Instant Analysis of Michigan-Penn State

Game just ended. It's late, but some quick thoughts.

• Michigan won't play Penn State again until 2013. So this loss is going to linger for a while.

• I picked us to win tonight. But I said all week that playing at Happy Valley at night scares the crap out of me every time. Something about playing on the road on Saturday night. Just ask the last 3 #1 teams in the country how easy that is. If this game was a noon kick, does Michigan win?

• What really sucks is, Penn State's not very good. Royster is good, but they started a sophomore walk-on QB tonight, and he lit us up. At least Iowa and MSU have proven to be good teams (not so much for Sparty today though). Its maddening to know that Penn State will probably lose to tOSU by 50 in a couple weeks.

• Denard showed us all why we love him so much. Kept Michigan in this game almost single-handily. Finished the game 11/23 for 190 yards and 1 touchdown. Ran the ball 27 times for 191yards and 3 scores. Clearly, this kid doesn't give up. His talent simply won't let him. Truly a special talent.

• Whatever defensive changes that were made during the bye-week, I don't think really made a lick of difference. Bad tackling is bad tackling...I don't care who's doing it. I saw Mouton, Demens, Fitzgerald, Cam Gordon, Vinopal, Talbot, Floyd and Kovacs all miss tackles. I'm sure there were others.

• I'm not going to go all "Fire Rich Rod" on you tonight, because that's not the answer. But a firing of some sort might be in order after this season is done unless things get better. I think our offense is very talented, and if we had any sort of defense at all, we'd be undefeated.

• Clearly, Greg Robinson is going to get the brunt of the criticism this week. Should he be fired? I'm not in a place to answer that. To me, it looks like GERG is trying his hardest with the players he's got. We're brutally young on defense, especially in the backfield. But at what point do you go from "Our guys are just young and inexperienced." to "Is it time to start blaming the coaching?"

Rich Rodriguez and Dave Brandon must be asking themselves this by now.

• I feel bad for Rodriguez in a way, because he attached his star to Greg Robinson's in 2009, and stuck with him for 2010. That could very well prove to be the biggest mistake Rodriguez has ever made. Rodriguez can only go as far as his defense will let him. And right now, he's going in reverse. Sure, we have an offense that can score points, move the ball, make electrifying plays, but they can't stay on the field the whole game.

This is going to the topic that dominates this blog for probably the remainder of the season. But for now, it's time for bed.

Preview: Michigan vs Penn State


Michigan Wolverines
at
Penn State Nittany Lions


Game Stuff
When: October 30, 2010
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
Time: 8:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN National (Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
Webcast: ESPN3.com
Local Radio: FM 104.3 WOMC, AM 1050 WTKA
Line: Michigan -2.5
Over/Under: 53
Last Meeting: #13 PSU 35 @ UM 10 (2009)
Series Record: UM Leads 10-5
Michigan Record: 5-2 (1-2)
Last Game: Loss vs Iowa 28-38
Iowa Record: 4-3 (1-2)
Last Game: Win @ Minnesota 33-21

Penn State Stuff
http://www.gopsusports.com/
Location: State College, PA
Enrollment: 44,832
Conference: Big Ten
Nickname: Nittany Lions
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
OC: Gallen Hall
DC: Tom Bradley
2009 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

A Little History
There was a time, 3 years ago, when Michigan fans could freely roam the rolling hills of Pennsylvania without the fear of harm. The year was 2007. Fresh off a home victory, Michigan fans toasted to yet another win, their 9th in a row, against the seemingly tame Nittany Lions of Happy Valley.

Yet, as the 2008 contest drew to the halfway mark, the Wolverines retired to their locker room at Beaver Stadium with a 17-14 over the #3 ranked team in the nation. Michigan was struggling to come to terms with a new head coach, a new system, and not having the players capable of running said system. So a lead against such a highly ranked team was a surprise to say the least.

Reality then set it, and Lions emerged victorious 46-17.

Last season's game was not much of an improvement.

Prior to that, the first ever meeting between these two powerhouse schools didn't take place until Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993. Michigan won the first ever contest, 21-13.

Stats Comparison (through 10-23-10)

CATEGORY
MICHIGAN    PSU    ADVANTAGE
Rushing Offense Avg/Yds281.57128.71MICH
Passing Offense Avg/Yds250.43208.71MICH
Total Offense Avg/Yds532337.43MICH
Scoring Offense3620.29MICH
Rushing Defense Avg/Yds144.71143.86PSU
Pass Efficiency Defense140.95129.49PSU
Total Defense Avg/Yds441331.71PSU
Scoring Defense28.3418.43PSU
Net Punting Avg/Yds37.6839.13PSU
Punt Returns Avg/Yds5.116.95PSU
Kickoff Returns Avg/Yds19.3720.04PSU
Turnover Margin-.43-.14PSU
Pass Defense Avg/Yds296.29187.86PSU
Passing Efficiency159.83116.34MICH
Sacks Avg/Gm1.431.29MICH
Tackles For Loss Avg/Gm5.715.71PUSH
Sacks Allowed Avg/Gm.43.71MICH


Random Stuff and Etc
Ahh, the good 'ole days. First of all, this:


And this:


Then this:
 

And finally, of course...this:


ESPN's Adam Rittenberg likes us this. We're actually the pick of the week. Video proof.

