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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Shaw’

New in Blue: Quarterback Messiah deWeaver

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014


Messiah DeWeaver

Messiah deWeaver – QB | 6-3, 200 | Trotwood, Ohio – Trotwood-Madison
ESPN: NR* Rivals: NR* 247: 4-star, #9 QB Scout: NR*
Other top offers: Louisville, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Kentucky

For the third straight week, Brady Hoke picked up a commitment, this time from Michigan pipeline south of the border. Trotwood-Madison quarterback Messiah deWeaver got an offer this morning and it turned out to be the one he was waiting for. The class of 2016 prospect committed a short time later and announced it via Twitter.

All four major recruiting services are in agreement about his height, 6’3″, but differ slightly on his weight, ranging from 198 to 202. Only one service has released its ratings and rankings for the 2016 class at this point. 247 Sports rates deWeaver four stars and ranks him the ninth-best pro-style quarterback in the class and 244th-best overall prospect.

He lead Trotwood to the state title game as a freshman in 2012 and then back again last fall as a sophomore, where the Rams fell to St. Vincent-St. Mary 24-0. In that game, deWeaver completed just 9-of-25 passes for 84 yards and three interceptions. However, in the semifinal, a 54-7 win over Clyde, deWeaver went 16-of-19 for 366 yards and six touchdowns. He finished the season with 2,265 yards, 21 touchdowns, and six rushing touchdowns. As a freshman in 2012, he threw for 831 yards, 13 touchdowns, and just four picks.

DeWeaver has hit the camp circuit heavily so far this summer, including the Michigan camp for the third straight year and Sound Mind Sound Body in Detroit last week. In addition to Michigan, he held offers from Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky, Bowling Green, Toledo, and Western Kentucky.

DeWeaver joins tackle Erik Swenson as the second member of the 2016 class and joins Alex Malzone (2015) as the second quarterback to commit to new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. He’s just the latest in a series of recent Trotwood prospects to spurn the in-state Buckeys in favor of Michigan, including Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, Brandon Moore, current linebacker Mike McCray, and current defensive back Reon Dawson.

With two years of high school remaining, by the time deWeaver gets to Michigan Shane Morris will be a senior. He will then be behind Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone in terms of eligibility.

Hoke Debut Victorious in Rain Shortened Contest

Sunday, September 4th, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named the new head coach at Michigan it was received with mixed feelings. When Hoke and the Wolverines took the field on Saturday it was safe to say that the Michigan faithful were all in for Hoke as he brought the traditional Michigan style back to the Big House.

Safety Jordan Kovacs sacks WMU quarerback Alex Carder

Michigan won the toss and deferred to the second half. I’m always a fan of putting your defense out there first, but it’s been a while since Michigan has had a defense worth putting out there at all.

Being a passing team, Western Michigan came out tossing it around.  Michigan looked okay, not playing out of position and missing assignments like the past few seasons, but still looked a bit shy. WMU marched down the field almost unimpeded. Carder completed every pass he threw; not all for large gains, but all were complete.

Western came out in multiple looks, but it was the five-wide set around the nine-minute mark that did the damage. Michigan had one guy covering two receivers and Carder hit his man. Were it not for a great effort by Courtney Avery it would have been a touchdown. Michigan held on 3rd-and-goal but WMU went for it on fourth and put it in the endzone to go up 7-0. Carder was 8-for-8 on a 15-play, 74-yard drive taking up just over seven minutes.

Michigan’s new look offense took the field at its own 24. On the first play, a designed Denard run, gained 11 yards and I couldn’t have been happier. Living amongst Buckeye fans and general naysayers, seeing Borges call a designed run showed he is going to use what he has, and what Denard has is electric feet. Denard’s first throw was not as spectacular, a 3-yard completion to Roy Roundtree.

The Bronco defense had good speed and didn’t look out of place, while Michigan’s offensive line did a solid  job of opening holes for the runners, especially on yet another QB draw which led to a first down.

A great play action pass to Kevin Koger was, in my opinion, the best play of the drive. Denard stood back in the pocket looking poised and threw a strike to Koger, who made a great grab and came down with it while getting railed by the opposing defender. Facing a 4th-and-1, Michigan went for it with a power running play, Toussaint straight up the gut for the first down. While not a big gainer or a terribly exciting play, those of us who grew up watching guys like Tyrone Wheatley and Tim Biakabutuka or more recently Chris Perry and Mike Hart, had been starving for some power Michigan football.

Michigan vs. Western Michigan
Final Stats
34 Final Score 10
1-0 Record
0-1
288 Total Yards
279
190 Net Rushing Yards
96
98 Net Passing Yards
183
17 First Downs
17
1-0 Fumbles – Lost
3-2
1-5 Penalties – Yards
8-50
2-82 Punts – Yards
2-93
18:15 Time of Possession
25:18
3-for-6 Third Down Conversions
6-for-11
1-for-1 Fourth Down Conversions
1-for-1
2-16 Sacks By – Yards
0-0
0-for-0 Field Goals
1-for-2
4-for-5 PATs 1-for-1
2-2 Red Zone Scores – Chances 2-3

Denard looked good in the pocket, not getting happy feet and making his progressions, although the word on the street is Borges has a 1, 2… run progression for Denard. Michigan ate up a fair amount of clock as well, and started the second quarter still in possession and still marching. Toussaint had the honor of scoring the first Michigan touchdown in the Hoke era on a short run up the middle. The drive went for 16 plays, 76 yards and took 8:33 off the clock.

On the kickoff return, Troy Woolfolk, who had a couple tackles and a big hit on the first series, came off the field limping. Not a good sign at all. Carvin Johnson replaced him and he did not return with a sprained ankle, though Hoke said after the game that he could have come back in if needed.

WMU’s next drive was about the same as its first: moving the ball down the field with short, quick passes. Michigan started to apply some pressure, and a Kenny Demens blitz up the middle forced Carder to get rid of it quickly and throw incomplete. WMU settled for a 38-yard field goal attempt but came up shy, missing it wide right. The Michigan defense seemed to be playing a “bend but don’t break” style. Not what I expected but it seemed to be working.

After a 3-and-out by Michigan, Western took over again and started marching down the field just as before. Michigan turned loose a blitz and Carder picked it up, just barely stepping out of Demens’ way, but sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan busted through the line to tip Carder’s pass. It fell into the hands of linebacker Brandon Herron who then took it 94 yards to the house for the longest interception return in Michigan history and the first since Donovan Warren did it in 2009.

For once, broadcaster Craig James said something worthwhile, if not completely obvious, that those are the kinds of plays this defense needs, especially early on, to gain confidence in itself.

After a 3-and-out by the Broncos, Michigan followed up on its next series with some more nifty moves by Denard and another Toussaint touchdown run, this time from two yards out.

Michigan dialed up the pressure again on defense and the all-out blitzes started getting to Carder, but just a hair too late. They resulted in incomplete passes but they’ve yet to get him to the ground. WMU settled for a field goal to enter the half trailing Michigan 20-10.

WMU’s Jordan White had nine catches for 96 yards in just the first half, while Carder started hot but struggled late in the half in the face of pressure.

Michigan’s defense allowed 199 total yards in the first half, looking improved but still in need of a lot of work. Aside from the pick-six, it pretty much got owned by Alex Carder. Receivers were open all day. The blitzes late in the half forced some bad passes but overall WMU looked solid and was able to do whatever it wanted. Were it not for the missed field goal and the tipped pass leading to the touchdown, Michigan might have been down 17-7.

Michigan leaves the field victorious when the game is called due to weather

Denard had 101 yards of total offense overall, with no one else really stepping up on offense. Toussaint had 2 touchdowns, but his per carry average was under four.

At this point, Michigan fans were interested to see what sort of adjustments Hoke and Co. would make at the half, one thing Michigan lacked the past three seasons.

Michigan starts the second half with the ball and at this point, the pouring rain led to the officials call for a 30 minute delay due to the lightning. When the game resumed, Jordan White and WMU picked up where they left off in the first half, passing it all over the field. Michigan struggled to get pressure except when it blitzed up the middle.

Mattison seemed to have enough of the “bend but don’t break” philosophy and started sending more blitzes. Carder got drilled by Jordan Kovacs on a blitz, the first sack of the Hoke era, fumbled. The ball was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by none other than Herron, who became the first Michigan defender with two returns for touchdown in a game since Tom Harmon in 1940.

Mattison continued to dial up the pressure and send blitz after blitz. Carder was having a tough time and Michigan was starting to look like, well, Michigan. WMU was clearly getting rattled and the penalties started to rack up.

