photo Michigan-Display-Ad-728x90-Die-Hard-Fans-only_zpskcnarkrk.jpg  photo MampGB header 2015 v6_zpsdluogxnr.jpg

Posts Tagged ‘Deveon Smith’

The numbers game: Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016


peppers-vs-colorado(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays

Well, I did not panic at all during the first quarter last weekend. Nope, not one bit.

But in the end Michigan pulled off the comeback and now we can look at the numbers. Spoiler alert: they’re not quite as bad as you might think given how the first quarter played out.

Okay, let’s just rip the Band-Aid off and get the defensive numbers out of the way first.

Michigan gave up seven total big plays, four of which came in the first quarter. Colorado had four big run plays (10-yards or more) and three big pass plays (20-yards or more), which is right about in line with their season average of 6.5 big plays against per game coming in. After that horrendous first quarter, Michigan settled down and Colorado had just two runs of over 10-yards and only one big pass play, although it was a 70-yard touchdown pass. Hooray for a coaching staff that makes adjustments!

Through three games the 2015 Michigan defense gave up 4.33 big run plays per game, 1.33 big pass plays per game for a total of 5.67 big plays given up per game and a 9.19 percent big plays against percentage.

Adding in the Colorado numbers, the 2016 iteration of the Wolverines now gives up five big run plays per game (75th), 1.67 big pass plays per game (14th), for a total of 6.67 big plays per game (44th) and a big play against percentage of 10.26 percent. All are slightly higher than this point last year. Keep in mind that All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis has yet to play this season and starting defensive linemen Taco Charlton and Bryan Mone have missed the last two games.

Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first three weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 20 16 36 16.98% 6.72% 18
2015 10 8 18 8.57% -0.62% -1
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 5 1.67 6.67 10.26% 6.72% 18
2015 4.33 1.33 5.67 9.19% -0.62% -1

Despite a slight uptick in big plays given up by the defense, Michigan’s offense fared quite well in the big play department against Colorado, with 10 total — four big running plays and six big passing plays. However, despite a solid offensive outing, Michigan’s 10 total big plays were less than their season average of thirteen. Let’s see how Michigan’s offense compares to last year through three games.

In 2015, Michigan averaged 3.33 big runs per game and 2.67 big passes per game, for a total of six big plays per game and a big play percentage of 8.57 percent.

Through three games in 2016 Michigan has averaged 7.33 big run plays (19th), 4.67 big pass plays (21st), for a total of 12 big plays per game and a big play percentage of 16.98 percent (12th). That is literally double the amount of big plays on offense compared to last year and nearly double the big play percentage. Let that sink in for a moment. Michigan has had twice as many total big plays through three games this year than they did through three games in 2015. That is remarkable, even given any quality of opponent caveats.

Michigan’s big play differential is 6.72 percent (18th) and their total toxic differential is 18 (15th on a per game basis). Last year, those numbers were -0.62 percent big play differential and a total toxic differential of -1. I actually had to go back and double check my numbers because the difference was so glaring. I figured the offense would get better but this is just an astronomical improvement thus far.

To sum up: through three games Michigan is giving up one big play more per game over last year (6.67 versus 5.67) while putting up twice as many big plays of their own (12 versus 6). Their big play differential has gone from a negative, -0.62 percent to a solid 6.72 percent and their toxic differential has taken a massive jump from -1 to 18. The toxic differential number is not inflated by a lot of forced turnovers either, which are mostly random anyway. Michigan is only plus-2 in that category. The jump is due to the plus-16 difference in big plays for/against compared to a plus-1 in big plays for/against at this time last year. This is not your grandfather’s three yards and a cloud of dust pro-style offense.

Michigan’s Week 3 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 1st and 10 De’Veon Smith 12 Run
1 1st and 10 Jabrill Peppers 10 Run
1 1st and 10 Eddie McDoom 10 Run
1 1st and 10 De’Veon Smith 10 Run
2 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Jake Butt 21 Pass
2 1st and 10 Jehu Chesson 17 (TD) Run
2 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 45 (TD) Pass
3 2nd and 7 De’Veon Smith 42 (TD) Run
3 1st and 19 Wilton Speight to Ty Isaac 21 Pass
3 3rd and 14 Wilton Speight to Grant Perry 54 Pass
Colorado’s Week 3 big plays
1 2nd and 12 Sefo Liufau to Devin Ross 37 (TD) Pass
1 2nd and 7 Phillip Lindsay 10 Run
1 1st and 10 Sefo Liufau to Bryce Bobo 50 Pass
1 2nd and 8 Phillip Lindsay 11 Run
2 2nd and 3 Phillip Lindsay 15 Run
3 1st and 10 Sefo Liufau to Shay Fields 70 (TD) Pass
4 2nd and 12 Steven Montez 10 Run

What stands out here is the obvious improvement in the offensive numbers. And of course, the slight regression in the big plays given up by the defense. Any concern we may have about the defense though has been mitigated by a massive explosion in offensive production.

Earlier I predicted the offense should be able to add about one big play more per game via Harbaugh’s magic touch and the defense would be able to eliminate about one total big play per game with Don Brown’s scheme. I also predicted there would be some hiccups in the early going regarding the defense.

The offense is way ahead of schedule; did I mention they’ve literally doubled their total big plays? The hiccups we’re seeing on defense now are likely compounded with the absences of Mone, Charlton and Lewis. I don’t think either of these trends — the offense recording an inordinate amount of explosive plays and the defense continuing to give up more than expected — will continue though. However, I should note that the 6.67 big plays given up per game by the defense is still about half a big play less per game than their final 2015 total.

As the season progresses and competition level increases I think we’ll see the offensive numbers drop a bit (likely around the 8-9 total per game range) and as the team gets more comfortable in Don Brown’s scheme (and the three missing starters return) the defense should start to contain some of those big plays. The defensive improvement may not quite reach that one less big play per game I predicted but even if they keep it steady at around 6.5 plays per game I think they’ll be fine. Based on 2015’s numbers anything under 6.5 per game should have them in the top 15 nationally, while anything under 6 per game and they’d be around the top 10 (fewest given up).

And now let’s take a peek at our first conference opponent, Penn State, and see how they stack up in the big play department.

Michigan offense vs Penn State defense
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 20 16 36 16.98% 6.72% 18
PSU Def. 20 3 23 11.39% 1.37% 0
Penn State offense vs Michigan defense
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
PSU Off. 11 5 16 12.76% 1.37% 0
UM Def. 13 4 17 10.26% 6.72% 18

The Nittany Lions’ offense currently averages 3.67 big run plays per game (105th) and 4.67 big pass plays (21st), for a total of 8.33 big plays per game (78th) with a big play percentage of 12.76 percent (57th). I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised to see Penn State’s big pass plays higher than their run plays given that Saquon Barkley is one heck of a running back.

On defense they give up an average of 6.67 big running plays per game (101st), only one big pass play per game (4th) for a total of 7.67 total big plays per game (65th) with a big play against percentage of 11.39 percent (71st). Their big play differential is a paltry 1.37 percent (70th) and their toxic differential is zero, good for 75th on a per game basis.

M&GB staff predictions: Colorado

Saturday, September 17th, 2016


StaffPicks_banner20152

Colorado comes to town tomorrow with a 2-0 record, hoping to relive the magic of 1994 when Kordell Stewart’s hail Mary stunned the Wolverines. As a 20-point underdog, a win this time around would be a much bigger stunner. Josh was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 51 – UCF 10. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Colorado
Justin 34 17
Derick 38 14
Sam 41 10
Josh 42 17
Joe 45 17
M&GB Average 40 15

Michigan’s schedule has gradually gotten stronger by the opponent and this will be the biggest test yet. The line has hovered around 20 points, but that will be a tough one for Michigan to cover. Through the first two weeks of the season Colorado ranks in the top 10 nationally in both offense and defense. Like Michigan they have feasted on cupcakes without playing down to their competition, but they have done it better.

Colorado has done a good job taking care of the ball so far this season. They have lost three fumbles — which are mostly random — but Liufau hasn’t thrown an interception yet. Michigan’s defense has forced four turnovers so far — two of which were pick-sixes — and they’ll need to force Liufau to make mistakes.

Offensively, the big question will be whether Michigan can muster a run game. UCF packed eight and nine man boxes a week ago to stop the run, so Wilton Speight aired it out 37 times. The passing game made seven big plays (20 or more yards). But Colorado features a much better secondary than UCF did. Awuzie is one of the best corners Michigan will face this season and will be able to stick with Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh. If the offensive line is unable to get a push and open up running lanes, Speight will be tested more than he has yet in his young career.

This game has the makings of a tight one through the first half that Michigan pulls away in the second. I do think the running game will be able to have some success — Colorado State rushed for 5.6 yards per carry on 33 attempts — and the play action passing game will make enough big plays to ensure the win, but not cover the spread.

