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The numbers game: U-M offense lagging behind 2016 big play pace but defense allowing fewer

September 21st, 2017 by Derick Hutchinson


(Kaitlyn Cole)

Michigan’s offense has struggled at times early in the 2017 season, especially when it comes to red zone touchdowns. But it has been able to move the ball fairly well. The defense has been a pleasant surprise after losing 10 starters to the NFL. Now, a fourth of the way through the season, let’s start taking a look at how the Wolverines stack up in terms of explosive plays on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Michigan is averaging 9.33 explosive plays (runs of 10 or more yards and passes of 20 or more). Of those 28 explosive plays, 17 have been rushing plays and 11 have been passing plays. Here’s how that compares to the past two seasons through three games:

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – First three weeks comparison, 2017 vs past two seasons
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2017 17 11 28 13.59% 4.75% 13
2016 20 16 36 16.98% 6.72% 18
2015 10 8 18 8.57% -0.62% -1

The Wolverines currently rank 78th nationally in most total plays of at least 10 yards, 48th in rushing plays of at least 10 yards and 38th in passing plays of at least 20 yards.

Ty Isaac is leading the way with 10 plays of at least 10 yards, which ranks 17th in the country. He also has five plays of at least 20 yards, which ranks sixth in the nation. Chris Evans is second on the team with four rushes of at least 10 yards. Tarik Black leads the way in the passing game with three receptions of at least 20 yards, averaging 35.7 yards apiece. Isaac’s big runs have averaged 24 yards and that number would be higher if not for two touchdowns called back against Air Force. Among players with at least two big plays, Donovan Peoples-Jones leads the Wolverines with an average of 40.5 yards per (a 44-yard run and a 37-yards reception).

To put Michigan’s current pace in perspective, last year’s team averaged 12 explosive plays per game through the first three games of the season. While this year’s offense has looked stagnant at times, the addition of faster and more athletic players has improved Michigan’s overall potential for big-plays, and it’s still far better than Jim Harbaugh’s first season, which averaged just six explosive plays a game through the first three.

For example, the majority of last season’s carries went to De’Veon Smith, who was more of a bruiser than a home run threat. He led the team with 22 explosive runs in all of 2016. With Isaac and even Chris Evans taking over those carries, there’s far more potential to turn the corner around the edge and pick up first downs on first and second down.

Michigan’s big play leaders through 3 games
Name # Big Runs # Big Rec. Total Average Gain (Yds) Big Play %
Ty Isaac 10 0 10 24.0 21.28%
Chris Evans 4 0 4 15.5 12.12%
Tarik Black 0 3 3 35.7 27.27%
Donovan Peoples-Jones 1 1 2 40.5 66.67%
Zach Gentry 0 2 2 33.0 66.67%
Kekoa Crawford 0 2 2 31.5 40.00%
Grant Perry 0 2 2 30.5 20.00%
Karan Higdon 2 0 2 24.0 8.70%
Nick Eubanks 0 1 1 48.0 50.00%

From the wide receiver position, Michigan replaced veterans with superior athletes such as Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Kekoa Crawford, Nico Collins and Oliver Martin. Black is now out for the season, but Peoples-Jones and Crawford have already racked up four explosive plays in limited playing time, and the other two will likely take on larger roles going forward.

Even Eddie McDoom should add to Michigan’s big-play potential. He’s only caught two passes and received two carries through three games, but he’s sure to get more touches with Black out of the offense.

So despite averaging about 2.5 fewer explosive plays per game at this point, I think the offense will become more explosive by the end of the year as the young players grow more comfortable in the offense. Michigan also hasn’t played Rutgers yet, which is an opportunity to rack up dozens of big plays, so the year-to-year stats haven’t exactly evened out yet.

On defense, Michigan is about as good as it gets in terms of shutting down big plays. Among teams that have played three games this season, only Auburn has allowed fewer plays of at least 10 yards. Here’s how the defense stacks up to the past two seasons through the first three games:

Defensive big plays
Michigan defense – 2017 average to date vs past 2 seasons
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2017 2.67 2.67 5.33 8.84% 4.75% 13
2016 5.00 1.67 6.67 10.26% 6.72% 18
2015 4.33 1.33 5.67 9.19% -0.62% -1

The Wolverines have allowed 16 total explosive plays (eight run and eight pass), and surprisingly, 11 of those have gone for at least 20 yards. Don Brown’s defense has mastered the art of dropping opponents for negative plays, but when the blitzes don’t get to the quarterback, the defense is susceptible to big plays.

Michigan also has an extremely young secondary, made up of three true sophomores and a junior – all of which are first-year starters. While all four are solid playmakers, they’ve also made a few mistakes as a result of their inexperience, so that explains many of the big plays allowed.

Michigan ranked 13th among teams that have played three games in terms of big rushing plays allowed, and only 14 teams have allowed fewer long passing plays. Through the first three games, Michigan’s defense is actually allowing explosive plays at a lower clip than last year’s vaunted defense did — about one and one-third fewer per game. This year’s defense has given up one more long pass per game to date, but has yielded just eight long runs compared to 15 at this point in 2016.

Obviously, it’s no surprise that Michigan’s defense has been more effective than the offense in terms of big plays. That has been reflected in the overall production, as well.

Michigan’s 2017 big play scoring percentage
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Offense 17 12 70.59%*
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Defense 14 6 42.86%*
*A drive with a big play typically yields points 75% of the time per recent NFL study

The defensive line is critical to shutting down big running plays, as running backs rarely get to the second level without contact. Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary have done a nice job setting the edge and stopping ball carriers from getting outside.

When opponents do rush outside, or on screen plays, Michigan’s athleticism at linebacker stops most plays before 10 yards. Devin Bush has led the charge for the most part, but Khaleke Hudson has also been critical in this regard.

Overall, Michigan hasn’t been outstanding on offense, so it seems about right that it ranks in the lower half of the FBS in total big plays thus far. The defense, however, is among the absolute best in every category, which also matches what our eyes have told us.

This week, Michigan hits the road for its first true road game of the season against an upstart Purdue Boilermakers squad. Here’s how the Wolverines and Boilermakers stack up so far.

Next opponent
Michigan offense vs Purdue defense
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 17 11 28 13.59% 4.75% 13
PU Def. 13 11 24 12.12% 0.92% 9
Purdue offense vs Michigan defense
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
PU Off. 17 13 30 13.04% 0.92% 9
UM Def. 8 8 16 8.84% 4.75% 13

Purdue’s offense has been one of the surprises of college football under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm. Through the first three games of the season it has churned out two more explosive plays than Michigan’s offense has (both passes), although it has done so at a slightly lower rate, having run 24 more plays than the Wolverines. The Boilermakers are averaging 10 explosive plays per game (5.7 runs and 4.3 runs).

Defensively, they’re not quite as good, allowing seven explosive plays per game. They’ve given up 13 explosive runs (4.3 per game), which ranks 67th nationally, and 11 explosive passes (3.67 per game) which ranks 94th. They’ve also given up 33 passes of at least 10 yards, which ranks 103rd nationally. By comparison, Michigan’s defense has given up just 12.

We’ll have another breakdown of the big plays next week after Michigan takes on Purdue in the young team’s first road test.