Michigan’s next possession looked very much like last season. Toussaint ripped off a 43-yarder, and two plays later, Mike Shaw went untouched 44 yards for a touchdown. A 3-play, 87-yard drive in just 39 seconds, putting Michigan ahead 34-10.

During the next series, play was halted again due to lightning and the stadium was evacuated. The game was called soon after with a few minutes remaining  in the third quarter.

The Hoke era began with a win, as most expected, but WMU showed some of the weaknesses still lingering on the defensive side. It certainly didn’t look as bad as last year, but until Mattison started sending some serious pressure it didn’t look that great.

The offense was solid and it was great to see someone other than Denard lead the team in rushing. Toussaint went for 11 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Shaw had 4-for-54 and a TD. Denard finished 9-for-13 for 98 yards in the air and had 8 carries for 46 yards.

Carder went 22-31 for 183 and an interception, but most of those completions came before the blitzing spree occurred. A sore spot for Michigan last season, pass coverage, showed improvement, though Jordan White still had 12 catches for 119 yards. Is this guy on the Biletnikoff watch list?

The game changer was definitely Mattison sending the pressure with blitzes and forcing three turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Who knows what we would have seen had the weather cooperated and we’d finished the remaining 17 minutes. It could be a blessing in disguise for Michigan, allowing Borges to not have to show much of his hand to Notre Dame. All in all, there is reason to be excited in Ann Arbor again. Bring on the Irish!

FORECAST FRIDAY: Gator Bowl, Michigan vs. Mississippi State

Friday, December 31st, 2010


Bowl season used to be one day to look forward to while ringing in the new year with friends, family, and if you’re fortunate, watching your favorite team play an opponent it doesn’t typically play in a warm and sunny spot you wish you were in. These days, we don’t even get a break in between the last game of the regular season and a watered down slate of games you really don’t care to watch but watch anyway because your only other viewing options are Glee or reruns of House.

Michigan vs. #21 Mississippi State
Block M logo

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 – 1:30 p.m. ET – ESPN2
7-5 Record 8-4
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Illinois 67-65 (3OT)
Purdue 27-16
Wins Memphis 49-7
Georgia 24-12
Alcorn State 49-16
Houston 47-24
#22 Florida 10-7
UAB 29-24
Kentucky 24-17
Mississippi 31-23
#17 Mich. St. 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Penn State 31-41
#7 Wisconsin 28-48
#8 Ohio State 7-37
Losses #21 Auburn 14-17
#15 LSU 7-29
#12 Alabama 10-30
#13 Arkansas 31-38 2OT
34.3 Scoring Offense 27.1
251.1 Rushing YPG 215.8
249.8 Passing YPG 178.6
500.9 Total Offense 394.3
33.8 Scoring Defense 20.3
187.7 Rush Defense YPG 121.7
260.2 Pass Defense YPG 236.4
447.9 Total Defense YPG 358.1
18 Takeaways 26
27 Giveaways 20
17 Sacks By 26
11 Sacks Allowed 22
75/162 (46%) Third-down Conv. 81/179 (45%)
4/13 Field Goals 12/18
36.7 Net Punt Avg. 38.2

And so it is that we’ve finally arrived at that one day of the year where college football takes precedence over everything else and we Michigan fans get to watch a game we’ve been looking forward to since that brutal game on November 27.

Tomorrow’s matchup with No. 21 Mississippi State takes on added significance after Michigan’s two-year absence from post-season play and the fate of Head Coach Rich Rodriguez hanging in the balance.

Michigan always plays well against SEC teams (20-5-1 all-time and 7-3 in bowl games), but as we’ve learned the past three seasons, this isn’t the Michigan of old anymore.

That could spell doom for Rodriguez, but I don’t think the outcome of Saturday’s game will factor into his fate, and that’s the last thing I’ll say about the coaching situation.

Perhaps the most important factor for Michigan is the health of Denard Robinson who, by all accounts, is as healthy as he has been all season. He struggled late in the season when he was banged up and didn’t seem to have the same burst he displayed early in the season. But Saturday he’ll be healthy and playing in the warm and sunny weather of his home state of Florida.

Mississippi State is an interesting study. It’s a team that hung tough with Auburn and Arkansas, but didn’t really beat anybody good all season and barely survived 4-8 UAB. In other words, its season is reminiscent of Michigan’s.

The strength of the Bulldogs is the defense, led by linebacker Chris White, an all-SEC first team defender who gets the task of trying to slow down Robinson.

In week two, White and the Bulldog defense held Heisman winner Cam Newton to his worst performance of the season. Auburn won 17-14, but Newton completed just 11-of-19 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 70 yards (3.9 yards per carry).

Head Coach Dan Mullen hopes to replicate that performance against Michigan on Saturday, but what give me hope is that performance was a long time ago. In the last five games, MSU’s defense gave up an average of 26.4 points per game. That’s good news for Michigan since the Bulldog offense doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboards, ranking in the middle of the pack nationally in points scored.

Offensively, the Bulldogs’ best player is tackle Derek Sherrod, a second-team All-American who figures to be a first round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has helped pave the way for the nation’s 16th-best rush offense, but his line has also allowed 22 sacks. An interesting matchup to watch will be Michigan’s defensive line against Sherrod and company. Can Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Craig Roh pressure quarterback Chris Relf or get into the backfield to disrupt the run game? If so, it will help Michigan’s young and oft-maligned secondary.

Mississippi State’s pass offense is it’s weakness, ranking 91st in the nation with just 178.6 yards per game. Much of that has to do with the strength of its running game, but Relf ranks 52nd nationally in pass efficiency, just behind Indiana’s Ben Chappell.

Expect the Bulldogs to pound the ball on the ground and try to keep Michigan’s offense off the field, much like Wisconsin did, except out of a spread similar to Illinois’ (and Michigan’s for that matter). That could play into Michigan’s hands since the defense goes up against a similar style offense in practice every day.

Robinson warms up during practice in Jacksonville

According to Rodriguez, Michigan should get junior receiver Martavious Odoms back from a foot injury that has sidelined him since the Michigan State game. If he really is healthy enough to play at full speed, that will help Michigan both in the run and pass game. Odoms is the most experienced wideout on the team,with sure hands, and despite his small frame, is a great blocking receiver to set up Robinson’s runs.

Also healthy is Michigan’s best offensive lineman, center David Molk who missed time in the last few games with a foot injury. His presence will help combat White and MSU linemen Pernell McPhee, Josh Boyd, and Fletcher Cox.

The strength of the Bulldog rush defense and weakness of its pass defense leads me to believe Michigan will look to pass a little more than usual. Rodriguez loves to run to open up the pass, but a couple shots downfield early on could open up the running lanes for Robinson and backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith and keep the safeties from creeping up. In the last five games, MSU gave up 257 yards per game through the air, which is almost exactly what Michigan’s secondary has allowed this season.

Three Predictions:

1. Denard has more rushing yards AND more passing yards than Cam Newton did against Mississippi State

2. Michigan’s defense turns in one of  its best performances of the season

3. Roy Roundtree eclipses 1,000 yards for the season

Overall, I think the game rests solely in the hands of Robinson. If the Robinson of the first half of the season shows up, Michigan will be in good shape. If the Robinson of the second half shows up, it will be a long day. The absence of Tate Forcier, who was ruled academically ineligible yesterday makes the health of Robinson of utmost importance. Freshman Devin Gardner, who was the first QB off the bench in the season opener against UConn, would be the backup, but it would mean burning his medical redshirt that Rodriguez hopes will keep him two years behind Robinson and Forcier.

As long as Robinson doesn’t get banged up, I think Michigan will be able to score around 30 points, which should be enough to beat the Bulldogs. And then the real waiting begins.

Michigan 31 – Mississippi State 27

Forecast Friday: Michigan vs. Penn State

Friday, October 29th, 2010


The bye week came at just the right time for Michigan after losses to Michigan State and Iowa and allowing quarterback Denard Robinson to rest an ailing shoulder that caused him to miss extensive time in both of those losses.

Many in the media tried to play up a quarterback competition between Robinson and last year’s starter, Tate Forcier, but head coach Rich Rodriguez insists that Robinson is the starter. Indeed, if he is healthy enough, he could be in for the kind of monster game that made him a household name through the first five weeks of the season.

