December 5, 2013 by Anthony Mammel
Filed under Uncategorized
Talented five-star commitment Jabrill Peppers stirred up the Michigan fan base when he announced his intentions to see other schools. Don't fret over it.
An infuriating stretch of poor showings from the Michigan football team has been plenty enough to keep Michigan fans close to the edge, but recruiting, among other things, kept part of the fan base optimistic about the future. Then Jabrill Peppers pushed them over like a pack of helpless, inappropriately-clad Spartans:
Imma take a couple Officials after the season myself 🙌🙇— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) November 26, 2013
Ann Arbor's internet was officially broken, and it didn't look like hope would return any time soon. Why was Michigan's best recruit in the history of the program suddenly reconsidering his decision? Program instability, he said:
"I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college," Peppers said. "With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS."
Couches were burnt. Keyboards were shattered. Michigan fans took to the streets to burn maize and blue jerseys doused with gasoline. Or at least that's what it felt like on the internet.
It was damn near impossible for Michigan faithful to realize that Jabrill Peppers wasn't -- and still isn't -- going anywhere other than the University of Michigan. Dave Brandon tried to throw some water on the growing fire.
Brady Hoke is our coach and will be leading our football program well into the future. There is no question about it. Brady has done a great job rebuilding the program and reshaping the culture to the level it was under coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan Football.
We don't make excuses at Michigan when we fail to reach our goals, and we never will. We recognize areas we need to address and improve -- and we will. We also know how to hold people accountable for the roles and responsibilities they have as part of the privilege for being a part of Michigan Football -- and we will. However, it is valuable to occasionally step back from the disappointment and frustration that occurs when things don't go as well as expected and consider a few facts that may help put things into proper perspective.
Peppers took to Twitter on November 26th; Brandon took to his blog the very next day. He didn't know that the Michigan fan base didn't need reassurance; people overreact during tough stretches, and reminding them of Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr doesn't stop that. It also isn't seen as a major selling point to recruits, who want to know what you can do for them right now. Tradition doesn't send bodies to the National Football League.
I'm getting away from the main point; I'll rant about Michigan's need to let go of the past another time. The point is this: Brady Hoke isn't in jeopardy of losing his job, and Jabrill Peppers isn't leaving until the staff he has become so close with leaves. Jabrill Peppers will play his football at the University of Michigan, and anyone telling you otherwise is picking low-hanging fruit.
Recruiting hinges on so much more than wins and losses, but fans and the media often fail to see that. Peppers --much like Michael Ferns, Wilton Speight, Shane Morris, Derrick Green and others -- sees Ann Arbor as a great college town where he can get an elite degree in his field of choice. Relationships with the coaching staff and many of the aforementioned prospects and players only add to the lengthy list of reasons why he's destined to play for the Wolverines.
Football is one of those reasons, too. Michigan limped to a seven-win regular season this year, and Peppers watched it all unfold. The dangers of remaining faithful to a struggling program aren't lost on him, but neither are the positives. Greg Mattison, a man who can point to countless players in the NFL to prove his ability to coach, remains with the program. Michigan beat Notre Dame this year, and it was one play away from defeating Ohio State. Insert Jabrill Peppers into the Wolverine defense and an eight-win team just ruined the Buckeyes' chance at a national title. Football still draws Jabrill to Ann Arbor.
I look forward to seeing Jabrill fly around Michigan Stadium, and I hope he gets his number two jersey. He's certainly talented enough to live up to the hype.
December 5, 2013 by Zach Travis
Filed under Uncategorized
Michigan just lost the first of its five games in this month to Duke. What does the rest of the month have in store? Let's look ahead.
So, that happened, and now Michigan is likely going to make an exit from the top-25, and barring a surprise wini against what could be the #1 team in the nation by the time the game rolls around, Michigan will probably enter January and Big Ten play with four losses and no number next to its name.
But the month of December isn't to be overlooked. Michigan will have an interesting road through the month, despite a lack of games — just four left over the next four weeks. For a young team looking to find itself (as well as get its two best players healthy) this is both a blessing and a curse. Michigan will have a lot of time to practice, but not a lot to get out on the court in real contests.
What are those contests, and what are they worth? Let's look at them at a glance.
Houston Baptist Huskies (3-5)
Saturday December 7th; Noon, Crisler Center
This is easily the most winnable game on Michigan's December schedule. Houston Baptist has five losses, and while one loss to Kenpom top-100 Southern Miss was by five points, the rest have been blowouts to varying degrees. Houston Baptist takes the majority of its shots from 2pt and hits them at a low rate (44.2%, 295th). The team doesn't protect the ball or force turnovers, and it loses on the glass. There is some length on the roster to make things tough on Michigan's still developing O, but for the most part this team is beatable — at least says Kenpom, who as Houston Baptist rated 305th.
Best guess: Win.
#2 Arizona Wildcats (8-0)
Saturday December 14th, Noon, Crisler Center
Arizona is Michigan's big chance to grab one more marquee non-conference win. The Wildcats currently sit at #2 overall (#6 team to Kenpom), and barring an upset, Arizona should enter the game against Michigan 10-0 and #1 overall (thanks in part to MSU's loss to UNC last night). Believe it or not, Kenpom currently has the Wolverines favored by one at home. While he hasn't watched Michigan play offense, his formulas are relevant for a reason: they are often right. Arizona is led by frosh phenom forward Aaron Gordon and guard Nick Johnson. Seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski will be a handful for Mitch McGary inside. Arizona shoots the ball well and hits the boards. It doesn't force turnovers, so Michigan's advantage there should give it more chances to score. With this game a week and a half away, Michigan should have time to get Nik Stauskas back near 100%. It will need him, as Arizona is a dangerous team that presents a few tough matchups.
Best guess: Loss.
