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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harbaugh’

Five-Spot Challenge 2016: Wisconsin

Monday, September 26th, 2016


Congratulations to JD Mackiewicz for winning last week’s Five-Spot Challenge. His deviation of 96 was 13 points better than second place Wolfetd. JD Mackiewicz was only one away from Jabrill Peppers’ all-purpose yards (54), six away from Saquon Barkley’s rushing yards (59), and 16 away from Penn State’s second half total yards (141). He wins a prize box of product from our sponsors, Lane’s BBQCultivate Coffee & Tap House, and Chayder Grilling Company.

Tooty_pops and Wolfetd were the closest to Barkley’s rushing yards (four away). HTTV137 and Jaeschke were both just one away from Penn State’s second half yards. Nobody correctly predicted that Matt Godin (number 99) would record Michigan’s first sack. Zigmun and Maizenblu62 were the closest with their predictions of 96 (Ryan Glasgow). Chris Wormley had the most predictions (10 of 33). Finally, DBenney09 was the only contestant to correctly predict the length of Kenny Allen’s longest punt (44 yards).

All 33 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average score of Michigan 42 – Penn State 17. No one correctly predicted the score, but BadBlu was the closest with his prediction of 49-13. Had Penn State kicked another field goal he would have had his highest deviation reduced to zero and moved all the way up to fourth place for the week.

The weekly results and season standings have been updated.

This week, Michigan hosts No. 8 Wisconsin in what should be a tough defensive battle. Here are this week’s questions.

#4 Michigan 49 – Penn State 10: Michigan defense smothers Penn State

Saturday, September 24th, 2016


um-d-vs-penn-state(Dustin Johnson)

On the first play of the game, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley was sacked for a loss of two. On the second play, he completed a pass to tight end Mike Gisecki for one yard. On the third play, McSorley was sacked for a near safety by Chris Wormley. Unlike the start of last week’s game against Colorado, this game was over, basically, three plays in.

Michigan’s defense came to play from the opening whistle and Penn State never stood a chance. It set the tone from the start that it wasn’t Kent State. It wasn’t Pitt. It wasn’t Temple. And it certainly wasn’t a RichRod defense or a Brady Hoke defense. It was a Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown defense. It was a Michigan defense.

Jabrill Peppers damn near took the ensuing Penn State’s punt to the house. After beating the last defender he got tripped up at the 9-yard line. Michigan took advantage of the short field and never looked back.

um-psu_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan Penn State
Score 49 10
Record 4-0, 1-0 2-2, 0-1
Total Yards 515 191
Net Rushing Yards 326 70
Net Passing Yards 189 121
First Downs 25 12
Turnovers 0 2
Penalties-Yards 7-80 2-13
Punts-Yards 1-44 6-240
Time of Possession 35:49 24:11
Third Down Conversions 11-of-16 2-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions 2-of-4 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 6-27 0-0
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-1
PATs 7-for-7 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-6 2-of-2
Red Zone Scores-TDs 6-of-6 1-of-2
Full Box Score

The first half was as thorough a beatdown of a Big Ten power program as one could get. Michigan led 28-0, sacked McSorely five times, outgained Penn State’s offense 259 yards to 50, converted 7-of-10 third downs and 2-of-3 fourth downs, and found the end zone on four of five possessions.

While four Penn State beat writers talked themselves into choosing James Franklin over Harbaugh if they were given the choice, the reality of the chasm that exists between the two head coaches was never more evident than on Penn State’s opening drive of the second half. Down 28-0 in the third quarter, facing 4th-and-goal from the Michigan two, Franklin sent his field goal team onto the field, called timeout to think about it, and sent them back out to kick the 19-yard field goal. The television cameras may have missed it, but Franklin was waving a white flag.

On Michigan’s next possession, Harbaugh faced a 4th-and-4 from the Penn State 28 and went for it, up 28-3. The conversion failed, but message was clear. Harbaugh plays to win.

Not content to simply win, Michigan flexed its muscle on the next drive, running the ball eight of nine times right through the Penn State defense. Chris Evans for 37. De’Veon Smith for eight. Ty Isaac for five. Karan Higdon for three. Evans for five. Smith for eight. Higdon for 11. Evans for three. Touchdown.

Penn State would add a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth, but Michigan added two more to double the point spread and improve to 4-0 on the season.

The Michigan offense racked up 515 total yards — 326 on the ground and 189 through the air — and the defense held Penn State to just 191 total yards. Wilton Speight completed 21-of-34 for 189 yards and a touchdown. Smith led Michigan with 111 yards on 8.9 yards per carry and a touchdown. Higdon gained 84 yards and scored two touchdowns, while Isaac finished with 74 yards and a score. Nine different Wolverines caught a pass, including freshman tight end Devin Asiasi, who caught the first touchdown of his career.