Michigan vs. Penn State
Block M logo Sat. Oct. 30
8 p.m. ET
ESPN
Penn State logo
5-2 Record 4-3
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Wins Youngstown St. 44-14
Kent State 24-0
Temple 22-13
Minnesota 33-21
#17 Mich. State 17-34
#15 Iowa 28-38
Losses #1 Alabama 3-24
#17 Iowa 3-24
Illinois 13-33
36.0 Scoring Offense 20.3
281.6 Rushing YPG 128.7
250.4 Passing YPG 208.7
532.0 Total Offense 337.4
28.4 Scoring Defense 18.4
144.7 Rush Defense YPG 143.9
296.3 Pass Defense YPG 187.9
441.0 Total Defense YPG 331.7
9 Takeaways 11
12 Giveaways 12
10/3 Sacks By/Allowed 9/5
41/88 (47%) Third-down Conv. 35/95 (37%)
2/8 Field Goals 14/17
37.7 Net Punt Avg. 39

Penn State is flat out hurting. At 4-3, Penn State has given up 437 and 433 total yards the last two weeks to Illinois and Minnesota, respectively. Neither of those has an offense near Michigan’s, with Minnesota’s ranked 59th nationally and Illinois’ 88th.

While the defense hasn’t fared well, the offense has been the main disappointment for the Nittany Lions this season, ranking 82nd nationally in total offense and 99th in points per game with 20.3. Only twice this season has Penn State scored more than 30 points, in the opener against Youngstown State (44) and last week against Minnesota (33). Alabama and Iowa each held Penn State to just three points.

What has gone so wrong? Youth and inexperience is part of the problem. As Michigan found out last year, starting a true freshman at quarterback isn’t exactly a recipe for success, but Joe Paterno chose to do that with Robert Bolden.

Yet the biggest problem is that Penn State has been plagued with injuries. Five starters have been lost for the season (tackle Lou Eliades, tight end Garry Gilliam, safety Nick Sukay, receiver Curtis Drake, and tight end Andrew Szczerba), and several others, including defensive ends Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, will miss this week’s game. Bolden is also questionable and it appears that sophomore Matt McGloin will be making his first career start tomorrow at quarterback.

If any game is ripe for the picking it’s this one, and it’s an important one. It would make Michigan bowl eligible for the first time in three years, assuring the Wolverines of avoiding a third-straight losing season, and would end a two-game losing streak, both to Penn State, and this season.

Traditionally, Rodriguez-coached teams have fared well after the bye week during his career, including in 2008 when Michigan beat then-No. 9 Wisconsin 27-25.

While Penn State players are dropping like flies, Michigan’s bye week allowed some key players to get healthy. In addition to Robinson, Michigan should get running back Michael Shaw back this week, as well as center David Molk and tackle Mike Martin.

Michigan’s offense has struggled to find a running game the past two weeks, partly because of the stout defenses of Michigan State and Iowa, but also partly because Shaw, Michigan’s starter through the first five games, has been banged up. Vincent Smith is reliable, but not the complete back that Shaw is.

Rodriguez has hinted that freshman Stephen Hopkins may see some more playing time this week. Hopkins has looked good in limited action so far this season and is the biggest back on Michigan’s roster. Supposedly, ball security in practice has kept him from seeing the field more often thus far, but he has shown enough the past few weeks to earn more time.

Getting Molk and Martin back is perhaps even more important because each is the lynchpin of his side of the ball. When Molk went down last week during the opening drive, backup center Rocko Khoury did a decent job filling in, but had a couple bad snaps. Michigan’s offense is clearly better with Molk in the middle.

Martin also had an ankle injury that happened during the Michigan State game and was reinjured against Iowa, causing him to miss much of the game. He’s the motor of the defense and with a unit that ranks 104th in total defense, his presence is obviously needed.

So how can Michigan win tomorrow? The easy answer is to score a lot of points. Penn State’s defense gives up a lot of yards, but is 22nd in the nation in points against, averaging just 18.4. However, Illinois scored 33 in a blowout win two weeks ago and Minnesota managed 21 last week.

Denard Robinson says he's 100 percent after injuries against Michigan State and Iowa (AP photo)

Denard Robinson says he's 100 percent recovered from injuries suffered against Michigan State and Iowa (AP photo)

Michigan’s offense ranks 17th in the nation in scoring at 36 points per game and second in total offense. In losses the last two games, the offense was still able to move the ball, but turnovers were the difference. Avoiding those same mistakes will be the biggest factor in whether Michigan wins or loses tomorrow.

Robinson should be able to rack up yards just as Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure did a couple weeks ago, rushing for 119 yards, and Minnesota running back DeLeon Eskridge did last week, rushing for 111. Another 200-yard rushing and 200-yard passing game is within reason, but 150/150 is more likely.

Defensively, Michigan will probably get pounded on the ground, given that McGloin will be making his first career start at quarterback. However, when he replaced the injured Bolden last week, he connected on 6-of-13 passes for 78 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and took some shots downfield. Penn State will likely try to get the running game going and then test Michigan’s young and shaky secondary.

A lot of talk has been floating around this week about freshman Ray Vinopal getting some playing time, if not starting, at safety. A similar experiment paid off last game when Rodriguez replaced senior linebacker Obi Ezeh with Kenny Demens and he provided solid run support and was at least a small upgrade from Ezeh. Can Rodrgiguez strike gold a second time? Vinopal has really only played in one game this season, against Bowling Green, but he made the most of that time, intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.

The freshman from Youngstown, Ohio is smart and it’s certainly worth a try against a team with such a stagnant offense like Penn State. If Vinopal doesn’t work out, nothing is really lost, since Michigan’s secondary has been horrific anyway. But if he does prove a better option than Cameron Gordon at the position, Michigan will have seen two mid-season upgrades on defense heading into the final four games of the season.

Regardless, I can see Michigan forcing two or three turnovers this week from the inexperienced McGloin.

If Michigan isn’t able to put the ball in the end zone offensively and it comes down to special teams, Penn State has the clear advantage, having succeeded on 14 of 17 field goals this season, while Michigan’s kicking woes are well-known. You can be rest-assured that Rodriguez won’t try a field goal from anywhere longer than probably 30 yards, and even that is doubtful.

Fortunately, I don’t see it being that close. Michigan’s offense will be much more efficient than the past two weeks with a healthy Robinson, Shaw, and Molk. Penn State will score some points, but won’t be able to keep up with Michigan.

Prediction:

Michigan 42 – Penn State 27

From their view…

PennLive.com declares that Denard doesn’t deserve Heisman hype because he was once in a three-way tie for the starting spot with Ryan Threet and Tate Forcier (really?); The Daily Collegian talks about a record that will probably be set tomorrow; Nittany Lines predicts a Michigan win and hopes Penn State can keep Denard to just one long touchdown run; The Philadelphia Enquirer also doesn’t know how to spell the names of our quarterbacks.

Forecast Friday: Can Denard, Michigan Offense Bounce Back Against Nation’s Top Scoring Defense?

Friday, October 15th, 2010


After dropping its first game of the season last Saturday, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Michigan as the Iowa Hawkeyes come to Ann Arbor with the nation’s top-ranked defense.

There’s a perception around the nation right now that Michigan State shut down Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense. Point-wise, Michigan scored 24 less than its average from the first five games, but as I wrote on Sunday, and The Woverine’s Jonathan Chait wrote on Tuesday, Michigan left a lot of points on the field with its turnovers in the end zone.

Michigan vs. #15 Iowa
Block M logo Sat. Oct. 16
3:30 p.m. ET
ABC/ESPN
iowahawkeyes
5-1 Record 4-1
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Wins E. Illinois 37-7
Iowa State 35-7
Ball State 45-0
#22 Penn State 22-3
#17 Mich. State 17-34 Losses #24 Arizona 27-34
37.3 Scoring Offense 33.6
297.3 Rushing YPG 172.2
236.3 Passing YPG 254.2
533.7 Total Offense 426.4
26.8 Scoring Defense 10.2
146.3 Rush Defense YPG 63.2
304.3 Pass Defense YPG 179.0
450.7 Total Defense YPG 242.2
9 Takeaways 9
8 Giveaways 5
9/2 Sacks By/Allowed 10/10
35/72 (49%) Third-down Conv. 28/60 (47%)
2/7 Field Goals 2/3
36.0 Net Punt Avg. 35.6

Robinson played his worst game of the season, but the offense still moved the ball with ease the entire first half. The turnovers, which weren’t forced, they were just bad throws to open receivers, allowed State to pull away, which caused Michigan to abandon its run game.