Stanford Cardinal (6-2)
Saturday December 21st; 8:30PM, Brooklyn, NY
Stanford isn't a team you build a tournament resume around, but it is looking like the Cardinal could be a positive in the non-conference win column on a tournament resume. Michigan won't have an easy time of it. Not only is this game away from Crisler on a neutral court, but Stanford has mostly taken care of its business so far this season. Stanford has a pretty good three point defense while not allowing a lot of shots from out there, and generally positive numbers everywhere except forcing turnovers (Michigan doesn't turn the ball over much, anyway). Michigan will have an opportunity to get out and run off missed shots, as Stanford is only slightly above average in OR% (154th). It will be an important win for Michigan, but one that should happen.
Best guess: Lean win.
Holy Cross Crusaders (5-3)
Saturday December 28th; 6:30PM, Crisler Center
Holy Cross is a team that is capable of beating Michigan on the right night, but will need things to fall into place to get there. The Crusaders don't really do any one thing great. The biggest strengths come on defense where Holy Cross has a good TO% and keeps opposing teams off the boards. Since Michigan is good at ball security, this shouldn't matter, especially if shots are falling as Michigan won't need many second chance opportunities. However, if the game gets ugly and Michigan is missing shots, Holy Cross does hit 36% of its shots from outside and that is always worrisome. The big name to know is Dave Dudzinski, a senior forward who is one of Holy Cross's most efficient offensive players as well as its most used. He is also a good rebounder and can play inside out.
Best guess: Win
The odds are good that Michigan can snag three wins over the next month, and while that won't be enough to get Michigan to 10-wins and a top-25 ranking (barring a win against Arizona), these are three manageable teams, who of which present a solid test.
The Arizona game is hard to figure out. The Wildcats have looked really good this year, but the numbers say that Michigan can keep it close. I think Michigan looked different in that game against Duke, and that some of those deficiencies could come out against the Wildcats. If that happens, it won't be pretty.
Odds are good that Michigan makes it through December 3-1 in the month. Anything else would be just gravy.
December 4, 2013 by Zach Travis
Filed under Uncategorized
Michigan's offense had a banner day against the Buckeyes, but for once this season, the defense couldn't keep pace. What happened to lead to this? We explore some of the breakdowns.
Coming into the game Michigan featured one of the better run defenses in the conference, and while it looked like Michigan would struggle with Ohio State's deadly rushing attack to an extent, I didn't imagine it would get as bad as 395 yards allowed at 8.5 yards/carry.
Of course, it wasn't too hard to see it coming. Michigan was missing a couple key players on defense, including NT Ondre Pipkins, who would have been very valuable in this game (Ohio State used a lot of inside zone to take advantage of Michigan's softness inside) as well as James Ross III who is one of Michigan's better linebackers. It was nice to see Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden step up in his absence, but Michigan could have used all the help it could get. But those weren't the biggest personnel issues, nor were personnel issues the only issue. So let's get to it.
The one personnel issue that was most glaringly obvious was at safety, where Michigan was forced to rely heavily on senior backups Courtney Avery and Josh Furman — both of whom inexplicably started the game — in part because sophomore Jarrod Wilson is in a large arm cast these days.
The two touchdowns from the first quarter provide great examples of just how bad Michigan needed good safety play against a team like Ohio State. The first touchdown consisted of Josh Furman getting caught flat footed against Devon Smith. Michigan has four defenders over three receivers.
Inside that red circle is Josh Furman, who will have deep responsibility. I played safety in high school (poorly, I might add) and the one thing I remember is the hard and fast rule of "don't ever let anyone behind you." What does Furman do?
Oh sweet baby jesus, this isn't happening. You can see Furman now, standing on the hash, two yards deeper than Devon Smith, who is in a full sprint. Furman has yet to flip his hips to run. That is not how you do it. Later in the game, an underthrown pass will hit Furman in the back (at which point he will celebrate like he just broke up an end zone fade) and it will be almost the exact same thing. He failed to get around and run with the receiver, didn't look back, and fortunately was just in the right place for the ball to bounce off him.
Ohio State is primarily a rushing offense, but the beauty of this is that when you run the ball that effectively, you make opposing defenses freak out. Michigan got gashed all day long on the inside because it refused to gamble to try to pick up stops. Michigan didn't bring a lot of extra pressure and didn't leave its secondary exposed. Despite that, this stuff still happened because when you roll out inexperienced safeties against Ohio State, you're gonna have a bad time.
Straight Up Getting Beat
Sometimes Michigan did bring pressure. Occasionally it worked. Jake Ryan opened the second half with a nice TFL on Carlos Hyde (the second such play for loss from Hyde all year, which, like whoa). Those things can work, but the issue is that if you dial them up at the wrong time, Ohio State can take advantage.
Like late in the third quarter. Ohio State got the ball after a punt on its own 14 and ripped off runs of 20, 11, 17, 4, and 12 all in a row to move into Michigan territory. The Wolverines respond by sending Raymon Taylor off the edge. This would work great if Ohio State was still going to run it. Instead, the Buckeyes come back with the best play in football: four verts.
There is absolutely nothing to like about this play. You can see Raymon Taylor tearing off the edge on a CB blitz. Both linebackers are standing flat-footed looking into the backfield for run action. At the top of the screen Michigan is all set with two underneath pass defenders and safety help over top. At the bottom of the screen? Doom.
Thomas Gordon is ten yards deep staring down two streaking receivers. He has to take the outside and hope for linebacker help inside to carry Heuerman up the seam. This doesn't happen, Heuerman is wide open, and Ohio State gets what Brian calls an RPS +3.
This is what Ohio State's offense can do. It hits a defense with run, run, run and begs for some sort of run blitz or pressure to stop the onslaught. That sets opposing teams up for the counterpunch. I want to get down on the defense for this, but A) it is just a masterfully called drive by Ohio State. I mean, pulling out four verts here should be so painfully obvious, but at the same time after five run plays in a row its easy to freak out over number six. B) sometimes you guess wrong. The only way to beat Ohio State's offense without a defense like Michigan State's is to hope that your team can contain the big plays (Michigan couldn't) an call a few risky things like this to try and get the Buckeyes behind the chains and maybe create some obvious passing downs. Mattison guessed wrong, and I can't really get too mad at him for it.