Tailgate Tuesday: Fried pork tenderloin sammy with fire roasted green chile jam and a savory corn casserole

September 19th, 2017 by Justin Potts


Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly contribution from our resident pitmaster, Joe Pichey from GoBlueBBQ. Joe has limited time this season, so we will be tag-teaming the weekly recipes. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and will feature a variety of appetizers, main courses, and sides to help you be the king of your next tailgate. Gentry’s BBQ, a Orlando, Fla. based BBQ and catering company, sponsors this season’s feature by providing their killer rubs and sauces for use in the recipes. Buy them here. In addition, Fogo Charcoal provides charcoal to use in each recipe. Buy it here.

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Recipe Archive

Those of you who read this site regularly probably know that I didn’t actually go to Michigan. Even though my mom and grandfather are alums and I got accepted, I chose to attend a smaller school on a soccer scholarship. That school was in the state of Indiana, so when I started to think about what type of food I should cook for the Purdue week Tailgate Tuesday that had to do with Indiana, I didn’t have to think long.

One of the food items served at the dining commons on campus that I remember the most is this huge, flat, breaded piece of meat sandwiched between buns. It may have had a piece of lettuce and a tomato slice on it, but mostly I remember having to take several bites just to get to anything but breaded pork. It was quintessential Indiana eatin’ and although I haven’t had one in about 13 years, I decided to try my hand at making one. In an effort to make it taste better than cardboard, I thought I’d top it with Jess Pryles’ fire roasted green chili jam (every recipe of her’s I’ve ever tried has been amazing) and pair it with a savory corn casserole.

Ingredients
For the sandwich: For the pepper jam: For the corn casserole:
2 lbs center-cut boneless pork loin 4 lbs green chiles 2 TBSP butter
2 eggs 1 TBSP vegetable oil 1 large onion, diced
2 cups buttermilk 1 finely diced onion 1 bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves 2 TBSP Worcestershire 2 TBSP sugar
Kosher salt & ground black pepper 2 TBSP yellow mustard seed 1/4 cup fresh sage
1/4 tsp cayenne 4 cups sugar 1 TBSP Kosher salt
2 sleeves of saltines 3/4 cup cider vinegar Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub
2 cups insta flour (Wondra) 6 oz liquid pectin 6 corn cobs
Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub 1 tsp salt 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
Oil for frying 3 eggs
Buns and mayo 1 1/4 cups milk
Gentry’s Cakalacki Gold Mustard Sauce 1/2 cup heavy cream
Sliced tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles 1 cup shredded parmesean
Directions

The pork tenderloin sandwich isn’t actually BBQ, which is why I had to throw in the jam and corn casserole to at least add a grilled element to the recipe. Start with your pork loin and cut it crosswise into several equal pieces, about two inches each. Next, slice each piece horizontally in half, but don’t slice all the way through. Leave about 3/4 of an inch and then splay it open like a book. Place each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap, but make sure to sprinkle with water to keep the wrap from sticking to the meat. Use a heavy duty pan (a cast iron skillet works best) and pound it as flat as possible. I got mine about a half inch and I wouldn’t go any bigger than that.

In a bowl, whisk the two eggs, two cups of buttermilk, crushed garlic, a teaspoon of salt and pepper, and a couple shakes of Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub. This stuff is a great all-purpose BBQ seasoning that is smoked paprika-forward and works great on pork, chicken, and beef. Cover the flattened pork pieces with this wet mixture and let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

In the meantime, you can start the chile jam. Toss your whole green chiles onto the grill to char the skin. Let them go until the skin is blistered and black, then place them in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Next, peel off the blistered skin and discard, but it’s ok if you leave a few pieces in. If you want a spicier jam, keep the seeds. If not, discard these too. Chop the softened chiles into small pieces.

In a saucepan, sauté your onions until softened, then add the two tablespoons of Worcestershire, two tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds, 3/4 cup cider vinegar, four cups sugar, one teaspoon of salt, and the diced chiles. Boil rapidly for 2-3 minutes then remove from heat. Add the six ounces of liquid pectin and stir thoroughly. Allow to cool completely then place into jars. It will keep for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.

During this time, you can also start your corn casserole. Place a deep cast iron on the hot grill and melt your two tablespoons of butter. Add the diced onion, diced bell pepper, two tablespoons of sugar, tablespoon of Kosher salt, fresh sage, and a few shakes of Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and start to brown. While this is cooking, slice all the corn kernels off of the cobs (make sure to then use a spoon to scrape off all the rest of the sweet guts of the cob). Now add the corn to the skillet and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so. Then, add the 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal and remove from the grill.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the three eggs, 1 1/4 cups milk, and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Pour this into your corn mixture, stir well to combine, and put back on the grill for about 20 minutes or until it starts to set. If you want, you can either turn your oven’s broiler on and toss it in for a couple minutes to brown the top, or keep it on the grill and use a blowtorch to brown the top. This step is not completely needed if you don’t have access to these items while tailgating.

Now that your jam and corn are ready, it’s time to fry up your pork tenderloins. First, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan until it’s 360 degrees. Crush up the saltines. You can do this with your hands or throw into a food processor until they form coarse crumbs and place into a shallow dish. Put your insta flour into another shallow dish and sprinkle with your Gentry’s Smoke Stack BBQ Rub. Take your pork out of fridge, then one at a time, dredge both sides in the flour, dip back into your buttermilk marinade, then coat with the saltine crumbs. Place it into the hot oil and fry for about three minutes per side until the pork is cooked through. Once it’s done, put it onto paper towels to cool slightly and drain excess oil.

Spread both halves of a bun with mayo and Gentry’s Cakalacki Gold Mustard Sauce. Place a piece of fried pork tenderloin on, then top with a piece of lettuce, slice of tomato, and slice of red onion. Top with a spoonful of the green chile jam, add a couple of pickles, and enjoy.

Sometimes recipes don’t live up to expectations, but this one completely exceeded expectations by all who feasted on them this past weekend. The coarse breading that felt more like what you’d get on fried chicken than what I was used to from my college days of pork tenderloin sandwiches provided great flavor with the Smoke Stack mixed in. The Cakalacki Gold and the green chile jam added a tangy, sweet, and spicy flavor profile, and then the corn casserole on the side provided a nice savory touch to complement it. Sure, these recipes were fairly involved and probably too much for a tailgate, but I would highly recommend for your next “homegate.”

Visit Gentry’s to purchase their great rubs and sauces. You can follow them on Twitter at @gentrysbbq and you can also follow our resident pitmaster Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

First Look: Purdue

September 18th, 2017 by Justin Potts


Michigan’s offense struggled for the second week in a row but defense and special teams helped the Wolverines to another double-digit victory. Michigan closed out the non-conference slate with five offensive touchdowns, three defensive touchdowns, one special teams touchdown, 11 field goals, and a safety. In other words, the special teams has scored 48 points, the offense has scored 30, and the defense 20.

This Saturday, Michigan faces a stern test in its Big Ten conference opener in West Lafayette. Raise your hand if you thought you’d hear that sentence prior to the season. No one? Ok, let’s take a look at how the team’s compare through the first fourth of the season.