Michigan 34 – Colorado 17

Derick

Michigan hasn’t seen a test like Colorado yet this season, but the Buffaloes still aren’t on the same level as most of the Big Ten. In two games against Hawaii and UCF, Michigan ran away from the game in the first quarter.

I expect this game will be closer, but it still shouldn’t be close. Michigan has more firepower offensively than Colorado and should be able to overwhelm the Buffaloes downfield. If the first two weeks are any indication, Michigan will once again struggle to run the ball against a solid Colorado front seven. But Wilton Speight has shown he can beat teams in play action, and I think he will again.

Colorado will hang in there for a half, but Michigan will run away in the third quarter for a win.

Michigan 38 – Colorado 14

Sam

This may be the first “test” for the Wolverines, but I’m resting easy. I still think Michigan’s defense is too good to cede more than a couple fluky touchdowns (even without a couple of major pieces) to Colorado, and Speight has been too good to contain. I like the Maize and Blue to cover the spread for a third straight time before conference season gets underway.

Michigan 41 – Colorado 10

Josh (1)

Colorado is probably better than both Hawaii and UCF, but they haven’t played anyone of note either. There were some concerns about Michigan’s run defense last week, losing ‘contain’ on the quarterback and giving up an 87-yard touchdown run. As I touched on in this week’s ‘The Numbers Game’ post I wouldn’t worry too much, these are issues that will be fixed by the coaching staff. Like last year, Michigan has been very vanilla in both their offense and defense. There’s no need to break out their whole bag of tricks early on and give teams like MSU, Iowa and OSU stuff to scout.

Michigan is much more talented and better coached than Colorado, but they still may give Michigan a test this weekend. Stats-wise, Sefo Liufau has been an efficient passer in his first two games and isn’t a slouch in the run game either. Normally this would be a prime letdown spot for a game — a solid opponent after two weeks of cupcakes. I don’t see Harbaugh letting that happen though. The man didn’t even find Colorado’s fake depth chart amusing (I thought it was rather clever).

That said, I think Colorado will hang with Michigan a lot longer than most people think, despite Michigan being favored by 20-points. They’re a spread team with a high-tempo offense and some solid threats in both the running and passing game. Michigan is missing two defensive linemen (and maybe Jourdan Lewis again too) and it will eventually take its toll resulting in a big run or two, as guys get worn down. Twitter will be panicking early as I think this will still be a competitive game heading into halftime. Michigan will pull away by the fourth quarter making the game look not nearly as close as it actually was.

Some things I’d like to see:

On offense: It would be nice to see the run game get going but I just want to see an efficient offense again, regardless of how they do it. This should be a good test for Speight and I’d like to see him remain calm in the pocket and make the correct reads/progressions as he did last week. On the ground, if they so choose to run a lot, I need to see some more consistency in the blocking and from De’Veon Smith’s decision making regarding which holes to hit and when to cutback, etc.

On defense: The obvious is not let the quarterback run all over them but I won’t be upset by a couple big runs. If they can keep the big plays to under five I’ll be very pleased. What I’d really like though is to see Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark play so well that we don’t need to worry about missing Lewis (if he’s out longer than expected). With Lewis this secondary can be elite; without him they cannot.

On special teams: It’d be crazy to think they can block another kick, or two, right?

Michigan 42 – Colorado 17

Joe (1)

Michigan 45 – Colorado 17

The numbers game: While UCF loaded the box, Michigan went to the air for big plays

Thursday, September 15th, 2016


darboh-vs-ucf(Isaiah Hole, 247)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1

Week 2 is in the books and despite their delusional coach thinking they “outhit” Michigan, UCF was still the beneficiary of a 51-14 beat down. Let’s dive right in and see how Michigan’s big play and toxic differential numbers played out against the Knights.

Michigan had a total of 12 big plays against UCF, down from 14 the previous week. However, this time the plays were more evenly distributed amongst run and pass at five and seven respectfully (they were 11 and three last week). I think this was partially due to UCF stacking the box and selling out to stop the run. It’s tough to tell if a play is a run blitz or not but according to Pro Football Focus Speight was blitzed on 28 of his 39 dropbacks, so it’s probably safe to assume they had some sort of blitz dialed up on most downs (sounds familiar). It’s still novel to note that the coaching staff did not insist on running the ball into eight- and nine-man boxes but instead adjusted and decided to air it out.

After two games Michigan is averaging eight big run plays per game (17th nationally), five big pass plays per game (16th), and 13 total big plays per game (eighth) for a big play percentage of 18.44 percent (eighth).

Through two games in 2015, the Michigan offense was averaging 3.5 big run plays and 3.5 big pass plays for a total of seven big plays per game. Their big play percentage was 9.59 percent.

Adding the UCF game to their Week 1 totals, Michigan’s defense has taken a big hit in the big plays against rankings, most notably the run. Michigan has now given up 5.5 big run plays per game (90th nationally) and one big pass play per game (9th), for a total of 6.5 big plays per game (50th) and a big play against percentage of 10.16 percent (67th).

Their big play differential (big play percentage for, minus big play percentage against) is a very solid 8.2 percent (13th nationally), while their total toxic differential (big plays for minus big plays against, plus turnover margin) is 16 (11th nationally). On a per game basis they rank 12th nationally in toxic differential.

In 2015, Michigan gave up an average of four big run plays per game and 1.5 big pass plays per game for a total of 5.5 big plays given up per game. This works out to a 8.94 percent big plays against percentage. Their big play differential percentage was 0.65 percent. Toxic differential was minus-7.

Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first two weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 16 10 26 18.44% 8.2% 16
2015 7 7 14 9.59% 0.65% -7
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 5.5 1 6.5 10.16% 8.2% 16
2015 4 1.5 5.5 8.94% 0.65% -7

Michigan came out throwing the ball around to the tune of 37 pass attempts. This resulted in seven big pass plays, four of which were over 30-yards. The big run plays were down but it was still nice to see De’Veon Smith record two of them (17, 12). As I mentioned with UCF essentially selling out to stop the run, it was not a surprise to see Michigan’s big run plays limited while the big pass plays increased.

On the flip side of the ball I was surprised, as I’m sure many of you were, to see UCF come up with several big plays, all of them in the run game. I saw some comments on Twitter (speaking of, you should follow me at @jdemille9) about the high-risk nonsense we dispelled earlier and about guys not being in their correct lanes. I went back and re-watched the game to see what exactly happened. Three of the seven were quarterback scrambles in which Michigan either took a bad angle to the play and/or over-pursued. The 87-yard touchdown run came with Mike McCray being slightly out of position (and possibly held) and Dymonte Thomas taking a very bad angle of pursuit. Jawon Hamilton being super fast didn’t hurt either.

While concerning and frustrating in the moment, I’m not too worried about these big runs against Michigan, as it is an issue that will be corrected by the coaches. Missing Bryan Mone, Taco Charlton, and even Jourdan Lewis cannot be understated here. It’s also better for these hiccups (which we all knew would happen) to occur early in the season against teams that are not a threat to win the game.

I am not saying big runs like this will never happen again but once the adjustments are made in practice I don’t see another team on the schedule, outside of Ohio State, capable of gashing Michigan on the ground repeatedly like UCF did. Don Brown was brought in because of his ability to stop spread to run teams like Ohio State, and he will make the proper adjustments going forward.

Michigan’s Week 2 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 3rd and 8 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 35 Pass
1 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 32 Pass
1 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 45 (TD) Pass
1 1st and 10 Eddie McDoom 16 Run
2 2nd and 13 De’Veon Smith 17 Run
2 2nd and 1 De’Veon Smith 12 Run
3 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Jake Butt 23 Pass
3 3rd and 6 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 20 Pass
3 2nd and 10 Chris Evans 18 Run
4 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Jake Butt 25 Pass
4 3rd and 5 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 30 (TD) Pass
4 3rd and 8 Kekoa Crawford 11 Run
UCF’s Week 2 big plays
1 1st and 10 Jawon Hamilton 11 Run
1 3rd and 9 Justin Holman 30 Run
2 2nd and 10 Adrian Killins 87 (TD) Run
2 3rd and 9 Justin Holman 35 Run
2 2nd and 6 Jawon Hamilton 11 Run
3 2nd and 10 Nick Patti 26 Run
3 1st and 10 Dontravious Wilson 34 (TD) Run

Looking ahead to Colorado, I was a bit surprised to see how well they ranked in big play metrics, especially their defense. Of course, they did play an FCS team last week but they beat them as you’d expect.

The Colorado offense averages seven big run plays per game (33rd nationally) and 4.4 big pass plays per game (27th) for a total of 11.5 big plays per game (19th) and a big play percentage of 12.99 percent (50th).