Plays In Space
Late in the second quarter Michigan is up seven and has given up a long drive that puts Ohio State just outside of the red zone. On first and ten Michigan gets good coverage down the field, but can't get any pressure home. Braxton Miller surveys the field for almost five seconds, rolls to his right, and takes off. Instead of corralling him for no gain:
Willie Henry takes a bad angle. He doesn't try to hold the edge and give Frank Clark time to pursue from behind. Henry should try to make Miller cut up behind him, which would at least make Miller have to slow to cut and probably allow Clark to make the tackle around the line of scrimmage. Either that or Miller runs out of bounds knowing he can't get the edge. Of course with Henry being not nearly as fast as Miller, he needs to start shuffling down the line instead of attacking vertically. What does he do?
He goes in for the kill. Miller isn't forced to make a tough decision, which doesn't allow Clark any chance to make up ground. Then, for good measure, Henry doesn't get his helmet across Miller on the attempted tackle, which is easy for the quarterback to slip out of on his way to the end zone.
Granted, this play featured holding before Miller ever got to the flat, but Michigan still has to chop this run down at the line of scrimmage. Henry does everything right until Miller gets outside, and from there he lets Miller get the edge which is basically all she wrote.
Against Ohio State and Braxton Miller, it isn't easy to make plays by yourself in space. Just ask Courtney Avery:
I'm not even mad. Miller can basically go whatever direction he wants, and Courtney Avery is supposed to make the tackle there? Whaaa? You crazy.
You don't tackle Braxton Miller in space by yourself. You try your damnedest to force him into a constricted area and hope for help. Willie Henry tried to be the hero.
Carlos Hyde, Mooseback
The really unfair thing about Ohio State is that this offense isn't just a slice and dice you spread and shred outfit capable of attacking the field horizontally, using the quarterback on option runs and in space, and then pulling out four verts and leaving linebackers slack-jawed as the ball goes over their head. It is that with all of this, Carlos Hyde is there, pounding out seven yards per carry nearly every single time he touches the ball.
There isn't much else to say other than that. Ohio State has the luxury of running behind an experienced OL with one of the best backs in college football. Hyde ran for 226 yards on 27 carries for an average of 8.4 yards per. He doesn't have a 70 yard run in there to skew the numbers — his long was just 33 yards. He was stopped for loss once, the TFL by Jake Ryan to open the second half.
Carlos Hyde just consistently beat Michigan on the inside. And in all of that, he was the lesser of two evils. Had Michigan brought more players down into the box Ohio State would have simply screened Michigan to death with Philly Brown and attacked the thin coverage over top with Devon Smith (we saw how that worked out).
Michigan aligned its defense to contain those things and try to drag Hyde down before he got a first down nearly every single play. It worked, if "worked" simply means that he didn't get a first down every time he touched the ball. But it was far from ideal for the Michigan defense.
Really, that is the story of the game. Michigan's defense isn't quite advanced enough to really go after Ohio State's offense and win these one-on-one matchups in space, so Michigan had to play a little more conservative which opened up the pounding on the inside. That in turn made Michigan trigger happy and led to a few big plays when Michigan got out of position or tried something a little too cute that OSU was ready to exploit.
For most of the game Michigan was damned if it did, damned if it didn't. All of that makes the forced fumble that much more valuable, as that play broke serve and allowed Michigan to get back into it.
The good news is that Hyde and most of that offensive line is gone after this year, while Michigan brings back the vast majority of its defense.
December 4, 2013 by Anthony Mammel
Filed under Uncategorized
The few Michigan commitments left in the playoffs are fighting for chances to play for a ring. Who's playing well, and who's going home?
More playoffs, more problems. Players who had already exited the playoffs before this article include TE Ian Bunting, LB Michael Ferns, WR Drake Harris, WDE Lawrence Marshall, DT Bryan Mone and LB Jared Wangler, QB Wilton Speight, WR Maurice Ways, OLB Chase Winovich, K Andrew David, RB Damien Harris, S Tyree Kinel and OL Jon Runyan.
Juwan Bushell-Beatty (Paramus Catholic, NJ) - Paramus Catholic will play on December 6th against St. Peter's Prep for a chance to play in the state championship game.
Freddy Canteen (Eastern Christian Academy, MD) - ECA beat St. Frances by a score of 42-6.
Mason Cole (East Lake HS, FL) - East Lake continues to advance, this time beating Port Charlotte by 34 points.
Noah Furbush (Kenton, OH) - Noah brought the quarterback down more than once in a solid defensive performance, but Kenton fell a point short in a 20-21 loss to Clinton-Massie. His next game will be as a Michigan Wolverine.
Jabrill Peppers (Paramus Catholic, NJ) - Paramus Catholic will play on December 6th against St. Peter's Prep for a chance to play in the state championship game. Peppers is coming off of a strong performance against his old school, Don Bosco.
Brandon Watson (Eastern Christian Academy, MD) - ECA beat St. Frances by a score of 42-6.
George Campbell (East Lake HS, FL) - East Lake won and advances in convincing fashion. Campbell caught three touchdown passes in the effort; he had 6 catches for 120 yards total.
Shaun Crawford (St. Edward, OH) - St. Ed's lost to Mentor by a field goal, 38-41. Crawford contributed 119 yards of rushing in the loss.
Gold Star to Put on Momma's Refrigerator Award
One more week of playoffs means fewer plays to choose from. This week's GSTPOMRA goes to George Campbell, who scored enough through the air to win the game with his touchdowns alone. We've all been waiting for the five-star super talent to bust out and have that signature performance, and Campbell certainly turned it in this past week.