Purdue & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
35.7 43rd 32.7 57th PPG 19.7 41st 14.7 24th
519 598 Rush Yds 389 247
173.0 63rd 199.3 41st Rush/Gm 129.7 53rd 82.3 9th
4.5 4.7 Rush Avg 4.1 2.3
860 608 Pass Yds 734 377
286.7 35th 202.7 84th Pass/Gm 244.7 83rd 125.7 12th
1,379 1,206 Total Off. 1,123 624
459.7 45th 402.0 72nd Total Off./Gm 374.3 68th 208.0 5th
13.5 120th 18.0 94th KR Avg 22.2 94th 15.4 14th
2.6 98th 14.8 18th PR Avg 9.0 87th 2.0 28th
34:35 12th 31:25 45th Avg TOP 25:25 28:35
40% 69th 34% 102nd 3rd Down% 35% 50th 24% 13th
8-40 98th 8-41 98th Sacks-Yds 1-7 129th 13-85 6rd
14 9 TDs 7 5
3-6 (50%) 11-13 (85%) FG-ATT 4-4 (100%) 3-6 (50%)
13-13 (100%) 1st 9-10 (90%) 39th Red Zone 9-11 (82%) 60th 3-4 (75%) 35th
10-13 (77%) 1-10 (10%)  RZ TD 5-11 (45%) 2-4 (50%)
OFEI/DFEI
29.4 66 32.0 49 S&P+ 29.9 75 12.8 2

Purdue is 2-1 under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm and has looked surprisingly un-Purdue-like so far. They hung with Louisville in the season opener, leading 28-25 in the fourth quarter before allowing 10 unanswered points in the final nine minutes. In Week 2, the Boilermakers topped Ohio University 44-21, and this past Saturday they traveled into SEC country and whooped Missouri, 35-3. Missouri is hardly the Mizzou of the past decade, but it’s becoming clear, neither is Purdue.

Brohm has already topped the 2013 season long win total, tied the 2015 total, and needs just one more win to tie 2014 and 2016’s. He has done so with a revamped offense that ranks in the top third nationally in most categories. Last season, in Darrel Hazel’s final year at the helm, Purdue ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring, but actually led the conference in passing. Three games into 2017, the Boilers are fourth in the conference in scoring, and sixth in total offense — ahead of Michigan in both categories.

Purdue is averaging 11 more points per game so far than they did a year ago, and that’s not simply because of schedule strength. Despite playing 16th-ranked Louisville this year — compared to a poorer non-conference slate last year — the Boilers have scored 18 more points than they did in the first three games of 2016.

They’ve done it with a strong passing game that is averaging 286.7 yards per game and ranks 35th nationally. They threw for 294 yards against Louisville, which is relatively the same as what the Cardinals allowed to 3rd-ranked Clemson this past Saturday. They followed that up with 295 yards against Ohio and 272 against Missouri. What’s more is that they’ve completed 65 percent of their passes with a 10-4 touchdown to interception ratio.

Purdue is less potent on the ground, ranking 63rd nationally with an average of 173 yards per game. That’s about 26 yards fewer than Michigan on a per game basis, though they’re averaging just 0.2 yards per carry fewer than the Wolverines. Louisville’s defense, which ranks 43rd nationally against the run, held the Boilers to just 51 rushing yards on 21 carries in the opener, so there’s precedent for Michigan’s defense.

Before we get carried away by the success of Purdue’s offense in the early season, let’s also point out that their two wins came against two poor defensive teams. Ohio ranks 69th in scoring defense, 64th against the run, 70th against the pass, and 65th in total defense. Missouri is even worse at 112th in scoring defense, 91st against the run, 98th against the pass, and 102nd in total defense. Louisville is worse yet, ranking 115th in scoring defense, 43rd against the run, 122nd against the pass, and 104th in total. Granted, the Cardinals have played Clemson, who may very well wind up in the College Football Playoff once again this season.

Defensively, Purdue isn’t quite as stout as their offense, ranking 41st in scoring (19.7 points per game), 53rd against the run (129.7 yards per game), 83rd against the pass (244.7 yards per game), and 68th in total defense (374.3 yards per game).

Purdue’s defense let Lamar Jackson throw for 387 yards and two touchdowns and rush for another 107 yards in the opener, but held Missouri to just 203 total yards and 70 rushing yards on 2.4 yards per carry. They did, however, give up nearly 400 total yards to Ohio, letting the Bobcats rush for 4.6 yards per carry and pass for 223 yards. Purdue has struggled to get into the backfield with just one sack and eight tackles for loss through three games. By comparison, Michigan has 13 sacks and 27 tackles for loss so far.

Unlike the Air Force matchup, Michigan will face a more traditional offense this Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be the best passing offense the Wolverines’ young defense has faced so far this season. Purdue hasn’t been great at protecting the quarterback — they’ve allowed eight sacks just like Michigan has — so expect Don Brown to dial up plenty of blitzes to keep quarterback David Blough out of rhythm.

If Michigan can survive its first road test of the season the Wolverines will head into the bye week at 4-0 with an extra week to prepare for a rivalry game against Michigan State and a pair of road games at Indiana and Penn State the weeks following.

#7 Michigan 29 – Air Force 13: Special teams save the day while offense sputters in red zone

September 17th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Dustin Johnson)

Last week, Michigan played ugly but still beat Cincinnati by 22 points, leaving fans wondering if it was simply a letdown after a big season-opening win over Florida or a sign of things to com. This Saturday, Michigan picked up an ugly 29-13 win over Air Force.

Michigan looked like it would take command early on as Ty Isaac took the fourth play of the game 62 yards for a touchdown. But it was called back as his foot touched the sideline at the Air Force 30. Instead, Michigan had to settle for three points as the offense stalled at the 17-yard line and Quinn Nordin kicked a 35-yard field goal.

The opening drive was emblematic of the way the rest of the game would go: the offense moving the ball but sputtering in the red zone and settling for three instead of six.

Final Stats
Michigan  Air Force
Score 29 13
Record 3-0 1-1
Total Yards 359 232
Net Rushing Yards 190 168
Net Passing Yards 169 64
First Downs 17 15
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 7-72 3-29
Punts-Yards 3-111 6-231
Time of Possession 29:35 30:25
Third Down Conversions 5-of-14 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 3-27 2-11
Field Goals 5-for-5 2-for-3
PATs 2-for-2 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 1-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 0-of-4 0-of-2
Full Box Score

After forcing an Air Force punt, Michigan gave the ball right back when Chris Evans fumbled and the Falcons recovered at the Michigan 44. Air Force capitalized with a field goal to tie the game at three. That drive was also symbolic of the way the rest of the game would go as Air Force ran 12 plays but advanced just 24 yards.

Michigan settled for another field goal on its first possession of the second quarter, driving 77 yards in eight plays before stalling at the Air Force 8-yard line. Air Force answered with a 50-yard field goal and Michigan closed the half with a 49-yard field goal to take a 9-6 lead.

Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half and freshman receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones scored the first touchdown of the game, taking the punt 79 yards to the end zone for the longest punt return since Steve Breaston went 83 yards against Indiana in 2006.

But the breathing room wouldn’t last long as Air Force threw its first pass of the game and receiver Ronald Cleveland beat safety Tyree Kinnel for a 64 yard touchdown.

Both offenses went three-and-out on their next possessions before Michigan got on the board once again with another field goal after the offense stalled in the red zone. This time, Nordin converted from 29 yards.

The Michigan defense forced another three-and-out, and two plays later, Isaac reeled off another big touchdown run, but again it was called back, this time for a questionable holding on Kekoa Crawford. Michigan settled for another Nordin field goal, this time from 36 yards out to take a 22-13 lead.

Air Force refused to back down, however, putting together a 16-play drive that used nearly seven minutes of the clock and got to the Michigan 5-yard line. But the Michigan defense held strong, forcing a 29-yard field goal attempt that was missed.

