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Posts Tagged ‘Jimbo Fisher’

#11 Florida State 33 – #6 Michigan 32: Michigan resilient in comeback, but lets Orange Bowl slip away in final minute

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


Michigan, playing without Jabrill Peppers, who missed the game with a hamstring injury, dug itself a big first half hole, fought back to grab a late lead, but ultimately fell by one point to 11th-ranked Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami on Friday night.

Florida State took the opening kickoff and marched right through the vaunted Michigan defense for a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive to make an early statement. The Wolverines got a break after they were forced to punt on their first possession of the game when FSU’s Noonie Murray fumbled Kenny Allen’s punt and Dymonte Thomas recovered at the Florida State 1-yard line. But the Seminoles’ defense held strong, forcing a 19-yard Allen field goal.

Florida State responded with a field goal of their own on their next drive and then forced two straight Michigan three-and-outs. On the first play of FSU’s next drive, Michigan’s coverage broke down and quarterback Deondre Francois hit Murray for a 92-yard touchdown to put the Seminoles up 17-3.

Final Stats
Michigan  Florida State
Score 32 33
Record 10-3, 7-2 10-3, 5-3
Total Yards 252 371
Net Rushing Yards 89 149
Net Passing Yards 163 222
First Downs 16 15
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 4-37 7-65
Punts-Yards 8-379 6-207
Time of Possession 34:17 25:43
Third Down Conversions 7-of-20 3-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-22 4-26
Field Goals 3-for-3 2-for-2
PATs 1-for-1 3-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-4 3-of-3
Full Box Score

By the end of the first quarter, Florida State was outgaining Michigan 201 to 22, despite Michigan having more time of possession.

The Michigan defense forced a three-and-out to start the second quarter and put together a 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive. However, after reaching 1st-and-goal at the FSU six, the Wolverines had to settle for a 28-yard Allen field goal to pull within 17-6.

Florida State answered with a 15-play drive to get that field goal back as Robert Aguayo connected from 38 yards out. Florida State took a 20-6 lead into the half.

In the first half, both teams had 34 plays from scrimmage, but Michigan managed just 83 total yards (2.4 yards per play) compared to FSU’s 255 (7.5).

But the second half was a different story. Michigan set the tone on the first possession of the half, marching 14 plays for yet another Allen field goal, this time from 37 yards out.

The two teams traded a pair of punts and Michigan linebacker Mike McCray made the big play the Wolverines needed, picking off Francois at the Florida State 14 and returning it for a touchdown. Wilton Speight’s pass for the two-point conversion fell incomplete.

Michigan’s defense held Florida State to just 15 yards on nine plays in the third quarter while pulling within five points. But FSU wouldn’t roll over, beginning the fourth quarter with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 27-15 lead.

Two possessions later, Michigan’s offense found the end zone for the first tim in the game when Speight connected with Khalid Hill for an 8-yard touchdown.

Florida State took over with 5:22 remaining and the Michigan defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out, and giving the offense the ball with a chance to take the lead. And they did just that. The Wolverines went 61 yards in just five plays, capped off by a 30-yard Chris Evans touchdown run to give Michigan the lead with two minutes to play. Speight hit Amara Darboh in the end zone for the two-point conversion, putting Michigan ahead 30-27.

But instead of forcing Florida State’s offense — which had managed just 82 yards in the second half to that point — drive the length of the field for a game-tying field goal, Michigan’s special teams allowed a 66-yard return up the middle to the Michigan 34-yard line. Four plays later, Francois completed a pass to Murray over Jourdan Lewis in the end zone to give Florida State a 33-30 lead. Michigan blocked the extra point try and Josh Metellus returned it for two points to bring the Wolverines within two, but the Michigan offense was unable to move into field goal range as Speight was intercepted to end Michigan’s chances.

Speight finished the game 21-of-38 for 163 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Evans lead Michigan with 49 rushing yards and the one touchdown, while Darboh lead the way with five receptions for 36 receiving yards. Ian Bunting caught three passes for 40 yards filling in for Jake Butt, who tore his ACL in the first half.

For Florida State, Dalvin Cook rushed for 145 yards and one score, while Francois completed 9-of-27 passes for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick.

Michigan finishes the season at 10-3, matching last season’s record, while Florida State also finished 10-3. The Wolverines may fall out of the top 10 in the final rankings, but will look to bounce back next season when they open with Florida in AT&T Stadium on Sept. 2.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (3-of-3 field goals, 8 punts for 47.4 average, 4 downed inside 20)
For the second straight game and third in the last four, Kenny Allen gets the offensive game ball. The Michigan offense struggled to move the ball at all in the first half and Allen kept them in it with two field goals and then tacked on another to start the second half. He also booted eight punts for an average of 47.4 yards, most notably a 61-yarder that forced Noonie Murray to try to catch the ball over his shoulder and fumble, resulting in the first field goal. Allen ends his career as one of the best kickers in Michigan history.

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)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 7 — Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 8 — Amara Darboh (8 receptions for 165 yards)
Week 9 — Wilton Speight (19-of-24 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 10 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
Week 11 — De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 12 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 field goals, 7 punts for 47.4 average, 5 downed inside 20)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (5 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Michigan’s defense gave up some big plays, but played very good when needed in the second half to key the comeback. Mike McCray could have gotten this week’s game ball for his pick-six, but as I think about who made the most impact defensively, it has to be Taco Charlton. The senior defensive end was consistently in the FSU backfield, pressuring Francois, and getting to him once. He showed why he may be the first Michigan player selected in this spring’s NFL Draft, solidifying the hype on the big stage.

