5 sacks along with 71 total tackles. The Dolphins come to town on Sunday with a struggling offensive line that ranks 19th in the league per Football Outsiders. They have also given up 27 sacks this season, and because of that, expect Harris to record one (or two) of his own.

ADVANTAGE: David Harris

Getting To Know Michigan’s Week 13 Opponent: Ohio State Buckeyes

November 25, 2015 by  
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We introduce you to Michigan's historic and bitter rival, Ohio State, in preparation for this weekend's matchup.

Throughout the season during game week, we will be taking a look at what Michigan's opponent that Saturday has done so far and what the team looks like. With the game against Ohio State being a week thirteen opponent, we automatically go to the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State last weekend and their outspoken running back.

Ohio State Overview: What The Hell Happened?

Zach: Before we get into this sought after rivalry, I want to focus on Ezekiel Elliott, the Ohio State running back who was in the news more for his postgame comments than his performance on the field last weekend against Michigan State. Does his remarks concerning the Buckeye’s offensive game plan and him going on Twitter to announce his decision to leave early for the NFL merit a one game suspension? Or does he deserve to play in the regular season finale at the Big House?

Ricky: If I was Meyer, Elliott wouldn’t see the field Saturday. No way, no how. While I appreciate his honestly being in the media, I think his comments were totally unwarranted. You’re upset because you didn’t get enough carries? Do something on the field to change it. Earn those carries. I know where Meyer is coming from with letting Elliott play because obviously he has to win this game, and he probably wouldn’t be able to with Mike Weber or another player slotted at running back. Elliott wasn’t the only one to sound off. A few other Buckeyes did so on Twitter. Zach, is that a cause for concern heading into The Game? Are they imploding?

Zach: You would like to think that it doesn’t lead to an unfortunate implosion, because it’s just another factor that helps knock the train (Ohio State) off its tracks. It’s rather funny to think how the build up and implications for this game have drastically changed from earlier this past week to today, and part of that includes the fall from grace by Ohio State. From probable College Football Playoff finalists to Citrus Bowl candidates. Fans want to see a competitive game, but imploding what result in the second coming of the "Ten Year War" starting off on the wrong foot. With that being said, if Elliott continues his slump, who should Michigan’s defense focus on containing?

Ricky: I think the obvious answer would be to key in on whomever is at quarterback, likely JT Barrett. But he hasn’t been the same quarterback we saw last year before he broke his ankle in The Game. Through nine games, he’s averaging 74.2 passing yards per game and 49.67 rushing yards per game. Those numbers are nothing like last year’s: 236.2 passing yards per game, 78.17 rushing yards per game.Maybe it’s the quarterback circus Meyer has been the ringleader of since Jones announced his return. Maybe it’s the absence of Tom Herman. With the weight this game still carries, do we see Jones if Barrett struggles, or has that ship sailed?

Zach: Nah...for the reason being that Barrett’s struggles against the Spartans can be blamed on Ohio State’s putrid play calling. In Jones’ case, when he was the team’s starting quarterback, his struggles were because of him, not because of offensive coordinator Ed Warriner’s decision making. There’s no chance that Jones sees action on the field in Ann Arbor this weekend. And unlike Elliott, the quarterback’s cryptic tweeting may have cost him playing time as the season comes to a close. But this is a Michigan blog and we have yet to talk about Jake Rudock. How will he do against Ohio State’s pass defense?

Ricky: Ohio State, by the numbers, has the fifth-best pass defense in FBS. It has allowed 164.3 yards per game, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 49.1 percent of their passes. But, consider where those statistics come from: Hawaii passed for 85 yards, Northern Illinois for 80, Maryland for 133, Penn State for 120 and Michigan State for 91. Do any of those teams, besides the Nittany Lions, have a good quarterback? No. Ohio State faced Michigan State’s backups, for crying out loud. If Mitch Leidner can pass for 281 yards and Wes Lunt for 241 yards against the Buckeyes, then Rudock can, too. I think Rudock will have to carry Michigan’s offense in The Game, and 350 passing yards shouldn’t be an unreasonable number to shoot for.

Recap: Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14

The game before The Game sure was ugly. Michigan State entered its game against Ohio State as a 13-point underdog with Connor Cook. But the fifth-year senior quarterback wasn’t able to play against the Buckeyes, making an upset seem near impossible.

Mark Dantonio used a two quarterback system and let his running attack do what Ohio State’s usually does as Michigan State pulled off a stunning 17-14 win. The Spartans totaled 203 rushing yards to the Buckeyes’ 86.

Ezekiel Elliott was virtually a non-factor, rushing for 33 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. JT Barrett tossed 16 passes for 46 yards and rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries in a letdown performance.

Tyler O’Connor played well in Cook’s place, completing 7-of-12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Gerald Holmes and LJ Scott were a two-headed monster in Michigan State’s backfield. Holmes rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries; Scott totaled 58 yards on 13 carries.

Michael Geiger drilled a 41-yard field goal for the win as time expired.