December 4, 2013 by Peter Putzel
Filed under Uncategorized
The bowl picture is pretty much set. Ohio State will probably get a shot for the national title, and Michigan State moves into the Rose Bowl.
Auburn really screwed things up for everyone. Not that I'm an Alabama fan, but I certainly wanted things to remain as stable as possible, ensuring a 'Bama/Florida State BCS title game, thus leaving Ohio State in the cold. Now, it looks as though the Buckeyes will be able to grab a coveted seat in the title match-up. However, if Auburn takes care of Missouri in a significant way on 12/7, then I think we'll see an Auburn/FSU BCS title game. It's also possible that a Michigan State loss to Ohio State could drop the Spartans outside of the top 14, thus not allowing them to play in the Rose Bowl, and opening it up for an invite for someone like Alabama; yikes! Rather than trudge through those murky waters of "What if...?", I'll stick to what the current situation tells us.
So what happens now for the B1G? Nebraska will fall a spot, while Michigan and Minnesota will remain in last week's projected spots. Iowa's quick rise at the end of the season will allow them to jump up into the Outback Bowl, and Michigan State will get to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1987.
The Badgers' loss to Penn State knocks them out of the BCS bowl group, but they should still get a decent bowl in the Capital One Bowl.
Michigan State still has a very legitimate shot of defeating the Buckeyes, but we need to assume that Ohio State will be able to take care of business in the B1G Championship.
Of course, all of this means that there are two B1G-affiliated bowl games that will be unfilled by B1G teams: Heart of Dallas and Little Caesar's.
|BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 6||Ohio State|
|Rose Bowl, Jan. 1||Michigan State|
|Capital One, Jan. 1||Wisconsin|
|Outback, Jan. 1||Iowa|
|BWW, Dec. 28||Nebraska|
|Gator, Jan. 1||Michigan|
|Texas, Dec. 27||Minnesota|
So, we'll see what happens when the official bowl selections come out.
Where do you think our teams will go?
December 4, 2013 by Hollywood Hokester
Filed under Uncategorized
Catch up with all your favorite ex-Wolverines in the NFL through Week 13 of the regular season. This week watched Brandon Graham do A LOT with only 13 snaps, witnessed another Tom Brady comeback, and cheered as Junior Hemingway caught his second touchdown this season (albeit in a loss).
The Cardinals lost by three against the Eagles on Sunday, but Feely never had a chance to tie the game with a field goal. His game action occurred only on kickoffs and extra points: one of four kickoffs went for a touchback and he made all three of his XP attempts.
Kenny Demens (ILB, Undrafted in 2013, Arizona Cardinals):
Demens is on the practice squad in Arizona.
Branch played on a lot of snaps - 50 to be exact - in the Bills' overtime loss on Sunday. With more playing time than usual, he finished with six solo tackles and three assists. His contract expires at the end of this year, and since he's a situational player in Buffalo's defense, Buffalo Ramblings thinks it might be time to move on from the 29-year old defensive tackle.
Roh is on the practice squad in Carolina.
Jamison was inactive this week.
Henne turned in his most impressive performance this season to help the Jags win their third in four games. He finished 22 for 40 for 195 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. That doesn't look all that great, but Henne led the offense on the game-winning drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown reception with 40 seconds left in the game. Winning is great and all, but as a Lions fan, sometimes winning garbage games at the end of the year hurt more than they help (i.e. draft position).
Denard Robinson (WR, 135th in 2013 to Jaguars, Jacksonville Jaguars):
Denard didn't record any offensive stats in the Jags win on Sunday. His only notable play came on special teams, when he helped stop a Cleveland punt return.
Hemingway finally did something! In a loss to the Denver Broncos, Junior helped the Chiefs strike first with a 17-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. The catch was Hemingway's fifth on the season, and his second for a touchdown (the first coming in Week 1 against the Jags). He added two more before the end of the game to finish with three receptions for 42 yards and one touchdown.
Kovacs is on the practice squad in Miami.
For whatever reason, the Pats trailed the struggling Texans 17-7 at halftime on Sunday, and Brady needed to engineer another comeback to give New England a 34-31 victory. He recorded a 78.2% completion percentage in the second half and finished the game 29 for 41 for 371 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Outside of Week 13, if you're interested in a good read about the Belichick-Brady-era in New England, take a look at this article at Pats Pulpit exploring the hatred towards the Pats due to their success.
Mundy didn't play much on Sunday night against the Washington Redskins. He finished the game with a tackle assist during special teams play.
David Harris (ILB, 47th in 2007 to Jets, New York Jets):
In a 23-3 loss against the Dolphins this week, Harris was one of the few (if not the only) bright spots for the Jets as he was the only member of New York's defense to play all 81 snaps and led the team with 13 tackles (seven solo, six assists).
Campbell was inactive this week.
Quarterback Nick Foles spread the love against the Cardinals this week, targeting five Eagles six times and Avant four times. Of those four targets, Jason caught one for 20 yards. Unfortunately, the only play that stood out for Avant in the game was an illegal block above the waist penalty that nullified a 35-yard Philadelphia gain. It looks like Avant's role will continue to diminish due to his lack of production as the Eagles try to make the playoffs.
Brandon Graham (LB, 13th in 2010 to Eagles, Philadelphia Eagles):
On Sunday against the Cardinals, Graham had his best game of the year as he helped the Eagles win their fourth in a row and put them into a tie for first place in the NFC East. On only 13 snaps, Graham recorded two tackles with one assist and two sacks. That's pretty darn good for being on the field for 13 plays. Hopefully his standout performance propels Graham into more playing time as the Eagles fight for their division.
LaMarr Woodley (OLB, 46th in 2007 to Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers):
Woodley remained on the inactive list for the third straight week due to a calf injury. He missed the Steelers' near victory against the Baltimore Ravens in the evening Turkey Day game.