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)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 7 — Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 two-point conversion fumble recovery return)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)
Week 10 — Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 11 — Ryan Glasgow (7 tackles (5 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)
Week 12 — Taco Charlton (9 tackles (6 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)

Orange Bowl preview: #6 Michigan vs #11 Florida State

Friday, December 30th, 2016

(Dustin Johnson, Maize ‘n Brew)

Ten years ago Michigan entered the Ohio State game at the end of the regular season needing just a win to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship game. Ohio State won a shootout in Columbus, securing their own spot, but many felt the Wolverines deserved a chance at a rematch. However, Florida head coach Urban Meyer successfully lobbied for the Gators, sending Michigan to the Rose Bowl.

Quick Facts
Hard Rock Stadium – 8p.m. ET – ESPN
Florida State Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (7th season)
Coaching Record: 77-17 (all at FSU)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Randy Sanders (4th season)
Lawrence Dawsey (10th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Charles Kelly (4th season)
Last Season: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)
Last Meeting: FSU 51 – UM 31 (1991)
All-Time Series: Tied 1-1
Record in Bowls: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs FSU First meeting
Last Michigan win: 1986 (20-18)
Last Florida State win: 1991 (51-31)
Current Streak: Florida State 1
Florida State Schedule to date
Opponent Result
#11 Ole Miss W 45-34
Charleston Southern W 52-8
at #10 Louisville L 20-63
at USF W 55-35
North Carolina L 35-37
at #10 Miami W 20-19
Wake Forest W 17-6
#3 Clemson L 34-37
at N.C. State W 24-20
Boston College W 45-7
at Syracuse W 45-14
#13 Florida W 31-13

On New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Michigan played like a dejected team that would have rather been in Glendale and was embarrassed by USC, 32-18.

Tonight, Michigan faces a similar scenario, having been left out of a spot in the College Football Playoff. Rather than a semifinal in Glendale or Atlanta, the Wolverines face Florida State in the Orange Bowl in Miami. Like that 2006 postseason, this team has a wealth of seniors playing in their last game, but rather than a end-of-career Lloyd Carr at the helm, Michigan has an enthusiasm-unknown-to-mankind Jim Harbaugh keeping them focused.

Last year, after suffering a humbling home loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale, Michigan responded by throttling a Florida squad, 41-7, that many thought was the better team. This week, all the talk from the Michigan camp has focused on this being a business trip.

“As long as coach Harbaugh is here, any bowl game we ever play in will be a 100 percent business trip,” said senior tight end Jake Butt. “You won’t see a lot of messing around. I can guarantee you that. It’ll be that way again this year.”

Senior defensive end Chris Wormley echoed that sentiment.

“It worked last year,” defensive end Chris Wormley said. “We beat a team by 34 points, and I’m guessing they went out and got to enjoy Orlando a little more than we did. But we got the win, and that’s what we’re here to do.

“I don’t think I’d be wrong to say that I’d want to be at the beach. But at the end of the day, winning the bowl game is what we’re here to do.

“We didn’t come here to go to the beach. We didn’t come here to go bowling, or to sing karaoke. I don’t have a good voice anyway, so that wouldn’t be entertaining.”

In Thursday’s press conference, ESPN’s Janine Edwards tried to bait Harbaugh into a soundbite with a ridiculous question about players wanting to see bikinis, but he wasn’t biting.

“I don’t have any thoughts on that,” he responded to the first question.

“I don’t know about that. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded to the followup.

And it awkwardly continued for three more followups.

It’s clear that Harbaugh is concerned with removing distractions and focusing singularly on the task at hand: beating Florida State to send the seniors off with a win and springboard the younger players into 2017.

Florida State, meanwhile, is looking for a fifth straight 10-win season after finishing the regular season with a 31-13 thumping of rival Florida. The Seminoles had an interesting regular season, getting blown out by 43 points at Louisville, but nearly knocking off No. 3 Clemson. They also suffered a bad home loss to North Carolina and only beat Miami, Wake Forest, and N.C. State by a combined 16 points. But they finished the season hot with four straight wins to climb back from 23rd nationally to 11th.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Florida State has the ball

Florida State’s offense ranks 24th nationally in total offense (474.3 yards per game), 32nd in scoring (35.2 points per game), 38th in rushing (206.8 yards per game), and 29th in passing (267.6 yards per game). None of those numbers is outstanding, but advanced stats like the Seminoles much more, as S&P+ ranks the FSU offense sixth nationally.

The unquestioned dangerman offensively is junior running back Dalvin Cook, who ranks eighth nationally with 1,620 rushing yards. As we discussed on Monday, he’s accounted for 65 percent of the team’s rushing yards on 55 percent of the team’s carries. Remove quarterback from the equation and Cook accounts for 71 percent of rushing yards and 70 percent of carries. By comparison, Michigan’s leading rusher, De’Veon Smith, accounts for just 30 percent of the team’s rushing yards and 31 percent of the carries.

Cook eclipsed 100 yards rushing in eight of 12 games including eight of the last nine with a season-high of 267 yards against South Florida. He also topped 200 yards against Syracuse with 225 and ranked sixth nationally with 18 rushing touchdowns. He’s also a weapon out of the backfield as the team’s second-leading receiver in terms of yards with 30 receptions for 426 yards and one touchdown. His 35.5 receiving yards per game would rank fourth on Michigan’s team this season. He had two 100-yard receiving games out of the backfield, but his receiving production tailed off in the second half of the season when he averaged just 1.7 receptions for 13.5 yards per game in the last six games.