Linebacker Ben Gedeon led the Michigan defense with 11 tackles, 1.5 of which were behind the line of scrimmage. Maurice Hurst led the Wolverines with three tackles for loss. Hurst, Matt Godin, Chris Wormley, Chase Winovich, and Taco Charlton each recorded a sack, and Mike McCray picked off McSorley in the fourth quarter. Peppers finished with five tackles, but was unable to add to his Big Ten-leading 9.5 tackles for loss. Michigan held Saquon Barkley — who came in averaging 5.1 yards per carry — to just 59 yards rushing on 3.9 yards per carry.

At 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten, Michigan will likely remain ranked fourth nationally and will face its toughest test to date next week when Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) comes to town. The Badgers stunned Michigan State in East Lansing, 30-6 on Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rushing yards, no sacks allowed)
Michigan’s offensive line has been much maligned over the past few seasons, and although it’s not the big, mauling line Harbaugh wants just yet, it has made considerable progress from the days of negative rushing yards. Against Penn State on Saturday it was nearly flawless. It paved the way for Michigan’s backs to rush for 326 yards and six touchdowns and it didn’t allow a sack against a Penn State defense that entered the game with 10 in its first three games. Four different running backs rushed for more than 50 yards, five different backs scored touchdowns, and the Wolverines rushed for 6.7 yards per carry.

Previous
Week 1 – Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Michigan’s defense was all over Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, but Hurst stood out the most. He seemed to be in the PSU backfield all afternoon, recording three tackles for loss and dropping McSorley once.

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)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)

M&GB staff predictions

Friday, September 23rd, 2016


StaffPicks_banner20152

Michigan opens Big Ten play on Saturday against 2-1 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are three games into a new up-tempo spread offense that has fans in State College excited, but is still in its infancy. They’re also missing their entire linebacking corps.

Joe was the winner of our staff predictions last week with his prediction of Michigan 45 – Colorado 17. He now has the lead in our staff picks challenge. Here are our picks for this week:

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Penn State
Justin 48 20
Derick 38 20
Sam 34 10
Josh 38 13
Joe 42 10
M&GB Average 40 15

This game just has the makings of a big Michigan win. The Wolverines faced adversity for the first time this season last week and showed they can overcome it. Now, with that added confidence, they’ll kick off conference play with a convincing win.

Like Michigan’s previous opponents, Penn State will load the box to stop the run and force Wilton Speight to beat them. But the Nittany Lions won’t be able to get consistent pressure on Speight and he’ll approach 300 yards passing. Watch for another big game from Jake Butt, who will capitalize on Penn State’s linebacker inexperience.

On the other side of the ball, Moorhead will try to keep the PSU offense moving quickly, getting the ball out of McSorley’s hands quickly and utilizing his feet. Michigan may give up a few big plays and some points, but it won’t be consistent. McSorley hasn’t faced the type of pressure Michigan will bring and will make a couple of mistakes. Michigan’s defense leads the nation on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 11 percent, while Penn State’s offense ranks 118th, converting just 27.3 percent. That doesn’t spell success with Don Brown bringing the heat.

Michigan 48 – Penn State 20

Derick

I think the up-tempo offensive style of Penn State will give Michigan some issues, but if Jourdan Lewis returns, the secondary will obviously have a huge lift.

On offense, Michigan will have to keep being creative in the running game to open things up for Wilton Speight in the short passing game.

I don’t think Penn State is much better than Colorado, but this might be Michigan’s toughest test to date. With that said, Michigan’s wake up call came last weekend and I expect Jim Harbaugh will have them firing on all cylinders to start Big Ten play.

Michigan will cruise past Penn State, 38-20.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 20

Sam

Michigan cruised through weeks 1 and 2 against clearly inferior competition…then came week 3 against a Colorado team that we also thought would be a mere speed hump (not even a bump!). Alas, as the first quarter was drawing to a close, I was already reasoning with myself that “it’s just a game”.

But the recovery came quickly, and things will hopefully be back on track as Penn State comes to town tomorrow. Wilton Speight is probably not as good as the first two weeks showed, and probably not as bad as last week either.

Will it be enough to win the Big Ten? Only time can tell. But it should be plenty to beat a Penn State team that is going to struggle to find space for Saquon Barkley to run into. Taco Charlton should be back in a big way as Michigan dumps the Nittany Lions.

Michigan 34 – Penn State 10

Josh (1)

Ah, Penn State. What a wonderful team. Wait, no that’s not right. Apparently they have a saying there, “It’s -blank- o’clock and Michigan still sucks.” Yes, Michigan sucks. Clearly they haven’t checked their place in the conference hierarchy lately. Even so, I think they’ll provide yet another stout test for Michigan this week. They have a new spread-y type offense, one of the best running backs in America and a dominating defensive li… What’s that? Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel graduated? And they’re also missing two of three starting linebackers? Oh well then, disregard any mention of their defense. So maybe the defense isn’t a force to be reckoned with anymore, but their new spread offense might be and Michigan will need to be on their best game if they want to avoid getting caught on too many busted plays again.