I’m certainly not trying to discredit Michigan State, who is the better all-around team of the two right now, but instead show that without a few mistakes by a sophomore quarterback makings his first start against a ranked rival, Michigan was right there. That bodes well for the rest of the season because Robinson isn’t going to make those mistakes every week.

The debate is whether Michigan State showed the blueprint for stopping Michigan’s offense or slowing down Denard. The Spartans seemed intent on forcing Robinson to throw and let the other ball carriers beat them. The latter worked when Michigan was still in the game and executing its offense, but the former is what let the game get away.

Iowa will likely use the same defensive game plan. The Hawkeyes have given up just 10.2 points per game, despite allowing 34 in a loss to then-No. 24 Arizona. If you take away kickoff return touchdowns and touchdowns scored by opposing defenses, of which Arizona had two, Iowa’s defense has allowed just 37 points through five games. That’s a touchdown per game.

Last year, in Iowa City, Robinson was effective in leading a fourth quarter comeback as Michigan narrowly fell, 30-28. That Iowa defense was just as highly regarded. No opponent had scored more than 21 points against the Hawkeyes in the five games prior to the match-up and, and Michigan scored 28. Iowa finished the season 11-2 and didn’t allow that many points again, including No. 9 Georgia Tech, which only managed 14 in the Orange Bowl.

Michigan should be able to move the ball and score some points this week. The key is punching it into the end zone and not turning the ball over. Just like last week, I think that will be the determining factor in the game.

Iowa’s offense is a little above average. The running game ranks 45th in the nation with 172.2 yards per game and the passing game ranks 32nd with 254.2 per game, slightly better than Michigan’s. The combined record of the teams Iowa has beaten is 8-16, while the team it lost to, Arizona, is 4-1, after losing to 2-2 Oregon State last week.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is more or less your classic Big Ten quarterback. He’s accurate (67.8 completion percentage), efficient (10.13 yards per attempt), and doesn’t make many mistakes (10 touchdowns versus two interceptions).  He’s a third-year starter who has played in plenty of big games and has won two straight bowl games.

QB Ricky Stanzi passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns in last year's win over Michigan (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

QB Ricky Stanzi passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns in last year's win over Michigan (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Stanzi’s top receiver is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, a senior who’s on pace for his best season of his career. He has caught 21 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. He had three catches for 63 yards in last year’s meeting, one of which covered 47 yards.

Thankfully, the man who burned Michigan last year, tight end Tony Moeaki, is now playing on Sundays. He caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, both of which were backbreaking. The first came on third-and-12 from the 34 in the first quarter to tie the game at seven. The second, a 42-yard play, came with 13 minutes remaining and Michigan within two.

This year, Iowa doesn’t yet have a proven tight end. Senior Allen Reisner has caught 17 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown so far this season.

The running game, which didn’t do much against Michigan last year, hasn’t broken out yet this season either. Sophomore Adam Robinson is clearly the man since Jewel Hampton tore his ACL (again) against Arizona. Robinson has carried the ball 98 times for 480 yards and six touchdowns. He had big games against Eastern Illinois and Iowa State before recording just five yards on 10 carries against Arizona and being held to a very pedestrian 3.4 yards per carry on 28 attempts last week against Penn State.

The next most used healthy back on the team has just 10 carries this season, so expect Robinson to get the bulk of the load.

Much of the lack of success on the ground can probably be attributed to the offensive line, which had the least experience of any unit in the Big Ten entering the season. It has allowed 10 sacks so far, an average of two per game, which could bode well for Michigan’s defensive front. Look for defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to employ a similar blitz-happy feast or famine game plan the he used last week.

Three Keys to a Michigan Win

1. Don’t turn the ball over. This was a strength through the first five games, but proved to be the dagger last week. It wasn’t simply the turnovers, but the situation in which the turnovers occurred that killed Michigan. The first two interceptions were in the end zone after good Michigan drives. The receivers were open both times, but Robinson threw late or behind the receiver.

After the game, Robinson addressed his teammates in the locker room, taking responsibility for the performance and vowing to work hard and not let it happen again. His leadership should show on Saturday with an inspiring performance.

2. Jump out ahead. Michigan is at its best when playing with the lead. The offense is powered by its run game, which is hard to do when playing from behind. The best thing that could happen in this game is to score on each of the first two or three possessions. It will get rid of the bad taste of last week’s inability to convert, and set the tone for the game.

Running back Michael Shaw should be 100 percent healthy this week, which will help the running game significantly. He looked good against Michigan State in the limited carries he got, being not fully healthy. He’s the most complete back Michigan has, so getting him back will be a big boost to the offense.

3. Don’t give up the big play defensively. Big plays have hurt Michigan all season. Through the first five games of this season, the offense was able to score enough that it didn’t hurt. But Michigan State took advantage just like Iowa did last year with the two big plays to Moeaki.

Prediction:

I’m pretty conflicted on this prediction because I just don’t see Denard making the same mistakes he made last week, and I don’t think Iowa’s offense is as good as Michigan State’s. Yet, I don’t think Michigan will win this game. I think it will be very similar to last year’s game: close and Michigan will have a shot to win at the end. If Denard pulls it out, the Heisman train will be back on track. If not, Michigan will be 5-2. If it’s any consolation, I predicted a loss against Notre Dame, and Michigan won, so here’s to hoping that repeats itself.

Iowa 35 – Michigan 31

From their View…

The Daily Iowan has Hawkeye players saying all the right things about Denard, The Hawkeye Insider give its prediction and says Iowa has had problems tackling on defense (as if a defense allowing 10 points a game knows what it’s like to play defense for Michigan right now), and Black Heart, Gold Pants gives ten reasons why Michigan will win.

Forecast Friday: Paul Bunyan’s Baby-Sitting of Little Brother to End

Friday, October 8th, 2010


Five games into the season, Michigan brings an unblemished record into its first true test of the year. In-state rival, Michigan State, is coming off a big upset win over then-No. 11 Wisconsin. The two meet tomorrow in Michigan Stadium with a lot on the line.

Michigan is looking to bring the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to Ann Arbor from its two-year vacation in East Lansing and give Rich Rodriguez his first win over Michigan’s two chief rivals, MSU and Ohio State.

Michigan vs. Michigan State
Block M logo Sat. 10/9
3:30 p.m. ET
ABC/ESPN
MSU logo
5-0 Record 5-0
UConn 30-10
Notre Dame 28-24
UMass 42-37
Bowling Green 65-21
Indiana 42-35
Wins W. Michigan 38-14
Florida Atlantic 30-17
Notre Dame 34-31 OT
N. Colorado 45-7
#11 Wisconsin 34-24
Losses
41.4 Scoring Offense 36.2
324.4 Rushing YPG 220.2
240.6 Passing YPG 240.4
565.0 Total Offense 460.6
25.4 Scoring Defense 18.6
125.8 Rush Defense YPG 101.2
307.8 Pass Defense YPG 227.4
433.6 Total Defense YPG 328.6
9 Takeaways 11
5 Giveaways 9
7/1 Sacks By/Allowed 5/11
33/61 (54%) Third-down Conv. 23/62 (37%)
1/5 Field Goals 7/7
34.0 Net Punt Avg. 38.0

Michigan State hopes to earn a third straight win over its big brother and take another crucial step towards a Big Ten championship. It doesn’t play Ohio State, so the only major test remaining would be at No. 15 Iowa on Oct. 30.

Something has to give and analysts and fans alike will be looking to see if Denard Robinson can keep up his torrid start to the season. After racking up 1,913 yards in the first five games (more than 34 entire FBS teams), the only knock anyone can come up with so far has been that he hasn’t done it against a good defense. Saturday, he gets his first chance.

Michigan State enters with the nation’s 20th-ranked run defense, giving up just 101 yards per game. However, just like one can say that Robinson isn’t the real thing until he faces a good defense, the same argument could be made that Michigan State’s defense hasn’t yet faced Robinson.

In last week’s 34-25 win over Wisconsin, the Badgers’ run game wasn’t exactly shut down, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, sacks not included. While John Clay was held under 100 yards for the first time this season (17 carries for 80 yards), freshman James White ran 10 times for 98 yards (9.8 ypc) and two touchdowns.

Michigan gets Michael Shaw back from an injury that forced him to miss last week’s game and that could be big. Michigan State’s defense, led by linebacker Greg Jones, will be intent on keeping Robinson from beating them with his legs. Shaw, who has looked to be Michigan’s most dangerous back, could go off like White did last week.