On defense, the Buffaloes have looked very impressive. They give up an average of 2.5 big run plays per game (22nd nationally) and zero big pass plays (first) for a total of 2.5 big plays given up per game (second). Their big play against percentage is 4.2 percent (third). Their big play differential is 8.79 percent (11th) and total toxic differential is 20 (fourth).

Colorado is one of just four teams to not surrender a big pass play through the first two weeks of the season. I would expect that streak to end this week. Two of the other three are teams within Michigan’s division, whom I will not mention.

On paper it looks as though Colorado could give Michigan a run for their money, as far as not allowing big plays, and it should be a much more competitive game than the past two opponents, despite Vegas favoring Michigan by 20 points.

I expect Michigan to win but I am not excited about the inevitable Kordell Stewart Hail Mary replays. Why did Dave Brandon insist on rescheduling teams to whom Michigan lost epic heartbreakers, as if winning them the second time around would make those memories any less painful? And now it comes out that Colorado will be wearing the exact same uniforms they did on September 24th, 1994. My 15-year-old self would not be pleased to hear this.

The numbers game: Run game makes big plays in Week 1

Thursday, September 8th, 2016


chris-evans(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

The Hawaii game went about as expected, save for that pick on Wilton Speight’s first throw, and while it won’t tell us much we don’t already know I thought we could look at the big plays (for and against) and the toxic differential to see how Michigan compares to their first game last year and the 2015 season overall. This will be a running feature throughout the season.

Last year, Michigan opened up on the road against a very good Utah team. Obviously, Hawaii did not present the same challenges as the Utes did a year ago, so take these comparisons with grain of salt.

Against Utah in 2015, Michigan had zero big runs (10 or more yards) and only three big passes (20 or more yards) amongst their 72 offensive plays, yielding a paltry 4.1 percent big play percentage (not very good). The Utes, by comparison, had five big run plays and two big pass plays, yielding a decent but not spectacular 10 percent big play percentage. Michigan lost the big play battle seven to three and lost the turnover battle three to one, giving them a minus-6 toxic differential for the game. It’s tough to win the game when you lose the turnover battle and it’s just about impossible when losing both the turnover battle and the big play battle.

Now for some good news.

This year, Michigan came storming out of the gates. Quality of opponent caveats apply, but last Saturday went about as well as it should have against a team like Hawaii. Michigan had 11 big run plays and three big pass plays amongst their 59 total plays for a big play percentage of 23.7 percent, good for third nationally after Week 1. On the other side of the ball Michigan gave up four big run plays and two big pass plays for a big play against percentage of 10 percent, good for 72nd nationally — not great but one less big play than they gave up in last year’s opener.

Michigan’s big play differential (big play percentage for minus big play percentage against) was 13.7 percent, good for 8th best nationally. Michigan won the total big play battle fourteen to six and the turnover battle two to one for a total toxic differential (big plays for minus big plays against plus turnover margin) of 9, tied for 13th best.

Michigan 2015 vs 2016 Week 1 comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 (Hawaii) 11 3 14 23.7% 13.7% 9
2015 (Utah) 0 3 3 4.1% -5.9% -6

Ohio State always seems to fare well in these metrics and currently sits atop the nation with a toxic differential of 19 (19 big plays for, 2 big plays given up, and a plus-2 turnover margin). Michigan is gaining ground, but the Buckeyes are still ahead for now.

Of course, one game is not a sufficient sample size and comparing it to the 2015 opener is not equal (Utah is much better than Hawaii hopes to be) but we can still look at these numbers and compare them to 2015 as a whole for a pseudo gauge of improvement and speculate on how that might look going forward.

For a refresher, here are Michigan’s big play numbers (on a per game basis) both for and given up..

Michigan’s 2015 offense averaged 3.6 big run plays per game (118th) and 3.7 big pass plays per game (40th) for a total of 7.3 big plays per game (100th) with a big play percentage of 10.49 percent (98th). Against Hawaii those numbers, again, were 11 and three.

If you’ll recall the look back at Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers days you’ll remember that the passing game wasn’t the area which saw drastic improvement. In fact, it regressed then bounced back to just a bit better than pre-Harbaugh. The Hawaii game is showing just that, a big improvement in big plays in the run game and a slight regression in big plays for the passing game. Of course, these big running play numbers are not likely to continue — only three teams averaged over 10 big run plays per game in 2015 and only nine teams even averaged more than eight per game — but it is promising to think about how this might pan out over the course of a full season.

Passing game numbers shouldn’t be anything to worry about. This won’t be a team that has a lot of them as the strength will be in the run game. If they can maintain their 2015 average of about 3.5 big pass plays per game while experiencing an uptick in big run plays (the 1-2-3 punch of De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans tells me they will) Michigan should be able to top their 2015 total big plays per game (7.3) en route to a very exciting season. Remember, if they can manage just one more big play per game than last year that would (in theory) put them in the top 10 for most big plays per game.

Michigan’s Week 1 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 1st and 10 Jehu Chesson 15 Run
1 3rd and 7 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 31 Pass
1 2nd and 9 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 21 Pass
1 1st and 10 De’Veon Smith 14 Run
1 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 12 Run
2 2nd and 5 Chris Evans 21 Run
2 1st and 10 Eddie McDoom 15 Run
2 1st and 10 Chris Evans 18 (TD) Run
3 2nd and 7 Wilton Speight to Maurice Ways 22 Pass
3 1st and 10 Chris Evans 43 (TD) Run
3 3rd and 2 Eddie McDoom 19 Run
3 1st and 10 Karan Higdon 19 Run
4 2nd and 11 Shane Morris 14 Run
4 2nd and 3 Kingston Davis 10 Run

In 2015, the Michigan defense gave up an average of 4.8 big run plays per game and 2.4 big pass plays per game, good for 56th and 13th nationally. Based on total number of plays Michigan gave up a big play 11.49 percent of the time — 59th nationally. All told, Michigan gave up 7.2 big plays per game, good for 25th nationally.

Giving up four big run plays and two big pass plays to Hawaii falls in line right about where I expected them to, about one less big play given up per game than last year. Now before we run for the hills saying this is Hawaii and they should have not allowed ANY big plays let’s calm down for a minute. Only seven teams gave up fewer than six total big plays per game in 2015, and one was coached by Don Brown. Another was some national champion down in Alabama. I’m told they tend to field elite defensive units and have a couple trophies hanging around. And let’s not forget that Michigan was running out their second and third string players for most of the second half, along with seventeen total true freshmen. It’s not the end of the world to have given up six big plays to Hawaii. In fact, I expected them to have given up more as they worked out new system kinks and let a lot of guys get experience, so all in all I think we should be happy with that number.

To sum it up, Hawaii wasn’t very good but the numbers Michigan put up were exactly what we should expect this team to do against inferior opponents and we didn’t always get that in the past. As each week goes by we’ll add more pieces to our puzzle and by the time the Michigan State game rolls around we should have a very good idea at how explosive this offense is and how good at preventing explosive plays the defense is. My prediction based on flimsy evidence: it will be a top 20 unit in big play for/against metrics.

Looking forward to UCF, I will just look at their first game stats. Our good buddy Scott Frost is new there so comparing this team to last year’s isn’t really worth our time. UCF’s offense had six big run plays (43rd) and five big pass plays (19th) for a total of 11 big plays (39th) and a big play percentage of 12.1 percent (61st). On the other side of the ball — and keep in mind they played an FCS team — they surrendered three big run plays (33rd) and two big pass plays (40th) for a total of five big plays (30th) with a big play against percentage of 7.1 percent (33rd). They won the turnover battle three to two and their toxic differential after one game is 7, good for 28th in the country. Given their level of competition this still impressive, especially since UCF hadn’t won a game since Brady Hoke was Michigan’s head coach.

Unrelated, I was slightly surprised Michigan did not take their foot off the gas in the second half as they often did last year in blowouts. It wasn’t a complete surprise as Harbaugh once famously went for two after a touchdown against USC since he wanted to put 50 on them, but it just might be a message to the rest of the country that Michigan isn’t playing around this season. That leads me to wonder what will happen against UCF and Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback. My gut tells me Harbaugh won’t take his foot off the gas in this one either!

#7 Michigan 63 – Hawaii 3: Opening statement

Monday, September 5th, 2016


WoodleyWoodsonHarbaughJordanJeter(MGoBlue.com)

The dream of any quarterback is to win the starting job, take the field on opening day and immediately lead the team down the field. Those dreams then continue with a national championship, being drafted first in the NFL Draft, winning the Super Bowl, and being elected into the Hall of Fame. But for Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, the dream started off unlike he had ever imagined it would.

“I don’t think that’s how he wanted to start his career,” said junior center Mason Cole. “He probably pictured it a thousand ways and that probably wasn’t one of them. But he’s fine. I don’t know what happened on that play but he threw a pick and he got over it. Next drive he came out and drove it 98 yards.”