Michigan finally scored its first and only offensive touchdown of the game when Karan Higdon scampered around the left side for a 36-yard touchdown run to reach the final score of 29-13.

Michigan’s offense compiled 359 total yards, 190 on the ground and 169 through the air while the defense held Air Force to its lowest yardage total since 2012 (232 yards).

Wilton Speight completed 14-of-23 passes for 169 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass or an interception. Isaac led Michigan on the ground for the third time in three games, finishing with 89 yards on 5.6 yards per carry. Higdon added 64 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, while Evans got just six carries for 30 yards and the fumble. Tarik Black led Michigan in receiving with five receptions for 55 yards, while Peoples-Jones caught two for 52. Nordin tied a program record with five field goals in the game, joining K.C. Lopata (Nov. 8, 2009), J.D Carlson (Nov. 10, 1990), and Mike Gillette (Nov. 5, 1988) as the only Wolverines to do so.

Air Force quarterback Arion Worthman completed 1-of-7 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 60 yards. Running back Tim McVey managed just 62 yards on 5.2 yards per carry, well below his career average of 8.4 yards per carry.

Michigan hits the road for the first time this season next Saturday at Purdue. The game will kick off at 4pm EST and be televised by FOX.

Game Ball – Offense

Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
For the third week in a row, Ty Isaac could have gotten the game ball, and if his two touchdown runs wouldn’t have been called back he most certainly would have this week. But I’m going with Peoples-Jones because his third-quarter punt return began the second half with a statement, putting Michigan ahead by two scores and ultimately sealing the game. The true freshman has been a major weapon in the punt return game in the early season. He also gained 52 yards on a pair of receptions.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)

Game Ball – Defense

Chase Winovich (9 tackles — 3 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Devin Bush could have gotten the nod here as he was seemingly all over the field, playing a huge role in slowing down the Air Force triple option running game. But I’m going to split hairs and pick Chase Winovich because he recorded a sack and a half on just seven Air Force pass attempts. He also recorded nine tackles and a quarterback hurry.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)

#7 Michigan vs Air Force game preview

September 15th, 2017 by Justin Potts


Michigan played an ugly, mistake-filled game against Cincinnati last Saturday and still won by 22 points thanks to a pair of defensive touchdowns by Tyree Kinnel and Lavert Hill. Now the Wolverines play host to Air Force at noon on Big Ten Network.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – BTN
Air Force Head Coach: Troy Calhoun (11th season)
Coaching Record: 78-53 (all at Air Force)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Thiessen (10th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Steve Russ (4th season)
Last Season: 10-3 (5-3 MWC)
Last Meeting: UM 31 – AFA 25 (2012)
All-Time Series: Michigan 2-0
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 2-0
Jim Harbaugh vs Air Force First meeting
Last Michigan win: 2012 (31-25)
Last Air Force win: Never
Current Streak: Michigan 2
Air Force schedule to date
Opponent Result
VMI W 62-0

Air Force had the rare Week 2 bye after dismantling the Virginia Military Institute of the Football Championship Subconference (FCS), 62-0, in Week 1. VMI went just 3-8 last season and hasn’t had a winning season since 1981. In fact, you have to go back to 1977 to find the last time the Keydets won more than six games in a season and 1959 to find the last time they won more than seven.  Never have they won 10 games. They went 9-0 in 1920 and 9-1 in 1923 and that’s about it. Needless to say, success isn’t party of the VMI football tradition, and last week, they lost to mighty Catawba College, a Division II liberal arts school of 1,300 students, 27-20.

So it’s hard to glean much off of Air Force’s schedule to date. Sure, they rushed for 457 yards in the opener and racked up 647 total yards, but VMI’s defense also allowed 415 total yards to Catawba. For those keeping track, that’s more than Michigan’s defense allowed to Florida and Cincinnati combined.

Regardless, Air Force features the triple-option offense that military academy teams tend to run, which will most certainly be a challenge for the Wolverines’ defense, and they’ve had two weeks to prepare for just that.

Head coach Troy Calhoun has been very successful in Colorado Springs, with the exception of the 2012 and 2013 seasons when the Falcons went a combined 8-17. Since then, they are 29-12 with a Mountain West Mountain Division title and two bowl wins.

However, last year’s schedule wasn’t exactly a gauntlet. They beat Abilene Christian, Georgia State, Utah State, Navy, Fresno State, Army, Colorado State, San Jose State, Boise State, and South Alabama. The Boise State win was a big one, keeping the 19th-ranked Broncos out of the MWC title game, but the other nine opponents went a combined 43-69 for a winning percentage of just 38.4 percent.

So how good is Air Force? Who knows. But let’s take a look at the matchup.

Air Force offense

(Ray Carlin, USA Today Sports)

Simply looking at this season’s offensive stats is misleading since Air Force has played just one game and it was against the aforementioned VMI squad that can’t even beat a liberal arts school the size of my high school. Last season, Air Force ranked 36th nationally in total offense (452.2 yards per game), 30th in scoring (35.2 points per game), third in rushing (317.4 yards per game), and 123rd in passing (134.8 yards per game).

It’s no secret that running the ball is the Falcons’ forte as they’ve ranked highly in each of the past four seasons (4th in 2015, 6th in 2014, and 12th in 2013, and 2nd in 2012). A year ago, after a three-game scuffle mid-season, quarterback Nate Romine went down with an injury and Arion Worthman came in and led the Falcons to six straight wins to close the season.

Now the full-time starter even though Romine was granted a medical redshirt, Worthman ran an efficient offense in the season opener. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 33 yards and another score. Romine, meanwhile, went 2-of-2 for 18 yards and carried the ball twice for 32 yards.

The most impressive part of the game was the number of backs that carried the ball. Sixteen different players had at least two carries and the team still averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Granted, the Falcons probably could have pulled someone from the stands and gain positive yards on VMI’s defense, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Senior running back Tim McVey led the way with 98 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He was the team’s second-leading rusher last season with 708 yards and 10 touchdowns and entered this season as Air Force’s career leader in rushing average at an astounding 8.4 yards per carry. And yes, that average went UP in the season opener.

Michigan’s run defense has allowed a total of just 79 rushing yards in two games, holding opponents to an average of less than 1.4 yards per carry.

Fullbacks play a major role in Air Force’s option offense and Calhoun had to replace the top two, who carried the ball a combined 20.5 times per game last season. But junior Parker Wilson led all Falcons with 16.0 yards per carry against VMI, racking up 48 yards and a touchdown on just three carries.

While the rushing offense is the bread and butter, the passing offense does just enough to mix it up — and nothing more. The Falcons threw just 150 passes in all of 2016. By comparison, Michigan threw 370 passes and has already thrown 55 through two games this season. Air Force had just one game last season of 20 or or more pass attempts (24) and eight games of 10 or fewer.

But that doesn’t mean the passing game doesn’t work. In fact, the infrequency of the passing game is precisely why it does work. Air Force averaged 11.68 yards per pass attempt last year and 25.76 yards per completion. Michigan averaged 7.45 yards per attempt and 12.09 per completion. That means the average Air Force pass completion was a quarter of the football field and more than twice that of Michigan.