In the afternoon Thanksgiving game, Woodson and the Raiders defense squandered an early lead to lose 31-24 against the Dallas Cowboys. Charles finished the game with four tackles to his name and nothing else. Still, there's no denying the solid play from the 37-year old veteran this year, and with Oakland's season over except for draft pick jockeying, most expect Woodson to receive another one-year contract for 2014.
Goodwin played on all 67 offensive snaps for the 49ers in a 23-13 win against the Rams on Sunday.
Mario Manningham (WR, 95th in 2008 to Giants, San Francisco 49ers):
With the return of San Fran's star wideout, Michael Crabtree, Manningham watched his role and playing time diminish as the team's third receiver (and likely fourth, at best, receiving option). On 16 offensive snaps, he recorded no stats and no targets as far as I can tell. It'll be interesting to see how many looks Manningham receives as the 49ers try to lock up a Wild Card spot.
On Sunday against the 49ers, Long played what could be his final snap for 2013 after suffering a concussion in the third quarter following helmet-to-helmet contact with a teammate. Since the Rams aren't going to the playoffs, there doesn't seem to be any reason for Long to return this year if he's not 100%.
Omameh was inactive for the sixth straight week.
Martin was inactive for the second straight week.
December 3, 2013 by Fouad Egbaria
Filed under Uncategorized
Michigan hit the road on Tuesday, taking to the Cameron Indoor floor to face No. 10 Duke on the first night of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
Somewhat surprisingly, both Duke and Michigan, preseason top 10 teams, entered the month of December with two losses: tonight's game in Cameron Indoor between the two talented squads would give one team a third.
The Wolverines got off to a brutal start from the field, going 2-for-10 to begin the contest as Duke's perimeter defense consistently frustrated Michigan. When the Wolverines were able to get in the paint, they missed a few bunnies early. Duke wasn't firing on all cylinders offensively, either --Michigan's zone gave Duke same trouble at times-- but they did just enough to take a 12-5 lead into the second media timeout.
Unfortunately for Michigan, after Jon Horford was rejected at the rim, Duke quickly scored at the other end, as the lead ballooned to 21-9 at the 5:57 mark of the first half. The Wolverines were on the highway to the danger zone, with no exit ramps in sight if they didn't string together a couple of buckets.
Duke benefited from a few questionable calls in the first half (a made three released after the shot clock hit zero, possession given to Duke after a ball appeared to go off Marshall Plumlee's leg, a really iffy Derrick Walton offensive foul), but the simple fact is that you don't get calls on the road (let alone at Duke).
The more important stat? Michigan made three shots from the field 15 minutes into the game. Unable to probe the creamy middle of Duke's defense, the Wolverines bricked outside shot after shot. Many of the misses weren't even close: off of the heel of the rim, wide left or right, nothing but air. It was like watching a guy who can't play guitar try to play guitar, only to keep using the excuse that the instrument is out of tune.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, Duke did its fair share of airballing, too. On one miss later in the half, Mitch McGary corraled the rebound and led the fast break, which ended in an alley oop from Nik Stauskas to Glenn Robinson III, somehow cutting the lead to 27-20 when it felt like Michigan should have been down by 20.
Duke had the final possession of the half, with Michigan in its 1-3-1 zone. Quinn Cook hit an open Tyler Thornton in the right corner, who buried the three, sending the Wolverines into the half down 32-22.
In the first half, the Wolverines shot an abysmal 30.8 percent from the field (1-for-6 from three).
The second half began in basically the same way, with Michigan just sort of hanging on as Duke failed to connect on some shots that would have really blown the game open. Lo and behold, after a coast-to-coast Walton layup, the Wolverines found themselves down just 34-28 early in the half.
Duke surged once again, upping the lead to 12 in just a couple of minutes, powered in part by some inspired two-way play by Marshall Plumlee.
No one had been playing well for the Wolverines, but Caris LeVert started assert himself with two strong takes on consecutive possessions. With very little coming from anyone else, it seemed like he was poised to lead Michigan back, if a comeback was going to happen at all.
LeVert went to work again a few minutes later, probing the heart of Duke's defense en route to an and-1, cutting the Duke lead to 46-40 with nine minutes left to play.
Then, Andre Dawkins came off the bench and hit two quick threes, back-to-back daggers quickly halting all of the fragile momentum Michigan had.
Cook buried a three with just under five minutes to play to give Duke a 16-point lead; it was all over but the shoutin'.
I said it after the first two losses and I'll say it again: unless you're talking about a team that is completely tanking, two or three losses in November/December is nothing to worry about. Michigan is still finding itself, and what better way to do it than against quality opponents like Iowa State (in one of the toughest venues in college basketball), Florida State and against Duke at Cameron Indoor.
Derrick Walton had a few positives to his game, and, if nothing else, watching Caris LeVert put the game on his shoulders late, even in vain, was a positive in my eyes. The sophomore finished with 24 points on 8-for-18 shooting. McGary was the only other Wolverines to score in the double digits (15). Meanwhile, Nik Stauskas scored just four points, all from the free throw line. More importantly, he attempted just two shots.
Michigan is not going to win a lot of games shooting like it did tonight, and that's sort of become a trend throughout the four notable data points to date (ISU, FSU, Charlotte, Duke). Once we enter 2014, the Wolverines can't expect to be able to crawl back from double digit deficits after shooting so poorly for long stretches.
Michigan has another confidence rebuilder of a game against Houston Baptist on Saturday before taking on Arizona at the Crisler Center on Dec. 14. That is a game Michigan needs to win, at home; if they do that, they'll leave the non-conference schedule with a pair of quality wins (Florida State, of course, being the other).
As for tonight, Duke did not play well and yet it still felt like Michigan was constantly on the brink of demolition. When Duke needed to respond to Michigan's mini-runs, they did, whether it was Cook, Parker, or Dawkins off of the bench. Good teams win games even if they aren't playing so well, and Duke is certainly a very good team.
