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Posts Tagged ‘Kansas State’

Five-Spot Challenge: (Belated) Kansas State results

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014


Night game

Football season ended a month and a half ago with a loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and since we all wanted to put that one out of our memories as quickly as possible, now seems like as good a time as any to go back and hand out the prizes for the Five-Spot Challenge.

Congratulations to first-time contestant IceStormed for winning the bowl edition. His total deviation of 218 was a dominant performance over the other 13 challengers. While he wasn’t the closest on any single question, his deviations were consistently low throughout. He was only 16 away from Shane Morris’ passing yards, seven away from Tyler Lockett’s receiving yards, nine away from Jeremy Gallon’s receiving yards, and 65 off of the total combined offensive yards. For his win, IceStormed gets a $20 gift card to The M Den.

Ebenszac came in second, 61 points behind IceStormed. His prediction of 718 total offensive yards was the closest, only 37 away from the actual of 681. HTTV134 and BigHouseBrandon tied for third, just four points behind ebenszac. Myrick55 and Jim Mackiewicz were each the closest to Morris’ passing yards, just four away, while Myrick55 was also the closest to Lockett’s receiving yards (two away) and Michigan’s longest field goal made (one away). However, he underestimated the combined offensive yards and that hurt his chances of winning the week.

No one correctly predicted the final score, though IceStormed was close with his prediction of 27-13 Kansas State. The average combined score among the 14 contestants was Michigan 31 – Kansas State 26. Ten of the 14 picked Michigan to win.

Congratulations is also in order to the full season winner, Maizenblu62. His season-long point total of 156.5 topped HTTV134′s 147. Jim Mackiewicz came in third at 143, while ebenszac (135) and freezer566 (132) rounded out the top five. Maizenblu62 wins a pair of tickets to the 2014 season opener against Appalachian State. I will be in touch via email to work out the details.

The Kansas State results and the full season standings have been updated.

Thanks for playing the third season of the Five-Spot Challenge! We hope you enjoyed it. We had a total of 12 different weekly winners and awarded $270 worth of M Den gift cards throughout the season in addition to a pair of tickets to the 2014 season opener. Feel free to send us your feedback on what we can do to make the game even better as we head into next season. You can leave a comment below or shoot us an email at maizeandgoblue@yahoo.com.

Mercifully over: Kansas State 31 – Michigan 14

Sunday, December 29th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

If season’s end had come on Nov. 30 Michigan would have entered the offseason with at least some semblance of hope. No, the Wolverines didn’t beat Ohio State and no, there are no moral victories, but their inspired performance left reason for hope. Instead, the season officially, mercifully, came to a close on Saturday with a game it didn’t want to be in and a lackluster performance that did nothing but erase any goodwill earned in the game prior.

Michigan and Kansas State entered with identical 7-5 records, but it was painfully obvious that not all 7-5s are equal. One team played like it was there to take care of business while the other like it had already mailed it in.

Final Stats
Michigan Kansas State
Score 14 31
Record 7-6 8-5
Total Yards 261 420
Net Rushing Yards 65 149
Net Passing Yards 196 271
First Downs 15 21
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties-Yards 6-39 6-64
Punts-Yards 5-204 1-45
Time of Possession 24:56 34:00
Third Down Conversions 4-of-11 7-of-11
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 2-11 1-2
Field Goals 2-for-2 1-for-2
PATs 0-for-0 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 4-of-4
Full Box Score

By late fourth quarter, Michigan fans were reduced to simply hoping the Wolverines would get the ball back one more time to allow Jeremy Gallon to break Michigan’s single-season receiving record. But even that felt hollow in the face of an underachieving season.

Gallon and Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield finished their careers surrounded on offense by kids as Devin Gardner looked on from the sidelines, supported by crutches.

Shane Morris, making his first career start – just the sixth true freshman quarterback to do so in Michigan history – looked poised and showed off a strong arm. Sometimes he was a second late, sometimes his throws were a little off, but many times he went through his progressions, stepped up into the pocket, and delivered a strike in a way that looked more like a seasoned veteran than a kid less than a year removed from high school.

That was one of few bright spots. There was no running game. Michigan’s running backs combined for 13 yards on eight carries. Morris finished as the Wolverines’ leading rusher with 43 yards, 40 of which coming on a long run late in the fourth. It was Michigan’s longest run of the season.

The defense gave up touchdown drives of 14 plays, 75 yards; five plays, 60 yards; and four plays, 59 yards in the first half. All culminated in touchdown passes from Jake Waters to Tyler Lockett, who routinely burnt Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor en route to 116 yards on 10 receptions. John Hubert had wide open holes up the middle all night long, just like Carlos Hyde did a month ago, finishing with 80 yards on 16 carries. Waters had all day to throw, calmly completing 21-of-27 for 271 yards and three touchdowns, and when things broke down, he picked up yards – and first downs – with his legs.

When all was said and done, Michigan ended its season with a thoroughly disappointing 7-6 record, continuing the decline through Hoke’s first three seasons from 11-2 to 8-5 to 7-6. Michigan finished the season with the eighth highest point total in program history, but while it averaged nearly 48 points per game in its top six scoring games, it averaged a meager 19 in its other seven. Defensively, Michigan started the season with just seven touchdowns allowed through five games, but gave up 30 in the final eight, resulting in the second most points allowed in program history.

Aside from individual accolades like Gallon’s receiving record and Lewan’s Rimington-Pace award, the season was a failure by every measure. The good news is that aside from Gallon and Lewan, the vast majority of Michigan’s key players return next season. The bad news is the schedule sends the Wolverines to South Bend, East Lansing, and Columbus and Michigan hosts a Utah squad that knocked off Stanford this season.

Hoke will have some big decisions to make in the offseason, likely choosing between moving in another direction at offensive coordinator with hopes of saving his own job or sticking with Al Borges for better or worse. And three years removed from the Rich Rodriguez era, that’s not a good place to be. But at least, mercifully, this season is over.

M&GB staff predictions: Kansas State

Friday, December 27th, 2013


On Thursday morning, the Phoenix Zoo set out two boxes with equal amounts of ground beef in each one in the Sumatran tiger habitat. On one box was the Michigan logo and on the other was the Kansas State logo. With a large crowd looking on, the tiger went straight to the K-State box and devoured the beef. Last year, she was 2-0 with his picks, so if her prediction prowess holds true, K-State should win. Let’s just hope Shane Morris isn’t as easily devoured by the Wildcat defensive line. Let’s take a look at our predictions:

Justin: Shane Morris makes his first career start against one of the nation’s best defensive ends, Ryan Mueller, who ranks in the top ten nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss. It will be up to Taylor Lewan, making his 48th and final start, to neutralize Mueller, and the rest of Michigan’s much-maligned offensive line to do the rest. Unfortunately, Kansas State’s defense is solid and that’s not good for a true freshman signal caller.