The weakness of State’s defense is the secondary, which has given up an average of 227 yards per game and ranks 78th in the nation. Notre Dame shredded the Spartans through the air, racking up 369 yards and four touchdowns. By comparison, Michigan’s pass defense, which ranks dead last in the FBS, gave up 381 yards passing to Notre Dame, 95 of which came on one play.

If State’s defense focuses on forcing Robinson to beat it through the air, Michigan’s talented receiving corps will go wild. It seems as if a different Wolverine receiver has stepped up in each game, and all are competent enough to keep defenses from crowding the line.

Against Notre Dame, Martavious Odoms caught seven passes for 91 yards and Roy Roundtree caught eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The next week, against UMass, it was Darryl Stonum who stepped up, catching three passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Against Bowling Green, Roundtree caught nine passes for 118 yards. Last week, against Indiana, Roundtree again had a big game with five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Junior Hemingway broke out with three catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.

With that many guys to cover, it may be tough for a shaky secondary to handle. Robinson will focus on the slants and screens that have been his go-to plays when he’s not blazing into the end zone himself, but if he’s throwing accurate deep balls, which he has this season, but not last week, expect some big plays.

Defensively, Michigan will give up some points. I should just copy and paste that phrase into each post since it seems to be the theme of the season. Opponents have averaged 25.2 points per game so far and Indiana racked up nearly 500 yards passing last week.

Fortunately, Michigan State’s passing game, led by junior Kirk Cousins, isn’t quite as dangerous as Indiana’s. That’s not to say he won’t rack up some yards though. Cousins has been efficient so far this season, completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns against four interceptions.

Last week against Wisconsin, Cousins completed 20-of-29 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He was also picked off twice.

The running game is a good one with the two-headed monster of Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. Each is averaging over seven yards per carry this season, and the two have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns.

Shaw and Robinson face the nation's 20th-ranked run defense (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Shaw, who returns from injury, and Robinson face the nation's 20th-ranked run defense tomorrow (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

One thing that stands out to me is the 11 sacks that the Spartans have given up. That’s just over two per game. Michigan’s defense has only recorded seven sacks so far, but the strength of the defense is the line of Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Greg Banks. Five of those seven sacks have come in the past two weeks and with State expected to try to take advantage of Michigan’s weak secondary, look for the line to get some pressure on Cousins.

Three predictions

1. Michael Shaw runs for near 100 yards and scores two touchdowns

2. Denard Robinson passes for over 250 yards

3. Michigan’s defense gets four combined sacks and turnovers

    Overall, I see this game as being very similar to both the Notre Dame and Indiana games. High-scoring, back-and-forth, not much defense. State’s defense may slow down Robinson stat-wise this week, but Michigan’s other playmakers will step up and the offense will keep rolling. The defense only needs a couple of stops in this one to get the offense ahead.

    Michigan wins at home 37-33.

    From Their View…

    The State News declares Michigan’s dominance over, while overlooking the fact that the past two years have given State a whopping 30 wins over Michigan in the rivalry. Oh yeah, Michigan has won 67 times. As if you needed any more evidence that State isn’t exactly Harvard (or Michigan), apparently the math goes like this: 30 > 67.

    Forecast Friday: Denard, UM Hope to Run Hoosiers into Ground

    Friday, October 1st, 2010


    Michigan passed the non-conference test with flying colors the past four weeks and travels to Indiana tomorrow looking to kick off the Big Ten schedule in the same fashion.

    Indiana also enters the matchup undefeated, although the quality of the opponents is hardly anything to write home about.

    Michigan vs. Indiana
    Block M logo Sat. 10/2
    3:30 p.m. ET
    ESPNU
    IU
    4-0 Record 3-0
    UConn 30-10
    Notre Dame 28-24
    UMass 42-37
    Bowling Green 65-21
    Wins Towson 51-17
    W. Kentucky 38-21
    Akron 35-20
      Losses  
    41.2 Scoring Offense 41.3
    331.2 Rushing YPG 113.0
    231.5 Passing YPG 304.3
    562.8 Total Offense 417.3
    23.0 Scoring Defense 19.3
    135.2 Rush Defense YPG 177.0
    264.8 Pass Defense YPG 161.3
    400.0 Total Defense YPG 338.3
    8 Takeaways 4
    4 Giveaways 1
    5/1 Sacks By/Allowed 4/2
    31/54 (57%) Third-down Conv. 18/34 (53%)
    1/5 Field Goals 4/5
    31.6 Net Punt Avg. 35.1

    According to the Sagarin Ratings, the highest rated opponent IU has played so far was No. 144 Western Kentucky, which is 0-4. The other two opponents were Akron (0-4, No. 175) and Towson, an FCS school, and not even a good one (1-3, No. 195).

    Against those three, the Hoosiers have averaged 41.3 points per game and 304.3 passing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the nation.

    On paper, it would seem they are a legitimate threat to upset Michigan in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but when you look at their rush defense, it tells a different story.

    It ranks 92nd in FBS, surrendering an average of 177 yards per game to teams that are a combined 1-11. Only 14 teams in the nation allow more yards per carry than Indiana (5.16).

    Michigan features the nation’s second-best rushing offense, averaging a whopping 331.3 yards per game (6.63 yards per carry), meaning it could be another Playstation-like offensive performance for Denard Robinson and company.

    Only Air Force averages more yards on the ground per game (394) and only TCU has scored more rushing touchdowns (18) than Michigan’s 17.

    On the opening weekend of the season, Towson running back Chris Hart rushed for 123 yards on 16 carries against the Hoosiers. The next three weeks combined, he was held to a total of 146 by Coastal Carolina, Villanova, and Columbia.

    Needless to say, expect Michigan to run a lot, not that that’s much of a surprise, given the way the running game has dominated with Robinson leading the charge.

    Robinson is the nation’s leading rusher, with 60 yards more than Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas. Michael Shaw has emerged as Michigan’s go-to running back, and ranks 91st in the nation in rushing with just over 61 yards per game, but probably won’t play on Saturday due to a knee injury.

    Expect Vincent Smith to carry much of the load and Fitzgerald Toussaint, if healthy, to get some carries as well. If not Michael Cox will probably split the carries with Smith.

    That said, Michigan is going to have to get some stops defensively against a good passing offense, one that it had trouble stopping a year ago.

    Senior quarterback Ben Chappell comes in as the nation’s sixth best passer in terms of efficiency, having completed 72 percent of his passes for 890 yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions. Again, that’s against a trio of teams that are a combined 1-11 and giving up an average of 41 points per game, but impressive nonetheless.

    Five receivers have over 100 yards each so far this season, with 6’5” Demarlo Belcher leading the way with 284 yards and two touchdowns. He could be a matchup problem for Michigan corners J.T. Floyd and James Rogers.

    The running game hasn’t been great, but sophomore running back Darius Willis gashed Michigan for 154 yards and two touchdowns a year ago on just 16 carries.

    What to watch for:

    –The health of Denard Robinson. By now, everybody knows that Robinson has had to miss plays in three of Michigan’s four games so far due to injury. Against UConn and Notre Dame, he was only out a couple of plays, but last week, he sat out the remainder of the game.

    Rich Rodriguez said he could have gone back in had he been needed, but with a 21-0 lead at that point, the wise choice was to let him rest and heal.

    Martavious Odoms caught the winning touchdown pass last year with 2:29 remaining (photo from MgoBlue.com)

    Martavious Odoms caught the winning touchdown pass in last year's shootout with 2:29 remaining (photo from MgoBlue.com)

    Provided he doesn’t get knocked out of this game, Robinson should have a field day and continue to pad his Heisman numbers.

    Over/Under – 149 rushing yards. I think he goes well beyond because of the week IU rush defense, even though he won’t get the number of carries he got in the first couple of games.

    –The corners covering Belcher and Tandon Doss. In last year’s meeting, it was Doss who Michigan couldn’t cover. He racked up 104 yards on just five catches. Doss is still around, and the emergence of Belcher means Michigan’s young and thin secondary will have its hands full.

    Over/Under – 3 touchdown receptions for Belcher and Doss. I’ll go under on this one, and here’s why: Indiana has a tight end. Freshman Ted Bolser leads the team in touchdown receptions with four. Michigan has done fairly well covering receivers this season, but has had trouble covering tight ends, giving up a 95-yard touchdown to Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph.

    –The defense forcing turnovers. While Michigan’s defense has received a fair amount of ridicule for giving up big plays and being the weakness of the team, it has been opportunistic with turnovers. Six interceptions and two fumbles have Michigan at a plus-four turnover differential.