Michigan is not a good team right now, but the pieces are obviously there and the non-conference schedule has done its part to throw some hardship Michigan's way. If you're John Beilein, these games will prove invaluable when Michigan enters February and March.
With that said, leaving the non-conference and beginning the Big Ten schedule is like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire (notwithstanding the Big Ten's poor performance tonight in the Challenge). Playing like this, it's hard to imagine Michigan doing a whole lot better than 9-9/10-8 in the conference.
But, with four more games left on the schedule in 2013, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
December 3, 2013 by Zach Travis
Filed under Uncategorized
To get a better sense of what Michigan is facing tonight in Cameron Indoor, I talked to David Aldrige of The Duke Report about this year's Blue Devil team.
Also, you can check out my answers to David's questions here.
Duke has already played two games against top ten competition, and both ended up losses where the Blue Devils were playing from behind late. What did you learn about this year's team in those losses?
Those two games against top teams have shown Duke can't rely entirely on Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Parker was terrific in the loss to Kansas while Hood was very good in the loss to Arizona, but the Blue Devils failed to have other guys step up down the stretch in both contests. Whether Rasheed Sulaimon and Andre Dawkins stretching the floor with perimeter shooting, or Amile Jefferson providing a stronger presence in the paint, Duke needs to find more balance against the best teams.
Jabari Parker is the obvious player to watch in this one, and he has made a huge impact on Duke thus far, leading the team in points per game, rebounds per game, all while having the 25th highest usage rate in the country. In what ways does Duke use Parker on offense, and what kind of defender/defense would Michigan be best served to use against him?
That's a great question. If I had a really good answer, I could probably find a few ACC coaches that would be willing to hire me this season.
Parker has one of the most well-rounded offensive games I've ever seen from a freshman. The comparisons to Carmelo Anthony are surprisingly accurate, as Jabari can do nearly everything on the offensive end. He's shown on multiple occasions this season that he's capable of grabbing a rebound in traffic and then leading the fast break and finishing at the rim. He's also comfortable beating his defender on the low block or knocking down outside shots with his range that extends to an NBA three-point line.
If I had the task of defending Parker, the one potential weakness I've noticed in his game would be shot selection. He hits some extremely difficult shots, but it doesn't change the fact that they're still difficult. I would do my best to try to force him to take contested 17-19 foot jumpers. If he proves he can make them consistently, it's just something the defense has to live with.
What happened in Duke's close call win against Vermont? Is there anything in that near-upset that Michigan could hope to replicate?
The game against Vermont was one of the worst defensive performances Duke has had in the past 25 years. Mike Krzyzewski was noticeably frustrated and disgusted with his team's lack of effort and communication as a defensive unit and basically treated the game as a loss. When Coach K refers to his team "disrespecting the game" because of the way they played, you know he's not happy.
The Blue Devils failed to talk and regularly allowed easy penetration to the basket. The rotations off screens and on the interior was laughable, and the inability to box out on rebounds should have cost them the game. Make no mistake - Vermont deserved to win. Duke was lucky.
If Michigan can attack the basket, they could create the same problems for Duke's defense. If the Wolverines settle for outside shots, it gives the Blue Devils an easy out because they don't have to defend the paint, which is this team's biggest weakness.
Mitch McGary isn't yet at full strength, but he is back on the court and has been doing McGary-like things in spurts. How will Duke defend McGary, and do you think there is anyone on the roster that can take away the rebounding and hustle play advantage that he brings - especially considering Dukes OR% is just 28.7 (253rd) so far this year?
The fact that McGary isn't 100% healthy is probably the only thing that will slow him down at Duke. For a guy with his size, skill and athleticism, I honestly have no idea how Duke is going to stop him. Jabari Parker doesn't have the size to keep up with him and hasn't proven to be a particularly strong defender, and Amile Jefferson is also undersized and hasn't been consistent enough to provide confidence he'll be able stop McGary.
I could see Coach K going with a committee approach to try slowing him down. At least, that's what I would do. Josh Hairston, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee will each have five fouls to use and Duke could keep rotating fresh bodies against McGary to try to wear him down. It would also help if Duke can make some plays in transition and test his conditioning. Other than those factors, I see no reason why the big guy can't have a field day.
Michigan's scoring load has fallen to a talented trio of long, versatile wing players this year, and all three can and will shoot from outside. Duke has very good three-point defense numbers so far (27.0% allowed, 29th nationally) but less than one-quarter of opponent attempts have come from outside, the 15th lowest 3PA/FGA ratio nationally. How does Duke handle a Michigan offense that will look to take advantage of openings on the outside?
This is an interesting aspect of the game because it's one of the few areas where Michigan's offense plays into the strength of the Duke defense. The Blue Devils are very aggressive on the perimeter and often overplay passing lanes, which is part of why they've become so vulnerable to teams that excel with dribble penetration.
As he's been many times this season, the key for Duke's defense will be Quinn Cook. (Duke fans shudder at the thought.) When Cook allows the opposing point guard to beat him off the dribble or get open without the ball, it opens up so many holes in Duke's defense. When Cook gets beat and has to have help from a second defender, it will create opportunities for Michigan's shooters to get open looks from three-point range.
Beat Cook and Michigan likely beats Duke.
What do you think are the keys to a Duke win, and what is your prediction for how things play out on Tuesday?
Everyone knows about Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood when you talk about Duke this season, but this is a team that needs more than just those two players. Rasheed Sulaimon doesn't look comfortable at all with the ball in his hands, and it's amazing how consistently Quinn Cook is inconsistent.
For Duke to win Tuesday night, someone else has to step up. Whether it's Andre Dawkins coming off the bench, Cook playing solid for an entire game, Matt Jones giving quality minutes or Sulaimon finally playing up to his potential, it has to be more than the Parker & Hood show.