Defensively, Michigan will need to force turnovers and hold the Wildcats below their season average of 33 points. In five losses, K-State was held to an average of just 25 points. That’s about what it will take for Michigan to have a chance. But the Wildcats have a good running back, John Hubert, and a very good receiver, Tyler Lockett, as well as a two-headed monster at quarterback, both of which are capable runners. That’s enough to keep Michigan’s defense off balance.

Expect a close game, but K-State will be too much down the stretch.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Kansas State
Justin 27 33
Chris 21 30
Josh 38 24
Sam 17 31
Derick 21 28
Katie 21 31
Drew 17 27
M&GB Average 23 29

Kansas State 33 – Michigan 27

Chris: Kansas State 30 – Michigan 21

Josh: Please see yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan 38 – Kansas State 24

Sam: With the recent news that Devin Gardner broke his foot playing against Ohio State and will not play against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Michigan will be the underdog once again come Saturday night.

Michigan’s run game, which has struggled mightily for large portions of this season, will be the focus of a Kansas State defense that gives up just 23.7 points per game, and if the Wolverines are to have any chance, true freshman quarterback and first-time starter Shane Morris will need to live up to his recruiting projections quickly. I think running back Derrick Green will be able to find some holes to run behind after Michigan has had nearly a month to prepare for their Big 12 foe, but his increased production will probably be evened out by a less dynamic passing attack.

As in most bowl games, expect to see some trickery thrown in. Michigan will continue to run play action often, especially in this game, but they should also be playing without fear and trying plenty of new stuff. Kansas State could run away with it, but turnovers could also be a calling card for the Maize and Blue. A plus-two turnover margin or better and the Wolverines should find a way to stay in it til the very end.

Either way, I simply think Michigan’s inexperience at the quarterback position will prove too much to overcome. I’ll take the Wildcats.

Kansas State 31 – Michigan 17

Derick: With Shane Morris at the helm of the Michigan offense, who knows how the team will look. Morris has sat out basically two years of football after missing most of his high school senior season with mono. His return will be on the biggest stage of his life.

Michigan is also headed in the opposite direction as Kansas State, who finished the year winning five of six while the Wolverines dropped five of seven.

The outstanding effort against Ohio State has put Michigan fans back in a hopeful frame of mind, but beating a hot team with a true freshman quarterback is a tall order.

For better or worse, Michigan fans will get their first real look at Shane Morris (MGoBlue.com)

Kansas State 28 – Michigan 21

Katie: Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to watching Shane Morris at the helm of the Michigan offense. Devin Gardner played so well against Ohio State, it’s true. But that does not erase the mistakes and fumbling around that was most of the season (and I do realize that the O-line was a terrible liability, and made Gardner’s job much more difficult). Morris had little to no playing time this season because the Wolverines couldn’t close out a game with enough time to put in a backup. Well, he’s got his chance now.

As for how he’ll do. I’m hopeful. Am I expecting a win? No. And after coming so close to beating the Buckeyes a win at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl isn’t all that appealing. Yes, I want to win. However, I would rather give the kid a shot and have a more seasoned backup for next year.

All in all, if Michigan can play a game like the last one, they’ll come away with a win. If Morris looks like a deer in the headlights, it’s likely that the Maize and Blue will end up a disappointing 7-6. The only question is what team will show up? The one that played OSU to within a point, or the one that nearly lost to Akron.

Kansas State 31 – Michigan 21

Drew: The main headline entering tomorrow’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is that starting quarterback Devin Gardner will be unable to play with a broken left foot. This is absolutely devastating news for the Wolverines. Gardner has been the target of many U-M fans’ criticism this season—some of it deserved, most of it not. Those fans would be foolish not to realize that he has been the catalyst for the Wolverines’ offense.

Gardner had one of the best statistical seasons in program history. His 3,443 total yards are the second-most by a Wolverine, trailing only Denard Robinson’s 4,272 in 2010. His 2,960 passing yards also are the second-best, trailing only John Navarre’s 3,331 in 2003. Gardner also accounted for 32 total touchdowns and 21 passing touchdowns, tied for second-most and sixth-most in school history, respectively. Very few backups, if any, can replace the production U-M will miss with Gardner’s absence.

Enter: true freshman Shane Morris. Morris will be the sixth true freshman to start at quarterback in Michigan history. Morris may be inexperienced, attempting only nine passes this season, but he has the potential to be a star. Recruiting services considered Morris a Top 100 recruit in the 2013 class. The question will be if Morris can show that promise tomorrow.

The good news for Morris is precedent. Michigan is 4-1 when one of its true freshmen makes his first career start at quarterback, 3-0 in such situations since 2004. Further, in the past decade, not only did U-M win those games, those three true freshmen played very well, throwing for a total of 411 yards, eight touchdowns, and only one interception.

The bad news for Morris is that he likely will have little help, which the previous three true freshman starters had. Michigan’s rushing offense is ranked #100 out of 123 NCAA FBS teams, averaging only 130.8 yards per game. And that includes the 40.2 rushing yards that Gardner averaged each game. Also, U-M’s offensive line has allowed more tackles-for-loss than any other FBS team. A poor rushing attack and a leaky offensive line? Not the situation a head coach wants to throw his true freshman quarterback into.

Ultimately, to win tomorrow against a Kansas State squad that has won five of its past six games, Michigan will need Morris to carry most of the load by himself. Morris will show flashes of the potential that made him an elite high-school recruit. But it will not be enough. Michigan’s defense will keep it competitive throughout before the Wildcats put it away with a late fourth-quarter touchdown, dropping U-M’s bowl record to 20-23.

Kansas State 27 – Michigan 17

______________________________________________________________________________

Links:

For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Kansas State game preview; a First Look at Kansas State; the Kansas State edition of Friend vs Foe with John Morse of the K-State blog Bring on the Cats; and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Drew (@DrewCHallett) detailed Michigan’s custom of January bowl games and why the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is rare territory for the Wolverines.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewMaize n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue Nation.

From the other side, game preview from Bring on the Cats, as well as their staff predictions.

Finally, I did a story for BTN Live B1G on the clothing company run by former Michigan basketball player David Merritt and the good cause it is helping fund. Check it out and consider purchasing some merchandise to help support underserved youth.

Michigan vs Kansas State game preview

Friday, December 27th, 2013


Nearly a month removed from a near upset of rival Ohio State, that 42-41 loss still stings in the minds of many Michigan faithful as it was the best performance of the season and the Wolverines were one play away from pulling off the thrilling upset. Instead, it sunk the Maize and Blue to a 7-5 regular season finish and left many wondering where that kind of performance had been all season.

Time heals most wounds, but losses to the Buckeyes always hurt. The one thing that can start the healing process is finishing the season with a win to head into the offseason on a high note, and the Wolverines will have a chance to do just that tomorrow.

