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Posts Tagged ‘Grant Perry’

The numbers game: U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D

Thursday, October 6th, 2016


darboh-vs-wisconsin(MGoBlue.com)

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, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace

Last week turned out to be much more of a defensive battle than we here at Maize and Go Blue thought it would be. But Michigan got the win and it wasn’t as close as the score might say. Let’s see what the explosive play numbers looked like.

On offense, perhaps surprisingly, Michigan had nine total big plays — five big run plays and four big pass plays. I know it might not seem like that was the case given the pace of the game but I went back and watched the game and they indeed had nine big plays last week. That’s still down two from their season average coming in (11.25) but right about where I thought they’d end up. However, I think I might change my prediction (they might average around 11 big plays per game) but I’ll wait to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

So far this season, through five games Michigan is averaging seven big run plays (25th nationally) and 3.8 big pass plays (42nd) for a total of 10.8 big plays per game (20th) with a big play percentage of 14.52 percent (30th). Their big play differential is 4.95 percent (23rd) and their total toxic differential is 31, good for 7th on a per game basis.

Through five games the 2015 team averaged 4.2 big run plays and 2.6 big pass plays, for a total of 6.8 big plays per game with a 9.47 percent big play percentage. Their big play differential was a paltry 1.73 percent and their toxic differential was just nine. Based on this year’s numbers that would put them around the high 50s or low 60s nationally for both big play differential and toxic differential. Michigan has improved their offense by leaps and bounds in Year 2 under Harbaugh.

Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first five weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 35 19 54 14.52% 4.95% 31
2015 21 13 34 9.47% 1.73% 9
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through five weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.20 1.60 5.80 9.57% 4.95% 31
2015 3.60 1.00 4.60 7.74% 1.73% 9

On defense, Michigan only surrendered five big plays on Saturday — three run and two pass. In case you forgot, or this is your first time here, anything under six big plays given up per game is an elite defense.

Adding those numbers into the season totals and we see that Michigan is giving up 4.2 big run plays per game (47th) and 1.6 big pass plays (4th) for a total of 5.8 big plays per game (18th), with a big play against percentage of 9.57 percent (35th).

Contrast those numbers against last year’s team through five games: 3.6 big run plays given up and one big pass play for a total of 4.6 big plays given up with a big play against percentage of 7.74 percent. They were better in every big play against metric than this year’s team. But, as I mentioned last week, these numbers still put them in elite defense categories and the tackles for loss and sacks are on pace to blow the 2015 numbers out of the water.

Keep in mind that the 2015 did not keep up their breakneck pace on defense either. Season long, the Wolverines 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, which ranked 59th nationally. All told, Michigan gave up 7.2 big plays per game, good for 25th nationally. That’s impressive for sure, but they were not able to sustain their early season pace as the competition got tougher. I don’t think that will be the case with this year’s team. I’m on record saying this team should give up around six big plays per game over the course of the season, and I’m sticking with that.

Michigan’s Week 5 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 2nd and 8 Wilton Speight to Jake Butt 23 Pass
1 2nd and 4 Chris Evans 22 Run
2 2nd and 10 Wilton Speight to Grant Perry 20 Pass
3 2nd and 10 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 24 Pass
3 2nd and 5 De’Veon Smith 13 Run
3 1st and 10 De’Veon Smith 16 Run
3 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 10 Run
4 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 13 Run
4 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 46 (TD) Pass
Wisconsin’s Week 5 big plays
1 3rd and 7 Alex Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright 24 Pass
1 1st and 10 Corey Clement 10 Run
2 3rd and 3 Alex Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright 20 Pass
2 1st and 10 Jazz Peavy 17 Run
4 1st and 10 Corey Clement 10 Run

Since I tossed them in last week, and mentioned them again this week I think it’d be good to continue to look at tackles for loss and sacks as an added stat of interest and further proof of Don Brown’s defensive genius. Unfortunately, I do not have game by game numbers for tackles for loss and sacks so for now we’ll just compare the 2015 totals and how this year’s team would stack up if they continue on their current pace.

To refresh your memory, last year Michigan had 88 tackles for loss (6.77 per game) and 32 sacks (2.46 per game). On a per game basis, those numbers were good for 42nd for TFLs and 32nd for sacks. Through five games this year Michigan has 46 tackles for loss (9.2 per game) — 4th and 6th, respectively — and 19 sacks (3.8/g), also 4th and 6th best respectively. Both massive improvements a direct result of Don Brown’s new defense. I know Marcus Ray won’t agree but if Michigan keeps up this pace we may be talking about the 2016 team as one the greatest Michigan defenses of all-time.

Before the bye week we’re going to add in some new stuff to aid in our discussion of explosive plays and to reinforce the football genius of Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown. However, apparently Rutgers is an actual school and they do indeed field what I’m told is a ‘football’ team so this week does not count as bye week. All kidding aside, Chris Ash is a good coach and should eventually have Rutgers looking respectable. Just not by Saturday night.

Let’s take a look at the Scarlet Knights’ numbers through five weeks. Spoiler alert: 2016 Rutgers is bad and they should feel bad. Michigan’s new ‘rival’ to the East is a bad football team and their explosive play/toxic differential numbers confirm that.

Michigan & Rutgers offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 35 19 54 14.52% 4.95% 31
RU Off. 27 9 36 10.08% -4.36% -16
Michigan & Rutgers defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 21 8 29 9.57% 4.95% 31
RU Def. 38 15 51 14.45% -4.36% -16

On offense, Rutgers averages a middling 5.4 big run plays per game (59th) and a less than stellar 1.8 big pass plays (118th) for an incredibly shameful 7.2 total big plays per game (106th). Their big play percentage is 10.08 percent (105th), their big play differential is an unsurprising -4.36 percent (117th), and their total toxic differential is -16 — good for 112th on a per game basis.

The line is set around minus-28 right now. I don’t see any reason why Michigan won’t win by at least four touchdowns and I’m pretty sure my weekly staff prediction is going to say we’re on shutout watch. Hooray for new rivalry games!

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.

#4 Michigan 45 – Colorado 28: Wolverines absorb blows, deliver knockout punch

Monday, September 19th, 2016


peppers-vs-colorado(MGoBlue.com)

After a pair of blowouts over weak competition, Michigan met adversity for the first time this season on Saturday afternoon against Colorado. But instead of letting a 14-point deficit spiral even further into a disappointing loss, the Wolverines punched back and turned it into a ho-hum 17-point win.