Monday presser:
Rich Rod


Denard:


Also: Stephen Schilling, Vincent Smith, Craig Roh





Penn State Offense
Stats!
PASSINGComp/AttYardsComp %TD/INTRating
Robert Bolden107/184130758.25/7119.2
Matt McGloin6/137646.22/1130.6
RUSHINGCarriesYardsAverageLongTD
Evan Royster884505.1502
Silas Redd291736.0260
Stephfon Green411363.3180
RECEIVINGReceptionsYardsAverageLongTD
Derek Moye254581.3888(TD)3
Brett Bracket2434114.2493
Devon Smith2022211.1481
Justin Brown1520413.6330
Evan Royster12574.8120

Why the stats? Because charts are fun, that's why.

First off, Penn State QB Rob Bolden, who sustained a blow to the head last week against Minnesota and suffered a concussion, will not be playing this Satuday. Earlier in the week it was rumored that Bolden had made enough progress to play, but now that has been ruled out.

So that leaves Penn State with former Michigan commit Kevin Newsome, and sophomore Matt McGloin. Newsome was a former 5-star recruit, while McGloin was most definitely not (walk-on). So the fact that all signs are pointing to McGloin to be the starter Saturday night has got to be disconcerting for Penn State fans.

However, that doesn't mean that Penn State is any less dangerous. Dangerous you say? Really? Well of course. Any offense can be dangerous when up against the Michigan defense.

But in reality, Penn State ranks near the bottom of the conference in almost all offenive category. And make no mistake, running the ball is going to be very important in this game. And in no other category does Michigan trump the Lions more. And if you're thinking Michigan's rush defense is suspect, Penn State's is right there with us. So stopping Evan Royster is going to be important. Currently, Royster ranks 9th in the Big Ten in rushing, but only averages 64 yards per game.

Derek Moye is by far the Lions biggest receiving threat, 7th overall in the Big Ten in yards per game with 65 yards per game. But with Bolden out, the overall receiving threat is much less with a relatively untested walk-on making his first start.

Simply put, this may be one of the most vulnerable Penn State offense we've seen in a long time. And to a suspect Michigan defense, that could not work out any better for us. Penn State is not exactly lighting up the scoreboard, averaging only 20.3 points per game. This is a game where I think we can really improve as a unit. And maybe with enough improvement, especially at linebacker and DB, that could propel us into further improvement down the stretch run in November.


Penn State Defense
I love how well we match up against Penn State's defense. First of all, they have been vulnerable to almost every team they've played this year because of a lack of good defensive play. And that's not just in losses to Alabama, Iowa and Illinois, but also wins against Temple and last week against Minnesota.

Now of course Penn State is always going to have some good defensive players...defensive linemen Devon Still and Pete Massaro, LB Nathan Stupar and Chris Colasanti, and DB Nick Sukay. They actually rank 2nd in the conference in pass defense, but rank 8th in rush D. They are extremely vulnerable up front.

Frankly, if Michigan doesn't run the ball well against Penn State, I'll be shocked. This is not MSU or Iowa here (btw, we put up over 500 yards of offense against Iowa. Just sayin'). Start to worry if somehow Michigan doesn't have 100 yards rushing by the end of the first quarter.

Did you know that teams are 15 for 15 in the redzone against Penn State? 100% of the time, they give up a score inside the 20. Absolute dead last in FBS. BUT...they rank 3rd in opponent 3rd down conversions, allowing only a first down 25.58 percent of the time.

The point? Don't get stuck in 3rd down. But if you do, do it in the red zone.

Okay, no. But seriously, we need touchdowns. Have you seen our kicker? No really, have you? Look who's 120th in FBS in field goal percentage.

So yeah, touchdowns are the key.

Also, Penn State is the least penalized team in the country with just 25 penalties for 176 yards. 25.1 yards per game. Michigan averages 51 yards.

I love stats.

Final Thoughts
So if Michigan is going to put an end to all the talk about 2010 looking a lot like 2009, and feeling like it too, it all starts here. So far, Michigan has followed the 2009 script pretty stricktly, and quite frankly, that's scaring the holy crap out of fans.

A win at Penn State would do a ton for this program. First of all, it would be yet another impressive road win, our third in a row to be perfect for the season. They would have a week to restock the shelves at Ann Arbor Torch and Pitchfork. It would also mean we were now bowl eligible. You remember bowl games, don't you? But it would start off this little stretch of our schedule on a positive note. With games coming up against Illinois and at Purdue, those game would be a lot more win-able if we come away from Happy Valley 6-2.

I expect a win. I also expect to see Denard return to old form. This is the kind of game, and the kind of defense that Denard needs to show off his talents. But I think we're going to see a nice game from our running backs. Vincent Smith and hopefully Michael Shaw will have a couple really nice games. Shaw is not on this week's injury report, so I expect him to shine. Of course he wasn't on it last week and not so much.

Michigan's Injury Report for Penn State

via UM media relations:
University of Michigan Football Injury Report
Thursday, Oct. 28, vs. Penn State

OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike                        Leg
Odoms, Martavious        Foot
Toussaint, Fitzgerald       Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared               Clavicle
Williams, Mike                   Head
Woolfolk, Troy                  Ankle
No surprises here. Coming off the bye week, this is what we expected to see. Thank God David Molk is not on this list.

Carry on.

Is Penn State Rodriguez's Biggest Game Ever?