Quick Facts
Sun Devil Stadium – 10:15pm EST – ESPN
Kansas State Head Coach: Bill Snyder (22nd season)*
Coaching Record: 177-90-1 (all at KSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Del Miller (17th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Hayes (3rd season)
Last Season: 11-2 (8-1, Big 12 Champion)
Last Meeting: First meeting
All-Time Series: First meeting
KSU Bowl Record: 6-10
Last Bowl Game: 2013 Fiesta Bowl (L to Oregon)
U-M Bowl Record: 20-22
Last Bowl Game: 2013 Outback Bowl (L to S. Car.)
*Did not coach from 2006-08

While the last game was full of tradition, when Michigan takes the field on Saturday night it will partake in a couple of firsts. In 134 seasons of football, the Wolverines have never played Kansas State, and since it became a bowl game in 1989, Michigan has never played in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly the Copper Bowl).

The Wolverines have played in 10 different bowl games in 42 all-time appearances prior to Saturday, but none of them have been the BWW Bowl. Thirty-three different teams have played in the game since ’89, including five Big Ten schools, and the conference has a 4-5 all-time record in the bowl. Kansas State, meanwhile, has played in the b0wl twice before, beating Wyoming 52-17 in 1993 and falling to Syracuse 26-3 in 2001.

The Wildcats enter the matchup with an identical 7-5 overall record, but had a winning record (5-4) in the Big 12 Conference. The other loss came in the season opener against defending FCS national champion North Dakota State. K-State blog Bring on the Cats sees a lot of similarities to this year’s KSU team and Michigan circa 2007.

But Kansas State is a much different team now than the one that started off the season with a loss to an FCS school. In fact, the Wildcats either lead or were within one score of Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Oklahoma in the fourth quarter. All four resulted in losses, but that’s how close K-State was to a much better season. Let’s take a closer look at the Wildcats.

Michigan defense vs Kansas State offense: When Kansas State has the ball

K-State averages 33.4 points per game, about half a point fewer than Michigan, but is much more balanced offensively with a solid running game (53rd nationally) and a decent passing game (73rd).

The star of the offense is junior receiver Tyler Lockett. He ranks 17th nationally with 1,146 receiving yards and averages just three yards per game fewer than Jeremy Gallon. At 5’11″, 175 pounds he basically is K-State’s version of Gallon. He had two monster games – 13 receptions for 237 yards at Texas and 12 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma – but also had two games in which he was held to a combined 3 catches for 14 yards.

No other receiver on the team has half as many yards as Lockett. Senior Tramaine Thompson has 495 yards and five touchdowns on just 28 receptions, while junior Curry Sexton has 409 yards on 36 receptions, but has yet to find the end zone. Freshman fullback Glenn Gronkowski, the younger brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, has the third-most receiving touchdowns on the team with three on just four receptions.

The man throwing them the ball is quarterback Jake Waters. The junior transferred from Iowa Western Community College where he was named the 2012 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year last season. This season he has completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,198 yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. The 6’1″, 210-pound signal caller had a big game against Oklahoma, completing 17-of-29 for 348 yards and three touchdowns. But he also had five games in which he completed less than 10 passes, three of which resulted in less than 100 yards.

Taylor Lewan will have his hands full protecting his freshman quarterback from Ryan Mueller (Mark J. Rebilas, USA Today Sports)

Waters has split time with sophomore Daniel Sams, who is much more of a running quarterback. Sams has thrown just 52 passes all season, completing 38 of them for 452 yards, four touchdowns and four picks, but has averaged 5.3 yards per carry and leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. He had three 100-yard rushing games against Oklahoma Sate (118 yards), Baylor (199) and TCU (109), however, was limited to just five rushes for zero yards in the last two games against Oklahoma and Kansas.

Running back John Hubert picked up the slack against Kansas, carrying the ball 30 times for 220 yards and a score. The 5’7″, 190-pound senior is 32 yards shy of 1,000 on the season while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He has four 100-yard games including the big one against KU, but if there’s one thing that stands out it’s his performances against better teams. Against the four best rush defenses on the schedule – TCU (21st), Oklahoma State (23rd), Baylor (25th), and Oklahoma (27th) – Hubert carried the ball six fewer times per game for about half as many yards per game while averaging a yard less per carry. Michigan’s run defense ranks 28th.

Michigan offense vs Kansas State defense: When Michigan has the ball

The Kansas State defense allows about a field goal less per game than Michigan. The Wildcats held Baylor to its third lowest scoring output of the season (35 points) and gave up over 40 points just once (41 to Oklahoma). K-State held four opponents to 12 or fewer. Like the offense, KSU’s defense is pretty balanced, ranking 38th nationally against the run and 46th against the pass.

There’s no question that the leader of the defense is junior end Ryan Mueller. The former walk-on ranks in the top 10 nationally in both sacks (seventh with 11) and tackles for loss (10th with 18.5). He ranks fifth on the team with 61 total tackles and also has four forced fumbles, one recovery, and six pass breakups. The rest of the line, however, is a bit underwhelming. The other end, sophomore Marquel Bryant, has just two sacks and three tackles for loss. The tackles, sophomore Travis Britz and Chaquil Reed, have a combined 66 tackles, five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. By comparison, Willie Henry and Jabreel Black have combined for 55 tackles, three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.

At linebacker, the Wildcats have a lot of experience led by senior middle linebacker Blake Slaughter. Despite standing just 5’10″, he leads the team with 103 tackles and also has three sacks, six tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery. The team’s second leading tackler is weakside linebacker Jonathan Truman. Also small at 5’11″, 193, the junior has 85 tackles, four for loss and two forced fumbles. At strongside is senior Tre Walker who doesn’t feature the numbers as the other two, but is a good run stopper.

The secondary gets a boost from the return of Ty Zimmerman. The senior free safety missed the final two games of the regular season after injuring his leg against TCU, but is set to play tomorrow. He ranks third on the team with 69 tackles and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The other safety is sophomore Dante Barnett, who also has three picks to go along with 67 tackles and two fumble recoveries. The corners are all upperclassmen, junior Randall Evans and senior Dorrian Roberts. Evans has 59 tackles, two interceptions, and leads the team with 10 pass breakups and 12 passes defended. Roberts had three picks, eight pass breakups and 11 passes defended.

The other third: Special teams

Sophomore kicker Jack Cantele made 11-of-13 field goals with a long of 44, although an injury may keep him out for the game. If he can’t go, redshirt freshman Ian Patterson, who made 2-of-3 with a long of 31, will be relied on. Senior punter Mark Krause averages 41.3 yards per punt with 17 of 47 downed inside the 20. Lockett handles the kick return duties and averages 25.5 yards per return, while Thompson is the main punt returner with an average of 20.2 yards per return.