It wasn’t quite that dramatic in the season opener as Air Force threw 14 passes and completed 10 for an average of 13.6 yards per completion, but that’s still more than Michigan averaged in 2016. Last year’s top receiver is gone, meaning Worthman will have to find a new go-to target. Jalen Robinette’s 35 receptions for 959 yards and six touchdowns were by far more than the next closest receiver — McVey — who had just eight for 193 and two. In fact, Robinette’s production was two receptions and 166 yards more than all other receivers combined. McVey led the way against VMI with three catches for 77 yards. But sophomore Geraud Sanders made the most of his two receptions, taking them both for touchdowns from 57 yards and five yards out. Junior Marcus Bennett is the other starting receiver and caught two passes for 24 yards.

The offensive line lost a pair of all-Mountain West performers, but has four seniors with starting experience and with the running system that the Falcons have offensive line is essentially a plug and play position in Colorado Springs.

Air Force defense

(Mike Kaplan, U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force defense under Steve Russ has been steadily improving since Russ took full reign of the unit after spending 2012 and 2013 as co-defensive coordinator. In 2013, the defense ranked 114th nationally in total defense and 116th in scoring defense. In Russ’ first season as the lone defensive coordinator, the Falcons improved to 60th in total defense. In 2015 they were 32nd and last season they maintained that performance at 33rd. However, Air Force ranked 49th in scoring defense last season (26.2 points per game). They ranked 10th against the run (114.2 yards per game) and 94th against the pass (250.7 yards per game).

The bad news for Russ this season is that, like Michigan, he had to replace 10 of 11 starters on the defense. And it wasn’t just starters, it was depth as well as 32 seniors departed. Six of the top seven linemen and four of the top five linebackers are gone.

The lone returning starters is senior middle linebacker Grant Ross, who ranked third on the team with 67 tackles and also had 2.5 sacks last season. He has 16 starts under his belt and he recorded three tackles and 1.5 for loss in the opener. Senior Jack Flor is the other middle linebacker and led the team with eight tackles in the opener. He averaged 7.3 tackles per game in three starts a year ago. Senior Ja’Mel Sanders and senior Matt Evans started at the outside linebacker spots but recorded a combined three tackles.

Junior Kyle Floyd is a first-year starter at free safety and nearly matched his career tackles (four) in the season opener (three), while fellow junior Garrett Kauppila played in his first career game against VMI, recording three tackles. Senior Marquis Griffin and junior Robert Bullard are the starting corners. Griffin started two games last season and recorded five tackles, one for loss, and a pass breakup against VMI. Bullard made his first career start and recorded one tackle.

The defensive line is made up of junior nose guard Cody Gessler, senior three-tech Cody Moorhead, and senior weakside end Santo Coppola. The latter is the most experienced returner along the line with seven career starts. He leads all returning linemen with two sacks in 2016 and recored another one against VMI. Moorhead has played in 21 career games entering this season but recorded just two total tackles. He made one in the opener. The VMI game was the career debut for Gessler and he collected one tackle.

Air Force special teams

Senior kicker Luke Strebel ranked ninth nationally with 1.69 field goals per game a year ago. He made 22-of-25 and all 51 point after attempts, setting a Mountain West record with 22 straight field goals made after missing his first three of the season. He didn’t get a chance to kick a field goal against VMI. Sophomore punter Charlie Scott booted two punts for an average of 41.5 yards in his debut.

Junior receiver Ronald Cleveland is back to handle punt returns after averaging 10.7 yards per return in 2016. He had two returns for a total of nine yards to start the season.

Analysis
Air Force run game vs Michigan rush defense
Air Force Michigan

This may be the only game this season that Michigan’s run defense doesn’t hold the advantage. Michigan’s defense held both Florida and Cincinnati under 100 yards rushing, but Air Force hasn’t been held below 100 rushing yards in at least the past two seasons. Last season, their low was 149 yards on just 3.8 yards per carry in a 35-26 loss to Wyoming, a team that finished 92nd nationally against the run. Navy was the only other team to hold the Falcons below 200 yards (173) and Army was the only team to do it in 2015 (196). No matter how good Michigan’s run defense is, it will take a major feat to stop the Air Force rushing attack, which leads to…

Air Force pass game vs Michigan pass defense
Air Force Michigan 

Michigan’s pass defense has the edge here, and I certainly don’t expect Air Force to put up many passing yards, but there are two reasons I have this closer than it should be. First of all, Cincinnati exposed a little bit of a weak spot in the Michigan defense last week with some screens that picked up a decent chunk of yardage. Teams will play on the aggressiveness of Don Brown’s defense until he can fix it. Secondly, although Air Force doesn’t pass often, it makes the most of its pass attempts. I’m slightly worried by Michigan’s young secondary getting too lulled to sleep by the run and then giving up big plays through the air.

Air Force rush defense vs Michigan running game
Air Force Michigan 

Michigan gets a slight edge here based on how well Ty Isaac has been running the ball, but it remains to be seen whether or not the offensive line can pave the way for a consistent running game. Chris Evans has yet to find much running room and Air Force’s defense is geared around selling out to stop the run. The Falcons held eight opponents below 100 yards rushing last season, though they did surrender 373 rushing yards to New Mexico.

Air Force pass defense vs Michigan passing game
Air Force Michigan 

While Air Force sells out to stop the run it makes their pass defense very vulnerable if opposing quarterbacks have enough time to throw. They ranked 94th in passing yards allowed and 83rd in pass efficiency defense last season, allowing nine opponents to throw for 200-plus yards and six to top 300. Wilton Speight has been erratic through the first two games of the season but I have to believe he’ll settle down and regain the accuracy that he displayed in the first half of last season prior to his injury at Iowa. As long as the line can keep him clean, Michigan should have the clear edge here.

Air Force special teams vs Michigan special teams
Air Force Michigan

There’s not much separating the two teams in the special teams matchup. Air Force has the more experienced kicker who has made 22 straight field goals, while Michigan has a big-legged kicker who doesn’t have much experience. He nailed two from 50-plus in the opener against Florida, but also missed two field goals in the same game. Neither team has an experienced punter. Air Force ranked 9th and 19th nationally last season in kick and punt returns while Michigan has new returners.

Coaching
Air Force Michigan 

It’s not quite the Jim Harbaugh-Luke Fickell disparity, but I would still give Harbaugh the edge over Calhoun, though the man in Colorado Springs has put together an impressive run. He has carried on the success of his predecessor, Fisher DeBerry, with very few hiccups. It’s not easy to sustain success at a service academy, but he has done so, and that warrants respect. It seems Calhoun is rumored for coaching jobs every offseason but he has chosen to remain at his alma mater where he could be a legend someday.

Atmosphere and Intangibles
Air Force Michigan 

Air Force won’t be intimidated by the Big House, but — assuming the boo birds don’t come out again — Michigan has the clear home field advantage. It’s also a noon game on the East Coast, which means it’s 10am body time for the Falcons. They might not be affected by that as much as other teams, but it has to count for something.

Edge Average: Michigan 6.4 – Air Force 3.6
Score Prediction: Michigan 33 – Air Force 17
Four bold predictions:

Two good:
• Ty Isaac is held in check but Chris Evans has a breakout game, using his speed to beat the aggressive Air Force rush defense and breaks a long touchdown run
• Wilton Speight hits a few deep balls, doesn’t make any major mistakes, and holds off the boo birds for another week
Two bad: 
• Michigan’s run defense holds Air Force to its lowest rushing output in the past three seasons but the Falcons still break 100 yards
• Air Force scores two passing touchdowns on an overly aggressive Michigan defense

Tailgate Tuesday: Brisket burnt ends

September 12th, 2017 by Justin Potts


Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly contribution from our resident pitmaster, Joe Pichey from GoBlueBBQ. Joe has limited time this season, so we will be tag-teaming the weekly recipes. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and will feature a variety of appetizers, main courses, and sides to help you be the king of your next tailgate. Gentry’s BBQ, a Orlando, Fla. based BBQ and catering company, sponsors this season’s feature by providing their killer rubs and sauces for use in the recipes. Buy them here. In addition, Fogo Charcoal provides charcoal to use in each recipe. Buy it here.