Behind Cook, sophomore running back Jacques Patrick has rushed for 348 yards and four touchdowns on 5.8 yards per carry.

Quarterback Deondre Francois is the team’s third-leading rusher with 189 yards and four touchdowns, though that includes the yards lost on more than 30 sacks. He has been much more dangerous through the air with a 60.6 percent completion rate for 3,128 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. The redshirt freshman had his two worst performances in the losses to Louisville and Clemson, completing just 24-of-53 passes (45.2 percent) for 387 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. His next worst performance came against Florida’s third-ranked pass defense, which held him to just 138 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 57.7 passing. Of the teams he had big games against, none ranks higher than 35th in pass efficiency defense. Florida and Clemson have pass defenses similar to Michigan’s caliber, so that bodes well for the Wolverines.

Junior Travis Rudolph is the team’s leading receiver with 807 yards and seven touchdowns on 53 receptions, nearly identical to Amara Darboh’s output this season (826 yards, seven touchdowns, 52 receptions). Rudolph had a monster game against Wake Forest with 13 catches for 238 yards, but averaged fewer than four catches per game in the other 11 games. Senior Kermit Whitfield has 33 catches for 372 yards, but has found the end zone just once this season, while sophomore Auden Tate leads all regular receivers with 16.4 yards per catch. He has 409 yards and six touchdowns on just 25 receptions. Senior Jesus Wilson is the other receiver of note with 30 receptions for 390 yards and one score.

The offensive line has been lackluster this season, ranking 108th nationally with 34 sacks allowed, which is nearly double the 18 that Michigan has given up. Junior left tackle Roderick Johnson is the best of the bunch as a first-team All-ACC performer each of the past two seasons.

When Michigan has the ball

Florida State’s defense isn’t quite as good as the offense. Charles Kelly’s squad ranks 29th nationally in total defense (357.2 yards per game), 41st in scoring defense (24.4 points per game), 38th in rush defense (131.2 yards per game), and 68th in pass defense (225.9 yards per game). But like the offense, the Seminoles’ defense looks much better according to S&P+ which ranks them 18th nationally.

There’s no question who the star of the defense is. Senior strong side defensive end Demarcus Walker leads the nation with 15 sacks and was a second-team AP All-American. He also leads the team with 64 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. But he’s not the only stud on the line. Freshman weak side end Brian Burns has 9.5 sacks of his own, which is one more than Michigan’s leader, Taco Charlton. On the interior, junior nose guard Derrick Nandi has 5.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and 44 total tackles, which ranks fifth on the team.

Behind the line is a bunch of athleticism that hasn’t produced at a high level just yet. The linebackers are okay, lead by sophomore Buck linebacker Josh Sweat, who has 38 tackles, 10 for loss, 5.5 sacks, and a team-high six quarterback hurries. Will linebacker Matthew Thomas is the second-leading tackler with 62 and has 7.5 behind the line of scrimmage, while redshirt junior Mike linebacker Ro’Derrick Hoskins has 45 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Sam linebacker Jacob Pugh has the second most sacks of the linebacking corps with 3.5.

The secondary is the weakest link. Sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden is a good corner with plenty of upside and makes plenty of plays. He lead the team with eight interceptions (which also leads the nation), 13 passes defended, and five pass breakups. He’ll be a touch matchup for Darboh and at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds he has the size to stack up. After McFadden, things go downhill. The other starting corner is senior Marquez White, who has 22 tackles, two interceptions, and three pass breakups. The safeties, sophomore A.J. Westbrook and junior Trey Marshall have a combined 86 tackles, three for loss, one sack, and seven pass breakups. Neither are more than average.

The other third

Freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo made 17-of-24 attempts this season with a long of 47, but was pulled in favor of fellow freshman Logan Tyler after missing two of three against Florida. Tyler hit 1-of-2 this season, though that one was from 53 yards out. Tyler is the team’s punter, averaging just 40.6 yards per punt. He has downed 11 of 46 punts inside the 20 with two touchbacks. He has only allowed 13 punt returns, but opponents have averaged 21.5 yards per return, so if Jabrill Peppers gets one that is returnable, it could be a game-changer.

Whitfield is the main kick returner, averaging 22.9 yards per return. Wilson is the main punt returner with an average of 17.2 yards and one return for touchdown.


Unless Michigan’s offensive line has improved significantly over the past month, it’s going to be difficult to get a consistent running game against Florida State’s defensive front. As Josh detailed in yesterdays The Numbers Game, FSU is susceptible to the big play, so it’s likely that Michigan will move the ball in fits and spurts rather than with much consistency. And it’s also likely that it will be mostly through the air against a Florida State pass defense that has allowed half of its opponents to throw for more than 200 yards. Walker will probably wreck a drive or two, but if Wilton Speight is healthy after a month off he can carve apart the Florida State secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will have to stop — or at least slow down — Cook. We shouldn’t be too worried about Francois and the passing game beating Michigan’s top-ranked pass defense. But Cook will present some issues in the passing game out of the backfield. Michigan’s defense has had a knack for giving up big plays to running backs out of the backfield this season and Cook is the best they’ve faced this season. Don Brown faced Cook last season when he was at Boston College and held him to just 54 yards on 15 carries and two catches for three yards. If he can draw up a game plan to come close to repeating that performance Michigan will win. If the Michigan defense can stuff Cook on first and second down consistently, letting the pass rush loose on the porous FSU offensive line, it will be a big day for the Wolverines.

Overall, I see a game dominated by the defensive lines both ways, preventing either team from rushing consistently. Both teams will hit some big plays, but Michigan has the edge in the passing game and also on special teams. Expect a close game throughout with Michigan pulling it out late in the game.