I’ll go ahead and say it, Saquon Barkley scares me. He is shifty, he has excellent vision and he is fast. Taking the wrong angle on him could end up with six on the scoreboard. Michigan absolutely has to contain him if they are to win this game. That said, it’s been the passing game that has generated the big plays for Penn State this year (4.67 per game, same as Michigan). Luckily, Michigan is getting Jourdan Lewis back this week so that should do wonders for the defense. And maybe Taco too? Either way, this is a game Michigan should win but will likely be test once again.

On offense – I’d like to see Wilton Speight bounce back from an iffy performance with confidence and make some big plays once again. At this point I’m not sure anyone really respects Michigan’s run game (I don’t blame them) so Penn State will probably be content to let Speight try to beat them with his arm. It would be nice to see the run game get some momentum heading into the Wisconsin match-up but my gut says Penn State is going to stack the box so I’m not so sure this is the week we see our traditional run game get going. Thank God for jet sweeps and guys like Jabrill Peppers, Jehu Chesson and Eddie McDooooooooooom. I’d also like to see the left guard spot get sorted out, as neither Ben Braden nor Ben Bredeson has looked all that good there and it’s beginning to become a concern for me as we head into the meat of the schedule.

On defense – I’d like to see them shore up some of the containment/missed assignment issues that plagued them the last two weeks as well as how they adjust to another spread/no-huddle team. Penn State isn’t exactly a tempo spread team, they are no-huddle but don’t run a ton of plays. In fact, they’re averaging almost 5.5 plays fewer per game than Michigan is right now. Either way, I’d like to see how Michigan continues to adjust to a no-huddle team. How they manage to improve upon this could be the difference between 12-0 and 10-2. Hopefully adding Jourdan Lewis back into the mix is a shot in the arm for both the pass and run defense.

For the record, I’m not too worried about Penn State causing issues here as it seems they line up quickly and look to the sideline for the play-call but it could be an issue anyway. Michigan has done a fairly good job of hiding their coverages/blitzes so far but when a defense is spread out it can become tricky to hide those blitzes as well as before. On that note…

Maybe a new wrinkle, or two, as far as formations or crazy blitzes to keep that spread offense from clicking. Don Brown has hung his hat on not only his aggressiveness but also his ability to stop spread teams, with three games under their belts I think now is the time we need to start seeing some progress on that front. Holding Penn State to under three big run plays and two big pass plays would be HUGE in my opinion. Remember, holding an opponent to under six big plays per game would be on par with a top ten ranking (stats-wise) based on 2015 big play stats. This needs to be the game where Michigan really asserts itself on defense and shuts down all those big plays they’ve been giving up lately.

On special teams – All I want to see is Kenny Allen keep his punts out of the endzone, consistently. That and maybe another block/deflection. I won’t be greedy and ask for another special teams score, OK maybe I will.

Michigan is the better team. They have better players and a far superior coaching staff. Any Penn State fan who thinks Franklin will outcoach Harbaugh (I saw it on twitter) clearly needs their head examined. Penn State will put up a fight, probably not a jump-out-to-an-early-lead like Colorado fight but a fight nonetheless. After getting punched in the mouth last week Michigan should come out focused and ready to roll. Michigan wins going away but the game is much closer than the score.

Michigan 38 – Penn State 13

Joe (2)

This is a game where the lines should dominate early and often and wear the Nittany Lions down over the course of four quarters. While the Penn State quarterback is leading the Big Ten in passing yards (second in passing yards per game) he will not have much time to survey his options. Our defensive front should have a field day and generate tons of pressures and quarterback hits. That will lead to turnovers and points for the Maize and Blue.

If Michigan can keep Saquon Barkley in check most of the time and force them to throw, things will get ugly in the second half. Barkley is the best and only option coming out of Happy Valley.

Wilton Speight should come back strong and have a solid day thru the air. I think Michigan will look to establish the run early and then open things up. Speight goes for 250 and three scores through the air with two of them going to Butt. Michigan wins this one big.

Michigan 42 – Penn State 10

#4 Michigan vs Penn State game preview

Friday, September 23rd, 2016


um-penn-state-game-preview-header

Michigan skated through its first two games before receiving a test against Colorado last Saturday. The Wolverines spotted the Buffaloes 14 points and — to paraphrase Jim Harbaugh when he tripped entering his introductory press conference a year and a half ago — a lesser athlete would have gone down.