The junior from Richmond, Va., who won the starting job in fall camp over fellow junior John O’Korn, took the first snap of Michigan’s season at his own 29 yard line, rolled to his right and fired a pass toward senior tight end Jake Butt. But with Hawaii defensive back Damien Packer dropping back into coverage, the pass never had a chance to reach Butt, and suddenly Michigan’s defense was back on the field.

“Obviously that wasn’t the start I was imagining,” Speight said after the game. “I was kind of rolling to our sideline and my momentum carried me right into Coach. He just grabbed me and held me and kind of starting laughing.”

The defense stood tall with a three-and-out and Harbaugh’s commitment to Speight never wavered. Michigan re-took possession on its own 2-yard line and this time Speight looked like a seasoned veteran, marching the Wolverines 98 yards in 11 plays for the game’s first touchdown. On the drive, Speight converted a 3rd-and-7 from the Michigan five with a 16-yard bullet to Jehu Chesson. He also hit Amara Darboh on a screen for a 31-yard pickup on 3rd-and-7 from the 39. He closed the drive with a perfecly thrown fade to Grant Perry for a 12-yard touchdown.

UM-Hawaii_small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Hawaii
Score 63 3
Record 1-0 0-2
Total Yards 512 232
Net Rushing Yards 306 81
Net Passing Yards 206 151
First Downs 26 16
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 3-33 8-60
Punts-Yards 0-0 6-256
Time of Possession 27:55 32:05
Third Down Conversions 7-of-7 1-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 4-41 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-1
PATs 9-for-9 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 0-of-1
Red Zone Scores-TDs 6-of-6 0-of-1
Full Box Score

Harbaugh never thought twice about his decision to leave Speight in the game after the interception and said that he used it as an opportunity.

“It’s very difficult to throw an interception on a series and then come right back and lead a touchdown drive on the following series,” Harbaugh said after the game. “It’s something I’ve always been fascinated in watching (with quarterbacks) and the really good ones can do that. They can think (too much and say) ‘I’m not going to make another bad mistake.’ That’s what some do. Good ones don’t.

“And then to see him start the next drive on the 2-yard line. I mean, that’s as much adversity as you can have for a quarterback starting a series. You’ve thrown an interception in the first throw of the game and then you find yourself on the 2-yard line. But he responded.”

Two hours later, when the clock read zero and Michigan had collected a 63-3 victory — the seventh-largest in school history and the largest since 1975 — Speight’s interception remained one of the few mistakes the Wolverines made all day. Harbaugh said afterward that he didn’t see a single mistake defensively for the first two-and-a-half quarters…

“Watching our defense go through the first half, and even the third quarter, there wasn’t a mistake made,” Harbaugh said. “There wasn’t a linemen mistake made. There wasn’t a stance alignment mistake. They were right with their eyes and right with their feet.”

In a season opener, no one truly knows what to expect. It’s why most good teams front-load their schedule with cupcakes, to work out the kinks before the real season — conference play — begins. But aside from Speight’s first pass, it was as perfect a season opener as one could expect.

Playing in front of a who’s who of sporting greats — Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and Charles Woodson — Harbaugh used a program record 17 true freshmen. Eleven different players carried the ball, 11 different players caught a pass, four different quarterbacks played, and three lead scoring drives. For just the fourth time in program history, Michigan went an entire game without punting. Only four of Michigan’s 59 plays for the game — Speight’s interception on the first play and three running plays to run out the clock — were not part of touchdown drives.

The defense, which entered the season with expectations to be one among the nation’s best, lived up to its billing, holding Hawaii to negative yards until midway through the second quarter, and only about 140 total yards until the vast majority of defenders on the field were freshmen and backups. Michigan’s secondary, which was playing without All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who was held out due to injury — not only picked off two passes but returned them both for touchdowns.

Season openers against overmatched opponents are typically boring affairs, but even as the lead continued to widen, this one kept interest throughout. It was evident that there is more talent and more depth on this team than Michigan has fielded in a decade. It was evident that the 2016 recruiting class was ranked so highly for a reason.

True freshman Chris Evans backed up the fall camp hype with 112 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries. Fellow true freshman Eddie McDoom flashed his speed, taking two end arounds for 34 yards and also caught a pair of passes. Kekoa Crawford caught an 18-yard pass and freshman tight end Sean McKeon caught two passes. Ben Bredeson didn’t start, but showed his talent on the offensive line, while mammoth freshman Michael Onwenu played on both lines. The nation’s top recruit, Rashan Gary, notched three tackles in his debut and looked like he fit the part.

It was a blowout, yes, but aside from injuries to Bryan Mone (leg), Taco Charlton (ankle), and De’Veon Smith (ribs), it had everything a Michigan fan could want to see from a season opener. Speight looked good enough after the interception and it remains to be seen whether he can build on it. And his coach thinks he can.

“It bodes really well for his career,” Harbaugh said. “To have done that, off an interception and then have the very next drive go 98 yards for a touchdown. Now he knows he can do it. Now we can expect him to do it.”

Game ball – Offense

Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
World, meet Chris Evans. The freshman out of Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Ind. showed the quickness and burst that Michigan hasn’t seen out of the backfield in years. While senior De’Veon Smith started the game and fellow senior Ty Isaac was the second back in, Evans made his mark early. On Michigan’s third series and his first carry was a 7-yard gain on 3rd-and-2 to help set up Michigan’s second touchdown. On the next series he raced 21 yards to put Michigan in the red zone and set up another touchdown. One series later, he found the endzone himself from 18 yards out. He then got the scoring started in the second half with a 43-yard run that showcased his burst as he hit the hole and outraced everyone to the endzone.

After the game, Harbaugh praised Evans as a special football player who will have a much bigger role as the season goes on. Harbaugh noted that he didn’t even show everything he can do, such as catch passes out of the backfield, line up in the slot, and return kicks. He may not replace Jabrill Peppers on offense, but he fits the same role and provides the same type of athleticism that can make a good offense that much better.

Game ball – Defense

Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Injuries have kept Mike McCray off the field so far in his career, but now finally healthy he showed what he’s capable of. In his first career start, McCray lead the team with nine tackles, 3.5 for loss, and two sacks. His speed was a noticeable upgrade from last year’s linebacking corps as he was seemingly in on every play and all over the Hawaii backfield. If McCray can stay healthy and keep up that level of play, one of the only question marks about Michigan’s defense will be much less of a question.

 

M&GB staff predictions: Hawaii

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


StaffPicks_banner20152

Michigan opens its season against Hawaii tomorrow, which means it’s time for our staff to make our picks. Last season, Sam collected the most weekly wins (five) and Derick won the season-long point spread title, just three points better than Justin. Here are our picks for tomorrow’s game:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Hawaii
Justin 52 10
Derick 45 7
Sam 48 7
Josh 45 13
Joe 49 3
M&GB Average 48 8

Cal quarterback Davis Webb showed Michigan how to carve apart a porous Hawaii defense, but with Wilton Speight making his first career start, it’s a safe bet to assume he won’t be given the opportunity to chuck it up 54 times. Instead, Jim Harbaugh will look to make a statement on the ground and Michigan fans will get their first chance to see how much the offensive line has improved — although that won’t be truly evident until the Wolverines face a good team.

Last season, Hawaii traveled to Columbus and hung with Ohio State in the first half, trailing just 14-0 at halftime, but the Buckeyes wore them down for a 38-0 route. With a better offense under Rolovich this season, Hawaii would like to at least put some points on the board, but Michigan features one of the nation’s best defenses. I don’t think Michigan gets the shutout here, but I don’t think it’ll be close either.

Michigan scores early and often, Speight looks crisp and make smart decisions, the running back trio of De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans wear down Hawaii’s defense for over 250 yards, and Michigan rolls to an easy victory. The defense allows 10 points just as it did the last time Harbaugh faced Hawaii, as a quarterback in 1986, but the offense scores more than the 27 it did back then.

Michigan 52 – Hawaii 10

Derick

For the first time in almost a decade, Michigan kicks off the football season with championship expectations. The Wolverines are ranked in the preseason top 10 and have enough talent to play with any team in the conference on any given day.

The road begins with a home matchup against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were awful last season and already got waxed by California in their opener last week. Their greatest weakness in 2015 was defending the run, and Michigan will want to force the issue on the ground Saturday, especially if it builds a big lead. If things get ugly, expect to see some of the athletic freshmen Jim Harbaugh is so excited about.

On offense, Hawaii faces the tall task of blocking a Michigan front loaded with NFL talent. Redshirt senior quarterback Ikaika Woolsey took over the starting job this season, so star defensive backs Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill will be looking to capitalize on any mistakes. Pay attention to how Michigan uses Jabrill Peppers, who moved to linebacker but could move all over the field.