    Chappell hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season (again, consider the opposition) and IU has only fumbled once. That’s pretty darn good ball possession no matter who you’re playing against.

    Over/Under – 1.5 turnovers forced. I’ll go with over. The Hoosiers’ offensive line features three returning starters from last year, but it’s relatively young. It’s only allowed two sacks so far, but without a proven running game, Michigan’s defensive line should be able to put some pressure on Chappell.

    Prediction

    I really think Michigan can put up a lot of points in this one, but will also give up more than it would like to. It may start out as a shootout, but Michigan’s ball possession and running game will keep the ball away from Chappell and Michigan pulls away in the second half.

    Michigan 51 – Indiana 31

    From Their View…

    The Indiana Daily Student claims that IU fans actually care about their football team this year and also says the Hoosiers are just taking this week as business as usual. What, Michigan’s coming? Oh, ho hum. The Crimson Quarry details the Hoosiers’  inglorious history against UM.

    Top UM Output in 24 Years Shows Growth of Rodriguez’s System

    Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


    3QBs

    In what would have been situation of near panic for most teams, the genius of Rich Rodriguez’s system shone bright. After racking up nearly 200 yards of total offense and a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes, Denard Robinson went down with a knee injury. Instead of going into a shell of the offense, backups Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner didn’t miss a beat, leading seven touchdown drives as Michigan pummeled Bowling Green 65-21.

    Just like that it became apparent that Michigan is set at the quarterback position for the next few years and Rodriguez needed only to get his type of players into his system in order to succeed. 

    It was a stark contrast to both the team on the other side of the field and Rodriguez’s first couple of years at Michigan.

    Bowling Green’s starting quarterback Matt Schilz suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s win over Marshall leaving redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz to make the first start of his career. He proved ineffective even against a Michigan defense that entered the game on pace to become the worst in school history statistically.

    Michigan sacked Pankratz three times and forced two turnovers, limiting the Bowling Green offense to 283 total yards, 71 of which came on one busted play in the second quarter.

    Two years ago, it was Rodriguez who found himself in a quarterback quandary with two quarterbacks that had no experience, one a walk-on, and neither of which suited for his system.

    While the offense struggled to put together drives and score points and Michigan fans bemoaned the program’s worst season in 40 years, Rodriguez supporters insisted that he needed to be given time to recruit his guys.

    Last season, the offense showed a glimpse of what was possible with Forcier, then a true freshman, leading Michigan to a 4-0 start, including a thrilling come-from-behind win over Notre Dame. Robinson, who didn’t enroll in the spring like Forcier did, provided highlights with his legs but had virtually no grasp of the offense.

    Now, as sophomores, and Robinson firmly entrenched as the starter, Michigan has again raced out to a 4-0 start, boasting one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the entire nation.

    Robinson has rushed for over 100 yards in all four games, leading the nation in rushing, but has also proven he can be an efficient passer. He currently ranks 18th in passing efficiency, right in between Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.

    Offensive stats through four games
    2010   2009
    4-0 Record 4-0
    41.2 Scoring Offense 37.5
    1,325 Rushing Yards 961
    331.2 Rushing YPG 240.3
    926 Passing Yards 728
    231.5 Passing YPG 182
    562.8 Total Offense 422.3
    13/54 (57%) Third-Down Conv. 25/58 (43%)
    18/19 (95%) Red Zone Scoring 11/15 (73%)
    2* Turnovers 5
    1 Sacks Allowed 6
    *2 other turnovers were fumbles on a INT returns,
    so they don’t count towards offensive stats

    He’s certainly the electricity that fuels the dynamic Michigan offense, but in moments like this past Saturday, having a proven starter as the backup allows the offense to keep firing on all cylinders despite a flat tire.

    When Gardner, a true freshman, gets added to the mix, one can see how Michigan has perhaps the best corps of quarterbacks in the country. Many believe Gardner to have the most potential of the three, and he has been the first off the bench each time Robinson has been forced out of the game.

    His knowledge of the offense is akin to that of Robinson’s last season, but his physical talent and size make Gardner an imposing threat. On Saturday, he showed his passing ability, connecting on 7-of-10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Hidden in those stats is a beautiful deep ball that would have been a 47-yard touchdown pass had Junior Hemingway not developed a case of alligator arms.

    Forcier, meanwhile, set a Michigan record for most passes without an incompeltion, connecting on all 12 of his passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.

    All together, the trio went 23-for-26 for 255 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

    While it’s easy to look at the opponent and say, “Well, it’s just Bowling Green,” consider that the last time Michigan put up offense like that against an FBS team was in 1986.

    Michigan plays MAC schools nearly every season and the next closest results were a 59-20 beating of Eastern Michigan in 1998 and 55-0 in 2005. Those teams were led by quarterbacks you may have heard of: Tom Brady and Chad Henne.   

    As electric as Robinson is, the offense was just as effective without him for 52 minutes on Saturday, while in Columbus, fellow Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor played all but 16 minutes of his team’s 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan.

    Imagine the kind of stats Robinson would have put up had he played another two-plus quarters against Bowling Green.

    Despite the initial scare when Robinson got his knee checked out on the sideline, he was cleared to play and could have gone back in had he been needed. Instead, Rodriguez made the right choice to keep him healthy heading into Big Ten play and give Forcier and Gardner some valuable playing time.

    Denard is the current front-runner for the Heisman, but he has selflessly embodied Bo Schembechler’s “the team” mindset. By putting the team first, Robinson earned his starting spot, and even though he wasn’t needed for most of the game last Saturday, he’ll be the fuel that keeps the engine running as Michigan travels to Indiana to open the conference schedule this Saturday.

    Yes, we have little receivers. Get used to it

    When are refs going to realize that just because our receivers are small and required to run block in Rodriguez’s system, it doesn’t mean they’re committing penalties all the time?

    Maybe the refs aren’t used to seeing little guys blocking out in the open field, or maybe the defensive backs and linebackers have to get so low to approach them that it looks like it’s illegal, but when Martavious Odoms was called for a personal foul block below the waist in the second quarter, he literally hit the guy in the chest.

    It was the second or third time this season a receiver has been called for the penalty when it wasn’t even close. That’s not even a penalty like holding that could be called on every play, or pass interference that is largely subjective. It’s not hard to tell if a guy hits another guy in the chest versus the legs.

    Over/Under

    If the game would have been three quarters long instead of four, I would have been close. But I’m glad it wasn’t, since it gave us a chance to see the debut of Fitzgerald Toussaint, in which he rumbled 61 yards to set up his own 5-yard touchdown run.

    I ended up 17 over on offense and just two over on defense, leaving me 26 to 20 over on offense and defense, respectively for the season.

    Redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint made ran for 61 yards on the first carry of his career (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)
    Redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 61 yards on the first carry of his career (photo by John T. Greilick / the Detroit News)

     

    I Said What?

    “While Michigan’s offense has looked virtually unstoppable so far this season, it will be that much better with a proven back to take the pressure off of Robinson. Hopefully Shaw continues to emerge as that back, and I think he will.

    Over/Under – 99 Rushing yards for Shaw. I’ll take the over. Marshall’s Andre Booker ran for 126 last week against Bowling Green.”

    Shaw didn’t really need to do much on Saturday. He carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards and a touchdown, but that only accounted for 21 percent of Michigan’s carries. Counting the three quarterbacks, nine different Wolverines rushed the ball against BG.

    Shaw didn’t get over 99 yards, so I was wrong (-1), but he certainly didn’t do anything to warrant losing his spot as the top back.

    “Over/Under – 2.5 sacks. I’ll take the over again. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh have to be licking their chops right now and hope to use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season.”

    I was dead on with this prediction as Michigan recorded three sacks. Jonas Mouton, Ryan Van Bergen and Greg Banks each got to Pankratz, besting the total number of sacks Michigan had in the first three games combined. (+1)

    “Gardner seems to have passed Forcier on the depth chart, and Rodriguez would love to get him some live reps. On the other hand, Forcier has a year of starting experience under his belt and hasn’t sniffed the field yet this season. Rodriguez would probably like to get him out there as well.

    My bet is that Gardner gets at least a few drives to show what he can do and Forcier becomes the Darco Milicic human victory cigar late in the fourth quarter.”

    Well, Gardner was the first to relieve Robinson, but Forcier was anything but Darco Milicic and I’m rather embarrassed for even suggesting he would be.