In recent years, spotting an opponent 14 points would have been a sure-fire loss. An uninspired first quarter would have snowballed with turnovers, poor clock management, and not enough players on the field. Michigan was far from perfect on Saturday, but displayed the difference between a well-coached team and a poorly-coached one. And in doing so, set itself up for success later in the season.

um-colorado_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan Colorado
Score 45 28
Record 3-0 2-1
Total Yards 397 325
Net Rushing Yards 168 64
Net Passing Yards 229 261
First Downs 20 15
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 5-41 7-46
Punts-Yards 7-275 10-331
Time of Possession 31:35 28:25
Third Down Conversions 5-of-16 1-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-28 3-22
Field Goals 1-for-3 0-for-1
PATs 6-for-6 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-4 1-of-2
Red Zone Scores-TDs 2-of-4 1-of-2
Full Box Score

“The best thing that we learned today was we have a tenacious team that’s never going to give up,” said senior nose tackle Ryan Glasgow. “When we started getting three-and-outs, we got them into third down and we got off the field, that was the biggest thing. The dialogue we had with the offense was great today: ‘If you stop ’em, we’ll score. If you score, we’ll stop ’em.’ We started having that attitude, we started with each other, feeding off each other, the tides started to turn.”

Colorado struck twice in the first seven minutes, once on a 3-play, 49-yard drive on their first possession of the game, and again on a fumble return on Michigan’s ensuing possession. Michigan’s first three offensive possessions garnered just 41 total yards, but the special teams came to the rescue. Michael Jocz blocked a Colorado punt around the 25-yard line and Grant Perry scooped it up and carried it in to put Michigan on the board.

The excitement didn’t last long as Colorado went 67 yards on plays for another touchdown to take a 21-7 lead. By the end of the first quarter, Colorado had racked up 195 total yards to Michigan’s 66. But that’s where things changed.

Over the final three quarters, Michigan was a different team. The Wolverines scored 17 points in the second quarter, holding the Buffaloes to just 37 total yards, to take a 24-21 halftime lead. Although Colorado scored on its first possession of the second half — a 70-yard bomb — it was all Michigan from there. Michigan out-gained Colorado 331 to 130 and outscored them 38-7 after the first quarter. The Michigan defense held Colorado to just six first downs and sacked the quarterback four times over that span.

When all was said and done, Michigan nearly covered the spread, picked up their third win, and faced adversity for the first time this season. Jake Butt, who led Michigan in receiving with seven catches for 87 yards, said the Wolverines didn’t have a great week of practice leading up to the game — Jim Harbaugh attributed it to fatigue from the second week of classes — and they knew it was going to happen sooner or later.

“We weren’t worried,” Butt said after the game. “We actually talked about it as a team. We knew the first two games we were never really punched in the face. Everything was going so smoothly. It’s not going to be a fairly tale the entire season. There was going to be a time we were going to get punched in the face, get backed in the corner. Playing with these guys, I’m so proud of the way we bounced back. We stuck together and rode that wave and were strong enough to get it done.”

Wilton Speight struggled early on, completing just 2-of-9 in the first quarter, but went 14-of-21 the rest of the way to finish 16-of-30 for 229 yards and one touchdown. De’Veon Smith led Michigan on the ground with 87 yards on 11 carries, half of which came on a 42-yard touchdown romp early in the second half.

Ben Gedeon was Michigan’s leading tackler with 12, but there’s no doubt who the star was. Jabrill Peppers was all over the field, recording nine tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a sack. As a team, Michigan recorded 10 tackles for loss. Peppers also got a monkey off his back with a 54-yard punt return for touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Michigan opens Big Ten play with Penn State (2-1) next Saturday. The game will be televised by ABC at 3:30pm ET.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
On a day when quarterback Wilton Speight struggled it was senior tight end Jake Butt, who turned down a chance to get drafted last spring, who showed why he’s so valuable. Senior receiver Amara Darboh dropped a sure first down on Michigan’s first drive and Jehu Chesson didn’t record a catch, but Butt was Speight’s safety valve all afternoon. Butt caught seven of Speight’s 16 completions, and although he didn’t catch a touchdown pass, six of his seven receptions went for first downs and two were third-down conversions.

Previous
Week 1 – Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)

Game Ball – Defense

Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 kick returns for 81 yards, 4 punt returns for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Jim Harbaugh said after the game that the best player on the field was Jabrill Peppers, and he’s right. The junior jack of all trades was all over the field and impacted the game in all three phases. He carried the ball twice for 22 yards at the beginning of the game. He recorded a team high 3.5 tackles for loss to bring his three-game total to a nation-leading 9.5. He sacked backup quarterback Steven Montez for an 11-yard loss in the third quarter. And his 180 yards of returns consistently gave Michigan’s offense good starting field position. None was bigger than his 54-yard fourth quarter touchdown. After being so close over the past couple of seasons, he finally silenced those who still doubt him.

Previous
Week 1 – Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)

M&GB season preview roundtable 2016

Friday, August 26th, 2016


Harbaugh(Doug Pensinger, Getty Images)

Last year at this time no one knew what to expect. Everyone was hopeful about Jim Harbaugh’s first season, but coming off of a disastrous 5-7 showing and seven years of very un-Michigan-like football, we were all nervous. Our season predictions ranged from 8-4 to 10-3, with the latter being right on. Even though we didn’t know what to expect, we were generally right about what happened.

This year is a little different. There actually are expectations. And they are big. Michigan is ranked in the top 10 and several national pundits have predicted the Wolverines to win the Big Ten and reach the College Football Playoff. Are they just buying into the Harbaugh hype? Or could they be right? Here are our predictions for the season.

What are you most excited about this season?

Justin: When I think of the Michigan teams I grew up watching, I think defense. Sure, there were great offensive players that shouldn’t be overlooked — guys like Anthony Carter, Jamie Morris, and Tyrone Wheatley, to name a few. But a great defense, one that smothers opposing offenses, is what makes Michigan football in my opinion. Lloyd Carr rode the 1997 defense to a national championship. The 2006 defense was deadly until it ran into Ohio State and USC. And last year’s defense, which posted three straight shutouts, was fun to watch until it faltered late in the season.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to watch an upgraded version of last year’s defense with the addition of the number one recruit in the country and a blitz-crazy defensive coordinator. The biggest position battle in fall camp is at the quarterback position, but with the defense Michigan has, whoever wins the job will just need to be careful with the football and manage the game. And if the defense lives up to its billing, Michigan fans will be in for a special season.