Prediction

Michigan will be without its quarterback that could have set most single season passing records had he played the bowl game. In his place is true freshman Shane Morris who, while a five-star recruit, has thrown just nine career passes, all in mop-up duty late in games this season. The lefty certainly has the tools to be a great quarterback for the maize and blue, but is he ready yet? The good news is he has received all of the first team reps for the last month, so he will be prepared. But he will be just the sixth true freshman quarterback to start a game in Michigan history. Of the other five, four won their first start.

Michigan’s line, which has struggled to protect Devin Gardner all season, has to face Mueller, but Taylor Lewan will surely draw that matchup. If he can neutralize Meuller, the line should be able to keep Morris clean. Unfortunately, the Wildcat defense was good enough to hold Baylor’s Bryce Petty to one of his most pedestrian performances of the season.

I mentioned above that Michigan’s run defense ranked 28th nationally, but that number is somewhat misleading. Carlos Hyde shredded it and Iowa’s Mark Weisman did too. Expect similar results from Hubert.

The combination of he and Lockett as well as the run threat from Waters and Sams will keep Michigan’s defense off balance like Ohio State and Indiana did and the offense will need a great performance from Morris in order to keep up. Michigan will hang around because Morris will distribute the ball to his playmakers in a simplified scheme, but K-State will be a bit more complete on both sides.

Kansas State 33 – Michigan 27

Friend vs Foe: Kansas State

Thursday, December 26th, 2013


For the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl edition of Friend vs Foe we would like to welcome Jon Morse of the Kansas State SB Nation blog Bring on the Cats. Jon was gracious enough to answer some questions about how K-State fans view the matchup, the two-headed monster at quarterback, what has held the Wildcats back late in big games this season, where he sees advantages, and more. You can follow Jon on Twitter at @jonfmorse and the blog’s main feed at @BringOnTheCats.

1. How do K-State fans view this bowl game and the matchup? Most Michigan fans are apathetic towards it because this season has been a disappointment, it’s not a New Year’s Day bowl game, and K-State isn’t exactly a “sexy” matchup (no offense). I mean, we barely sold half of our ticket allotment. What’s the view from your side?

From the perspective of moving up in the bowl selection order, they’re pretty pleased, and while a good segment of the fanbase wanted a shot at the Huskers, nobody’s really complaining about K-State getting their first-ever meeting with Michigan. Ticket sales haven’t been particularly great from the Wildcat side of the fence either, but if we’re all being honest… well, almost NOBODY is selling tickets at a brisk pace this bowl season outside of some outliers whose destinations are able to break through the ceiling for fairly obvious reasons. (Auburn, Florida State, Michigan State, Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma all seem to be doing fairly well, and it’s not hard to understand why each of those cases is bucking the trend.)

2. The majority of Michigan fans haven’t seen K-State play this season. Tell us about the offense, especially the two-headed monster at quarterback. What are their main strengths and weaknesses?

You’ll mostly be seeing Jake Waters at quarterback, and he’s the passer of the two. I’ll get back to him in a moment, because discussing Daniel Sams first lets me go back and explain how things work with Waters a little more easily. Sams is a tremendous athlete with a somewhat unorthodox running style. He can be very slippery and deceptive, and if he finds open space he’s going places.

The problem K-State has had is that when Sams is in the game, defenses are generally pretty capable of seeing what’s coming. Sams is not a terrible passer, but he’s not a GOOD one; he’s also had some turnover issues which haven’t corrected themselves (unlike with Waters). Worse, with Sams in the game the play-calling on running plays has been painfully transparent. Is Hubert on the field? If not and it’s a run, it’s almost certainly a Sams keeper.  If Hubert IS on the field, it’s almost always an option play, and Sams has shown little tendency to do anything other than keep the ball in that situation. These are not slams on Daniel Sams; it’s a scheme failure.

Jake Waters has thrown for 2,198 yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine interceptions this season (Ronald Martizez, Getty Images)

With Waters, Hubert becomes much more effective as a runner because defenses can’t key on the run. Further, Waters has major big-play capability in the air as long as his two deep threats are on the field. (In quite possibly the worst game of Waters’ season, both Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson were out with health issues.) Waters did have a major problem holding onto the football early in the year. That seems to have fixed itself. He’ll still fall into stretches where he’s not throwing the ball well at all, however, and that’s prevented him from making a solid claim to be THE quarterback as opposed to just being the starter.

3. Similarly, tell us about the defense. Statistically, it seems like a pretty solid unit against both the run and pass and allows about three fewer points per game than Michigan does. Michigan hasn’t been able to run the ball, but had a great gameplan and executed almost flawlessly against Ohio State. Do we have a chance to move the ball and put up some points? Why or why not?

The K-State defense is schizophrenic. Getting pass defense out of the way quickly, they’ve been good against the pass all year. Baylor had three huge pass plays, but that’s Baylor; outside of those three plays, Bryce Petty was kept in check for the most part. Nobody else had a particularly wonderful day throwing the ball.

The run defense, on the other hand, has been maddening. Early in the season, it was a strength, and they were especially effective against Baylor, absolutely shutting down Lache Seastrunk. More recently, they were embarrassed by Oklahoma and even gave up a ton of real estate on the ground against Kansas — but in both of those games, Ty Zimmerman was standing on the sideline with crutches. It’s not often that a safety is the key to a team’s run defense, but in this case it’s accurate. Luckily, Zimmerman should be on the field Saturday.

You’re also, I’m sure, aware of Ryan Mueller, who is an extremely disruptive force. However, it’s possible Michigan can move the ball if we see Mueller tied up with Taylor Lewan and the rest of the Michigan line can control the other three Wildcat linemen. They’re not a bad unit, but Zimmerman’s absence wasn’t the only factor in the rush defense’s problems the final two weeks of the season. Oklahoma and Kansas both basically decided they were facing Jadaveon Clowney or something; their line game plans both leaned on “neutralize Mueller” as a basic principle.

4. You guys have just two wins over teams that finished the season with winning records, but were in every game in the fourth quarter, leading Baylor at the beginning of the fourth, leading Oklahoma State midway through the fourth, and trailing Oklahoma by just three at the beginning of the fourth. What has held the Wildcats back in those big games?

Turnovers, baffling play-calling on offense, and critical defensive failures on the final drive in two of those games may well have been the difference between 7-5 and 10-2. North Dakota State and Oklahoma State were the two failures; with the lead, the defense just couldn’t stop either team from getting into the end zone. A lot of that was that the bend-don’t-break philosophy only works if you don’t bend all the way down to the 10-yard-line; both teams used quick, short plays to move the chains rapidly rather than trying to go for the big play. We have no idea what the coaching staff was thinking against Texas, either; that was just a mess in pretty much every possible aspect of the gameplan.