Michigan will probably get ahead early and turn to the ground game to speed up the clock. I see the Wolverines winning big.

Michigan 45 – Hawaii 7

Sam

As Jim Harbaugh recently pointed out, college football is one of the few sports that has no preseason. If we’re being honest with ourselves, however, Michigan will open their Path to the Playoffs with something that should closely mimic an exhibition. All signs point to Wilton Speight leading an offense riddled with playmakers onto the field while captain Chris Wormley will trot out alongside a potentially devastating defense. Tomorrow, we’ll get our long-awaited first look at some touted prospects (looking at you, Rashan), our first taste of Michigan Football in Fall 2016, and our first glimpse of what we all hope is a special year in Harbaugh’s second season home. If the game isn’t decided by halftime, I’d be shocked. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 48 – Hawaii 7

Josh

Hawaii is not a very good team overall, but they did manage to put up a total of 12 big plays (8 run and 4 pass) on Cal last week. No, Cal does not have the best defense but the potential is there. So I went back and watched the game and about half of those big runs and all of the big pass plays aren’t ones that would have gone very far against Michigan.

Running back Diocemy Saint Juste’s 54-yard touchdown was aided by not one but two defensive linemen having him dead to rights and missing tackles behind the line and several linebackers and defensive backs taking bad angles and just plain whiffing. Michigan would have had Saint Juste for a loss. That said, breakdowns happen and Michigan hasn’t had any actual live fire, if you will, with their new defense. I think Hawaii will bust a few big runs that will lead to a score or two.

Michigan will win this handily, that is not in doubt, but I’m interested in seeing a few things as the ‘kinks’ are worked out with a new quarterback and a new defensive scheme.

When Michigan has the ball: What is their run/pass balance? I think we’ll see more runs than pass attempts (since there are several running backs that could be contributors this year) but I don’t expect anything exotic. Harbaugh will keep things close to the vest, as he does, and much like last year he’ll roll out new wrinkles every week. What is Wilton Speight’s (assuming internet rumors are true) command of the offense? I was never in the ‘O’Korn as the heir apparent’ camp. I think Speight’s floor is much higher and Harbaugh was going to sacrifice upside for a steady hand at quarterback given the defense they have. I think Speight will look better than most expect — not late season Rudock but definitely better than early to mid-season Rudock. I think we’ll see something we can all get behind and say “this guy can lead us to a Big Ten title” but not a “holy cow this guy is gonna break all the passing records.” And I’m fine with that.

When Hawaii has the ball, I don’t expect a ton of blitzes. Some, yes, but not a lot. Again, Harbaugh is gonna keep things close to the vest. I mean, this is the guy who refused to give Hawaii some scrimmage tape before the game, so why would he tip his hand to future opponents? I am very interested in seeing how Rashan Gary plays, as we all are, but more importantly I want to see how much havoc the defensive line as a whole creates. If they can be who we think they can be then the linebacker depth/experience does not become an issue later on. Yes, caveats apply here as Hawaii is not very good but if Michigan is not completely dominant then I might have some concerns.

On the back end I’d like to see a pick or two. Ikaiaka Woolsey is not an accurate passer (50 percent) and if he’s being pressured I think we’ll see a few errant throws. Michigan needs to take advantage of these opportunities this year. Remember, only SIX teams forced fewer turnovers than Michigan did in 2015. If they want to compete for a playoff spot that has to change, and taking advantage of opportunities to pick off some passes is where it will likely come.

Harbaugh is not opposed to playing his starters deep into games nor is he afraid to run up the score (ask Pete Carroll or Rutgers) but I think we’ll see plenty of the back-ups in the fourth quarter of this one.

Michigan 45 – Hawaii 13

Joe

It’s really here.  I can’t believe we start the season in less than 24 hours. The build-up has been like nothing I’ve ever seen as a Michigan fan and I hope it lives up to the hype.  I think this one goes Michigan’s way from the first play and is lead by a stout defensive line. They will get after a tired Hawaii team from the very start.  We will see a constant rotation of bigger, stronger, and faster Wolverines against an inferior Hawaii squad.

Coach Brown will attack initially and try and set the tone to build on. I think we will see a lot of pressure from the linebacking corps as well as the defensive line. This will lead to several turnovers and give the good guys great field position.

As far as the offense goes, I think Speight will get the nod and lead the Wolverines to several first quarter touchdowns. Michigan will establish the running game and wear down the Rainbows with an elite offensive line. This one gets ugly early and fun to watch late as the Wolverines win big.

Michigan 49 – Hawaii 3

#7 Michigan vs Hawaii game preview

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


UM-Hawaii game preview header

Previously this week: First Look: Hawaii, Tailgate Tuesday: Cedar planked scotch eggs, Five-Spot Challenge, Hawaii game poster, A word from our sponsors, History says Michigan’s “Harbaughfense” will be more explosive in Year 2

A long and eventful offseason full of National Signing Day spectacles and satellite camps, Jim Harbaugh subtweets and rap videos, first pitches and White House meetings, finally comes to an end tomorrow. Michigan kicks off its 2016 season against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at high noon in Michigan Stadium.

UM-Hawaii_small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ESPN
Hawaii Head Coach: Nick Rolovich (1st season)
Coaching Record: 0-1
Offensive Coordinators: Brian Smith (1st season)
Craig Stutzmann (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Lempa (1st season)
Last Season: 3-10 (0-8)
Last Meeting: Michigan 48 – UH 17 (1998)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 2-0
Record in Ann Arbor: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs Hawaii 1st meeting as a coach
Last Michigan win: 1998 (48-17)
Last Hawaii win: Never
Current Streak: Michigan 2

While Harbaugh has dominated the headlines since the 2015 season ended with a Citrus Bowl thumping of SEC East champion Florida, new Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich has done his part to get in on the action. In May, after Harbaugh announced a satellite camp in Hawaii, Rolovich jokingly tweeted out a flyer for his own camp at “Dockers High School” in Michigan. He also issued a challenge to Harbaugh for a pre-game quarterback battle. Rolovich was a star quarterback at Hawaii a decade ago. Harbaugh, who worked the Hawaii satellite camp alongside Rolovich, told media this week that he would be open to it.

At the beginning of this week, Rolovich said that he asked Harbaugh to give Hawaii some scrimmage film to even the playing field since Hawaii already played a game — they lost 51-31 to California in Sydney, Australia last Friday — but Harbaugh declined. Of course, the media took the denial and ran with it, but Rolovich claimed yesterday that he was just joking. He then tweeted an apology to Harbaugh.

Tomorrow, the non-football shenanigans come to an end and both Harbaugh and Rolovich will face off on opposing sidelines. So what can we expect? As mentioned above, we’ve already had a chance to see Hawaii in action in a game that yielded 82 combined points, over 1,100 combined yards, and 57 combined first downs. Although they came out on the losing end, the offensive performance was at least enough to excite Hawaii fans after a 3-10 season a year ago.

In that opening loss to Cal, Hawaii piled up 482 total yards of offense including 248 rushing yards on 6.5 yards per carry. But before you get worried about whether Michigan’s defense can stop them, consider that Cal’s defense ranked 108th nationally last season in total defense and 105th against the run. Michigan’s, of course, ranked fourth and 16th, respectively.

The main reason for excitement tomorrow based on Hawaii’s first game is the performance of their defense. Hawaii surrendered 630 total yards including 441 through the air and didn’t force a turnover. That fits right in line with their 2015 defense, which allowed 35.6 points (105th) and 448.8 yards (104th) per game.

So what can we expect tomorrow? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Hawaii has the ball

Last season, the Hawaii offense ranked 120th nationally last season in total offense (316.3 yards per game), 118th in scoring (17.6 points per game), 115th in rushing (123.9 yards per game), 98th in passing (192.4 yards per game), and 118th in team passing efficiency (97.08). But with nine returning starters, Rolovich and co-offensive coordinators Brian Smith and Craig Stutzmann should be able to improve on those numbers.

It starts with senior quarterback Ikaika Woolsey, who has 19 career starts under his belt but split time with USC transfer Max Wittek last season. While Wittek started the first eight games and completed just 47.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and 15 interceptions, Woolsey took over for the last five and fared slightly better with a 49 percent completion percentage for five touchdowns and six picks. Woolsey completed 17-of-34 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown, and one interception against Cal. He also rushed six times for 33 yards.