Michigan 31 – Florida State 23

The Numbers Game: Michigan big-play offense looks to bounce back vs susceptible FSU big-play defense

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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, U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss, U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game, U-M big play offense fizzles, defense holds Bucks below average

This bowl edition of The Numbers Game will be an abbreviated one. We already looked back at the Ohio State game and since neither Michigan or Florida State played a conference championship game we’re going to use the end of regular season numbers for our rankings. We’ll have an end of season edition too and do a look back on Year 1 of Jim Harbaugh versus Year 2 after Alabama beats Clemson, again, the title game.

We already covered Michigan’s full regular season numbers but here’s a refresher.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 83 45 128 14.71% 4.67% 59
2015 43 42 85 10.25% -0.70% -4

For the 2016 regular season the Michigan offense averaged 6.92 explosive runs per game (27th nationally) and 3.75 explosive passes (46th) for a total of 10.67 explosive plays per game (24th), a big play percentage of 14.71 percent (28th), and a total toxic differential of 59, good for 8th on a per game basis.

If you recall, the past two seasons have featured playoff teams that are excellent in the toxic differential number. This year was no different with Alabama, Ohio State, and Washington all being in the top four. Clemson was this year’s outlier at 31st. Michigan fared well in this metric (8th) but came up just short. Still, it bodes well going forward as they were 77th at the end of 2015. No wonder every NFL team with an opening is pining for Jim Harbaugh. But I digress…

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.33 1.92 6.25 10.04% 4.67% 59
2015 4.67 2.25 6.92 10.95% -0.70% -4

Michigan’s defense averaged 4.33 explosive runs per game allowed (34th) and 1.92 explosive passes (2nd) for a total of 6.25 explosive plays per game (9th). Their big play against percentage was 10.04 percent and their big play differential was 4.67 percent (16th).

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan finished the regular season with 44 total sacks at 3.67 per game. Both rank second nationally. Their 114 total TFLs and 9.5 per game are both first overall. They are the only team to average over nine TFLs per game. They eclipsed their 2015 totals long ago and still have one game left.

Next opponent
Michigan & Florida State offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 83 45 128 14.71% 4.67% 59
FSU Off. 91 50 141 16.08% 2.35% 37
Michigan & Florida State defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 52 23 75 10.04% 4.67% 59
FSU Def. 62 46 108 13.61% 2.35% 37

Florida State is an interesting team. Their offensive line was much maligned in the passing game but they have a top five unit in overall explosive plays. Both units ranking in the top 21 individually with the running game ranking slightly higher than the passing. Both units are ranked better than Michigan.

The Seminoles average 7.58 explosive runs per game (17th) and 4.17 explosive passes per game (21st) for a total of 11.75 explosive plays per game (5th). They are one of only three teams to average at least 7.5 explosive passes and at least four explosive runs per game. West Virginia and Louisville (shocker, I know) were the other two.

They had an impressive big play for percentage of 16.08 percent (9th) and a total toxic differential of 37, good for 24th on a per game basis through the end of the regular season.

On defense, the ‘Noles weren’t quite as impressive, giving up 5.17 explosive runs per game (58th) and 3.83 explosive passes per game (103rd) for a nice even total of nine explosive plays given up per game (71st). If Michigan is to exploit FSU it’s likely going to be through the air, which is odd since no one got to the quarterback more this season (on a per game basis) than Florida State. FSU’s big play against percentage was 13.61 percent (96th) and their big play differential was 2.35 percent (36th).

As just mentioned, FSU was the best unit at getting to the quarterback, averaging 3.92 sacks per game but they tallied just 79 total tackles for loss, good for 6.58 per game. So what does this mean? They’re very good at pass rushing but likely not so good at stopping the run behind the line.

This game has the makings of a defensive struggle, with both teams fielding excellent units. FSU has the better playmaker, Dalvin Cook, but Michigan has several weapons with which to attack. Should be a good one. Go Blue!

Five-Spot Challenge: Florida State

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Congratulations to Maizenblu62 for his first Five-Spot Challenge win of the season the week of the Ohio State game. His deviation of 252.2 narrowly beat boggie‘s 257.8. Maizenblu62 wasn’t the closest to any single question, but was consistent across the board. His prediction of 112 for Wilton Speight’s quarterback rating was second-closest, his prediction of 145 Ohio State first-half yards was third closest, and his guess if 85 was just five away from the uniform number (or combination) of Michigan’s first touchdown. He wins a prize box of product from our sponsors, Lane’s BBQCultivate Coffee & Tap House, and Chayder Grilling Company.

Grahambino, kashkaav, Michigan Mack, HTTV137, and saline_ian all correctly predicted that Khalid Hill (80) would score Michigan’s first touchdown. Sistersueblue was just two away from Jabrill Peppers’ all-purpose yards (69). koakley@BIGLOTS.COM was just 10 away from J.T. Barrett’s rushing yards (125), was the only one to correctly predict that it would take at least 60 minutes for Michigan to reach 20 points, and was only one away from Michigan’s longest rush (16 yards). TheZachster was the closest to OSU’s first-half yards (145, 49 away). Boggie was just two away from Curtis Samuel’s total yards (86). Michigan Mack was only 1.8 away from Speight’s quarterback rating (122.2). JD Mackiewicz correctly predicted that the longest field goal of the game would be 37 yards. Finally, Jaeschke and artayay were both just one away from Peppers’ longest return (44 yards).

The weekly results and season standings have been updated.