5. What specific matchups do you see K-State holding an advantage, and what specific matchups are you concerned about?

I’m concerned about Michigan’s multiple-personality disorder. I didn’t get to actually see them very much this year, but my impression is that as the season’s progressed the offense has gotten less muddled while the defense has gotten less effective. The Wolverine team that showed up the first 23 days of November, I wouldn’t be particularly worried about. K-State would be able to move the ball, and Michigan’s offense didn’t appear to be any threat. If K-State can make a team give the ball up on downs repeatedly, K-State is going to beat them. The team that showed up against the Buckeyes terrifies me, however. That Michigan offense would wreak havoc on this defense, and while the defense the Wolverines showed against Ohio State is certainly one the Wildcats can light up… well, K-State’s just not built to win games that way.

IF, however, Michigan’s defensive flaws are on display Saturday, then K-State’s passing offense against the Michigan secondary could be very much an advantage. K-State’s secondary should be an advantage against the Michigan receivers as well, although I’m no less concerned about Jeremy Gallon even as I say that. And if Devin Gardner can’t go, that’s going to be a huge advantage in and of itself.

6. What’s your prediction and how will it happen?

Before I really started getting into what Michigan was like, I was foolishly predicting a 14-point win. That’s not going to happen, even with Zimmerman playing and Gardner out. But I do think that combination is going to make it very hard for the Wolverines to truly outplay K-State. I’m looking at something in the neighborhood of 31-24 Wildcats now.

It seems like its been forever since Michigan took the field and was one play away from upsetting the #2-ranked Buckeyes, dashing their national championship hopes. The offense was clicking on all cylinders and the line played inspired ball, the defense left much to be desired but I’m sure Greg Mattison will have his boys ready for Kansas St.

Unfortunately, it looks like Devin Gardner won’t be playing due to his turf toe injury, or as some have suggested, even worse. For those that do not know, turf toe is in fact a serious injury. It has ended NFL careers and for a more recent example look west to Nebraska and Taylor Martinez’s senior year. So that leaves us with the heir apparent, Shane Morris. The highly touted lefty with an NFL-strength arm and prototype size. Since we don’t know what to expect from Morris I’ll just touch on what I’d like to see from the offense and then shift gears for defense and touch on what they need to do for Michigan to win.

On Offense:

I’d really like to see the offensive line improve upon the OSU game. Yes, improve. They played inspired ball and it was their best game of the year but Devin Gardner bailed them out a lot with his mobility and quick releases. Morris, while talented, is not quite the athlete Devin is so the line will need to hold their blocks a little while longer to give the true freshman time and added confidence.

Sticking with the line, I’d also like to see some more aggression. Nastiness is paramount when playing offensive line and if Michigan wants to establish the run they need to be nasty. Make no mistake about it, these are very talented kids but they haven’t quite reached the level of nastiness that is required of Michigan lineman.

Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon have proved themselves this year, though Funchess could due without all the drops, so there’s not much else I need to see from them. Just give us the same old and we’ll be fine. Get open, create some mismatches and give Shane Morris some extra help.

Jeremy Gallon has a chance to set Michigan's single-season receiving records but will have Shane Morris throwing to him (MGoBlue.com)

KSU has some solid pass rushers on the edge, but the interior of their d-line is nothing to write home about. If Michigan can get some solid push up front and Green and Smith can get to the linebackers then the run game should put extreme pressure on the Wildcats. Not that their LB’s aren’t good, because they are, it’s just that they are rather small and Derrick Green and Deveon Smith are rather large. This could be the game we finally see the downhill, power run game break out big time.

Al Borges has been much maligned and, fair or not, he is the o-coordinator and will continue to be so we need to just deal with it and move on. It’s not that he is a bad coordinator (see: Cade McNown at UCLA and Auburn in 2004) it just seems at times he refuses to adjust his play calling to the talent on the field. That all changed against OSU. He got some screens and quick throws to keep the Buckeyes off balance and it opened up the run game and Michigan went wild, compiling over 600 yards of total offense. Kansas State doesn’t have the athletes OSU does but they are a very solid team with a Hall of Fame coach. If Al can adjust his play calling to put Shane in the best position to succeed then, win or lose, I’ll be pleased. From all accounts Morris is a smart kid who has made some great strides over the season. A full month of practicing as the No.1 quarterback should be good for his confidence but again we really have no idea what to expect.

On Defense:

Kansas State runs a two-quarterback system, somewhat similar to Northwestern. With one being the passer and the other the runner. Their option offense worries me a little with Michigan’s “bend but don’t break” style of defense which has struggled against mobile QB’s/option attacks. Kansas State has a very balanced attack so Michigan will need to be mindful of both the run and the pass at any given moment. Daniel Sams is less likely to pass, but he is a capable passer. The opposite holds true for Jake Waters.

Jake Waters likes to hold onto the ball longer than need be at times so Michigan needs to not only generate pressure but be able to stay in coverage the entire time too. Especially on Tyler Lockett, KSU’s version of Jeremy Gallon. If the front seven can flush Waters and/or make him hold on to the ball they can force him into some bad throws.

This puts more pressure on the safeties, be they Jarrod Wilson, Thomas Gordon, Dymonte Thomas, etc., to make sure NO ONE gets behind them. Michigan’s safeties have given up far too many 50-yard touchdown passes because someone was out of position and the receiver got behind them, if they want to win they cannot allow Lockett to do this. No big plays would be nice but I think Lockett is far too good to not make at least one big play, maybe more.

Daniel Sams will be called upon the run game, though he will toss it up a few times as well. He does not present the same challenge someone like Braxton Miller does (pass and run) but he will be a rested player when he comes into the game. Michigan needs to keep him contained while still being mindful of the deep pass. If they can limit his running ability and force KSU into definite passing downs, giving them the upper hand in play calling, Michigan should be able to win.

Both running backs, John Hubert (5’7″) and Robert Rose (5’4″) are diminutive, but not quite Darren Sproles. They aren’t game breakers but both are very solid players. Hubert will take the bulk of the carries but is not all that great as a pass blocker. If Michigan can exploit this weakness when Waters is in the game they can gain another advantage, if they maintain their pass coverage while doing so.

On Special Teams:

Field position, field position, field position. Matt Wile has been solid all year so if he can just keep it up he’ll be fine. KSU is not the kind of team you want to give short fields, their balanced attack is all the more effective in short yardage situations. If Michigan can make them drive long fields it will limit their scoring opportunities. If this game comes down to a long field goal to win it we might be in trouble as Brendan Gibbons is out, but in a pinch Matt Wile is good enough. I won’t mention our diminutive KR because every time I do he doesn’t quite take one to the house, it’s not that I’m being superstitious though. OK, maybe a little.

Prediction:

If Devin Gardner was playing and at least 80 percent healthy, Michigan wins fairly easily. With Shane Morris, I’m not so sure. Not because I don’t like him but because we have basically nothing to base it off except optimistic speculation. If the o-line can create holes for Green, Smith and Fitz to run through, I like our chances. If the run game cannot get going I don’t think we stand much of a chance. If the defense can keep Lockett from beating them more than once deep then I think we’ll be fine. If, however, we allow big plays like we did against OSU, it’s not going to end well for Wolverine Nation.