It remains to be seen over the next 10 weeks, but this year’s Michigan team may be the closest to the Michigan of old that we’ve seen in a decade. This isn’t RichRod’s Michigan. This isn’t Brady Hoke’s Michigan. Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan absorbed early blows, shrugged them off, and still won by 17 points, holding Colorado to barely 100 yards of offense over the final three quarters, 70 of which came on one play.

um-psu_small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – ABC
Penn State Head Coach: James Franklin (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 40-28 (16-13 at PSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Moorhead (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Pry (3rd season)
Last Season: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 28 – PSU 16 (2015)
All-Time Series: Michigan 12-7
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 6-3
Jim Harbaugh vs PSU 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2015 (28-16)
Last Penn State win: 2013 (43-40)
Current Streak: Michigan 2
Penn State Schedule to date
Opponent Result
Kent State W 33-13
Pittsburgh L 39-42
Temple W 34-27

Time will tell just how good Colorado is, but it was an important early challenge for Michigan and the Wolverines passed. Now the real season begins. Michigan opens Big Ten conference play tomorrow against Penn State, and although they opened as 16-point favorites, the margin for error will shrink.

For the first time this season the narrative leading up to the game doesn’t center around an opposing coach’s comments towards Harbaugh or previous animosity toward Michigan, although the Penn State beat writers are trying their hardest. They’ve been hard at work sending zingers Harbaugh’s way and submitting applications for the Onion.

No matter how much they try to distract from what’s happening on the field or try to convince themselves that their program is headed in the right direction with better leadership than Michigan, their doing so signals that they have plenty to worry about this Saturday.

Penn State is 2-1 with wins over Kent State (33-13) and Temple (34-27) and a 42-39 loss to in-state rival Pittsburgh. Kent State and Temple stand at 105th and 56th in S&P+ thus far, but Penn State hardly won convincingly. Kent State — whose only win is over Monmouth — was down just 16-13 at halftime and within two scores until Penn State put the game away with two minutes left. Temple — whose only win is over Stony Brook — hung with the Nittany Lions all game and was within as few as three points midway through the fourth quarter.

According to the final score, Penn State played Pitt close — and they did — but they were playing catchup all game after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter and 28-7 before scoring just before the half. They made it a game late in the fourth, but Pitt’s lead was too much to overcome.

Let’s be honest. Penn State is an average football team. But that doesn’t mean they have no chance tomorrow. They have plenty of athletes even if they don’t have a lot of depth. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Penn State has the ball

After a second straight 7-6 season in 2015 that saw Penn State pose one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten — 108th nationally — James Franklin fired offensive coordinator John Donovan. He turned to Joe Moorhead, who guided Fordham to a 38-13 record over the past four seasons. There, he was known for his up-tempo offense that averaged 453.2 yards and 36.8 points per game over the past two seasons. While Penn State has featured a statue at quarterback the past few seasons in Christian Hackenberg, Moorhead’s offense is a spread with a run-pass option that utilizes the quarterback’s ability to run.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley may not be the perfect fit to run Moorhead’s offense — he has just 63 rushing yards, sacks removed, with a long of 17 — but Moorhead is determined to make it work regardless. McSorley is the Big Ten’s second-leading passer through the first three games of the season, averaging 276 yards per game. In terms of total passing yards, he leads the conference with 828. He is completing 64.4 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

In the loss to Pitt, McSorley completed 24-of-35 passes for 332 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. However, is that a reflection of Penn State’s offense or the weakness of Pitt’s secondary. The Panthers allowed 540 passing yards in a 45-38 loss to Oklahoma State last Saturday. Yes, the same Oklahoma State that lost to Central Michigan — and threw for just 288 — the week prior.

McSorley has some talented receivers to throw to, most notably junior Chris Godwin, who ranks second in the Big Ten with six catches per game. His 1,101 receiving yards a year ago ranked second in the conference behind only Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge, which was good enough to earn second team All-Big Ten honors. He has 18 receptions for 220 yards and a touchdown so far this season. Senior DaeSean Hamilton and redshirt sophomore DeAndre Thompkins are the other two talented receivers. Hamilton has 12 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown, while Thompkins has seven for 166 yards — a team-leading 23.7 yards per catch. Junior tight end Mike Gesecki has caught nine passes for 158 yards and a score.

Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley is one of the best in the Big Ten. In 2015, he rushed for 1,076 yards — behind only Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott and Northwestern’s Justin Jackson — and seven touchdowns as a true freshman. He’s averaging 86 yards per game so far this season on 5.1 yards per carry and has already found the end zone six times. However, there’s not much proven depth behind him. No other back has more than eight carries and true freshman Miles Sanders is the second-leading running back with 27 yards on three carries. By contrast, Michigan has six rushers — including Eddie McDoom and Jehu Chesson — with more than 27 yards, and Jabrill Peppers has 24.