Michigan returns to action on Friday against Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Here are this week’s picks.

First Look: #11 Florida State

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Michigan may be one of the four best teams in the country, but just missed out on a College Football Playoff spot after losing two of their final three games. On Friday, the Wolverines have a chance to make a statement that they deserved to be selected.

When Michigan narrowly lost by three to Ohio State in the 2006 “Game of the Century” and didn’t get awarded a rematch in the BCS National Championship game they mailed in their Rose Bowl matchup against USC, falling 32-18 in a largely uncompetitive game. It’s hard to see Jim Harbaugh letting that happen with a senior-laden squad this season.

Florida State comes in with a 9-3 record overall and 5-3 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Seminoles lost by 43 points to Louisville in Week 3 and then suffered a bad loss at home to North Carolina, but played Clemson tough — falling 37-34 — and won their final four games, most notably a 31-13 thumping of rival Florida.

Let’s take a look at how the teams compare through the regular season.

Florida State & Michigan statistical comparison
Florida State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 35.2 | 41.0 32 12
24.4 12.5 41 2
Rushing Yards 2,481 2,679 1,575 1,401
Rush Avg. Per Game 206.8 223.2 38 30
131.2 116.8 38 13
Avg. Per Rush 5.1 | 5.0
3.7 3.1
Passing Yards 3,211 2,593 2,711 1,631
Pass Avg. Per Game 267.6 216.1 29 81 225.9 135.9 68 1
Total Offense 5,692 5,272 4,286 3,032
Total Off Avg. Per Game 474.3 439.3 24 46 357.2 252.7 29 2
Kick Return Average 21.2 18.6 52 108 17.9 21.0 13 | 74
Punt Return Average 8.3 15.6 59 | 8 21.5 7.3 127 57
Avg. Time of Possession 33:31 32:57 12 16 26:29 | 27:03
3rd Down Conversion Pct 46% | 44% 23 | 34
34% | 21.0% 16 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 34-279| 18-119
108 27
47-292 44-274 1 2
Touchdowns Scored 53 63
37 | 18
Field Goals-Attempts 18-26 16-21
12-17 | 8-16
Red Zone Scores (52-54) 96%|(58-64) 91% 1 | 15
(32-41) 78%|(17-25) 68% 29 2
Red Zone Touchdowns (41-54) 76%|(43-64) 67% (25-41) 61%|(11-25 44%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 40.4 36.1 6 26 21.0 | 5.1 18 1

Statistically speaking, Florida State is probably the second best team Michigan has faced this season behind Ohio State. That’s debatable, as a case could be made for Wisconsin or Penn State (now, not at the time they played) but the Seminoles do rank ninth in S&P+, ahead of Penn State (12th) and Wisconsin (16th).

Offensively, Florida State ranks 24th nationally in total offense (474.3 yards per game), 32nd in scoring (35.2 points per game), 38th in rushing (206.8 yards per game), and 29th in passing (267.6 yards per game). Although the running game as a whole is good but not great — statistically, it’s about equal to Maryland’s (averaging about a yard more per game) — it does feature one of the nation’s top running backs in junior Dalvin Cook, who ranks eighth nationally with 1,620 rushing yards.

Cook has accounted for 65 percent of FSU’s rushing yards so far this season. By comparison, Michigan’s leading rusher, De’Veon Smith, has accounted for just 30 percent of the Wolverines’ yards on the ground. Cook’s percentage is roughly equal to that of Smith, Chris Evans, and Karan Higdon combined.

Florida State had just four games in which they rushed for at least 200 yards during the regular season (Michigan had six). The Seminoles had a high of 478 rushing yards against USF’s 92nd-ranked rush defense and had 334 against Syracuse’s 108th-ranked rush defense. But they did close the regular season with 249 yards on 6.2 yards per carry against Florida’s respectable 35th-ranked rush defense.

As a whole, the FSU passing game is much better with nine of 12 games over 200 yards passing, five games over 300 yards, and one over 400. By comparison, Michigan’s passing game had eight, two, and zero this season. The season high of 419 passing yards came in a season opening win over Ole Miss. They also put up 372 passing yards on a season-high 11.6 yards per attempt against North Carolina’s 14th-ranked pass defense. It was by far the most passing yards the Tarheels allowed all season, about one-third more than the next closest, James Madison’s 286. UNC held seven of 12 opponents below 200 yards passing. Against a pass defense comparable to Michigan’s (Florida), Florida State managed just 138 yards on 15-of-26 passing with one touchdown and one interception.

One major area in which Michigan can exploit is the Florida State offensive line, which ranks 108th nationally in sacks allowed. They’ve given up nearly twice as many sacks as Michigan’s offensive line has this season (34 compared to 18), an average of almost three per game. Michigan’s defense ranks second in the nation in sacks, so count on defensive coordinator Don Brown to dial up some pressure on quarterback Deondre Francois.

Defensively, like offensively, the advanced stats like Florida State more than the traditional stats do. The Seminoles rank 29th nationally in total defense (357.2 yards per game), 41st in scoring defense (24.4 points per game), 38th in rush defense (131.2 yards per game), and 68th in pass defense (225.9 yards per game). None of those rankings is indicative of a top-10 team, but FSU’s defense ranks a more respectable 18th according to S&P+. Four of Michigan’s opponents this season — Ohio State (3rd), Wisconsin (5th), Colorado (11th), Iowa (12th), and Penn State (16th) — rank higher but it still means FSU has a very good defense.