Key Players

Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

Elliott made headlines following the loss when he expressed his disappointment about the play calling, in which he only received 12 carries for 33 yards (2.8 avg.). He’s already stated that this will be last season at Ohio State, so we’ll see if he caves in or full throttles the offense to the Buckeyes’ advantage.

Josh Perry, Linebacker

Perry has without a doubt carried the reigns as the leader of the Buckeyes’ front seven and defense overall. Against the Spartans, he recorded 15 total tackles, seven more than both Tyvis Powell, Tyquan Lewis and Raekwon McMillan.

J.T. Barrett, Quarterback

Barrett had a quiet outing against a Spartans secondary that’s suffered through a negative reputation throughout this season. He’ll now square off with a Michigan defense that’s fourth overall in the FBS against the pass this season.

Hot Takes

Zach: Michigan wins, but is not the team that’ll represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship.

Ricky: Jabrill Peppers pulls off some Woodsonian feats in his first edition of The Game, returning a kick for a touchdown and scoring an offensive touchdown in a three-point win.

Visiting Bo: Graveyard Walk Symbolizes Cultural Return of Michigan Football

November 25, 2015 by  
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Jim Harbaugh joined Wolverine fans on Tuesday night in a tradition honoring Bo Schembechler, Fielding Yost and Bob Ufer.

ANN ARBOR -- The return of Michigan football came on a frigid Tuesday night in November, with more than 200 Wolverine fans linking arms and singing the alma mater.

Yes, ironically enough, the rebirth of Michigan football happened in a cemetery.

For the last several years, Michigan has had a football problem; there’s no doubt about that. But, more deeply, the very pillars upon which one of the greatest programs in the nation was built had become rotten, putrid with mismanagement and disconnect between those in charge and those who love the excellence Michigan can embody.

The rebirth came Tuesday night, with Jim Harbaugh joining those Wolverine fans in a walk through Forest Hill Cemetery to visit the graves of Bo Schembechler, Bob Ufer and Fielding Yost. It came with his emotional speeches at each stop. It came when he asked the 200-plus fans to bow their head in prayer for Chad Carr. And it came when he led the group in "The Yellow and Blue" and "The Victors."

Saturday afternoon will be about football -- Michigan isn’t quite back in that just yet. But Bo, Yost, and Ufer, and all the Michigan faithful, were smiling Tuesday night.

* * *

Jeff Holzhausen, the original Michigan super fan, has been leading the graveyard walk for more than 20 years. It began when he was a student here, and it has stuck as tradition.

Every year, the Tuesday before the Ohio State game, Holzhausen leads a walk from Burton Bell Tower to the cemetery, where he stops at the graves of some of the biggest names in Michigan athletics. He lays a yellow rose on their tombstones and offers anyone the opportunity to share their stories. Then, in a symbolic gesture, smashes a buckeye nut with a hammer.

It’s a wonderful tradition, and dozens of people join him each year. Sometimes the crowds are bigger, like the year Schembechler passed away. Sometimes they’re smaller -- last year was one of those times.

Tuesday, though, he ran out of flowers to distribute. The procession was so large it briefly stopped traffic; once it arrived at the cemetery, those in the back had to huddle tight just so they could hear.

And right as Holzhausen began navigating the group toward Schembechler’s grave, the first stop, a car pulled into the cemetery. Jim Harbaugh, his father Jack, and Michigan director of internal relations Zach Eisendrath all joined the crowd.

Todd Anson, a family friend, had told the Harbaughs about the tradition, and the coach knew it would be a valuable experience, Jack explained.

So Holzhausen stopped at Schembechler’s grave, where -- as is tradition -- he played the famous "The Team" speech, then afterward asked if anyone had any words. And Jim Harbaugh stepped forward.

"Bo Schembechler set the standard," Harbaugh said. "I draw daily inspiration from Coach Schembechler like so many that knew him, that were associated with him, anyone that played for him, anyone that coached with him. He set the standard at the very highest level. One of the greatest of all time."

And Jack Harbaugh: "Never once did he give a talk before a game that your hair didn’t raise up on the back of my neck. He was such a motivator and inspiration. … I love the man, will always love him. As long as there’s breath in my body, he will be an inspiration."

Then Holzhausen handed Jim a buckeye nut and the hammer, and Michigan’s coach completed the ritual.

The next stop was the grave of Bob Ufer, the legendary Michigan radio announcer. Jack Harbaugh shared a story about how, on Fridays, Ufer would come into the football offices, find an empty room and play game film on a projector. He’d call the game "as if he were calling it on Saturday," preparing himself for the broadcasts he knew were so dearly beloved by Wolverine fans.

"It was a labor of love for Bob Ufer," Jack said. "I remember Jim and John, they had those record players, and they’d go up to the room and put those on, and they’d listen to Ufer’s call of those great 1970s teams."

And finally, the group paid tribute to Yost. But before the walk ended, Jim Harbaugh asked the crowd to bow their heads and recite the Lord’s Prayer for Chad Carr, the grandson of former coach Lloyd Carr who passed away Monday at age five.

"I know Coach Yost and Bob Ufer and Bo Schembechler will be on the lookout for the newest angel," Harbaugh said.