The backfield returns its top five rushers, including Woolsey, most notably fifth-year senior Paul Harris, who became the first Hawaii back to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since 2010. His 1,132 yards and 5.7 average was the highlight of Hawaii’s offense that still ranked 115th nationally on the ground. That’s because there wasn’t much behind him. But Harris barely saw the field last Friday. It was redshirt junior Diocemy Saint Juste who stole the show. An injury in fall camp kept Saint Juste out of last season, but he returned with 14 carries for 118 yards (8.4 ypc) and a touchdown against Cal. Senior Steven Lakalaka carried 11 times for 61 yards and a score, while Harris managed 36 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

If Woolsey can prove to be efficient passer the Rainbow Warriors should be able to improve on their 98th-ranked passing offense with nine of their top 10 receivers returning. Senior Marcus Kemp and redshirt sophomores Devan Stubblefield and Dylan Collie weren’t quite the three-headed monster in 2015 that Michigan had with Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt, but they caught a combined 95 passes for 1,256 yards and seven touchdowns. Stubblefield didn’t play against Cal, but Kemp lead the team with 73 yards and one touchdown on four receptions. Redshirt freshman John Ursua caught five passes for 70 yards.

The offensive line had to replaced left tackle Ben Clarke, who started 50 career games, but returned four starters with a combined 66 career starts between them. Redshirt junior Dejon Allen slides over to left tackle after starting 12 games at right guard and one at left guard a year ago. With redshirt sophomore Asotui Eli, who started 11 games at center last season, moving to right guard, the big question mark will likely be at center where fifth-year senior Leo Koloamatangi stepped in with seven career starts. Redshirt junior John Wa’a remained at left guard where he started one game last season and two in 2014. Fifth-year senior R.J. Hollis is back at right tackle after starting all 13 games there in 2015.

When Michigan has the ball

While the Hawaii offense was bad in 2015, the defense was not much better. It ranked 104th nationally in total defense (448.8 yards per game), 105th in scoring defense (35.6 points per game), 118th in rush defense (239.8 yards per game), 42nd in passing yards allowed (208.9 yards per game), and 104th in pass defense efficiency (143.42).

The only real connection between Michigan and Hawaii comes in the form of the new defensive coordinator Rolovich brought in. Kevin Lempa was the defensive backs coach at Boston College the past three seasons under new Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. He’ll know Brown’s philosophies and aim to bring some of them to Hawaii. Their Boston College defense led the nation in 2015 and the pass defense ranked sixth.

The best player on Hawaii’s defense last season, defensive end Kennedy Tulimasealli, was arrested twice over the offseason and subsequently dismissed from the team in June. Tulimasealli ranked second in the MWC with 18.5 tackles for loss. Nobody else returning had more than 4.5.

Fifth-year senior Mekani Kema-Kaleiwaher and redshirt junior David Manoa are the starting ends, while redshirt freshman Manly Williams will rotate in. Kema-Kaleiwaher notched a sack against Cal while Manoa managed just one tackle. Fifth-year senior nose tackle Kory Rasmussen is the lone returning starter on the front line and his 4.5 tackles for loss last season are the second-most of any returning player. He made three tackles last Friday. The other tackle spot belongs to sophomore Zeno Choi, who played sparingly a year ago.

Redshirt sophomore Jahlani Tavai moved from end to middle linebacker this season. His five tackles for loss and three sacks lead all returning players and he picked up right where he left off by leading the team with 12 tackles against Cal, including one for loss. Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams was the leading tackler in 2015, but was suspended for the Cal game. In his place was junior Russell Williams, who recorded five tackles, one for loss. Redshirt sophomore Malachi Mageo is the SAM linebacker but managed just three tackles last week.

The secondary is thin but did return some talent and was supposed to be the relative strength of the defense. A pair of fifth-year seniors should hold down the corner spots. Jalen Rogers started seven games last season and ranked third on the team with five pass breakups, while Jamal Mayo played in all 13 games as a reserve and broke up two passes. They combined for 13 tackles against Cal and Rogers had one pass breakup. Junior strong safety Daniel Lewis Jr. returns with 13 career starts, but like Garcia-Williams, sat out the Cal game with a suspension. Fifth-year senior Damien Packer started in his place and made 10 tackles. Free safety Trayvon Henderson returned from an injury that limited him to just two games last season. He ranked second on the team with 63 tackles in 2014 and also picked off a pair of passes. Against Cal, he tied Tavai for the team lead with 12 tackles.

The other third

If there’s one unit that was somewhat respectable in 2015 it was the special teams unit, which ranked 60th nationally in kick returns (21.32 yards per return), 71st in punt returns (7.73 yards per return), sixth in net punting (41.51 yards per punt), and 31st in special teams efficiency. Hawaii didn’t cover kicks very well (111th in kick return defense and 99th in punt return defense) but at least they were fairly good at something.

Senior Rigoberto Sanchez handled everything kick related in 2015, going 8-of-11 on field goals with a long of 50, 23-of-24 on PATs, punting 74 times for an average of 45.1 yards, and handling kickoff duties. Last week, he made his only field goal attempt, from 42 yards, made all four extra point attempts, and punted four times for an average of 37.3 yards.

Redshirt junior receiver Keelan Ewaliko is back to return kicks after averaging 26.3 yards per return last season, while Ursua will get a chance to show what he can do on punt returns. Ewaliko returned five kickoffs against Cal but averaged just 18.4 yards. Harris returned three for an average of 17.7.

Prediction

Cal quarterback Davis Webb showed Michigan how to carve apart a porous Hawaii defense, but with Wilton Speight making his first career start, it’s a safe bet to assume he won’t be given the opportunity to chuck it up 54 times. Instead, Jim Harbaugh will look to make a statement on the ground and Michigan fans will get their first chance to see how much the offensive line has improved — although that won’t be truly evident until the Wolverines face a good team.

Last season, Hawaii traveled to Columbus and hung with Ohio State in the first half, trailing just 14-0 at halftime, but the Buckeyes wore them down for a 38-0 route. With a better offense under Rolovich this season, Hawaii would like to at least put some points on the board, but Michigan features one of the nation’s best defenses. I don’t think Michigan gets the shutout here, but I don’t think it’ll be close either.

Michigan scores early and often, Speight looks crisp and make smart decisions, the running back trio of De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans wear down Hawaii’s defense for over 250 yards, and Michigan rolls to an easy victory. The defense allows 10 points just as it did the last time Harbaugh faced Hawaii, as a quarterback in 1986, but the offense scores more than the 27 it did back then.

Michigan 55 – Hawaii 10

Predicting Michigan 2016: The running backs

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-RunningBacks

513052921LH003_MINNESOTA_V_

Previous: Quarterbacks

The Michigan rushing attack showed improvement in some areas under Jim Harbaugh in Year 1, but it still has a long way to go if the Wolverines hope to compete for a Big Ten East title.

Michigan returns each of its three most experienced running backs from last season, but none of them have an iron grip on the starting job.

Returning Starters

Barring something unforeseen, senior De’Veon Smith will top the running back depth chart when Michigan breaks camp. Smith spent most of the last two seasons as the starting running back and did a solid job, though he struggled in conference play.

Drake Johnson

(AP photo)

In five games against nonconference opponents last season, Smith thrice ran for over 100 yards and scored a combined four touchdowns. In seven conference matchups, he rushed for fewer than 45 yards per game and got shut down in big games like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State.

There’s a reason Smith carried the ball 180 times last season. Because of Michigan’s struggles with run blocking, Smith gave the offense its best chance to break tackles and pick up yards after contact. He was extremely difficult to bring down in the open field and found the end zone in goal line situations.

But Smith’s big play potential is limited. There were times throughout the season when the offensive line created a hole and Smith wasn’t able to adjust in time to hit it, instead running into tacklers or even the backs of his linemen.

Smith is the all-around best proven option for Michigan this fall, but there are other players with more upside. Smith will likely be the starter against Hawaii, but he’ll need to keep earning that role to stay ahead of the pack.

Drake Johnson is the other running back with starting experience in the Maize and Blue. Johnson took the job from Smith late in 2014 and averaged six yards per carry despite sitting out against several of Michigan’s weaker opponents.

The Ann Arbor Pioneer product was carrying an undermanned Michigan offense in the Horseshoe on Nov. 29, 2014 before an injury cut his season a few minutes short. He picked up 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground against Ohio State and had the Wolverines in position for a massive upset.

When he went down, so did Michigan’s chances.

Johnson was an afterthought for much of the 2015 campaign despite showing promising signs when he did get in on the action. When Michigan struggled to run the ball against Maryland, Johnson earned 13 carries and turned them into 68 yards and a touchdown. He also took a screen pass 31 yards for a touchdown that basically put the game away.

Since his injury, Johnson has largely fallen off the radar. But in his final year of eligibility, he figures to play a significant role in the Michigan backfield.