It’s lead by the defensive line and most notably senior defensive end Demarcus Walker, who leads the nation with 15 sacks and ranks 18th nationally with an average of 1.5 tackles for loss per game. Fellow end Brian Burns has 9.5 sacks of his own, which is one more than Michigan’s leader, Taco Charlton. As a team, FSU leads the nation with 47 sacks — three more than Michigan.

But when the Seminoles don’t make it to the quarterback, they struggle to stop the pass. Six of 12 opponents have topped 200 yards passing and four of those topped 300 yards. One — North Carolina — threw for 405 yards, their third-highest of the season. Clemson had its second-best passing game of the season and best in terms of yards per attempts (14.0) against the ‘Noles with 378 yards. Michigan’s defense allowed two 200-yard passing games to Colorado and Maryland and none higher than the Terrapins’ 289 yards.

The rush defense is slightly better, having held six of 12 opponents under 100 yards rushing. They did give up 314 rushing yards to Louisville and 290 to USF in back to back weeks early in the season, but in their last eight games, their opponents topped 100 yards just twice with a high of 165 yards. They allowed just 77.4 yards per game over that span.

But that should be said with a caveat. In the last eight games of the season, FSU faced a lot of bad rushing offenses. Clemson’s 67th-ranked rush offense was the best they faced and the eight opponents averaged the nation’s 96th-best rushing offense. Those two that rushed for a combined 604 yards on 6.9 yards per carry? They rank 11th and 5th in rushing offense. Michigan’s running game isn’t quite on that level, but the Wolverine’s 30th-ranked rushing offense is considerably better than any of the final eight teams that FSU’s defense shut down.

Overall, Florida State is a dangerous team that should absolutely not be taken lightly. Just because Michigan descended on the Sunshine State and whooped the Florida Gators in last year’s Capital One Bowl doesn’t mean they’ll do the same to the Gators’ rival on Friday. Florida State is a more complete game than Florida was a year ago and they’re filled with young talent that will make the Seminoles a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. Michigan has the edge in experience and is probably the better team, but FSU has the athletes to make Michigan pay if they don’t come to play.

Michigan to face Florida State in Orange Bowl

Sunday, December 4th, 2016


Michigan missed out on the College Football Playoff, but still earned a spot in one of the prestigious New Years Six bowl games and gets an intriguing matchup against another traditional power. The Wolverines will face 11th-ranked Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

Meet the teams

At this time two years ago Michigan’s season was over and a coaching search was just beginning. The Wolverines would watch rival Ohio State run the table to a national championship, but not before luring Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL.dalvin-cook

In a short two years, Harbaugh has transformed the culture of the program the way his mentor, Bo Schembechler, did 45 years prior. Harbaugh proceeded to double Michigan’s win total in his first season and then match that again this fall, and on Dec. 30 he has a chance to improve upon that with an 11th win for just the 10th time in program history. In fact, it would be just the seventh time in program history that the Wolverines won at least 21 games in a two-year span.

Yet, the Orange Bowl feels like a letdown. Michigan had a legitimate argument for an inclusion in the College Football Playoff with two losses, both on the road and both on the last play of the game, by a combined four points, and as many top-10 wins as any team in the country. But when the CFP committee released its rankings on Sunday afternoon, one of those losses proved too much to overcome ACC champion Clemson and Pac-12 champion Washington, both of which had just one loss.

When Michigan got left out of the BCS championship game following the 2006 season they saw the Rose Bowl matchup with USC as a consolation prize and played like they didn’t want to be there. USC won 32-18. This time around, they’re taking the perceived snub as a chance to make a statement against another college football blueblood.

Florida State began the season ranked fourth nationally and quickly ascended to second after knocking off Ole Miss and Charleston Southern. Then, they ran into Louisville and the Cardinals kicked off a 3-3 stretch that saw FSU also lose to North Carolina and Clemson wrapped around wins over USF, Miami, and Wake Forest.

The Seminoles won four straight to close the season, topping N.C. State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Florida to climb back to the cusp of the top 10 entering bowl season.

Scouting report

As a team, Florida State’s offense ranks 24th nationally in total offense (345.1 yards per game), 32nd in scoring offense (35.3 points per game), 39th in rushing (206.8 yards per game), and 29th in passing (267.6 yards per game). The main weakness is the offensive line, which has allowed 34 sacks — the same number as Rutgers and more than only 16 teams nationally.

FSU is lead by junior running back Dalvin Cook, the nation’s seventh-leading rusher, who averages 135 yards per game. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in eight of the last nine games with two of those over 200.

Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois ranks 30th nationally with 260.7 passing yards per game and 36th nationally with a pass efficiency of 143.7 — one spot behind Wilton Speight.

Florida State’s defense ranks 29th nationally in total defense (357.2 yards per game), 43rd in scoring (24.4 points per game), 27th against the run (131.3 yards per game), and 65th against the pass (225.9 yards per game). Although those numbers aren’t great, the Seminoles are 16th in third-down defense (33.8 percent) and they lead the nation with 47 sacks — three more than Michigan.

Senior defensive end Demarcus Walker leads the nation with 15 sacks (14 solo) and ranks 18th with 17.5 tackles for loss. He’ll be a handful for Michigan’s offensive line.

Way too early prediction

Michigan opened as a 6.5 point favorite and should have a fully healthy offense with Wilton Speight getting a month to heal his left shoulder. That should allow the offense to function at full capacity — it’s clear that it wasn’t at Ohio State a week ago. Florida State’s pass defense has surrendered over 200 yards in half of their contests and over 300 yards four times. By comparison, Michigan’s defense has allowed over 200 yards passing twice with a high of 281 against Maryland. With a fully healthy Speight, I like Michigan’s chances of moving the ball.