* * *

The Game won’t be played until Saturday, and Michigan will need a win and some help to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title.

But it already feels like Michigan has won something back, doesn’t it?

Jim Harbaugh became the first coach to participate in Holzhausen’s graveyard walk. He did so for the same reason that 200 fans braved the winter night -- to pay tribute to three men he respects greatly.

Harbaugh came because "it’s about the people. People are Michigan’s legacy and its future."

"It just doesn’t get any better to have that connection, to have that feeling of pride and that feeling of love -- to love something and have it love you back as well," Harbaugh said. "If you talked to 99.9% of people who went to the University of Michigan, that’s how they’d feel."

He because Michigan football is a family, and that’s what families do.

Zuniga can be reached at and on Twitter @ByAZuniga.

Wednesday Michigan Recruiting Roundup: Nation’s Top-Ranked ATH Will Visit Ann Arbor Saturday

November 25, 2015 by  
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In this edition, check out a preview of the number one athlete in the nation's visit to Michigan this weekend as well as the new offers that the Wolverines have made in the past few days.

Mecole Hardman Jr. (Elberton, GA), ranked as the No. 1 athlete in the 2016 class and 21st overall, is planning attending The Game on Saturday. This could be big for the Wolverines.

Hardman Jr. is an extremely versatile athlete, with experience playing at several positions including quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and special teams. He projects as an impact receiver at the collegiate level. Current Michigan athlete Jabrill Peppers may host Hardman Jr for this visit, which will benefit the athlete greatly. He can see first-hand how he may fit into the offensive schemes for Michigan, perhaps similar to how they utilize Peppers.

Per Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247 ($), Hardman Jr.'s decision has come down to Michigan, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, and Ole Miss. As of now, the 247 Crystal Ball shows favoritism towards Georgia for landing his services, but that of course is subject to change. Hardman Jr. was originally planning on silently committing to a university during the season, but as of Monday he has decided against that, indicating that he needs more time to decide. He now plans on announcing his decision on National Signing Day in February.

Stay tuned later in the week for a complete recruiting visitors list for this weekend's game.

Top50 DT Set to Visit Michigan This Weekend

On Tuesday, Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247 (FREE) reported that 2016 Top50 defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (Houston, TX) will be among those in attendance for the game vs. Ohio State this weekend.

Earlier this week, Elliott a photo of a Texas-shaped cake that Coach Harbaugh and the coaching staff had made for his birthday. When Elliott called them to express his gratitude, plans were finalized for this visit.

The 247 Crystal Ball is currently in favor of Texas landing Elliott, however that may be subject to change due to the Longhorns' struggles this season.

Michigan Offers 2017 4* OL from Ohio

Per Steve Wiltfong's Twitter page on Monday night, MIchigan has offered 2017 four-star offensive guard Matt Bockhorst from Cincinnati, OH (St. Xavier).

Bockhorst (6-4, 290) also boasts offers from Clemson, Michigan State, and Penn State, among others.

Take a look at Bockhorst's junior season highlights here:

Wolverines Extend Offer to 2017 3* QB

Per his Twitter page on Sunday evening, Michigan has offered 2017 three-star quarterback Kasim Hill from Baltimore, MD (Gilman).

Hill is the 18th-ranked QB in the 2017 class and sits at No. 11 in the state of Maryland, according to Wolverine247.

He holds offers from several universities, including Michigan State, Northwestern, and Penn State, among others.

Check out Hill's sophomore season highlights here, courtesy of Hudl:

4* 2018 TE Receives Offer from Michigan

On Sunday, the Wolverines offered 2018 four-star tight end Mustapha Muhammad out of Missouri City, TX (Ridge Point) per Steve Lorenz of Wolverine247 (FREE).

During the 2015 season, Muhammad (6-4, 225) recorded 13 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

Per 247Sports, Muhammad is ranked as the No. 5 TE in the 2018 cycle. He currently holds offers from Texas A&M and Houston.

Michigan is No. 10 in New College Football Playoff Rankings, Buckeyes at No. 8

November 24, 2015 by  
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Michigan jumps two spots in this week's CFP rankings. Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa are your new top four.

The Michigan Wolverines (9-2, 6-1 B1G) moved up to No. 10 in the College Football Playoff poll this week, moving up two spots from last week's rank.

The back half of the top four now features Oklahoma at No. 3 and Iowa at No. 4. Michigan State moves all the way up to the fifth spot following its win at Ohio State, who is ranked eighth.

The Big Ten, often lauded as a bad conference, has four teams in the top ten in Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan, respectively.

Not bad.

Here is the full top 25 of this week's CFP rankings:

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Iowa


5. Michigan State

6. Notre Dame

7. Baylor

8. Ohio State

9. Stanford

10. Michigan

11. Oklahoma State

12. Florida

13. Florida State

14. North Carolina

15. Navy

16. Northwestern

17. Oregon

18. Ole Miss

19. TCU

20. Washington State

21. Mississippi

22. UCLA

23. Utah

24. Toledo

25. Temple

Where do you agree or disagree with the committee's rankings? Tell us below!

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