The offensive line has struggled mightily in recent years but hasn’t let up as many sacks in the early season as it did a year ago, though it hasn’t faced a stellar defense yet. Redshirt junior Brendan Mahon is in his first season at left tackle after starting 20 games at left guard and right tackle the past two seasons. He’ll have a tough task against Rashan Gary and Co. Next to him is redshirt freshman left guard Ryan Bates, who will be facing the best defensive line he’s seen to date. Senior center Brian Gaia was the only lineman to start all 13 games last season. Fifth-year senior right guard Derek Dowry has nine career starts under his belt, while redshirt junior right tackle Andrew Nelson has 24. As a unit, they’ve allowed five sacks, which is equal to what Michigan has allowed.

When Michigan has the ball

While the Penn State offense is still a work in progress under new guidance, the defense has been the side of the ball that has carried the team the past few years. But in the third year under Brent Pry, it’s not quite as stout as it once was. The Nittany Lions rank 77th nationally in scoring defense (27.3 points per game), 46th in total defense (345 yards per game), 92nd against the run (176.3 yards per game), and 23rd against the pass (168.7 yards per game).

Pry’s defense has been banged up already and suffered a major loss when fifth-year senior linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White was lost for the season with a torn ACL against Temple. The other two starting linebackers, redshirt junior Brandon Bell and junior Jason Cabinda, both missed the Temple game with injuries and may not play tomorrow eight. That leaves sophomores Jake Cooper and Manny Bowen and redshirt junior Brandon Smith — who had a combined one start heading into the season — to handle the linebacker spots.

That’s an area that Michigan will look to exploit. Even with Wartman-White, Bell, and Cabinda, the Penn State defense got gashed by Pitt for 341 rushing yards on 6.1 yards per carry. Michigan’s running game hasn’t been outstanding, but there are enough playmakers — especially when the jet sweeps with McDoom and Chesson and the wildcat snaps to Peppers are added — that Michigan could have success on the ground this week.

The defensive line lost three starters to the NFL who combined for 45.5 tackles for loss, most notably Carl Nassib, who led the Big Ten with 15.5 sacks and ranked second with 19.5 tackles for loss. Redshirt sophomore Torrence Brown and redshirt junior Garrett Sickels are the starting ends. Sickels started 12 games last season and has two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks so far this year. Redshirt freshman end Shareef Miller leads the team with two sacks. Redshirt freshman Kevin Givens and redshirt junior Parker Cothren are the tackles.

The secondary features the two leading tacklers, junior free safety Marcus Allen and fifth-year senior strong safety Malik Golden. Allen was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season, but Golden started just four games. This season, they have combined for 39 tackles, 3.5 for loss, an interception, three passes defended, and a fumble recovery. The corners, sophomore John Reid and junior Christian Campbell, are first-year full-time starters. Reid has a pair of takeaways, but the secondary as a whole allowed Temple quarterback Phillip Walker to complete 25-of-34 passes for 286 yards last week.

The other third

Redshirt junior kicker Tyler Davis has made all five field goal attempts so far with a long of 40, while freshman punter Blake Gillikin ranks third in the Big Ten with an average of 44.3 yards per punt. He has downed seven of his 14 punts inside the 20 with three touchbacks.

The return game has been average, ranking 61st nationally in kick returns and 74th in punt returns. Miles Sanders and redshirt sophomore safety Nick Scott are the main kick returners, averaging 23.4 and 22.4 yards per return, respectively. Reid is the punt returner, averaging 8.8 yards per return. One area in which Michigan might be able to exploit is kick returns as Penn State ranks 122nd nationally with an average of 30 yards allowed per kick return.

Prediction

This game just has the makings of a big Michigan win. The Wolverines faced adversity for the first time this season last week and showed they can overcome it. Now, with that added confidence, they’ll kick off conference play with a convincing win. Like Michigan’s previous opponents, Penn State will load the box to stop the run and force Wilton Speight to beat them. But the Nittany Lions won’t be able to get consistent pressure on Speight and he’ll approach 300 yards passing. Watch for another big game from Jake Butt, who will capitalize on Penn State’s linebacker inexperience.

On the other side of the ball, Moorhead will try to keep the PSU offense moving quickly, getting the ball out of McSorley’s hands quickly and utilizing his feet. Michigan may give up a few big plays and some points, but it won’t be consistent. McSorley hasn’t faced the type of pressure Michigan will bring and will make a couple of mistakes. Michigan’s defense leads the nation on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 11 percent, while Penn State’s offense ranks 118th, converting just 27.3 percent. That doesn’t spell success with Don Brown bringing the heat.

Michigan 48 – Penn State 20

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.