Previous: Gator kabobs; Steak tacos nortenos with bacon fat flour tortillas
Recipe Archive

I had to travel to Ohio this past weekend to celebrate the life of my grandfather, who passed away last week at age 88, so I didn’t have time to cook anything. Because of that, this week’s Tailgate Tuesday will be a cook from last Fourth of July, so it doesn’t include any product from this season’s sponsor, Gentry’s BBQ.

Ingredients

• 12-14 pound packer brisket
• Your favorite beef rub
• Spray bottle
• Vinegar or apple juice
• Your favorite BBQ sauce

Directions

First, you need to trim your brisket. Make sure to use a sharp knife and make sure your brisket is cold so it’s easier to cut. On a brisket, there is a point and a flat and it’s pretty easy to determine which is which. Trim off most of the fat around the brisket except from the fat cap. With the fat cap, you’ll want to trim it to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, but it’s important for both flavor and moistness, so don’t trim it all off.

Once your brisket is trimmed to your liking, apply your beef rub. This can be as simple as salt and pepper or a beef rub that has more chiles, cumin, garlic, etc in it. Fire up your smoker to 275 and make sure there’s a water pan in there. Once it’s up to temperature, throw the brisket in. I prefer to cook fat side up to let the fat drip down into the meat. Others prefer fat side down to act as a shield from the heat. To each his own and it can also depend on the way the heat is dispersed in your smoker.

Grab a cold beer and relax for at least three or four hours before even thinking about opening up your smoker. No need to release heat during this stage. After three or four hours you can get out your spray bottle and spritz the brisket with cider vinegar or apple juice. You can do this every 20-30 minutes to keep it moist and also to check the color of the meat.

From about four hours to six hours in you should be in what is called the stall, where the internal meat temperature won’t rise much and you might be tempted to crank up the heat. Just be patient. Watch for the bark on the outside of the brisket to start getting nice and crispy and turn a deep mahogany to almost black color (as seen below) before you wrap it.

At this point, take some butcher paper and wrap your brisket like a present nice and tight. Put it back in the smoker to finish. Since it’s wrapped, it’s not going to absorb any more smoke, so you could put it into the oven at this time to finish if you want. Cook until the brisket reaches a soft and pliable feel. It should be around 200-210 degrees internal, but I prefer to judge the doneness by the feel. Using gloves, pick it up and kind of jiggle it around. If it feels loose and pliable it’s probably done. If not, put it back in. You could unwrap it a bit to get a better look and feel or stick a probe in.

Once it’s done, it’s very important to give it a rest in a cooler until the internal temperatures are back down to 140-145 degrees. This allows some of the juice to be reabsorbed back into the meat as opposed to all leaking out if you slide in right away. It could be an hour or two of rest and that’s just fine as long as you don’t have hungry people becoming hangry because of the wait.

When it’s time to slice, just remember that you shouldn’t slice with the grain. Always slice against the grain. You’ll want to determine where the point and the flat meet because they will have different grains. Slice the flat and serve it as brisket, but this recipe is for burnt ends so you’ll be using the point for these. Cut into cubes and you can remove any chunks of fat that may still be there.

Once you have your point cut into cubes, mix it with your favorite BBQ sauce in a foil pan and throw that back into your smoker. You’ll want to smoke it for another couple hours until it gets back up to about 200 degrees and is nice and sticky. At this point, it’s ready to serve immediately.

Visit Gentry’s to purchase their great rubs and sauces. You can follow them on Twitter at @gentrysbbq and you can also follow our resident pitmaster Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

First Look: Air Force

September 11th, 2017 by Justin Potts


Michigan followed up its big win over Florida with lackluster showing against Cincinnati in the home opener on Saturday. The offense struggled to move the ball consistently, but the defense lived up to its billing, holding the Bearcats to just 200 total yards and scoring two touchdowns of its own.

Now, the Wolverines close out the non-conference portion of the schedule against an Air Force team that went 10-3 last season. Let’s take a look at how the team’s compare.

Air Force & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
62.0 1st 34.5 51st PPG 0.0 1st 15.5 31st
473 408 Rush Yds 55 79
473.0 1st 204.0 46th Rush/Gm 55.0 10th 39.5 3rd
7.1 4.7 Rush Avg 2.0 1.4
190 439 Pass Yds 40 313
190.0 98th 219.5 75th Pass/Gm 40.0 1st 156.5 34th
663 847 Total Off. 95 392
663.0 1st 423.5 63rd Total Off./Gm 95.0 1st 196.0 9th
N/A N/A 19.0 85th KR Avg 17.2 32nd 15.6 18th
4.5 81st 6.6 65th PR Avg -2.0 1st 2.0 41st
35:21 17th 32:20 35th Avg TOP 24:39 27:40
70% 2nd 33% 96th 3rd Down% 21% 15th 25% 24th
2-16 70th 6-30 104th Sacks-Yds 1-16 92nd 10-58 3rd
9 7 TDs 0 4
0-0 (–%) 6-8 (75%) FG-ATT 0-0 (–%) 1-3 (33%)
7-7 (100%) 1st 5-6 (83%) 74th Red Zone 0-0 (–%) 1st 2-2 (100%) 94th
7-7 (100%) 1-6 (17%)  RZ TD 0-0 (–%) 2-2 (100%)
OFEI/DFEI
S&P+

Air Force had a Week 2 bye week after opening with a 62-0 win over VMI. The Falcons rushed for 457 yards on 6.8 yards per carry and totaled 647 yards. Their defense held VMI to just 95 total yards. It was a thorough domination, but VMI isn’t exactly a quality opponent. They went 3-8 last season and had the 96th-ranked total defense in FCS a year ago.

Even so, the armed forces teams always present a unique challenge with their spread option offenses that are different than what most other teams run. When Michigan hosted Air Force in 2012 it took a heroic effort from Denard Robinson to overcome 417 yards allowed.

In Air Force’s win over VMI, the Falcons had 16 different players with at least two carries. Their 437 rushing yards would rank 27th nationally through two weeks even though Air Force did that in just one game. Their rushing yards per game average is first by more than 50 yards over fellow armed force, Army. It was so good that even though they rank 98th in passing offense, they’re still first nationally in total offense. They’re also first in red zone scores with seven touchdowns in seven trips.

Defensively, they’re also first in several categories including scoring, pass defense, total defense, punt return defense, and red zone defense. They held VMI to just 95 total yards, a 21 percent third-down conversion, and no visits to the red zone. Air Force controlled the ball for so long that VMI ran just 47 plays.

Michigan will have its hands full with Air Force’s running game despite the fact that the Wolverine defense ranks third nationally against the run. But Don Brown will have Michigan’s defense ready. The question is, will the offense be able to move the ball and limit mistakes?