Derick: The guy I’m most excited to watch is Rashan Gary, and it’s not even close. Gary is Michigan’s first ever No. 1 overall recruit, and he comes in as one of the most decorated commits since recruiting blew up several years ago.

Gary was the unanimous No. 1 player in the country on every major recruiting site, and comes into Ann Arbor to join a defensive line that’s already very good. Gary will line up with Chris Wormley, Ryan Glasgow, Taco Charlton, Maurice Hurst, Bryan Mone and others as one of the best lines in the Big Ten. If he makes as much of an impact as guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Robert Nkemdiche — who were similarly ranked out of high school — he’ll be the most exciting player on the roster.

Sam: I just can’t stop thinking (and giddily laughing) about how dominant this defense could potentially be. The front four should be an absolute terror for any offensive line in the country, the secondary is athletic, veteran, and potentially another highlight waiting to happen (looking at you, Dymonte Thomas), and the linebacker group seems to be getting good reviews despite a relative lack of experience. And, oh yeah, Jabrill Peppers will be roaming all over the field and should be unleashed to wreak havoc in Don Brown’s system.

Josh: Another year of Harbaugh. If that’s not a decided schematic advantage, I don’t know what is!

Joe: I’m super excited to see a few things during this upcoming season. The first would be the new style of defense that Coach Brown is bringing onboard. This should be a fun defense to watch and bring a ton of pressure and new looks. They should be ELITE from day one. The second thing I’m looking for is how the incoming class plays and improves over the course of the year. If they are everything we’ve read over the last few months, the future is BRIGHT!

What worries you the most entering the season?

Justin: As I mentioned above, I’m not overly worried about the quarterback position. As long as Speight or O’Korn doesn’t become a turnover machine, Michigan will be okay. There are enough proven weapons — Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, Jake Butt, De’Veon Smith — and a strong defense to lean back on. What worries me the most this season is the road schedule.

Michigan will be able to handle the non-conference portion of the schedule handily, and with Penn State and Wisconsin at home, I see those as wins. Then the Wolverines face Rutgers and Illinois, which should put them at 7-0 and very highly ranked. But that’s where things get tough. In the final five games of the season, Michigan has to travel to East Lansing, Iowa City, and Columbus with home games against Maryland and Indiana sandwiched in between.

Michigan has struggled on the road the past several seasons. To make matters worse, they haven’t won in East Lansing since 2007, Iowa City since 2005, and Columbus since 2000. That’s nearly a decade without a road win over any of those teams. And to have a chance at the College Football Playoff this season they’ll likely have to win all three. To at least win the Big Ten they’ll have to win at least two of the three, as long as the one loss is at Big Ten West foe Iowa rather than the other two, who are in the same Big Ten East as Michigan. It’s hard to see that happening.

Derick: I’m most worried about the expectations. Michigan won 10 games last season when it was the underdog and nobody expected much in Jim Harbaugh’s first year. But now, as the team jumps from irrelevant to popular national championship pick, it seems like things have escalated a little too quickly. Michigan has three extremely difficult road games at the end of the season,and if they take care of business weeks one through seven, those games will hold a massive importance. Can a team that hasn’t played many nationally meaningful games handle that gauntlet down the stretch? It’s going to be tough.

Sam: This one is pretty easy for me – I’m still not sold on the quarterback position. Yes, I know that Jim Harbaugh is widely reputed to be one of the best quarterback whisperers in the country and has worked wonders in season after season. But this is a pretty important position, and there still seems to be some disagreement over who will start. That’s usually not a great sign with real football only a week away. We’ve all heard of O’Korn as the high-risk/high-reward type while Wilton Speight seems to be the more prototypical “game manager” quarterback, but neither has the whole package. At least not yet.

Josh: The media keeps saying quarterback or linebacker. Personally, I am not worried (nor will I ever be) about the quarterback position as long as James Joseph Harbaugh is patrolling our sidelines. Linebacker is a slight concern but the defensive line is so talented and so deep (8 or 9 guys) that I don’t see the need to actually worry about the LBs. Plus, it’s not like they lost any world beaters off last year’s crew anyway.

Offensive line (both its progression and health) is my main concern and it’s not even close. There isn’t much proven depth, or depth period, behind the starting five so a significant injury to the offensive line could derail the entire season.

Even IF injuries are avoided we still have the issue of breaking in a new left tackle. If Grant Newsome doesn’t work, who steps in for him? Go ahead, look at the depth chart: four freshmen, and a small cadre of former Brady Hoke guys who have limited game action and a total of ZERO starts. If this team is to compete for a B1G Ten title the offensive line needs to not only be better than last year but they ALL need to stay healthy the entire year.

Joe: It’s gotta be the quarterback play that worries me the most. I was hoping that O’Korn would separate himself from the pack but that hasn’t happened. This could be viewed as a positive or negative. I trust in Harbaugh and hope this gets settled soon.

Who will be the offensive breakout player this season?

Justin: Based on the hype coming out of fall camp, Ben Bredeson is probably the smart pick here. But I don’t like to trust true freshman offensive linemen. I know Mason Cole worked out pretty well two years ago, but that’s more the exception than the rule. To me, it’s between two players: tight end Ian Bunting and receiver Grant Perry. Everyone knows Jim Harbaugh’s affinity for tight ends, and just because he has Jake Butt it doesn’t mean no other tight ends will see the field. Bunting is huge at 6-foot-7, 252, and after two years learning the ropes, he’s poised for a bigger role.

But when push comes to shove, I’m going to go with Perry, the slot guy who caught 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown last season. He showed enough potential to get considerable playing time in the season opener at Utah, where he caught three passes for 41 yards, but was still raw and it showed with mistakes that lead to turnovers. By season’s end, he looked more comfortable, catching five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl win over Florida.

This season, Chesson, Darboh, and Butt are established threats and opposing defenses will try their best to match up with them. That leaves the potential for Perry to rack up a bunch of catches and yards. He caught 105 passes for 1,727  yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior at Brother Rice High School in 2014 and racked up 176 catches for 2,771 yards and 27 scores in three years of varsity football, so he knows how to be productive. Now, with a year of college ball under his belt, he’s ready to take on a bigger role.