Big Ten power rankings 2016 – Week 3

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016


power-rankings_header

Each Wednesday throughout the season we will release our Big Ten power rankings. These are voted on individually by the five members of our staff and then each team’s ranking is averaged to reach our power rankings. As these are simply power rankings, they are based on each team’s performance to date, not what happened last season or what will happen in the future.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2

week-3-power-rankings

*Black dash signifies previous week’s ranking

Michigan and Ohio State remained the top two this week, but the Buckeyes earned all five first place votes, while Michigan State gained some ground on the Wolverines. Nebraska made the biggest leap from 6.0 to 4.0. Wisconsin and Iowa both fell a couple of spots after squeaking by Georgia State and losing to North Dakota State, respectively. Minnesota, Penn State, Maryland, and Indiana all stand roughly equal in the middle of the rankings. Rutgers jumps two spots to 11th, just ahead of Illinois and Purdue, while Northwestern stays in the cellar despite a win over Duke.

Big Ten power rankings – Week 3
Team Up/Dn Last Week This Week
1. Ohio State (3-0) Even Beat #14 Oklahoma 45-24  Bye
2. Michigan (3-0) Even Beat Colorado 45-28 Sat. vs Penn State (2-1), 3:30pm, ABC
3. Michigan State (2-0) Up 2 Beat #18 ND 36-28 Sat. vs #11 Wisconsin (3-0), 12pm, BTN
4. Nebraska (2-0) Up 1 Beat #22 Oregon 35-32 Sat. at Northwestern (1-2), 7:30pm, BTN
5. Wisconsin (3-0) Down 2 Beat Georgia State 23-17 Sat. at #8 Michigan State (2-0), 12pm, BTN
6. Iowa (2-1) Down 2 Lost to NDSU 21-23 Sat. at Rutgers (2-1), 12pm, ESPN2
7. Minnesota (2-0) Even Bye Sat. vs Colorado State (2-1), 12pm, ESPNU
8. Penn State (2-1) Up 1 Beat Temple 34-27 Sat. at #4 Michigan (3-0), 3:30pm, ABC
9. Maryland (3-0) Up 1 Beat UCF 30-24 2OT Bye
10. Indiana (2-0) Down 2 Bye Sat. vs Wake Forest (1-0), 3:30pm, BTN
11. Rutgers (2-1) Up 2 Beat New Mexico 37-28 Sat. Iowa (2-1), 12pm, ESPN2
12. Illinois (1-2) Down 1 Lost to WMU 10-34 Bye
13. Purdue (1-1) Down 1 Bye  Sat. vs Nevada (2-1), 12pm, ESPNN
14. Northwestern (1-2) Even Beat Duke 24-13 Sat. vs #20 Nebraska (3-0), 7:30pm, BTN

First Look: Penn State

Monday, September 19th, 2016


penn-state-mascot

Michigan survived its first test of the season on Saturday with a 45-28 win over a resurgent Colorado squad. Now, the Wolverines look toward this coming Saturday when they open Big Ten conference play against Penn State. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare three games into the season.

Penn State & Michigan statistical comparison
Penn State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 35.3 | 53.0 50 4
27.3 15.0 77 | 19
Rushing Yards 335 593 529 420
Rush Avg. Per Game 111.7 197.7 113 52
176.3 140.0 92 57
Avg. Per Rush 3.2 | 4.9
4.2 3.6
Passing Yards 828 763 506 468
Pass Avg. Per Game 276.0 254.3 31 47 168.7 156.0 23 16
Total Offense 1,163 1,356 1,035 888
Total Off Avg. Per Game 387.7 452.0 83 46 345.0 296.0 46 24
Kick Return Average 21.6 19.0 61 91 30.0 19.5 122 | 47
Punt Return Average 6.4 22.9 74 5 1.0 17.5 15 121
Avg. Time of Possession 26:43 31:18 101 48 33:17 | 28:42
3rd Down Conversion Pct 27.3% | 49.0% 118 27
28.6% | 11.0% 27 | 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 5-44 | 5-34
49 | 49
10-73 | 11-87 17 | 11
Touchdowns Scored 13 | 21
10 | 6
Field Goals-Attempts 5-5 4-6
4-6 | 1-4
Red Zone Scores (13-16) 81%|(16-18) 89% 76 | 47
(12-13) 92%|(1-3) 33% 93 1
Red Zone Touchdowns (8-16) 50%|(12-18) 67% (9-13) 69%|(1-3) 33%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 31.0 36.1 54 28 20.5 10.8 14 2

Penn State comes in with a 2-1 record, having beaten Kent State (33-13) and Temple (34-27) and lost to Pittsburgh (42-39).

Offensively, the Nittany Lions rank in the middle third of the Big Ten in most categories. They rank seventh in scoring offense, 11th in total offense, 13th in rushing, second in passing, seventh in passing efficiency. Those aren’t great numbers considering two of Penn State’s three opponents rank 56th (Temple) and 110th (Kent State) in S&P and neither has a win over an FBS program yet. Temple’s lone win is over Stony Brook and Kent State’s only win is over Monmouth.