Defensively, Michigan’s defense has done a good job this season of shutting down individual running backs. Cook may be the best they’ve faced this season, but they held Saquon Barkley to 59 yards on 15 carries, Corey Clement to 68 yards on 17 carries, and Mike Weber to 26 yards on 11 carries. L.J. Scott managed 139 yards, but that’s an outlier against 11 others. Francois isn’t a major threat to run the ball, so the Wolverines won’t have the same issues they faced against Ohio State. And Michigan boasts the nation’s best pass defense, allowing just 135.9 yards per game. With their pass rush and FSU’s porous offensive line, Francois won’t have much time to throw the ball.

Michigan has an edge on both sides of the ball and — like last year — it’s hard to pick against Harbaugh with a month to prepare. The Wolverines entered last year’s Citrus Bowl hoping to beat Florida and they demolished the Gators. I don’t expect as big a margin this time around, but there’s no reason not to expect a Michigan win.

A Wish List for Future Non-Conference Opponents

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

This article is inspired by a similar article written by the Detroit News’ Angelique Chengelis.

As spring practice nears its midway point and the college basketball and hockey seasons come to a close, I can’t help but look ahead to August. August is when every recruit is on campus, not just the early-enrolling freshmen, battling in the sweltering heat to get ready for the impending season. It’s also when the magazines put out their college football preview issues chalk full of team breakdowns and predictions.

While I can’t wait for August to roll around and the season opener against Connecticut to kick off on September 4, I want to look ahead even further. Further even than next season. I’d like to present my bucket-list, if you will, of teams Michigan should schedule for out-of-conference games in the future.

The winds of change are sweeping through the Michigan athletic department with Dave Brandon, the former Domino’s Pizza CEO, taking over the Athletic Director post. Brandon, who played at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, has already steadfastly stood in front of reporters deflecting questions on the impending NCAA violations and announced that the first-ever night game in the Big House will take place in 2011 against Notre Dame.

Michigan AD Dave Brandon

Michigan AD Dave Brandon

With the shift in football philosophy the past couple of years away from the traditional pro-style offense to the spread-option attack of Rich Rodriguez, this isn’t your same old Michigan football anymore. Whether you think that to be good or bad, it’s the present reality.

Even the tradition has undergone a bit of a change as of late. The gameday music has shifted to less of the Michigan Marching Band and to more piped-in electronic music. The secrecy from inside “The Fort,” (Michigan’s practice facility, Schembechler Hall) has transformed into what some feel to be too much openness. Heck, maybe president Obama could use a few pointers from this coaching staff on openness.

Biggest of all, on September 4, the newly renovated Big House, complete with luxury boxes and giant brick façades on either side, will open up, signaling a departure from Michigan football as we knew it and an entrance into big-time, money-making college football. The only piece of tradition Michigan Stadium still holds onto is the lack of corporate advertising inside the stadium.

For a while, I resisted the changes. But time has a way of easing those concerns, and now I welcome them with open arms. I’ll always hold dear the days of Schembechler and Lloyd Carr. Yet I can hardly contain myself thinking about the possibilities of getting back to Michigan’s dominating fashion, but doing it in a 21st Century way.

The past couple of seasons have been hard to watch. Whether it was Sam McGuffie getting decapitated against Ohio State or Tate Forcier throwing an interception in overtime against Michigan State or the defense failing to stop, well, anyone, the past two seasons have been abysmal. 2010 presents a seemingly make-or-break year for Rodriguez, so having the usual suspects on the schedule (Notre Dame and a couple of cupcakes) is a welcome sign. Connecticut won’t be a push-over, but at least it’s not a power-conference rival opening the season.

Once we get back to the level of play one would expect from the nation’s all-time winningest team, whether it’s with Rodriguez at the helm or not (but hopefully with), I’d like to see the schedule take a departure from the usual Mid-American Conference cupcake feast to the meat and potatoes of the college football land.

So, I present to you, my wish-list for future non-conference opponents.

1. Florida

This shouldn’t come as any surprise. Michigan fans despise Florida. The Big Ten despises Florida. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) stops at nothing to brag, rightfully or wrongfully about its college football supremacy in the past decade.

Michigan is 2-0 vs. Florida

Michigan is 2-0 vs. Florida

Head-to-head in bowl games since 2000, the SEC has won 15 and the Big Ten has won 14. However, head-to-head in BCS games, the SEC has a 3-1 advantage, and the SEC has claimed five national championships to the Big Ten’s one.

Michigan has done its part, going 5-1 against the SEC during that time, including 2-0 against Florida, both in the Gators’ back yard. In fact, Michigan has always done well against the SEC, compiling an all-time record of 20-5-1. Ten of those wins were against Vanderbilt, and Michigan has never played LSU or Mississippi State. The only school that has a winning record over Michigan is Tennessee, which pounded Michigan 45-17 in the 2002 Citrus Bowl.

Just think: Florida traveling to Ann Arbor or Michigan playing in the Swamp in a September showdown. Urban Meyer vs. Rich Rodriguez (assuming Rodriguez doesn’t get fired and Meyer doesn’t actually retire). The mastermind of the modern spread-option offense against the guy who’s used a version of it to claim two of the past four national championships. SEC speed vs…..SEC speed in the Big Ten?

It has all the makings of a huge game and Brandon should make it happen as soon as possible. The only problem? It would take a lot of convincing to get Florida to travel outside of the south for a non-conference game.