I have faith in Shane Morris’ arm and decision-making ability, plus we get Jarrod Wilson back so I see no reason Michigan can’t walk away with the win. It’ll be a good one and close throughout but I think Michigan pulls away late.

Five-Spot Challenge: Kansas State

Monday, December 23rd, 2013


Congratulations to BigHouseBrandon for winning the Five-Spot Challenge from the Ohio State game. His total deviation of 491 was by far the best since he seemed to have the most confidence in Michigan. He was one of three contestants to correctly predict that Devin Gardner would score Michigan’s first touchdown (Jim Mackiewicz and HTTV134 were the others). His prediction of 81 yards was only three away from the longest play of the game, which was the 84-yard catch-and-run by Jeremy Gallon on Michigan’s first series. Bluwolf77 was the second closest with a guess of 76.

BigHouseBrandon was also the closest to Michigan’s yardage on its first drive of the game. He predicted 75 yards and the Wolverines drove 99. The next closest was Myrick55 who guessed 68. In addition, BHB was second most confident in Michigan’s total yards output compared to Ohio State’s. He predicted that the Buckeyes would only outgain Michigan by 12, when in reality Michigan outgained OSU by 77. Kashkaav was the closest with a prediction of zero. For the win, BHB gets a $20 gift card to The M Den.

Kashkaav came in second for the week with a total deviation of 707, while HTTV was a close third at 713.

Yet again, no one correctly predicted the final score. Kfarmer16 was the only one to get Ohio State’s 42 correct, but thought Michigan would only score 13. The average combined score among the 14 contestants was Ohio State 33 – Michigan 19. Three of the 14 picked Michigan to win by an average score of 25-21.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated. Maizenblu62 holds the lead, but Jim Mackiewicz, HTTV134, and freezer566 are all within striking distance.

Michigan travels to Tempe, Ariz. to battle Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday night. Most of us likely aren’t very familiar with the Wildcats, so it will be interesting to see the results of the Five-Spot this week. Like the past two years, we are going to offer a chance for anyone to get back into it with a stroke of luck. If you get the final question (predict the combined offensive yards for both teams) exactly right, you will get an extra five points for each person entered this week. So if there are 20 contestants you would get an extra 100 points added to your score in the overall standings. Good luck and Go Blue!

First Look: Kansas State

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013


Entering the conference championship weekend, most assumed Michigan would receive an invitation to either the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl or the Gator Bowl. For most of the weekend it appeared the Wolverines were headed to Jacksonville to face Georgia, but the BWW Bowl, which selected before the Gator, somewhat surprisingly chose Michigan over Nebraska to fill its Big Ten slot. The Wolverines will face Big 12 foe Kansas State in their first Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly the Copper Bowl) appearance.

It will also be the first ever meeting between to two schools, which does create some intrigue as opposed to another SEC opponent, and will be only the fourth time ever Michigan has faced a Big 12 opponent in a bowl game. All three of the previous meetings resulted in losses: the 1995 Alamo Bowl against Texas A&M, the 2005 Rose Bowl against Texas (following the 2004 season), and the 2005 Alamo Bowl against Nebraska.

So what does Kansas State bring to the table? The Wildcats have the same 7-5 record as Michigan, but went 5-4 in conference compared to Michigan’s 3-5. A closer look, however, reveals that KSU has beaten just two teams that finished the season with a winning record: Louisiana Lafayette (8-4) and Texas Tech (7-5). The Wildcats also opened the season with a 24-21 loss to North Dakota State of the FCS, which finished the regular season undefeated and faces Coastal Carolina this Saturday in the FCS Tournament quarterfinals.

Three of Kansas State’s five losses were by ten points, but none was a blowout. Texas led K-State 24-7 entering the fourth quarter before the Wildcats outscored the Longhorns 14-7 in the fourth. KSU led Oklahoma State 29-23 midway through the fourth before falling 33-29. The Wildcats also led Baylor at the end of the third quarter 25-21, but the Bears scored 14 in the fourth. Finally, Kansas State trailed Oklahoma by just three entering the fourth, but back to back touchdowns, including a 74-yard pick-six allowed the Sooners to pull away.

So as you can see, K-State has at least been in each game into the fourth quarter, but the final period hasn’t been good to them. So what can we make of a team that has wins over six FBS opponents with a combined record of 30-54 and lost to every good team they played? Let’s take a look at how the Wildcats compare statistically.

Kansas State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Kansas State | Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 33.4 | 33.8 37 | 36 23.7 | 26.5 36 | 63
Rushing Yards 2,1651,569 1,743 | 1,673
Rush Avg. Per Game 180.4 | 130.8 53 | 100 145.2 | 139.4 38 | 28
Avg. Per Rush 4.5 | 3.2 3.9 | 3.8
Passing Yards 2,6503,025 2,661 | 2,736
Pass Avg. Per Game 220.8252.1 73 | 43 221.8 | 228.0 46 | 60
Total Offense 4,8154,594 4,404 | 4,409
Total Off Avg. Per Game 401.2 | 382.8 72 | 83 367.0 | 367.4 T36 | 38
Kick Return Average 22.6 | 22.2 42 | 47 20.4 | 22.4 47 | 91
Punt Return Average 15.3 | 6.7 3 | 87 12.8 | 7.1 111 | 51
Avg. Time of Possession 31:2731:49 33 | 29 28:33 | 28:11
3rd Down Conversion Pct 48% | 39% 16 | 71 41% | 38% 79 | 51
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 23-138 | 35-268 T63 | 108 27-138 | 23-171 T46 | T66
Touchdowns Scored 52 | 51 34 | 36
Field Goals-Attempts 13-16 | 16-23 16-21 | 23-29
Red Zone Scores (38-44)86% | (45-53)85% 39 | 50 (37-41)90% | (35-41)85% 114 | 88
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-44)64% | (36-53)68% (24-41)59% | (21-41)51%

Offensively, Kansas State averages less than half a point fewer than Michigan, but gets it done with a much more balanced attack. Statistically, it’s pretty similar to Northwestern’s offense heading into that matchup with a running game around 50th nationally and a passing game in the 70s. The similarity continues with a dual-quarterback based offense featuring one that is a passer (a la Trevor Siemien) and one that is the runner (a la Kane Colter). Must be the purple.

But before we go to far with the comparison, Kansas State is a better team than Northwestern plain and simple. The Wildcats have scored more than 40 points just four times all season, but were never held below 21. Contrast that to Michigan, which scored 40 or more six times – including in two losses – but was also held to just 19 combined points in losses to Michigan State and Nebraska. K-State has been more consistent but doesn’t necessarily have the ceiling or the ineptitude Michigan does.