In the loss to Pittsburgh, Penn State’s offense did put up 406 total yards, but only 74 of those were on the ground for 2.4 yards per carry. They’ve struggled to run the ball this season even with one of the Big Ten’s top running backs, Saquon Barkley. He has been a one-man backfield, accounting for 258 of their 335 rushing yards and six of eight rushing touchdowns. As a team, Penn State has yet to crack four yards per carry in a game this season. They rushed for 3.8 yards per carry in the opener against Kent State, but North Carolina A&T essentially did just as well on the ground against the Golden Eagles the next week.

The passing game, on the other hand, has been strong, averaging 9.2 yards per attempt. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 332 yards against Pitt, but that doesn’t look as impressive after Oklahoma State threw for 540 against the Panthers this past Saturday.

Defensively, Penn State is similar, ranking 11th in the Big Ten in scoring defense, sixth in total defense, 12th in rush defense, second in pass defense, and ninth in pass defense efficiency. Pitt ran all over the Nittany Lion defense, to the tune of 341 yards and three touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry. Kent State and Temple were held in check, but neither features a potent rushing attack. Temple, however, passed for 286 yards — nearly identical to their combined total against Army and Stony Brook. Penn State’s pass defense isn’t as good as its national rank of 23rd indicates, since Pitt had such success on the ground and didn’t need to challenge the Nittany Lion secondary. Through three games, opponents are completing 64.4 percent of their passes on Penn State.

Overall, Penn State looks to be an average team with a few playmakers on both sides of the ball, but not enough talent overall to put a major scare into Michigan. The line opened at Michigan by 16 and it may creep higher before game time.

#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 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

#4 Michigan vs Colorado game preview

Friday, September 16th, 2016


um-colorado-game-preview-header(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

For the third straight week an external storyline has dominated the talk leading up to the game, this time in the form of a fake depth chart from Colorado. In Week 1, Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich told the media that Harbaugh declined his request to send game tape. He later said that he was joking. In Week 2, the talk centered around UCF head coach Scott Frost and his comments about Michigan following the 1997 season that saw his Nebraska Cornhuskers share the national title with Michigan.

um-colorado_small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – BTN
Colorado Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre (4th season)
Coaching Record: 12-27 (2-25 Pac-12)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Darrin Chiaverini (1st season)
Brian Lindgren (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leavitt (1st season)
Last Season: 4-9 (1-8 Pac-12)
Last Meeting: UM 27 – CU 3 (1997)
All-Time Series: Michigan 3-1
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 2-1
Jim Harbaugh vs Colorado First meeting
Last Michigan win: 1997 (27-3)
Last Colorado win: 1994 (27-26)
Current Streak: Michigan 2
Colorado Schedule to date
Opponent Result
Colorado State W 44-7
Idaho State W 56-7

This week, Colorado decided to poke fun at the fact that Harbaugh hasn’t released a depth chart this season. Colorado sports information director Dave Plati created a fake depth chart that lists the Buffaloes’ quarterback as Elmer Fudd, the halfbacks as the Hanson brothers from the 1977 movie Slapshot, defensive tackle — wearing No. 007 of course — as James Bond, and “weak safety” as Stewie Griffin from Family Guy.

Harbaugh, however, dismissed the tactic in an interview on Thursday morning with 97.1 FM.

“In our preparation for Colorado we’ve had a hard time working humor into the preparations,” Harbaugh said. “They’re a very good football team.”

He continued.

“I saw the depth chart. I was trying to imagine how many people sat around and how many hours they worked on that. We’ve just found, I mean, when it comes to the depth chart — modern technology seems to have made the depth chart an out-dated task by about 20 years. We’ve found studying last week’s film of the opponent is the most accurate way of determining another team’s depth chart.”

No matter who starts for Colorado, a win in the Big House would be a huge lift for a program that had won just 10 games in head coach Mike MacIntyre’s first three seasons in Boulder. It’s a make or break season for Mac and he hopes to recreate the magic that Colorado displayed 22 years ago when Kordell Steward stunned the Wolverines with a hail Mary. The Buffaloes will be wearing those 1994 uniforms tomorrow.

So far this season, Colorado looks much improved over the team that went just 4-9 and 1-8 in Pac-12 play a year ago. The level of competition hasn’t been much as Colorado State ranks 112th nationally in FEI — 31 spots below UCF — and Idaho State ranks 78th in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Still, like Michigan in its first two games of the season, Colorado did what it needed to do, winning both games by a combined score of 100-14.

So could Colorado stun Michigan again? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Colorado has the ball

Co-offensive coordinators Darrin Chiaverini and Brian Lindgren returned just four full-time starters from last season, but they also welcomed a productive junior college transfer and got back a starting offensive lineman who missed all of 2015 due to injury.

Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau entered the season with 29 games of starting experience and 32 games of playing experience under his belt. So far through two weeks he has completed 74.1 percent of his passes for 522 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He has also rushed 20 times for an average of six yards per carry and one touchdown. He missed the final two games of 2015 and all of spring practice with a Lisfranc (foot) injury, but has shown no signs of rust thus far. Entering the season, Liufau held 75 school records and will look to build on that the rest of 2016.