Adam Rittenberg does a great job covering the Big Ten football teams for his blog which is hosted on ESPN. For a guy so entrenched in the conference, he's very good at remaining unbiased as far as I can tell. In his breakdown of this week's upcoming games [link], he had a very interesting comment about the importance of this week's game to the future of Rich Rodriguez's coaching career at Michigan.
Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2): Simply put, this is the biggest game of Rich Rodriguez's Michigan tenure. Rodriguez and the Wolverines come off of a bye week and need a win to stem talk of a 2009 redux. Penn State got the win it needed at Minnesota, but surrendered 433 yards. The Lions will be tested by Denard Robinson and co., while their quarterback situation remains unsettled after Rob Bolden's apparent concussion. 
Covering nothing but Michigan football week-in and week-out, and typically only paying close attention to Michigan blogs/media outlets, something I lose sight of how the outside media sees Michigan/Rodriguez.


To me, the MSU game was probably the biggest game to-date for Rodriguez. Going into the game undefeated was certainly a huge bonus, but the result of the game only turned up the heat, and reminded fans of what that awful losing feeling was like after 5-straight wins to start the year.

I mean lets face it, the success of Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense in those 5 games had shielded some fans honest feelings of the embattled coach. When you're starting QB goes from not knowing if he's the starter to Heisman front-runner in 2 weeks, and your offense is averaging well over 500 yards per game, it's easy to see things through rose-colored glasses.

But after two-straight losses, to very good teams I might add, the glow of the 5-game winning streak has definitely worn off. There were those that questioned our good start, saying that we had really not played anyone, and that the Big Ten schedule would reveal our shortcomings. But I will say that while both MSU and Iowa are very good teams, it was not coaching (at least offensively) that lost those games. We all knew before the season began that we would not be contending for the Big Ten title this year, and losses to MSU and Iowa proved that we're not quite at that level...but we're getting there.

The next 3 games will prove me either right or wrong. I think these next 3 games (@Penn State, Illinois, @Purdue) are very win-able.

I will politely disagree with Adam that this week's Penn State game is Rodriguez's most important game yet. I do think it's a very important game for this team, but I think Rodriguez's job is safe (baring a total meltdown that results in a 3rd straight bowl-less season) If anything, a win will prove that we are getting better, and that 2010 is not 2009. Happy Valley is a terribly tough place to play, especially at night. I don't care how vulnerable Penn State is this year, and they are definitely that. But a road game at Beaver Stadium is a good place to see what your team is made of.

Why do I think Rodriguez's job safe? Because until Dave Brandon says otherwise, he's safe in my book. Brandon has come out and said that it's not going be just wins and losses that judge Rodriguez at Michigan. And I think that's probably fair. He's proven that his offense can work here, which is what he was hired to do. He's proven that he can recruit well. And I think that he's proven that he can handle the scorn of the media and fans that truly hate him. Dave Brandon knows that wins can cure everything, but patience is virtue, that frankly, I think it's a trait that is maybe Brandon's best quality.

If Brandon came out and said "Coach needs to win x-amount of games to keep his job...", or something like that, then I'd be worried. But it seems to me that Brandon is letting Rodriguez coach his team. After the season, we'll see where we're at. But for now, it's not about wins and losses. I think it's a combination of many things. Are we running a clean program? Are our players going to class and graduating? Are we getting better each week? Is this team trying it's best? Are our mistakes to be blamed solely on coaching?

I think those are the kinds of criteria that Dave Brandon is using to judge Rodriguez. At least I hope so. Is this week's game a huge one for Rodriguez? Of course, but it's not any more important that the one after that, and the one after that. For Rodriguez, and the rest of this program, each week is the most important game of the year. It's been like that all season...so why stop now? When you're trying to rebuild something like we are at Michigan, that's how it works. All that you can adequately measure, at least at this point, is your own patience...which like we've said before, is a virtue.

Grad Rates for UM/NCAA Student Athletes

Sponsored Post_______________________________________________________________
New numbers are out for graduation rates for NCAA D1 student athletes. Many schools are criticized for allowing students to focus more on sports and extra-curricular activities like Texas Holdem poker than on their education. The current study released the finding for students that entered college in 2003 and how they stacked compared to Federal Graduation rates.

Michigan either met or exceeded the FGR in every sport with the exception of two minor sports. Take a look at some of the stats below:

Sport                  Graduation Success Rate   Federal Rate

Football             72%                                   65%
Baseball            82%                                   80%
Basketball         36%                                   29%
Golf                   89%                                   89%
Wrestling           55%                                   50%
W. Basketball    53%                                   53%

Michigan sports that were at 100% graduation rate were Men's Tennis, Women's Field Hockey, Women's Golf, Softball, and Women's Tennis. This goes to show that most student athletes at Michigan do more than play sports, party, and play poker.

How does Michigan rank in comparison to other Big Ten programs in graduation rates. In both baseball in football, they rank fifth in conference over other big ten schools. The one real black eye in regards to sports on this list is really Men's Basketball. While the graduation rate is higher than the Federal rate, it is still dead last in conference and among the lowest in the entire nation in the sport.

Keep in mind as well when looking at graduation rates for basketball that it is very common for any program to lose players to the NBA, transfers, etc. Players will many times go to schools to play just a couple of years and then try their hand at the NBA or other pro leagues. Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and others are all examples from Michigan alone.

The NCAA also released that overall, the overall graduation rate from 2003 was 79%. This was the highest ever in Division I history and has risen a total of 12 points since tracking was established in 1984. According to NCAA President Mark Emmet “Given the large number of students we are measuring each year, any increase in graduation rates is remarkable, so this improvement is particularly noteworthy. These are not just numbers. These figures represent additional young people who are succeeding in the classroom and reaching their goals of graduation.”

So the next time someone tries to tell you that Michigan student athletes are a bunch of "dumb jocks" who party, play poker freerolls, and chase women, point them to this current study. Michigan is at or above the federal standard for graduation in all sports and among the tops in the Big Ten.

The Ballad of Will Campbell


William Campbell was welcomed into the class of 2009 with wide open arms. The 5-star high school defensive lineman from Detroit's Cass Tech was a huge pick-up for Rodriguez, and was widely expected to make a splash immediately on the D-line depth chart. He was a 3-year starter in HS, was the teams kicker and punter, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds, and registered 15 reps of 315 pounds, and stood 6'5", 315 pounds...in high school.

At Michigan, he played immediately. Before the season he slimmed down from well over 315 pounds to near 300. Played all 12 games in 2009 on the FG/PAT unit. Played defensive tackle in 9 games, but only registered 4 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.

Clearly, either Campbell was just a freshman experiencing some growing pains getting accustomed to the college game, or something didn't connect. Some would suggest that losing a lot of weight and getting smaller actually hurt Campbell, who was the kind of player who used his overwhelming weight to his advantage. A guy like him coming into college with all the hype he had should have experienced more success.

Fast forward to fall camp 2010. Campbell is singled out for showing up to camp overweight and not prepared. For whatever reason, he did not put in the effort during the off-season to stay in shape. He easily tipped the scales at over 330 pounds.

So far in 2010, he's played in all 7 games so far on the FG/PAT unit, and sparingly as a 3rd/4th string DT. He's accounted for only 1 tackle and 1 pass breakup so far this year. Obviously, something needed to be done. So Campbell, not happy with just floundering away at the DT position, saw an opportunity to contribute...on the offensive line.


And Rodriguez agreed. Michigan's lack of depth on the defense line spurred this agreement. Red-shirt freshman OL Quinton Washington was moved to the defensive line during the off-week last week, and was essentially traded for Will Campbell. According to Campbell's teammates, the move seemed like a natural fit. [AA.com story]
Rodriguez made the switches during off-week practices. Although he cautioned they’re not yet permanent, he anticipated the two players would stick with the changes for the foreseeable future.
At 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, Campbell immediately became the team’s biggest offensive lineman.

“He actually approached us about trying it over there,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a pretty smart football player. His head will be spinning for a while, but I think he’ll be a natural at guard.”

Stephen Schilling, the Wolverines’ most experienced guard and an Outland Trophy candidate, is excited about welcoming Campbell to the position.

“I always thought he liked to finish us in practice instead of making tackles,” Schilling said. “It was exciting to see him play. He could be a really good offensive lineman.”

Craig Roh had a similar instinct about Washington, a 6-4, 315-pound redshirt freshman.

“I thought that Quinton should be playing defense about a month ago,” Roh said. “He’s got that aggressive manner that’s really good for defense. To a certain extent, he’s learning from scratch, and it’s going to take him a while to really become comfortable there.”

It's going to take time for a move like this to pay off, but it sounds like Campbell could be much more valuable on the offensive side of the ball. And when Schilling leaves after this season, we're going to need some depth at guard.

It's safe to say that Will Campbell is a special player, but has just had a tough time finding his way so far at Michigan. I can tell you from seeing this guy on the field up close, he's a very large and intimidating player, and this was just passing him by after a game...I can't imagine what a guy like this can be like if he's focusing his 330+ pounds directly at you. We'll be watching closely to see what's next for Campbell, but I think that once it all clicks for him, it won't be hard to notice.

Denard Robinson Named Semifinalist for Davey O'Brien Award


Not that it's a huge shock to anyone, but Denard Robinson has been named to the Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist watch list. The Award is given annually to the nation's most outstanding quarterback. Denard has already been named the Walter Camp player of the week, and Big Ten offensive player of the week twice this season.

Btw, from what we're hearing, Denard is going to be 100% for Penn State this Saturday.

Press release via UM media relations:
Robinson Named Semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award
FORT WORTH, Texas – The Davey O’Brien Foundation announced today (Monday, Oct. 25) that University of Michigan sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Deerfield Beach HS) is one of 16 semifinalists for the 2010 Dave O’Brien National Quarterback Award. Robinson is joined by Big Ten signal callers Kirk Cousins (Michigan State), Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State) and Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) on the semifinalist list.

Robinson is the fifth Michigan signal caller to be named a semifinalist since the award was established in 1977. The other Wolverines to be selected as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award are: Chad Henne (2006 semifinalist), John Navarre (2003 semifinalist), Brian Griese (1997 finalist) and two-time finalist Elvis Grbac (1991 and 1992).

Robinson lists second nationally in rushing (156.5 avg.) and total offense (354 avg.) and ranks 16th in pass efficiency with a 159.0 rating. He has started all seven games at quarterback, completing 97-of-143 passes for 1,319 yards and nine touchdowns. Robinson became the second signal caller in Big Ten history to rush for a 1,000 yards in a season. He heads into the Penn State with 1,096 rushing yards on 137 carries and has nine scores.

Robinson has four of the top 10 total offensive performances in Michigan history, including the top three spots on the list (502 yards at Notre Dame, 494 at Indiana and 383 vs. Connecticut).

In addition to his selection as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, Robinson was added to the mid-season watch list for the Manning Award. The Manning Award, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and is the only quarterback award that includes the candidates’ bowl performance in its balloting.

SI's 'Just Askin' Sits Down with Rodriguez


If you like the look of a black sport coat over a navy polo coach's shirt, then you're in luck. SI.com sat down with Rich Rodriguez this week to ask him some questions by you, the fans.

Does it strike anyone else funny that the #1 jersey, which has been somethin' of a point of contention throughout Rich's tenure at Michigan, is bein' used in the background of this interview?

Just askin'.

Anyway, SI.com doesn't allow embeddin' of this video...which is great for absolutely no one, because clearly, embeddin' video content hasn't worked for anyone else. Sorry, a little bitter 'bout that. So in pure web 1.0 fashin', here's the link to the video.

Don't Act Like You're Not Impressed

Impressed with the avalanche of content from this blog this week? Yeah, about that. It's a bye week, what can I say? But that's not stopping some good stuff being posted by some of my blogging colleagues. Greg at MVictors has a McGuffie update, including a picture of Sam that will also get you and a friend into the gun show.


Speaking of gun show
Did you know that one guy apparently snuck two M-16 assault rifles into Michigan Stadium on the day of the UM-MSU game? Yes...not just one M-16, but TWO M-16s. [Story via Fox Sports]
A man posing as a member of the color guard snuck into Michigan Stadium with two M16 assault rifles as the University of Michigan took on Michigan State Oct. 9 with more than 113,000 fans sitting in the stands, myFOXdetroit.com reported Thursday.

"There wasn't anything that we believe was done incorrectly or improperly by police in any of the checkpoints there," said Diane Brown with the university's Department of Public Safety.

U of M Police did clear the military man and allowed him into the stadium because when they checked his M16s they did not find any ammunition in the guns. They also did not find any ammunition on him, so they did not consider him a threat.

He did not just get into the stadium. The man, who is a full-time member of the National Guard, made his way onto the field with his M16s.

It was a member of the authorized color guard who noticed the man was not with them and reported the impostor to U of M Police.

"Then we escorted him out. He was very compliant, and he just continued to explain that he wanted to come to the game, (but) couldn't get a hold of a ticket and thought he'd use his uniform to be able to do that," Brown said.
So yeah, gonna be looking at that color guard a little closer in two weeks.

Warning: Historical Data Ahead
Greg Dooley does some really great work over at his blog MVictors. We link to him often. He's widely considered one of the foremost experts, whether it's professionally or as a semi-pro amateur as he puts it, of UM football historians out there. He did a very nice write up about the 1910 season as told by pages of the Michigan Daily.

Included in the text is some great photos, including a headline that Michigan fans would love to see again...
"Farmers" could be used to mean pretty much any Big Ten team, especially in 1910. But in this case the farmers in question were the farmers from East Lansing.

But the real gem of the story is the article regarding some sophomore-on-freshman hazing that took place that year.
"The men who did it are not the prominent men of their class. They are men who stayed indoors during last year's underclass war."

I love that line! Again, if you have an extra few minutes, I highly suggest clicking over to catch the rest of the story.

Bye Week Particulars Worth Clicking To
Every week we participate in the Big Ten Bloggers Pick'em league hosted by Minnesota SBNation blog Daily Gopher. So far we're doing well. Usually by this point in the season I've locked myself firmly into the middle of the pack. But 2 weeks ago we took Illinois over Penn State and last week Wiscy over tOSU, which was a gamble and something I wouldn't normally have done, but it paid off.

Standings


Standings Pts
1 Along the Olentangy 73
2 Hammer and Rails 72
3 The Buckeye Blog 71
4 Boiled Sports 70
4 Hail to the Orange 70
6 Big Red Network 68
7 Maize and Blue Nation 67
7 Sparty MSU 67
9 The Only Colors 66
10 The Daily Gopher - JK 65
10 Linebacker-U 65
12 Buckeye Battle Cry 64
12 Maize N Brew 64
14 Sippin on Purple 62
14 The Daily Gopher - GN 62
14 Bucky's 5th Qtr 62
17 SB Nation Detroit 58
17 The Daily Gopher - BB 58
19 Corn Nation 57
20 Lake the Posts 54
20 OSU Silver Bullet 52

So this week we took:
Penn State over Minnesota
Iowa over Wisconsin
MSU over Northwestern
Indiana over Illinois (because Illinois can't pull off two weeks of being impressive)
tOSU over Purdue

Michigan Against the World gives you 10 good reason's to hate bye weeks...my personal fav...
6) Comments from coaches who are obliged to say that "this is a perfect time for our bye week".
MZone is taking a huge gulp of the Oregon Kool-Aid after they dismantled UCLA last night 60-13.

mgoblog has its usual roundup of news, including a story from AnnArbor dot com that LB Kenny Demens and model-citizen Boubacar Cissocko are being sued for not paying rent to their apartment complex. And by "any" rent, I mean none.
Hidden Valley Club Apartments is suing Demens and Cissoko for $9,925, plus interest and attorney fees. The suit, filed in 15th District Court, alleges Demens and Cissoko signed a lease, agreeing to pay $850 each month for an apartment from May 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010. The apartment complex “fully performed all of its obligations under the lease,” the suit claims, but Demens and Cissoko “failed to pay the agreed upon rent.”
Demens was served with the suit Sept. 27, court papers filed this month say. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Ah, boys will be boys.

Speaking of which, Martell Webb tweeted a photo of himself and Devin Gardner that is all kinds of awesome.



WHAT?! Actual Team Stuff?
They all say that a bye week comes at the most perfect time for any team no matter which team it is and when it comes. And that's surely the case for Michigan this week.

Not only are we recovering from a multitude of little injuries to a bunch of players such as Denard's shoulder and knee. Mike Martin and David Molk's sprained ankles. Fitzgerald Toussaint's...whatever hurts...you get the idea. I'd say every guy that plays each week probably plays with some sort of injury. You just can't get 7 weeks into a Big Ten season without something wrong. The idea is being able to tolerate and mediate the pain. That's where a bye-week comes in so handy.

It also comes in handy because it's a nice built-in excuse for a total lack of content, which hopefully I'm making up for on this huge end-of-week link-dump. Thanks for your understanding.

Go Blue!

Turnovers, Man

This sums up the last two weeks for the Michigan football program:
Disclaimer: I make it a point to always run a clean ship around here, but sometimes a Lebowski reference is what you really need to make a point. That said...obviously...WARNING! Adult language ahead.


Apologies to anyone who's never heard that word before. If that's true, then person...internet. Internet...person. Consider yourselves introduced.


I think if you want to hurl a bad word around yourself, feel free. It might make you feel better.

But if you want a really bad word, one that probably makes the entire Michigan coaching staff stop in their tracks, and makes then lose sleep every night, even in the midst of a 5 game winning streak, then I've got a word for you.

Turnovers.

$!(&*^(%!!

You looking for something to blame for the last two weeks of miserable football on? Looking for a reason for that terrible feeling in your gut? Want to sound smart in front of all your friends who are yelling "Fire Rodriguez!" or "Fire GERG"? Blame turnovers.

It's a very fundamental idea. Turn the ball over less...offense on the field more. Offense on the field more...score more points. Score more points...win more games. Win more games...slumping pitchfork sales in Ann Arbor.

Chart? Chart.

Fumbles
Lost
INTSPoints
For
Points
Against
+/- Margin
UCONN0030101
Notre Dame0028243
UMASS1142370
BGSU2065210
Indiana1042350
Sparty031734-3
Iowa132838-4

I'm not here to say that 3 INTs directly resulted losses, but it didn't help. If you remember back all the way to the MSU game, two of those INTs came in the red zone, where we'd been something like 90% efficient up to that point.

In our 5 wins this year we had a 0 or better turnover margin. Against Sparty -3, Iowa -4. Not gonna say it, but take away those 7 turnovers...or better yet, get a few takeaways while we're at it, and we're 7-0. Okay, so I said it.

2010 > 2009? Nope.
In major losses last year, the turnover margin was equally as bad. @ Iowa -4, Penn State -4, @ Illinois -3, tOSU -4. Maybe not for Penn State, but for the other 3 games, eliminate those turnovers, 8-4 instead of 5-7. Just sayin'.

Yet another 2010 = 2009 argument.

Conclusions?
Yes. Stop turning the ball over = win more games = bowling in January.



Bowling, dude.

Quick Thoughts on UM-Iowa

Just a couple thoughts on today's Iowa game before the rest of these Sam Adams Octoberfest bottles disappear from my fridge...

• 38-28 is just about what everyone expected. We made it close at the end. Which is a blessing and a curse. Good that it showed we have the heart to keep trying, bad that it makes a loss that much more heartbreaking. But while Michigan did EVERYTHING they could to lose this game, and only lost by 10 against a damn good Iowa team is actually somehow encouraging.

• Denard Robinson looked similar to his performance against Michigan State. He looked hesitant, he put passes in bad spots, he just simply tried too hard to make plays where plays weren't there to be made.

• Denard's arm injury looked minor, probably just a bruise. He didn't receive any medical attention on the sideline. Probably held out as a precaution. Tate had his moments, and was surely excited to be in the game. He was a spark for us, just as Denard was last year against Iowa. But that late INT was just a terrible read...might have been trying to create something that just wasn't there.

• Again, another blocked field goal. And then the  37-yard return while Michigan just watched. That was so ugly all around.

• Like I said in the preview post, turnovers are killers. And today was a great example of that. One fumble and I think 3 INTs (or 2, Sam Adams doesn't remember either)...we're just not good enough to be able to make mistakes like that and get away with it.

• The same goes for bad tackling. All. Day. Long.

• The defense looked actually much stronger towards the end of the game. We gave up some seriously bad plays early, but we also had quite a few situations where we had Iowa in 3rd and long. The biggest problem was Iowa made us pay on a few of those 3rd downs. I think it was Courtney Avery who's missed tackle on that 3rd and 9 late in the game that killed any hope of a comeback. That was the play of the game, and we blew it with poor tackling.

• Less Obi Ezeh and more Kenny Demens. Please and thank you.

• It might not get a ton of press, but the absence of David Molk, who went down early in the game (like the 3rd play) was a huge blow to this offense. We still managed to score 28 points and make it close, but Molk's absence was felt early with some poor shotgun snaps.

• Taylor Lewan had the most unenviable job of anyone, and that was going up on Adrian Clayborn all day. He actually did okay. His personal foul early in the game was disappointing, might have been a frustration penalty, but it was still a drive killer. He left the game briefly and Huyge took his spot, but Lewan did return to finish the game at LT.

I'm sure there's a lot I'm missing, but you can blame Sam for that. Good night Maize & Blue Nation, rest well, it's a bye week...no one can hurt you this week.

Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

#14 Iowa Hawkeyes
at
#24 Michigan Wolverines


Game Stuff
When: October 16, 2010
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Time: 3:30 PM EST
TV: ABC Regional/ESPN National (Ron Franklin, Ed Cunningham)
Webcast: ESPN3.com
Local Radio: FM 104.3 WOMC, AM 1050 WTKA
Line: Michigan +4
Over/Under: 54
Last Meeting: 2009, #12 Iowa 30,  UM 28
Series Record: UM Leads 40-11-4
Michigan Record: 5-1 (1-1)
Last Game: Loss vs MSU 17-34
Iowa Record: 4-1 (1-0)
Last Game: Win vs Penn State 24-3

Iowa Stuff
http://www.hawkeyesports.com/
Location: Iowa City, IA
Enrollment: 30,328
Conference: Big Ten
Nickname: Hawkeyes
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
OC: Ken O'Keefe
DC: Norm Parker
2009 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

A Little History
Both Michigan and Iowa come into this game with something to prove. For Iowa, they need to prove that their loss to Arizona, and the 1st half defensive collapse that caused it was just a fluke. They've played a relatively weak schedule, so this is probably their biggest test so far. For Michigan, they must also prove that they're better than their one loss to Michigan State. Michigan impressed everyone with their wins against inferior opponents, but when tested against a tough defense, things fell apart.

Iowa has had a tough time in Ann Arbor in recent years. Their last win on the road was a 34-9 butt-kicking in 2002. And of course we all remember the 2 point loss in Iowa City just last season.

Iowa is enjoying a little resurgence lately, thanks to the stingy play of their defense, and the play of senior QB Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi may not be the best QB in the Big Ten, but he's good enough to win. With that defense like that, you don't need to score a ton of points to win. They say defense wins championships, and in a conference like the Big Ten, this is proving to be correct.

Stats Comparison (through 10-9-10)

CATEGORY
   MICHIGAN       IOWA    ADVANTAGE
Rushing Offense Avg/Yds297.33172.2MICH
Passing Offense Avg/Yds236.33254.2IOWA
Total Offense Avg/Yds533.67426.4MICH
Scoring Offense37.3333.6MICH
Rushing Defense Avg/Yds146.3363.2IOWA
Pass Efficiency Defense134.98102.07IOWA
Total Defense Avg/Yds450.67242.2IOWA
Scoring Defense26.8310.2IOWA
Net Punting Avg/Yds35.9535.63IOWA
Punt Returns Avg/Yds6.8314.33IOWA
Kickoff Returns Avg/Yds19.2923.78IOWA
Turnover Margin.17.8IOWA
Pass Defense Avg/Yds304.33179IOWA
Passing Efficiency167.67173.87IOWA
Sacks Avg/Gm1.52IOWA
Tackles For Loss Avg/Gm66PUSH
Sacks Allowed Avg/Gm.332MICH

On the surface, yes these stats look very lopsided, but consider the following...


Rushing
Offense
Rank
Passing
Offense
Rank
Total
Offense
Rank
Eastern Illinois (FCS)108 (FCS)83 (FCS)107 (FCS)
Iowa State639693
@ Arizona (Loss)92526
Ball State33117104
Penn State856888

Iowa hasn't exactly been dominating the best offenses in the nation. The only offense they've played with a pulse, Arizona, beat them 34-27. Hey, if people are going to point how how bad Michigan's opposing defenses are, then turnabout is fair play. Tip of the cap to MnB for this.

Video Stuff and Etc
Remember 2009? Tate Forcier does...


Remember last year when Tate looked awful and Denard came into the game in the 4th quarter and ran right down the field to score?


Rich Rod's Monday presser:



ESPN's Adam Rittenberg likes Iowa.


Iowa Offense
Stats!
PASSINGComp/AttYardsComp %TD/INTRating
Ricky Stanzi82/121122667.810/2176.8
James Vandenberg5/84562.51/0151.0
RUSHINGCarriesYardsAverageLongTD
Adam Robinson984804.9756
Jewel Hampton271144.2171
Brad Rogers9667.3180
RECEIVINGReceptionsYardsAverageLongTD
Derrell
Johnson-Koulianos
2133415.945 (TD)4
Marvin McNutt1527518.3662
Allen Reisner1721412.6551
Adam Robinson714320.4480
Colin Sanderman910511.7271

Why the stats? Because charts are fun, that's why.

Iowa ranks near the upper-middle to upper of the pack in pretty much every important offensive category. I think Iowa's passing game is slightly more threatening than their running game, but with a defense like ours, anything can be threatening.

Stanzi is a pretty good passer, ranked 3rd in passing efficiency nationally. He throws the ball around pretty much 100% of the time, never leaving the pocket unless he has to. He's been pretty consistent through the air this year, averaging between 204 and 288 yards per game.

Iowa hasn't really played a defense worth a damn outside of Arizona (26th nationally overall) which resulted in a 34-27 loss. But it wasn't the Arizona defense that won that game, it was their offense. The score was 27-7 at halftime. Arizona has the Iowa defense on their heels. After halftime, it was another story. The Iowa defense stiffened and they fought back into the game. And it took a heroic late drive by Arizona to win the game.

Michigan's run defense was abyssal last week against the Spartans. We had our moments, but a few big runs here and there, some badly missed tackles, and some of the worst linebacker play I've ever seen resulted in a huge game for MSU. Expect a rushing attack very similar this week. Our defensive front will be tested again...and hopefully will rise up for the challenge, but I'm not expecting anything dramatic. Iowa will move the ball on us. They have a better O-line than MSU, but their rushers might be slightly less impressive.

The biggest receiving threat, and Stanzi's favorite target is Derrell Johnson-Kouliano. As you can see above, he's the statistical leader for the Hawkeyes. 


Iowa Defense
Okay, here's where the real fun begins.

Iowa's defense is ranked #4 overall in the country. Michigan offense is ranked #3 overall. Something has to give. Iowa has only allowed 36 points all year. They have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.

But it should be noted that Iowa will not have their defensive coordinator, Norm Parker in attendance. He recently had a foot amputated. Yes, you read that correctly. YIKES!

Michigan State did the best job of anyone so far this year of slowing down Denard Robinson. They did it by committing to stopping him on the ground, and forcing the pass. That normally wouldn't be such a problem, except our receivers forgot how to catch that day. I fully expect Iowa to try and do the same thing.

No question, whoever gets the better of this matchup is going to win this game.

I think the bulk of the responsibility falls onto the offensive line. Aside from Adrian Clayborn, who is a freak btw, Iowa boasts one of the best defensive lines in the country. We will have our hands full with this defense, which is probably the best unit we're going to face all year.

Final Thoughts
We can win this game if we do three things. 1) Don't turn the ball over. 2) No bad penalties. 3) Tackle well.

Its really that simple. Iowa is not the kind of team that does these three things wrong, so neither can we. I honestly think if we play fundamentally good football, then we'll have a chance. If we come out and play like he did last week by dropping passes, throwing interceptions, poor tackling...than it's going to be a similar result.

We're going to have the homefield advantage much more than we did last week. There will be some Iowa fans there, but not nearly as much as Sparty last week. So it's going to be important for us to be able to just focus on doing the small things right.

I'm not going to predict a final score, or even a winner. But I will predict that the team with less turnovers and more rushing yards will win this game. Enjoy, and Go Blue!

Michigan's Week 7 Injury Report

For an unprecedented 4th post of the day...the official injury report for week 7 via UM media relations.
University of Michigan Football Injury Report
vs. Iowa, Oct. 14, 2010

OUT (0% PLAY)
Jones, Mike                                        Leg
Odoms, Martavious                        Foot
Toussaint, Fitzgerald                       Shoulder
Van Slyke, Jared                               Clavicle
Williams, Mike                                   Head
Woolfolk, Troy                                  Ankle

All things considered, not such a bad report. We heard that Mike Martin and David Molk has sprained ankles against MSU, but both are not on the report. We knew Odoms' injury was severe pretty much right after the game last week...so it's likely he's done for the year.

Again, Toussaint is no closer to getting back to the field this week. Starting to see shades of Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown with him.

James Rogers missed most of the 2nd half last week with cramps. He's absent from this list, which is good because for the most part, he played pretty well. We're going to need him.

Michael Shaw and Carvin Johnson seem to be 100%. Very good news.

Michigan to Play Alabama in 2012 Opener


Well, we saw this coming, although it's noteworthy that we'll be playing in Dallas at the new Cowboy's Stadium...and it's also noteworthy that this game will be the opener for 2012. Alabama will be the home team, Michigan will be away.

UM press release:
U-M to Open 2012 Season vs. Alabama at Cowboys Stadium

DALLAS, Texas -- The University of Michigan football team will face the University Alabama in the 2012 College Football Kick-off Event at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 1, 2012. The game will be televised nationally in primetime.

“This is a great way to kickoff the 2012 season with two of the nation’s winningest college football programs,” said Athletic Director Dave Brandon. “We are excited about playing a regular season game in the state of Texas, a region of the country where we have traditionally recruited. Our goal is to get as many Michigan fans to the game as possible to witness this match-up of traditional powers.”

The Wolverines will be the away team with the Crimson Tide designated the home team. The game officials will be a crew from the Big 12 Conference. This will be the fourth time that Michigan faces Alabama in school history, and the first contest played during the regular season by the two programs.

All three previous games between the Wolverines and Crimson Tide were played in bowl games. Michigan defeated Alabama by a 28-24 score in the initial meeting, the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl held in Tampa Stadium. The Crimson Tide got the better of the Wolverines in the second meeting in Tampa, winning a closely contested 17-14 game in the 1997 Outback Bowl.

The most recent match-up between the two schools is arguably the most exciting bowl game in Michigan history. The eighth-ranked Wolverines edged the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide, 35-34, in overtime to claim the 2000 Orange Bowl title. Tom Brady completed 34-of-46 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the winning effort. He tossed a 25-yard TD pass to tight end Shawn Thompson and Hayden Epstein converted the PAT as Alabama scored but was unable to convert the PAT in the first overtime session. It was the first-ever overtime game in school history.

With the addition of the Crimson Tide, the Wolverines are looking to fill two slots on their 2012 schedule. Both open dates are scheduled to be played at Michigan Stadium on Sept. 8, Sept. 15 or Sept. 29. The other previously scheduled non-conference game is Sept. 22 at Notre Dame.

Ticket details will be announced at a later date.

Following is Michigan’s current 2012 schedule:
Sept. 1            vs. Alabama (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 22         at Notre Dame
Oct. 6             at Purdue
Oct. 13           Illinois
Oct. 20           Michigan State
Oct. 27           at Nebraska
Nov. 3             at Minnesota
Nov. 10          Northwestern
Nov. 17          Iowa
Nov. 24          at Ohio State
Off Schedule: Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin

Parachuting Into the Big House


See that guy? I took this photo from the 3rd row of the press area in the new pressbox last weekend. Until he appeared into my view when he was at about the height of the roof of the pressbox, I had no view of him. Where did he come from and what was it like falling out of the sky into the Big House?

Well, wonder no more...


So cool. I love the sound of the crowd as he gets closer to the field. What a moment.