Coming off a loss, I expect Duke to be extremely hungry against Michigan. The atmosphere should also be electric and the Blue Devils won't want to go in to their two-week exam break on a two-game losing streak. Jabari Parker should have a bounce back game after a poor performance against Arizona and I think Duke's role players will improve with the game being at home. Michigan keeps it close for 30 minutes until Duke pulls away in the second half.
Duke: 84 Michigan: 73
December 3, 2013 by SpaceCoyote
Filed under Uncategorized
We look at how OSU defended the 2-pt conversion and if they really knew the play.
Last time we looked at the theory of the 2 point conversion, triangle concept. In this part we will go deeper and figure out why it wasn't successful and what were some other potential plays for Michigan to run out of the same formation.
How OSU Stopped It
Let's first look at how the Buckeyes originally lined up:
And here's just before the TO when Dileo (W-receiver) goes in motion.
So OSU switched coverages (it's important to note that once the ball is placed for a conversion try, it cannot be moved, so Michigan was stuck on that hash). They switched from some sort of man under to essentially a cover 2. On top of that they rolled the coverage of the backside safety to the middle of the field (theoretically, at that point you'd like someone to call a TO, even though the play should still work, the advantage is less).
The biggest adjustment they made, though, was to put their defenders at different levels. What was so bad about their first alignment wasn't the coverage, but that they were all about equal as far as how far off the LOS they were. This makes it extremely difficult to defend rub routes, because you are no longer just fighting through another receiver, but also another defender.
The PA holds one LB (who ends up spying the QB). You also see on the backside two things: Roby (CB) is lined up with the TE (Williams). When Williams doesn't go into a route, Roby works forward, but he doesn't blitz because he's worried of a throw back. Note also that the DE, after his initial rush, retreats (and falls) also worried about some sort of throw back. So the throw back screens earlier held two guys and the PA held another.
Now let's work playside. OSU was determined to prevent Michigan from rolling the pocket with the QB. Note the first step of the EMOL (the blitzing LB) who first moves outside and arcs upward. This is to try to leverage any roll out. The 2nd man through beats the playside OG, who has inside help and therefore cannot give up the outside pass lane (but, as has been seen with Michigan this year, often times that communication and slide has been lacking and an inside release has gotten the rush their quicker). The LB, that is initially held by the PA, is now very clearly spying the QB. This spy is OSU's best LB.
In retrospect here, once the defense got to this point (which couldn't be seen pre-snap, mind you), you're thinking "man, a QB draw would have killed." Maybe, but remember DG was injured and was struggling to move well. A designed draw likely isn't as successful as a scramble (the defense can tell the difference, so a pump fake would work to eek out more yards).
Another option here would be for Gardner to step up and away from pressure. I won't blame his injury for him not doing that here though. While he's improved in that area, this is a play that is highly predicated on timing and throwing angle. His thought is likely to get the ball out, not to buy time. If he had the mobility, I have no doubt he could either beat the LB to the goal line or force one of the DBs to commit off his man, opening up something behind it, but that is improvisation that I'm not sure he would have done anyway, and probably couldn't do at that point. As is, if he did step up, it would hurt the timing of the play in a negative way. While obviously that's better for Michigan than what happened, it would allow the defense enough time to react to everything underneath and would certainly turn it into an improve play rather than work within the play design. On top of that, it really takes away any throwing lane to the flat area, which means Gardner would be forced to do something with his legs or a WR would have to do something quickly on the scramble drill to get open before pressure got home.
Alright, now let's look at the coverage. This is your standard cover 2. A triangle concept should work perfectly. But, OSU does roll the backside safety. He takes the slant route. Open field is between levels for the Z-receiver, so he has to get upfield of the CB and then work outside. The CB though, does a nice job (in the context of this play, I'll explain more later), to get his arms out and really re-direct Gallon. This CB has outside leverage and inside help, his goal is to tighten that window by redirecting the receiver inside, and typically, if he does that, it will help him and the defense in coverage. This redirect shouldn't happen so easily here, but the CB does his job, and it takes Gallon off track for longer than it should. Because of this, Gallon doesn't draw his flat defender outside. This is the zone-beater remember, they are running and inside-out on the flat defender here with the vertical stretch. But the redirect makes it so the CB never has to break to the flat (with the WR even horizontally with the safety and 6 yards shallower, that safety could not defend that route alone). The redirect makes it so neither underneath DB must commit.
Let's look at what this means: if Gallon gets outside, the two underneath defenders must commit to a direction.
Flat defender stays in:
Flat defender goes out, underneath defender stays inside:
Both commit outside:
It becomes extremely difficult for both to cover all that room for such a short throw. In fact, it's next to impossible. That's because the underneath defender is basically put in a no win position. He must commit one way or the other, and Dileo can either work against that action across his body, or Gardner can throw Dileo open to the outside. This play is hijacked by the well timed jam of the flat defender.
What this does is it gives DG a bad read. The window is tight, because Gallon hasn't "occupied" his defender. Because he doesn't occupy him enough to draw him out (it also doesn't allow him to commit inside, he doesn't have to commit at all rather), DG reads to throw at his chest as it reads as if that flat CB has coverage responsibility on Dileo. DG doesn't see the underneath defender because he reads the flat defender as his key for the throw to Dileo within that tight window. He's also forced to read this quickly because the pressure is getting home.
Now, I've read things about how OSU "knew what was coming". Well, they likely had an idea. But they also played the roll out, they also heavily played the throw back, they played the QB scramble to a degree, and they figured on a pass to the stack side. That's about as far as they "knew it was coming". They also assumed Dileo was going to be the underneath route, which is a fair assumption. The underneath defender did a nice job putting his eyes on the stack set and flipping them to find the ball in coverage.