#8 Michigan 36 – Cincinnati 14: Pair of pick-sixes save lackluster offensive showing

September 10th, 2017 by Justin Potts


(Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

After a resounding win over 17th-ranked Florida to open the season, Michigan returned home and received more than it expected from a Cincinnati squad that went just 4-8 a year ago. Still, the Wolverines weathered the storm and survived a plague of mistakes to win going away, 36-14.

Michigan started the game strong with a 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession and an interception returned for touchdown a couple drives later to take a quick 14-0 lead.

Final Stats
Michigan  Cincinnati
Score 36 14
Record 2-0 1-1
Total Yards 414 200
Net Rushing Yards 193 68
Net Passing Yards 221 132
First Downs 16 13
Turnovers 2 2
Penalties-Yards 7-68 4-30
Punts-Yards 7-274 10-373
Time of Possession 30:27 29:33
Third Down Conversions 5-of-15 6-of-19
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 1-8
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-1
PATs 4-for-4 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Full Box Score

But after the defense forced a Cincinnati punt, the ball hit a Michigan blocker and was recovered by the Bearcats at the Michigan 38. Cincinnati took advantage of the short field with a 9-play touchdown drive.

The second quarter struggles that Michigan had in Week 1 returned as the Wolverines kicked a 28-yard field goal on their first possession but managed just 51 yards on 14 plays the rest of the quarter.

Cincinnati opened the second half with a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to pull within 17-14 and had two more possessions with a chance to either tie the game or take the lead. But the Michigan defense held strong, and after a pair of drives that gained a total of seven yards, the offense finally moved the ball thanks to a 36-yard pass from Wilton Speight to tight end Sean McKeon and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Grant Perry.

A couple drives later, Quinn Nordin kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend Michigan’s lead to 27-14, and on Cincinnati’s ensuing possession the Wolverines forced a three-and-out. On the punt attempt, the ball was snapped past the punter, who batted the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Michigan’s offense couldn’t capitalize, going three-and-out, but the defense scored its second touchdown of the game when Lavert Hill picked off quarterback Hayden Moore and raced 24 yards to the end zone to reach the final score of 36-14.

The Michigan offense was mistake prone and lackluster most of the day, unable to string together consistent drives against a defense that ranked 72nd nationally a year ago. Sure, the Bearcats’ defense was full of returning starters and now coached by a defensive-minded head coach in Luke Fickell, but there’s no reasons a Michigan offense shouldn’t have more success moving the ball. Take away the two defensive touchdowns and the Wolverines managed just 22 points.

Still, the Wolverines’ defense was strong, holding the Bearcats to just 200 total yards and 68 rushing yards while recording seven tackles for loss and four sacks and scoring two defensive touchdowns. Through two games, the Michigan defense has scored three touchdowns — matching last season’s total — and allowed just two.

Speight completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Ty Isaac topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight game, carrying the ball 20 times for 133 yards, while Chris Evans managed just 15 yards on five rushes. Kekoa Crawford led the way through the air, catching four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Perry caught for for 66 and a score.

Tyree Kinnel led the defense with nine tackles (8 solo), a tackle for loss, a sack, and an interception returned for touchdown. Devin Bush had another strong game with seven tackles and a sack, while Khaleke Hudson recorded two sacks.

Game Ball – Offense

Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Isaac could have taken the game ball in Week 1, but we gave it to Quinn Nordin for his multiple 50-yard field goal day. There’s no question Isaac was the best player on the field for Michigan’s offense in Week 2. While Chris Evans couldn’t find any running room, Isaac took the reigns and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The senior now has 247 yards through two games, averaging 8.0 yards per carry, though he has yet to find the end zone.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)

Game Ball – Defense

Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles — 8 solo — 1 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception returned for touchdown)
While the Michigan defense lost 10 of 11 starters from last season it still returned plenty of players with experience and Kinnel was one of them. Stepping into the starting safety spot in 2017 for the first time, Kinnel was impressive on Saturday, leading the team with nine tackles, recording a sack, and taking an interception 28 yards for a touchdown.

Previous:
Week 1 – (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)

#8 Michigan vs Cincinnati game preview

September 8th, 2017 by Justin Potts


Michigan passed its first big test of the season last Saturday with a resounding 33-17 win over 17th-ranked Florida. The Wolverines dominated the game, outgaining Florida 433 to 192, and holding the Gators to just 11 rushing yards and three offensive points, but gave up two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second quarter and missed two second half field goals to keep the score much closer.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Cincinnati Head Coach: Luke Fickell (1st season)
Coaching Record: 7-7 overall (1-0 at UC)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Marcus Freeman (1st season)
Last Season: 4-8 (6-2)
Last Meeting: First meeting
All-Time Series: First meeting
Record in Ann Arbor: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs UC First meeting
Last Michigan win: First meeting
Last Cincinnati win: First meeting
Current Streak: First meeting

Yes, Florida was missing 10 players due to suspension — two of which were starters — but the Gators were still a very good team and certainly one of the top four or five teams the Wolverines will face all season. That means Michigan gets a few “tune-up” games to improve on what went wrong and refine what could have been done better before the meat of the schedule begins.

Cincinnati is up next, which brings Luke Fickell back to the Big House where he lost to Brady Hoke in his only other visit as a head coach. He bridged the gap between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer at Ohio State, going 6-7 as an interim head coach before spending five more seasons as a defensive coordinator in Columbus. In the offseason he made the 100 mile move down I-71 to take his first real head coaching position at Cincinnati after the Bearcats fired Tommy Tuberville.

Fickell is Mr. Ohio, having played for Ohio State and spent his entire 18-year coaching career in the state between OSU, Akron, and now Cincinnati. He inherits a program that has taken a steady nose dive the past few seasons.

From 2007-2012, the Bearcats won at least 10 games in five of six seasons spanning Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, winning the Big East four of those years and reaching a BCS bowl twice. Even the Tuberville began promising with nine-win seasons in 2013 and 14, but he followed those up with a 7-6 record in 2015 and 4-8 a year ago.

The Fickell era opened with a 26-14 win over Austin Peay on Saturday, an outcome that was much too close for comfort considering the Governors are one of the worst teams in the FCS, carrying a 28-game losing streak, which is the longest in the nation. Austin Peay had the 120th-ranked defense in FCS last season, allowing 506.6 yards per game, and held Cincinnati to just 248 yards and only 97 on the ground. Still, that didn’t stop Cincinnati running back Mike Boone — who rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on Saturday — from confidently declaring that the Bearcats could “shock the world” this Saturday.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Cincinnati offense

Last season, Cincinnati’s offense ranked 99th nationally in total offense (374.1 yards per game), 123rd in scoring (19.3 points per game), 117th in rushing (118.2 yards per game), and 44th in passing (255.9 yards per game). Fickell brought in former Notre Dame offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Mike Denbrock to run his offense, promising an up-tempo spread. Denbrock spent the past seven seasons in South Bend and coordinated the offense in 2014, which ranked 32nd in total offense and 38th in scoring. That’s the team that beat Michigan 31-0 in Brady Hoke’s final season.

Quarterback Hayden Moore started two games as a redshirt freshman in 2015 and earned the starting job entering last season but injured his ankle in the third game and missed the next five. He finished the year with 1,744 yards, 11 touchdowns, and seven interceptions on 57.3 percent passing, but he closed out the season with a 371-yard, three touchdown performance against Tulsa. Last Saturday, he completed 17-of-28 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns. He’s not a major threat to run with just a 0.7 yard per carry average, sacks included.