Derick: The breakout player on offense will be Ben Bredeson. Word from summer camp has brought nothing but praise on the freshman lineman, who was one of the top commits in the country. If Bredeson is playing well enough to earn the starting left tackle position as a true freshman, we can expect a 2014 Mason Cole-like performance, which would be a huge lift to the offense. With four solid veteran linemen to his right, Bredeson would be in a perfect situation to succeed.

Sam: This is a tough call for me, as I’m never sure what people want to constitute “breaking out” as. As far as I see it, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jake Butt certainly can’t qualify for this, the majority of the offensive line is too veteran for me to see a true breakout coming, and De’Veon Smith is fairly proven as well. So while I do think all those guys will have nice years and I’m uncertain on the quarterback position, I will go with Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. By all accounts, Wheatley has the body type that will allow him to be a highly effective in-line blocker from the beginning while also possessing the speed and hands to be a legitimate (and legitimately terrifying) receiving threat. I think he’ll see a lot of action in two-TE sets and should be a major asset in both the running and passing games.

Josh: This one was tough, but I’m gonna go with Ben Bredeson. Yes, an offensive lineman. A freshman offensive lineman. I’m calling it now, Ben Bredeson will supplant either Grant Newsome, or more likely, Kyle Kalis before mid-season and perform at a (freshman) Mason Cole-esque leve

Joe: I want a running back to step up and take charge in a crowded backfield. We have some horses back there but I’d prefer a lead to get behind. I don’t care who it is, just make it happen.

Who will be the defensive breakout player this season?

Justin: Rashan Gary is the obvious choice here, but I’m going to go with Bryan Mone, who missed all of last season after suffering a broken leg in fall camp. Prior to the injury he figured to play a major part in the defense, rotating with Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst. The injury meant more time for Glasgow, who shined in the role, but his season ended early with an injury of his own. Now, Mone says he’s in the best shape of his life, and with Michigan playing four linemen, he’ll get his chance to shine at nose tackle.

Derick: I want to say Jabrill Peppers, because he really hasn’t made a major defensive impact yet, but that feels like cheating. So I’ll go with Bryan Mone. Mone showed signs of being a solid defensive tackle as a true freshman, and expectations were sky high for his sophomore year. But after an injury ended his season before it even started, Mone fell out of the spotlight and has been flying under the radar since. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a huge piece in filling the gap left by Willie Henry in opposing backfields.

Sam: Everyone? Again, there are so many guys on that side of the ball that the field in my eyes is quite limited. You might make an argument for Taco Charlton on the line, but I think he’s proven enough already – he’s going to have an insane season. Bryan Mone could be an option here, as could the presumptive starting linebackers in Ben Gedeon and Mike McCray, but my pick is Dymonte Thomas. Thomas was a big-time recruit out of Ohio who is incredibly athletic, strong, and a sure tackler. The only question is whether he can be disciplined enough to prevent a big play here or there, but keep watching that interception he made in the Spring Game and tell me he doesn’t have the tools to be great.

Josh: Jabrill Peppers. Now hear me out first. Peppers’ impact was huge last year but his stats weren’t exactly something you brag about; 45 total tackles, 5.5 for loss. No picks, no forced fumbles, no fumble recoveries. If Matt Milano, a former three-star safety for Boston College can rack up 17.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in Don Brown’s defense from that position what will the greatest athlete we’ve seen since Charles Woodson do? I’d be shocked if he didn’t have at least 15 tackles for loss, five sacks and a defensive touchdown or two.

Joe: It’s hard to say anyone on the defense will be a breakout player as they have a lot of studs coming back from last year. They are established and will carry this team from the get go.

Michigan will win the Big Ten if…

Justin: …they don’t suffer any key injuries. We all know that injuries are part of the game, but when the talent is there, a key piece of winning it all is staying healthy. Sure, Ohio State defied that logic two years ago when Braxton Miller got hurt, then J.T. Barrett got hurt, and Cardale Jones still lead them to the national title. But nine times out of ten, that scenario spells doom for a contender.

If Michigan stays healthy that means they’ll be at full strength all season. And with the talent they have, especially on the defensive side, that’s the recipe for a Big Ten title.

Derick: Michigan will win the Big Ten if freshmen linebackers like Devin Bush and Devin Gil can compliment a healthy Mike McCray and Peppers to give the defense a more solid anchor than last season. The secondary and defensive line will be tough, but the linebackers were the weak underbelly of the 2015 team. Left tackle will also be a position to watch. With the rest of the line already well established at the college level, the final piece to the offensive line will be crucial. Michigan has to run the ball much better to take a step forward in 2016. Finally, look for Jeremy Clark to either take a step forward as a fifth-year senior or a younger player to supplant him as the team’s third cornerback. Lewis and Channing Stribling were excellent in coverage last season, but Clark showed mixed results covering opposing No. 3 receivers. He got better toward the end of the season, but with possible championship expectations on the line, Harbaugh might not be so patient this year.

Sam: …they can stop Ohio State’s dynamic offense. The Buckeyes shredded Michigan’s once-stout defense in The Game last November and Urban Meyer always seems to find a way to move the ball (at least when he isn’t playing Michigan State in 2015). This season, I really think Michigan should be undefeated heading down to Columbus — there will certainly be challenges along the way, but no team on the schedule up to that point should be able to beat them on paper — and the days of The Game deciding the fate of the Big Ten race should return.

Josh: …there are no significant injuries, especially on the offensive line, the running game resembles what Harbaugh did at Stanford post Year 1 (200-plus yards per game) and Don Brown can finally be the one to figure out how to stop spread to run teams. Possible? Yes. Likely? Probably not yet. For the record I think Don Brown WILL figure out how to stop getting gashed by teams like Indiana and Ohio State.

Joe: The lines play at an elite level. They should be better and will lead this team to a Big 10 title if they play as advertised.

What is your prediction for the season (record, who will Michigan lose to, and what bowl game will they play in)?

Justin: Michigan topped last year’s prediction by one, though my prediction of a win over an SEC team in the bowl game was right. I had Michigan losing to Penn State, which was my only misstep. This year, I think we’re looking at an 11-2 team that will lose at Iowa and Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh will at least get past Michigan State in East Lansing and be 9-0 heading into Iowa City, but losses in two of the last three regular season games will be a disappointing end to a great season. Still, assuming Ohio State wins the conference and makes the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl will select Michigan and the Wolverines will head to Pasadena for the first time since 2007.