Last year’s leading rusher, junior Phillip Lindsay, is back after rushing for 653 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. He has 125 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry so far this season. He shares the backfield with Kyle Evans, a 5-foot-6, 175-pound sophomore who has 93 yards and two scores on 4.0 yards per carry so far. Junior Donovan Lee and freshman Beau Bisharat are averaging six to nine carries a game. Bisharat was a 247 Composite four-star who held offers from Oregon, Michigan State, Stanford, Nebraska, and others before signing with the Buffaloes.

The receiving corps suffered the biggest loss from last season in the form of graduating senior Nelson Spruce, who ranked second in the Pac-12 with 6.8 receptions per game and fifth with 81 yards per game, though he only found the end zone four times. Leading returning receiver Shay Fields, who caught 42 passes for 598 yards and four scores in 2015, leads the Buffs with 157 yards on five catches, but has yet to find the end zone. Junior Devin Ross and junior college transfer Kabion Ento have two touchdown receptions apiece. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Ento has the best size among the receiving corps and he’s coming off a 38-catch, 607-yard, eight-touchdown performance at East Central (Miss.) Community College in 2015. Junior Bryce Bobo is the other impact receiver with seven catches for 106 yards thus far.

The offensive line returned three of last season’s opening day starters, though left tackle Jeromy Irwin suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the second quarter of the second game. He’s back as the anchor of the line after starting 11 games in 2014. The most experienced is senior center Alex Kelley, who has started 27 career games including all 13 a year ago. Left guard Gerrad Kough started 10 games last season while missing three with various injuries. The right side of the line is where the newcomers stepped in. Redshirt freshman Tim Lynott earned the job at right guard and junior Sam Kronshage won the right tackle gig. Kronshage started six games last season, three at left tackle and three at right tackle.

When Michigan has the ball

When Michigan’s 2015 defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, left for the Maryland head coaching position after just one season, one of the names that came up as his replacement was former South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt. Harbaugh, of course, hired Boston College’s Don Brown instead, and Leavitt ended up in the same position at Colorado. In Boulder, he inherits a veteran defense that looks to take a step forward in his second season.

The defensive line has been a weakness the past few seasons, but returned plenty of experience. Senior nose tackle Josh Tupou, who has started 33 career games, redshirted in 2015 due to a violation of team rules. He was an honorable mention Freshman All-American in 2012 and honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2014, so his return will be a welcome addition for Leavitt. He has six tackles, including one for loss in the first two games. He’s be joined on the line by senior ends Jordan Carrell and Samson Kafovalu, who have combined for nine tackles, 1.5 for loss, and one sack so far.

Like the defensive line and offensive line, the linebacking corps gets back a key piece that missed most of last season. Junior inside linebacker Addison Gillam started 10 games in 2014 and was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2013, but tore his meniscus in Week 2 last season. But he’s not a starter this season and has just two tackles. Inside linebackers Rick Gamboa and Kenneth Olugbode are the second and third leading tacklers so far. Senior outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert led the team with six sacks last season and has one already this year and a team-leading two tackles for loss. Junior Derek McCartney started the Idaho State game after Christian Shaver started in Week 1. McCartney racked up 70 tackles, 10 for loss, and five sacks in 2015. He has recorded two tackles including one for loss so far.

The secondary returned three starters including preseason Jim Thorpe Award candidate Chidobe Awuzie, who tallied 90 tackles and a team-high 10 pass breakups in 2015. He was a second-team All-Pac-12 performer and has 22 career pass breakups. He leads the team with 10 tackles and also has two pass breakups and an interception so far. Junior Afolabi Laguda is the other corner with six tackles. Safeties Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon have combined for four pass breakups.

The other third

Special teams was a bit lackluster for the Buffaloes last season, so MacIntyre brought in a pair of new coaches to oversee the unit. Former special teams coordinator Toby Neinas was dismissed and landed at Rutgers, and in his place stepped Daniel Da Prato and Matt Thompson. Da Prato was the special teams coordinator at Montana State the past three seasons, while Thompson was a private kicking instructor.

Senior kicker Diego Gonzalez has made all three of his attempts so far this season, but hasn’t attempted one longer than 30 yards. He made just 62.1 percent of his field goal attempts in his first season as the primary kicker last season, but he did show off a big leg with a long of 52. In fact, he went 2-of-3 from 50-plus yards. He struggled mightily from the left hash, making just 5-of-12, but made 13-of-17 everywhere else. Sophomore punter Alex Kinney ranked ninth in the Pac-12 with an average of 40.1 yards per punt as a true freshman. He is averaging 42.8 yards per punt so far this season with one touchback and one downed inside the 20.

Prediction

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