    Forcier is a very important piece of this team and I have a much greater respect for the kid after his performance on Saturday and the press conference afterward. He basically said he loves Michigan, he loves Rodriguez, and he’s all in. (-1)

    “Over/Under – 49 rushing yards for Devin Gardner. Once more, I’ll go with the over. Of course, this all depends on the first-team offense playing well enough to yield playing time, but my guess is that Gardner will get three or four possessions. The game should be well in hand by then, so Gardner won’t be passing much. I could see him breaking one long run.”

    Gardner did show his passing skills but only made it halfway to the rushing yards I predicted, so I was wrong. He has certainly shown his talent, but has missed some reads and seems to get tackled much easier than Robinson does. He’s just a true freshman though, so there’s a long way to go. (-1)

    “Michigan puts it away early in the second quarter. The offense will be firing on all cylinders and the defense will force some turnovers. Bowling Green won’t have enough firepower to keep up and Michigan’s backups will finally get a chance to play.”

    Well, that about sums it up. It was basically put away in the first eight minutes, but BG fought back before it was officially put away with Shaw’s touchdown run just before the half. (+1)

    Denard me!

    Denard pryor Week 4

    Forecast Friday: UM Looks to Springboard Into Big Ten Slate

    Friday, September 24th, 2010


    Michigan’s performance last Saturday in what many thought to be a cakewalk left much to be desired. After thumping UConn and outlasting Notre Dame on the road, Michigan eked out a win at home over FCS UMass. This week, 1-2 Bowling Green comes to town and Michigan hopes to show that the UMass performance was just an emotional letdown after two big wins, rather than an indication of things to come.

    Michigan vs. Bowling Green
    Block M logo Sat. 9/25
    12 p.m. ET
    ESPN2
    BowlingGreen logo
    3-0 Record 1-2
    UConn 30-10
    Notre Dame 28-24
    UMass 42-37
    Wins Marshall 44-28
      Losses Troy 27-30
    Tulsa 20-33
    33.3 Scoring Offense 30.3
    286.3 Rushing YPG 83.3
    223.7 Passing YPG 258.3
    510 Total Offense 341.7
    23.7 Scoring Defense 30.3
    169.7 Rush Defense YPG 195.3
    269.3 Pass Defense YPG 270.3
    439.0 Total Defense YPG 465.7
    6 Takeaways 9
    2 Giveaways 7
    2/1 Sacks By/Allowed 4/11
    50% Third-down Conv. 43%
    1/5 Field Goals 3/6
    31.6 Net Punt Avg. 36.0

    Bowling Green comes in with road losses to Troy and Tulsa and a 44-28 win over Marshall – the same Marshall team that took No. 23 West Virginia to overtime two weeks ago.

    While, as we saw last week, and the past three years for that matter, no opponent can be overlooked, it’s hard to imagine Bowling Green having much of a chance given the strengths and weaknesses of each team.  

    On paper, the Falcons’ offense actually stacks up pretty well against Michigan’s weakness, the pass defense, averaging 258.3 yards passing per game, which ranks 29th in the nation. The good news for Michigan, however, is that quarterback Matt Schilz, who has thrown for 664 yards so far, is out with a shoulder injury, leaving redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz, freshman Kellen Pagel, or true freshman Trent Hurley to take the snaps.

    Pankratz is just 10-21 for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his brief career, while Hurley hasn’t played yet.

    The running game has averaged just 83.3 yards per game this season, led by senior Willie Geter, who is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and 81 yards per game so far, though he’s very active in the passing game as well.

    Defensively, the Falcons play right into the strengths of Michigan’s offense. Bowling Green ranks 111th in total defense, and 98th in rush defense, giving up 194 yards per game on the ground this season. Michigan’s offense, led by Denard Robinson, ranks sixth in the nation with 286.3 yards rushing per game.

    Last week I predicted that Michigan’s starters would play the first half, and maybe into the third quarter before giving way to the second team. That wasn’t the case, since the offense wasn’t able to find its rhythm until just before halftime and the defense couldn’t stop UMass in the second half.

    This week, however, I’m going to predict the exact same thing. The most important aspects of this week’s game, aside from getting a win, is establishing consistency and keeping the starters, most notably Robinson, healthy.

    Rich Rodriguez said after last week’s game that had safety Cam Gordon not fumbled his interception return, the backup quarterbacks, Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner, would have gone in. Rodriguez wants to get them some game action to stay fresh in case Robinson gets injured in Big Ten play.

    With Schilz out, Bowling Green’s offense will struggle even against Michigan’s poor defense. Keep in mind that the Falcons’ offensive line is playing three new starters this year, and has given up an average of nearly four sacks per game this season. That bodes well for Michigan’s defensive line to get some pressure and force the inexperienced quarterbacks into quick throws.

    Look for Michigan to force four or five turnovers and at least for this week look like a solid defensive unit as it heads into conference play.

    What to watch for:

    Can running back Michael Shaw repeat last week’s breakout performance and cement his spot as Michigan’s go-to back? Last week, he carried the ball 12 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns.

    While Michigan’s offense has looked virtually unstoppable so far this season, it will be that much better with a proven back to take the pressure off of Robinson. Hopefully Shaw continues to emerge as that back, and I think he will.

     Over/Under – 99 Rushing yards for Shaw. I’ll take the over. Marshall’s Andre Booker ran for 126 last week against Bowling Green.

    NT Mike Martin and the defensive line face an offense that has given up 11 sacks so far (photo from MGoBlue.com)

    NT Mike Martin and the defensive line face an offense that has given up 11 sacks so far (photo from MGoBlue.com)

    Can the defense pressure Bowling Green’s inexperienced quarterbacks? As mentioned above, Bowling Green has given up an average of 3.6 sacks per game this season, with three new offensive linemen from last season, and will be starting a quarterback who has thrown all of 21 passes in his collegiate career.

    Despite Michigan’s strong defensive line, getting to the quarterback has been a problem through the first three games. Michigan has recorded just two sacks, and only three teams, North Carolina (1), Hawaii (1), and New Mexico State (0) have made fewer.

    Over/Under – 2.5 sacks. I’ll take the over again. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh have to be licking their chops right now and hope to use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season.

    Will the backup quarterbacks get some playing time and give Robinson a rest? Michigan is averaging 33.3 points per game this season, while Bowling Green is giving up an average of 30.3. Look for Michigan to run early and often against a poor rush defense and rack up nearly its average in the first half.

    Perhaps the biggest question is which quarterback will relieve Robinson first. When Robinson was momentarily injured against UConn and Notre Dame, it was Gardner, not last year’s starter, Forcier, who relieved him.

    Gardner seems to have passed Forcier on the depth chart, and Rodriguez would love to get him some live reps. On the other hand, Forcier has a year of starting experience under his belt and hasn’t sniffed the field yet this season. Rodriguez would probably like to get him out there as well.

    My bet is that Gardner gets at least a few drives to show what he can do and Forcier becomes the Darco Milicic human victory cigar late in the fourth quarter.*

    Over/Under – 49 rushing yards for Devin Gardner. Once more, I’ll go with the over. Of course, this all depends on the first-team offense playing well enough to yield playing time, but my guess is that Gardner will get three or four possessions. The game should be well in hand by then, so Gardner won’t be passing much. I could see him breaking one long run.

    Prediction

    Michigan puts it away early in the second quarter. The offense will be firing on all cylinders and the defense will force some turnovers. Bowling Green won’t have enough firepower to keep up and Michigan’s backups will finally get a chance to play.

    Michigan 48 – Bowling Green 23

    From Their View…

    The Toledo Blade says Bowling Green draws some inspiration from Miley Cyrus, the Cleveland Plain Dealer seems to think Schilz’s injury won’t slow Bowling Green down, and FalconBlog answers 25 questions about Michigan.

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    *I hate to make a joke about Forcier not starting or even being the backup this year, since he was incredibly clutch in some games last season and still could become a very good college quarterback. I think the way he handled himself in the opener against UConn was very immature and embarassing, but by all accounts he has become a great team player since then, so I’m glad that he has been able to move past that and put the team first. I’m glad we have him in case Robinson gets hurt and Gardner doesn’t perform. I hate to see him on the bench, but for Rich Rodriguez, it’s a good problem to have, and I won’t belabor the point any longer.

    Is This Year’s Hot Start Just a Repeat of 2009?

    Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010


    Michigan escaped with a win last Saturday over an FCS school leaving Michigan fans on the verge of panic. It was a scene all to familiar in recent years, with Michigan narrowly avoiding another Appalachian State-style loss.

    The first two games, wins at home against UConn and on the road against Notre Dame, had Michigan the talk of the nation with super sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson. But Saturday’s uninspiring performance in which the Minutemen marched down the field for three touchdown drives spanning 67 yards or more brought back the “Oh, not again” feelings that have inundated  the past two years.

    Is Michigan headed for another collapse just like last season, or is this year’s team poised to hold its own in the Big Ten?

    Offensive stats through three games
    2010   2009
    3-0 Record 3-0
    33.3 Scoring Offense 38.0
    859 Rushing Yards 812
    286.3 Rushing YPG 270.7
    671 Passing Yards 505
    223.7 Passing YPG 168.3
    510 Total Offense 439
    21/42 (50%) Third-Down Conv. 16/41 (39%)
    10/11 (91%) Red Zone Scoring 9/12 (75%)
    1* Turnovers 4
    1 Sacks Allowed 4
    *1 other turnover was on a fumble after an
    INT, so doesn’t count towards offensive stats

    Through the first three games last season, Michigan averaged more points per game (38) than it has so far this season (33.3), but the offensive output has been much more consistent this year (510 total yards per game compared to 439).

    While Michigan’s offensive numbers are better, the opponents have been eerily similar.

    Last year, Michigan opened with Western Michigan, a Mid-American Conference school that had a senior quarterback who holds six career passing records at the school. Many predicted the Broncos pull off the upset, but Michigan dominated in a 31-7 win in Tate Forcier’s debut.

    A week later, Michigan hosted Notre Dame and won a 38-34 shootout, then followed that up with a lackluster performance against Eastern Michigan. In that game, Michigan led just 24-17 at halftime, but pulled away, winning 41-17.

    Those three opponents finished the year with a combined record of 11-25, so what seemed like a great start for Michigan was really just smoke and mirrors.

    Prior to this year’s opener against UConn, many predicted the Huskies to waltz into Ann Arbor and come away with a win. UConn was expected to play for the Big East title this season. Instead, Michigan won convincingly in Denard Robinson’s debut, and UConn has now started the season 1-2 with a loss to Temple last week.

    In the second week of the season, Michigan traveled to South Bend and pulled out the win when Robinson led the Wolverines on a 12-play, 72-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes to seal the win. Notre Dame followed that up with an overtime loss at Michigan State last week, and could very well lose its next three as well.

    Last week, Michigan came out flat, leading UMass just 21-17 at halftime before building a sizeable lead in the third quarter. But Michigan wasn’t able to put UMass away in the fourth quarter, as the Minutemen pulled within five before a failed onside kick allowed Michigan to run out the clock.

    Despite being an FCS team, UMass is probably better than Eastern Michigan was last year, considering Eastern didn’t win a single game and UMass is currently ranked 72nd in the Sagarin Ratings. That’s higher than upcoming opponents Bowling Green (90th), Indiana (82nd), and Purdue (77th).

    I think this year’s Michigan team is better suited for Big Ten play than last year’s was for a couple of reasons.

    1. Denard Robinson.

    As long as he stays healthy, he gives Michigan a chance to win every game. Of course they won’t win every game this season, but his ability to run and pass makes Michigan’s offense nearly impossible to defend consistently.

    Last year, Forcier played well in the first few games, but Michigan’s offense was ultimately hurt by his inexperience and a lack of a true running game. Forcier was a true freshman with a limited understanding of the playbook, and thus, the offensive variety was lacking.

    Running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were constantly injured and neither proved to be a true threat, meaning opponents could key in on the passing game, forcing Forcier to make freshman mistakes, which he did.

    Robinson had last season to get his feet wet in the offense and get acclimated to the college game. He came to fall camp just a few weeks before the season started, so his ability to run the offense consisted solely of taking the snap and running left or right. Opponents knew that and he still ran for 5.1 yards per carry.

    The offseason gave him a chance to learn the playbook and develop his arm, and it paid off when Rich Rodriguez gave him the nod to start the UConn game. Robinson took advantage, putting up three of the nine best offensive games in Michigan history the past three weeks.

    The offensive line opens up a huge hole for Vincent Smith (photo by the Detroit News)

    The offensive line opens up a huge hole for Vincent Smith (photo by the Detroit News)

    2. The offensive line.

    This year’s offensive line is talented and experienced, and it all starts with center David Molk. Last year, the offense started to plummet after Molk went down with an injury. It shook up the entire line, making guard David Moosman move to center. In the first game thereafter, he fumbled three or four bad snaps, and the line was never able to gel the rest of the season.

    So far this season, the line has allowed just one sack in Robinson’s 76 pass attempts, and has paved the way for 859 rushing yards in three games (six yards per carry).

    Against Notre Dame’s stout defensive front seven, Michigan rushed for 288 yards and averaged seven yards per carry. Robinson also threw for 244 yards without being sacked.

    Last week, Notre Dame sacked Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins four times and held State to 4.7 yards per carry, well below its average of 6.6.

    The real test for the offensive line will be when Michigan plays Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, but this line is certainly suited to keep Michigan’s offense chugging away.

    3. The skills position players.

    Running back Michael Shaw stepped up last week against UMass, rushing for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. He seems to be the best back Michigan has this season, with Vincent Smith also splitting reps. If the two can combine to give Michigan a running threat outside of Robinson, the offense will be that much harder to stop.

    The receivers are perhaps the best position group on the offense, other than quarterback. In Michigan’s last two games, a different receiver has stepped up.

    Against Notre Dame, it was Roy Roundtree with eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown and Martavious Odoms with seven catches for 91 yards. Against UMass it was Darryl Stonum with three catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.  

    Junior Hemingway, Michigan’s best deep threat, just returned from injury and made a nice 36-yard catch last week, and Kelvin Grady has averaged 13.2 yards per catch out of the slot.

    With those receiving weapons at Robinson’s disposal, defenses will have a hard time lining up to stop the run.

    Given the electric play of Robinson, the cohesiveness of the offensive line, and the talent of the skill position players, Michigan’s offense is much more suited to continue its output once the Big Ten grind starts than it was last season. The only glaring weakness is the defense, which isn’t going to be fixed this season. Expect a lot of shootouts the rest of the way.

    Darryl Stonum had a breakout game against UMass (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

    Darryl Stonum had a breakout game against UMass (photo by the Detroit Free Press)

    Over/Under

    I was right there with Michigan’s score last week, only one under, but gave the defense too much credit, 16 under. I don’t think anyone really expected UMass to drop 37 points in Ann Arbor, but here’s to hoping it was just a one-game letdown.

    For the season, I’m nine over offensively and 18 over defensively, so it’s starting to come back down to the median.

    I Said What?

    “Robinson will play but certainly won’t need the whopping amount of carries he has had in the past two games. Rodriguez should let him keep his rhythm and build a good lead and then rest him to keep him fresh.”

    Well, I was right that he wouldn’t need as many carries. He rushed 17 times, as opposed to the 29 and 28 times in the previous two games. Shaw was efficient enough with his 12 carries, scoring three touchdowns, that Robinson wasn’t needed to run as much.

    I was wrong, however, about Michigan building a large enough lead that would allow Robinson a breather. (+1/2)

    “Robinson needs to establish the passing game. Everybody knows Robinson’s skills on the ground – that was evident from his first collegiate snap. The biggest question mark surrounding Robinson at this point is his passing ability.”

    Michigan didn’t need to throw the ball more last week, but Robinson was very efficient when he did, going 10-14 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The only miscue was an interception on his first pass of the day.

    He showed great touch on a few deep balls that he threw, completing a 36-yarder to Hemingway and a 46-yarder to Stonum.  

    I think Robinson did enough to warrant defenses paying attention to the passing game, although until he proves he can do it in Big Ten play, the question marks will still exist. (+1)

    “Find a running game outside of Robinson.”

    Done. Shaw rushed 12 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 34-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and broke a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up another touchdown. Can he do it again? (+1)

    Look for Michigan to set the tone early, jumping out to a comfortable lead by halftime.”

    The tone that Michigan set was one that lacked emotion coming off a big road win over a rival. UMass took the opening drive down the field for a field goal and Robinson’s first pass was picked off. UMass led 17-7 before Michigan realized it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk and scored twice right before the half. (-1)

    Denard?

    Denard Pryor Week 3
    Three games into the season he’s still outperforming everybody’s preseason Heisman favorite Terrelle Pryor. While Pryor has 44 more passing yards and two more passing touchdowns, Robinson has 394 more rushing yards and two more rushing touchdowns. He also has a higher quarterback rating, although ever so slight, a higher completion percentage, and has thrown one fewer interception. Interstingly enough, their yards per attempt are exactly the same.