I've heard a couple people say that with an extra half second that DG can hit Gallon in the flat. Maybe, but more likely that CB sinks on Gallon. What that does do though is open up the window and allows DG to accurate read the play, and then throw Dileo open (note how Dileo opens up on his hitch, he is supposed to look back to the ball on his hitch and immediately break outward; he sees inside coverage and anticipates breaking outward when he locates the ball). The inside defender is not in a position to defend what essentially becomes a delayed out on the snag concept if this happens. So with an extra bit of time, someone is opening up in that window against the zone as the zone had been overloaded.
But this is all defended, mostly because the CB makes a nice play against this play to hold Gallon inside longer than he should have. And I want to emphasize, it is a very nice play by the outside CB. He has outside leverage and inside, help, he is supposed to force the play back inside to help and squeeze the window. The fact that he did so despite the stack formation speaks to the job he did. It was also a nice job seeing the receiver and finding the ball by the inside underneath defender.
Outside of the QB draw, inverted veer, zone read, or other backside plays (throw backs included), let's look at some other concepts that Michigan has run from bunch/stack formations and why OSU wasn't as prepared as they like to think.
Drag and Follow
Ran against Iowa on 4th and 2, ran against Iowa a couple times and I believe at least once against OSU. It's been a part of the playbook dating back to Borges's first year. If Michigan runs this play, the outside CB's jam takes him out of the play completely and it's a TD (Borges typically runs this with his play in as shown above according to personnel, so Gallon would be the follow, though the routes could be run by any of the three WRs in combination).
This gives both a high and low stretch, as well as a horizontal stretch, gets receivers in routes quickly, and lets them work in space. The read is a bit harder for DG, as he has to correctly identify which target has best position, and it also requires a bit more from the receiver end. I believe this play was run earlier in the season, sometime in the first half.
This is essentially the same look as hitches, but runs the receiver's opposite of their initial release. This maximizes the rub aspect of the stack formation, as well as gives the WR more separation due to their movement. It makes the throw a bit tougher because of the movement involved, and the read is about the same. This tends to work better against a man coverage or a match-up coverage, where as hitches would work better against zone.
Outside Triangle (Smash)
This takes Funchess to the corner instead, and puts the high low further away to the field. This is more than likely paired with a roll out and gives Gardner three pass options and a potential run option. It also utilizes the motion to get Dileo two rubs while getting into the flat. A similar play was run on 4th down earlier in the game.
It is interesting to note that the play that was run was quite similar to the one that sealed the ND game for Michigan. In that case, the motion receiver ran the flat route though and Dileo ran the option route still. The formation was a bit different (WR on the backside, RB flipped), but the route concept was highly similar. That means OSU probably saw something similar, but it was also a different set-up and in a different context.
It's important to note a few things further. Pretty much any of these routes can be run in any combination by any receiver. Each receiver will have some tendencies that follow their strengths, but on any play that can be changed. It should also be noted that on all plays (besides the inside-out play) that the triangle can be inverted into what is known as a delta concept by some. This puts the horizontal stretch deeper (there will be some manipulation to the routes in order to achieve this, but it's in general the same play). There are certainly other possibilities as well, these are just ones that I've personally seen Michigan run in similar situations that utilize a triangle concept.
So the play was designed to work, whether or not Meyer called TO. It's designed to work against anything. For all we know, the play may have changed as well or Borges may have liked what he ended up anticipating, for instance: OSU came out in a man coverage originally, and when they called TO it could be expected they'd come back in zone, which the called play is actually better designed for (though designed for both). But a single good play by the CB and a lack of protection for Gardner rushed things (Gardner could have also thrown the pass earlier, immediately after the PA, and the play could have been successful, but that's asking a lot, though it is what DiNardo concluded after watching it). OSU didn't know what was coming though, they likely had some ideas, but the fact that CB said they watched for the angle route, and Dileo ran a snag, and it just happened to be in the same area because of the outside CB, doesn't mean the defender that got the INT was correct. A few things could have gone better, DG could have side stepped the pass rush, but then the timing and his footwork/shoulders would have been off. He could have thrown earlier. The protection could have held up a bit better. He could have run on his hurt leg. A lot of things could've happened, but at the end of the day, the team that was expected to win made a play to preserve the win
December 2, 2013 by Zach Travis
Filed under Uncategorized
Michigan places a few notable names on the all-Big Ten team.
It is that time of the year again, and Michigan has a few players come in for post-season awards. Let's do the quick rundown:
2013 Individual Awards
Devin Funchess wins the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award
Taylor Lewan win the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the year award
Funchess getting a tight end award has got to rub all the conference's real tight ends the wrong way, as the sophomore has been tight end in title only for most of the season. While his production is off the charts, his hand was rarely on the ground. Still, a good win for an up and coming young Wolverine.
Lewan winning the Rimington-Pace award is just about expected for someone with as much name recognition as he has. The rest of the Michigan line's struggles weren't enough to lose Lewan the support.
Coaches all-Big Ten Team
First Team: Taylor Lewan, OT
Sportsmanship Honorees: Courtney Avery
Media all-Big Ten Team
First Team: Taylor Lewan, OT; Devin Funchess, TE; Blake Countess, CB
Second Team: Jeremy Gallon, WR
I'm not going to lie, I think there are a few Michigan players that got hosed. Yes, I am biased.
First and foremost, Jeremy Gallon gets second team while being one of two players to average over 100 yards per game and being third in the conference in yards per catch? I don't see how Abbrederis gets the nod for first team over Gallon.
What is more disappointing is the lack of Michigan defenders pretty much anywhere. No love for safety Thomas Gordon, who quietly had another good season helping Michigan avoid giving up long plays and coming up with a few game changing plays of his own. None of Michigan's linebackers even get honorable mention?
None of this is all that surprising. Michigan didn't have a great season, and its defense was good but in ways that don't generally jump off the page when looking at statistics.
For my money, I think Michigan should have been better represented on these all-Big Ten teams, but like I said, I am biased.
What say you, Maize n Brewers?