Running back John Hubert is 32 yards away from 1,000 (Matthew Emmons, US Presswire)

The running game ranks 53rd nationally, averaging 180.4 yards per game, but hasn’t been overly consistent. The Wildcats topped 200 yards rushing five times and 300 yards twice, but were also held below 50 yards twice. North Dakota State held them to 41 yards on 23 carries, while Oklahoma limited them to just 24 yards on 22 carries. Their big ground games came against Baylor (327 yards) and UMass (329). Those were also two of their three highest games for rushing attempts all season, 58 and 46, respectively.

The passing game ranks 73rd with seven games over 200 yards and two over 300. One of those big passing games was against Oklahoma, which boasts the nation’s 14th-best pass defense in terms of yards allowed.

Kansas State also has a near-1,000-yard rusher in John Hubert and a 1,000-yard receiver in Tyler Lockett. Hubert will likely top the 1,000-yard mark against Michigan.

Defensively, KSU allows about three fewer points per game than Michigan. During their three-game losing streak in the first half of the season, they gave up 31, 33, and 35 to Texas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. The 35 that Baylor scored was their second-lowest of the season behind only the 30 they scored against Texas the last week of the regular season.

Their rush defense is slightly better than their pass defense, allowing 145.2 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats held eight of 12 opponents below 125 rushing yards and three of those below 100. However, three teams topped 200, most notably Oklahoma which rushed for 301 yards. Six opponents passed for fewer than 200 yards, but the K-State secondary was torched by Baylor (332 yards) and Texas Tech (354).

KSU converts third downs at a 48 percent rate, which ranks 16th nationally, but allows third down conversions at a rate of 41 percent, which ranks 79th. The Wildcats also allow a bunch of sacks, albeit nowhere near as many as Michigan. They rank middle of the pack nationally with 23 sacks allowed – nearly two per game. They have recorded four more sacks than Michigan’s defense has.

Overall, it looks to be a pretty evenly matched game between two teams that had disappointing seasons. Stay tuned for more coverage leading up to the game.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Rating
Jake Waters 138-233 2,198 15 9 152.0
Daniel Sams 38-52 452 4 4 156.1
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
John Hubert 182 968 9 63 5.3
Daniel Sams (QB) 148 784 11 37 5.3
Jake Waters (QB) 106 270 6 24 2.5
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Tyler Lockett 71 1,146 8 90 104.2
Curry Sexton 36 409 0 32 34.1
Tramaine Thompson 28 495 5 79 49.5
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Blake Slaughter (LB) 68 35 103 6.0-23 (1INT) 3.0-16 (1FF)
Jonathan Truman (LB) 54 31 85 4.0-5 0-0 (2FF)
Ryan Mueller (DE) 52 9 16 18.5-82 11.5-66 (4FF)
Travis Britz (DL) 23 10 33 5.5-13 3.0-5
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Jack Cantele 13 11 44 41 40
Punting Punts Yds Avg. TB In 20
Mark Krause 47 1,941 41.3 4 17
Full Stats

Michigan 71 – Kansas State 57: Michigan rolls to NIT Tip-Off title

Friday, November 23rd, 2012


Final 1st 2nd Total
#4 Michigan 29 42 71
Kansas State 24 33 57

For the second time in two games, Michigan shot fewer threes than their preseason tournament opponent, and for the second time is as many tries, Michigan beat an undefeated high-major opponent behind the scoring punch of Tim Hardaway, Jr.

It’s becoming more and more evident with every passing game that John Beilein is constantly adapting his system to match the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel on the court. In Michigan’s two games at Madison Square Garden, the Wolverines hoisted a combined 29 three-point attempts and only made seven of them. In years past, any Michigan fan could have easily predicted a pair of losses, seeing no way a Michigan team could out-muscle Pittsburgh and Kansas State, two historically big, bruising, rebounding-minded squads, inside the arc. But that is exactly what happened.

Eleven Wolverines saw the court in all, and nine of them grabbed two or more rebounds on the way to dominating Kansas State on the defensive glass by rebounding 74.4 percent of the Wildcats’ misses and grabbing a respectable 32 percent of their own misses.

Tim Hardaway Jr earned MVP honors (Bill Kostroun, AP)

And while Michigan has shot the ball well from deep early on this season, there was simply no need for it tonight. Hardaway, Jr. made a ridiculous nine of his 12 two-point attempts, including an array of smooth mid-range jumpers and strong, gliding drives to the basket on his way to recording 23 points and seven rebounds. Trey Burke chipped in with 10 points, all in the second half, on 5-of-8 shooting inside the arc.

Kansas State’s inside girth with 6’11″, 250-pound senior Jordan Henriquez and 6’7″, 270-pound behemoth sophomore Thomas Gipson posed some problems early on, especially in the rebounding department, but Michigan’s bigs did a good job of boxing out and leaving the boards for the wings to collect. Glenn Robinson III seemed to grab every loose rebound with his long arms and nose for the ball and missed a double-double by just one point, as he grabbed 11 rebounds. Burke added six more himself and Stauskas grabbed four to go along with his 10 points in addition to Hardaway’s high-leaping efforts from the wing.

After a fairly sloppy start to the game that didn’t see either team make a bucket for two and a half minutes, Michigan got on the board with a mid-range jumper courtesy of Hardaway, Jr. and never looked back, scoring the first six points and jumping out to a 29-24 halftime lead. The Wildcats’ closest sniff came with just under six minutes to go in the first half when they cut the deficit to two, but a 22-6 Michigan run over the first 9:19 of the second half put the game out of reach.

There was nothing that stood out as the difference in this game other than Michigan clearly being the superior team in just about every facet of the game. They seemed to play smarter, shoot better, and were all-around more athletic on the court.

Going into tonight’s game as a top-five team in the country, Michigan had a swagger about them that they wouldn’t be denied, and there was very little doubt from the start as to what the outcome would be. It’s getting harder and harder to make an argument against Michigan being so highly thought of, and while Pitt and Kansas State may not be the best barometers of success in the country, they are two solid teams from good conferences that should at least put up a good fight for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Next Tuesday’s match-up with preseason top-five ranked NC State should be the first big test in the young season. A passing grade there would seem to legitimize all the hype.

It’s a good sign after a game when the biggest worry for a fan base is not how well or poorly the team played and what needs to be fixed, but the health of the players. Hardaway, Jr. went down late when he was accidentally kneed in the side of the head by a Kansas State player and was slow to get up and noticeably woozy; a concussion would likely mean he would have to sit out of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge game in Ann Arbor against the Wolfpack. Obviously this is a terrible thought for Wolverines fans, but the injury didn’t appear extremely serious. If he is to sit out, Stauskas would play 30-plus minutes in the upcoming showdown, but the Wolverines would be in for a serious challenge.

At this point, however, maybe they need a serious challenge.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-11 0-3 3-4 4 8 12 0 9 2 0 1 1 36
52 Jordan Morgan* 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 4 0 0 0 0 0 6
03 Trey Burke* 5-10 0-2 0-0 1 4 5 3 10 4 5 1 0 32
10 Tim Hardaway Jr* 10-15 1-3 2-4 0 7 7 1 23 0 2 1 1 32
13 Matt Vogrich* 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 18
02 Spike Albrecht 1-1 1-1 0-0 0 2 2 1 3 0 0 0 0 12
04 Mitch McGary 2-4 0-0 2-2 1 2 3 4 6 1 1 1 0 14
05 Eso Akunne 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 4
11 Nik Stauskas 3-6 2-3 2-2 1 3 4 0 10 1 0 0 0 22
15 Jon Horford 3-5 0-0 0-1 1 2 3 3 6 2 0 0 0 17
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 7
Totals 29-56 4-12 9-13 10 32 42 17 71 12 9 5 2 200
Kansas State 22-60 4-18 9-15 12 18 30 15 57 13 6 4 5 200

Michigan vs Kansas State preview/quick thoughts

Friday, November 23rd, 2012


After a hard-fought, grind-it-out victory over Pittsburgh two nights ago, Michigan returns to Madison Square Garden to take on Bruce Weber’s Kansas State Wildcats in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-off. The Wolverines got a taste of the big stage on Wednesday night against a formidable opponent that should find its way into the Big Dance come March while Kansas State barely clawed its way to a 66-63 semifinal win over the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. Today’s final (4:30pm on ESPN) pits these two unbeaten teams against each other for all the marbles. The game may look one-sided on paper, but here are some things to pay attention to:

#4 Michigan v. Kansas State
Friday, Nov. 23
4:30pm ET
ESPN
4-0 Record 5-0
83.8 Points Per Game 78.2
56.2 Scoring Defense 50.2
124-for-230 (53.9%) Field Goal % 142-for-330 (43.0%)
87-for-237 (36.7%) Def. Field Goal % 93-for-274 (33.9%)
37-for-81 (45.7%) 3-point % 34-for-96 (35.4%)
28-for-88 (31.8%) Def. 3-point % 20-for-95 (21.1%)
50-for-69 (72.5%) Free Throw % 73-for-106 (68.9%)
12.5 FT Made/Game 14.6
41.5 Rebounds Per Game 47.2
27.0 Opp. Reb. Per Game 31.8
15.3 Assists Per Game 17.4
10.3 Turnovers Per Game 13.0
4.0 Steals Per Game 9.0
1.8 Blocks Per Game 3.8
G – Trey Burke (18.0)
G – Tim Hardaway (17.0)
Leading Scorer G – Angel Rodriguez (11.2)
G – Rodney McGruder (10.0)
G – Tim Hardaway (6.8)
F – Mitch McGary (6.5)
Leading Rebounder F – D.J. Johnson (6.6)
F – Thomas Gipson (6.4)

1. Preparation: There are a couple reasons for scheduling these so-called “preseason” tournaments at the beginning of the college basketball season. Obviously money, camaraderie, and national attention play a part in it, but teams are also looking for solid opponents early on to prepare for the conference season, fun match-ups on big-time stages, and, perhaps most importantly, preparation for what is to come in March. With less than two full days to prepare for the next game, a neutral floor, and an unfamiliar opponent, the NIT Season Tip-off really has the feel of the NCAA Tournament. For Michigan fans, this could come with a bit of angst, as coach John Beilein has never led his Wolverines to more than one victory in the Big Dance, but he is known as being one of the best Xs and Os coaches in the college game, which should give Michigan a slight advantage against Kansas State. Beilein’s unique offense is also often noted for being incredibly difficult to prepare for, especially with a short turn-around from a previous game, and if Beilein decides to try the 1-3-1 zone again today after using it effectively against Pitt, Bruce Weber is going to have fits. There is simply no way to prepare for both of these schemes in a 44-hour timeframe. One more preparation advantage that should go Michigan’s way: both coaches are familiar with each other after going head-to-head for five years in the Big Ten, but Weber is brand new at Kansas State, so his players are still adjusting to new sets and will have very little knowledge of Beilein’s offense or defense while Beilein has some veterans that have had time to grasp the system.

2. Balance: Kansas State’s star player is unanimous preseason All-Big 12 First Team selection Rodney McGruder, but he has struggled so far this season and is only averaging 10 points and four rebounds per game while shooting 2-of-15 (13.3%) from downtown. Weber’s approach thus far has seemed to stress a balanced attack that won’t rely on one or two dominant players but will ride the hot hand on any given night. So far, it has worked, as the Wildcats sit at 5-0 and have only had one close call. A whopping 11 Kansas State players average more than 10 minutes per game and nine of those 11 score more than five points per game. Obviously these numbers are a bit skewed due to the competition level so far (North Dakota, Lamar, Alabama-Huntsville, North Florida, and Delaware), but it is apparent that Michigan should see a variety of looks with a hectic substitution pace on the other bench. Knowing the scouting report and opposing player tendencies is always important when so many different players will be seeing the floor, so Michigan will have to pay special attention to Kansas State’s five shooters in Angel Rodriguez, McGruder, Will Spradling, Shane Southwell, and Martavious Irving while being aware of each players’ abilities. Michigan’s balanced attack has been solid so far as well, with four guys in double digits, but their scoring punch should be more predictable.

Angel Rodriguez will put pressure on Michigan's guards (Charlie Riedel, AP)

3. Possession: Every statistic in basketball ultimately filters down to one thing: possessions. No, the team with the most possessions isn’t necessarily the winning team every time, but the goal of just about every coach is to maximize the number and efficiency of possessions for their team and limit the number and efficiency of possessions for the opponent. Historically John Beilein has done this by cutting down on his own team’s turnovers and limiting fast-break opportunities for the opponent, thus maximizing his possessions and minimizing the effectiveness of the other teams’ possessions. This season, we have seen a slight philosophical change as Michigan continues to rebound well offensively while still limiting the opponents’ fast breaks and holding onto the ball. The Wolverines are able to do this because they have more size, speed, length, and athleticism than in past years. Kansas State’s biggest weakness so far has been on the offensive end, where they have struggled shooting the ball (43% from the field) and have coughed up the ball at an unacceptable rate (13 turnovers per game). If the Wildcats continue to shoot poorly and turn the ball over to Michigan tonight, it will not be a pretty sight for Weber. On the other hand, if Kansas State starts playing well early on, look for Beilein to give the 1-3-1 a shot to switch up the tempo and force some turnovers.

Prediction: On paper this game looks like it will be all Michigan, and even though paper and stats aren’t always right, I have a hard time seeing how Kansas State will keep up throughout. Michigan will get back on track from long range and dominate the turnover game on its way to a 71-58 championship victory.