Since 1990, Florida has played 68 non-conference games. All but one of those were in the state of Florida and 56 of the 68 were home games. Of the 12 road games, 10 were at Florida State, one was at Miami, and the lone out-of-state game was a loss at Syracuse in 1991.

In other words, Florida hasn’t traveled more than 337 miles for an out-of-conference game in 19 years.

Getting Athletics Director Jeremy Foley to agree to travel the 1,033 miles to Ann Arbor will likely require Brandon to agree to travel to Gainesville twice, give up his first-born, and supply Foley a lifetime of free pizza.

But here’s to hoping.

2. LSU

Michigan has never played LSU, but with the recent success of the Tigers, and former Michigan player and assistant coach Les Miles at the helm, a match-up would be compelling.

As described above, Michigan has enjoyed incredible success against teams from the SEC, but this would be the first-ever game between the schools.

Imagine the possibilities: Miles, who was the undeniable favorite amongst Michigan fans and alums to replace Lloyd Carr, returning to the Big House, not as the coach, but as the opponent.

Or Michigan traveling to Baton Rouge for a night game in Death Valley, where LSU is 209-59-4 in night games since 1960.

This is probably more likely to happen than Florida, as LSU is willing to travel outside of its friendly confines.

The Tigers visited Washington last year, Arizona State in 2005, Arizona in 2003, Virginia Tech in 2002 and Notre Dame in 1998.

A home-and-home with Michigan would be compelling, whether Miles was still at LSU, or Michigan fired Rodriguez and hired Miles to replace him.

3. Oklahoma

The Sooners get the nod for the third spot on my wish list because they are one of the few schools that Michigan has a losing record against.

The teams’ only meeting was the 1975 Orange Bowl. The Barry Switzer-led Sooners beat Michigan 14-6 to claim a second straight national championship.

Michigan hasn’t fared as well against the Big 12 in the past couple of decades as it has against the SEC, going 2-4 since 1990.

Oklahoma has been one of the best teams of the past decade, playing in four of the past 10 championship games and winning the national title in 2000, and featuring two of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners.

Bringing the Sooners to Ann Arbor would be a huge draw as the all-time winningest college football team takes on the fourth-best in an early-season matchup.

It would be the spread-n-shred against traditional power football and certainly have national championship ramifications for the winner.

4. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech has also been one of the best programs of the past decade and, like LSU, is an opponent that Michigan has never faced.

Tech doesn’t have the history of the others, but may represent college football in the 21st century more than any other team in the nation.

It was Virginia Tech that showed what the spread offense can do, when quarterback Michael Vick led the Hokies to the BCS National Championship game in 1999.

Coach Frank Beamer’s team has been one of the most exciting teams to watch with dominating special teams, and never shying away from playing big-time opponents.

Last season, Virginia Tech played Alabama and Nebraska in the non-conference schedule. In 2007, Tech traveled to LSU and in 2004, it hosted No. 1 USC.

A home-and-home would make sense regionally, because it wouldn’t be too far of a travel for either team. Night games in Blacksburg have dominated ESPN the past few years, and seeing the blue jerseys and winged helmets contrasted with the all-white with maroon trim of Virginia Tech would certainly be a sight worth seeing.

5. Miami

Miami has been down the past couple of seasons, but like Michigan, seem to be back on the upswing. The teams have faced off twice before, both in the 1980s during the Jimmy Johnson era.Miami Hurricanes Logo Pictures, Images and Photos

In 1988, No.1 Miami needed an onside kick and a two-point conversion in the final six minutes to cap a 17-point comeback, beating Michigan 31-30 in the Big House.

Michigan won the first meeting 22-14 in 1984.

Rodriguez has recruited the Miami area heavily since taking over in 2008, so the game would make sense recruiting-wise for Michigan as many of the players would be able to play in front of friends and family when Michigan returns the trip.

Eight players on Michigan’s roster this spring are from south Florida and three more arrive in time for fall camp.

Miami puts as many players into the NFL as any school in the country and a matchup between the two schools would surely be an instant classic.

Honorable Mention:

1. West Virginia – But only if Rodriguez is still the coach at Michigan and leads them back to challenging for national championships.

2. Texas – The only meeting between the two was the 2006 Rose Bowl, which Texas won on a last-second field goal. The only reason I don’t have this higher on my list is because Ohio State just had a home-and-home with Texas.

3. Alabama – Nick Saban has built Alabama into a powerhouse in just a couple of years. The reigning national champs would make for a great matchup with Michigan. Michigan was 3-2 against Saban when he was head coach at Michigan State.

4. Florida State – Like Miami, Michigan and Florida State have met just twice, with each side winning once. In 1991, FSU rolled up 51 points, the most ever by an opponent in the Big House at the time. With FSU under the new leadership of Jimbo Fisher, a home-and-home with Michigan should be scheduled soon.

5. Stanford – Stanford is on its way up thanks to head coach and former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The programs have met 10 times before, with Michigan winning six, but the last time was in 1976. Like West Virginia, I only like this matchup if Harbaugh is still at Stanford.

6. Boise State – This one is more for the novelty. Boise State has been the “Cinderella” of the decade, knocking off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and finishing 14-0 last season. Many have complained that BSU doesn’t play anybody out-of-conference, so if Michigan was willing, the Broncos would listen. Plus, the winged helmet on the smurf turf would be fun.

It’s unlikely that any of these out-of-conference matchups will happen at least until Michigan’s rivalry with Notre Dame takes a two-year break in 2018-19, but it would be fun to see, especially once Michigan gets back to being, well, Michigan.

In the meantime, however, I’m happy with a diet of cupcakes to help the young Wolverines grow up.