Boone, a senior running back, had good freshman and sophomore seasons in 2014 and 2015, totaling 1,399 yards and 18 touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry. But last season, he managed just 388 yards and two scores, recording six games of less than four yards per carry, five of which were under three. He began his senior campaign with a nice game last Saturday, rushing 19 times for 100 yards and one touchdown, but will have a much tougher test against a Michigan defense that held Florida to just 11 rushing yards last week.

Sophomore Thomas Geddis led the team with four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown last week. He had just seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman last season, but at 6-foot-5 he has size to cause problems for Michigan’s young defensive backs. Junior Kahlil Lewis is perhaps Cincinnati’s best receiver, coming off a 48-catch, 605-yard, five-touchdown season. He caught four for 41 and a score last weekend. Senior Devin Gray is a former junior college transfer who became the first Bearcat receiver to tally 100 yards in his debut a year ago. He caught 58 passes for 860 yards and five touchdowns last season but managed just two for 18 against Austin Peay. Sophomore Jerron Rollins, like Lewis, is a former three-star recruit, and caught two passes for 22 yards last week.

Cincinnati’s offensive line paved the way for the fewest rushing touchdowns in FBS last season, but has senior left tackle Korey Cunningham back as an anchor. He’s the only full-time returning starter on the line.

Cincinnati defense

Fickell is a defensive minded coach, but has always had Ohio State’s recruits to work with. He doesn’t have four-stars and five-stars to plug in now, but he did bring one of those with him to Cincinnati as his defensive coordinator. Marcus Freeman was a linebacker at Ohio State from 2004-08 and has been working into the coaching ranks, beginning with a graduate assistant position at OSU in 2010 and linebackers coach at Kent State in 2011-12 and Purdue 2013-16. This is his first coordinator position and he inherits a defense that returns eight of its top 10 tacklers from 2016.

Last season, the Bearcats ranked 72nd nationally in total defense (422.8 yards per game), 55th in scoring (26.9 points per game), 75th against the run (189.6 yards per game), and 74th against the pass (233.3 yards per game).

Redshirt junior defensive end Kevin Mouhon led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and ranked fifth with 50 tackles, while redshirt sophomore Bryan Wright is primed for a breakout year after a strong finish to last season. On the inside, junior tackle Marquise Copeland is the leader with 59 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and a sack last season. Redshirt junior tackle Cortez Broughton was a second-team All-AAC performer last season with five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Freeman has his hands full trying to replace the entire starting linebacking corps, which combined for 196 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 14 passes defended. Senior middle linebacker Jaylyin Minor is a junior college transfer and is the unit’s leading returning tackler with 29. He made 10 tackles in the season opener. Sophomore Will linebacker Perry Young ranked eighth on the team in tackles last season and tallied 17 tackles — 10 solo — and three for loss against Austin Peay. Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Tyrell Gilbert played just eight games last season due to injury but recorded 40 tackles, three interceptions, and forced two fumbles. Last weekend, he recorded Cincinnati’s lone sack.

While the linebackers are new, the secondary is mostly the same except for safety Zach Edwards, but his replacement, junior Malik Clements, had himself a day with 18 tackles last weekend. Senior strong safety Carter Jacobs started three games last season, while corners Grant Coleman and Linden Stephens are experienced seniors.

Cincinnati special teams

Senior kicker Andrew Gantz is one of the most experienced kickers in the nation having made 39 of 49 career attempts with a long of 51. He’s coming off a hip injury that caused him to miss most of last season and missed his lone attempt last weekend. The punter is freshman James Smith, an Aussie who averaged 42.2 yards per punt last weekend.

Gray is the main punt returner and averaged 10.5 yards per return on four returns last week, while Geddis and freshman Michael Warren II handle kick returns.

Analysis
Cincinnati run game vs Michigan rush defense
Cincinnati Michigan 

Cincinnati running back Mike Boone did have a 100-yard game last week but that was against one of the worst defenses in FCS and the Bearcats’ running game itself was very pedestrian last season. Despite Boone’s claim that Cincinnati could shock the world on Saturday, Michigan has a big edge here.

Cincinnati pass game vs Michigan pass defense
Cincinnati Michigan 

With a young and unproven Michigan secondary, the Wolverines don’t have much of an edge here against some talented Cincinnati receivers, but they did still hold Florida without a passing touchdown last week. Sure, they gave up a few long pass plays, but they didn’t break. Cincinnati will likely hit on a couple long passes, but if they can’t run the ball, Michigan’s pass rush will tee off on Moore like it did Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire last week.

Cincinnati rush defense vs Michigan running game
Cincinnati Michigan 

The Bearcats allowed 224 rushing yards to Austin Peay last week, while Michigan’s running game racked up 215 yards on Florida’s stout defense. Sure, the Wolverines had several runs that were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, but the big plays — mostly by Ty Isaac — made for a good day on the ground. Cincinnati’s rush defense won’t have much success stopping Michigan’s deep and talented stable of backs.

Cincinnati pass defense vs Michigan passing game
Cincinnati Michigan 

Austin Peay threw just 19 passes last week and completed nine for 89 yards. Wilton Speight had his share of struggles last week, throwing back to back pick sixes and overthrowing open receivers at other times. I’m giving this one a push this week until Speight can prove consistent with Michigan’s young receiving corps.

Cincinnati special teams vs Michigan special teams
Cincinnati Michigan 

This was a big question mark for Michigan heading into last week, but sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin answered those questions with four field goals including two from 50-plus. Still, he missed two in the fourth quarter and Michigan gave up a blocked punt in the second quarter, so there are still some questions. Cincinnati’s kicker missed his only field goal try last week, so we’ll give Michigan a slight edge here.

Coaching
Cincinnati Michigan 

Jim Harbaugh vs. Luke Fickell. One has turned around multiple programs, won a BCS game, won an NFL conference, nearly won a Super Bowl, and took a 5-7 team to back to back 10-win seasons. The other is a first-year full-time head coach who lost to Brady Hoke.

Atmosphere and Intangibles
Cincinnati Michigan 

The first home game of the season in the Big House will be a great atmosphere, giving Michigan a clear home field advantage. The Bearcat seniors have experience of playing at Ohio State in 2014, but no one else on the team has played in a setting like that.

Edge Average: Michigan 7.4 – Cincinnati 2.6
Score Prediction: Michigan 48 – Cincinnati 10

Register for RunTough for chance to win Michigan-Ohio State tickets

September 7th, 2017 by Justin Potts


The 4th Annual RunTough for ChadTough is quickly approaching and The ChadTough Foundation is offering a pair of tickets to the Michigan vs. Ohio State football game on Nov. 25 to one lucky winner. All you have to do is register for RunTough between now and Friday, September 15 at 11:59pm ET.

Everyone who registers — regardless of age or location — is eligible to win. Each registration counts as one entry into the drawing. The ChadTough Foundation will announce the winner on Mon., Sept. 18 on the organization’s Facebook page and will reach out to the email address associated with the winner’s registration to coordinate ticket delivery.

RunTough is a family-friendly 5K and 1M Fun Run that can be done in Saline, Mich. or virtually anywhere in the world.

All proceeds from the run will go to The ChadTough Foundation, whose mission is to fund research and raise awareness for pediatric brain cancer with an emphasis on Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).

This event will celebrate Chad’s birthday while rallying to cure pediatric brain cancer.

Visit the RunTough page on the foundation’s website for more information.