Projected Stats – Smith
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
160 700 4.4 5 53.8 95
Career Stats
2015 180 753 4.2 6 57.9 159
2014 108 519 4.8 6 43.3 26
2013 26 117 4.5 0 9.8 0
Totals 314 1,389 4.4 12 37.5 185
Projected Stats – Johnson
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 300 6.0 3 23.1 2
Career Stats
2015 54 271 5.0 4 22.6 96
2014 60 361 6.0 4 30.1 11
2013 2 9 4.5 0 9.0 0
2012 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 116 641 5.5 8 25.6 107
Returning contributors

Last season Michigan had two former five-star running backs on its roster. Neither of them have come anywhere near their expected potential and neither made a major impact on the 2015 season.

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Now Derrick Green is gone and Ty Isaac is surrounded by uncertainty. He wasn’t bad last season, but he wasn’t good enough to stay in Harbaugh’s rotation.

Isaac’s first year in Ann Arbor was defined by one 76-yard touchdown dash against UNLV, but he also averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry the other 29 times his number was called. He fell out of the rotation for one reason: fumbles.

Isaac’s role on the team basically evaporated after a near-disastrous goal line fumble in Maryland. Michigan was backed up inside its own five-yard line when Isaac coughed up the ball in a one-possession game. The Wolverines recovered, but it was the last straw for Harbaugh. Isaac received only four touches the rest of the season.

The talent is there, and there’s definitely a spot for Isaac in Michigan’s backfield. But he’s running out of time to make the most of it.

Karan Higdon is the only other returning running back who received double digit carries last season. As a true freshman, Higdon impressed Harbaugh enough to earn playing time against ranked opponents in Northwestern and Michigan State. He figures to be similarly buried on the depth chart this season, but with so many big, bruising running backs fighting for carries, Higdon will be a potential change of pace.

Projected Stats – Isaac
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 240 4.8 2 18.5 25
Career Stats
2015 30 205 6.8 1 29.3 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2013 40 236 5.9 2 16.9 57
Totals 70 441 6.3 3 21.0 57
Projected Stats – Higdon
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 60 3.0 0 4.6 7
Career Stats
2015 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
Totals 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
New Faces

Michigan brought in a pair of huge running backs this offseason, including one of the top overall recruits in the nation.

Kareem Walker was one of the most valuable commitments in recent Michigan history after he flipped from Ohio State, not only because he helped recruit guys like Rashan Gary and Michael Dwumfour, but also because he’s a five-star talent who fits the Harbaugh offense perfectly.

Walker is a powerful inside runner and makes a living abusing tacklers one-on-one. Michigan fans got their first look at the freshman when he blew up two tacklers on a red zone run in the Spring Game.

Though he admits he doesn’t want to be a back who carries the ball 30 times per game, Walker expects to be in the rotation from Day 1. At this point, there’s no reason to doubt he will be.

The other, less heralded running back commit is Kingston Davis, who snubbed a handful of SEC schools to make the trip north to Ann Arbor. The Alabama native fits into the same category as Smith and Walker. He’s a huge body who welcomes contact and runs between the tackles.

Harbaugh loves big running backs. Now, he has plenty of them.

Projected Stats – Walker
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
70 350 5.0 5 26.9 35
Projected Stats – Davis
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 80 4.0 1 6.2 4
Meet the Rest

Wyatt Shallman: Senior, 6-3, 245, from Hartland, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic)
Career stats: 4 attempts for 14 yards, 0 TDs
Joe Hewlett: Junior, 6-0, 195, from Novi, Mich. (Northville)
No career stats

Michigan 41 – Florida 7: Wolverines smoke Gators for 10th win

Monday, January 4th, 2016


Michigan vs Florida(MGoBlue.com)

Prior to Friday’s Citrus Bowl, Michigan’s offense had surpassed 500 yards just once all season, in a 48-41 double-overitme win at Indiana. Prior to Friday’s Citrus Bowl, Florida’s defense, which ranked sixth nationally, allowing 295.4 yards per game, hadn’t surrendered 500 yards to anyone. On Friday, Michigan’s offense racked up 503 yards, scoring on seven of nine possessions, en route to a 41-7 blowout of the SEC East champion Gators.

UM-Florida-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Florida
Score 41 7
Record 10-3 (6-2) 10-4 (7-1)
Total Yards 503 273
Net Rushing Yards 225 118
Net Passing Yards 278 155
First Downs 28 14
Turnovers 0 2
Penalties-Yards 4-30 7-66
Punts-Yards 1-57 4-216
Time of Possession 38:38 21:22
Third Down Conversions 9-of-12 7-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 2-24 0-0
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 5-for-5 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-7 1-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 4-of-7 1-of-3
Full Box Score

After a month to prepare, Michigan turned in its most complete performance of the season, thoroughly dominating Florida to achieve the 27th 10-plus win season in the program’s 136 year history.

Both teams entered the contest boasting top-10 defenses, leading most to believe the game would be a low-scoring affair. But it was Michigan’s defense that lived up to its billing, holding Florida to just 273 total yards and seven points. The Gators managed 118 rushing yards on 27 carries, and Florida quarterback Treon Harris completed just eight of 21 passes for 146 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.

Florida opened its whole bag of tricks, trying a fake field goal, a fake punt, a flea flicker, and a play that included a direct snap to the running back, reverse to the receiver, pass to the quarterback. Only the latter produced a positive result for the Gators, resulting in their only touchdown of the game.

Michigan, meanwhile, didn’t need trick plays; simply a sound, fundamental football. Jake Rudock completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 278 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Even with the game well in hand in the fourth quarter, Harbaugh left him in to the end, a fitting tribute to the grad-year senior who transferred from Iowa and improved his chances of being drafted this April from none to, well, a chance.

Jehu Chesson continued his rise from seldom-used contributor to star in the making. The redshirt junior caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, torching Vernon Hargreaves, who most believe to be a first-round draft pick in a few months.

De’Veon Smith eclipsed 100 yards for the first time since a Week 4 win over BYU, rushing for 109 yards on 25 carries. Drake Johnson and Sione Houma also ran well, notching a touchdown apiece. Johnson added a receiving score as well.

It was a fitting end to Harbaugh’s first season at the helm, sending off a small but important senior group, and setting up great expectations entering the offseason, with a thorough beatdown of a good SEC team.

Michigan and Florida entered in very similar positions — better than expected seasons under first-year head coaches. But Friday’s Citrus Bowl left the two on divergent paths nine months before they step on the field again and shows which coach has his team in better position.

Michigan has some holes to fill next season — namely at quarterback, center, and linebacker — but with nearly everyone returning, and a likely Top 10 preseason ranking, expectations should be through the roof. But before we get there, we get a 41-7 win over the SEC East champion to hang our hat on all offseason.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Rudock (20 of 31 for 278 yards, 3 TDs, 4 carries for 29 yards)
In his final game as a collegiate athlete, Jake Rudock went out the same way he did in his final game of high school: a champion in Citrus Bowl Stadium. The St. Thomas Aquinas product and Iowa transfer capped his career with a remarkable performance against the nation’s 11th-best pass defense with at least two future NFL draft picks in the secondary. He looked night and day different from the beginning of the season when many Michigan fans questioned whether or not he was the right man for the job. By the end of the game, one would be hard pressed to find a single Michigan fan who didn’t wish Rudock had one more year of eligibility. He moved into second place in school history in single season passing yards with 3,017 and became the first Michigan quarterback to pass for more than 250 yards in five consecutive games.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 receptions for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
Week 9 — Jake Rudock (18 of 25 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, 1 carry for 4 yards, 1 TD)
Week 10 — Jake Rudock (33 of 46 for 440 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 7 carries for 64 yards)
Week 11 — Jake Rudock (25 of 38 for 256 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT)
Week 12 — Jehu Chesson (8 receptions for 111 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack)
This was a tough one as the entire defense played well and essentially shut down Florida’s offense. Joe Bolden said after the game when asked if he was surprised that Florida only scored seven points, that he was surprised that the did score seven points. That’s the mentality of a great defense, and it started with the defensive front. Chris Wormley was unblockable for the Florida offensive line and recorded four tackles, two-and-a-half tackles for loss, and a sack.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)
Week 8 — James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks)
Week 10 — Delano Hill (10 tackles, 8 solo, 1 PBU)
Week 11 — Taco Charlton (4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks)
Week 12 — Jourdan Lewis (6 tackles, 5 solo, 1 TFL, 1 sack)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 20-31 278 9.0 3 0 45 0
Treon Harris 8-21 146 7.0 0 1 27 2
Josh Grady 1-2 7 3.5 0 0 7 0
Antonio Callaway (WR) 1-1 2 2.0 1 0 2 0
Johnny Townsend (P) 0-1 1 0.0 0 0 1 0
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 25 109 4.4 0 24
Drake Johnson 6 58 9.7 1 17
Treon Harris (QB) 11 55 5.0 0 22
Kelvin Taylor 11 50 4.5 0 21
Seone Houma 9 32 3.6 1 8
Jake Rudock (QB) 4 29 7.3 0 14
Jordan Conkrite 3 17 5.7 0 8
Taven Bryan (DL) 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1
Josh Grady (QB) 1 -3 -3.0 0 -3
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Jehu Chesson 5 118 23.6 1 45
Antonio Callaway 5 75 26.0 0 26
Grant Perry 5 51 10.2 1 24
Jake Butt (TE) 3 34 11.3 0 12
Brandon Powell 1 26 26.0 0 26
Khalid Hill 1 24 24.0 0 24
Amara Darboh 2 24 12.0 0 17
Chris Thompson 1 20 20.0 0 20
Ian Bunting (TE) 1 17 17.0 0 17
Demarcus Robinson 1 17 17.0 0 17
Jordan Cronkrite (RB) 1 15 15.0 0 15
Drake Johnson (RB) 2 10 5.0 1 8
Treon Harris (QB) 1 2 2.0 1 2
De’Veon Smith (RB) 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 2/2 100.0 25 5/5 11
Neil MacInnes 0/0 0.0 0 1/1 1
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Johnny Townsend 4 216 54.0 0 0 61
Kenny Allen 1 57 57.0 1 0 57
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Antonio Callaway 3 79 26.3 37 0
Vernon Hargreaves 2 38 19.0 25 0
Brandon Powell 2 36 18.0 19 0
Jehu Chesson 1 28 28.0 28 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Amara Darboh 1 11 11.0 11 0