Derick: Last season I predicted Michigan would finish 9-4 and thought I was being “generous.” I didn’t know what to expect from Harbaugh’s team less than a year removed from a 5-7 campaign and certainly didn’t expect it to go into Happy Valley and push around Penn State. This season, expectations couldn’t be more different. Michigan is in everyone’s playoff discussion and Harbaugh is the biggest story in college football.

I don’t buy into hype, but I do draw conclusions based on facts and what my eyes tell me. Few teams have as many elite seniors who turned down NFL money to return to Michigan. Lewis, Butt, Chesson, Darboh, Wormley and others will play on Sundays, but here they are practicing in the Maize and Blue in August. As far as the incoming class goes, I don’ think Harbaugh has a top five class, I think he has the No. 1 class. Sure, other teams might have more five- and four-stars, but guys like Gary, Bredeson, Long and Hill could make an immediate impact as freshmen. Chris Evans is an offensive weapon who will almost certainly find himself a role in a stacked offense and Kekoa Crawford might, too.

Looking at the schedule, I think there’s no question Michigan will carve through its nonconference schedule. Maybe Colorado will turn out to be a little tougher than expected, but I don’t see any of that trio pulling off an upset in Ann Arbor. The pair of games nobody is talking about (but they should be) is Penn State and Wisconsin, who come to the Big House in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively. Penn State is breaking in a new quarterback and I’m not a believer in the James Franklin experiment, but Wisconsin, as always, will be a tough team to knock out. If Michigan gets through those two games, it’s a leisurely walk to East Lansing at 7-0.

That’s where things get tough. Like, brutally tough. Few teams in the FBS will be asked to play three potential top 10 teams on the road in a five-game span. But that’s exactly what Michigan has to do. Unlike at this time last year, I think Michigan is a better team than Michigan State, especially with MSU’s defense trending steadily in the wrong direction since 2013. We all thought the Spartans would take a major step back when Kirk Cousins left, and Connor Cook stepped in to lead them to the playoff, so don’t discount MSU just because of the new starting quarterback.

Even though I think Michigan State will be very good, I think Michigan will go into East Lansing and pull out a win. Harbaugh will have “Oh, he has trouble with the snap!” playing on repeat all week, and Michigan will arrive at Spartan Stadium with a vengeance. Just no tent spikes, please. I would be worried about a post-MSU letdown if it wasn’t for Michigan’s Week 9 matchup with a pathetic Maryland team. The quarterback situation for new head coach D.J. Durkin is so grim, I’d be shocked if the Terps can find six wins on their schedule.

Unfortunately, the undefeated train will come to a stop at 9-0. Iowa is still extremely talented after an undefeated 2015 regular season and something about Iowa City has never been kind to strong Michigan teams. I think the No. 2 Wolverines will fall to the Hawkeyes in a slugfest and need a win over Ohio State to win the Big Ten East. After outscoring a sneaky good Indiana team in the final home game, Michigan will go to Columbus with the College Football Playoff still in its sights. The young Buckeyes won’t be young anymore, after 11 games to replace their 450 draft picks, or whatever it was. Michigan will be much more competitive than it was at home in 2015, but I think Ohio State will come away with a close, maybe 2006-esque victory that knocks Michigan out of the title talk. OSU will head to Indianapolis and Michigan will be done at 10-2.

I think 10 wins will be enough to land Michigan a long-awaited Rose Bowl appearance against UCLA. Just like it did in the Citrus Bowl, Michigan will show up better prepared after a month of practice with Harbaugh and take care of UCLA, 34-20. With 11 wins in Harbaugh’s second season and Michigan State and Ohio State at home in 2017, Michigan will begin the season ranked in the top five and have a legitimate chance to make the final four.

Sam: I really want to pick Michigan to go to the Playoff, but…well…fine. Give me Michigan to run the table in the regular season with a couple close calls at Iowa and at Ohio State before losing to Alabama or Clemson in the first round. By my count, that should equal a 13-1 season with a Big Ten championship and a loss in the Fiesta or Peach Bowl.

Josh: Michigan will probably be favored in every game they play, aside from Ohio State, and they should win all those games. Given the talent returning and the coaching staff we have I am very optimistic about their chances this year. However, football isn’t played on paper and numerous things can upset the balance.

They should have beaten Michigan State last year and they also would have lost to Minnesota were it not for some Hoke-ian clock (mis)management by Tracy Claeys at the end of that game. They almost lost to Indiana — yes Glasgow out was a big factor — but it proves my point; it’s tough to win all, or even most of, your games in college football because injuries and other stuff happen.

I just don’t see how Michigan can get through an entire season without a major injury, or some Halloween voodoo a la Minnesota last year, causing setbacks. I think a 10-2 season is very reasonable, and that should not be viewed as a disappointment (lest I remind you that we suffered losing seasons in three of the seven years prior to Harbaugh and only ONE year in which they lost fewer than five games).

Losses will be at Ohio State (they are far more talented than Michigan but more importantly have been in the same system their entire careers) and at Iowa, Kinnick Stadium at night scares me for some reason.

They’ll play in another New Year’s Day bowl and the ‘Michigan is overrated’ headed into 2017 will start all over again. But hey, I thought this was a seven or eight win team tops last year and they proved me wrong. Here’s to hoping they do it again!

Joe: I’m looking at 10-2 season with losses at two of the three big road games. I think they’re still a year away from the CFP but wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak in. They still have some work to do. Let’s put the good guys in the Cotton so I can see them play in person.

Predicting Michigan 2016: The wide receivers

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-WideReceivers

Nov 7, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running Backs

When Jim Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor over a year ago, he inherited a Michigan team with an uncharacteristic lack of star power at wide receiver. Devin Funchess had already announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft and no other player on the roster had recorded 500 yards or 40 catches.

But in just one year, Harbaugh took two redshirt juniors and turned them into dangerous playmakers in a new offense. Now, as fifth-year seniors, they’ll be asked to carry the load in a receiver corps dominated by young, unproven players.

Returning Starters

Breakout seasons from Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh couldn’t have come at a better time last year. With Jake Rudock taking over the offense and Funchess off to the NFL, Harbaugh managed to squeeze more than 100 catches, over 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns out of the duo.

Chesson’s game really transformed in 2015 as he turned into a more well-rounded offensive weapon. Along with catching 50 passes, Chesson also carried the ball eight times for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He was Jabrill Peppers’ best return game partner and one of his biggest plays of the season was a kick return touchdown to shock Northwester on the opening play.

Chesson was voted the team’s MVP at the postseason banquet, but Harbaugh has promoted Darboh as the team’s best wideout heading into 2016.

Darboh was Rudock’s favorite target early in the season and really played a consistent wide receiver for Michigan throughout the year. He has the most reliable hands on the team at wide receiver and can win a jump ball if the quarterback throws it up. His 58 catches led the team and he has a great chance to repeat that as a senior.

Chesson and Darboh have turned into one of the best wide receiver duos in the country and whoever wins the starting quarterback job will be in good hands come Sept. 3.

Projected Stats – Chesson
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
45 680 15.1 7 52.3
Career Stats
2015 50 764 15.3 64 9 58.8
2014 14 154 11.0 28 0 14.0
2013 15 221 14.7 58 1 17.0
2012 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 79 1,139 14.4 64 10 30.8
Projected Stats – Darboh
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
60 750 12.5 6 57.7
Career Stats
2015 58 727 12.5 39 5 55.9
2014 36 473 13.1 34 2 39.4
2013 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2012 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 94 1,200 12.8 39 7 33.3
Returning contributors

The top two spots on the depth chart are obviously clear cut, but the third wide receiver slot is seemingly up for grabs.

After the spring game, it certainly seems like Grant Perry is a top candidate to win the job. Perry caught only 14 passes for 128 yards last season, but he was Wilton Speight’s favorite target in April’s spring game.

Sep 3, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Grant Perry (9) lines up for a play during the second half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

(Russ Isabella, USA Today Sports)

Perry was targeted more than any other receiver on April 1, catching three passes for 30 yards. He looked like the No. 1 receiver with both Chesson and Darboh on the sidelines.

Perry — the No. 2 receiver from Michigan in the 2014 recruiting class — isn’t a huge playmaker, but a reliable target who runs his routes well and catches the balls that get to him. He might not be as explosive as other options, but Harbaugh knows Perry could be the best option for an unproven quarterback.

Then there’s Drake Harris.

Harris came to Ann Arbor as one of the most anticipated recruits of the Brady Hoke era. The state’s top receiver out of Grand Rapids, Harris looked like a player who would step in and help the team right away.

But injury and inconsistency have pushed Harris out of the spotlight. He caught only six passes for 39 yards last season and didn’t touch the ball the second half of the year.

Harris has good hands and excellent athleticism, so there’s still a chance he could stay healthy and put everything together to be a solid weapon for Michigan. But at this point, he’s on the outside of the starting lineup and looking like more of a rotation guy.

The only other returning wide receiver who saw the field last season is Maurice Ways, a junior out of Beverly Hills, Michigan.

Ways picked up three catches for 40 yards last season, so he wasn’t much of a factor in the offense. When Harbaugh announced the junior would have foot surgery in March, it looked like a severe uphill battle for Ways to get into the wide receiver rotation.

But Ways is back on the field and participating in drills, which means he could be ready to contribute when September rolls around. The former 3-star recruit has good hands and checks in at 6 foot 4, so don’t count him out of the competition for the No. 3 spot just yet.

Projected Stats – Perry
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
30 280 9.3 3 21.5
Career Stats
2015 14 128 9.1 25 1 9.8
Totals 14 128 9.1 25 1 9.8
Projected Stats – Harris
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
15 200 13.3 1 15.4
Career Stats
2015 6 39 6.5 13 0 4.3
Totals 6 39 6.5 13 0 4.3
Projected Stats – Ways
Receptions Yards YPC Long TD YPG
10 120 12.0 0 9.2
Career Stats
2015 3 40 13.3 21 0 3.6
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 3 40 13.3 21 0 3.6
New Faces

One of the highlights of Michigan’s elite 2016 recruiting class is the group of wide receivers Harbaugh pulled from all around the country.

Five new receivers joined the roster in 2016, including early enrollee Ahmir Mitchell. Mitchell was one of the top freshmen featured in the spring game, and his size really stood out.

As the No. 1 receiver out of New Jersey, Mitchell figures to have a chance to play this season. He’s a home run threat that Michigan needs behind Chesson and he’s also big enough to win matchups over the middle.

Dylan Crawford, a 6-foot wide receiver with great hands out of Santa Margarita, could also play a role this season. Crawford is touted as a fundamentally sound receiver who can run routes and has good speed. His ceiling might not be as high as the New Jersey duo’s, but he could be closer to contributing early in his career.

The other two freshmen — Eddie McDoom and Nate Johnson — are explosive playmakers and could find themselves playing in the slot. They don’t have the size of some of Michigan’s other wide receivers, but fill a major hole in the playmaking category. Harbaugh might consider redshirting one or both of the freshmen due to the depth at wide receiver.

New Jersey star Brad Hawkins was also supposed to be a member of this class, but had NCAA Clearinghouse issues and will put off his enrollment until next year. Instead, he will spend this fall at Suffield Academy (Conn.) prep school.

Projected Stats – Mitchell
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
20 150 7.5 2 11.5
Projected Stats – Hawkins
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
5 30 6.0 0 2.3
Projected Stats – Crawford
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
5 50 10.0 0 3.8

M&GB staff predictions: Oregon State

Friday, September 11th, 2015


StaffPicks_banner2015

Oregon State comes to town tomorrow as Michigan looks to pick up its first win of the Jim Harbaugh era. The Beavers topped Weber State, an FCS school, last week, 26-7 while Michigan fell 24-17 at Utah. While Michigan had to deal with Utah’s altitude last week, the Wolverines get an ancillary advantage this week in the form of time. When toe meets leather at high noon, it will be 9am Oregon time, not normally a time to play football. Michigan, of course, is used to noon kickoffs, so a quick start could put OSU away early.

Let’s get to our picks:

Justin: Harbaugh’s first game in the Big House as head coach of his Alma mater is sure to be a momentous occasion. SportsCenter will broadcast live outside the stadium in the morning and ESPN’s mobile Heisman House will be available for fans to tour. But what the Michigan faithful will really want is to witness Harbaugh’s first win.

Seth Collins’ running ability will test Michigan’s defense early on, but Harbaugh’s experience with Colin Kaepernick could pay dividends in the defensive game plan. The key will be forcing Collins to pass the ball and make him make plays with his arm. Jourdan Lewis will have his hands full with the size of Jordan Villarmon, but the rest of the receiving corps is manageable. Don’t expect Oregon State to score very often.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Oregon St.
Justin 31 12
Derick 38 17
Sam 27 10
Josh 24 21
Joe 27 17
M&GB Average 29 15

Michigan’s offense, meanwhile, will finally get rolling against an inexperienced defense that allowed 31.6 points per game in 2014. The rush defense allowed 158.2 yards per game, and even though Weber State couldn’t mange a ground game last week, Michigan is a much tougher matchup for the Beaver front seven, which is not close to Utah’s level. Jake Rudock will also show more of a comfort level than he displayed last week and take care of the ball.

Michigan won’t blow OSU away, and the game will stay close in the first half, but the Wolverines will pull away in the second half for a comfortable win just like Harbaugh did 29 years ago.

Michigan 31 – Oregon State 12

Derick: After falling short in an upset bid last Thursday, Michigan really needs a win in its home opener against a weaker Oregon State team.

The Beavers are coming off a 26-7 win against Weber State in which they allowed fewer than 200 yards on defense. But Michigan will be a much tougher task on Saturday. Jake Butt and Amara Darboh emerged as the two top targets in the offense last week and will face an easier assignment against the Oregon State secondary.

Jake Rudock won’t throw three interceptions again, and after his disastrous opener, I think he’ll bounce back and take better care of the ball. More importantly, Michigan needs to get some semblance of a running game going against a front seven that’s much less formidable than Utah’s.

I expect the defense to put up another strong performance and lead Michigan to a big win.

Michigan 38 – Oregon State 17

Sam: After a poor showing last week, I think Michigan’s offense (and specifically the line) will bounce back to open some big holes for the running game and Michigan’s stout defense should shut down a freshman-led Beaver attack. Drake Harris records his first catch and a touchdown and De’Veon Smith goes for 100-plus. Give me the Wolverines for Harbaugh’s first win back in Old Ann Arbor.

Michigan 27 – Oregon State 10

Josh: Oregon State won’t pose the same challenge as the stout Utah defense did but their offense might be troublesome. They only return two starters so this team is very young and inexperienced. Michigan traditionally has had issues with mobile quarterbacks and Seth Collins is mobile. The good news is that Oregon State’s spread offense is very run heavy so Michigan should be able to devote an extra man (Peppers) to keep Collins in check. If Michigan devotes too many men to stopping the run they might get exposed with a deep ball or two thrown in Stribling or Clark’s direction. Overall, this offense shouldn’t be too much for Michigan to handle.

The Beavers didn’t look all that great in pass coverage, playing mostly zone, and left a lot of holes underneath against Weber State, who unfortunately didn’t have anyone to exploit that. Michigan should be able to get its pass game going with Butt and maybe Darboh or Perry but the run game still concerns me. The offensive line didn’t do that great of a job against Utah and just looked flat out lost sometimes. Old habits die hard and they should get better as the season progresses. Luckily this Oregon State defense isn’t a world beater.

I expect Harbaugh to win his home debut but not by nearly as much as most people seem to think. Oregon State will get on the board with a big play here and there and I think Michigan’s offense will take time to hit its rhythm.

Michigan 24 – Oregon State 21

Joe: Game two of the Harbaugh era is an important one for me as I want to see how several key players rebound from an opening weekend loss. I expect Rudock to bounce back and have a much better game. I’m assuming his performance in the opener was due to nerves and a some inexperience of several receivers. If he can manage this game and keep the turnovers to a minimum, Harbaugh will have his first win.

I also expect Peppers to play a complete game instead of just one half.  He showed flashes of greatness in the opener with a very strong second half. This kid is a STUD and will only get better as the season progresses. I expect a pick and maybe a big return to help jump start this team.

Jake Butt needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He makes things easier for his quarterback and is the top option in this offense (for now). This kid is fun to watch and could turn into a game changer by years end.  I’m not expecting miracles in the first year, but I do want to see improvement every week. I think we see that and also see a Michigan victory.

Michigan 27 – Oregon State 17

Utah 24 – Michigan 17: Harbaugh’s return spoiled

Sunday, September 6th, 2015


Jake Butt TD vs Utah(MGoBlue.com)

It was everything we thought it would be except for the outcome we hoped for. The launch of the Jim Harbaugh era featured power running, lots of tight ends, and hard-nosed defense, but also turnovers, missed tackles, missed holes, and overthrows that resulted in a 24-17 loss to Utah on Thursday night.

Utah took the first possession of the game and marched down the field before stalling at the Michigan 12. Andy Phillips kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the first point on the board. Michigan responded with a good drive of its own with Jake Rudock starting at quarterback and De’Veon Smith getting the nod at running back. A Rudock 24-yard pass to Jake Butt put Michigan across midfield for the first time this season, but on 3rd-and-5 from the Utah 21, Rudock was intercepted by Cory Butler-Byrd.

Michigan’s defense stepped up to force a three-and-out on Utah’s next two possessions, the second resulted in a Utah punt form its own 2-yard line and Michigan getting the ball at the Utah 41. Two plays later, Rudock found Amara Darboh for 28 yards, and as the second quarter began, Michigan got on the board with a 29-yard Kenny Allen field goal.

UM-Utah-small_Final
Final Stats
Michigan Utah
Score 17 24
Record 0-1 1-0
Total Yards 355 337
Net Rushing Yards 76 129
Net Passing Yards 279 208
First Downs 20 20
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties-Yards 3-25 6-55
Punts-Yards 3-130 4-192
Time of Possession 30:41 29:19
Third Down Conversions 6-of-16 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 1-6 0-0
Field Goals 1-for-2 1-for-3
PATs 2-for-2 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 3-of-3
Full Box Score

Utah responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that featured three plays of 10 yards or more. Star running back Devontae Booker carried it in from a yard out to put Utah ahead 10-3.

Two possessions later, Michigan drove into Utah territory, but Rudock was picked off for the second time, this time by Marcus Williams, setting the Utes up at midfield. But Michigan’s defense held strong, forcing a field goal attempt, which Phillips missed from 48 yards.

Michigan opened the second half with a nice drive to the Utah 26, but came up empty when Allen missed a 44-yard field goal. On the drive, sophomore tight end Ian Bunting caught a 12-yard pass and Daboh a 16-yard pass, but Michigan was unable to get any points.

Utah finally got its running game going on the ensuing drive, marching 74 yards on 10 plays to take a 14 point lead. Booker rushed for three yards, then 10 yards, followed by Joe Williams for seven and quarterback Travis Wilson for eight. The latter was called back for holding, but Booker came right back with a run of eight. Wilson completed a 15-yard pass to freshman Britain Covey, and two plays later Wilson found Harris Handley for 18. On the next play, Wilson found the end zone on a 14-yard run.

Still without a touchdown midway through the third quarter of its first game, Michigan needed one to get back in the game. And the Wolverines did just that, going 75 yards on 12 plays. The drive was aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty on Utah linebacker Gionni Paul that gave Michigan first down instead of 4th-and-9. On the very next play, Rudock connected with Jake Butt for a 19-yard touchdown.

Utah put together a good drive, but it stalled at the Michigan 28 and Phillips missed another field goal, this time from 46 yards. Rudock hit Darboh for 16 yards and Smith rushed for seven to get across midfield, but on 3rd-and-3, Utah corner Justin Thomas jumped in front of a Rudock pass intended for freshman Grant Perry and raced 55 yards untouched into the end zone to put Utah ahead 24-10.

Running out of time, Michigan advanced into Utah territory, but on 4th-and-1 from the Utah 35, Smith was stuffed for no gain, giving the ball back to Utah. After forcing a punt, Michigan took over with 2:46 remaining and put together a solid two-minute drill. Rudock connected with Perry for gains of six, 10, and 25, Jehu Chesson for nine, Butt for 16, and finally Darboh for a 10-yard touchdown to pull Michigan within 24-17 with just 54 seconds remaining.

Allen’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds and Michigan was out of chances.

Rudock finished the game 27-of-43 for 279 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Smith gained 48 yards on 17 carries (2.8 yards per carry). Darboh led all receivers with 101 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions, while Butt added 93 yards and a score on eight catches. Joe Bolden led Michigan’s defense with 13 tackles, while Chris Wormley recored three tackles for loss and Jabrill Peppers added two.

As a team, Michigan outgained Utah for the second straight year, 355 to 337, but both resulted in a loss. Michigan managed just 79 yards rushing. Michigan’s defense held Booker to just 69 yards rushing on 22 carries, well below of his per-game average a year ago.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards, 1 TD)
While the running game couldn’t get going and Jake Rudock had trouble with his accuracy downfield and turned it over three times, the one constant was Butt. The junior tight end entered the season expected to thrive in Jim Harbaugh’s offense did nothing to disappoint. He had catches of four, 24, six, three, four, 19 (TD), 17, and 16. Six of his eight catches went for first downs, three of which were on third down, which accounts for half of Michigan’s third-down conversions.
Honorable mention: Amara Darboh (8 rec for 101 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 solo, 3 TFL)
One of the question marks entering the season was who would step up on Michigan’s defensive line? It lost Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, and expected breakout player Bryan Mone suffered a preseason injury. Senior end Chris Wormley answered the challenge in Week 1, constantly ripping into the Utah backfield and recording three tackles for loss.
Honorable Mention: Jabrill Peppers (8 tackles, 7 solo, 2 TFL)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 27-43 279 6.5 2 3 28 0
Travis Wilson 24-33 208 6.3 0 0 20 1
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
Devontae Booker 22 69 3.1 1 16
Travis Wilson  12 53 4.4 1 14
De’Veon Smith 17 47 2.8 0 7
Ty Isaac 4 12 3.0 0 5
Jake Rudock 5 11 2.2 0 4
Joe Williams 1 7 7.0 0 7
Joe Kerridge 1 5 5.0 0 5
Derrick Green 2 1 0.5 0 2
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Amara Darboh 8 101 12.8 1 28
Jake Butt 8 93 11.6  1 24
Britain Covey 5 58 11.6 0 20
Devontae Booker 7 55 12.5 0 18
Grant Perry 3 41 13.7 0 25
Harrison Handley 2 25 12.5 0 18
Jehu Chesson 3 22 7.3 0 9
Bubba Poole 3 22 7.3 0 14
Siale Fakailoatonga 2 17 8.5 0 13
Kenneth Scott 2 15 7.5 0 9
Ian Bunting 1 12 12.0 0 12
Tyrone Smith 2 11 5.5 0 8
De’Veon Smith 1 6 6.0 0 6
Evan Moeai 1 5 5.0 0 5
Ty Isaac 1 3 3.0 0 3
A.J. Williams 1 2 2.0 0 2
Brian Cole 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 1/2 50.0 29 2/2 5
Andy Phillips 1/3 33.3 30 3/3 6
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Tom Hackett 4 192 48.0 2 0 74
Blake O’Neill 3 130 43.3 0 1 50
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jabrill Peppers 1 36 36.0 36 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Britain Covey 1 14 14.0 14 0

New in Blue: 2015 wide receiver Grant Perry

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015



Grant Perry(Jarrad Henderson, Detroit Free Press)

Grant Perry – WR | 6-0, 185 | Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Brother Rice
ESPN: 3-star, #128 WR, 76 grade Rivals: 3-star, #80 WR 247: 3-star, #133 WR Scout: 3-star, #59 WR
Other top offers: Northwestern, Bowling Green, Ball State, Nevada, Buffalo

Two days after it was reported (and then debunked) that Michigan had received a commitment from three-star receiver Deontay Burnett, the Wolverines picked up a commitment from another receiver, and this time the news came straight from the mouth — or tweet — of the commit.

Perry is rated very similar to Burnett, a consensus three-star by the four major recruiting sites. Scout rates him the highest as the 59th-best receiver in the class, while Rivals is next at 80th. ESPN has him as the 128th-best with a grade of 76 and 247 comes in last as the 133rd-best. Scout’s Allen Trieu praised his route-running, ability to get open, excellent hands, and sound fundamentals, while listing his only weakness as size. Sounds an awful lot like Jeremy Gallon. Although Gallon was rated slightly higher coming out of high school, he was three inches shorter than Perry.

Perry was a high school teammate of Michigan quarterback Alex Malzone and was Malzone’s top receiver, catching 105 passes for 1,727 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. In his varsity career at Brother Rice, Perry caught 176 passes for 2,771 yards and 27 touchdowns. He camped at Michigan each of the past two summers but did not receive an offer, then committed to Northwestern on Dec. 8. But he received an offer on Sunday, and on Monday night tweeted out his de-commitment from the Wildcats.

As the 10th player to join the 2015 class, he likely won’t be the last with National Signing Day approaching tomorrow and a few spots left to fill. Stay tuned for more commitment news over the next 24 hours.