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2014 opponent preview: Miami (Ohio)

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014


2014 Opponent Preview - Miami OH

Last week, we previewed Michigan’s first opponent of the season, who we also feel is the easiest opponent on the schedule, Appalachian State. Today, it’s time to take a look at the second-easiest, although the difference in “toughness” between Appalachian State and today’s featured opponent, Miami (Ohio), is very minimal. Miami got the nod over ASU because the Redhawks are already an FBS team.

Overview

Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 Marshall
Sept. 6 Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 13 at Michigan
Sept. 20 at Cincinnati
Sept. 27 at Buffalo
Oct. 4 Massachusetts
Oct. 11 at Akron
Oct. 18 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 25 Kent State
Nov. 1 Western Michigan
Nov. 15 at Central Michigan
Nov. 25 Ohio

After a surprising 10-4 record in 2010, Miami hired former Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell and he went 8-21 the next two-and-a-half seasons. He was fired on Oct. 6 last season after starting 0-5. Interim head coach Mike Bath didn’t fare any better as the Redhawks failed to win a game all season. Following the season, Miami turned to another offensive coordinator from one of Michigan’s rivals, this time hiring Notre Dame’s Chuck Martin.

Martin coached Notre Dame’s defensive backs in 2010 and 2011 before moving to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, but it was his head coaching success before that which gives hope to those in Oxford, Ohio. From 2004 to 2009, Martin guided Grand Valley State to a 74-7 record and two Division II national championships. From 2005-07, GVSU won 40 straight games before falling in the playoff semifinal.

The flip side of the argument is that Martin inherited a powerhouse at GVSU from Brian Kelly, who had gone 118-35-2 there since 1991, including 41-2 the three years prior to handing the reigns to Martin. Miami is in a much different position, having achieved just one winning season in the past eight years. If there’s anything Martin can point to for hope, it’s the fact that that one winning season — the 10-4, 2010 campaign — came a year after the Redhawks went just 1-11.

But this is a massive undertaking. Miami scored 10 points or fewer in seven of 12 games last season and didn’t score more than 17. They also gave up more than 40 points in seven of 12 games. They tied for last nationally in scoring offense (9.8 points per game) and ranked 107th in scoring defense (35.7 ppg). With 15 starters returning, Martin will at least have some experience on his hands, but any improvement in 2014 will be minimal at best.

Offense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
QB Andrew Hendrix 6’2″, 226 2-14 for 56 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT (at ND)
RB Spencer Treadwell 5’10″, 205 171 yds (3.1 avg), 1 TD
WR Dawan Scott 6’1″, 191 28 rec. for 425 yds, 2 TD
WR David Frazier 6’0″, 175 28 rec. for 302 yds, 2 TD
WR Alvonta Jenkins 6’0″, 204 12 rec. for 141 yds
TE Alex Welch 6’4″, 251 (at ND)
LT Jeff Tanner 6’4″, 296 10 starts (11 career starts)
LG Trevan Brown 6’4″, 291 10 starts (19 career starts)
C Marcus Matthews 6’3″, 325 3 starts (22 career starts)
RG Brandyn Cook 6’3″, 301 6 starts (7 career starts)
RT Zach Lewis 6’6″, 276 11 starts (28 career starts)

The offense is the biggest challenge. Not only did it average just 9.8 points, but it ranked second-to-last nationally in yards per game (225.8), 116th in rush offense (101.6 ypg), 121st in pass offense (124.3 ypg), second-to-last in third-down conversions (24.6 percent), and last in red zone conversions (63.2 percent). The good news is eight starters return. But that’s about the only good news and Martin has decreed that no one’s job is safe.

Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix knows Martin's system

Notre Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix knows Martin’s system

Two quarterbacks who got some action last season are back, but the main starter, Austin Boucher, is gone. His replacement, Austin Gearing, who took over as a freshman and completed just 24-of-54 passes for 188 yards (just 7.8 yards per completion), no touchdowns, and three interceptions. He was also sacked nearly as many times (16) as he completed a pass. Gearing was, however, an effective runner, leading the team with 478 yards on the ground. Sophomore Drew Kummer was slightly more effective in the passing game, going 18-for-48 for 267 yards and a touchdown. But Martin can’t feel confident heading into 2014 with them as his only options.

Enter Andrew Hendrix. The senior followed Martin to Oxford as a grad-year transfer and instantly became the most talented quarterback on the roster, even if his Notre Dame career never panned out. In 16 games over the last three seasons in South Bend, Hendrix completed 25-of-58 (43.1 percent) for 360 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also added 203 rushing yards and a touchdown on 6.2 yards per carry. While his numbers aren’t much better than those of Gearing or Kummer, Hendrix has the advantage of already being familiar with Martin’s system. That may be enough to give him the starting nod, at least by the time Miami comes to Ann Arbor.

The top two rushers on Miami’s roster last season were not running backs. Behind Gearing was receiver Dawan Scott, who rushed 37 times for 231 yards (6.2 yards per carry). The top running back was Spencer Treadwell who gained just 171 yards on 56 carries (3.1 ypc) and scored one touchdown. Grant Niemiec was the only other back to top 100 yards, with 114 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries as a true freshman. Unless Martin finds luck with a newcomer or gets significant improvement from Treadwell or Niemiec, it’s probably a safe bet to assume Hendrix or Gearing will lead the team in rushing this fall.

Scott is one player who might be in for a decent season. He lead the team with 425 receiving yards on 28 catches (15.2 ypc) and two touchdowns, following a 2012 campaign in which he caught 57 passes for 851 yards and seven scores. On the other side is his former high school teammate, David Frazier, who also caught 28 passes last season, but for just 302 yards and two touchdowns. If the two can get in sync with Hendrix or Gearing, Miami could have a halfway decent passing attack. Add in Notre Dame transfer, senior tight end Alex Welch, and there is some talent there. Although Welch caught just one pass while in South Bend, he’s the highest-rated pass-catcher on the roster.

The offensive line is an experienced bunch with 99 career starts combined, but that doesn’t mean much given its struggles last season. If you thought Michigan’s line was bad last season, Miami can assure you that it can be worse. The Redhawks allowed 49 sacks — one every five passing downs — in addition to ranking 116th nationally in rushing. With no four- or five-star talent to step in, Martin will hope to find his best five in fall camp.

Defense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
DE Bryson Albright 6’5″, 224 55 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5 sacks
DT Mwanza Wamulumba 6’3″, 281 24 tackles, 0.5 TFL
DT Jimmy Rousher 6’2″, 283 23 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR
DE J’Terius Brown 6’3″, 245 26 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks
OLB Josh Dooley 6’0″, 227 87 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FR
MLB Kent Kern 6’1″, 229 98 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 PBU
OLB Tyler Tucker 6’2″, 220 50 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 PBU
CB Heath Harding 5’10″, 178 56 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 PBU, 3 INT
CB Lo Wood 5’11″, 185 10 tackles, 1 TFL (at ND)
FS Brison Burris 5’11″, 190 75 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 INT
SS Jay Mastin 6’2″, 214 62 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT

Miami’s defense fared slightly better than its offense in 2013, but not by much. It ranked 115th nationally in total defense (484.3 ypg), 113th in rush defense (223.3 ypg), and 105th in pass defense (260.9 ypg). The Redhawks allowed third down conversions at a rate of 48.2 percent, good for 121st nationally, and sacked the quarterback just 13 times all season, tied for 118th nationally.

Heath Harding lead Miami with three interceptions last season

Heath Harding lead Miami with three interceptions last season

Seven starters return on the defense, but the best player from last year’s defense, cornerback Dayonne Nunley, is gone. The three-time first-team All-MAC performer lead the team with 58 solo tackles and finished second in total tackles (88) and was the only Redhawk with double-digit pass breakups (13). He also recorded an interception and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. He was a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable secondary.

The good news for Martin is that he has another Notre Dame transfer, Lo Wood, who brings three years of experience — though not starting experience — with him. He played in 33 games, recording 20 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, and one interception. He’ll join an experienced secondary even without Nunley. Sophomore Heath Harding is the other corner. He recorded 56 tackles, three for loss, and lead the team with three interceptions last season. Seniors Chrishawn Dupuy and Jarrell Jones will also be in the battle to start. Both of last year’s starting safeties, senior Brison Burris and sophomore Jay Mastin, return. They combined for 137 tackles, 1.5 for loss, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups. Another guy, redshirt sophomore Marshall Taylor, could factor in. He redshirted last season after starting five of the last seven games as a true freshman in 2012 and recording 40 tackles.

The defensive line lost a pair of starters, end Wes Williams and tackle Austin Brown, but does still have some talent returning. Junior end Bryson Albright lead the team with 11.5 tackles-for-loss and five sacks. The other end, J’Terius Brown recorded six tackles-for-loss and three sacks, though he started just one game. The interior, made up of senior Mwanza Wamulumba and sophomore Jimmy Rousher, combined for 47 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and one sack. But the theme across the line is size, or a lack thereof. Albright and Brown average just 234 pounds, while Wamulumba and Rousher average just 282. Miami will need to get bigger up front if it wants to slow down opposing offenses.

There is some talent at linebacker in a trio of juniors, Josh Dooley, Kent Kern, and Tyler Tucker. Dooley ranked third on the team last season with 87 tackles and had two for loss, in addition to three pass breakups. Kern, the middle linebacker, was the team’s leading tackler with 98 tackles, five of which went for loss. Tucker added 50 tackles, 2.5 for loss. They do have to replace Chris Wade’s 79 tackles and nine tackles-for-loss.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
PK Kaleb Patterson 5’10″, 172 7-11 FG, long 52
P Drew Kummer 6’3″, 207 27.3 avg, 1 in-20
KR Fred McRae 5’10″, 175 11 ret, 20.5 avg.
PR Fred McRae 5’10″, 175 12 ret, 9.2 avg.

Field goal kicker Kaleb Patterson is back after making 7-of-11 tries with a long of 52 in 2013. Punter Zac Murphy, who averaged 46.6 yards per punt, needs to be replaced and that job will likely fall to junior quarterback Drew Kummer, who punted three times last season for just 27.3 yards per. There’s a chance that Patterson could assume both duties.

In the return game, redshirt sophomore receiver Fred McRae showed potential last season, averaging 9.2 yards per punt return, although Miami’s defense didn’t force many teams to punt. He also averaged 20.5 yards per kick return.

Outlook

With so much area for improvement, it’s going to take some time to rebuild. The non-conference schedule is somewhat favorable with Michigan being the only guaranteed loss. Marshall beat Miami 52-14 last season and should be even better, but Eastern Kentucky and Cincinnati should both be winnable games. That doesn’t mean Miami will win those, but it’s better than facing other power conference teams. Martin should hope for baby steps this fall, a couple of wins to start building towards the future.

What it means for Michigan

Martin is familiar with the Wolverines, but it wasn’t the Notre Dame offense that Michigan has had trouble with. It was the defense that shut Michigan down in 2012. That won’t happen in this one as Michigan’s offense will get to continue to test its running game against a an undersized line. Michigan will either be coming off its first loss of the season or a big road win at Notre Dame. In that same scenario last year, Michigan struggled with a bad — but not this bad — Akron team. The players admitted that they bought into the hype after the thrilling Under the Lights II win over the Irish and got comfortable, but don’t expect that to happen again. Michigan will roll the Redhawks like they should have done the Zips.

New in Blue: Tight end Chris Clark

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


Chris Clark(247 Sports)

Chris Clark – TE | 6-6, 247 | Avon, Conn. – Avon Old Farms
ESPN: 4-star, #3 TE Rivals: 4-star, #4 TE 247: 4-star, #2 TE Scout: 5-star, #1 TE
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Miami, South Carolina

Michigan seems to be gaining momentum on the recruiting trail, as just a day after picking up a commitment from 2016 quarterback Messiah deWeaver, the Wolverines got the nod from one of the top tight ends in the country, Chris Clark. After visiting Ohio State on Tuesday and Michigan State on Wednesday, the Avon, Conn. star pledged his commitment to Michigan on his visit this afternoon and announced it on Twitter.

Clark is rated four stars by Rivals, 247, and ESPN and five stars by Scout. Scout considers him the top tight end and 26th-best overall prospect in the 2015 class. 247 ranks him the second-best tight end and 101st overall prospect. ESPN has him as their third tight end and 108th-best overall prospect, while Rivals ranks him fourth and 146th, respectively. All but Rivals are in agreement about his height (6’6″) and weight (247-pounds). Rivals lists him six pounds heavier.

Scout lists Clarks’s strengths as blocking ability, hands, concentration, and size, and his weaknesses as downfield threat and elusiveness. Scout’s Brian Dohn had high praise for Clark.

“Clark is a complete tight end who can block, get out and catch the ball and also be a factor in the red zone,” said Dohn. “He has very good hands and is a red-zone threat. He does a nice job running routes and he is a big, physical player. He also embraces the blocking portion of the game, and does a good job getting off the line of scrimmage cleanly. All around, Clark is a complete tight end who should havea big impact quickly in college.”

Make no mistake about it, this is a big pick up for Hoke and staff. Clark held offers from nearly every major program in the country, including Alabama, and Michigan’s three main rivals, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame. He originally committed to North Carolina on March 16, but decommitted less than a month later and promptly visited Michigan and Ohio State.

On May 4, Clark tweeted that he would make his announcement at The Opening on July 8, but his visit to Michigan today, during which he met with quarterback commitment Alex Malzone, was enough to get him to end his recruitment a few weeks earlier. He’s the only current commit that will participate in The Opening, an invite-only competition for elite prospects at the Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, but he will join a pair of former commits — George Campbell and Shaun Crawford — as well as several targets.

Clark is the eighth member of the 2015 class and the only tight end. When he gets to Michigan next year — assuming his commitment holds through signing day — he will join a talented group that includes fellow four-stars Jake Butt and Ian Bunting and three star Khalid Hill. For what it’s worth, Devin Funchess was a three-star, though it’s a stretch to consider him a tight end at this point.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier likes to utilize tight ends, so the success Hoke and staff have had recruiting the position the past few years bodes well for the future. Clark has also said that he will do some recruiting for Michigan to try to lure other top prospects to join him in Ann Arbor.

Countdown to kickoff: 85 days

Friday, June 6th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-85

New in Blue: Running back Ty Isaac

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


Ty Isaac(USA Today Sports)

Ty Isaac – RB | 6-3, 225 | Joliet, Ill. – Joliet Catholic
ESPN: 4-star, #13 RB Rivals: 5-star, #4 RB 247: 4-star, #5 RB Scout: 5-star, #7 RB
Other top offers: USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State, Georgia, Notre Dame

Michigan missed out on a key transfer earlier this spring when Alabama center Chad Lindsay chose Ohio State, but the Wolverines landed an even bigger transfer today when USC running back Ty Isaac announced via Twitter that he would sign with Michigan.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Michigan was one of the finalists  to land Isaac before he decided to attend Southern Cal in the 2013 recruiting class. At USC, the Joliet, Ill. native rushed for 236 yards on 40 carries — an average of 5.9 yards per carry — and two touchdowns during the 2013 season as a true freshman. He also caught four passes for 57 yards. Isaac battled for playing time in a crowded backfield that included senior Penn State transfer Silas Redd. When he got extended playing time against California on Nov. 9, Isaac showed what he is capable of, rushing for 87 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

(David Cleveland, AP)

(David Cleveland, AP)

Isaac announced his transfer in mid-May because of a longing to be closer to his mother, who is dealing with medical complications related to a procedure. Under NCAA rules, a player can receive a hardship waiver in these types of circumstances, which would make him eligible to play right away instead of sitting out a year. However, in 2012, the NCAA refined the rule to institute a 100-mile radius from the immediate family member’s home. Ann Arbor is approximately 250 miles away, so it would be up to the NCAA to grant leniency in this case.

Illinois, which is much closer to his home, was the other top contender for his services. He visited there last week before making a trip to Ann Arbor earlier this week. Notre Dame, which was also a finalist to land Isaac coming out of high school was initially not approved by USC since the Trojans play the Irish. Ohio State also sought approval to contact him, but it was for naught.

“I decided that I’m going to transfer to Michigan,” Isaac said this morning. “I had a good visit there, and it’s just the place where I feel the most comfortable. I didn’t want to drag all of this out and see a ton of schools. Michigan was in my final three when I committed to USC, and the reasons I liked Michigan are still very much in place.”

If the NCAA grants him the ability to play this fall, Isaac will battle for the starting job with Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, who were also members of the 2013 class. Rivals rated Green the top running back in the class, Isaac fourth, and Smith 37th. Scout had Green first, Isaac seventh, and Smith 11th, while 247 Sports had Isaac fifth, Green eighth, and Smith 15th.

If Isaac does have to sit out the 2014 season, he will be able to take a redshirt and still have three years of eligibility remaining, which would put a year of separation between he and the other two.

During his senior year at Joliet Catholic in 2012, Isaac rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns, but missed some games due to injury. As a junior in 2011, he racked up 2,629 yards and 45 touchdowns, including a 515-yard, six-touchdown performance in the Illinois Class 5A state championship game.

He is the first transfer Michigan has landed since quarterback Steven Threet transferred from Georgia Tech in 2007. Threet then transferred to Arizona State two years later.

Countdown to kickoff: 89 days

Monday, June 2nd, 2014


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Countdown to kickoff: 94 days

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-94

Drew’s mailbag: The rival Michigan needs to beat, Crawford’s crazy courtship

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


Below is another installment of Drew’s Mailbag, which will run every two weeks throughout the offseason, answering any questions you may have regarding Michigan athletics. You can submit your questions to Drew on Twitter (@DrewCHallett) or via email (drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com).

Which [rivalry game] do you want the most if [Michigan football] can [win] only one? – Josh (@josh_muhleck)

Why only one? Shouldn’t Michigan expect to beat all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State next season? This is Michigan, fergodsakes. The leaders and best. The champions of the West. Michigan does not accept anything but first place. Etcetera, etcetera. Yada yada yada.

Okay. Now that that is out of my system, let’s be realistic. The truth is that it is highly unlikely that Michigan will defeat all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the fall. The Wolverines are staring up at all three rivals at the moment. The Buckeyes are 24-2 in two seasons under Urban Meyer. The Spartans have won at least 11 games three of the past four seasons, which includes earning an outright Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory last year. The Fighting Irish are one year removed from an appearance in the national championship game. And this has all happened while Michigan has managed to have only one season with more than eight wins since 2007. The task of beating all three of its rivals is difficult enough when Michigan is at its peak, having done it only twice since 1991. Not even the biggest Michigan homer can expect the Wolverines to pull it off this year given the current state of these four programs.

To make matters worse, Michigan does not even have the luxury of hosting one of its rivals at Michigan Stadium this season. Instead, the Wolverines must face all three of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State on the road for the first time in school history. This is a nightmare scenario for a program that has struggled on the road against quality competition. Michigan has lost its last 10 true road games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. The last road win against such a foe was against No. 2 Notre Dame in 2006. Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State likely will be ranked in the AP Top 25 when Michigan steps on the gridiron with them. The idea that Michigan will end this extended road drought by sweeping them is ludicrous. Michigan fans should consider just one win versus its rivals this year as progress.

If Michigan can beat just one rival this fall, the pick should be the one in Columbus (Detroit News)

If Michigan can beat just one rival this fall, the pick should be the one in Columbus (Detroit News)

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s break down which rival Michigan fans should most want the Wolverines to beat this season:

Notre Dame: Nothing would be sweeter than getting the last word in a rivalry that has all but disintegrated. Notre Dame stuck it to Michigan by notifying athletic director Dave Brandon just minutes before the two teams kicked off in 2012 that the Fighting Irish were putting the rivalry on pause after 2014. This was a shock to Michigan. Earlier that summer, Michigan and Notre Dame jointly announced that there would a two-year hiatus in 2018 and 2019 to allow the schools to schedule some new, fresh competition. It was supposed to be a short recess, not a permanent vacation.

Yet this fall will be the last Michigan-Notre Dame clash for the foreseeable future. Michigan reportedly has locked in its premium non-conference opponents through 2023. None are Notre Dame. With the Big Ten adding a ninth conference game to the slate in 2016, Michigan likely will not seek to add a second premium non-conference opponent. And Notre Dame’s affiliation with the ACC limits its availability. Therefore, a win in September would give Michigan bragging rights over the Fighting Irish for the next decade or two.

Nonetheless, Notre Dames is a non-conference rival. It always is enjoyable to watch Michigan’s quarterbacks torch the Fighting Irish, but the wins have no impact on its goal to win a Big Ten championship. Yes, wins against Notre Dame provide the Wolverines an added boost heading into the conference season. However, the significance of those wins pales in comparison to Michigan’s wins against conference rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State. Plus, unlike MSU and OSU, Michigan has had Notre Dame’s number recently, winning six of the last eight meetings. While Michigan would like to make it seven of the last nine, a win here is not nearly as important is would be later in the season.

Michigan State: In 2007, after a fourth-quarter, comeback win against Michigan State, then-Michigan running back Mike Hart claimed that Michigan State was Michigan’s “little brother.” Yet, since those infamous words were spoken, Michigan State has had the upper hand on Michigan. The Wolverines have suffered defeat in five of the six meetings against MSU that followed. Michigan has not had this much trouble with its in-state rival since before Bo Schembechler first arrived in Ann Arbor in 1969.

Accordingly, Michigan State has seen its stock rise to levels it has not experienced in decades. The Spartans are piling up wins, conference championships, and even their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. Whether Michigan fans want to acknowledge it or not, Michigan State has become a Big Ten power under Mark Dantonio. Even recruits are taking notice as some of Michigan’s top high school talent has begun to favor the Spartans over the Wolverines. This is a trend that Michigan needs to stop in its tracks instantly. The first step to doing so is to beat the Spartans in East Lansing this season.

However …

Ohio State: No matter how compelling an argument one can make that Michigan State is the most important game on Michigan’s schedule this season, no game is more important than “The Game.” A rival against whom Michigan has had a poor six-year stretch does not replace the rival with whom Michigan has created college football’s best rivalry as the most important on the schedule. Sorry. No chance. Yes, a Michigan win against Michigan State would be quite significant for U-M’s future prosperity, but it will never define an entire Michigan season like a win against Ohio State does.

So, if Michigan can beat only one rival this season, it is Ohio State. No ifs, ands, or buts. Of course, I would not mind if Michigan shocked the world and beat all three.

Should we consider [Michigan football commit] Shaun Crawford as good as gone? –Bill (@BillOffer)

Not yet. Initially, when it was confirmed that 2015 four-star defensive back Shaun Crawford had visited Notre Dame last weekend, it looked grim for Michigan. Brady Hoke has a well-publicized policy that discourages current commits from visiting other schools. The policy is simple, even if it has been misinterpreted repeatedly:

If a Michigan commit visits another school, the staff will no longer guarantee the prospect a spot in the class. This does not mean that Michigan will banish the prospect from being a member of its recruiting class, though, as some have claimed. In most cases, Michigan still will want that prospect to be in its class and “re-commit” as soon as he is sure he does not want to take anymore visits. But Michigan may look at other prospects to fill the new vacancy. Nothing is guaranteed. That is the risk of taking visits.

Despite a wandering eye, Crawford shouldn't be considered gone just yet (247 Sports)

Despite a wandering eye, Crawford shouldn’t be considered gone just yet (247 Sports)

With Crawford’s visit to Notre Dame, his spot in Michigan’s class was no longer guaranteed. Although this does not result in an automatic decommitment, most Michigan commits who visit elsewhere tend to decommit because their spot is no longer guaranteed anyway. However, multiple outlets reported that Crawford wanted to remain a Michigan commit despite his wandering eye. It appeared he still favored the Wolverines, but did not want to be forced out by a policy he felt was hypocritical. But Crawford had yet to speak with Hoke about visiting elsewhere. Once Crawford had that conversation with Hoke, I expected that Crawford would decommit and that it would be the beginning of the end.

Yet, according to Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt ($), Crawford stated that he spoke with the Michigan staff on Tuesday night and still is a Michigan commit. Crawford also told Helmholdt that he will continue to look at other schools, which includes a trip to Ohio State soon. It appears that Crawford has gotten what he wanted: to remain a Michigan commit while looking around.

This is good news for Michigan. If Michigan had forced Crawford to decommit, the odds of him recommitting would have been slim to none. Crawford likely would have become frustrated with Hoke’s no-visit policy and disillusioned with the idea of playing football for him in Ann Arbor. Instead, Crawford maintains his commitment with Michigan, which indicates the Wolverines still are the leader for his services. Of course, this could change down the road if Notre Dame, Ohio State, or even Miami (FL) persuades him to make a switch. But this is the life of recruiting. And the odds of this happening would have been much higher if Crawford had decommitted from Michigan.

Plus, Crawford is a commit Michigan wants to keep. Most recruiting services consider Crawford to be in the top 100 of the 2015 class or just outside of it. He is a talented player from the state of Ohio that grew up a Michigan fan. This is not the type of recruit that Michigan can afford to lose right now, especially when Michigan has already lost two other top-50 commits from the 2015 class in running back Damien Harris and wide receiver George Campbell. At the moment, Michigan does not appear to have lost Crawford, but this will be a recruitment we will need to keep our eyes on the next few months.

If you have any questions related to Michigan athletics that you want answered in the next mailbag, please tweet them to @DrewCHallett on Twitter or email them to drew.maizeandgoblue@gmail.com. 

Michigan and Notre Dame to close rivalry under the lights

Thursday, February 20th, 2014


UM-ND

The last meeting for the foreseeable future between college football’s top two winningest programs will take place the same way it has the past three seasons — under the lights. NBC will televise the Michigan-Notre Dame game at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Night games have been good to Michigan as the Wolverines have won two of the three played, but the one loss was two years ago in South Bend when Michigan was held without a touchdown and fell 13-6.

While Michigan leads the overall series 24-16-1, Michigan hasn’t had as much success at Notre Dame Stadium, trailing 8-7-1 all-time. This fall’s matchup will give the Wolverines a chance to even it up before the teams take an indefinite hiatus.

Michigan has won four of the last five in the series and six of the last eight, but that doesn’t mean the Wolverines have dominated. Last season’s 41-30 victory in Michigan Stadium was the first to be decided by more than one score since 2008. The previous four were decided by an average of less than five points. In fact, each of Michigan’s wins from 2009-11 was decided in the final two minutes.

It will be the second game of the season for both teams. Michigan opens on Aug. 30 at home against Appalachian State while Notre Dame hosts Rice.

It’s safe to say that there will be a lot of hype entering the final meeting and both teams will want to end the series as the victor. Notre Dame passed Michigan in all-time winning percentage at the end of the 2013 season, so a Michigan win on Sept. 6 would likely give the Wolverines the lead back.

Inside the Numbers: A departure from postseason custom

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013


The dictionary defines a “custom” as “a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.” The prestige of Michigan’s football program was built on custom. Look no further than its 910 all-time wins, 42 Big Ten championships or its rivalry with Ohio State, which has been U-M’s regular-season finale for all but three years since 1935. Fans have accepted this way of behavior from the Michigan football program.

Another custom Michigan fans have accepted involves a New Year’s Day ritual. After ringing in the New Year with family and friends, they awake the following morning. What each Michigan fan does when it wakes up on New Year’s Day varies from person to person. But they all know that, in a few short hours, they will be watching, whether it be in person or from their couch, the Michigan Wolverines play in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Michigan fans have become accustomed to this New Year’s Day ritual because fans have been able to follow it most years since 1975. Before then, though, participating in any bowl game was a rarity for Michigan. This was not because the Wolverines were undeserving of a bowl bid, but because the bowl system’s structure at that time limited U-M’s opportunities to play in bowl games.

Michigan played in the first ever Rose Bowl game in 1902 (Bentley)

Michigan first appeared in a bowl game on January 1, 1902, shutting out Stanford, 49-0, in the first edition of the Rose Bowl and capping a national championship season. However, in the decades thereafter, the Big Ten prevented its members from participating in bowl games. It was not until 1946 that the Big Ten allowed its teams to play in the Rose Bowl, albeit no school could do so in consecutive years until 1971. Additionally, the Big Ten prevented its schools from playing in any other bowl game until 1975.

Accordingly, Michigan had the opportunity to play in a bowl game only five times—all Rose Bowls and all on January 1st—from 1946 to 1974. Further, from 1972 to 1974, the Wolverines won 10 games in each of those three seasons. And, yet, because of the Big Ten’s rules, U-M did not appear in a single bowl game during that stretch because the conference sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl each year instead.

Then, prior to the 1975 season, the Big Ten announced that it would allow its teams to play in more than just the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines were the first team to benefit from this rule change. After the 1975 season, the Big Ten once again sent the Buckeyes to Rose Bowl. But, because of the rule change, the Big Ten also sent Michigan to the Orange Bowl to face the Oklahoma Sooners on January 1, 1976.

This began a long-accepted custom of January bowl games, especially on New Year’s Day, for Michigan. From 1975 to 2012, there were 38 college football regular seasons. Michigan played in a bowl game in 36 of them. Of those 36 bowl games, Michigan played in 30 of them in January. Of those 30 January bowl games, U-M played in 25 of them on New Year’s Day. Thus, for the past 38 seasons, Michigan has played in a January bowl in 78.9 percent of them and in a New Year’s Day bowl in 65.8 percent of them.

Overall, Michigan has appeared in 42 bowl games and has played in 36 of those in January. Accordingly, U-M has played 85.7 percent of its bowl games in January. No other BCS team has played a higher percentage of its bowl games during the first month of the calendar year:

Highest Pct. Of January Bowl Games Among BCS Schools – Prior to 2013
Rank School No. of Bowl Games No. of Jan. Bowl Games % of Jan. Bowl Games
1 Michigan 42 36 85.7%
2 Ohio State 43 35 81.4%
3 Duke 9 7 77.8%
4 USC 49 38 77.6%
5 Oklahoma 46 34 73.9%
6 Notre Dame 32 23 71.9%
7 Nebraska 49 34 69.4%
T8 Alabama 60 40 66.7%
T8 Arkansas 39 26 66.7%
T8 Stanford 24 16 66.7%
11 Penn State 44 29 65.9%
12 Miami FL 34 22 64.7%
13 LSU 44 28 63.6%
14 Tennessee 49 31 63.3%
15 Wisconsin 24 15 62.5%
16 UConn 5 3 60.0%
17 Florida State 42 25 59.5%
18 Texas 51 30 58.8%
19 Florida 40 23 57.5%
20 Auburn 37 21 56.8%

No, Michigan does not have the most January-bowl-game appearances among BCS teams. That distinction belongs to the Alabama Crimson Tide. But, when a BCS team receives a bowl bid, no BCS team expects it to be from a bowl game played in January more than the Wolverines. This has certainly been the case recently more than ever. Since the 1996 regular season, the Maize and Blue have played in 15 bowl games. Fourteen of those were in the month of January. Thirteen of those were played on New Year’s Day.

So, on December 8, 2013, bowl executives, conference representatives, and school officials were finalizing this season’s bowl lineups. It was no surprise that many Michigan fans expected the Gator Bowl—a bowl game played on New Year’s Day—to be the Wolverines’ destination. This was tradition. This was custom. Why would it be any different this year?

Yet, that evening, ESPN announced that the Maize and Blue received a bowl bid from the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl—a bowl played on December 28, 2013—rather than the Gator Bowl. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl had the luxury of choosing which Big Ten team it wanted to play in its game before the Gator Bowl. Even though some, including the author of this column, believed that the Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl would select Nebraska over Michigan because the Cornhuskers beat U-M in Ann Arbor and had a better record than U-M, among other reasons, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl selected the Wolverines over the Cornhuskers because “Michigan is Michigan.”

So rather than play a New Year’s Day bowl game for the 14th time in its last 16 bowl games, Michigan will play in only its seventh bowl game before the first day of the New Year. Although U-M’s overall bowl record is not stellar, the Wolverines hold only a 2-4 record in their previous six December bowl games. Here is a list of those games:

List of Michigan’s December Bowl Games
Date Bowl Opponent W/L Score
Dec. 28, 1979 Gator North Carolina L 15-17
Dec. 31, 1981 Bluebonnet UCLA W 33-14
Dec. 21, 1984 Holiday Brigham Young L 17-24
Dec. 30, 1994 Holiday Colorado State W 24-14
Dec. 28, 1995 Alamo Texas A&M L 20-22
Dec. 28, 2005 Alamo Nebraska L 28-32

This is a break from Michigan’s postseason custom. And this applies to more than just the month in which the Wolverines play their bowl game. The Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl, which is held in Tempe, Arizona, is scheduled to kick off at 10:15 p.m. ET. This is not the first late start for Michigan. U-M has started bowl games at 8:30 p.m. ET before, doing so in the 1994 Holiday Bowl versus Colorado State and the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. Also, the Wolverines have faced Hawaii at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, twice, but those games started no later than 9:30 p.m. ET. Therefore, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl’s 10:15 p.m. ET kick off may be the latest in U-M history.

So, to recap: Michigan is playing in a December bowl game for only the seventh time and may be participating in a game that starts later than any game in program history. Further, this is the first time the Wolverines have played in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, previously known as the Copper Bowl, and the first time the Wolverines have faced Kansas State. Nothing about Michigan’s bowl game this Saturday resembles its postseason custom.

Unfortunately, for Michigan fans, this separation from U-M’s postseason custom was bound to happen. When the four-team College Football Playoff starts next season, many of the prestigious bowl games involved with the playoff will played on New Year’s Eve rather than New Year’s Day. Yes, Michigan still will find itself playing in bowl games on New Year’s Day, but no longer will it hope to play in bowl games that occur only in January as it has under the current bowl system.

So, when Michigan fans wake up on New Year’s Day in 2014, they will have to follow a ritual different from the tradition they have become accustomed to in recent years. However, if U-M plans to compete for national championships for the next dozen years, Michigan fans were going to break away from their custom of rooting for Michigan in January bowl games, especially those on New Year’s Day. They just so happen to need to do so one year early.

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Kansas State

1. If Jeremy Gallon catches at least five passes for 42 yards against Kansas State, he will be the only receiver ranked in the Top 3 for most receptions and receiving yards in a game, in a season, and in a career in Michigan history. Additionally, Gallon needs 47 yards to surpass Braylon Edwards’ single-season record mark of 1,330 receiving yards in 2004.

2. Devin Gardner’s status for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is uncertain. If Gardner plays, he can set new school records for most passing yards, most total touchdowns, and most passing touchdowns in a season with a 372-passing-yard, five-passing-touchdown performance. This seems unlikely, but, given his stat lines against Notre Dame, Indiana, and Ohio State, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Of course, Gardner must play first.

3. If Gardner does not play, Shane Morris will make his first career start at quarterback. Morris would be the fourth true freshman to start at quarterback for the Wolverines in the past decade. The other three were Tate Forcier, Ryan Mallett, and Chad Henne. Morris would have tough acts to follow as those three combined for 411 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns, and only one interception in their first starts.

Your bye week Saturday viewing guide

Friday, September 27th, 2013


Since you don’t have to worry about making the pilgrimage to the Big House or blocking off a chunk of time to watch the beloved Wolverines on TV tomorrow, there are any number of things to do. Yardwork, that home improvement project you’ve been putting off, appeasing your significant other, take the kids to a fall festival, or…maybe watching other games? Without much at stake tomorrow, you may not have paid much attention to the slate of games, but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here’s your guide to tomorrow’s games that relate to Michigan.

Early games

There are no noon kickoffs that have any bearing on Michigan’s season so use this time to do any of the aforementioned tasks. Spend the morning and early afternoon with your significant other or getting stuff done around the house before you settle in for the afternoon games. There are three ranked teams in action at noon: #11 Oklahoma at West Virginia (ESPN), #12 South Carolina at UCF (ABC), and #15 Miami at South Florida (ESPNU), so perhaps you could have one of those on in the background.

Afternoon games

LSU and Georgia are potential bowl opponents to keep an eye on (Dale Zanine, US Presswire)

The first big matchup of the day that relates to Michigan is #14 Oklahoma at #22 Notre Dame (3:30pm, NBC). The Sooners are out for revenge after getting throttled by the Irish in Norman a year ago. OU has given up just 27 points in three games this season, and they have had two weeks to prepare for Notre Dame, but this will be their first road test. Quarterback Blake Bell looked good against Tulsa two weeks ago, completing 27-of-37 passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Michigan fans will want to cheer for the Irish in this one since Michigan already beat Notre Dame. The more games ND wins the rest of the season the more it will help Michigan’s BCS chances should the Wolverines keep winning.

Also at 3:30 is a Big Ten matchup between Iowa and Minnesota (ABC/ESPN2). This certainly won’t be the best game on but it’s a chance to scout out two future opponents including next week’s. Minnesota is 4-0 so far and Iowa is 3-1, though neither has beaten a quality opponent. It will be a good early season barometer of how good both of these teams really is before they face the upper tier of the Big Ten in the coming weeks. It’s a rivalry game, played for the Floyd of Rosedale, and two of the last three meetings have been decided by three points or less.

The biggest game on at the 3:30 time slot is one that may or may not be relevant to Michigan: #6 LSU at #9 Georgia (CBS). GameDay will be in Athens in the morning, which might be worth flipping on to see Bubba Watson and Willie Robertson as the guest pickers. You may not enjoy watching SEC football, but one of these teams could very well end up being Michigan’s opponent in January, and it’s sure to be a great game.

Evening games

Wisconsin may be the best chance for Ohio State to lose before Nov. 30 (Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

If you weren’t able to catch any of the games during the day, now is definitely the time to kick back, enjoy a cold one (or a few) and watch some football. At 8pm #4 Ohio State hosts #23 Wisconsin on ABC. While Michigan doesn’t play the Badgers this season, it may be the best chance for the Buckeyes to lose before they come to Ann Arbor on Nov. 30. Wisconsin has one of the nation’s top running games with two very good backs, both of which are on pace for well more than 1,000 yards. Melvin Gordon has 624 yards on 11.8 yards per carry through four games, while James White has 442 on 7.2 yards per carry. Even freshman Corey Clement has more yards than Michigan’s leading rusher, Fitzgerald Toussaint, does (334 on 7.6 yards per carry).

Ohio State has played four cupcakes to start the season and is coming off a 76-0 thrashing of Florida A&M. What’s more is that Braxton Miller is set to start after missing the last two games with a knee injury. He entered the season as a Heisman favorite, but his backup, Kenny Guiton has looked phenomenal the last two weeks. It will be interesting to see how Urban Meyer handles it if Miller struggles.

Two other evening games will be worth checking out similar to the LSU-Georgia game for the potential of Michigan facing them in January. Top-ranked Alabama hosts #21 Ole Miss (6:30 on ESPN) and #10 Texas A&M visits Arkansas (7:00 on ESPN2). Alabama hasn’t been as dominant to this point as it has been the past few years, and Ole Miss is in the midst of a resurgence, so it should be a good one to watch.

Overall, it’s a pretty good slate of games this weekend so enjoy a stress free weekend of football and whatever else is on your agenda.