#14 Michigan 48 – Indiana 41 (2OT): Michigan survives on record day from Rudock, Chesson

Sunday, November 15th, 2015


Chesson vs IU(Isaiah Hole, Wolverine247)

Parallels have been drawn between Jim Harbaugh and his mentor Bo Schembechler, and on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, Ind., Harbaugh nearly achieved a dubious feat that no Michigan coach since Schembechler has done: lose to Indiana. Instead, his scrappy bunch of Wolverines survived an onslaught from the Big Ten’s best offense to take home a 48-41 double-overtime victory — the 20th straight in the series.

Jake Rudock followed last week’s career game with an even better one against the Hoosiers, completing 33 of 46 passes for 440 yards, six touchdowns, and an interception. It was the third best passing game in Michigan history and the first time a Michigan quarterback has thrown for back to back 300-yard games since Chad Henne in 2004.

UM-Indiana-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Indiana
Score 48 41
Record 8-2 (5-1) 4-6 (0-6)
Total Yards 581 527
Net Rushing Yards 141 307
Net Passing Yards 440 220
First Downs 28 32
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 13-72 9-79
Punts-Yards 3-123 2-79
Time of Possession 32:33 27:27
Third Down Conversions 6-of-12 6-of-17
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 3-of-5
Sacks By-Yards 1-12 1-7
Field Goals 2-for-3 4-for-4
PATs 6-for-6 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 5-of-6
Full Box Score

Four of those six touchdown passes were caught by Jehu Chesson, who became just the second receiver in Michigan history to catch four touchdown passes in one game, joining Derrick Alexander, who did so against Minnesota in 1992. Chosen led Michigan with 10 receptions for 207 yards and the four scores.

But the big games by Rudock and Chesson were almost negated by the legs of Indiana running back Jordan Howard. The UAB transfer rushed for a career high 238 yards on 35 carries (6.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, shredding the nation’s third-best rush defense time and time again.

The game could not have started better as Michigan’s defense stopped Indiana short of a first down on 4th and 2 near midfield to start the game, and four plays later, Rudock connected with Chesson for a 34 yard touchdown. But Indiana responded with back to back field goals from 39 and 36 yards to pull within 7-6.

At the start of the second quarter, Michigan went 75 yards on 10 plays for another Chesson touchdown. On the first play of the drive, Michigan was backed up 12 yards for a chop block, and on the second play Jake Butt lost seven yards. But on 2nd and 29 from their own 6-yard line, Rudock found Butt for 24 yards, then scrambled for 23 more. Just like that, Michigan was near midfield. A few plays later, Michigan face 3rd and 13, but Rudock scrambled for 19 yards, and two plays after that he found Chesson for a 15-yard touchdown.

Indiana got another field goal from Griffin Oakes, this time from 51 yards out, but Michigan answered with a 64-yard catch-and-run by Chesson to give Michigan a 21-9 lead. Indiana finally found the end zone with 49 seconds left in the first half when Howard carried it in from seven yards out. Michigan added a 22-yard Kenny Allen field goal to end the half with a 24-16 lead.

While the first half started out perfectly, the second did not. Michigan got the first possession, but went three and out, and Indiana receiver Mitchell Paige returned the punt 51 yards for a touchdown.

Michigan’s ensuing possession stalled at the Indiana 24 and Allen missed a 42 yard field goal after a bad snap messed up the timing. Indiana marched 69 yards in nine plays and kicked a 24-yard field goal to take their first lead of the game at 26-24.

After a Rudock interception in the Indiana red zone, Michigan’s defense came up with a stop, forcing an Indiana punt. Michigan’s offense put together its best drive of the game, going 78 yards in 15 plays and taking up six minutes and 57 seconds. But although they reached the Indiana 1-yard line, they had to settle for a 20-yard field goal to retake the lead, 27-26.

Indiana took possession with 6:30 remaining and proceed to run the ball eight straight times as Michigan couldn’t stop it. Howard gained 61 yards on six of those carries, including a 24-yard touchdown scamper to give Indiana a 34-27 lead.

Jourdan Lewis returned the kickoff 33 yards to give Michigan’s offense good field position, and Rudock wasted no time testing the IU secondary yet again. Back to back passes to Butt went 16 yards and nine yards, and on 3rd and 3, Rudock lobbed a 41-yarder to Chesson to the Indiana two with less than a minute left. On 1st and goal, Sione Houma was stopped at the one. On 2nd and goal, Houma was stuffed for no gain. On 3rd and goal, Drake Johnson was dropped for a four-yard loss, setting up a make or break fourth down with six seconds remaining. Rudock fired a strike to Chesson on a slant to tie the game.

On Indiana’s first possession of overtime, the Hoosiers ran five straight times, culminating with a 1-yard Howard touchdown run. Michigan answered with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Rudock to Butt. The Wolverines wasted no time scoring on their second possession as Rudock hit Amara Darboh for a 25-yard touchdown. Howard gained 17 yards on Indiana’s first play and then three on the second to set up 2nd and goal at the Michigan five. He was stopped for no gain to force third down, and then Nate Sudfeld was stopped at the two. On 4th and goal from the two, Indiana elected to put the ball in the air, but Delano Hill knocked it away from Paige at the goal line and Michigan survived.

Michigan totaled a season high 581 yards of offense, but also surrendered a season high 527. In addition to Chesson’s big day, Darboh topped 100 yards with 109 on eight catches. Butt caught seven passes for 82 yards. Rudock led Michigan in rushing with 64 yards on seven carries, while De’Veon Smith gained 58 on 12.

Now 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, Michigan remains in the Big Ten title hunt. They travel to Penn State (7-3, 4-2) for a noon kickoff next Saturday needing a win to stay in contention. The Wolverines also need Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) to beat Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) in the afternoon game to set up a Big Ten East Division title game on Nov. 28.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Rudock (33 of 46 for 440 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 7 carries for 64 yards)
This could have easily gone to Chesson for his 10-catch, 27-yard, four-touchdown performance, but Rudock got the nod for the second straight week. Not only did he throw for the third-most yards in a single game in Michigan history and set the single-game record with six touchdown passes, but he also led the team in rushing with 64 yards. If not for the lone interception in the red zone, Rudock would have turned in a perfect performance. He has benefited from two of the worst pass defenses in the Big Ten the past two weeks, but there’s no doubt that he’s more comfortable in the offense than he was earlier in the season and has developed a good rapport with his receivers. Can that continue against Penn State and Ohio State? We shall see.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
Week 9 — Jake Rudock (18 of 25 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, 1 carry for 4 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Delano Hill (10 tackles, 8 solo, 1 PBU)
It’s usually not a good thing when a safety leads the team in tackles. In fact, both of Michigan’s safeties — Hill and Jarrod Wilson — led the team with 10 tackles apiece. Indiana running back Jordan Howard shredded the front seven all game, forcing the safeties to make plays. But more than just tackles, Hill saved the game two plays in a row on Indiana’s second possession of double overtime. On 3rd and goal from the Michigan five, Sudfeld faked the handoff to Howard and kept it himself, but Hill was there for the stop at the two. Then, on fourth down, Hill was in perfect coverage of Mitchell Paige at the goal line and knocked the pass away. On a defense that has been praised most of the season, but imploded on Saturday, it was the unheralded Hill that rose to the occasion.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)
Week 8 — James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks)